Monday, November 30, 2009

U.S. bishops launch Advent and Christmas website

.- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has created an Advent and Christmas website with suggestions for daily prayers, readings, reflection and action. A collection of Lessons and Carols is also provided for live listening or download.

Printable calendars in English and Spanish are one new feature of the site, a USCCB press release says. They suggest a family activity for each day of Advent, which begins on Nov. 29, and for each day of the Christmas Season.
Many of the calendar’s reflections are taken from four of the collections from the Spiritual Thoughts Series by Pope Benedict XVI: “Following Christ,” “The Priesthood,” “Mary” and “The Saints.”


Read the full story here: U.S. bishops launch Advent and Christmas website
Go directly to the bishop's site here: http://www.usccb.org/advent/

St. Andrew, Apostle


Monday, November 30, 2009
St. Andrew

Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. "As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:18-20).

John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day" (John 1:38-39a).

Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22).

Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.

Comment: As in the case of all the apostles except Peter and John, the Gospels give us little about the holiness of Andrew. He was an apostle. That is enough. He was called personally by Jesus to proclaim the Good News, to heal with Jesus' power and to share his life and death. Holiness today is no different. It is a gift that includes a call to be concerned about the Kingdom, an outgoing attitude that wants nothing more than to share the riches of Christ with all people.

Quote: “...[T]he Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word’” (Acts 6:2-4).

Patron Saint of:
Fishermen
Greece
Russia
Scotland

Advent awakens hope




"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."

- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "Seek That Which Is Above," 1986

Saturday, November 28, 2009

O Come, Emmanuel! Make us new!

HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, November 29, 2009:


One day, a young man received a parrot as a gift, but the parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. The young man tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words and even prayers, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to “clean up” the bird’s vocabulary. Finally, the man was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. The man shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. In desperation, the man threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Now fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, the man quickly opened the door to the freezer. The Parrot calmly stepped out onto his outstretched arms and said “Sir, I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior.” The man was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird pointed to the item next to him in the freezer and said, “May I ask what the turkey did wrong?”

A little bit of turkey humor on this Thanksgiving weekend. Even though we are celebrating one holiday, Thanksgiving, as we began Mass tonight I was tempted to reference another of our civil holidays and wish everyone a “Happy New Year.” Today is the First Sunday of Advent and for us it is the start of a new Church year. We find ourselves today once again back at the beginning of our liturgical cycle. We triumphantly celebrated Jesus Christ as our Lord and King last weekend and now we go back to the beginning of the story; back to Chapter one of the story of how Jesus came and saved us. As the line from the Sound of Music goes, “Let’s start at the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start.”

In our liturgical cycle, we start with the things that prepared us for the coming Savior and so today we heard from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah who began with the words, “The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” That promise of course, was fulfilled in Jesus. Likewise our Gospel called us to begin to seek the signs that something momentous is on the horizon, something unprecedented, something that will forever change our lives.

Two weeks ago as we moved into the end of the last Church year, I encouraged us all to review our last year with the Lord. Where did that journey take us? Were we made any different last year through the practice of our faith? Did we grow in holiness? Today, I offer a different challenge. In January, when we have our new calendar year, many of us will engage in the cultural practice of making New Year’s Resolutions. Often those resolutions are very superficial. We will resolve to eat less chocolate, to lose 10 pounds, to watch less television. Sometimes, they are more meaningful – we resolve to be a nicer person, to swear less like our friend the parrot, to be kinder to strangers.

But today, at the beginning of this Church year, I challenge all of us, myself included, to make some spiritual resolutions. Where do you need to grow in faith this year? Is it in your prayer life? In your family life? In your workplace? Where is Jesus calling you to love more, to be more bold in proclaiming His Word? Where are you being challenged to grow in holiness this year?

Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord. We remember both His historic arrival 2,000 years ago and we look forward to His return again in glory. But, let us also resolve to be more aware of another coming which we tend to forget, namely, His daily arrival in the ordinary events and the ordinary people in our lives. Our Gospel today reminds us that we should be vigilant to recognize and welcome the Lord who comes to us without warning everyday in the people, the places and the events we least expect. If we are preparing for the Lord’s coming by looking up to the sky, Luke today invites us to instead look out, to look to the person on our right and our left, to see the arrival of God that is before our eyes every day, to look into the story of our daily lives and recognize the Lord who comes to us in the ways we least expect.

Let us resolve on this first day of a new Church year, to be people ever more conscious of the presence and action of Jesus in our lives in the big ways and in the small ways. Let us resolve to be people who witness to that presence of Jesus in the lives of others – especially in those places that have been difficult for us in the past. Let us make this a holy Advent, leading to a holy Christmas, an even holier year for us all.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! Make us new!

May God give you peace.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Thank God even for our problems"

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  This is from the "archives," a Thanksgiving Day homily I delivered a few years ago.  I hope you enjoy it.

HOMILY FOR THANKSGIVING DAY:

When you ask most people what they think about Thanksgiving they most often say family visits, big meals, football, and after Thanksgiving sales. Many families have an admirable custom of joining hands before the meal and going around the table and mentioning what we are thankful for. I think most of the time, people respond something like “I’m glad that we can all be here together” or “I’m glad that my children like their teachers this year” or “I’m thankful for my family, or my health,” or “This year the turkey is perfect.” And there’s nothing wrong with those. These are all admirable and wonderful things to give thanks for.

But, I’m also mindful today of a Thanksgiving homily I heard a number of years ago. It is one sentence long: “Thank God even for our problems.” This simple sentence is profound in its depth. We are usually very good at being thankful for all of the blessings in our lives – family, friends, prosperity, health, goodness, but there’s also much more in life to be thankful for.

The truth of that singular sentence – Thank God for our problems – lies largely in the fact that it is the problems of life – the challenges – that put demands on us to develop within us strengths previously unknown, leading to new understandings and appreciations of life that not only make the problem more bearable, but also make life richer. You see, the struggles of life, often help us to know more deeply who we truly are and how tremendously we are loved.

An example of this comes from a parishioner whose husband of more than 40 years died a while ago. I remember this women saying to me about a month afterward, “I had no idea I had so many friends. People have been so kind. The house has been crowded with neighbors offering help, the kitchen is full of food; messages have come from people I hardly know.” Through this experience, she found strength within herself as well as a new understanding of and appreciation for the people in her life and for life itself.

Now, I’m not suggesting that death and accidents, disappointment and frustrations, fears and anxieties, should be sought out for their growth potential. But, I am saying that these challenging experiences often teach us qualities that make living most worthwhile: sympathy, compassion, wisdom, patience, love, laughter, kindness and more. These lessons are good to remember in our world which seeks to rob us of the richness of life by eliminating all things that might be negative in any way. I think of an experience in my own families life when I was 10 years old. It was the late 70s, during the last oil crisis. My Dad, being a truck drive, had been out of work for two years. My family struggled terribly during this time. Mom was working double shifts as a nurse; we scrimped and saved and barely got by financially. In every worldly sense, this should be a time of great failure in the life of our family. But, it wasn’t. We all look back on that time as our Golden Years. Why? Because Dad was home and with the family all together, we don’t really recall the things we didn’t have, because we were so grateful for what we did have – each other. And, I don’t think any member of my family would trade that time for all the money in the world.

This is also the message of the Cross. We gather here today to thank God through this celebration of the ultimate Thanksgiving – the Eucharist. It is after all the center of our lives of faith. But, the Eucharist for which we are profoundly grateful, which changes us, makes us better people, is also intimately tied to the suffering of Christ on the cross. Through something as difficult as the Cross, we find nothing short of salvation – and for that we are grateful.

May this Thanksgiving be to you and your family a time of thanks for all God's manifold blessings – for all the good things, all the blessings – but especially for the light that has arisen out of darkness. Thank God for our problems.

We thank you, O God,
For the ability to do more, the more we do,
For the courage that comes out of failure,
For the knowledge that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.
Grant that we may show forth our thanks not only with our lips but also in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving and may God give you peace.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"You say that I am a king."

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST THE KING, November 22, 2009:


“You say I am a king. For this I was born and came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Yesterday (Friday), there was one of the most remarkable public displays of the faith as 22,000 Catholic young people walked in a Eucharistic Procession through the streets of Kansas City as they gathered for this year’s National Catholic Youth Conference. They were part of a truly impressive celebration of the Kingship of Christ following Christ their King present in the Blessed Sacrament. This year’s conference is fittingly themed, “Christ reigns.” As I saw video and photos of that event, I couldn’t help but think that this might not be far from what Pope Pius the 11th had in mind when, in 1925, he established today’s feast as a proclamation of our belief that the reign of Christ should be felt not only in the private lives of Christians but also in the public domain.

We know that the Kingship of Jesus is different from what our worldly standards of kingly power are. This is the trouble that the Jews had in accepting Jesus. They thought their Messiah, their anointed King, would be one who would bring political and military strength and freedom to their nation and lift it out from under the oppression of the Roman Empire. But, this was not what the Kingdom of God would look like.

In thinking of today’s feast, the life of St. Thomas More comes to mind. Thomas understood the difference between worldly and heavenly Kings. Thomas More was a brilliant lawyer and diplomat in 13th century England. His patriotism and loyalty to the throne attracted the attention of King Henry the 8th who made him Lord Chancellor of England, the first layperson to be entrusted with such an honorable responsibility. What Henry did not know was that as loyal as More was to him, his first loyalty was to Christ, the only True King.

And so, when Henry decided to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn, and make himself head of the Church of England, More could not consent. Rather than approve what he believed to be against Divine Will, he resigned from his prestigious and wealthy position as Lord Chancellor and lived a life of poverty. Because he would not give his support to the king, More was arrested, convicted of treason, imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 and beheaded the following July. On his way to public execution, More encouraged the people to remain steadfast in the true faith. His last recorded words were: “I die the king's good servant, but God's first.” You see, for Thomas More, it was not enough to simply confess Christ privately in the safety of his heart and among his family; he knew he must also confess Christ in the public realm too.

So today’s feast not only proclaims Jesus Christ as the True King, but it poses a question to all of us: Who is our king? Does our king reign privately in our hearts; or is He the King of our lives? Can we publicly profess His kingship as the 22,000 young people did in Kansas City this week?

What does it look like when we proclaim Christ the King of our lives? The kingship of Christ is not a threat to the kingdoms of the world, as Pontius Pilate thought. Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

There are basically three defining characteristics of Christ’s Kingship. First, while other kingdoms have territorial boundaries, the kingship of Christ is universal. Christ is king without borders. Second, while other kingdoms come and go, the kingship of Christ is eternal. And third, while other kingdoms are sustained by military and economic power, the kingship of Christ is sustained by the power of Truth and Love – the Truth and Love that come from God alone. Citizens of Christ's kingdom must, therefore, stand by this Truth, to proclaim this Truth, even when it is inconvenient, embarrassing or challenging to do so.

What Jesus had to say to Pilate ends with a challenge when He said, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Would Pilate listen? More importantly, will we? Pilate did not choose to accept the invitation of Christ to listen to the Truth. What he did at the end of the day, instead of listening to Christ, was to wash his hands of Him. Will we do the same? None of us really wants to. But, to make sure that we won’t, don’t we have to take Him at His word, accept Christ as God’s truth and try to live our lives in accordance with His teachings? Don’t we have to give Him an allegiance that is total and undivided, so that He is the King of our hearts and of our lives? It is in that spiritual sense that Christ is meant to be our king.

There are many voices in our modern world competing for our allegiance. Among them the call to unbridled sensuality and sexuality; the more contemporary call to a secular self-sufficiency, the daily distracting calls to the trivial and the transitory. There is no shortage of calls. But, in the midst of all the din, Christ is calling too. He is telling us emphatically about the uniqueness of His authority and the reliability of His claim to be the very incarnation of God’s Truth. This is a time for choosing or for confirming a choice we’ve already made. Let’s be decisive about it.

The Church will have a place in that Kingdom if, at the end of one Church year and the beginning of another, we renew our commitment to the Lord; if we each make a decisive turn in Christ’s favor.

“You say I am a king. For this I was born and came into the world, to testify to the truth.” As this Church year comes to a close, we realize we have traveled a long journey. We have heard all year about the demands and costs of discipleship. Today we must ask: Who is our King? Do we belong to the Truth that is the foundation of God’s Kingdom? Let that Truth take root in our hearts, let it be proclaimed in all that we do.

Let us bring the Truth from Jesus Christ our King – the only King worthy of our allegiance – to all whom we meet.

May God give you peace!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bishop reiterates pro-life commitment in defense of CCHD

Baltimore, Md., Nov 19, 2009 / 04:21 am (CNA).- The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee which oversees the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has defended the program against what he called “outrageous” allegations and claims. He reiterated that the campaign is pro-life and has “zero tolerance” for funding any group that violates Catholic teaching.

Bishop of Biloxi, Mississippi Roger Morin on Tuesday addressed the fall assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on the topic of the CCHD.

He said that some attacks on the campaign are motivated by concern for the poor or for the Church’s teachings. Some critics may not understand the social teachings of the church, while others charge that the bishops are funding groups that are pro-abortion.

“The critics are using this as an opportunity to attack the shepherds of the Church. I reiterate that we are pro-life, from conception to natural death,” Bishop Morin said.

Read the full story here: Bishop reiterates pro-life commitment in defense of CCHD

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Funny

A little girl asked her mother: 'How did the human race appear?'


The mother answered: 'God made Adam and Eve;they had children; and so was all mankind made.'

Two days later the girl asked her father the same question. The father answered: 'Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved.'

The confused girl returned to her mother and said:'Mom, how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they developed from monkeys?'

The mother answered: 'Well, Dear, it is very simple. I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his.'

"Learn a lesson from the fig tree"

HOMILY FOR THE 33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, November 15, 2009:

This is one of those times of year when what is going on in nature and what is going on in the life of the Church match up well. We heard Jesus say in our Gospel passage, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.” In other words, learn the lesson that the natural world can teach you. You can’t help but notice that just about all of the leaves have fallen off of the trees now, and we begin to engage in those annual rituals of digging out our warmer clothes as winter is close at hand. This season of the year, in its grayness, its starkness, its cold, reminds us of endings.

So, too, does our Church calendar remind us of endings. That is why we traditionally celebrate a month in honor of the dead during November. The natural surroundings of November lend itself to such thoughts and prayers. We also head into the final weeks of our Church year. In just a few weeks, on the First Sunday of Advent, we begin again the great cycle in which we recall the history of our salvation beginning with the prophets, leading on to the birth of our Savior, eventually recalling His death, His resurrection, His words and His saving deeds. But, before we get there, we’ll spend the next few weeks reminding ourselves about endings.

The Church gives us this annual cycle in the hopes that we will unite ourselves to it. We don’t simply tell once again the story of Jesus. Instead, we’re meant to hear that story and notice ourselves within it. In this way, not only do we recall Jesus birth, but Jesus becomes born again in us. We not only recall Jesus suffering and death on the cross, but we see ourselves on that cross with Jesus, we find him present in the midst of our own suffering. We not only recall that Jesus rose from the dead and returned to the Father in Heaven, but we become resurrected people. We feel the resurrection Jesus offers us in this life when we overcome the struggles of our own lives, we praise God for the gift of the ultimate resurrection when we too will join Him and all who have gone before us in the glory of Heaven.

We have connected with that great story over the last year. Today, our Scriptures call us to reflect on the past year. Just like any journey when we reach our destination, we look back at where we’ve been and evaluate what kind of journey it has been. Well, we are arriving today. How has this year’s trip been? Have our spiritual lives advanced in ways we could have never imagined? Or do we, upon reflection, realize that we haven’t gone anywhere, still stuck in the same mud we found ourselves in last year? Have we become better people, holier people, more Christ-like people? How has the power of God’s Word, the grace of the Body and Blood of Jesus changed and transformed us this year?

In our First Reading, the Prophet Daniel recalls some hard times for God’s people. Daniel is writing about 500 years before Christ, Alexander the Great and others are ravaging the Middle East. Wars and distress are all around. In the midst of turmoil we hear that God will take care of His people, those whose names are in the Book of Life. Daniel is calling the people to trust their faith in God and live accordingly. Though wars and disasters whirl around them, God will send them the Michael, Prince and guardian.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus predicts the final fall of the Jerusalem Temple. He speaks to His disciples about the end times. Like Daniel, Jesus speaks of wars and distress everywhere. In the midst of destruction, the Son of God, like Michael the Archangel, will come with power and glory to offer salvation to God’s holy people. Jesus uses the image of the fig tree. He points out that people pay attention to the signs from nature and adjust their lives accordingly; and so if we are willing to change our life because of the signs from nature, all the more should we do when we read the signs of our salvation. We are called to be alert and active – to be readying ourselves so that when the end time comes, of which no one knows the day or hour - that's right, the world is not going to end on December 12, 2012, no matter what Hollywood tells you - we will be ready, our names will be written in the Book of Life, we too will make our way to Heaven.

We are called to trust in the Lord. When we look back on the past year, we probably have experienced some joys and triumphs, as well as some storms and distress. Our trust in God tells us that ultimately – whatever the tribulation or the triumph, God is always present with us, God is always leading and guiding us, God will always in the end save us.

As we move into the end of our Church year, as we are reminded of the end things, we are called to reflect – how has this year been? Am I closer to God? Do I experience God as closer to me? My brothers and sisters, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.” Read the signs of our own spiritual lives. As we look forward to the new Church year, let us ready ourselves to begin again. As we prayed in our Psalm today, “I set the LORD ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”

May God give you peace.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

You must give your whole life

HOMILY FOR THE THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, November 8, 2009:


“She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” Today’s Gospel sets two pictures side-by-side for us. It is hard to imagine two pictures that could be so different from one another. The first picture shows us the scribes with their long robes, the honor they receive, and their skill at praying. Right behind them, rich people are making large offerings to the Temple.

The second picture is of a woman who makes an offering too. But her offering is so small that the two coins she drops in the offering plate would be worth mere pennies. And because it is easy for us to overlook a penny lying in the street, it could be easy for the people in the Temple – as it could be easy for us – to overlook this widow if Jesus hadn’t drawn our attention to her.

Every parish that has ever struggled to meet the budget would be glad to have the sort of people in the first picture contribute to the mission and ministry of the Church. And when parishes set a strategy for giving campaigns, the first step is usually to focus on the respected and the rich in the parish, people who could have a real impact on the budget and help sustain the ministry. Compared to five-figure gifts, six-figure gifts or more, what can a penny do?

But Jesus focuses our attention on the widow and her coins because in her, Jesus must see something of His own life. At the end of the parable we hear Jesus say, “She, from her poverty, has contributed all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Or as other translations put it more bluntly and plainly, “She has given her whole life.” And that is where Jesus sees a reflection of Himself in this woman’s gift.

She gave everything she had; even just those meager coins; and she was blessed. Perhaps gazing upon this woman, Jesus thought of another widow who was blessed: His own mother Mary. Maybe Jesus saw that widow at the temple and thought of His own mother - what she sacrificed, what she had, what she lost. She may very well have had to struggle to make ends meet. Jesus saw that. He knew that. He knew the value of those two small coins. He understood where the widow at the temple was coming from. He'd seen it for himself.

And he understood what that widow at the temple was doing. She didn't hold back. She let go. She didn't take. She gave.

In Mark’s Gospel, this story finds itself chronologically in the middle of Holy Week. So, just a couple of days from this encounter, Jesus Himself will give His whole life on the cross. Jesus turns our attention to the woman not because she shows us how to run a giving campaign. Rather, when she opens up her hand and the two coins slip out, she has given away her life. In the same way, on the cross, Jesus opens up His own hands and life slips from them as well. Her giving is total just as, on the cross, Jesus will completely give of Himself.

You see, in this woman and in our Lord we see that the Kingdom of God is found not where people hold on tight to their riches or when they demand respect. The Kingdom is found not in holding on to what we have, but in letting go. As Jesus says repeatedly, “Those who want to save their life will lose it. And those who lose their life for my sake and the gospel will find it.”

This is a lesson we all need to hear. We may suffer terrible losses that rob us of those we love, like the widow. We may grieve, and we may mourn, we may face every kind of struggle, challenge and strife in life and we may ask ourselves “Why?” But the way through loss is love. The way through our challenges is by opening our hearts; giving ourselves; holding nothing back.

In her giving, this widow gives us a glimpse of our Lord Jesus. She gave her very life. So does He. St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians gives us even more insight into this. He writes, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,” and He died on the cross.

This widow gives us a glimpse of our life in Christ – hands open, giving away life, in turn to gain it eternally. We too are called today to find what she has found, that all we have comes from God and should be returned to God. Only then will we have life to the full. We too are called to open our hands and release whatever we are grasping; whatever we are holding; to give all that we are and all that we have to Christ. Only then can we gain the Kingdom He has promised.

Lord, take my life and form it; take my mind and transform it; take my will and conform it; to Yours, O Lord.

May the Lord give you peace.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Souls Day: "We are defined by whom we have lost"

HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS, November 2, 2009:

Columnist Anna Quindlen, reflecting a few years ago on death after the passing of her sister-in-law at a young age wrote, “My brother and I . . . were both teenagers when our mother died, we know that if anyone were to ask us, ‘When does it stop hurting?’ we would have to answer in all candor, ‘If it ever does, we will let you know.’...As a writer, I wrote my obituaries carefully and think about how little the facts suffice, not only to describe the dead but to tell what they will mean to the living all the rest of our lives. We are defined by whom we have lost.”

As I reflect today on this All Souls day, I kept hearing Quindlen's words, “we are defined by whom we have lost.” As we gather here today to mind all our loved ones who have gone to their eternal rest, these words can almost become a prayer: we are defined by whom we have lost.

We live in a culture that wants us to “get over it” when someone dies, to move on, or the current favorite word of pop psychology “to find closure.” But, the Church, in its long held wisdom, gives us this Feast, asking us to not “get over it,” but rather to give voice to our grief and sorrow.

Today is a day that respects our love for those who have died, both the grief of losing someone close to us, perhaps over the course of this year, or the loss in our world due to hunger, poverty, violence and war; and to pray in a special way for all the souls in Purgatory, helping them achieve the glory of Heaven through our prayers.

As Christians, we believe that our dear ones are now safe in God's care. As followers of Jesus, we believe He will strengthen us while we live. There is no need for heavy theology today, or extensive explanation of our Scriptures because we already know what we believe about resurrection and eternal life. So, instead, let me just suggest three small things to do at the end of the day that helps us to honor our beloved departed:

First, Remember - Jesus gave his disciples these powerful words, “Do this in memory of me,” in other words, remember me. So too, our loved ones must be called to mind, we must keep them in our memory and keep our love for them alive. Angels appeared to the disciples after the resurrection telling them to remember that Jesus had prepared them for this moment. From Luke’s Gospel, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Then they remembered His words. We too, in our tears and sorrows, remember that Jesus understands our hurt, our sorrow, our heartache. We can bring all of it to Him and He will heal us, especially as we remember.

Second, Give Thanks - In the Book of Sirach, we hear the remembrance of people who lived their faith and touched others: “Shed tears for one who is dead…as is only proper…give thanks, as they deserve.” Memory fills us with a sense of gratitude and praise. When we remember those who have died, so many thoughts come into our mind: things we did, or did not do; sometimes regret; words that may or may not have been spoken. Today we are asked to dismiss all of that; even if just for today. We remember our dead and for them and their lives, for the difference they made to us and others, we are grateful. And so think today, for whom are you grateful? Whether their life was a long full one, or ended with too many roads untravelled; whether they died suddenly, peacefully, or after a long illness; for whom are you grateful. Relish that memory and offer it up to the Lord.

The third thing we can do is Live - We are defined by whom we have lost. Those we have loved and lost, have contributed to who we are. And so, who are we? How can we allow the memories and the gratitude to shape us? Maybe that is the privilege, the blessing of those who have embraced loss: loss reminds us that we cannot live as though we have all the time in the world. We cannot let words go unspoken, gestures of love go undone. Like the disciples, we realize we cannot wear grief like a badge that exempts us from living. No, our grief gently, but firmly, calls us to live.

The great abolitionist Sojourner Truth once said, “I'm not gonna just die... I'm going home like a shooting star.” Today, on this All Souls Day, let us pause, and think about those stars, those lights that have shaped us, and gone home. And let us take a deep breath, and continue our lives, knowing that Jesus, the Morning Star, who guided them home, will one day safely guide us home too. Today we remember, give thanks and live as those who will also be joined with all of those in heaven one day. And we pray for all of our loved ones who have gone before us, especially those souls in Purgatory, that they will enjoy one day the joy of God’s presence in Heaven.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

May God give you peace.