Saturday, July 15, 2017

Loving God's Word!

HOMILY FOR THE 15th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 16, 2017:

A new pastor was assigned to a local Church, and was so overwhelmed with his new assignment that he didn’t have time to write a new homily each Sunday so he used the same homily four times in a row. A group of parishioners complained to the Bishop. The Bishop asked a simple question, “What was the homily about?” Stunned, they looked one to the other – not one of them could remember. So, the Bishop said, “Let him preach it one more time.”

They say that there are three things that St. Peter will ask you at the Pearly Gates if you want to get into Heaven: What was Sunday’s First Reading? Second Reading? And Gospel Reading? How many of us could answer today?

My friends, what place does God’s Word, Sacred Scripture, hold in our lives? In our first reading we heard, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”


Jesus gives us the parable of the seed and the sower meant to encourage our love of God’s Word. “The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

Pope Francis said, “Maybe we've made [the Word of God] a little difficult with explanations that no one understands, but the Christian life is as simple and easy as this: listen to the word of God and put it into practice.”

One man shared with a church group about the turnaround in his life since he started to love God’s Word. “Two years ago,” he said, “I had no appetite for the Word of God. On Sundays, I would shop around going from church to church to find the priest that gave the shortest homily. My idea of a good Mass was one that took 40 minutes or less! But, once I became open to God’s Word; I became like the writer of Psalm 119 who said, “Had your word, O Lord, not been my delight, I would have perished…I will never forget your words; through them you give me life.”

Jesus is calling us all to become people love the Word of God. Just listen to some of the things God says to us. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Or “God is love and all who love dwell in God and God in them.” Or, “In all things God words for the good of those who love Him.” Or, “What, then, shall we say? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Or, “Draw near to God and God will draw near to you.” Or, “All of the hairs of your head are counted. So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” In fact, that theme, “Do not be afraid,” is one of the most common messages spread all throughout the Bible. I could go on and on, and hopefully you, too, have your own favorites. Jesus wants us to be in love with the Word of God so that it can fill us, mold us, direct our lives.

A priest delivered a homily in 10 minutes one Sunday, which was about half his usual length. He explained to the parish, “I regret to inform you that my dog ate the rest of my homily which I was unable to deliver this morning.” After Mass, a visitor from another parish said to the priest, “Father, if that dog of yours has any pups, I want to get one to give to my priest.” My friends, if our favorite part of God’s Word is when it is over, then we are missing the point.

The Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “The Word of God is living and active.” Loving God’s Word begins with our openness. Can we surrender to God’s Word? Can we believe in our hearts that there is nothing more important than God’s Word? Can we be people who pledge to live as St. James calls us to as “doers of the word and not hearers only…The one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what they do.”

So, where does the Word of God fit into your life? The seed of God’s Word has been placed in each of us again today at this Holy Mass. Will it grow and be fruitful? Or will it wither and fade? Pope Francis said, “Listen to the word of God; listen with your ears and hear with your heart. God speaks to each of us. The Gospel was written for each of us.”

My friends, the Word of God is alive and active. It has the power to set us free, comfort our sorrows, heal our wounds, and feed our souls. May the Word of God light our lives and direct our paths. Let us love God’s Word!

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Gentleness is the language of Christians















HOMILY FOR THE 14th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 9, 2017:

One of Aesop’s Fables tells of a contest between the sun and the wind over which of the two was stronger. One day a person dressed in a coat was walking down a deserted country road. The sun said to the wind, “Whoever makes that person remove the coat faster will be the winner.” The wind agreed and decided to go first. The wind blew stronger and stronger, but no matter what, the just person held on to their coat tighter. Finally, exhausted, the wind gave up. Then the sun took over. All the sun did was shine in all its glory. Within minutes, the person took of their coat. The moral of Aesop’s story was: you can achieve more by gentleness than by violence.

In our world today, gentleness is not in as high regard as it once was. There was a time when the best compliment you could receive was to be called a gentle person. The word “gentleman” testifies to this reality. Today, however, our culture values aggressiveness and divisiveness more than it values gentleness. Just look at the media. News channels spend all day long shouting at each other. The average child spends 25 hours a week watching television, more time than they spend in school or engaged in any other activity except sleep. And it is estimated that by the time a child is 18; they will witness 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders. One study concluded that teens who watch more than one hour of TV a day were four times more likely to commit aggressive acts in adulthood. It shouldn’t be surprising that our culture reflects the violence of our age.

How different from what Jesus taught us today. He said, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Likewise, in our first reading today, Zechariah foretold the gentleness of Jesus, “Your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, he is meek…and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.” A beautiful example of the gentleness of Jesus is the way he handled the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was gentle not only with the woman, but also with her self-righteous accusers. He didn’t shout or rave. He didn’t yell or scream. He simply wrote in the sand gently with His finger. His gentle and loving compassion towards the woman stood out like a clap of thunder in the silence of a summer’s night in comparison to the violent accusations of the crowd.

Jesus repeatedly gives us gentle examples to imitate. He held up for us the shepherd in the Parable of the Lost Sheep who didn’t react aggressively to the sheep that ran away. He placed the sheep gently and lovingly on his shoulders. Or the father of the Prodigal Son who didn’t shout at or reject his wayward son. Instead, he hugged him, he loved him and welcomed him home.

I read a story in Guideposts magazine about a child who grew up with a crippled and twisted back. Fully clothed, he could pass for healthy, but when he took his shirt off, his disfigurement was noticeable. As a boy, one day he stood in line waiting to be examined by the school doctor. He always dreaded the moment when the doctor would say, “Remove your shirt.” Finally the terrible moment came. He fumbled with his buttons, his hands shaking badly. At last, his shirt was off. The doctor looked at him and then did something very unusual. He walked around the desk, held the boy’s face in his big hands, looked right at him and said, gently, “Do you believe in God?” “Yes sir,” the boy responded. “Good! The more you believe in Him, the more you believe in yourself.” The doctor went back to his desk and wrote something on his chart before stepping out of the room for a moment. The boy was curious and so he quickly looked at the chart. Under the heading “Physical Characteristics,” the doctor had written, “This boy has a perfectly well-shaped head.” The boy couldn’t believe his eyes. And, although that brief episode took place many years ago, but the boy never forgot the gentleness and the encouraging words of that kind doctor. This is the invitation of today’s Gospel for all of us, “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.”

And so, let us respond to the people we encounter as the sun did in Aesop’s fable – with gentleness and warmth. Let us engage those who have wronged us as Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery; and as the father of the Prodigal Son – with compassion and understanding. Let us build up people with heavy burdens just as the doctor did – with tenderness and sensitivity.

Pope Francis said, “The language of Christians is the language of gentleness and respect. It’s terrible to see people who say they are Christians, but who are full of bitterness. The Holy Spirit is gentle and calls us to likewise be always gentle, and to always respect others.” Let gentleness and respect be our language always.

“Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.”

May the Lord give you peace.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Encountering Jesus through His wounds

FEAST OF ST. THOMAS THE APOSTLE, July 3: 
“The path to our encounter with Jesus are his wounds. There is no other. 
In the history of the Church there have been some mistakes made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God can be found on the path of meditation alone. That's dangerous! How many are lost on that path. Yes they arrive at knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God. 
Others thought that to arrive at God we must mortify ourselves, we have to be austere and have chosen the path of penance: only penance and fasting. Not even these arrive at the Living God, Jesus Christ. 
There are those who believe that they can arrive by their own efforts. But Jesus tells us [as He told Thomas] that the path to encountering Him is to find His wounds. 
We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked, because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he's in jail, because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. 
And Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards Him, but through these His wounds. 'Oh, great! Let's set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help '. That's important, but if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic. 
We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally. 
Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed."
- Pope Francis, Feast of St. Thomas, July 3, 2013 

Caravaggio's "Incredulity of St. Thomas"

Saturday, July 1, 2017

"I'm with them."

HOMILY FOR THE 13th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 2, 2017:

The new pastor reported to his new parish to preach, but on his first day only three people turned up to hear him preach. He asked the Deacon, “Did you let the parish know I would be preaching today?” “No” replied the Deacon, “but word seems to have got round anyway.” Well, I am very happy to see more than three people here today!

We just heard these beautiful and even poetic words from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “You must think of yourselves as living for God in Christ.” But, beautiful though they are, what does it mean to say that we are living for God in Christ? Jesus today goes even farther in the Gospel today to talk about what it means to be a worthy follower of Him. 

I just finished a wonderful vacation relaxing by the beach in Hampton, NH, and this gave me a chance to catch up on some things. Among them, I really enjoy an podcast called “On Being” which interviews a variety of people on issues of faith each week. One of the most stunning episodes that I listened to was with Martin Sheen, the well-known actor of such films as Apocalypse Now and of course for seven years, he was President Jeb Bartlett on The West Wing – still my favorite president! But, Martin is also an extremely devout Catholic and a longtime social activist.

I actually had the great opportunity to meet him briefly a number of years ago. Martin is very close with the Franciscans in California, and one day I was at a Franciscan retreat house in Malibu for a meeting when Martin suddenly popped out of a friar’s office into the hallway where I was chatting with some others. The West Wing was still on the air at the time, and so I had the great fun of shaking his hand and greeting him as “Mr. President.”

In the interview I was listening to last week, Martin discussed his faith and what it means for him to live for God in Christ. Martin was raised Catholic, but he had a crisis of faith around the time of Apocalypse Now which took him on a search for God that eventually lead him right back to the Catholicism of his childhood. Speaking of his spiritual awakening, he said, “The love that I longed for, and I think all of us really long for, is knowing that we are loved. That despite ourselves, we are loved. And when you realize that, and you embrace that, you begin to look at everyone else and you can see very clearly who in your vision knows they’re loved and who does not. And that makes all the difference. And I began to give thanks and praise for that love. You know how, so often, people say they go on this journey — and I said it, too — that ‘I’m looking for God.’ But God has already found us, really. We have to look in the spot where we are least likely to look, and that is within ourselves. And when we find that love, that presence, deep within our own personal being — and it’s not something that you can earn, or something that you can work towards. It’s just a realization of being human, of being alive, of being conscious. And that love is overwhelming. And that is the basic foundation of joy. Then we become enviably joyful. And we see it in others, and we seek to ignite that love in others. But, you can’t force someone to realize they’re loved, but you can show them. And most of the effort we make is just by living our lives, by being compassionate, and loving, and respectful, and being a vessel of service for others. That’s what feeds that love.”

My friends, we are incredibly and immensely loved by God. This is, perhaps, the most profound reality of our faith. That God loves us, or as we hear in the First Letter of John, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God loved us first.” Let that sink in – God loved us first and best – and the certainty of that love fuels our joy. You are loved by God; you are God’s beloved. Nothing can change that or take it away. Even our greatest sin cannot take away the love that God has for us.

And, if you’re thinking today, “I want to feel that love” then you are in luck. We find the greatest expression of that love right here at Mass in the gift of the Eucharist. The early followers of Jesus, in fact, called Mass an Agape Feast which means love feast. This is a love feast where the God who loved us first showers that love on us. This is the love that we are then called to share with the world.

Again, from the Martin Sheen interview, he said, “It’s so overwhelming, at times, this reality of loving because one is loved. You just sit and stare sometimes into a vacuum and say, where did this come from, and why is it so clear, and why is it so simple, and so powerful? And one of the great mysteries that I experience at mass is the reception at communion. How do we embrace that? How can we possibly, consciously understand what that is? And I don’t have a clue. I just stand in line and say, ‘I’m Ramón, called Martin, your friend. And I’m with them.’ Whoever the crowd is, I’m getting in line with, you just look at the people who are in that line, that community; that is the greatest and simplest expression of overtly trying to explain this mystery. It is probably the most profound mystery in all of the universe, this love. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed just watching people in line to embrace the sacrament. It is the most profound thing. I never ever can get over it. It’s just something you have to surrender to. And just saying, I’m with them. That’s the community of saints.”

My friends, what we gather for here today is no more complicated than this – God loved us first and best. God has already found us. That same God wants to shower His love on us today in this Eucharist. If you have been longing to feel that love, then surrender to it here today. Let God’s love wash over you and touch the very depths of your being. God wants the Eucharist today to bind us, connect us, inspire us, and send us out in the world to remind the whole world that the love of God is meant for all.

God is with us, and we live together for God in Christ. And, as Martin said, “I’m with them!”

May the Lord give you peace.

Müller out, Ladaria in at CDF | America Magazine

By Gerard O'Connell | July 01, 2017 | AMERICA MAGAZINE

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, a Spanish Jesuit, as the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and successor to Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Vatican announced at midday, July 1.

Pope Francis’ decision to nominate a new prefect of the C.D.F. is perhaps the most important appointment he has made to the Roman Curia after that of naming Cardinal Pietro Parolin as secretary of state.

It is destined to have far-reaching consequences, not the least of which is to ensure that the C.D.F. and its prefect are rowing with and not against the pope on key issues, including the interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia,” synodality and cooperation with the commission for the protection of minors.

At the time of his appointment, the 73-year old archbishop was Secretary of the C.D.F., that is, the number two position in the congregation. He was appointed to that role by Benedict XVI on July 9, 2008.

Today’s Vatican communique confirmed the story that had been widely circulated the previous afternoon and evening that Francis had not renewed the mandate of the German cardinal. It also announced that Archbishop Ladaria would succeed Cardinal Müller in his roles as the President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission.

America has learned that Pope Francis received Cardinal Müller in private audience in his library in the Vatican at noon on June 30 and informed him that he would not be reconfirmed as prefect when his five-year mandate, which was due to end on July 2, concluded. Informed sources told America that Francis offered him the possibility of re-assignment to another position in the Vatican after the summer holidays, but the German cardinal turned this down on the grounds that since he had been head of the “supreme” congregation (as the C.D.F. is called in Vatican parlance) it would be beneath his dignity to accept another post and so he preferred to go into retirement.

Sources told America that the Vatican was scheduled to announce the change at the head of the C.D.F. on Monday, July 3, but after the audience with the pope, Cardinal Müller returned to the C.D.F. and informed his colleagues that he was no longer head of the congregation. That news was quickly passed to media close to the cardinal and became public some hours later. For this reason, the Vatican decided to make the announcement at noon today.

In choosing Archbishop Ladaria to replace him, the pope has opted for a highly qualified theologian who shares his pastorally sensitive approach, having worked closely with him in these years, and has the ability to manage the C.D.F.

In an interview on May 12 with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, Cardinal Müller reiterated his argument that Pope Francis’ post-synodal statement on the family does not open the door to receiving Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. This came after bishops’ conferences in Germany, Argentina and Malta issued guidelines on “Amoris” that allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the sacrament in certain situations.America has learned that a number of cardinals had asked Francis to remove Cardinal Müller from that post because he had on several occasions publicly disagreed with or distanced himself from the pope’s positions—in particular regarding “Amoris Laetitia”—and they felt this was undermining the papal office and magisterium.

“It is not good that the bishops’ conferences are making official interpretations of the pope,” Cardinal Müller said. “That is not Catholic. We have this document of the pope, and it must be read in the context of the complete Catholic tradition.”

While Pope Francis has signaled openness to an investigation into the role of women deacons in church history, establishing a commission (headed by Archbishop Ladaria) to study the issue, Cardinal Müller was firm in his opposition to the idea. “No. Impossible. It will not come.”

After Marie Collins, a sex abuse survivor who resigned her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors on March 1, cited what she described as resistance coming from some Vatican offices, in particular the C.D.F., against implementing recommendations, Cardinal Müller dismissed her claims. “I think this cliché must be put to an end: the idea that the pope, who wants the reform, is on one side and, on the other, a group of resisters who want to block it,” Cardinal Müller said.

Born at Manacor, on the Spanish island of Majorca, Archbishop Ladaria entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) after graduating in law at the University of Madrid in 1966. He went on to study at the Comillas Pontifical University, Madrid, and Sankt Georgen Graduate school of philosophy and theology in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

After his ordination to the priesthood in July 1973, Ladaria obtained a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, in 1975 and went onto be a professor of dogmatic theology, first at the Comillas university, and then in 1984 at the Gregorian University, where he was vice-rector from 1986-1994.

St. John Paul II appointed him as a member of the International Theological Commission in 1992 and consultor of the C.D.F. in 1995. As secretary-general of the I.T.C., a post he held until 2009, he led its revision of the church’s understanding of limbo which concluded that children who die without baptism can enjoy the beatific vision in heaven.

Benedict XVI appointed him as secretary of the C.D.F. on July 9, 2008, and made him archbishop. He has served as consultor to the congregation for bishops and the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity, and has been involved in the dialogue with Saint Pius X Society. Last August, Pope Francis appointed him as president of the study commission on the women’s diaconate. At the C.D.F. he has also been involved in dealing with the abuse of minors by clergy.