Sunday, June 16, 2019

Show God's Face (Holy Trinity)

Today is Father’s Day. Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity. 
And I think I’m going to keep this pretty simple.

Here’s something that can be a shock
when you realize it the first time, but:
we turn into our parents!

My father had funny little habits.
For example, whenever we’d drive somewhere, 
from time to time he’d say, “there’s a Burger King,” 
or “there’s Dairy Queen.” 
So I’d ask, “did you want to stop?”
“No,” he’d say. It was just something he’d do, pointing places out.

So guess what? Now I do exactly the same thing!

And I tell the exact same goofy jokes my father told!

The point being, that our parents play a huge role, 
And a big part of that is showing us who God is.

So when you and I talk about God being our Father,
That will be shaped by the father we grow up with.
For some people, obviously, this can mean some real trials of faith, 
because sometimes those relationships are a mess.
That can make it hard for some people to draw close to God; 
So the natural question, if that’s you, is: what do I do about this?


Honestly, that’s not easy. But one thing to do is to look at Jesus. 
The Son of God became human, and came among us, 
precisely to show us the face of God. 
Drawing close to Jesus helps us realize who God the Father is.

Another thing we can do is look around at other people in our lives.
Who has been there, steady and faithful and giving?
That person is showing you the face of the Father, 
you just didn’t know it.

And a third thing we do – we all do – 
is learn to be more forgiving of our parents’ flaws and limitations, 
especially as we reach that stage in life.

All that said, I don’t want to emphasize the negative. 
Rather, I want to stress how powerfully God’s love 
works through each of us, as imperfect as we are. 

That’s what each of the readings is talking about:
God was filled with a longing to create this world, 
and fill it with life – us, above all; 
that’s what the first reading is about.

And when humanity fell into sin and darkness, 
The Father’s love did not abate, but rather overflowed;
This is why Jesus came, why Jesus died, 
and why he gave us the Holy Spirit. 

You and I cannot begin to comprehend 
the height and breadth and depth of that love of God for each of us.
But if you are a parent, then you have a sense,
Because that’s the love you have for your own children.
They may defy you, disappoint you, drive you crazy at times,
But you never stop loving them. 
Not only can you not imagine doing so, 
even thinking about that is terribly painful.

That’s the love you – a flawed creature – have.
Multiply that by infinity, and that’s God’s love for each of us.

Everything I’ve said applies to both mothers and fathers.
But on this Father’s day, 
I do want to say something just to men, just to fathers. 

We all see how our culture denigrates fatherhood. 
Boys and men are routinely labeled “toxic.”
Movies and TV depict men as threats, or else fathers as a joke.
Or else they are simply absent.
And, of course, in reality that is often true.

Before it seems I am pointing the finger elsewhere, let me say this:
Too many of our spiritual fathers – priests and bishops – 
have degraded themselves and shamed the Church. 

So what do we do? Again, specifically addressing the boys and men:
You are a father now, or else you hope to be. 
I accepted the call to be a spiritual father, 
and I am confident there are other men here 
who God wants to be priests as well. 
Whatever our path, what we do is we stand up and be men.  
You’ve heard this before: we guard, we guide and we give.
If other men, other fathers, are dropping the ball, let’s pick it up!

Your spiritual leadership, here at Mass and at home, 
play a huge role in leading your children to a healthy and lasting faith.
No guarantees, but it will give you and them every advantage.
Lead your children to Mass; lead them in prayer; 

Above all, show them what true generosity, true love, looks like.
My father has been gone awhile, but his lessons are with me always;
And it will be the same for your children long decades in the future!

And if you will forgive me, I’m going to give a plug 
for our annual Men’s Prayer Walk. 
Every year at this time – coming up on Friday, June 28 – 
all the boys and men of every age are invited to come together 
to walk a couple of miles around the perimeter of our parish, 
after which we have a meal and fellowship.

We’ll meet behind my house by 5:30 pm, board some hay wagons,
Ride out to the road where we’ll walk and pray, and then come back.
If you can’t walk, just ride on the hay wagon, or bring your golf cart!

Why do this? To be men; to be fathers, 
who provide spiritual leadership, and spiritual protection, 
for our parish. To teach our sons and grandsons.
And in all that, we show God’s face to our community.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The world is on fire: so is the Holy Spirit (Sunday homily)

Today you and I celebrate Pentecost. 
This is a big day – bigger, I think, than we realize. 

This is a day to celebrate, to be full of joy, because – 
It is the day God’s infinite Joy – the Holy Spirit – 
was poured out on the early believers. 

For the Jewish People, Pentecost coincided with the wheat harvest.
It was also considered the day God gave the Ten Commandments.

So consider what Jesus gave us on this day:
The Holy Spirit: God’s Law written, not on stone, but in our hearts.
And again, on that very day, Christ’s great harvest of souls began.

There is something about our Christian Faith we know about, 
but sometimes forget, and it is this:
Strength and weakness, exaltation and humiliation,
Good News and “bad” news, are all bound up together.

The king of heaven is born a poor child in a stable. 
His throne was the Cross.
To follow him is a path of glory, but sorrows first. 

Sometimes we get so steeped in bad news: 
about the world, about our society, about our Church;
that we forget this truth: Victory is often concealed in defeat.

So let’s talk about some bad news without flinching.
It is shocking to see our culture so rapidly turn pagan.
Churches are being vandalized by the hundreds across France.
Nearly one in four Americans report having “no religion.” 
No doubt some of this is a result of failed leadership 
and clergy who behaved as criminals.

One more data point: 2019 marks the highest tide of persecution 
of Christians ever – in 2,000 years.

Ah, but remember: On Pentecost, 
a tiny group of nobodies were set aflame by the Holy Spirit, 
and they started a blaze that continues to crackle and spread.

So disturbing was that first Christian explosion 
that the mighty Roman Empire declared all out war on Christ.
For three centuries, Rome sought to exterminate us;
right up until Constantine, the Emperor of Rome, 
saw the Cross in the sky, and bowed down before the King of Kings!

There is a reason for so much persecution that you never hear.
Did you know that in Africa and Asia, 
Many, many Muslims are converting to Christ?
This in countries where converting brings a death sentence;
where Christians are barred from entry, bibles are confiscated;
Christian worship and sacraments must be kept secret.

According to Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN, 
Many of these Muslim converts report 
receiving visions and dreams of Jesus and Mary.
Pentecost Fire is still spreading!

This is what the terrorists are trying to kill. They will fail!
In China, we hear about churches being bulldozed and clergy arrested.
But again, this is connected to Christianity spreading.
From ten million in 1980 to an estimated 100 million today.

Sometimes the best of times for us are the worst:
When everything is secure and we are prosperous, we lose our way.
Meanwhile, when the sky seems to be falling, everything is dark:
The blood of martyrs, Tertullian said, is the seed of the Church.

Now, let me say a word about the tiny bit of earth 
called St. Remy Parish, which God has entrusted to you and me.
We’re not perfect, despite all that we have going for us.

Nevertheless, with God’s help, something good is happening here.
Last Sunday I talked about the good scores our students received.
But that’s just one indicator. 
We have lots of youth activities where they build friendships 
centered on faith. 
This is flowing into college, 
and our kids themselves are making things happen. 
We had a lot of people make a Marian consecration at New Years, 
and the result was two more Militia Immaculata groups.

It’s all a package deal: dedicated catechists, 
capable people who work for our parish, 
a community that wants to keep Faith at the center, 
and families that pray together 
and go to confession and Mass together.

But before this turns into a brag, let me give a caution: 
All this works, when we work it: 
that is, when kids really do show up at religious education;
when people really do take advantage of confession;
when folks really do get involved in prayer and faith activities.

But not everyone does. There’s a drop-off in high school years, 
and when the school year winds down. 
Sad to say, for some, sports trumps faith.

Look: there are winds of unbelief blowing harder all the time, 
and it’s becoming a raging storm. 
I have to ask: do you want your kids to stay Catholic? 
Marry as Catholics? 
Do you want your grandchildren to be baptized as Catholics?
Do you think this is going to happen automatically?

So yes, there are good things happening here, 
but the minute any of us becomes complacent, and rests on our laurels, 
we’re headed for a crash. Mark my words.

And if you wonder why we put so much time and money and effort
into reinforcing our kids’ faith, this is why!
This parish exists for one, and ONLY one reason: to make disciples!

So, we can look at the world and see all the ways it’s going crazy.
All the trouble brewing, especially for Christians. It’s true.
But look again: the Holy Spirit is also at work: 
Let’s you and I be part of it! 

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Ascension is about getting ready for the Holy Spirit (Sunday homily)

As you know, each Sunday during Easter Season 
I have been focusing on one of the sacraments. 
This Sunday – when we recall the Ascension of our Lord 
back to the heights of heaven – I want to talk about confirmation.

Does that surprise you? It surprises me! 
Originally I was going to talk about it next week, on Pentecost, 
which would seem an obvious tie-in.

Naturally, you would expect me to talk about 
Jesus returning to heaven.
However, I want you to notice something in the readings we heard:
When Jesus talks about his ascending to heaven, 
he himself ties it to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit “in a few days.”

So it seems that the Ascension is pretty closely tied to Pentecost.
Jesus said elsewhere in the Gospel that he had to return to heaven, 
Precisely in order to send the Holy Spirit to them.

If you are wondering why, let me explain it this way. 
Every Thursday we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, all day.
And during the school year – and a few times over the summer – 
we have a time for children to adore Jesus. 
Meanwhile, I’m hearing confessions.

When I come out of the confessional, 
lots of children’s eyes turn toward me! That’s what kids do, right?
But of course, I don’t want them looking at me – 
their gaze belongs on Jesus, who is on the altar. 
So I walk out of sight, so they look at Jesus.
Similarly, Jesus knew that as long as he remained on earth, 
the believers would not discover the power of the Holy Spirit. 
They would not discover the power of the sacraments. 

Think of it: if Jesus stayed on earth in his body – 
the way he was with the Apostles – 
then everyone would want to go wherever he is. 

If he travelled the world, people could see him – 
maybe from a distance. The pope travels the world. 
How many people have gotten close to him? 
How many people have even talked to him?

So Jesus said: it is better for you that I go.
That caused us to turn our gaze to the Holy Spirit, and the sacraments. 
And as a result, everyone, everywhere, 
can be as close to Jesus as possible, every day, all the time.

Now let’s talk about the sacrament of confirmation.
And just as the Ascension and Pentecost go together,
So the sacraments of baptism and confirmation go together.
The Catechism tells us that “in the first centuries 
Confirmation generally comprised one single celebration with Baptism, 
forming with it a ‘double sacrament,’”
in the words of St. Cyprian (CCC 1290).

This is still what we do when someone old enough 
to understand the sacraments wants to be baptized. 
So this past Easter, we had a second-grader be baptized, confirmed, 
and make her first Holy Communion, all at the same Mass.
If you try to think about confirmation apart from baptism, 
it’s hard to explain. 
We say, you receive the Holy Spirit; except, that happens in baptism. 
We say, you receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit; 
but does that mean you and I don’t receive 
the gifts of the Holy Spirit until then?

Baptism is when you and I begin to be a Christian. 
We are washed clean and made new. 
You and I become another Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit.

One way to understand confirmation is to listen to what the bishop says 
as he anoints you with chrism:
“Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“Be sealed”: those are the key words.
We might think of sealing an envelope: that keeps the contents safe.
Jesus went to a lot of trouble to save us; 
he wants to “seal” the life of God, the gifts of God, in our lives.

Another way to think about it 
would be to think of how certain documents receive a “seal,” 
demonstrating that they are authentic, the real thing;
they are complete, ready to go.
The “seal” of the Holy Spirit means you and I are, in a sense, 
“the real thing,” and that we’re “ready to go.”

So this is why whenever someone is in danger of death – 
especially young children – 
it is proper not only to baptize, but also confirm.
I know that’s not something we like thinking about, 
but any priest will gladly come right away 
and give your child confirmation, even an infant.

Of course, someone will ask, then why do most of us 
receive the sacrament of confirmation later, 
in junior high or high school?

The short answer, in a word, is “history.” 
Over the centuries, things got rearranged to how it is now,
And that’s what people are used to. 
Maybe someday it’ll all be put back to the traditional way,
but don’t hold your breath; most bishops are inclined to leave it as it is.

So for those who aren’t confirmed yet, especially those who expect 
to receive the sacrament of confirmation this fall, 
my word for you is “get ready.” 
Christ wants you to be his representatives – and you are, already; 
but there’s still more to learn, more ways to grow.
When you receive the sacrament, Christ is saying, “you’re ready!”

And therefore, for the rest of us who have been confirmed?
It means, “no excuses”! The Holy Spirit has sealed us.
We’re authentic, genuine Christians, the real deal.
That’s a lot to live up to, which is why the other sacraments 
are so important, so we really DO live up to it.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Brother priests: why aren't you hearing more confessions?

This is a post especially for my brother priests.

I've been a priest sixteen years, and as the years go by, I find myself spending more time in confession -- not so much as a penitent, I mean, but as a confessor. At Saint Remy, we have about six hours of confession every week. On top of that, we have lots of extra times for confession, for our schoolkids, in the weeks before Christmas, and in Lent, and some other extras all year long.

People always say, oh that's a lot! And it is, by comparison with most parishes (although we don't stand out so much in this area; see below*). Even then, I am not convinced it's enough, really, but maybe it's close.

Here's what I don't get: having one -- and only one -- hour a week for confessions. Or even less. Unless you're an extremely small parish, how does this get the job done?

* For what it's worth, here's the situation locally. I went to Masstimes.org and looked up confessions in my area. Sunday: two parishes nearby have confessions (including mine). Monday: one parish, 16 miles away. Tuesday: four parishes nearby. Wednesday: three parishes, plus mine. Thursday: eight parishes, plus mine. Friday: two parishes. Saturday: a whole bunch, as you might expect. Without doing a detailed analysis, it looks to me that most parishes around here -- or "clusters," where multiple parishes share one or more priests -- have about two hours on average.

Now let's look at nearby Dayton, where we have some really big parishes.

Without naming the parishes, here's what I found:

- A lot of small to medium size parishes with an hour or two. Certainly some with more.
- Several really big ones, with an hour or less.

Now, to be fair, the information at Masstimes.org could be incorrect. However, when I clicked through on a couple of parish websites -- those with minimal confession times -- the information was confirmed.

If you ask me to name the parishes, I won't. I know the priests at these parishes, and they don't necessarily fit the stereotypes people are always ready to provide. This isn't about "liberal" or "conservative," or even a generational thing. My purpose isn't to make anyone out to be a bad guy, just to ask: do you really think this is enough?

Think of it this way:

1. Do you really think the state of the Catholic Faith is healthy in our diocese? Are we growing or stagnant or fading?

2. Do you think we need spiritual renewal?

3. Do you think Catholics are making healthy use of the sacrament of confession? If you do, based on what, exactly?

4. And, finally, how can there be spiritual renewal without the sacrament of penance? Jesus gave us exactly seven sacraments, and exactly one that is all about forgiveness and conversion. How can there be any plan for spiritual renewal that doesn't include healthy portions of this sacrament?

Now, I know what a lot of people -- including priests -- will say: people won't come.

To which I say, yes and no.

Yes, it's true that adding more hours of confession may not make much of a difference, if that's all you do. But if you also talk about it, from the pulpit, in the bulletin, and other ways; if you talk about your own need for confession and how it's helped you; if you really go after it...then yes, it will help. You will see more people.

On the other hand, I will point out that if you can, there is a time when -- if you offer confessions -- people will come with hardly any extra effort. What is that magic time? It's right before Mass, either daily or Sunday.

Yes, it's frustrating that people seem to expect everything for their convenience. And as a priest all by myself in my parish, I realize it can be hectic hearing confessions right before Mass, and then get things ready for Mass. For that reason, I don't do this all the time. But I can tell you, it does work.

But in our largest parishes, we have two and sometimes three priests. Why not have confessions offered by the priest not offering that Mass? That way, you can offer confessions right up until Mass starts.

Sad to say, there was a lot of misinformation promoted for many years in priestly formation. A lot of priests were told that it was actually wrong to have confessions available if Mass was going on. This is false. We were told that you shouldn't have confessions during the Triduum; this is not only wrong, it's INSANE!

Yes, it's hard work, especially when you've got lots of other things to do, and that's certainly true the week before Christmas, and Holy Week. But people WILL come to confession at those times. And if you preach about (and also practice in your own life) frequent confession, you can and will make a difference. I've seen it work; I've heard people say, "I heard you talk about confession at Mass..." "You kept hammering the point, I finally came..."

Our country and our Church desperately need renewal. And that renewal cannot come without a revival of the sacrament of penance. Do you think I'm wrong? Tell me why.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Marriage & family are all about the journey to heavenly peace (Sunday homily)

As you may know, each Sunday of Easter 
I have been talking about one of the seven sacraments, 
because they are the primary way the power of the Resurrection, 
the new life of Christ, is poured into our lives.

This week we’re going to talk about the sacrament of marriage.
Meanwhile, the main thing the readings talk about is peace.
No doubt some of you are scratching your head, wondering,
What in the world does peace have to do with marriage and family life?

But of course, they really are all bound up together,
Because peace isn’t something that merely happens.
Whether in families, or between neighbors, or among nations,
Peace comes along a hard path, and even a long journey,
And usually with conflict most of the way along.

What’s more, I submit that Christian marriage 
shows us how such peace is achieved on every level.

Let’s recall exactly what a sacrament is:
an outward sign, instituted by Jesus Christ, to give grace; 
that is, God’s power, God’s own life, pour into our lives.

So marriage – like all sacraments – is a sign. 
This may seem obvious, but: when you talk about a sign,
there is what the sign is made of;
the message that the sign communicates: what it tells you; 
And third, where the sign takes you. 

With marriage, the sign itself is the man and the woman 
choosing each other for a specific purpose: to make a family. 

Meanwhile, what the sign of marriage tells us – the message – 
is who Christ is, and how he loves his Church.
Remember, Jesus calls himself the Bridegroom, and we are his Bride.

And that brings us to the journey of marriage and family life:
It is all about human frailty and conflict;
At the same time, it is how we become the best versions of ourselves.
It’s a bumpy and painful ride, but the outcome is peace.
Not merely an absence of conflict, but the fullness of God’s own life. 

Marriage, let us be clear, wasn’t invented by the Church.
It derives from human nature itself; 
so every culture, every society, every religion, has marriage. 
In its most basic form, marriage is seeking a mate.

So marriage is about one very specific expression of love.
That specific love is about mating, and therefore, family.
It’s all bound up together. That is why it’s man plus woman.
What about two men or two women? 
Of course they can love each other, that’s fine!

But what they cannot do is be mates. They can’t be true spouses.
And this is revealed by the obvious fact that
two men or two women cannot make a family together.
This is not my opinion; this is not even a religious dogma.
It is simply a fact of science.

Where does this leave those with attractions to the same sex? 
Maybe someone here, or someone we know and care for?
The answer is, not everyone has a vocation to marriage.
I say that irrespective of orientation.
Many men and women enter marriage with each other, only to discover, 
to their sorrow, that one or the other isn’t cut out for it.

But everyone does have a vocation to love:
And by that I mean, a call from God 
to be truly giving and generous in our lives, no matter our state in life. 
Sometimes the truth we face about ourselves can be hard,
But evading or pretending is not the answer;
Living the truth may be harder, but it leads us to God.

How did we get so mixed up about this?
Because, as a society, we long ago started lying to ourselves 
about what sex really is for.

We preferred to believe that it is for self-fulfillment, 
so a life-long commitment is optional;
along the way, we also told ourselves the lie 
that sex can be separated from making children.

Normalizing contraception was critical to this whole misadventure, 
because so long as children are in the picture, even as a possibility,
then the man and the woman cannot really escape the call
to die to self, and precisely by doing so, to transcend themselves.

And really, that’s what mating and family are:
a capacity given us by God, to be more than we are,
resulting in a child, a “me” who is not me.
A parent calls this child “mine,” yet the child is all her own;
Someone who will go further, and rise higher.
And isn’t that the greatest dream of every father and mother?

So: people get frustrated at the Catholic Church 
for refusing to revisit or change her teaching 
that the marital act must always, always be open to the gift of life;
thereby excluding all forms of artificial birth control. But this is why.

Such a change would mean denying a truth 
that is both at the center of family life, 
and at the center of our Christian Faith:
In dying to self, new life is born.
If you take away the Cross, where is the Resurrection?

The way to peace that the readings present in different ways, 
is what powers family life along the bumpy road to heaven:
You and I die to ourselves, to our own pride and certainties.
Jesus Christ must be king; no one and nothing else will do.
The Holy Spirit must be the navigator. 
The Father is the home we are going to.

Day by day, families ride along together; somehow it works.
And it’s the same for the whole Church of Christ. 
You and I are on the way to that heavenly Jerusalem!
It’s a rough ride, but the Holy Spirit will get us there:
Jesus promised!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A homily for a new priest's first Mass (Sunday homily)

When a mother gives birth to a child, everyone celebrates. 
Today we and all the Archdiocese are celebrating, 
because Mother Church has given birth to nine new priests, 
including of course, Father Zach Cecil, a son of St. Mary Parish.

But what precisely are we celebrating? 

Certainly this is a great personal accomplishment 
for Father Cecil and his classmates. 
It has been a long slog of study and practice and prayer.
Along the way there are moments of doubt and darkness, 
but also consolation and conviction. 
This is what happens when Jesus says, “follow me,” and you go!

As much as I am tempted to talk about Father Zach, 
who I’ve known since he was a boy, 
and he himself told me then he was going to be a priest, 
this is only somewhat about him.
He will say, just as our beloved Father Caserta always said: 
It is all about the Lord.

The Gospel we just heard is a good starting point.
It begins on a dark note: Judas has just left the room!
We know where he’s going. 
We know what’s about to happen, only a few hours later.
But what does Jesus talk about? How terrible and sad everything is?
No. He says, Now is the time of glory!

There are lots of discordant notes in our time.
If you want to write a story about all that’s wrong with our society, 
and with our Church, you can do that very easily.

And yet as his friend turns traitor, Jesus almost seems buoyant: 
God’s going to act now, he says; and it’s going to happen “at once.” 

This darkness is the moment of Christ’s great victory, and of ours! 
This is when all hope and life is about to be born!

So in light of that, I say to you, Father, 
what a priest recently said in the National Catholic Register: 
“There is no better time to be a Catholic priest.”

This ties in with the first reading, where we see Paul and Barnabas
actually ordain men as priests to serve the local churches, 
But as Paul does so, he warns them about hardships to come.

Back to my question: what are we celebrating? 
It is that the glory of Christ is made manifest: here, in our midst!
That’s what Easter is. That’s what the sacraments are. 
And that’s what this sacrament of Holy Orders is all about.

Jesus gives an invitation. Each of us hears it in a particular way.
For some, it is to be, as he told Peter, “fishers of men.”
To be, as Paul described many times, fathers of spiritual children.

Every once in a while you can hear some grouch complaining, 
“why does he get to be a priest but not me?”

But the true perspective is seen in the joy we feel 
when first a man enters the seminary, 
and even more, when he returns to us as a priest.

The reason for that joy is obvious: 
most realize that while this call to Holy Orders indeed is a privilege – 
and certainly every priest knows it deep in his bones, 
because he knows how very unworthy he is! –
Nevertheless, the priesthood is fundamentally a gift:
Maybe 1% to the man himself; 99% to everyone else.

The other day I heard someone say that in marriage and family life,
you experience both the lowest lows and the highest highs.
You give yourself, and lose yourself in another, 
and from that gift comes the miracle of new life, 
with every possible heartache and exaltation. 

No parent would wish his or her hardships on anyone else; 
but neither would they wish away the gift of their family.

Here’s the thing: all this is likewise true of the priesthood:
The lowest lows and highest highs. 
The moment of the Cross is the moment of glory.
This just points out something many don’t realize:
The priesthood is, in many ways, a mirror of marriage.

Holy, happy, Christ-centered families give us healthy, holy priests; 
and in turn, it is faithful, courageous priests who strengthen us 
as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.

Let me close by saying something to you, Father, priest-to-priest, 
which I know you will believe; but it may take time fully to understand.

Father, you promised the Archbishop you would obey him; 
and to teach Christ’s word faithfully, 
and to celebrate the sacred mysteries with zeal and devotion.
You will teach and explain the Faith with conviction;
You will get up early and stay up late to comfort the grieving 
and fortify those who are weary and lost.
You will baptize, absolve, and be a companion in joy and sorrow.

But at the center is the Holy Mass.
Whether before hundreds of family and friends, 
or seemingly all by yourself, 
you stand at the altar and you hear Jesus say,
“This is My Body, given for you.”
And you will be shocked that it is your own voice saying it.
You can’t stand apart from it. It is Jesus, all Jesus, all the time.
And yet, in an impossible mystery, it is also you.

Day by day, year by year, laying yourself on the altar.
“No greater love,” Jesus said. This is what his priests do.
This is how they love the people he gives his priests to care for.