Sunday, April 26, 2020

Please let us have the Eucharist!

This is a somewhat difficult homily to give.
The readings are all about hungering for the Holy Eucharist – 
a great thing to talk about for a Catholic priest! – 
but how am I supposed to talk about this, now, 
when you and I cannot come together at Holy Mass 
to satisfy that hunger? It seems cruel to talk about this!

And to make it even worse, today was supposed to be 
First Communion for our second graders!

So, there’s no getting around our bad feeling about all this.

Still, let’s encourage each other with this knowledge:
Our forced-fast from the Body and Blood of Jesus 
cannot go on much longer.

And now that I think about it, maybe trying to increase your hunger for the Eucharist 
is exactly the right thing to do –
Because perhaps that longing will be the fuel for our prayers, 
as a community, for this exile from Holy Mass to end at last.

This is a good time to recall something Pope John Paul II talked about:
“Eucharistic Amazement.” He meant that when you and I 
really ponder deeply the reality of the Mass – 
the reality of God becoming human, solely for our sake, 
with the Cross being the goal all along…

Taking in this astonishing fact: that Jesus did all this by choice!
That the Father would, in the words of the Exsultet Prayer,
“ransom a slave by giving away his Son”!

It is astounding that God would love each of us, every single one of us, 
that much. And yet the Cross – and the Eucharist – are proof.

A few years ago I made a trip to Italy with a group of pilgrims,
And we visited a site of one of many Eucharistic miracles.
We were able to behold and adore a Sacred Host that had – 
in the hands of a doubting priest – become human flesh. 
That is one of many such Eucharistic miracles over the centuries.

At Mass, during my homily, I gestured toward the miracle, 
right in front of us, and I asked the pilgrims: “What more do we need?”

And I ask you the same question, as Mass is happening right now,
And the miracle of transubstantiation will happen in a few minutes,
And I will lift up the true Body and Blood of Jesus before your gaze.
I ask you: what more do you we need?

You have experienced a kind of “Babylonian Exile” 
from Mass for the past few weeks. 
Why has God allowed this? What does this mean? 
We can only guess.
Is it a call to repentance? 
Is it a rebuke to those who treated the Mass as not very important? 

And could it be an invitation from heaven for each of us, all of us,
To examine ourselves, and above all, to beg heaven.
I was about to say, to beg for the end of this exile from Mass,
And of course that’s what we all want.

But it occurs to me that something else is even more important:
That our love for Jesus, for the Mass, for his Body and Blood, 
grow stronger and stronger. 
And I say that to myself first and last. 

It’s very easy for us priests to congratulate ourselves on our learning, 
our experiences, and whatever sacrifices come our way – 
as if they don’t come your way as much, or more.
It’s very easy to have a kind of “insider” mindset and get lazy.

Many times I have had God remind me and challenge me
By showing me the depth, not of my faith, but yours!
Maybe it’s those who kneel for a long time 
on cold, hard pavement outside St. Remy Hall. 

Or those second graders who have inspired me over many years,
Including those who not only were eager for their First Communion, 
But kept coming back, again and again and again.

So let’s do this together, brothers and sisters:
Pray for me as I pray for you, that our desire for Jesus will grow.
And may that longing be the driving force of prayer 
that storms heaven and begs, please! 
Let us please come back to Mass again!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

His mercy is our joy (Sunday homily)

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, which completes the Easter Octave.
As you’ve heard me say before, for us as Christians,
The resurrection of our Lord Jesus
is such a HUGE reality to celebrate, that one day is just not enough;
So the Church creates a special eight-day “day.”
That’s what an “octave” is, and it’s what the past week has been.

It reminds me of an old newspaper I saw last week, from August, 1945:
the headline blared, “Japan surrenders!”; it was the end of World War II.
A little lower it said, “today and tomorrow are national holidays.”
It’s the same idea.

You and I know this is the weirdest Easter we’ve known, but so be it.
Honestly, I’m getting tired of talking about
the you-know-what that has turned everything upside down.

I’m tired of giving that virus so much attention!
I want to talk about Jesus!
I want to talk about his victory over death!
About his power over everything!

And I don’t know about you,
but I’m tired of being moody and disoriented.
What happened when Jesus appeared to the Apostles?
They were moody and disoriented, and what did he say?
“Peace!” “Peace be with you!”

Ever since I was a boy, I’ve heard this reading, and wondered:
What was it like for Thomas to be invited
to put his hands into the nail marks, into the wounded side, of Jesus?
Did Thomas actually do it, as Jesus welcomed him to do?
Or maybe, once Thomas saw Jesus, he no longer needed that.
But for me, the thought of actually putting my hand there,
and feeling those wounds endured by my Lord and Savior,
has always been the most wonderfully consoling thought.

No matter what sins I dread, no matter what cares keep me awake,
to have Jesus say, “Bring your hand there,”
Gives me peace, and he wants it to give you peace, too.

Do you realize that Jesus is talking about you and me in this Gospel?
You didn’t know you were mentioned in the Bible? But you are!
He says, “blessed are those who do not see, and yet believe.”
That is you. That is me. We are even more blessed than Thomas!
How wonderful, how peace-giving, that is!

So we celebrate Jesus’ boundless mercy today.
Of course that is about forgiving sins,
and opening the gates of heaven to each of us, and all who believe.
But his mercy goes beyond that: “his mercy endures forever”!

So no matter what happens in all this mess,
In the ways that really matter, we will be all right.

If the entire world turned upside-down –
I mean, literally upside down –
Jesus is still Lord, he is in charge,
because he is the only one who can take the earth and flip it.

This coming Saturday, something wonderful,
something we’ve all looked forward to, will happen in Cincinnati.
Our own Elijah Puthoff will be ordained a deacon by the Archbishop.

Now, of course our original plan was to transport
half of Shelby and Darke counties down to Cincinnati for that.
And now, bummer, that’s not possible.
But he is still going to be ordained, and in a week,
we’ll all see him dressed as a deacon for the first time.
Maybe I’ll talk him into giving us a homily sometime soon.

I know the rest of the Puthoff and Richard families
are not letting anything dim their happiness,
and that’s good advice for you and me.

Normally we would be gathering in church this afternoon
to observe Divine Mercy Sunday, but we can’t this year together.
Obviously, we should not all show up at 3 pm at church.

But we will have four hours of Exposition this morning,
outside St. Remy Hall, just as we’ve been doing,
and will keep doing, during this lock-down.
You and I know that nothing blocks Jesus;
so we don’t have to be all in the same place at the same time,
to ask for, and to receive, and to give thanks for, Jesus’ Divine Mercy.

Jesus and his mercy is everywhere, for all; and what did he say?
“His mercy endures forever.” Amen!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A message for my younger parishioners

Here's something I taped yesterday for the children and teens of my parish:

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Easter Joy in Dark Times (Easter homily)

With so many readings, I can only give a general overview: 
These are chosen in order to trace two lines through history. 
I’m going to say this out of order and I’ll explain why in a moment.

The second line is the course of human action: 
human rebellion against God, things getting worse and worse, 
sometimes up and sometimes down. We started in Paradise;
and at various times we were in slavery to false gods in Egypt, 
or enjoying great prosperity and success, or suddenly in exile, 
or finding our way back again. That is the second line.

The first line traces God’s action; 
and because it is about what God does, that makes it first; 
but I mention it second because we almost always start 
by thinking about ourselves, our accomplishments, 
and only when things go badly do we wake up and ask, “Where’s God?” 

The other reason I come back to what God does 
is because not only does God have the first word, he has the last word. 

Before time began, God simply was, from everlasting.
Time began with God creating this world and us. 

Redemption began the very first moment man showed his back to God; 
because in that moment, God knew what he would do, not merely – 
this part is exciting, listen! – not merely to restore us; 
no, God’s plan, even before Adam sinned, 
was to give us something entirely new and infinitely better! 

To restore us not merely to an earthly Paradise, 
but to give God-life to us; divine life; heaven!
So we begin in the darkness; 
and it’s darker for our sorrow that we cannot gather, 
because of our hunger for Jesus in the Eucharist, 
and the doubts and grief that come from these chaotic times!

And so, yes, it is dark, and we are sad, and honestly, 
we may well be saying, “it doesn’t feel like Easter!”

But despite all that: this is the night! Jesus rose from the dead! 

God’s hand – sometimes acting with mighty power, 
but other times so mild and hidden that we wonder if he is still there – 
brought the lines of human action and divine providence together 
in one place and moment of time: Jerusalem, not quite 2,000 years ago, 
when we nailed the Son to the cross and he said Father forgive them, 
they know not what they do.
He died, taking our sin and guilt with him to the grave.
Yet the grave could not contain him; he lives! He lives! 

And this is the invitation he gives: live in me! 
Not merely a human life, but a divine life! Jesus-life; resurrection-life; 
life that cannot be conquered by a cross or a grave, 
a virus or a recession, a lost job or an empty church 
or separation from those we love. 
Nothing can overcome the life Jesus has and is and gives!

You and I cannot pretend we don’t experience this present strangeness so we won’t even try. 
And pointing out that in all these centuries, 
Christians have been through worse doesn’t make us feel any better. 
So the question is, what do we do about joy? Shouldn’t we feel joy?  Where is it?

Well, we know where that joy is, because we know where Jesus is. 
But it is still dark, and just like the very first disciples were afraid – 
and that was even after they were told Jesus rose, 
and even after they saw the empty tomb, they were afraid! 
So it’s OK for us to feel afraid, too.

Being afraid doesn’t change the fact that we have heard, 
“He is not here, he has been raised.” 
It doesn’t change that we have seen the tomb is empty.

Notice, Peter and John and Mary Magdalene did not stay at the tomb; 
they went and told people what they had seen. 
They were confused; they were uncertain; but they believed.
In time, the words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid!” finally sank in;
and it will be so for us.

This moment will not last forever. 
We’re getting too much Good Friday right now, but that happens;
and it’s just all happening too much at once right now. 
But it won’t last forever. Digging deep, the joy is there, 
it has always been there: Jesus is alive! Jesus reigns!
So don’t just find joy; share it. People in darkness need it.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Something bitter, something thrilling (Holy Thursday homily)

This day and this Mass, and what it recalls, 
is about the priesthood of Jesus and the Holy Eucharist.

In case it’s not obvious, those go together. 
You can’t have one without the other. 
Without a priest, who will offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, 
from which the Eucharist comes?
And without a Sacrifice to offer, we don’t need priests.

How do we know the Mass and the Eucharist are a sacrifice?
Because Jesus said so.
When he says, “Do this in memory of me” –
although that isn’t clear unless you look closely at the text –
that is the language of sacrifice.

And Jesus also chose this day: Passover. That was a sacrifice.
He began the Passover in the upper room the night before,
then through the rest of the night, until sundown on Friday,
the sacrifice is fully offered, and completed, on the Cross.

And that’s why the words, “Do this in memory of me” are so amazing; 
because after all, what was there left – to do?
Jesus is the Lamb; he gave his life as a ransom for many;
He himself said from the Cross, “It is finished.”
What was there left to do?

And the answer is this: the Mass! The Eucharist!
He placed this sacrifice, our sharing of it, the Eucharist,
precisely in the middle of his whole project.

He didn’t take a Bible and say, “this is the center” – 
as important as the Bible is to us.

He didn’t make baptism or the commandments, 
or even serving the poor, or prayer or fasting, the center,
despite how important they clearly are.

No, the center is the Cross, and – listen – our sharing of it.

So when he said, “take and eat,” was that only for the 12 present?
When he said, “eat my flesh and drink my blood,”
that was only going to be true until the last apostle died?

No; he also said, I will be with you always – always! – until the end.

He put the Cross at the center – and told us to take up our own.
And so that it would include us, he put the Mass likewise at the center, 
because that’s how we remember, and that’s how we “take and eat.” 
That’s how we’re there. That, above all, is how he is with us always.

So the Mass and the Eucharist: that’s the central reality.
The priesthood exists as the way Jesus gives that to all.

It’s easy to see how the apostles themselves, 
and every bishop and priest who might come after, could get a big ego.
Look how important we are!

So that’s why Jesus did this with the washing of feet.
If you want to lead, be a servant. 

This is a particularly bitter Holy Thursday for us all.
Because the church is nearly empty. Very bitter.
Astonishingly, this is happening in nearly every place tonight.
It seems likely that this has never happened – never happened! – 
since that very first time Jesus said, “do this in memory of me.”

That is a sign. Of what? I don’t know.
Someone smarter and holier than I will have to explain it.
But we can at least pause and take notice.

Is God giving us the biggest wake-up call in history?
Is this a call to repentance? 
Is he trying to deepen our hunger and thirst for him?
Or something else entirely?

One thing I do know; this I am utterly certain of:
We continue to remember! The Holy Mass goes on! 
The whole world is caught up in a mysterious moment,
a sign from heaven we don’t yet know how to decipher,
But God’s message is not, “I’m done” but rather, “I’m still here!”
And for those who hunger and thirst for him,
Jesus promised us, we will be satisfied! 

I cannot express how limp and defeated I am by this.
I want to feed you! But I am overcome.
But Jesus is not overcome. Nothing could defeat him.
Even death could not constrain him.
It is painful to have to take part in this Mass by video;
But the proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection continues!

Jesus gives us courage to relive those events, so long ago, 
that were bleaker and more frightening than anything we face now.

Keep courage, keep faith, Jesus is here!
Each year he takes us through the events 
of his suffering and our salvation, from the Cross to an empty grave.
This year we are even more alert: 
something mysterious is at work here.
Whatever it is, is for our salvation. 
That is a thrilling thought.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Palm Sunday Mass at Saint Remy

Holy Week in Purgatory (Sunday homily)

The homily for Palm Sunday must always be brief, including this year, 
because right after this, the seminarians and I will take 
the Holy Eucharist over to St. Remy Hall, 
and we will all be able to adore our Lord Jesus 
outside from about 8 am to Noon, as we’ve done the past two Sundays.

As you know by now, this will continue at least until May 3; 
so we’ll continue to have exposition each Sunday at St. Remy Hall. 
It’s going to be rainy today, but you can stay in your car.

I can only imagine how difficult these days are for you at home. 
On one hand, I have nothing to complain about: I feel very healthy, 
and I have everything I need. And yet, I miss being with you. 

Confessions continue at all the regular times, 
and during Holy Week, we will have extra times as follows: 
Tuesday, 7-9 pm; Wednesday, 3-4 pm; 5:45-6:15 pm and 7-8 pm; 
Thursday, 5:30-6:30 pm; Good Friday, 11:30-12:30 and 3-4 pm; 
Holy Saturday, 9-10:30 am and 3:30-5 pm. 

I am hearing confessions in the room behind the Mary statue. 
And if anyone needs me to come visit, please call and let me know.

I emphasize confession for two reasons. 
First, obviously, in a time of greater danger, 
why wouldn’t each of us want to be in a state of grace?
And second, a good confession can only help each of us 
work together better, being more patient and generous.

We will continue to have Mass every day, broadcast at least 
on Facebook and if possible on YouTube. We’ll be back in church on Thursday evening. 

In other words, you and I are trying to carry on as best we can.

When I say that some Masses will be in church, 
Even so, these are not open to the public; 
for those hours, the doors will be shut.
I say that with the greatest sadness 
and I beg you to forgive me for that, 
but it’s what we must do right now. I’m so very sorry. 

Holy Week is always about loss and sorrow, 
and what you and I are facing now 
is a Holy Week that began several weeks ago, 
and looks to extend beyond Easter Sunday. 

But no matter how alarming things may be, 
nothing changes the fact that the path we tread 
has been walked ahead of us by Jesus, 
and there is nothing you and I will face alone! 

This year Good Friday is going to be amped way up in intensity, 
but that only helps us realize more what the first Good Friday was like. 
In short, you and I are carrying the Cross with Jesus!
Like Simon of Cyrene, we weren’t looking for this, but here we are.

Never forget: we are walking with Jesus! 
What is there to be afraid of?