Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Mercy, Resurrection, Eucharist Junction (Sunday homily)

 So, this Sunday we focus on three things.

First, the Mercy of God since this is Divine Mercy Sunday. 

Second, the Resurrection. 

And third, about the Holy Eucharist, because our second graders are making their first Holy Communion.

Let’s start with God’s mercy, because that’s what it’s all about.

Why did God do any of the things he did for us? 

Come to earth, take up the cross, give us the sacraments?

It’s all mercy, it’s all about saving us, changing us, making us saints.

So, what I’m going to say next is just for some people here, 

because some good folks, who are trying SO hard, 

need to stop and, if you will, press their nose to that image of MERCY. 

Let me explain it this way: we humans have a NEED:

we are alienated from God. 

God responds with a GIFT: that is, his Mercy. 

So, again, NEED and GIFT.

Some folks don’t really take their need seriously. 

As a result, they undervalue the gift.  

So, if you think pretty much EVERYONE goes to heaven, 

then where’s the urgent need?

Meanwhile, there are others, some of whom are here;

And you focus so intensely on your NEED – 

“I am so sinful, I am so, so far from what God wants!” – 

that you don’t focus enough on the GIFT.

Remember what St. Faustina said: “Jesus I TRUST in you!”

Take an example from the Apostle Thomas. 

He started out looking at his doubts and fears; i.e., at himself.

Jesus tells him, don’t look at yourself, look at ME: 

see my wounds, touch them. Believe in ME. 

When you and I get overly anxious about our sins, it’s the same.

Yes: take a few minutes to examine yourself. But then stop! 

Shift your gaze from your own failings, 

from your impossibility and look at JESUS: “Jesus, I trust in you!”

This is where his Resurrection is so important. 

Jesus rising from the dead proves everything he said was true. 

Every word.

No wonder Thomas fell to his knees and said: “my Lord and my God”!

Second, when he shows us his resurrected body, 

Jesus isn’t just “showing off”: “Look at what I have!”

He’s showing what is, and will be, OURS.

Lots of Christians are mixed up on this point. 

They think our goal is to ESCAPE this life.

So, they think the body doesn’t matter after they die.

No, no! Jesus did not come to lead an escape from this world,

But rather, to lead the REDEMPTION and healing of this world.

So, even after death our body is sacred. 

And we will have it back, new and improved: what Jesus shows us.

Now we come to the Most Holy Eucharist. 

We talked about mercy, 

and we talked about sharing Jesus’ resurrected life. 

This – and more – is what the Most Holy Eucharist is.

Don’t miss the connection: 

On the first Easter, Jesus SHOWS us his risen, live-forever-body. 

Then at each Mass he GIVES us his flesh and his blood, his very self.

The connection is absolutely necessary.

Very important: what he GIVES us is identical to what he SHOWS us. 

What lies ahead for Jesus’ disciples is far more than we may realize.

I wonder if many imagine, in the New Creation, Jesus is on the throne, 

and we’re like his pets, gathered at his feet.

No! Jesus told the Apostles that they would sit on thrones beside him. 

Everything Jesus has, everything Jesus IS, he GIVES, he SHARES,

and in giving us himself, he changes us to become ONE with him. 

This is why there can be no question 

that the Eucharist is more than mere bread and wine. 

It is not merely a symbol or a reminder. 

The Eucharist is precisely what Jesus said, what Saint Paul said, 

what the first Christians all said and believed: 

the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. 

Very simply, the Eucharist IS Jesus. 

Yes, it keeps the appearance of bread and wine 

because isn’t that more approachable than the alternative?

If the Eucharist is not Jesus, then what does he give us?

Bread? If I eat too much bread, I get fat. 

Too much wine, I get sleepy and then a headache.

These cannot save me. I need Jesus and nothing else will do.

Jesus gives us HIMSELF, and his TOTAL self. 

That’s what the Eucharist is. You don’t have to see it. 

And you don’t have to take my word for it. 

Believe the one who came to earth to take up the Cross,

who came back from the dead, all for you, all for me.

Believe him when he says, “This is my Body…This is my Blood.”

Sunday, April 17, 2022

What will you choose to live for? (Easter homily)

 All over the world, Catholics and other Christians 

are marking this night, this day, the day that the Lord has made. 

The day Jesus came back from the dead, 

conquering sin and defeating death, 

and opening the path for us to heaven. 

That is why Alleluia belongs to this day: praise the Lord! 

This is the day of victory!

But what victory, exactly? What is this triumph? 

Are we claiming that we will not die? We know that we will. 

Our victory is that we know what lies ahead for us: 

not a grave, but heaven!

And what do we mean by this defeat of sin? 

I still struggle with sin. I’m guessing you do, too. 

But we have seen God weigh into the battle – for us and with us. 

All our sins have been nailed to the cross – 

and when Jesus died on that cross, 

so did our sins and all our condemnation! 

So remember: when you go to confession, and the priest gives you absolution, 

all that power of Jesus’ blood is poured out for you.

Never doubt, never waver: all your sins are forgiven forever: 

Gone, gone, gone!

No one else can take away sin but Jesus. 

As we say at each Mass: 

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 

This is that day!

Not everyone celebrates this victory tonight. 

Lots of people in our world either do not know what Jesus did, 

or they do not care. They do not believe. 

Many in our own country have only a passing awareness. 

The story of who Jesus is and what he did 

has become a steady, background buzz in their ears. 

Perhaps they were raised as Christians, but they have turned away, 

or tuned out. Maybe someone hurt them.

They may take more notice of the wrongs of Christians, 

And the saving work of Christ is a little distant.  

Some just sort of drifted and haven’t found their way back.

What can we say?

Each of us must choose what we will believe, what we will live for. 

Lots of people live for enjoyment, for fulfillment, for pleasure. 

This sounds worse than it is. 

God created us, and pleasure, 

a desire for the new and exciting, is built into us. 

But these are blessings of a good life; 

they aren’t enough to be the focus of life. 

There comes a point when we realize: 

I can live for me, or I can live for others. 

Those who choose self, who live for themselves, 

that’s all they have in the end: themselves, and nothing else.

Many people give everything to their careers, to sports, to causes. 

Then there are those who devote everything to their family or country. 

Even then, there remains a question.

In loving our country, or loving our family, what do we want for them? 

Obviously, the kind of country America is, the things we stand for, matters most, doesn’t it?

Likewise, far more important than our children’s physical health or material success,

 is the state of their soul, and what they value most?

Brothers and sisters, we have completed our time of penance. 

You and I have faced the reality of our own sinfulness 

and, even more than that, our own radical dependence. 

You and I cannot live a day, not an hour, without God’s help and grace. 

This is the day you and I renew our decision for Jesus Christ.

And maybe you’re thinking, when did I ever make that decision? 

It was made for me when I was baptized. I’ve sort of tagged along.

Then, today is your day to speak for yourself: I choose Christ!

That’s what we do each year when we renew our baptismal vows.

But do not be too quick to answer. 

In many places in the world, to be a Christian can cost you your life.

In our country, it may cost you a friendship or a promotion. 

More and more men and women faithful to Christ 

are being shut out of the medical and health professions. 

Or you may face derision and embarrassment. 

The question is before you.  

We will live our lives for something – what will you choose?

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The deep meaning of our Christian Passover (Holy Thursday homily)

It is necessary to peel back the layers of tradition 
to reveal the full meaning of what we do tonight.*

The first reading describes the Passover, 
celebrated by the Jewish People. 
It speaks of the “the fourteenth day of the month” – 
that is, fourteen days after a new moon, which means, a full moon. 
The moon will be full this weekend.

The lamb was one year old and “without blemish”; 
it was obtained several days before and lived with the family.  
Why is this important? 
This points to Jesus, who became a member of the Jewish household, 
a member of the human family.

Then, with the whole assembly present, the lamb was slaughtered. 
When we come to church tomorrow, what do we recall?
Jesus is crucified with the whole assembly present.

The blood of the lamb is then spread over the doorposts.
This is protection from divine judgment. 

By the way: when you and I are baptized, 
that’s when the blood of the Lamb covers us! 
When we fall back into mortal sin, confession renews it.

And then after the lamb is sacrificed, its flesh was eaten. 
This was necessary to complete the sacrifice.
But only those who were members of the household could eat the lamb.
This is why only those baptized and in a state of grace 
receive Holy Communion at Mass. 

Now, let’s drill into the details of the Last Supper, 
which was Jesus’ Passover with his chosen twelve apostles. 
He’s acting as the head of a family. 

I already pointed out how central the lamb is to the Passover.
But the accounts of Jesus’ Last Supper never mention a lamb.
Instead, he takes the bread, and says, 
“this is my body, given up for you.” 

And of course, there was a cup of wine.
In fact, there were four cups of wine.

The first cup that was prepared with water added. 
Ring a bell? You’ve seen me do that.
This was called the “cup of sanctification,” 
and the father began the meal with a prayer, over this cup, 
and the food is brought to the table.

The second was the cup of “proclamation” – 
it was prepared, but not drunk right away; 
because while the food was on the table,
the father would tell the account of what God did 
for his people in Egypt, in the exodus.

By the way, when these events were “remembered,”
the understanding was that in remembering, you were present!
You were actually brought there spiritually, through the meal.

So, when Jesus says to the Apostles, “do this in memory of me,”
two things:

First, he knows that all of us would be coming after in years to come.
He made a plan for each of us to be part of his Passover.
That means Jesus planned for what we call Holy Mass,
and for priests to offer this sacrifice.

And second, our “remembering” here, not quite 2,000 years later,
likewise makes you and me truly present: 
in the Upper Room, at Calvary, at the empty tomb.

Now, back to the Passover.
After everyone ate, the father would share the third cup, 
called the “cup of blessing.” 
And Saint Paul just told us that this was the cup Jesus took up, 
and said, “This is my Blood.”

I said earlier there were four, where’s the last one?

Tomorrow, you and I will hear these words in the Gospel of John:

After this…Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine….
They put a sponge soaked in wine…up to his mouth. 
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” 
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

So we don’t finish this Mass tonight. No final blessing.
We do go on a procession – to the side altar – recalling the Garden.

Oh, I meant to give you one more detail. 
In Jesus’ time, when the lamb was prepared for the meal, 
in order to roast it, do you know how they did it? 
They took two skewers, made of wood. 
One was speared through the torso, from head to tail. 
The other was speared through both shoulders. A cross.

Tomorrow we will worship the Cross on which our Savior, 
our Lamb of God, was slain. This is our Passover. It begins tonight. 

* All these details come from Scripture scholar Brant Pitre.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Make the most of Holy Week (Palm Sunday homily)

 Every year on Palm Sunday, part of me – and maybe you, too – 

has so much to say in response. 

But another part of me responds: What is there to say?

There is only silence before the Son of God on the Cross.

But real, true, extended silence? That is hard to do, 

with family and work and sports and farms and businesses to tend to.

All I can do is to challenge you to TRY.

Kids? Spouses? Parents? Maybe you can help.

This might be a good time to say, “I’ll leave them alone this week.”

Let’s give each other the gift of silence and peace, if we can.

Maybe your Lent has been good, or maybe not so good.

But every day, every breath, is another opportunity.

This Holy Week is such a gift.

The church is open from 5 am to 9:30 pm every day.

We will have confessions 

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday – 

see the bulletin for the times.

I invite you to be part of Holy Thursday, 

Good Friday and Holy Saturday evening.

These days take us deep into the pulsing heart of our Faith.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Look forward like God (Sunday homily)

 Do you know what one of the biggest differences 

between us and God is? (Changed after 5 pm Mass.)

There are a lot of ways we are different from God.

One of them is that…

You and I look backward. God looks forward.

For us, only what has already taken place, is real.

The future is guesswork. It hasn’t happened yet.

And when we set our highest dreams against bitter experience,

hope seems a slender thread indeed.

But God knows the future – because he is already there. 

God looks forward, and over and over again, 

he tries to get you and me to do the same. 

What did you just hear?

“Remember not the events of the past,” God says in the first reading.

“I am doing something new!”

Saint Paul tells us he counts everything as “rubbish”

and forgets “what lies behind,” because Jesus Christ is his prize!

The pharisees say, “look what this sinner did!”

Jesus says, “start new.”

At the risk of being tedious, I’m inviting you again to confession.

Maybe someone needs just one more nudge.

The truth is, I can’t change the world. 

Maybe I can help you change you. 

You can’t change the world. 

But there’s one little chunk of this world 

that you and I have supreme power over. 

And that is our soul! Our choices!

That’s why we go to confession. 

I can’t speak about anyone else, but about myself I say this:

If I didn’t go to confession regularly, I believe I would go to hell.

I would lose my way, little by little.

You’ve heard of the “invisible fence”: to keep your dog in the yard?

You know how it works: there’s a wire underground,

and if the poor dog crosses the wire and ZZZZZT! 

That’s what my conscience does for me, and yours for you!

Confession keeps my conscience alive and reasonably healthy.

You want to make the world better? You want to bring peace?

Start with your own soul. It’ll radiate to your family.

Friday, April 01, 2022

Broccoli Omelette

I didn't intend to do a post about today's lunch, but I had some time to kill, so here I am!

(Sorry no pictures...)

So, it's a Friday in Lent, what shall I have for lunch? Also, I'm trying to cut back on carbs (because I'm carrying around enough for a small village), so...

I remember I have some frozen broccoli, and of course, eggs. And I remember the late Father Angelo Caserta whipping up amazing omelettes when he would invite me over for dinner back in my days in Piqua.

So, here's what I did:

1. Start heating a pan well coated with olive oil. Don't skimp on the oil unless you don't like olive oil; in that case, use whatever fat you prefer. You could even make it without fat, if that's your jam.

2. Once the oil is good and hot, toss in a good handful of broccoli florets. I didn't bother to cut them down, because I was going to cook them till tender. But if you prefer, you can certainly do that. If I had been working with fresh broccoli, I might blanche them first, or else still sautee them, only longer. In any case, the goal here is to get the broccoli both hot and soft, but not mushy. I cooked the broccoli on around medium.

3. While the broccoli cooks -- keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn -- crack three eggs into a small bowl (I use a coffee cup). Add a generous pinch of salt (don't be scared of it). You can add a little water if you like, I did not. Mix these well, so that the yolks and whites are well blended. Or not, if you don't care about that.

4. When the broccoli is cooked as you like, pour the eggs over the broccoli. Check your heat; the temp in the pan will go down, but come up fast -- too fast -- if the fire is too high. You don't want to cook your eggs too fast, and I prefer my omelettes not to have any brown.

5. Stir the eggs, until they are still a little wet but fairly well set. Again, this is how I like an omelette. Remember, the eggs will continue cooking even after you turn off the fire. So when the eggs are close, I turn off the fire and let the residual heat do the rest. That's environmentally conscious, isn't it? I added a good grind of black pepper here, as well as a bit of cayenne pepper. Then I sprinkled some grated "Parmesan" cheese right out of the jar; real Parmesano or Pecorino would be worlds better, but I used what I had.

6. Now you roll it, and this intimidates people. The key here is not to overload it, or it won't fold over very well. And if that happens, who cares? As long as you don't over (or under) cook, it will be delicious. But the way I do it is to fold over a third of it, then...well, this is hard to explain, but Youtube videos aplenty show you how to do it. The point is that you end up with an omelette either with two folds (my preference) or one. If you fold twice and don't overcook it, you can further shape it on the plate.

7. At this point, I put just bit of butter on it, and sprinkled a little more black and red pepper. You could put parseley on it if you want, or paprika.

My omelette was very tasty, although I ought to have let the broccoli cook a bit more. No, not as tasty as I remember Father Caserta's, but still a lovely meal. And it only took a few minutes, and if you think about it, pretty cheap to make.