The Solemnity of All Saints

All Saints’ Day
Rev 7:2-4,9-14  +  1 Jn 3:1-3  +  Mt 5:1-12
November 1, 2019

   See what love the Father has bestowed on us, in letting us be called children of God!   

“Children of God.”  That’s what it means to be saints:  to be children of God.

We all know that a child resembles his or her parents, for good and for ill.  So in telling us that we can be called “children of God”, St. John the Beloved Disciple is telling us that there’s something in us that resembles God, that is inherently good, since of course there is nothing bad in God.  Only from Adam and Eve do we inherit Original Sin and its consequences.

As we celebrate the feast of All Saints with the Church throughout the world, we ask:  “What does it mean to be a saint?”  “What is that something in us that resembles God?”

At the moment that each of us was conceived, as our parents shared in the power of God the Creator, that very God called each one of us into existence, and gave us life.

But it’s not the fact that we are alive that makes us children of God, for God could have given each of us any form of life He wanted.  He could have made each of us a plant, or a lower form of animal on the ladder of created things.  All these things have life, but they are not children of God.

We’re tempted to think that it’s our gifts of personality, intelligence, social status, our salaries, or the size of our homes that makes us who we are.  Sad to say, in the eyes of other people that may be true:  other people may rate us as persons according to these things.  But God’s ways are not our ways.

In the eyes of God, what makes you human is your capacity to be transformed:  your capacity to be transformed into something other than what you began life as.  This doesn’t simply mean the ability to change form:  all animals change shape and size from being an embryo, to an infant, to a youngster, to an adult.  Each of us is a human being throughout, and is the same person throughout.

But to put this in a single word, human life is marked by the possibility of “transcendence”.  As humans, God has given us the power to change our position on that ladder:  we can climb that ladder, and reach for Heaven.  We can approach God and become like Him.  As children of God, we resemble God to the extent that we are holy.

The Virgin Mary with the Apostles and Other Saints

The Virgin Mary with the Apostles and Other Saints by Fra Angelico [1395-1455]

Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 8:31-39  +  Luke 13:31-35
October 31, 2019

   If God is for us, who can be against us?   

The words of Saint Paul at the beginning of today’s First Reading are as simple as they are profound.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  In the verses that follow, St. Paul reminds us of the length to which God’s love for sinful man took Him.  St. Paul continues to ask rhetorical questions, exploring God’s love for us from a somewhat different perspective each time.  “Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?”  “Who will condemn?”  “What will separate us from the love of Christ?”

St. Paul concludes his scriptural rhetoric with a tour de force statement of faith:  “neither death, not life, nor angels, nor principalities, not present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God”.  St. Paul does not mention, of course, that there is one thing that can indeed separate one from the love of God, and that is one’s one will.  But in light of this, we see our task as disciples to submit our sinful will to God’s Hand.

In today’s Gospel Reading Jesus takes to task those in Jerusalem’s past who chose to work against God’s love by killing the prophets.  He sees them as foreshadowing His own death.  Yet when Pharisees try to get rid of Jesus by telling him that Herod is threatening His life, Jesus explains in terms of His own earthly vocation what St. Paul proclaimed in lofty terms in today’s First Reading:  “I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.  Yet I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day”.  Not even Jesus’ crucifixion on Calvary can separate us from God’s love.  In fact, Jesus’ crucifixion is the door to God’s love for us.

OT 30-4

Wednesday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 8:26-30  +  Luke 13:22-30
October 30, 2019

   “‘Depart from me, all you evildoers!’”   

Christ in today’s Gospel touches upon one of the great temptations faced by those who serve Him.  Repeatedly He tells us that our motivations are as important as our words and actions.  Indeed, bad motives can cancel the “good” we think do and say.

There should be only one motive for serving God in Christ, and that is the sincere desire to return the love He pours out on us and to do His will out of that love, not just for our good but also for the good of others.  God is interested in the condition of our hearts, not just an impressive list of our deeds.

Sin enters into the serving of Christ when it is used as a means of self-aggrandizement or to line pockets with “green.”  While such people may perform well their hearts remain focused on themselves.  They dazzle audiences with their cleverness and charisma and say only what pleases the listeners—denying or downplaying sin, rationalizing wrongdoings, emphasizing God’s love while failing to mention God’s irrevocable truths and the justice by which we must live.  Theirs is the “wide door” against which Christ speaks.

OT 30-3

The Wedding Banquet by Alessandro Botticelli [1445-1510]

Tuesday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 8:18-25  +  Luke 13:18-21
October 29, 2019

   “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God?”   

Today’s Gospel passage presents two brief parables in which Jesus specifically focuses our attention on “the Kingdom of God”.  It might seem a simple question, but what exactly is this Kingdom?  Is this Kingdom meant to be the Church’s life on earth?  Is this Kingdom in fact Heaven, which is to say, being in the presence of God?  In the latter case, the Church on earth only foreshadows the full glory of the Kingdom of God.

The Second Vatican Council spoke directly about the connection between the Church and the Kingdom of God.  The Council explained that this connection is a relationship of service, stating:  “While helping the world and receiving many benefits from it, the Church has a single intention:  That God’s Kingdom may come, and that salvation of the whole human race may come to pass.”  What this quote does not explain is whether one ought to hope for the coming of this Kingdom on earth, or whether it’s only possible for this Kingdom to be realized on the other side of death’s door.

In any case, the sacrifice that Christ makes of His Body for the sake of the Church is a paradigm.  It is a paradigm for understanding the sacrifice that the Church makes for the sake of the Kingdom.  This mission of the Church is inherently future-oriented, calling forth from Christians the virtue of hope, as they look forward to the Church’s final fulfillment at the Lord’s Second Coming.

OT 30-2

Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles
Ephesians 2:19-22  +  Luke 6:12-16
October 28, 2019

   …with Christ Jesus Himself as the capstone.   

St. Paul, at the beginning of today’s First Reading, declares to the Ephesians:  “You are no longer strangers and sojourners”.  But St. Peter, in his first epistle, admonishes his disciples:  “conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning” [1 Peter 1:17-21].  How should we understand this discrepancy?  Were St. Paul and St. Peter speaking to different groups of disciples?  Were their words about sojourning in reference to differing circumstances?

Another name for the Church Militant—which is to say, the Church on earth—is the Pilgrim Church.  It’s important that we teach every disciple on earth to have this focus:  namely, that we do not live for this world, even as we take our faith into the world.  So on this feast of two holy apostles, what are we to make of St. Paul declaring, “You are no longer strangers and sojourners”?

In the second phrase of the first sentence, St. Paul makes his intent more clear.  The first half of today’s First Reading is a single sentence:  “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the capstone.”

St. Paul is setting down before the Ephesians his vision of the Church’s nature:  what we would call his “ecclesiology”.  He’s preaching about the Church’s essence.  Although we, like the Ephesians, are sojourning in faith each day, we also share now—by grace—in the eternal life that the Church Triumphant enjoys fully in Heaven.  The role of the apostles—and in turn their successors, including the bishop of one’s own diocese—is to foster our faith, to fix our hearts and minds, and all our apostolates and ministries here on earth, upon the eternal life of Heaven.

Sts. Simon and Jude with Virgin and Child

Virgin and Child with Sts. Simon and Jude by Federico Barocci [1535-1612]

The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Sir 35:12-14,16-18  +  2 Tim 4:6-8,16-18  +  Lk 18:9-14
October 27, 2019

click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this liturgical Sunday (2:59)

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (3:05)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to hear the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday

+     +     +

click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2013 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2010 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1998 homily for this Sunday

+     +     +

   “…the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”   

The link between humility and divine charity helps you and me to follow Jesus.  Humility is not the most important of the virtues.  Divine charity—in Latin, caritas, meaning the love that is God’s very nature—is the most important virtue.  Divine charity is the summit towards which we Christians climb.

Humility, on the other hand, is the base of the mountain.  While divine charity is the goal that our last step brings us into the presence of, humility is the first step.  The old saying reminds us that “Every great journey begins with a simple, single step.”

But if humility is so simple, why do we find it so difficult to practice?  God reveals to us in Sacred Scripture that one reason why humility is so difficult is the split in the human person that’s caused by sin.

Sin splits man in two.  Saint Paul explained this to the Romans in his long letter about sin and grace.  St. Paul taught the Romans from his own experience as a sinner, telling them, “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” [Rom 7:19].  He’s very blunt about his own moral failures, saying, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” [Rom 7:15].  Most of us, when we take a good long look at ourselves (perhaps with the help of a written examination of conscience) identify with St. Paul in this.  There is the problem.

What is the solution?  God is the solution, of course.  But the trick is, we have to acknowledge and own the problem before God can do us any good.  God so respects your free will that he allows you to remain in sin should you choose to do so.  But if you open your heart even the slightest to Him, a flood of grace can transform you.

Unfortunately, sin has so great a hold on us that even doing this is tremendously difficult at times.  That’s how perverse sin is:  what should be the most natural thing in the world—opening our heart to our loving Father—becomes one of the great struggles of the spiritual life.  Jesus gives us a parable to help us see the link between humility and divine charity, and to take up the struggle to open our hearts to the Father.

The Pharisee and the tax collector are opposites.  It’s true that neither of them is at the summit.  They’re both at the base of the mountain.  But they are opposed to each other as they stand at that base because they are facing in opposite directions.

As a result, because the Pharisee stands and looks away from the mountain, every step he makes will remove him farther from the mountain’s summit.  But the tax collector is facing the mountain, looking up towards God and the summit that he has yet to climb.

He has a long road before him.  But his first step forward is an act of humility.  He is doing what you need to do:  to face the divine Father who loves you in your sins, and who calls you to Himself by your offering Him a confession of your sins.

If you listen closely to the words of today’s Gospel Reading, you hear Jesus carefully point to the difference between these the Pharisee and the tax collector.  Jesus explains that the Pharisee “spoke this prayer to himself”.  He wasn’t truly praying at all.  The Pharisee was speaking a prayer to himself, not to God.  But the tax collector teaches us how to pray because he prays with humility.

The link between humility and divine charity helps you and me to follow Jesus.  This is true not only in our prayer, but in everything we do.  In everything we do, before we even take our first step, we have to act with humility by facing the right direction and looking up to God, instead of acting for our own sake.  Humility is the beginning, and divine charity—the life of God—is the end.  But without the right beginning, we cannot reach the right end:  the end for which God made us.

OT 30-0C

The Coronation of the Virgin by Diego Velázquez [1599-1660]

Saturday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Saturday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Ephesians 4:7-16  +  Luke 13:1-9
October 26, 2019

   “‘Sir, leave it for this year also….’”   

Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, gardens, plants and trees of all sorts are used as symbols of growth—and decay—in the spiritual life.  The very first story of the Bible takes place in a garden called Eden.  And today in the Gospel, Jesus tells us a parable along the same lines.

Your spiritual life is the fig tree, and you are the gardener.  Your spiritual life is planted in the Lord’s orchard.  What we have to come to grips with is the fact that we are accountable to the Lord, just as in today’s parable the gardener is accountable to the owner of the orchard.  We are accountable for bearing spiritual fruit in our lives on this earth.

That’s why we’re here on this earth.  If we believed, as some of our fellow Christians do, that the entire point of our relationship with Christ is to be “saved”, then we would be better off dying as soon as we’re baptized.  But the whole truth is that salvation comes to us only at the end of our life on this earth, if we have been faithful to tending our spiritual life, and bearing fruit through the many ways that our spiritual life nourishes our daily life.

OT 29-6

Friday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 7:18-25  +  Luke 12:54-59
October 25, 2019

   The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.   

Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans is considered the most profound of all his epistles.  The breadth of themes and the depth to which he explores them is profound.  Today’s First Reading from the seventh chapter of Romans explores how the human person experiences division within himself.  St. Paul describes this as “the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.”

Perhaps the most intriguing phrase in today’s First Reading is St. Paul’s admission that “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.”  His words call out the division in fallen man between what the “I” wants, and what it wills.  This is not a mere putting of one’s wants and desires to the side, and acting in spite of them.  St. Paul speaks of what modern thought might term a “compulsion” that drives the ego.  However, he ascribes this acting out of evil to the work of “sin that dwells in me.”

St. Paul is not seeking to cast blame away from himself.  He’s not trying to say, “The devil made me do it.”  He does indeed admit that this struggle is within his very self:  “I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin”.  Regardless of how fierce this struggle is, or how deep the division it causes, the remedy is clear and at hand.  St. Paul’s entire epistle to the Romans is full of thanksgiving to God for the grace of Christ our Savior.

OT 29-5

Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Romans 6:19-23  +  Luke 12:49-53
October 24, 2019

   “No, I tell you, but rather division.”   

Both the rhetoric and substance of Jesus’ proclamation in today’s Gospel passage are challenging.  It’s challenging to know how rightly to interpret His words.  The fire of His baptism is the source of the division that He has come to establish.  How can we understand these words and images in our own daily lives as disciples?

The most obvious interpretation of the fire that Jesus mentions is in light of God the Holy Spirit.  Through the graces that first were given at Pentecost in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit inflames the hearts and minds of those called to be members of Jesus’ Mystical Body on earth.  Formed by the Holy Spirit into one Body, these members live out the baptism of Jesus.  Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan was a foreshadowing of His baptism on Calvary.  This latter baptism is the one which the Body of Christ today lives out.  As His members, you and I have to bear our share in this baptism if the Holy Spirit might use us as the Father’s instruments.

If we are faithful to the Father—allowing the baptism of Jesus’ suffering to be the vessel for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through us—division will result, as Jesus describes in today’s Gospel passage.  This is not division for the sake of division, but for the sake of unity.  We pray in the midst of all division, that every person may recognize and accept his share in the life of the Trinity.

St. Anthony Mary Claret

Today is the optional memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop