Monday, June 4, 2018

Homily for June 3, 2018 (Corpus Christi Sunday)

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On Wednesday June 6th, I will celebrate my ninth anniversary as a priest. And as I remember Ordination day and the day after when I celebrated my Mass of Thanksgiving, there is one phrase that echoes through my memories: I will see you in the Eucharist.

Normally at the celebration of Mass, I preach. However when a new priest celebrates his first Mass, the new priest usually invites another priest to preach.  The homily at the first Mass of a newly ordained priest is not usually preached to the congregation; it is preached directly to the new priest.  It is a conversation between brothers and the congregation is allowed to overhear the conversation. I invited Father Jim Erving of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to preach at my first Mass.  I met Father Jim a few months before I entered seminary.  He was only a few years older than me, but I knew when I met him that I would invite him one day to preach to me at my Mass of Thanksgiving.  Throughout my time in seminary, whenever I would speak with Father Jim, he would always remind me, “I will see you in the Eucharist.”  It was a promise of his prayers, but more than that it was the recognition that when we celebrate the Eucharist, we are mystically united with all of the baptized.  When we come to adore the Savior in the Blessed Sacrament, we are united with all of those who keep watch before his holy presence. There is no distance between us when we are gathered around the Altar of the Lord and the tabernacle in the Church.  We will see each other in the Eucharist, even though many miles separate us.

We celebrate today the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is the mystery of Holy Thursday celebrated in the radiant glory of Easter. We celebrate the gift of the priesthood of Christ and the gift of the Eucharist. Christ Jesus, who is the eternal High Priest, shared his priesthood with his apostles so that they would be an extension of his priesthood.  From generation to generation the priesthood of Christ has been handed on so that the words that Christ spoke on Holy Thursday could be powerfully spoken in every place and time. The Lord Jesus consecrated bread and wine, and he consecrated his apostles. Jesus consecrated all who share in the ministry of the apostles, so that they would consecrate bread and wine. The words that he spoke, they would speak. The bread that he broke, they would break. The body and blood that he gave, they would give. When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we join in the eternity of heaven. All time passes away and we are present in the upper room in Jerusalem. We are present with the Lord and with all of those of every time and place who have looked to him in hope.  In the celebration of the Eucharist and before the tabernacle of the Lord we are united with our Great High Priest who lives forever to make intercession for us.  We will see each other in the Eucharist, though hours and days and generations are between us.

I will see you in the Eucharist.  I thought of those words on an October evening in 2013 when I received the news that Father Jim had a brain tumor. I sent him a simple message. I will see you in the Eucharist.  When he called me on Christmas Eve that year, we spoke some about his illness. We spoke more about faith, about our unity in the Eucharist, and about the privilege of being priests.  I asked for his blessing.  I gave him mine.  And we promised to see each other in the Eucharist.

I will see you in the Eucharist. I thought of those words often only a few months later when Father Jim was called to the house of the Father. It was very early in the morning on the 18th of March in 2014. And my first thoughts were, I will pray for him today at the Eucharist.
Distance and time are not the only things that fall away when we celebrate the Eucharist and adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  When we celebrate the Eucharist and when we kneel before the tabernacle, we are in the presence of the one who has conquered death forever.  The power of the Eucharist is stronger than death.  When the Eucharist is celebrated the demons cry out in terror and death falls silent before the Word of eternal life. We see each other in the Eucharist, because Christ has conquered sin and death.

This is the gift of the Lord Jesus that we celebrate on this most holy day.  The Lord Jesus gives us himself in the Eucharist.  He gives us a share in his sacrifice so that we can receive his sacrament of unity.  He invites us to the banquet where distance and time and even death pass away.  The Lord Jesus invites us to see him, and each other, in the Eucharist.  Amen.  

Homily for May 27, 2018 (Holy Trinity Sunday)

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I get asked a lot of questions, but not the kind that you would think. Rarely does anyone ask me what happened at the Council of Ephesus in 431 or what happened at the Finance council meeting a few weeks ago. Most of the questions are pretty simple. “Does it bother you to have to wear the same thing every day? Are you ever allowed to wear regular clothes?” My favorite of these types of questions begins, “Since you only work on weekends, what do you do during the rest of the week?” But sometimes the questions are a little more pointed. Sometimes they are a little more personal. “Are you ever lonely? Do you ever feel isolated?” Those are more than questions of history or clothing. Those are questions you can’t run from too easily. Those are questions that we all have an answer to. And those are questions that we all have to answer.

Adam was alone in the Garden, but then the Lord gave him some animals to name. But Adam still felt like he was alone in the Garden, and the Lord created Eve. And at last Adam wasn’t alone.

But when Eve was alone in the Garden, the serpent came to tempt her. When King David was alone in the palace and he gazed on the rooftop of his neighbor, he embraced temptation and sin. When the Lord Jesus was alone in the desert and later in the garden, the devil came to tempt him. Temptation often finds us in isolation and loneliness.

We weren’t created for isolation and loneliness. We certainly experience them. We certainly suffer from them. Sometimes the people who were supposed to be there with us are the ones who place us in isolation and loneliness. The ones who were supposed to gather us are the ones who separate us. We experience it. We suffer from it. We fight against it. We weren’t created for isolation and loneliness. We were created for something else. We were created for something better.

God was not alone when we were created. We are not the result of the Lord God looking for company. We were not created as the answer to the question if God was lonely and isolated. From all eternity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have lived in perfect harmony, perfect blessedness, and perfect communion. Nothing is needed. Nothing is lacking. There is no loneliness. There is no isolation. Only love. And from this love, and for this love, we were created. Not needed, but wanted. Not needed, but loved. Not needed, but desired.

God created us for communion, with him, and with creation, and with each other. The tragedy of sin, the echo of the No of Adam and Eve, fractures that communion. It damages those relationships. It leaves us, at times, in isolation and loneliness. But the triumph of grace, the echo of the Yes of Mary, the ever present reality of the Yes of the Lord Jesus, the continual Yes of the Church to her Lord, my Yes and yours, draws us, bit by bit and day by day, and moment by moment, into the communion for which we were created. The Lord Jesus, who conquered sin and death by the blood of his cross, desires to conquer our loneliness and our isolation.

As he draws us now into the mystery of the Eucharist, into that Holy Communion where the choirs of Angels and the Citizens of Heaven above sing in exultation, we admit our need. We admit our loneliness and our isolation. We cast the brokenness of our hearts into the fires of his Sacred Heart. And he will say to you and he will say to me, as he said to Peter, and Andrew, and Matthew and John, “Come, Follow Me” and the Lord Jesus will lead us into that perfect Communion where he lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Homily for May 20, 2018 (Pentecost)


Five months ago, we were gathered together at Bethlehem. We were there on the night that the Lord Jesus was born.  We saw the manger.  We saw the shepherds.  We heard the angels and we saw Our Lady and St. Joseph. We beheld the face of the invisible God in the face of a baby. It was beautiful and peaceful. It was safe and it was holy.

Fifty days ago, we were gathered at the empty tomb.  We were there on the morning of the glorious resurrection.  We saw the stone that was rolled away.  We saw the burial cloths.  We heard the announcement of the angels and the message of Mary Magdalene.  We heard the voice of Jesus and we recognized him in a gardener who knew our name. It was beautiful and glorious. It was joyful and holy.

A week ago we were gathered on the mountain.  We were gathered as the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven and took his place at the right hand of the Father.  We received his blessing.  We heard the voices of the angels.  We were filled with joy because the Lord promised to remain with us always.  And we were told to await the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was beautiful and hopeful. It was comforting and holy.

Today, we are gathered in the Upper Room. Here we receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. From here we are sent out.  We are sent out to all of the world, or some small part of it.  We are sent out with the power from on high that appeared in tongues of fire over the heads of the apostles.  We are sent out with the message of forgiveness and mercy and life and holiness.  We are sent out from the Upper Room.

But honestly, dear brothers and sisters, I was comfortable at Bethlehem. It was beautiful and peaceful.  I was comfortable at the empty tomb. It was beautiful and glorious.  I was even comfortable at the mountain of the Ascension. It was beautiful and comforting.  At Bethlehem, at the empty tomb, and at the mountain of the Ascension, we were accepted and we were loved.  We were gathered together in the presence of the Lord.  We were embraced by the love of God that comes before us.  We were embraced by the love of God that surrounds us.  We were embraced by the love of God that is promised to us.  At Bethlehem, at the empty tomb, and at the mountain of the Ascension, we were accepted and we were loved.  I am comfortable there, and maybe you are too.

I am comfortable in the Upper Room. It is beautiful and safe. It is peaceful and holy. In the Upper Room I feel protected. In the Upper Room I feel secure. There are no school shootings in the Upper Room. There is no opioid crisis in the Upper Room. There is no persecution in the Upper Room. In the Upper Room there is prayer and comfort and consolation and community. It is so very tempting to stay in the Upper Room. Maybe we could build on to the Upper Room. Maybe we could keep ourselves safe in the Upper Room. Maybe we could stay in the Upper Room, knock out a few walls and make the Upper Room bigger, and keep the message of salvation and gift of the Holy Spirit for ourselves. It is safe and comfortable in the Upper Room.

But the Spirit sends us out.  The Spirit sends us out from the Upper Room.  The Spirit sends us out to the world. In the world we meet rejection.  In the world we meet hostility.  In the world, we meet hatred and jealousy and persecution.  I was comfortable in the Upper Room, and maybe you were too.

But the Spirit sends us out.  The Spirit sends us out with the power from on high.  The Spirit sends us out with the joy of the Gospel.  The Spirit sends us out equipped for every good work to build up the Kingdom.  The Spirit embraces us.  The Spirit empowers us.  The Spirit sends us forth, and by the fire of his love he burns away the fear in our hearts. The Spirit has been at work in the world since that moment when the Spirit hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation. The Spirit is joining us to work that He is already doing. We need not fear leaving the Upper Room for the Spirit who sends us out is the Spirit who surrounds us and supports us.

But before we are sent, we shall be fed. Here at the Altar, by the power of the Spirit we will be fed with the bread of life. And the Spirit will lead us through the world and to that Kingdom where with the Father and the Son, One God lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Homily for May 13, 2018 (Ascension)



Yesterday we celebrated First Holy Communion here at Our Lady of Lourdes. One hundred and fifty three of our young people received Jesus in Holy Communion yesterday for the first time. Many of them will be here today for Second Communion. They have come to meet Jesus again and so have we. We have come here to meet Jesus again.

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus. Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascends to the glory of the Father. He returns to the right hand of the All Powerful Father because his work is accomplished. He has conquered sin. He has conquered death. He has claimed the victory. Jesus now enters the temple of heavenly glory.

But he still has the marks of his passion. He still bears the wounds in his hands, his feet, and his side. Jesus still has the marks of one who has suffered. But now in the glory of the kingdom, the wounds of Jesus are trophies of victory. Each of his wounds is now radiant in glory. The wounds are not signs of defeat; they are trophies of victory.

And though Jesus has ascended to the Father, he has promised to remain with us always. Jesus has promised to meet us. We have not been abandoned. With the ascension of the Lord Jesus, the power and the presence of his earthly ministry flow into the sacraments. Jesus ascends to heaven and he extends his power. He is taken from sight but he still comes to meet us.

In every sacramental celebration, we meet Jesus. We are offered a personal encounter with the Risen Lord.  Like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, we meet Jesus. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we meet Jesus. Like Mary Magdalene at the tomb, we meet Jesus. Each of us is offered an encounter with the Risen Lord. Our encounter with the Risen Lord is no less real than the encounter of those who walked with him in Jerusalem. The way that we meet Jesus is different, but the One we meet is the same. We meet the Lord Jesus in the sacraments.

We celebrate the sacraments together; we receive them individually.  These moments of grace, where God in his love and mercy has promised to act in a particular way, are personal.  One by one we were baptized and one by one we were confirmed.  One by one we are absolved in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and one by one we receive the holy anointing.  One by one we receive the precious body and blood of the Lord in Holy Communion.  The promise of the Lord Jesus which is offered to all of us, is received by each of us. Jesus comes to meet you and me.

Jesus comes to meet you and me in our joys. Jesus comes to meet you and me in our sorrows. Jesus comes to meet you and me in the wounds that we want to hide. Sometimes we want to keep our wounds from Jesus. We want to hide the hurt. We want to hide the pain. We want to hide the grief. We want to hide the shame. We want to hide the wounds . . . until we meet the one who is wounded. Our fear falls away when we look at the wounds of Jesus. He wants to meet me and meet you where we are broken. There is where Jesus will claim the victory. There is where the power that conquered sin and death and fear and shame will triumph.

Jesus meets us where we are broken. Now we will meet Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Amen.