Monday, October 26, 2015

On the Power of Words

This is a portion of my homily, formalized and edited, from this past Sunday. The readings may be found here for your reflection, but and not exclisivly necessary for understanding this portion.

I admit that if you are not Catholic and if you do not attend mass this will be somewhat nonsensical. But I encourage you all, first of all Catholics, to attend mass with a new zeal. And of course for you non-Catholics to become Catholic. Nevertheless, I hope this reflection encourages reflection for you.

When we pray before the altar of God, it can be an easy temptation to grow weary through repetition. We can repeat the proper response week in and week out during mass. Likewise we hear similar words nearly every week, and so we grow distracted and tired.

But I ask that we look to our own experience to correct our behavior: when we see a loved one, a family member, or a friend we can say “It's good to see you,” or “I've missed you,” or “I love you,” and each time these words produce a similar (if not the same) effect. These words, coming from someone who means it, never fail to hearten us and comfort us. Likewise, when we mean and say these words we too hope that they will do the same for our loved ones.

Yet how could we not trust the sincerity of these words?

Take this, all of you, and eat of it. For this is my body, which will be given up for you.

Take this, all of you, and drink from it. For this is the chalice of my blood. The blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.

Both times he proclaims, “Do this in memory of me.”

We ought to listen to these words anew and see them as coming from the heart of Jesus. He offers his very self to heal us, to reconcile us, and to raise us up to the Father. This is why the priest elevates the Body and Blood—it it not so that our mortal eyes might see it, but that our spirits might offer this perfect sacrifice to the Father.

Every prayer of our mass is an expression of God's love for us. Since God is love, it should not surprise us that the mass is that perfect expression of his love, because in it we receive both His word and His own Self.

Imagine, then, that the Father ever and always says “I love you” through his every action. Do we allow this to affect us as we stand, sit, and kneel before the Lord? Do our words of response express this same love? I hope they do, for God is always waiting and always listening to our response. Let our prayers, our actions, and out hearts speak in one voice at every mass, indeed every moment of it, and in our life.

In this way that which we hear and say will not leave us without having their intended effect.

Friday, July 31, 2015

"What is bad they will throw away"

[Originally a homily for 7/30/2015--I hope to have an audio version of this up soon, as an experiment working with audio on this site]

Most of us have had this experience of going to a grocery store or fruit stand, wanting to buy something. We look at, for example, and apple. It has an attractive exterior and so we go over and pick it up, hold it in our hands, and rotate it. After all, we want to make sure we don't waste our twenty hard-earned cents.

But then, all of a sudden, we feel a soft spot or we notice an imperfection of some sort. So we throw it back on the pile and never look at it again or think of it again.

This is the same image Jesus offers as when he speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven, and in this particular example, we are the apples. At the end of the age God will come by and look at all of us--people in these pews like apples on a rack. From the outside we dress ourselves nicely in business suits, beautiful dresses, habits, chasubles, or clerical shirts. Yet all God has to do is pick us up, run his hand over us, and rotate us, and he'll be able to feel all the imperfections. Then He will decide whether or not He wants to spend His hard-earned twenty cents.

So what are we to do? We look to ourselves and how critical we are of minor imperfections on fruits and vegetables. If God is the same, how can anyone be saved?

Unlike the apple, I would argue that we do have some say in the matter. God has taught us how to be acceptable in His eyes. We can clothe ourselves with fancy things or dress our image with pious words, but it is better than we put the armor of faith (cf., Eph 6:11) and our Lord, Jesus Christ (cf., Rom 13:14). By this I mean we must put on a pious inner conviction. It is my view that we do this by heeding the first words out of Christ's mouth in the Gospel of Mark: "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mk 1:15).

It is by putting on a spirit of repentance that we cleanse ourselves of imperfection, asking God always to forgive us our sins and faults. Likewise, we must put on faith in the saving work of Christ, giving thanks to Him always for His goodness.

Humbled by repentance and inspired to love by His goodness, we likewise go out, ready to forgive the faults of others and call them to a better and higher way of life by our words and deeds. In doing so, for "love covers a multitude of sins," (1 Pet 4:8), we may hope with a Christian hope that God, at the end of the age, will walk by and see us. He will hold us in His hand, feel us, and rotate us. He will find that we are good and take us home with him.