Monday, May 26, 2014


Note: This was a homily I gave on the weekend of May 25th, 2014. If you would like to readings for the day that I used you can find them here. While not necessary they are a good aid for what follows.

“Be prepared to give an account of the hope in in you … with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15-16a). I've recently been able to visit the school where I grew up and the school from my internship. In going to these classrooms the kids eventually open up to me with various questions. Things from as simple as “Why do you wear all black?” and “Why do you wear a collar?” to questions as deep and penetrating as “Why did Jesus have to die for us?” and “Why did Jesus have to come when he did?” It reminds me all the more, especially as I grow older: “Be prepared to give an account of the hope in you.” Our hope is in Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created. How do we come to know the source and reason for our hope? By keeping his commandments, Jesus says, and in keeping them close to our hearts we will also grow in love of Him.

Still others may ask us, “Why do you believe in Jesus? Why do you waste your time on Sunday? Why don't you choose for yourself what's right and what's wrong?” While not necessarily the case, these questions will come from those who neither believe in Jesus not know Him. Nevertheless these are all questions that we need to answer for ourselves.

Jesus, however, has not left us as orphans. He has given us an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit who spoke through the prophets and the holy Apostles, the Spirit who is “the giver of life.” Jesus promises us the same Spirit. How then does He send this Spirit? It is no mistake that in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 8:5-17) those who came to believe in Christ received the Holy Spirit from Peter and John. Phillip brought the word of Christ to Samaria—a land to the north—and those who heard came to believe. Yet they sent for Peter and John who were in Jerusalem, in the south, to visit them. They prayed for the Holy Spirit to visit them and they accomplished this task by the laying on of hands.
While not necessarily the route Peter and John took, it's important to recall the animosity between Samaria and Jerusalem dating back many centuries (at that time) and that the notion of both those of Jewish and Samaritan descent would be united was quite unusual.

What does this teach us? It teaches us that we receive the Spirit through the Church, and not just the church we all are in today, though indeed we receive it here. We receive the Spirit, rather, though the Church of our fathers, the community of believers from ancient times to the present day in union with one another. Phillip, though he was an Apostle himself, sought Peter and John to confirm the faith of the Samarians so that the believers in both the south and the north would be one through the same prayer and the same Spirit.

But perhaps some will ask, “Doesn't our faith alone make us one? Why do we need the Church?” I answer to them that just as we could not exist without our mother our faith could not exist without our mother, the Church. Just as we have received life as a gift we must also give our lives as a gift. In the same way we have received our faith as a gift, given to us through those who believe. Parents might understand this analogy best, but all of us are sons and daughters so I believe we can all relate to this fact: we receive our traits from our parents and as we grow older we resemble the features of our parents. Moreover we also find that, deep down, our children inherit our mannerisms, our attitudes, and our dispositions. If this is true then it is indeed also true that our faith is the same. In living Jesus' commandments we transform ourselves and we inherit His traits, His dispositions, and imitate Him more closely. And when we as adults do this we give this to our children so they might also resemble Christ a little bit more each day. Our hope, then, is that by inheriting these things they may also inherit His very image as sons and daughters of God.

Through all this we discover this truth: faith is not a private possession but a gift that is handed down from generation to generation. The Church aids us in handing down this faith through her sacraments, her prayers, and by her members (us included) who safeguard this precious gift and offer it to everyone.

We will all return to our own lives, our own problems, and our own homes in a very short while. But we are one in Christ's Body, the Church. The Spirit will come to us when we pray as one, united to the whole Body of Christ. Jesus, truly, will not leave us as orphans. He has given us a home this very day.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day and the Good Shepherd

Note: I realize it's been two months since I posted. This is mostly because of the whirlwind we came back to in Chicago after our 9 week trip to the Holy Land. I was greeted with 2 exams, one language the other comprehensive, 3 papers, and my ordination to the diaconate. Now that this is all over I have a little breathing room. This is the first homily I gave, slightly edited. Please enjoy! Attached are the reading for this past Sunday.
From my first mass. (I'm on the left)

After being ordained on May 10th I talked to a number of people. I spoke with one of the little Oblate Sisters of Jesus the Priest and thanked her for her service and her prayers. Her words were simple, "We are always praying for you." She then added, "Be holy."

While this is good advice for me it's good advice for us as well: Be holy.

Holiness has many aspects, but one aspect relevant for today is that we recognize God in all moments of our life or, another way of putting it, is recognizing that God has always been with us along the way.

When considering this it is profitable this Mother's Day to think of the mothers, grandmothers, wives, and women who are there and were there in our lives. It's even more profitable to use these experiences of such women as an image that reflects God's love.

The prophet Isaiah says, "Can a mother forget her child, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she should forget, I will never forget you" (Is 49:15). God's love for us is compared to that of a mother's love for her child, if not stronger, and we all know how strong a mother's love is. Moreover, God says through the prophet Hosea, "It was I who taught Ephriam how to walk, who took them in my arms" (Hos 11:3). Remember the joy, excitement, and wonder you had seeing your child's first steps? Know that God has this same affection for each of you. Lastly, call to mind a mother or father who hold their children in their arms. Hear the Lord's words: "The Lord your God, who goes before you is the one who will fight for you ... and in the wilderness you saw how [I] carried you, as one carries his own child, all along your journey" (Dt 1:30, 31). The child they hold depends on them, feels safe in their arms, and loves them with simplicity, so too with your own children. This is our relationship with God who holds us in His hands.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, walks before us. He cares for us and watches over us. Priests, and now me as a deacon, are called to be shepherds as Christ is: to love all of you as Christ does, to live His Gospel as a model for you so you can recognize the Good Shepherd's voice when he calls each of you by name.

Pray for us priests and deacons this holy day, for the sheep need their shepherd and the shepherd his sheep. May we all live and grow in love and peace to have life and have it more abundantly.