Sunday, June 19, 2016

Orlando and the Gospel

It’s hard to imagine that our minds have not been drawn to the events in Orlando recently, where yet another act of violence and barbarism has invaded our own consciousness. One is reminded, as if by an unfortunate muscular reaction Sandusky, Virginia Tech, Belgium, Spain, Iraq, Afganistan, and Syria. Acts such as these, and many others, show a world torn by strife, division, and sin. Many of our esteemed brethren have spoken out against such violence, and we commend them. Violence against homosexuals, Muslims, Christians, or anyone is to be deplored as ungodly and abominable. It stands that we, as Christians, ought to look for God earnestly and listen to him attentively.

The Bishop of St. Petersburg, Robert Lynch, had said that, “sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.” He adds, “Those women and men who were mowed down … were all made in the image and likeness of God.” In some senses, it is true. When someone is gay, he or she is part of the “gay community” just as someone who is poor is part of “low society” and so on. We emphasize our differences, many times apart from charity, but rather out of exclusion.

Scripture has fittingly placed before us an appropriate message:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:26-29). [cf., 12th Sunday, OT, Year C]

For Christians there are no divisions so wide that Christ has not redeemed them. All have sinned and thus all need Christ to reconcile them. We who follow Him must never forget that our faith, and the healing we have received as a result, is God’s gift, ever and always. What we have been given, we are called to give. Christ is the light of the world, shining in the darkness (cf., Jn 1:5). We too have been called into this marvelous light to live as children of the light (cf., 1 Thes 5:5, Eph 5:8). What is this light? That light is the peace, love, and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 The Gospel, my brothers and sisters, demands much from us. We are called to admonish sin, but be patient with sinners. We are called to love our neighbor, but love our enemy as well. We are called endure persecution for the sake of righteousness, all the while giving glory to God. No one is exempt from this calling among us, and all of us are called to build each other up in love. There is a gay person in our midst who is more virtuous in regard to chastity than any of us, there is a wealthy person in our midst who outshines all in humility, and there is one who is sick among us who outshines us in true, Christian love.

Stature, orientation, health, or age does not impede us from living the gospel. Our own strengths and weaknesses simply mean that the Gospel demands different things from us daily, and together our love for God, and His love for us, makes us one. No one is impeded, no one is exempt. In short, “pick up your cross daily, and follow me” (Lk 9:23).

This mass, and this day, let us first pray as David does in the psalms, “Who can discern his errors? Clear me of hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” (Ps 19:12-13). Then, let us pray for those affected by violence, resolving in our own lives to be Christ’s peace in the world. Lastly, as we celebrate this Eucharist, we pray: “May this Sacrifice of our reconciliation … advance the peace and salvation of all the world (EP III, §113) …That in a world torn by strife, your people may shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and concord” (EP V1, §7).

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.