Archive for the ‘Incarnation’ Category

Something New Under the Sun — Funeral Homily for Marvin Weber, 94

December 30, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Ancient people thought about time differently than us. They did not picture time to be like a flying arrow, moving forward toward some end and purpose. They imagined time to be like a flat circle, going round and round. They saw history, in its broad strokes, repeating itself. The same four seasons, cycling over and over. Every empire eventually being replaced by another. This attitude is reflected in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, whose author wrote:

“What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun! Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us.”

That author adds:

“There is no remembrance of past generations; nor will future generations be remembered by those who come after them.”

Indeed, very few people’s names are remembered by this world after just a handful of generations. To keep track of time in the ancient world, the custom was to refer to the years of the ruler’s reign (such as “the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar”). Yet those earthly rulers came and went, as history spun round and round with no apparent purpose.

But then, unexpectedly, something truly new happened under the sun. It is an event that we always celebrate during the present time of year. At the center of history, God entered history, becoming a human being like us. “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.” We now number all the years of time as before or after the Christmas birth of Christ our King (“B.C.” or “A.D.”). Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” His life reveals that our lives, this world, and all human history are not merely random accidents but exist with purpose in God’s plan. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

We are gathered here for Marvin’s funeral at a meaningful time. He passed away two weeks ago, before the celebration of Christmas. Today, we offer his funeral Mass during the week between Christmas Day and a new year. His peaceful passing comes, in a sense, both before and after Christmas. Year after year, Marvin already knew and looked forward to the joy of Christ’s coming. He had already experienced great joy in Jesus but had not yet experienced its fullness in the time to come. The life of Jesus Christ causes us to see a Christian’s death through eyes which are different than the world’s. For a Christian, dying, “this momentary light affliction, is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” So Marvin’s passing is more than just a sad parting; it is a cause for joy in us as well.

Marvin married Betty inside this church 65 years ago. She told me many stories about her husband’s life, and there is no way I could retell them as thoroughly or as well as she. But I would like to highlight three anecdotes: First, Betty told me about Marvin’s dad who, when Marvin was about seven years old abandoned his family. Thirty years later, he appeared at his son’s doorstep and said, “I’m here.” He offered no apology, he gave no explanation, and Marvin was not happy about that, but Marvin valued forgiveness and forgave him. Marvin said he wanted his children to have a grandfather; he wanted them to know his father. Second, Betty tells me regarding Marvin, “If he found two pieces of wood he would make something.” Marvin has loved woodworking. He delights to repair or remake things into something greater. And third, at an age of 94, Marvin died relatively young. Because of the longevity of many of his ancestors who lived to be more than 100, Marvin died at a younger age than he had expected. For this reason, according to Betty he often put projects off for later saying, “I’ve got time.”

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us, “Where I am going you know the way. … I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Christians’ lives throughout the centuries will reflect the One whom they have followed. For instance, despite our past unfaithfulness, our abandonment of God, Jesus forgave us, because he desired that we would come to know his Father. Christ took two pieces of wood for his Cross and used them to repair us and make us into something greater. And though our Lord died relatively young, with the resurrection he’s got time—everlasting life—to share with us forever.

The world will not remember us a few generations from now, but though the world may forget us, Jesus never will. Christ our King has come; entered time, our world, and our humanity to save us. So on this day of Marvin’s funeral, we are consoled by Jesus’ words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. … Behold, I make all things new.”

Immanuel: God Among Us

December 22, 2022

Advent Retreat Reflection
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Emmanuel means God is with us. From the beginning even today God is with His people through His presence, He Strengthens us, comforts us, guides us, cares for us, and loves us. First, God is with us always. Secondly, he is coming every day, every hour to those who believe in him and those who do not believe in him. Third, he will come again in his glorified body, the same Jesus who was here two thousand years ago. He will be coming to judge the living and the dead.

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve in His Image and likeness, which means God lives with everyone. God lives in you, God lives in me and God lives in each and every human being in the world. God was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He wanted to care for them and be with them. He created us with love because he wanted to be with us.

When Abram was 75 years old, God told him to move out of his country and to go land that God would lead him to. He told Abram:

I will make of you a great nation,
And I will bless you;
I will make your name great
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
And curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
Shall find blessing in you.” (Genesis 12:2–3)

Abram had a strong faith in God. He knew that God would always be with him. He gathered his family together and they left his country just as the lord told him. Abram was 75 years old when he left the country, Abram trusted God to lead him. He didn’t know where they were going, so a map or GPS would not have helped. Everything was unknown. God was with Abram and led him to the land of Canaan. God was with him in a strange land among strangers.

God heard the cries of His people. They were slaves of the Pharaoh of Egypt. They were being treated with much cruelty. They called out to God to save them. God appeared to Moses from a burning bush and called him, “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” And God said to him, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. I have come down to rescue them and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7–8)

The suffering they endured is unimaginable to us. The Israelites worked long hard days, were frequently beaten and all male children were killed at birth. Through all their suffering the lord was always with them.

Moses was a shepherd, a common man, and not eloquent in speech. He led his people out of Egypt. They were in the desert for forty years and Moses was able to take care of all their needs (food, and shelter, Clothing and water) because God was with him.

Judith was a widow and a member of the Israelites. God was with her. They knew that they were going to be attacked by the Assyrian army led by a chief general, Holofernes. He had 120,000 soldiers and also 12,000 archers on Horseback. He took provisions to provide for his entire army. Judith’s people found safety on top of a mountain. The army camped at the base of the mountain cutting of the water supply for the Israelites that was located there. Judith came down from the mountain to meet with the captain of the enemy. She had prayed to God to help her save her people. God enabled her to take the head of Holofernes back to her people. God was with Judith.

In the New Testament, God continued to be with his people. A good example is the Blessed Mother. She was conceived without original sin because she was chosen by God. She was a single young girl when the Angel came to her and said, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33) And Mary said yes to God. Mary was well aware of the possible difficulties she could encounter, pregnant and single. If she were found out, she could be stoned to death. It would cause embarrassment to her and her entire community.

During the birth of Jesus, there was no one to deliver her baby. They did not have a place to stay. They finally found a barn and when Jesus was born he was placed in a manger.

St. Joseph was a just man and the earthly father of Jesus. When Jesus was born, King Herod issued a command to kill all the male children under the age of two. He was afraid that Jesus was an earthly king and would overthrow him. “Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said Rise and take the child and his Mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13) In their life with Jesus, God was with them.

Jesus was very good friends with Martha, Mary and Lazarus and frequently stayed at their home. When Lazarus was sick, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. “When Jesus heard this He said, this illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) Jesus came after the death of Lazarus. Martha was disappointed and told Jesus that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been there. Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus and prayed, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41–42) Then He called Lazarus out of the tomb and told them to remove the burial bands. God was with his people through their pain and suffering.

Saul was a Jew, educated under Gamaliel a teacher of the law. Saul received permission to kill the Christians that were following Christ. On his way to Damascus, he met the Lord. “On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? He said, who are you, Sir? The reply came, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:3-5) Saul then continued his journey to Damascus, then became a believer in Jesus. Saul became Paul. After his conversion, He traveled to many countries spreading the Good News of Jesus. He also wrote many of the letters in the New Testament.

During his ministry, he suffered a lot. St. Paul told the people of his suffering, “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on a frequent journey in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fasting, through cold and exposure.” (2nd Corinthians 11:24–27). Through all of his sufferings, God was with him.

The first time God spoke the promise of Emmanuel was to Judah’s king Ahaz. The Assyrian forces occupied the land and the king was afraid. God said if you do not stand firm in the faith, you will not stand at all. (Isaiah 7:9) Ahaz refused what God offered him. God then gave his own sign, one that would be fulfilled long after Ahaz. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and you will call Him Emmanuel. He will eat curds and honey when He knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.” (Isaiah 7:14)

In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told of the fulfilled prophecy. It is fulfilled through Mary with the birth of Jesus. The Angel appeared to Mary, a young woman from Nazareth, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph. The Angel appeared to him in a dream telling him that the child Mary was expecting was from God. Joseph then took Mary as his wife. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah; ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Emmanuel – which means God with us.’” (Matthew 1:20–23)

The New Testament makes it clear, that Jesus God’s Son was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesy. He was the long-promised Emmanuel, sent by God to save His people. He came as the mediator between God and man, as our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.

From the beginning of creation, even today and in the future, God is always with His people. Because of Jesus, Emmanuel, we never have to be alone. We never have to wonder how to please God or worry if our efforts are not enough. We know that Jesus is with us, in us, loves us, and will never leave us.

“God Is With Us”

December 17, 2022

4th Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Over 100 years ago Fr. Damien, a Belgian priest, began working with lepers on a small Hawaiian island. Fr. Damien wanted to help the colony of lepers. He found a source of fresh water in the mountains and built the first sanitation system and clinic for them. He and the lepers constructed a chapel for worship. Each Sunday Father Damien would begin his sermon with these words: ‘You lepers know that God loves you.’ He did this for many years. Finally, one Sunday Fr. Damien began his sermon this way: “We Lepers know that God loves us.” Fr. Damien now had leprosy. He went on loving and serving until his death in 1898. We know him more commonly, as St. Damian of Molokai. St. Damien came to Molokai to be one with the people.

The story of the Virgin birth is at the heart of our Christmas celebrations. In the first reading, we are reminded that God promised an unending dynasty to David. Assyria was the dominant power in the region and Ahaz was king of Judah. The prophet Isaiah told Ahaz to have faith in Yahweh, and not to become an ally with Assyria. Ahaz would not listen, and replaced the altar in the temple with an Assyrian altar. The prophet Isaiah wanted king Ahaz to ask for a sign from God but Ahaz refused. Isaiah announced God’s sign, the birth of a son from a Virgin, whose name was Immanuel, “God is with us,” and would assure everyone that God was really with His people.

The reading from St. Paul’s letter emphasizes that Jesus was a descendant of David and that He was the Messiah. St. Paul tells us two things, one is that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, and became incarnate as Jesus – and second that Jesus was revealed and established by the Father as the Son of God in power by his Resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ birth is important because of his death and resurrection for our salvation.

Our readings today talk about Ahaz and St. Joseph. These two men were very different from each other. Ahaz did not trust in God. Joseph completely trusted and relied on God. St. Joseph was a just and righteous man. He was also faithful, and always obedient to God. St. Joseph’s obedience allows Jesus to be adopted as a true Son of David; it is Mary’s role that allows Jesus to be born the Son of God. After the angel appeared in his dream and told St. Joseph that the Child was from the Holy Spirit, St. Joseph obediently took Mary as his wife. St. Joseph nurtured, protected, watched over, and loved both Mary and Jesus.

We are here in this Church, one week before Christmas, because, like Joseph, we are faithful, and we trust in God, His power, and His mercy. Let us remain faithful and prayerful, imitating Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kind, and the greatest–ever believers in God’s goodness and mercy, as we welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives this Christmas.

God who entered our world through Jesus some two thousand years ago is at work in the world. The Good news is that the Child Jesus still waits today, to come into our hearts, your heart, and mine, and to change us and the world around us with the beauty of God’s love, kindness, mercy, and compassion. Let us take some time to let the Christ Child enter our hearts and lives this week, so that He may change our world with the beauty of that love.

Mary & the Holy Eucharist

August 14, 2021

Solemnity of the Assumption
(20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B)

The first three evangelists, Saints Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all detail the same event from the Last Supper. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul recounts it in these words:

“I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”

At every Mass, we recall how Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist the night before he died. But the Gospel of John does not feature these words of institution. The Last Supper spans five full chapters in John’s Gospel—spending far more verses detailing Jesus’ words and deeds at table that night than is done by Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined—yet the phrase “This is my Body” is not included there. Why is this?

Both the early Church Fathers and modern scripture scholars agree that John’s was the last canonical gospel to be written. St. John probably thought it was unnecessary to retread again the same familiar ground as his predecessors, so he chose to omit the institution narrative. Instead, St. John shares with us the Bread of Life discourse. We’ve been listening to this chapter from John for the previous two weeks. Next Sunday presents the resolution of this story. And this Sunday, we would ordinarily be hearing the climax of Jesus’ teaching. Rather than being quoted saying “This is my body” at the Last Supper, in this gospel Jesus declares at the synagogue in Capernaum:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. …For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. …The one who feeds on me will have life because of me. …Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

The other gospels include the eucharistic words of institution, but John particularly emphasizes Jesus’ real eucharistic presence.

As I said, we would ordinarily be hearing this climax to Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse this weekend, but it is preempted this year by the August 15th Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now I’m a very big fan of Mary but I also love that particular gospel reading from John 6, so I was a bit disappointed when I realized the first would be cancelling the second. But then I reflected upon Mary’s profound connections to Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist, and there is actually great beauty in the convergence of these two holy days.

Consider: from where did Jesus receive the flesh he gives us in the Holy Eucharist? God ordained that Jesus Christ receive his human nature from his mother, Mary. At the Annunciation, Mary gave God her pure flesh and pure “yes,” saying “Let it be done to me according to your word,” on behalf of all humanity. That she might respond with a truly free “yes” and be a truly worthy source and vessel for her Son, the most Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved in flawless holiness by the grace of God from the first moment of her life. She lived all her days on earth in sanctity untainted by sin. The 16th psalm proclaims of God: “You will not allow your holy one to see decay.” And so, “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This is the wonderful event which we remember and celebrate with Jesus and Mary today.

The sacred body and precious blood of Jesus we see held aloft at Mass come to us through the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is symbolically present on the altar as well. Consider the chalice. It is made from a precious metal and fashioned for a sacred purpose. It is traditionally veiled, denoting its dignity and sanctity. It is femininely curved, a vessel open to receiving and holding God’s gifts. The chalice is a symbol of the Virgin Mary, who is not to be adored as God and yet who is most profoundly close to him. Like Mary at the visit of the Magi, the chalice holds Jesus for all peoples to adore him.

At the Annunciation, after Mary responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” did she feel anything the instant the Word became flesh within her? Maybe she had the most enrapturing mystical experience ever known. Or maybe, when the angel departed from her, she felt nothing at the moment of the Incarnation. Either extreme seems possible, or it may have been something in between. When you receive the Holy Eucharist, you may or may not be graced to feel any different from the presence of Jesus within you. But consider how Jesus Christ has come to dwell in you at the center of your being as he did first within the Blessed Virgin Mary.

May Blessed Mary, the source of Christ’s flesh; the Lord’s holy chalice; the first Christian to commune with Jesus; intercede for you, helping you to know, love, and follow her Son. May you join them both in heaven one day so that all generations may call you blessed.

Jesus Christ Joined Our Team — Funeral Homily for Russell “Russ” Dachel, 73

August 12, 2021

There are many humorous stories about Russ. He loved to leave you with a smile, a smile on your face and a smile on his. So today, I would like to share with you the funniest story I’ve heard about him, and I believe Russ will be amused at its retelling. It happened over forty years ago. Some of the finer details are uncertain, but an eyewitness who was there confirms that the broad strokes of this story are true.

Once, in the second half of the 1970’s, Russ was officiating at a junior high school basketball game; Eau Claire Memorial versus Eau Claire North. The young men on both sides were giving it their all, and so was Russ. His friend Jim, a former coach who was at the game, tells me that Russ was a good official. Russ had refereed games before, and would go on to ref games after, but this game won him some local fame.

In one telling, Memorial had the ball and dribbled it down court. On this possession, Russ the Ref was the back official, standing nearest to the empty backcourt. Suddenly, a North player stole the ball and made a fast break for the unguarded basket. As the young man went in for what he, both teams, and all the spectators in the bleachers expected to be a routine lay-up, they witnessed something rarely—if ever—seen since James Naismith invented basketball in 1891.

Recall that Russ loves sports. He’s intensely competitive, he hates to lose, and always gives one hundred percent. On this occasion, it seems that Russ got so wrapped-up into the action that he forgot what he was supposed to be doing. As that young man drove to the basket, Russ’ instincts kicked in. Despite not being tall, his feet leaped from the floor to an impressive height, and with his up-raised hand, Russell the Muscle blocked the shot. His friend Jim recalls it was “The Defensive Play of the Game.” Everybody laughed and Russ wanted to disappear, but “change of possession” was signaled and the game went on. A referee becoming a player in the game is against the rules in that setting, but Jesus Christ does something similar to this in our most important story.

Our fallen human race was up against sin and death, the devil and his demons, and we were sure to be beaten. In our wounded condition we could never win on our own. But the Son of God did not wish to merely be our judge, which would guarantee our total defeat. Jesus Christ entered the game on our side, divinity joined humanity. He gave his all, one hundred percent, as someone who hates to lose. And if we die with him who died for us, we shall also live with him. And if we persevere in the struggle before us we shall also reign with him.

Because of the importance of his Catholic Faith, Russ was dedicated to Holy Mass here each Sunday, sitting in his pew near the confessional. He said, “I have to go to church. I feel better when I do.” He felt that way because Jesus Christ is here. As you pray today for Russ’ soul, if you’ve been away from Jesus Christ, I ask you to resolve to get back on his bench and to strive on his side in the contest of life with all your heart, that you may share in his great victory.

“I Believe in Jesus Christ”

February 27, 2021

2nd Sunday of Lent

In the words of The Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

At the heart of our Christian Faith is a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Word become flesh, “the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” Jesus comes to us as “the way, and the truth, and the life,” and Christian living consists in following him. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord

Jesus’ name in Hebrew means: “God saves.” And this name, first announced by the archangel Gabriel, expresses his identity and mission. Through the incarnation, God made man “will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the “name which is above every name” and “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” He is called the Christ or the Messiah. These are Greek and Hebrew titles which mean “anointed one.” In Israel, those consecrated for a God-given mission were anointed in his name; kings, priests, and sometimes prophets had precious, shining olive oil poured upon them. Jesus Christ fulfills the messianic hope of Israel by coming anointed in the Holy Spirit as priest, prophet, and king, to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ the Son is eternally begotten of the Father. They are one God but two persons. This is why Jesus can say, “The Father and I are one,” and, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” while he prays to, honors, and loves his Father as another Person. The Jews in holy reverence for God’s divine name Yahweh would substitute the word Adonai in Hebrew or Kyrios in Greek, both of which mean “Lord.” So when the early Christians professed “Jesus Christ is Lord” they were not merely announcing him as a king above Caesar but proclaiming him as God from God.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.

God becomes man not as a full-grown adult descending from the clouds; nor as an infant, delivered in a blanket by the Holy Spirit stork. Jesus Christ is conceived as a tiny embryo because that is how human life begins. Jesus Christ is not part God and part man, or some mixture of the two. He’s not half-and-half, or like 99.44% divine. The Son became truly man while remaining truly God; two natures united in one person, true God and true man. He is born among us, as one of us, to die for us as our saving sacrifice.

Roughly 3,800 years ago, God put Abraham to the test. “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust [a sacrifice] on a height that I will point out to you.” Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac, and after cutting the wood for the burnt offering, set out for the place of which God had told him. On the third day, Abraham caught sight of the place from a distance. He said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you.

We‘ will come back to you? Why lie to the servants? Why not just say, “Wait here”? You see, Abraham was in fact neither lying nor trying to deceive. As the Letter to the Hebrews teaches, God had promised him “through Isaac descendants shall bear your name,” so Abraham reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol, a foreshadowing sign of things to come. God provides the sheep for the sacrifice upon Mount Moriah. There the city of Jerusalem would be established. There the Jewish Temple would be built, destroyed, and raised up again. And there Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, would be sacrificed on the Cross. God the Father offers his own beloved Son in our place.

Born of the virgin Mary,
he suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

Holy Mary of Nazareth and Governor Pontius Pilate of Judea stand for the two types of people in this world in regards to Jesus: those who receive him, love him, and serve him like Mary, and those like Pilate who would prefer to ignore him but who will reject and destroy the Christ if he stands in the way of their desires. But Mary who bore him and Pilate who killed him are not merely types, symbols, or metaphors – they are real people who ground Jesus’ life in real history. Jesus’ public ministry, his Passion, death, and Resurrection were not “once upon a time,” but in the early 30’s AD. As the 2nd Letter of St. Peter testifies:

“We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.”

He speaks here of the Transfiguration, recounted in today’s gospel. Jesus, “after he had told the disciples of his coming death, on the holy mountain he manifested to them his glory, to show, even by the testimony of the law and the prophets, that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection.” His disciples Peter, James, and John “were so terrified” at this experience, but then “Jesus came and touched them saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’

Brothers and sisters, we must take God seriously, but we need not be afraid. “Perfect love drives out fear.” The Word became flesh so that we might know God’s love. As Scripture says: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” – “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” – “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  – And “if God is for us, who can be against us?” If the Father has given us his Son, “how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Jesus Christ, who died and was raised, sits at God’s right hand and intercedes for us.

So during this Lent, cultivate your personal relationship with Jesus, which is so very important. Yes, he is your Lord God and King, but you can personally relate to him in other true ways as well. He is your brother, for you share the same heavenly Father and blessed mother. He is your friend, for “no one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” and he has laid down his life for you. He is your teacher who said, “You call me ‘teacher’… and rightly so, for indeed I am.” He is your hero, champion, and star who by his excellence wins glory throughout the world. And he is your bridegroom, in whom his beloved bride and his best man rejoice. At the heart of our Christian Faith is a Person, Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh who died for you, and Christian life consists in knowing, and loving, and following him.

Child of God Homily

February 9, 2011

Do you know who Bill Gates is? He started a computer software company called Microsoft and is one of the richest men in the world.  If Bill Gates were your dad do you think that he would be willing to buy you things you could never have otherwise? Imagine if President Obama were your uncle.  Do you think he would invite you to the White House sometime?  Do you think that you would have the opportunity to talk to him about your concerns and ideas for the world? Hold that in mind…

When I was younger, something about how we professed the Nicene Creed on Sundays struck me as strange: “For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven. *Profound Bow* By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. *Straighten* He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, died, and was buried.” I wondered, “Why do we bow for Jesus being born? Heck, even I was even born. Why don’t we bow for His suffering instead?” 

We tend to think of God becoming man as a perfectly normal thing for God to do, we take it for granted, but it is actually the most surprising thing that has ever happened in history. The divine Son became one of us so that He could be our brother, and so that His Father could be ours. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”

Our heavenly Father is unimaginably rich, and He wants to provide for you and bless you. Our Father is all-powerful, and He is always open to hearing your prayers. Our Father in heaven has a house far greater than the White House, and He is preparing a place for you to stay. Remember this: you are a child of God the Father, and that’s a big deal.

He Came To Us — Wednesday, 1st Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

January 12, 2011

In today’s Gospel, “everyone” was looking for Jesus but only a few disciples could find Him. Jesus told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”

Since the beginning, humanity has been searching for its completeness in God, but only a few could find Him. This is why He came to us as one of us. As the Letter to the Hebrews said, “Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them.” He approached us as one of us, grasped our hands and helped us up, because everyone had been looking for Him, but only a few could find Him.

Their First Christmas — Christmas Mass at Midnight

December 27, 2010

Christmas can be a hard time of year for a lot of people. Despite the pious, peaceful, and nostalgic scenes we see on the Christmas cards (like the one on the right,) many peoples’ Christmases are less than picture perfect. Today I would like to tell you the true story of two friends of mine, newlyweds whose first Christmas together was far from idyllic. (I’ll call them Chuck and Sue, though that’s not their real names.)  

In fact, Chuck and Sue’s first year together had been a rocky road. Chuck has always been a good and faithful man, but at one point in the beginning, he seriously thought about getting a divorce. He says that it was only by the grace of God that the serious tensions and misunderstandings between them were resolved and their marriage was saved.

After they tied the knot, the two picked-up and moved away from their closest family and friends to a small town down south where they had some distant relatives. Chuck worked hard as a blue-collar laborer, but after this transition, he found himself unemployed. And unfortunately, all of those distant relatives proved too distant to care about helping-out a struggling young couple in need. Their first Christmas together, Chuck and Sue were out of work, pregnant, and homeless.

How do you think Sue must have felt? Do you think she felt concerned about their circumstances and their family’s future? And how do you think Chuck must have felt when through no fault of his own he wasn’t able to provide better for his wife and child on the way? Had it not been for their deep faith in God and the consolation of their prayers, they would have been overcome by darkness, resentment, fear, and despair. But instead, their first Christmas together was the brightest and most joyful in history. You know Chuck and Sue’s story well, for theirs is the Christmas story. Chuck’s real name is Joseph and Sue’s real name is Mary.

Remember, the Christmas story is not a fairy tale from far, far away. It’s a real story in the real world, and for the real world. Our lives still have difficulties, but Jesus Christ has come, and that makes all the difference in the world. No matter what we’re going through, because of Christmas, we all have good reason to be merry.

And in closing, let me say one final word: I’m always pleased by how full the church is at Christmas. Please come back. Jesus Christ calls you back. He knows our world well and He knows how much you and those you love need His grace to get through it. The shepherds were called to find Jesus in a feed trough. Jesus invites you to find Him here.

Of A Great Lineage — Friday, 3rd Week of Advent

December 17, 2010

Among the four Gospels, three of them contain genealogies of Jesus Christ. Matthew traces His origin from Abraham, for salvation is from the Jews. Luke traces His origin back to Adam, for Jesus is the savior of all. And John traces His origin from the Eternal Father, for Jesus is the Son of God.

In today’s gospel, we heard the names of all sorts of Old Testament people who became ancestors to Jesus Christ. They were all connected to each other, by faith and by blood, yet they little understood the amazing plan that God was accomplishing through them; namely, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world. I believe that Jesus is accomplishing great things with all of us. We might not see it now, but in Heaven we will see what great things He is doing through us.

The Author of Life — Tuesday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

October 5, 2010

If you took our Catholic faith and boiled it down to its most central and fundamental truths what would you have? I think you would end up with these four foundations:

First, that God is three divine persons who are one in being, a union we call the Trinity. Second, that Jesus Christ is both God and Man, a reality we call the Incarnation. Third, that Jesus Christ, to save us from sin and death, suffered, died, resurrected and ascended, an event we call the Pascal Mystery, and from which Jesus empowers His Church’s sacraments. And fourth, that every, single, human being has inherent worth and surpassing value, a truth we call the dignity of the human person. It is this fourth fundamental truth of our Catholic Faith that I will focus upon today.

The psalmist says to God:

“Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made”

From the womb, God fashioned your inmost being, giving you an intellect to know, a freewill to act, and a desire for loving communion with others. Made in God’s own image and likeness, made for a purpose and made for love, every human life is precious from conception to natural death.

Sadly, laws sometimes disregard this dignity, and even Christians can forget it too. Martha looked down on her sister because she thought Mary was not being useful enough or productive enough. Martha only saw Mary as causing a burden to herself, yet Mary was exactly where the Lord willed her to be.

As Mrs. Eichstadt said before, God has a providential plan for each one of you. Like St. Paul, the Lord has set you apart from your mother’s womb for a great story which He has in mind. But anyone who would presume to cut short an innocent life would deprive God of a masterpiece.

Assisted suicide or euthanasia rips out the crucial final chapters. Suicide, murder, or neglect of our neighbor unto death, would end a story halfway. And abortion prevents the story from ever being told. Jesus is the author of our lives and He is to be the one who decides when our lives end. Maybe you will always remember the homily when Father tore up a book, but remember this too: every human life is precious and worth more than many, many books.

11 Absent Students — March 25 — Annunciation

March 28, 2010

You have probably wondered why our school chapel’s icon, statues, and crucifixes are veiled with purple cloth. Covering of religious images is a tradition for the last two weeks of Lent, a period we call Passiontide. So why do we have this tradition?

One explanation recalls that Jesus’, when His enemies sought to kill Him, hid Himself prior to His final days: “Jesus left and hid from them.” (John 12:36) Others see in this veiling a symbol for how Jesus’ divinity was veiled within His humble and vulnerable humanity. He was God incarnate, but none of the rulers of His age knew, “for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8) But behind all of this I think there is a very human reason for why we veil the holy images of Jesus and the saints at Passiontide. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

During Lent we deprive ourselves of luxuries and pleasures for our personal conversion and growth in holiness, but we also do this so that we can celebrate the Christ’ Easter triumph with an even greater feeling of joy. This is why we normally don’t sing as much (or say the Gloria or the “A”-word before the Gospel) during Lent—so that we can enjoy pulling out all the stops at Easter.

Veiling our statues of Mary and Joseph, our wall icon of Elizabeth Ann Seton, and our crucifixes causes a little pain of separation within us. But what if this chapel had never been furnished? What if our chapel had always been bare of religious art? Then their absence would not affect us at all because we would not know that we were missing them.

There are not as many students here today as there should be. Now I’m not saying that this should have been a whole school Mass, and I’m not begrudging anyone who may have stayed in study hall this hour to work on homework.  This is a great turn out and every seat is filled. But still, there are not as many students here as should be here today.

In the early nineties, when most of you were born, for every three live births in our country there was one boy or girl who was intentionally killed. (CDC) I counted roughly 33 students here today. That means we are missing 11 of your classmates who were not allowed to be born.

Today we recall the Annunciation, which some people call “Pro-Life Christmas,” for even though Jesus will be born nine months from now, today is the day of the Incarnation, when God became a human being like us in the womb of the Virgin Mary. After the angel Gabriel departed, Mary went in haste to see her relative. Elizabeth exclaimed, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me,” and John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb in the presence of our microscopic Savior, Jesus Christ. (Luke 1:43-44)

Imagine if 11 of your classmates were to die in a bus accident. You would you feel terrible from the loss, and our whole school would be in mourning. But we have never known the 11 who are missing here today, so we do not feel our loss.

At this Mass and henceforth, let us keep the following things in mind regarding the past, present, and future. As to the past, remember these absent classmates and pray for them. They never received a name, they never had a funeral, and few people have ever prayed for them. Pray for their parents, too. 

In the present, perhaps you honestly find yourself not feeling much emotion one way or the other towards the reality of one million innocents being murdered in our country every year. If so, then ask God to give us His heart and His sight to love what He loves and to hate what He hates. God loves us all, but He hates our sins. He hates our sins because they are bad for us, and the worse they are for us the more He hates them. His love for us and His hatred for our sins are two sides of the same coin. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said “the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion.” The Lord’s heart is certainly not indifferent to this evil, and neither should ours be.

And finally, for the future, keep hope that this evil of abortion will come to an end in our time. We can have this hope, for as the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary and Pilate — 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

February 14, 2010

In a few moments, after this homily, we will recite our creed, the summary of our faith. Every Sunday, we profess, in union with the Christians who came before us, our belief in these truths and our resolve to live our lives according to them. This morning we will look at just one rich aspect of our creed and consider its implications for our lives.

Have you ever noticed that in the entire creed, only two non-divine persons are mentioned by name? These are the Virgin Mary and Pontius Pilate.

“By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died and was buried.”

Now many other figures from the Old and New Testaments could have justifiably been included in our creed; such as Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Paul, and many others. Yet, only Mary and Pilate get mentioned. So why is this? There seems to be two very good reasons. The first of these reasons I will give now—and the second I will save for the end.

The first reason why Mary and Pilate receive special mention is that they ground Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in our real history. Jesus was ‘born of the Virgin Mary, suffered and died under Pontius Pilate, and on the third day, He rose again.’ Now other pre-Christian religions sometimes had stories about dying gods who came to life again, but those stories were always said to have happened ‘once upon a time,’ in some remote and mythic past. But with Jesus Christ, this ancient intuition and longing of humanity is actually realized. The inclusion of Mary and Pilate in the creed witness to this: that God became man, died, and rose for us, in this world and in real history.

Some people try to be too sophisticated by saying it doesn’t really matter if Jesus rose from the dead, or even if He lived at all, because His teachings are what’s important. But St. Paul blows this idea out of the water. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” and “we are the most pitiable people of all.” Without Jesus Christ and His resurrection there is no Gospel, there is no Good News.

Just like Jesus Christ, Mary His Mother and Pontius Pilate His executioner are not fictional characters made up for some story. They are real people, from a time not that much different from our own. Our styles and technologies may have changed, but human beings themselves remain much the same. When we look at Mary and Pilate we can see ourselves in these two people whom Christ encountered twenty centuries ago.

Pilate is the secular Man of the World.
Mary is the devoted Disciple of Christ.

Pilate seeks the glory of men.
Mary seeks the glory of God.

Pilate knows worldly wisdom, he is clever and cunning.
But Mary knows God’s wisdom, and she is truly wise.

Pilate thinks he knows how the world works and the pragmatic way to get things done. For Pilate, our world is totally shaped by of power, money, and influence, with some blind luck thrown into the mix. When Jesus stands silent before him, Pilate says, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have the power to release you and I have the power to crucify you?” Jesus replies, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given you from above.”

Pilate is a very post-modern man.  He’s a moral relativist. When he asks Jesus, “What is truth,” he doesn’t bother to wait for an answer from Truth Himself. That’s because Pilate thinks that the ‘truth’ cannot be known except for the ‘truths’ which we choose for ourselves or impose upon others.

The Gospels show that Pilate knows Jesus is innocent, or at least that he poses no real threat to society, yet Pilate is willing to have this innocent man whipped and even crucified when that becomes the most expedient thing to do. The crowd threatens Pilate, “If you release him, you are not a friend of Caesar,” and he quickly caves and hands Jesus over.

Pilate washes his hands of responsibility, and extends Christ’s arms on the cross. Mary had extended her arms declaring, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” and lovingly held the infant savior in her hands.

Pilate, despite all his power, is ruled by fear.
Mary, despite her weaknesses, is freed from it.

Governor Pilate is rich in wealth and power and yet he has no peace.
Mary, the poor widow, has peace and everything she needs from God.

Pilate has no faith in the God of Israel. He says, “I am not Jew, am I?” But for Mary, God is her rock and this makes all the difference in the world. Mary is defined by her faith, hope and love.

Mary never attends an academy, but she is profoundly wise because she reflects in her heart on the words and deeds of God and because she lives by her own advice: “Do whatever he tells you.” She knows that we do not manufacture the truth for ourselves, we receive it, ultimately from God. We love it, we defend it, and we share it with others. “Blessed [is she],” as Elizabeth said, “who believed that what was spoken to [her] by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Mary trusted and believed, for she saw the evidence through history that God “has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation,” that “He scatters the proud in their pride, and casts down the mighty from their throwns, but He lifts up the lowly.”

Mary’s life was full, but was not free from trials. When Mary consents to be found with child through the Holy Spirit she is uncertain of what will happen to her, but she trusts in God. She does not know how she and her husband will get by as poor immigrants in foreign country, but she continues to trust. Mary’s response to every trial in life, even to the death of her son, is to trust in God. Despite men’s sins, she trusts in God as the Lord of history, that He casts down the proud and mighty from their throwns and raises up the lowly.

Pilate is indifferent to Christ, and he consents to sending Him to the cross, but Mary is wholly devoted to Christ, and she consents to share in His Passion. Pilate’s heart is hardened despite Christ’s Passion, while Mary’s heart is pierced by it.

Governor Pilate was once the most powerful man in Judea, but where is he now? Mary, the poor widow, is now our glorious queen, the most beautiful and powerful woman in heaven or earth, and through her reign she draws millions to Christ our king.

She is the one who wept and now laughs.
He is the one who laughed and now weeps.

He was rich in the world and now he is poor.
She was poor in the world and now the kingdom is hers.

He took root in the desert, he was barren and uprooted.
But she was planted beside the flowing waters, she endured and bore much fruit.

So what do all of these reflections about Mary and Pilate have to do with us? I promised you at the beginning a second good reason why Mary and Pilate are mentioned in the creed; and here it is: Mary and Pilate represent us. They stand as archetypes, models or patterns, for every person.

The faithful one and the faithless one.

The one who serves God and the one who serves himself.

The one who gives Christ life and the one who puts him to death.

We live our daily lives as either Mary or Pilate, with shades of the other thrown in. As we come to the season of Lent, let us examine and discern who we are. “How am I Pilate, and how am I Mary?” And at this Eucharist, let us ask Jesus to exchange in us the ways of Pilate for the ways of Mary, for hers is the way of Christ.

4th Sunday of Advent—Year C

December 20, 2009

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, she cried out in a loud voice and said, “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Who am I that the Lord would come to me? Who are we that the Lord God would become one of us?

Lord, in the words of the psalm, when we see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is mankind that you should keep us in mind, mortal man that you care for us? Yet you have made us little less than gods; with glory and honor you crowned us when, for us men and for our salvation, your Son came down from heaven, and by the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.

We tend to think of the idea of God becoming a human being as the most natural thing in the world, but the event of the divine and eternal Second Person of the Trinity taking on human flesh (what we call the Incarnation) is probably the most remarkable thing that has ever happened; even more remarkable than our creation or redemption. That is why we bow profoundly when we recall the wonder of the Incarnation in our profession of faith each Sunday. “For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

Who are we that the Lord God would become one of us? Who am I that the Lord would come to me? Who we are and why Christ came to us can be summed up in this: we are sinful, limited, loved and good. This sums up human nature in four words. We are sinful, we are limited, we are loved by Him and we are good.

We need Christ as our savior because we are sinful. Even though we know what is right we freely and frequently choose what is wrong. Our sin hurts us, one another, and our relationship with God. He has come for us because we cannot save ourselves.

We are limited, finite creatures. We can forget this or deny this, but it only leads to our own frustration and failure. We are not God, and God doesn’t expect us to be—that’s His job. We must remember that we are limited, in need of His help and help from one another.

When are we are human beings most fully alive?  Not as isolated loaners, but in communion with others. Even the hermit in his desert hut needs spiritual communion with the Lord and His Church if he is to be a complete and happy person. Remember the Unabomber? He lived in a remote shack too, but without this essential communion with God and neighbor.

Though we are sinful and limited, we are also loved and good; for God has lovingly made us good, in own His image and likeness. When we prefer ourselves to God, denying our dependence on Him and scorning Him by our sins, this goodness may be wounded and obscured, but it is never abolished. Jesus Christ always sees this good in us, and He always loves us for it. He loves you for who you are now and for the person He knows that you can become with His help. You are sinful and limited, but never forget, that no matter what, you are loved by Him and good.

We are sinful, limited, loved and good. Knowing this makes us Christians the salt of the earth and shows us how to pray. In fact, the word “salt,” S-A-L-T, sums up the four varieties of Christian prayer: Sorrow, Asking, Loving, and Thanks

We pray in sorrow for our sins.
We pray in asking for our needs.
We pray in love for God loves us.
And we pray in thanks for all He gives us.

I am sinful, so I say “I’m sorry”
I am limited, so I say, “Please.”
I am loved, so I say, “I love you.”
And I am good, and richly blessed, so I say, “Thank you.” 

Who are we that the Lord God would become one of us? Who am I that the Lord would come to me? We are sinful, limited, loved and good. So let us prayerfully prepare for the imminent coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ, our God made flesh this Christmas, with sorrow, asking, love, and thanks.