Homily The Most Holy Trinity Cycle B May 31, 2015

It’s fitting that the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity is centered in the sacrament of Baptism in the words of our Lord; “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Baptism is not only membership into the Church community, but is also membership into the death and resurrection of Christ.

As we priests and deacons like to say on the celebration of this feast day of the Holy Trinity, there will be much heresy preached this weekend throughout the world by numerous priests and deacons. I do hope I’m not one of them. The ones who will preach false doctrine are the priests and deacons who actually think they have God in the Trinity figured out. “I understand the Trinity completely!” That’s heresy number one.

Or, many examples will be given of what God in the Trinity is like; whether it’s a three-leaf clover, or three roses growing on one branch; or three stained-glass windows that reflect their unique form of beauty; or three hot dogs from Coney Island. They all fall well short of total understanding of the three Persons in one God. Truth is, we can only pretend to understand God in all of his mystery. Fortunately, we do capture bits and pieces of God’s being, enough to get us to heaven I pray in the Scripture and Tradition of the Church. But in the end, our weak human minds and our wayward human hearts fall woefully short of gaining total knowledge concerning the immensity of the Triune God.

Now, if that makes us feel small, then so be it! We are to trust in the ways and existence of God, and be dependent upon our Creator from birth to death. But in Scripture, it’s fitting that this feast day is centered in Baptism. In our Baptism.

Trust and dependency in the Lord begins earnestly at Baptism. After an infant is baptized, the parents accept the responsibility of raising their children in ways where they will develop and sustain a relationship with God. The absolute worst choice a parent can make is to say, “I will do nothing now, and my child can make up their own mind when they get older.” The result of that approach is spiritual confusion. Children are to be introduced to and taught about their Maker. Then, as the child grows with some knowledge and understanding of their Creator, they will eventually take over in their lives their trust and dependency upon God. It’s a motion of moving forward, which begins with being born again, at Baptism.

It’s interesting how we replace this image of moving forward with other worldly terms. Phrases such as “getting old,” or “going gray,” or “I can hear my bones creaking every morning.” Which is all true enough! But these are worldly phrases replacing a spiritual truth that our lives are moving forward. The ultimate truth of our destiny is positive, not negative. So why use negative phrases to explain a positive process that includes transformation, reuniting, and resurrection?

St. Paul writes today that we have not received a spirit of slavery, but rather a Spirit of adoption. A spirit of slavery lives in the past. Meaning, before Christ when we had no knowledge of how precious we really are in the eyes of God. A spirit of slavery to the world denies Christ and all that he has accomplished and gained for us. A spirit of slavery is human beings living backwards rather than moving forward. And there is much of that today, especially on the subject of sexuality and sexual preference. And the Devil disguises such backward living as tolerance.

Instead, we are not only created to move forward in the Lord with the beauty of our humanity, but to do so with full knowledge and acceptance that we have been purchased by the Spirit of adoption. God has adopted us in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have been created by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and filled by the Spirit to move forward toward our resurrection. The surest way of doing so is to live the truths of our faith, especially the longstanding moral truths, and not embrace the false teachings of a very confused culture.

To be Christian is not just to get old and gray, to put on weight and to hear the bones creaking. It is to keep moving forward, the motion that began in our lives with the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The willingness to bring those words to Christ in heaven keeps us on a path of moving forward.

Homily Pentecost Sunday Cycle B May 24, 2015

The breath of forgiveness. That’s what our Lord Jesus extends to us; the breath of forgiveness and mercy.

On this most wonderful feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the final chapter of the Easter Season while rejoicing in the new chapter of God’s Spirit in our lives. Last week I spoke about being ready to take over for the Lord. Well, that time has arrived.

The Lord freely gives of the Spirit. Do you ask for the Spirit often? The Spirit who seals the bond of love and unity between people. The Spirit who unites hearts and minds to produce peace in our world and in our lives. The Spirit who can accomplish the seemingly impossible by reuniting two individuals or opposing groups through the holy power of forgiveness and mercy. Do you ask for the Spirit often?

Pentecost is much more about action and results that it is about any type of feeling or emotion. For example, when a couple gets married in the Church, which by the way is the responsibility of every baptized Catholic to do when they get married. But when a man and a woman stand before God’s altar to exchange vows, there is an awful lot of emotion going on in those few moments. My experience is that 9 times out of 10, if anyone “loses it” at that time, it’s the groom, not the bride. He loses it because the seriousness, the enormity, the solemn vocation of forever all of a sudden overtakes his mind and heart, and he gets enlightened in that moment as to what’s going on. So, he chokes up, hesitates to collect his emotions, and may even shed a tear or two. All the while, the bride is holding his hand to show support for her beloved who is finally understanding the depth of his words that he is speaking; “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” In the midst of all that, I won’t tell you what I’m thinking. Okay, it has to do with the joy of priesthood and celibacy.

There’s a lot of good emotion going on at a wedding ceremony. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment. But Pentecost is not about emotion. Just as any sustainable relationship, and most certainly marriage, is not grounded in emotion. If it is, it will not last. If it is based on emotion and not on faith and reason, it is a shell that will crack in a short period of time.

A healthy relationship, like the feast of Pentecost, is made healthy through actions and results over time. It is doing that matters most. Speaking is good, especially the vows, because speaking is a form of doing. Such as this homily. But Pentecost, like relationships that last, takes a lot of work as any married couple or Apostle of the Lord can tell us.

The action of Pentecost is a visible action. Tongues of fire rested on each one of them. And what’s the result of God’s initial action in the Spirit? They start speaking in languages they never knew before. Babbling that had made no sense, no reason, no logic, now speaks of the mighty works of God.

In Jesus Christ, all babbling is turned into faith and reason. It’s why Abraham Lincoln could write the Gettysburg Address, or why Robert Frost could write such moving poetry. It’s why Clara Barton could establish the Red Cross, or why Blessed Mother Teresa could hold a child in her arms in the streets of Calcutta. Because in Christ, babbling is now turned into faith and reason. Death is turned into life; hatred is turned into love; sin is turned into grace; condemnation of the human race is turned into salvation. And what the action of Pentecost does is that it says to you and me, “You are to take this message of truth and reason, this message of love and hope, this message of peace and joy, this message of mercy and forgiveness, and we are to bring it into this God-forsaken world through words and actions. And you are not to let anyone get in your way.” That’s called fortitude. We are to change the world of babbling that has fallen in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and bring forth the message of eternal life through preaching and good works.”

There’s the assignment for the rest of our lives. Such power is not based on emotion. Emotion is not locomotion. It does not move mountains. But actions in the name of Jesus Christ do move mountains, as well as be rid of the politics of babbling.

Speaking of Christ, Jesus breathes on them in the Gospel. Did you notice that verse? What does that breath do? Would you like Jesus to breath on you? Like, right now! Do you often ask for the Spirit?

If Jesus’ breath could bring us into the presence of the angels and saints at this moment, would we allow ourselves to go forward? Escape all the babbling of a world filled with babble and war, and go forth to a relationship of eternal peace and beauty? Where there is no such word as ISIS? Would you say yes? I would.

Oh, that’s right. I have some Baptisms and weddings coming up. I can’t leave yet. But I don’t make that call. There’s always something else left to do, isn’t there?

The breath of Christ, the breath of Pentecost, is the breath that pushes us to move forward each day to perform the works of Christ in the daily routine of our lives. One day, however, this same breath, Jesus’ breath, will carry us into the presence of the angels and saints, I pray. For most of us, we do not know the day or the hour. But we do know that the breath of Jesus Christ, which removes the babbling from the lives of those open to it, is a breath of consistency. The breath that pushes us to loving action on behalf of his name is the same breath that eventually opens the door to heaven for the faithful departed.

Pentecost is action. Pentecost is results. Bring Christ to others. This is what the flame represents. It’s not a flame of emotion. It’s a flame of action. The action of Christian virtues. The action, I pray, that defines our lives.

7th Sunday of Easter Cycle B May 17, 2015

“Consecrate them in truth. Your word is truth.”

Sounds like our dear friend Tom Brady may not have spoken God’s word, which is truth. Such can possibly be the ways when so much in worldly honors and victories are at stake.

Instead, Jesus is the perfect expression of worldly honors and victories. He crucifies himself to the world, because, as he speaks so openly in the prayer of this Gospel, “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.” To crucify the ego and to live in humility for God is to conquer the world. A world filled with allurements, distractions, stress, and much beauty.

The 7th Sunday of Easter: the message at this point in the Easter season after celebrating the Resurrection a long 6 weeks ago, for we are still in a time of grace… The message for us on this last Sunday of Easter, as the flowers around the altar dwindle in number – they’ve had a good run – the message is that we are close to taking over. It’s an annual reminder, this 7th Sunday of Easter, that we don’t ever sit back and watch others do the work. That we don’t supervise from a distance. That we don’t throw stones from the outside. And that we represent, truly represent, the ascended Jesus in the ways of truth, love, and mercy. We’re about to take over…again.

It’s not an aggressive takeover though, which at times one company would like to do to another competitive company. Our physically taking over for the Lord is not like UPS wanting to aggressively take over Fed-Ex, and form a new company known as Fed-Ups. Our physically taking over for the Lord is not like Wal-Mart wanting to aggressively take over Target, and become known as Tar-Mart, where you can purchase all the tar you want for your driveway at a very cheap price.

Our taking over for Jesus after his Ascension is not aggressive at all. But natural. Natural for the soul that is forever in love with its Creator. It’s not a takeover borne in jealousy or shutting down someone else’s good idea of business. As Disciples, we are to take over a large element of Jesus’ presence in the world, in and through all the truth he gives us found in the holy and divine teachings of our faith.

And neither is it a partial takeover we assume. Where we can dismissively leave some of those teachings on the shelf because they don’t suit our likes, our lifestyle, or our personality. Even a sparkling personality like mine. Our Lord’s need, if you will, is to take over completely his company of love, mercy, forgiveness, and all the virtues that draw us closer to our Creator. Too many of us Catholics today want just a partial takeover of Jesus’ company. Only what makes us comfortable. That’s like saying we want only a partial heaven, and not all of it.

In today’s 1st reading from Acts, Peter stands up and leads the Christian community in prayer and in choosing. They need to choose a 12th Apostle to replace Judas. The first Pope choosing the next Bishop. Nothing’s changed for 2000 years. But there’s a somewhat humorous side to this reading, as there is in much of the Acts of the Apostles. It reveals God’s sense of humor. The two candidates to fill the 12th spot are none other than Judas called Barsabbas, who was known as Justus, and Matthias, who apparently was not known by any other name. One of them is to replace Judas Isacariot, who, as the reading tells us in the words of Peter the first Pope, “Turned away to go to his own place.” That does not sound good from any angle. Judas created his own place. He didn’t like Jesus’ place, meaning his teachings, so he made up his own. Look where it got him.

Now the somewhat humorous part of the story is, do you really think that Judas Iscariot is going to be replaced by another guy named Judas? Even if he has a couple of surnames, like Barsabbas and Justus? There’s just no way! A Judas is not going to replace a Judas. This guy has no chance of being selected! If some guy named Harry broke into your house and stole all the family heirlooms, are you going to name your next son Harry? So of course, Matthias wins. It sounds to me like it was fixed.

Matthias is chosen to take over. To take over the works of Christ in this world. We are Matthias. We are the 12th Apostle. And please note that they wanted someone who accompanied them the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among them, from the Lord’s Baptism to the time he was taken up from them, and be a witness to his resurrection.

Why someone from the beginning? Why are we, as Matthias, meant to be with the Lord from the beginning? The answer is, so that the taking over would not be an aggressive takeover where we create our own company. Instead, that the taking over as the 12th Apostle would be represented in truth, which is a natural takeover for Jesus who is Truth. In our faith in Jesus Christ, we don’t create our own company, which it seems to me like so many Catholics wish to do today.

It’s a very good thing to reflect on our faith lives and be honest enough and brave enough to say to ourselves, “Why do I reject this teaching of the faith that I profess? Why do I criticize Peter and the Church for not conforming the teachings of Jesus Christ my Lord to my personality, my lifestyle, and my personal likes? Why does Jesus not change for me?” Why? Because he’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Is there any aggressive takeover in our lives in reference to our faith? With that said, we are Matthias, chosen to represent Jesus in truth, and not the 1st Judas who betrayed Jesus, or the 2nd Judas who has no chance to win the lot.

If you choose Mathias each day, we will bring peace and certainty to others, including ourselves. But also persecution and the world’s condemnation will come our way. It’s an interesting mix. But it’s all part of being that 12th Apostle who is with Christ from the beginning, taking over for the Lord in ways of truth.