Archive for the ‘Confession’ Category

How to Go to Confession in 9 Easy Steps!

December 12, 2015

1. Prepare for Confession by Examining Your Conscience

Consider the question, “Since my last confession, what did I chose to do even though I knew that it was wrong?” To help you know your sins, ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight. Then, perhaps review your personal relationships (God, family, etc.), the Ten Commandments, or the Seven Deadly Sins. You may want to write a list for yourself to bring into the confessional, if that would make you feel more comfortable.

2. Begin Confession with a Sign of the Cross, saying, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned

Don’t worry. If you forget what to do, the priest will walk you through it.

3. Give the Priest Some Idea of how Long Ago Your Last Confession Was

Exact precision is not important here; it simply gives the priest some context.

The Confession by Giuseppe Molteni, 18384. Tell the Priest Your Sins

Confess what sins you committed and how many times (or with what frequency) you committed them. The most important thing is that you not intentionally withhold any serious sins. Avoid doing this and you’ll make a good confession. Let the priest know when you are finished.

5. Listen to the Priest’s Advice

Father will probably have some encouragement and advice to help you sin no more.

6. Make Note of Your Penance

The priest will give you a task (usually prayers) to perform to help repair the harms and brokenness that your sins have caused in yourself and the world. Though you can do your penance anytime after confession, sooner is probably better, so that you don’t forget.

7. Pray Your Act of Contrition

In essence, an Act of Contrition simply says, “Lord, I’m sorry for my sins. Please help me to sin no more.” You can pray this in your own words, or use a traditional Act of Contrition prayer like this one:

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because of your just punishment, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.”

8. Stay for Absolution

Listen to the priest’s Absolution prayer, which forgives your sins by the power of God through Jesus Christ.

9. Leave in Joy, with Your Sins Forgiven

How wonderful is that?!

Penance Service Rosary Meditations

April 20, 2011

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley. There was a garden there and he and his disciples entered it. He took along Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, and began to experience sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My heart is nearly broken with sorrow. Remain here and stay awake with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer. “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Yet not my will, but yours be done.” In his anguish he prayed with all the more intensity, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. Then he rose from prayer and came to his disciples, only to find them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? ”

When Peter, James and John fell asleep that hour in the garden, they let Jesus down, but Jesus still loved them. When we sin, we also let Jesus down, but Jesus still loves us, too. Let us all make good confessions, and pray attentively, in this hour with Jesus.

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

When it was morning, those who had arrested Jesus bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. Now for Passover, the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, a revolutionary, a robber and a murderer, called Jesus Barabbas. (The name Barabbas means “son of the father.) When they had assembled, Pilate said to the crowd, “Which one do you want me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?” They answered, “Barabbas!” Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.

Whenever we sin, we choose a Barabbas instead of Christ. Jesus promises us that choosing Him will make us the most happy, but when we choose to do what’s wrong, we disbelieve Him, and choose someone or something else to make us happy. With our confession and these prayers, let us recommit ourselves to always choosing Jesus Christ, who suffered whips for love of us.

The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside of their fortress and gathered the whole army around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.

For as much as those soldiers mocked Jesus, let us now honor Jesus sincerely through this decade of the Rosary, with our hearts full of sorrow and thanks.

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

They took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. As they led him away, they laid hold of a man named Simon who was coming in from the country. They put a crossbeam on Simon’s shoulder for him to carry behind Jesus. A great crowd of people followed him, including women who beat their breasts and lamented over him.

During this decade of the Rosary, let us imagine ourselves helping Jesus to carry His cross. By being with Him and knowing how He felt, this will help us to love Him more. And who knows, perhaps our prayer will travel through space and time to help lighten, even just a little, the burden that He carried.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

They brought Jesus to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull) and crucified Him there. At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Finally, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.

The forgiveness of our sins is so easy for us. When we go to confession and it is brief and painless. But let us always remember this: the forgiveness of our sins is so easy for us in the confessional because Jesus let the forgiveness of our sins be so hard on Him on the cross. Let us thank Him and honor Him for this great gift.

Lenten Penance Service Homily

April 15, 2011

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Sadly, all of us have sinned. Each of us is guilty. Now a sin is more than just an innocent mistake or a misunderstanding. (There is in guilt in those things.) The truth is that each of us at times have sinned by knowingly choosing to do what is wrong instead of doing what is right. With every sin, we hurt each other. We also hurt our relationship with Jesus, who is entirely good, and the most deserving of our love. All of us are guilty. We have all committed crimes against God and our neighbors. So what shall we do?

Like the two criminals in the gospel we just heard, this morning we have the opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ, in the sacrament He gives us. But like which of those two criminals will we be in His presence? The first criminal didn’t acknowledge or care about his own sins. He tried to ignore his terrible situation and treated Jesus on the cross like a joke. However, the second criminal, who tradition calls the Good Thief, acted wisely and well. He recognized in Jesus Christ the one person in the whole world who could really help him. This guilty man praised Jesus for his goodness and asked for Him for His mercy. And Jesus forgave him and promised him great things.

On behalf of Jesus Christ, I beg you this morning to make a good confession, heartfelt confession of your all sins. Jesus said to the Good Thief, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Like the Good Thief, Jesus wants you to know the blessings of His complete forgiveness today.

The Passion of Lent — 1st Sunday in Lent—Year A

March 14, 2011


Today Satan approaches Jesus in the desert at the end of His forty days of prayer and fasting and attempts to divert Him from the Father’s plan.   The ancient serpent employs the same tactics he used on Eve in the garden, twisting God’s words and playing on human desires. So how much did Satan know about what Jesus intended to do in the years ahead? St. Matthew suggests the Devil knew something of this, because the three temptations Satan puts to Jesus foreshadow His future Passion.

First, Satan comes and says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” Is it a coincidence that at the Last Supper Jesus will command bread to transformation into His very Self? It is as if the Devil were saying, “Why not simply give everyone bread. Why give yourself into their hands?” Jesus answers, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Jesus knows that a lifetime supply of bread would not save us. To live forever the Bread of Life must nourish us. Jesus is the Bread of Life. We do not live by bread alone, with whatever this world can offer, but by the Word that comes forth from the mouth of God. The Word of God is Jesus Christ.

This first temptation and Jesus’ answer point to the importance of prayer and the Eucharist. Prayer lifts our minds above having worldly thoughts alone. The Eucharist empowers our hearts to live for God. Do you pray every day? Prayer must be a top priority in Lent. Do you frequently receive Jesus in the Eucharist? In Lent, try coming to weekday Masses. Those who do so find it so powerful and precious that they often wonder how they ever used to make it a full seven days without receiving Jesus in between.

For his next temptation, Satan takes Jesus to the very top of the temple in Jerusalem. About three years later, not far from that place, the hostile Sanhedrin will gather and put Jesus on trial, questioning Him, demanding to know, ‘Are you the Son of God?’ and they’re not going to like His answer. The Devil says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.  [God’s angels will protect you.]” It is as if the Devil were saying, “Since you are a child of God He will be with you to save you no matter what, so why not do your own will and decline to give difficult witness?” But Jesus answers, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

You and I are also children of God and He is always with us,  but this must not lead us to presumption. We need to seek His will and give witness in the world by our words and deeds. If we sin, God always offers forgiveness, but we must take Him up on the offer. God always welcomes sinners, but we must turn to Him. To keep sinning without any words or actions of repentance is to put God to the test.

This second temptation and Jesus’ response point to the importance of confession and conversion. This Lent, turn from sin, come to confession at least once, and put some serious thought into planning how you will “sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.”

For the third temptation, the Devil takes Jesus up to a very high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence. He says, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Jesus plans to claim His universal kingdom by climbing another mountain by Himself, Mount Calvary, and by taking his throne on the cross. (This is why Jesus tells James and John that they do not know that they are asking when they request to sit ‘one at His right hand and one at His left when He enters His kingdom and glory.’) Here it is as if the Devil were saying, “If you simply give up you won’t have to sacrifice, you won’t have to suffer. Lay down your cross and lay down before me.” But Jesus rebukes the devil, (much like he will later rebuke St. Peter for saying, ‘God forbid such a thing should ever happen to you): “Get away, Satan! The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”

This third temptation and Jesus’ answer point to the importance spiritual sacrifices and patiently bearing our burdens. We have taken on Lenten penances, let us not give them up; and when unforeseen trials come to us, let us trust that Jesus knows what He’s doing; for it is through crosses like these that God makes us holy.

Prayer and the Eucharist, confession and conversion, spiritual sacrifices and patiently bearing our burdens. Let these things be in your response as you are tested these forty days.

A Teenage Examination of Conscience

December 16, 2010

Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.”

Since my last confession…

  • Have I neglected daily prayer?
  • Have I stubbornly doubted God’s existence, goodness, or love?
  • Have I denied Jesus Christ or my Catholic Faith?
  • Have I dabbled in occult things, like spiritualism or magic?
  • Have I frivolously said, “I swear to God”?
  • Have I used holy names as if they were profanities?
  • Have I failed to keep Fridays as a day of penance?
  • Have I failed to keep Sundays as a day of rest?
  • Have I skipped Sunday Mass?
  • Have I been irreverent or inattentive at church or towards Jesus in the Eucharist?
  • Have I neglected to confess serious sins?
  • Have I favored my own comfort and entertainments over God’s will?
  • Have I refused to trust that God will take care of me?

God said, “Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.”

  • Have I disobeyed my parents?
  • Have I disrespected them to their faces or behind their backs?
  • Have I lied to them?
  • Have I manipulated them to get what I want?
  • Have I seldom shown them love or gratitude?
  • Have I neglected my duties at home?
  • Have I failed to put forth my best effort at school?
  • Have I lied to, disobeyed, or disrespected a teacher?
  • Have I cheated on tests, plagiarized papers, or copied answers?

Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • Have I quarreled with anyone?
  • Have I bullied, insulted, or mocked anyone?
  • Have I intentionally harmed anyone?
  • Have I wished for bad things to happen to anyone?
  • Have I embraced hated for anyone?
  • Have I had an abortion or encouraged anyone to get one?
  • Have I told gossip or unflattering stories about anyone?
  • Have I told any lies?
  • Have I betrayed any friends?
  • Have I broken any promises?
  • Have I wrongly revealed any secrets?
  • Have I been a poor friend?
  • Have I coveted, been envious or greedy of anyone’s possessions?
  • Have I stolen or vandalized what belongs to another?
  • Have I simply stood by while another did wrong?
  • Have I dressed, spoken, or behaved immodestly?
  • Have I been unchaste with anyone?
  • Have I been selfish or insincere in a relationship with anyone?
  • Have I manipulated anyone to get something I wanted?
  • Have I been impatient, jealous, unkind, or unmerciful toward anyone?

St. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit… and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”

  • Have I gotten intoxicated using alcohol or other drugs?
  • Have I used illegal-performance enhancing drugs?
  • Have I malnourished myself or ‘binged and purged’?
  • Have I intentionally harmed my own body?
  • Have I plotted or attempted suicide?
  • Have I lusted using movies, TV, the internet, romance novels, magazines, or music?
  • Have I engaged in unchaste acts of imagination or with myself?
  • Have I used media or entertainments in obsessive, self-isolating ways?

An Act of Contrition

Oh My God, I am sorry for my sins. In choosing to sin and failing to do good, I have sinned against you and your church. I firmly intend, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to love as I ought.  Amen.

The New Eve — December 8 — Immaculate Conception

December 8, 2010

In the beginning, when our first parents fell, they lost a great deal, but they were not deprived of hope, for God spoke in their hearing a prophesy to the deceiving serpent, the devil. God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” Who is this offspring, who strikes back at the devil? He is Jesus the Christ, the New Adam, the Son of God. And who is this woman, who is Satan’s enemy? She is Mary of Nazareth, the New Eve, the Immaculate Conception.

After their Fall, when Adam and Eve heard God approaching in the garden, they became afraid, they fled and hid, so God called out, “Where are you?” When God drew near to Mary, she also was afraid, but she did not hide or flee. She declared, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” And, because she did, her Holy Offspring could go on to say in His garden of testing, “Father… not my will but yours be done.”

The first man, Adam, called the first woman Eve, because she became the mother of all the living. Now, Mary is the New and Second Eve, for she is the mother of all the living, and she loves each one of us personally as her very own children.

She is the icon of the Church, and as she is, we are called to be: holy and without blemish before God, as the second reading from Ephesians says. But how can we do this? Unlike Mary, at times we have been allies of Satan by our sins. To cleanse us, God gives us the sacrament of reconciliation, and to strengthen us He gives us the fruit from the new tree of life; that tree is the cross, and its fruit is the Eucharistic Christ.

If it has been a long time since you have been to confession, come that you may be purified as pure as Mary. And if you receive our Lord in the Eucharist tonight, consider that the Son of God Incarnate has come to dwell in you, just as truly as He dwelt in Mary.

The Glorious Mysteries, Meditations with the Saints

October 27, 2010

The 1st Glorious Mystery:
The Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead

St. John Bosco, an Italian priest, founded a famous school for boys in the mid-1800’s and is the patron saint of students. He is known to have worked many miracles, but one from 1849 stands out. Returning from a journey, he learned that Charles, a 15 year old student, had died. He went immediately to the teenager’s home where the family informed him that Charles had been dead for over 10 hours. The body was laid out in the living room, already dressed for burial.

Fr. Bosco asked everyone to leave except the mother and the aunt. After some time in silent prayer, he cried out: “Charles, rise!” Charles emitted a long sigh, stirred, opened his eyes, stared at his mother and asked, “Why did you dress me like this?” Then, realizing Fr. Bosco was present, he told him how he had cried out for him and how he had been waiting for him. He exclaimed, “Father, I should be in hell!” He told of how a few weeks before he had fallen into serious sin. Then he said he had a “dream” of being on the edge of a huge fiery furnace, and as he was about to be thrown into the flames, a beautiful lady appeared and prevented it. She said, “There is still hope for you, Charles. You have not yet been judged.” Then he heard the voice of Fr. Bosco calling him back.

Charles asked Fr. Bosco to hear his confession. After his confession, the mourners filled the room again, and Fr. Bosco said, “Charles, now that the gates of heaven lie wide open for you, would you rather go there or stay here with us?” A profound silence filled the room. Charles, with tears in his eyes said, “I’d rather go to heaven.” Then he leaned back on the pillows, closed his eyes and breathed his last.

Unless Jesus’ Second Coming happens first, each of us here will die, and rise. As we meditate on Jesus’ resurrection, let us consider how ready we are to meet Him.

The 2nd Glorious Mystery:
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.

St. Padre Pio is another Italian priest from not so long ago who also worked remarkable miracles. During WWII, Allied planes flew bombing raids over Italy. Almost all of the centers of the region were subjected to repeated bombardment, but no bombs ravaged the town of San Giovanni Rotondo. Every time the aviators approached that place, they saw a monk flying in the air who prevented them from dropping their bombs. Understandably, reports of this flying friar did not amuse the superior offices.

Bernardo Rosini, a general of the Italian Air Force, recounts this story: “One day, an American commander wanted to lead a squadron of bombers himself to destroy the German arms depository of war material that was located at San Giovanni Rotondo. The commander related that as he approached the target, he and his pilots saw rising in the sky the figure of a friar with his hands held outward. The bombs released of their own accord, falling in the woods, and the planes completely reversed course without any intervention by the pilots.”  

Someone told the commanding general that in a convent at this town, there lived a saintly man. At war’s end, the general wanted to go meet this person. “He was accompanied by several pilots… He went to the convent of the Capuchins. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the sacristy, he found himself in front of several friars, among whom he immediately recognized the one who had ‘stopped’ his planes. Padre Pio went forward to meet him, and putting his hand on his shoulder, he said, `So, you’re the one who wanted to get rid of us all!’”

As we meditate on the Ascension of Jesus, to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, let us pray that He would establish justice and peace, in this country and the whole world, in our time.

The 3rd Glorious Mystery:
The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

We usually don’t associate India with Christianity, but that nation has over 24 million Christians.  That’s about as many people as live in Texas, our second largest state. If you were to ask them how the faith reached their land they would point to St. Thomas the Apostle.

What led St. Thomas, who at first refused to even believe in the Good News, to travel over 2,500 miles to bring them the Gospel? It was not merely seeing the risen Christ. Jesus knew His disciples would need more to strengthen them then merely their memories of Him. St. Thomas journeyed because the Lord had sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to fill them with gifts, like wisdom, courage, and zeal.

If we are in the state of grace, God the Holy Spirit dwells in us too, and He wants to empower us with His gifts. As we meditate on the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, let us pray for whatever spiritual gift that we need the most.

The 4th Glorious Mystery:
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

No Church, in the East or the West, claims to contain the body of St. Mary. This is because “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 because Jesus would not suffer Mary, His sinless, faithful beloved, to undergo corruption.

Death is a consequence of human sin, and without human intervention, as in embalming or mummification, our dead bodies will ordinarily experience its corruption. But, sometimes, the Lord preserves the dead bodies of his saints, to give a sign of their holiness, and to show that death is not all that awaits us.

Among the numerous saints whose incorrupt bodies you can still see today are:  St. John Bosco, St. John Vianney, St. Catherine Laboure (the visionary of the Miraculous Medal), St. Bernadette Soubirous (the visionary of Lourdes), and St. Maria Goretti.

As we meditate on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, let us pray for purity in our lives.

The 5th Glorious Mystery:
The Coronation of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth

Once, when St. Maximillian Kolbe was a boy, his behavior began trying his mother’s patience. She said in exasperation, “Maximillian, what will become of you?” As St. Maximillian writes, “Later, that night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.” St. Maximillian would receive both crowns, as a holy Franciscan brother, and as a victim of the Nazis at Auschwitz, were he took the place of another innocent man who was condemned to die.

Jesus crowns his holy ones. He wills that those who share in His sacrifice should also share in His glory. As we meditate on the Coronation of Mary, let us pray to accept whatever crowns of burden and glory the Lord wants to give to us.

Christ in the Sacraments — 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

June 15, 2010

To understand today’s gospel, it helps to know a little about the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day.  For example, when the Jews would sit down to eat dinner they would not sit at all–they “reclined at table,” on beds that came up the edge of the table. You would have a cushion under your chest or under your side, as you ate with your free hand, with your legs laid out behind you. This clarifies how the beautiful, penitent woman was able to access to Jesus’ feet. This also explains how John was able to lay his head upon Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper to ask Him who would betray Him. The Beloved Disciple was not a contortionist–he was laying beside Jesus at table.

A second important thing to know about the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day to appreciate this gospel is to understand how they felt about feet. The Jews considered feet to be among the dirtiest, humblest, and lowliest parts of the human body. This is why our parish’s patron, St. John the Baptist, said, “[There is] one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” In that Jewish culture, servants could not be commanded to wash the feet of others; it was considered even beneigth the dignity of a slave. Now we can understand the significance of the woman washing Jesus’ feet, and how much it means that Jesus later washed His disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

But what was this woman thinking? Had she forgotten to bring a towel and a bowl of water at home? Was she so dumbstruck that her lips were unable to form the simple words, “I’m sorry and I want to return to God?” No, she knew what she was doing when she used her tears to cleanse, her hair to wipe, and her lips to kiss Jesus’ feet. When she heard that Jesus was going to be eating at the house of Simon the Pharisee I doubt she was holding that alabaster jar of ointment in her hands. No, she had to go and get it, and as she did she thought about exactly how she was going to approach Jesus.

What was Simon the Pharisee thinking? Had he forgotten about the customary curtesies in welcoming guests to one’s house in that culture: water for washing their own feet, oil for anointing one’s head against the harshness of the desert, a kiss in greeting at the door? Maybe he thought these were just optional, dispensible rituals. Regardless, Jesus put his finger on one major contributing factor: Simon the Pharisee loved Jesus little, while the beautiful penient woman loved Him greatly.

Simon gave Jesus an external gift, a meal in his home, but in addition to her ointment, the woman gave a gift of her very self; her tears, her hair, her kisses. As she had sinned with her body, she now sought to honor God though her body.

How does all of this apply to us? When we consider this beautiful, penitant woman and Simon the Pharisee relate to Jesus, we see two approaches the sacraments. For some, in the manner of Simon the Pharisee, the sacraments are just rituals, traditional customs, liturgical hoops the Church has us jump through. But for others, those with the heart of the woman who loved much, every sacrament is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. If you onlt remember one thing from this homily, remember this: every sacrament is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

Consider the sacrament of marriage. Today, some people say, “As long as we love each other, what difference does a ceremony in a church and a piece of paper make?” But these people do not realize that the sacrament of marriage actually makes present the love between Christ and his Church. The love between husband and wife not only resembles the love between Christ and his Church–like all the sacraments, marriage actually makes present. If your marriage is sacramental, and you and your spouse do not put up obstacles in the way, you can experience firsthand to love with which Jesus loves His bride, the Church, and how the bride receives her Lord. You experience the intimacy between the two and you can tap and draw on their love and the power in your marriage. marriage is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

Today, some people say, “I don’t really have any sins, but if I did, why should I have to go tell my sins to a priest to have my sins forgiven? God can hears my prayers. Won’t he’ll forgive me anyway.” Imagine if the penitent woman had stayed away from Simon’s dinner party that night in the gospel and prayed to God at home. Would she have been forgiven? Perhaps, but she would not have had her life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. When you go to confession, you are personally encountering Jesus through the priest. If the priest does not put up obstacles in the way you will hear the words of Christ to you. And even if the priest does get in the way, you will hear that words that Jesus wants you to hear, just as He had said to the beautiful penitent woman: “Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.” The sacrament of reconciliation is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

These days some people say, “There’s a lot of Sundays in the summertime and a lot of things to enjoy on the weekend. Is it really that important that we come to Mass every Sunday?” To ask this about the most Blessed Sacrament is to be like Simon the Pharisee. Had Jesus not come as his guest that night, Simon would not have missed Him much; Simon would not have been that disappointed. And even after receiving Jesus under his roof, I can imagine Simon being left unchanged. But the beautiful penitent woman, who took Jesus’ flesh to her lips, was forgiven her sins and was filled with grace by the encounter.

In the celebration of this sacrament, and at every sacrament, let us appraoch Jesus with her humility, reverence, and love.

Gift of Self — 5th Sunday in Easter—Year C

May 2, 2010

I would like to begin today by telling the beautiful story of a gorgeous young woman named Leah Darrow. Leah grew up in a strong Catholic family in Oklahoma, but when she was in high school she says that her Catholicism started to get “fuzzy.”  By the time she was in college Leah says she had become a “Catholic But.” She would say, “I’m Catholic, but I don’t agree with the Church’s teaching on cohabitation,” or, “I’m Catholic but I don’t see the problem with a couple who love each sleeping together before their marriage… I think the Church is behind the times.”

One evening at college she saw a reality TV show called “Americas’s Next Top Model,” with Tyra Banks and thought to herself, “I’m pretty cute, maybe I could be on that show.” She tried out and got on, but lost the competition, yet she was resolved not to let her TV elimination mean the end of her modeling career. And she was rather successful.  She still recalls her excitement at receiving her first paycheck with a comma (a comma!) in it.

Leah eventually found herself at a photo-shoot high above 5th Avenue in New York that would change her life forever. She came to pose for an international magazine which wanted to help her develop a more risque image. They brought out a number of itsy-bitzy outfits for her to wear.  She picked one out and shooting began. Now Leah says that every model knows not to look at the flash when the photos are being taken (and she insists that she didn’t look at the flash) yet while she was posing, a vision flashed in her mind, three images in the span of perhaps a second or two. This is what she saw:

She saw herself standing in a large white space in the immodest outfit she was wearing. In this scene she wasn’t in pain, but she had the sense that she had died. In the second image Leah was looking up, holding out her open hands at her waist, with the knowledge that she was in the presence of God. In the third and final image, another white flash hit her eyes and Leah saw herself holding her hands all the way up, offering to God all that she had, but in that moment she realized that she was offering Him nothing. For her entire life up to that point, with all of the blessings, talents, and gifts that God had given her, she had wasted them all on herself. If she had died at that moment, Leah knew that she would have nothing to offer Christ.

She came back to reality when the photographer said, “Leah, Leah, are you OK?” She shook her head and said, “No, I can’t.” He said, “Ok, we can go over here.” And she said, “No, I can’t .”  She ran back to the makeup counter, changed back into her own clothes, and ran down 5th Avenue, balling her eyes out, afraid that she might be losing her mind.

She called her dad and said, “Dad, if you don’t come get me I am going to lose my soul.” Dad drove across the country to New York, and when he arrived she wanted to leave town, but he said he couldn’t wait to see the sights; Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Carnegie Deli, “But first we go to confession.” She made a good, tearful confession spanning the ten commandments like she was ordering off the dollar menu: ‘Two number ones, four number twos…’ She came out like a new woman, healed.  Today she goes around telling her story and supporting an organization that promotes modesty in young lades’ dress.

Leah says she was living a very selfish life before her conversion. Perhaps she was confused, as many in our culture, about the nature of true love. In English we use the word love in a broad and ambiguous way.  We say, “I love that TV show. I love the Packers. I love my children. I love my wife. I love God. I love my dog.” But all of these loves are different in kind and degree. When we say, “I love pizza,” or, “I love wine,” it is not really pizza and wine that we love so much as  ourselves.  I love myself, and that’s why I consume pizza or wine. Yet, not all love is easy, warm, and fuzzy. True love is a sacrifice, and often feels that way.

As St. Paul tells us in the first reading, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” And Jesus says in the gospel, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Love how? “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” How did Jesus love us? Through a total gift of self.

Now we know from the Gospels that Jesus’ self-giving wasn’t always a ordeal. It was often joyful. Jesus enjoyed going to weddings, dinner parties, and spending time with His friends. But Jesus’ acts of love were the most powerful and manifest when they were hard, as when He was on the cross.

Self-gifting love powerfully good. Someone can live a life of great fame and wealth, but without self-gift their life will account for nothing.  This is the world of difference we see between George Bailey and Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Difficult self-gifting love is also the most powerful witness. Some theologians have speculated that Jesus could have redeemed in other ways besides the cross. (Perhaps a single cry from the infant God-Man would have been enough if that had been the divine plan.) But Jesus dying for us on the cross communicates a powerful message about His love for us. Jesus said, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The way we love should be a witness, it should make us stand out.

Earth is a training ground. Our life here on Earth is training for Heaven. In Heaven, self-gifting is the rule and the norm. If that’s not the sort of thing we are interested in, there will be no place for us to be at home in heaven–and there is only one other place for us to go forever. In today’s second reading, Heaven is seen “coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” It is a revealing description, for spousal relationship prepares us for the life of Heaven.

We are all called to marriage and parenthood, either natural or spiritual. Some are called to live single lives, to enter religious life, or be ordained, in a fruitful spousal relationship with Christ and/or His Church. Others are called to natural marriage and to fruitfulness seen in their spousal love and its natural or spirital children.

Self-gift is the life of marriage. What if there is a priest who does not pray, who does not serve, but who seeks only his own comfort? Such a priest will eventually leave his priesthood. So it is with a natural marriage. If one spouse seeks just their own pleasure, their marriage will seem empty. But if both spouses seek to make a self-gift to the other, they will both be satisfied. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all thing will be added on to you.” If we go for self-gratification, even that escapes us, but if we focus on self-gift, satisfaction comes as well. This is the reason for the Catholic tradition of a crucifix hanging over a husband and wife’s bed.

Jesus has given us a new commandment: love one another. As He has loved us we should love one another. Such love is powerful. It should make us stand out as disciples of Christ. And it prepares us for the life of Heaven, where self-gift is rule.

Leah Darrow Interview on the Drew Mariani Catholic radio show (4/30/10)

Leah Darrow Talk to a Boston Catholic Women’s Conference (2/27/10)

Three Temptations — 1st Sunday in Lent—Year C

February 23, 2010

In today’s gospel Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit for forty days of prayer, penance, and preparation and there He is tempted by the devil.  We have been led to this season of Lent and we also find ourselves being tempted. This morning I would like to talk about how the devil’s three temptations present themselves to us and to let you know about an allowance in Lent that you will be happy to hear.

Most of us here have chosen to take on a penance during Lent.  You have probably resolved to abstain from something good, like cookies, candies, ice cream, TV or the internet, to grow in disciple and virtue, and to offer some sacrifice to God. The devil first said to Jesus, “command this stone to become bread,” and we will probably be tempted in a similar way; “Put down the rock of your penance for awhile and let it nourish you.” It is the way of demons to first entice and then condemn. The rationalization, “Go ahead, it’s just a little cookie,” will afterwards become the accusation, “You couldn’t even sacrifice one cookie for God.” Let us preserve in our Lenten penances, for the joy of having carried a cross for the Lord is far preferable to the discouragement of a moment’s compromise.

As a second temptation, the devil, in a vision, showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant and said, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Scripture calls Satan the Father of Lies, so we ought to be skeptical about whether he really had this authority over the nations, and even if he did we should disbelieve that he would give Jesus the world if He were to worship him. Instead, I suspect that the devil would have simply laughed and left Jesus with nothing for having fallen into sin.

We human beings are creatures of habit. The same sins which you have struggled with in the past are probably the same ones that challenge you today. When we are tempted by sins they promise us the world, great peace and satisfaction. Yet we can look back at our own experiences and see that these are lies. Our past sins show us that they only lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction. We should stop swallowing the bait. We should stop accepting the lie. This Lent is a perfect time for us to commit to crushing the habitual sins in our lives, for our sins will not make us happy, even if they promise us the world.

As a third temptation, the devil took Jesus up (in a vision or in the body we do not know) to the top of the temple in Jerusalem. He said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” The temptation addressed to us sounds differently. “You are not the Son of God, you’re not even close to being saint! You should throw yourself down in shame for your sins and not dare to pray or present yourself to God!” On the contrary, as we heard in the second reading, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” Lent calls us to sorrow and conversion for our sins, not to shame and aversion from God.

We see the one-two combo of enticement and shame modeled in the case of Adam and Eve.  When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about the garden they hid themselves among the trees, for they realized that they were naked before Him, and they were ashamed and afraid. Much later, in the case of Judas Iscariot, the devil led him to betray Jesus, one of the worst sins ever, and then after regretting it he was led to kill himself. If Judas had gone from the temple to Calvary, instead of to his tragic tree, Jesus would have forgiven him, because Jesus wanted to forgive him.

Jesus loves us. He doesn’t just love us because He’s God and He “has to” love everybody. Jesus loves us and He actually likes us for all the good things that we are and for all the good things He sees we can become. This is why He created us and died for us, because He loves us. So we should not be ashamed to come to Christ in the sacraments; in confession with our big sins, or at communion with our small ones. As Jesus told St. Faustina, the greater our sins the more entitled we are to his mercy. When it comes to God’s forgiveness, only we ourselves can get in His way.

Finally, I mentioned that there is an allowance during Lent which is a cause for consolation amidst our Lenten struggles. But first, did you know that there are more than forty days in Lent?  The season is longer than forty days because we don’t count the Sundays.  There are 40 days of penance, but every Sundays (from Saturday evening to Sunday night) we are released from our penances. At Sunday Mass the priest still wears the Lenten season’s purple, we might do less singing, and we don’t say the Gloria or say the “A”-word before the gospel, but we are freed from penances that day, for every Sunday is a “little Easter. ”

In the first reading, we heard how Moses commanded the Hebrews that once they came into the Promised Land they should come before God to present their first fruits and recount the story of how God had delivered them from slavery, brought them into the Promised Land, and filled them with blessings. Each Sunday we come before God and recall how His Son, Jesus Christ, delivered us from our slavery, brought us into His kingdom, and has filled us with His blessings, especially the gift of Himself in the Eucharist. Each Sunday gives us consolation, and this release from our penances encourages us to offer still more penance to God in the week ahead, for it is an easier thing abstain for just six days than to do it for forty in a row.

So in conclusion, be faithful to your penances, your faithfulness will have its reward. Commit to crushing your habitual sins, for sins cannot make us happy, even if they promise the world. Shame and fear are the devil’s traps, so whenever you sin, come to the Lord with trust and sorrow. And know that you are released from penances on Sundays in Lent.  May this gift be a cause for thanksgiving and joy and inspire us to make a still greater gift of ourselves to Christ in this Lenten season.

Approaching God — 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

February 11, 2010

In today’s first reading the prophet Isaiah hears the angels praising God at the temple with words like those we proclaim at every Mass: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”

What do these words mean?  First, the Jews did not have adverbs for “very,” “most,” or “infinitely” in Hebrew, so if they wanted to say something was very heavy they would call it “heavy, heavy.”  If they wanted to say something was most heavy or (if it were possible) infinitely heavy they would call it “heavy, heavy, heavy.”  So when Isaiah hears the angels call God “holy, holy, holy,” they are praising His perfection, transcendence, and goodness to the highest degree.

Why is God called “the LORD of hosts?” A host is an army, or a large group of persons. In this case, God’s army of angelic  persons is referred to. Our God is holy and wields unsurpassed power. The earth is filled with his glory.

Isaiah behold this sight and becomes very afraid. “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” In the Old Testament people thought that no human being could look upon God and live.

Then an angel, one of the seraphim, fly down, takes an ember with tongs from the altar (for the Jews sacrificed animals as burnt-offerings at the temple) and touches Isaiah’s mouth. “See,” the angel says, “now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” God asks whom He can send to be His prophet, and now Isaiah has the courage to say “Here I am, send me!”

Imagine if, at communion time, people would line up and come before the priest to have a red hot coal touched to their lips or tongue? Priest: “The holiness of God.” Communicant: “Amen… Ou!” I imagine the communion line would be much shorter.

This is the bread that we will be offering at this Mass to become the real body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. It’s flat because it unleavened, just like the bread at the Jewish Passover meal and as at Jesus’ Last Supper.  Leaven, or yeast, is bacteria which grows and makes our bread fluffy. The Jews were to keep leaven, which symbolized sin, out of their Passover bread.

Like all of the other sacraments, the Lord’s choice to use bread has symbolic meaning.  Take baptism, for example: water cleanses us and gives us life.  Similarly, bread gives us life and becomes one with us. No wonder Jesus chose it to be his symbol for the Eucharist. The very use of bread invites us to receive him.  The symbol of bread speaks, “Come, do not be afraid. I am here to be received by you and to become one with you.” We tend to forget what an unprecedented privilege this is.

In the Old Covenant, Jews could always pray to God, for ‘all the earth was filled with his glory,’ but they you wanted to go where the Lord was most present on earth they had to go to one place, the temple in Jerusalem.  And even when they got there they did not enter in where the Lord was most present, the Holy of Holies, where only the high priest would go, and only once a year at that. The faithful would worship in the courts outside the temple.  It would be like us coming to church today to stand and pray from the parking lot. Instead, we have the privilege to stand and worship the Lord here in His sanctuary, and not only do we see the Most Holy Lord with our own eyes, but we actually receive Him in the Most Holy Sacrament.

The wonder and the privilege and the awe of this new intimacy with God at the Eucharist could not have been lost upon the early Christians, who were converts from Judaism. Do we approach the Lord with a healthy fear of the Lord, which is called the beginning to wisdom? This fear is not terror, which would cause us to hide ourselves from the Lord. It is a reverence which honors the Giver who is the Gift.

We all sin from week to week, but if our sins are minor, or venial, then Jesus wants us to approach Him in the Eucharist. Receiving this sacrament with contrition forgives our venial sins. On the other hand, if we are aware of serious, or grave sins on our souls, then Jesus wants us to approach Him in another sacrament first, the sacrament of confession, or reconciliation.

In the second reading we heard St. Paul’s words to the church at Corinth, reminding them of what he ‘handed on to them as of first importance as he had also received it.’ Later in the letter he reminds them of something else in a similar way:

For 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.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment…”

Before we approach the Eucharist let us examine ourselves first, and if we have serious unconfessed sins, from even years ago, let us present ourselves for Jesus’ needed forgiveness in confession first. Ask yourself, do I care more about others’ opinions of me, or about the opinion of the Lord (who sees all things)?

Whenever we come to Christ in the Eucharist let us approach Him as the earliest Christians did, with wonder, awe, and holy fear. Let us have that reverence which honors the Giver who gives Himself as a Gift to us.

2nd Sunday of Advent—Year C

December 10, 2009

In the first year of the presidency of Barack Obama,
when Jim Doyle was governor of Wisconsin,
and Kohl and Feingold were its senators,
and Obey was the seventh district congressman,
and Favre was the quarterback in Minnesota,
when Benedict was pontiff and Jerome was bishop,
the word of God came here,
to Christ the King parish in Spencer:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

It isn’t a new word… It was the message of John the Baptist, and Isaiah wrote it long before that. Yet the word of God is not old in the sense that it has passed some kind of expiration date. When the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of these words, their human author who put the pen to parchment did not know the great audience and the impact they were to have. But the Holy Spirit saw us here and had these words written to us and for as well. These words were not meant only for Old Testament peoples, or for the time when Christ walked on the earth. These words are proclaimed to us, and meant for us, here today. Remember this every time you encounter the Scriptures, here at church or in your private prayer.

So what is God’s word saying to us today? In the Gospel, did you notice that of all the rulers and governors and leaders at that time, the word of God did not come to any one of them? “The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.” The lesson is that God prefers to lead souls to salvation by working through common people. People who think that they have no power.

What politicians do is important, since good laws can help people and bad laws can hurt them, but what saves souls rarely comes through them. And though our Holy Father and our bishop strive to do important work for Christ, there is only so much they can do. The way of the Lord is prepared by the daily efforts of ordinary Christians, who sometimes have children and sometimes work jobs. Your family, friends, and co-workers probably don’t read papal encyclicals, but they always witness your words and example. And so, Jesus depends upon you to prepare His way for others, to make winding and rough roads straight and smooth, and so that all people see the salvation of God.

This is the Christian’s calling and important mission, yet we cannot share what we do not have. If were are going to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths for others we must first fill the valleys and level the mountains for Christ within ourselves. To this end, I urge you to make the most of two gifts God gives us: the sacrament of confession and daily prayer. There is simply nothing that more quickly and effectively strengthens the average Catholic’s moral and spiritual life than frequent and regular confession. And daily prayer is indispensible for growing in relationship with Christ and for living a wonderful life.

Each year, many of our homes are visited a familiar and beloved character whom we associate with Christmas… I speak George Bailey from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This film, despite its flawed angelology, teaches the truth about how much difference one person can make for others. George Bailey’s an ordinary man who lives an extraordinary life without even realizing himself. By the end of the film, we see the impact for good that his life has had and we see George surrounded by his family and his many friends who all love and admire him.

Why does George Bailey live such a wonderful life?  Sure, he’s a nice guy, but he’s more than a nice guy. Time and again, he sacrifices what he wants to do what’s loving and best for the people God has placed in his life. I hope we can all see a little bit of George Bailey in ourselves. Because we can see a great deal of Christ in George Bailey.

This Advent season, let us prepare the way of the Lord within us, so that through us, all people may see the salvation of God.  This is the calling, the mission, and the privilege of the Christian.  In this or any age, it’s a wonderful life.

Advent Penance Service

December 1, 2009

 The psalm says, ‘On the holy mountain is [Jerusalem], his city, cherished by the Lord. The Lord prefers the gates of Zion to all Israel’s dwellings. Of you are told glorious things, O city of God, [Jerusalem].’  (Psalm 87) The Lord God loved Jerusalem and lived within its walls. God dwelt there in a special way in His temple on Mount Zion.

The people of Jerusalem felt pretty special about having such close access to God, but this pride was often their greatest weakness. You see the people of Jerusalem imagined they had this holiness thing in the bag, being so close to the Lord and all. Imagine their shock when a prophet would come along to tell them that they were not so perfect as they thought. When God sent them the prophet Jeremiah, he told them:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Reform your ways and your deeds, so that I may remain with you in this place. Put not your trust in the deceitful words: “This is the temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD!” Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place…”

Time and again, God sent prophets to Jerusalem to call them to conversion, but Jerusalem would persecute, imprison and kill them. But they did not convert.  And, in the lifetime of Jeremiah, their enemies (the Babylonians) conquered  the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple of God within it. We hear God’s feelings about all this through words of Jesus:

“Jerusalem… Jerusalem… you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Jesus’ words matter for us today too, because Jerusalem symbolizes our souls. At our baptism, God began to dwell in our souls as His temple, as His new Jerusalem. The psalm is speaking about your soul and mine when it says:

O praise the Lord, Jerusalem! 
Zion, praise your God!
He has strengthened the bars of your gates,
He has blessed the children within you.
He established peace on your borders,
He feeds you with finest wheat.   (Psalm 147)

Indeed, God has strengthened the bars of our gates, our defenses against evil. He has blessed the children, everything that is good and loveable, within us. He establishes peace on our borders, in our relationships with others. And He feeds us with the finest of wheat in the Eucharist. We should feel pretty special about having such close access to God, but we should not make the same mistakes as the old Jerusalem.

You and I can persecute God’s prophets too. We do it whenever we choose to rebel and sin against the good God wills for us. We do it whenever we kill the voice of conscience within us. We do it whenever we imprison the Holy Spirit’s movements within us to the confines of a tiny cell. We do it whenever ignore or refuse to listen to the teachers Christ has given for His Church.

When we are persecuting God’s prophets, we can even evict God’s presence from our souls through freely and knowingly committing a grave or serious sin. We are conquered by our enemy and the temple inside us is destroyed. And ‘behold, our house is abandoned, desolate; and we do not see Him again until we say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ What can do to help prevent this horrible estrangement from occurring?  And if it does occur, how can we ask the Lord God to return?

In the sacrament of reconciliation, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord. When we acknowledge this, He forgives our sins, and God joyfully dwells in His cherished city. Today, Jesus Christ calls your city to repentance and the conversion of your soul.

Tuesday, 34th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

November 25, 2009

The prophets go beyond what is seen, to reveal what is hidden. Their purpose is to lead people to God.

In the first reading, Daniel reveals what was seen in the king’s dream. In the Gospel, Jesus reveals what will be seen in Jerusalem and at the end of this world as it no stands. In this homily, I will reveal to you three prayers hidden within the Mass which are always present there, but which you may have never heard before.

The first of these hidden prayers comes after the presentation of the gifts. A few of the faithful bring forth the bread and wine to the altar. It is no empty chore. This symbolizes the offering of all your gifts and of your whole lives to God.

I receive the gifts and then I say a prayer of praise to the God of all creation for this bread which we have to offer. Yet before I go on to a similar prayer with the cup of wine you may have noticed something unusual. The priest takes the water and pours a little into the cup of wine. It’s only a few drops, and the wine appears unchanged, but the water and wine have become inseparably one. As he pours, the priests silently prays this:

“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

You and I will always be God’s finite creatures, but, by the Incarnation, Jesus has made Himself inseparably one with our humanity. It is Jesus’ desire to make us more and more like His divine self through our personal union with Him.

What is the lesson for us here at Mass? We should come to each Mass with high expectations. Do you believe that your whole-hearted participation in this sacrament can make you a better, more beautiful, or more admirable person, and do powerful things for our world? Approach this sacrifice with high expectations. On this point St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux agree: “We receive from God as much as we hope for.”

After these prayers for the bread and wine, you will see me bow at the altar. At this moment comes the second hidden prayer. The priest prays:

“Lord God, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts.”

What is the lesson for us here at Mass? We should strive to be fully-present at every Mass. Pray the Mass and sing the songs with your whole heart. Offer God this sacrifice with humility, contrition, gratitude and love.

After this comes the washing of the hands and a third silent prayer. The priest prays:

“Lord, wash me of my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin.”

I pray this prayer from particularly from the heart because I do not want my offering and partaking of this most holy sacrament to be the cause of my condemnation and death on account of my sins. (If you think of it, pray for your priest as he washes his hands, that He may offer this sacrifice well for you.) Approaching our all-holy God is serious stuff.

What is the lesson for us here at Mass? If you are aware of serious sins on your soul, come to  confession, the sacrament of reconciliation. Come and be cleansed. Lighten your burden. Do it today.

The prophets go beyond what is seen, to reveal what is hidden. Their purpose is to lead people to God. Through the revealing of these holy prayers I pray you be led to closer to our Lord Jesus Christ at this very Mass.

September 29 – The Archangels

September 29, 2009

Today we celebrate Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. God created lots of angels, so that they might enjoy, share and manifest His glory. Within this multitude, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael hold special rank as archangels. The angels and archangels are like us in important ways, but in other ways they’re very different.

Just like us, God did not create the angels to fulfill some need He had. God needs nothing to be happy and complete. God made heaven and earth, all that is seen and unseen, out of sheer love, overflowing. God created us because love likes to share.

Just like us, God created the angels as persons. We are persons because we both have intellect and will, the capacity to know and the ability to freely choose. Just like us, angels are persons, having souls which will never die. But unlike us, angels don’t have a physical body united to their soul. Instead of body and spirit, angels are spirit alone.

Like us, angels know things and choose things. Like us, they’re made for interpersonal-communion. They interact with God, with each other, with us, and our world. But like God, and unlike us, angels live outside of time. We humans grow, and change, and mature, day by day. We’re incomplete and we develop over time. We can choose holiness one day, choose to sin the next, and on the day after that, think better of it, repent, go to confession, and return to God. But in the case of angels, their natures are complete and finished. And the free choices they’ve made once are made for all time. That is why the angels are forever sinless creatures, and why the demons, who are the angels who chose to rebel and were cast down from heaven, will never turn back to God.

We do not know exactly why Satan and the many demons fell, but it is clear that they did not, in their sinful pride, want the roles in God’s kingdom which God had prepared for them. Some speculate that when the angels where created, God gave them some knowledge of His plans for the human race. God wished the angels to share in this plan, but, for some reason, some refused to serve.

Perhaps it was the scandal of the Incarnation, the idea that the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, would take on material flesh. Maybe they refused to worship the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, in such a state as that. Perhaps, filled with pride about their own glory, which was entirely God’s gift, they refused to be Christ-like and serve creatures they deemed to be inferior to themselves.

Whatever the reason for it, a war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels battled against Satan. Satan and his angels fought back, but they did not prevail. The demons wanted to be like God, but without God. Perhaps Michael challenged them with the meaning of his name, “Who is like God?” They wanted to be God, but without God, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

And now we arrive at the lesson we learn from the demons’ Fall that I want you to take to heart…

When the demons refused to be what they were made and called by God to be, they became something far less than what they were meant to be. By turning away from God, the source of their life, they became stupid, ugly, and weak compared to what they should have been.

Compared to what God makes us, calls us, and longs for us to be, sin makes us stupid, ugly, and weak too.

Do you have any sins?

Every Tuesday I sit in my office as much time as can, from the end of morning Mass until 3:00 PM, when prayers are offered in the Columbus chapel that God the Father would have mercy on us. I’ve spent hours at my desk, behind my confessional screen, catching up various work. And in all that time, not a single student has come for the sacrament that reconciles sinners with our Lord Jesus Christ. Now don’t think that I’m angry about this. Tuesdays for me as they are now are very productive days. I get a lot done behind my desk. But I would very much prefer, that so many of you would come, to the healing forgiveness, and strengthening graces, that Jesus is waiting to give you in this sacrament, that I would get nothing else done.

I want you to come to the sacrament that cleans your slate and lightens your heart. I want you to come to the sacrament that makes you wiser, stronger, and more attractive as a person than you are when you’re in sin. I want you to come to the sacrament of reconciliation, not for my sake, but for your sake.

Through the intercession of St. Raphael, whose name means “God’s healing,” may we believe in God’s power to heal our wounds. Through the intercession of St. Gabriel, whose name means “God’s power,” may we believe in God’s power to recreate the repentant sinner. And through the intercession of St. Michael, may we consider “who is like God,” who shows mercy to all who come to Him.