Archive for the ‘Incarnation’ Category

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.