The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Homily: Saturday, 4th Week of Easter

Readings: Acts 13:44-52; Ps 98; Jn 14:7-14
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"Believe me," Jesus says.

Back in my Navy days, I sat through many, many briefings, and most were eminently forgettable. But I recall one intelligence briefing vividly.

We were aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam conflict, and after the intelligence officer briefed us on enemy missile emplacements, the admiral asked a question about the confidence level of the intelligence.

Well, the young intelligence officer mistakenly answered the admiral's question with a simple, "Believe me, Admiral."

I won't tell you how the admiral responded. In one sense, though, he was like the apostle Philip in today's Gospel passage from John.

"Believe me..." Jesus said to the Philip, the apostle, and, of course, He says the same to each of us.

"Believe me." Believe everything I have told you, everything you have witnessed. Believe, not only that the Father has sent me, but also that the Father and I are one.

Indeed, this call to believe, this call to faith, is a recurring theme in John's Gospel. Toward the end of his Gospel, John makes this clear when he writes:
"But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name" [Jn 20:31].
In other words, our faith in Jesus is the foundation; and everything else, including eternal life itself, derives from it. Our faith, therefore, must be a living faith, one that carries God's love into the world; otherwise our faith is sterile, like an artifact or trophy displayed on a shelf - interesting to look at but essentially useless.

But Jesus knows that for many of us childlike faith is beyond us, that in our adult sophistication, belief is cast aside, overpowered by the things of this world. Like the Admiral, the apostles needed and looked for proof. And well aware of their still weak faith, Jesus tells Philip and the others:
"Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves" [Jn 14:11].
Yes, even the apostles still doubted, didn't they? Even the apostles, who'd been with Him for several years, who'd listened to Him and seen all those miraculous works, those signs, John calls them - those signs of divinity -- even the apostles needed to be reminded that they'd already seen the proof. 

Jesus then told them something truly remarkable:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father" [Jn 14:12].
Your belief, He told the apostles, will manifest itself to the world, and will do so through your works. In effect, Jesus told them that what He had done as He ministered throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Judea will lead to even greater works. His work on earth was just the beginning of something much greater, and these words of His are aimed far beyond the apostles.

For example, on only a few occasions did Jesus interact with Gentiles, but in today's reading from Acts, Paul and Barnabas begin the Church's active ministry to the Gentiles. The immediate result? Luke tells us:
"All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region" [Acts 13:48-49].
Greater works, indeed. It was a ministry that set the stage for the ultimate conversion of much of the Roman Empire. And because it was God's work, not simply that of Paul, Barnabas, and those who followed them, it turned apparent failure into success. It overcame all the human obstacles placed in its path: jealousy, hatred, pride, anger, despair, fear and disbelief.

Jesus, in His risen Body, the Church, continues this great work today, through all who believe, though His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, Church. And that, brothers and sisters, means you and me. We, too, have some greater work to do, work Jesus has placed in our hands.

But what have you and I actually done?

Are we willing to turn away from the self and turn to others in dire need, to those who are ill, to the hungry, the despairing, the lost, the forgotten?

Are we willing to suffer for proclaiming Jesus' message of life and love to a world steeped in hatred and immersed in a culture of death?

Yes, God's work always comes complete with a cross, but a cross that Jesus carries with us. And through the help of the Holy Spirit you and I can also believe the promise of Jesus:
"And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it" [Jn 14:14].
So let's get to it!

Let's Get Political

I try -- not always successfully -- to avoid getting too political on this blog, but given the current weirdness in our increasingly violent world, I'll make an exception today and hit a few topics that beg to be addressed.

California Pols want to abolish the Seal of the Confessional. A bill making its way through the California senate would require a priest to report a penitent who confessed a sin of sexual abuse of a minor, thus breaking the seal of the confessional. The bill's sponsor, Senator Jerry Hill, claims that “The clergy/penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.” And yet, interestingly, he cannot cite a single instance where this has happened. Of course, the Church, specifically Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles, has strongly opposed the bill. Personally, I view it as just another instance of our secular society's escalating war on religious freedom in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Should the bill become law, I would hope the bishops of California would have the courage to instruct their priests to ignore the law by refusing to break the seal. The coming persecution, already long underway, now intensifies.
 

How did he get to be Goveror? Ralph Northam, the embattled governor of Virginia, has apparently survived (sort of) an "investigation" to determine if he really was in that black-face and KKK photo on his page in his med school yearbook. When it first came to light, the governor apologized; but then, realizing an apology probably wouldn't be well received by all those steeped in identity politics, he took a different approach and pleaded ignorance -- never saw the photo...never even bought the yearbook...have no recollection of such a thing. Eventually he denied being in the photo and blamed others for putting it on his yearbook page. The investigation's only conclusion was no conclusion. And because the governor's a Democrat, that gets him off the hook.

Of course, the entire episode was a wonderfully designed misdirection compaign to bury Northam's comments encouraging legal infanticide. Yes, indeed, the movers and shakers in the Democrat Party were all aflutter about the governor, not because he encouraged killing newborn babies, but because of those racist photos taken decades ago. At first they publicly demanded his immediate resignation, but of course they really weren't all that serious. The governor knew this and told Virginia and the world that he'd never resign. In his words:

"Virginia needs someone that can heal. There's no better person to do that than a doctor. Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that's why I'm not going anywhere."

He's quite the healer, this governor. Just think of it. He's a pediatrician who enthusiastically supports legislation that calls for the murder of newly-born infants who might be unwanted. Yes, indeed, the medical doctor who specializes in treating children thinks it's perfectly moral, right, and just to kill these little humans if they happen to be inconvenient. Did you get that? The racist, baby killing doctor is especially proud of his "moral compass." How did he get to be governor?

Politically incorrect...and proud of it. Let's not be PC about being PC. The truth is -- and, yes, boys and girls, there is such a thing as truth -- political correctness has its modern roots in Marxism. 

I suppose PC first took root thanks to the forced ideology of the French Revolution and its effort to annihilate society's foundational values and replace them with the radical values of the revolutionaries. Those revolutionary values certainly sounded good, didn't they? Liberté, égalité, fraternité -- nice sounding words, but of course they were a lie. (The lie is the only way the left can convince the masses to follow them.) They were a lie because they applied only to true believers, while thousands of others, those who refused to accept the lie, went to the guillotine during the reign of terror. And it wasn't just royalists who lost their heads in the Place de la Revolution. They were followed by many of the revolutionaries themselves, men and women who failed to accept the continuing evolution of ideological "truth." Such luminaries of the revolution as Danton and Robespierre come to mind. Even Antoine-Francois Momoro, the printer who threw himself into the revolutionary cause and came up with the phrase, liberté, égalité, fraternité, eventually climbed the steps of the scaffold. Interestingly Lenin and Stalin conducted similar internal purges as they solidified the Communist revolution in Russia.  

But the French Revolution faced a far more dangerous foe than royalists and internal dissenters. Its greatest and most formidable enemy was the faith of Christians, particuarly Catholics. It didn't take long for the revolutionaries to realize that no true believer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ could ever accept the atheistic, murderous values of the revolution. Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and thousands of the faithful were, therefore, led to the guillotine and to martyrdom. (The moving story of Carmelite nuns caught up in the terror is beautifully offered by Gertrude von Le Fort in her novella, The Song at the Scaffold.) 


The Blessed Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne 

Decades later Karl Marx, inspired by the French terrorists, joined with Friedrich Engels and took ideology to a new level. But it was Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin that implemented their ideology through the Communist revolution in Russia and gave the world's Marxists the hope that global revolution would soon follow. But when Marxist uprisings, especially in Germany, failed to bring about the desired revolutions, the Marxists decided their greatest obstacle was the established culture, specifically Christianity. In other words, Communist ideology was sound, but the workers were enslaved by their culture and religion. 

(This, of course, is reminiscent of Barack Obama's comments during the 2008 campaign. At a fundraiser in San Francisco he spoke of the folks of rural Pennsylvania, claiming that the jobs in their small towns "have been gone now for 25 years...They fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate. And they have not..." Obama then concluded "...it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.")

For the Marxists, this clinging to religion had to change. Two men, the Hungarian Marxist theorist, Georg Lukacs, and the Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci, independently concluded that the only solution was the "revolutionary destruction of society" [Lukacs]. Gramsci correctly believed that their Christian beliefs would prevent workers from becoming true revolutionaries. 

In the 1920s Lukacs and other Communist theorists formed what came to be called the Frankfurt School to address this "problem." Their solution was multi-faceted:

1. Infiltrate every aspect of the society's infrastructure -- military, courts, press, schools, and of course the government -- to undermine the established cultural norms.

2. Destroy organized religion by attacking its foundational beliefs as myths, thereby making its moral codes irrelevant. 

3. Do whatever is necessary to weaken societal conventions: family, sexual morality, monogamy, patriotism, tradition, etc. 

When Hitler and his Nazis came to power, most of these men fled Germany, many to the United States, where their influence is certainly evident today in the political correctness that has permeated so much of our society.

Political correctness was simply another means introduced by the Frankfurt School to intimidate those who didn't accept Marxist dogma, especially those who resisted it publicly. To accede to political correctness, then, is simply cowardly. That's right, to give in to the PC crowd is to be a coward, to fear the backlash if one speaks the truth.

Political correctness is like a plague, one that begins by infecting prominent, influential individuals and then spreads to the society at large. And the primary carriers of this disease are the media (including social media outlets), academia, the entertainment industry, and our political class. Sadly, the religious community is not immune, and far too many of its most celebrated leaders have caved under PC pressure. Some apparently prefer being praised by the media over speaking the truth. Others, either through economic or historical ignorance, fall prey to the false feel-good ideology of the left. Perhaps our bishops, priests, and deacons should consider the words of the great St. Augustine who lived and ministered in far more perilous times:

“We tend culpably to evade our responsibility when we ought to instruct and admonish [evildoers], sometimes even with sharp reproof and censure, either because the task is irksome or because we are afraid of giving offense, or it may be that we shrink from incurring their enmity, for fear that they may hinder and harm us in worldly matters, in respect either of what we eagerly seek to attain, or of what we weakly dread to lose” — Augustine: City of God, 1.9.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Deacon Richard Radford, R.I.P.

Losing a friend is never an easy thing, even when that friend leaves suffering behind to enter eternal life. Yesterday we lost such a friend in Deacon Richard Radford, 80. With his wife, Lynne, and his daughter and son at his side, Dick left us after a long battle with heart disease and COPD. 

Diane and I are blessed that we were able to spend a short visit with him this past Friday at The Villages Hospital here in Florida. Early Sunday morning we left on a trip to visit family in Massachusetts and were told of his death this morning. We're in South Carolina today, visiting another old friend. Tomorrow morning we set out again on the next leg of our trip north. And through it all we will be thinking of Dick and praying for his soul and the peace of his family.
Dick and Lynne Radford

Dick was a remarkable man. Strong in faith and filled with the Holy Spirit, his acceptance of life's trials and suffering was an example to all. In recent months, as his health deteriorated, he would joke with me about his situation while happily demonstrating the technological wonders of his motorized medical scooter. Never grumpy, always cheerful, at least with me, he would send me off joyful and prayerful. Despite his illness he insisted on taking part as a deacon during some of the Triduum Liturgies last month, asking only that I find a place for him with his brother deacons. 

A man with a deep prayer life, Dick took St. Paul's invitation -- "Pray without ceasing" -- literally.  Indeed, he and I spoke often of prayer and he taught me much about opening every aspect of my life to the working of the Holy Spirit. His example obviously had its effect on many others who knew and loved him. As one of his friends once said to me, "Dick's golf game was a kind of spiritual experience for me. He was so good I spent most of the round praying." 

Richard, brother deacon and friend, we will miss you greatly but look forward to being with you again in the Kingdom. Rest in the Peace of our loving and merciful God.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Homily Videos

Today our parish's wonderful IT specialist, Krysten, gave me a DVD containing videos of three recent homilies I had preached. They are embedded below so you can listen instead of read, if you are so inclined.
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Homily for Monday of the 3rd Week of Easter. You can read the homily here.



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Homily for Saturday of the 3rd Week of Easter. You can read the homily here.


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Homily for Monday of the 4th Week of Easter. You can read the homily here.








Monday, May 13, 2019

Homily: Monday, 4th Week of Easter

Reading: Acts 11:1-18; Ps 42; Jn 10:1-10
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Today is the optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, and how blessed we are in this parish to have our prayer warriors who pray the Rosary together here in our Church after daily Mass.

They pray for the Church, for our parish, for the intentions of our parishioners, all in response to our Blessed Mother's hope that the Rosary will be prayed daily throughout the universal Church. In doing so, they join many other parishioners who pray the Rosary daily in their families. 

Yes, we are blessed to have them.

And because Mary appeared to three shepherd children, it's also fitting that today's Gospel passage should focus on the Good Shepherd.

We hear Jesus say many remarkable things in the Gospel, but I really think far too many Christians don't seem to believe He always means exactly what He says...even when He turns to metaphors and other figures of speech.

For example, in the verse that immediately follows our Gospel passage from John, Jesus says:
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" [Jn 10:11].
Now I've known only one person who could remotely be called a shepherd since he raised sheep. But I really don't think he would have sacrificed his own life for that of a lamb. For him it was simply a business and I would guess that for him an occasional lost sheep was part of the cost of doing business.

But Jesus isn't simply "a shepherd" or even "a good shepherd." No, He calls Himself "the Good Shepherd" - the one and only Good Shepherd. 

And will He really lay down His life for His sheep? Well, yes. He already did so, didn't He?  For we are His sheep; and to rescue and gather us to Himself, He paid a price, and the price was His life.

Hearing this, so many find themselves asking: Can this possibly be true? Can the Creative Word of God, the God who brought everything into existence, have such love for His creatures?

He can and He does. But not just for us as the human race, as a people, but for every single, unique one of us. 
"...the sheep hear His voice, as He calls His own sheep by name..." [Jn 10:3]
He calls us by name, every single one of us. You and I can't hide from God's love. It's simply far too great, and it reaches out to us even when we seem surrounded by darkness. It's an ineffable love, a love taken to extremes, this love of God. In fact, He takes love to such an extreme that we finally come to understand what St. John meant when he said, quite simply: "God is love" [1 Jn 4:8].

And God's love has a purpose. Recall Jesus' words:
"I am the gate for the sheep...Whoever enters through me will be saved..."  [Jn 10:7,9]
He, then, is the gateway to eternal life, to a life we cannot imagine. Here again, the metaphor describes a truth, for salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, only when we follow the Good Shepherd, only when we choose the good. In other words, He created us, not as robots programmed to respond as He desires, but in His own image and likeness, with intellect and will, able to make moral choices.
"He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow Him, because they recognize His voice" [Jn 10:4].
To make the right choices, then, we must recognize His voice, listen to the Word, and believe in the Gospel. For like the sheep called by the shepherd, we are called by Jesus to follow:

But then Jesus says something that should cause to look more deeply within:
"I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me" [Jn 10:14].
Yes, Jesus knows His sheep, but how well do we know Him?  Do we even try to know Him, or do we simply accept what we're told and go on with our lives?

The Lateran Basilica in Rome has a remarkable and very large baptistery. And right beside the font is a statue of a deer leaning down and thirsting for a drink. Do you recall the words or today's Psalm?
"As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God" [Ps 42:2[.

At Easter we all renewed our baptismal promises, and were then sprinkled with the newly blessed baptismal water. Did we thirst for that water, that saving water?

...the living water that made us children of the Father?

...the living water that filled us with the Holy Spirit, "the Lord and Giver of life," the Holy Spirit Peter described in today's reading from Acts?

...the living water that cleansed us of sin?

...the living water that brought us into Christ's Church?

How did Jesus put it when He described His mission?
"I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" [Jn 10:10]
That's what Jesus wants for you and me, brothers and sisters, what we should all thirst for: a life of abundance, an eternal life in the embrace of the Good Shepherd. We need only follow Him, loving our God and our neighbor.

Homily: Saturday, 3rd Week of Easter

Reading: Acts 9:31-42; Ps 116; Jn 6:60-69
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 "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered Him: "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life" [Jn 6:67-68].
Yes, the Apostles stayed with Jesus, but on that day in Capernaum, after hearing these words, many of Jesus' disciples walked away, unable to accept this hard teaching on the Eucharist. And what a teaching it was...
"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day" [Jn 6:53-54].
Jesus' words created a rift, one that today, 2,000 years later, hasn't narrowed. How sad for those who do not believe, who are unable to accept Jesus' teaching on His Real Presence. It's sad because they are unable to experience the power of the Eucharist in their lives. 

How did the fathers of the Second Vatican Council describe the Eucharist?
''...the source and summit of the Christian life" [Lumen Gentium, 11].
"The source and summit" -- that covers it all, doesn't it? Can anything be more powerful?

A deacon friend of mine, who's a chaplain at a Catholic hospital, told me about a time he was asked to give a hospital tour to a wealthy woman who had donated a substantial amount of money.

She wasn't a Catholic so when they entered the chapel, he explained the significance of the red sanctuary light and the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. She asked him if he really believed that Jesus Christ was present there under the appearance of bread.

Of course, he said, "Yes."

She just shook her head and said, "If I believed that, I'd never be able to tear myself away from this room."

Oh, yes, how we take for granted so many of the graces and blessings we receive daily from God.

It wasn't too long ago - the time of my grandparents - when it was customary for people to receive the Eucharist only on Sundays and feast days. It was St. Pius X who flung open the tabernacles of the world.

During the days of our patron, St. Vincent de Paul, there was a movement to do just the opposite: to permanently close all the tabernacles. The Jansenists of France had persuaded large numbers of people that few, if any, were worthy to receive the Eucharist. They believed, too, that Christ did not die for all, but for just a favored few.

Fortunately, St. Vincent succeeded in convincing  Rome of the dangers of this heretical doctrine. Vincent saw the value of frequent Holy Communion, even if the Church at the time did not encourage people to receive Christ's Body and Blood with the frequency it does today.

The challenge to us, who have the joy and privilege of receiving the Eucharist frequently, is to keep our souls in a sense of wonder that the Bread of Life we eat here today is the same as that given to the Apostles at the Last Supper.

How did Jesus put it?
"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst" [Jn 6:35].
Jesus says this to each of us as we receive Him during Holy Communion. As Pope Benedict once wrote: 
"It is the Lord who receives us and assumes us into Himself."
In other words, Christ doesn't become conformed to us; we become conformed to Christ.

But there's more. Because Eucharist is a sacrament, we also receive the Holy Spirit, the soul of Christ. If we are in a state of grace, then, the Trinity dwells within. Everything's there for us. 

What a marvelous gift! And what wonders it can work in our lives! With the Author of Life within us, we have absolutely nothing to fear. Death has no power over us.

After Communion Fr. Cromwell likes to lead us in that beautiful prayer -- Anima Christi or The Soul  of Christ -- a prayer attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola, 
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me...
Yes, indeed, brothers and sisters, the Last Supper is ongoing, still sanctifying, still saving. But we must pray for open hearts, that the world will come to recognize Jesus in this wondrous gift of the Eucharist.

We should pray, too, for ourselves, that we use this gift well, and bring Christ's Eucharistic presence to others. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Homily: Monday, 3rd Week of Easter

Reading: Acts 6:8-15; Ps 119; Jn 6:22-29
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Stephen Preaching to the Sanhedrin
Chapters 6 and 7 of the Acts of the Apostles introduce us to the person, the preaching, and ultimately to the martyrdom of St. Stephen. Because Stephen was among those first seven deacons, I've long had a particular fondness for him. But more than that...for me, tucked away today as I am in this relatively safe corner of our world, I am humbled by Stephen. 

I am simply overcome by this remarkable saint; and not just by his death, his martyrdom - which we'll hear about in tomorrow's reading - but by his life. Listen to how Luke introduces Stephen to us: 
"Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people" [Acts 6:8].
Now, how many of us are "filled with grace and power"? How many of us work "great wonders and signs among the people"

Yes, indeed, coming to know St. Stephen can be a humbling experience. But then I find myself asking, How does one come to be filled with grace and power?

We know God's grace is a gift, a powerful gift, but also a gratuitous gift; for none of us is worthy of God's grace. God certainly blessed Stephen with this gift, a gift that literally shone through his face. As Luke describes him:
"All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel" [Acts 6:15]
Yes, the Sanhedrin looked intently at this angelic face, but blinded by their hatred of this new and seemingly heretical sect they couldn't accept the truth. These men, like the crowds in our Gospel passage, could not accept or even see the signs Jesus had wrought in their midst. These signs, of course, pointed to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Ultimately they pointed to the Risen Jesus.

But the Sanhedrin were so driven by their jealousies and hatreds, just more of that same food that perishes, they not only rejected the gift that Jesus offered, but also rejected the living, risen Jesus. They simply couldn't understand why Stephen and these so-called Christians hadn't disappeared after the crucifixion. 

Instead, thousands had come to believe in the Risen Jesus. Thousands now accepted the Word of the Word made flesh as taught by His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Not only had these disciples of Jesus "filled Jerusalem with their teaching" [Acts 5:28], but they had already sent the Word of God to every corner of the Roman Empire.

Indeed, the Church was Catholic - it was universal - from the very beginning, for on that first Pentecost 3,000 Jewish pilgrims were baptized, only to leave Jerusalem for their homes throughout the known world [Acts 2:9-11,41]. From the beginning, then, the Church was blessed with many Stephens.

But again, how does one come to be filled with grace and power? Jesus, of course, provides the answer.

When we do God's work in the world, He will shower us with His grace and His divine power will manifest itself and shine through us. And it all begins with our response to the gift of faith. How did Jesus put it?
"This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent" [Jn 6:29].
With faith, then, and only with faith, can we carry out the work of God. And to sustain and nourish us on this remarkable journey, He provides us with another gift. As he responded to those who looked for Him hoping for more bread and fish: 
"...work not for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you" [Jn 6:27].
Did you hear that? As believers in the One God sent, it is our task to work for the food Jesus gives us. And that food is Jesus Himself. Christ's Eucharistic Presence will draw the world to Him. As Jesus told the doubting crowd:
"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst" [Jn 6:35].

God, then, will fill the faithful with the grace and power needed to do His work in the world.

But we must always remember, those great wonders and signs are God's, not ours, and they will manifest His Presence in ways you and I can never imagine.

Our reward? The answer, again, comes from Jesus:
"For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day" [Jn 6:40].

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Homily: Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles (May 3)

Readings:  1 Cor 15:1-8; Psalm 19; Jn 14:6-14
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As He began His ministry, Jesus chose apostles, including James and Philip whom we honor today.

We really know little about these two men, other than the fact that they were both apostles. We know almost nothing about James, son of Alphaeus. Most scholars believe he's the James of Acts who became Bishop of Jerusalem and is the traditional author of the Letter of James. And so he's often called "James the Lesser" to avoid confusing him with James, the son of Zebedee, John's brother, also an apostle and known as "James the Greater."

We know a bit more about Philip, and according to John's Gospel, he came from Bethsaida, as did Peter and his brother, Andrew. He might well have been their friend and business partner. 

"Come and see..."
Based on the few Gospel references to Philip, he seemed to be of a pragmatic, businesslike bent. For example, he didn't waste words when his friend, Nathaniel, doubted Jesus' credentials. Philip simply said, "Come and see" [Jn 1:46], and Nathaniel did just that.

And before Jesus, multiplied the loaves and fishes, He asked Philip how they should feed the crowd. Philip, the businessman, calculated what it would cost and concluded it simply couldn't be done. John then added: 
"Jesus said this to test him, because He himself knew what He was going to do" [Jn 6:6].
John really wasn't criticizing Philip. He was just reminding us that these men, who would go on to lead the Church, must accept both our total helplessness apart from God and the call to be bearers of divine power by God's gift [2 Pt 1:3-10]. 

Like his fellow apostles, Philip took a long time to realize who Jesus was. Consider today's Gospel passage. After Thomas admitted they didn't know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, 
"I am the way...If you know Me, then you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him" [Jn 14:6-7].
Confused, Philip chimed in with, 
"Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us" [Jn 14:8]
And we can hear the exasperation in Jesus' words: 
"Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" [Jn 14:9]
Again in John's gospel, Philip was the first to whom Jesus said, "Follow me!" [Jn 1:43]  How very appropriate that seems.

But is Philip really very different from you and me? He puts into words the deepest and most universal human aspiration: to see God.
"Master, show us the Father..." [Jn 14:8]
Centuries before, when Moses said, "Show me your glory, I beg you" [Ex 33:18], how did God reply? 
"I will let all my splendor pass in front of you...but you cannot see my face...I will... shield you with my hand while I pass by. Then I will take my hand away and you shall see the back of me; but my face is not to be seen." [Ex 33:19-23]
Yes, God would remain hidden, but only for a time. With the Incarnation, everything changed. "The Word became flesh" [Jn 1:14] and God is with us, sharing our human nature. And so Jesus can say to Philip: "Whoever sees me sees the Father" [Jn 14:9].

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is the face of God turned to us. We see God in him, to the very limit of our seeing [2 Cor 3:18]. 

It really means little that the lives of these men are so obscure, for it's not their personalities and backgrounds that are important. Jesus didn't look to the elite of His day when He chose His Apostles. None were particularly holy. And they certainly weren't great leaders or intellectuals. No, Jesus called this obscure group of regular guys, men with jobs, homes, and families. But when they responded, the Spirit began to conform them to the image of the One they served. And their lives would never be the same. 

It's not what they were, but what God made of them, what He did through them, that matters. Chosen by Jesus, these witnesses to His Resurrection became the foundation of His Church.

And let us never forget that Jesus told His apostles: 
"He who hears you, hears Me. He who rejects you, rejects Me" [Lk 10:16].
With these words Jesus reminds us to pay close attention to the Apostles' teaching, a teaching that continues in the Catholic Church through their successors, the Pope and our bishops.

To refuse to listen to the Church is to refuse to listen to Jesus. To reject the Church is to reject Jesus Himself.

This is the danger of the "cafeteria Catholicism" so common today. We must not pick and choose, forming our own convenient opinions regarding the tenets of our faith or the moral issues on which the Church has spoken definitively.

And as baptized believers, we share in the Apostles' calling. We, too, are commissioned to bring the light of the gospel into the world. We, too, have been "sent forth."

Like Philip and James. We have encountered the risen Christ in our lives, and are sent as witnesses to testify to the transforming power of God's love.

What God did for them and their brothers, He will do for us if only we respond in faith.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Travesty at Churchill Downs

Okay, grumble, grumble...I need to complain and express my completely unqualified opinion...so here goes.

The best horse -- the real winner -- of the Kentucky Derby was disqualified by a troika of stewards who didn't have a clue. Maximum Security crossed the finish line a length and a half ahead of Country House (65:1) who never had a chance to win. But the stewards decided that Maximum Security impeded a horse and so disqualified him, handing the win to the undeserving #2 horse. The wet, muddy track was ignored as was the fact that several other horses actually impeded Maximum Security. What a travesty! I've watched my last Kentucky Derby....at least for this year.