Sunday, June 18, 2017

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi 2017:
Today we celebrate the feast of the Lord’s Body and Blood.  This special feast gives praise and honor to God for the very gift of the Eucharist.  It’s an interesting feast.  Normally we celebrate the Eucharist to venerate the great feasts of our Church year, like Easter, Christmas, Pentecost.  But this feast is meant to foster devotion to the Blessed Sacrament itself.
This feast dates back to the 12th century, when a young Belgian Nun named Juliana had a great love and devotion to the Holy Eucharist.  She felt called and challenged to ask the Church to celebrate a feast day devoted to the Holy Eucharist itself.  The bishop of her diocese agreed and started a feast day in that diocese.  It became more popular and was eventually made a universal feast in 1264 by Pope Urban IV.  This feast is meant to foster devotion and love for the Holy Eucharist.  But, believing in the Holy Eucharist has always been difficult for human beings.  Today in the gospel we hear “how can this man give us his flesh to eat.”  And, I know this is something we still need to do even in our days, because if the polls are correct, even lots of Catholics either don’t know about or don’t believe in the Holy Eucharist, which is quite sad if you ask me.  How can he give us his flesh to eat?  What is the Eucharist?
The Holy Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.  He gave us this precious gift the night before he died on Holy Thursday.  He continues to feed us with the Eucharist through the ministry of the apostles and their successors.  At this mass, and at every Mass, simple elements of bread and wine are changed by the very power of the Holy Spirit.  This mass and every mass is truly a miracle.  Jesus gives us his flesh to eat.  Jesus feeds us on our journey of life.
On this Corpus Christi Sunday we hear about Moses in the desert in our first reading.  The story of Moses and the people of Israel being freed from Egypt is one of the most important stories in human history.  God’s people were suffering mightily.  God chooses to intervene.  So he sends Moses to be his servant.  Moses leads the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea.  He guides them in the wilderness.  And leads them to the Promised Land.  Indeed, God worked many wonders for his people.  But, one of the most important: God fed them with Manna from heaven.  You see, it wasn’t simply enough for God to free Israel.  He also took care of their needs in the desert.  He gave them food for the journey.  Without this food they never would have made it to the Promised Land.
Christian writers have seen this story of Moses as being a great parallel for the story of each human soul.  All of us are born with the burden of Original Sin.  All of us are born as slaves to sin.  But, God sent his son to be the new Moses.  Jesus leads us out of sin by his death, and we enter into his death through the waters of baptism.  And where is he leading us?  He’s leading us to the Promised Land of heaven.  So, he freed us in baptism and he’s guiding us to heaven.  What about now?  Our life here on earth is like the time the Israelites spent in the desert.  It’s a journey.  And you know what, sometimes is quite hard.  Sometimes it might feel like we are lost, wandering, and struggling.  I know I feel that way sometimes.  And without food for the journey, we wouldn’t be able to make it.  Jesus knew that, so he gave us that food, he gave us the Eucharist.
I’m a big fan of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.  Do you remember when the hobbits set out from the Elves?  The elves gave them some special presents to help them on their perilous journey.  One such gift was the gift of bread, called Lembas.  This magical bread was there for them in their most desperate moments so that they could reach their destination.
But, the Lord of the Rings is a fiction.  Our lives are real.  Our lembas is the Holy Eucharist.  The Holy Eucharist is for each one of us as we journey on our way to heaven.  It’s there for us in our most difficult moments to give us strength, courage to continue on our journey.  Turn to the Eucharist in your time of need.  Do you know Catholics who have been away from Mass for a while?  Maybe encourage them to turn back to the Eucharist.  This journey of life is way too hard to try to live without Christ in the Eucharist.
So, on this feast of Corpus Christi we give thanks to Christ, who gave us his flesh to eat.  We give him thanks for being with us on this journey of faith.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Pentecost 2017

Pentecost Homily 2017 Year A:
Today is Pentecost.  It’s been 50 days since Easter.  Today we remember the first gift of the Holy Spirit, which inspired the apostles to proclaim the good news.  I like the “Come Holy Spirit prayer,” which is fitting today: “come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.”  The Apostles did just that if you stop and think about it.  They certainly renewed the face of the earth.  If it wasn’t for the Apostles none of us would have heard of Christ.  They received the vocation, the calling, to proclaim the message of Jesus.  And they received this vocation because of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, it is not too much to say that all Christian vocations have their birth in the gift of the Spirit.  Whether a person is called to Priesthood, religious life, married life, single life, we are all called to holiness because of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I was thinking a lot about vocations this week.  Our diocese was blessed in that Saturday we had the priestly ordination of two men for our diocese.  Father Eric Bergener and Father Dennis DiBennidetto were ordained by Bishop Rhoades at the Cathedral.  So, all last week I was remembering them in my prayers.  Then I had the chance to attend the ordination, and it was a powerful experience.  I remember Bishop D’Arcy used to say that every ordination was like a little retreat.  It’s hard to explain, but it’s a pretty powerful 2 hours.  Especially for me as a priest, it was a powerful reminder of the gift of the priesthood, and the gift of vocations.
One of the most powerful moments of the ordination ceremony is the laying on of hands.  This gesture is done in silence when the bishop places his hands on the hands of the man being ordained.  The symbol is one of passing down.  Someone laid their hands on the Bishop’s head, and someone before him, someone before him, all the way to the Apostles.  It is a beautiful gesture and it is done in silence.  However, after the Bishop lays hands on the men ordained, then the other priests of the diocese do so as a sign of their brotherhood with the newly ordained.  During this event there is always a song sung: veni creator spiritu.  Come creator spirit.  When I was listening to that song this Saturday it gave me chills because I still remember that song from my own ordination almost 8 years ago.  But, how fitting for this weekend: come Holy Spirit.
All priestly vocations come from the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit moves within a man, inspiring him to priesthood.  The Holy Spirit does the work of forming the man after the heart of Christ in the seminary.  Ordination is one of the 7 sacraments, made possible and effective by the Holy Spirit.  Then, after ordination, these 2 men will celebrate the sacraments, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, the vocation to the priesthood is inspired by the Spirit, prepared by the Spirit, celebrated by the Spirit, and lived by the Spirit.  It was a powerful reminder to me of my own need for the power of the Spirit in my life.
But, really, all vocations share this same reliance on the Holy Spirit.  Every vocation is inspired by the Spirit, formed by the Spirit, and lived by the Spirit.  No matter what vocation you are living in your life, you need to power of the Holy Spirit in order to live it out.  In fact, all vocations have their root in a deeper, universal calling: we are all called to holiness.
I find it really comforting that we are all called to holiness, but that we are not called to be the same.  The Apostles call to holiness was lived out in their unique calling.  But, my call to holiness is my own special calling.  Each of us is called to be holy, but in our own way.  So, think about your own life and your own calling to holiness this weekend.  What is the gift of the Spirit that you need to live it out?  Today is your day.  Call on the Spirit and ask him for that gift.

New priests for the diocese is a great blessing.  Please keep praying for vocations.  Pray that young people will have the courage to listen to the Spirit.  A few chosen people in Jerusalem received the Spirit and made a huge impact on the world.  Imagine what would happen if every young person of St. Jude accepted the Spirit and lived out their vocation with the same courage as the Apostles.  Whether as priests, religious, married, or single, our young people are called by God to live lives of holiness to renew the face of the earth.  So on this Pentecost Sunday we pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to be alive in our parish: come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.