Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sermon on prayer, July 25th

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
July 25th, 2010
Luke 11:1-13, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray

Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

If we are ever to succeed in the spiritual life, we must believe and accept this fundamental truth: In heaven or on earth, there is nothing more powerful than prayer. Prayer really makes a difference in the world – God really hears and answers our prayers and, because God is all powerful, so too prayer is all powerful. Nothing is more powerful than prayer.
I would like to share with you three stories which illustrate the great power of prayer.

First, consider St. Monica in northern Africa at the end of the 4th Century. Her son, Augustine, had lost his moral compass; he had renounced the true faith, he had gone astray. And yet, Monica did not lose hope – with many tears and sacrifices she offered her prayers to God for her son’s conversion. And, because of her perseverance and her faith, God answered her prayer. Not only did St. Augustine convert to Catholicism and reform his life, he even became a priest and eventually a bishop. St. Augustine is one of the greatest and most influential Fathers and Doctors of the Church – the whole Church relies upon him for the clarity and brilliance of his teachings, and he relied upon the prayer of his mother Monica. How great indeed the power of prayer!

Second, we look to 16th Century Rome. A young boy named Paulo Massimo, the son of a nobleman, has just died. His parents, grieved by their loss, call a local priest to come and offer prayers – the priest is named Fr. Philip Neri, he would one day be St. Philip Neri whose renown is so great that he has been called the Second Apostle of the City of Rome. St. Philip comes to the house, kneels at the foot of the bed where the boy’s body lay, and begins his prayers. The young boy suddenly opens his eyes, resuscitated by the power of St. Philip’s prayers, sits up in bed and begins speaking to his parents and the priest. How great the power of prayer!

And finally, consider that today, at the many altars throughout the world, priests will take bread and wine – and, by the simple words of the Eucharistic prayer, these natural elements will be transformed, becoming the very Body and Blood of Christ our Savior. Behold the true power of prayer!

Jesus tells us, “Ask and you will receive” – how shall we ignore his invitation? When we consider how powerful prayer is – for all good things can be gain through prayer – how is it that we pray so little and with such little zeal? Truly, there are many graces which are lost, simply because no one asks for them in prayer.

Do not doubt the power of prayer, it is far greater than any human power. All the kings of the earth cannot force the conversion of a heart, and yet the humble mother Monica won her son’s conversion through prayer. All the doctors in the world cannot raise the dead, and yet Fr. Philip restored life through prayer. No human or angelic power can effect the mystery of transubstantiation, and yet the prayer of simple priests throughout the world confect the Eucharist today!

We turn to the Lord and say: Oh Jesus, grant that in seeking, we may find you; that in asking, we may receive your blessings; and that in knocking, may prayer (which is the door to the interior life) be opened to us.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

To whom do you pray during Mass?

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
October 24th, 2010
Luke 18: 9-14, The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector

The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself…

Of the many themes that the parable of today’s Gospel brings up, I would like to focus specifically on the prayer of the Pharisee and, in fact, on one small aspect of that prayer. Notice that our Savior tells us that the Pharisee spoke the prayer to himself. He does not speak to God or pray to God, he speaks and prays to himself. And, if we look at the words of his prayer, we see that the Pharisee is really worshiping not God, but himself.
This is an example of bad prayer and bad worship – this is how we ought not to pray. But what is bad worship? Bad worship and bad prayer is self-serving and self-satisfied. Bad worship is dictated by our likes and dislikes rather than by the teaching of the Gospel and the Tradition of the Church. Bad worship is very sentimental. Moreover, bad worships is a lot of fun – notice that the Pharisee enjoyed his time in the Temple area much more than the tax collector. Bad worship is socially acceptable and very popular.

Here is a little story to illustrate bad worship: After Sunday Mass a family – a husband and wife and a young boy – are all driving home. Scarcely do they pull away from the Church and the father begins to complain about the music. Then the wife says, “If the music was bad, that homily was even worse!” And on and on, they went back and forth. Eventually, the parents stopped talking and, after a brief moment of silence, the little boy in the back piped up and said, “Well, I don’t think it was too bad, for a buck!” J
Obviously, this is a silly little joke; but I think there is something more profound here as well. Do we think of worship as entertainment? Do we come to the Mass the same way we would go to a movie – giving our money and expecting a good show? There is, for all of us, room for growth and for purification.

Bad worship is, in fact, a great problem among the Protestants and, especially, among the Evangelical so-called “Bible” churches. Sure, these churches are packed (with a lot of ex-Catholics, I might add!) and the music is great. The sermons are exciting and the service is a lot of fun – their youth group is huge. You can even get your cup of coffee on the way in…
But, I ask, does anyone go home justified? Certainly not by that style of worship…it is bad worship, it is dictated by the trends of the day.
This can be a problem in the Catholic Church as well. There is a real tendency in the modern Church to become “fashionable” and focused on the momentary tastes of the time, rather than on the Church’s venerable Tradition.

I look at many churches and I wonder – the priest is looking at the people and the people are looking at the priest, but is anyone looking to God? The priest speaks to the people and the people speak to the priest, but is anyone speaking to God? True worship is a disposition of the heart that must be fostered.
For 2000 years, and even in our own day, the Church honors the Liturgical practice called ad orientem – this is the posture of prayer where the priest and the people all face in the same direction, toward the East and toward the Crucifix. The priest and the people, looking together and praying together, worship God. Some people, rather foolishly, will say that the priest “has his back to the people.” That is just ridiculous! It’s not so much that the priest is facing away from the people, as with the people – they aren’t worshiping him, after all, they are worshiping God; and he should be worshiping together with them, as a member of the same Body!

What is important here is not so much the particular externals of this Liturgical practice, the real point is the fundamental attitude which we must adopt during worship. We are not simply speaking back and forth, we are not meant to be turned in on ourselves or our community; we must look to the Lord, worship the Lord, and speak our prayer to the Lord.
May the grace and the love of Christ Jesus, form us interiorly and lead us to a deeper participation in the true spirit of the Liturgy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sermon on hell, August 22nd

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
August 22nd, 2010
Luke 13:22-30, Strive to enter through the narrow gate

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

A recent movie tells the story of a family in which the grandfather passes away unexpectedly. The granddaughter, who is only a little girl, asks her uncle if there is a heaven. He responds that he doesn’t know for sure, but the little girl adds that she believes in it. Then both the uncle and the little girl decide that, if there is a heaven, certainly everybody gets to go there after death.
It really is a very sweet, cute little scene … quite sentimental. And like many things which are cute and sweet, and like all things which are sentimental, it is inimical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and contrary to the doctrine of our Faith.

We live in a world which denies the existence of hell. The very thought of hell is repulsive to many secular people and, unfortunately, even some Catholics refuse to believe that hell is real – and that people really can go there.
But we must be sure of this: Jesus Christ has very clearly affirmed the reality and the existence of hell. In fact, in all of Sacred Scripture, no single person speaks about hell more often than Christ our Savior. Almost everything we know about hell was revealed to us by the Lord himself. Thus, to deny hell is to deny Christ’s own teaching. To reject hell is to reject Christ.
And if we ask, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”; we must accept our Savior’s answer, “Yes, very few.” Very few indeed will come to eternal life. It is the common opinion of theologians throughout the Church’s history that most people go to hell after death. And so, we can say with reasonable confidence that most people probably go to hell.

Does this upset us? Are we troubled by this thought? Certainly, the world rejects the idea of hell – but why? Is it because the world is so convinced of the Love of God and the Grace of Christ working through the Sacraments of his Church? Is this why so many people believe that everyone goes to heaven? No, I tell you, the world denies hell because the world denies sin! It is not a confidence in God’s Love, but an acceptance of sin which blinds the intellect to the existence of hell.
Perhaps we have a hard time accepting Jesus’ words, perhaps we do not like to hear about hell. Be sure of this: It gave Christ no pleasure to speak of hell – and yet, so long as there was sin, he was driven to speak of it; so long as people turn away from God, the Church and her priests must speak of the reality and the real possibility of eternal damnation.
But be sure of this, it was Love which compelled Christ to speak of hell. It is Love which leads the Church to teach about hell today. It is not wrath or anger or judgment, but Love!

Consider this parable: A man, walking through a forest, fell into a very deep hole out of which he could not climb. Another came upon him and said, “My dear friend, my beloved, you have fallen, you are in danger, let me help you!” Then, lowering down a ladder, he implored the man who had fallen to climb out.
What would we say if the one in the hole replied, “How dare you tell me I have fallen into a hole! Who are you to judge me?” What could be done for that man, if he refused to make use of the ladder to climb out? Why, he would be a fool and all hope for him would be lost!

We, each of us individually and all of us together, have fallen into sin. Christ our Savior has come upon us and spoken to us words of love, “My beloved, you have sinned, you are in danger, you will parish without my grace. Here, I give you a ladder, that is, I offer you my Church and her Sacraments. Do not reject me, but take courage!”
What shall happen to the one who refuses Christ? What would happen if any should refuse to admit the danger of hell, and the reality of sin? He would be lost!

My friends, do not think it was hatred or anger which created hell. It was Love, omnipotent and divine Love!
Hear the words of the theologian Fr. Lacordaire: “Had justice alone created the abyss, there might be remedy. But it is love, the first love sempiternal, which made hell. This it is which banishes hope. Were I condemned by justice, I might flee to love. But if I am condemned by love, whither can I turn? Such is the fate of the damned, Love, that gave his blood for them – this Love, this same Love, must now curse them. […] Love is not a farce. It is God’s love which punishes, God’s crucified love. Love is life or death. And if that love is God’s love, then love is either eternal life or eternal death.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Prayer is Omnipotent, Sermon of October 17th

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
October 17th, 2010
Luke 18:1-8, The parable of the widow and the dishonest judge

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

In heaven or on earth, there is nothing more powerful than prayer. In all the created order, there is nothing more powerful than prayer; and so there is nothing more necessary than prayer. I took occasion in a homily this past summer to mention this fundamental point of the spiritual life; but, in light of our Lord’s exhortation that we should persevere in prayer, we must once again re-affirm the true power of prayer.
As I have meditated on prayer over the past months, I have realized that it is not enough simply to affirm that prayer is all-powerful – what is more, everything else has power only because prayer has power. Everything else makes a difference only because prayer makes a difference. Ultimately, we must affirm that only prayer really makes a difference – and that all else depends upon prayer.

Does this seem a bit too pious and devotional for you, a bit sentimental? Perhaps it is pious (and there is nothing wrong with being pious) but I assure you that true prayer is not the least bit sentimental. True prayer has nothing to do with sentimentality. Prayer is not some warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Consider our reading from Exodus – by the prayer of Moses the Israelites mowed down Amelek and his soldiers by the edge of the sword. By the power of prayer, the sons of Israel destroyed nations, annihilated peoples and, ultimately, took possession of the Promised Land. There is nothing sentimental here. This does not give rise to a warm fuzzy feeling. I would dare say that prayer is dangerous, prayer is violent – for the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent bare it away!
Perhaps we need an example a bit closer to our own day. Consider, then, the great and immense power of the Rosary. On October 7th, we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formally known as Our Lady of Victory – it is the commemoration of how the prayer of the Rosary saved Christendom from Muslim onslaught in the 18th Century.
Or again, consider how Russia was converted and Communism destroyed…all through the power of prayer – just as our Lady had promised at Fatima, she was victorious through the Rosary! No, let us never doubt the power of prayer.

Yet we might wonder why our prayers do not often have such visible effects. Ordinarily, prayer is hidden. Still, I hope that you all have seen (in either small miracles or large) the effects of prayer in your own life. Nevertheless, it is true, prayer is generally invisible.
Two weeks ago, our Savior told us that faith can move mountains, and so we may wonder why it is that mountains are generally rather stationary. Some will say that the Lord was speaking in a hyperbole here, they will say that he was exaggerating. I say that it is not an overstatement at all, but an understatement. Prayer is far too powerful a reality to be wasted on something so small as moving a mountain. Even human powers can move mountains – at least we can mine into them and harvest their resources – and even human powers can uproot trees and plant them in the sea; but only prayer can move hearts, only prayer can uproot a soul from a life of sin and plant it firmly in salvation!

Do not think that merely because prayer is hidden, it is weak. After all, the most powerful beings in the created order are invisible and hidden – I speak here of the angels. They are invisible, and yet they are far more powerful than the whole of the material world. Think also of the human soul – though invisible and hidden, we all know how much more powerful the soul is than the body. While the body grows tired quickly, the human will (a faculty of the soul) presses on and does not weary.
Prayer belongs to that particular order of created reality which is invisible and hidden and mysterious, and therefore most powerful. Precisely because prayer is invisible and hidden it has immense power!

And now we consider the Savior’s parable in today’s Gospel. The widow knew that the unjust judge was a wicked man, that he did not care for her at all; and yet, she continually begged him for a just judgment. Though that judge was unjust, the woman persevered in asking for justice.
Now we all must know of our Lord’s infinite love for us. He has loved us so much that he died that we might live. And shall we not persevere in petitioning him for blessings? He himself is all just and all merciful, and shall we not ask him for justice and mercy? When we recognize the power of prayer and the infinity love of God, we are driven to pray and we are compelled to persevere.
But perhaps prayer is difficult, perhaps perseverance is hard, perhaps we do not even yet fully believe in the power of prayer. What then? Never become discouraged, never despair. Simply turn to the Lord and say, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Lord I believe that prayer is powerful, help me to believe it more fully. Lord, give me the grace to pray today. Lord, by the power of this prayer I offer now, grant that I might persevere in prayer throughout my life and especially at the hour of my death.
And may the reward of our perseverance in this life be the blessed joy of life everlasting.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sermon on the rich man who built more barns, August 1st

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 1, 2010.
Gospel. Luke 12:13-21. The rich man who built more barns.

And he said, “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods.”

It strikes me that – although children are generally very selfish and possessive, often refusing to share toys and so forth – they nevertheless have an incredible capacity for particular acts of generosity. Even if most children, most of the time, think the world revolves around themselves; they are still able to be particularly kind in particular circumstances.
I can call to mind a family practice from my own childhood, one which I believe is common to many families: this is the practice of allowing the children to put the family’s donation into the collection basket at Mass. Many children really do seem to enjoy having the privilege of making the Sunday donation to the Church…
…now don’t worry, this is not going to be a homily about giving to the Church! What I am talking about here, is the incredible capacity which children have for generosity, and the great pleasure that children take in being generous.

I think that we all know at least part of the reason why children can be so generous…they are giving away their parents’ money! The mothers and fathers here know just how easy it is for children to give away their parents’ hard-earned wages!
But there is a deeper truth being expressed here. Children are able to be generous, precisely because they recognize that whatever they have has been given to them by their mother and father who love them. Children trust that their parents will continue to care for them in the future, just as they have cared for them in the past. And, because of this trust, they then feel free to give generously and lovingly to others.

Somewhere along the line, the rich man of today’s Gospel parable lost that sense of trust. He does not think of what he has as a gift which God has given him. He sees everything solely in relation to himself.
The rich man no longer sees himself as a child of God, as one who receives good things from the Lord; and therefore, he is no longer able to trust in God, but he only trusts in himself. He feels all the pressures of life; and he believes that he alone can solve these difficulties, that he alone can provide for his future needs.

Failing to recognize that the good things he has are gifts from God, the rich man feels no need to give to others. Having lost his view of heaven, he no longer sees earth clearly. He had a bountiful harvest, he should have been generous in his almsgiving. Having received much from the Lord, he should have felt moved to give to others. But this man has no interior life, he has no understanding of his reliance on God; and so he cannot understand that the poor rely upon the rich. Because he does not recognize his own need for God, he does not recognize the needs of the poor.

My brothers and sisters, without a firm commitment to the interior life, to the life of prayer, we will never grow in a true love for the poor. Until we see ourselves as true children of our heavenly Father, we will never recognize our neighbor as a true brother or sister in Christ.
On the other hand, as we accept the Love of God into our hearts, a Love so great that it led the Eternal Word who was rich to become poor for our sakes; how could we ever remain rich when so many are poor?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sermon on gratitude

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
October 10th, 2010
Luke 17:11-19, The cleansing of the ten lepers

Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

All of us can recall the experience from our own childhood – and those of you who are parents know of it from another perspective – the experience of learning to say “Thank you”. When receiving a gift from a parent or a friend or from another adult, children often have to be reminded by their mother or father, “What do you say?” And, of course, the child slowly learns how to be gracious, how to express gratitude. The boy or girl learns to give thanks.
I bring this experience to mind because I think that there is something of an analogy between the parent teaching the child to say “Thank you” and the words of our Savior in today’s Gospel. We must recognize that parents do not make the child say “Thank you” because they need to feel better about themselves – it’s not really for their sake at all, but for the sake of their son or daughter. Parents know that they have to teach their children to express gratitude because, without this habit, one cannot be successful in human relationships. The parents insist on the words “Thank you”, because they want what is best for their children.

While we might be a bit surprised at how strongly Christ speaks in the Gospel today – for, indeed, he seems outraged and dejected that none but the Samaritan has returned to offer thanks – we must also recognize that our Lord is not upset because he feels put-out or underappreciated. Christ does not require the thanks and praise of any human being; even as a man, he has received all glory from his heavenly Father. Rather, the Lord is dejected because he had given these ten lepers the gift of the healing of their bodies, but he wanted to give them another even greater gift – the healing of their souls, through faith.
Because the nine did not return to give thanks, they received only the first gift, the bodily gift, and they lost the opportunity for grace. Jesus is upset because he had wanted to give them so much more, but they would not receive it.

We have taken the part of the Samaritan who returned to bless God, we have gathered here today to worship and to give thanks. The Mass is characterized by this spirit of thanksgiving. We praise and bless God for all his gifts and we implore his continued protection and guidance. As I am sure many of you know, the very word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving”.
And, wonder of wonders, as we return to give thanks for God’s blessings, we receive a gift more precious than all else – we receive the very Body and Blood of Christ. In our act of thanksgiving, we are given a blessing of infinite value.

And yet, we must notice this tension – though the Mass is certainly the greatest action we can possibly perform, it is yet only a very small part of our week. Even if we attend daily Mass, we probably spend less than an hour a day in Liturgical worship and thanksgiving. We must ask ourselves: “How can I take the spirit of thanksgiving and praise which is present at the Mass and extend it into my daily life? How can I truly ‘go forth in the peace of Christ’?”
In this regard, G.K. Chesterton, a Catholic author of the early 1900’s in England, can be of great assistance. He tells, if we are thankful for the beauty of nature, let us follow the law of nature. If we are grateful for the gift of grace and redemption won for us in Christ Jesus, let us follow the Law of Christ and of his Church! The Lord himself has told us, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This is the true expression of gratitude that must permeate our lives – we thank God for his gifts, by using his blessings according to his command, knowing that all he commands is for our benefit.

It is true that certain teachings of the Church and of the Gospel are not always immediately clear to us. Perhaps we do not fully understand why some things are required and other things are outlawed. Indeed, even when we do understand, it can be difficult to follow the Law of Christ in the midst of the world’s temptations. But this is where the spirit of thanksgiving assists us.
The love and thanksgiving which leads us to follow God’s Law brings us joy and peace, even when things are difficult. By that spirit of gratitude, what might have been heavy is made light, what could have been bitter is made sweet, and the commandments and precepts of Christ and of his Church become our joy.

May this true spirit of thanksgiving, which is itself a gift from On High, inflame our hearts with the Love of Christ and help us to grow in his grace.

For Respect Life Sunday: A sermon on abortion and contraception, October 3rd

Respect Life Sunday
October 3rd, 2010.
2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

I would like to share with you a very beautiful story from the life of Mother Teresa, a story of great compassion and love. In 1994, Mother Teresa was invited to Washington, D.C. to give a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. She was invited because of the great work she had done with the poor in Calcutta and throughout the world. The theme for her talk that year was world peace, but we are not at all surprised to see that she began by speaking about the Gospel.

She told us of how much Jesus loves each and every one of us. How he loved us so much that he not only became man for us, but he even sacrificed his own life in order that we might live forever. Mother Teresa pointed out that the love of Christ teaches us how to love – we must imitate our Savior and “love until it hurts.” This is what true love requires: self-donation and self-sacrifice, giving until it hurts. It was love that led Christ to die for us, so too only love can bring us to sacrifice for Christ and for others.
Mother Teresa told us that we cannot say we love God without loving our neighbor, and that we have not really loved out neighbor until we have given until it hurts. Until we are willing to sacrifice our wants and desires in order to help others, we will only bring injustice into the world. We must imitate Christ and die for love of others.
This ought not to have been a surprise to anyone; as a bride of Christ, Mother Teresa would certainly begin with the Gospel. But what she said next probably caught nearly everyone by surprise.

“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”
Now I know that abortion is a sensitive issue, even for many Catholics. I am quite certain that many of us here have been affected personally by abortion in some way, either through family or friends, or perhaps through participating in an abortion ourselves. This can be a very difficult topic to hear about, but I would ask that you open your hearts to the words of Mother Teresa. If you know anything at all about Mother Teresa, I hope you know this – She loves you. If you can be certain about anything at all about Mother Teresa, it is this – whatever she says, she says it because she loves you and she wants you to be happy. These words are indeed challenging, but they are also words of love.

Mother Teresa continued, “How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.”
“By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”

If many of the people at the Prayer Breakfast were on the edge of their seat up to this point, what Mother Teresa said next probably astonished all present – and perhaps it shocks us as well.
“I know that couples have to plan their family and for that there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception.”
Here we need to point out that natural family planning has had many advancements in recent years. It is not just the old rhythm method – in fact, many statistics show that Natural Family Planning is more effective than the most common methods of contraception, and it has none of the adverse side effects. But as great as the statistics are and as good as it is that natural family planning is effective, there is something much more important – contraception destroys the love between a husband and a wife, but natural family planning nurtures love and teaches love.
Mother Teresa says, “In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gift of love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception. Once that love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.

Now I know that these words can be very challenging and may even seem too difficult for some; and I know also that, despite the Church’s clear teaching, many Catholics use contraception. Again, remember that Mother Teresa speaks to you out of love. She desires your happiness, she want your family to grow closer together.
Contraception destroys the love between the couple, and thus destroys the family – for if a couple will not give themselves to one another in love, how can they ever fully love their children? This is why Mother Teresa connects contraception with abortion – both destroy love, both treat children as a ‘choice’ rather than a gift.
“I also know that there are great problems in the world,” Mother Teresa says, “We cannot solve all the problems in the world, but let us never bring in the worst problem of all, and that is to destroy love. And this is what happens when we tell people to practice contraception and abortion.”

I would like to conclude by putting two women before your hearts and minds: Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood, and Mother Teresa. On the one hand there is Margaret Sanger, she herself admits that she founded Planned Parenthood with the specific intention of destroying culture. She promoted contraception and abortion as a means of eliminated blacks, Hispanics, and the poor – Planned Parenthood, from its conception, has been an institution bent on tearing down, on destruction. Even today, it has been shown that Planned Parenthood targets minorities – it is a form of eugenics, an establishment which brings only death.
On the other hand, we have Mother Teresa and the Church. She speaks to you out of love. While Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood become rich through selling their cancer-causing Pill, Mother Teresa became poor to serve and to love. While Planned Parenthood works to tear down, Mother Teresa gave her life to build up.
We have these two choices: Life or death, love or hate, the Church or Planned Parenthood.

“If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak – the unborn child – must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for. God bless you!”

Sermon on Martha and Mary, July 18th

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. July 18th, 2010.
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42, Martha and Mary.

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

As we listen to the proclamation of this Gospel text, we are probably all asking ourselves whether we are a Martha or a Mary. Well, I have some tough news for you…we are all Martha!
Martha is the symbol of the active life, the life in the world. This is the ordinary life, the life which we are all living – myself and all diocesan priests included! Mary is a symbol of the contemplative life, the life removed from the world, the life wholly and entirely consecrated to God through the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In our world, religious monks and nuns are Mary.

We are all Martha’s. We live in the world, we have not taken vows, we are not consecrated religious. But that is nothing to be ashamed of! The active life is a good life, it can be a very holy life, it is a great vocation. Notice that Martha was doing just fine, until she began to reject the vocation of her sister Mary. So too, the active life is good and holy, until it begins to reject or downplay the importance of the contemplative life.
There is a problem in the modern world: we tend to look for external and visible results, “productivity.” We do not see this in the monasteries and convents, and so there is a temptation to think that the contemplative life doesn’t really matter, that it doesn’t add anything to society, that it is a waste. It is as though we say to our Savior, “Tell them [the monks and nuns in the cloister], tell them to help us!” We make Martha’s words our own…and this is our fatal error.

The active life is good, it is holy; but the contemplative life is better. We must develop a love and respect for the contemplative vocation, because this is the life which is most close to the Sacred Heart of our Lord. Precisely because he loves his religious so much, we too love and support them! Perhaps even in our midst there may be some young people here called to that most precious and hidden life of contemplation.
For the rest of us, however, we must remain in the world. It is the good vocation to which God has called us! We must sanctify the world, by sanctifying our daily lives. We have a great task entrusted to us – to make the Kingdom present in the midst of the secular world!
How shall we ever accomplish this good work? It will only be through a deep commitment to the life of prayer. Our love and respect for the contemplative life will lead us to develop a sharing in that hidden life of prayer, even in the midst of our busy days. The heart of any vocation is prayer. The secular world will only be sanctified through prayer. We ourselves will only be saved through prayer.

Having entered into that interior castle, that cloister of the heart, that hidden place within the soul where we enjoy communion with our Creator; we will then be strengthened to go out and to share the riches of the divine life with others.

Sermon on the rich man and Lazarus, September 26th

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. September 26th, 2010.
Gospel. Luke 16:19-31, The rich man and Lazarus.

Abraham replied, “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.”

Hell is not a topic many people today are comfortable hearing about. In fact, of all the doctrines of the Catholic faith, hell is certainly one of the most neglected. Perhaps we have never, or hardly ever, heard a homily about hell.
Indeed, we live in a world which denies the existence of hell, a world which refuses to believe that eternal punishment is a real possibility. Perhaps we ourselves can fall to this temptation at times. Even if we do admit the reality of hell, we might be inclined to reserve damnation to a select few, to those particularly horrible sinners – terrible murderers, war criminals, and the like. Hell is for people like them, hell is for monsters.
In doing this we separate ourselves from sinners, we save ourselves from having to confront the judgment of God, we make hell a place for “them” not a reality which has anything to do with “us”. But then we are confronted with a passage like the parable of today’s Gospel.

We hear that there was a rich man and a poor man, and the rich man did not help the poor man. For this sin alone, the rich man was condemned to hell; but the poor man was saved. It strikes me that we know almost nothing at all about the rich man…we do not even know his name. He may have been married, perhaps he was a good father and a good husband. He was most likely an active member of his community. He was certainly a fun guy to be around. We might note with some surprise that he might have even been fairly generous to some poor people – we have no reason to think that he wouldn’t have given to the food bank (or the 1st century equivalent thereof).
All we know about him is that, whatever else he did in his life, he did not help Lazarus. And for this one sin – a sin which cries out to heaven for vengeance – for this one sin he was condemned to the everlasting punishments of hell. He was rich and he refused to relieve the poor man who begged from him. This cost him his salvation.

And I ask, my brothers and sisters, has anything changed in 2000 years? Perhaps this: if the rich man ignored the poor man’s cry, he at least allowed Lazarus to sit and beg at the door. I think it likely that, if a poor man was begging outside our homes day and night, we would probably call the police and have him taken away. If the rich man ignored Lazarus’ cry, we live in a society which systematically suffocates the cry of the poor!
Some day we will all come to understand what our Savior meant when he said, “Blessed are you poor, but woe to you who are rich.”

The poor are God’s gift to us. It is through mercy and charity toward them that we will work out our salvation. Pope John Paul II has said, “It will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor – as individuals and as a people – are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced.” Whatever we do to the poor, we do to Christ. And whatever we do not do to the poor, we do not do to Christ.

And so I ask: Without almsgiving, how should we ever inherit life everlasting?