Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
June 11, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a / Ps 147 / 1 Cor 10:16-17 / Jn 6:51-58
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
I believe. Help my unbelief.
You heard all the talk and all the witnesses about this amazing man from Nazareth. Their healings, teachings with wisdom and authority. I’ve even heard He’s performed miracles. He’s going to be in the area for a big talk. Lots of folks plan to go there and hear Him, to see Him. I’ve got to see this. Could He be the one?
I get there and wow, there are a ton of people, hundreds, maybe thousands. What a great day. His words, so inspiring, so deep and meaningful. It gets late. Everybody is hungry. He’s praying over a small basket of bread, and now they’re beginning to share it down front. That’s not going to last long. It’ll all be gone soon. My belly growls. They’re still passing around and there are baskets now. And the folks, they seem to all be getting plenty. Finally, the basket gets to me and it’s full, completely full of fresh bread and it smells amazing. I can’t believe it.
Where did Jesus go? He disappeared somewhere. Nobody’s sure where He went. I really would like to see Him again. I think we’re going to head into town, into Capernaum. I hear He’s been hanging out a lot there. Maybe He’ll be there, maybe I’ll see Him again.
There He is. I found Him, and He’s talking again. I can’t wait to hear what He’s saying now, and it’d be great if I got some more of that bread.
You’re here for more food, more bread. Not because of My signs. You need food that endures for eternal life. Not manna like Moses, but true bread from Heaven. I am the bread of life. Come to Me, and you will never die.
All I’ve got to do is come to Jesus. All I’ve got to do is follow Him and He’ll feed me bread all that I want. That bread was the best, oh boy. Whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors had manna but died. This bread you eat and do not die. I am the living bread, the bread I give is My flesh for the life of the world.
Wait a minute. What did He just say? That’s weird. Did He say flesh? That’s right, that’s what I just said. 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. For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.
OK, I’m not sure about this. I don’t think I like where this is going. It’s really getting disturbing. I can tell you’re not understanding; you’re not getting it. I’m talking about eating My flesh. Gnawing. Chewing. Really, truly eating My flesh. Then I will remain in you. If you feed on My flesh, you will have life. This is the bread of life. Whoever eats this bread will not die.
All right, guys, it doesn’t look like we’re getting any real food here. Let’s pack it up. Grab your stuff, we’re getting out of here. I think we ought to get into town before the crowd comes. Everyone is leaving.
What would you have done? If you were there, what would you have done? Better question is what will you do now? Will you walk away and put some distance between you and Jesus and this hard teaching, spiritually and physically? Or will you believe and follow?
My friends, my dear friends, when the priest in the person of Christ calls upon the Holy Spirit during the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Epiclesis, when you see him put both his hands over the gifts and the Deacon drop to his knees behind the altar, it’s a spiritual sonic boom. The fabric of space and time is shattered, and Jesus Christ Himself entirely body and blood, soul and divinity, becomes substantially present in the bread. He said it Himself, folks. What God says, becomes.
In this bread of life discourse which is only a part of Chapter 6 of John, Jesus refers to Himself as bread eleven times. He says to eat and then later escalates that to the word for gnaw on his flesh seven times. He says to drink His blood four times. It’s frank, it’s repetitive, it’s urgent, and it is insistent. Jesus is not messing around; He’s not mincing words. He really, truly, really, really means it.
And get this, He doesn’t go chasing after the crowd who’s leaving and say, wait, everybody. I didn’t really mean it. I meant to say eating is like eating my flesh, that eating the bread and drinking the blood is like. He didn’t say it’s a metaphor or it’s another one of My parables.
They went, and there He was, remaining with just the few. And did He say to them, it’s a shame they’re all leaving, guys? Because I was just kidding. No, He did not say that. He says, so are you leaving too? Are you going to leave too, because I’m not changing anything I said.
Where are we to go? For You have the words of everlasting life, was their answer. What is our answer? What is our prayer? Our prayer is, I believe that You, Jesus Christ, our God, omnipotent and all powerful. And for you, nothing is impossible. Jesus, if You can take the waters of that baptismal font on this young baby, or on me as a 41-year old adult and wash away my sins completely, then by God, You can become fully, substantially present in the Eucharist.
For our salvation. For eternal life. I wasn’t there when the thousands were fed. But I’m here now and You’re here now. I believe. Help my unbelief.KEEP READING
May 28, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Acts 2:1-11 / Ps 104 / 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 / Jn 20:19-23
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Here is a true story that illustrates the need to intentionally invite the Holy Spirit into your life and to intentionally surrender control to Him when He needs to use you to help someone else.
A good Catholic man, who knew the scriptures and his Catholic faith, shared a story of praying outside an abortion clinic. He spoke to a woman who was headed in, but despite his faith and his spiritual learning, he couldn’t speak anything of meaning to her, and she proceeded to the door of the clinic and grabbed the door handle. The man tossed up a five-second prayer, “I’m so sorry Lord. I don’t know what to say. Help me, Holy Spirit!” Suddenly he spoke the most eloquent words to her; no, he blurted out two words, “hair bows!”
The woman stopped, let go of the door handle and walked back toward him, tears in her eyes. She asked, “What did you just say?” He said, “Hair bows. I just thought you would enjoy putting bows in the baby’s hair if it is a girl.” Turns out the woman had a strong memory of her mom and hair bows, strong enough to penetrate the darkness and despair she was in and to displace it with Christ’s light and truth. Those two little words awakened in her a love for her unborn child and for motherhood. The Holy Spirit came through in a surprising way. You might even say the Spirit enabled the man to speak in tongues, for the words he spoke were understood by that woman in a way that saved her soul and her baby’s life. That’s how the Holy Spirit rolls!
Happy Pentecost everyone. Today we celebrate the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to baptize us with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1). Pentecost in Greek means “fiftieth.” The Jews celebrated Pentecost fifty days after Passover, which is a celebration of deliverance from bondage in Egypt and of God coming down upon Mount Sinai in fire, shaking the mountain. This prefigured the new Pentecost, which we celebrate every year, fifty days after the new Passover, which we now call Easter (Pitre).
You may have picked up on how the Christian Pentecost is similar to the Jewish one in its remembrance of that day at Mount Sinai. Listen again. “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” But in the new Pentecost something dramatically different, something astounding happens that did not happen at Mount Sinai. Fire came down, yes, but “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4).”
In this homily I hope to expand your awareness of the Holy Spirit and of His supernatural gifts that may be untapped in your life. I also hope to help you make your family life, school life, work life, prayer life, and sacramental life more intentionally focused on the Holy Spirit as that is what is best for you, your loved ones, the Church, and the world.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to “teach [us] everything and remind [us] of all that [He] told us.” (Jn 14:26). Jesus also said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish that it were already blazing (Lk 12:49).” Fire, like in the tongues of fire, refers to the Holy Spirit. What does fire do? It transfigures that which is burning into itself. In our case, the Holy Spirit restores our divine nature, makes us holy, and equips us with supernatural gifts. Why? The Psalmist wrote the answer, so that “you [can] renew the face of the earth (Ps 104:30).”
What supernatural gifts does the Holy Spirit equip us with? Sanctifying gifts and Charismatic gifts. The seven sanctifying gifts are listed in Isaiah 11:1-3 and are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Catholic theologian Mary Healy points out that Isaiah was describing the Messiah upon whom the Spirit would rest. Therefore, we receive the seven sanctifying gifts through baptism and confirmation, since we receive the Holy Spirit in those sacraments, and He forms us in the character of Christ (CCC 1831 / Healy 29-30).
What are Charismatic gifts? They are supernatural gifts meant for the service of others (1 Cor 12:1-7 / Healy 24). Again, drawing from Dr. Healy, the term charismatic comes from the Greek word charisma, which is based on the word for grace, charis. Therefore, a charism is a “tangible expression of God’s grace in a person’s life (Healy 24).” Every one of us was created by God with a specific role to play in building up the Church. The way God qualifies us to fulfill our unique role is with these many graces called charisms (CCC 798).
In Romans 13, St. Paul lists charisms for the building up of the Church, “serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership, and showing mercy.” And in a slight twist, St. Paul lists roles in the Church that the Holy Spirit anoints people for. They include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph 4:8-11/ Healy 28). The Holy Spirit even desires to supernaturally enhance or elevate our natural gifts or aptitudes such as music, art, crafts, teaching, administration, etc., making them more efficacious than we can do on our own (Healy 24). Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your gifts and to help you grow them and to put them at the service of the Church.
The longest single list of charismatic gifts is in 1 Cor 12. They are word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues. To learn more about these gifts, I recommend reading Dr. Healy’s book, “The Spiritual Gifts Handbook – Using Your Gifts to Build up the Kingdom of God.”
How is living life in the Holy Spirit best for you? Dr. Scott Hahn and Fr. Dave Pivonka both answered that question with the same metaphor. Living your life in the Spirit is like sailing, where the wind does most of the work. When you live in the Spirit, you may have a sense that you are moving through life’s challenges with less resistance. But like the wind, with the Holy Spirit, you never know for certain what He will do or where He will take you, and you have to wait for Him. Bishop Barron echoes this in his reflection on the third Glorious Mystery. He says we don’t make the Holy Spirit show up. We call and we wait like the disciples and Mary were waiting in the upper room when He came.
What characteristics will a person have who does so? St. Paul listed them as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). That is a great list to take to prayer and to use as an examination of the soul. It can help us see where we need to grow more like Christ by intentionally inviting the Holy Spirit into our life and following His promptings, even if they seem silly like, “blurting out hair bows” in a desperate situation.
We are blessed to be Catholic, for we experience the Holy Spirit’s power in the sacraments. We are baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, who made us His temple. In Confession, your sins are forgiven by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the priest who, in the prayer of absolution, says that “God the Father of Mercies sent the Holy Spirit into the world for the forgiveness of sins.” Today’s gospel, by the way, is the strongest biblical proof that Jesus gave His priests His power to forgive sins.
In the prayers during Anointing of the Sick the priest calls on the Holy Spirit as the consoler.” In the Eucharistic Prayer we hear Father pray, “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them as a dewfall.” You can’t miss it. The Deacon kneels as Father prays those words, and the altar server rings the bells. Finally, in Confirmation and Holy Orders the bishop lays his hands on the faithful’s head, imparting the Holy Spirit.
Despite all the ways we receive the Holy Spirit, you are not alone if you struggle with identifying with Him. Theologian Sr. Elizabeth Johnson summarized this well, writing, “While the Son has appeared in human form and while we can at least make a mental image of the Father, the Spirit is not graphic and remains theologically the most mysterious of the three divine persons.” (DANIEL P. HORAN OFM in National Catholic Reporter, January 12, 2023). That is one of the reasons God gives us signs.
Healings are one of those signs He gives us to make the Holy Spirit’s presence and power manifest. Some of you may remember former Holy Name of Mary parish Deacon, Ray Roderique, the father of several of Holy Name’s parishioners. He and his wife, Kathy, were very active in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. Deacon Ray was particularly known for the gift of healing. Our former priest, Fr. Steve McNally, shared that, while on a trip with Deacon Ray, he was having a good bit of pain from a kidney stone. Ray prayed over him, and he was cured. I reached out to a couple of Ray’s adult children for their thoughts on the Holy Spirit.
His son, parishioner Paul Roderique, shared Sr. Johnson’s quote. One of his sisters, former parishioner, Colleen Crist, had this to say:
“The Holy Spirit is the single most important relationship a person can have if they desire to be as close to Jesus as possible! The Holy Spirit transforms, elevates, and increases every aspect of a person’s prayer life (“hair bows”). The Holy Spirit takes the fear out of it. He helps you realize that it’s not about you, but rather you are a team, and He’s doing the heavy lifting (Remember the wind moves the boat easier than our paddling). He gives you the courage, and the ability, and the wisdom, and the words to do the praying. We are simply allowing Him to use us. All it takes is being open, trusting, and malleable. When we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and extend the invitation sincerely, then He can get to work. He will never force himself on us. To receive Him, simply extend the invitation. Invite the Holy Spirit in and ask Him to transform your life. Ask Him to teach you how to pray.”
Let’s do that right now and close with a favorite prayer of Colleen’s, an invitation to the Holy Spirit from St Augustine. Imagine yourself as that sailboat on the lake. Ready the sails, which are your faith. Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly and let’s see where the Father’s Holy Breath takes us. “Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work too may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I may love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me then, O Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.” Amen.
Mary Healy & Randy Clark. The Spiritual Gifts Handbook – Using Your Gifts to Build the Kingdom of God. Chosen Books 2018.
Bishop Barron. The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. Hallow app.
Third Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33 / Ps 16 / 1 Pt 1:17-21 / Lk 24:13-35
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
[Parish children received their first Eucharist today. The first part of the homily is directed toward them.]
The Eucharist makes us like Jesus, who said, “I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12).” Therefore, when you receive Holy Communion, you become a light in the world. This is why St. Paul wrote that you are meant to “shine like stars in the world (Phil 2:15).” So, it is right that you all decorated candles and put them on the windowsills. Candles are a sign of Jesus, our light. There are candles by the ambo to signify Jesus, the light as the Word of God, and by the altar, Jesus, the light as the body and blood of God. Jesus wants us to be a light in the world. How?
Jesus told us how. He said, “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 13:34).” So be kind to everyone, especially those that others are mean to or make fun of or ignore. Be loving to everyone in your home. Obey your parents; remember that Jesus was made perfect in His obedience (Heb 5:8-10). Spend time with Grandma and Grandpa; you are their joy, and the time you spend with them is a great treasure for them. Ask them to tell you stories from their life and you will learn much. Pray; God loves it when you talk with Him. He becomes a good friend when you spend time talking to Him every day. And by the way, if someone tells you the bread is only a symbol, you say: “That is heresy (Fr. Dan Beamon homily).”
[Rest of Homily]
As the youth are receiving First Holy Communion in our two parishes this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the mechanics of receiving. Please do not think I am judging your technique when you come forward. What I want to do is reduce the number of times Jesus’ precious body falls to the floor and to remove some of the anxiousness of the priest, deacon, and extraordinary Eucharistic ministers. Here is a refresher.
Now let’s open up God’s word a bit. Have you ever wondered what Jesus told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? Oh, to have been there and hear Jesus, the Word made flesh, teach scripture! In the gospel Luke wrote, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures (Lk 24:27).” Fr. Pablo Gadenz, in his commentary of the Gospel of Luke, suggests that we could be hearing what Jesus taught them when we read what is said by His followers in the Book of Acts (395).
We just heard an example of that in the first reading from Acts. Peter interprets to them what referred to Jesus in the scriptures. Peter said, “For David says of [Jesus]: I saw the Lord before me…My flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld (Acts 2: 25-27).” He was quoting King David’s Psalm 16, which we sang a few minutes ago.
I think Fr. Gadenz is on to something here, and it is exciting. It makes me want to read Acts again with the mindset that when Peter and Stephen speak, they are sharing what Jesus taught on the road to Emmaus! (By the way, the Hallow app has a daily podcast for the Easter season where Jonathan Roumie reads one chapter from Acts each day and Dr. Scott Hahn explains it.)
In this Road-to-Emmaus gospel passage, there is another important point. Jesus explains the scriptures and then He blesses and breaks the bread. This is what we do at every Mass. Why did Jesus not simply get straight to the Eucharist and then talk about scripture? Was the order important or simply coincidental?
In Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire Bible, he points out, as does Fr. Gadenz, it is the “divine purpose” to use scripture to gradually prepare our hearts and minds and to stir up our faith, but it is not until we see the Eucharist that we truly see Christ (Barron 445). This makes sense. Those two disciples were sad and agitated and downcast. Once they heard the Word of God and heard it explained, their hearts were “burning within them (Lk 24:32).” Then their “eyes were opened” and they were ready to see Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24: 31).
This is why it is so important to get our families to Mass. A mountain hike, a walk at sunset on the lake shore, holding hands with that special someone on the porch, gazing at the moon on a starry night, etc., reveal God to us Who is in all things, but ONLY at Mass do we hear Him clearly in the Word and see Him clearly in the Eucharist.
Bishop Barron says of Jesus in the Eucharist that He is “breaking his heart open in compassion.” What images does this bring to your mind? One is the priest breaking the consecrated bread and placing a piece in the chalice of blood and water. This is evocative of the blood and water that poured forth from His side on the cross, which is the like the image we celebrated last week on Divine Mercy Sunday with red and blue rays coming from His heart. And then I think of the Eucharistic miracles posted in the hallway of Holy Name of Mary, where the Eucharist became flesh. Scientists who were asked to analyze the tissue, without knowing where it came from, said that the tissue is that of a heart. Do you see a recurring image here? It is the image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
No one knew Jesus’ heart more intimately than his mother, Mary. St. Pope John Paul II wrote about this, “And is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled Him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion (Ecclesia de Eucharistia)?” John Paul is describing the Third Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary, the Nativity, and is tying it to the Fifth Luminous Mystery, that he gave us, which is the Institution of the Eucharist. Imagine Mary looking at her Son’s heart in her hand at her first Holy Communion and her mind flashing back to holding Him in her arms at Bethlehem.
Mary, pray for us that every time we receive your Son in Holy Communion, we will see Him with your eyes and love Him with your Immaculate Heart. Amen.
Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.
Bishop Robert Barron. The Word on Fire Bible_The Gospels. Word on Fire Ministries 2020.
Fr. Pablo T. Gadenz. Catholic Commentary of Sacred Scripture. The Gospel of Luke. Baker Academic, 2018.
Katie Yoder. 15 Quotes from St. John Paul II on his love for the Eucharist. Catholic News Agency (CNA) Oct 22, 2022.KEEP READING
Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 19, 2023 — Year A
Readings: 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a / Ps 23 / Eph 5:8-14 / Jn 9:1-41
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Our gospel today is about a man who was born blind. What a privilege for the blind man to have met Jesus and be healed by Him! What a privilege for him to have Jesus touch his eyes and bring him sight! Yet who would think that a paste of clay put on one’s eyes and then washing in the Pool of Siloam would restore the blind man’s sight? But Jesus worked through clay and water. Jesus used ordinary elements around us in nature to convey his healing power. Jesus gave the gift of sight by using matter. The blind man could feel the paste of clay on his eyes; he could feel Jesus touching his eyes; he could hear Jesus. He could feel the water washing off the clay. He could not see Jesus, but Jesus came to him through touch and hearing.
In the first reading God works in a similar way. Samuel, under instructions from God, anointed David with oil, and when he did so, the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. In the first reading and gospel, God’s power and healing were conveyed through elements of nature applied to the body and were conveyed through matter.
So, when Jesus comes to us, how does He come? Every time we receive the sacraments, Jesus comes to us, and there is a visible sign of Jesus coming to us invisibly through His sacrament. Just as the Holy Spirit came mightily upon David when he was anointed with oil by Samuel, and just as Jesus used matter of clay and water for the healing of the blind man, Jesus comes to us in each sacrament with matter used together with prayer, and we call the prayer “the form.” So the matter and form of every sacrament is the visible sign of Jesus coming to us invisibly, but powerfully, in the sacrament.
In the Sacrament of Baptism, the matter is water, which is poured over the head to baptize and symbolizes washing. And the form is that the priest will say the name of the person or the baby, and then continue by saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which is prayed at the same time as the water is poured.
In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the matter is the bishop using his thumb to anoint the forehead with Oil of Chrism. And the form is that he says the name of the person and says, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the matter is bread made from wheat and wine fermented from grapes. The form is the words of the Consecration at Mass over the bread and wine. “Take this, all of you, and eat it. This is my body which will be given up for you. Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.”
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the matter is not something that we can see as in the other Sacraments, or something that touches our senses. Instead, it is our sorrow and repentance and the penance we perform after receiving the absolution. The form is the words of absolution prayed over us by the priest, which conclude, “And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father (the priest makes the sign of the cross), and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the matter is the anointing with the Oil of the Sick on the forehead and on the palms of the hands. The form is a prayer prayed by the priest at the same time, when he says, “Through this Holy Anointing, may the Lord, in His love and mercy, help you through the grace of the Holy Spirit.” Then he anoints the forehead, and he continues by saying, “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.” Then he anoints the palms.
In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, in which deacons, priests, and bishops are ordained, the matter is the laying on of hands by the bishop on the head of the man being ordained. The form, the prayer of consecration immediately following the laying on of hands, differs on whether it is a deacon, priest, or bishop who is being ordained.
In the Sacrament of Matrimony, the matter and form of the Sacrament is the mutual self-giving and self-acceptance by the couple as they hold each other’s right hand.
When David was chosen by God as King, the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him when he was anointed by Samuel with oil. When the blind man was healed by Jesus, the healing of Jesus came to him through being anointed with a paste of clay and washed in the Pool of Siloam. He could feel the paste of clay on his eyes, he could feel Jesus touching his eyes, he could hear Jesus, he could feel the water washing off the clay. He could not see Jesus, but Jesus came to him through touch and hearing.
Every time we receive the sacraments, Jesus comes to us by touching our senses, and there is a visible sign of Jesus coming to us invisibly in these sacraments. Who would think that anointing with oil would be the signal for the spirit of the Lord to fall mightily on David? Who would think that anointing with a paste of clay and washing would restore sight?
But God uses ordinary elements of nature to convey His power and healing to us in the sacraments, and in every sacrament, Jesus comes to us invisibly, but powerfully. So, as you receive the sacraments, you hear Jesus and Jesus touches you. Jesus touched the blind man and Jesus touches you when you receive the sacraments.KEEP READING
The Epiphany of the Lord
January 8, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Is 60:1-6 / Ps 72 / Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 / Mt 2:1-12
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
At 8:22 PM on November 23, 1949, a bright light appeared in the Blue Ridge. It flickered on and off for a few seconds, just before lighting up for good. There were two hundred twenty-five mayors from all the surrounding areas who traveled from afar to watch and witness this spectacle, along with many locals and media. Originally meant to be just a seasonal Christmas decoration, it has become a symbol of the region and one of the most recognized icons in Virginia, as well as one of the most photographed. I’m talking about the Roanoke star. It attracts visitors from all over to walk beneath its paths and to relax while enjoying the incredible view.
My family moved back to the area in 1994. I have to confess that even though this star is so attractive and draws so many visitors from all over, I had not gone up to see the Roanoke star until 2015, some twenty-one years later. What drew me there then was a high school graduation party we had for our oldest son. We thought it would be a great place for our out-of-town guests to come and get an iconic view of what it is like here. They were coming from New Jersey, New York, Richmond, and numerous other places.
It’s funny how we tend to take things for granted, like the incredible gifts available to enjoy right in our own backyards, like the Roanoke star, the Peaks of Otter, and from where I grew up, the mighty New River, Smith Mountain Lake, D-Day Memorial, Appomattox Courthouse and many others. Very often, it takes out-of-town guests, outsiders, to illuminate this beauty and joy. Outsiders, coming from afar, like the Magi in the Epiphany story we’re celebrating today, help us recognize the gifts around us every day.
We can become a little like the chief priests and scribes in the gospel today, because they had this beautiful thing occurring, but they had become complacent. They had become bland and comfortable in their situation there in Jerusalem with their own things to do, their own busy-ness. Herod probably didn’t care a whole lot about the Jewish religion and prophecies, but those around him were steeped in Hebrew scriptures, especially of the prophets, and Herod had access to that. They all would have known the prophecy of the coming Messiah. They knew that Bethlehem was to be the location of this future ruler. They knew of the glory and joy about to come in this future leader, a savior, the Messiah.
This knowledge, however, wasn’t urgent or important. The scribes knew about Jesus, but they did not seek Him. It took out-of-town visitors, out-of-town guests talking about a rising star, to illuminate for them this new beauty and joy to be given to the world. These Magi, astrologers, wise men gazing at the stars, looking at their charts, sought Jesus without really knowing, like the scribes did, who He was. The scribes missed Him entirely. They took Him for granted, even eventually becoming critical and working against the Messiah.
We, too, can become complacent and comfortable, even to the point of ignoring and criticizing lots of great things in our lives. When guests come around, however, we see things anew. That’s human nature. It happens to all of us. We become complacent and self-satisfied, missing what is important, even when it’s right in front of our eyes.
This happens with our faith life, in our church, with our faith, our doctrines, and in our own parish. Sometimes it takes outsiders coming in, guests coming to visit, or people interested in RCIA, to bring out the noble and humble welcoming parish that we want to be.
We notice, then, that sometimes we don’t see what is important. We can get to where we argue, complain, or just go about our busy-ness, forgetting Who is here, Who has come and why. When a visitor comes asking questions, seeking illumination, then our light begins to stutter and flicker. Then our love of Christ, His Church, and this parish begin glowing and we begin to brag about her, like we do of our children. We forget about our dislikes and disagreements. In a parish that could be disagreements about decorations, music, homilies, etc. Instead, we beam with the honor of serving such a wonderful and loving king as our Jesus is and we are happy to share our love of Him and His Church, and our parish. We forget about her human flaws, and we see more clearly her mission.
No matter where you are, visiting anywhere in the world, your parish is home, where the important thing, the reason the Church exists, the reason we are all here, comes. We are here for an encounter with Him, our Lord and Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Every time we are at Mass and participate in the Eucharist and any of the sacraments, we have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. That encounter is attractive, effective, beautiful, and joyful every single time. We want to cherish it, savor it, and make it last.
The Epiphany story gives us a subtle clue of what life is like once you have this encounter with Jesus, once you truly let yourself go and let sink in the significance of that encounter. It becomes your own Epiphany. Afterwards, nothing is the same. You find that your journey has been altered. The journey of the Magi was altered as well. After their encounter with the baby Jesus, they departed for their country in a completely different way. Life was different. Their trajectory, your trajectory, is different. Everything is different. Your new path is illuminated now by Jesus. You are carrying with you a light to shine upon others. (“Shine upon” is an ancient meaning of the word, epiphany.). You are carrying a light to shine upon others. You are the epiphany.KEEP READING
First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2022 — Year A
Readings: Is 2:1-5 / Ps 122 / Rom 13:11-14 / Mt 24:37-44
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
According to Tryon Edwards, an American theologian, “Death has nothing terrible that life has not made so. A faithful Christian life in this world is the best preparation for life in the next.” This statement of Mr. Edwards has something to do with preparation for our death. It also has to do with the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives, especially now that we are in the season of Advent.
During the first Sunday of Advent, which begins the new liturgical year in the Church, there is an invitation for Christians to stay spiritually awake and to prepare for the Lord’s coming. Advent, which means, “coming,” is a time of preparation for Christmas, but it is more than that. Today’s gospel speaks of the coming of the Son of Man at the end of the age. In this sense, Advent then also points to the unknown time that will mark the end of human history.
According to Father R. H. Lesser, an English priest and author, in his book entitled Like Honey in the Rock, Jesus Christ has six comings. We have to get ready for Him by decorating our house, preparing sweets, and perhaps buying a new dress. The first coming of Jesus happened in a village in a remote province of the Roman Empire. In this sense, God is kind and merciful, since He sent us a savior, His son, to give us salvation. This mercy of God cannot be stopped even by man’s stupidity and malice. He saves us because He loves us.
The second coming, as I already mentioned is the mercy and kindness of God. The third coming, referred to by the fathers of the Church as the parousia, will be a different matter. As Saint Matthew said, “When the Son of Man comes as king, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His royal throne and the people of all nations will be gathered before Him, and He will proceed to judgment.” Our main sins, most of them least remembered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are sins of omission, especially disobeying the positive commandment of the New Testament, the commandment to love.
The fourth coming of Jesus is in the sacraments. The Lord comes in four different ways in the Eucharist: through the meeting of the people of God, through the priest who in a special way represents Christ, through the Word of God, and through the Eucharistic species. His real presence in the Eucharist is a real coming. Of this Eucharistic presence, most people are aware. We tend to neglect and forget the fact that He comes really and truly in every other Sacrament as well. For example, we can really and intimately meet Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as a forgiving God. Why not take advantage of this Sacrament?
The fifth coming is through the wind, the cries of children, the song of the birds, the rain. The problem is that our eyes are not open to see Him. Our ears are not alert to hear Him.
The sixth coming is an even more intimate one, mentioned by the Lord Himself when He said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments. My Father will love you, and we will come and make our permanent home within you.” Most of us know something about this internal coming, but do we actually experience it? If we have to prepare for the glorious coming of the Lord, then we must live our life in the spirit of the Lord, to actively involve ourselves in human interactions, to see in the face of everyone the face of a loving God, to believe that God is Emmanuel, God is with us, a God who is a father, friend, and companion. This is what it means to be spiritually awake.
As we begin today a new cycle of the Church year of grace, let us resolve to shun doomsday paranoia, on the one hand, and reckless complacency on the other. Let us resolve to be always awake in the Spirit by living a life of faith and love in service to the Lord, so that whenever He comes, we shall be ready to follow Him into the glory of eternity.
Christ continues to be present in the Church and in the world. His presence will remain until the end of time, but His presence is not fully manifested. There are still many people in the world who have not heard the Gospel message and have not met Jesus Christ. The world has not been fully reconciled with the Father yet. It is true that everything has been reconciled in Christ, but the grace of reconciliation has not been received by everyone. It is important for us to have this longing for the Lord’s return, but in His fullness. Therefore, we continue to pray constantly saying, “Your kingdom come.”
Not only at Christmastime, but in every celebration of this Eucharistic banquet, the joyful mystery of the coming and presence of Christ among us is made visible. This is the reason to repeat and insist over and over the need to experience Jesus’ coming. It is through this persistent waiting and continuous experience year after year that this image of God in which we were created by love in Jesus Christ will come to full maturity. He comes in so many ways to meet us. Let us go to meet Him.KEEP READING
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 11, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 / Ps 51 / 1 Tm 1:12-17 / Lk 15:1-32
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today’s readings from the Holy Scriptures teach us about the overflowing mercy and forgiveness of God. They also talk about sin and repentance, confession, and communion, courtesy of the prodigal son and his father.
We heard in the First Reading that when Moses was on Mount Sinai, the chosen people were acting perversely. They had cast for themselves an image of a cow, were worshipping and making sacrifices to it, and giving credit to the idol for bringing them out of slavery in the land of Egypt. With that, the Lord became very upset. God was prepared to destroy them all. But Moses implored God to have mercy and forgiveness for the sinful people. Hearing the plea of Moses, God changed His mind and decided not to destroy the people as He had originally planned.
In the Second Reading, we also heard how the mercy and forgiveness of God sanctified St. Paul, because he had sincerity of heart. By the mercy of God, St. Paul, formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence, was made an example to those who would come to believe in Jesus for eternal life.
Today’s gospel also speaks of the mercy and forgiveness of God. In this case, three parables are given to declare the magnitude of the mercy of God. These are the parables of the lost sheep, of the lost coin, and of the Prodigal Son. Many tax collectors and sinners came to Jesus, and this drew criticism on the part of the Pharisees and the Scribes. They grumbled because Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them.
Brothers and Sisters, let us meditate on the parable of the Prodigal Son. The parable begins with a request. The prodigal son says to his father, “Father, give me the share of the estate that should come to me.” Here we are given our first insight concerning sin: Sin always involves the misuse of something good.
For example, sins of the tongue, like gossip, slander, swearing, and lying, all involve the misuse of something good: namely, the God-given gift of speech. Sins of the flesh are committed when people misuse the good gift of sexuality, which the Lord intends for marriage only.
Notice that in the story, the younger son requested the share of the estate that was coming to him. He was not making an improper request. He was not asking for something evil. He was requesting something good, which his father was planning to give him anyway. His sin came when he misused the good gift and squandered his inheritance on what the gospel calls “dissolute living,” a life of dissipation.
The next interesting point is that he does all this squandering in a distant land. I don’t think that was a coincidence. When people commit sins that they intend to repent of, they desperately try to run away from the Heavenly Father, just like this boy tried to run away from his father. Those of us who commit sins make every effort to keep them secret, so that nobody knows about them. But that is a very big mistake because, eventually, all sins catch up with us, as the boy’s sins eventually caught up with him. In the parable we are told that he spent all his money, and then a famine broke out, and he found himself with nothing to eat. He ended up dining with pigs.
There we have another insight concerning sin: Sin turns us into slaves. This is something that people who have an addiction know a great deal about. A recovering alcoholic will tell you that when he started to drink excessively, he was acting in total freedom. But eventually it came to the point where he could not stop. He had become a slave to his sinful behavior.
Finally, praise God, the prodigal son wakes up and comes to his senses. He repents, but notices that his repentance is rather superficial. He has what the Church would call “imperfect contrition.” Imperfect contrition is when we are sorry for our sins because we fear the consequences, especially Hell. Perfect contrition is when we are sorry for the best possible reason: because we have offended our Heavenly Father, whom we love above all things. But notice that his father still forgives him. The Church teaches us that our Father will do the same for us. He will forgive us our serious sins if we go to Confession with at least imperfect contrition in our hearts.
Once the prodigal son is forgiven, he is able to share once again in the family meal. For us, that is symbolic of the Eucharist. That is why the Church teaches us that, if we have mortal sin, we cannot receive the Eucharist again until we have gone to Confession and confessed our sin.
The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, has a beautiful description of sin: Sin is before all else an offense against God and a rupture in our communion with Him. At the same time, it damages communion with the Church. For this reason, conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
Mother Theresa had advice for living a good life. She said:
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of having selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
So, as we continue our Eucharistic celebration today, let us pray for those who have fallen away from the grace of God, so that divine mercy and forgiveness may reach out to them before it’s too late. May their ears be open so that they will hear that Jesus is welcoming them back home.KEEP READING
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 28, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 / Ps 68 / Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a / Lk 14:1, 7-14
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
This week, Jesus emphasizes the virtue of humility and next week, detachment. The world sees these two virtues very differently than Christians do. Humility is seen as weakness, and detachment is seen as a lack of drive. For Christians, however, these two virtues are powerful. They help us shrink our ego and fleshly desires so that we can fit through the “narrow gate” Jesus spoke of last Sunday when answering the question about how many will be saved. When our ego and fleshly desires shrink, then our souls can grow.
What is humility? The Christian definition is knowing who you are, and who God is, and not confusing the two. A good role model of humility will help us understand it, especially someone from everyday life. Around 2009, there was an unassuming, elderly usher named Jack at Holy Name of Mary parish. He would greet everyone with a smile while opening the door to the nave for them. Come to find out, he lived alone in my neighborhood. One Christmas I learned that he, a widower, was going to be alone over the holiday, so my wife and I invited him to our home for Christmas dinner.
That night he absolutely glowed while telling us how amazing his wife was, and how successful his children and grandchildren were. He also listened intently to and took joy in hearing our family’s stories. It wasn’t until his funeral that I learned that he was a great man, a Top Gun-type fighter pilot, highly decorated across two wars. He earned a graduate degree from MIT and is recognized as one of the fathers of the GPS. May God exalt you, Jack, for teaching us about humility.
Now let’s look at humility in the scriptures. In today’s first reading from Sirach, a book of wisdom, we hear, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” Jesus fulfilled these words perfectly. St. Paul best articulated this truth when he wrote that Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but humbled himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of man, and obediently accepting even death on the Cross (Phil 2: 6-11). Humility has power. Jesus’ humility is infinitely powerful, and it paid our infinite debt so that we can be with Him in Heaven.
Peter Kreeft had a good take on the second reading from Hebrews, where he contrasts two mountains associated with God’s old law and old covenant and the new law and the new covenant. These are Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. In the reading from Hebrews, it talks about approaching Mount Zion, where the heavenly Jerusalem is. This heavenly Jerusalem is seen by John in the book of Revelation, descending from heaven. It was a vision of the Catholic Church, the mystical body of Christ. In the Old Testament, if the Jews touched Mount Sinai, which was enveloped by thunder and lightning while God spoke with Moses, they would die. They trembled and stayed back. In contrast, when we approach Mount Zion and the new Jerusalem, the Church…we live (Kreeft 551).
God, in the greatest act of humility that can ever be, came down in Christ Jesus that we could touch Him…as we do at Holy Communion. Humility enables us to learn from the Jews at Mount Sinai and remember Jesus is God when we approach Him. This keeps us from losing our sense of humble awe in Jesus’ presence in Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and His presence in others, especially the baptized.
You might say that the messages in Sirach and Hebrews set the table for today’s gospel. Jesus is dining at the home of a “leading Pharisee.” To put it in perspective, imagine you are at a gala dinner hosted by a famous or powerful person. It’s not hard to imagine people trying to impress the host, jockeying for a prominent place to sit. At the Pharisee’s dinner, Jesus tells a parable that seems to be teaching these social climbers how to fake humility that they may “enjoy the esteem of their companions.” We know Jesus would not do that. So what was He doing?
What Jesus did is a powerful lesson in humility for us, especially how it helps us draw others closer to God. Peter Kreeft says that Jesus was meeting the Pharisee where he was spiritually (Kreeft 552). St. Paul in Romans 15 describes how to do this. “We who are strong in faith should be patient with the scruples of those whose faith is weak…Each should please his neighbor so as to do him good by building up his spirit (Rom 15: 1-2).” St. Monica, whose life is celebrated today, helped save her son, St Augustine, whose feast day is tomorrow, by being patient with his “weak faith and scruples” (an understatement), and praying for him until he discovered friendship with Jesus.
In doing so, St. Monica, like any devoted mom, emulated Jesus who “came not to condemn us, but that we might have everlasting life (Jn 3:16-17).” He came down to the Pharisee’s level to show him the path to a higher level, that he might be saved. We know this, because Jesus then shared that path with the Pharisee, saying, “…when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” The path to heaven that Jesus was showing the Pharisee was the path of humility lived out in service and love.
The Catechism says, “the baptized person should train himself to live in humility (CCC 2540).” Why? Because the deadliest sin is pride, and humility cures us of it. Along those lines, St. Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” How do we train ourselves in the virtue of humility?
In Romans 12, St. Paul describes a way that aligns well with Jesus’ message in today’s gospel. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep….do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly (Rom 12:15-16)”. By doing these things, we not only combat pride but also its close cousin, the deadly sin of envy. I encourage you to read and reflect upon all of Romans 12 this week; it is filled with guidance on living life with genuine humility. Then pick one go-do from it and use it to train on living in humility.
Here are three more ways, from the Catechism, to train in humility so that our ego will fit through the narrow gate: pray, confess, and adore. Humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” are we ready to freely accept the gift of prayer (CCC 2559). And when we confess our sins in prayer and in the Sacrament of Confession, we show “trusting humility.” The humility of confession is a “prerequisite for the Eucharistic liturgy (CCC 2631)”. In Adoration we acknowledge that we are a creature while adoring our Creator. In Adoration, humility is blended with love (CCC 2628).
By the way, Jesus waits for you in Confession each Wednesday evening at HNM starting at 5:30 and each Thursday after the 11 AM Mass at Resurrection. For you teens and twenty-somethings who like all-nighters with a friend, sign up for an hour with your best friend, Jesus, late at night next time all-night Adoration comes around. By doing so, you not only benefit yourself, but you help ensure others can benefit from Adoration by filling those difficult-to-fill slots so that it is not canceled.
Here are some closing thoughts. Humility is a gift that frees us from ego and pride. We must be free if we are to love God and others, for love only exist as an act of our free will. St. Mother Teresa said it this way, “It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted, and ardent.” Jesus was infinitely humble, real, devoted, and ardent on the Cross. He had a humble dad who did without question whatever God asked of him. He had a Mother who humbled herself and, just as Jesus said in the gospel, He exalted her. Thus, she wears a crown of humility as the “handmaid of the Lord” and a crown of queenship as the Mother of Christ the King (Lk 1:38; Rev 12:1).”
Mother Mary, our Queen, ask your Son to help us train ourselves in humility this week that we may ardently love Him and others and enter His Kingdom through the narrow gate. Amen.
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 19, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 14:18-20 / Ps 110 / 1 Cor 11:23-26 / Lk 9:11b-17
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
I read this story told by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: that, during China’s 1911 republican revolution, in response to the earlier Boxer Rebellion, anti-Catholic militants seized a Catholic parish. They confined the parish priest to house arrest, so from his rectory window, he witnessed the desecration of the church. He knew that there had been thirty-two consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle.
An eleven-year-old girl was praying at the back of the church, and the guards either did not see her or else paid no attention to her. She returned to the church that night and made a holy hour and then consumed one of the sacred Hosts, bending down to receive Jesus on her tongue.
She continued to return every night, making a nightly holy hour and consuming one sacred Host. On the last night, the thirty-second night, unfortunately a guard was awakened. After she consumed the sacred Host, he chased her, grabbed her, and beat her to death with his rifle.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen became aware of her martyrdom while he was a seminarian. He was so inspired by her sacrifice that he promised to pray a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament each day for the rest of his life.
Brothers and sisters, the eleven-year-old girl could have had no idea how she would influence a future bishop, who would in turn influence millions of people and promote Eucharistic adoration. We also have no idea how our witness and sacrifices influence other people.
Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This feast reminds us that Jesus gives His very own body and blood, so that we might live in our faith and alive in our deeds. If we do not live in our faith and alive in our deeds, this is because the Body and Blood of Jesus are not part of our food. So let us not deprive ourselves of this most important ingredient of our earthly life.
When Catholic converts are asked to talk about the reason why they converted to the Catholic faith, for most of them, one of the main reasons is their discovery of the truth about the Holy Eucharist. When they learn that the Eucharist is not merely a symbol, but Jesus Christ Himself, given to us in the form of bread and wine, they begin to experience a deep spiritual hunger and longing for it. Our Catholic faith taught us that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ Himself.
Through the Eucharist, Christ becomes physically present in the church, keeping His promise that He would always be with us, until the end of the world. And, because the Eucharist is preserved in the tabernacle, we can be with Him any time we want, just like the eleven-year-old little girl in the story that I heard.
Whatever our spiritual condition may be, today’s feast of the Holy Eucharist is the greatest banquet of all. The greatest sacrifice of all. The very source and summit of our whole Christian life. This is the feast of us all, because Jesus is present in the Eucharist, and He is the Eucharist Himself, awaiting us all.
He is here for the child who receives his or her First Holy Communion, for Catholic converts, and for the lifelong believers like us Catholics. He is here for those who cannot receive him sacramentally: the little children, for the non-Catholics who are mysteriously drawn to the Eucharistic banquet. Some people or friends we know who are in the catechumenate program show love for the Eucharist and continue to attend Mass every week, even if they cannot receive Holy Communion, and they continue to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
He is here for the sick people who cannot join us in this Eucharistic celebration because of their situation. That is why the Church reserves consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle, so that the Eucharist can be brought to the sick and the faithful who can worship the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.
So now the question is: How can be apply this belief of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist into our lives? There are so many suggested ways how, like Eucharistic devotion and participation in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as our thanksgiving, reparation, adoration, and petition to Christ, present with us in the Blessed Sacrament. We can also spend a few minutes after receiving the Eucharist in silent thanksgiving. We can visit our Lord preserved in the tabernacle. There, we can silently speak with Him about anything we please.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up Eucharistic devotion in the words of Saint John Paul II: “Jesus awaits us in the sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet Him in adoration, in contemplation, full of faith and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.”
So Brothers and Sisters, in a few moments, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, let us try to remember our faith, not only in the Real Presence in the Host, but also Jesus’ real presence in us. That is why we are here, and that is why Jesus nourishes us, so that we can also nourish others.
At the end, let us remember this: If we celebrate the Eucharist with faith, we shall be transformed into what we eat. We shall become Christlike and be true to our name, “Christians.”
May Jesus Christ be praised.KEEP READING
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
June 12, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Prv 8:22-31 / Ps 8 / Rom 5:1-5 / Jn 16:12-15
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
The truths of our Catholic faith are too often these days being denied or being twisted. Therefore, this homily on the Trinity is focused on teaching. My hope is that you might hear something you can share to defend the faith if need be.
Father began Mass today, as always, in the triune God’s name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In a few moments we will profess our faith in the Creed, which is trinitarian. “We believe in one God, the Father…We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God…We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son (Jn 15:26). With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.”
The Eucharistic Prayer is Trinitarian. Father Nixon calls down the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine, and through the Holy Spirit they become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, a perfect offering to the Father.
We are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And how about the Trinity in these words which, if you are not familiar with them, you need to go see Father after Mass.
“God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Yes, that is the prayer of forgiveness for our sins at the end of Confession. Just as we are baptized into the Trinity, we are restored to our baptismal innocence in the Trinity in Confession.
The Most Holy Trinity is everywhere in our Catholic faith. It is like Sharp Top in Bedford, where no matter what street you turn down, you see it. This is why in paragraph 234 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this astounding claim is made,
“The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in Himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith.’”
The “the central mystery of the Christian faith?!” The “most fundamental and essential teaching?!” Dr. Brant Pitre, a brilliant Catholic scholar, said he would have guessed that those titles of primacy would go to Jesus on the Cross or the Resurrection. Why are they applied to the mystery of the Trinity? Because it “is the mystery of God in Himself.”
We Christians love a good mystery, especially we Catholics. The Holy Spirit dwells in us, giving us a sense of that which cannot be proven or seen. We are not like the intellectual atheist who thinks if you cannot prove something in a laboratory it doesn’t exist. While some of the most intelligent and powerful people admit they cannot define what a woman or man is, the least educated person who has the Holy Spirit within them has no problem doing so. Christians filled with the Spirit can also tell you what marriage is.
Marriage is possibly the sacrament that best gives us the best mental image of mystery of the Trinity, which is probably why marriage is under attack from many fronts. The husband loves his wife, and the wife loves her husband. Their love for one another is so strong and pure that it brings forth a third person. Likewise, God the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, and their eternal love is so great that it becomes an eternal He, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Marriage is not a perfect analogy as the husband, wife, and child are not one as God is one, but it helps.
Bishop Barron says this is why Jesus spoke so forcefully about marriage, and why the Church has protected it throughout history. It is such an important sacred sign. Bishop Barron goes on to say that “libertarians through the ages have fought against the supposed uptight moralism of the Catholic Church. But human beings always surround precious things with laws, restrictions, and prohibitions” (Barron Gospels p. 120).
I have to this point spoken of the Trinity in our prayer, sacraments, and worship. Where, though, is the Trinity in scripture? Recall that in John’s gospel he wrote that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Now, let’s look back at “the beginning.” In Genesis, chapter 1, we see God (1st Person) speaking His Word (2nd Person) and a “mighty wind” (3rd person). In Genesis, then one might ask, “Are we seeing three gods?” No, for in Deuteronomy 6:4, it says, “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone,” so there is only one God.
In the first reading from Proverbs, which person of the Trinity is seen with God? It is Jesus, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” Proverbs says about Jesus, “from of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth.” Sounds a lot like what we read in Genesis and in John’s gospel opening. Like God, Jesus has no beginning; He is eternal. To contrast, consider that our souls are not eternal, they are immortal. The distinction is that our souls will have no end, but they did have a beginning when God placed our soul in our mother’s womb.
Where can we more clearly see the Trinity in scripture? Bonus points for you if you said Jesus’ baptism. In Luke’s version, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, and a voice from heaven says, “You are my son…” (Lk 3:21-22). One could argue that the voice called Jesus, “Son”, not God. But we have already established Jesus’ eternal existence through John’s gospel opening and the scene in Genesis and today’s reading from Proverbs. There is more evidence though. Jesus called himself “I am,” the name God gave for himself to Moses (Ex 3:14; Jn 8:58, 18:5). Also, after an official called Him “good”, Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Lk 18:19). Thus, using a traditional Hebrew teaching method, Jesus affirmed that He is God.
Is the Holy Spirit God? Reason suggests yes. We baptize in the name of God the Father and God the Son. It follows that we baptize in the name of God the Spirit too. In today’s gospel, Jesus says the Holy Spirit “will guide you to all truth” and “declare to you the things that are coming” (Jn 16:13). Thus, the Holy Spirit is omniscient, and only God is omniscient or all knowing. The unity of God the Father and God the Spirit is pictured in today’s second reading from Romans. Paul tells us that God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). The infinite love of God cannot be poured out through a finite spirit. The Holy Spirit is infinite, the same as the Father and the Son.
When I started doing research for this homily, the very first thing I clicked on from the internet turned out to be the heresy that Jesus is not God. It was written by someone calling himself a Unitarian. I was struck by how poor his argument was. It was mostly personal conjecture. His argument was disconnected from any tradition, like a tiny boat being tossed about in the ocean with no sail or anchor. He did not reference any great thinkers or saints.
Our Catholic faith is not that way. The same things I am teaching today on the Trinity, St. Athanasius called the “ancient tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church.” He said that in the 300s. It is fitting then that I, a deacon in 2022, close by quoting St. Athanasius, a bishop in the 300s, who was quoting St. Paul, an apostle writing to the Corinthians just twenty some odd years after Jesus’s resurrection. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone (1 Cor 12: 4-6).” God is good.KEEP READING