Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost 2013

Here is the homily I preached at St Mike's this Pentecost Sunday about the Sacrament of Confirmation.
John 14:15–16, 23b–26
 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever,
 23 Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
 25 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

    Today we are celebrating the great feast of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, and Archbishop Lori has asked all priests and deacons to dedicate our homily to the Sacrament of Confirmation. I figure the best way to do this is by starting from the basic question: How does one becomes a Christian?
   If you ask a protestant brother or sister this question most likely they will answer that one has to accept the “Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior” and “allow Jesus into their heart” before they can call themselves Christian.
    For us Catholics, there is a bit more to becoming a Christian than just a declaration of our faith. After all it was the Lord who said “Many will say "Lord, Lord" (Matthew 7) but I will not recognize them”. For us becoming a Christian depends not on something we might say in the spur of the moment. For us becoming a Christians is a lifelong process. This becoming is connected to the decisions we make throughout our life; how much have we chosen to love, our family, our friends, our enemies, those how we do not know, those who have become invisible to society. This love determines if we are truly a disciple of Jesus or just pretending we are, after all, Jesus also said that His disciples would be known by their love (John 14).
   If you think about it loving all the people I just mentioned all of the time is quite a daunting task! Some might say impossible. We would need some type of supernatural love to accomplish this. A love which can only come from God. We call this love Grace, and it is a free gift from God to help us become true disciples of Jesus.
   We can receive Grace in many ways, however, divine grace, grace that has the power to transform us and take us closer to the idea of a true Christian, the idea every one of us should strive too, is given by God through the 7 the sacraments. Now this is important: I’m not saying  the ONLY way to becoming a true Christian is through the sacraments of the Church but that the sacraments are the ONE and EASIEST way Jesus, thru the ministry of his Church, reaches out to those willing to accept this free gift of Grace.
   Now of the 7 sacraments there are 3 which are specifically oriented to initiate us on the path to become a true follower of Jesus: Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation. Each one of these relates us in a particular way to each of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity which is the source of all graces.
   Baptism joins us into the family of God the Father; from that moment on we can be called children of God. In Holy Communion we have a deep encounter with the Glorified Resurrected Christ, and by eating His Body and Blood, we enter into the intimidate life the Son and the Father share. In confirmation we receive the power of God’s Holy Spirit to help us meet the demands of becoming a full members of Jesus mystical body.
   Another way of looking at the relationship between these three sacraments is like this: In baptism God’s Grace is implanted into our hearts; in Holy Communion this grace is reinforced, reenergized by the Body and Blood of the Lord, like water makes a seedling grow stronger; in confirmation this grace blooms into the fruits of the spirit. In this moment, the Grace we have received from and since the day of our baptism is transformed into wisdom, understanding, wonder and awe of the sacred (what it’s called Fear of the Lord) , counsel, knowledge, fortitude, and reverence, which are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, even when we are given these gifts it is up to us to make good use of them for the good of the Gospel. As members of the family of God, he expects us to make good use of the grace we receive through the sacraments to further the advance the Kingdom of God.
   Sadly, many people see Confirmation as a rite of passage a “graduation” from yeas of attending CCD. In fact it is sad to say that the last time we see a lot of the young adults in our parish is the day of their confirmation; the fact is Confirmation should be the beginning of what is supposed to be a lifelong journey, aided by God’s grace, towards becoming a true disciple of the Lord, a true Christian.
   How one does becomes a Christian my brothers and sister? By loving, not in a human way, but in a supernatural way, through the power of God’s grace, which we freely receive, in the sacraments of His Church.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Deacon Retreat Homily

          Last weekend I attended the yearly Deacon’s retreat for my Archdiocese. One of my favorite things to do during these gatherings of deacons is reciting the Holy Office in community. I was asked to give a brief reflection during the Evening Prayer for the Saturday service. That morning another deacon gave his reflection using as an illustration the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. I picked on this theme and this is what I preached.

Evening of the 5Th Sunday of Easter,
READING 1 Peter 2:9-10
You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works” of the One who called you from darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people; once there was no mercy for you, but now you have found mercy.
Following the Broadway musical theme we started this morning during Morning Prayer I would like to recall another famous production: Les Miserables. This story of redemption tells of a man, Jean Valjean, who after 20 years in jail decides to break his parole and start a new life. With time he becomes an important person in his town, only to discover that another man has been accused of being Jean Valjean and that this man will be tried in his place. Valjean struggles with what to do and it is at this moment in the play in which Valjean sings the song “Who am I?”.
As deacons, we move between different worlds;  between ministry, family life and professional careers.  Sometimes the demands of each one of these worlds pull on us from different directions.  I think it is fair to say that each one of us here today at one time or another, have asked this same question. “Who am I?” I’m I a dad? A husband?  A professional? Clergy?
Today’s readings provide an answer to this question, an answer which comes from the Lord himself.  Who does the Lord see us to be?  We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people He claims for His own to proclaim His glorious works.  Brothers, it is very easy to forget who we are. Today the Lord reminds us of our calling and our true identity.
In Les Miserables, Jean Valjean decides that he cannot allow an innocent man to suffer for his crimes. It is at this time in which the answer he gives to himself could very easily be applied to us.  He said:
My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope, when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on.

Who am I? Who are we? We are deacons called to serve the Body of Christ.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Religious Discoveries

A while back I wrote a post about an article I found in a blog entitled "Why Evolution is True". In this article the writer was pinning a list of scientific discoveries against what he called "religious discoveries".  His point was that religion has never produced anything useful for humanity. My post generated some very interesting twitter conversations about contributions of religious thinkers to the sciences; Lemaitre's Big Bang theory and Cantor's transfinite numbers work have been my favorite examples for this.

Today from the Vatican I can add another to the list. I'm sure many anthropologists are going to be looking at this very closely.

Here is the link for the complete article

"Viva Cristo Rey!!".