Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summer is almost over!

It seems incredible that summer is almost over! The kids will be heading to school in a week, CCD and RCIA will be starting soon and before you know it we'll be entering the Advent season! It has been a good relaxed summer for me and my family, but the time has come to roll back my sleeves and start writing again!

Here are two homilies, the first one, I preached during the feast of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The second one I preached a year ago, the week after the feast of the assumption. I'm also working on a series of articles for the Sunday bulletin at St Mike's about those things that make us unique as Catholics. Any way, I hope you enjoy these two homilies and as always, please keep me and my family in your prayers, rest assured that I'm doing the same for you.

Deacon Harbey

Feast of the Assumption

I preached this homily during the feast of the assumption 2008 at St Mike's. Because of it's strong apologetics flavor I also posted it in the forums (Those of you who listen to Catholic Answers know what I'm talking about), I was pleased by the reception so I hope you enjoy to.
Revelation 11:19,12:
"Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter."

Today we are celebrating the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. To be more specific, we are celebrating that (To paraphrase Pope Pius XXII) “When the course of her earthly life was finished, Mary the Mother of Jesus, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, to be exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she will be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death”
The Church has defined 4 Marian dogmas as infallible truths: Mary the Mother of God, Mary born without sin (What we call the Immaculate Conception), Mary’s perpetual virginity even after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of course what we are celebrating today, her bodily assumption into heaven. Like I said before these are Dogmas of faith which means that as Catholics we must believe them and when I say MUST I mean that “if we do not profess this belief we should not call ourselves Catholic”.
Now I know what you are thinking, nobody likes to be told what they should or should not believe, especially in religious matters. It would help if we could just pick up the bible and look for a passage that describes Mary going into heaven like the stories of the prophet Elisha or Her Son, our Lord Jesus. But as you might know there is no place in the bible in which we can find this.
This is why Marian dogmas are one of the biggest stumbling blocks for non-Catholics to accept the Church as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church. Because when they turn to their bibles they can’t find a specific place in which these events are described clearly.
So today, since we are celebrating the assumption, what I’m going to do is show you the one passage which proves that, by the divine power of her Son the blessed mother was taken into heaven body and soul. A passage that in fact proofs that our lady, is, right now, as we speak, been honored as Queen of the heavens and earth, clothed with the brightness of the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of stars over Her head, with myriads of angels exalting her as the most pure expression of arc of the covenant, and with choirs of saints repeating “blessed are thou among woman and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”. Ok get your bibles out (Ups I’m sorry… For a second I thought I was in protestant Church …) Not to worry I brought my own… Now pay attention because this is a very important passage for Christians: Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother”
You might be thinking, “wait a second; that is the fourth commandment!” And you are right! You see the church teaches that the blessed mother was brought to heaven by her son to be honored, not because we want to place Mary at the same level as God, but because the church has always taught that Jesus is 100% human.
Paul explains it in simple terms when he says that “Jesus was like us except in sin”. If you turn to Gospels you see that everything Jesus did, throughout His life, was to bring honor and glory to His father. Right? Well?...What about His mother? If Jesus was true man, and he followed the 10 commandments how can he honor his father with all of his human and divine abilities but not His mother?

Think about it this way, which parent here have never been told by a child, “When I grow up I’m going to buy you a big house, a big car, I’m going to take you for a trip around the world, I’m going to give you anything you want!”
Or let me give you another example: I ask those of you here whose parents have passed away…If it were in your power wouldn’t you want to see them again and talk to them and let them share in your lives?
My brothers and sisters, if we say that we believe Jesus is true man; what we are saying is that he had the same feelings towards His mother as we have towards ours. The only difference is that Jesus has the power to do those things we can only wish we could do! To think that after he went to heaven He somehow forgot about the woman that gave him life is to think that He is beyond the normal feelings of a any human being.
So, you see, when the church says that we must believe in this dogma, it is not because we are trying to make Mary similar to God but because The Church is trying to make us understand what we mean when we say that Jesus is true man and true God. There is no other way, to believe that Jesus can love His mother any less than how much we can love our own mothers is to believe that Jesus is less man than us! And that my brothers and sister is a repugnant blasphemy! A blasphemy we should all reject!
So, in this feast of the assumption of the blessed mother, what we are truly celebrating is the humanity of Jesus and not (like some people erroneously think) the divinity of Mary. We celebrate the fact that Jesus is a good son… we celebrate the fact that he is a much better son than we can ever be… The fact that He is the best son ever.
In a few seconds, we will profess our faith, when we say that “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, eternally begotten of the father God from God light from light true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the father” and that this same Lord Jesus Christ “ came down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary and BECAME MAN” We profess the fact at this very moment in heaven Mary’s boy is trying with all of His power to honor her and show her how much he loves Her. How can we say this? We do not need to read it in the bible… We just need to look at ourselves and realize that if we had the power that Jesus has, we would be doing the same thing.

20th Week of Ordinary Time (Last year)

I preached this homily last year the Sunday after the feast of the assumption. I preached about one of my favorite Saints Maximilian Kolbe, for whom I have a special devotion. I hope you enjoy it...
Luke 12:49-53

"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."


I have a question… Can anybody tell me what did we celebrated this pass Tuesday? I’m sorry that was a trick question just to make sure you are with me…This past Tuesday we celebrated 66 years, since the death of St Maximilian Kolbe, in the concentration camps. You might know his story but it is worth repeating.
In July 1941, a man from Kolbe's barrack vanished, prompting the camp commander, to pick 10 men from the same barrack to be starved to death, a common way of punishment. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting that he will never see his family again. Maximilian took a step forward identified himself as a Catholic priest and volunteered to take the place of this family man.
During the time in the cell, he led his companions in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe was still alive. Exasperated the guards finally executed with an injection of carbolic acid.

I bring this up today because St Maximilian is a good example of what Jesus meant when he said that he had come to set the world on fire. This final act of self sacrifice, giving his life so that other could live, was the culmination of a life dedicated to following the gospel.
Those who have never heard this gospel might think, because of the horrendous way St Maximilian died, that this teaching must be a very dangerous, teaching.
But we who have been brought up listening to this gospel know how simple this message is: Love God with all of your hard and mind love your neighbor like yourselves and love and pray for your enemies. You might think that the Gospel calls for the overthrow of governments and the destruction of civilization by the way those who decide to follow it are treated. Even today Christians are persecuted and martyred, just because they live the gospel.
And yet in today’s Gospel Jesus makes a point to tell us that this message, as simple and as peaceful as might sound. This message, will set the world afire. It will shake society to its core. This message when lived like he demands us to live it has the potential to shatter the most basic structure of our society, the family. It seems incredible that a simple message of love and peace will, turn fathers against their own sons and daughters against their own mothers.
How could this be? How does forgiving your enemies and loving your neighbors can be a cause for division?
My brothers and sisters we like to think that it is easy to live this simple message. We are conditioned to think of the Jesus words as, what I like to call The Gospel According to Barney, “ I love you, you love me, we are a happy family!” but the reality is that to truly follow his commands, like Jesus expects us, we must be willing to take on very unpopular stands, to risk our relationships and even our lives for sake of these words.
We must be willing not only to stand for the unborn, but to be agents of healing, mercy and compassion to the women that have had abortions, and to those that have facilitated this procedure, the doctors, the nurses and the politicians. We must not be satisfied with coming to church every Sunday but we must take the presence of Christ to those who are not here, to the poor and the lonely. We must be willing to share and alleviate the pain of the immigrant that only wants a better life for his children, regardless of what our political incline is. To be a follower of Jesus means to take on the very essence of our culture.
My brothers and sisters Jesus message might be simple, but when taken seriously like St Maximilian did, it will pin us against the grain of everything our culture has conditioned us to be and think. It demands that each one of us take a deep look at our own prejudices and fears, confront them face to face, and deny the power they have over our lives, for the sake of love
The good news is that we are not alone in this struggle. Like the second reading says, there is cloud of witnesses that surrounding us. These are the witnesses that willingly heard the message of Jesus and embraced it. These are the ones whose examples we should follow. These were the ones that set the world on fire. Their names are known to us Francis, Mother Teresa, Maximilian Kolbe, John Paul the Great.
But we not only have the example of their lives, Jesus gives himself to us in every mass so we do not have to struggle alone. In the Eucharist we receive the strength we need to live this message everyday. But we must be willing to set the world on fire too, to stand against our culture, and to never compromise for the sake of a false sense of harmony and peace. Only then we will be able to say like Jesus, like the saints and the martyrs, we to have set world on fire.