Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My first homily

My formation for the priesthood of Jesus Christ has advanced far enough that they finally did it: they let me preach.  Not at Mass or any kind of liturgical reality; it was just for my fellow first-year theologians in our Introduction to Homiletics class.  Follows is the text of my homily (though it was a little different as delivered):—

HOMILY for the SIXTEENTH SUNDAY in ORDINARY TIME (A)

I. INTRODUCTION & PREMISE.

Jesus shows the way to Heaven: obedience, prayer, and the sacraments.  Now, Heaven is no longer a mystery! Jesus has shown us what it is like: a harvest of wheat amid tares; a mustard seed; a measure of leaven.  And it is being sown among the souls of good men and evil men as a way of humble repentance.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, it is working its way through all of human society, and it will yield a harvest of glory for all those who lay down their lives in obedience to Jesus and take up his Cross.

II. THE MYSTERY OF THE KINGDOM REVEALED.

Jesus shows us the way to Heaven through obedience.  Preaching to you on the Gospel today ought to be easy: after all, Jesus explains the parable for me! And in case you didn't catch it the first time through, here it is again: the Sower with good seed is Jesus. The good seed are the children of the Kingdom.  The weeds are the children of the evil  one.  The enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age; the harvesters are the angels.  The weeds? Gathered up and burned.   The wheat? Bundled into the Father's Barn.   Pretty straightforward:  be the wheat, not the tares.  The good seed, not the bad.  Goal is the barn, not the furnace.  But how do we get there?

To our ears, a kingdom sounds like a place to visit.  But it is more than that.  It is the βασιλεία in the Greek, literally the “king-thing.”  In the Latin? Regnum: the reign of God.   That's how the other two parables Jesus gives us make sense:  the Kingdom of Heaven is sown among men in their hearts.  That's where Jesus' reign starts.  In fact, it's happening right  now:  you have heard the word of God.   In St  Luke's version of the parable,  the seeds are not  the children of the kingdom,  as we heard in St  Matthew's Gospel, but the word of God itself.  Right now, then, the seed of God's word is being sown by the Holy Spirit in the heart of every man, woman, boy and girl who has heard the Word proclaimed this morning.  It's leavening your heart.  It's being mixed in and kneaded by holy Mother Church.  And, by God's grace, this tiny kernel of truth will take root and begin to grow, just like the mustard seed.  But to what end?

III. THE LITTLE WAY OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

Jesus shows us the way to Heaven: through obedience, but also through prayer.  The Sower comes and sows the good seeds so that we, as the Book of Wisdom says,  will  be taught  by God that  there is good ground for  Hope.   The Kingdom of Heaven is attainable by God's mercy.   God will permit us to repent of our sins,  even though we stand justly condemned!   But  there's the rub:  the difference between the wheat and the tares is that the children of the kingdom, the wheat, admit their sins and weaknesses to God.  They do not stand holding their hands out demanding admittance to the Kingdom of Heaven.  They know God “rebukes temerity,” in the words of the Book of Wisdom.  Faced with a just God who has nothing to do with sin and evil, knowing that as hard as they try, they will still fall short of obedience, the children of the kingdom do not know how to pray as they ought.  But instead of despair,  they rely on the Spirit Himself, opening their hearts to Him: God comes and prays for them, prays for us, with the inexpressible groanings of a heart sorrowing over its sins.  Sorrowing over its rejection of the mercy and love of its own Creator.  Opening itself to the seed sown by the Sower of souls.

IV. EMBRACING THE LITTLE WAY OF THE KINGDOM.

But how does a soul embrace the word sown by Jesus?  Is it just “being a good person”?  Through obedience alone? No.  Not at all!  Jesus shows us the way to heaven: obedience, prayer, and the sacraments.  The cry of the Psalmist points the way: Hearken, O Lord, to my prayer and attend to the sound of my pleading.  Our God is one who judges with clemency,  governing  us  with  mercy.   The  wheat-like  soul  gathers  its  courage  and approaches the Tribunal of the Kingdom with confidence, knowing that God has given good ground for hope that repentance is possible.  Where is Jesus' High Court?  It's not some edifice in the Vatican or  palace of justice in Jerusalem.   It's here,  in this very church: it's the confessional.  Having opened their hearts to the seeds of the Word sown by Christ  the Sower,  the children of  the kingdom know in the honesty of  their  own hearts that  they have turned away from obedience in that beautiful,  heavenly harvest  in pursuit  of some vile creature, a petty honor, a miserable pleasure, some vain interest; they know, with  the  Spirit's  help,  that  they  have  rejected  the  infinitely  beautiful,  perfect,  and harmonious communion with the Triune God: He who is Light, Love, and Life.

So full of prayer and taking up the burden of the Cross of their sins,  failings,  and weakness,  the children of  the kingdom take the Via Dolorosa to the foot  of  the Cross.   And with trusting confidence in the never-failing mercy of the One who has done all to prepare them for the harvest, they say with the Psalmist: Turn toward me, and have pity on me. Have  mercy  on  us,  O Lord,  for  we  have  sinned  against  you!   And  then— and then?  Jesus commands, through the words of absolution: Gather the wheat into my barn!  They will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father!

V. THE EUCHARIST: THE MUSTARD SEED OF THE KINGDOM.

Jesus shows us the way to heaven: obedience, prayer, and the sacraments.  It's the way of the Cross.  And we've seen that way, that highway to the Kingdom of Heaven, the Cross, in the sacraments before: and not just penance and reconciliation.  We will see it today.  In just a few moments, we will fall down in adoration before the Lord of the Harvest, as He comes among us on this altar.  Here, Jesus Christ the Sower has prepared a seed-crop even more bountiful than His holy Word.  Here, the once-for-all Sacrifice of Calvary will come among us and be made mystically present.  Jesus Christ will offer himself to his Father for our sins and those of the whole world on the hard wood of the Cross by the power of the Holy Spirit as we watch.  His Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity will be broken and given to us as the True Seed of Eternal Life and forgiveness of sins so that the Kingdom of Heaven will be made manifest right here, right now!  We will taste the Bread of Heaven, the True Wheat & Manna that comes down and feeds the children of the kingdom.

VI. CONCLUSION.

Jesus shows us the way to heaven: obedience, prayer, and the sacraments.  A mystery, but also no longer a mystery!  For Jesus has taught us what Heaven, Eternal Life, is like: it is a harvest of wheat amid tares; a mustard seed; a measure of leaven.  And it is being sown among the souls of all those who turn to Jesus in prayer and open themselves to the Sacraments He gave us.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, and through this Heavenly Banquet, it will work its way from our hearts through all of  human society, and it will yield a harvest of glory: all those who lay down their lives in obedience to Jesus and take up his Cross.  Amen.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Renewing baptismal promises

Today, Pope Francis tweeted:—
We are called to live our baptism every day, as new creatures, clothed in Christ. 
In keeping with the Pope's encouragement, allow me to invite you to take 60 seconds and renewal your baptismal promises to our Lord.

Not only is this a beautiful way to spend some time with our Lord in prayer, recharge your commitment to Christian discipleship, and be in solidarity with the Holy Father, but it is also a way to gain a partial indulgence!

According to  Enchiridion Indulgentiarum (1999) concession no. 28 § 2.1, the Christian faithful gain a partial indulgence for renewing their baptismal promises according to any legitimate formula ("renovatio baptismalia qualibet formula").  Therefore, let us pray:—

RENEWAL OF BAPTISMAL PROMISES

I, N. N., who through the tender mercy of the Eternal Father was privileged to be baptized "in the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:5) and thus to share in the dignity of his divine Sonship, wish now in the presence of this same loving Father, of his only-begotten Son, and by the power of the most Holy Spirit to renew in all sincerity the promises solemnly made at the time of my holy Baptism.

I, therefore, now do once again renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church.

At the Savior's command, and formed by divine teaching, I now dare to say: Our Father...

And lead us not into temptation.
— But deliver us from evil.

O Lord, hear my prayer.
— And let my cry come unto you.

Let us pray.

May almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins, keep us by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life. Who lives and reigns forever and ever. R. Amen.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hymn to Saint Cecilia

On Friday, November 22, 1992, I was reborn and adopted by the Eternal Father through the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism.

November 22 is also the Memorial of Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr.  Happily, then, my whole life since that day has enjoyed the patronage and intercession of that glorious martyr who gave her life rather than sacrifice her virgin purity, which she had dedicated to Christ, to the vicious, pagan husband who was forced upon her by her relatives.

Ultimately, three blows from a Roman executioner's sword mortally wounded the beautiful saint, but she, sustained by the grace of almighty God, lived for three days, all the while praising the Lord in song.  At last, when she expired, she was laid in the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus at Rome.

Long the patroness of music, because of her three days' praise, Saint Cecilia has been venerated by musicians for centuries.  In my turn, I now offer this Hymn to that great lady whose favor I, too, have now enjoyed for more than two decades.

—•—

HYMN TO SAINT CECILIA

A noble woman full of pious love
She, forced to marry, one who did not know
Her true and holy Bridegroom, Jesus Christ
Pray for us, Cecilia!

She would not bow to pagan idols mean,
Nor would she sacrifice her purity:
Instead she strove for Him who died for her:
Pray for us, Cecilia!

Brought to the block, her head to lose for Him
Whose death and rising saves us all from sin
Her martyr's crown she won with courage grim
Pray for us, Cecilia!

Though three blows struck her pure-white neck again
Most glorious virgin, she endured to win
The praise for God who kept her praising Him
Pray for us Cecilia!

When finally laid they her in the cold tomb
Among the martyrs slain by Caesar's whim
Ne'er was her praise to be outdone again
Pray for us Cecilia! Amen.

Tune: Engelberg (C.V. Stanford, 1852-1942)
Alternately sung with "When in our  music God is glorified"

Text: D. E. Barker, b. 1983.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Prayers after a natural disaster

I just got off of the telephone with my aunt who lives in Kokomo, Indiana.  The city was struck by a tornado spawned by a weather system which has already taken lives and destroyed many homes and businesses.  I called my aunt because I saw a photograph of the remains of tornado-ravaged house standing in the middle of a Kokomo street:


Less than a week ago, I posted a Litany of Prayer in Any Time of Tribulation to be prayed for the people of the Philippine Islands that were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. Certainly, that Litany can be offered for the people of Kokomo and Washington, Illinois, who have also suffered greatly due to today's deadly weather.

In the face of all this disaster, we can only turn to the Lord with hope, and pray that He would grant us peace that passes all understanding.

The following is adapted from the Catholic Household Prayers & Blessings (2007 ed.), published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

—•—

PRAYER AFTER A NATURAL DISASTER

INTRODUCTORY RITE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.  
Amen.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord.
Who made heaven and earth.

Ant. Arise, O Lord, come to our help; * redeem us with your merciful love (Ps. 44:26).

You, who rescued Noah and his family and brought them to a new home: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You, into whose death we are baptized, to arise and walk in newness of life: Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You, whose life and grace now comfort us with your seven-fold gifts: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.
Amen.

Let us pray.

O GOD, to whose commands all the elements give obedience, we humbly entreat you, that the stilling of fearsome storms may turn a powerful menace into an occasion for us to praise you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  

Amen.

THE WORD OF GOD

A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (8:13-30).

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. 

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy.

To you have I lifted up my eyes,
you who dwell in the heavens;
my eyes, like the eyes of slaves
on the hand of their lords.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy.

Like the eyes of a servant
on the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes are on the Lord our God
till he show us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia.

Lord, let your mercy be upon us, * as we place our trust in you.
Alleluia, alleluia.

O Lord, hear my prayer.
And let my cry come unto you.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark (4:35-41).
Glory to you, O Lord.

On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


THE PRAYERS

In peace, let us pray to the Lord.

For the holy Church of God. (Silence is kept briefly.)

Almighty God, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ has commanded us his faithful to offer prayer and supplication for all men, but also to work to relieve their necessity: grant strength to your servants that, enabled by your grace, they may do corporal and spiritual works of mercy for all those afflicted by disaster. 

Your faithful beseech you: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

For the whole world. (Silence is kept briefly.)

Most gracious Creator and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who freely offer your grace and peace to all who turn to you: pour out your grace upon all those afflicted by this present calamity, and grant, O Lord, that they may find in You the rock upon which their hopes may rest and a harbor made safe by Him whose peace passes all understanding.

Your faithful beseech you: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

For all those burdened by any kind of difficulty. (Silence is kept briefly.)

Gracious and holy Father, who sent the Holy Paraclete into the world to offer succor to your children who would turn to you for help: look with favor and mercy upon all those are burdened by any kind of difficulty, especially those suffering in the wake of this great catastrophe, and grant them peace and hope.

Your faithful beseech you: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

For ourselves and our community. (Silence is kept briefly.)

Most merciful Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ willingly offered Himself in a total gift of love for our salvation and that of the whole world: grant grace to us your servants, that we may boldly proclaim your mercy, persevere steadfastly in your service, and offer to all those who are suffering the solace of your Cross.

Your faithful beseech you: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

For the repose of all the faithful departed. (Silence is kept briefly.)

Eternal King, who won life everlasting for all those who put their trust in you: judge not the souls of your faithful departed according to their sins and transgressions, but look with favor, mercy, and love upon those who were baptized into your Death and Resurrection; and, having purified them from every stain of iniquity, bring them at last to that heavenly kingdom where your reign is eternal light and life.

Your faithful beseech you: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

At the Savior's command, and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say:

OUR FATHER, who art in heaven, 
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Amen.


CONCLUDING RITE

O Lord, hear my prayer.
And let my cry come unto you.

May the Lord bless + us, 
protect us from all evil, 
and bring us to everlasting life.

Amen.

Then may be sung the Salve Regina.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Prayer for the people of the Philippines

The devastating typhoon that hit the Philippine Islands has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions more in great suffering and need. While we must respond to the material and corporal needs of the victims and their families, we must also respond with prayer and petition on behalf of the living and the dead.

Follows is the "Litany in Any Time of Tribulation" from the Roman Ritual, the prayerbook of the Roman Rite of the holy Catholic Church.

Let us pray.