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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King

Today we're celebrating the solemnity of Christ the King, which marks the last Sunday in the liturgical year. As Americans, many of us don't have a clear idea of what it means for Jesus to be our king. When we think of kings, we might imagine King Arthur, a valiant, albeit flawed, warrior-king. We might think of the portrayal of King George III during the Revolutionary War as an insane and tyrannical ruler. But this is not how Jesus is presented to us. Our readings today show Jesus as a different sort of king: that of a shepherd-king.

Viewing Our Lord as both shepherd and king seem to be almost irreconcilable images. Shepherds were the poorest of the poor and the lowest class of people in Jesus' time, as they are in many parts of the world today. In contrast, kings have always been viewed as rich and powerful, higher than any other person in their kingdom. Yet, the Gospel reading today shows Our Lord reigning as king. He is not, however, reigning as some petty tyrant, lording his power and prestige over his people. He has not come to his power through brute strength, conquering those who stand against him. Instead, the imagery in the Gospel uses language of shepherding, separating the sheep and the goats.

This imagery comes to us from the book of the Prophet Ezekiel, which we heard in the first reading. Ezekiel shows us that Our Lord cares for us as a loving shepherd cares for his flock. For those who are in any need, Our Lord will reach out and nurture them, filling their needs. He will go after those who are lost, gently leading them back into the flock. He cares for all of us, and wants us to follow Him into the Heavenly Kingdom.

For those who are proud, however, Our Lord promises that He will humble them. Frequently, shepherds would allow sheep and goats to graze together during the day, but when the time came to round up the flocks for the evening, the two animals would be put into separate pens. Thus, the sheep and the goats would be separated, the sheep to one pen, the goats to another.

Our Lord uses this image to show us the final judgment that will occur when Our Lord returns. We will be lined up before Him to judge how well we followed His example by the actions of our lives. Those who dedicated their lives to following Our Lord will be lined up on his right, and given their promised inheritance of the Kingdom of God. Those who did not follow His example will be lined up on His left, and will not receive the promised inheritance.

How do we follow Our Lord's example? Is it merely enough to attend Mass once a week? Even as it's important to maintain regular Mass attendance, Our Lord tells us we have to do more. We have to reach out to those around us who are in need of our support, our prayers, our generosity. When we reach out to those in need, Our Lord tells us that we reach out to Christ himself. We need to be open to those in need, give food to the hungry, clothe those who have insufficient clothing, especially in this time of year in which protective clothing is so vital.

We need to be careful not to view this Gospel as a checklist of things to accomplish. Feed the hungry, check. Clothe the naked, check. Visit the sick, check. We have to be open to our family, our friends, our coworkers, even those we dislike, and help them meet their needs. If someone needs a sympathetic ear, we need to be willing to provide it. If someone who is unable to drive needs a ride to the store or to an appointment, we should joyfully offer to take them. We have to be willing to do more than give our faith lip service. Instead of merely saying that we're Christians, we need to live as Christ wants us to live, allowing our actions to speak for us.

Our Lord reigns in Heaven as our king. Let us honor and praise him by living as He commands, so that we may stand on his right side at the Final Judgment and receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Congratulations Custer County High School Cowboys! State Class A football champions!

Friday, November 21, 2008

We have a funeral today, so it's cold and snowy. I'd better break out the winter gloves and hat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November in Montana: partly cloudy and 71 degrees.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ahh...a day off. Get some housework done, run a couple of errands, but mostly relax.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Homily for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

It's hard to believe that we're almost to the end of another liturgical year. In two weeks, we'll begin the season of Advent. Four weeks later, we'll celebrate with joy the birth of our Lord and Savior. Shortly after that, we'll have the start of a new calendar year. This time of year is almost overwhelming.

As we reach the end of the liturgical year, we're asked to focus not on the here-and-now, not on next month, or even next year. Instead, we are called to look at the end of time, at that point in our future when Our Lord returns from Heaven for the final judgment. In our readings, we are challenged to consider how we approach our time here on earth, and how we are looking forward to Jesus' Second Coming. We need to be careful not to fall into several traps which are quite common in today's world.

The first trap which people commonly fall into is one that Jesus saw back 2000 years ago, so it's unfortunately not anything new. We hear it on the radio, televangelists promote it day in and day out: all you have to do to be saved is “accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.” This trap, which the Gospel passage illustrates through a parable, states that salvation is a one-time good deal. Say a quick prayer, sincerely believe that Jesus has entered into our hearts, and we're saved, right?

Not exactly. In the parable, Jesus shows us that our lives must bear fruit in this world into order to enter into the next life. Look at which of the servants were given the responsibilities in the kingdom and which were thrown into the darkness. Those servants who bore fruit from the master's investment were given great responsibility within the kingdom, while that servant who merely buried the money, bearing no fruit, was cast out of the king's presence. To enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, we must be concerned about more than ourselves and our salvation, but must also have a deep concern for our neighbors' needs and salvation. We must work in this life to bear fruit in the next. We can't just sit back, assume that we're saved, and not worry about those around us.

Along the same lines, there is a presumption that all we need to be saved is to be a “good person”. You frequently hear this at funerals. As long as we're not hurting anyone, not talking against anyone too often, and generally being a decent person, we've got a one way ticket to Heaven. Once again, this isn't the case. Merely being a good person is not enough to enter into Heaven. The only thing that will keep us out of Heaven is the refusal to ask God's forgiveness for our sins. One can be a good person and still commit sins, as all of us are sinful people who need to have our sins forgiven. God, our Heavenly Father, wants us to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but respects our free will to choose for or against Him. We need to make sure that we're in proper relationship to God, unmarred by sin, in order to enter into our heavenly reward when the time comes. Unfortunately, even good people can refuse to ask for God's forgiveness.

The final trap that we can fall into is an excessive planning regarding our relationship to God. Throughout Christianity, many people have put off their reconciliation with God until they're on their deathbeds. Even in the four and a half months since my ordination, I've had several people refuse the Sacraments of Anointing and Reconciliation until literally their last moments on Earth. This is spiritually a very dangerous practice that needs to be eliminated. We have no promises regarding the end of our lives. We could be in perfect health one minute and facing Our Lord at the Judgment the next. Modern medical technology can do a pretty good job of estimating life spans, but it's nowhere near perfect. Even routine tasks, like driving down the highway, could become fatal quickly and unexpectedly. As St. Paul tells us in the second reading, we do not know when Our Lord will come for us, but that he will come “like a thief at night”, completely unexpected. We need to make sure that we're always prepared for the return of Our Lord, as well as for our own death, by maintaining a right relationship with God, approaching Him for forgiveness when we cut ourselves off from Him through our sins.

As we approach the end of this liturgical year, may we keep the return of Our Lord in our sights, and may we prepare ourselves by working to develop good fruit and maintaining our relationship with Him.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Football final: Miles City 43 Frenchtown 16. On to the Championship game!
End of 3rd: MC 36 Frenchtown 8
Class A semifinal football: MC 29 Frenchtown 8 Halftime. Go MC!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The more I learn about the extraordinary form, the more amazed I am. The movements of the priest are almost like following dance steps.

Fight FOCA

President-elect Obama has vowed to sign the Freedom of Choice Act when it crosses his desk after January 20th. Fight FOCA is a website that has information on this bill and a petition which will be sent to all members of Congress when the bill is reintroduced. I encourage you to check out Fight FOCA and sign their petition.

Thomas Peters for Blogging Scholarship

Thomas Peters, blogger at American Papist, is in the running for a $10,000 scholarship for bloggers. He's currently in third place, so he could use some help. Vote for Thomas.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Parish the Thought: Pope Benedict XVI quotes

From Pope Benedict (via Parish the Thought):“Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly - it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation.”

Yes! Yes! Yes! A hundred times yes! The Mass is not a concert, but is the worship of God. The music should lead us to praise God, not the musician.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Just got back from the youth conference in Billings. The youth had a great time. The whole conference was very well done.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I'm in Billings at a diocesan youth event.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nothing quite like listening to high school students read through a list of Bible verses.

Moving Forward

As you can probably tell by the tone of my post last night, I'm disappointed in the results of the election. I'm especially disappointed in the coverage regarding pro-life legislation and the candidates' positions. Flipping between several major news networks, I never once heard a mention of how abortion played a part in the results. They were quick to mention the economy, the race and age of the candidates, even the religious views of the voters, but no mention on how the candidates' position on abortion played into the results. As pro-lifers, we need to work to make respect of life a more front and center issue in the 2012 election.

Echoing many other conservative Catholic bloggers, we need to be respectful of Mr. Obama and those who have been elected to office. We can disagree with their positions and argue against what they stand for, but we must not fall into the trap of attacking the person that many fell into during President Bush's terms in office. To engage in ad hominem attacks is completely uncharitable and will not help advance the pro-life cause. We need to pray for those who hold elected office, engage them charitably without name-calling or insults, and debate without yelling or slander. In short, we need to "love our neighbor as ourselves." Sound familiar?

I wish to congratulate President-elect Obama and all those who achieved political office during this election season. May God bless you and this country, and may you serve this country with the respect of all life.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Well, it's over. Congrats, president-elect Obama. We need to pray that the US government may yet respect all life.

That's all folks

Pretty much every major news channel is saying that the President of the United States will be Barack Obama, and he'll have a Democratic Congress. I admit to being disappointed by the results, as unsurprising as they are. We now have a president who is unabashedly pro-abortion (excuse me, "pro-choice") and House and Senate majorities who agree with his position. Now, instead of making any further movement towards ending abortion in this country, slight though it may have been under McCain, we likely will end up going back to 1973-era free and open access to abortion on demand.

How do we who have fought for the respect of life respond? With prayer, lots of it. We can't change the end result of today's election, but we can get on our knees and humbly ask God to soften all our hearts. We can't give up -- the lives of the children at risk depend on us not to -- but we need to make sure that we're in tune with God's will.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've felt that we need to get the pro-life message out into the public more strongly than we already have. With the results of today's election, it becomes even more important. Groups like Face the Truth have been doing a good job getting the pictures of aborted children out to the streets, but we need to do more. Rachel's Vineyard has a fairly large and noticeable billboard right off of Main Street here in town, but we need to do more. We need to get the pro-life message so pervasive that it doesn't matter if abortion is legal, no woman ever wants to have one. I don't know how to do it, I don't know how much it'll cost, I definitely don't know how long it'll take, but we need to get the pro-life message so ingrained in our culture that abortion mills go out of business for lack of clients. Frankly, the only way this will happen is through God's grace, so we need to pray for guidance and pray for His mercy upon our country.

Please pray for President-elect Obama, all the elected government officials, and for the respect of all life from conception to natural death.
I want the cool touch-screen display that Fox News has for their electoral college maps.
Back in Miles City. Stopped by my voting district on the way into town. Now it's your turn if you haven't voted! Vote Pro-Life candidates!
This evening, the elections finally get interesting. It's always fun to watch the returns come in throughout the country.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Meeting's over. Good information, but way too long. I hate sitting on my rear end so long.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'm in Great Falls for a meeting at the diocesan offices tomorrow.
Terry had their harvest dinner this afternoon. Good food, and lots of it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Homily for the Feast of All Souls

Throughout the Gospels, Our Lord continually promises us the great reward of joy and peace in Heaven for all those who follow him. All the pain and sorrow of our lives on Earth will be over. We also know that we have to undergo a period of cleansing before we can enter into that Heavenly reward, as Jesus also tells us that nothing unclean will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Before we can enter into Heaven, we have to die to our sins.

In our Gospel today, Jesus tells us that all who see Him and believe in Him will be raised on the last day. This raising is more than merely being resuscitated, as Lazarus was, but is a complete renewal and cleaning, being made ready to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. As the prophet Isaiah tells us, we will no longer need to worry about death, pain, or any other effect of sin. Instead, we will be so filled with joy that we will praise our God with great excitement and energy. The joy in Heaven will be so great that humanity has never experienced a joy like it on Earth.

Before we can enter into this Heavenly reward, we need to be cleansed from all attachment to sin. As part of our sinful nature, we not only suffer the effects of Original Sin, which we all have to deal with, but we have also developed attachments to various sins. We all have what I call our “favorite” sins; those sins which we commit over and over again. Every time we commit a sin, the sin binds us more tightly, making it easier for us to commit that sin again.

While on Earth, we can ease the effects of our sinful nature by frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but we must die to all attachment to sin before we can enter into Heaven. We have died to Original Sin and rose again through our baptism, but we still must physically die to escape the clutches of the sins we commit in our lives. It is only through this physical death can the snares of sin be broken.

After our death, our souls are still impure from the attachment to sin. It's much like spilling red wine on a white shirt. You might be able to clean up all the wine, but the stain remains behind. To remove the stain of sin from our souls, we must undertake a period of cleansing in Purgatory. We don't know exactly what form this cleansing will take, but we do know that those souls who enter into Purgatory will emerge at the end of their period of cleansing into Heaven purified and spotless. It's important to point out that only those souls who have died in a state of grace, that is in proper relationship with God, will enter into Purgatory and later Heaven. Those souls who refused to ask God's forgiveness for their Mortal Sins will not enter into Purgatory or Heaven.

When someone close to us dies, we might be quick to say something like, “They're in Heaven now,” or “they're in a better place.” The fact is we don't know for sure whether they're in Heaven or Purgatory, so we offer prayers on their behalf, especially the Mass. It's traditional to have a funeral Mass following a death, as it gives the family and the community the opportunity to gather in prayer for the loved one who has died, as well as offer the greatest prayer we have, the Sacrifice of the Mass, for the repose of their soul. Another popular tradition is to have Masses offered on behalf of someone who has died, especially on the anniversary of their death. Through both these practices, we ask God to give the graces from the Mass to benefit the soul of those we pray for. In fact, the intention for the Mass of All Souls is for all the faithful departed, that they may all receive the graces from this Mass.

While those who have died are separated from us by the veil of death, they are also separated from the effects of sin on their lives. May the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.