Parish Calendars

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent

Today we are presented with the Transfiguration of the Lord, in which Jesus appears to His disciples in a foreshadowing of His glorified body, speaking to two of the greatest figures in the Old Covenant: Moses and Elijah. In this event, we see the divine nature of Our Lord, which is reinforced by the voice of God our Heavenly Father speaking from the cloud, but it also gives us a foreshadowing of what our glorified bodies will be like at our resurrection at the end of time.

Apart from the descriptions in Scripture of the Transfiguration and images of Heaven, we don't have an understanding of what a glorified body looks like. A glorified body is one that has been freed from sin, and is filled with the grace of God. God's glory and majesty is so powerful that it becomes visible as a bright light. The light is so bright that the Sun pales in comparison.

One day, when we have been freed from the shackles of death and our bodies have been raised up following the final judgment, those who died in the state of grace will have their bodies glorified as Our Lord's was after His resurrection. We know this from St. Paul, who tells us that Our Lord “will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables Him also to bring all things into subjection to Himself.” We will share in the glory of God, and our bodies will be purified and raised up.

Sadly, however, that day is yet to come. We on Earth are still affected by sin, and our vision has been darkened by sin. We do not see the radiant glory of God, and would be stunned if we did experience that glory, as Peter, James and John were in the Gospel today. It's been said that if an angel appeared before us in all it's glory, we would not be able to tell that it was merely an angel and not God Himself. In fact, St. John in the Book of Revelation had to be told several times by the angel that appeared to him not to worship the angel, as St. John was awed by the glory of God shining through it.

As we look at the account of the Transfiguration given to us today, it's interesting that St. Luke chose to describe Our Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection in Jerusalem as his “exodus”, while Our Lord was speaking to the one figure in the Old Testament who is most well known for Israel's Exodus from Egypt. It's striking that the Exodus that freed the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt parallels the suffering, death and resurrection of Our Lord that frees us from the slavery to sin.

In both cases, a difficult journey with great suffering had to be made in order to gain this freedom from slavery and enter into the Promised Land. Moses had to lead Israel out of Egypt and suffer through the desert for 40 years so that the people of Israel could enter into the Promised Land, which Abram (later known as Abraham) was given by God. Our Lord had to undergo the suffering of the Roman and Jewish authorities, be crucified, die, and rise again so that we might enter into our Promised Land of Heaven.

It's important to point out that “our citizenship is in Heaven,” as St. Paul tells us. Just as the people of Israel were estranged from their homeland when living in Egypt, we are estranged from our Heavenly homeland during our lives on Earth. When you read the account of the Exodus, many in Israel were attached to the things of Egypt, making the Exodus difficult for the Israelites. Sadly, we too are attached to our land of exile, often caring more for the things of Earth over the things of Heaven. As St. Paul once again says, “Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”

To overcome this desire for earthly goods, we need to place our faith in God, as Abram did in the first reading, and as the people of Israel who entered the Promised Land did during the Exodus. When we put our faith in God instead of in the constant concern for earthly things, life won't be without challenge, as the Exodus was not without difficulty, but it will be “credited” to us “as an act of righteousness,” just as it was for Abram. When we are “righteous”, which means that we are in the friendship and grace of God, we too will one day enter into our Promised Land: the eternal joys of God's presence in Heaven.

As we go through our lives here on Earth, we join our exodus through the pain and sorrow that accompany this life to the pain and anguish that Our Lord suffered during his Passion and Death. May our exodus end at the Promised Land of Heaven, just as the Israelites' Exodus ended in their Promised Land.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do you really need to work on Sundays?

From St. John Vianney's Little Catechism, Part I, Chapter 7:
You labor, you labor, my children; but what you earn ruins your body and your soul. If one ask those who work on Sunday, "What have you been doing?" they might answer, "I have been selling my soul to the devil, crucifying Our Lord, and renouncing my Baptism. I am going to Hell; I shall have to weep for all eternity in vain." When I see people driving carts on Sunday, I think I see them carrying their souls to Hell.

Oh, how mistaken in his calculations is he who labors hard on Sunday, thinking that he will earn more money or do more work! Can two or three shillings ever make up for the harm he does himself by violating the law of the good God? You imagine that everything depends on your working; but there comes an illness, an accident.... so little is required! a tempest, a hailstorm, a frost. The good God holds everything in His hand; He can avenge Himself when He will, and as He will; the means are not wanting to Him. Is He not always the strongest? Must not He be the master in the end?

There was once a woman who came to her priest to ask leave to get in her hay on Sunday. "But," said the priest, "it is not necessary; your hay will run no risk." The woman insisted, saying, "Then you want me to let my crop be lost?" She herself died that very evening; she was more in danger than her crop of hay. "Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto life everlasting." [Jn. 6: 27].

What will remain to you of your Sunday work? You leave the earth just as it is; when you go away, you carry nothing with you. Ah! when we are attached to the earth, we are not willing to go! Our first end is to go to God; we are on the earth for no other purpose. My brethren, we should die on Sunday, and rise again on Monday.

Sunday is the property of our good God; it is His own day, the Lord's day. He made all the days of the week: He might have kept them all; He has given you six, and has reserved only the seventh for Himself. What right have you to meddle with what does not belong to you? You know very well that stolen goods never bring any profit. Nor will the day that you steal from Our Lord profit you either. I know two very certain ways of becoming poor: they are working on Sunday and taking other people's property.
I would add to the great St. John Vianney that we should not be encouraging Sunday work by doing our shopping or other errands on Sundays. We have 6 days in the week to buy groceries, fuel up the car, and the like. There should be only one focus on Sunday: God.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

When we look at the Gospel passages of the Temptation, such as we heard in today's Gospel reading, I think we feel a little bit of comfort that we can share with Our Lord the fact that He was tempted the way we are tempted. At the same time, this passage is very instructive for us because it shows us the sins that the Devil uses to snare us.

I'm taking much of this from a former professor of mine at Mundelein Seminary, Fr. Robert Barron. For a couple of years now, he has been doing a series of brief videos on the Internet called Word on Fire. In these videos, Fr. Barron explains some aspect of the Catholic faith, or takes an aspect of the secular culture and explains it through the eyes of the Catholic faith.

Fr. Barron's most recent video focused on the Three Temptations of Our Lord, which we read in the Gospel passage chosen for this First Sunday in Lent. The point that Fr. Barron made in his reflection on the Temptations is that we can see the sins that the Devil tries to trick us into committing in order to ensnare us.

The Devil's first temptation of Our Lord was to turn the stones that surrounded them in the desert into bread. This temptation is to make sensate pleasure the center of our lives. This would be excessive use of physical pleasures, such as food and drink, to the point that they replace the focus that we should have on God. There's no room for God in our lives because these pleasures have filled them up.

The second temptation of Our Lord is being taken up and shown all the kingdoms of the world. The Devil temps him, saying, “All this will be yours, if you worship me.” (Luke 4:7) The temptation is for glory and power, making Jesus the most powerful person in the world.

For many people, this is the strongest temptation. They may be able to handle the physical pleasures, finding little or no temptation in them. Give them power and glory, however, and they will fall for the Devil's trick every time.

Third temptation finds Our Lord on the parapet, the highest point, of the Temple. The Devil tries to tempt Our Lord to throw Himself off of the parapet, quoting from the Scriptures that the angels will guard and protect Him. First of all, this is a temptation to put God to the test. Secondly, by putting Our Lord on this high place in the temple, which was the center of the society, the Devil was putting Him on the top of society, bringing Him honor and esteem.

Again, for some people, this may be the most dangerous temptation. These people may not want the pleasures of the world, they may not want power, but they seek honor and esteem from those around them. Give them this honor and esteem, and they'll fall for the trap.

So, how to do we resist these temptations? In the first two readings, we see that we need to confess our faith in God. The first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy is a confession of faith of the Israelite people as they are entering into the Promised Land and reaping the first fruits of that land. Confessing their faith that God has lead them to this Promised Land, they turn over their first fruits to Him in gratitude and thanksgiving.

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) This brief statement shows us what we need to do to overcome the temptations of the Devil. We must believe in our hearts the promise of Our Lord that we will be saved and confess that belief publicly through our words and actions in order to overcome the snares and tricks of the Devil. We must also be like the Israelites in the first reading, giving the first fruit of our gifts over to God in gratitude and thanksgiving.

During this Lenten season, may our hearts be open to believing in the promises of Our Lord and may our lives confess that belief, so that we may be saved and help free others from the snares of the Devil.

Praying Continuously

From the Second Reading of today's Office of Readings:

"Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good: it is a partnership and union with God. As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light. I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer form the heart, not confined to fixed times or period but continuous throughout the day and night." -- St. John Chrysostom

Do we make prayer "continuous throughout the day and night", as St. John challenges us? Do we make every moment of our lives a prayer, or do we only pray during those few times a day we set aside for prayer? This is our challenge in our day and age. We must pray every day, and pray unceasingly. Not only in front of the Blessed Sacrament, as important as Adoration truly is, but at work, at home, in our cars, or anywhere else that life takes us.