Sunday, June 24, 2012


Isaiah 49:1-6
Psalm 139:1-3, 13-15
Acts 13:22-26
Luke 1:57-66, 80

As I begin this homily today I ask that you would join me in a prayer to our Blessed Mother:
Hail Mary…

Thank you. The reason I asked you to join me in prayer is that what I am preaching on today is difficult to say and for some of you it may be difficult to hear. For months the topic of contraception has been on my heart and after much prayer, it seems to me that this weekend is the time the Lord desires me to preach about it since we celebrate the birth of a child and hear readings reminding us that it is God who creates us and who invites us to take part in carrying out His divine plan.

When the Church’s teaching on sexuality – and particularly contraception – is brought up, it is often said that the Church just needs to ‘get with the times.’ But the reality is that Truth is not determined by periods of time nor does it change according to majority opinion. Truth is eternal and it has been entrusted to the Catholic Church, who is guided by the Holy Spirit. For two thousand years the Church, our spiritual mother, has told us that contraception is not only sinful; it is also unfulfilling.

The problem, though, is that our culture has given us this idea that freedom is absolute. If we want to do something, then we ought to be free to do it and to say otherwise intrudes on our freedom. But that logic is based on a false concept of freedom, one that sees freedom as license to do anything. The true concept of freedom, the Catholic concept of freedom, is not the freedom to do what we want, but the freedom to do what we ought to. True freedom allows us to follow the teachings of Christ that bring fulfillment. Rather than being a restrict list that shows God’s harshness, the law of God is actually a guide to happiness that reveals His great love for us. After all, what parent would say that not allowing their child to touch a hot stove, drink something poisonous or run into a busy street is an intrusion upon their freedom? God our Father is no different, and so he tells us to do and not do certain things because He Himself knows the real consequences.

Now, this may be news to some of you who have never heard this preached before or read much on the topic, but the reality is that the Church maintains that the act of contraception is gravely immoral and that every sexual act (which ought only to happen within marriage) must be open to human life. Because contraception within the sexual act is contrary to God’s plan for life, love and marriage, it is ultimately a big ‘no thank you’ to God’s plan for us, whether we intend it to be so or not.

The Gospel today reminds us that God seeks to have us join in His plans. The birth of the forerunner and the subsequent ministry of preparation for the savior’s coming depended upon the ‘yes’ of Elizabeth and Zechariah. We miss a part of the back story, but when the angel Gabriel first comes to Zechariah in the Temple to announce the good news of John’s conception, Zechariah doubts God and is struck mute. With the child’s birth and Zechariah’s cooperation with God’s plan to name him John, Zechariah is once again able to speak and we see the blessedness that accompanies our choice to trust in the Lord and His plan for us.

In order to do God’s will though, we must first know what it is. In the Book of Genesis, we see the blueprint of God’s plan for sexual love. In the beginning, one man and one woman came together in an inseparable union and gave themselves to each other freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally. The problem is that when the marital embrace is contracepted, it can be free and faithful, but it is never intended to be fruitful or total. The entire purpose of contraception is to exclude the fruit of the marital embrace, namely, children. The act of contraception is of itself anti-life and thus against the plan of God who is the giver of life.

Moreover, the choice to contracept is one that keeps love from being total. No right-minded person seeks a spouse who is going to love them only under certain conditions. Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally and to love the other unconditionally in exchange. Unfortunately, contraception takes the most beautiful act of total self-gift and makes it a lie. Because of the contraceptive mentality that a child is something to be avoided, barriers are put in place – sometimes literally, sometimes chemically - to ensure that a child does not result from a particular sexual act. Without words the partners say to one another, “I love you, but not enough to allow this action to bear its proper fruit.” These barriers keep the partners from total self-giving and tries to take the act of procreation out of God’s hands and place it in our own, effectively kicking God out of the act that most vividly represents the mystery of His own nature: love giving itself to another unconditionally.

In the end, contraception is not about following laws. It’s about finding love and fulfillment. I’m sure that some of you gathered here today are currently using contraceptives, using contraceptive methods or engaging in sex outside of marriage. I’m not here to pass judgment or point fingers. What I am here for is to invite you to see a different view of things. The Church has a rich teaching on the gift of our sexuality. It doesn’t mandate that every couple have ten kids, it doesn’t mandate risking a woman’s health to have a child, and it doesn’t say that every marital act should conceive a child. It does invite us to see that the God who created the gift of marriage and told us to multiply and fill the earth has a plan for us. If we carry out that plan and follow those loving guides set up for us, we will indeed find fulfillment in this life and the next, where we will join Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist and all the saints as we behold God face to face and enter into the great mystery of the God who is love poured out unconditionally.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Shall Be Healed

Readings for June 10/ Corpus Christi Sunday:
Exodus 24:3-8
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Why do we not experience miracles like those that happened in the life of Jesus and His disciples?

All throughout the scriptures, especially in the Gospels and New Testament Epistles, we hear about these miraculous healings – the deaf speak, the blind see, the lame walk, and dead rise to life and many other things beyond these. And yet it can seem that today there is little of that power of God at work in the Church. Has the Lord pulled away from us? Or have our prayers fallen on deaf ears?

Certainly our prayers do not fall on deaf ears and our God has not turned away from us to go away. On the contrary, he has come quite close! With the celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi today we celebrate the great miracle and mystery that God comes so close that we are joined together physically in our own bodies. Our God has not gone away. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we all must admit that we have not always sought to draw closer to Him with our whole heart. Sometimes we hold back something of ourselves. We’re afraid to reach out to the Lord. Where miracles could be worked, we refuse to ask. And where we ask, often it is not filled with faith but more as a simple hope that doesn’t expect a miracle but would rejoice if it took place.

When I reflect on miracle stories in the scriptures, two of them strike me more than others because of their circumstances. Matthew 9 tells the story of the woman who reaches out and touches only the edge of the cloak of Christ and the second, from Acts 5, of how the people lined up cots that St. Peter’s shadow might pass over them and they were healed. There are others like them, but these two point to a reality that it was not just the touch of Christ and the disciples that healed but also the faith of the person who received healing. The cloak of Christ and the shadow of Peter were not miraculous things, but the heart of people in need of healing was so compelled by faith that even those things were used to transform hearts and to heal people both in body and spirit. And in the Eucharist the Church celebrates every single day, we have something much greater than a mere cloak or shadow. We have the Real Presence of Jesus Christ – the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Word Made Flesh, God with us.

There are many among us who have ailments, whether in body or in spirit, and to say that you have received the Eucharist with faith or receiving the Anointing of the Sick with faith and were not healed does not necessarily mean you lack faith. God may have a plan for you in your suffering, but at the same time, He may have a plan for your healing. Every one of us needs healing. Everyone. If you don’t need a physical healing, you need a spiritual one, because the fact is that not a single one of us is perfect yet. We’re all wounded by sin and many are still bound in the chains of sin. The unfortunate reality is that we’ve become comfortable in our slavery. Like the Israelite people in the days of Pharaoh and the oppression, we’ve resigned ourselves to be slaves rather than free persons.

In the Gospel of John we hear another miracle story about a man who was ill for thirty-eight years and the Lord approaches and asks an interesting question: “Do you want to be healed?” It seems an obvious question, but don’t pass it by too quickly. Each week we gather and before receiving Holy Communion say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” I SHALL be healed. We say words of deep faith and humility, but do we mean it? Do we genuinely desire to be healed? Or are we simply content to remain in our sin, feigning faith?

Thursday, June 7, 2012


When the Lord ascended into Heaven and gave the Church the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we officially began a new chapter in the story of Salvation History. The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, is entrusted with the mission to bring the Gospel of Christ to all people and the Holy Father has made it a special intention in our day to renew that Evangelization in cultures that have begun to lose, or have almost entirely lost, that flame of faith. Our culture is increasingly secular and thus in need of that revitalization of life in Christ, but that means that men and women must be sent to begin the process, for as the Apostle Paul reminds us, "How are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:14-15). Indeed, our culture needs men and women to preach the Gospel not only in word, but also in deed. While every Christian has the obligation to evangelize in their own capacity, priests and consecrated religious have a special place in this undertaking. Living lives marked by poverty, celibacy, obedience and self-sacrifice, the religious man or woman are sent out as a visible sign to the world that this life is but a stepping stone to the eternity that awaits each of us and, we pray, provide a holy witness after which others can conform their lives. 

With all of that in mind, I would like to point out the addition of a new community to the "Support the Renewal of Religious Life in our Country" column: The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara. They may sound familiar, as this is the religious community that one of the youth from our parish will be joining on June 12th. You may also recall the 'Helping Girls Become Nuns' post a few months back asking for help in alleviating the debt of two young ladies seeking to enter that same community. Keeping up with them, I have found that they both attained the money needed to pay off debt and begin their life as brides of Christ, praised be Jesus Christ! Thank you to those who assisted them in this. The two of them, alongside the young lady from here and another good friend of mine from the area, will be joining a dozen or so others at the novitiate house in Maryland to begin this new stage in their lives. So I ask that each of you stop right now and offer up a prayer for them. ..... Thank you. If the Lord puts it on your heart you may also make a financial donation to their community (HERE or in the list to the left) to help them as they continue to draw closer to the Lord and prepare for the mission for which they are to be sent out and for which they are so greatly needed.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Trinity and Liturgy

Readings for June 3/ Trinity Sunday:
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4-6, 9, 18-20, 22
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Last weekend we concluded the Easter Season with the Solemn Feast of Pentecost, marking the event when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. With this last gift from Christ to His followers, the true mission is begun and thus the birth of the Church takes place. From the Jewish faith, something new has begun. It is fitting, then, that on this first weekend after the birthday of the Church we celebrate with another Solemn Feast the mystery that is the center of our Christian faith – the Most Holy Trinity.

This mystery is most central, and thus most important, because it is the Trinity from whom, in whom, and for whom all things exist. To put it simply: without God, nothing. In addition to being the most important mystery of our Catholic faith, it is also the most difficult for us to grasp. Who of us can ever truly understand how the One God, who is absolute unity, is somehow also a Trinity of Persons? And yet this doesn’t dismiss us from the obligation to try to understand. We must study the Scriptures, Catechism and Creed to understand what ‘consubstantial’ means, why ‘begotten, not made’ is so important, and how the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son because my knowing more about God, we can love Him more deeply. But we cannot stop at simply knowing about God. We must know Him; we are called to foster a relationship with this great mystery.

God, being love itself, was compelled to create the universe out of love and to draw it to Himself. So incredible is our God that being the creator of all things did not keep Him from coming to us as a human race and as individuals to reveal Himself to us. He reveals Himself to us in the beauty of the creation He has made, in the love shown to us by others, in the complexity of the universe, and in the answered prayers that bring peace to our hearts. Even more miraculously, He revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, walking among us for 33 years and teaching us the way to eternal life. This same Jesus Christ revealed to the disciples – and to us today through the words of the Gospel - that God is not simply One God, but that the One God is also Three distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and eternal communion of persons pouring out love and receiving love.

In addition to these and many other ways that God reveals Himself to us in the midst of our days, I posit that one of the best places to come face to face with the Triune God is here in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is here that we as individuals and the mystical body of Christ, are joined to the Father, Son, and Spirit, as we are at no other time until we are joined to them in Heaven.

Each time we gather to celebrate these sacred mysteries, we begin in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We turn to the Father in prayer time and time again; notice that most of the prayers of the Mass are addressed to the Father. At the consecration, Christ Himself acts through the priest in order to offer Himself to the Father on our behalf. And all of this happens by the power of the Holy Spirit. By this glorious exchange of the Son offering Himself to the Father through the Spirit and the Father receiving that offering, we receive Holy Communion and are drawn into that exchange. For a moment in time we are actually united in our flesh to the incomprehensible mystery of God Who is Love.

I’ve said it before and I say it again – if we truly understood what was taking place each time we came to Mass and each time we received Holy Communion, we would be shocked beyond words. And so we give thanks to the God who veils Himself out of mercy and pray that He would help us to grasp more and more this privilege that we have and the mystery that He is.