Sunday, April 24, 2011

Awake, O Sleeper! ...I did not create you to be a prisoner of hell...

An Easter Homily given this morning at Holy Hill, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians... Happy Easter!
The Lord is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!
Brothers and sisters, there is NO love like the love of God in Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul II once wrote that in Christ Jesus, we have a God who actively goes out in search of man. God is PASSIONATE for the man and the woman He created—He is passionate for each and every one of you and me.
How passionate? Our God is passionate enough to accept being immersed in OUR suffering, and even to surrender the power of death… so to enter into our pain and our loneliness and our fear. In His Son, Jesus Christ, God scours the very depths of HELL to look for us and to take us upon His broad shoulders and to bring us home to Himself.
It was YOUR flesh and MY flesh that God took to Himself in order to reveal to us A LOVE STRONGER THAN DEATH. This is the meaning of our Easter celebration. After the horrific suffering of the crucifixion, and the abandonment and the shame, God reveals the gift of RESURRECTION. Jesus told His disciples, “I am going away and I will return to you. I do not leave you orphans.” Though at times we may think God is silent HE NEVER abandons us. When we think He does not remember us in our suffering, it is especially then that God is most active preparing a dwelling for us.
It is not ONLY Christ’s victory we celebrate today, but the promise of OUR VICTORY in Jesus. Following the homily, we will be sprinkled with the new Easter water, that symbolizes the waters poured upon us in Baptism. On the day of your Baptism, God made an eternal covenant with you. Through the action of the priest in the company of the whole Church, God etched into your being the very name of His Son and planted in you the seed of eternal life. We bear this SEED.
“I have come that you might have life and have it to the FULL!” We Christians worship a God who has the power and the DESIRE to give us ETERNAL LIFE. ETERNAL LIFE is not a perpetual continuation of the life we experience now. It is life of abundant love and joy, a life that has NO fear or self-concern. It is the life we LONG for in the depths of our hearts—to know a LOVE that has no end or conditions.
It is our Christian belief that the gift of RISEN life begins here on earth. Brothers and sisters, we are not celebrating an event of the past, or an event somewhere in the future. It is a reality NOW…. We who are baptized into Christ’s death are baptized into His resurrection. But the disciples running to the tomb in today’s Gospel show us HOW we are to receive this gift of new life. We are told Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved ran to the tomb, the other disciple who arrived first, BENT DOWN and LOOKED into the empty tomb, saw the burial cloths, entered the tomb and BELIEVED. We are called to BEND DOWN, to make ourselves small as it were—to put aside our selfishness, our pride, our resentment of others—and to believe—to humble ourselves before the mystery of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Many do not come to know Jesus as Lord, even many baptized Catholics, because they refuse to run to the tomb, to humble themselves and to believe. They insist on holding on to the hurt and anger that is so familiar, rather than to embrace the freeing love of Christ Jesus that makes us new.
It is marvelous, it that we Catholic Christians believe that the Risen Jesus touches our lives and transforms us EVERY TIME we receive the Sacraments—when we come to Holy Communion, when we receive the Sacrament of Penance—we encounter the Risen Jesus. How many Catholics do not come to Mass because they think there is nothing to be gained there! And yet EVERY time we receive the Eucharist, we receive the RISEN LIFE of Jesus Christ into our own body and soul! We can go pray by ourselves, go get exercise, commune with nature and even stand on our heads, BUT nothing can give us the RISEN LIFE that we receive in the EUCHARIST.

God wants us to receive His Risen Life… Consider the person you love most and how you would so desire to give them what is most intimate to yourself … imagine then, that person you love then casually dismissing this most intimate gift of yourself. How much more Christ wishes to give us the gift of His Risen Life in the Eucharist. Do we eagerly meet Him? We received the seed of eternity in the gift of Baptism and Christ wishes to nourish that seed into FULLNESS.
Today, let us run to the empty tomb moved by love and let us bend down and humble ourselves so to receive through faith the gift of Christ’s Risen Life. He is our Savior, now and forever. He loves us without condition and calls us to now share in the abundance of His life. He desires only that we should know and possess His joy which is a life forever free of fear, sin, and death.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Truth Will Set You Free

"If man lives without truth, life passes him by: ultimately he surrenders the field to whoever is the stronger.... In Christ, God entered the world and set up the criterion of truth in the midst of history. Truth is outwardly powerless in the world, just as Christ is powerless by the world's standards: he has no legions; he is crucified. Yet in his very powerlessness, he is powerful: only thus, again and again, does truth become power." - Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol II, p. 194.

"I would rather a spirit without prayer than one that has not begun to walk in truth." -- St. Teresa of Jesus (Life, 13.16)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

“Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” (John 12:31)

St. Teresa of Ávila, Life 9.4: "The scene of His prayer in the garden, especially, was a comfort to me; I strove to be His companion there. If I could, I thought of the sweat and agony He had undergone in that place. I desired to wipe away the sweat He so painfully experienced, but I recall that I never dared to actually do it, since my sins appeared to me so serious. I remained with Him as long as my thoughts allowed me to, for there were many distractions that tormented me. Most nights, for many years before going to bed when I commended myself to God in preparation for sleep, I always pondered for a little while this episode of the prayer in the garden. I did this even before I was a nun since I was told that one gains many indulgences by doing so. I believe my soul gained a great deal through this custom because I began to practice prayer without knowing what it was; and the custom became so habitual that I did not abandon it, just as I did not fail to make the sign of the cross before sleeping."

Monday, April 18, 2011

A brief homily for Palm Sunday

Today we celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem riding humbly on a donkey. Today marks the beginning of the New Exodus—like a warrior preparing to conquer death, Jesus enters the city where He will be mocked, tortured, stripped and crucified… and where He will lead us to conquer DEATH.
See the true humility of Jesus Christ—He is the Son of God who for love of us also becomes the Son of King David, in order to lay down His life for us. He is the One who will reestablish the Kingdom of God and to put and end once and for all to sin and death.
Brothers and sisters, we would do well to witness the reaction of the crowds—both the crowd that travels with Jesus up to the city gates AND the also the citizens of Jerusalem who are troubled by what this SOLEMN entrance means for them… Today we are not simply reenacting an historical event that happened long ago. Instead, we welcome Jesus Christ HERE and NOW—after all, He is more ALIVE than any of us. What do the crowds tell us today?
1) First, there is the crowd that travels with Him to the gates of Jerusalem… They sing “HOSANNA” (a word which originally meant “SAVE US NOW!”) …and line the road before Jesus with garments and palms—what does any of this mean for us, if we do not welcome Jesus Christ with our faith and love? We NEED a Savior, but we must ask ourselves: do we WELCOME the Savior? Are we willing to throw onto the ground before Him the pride, the resentment, the greed, the lust that we hold so closely to ourselves?
2) Then there are the citizens within the city of Jerusalem. When St. Matthew tells us: “when [Jesus] entered Jerusalem 
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?” He uses here the same Greek word to describe the earthquake following the Resurrection—the whole people are "shaken" as from an earthquake. In His humility, in His going to the Cross, God shakes us to our very foundations. Let us not be afraid or ashamed—God shakes us in order to FREE us from what enslaves us. This is true humility—not to belittle ourselves or to think of how “bad” we are, but to acknowledge WHO we are BEFORE Almighty God.
Brothers and sisters, let us welcome Jesus into our hearts and let us ENTER into this Holy Week with true humility and trust. Let us enter into the New Jerusalem with Christ our King.