There is a very common -- and extremely relevant -- theme in the readings today. Both Joshua and Jesus ask their contemporaries to make a decision. "Who will you serve?" "Will you leave me, too?" Even (and especially) amidst trials and difficulties of all kinds, we pray for the grace to answer as our ancestors did: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!" And from St. Peter: "Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of everlasting life."
We are making our way through the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, sometimes referred to as the "Bread of Life Discourse." Today Jesus hears the people around him "murmuring" about him and his teaching. This recalls the attitude that our ancestors had toward Moses and the teachings that he revealed to them from God. 'Murmuring' in the Bible goes beyond incredulity -- the people weren't simply in awe of what he was saying; it shows that they doubted and disagreed with what was being taught. Jesus's answer to them is that it is God the Father who draws them and teaches them the Truth, if only the people will allow it.
The Eucharist is the Living Bread come down from heaven. It is Jesus' flesh, for the life of the world.
Today's Gospel comes from John 6, the chapter which give us Christ's teaching on the Bread of Life. Following the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, Jesus expounds on the True Bread that comes down from heaven -- the Eucharist -- and explains how we should hunger and thirst for it about all things. We believe without a doubt that the Eucharist truly is the Real Presence; the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Through the Eucharist we have communion with the Father, and thus we can come to enjoy eternal life.
Today in all of the readings and in the Psalm as well, the image of a "shepherd" is clearly evident. Whether that be in the reading from Jeremiah, where God speaks through the prophet and says, "Woe to you, shepherds who mislead my people..."; or in the Gospel from Mark, where Jesus laments the fact that the people are like, "sheep without a shepherd"; the message for all of us is obvious: God is calling us to be good shepherds of His people - people in great need, people in our own families, people around us every day. We rejoice that we have such a Good Shepherd watching over us constantly, but we also pray that we imitate Our Lord every day, being compassionate and caring toward our brothers and sisters.
Today's Gospel stories of the resuscitation of the little girl and the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage teach us about what God wants for us: wholeness, health, life. The sacred author of the Book of Wisdom puts it plainly: "God did not create death". In his words and actions, Jesus shows us that God created us in His image and likeness, and therefore wants us to be well and to be with Him forever in heaven. As we thank God for this great gift, may we direct our efforts to promoting life and healing in our world.
Normally, we celebrate a saint's feast day on the day when they died. This is true for almost all saints' feast days. But there are three exceptions: The birth of Jesus Christ, the birth of Mary, and the birth of St. John the Baptist. John's birth shows us once again that God's will is being carried out in time. We must thank God and praise Him for His loving plan of redemption for humanity. At the same time, we should strive to emulate St. John the Baptist, who pointed the way to Christ and announced his presence when at last he came. The question of John's contemporaries -- "What will this child be?" is a question for all of us today: "What will I be [for Christ]?"
In his teaching about the Reign of God, Jesus uses two very helpful parables. He likens the Reign of God to a mustard seed, something so very small that can grow into a very large shrub. We, too, though small can do great things because God is with us. The other parable is of a farmer who sows seed in his field and then waits for the harvest. Even though he tends the field and waters it, how it grows is a mystery. So it is with the Reign of God. It is already sown among us on earth, and it is developing according to God's plan. We must trust in God's will always, while cooperating with God as co-workers: tending, feeding, and expanding the Reign of God.
Hoy en el evangelio, Jesus nos enseña del reino de Dios. Él usa el ejemplo de una semilla de mostaza: es algo bien pequeño, pero una vez sembrado en la tierra llega a ser una gran planta. Los pajarillos y los otros animales disfruten su sombra. Iqualmente nosotros -- aunque seamos pequeños -- podemos hacer cosas grandes, porque el Espiritu Santo vive dentro de nosotros. Con Dios, todo es posible.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says, "A Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand". He could very well be speaking about creation after the fall. In Genesis we hear how sin entered the world, and we see the effects of our parents' disobedience: separation, division, discord. The Good News is that God sent His Son into the world to bring us unity -- with God, with each other, and with all of creation. May all of us strive to maintain that bond of peace and unity that is ours through the gift of God's Holy Spirit.
(This is a short homily because after I gave it a priest translated it in Vietnamese for the congregation. Also, 17 young people were confirmed during this liturgy)
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is God's gift to humanity, and it brings us into communion with God. God wants us to be one with Him, and this is possible through our union with Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. How to have union with Jesus? By eating his Body and drinking his Blood. That is why the Eucharist is Viaticum: food for the way. May we return to this Living Food again and again so that we have life within us -- and eternal life at the end of the age.
(Starts with applause for Confirmation candidates.) (Bilingual homily).
We know a little about the mystery of God - as a Trinity of Persons -- because God has willed it thus. God has been revealing Himself to His creation over time, and with the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, we now know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are caught up in the love that is God, and thus we are to amplify that love in the world.
The Ascension of the Lord is only part of the mystery of what some call the "Christ event": the Incarnation, life, suffering, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. We separate these aspects of our salvation and celebrate them at various times in the liturgical year so that we can reflect on them individually.
In this homily, I describe the Ascension as it might have gone from the perspective of the Angels in heaven. It's a little light-hearted, but it may help us to reflect more deeply on what it is we are celebrating. Where Christ has gone, we hope to follow.
In the First Letter of John, we hear, "It is not that we have loved God, rather God loves us"; and in the Gospel of John: "It is not you who have chosen me; I chose you...". God takes the initiative in everything. Before we were even born, God loved us through and through (Psalm 139).
Our love for God, therefore, is a response to His love for us. Everything we do -- practicing our Faith, praying, serving others, etc. -- is an attempt to be like God in our actions and words.
Love one another, because God loves you.
(Short homily, as I cut out the part where I addressed the Confirmation candidates in the beginning.)
I am the vine; you are the branches, says the Lord. The operative word in the Gospel today is "remain". Jesus tells us that we must remain in him as he remains in us. We know that he remains in us because the Holy Spirit of God has been given to us. We show that we remain in God by the way we live our life -- dedicated to loving our brothers and sisters, and serving God in the Church.
The readings all speak about repentance and forgiveness. But isn't that one of the things on which we focus during the season of Lent? Yes, but it is also a main part of our celebration of Easter, for forgiveness is bestowed upon us by God through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. As we hear in the words of Consecration at Mass (over the chalice): "This is the cup of my Blood, which will be shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins." Let us seek forgiveness from God through our contrition, and let us share the Good News of repentance with all people.
Did Thomas really doubt what his fellow Apostles told him about Jesus' Resurrection? Should he be known only by that one question that he had? We should be grateful to Thomas, because we are actually a lot like him (with our questions and doubts today). We should remember Thomas as one of the greatest disciples and apostles, having defended and preached the Faith fearlessly, and having giving his life for the Gospel as a martyr.
Jesus Christ is Risen! He is truly risen from the dead!
In this brief homily, I talk about the lessons learned from St. John's account of the Passion of Jesus, as well as from the 1st reading, from the Prophet Isaiah. Again, this is more than just "looking back" at what happened to someone 2000 years ago; the Passion and death of Jesus Christ is our salvation from sin and death. As we honor and remember the events which led to Jesus' death on the cross, may we also do what he did -- serve our brothers and sisters in this world, even to the point of laying down our lives for others.
Today we commemorate three things: The institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and the commandment to serve one another. This beautiful liturgy is the beginning of the great Paschal Triduum.
Even though we are considering events that occurred thousands of years ago (the Passover and the Last Supper), we believe that even now -- through the sacred liturgy -- God is liberating us from sin, feeding us with the Body and Blood of His Son, and renewing the promise of eternal life for us. This is the power of the Eucharist: as we commemorate that which God gave us so long ago, we make it present in every age as we heed Christ's commandment: "Do this in memory of me."
In this great celebration of the Eucharist today, we ask God to bless and consecrate the holy oils that are used in our diocese throughout the year. As well we honor and pray for our priests, who will renew their priestly promises. More than anything, we recall that we like Christ are 'anointed' by God to proclaim the Good News. "Christ" means "anointed", and as Christians we follow the anointed one and do what he did. The name for this Mass (Chrism) comes from the word "Christ". May God bless the oil that we will use, and the people who use them and are anointed with them. All of us: bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laypeople are anointed to be like Christ in the world today.
(This homily is a shorter one than normal, because of the reading of the Passion that preceded it.)
Palm Sunday is our entrance into Holy Week, and as such the readings, prayers, and songs serve as a "prelude" or a summary to what we will celebrate in detail this week. As we celebrate the Institution of the Eucharist, the passion and death of Jesus, and the Resurrection, we do so not as spectators or historians; we are faithful followers of Jesus Christ. As we read in the 2nd Letter to Timothy, "If we die with him, we will live with him" (2 Tim 2:11).
Five words to carry us through Holy Week -- and the rest of our lives: We know how this ends.
(Three young women received the Sacrament of Confirmation at this Mass.)
The words of God through His prophet Jeremiah are striking: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord...". God has promised a new covenant with His people; one that is eternal and will be for all people of all time. Jesus made this covenant with us in his blood, shed on the cross for our salvation. We remember this covenant at every celebration of the Eucharist, and thus God renews that covenant with us constantly. At this point in Lent we can also say, "Behold, the days are coming..." as we prepare to celebrate our holiest days.
(I think I have the audio figured out now, so this sounds much better!)
This homily was given right before celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation for several folks at St. Thomas More Parish (Pensacola). Thus, I was speaking in a more colloquial way as I wanted to reach the young people directly. The Holy Spirit is God's gift to the Church, and it gives us the means and the ability to preach the Good News just as the Apostles did after Pentecost. What is the Good News? We find it in today's Gospel, especially John 3:16. "God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life."
Today's readings give us the great story of the Sacrifice of Abraham and the mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Both point to the sacrifice (or, in the case of Abraham, the intention to sacrifice) an only son. Whereas God stopped Abraham from offering up his son, God did not halt the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, and that brought about the salvation of the world. How are we to respond? What can we sacrifice to the Lord in order to demonstrate our faith? May we live in such a way that God will say to us (as He said to Abraham): "Now I know that you are devoted to me, ... you will be blessed forever."
(The audio on this one is poorer than the others -- sorry!)
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, and as such it serves as a way for us to "get back on track" with God and our faith. Lent offers us all the opportunity to pull back a little from our attention to ourselves and our passions, and to focus more on God and our neighbor. The three practices of Lent -- Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving -- can serve to prepare us well to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of Christ.