March 28, 2020

The Shouting God-Man

"The Resurrection of Lazarus," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.

For the Mass of the Fifth Sunday of Lent

The readings and prayers in today’s Mass promise us our resurrection.

Through our Baptism, our Anointing in Confirmation, and our Eucharistic Communion, we receive God’s Spirit that marks us for rising from the dead.

If we choose to stay faithful by working together with the Spirit, then the Father who raised Christ from the dead will give everlasting joy and life to our earthly bodies through his Spirit.

But even with the glory of that promise, suffering still shakes us.

Even though Christ was to raise Lazarus from the dead, suffering still shook Christ so that he groaned in the spirit, and wept for Lazarus.

Today Christ called himself the Son of God while foretelling that in Lazarus death would give way for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.

Then Christ also spoke of an odd joy, telling his disciples: Lazarus has died.... I am GLAD for you that I was not there, that you may believe.

On the way to raise Lazarus, Christ met the dead man’s sister, Martha, and he spoke as God to her: I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.

He took hold of Martha’s faith, and squeezed out more than she had yet said: ... whoever believes in ME, even if he dies, will live. Do you believe this?

Telling his disciples his own glory as Son of God, telling them his gladness that they would have faith from seeing his glory that day, telling Martha his own Godhood— knowing fully his own Godly glory, and not shying to speak it into the faces of men and women, Christ still opened himself to suffering today.

And Jesus wept.

Twice today the original Greek of the Gospel says Christ groaned in the spirit inside himself.

Even though Christ is God the Son, and was there to raise Lazarus from the dead, he knows human pain, and it stabs him deeply as today’s Gospel shows.

Today’s Gospel is rich with the human feelings of Christ:  his affection for his friends; his gladness for the faith of his disciples; his sorrow in the face of death.

All the same, his own Godhood, his knowledge of it, his open words of it, and his outright hunt for people’s faith in it are also lively in today’s Gospel.

True God and True Man— Christ is all; his Father sent him; he wanted people to know it.

And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”

He wanted the crowd to believe the heavenly Father sent him.

Today in the Gospel, the heavenly Father sent him to the open mouth of death with its rot and stench.

Raising his eyes to heaven, Christ did not ask the FATHER to raise Lazarus from the dead.

Rather, Christ had already called HIMSELF the Resurrection and the Life whom the Father sent from heaven.

God-the-Resurrection-and-the-Life-in-Person stood up to a rotting corpse, and did something imperial but also laughable and insane: he shouted at a dead man, he cried out in a loud voice.

In the original Greek of the Gospel, the word for the shouting of Christ today is the same as for the shouting of the Palm Sunday crowd and the Good Friday crowd.

On Palm Sunday, the shouting was full of joyful worship: Hosanna!

On Good Friday, the shouting was full of deadly condemnation: Crucify him!

What feelings filled the shouting of Christ in today’s Gospel?

Was it the gladness he spoke of, the gladness of letting his disciples see and believe?

Did the shouting of Christ today come out of that deep place inside him that shook with pain and groaned in the spirit?

Did he shout from anger at ancient sin that brought death into our infant race, and did he shout from anger that death swallowed his friend?

If you and I claim that Christ loves us as he loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary— if we claim he loves us, mustn’t we also claim that he shouts at us when he finds us dead in sin?

What could all his feelings, his will as God, his will as man, and his shouting do for the dead, rotting eardrums of Lazarus?

Would the lifeless, stinking ears take heed?

“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.

If a dead man came to life in obedience to Christ, could we sinners also come to life in obedience to Christ?

In our having freely chosen to give in to our sins, perhaps we need to lay claim to the SHOUTING of Christ, so that he may have our OBEDIENCE.

Or is our version of Christ not daring enough to shout at us?

Or would we REJECT a Christ who is God and bold enough to shout at us?

And then would we shout, “Crucify him!” back at him?

Would we not prefer to be filled with his Spirit so as to shout, “Hosanna!” precisely because we saw and heard him shouting in his Godliness and his daring, shouting loudly enough to raise a rotting dead man back to life?

Christ shouts for anger, joy, and sorrow.

He is the shouting voice and word of the heavenly Father.

One prayer [the Preface] of today’s Mass will say of him:

as true man he wept for Lazarus his friend
and as eternal God raised him from the tomb,
just as, taking pity on the human race,
he leads us by sacred mysteries to new life.

If we want new life, let us hunt down sin in our lives and stop it.

We have come to the altar today to hear the God-Man shouting at us by way of the mystery of giving up for us his Sacred Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.

Heeding the shout of his Body and Blood, let us leave behind the dark tomb of our sins.

March 25, 2020

For the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

"The Annunciation," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.

Today the Word of the Lord tells us he has given us the sign ... deep as the nether world ... high as the sky!

The sign is EmmanuelGod Is with Us— in person as a man of human flesh and blood, human emotion, human intellect, and human will.

As such, he grew to the fullness of manhood, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. [Apostles’ Creed]

After dying on the cross, Christ joined the poor ranks of the souls of the dead.

In the mystery of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Christ is the sign ... deep as the nether world: God who is with us as a man freely and faithfully even in death.

Through all of it, he is God consecrating himself to man in a new and everlasting covenant, and he is man consecrating himself to God in a new and everlasting covenant.

As the Word to the Hebrews said today, we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ.

We belong to God in life and in death.

However, the sign from the Lord is also high as the sky.

On the third day that would have known his death, Christ rose to new life.

In Christ, man has conquered sin, suffering, sadness, and death, has ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

In Christ, our human identity is no longer merely deep as the nether world, but is now high as the sky.

In Christ and in his Mother human identity is utterly full of grace.

We borrow Mary’s question, and turn it to our own use.

How can this be...?

Can we be full of grace high as the sky?

We know we still freely throw ourselves down beneath sin.

How should sinners ever come to be sons and daughters of God?

In the same way that a virgin came to be virginal mother and mother of God!

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Because of the gift of his power, sinners can be reborn as holy sons and daughters of God, if they but choose freely to live as servants of the Lord, so that it may be done to them according to the angelic word.

In the victory of his faithfulness, God is with us in his Body and Blood, so that by our own willing, flesh-and-blood faithfulness to him, we can be with him forever as his sons and daughters.

March 24, 2020

Saved by the Liturgy of the WORD and the Liturgy of the BODY

"The Piscina Probatica or Pool of Bethesda," by J. Tisso. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.

John 5:1-3,5-16 at Mass on Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Today in the Gospel, bodily healing came through Christ's words.

So, since those healing words are in the Gospel now, it is the Gospel that heals.

Rise, take up your mat and walk.

Look, you are well;
do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.

With WORDS Christ healed that man, but elsewhere we see healing and life come out of Christ's BODY.

There is the woman who suffered a hemorrhage for twelve years and who received healing through power that went out to her from Christ's body.

Then, on the day he rose from the dead, he went to his apostles and FROM HIS BODY he breathed out to them the Holy Spirit, saying:

Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any,
they are forgiven;
if you retain the sins of any,
they are retained.

Out of the Body and Blood of the risen Christ, the Father in heaven pours out the Holy Spirit to anoint the Church, forgive sins, bring health, salvation and eternal life to his Son's disciples, and raise them as his children.

All of that flows for us in Baptism and in the celebration of every Mass, as even here and now.

Only let us live always as having true, heartfelt awe and thirst to enjoy forever these saving gifts of God.

March 21, 2020

When Spit and Mud Were a Sacrament of Healing

"The Blind Man Washes in the Pool of Siloam," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.

I wrote this homily in 1999 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent to preach at a parish where many were preparing to receive Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist at Easter.

Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Today we witnessed God sending the prophet Samuel to pour holy oil on the young man David.

This holy oil of anointing changed David, because from that day on, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.

The Spirit of God rushed upon David through a prophet pouring holy oil.

In his Gospel today, Christ does something similar for a man born blind.

However, instead of anointing the blind man with holy oil, Christ spits in the dirt, makes mud out of it, rubs it onto the blind man’s eyes and sends him to wash it off.

The blind man goes to wash, and two changes happen for him.

First change:  he begins to see for the first time in his life.

Second change:  faith and worship.

The Gospel tells us Christ went looking for the man who could now see, found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

The man with newborn eyes answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Jesus said to him, “You are seeing him, and the one speaking with you is he.”

The man said to Christ, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

Again, the first CHANGE:  a blind man begins to see.

The second CHANGE:  he has faith in Christ and worships him.

In the first reading, the prophet Samuel anointed young David, CHANGING him by pouring oil on him, and the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.

Christ anointed a blind man with muddy spit and sent him to wash.

The blind man received his sight, saw Christ, believed in him and worshiped him.

This tells us that the Spirit of the Lord also rushed upon that man.

Like this man with new sight, if we believe in Christ the Son of God and are here now truly to humble ourselves in the worship of Christ and his Father, then their Holy Spirit has also now rushed upon us.

Our believing in Christ comes from the Spirit at work within us.

Honest worship of Christ also comes from the Spirit at work within us.

When our daily lives reflect faith in Christ, and when our daily lives give honor to Christ, it is because we have cooperated with the work of the Spirit that God has poured out upon us.

We heard today in the second reading what St. Paul wrote about our passing from the blindness of sin into a life of light, faith and worship as the children of God.

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

The power of God’s Spirit takes us out of the darkness of sin, and gives us birth in the light that shines on us from the Father’s eyes.

The Spirit of God rushed upon David though holy oil that a prophet poured on David.

The Spirit brought a blind man to sight, faith and worship through spit and mud that Christ made and washing that Christ ordered.

In the sacraments of Baptismal Washing, Confirming Oil of Anointing and the Eucharistic Food and Drink, Christ, God the Son, comes to us and touches us.

In these sacraments, God the Spirit rushes and works on us.

In these sacraments, God the Father gives us new birth as his children.

The signs that all this has taken place are very simple:
our faith in the Father and the Son and the Spirit;
our worship of the Father and the Son and the Spirit.

We must work so that our daily lives show that we believe in God and honor him.

However, when we fail to live out our faith, and when our actions dishonor God, we have another sacrament that renews our faith and turns us around to face the light of God who forgives his children.

Remember that when Christ first began to preach, he said: REPENT... and believe in the Gospel!

He did not say only, “Believe in the Gospel!”

He said: REPENT... and believe in the Gospel!

Repentance is the door of faith.

Repentance is the doorway for the Spirit who brings and strengthens faith.

When we confess our sins in the sacrament of Penance, we are letting Christ smear mud on our sins and send us into the pool of the Spirit in which God bathes his children.

If Christ can use even spit and mud to bring sight, faith, and the Spirit to a blind man, then he can use spit and mud— OR EVEN A PRIEST— to bring the Spirit and to forgive sins.

We see such a commission on the day Christ rose from the dead, when he breathed the Spirit onto the apostles and said to them:
Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.

Brothers and sisters, we must always repent of sin.

We must do penance.

We must receive the sacraments.

In this way, renewal and strength increase our faith that the Son of God is with us, that the Spirit of God is upon us, and that God the Father has already made us his children.


Believe in the Gospel!

Give glory to God!

We are about to receive not just a prophet, not just holy oil, not spit or mud or cleansing water.

We are about to receive God the Son in his own Flesh and Blood that cause the Spirit of God our Father to rush upon us.

Let us repent.

Let us believe.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

March 19, 2020

The Holy Gospel According to Joseph

"The Anxiety of Saint Joseph," by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.

The Virgin Mary’s pregnancy is clear.

Joseph knows, but says nothing to Mary and asks her nothing.

He simply and silently decides to quietly call off the wedding.

At that point of decision, an angel of the Lord breaks in upon Joseph’s silence and his sleep.

Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home,
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son....

Then the angel commands Joseph to break his silence.

YOU are to name him Jesus [which means “God is salvation”],
because he will save his people from their sins.

As the husband of Mary, Joseph will obey the word of God, and serve legally as the father of Mary’s son.

Thus, it would fall to Joseph to make the public, legal designation of the child’s name.

His name will be Jesus [which means, “God is salvation”].

The Gospel does not tell us of any other words Joseph ever spoke.

We may nonetheless be sure that he publicly declared aloud, “His name will be Jesus.”

With that one short phrase, Joseph was the first human being to sum up the Gospel.

His name will be Jesus [which means, “God is salvation”].

Joseph is the first man to announce the good news— THE GOSPEL— in Israel: THIS CHILD IS OUR SAVING GOD.

We worship the God Man in his flesh and blood.

Jesus is our saving God in his Eucharistic flesh and blood, swelling the world with salvation, just as once he swelled the womb of the Virgin Mary in the watchful care of St. Joseph.

March 18, 2020

Love Never Falls

Dad is 92. Mom is 84. Will the virus take them? Will it take me? If it comes for me, I suppose I’ll wrestle my own fear, sorrow and rage. But in my last hour I will try to remember to give in to love, love for everyone.

March 16, 2020

Each Christian Is a Nazareth

"The Brow of the Hill near Nazareth" by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.

Luke 4:24-30, for Monday of the Third Week of Lent

Today's Gospel foreshadows Good Friday.

Christ's hometown Nazareth has tried to kill him.

They heard he did miracles elsewhere, and they wanted to see him do some in Nazareth.

He wanted them to believe without miracle.

In the end it would be more than Nazareth.

One of his twelve handpicked "Christians" would sell him to the nation's high priests.

The nation's priests, high court of justice, supreme council and laity belonging to the strictest religious groups worked together with the Roman pagan colonial government to kill him.

When they caught him, his other eleven handpicked Christians ran away, and the chief Christian among them cursed and lied when accused of being Christ's follower.

Christians, Jews and pagans, the whole world played a role in his suffering and death.

You and I have become his handpicked Christians and his hometown through Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.

He wants us to believe without seeing miracles.

So here we are using the works of Lent to ready ourselves for renewing at Easter our Baptismal vows, that is, to swear again that we believe without seeing miracles.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,
who, by the will of the Father
and the work of the Holy Spirit,
through your death brought life to the world,
free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil;
keep me always faithful to your commandments,
and never let me be parted from you.

March 14, 2020

Disease, Social Distancing, Limitations on Celebrations of the Eucharist at Mass

Pixabay / Public Domain

St. Tarsicius (or Tarcisius) died defending the Eucharist from a pagan Roman mob.
Anti-Catholic monarchs and zealots have executed priests for celebrating the Eucharist.
However, Catholics wishing to practice their Eucharistic faith in a time of contagious disease do not have a right to do so in a way that could endanger the health and lives of others.

Luke 6:6-11
On another sabbath, when Jesus entered the synagogue and taught, a man was there whose right hand was withered.
And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him.
But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come and stand here." And he rose and stood there.
And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?”
And he looked around on them all, and said to him, "Stretch out your hand." And he did so, and his hand was restored.
But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

You sin if you choose knowingly to do something that exposes others to the risk of potentially deadly harm.
Most of you will survive when the coronavirus hits you.  Please do all you can to avoid passing it to others whom it could kill.

March 09, 2020

We Know Not What We Do. God Knows All and Pours Out Overflowing Mercy.

Luke 6:36-38, the Gospel Reading at Mass on Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

When people do wrong, we never know fully and unfailingly what went on in their hearts, minds or lives before they did the wrong.

Only God can fully, unfailingly and always read everything in the soul of every person.

Yet he is merciful, and said in today’s Gospel:  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

From the cross on which men had nailed him, Christ told his Father to forgive them for they knew not what they were doing.

It is not possible to forgive a wrong without having judged it to be a wrong.

What we human persons are not able to judge— much less condemn— is the interior life of others.

The only all-knowing judge is God.

The utmost GIVER of all forgiveness is God.

The utmost GOAL of all forgiveness is God.

When Christ said from his cross, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do, Christ wanted them to be at one with the Father.

The deepest and highest goal of forgiveness is the sinner’s oneness with God.

The sinner’s greatest welfare is oneness with God.

The path of drawing nigh to God can be at times glad, but also at times a hard, sad way of the cross.

Even so, one way or another, at the end of all things being one with God will be the fullness of everlasting joy.

Until then, going to him opens us to some share in Christ’s way of the cross.

Being at one with God is the best and greatest we can wish for anyone, friend or foe.

God the forgiver chose to die so that sinners might rise to everlasting joy with him.

Here in his Eucharist, God— against whom each of us has sinned— offers us untold oneness with him at the cost of his own Body and Blood.

On his cross, his calling down forgiveness did not stop his suffering and death.

In the Body and Blood of Christ, God is— in the words of today’s Gospel— the good measure of forgiveness, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing.

Turn. Love. Repeat.

March 07, 2020

The Shining Glory of “Shapeshifting,” More Commonly Known as “Transfiguration”

"The Transfiguration" by J. Tissot. Brooklyn Museum / Public Domain.

On the Gospel Reading at Mass on the Second Sunday of Lent

Both before and after his Transfiguration, Christ told his apostles he would suffer and die at the hands of men.

Today’s Transfiguration Gospel is according to Matthew [17:1-9], and does not say what Moses and Elijah were talking about with Christ.

It is Luke’s Gospel that says Moses and Elijah were talking with Christ about his coming exodus of Suffering, Death and Resurrection in Jerusalem.

The prayer called the Preface later in today’s Mass upholds some of the meanings of the Transfiguration.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For after he had told his disciples of his coming Death,
on the holy mountain he manifested to them his glory,
to show, even by the testimony of the law and the prophets,
that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection.

Before the glory of the Resurrection the Son of God had first to undergo the Passion and his coming Death.

In the Death of Christ naked on the cross, the human body underwent destruction as the naked— unveiled— setting and sign of both sin and shame.

However, in his Transfiguration and especially his everlasting Resurrection— Christ unveiled the human body as fully alive with dignity, holiness, and glory.

You and I, in our own bodies, choose during Lent to take on penitential, sacrificial works of mercy, fasting and prayer.

To be steadfast in penitential works is to choose to be vulnerable.

Choosing to be vulnerable helps us to be spiritually naked, unveiled, honest and open for God.

Our vulnerability in willing penance can help us begin to know from the inside the unveiled, naked vulnerability that Christ chose in his extreme penance of Suffering and Death on the Cross.

For our sake, God in Christ unveiled himself through the penance, vulnerability and humiliation of suffering and death.

The open vulnerability of Christ in his Suffering and Death also unveiled and opened up the grace, glory and resurrection of the human body.

Through our own lowliness, honesty, openness and vulnerability in doing penance, we unveil ourselves for God.

Today’s second reading [2 Timothy 1:8-10] told of God and man unveiling and opening themselves to each other.

... Christ Jesus... destroyed death
and brought life and immortality to light....

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.
He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his design and the GRACE bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made MANIFEST through the APPEARANCE of our savior....

Again:  GRACE was bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but is now made MANIFEST through the APPEARANCE of our savior.

Christ is GRACE MADE MANIFEST— and we see that manifest grace unveiled for a moment in his Transfiguration— grace shining like sunlight from his face and clothes.

Grace is the open depth of God’s goodness that he unveils for us in the person of Christ.

In his Eucharistic Body and Blood, the grace, the open depth of God’s goodness is really present while also hiding beneath veils of bread and wine.

In his Eucharistic Body and Blood, Christ opens and gives us his whole risen humanity— living, transfigured and glorified.

The Eucharist really is the Body and Blood of Christ who has risen forever from the dead.

And yet, though he has risen forever from the dead, and can never again die, in his Eucharist he gives himself to us in the humble vulnerability of food and drink.

Most humble vulnerability, because food and drink are living things that we kill and take in so we can live!

By opening ourselves to vulnerability in penance, we begin to follow and come close to the openness of Christ in his Eucharist, Transfiguration, Suffering, Death and Resurrection.

The seemings of bread and wine are veils.

Beneath those veils, the Eucharist gives us the same mystery that was unveiled in the Transfiguration, where the bright cloud that is the Holy Spirit wraps us up with the real presence of Christ and brings us the voice of the heavenly Father.

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.

Giving us the open goodness of his strength in his Eucharist, the Lord wants us to listen to him say what he told his apostles at his Transfiguration: Rise, and do not be afraid.

The glory of the Eucharist is a mythical falsehood if we do not have faith in God.

Faith demands courage: Rise, and do not be afraid.

The Eucharist calls, stirs and strengthens us to rise with courage, because in his Eucharist as food and drink God is open to us and vulnerable.

In his vulnerability, God opens to us the fullness of sharing his glory.

We begin to open ourselves to glory by our Lenten penances of prayer, fasting and works of mercy.

The vulnerability and openness that come through penance allow our lives to follow, show and make present the saving history of Christ’s vulnerability and openness in his Life, Death and Resurrection.

So penance is even a sacrament of the Church— for a sacrament is a sign, an instrument and a presence of Christ.

If we take up the cross through our Lenten penances— believing in, inspired by and following God who opens and empties himself for those he loves— then penance is also transfiguration:  God’s glory shining out of us into the world.

By our penitential works of mercy, prayer and fasting— not only during Lent, but also always and everywhere— it is right and just, our duty, salvation and our transfiguration to give thanks to the Lord our God.

Turn. Love. Repeat.