Our readings today remind us of God’s reign from before time began, throughout all time, and unto eternity. God always was and always will be. Today we honor Jesus with the earthly title of king. Yet we are reminded by the gospel that Jesus himself tells us that his true kingdom is not here in this world. We pray in the Our Father prayer for the coming of God’s kingdom and that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. We honor our king Jesus by trying to make this world as much as possible conform to the way that Jesus truly is king in heaven. As we do so, we know that this world will never be perfect. Rather than a cause to despair, these imperfections keep us longing for the day when the king will return in glory and everything will be made right. May we all eagerly await the coming of that day, the return of the king.
In ancient Roman times when emperors acted like gods and believed too often in their own immortality, one of his servants was given the job to walk beside him in procession and whisper the words “memento mori,” that is, “remember death.” Today’s readings and the entire month of November give us a change to remember death. How do we see death? Are we scared? Do we look forward to it? Perhaps most times we don’t even really think about it. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris perhaps have us a little more mindful these days about death. Today’s homily gives some insights into death and what we might expect.
Both the widow in our first reading and the widow in the gospel seem to have nothing. One has no food and is about to die and the other has only two small coins. Yet both of them are willing to give up even the little that they have. What amazing trust these women have in God! They have figured out the secret: God will not be outdone in generosity. In today’s homily I share a couple stories from the World Series and the subway where I encountered people who also found this secret.
Today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews uses language describing the priesthood of the Old Testament and the offering of animal sacrifices. God taught his people over the course of centuries that sin required sacrifice to make atonement. The priests of the Old Testament offered various sacrifices including animals in atonement for sins. The problem with these sacrifices was that the priests offering them were themselves sinners and the animals weren’t really capable of taking away sins.
In the New Testament, Jesus doesn’t do away with the idea of priests and sacrifice. Rather he perfects the old law and shows us a deeper meaning. Jesus is sinless and has no need to offer sacrifice first for his own sins and then for others. He is the perfect priest. Then, in an amazing development, the sacrifice he offers is also perfect because he offers himself. No longer are imperfect lambs offered over and over, but the perfect Lamb of God becomes the perfect sacrifice that once and for all takes away the sins of the world.
This is what we are doing when we come to Mass. This is how our sins today are taken away by the one sacrifice of the Lamb of God 2000 years ago. This is why the Mass has traditionally and rightly been called, “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
We don’t like suffering. We often go to great lengths to avoid even the smallest suffering. Despite our attempts, suffering will eventually come, and normally with some frequency. The key is knowing what to do with suffering when it comes.
Today’s homily looks at the various sources of suffering and what our response should be to each of these. When we know the secret, suffering need not harm us and can actually make us spiritually powerful. We accept, we endure, we even embrace suffering…and we never despair.
This has been an amazing week having the Holy Father here in the historic cities of our country. There are so many unforgettable memories that I will have of this visit. Today’s homily ties some of my experiences together with the message in our readings today.
I have heard so many people excited this week and emotionally moved by the Holy Father. The real question is, “Now what?” It is not enough to “like” the Pope or to feel happy thoughts about him. We have to act. If the Pope’s visit doesn’t result in our living more faithfully as disciples of Jesus then it will have no lasting value. Pope Francis himself gave us our marching orders at the Mass in Washington: “Go out… announce the Gospel… always moving forward”
Now that the Holy Father has given us such a beautiful example of a missionary going out, it’s our turn. We too must go out. If we want this visit to really make a difference, then we’ve to to go out and announce the Gospel, always moving forward.
It’s been an amazing couple of days here in Washington as Pope Francis has just completed his visit. Despite attempts to overly politicize this visit, Pope Francis showed us once again that the Church is neither liberal, nor conservative, but Catholic. I will never forget the images today of the Pope in the House of Representatives with two Catholics sitting behind him as the heads of our government. It was a proud day for American Catholics.
Now that the Holy Father is safely in New York, things are starting to quiet down here. As such, I took some time to reflect on these past days and share some thoughts of what it was like to be here.
All of Washington is excited now that we have one additional, famous resident. Pope Francis arrived this afternoon and is staying down the road from me tonight. I’m looking forward to celebrating Mass with him tomorrow. All this focus on the Holy Father reminded me of an interview I did for EWTN’s “Vocation Boom” show shortly after Francis became Pope. I never actually posted the audio before, so what better time could there be?
The original air date was 10/5/2013, but it’s amazing how not much has changed from my thoughts at that time. So, here is my tribute to Pope Francis and a little bit about my own vocation.
In preparation for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis released a letter expressing his desire to give priests some special abilities to minister to those seeking forgiveness for having participated in an abortion. He also had some special instructions for those who would go to a priest of the Society of St. Pius X for confession. Because these issues involve some complexities of canon law, there has been some confusion. Hopefully this video can clear a few things up.
Today we went to visit the swamp mentioned in yesterday’s homily. It’s not a swamp anymore, but actually a small town in it’s own right. This is where St. Francis was given his first church by the Benedictines. That little church, called the Portiuncula or “Little Portion,” is today preserved inside the much larger church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, St. Mary of the Angels.
Just behind the Portiuncula church is a little chapel that makes the spot where St. Francis died. Inside are a piece of the cloth from his religious habit, symbol of poverty, and also the cincture that he wore about his waist to symbolize chastity.
After spending the morning at St. Mary of the Angels we came back up into the city and visited the Basilica of St. Francis. The heart of this church is the crypt that contains the body of St. Francis and his early Franciscan brothers. At the time St. Francis died, this area was outside the city and really a sort of dump. This is where St. Francis personally chose to be buried. Today it is a beautiful pilgrim site for the thousands who come each year to venerate the relics of the “little poor man” of Assisi.
In the afternoon we took a special trip up the large hill behind the town of Assisi to the hermitage built by St. Francis. He and the brothers would often come up here and stay alone in complete silence for months at a time. It was such a beautiful and peaceful place that you could see why he wouldn’t want to come down.
After a long day of tracing the footsteps of St. Francis, I had some time to spend praying back at the Basilica. The church is very famous for its frescoes. One of them is considered by those who knew Francis to be the one that most looks like the saint appeared in life. A great way to end to the day.