The month of May is one in which we give special honor to our Blessed Mother Mary. Today’s homily if full of some good tips in how we can entrust ourselves more to Mary and so become more like Jesus her son. Like little children, we never have to be worried or afraid in the arms of our mother.
The Church Visible
I was once surprised to learn that many non-Catholics use the same creed that we do and actually profess to believe in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” just like we do. How can that be? For most of them, they understand the word “catholic” very generically and believe that this “universal” church is in fact more of an idea or even invisible. Today’s first reading clearly shows us a church that exists concretely. St. Paul establishes actual communities with priests to lead them. When he goes to a town he calls together the church, clearly a tangible body. So why would someone want to belong to an invisible church?
Two things come to mind. First, an invisible church doesn’t make any demands on us. We can stay exactly as we are and create our invisible church to suit all our weaknesses that we’d rather not change. An invisible church can be rather convenient if you’re not looking to grow in holiness. Secondly, an invisible church can be perfect, no faults or sinners to mess things up. Sometimes when you look at the concrete church that actually exists you can’t help but see all the mess. Yet we can also take comfort in the fact that it has existed for 2000 years and no amount of sinning has managed to destroy it yet.
No matter how attractive the idea of an invisible church might be, the Scriptures and history are clear. The church is and has always been a concrete, existing, visible reality that one can find and adhere to. We tend to focus on dogma and correct teaching to know the true church, but today’s gospel gives us another way. St. John tells us that the way the disciples of Jesus can be found is by seeing the way we love each other. How are we dong on that? Would people know we are the disciples of Jesus and that they had found his church by looking at our love? It’s easy to point out how the Catholic Church is the church founded by Jesus, but would others be able to tell this apart from doctrine? Would they know we are Christians by our love?
It seems everyone wants to be successful, but when it comes to faith this can be a dangerous goal. You see, we always tend to measure success on the world’s terms. Do people like us? Are we getting ahead? Yet, in the Scriptures we see that sometimes the heroes are the ones that seem to be most defeated. The martyrs are killed, the apostles are put in prison and then killed and on and on. This sure looks like a lot of failures. Mother Theresa gives us the perfect answer to this problem. She tells us that God does not call us to be successful, but faithful. Faithfulness, no success, is our goal.
This is why we can have great joy even amid worldly failures. This world is not our goal. We live this life knowing that Christ has already won the victory and that if we follow him, our good shepherd, then nothing can take us out of God’s hand. God would never allow the slightest evil in the world if he were not able to bring about an infinitely greater good. The Father is greater. This leads to the virtue of hope. Even in our darkest moments, with all the pain and suffering that we’ve seen even just this week in Boston and other places, in the middle of all the apparent failures, we have joy and hope. In the end, we win. Therefore, let us not despair but remain faithful to hope.
Peace Is Flowing Like an Ocean
When Jesus reveals himself to the apostles after his resurrection the Scriptures tell us that his wounds were still visible. Why would a glorified body have wounds? The wounds of Jesus reveal how much he loves us, what he endured to save us. They are part of his perfect body because they perfectly reveal his mercy. Rather than condemn the apostles for their failure at the time of the passion, Jesus wishes them “Peace.” When God forgives our sins, what he is saying is that he loves us anyway. Even through our woundedness God is able to bring about great good. Our sins our swallowed up in the ocean of his Divine Mercy. Now that’s good cause for all of us to have peace.
Faith: Love It, Learn It, Live It
In today’s Gospel, we read how Peter and John both saw the same evidence at the tomb. The tomb it empty. Yet faith was necessary to correctly interpret what really happened. One could conclude the body had been stolen, but you’d be wrong. Faith isn’t just some fringe nicety that we can do without. If we don’t have faith, we are doomed to misinterpret all kinds of things in life. In this Year of Faith, let us resolve today to take the new life given us at Easter and make it grow.
The Hour Has Come
After weeks of prayer and fasting through these forty days of Lent, the Gospel tells us today that “the hour” has come. It is time for the celebration of the most important events in our Christian lives. Yet these are not just historic remembrances. Through the mystery of the Sacred Liturgy this week, the Church throughout the world lives once again these special moments. May the renewal of the Holy Spirit be evident in this upcoming Holy Week.
This past week has been an amazing time of excitement and joy in the Holy Spirit as we rejoice at the gift of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. Today’s homily relives some of my personal experience of this week and considers what the election of Pope Francis might mean for the future of the Church.
Keys to the Conclave
Today’s homily gives an overview of the history of electing the Pope and the process that will be followed this week. If you have other questions not covered in the homily, feel free to post them below. Most of all, pray for the Cardinals and the coming of the Holy Spirit to help inspire the choice of our new Holy Father.
Today was my 4th and last day at St. Matthew’s parish in Longview, Texas. Below is the final mission talk from this evening. It has been a great blessing to be at this wonderful parish. Hopefully some of the seeds planted will live up to my theme of bearing fruit. Today’s talk is on the Eucharist. The format is similar to yesterday with about half and hour on some history and setting the context of the Eucharist in the Old Testament. After the break, part 2 begins with some Scripture meditation on the Gospel of John, followed by some practical points on various parts of the Mass.
Part 1 – The Lamb of God[audio:http://www.shawnthebaptist.org/audio/talks/2013/03/The-Sacrament-of-the-Eucharist-Part-1.mp3]
Part 2 – Eat My Flesh[audio:http://www.shawnthebaptist.org/audio/talks/2013/03/The-Sacrament-of-the-Eucharist-Part-2.mp3]
Today was the first full day of the parish mission hear at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Longview, Texas. I gave the same talk this morning and again this evening. The turnout of people has been wonderful. The talk today was on the Sacrament of Penance. It is broken into two parts. First is a little background and history of the Sacrament. The second half is a spiritual reflection on St. Peter and why we need the Sacrament. It ends with some practical tips for how get over any fears one might have about going to confession. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the Mass and the Eucharist.
Part 1 – The Development of the Sacrament[audio:http://www.shawnthebaptist.org/audio/talks/2013/03/The-Sacrament-of-Penance-Part-1.mp3]
Part 2 – Why St. Peter Needed Confession and We Do Too, Practical Tips[audio:http://www.shawnthebaptist.org/audio/talks/2013/03/The-Sacrament-of-Penance-Part-2.mp3]