“I will put my spirit in you that you may live!”: A homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (A)

Golazd is preparing us, little by little, for the forthcoming celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Last week we had rose vestments, we’ve got our penance services going on, it’s Spring Break, and it’s getting a bit warmer out. And now God has given us these readings—all about the resurrection of the dead. I almost hesitate to preach on the resurrection given that it is still Lent, but the readings seem to suggest I do. So I will.

I want to focus, at least for a moment, on the resurrection of the dead. It’s an important dogma of our faith, but one that is I’m afraid often glanced over these days. It is a belief which we have held from the beginning. We believe that, when Jesus returns, God will raise our bodies up from the earth and they will become glorified bodies in heaven. We proclaim belief in this every time we recite the Creed at Holy Mass: “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead….” It’s in the Scriptures: all of our readings reference it today, and you’ll find it in plenty of places. For example, 1 Cor 15.  It’s also in the Catechism (CCC 1017). It’s everywhere with the Church Fathers. And in particular, it is in the prayers of the funeral Mass and the burial. It will be a beautiful day, that glorious day when our bodies are gloriously raised up! They won’t be these decrepit bodies, but glorified bodies says scripture. I think I will have hair in heaven!

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Being ready for transfiguration moments: A homily for the Second Sunday of Lent (A)

MayoI have to tell you that it’s been a long week. I was out late on Friday, then got called to the hospital int he night. Of course yesterday was an early day; had a running event on the east side in the morning, then over 100 kids were here on retreat preparing for their first communion. I finished with that around 12:30, then had a party, then a marriage prep. Then I looked at the clock: 3:45pm, less than an hour before confessions and Mass. Plenty of time to write a homily. OK, thought I, I will be able to concentrate better in the rectory. So I went to the house.  Then I took a nap. Woke up from the nap. 4:10.  Still 20 minutes to write a sermon. So I made a sandwich.  Then God gave me the topic of my sermon. Mayonnaise.

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How the Devil works: A homily for the First Sunday of Lent (A)

Devil.gifToday’s readings offer us a glimpse at how the Devil likes to work.  We see, if you will, a pattern he likes to follow.  We see his modus operandi.  I want to look at the Devil’s actions, his strategy in our Gospel today.

First, the Devil tempts Jesus.  Now Jesus had been “led by the Spirit into the desert.”  This is when the Devil likes to attack: when we are in the desert.  Lent is a desert for us, a time of silence and simplicity. The desert is a symbol of one’s getting closer to the Lord.  They warned us in seminary that the Devil works harder the closer one gets to ordination. The devil does not want another priest.  This is true for everyone who seeks God. The closer we get, the more the Devil wants to stop us. He does not want stronger Christians. And so there is dryness, temptation, difficulty in prayer, in life. There, in the midst of our desert, in the midst of our coming closer to Jesus, is the Devil.  First, he tempts us from afar–with a distant idea, or a small wondering, a whisper in the ear (“No need to pray tonight”; “Skip Mass just this once”; “Go ahead, say that thing you shouldn’t” etc). Then….

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The two things we receive at Mass today: A homily for Ash Wednesday

downloadToday we celebrate Ash Wednesday. We will receive two things at this Mass: the ashes and the Eucharist. First, the ashes. One thing that the ashes remind us of is that without God, we are a pile of dust. Remember how he made Adam? He breathed into the dirt, and boom, there was man. We are simply a pile of dirt without the Lord who breathes into us life.  Now the second “thing” we receive at this and every Mass is far more important than a pile of dirt (it saddens me so many are so much more excited to receive dirt on their heads than Jesus within their bodies and souls) is the Eucharist. The Eucharist, it reminds us that, with God, we are holy, we are Jesus!  We who receive the Eucharist are divinized, we become Jesus!  Jesus lives his life within we who receive him in the Sacrament! The school is focusing these days on “Becoming What You Receive.”  When we receive the Eucharist, we become Jesus, we become the one we receive.  We have a lot of ways of remaining what we receive–Jesus names them in our Gospel: pray, fast, give.  Let us do that and do it generously this Lent.

Get ready for a good Lent: A homily for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

lent225x225Today’s Gospel contains my favorite scripture verse, Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,and all these things will be given you besides.”  I suppose I like this line, this promise of Jesus so much, because it delivers to us a beautiful promise straight from the lips of the Lord. He says that as long as we follow after God, as long as we seek him with a sincere heart and with all we’ve got, everything takes care of itself.  We have a temptation to want to always take care of things ourselves and then, if there’s time, follow God.  We get it backwards. This line reminds us Jesus is our Shepherd and we don’t have to worry. We just need to follow, to seek after him.  He’ll cover the rest.

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The Devil’s Day: A homily for Good Friday

goodfriIt has been said that Good Friday is the day that the Devil has his day. The tabernacles are empty, just as he wants them. The crosses are covered, as the devil wants it: he wants the cross, he wants Jesus out of sight. The altars are bare as he would want them always to be. There is no Mass today. There are no baptisms, no weddings or funerals. We don’t eat or drink much today, that is, we don’t party. This is all the devil’s will. And today he has his day.

Our readings remind us how the devil had his day with the Lord Jesus 2000 some years ago. That is what we remember today. We recall how Isiah’s words played out in the life of Jesus: “He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.”

Today we remember that Jesus was spurned, that he was spat upon, that he was mocked, that he was tempted, that he suffered bitterly, and that no one seemed to give a darn at all about what he was doing–and yet he suffered to the end.

When you walk the stations of the cross in the Holy Land, where the Lord Jesus walked them on this day long ago, it’s interesting because the way of the cross is in the midst of a big market center. It was like that years ago, too: everybody was busy, too busy to recognize what was going on around him. Those that did see what was happening–they spat on Jesus, mocked him, mumbled behind him. But most were simply indifferent to it.

But Jesus bore his cross anyway. It crushed him. It caused him to fall. And then he was nailed to it. This morning the eighth graders did a living passion play of sorts for the school. It was powerful. The sound of the cross hitting the ground. The sound of the hammer. It stung me to my bones, gave me chills. Those are the sounds of our salvation.

The cross, originally an instrument of death, God has transformed into the instrument of our salvation. That is why we kiss it. Strange, isn’t it–that thing we should hate the most, that thing that the Devil used to have his day, that is the thing we kiss–because Jesus redeems the cross. The cross is the power of our faith.

You and I carry parts of his cross even to this day. He carries them with us. Today we are called to touch our lips to this cross and to all the crosses of our lives. The things we hate the most, they might be the same things that save us. Today we kiss them.

The Devil indeed has his day today. And he loses.

A welcome for the Lord: A homily for Palm Sunday

Tdownloadhe palm branches that we hold in our hands, they remind us of the welcome that we always want to have for Jesus. We hold our branches up as a way of welcoming the Lord, just as folks did in Jerusalem when the Good Lord entered there at the start of the first holy week. We will place our palm branch behind a cross or a picture of Jesus or Mary in our houses. Let it always be a reminder that we need to welcome Jesus into every part of our lives. We welcome him into our houses, our families, our relationships, our jobs, our thoughts, our feelings, our dreams, our bodies, our everything. We need Jesus. Let us welcome him always into our lives. And when we invite him into all those places, he will transform them all, raise up whatever needs to be raised up—as surely as he raised himself up on Easter Day. This week, the holiest week of the year, we have some great opportunities to welcome the Lord into our lives a bit more, to let the mystery of our salvation touch our hearts. Let us take advantage of them. Go to the penance service on Monday at 7pm here. Celebrate with us on Thursday the institution of the Eucharist, the last Supper. Come on Friday at 1pm and remember the moment that Jesus died…for you. Join with us on Holy Saturday at 9pm to welcome into the church a whole bunch of new members, the renewal of the church around the world and the renewal of our lives! Let us enter into this week and let God enter into our hearts.