Christmas, Easter and the other important Holiday

PentecostI wish I had the text to our priest’s homily this weekend. First of all because with the little kids I always manage to miss a little bit of it, but also because what I did hear clearly, I would love to share it word for word with you.

So I will share what I think was the most important part, or at least the part that struck me as the most important part. We celebrate Christmas and Easter as the coming and the returning of the second person in the three persons in God, but we don’t normally remember that Pentecost is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit, who is after all the third person in God. And yet there is no huge celebration with a tree, or baskets full of chocolate eggs to find.

Part of it I am sure is that the Holy spirit, unlike Christ, has no physical manifestation that we can understand. Yes, I realize the irony in what I just said. The Holy Spirit has not physical manifestation. But, the truth is, that we as humans have a hard time getting our minds around something that we can’t see or touch. Think about St. Thomas, who did not believe that Christ had risen until he could see Him. A slightly different thing but the same point. He could not see Him, therefore he could not believe.

The other part of it, I think, is that the Holy Spirit, unlike Christ, is still with us in a very real sense. When Christ ascended to Heaven, or really before he did, the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, and the Holy Spirit remains with us today. Like other things in our life, when they are there every day, we marginalize them or even forget about them being there. We forget to celebrate the wonder that they are.

If you will allow me to get off on a bit of a tangent here, I think this is what happens a lot of times with marriages. We get so used to our spouses being there, that we forget to celebrate them. We forget to remind them how special they are, and how much they mean to us. This leads to feeling of alienation and people drifting apart. (By the way this is really a thank you to my wife who is very good at letting me know how much she appreciates the things that I do, and never lets me feel like I am not important to her.)

The same thing can happen with us and the Holy Spirit. We forget It is there. We forget to ask It for help, and we stop being able to feel like It is part of our lives. We don’t celebrate It the way that we should. I know at least, I have forgotten to do this. This is something I hope to be able to fix now that I had a chance to think about it. Thank you Father M. N. for point it out to me, and giving me this to think about.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.


Palm Sunday – Thoughts on a Homily that didn’t Happen.

Palm_SundayHoly week is on us once again. The beginning of this week is always one of those bitter sweet moments. You are excited for lent to be over, excited for the promise of Easter, but you also know that before you can get there you have to get past good Friday. You have to live through the Holy Thursday, the Passion and death of Jesus to get there. Over the last few years, that has gotten harder and harder for me.

A few years ago I attended an Ash Wednesday at a Parish that was not my own. It was one of those, well I need to go so I will go at this Church down the Street during lunch. For me it really was one of those, get in do what I need to do and get out type of moments. That was until I heard the priest’s Homily. I don’t remember his name, I don’t even remember what he looked like, but I remember one thing he said. And I am going to paraphrase here because it has been 6/7/8 years now.

I don’t understand when I look out over the congregation during holy week and there is not one person in the crowd weeping. How can you hear these things, and not be sad. This should be about one of your best friends, about a horrible death that they endured. Sure you know the ending. You know that He rises from the dead, but right now, This week, He is suffering, and will be put to death before the week is out. If that does not make you sad…

That has stuck with me, and I guess it is me getting older, but every year going through Holy week gets harder. And I think that is as it should be.

Having said that, yesterday was Palm Sunday, and I always look forward to the Homily.

This year we went to Mass at Our Lady of Mercy. Not our normal Parish but a good one and one that has a Sunday Evening Mass that works out really well when I or one of the older boys has to work over the weekend, which my eldest son did this weekend. The kids were all being relatively well behaved, I was actually sitting next to my wife, (more on that later this week) and I was really kind of excited that I would be able to sit still and listen to a homily.

Here is where we get to the title of the post. I learned something this weekend. Apparently a couple of times during the year the priest gets a choice, to either give a homily or just have silence. I have never been to a Mass where a priest chose the silence. Well last night he did.

I will admit, at first I was disappointed. Well in truth, at first I was nervous. The littlest one was sleeping on the pew, her next older brother, as also mostly asleep, but the next one up was pretending to sleep and mostly bothering his order brothers. During a moment of silence is not the time to have one of the kids start giggling, or one of the little ones really wake so I grabbed the one who was awake and held him on my lap to keep him quiet and this mostly work. But then I was back to being kind of disappointed. I had really been looking forward to hearing something really good. Instead, I felt like the priest had kind of wimped out.

However, as I sat there, holding my son in my lap, glad that this was keeping him quiet, a thought occurred me. This is the thing that I had been working on. This is the thing that I have been struggling with. Sitting quietly and listening for what God wants to tell me. I mean I don’t think that I am going to hear the word of God in any special message or anything, but just listening, hearing what He has said to me thought out the day. And if you can sit quietly and just think about the Gospel reading for a few minutes a just listen to Gods words replaying in your head, that might be the best Homily of all. Better yet, this Gospel reading, the Passion. Understanding the pain and suffering that is about to happen it our Lord. Spending time reflecting on that…

So that was the Homily and that did and didn’t happen. The priest did say one thing before he asked us to be silent, “Reflect on the idea that when Jesus was in the garden praying, He was really suffering. Why? Because the evil one with with Him, and showing Him a century when we are so self centered that most of us will completely miss what is happening this week.” That was one of those things that you know, but don’t really know and it was a great point to focus on.

So, while I was a little disappointed that there was not a spoken Homily. It was a pretty great way to start holy week. And if you are like me and really look forward to a great Homily and feel like you still really want one you can always listen to Father Robert Barron who did do a wonderful Homily this weekend.

Finding Spiritual Direction – A Homily and More

logo[1]This weekend our priest gave a great Homily. It really hit home with couple things that I have been dealing with lately, confession and finding some direction in terms of my faith. If you reading my site before it crashed and I started over you might have seen a post about “Struggling with confession,” so you probably already knew about that one. What I didn’t discuss in that one was the struggle I have been having with spiritual direction. The Homily this weekend kind of crystallized what it was that I have been thinking about, even though I really didn’t even know it.

Ok, I will go ahead and say it, since we have been going to Mass with Father N.M. we I can’t remember a bad homily. That is a pretty good track record. We have be going to Mass with him for just about a year now and I think there was one time when I looked at my wife after Mass and said, something like “that homily was not up to his standards.” Don’t get me wrong, it was still good, but it didn’t move me the way most of his do. That was not the case this week.

So what did he say that hit so close to home? If you don’t know about the tragedy that happened in Connecticut this week, you have probably been living in a hole somewhere, because even I, and I do my very best to avoid news like that, knew about it. So the Homily did have some notes about that. Following that he talked about returning to God in two very important ways. The first way was through confession. I am going to paraphrase him.

We live in a society where we think we know better.

In other words we are all Cafeteria Catholics. I could write an entire post about that term and how much I dislike it, but that would get me off subject here. When I heard this, my first thought was really? Do we really think that we know better than God? The only answer that I can come up with is, yes we do. That really scares me. More and more and a society we seem to be turning our backs to God. More and more we seem to think that we know better and we really only need to follow the rules that we think are important.

So what do we do? Father N.M. had this to say about that. Again I am paraphrasing him.

The way back is through confession.

As this is something I am struggling with, I can say, yes I know he is right. But yes, I will admit that this is one of the hardest things, at least for me, to do. I have taken steps to make sure that I fix this but it is still hard. There is still a lot of fear, but I am working on it.

He is right here, of course. The first step toward making things right is finding that peace with God through reconciling yourself with Him, and obviously, there is a Sacrament for that. Father M.N. said one other thing during his Homily that I is related to this and this one leads me back to the title of this post.

If we want to start fixing the problem, we can’t look to someone in an office hundreds of miles away, or even the people around us. We have to begin with ourselves. Like the song says “let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

I have to admit that I didn’t understand that line in the song until this weekend. I never really saw it from that angle. Not give me peace first, but let me find peace and then give it to others. Without that peace within ourselves we have no hope, and the same is true for everyone around you. It is funny that I only now understand the lyrics of this song despite having read something long these lines in a book by Cardinal Dolan earlier this year.

So what does this have do with finding spiritual direction? In this case the answer is very personal. I have, for a number of years now, felt called to do more. I didn’t know what that more was, or even how I would accomplish it, or even it was really a calling or just kind of wishful thinking. I have had a couple of conversations on this topic lately and I think that I am starting to develop at the least and idea of what in need to do next. It begin with confession and continues down that road toward finding that peace.

One of the councils that I got about helping to figure this out was that I needed to write every day about what I was thinking on the subject so that I was positively focused on it. (No pressure to write every day or anything right?) I don’t know that I will post those thoughts here, but I might highlight them here, because I figure maybe, just maybe I am not the only person out there feeling like this. I am still looking for that spiritual leadership but at least for the moment I think I have an idea about where to start.

Two and a Half Homilies

This weekend, because of some rather unusual circumstances I ended up going to Mass three times. Not that I mind, if nothing else by the end of the weekend, I felt like I knew a lot more about the readings than I normally do.

Here is the short version of what happened:

On Saturday night, my sons had their last obligation to serve as altar boys, at our old parish, but because several of the kids were sick I only took the older boys to Mass. I have say going to Mass either by yourself or only with older kids that you don’t that you don’t have to keep telling to, “quit touching that,” is really a different experience. Then Sunday morning most of us went as a family to our new parish. One of the older boys was still kind of sick and one of the younger boys was still actually sick so we left them at home to veg out and get better while the rest of us went to Mass. By Sunday evening, the older boy who had been only sort of sick was feeling better. Earlier in the weekend I had gotten a note from a priest that we know, and had been meaning to visit for some time telling us that he would be presiding over Mass at 4PM on Sunday Afternoon. So since I now had a healthy boy, who really should go to Mass if he is well enough, and as I said we wanted to visit with our friend after Mass, we went.

It is really interesting hearing three different takes on the the same readings. And honestly I feel like I learned quite a bit. Though I love history, and read an listen to a lot of it, I have never really studied biblical history, I feel like many people may know a lot more than I do on the subject. So if you have heard some of this before just stick with me for a couple of minutes.

The first Homily given by Father W.E. started out really well. We learned that Nicodemus was one of the Jewish leaders at the time, who didn’t quite agree with the rest of the leaders and wanted to hear more about what Jesus was saying. However, he was not quiet ready to come out into the light about it. (the Theme of the Gospel reading (coming into the light (grace) of God) by the way) and so he would actually come to Jesus at night. So it you read biblical history, he is some times refereed to as the Night Visitor.

Unfortunately that is where the first Homily stopped because it was uninterrupted by, “And here is the pastoral administrator to continue the homily.” The rest of the homily was not on this subject. In fact, though I did my best to pay attention I am not really sure what it was about. One of the things (among many) that I don’t like about the Pastoral Admin giving the homily is that it really never seems to have much to do with anything. So I call this first one a half homily. What there was of it was pretty good, but it was cut short.

The Second homily of the weekend given by Father M.N. He also focused mostly on the Gospel reading, and it was a great call to confession. We as humans would rather live in the dark than come into the light because our lives are evil. That can be hard to hear, but we need to hear it because we as Catholics have a way to reconcile that. Yup, this homily was about the sacrament of reconciliation. Father M.N. is pretty young (about my age, he is young because I am young, So says I.) and he tells a fair number of stories about himself growing up. This week was no different, as he told about a time he did something he really should not have and before he got caught told his mother what he had done. He Talked about how that had freed him of his burden. How as Catholics we were given the gift by Christ of reconciliation and we can have burdens lifted, if only we take part in that wonderful gift. I heard you father M.N. Making plans to go to confession this week.

Father M.N. also took a few moments to explaining why we have to confess to a priest, and not just anyone. This having to do with the power Jesus gave to the Apostles on the third day, saying “whoever’s sins you forgive are forgiven…” and how that was passed down from the Apostles to the priests of today. He did this with the help three young men (early teen-aged boys) pretending to be the bishops of the past, passing down the power of the Apostles.

Father M.N. tends to preach for a younger audience. He includes a lot of stories about his childhood, he very often gets genuine laughs from children and adults alike (real laughs.) His Homilies are animated and loud. This is not by any means a negative comment, just a comment on what I see. Everyone in Mass who is old enough to pay attention, is paying attention because he holds your attention and what he is saying is interesting. That can be a challenge and I really appreciate that he makes that effort and goes the extra mile to engage the people in the pews.

The Third Homily of the week was given by Father M.M. He happens to be a good friend, and someone I think of as a spiritual adviser, even if he really does not know that. (BTW I don’t THINK he reads this so…) If I sound overly enthusiastic about this homily it is because I am. He is a great speaker, and someone who never pulls any punches about the faith.

This Homily, though it did talk about the Gospel reading some, focused more on the first reading, in which Israel was taken into captivity by Babylon and denied their Sabbaths for 70 years. Father M.M. focused on the loss of the right to practice our faith, an how if we do not actively participate in the Mass we run the danger of having it taken away from us. As demonstrated in this reading God can even work through the non believers. If we, for example, say I don’t need to go to Mass because “I read the Bible at home,” or “I take a walk in the park to get closer to God” we are missing out on the most important part, The sacrifice that was given to us by God Himself, the the Body and Blood, that we are commanded to do, “In Memory of Me.” A paraphrased quote, “birds are great but they don’t pray to God. Dogs are nice, and obedient but they don’t have souls. The Animals of nature are great but they do not offer sacrifice. The human person is different.”

Near the end of the Homily, Father M.M. did talk about how this related to the The HHS mandate, and how if we let something like this happen, what will be next? I took this as a very fitting analogy to, “[Their enemies] burnt the house of God and tore down the walls of Jerusalem…”

I want to pause for a moment to say that I don’t have any illusions about The U.S. being Jerusalem and though the HHS mandate currently facing the U.S. is a big deal, it is not quite the same thing. However I am speaking more about the loss of religious freedoms around the world and the general apathy of those that call themselves religious to do anything about it.

Before it got to the HHS Mandate, Father M.M. spent a few minutes driving home what I think was a very important point. He told another story about Cyrus, this one historical in nature and not biblical, though very telling about the man’s character. Again I am going to paraphrase. The story went like this.

Cyrus’s army had destroyed another army that had given them trouble for some time. The Leader of which was brought to the palace presumably to be executed. When he arrived for whatever reason Cyrus deiced to question him instead.

Cyrus: What would you do if I spared your life?
Other leader: I would serve you forever.
Cyrus: What would you do if I spared the life of your wife?
Other leader: I would die for you.
Later that day
Other leader to his wife: Did you see that Palace?
Wife: No
Leader: what did you see then?
Wife: the face of the man who said he would die for me.

While telling the story at the proper points Father M.M. pointed to various parts of the very beautiful church building. Reminding us why we come to Mass, and what it is important for us to come to Mass and not just pray in our homes or “commune with nature.”

Father M.M. Tends to preach more toward adults, in language that everyone can understand. The subject (as all the homilies I talked about are) is always serious and gives you a lot to think about. I usually find myself not getting all of the message of Father M.M.’s homily until I have had time to really think about it. (In other words they are very deep and give me a lot to think about.)

So as you can see two and a half homilies, that were very good, and very different. I came away from this weekend trying to figure out if there was a way from me / us to attend a Mass with Father M.N. and Father M.M. every week to get the most out of the readings. I don’t think there is but it would be interesting. I don’t normally attend more than one Mass in a weekend and don’t think the situation to do this again will present itself any time soon but it certainly made for an interesting weekend for me.

I want to note that I am not by any stretch of the imagination a biblical scholar and I am by am by no means critiquing any of the homilies that I heard this weekend. My comments were and are my opinions. (See warning #1 and #2 on the upper left side of the page.) I respect all three of the priests and appreciate that they have different styles. And I thank all three of them for enlightening me this weekend.

Second NOTE:
I don’t think I have access to the text of any of the homilies from this weekend, so I am going from memory here folks. If I left out part of a homily it is only because I am human and forget things. The parts I talked about where the parts that stuck out most to me, and therefore had the greatest impact. The comments about style at the end of each homily was meant to give you an idea of the flavor of each of their preaching styles.

The Readings from the week were all from the Forth Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

First Reading
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
The causes for the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon are described.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 137:1-2,3,4-5,6
A lament from exile for the loss of Jerusalem

Second Reading
Ephesians 2:4-10
In grace we have been saved, so that we may do the work of the Lord.

Gospel Reading
John 3:14-21
Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man will be raised up so that those who believe in him will have eternal life.