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Holy Week Message Series “Dress Rehearsal” – Easter

“Act 2 – Plot Twist”

Homily for the Easter Vigil and Easter Day

Gospel for the Easter Vigil
Matthew 28:1-10

I’ve been giving a “message series” this past week titled “Dress Rehearsal.” Like some movie sequels, be it the popular Harry Potter movies or the Fast and Furious series which apparently is on it’s eighth installment, sometimes it helps to understand what’s going on in the current movie if you know what’s taken place in the previous films. So let me very quickly summarize what the previous messages of this week’s series were about so that tonight’s/today’s message makes a bit more sense (Just in case you weren’t able to be at all the services.)

Last Sunday I compared this past week’s liturgies to a dress rehearsal of what the Christian life is to be like when we live as disciples of Jesus on the stage of the world. Palm Sunday was a sort of Disciples follow Jesus through his passion discovering the Paschal Mystery, that death can lead to fuller life here and now and eventually at the banquet of eternal life Mass gives us a glimpse of. Holy Thursday evening we learned what our role is in the drama of discipleship, that our role is to be servant; servants who die daily by letting go of their self-centeredness while taking care of the needs of others. Jesus, the lead actor taught us how to be servant when he washed feet and died on the cross to serve us life. Then, Good Friday was compared to Act 1 of a play. The first act of a play always sets up a conflict for the main character. The first act usually leaves the audience “hanging” at intermission wondering how the story will be “resolved” in Act 2. It might be a tragic ending or a happy ever after ending. Good Friday, Jesus is literally left hanging on the cross not sure if God is going to even open the curtain on a second act, or will his crucifixion be a tragedy with no happy ending.

But we’re here tonight/this morning because we do know there’s an Act 2. Otherwise, we might as well have [gone out and had a nice dinner]/[slept in!]  We’re here to celebrate the happy ending of the second act of the drama of Jesus’ life and death that gives us hope in the face of death. I know each of you, with me, wants to give thanks to God for writing in a plot twist into the story of Jesus’ death on the cross. Who would have expected such a turn of events? Surely not the soldiers keeping guard at the tomb, put there by those who were afraid that the followers of Jesus might pull a fast one. The women who went to the grave to pay their respects certainly didn’t expect a plot twist. Dead bodies stay dead as far as the  women knew. As the curtain rises on Act 2 the earth quakes as a way of saying God is shaking up the way the world works. God is destroying with mighty power the old order of creation and opening up a new future for humanity like a stone rolled back from the tomb of death humanity has found itself trapped in from that day in the Garden of Eden when men and women rejected the script God had written. A new day has dawned that will never see the darkness of death descend. What a plot twist, an unexpected turn of the story line! Death can not be avoided but death can be defeated. The drama reveals that actually any letting go of yourself trusting God’s script, including physical death, is the beginning of a new way of living, not the end of the story.

Did you notice? Twice “Don’t be afraid!” is spoken in the Gospel. “Don’t be afraid!” the angel says to the women while the pagan guards are laying on the ground in paralyzing fear (a sign that God overcomes the military and civil authorities that try to control human life). Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid!” to the women when they encounter him alive on the road. These words, of all the words spoken tonight/today are the meaning of our dress rehearsal that we should leave this building with tonight/today. “Don’t be afraid!”

Yes, we live in a world where death in the form of disease rips loved ones out of our embrace. It is true the drama we’re part of sees death used as a weapon to control with fear or even destroy people who are viewed as an enemy. Terrorists rely on playing the part of death for they believe have no other way to advance their cause. Hunger kills off the forgotten starving people in draught covered lands. Yet, we know there is another way. We’ve met the living in Jesus in those who have sacrificed some of their life for us to have a better life. We’ve seen the truth of the Paschal Mystery when our life has been richer because we we’re selfless with our time, talent and income that benefited another person. The way of Jesus can heal the world of it’s death plague. He alone has fixed what has become a tragic play with his plot twist of dying and rising from the grave.

The world needs to see Jesus alive in us! When we sacrifice for others, when we selflessly make life better for our children, our spouse, the refugee, when we “put on the identity of Christ we were baptized and anointed in confirmation to have, then the living Christ will be encountered by others traveling the road of history. Then the plot twist can play out in time. We do not fear what ever comes out way as we walk the road of our lives because we know nothing, nothing, be it illness, violence or life circumstances will permanently take away or life. We’ll live because Jesus lives in us and we in him.

Now it’s time for us to perform Act 3. Like the women who were told to go and tell the other disciples, we write the script for Act 3 by our witness to Jesus. We bring this Good News of the resurrection plot twist into the world. The dress rehearsal of Holy Week is over. It’s time to perform on the stage of the world. It’s time to bring people hope in the face of death that attempts to hijack the story God has written for humanity.

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Holy Week Message Series “Dress Rehearsal” – Good Friday

Act 1: Left Hanging

Homily for Good Friday – 2017

Readings for Good Friday and the Passion according to St. John

Do you enjoy going to see a musical? Have you ever gone to see a play, maybe it was professional actors or students at a local high school? There are similarities between drama acted out on a stage and the drama of the story told through the ritual of these days of Holy Week. Tonight, we continue our message series called “Dress Rehearsal” as we use the metaphor of seeing Holy Week liturgy as a sort of rehearsal of the drama of disciples on the stage of the world living their belief in Jesus crucified and risen. We’re considering who Jesus is for us and what meaning his life, death and resurrection has for humanity.

Musicals or dramatic plays usually come in two Acts with an intermission.  Most plays end Act 1 with some sort of unresolved tension in the story. You go to intermission wondering how the various threads of the story will be resolved in Act 2. The main character is facing some challenge like lovers separated. Or the lead has chosen a corse of action with consequences yet to be revealed as good or bad. The audience goes to the lobby wondering will this be a story where everyone lives happily ever after or will there be a tragic  ending?  Tonight is Act 1 of the Passion story of Christ. When we leave here, if we didn’t know differently, we’d be in that intermission frame of mind left hanging, waiting for a resolution of the story.

What we have seen so far in our liturgy in the events portrayed by John’s passion is a Jesus very much in control of his fate, yet choosing to be powerless victim. Does he know the end of the story? In Act 1 we’ve watched his final hours. The suffering of the crucified Christ must have been horrific. He’s beaten and bloodied. Nails have been hammered into wrists and feet. Pain paralyzing the muscles so Jesus could not even push himself up to breathe resulting in a death by suffocation; a death that was somehow salvation from death for us, for all humanity. Jesus bore the death of every human on his back carrying the cross so that death would be defeated, no longer the end of humans.

You know, Jesus still dies, today. The drama still plays out on the world stage leaving humanity wondering what will be the outcome of our common story. The world continues to kill Jesus, innocent of any crime that demands the death sentence. Children are gassed to death in Syria by their president. Religious fundamentalists use terrorist tactics to bomb others out of existence that don’t share the terrorist’s faith. Drought takes the lives of people in Africa and the wealthy citizens of the world stand by playing the stock market like it was rolling dice for what’s left of our resources. People are shot down on city streets and babies killed the womb. Will the story of humanity have a tragic end or experience a twist of the story line that ends happily?

Jesus, when he hung on the tree of Calvary probably had no idea what would come of his death. In a sense, he’s at the end of ACT 1 of the drama of the Passion and Resurrection. It’s like he’s left hanging by God the Father, not sure how or even if Act 2 would take place. There’s no resolution at the end of the passion we just heard. The Jesus who is still being killed by humanity’s sinful deeds is that Christ left hanging on the cross after death. Humanity needs a savior who will resolve our differences, a savior who no longer hangs on a cross but shows the way out of the grave in which it is entombed.

That way is the way of the cross. Dramas usually need props. The objects on the stage help get the message across being told by the play. In our case tonight, wood plays a pivotal role in the story of salvation for humanity. ember it was a Tree in the Garden that played a part in the down fall of humanity into death.
A boat of wood said by Noah over the flood carried humanity to a new life. The wooden staff of Moses parted the Red Sea to make it possible for the Israelites to escape death in Egypt and make a way to promised land.

The Cross of Jesus whose wood we venerate in this liturgy becomes the door to being saved from death. Our Christian drama has the prop of the wooden cross that saves. Tonight, we embrace that wood of the cross, saying we will carry it with Jesus and show a humanity there is another way to arrive at a better life.

We embrace, kiss and venerate the wood of the cross because we’re in the know. We’ve already read the script and know a plot twist awaits in Act 2, that Jesus is not left hanging there, nor are we left hanging what will happen. There is a resolution to the story. Death leads to life. Hopefully, we’ll be so moved by the drama that we’ll announce to the world there is an Act 2. Moved by the love revealed on the cross we’ll help restore the life of those threatened by the continued passion of Christ being played out on the world stage. Selflessly dying to self-interest in service of the needs of fellow humans instead of killing one another brings a better life for all. By uniting ourselves to the death of Jesus in this dress rehearsal of Salvation through liturgy and everyday life a new humanity will not be left hanging wondering what our future will be. We can rise up from the grave we’ve been digging for ourselves.

Singing (with congregation the refrain sung during the proclamation of the Passion) “Christ Jesus Victor, Christ Jesus Ruler, Christ Jesus Lord and Redeemer!”


Holy Week Message Series “Dress Rehearsal” – Holy Thursday

Putting It Together: Know Your Role

Homily for Holy Thursday 2017

Readings for Holy Thursday

Last Sunday I began a message series called “Dress Rehearsal” that will continue through our Triduum liturgies. I’m calling the theme of the message series “Dress Rehearsal” to help us explore how the liturgies are a kind of symbolic “rehearsal” of the Christian’s life of Discipleship. What we do in this room is learn, through ritual, what the death of Jesus means for us and how we bring this truth onto the stage of the world.

Palm Sunday’s liturgy was a kind of initial “table reading” where those who gather for the Dress Rehearsal get familiar with the who, what and meaning of the drama that will unfold during the rest of Holy Week. We learned the drama we enact these days is  a rehearsal of the journey we disciples make following the crucified Jesus through our everyday life sacrifices eventually reaching the banquet of eternal life foreshadowed by the Eucharist. The overall story line played out in each of the liturgies of Holy Week we learned on Palm Sunday was “Paschal Mystery.” That short two word phrase contains the whole meaning of the drama we rehearse these days. The Pascal Mystery is what Jesus was all about, revealing by his life, death and resurrection that those who sacrifice themselves for the sake of others, those who die will discover a richer, fuller life. That life even has the potential of being unending because of the Paschal Mystery for those who give themselves over to Jesus. Death leads to life. Any death.

Tonight is the part of rehearsals when we learn what our roles are in the drama of discipleship that brings our life meaning. Who gets to be the lead? Who is a supporting actor? The liturgy of Holy Thursday is about what role the disciples of Jesus to play in the drama of everyday living of the Paschal Mystery.

You would think the Jesus get’s to the be lead actor, his name on the marque. In a way, Jesus is the star of the drama. But, he is a very different kind of star. He shuns the spotlight. Jesus doesn’t expect privilege. This lead actor in the drama of Pascal Mystery says all the characters in the drama will be servants. That’s the role of the disciple enacting the pascal mystery on the stage of everyday life. Disciples are servants. Disciples of Jesus die with the Lord in every act of self-sacrifice to make another person’s life better, more comfortable, more alive. Servant is the role assigned by the director Christ to everyone. No stars, no lead actors. Just a servant’s role for every person baptized into Christ.

To be sure, there are different kinds of servant roles. The Church points out that this is the day Christ gave us the role of priest as a way to manifest the servant Christ. Men are chosen to offer their life as priests, without the companionship of a spouse in imitation of Christ to serve their Christian family in daily offering themselves as a companion on the road to the new day of eternity.

There are other servant roles, too. Deacons to image the Christ who tends to the physical needs of those who need comfort. Bishops to lead like shepherds. There are Moms and Dads who sacrifice their own desires to ensure that their spouse and children have what they need to live life. Changing diapers, cooking, going to work are living the mystery death of self leads to life. There are the young Christians who help out at home cleaning their room or taking care of siblings, then who show compassion to friends. Servant roles come in all sorts of vocations! The oils that we received from the Bishop remind us that we are anointed to share in the mystery of Christ through servant who rejects the evil one’s siren call to think of self first. The Chrism oil made us servants who proclaim Christ, leading other to him. And when the servant suffers illness, Christ strengthens him or her to continue playing the role in union with His cross that served the world redemption.

Bishop Braxton announced this past Tuesday at a Mass in the Cathedral when the holy oils were blessed an opportunity for members of the laity to respond to the call to be servant to their parishes. Beginning this year there will be a training program for some of you to become a lay minister assisting your parish live out it’s mission to be a community that proclaims Christ. Called Into My Vineyard: Formation for Lay Ecclesial Ministry in our Parishes, this training of people from the parishes throughout the Diocese is meant to equip select parishioners to help keep our parishes vital and growing. Perhaps, tonight you might begin to hear Christ the director of our rehearsal saying to you, “You, my friend, would be good for the role of Lay Parish Minister servant.” If you hear that call and want more information ASAP, I’ve got a pamphlet for you with your name on it.

In a few moments I, the representative in your midst of Christ the servant priest will symbolically wash the feet of some of you.  Washing feet may seem very archaic, maybe even strange or too personal in our culture. We do it because Jesus said do this in my memory, like breaking bread and sharing wine. Washing feet is meant to be a rehearsal of my role as your servant caring for your spiritual (and sometimes emotional and physical needs). But the washing of feet for those who come to the sanctuary and those who observe the rite is a reminded  that every one of us has a servant role to play. Everyone of us has to let our pride die. All of us must stop thinking of ourselves as someone who deserves something and figuratively kill off our ego, letting the identity of Jesus take over. Only when we spend a life time rehearsing, practicing our role of servant will we be confidently unafraid to let go of life at our physical death and discover the fullness of life as we are invited to dine at the banquet of eternal life served us by Jesus Christ.

Let us continue our “Dress Rehearsal” in humble gratitude for being called a member of the cast of disciples. We’re putting it all together, glad to have the role of servant sharing in making the Paschal Mystery a reality in this world following the lead of Jesus on the way to the fullness of the Kingdom of God.


Lent Message Series 2017 “Root Cause” – Week 5

The final installment of my Message Series for Lent, “Root Cause.” So far I have named the root causes of humanity’s broken condition as choosing in free will to reject obedience to God’s will and attempt to be our own God (week 1, The temptations of Adam and Eve and Jesus), set forth the vision of a redeemed humanity (week 2’s story of the Transfiguration of Jesus),  personal choices to sin (week 3 as revealed in the story of the Woman at the well), and described humanity’s infection with social sin woven into the fabric of society (week 4 – The healing of a blind man. This week we look at the “cosmic” picture and learn how humanity’s choices to cooperate with the evil one has unleashed upon all of creation, death, decay and entropy the result of alienation (sin) from God.

Root Cause Message Series Poster

“The Power of Love”

Readings for the 5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

This past week we priests of the Belleville Diocese received an e-mail from the chancellor. Among the responsibilities of the Diocesan chancellor is keeping track of personnel files. The e-mail from the chancellor was a request that those of us who haven’t sent in our funeral instructions do so and here’s a simple form to help you tell us what to do with you when you die. Sounds a bit morbid doesn’t it?

Nobody really likes to think about their own death. Going to a funeral home visitation is difficult. But thinking about your own death, maybe how your body will be the one people are looking at in the casket, that can be a depressing thought if not a fearful thought. Yet, we’re all going to die. Some people approach their death with a fatalism saying things like “when your time is up, it’s up, you can’t change it.” Other folks rage against death, fighting it with every ounce of energy they can muster. The truth is very simple, though. Everyone dies.

The first Sunday of Lent we heard the story of Adam and Eve; how humanity was created to live forever like God. The story of the Garden in Eden describes how people were to be God’s companions who God could love and receive love from back without a time limit. Yet, the root cause of death was humanity’s decision to reject that offer of love that called it into being and instead try to live by its own wits; humanity wanted to be its own God. From the moment of eating of the fruit of the tree at the center of the universe, death, decay and the tendency of everything to eventually break down spilled out into all of creation. Death became the ultimate alienation from the sustainer of all life, God the creator. Call death a symptom of the sinfulness of humanity that radiates out into the cosmos that needs to be healed. Death is the ultimate sign of humanity’s brokenness that longs to be repaired.

Today’s Gospel story of Martha and Mary, the dead friend Lazarus and Jesus proclaims that Jesus, God in human flesh, has entered into this world of cosmic disorder, to face down death. Jesus declares himself the resurrection of life! This encounter with death in the person of Lazarus is the moment in the life of Jesus when the Christ declares that death has been put on notice. Death’s power over humans is limited. Death’s reign as the force that controls the universe is finished.

Jesus continues to stand at the graves of the victims of the power of death unleashed by human choosing the root causes of our broken nature ready to call them out of the stench of death. Jesus offers the way to defeat death and live no longer bound with the fear of the power of death. Keeping with our message series theme of “root causes” let’s name a couple of these causes of death that can be healed by the power Jesus shows in the mystery of sacrificing self for the sake of others instead of the self-centered vision of humanity. Of all the seven “Capital Sins” (the root causes of human troubles) there are two that we can focus on that routinely unleash the power of death.

The first root cause of death taking hold in our existence is Greed, an excessive pursuit of material possessions. How often do we see greed on a grand, even worldwide scale? There is a hunger for territory. Such territorial greed has led to wars to conquer land someone else possess causing the death of military and civilians. As Pope Francis has warned  us in his encyclical “On the Care of our Common Home” there is greed shown in the insatiable thirst for natural resources buried in the earth, like oil, gas, and coal that make some rich, but at the same time doom especially the poor to suffer the effects of climate change. Human greed may kill the planet that sustains the life of the ones who exploit the planet that makes life possible.

Not only is greed bringing death. There is the deadly sin of Wrath which can be described as the uncontrollable feelings of anger and hate towards another person. How often we have seen in history attempts to wipe out whole populations because of their race. Even today, we hear in the news of the hate that religious fundamentalists have toward another expression of faith in God that they’re willing to slaughter human life.

Greed and Wrath are root causes of death binding up the human person, entombing humanity in the stench of death limited existence that Jesus calls out as evil and speaks a word of resurrection to life.

If we find ourselves under the influence of the evil one trying to convince us to give into greed or wrath, what can we do? How do we let Jesus free us from the tomb we’re sealing up for ourselves? Jesus’s power to bring life out of death cause by greed is revealed in the choice to live Charity. To love, another word for charity, cures greed by putting the desire to help others above storing up treasure for one’s self. Charity is sacrificing for the good of others and reflects the sacrifice of Jesus who defeats death by his sacrifice on the cross. If we realize we’re giving into wrathful anger, then Christ offers us the power of Patience. Patience cures wrath by giving us time to understand the needs and desires of others before acting or speaking. If we stop, attempt to see the dignity, the hurts, the needs of the person we’re angry with we can defeat the power of death at work in us.

But there is a productive anger,  also. Not all anger is destructive wrath. Sometimes anger is a necessary part of the process of moving on through life. Anger is one of the stages of dealing with grief and can help a person move from feelings that life is over for the survivor to living life in a new way. Anger about unjust situations can move a person to action to confront the cause of injustice.

Martha and Mary were angry at Jesus for not showing up in time to do something about the suffering of a loved one and saving Lazarus from dying. We may be angry at Jesus, too, for sometimes it seems he’s not in a hurry to save a loved on from illness, or not in a hurry to fix the mess we people cause in our world. That’s part of the process of coming to realize how Jesus operates. Jesus doesn’t take away death, but uses death as the weapon to defeat death, letting go of self as the way to find the fullness of life. If he showed up before Lazarus died he couldn’t have shown he has the power to use death to defeat the power of death to deprive us of real life.

What the Lazarus story reveals is the truth. By his tears he sheds at the death of his friend Jesus shares in the grief, the pain of humanity ruled by the experience of death. Recalling his distress reminds us he was angry with the fate of his beloved creation and was moved to step into humanity to change the fate of humans.

Driving to meet some friends for dinner last night I pulled up behind a car at the four-way stop in Lebanon. The car had a bumper sticker that read,

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power,
the world will know peace.”

I’ve discovered that the bumper sticker is a quote from the musician Jimi Hendrix, of all people. But how true. The power of love was shown in Jesus’ death. His resurrection unties the binding strips that ties up life limited by death. Jesus commands us to be free of the fear of death, to be free from the limits of mortality.  Love overcomes the love of a humanity hungry for power over one another, a “root cause” of the cosmic forces of decay and death unleashed by Adam and Eve who ate the fruit of the tree at the center of the garden. Jesus reveals the power of love on the tree of the cross which stands at the center of time and space. In the opening of grave Jesus reveals the power of love which is stronger than death, letting in the fresh air of eternity that removes the stench of death.

Attributed to Aertgen van Leyden (1498-1564) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Funeral Homily for a Physician

On Friday, our parish family celebrated the funeral of a beloved Physician who had practiced medicine and lived in Trenton for many years. Many of his former patients and colleagues were not able to attend the funeral Mass that might have liked to, so I am posting the funeral homily on my blog. The obituary for Dr. Maximino Floreza, M.D. can be found at the Moss Funeral Home web-site.

Funeral Homily for Dr. Maximino Floreza
Dr. Maximino Floreza, M.D.

Dr. Maximino Floreza, M.D.

November 27, 2015
St. Mary Catholic Church, Trenton IL

The homily is based on the following readings
Wisdom 3:1-9
I Corinthians 15:51-57
John 6:51-59

There are a few vocations in life that pretty much take over your life. While many people are able to leave their work at the office or back at the shop and go home for some time off, there are a few professions that become your identity, something that you wear 24/7. Mom or dad, husband or wife is one of those vocations that become your identity. Priest is another. Doctor Max, as many called him in Trenton, had one of the vocations that becomes you and you become it so that you can’t stop being doctor just because you’re not in the office. Even when you’re the patient a doctor’s heart is beating inside you.

Let me explain with a short personal story. I visited Doctor Floreza at Barnes hospital a couple of Mondays, ago. While I went to bring the comfort of the sacraments to him, somehow the subject of  the conversation turned to my personal health. Doctor Floreza began to inquire what medicines I was taking for my high blood pressure, who was my doctor and was he suggesting anything I could do about my essential tremors. It was just natural, it was his nature for Maximino to be a doctor wanting to help the person in front of him with his medical talents. I could not help but think that the heart of a compassionate doctor like Dr. Floreza is very close to sharing the heartbeat of the divine physician, Jesus Christ. Doctors carry on the healing ministry of Jesus in our own time we believe as a family of faith.

Why do we call Jesus the divine physician? Yes, Jesus healed many people of their illnesses in the Gospels. The blind regained sight, the lepers were healed, the lame walked on legs that regained their strength. But every physician is deeply aware of one disease they can not treat with a pill. There is one human sickness that will not bow down before the wonders of medicine. Death is the enemy of doctors. There may be times when death is chased away for a while, but in the end, death seems to triumph. Even doctors themselves will be overpowered by death. Saint Paul refers to the truth of death having power over humans when he says that we wear a garment of corruptibility. Like the white coat some physicians wear all humans wear corruptibility. We need a different kind of medicine to heal the sickness of death that infects every person that breathes in this world.

Maximino once wore another white garment, not a lab coat, but a baptismal gown. When he was baptized in the Philippines almost 90 years ago, he was probably dressed in a white garment, a reminder that by becoming a member of Christ he would be clothed with immortality. When baptized, the little Maximino was united to Jesus and put on the coat of eternity. The baptismal garment was the promise of victory over death, yet, throughout life, like for any chronic illness another medicine would have to be taken regularly.

Today, we’re gathered here to share what could be called the medicine for the cure of death, the Eucharistic food. The body and blood of Jesus, which Maximino received often, is for all the faithful literally taking into ourselves the life of Jesus, a life that was not defeated by death. We have heard proclaimed in the Gospel, “Whoever eats by Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. The one who feeds on me will have eternal life.”

Let’s remember. Just as bread or any healthy food enters our bodies and is changed, literally becoming part of us by being changed into an energy that builds muscle and enables the heart to beat that enables us to live for another day, the spiritual food of the Eucharist becomes part of us, too. We are enlivened by Christ the one who lives. We are united to his body, his life blood flowing through us when we drink from the chalice. No wonder St. Paul could write, “O death, where is your sting?” Paul’s saying that having received the medicine of Christ’s body and blood we don’t worry about dying. The medicine that is the fruit of the Eucharistic remembrance of Jesus destroys death. Maximino believed this. We can hope he now lives with Christ.

Dr. Floreza’s life was a testament to the truth that dying to self results in life being enriched, made better. Many citizens of Trenton, and patients of his in other places will tell the story of how Dr. Max gave them their life back. Many hours were spent away from family, I’m sure, so that others could regain their healthy life. This good doctor took seriously his vocation, given him by Christ, and often shared it without cost, simply asking those who might have trouble paying him to just share something from their garden.

Maximino also discovered that death leads to life in his sacrificial love for you, his wife, Belen and you, his children Eileen, Mabel, Noreen, Melvin, and Carol. The long hours of practicing medicine were a sacrifice of love so you could have a rich life. The precious time he spent with you helping you, playing with you, teaching you through his example about how to live a good life are a sign to you to remember this day, that dying to our selfish nature can lead to life. Because your father practiced what he believed we believe that Jesus will raise him up to fullness of life.

We might say his last illness chastised Maximino a little. I’m sure he knew what his prospects were better than most patients. But as the first reading said, God found Maximino worthy of himself, as gold strengthened in fire. Let us pray that God’s mercy will take this beautiful life, lived in service and honor it by raising him to heaven purified of the sins he may have committed.

Doctor Max’s family told me how much he and Belen loved traveling the world. In their home is a map of  the world with pins stuck in it of all the fascinating places they have cruised and journeyed to. Now, in our grief let’s remember Maximino has embarked on the journey of an eternal lifetime with Christ at the helm. He goes to a place we only begin to see in this world through beauty of nature and the love of family and compassion shown the sick, but can only arrive at through death, the eternal shores of heaven. Surely, by God’s mercy, there on the shore of eternity he waits for us with Jesus and his beloved favorite Saint Ildefonsus to welcome us to the shores of heaven, one day, too.


All Saints and The Beatitudes

All-Saints

A couple of weeks ago I was able to go on my annual retreat (that all priests are required to do) at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana.  The retreat preacher, Fr. Eugene Hensell, O.S.B. , a monk of the Archabbey and faculty member of the St. Meinrad School of Theology, there, spoke over the course of 9 conferences about the “Sermon on the Mount” by Jesus (Matthew Chapter 5, 6, 7). This exploration of the Sermon on the Mount inspired my homily for this year’s Solemnity of All Saints. What follows is my attempt to preach the feast. The congregation was lucky I didn’t try to explain to them all the notes I took during the retreat! That would have been a much longer homily. 😉

Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints 2o15

Readings for the feast

Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12A

We all probably dream of our door bells ringing and there is some guy from Publisher’s Clearing House standing on the other side of the door with a big check for $10,000 dollars per week for life. “Congratulations!” the prize patrol guy says. “You’ve won the sweepstakes!” So there we are, the contest winner whose thinking our struggles in life are over. Thank God I signed up on the web-site for the contest! There will be no more financial worries for my family!

In the Gospel of the “beatitudes” Jesus is doing something similar. Jesus, in the beatitudes is announcing that his disciples have won the big prize. The Greek word used in this version of the Gospel written by Matthew is translated “Blessed” but it could be just as accurately translated “Congratulations!”

Congratulations, you’re poor!
Congratulations, you’re grieving and mourning!
You’re being persecuted for your beliefs. Hey, it’s your lucky day!

Using the word “Congratulations” sure makes the message Jesus is preaching to the disciples seem rather odd. What? Be excited because my life is in the pits? That’s not good news. How about you fix things so I don’t suffer so much?”

It is important to remember Matthew writes about Jesus teaching the “Beatitudes” to a community that’s discouraged. Things were not going as well as they thought they would or should be after proclaiming Jesus as the Savior to the people in their day. Shouldn’t things be different because of Jesus. By now he should have come back and kicked beat up on the Romans and established his kingdom in power. And this is the good news, Matthew, Mr. Gospel writer? Congratulations! You say we win the prize but like the state of Illinois lottery now a days, payment will come sometime down the road! They needed a reminder that they were on the right track.

The Beatitudes are meant to be a reminder that God’s reign, God’s control isn’t just something that arrives at an undetermined future date. The Kingdom of Heaven is already present in the lives of the followers of Jesus. Because the disciples of Jesus believe Jesus rose from the dead, God is already in charge of death. God is in control of people’s lives even in the present. The way the beatitudes are written suggests that disciples are fortunate to know that God is ultimately in charge, not just in the future, but here and now.

Congratulations to those who live in the house built by Jesus’ death and resurrection because you know that deprivation is not permanent. You know that suffering does not last forever. You know that the forces of evil do not win, God does! When people know what the outcome of the battle is going to be, then the present suffering or pain or deprivation is a little more easy to go through. In fact, the suffering, if done with the conviction that God is already in charge will lead a disciple to see life differently. I’m not in charge of my fate, but the one who loves me enough to die for me is in charge. I’m his child, NOW (I John 3:2). By God, I need someone more powerful than myself to bring justice, to set my life right when it goes wrong.

Matthew is instructing us disciples of Jesus that since the Kingdom of God is already here, here’s how you live in it. These are not impossible life guiding principles. See in these laws of the Kingdom the way for everyone to experience a richer, fuller life. The rules are different from the way things are in the Kingdom of “Caesar” (this present era’s world of governments, radical religious fundamentalists and man-made economies) but you’ll be happier, more fulfilled if you follow these not so impossible rules.

Realize you can not secure your own life, but are dependent on the generous spirit of others to share your joys and supply what you need. (Matthew 5:3)

Work to forgive. Work at reconciling with those who have hurt you because resentment can strangle the joy out of life. (Matthew 5:7,9)

Realize you can not change the past. Let the past go! Live in the moment gratefully enjoying each day of life and the love you’ve been given. (Matthew 5:4)

The rule of God is already in the world. Follow the law of the beatitude and you don’t have to wait till you die to experience some of the fullness, the richness of life. The beatitudes are an achievable way of life, because we know that Jesus is in charge, not the powers that be of this world.

All the Saints were sinners like us, trying to live the way of the Beatitudes. Sometimes they didn’t live according to the law of peacemaker, or always in purity of heart, But, because they recognized their need to live differently than the “norms of this world” they began to experience the life of heaven in this world. Therefore, they have become inspirations to us that we celebrate on this feast of All Saints. Living life like Jesus lays out in his teaching is possible for sinners that are citizens of heaven in training. May the witness of the saints inspire us to understand we are fortunate. We’ve won the prize of living unafraid of whatever happens for we know Jesus is in charge and will share with us the prize of the fullness of life, now and forever!

 


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