TEXT: 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2018

Second Sunday of Advent

December 9, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

It’s kind of intimidating for a priest to preach during Advent:

we keep having to face up to the first great preacher of the Gospel:

St. John the Baptist.

Still, as the SVC told us:

“[P]riests, as co-workers with their bishops,

have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all.”

You know as well as I do, that priest is limited in his ability to preach “to all”

–and I’m not talking about his competency,

or knowing exactly what to say on a particular Sunday

to a particular crowd.

What I mean is that a priest is limited in that he just can’t be everywhere all the time:

and there are some places he’ll never be.

 

But the thing is, the priest isn’t necessarily supposed to be and preach in those places

          –but maybe you are!

You– the lay people of the Church

–the vast majority of the members of the Body of Christ

–are called to go into the world you live in to proclaim the Gospel,

in your jobs, in your schools, and in your families.

As St. Paul tells us in today’s 2nd reading:

“I pray always with joy …because of your partnership for the gospel

from the first day until now…”

And as St. Luke tells us, St. John the Baptist came preaching that we all must:

–“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

 

I’m called to proclaim this to you and to the whole world in a public way,

and you’re called to proclaim this to those you come in contact with everyday.

But before any of us can proclaim— or give— the word to others,

we must first listen to–or receive— the word of God ourselves.

Before the vocation to give is the vocation to receive:

–the primary vocation of each and every one of us is

“The Universal Call to Holiness”.

–preparing the way of the Lord to come into our own hearts.

The proclamation of the word begins with ourselves

–preach to yourself first: as Jesus reminds us,

“first take the log out of your own eye,

and then you will see clearly

to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye”

–listen when your wife…or your parents…or your children,

proclaim the word to you.

–listen to the words of Sacred Scripture

proclaimed in the midst of the Church assembled for Mass,

or in the privacy of your own home:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,”

–listen with open hearts to priests who have been called by Christ

to proclaim this message

–even if he’s not a very talented preacher,

or even if you don’t like him personally

–God has chosen him and made him an instrument of His grace

through the sacrament of holy orders:

somewhere— in even this muddled homily—

                             there’s something that God wants you to hear.

And finally, listen to the voice of God,

the whisper of the Holy Spirit, in your hearts in prayer.

 

_____

It’s so easy this time of the year that the secular world wrongly calls

the “Christmas season” not to listen.

–to loose track of the message of Christ in the hustle and bustle of things

–shopping, television specials, parties, music, families getting together

–or loneliness.

But this is the “Advent Season”–and this season is all about listening,

as St. Paul says:

“to discern what is of value.”

 

In today’s Gospel we’re reminded of how St. John the Baptist

rid himself of all distractions in order to listen.

He went into the desert to prepare for the coming of the Savior by listening

And as he listened, Scripture tells us that:

“the word of God came to John …in the desert.”

 

Of course, its not necessary to go out into the desert

to find a place to listen to the Lord.

As we come closer to Christmas we’re reminded of another person

who listened to God: the Blessed Virgin Mary.

She listened in that quiet room in Nazareth when the angel Gabriel spoke to her.

And for nine months,

amid the commotion of

her visitation to St. Elizabeth at Ain Karim

and the long trip to Bethlehem with Joseph,

she prepared for Christ’s coming by listening to the will of God.

And after His coming, her listening to God continued:

listening to her Son, Jesus:

from his laughter as she held him in her arms as a tiny baby,

to listening to his final words  at the foot of his Cross.

 

_____

First we listen–we receive–and then we give–we proclaim.

But each of us is called to proclaim in different ways.

John listened, and boldly went out into the world

and loudly and publicly proclaimed the Gospel.

Mary listened and quietly went on with her life raising her family,

listening to Her son,

and later on proclaiming the Gospel in her own quiet way

at the wedding at Cana, at the foot of the Cross,

and in her private time with the apostles and the early Church.

 

How are you preparing the way of the Lord?

Are you proclaiming the word of the Lord?

 

Is your own heart prepared?

Are you listening to the word of the Lord?

How are you listening amidst the busyness of the secular celebration of Christmas?

 

There are many ways of listening.

Sometime you can do this as Mary did so often,

by simply living your daily life at work and home,

listening to Christ speak to in the events of your life

and in the lives of those around you.

But sometimes, like Mary’s cousin John the Baptist and her Son Jesus,

and surely Mary herself,

we need to find a quiet deserted place to contemplate…to listen.

 

This Advent there are lots of ways to get away to listen, especially here in church.

For example, every morning during the week we have 2 Masses you can attend

—at 6:30 and 8:00.

And Wednesday evenings we have 7:00 Mass.

And every Wednesday and Friday we have adoration and benediction.

Another powerful way to listen and prepare the way of the Lord,

especially to make “winding roads …straight, and the rough ways …smooth”

is to go to confession,

especially if you combine that a few minutes

in prayer before Our Lord in the Tabernacle.

We have confessions every single day of Advent,

but I especially encourage you to come on a weekday evening,

from 6:15 to 7pm.

And of course, this evening at “Lessons in Carols”

–a beautiful way to listen and to prepare.

Perhaps you might also be able to listen to the Lord as he speaks through me,

and come to my Thursday evening series on “Looking at the Nativity.”

Not to mention that the Church is open most days

from 6:00 in the morning to 9:00 or so in the evening.

— come here alone just to get away to a quiet place,

just you and Jesus in the Tabernacle.

 

There’s lots of ways to prepare…in this parish and all over the diocese.

Pick up a bulletin and you’ll find lots more.

Take advantage and prepare.

 

_____

As we continue our celebration of this Holy Mass on the Second Sunday of Advent,

having opened our ears to hear the proclamation of the Word of God,

let us continue to open our hearts

to prepare to receive Him into the depths of our being.

And as we go forth today from this Mass,

having received the message preparing us for the Coming of our Savior,

let us prepare to go boldly go into the world

to proclaim this message to all we meet,

–to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”

TEXT: 1st Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2018

First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today is first Sunday of Advent.

Nowadays that doesn’t mean much to a lot of people.

For some it just means there are less than 4 weeks left till Christmas

For most people it has no meaning at all.

Because secular world around us has reduced the 4 weeks before Christmas

into a four-week season celebrating consumerism and sentimentality,

stripping it almost entirely of its real meaning,

which is, of course spiritual and religious.

 

Now, I’ve always loved this time of year,

both the religious and all the cultural aspects of the season,

though as a young man, sadly, I sometimes neglected the religious

in favor of the cultural or secular.

But when I was very young, a little child,

the line between the two was very much blurred,

in that I understood it was all about preparing to celebrate

the birth of the Baby Jesus on Christmas Day,

and during the Christmas Season.

And all the cultural aspects of the weeks before Christmas, that is during Advent,

all the things like Christmas Trees, and lights, presents, eggnog, parties,

even Santa Claus,

all of this in my little child’s mind

were all part of the joyful preparation for the birth of our Savior.

 

But I will admit, somewhere along the way, that changed.

When I was a teenager up until a few years out of college,

I approached this time of year more and more

as most of the world does today:

enjoying the consumerism and the sentimentality

more than the true love of Christ.

Honestly, eventually,

there was virtually no preparation for Christ involved at all.

Until one Christmas when I was, I think, 25.

I had had a totally secular Advent, not really thinking of it as Advent at all,

but as most people do today, the “holiday season”.

I wasn’t going to Mass at the time,

and I was not what anyone would call a practicing Catholic.

 

But I had had a great time that holiday season.

I’d taken a few weeks off from work,

and just really enjoyed all the cultural fun, shopping,

going out with friends to plays, movies, and parties

And of course, decorating my new house and putting up my Christmas tree.

 

It was a great time.

 

But then it came to Christmas Eve.

And I was at another party with friends, and having a lot of fun.

But I left the party early to do what I had been doing since I was a boy:

to go to Midnight Mass with some old childhood friends.

 

Now, this was probably the first time I’d been to Mass since the last Christmas.

But, it had become part of my traditional celebration, so I was going.

But not so much because of Jesus,

but because of the sentimentality of going with my dear friends.

 

But when I got to Mass, I have to tell you, something changed.

I realized that with all the fun, all the gifts, all the lights,

all the good and warm feelings,

something was terribly missing.

It was as if I had been trying desperately to fill a huge hole in my life,

and doing a pretty good job of it.

But not quite.

And as the Mass went on and we got to the Eucharistic prayer,

it stuck me what it was that was missing: Jesus.

 

You see when I was little,

all the joy of the cultural celebration of the “holiday season,”

all the sentiment in my heart and memories,

in some way had always tied to, flowed from and flowed back to Jesus.

And to the great event of God the Son stripping Himself of the glory of heaven

to come among us, to be with us, to teach us, to form us,

and most of all, to suffer and die for us.

In other words, to love us as only our great God can

—beyond all understanding, beyond all limits.

 

Now, maybe I was kind of strange little boy.

But thanks to my dear and devout parents, that’s the way I was.

And that’s what Advent meant to me.

And so, for example, while I loved the Christmas tree and all its decorations,

it also always reminded me of Jesus:

the evergreen reminding me of the undying love of Christ,

the lights reminding me of His light shining in darkness,

the wood reminding me of the wood of the Cross,

the red bows and ornaments of His precious blood.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t a little saint.

I was as selfish as any child could get

—I was very upset and angry when I didn’t get the pony I was expecting.

But even so, even in my little sins, Jesus could not be separated from all the rest.

 

And so that Christmas Eve, when I was 25,

as I knelt there at Midnight Mass, listening to the words,

“this is my body… this is the cup of my blood…”

it dawned on me what had been missing.

Those words echoed in my mind and heart,

and I realized that in the depths of my soul, I believed them.

And as the Mass went on, and everyone else went to receive Communion,

I stayed in my pew because I realized I was completely unworthy,

completely unprepared

either to receive Jesus in Communion,

or to really celebrate His birth and salvation.

And frankly, my life began to slowly change after that.

 

Now, I’ve had a long time to think about that night, and that Christmas.

I couldn’t have articulated or explained it all then, but now I think I can.

I love Advent, but I can only really love,

and really experience the depth of hope and joy of the season,

it if I keep Christ and the mystery of His birth right at the middle of everything.

Only if I recognize that the many wonderful things that happen

during these Advent weeks,

including the cultural sites and sounds and celebrations,

are only truly wonderful if I understand them

as a foretaste of the joy of Christmas.

 

And that Christmas itself is only joyful if I realize

that it is a foretaste of the true and perfect joy

that Christ was born in Bethlehem to bring:

the joy of living with him in this world, every day, every moment.

And the perfection of that joy, when we are united to Him forever

in the glory of heaven

when we will look on the beautiful face of Jesus, face to face, forever.

In other words, the good things of Advent are a foretaste of Christmas,

and Christmas is a foretaste of heaven.

 

But the thing is, as I realized that night over 30 years ago,

I’m not ready for heaven.

And I am not really ready for a foretaste of heaven either.

So since then, the idea that Advent as a season of preparing for Christmas

has a whole different meaning for me.

 

Advent must be a time of preparing for heaven,

and for preparing to celebrate the opening of heaven to us,

the day 2000 years ago heaven came down to Earth,

as the almighty God the Son came down to earth as the Baby Jesus.

 

And so, as the world gets lost in all the hustle and bustle

and all the empty sentimentality of the secular celebration of the holidays,

let’s not let that happen to us.

Focus on heaven, focus on Christmas, focus on Jesus.

 

Let me be clear: please enjoy all the good things of the season,

of course with moderation and balance,

but let every happy sentiment, memory, party, light, and present

remind you of the true joy, the deep joy, the fullness of joy

that comes only from being and living with Christ.

And so let them remind you to strive to be worthy of that joy,

by preparing for Christmas

through repentance, prayer, sacrifice and a life of generous love, .

 

_____

When I was  a little boy I loved Advent.

But when I was a young man, ensconced in the secular world,

I merely enjoyed the trappings of the season.

 

And a Mass changed all that.

Christ coming down to earth, body, blood soul and divinity,

reminded me of what was missing.

 

Open your minds and hearts to Christ, at this Holy Mass,

and throughout this Holy Advent .

Place Him right at the center of every day of Advent,

and prepare yourself

for a worthy celebration of Christmas,

a worthy life of love with Christ on earth,

and a worthy entrance into the Glory of Christ in heaven.

 

TEXT: Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 25, 2018

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 25, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.

In today’s Gospel when Pontius Pilate recognizes Jesus’ claim to kingship,

Jesus responds: “for this I was born and came into the world:

to bear witness to the truth.”

 

What, then, is the truth about Jesus’ Kingship?

First we can say, as Scripture reveals, that Jesus Christ,

the Son of God and God the Son,

is eternal absolute royal monarchial creator,

sustainer and ruler of the entire Universe,

heaven and earth, visible and invisible.

 

And given that, the truth is that as He rules over everything and everyone,

also everything and everyone must serve him:

He rules and we serve.

 

But there is more to the truth about His kingship than that.

As we read in today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals His kingship to the world

just a few minutes after He has been scourged at the pillar,

and crowned with a crown of thorns,

and just a couple of hours before He is nailed to the cross.

Because, as He revealed elsewhere in scripture,

“the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,

and to give His life a ransom for many.”

And so we see, the incredible truth that

Jesus is a king who His subjects must serve as king,

but a king who also comes to serve and even to die for his subjects.

 

Which only makes him all the more worthy of our service and worship.

 

This is the truth about Christ the King.

 

But, again, that’s not all.

Scripture tells us that in baptism Christ sends His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us,

and in that we come to share in the very life of Christ Himself.

And by sharing in the life of Christ we share in everything He has.

So, for example, even though Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father,

and we are merely His creatures,

since we share in the Son’s life we share in His Sonship,

and can call God our Father; as St. John tells us elsewhere:

“we are called children of God, for so indeed we are.”

And perhaps even more amazingly,

given a share in the life of Jesus Christ the King,

we also share in his Kingship.

 

Now, how do we share in His Kingship?

Clearly you and I are not sovereign Lords of the Universe.

But rather we share in His kingship in that, in the end,

we answer to no one but to the King Himself.

By our baptism we are set free from world:

we are not subjects of the devil, or sinful men, or any sin, ideology or vice.

 

You say, but Father, don’t we still have to obey other human beings

—our parents, our teachers, the laws of our governments.

That’s true: in God’s plan He places us under obedience to others

either for our own good or the common good

—so we can learn and grow and live in peace with others.

 

But on the other hand, it’s also true that

we never have to obey anyone who leads us away

from what is truly good and right, away from Christ.

So even though He commands us: “honor your mother and father”

he also warns us that for some Christians:

“they will be divided, father against son and son against father,

mother against daughter and daughter against her mother..”

 

And even though, He commands us “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,”

He goes on to command us to render “to God what belongs to God.”

And as He says to Pilate:

“You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above;”

 

The bottom line is that our kingship in Christ

frees us to choose what Christ wants us to do,

to live under His kingship and in His kingdom:

So that even as we justly obeying our parents, teachers and governments,

we are free to choose between good and evil in our day to day life:

by the power of Christ and with His grace

no evil can lay claim to our allegiance,

no vice can claim us as its vassal.

 

Now some might say, but Father, doesn’t that make us dependent on Christ,

do we really share in His kingship, or are we simply slaves to Christ

 

Friends, the truth is, He did create us, and He does sustain us.

Without Him we perish, both in this world and in the next.

He, and He alone is the King of heaven and earth.

 

But like a bride who marries a king, and shares in his royal life and power,

we can choose to really share in Christ’s kingship by sharing His life,

or we can choose to reject Him.

 

Of course, human beings have been rejecting Him ever since the beginning:        Adam and Eve challenged God’s unique authority,

and so they rejected His kingdom.

And when Christ the King finally entered the world, in the flesh,

His own people rejected Him, as did the Roman Pontius Pilate.

And it continues to this day.

We are all sinners, which means every day, in small ways or large,

we choose to reject his kingship and go our own way

But by rejecting His rule and His grace to help us govern our lives,

we inevitably become enslaved by something, or many things:

by our emotions or weaknesses,

by alcohol, drugs, porn, anger, lust, greed or envy,

or even by our work, our lifestyles, our government, our friends

or even our families.

 

____

Since the beginning of the Church Christians have been persecuted for our faith,

sometimes in subtle ways, but many times in publicly violent ways.

Some, including myself, say we are beginning to live through

a similar time of persecution of the Church in our own country.

But as terrible as that might be, before we address that threat,

we have to face an even more basic, and more terrible, threat.

And that is the threat that comes from us—Catholics and all Christians.

The truth is that we have rejected, in whole or in part,

the kingship of Christ for ourselves.

Even those of us who go to Mass,

how many of us really embrace the Kingship of Christ?

How many of us live our lives obedient to his laws?

How many allow Him to serve us,

by accepting his grace that gives us the strength to rule over ourselves,

and so to live in freedom from sin?

To think and choose for ourselves, and to live as we were created:

in true love for God and neighbor.

 

___

Over the centuries untold thousands of Christians have been killed or tortured

for their faith in Jesus Christ.

From St. Stephen, the first martyr in the year 33AD,

to martyrs of the 21st century, like

Fr. Ragheed Ganni, executed after saying Mass in Mosul, Iraq, in 2007,

or Pakistani Catholic cabinet minister Shahbaz Bhatti

assassinated in Islamabad in 2011,

or the 21 Coptic Christian construction workers beheaded in 2015

on a beach in Libya as they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus.

 

In a particular way, I think of the young 13 Mexican boy,

Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio,

who fought against the persecution of Catholics in Mexico in the 1920’s,

in what became known as the Cristero Rebellion.

He became a hero to his fellow Catholics,

but not for his fighting prowess, or the number of enemies he had defeated.

In fact, he was never allowed to even carry a gun.

No, he became beloved for his unwavering faith in Christ as his king.

The way he truly accepted the kingship of Christ, not as a dictator,

but as a beloved father.

And not out of cowering fear, but out of joyful love.

The way he lived his life in the freedom and grace of Christ,

rejecting all sin and living an exemplary life of holiness

in the midst of so much deprivation and violence.

And finally because, standing like Christ Himself before Pilate,

bloodied and broken after endless torture by the Mexican soldiers,

who offered him his freedom if only he would renounce

the kingship of Christ,

he would only smile and look to heaven say: “que Vivo Cristo Rey,”

“long live Christ the King.”

And so they killed him… and today the Church calls him “Saint Jose Luis.”

 

___

Think of all these who have suffered for Christ’s Kingship,

and think of how many of us deny the that kingship every single day?

And not after being tortured, or with the threat of execution.

But only because we’d simply rather do things our own way, than Christ’s.

Or because we’d rather be slaves to the opinion of our peers or family.

We’d rather be slaves to sin or to other people,

than be servants of the one who created us and sustains us,

the King who is our servant.

 

___

My friends, today Jesus tells us:

“for this I was born and came into the world: to bear witness to the truth.”

And the truth is that Our Lord Jesus Christ is King of the Universe,

and that in His kingship alone do we find true freedom.

 

What were born for—for the truth, or a lie?

To live as slaves, or to live as kings?

Will we follow the example of our peers and the secular culture all around us,

or the example of the St. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio?

Will we cower under yoke of slavery in sin,

or in freedom bear witness to the truth of the Kingship of Christ?

 

Que Viva Cristo Rey!

Praised by Jesus Christ the King—now and forever!

TEXT: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 18, 2018

33rd  Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 18, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

With all the tumult in the world today,

especially in our own country and in the Church as well,

many people ask me if I think we’re in the end times.

If we will soon see the fulfillment of the prophesy Jesus makes in today’s gospel:

“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’

with great power and glory,”

 

My response is simple, and at the same time I suppose, complicated.

I say simply: “who knows?”

Yes, there are lots of strange and ominous catastrophe around us.

But there have been lots of strange and ominous catastrophes in various ages past,

and people then also asked: “is this the end times?”

 

Think about it.

In the first 3 centuries to be a Christian

was to be under constant threat of martyrdom.

And then think about the invasions of the Huns and Barbarians,

changing the western world order completely.

Then Islam invaded northern Africa, Spain, and the Eastern Roman Empire.

And then the awful “renaissance popes and the Protestant revolt.”

And think of the 650,000 lives lost in our own Civil War,

and then the millions lost in World War I and II.

And all the cataclysmic natural disasters throughout history:

the plagues of the middle ages that wiped out a 1/3 of Europe.

 

And then think about what Jesus says at the end of his prophesy today:

“But of that day or hour, no one knows,

neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

So, like Jesus, “I don’t know.”

 

And besides, I’ve never really understood why people really care so much

about the end times.

Because they could come tomorrow or in 1000 years.

But every single day the end comes for someone.

Every day 150,000 people die in the word.

Every minute, 106 people die.

That’s about 1 every ½ a second: there’s one… and another … and another …

 

And for each of them the end has come,

and they stand before our Lord and receive his judgment.

And, as we read in today’s first reading,

“some shall live forever…

[and] shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament…”

But at the same time, “others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”

 

____

It’s interesting how Scripture often talks about the judgment in terms of

groups of people, not just individuals.

For example, different passages in the Gospel talk about the division between

“the sheep and the goats,” “the righteous and the unrighteous”

and in today’s gospel Jesus says the angels will:

gather His elect …from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

 

Of course, each of us will be judged individually, not as a group.

But in the end, we will be in the group going to hell or the group going to heaven.

 

And it’s similar with sin.

We sin individually, but so often we do so relating to a group.

I think particularly of sins that come from following the crowd.

Whether it’s accepting the immoral values so prevalent in our culture,

or simply being badly influenced by the group of friends we hang out with,

or even our family.

 

But in the end, you may be part of a group of sinners,

but you personally, individually chose to sin.

And you, personally and individually will die and face Jesus and his judgment.

And then you can’t use the excuse that, “well everyone else was doing it.

Because Jesus will just say something like your daddy used to say to you:

“if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump off a cliff?”

 

___

There’s a great scene in the play “Man for all Seasons,”

which I think may be a very accurate account of what actually happened.

The Duke of Norfolk is trying to convince

his longtime and dear friend Sir, or Saint, Thomas More

to sign the Oath of Supremacy of the King over the Church.

A frustrated Norfolk final says to More:

“…but damn it, Thomas, look at these names.

Why can’t you do as I did, and come with us, for fellowship?”

 

And More looks him in the eye and responds:

“And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience…

…and I am sent to hell for not doing mine,

will you come with me [to hell], for fellowship?”

 

Following the crowd to hell is easy,

that way you don’t have to make any hard or brave decisions.

Sometimes it even seems the wise thing to do

—2 heads are greater than one, and all that.

Except with they’re choosing to go to hell.

 

Of course, we all fall into this trap of following the wrong crowd from time to time.

A great example of this was on display last week

at the general assembly of the US Bishops in Baltimore.

If you paid attention to the proceedings you saw how

they all tend to try to always agree with each other;

never offend anyone,

even when the disagree, they usually do so in the way

that will cause the least agitation to their brother bishops.

They call it “collegiality” as in, the fellowship of the “college of bishops,”

or the “group” or “crowd” of bishops.

 

And so last week no one seemed to want to upset the boat,

or to think or speak ill of any other bishop.

But on Wednesday there were a few fireworks,

as individual bishops began to question the good will of some in their ranks,

especially on the topic they were talking about:

abuse of children and covering up.

One of them, our friend Archbishop Cordileone,

actually said something I’ve been saying for years:

“We do sometimes act as a good old-boys club,”

with problems of “cronyism, favoritism and cover-up.”

 

But then the voice of the crowd, one of the premier “good old boys”,

an elderly cardinal, stood up and called them back to “fellowship,”

to the follow the crowd in “greater collegiality”:

“we are not bishops alone or separate;

we belong to a college and have a responsibility to it.”

He urged the bishops to

“not allow outside influences to interfere with or attempt to break bonds

of ecclesial union”

 

“Responsibility to the college”?

To the crowd.

What about responsibility to the Church, the laity, the priests?

What about responsibility to Christ?

 

“Outside influences… interfere[ing]”?

Who, the faithful Catholic laity and priests?

Or again, Jesus?

After all, Jesus was never, and is still not, a bishop, so He’s not part of the “club.”

 

The thing is, the cardinal who said this is the infamous Roger Mahoney,

who was suspended from all public ministry.

Because you see when he retired a few years ago as Archbishop of Los Angeles,

Archbishop Gomez, his successor, came in and read the files and

discovered all the awful things Mahoney had done

to systematically covered up the abusive activity of priests for years.

And so he suspended the cardinal who was still living there,

from saying any public Masses, etc, in the archdiocese.

In other words, this is one of those bad bishops we’re all mad at.

And yet the other bishops let him stand there and lecture them

about fellowship,

and about how they should handle abusive and lying bishops—like him!

And he calls them to a greater collegiality, greater fellowship,

with bishops like him,

and I suppose also with former Cardinal McCarrick

—both of whom are still members of the college of American bishops.

And they are not the only bad ones.

Remember as a said a couple of months ago,

11 out of the 12 apostles were good men, faithful to Jesus,

even though most of those, 10,

were still cowards hiding together in the upper room.

Instead of following John to the foot of Cross to stand with Jesus,

they followed the crowd to hide in the upper room.

But 1 of the 12, 1 out of 12 of the first bishops,

was not just a coward, he was a liar a thief and traitor, Judas,

whom Jesus called the “son of hell.”

 

___

Now, lest I get in trouble for seeming to say the American Bishops

are all going to hell, let me point out what I said earlier:

that while there are bad crowds, but there are also good crowds.

And let me say, there are also many good bishops,

but like the 10 apostles in the upper room, good men,

but following the crowd.

You can follow the good crowd, or the bad crowd.

The Catholic Church is a great and holy crowd,

and if you follow the Church, you will be in the crowd going to heaven.

But sometimes parts of the Church, individuals in the Church,

form themselves into bad crowds, and they lead others astray.

 

That can apply to anywhere in the Church:

for example, there are some great bible studies,

like the one we have here at St. Raymond’s,

that sort of follows the crowd of saints and holy teachers

of the Church and help lead people to heaven.

But sometimes you come across a bible study, or a catechism class, whatever,

that leads you to question the teachings of the Church,

and that crowd does not lead to heaven.

 

The same thing with the bishops: when they, as a group or individually,

follow the Church, and the crowd of great saints and doctors

and especially the holy martyrs who died for the Faith,

they are in the crowd going to heaven.

But when they follow the crowd that is within the visible bounds of the Church

but is following the road of Judas, the road of lying and abusive bishops,

they join the crowd on its way to hell.

And they go along for fellowship.

 

___

Today Jesus tells us:

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.

When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,

you know that summer is near.”

 

Read the signs of the times.

See the sin around us, and worry not about the end of time on earth,

but about the end of your time on earth.

We all face death, we all face judgment, and we could face them at any time.

Are you ready for that?

Or are you too busy following the crowd?

And if so, is it the crowd that leads to heaven, or the crowd that leads to hell?

 

___

As we continue to move more deeply into this Holy Mass,

take all these things to prayer.

And join your prayers to the great prayer of Christ,

his “one sacrifice” offered on the Cross,

soon to be made present to us miraculously on the altar.

Pray for the conversion of our society, and the crowd that is on its way to hell,

and for the members in the crowd.

And pray for the conversion of all the members of Church,

the crowd that is striving for heaven,

but so often distracted by sin and sinful leaders on the way.

And pray for the conversion of sinful and cowardly bishops and priests,

going along to get along, not rocking the boat,

even when it means following the most vile and disgraceful

liars and abusers in the Church.

 

And as we meet Jesus face to face in His Body today, remember:

we will all meet Him face to face soon enough in eternal judgment.

And so today accept the grace He offers you today in the Eucharist,

and pray for your own conversion to follow Christ.

Thirty third Sunday in Ordinary Time

“60 Hours.” As I write this on Wednesday morning, our 60 Hours of Adoration has been very “successful,” in the sense that many adorers signed up and attended adoration even during the middle of the night. We usually have 2 to 6 (maximum 10) people at any given hour of our regularly scheduled weekly Adoration. When I checked in twice yesterday we had at least 10 during the middle of the day, which was great, but when I went to pray my holy hour at 9pm I found over 20 people praying! That’s exactly what I was hoping for. I also saw some new faces, faces that I’m not used to seeing at adoration—again, something I was hoping for. I am very proud of you, and let me thank you all for answering my call, and Christ’s call, to adore Him for “60 Hours.”

 

Bishops’ Assembly. Of course we held “60 Hours” to pray for the Bishops assembled in Baltimore to address the current scandal. It’s only half way through the meeting but watching some of the proceedings on tv it seems to me that nothing much is being accomplished.

Well, not quite. It seems they are largely in favor of a reasonable proposal to address part of the problem. According to Catholic World Report, they are considering: “two policies …: a code of conduct for bishops, and the creation of a lay-led panel to investigate claims of misconduct or negligence by bishops.” Maybe not a bad start, but not a word is being said about the homosexual corruption among the priests and bishops, which is one of the root causes of the problem.

Equally troubling is the apparent naïve trust they seem to continue to place in each other, as if they are all men of goodwill. Were they all men of goodwill when  former cardinal McCarrick was one of their leaders in 2002 when they exempted bishops from the rules that punish abusive priests (the “Dallas Charter”)? I was aghast as I was watching yesterday, and saw Cardinal Joseph Tobin give a talk about his important contribution the two proposals. Recall, that in Archbishop Vigano’s shocking letter accusing Vatican officials of knowingly coverup McCarrick’s abuse for years: Tobin is singled out by Vigano as a protégé of McCarrick, who lobbied for Tobin’s assignment to Newark, where Tobin then covered up payouts made years before by that Diocese to one of McCarrick’s adult male victims. If a priest “credibly charged” with abuse is immediately suspended until the investigation can be conducted, why is Tobin still on the job, AND, why do the bishops give him such power over writing the rules to punish bishops who cover up?

But there’s even worse news, sadly. On Monday afternoon, right before the start of the assembly, the Bishops announced that the Vatican (the Congregation for Bishops) had prohibited them from taking a final vote on the two proposals they are considering, ordered them to wait until after the worldwide meeting of bishops in Rome in late February, which will also discuss these issues. Even though they’ve known about their intentions for over 4 months, the cardinals and archbishops in the Vatican waited to the last second to spoil everything the American Bishops were trying to accomplish. There may be some good reason for this, but the optics are horrible: to many, it looks like either the Vatican doesn’t really care about the abuse or about corrupt bishops, or even that they are actively participating in the cover up. Note, I do not accuse them of this, but the optics cause many people to wonder. And that just makes everything worse!!!

By the way, this doesn’t mean we failed in our prayers, or that God hasn’t listened to us. We’ve done our part, now God will find a way, in His time and wisdom, to get the bishops and the Vatican to do their part. So keep praying. And trust in Christ and His Church, which is bigger than a few (or even scores of) bad bishops.

 

Thanksgiving. I hope all of you will have a great Thanksgiving. Although it’s a secular holiday and not a Catholic HOLY DAY, it’s a wonderful day of celebration. In fact, instead of “secular”, meaning “worldly”, which has all sorts of very negative connotations in the Christian context, let’s call it a “cultural holiday.” In that context, it reveals how deeply our culture is influenced by Christianity and how firmly it is rooted in Christian values.

In particular, the Christian virtues of fortitude and diligence (reflected in working hard to provide for oneself and one’s family), and charity (reflected in being willing to share the fruits of one’s labor or good fortune with others), and, of course most importantly and above all, gratitude or thankfulness to God for the gifts He’s given us.

In the end, everything we have is God’s gift. This, of course, is not at all to discount individual hard work and ingenuity, but rather to realize that whether it’s the skills and talents we have or develop, or the opportunities we make or stumble upon, or the free will we exercise to choose to use and develop all of that, in the end it all comes to us from God’s generosity and our response thereto. Whether it’s material goods, health, family, love, faith, or human dignity, rights, and liberty, God is the giver of all good things.

Unfortunately, if you watch and listen carefully, you will see that many people today treat Thanksgiving as a holiday to give thanks to one another, with no mention of  God at all, or at best, a mention of Him as an afterthought. There’s certainly nothing wrong with thanking people around you, but that is not the reason Thanksgiving was established as a national, cultural, holiday. As President Washington decreed 1789, as he proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, …a day of public thanksgiving and prayer [is] to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God … “

So let us keep Thanksgiving in its rich American Historical meaning, as a day to thank God for His gifts. In that regard, I encourage you all to begin the day by attending our 10am Mass, to celebrate the highest form of “thanksgiving”—the Eucharist, which is the Greek word for “thanksgiving.”

 

Birthday Party for Sofi. This last Thursday, November 14, was the 8th birthday of Sofi Hills. As many of you will recall, as a newborn baby she was left in our parking lot, where she was found by a parishioner and rushed to the hospital. We continue to give praise to the Lord Jesus for saving her life that day, and that she has grown into a healthy vivacious little girl. And in celebration we’re having a birthday party for Sofi in our Parish Hall, TODAY, November 18, after the 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles