TEXT: 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, March 3, 2019

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

March 3, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

This last week we saw 2 outrageous failures committed by our leaders

that should make us all angry and bewildered.

Last Sunday, the leaders of the Catholic bishops’ conferences around the world

closed their Vatican summit with the Pope for the protection of children

with almost nothing really new accomplished.

And then on Monday, the democrats in the U.S. Senate defeated a bill called

“The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act”,

which would have required that babies born alive after failed abortions

would receive the same life-sustaining medical care all newborns receive

—meant to counter the growing trend at the state level to legalize

the killing of these newborn babies, either directly or by neglect,

as was recently promoted by our own governor and delegate.

 

It is amazing to me that our leaders, in the Church and in our nation,

could fail so miserably to see the truth of the great sins and crimes

that lay so obviously before them,

that they could have prevented or corrected, but chose not to.

 

It’s as if they were blind.

Which begs the question Jesus asks us today:

“Can a blind person guide a blind person?

Will not both fall into a pit?”

 

How can the bishops plan to lead us,

when they are blind to the most basic problems staring them in the face?

How can they lead us to holiness, to purity, to the truth, to humility,

if they don’t see the impurity, lies, and pride that lead them

to abuse the vulnerable or to cover-up for or even promote those who do?

 

And how can senators lead us to be a nation

respecting the rights of human beings,

when they can’t even see that the most fundamental right to life

clearly applies to babies, at least once they’re born,

if not also while still in the womb.

If they can’t defend the most fundamental right to the life

of the most innocent and vulnerable among us,

how can we take seriously their claims to understand

what is good and necessary for the rest of us?

And if they are anti-human-life,

are they not also totally anti-woman, anti-gay, and anti-minority?

 

___

Today Jesus tells us:

“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,

nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.

For every tree is known by its own fruit.

 

Both our nation and our Church are fundamentally good trees,

and not just good, but great trees.

So why is it that both are bearing such rotten fruit nowadays?

The thing is, both are actually bearing both good fruit and rotten fruit.

The Church is producing great saints,

but there are also so many great sinners in our midst,

like the McCarricks we know and don’t know.

And America is doing great things, and yielding some great leaders,

but also some who are so foolish, or even downright evil.

 

So while both trees are fundamentally good,

there seems to be something like a disease infecting both.

And not surprisingly, it’s the very same disease: sin.

 

But the thing is, that sin infects the whole tree:

not just our cardinals and bishops, and senators and congressmen,

but also the people of the Church and the nation—you and me.

 

How do you think we got so many rotten leaders?

In politics, the people elected them.

And they elected rotten leaders fundamentally because of sin.

For example, the sins of greed, envy and lust:

too many times we vote for whoever will offer us the most of what we want,

instead of what is best for each and all of us.

Or maybe just the sin of sloth, laziness, as we were too lazy to get out and vote.

 

And in the Church, how many times did I hear Ted McCarrick,

when he was cardinal, praised for how nice he was,

how smooth and clever he was.

In all candor, he was never known as a great defender of the faith.

He used to say things that made people feel good, that would make him popular.

But he would run away from saying the hard things that Jesus Himself taught.

 

As the first reading from Sirach tells us today:

“the fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;

so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.”

And as St. Paul tells us elsewhere:

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;

but wanting to have their ears tickled,

they will accumulate …teachers …in accordance to their own desires…

No doubt St. Paul despises the false teachers,

but he places part of the blame on the “people”

who “want to have their ears tickled.”

 

___

Jesus goes on to say today:

“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,

but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”

Now, I want to be careful here, because I don’t want to be misunderstood as

“blaming the victim.”

But let’s be honest with ourselves.

We can and should be mad as heck at the bishops or politicians

for being blind to the reality around us,

but don’t we also bear some part of the blame?

Aren’t we also blinded sometimes, by our own sins?

If not, how did all these bad politicians get elected?

 

Now, many of you did get out and vote, and you voted well.

And many of you do not want your ears tickled by weak priests and bishops,

and you’ve done your best to embrace sound doctrine.

But none of us is perfect.

People say that I’m pretty outspoken and forthright,

but how many times have I sat by and said nothing

when a bishop or priests preached heresy in the public square?

Maybe I did so out of wisdom or prudence,

but sometimes maybe it was just out of simple laziness or cowardice….

 

And maybe it’s not a great big “wooden beam” in your eye,

maybe it’s just a little “splinter.”

Fine.

But, a tiny splinter in the eye can cause the same pain and blindness as a beam.

So, paraphrasing Jesus:

“Remove the splinter or beam from your eye first;

“then you will see clearly to remove the beam or splinter

in your brother’s eye.”

 

____

This Wednesday we begin the Season of Lent,

a great time to “perceive” and “remove the splinters and beams from” our eyes.

So, as a rule during Lent, I try to avoid preaching about things

that touch on broader societal or Church matters, like abortion or abuse,

and instead try to focus on growth in personal holiness

and appreciation of Jesus’ love for us.

 

But as you see, the 2 are connected, intimately.

So as we look out on a country and a Church in the middle of real crises,

mired in the corruption of sin,

we also begin Lent, and so turn our eyes to ourselves.

For, lasting change in the world and in the Church can only come

from cooperating with the grace of Jesus Christ,

and that change and cooperation must begin with us.

Whether it’s simply changing our willingness to accept and be satisfied

with the self-serving promises of politicians or bishops,

or whether it’s a turning away from our more deadly personal sins,

even those reflected in the lives of those same politicians and bishops.

 

____

Lying to ourselves and ignoring the truth

has gotten our country and especially our Church into the mess we are today.

Don’t let it do the same to you.

Whatever it is, let’s be brutally honest with ourselves this Lent.

Let us no longer be blinded, by the beams or splinters of sin,

but by the grace of Christ, let us remove them from our eyes first,

“then [we] will see clearly to remove the splinter in [our] brother’s eye.”

TEXT: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 24, 2019

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 24, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

Today’s Gospel reading is really one of the most beautiful texts in Scripture:

everything from the radically profound concept to

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”,

to the wonderful promise:

“Give, and it shall be given to you.

Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over,

will they pour into the fold of your garment.”

But as wonderful as these sayings are,

they are also very hard sayings to apply and live out:

“When someone slaps you on one cheek, turn and give him the other;”

“Do not judge, …Do not condemn, ….Pardon, and you shall be pardoned.”

 

If we’re honest with ourselves,

the whole idea of loving our enemy is very intimidating.

Why must we love our enemy?

In today’s 1st reading from Samuel,

we’re reminded of the story of Saul searching out David, to kill him.

And in this particular passage we see

where God has presented David with the perfect opportunity

to end his troubles as he comes across his enemy Saul

when Saul is asleep and completely vulnerable.

But David refuses to kill King Saul:

“Do not harm him,” he says,

“for who can lay hands on the Lord’s anointed.”

But, as we read elsewhere,

while David will not do anything to harm God’s anointed,

he does not hesitate to kill his other enemies

–in fact as he’s dying he tells his son Solomon to continue killing his enemies.

Clearly, King David has not yet understood the concept of loving his enemies,

or turning the other cheek.

 

It takes another son of David, the one who is the anointed one

–the Messiah or Christ–to introduce this teaching and to give it meaning.

At the last Supper Jesus told His apostles:

“Greater love has no man than this,

that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Here, Christ calls us to love our friends even to this radical extent, to die for them.

But what about our enemies?

The thing is, that at the Last Supper,

Jesus is speaking in the context of His knowledge

of the death that awaits Him the next day.

A death He endures, not just for His friends, but even for His enemies.

It’s true that only those who are His friends

can benefit from His death and resurrection,

but the thing is that in His death He invites all mankind

–His friends and His enemies–

to be not only His friends, but also His brothers and sisters,

sons and daughters of His Heavenly father.

He dies so that even His enemies can share in His very own life

–to truly become, through Him,  “God’s anointed”.

 

So in today’s Gospel we hear Jesus tell us that if we love our enemies:

“You will rightly be called sons of the Most High,

since he himself is good to the ungrateful and the wicked.”

The concept of loving our enemies

is not built on some sort of sick divine masochism,

but on the fact that these are the ones whom Christ

invites or calls to be his family,

to become “anointed ones of God” with Him.

 

____

Christ died for us all–friends and enemies—

and invites us to share in His sacrificial death–His greatest act of love for us.

And so just as He allowed His enemies to not only crucify Him but also

to curse Him, and to strip Him and take all of His clothes

                   –even to slap His cheek,

He tells us in turn to:

“bless those who curse you…

when someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well…

When someone slaps you on one cheek, turn and give him the other.”

And even though He is falsely judged and condemned, He said on the Cross:

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

So He tells us today: “Pardon, and you shall be pardoned.”

 

____

Jesus goes on and on with examples of loving our enemy,

because He wants this love to permeate every aspect of our lives.

This, as I said can be intimidating.

But we have to remember 2 very important things.

First of all, the examples Christ gives here are just that: examples.

Sometimes when our enemy strikes us

we should not simply silently let him strike us again.

For example, when Christ is being tried before the Sanhedrin, Scripture tells us:

“one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand….

Jesus answered him,

“If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong;

but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

Think about this: Jesus doesn’t just silently turn the other cheek to be slapped

–He asks, “why are you hitting me?”

He verbally and with reason pushes back

—because in His divine wisdom

and in love for the guard, the people around and for us,

He sees it as necessary that we hear Him correct the guard.

But also in love, He restrains Himself:

He could have hit the guard back, but He doesn’t.

In fact, as He told Peter just minutes before this,

He could have called down “more than twelve legions of angels”

to strike down the whole place.

 

____

What Christ is demanding in these examples

is that all of our actions should be made in the context of love

–even when dealing with our enemies.

The first response in love is patience and humility,

but sometimes, IN LOVE, for either the person, or the whole community,

we have to respond in another way.

Maybe we have to turn the other cheek, or walk away, or remain silent,

or maybe we have to speak up and correct, or even chastise,

or fight or even punish.

But whatever we do, it must not be done with hatred, bitterness or malice,

but in love, even if it’s painful to us personally.

 

____

There’s also a second more important factor to consider

when we think of the hardness of these sayings.

In Chapter 19 of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives another set of hard sayings.

When the apostles show their frustration with the difficulties He’s presenting,

saying, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus tells them:

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

For man, loving our enemies is impossible.

For some of us, turning the other cheek, or pardoning or not passing judgment,

may seem impossible.

But for Christ, our Lord and God, nothing is impossible.

–His incarnation, His death and resurrection show us this very clearly.

 

But think now: by our baptism we have been born again into a  new life

which is a participation in the very life of Christ Himself.

We have become not only friends, but family, and not only family,

but members of  Christ’s Body.

And in the Eucharist we are present once again

at the death and resurrection of our Lord,

His sacrificial laying down of His life for us and for all.

And in the Eucharist He calls us to take our sacrifices made in love

–the times we’ve turned the other cheek, given our coat or been patient,

or even painfully corrected someone in love—

and offer these to be united with His own sacrifice

so that they and we can be transformed by the love of the Cross,

and enter more fully into the life of the risen Lord.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit working in this sacrament of the Eucharist,

and in all the sacraments, we receive the power to live the life of Christ,

to love our enemies, and do good to those who hate us.

 

Because it’s not merely our love at work, but the love of Christ Himself.

So that even if these things are impossible for us,

nothing is impossible for us when we live in Jesus Christ.

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

“Earthly men are like the man of earth,

heavenly men are like the man of heaven“—Jesus.

 

___

Christ’s call to “love our enemies” is at one and the same time

sublimely beautiful, and devastatingly hard.

But if the Cross is hard, so also is it beautiful

as the act of perfect love that leads us to the resurrection and eternal life.

As we now begin to enter into the mystery of the Holy Eucharist

let us ask Christ to unite our sacrifices to His own,

that we may have the strength to see everyone we meet as called to be

“God’s anointed” and so

–to turn the other cheek, to pardon and not condemn

–to lay down our lives as Christ lays down His life,

for those who are His friends

and those who are now His enemies

but whom He calls to be His friends.

And let us praise Him,

knowing that in that in this giving of ourselves in the life of Christ’s love,

He in turn gives us all  good things, in

“Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over.”

 

 

TEXT: 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 17, 2019

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 17, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.

… But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

 

I suppose we could use this verse

to talk about a lot of problems in the world today.

But let me focus on one you might not expect: the treasures of the Church.

 

If you think about, it would be pretty hard to call the Catholic Church “poor.”

In fact, we’re pretty rich.

Which might seem to run afoul of the saying “blessed are the poor, woe to the rich.

But of course, the wealth of the Church is not a problem in itself,

just as being poor is not a good thing in itself.

After all if being poor were in itself a good thing,

then we should never try to help the poor out of poverty.

 

Of course, Jesus is talking about how riches can corrupt us so easily,

as it’s so easy to love money more than God,

so that we must all be, as St. Matthew clarifies, “poor in spirit.”

 

And really, to some extent it’s good that the Church is wealthy.

For example, our wealth helps keep us independent from governments.

Or more importantly, most of the wealth we hold

is largely in beautiful religious art and magnificent churches,

built, often by the faithful poor,

as a sign of our love and praise for God.

But, given that, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if we lost all that

—we’d survive with God’s grace.

 

Because the Church really has two great treasures:

first, its material wealth,

but there’s a second treasure, much much more important.

 

You’ve all heard the story of the 3rd century martyr, St. Lawrence,

who was in charge of the finances of the Church in Rome.

One day the emperor demanded he turn over all the Church’s treasury to him.

So St. Lawrence came to before the emperor

and pointed outside to a huge crowd of poor, sick and suffering people, and said “These are the true treasures of the Church,”

The second treasure of the church is its people: you and me.

 

___

So clearly there’s nothing wrong with the Church having treasures of either kind.

The problem comes when priests and bishops use those treasures

for their own personal selfish gain or satisfaction.

 

Sometimes, this happens in simple and very common ways.

For example, using the money of the Church to build an opulent rectory.

Or…when a priest uses the people,

by avoiding preaching any hard teachings of the faith from the pulpit,

because he wants them to like him,

even at the risk of neglecting their souls.

He uses them for selfish emotional comfort.

 

___

But sadly, we also see it in more dramatic, terrible ways.

We see priests and bishops actually stealing money from the Church

to pay for extravagant hidden lifestyles.

And most horribly, we see it when priests and bishops abuse their people,

especially by stealing the innocence of the most vulnerable,

particularly children.

 

Of course of the abuses of the 2 kinds of treasures of the church,

the second, the abuse of the people, is by far the worst.

 

This last week our Bishop Burbidge, the Bishop of Arlington,

released a list of priests of the diocese

who have been at least, as he says, “credibly accused” of abuse of minors.

I hope you know that I believe strongly

that priests who are guilty of this sin are despicable,

and deserve every punishment they get in this world and in the next.

As Jesus says today:

“Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.”

 

But as you consider that list, it’s important for your wellbeing of spirit

to remember a few things,

First, a “credible accusation” is not the same as being found guilty

—it might be compared to a civil judge saying

there’s enough evidence to have a trial.

But about half of these priests never had any kind of trial

in the church or in civil courts,

because they were accused after they had already died,

and so never had a chance to defend themselves.

And there are at least 2 who maintain their innocence.

In the case of one of those 2,

Rome has decided that there’s not enough evidence to find him guilty,

and they have allowed him to retire, as a priest, without any public ministry

–case closed.

 

Nevertheless, some of those on the list were found guilty by the Church.

Again, if they are guilty, let them be punished on earth and in hell or purgatory.

 

____

But as horrible as they are,

worse than the crimes and sins of mere priests

against the vulnerable in the Church

are sins and crimes of those who have been given

the highest responsibility to protect and care for

these treasures of the Church—bishops and cardinals.

Whether these sins are lying and covering up and facilitating the sins of priests,

or the bishop’s own actual assaulting or manipulating of the innocent.

 

If there was a list of these of offenders, which there isn’t,

right at the top of the list would be

the former Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick.

Today/yesterday (Saturday) the Vatican finally announced

that he had been found guilty of sexual abuse

of minors and adult seminarians, including in the confessional.

Guilty as charged of the worst kind of abuse, as a high-ranking churchman.

Thanks be to God!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t revel in his crime, or even in his misfortunate,

but I do rejoice that justice has finally been served

and this evil tumor is ripped from the bowls of the Church.

 

___

That’s a good start.

But as I told you months ago,

Mister McCarrick’s abuse had been widely known

among seminarians, priests and bishops for almost 30 years,

but most of us couldn’t do anything about it

because we had no evidence, only persistent third hand accounts.

But the thing is, people who were in a position to know,

and could have investigated with authority, did nothing about it.

And he kept rising in the Church, from bishop, to archbishop to cardinal.

 

Finally someone did something about it—Pope Benedict XVI prohibited

the retired McCarrick from exercising public ministry,

requiring him to live a life of seclusion and penance.

But for some reason Pope Francis lifted those sanctions

and made McCarrick one of his trusted advisors,

some say giving him great influence on the selection

of new bishops and even cardinals in America.

 

Now, we shouldn’t assume a person’s guilt

until it’s been proven in a legitimate trial, or until they admit it themselves.

But there are accusations that specific named Vatican officials

ignored or hid official internal reports about McCarrick’s crimes

to support his promotion up the ranks.

And there are even accusations that this is part of a wide-ranging

sub-culture of homosexuals in the hierarchy.

I don’t know if any of that is true,

but since these accusations come from several highly placed sources,

including the former nuncio, to the United States, Archbishop Vigano,

it would seem that those accusations are at least as “credible”

as the “credible accusations” against the priests on the list released this week.

So, in justice they also must be thoroughly investigated,

or it’s all a bunch of hypocrisy.

 

____

But if Mr. McCarrick is simply a scapegoat–“move along, nothing to see here”–

then we are only allowing the cancerous filth to continue

to corrupt the body of the Church.

And we are begging for even great disaster.

 

___

This week the leaders of all the Bishops Conferences around the world

will gather in Rome for a Summit with the Pope

to discuss the problem of clerical child abuse,

especially the role of the bishops.

Many people hope this will be the beginning of a true reform.

 

But the signs are discouraging.

For example, Pope Francis said last week that

“The expectations need to be deflated…

The problems of abuse will continue.

It is a human problem, everywhere….

 

Moreover, the Pope named one of McCarrick’s alleged protégés,

Cardinal Cupich of Chicago,

to be one of the cardinals in charge of the summit.

Much as McCarrick was one of the bishops in charge of the Dallas meeting

17 years ago, when the bishops exempted themselves from the rules

they wrote for investigating abusive priests.

 

And lastly, last week, the Pope named another McCarrick protégé,

Cardinal Kevin Farrell,

to be the Vatican Camerlengo: the Cardinal who will be

temporarily in charge of the Church when the Pope dies or retires.

As they say, the optics are bad.

 

____

Now, maybe I’ve depressed you.

Some days I get a little depressed too.

Some of you may even be tempted to give up hope.

Be we can’t do that.

 

Earlier I mentioned that the Church has 2 treasures:

material wealth and the people of God.

But I intentionally left out the 3rd and by far the greatest treasure we have:

          Jesus.

Jesus, and His Body on earth, the Church, that contains and hands down to us

all the spiritual gifts of Christ, including Scripture Tradition, Doctrines,

the sacraments, His Grace, and all the great Catholic saints.

 

As Jeremiah tells us in today’s first reading:

Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,

who seeks his strength in flesh.

but, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,

whose hope is the LORD.”

 

I’ve said it before, we trust and follow Jesus and His Church

–we do not follow mere human beings,

even if they are bishops or priests, or cardinals, or even popes,

Yes, trust bishops and priests if they are they are following Jesus,

and helping you to do so also.

And thank God for them, and love them, respect them, and support them.

But in the end, we all, laity and priest alike,

must place our hope and trust together in Jesus and His Church.

And if we do that, as Jeremiah says today, we will be:

“like a tree planted beside the waters

that stretches out its roots to the stream:

it fears not the heat when it comes;

its leaves stay green;

in the year of drought it shows no distress,

but still bears fruit.”

 

____

As we now move more deeply into the great mystery of this Holy Mass,

let us thank the Lord for the purification He is manifesting in His Church.

But let us pray that by His almighty power,

He will continue to cleanse the filth from His Church.

And let us pray for all priests, bishops and cardinals,

that they always recognize that the treasures of the Church

are not theirs for plundering,

but they are merely poor stewards of these riches

that Christ hands on to us.

 

 

Modified Mass Schedule – Feb. 11 – Feb. 15

MODIFIED Mass Schedule

 

Feb. 11th – Feb. 15th

 

St. Raymond’s will be following a Modified Mass Schedule

 

Monday, Feb. 11th through Friday, Feb. 15th

Monday, February 11th8am Mass ONLY

              

Tuesday, February 12th – 6:30am Mass ONLY

Wednesday, February 13th – 8am Mass and 7pm Mass

Thursday, February 14th – 6:30am Mass ONLY

Friday, February 15th – 8am Mass and 7pm EFM Mass