TEXT: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 2, 2018

22nd  Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 2, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us:

“From within people, from their hearts,

come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,

adultery, greed, malice, deceit,

licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly…”

And He adds,

“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

 

Sad to say, that sounds like a list drawn up to describe

certain cardinals and bishops and priests caught up

in the abuses, lies and unchastity reported in the news the last few weeks.

As we continue to struggle with that scandal,

I was hoping not to have to address that this week,

but to preach about something a little more spiritual or uplifting this week.

 

But then came Archbishop Vigano’s statement and all uproar about that.

So, I’m back to square one.

 

For those of you who aren’t keeping up with the news,

about a week ago the former papal nuncio, or the Pope’s Ambassador,

to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Vigano,

issued an 11-page statement that proports

to shed new light today’s scandals.

Included in this, were accusations that top Vatican officials, whom he named,

are involved in what he calls a ‘homosexual current” in the hierarchy,

and that they knew about McCarrick’s abuses for over a decade.

He also stated that in 2010 Pope Benedict secretly punished

the retired McCarrick by prohibiting him from exercising public ministry

and requiring him to live a life of seclusion and penance.

But then, Vigano says, when Pope Francis was elected

Francis lifted those sanctions and made McCarrick his trusted advisor,

in spite of the fact that he, Vigano,

had personally told Pope Francis all about McCarrick’s abuses.

So, he says, Pope Francis knew about McCarrick’s’ behavior for five years,

and not only didn’t punish him, but effectively promoted him.

 

Now, these are just accusations, they’re not proven.

And such accusations against Pope is almost unprecedent in modern times.

And, if this were just some rumor, it would quickly be dismissed.

But this accusation is coming from an archbishop who before his retirement

had held numerous high offices in the Vatican,

he was the governor of the Vatican City State,

and sort of the head of all the papal ambassadors in the world,

before coming to the United States.

And when he was here, he was revered by American bishops

as a man of integrity and truthfulness—and he still is.

 

And he states that most of what he says is documented

in the files in the Vatican and Washington,

and can be corroborated by others.

 

So the charges are credible:

in fact, if an accusation with this level of credibility were leveled at a priest

he would be immediately suspended from office, pending investigation.

So, even if, hopefully, they’re wrong, they cannot be ignored,

even though the Holy Father seems to be trying to do just that.

 

____

So what do we do?

First, as I I’ve said before, we rally together, we do not run away.

We stand and fight for Jesus and the Church He founded—the Catholic Church. Because we place our faith and hope in them,

not in the mere men who are the princes of the Church.

 

But we also try to see all this in the context of the fullness of our Catholic faith.

In fact, we try to see how our faith has prepared us

specifically for moments like this.

 

_____

Since many of us were babies, every time we’ve entered the Church

the first thing we’ve done is to make the Sign of the Cross over ourselves.

And almost every time we’ve prayed as Catholics, we’ve done the same thing:

made the Sign of the Cross.

And every time we begin Mass and end Mass, the same thing.

And every Catholic Church, and almost every Catholic home has a Crucifix in it.

In fact, the center of the whole Mass, and so the center of our Sunday worship,

the Eucharist, which we believe is

first and foremost a re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross.

So St. Paul tells us:

“Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,

but we preach Christ crucified….”

 

The Cross, and more clearly, the Crucified Body of Jesus,

is at the center of our faith.

Now, of course, we know that Jesus Rose and Ascended to Heaven.

But all that comes from the Cross: the Crucifixion changed everything.

 

The thing is… the Crucifixion took place at a specific point in historical time,

from noon to 3 o’clock on a particular date in March or April

around the year 30AD.

But in another sense, it also took place in eternity.

Because in Jesus, the Eternal God became man,

He is the nexus or meeting of earthly time and heavenly eternity.

So that while the Cross took place in time,

but it is also eternal and timeless.

 

Which why we are able to benefit from it 2000 years later.

And it’s how Jesus could die not just for the sins of people alive at His time,

but the sins of all people of all times,

the sins of Adam and Eve in the beginning,

and the sins of you and me in 2018.

And so we look to the Crucified Body of Jesus

and in the wounds and the blood and the spittle

we see the effects of all the sins of all times and places.

 

__

But when we look to the Crucified Body of Jesus we also see something else:

we remember what St. Paul repeatedly tells us:

that the Church is the Body of Christ on earth.

So in the bloody, beaten, and pierced Body of Jesus, we see His Church as well.

And not just today, but everyday for the last 2000 years.

 

For ever since Calvary the Church has been persecuted

from both within and without, just as Jesus was.

And so, few months after the Crucifixion and Ascension,

when St. Paul was going to Damascus to persecute the Christians there,

a voice spoke to him saying:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?…

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

 

So we see ourselves, and the whole Church, as the Body of Christ,

always on the Cross.

 

____

Now let’s think, who was there at the Crucifixion 2000 years ago?

One of the saddest truths of that day was that

there was only 1 of the 12 Apostles standing there—St. John.

Even sadder and more terrible still, was that one of the 12 was not there

because he’d killed himself after he had betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot.

 

Think about that: 1/12th of the apostles, about 8%.

So 8% betrayed Jesus completely,

but also, only 8% stood with Jesus completely.

So why would we be surprised today if as many as 8% of the cardinals,

or 17 cardinals,

would betray Jesus today,

or if only 17 stood solidly, bravely with Him?

I’m not saying this is the case today numerically,

just that it shouldn’t completely surprise us, if it was.

It should make us angry and maybe depressed

—just as the thought of the betrayal of Judas

and the solitariness of John does at the Cross.

But, it could happen, despite God’s best laid plans.

 

And why isn’t St. Peter, the first pope, there at the Cross?

Even though he didn’t betray Jesus, he did deny Him after the fact.

So why should it surprise us that in the last 2000 years

we’ve even had popes who went bad.

I think of Pope St. Stephen VI;

newly elected he ordered that his predecessor’s body

should be dug up from his grave, dressed up as pope,

put on the papal throne and tried for all sorts of crimes and heresies;

and then he dumped his body in the Tiber River.

That’s a  bad pope.

 

Or of Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, who had several mistresses,

and 9 illegitimate children, one of whom he made a cardinal.

Or of Pope Leo X, whose decadence was so bad,

the whole Church,

it set off Martin Luther and the whole Protestant Revolt, or “Reformation,”

in the 16th century.

 

Now, I’m not trying to scandalize you, but it’s there.

And popes sin, right from the beginning

—some popes obviously worse than others.

 

And where were the other apostles?

They hadn’t betrayed or denied Jesus, but they were afraid of suffering with Him.

So they kept their heads down, safe in the locked doors of the upper room.

So, why should we be surprised today

if many otherwise good cardinals and bishops and priests,

also choose to keep their heads down,

and say and do nothing that would cause them to suffer with Jesus.

Again, that should make us angry, and disappoint us,

but it should not surprise us:

in the beginning 84% of the bishops and priests did that.

 

__

So only John was there, and the other 11 apostles were not.

But who else was there?

Scripture tells us that the faithful women were also there at the foot of the Cross.

In particular Mary Magdalene, the great sinner who became the great saint.

To me, she represents all the lay people of the Church today,

who despite being sinners, truly strive to be saints,

and when in their weakness they fail, repent and constantly try again.

That doesn’t make them hypocrites;

hypocrites are people who say, “you do this, but I can do that.”

This just makes them Catholics who want to be saints.

 

Magdalene and the holy women did not run

from the suffering of the Body of Christ, even when 11 apostles did.

They were not afraid or embarrassed by the wounds in his precious flesh,

they did not hide in shame in the face of mockery.

They wept and moaned, and perhaps they felt angry and confused,

You weep and moan and are angry and confused today.

But you must not run and hide in embarrassment or shame,

but rather, like the Magdalene and the others,

stand with Jesus and His Church, on the Cross.

 

____

So we look at the Cross, and we see today’s Church.

The bloody, torn and spit upon Body of Christ.

But for Christians, whenever we see the Crucifixion,

we should also always see and understand it

in the light of the Resurrection and Ascension.

Just as part of the Church suffers on earth,

another part of the Church is already glorified in Heaven.

And just as the Body of Christ rose from the dead and walked the earth,

we also see the Body of Christ gloried even on earth today,

as it preaches of the truth about God and man

and struggles to live out that truth in the lives of ordinary Catholics.

And we see it glorified in the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist,

as the Crucified Jesus pours out his strength, peace and forgiveness

on the members of his Body.

 

And we see that glory as sinners, like Mary Magdalen,

become devoutly in love with Jesus.

And we see it as a few cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests

are not afraid to publicly stand with Christ and the Truth,

at the foot of Cross even when it means suffering.

 

___

Who else is at the foot of the Cross, standing with Jesus?

Of course, Mary, His Mother.

Mary is always with Jesus when He needs her.

She was there when He was a needy baby and growing boy.

And she was there when He needed her on the Cross.

And she is with Him now bodily, in the glory of heaven,

and she is here with us, as His body continues to suffer on earth.

She would never abandon Jesus, and she would never abandon us.

____

As I mentioned before, the Church teaches that

the Eucharist is first and foremost the sacrifice of the Cross.

And so we come here every Sunday, not simply to pray or to hear God’s word,

but to stand at the foot of the Cross

—and to be united with the Body of Christ Crucified in the Eucharist.

With Mary, we unite our suffering to Jesus’s suffering on the Cross:

as St. Paul tells us elsewhere:

“offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God

–this is your true and proper worship.”

All the suffering we endure, and all the good we do.

And he unites ours to His, and His to ours.

 

___

My dear brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters in Christ,

today we can’t get past the suffering inflicted on us

by too many bad priests, bishops and cardinals.

And we are confused and frightened by the accusations against our Holy Father,

and pray they are not true.

But no matter what, we will not give up hope or faith,

we will not turn and run and hide.

 

And as we now move more deeply into the mystery of this Holy Mass,

and kneel at the foot of the Cross of Christ

made really substantially present on the altar,

let us stand with John, and Magdalen and Our Mother Mary,

and join them in uniting all our sufferings to His.

And in Holy Communion,

let our unity with Jesus and His Church be strengthened,

as one Body of Christ, suffering and glorified,

filled with every grace and blessing, every peace and virtue,

that flows from the pierced Heart of Jesus.

TEXT: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 26, 2018

21st  Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 26, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today’s gospel begins by telling us:

“Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?””

What exactly is the hard saying they’re talking about?

To understand the question we have to remember that for the last 5 weeks

we’ve been reading from Chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel

—one of the most important

and yet most misunderstood or neglected chapters in the bible.

 

5 weeks ago, we began with the feeding of the 5000

—the miracle of the multiplication of loaves.

Then we moved into what is often called the “bread of life discourse”

—Jesus’ explanation about how to “have eternal life.”

We must eat his “flesh,” which “is the bread of life.”

That’s the hard saying.

 

It’s interesting that while the miracle of the multiplication of loaves

is reported in all 4 gospels,

only St. John reports the bread of life discourse.

Now, some say this discrepancy is because John made the whole thing up

—that Jesus never really said it.

But this is absurd.

As St. John writes at the very end of his Gospel:

“This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things,

and who has written these things;

and we know that his testimony is true.”

 

What really happened is that John was the longest living of all the apostles

—he died at a ripe old age, maybe when he was 90 years old,

maybe as late as the year 100 AD.

And so he wrote his Gospel many years after the others,

maybe 30 or more years later than Matthew, Mark and Luke,

—and so it’s almost certain that he’d read them,

since they were widely circulated.

On top of that, we know that John’s Gospel is the most theologically profound

—perhaps because of all the years he’d had to think about it,

or perhaps because of his unique closeness to Christ

when he was on earth,

he was, after all, called “the beloved disciple.”

 

So after having lots of time to think and pray over the life of Jesus,

and reading what Matthew, Mark and Luke had written,

he wrote down his own recollection

—not making things up, not correcting the others,

but recording things he’d come to understand

were much more important than maybe they first appeared.

 

In particular, John came to focus on the central importance

of mystery of the Incarnation.

And so he begins his whole Gospel, by explaining:

          “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

Through him all things were made… In him was life.”

And then he concludes:

“the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

 

The Incarnation—the taking of flesh by the life-giving God

—is at the heart of John’s understanding of the Gospel.

And so, while Matthew, Mark and Luke recorded the multiplication of loaves,

and did so not only to impress us with Jesus power,

but also to help us understand Jesus giving us the Eucharist,

in chapter 6, of his Gospel John says, in effect,

‘but don’t forget what Jesus said after he multiplied the loaves:’

I am the bread of life….and the bread that I will give

is my flesh for the life of the world.”

 

Again, some people want to see this as John making something up

to make a point.

Still others today want to say it really happened,

but Jesus is talking in merely symbolic language.

John probably had encountered people like this in his own time.

And so years after Christ’s death,

and probably after years of hearing some arguing that Jesus had just

been speaking metaphorically about His flesh and the bread,

John finally sits down and writes to the whole Church

and very carefully reports

that Jesus Himself insisted they were wrong.

 

And so John writes, at Verse 53:

“The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,

“How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?”

Now, think about this: His followers think he’s talking about real food.

They don’t think He’s talking in symbols:

that spiritual grace is like food, or perhaps that His teaching is like food.

They’re upset because He sounds like a cannibal

“How can this man give us [his own] flesh to eat?”

 

And how does Jesus respond?

He doesn’t change His teaching—He doesn’t say,

“no, no, I’m only talking in symbols”:

No: “Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood,

you do not have life within you.”

 

Now, in the original Greek the word He uses here for “eat

is very descriptive of physical eating: the Greek word “trogo

doesn’t translate as “consume” or “sup upon”

but to physically “chew” or “gnaw.”

He’s saying, ‘you’re right: I’m not being symbolic.’

As then He goes on to say:

“For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.”

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

 

Then you can see the disciples, thinking…

“how can he do this? That’s impossible.”

Or as John writes:

“Then many of His disciples who were listening said,

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

 

How familiar these words are to us today

—we hear it all the time, maybe we say it ourselves,

even if only in the back of our minds.

It’s hard to believe that the bread Jesus gives us is His body.

But Jesus still doesn’t back down.

As John writes at verse 61:

“Since Jesus knew that His disciples were murmuring about this,

He said to them, “Does this shock you?”

 

And then Jesus reminds them that they’ve seen His power

—they’ve just seen him feed 5000 with a few loaves of bread.

And He tells them there’s more to come, as John records:

“What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending

to where He was before?

It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

 

Now, some seize on Jesus’ words:

“It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail,”

They try to argue He’s backing away from talk of flesh being real food

–that He’s somehow saying that,

“no, no, it’s the spirit, it’s all spiritual food, not really my flesh.”

But that would mean He’d be contradicting everything He’s been saying.

No, what He’s saying is, in effect,

“But you’re not remembering who I really am!

I am the eternal Word who created life itself

—“the words I have spoken are spirit and life.”

I multiplied the loaves to feed the bodies of 5000,

and one day you’ll see me ascending—bodily–into heaven.

I work in my body and through my body,

but don’t limit me to the power of normal human flesh.

I have spiritual power that goes way beyond human limitations.”

 

That’s what He meant

—and that’s what the people there understood Him to mean.

And that’s why they left.

As John writes:

“As a result of this, many of His disciples returned to their former way of life

and no longer accompanied Him.”
Think of this—these were His disciples,

people who had believed in Him and were following him from town to town.

They’d heard His beautiful words and seen His great power.

And yet all because they could not accept this one hard saying

—because they couldn’t believe in the Eucharist—they walked away.

 

And what does Jesus do?

Does He run after them saying,

“no, no, wait, come back…you misunderstood”…?

No.

Still He won’t back down.

Instead, as St. John records:

“Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

It’s as if He’s saying,

“What about you?

Those others refuse to believe me, what about you?

You have a choice—believe this “hard saying” about eating the bread

which will be my flesh,

or you can leave too!”

Where else in the Gospels does He give such a stark choice:

“Here’s the line—which side are you on?”

 

What a terrible moment this must have been for those 12.

It was in fact a hard saying, who could believe it?

 

But then we read:

“Simon Peter answered Him,

“Master, to whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life.

We have come to believe and are convinced

that you are the Holy One of God.”

Words. Life.

So simple.

They believe His words because they believe He is the savior,

so they have no choice:

They believe because He said so.

 

Did they understand what he meant?

I would wager no, not really, at least not completely.

But they did understand that he meant what he said.

And so they believed, and struggled to understand.

 

And almost exactly a year later that understanding took a huge leap forward,

when they sat with Jesus at the Passover supper,

on the night before He died,

remembering the first Passover, the night 1300 years before

when the Jews believed the word of the God given through Moses

and ate the flesh of the sacrificed lamb,

and God saved their lives from the angel of death

passing over Egypt

and freeing them for a new life in the promised land.

When they were at supper,

Jesus took bread, gave thanks, blessed it, and broke it,

just as He had when He multiplied the 5 loaves into 5000 loaves.

But this time He said:

“Take, eat. This is my body, which is given for you.”

And with the cup: “take, drink. This is the cup of my blood.”

 

They listened to these strange but absolutely clear words of Jesus.

And they remembered the words He had said

that day after multiplying the loaves,

His words about His flesh being the bread of life,

true, or real, food that He would give them and that they must eat.

And they believed.

 

For 2000 years the Church has held fast to this belief.

And through the years, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,

And contemplation on the teaching of St. John and the other apostles,

we have come to understand it better.

But all of it goes back to what Peter said—we believe, because Jesus said so.

 

Unfortunately, there have always been those

who do not side with Peter.

Of course this begins with the early disciples

who loved what Jesus had to say,

and were impressed by His power,

but left Him because they could not accept this hard saying.

 

But not all of the nonbelievers walked away.

As John tells us today:

“Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe

and the one who would betray him.”

And as he goes on to tell us at the end of Chapter 6:

“Jesus answered them,

“Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?”

He was referring to Judas…Iscariot;

it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.”

Judas stayed, but He did not believe.

And it seems, according to John,

that, the Eucharist was the beginning of His unbelief and betrayal.

 

Today, many followers of Jesus do not believe His words about the Eucharist.

Even those who say, “Scripture alone” and “it’s in the bible, so I believe it”

–they don’t believe what Jesus insisted on 5 times in John Chapter 6.

And even those who claim to be in the company of Peter’s successors

—many Catholics don’t believe,

even too many bishops and priests.

 

Am I saying that they are like Judas—betrayers of Jesus?

I can’t say that—only Jesus knows their hearts.

And Jesus loves them and is more merciful than you or I can even dream.

What’s more, many of them love Jesus very much.

 

But there is a line that Jesus draws.

There is a word Jesus speaks.

There is a truth Jesus insists on.

There is a gift Jesus gives.

And there is a faith in all that—a faith held and proclaimed by Peter,

and the Catholic Church for 2000 years.

Faith in the words of Jesus:

“unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man…

you do not have life within you….

For my flesh is true food….

..The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

 

These are hard sayings.

But as we enter into this great mystery here today,

let us not allow our weak faith,

our stubborn hearts,

or our limited minds,

to lead us to abandon Christ, or to betray him

as He gives us Himself, His body, His flesh

to eat as the bread of life.

Rather let us hold firmly to the faith of Peter in the word of Christ:

“Master, ….You have the words of eternal life.

We have come to believe, and are convinced ….”

TEXT: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 19, 2018

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 19, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

Today I’m going to be a little more personal than I like to be in homilies,

since homilies shouldn’t be about the priest.

But I think this approach might be helpful today.

 

___

Four weeks ago we all heard the news

about the disgustingly reprehensible behavior

of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

And then this week, like a one-two punch,

we heard the nauseating news

about the multiple accusations of sexual abuse and systemic coverup

by priests and bishops, in Pennsylvania.

 

I am sure most of you are devasted and angry.

And I am too.

Angry, no, infuriated, at the priests, bishops and cardinals

who either committed unspeakable crimes with children

or abused their positions of trust with vulnerable adults,

or used their clerical celibacy to cover their revolting homosexual lifestyle,

or lied and schemed and organized to cover it all up.

 

Three weeks ago I preached about the whole McCarrick situation.

And I told you that we need hold to account and punish

those who are merely wolves in shepherd’s clothing.

 

But also I strongly urged you not to be discouraged or to lose hope,

because our faith and hope are not in cardinals, bishops, priests,

or even popes,

but in Jesus Christ and in the Catholic Church He founded.

And I reminded you, there are still many good priests out there

striving to be good shepherds, who need your support and trust.

 

But in the light of revelations from the grand jury in Pennsylvania this week

all that needs to be reiterated.

 

And there’s something else we need to talk more about.

That is, the tendency to suspect all priests and bishops,

and so not only distance ourselves from them, but from the Church itself.

 

This was brought home to me the day after the Pennsylvania news came out.

A parishioner came to me and said a friend of hers had told her

that she should keep her children away from all priests,

and shouldn’t let her son consider becoming a priest.

 

My friends, this is the master plan of the devil unfolding:

first, corrupt a few priests and bishops, directly or indirectly,

then devastate the lives of victims,

then destroy all trust in all the clergy,

and finally drive good people from the Church.

 

My friends, we cannot let the devil and his evil cooperators win.

 

____

So let me tell you a little story.

I was born, raised, educated and worked as a professional

in San Antonio, Texas—I lived there all my life, until I was 31 years old.

I loved San Antonio, and l loved Texas—I am a Texan through and through.

I never thought anything could take me away from my home.

 

But 27 years ago today, August 19, 1991,

I got in my car and left my home forever

to drive to Maryland,

to study for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary,

for the Diocese of Arlington—our diocese.

 

I had spent much of the previous year talking to and working with

the Archdiocese of San Antonio about studying for the priesthood there. But in the end, I just couldn’t do it.

Because the more I looked and knew about

the seminary and the clergy of the archdiocese,

it became clear there were 2 huge problems:

first, they were corrupted by false teachings,

and second, they were infected by the sin of lust,

in particular homosexual lust.

So I knew there was no way I could study or be a priest for San Antonio.

 

But the call would not go away: I still felt called to be a priest.

So after consulting Catholic friends and family all over the country,

and looking at different Dioceses,

I decided to come here to the Diocese of Arlington.

And I have never regretted for one moment.

 

____

The Arlington Diocese is not at all perfect.

We are not immune from false or weak teaching.

And we have not been impervious to scandalous and even reprehensible

behavior of priests.

 

But I can tell you, as a priest who finds all this false doctrine and sexual abuse

repugnant to my very being,

there’s nowhere in the world I would rather be than Arlington.

I thank God every day that I am a priest of Arlington,

where I can say that there are so many fine priests,

like no other diocese I know,

and where, to my knowledge, the incidents of this kind of wrong doing,

especially sexual abuse and homosexuality, has been very rare.

 

Now, let me be clear—even one act of evil perversion in the priesthood,

especially against a child,

or covering up that act,

is an abomination and deserves the swiftest and most violent retribution.

But I do believe that with all the evil in the world, and in the Church,

parents need not be afraid of the priests of Arlington

any more than they would be afraid of their child’s doctor, or teacher,

or anyone else in a position of trust.

 

Now, clearly, be careful: trust but verify.

And make sure your children know that they can and should tell you if anyone,

including a priest,

hurts them, or touches or speaks to them inappropriately.

Be careful not to jump to rash conclusions, act with charity and justice,

but feel free to call a wolf a wolf.

 

Even so, please, do not assume that all priests are evil or to be distrust us.

 

And do let the devil, and all his cooperating evil or weak priests and bishops,

keep you or your children away from good priests

or from the Church.

And do not discourage your sons, or yourselves,

from answering the call to priesthood.

 

____

I told you a moment ago about how I decided to come to Arlington.

But I didn’t tell you why, even after knowing all the bad stuff I did,

I still decided to be a priest.

 

Of course, I felt the call, after much prayer and discernment, to the priesthood.

But all that could easily have been more than offset

by all the crud I was aware of

—who would want that for the next 60 years?

 

No, in the end what overcame all that crud

was the realization that it didn’t have to be that way.

 

That there were, in fact, many good priests struggling to do Christ’s work.

That a priest could strive to be holy, faithful and chaste,

and do great things for God’s people.

And that without new men joining the good priests in the struggle,

they and the whole Church

would be left to suffer at the hands of all the bad priests and bishops,

and the devil would win.

 

____

So, it came down to this: if not me, who?

 

Now, that sounds a little arrogant

–there were literally thousands of other men who could do it,

and do it much better than I could.

But, that begs the question: if Jesus was truly calling me, why not me too?

And false or exaggerated humility

can easily be an excuse for cowardice or laziness.

In the end, we need all the able bodied and souled priests we can get.

Men who know exactly what they were getting into,

and are willing to make sacrifices to be faithful to the Gospel.

To try to be truly good shepherds, and truly loving fathers to God’s children.

 

____

Sometimes when vocation promoters talk about the priesthood

they make it sound kind of like the Peace Corps:

you go out and do nice things for people.

But the priesthood isn’t the Peace Corps:

it’s got to be more like the Marine Corps.

With brave, strong, intelligent, and dedicated men.

Men who will sacrifice everything for Christ and His Bride, the Church.

Men who will go into spiritual battle every day,

and never be discouraged by the wickedness or strength of their opponents.

Men who will strive constantly, with the grace and power of Jesus Christ,

and reinforced by an army of angels and saints,

to clean up the spiritual mess that the Church is becoming.

Men who know that they are as likely to be shot in the back

by so called “friendly fire” as by enemy fire,

but still have the fortitude to go forward.

 

Now, again, that sounds a bit arrogant,

and makes us all sound like a bunch of heroes and saints.

Clearly, we know, not even all the good priests are heroes and saints,

and I am definitely not,

[my father was a Marine, and my mother was a saint,

and I’m neither.]

But so many priests I know, especially in Arlington,

but also all around the Church, are striving to be just that.

What more can you ask of them?

 

And what more can you want for you son or brother,

if God calls him to priesthood?

And what more could a real man, a real Catholic young man, want for himself?

 

___

Today is kind of like the Church’s 9/11.

But this time the evil doers didn’t crashed into

the high and mighty Twin Towers or the soldiers at the Pentagon,

they took down a high and mighty cardinal,

and so many the soldiers of Christ, His priests.

 

But remember what happened after 9/11, 2001?

Remember how the whole nation seemed to come together

to rally against the evil perpetrated against us?

And remember how so many young men and women came forth proudly

to fight to defend us—even to lay down their lives for us?

 

Today, in the face of the evil we have seen trying to destroy our church,

will we rally, or will we run?

And will we and our sons stand up and be the men and women

God has called us to be,

or will we allow the Church, the Bride of Jesus Christ,

to be controlled, abused and dissipated by weak and evil men?

 

___

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us:

“Amen, amen, I say to you,

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,

you do not have life within you.”

Let me tell you another story.

When I was growing up, I was a very devout kid,

and I especially loved the Eucharist and the Mass.

But in college I stopped going to Mass.

Lots of reasons for that, but one of the most important was

all the really weak priests I knew.

I mean, it seemed to me that they didn’t believe, so why should I?

 

Well thanks be to God, I came back a few years later,

because I had to admit to myself

that regardless of whatever those foolish priests said or did,

I believed in Jesus, and all He taught, especially about the Eucharist.

And all that could only be found in only one place:

in the Church he founded, the Catholic Church.

So I started going to Mass again.

And even when I knew the priest was not very faithful,

I always knew he gave me the one thing I need more than anything else:

the bread of life, Jesus in the flesh.

And that in turn helped to reawaken the call to the priesthood in my heart:

I thought, “someone has to do this better, more faithfully.”

 

Again, if not me, who?

 

___

That is the question not only for men called to priesthood,

but really, also the question all Catholics should answer today.

As St. Peter tells us elsewhere in Scripture:

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,

seeking someone to devour.

Resist him, standing firm in your faith….”

Who will resist and fight the good fight, if not you?

Who will help purify the Church of all this filth?

Who will stand up to the corrupt bishops and priests?

If not me and you, who?

 

And who will preplace them in the pulpit and at the altar,

not as wolves, but as true shepherds and fathers,

who will give us the Bread of Life, if we have no priests?

If not me and your sons, who?

 

____

Do not give up your faith in Christ and His Catholic Church.

Do not waiver one iota.

Love Him and His Bride, with all your hearts.

And fight for them both.

Do not settle for platitudes, or new policies and procedures

from the bishops, or the Vatican.

But demand a wholesale moral purification of the Church,

most especially her priests and bishops.

Support with all your hearts the ones who are clearly trying

to be good shepherds.

And with the power and might of Jesus Himself,

who comes to you in the Holy Eucharist,

oppose with all your strength

the wolves and the lions seeking to devour us.

 

If not you and me, who?

 

TEXT: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 12, 2018

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 12, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

For those of you who have seen and heard me

working in this parish for the last 8 years you may have surmised

that I am not the best physical specimen on the planet:

I have all sorts of sinus and allergy problems,

and I have a bad shoulder and various other aches and pains.

Thankfully, none of these are that terrible, really only inconveniences,

and none are life-threatening.

But like many in this room, I’ve had that too.

 

When I was a boy, I thought I was indestructible:

but with all these illnesses and problems

—not to mention the reality of the effects of aging—

I have learned that

the smallest bacteria or the simplest bad habit,

can change your life—for the worse—forever.

 

Now, my situation is obviously not unique, and I have been very blessed.

Many people get sick or injured—deadly sick.

And many people struggle for years with terrible health problems.

 

And when they do, they search for

some medicine or food or vitamin to take to restore their health.

And especially nowadays, even if we’re not particularly sick,

people are more and more health conscience

and are very careful about what they put into their bodies.

 

So….what if you found a particular food or vitamin or medication

that would restore you to health when you were physically sick

or would change your out-of-shape  body

to perfect health and strength?

In today’s 1st reading, Elijah seems to find just such a food.

The Book of Kings tells us that Elijah was worn out from one day’s journey

–all he wanted to do was lay down and sleep–even die.

But when he eats the food brought by the angel,

he suddenly has the strength to travel 40 days and 40 nights

through the hot desert.

If you or I found food like that we’d make it the staple of our diet.

 

____

The spiritual life isn’t much different.

We all sometimes suffer from spiritual sickness or injury.

–maybe we do something sinful to injure our spirit;

–maybe we live in unhealthy spiritual environments,

sinful lifestyles or states of life;

–maybe we just take our spiritual health for granted and we become weak,

defenseless against temptations we might encounter:

we let ourselves get spiritually run down,

and we don’t, as it were, “eat right”.

If we allow this to go on long enough,

we wind up completely overwhelmed by spiritual illness—sin—

or, even spiritually dead.

 

But what if you found a food or a medicine

that would restore or perfect your spiritual health?

Wouldn’t you also make that food the central part of your diet.

 

Last week, this week and the next 2 weeks we continue to read

from John Chapter 6, “the Bread of Life Discourse.”

Today, Jesus tells us:

“I am the bread of life…whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

He is, of course, talking about the Eucharist, in which He offers us the perfect food,

the perfect remedy or medicine for spiritual nourishment and health

–He offers us Himself, and He is the all-powerful God!

Nothing else could offer us all the spiritual health we desire,

or bring us to spiritual perfection

–only He who is spiritual perfection Himself can be this food for us.

 

___

Someone might ask, well what does our body have to do with our spiritual life

—how can food for the body change our souls?

But the thing is, we are not just spiritual beings: we are soul and body.

If you hit my hand, you don’t just hit my hand—you hit me!

You cannot separate body and soul—except by death.

Elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus tells us:

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away….”

Our bodies can cause us to sin:

think, for example of all the things that go into our souls through our eyes

—the things we watch on television, on the internet or read in books.

Like junk food,

so many things in our daily lives

that enter into us through our bodily senses

seem at first delicious,

but in reality what they do to our souls is disgusting.

 

So, if our bodies can be so directly connected to the spiritual reality of sin,

and if things that go into our bodies

can be the source of spiritual sickness,

then why is it so hard to imagine

that our bodies and things that go into our bodies

could be a source of our spiritual health?

For example, the word of God doesn’t spiritually enter our souls,

it enters us first by the sound waves that our ears hear,

and then it effects our souls.

So imagine the incredible spiritual effect

of eating with our mouths the food which is in itself

the very body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

 

___

Jesus gives us real physical food that has real spiritual effects.

“My flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink.

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”

But even though its effects are spiritual,

the Eucharist still acts a lot like all food does.

 

First of all, food can’t have any effect without some cooperation from the body.

As with physical food and physical life,

if there’s no spiritual life in the body, spiritual food can do nothing:

if you put steak in a dead man’s mouth, what good does it do?

The same thing with the Eucharist:

someone in the state of “mortal”—or “deadly”—sin

gets no good from the Eucharist.

 

Not only that,

but have you ever been in an Emergency Room

when someone was dying?

I have, and I assure you that last thing they’d do is try to feed the person.

If they did, the person would gag on the food and make matters worse,

since at that moment he’s in no shape to handle food

—as good as it might be for him.

NO, first they try to resuscitate the person, then later they nourish him.

In the same way, a spiritually dying person shouldn’t receive the Eucharist

until their spiritual life has been resuscitated

through repentance and the grace of the Sacrament of Confession.

 

__

But not every sinner is spiritually dead or dying,

most are simply spiritually sick or weak.

So it happens that many times after recovering from being sick,

the first sign of recovery is getting our appetite back:

our bodies are weak, but alive and hungry for the nourishment of food.

So they responded eagerly to whatever food we eat,

and then use that nutrition it to bring us strength.

 

That’s the way our souls respond to the Eucharist:

as long as we’re not spiritually dead in mortal sin,

even if we’re completely racked by spiritual diseases

but still have some small ounce of the life of faith in us.

 

Sometimes we only have the barest amount of the Christian life in us:

–perhaps we’ve neglected the practice of our faith, and we’ve become weak;

–or perhaps we’ve eaten too much spiritually unhealthy food

so we’re spiritually just barely holding on.

Still, the Body of Christ, the bread of life,

can take the tiniest response and start to rebuild our health.

 

___

And as you recover from spiritual affliction, sin,

the nourishment of the food of angels needs both proper exercise and rest

to restore full health and strength.

You need to actively cooperate and make yourself do things

to allow the flesh of Christ to enter and strengthen your whole person.

Like a person recovering from physical illness, you have to exercise.

You have to do spiritual exercises,

like walking the walk of Christian life,

by obeying the commandments, acting in charity, and praying;

like lifting the weights

that are the crosses that Jesus gives you to carry.

Maybe you start slowly in the beginning, but gradually, little by little,

with constant exercise, powered by the spiritual food of the Eucharist,

you can become more and more the perfect specimen of spiritual perfection.

 

And as you do this you’ll see more and more

the spiritually healthy effects of eating the Bread of Life.

Using the words of St. Paul in today’s 2nd reading,

we can say that the nourishing effect of the Eucharist will help rid us of

“All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling…along with all malice.”

Instead it will place in our hearts kindness, and compassion

and the ability to love and forgive others,

as Christ has loved and forgiven us on the Cross.

And as the prayers of the Mass tell us,

the Eucharist brings us to unity with God and His Church,

giving us a share in the fellowship—or Communion—of the saints,

now and in eternal life,

as it fills us with every grace and heavenly blessing.

In short, it  makes us more and more like what or who we eat:

the perfect one, Jesus Christ.

 

____

Jesus says that He is “the bread of life”:

He promises that if we eat His flesh we will have eternal life.

But that eternal life begins here and now.

It is a life born in Christ’s love, not a death resulting from our sin.

It is a life strengthened     by the food which is the very flesh of God,

not a life devastated by the sickness of evil.

And it is a life brought to perfection by cooperating eagerly with

the nourishment–the grace–received in Holy Communion.

 

____

Today, as we continue to move deeper into the sacred mysteries of this Mass,

we should reflect on the spiritual diseases and weakness

that plague our lives.

And we should thank Our Lord with all the strength remaining in us

for making it so easy to be revived,

and strengthened by simply eating the bread of life.

And let us open our hearts and receive Him

believing and rejoicing that His promise is fulfilled at this Mass:

“The bread I will give you is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Holy Day of Obligation – Wednesday, August 15th – Solemnity of the Assumption

SOLEMNITY OF  THE ASSUMPTION 

MASS TIMES: 

TUESDAY NIGHT VIGIL 

7:00pm

 WEDNESDAY MASSES 

6:30am8:00am12noon

5pm (additional Mass due to Construction)  

and 7:00pm

**Please note all Masses will be in the Parish Hall

(MAIN access from the Parkway Side of the Parking Lot)

 

CONSTRUCTION PROJECT is still ongoing. 

For theses Masses ONLY – The Groveland Drive Entrance will be open.

Follow the Caution Tape and Signs to the Basement.

Note: This entrance will NOT be handicap accessible – there are stairs!

Statement from Bishop Burbidge on the First Anniversary of the Violent March on Charlottesville August 10, 2018

 Statement from Bishop Burbidge on the First Anniversary of

the Violent March on Charlottesville

August 10, 2018

“As we mark the first anniversary of the violence that took place in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017, in solidarity with Bishop Barry Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond, I call upon all Catholics and people of good will to pray for peace in our nation, and for an end to the division that is caused by racism and prejudice.  We must shine a light on injustice, be advocates for those who are victims of discrimination, and continue to affirm the dignity of every human person as we are all created in the image and likeness of God.

We pray to our Lady, Queen and Peace, for unity and harmony in our communities, in our nation, and our world, recalling that it is only through her Son, Jesus Christ, that true healing and peace are ours.”