Homily for the Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 16, 2014

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 16, 2014

(Offertory Appeal) Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today I need to speak to you about something that’s very important,

but also very hard for me to talk about—so hard I’ve avoided it for 4 years:

that is, the importance of contributing

to the parish weekly offertory collection.

 

Now, sometimes I feel like I’m always asking for money.

But really, that’s mostly for special collections for outside groups

—not for the parish itself, especially not for the regular collection.

Because, every time I ask for money at Mass

I remember the story we read in last week’s Gospel,

the story of the Jesus driving the moneychangers from the Temple.

 

You see, the “moneychangers” were running a for-profit business in the temple,

and it’s very easy for pastors to sort of fall into a “for-profit” mind-set:

to measure “success” by their parish’s financial bottom line:

if the collection goes up, or if the “net profit” goes up,

they think they’re a good pastor.

And the same can happen to parishioners:

you can be tempted to think that all you have to do to be a good Catholic

is write lots of checks to the Church.

But I never want to be like that, and I don’t want the parish to be like that,

because we’re not a business,

we’re a family, or part of the family of God.

And money never draws the family close, or makes it a “success.”

 

Even so, the reality is that money comes in awfully handy

to help your family survive and flourish,

and the same is true for our parish family.

So it’s time I preach about the collection, for the good of our parish family.

 

________

Today’s Gospel tells the parable of the talents.

Now, the word “talent” here is actually a measure of money,

which, in Jesus’ day, was equal to about 20 years of wages:

in Fairfax County today that would be about $2 million.

So the master is entrusting his servants with a heck of a lot of his money.

But he expects them to put his money to good use,

so to the 2 servants who doubled his money, he says:

“’Well done, my good and faithful servant.”           but the servant who buries his money, he calls a “useless servant.”

 

The point of the story is that God gives us many gifts

but He gives them to be put a good use He has in mind.

So that depending on how we choose to use those gifts

we’re either more or less like either

the “good and faithful servants,” or “useless servant.”

 

_______

In God’s mercy, He’s given me many gifts.

But I haven’t always used these “talents” for the good purposes He wanted.

 

Most of you know I entered the seminary about 23 years ago,

when I was 31 years old.

About a year or so before that I was a CPA working in San Antonio

with a huge accounting firm.

I enjoyed my work, and I was well paid,

but I was working all sorts of crazy hours—I had no free time.

So, one day, after 9 years with the big firm,

I quit and started my own small CPA practice.

Of course, I was hoping my practice would eventually do well,

but in that first year I just hoped to earn enough

to pay for food and the mortgage.

because I was determined not to spend all my time working,

and to make plenty of time for other important things I’d been neglecting:

in particular my relationships with my family and friends

and, especially, with Jesus and His Church.

 

But what actually happened was amazing:

almost without me lifting a finger my practice took off,

and I made more money than I made at the big firm,

even though I was working about a 1/3rd less hours.

And I was spending lots of time with my family and friends,

and working in my parish, and go to daily Mass, and adoration.

It was really a great year—the best of my life up to that point.

 

But I knew that it was too great.

There was no way I could have made all those good things happen

so quickly on my own—it was all clearly a gift from God.

 

And at the same time something else became clear.

I kept having the sense that God was telling me,

“I’ve given you all these good things.

And you can keep them.

But would you be willing to give them back to me?”

 

I struggled with this for over a year.

I had the clear sense that keeping what he’d given me wouldn’t be a bad thing,

–it wouldn’t make me really a “useless servant,”

But I couldn’t help but think there was something ungrateful about it,

so I decided, I’d try to be the “good and faithful servant” He wanted me to be.

So, I left my friends, family and business in Texas,

and moved up here to go to seminary.

 

______

Now, I’m not tell you this so that you’ll think how wonderful I am.

After all, it took me until I was 31 years old to face up to this.

 

And I’m really not telling you this so you think how talented I am, or was.

There are many priests who are much more talented that I am,

and who gave up much more than I ever did.

 

And I’m not here to sing the praises of priests:

all of you have many special gifts,

and many of you have given up a lot to serve your country,

or to serve your families.

 

My point is: like the servants in today’s parable,

God has given us all so many gifts.

But we don’t even recognize that He gave them to us.

And even worse, we’re not grateful.

And we don’t bother to ask,

why did God give me all these gifts,

and what does He want me to do with them?”

We don’t take time to think,

am I being the “good and faithful servant” with His gifts?

 

______

Now, after I went to the seminary,

you’d have thought I’d learned my lesson about all this.

But I hadn’t.

 

When I became a priest and started working in a parish,

my salary was pretty small.

I didn’t care, but the mistake I made was

again forgetting that even that small salary was a gift from God,

and again not really asking Him what He wanted me to do with it.

Honestly, I figured with my small salary I was saving the parish a lot of money,

so I didn’t need to give much to the weekly collection.

Besides, I was giving money to other good charities.

 

______

Until one day when I was having dinner with a young family.

The mom stayed home taking care of 5 kids under the age of 10,

and the dad had at decent-paying job.

But with the cost of living around here, they were barely getting by.

And then they told me that they were tithing to our parish

—giving 10% of their income every week.

 

And I remembered, what God had asked me:

“I have given you all these good things

… would you be willing to give them back to me…?”

After all that I’d given up, now I was clinging to my little salary.

They strove to be “good and faithful servants”

using every gift God gave them in the way He wanted,

beginning by taking good care of their family.

But not just their family at home: their parish family as well.

 

And as I said before, that is what a parish should be to all of us—a family.

We are sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters, in Christ.

Of course, the Church throughout the world is our whole family,

but we experience the life of that family week in and week out,

in the personal, face-to-face, experience of the parish.

The word “parish” itself comes from a Greek word that means “household.”

 

And so now I also tithe to this parish.

How could I not?

After all, as the first reading today told us:

“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.” In imitation of the celibate Christ, a priest’s wife is the Church,

and the parish is his day-to-day encounter with his bride,

and with all their children—their family.

And his bride’s value is far beyond pearls, much less 10% of my salary.

 

______

Last January, you may remember

that I spoke at all the Masses and I distributed a handout

about “Some…Resolutions to Help Make 2014…a Year of the Lord Jesus.”

I proposed various simple and concrete ways we could all work

on our life with Christ, in our morality, spirituality, charity, etc.

And I emphasized the importance of doing this in context of the parish family,

especially as I called on you to become “committed volunteers” in the parish.

 

I repeat that call today, to volunteer to serve your parish family,

so we can continue to strive

to make it a place where we find real opportunities to love, live and learn

as Christian brothers and sisters–and fathers.

 

But, the reality of family life also means we have to pay the household bills.

We have to pay for the lights, heating and air-conditioning,

and we have pay people like maintenance workers and plumbers,

to keep it clean and well-maintained.

And we have to buy hymnals, missalettes, flowers, candles

and even bread and wine.

And, like most families, we have a huge mortgage to pay.

 

And we have to teach our children, and give them opportunities to know Jesus.

We have to provide the sacraments and opportunities for prayer,

and promote the dignity of human life, marriage and religious liberty.

And we should worship with beautiful music and vestments and vessels

that remind us we are in the presence of our heavenly family.

And while volunteers are a big part of making all this happen,

we have to pay employees to coordinate all this.

 

All this costs a lot of money, and someone has to pay for this.

In a certain sense, as the father of this family, that burden rests with me.

But, surprise! I can’t do it alone.

So I do what fathers of large families have done since time immemorial:

I ask all the adult children to contribute to the support of the household.

And that means you.

 

And so I ask you to consider today’s parable,

and the many gifts God has given you.

and encourage you to be grateful for those gifts.

And I ask you what He once asked me:

“Would you be willing to give these gifts back to Him?”

to be His good and faithful servant,

by using those gifts for the good purposes He has in mind.

 

Of course, you should use them first for the well-being of your family.

And, there are many worthwhile charities out there that you can give to.

But there is also the parish.

How does God want you to use His gifts for the good of your parish family?

 

This week you’ll receive a mailing from the parish office

that will try to help you as you reconsider

how much you should give to the parish every week.

 

I know many of you have been generous for years, even to the point of sacrifice.

I can’t thank you enough.

 

Others have not been able to give much, if anything—I understand.

Please let me know if we can help you.

 

Still others are able to give, but have simply chosen not to give much,

even nothing at all.

I pray that you reconsider your choice.

 

____

When it comes to using our gifts,

there are many very good choices we can make.

23 years ago the Lord gave me a choice between 2 good alternatives:

“I’ve given you all these good things. And you can keep them.

But would you be willing to give them back to me?”

 

I can’t tell any of you what you should give.

But I can ask all of you, over the next few days

to prayerfully consider your choices,

and ask the Lord to tell you what you should give.

And then come back here next weekend prepared to make a commitment

to give what He has asked you to give to your parish family,

that you might be the “good and

Homily for the Feast of the Dedication of St John Lateran, November 9, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran

Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church, Springfield, VA

 

Today, and every November 9,

we celebrate the dedication of a church called St. John Lateran.

Its a church far away in a foreign country most of us will never visit.

Many of you are probably wondering why we’d celebrate something like this,

especially on a Sunday.

After all, the general rule is that when feasts fall on Sundays

we don’t celebrate them,

since Sunday is set aside to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection.

 

But a few very special feasts break this mold:

for example last week we did it for All Souls day, November 2.

The general rule is set aside because these feasts remind us of a very important fact:

on the one hand there can be no worship without someone to worshipChrist;

but on the other hand there’s also no worship

if there’s no one to do the worshippingthe Church.

The mystery of the people of God, the Church,

and the mystery of Jesus Christ are not in conflict,

but are bound together, so that we call the Church the Body of Christ.

So the great feasts that reflect the mystery of the Church

don’t detract from the mystery of Christ,

but rather they deepen it and show its wonderful richness.

 

But how does the dedication of some church building in Italy called St. John Lateran

reflect the mystery of the people of God?

The thing is that St. John Lateran is no ordinary church.

Its a big church, but its not the biggest church in the world.

Its a beautiful church, but not the most beautiful in the world.

And yet above its doors is printed the saying:

“Omnia urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput”

–“mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.”

Because St. John of the Lateran is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome,

and the “home” church of the Bishop of Rome–the Pope.

 

In today’s second reading St. Paul calls Christians members of God’s house.

He says we form a building built by Christ himself.

A building, much like the buildings we call “churches”,

consecrated for one purpose and one purpose only: the worship of God.

 

Each of us is part of this building–this Church of Christ.

Christ has taken us like rough ordinary materials from the world,

unworthy as we were,

to adorn and build his home, transforming us,

and re-forming us into something extraordinary.

Some of us are like solid stones or beams of oak or steel

that lift up or hold the walls together;

Some, like the great saints, are like beautiful stained glass windows

that so marvelously let the light of Christ illumine the sanctuary;

Whatever we are in the Church, each of us comes together under the masterful skill

of the carpenter from Nazareth to form God’s house,

the temple of God, the Church of Jesus Christ.

 

So to celebrate the dedication of a building which is a house of worship,

also called a “church”,

is to celebrate the dedication of the people of God as the Church.

And this is even more the case when we celebrate

the dedication of the Church of the Bishop of Rome.

 

Before St. John Lateran became the cathedral of Rome in year 324,

its earliest structure was part of the palace of a wealthy Roman family

–called the Laterani family.

Up until just 21 years before that the Catholic Church was still operating underground

and being persecuted by the Emperors.

But when the Emperor Constantine came to the throne things began to change,

as he not only stopped the persecutions

but also generously supported the Church and eventually was himself baptized.

And as part of his support he gave the Laterani home to the Church:

and from that time on, through various expansions and refurbishings,

it became known as the Church of the Popes,

or as we call it today,

the “Archbascilica of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Saviour

and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran”

–or simply “St. John Lateran.”

A building that had once been the palace of a worldly pagan family,

was transformed into a house of God and

“the mother and head of all churches”.

 

As “the mother and head of all churches”

it represents most profoundly the entire Church of Christ.

Like the Church of Christ it too is composed of materials taken from the world,

and transformed by their dedication or consecration to God.

And as the home church of the successor of Peter,

it symbolizes the unity of Christ’s Church,

and the things that foster and bring about that unity:

While you and I and the saints and holy souls

are the bricks and beams and windows and doors of the Church of Christ,

this whole Church is, according to St. Paul,

built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

And while Jesus is the capstone of the Church

–the highest point that holds the roof and walls

from crashing down on themselves

–He himself made one of these apostles, Peter, is the Rock,

the strong solid ground on which the whole Church is built.

As the cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter,

St. John of the Lateran stands as a symbol of the entire Church of Christ

built by Jesus stone by stone on the Rock of Peter.

 

[pause]

Of course St. Peter himself was a man not many would have predicted

would some day be visible head of God’s people on earth.

He was just a rough, and course fisherman,

clearly a smart man, but not very well educated.

And many of his successors have seemed even less likely to be called

“vicars of Christ” on earth–some have even been scoundrels.

But once again, the papacy, like the Church herself,

is fashioned from ordinary material taken from the world

and then used by Christ to build up and strengthen his dwelling place,

his Church.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, in Christ,

the Church is greater than the raw material taken to build her up.

 

Still, as we’ve seen very dramatically in the last 50 years,

the Church of Christ sometimes seems to be falling apart

–it seemed especially like that at the Synod of bishops last month.

It’s a lot like a church building with broken pews,

a leaky roof and bricks falling from the walls,

as Catholics—both clerics and laypeople—

reject the grace of the Holy Spirit

and stray from the teachings passed down from the apostles.

Unfortunately, it’s been this way almost since Christ founded the Church.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of the last 2000 years

knows that the Church has constantly been in a state of renewal and reform.

We remember the great story of St. Francis of Assisi, 800 years ago,

who, when he heard the voice of God tell him to

“Go and rebuild my Church, which you see is falling into ruins.”

actually started to rebuild church buildings.

Until he realized that Christ was talking about the whole Christian Church,

which was racked by all sorts of sin and corruption.

 

Whenever we get discouraged by corruption and sin in the Church,

all we have to do is remember the great renewals the Church has seen,

when God had sent great saints, who are,

as St. Paul calls himself in today’s 2nd reading:

“like a wise master builder.”

Saints like Gregory the Great, Gregory VII, Bernard, Francis, Dominic,

Catherine of Siena, Theresa of Avila, Pius V, and Charles Borromeo.

And I would add the great St. John Paul II.

The great reformers who chase the moneychangers out of the temple of Christ,

and who sweep it clean,

restoring the fallen bricks and repairing the stained glass;

reforming the Church, by the grace of God,

to be the beautiful temple she was meant to be.

 

[pause]

Today we celebrate the fact that we have been taken

from the ordinary world and transformed.

And that we are not alone:

Christ brings us together with each other and Catholics throughout the world

and builds us into to one beautiful home, or house,

for himself and his Father and Spirit.

And that no matter what external repairs the Church is in need of at any point in time,

because Christ has built his Church

on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

and on the Rock of Peter,

and endowed it with his grace,

she will endure until the Lord comes again in glory.

So that on this day—Sunday—reserved for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection,

we can celebrate the mystery of the Church which he established

for our salvation, for our resurrection in him.

Come, my brothers and sisters,

let turn toward the Lord and offer worship in the heavenly temple,

the temple which is the Church, the body of Christ himself.

Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe

Offertory Commitment Sunday.  Last Sunday I preached on the importance of parishioners giving to our offertory collection—the source of almost all our funding in running the parish. As I said then, it was a hard homily to give, but I also know that for many it was a hard homily to hear. I want to thank you all for listening so intently and patiently, and for all the kindness you showed me after Mass.

During my homily I talked about the need to recognize the many gifts God has given each of us, as well as our need both to be grateful and to use those gifts for the good purposes God intends for them. And I asked you to spend some serious time this week praying and discerning about this, and in particular, to ask Him how He wants you to use those gifts for the good of our parish family. I am confident that you did, and I hope your prayer was fruitful.

I also mentioned in the homily that you should receive a brochure about all this in the mail. I hope you all received that brochure, and that it was helpful in this process. If you did not receive that brochure you should be able to find copies near the exits to the church today, or you can call or email the parish office and we’ll send you a copy.

And finally, I asked you to come back this week prepared to make a specific commitment as to how much you would give weekly to the offertory in the coming year. Today is the time for commitment. Thank you and God bless you for your generosity.

As soon as we’ve got all the commitment cards recorded, hopefully in the next week or so, we will be sending a letter to you confirming the amount of your commitment. In that letter we’ll remind you of the various ways you can pay, especially encouraging you to use the offertory envelopes that are mailed to you each month, or by using Faith Direct, which securely and automatically charges either your bank account or credit/debit card every month.

 

Thanksgiving. We all have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving—isn’t that what my homily last week was all about, and isn’t it at the root of your generous giving to the parish? God has given us too much to be thankful for.

In my homily last week I talked a little about my transition from accountant to priest. What I didn’t say is how thankful I am for this beautiful gift of priesthood. There’s not been one day in the 18-plus years of my priesthood that I didn’t thank the Lord for calling me to this, although I could never thank Him enough.

This week I also thank the Lord Jesus for His saving love and grace that He continues to shower on me. I thank Him for my family who is always so supportive of me, and for the help of my brother priests, especially Fr. Kenna, as well as Fr. Nguyen, Fr. Daly and Fr. Scalia. But most of all this year, I thank Him for entrusting me with this parish, and with all of you, my spiritual children, my parish family.

A blessed, happy and safe Thanksgiving to all of you and your families!

 

Advent. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, as we prepare spiritually for the celebration of the birth of our Saviour at Christmas. In the very good busyness of Thanksgiving week, please take some time to plan ahead for Advent so that it will truly be a time of holiness, not merely the shopping time between Black Friday and the day Santa Claus comes.

Next weekend we will have an insert with the full schedule of Advent events but please plan on you and your family taking particular advantage of the increased confession opportunities (every weekday evening from 6:15 to 7:00) as well as the many existing opportunities for weekday Mass.

Also, I invite you all to attend the three part Advent Series on  “Male and Female He Created them: the Catholic Understanding of Marriage,” that I will be giving every Thursday in Advent. I’m still working on the talks, but this is my preliminary plan: We’ll begin the first week discussing the origins of the Catholic understanding of Marriage in nature and especially in Scripture. The second week we’ll focus specifically on the Church’s teaching on Marriage, and Marriage as a sacrament. Finally, in the third week we’ll discuss how the love of Marriage is reflected in sexuality—the true meaning of sex. I’m really looking forward to teaching this series and to seeing all of you there!

I also ask you to put “Lessons & Carols” on your calendar right now. Please join me, the lectors and the choir on Sunday, December 14, at 6:30pm for a program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings. Every year the crowd gets bigger because everyone who come loves it.

 

Immaculate Conception: Sung High Mass. Monday, December 8, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is a Holy Day of Obligation. There will be no Vigil Mass for this feast this year, since that is not allowed when the vigil would be on a Sunday evening. So this year I’m adding an extra Mass on the 8th, and as a little experiment I’m scheduling it at 5pm. I’m hoping this might be convenient for kids in public school and their parents, as well as people coming home from work a bit early.

I’m also going to do something special at the regular 7pm evening Mass: I will offer it as a Sung High Mass (“Missa Cantata”) according to the Extraordinary Form (“Traditional Latin Mass”). This is in response to “popular demand” that arose after we did this in August on the Assumption of Mary. That was a great success, with standing room only crowd, most of whom was overwhelmed by the beauty of the ritual and music. This time we will not have a guest choir, but a schola formed of our own talented cantors. For those who found the Mass on the Assumption a bit too long, that was largely due to the beautiful but lengthy musical selections of our visiting choir, and will not be the case with our own schola. I am very much looking forward to this, and to seeing you there.

 

“Baby” Sofi’s Birthday Party Today. On Friday November 14, 2010 a newborn baby was left in our parking lot, where she was found by a parishioner. Today (Sunday, Nov. 23) we give thanks to the Lord for her life, and celebrate with her, Sofi, at her birthday party in our Parish Hall after today’s 12:15 Mass. All parishioners are invited and encouraged to come and say hello to our little Sofi!

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Link for Direct Giving Now Available! Go To “Direct Giving” Tab At The Top of This Site!

Faith Direct provides our parish families with the ability to give to our parish via electronic donation.

 

People are deciding to use this outstanding program for a variety of reasons.  Here are three that we hear time and again from families who are now giving through Faith Direct:

 

  • Simplicity: Imagine not having to write a check each Sunday morning – and no more

searching around for your offertory envelopes. People are finding that Sundays are simpler with Faith Direct – so there’s more time to focus on Mass, prayers, and God’s message that day.

 

  • Consistency: Many who have switched to Faith Direct appreciate the fact that they can

support our ministries even when they are out of town or unable to attend Mass – and they’re happy that this consistency helps St. Raymond of Peñafort more effectively plan our programs and services.

 

  • Savings: People are telling us that they like eGiving because it helps our parish conserve

resources. Faith Direct is more cost-effective than printing up and mailing out envelopes, and the money we save can help us further expand our ministries. Plus, eGiving uses less paper… so it’s a great way for families to ease their impact on the environment!

 

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Offertory Campaign

 

At all the Masses this weekend I will be asking you to reconsider the amount you’re giving every week to support the parish, and talking about the reasons I think you should do this. You will also be receiving a brochure in the mail in the next day or two to help you in this process.

It’s been 7 years since we’ve done an “Offertory Campaign” at St. Raymond’s, and a lot has changed in that time. Of course one obvious change is your pastor. My predecessor and dear friend, Fr. James “the Great” Gould, necessarily emphasized the foundation of this parish: building this amazing church and bringing together this even more amazing parish family. My emphasis is necessarily slightly different: to build on that foundation and take this parish to a deeper appreciation of what it means to live and love as  members of Christ’s family.

This change in emphasis also meant a change in the allocation of funds, i.e., spending priorities and initiatives. While at one time we were focused on spending to build a church and “facilities,” now we’re more focused on using all that for the formation of our parishioners—young and old alike. And so we’re spending more, for example, on CCD, the Youth Apostolate, and Adult formation (including Respect Life and Religious Liberty efforts). And we’re also spending more money on the liturgy: we have this beautiful church and so we’ve been emphasizing improving the quality of our liturgical music, as well as other externals such as vestments and sacred vessels. And then there’s spending on maintenance and repairs of the buildings, not to mention paying down the debt with interest.

This change in emphasis also necessarily means a change in how we raise funds. Previously huge amounts were raised by appealing to the very apparent need to build a physical structure we could see and use. Raising those funds was difficult, but parishioners came through with generous donations, and we have this church, et al. But raising money for a building we obviously need, something with near-term tangible (and beautiful) results, is much different than raising money for the ongoing formation needs of the parish, not to mention other routine expenses that just sort of happen and that we don’t necessarily see the immediate or long-term results of.

Spending for this latter kind of emphasis must be both routine and ambitious, and it requires a fundraising which is also both routine—or regular and committed—and ambitious. So just as the parish is committed to continually deepening our life in and love for Christ, and to spending funds necessary for those purposes, the parishioners must also make a real commitment to regularly provide those funds, and to do so not in a minimal way, but with ambitious generosity.

But besides a change in pastor and emphasis, an even more important change has happened in the last 7 years. That is, you have changed: almost half our parishioners have joined us since 2007, almost 1/3 since I arrived 4+ years ago. Most of these “new” parishioners, many of whom are very generous, probably don’t think very often of the sacrificial gifts made by “old” parishioners to build the church et al—and the commitment they made to the parish in doing so. And, perhaps more importantly, their pastor has not made a concerted effort to explain the reasons for and importance of committed regular giving, and he has also not asked them, in  a clear and confident voice, to commit to give generously to the weekly offertory.

Although I had my reasons for hesitating, now I do ask and explain the reasons you should respond. I do this not for crass “business” reasons (see my comments last week about “the moneychangers”) but for the good purpose of calling us all to use what God has given us with gratitude and for the good purposes He chooses. To continue to build on the foundations laid before us, and to grow as a true family in Christ, a parish family.

Again I ask you to prayerfully consider these words, today’s homily at Mass, and the brochure you will receive in the mail in the next few days. And I ask you to commit to supporting our parish family as we continue to grow in the love and in the life of Jesus Christ.

 

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Misinterpreting Pope Francis. Two weeks ago the media splashed the headline: “Pope says: ‘God is not a divine being or magician.’” If true, this would be amazing, because Catholics, of course, believe, that God is, by definition, “a divine being.” Duh. But, of course, what he actually said was, “God is not a demiurge or magician.” The word “demiurge” means a “lesser deity” (see Webster’s), and God is not that. Once again, don’t believe everything you read or hear in the media!

 

Our Baby Sofi. Friday November 14 was the fourth birthday of Sofi Hills. It was only 4 years ago that she was left in the parking lot of our church, 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 we thank Him that she has grown into a vivacious little girl, with a loving family. And in celebration we’re having a birthday party for Sofi in our Parish Hall, next Sunday, Nov. 23, 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

 

Veterans Day Mass Schedule

Tuesday, November 11th is Veteran’s Day!  There will be one Mass at 10 am.  There will be no Adult Bible Study.  CCD will go as scheduled.  The Parish Office will be closed on Tuesday but will reopen Wednesday, November 12th.

Feast Of The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

 

We are all creatures of habit. We get used to doing things a certain way, and we just go on doing it that way without thinking about it. This can serve an important purpose, i.e., after carefully making a certain decision we can stick with it without wasting time second-guessing or reinventing the wheel every day. But even then it’s a good idea to reassess our choices, from time to time, lest we become unwitting slaves of outdated habits.

One thing that can easily become a habit is the way we contribute to the parish’s weekly offertory. It’s easy to fall into the habit of giving a certain amount every week, year after year, without ever stopping to reassess that amount. But frequent reassessment is important. For example, over time your own ability to donate may increase or decrease: maybe you’ve been giving $5 a week since the kids were little, even though they’ve all grown up, and so has your salary. Or maybe the needs of your family and/or the parish have changed. Or maybe you’ve grown in your  understanding/appreciation of God’s generosity, or of the importance of supporting your parish family, or of the greater purpose God has for the gifts he’s given you.

So over the next few weeks, through the mail and at various Sunday Masses, I will be asking you  to prayerfully reconsider the amount of support you give to our parish, and to commit to a certain level of support going forward. That level will be entirely up to you—I will try to offer some guidance for those interested, but your gift is entirely, 100%, up to you.

I have to laugh as I do this today, as I read today’s Gospel, the story of Jesus driving the moneychangers from the Temple. This “coincidence” is clearly God’s sense of humor: I swear, this very text rings in my ears whenever I think about asking you for money for any reason. I am keenly aware that money can easily corrupt us—that parishes and pastors can get so caught up in bringing in more and more money that they become distracted from serving Christ and proclaiming the fullness of the Gospel. As St. John reminds us, it was Judas who kept the purse for Jesus. So every time I ask you to contribute to one of the many good causes we support, there’s a voice in my head saying, “remember the moneychangers….”

As a result, while I have asked you pointedly many times to give to special collections, from the BLA to the ECHO coat drive, I have very seldom even mentioned the offertory collections. In fact, it’s been seven years since St. Raymond’s has had an offertory appeal, one of the very few parishes in the Diocese that’s gone that long without one, as I’m often reminded by the Diocesan finance folks.

So, about the “moneychangers”…They were running an actual for-profit business in the temple. We are not—we’re running a parish, part of the family of God. And just as your family needs money to survive and flourish, so does our parish family. Remember, even as Jesus warned against the corrupting influence of money (Mt. 6:24), He also paid the Temple tax (Mt. 17:24ff), and had donors who provided for His fiscal needs (Lk. 8:3).

So let’s not love money—whether it’s in your pockets and bank accounts, or in the parish collection baskets. But rather let us recognize 1) all the many good things God has given each of us, 2) that we should be grateful for those gifts, and 3) that He has given them to be used for good purposes—His purposes. The first of these good purposes, for most of you, is providing for the wellbeing of your families. Now I ask you to think about the good purpose of providing for the wellbeing of your parish family.

Please pray about all this as you think about this appeal over the next few weeks. Pray the Rosary, at Mass, over Scripture, at adoration, at home as a family…. Pray sincerely and devoutly, asking the Lord and the Blessed Mother to guide you. And then give as you choose.

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Your Generosity to the Poor. Speaking of special collections, thanks to all who contributed to the Food Drive for Catholic Charities on October 25/26: an amazing 1,241.03 lbs. (plus $200.00 cash) was collected, well over last year’s 723 lbs. Thanks also to those who donated to last weekend’s Winter Coat Collection for ECHO. We collected 193 coats, almost all of which were in excellent condition. A special thanks to parishioner Lynn O’Connor for coordinating this and all our activities with ECHO.

 

Filipino Archbishop Here This Sunday. I remind you that retired Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan, from the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao (Philippines) will offer our regularly scheduled 5pm Mass this evening, Sunday, November 9. There will be a second collection at that Mass to aid the elderly and sick priests of his Archdiocese.

 

Election. Well, another election is over. It seems that there was good news for Catholics, as many politicians were elected who claim to support the right to life, traditional marriage and religious freedom. Let us thank the Lord for that. But as Psalm 146 reminds us: “Put not your trust in princes.” So let us redouble our efforts to work for the true good of our great nation, and let us trust in the Lord’s mercy and grace: may God bless America.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls), November 2, 2014

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls), November 2, 2014 Homily by Fr. John De Celles St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church Springfield, VA We come together today as the Church of Jesus Christ. At the same time we know that the gathering of the people we see here isn’t the entire Church. Still, we believe that in some mysterious way this and every Mass places us in a mystical communion with the whole Church: not only those present here, or even just those in other places throughout the world, but also the members of the Church already in glory –the saints in heaven– and the Church in purification–the souls in Purgatory. Today we remember in a special way All the Souls in Purgatory. This is confusing to a lot of Catholics. On the one hand, some fear Purgatory as a place of terrible torture and despair, like a prison. And on the other hand, others simply ignore or reject the teaching all together, thinking of it as the result of some early pagan superstition, or medieval preoccupation with sin and punishment. But Purgatory is none of these things. First of all it’s not the result of pagan superstition or medieval fears, but of Biblical faith. For example, the second book of the Maccabees tells us that Judas Maccabbees, 2 centuries before the birth of Jesus, prayed for the dead, [quote] “beseeching that the sin which [they] had been committed might be wholly blotted out.” And it goes on to tell us: “to pray for the dead…was a holy and pious [thing].” The thing is, if the souls of the dead who die in sin are in heaven, they have no need of prayers, and if they are in hell the prayers would be useless. And so this passage from 2nd Maccabees reflects the ancient Jewish belief in a third place, or state, or whatever you want to call it, where the dead who die in sin go from which they can still go from there to heaven —a place where prayers for them will make a difference. But Purgatory is not a terrible place of torture and despair. While St. Paul speaks of a cleansing fire, the Church has taught that the pain of purgatory can be understood in at least 3 ways. First, its like the pain associated with any change. When we die we have to change from being attached to the things of this world —we have to let go of our bad habits and sinfulness. And this kind of change is hard: like an athlete getting himself into shape, the practice and exercizing is painful; or like giving up some bad habit, smoking or overeating —this can be agonizing. The second way of understanding the pain of purgatory is as primarily the pain of loss, In purgatory the souls are so keenly aware that they are so close and yet still deprived from the perfect and complete happiness of heaven. Finally , there’s the pain of a perfect realization of every single sin that they committed in life —and the terrible pain that these sins have caused to God, and to their neighbor. On the other hand, these souls also experience intense spiritual joy. Like the athlete preparing for the contest, the practice itself, the self betterment, is a rewarding thing —the soul in purgatory experiences the joy of becoming more and more like God created him to be. But also, the joy is found in the fact that the souls are absolutely sure of their salvation –they know that they will soon live forever with God. So as St. Catherine of Genoa wrote: “I do not believe it would be possible to find any joy comparable to that of a soul in Purgatory, except the joy of the Blessed in Paradise. For every sight, however little, that can be gained of God exceeds every pain and every joy that man can conceive without it.” To understand Purgatory is difficult, but perhaps we can begin with a key phrase from St. John’s Book of Revelation that “[N]othing unclean will enter [heaven].” This text makes sense because God is the all-perfect one, so there can’t be even the slightest imperfection in heaven. Think about this. Let’s take 2 people–Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and a common ordinary sinner like, say, me. The spiritual differences between him and I are in many ways like the differences between day and night. He seems holy, so unattached to things of this world, to even the most venial and small sins. I on the other hand–although I hope I’m not the worst sinner in the world –am still very much attached to things, and I commit venial sins all the time: I’m impatient, lazy, prideful. If Pope Benedict were to die today he seems to me to be extremely ready to enter heaven: he indeed seems to have nothing unclean about him: like a bright lamp shining light of Christ in some of the darkest corners of the earth. But if I were to die today, there’s no way that I would even try to argue that I am as pure and clean in the eyes of God as he was: any shine about me is dulled and dimmed by my imperfections and sins. So it seems that even though I may never do anything seriously evil, even if I’m just a common venial sinner, according to St. John’s teaching I’m in big trouble if I die today, because he says: “[N]othing unclean will enter [heaven].” But on the other hand, Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel: “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” So if both of these two concepts are true, I’m not in big trouble, because somehow between death and heaven I can be transformed and become perfectly purified. As St. Paul says elsewhere, somehow I “will be saved, but only as through fire.” Purified like gold in a fire. The teaching on Purgatory then, is essentially a teaching reflecting the great mercy of God. Because God could simply say that anyone not perfectly living out his will and free from all inordinate attachments to the world cannot enter into heaven. So Pope Benedict perhaps could go, but many of us in this room would never have a chance. But that’s not God’s way: he is Our Father who loves us so much that, unless we cut ourselves off from him by an act of unrepented grave sin, he will bring us to his heavenly banquet. But like a loving Father he first washes us–purifies us— before we sit down with the family for the banquet. Some say that purgatory is irrelevant or unimportant to us. And some would say that a loving God would never make us go through all this. But the thing is, this is exactly what a loving God would do: he would extend his perfect love even to those who have loved him imperfectly. And so we come to see that purgatory is of great relevance and importance to us. First of all, it can be a tremendous source of hope and consolation. For example, I know people–and you probably do too— who can’t fathom how they could ever get to heaven given the terrible sins they know or think they’ve committed: the idea of purgatory makes sense to them, and gives them hope that God really can love them and that heaven is in their reach. Or think of the families who mourn their departed family members. So often–especially as they try to deal with the immediate grief that comes with death –they speak about the dead as if they were living saints who went straight to heaven. But when the grief of loss subsides often the reality overcomes them that their mother or father or spouse or child wasn’t really as perfect as the eulogies said. Or they realize that they themselves were somehow negligent in showing their love for them when they were alive –and guilt understandably overwhelms them. Purgatory is a perspective on God’s love that gives them hope. It makes it possible to understand that not only people like Pope Benedict can go to heaven, but that even a common sinner like you or me, or our moms and dads, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters can also go to heaven. And it makes it possible to keep giving to them after they’ve gone, by giving our love by our constant prayers for them. And this is the greatest reason purgatory is relevant and important to each of us: they need our prayers! Because if the souls in Purgatory are our brothers and sisters we must love them enough to pray for them –to help them during their purification. How sad it is that so many Catholics hesitate to pray for their beloved dead. Some think it dishonors the dead to assume that they’re in Purgatory. And some think their loved one was too holy—they simply have to be in heaven. But if they were that holy then they would be the first to tell us to pray for them. My Mother died about 12 years ago. She was the holiest, best Catholic I ever knew. And so I really think she’s in Heaven, so I pray to her every day. But I also pray for her in case she’s in Purgatory, because she was so humble she used tell all the time, that if I didn’t pray for her when she was dead she’d come back and spank me. My worst fear is getting to Purgatory and finding her still waiting there because I didn’t pray for her —and her spanking me then. Or take St. Monica mother of the great St. Augustine, who told him on her death bed in the year 387: “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.” Or as St. Theresa of Avila, the great mystic and doctor of the Church, told her followers on her death-bed 1200 years later: “don’t let them call me a saint when I’ve died —then they won’t pray for me!” If we love them, we must pray for the dead. That’s what we do for people we love—we prayed for them in life, we have to pray for them in death. Because prayer is an act of love —it is the greatest act of love we can do for someone, because it asks God who is all powerful to help them. Now, God doesn’t need our prayers—even for the living: he knows what every one needs before we asks, and he loves them even more that we do. The thing is, he wants us to pray for them because he wants us to love them, and show that love by our actions —our prayers; and to bring him into that love, to recognize his love and power, and that in the end all things depend on his love. And the greatest of prayers we can offer for them is the Mass. Because the Mass is simultaneously the actual re-presentation of the great prayer of Christ on his Cross, and the prayer of the Resurrected Christ at the right hand of the Father. And to this perfect prayer Christ unites and perfects the prayers of His Church. So at this Mass of All Souls Day —as at every Mass— let us join in the prayer of the whole Church of Christ –the pilgrim Church on earth, the glorified Church in heaven and the Church being purified in purgatory –as it becomes the perfect worship of God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit, and the perfect prayer for both the living and the dead. And our prayers of intercession become prayers of thanksgiving as we rejoice in confidence that although “[N]othing unclean will enter [heaven],” the merciful Jesus also promises us that: “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, …and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God …rest in peace. Amen.