TEXT: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 17, 2018

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 17, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Life is filled with trials and challenges, especially nowadays

with so many problems that past generations never even imagined.

So it’s a great thing that in the summer we slow down and relax a bit,

and make opportunities to celebrate the good and important things in life.

So we celebrate our beloved dead on Memorial Day,

the dignity of work on Labor Day, the gift of liberty on the 4th of July,

and motherhood on Mother’s Day.

And, of course, today we celebrate fatherhood, with Father’s Day.

 

Fatherhood truly is good, and absolutely essential to the wellbeing of society.

But there are a whole lot of folks who forget this.

And this forgetfulness is the cause of so many of those problems I mentioned.

You know the statistics:

63% of youth suicides, 90% of all homeless and runaway children,

71% of all high school dropouts all come from fatherless homes.

And I could go on and on.

 

Fatherhood is important, good fathers are essential

—and bad fathers are a disaster.

 

Scripture tells us that in the beginning,

God created mankind in his own image and likeness as male and female,

telling them be fruitful and multiply.

In other words, in God’s plan for the happiness of mankind,

the first thing necessary is marriage,

and the second springs from it: parenthood.

Because you see, love is the source of all true happiness.

And marriage and parenthood are the “school of love

where all human beings are supposed to naturally

learn to love God and each other.

So that when marriage and parenthood are messed up

families and societies are in trouble.

 

Now, parenthood is a two-sided coin:

on the one side motherhood, and on the other fatherhood.

Both of these are equally important in the eyes of God, and for the good of man.

But sometimes the importance of fatherhood is forgotten,

and many people seem to think that its actually UN-important.

And so we see the results:

today 33% of all children are living in fatherless homes

and 40% of all children are born outside of marriage.

And father’s drift away from the family, one way or the other.

 

But that is not how families and societies are meant flourish,

and it promises the destruction of both.

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus twice compares the Kingdom of God

to the seed of a plant.

Some today say that a fatherhood’s role is simply to plant the seed of his child

and then, more or less, walk away.

But fatherhood is much more than that.

Elsewhere in scripture Jesus uses another plant allusion, saying:

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

And then he says: “and my Father is the vinedresser.”

A vinedresser doesn’t simply plant the seed and leave;

he remains to care for it, to help it become a full grown fruitful plant.

 

Where there is a seed planted, a true father,

created in the image of God the Father,

remains and feeds and waters his children

–first in a literal sense, he puts food on the table.

But a good father also feeds and waters them by seeing that

his children get a good education,

both formally and informally,

in practical matters, like hygiene and manners,

in secular matters, like math, science and history,

and in spiritual matters—teaching them the truth about God.

For a Catholic father this means taking responsibility

for personally teaching them the truths and practices of the Catholic faith,

as well as supplementing that by,

if possible, sending them to Catholic school,

or at least to CCD from K thru 12,

or homeschooling them with a solid Catholic curriculum.

 

And above all it means watering them with the water of baptism

and feeding them regularly with the Bread of Life!

What young plant or child would survive, much less flourish, without eating food

—and not just eating once in a while,  but every day?

What child would survive, much less flourish, spiritually and morally

without eating the bread of life not just once in a while,

but at least every single Sunday?

What kind of father lets his children starve?

 

____

A true father also protects his children.

A vinedresser might build a fence around his plants,

or cover them to protect them from ice,

or hunt down the varmints that try to eat them.

A good father tries to provide a safe home for his family,

and carefully watches who his children’s friends are.

He doesn’t let his children play in a busy street,

or stay out late at night unsupervised.

And he’s careful who he trusts to supervise his children

—never trusting them to anyone who would in any way

corrupt or endanger them.

 

And above all, he protects his children from moral or spiritual danger of any kind.

He’s not afraid to shield his daughter from boys who won’t respect her virtue.

And his son never does an overnight on Sunday if it means he won’t get to Mass.

 

____

God the Father, the vinedresser, also prunes away the dying or dead branches.

Likewise, a good, true father isn’t afraid of pruning the sickly or deadly things

from his children’s lives.

If they develop friendships with people who behave badly or sinfully,

a good father is not afraid to prune that friend out of their lives.

If their children start to develop bad habits,

good fathers aren’t afraid to discipline them.

If they don’t do their homework a true father doesn’t hesitate

to turn off the TV until they do.

If they speak or dress immodestly a good father isn’t afraid to set them straight.

Of course, always with love, avoiding bitterness;

sometimes with tenderness, but always with strength.

And always remember St. Paul’s simple instruction:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
____

Some fathers are overwhelmed by all this.

They feel like the man in today’s Gospel who plants the seed

and then wakes up one day and it’s all grown up,

and, as Jesus says, “he knows not how.”

Some fathers feel that they “know not how” to raise kids,

so they leave it to someone else,

to their wives, or teachers, or other “experts.”

 

Now, it’s true that when it comes to kids Moms do some things better than Dads.

But not everything.

For example, a Mom might think a dress looks really pretty on her daughter,

but a good Father knows that the boys won’t be thinking it’s justpretty.”

A Mom may be able to tell her son, “you be a gentleman on your date,”

but a good Dad can show his son how to respect a woman,

especially her dignity and her virtue,

by the way he himself treats women, especially his wife.

 

And besides all the male/female differences,

there are a lot of simple things that a particular Dad, for some reason,

does or understands better than a particular Mom:

maybe math, or being patient, whatever.

 

And it’s true that teachers are better at teaching some things than Dad.

But a true father makes sure they don’t try to stray beyond their field.

 

And believe me, parents tell me it happens all the time.

Is your daughter’s biology teacher teaching biology, or sexual morals.

Is your son’s history teacher teaching historical facts, or ideological doctrine?

 

And, this isn’t limited to public schools

—sadly, it can happen with Catholic school teachers too.

 

A good father realizes that much of the corruption in our society

is flourishing because of the seeds planted in the schools.

A few seeds of immorality here, or radical ideology there.

Here a seed of heresy, there a seed of anti-Catholic bigotry.

And then one day you wake up and you wonder why

your children don’t share any of your values and reject your Catholic faith.

Again: “he knows not how.”

 

A good father doesn’t abandon his responsibilities to “experts.”

 

___

Now, some of you women may be saying, but what about me?

Ladies, of course a lot of this applies to mothers as well.

But let it also remind you to help your husbands,

and all the men in your life, to be good fathers

—especially to support them and praise them when they try.

 

And some of you men may be saying, that’s all fine and good,

but my children are all grown up.

Yes, but you can apply this to being a grandfather,

and to helping your grown son to be a better father.

 

Or maybe your man without any children.

But are you an uncle?

Uncles are sort of fathers once removed.

Or maybe you’re a teacher, or a coach,

or work in some field that affects fathers and their children.

Then it all applies to you to, one way or another.

 

And then some of you fathers might agree with everything I’m saying,

but you’re in the military and you have no choice

but to be away from your family, sometimes for months on end.

Of course, when you go away you have to rely on others—especially your wives– to do much of the feeding, protecting and pruning.

But even then, as you know better than I, you must still do your best

to provide whatever support you can to your wives.

Stay in contact with your kids as best you can,

and remind them not only that you love them,

but of your expectations of them, especially

that they respect and obey their moms,

and that they love and serve Christ and His Catholic Church.

And pray for them—and make sure they know that you pray.

 

And remember,

while we look to God the Father as the source of all true fatherhood,

Jesus also tells us:

“he who has seen me has seen the Father.”

By your imitation of Christ, who laid down His life for His friends,

your example of laying down your life for you children and for all of us,

is an incredible act of fatherly love

  • a heroic effort to truly protect your children from real

 

___

Or maybe you’re a member of one of those families

where things are not as I describe:

maybe there was or is no father in your home,

or maybe you had a very less than perfect father growing up.

There are lots of reasons this happens,

and sometimes things are just beyond our control.

But I’m sure everyone would agree that if they could change things,

they would make things more like the way I’ve described

than how they are or were.

And just because things aren’t the way they should be,

it doesn’t mean that God can’t or won’t find some way to help you

to make it through these difficult times.

He will if you let him, because He is the true Father of us all,

and He is always there loving us just the way we need Him to.

You do your best, and then trust in God, and He will be there for you.

 

___

And finally, Fathers, all this is not to pick on you.

It’s tough being a Father: it’s hard enough being a spiritual Father, but

to be the Dad of a family nowadays is so difficult

—sometimes I say, “thank God for celibacy!”

So many of you are great fathers, or trying your very best to be.

Thank you, and God bless you.

All this is just to remind you and to encourage you

to always strive, with God’s grace, to be the very best father.

And to emphasize how important that is, how important you are.

 

____

Our world is filled with problems,

many of which our grandparents would never have dreamed of.

But that’s because our grandparents would have never tolerated

the diminishment of fatherhood that we have.

 

Today, let us all celebrate fatherhood and praise its goodness and importance,

And as we continue with this Holy Mass,

the mystery which flows from the perfect love

between God the Father and Son,

let us pray that, by the grace of this sacrament,

we may always honor and love our fathers as we should,

and [that] our fathers may always

be the good and true fathers

we so desperately need them to be.

TEXT: 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 10, 2018

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 10, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

The devil.

Most people don’t like to talk about him, nowadays.

And when they do, they often reduce him to something that’s easy to deal with:

they marginalize him as a myth,

reduce him to a mere superstition,

make him the boogey man of our nightmares and horror movies,

or perhaps make him merely a misunderstood rake.

Even many Christians tend to do this: we’d like to believe he doesn’t exist

 

But the thing is he does exist.

He is real, personal and powerful.

Scripture and tradition are absolutely clear.

In today’s gospel we hear Jesus talking about the devil

with a certainty that presumes his reality.

And He does this, not only because He’s God the Son,

who’s known the devil from the beginning,

but because as a human being He personally encountered him,

face to face, when He went out into the desert for 40 days,

where Satan repeatedly tried to tempt Him.

 

And “the Devil” is not one, but many.

So today’s Gospel speaks of “demons,” plural.

 

Scripture and tradition tell us that the devils are actually fallen angels,

who were created like all the other heavenly angels,

but who chose to follow Lucifer, or “the bearer of light,”

the greatest of all the angels,

who was so glorious he wanted to be “like God.”

 

One strain of tradition tells us that God informed all the angels

that he was planning to create man in his own image,

and that God the Son would become a man

—and that the angels would serve Him.

But Lucifer and his friends couldn’t countenance the idea

that they would have to serve such a lowly creature as man,

and famously responded, “Non servium,” “I will not serve.”

 

He did not serve, and still does not serve either God, or man.

Rather he hates them both—he hates God and he hates man.

 

And we see this in today’s first reading from the book of Genesis,

part of the story of the fall of Adam and Eve.

God asks Eve why she disobeyed him and ate from the forbidden tree,

and she responds: “The serpent tricked me into it….”

Remember, the serpent, meaning the devil, had told her that

God had lied to her about the tree, that it was a good thing to eat:

“You certainly will not die!” As God had said.

“God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened

and you will be like gods….”

 

Notice, he implies that God is the liar, not himself,

and he preys upon the fact that she imagines that being “like gods”

might be a good thing.

He lies, and manipulates, and so brings about Adam and Eve’s,

and all mankind’s, fall from grace, and eventually death.

 

As Jesus tells us about the devil:

“He was a murderer from the beginning,

…. he is a liar and the father of lies.

And so he calls him is “the Enemy” of God and man, or in Hebrew, “Satan.”

 

And so St. Peter tells us elsewhere in Scripture:

“Be sober and alert.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion

looking for someone to devour.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”

 

____

Now, the roads to heaven or hell, the life of love or the life of sin,

are choices that each human being makes.

When He created in His image, God gave us the free will He has,

and His love prohibits him from taking that away from us.

But the thing is, the devil can’t take it away from us either:

he can’t force us to sin.

But he can tempt us, he can try to deceive and lie and manipulate us,

to freely choosing to sin.

 

So how does the devil do that?

 

First, remember who he is: he is, or they are, fallen angels,

so they are spiritual beings with the vast supernatural power of angels.

The most important thing to know about their powers

is that they are incredibly intelligent

—much much smarter than we are naturally,

and they’ve been around forever, so they’ve seen it all—

they know how human beings work,

and like a great chess player, they see 10 moves ahead of us.

 

And so even though they can’t read our minds–only God can do that–

they know us so well that it’s almost as if they can read our minds.

They remember how we responded to this or that event in the past,

and they know exactly what we’re going to do the next time.

They can see the change in our eyes, or our skin tone,

or the tenseness of our mouth or muscles,

and they know what we’re thinking

—they’ve seen it since we were babies,

and they’ve seen it in centuries of human beings before us.

 

And most importantly, they know our personal weaknesses and vulnerabilities

—physical, mental and emotional—

and they prey on them: they know exactly how to “push our buttons.”

 

So, for example,

the devil knows you’ve had a long day,

and that you have a little bit of quick temper when you’re tired,

and that driving makes you a little anxious.

So you’re driving home, and someone is driving a little too close behind you,

and the devil whispers,

“who does he think he is? you should make him pay for that….”

And the rest is predictable.

 

Or he whispers: “go ahead, look at that, it’s okay…”,

“go ahead, take that, know one will know…”

 

He’s not forcing you, but the father of lies is manipulating you,

and you play right into his hands.

Especially if you don’t even want to admit that he’s doing it,

much less that he even exists!

 

____

Clearly, the devil is around today, in our lives and throughout society.

Not only tempting us individually, but tempting society as a whole.

He tempts the high school kid to shoot up his school.

He tempts the terrorists with the lie of 70 virgins in paradise.

He tempts the frightened woman with an unplanned pregnancy.

He tempts the young person who struggles with their sexual identity.

He tempts the successful businessman to think that wealth is more important

than family or caring for his neighbor.

 

And the thing is, all the demons tempt us all together, there is a plan.

As Jesus says in today’s Gospel:

“How can Satan drive out Satan?

…if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

Satan’s house is not divided: all the demons stand together, against us.

And so we look around and see not only a bunch of individual sins,

but a world that seems to be systematically warping into a whole culture of sin.

 

____

Have I scared you a little bit?

I hope so.

We should be scared of the devil.

Remember what Jesus says in Scripture:

“be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

 

But on the other hand, remember what Jesus said right after that:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?

Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.

…. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

 

You should be afraid of the devil,

but kind of like I’m afraid of burglars breaking into my house.

I mean, bad folks are out there, so I lock the doors at night, turn on the alarm,

and maybe I keep a pistol next to my bed…Maybe.

And then I ask God to watch over my rectory and fall to sleep like a baby.

 

The thing is, the devil is not all-powerful or all-knowing—but God is.

With God all things are possible.

And so we go back to today’s first reading,

and we see that God looks down on the devil crawling on his belly,

and says to him:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

 

This is the promise that God the Son would become a man, born of a woman,

and while the devil will cause his problems,

the all-powerful Son will inevitable crush his head.

The promise of Jesus and His victory on the Cross.

 

And so we read in Scripture:

“If God is for us, who can be against us? ….

neither angels nor demons, …. will be able to separate us

from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And again: “Submit yourselves, then, to God.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

 

And so, while we have to be alert to and cautious of the damage he can cause,

we don’t have to be afraid, if we allow God to help us.

If we, as St. Paul says elsewhere, we:

“put on the full armor of God,

so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

 

____

Jesus tells us today:

“no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property

unless he first ties up the strong man.”

So don’t tie up the strong man!

In particular, don’t keep Jesus tied up by your sins,

but let him loose in your life by keeping His will.

And don’t lock Him out of your house—let Him in by your prayers,

and by being open to the fullness of His grace.

 

In particular, be open to the two great sources of grace

Jesus gives us to fight the devil:

the sacrament of Confession, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Go to frequent confession to untie the strong man,

to allow Jesus to forgive you and to live inside of you,

and to receive the grace to make you strong with His own power.

And don’t ever be discouraged by sins:

Christ is our hope; and discouragement comes from the devil.

Remember, as Jesus says today,

“Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies will be forgiven them.”

 

And there’s the second and the greatest sacramental weapon: the Eucharist.

There is nothing the devil fears more, nothing that better fends off his assaults,

than the sacrament that makes the sacrifice of the Cross really present to us,

and unites our bodies with the very body and blood of the Crucified Jesus.

Because it is by the Cross that Jesus crushed the serpent’s head,

and it is by the cross that Jesus says

to both the God the Father and the mankind,

not “I will not serve,”

but “I came to serve and to give my life as a ransom for the many.”

 

____

These are the greatest armors and weapons God has given us.

But there’s so many more.

There’s St. Michael and his legions of angels.

And there is, of course, Mary, of whom God spoke when he promised the devil,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman!”

The devil runs in fear from the very presence of the Mother of God.

Cling to her, and she will protect you.

 

___

The devil is no myth, no superstition, no harmless rake, no joke,

He is real, powerful, and he hates us.

We must be sober and alert of him and his temptations.

But we must also have faith and confidence that Christ will crush his head for us.

 

As we now enter more deeply into this holy Mass,

surrounded by all the heavenly angels and saints,

with St. Michael and Our Blessed Mother, and St. Raymond too,

let us bow deeply to worship and adore before the Son of God made man,

Jesus Christ, as He descends from heaven to this altar.

And as gives Himself to us in Holy Communion,

let us give ourselves to Him as well,

and so be united to the one who serves both God and man,

and have His strength to resist the temptations and snares of the devil,

the enemy of God and man: who says, “I will not serve.”

TEXT: Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, June 3, 2018

 Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 3, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

Imagine that you’re sitting at dinner with your best friends.

Suddenly one stands up takes a piece of food and says: “This is my body, eat it.”

I don’t care how good a friend he is,

all of us would think he was either kidding or crazy.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened one night to the 12 apostles,

as they sat at supper with their dear friend Jesus.

He took a piece of bread and a cup of wine and said

“Take and eat this, this is my body…take and drink this, this is my blood…”

But instead of thinking he had gone mad, and trying to get Him under control,

they quietly took the bread and the cup and ate and drank.

 

Did  the apostles understand what Jesus  was doing?

They may not have known exactly what He meant,

but they knew that this was the same man

who had fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread

—on 2 different occasions;

who had walked across the water and calmed the storm at sea;

who had raised 3 people, including their friend Lazarus, from the dead;

who was transfigured standing with Moses and Elijah on Mt. Tabor;

and who had said “I have come… to bear witness to the truth.”

 

They might not have known exactly what Jesus meant,

but they remembered all He had done,

that they had come to believe in Him.

And so they took it and ate and drank.

 

This was a night of remembering: it was the night of the Passover.

The apostles remembered how God had saved Israel from slavery

on that 1st Passover, 1300 years earlier,

by the blood of the sacrificed lamb  that they sprinkled on their doors.

They remembered how at the base of Mt. Sinai

God and his people entered a covenant

sealed by a sacrifice of animals and the sprinkling

of the blood of the sacrifice on the people,

as Moses said: “This is the blood of the covenant.”

They remembered all this as they heard  the  Son of God say to them:

“This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant.”

 

They also remembered how during that Exodus out of Egypt

God gave His people bread from heaven –manna.

And they remembered that just a few months before Jesus had said:

I am the living bread come down from heaven….

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

They remembered how so many of His disciples had left HIm that day, saying:

“This is a hard saying who can listen to it.”

And they remembered that in response Jesus didn’t chase after them saying,

“no, no, you misunderstood me: I was just speaking symbolically…..”

But instead He simply turned to the apostles and asked them:

“will you also leave me?”

And they remembered the sublime words of faith of St. Peter, in response:

“Lord,…You have the words of eternal life;

we have come to know and to believe,

that you are the Holy One of God.”

They remembered all this as they heard  the “Holy One of God” say the words:

“This is my body.”

 

They heard Him, they may not have completely understood,

but they believed because He said it.

And they ate and drank as he commanded.

 

And beginning with the fundamental faith in the words

“this is my body…this is my blood”

and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit,

remembering the words and actions of the Old Covenant,

and all Jesus had said and done

during His life, death and resurrection,

especially His great love for us,

a love so great He reminded them at the last supper:

“no greater love has a man than this,

to lay down his life for his friends”,

a love so great He promised as He ascended to heaven:

“behold, I am with you always, even until the end of time.”

…remembering all this they very quickly began to understand

the profound meaning of the Eucharist.

The belief that the under the appearance of bread and wine

the one sacrifice of the Cross is made present to us

in the actual body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ

truly, substantially and really present to us,

even until the end of time.

 

____

How deeply do we believe our Lord’s words, “this is my body”?

Well, think, how do you prepare before Mass?

For example, a little thing: how do you dress for Mass?

If you were going to the White House to meet the President,

I guarantee you that you wouldn’t come in shorts and a tee shirt.

Now, nobody look around—

there are lots of good reasons someone

might be dressing down a bit at Mass.

But how many times do we not have a good reason?

 

Or when you’re at Mass, how do you prepare before Communion?

Do you examine your conscience to see if you’ve committed a mortal sin that

the Church teaches you must confess before you receive Communion?

Are you living a life style, or publicly promoting teachings

that are gravely contrary to the teachings of the Church?

How can you receive the Body of Christ in Holy Communion,

when you’re not in Communion with the Body-of-Christ-the-Church?

 

And how do you come up to receive Holy Communion?

Do you do you rush up, looking around,

letting yourself be distracted the whole time,

or do you come up with love for your God, Jesus,

focusing on Him and nothing but Him,

receiving Him with reverence and profound humility,

rejoicing that the all-powerful God

who died on the cross for love of you,

is coming now personally to you.

 

____

Another strong self-test of our belief in the real presence

of Christ in the Eucharist

is found in our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament

outside of the celebration of Mass

–as His body is reserved in the Tabernacle,

or exposed on the altar for adoration.

Some people tell me that it’s not so important to adore Christ in the Eucharist,

as much as it is to serve Christ in one another.

But while it’s important and true that we should see and serve Christ in others,

you have to admit Christ

is present in a way completely different and unique in the Eucharist.

 

If Jesus came down from heaven right now, and walked right into this room,

the difference between His Real Presence in this room

versus His presence in any one of us

would not only be obvious, it would be overwhelming,

and would compel us to fall to our knees.

The reverence due to God Himself is always different than

that we  give to any creature–even an angel.

In the book of Revelation St. John tells us

that when he fell down on his knees before the angel,

the angel scolded him:

“You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you….

Worship God.”

Yet over and over again St. John tells us in that same Book of Revelation

that in heaven everyone falls down on their faces

to worship the Lamb that was slain, Jesus Christ.

 

 

Sometimes people tell me that since the Eucharist is food,

that it’s meant to be eaten, not worshipped.

But as St. Augustine  wrote in the 4th century:

No one eats of this flesh without having first adored it . . .

we would sin if we did not do so.”

 

 

And so the Church strongly recommends that all of us

regularly spend time praying before the Eucharist in adoration.

 

Our parish is blessed to be able to leave our church doors open

for over 14 hours every day

so that anyone who wants to can come and pray before and adore

Christ in the Tabernacle.

And every Wednesday and Friday we expose the Body of Christ on the altar,

from 8:30am until 7:00pm on Wednesday and 3pm on Friday.

And while many people do take advantage of these opportunities,

it amazes and saddens me, that so many, the vast majority of us, don’t.

It reminds me of what a Protestant friend once told me:

“Father, if you Catholics really believed Jesus

is really physically there in the Eucharist,

why aren’t Catholic Churches packed day and night

—why don’t Catholics act like Jesus is there?”

Indeed; why don’t we?

 

 

Still many very good Catholics wonder:

“what do I do when I pray before our Lord in the Eucharist.”

Do what you would do if Christ walked into the room right now!

Fall down in adoration as John did in His vision recorded in Revelation.

Fall down on your faces as Peter, James and John did at the Transfiguration,

–worshipping in praise and thanksgiving His magnificent glory.

Fall down at His feet like Mary Magdalene so often did

–in repentance of your sins.

Or, simply sit at His feet quietly as Magdalene did in her home in Bethany

–listening with love to what he has to say to you.

 

Kneel or if you want, sit there,

pray any prayer you want, the rosary or prayers form the heart;

read the Bible or a spiritual book

–all the time in the loving presence of our Lord

–talking to Him or listening to Him.

And by meditating and praying before the Blessed Sacrament,

you’ll be drawn right back to the sacrificial meal of the Mass

because you’ll develop a deeper, more sincere hunger

to worthily receive in Holy Communion the Lamb who was slain.

Not only to receive Him in our mouth,

but in doing that receive Him with our hearts.

 

____

Today and every day the Church calls us to go before Christ

and humble ourselves by kneeling in front of what looks like

a little piece of Bread.

To some this seems irrational and foolish; but not to us.

Because while difficult to understand,

it is nevertheless eminently reasonable to us.

Because we remember and make our own the words of St. Peter:

“Lord, …You have the words of eternal life…”

So, for us it would be irrational and foolish not to believe,

as we remember and believe in the words of Jesus Himself:

“THIS IS MY BODY.”

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Deacon James Waalkes. Congratulations to parishioner Deacon Waalkes, who was ordained a deacon yesterday, Saturday, June 2! He will be called a “transitional deacon” in anticipation of his being ordained a priest next June. He will serve his first Mass as a deacon and preach his first homily here today, Sunday, June 3, at 10:30.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Today is “Corpus Christi Sunday,” a feast established to remind us that, even as Lent and Easter are over, the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection and His continued presence on Earth remains with us in a most sublime way in the Eucharist. In particular, we remember that the bread and wine really become the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself—His Real Presence among us.
The Book of Revelation tells us that the angels and saints in heaven continually “fell down and worshipped” Jesus. So let’s consider how we react to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
— Do we show reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament? Do we genuflect before Our Lord present in the tabernacle whenever we enter the church (usually before sitting in our pew) or whenever we pass in front of the tabernacle? Do we chat loudly in church as if the Lord of Heaven were not present?
— How do we dress at Mass, especially on Sunday? Like we are going to the Wedding Feast of Our King, or going to the beach? Do we remember that skimpy clothing can be a near occasion of sin for others, and so dress modestly at Mass?
— How do we act during Mass? Do we focus prayerfully on the miracle transpiring on the altar, especially during and after the consecration? Do we chat and laugh with each other, ignoring the solemnity of the Mass? Do we turn the exchange of the “sign of peace” before Communion into a casual “meet and greet,” or carefully observe it as the ritual and prayerful sign of the peace of Christ that comes to us in the Eucharist?
— How do we receive Holy Communion? Do we observe the Eucharistic fast for one hour before Communion? Do we examine our consciences so we don’t receive unworthily (i.e., if we need to confess mortal sins or are otherwise prohibited from receiving)? Do we approach prayerfully, or are we looking around or laughing? Do we carefully show some sign of reverence immediately before receiving Holy Communion: bowing or genuflecting, or even kneeling? Do we prayerfully receive as a profound act of faith and love?
If we receive on the tongue: To avoid any chance of the Host being dropped, do we stand close enough to the priest, open our mouths and extend our tongues? Do we hold still our heads, tongues and mouths (not lurching, licking or biting) until we receive and the priest removes his hand?
If we receive in our hand: Do we wash our hands before Mass? Do we extend both hands, one on top of the other, forming a throne for Our King? Do we immediately step aside and reverently consume the Host in the sight of the priest or extraordinary minister? Do we examine our hands to make sure no particles remain?
— Do we remember that Jesus remains in the tabernacle after Mass? Do we stay a few minutes after Mass is over to give thanks, or do we rush out of church as soon as possible? Do we drop by the church during the week to visit Our Lord in the tabernacle? Do we spend time with Our Lord during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament? Do we share our faith in the Eucharist with others? Do we actively teach our children to do all these things?

I am continually moved by the Eucharistic reverence at St. Raymond’s. But sometimes we forget—myself included. And so, we redouble our efforts so as to give Him due worship.

Eucharistic Procession. To help us to refocus on our faith in the Real Presence, today, Sunday, June 3, immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will have our annual Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession, walking with the Eucharist outside of the church while singing the Lord’s praises. Please join us in this ancient and eloquent witness to our faith in and love of our Eucharistic Lord.

Communion Rail. In September of last year, we introduced the use of a portable altar rail at the 8:45 Sunday Mass, in order to allow those who so choose, to kneel to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Although everyone has a right to choose whether to kneel or to stand for Holy Communion, it is very difficult and time-consuming to kneel without a kneeler. This is really unfair. The portable altar rail/kneeler solves this problem.
But you will recall there was another reason I decided to use the altar rail: kneeling for Communion can bring important spiritual benefits. Kneeling is well-established as an important expression of and means of encouraging adoration of the Eucharist, which is why we are required to kneel during the Eucharist Prayer and the “Behold the Lamb of God…” That is also why for centuries we were required to kneel for Communion.
I have been very pleased with the popularity of the rail at 8:45: even though they have the option to stand, almost everyone at that Mass freely choses to kneel for Communion. Many people at that Mass have told me how much they appreciate this option to kneel, and many others have asked me to extend this opportunity to the other Masses that they attend at St. Raymond’s.
That seems like a reasonable request and a great idea: why shouldn’t everyone at every Mass have the opportunity to kneel if they want to? So, for the next few weeks I will be prayerfully considering setting out the altar rail for use at all Masses at St. Raymond’s, giving people the choice to receive either kneeling or standing. (Note: for practical reasons, Communion would still continue to be distributed in the transepts as usual, without a kneeler/rail).
Some might be worried that this will lengthen the time it takes to distribute Communion, but in fact, the opposite is true: the altar rail actually speeds up the distribution. Others might be worried that they might feel peer pressure to kneel when they don’t want to. Don’t worry, there will be no more peer pressure to kneel than there is peer pressure to stand when you don’t want to.
Let me know what you think: I’m very interested in your courteous and well-considered comments, suggestions and opinions. Please email me at fr.decelles@gmail.com, or mail or leave a note at the parish office.
(By the way, I appreciate all the input I’ve gotten on the exchange of the Sign of Peace. I will be sharing my conclusions with you on this soon.)

Priest Transfers. The changes in priest assignments was announced on Wednesday, May 30. I’m happy to note that there will be no changes at St. Raymond’s. Also, congratulations to my good friend, Fr. Kevin Beres, on his appointment as pastor of St. Peter’s in “Little” Washington.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, May 27, 2018

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

May 27, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

Today, of course, is Trinity Sunday.

celebrating a magnificent mystery of God and of our Catholic Faith.

But as I say, it is a “mystery,”

meaning that we only know about it because Jesus revealed it to us,

and we will never really understand it completely.

 

I mean, it’s really next to impossible to adequately explain the Trinity,

to try to explain the very essence of God Himself—His inner most being.

After all who can explain the inner most being of another human being,

much less the inner most being

of the eternal, omnipotent Creator of the universe?

To say the least, it is difficult to explain, and difficult to understand.

 

First of all, what does this dogma of the Trinity hold?

We believe there is one God, who is three persons.

They share the same divine nature,

but each is God, whole and entire.

They are really distinct from one another—not simply different modes of being

–you can’t say, as some try to,

that we call God “Father” when He’s creating the world,

but we call Him “the Son” when He’s on the Cross,

and we call Him “the Spirit” when He dwells in us.

No: God the Son is a different person than God the Father

who is a different person than God the Holy Spirit

—but they are still one God.

In particular they are seen in relationship to one another:

relating as Father to Son, a son who is eternally begotten from the Father,

and the Spirit of the two that proceeds forth from them both,

some say the personification the love between the Father and Son.

Still, one God, three persons.

 

So all that’s clear.

No—it’s still difficult to explain and to understand.

And it always has been.

2000 years ago it was hard for the Jews to believe.

After all, the central dogma of Old Testament Judaism

is that there is only one God.

As we read in today’s first reading:

“Fix in your heart, that the LORD is God…

and that there is no other.”

But they kept hearing Jesus say things like: “the Father and I are one”

–so they called Him a blasphemer and tried to kill Him,

and eventually succeeded.

 

And it was hard for many wannabe Christians in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries,

heretics like the Gnostics: they couldn’t and didn’t believe it.

 

And it was hard for the rich Arab merchant who searched for the true God

and apparently found Him in Christianity, but rejected Him

because he could not accept the truth

that God is one, but 3 persons.

And so Muhammad made up his own religion, to suit his unbelief.

 

It is very difficult to understand, and, so, difficult to believe.

And yet we do believe.

But why?

 

Very simple: because we believe that Jesus is “the Christ, the one sent by God.”

And Jesus taught us the dogma of the Trinity.

For example, on the one hand,

Jesus Himself proclaimed the central dogma of Judaism:

“The LORD our God is one.”

And yet, He called God His “Father,” and says:

“the Father and I are one.”

Now, some might say that Jesus was speaking metaphorically,

but as we read in John, chapter 10,

when the Jews accused Him of “making himself God”

and tried to stone Him,

instead of saying, ‘no no, you misunderstood,’

He said to them:

“I am the Son of God….

know and understand

that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

 

And He kept on insisting on this.

Who can forget the last supper,

when He went on and on about His unity with the Father.

Particularly in His rebuke of St. Philip, who asked “show us the father”.

Jesus responds:

“Have I been with you so long,

and still you do not know me…?

He who has seen me has seen the Father;

how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?

Do you not believe that

I am in the Father and the Father in me?”

 

And not only did Jesus insist that He was one God with His father,

He insisted that the Holy Spirit was one God with them also.

He promised His apostles:

I shall send to you …the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father.”

but also promises:

“the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name.”

Both the Father and the Son send the Spirit.

And why?

Because while Jesus calls him: “the Spirit of the Father”

St. Paul calls the Holy Spirit not only

“the Spirit of God” but also “the spirit of Jesus Christ”,

All the while insisting “there is one Spirit.”

 

We believe, because Jesus said it,

and because the apostles taught it

and handed it down from generation to generation,

both in Sacred Scripture and in the Sacred Tradition.

And so the Church has always accepted it

as not simply an interesting bit of trivia,

but as the first tenet of the Christian Faith:

if you do not believe in the Trinity,

you are NOT a Christian.

 

This has been so important to the Church

that the earliest summaries of the Christian faith, like the Apostles Creed,

which some say the apostles themselves wrote at the first Pentecost,

are centered around the Trinity.

And at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD,

when all the bishops of the world could all come together

for the first time since the death of the apostles,

the most important thing they did was give us

a more elaborate formulation of the Trinitarian Creed:

the Creed we say at every Sunday Mass—the Nicene Creed:

“I believe in one God, the Father….the Son… the Holy Spirit.”

 

The Trinity is the First Dogma of Christianity,

because the whole Church comes out of,

revolves around and moves toward this mystery.

Heaven is sharing in the communion of life and love of the Trinity.

The whole incarnation, life, death, resurrection of Christ are Trinitarian:

the Father gives His Son, the Son offers Himself to the Father.

The Pentecost is Trinitarian:

the Father and Son send the Spirit so they can dwell in us,

and we can be one with them.

 

The Sacraments are Trinitarian:

in Baptism we are baptized

“in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”

and receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls,

and where the Holy Spirit is there also are the Father and Son,

and so we begin our sharing in life of the Trinity.

And in the Eucharist, by the power of the Holy Spirit

Christ makes us one with Him and presents us to His Father.

[We see this reflected in the whole Mass: the Mass itself is Trinitarian:

we begin and end the Mass in the name of

“the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit”;

and throughout the Mass, listen carefully to the triple repetitions,

subtly reminding us we are praying to a Trinitarian God:

“Holy, Holy, Holy,”

“through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault,”

the triple “Agnus Dei,”

“this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim”.….]

 

The Church itself is Trinitarian:

it is one, because the Trinity is one,

and it is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Spirit to praise the Father.

Creation itself is Trinitarian:

God created man in His own image so He could invite us

to live and love in the life and love of the Trinity.

 

This is what we believe.

Still, all this is difficult to understand.

 

Does this make us stupid, or naïve or irrational?

No, because it would be stupid, naïve, irrational and the height of arrogance

to think that we could ever really understand everything about God

—especially about His inner most being.

 

Do you understand how God created the universe?

No; but you believe it, and it is very rational to do so.

Do you understand how God can love each one of us uniquely and totally,

even though you and I are like mere specks of dust in this huge universe?

Do you understand how God could become a man and die on the Cross,

and still be completely God?

Do you understand how God could truly come to us,

body, blood, soul and divinity,

under the appearance of a piece of bread we could eat?

No; you have some inkling of an understanding of these things,

but you don’t understand any of them completely.

But still, you believe them.

 

Think about it: It would be so much easier for the Church

to proclaim the Gospel without the Trinity

—who would make something so difficult to understand

the central tenet of their religion?

But some things we don’t understand,

we still believe because Jesus has revealed them to us.

These are what we call mysteries of the faith.

And by that we don’t mean just accepting it blindly and without understanding.

But rather, mysteries are truths that are hidden in God,

things too big or magnificent for us to understand,

and which we could never begin to know anything about,

unless they are revealed by God.

 

As Scripture reminds us:

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand

…and weighed the mountains in scales? …” like God has.

 

And if we can’t understand something like creation, or the incarnation,

how can we really hope to ever completely fathom

the dogma of the Trinity?

After all, this dogma is a peek into the very inner most life

of the eternal boundless God.

To believe this dogma is not to be foolish, but to accept a wondrous gift

—to know God in His deepest self,

to know something of the boundless and eternal

intimate love and life that the Three Divine Persons

share so perfectly and completely,

and of an invitation to us to share in that

relationship of divine, eternal and boundless love and life,

imperfectly in this world, and perfectly and forever in the next.

 

___

As we continue with this Holy Mass,

let us turn to the Trinitarian mystery of the Eucharist,

the sacrifice of the Son to His Father

made present by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And by these sacred mysteries

may we now be lifted up

into the wondrous and intimate mystery of

the eternal life and boundless love that is the Holy Communion

of the Most Holy Trinity.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

LOT’S OF STUFF TODAY!!

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The most fundamental dogma of our Christian faith is the Trinity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 253-255) teaches:
“The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”. The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire….
“The divine persons are really distinct from one another. …”Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son” …
“The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.” Indeed “everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship”…”
It is extremely hard to fathom this mystery, and yet the Church has insisted on it since the earliest days as the sine qua non of being a Christian. And what would we expect of something that essentially reveals the inner life of the infinite and eternal God. And in this mystery we begin to understand what it means to be a Christian: to be invited to live life in unity and love with them.

Memorial Day. For many people Memorial Day has become a holiday marking the beginning of the Summer. But let us not forget it’s true meaning: to honor all the brave men and women who have died serving in the military of our beloved country. May we honor them tomorrow, and keep them in our prayers always. And may God reward them in eternity for their sacrifices on earth.

Parish Debt Paid Off. As I announced at last Sunday’s Masses, after 11 ½ years we have finally paid off our $10.5 million building debt: we are debt free. Thanks to so many of our parishioners, both current and former, who contributed so much to bring us to this day.
This a huge milestone for the parish and we plan to celebrate it in a special way at our annual picnic on September 16. I’ve already invited Fr. James Gould (my predecessor as pastor, the one who built the church) and Bishop Burbidge, and will soon send out invitations to parishioners who have moved away, especially those who were most actively involved in the building and the paying.
Thanks be to God for this great accomplishment!

Lighting and Mural Project Moves Forward. I’m also please to announce that this week we chose NOVA Power Systems in Sterling to install our new lighting. Work will begin on Monday, July 2 (in five weeks) and will finish by September 1. Although we will not be able to use the church during the weekdays, moving Masses, confessions, the Tabernacle, and all other church-activities to the Parish Hall, we should be able to use the church on the weekends.
To make this as simple as possible, we will be cancelling most events that would normally take place in the Hall (including weekends), unless they can be scheduled in a different location (including the Maurer Room, the Library or Angelus Academy). Parish Heads of Committees should contact the parish office to discuss any of their activities that might be affected.
We will also be temporarily curtailing some of the normal weekday liturgical events during this period, including Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the Extraordinary Form Mass on 1st and 3rd Fridays. I will let you know if there are any other temporary cancellations.
As I mentioned here about a month ago, the original bids that first came to us were way over our estimates—some twice what we had estimated. So, we rethought our expectations, keeping the basic goals the same. With that, we received several bids that are more or less in line with the budget. The company we chose, NOVA, was a little bit under our original budget, and will be implementing most of our original plans. Great news.

Lighting and Mural Capital Campaign. Thanks to all of you who made pledges to pay for the lighting and mural work. We have collected most of our pledges, but we still have about 23% uncollected. Please remember that we asked that all pledges be paid in full by June 30.
Also, if anyone feels that because of the changes in our plans for the lighting they need to rethink their pledge, I would understand. Please let me know if that is the case.
Finally, pray to St. Raymond that all works out as God wills.

Our Newly Confirmed. Congratulations to our 57 young parishioners who received the great Sacrament of Confirmation last Tuesday, May 22. Let us pray for them that they may be truly open to the graces and Gifts of the Holy Spirit they have received. And thanks to all those who worked so hard to prepare them for the sacrament—especially Mary Salmon and Vince Drouillard of our Religious Education office, as well as our CCD volunteer catechists and aides: Joann Alba, Cindy Leaf, Marcia Enyart, José Costacamps, Michael Turk, Ginger Avvenire, and Anne Gordon. Also thanks to the teachers at Angelus Academy, who prepared several of our kids as well. Thank you also to Jack & Kathy Campbell for organizing the reception following Confirmation.

Parish “Transitional” Deacon. Next Saturday, June 2, Mr. James Waalkes, from our parish (and former teacher at Angelus Academy) will be ordained a deacon at St. Thomas More Cathedral. He will be called a “transitional deacon” because we are anticipating he will complete his seminary studies next year and be ordained a priest next June. In the meantime, Deacon Waalkes will serve his first Mass as a deacon here next Sunday, June 3, at 10:30. More importantly, he will also preach his first homily at that Mass. Of course, all are invited to attend, and to congratulate him afterwards at Donut Sunday.

Next Sunday’s Corpus Christi Eucharistic Procession. Next Sunday, June 3, immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday with our annual Eucharistic Procession. Processing with the Eucharist outside of the church building while singing the Lord’s praises is an ancient practice dating back at least to the early 12th century. By bringing the Eucharist outside of the church building and walking out into the world with the Blessed Sacrament, believers give public witness to their faith in Jesus Christ in general, and in the His Real Presence in the Eucharist in particular. Please join us in this ancient and eloquent witness to our faith in and love of our Eucharistic Lord.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018

Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday

May 20, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

Today, as at every Sunday Mass, right after this homily

we’ll all join together to make our Profession of Faith

by praying the “Creed.”

By saying the Creed we proclaim publicly to the world

the very basic truths we believe about God.

Near the end of the Creed, after we’ve professed our belief

in God the Father and God the Son—Jesus

–we begin our profession of faith in the Holy Spirit.

Most of us have probably said these words hundreds or even thousands of times.

But how many times have we stopped to think about

the meaning behind these words?

In particular, what does it mean when we say:

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.”

 

Sacred Scripture is full of wonderful and mysterious surprises

–like a treasure chest full of precious jewels and gems.

And one of these gems is found as we consider the small word “Spirit.”

The English word “spirit” is used to translate the original Hebrew word “ruah“,

which primarily means “wind” or “breath”.

And so whenever we see references in Scripture to “wind” or “breath”

we see the subtle connection to the “Spirit”.

And this connection isn’t accidental because it’s the Holy Spirit himself

who is truly the author of every word of Scripture.

 

This symbolism of breath and wind appears throughout Scripture, sort of a code,

or sign to indicate the activity of the Spirit in the history of Salvation.

For example, in the first reading today we see that on the first Christian Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples with a loud gust of wind,

and in the Gospel we hear that Jesus

breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

But the first time the Holy Spirit is mentioned in Scripture

is one which often goes unnoticed.

It comes in the second verse of the Bible, in Genesis 1’s story of creation:

“the earth was a formless wasteland…

while a mighty wind swept over the waters.”

Soon thereafter, as God creates man,

He forms man from the dust of the earth and then blows,

“into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.”

So here, right “in the beginning” of Scripture it is revealed to us

that it is the Spirit, the ruah, who is “the Lord, the giver of life.”

 

In the New Testament the Holy Spirit continues His life-giving work.

The Gospel of St. Luke tells us that

Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary

“by the Spirit.”

So, the human life of Jesus Christ Himself, is the gift of the Spirit.

But this natural human life which the Spirit gives

is only the beginning of his life-giving work with Jesus.

In a key passage of St. John’s Gospel,

Jesus tells us that unless a man be born again,

of water and the spirit, he cannot have eternal life.

In that same passage, Jesus also reveals the mysterious connection

between His being “lifted up” on the Cross

and man’s rebirth into “eternal life”.

This mystery only becomes understandable

as we come to Calvary and Christ’s very last moments on the Cross.

As St. Luke tells us: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

`Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;’

and when He had said this He breathed his last.”

 

With these and many other symbolic references to the Spirit,

Scripture tells us of a wonderful mystery.

In the beginning, He gave natural life to man.

In the fullness of time, he acted in History giving natural human life

to the Eternal God the Son.

 

Then as Christ gives up his spirit and breathes his last,

the life-giving Spirit is active even still in Christ’s death.

For in his death Christ gives up the natural human life

the Spirit gave him in the womb of Mary,

in order that he might rise again

and send the Holy Spirit to brings us eternal life

–the life of God Himself.

 

In the 2nd chapter of Genesis

it tells us that God created Adam by first building a physical human body.

And today’s second reading reminds us that the Church is the body of Christ.

When Christ was in the world He prepared a physical body for His Church.

Just like God created a physical body for Adam

that had all the various parts to do different tasks,

Jesus also created a body that had various members

who would do different tasks.

And just like Adam’s body which was made out of the common dust of the earth,

the body Jesus built for His Church was made out of

the most common of human beings–fishermen, tax collectors, sinners.

And just like Adam’s lifeless body,

the disciples that gathered on that Pentecost day

gathered as the body of Christ–but as a lifeless body.

They were still afraid and hiding, waiting for God to do something.

For only God can turn a group of weak and frightened sinners

into the living Body of Christ.

Only God can give life!

 

And God does give life!

God created the human race by breathing the life-giving Spirit

into the lifeless body of Adam.

Once again, at the Pentecost, we read

that: “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind.”

The ruah, the breath of God blows the life-giving Spirit

into the house where the disciples are gathered in waiting,

and changes these frightened disciples

into the vigorous living mystical Body of Christ, the Church.

As the psalm tells us today:

“If you take their breath they perish,

but send forth your spirit and they are created!”

 

 

At that 1st Christian Pentecost the Church was created

by the breath of the Holy Spirit within her.

But there are some believers today

who try to separate the Spirit from the Church.

They claim that if the Spirit is acting in you, you don’t need the Church.

But as we see in today’s

Scriptures, you can’t separate the Spirit from the Church.

When Christ sends the Spirit into the world

He sends Him for His expressed purpose to give life to His Body the Church.

 

Others would claim that the Church

is merely the assembly of those who believe in Christ,

and so the most important thing about the Church are its members.

But while the members are very important, the most important thing about the Church

is that it is the Body of Christ given life by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

As today’s second reading points out,

there are many gifts and ministries, but only one Spirit.

And the gifts and ministries given each person

are for the common good of the one Body.

There is one Body given one divine life by the one Spirit.

 

 

The Holy Spirit blew into that room on Pentecost

and in a dramatically active way gave life to the Church.

That same Spirit remains actively giving and sustaining this life in the Church

even to this day.

We see this activity as we read Sacred Scripture.

We see it in the Sacred Tradition of the Church

which the Spirit has sustained and kept free from error.

We see it in the various gifts He gives to the various members of the Body.

We see it in prayer as He draws us ever deeper into sharing the life of God.

And we see it in the Magisterium and apostolic hierarchy

–as St. John reminds us in today’s Gospel,

when Jesus appeared to the apostles on Easter He

breathed on them and said:

`Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive men’s sins they are forgiven them;

if you hold them bound, they are held bound.'”

 

But this life-giving and life-sustaining activity of the Holy Spirit

is encountered most dramatically in the Sacramental life of the Church.

For example, in Baptism, where we are recreated into the new life in Christ

as members of His Church by the very indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls.

Or in Penance, where,

by the power of the Holy Spirit given to the apostles on Easter,

the priest forgives men’s sins,

the Spirit acting to restore them to life in Christ.

Or in Confirmation where we receive the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit

so that we can imitate the Church at Pentecost

and bravely proclaim Christ to all the world.

 

But most especially we encounter this life-giving activity of the Holy Spirit

in the Eucharist, the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In today’s Mass, and in every Mass celebrated around the world

we invoke the action of the Holy Spirit.

In particular in the Eucharistic Prayer

–at the Epiclesis, when he extends his hands,

the priest recalls and requests the action of the Holy Spirit

to transform ordinary bread and wine

into the real life-giving Body and Blood of Christ

–the very same Body which received life in the womb of Mary

by the action of the Holy Spirit

and gave up that life on the Cross

in order to give us eternal life through the Holy Spirit.

 

In a few moments we will pray the Creed.

Today, on the Feast of the descent of the Holy Spirit,

we remember that it’s through the Holy Spirit that

all natural life comes into creation.

And through that same Spirit, as He blows into the heart of the Church

and the hearts of its members,

human beings are given a share in the supernatural divine life

of God himself.

And we proclaim with renewed fervor and love:

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.”