Sixth Sunday of Easter

Priest Transfers. This last Thursday Bishop Burbidge announced his annual list of priest transfers/assignment. Thanks be to God, Fr. Smith and I will be staying at St. Raymond’s another year. Unfortunately, no additional priest will be coming to assist us, but considering the priest shortage, I’m glad we still have two priests assigned here.
Most of the other transfers won’t directly affect us, and there are few major changes that you’d be interested in, except for one: Fr. Scalia, in addition to his current job as Vicar of Clergy (in charge of all the priests and deacons) will also become the pastor of St. James’ Parish in Falls Church. That is a large parish, much larger than ours, which means he won’t be coming to St. Raymond’s to help on Sundays any longer. Fr. Scalia is an excellent priest and preacher, so I was very glad that he asked to help out here when his other obligations permitted. I am happy for him getting to become a pastor again (this is where the real fun of being a priest is) but I’m worried that he will be overworked with basically two full-time jobs.
So, please keep Fr. Scalia in your prayers, and when you see him, thank him for all his help to us these last few years.

State Abortion Laws. If you’ve been following the news you’ve heard that several states have passed new laws placing new restrictions on abortion. Probably the most talked about is the Georgia law that prohibits abortions after the baby’s heartbeat can be detected—about 2 weeks after conception. This will basically make all abortions illegal in Georgia, since most women don’t know their pregnant until at least 5 to 7 weeks. Although aborting mothers will not be charged with any crime, doctors who perform abortions face long prison sentences. Also, there are no exceptions for rape and incest, or for the general “health of the mother,” but there are exceptions in the case of acting to save the mother from death or “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment,” or if the pregnancy has been deemed “medically futile” (i.e., the child would die shortly after birth).
Of course the pro-abortion crowd is going berserk, especially over the lack of exception for rape and incest (which is less than ½% of all abortions). But if an unborn baby is a human being, why should he or she be punished for the brutal act of a rapist or incestuous relative? What did the baby do wrong? Many abortion activists are saying, “the rapist will get out of prison before the doctor does.” Well, maybe we need longer sentences for rapists, but intentionally and willfully killing an innocent baby, whether it’s in the womb or playing on a swing set, is killing a human being, and the punishment for that has always been the harshest. And doctors should know better.
That being said, I’m worried that pro-life legislatures may have gotten ahead of themselves, that this may not work politically. And if it doesn’t work politically, it could do great harm to the pro-life movement. Most of these laws stand a very strong chance of being overturned at the district and appellate level, and the legislatures seem to be counting on the cases all going to the Supreme Court. But remember, the SC doesn’t have to accept every case appealed to it. There’s an old saying in the courts, that “bad facts make bad law,” so that the SC often rejects cases that don’t have the fact pattern that makes for clearly resolving difficult legal issues. I’m afraid that might be the case here. Let us pray….

Georgetown Visitation. Some of you may be acquainted with Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, a Catholic girls’ high school in Washington considered by many to be an “elite” school. But last week it bowed to the elites of the world, at the sacrifice of its Catholicism, when it announced that it will include news about the so-called “same-sex marriages” of alumnae in the school’s alumnae magazine.
Sister Mary Berchmans, president emerita of the school, wrote: “The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages. But, it is equally clear in its teaching that we are all children of God, that we each have dignity and are worthy of respect and love….As I have prayed over this contradiction, I keep returning to this choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love…we choose the Gospel commandment of love.”
Sister, Sister, Sister. There is no “contradiction.” The Catholic teaching on marriage flows from Jesus’ actual teaching in the Gospel (and the rest of Scripture). It is a specification of how love expresses itself in marriage. Jesus tells us, “if you love me you will keep my commandments.” And when He teaches about the 6th Commandment, “you shall not commit adultery,” He specifically tells us that marriage is only between one man and one woman: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”
Should we worship a pagan idol (against the 1st Commandment) if not doing so would offend someone we love? No. Then why should we honor adultery (which “same-sex-marriage” is a form of) if not doing so would offend someone we love?
Fortunately, the Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement admonishing the school. It remains to be seen what action the new Archbishop will take against the school, if any.
As for me, all I can say is, no parent who wants their daughter to receive a solid and sound Catholic education should send her to Visitation.

Peter’s Pence. Every year we are required to take a second collection at Mass for “Peter’s Pence” which funds the Pope’s charitable giving. This year it will be taken on the weekend of June 29-30, 2019. I thought you might be interested in how your donations are being spent.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Vatican News, 27 April 2019.
“Pope Francis has donated 500,000 dollars to assist migrants in Mexico. The funds, from the Peter’s Pence collections, will be distributed among 27 projects promoted by sixteen Mexican dioceses and religious congregations, which requested assistance in continuing to provide food, lodging, and basic necessities to the migrants.
“According to a statement from Peter’s Pence, “In recent months, thousands of migrants have arrived in Mexico, having travelled more than 4,000 kilometres on foot and with makeshift vehicles from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Men and women, often with young children, flee poverty and violence, hoping for a better future in the United States. However, the US border remains closed to them….In particular, the aid is intended to assist the more than 75,000 people who arrived in Mexico in 2018, in six migrant caravans.…
“Thanks to these projects”, the statement concludes, “and thanks to Christian charity and solidarity, the Mexican Bishops hope to be able to continue helping our migrant brothers and sisters.””

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Confirmation. This coming Wednesday retired Bishop Loverde will be here to give the Sacrament of Confirmation to our teenagers. What an important night for these young men and women, receiving the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Consider the effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1303-5).
Fundamentally Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace. Specifically, this means it:
— roots us more deeply in the divine filiation (sonship);
— unites us more firmly to Christ;
— increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us (specifically
the “Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom,
understanding, right judgment (counsel) and courage
(fortitude), knowledge, reverence, and piety;
— renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
— gives us a special strength to spread and defend the
faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ.
Let’s pray for our newly confirmed today that they may be open to and cooperate with the graces they will receive in Confirmation. But let us also pray for ourselves that we may do the same.

Crossroads Pro-Life. This last Thursday another Summer of Crossroads Pro-Life Walks Across America began. As you will recall, every summer for the last 20+ years, young adults walk on three simultaneous pro-life walks all the way across America from Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.. These young people hope to convert the hearts and minds of others by witnessing to the sanctity of all human life, from the moment of conception to natural death.
This year we have a particular share in the walk, as St. Raymond’s parishioner Victoria Bliss (daughter of John and Glenn Bliss) will be making the trek from San Francisco, the fourth St. Raymond’s parishioner to make the trip over the last few years. I’m sure you are as proud of her as I am, and will join me praying for Victoria and her companions, that they stay safe, healthy and holy, and win many converts to Christ and the pro-life movement.

Pope’s Decree on Abuse. Two weeks ago Pope Francis issued a decree titled Vos Estis Lux Mundi (“You are the light of the world”) to govern the treatment of clergy sexual abuse, especially of minors, by Church officials. I haven’t had time to digest it in full yet, but it basically extends many rules already in place in the U.S. to all the dioceses around the world.
However, two notable changes for the U.S. are: 1) it places clerical sexual coercion of seminarians and religious in the same category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults; and 2) charges of abuse or cover-ups by bishops will be investigated by the Metropolitan archbishop of the accused bishop’s province, or if the Metropolitan archbishop is accused of abuse or cover up the Vatican will investigate.
This latter change (#2) is a huge disappointment to many, since, for example, 13 years ago former-cardinal Ted McCarrick was a Metropolitan archbishop and would have been in charge of investigating accusations against bishops in his province. Moreover, this is basically an adoption of the “Metropolitan model” proposed by Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, who Archbishop Vigano accused of being a protégé of Ted McCarrick.

Tolkien, the Movie. Many of us were looking forward to the release of the new Movie, “Tolkien,” a biopic about the young J.R.R. Tolkien, the famous English writer, poet, philologist, and academic, best known for his authorship of, “The Lord of the Rings.” While the reviews generally give credit for a well-crafted movie, they also note how the film almost completely ignores the absolutely central role Catholicism played in Tolkien’s life and writing. According to Catholic News Service, director Dome Karukoski said they had cut a scene of Tolkien receiving Communion, because, “people felt it was boring,” and that, “Religion is so internal, it’s difficult to visualize. It’s like watching an encyclopedia.” Funny, I guess the directors of Oscar-winning/nominated films as “Ben Hur,” “The Ten Commandments,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “Chariots of Fire,” “A Man for all Seasons,” “The Song of Bernadette,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Sound of Music,” “Becket”, etc., didn’t get that message. Seems to me a classic example of Hollywood elite just not “getting” Catholicism or Christianity in general. Sigh.

In Case You Hadn’t Heard. From LifeSiteNews, two related stories:
May 6, 2019: “A homosexual pro-abortion member of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives posted a self-incriminating video showing himself verbally assaulting an elderly Catholic woman praying in peaceful protest outside a Planned Parenthood abortion mill in his district…Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims posted his video on Twitter, which was then retweeted by LiveAction.….”
“During the course of Sim’s nearly nine minute video in which he stalks, taunts, harasses and accuses the unnamed woman, the state representative repeatedly attempts to shove his smartphone camera in the woman’s face. She quietly walked up and down the sidewalk during Sim’s outburst, seemingly unperturbed as she prayed a rosary…”
“Who would’ve thought that an old white lady would be out in front of a Planned Parenthood, telling people what’s right for their bodies?” said Sims. “Shame on you.”…
“There’s no faith that tells you ‘you are right’ and everybody else is wrong. There’s no faith that tells you it’s your job to stand out here and shame people for something they have a right to do.…We can talk about your Christian faith,… about how your Christian faith believes in shaming people…in telling people that you know what’s right for their bodies….tells you that you know what’s right for their families….There is nothing Christian about what you’re doing….There is nothing loving, nothing kind. This is a racist act of judgment, and you have no business being out here.””
May 8, 2019: “….After the original video came to light, another video surfaced that Sims shared to Facebook, which shows him approaching three girls outside Planned Parenthood. “What we’ve got here is a bunch of protesters, a bunch of pseudo-Christian protesters who’ve been out here shaming young girls for being here,” he declares. “So, here’s the deal, I’ve got $100 to anybody who will identify these three, and I will donate to Planned Parenthood.”
“An adult woman accompanying them politely attempts to explain to Sims that they’re “actually just here praying for the babies, and we believe women deserve more” but walks away when it becomes clear he is ignoring what they’re saying.”

Remember. Remember back in January, when our very own state Delegate from Springfield, Kathy Tran, freshman Democrat, introduced a bill which would, among other things, allow abortion up to 40 weeks, including even as the woman is giving birth? Word has it there is a pro-life alternative candidate running against Del. Tran in the election this coming November 5, 2019.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 5th Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019

5th Sunday of Easter

May 19, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

In today’s gospel Jesus tells His apostles at the Last Supper:

“I give you a new commandment: love one another.

As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

 

This commandment to love each other is, in many ways,

what has made Christianity so attractive to so many people

over the last 20 centuries.

And rightly so: Man, in his very nature, at the core of his being,

is a creature of love: above all else, he longs to be loved and to love.

 

This is clear both from scripture and just from common sense.

In scripture we read that “God is Love”—that God’s whole life is love,

and that in the beginning this God

created man in His image and likeness,

a creature created to receive God’s love and love him back;

and God says it is not good for man to be alone,

so He creates man as both male and female,

so that they can love each other.

Man is created for love.

 

But common sense also tells us that no human being can be happy without love.

In fact, all our lives we search and work to be loved by others.

We see this as an infant reaches out her arms to be held by daddy,

or cries at night, not because he’s hungry or wet,

but simply because he wants his mommy.

And we see this in adults as they constantly search for the love of a mate,

or do all sorts of things to win the praises and approval

of colleagues, friends and strangers.

 

We see it also in the generosity of a child who shares her toys,

the lover who writes poems for his beloved,

the parent who works like a slave to provide good things for their children.

 

We are created for, and so constantly driven by, love.

 

But like all good things, the desire for love can be easily corrupted.

Sometimes this happens when the desires to receive love and to give love

become entangled and confused:

love yields to self-love,

as we begin to give love mainly so that we can receive it,

or we confuse receiving love

with receiving what our passions desire

—love becomes reduced to a feeling, and so to pleasure.

So loving is cheapened to mean bringing pleasure

—however passing, temporary or base.

 

Sometimes this corruption comes about as our desire to be loved

causes us to do whatever it takes to feel that we are being loved.

This can lead to all sorts of strange and abusive situations:

from a wife who will do anything, bear any abuse, to please her husband,

to a man who will sacrifice his family to be loved and praised by a world

that will forget his name tomorrow.

And it can lead to a society where saying the popular thing

becomes more important than telling the truth,

where tolerating or even celebrating flaws and errors in others is more important

than helping them overcome those flaws and errors.

 

But all this sort of gets things backwards.

The heart of Christian love, is, as Jesus tells His apostles:

“love one another as I have loved you.”

And how did Christ love them?

 

An ancient Christian definition of love is

willing and striving for the good of the beloved.”

Love means wanting was is truly good for the beloved

—not what will give them temporary pleasure.

And love means striving, or doing things, that will bring about that good.

In Christ we see this can ultimately mean doing what is good for others

even if they hate you for it:

truly loving another is never directly dependent on

being loved in return by that person.

Jesus loved all mankind, both His own people and the Gentiles.

And so He told them things they needed to  hear for their own good,

hard sayings that they often walked away from,

or even that made them to want to kill him–even when they did kill him.

 

___

Man is created for love: both receiving love and giving love.

But while he searches to find someone to love him, as is only natural,

he should never confuse being loved by others

with being an object of pleasure to others.

And he—or rather, we

should never forget that there is one who already truly loves us: God—Jesus.

His love is not selfish, but selfless.

He truly wills and strives for our good without concern for his pleasure:

there was no pleasure when He walked

the length and breadth of Israel preaching;

there was no pleasure on the Cross.

 

There was only love.

 

It is true, Scripture teaches that we should try to “please” God.

But God is pleased not in what we do for Him

but in seeing us truly becoming the loving creatures He created us to be

—in seeing His beloved growing in true happiness.

Like parents who delight in their baby’s first step,

not because it reflects well on their parenting

but because they are simply delighted that their child is growing up healthy.

 

Think about it: how do we please God?

As Jesus tells us, also at the Last Supper,

“if you love me you will keep my commandments”

Does it do God any good if we don’t kill each other,

or if we don’t steal from or lie to each other, or commit adultery?

No, but all these things are contrary to loving each other

and so absolutely opposed to what we all strive for,

what will make us happy.

 

____

This points us to the second aspect of love:

man not only seeks to receive love,

but he can not be happy if he does not give love.

 

Again, this love is not selfish, but selfless: it does not give in order to receive,

it simply gives for the good of the beloved.

And so like Christ’s love there must always be a sacrificial element

to truly human love:

it must be willing to lose everything, even the love of the beloved.

 

___

So, if we love, we must love like Christ

and be willing to tell others the truth even when they don’t want to hear it.

Sometimes this involves telling others that

Christ alone loves them perfectly and eternally,

and is the only one who can give them the perfect love of heaven.

Sometimes this means telling them that this or that action or belief is wrong

because it is contrary to true human love

—whether this is the truth about the evils of

greed or socialism,

abortion or pre-marital sex,

racism or homosexuality.

 

Sometimes it means not only “telling them”

but doing something more tangible.

Sometimes parents have to punish their children for doing wrong.

Voters have to replace public officials for the moral evils they legislate.

And society has to reject, with our pocketbooks, our patronage or our protests

attitudes and behavior contrary to true human love.

 

___

Now, if we love, we do all this with love.

Which means we do it not in a way that makes us feel good,

but in the way that will effectively achieve the good for our beloved.

Sometimes maybe a misbehaving child should be spanked

—but not as a way of relieving parental stress.

Love says: should the child be spanked or scolded

or sent to bed without desert

—what will be best in this situation?

And again, not wondering “will my little baby still like me if I do this?”

but “what is best for my beloved?”

 

Christ Himself showed us this:

remember how He was gentle

with the woman caught in adultery,

or with the Magdalene who wept as His feet,

or even with Peter who denied Him,

and Jesus responded simply: “do you love me?”

But remember that Jesus also harshly and publicly chastised

the scribes and Pharisees:

“Woe to you… you white washed tombs…. you hypocrites…

you brood of vipers…”

And how He once even made a whip

and physically drove the moneychangers from the temple.

 

But none of this was about making Himself feel good

—but doing what those particular people needed at that particular moment.

 

____

This balance between when to be hard and when to be soft,

or when to speak or be silent,

is difficult, to say the least.

And it’s hard to love when we know that

only resentment or even hatred and recrimination will be returned to us.

 

But Christ knows this, and so in His great love for us He helps us

—in so many ways.

 

First, He gives us His own personal example all throughout scripture.

 

And then He calls us to constantly examine our lives,

continuously holding ourselves up to the standard He set.

 

But most importantly He gives us Himself.

He loves us so much that He not only died for our sins,

He died and rose again so He could give us a share in His own life of love.

In so many ways, but especially in the sacraments,

He pours that life of love into us—the life of grace—

so that we are never alone in any of this:

the God who loves us is with us

to help us to love as we were created to,

to lift us when we’re tired,

to guide us when we’re confused,

to strengthen us when we’re weak,

to remain with us when we feel all alone.

 

___

So it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been:

we don’t have to continue to fail at love and loving.

As he says in today’s 2nd reading from Revelation:

“the old order has passed away…Behold, I make all things new.”

 

Now, as we move more deeply into the mystery of the Eucharist,

let us turn to Our Lord and see in this sacrament

the purity of love that led Him to the cross

and the power of that love that raised Him up from the Tomb.

Let us recognize in this holy mystery

the love that desires nothing more than our good,

and that works, by the power, the grace, of this sacrament,

to achieve that good in our lives.

And filled with the grace of this sacrament, let us follow His example,

and go out into a world desperately seeking and yearning for love,

and boldly proclaim in our words and actions the truth about love.

And in all this, let us keep His tender commandment:

“As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

TEXT: 4th Sunday of Easter, May 12, 2019

 4th Sunday of Easter

May 12, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 “Mary had a little lamb,

whose fleece was white as snow.

“And everywhere that Mary went,

the lamb was sure to go.”

 

When I was a child, I really believed that that nursery rhyme

was about the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus.

I mean, after all, she was the “Mary” I heard the most about.

And Jesus was the Lamb of God.

And He was absolutely pure, His soul, His fleece, “was white as snow”

And of course, when He was little He followed His mother wherever she went.

 

But then I got older, I discovered that it was actually

was only written in the 19th century by an American Protestant,

writing about a little girl named Mary Sawyer,

who brought her pet lamb to school one day.

So much for my youthful piety.

 

But it was still a pretty good instinct.

 

Last week I preached about how Jesus,

in a sense, in order to become the Good Shepherd

first had to become the Lamb of God:

not only the sacrificial lamb,

but the innocent and docile lamb before His Father,

hearing His Father’s voice and following it:

“not my will, but yours be done.”

 

And in like manner, Jesus had to become Mary’s little lamb

before He could be our shepherd.

God entrusted His Son to Mary, to tend and feed and love.

And it was Mary’s voice that He followed and obeyed when He was a little boy,

but even in some sense as a man.

For example, at the Marriage Feast at Cana,

it was to Mary’s voice that Jesus responded

to perform His first great public miracle at the beginning of His ministry.

And even now, He listens to her voice when she intercedes for us.

Albeit, not to follow or obey, but in love and deference.

 

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is called Good Shepherd Sunday,

and in the gospel Jesus speaks to us as a Shepherd.

Now, we know that when He ascended to heaven

he left other shepherds to tend his flock on earth in his name

beginning with St. Peter and the Apostles,

and today, their successors, bishops and priests.

 

But the thing is, just as Jesus had to be a Lamb to become our Shepherd,

if Christians are to truly follow Christ,

to be the sheep who hears His voice and follows Him,

we must all be not only sheep, but, in some way, we must be shepherds like Him.

We must all care for and tend the sheep of His flock.

 

And Mary is the prime example of this.

She was God’s little innocent lamb, that God cared for in an especially tender way,

from her conception and throughout her life.

all so she could grow up to be His mother, the shepherd of her little Lamb Jesus.

And being His shepherd when He was a child,

she is, in a certain sense, our shepherd,

and the role model for being Christian shepherds for Jesus.

 

She has been this for us right from the beginning,

since she was there in the upper room, for the apostles at the first Pentecost.

Of course, Peter and the Apostles were the authoritative shepherds

installed by Jesus to lead the flock,

but in a certain way, as the mother of Christ, and the mother of His Church,

she was, like a motherly shepherd of the apostles.

 

Of course, all this month of May we remember this in a special way.

And tomorrow, May 13, we remember particularly how 102 years ago

she came as mother and shepherd to 3 real live shepherds,

3 little shepherd children who lived in Fatima, Portugal 100 years ago.

And there she came to protect the world against the sin,

and especially against the false shepherds of atheism, particularly Marxism,

encouraging us to listen to the voice of Her son, to follow Him, repent and pray.

And she called on these simple little children to become shepherds in Christ

first by sharing with the flock of the Church what Mary had told them

and second by doing so with the innocent example of faithful little children,

Jesus, and Mary’s, little lambs.

 

____

Like a shepherd, in the upper room with the apostles,

with the children at Fatima,

and with every single Christian for 2000 years,

the Blessed Mother has protected her little lambs.

And all this she did as part of her God-given role as Mother of Jesus,

and Mother of His Church: mother of all of us.

Because that is what a mother does:

she cares for the little lambs that God entrusts to her.

 

As I say, all of us are called to be shepherds, in some way, in Christ.

In this month of May we remember the unique Motherly way Mary lives this vocation.

And today we, as Americans, remember how all mothers share

in this vocation in a similar way.

Like the Blessed Mother Mary, all mothers are shepherds.

 

Like a shepherd, our mothers protect their lambs.

Of course, they protect them from

natural disease, hunger, ignorance, the cold, and harm.

But in Christ, mothers are especially called to protect their lambs

from wolves posing as shepherds, trying to lead them astray

especially those trying to lead them away from Christ;

whether its atheist or false Christian prophets,

or even the prophets of the secular society of the West

—the culture of our own often hedonistic society.

Like a shepherd, a mother must protect her children, especially from

–false notions of Christ and His Church

–false notions of right and wrong, good and evil

–distortions of the dignity of Women, and of men and family

–lies promoted about the meaning of love and sexuality

–complete perversions of the fundamental dignity of human life.

 

Just as the Blessed Mother came to Fatima to protect her children, her little lambs,

from  the rising atheistic and secular culture,

today’s mothers also have to protect our children

—grown up children and babies, born and unborn—

from the devastating effects of that culture come to full bloom.

 

____

Today, let us thank the Lord for the gift He gives us, of the good shepherds

who are our good, faithful and courageous bishops and priests.

But let us also thank Him for the gift of His Mother, who protects us

and comes to us in our hour of need, calling us to follow her son.

And let us thank Him for entrusting us to the gentle and loving guidance and protection

of our natural or adopted mothers on earth.

 

As we enter more deeply into the mystery of this Holy Mass on this Mother’s Day

let us pray that all mothers may always hear the voice

of the one true Good shepherd calling them to Himself,

and that under the protection Our Lady of Fatima,

they may lead us and all the world to Him.

And let us pray that He may give them the reward they deserve

for their tender care for us:

loving and devoted families on earth,

and eternal happiness

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Mother’s Day. Motherhood is a miraculous gift and blessing—to mothers, husbands, children and to all society. Thank the Good Lord for the gift of mothers!
But the strange forces at work in our society today to degrade the body and undermine its meaning are also attacking motherhood. For example, think of all the amazing things mothers’ (and really all women’s) bodies go through and are designed for that help define “womanhood” and make it so incredibly special. Yet all this is rejected by those who tell us that sexuality is not inherently directed toward the creative love of motherhood and fatherhood. And by those who say that any man/male can just say “I’m a woman” and lay claim to all the dignity and identity of that gender. This is simply insane.
On this special day, and every day, may the Lord shower our mothers, living and deceased, with graces, and may we show them the love and respect that they deserve.

First Holy Communion. Last Saturday our Second Graders received Our Lord in Holy Communion for the very first time. What a great thing for these children, to receive our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; to have the Lord come to them in the flesh, and join them to Himself in this miracle. And what a beautiful thing to see these little ones receive with such innocence and faith.
The Lord tells us “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” Does this not refer in a particular way to the Eucharist, which is Christ Himself, who is the kingdom? The children believe simply because we assure them that Jesus is God, and so has the power to do anything He wants and will always tell us the truth, and that Jesus Himself said of the bread, “This is my Body.” And so they believe. So simple. Do we believe, as they do?
Let us pray for our little ones today, that they may always believe as they do today. But let us also pray for ourselves—that we may become like our little children.

Mary’s Month. By long standing tradition, the Catholic Church keeps the month of May as Mary’s month. So I encourage all of you to keep this devotion by praying the Rosary during this month—even every day. I especially encourage all families to pray the Rosary together at least once a week. Holy Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother, pray for us!

Spring and Summer. Spring has sprung, thanks be to God! But like all good things, this brings certain challenges, and when it comes to Mass attendance we can count on two particular challenges: more noise and less clothes. Both of these are understandable: as they become more active outside little ones seem to tend to be more active inside also, and as it becomes warmer outside, all of us tend to wear less clothing.
The only dress code we have St. Raymond’s is to use common sense, as well as Christian modesty, chastity and charity. Growing up in Texas I understand all about dressing for the heat. But let’s remember two things. First, please try not to dress like you’re going to the pool when you’re coming to Mass. On the other hand, if someone does come to Mass in a t-shirt let’s assume they have an important reason for doing so. The second thing to remember is that the more skin we show the more likely we are to be the near occasion of sin to others. So I ask all of you, wherever you are this summer—whether on the beach, on a date, or at Mass—please consider the spiritual well-being of others.
Also, we love to have little children at Mass. But all of us (including their parents) would also prefer if they would be peaceful and quiet at Mass. But that isn’t always the way it is—especially at this time of year. So once again I encourage all of you, in charity, to be patient and supportive of parents and children—parenting is especially difficult in the present cultural environment, so we have to help them every way we can. On the other hand, parents, please remember to do what you can, and when a child gets really out of hand at Mass, or if they continue to make noise (especially talking or shouting) please consider moving to the “Family Room” or the narthex until they quiet down. God bless you parents and your little ones!

Vacation Bible School. Every summer we like to offer our little children an opportunity for some special Catholic formation through a summer mini-camp we call “Vacation Bible School” (VBS). But to make VBS work we need volunteers. Sadly, after several weeks of asking for help in this bulletin, we haven’t been able to assemble enough volunteers to make VBS work. So, for lack of volunteers, I am forced to cancel VBS this summer.
This is greatly disturbing to me. I know everyone is busy, but we need folks to volunteer to make this parish, by the grace of God, all that it can be.

Legion of Mary. One great way to get involved in the parish, and to grow in devotion to Mary, is through membership in the Legion of Mary. The Legion has been a vital part of our parish almost since its founding. Sad to say, however, because of transfers, illness, and other factors, the membership has declined over the last few years to the point that we are in danger of having to close our parish praesidium.
The Legion, it is a world-wide organization, with a threefold purpose: 1) To make its members better Catholics and to mobilize the Catholic laity, 2) To raise the spiritual level of the entire community through direct contact with and interest in, every member and potential member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and 3) To accomplish this through Mary. The works undertaken by our parish praesidium include taking the St. Raymond’s bulletin and sacramentals/literature door-to-door within our parish boundaries, teaching CCD, taking the Pilgrim Virgin statue to parishioner homes, plus visiting our 150 Legion of Mary auxiliaries. If you would like to contribute toward this apostolic work, please contact Judy Mayer at 703-627-7320, or email jmayer9014@aol.com.

No Special Needs Collection. Every year on Mother’s Day we take a second collection for the “special needs” of the Parish. For years this collection has been designated to help pay off the parish debt. But this year, since you have paid off that debt, the question was raised, “What is our ‘special need’ this year?” Well, there are several things we could use the money for, but it occurred to me that, as a small token of respect and appreciation for what you have done in the past to pay off the debt, I will NOT TAKE UP THE COLLECTION this year. Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t need you to keep giving generously, just not an extra amount this week. Thanks again.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 3rd Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2019

3rd Sunday of Easter

May 5, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today’s first reading tells us how in the months following

the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus,

the Apostles were arrested for preaching the Gospel.

As I think about this, what strikes me most strongly about the apostles’ attitude,

after their abiding faith, is their amazing courage.

 

But their courage isn’t expressed in the way we usually think of it

–they didn’t pick up weapons and fight the soldiers,

or try to cleverly argue in the courts.

Instead we find that they went meekly before the Sanhedrin,

just as Christ meekly accepted His sentence

by the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate.

Like sheep led to the slaughter.

 

Now, when the situation required it, the apostle’s courage did lead them

to fight to defend themselves—not with swords, but with truth and wisdom.

In fact, in today’s Gospel they do a little of that, saying,

“We must listen to God, not men.”

But also see in the reading the greatest example of their courage as Christians

was becoming what Jesus called them to be:

like little children, or, as meek as lambs or sheep.

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells St. Peter to: “Feed” and “tend my sheep.”

It is as sheep that Christ calls us to follow Him.

And so it is that one of the earliest paintings of Christ

is found in the Roman catacombs of the Christian martyrs,

where He is pictured as a Shepherd carrying his little lamb on his shoulders.

 

To follow Christ is to be like Christ–to share His life.

And so today’s 2nd reading from the book of Revelation tells us of a vision

of those who are already in heaven, saved by “”the Lamb that was slain.”

So we see Christ as THE Lamb, the lamb of sacrifice.

Salvation comes only when Christ becomes a lamb before His heavenly father:

as we read the words of Isaiah on Good Friday:

“Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers,

he was silent and opened not his mouth.”

Hearing the voice of his Father and following it: “not my will, but yours be done.”

So by laying down His life as the Lamb of God,

Christ the Lamb becomes Christ the Shepherd.

As the book of Revelation goes on to say:

“the Lamb on the throne will shepherd them.”

 

To follow Christ, then, we must be like lambs or sheep,

in part because he is a lamb.

Sometimes we find it difficult to think of ourselves as sheep.

On the one hand, the idea of being gentle little lambs

that Jesus will always take care of is a comforting thought.

But what can disturb us is that sheep, generally speaking, are pretty stupid animals.

They follow their masters voice without question.

 

Now, Christ does not call us to be stupid:

in the garden of Gethsemane Christ was not being stupid.

Christ made a free intelligent choice,

a wise choice to hand over His will to His Father in love.

And Christ calls us to be like Him:

to intelligently and wisely choose to listen to Him and follow Him,

but to do so with absolute trust at every moment

and in every action of our lives.

 

But how do we know if we are truly following the voice of Christ the Shepherd?

In the book of Jeremiah God promised:

“I will give you shepherds after my own hearts.”

And Jesus did give us such shepherds,

Christ commissioned St. Peter to be a shepherd with Him, commanding Peter,

“Feed my sheep.”

And elsewhere Christ tells His apostles: “He who hears you, hears me.”

 

In Latin the word “shepherd” is “Pastor.”

And so from the earliest times

listening to the Shepherds or “Pastors” of the Church

has been the yardstick to measure whether a Christian

is hearing the voice of Christ the Shepherd, and following Him.

 

But it must be remembered that just as Christ the Shepherd is first the Lamb of God,

in a similar way pastors of the Church must first be lambs of Christ.

To be true shepherds of his flock–to feed  his sheep—

a priest must follow only him and listen only to his voice

and in turn be his voice to his sheep.

Just as he did, they must proclaim good news of the love and mercy of God,

the resurrection, and the promise of everlasting life.

But they must also proclaim the hard news,

including the hard sayings about the Cross,

repentance from sin and everlasting death.

 

And as the Pastors preach,

the sheep must hear the voice of Christ the Shepherd, and follow him.

 

We must receive his word like lambs:

not like the leaders of the Jews in today’s first reading,

that arrested Peter and the apostles,

or like the Romans who put Peter to death in Rome,

but like the saints in heaven, described in today’s second reading

who sang, “to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might,

forever and ever.”

and then, “fell down and worshiped.”

 

____

Now, this can sometimes present a problem:

sometimes different priests, and even bishops,

preach very different things from each other.

What’s happened here is that some pastors refuse to be lambs,

and follow the voice of Christ the Shepherd’s voice.

Instead, they listen to another voice:

perhaps the voice of their own pride or fear,

or perhaps the voice of popular ideas,

or even the voice of the Father of lies.

 

It’s unfortunate, but very often we have to ask the question,

which pastor do you believe?

To this I  can only say:

listen to the pastor who is repeating what Christ and his pastors

have always taught.

So we look to Sacred Scripture

which was inspired by the Holy Spirit

and written down by the human hands of the first pastors of the Church,

and to the Sacred Tradition that has constantly and officially taught

by their successors, especially the chief shepherds of the Church,

the successors of St. Peter, the popes.

 

But that’s not all we do.

We also, very importantly, listen to God in prayer,

never taking prayer as a new source of God’s revelation,

but asking the Christ the Shepherd to lead us

to an ever deeper understanding of the words He has given us

through Scripture, Tradition, and the preaching of our pastors.

Praying that we may be His sheep, listening to His voice and following Him.

And also in prayer, praying for our pastors, that they may also be His sheep,

before they try to be our shepherds.

 

____

From the earliest days of the Church the image of Christ the Shepherd

was precious to those who had to courageously sacrifice their lives

because they believed in Him.

As we approach the altar of sacrifice let us remember that to be our Shepherd,

Jesus first had to be the Lamb of God, “the Lamb who was slain” for us.

And let us remember that to be like Him, to share His life,

we must become lambs also:

laying down our lives, hearing His voice and following Him.