TEXT: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 14, 2019

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 14, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

For many people that may happen with today’s Gospel,

as Jesus tells us that “to inherit eternal life”, to go to heaven,

we must first,

“love the Lord, your God,

with all your heart,…[soul],…strength, and …mind,

and second, “…[love] your neighbor as yourself.”

 

At first glance, at least to many, Jesus seems to be giving 2 new moral laws

that sort of overrule the moral laws of the Old Testament,

in particular, the 10 Commandments.

But a more careful reading shows something very different.

Notice, it’s not Jesus who says “love the Lord your God with all your heart” etc,

it’s the other guy in the reading, the one called the “scholar of the law.”

And he does that in response to Jesus’ question: “what does the law say?”

 

And he is not a scholar of some supposedly NEW law of Jesus,

he’s a scholar of the OLD law of Moses:

he is an expert on the old moral code

that some people think Jesus is wiping out.

In fact, again, if we look a little closer

we see that the scholar is actually quoting the old law.

If we go back to the Old Testament

in chapters 5 and 6 of Deuteronomy and 19 of Leviticus

where the 10 commandments are actually listed and explained,

right at the end of those passages you find the very words

the scholar quotes to Jesus today:

“love the Lord, your God,

with all your heart,…[soul],…strength, and …mind.”

and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

In short, these 2 “great commandments of love” don’t override

the 10 commandments, they summarize them;

they don’t set love in opposition to the commandments,

but show that the commandments concretely define and explain

what love of God and love of neighbor actually require.

How can you love me, God says, if you worship other gods?

And how can you love your neighbor if you kill them?

 

So what seems at first to be a new law of love,

turns out to be a re-affirmation of the old law of law of love

called “the commandments.”

Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

 

But all this begs the question: who is my neighbor, that I’m supposed to love?

To some, in both Jesus’ time and our own,

the answer to this is not what it might at first seem.

In particular, some try to narrow down the definition of “neighbor”

to include only a few people they like.

Many of the Jews in Jesus’ time had great regard for people

like the priests and Levites, but couldn’t stand the Samaritans.

So Jesus points out, in effect:

“no, no, even the people you might otherwise despise are your neighbor.”

Or as he says elsewhere:

“You have heard that it was said,

‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

But I say to you, Love your enemies.”

 

Essentially Jesus makes it clear that your neighbor is…everyone.

And this is imbedded in the 10 commandments themselves:

notice, they say don’t say “you shall not steal from people you like,”

but simply “you shall not steal”—period.

 

On the other hand, some people effectively limit the definition of “neighbor”

to those who are strangers to us

—they like to think of their neighbor as the man

you find begging for money on the street,

or living in the aftermath of a hurricane or other natural disaster.

In some ways it’s easy to love those folks:

you hand them a 20, or you write them a check,

and you’re done with your duty to love your neighbor.

And then you can ignore

the guy sitting in the next desk at work,

whose life is a shambles after his wife left him;

or the kid in the next bunk at summer camp who no one will play with.

 

Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

 

Somehow it’s much easier to “love” our neighbor

when we can see them as an impersonal charity case

we can throw money at,

rather than a real person we know and have to live with.

 

The bottom line is that your neighbor is

whatever person Jesus brings into your life and says, “here, help him.”

 

____

But (again,) sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

 

In fact, first impressions of today’s parable lead many to think that

love of neighbor involves sort an egalitarianism:

that we should show no partiality or priority

in loving the different neighbors in our lives.

After all, in today’s parable the Jewish Jesus shows no partiality

to His fellow Jews, the priest and the levite:

it’s the non-Jew, the Samaritan, who He identifies as “neighbor.”

 

But here again, if we put this all into the context

of the way of love rooted in the commandments,

you get a different perspective:

there is a certain priority in who you are to love and how.

If you notice in the commandments, there’s a sort of a subtle shift

between the first three commandments and the next seven:

The first 3 are directly connected to loving God:

no false gods, no taking God’s name in vain, and rest on the Lord’s Day.

But the last seven are more directly about loving your neighbor:

do not kill your neighbor, etc.

And the very first of these 7 commandments about loving your neighbor

lays out a clear priority in loving,

as it tells us: “Honor you father and mother.”

 

Right there, Almightily God tells us, love your parents first:

these are the ones He brings to you

right from the beginning of your life and says,

“here, love them,

and learn from them how to love Me

and all your other neighbors.”

 

But the thing is, this isn’t just about loving our parents:

our parents are the beginning and root of the whole family:

from moms and dads come sons and daughters and brothers and sisters.

So that this commandment is also about the priority of loving your family,

and requires not only children honoring parents,

but also parents honoring their children,

and brothers and sisters, sons and daughters,

honoring, loving, each other.

 

Who is my neighbor that I must love?

First, Jesus says, love your family.

 

And yet, how often we fail to do that.

How often do families snipe at each other, or neglect each other?

How often do children think of some cultural figure as their hero or role-model,

and ignore the truly heroic efforts and great example

of their own parents?

How many times do brothers and sisters fight and argue with each other?

How many ways do parents find time to dedicate to some great charitable cause

and but have no time for the child God has personally entrusted to them?

How many times are husband or wives

too tired from helping out at school or church

to spend even a few minutes listening to their spouses’ problems

at the end of the day?

 

Unfortunately, all too often that’s the way it is with families.

And not just natural families.

By our baptism we have been given a share in Christ’s own life,

and so in everything He has–including his sonship.

As St. Paul says: “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God.”

 

So, then, as brothers and sisters in Christ we owe each other

a love that has a certain priority over others.

If Christians can’t love one another other as Christ has loved us,

how can we love unbelievers?

 

So, yes, we must love everyone

even if they hate us, or we find the way they think or act or believe

to be strange or even repugnant,

[even if they’re terrorists or Muslims or homosexuals],

we have to love everyone.

 

But loving begins with our families, and with our family of faith.

As St. Paul says:

“let us do good to all men,

and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Look around you: you, we, are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

And by the grace of God, I am your spiritual father, you my sons and daughters.

 

From all this, we can see that the love rooted in the commandments

is like a seed that blossoms into a beautiful rose bush:

in the context of “love,” “honoring” a parent or a child

means so much more than we might first think.

And so, Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.”

And He explained that the fulfillment of the law rests in this:

“no greater love has a man than this,

to lay down his life for his friends.”

And He personally did that by laying down His life on the Cross,

for love of us, His friends and his family,

and love for all the world: His neighbors.

 

_____

Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

Sometimes we think someone is not our neighbor,

and then we discover, yes they are.

Sometimes we think we’ve been loving our neighbor,

and then we discover, no we haven’t.

Sometimes we think other people are just strangers in a crowd,

and then we discover no, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

My dear neighbors, my dear sons and daughters in Christ,

as we kneel before the Lord who lays down His life for us in this Eucharist,

let us recognize and learn from His example of love:

the love of keeping His commandments, and the love of the Cross.

And as He comes to us in Holy Communion,

let us pray that the grace of this sacrament of the love of Jesus may

transform each of your families in His love,

unite all in this parish, and all Christians,

in the love of the one family of Christ, His Church,

and give each of us the courage to love everyone God brings

to us to care for, whether family, friend, foe or stranger.

 

And let us begin anew to dedicate our lives to our most high calling in Christ, to

“love the Lord, our God,

with all our hearts,…[souls],…strength, and …minds,

….and our neighbor as ourselves.”

TEXT: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 7, 2019

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 7, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Last Thursday we remembered July 4th, 1776,

Independence Day, the birthday of our Country.

And we rightly celebrated with cookouts, parades, speeches and fireworks.

It is a day of great national love and pride,

and mutual goodwill among Americans.

A day celebrating patriotism.

 

But not for everyone.

As one newspaper headline read: “American patriotism is at a record low,”

as it cited a new Gallup poll that shows dramatic decreases

when people are asked how proud they are to be American.

We see this same sentiment expressed by the actions

of some NFL players and members of the US Women’s Soccer team

during the playing of the national anthem.

And we see it when Nike cancels a line of shoes with the original American flag.

 

That may anger some of us, but is it wrong?

Does God command us to be patriotic?

The answer is, yes.

 

Jesus tells us that the 2 greatest commandments are

first, to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,

and second, to love your neighbor as yourself.

As St. Thomas Aquinas explains that our first neighbor is our family,

especially our parents,

but after that our second neighbor, so to speak,

is our country, or our “patria” in Latin, and our fellow countrymen.

 

So that the 2nd great commandment applies first to parents and family

and second to country and countrymen.

We see this specified, if you will, in the 4th commandment:

“Honor your father and mother.”

God gives you parents and family to love and care for you,

and in return calls you to love and care for them—to “honor” them.

And in the same way, God gives us our country and fellow countrymen

to love and care for us,

and so we in turn must love and care for our country and countrymen

—we must honor it and them.

 

So, for example, we read in today’s first reading:

“Thus says the LORD: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,

all you who love her…”

This is talking about the virtue of love of country:

Jerusalem stood for the whole country of Israel.

This is Patriotism.

And we see the same virtue in Jesus Himself.

Once when Jesus was going to Jerusalem, the gospels tell us:

“when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it,”

because He saw how Jerusalem would reject Him,

and how this would lead to her destruction at the hands of Rome.

Loving our neighbor demands love of patria, country.

 

___

Of course, the people in other countries are also our neighbors,

and God commands us to love them also.

But it’s a matter of priorities:

we should love and help the people next door,

but clearly before that we should take care of our families first:

it’s a simple rule, “charity begins at home.”

 

And it’s the same thing with patriotism.

We should love people in other countries,

but first we should love, honor and care for our country

and our countrymen,

and then love and help folks in other countries.

 

__

Now, some today say that this is wrongheaded.

Many would equate, or conflate, “patriotism

with what has been historically called “nationalism.”

Even good patriots do this

—use the term “nationalism

when I think what they really mean is “patriotism”.

I wish they wouldn’t confuse the two.

 

Because historically “nationalism” is different from patriotism,

in that historical nationalism would say

not, “America first,” but “American, first, last and only.”

Historical nationalism would even allow us to conquer foreign lands

just because we think our nation is better

and has a right to take whatever we wants.

That’s nationalism, and that is wrong—that is sinful.

 

Patriotism does not do that.

A Patriot would not say, “American, first, last and only,

but rather, “American first, but then everyone else is second,”

or better yet,

“God, first, family second, and America third…and everyone else fourth.”

 

__

Now, some might say, but Father, what about people who aren’t citizens,

maybe they’re law-abiding non-citizen residents,

but not technically “American”?

Well, perhaps the meaning of the term “fellow countryman” might include them,

but even if it doesn’t, then it would simply mean that after citizens,

these good people would come next in priority over all others.

 

But what about people who come to or remain in our country illegally

—don’t we owe them honor and love too?

Yes, of course!

But in order of nature and nature’s God,

our priorities are family, countrymen, and then others.

 

___

Now we have to be careful.

First, as I said, I wish people would stop using the term “nationalism”

when they mean “patriotism.”

 

But also, just as patriotism isn’t historical nationalism,

patriotism also isn’t historical “nativism

—“nativism” means placing priority on people who are born here,

or even who’s great-grandparents were born here,

so they’d been here for generations,

and that would exclude immigrants.

Patriotism, on the other hand,

extends priority to all who share the same commitment

to be part of the fabric of our country

—including those whom God has moved here from other countries,

immigrants,

and who are sincerely committed to patriotism.

 

And Patriotism also isn’t the same as loving the government per se,

but rather honoring the government to the extend it is part of the country

and at the service of the people of the country.

For example, we don’t honor the president because he’s in charge,

or even because we like him as a person,

but because he holds an office that is an important part of our country,

and even a symbol of our country as a whole.

 

____

The thing is, patriotism is not just an ideal,

but has a practical everyday application.

 

First of all, it means learning the history of our country, both the good and bad.

But like a family that embraces the good memories and works to fix the bad,

patriots celebrate the greatness in our history,

even as we learn from and work to overcome our failures.

But a patriot does not allow past failures to cause us to dishonor our country.

 

Patriotism also involves participation in the life of our nation.

This includes everything from

working productively in school or at a job,

to raising a good and healthy family,

to paying taxes.

But it especially involves participating in the public square,

including voting whenever there is an election,

and even campaigning for candidates who truly want the best for our country.

 

Patriotism also means defending our country.

So many of you have dedicated your lives, or part of your lives, to this,

taking up arms and uniforms for our country:

thank you for your service, you are true patriots.

But defending America also includes simply standing up and speaking out

for the good of our country,

not being silenced by the politically correct crowd,

but using your God-given and constitutionally protected

freedom of speech and assembly to publicly promote

what you believe is genuinely good for our country.

 

And patriotism means truly striving for the good of each other.

This means both providing opportunities

for everyone to provide for their own well-being,

primarily through just laws and a sound economic system,

but also providing necessities for those

who truly cannot provide for themselves.

 

And it means respecting each other in word and action.

Like a family, we can argue, we can even call each other names.

But also like a family, there are lines we know we should never cross,

words we should never use,

because we know that would be too much, that would be a dishonor.

Too often today our public discourse crosses those lines of respect and honor,

and as patriots we cannot condone this.

 

And Patriotism means honoring the symbols our country.

I have pictures of my family all over the rectory;

they are just images on paper,

but they remind me of my family and help me to honor and love them.

It’s the same thing with the symbols of America.

So, when the American flag passes or the National Anthem is played

it is important to be patriotic and honor America

by standing and maybe placing our hands over our hearts,

whatever the custom is.

When I look at a picture of my mother or father,

I don’t think of the times they might have been unjust or too harsh with me

—no, I focus on what made them so good, and the love between us.

 

So we don’t burn the American flag, but salute it.

And when we see the original American flag that has 13 stars

—the so called “Betsy Ross Flag”—

we shouldn’t choose to see it as a sign

of the injustices that were tolerated at our founding,

but as a sign of the great and noble ideals enshrined in the founding

–ideas like “all men are created equal”–

that have propelled us to work to overcome those errors.

 

______

To some today, it seems patriotism is a dirty word, or a sign of partisanship.

It is not.

Patriotism is an essential part of what it means to be a virtuous person,

and a true Christian.

And to fail to strive to be a patriot is to sin.

 

As we now enter more deeply into this Holy Mass, let us pray for America.

And let us pray that all who live in our great country may join together as patriots

to cherish and honor her for the good she has done,

and work together to correct her faults.

And as we receive Our Lord Jesus in Holy Communion,

may give us the grace to love our neighbor as we ought,

and increase in us the noble and necessary virtue of patriotism.

 

TEXT: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 30, 2019

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 30, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

This Thursday we celebrate the Fourth of July,

commemorating that great day in 1776

when our founders signed their names

to the Declaration of Independence,

giving birth to a new nation conceived in the radical notion that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator

with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty

and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

A very simple statement, but a very profound ideal.

 

A few years later, having won their War of Independence,

some of those same men, along with other patriots,

came up with a plan to make that ideal of a nation become a reality.

The Constitution they gave us began with the words stating their purpose:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to

form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,

ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,

promote the general Welfare,

and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

 

Both of these foundational documents set an ambitious plan for the new nation,

that has led us to become perhaps the greatest nation

the earth has ever seen.

And at the heart of this greatness is the one key ideal

enshrined in both documents: Liberty.

 

Liberty—a precious word, a noble ideal, a principle to fight and die for.

But with all that, what does it mean?

 

Does it mean freedom to do whatever you want?

Freedom from any constraints—legal, social, economic, moral or religious?

 

But how could a nation survive like that

—if everyone just did whatever they wanted?

 

And on the other hand, if we put constraints on freedom

how could we really live in liberty?

 

The answer is that some constraints, which seem at first to take away freedom,

actually enhance freedom.

So, while, for example, self-discipline

seems to be an act against freedom to do as you feel like,

in reality it allows you to control your irrational emotions and appetites

so that you can make a rational choice of what is best for you.

As St. Paul reminds us today:

“do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh;

….For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,

…these are opposed to each other,

so that you may not do what you want.”

 

It’s the same with all social disciplines—rules, laws, norms—

that help control passions and impulses

so that “we the people” can live together in

“a more perfect Union”, with “Justice,” and “domestic Tranquility,

and in all this “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

 

But all of this presupposes that we can all agree on basic principles,

that we share a fundamental set of common values

that help define and even limit the laws we enact to discipline ourselves.

 

And from the very beginning Americans have shared a common set of values.

And they begin with two principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

First: the idea that there are some “self-evident truths”

          –truths that we just know, that are obvious either at first sight,

or after careful rational consideration.

And second: that one of these self-evident truths is that there is a “Creator,” God,

who gives us not only certain unalienable rights,

but also gives us all the self-evident truths

that he writes into all creation: certain natural laws.

As the Declaration calls them, “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

 

So we begin with these 2 most fundamental American values,

and from them flow all sorts of other American values

about the way things ought to be.

 

But nowadays, people blush or even get angry

if you talk about God ordering things.

But there it is, right in beginning of our nation.

And without that idea that God determines what is right and wrong

—not kings or lords or congressmen or presidents or judges—

without that there never would have been an America,

and America couldn’t have grown to be the great nation it became.

 

And the thing is, right from the beginning it wasn’t just a vague notion of

“a supreme being” or “creator” or nameless-“god” out there somewhere

that America looked to for guidance.

It was the God that almost every American worshiped and believed in.

The God that George Washington spoke of in 1783,

when he wrote the Governors of the States as he disbanded his Army, about:

“the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion,

…without an humble imitation of whose example in these things,

we can never hope to be a happy nation.”

 

He was speaking of Jesus Christ, and the “blessed religion” he founded,

that we call “Christianity.”

 

At the same time, Washington knew

that many Christians disagreed on certain tenets of the faith:

Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists

—they each had their own unique ideas about certain things.

Nevertheless, he called for us to tolerate those differences,

while at the same time recognizing and building

our United States of America

on the fundamental values we all held in common,

what he called, “the pure spirit of Christianity.”

Let’s be clear—the differences are important,

but the point is, so are the basic Christian values held in common.

 

Nowadays the different Christian denominations and Churches

have a lot of radical differences in their teachings, especially about morals.

But that’s not the way it was in 1776.

All Christians shared basically the same set of fundamental moral beliefs.

And those Christian beliefs formed the fundamental Common “American values.”

 

____

Unfortunately, our founding was imperfect

—because while it was founded on solid Christian principles,

it was also founded by men.

As Virginia’s James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, No. 51,

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

 

So, for example,

while professing the basic Christian value “that all men are created equal,”

and holding that, as St. Paul says, “For freedom Christ set us free,”

the founders wound up tolerating a terrible exception to that norm:

slavery.

Eventually, it was devout Christians who organized the Abolitionist Movement.

But in the end the evil of slavery had to be cut out by force, by bloody Civil War.

As President Lincoln would admonish his fellow Americans, north and south,

after the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in that war:

“we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain

that this nation, under God,

                                      shall have a new birth of freedom

                             —and that government of the people, by the people,

for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

A nation under God, given a new birth in freedom,

but this time even more closely aligned to the fundamental Christian values

“of the people”—“American values.”

 

____

Sadly, today, most Americans have lost any sense

of our foundation on Christian values.

And so the question must be asked:

can a nation founded on Christian values

survive if it casts off those Christian values?

 

If it replaces those Christian values

with Secular Humanist, Marxist or Atheistic values?

Values based on the false notion of liberty

as a freedom to do whatever you want, or whatever you’re told.

Values not ordered by self-evident truths that God wrote into our very nature,

but in the dictates from relativistic laws and even lies

that change almost from day to day.

Values that allow our feelings and impulses to dominate our reason

and blind us to ignore “self-evident truths,”

and so enslave us to our base desires and ignorance.

 

As St. Paul reminds us:

“For freedom Christ set us free;

so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

How can the nation conceived in liberty survive

if the values that keep liberty from becoming chaos and slavery

are ignored or cast aside?

 

____

Yet some Americans continue to do just that.

For example, some argue passionately that so-called “gay marriage”

is a matter of equal rights.

But from since 1776, and for over 200 years, in the same way

Americans believed it was a self-evident truth that

God created us all equal in dignity and rights,

Americans also believed that it was a self-evident truth

that God also created men and women different in their bodies,

so that, by their nature, they could be joined together

in a union ordered toward producing and raising children

–a union they called “marriage,”

a union which self-evidently excludes homosexual couples.

 

It’s absurd to say that what almost all Americans have believed for 2 centuries

is somehow inconsistent with the values enshrined in the Constitution.

 

You can see the same thing with those who promote “transgenderism.”

The way you feel dictates how others have to treat you,

even if that directly contradicts the absolutely clear “self-evident truth”

that boys are boys and girls are girls.

 

Or think about all the rhetoric about a woman’s absolute “right to choose.”

But since modern science clearly tells us what most Americans have always known,

that an unborn baby is a human life,

how does a woman have an absolute right to kill that baby?

How does that work—what about the equal rights of the baby?

 

And consider religious liberty.

Today leading politicians try to argue that “freedom of religion”

is actually “freedom from religion.”

And Christians who hold the same basic moral values as our founders,

are called “haters,” “bigots,” and even “immoral” and “un-American.”

They’re even questioned as being suitable for public office,

especially judgeships: remember, “the dogma lives loud within you.”

 

I could go on, but I won’t.

 

____

How can this be in America?

Are these the values George Washington and Abraham Lincoln proclaimed?

Are these the values Frederick Douglas or Martin Luther King proclaimed?

Are these the values hundreds of thousands of Americans,

including so many of you in this church today,

have fought, sacrificed and even died for on battlefields around the world?

Are these the American values

that so many of you who are immigrants to our country

left home and family to pursue as you came to the “land of liberty”?

 

Yet it that’s where we are at today.

How can we survive this, especially if our Christian values are replaced by values

that directly contradict those Christian values?

We did that once, with slavery, when we tried to say

that mere human laws could redefine what it means to be a human.

For four score and seven years it ate at the fiber of our nation

until it almost destroyed it.

We can’t compromise the self-evident truth about the order that God created.

And we cannot maintain a nation that rose above all others

based on the common Christian values it embraced,

if we discard those values or embrace their opposites.

 

____

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July

we rightly thank God for the many gifts

he has bestowed upon our nation for these last 243 years.

But let us also pray for a renewal and rediscovery

of the fundamental American values

that for 2 centuries allowed us to use those gifts wisely

to become a truly great nation.

Values that are nothing less than the fundamental values of Christianity.

 

So that those values may, by the grace of Jesus Christ,

once again lead our nation to recognize the self-evident truths

written in nature by the God who created us all.

 

“For freedom Christ set us free;

so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

TEXT: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday June 16, 2019

Solemnity of th Most Holy Trinity

June 16, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity,

celebrating the most sublime mystery of our faith:

that God is One,

but also three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

We call it a “mystery” because

it is something that we would have never known

if God Himself hadn’t revealed it to us.

And it remains a “mystery” because

it’s something we will never fully understand

because its divine and infinite nature is so far above

our limited human intelligence and experience.

This doesn’t mean it’s irrational or imagined

—no more than brain surgery is irrational or imagined

simply because it isn’t understood by 99.999…% of humanity.

It just means it’s too big for our little brains to wrap around.

 

But, I also say it’s a “sublime” mystery

because it reveals something amazingly wonderful about God:

that He is a personal communion of three persons

sharing one life and one love.

So that at the heart of God’s very being…who He most truly is,

is this eternal, total, complete, mutual self-gift

between the three Divine Persons in love,

that is at the center of their absolute unity.

 

And I say it’s “the most” sublime mystery because it is really

the beginning of all meaning in life

and the end to which all life is directed: living in the love of God.

The Bible begins by telling us that we were created

in the image of God.

So that when Jesus reveals that God is a Trinity of Persons

we come to understand that human beings

are created in the image of this amazing Trinitarian love

in order to share in it, both on earth

—by loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength,

and loving each other—

and in heaven.

 

What a glorious Feast.

 

Today is also, of course, Father’s Day.

It’s great when this secular holiday

falls on the Catholic Holy Day of Trinity Sunday,

because the Trinity is really where Christians come to understand

the true and profound meaning of Fatherhood

Because, in a certain sense the Trinity is a Family:

first there is God the Father

—from whom the Son is eternally begotten,

and from whom, with the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds.

And today we remember that Divine familial relationship within God

and see that we are created to live and love in the image of God

most fundamentally in human families of father, mother and children.

 

Now some might say, there’s a problem with this: where’s God the Mother?

Well, first of all, we shouldn’t limit our understanding of the Fatherhood of God

to the human confines of human sexuality—male and female.

God is neither, male nor female,

so God’s “parenthood” is revealed in both Fatherhood and Motherhood,

although differently in each.

So that God can say in Scripture:

that he is [Deut]: “the God who gave you birth.”

and [Isaiah 66:13]: “As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you.”.

 

Even so, nowhere in Scripture does he identify as or call himself “mother”

—he constantly identifies Himself as “Father.”

There are many reasons why he does this.

Perhaps the most fundamental reason for calling himself by the masculine title

is that he calls his people by the feminine title: His “bride” or His “wife”!

This mystery of the divine bridegroom and his bride is full of rich meaning for us.

But at its core it teaches us of the depth and breadth and height

of God’s love for us,

and reveals how he intensely he loves us,

and how intensely we should love him: like spouses love each other.

And it also teaches us the dignity and rich possibilities

of the love of a husband and wife, father and mother,

as they share in and reflect in a fundamental and unique way

the love that is at the heart of the Trinity.

 

Still another reason God reveals himself as Father

is that it shows us in a powerful and irrefutable way

the essential importance and role of human fathers in human families.

If God is Father, how can any family be all it was created to be

without its own human father?

And how can human fathers think they’re not important to their families,

to their wives and children?

And how can families think that fathers are unimportant?

And how can society deny the societal importance of fatherhood?

 

And yet today, that is exactly what is happening.

In the America today,

more than 34% of all babies born are born to absentee fathers,

and 43% of children live in fatherless homes.

What would you expect when for 50 years so many forces in society,

including the Marxist-left, radical feminists, and LGBTQ activists,

have tried to convince us that fathers are not necessary to the family.

 

All this in spite of the fact that statistics show the devastating effects

of fatherless homes on society:

90% of homeless and runaway children

are from fatherless homes;

as are 71% of pregnant teenagers;

63% of youth suicides;

71% of high school dropouts;

and 85% of youths in prisons.

 

Fathers are absolutely important to their children—and to their wives.

The facts prove that

…and the revelation of the Fatherhood of God shows us why.

It’s because that’s the way God made us:

to share in the His mystery of the life and love of the Trinitarian Family,

by sharing in the mystery of the human family of

father, mother and children.

 

Does that mean that a family can’t survive and even flourish

without a father or a mother or even children?

Or does this demean heroic single mothers who are trying their best

to raise their children alone?

Or does it mean that there’s something wrong with children

who don’t have a father active in their lives?

Of course not, absolutely not.

 

But are we better off with only a mother and not a father?

We might as well ask are we better off with only one arm,

or with two arms and no legs?

In the same way, every family is way better off

if it functions as God designed it to: with both a mother and a father.

 

But not just any father.

The Fatherhood of God teaches us

that fathers are meant to be good fathers to their families.

 

Fatherhood has a dignity all its own, rooted in the dignity of God’s fatherhood.

But the Trinitarian mystery reveals

that the dignity of fatherhood always exists in relation

to the equal dignity of each member of the family:

God the Son (Jesus) is equal to God the Father,

even as Jesus is obedient to His Father.

And so, even as fathers and husbands lead their families,

they must always respect the dignity and importance

of each member of the family.

 

And at the core of this respect, at the core of being a good father,

is the same thing that’s at the core of the Trinitarian mystery: love.

To be a true father, as God created you, is to love.

And not to love as you feel like loving, but to love as God the Father loves.

 

And how does God the Father love?

Look around you: look at all you have,

your jobs, your houses, the sun shining outside,

your good health, and your wives and children.

God the Father gave you all that.

But then also look at every single beat of your heart,

and at every breath you take.

God also gives you those: he is always there, at every moment, caring for you.

 

That’s how a true father loves his children:

always there, always giving everything he can for the good of his children.

 

Now, note I said, “for the good of his children.”

We ask God for things all the time,

a lot of which he doesn’t give us because he loves us

and he knows it’s either it’s bad for us or he has something better in mind.

 

Human fathers have to do the same thing.

Sorry kids, but Dads, you should not give your children everything they want;

but you should strive to give them everything they really need,

and everything that you can that is truly good for them.

Is spoiling your children good for them? No!

Is letting them do whatever they want good for them? No!

Is never correcting them or discipling them good for them? No!

As Scripture tells us:

“the LORD disciplines those he loves,

as a father [disciplines] the son he delights in.”

 

That’s how God the Father loves, and that’s the way human fathers should love.

 

But we find the greatest way to understand the love of God the Father

in the words of Jesus on the night before he died:

“the father and I are one….

he who has seen me has seen the Father.”

We see what God the Son does, and we see how God the Father loves:

like Father, like Son.

And so we see the love of a good father as Christ sacrifices

everything on the Cross out of love for his bride and his children.

And we see that same love as he comes back to be with them in the resurrection,

and as He keeps His promise:

“I will not leave you orphans… Behold, I am with you always.”

 

_____

The Dogma of Most Holy Trinity,

is the most sublime mystery of our faith:

that God is One, but also three Divine Persons

sharing one life and one love.

In this time of social upheaval and attempts to corrupt family life,

and specifically the degradation of fatherhood and husband-hood,

this great mystery reveals and reminds us

of the absolute importance of fathers to God’s plan

for the good of the family and the salvation of mankind.

 

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

and are drawn more profoundly into

the Communion of life and love of God the Father, Son and Spirit,

let us beg the Blessed Trinity to shower graces on the families of the world,

and especially all fathers, and most especially our own fathers.

By the grace of this Most Blessed sacrament

may God the Father, through the sacrifice of God the Son,

and the working of the Holy Spirit

renew in us a profound respect for the twofold blessing we celebrate today:

the most sublime mystery of the Most Holy Trinity,

and the great dignity and importance of family and fatherhood.

 

TEXT: Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019

Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday

June 9, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

This last week our nation, in fact most of the world,

recalled that day 75 years ago when

155,000 American, British, French and other Allied troops

stormed the beaches of Normandy.

June 6, 1944: D-Day.

It was a glorious day, but it was also a terrible day.

Many of the companies in the first wave of the invasion

had a 90% or higher casualty rate.

Overall that day 10,000 allies, and 9,000 Germans, were killed or wounded.

And the survivors were scarred by the horrific memories forever.

 

Horrible.

But then you realize that most of those men knew

they had a good chance of dying that day.

But they went forward anyway.

Who would do that?

Who would jump out of a perfectly good plane

or leap out of a landing craft into crashing waves

in order to submit themselves

to a hail of bullets and bombs going off all around you?

You have to be either crazy, or enormously brave.

And they were NOT crazy.

They were in fact, some of the bravest men who ever lived.

It leaves us all standing in wonder, and reverence.

 

I think about that and I wonder if I would ever have that kind of courage.

If I could ever, not so much jump into a firestorm of bullets to defend my country,

but knowingly and willingly suffer a horrible death as a martyr

for Jesus, the church, and you.

 

I don’t know, I’m just not that brave.

In fact, most of us aren’t that brave.

 

___

But then I think of Pentecost.

And I look back at a bunch of frightened men and women who locked themselves

in an upstairs room, 2000 years ago.

They were very much afraid of being brutally tortured and killed,

but they didn’t have to go into battle, they could just choose to hide.

 

But then 50 days later these same men threw open the doors

and went into the crowds and proclaimed truth

that could subject them to automatic death from the authorities.

Of course I’m talking about the apostles and the other first disciples of Jesus

who were quivering cowards on  Good Friday

but were courageous preachers on Pentecost.

 

And the difference was the decent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

That, my friends, is what the Holy Spirit does.

It lifts up normal weak and frightened human beings

and makes them into heroic saints

with the courage to rush in where angels fear to tread.

 

This is the Holy Spirit that descended onto Church on Pentecost.

This is the Holy Spirit that descended on you in your baptism,

and strengthened you in a powerful way in your confirmation.

 

____

Would you be willing to storm the beach in Normandy?

Maybe some of you would,

I know a lot of you are, in fact, war heroes yourselves.

(Thank you for your service.)

But most of us couldn’t even dream of it.

And if you could storm the beach at Normandy for love of family and country,

would you be willing to suffer as much for Jesus and His Church?

Could you even simply stand up for the Church and Jesus

in the common things of everyday life?

 

Think of at that.

Do we have the courage to live the Christian life every day,

even if we’re not threatened with martyrdom or direct physical harm?

Maybe you’re tempted to sin–do have the courage to say no?

Or maybe someone at work or school is insulting the faith,

or even blaspheming Jesus Himself

—do you have the courage to simply disagree?

 

You may be afraid, but the thing is, we don’t have to do this on our own.

The Holy Spirit dwells inside of all the baptized,

in the fullness of His strength with all the confirmed.

We have same power of the Holy Spirit

that enabled Peter to go from denying Jesus on Good Friday to

throwing open the doors on Pentecost to preach to folks who wanted him dead!

That power is inside of you.

And as amazing as it sounds, and with all due respect and deference,

that power is greater than it took to be a hero on D-Day.

 

____

This is the power of God that can and does intervene, even dramatically,

in the life of every Christian—going back to the life of Christ Himself.

For example, think back to the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

How Jesus, in his humanity, was so overcome by fear and sorrow

as he could see not only the terrible physical suffering coming,

but also how it would be wasted for so many who would reject his salvation.

He was so overwhelmed that Scripture tells us he actually sweat blood

and asked His Father to find another way.

But then he concluded, “not my will but your will be done,”

and got up resolute and peaceful

and endured scourging, mocking, spittle, a crown of thorns,

carrying the cross up the hill,

and gasping for air, bleeding to death, hanging on the cross.

 

Imagine the courage that it took to do the that.

Even greater courage than landing on Omaha Beach

—there at least you had a chance of survival.

But it wasn’t simply human courage that led Jesus forward:

it was human and divine courage the came together

in the one person of Jesus, God the Son.

The Power of God.

 

And it didn’t stop there: think how even death couldn’t defeat His divine power,

so that on the third day he rose again breaking the bonds of death forever.

 

This is the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus and His Father.

This is the power that came to the Church that first Pentecost

in a dramatic way:

the upper room was filled with a loud wind and tongues of fire

and they were filled with courage to throw open the doors.

And this is the power that came to you in baptism and confirmation.

The power that remains in the church and in the faithful every day.

 

_____

This power has been shown in many ways throughout the history of the church,

in large and small ways, dramatic and subtle ways.

Today you look up on that wall and you see a dramatic example of that power

—that took place actually on another beach.

We remember how St. Raymond of Peñafort,

had traveled to the Island of Majorca with the King of Spain

to preach to the Muslims

but soon discovered the King had brought his mistress along.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, St. Raymond

courageously chastised the King for his adultery,

and stormed out to go back to Spain.

And when the King closed all the ships in the port to him,

Raymond, filled with confidence in the power of Jesus Christ,

he went down to the beach, said a prayer, made the sign of the cross,

and stepped on one end of his great black cape,

which became filled with wind like the wind of Pentecost,

and he sailed across the sea 160 miles back to Spain.

That was not human courage,

that was the power of the Holy Spirit, that not only filled his cape with wind,

but filled his heart with confidence and courage

enabling St. Raymond to step out on the water and not look down or back.

That painting will always remind us not only of the holiness of our great patron,

but also of the power of God, the power of the Holy Spirit,

acting in each and every Christian life.

 

____

And of course we need that power very much today.

We know there are huge problems in the church.

We are in great need of courageous and faithful leaders.

And we are equally in need of courageous and faithful followers,

who are willing, by the power of the Holy Spirit,,

to stand up in charity and respect to speak and demand the truth.

And to support those leaders, who also filled with the Holy Spirit,

truly seek to renew the Church of Jesus Christ.

Not by tearing down the church, and not by building a new church,

but by cleaning out filth that has been accumulated

by those who have not been open to the Holy Spirit, but to the evil spirit.

 

There are, of course, lots of obstacles to this.

It seems we’re talking on an impossible task.

But think back to the apostles: at the beginning of that first Pentecost day

they led only a couple of hundred Christians.

By the end of the day there were 3000 more, and now there are two 2 billion.

Not to mention all those who have gone before us in the faith in the last 2000 years.

 

Yes I know today the problems seemed insurmountable,

and the power of the evil one seems unstoppable.

But imagine you’re soldier about to land in Omaha Beach in 1944.

What could you do against the power of the mighty German Wehrmacht

manipulated by the evil Adolph Hitler.?

But in the end, in spite of many casualties, the victory was theirs.

 

But it was not theirs alone—God was on their side.

Now, last week I watched a few of the great movies about D-Day.

One of those movies was “The Longest Day,”

a movie with every heroic actor from the 1950s and 60s.

And in two separate scenes

an American General and a German general

both say to their subordinates, “I wonder whose side God is on.”

As parochial as it may sound, God was definitely on our side.

Just think about all the things it had to go right for us, and wrong for them.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise because we were fighting to end the tyranny of

a homicidal genocidal tyrant who was taking over the world.

 

And God is clearly on our side today, yours and mine.

By the action of the Holy Spirit, He can and will give us courage and wisdom,

to truly purify and renew His Holy Church.

 

____

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

let us recognize the power of God made manifest on this altar,

as by the command of Jesus and the action of His Holy Spirit

the bread and wine are transformed into the true Body and Blood of Jesus.

And as you receive His Body, may it strengthened and renew

that divine power within us,

power made manifest in the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost,

power made manifest in the course of human history,

and power made manifest in at every moment

in the everyday lives of every Christian.