TEXT: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 27, 2019

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 27, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

I assume most of you have heard by now, that a week or so ago

the pastor of St. Andrew’s parish was removed from his ministry

after confessing to having sexual contact with a minor 25 years ago.

It was a sad day for the diocese,

especially for many of us who know that pastor well.

 

But the Bishop did the right thing, following the protocol strictly.

Even though the abuse happened only one time, and was so long ago,

we need to take this very seriously,

not only to see justice done for the past,

but to strive to assure that all of our children are always protected.

We must protect our children.

 

It’s strange, though.

I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken advocate

not only for strictly punishing priests found guilty of abusing children,

but also punishing Bishops who have covered up for those priests.

But now a friend of mine has confessed.

I never would have dreamt it,

having always known him to be such a good man and priest.

Yet he confessed it.

 

So, I will pray for him, and may God have mercy on him,

but get him out of ministry and let justice be meted out to him as he deserves.

 

A hard thing.

But necessary.

 

Because we must protect our children, especially from this kind of corruption.

After all, does not the First reading tell us today that the Lord,

“hears the cry of the oppressed….

The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan…

The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds…”

 

And doesn’t Jesus Himself tell us elsewhere,

“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck

and he were cast into the sea

than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”
We must protect our children.

 

But as I thought about all this over the last few days,

(and the severe but necessary response),

it came to me:

“if that is the case, and it is, why don’t we protect our children

from others in authority who seek to harm them.”

We generally do this, but there are some glaring and incomprehensible examples

of where we don’t.

Where we not only let, but even enable, and empower,

people to abuse our children, and brag about it.

 

I want you to think about this with me.

What greater abuse is there than killing a child, especially a very young child?

And yet, how many Americans, how many Catholics, how many of us,

have willingly voted for men and women who tell us

they think it’s a good thing to kill the youngest most innocent of children

—babies, before they’re born.

 

Some say, but it’s the mother’s choice, and it’s not our baby.

But would we say the same thing about a priest abusing a child?

Even if he or she was a teenager and “consented” in some way

—it doesn’t matter, we still throw the book at the adult predator.

Why?

Because they use their own power over the victim,

whom we deem to vulnerable and not completely capable

of making an informed choice.

What is the difference between that and a doctor or even a mother

exercising the power they have over the unborn child,

who is also vulnerable and clearly unable to make a choice in the matter?

 

How is that not abuse of children!?

 

And another example.

For the last 3 or 4 years we’ve been struggling with folks who

instead of helping a boy or girl get over any confusion about their gender,

(instead they ) say that it’s good to promote that transgender confusion,

and even to go so far as to give them drugs

that will cause permanent damage,

or even to mutilate their bodies with surgery

that will only change a few outward appearances,

but not the fundamental biological life-long reality

that boys are boys and girls are girls.

 

And when another child objects, or is traumatized by even the thought

that they have to share a restroom or locker room

with a member of the opposite sex,

they are told that the they are intolerant, and they need to change,

that there is something wrong with their thinking,

not the thinking of the transgender students.

 

How is all this not abuse of children!?

 

And when you say, but wait a minute, how about the mother

when she objects to any of this, what about her choice about her child?

No, now they say the mother, and father, has no role here

—school officials know better.

 

And yet, how many Virginians, how many residents of Fairfax County,

how many Catholics, how many of us,

have willingly voted for men and women who

support, embrace and promote the confusion and mutilation of children?

 

____

And another example.

What about officials who say parents can’t be trusted to pass on moral values,

even how a family should live, not to mention how society should function.

And so they develop their own “family life education” that teaches the kids

“family values” that run directly contrary

to what their own family actually does value.

Hey, teens are gonna have pre-marital sex, nothing wrong with that.

And here’s how you contracept.

And there’s nothing wrong with same-sex acts, maybe you out to think about it.

And let’s study history and literature so we can point out all the bigots in the past

who thought that homosexuality was a bad

—you know, bigots, like your ancestors, even you grandparents,

even…. your mom and dad.

 

How is this not also a form of child abuse?

Different and more subtle that some other forms, but nevertheless, abuse.

Our children, our vulnerable, impressionable, innocent children.

 

And yet, we vote for them.

 

____

Now, some may object to me comparing pro-abortion and pro-LGBTQ politicians

to people who sexually abuse children.

And, honestly, I hesitate to do so.

Because there is way too much rancor in public discourse today,

way too much over the top language thrown around.

I know—I’ve been called a bigot more times than I can count.

 

But, in this case, I don’t know what else to say.

What is worse, the sexual abuse of a teen, or the killing of an unborn baby?

The inappropriate touching of a young body, or the mutilation of a young body?

The psychological damage done to a child by a sexual predator,

or the psychological damage done to a child by a LGBTQ activist?

 

Its’ abuse.

And as with all abuse of children, I can not be silent.

And I must protect my children from it.

Because if I don’t, how can I stand before God, the Just Judge,

and say in the words of St. Paul today,

I have competed well; I have finished the race;

I have kept the faith.

 

____

Now, I will give these politicians the benefit of the doubt.

I will assume that they are confused,

and that they genuinely think they are doing the right thing.

We cannot not judge their hearts,

but we have to protect children from their actions.

Because the thing is, even if politicians don’t realize what they’re doing is wrong,

it IS STILL WRONG.

 

And like a bishop who covers up for an abusive priest,

or moves him around from parish to parish,

voters are the ones who are enabling these politicians

to continue their abuse.

 

So when I say that there is almost no way a Catholic can vote for a candidate

who is pro-abortion, or pro-transgender, or pro-gay marriage,

I’m not denying that these candidates might be

otherwise well-meaning or talented people with a lot of good ideas.

And I’m not condemning them to hell.

I’m just saying, like I say about abusive priests

who might otherwise be very kind and well respected:

FIRST, PROTECT OUR CHILDREN.

 

____

Nine days from now Virginias go to the polls to elect state and local officials,

especially our own local state delegates

and 4 members of the Fairfax County School Board.

I can’t tell you the names of people to vote for.

And when you get into the voting booth

not only will the ballot not tell you

“this candidate for delegate is pro-abortion”

or “this candidate for School Board is pro-transgender theory,”

in many cases the ballot won’t even tell you what party they belong to.

So you have to find out before you go into the booth.

There are many voter guides out there—check them out.

Or ask you friends—ask someone here after Mass.

But find out.

 

And don’t assume anything.

For example, after the last election a member of our immigrant community

came to me in tears telling me all her friends and family

voted for another member of their ethnic group,

assuming they had the same values.

But when it came time for them to govern, their values were radically different,

as the elected official promoted a radical pro-abortion agenda.

 

Do not assume—find out.

 

____

In today’s gospel Jesus tells the story of the prideful Pharisee

who stood in the front of the temple and prayed,

“O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity.”

I confess, that when I hear of a priest committing child abuse,

I do sometimes think something similar:

“thank God I don’t commit that sin.”

But believe me, I know that I am a sinner in my own ways,

and pray every day, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

 

Today, do not be prideful like the Pharisee,

but rather humble yourself like the tax collector.

Do not judge the hearts of others, but do consider their actions.

And consider your own sins.

Especially sins committed by not voting at all, or by voting badly.

And resolve with me today

to protect our children from all who would abuse them.

TEXT: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 20, 2019

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 20, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

It is an abiding truth

that in times of great turmoil, distress or fear

human beings everywhere are able find one great consolation:

faith in God.

As St. Paul says in today’s 2nd reading:

“Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed.”

But faith would be of very little comfort for most of us

if it were simply a matter of having faith in facts and dogma

          that we’ve learned.

Because as St. Paul goes on to say, faith—true faith—is faith in a person:

“faith in Jesus Christ”

 

Essentially faith is a response to the Divine persons

who reveal themselves to us.

All throughout Scripture God tells us: “I am here for you”,

and we respond by saying: “I believe in you.”

It is, in other words, a relationship.

God reveals Himself, and we respond with faith in what and who He reveals…

and we enter a relationship.

 

Now the key to every relationship is continuing communication.

Married couples know all about this.

If you want your marriage to work you have to communicate, you have to talk.

And communication doesn’t stop with the husband and wife:

all the members of the family have to talk to each other

if they’re going to know and really love each other.

So parents and children, brothers and sisters all have to communicate.

 

God is our Father, Christ is Brother and the Bridegroom of the Church,

and Mary is our Mother, and the Saints our brothers and sisters.

How do we communicate in our relationship with God, and with the saints?

The most fundamental way is through prayer.

As St. Luke tells us in today’s Gospel,:

“Jesus told His disciples a parable

about the necessity for them to pray always

                   without becoming weary.”

He then goes on to portray a worst case scenario of the nagging widow,

who talks—or praystoo much.

But at least she says something!

And she gets what she wants!

 

Sometimes people ask me to teach them how to pray, and what to pray.

There are lots of ways of praying, but there are basically 2 kinds of prayer

that most of us can normally experience:

vocal prayer and mental prayer, or meditation.

Vocal prayer is the recitation of prayers written by others:

formula prayers, like the Our Father, Hail Mary, the prayers of Mass.

This can be either out loud or silently—it’s still called “vocal.”

Mental prayer is the prayer in which we depend

not so much on the words of formula,

but on the ideas and affections of the mind.

What we usually do, is either focus on Jesus

and just talk to Him in our own words, or just in the silence of our hearts, and try to listen to Him.

Or we focus on a certain pious idea,

maybe some event in Jesus’ life, or an aspect of His love, whatever,

and we think about it—meditate about it—

in the presence of God, asking Him to either help us understand it,

or using it to help us understand God.

 

Now, all of this can be rather confusing,

and I could talk all day about methods and levels of prayer,

but instead I’m going to teach you a great shortcut to learning how to pray.

That shortcut is simple: praying the Rosary.

 

I say this, first of all, because the Rosary can be said

as either a vocal prayer, or as a meditative prayer

—and it can teach us how to do both well.

When we pray it as mainly a vocal prayer we remember

that it contains three of the greatest prayers we know:

the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be.

All of these are given to us, for the most part, in Sacred Scripture:

they are the words of Jesus, or an angel or a saint,

and all of them inspired by the Holy Spirit.

 

Some complain that the Rosary can quickly become dry:

but that’s hard to believe when we consider

the passion that the great Masters of prayer

from St. Teresa of Avila to Pope John Paul II

have had for the Rosary.

What usually makes vocal prayer seem dry is usually one of three things:

first, maybe our heart’s not in it

–we have a weak attitude, we don’t want to pray;

or maybe we’re taking the familiar words for granted,

and just racing through them.

or maybe we’re simply distracted,

which is the main problem with all prayer.

 

Here’s a suggestion on how to tackle all three problems:

take your time and think about the words you’re saying.

The prayers of the Rosary, like so many vocal prayers, are really beautiful.

For example the Our Father.

I mean, this is the prayer of Jesus:

this is how He taught us to pray: the perfect prayer.

The words are profound,

each line a rich treasure chest of knowledge and devotion.

Instead of racing through the Rosary—or any prayer—

we might simply slow down, thinking about the words,

remembering that we are really talking to God,

or in the case of the Hail Mary, to the blessed Mother.

 

Some get upset about “preset formulas”

and complain that they take away the spontaneity

and freedom of expression.

But the preset formula isn’t meant to take away our freedom,

but to help us to be free to really pray:

freeing us from having to re-invent the wheel every time,

freeing us from spending most of our prayer-time

distracted by trying to figure out what to say.

Instead with the Rosary we have the best words possible

—and we simply make them our own.

 

Now the central prayer of the Rosary is the Hail Mary.

So in one sense we can see the Rosary

as a particular conversation with the Blessed Mother.

We remember that she is the Mother of Christ and our Mother:

she is Christ’s gift to us, and she loves us.

So, resting in the comfort and peace of the arms of our heavenly Mother,

we ask her to pray for us, to help us her children.

 

But the prayer doesn’t stop there.

You notice that these prayers are repeated, over and over.

The reason we repeat prayers is two-fold.

First, so that we can think about them.

Sometimes, when we’re really thinking about the words,

we’ll sort of focus on one word or phrase:

so when I’m saying the Hail Mary maybe the idea of

“Blessed are thou among women”

sticks in my head and I’m still thinking about it

as I finish the rest of the words.

Then maybe the second time I say it the words “full of grace” may strike me

and stay with me as I finish the prayer.

Then the third time something else.

It’s like a rich jewel, that we can turn around and look at the different facets,

see it from different angles, and discover wonderful things.

 

The second reason we repeat prayers can be much more important, though:

it helps us fight distractions

For one thing, it helps us focus our prayer,

we can keep our minds, over and over again,

on these same words, on these same ideas.

And for another, we can sort of develop a certain rhythm,

making it easier to simply ignore distractions.

Have you ever been in a church, even this church,

when Gregorian chant was being sung in the background.

The Hail Mary’s can be like that:

a background hymn that calms us and focuses us on Mary

and “the fruit of her womb, Jesus”.

 

And this leads us to our second kind of prayer: Mental prayer or meditation,

as we begin to realize that the Rosary is not simply a Marian devotion:

it is a truly Christ-centered devotion.

Because the Rosary is divided into 15—or 20—“mysteries”

  • events in Christ’s life that we’re supposed to meditate on

—to think about and pray about as we pray the Hail Mary’s.

So that as we sit with our Blessed Mother we ask her to help us pray

—we ask the one who sees the details that only a mother would notice

—we ask her, our Mother to show us, to teach us about her Son Jesus.

In her presence and under her instruction we focus on and meditate

on the events of the life of Christ,

as the Hail Mary’s are there to calm us

and place us in her presence.

Pretty soon you’re not thinking simply about the particular prayer,

but about Jesus and only Jesus and His life, death and resurrection.

 

____

Now, obviously, there are various ways you can pray the Rosary.

You might say, “I never pray the Rosary like that.”

Okay, maybe you find yourself somewhere in between these 2 types of Rosaries

–this deeply meditative Rosary and the simple vocal prayer to Mary.

That’s fine, but in this you can discover the depth and breadth of how to pray.

 

And maybe you don’t even say the simple vocal prayers well:

maybe you say the Rosary on your way to work,

and there’re lots of distractions.

–maybe you get half way through

and realize you haven’t even been paying real attention to it.

You know what: that’s okay too.

It’s not the best way to pray, but by that simple repetitive prayer

you’ve done something most people don’t:

you’ve made God,

the mysteries of his life,

and the presence and love of his Mother

a part of your life.

You have made you faith come alive by living with and talking with

our heavenly family.

 

____

The first reading today tells us:

“In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.”

In these days a lot of folks seem to be coming to wage war against us.

But Scripture goes on to tell us:

As long as Moses kept his hands raised up,

                   Israel had the better of the fight,

                   but when he let his hands rest,

Amalek had the better of the fight.

…[So] Aaron and Hur supported his hands….”

Moses wasn’t raising his hands simply to be seen better by the Israelites:

he was raising his hands in the classic Hebrew form of prayer

—like the priest at Mass.

In other words, as long as Moses prayed his people won the battle.

 

You don’t normally raise your hands in prayer, like Moses did

–in fact, at Mass only the priest is supposed to do that

—but we do have to keep our hearts raised in prayer.

Because if we don’t pray always, if we don’t constantly talk to God,

we can never be close to Him,

we can never know His strength and consolation.

 

Sometimes it becomes difficult to pray,

we become weary or distracted or unsure of our prayer,

We may not have Aaron and Hur around to help us, like Moses did

–but we do have the Blessed Mother.

 

_____

If you ask me if you have to pray, I’ll say

“only if you want that faith you profess

to be in Jesus Christ as a person

                   whom you can really know, understand and love;

only if you want to find strength and consolation in this world

and perfect happiness in the next.”

If you ask me how often you have to pray,

I’ll tell you “pray always without becoming weary.”

If you ask me how to pray, I’ll tell you “begin by praying the Rosary.”

TEXT: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 13, 2019

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today’s Gospel tells us a story of gratitude and ingratitude.

Jesus cures 10 lepers, but for some reason

only one—the foreigner, the Samaritan—comes back to thank Him.

So Jesus says:

“Ten were cleansed, were they not?

Where are the other nine?

Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

 

This seems a pretty natural question till you stop and think about it:

why does Jesus criticize the other 9

who probably went on to the temple to show themselves to the priest

just like Jesus told them to,

and in doing so they probably also gave thanks to God?
The thing is, Jesus is trying to make several important points.

 

First, He’s saying that it is He, Jesus,

who is both the God who cured them

and the God to whom they should come to give thanks.

But He also makes a second point

—one that the leper probably didn’t understand,

but one that was not lost on the apostles,

at least as they looked back on it later.

He’s saying not only is He God,

but He is also the new priest that they should come to.

He’s the priest of the new covenant because He offers the new sacrifice,

His sacrifice on the Cross,

that saves them not merely from leprosy, but from every evil,

and offers them new and eternal life.

The new priest who gave His Church a means

to continue to come to Him and share in His sacrifice

as He took bread and wine and said to His apostles:

“this is my body given up for you…”

“this is the cup of my blood,

the blood of the new covenant.”

 

All this wasn’t lost on the apostles and the early Church:

they clearly saw that Christ had used this powerful miracle

to teach us the necessity of appreciating

the life-giving power of His Cross and the Eucharist.

And so St. Luke makes the point to record in his Gospel

that the Samaritan

“fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him,”

and that Jesus said:

“none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God”

But of course in his original Greek text

St. Luke used the Greek word for “thanksgiving”

which is “Euchariston”

in a not so subtle way of pointing out that this whole miracle

points to thanksgiving for the “Euchariston”—the Eucharist.

 

____

Today, polls tell us that 72% of Catholics don’t believe

in the true meaning of the Eucharist:

that it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ,

and a re-presentation of the one salvific sacrifice of the Cross.

Not quite 9 out of 10, like with the lepers,

but I imagine if we threw in those who

fail to truly be grateful for this gift,

to receive Him reverently and with sincere faith in Holy Communion

we’d easily  be out to be at 9 out of 10.

 

Jesus told the Samaritan that his faith in Jesus saved him.

But Catholics, myself included,

repeatedly fail to have faith in Jesus and His words

that “this is my body.”

And even when we believe, how often do fail to imitate the Samaritan

and come to Jesus to thank Him for this miracle.

 

Most of the time our failures are slight

and we recover quickly to reverence and faith.

But sometimes our failure leads to neglecting the Eucharist,

and even to sacrilegious behavior.

It’s even led some to view receiving Holy Communion

as a “right” that no one can deny you:

to a mentality that once you’ve been baptized a Catholic,

it doesn’t matter what you do or say,

you can always receive Communion.

 

Now, it is true that there is an immediate and direct connection

between Baptism and Eucharist.

We see this in today’s readings—particularly the 1st reading and the Gospel,

in the stories of the healing of the lepers.

The sacramental symbolism is vivid.

The cleansing of the leprosy is the washing away of sins in Baptism.

Naaman plunges 7 times into the waters of the Jordan:

7 being symbolic of the seven sacraments opened to us through baptism

and the Jordan being the river of Jesus’ own baptism,

pointing to Jesus Himself as the one who “cleanses” the lepers

—just as it is Christ Himself who cleanses us

in the waters of baptism.

And finally, once cleansed they offer thanks to God:

Naaman by offering sacrifice a to God,

the Samaritan in the Gospel by coming to Jesus,

again, pointing to the sacrifice of Jesus

which we call the “thanksgiving”

–to the Eucharist.

 

So we see the direct connection between Baptism and the Eucharist:

the cleansing of Baptism prepares us for the Eucharist,

 

And while Baptism does give birth to a right to receive Communion,

it is not an absolute right:

some forget that we have to keep our baptismal purity

if we are going to come to Jesus in the Eucharist.

How utterly perverse it would have been if the leper had been cured,

but then had willfully re-contracted leprosy,

and then returned to Jesus.

 

Grave or mortal sin is a choice to return to being spiritual lepers,

and so makes giving thanks to Jesus non-sensical.

So then how can a baptized Catholic in the state of mortal sin

expect to receive Holy Communion?

As St. Paul sternly warns us elsewhere in scripture:

“Whoever…eats the bread or drinks the cup …in an unworthy manner

will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.

Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

So it has been the constant teaching of the Church

that if a baptized Catholic commits a “grave” or “mortal” sin,

  • a sin that cuts us off from God’s eternal life—

he cannot receive Holy Communion

until he has been cleansed of that sin and so restored to God’s life

by the absolution of the sacrament of penance,

which the early Church Fathers said was “like a second baptism.”

 

___

Now, the Church doesn’t want to be the “mortal sin police,”

publicly denying Communion to all sorts of people.

Even if we did, priests don’t usually know who has unconfessed mortal sins.

The only “mortal sin police” in that case is you policing yourself:

“Let a man examine himself,” as St. Paul says.

So before Communion, each Catholic must examine himself,

and if you have a mortal sin that you have not gone to confession for

you must deny yourself communion.

 

But not all sins work that way.

Some sins are so public and clearly grave,

that they require some sort of public repentance

before the sinner can be given Communion.

So the law of the Church explicitly provides:

“Those …who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin,

are not to be admitted to Holy Communion”

Notice, it doesn’t say they “shouldn’t go” to Communion,

it says they “are not to be admitted.”

In other words, the burden of denying Communion shifts from the individual self

to the priest:

the priest is forbidden to give Communion in these cases.

 

Now, the “rule” here isn’t so much to punish the sinner,

          as it is mainly meant for the good of the rest of us.

Because if someone who stubbornly persists in publicly committing mortal sins

and then receives Holy Communion,

other good people might start to think those mortal sins

weren’t so mortal after all.

And these same good people

might start to think the Church doesn’t really mean

all those wonderful things it says about the Eucharist.

 

This is what we call the “sin of scandal

—confusing people about what is true or false, right or wrong.

 

So for the good of the innocent,

no one, no priest, deacon or extraordinary minister

—not even a bishop or cardinal—

is ever allowed to give Holy Communion to

“Those …who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin…”

 

____

This month of October is “Respect Life Month.”

This reminds us that of a common example of a manifest public grave sinner,

the Catholic pro-abortion politician.

These politicians often claim that Catholic Baptism gives them

an absolute right to receive Communion.

They are terribly confused.

 

Let us be clear: as Pope St. John Paul wrote in Evangelium Vitae:

“direct abortion…always constitutes a grave moral disorder,

since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.”

So it is clear that Catholic politicians who publicly support

the so-called right to abortion

are in fact “obstinately persist[ing] in manifest grave sin,”

and “are not to be admitted to Holy Communion”

The tradition and the law are clear, and the Popes have been clear.

There is no doubt.

 

___

Now, the question has also come up

about ordinary Catholics who simply vote for pro-abortion politicians.

No one knows who you voted for, and even if you tell people,

it almost never becomes well known.

So normally these folks cannot be called public sinners

so a priest can’t deny them Communion.

 

But is voting for a pro-abort, nevertheless, still a mortal sin

that would require that the voter deny himself Communion?

 

First, it’s clear that it is definitely a mortal sin to vote for a candidate

specifically because he’s pro-abortion.

 

But what if a pro-life Catholic

votes for a pro-abortion candidate instead of a pro-life candidate

for some reason other than abortion?

For example, if a Catholic voter votes for a pro-abort because he’ll do a better job

in providing health care, or caring for the poor, or dealing with immigration?

 

The only time this would be in any way morally permissible,

is if there were what the Church calls “proportionate [grave] reasons.”

In other words, the second issue, or issues,

would have to be objectively just as important and grave and widespread

as abortion.

 

Think about this: it has to be objective: not based on feelings, or irrational fear.

 

And it must be equally grave:

but what could be equally as terrible as killing a little baby?

The economy? Universal health care? Immigration?

—I can’t even begin to see that.

 

And it has to be just as widespread:

an average of over 1.3 million babies have been aborted in America

every year since 1973!

What other thing this equivalent evil is that widespread?

 

Now, maybe, if a pro-life candidate

came out in favor of the nuclear annihilation of Iran.

Or if a candidate opposed killing unborn babies in abortion

but supported the killing of illegal immigrants when we catch them.

Okay, in my opinion, those would be proportionate to abortion

and you might morally vote for a pro-abort over the pro-lifer.

But in reality, nothing like that is at issue in any elections today.

 

___

In short, voting for or supporting a pro-abortion candidate

instead of a pro-life candidate

is almost always a mortal sin,

and anyone who commits this sin

must deny themselves Holy Communion

until they have repented and been cleansed

by the grace of sacramental of confession.

 

____

Some wonder why the bishops aren’t enforcing these “laws” more clearly.

Maybe it’s because they’re afraid of suffering your negative reaction.

I know I am.

But in today’s Gospel Jesus says:

“Go show yourselves to the priests.”

And as St. Paul tells us in the second reading:

“such is [the] gospel, for which I am suffering,

even to the point of chains….

But the word of God is not chained.”

For a priest–or anyone else–to deny the Church’s constant teaching by silence

—even out of fear—

is simply to try to chain the word of God and to deny Jesus.

And as St. Paul says: “If we deny Him, He will deny us.”

 

____

Now, as we move deeper into the mystery of the sacrifice of the Mass,

open your hearts to appreciate

the power of Christ and the magnificent gift He gives us here.

Follow the example of the Samaritan leper:

have faith in the power of Jesus and in His word,

And like the Samaritan,

come before the altar and “fall at the feet of Jesus and give Him thanks.”

TEXT: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 29, 2019

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 29, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today /tomorrow is

the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

And although we don’t celebrate their feast this year because it falls on a Sunday

—the Lord’s Day—

I don’t think the Lord would mind if we talked about them,

and especially one of them: the great and glorious St. Michael.

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells that us angels are:

“purely spiritual creatures angels [with] intelligence and will:

they are personal and immortal creatures,

surpassing in perfection all visible creatures.”

The word that keeps coming up in that description is “creatures”

angels, like us, were created by God.

Now, Scripture is silent about how or when they were created,

but we do know that they were already around before Adam and Eve.

In fact, there are 2 angels in chapter 3 of Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve.

The one most easily recognizable is the cherubim, which is a type of angel.

Genesis tells us that when God cast Adam and Even out of paradise

He placed a “cherubim [with] the fiery revolving sword”

as a guard over the gates to keep them out.

 

But there’s another angel also, who’s much harder to recognize

—at least as an angel.

That’s because he is a fallen angel,

—he is the serpent—also known as the devil.

 

So in first chapters of Genesis we see the basic division of angels

between glorious angels and fallen angels

—or what we commonly call “angels” and “devils.”

And this points back to the ancient Jewish teaching

recorded by St. Peter in the New Testament,

that sometime before the creation of the visible world,

some of the angels sinned and were cast out of God’s presence.

 

Tradition tells us that God created the angels to glorify Him by their service,

but also by their beauty  or greatness—or their “glory.”

And there was one angel who out-shown all the rest.

So magnificent was his glory that he was described as a bright shining light

and named “the bearer of light”— or in Latin: “LUCIFER.”

Yes, the greatest angel in heaven,

the prince of the heavenly hosts, was the one we today call Lucifer.

 

Now, as the Catechism teaches, angels, like human beings,

have both intellect and will.

And Lucifer—being the greatest of the angels—

had the greatest intellect as well,

and his magnificent intellect told him

that he was, in fact, the greatest of all creatures.

 

But tradition tells us that at some point

God called all the angels together to tell them

that He was going to create man,

and create him in His image and likeness.

And then He told them, not only was he going to create man,

God the Son was going to become a man.

 

This was impossible: Lucifer understood serving God,

but if God became man, he, Lucifer would have to serve a man as well,

a measly sub-angelic earthbound creature.

How could God do this?

It made no sense to Lucifer’s great intellect, as it became blinded by pride.

And so he uttered those works the Fathers of the Church attribute to him:

“non serviam”: “I will not serve.”

He refused to be man’s servant,

and so he refused to obey God and be his servant.

 

And so by his own free will, he set his mind and will against God and man,

and was cast out of heaven into the fires of hell,

creating that great irreconcilable division

Jesus refers to in today’s gospel:

“between us and you a great chasm is established

to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go

from our side to yours or from your side to ours.”

 

Now the prince of light had become now the prince of darkness.

His angelic wings turned to the scales of a serpent, a dragon.

No longer the humble servant of God,

but now the prideful “enemy” of God—and that became his name:

“enemy”, or in Hebrew “Satan.”

 

He is God’s enemy—and man’s as well.

Because he sees man as the cause of his fall.

And so he has set himself to destroy man,

and to keep man and God apart forever.

And we see this right in the beginning of the creation of man,

as the serpent lies to man about God,

and causes man to sin and to also be thrown out of paradise.

 

So that is the state of affairs:

and there is the spiritual battle waged through all of history.

 

But is there no one to stand up for God, for man,

and for the God-man, Jesus Christ?

Is there no one who will meet this terrible and powerful fallen angel in combat

as God’s champion?

 

The thing is, Lucifer was not the only magnificent angel in heaven.

And right behind the bright and proud Lucifer

stood another who was humble and strong.

This is the angel that God chose to send to lead his angels

as they cast Lucifer and his angels out of heaven

—as the Book of Revelation tells us:

“Then war broke out in heaven;

Michael and his angels

battled against the dragon…and its angels

….He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent,

which is the Devil or Satan,

…and threw it into the abyss.”

 

“Michael”!—the Hebrew name which means “Who is like God.”

Now, there is some debate over exactly what the significance of this name is.

Most scholars say that it proposes the question: “who is like God?”

and implies the answer “no one is like God”—least of all Lucifer.

But some suggest that it proposes the question “who is like God”

and implies the answer “Michael is like God.”

I think both these meanings are correct.

 

Unlike Satan, who in his pride tries to make himself God’s equal,

as if the answer were “Lucifer is like God”,

Michael, humbly serves God by fighting against that pride,

and in his humility doesn’t seek to be God’s equal,

but to be good, “like God” is good

—Michael is not a god, but he is godly.

In fact in his humility he is very much like God the Son who became a man,

and came to earth “to serve, and not to be served.”

 

The humility of Jesus eventually led Him to die for our sins on the Cross.

And it is this humility that conquers the pride of Satan, and Adam and Eve.

Elsewhere in the Gospels we read that Jesus said:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth;

I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

I mentioned earlier that when God banished Adam from paradise

he placed an angel with a fiery sword in his hand to protect the gate.

Who was that angel?

Several of the early fathers of the Church say it was none other than St. Michael.

And what was his sword?

It was, I think, none other than the sword of Christ himself:

the sword of humility, which Christ wielded on the Cross

to defeat the pride and sin of the devil.

 

On the Cross Christ won the war,

but the enemy refuses to admit defeat, and the battles continue.

There is no peace on earth today

—there can be no peace as long as, in the words of St. Peter:

“Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion

looking for (someone) to devour.”

And so, Michael continues to fight the battle with and for Jesus.

Just as he has from the beginning when he drove

Lucifer and his cohorts from heaven,

and as he stood—sword in hand—at the gates of paradise,

and as he defeated the enemies of Israel—as the book of Daniel tells us,

and as he will until the end of time as the Book of Revelation tells us.

 

Look around at the world, and you see the battle joined.

The enemy, the devil, Satan

—whom Jesus calls “a liar” and “a murderer” “from the beginning”—

is frantically busy sewing lies and death at every corner.

 

The last century saw more death by wars than all of recorded history.

At the same time even more were killed by genocide,

10s of millions in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russian, and Mao’s China.

And today millions more are at risk of death

as evil men plot to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

But even more terribly,

how many 100’s of millions have been killed in the last 40 years

from abortion?

 

God told created Adam and Eve as male and female

and told them to “be fruitful and multiply.”

What lies Satan spreads today about this great gift of sexuality.

Lies that lead to 41% of all babies in America being born out of wedlock.

Lies that lead to men trying to “marry” other men.

Lies that lead boys to think they are girls, and girls think they are boys.

Lies that lead bishops and priests to fail in their vows of celibacy,

to conspire, and even commit the most heinous crimes.

 

The Lord also told Adam and Eve to fill the earth and subdue it.

But the Father of lies tells us that means it’s okay to be greedy and envious,

or fixated on possessions.

God created us love each other

and commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

But the father of lies tells us to ignore the those who are in need

or who can’t help themselves,

or to blame those who have more than you

for you not having what you want.

 

The battle of Michael and Satan goes on.

But it’s not just Michael and the angels who are called to fight—so are we!

As St. Paul’s tells us in Scripture:

“Fight the good fight.”

And: “Put on the full armor of God,

…to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”

 

But how do we fight this battle?

We fight it by yielding the same sword as Michael: Christ’s sword of humility.

We fight it by being humble before God

by being his servant, obediently keeping his commandments

—all 10 of them, even if it means we suffer as He did.

And we fight it by being humble before our fellow man,

by serving our neighbor,

whether our neighbor is a family member,

a fellow parishioner, our coworkers,

and especially those like Lazarus in today’s Gospel,

“the poor man …who would gladly eat his fill of the scraps

that fall from our table.”

 

Today at this Mass,

in the company of St. Michael the Archangel, with Gabriel and Raphael,

and all the heavenly hosts of Angels: [the Virtues, Powers, Principalities,

Dominations, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim….]

let us enter into the humility of Jesus Christ, God the Son,

who became a man to serve us,

and who continues to serve us under the humble disguise

of a piece of bread.

Let this Body of Christ, God the Son, make us like God the Son,

who saved us by His humility on the cross.

Let this bread of angels make us like the angels,

humbly serving Jesus as his warriors against the Enemy, Satan.

Let us enter into the battle with the sword of humility

—the sword of Christ our Savior,

the sword of St. Michael the Archangel, “who is like God.”

TEXT: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 22, 2019

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 22, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

Sometimes the words of Jesus in the Gospels

are very clear and understandable.

For example, last week we read the parable of the one lost sheep:

just reading it once you get the basic point.

 

But sometimes Jesus’ words can be very very confusing,

and today’s Gospel is a prime example.

First of all, Jesus tells the parable about a steward who

first squanders his Master’s property,

and then goes on to cheat him out of some more of his property,

but in the end

“the master commended that dishonest steward

for acting prudently.”

Then Jesus seems tell us to follow the dishonest steward’s example:

“make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,

so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

 

What are we supposed to make of this?

Is Jesus actually telling us to be dishonest?

 

Now, there are 2 key things necessary to understanding

the meaning of Jesus’ words today.

 

The first is to understand the use of this word “dishonest.”

Notice this word shows up 5 times in today’s Gospel:

“the dishonest steward”

“the person who is dishonest in …small matters

is also dishonest in great ones.”
and twice it mentions “dishonest wealth”

Unfortunately, this is a not the best translation of the word

that’s in the original Greek version of this text.

Usually it’s translated as “unjust” or “unrighteous.”

It’s the word used in Scripture to describe someone

who acts totally contrary to God’s will,

a person who has absolutely no love for God.

 

So we have not simply a “dishonest steward” but an “unrighteous steward”

–like someone who does not love God,

the steward shows his contempt for his Master

by squandering his property and cheating him.

 

Now look at the sentence:

“make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,

so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Let’s change “dishonest wealth” to “un-righteous wealth”

 

What does Jesus mean by “unrighteous wealth”?

Does He mean that all money is bad,

contrary to God’s will, or to the love of God?

No: if you give money to the poor, or you use it to help a sick person,

or to provide for your family’s needs,

money is a very good thing.

And money well-earned is also good thing.

 

Does He mean money that is gotten by dishonest or sinful means is bad?

Maybe.

 

But He seems to have something more in mind here.

Earlier I said there were 2 keys to understanding this passage.

Now comes the 2nd key,

which are the words Jesus uses to sum upHhis whole sermon:

“No servant can serve two masters.

He will either hate one and love the other,

or be devoted to one and despise the other.”

And then the conclusion: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

 

Now, the underlying Greek word translated earlier as “wealth”

—as in “unrighteous wealth”—

is actually the same word now translated as “Mammon”

–wealth and mammon, same word, same thing.

So what Jesus is saying is,

a man who loves worldly wealth (mammon) more than he loves God

winds up not loving God:

in other words, you become unrighteous.

So “unrighteous wealth” isn’t merely money that’s gotten by dishonest means,

but money that you love more than God Himself!

 

Worldly wealth—money, riches, property, etc.—isn’t in and of itself evil.

But when you love money as if it were God, then you have a big problem.

Because the first of the 10 Commandments is very clear:

I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before me.”

And all the commandments are summarized

in what Jesus calls the “great commandment”:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart

and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

 

Now let’s return to our problematic sentences.

First:

“the master commended that unrighteous steward for acting prudently.”

Note, he commended him not for his unrighteousness,

but for his prudence, or wisdom or cleverness.

Then, again, he goes on:

“make friends for yourselves with unrighteous wealth,

so that when it fails,

you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

In other words,

“be clever

and take that stuff you love more that God

and use it for doing some good,

and maybe you can get into heaven.”

 

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

But we still have a problem:

this sounds an awful lot like buying your way into heaven.

Pretty clever, humanly speaking, if it were true.

 

But that’s not the kind of cleverness or wisdom Jesus is talking about.

So again, we return to the 2nd key:

“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

This is the first principle of the wisdom Jesus wants us to use:

true wisdom places God, not the world,

at the beginning, center and end of all things.

 

So in this context, we see that when he says

“be clever

and take that stuff you love more that God

and use it for doing some good”

He’s not saying “buy your way into heaven,”

but rather

be wise with a wisdom rooted in the love of God,

and stop loving worldly things more than God,

and show that love of God by using those things

for doing some good!”

And then, when you love God more than things,

then, you can get into to heaven.

 

Now, that seems like a long way around to get to the meaning of the text.

It was.

Unfortunately, if you don’t go that way you get a lot of bad

—even dangerous—interpretations.

 

Some folks read this passage

and say it means simply “give to the poor.”

Okay, but what? and how? and why?

 

Some would say that it means it doesn’t matter how you get your money,

as long as you do good things with it—the ends justify the means.

Others would use it to justify dedicating their lives to the love of money,

and not worrying about loving God,

as long as they do some good things with the money.

Some also use it to say God wants us to be clever with money,

so that cleverness with money is used as proof of their love of God.

 

All this kind of thinking gets us into all sorts of trouble.

 

For example, throughout history of the Church various priests and bishops

—even popes—

allowed this kind of thinking to corrupt the life of the church.

For instance, the notorious cases where some priests and bishops

were actually trying to sell salvation,

either by accepting bribes to give sacramental absolution

to unrepentant kings and princes,

or by selling indulgences, contrary to the law and teaching of the Church.

 

In modern times we see a different but similar kind of corruption,

where priests tailor what they preach so as not to offend their parishioners,

even if it means editing out important truths of the Gospel,

because their afraid if they don’t

the Sunday collection will go down.

Sometimes we see bishops who are so afraid

of the Church losing her tax exempt status

or government funding for certain projects

they refuse to take hard stands to defend and uphold Catholic doctrine,

or to admonish erring Catholic public officials.

 

These men are very clever, and they are merely trying to

protect the finances of the Church

in order to be able to do good works.

But true wisdom is the mind of God, not the cleverness of the world.

Priest are called to be men of God, not men of business.

And serving God’s money is never more important than serving God.

 

And it happens, of course, to you too.

You work hard for your money, and all the stuff you have.

You are very clever and worldly wise.

And you do it all for a good and noble purpose:

for your family, to save so you won’t be a burden on others in your old age,

or to be able to afford to help others.

 

Or at least that’s how it begins, or what you tell yourself.

But sometimes people discover “helping their family”

has become little more than just keeping up with the Joneses.

Being able to afford to give their kids the very best like any loving parent should

becomes giving them whatever they want,

or whatever will bring the most status,

whether it’s truly best for them or not.

And as they give generously to charities,

they do it to see their name listed publicly as a benefactor

for all the world to see.

They give to those less fortunate, but they look down on them because of it.

 

In today’s difficult parable,

the steward is condemned for failing to serve—or love—his Master,

but commended for his worldly cleverness.

It took us a little cleverness to get past the confusing words and weak translation.

But while this cleverness was in part the wisdom of men,

in the end it took the fundamental wisdom of Christ

poured out in Holy Scripture

to teach us the true meaning of these words today.

As we continue now the celebration of this Holy Mass,

let us pray for this wisdom that begins and ends

with loving God above all things;

the foundational wisdom revealed by Christ today, that:

“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”