TEXT: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 1, 2018

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People

to dissolve the Political bands which have connected them with another,

and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station

to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,

a decent respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

 

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….

 

These are the first sentences of the Declaration of Independence.

This week we celebrate the 242nd anniversary

of the signing of this extraordinary document,

which give birth to and form the foundation of

our beloved country.

 

This Declaration is a great and noble document.

This is true especially from our particular perspective as Christians,

because it expresses many ideals that are very Christian.

For instance:

–It affirms that there are, in fact, certain “self-evident…Truths”:

objective truths which are always valid

no matter what we think about them.

–and that the “Laws of nature” behind these truths derive from “God”,

and that these laws are the source of the rights which we cherish.

 

9 of the men who signed this declaration went on to die for these principles

in the American Revolution.

And for the last 2 ½ centuries many of our ancestors

—and maybe your yourself or members of your immediate family—

went to war for these same principles,

and some are at war right now.

These Americans have made many terrible but beautiful sacrifices

—some even the ultimate sacrifice of death.

 

This is a great country: one to die for.

And one to live for.

Capable of wondrous and noble achievements.

But unfortunately, also capable of terrible failures.

 

___

One of the most important—and Christian—ideals expressed

in the Declaration of Independence

is the notion of certain inalienable rights.

But when our forefathers enshrined these rights in the Declaration

they presumed 2 things:

first, that those rights were inalienable

precisely because they came from God, and not from governments;

and second, that those rights were inalienable only to the extent

they were used in conformity with their just and good purpose

as defined by that God who gave them to us.

They presumed, in other words, that those rights were subject

to the commonly accepted moral principles and structures

of the American people of 1776

—the basic principles of traditional Christian morality.

 

But in the last 50 years or so we seem to have forgotten some of that,

as those rights have sometimes taken on a whole new

and even perverse meaning.

Let’s think for a moment of the modern notions of

the rights called “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

 

Let’s start with liberty.

Liberty was critical to the founders because they wanted people

to be free to become the best they could be.

Freedom to become, not freedom to degenerate.

Freedom to accept all the good things God gives you,

to lift up yourself, your family and your community to be great.

Not freedom to waste your God given gifts and talents,

destroy your family or betray your community.

 

It is true that when we allow people the freedom to become,

we also give them great freedom to not become—or to become bad.

But that is not why God gives us freedom.

In today’s first reading from the book of Wisdom we read:

God fashioned all things that they might have being;

and the creatures of the world are wholesome,

and there is not a destructive drug among them.”

God creates us to be good.

And God gives us freedom to choose; as Moses tells us elsewhere:

“I have set before you life and death, …therefore choose life!”

God gives us the liberty to choose,

but not so we would choose what is evil,

but so we would choose what is good—and to be good!

 

This leads us to another right that is so terribly misunderstood today:

the right to “pursue happiness.”

To the signers of the Declaration of Independence,

the term “pursuit of happiness” had a well-developed meaning.

Now, it is true that there was some debate

over what exactly constituted “happiness” and the “pursuit” thereof,

but it was all within certain very narrow philosophical parameters.

For example, some maintained that happiness was basically equivalent

with living a virtuous life.

Others argued that happiness was about a sense of safety and security.

Still others argued it had to do with an overall sense of well-being.

But absolutely no one thought it meant what most people nowadays

seem to think means: the right to pursue pleasure.

Mix that with the false modern notion of “liberty”

and you have something no American had in mind 242 years:

freedom to do whatever makes you feel good.

 

By any standard, happiness and pleasure are not the same.

The immediate pleasures sought by a teenager

–in drugs or alcohol or sex or thrill seeking–

will never lead to the happiness of that same man or woman at 40.

The lonely old man or woman who cheated on their spouse

or neglected their children

or drank every other paycheck,

may have had a lot of fun, but no one calls them happy.

 

Pleasure is a cup gulped greedily and in haste,

but then all you have left is an empty cup.

As we read today:

“God formed man to be imperishable;

the image of His own nature He made him.”

To reach our full potential as the image of God–

–to fill the cup of life with His goodness

—this is true happiness.

 

____

And finally we think about the inalienable “right to life.”

As Scripture tells us today:

“God did not make death…

death entered the world… by the envy of the devil.”

Now this doesn’t mean that it’s always a sin kill a human being,

for example, in war:

over and over again God Himself led Israel into battle

and helped them kill their enemies.

Sometimes wars must be fought for just reasons.

 

Without addressing the right or wrong of any particular war,

if we look carefully at our approach to each we can see the effects of

the fundamental importance the founders placed on the right to life.

Most especially we see it in the way all Americans are so concerned about

the possible death of any innocents.

And this is the essence of our founders understanding of “the right to life.”

That a man, woman or child who is innocent of crimes or injustices,

has a right to live a life of liberty pursuing true happiness.

 

Still, it is amazing to me,

that we Americans can be so concerned—rightly—

about the right to life of innocent civilians in war,

while at the same time,

so many of Americans deny that same right to life

to the most innocent American civilians—unborn babies.

Thousands raise loud protests against soldiers accused of war atrocities,

but how many of those raise a cry against the doctors

who abort innocent babies,

or a scientist who destroys an embryo for experimentation,

or a politician who protects and funds them?

What about the inalienable right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

of unborn babies?

 

 

We truly live in the greatest country on earth.

And yet sometimes we seem to have lost sight

of the meaning of the founding principles,

upon which this greatness was built.

What do we do?

 

We do what Jairus did in today’s Gospel:

we go to Jesus, plead for his help, bring him to our troubled nation,

and we believe that he will save us.

America needs Jesus.

It needs a new American Christian Revolution.

Not one based in violence or hatred,

but in truth and love.

Armed not with guns and bombs,

but with the simple principles of our founding

enlighten by the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Not forcing our religion on our countrymen,

but simply exercising that liberties which are

the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech.

 

Friends, we must exercise our God given right to go out and declare the truth

about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We must invite our countrymen to live in the true freedom

that only the truth of Christ can give.

To live life in the love of Christ—to have life in abundance.

And to pursue the holiness of life

that will fulfill our true potential and true happiness

–in this world and the world to come.

 

____

Some say America is too far gone…it seems hopeless.

But it must have seemed  hopeless to Jairus when his friends told him:

“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”

To those who think our cause is hopeless you say, as Jesus did:

“Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.”

Some will ridicule you, as they did Jesus.

Again, remember what Jesus said:

“do not be afraid; just have faith.”

 

Today we thank the Good Lord for the birth of a great nation

born to defend the God given rights of it’s citizens.

For 242 years brave men and women have bravely fought and died

to defend this nation and those rights.

But today as you rightly celebrate her greatness,

“do not be afraid” to recognize her failings,

and “do not be afraid” to bravely fight to save her.

Do not be afraid to proclaim the true meaning

of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“Do not be afraid; just have faith”…in Jesus Christ.

TEXT: Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Sunday June 24, 2018

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

June 24, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

It’s a very unusual feast.

Usually when a saint’s feast day falls on a Sunday

we basically skip over it to celebrate the regular Sunday Mass

—the Lord’s Day.

Also, there are only 3 nativities—or birthdays—we celebrate:

Christmas, Mary’s Birthday, and this one.

Very unusual.

But we do this because St. John is a truly unique figure in salvation history.

He is the last of the Old Testament prophets

and the first of the New Testament

—a sign of the fulfillment of the promises to Israel in Christ and His Church.

 

And he’s also the first public disciple of Christ,

and so a model of Christian discipleship,

reminding us that every Christian is called

to proclaim Christ and His Gospel to the world we live in,

even, if it means martyrdom, as it did with St. John.

 

Given that, it seems extremely providential that this year

his feast falls on the Sunday of Religious Freedom Week

—the week from June 22 to June 29,

that the American Bishops have asked us to set aside

as a period of concerted prayer and penance

for the defense of the Religious Liberty.

 

___

We are in an unprecedented moment in the history of our nation,

which was founded on the principle:

“that all men are …endowed by their Creator

with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

and who’s Constitution goes on to specify

the most important of these rights,

in its Bill of Rights, in order to guarantee them.

 

And the very first right it specifically guaranties is Religious liberty:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

 

For 229 years the definition of “the free exercise of religion”

has been interpreted very broadly,

and whenever anyone tried to narrow that definition

either the congress, the courts or the president

eventually stepped in to slap it down.

But in recent years the federal and state governments,

have tried to narrow the definition to extreme extents.

 

Take as an example the case of the Colorado Baker

who refused to make a wedding cake for a so-called “same sex marriage,” on the grounds that it was contrary to his Christian faith.

The State of Colorado found him guilty of illegal discrimination,

and ruled that the so-called “gay rights” of the same-sex couple

were more important than the Baker’s religious beliefs.

 

Thank goodness the Supreme Court just overturned the state’s ruling,

but it did so on a very narrow finding that the State

had exercised a specific bias against the religious beliefs of the Baker.

In other words, the Supreme Court didn’t insist,

as the constitution does, that you,

“shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise …” of “religion”’.

Instead, they just said, ‘the state can’t show a bias against religion,’

as they clearly did when they, the Colorado officials, had said things like,

“freedom of religion has been used

to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history,

whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust.”

 

But that means that the Court left open the question

of whether the “right to gay-marry” can outweigh the freedom of religion.

 

___

Even so, a win is a win.

But it also means we still have a fight on our hands going forward.

 

Thank goodness we now have a president, love him or hate him,

who is trying to defend our religious liberty,

appointing a strong pro-religious liberty Justice to the Supreme Court,

and overturning the prior president’s anti-religious liberty policies,

especially in health insurance and education.

 

But a lot of folks out there,

including many congressmen, judges and state and school board members,

continue to try to demote “religious liberty” to sort of a 2nd class liberty.

Even though 229 years ago our founders

refused to approve our Constitution unless it specifically guaranteed

the fundament right to religious liberty,

these government officials today believe that it is easily overridden

by a very recently invented liberty,

not found even in the craziest of nightmares of the founders.

 

This newly minted liberty usually goes by various nice sounding names,

like “the right to privacy” or “to choose.”

But ultimately, the underlying liberty being pursued

is simply “sexual liberty”:

—the right do whatever, you want,

however, whenever and with whomever you want.

In the end, the so-called rights to contraception, abortion, and “gay marriage”

flow from this.

Rights which our founding fathers would have called not “liberty” but “libertinism,”

which they unanimously condemned.

 

____

2000 years ago huge crowds came out to listen to John the Baptist preach.

One of the people who scripture says, “liked to listen to him,” was King Herod.

But eventually St. John offended Herod when he publicly accused him of adultery.

And so, Herod beheaded St. John.

 

Even 2000 years ago, sexual libertinism overrode religious liberty.

 

__

Something similar happened in the 16th century,

with another king and another saint.

The king was Henry VIII of England,

who had also gotten caught up in sexual libertinism

and wanted to divorce his wife in order to marry his mistress.

And the saint was St. Thomas More,

whose feast we celebrated 2 days ago on Friday.

Thomas, a layman, was known throughout Europe

as one of the most brilliant of scholars, and greatest lawyers.

Like John the Baptist, he was also very popular:

people used to love to read his books,

or to come to listen to his arguments in court or Parliament.

And like Herod, King Henry also liked to listen to him

—in fact, Thomas was one his most trusted friends and counselors.

But then Thomas got in the way of Henry’s sexual liberty,

opposing his divorce and adultery,

and then his oppression of the Church when it refused the divorce.

 

___

And now we have the same problem with so many government officials today.

But this time it’s not the personal problems of individual officials,

but it is their adamantly held position

that sexual liberty overrides everything else.

From states trying to force Christian florists and bakers

to participate in gay weddings,

to school boards deciding that clergy are no longer “trusted adults”

that children should talk to about their sexuality.

And don’t forget how Obamacare threatened to stop the Little Sister of the Poor

from taking care of our poor senior citizens

if they refused to pay for employee insurances providing for

contraception, sterilization and abortifacients.

 

____

None of this bodes well for Catholicism and Christianity in America.

Combine this with years of accusations that the Church “demeans women”

and “hates” homosexuals,

and we see a frightening pattern.

If religious liberty is overridden by absolute sexual liberty,

and if Christians can be portrayed as truly demeaning and hateful,

they’ll have every excuse they need to pursue even further oppression

of Christians, especially faithful Catholics.

 

And remember, right after the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom

it immediately goes on to guarantee

freedom of speech, the press, and peaceful assembly.

If sexual liberty can override the first liberty of the first amendment,

that means it will soon override those liberties as well.

And then how far off is the day when priests

won’t have the freedom to speak about Catholic morality,

even inside our own churches?

And how soon before Catholic parents will lose the freedom

to speak about it to their own children in their own homes?

How soon before governments close your churches, arrest your priests,

or take your children from your homes because you’re not fit to be parents.

 

It can’t happen here, right?

Tell that to the Supreme Court who in 2015 wrote that

the reason states had outlawed same sex “marriage was, [quote]:

“to disparage and to injure” homosexuals.

If the Court sees opposition to “same sex marriage” as an attempt to “injure,”

and if sexual liberty overrides religious liberty,

wouldn’t the next logical step be to do something

to stop Churches from “injuring” homosexuals?

 

___

We must defend and fight for our religious liberty.

And the fight is winnable.

Yes, St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas More were beheaded,

but sometimes a we find a happier outcome.

 

In the year 1293 the 93-year-old St. Raymond of Peñafort

was invited by King James I of Spain to join him on a trip to Majorca,

an island off the coast of Spain that the King had recently recaptured

from the Moors, or Muslims.

Like Herod and St. John,

King James liked to listen to St. Raymond preach,

and like Henry VIII and St. Thomas,

King James was actually a pretty good Catholic

and a close friend of St. Raymond.

But there was a problem: like King Herod and King Henry,

sometimes King James let his sexual appetite get the best of him.

And when St. Raymond arrived in Majorca to preach

he discovered that King James had brought his mistress along.

The Saint begged and pleaded and exhorted the King

to repent and send her away, but the King refused.

 

So in response, Raymond announced he was leaving Majorca

and going back to Spain immediately.

The problem was, they were on and island,

and the King threatened to jail anyone who allowed Raymond board a ship.

 

But Raymond was undaunted: he simply walked down to the beach,

said a prayer,

took off the large Dominican cape,

stepped on one end and held the other end out to catch the wind.

And off he went out across the water, sailing 160 miles back to Spain

using his cape as both his skiff and his sail.

And hundreds of eyewitnesses testified to the fact—both in Majorca and Spain.

 

And the king repented, sent his girlfriend away and went back to his wife.

 

____

Sometimes we seem to win, sometimes we seem to lose.

Sometimes we make a convert, sometimes WE are made a martyr.

 

But all of us must fight for religious liberty.

 

Not a war against persons,

but a war against religious oppression, and false notions of liberty.

And not with violence or hate, but with reason and love,

even for our enemies.

The only swords we will wield are the swords of truth and the Word of God,

and our most important weapon will be simple but constant prayer.

 

___

Today we celebrate a unique feast of a unique saint, John the Baptist.

As we ponder his unique place in the history of salvation,

let’s also recall something else unique about him:

his birth was announced by an angel to two different people.

The first announcement was to his father Zechariah,

the second was to the Blessed Virgin, Mary.

And to Mary he said,

“in her old age [Elizabeth has] conceived a son;

…her who was called barren.

For nothing is impossible with God.”

 

As we go forward today in our defense of religious liberty,

inspired by the example of St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Raymond,

let us keep these words in mind.

Let us trust that the Lord will allow no one to most rob us

of one of the most basic rights He alone has given us:

the freedom to follow him in faith,

the precious divine gift of religious liberty.

Let be charitable, let us be courageous, let us be faithful, let us be determined,

knowing that “Nothing is impossible with God.”

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

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 17, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Life is filled with trials and challenges, especially nowadays

with so many problems that past generations never even imagined.

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

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

So we celebrate our beloved dead on Memorial Day,

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

and motherhood on Mother’s Day.

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

 

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

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

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

You know the statistics:

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

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

And I could go on and on.

 

Fatherhood is important, good fathers are essential

—and bad fathers are a disaster.

 

Scripture tells us that in the beginning,

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

telling them be fruitful and multiply.

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

the first thing necessary is marriage,

and the second springs from it: parenthood.

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

And marriage and parenthood are the “school of love

where all human beings are supposed to naturally

learn to love God and each other.

So that when marriage and parenthood are messed up

families and societies are in trouble.

 

Now, parenthood is a two-sided coin:

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

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

But sometimes the importance of fatherhood is forgotten,

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

And so we see the results:

today 33% of all children are living in fatherless homes

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

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

 

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

and it promises the destruction of both.

 

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

to the seed of a plant.

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

and then, more or less, walk away.

But fatherhood is much more than that.

Elsewhere in scripture Jesus uses another plant allusion, saying:

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

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

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

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

 

Where there is a seed planted, a true father,

created in the image of God the Father,

remains and feeds and waters his children

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

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

his children get a good education,

both formally and informally,

in practical matters, like hygiene and manners,

in secular matters, like math, science and history,

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

For a Catholic father this means taking responsibility

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

as well as supplementing that by,

if possible, sending them to Catholic school,

or at least to CCD from K thru 12,

or homeschooling them with a solid Catholic curriculum.

 

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

and feeding them regularly with the Bread of Life!

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

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

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

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

but at least every single Sunday?

What kind of father lets his children starve?

 

____

A true father also protects his children.

A vinedresser might build a fence around his plants,

or cover them to protect them from ice,

or hunt down the varmints that try to eat them.

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

and carefully watches who his children’s friends are.

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

or stay out late at night unsupervised.

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

—never trusting them to anyone who would in any way

corrupt or endanger them.

 

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

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

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

 

____

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

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

from his children’s lives.

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

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

If their children start to develop bad habits,

good fathers aren’t afraid to discipline them.

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

to turn off the TV until they do.

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

Of course, always with love, avoiding bitterness;

sometimes with tenderness, but always with strength.

And always remember St. Paul’s simple instruction:

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

Some fathers are overwhelmed by all this.

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

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

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

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

so they leave it to someone else,

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

 

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

But not everything.

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

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

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

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

especially her dignity and her virtue,

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

 

And besides all the male/female differences,

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

does or understands better than a particular Mom:

maybe math, or being patient, whatever.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

And, this isn’t limited to public schools

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

 

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

is flourishing because of the seeds planted in the schools.

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

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

And then one day you wake up and you wonder why

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

Again: “he knows not how.”

 

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

 

___

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

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

But let it also remind you to help your husbands,

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

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

 

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

but my children are all grown up.

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

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

 

Or maybe your man without any children.

But are you an uncle?

Uncles are sort of fathers once removed.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

to provide whatever support you can to your wives.

Stay in contact with your kids as best you can,

and remind them not only that you love them,

but of your expectations of them, especially

that they respect and obey their moms,

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

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

 

And remember,

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

Jesus also tells us:

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

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

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

is an incredible act of fatherly love

  • a heroic effort to truly protect your children from real

 

___

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

where things are not as I describe:

maybe there was or is no father in your home,

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

There are lots of reasons this happens,

and sometimes things are just beyond our control.

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

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

than how they are or were.

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

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

to make it through these difficult times.

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

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

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

 

___

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

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

to be the Dad of a family nowadays is so difficult

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

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

Thank you, and God bless you.

All this is just to remind you and to encourage you

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

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

 

____

Our world is filled with problems,

many of which our grandparents would never have dreamed of.

But that’s because our grandparents would have never tolerated

the diminishment of fatherhood that we have.

 

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

And as we continue with this Holy Mass,

the mystery which flows from the perfect love

between God the Father and Son,

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

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

and [that] our fathers may always

be the good and true fathers

we so desperately need them to be.

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

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 10, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

The devil.

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

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

they marginalize him as a myth,

reduce him to a mere superstition,

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

or perhaps make him merely a misunderstood rake.

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

 

But the thing is he does exist.

He is real, personal and powerful.

Scripture and tradition are absolutely clear.

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

with a certainty that presumes his reality.

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

who’s known the devil from the beginning,

but because as a human being He personally encountered him,

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

where Satan repeatedly tried to tempt Him.

 

And “the Devil” is not one, but many.

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

 

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

who were created like all the other heavenly angels,

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

the greatest of all the angels,

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

 

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

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

and that God the Son would become a man

—and that the angels would serve Him.

But Lucifer and his friends couldn’t countenance the idea

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and you will be like gods….”

 

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

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

might be a good thing.

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

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

 

As Jesus tells us about the devil:

“He was a murderer from the beginning,

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

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

 

And so St. Peter tells us elsewhere in Scripture:

“Be sober and alert.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion

looking for someone to devour.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”

 

____

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

are choices that each human being makes.

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

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

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

he can’t force us to sin.

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

to freely choosing to sin.

 

So how does the devil do that?

 

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

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

The most important thing to know about their powers

is that they are incredibly intelligent

—much much smarter than we are naturally,

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

they know how human beings work,

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

or the tenseness of our mouth or muscles,

and they know what we’re thinking

—they’ve seen it since we were babies,

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

 

And most importantly, they know our personal weaknesses and vulnerabilities

—physical, mental and emotional—

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

 

So, for example,

the devil knows you’ve had a long day,

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

and that driving makes you a little anxious.

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

and the devil whispers,

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

And the rest is predictable.

 

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

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

 

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

and you play right into his hands.

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

much less that he even exists!

 

____

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

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

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

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

He tempts the frightened woman with an unplanned pregnancy.

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

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

than family or caring for his neighbor.

 

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

As Jesus says in today’s Gospel:

“How can Satan drive out Satan?

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

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

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

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

 

____

Have I scared you a little bit?

I hope so.

We should be scared of the devil.

Remember what Jesus says in Scripture:

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

 

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

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?

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

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

 

You should be afraid of the devil,

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

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

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

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

 

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

With God all things are possible.

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

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

and says to him:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

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

 

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

and while the devil will cause his problems,

the all-powerful Son will inevitable crush his head.

The promise of Jesus and His victory on the Cross.

 

And so we read in Scripture:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“put on the full armor of God,

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

 

____

Jesus tells us today:

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

unless he first ties up the strong man.”

So don’t tie up the strong man!

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

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

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

and by being open to the fullness of His grace.

 

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

Jesus gives us to fight the devil:

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

Go to frequent confession to untie the strong man,

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

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

And don’t ever be discouraged by sins:

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

Remember, as Jesus says today,

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

and it is by the cross that Jesus says

to both the God the Father and the mankind,

not “I will not serve,”

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

 

____

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

But there’s so many more.

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

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

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

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

Cling to her, and she will protect you.

 

___

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

He is real, powerful, and he hates us.

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

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

 

As we now enter more deeply into this holy Mass,

surrounded by all the heavenly angels and saints,

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

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

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

And as gives Himself to us in Holy Communion,

let us give ourselves to Him as well,

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

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

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

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

 Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 3, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

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

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

I don’t care how good a friend he is,

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

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

as they sat at supper with their dear friend Jesus.

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

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

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

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

 

Did  the apostles understand what Jesus  was doing?

They may not have known exactly what He meant,

but they knew that this was the same man

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

—on 2 different occasions;

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

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

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

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

 

They might not have known exactly what Jesus meant,

but they remembered all He had done,

that they had come to believe in Him.

And so they took it and ate and drank.

 

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

The apostles remembered how God had saved Israel from slavery

on that 1st Passover, 1300 years earlier,

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

They remembered how at the base of Mt. Sinai

God and his people entered a covenant

sealed by a sacrifice of animals and the sprinkling

of the blood of the sacrifice on the people,

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

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

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

 

They also remembered how during that Exodus out of Egypt

God gave His people bread from heaven –manna.

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

I am the living bread come down from heaven….

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

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

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

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

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

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

“will you also leave me?”

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

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

we have come to know and to believe,

that you are the Holy One of God.”

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

“This is my body.”

 

They heard Him, they may not have completely understood,

but they believed because He said it.

And they ate and drank as he commanded.

 

And beginning with the fundamental faith in the words

“this is my body…this is my blood”

and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit,

remembering the words and actions of the Old Covenant,

and all Jesus had said and done

during His life, death and resurrection,

especially His great love for us,

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

“no greater love has a man than this,

to lay down his life for his friends”,

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

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

…remembering all this they very quickly began to understand

the profound meaning of the Eucharist.

The belief that the under the appearance of bread and wine

the one sacrifice of the Cross is made present to us

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

truly, substantially and really present to us,

even until the end of time.

 

____

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

Well, think, how do you prepare before Mass?

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

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

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

Now, nobody look around—

there are lots of good reasons someone

might be dressing down a bit at Mass.

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

 

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

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

the Church teaches you must confess before you receive Communion?

Are you living a life style, or publicly promoting teachings

that are gravely contrary to the teachings of the Church?

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

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

 

And how do you come up to receive Holy Communion?

Do you do you rush up, looking around,

letting yourself be distracted the whole time,

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

focusing on Him and nothing but Him,

receiving Him with reverence and profound humility,

rejoicing that the all-powerful God

who died on the cross for love of you,

is coming now personally to you.

 

____

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

of Christ in the Eucharist

is found in our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament

outside of the celebration of Mass

–as His body is reserved in the Tabernacle,

or exposed on the altar for adoration.

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

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

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

you have to admit Christ

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

 

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

the difference between His Real Presence in this room

versus His presence in any one of us

would not only be obvious, it would be overwhelming,

and would compel us to fall to our knees.

The reverence due to God Himself is always different than

that we  give to any creature–even an angel.

In the book of Revelation St. John tells us

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

the angel scolded him:

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

Worship God.”

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

that in heaven everyone falls down on their faces

to worship the Lamb that was slain, Jesus Christ.

 

 

Sometimes people tell me that since the Eucharist is food,

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

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

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

we would sin if we did not do so.”

 

 

And so the Church strongly recommends that all of us

regularly spend time praying before the Eucharist in adoration.

 

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

for over 14 hours every day

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

Christ in the Tabernacle.

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

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

And while many people do take advantage of these opportunities,

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

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

“Father, if you Catholics really believed Jesus

is really physically there in the Eucharist,

why aren’t Catholic Churches packed day and night

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

Indeed; why don’t we?

 

 

Still many very good Catholics wonder:

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

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

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

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

–worshipping in praise and thanksgiving His magnificent glory.

Fall down at His feet like Mary Magdalene so often did

–in repentance of your sins.

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

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

 

Kneel or if you want, sit there,

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

read the Bible or a spiritual book

–all the time in the loving presence of our Lord

–talking to Him or listening to Him.

And by meditating and praying before the Blessed Sacrament,

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

because you’ll develop a deeper, more sincere hunger

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

Not only to receive Him in our mouth,

but in doing that receive Him with our hearts.

 

____

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

and humble ourselves by kneeling in front of what looks like

a little piece of Bread.

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

Because while difficult to understand,

it is nevertheless eminently reasonable to us.

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

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

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

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

“THIS IS MY BODY.”