21th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2013

August 25, 2013
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church,
Springfield, Va.

Awhile back I was talking with an old friend I grew up with.
Though we both went to the same Catholic grade school,
we wound up very different in life:
I became a priest and he became a fallen away Catholic.
He excused himself by saying:
“what difference does it make?—we all believe in the same God,
we just take different roads to get to him.”
I’ve heard this a million times, and so have you.
And it has a certain attraction to it.
But then we run into some problems,
like when the one we believe to be “God”
tells us:
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.”

In this phrase Jesus is saying that their aren’t many different roads to God,
at least not in the indifferent kind of sense my friend was using.
We see this especially when we remember other sayings of Jesus
we find elsewhere in the Gospels,
for example:
“Enter by the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the way is easy,
that leads to destruction,
and those who enter by it are many.”
And: “Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
…is a thief and a robber….
Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.”

Sure, we all live different lives, and so in a certain sense we “take different roads.”
But in the end, we all have to stop when we come to that one narrow gate
that is Jesus,
and enter, and follow the one road, His one way, to the Father.

Some argue:
but look at texts like the one we find in today’s first reading, where it says:
“I know their works and their thoughts,
and I come to gather nations of every language;
they shall come and see my glory.”
Doesn’t that mean that all peoples
—even non-Christian peoples—will go to heaven
no matter what their religious beliefs?
The thing is, the text goes on to say:
“They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations
…to Jerusalem, my holy mountain
just as the Israelites bring their offering
to the house of the LORD in clean vessels.”
In other words, one day the God of the Jews will come to earth
and bring all nations to come to worship HIM
so in the way the HE would tell them to.

(Now/And) as Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is, in fact,
the incarnation of the God of the Jews,
and who did come to earth to tell all nations the way.
He said:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father, but by me.“
And he told his apostles:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them…,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Some might argue, well then as long as someone’s a Christian,
that’s’ good enough.
Again, we turn to Christ’s own words:
Speaking to Simon Peter:
“And I tell you, you are Rock,
and on this rock I will build my church…”
Or speaking to all his disciples:
“unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you.”
Or to his Father:
“I pray Father….that they may become perfectly one.”
The only religion we find that follows these teachings of
the primacy of Peter, the centrality of the Eucharist
and the unity of the Church
is in the Catholic Church.
So, following Jesus is a narrow gate that leads through the Catholic Church.

Now, it’s true that many Christians who aren’t Catholic,
and even many people who aren’t even Christian,
try every day to enter the narrow gate.
They truly seek God even though, through no fault of their own,
they have not been able to come to know Jesus Christ
or the fullness of his teachings in the Catholic Church.
And if they truly believe and accept the way and truth of God,
as best they can come to understand it,
of course God won’t deny them salvation.
Still, it’s hard to know which gate to walk through
when you don’t share in the full teaching and instruments of grace
that Christ has entrusted to his Catholic Church.
So that, in fact, as Jesus says elsewhere:
“the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life,
and those who find it are few.”

Unfortunately, this last saying also can apply equally to Catholics:
just because you’re outwardly a Catholic
doesn’t mean you’re going to heaven.
Even if you’ve memorized all the teachings of the Popes back to Peter,
and even if you come to Mass every Sunday and
“eat the flesh of the Son of Man”,
if you do not follow the way, the truth and the life
that Christ and His Church has taught you
you really haven’t entered the narrow gate.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says to these Catholics:
“then will you stand outside …saying,…
‘We ate …in your company
and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.’”

As we read last week:
“to whomever much is given, of him much shall be required.”
And as Jesus says this week:
“some are first who will be last.”

The fact is many self-proclaimed “practicing” Catholics,
including too many priests,
choose the wide gate, the easy road, all the time.
And instead of recognizing this about themselves,
they blame the Church for being too narrow-minded,
out of step with the real world.
It needs to change it’s teachings and stop thinking it has the one truth faith.

Now, most of you, would probably never say these things.
You accept the Church’s teachings and you try to follow them.
That’s great, and I’m very proud and edified by you.
But is even that enough?

By telling us to “enter the narrow gate”
Jesus isn’t calling us to become
some sort of unthinking, unfeeling narrow-minded rule-bound bureaucrats.
His rules and doctrine are essential:
there is a particular way to go, truth to believe, and life to live.
But you can’t understand any of that if you don’t first understand
that the narrow gate is first and foremost a person,
and in fact one particular person.
“I am the Gate,” Jesus says; “I am the way.”

All of us go through life with some sort of rules that determine how we live
—even if we make them up for ourselves.
That’s relatively easy.
But it’s a whole lot harder
to give and commit your life and love to another person.
Because no matter how wonderful and inclusive and multifaceted a person is,
every person is unique, specific and demanding.

And so it is true that the gate is narrow:
you must give your life to the particular person
who is Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.
And you must truly love Him and His Father and Spirit
with all your heart, mind soul and strength.

This week we celebrate the feast of a saint who, like most of us,
struggled with entering the narrow gate.
He was a uniquely talented man:
a brilliant scholar, a rising star in academia and the political life of his time.
But he not only walked down the wide road
but ran and danced as fast as he could all around it.
His life was filled with pride and avarice and greed and lust.

But there was always a problem:
something in his brilliant mind and in his sensitive heart told him
“there’s something missing….something more….”
And so gradually he narrowed his road down, bit by bit.
He moved from being a pagan,
to a monotheist,
to being a kind of heretical Christian.
All along he saw the narrow gate,
and was frightened by what seemed to be it’s limits, and sacrifices.
For example he prayed, “Lord give me chastity….but not yet.”

Until one day, confused and torn
he heard a voice of a child say to him:
“Take up and read; take up and read.”
So he picked up and read the only book in front of him—the New Testament:
The words jumped out at him:
“put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
In other words:
leave behind the wide gate and the easy road
and enter through the narrow gate: Jesus Christ.

And in an instant his whole world changed
and he discovered why he had been so unhappy:
as he would write years later,
“Our hearts are restless Lord, until they rest in you.”

If you haven’t guessed it yet,
that man went on to become
the most important philosopher and theologian in the history of the Church,
and one of her greatest saints:
St. Augustine of Hippo.
He entered that narrow gate, but didn’t see it as confining or restrictive,
but as a love that freed him to become
the great man he was created to be, in Christ.
And so he wrote:
“Late have I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
late have I loved you!
You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you….
You were with me, but I was not with you…
You called, you shouted,
and you broke through my deafness….
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.”

Today hear the voice inside of you calling:
“Take and read…“take and read.”
And read what Scripture says:
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”
And as you approach the altar today to eat the flesh of the Lord,
as He enters into you, let yourself enter into him:
enter the narrow gate.
And as you leave here today do not go back outside that gate,
but go forward on that road that opens wide your heart and mind
to the infinitely boundless,
and yet particularly personal,
love of Jesus Christ.

20th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2013

August 18, 2013
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church,
Springfield, Va.

It is one of the great comforts of Christians
to hear the wonderfully consoling words
that the Lord Jesus so often speaks to us in Sacred Scripture.
For example, the words of Christ’s high priestly prayer for unity
at the Last Supper:
“that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you…”
Or words that we hear at every mass:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…”
But today we hear something very different
from the mouth of the one we call the Prince of Peace:
“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.”

The Gospels record Jesus saying things like this on several occasions.
For example, St. Matthew records him saying something very similar, but even more harsh:
“I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
How can Christ promise peace and unity,
and also claim that he comes not to bring peace and unity,
but the sword and division?
There’s only one way that makes sense
–a way that is clearly consistent with the rest of Scripture.

Christ does come to bring peace
–but not the peace of the world, rather, his peace.
And he comes to bring unity–but not unity with the world,
rather, unity with him, and his heavenly father.
Jesus knows that just as surely as he brings unity and peace into the world
to those who follow him in love,
he also brings division between himself and his own on the one side,
and those who chose not to follow him on the other.

The division is clear and spectacularly simple;
elsewhere in Scripture he tells his apostles:
“He who is not with me is against me.”
And we shouldn’t be surprised since it was predicted at his birth,
when the prophet Simeon told his mother in the temple:
“This child is destined to be
the downfall and the rise of many in Israel,
a sign that will be opposed.”
It was even promised almost from the beginning of time,
from the very first time man put himself in opposition to God,
as God promised the serpent in the garden of Eden:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed…”

Jesus knew that he was calling for a radical change in his disciples,
that by placing yourself with Him
you will often discover yourself to be in opposition to the world.
And He knew that living this life would be a truly difficult struggle,
and that it would often require great sacrifice:
I remember one time in the seminary when we were discussing
how to preach about some difficult moral teaching;
the guest speaker cautioned us:
“you really can’t preach about this to a congregation;
good Lord, they’d kill you.”
We all looked at each other rather stunned, until a brave voice in the back reminded him: “Like they killed Jesus?”
And then another voice said:
“‘A servant is not greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”
It’s true for priests, and its true for all faithful Christians.

This opposition, sometimes even violent opposition,
means that we are in a battle,
but not a battle in the sense the world normally fights battles,
because this is a battle involving Christ.
So it’s not a war inspired by hatred for the opposition
–but a war inspired by love for those who hate us.
It’s not a war that seeks to bring death to the enemy,
but a struggle to bring life to the entire world.
And unlike any merely human battle,
the promise of peace and unity is still experienced
–even in the heat of conflict—
by all who, as St. Paul says,
“keep their eyes fixed on Jesus.”

We are called to this radical new life in Christ.
He calls us not to be afraid,
but to allow our hearts to be ablaze with the fire he brings into the world:
the fire so vividly seen on Pentecost
as the Holy Spirit descended upon the first disciples–on his Church.
That fire still burns in the Church,
though, unfortunately, not so brightly in all her members.

Ask yourself: does the fire of Christ burn brightly in your life
so that, living in the world, you truly live
“as a sign that will be opposed.”
Do you live and love like you really believe in Christ and his Church?
Or do you live in fear of being seen as being different
or in opposition to the “normal” world?

It’s very hard to do this, to live as a “sign opposed”.
Sometimes you even find yourself opposed by your own family,
as Jesus suggests in today’s gospel.
I know many of you have experience this.
Some of you parents find it difficult to correct your children,
to teach them your values—the values of Christ.
Sometimes it seems you’re fighting a losing battle,
with the media and sometimes even the schools
teaching your kids a completely opposite set of values,
reinforced by the music they listen to and movies or television they see.
You tell your son to respect authority and say “yes sir” and “no ma’am”,
then his favorite athlete is arrested
for trashing his hotel room and resisting arrest.
You try to teach your daughter to dress modestly
with true respect for herself and her body,
but her favorite website tells her if she does she’s a prude,
and besides, all her friends dress like that.
Or you have older children
who’ve stopped going to church,
or who are cohabiting with their boyfriend or girlfriend,
or who have married outside the laws of the church.
Or a son who tells you he’s “gay.”

And kids, you really want to do the right thing,
to live clean and sober and in chastity,
but your friends make fun of you
and pressure to abuse alcohol or drugs or sex.
Sometimes it even comes from your parents:
you want to go to Mass or confession, but your parents are too busy.
Or maybe your interested in being a priest or a nun,
and they look at you like your crazy.

There is a vast division between the life Christ has called us to
and the life of the world we live in.
But the divisions don’t end there:
there’s still another troubling division
that exists in the life of everyday Christians
–the very real state of division that exists
in the separation of Orthodox and Protestant Churches
from fullness of unity with the Catholic Church.
Many of these non-Catholic Christians truly stand for Christ,
opposed by the world,
but at the same time they place themselves in opposition
to the fullness of grace, truth and faith
that Christ gave to his apostles and their successors
to be protected and shared with his people.

And again the division don’t stop here:
Everyday we see painful divisions among Catholics.
Sometimes we suffer more from fellow Catholics
than we do from those who categorically and formally oppose the Church.
Many of you know that I was born and raised and lived most of my life
in San Antonio.
In fact it was it was only 22 years ago tomorrow that I left San Antonio
to move to Arlington to begin my studies for the priesthood.
I firmly believe that it was divine providence—the very hand of God Himself—
that led me here.
But I never would have left San Antonio if the church there
hadn’t been in such a state of division:
priests and laity alike, especially the professors in the seminary,
in open opposition to the Pope and the teachings of the Church.

Divisions exist, not only between the Christian family and the world,
but even in the heart of families and even in the heart of the Church.
And they can be a terrible source of discouragement.
But, remember the admonition of St. Paul in today’s second reading, and
“[do]not grow weary and lose heart.”
Don’t let division’s —either in the family, or with the world or in the faith—
lead you to give up on what you believe,
to compromise God’s eternal truth
for some false and passing unity in or of the world.
Rather, as St. Paul advises us today:
” [let us] keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfecter of faith..”
Do not let opposition dampen your spirits or drown your faith,
but let the fire of Christ blaze and strengthen your zeal.
Don’t let it be a fire of hatred of your enemies, but a fire of love for Christ.
Let his fire purify your intentions,
and spread from you
to warm the hearts of those who are cold or luke-warm to Christ.

My brothers and sisters,
Christ loves us and wants us to live in peace.
But his love is also a sword,
not a sword that kills or wounds,
but a sword that cuts away truth from lies,
dividing good from evil.
Let us pray for ourselves, for one another,
that we may truly live life in union with the Lord Jesus,
and never place ourselves in opposition to him.
Let us pray also for our families, and our friends,
that Christ may heal all divisions,
and enliven the fire of his truth and love in us.
Let us pray for all Catholics,
and for all Christians
who are divided from the full unity with the Catholic faith,
and for those divided from the Church entirely.
Let us pray that the burning fire of the Holy Spirit may well up in his Church,
transforming us into one consuming blaze
that will burn out of control, spreading into all the world,
burning away all walls of that divide us
from the perfect unity and peace of Jesus Christ.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2013
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church,
Springfield, Va.

Sometimes it seems that everywhere we turn
there’s bad and even frightening news:
the War on Terror,
unemployment, bankruptcy, foreclosures,
furloughs, political discord,
the loss of privacy, the power of government,
the attack on marriage, the decline of morals….
Not to mention more personal tragedies:
illness, loneliness, abandonment, death…
I could go on and on.
Facing all this it’s easy to become sad and discouraged.
So easy to slip into fear, or even to lose hope.

But then we come to a day like today:
a day filled with joy as we celebrate
the Assumption of the BVM to heaven.

We celebrate with joy because of the event itself:
that the Blessed Mother, the Mother of Jesus and Our Mother,
when her earthly life was ended,
was assumed, body and soul, into heaven,
and now reigns in glory with her Son, Jesus Christ,
as queen of heaven and earth.

We imagine her joy of being in the glory of heaven
before the throne of God the Father and Son,
united to them in the fullness of the Holy Spirit,
and in the company of the angels and saints.
Perfect happiness, perfect love, perfect peace, perfect joy.
Tonight we read the words she spoke on that day
she visited her cousin Elizabeth,
with the Baby Jesus newly conceived in her womb,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”
Surely that day she meant every word and they were pure and true,
but now in heaven those words take on
a whole new meaning and perfection.
“Her spirit rejoices in God her savior,
for he has lifted up his lowly servant
and placed her in the center of his heart,
in the love of the Father Son and Holy Spirit,
surrounded by the angels and saints,
and in the midst of all the prayers and praise
of the faithful on earth.

She is filled with incomprehensible joy,
and, because she is our Mother, how can we not rejoice in her happiness.

And in her happiness we find even more joy for ourselves
—for as our Mother she longs for us to share her joy completely.
She longs for us to go where she has gone,
to live in paradise as saints forever.
For us to share eternally in the promise Her Son made to all of us,
that if we would love Him and believe in him
and hope in him and follow him,
we might have eternal life—life in abundance.
“Rejoice and be glad” he said,
“for the kingdom of God shall be yours,” he promised.
“Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him
[shall] have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

The promise that his faithful followers would go heaven,
not just in spirit or with their souls, but in their whole being: body and soul.
So that all the fears and pains and suffering we endure in body and soul
in our life in this world would be wiped away and rewarded,
and every joy we celebrate on earth in body and soul
will be fulfilled and perfected.

And he has kept his promise.
First with His Mother as he took her, body and soul into heaven.
The first disciple of Jesus, the one who, as Elizabeth says of her, was the first to
“believe that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
So she was the first to receive the fullness of His promise,
and her assumption into to heaven stands as a pledge to us
that where the first disciple, the first believer, has gone,
the rest of His disciples will follow.

If, if, only we are true disciples as she was.
If we believe and hope and accept His grace to live and love as she did,
in conformity with his will, his commandments his word.
Only if we “believe that what was spoken to [us] by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
as she did.
Only if we obey his word as she did, saying with word and deed:
“Let it be done to me according to thy word.”

This is our joy:
that our mother is in heaven rejoicing in the perfect love of God.
And this is our joy: that there she is preparing a place for us,
a place won for us by her divine son
who fills us with his grace and love here on earth
that we may bear all suffering, resist all temptation,
and carry all crosses.
And this is our joy: that as we travel in this earthly valley of suffering and fear,
our Mother in heaven is always there to brings her Divine Son to us,
just as she brought him (in her womb) to Elizabeth so long ago.
And that she comes to comfort and assist us at every moment,
even the darkest moments,
just as she came to help ‘Elizabeth so long ago.
And this is our joy: that her Divine Son who loved his mother so much
that he filled her with his grace and love on earth,
and then finally brought her, body and soul,
home to the joys of heaven,
(that he) loves us also, and longs to do the same for each of us.

Every day all around us we see and hear news that can
fill us with sadness, and discouragement,
even overwhelm us fear and hopelessness.
But then we come to a day like today:
a day filled with joy as we join the angels and saints
in celebrating the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, Mary,
into heaven.
And in the arms of our Mother, and by the Grace of her Son, Jesus Christ,
all fear and sadness slips away.
And we join her in saying to Him:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”

19th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2013

August 11, 2013
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church,
Springfield, Va.

We live in one of the most powerful and most wealthy places on earth.
Some of you have a pretty good share in that power and wealth,
and many, if not most, of the rest of you are hoping to share in it,
to a greater or lesser extent.
But then we hear the voice of Jesus echo over 2000 years and say to us:
“Sell your belongings …[for] an inexhaustible treasure in heaven.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Now most of you probably work pretty hard to get all this stuff and power,
you’ve dedicated your life, you’ve made huge sacrifices.
But even with all that hard work,
how much of your success has been due to the “luck”
of having good parents,
or particular natural talents
or simply being in the right place at the right time?

Well, personally, as a Christian, I don’t believe it luck.
Christians believe in providence:
God has a plan, and he provides for us according to that plan.
We believe that God created us for a reason,
and gave us our parents and our talents.
And he gave us lungs to breath
and free will to choose to be lazy or to work hard.
As St. Paul says elsewhere in scripture:
“What have you that you did not receive?
….why do you boast as if it were not a gift?”
Like the servant in today’s parable,
we have all been “entrusted with much.”

Of course, seeing things this way requires “faith.”
Note, this faith is not opposed to reason.
Rather faith is the light that shines on reason,
like a lamp shining on a book to make it readable and understandable.

And when we see the world in the light of faith
we see all the things we have as gifts
most of which pass away when we leave this world.
And we see that these things we work so hard for
—money, fame, pleasure, power, whatever—
mean nothing if we forget the one who gives them in the first place.
If we love the gift more than we love the giver, God himself.

So you say, yes father all that’s true, and faith and God are important to me,
but placing them above everything else—that’s hard.
Yes it is.
But so is getting up every morning and going to work or school,
most everyday of your life.
But you do it.
Why is it so inconceivable to work as hard and make as many sacrifices
to place God in the center of your life?
Why aren’t we willing to do that now, and every day for the rest of our lives?

You say, yes, but when I go to work
I see the fruit of my work, the reward of my labor.
I get paid at the end of the week,
and over the years I rise up in my career.
It’s not that way with God—he doesn’t give me tangible results.

First of all, how many of your employers or clients
pay you up-front for the work you haven’t done yet?
Not many.
But God does.
He’s already given
every breath you take, every thought in your head, your job,
your very life itself!
Not to mention the grace that flows from his Cross and resurrection.

And how many of you work hard and wait for years to get promotions?
If you’re boss doesn’t promote you today,
or at least put the promise in writing today,
why would you risk working for years for the uncertain?
Unlike your boss or client, though,
God did put his promises of riches and promotion in writing.
It’s written down in scripture and affirmed every day
in the living breathing teaching of the Church.
We read it today in the Gospel as Jesus promises us:
“your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”

You say, I have faith father,
but I ask God for things all the time,
and most of the time he doesn’t give me what I ask for.
True, but maybe you’re asking for the wrong things.
Imagine if you went into your boss’s office tomorrow
and demanded 6 month paid vacation.
Not many bosses would give in to that—in fact most bosses would fire you.

But God just sits there patiently listening to our requests for silly things,
things he knows won’t be good for us,
and then gives us what we really need.
How about a little oxygen in your lungs?
How about a job to come to tomorrow?
And how about I give you some of the really valuable stuff,
some of the treasures of heaven
How about a little charity or chastity or wisdom?

The bottom line is, we work so hard for the things of this world,
and we’re completely lazy when it comes to faith and God.

And I’m not just talking about people with jobs.

Students to the same thing.
We’re still 3 weeks away from the start of the public schools, but the kids in band and football are already having practice everyday.
And when school starts you kids will be working hard, maybe even staying up late at night working on your homework or studying for tests, all for a grade no one will remember 5 years from now.

And mothers who stay at home, especially homeschooling.
You work hard to help your kids grow into fine adults, but do you work hard at your faith?
And retired folks: you worked hard all your life building a financial nest egg so you could retire comfortably, but did you work hard to build up treasure in heaven?
Are you working hard at it now?

We work so hard for the things of this world,
and we’re completely lazy when it comes to faith and God.
And yet we expect so much from him, including all the things we already have.

So, how do we work hard at having faith?
We begin with the basics.
If you’re a surgeon you have to obey the basic rules of medicine and science,
or you’ll work hard all day long
but not only will your patients die,
but you’ll die of starvation.
And if you’re a Christian,
you begin by working hard at keeping the basic rules of faith and love.
You keep the commandments:
you worship God,
you don’t kill, steal, or lie;
you love your family, and respect the gift of sexuality.
And you follow the beatitudes,
you embrace poverty of spirit, work for peace and show mercy;
and you accept persecution for standing up for your faith in Jesus.
It’s difficult, but you have to work hard at living the life God calls you to live.

And you spend time studying.
What professional doesn’t spend years studying
before he even begins to start his career?
And who survives in his profession
if doesn’t do continuing education?
A Christian also has to study:
to read the Scriptures, the Catechism, the writings of the Popes
and other holy books.
To listen to talks by orthodox experts or holy people
—to pay attention to the homilies at Mass.
It’s a fact that most Catholics stopped really learning bout their faith
when they were 14.
Imagine if an accountant had stopped learning about numbers when he was 14…

And you have to pray.
Prayer involves talking and listening to God.
This requires patience and time,
but imagine a lawyer who doesn’t talk and listen to his client.
Prayer also involves praising and thanking God:
what laborer does his work well when he doesn’t respect it or enjoy it.
What Christian can be a good Christian if he doesn’t praise his God.

And finally, you have to open your heart and choose to accept
the grace God gives you.
What fool works hard all week
and then refuses to cash, or deposit or invest his paycheck?

Now, in every business or line of work, there’s always critical moments in time.
Maybe it’s a deadline, or an important make or break meeting.
At those moments all the hard work comes together and pays off
—either in the product or in the reward.
For Catholics, the most important moment
is the time we spend at Mass.

Sometimes people say, but Father, I don’t really get much out of Mass.
Well, maybe the problem isn’t so much what you’re not getting out of the Mass,
as it is what you’re not putting into the Mass.

Some people come to work late every day,
then waste time all day gossiping with friends,
distracting and entertaining themselves on the internet,
maybe occasionally answering the phone when it rings,
until they can manage to sneak out a few minutes early to beat the traffic.
They were at work, but they didn’t do work.
The didn’t put much into it, and they didn’t get much out of it that day,
and they aren’t going to get much out if on pay day, or promotion day.

Sounds like a lot of Catholics at Mass.

On the other hand, some people go to work early
and throw themselves into the job
—having spent the previous evening and the drive in preparing for the day.
I have a feeling that will all the money and power in this room today,
that represents a whole lot of you.

You want to get something out of Mass, first put something into Mass,
both before you get here and while you’re here.
Prepare before you come, and when you get here early
examine your conscience:
think how you’ve kept the commandments this week;
and read the scriptures and studying what the Mass is about.
And during the Mass listen to the prayers, the readings and the homily carefully.
Maybe my homilies are too long and too boring,
but there’s something, even if it’s only one sentence,
that God wants you to hear in them.

And pray: the whole Mass is one long prayer:
listen and talk to God, sing his praises,
and thank him from the bottom of your heart for all he does for you!
And finally, open yourself up to the grace he gives you so generously
in this sacrament of the Eucharist.

Every good thing we have or want is in one form or another a gift from God.
But why do we work so hard to enjoy and even abuse
the lesser gifts God gives
and spend hardly any effort to enjoy
His most profound gifts,
and the ones that last forever.
Remember:
“Your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
…where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

18th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2013

August 4, 2013
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church,
Springfield, Va.

It seems that every day somebody somewhere has
some bad news to report about the economy.
Perhaps for some of us here economic problems may be very real and direct:
some of us may have lost jobs, or lost a raise, or even lost your home.
Right now I’m hearing from a lot of you about the difficulties the government sequester and furloughs are causing you.

But if you stop and think about it, in the big picture,
there’s never been a time in history when a country has experienced
such a tremendous level of economic prosperity as our country does today.

Many of us here look back on our youths and wonder at the changes.
Those of you who were around in the earlier part of the last century,
must sometimes shake your head in amazement,
especially from memories of the Great Depression,
or the shortages during World War II.
I can remember just over 45 years ago,
when my family was the only one on the block with a color TV
–and the only reason we had that was that we won it in the Church raffle.

We live in a very prosperous society, in fact in a very prosperous region
even our neighborhood is prosperous.
Unfortunately that also means that we live in a society, region and neighborhood
where “success” is often measured by how much money you have or make,
or how many things you have.
And where the well-being of individuals and the country as a whole
is often expressed primarily–sometimes almost exclusively–
in terms of economic prosperity:
the rise of the stock market, low unemployment,
higher salaries, home ownership.
All these things are good things
–God gives us the world to use and, as Genesis tells us, “have dominion over;”
–all of us have a right to property
and to receive recompense for our labor,
and to provide a margin of financial security
for our selves and our families.

What concerns me is not prosperity or the hard work that produces it.
What worries me is the attitude
that worldly wealth is the primary or almost exclusive measure
of the well-being of a people.
[What worries me is] that what we often consider pursuit of success or security,
is often really nothing more than the thinly veiled sin of greed.

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel:
“Take care to guard against all greed”
or as it might be better translated: “Avoid greed in all its forms.”
He goes on to tell us about a man who, by all accounts, has it made.
–who has all the material prosperity he could hope for.
Most of us would call this man clever or at least lucky–but Jesus calls him “you fool.”

All three of today’s readings remind us that nothing in this world can compare
to the wonderful riches of heaven
–riches that we can begin to enjoy even in this world.
And all three remind us
that when we place the pursuit of worldly success at the center of our hearts,
as the goal of our lives,
we soon find ourselves forcing out and ignoring the God
who gives us these things.

The attitude that things are of primary importance is the sin of greed;
and greed inevitably corrupts whatever it touches.
When we start seeing things–objects–as having the central value in our lives,
we wind up putting persons in second place.

The first person we put in second place is God,
and if we can place divine persons in second place
we can very easily place all the human persons in our lives in second place.
Eventually it gets so bad, so corrupt,
that the only way we can even begin to think of valuing persons
–to give them some sort of value in our lives–
is by treating them as things, objects.
So that they become, in effect, things that we can possess,
things valued primarily for what they do for us,
rather than persons to love and honor for who they are.

Jesus says: “Avoid greed in all its forms.”
And in today’s 2nd reading St. Paul puts some flesh on these words when he says:
“Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
[sexual](1) immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Stop lying to one another.”

When we value things more than persons, including God and neighbor,
we are not avoiding greed in all its forms.
But this attitude is also directly linked to an attitude that
people are only as good to us as the material satisfaction that we personally derive from them,
and that our actions are always justifiable if they bring us satisfaction,
even if they hurt others,
or break down the bonds that bring people together
in personal relationship.

And so you see that greed corrupts our whole lives
–into every way we deal with people.
We start seeing the poor and defenseless as
not people who deserve our love and help
but rather,
either, on the one hand,
as excess useless baggage
or, on the other hand,
as the outlet of our selfish desire to feel good about ourselves
by either seeing ourselves
seeing ourselves as well off in comparison to them,
or seeing ourselves as kind
because we give to these things that need us.

Soon we begin to see the people around us as objects
that can satisfy our personal sexual desires,
rather than appreciating the dignity and meaning of man
being created as male and female together
to be the image of God’s love and life in the world.
Then we begin to see children both as something we have a right to possess
when we want it and how we want it.
And we begin to see even the gift of speech, of words,
that should be used to bring persons together
–we see this gift as something to be manipulated as a tool in using persons
–and so we accept the lying that tears down the relationships
between us and God and in families and in society,
as normal.

“Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
[sexual] immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.
Stop lying to one another.”

This is what happens when the individuals of society pursue the good of things
versus the good of persons
–the love of God and neighbor;
when material prosperity is used as the standard of measuring the welfare
of individuals and societies
–instead of using heaven and the love of God as the standard.

Today we come together to celebrate a sacrament which is the antitheses of greed:
a sacrament that is all about mutual giving.
In the sacrament of the Eucharist, a word which means “thanksgiving,”
Christ gives himself to the Father as a sacrifice for us,
and gives himself to us.
And in this sacrament, we give ourselves to Christ,
and in Christ, give ourselves completely to the Father.

We come here to receive much more than we come here to give,
but in this mutual giving and receiving we’re drawn into the life of Christ
–the one who is truly completely without any form of greed.
And we are transformed, as we share in the life of heaven,
as we eat the Bread of angels.
And as we enter the sacred mysteries of heaven present to us in this Mass, our greed
–our focus on things and tendency to treat people as things–
is replaced by a focus on heaven in mutual giving in love between persons.
A Holy Communion with the Trinity of Divine Persons,
and through them, the whole Church, and each and every Christian.

We come together today to: “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”
But as we leave here today,
as we go out and enjoy our things and return to work tomorrow,
we must not return to being intent on the things of this world.
Keep your hearts set on heaven this week,
and let this sacrament we receive today
remove from your life all forms of selfishness and greed,
transforming it into a life of Holy Communion with God
and with his people.

“Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly.”
“Avoid greed in all its forms.”

1. The translation read at Mass is very poor. The Greek word used here is porneia, which refers to sexual immorality, usually (in Scripture) specifically incest.

17th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2013

July 28, 2013
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church,
Springfield, Va.

I’m a huge John Wayne fan.
Now, some folks say that he wasn’t a very good actor
—that he basically played the same character in every movie.
But I tend to think that he just had a unique style,
and applied that to every role he had,
both making the role his own,
and bringing something unique and powerful to the role.

In any case the other night I saw one of his old movies, called “Island in the Sky,”
where he played his typical strong virile type,
but there was also something different.
For most of the film Wayne’s character was afraid,
and he showed it over and over again.
And in response to his fear he repeatedly offered one primary solution:
he prayed.

Sometimes we like to think we’re John Wayne
—we’re strong on our own, we don’t need any help.
But then fear brings us to our knees.
In fact, sometimes God allows some pretty terrible things to happen to us,
specifically to break through our false bravado
so we’ll be afraid and realize there’s not a thing we can do
and that only He is powerful enough to overcome the impossible
—and that we desperately need Him, and need to pray.

It’s a shame we need to go through all this just to learn this most basic truth.

The apostles learned this in a much easier way:
they saw how Jesus depended on prayer, and they wanted to imitate him.
“Lord, teach us to pray,” they asked him.

Prayer is one of the most important and necessary parts of life
—not just the Christian life, but of human life.
Because man was made to live in relationship with God and with his fellow man,
beginning with his spouse and family.
And just as you can’t have a meaningful or fruitful relationship
with your husband or wife or son or daughter if you don’t talk with them,
how can you have meaningful or fruitful relationship with God
if you don’t talk with him?
And that’s what prayer is, a conversation with God.

Without that conversation, how do really get know God?
Of course it’s essential we learn about him
through the teachings he’s revealed to His Church
—this is like reading his private letters
to his oldest and dearest friends.
But, again, that’s knowing about him, not knowing HIM as a person,
or as 3 particular unique divine persons, Father, Son and holy Spirit.

How do we know his will for us?
How do we know and realize his presence with us?
If we don’t talk with him?

And how do we recognize his power and our need for him?
How do we recognize, from the depth of our being that he is almighty God,
and we are not?
And how do we recognize his love for us, as specific individuals?
If we don’t turn to him and talk to him in our need and in our thanksgiving?

How will we be open to his grace and power if we don’t first realize
that we are sometimes powerless,
or that the power we have comes from and is increased by him alone.
And how will we be open to admitting that it was he and he alone
who came to our rescue
if we don’t first admit to him in prayer that he and he alone can save us.

Some say, but God knows everything we need, why do we have to tell him?
Because he knows, but we keep forgetting,
so we have to constantly admit to him and to ourselves—in prayer—
that whatever particular little thing we need, we first need him.

Some say, God knows I love and thank him, he doesn’t need me to tell him.
No, but we need to tell him for our sake,
we need to admit it to ourselves and to him.

Prayer is not for God’s sake, but for ours.
We need to pray—he doesn’t need our prayers.

Some say to me, like the apostles said to Jesus: “teach us to pray.”
Interestingly, in the John Wayne movie
at one point Wayne admits he doesn’t know much about praying
and so he leads his friends in the only prayer he knows:
the same prayer Jesus teaches his disciples today: the Our Father.

It is the model prayer, and has probably been prayed by every Christian
since Jesus gave it to us.
But some people are critical of prayers like this:
they say we shouldn’t memorize and repeat other people’s prayers,
we should make them up on our own so that they “come from the heart.”

There’s certainly nothing wrong with making up your own prayers,
but is it true that we don’t pray prayers like the Our Father
“from the heart”?
What’s wrong with taking the words that are from the heart of Jesus himself,
or from the heart of Mary, or the Angel Gabriel, or some other saint
and making them our own.
Well thought out, and carefully chosen words,
yet words inspired by love that truly bring reason and passion together:
from brilliant minds leading holy hearts.

Why can’t we take them, think about their beauty,
and how they enlighten our dull minds and pierce our hard hearts,
and them make them our own.

After all, one of the great difficulties that people have in praying
is knowing what to say to God.
One of the beauties of these prayers written by the saints,
which the tradition calls “vocal prayers,”
is that they help us both to begin to pray
and then to learn how to pray.

So while if we just started from scratch we might say,
“okay God, gimme what I want.”
Instead Jesus teaches us the better way, with the Our Father as the model.
He says, begin by recognizing and proclaiming God’s love
and his authority by calling him “our Father.”
Then, don’t order your Father around, saying “gimme”
–that’s not how we talk to God.
Instead ask that His will be done,
and humbly request just the simplest thing, bread.

So it’s so important to learn these “vocal prayers.”
And especially to teach them to our little children,
who have a great capacity to memorize.
Because by memorizing these prayers we not only learn the words,
but we also learn how to formulate our own private spontaneous prayers.

These private prayers we “make up ourselves”
are normally grouped with a way of praying called “mental prayer”
—so we have “vocal prayers”, the prayers composed by others,
and “mental prayers,” prayers that are more spontaneous.

Also included in “mental prayer” is the prayer not simply of talking to God,
but also listening to God.
So sometimes you pray by just sitting and reading a holy book
—like the Bible, a spiritual classic or even a saint’s biography.
And in the words of that book you find and hear the Lord speaking to you,
instructing you, wooing your heart.

All this comes together in a most special way
in what we’re doing right here today: the Mass,
the great prayer of Jesus in communion with His Church,
praying to the Father.

Of course, there are many, many “vocal prayers” in the Mass
—the formal ritual prayers,
from the sign of the cross to the Confiteor and Gloria,
to the Holy, Holy and the Eucharistic prayer,
to the Agnus Dei and, of course, the Our Father.
All prayers either taken directly from the Scriptures,
or composed and prayed over the centuries by the great Catholic saints.
So that the Mass is not simply a set of formal meaningless words,
but a school of prayer with Christ and the angels and saints
as our teachers.

And as we pray these beautiful prayers, if we just engage our minds and hearts
and see how profound the words are, and make them our own,
we can and should say them not just with our lips
but with our hearts and from our hearts.
Especially when we understand where they came from
and so have a deeper sense of their meaning.
So, for example, we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts,”
right before the consecration, and we remember,
these are the words the choirs of angels sing in heaven
before the throne of God
—as both Isaiah and the Book of Revelation tell us.
And then we remember that in the consecration the angels descend to earth
and we are with them before the throne of God,
come down and present on the altar.

And then, instructed by these beautiful vocal prayers
of Jesus and the angels and saints,
then in the quiet times of the Mass,
or as we listen quietly to the prayers of the priest,
we join the prayer of the Church
with our own spontaneous and mental prayers,
and talk to and listen to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
and even to the angels and saints here present.
The fullness of the prayer of the Mass.

When it comes to prayer, all of us sometimes think we’re like John Wayne
–rugged individualists who don’t need help from anyone.
But the reality is that all of us need God, and need to pray to him.

As we enter more deeply into the prayer of this Holy Mass,
let us remember we are at the school of prayer,
and let the prayers of Christ and His angels and saints
teach us how to pray, and how to make their prayers our own.
So that every prayer we say—at Mass or in private, whether vocal or mental,
may truly be a prayer from the heart,
talking to God and listening to Him.

“Lord, teach us how to pray.”

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2013

(Second Sunday of the Fortnight for Freedom)
June 30, 2013
Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

This coming Thursday America celebrates the day in 1776
when our founders signed their names
to the Declaration of Independence,
giving birth to a new nation conceived in the radical notion that:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness.

A very simple statement, but a very profound ideal.

A few years later, having won their War of Independence,
some of those same men, along with other patriots,
came up with a plan to make that ideal of a nation become a reality.
The Constitution they gave us began with the words stating their purpose:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to
form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,
insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,
promote the general Welfare,
and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

Both of these foundational documents set an ambitious plan for the new nation,
that has led us to become perhaps the greatest nation
the earth has ever seen.
And at the heart of this greatness is the one key ideal
enshrined in both documents: Liberty.

Liberty—a precious word, a noble ideal, a principle to fight and die for.
But with all that what does it mean?
Does it mean freedom to do whatever you want?
Freedom from any constraints—legal, social, economic, moral or religious?
But how could a nation survive like that
—if everyone just did whatever they wanted?

But on the other hand, if we put constraints on freedom
how could we really live in liberty?

The answer is that some constraints, which seem at first to take away freedom,
actually enhance freedom.
So, while, for example, self-discipline
seems to be an act against freedom to do as you feel like,
in reality it allows you to control your irrational emotions and appetites
so that you can make a rational choice of what is best for you.
As St. Paul reminds us today:
“do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh;
….For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
…these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.”

It’s the same with all social disciplines—rules, laws, norms—
that help control passions and impulses
so that “we the people” can live together in
“a more perfect Union”, with “Justice,” and “domestic Tranquility,”
and in all this “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

But all of this presupposes that we can all agree basic principles,
that we share a fundamental set of common values
that help define and even limit the laws we enact to discipline ourselves.

And from the very beginning Americans have shared a common set of values.
And they begin with two principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence.
First: the idea that are some “self-evident truths”
–truths that we just know, that are obvious either at first sight,
or after careful rational consideration.
And second: that one of these self-evident truths is that there is a Creator,
who gives us not only certain unalienable rights,
but also gives us all the self-evident truths
that he writes into all creation: certain natural laws.
As the Declaration calls them, “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

So we begin with these 2 fundamental American values,
and from them flow all sorts of other American values
about the way they ought to be.

But nowadays, people blush or even get angry
if you talk about God ordering things.
But there it is, right in beginning—in what we celebrate today.
And without that idea that God determines what is right and wrong
—not kings or lords or congressmen or presidents or judges—
without that there never would have been an America,
and American couldn’t have grown to be the great nation it became.

And the thing is, right from the beginning it wasn’t just a vague notion of
“a supreme being” or “creator” or nameless-God
that America looked to for guidance.
It was the God that almost every American worshiped and believed in.
The God that George Washington spoke of in 1783,
when he wrote the Governors of all the States as he disbanded his Army:
“the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion,
…without an humble imitation of whose example in these things,
we can never hope to be a happy nation.”

He was speaking of Jesus Christ, and the “blessed religion” he founded,
that we call “Christianity.”

At the same time, Washington knew
that many Christians disagreed on certain tenets of the faith:
Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists
—they each had their own unique ideas about certain things.
Nevertheless, he called for us to tolerate those differences,
while at the same time recognizing and building
our United States of America
on the fundamental values we all held in common,
what he called, “the pure spirit of Christianity.”
Let’s be clear—the differences are important,
but the point is, so are the basic Christian values held in common.

Nowadays the different Christian denominations and Churches
have a lot of radical differences in their teachings, especially about morals.
But that’s not the way it was in 1776.
All Christians shared basically the same set of fundamental beliefs.
And those Christian beliefs formed the fundamental Common American values
—so that the founders could say there was a God who
created us all equal with inalienable rights,
and established certain laws of nature,
many of which were self-evident.

Unfortunately, our founding was imperfect
—because while it was founded on solid Christian principles,
it was also founded by men.
As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, No. 51,
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

So, for example,
while professing the basic Christian value “that all men are created equal,”
and holding that, as St. Paul says, “For freedom Christ set us free,”
the founders wound up tolerating a terrible exception to that norm: slavery.
Eventually, good Christians organized the Abolitionist Movement.
But in the end the evil of slavery had to be cut out by force.

So that while this week we celebrate
the 237th anniversary of our nation’s birth on July 4th, 1776,
we also remember an event that happed
“Four score and seven years” later:
the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg,
fought from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863,
which was the turning point in the War that would end slavery.
As President Lincoln would admonish his fellow Americans, north and south,
in his Gettysburg Address:
“we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain
—that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom
—and that government of the people, by the people,
for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
A nation under God, given a new birth in freedom,
but this time more closely aligned to the fundamental Christian values
“of the people”—“American values.”

Sadly, today, most Americans have lost any sense
of our foundation on Christian values.
And so the question must be asked:
can a nation founded on Christian values
survive if it casts off those Christian values?

If it replaces those Christian values with Secular Humanist values?
Values based on the false notion of liberty
as a freedom to do whatever you want.
Values that are not rooted in God, but that spring forth from human power.
Values not ordered by self-evident truths that God wrote into our very nature,
but in the dictates from relativistic laws that change from year to year?
Values that allow our passions and appetites to dominate our reason
and blind us to ignore “self-evident truths,”
and so enslave us to our base desires?

As St. Paul reminds us:
“For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
How can the nation conceived in liberty survive
if the values that keep liberty from becoming chaos and slavery
are ignored or cast aside?

But this last week the Supreme Court did just that.
Setting aside the common values that made this nation possible,
the court ruled that the federal government has to recognized
state laws that allow so called “gay marriage.”

And the court didn’t just set aside those common American values.
It went out of its way to called those values unconstitutional and, in essence, evil.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy, found that
“the purpose” of federal law that recognized only heterosexual marriage
was, as he put it, “to disparage and to injure” “gay” people.
And that state laws that recognized gay marriage
“enhance the dignity and integrity of the person,”
but that “the principal purpose” of the federal law was
“to impose inequality.”

Some see “gay marriage” as a matter of equal rights
and compare it to the equal rights struggle for blacks
—including the fight against slavery.
But the thing is, America has never denied marriage to “gay people,”
as long as they do what marriage does
—form a union between members of the opposite sex.
Because that’s what Americans have always understood marriage to be,
based on what they understood as a self-evident truth,
and confirmed by their Christian values.
In the same way they believed God created us equal in dignity in rights,
Americans also believed that it was a self-evident truth that God also
clearly created men and women different in their bodies,
so that, by their nature, they could be joined together
in a union ordered toward producing and raising children.

To say that equality demands that two gay people
should be allowed to marry each other,
is like saying that equal rights demands that
fathers should be allowed to marry their daughters,
or mothers marry their sons, or one man to marry 4 women.
That’s just not what marriage is.

It’s absurd to say that what almost all Americans have believed for 2 centuries
is somehow inconsistent with the values enshrined in the Constitution.

But it seems that’s where we are at today.
How can we survive this, especially if our Christian values are replaced by values
that directly contradict those Christian values?
We did that once, with slavery, when we tried to say
that mere human laws could redefine what it means to be a human,
so that black men were somehow less than human than white men.
For four score and seven years it ate at the fiber of our nation
until it almost destroyed it.
We can’t compromise moral truths about the order that God created.
And we cannot maintain a nation that rose above all others
based on the Christian values it embraced,
if we discard those values or embrace their opposites.

When the founders guaranteed the right to Religious Liberty in the Constitution
they intended to protect the rights of all Americans
to worship and live according their own faith,
as long as they did not conflict with the basic shared values of Americans,
what Washington called the “pure spirit of Christianity.”
Not one of our founding fathers, and no American living up until 50 years ago,
would have ever dreamed that one day we’d be invoking
our constitutional right to religious liberty
in order to simply live by the moral code America was founded on.

This week we rightly thank God for the many gifts
he has bestowed upon our nation for these 237 years.
But let us also pray for the protection of our liberty religious liberty.
Not only so we can live as we are called to by Christ,
but also so that we can that we can share our Christian values
with our fellow countrymen.
So that just as those values
once purified our nation from the errors of slavery
they may, by the grace of Jesus Christ, and the light of his gospel,
once again lead our nation to recognize the self-evident truths
written in nature by the God who created us all.
So that “this nation, under God…shall have a new birth of freedom.”

“For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2013

(First Sunday of the Fortnight for Freedom)
June 23, 2013
Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

In 1875 Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives,
James Blaine, of Maine,
introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution
that would specifically ban state governments
from providing any funding for schools run by religions.

It was part of a response to the influx of Catholic immigrants from Europe,
who, instead of sending their children to public schools,
were opening their own Catholic schools.
Blaine and many others thought this was very bad for the country, divisive,
especially in the aftermath of the devastatingly divisive Civil War
ended just 10 years before.
After defeating the moral evil of slavery that had divided the nation so long,
there was a strong desire among many to unite the country,
based on one set of common moral values.
And they thought one key to doing that was through public schools,
which would teach from one moral perspective.
Unfortunately, that one perspective wound up
reflecting not merely the morals but the religion
of the majority of Americans—Protestantism.
And that was exactly why Catholics started their own schools:
to avoid having their children indoctrinated with
the Protestantism presented in public schools.

So that Speaker Blaine’s amendment was essentially, knowingly, anti-Catholic.
It eventually failed, but it wound up inspiring a rash of amendments
to state constitutions, and eventually an large majority of states had them.
And in many of those states the amendments were pushed through
by one of the strongest openly anti-Catholic organizations of the day:
the Ku Klux Klan

What started out with an apparently good intention,
to be one united people, with one common set of moral standards,
very soon became corrupted by imposition of one religious perspective.
Or, to put it another way, unity was sought at the expense of Religious Liberty.

Today these laws still remain on the books: and they are still anti-Catholic.
While no one would argue that today’s public schools are Protestant,
they are still religious: following the religion of “secular humanism.”
A religion with an understanding of morality that is very different from Catholicism
and that teaches that Catholics are immoral because they disagree.

This secular humanism is, effectively, becoming our nation’s dominate religion
—even among many who still think of themselves Christians,
or even Catholic.
And it increasingly imposes itself on us through our government,
as it tries force us by law to adopt this new unified morality.
It’s rather strange, however:
the same folks who promote unified morality
also embrace “diversity” and “toleration”
as the greatest theological virtues, as goods in themselves.
But they make two exceptions:
there can be no diversity of thought about good and evil, right and wrong,
and no toleration of those who do not agree with that one morality.

So that now, Catholics who are faithful to Catholic morality
are tolerated only if they don’t “impose” their beliefs on others
by even simply talking about those beliefs,
much less actually defending or proposing those beliefs to others.
And Catholics who are not faithful,
–who reject Catholic morality and embrace secular humanist morality,
including its culture of death and perversion,
–these so-called “Catholics” are celebrated
as “enlightened” and “truly moral.”
One can almost see the patronizing hand of secular humanism
petting them on the head and cooing: “good little Catholics.”

This last week our president reminded us that he is a disciple of this religion,
and it’s anti-Catholicism.
Speaking to an audience of school children in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he said:
“If towns remain divided
— if Catholics have their schools and buildings,
and Protestants have theirs
— if we can’t see ourselves in one another,
if fear or resentment are allowed to harden,
that encourages division.
It discourages cooperation.”

Some say he was just encouraging cooperation
and tearing down walls that divide.
That he was talking about the 15 year old peace now in place
after decades, and really centuries, of violence
between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
If that was what he was talking about, then he’s very ignorant:
“the troubles” were always about politics, not religion or morality.
And they in no way sprang forth from Catholic schools and churches,
which had always soundly condemned the violence.

But the President’s solution to division is the same as Blaine’s and the Ku Klux Klan:
send all the children to government schools,
where the government can teach them the one right way to think.

They say it’s not anti-Catholicism—it’s just about unity.
Catholicism just happens to get in the way of unity,
because it dares to reject government approved morality.

Government approved morality, government approved values.
Think about that.
In the last month it’s been revealed that the Internal Revenue Service
has been targeting groups that have values that are different
than the leaders of our government.
That—along with news about the government’s vast intrusions on our privacy, and targeting of reporters who waiver in support of
the values of our leader—
has sent a chill down the spine of many thinking Americans.
And into the hearts of many Catholic Americans.

But none of this should be a surprise to us.
Anti-Catholicism has always been around in America.
It’s ebbed and flowed in our history,
but it’s been on a steady rise for the last 5 decades
—in our laws, our art, our entertainment and in our classrooms.
And we’ve seen it especially in last five years as values that had been
truly common American values since before our founding,
have been thrown aside, and their moral opposites installed
by our government as now “sacred” and truly moral.
From the embrace of the gay culture and lifestyle,
to the celebration of abortion as a good thing,
to the promotion of sexual promiscuity and perversion,
to the attack on the freedom of religion.
But it came to a head in January of last year
as our current president and his Secretary of Health and Human Services
—one of those “good little Catholics” I mentioned earlier—
issued regulations to implement Obamacare.
Regulations that would force
Catholic business owners,
and Catholic charitable organizations,
and Catholic schools and colleges
and even, in many cases, the Catholic Church itself,
to provide all their employees with health insurance that covers
not simply contraception, but also sterilization
and abortion-inducing drugs.
And then having the audacity
to tell Catholics they needed to change their ancient moral teachings,
and then contemptuously bragging about all this
in their election campaigns.

It’s the same old anti-Catholicism,
this time not presented with the moral authority of mainstream Protestantism,
or dressed up in the white sheets of the Klan.
But wearing the same old mantel of moral self-righteousness,
and preaching the same old Gospel of unity.
But all this is lie: it is a false idea of America, and a false of idea of good and evil.
And it is truly anti-Catholic.

And it is not a matter of politics
—it is about how we live our lives according to our faith and our morals.

And it’s not about political parties.
In 1875 Speaker of the House James Blaine
was a member of the Republican Party,
as was the vast majority of the Congress and the President.
The party that was founded just 20 years earlier principally to abolish slavery,
and took our country into civil war to end slavery.
But that party,
that fought so nobly to end the oppression of people of different races,
then went on to promote the oppression of people of different religions.

In 2012, President Barrack Obama,
his administration and so many in the Congress,
are members of the Democrat Party.
The party that not so long ago was the main party of faithful Catholics,
fighting for the average joe, and for equal rights for Catholics,
And eventually, after finally shedding its pro-slavery and racially bigoted past,
it became the champion equal rights for all races.
But now, it has followed the way of Speaker Blaine,
and become the champion of immortality
and the oppression of faithful Catholics.

And make no mistake—all too many Republics join them in this anti-Catholicism.
Again, all of them wrapping themselves in the flag, and calling for “unity.”

But unity with what? and with whom?
St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading:
“Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.
…you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I love America, and I am a proud American.
But for Catholics, baptized and clothed in Christ,
when it comes down to our faith in Christ and following him,
we can neither be Republican or Democrat,
American or Un-American.
We should proudly waive the Stars and Stripes,
but we must truly “clothe” ourselves
in the teaching of Christ and His Church.

This means standing opposed
to those who demand we deny our ancient Catholic moral values
and embrace the government approved values of secular humanism.
To those who demand that we forfeit our God-given religious liberty,
the very first liberty guaranteed and protected by our Constitution.
Standing opposed to them, and standing with Jesus,
who reminds us in today’s Gospel:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests,
and the scribes.”

It may mean we will rejected by the elders of our government
and the chief priests of our secular culture.
It may mean we will be mocked and hated;
it may even mean confiscation of our property and even imprisonment.
But as Christ goes on to remind us:
“If anyone wishes to come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

My friends, our bishops have called on us to defend our Religious Liberty
at all times,
but especially during these 2 weeks between June 21 and July 4:
this “Fortnight for Freedom” between
the Feast of St. Thomas More
—the great Catholic Martyr who was
“the King’s good servant, but God’s first,”—
and Independence Day
—when Americans declared war
to defend our God-given liberties.
Let us stand up as Americans in word and deed
against those who would oppress us,
even as we kneel down as Catholics in prayer and adoration
before the God who would set us free.
Let us waive the flag of freedom,
but let us do so as we take up our cross and follow Christ.
Let us pray for national unity,
but let us pray first for Catholic unity,
that Catholics may be truly “one in Christ.”

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2013 (Father’s Day)

June 16, 2013
Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

There’s an old saying: “behind every good man is a good woman.”
There are lots of exceptions to this rule,
but there’s also a lot of truth in it.
Because men and women never become that way on there own
–there’s always someone in their past, a woman or man,
that helped make them who they are today.
On this Father’s day I want to talk about the fact that
behind every good man or woman,
is often the good man who is their good father,
But we also need to admit that the opposite is also often true:
behind every bad man or woman, is often a bad father.
In short, fatherhood is critically import to family life and society itself.

And yet today many people try to pretend
that fathers don’t matter very much
—in fact, that fatherhood itself is basically meaningless.

Consider how some jurisdictions are now not even
recording the fathers of children in their birth records,
referring instead only to “parent 1” and “parent 2” and even “parent 3.”
Or consider the high divorce rate,
and the fact that 41%–more than 1 out of every 4—(of) babies
is born outside of wedlock.
But as we see a huge increase in the number of “single mothers”
(God bless them)
we also seem to see a strange discrepancy:
we hear a lot about single mothers” “but not about “single fathers”:
they often just seem to disappear from the picture.
And with the rise of contraception and abortion,
and in-vitro and other artificial methods of conception
woman are more and more seen as solely responsible
for pregnancies and births,
with men reduced to mere accidental participants,
or simply irresponsible “gamete donors.”

You also see this in the confused role of fathers who do remain in the picture:
more and more society seems to not know what to do with them.
Some people seem to define a father as simply
“the guy who helps the mother,”
or they try to feminize fathers into being kinda like “male mothers”.

But all that is relatively old news—now we have a new threat:
the silently growing for the last few years,
until one day we seem to have woken up to a fait accompli,
in the legitimization of “gay” relationships and so called “gay marriage.”
The devastating effects of this are many and multifaceted,
but just consider one.
If the courts or legislatures, or society, can redefine the meaning of “marriage”
from what everyone everywhere has always understood it to mean
in nature,
what will keep them from redefining the meaning of “fatherhood”?
If marriage is no longer marriage, why should fatherhood be fatherhood?

For example, why should a mere “male gamete donor”
have any rights or responsibilities toward the product of their donation
(their children)
—rights and responsibilities that up until now
everyone, everywhere has always considered
as belonging to the very nature of “fatherhood”?
So that when government officials and professional experts, like
teachers, school administrators, doctors and government bureaucrats,
deem they know what’s best for a man’s children
—even a married man raising his children in his own home—
why would the gamete-donor’s (the father’s) opinions be considered?

Friends, fatherhood is at risk of becoming meaningless and even extinct
for legal purposes and at a macro-cultural level.
And when fatherhood becomes meaningless, motherhood will soon follow,
the family will disintegrate,
and society will soon come crashing down on top of us.

But of course, all this runs completely contrary to the nature of men,
and to the dignity of fatherhood.
And in response, men feel more and more marginalized
and seek to express their masculinity in other ways,
in places they feel like they’re allowed to be men.
They throw themselves into their work,
or into community projects or politics
or into the arms of another woman.
Anything that makes them feel important as a man.

But fatherhood is not something we can never afford to marginalize.
On Mothers’ Day I usually talk about the dignity and importance of mothers:
how, their babies see the love of God for the first time
in their mother’s smile.
But Father’s have no less a dignified role in their children’s lives.
In the beginning God created human beings in his image as male and female:
fundamentally equal in human dignity before God and each other,
but also fundamentally different!
And the first thing he told them was “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”
–take that beautiful difference
and become mother and father!

(Consider this…)
Did you ever wonder why in the Bible
God calls himself “our Father”—never “our mother”?
It’s not because male is better than female,
And it’s not because God the Father is a actually a male like I’m a male:
as the Catechism reminds us:
“He is neither man nor woman: he is God.”
Yet there is something fundamentally important
that he wants to explain to us by revealing himself as “Father.”
And part of that
is the importance a human father has to the family.

Think about this:
God could have simply created mankind and then abandon us,
but instead he loves us and constantly shows that love in our lives.
A human male can also create human life and abandon it,
only the woman has to carry the baby for 9 months, and beyond.
But God says: no! a father is supposed to be like me!
once he creates life a true man
must give himself completely and always
to his children and wife—like God gives himself to us.

Again, men and women are very different.
We all know this and we should neither try to deny it,
or demean it by trying to masculinize women, or feminize men.
So men: be men!
And fathers, be manly fathers!
Take the many God-given masculine virtues you have
and put them to work for your family and your wife.

Even so, like all good things, even love itself,
it’s very easy for manly virtues to be corrupted by sin.
So sometimes the natural gift of manly aggressiveness
can be corrupted by sin so that
a man treats his children as property to be dominated,
not as persons to be loved.
The natural manly inclination to help his children to become better than he is,
can be corrupted so that he pushes them too hard,
trying to make up for his own inadequacies
through his kids’ accomplishments.
Or the natural manly propensity
to give his children everything they truly need
can be corrupted so that a father spoils his children,
and refuses to discipline them
or teach them self discipline.

Sin can turn a good father into a bad father.
And bad fathers can make good children into bad adults.
Fathers—whether sinful or holy—
are important, and make a huge difference in the lives of their children.

In the first part of today’s gospel we have an example of
one of these children who has become bad adult:
a woman who even Jesus admits has committed “many sins.”
One wonders what kind of father the sinful woman had as a child.
Maybe he treated her like a piece of property instead of a person,
causing her to see herself that same way.
Maybe he was inattentive or unaffectionate,
causing her to do anything to get the attention and affection
of any man to fill in for her father.
Or maybe he failed to discipline her,
allowing her to do or dress as she pleased
without concern for modesty and the response it would generate
in other sinful men when she grew up.

On the other hand,
think of the other main character in this reading: Jesus.
And think of the role his father played in his life.
As Jesus tells us elsewhere about his heavenly Father:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.”
But the Divine Father knew that when his Son became human being, a boy,
he would also need a good earthly father to raise him,
and so he gave him St. Joseph.
And Joseph was a great father.
He did everything the God the Father asked of him.
He made his child and his wife, his absolute number one priority,
even leaving even his home in Israel
to flee with Jesus and Mary to Egypt to protect them from King Herod.
He taught Jesus: he taught him a trade, the law of Moses and how to be a man.
And he spent time with Jesus constantly, and he gave him a great example.

Think about this: if a good human father was so fundamentally important
for the human life of God the Son,
how can it not be important for us mere humans.

Now, let’s go back to the sinful woman again.
I have assumed here that because she became a great sinner,
that her father might have been a bad father.
But we all know that sometimes even good fathers can have bad children.
They tried their very best,
but somewhere along the line something went wrong
and one of their children took a wrong turn,
and turned out not so good.

Actually, personally I think this is what really happened
to the woman in the Gospel.
If we read Scripture carefully we find that this woman is actually
the woman named Mary who lived in Bethany
with her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus.
Martha and Lazarus are clearly 2 very good and holy people
—clearly the children of a good mother and father.
And although Mary has clearly gone astray,
somewhere deep inside she has some of that same goodness.
And that goodness comes out when it comes face to face,
with God the Son.
And then the “the sinful woman”,
becomes the tearful penitent of great love,
and finally she’s identified,
again reading Scripture very carefully,
as not merely “Mary of Bethany,”
but also, in fact, the great St. Mary Magdalene,
the devout disciple of Jesus
who stood at the foot of the Cross
and became the first witness of His Resurrection.

Some of you fathers may think you aren’t or weren’t
the good father you should be.
You’re probably right: no body’s perfect:
I know I’m not the father I should be to you.
But don’t stop trying.
If your children are still young, with God’s help,
it’s not too late to become a better father.
And if your children are older, don’t give up
—do whatever you can now to be a good father.
Don’t worry about being a friend,
or keeping their affection.
Be strong and brave and work hard
to do whatever you have to to help them become good adult Catholics.

And don’t worry: you don’t have to do it alone.
Besides the help of a good wife, I hope,
you have the example and intercession of great saintly fathers
like St. Joseph.
And you have the example and grace of
your heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

It’s not going to be easy though.
You have to die to your sins,
but in dying to them,
Christ will raise you up in the strength of his own life,
and give you the grace to be the man he created you to be.
As St. Paul reminds us today:
“I have been crucified with Christ;
yet I live, no longer I,
but Christ lives in me….
…I do not nullify the grace of God.”

In the end, though, most of you men
are good fathers,
or try to be,
or will be someday once you have children.
Don’t let anyone tell you your fatherhood is not important
—whether your children are 5 years old or 55,
or still a just twinkle in your eye, a hope for the future.
And never be discouraged,
because the perfect Father and Son in heaven
love you and your children even more than you do.

And children, whether you’re 5 or 15 or 55 or 85,
remember and honor your father today.
Help him to be the best father he can be,
by cooperating with and loving him.
Most especially pray for him and for all fathers
that they may become the fathers
God created them to be,
and that we need them to be.

Corpus Christi Sunday

June 3, 2013
Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Have you ever asked God for a sign?
Man has always asked for signs–and God has frequently answered his requests.
We see it in the Old Testament:
for example, the Lord gave the Israelites manna in the desert,
not only to feed them, but also as a sign of
Moses’ authority.
In today’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke
Jesus gave his apostles a sign of his power and authority,
a sign that would effect them and all generations of the Church
as it became an essential part of our understanding
the sign and mystery of the Eucharist
—His Most Holy Body and Blood.

Let’s look more closely at this reading.
The Twelve apostles came to Jesus asking what he was going to do
about feeding the crowd that had followed them.
Christ’s immediate response
is to ask the apostles why they don’t feed the people.
They respond, “We have nothing but 5 loaves and two fishes”
–they can’t feed the people by themselves.
So the Lord took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the disciples
to give to the crowd—feeding the 5000.

He gave them a sign that he alone had the power to do
what no mere man could do
—give His people the food they needed.

And yet, the very next day after this tremendous sign of feeding 5000,
some of these very same people still wanted yet another sign.
According to St. John’s account of this miracle they ask Jesus:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
Moses Gave us manna in the desert….”
Feeding 5000 wasn’t enough.

And how did Christ respond to them?
He promised to give them another sign—a sign like no other before or since:
“the bread which I shall give …is my flesh.”
“if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever;”
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven.”

A few months later, at table with the twelve on the night he was betrayed,
Jesus repeated the very same actions he did when he fed the 5000,
–St. Luke uses the very same words to describe his actions that night.
Once again he took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the twelve.
But this time Jesus added: “This is my body”.
And the apostles understood that this was the new sign the Lord had promised.

Even so, they probably did not understand how this could be what he said it was:
his body and blood.
–after all, it still looked like ordinary bread and wine.
But they remembered the power displayed
in the sign of the multiplication of loaves
—a sign Jesus had given them to convince them
that what was completely impossible
and beyond the grasp of reason for man,
was not only possible for and reasonable to Christ,
but was also his plan.
And so the apostles believed in his power and his words,
and that what appeared to be a few pieces of bread
was now in fact the actual physical body of Christ!

This sign remains with us today.
Of course, it’s not the same kind of fantastic sign that appeals to people
who are looking for wondrous worldly phenomena.
But for those who believe that Jesus is God the Son,
with the power to feed 5,000 people on just 5 loaves and 2 fishes,
and the power to die on the cross only to rise again to life,
that kind of sign is not necessary.

In this context of faith in Jesus,
we believe the Eucharist is
the living sign of His true presence and power and love.
But it’s no mere sign—it doesn’t merely represent something it’s not.

Look at that Crucifix up there….that is a mere sign of Jesus, a mere symbol.
It looks like Jesus.
That’s what happened to him.
But it’s not Jesus—it’s a mere symbol of Jesus, a mere sign of his presence.
On the other hand, think about this:
if Jesus walked in the room right now and stood right here,
in his fleshy body,
then his body would be a sign to us that he is present
—and it wouldn’t be an empty symbol,
but a physical expression of his real and complete presence
in both body and spirit.

This is how it works in the Eucharist.
It is a sign, but it is no mere sign or empty symbol,
but a sign of Christ’s actual, real, total and complete presence
bodily and spiritually.
A sign that he loves us and personally comes to us and enters into us,
and makes us really and totally one with him.

Man has been asking God for signs for thousands of years,
and God has been responding
—but God has also been asking man for signs in response to him.
For example, in the days of Moses and Aaron,
God gave his people great signs of his power,
like the Passover of the angel of death and the parting of the Red Sea,
and the manna in the desert.
And He demanded that his people respond with signs of their own
–signs of worship and obedience to his law.

Today Christ gives us the sign of the Eucharist
—what sign of worship do we give Him in response?
Begin with the simplest signs:
as we approach to receive Him in Holy Communion,
do our postures, attitude and our clothes signal our faith and love?

Three weeks ago we had the second graders in here receiving
First Holy Communion,
and they looked so angelic,
the girls in their white dresses
and the boys in their coats and ties.
What a great sign of their faith in Jesus in the Eucharist.
What sign do we give
of our faith, or laxity of faith,
when we come to receive Holy Communion dressed
like we’re going to the beach or to a ball game or even to a bar?

Now, no one look around at anyone else:
look at me—or at yourself.

Imagine if I showed up dressed down
rather than dressed up in these special vestments!
What does it signify about our belief in Jesus and the Eucharist?
Parents—what sign are we giving to our children,
and teaching them to send?

Someone might say,
“But Father, God doesn’t care how we dress.”
Maybe, maybe not.
Remember the parable of the wedding feast that Jesus tells:
“But when the king came in to look at the guests,
he saw there a man who had no wedding garment;
and …the king said to the attendants,
‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness’”
We are guests at the wedding feast of the lamb:
even if God is so forgiving he looks the other way
when we dress inappropriately,
WE should not be so presumptuous of his mercy
—because it’s a sign of our faith and love in him.

Now, I know sometimes you come dressed down a bit
because it’s either that or miss Mass
—you just drove in from the beach or from a soccer tournament
and you came straight to Mass,
–and we have visitors here every Sunday
just happy to find a Mass to go to
—okay, I understand, and I’m glad you made it.
Or maybe it goes from 60̊ to 90̊̊ in a week, so we’re not used to the heat
and we dress a little cooler
—I get that.
But those are the exceptions—not the rule.

Listen, I’m not trying to embarrass anyone or condemn anyone.
So let’s all make a deal:
let’s all agree that if we see someone at Mass
dressed in less than their Sunday best
we’ll always assume there’s a good reason for it.
Period.
But let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Also, look at the way we sometimes receive communion.
Sometime we wander up looking around, seeing who we recognize in the crowd
—let’s stop and recognize Jesus at the head of the line.

And when you arrive at the head of the line,
show that recognition by doing what the book of Revelation tells us
over and over again that the saints and angels in heaven do
whenever they enter in the presence of the Lamb of God:
“and they fell on their faces …and worshiped God.”
Now, please don’t literally fall on your faces,
but do show some real physical sign of adoration
as you come face to face with your Lord and God.
Whether it’s a bow of the head, or at the waist,
a genuflection on one knee,
or even kneeling down on both knees,
give some sign to me, to the people around you, to yourself,
and most importantly to HIM,
that you believe…and worship.

And then receive our Lord in a way that shows, or signals, your reverence.
Sometimes folks come up and nonchalantly put their hand out
—as if to signify “gimme, I’m in a hurry, let’s get this over with.”
Sometimes they reach out and actually grab the host out of my hand
—what a great way to cause the host to fall to the ground.
How about instead you come up,
and if you choose to receive in the hand
make a throne for Christ, with the left hand resting on the right,
and then keeping your eyes on him
as you reverently take the host with your right hand and consume it.

Or, perhaps you may you choose to follow the custom of receiving on the tongue,
as a sign that you understand that this is not ordinary food
received in an ordinary way.
That’s the way I receive when I’m not the priest at the Mass,
because we have a strong tendency to take for granted
the things we hold in our hands every day.
For example, jewelers might easily tend to miss the beauty
of the diamonds they hold in their hands every day.
And the same for a priest who holds His Blessed Saviour
so often in his hands.
And the same for you, if you receive the Lord in your hands every week.
And so I fight that tendency by receiving, when I can, on the tongue.

But even if you do receive on the tongue, do it respectfully:
don’t come up and bite it out of my hand
—or worse yet, don’t lick it out of my hand.
Come up close enough so I can reach you,
open your mouth, placing your tongue on your lower lip
and don’t move, so I can carefully place the host on your tongue.

These are some important signs of our response
to God’s sign of the Eucharist at Mass.
But he asks for more than 1 hour on Sunday.
After receiving him in the Eucharist,
do our lives become signs of His love for us and our love for him,
as we go out into the world?
And is our reception of the Eucharist a sign
that all we have done in the hours and days before we receive
has been truly consistent with our faith in him, and all of his teachings?

And is our reception of Communion
a sign of faith not only in the Eucharist handed down to us by the apostles,
but also faith in everything his apostles handed down to us
through their successors, especially the Pope?
From the teachings on the sacraments, to the teachings on morality.

Is our reception of Holy Communion a sign
that we are in full communion with the teachings of Christ
and his vicar on earth, Pope Francis,
or does our rejection of that teaching in our daily life
signal a mockery of the Eucharist we receive?

nothing wrong with asking God for signs.
So don’t be surprised when he gives us signs,
and don’t be surprised when he asks us for signs in return.
God has given us the Eucharist as the most sublime sign of his love and power
—it is not a mere empty sign,
but truly his very own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity
–His Real Presence.
Do we respond with empty symbolic gestures and words,
or with signs of full of love and faith and worship?