TEXT: Third Sunday of Lent, March 3, 2024

March 3, 2024 Father De Celles Homily

Third Sunday of Lent                                                                 

March 3, 2024

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

I’m sure by now, most of you all have probably heard the scandalous news

         about the abominable funeral at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral

         for Cecilia Gentili, a well-known LGBTQ activist and

         atheist man who identified as a transgender woman.

According to widespread reports, the whole thing was a perverted circus:

         Eulogies praising the deceased,

                  referring to him as “Saint Cecilia,”

                  and using the “w” word for prostitute to call her the “mother of w-s;”

                  and focused on LGBTQ advocacy with

         LGBT-themed flags and flamboyant cross-dressers everywhere,

                  including the sanctuary;

         prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary interrupted

                  by someone shouting, “Ave Cecilia,” over the “Ave Maria”;

                  and dancing around the deceased’s casket

                  with the raucous approval of the crowd.

Even the priest got into the act by calling the decedent, again, a man,

         “she” and “her” and “our sister.”

Now, I have to tell you, this makes me very angry–

angry at this crowd and the organizing activists who

         so blatantly, grotesquely, and intentionally

         not only mocked our Catholic Faith,

         but desecrated the Cathedral and the sacred liturgy,

         and blasphemed the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Tabernacle.

And I’m angry at the pastor of the Cathedral

         for allowing the funeral to happen in the first place,

         saying he had no idea who this stranger was.

Has he never heard of Google?

And I’m angry at the priest celebrant for not only

         failing to stop the farce once it began,

         but for participating in it with words and laughter.

And, perhaps most of all, I’m angry at the Archbishop of New York

         Cardinal Timothy Dolan for first praising the pastor and priest:

                  “They get a call…‘Our dear friend died,’

                  …And of course the priest at the cathedral said,

                           ‘Come on in, you’re more than welcome.’”

And when people pushed him to get angry, the Cardinal said,

         “What are you all looking at Daddy here for?…

         I don’t have much clout…some fat, Irish, balding bishop

         talking about defending the Church?… People are going to say, ‘Ho Hum!’”

And summing it all up, he said, “I don’t [know]…what do you do?”

This sounds all too familiar coming from too many bishops,

         whether it’s attacks against the faith,

         abuses in the sanctuary and liturgy,

         or abuses against children by priests, bishops, and Cardinals.

The cardinal asked, “What do you do?”

Well, call me simple, but maybe what you do is follow the clear example

         given to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ in today’s gospel:

“He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area

         …and spilled the coins of the money changers,

         and overturned their tables,

         and…said, ‘Take these out of here,

         and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’

         His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,

                  ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”

Not quite, “Come on in. You’re more than welcome.”

Apparently, zeal for the Father’s house does not consume

         a whole lot of Catholics, including priests, bishops, and Cardinals.

And that makes me angry.


Now, some will say, “But Father, anger is a sin.”

To that I respond, “So, Jesus is a sinner when He gets angry in the Gospel?”

You say, “But He’s God.”

But the thing is, Jesus told us, “I have given you an example,

                  that you also should do as I have done…

In any case, as the Church teaches, following St. Thomas Aquinas,

         anger is a passion and by itself is not a sin.

Specifically, when the passion, or emotion, of anger

         is reasonable and consistent with charity, it can be a good thing.

And it can give us courage and determination.

We sometimes call this righteous indignation.

Aquinas calls this “zealous anger,”

as in, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”

Of course, zealous anger has to be moderated and controlled by reason.

Clearly, this is the case with Jesus today.

Remember what He did to the fig tree that bore no fruit?

Scripture says,

         “He said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’

                  Immediately the tree withered.”

Jesus could have done the same thing to the money changers if He wanted.

Instead, in love, He just made a whip out of cords, turned over their tables,

         and shouted at them.

A great self-restraint of His anger

         by the God who drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea.

His anger was in love: love for the Father and love for the money changers.

After all, they were blaspheming the House of God,

         but Jesus loved them and didn’t want them to go to hell.

In their hardness of heart, they would not listen to His preaching,

         and Jesus knew this was the only way to get their attention.

And if they would have turned and fallen on their knees in repentance,

         Jesus would have stopped, smiled gently, and forgiven them.

Finally, consider St. Peter, not God, but a bishop

         like Cardinal Dolan–but nothing like him.

The Acts of the Apostles tells that when Ananias and Sapphira lied to Peter,

         he publicly scolded them.

         “Immediately [they] fell down at his feet and breathed [their] last.”

So, I think Jesus is angry

         about the events surrounding the sacrilege at St. Patrick’s.

And I’m angry, and you should be, too.

I don’t want anyone to fall down dead,

but something more than a “Ho Hum” is due.


Now, how does this affect us?

First, it poses the question, especially during this Lent:

         Do we have zeal for the Father’s house and for the Son in that house?

Like the Cathedral in New York,

         this Church is the modern equivalent of the Temple in Jerusalem.

But it’s even greater than the ancient temple

         because Jesus lives here in the tabernacle

         and offers the perfect sacrifice of the Cross on this altar–

         a sacrifice infinitely exceeding the worth of all the temple sacrifices

                  of sheep and doves.

So, do you have zeal for this temple?

Do you keep it a house of prayer and God’s house,

         or do you treat it as just a gathering hall for the community?

Outside of Mass, do you keep a reverential quiet in the church?

         Do you genuflect before the tabernacle?

         Do you cross yourselves with holy water when you enter?

There’s nothing wrong with talking to each other a bit,

         but in a hushed voice and not in any way that might distract others

         or show lack of veneration for this holy place, especially the tabernacle.

And inside of Mass, most especially.

Do you pray reverently and express true adoration by your comportment?

Do you dress like you’re going to a ball game

         or going to greet the Most High God?

Do you sing as best you can and respond to the prayers of the priest?

Do you listen prayerfully to the words of Sacred Scripture

         and to the words of every homily?

Most importantly, do you come to be entertained and distracted

         or to pray and offer sacrifice?

Do you try to give your full heart

         to worshiping God throughout the Mass, from beginning to end,

         cognizant of the great and glorious meaning of the Mass,

         especially the Eucharist, as heaven comes down to earth,

         and we kneel before our Crucified Lord?


Over the years we’ve done a lot of things to make our liturgies

         more and more conducive to proper reverence and adoration.

We’ve tried to emphasize sacred music

         that lifts our hearts from the mundane to the holy.

And we’ve introduced more Latin in the Mass

         to remind us of our unity with the whole Church

         going back over the centuries to Peter and Paul in Rome,

         praying in the language of the Mass prayed by your dearest saints.

We pray in an ancient, almost forgotten, language

         that reminds us that what we do here is something radically different

         than the mundane activities of everyday life.

And we’ve tried to remember the importance and meaning of gestures,

         from bowing the head to kneeling.

We say Mass ad orientem to remind us

         that the priest is praying with you and for you to the Lord.

We have an altar rail

         so that you can have a little extra time to reverently prepare and receive

         Our Lord in Holy Communion,

         and so that, if you choose, you may kneel before Him as you receive Him in imitation of the saints and angels in heaven.

We carefully follow the modern ritual of the Church,

         incorporating permissible traditional practices

                  and the actual instruction of Vatican II,

         reminding us that the Mass does not belong to us,

         nor is it an opportunity for unique, individual self-expression,

         but it is the worship of the whole Church, past and present,

         in heaven, purgatory, and earth.

And on and on, so many things.

Our basic approach is what I call “emphatic reverence,”

         that is, trying to emphasize reverence in every action we do at Mass

         and using that to remind both me and you

         of the sacredness of what we do here.


I hope and think we have grown together in our reverence for God’s house, His Presence on the altar and in the tabernacle,

         and in our heartfelt worship.

I’m very proud of you.

But it’s Lent, and we don’t rest on our laurels.

Rather, we examine everything and strive to improve and perfect

         our proper worship to help us grow in love and holiness.

But that reminds us: Worship is not merely external.

What we do at Mass is not primarily about our gestures or words or singing.

It is about our hearts, minds, and souls.

In today’s Gospel,

         when the people question Jesus’ authority to cleanse the Temple,

         He replies,

         “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

St. John clarifies,

         “He was speaking about the temple of His body.”

Remember, our bodies, baptized into Christ,

         have become part of the Body of Christ, part of the Temple of Jesus.

So, in Lent, we remind ourselves that we must accept the grace of Jesus Christ

         to zealously cleanse our hearts and minds of sinful thoughts,

         and cleanse our bodies from any actions that are not worthy

         of the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ.

Spiritually speaking,

         we turn over the tables on which we do the business of sin and evil.

We take a whip to the filth and corruption we find in our souls,

         and drive out greed, envy, lust, and all the sins, vices, and faults

         that desecrate these temples.

So, at Mass our bodies and souls, cleansed and pure,

         can offer a more true and worthy worship to our heavenly Father,

         and then be strengthened in our unity with Christ

         by the holy reception of His Real Body in Holy Communion.

Then leaving here, we can take that temple out into the world

         and worship God in truth wherever we go and with whomever we meet.


When we see things like what happened at St. Patrick’s

         –and we will see more and more of these, I sadly assure you–

         it is right to be critical and angry at those who perpetrate and allow

         these obscenities against Our Lord and His Church.

But it is also right and necessary, especially in this wonderful season of Lent,

         to turn that critique toward ourselves.

To examine how we may sometimes

         lack the proper reverence and veneration of

         the House of God and for the liturgies of His Church,

and to examine how we participate, body and soul,

         with true love and adoration at Holy Mass.

As we now enter more deeply into the mystery of the holy sacrifice of the Mass,

         as heaven descends to earth and earth ascends to heaven,

         and we’re surrounded by the Blessed Mother and all the saints and angels,

         let us ask the good Lord to give us the grace

         to always worship, adore, and praise Him

         lovingly, worthily, reverently, faithfully, and

         with the zeal He has given us as an example.