Sunday, August 13, 2017

19th Sunday per annum - The Challenge of Faith

Which do we desire: comfort or challenge? Do we desire the old martial attitudes, focused in such activities as exercise, jousting, or boxing, or rather, do we desire the calm, collected tranquility of such easy activities as television, internet, and Netflix? Let’s be honest with ourselves: we want comfort. If we had to pick between remaining in our own time or dropping down into the Middle Ages, we would stay here in a heartbeat, kicking up our recliners to perish the thought of having to toil and labor for the bare minimum to survive. But is this what Jesus wants for us?
If we pay attention to Matthew’s telling of this episode of his Gospel concerning the Lord walking over the waters, we should notice one detail sticking out concerning the disciples: Matthew seems to imply that the boat was tossed about until the fourth watch of the night, or nearly 3 in the morning. Think about that: the Gospel says that as evening approached, the boat began to toss, yet Jesus seemingly abandons them for most of the evening. How terrifying it must have been for the disciples as the boat continued to rock and reel, yet their Master was not there to aid them. But when He does come, they are so frightened by His appearance they believe Him to be a ghost or an apparition.
Yet the Lord offers those prized words of consolation to any soul wearied and troubled: “Be not afraid.” Who responds immediately to this call but Peter, the one most eager to serve Christ? Even though the waves have buffeted the boat all night, Peter remains strong in his faith in Jesus, calling Him to command Peter to walk on those same waters. But even Peter has his weak points: even though he had endured the waves all night, Peter lost faith because of the strength of the wind. He begins to sink and cries out in fear just as the other disciples had done earlier. Only the strong arm of Christ is able to lift him up and put him back on the boat.
What do we see from all of this? First we are taught that our faith must be tested. The strength of our faith is quite similar to the strength of our body. What happens if we are soft on our bodies, feeding ourselves only the sweet and sugary and remaining inert? Our bodies grow fat and weak, susceptible to disease or decay. If we push our bodies, making the grueling effort to regulate our food and to exercise, rejecting the bad and replacing it with the good, we will get them into peak condition and reduce or even eliminate the possibility of disease. It is the same with our faith: we can grow quite soft in what we believe and profess, even to the point of being susceptible to the disease of error or heresy, falling away from the faith for a multitude of petty and irrational reasons. Yet if we push ourselves, learning more who this Jesus is, what He wants from us, what He has in store for us, nourishing ourselves with the sacraments, striving to remove sin and replace it with virtue, we will grow stronger in faith, able to challenge anything that the devil or the flesh or the world throws at us.
Yet we cannot rely on our own strength or ability alone. The disciples were afraid because of the boat tossing about through the night, while Peter became afraid only when he saw how strong the wind was. Each of us has those weak moments that will seem to test or may even break our faith. However, Jesus is always there, holding out to us the strong arm of His grace poured out for us in His sacraments, in particular the sacrament of confession. Our Lord knows our weaknesses, our frailty, our struggle to endure, and He knows that we will at times fail. But He does not want us to sink; rather, He holds out His arm, the arms by which He hung upon the Cross for our salvation, the same arm which He held out to Peter to keep him from sinking. If we are to become stronger in our faith, we must do it with Christ ever near to us, not just there when we want Him.
Finally, we must remember who is the center of our faith, who it is that grants us the ability to believe: God Almighty. Faith is initially a gift of God, a gift that we have not merited and could never deserve on our own. God, in His infinite love for each one of us, gives us every good and perfect gift we need to be holy. But we should never presume upon God’s good will nor should we believe that we have received enough. Jesus teaches us to pray unceasingly for everything we need and more. We ought to be like the prophet Elijah in our first reading: humbling ourselves before the transcendent, invisible God who waits for us to ask for everything. Prayer must be at the heart of our faith, or else we shall fail to grow, no matter how much we may will it or desire it.
Let us not remain comfortable with the minimal faith we have, but let us take up the challenge of living as Jesus commands. Let us cast off from the shores of this world to discover the untamed God who asks so much of us and offers us so much in return. Do not be afraid at the immensity of the task, but look to Jesus, our guide through the stormy seas. Pray that the Holy Spirit may be your Comforter in these difficult days, that His gifts may begin to bear fruit in you, even unto the growth of our church and the sanctification of our community. Let us indeed accept the challenge to follow Jesus Christ each day, that He may lead us through the turbulence of sin and strife to the serene and beautiful coasts of eternal life.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Corpus Christi (and First Weekend at St. Pat/St. James)

I must admit that I am still surprised to be here. When the bishop called me in to tell me he was naming me pastor of St. Pat, I was dumbfounded. I am grateful to God for the chance to return here as a priest and a pastor. I always felt like this was a second home to me, and I hope it will truly be that for me now. I want to start off by expressing my thanks to Father Black, for all the work he has done for our parish for the past two years. I hope he’s ready, because the real work now begins.
But what is the work of pastors and priests? What is it that we are called to do? Our feast day today gives us the answer, for our priests and pastors are ordained to give us the sacrament at the center of our faith: the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Our Lord did not leave us a book or any sort of writings; the New Testament was written by His Apostles and disciples. He left us the sacraments and the sacred liturgy, because in them we find Him present once more to us. And this divine presence is found in its fullness in the Eucharist.
The Church calls the Eucharist and the sacred liturgy the source and summit of the Christian life. Everything either directs us to the Eucharist, such as baptism and confession, or flows forth from the Eucharist, such as the works of mercy. It is because Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the bread and wine consecrated at the hands of the priest. What we receive in the Eucharist is not merely a symbol or a sign; it is actually Jesus Christ, true God and true man, who gave Himself up for us on the Cross. Far different and far greater than the manna God gave the Israelites in the desert, the heavenly Father pours upon us the bread of angels become our food for the journey.
The sacred liturgy - which is the Mass and the rituals surrounding the sacraments - is meant to communicate to us this truth: that Jesus Christ did not abandon us when He ascended into heaven, but that he is now present to us in the sacraments or mysteries of our faith. Each time the priest proclaims, “The mystery of faith,” he calls us to believe what Jesus said so clearly in the Gospel: This is my body, this is my blood. But only with the eyes of faith can we see that presence so real yet so difficult to apprehend. Only in faith do we receive what we believe is true.
Yet the sacred liturgy cannot be ignored or put aside to focus solely on the Eucharist. Everything in the liturgy points to or aids us to understand more completely what is happening and who is present to us once more. Jesus didn’t simply establish the sacraments to be something we merely do, but the means to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life, so that we may be happy with Him in the next. The liturgy is like the frame that accents or highlights the picture, giving us a better means of seeing what we are supposed to see.
My hope as I begin my pastorate is to help you understand far better the sacred liturgy so that you can better appreciate and receive Jesus in the sacraments, most especially in Holy Communion. If you can put the puzzle pieces of the liturgy together, then you can see most clearly Jesus Christ, who is for us the human face of God. This may require changes or challenges to what you have known or experienced, but all of this is done so as to more boldly and more clearly proclaim Christ our Lord. If we do not proclaim Jesus Christ in everything we do here at Saint Pat, whether in the church or in the school, then we are not doing as Jesus commanded us to do.
Let us pray that God will pour out His Holy Spirit upon our parish, that we may be awakened to His promptings and His call for all of us to be holy. Please pray for me and for Fr. Black as we serve you, as we seek to bring you Jesus Christ, that we may be humbled before the Lord mysteriously present in the Eucharist. Let us pray for one another, that we may be elevated by all that the sacred liturgy offers, from the texts and chants to the incense and candles, so as to truly encounter not an idea or a philosophy, but a real person, a person who hides in the Eucharist so that we may not be overwhelmed by His greatness, but humbled by His smallness, to draw nearer to Him and become what we receive. May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ truly bring us to everlasting life.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday (and Last Sunday at Saint John)

The Shield of the Trinity

Traditionally, today’s liturgical office includes an ancient text commonly called the Athanasian Creed. This text begins with a phrase which is quite politically incorrect in our over-sensitive days: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” The text then professes the Catholic belief in that most central of doctrines for our faith, that which we are celebrating today: the Most Holy Trinity.
With the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church last week on Pentecost, God reveals to us who He really is in His fullness. God, being greater and more exalted than humanity, desires us to know Him, so that we may love Him and serve Him in response. The Bible can be summarized as God’s gradual revelation of Himself to the greatest of His creatures: man. We hear in the first reading about one of the greatest of those revelations to Moses on Mount Sinai. The encounter we hear, however, is not the great exchange in which God gives Moses the Ten Commandments; this particular encounter is after the sin of the Israelites in creating the golden calf and worshipping it as a false god. Yet the Almighty deigns to reveal, even after the sins of men, who He is: the one supreme Lord, He who Is as the actual Hebrew name of God translates, a God slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.
Yet this does not fully reveal to us mere mortals who God is at His innermost being. It is not until the coming of the God-man that we are given the fullness of God’s being, a revelation that still leaves us in mystery. While the reception of the Holy Spirit concludes this revelation, we are still shrouded by questions. How can One be Three, and Three be One? How do the Father and the Son and the Spirit all relate to each other? The great danger in talking about the Holy Trinity is slipping into error, and it’s not too hard to do that. But what can we really say about the Trinity?
It is hard to say everything that could be said about the Trinity in a short homily, but the essentials must be covered. We worship one God, not three; the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. All three receive the adoration and glory that is due to God alone. Yet they are distinct from each other: the Father is neither the Son nor the Spirit, the Son is neither the Father nor the Spirit, and the Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. The deity at the heart of our Catholic faith is one in the divine substance yet three persons as well, each with their particular role: the Father as the begetter, the Son as the begotten, and the Spirit as the bond of love between the Father and the Son. Clear?
Of course it isn’t that clear. This is why we describe this belief as the mystery of the Trinity. It is mystery because it is something that cannot be completely comprehended by our rational faculties. Saint Anselm defined God as that than which nothing greater could be conceived. If we can conceive it, it is still limited, yet God is infinite, incapable of being bounded by our lower corporal minds. If you think that you understand completely who God is, then you’re not thinking of the living God. While God’s complete being may be beyond our complete comprehension, yet He still desires us to know Him as He really is.
This is the work of the Church: to reveal God to the world. Everything the Church does is ultimately with this goal in mind: to reveal God as God revealed Himself, through Jesus Christ - His Son and our Lord. But the Church cannot carry out this task without that revelation itself. This is why the Church is not just a group concerned with external activity, but is also concerned with interior reflection and development, which is found in her sacred liturgy. For the liturgy is not primarily a tool for evangelization and conversion of non-Catholics; it is meant to be the means whereby the Christian faithful, those already members of the body of Christ, come to encounter more deeply and more richly the transcendent Trinity who becomes immanent through signs and symbols so that we may not be ignorant of Him, but drink deeply of His fullness.
While my time here at Saint John and Transfiguration has been short, I hope that I have helped you to realize more completely this essential truth of our Catholic faith. This is why I have sought to restore the traditional posture of the priest and people turned together to face God. This is why I have tried to make the sacred liturgy as noble and as beautiful as it can be here. Because we are not here to just be family or a club or anything the world offers; if that were the case, we’re doing a terrible job of it. We are here in this church because we are ultimately meant to be turned towards God, the Triune God, the God whose inner being as the Trinity reveals what our patron Saint John declares simply in his letters: God is love. It is that regular encounter with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit that is meant to transform us so that the rest of our lives are sanctified by His grace and we can then live not as we did before our baptisms - living in sin and error and darkness - but to live in the glorious and loving light of God.
My prayer for you all as I leave is that you may continue to grow through the wondrous exchange of the Mass to be the holy people of God, to be what you are meant to be. Do not keep to the old ways of ignorance, but draw nearer to Him who has so much more to show you than I could even if I were to stay for forty years. Do not be like so many around us who focus on themselves, but radiate with that same divine light as did Moses when he encountered the living God on Mount Sinai. Turn to Jesus, the one Word spoken by God before all time, and listen to Him, for He is the best teacher and priest you will ever have. May the light and love of the Trinity burn in your hearts more fully each day, and may everything Saint Paul commands and exhorts today be yours as well, so that we may all do as the Psalmist exclaims: to give the Trinity glory and praise forever in the banquet of Heaven.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost

We conclude the Easter season today with the feast of Pentecost. While we spent forty days in penance during Lent, today marks the fiftieth day of the Easter celebration, reminding us that our joy in the victory which Jesus won in His Resurrection is greater than our sorrow over our sinfulness. In fact, the name Pentecost literally means fifty in Greek. It is this day in which God pours forth the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles to start the Church.
In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to celebrate this day as a harvest festival and as a commemoration of the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai after God had freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It is most appropriate, then, that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurs on this day, to remind us that it is by the Spirit of God that we have everything we possess: not just our salvation but the fundamentals of existence, such as food, clothing, shelter. God always acts with the Spirit: we should recall how Adam received the Spirit of life in the very beginning in order to live, or how the Spirit is called upon by the psalmist to renew the face of the earth. But what or who is the Holy Spirit?
Put simply, the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son. This love is so real, so tremendous between the two, that it is a divine Person, hence the Most Holy Trinity, which we will celebrate next Sunday. But this Person who is love does not remain only between the Father and the Son; He is sent down upon humanity to be the bond of love between God and man. It is in the Spirit that we are able to be united to Jesus Christ, as Saint Paul highlights in our second reading. It is through the Spirit that we are able to become holy, for only by His presence in us are we able to pray as we ought or to know what it means to be holy.
Above all, God sends forth His Spirit so as to renew the face of the earth. How does He do this? By His indwelling within our souls. God does not send the Spirit only on one occasion, but pours Him out upon us like water from a fountain. We are always in need of the rejuvenating graces and the ceaseless presence of the Holy Spirit to become holy, to be what we are supposed to be. We ought to make our own what the sequence for today’s feast beseeches of the Spirit: “Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded. Bend that which is inflexible, enflame that which is chilled, correct what goes astray.” Only in the Spirit can we be good, only in the Spirit can we be just, only in the Spirit can we be holy.

Let us beseech God on this day to pour out upon us once more His Holy Spirit so that we may be what we were created to be. Let us make our own those wondrous words, “Come Creator Spirit! Come from thy heavenly throne, and make our souls thine own!” Let us beg God to renew us by His Spirit so that we may be engulfed in the fire of His love, transformed from mediocrity into the saints we are supposed to be. Do not remain cold or lukewarm, but be stirred anew to live by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. May our parish truly be a temple of the Holy Spirit, where the fire of love burns day and night, the unquenchable fire that does not destroy but purifies and prepares all for the glories that await the faithful in the eternal splendor of Heaven.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ascension Sunday

Each year, Holy Mother Church commands her pastors to bless a large candle at the Easter Vigil. This candle is then processed through the Church and placed in the sanctuary, where it burns at each Mass of Eastertide until today.  This Paschal candle is meant to be the symbol of the resurrected Christ, who is the Light of the World banishing the darkness of sin. This candle reminds us that He who once was dead lives once more and does not rest in the tomb, but remains close to His apostles, showing them His sacred wounds and further instructing them on the mission that He has given to them. But on this, the feast of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven, Holy Church commands us to extinguish this candle so as to better awaken us to the reality of this feast: the reality that our Lord no longer physically remains on this earth, but has ascended to the right hand of the Father, as we profess in the Creed.
Yet we should not greet this moment with sorrow over our Lord’s Ascension, as if He is leaving us behind or abandoning us. For, on the contrary, the Psalmist tells us that “God ascends in jubilation, and the Lord ascends with the sound of the trumpet” (Ps 46:6). We are called to rejoice on this day, not to be sorrowful. We are to rejoice, for our God and King mounts His throne prepared for Him, to reign over His Kingdom. We are to rejoice, for our High Priest ascends to the altar of Heaven, where He who is ever-living makes a continual intercession for us before God (Hebrews 7:24-25). We are to rejoice, for the Lamb who was slain goes to prepare the wedding feast in which the faithful will be united with Himself at the end of days (Rev. 19:7-9).
We should not be sorrowful that He has left, because this world is not ready for Him to rule. Our Lord now possesses that glorified and incorruptible body which is promised to all on the last day, but this day has not yet come. Our world is still filled with corruption and sin, still remaining dark in many corners of the world, still blind to the true Light which burns without being extinguished. How can He remain here in that state of finality when the world remains incomplete? Our Lord ascends to Heaven so as to remind us that we are not meant for the world as it stands now, but for the glories that await in the world to come.
But whom are these glories meant for, if not for all of humanity? And how will all hear of these glories, if no one preaches them, if no one is sent out to preach? (Rom 10:14-15) This is why the last command given by Christ to His apostles is to “go out into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature”, waiting for the Holy Ghost to come so as to be His witnesses to the utmost parts of the earth (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). This is the mission of the Church, that mission which we must pray for, support, and do in our own lives, just as Jesus commanded His apostles before going to His seat at the right of the Father.

Let us then rejoice at this Mass today, that the Lord has risen on high and taken captivity captive (Ps 67:18). Let us pray to our Lord this day that He may be nearer to us not in His physical presence, but in His real presence in the Eucharist. Let us also pray for the fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost, that we may be strengthened and encouraged to proclaim the Gospel message to every creature. But let us also prepare ourselves for that day when He will return, as the angels promised. Let us be watchful and look to the East in eager expectation of our Lord coming as He left us, so as to subject all beneath His feet and to rule in that eternal Kingdom where all shall be gathered to Himself and share in His glory for ages upon ages.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Easter - 100th Anniversary of Fatima

The place: Europe. The year: 1917. War has plagued the continent for over three years at this point. The ravages of trench warfare, poison gas, machine guns, and tanks never seems to end. But another war is brewing in Russia, where revolution will explode in October, killing the tsar and his family and leading to the rise of godless Communism. Everywhere it seems as if chaos and disorder rule the day. It is in the midst of this most depressing time that something incredible occurs in a small town in Portugal.
Three shepherd children are caring for their families’ flocks in the fields when they see a bright light. When their eyes adjust, they see a lady clothed in white. She asks them to join her in praying the Rosary. After the Rosary, she promises to visit them for four more months. Thus ended the first apparition of our Lady at Fatima in Portugal, which occurred one hundred years ago yesterday. In fact, Pope Francis has been in Fatima to celebrate the centenary of the apparitions, to honor everything that Mary did at Fatima, in particular her message. But what is her message?
Our Lady revealed to the children a few secrets. First, she showed them what hell is really like. The tortures and pain were so tremendous that one of the children remarked later on that the children were so scared by what they saw that only the assurance of Our Lady that she would take them to heaven calmed them down. The Virgin reminded them that this is what awaits sinners who do not repent and turn to Jesus. It is the ultimate fate for those who reject what Jesus declares in the Gospel today: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” There is no other way to follow to get to heaven except the way of Jesus; there is no other truth to believe except the truth that Jesus is Lord and King, victorious in His resurrection from the dead; and there is no life possible except life in Christ, animated by His grace and mercy to be the saints we were meant to be.
Not only did she reveal the truth about hell, but the Virgin Mary also predicted that another war would break out after the current war ended if men did not abandon their wicked ways. She also gave a prophecy of the Church in calamity, destruction seeming to occur everywhere. Yet, despite all of these terrifying visions and prophecies, the Lady ended all of this with a simple but hopeful promise: “In the end, my immaculate heart will triumph.” In truth, how can she not obtain the triumph? That heart has most completely and most willingly obeyed God from the very first moment she could act until now and until the end of time. How can Satan overcome a heart most united to God through her divine Son?
Indeed, the victory of Jesus Christ is shared by the Virgin Mary because she is the greatest of all disciples. She shows us how to follow Jesus the way; she shows how to adhere to Jesus the truth; and she is the best witness of how to live in Jesus our life. All of the saints put together cannot match her fidelity, her virtue, her purity, her sanctity. This is why we crown her as Queen - because God has already crowned her Queen of heaven and earth by her faithfulness to everything He commanded her to do.

Let us indeed crown our Lady today, but not only with a crown of flowers, but in our hearts and minds as our mother and our queen. Let us heed the warning that she gave at Fatima and still gives today: repent and believe in her Son. Convert, and be no longer the slaves of Satan, the pawns of a sinful world, but become the children of Mary, the brethren of Jesus. Let us do what she asks of us, so that we may join her and all the angels and saints in the Father’s house, where a place is prepared for all who adhere to Him who is the one way, the one truth, the one life.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Good Shepherd Sunday - First Communion

My dear children, today is indeed a special day. It is the first day that you will join us in receiving Holy Communion. You will approach to receive that most precious food that we can ever eat: the Most Holy Eucharist. You may be asking, “Why is this so important?” Hopefully, your teachers have helped you to understand the greatness and importance of what you are beginning to do today. You are not receiving any normal food, but you are receiving Jesus Christ Himself, who gives us His Body and Blood to be our spiritual food.
Why is it that Jesus does this? Why does He want us to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood? That is because Jesus wants to draw us closer to Himself. If we want to be near our parents, our friends, or anyone we care about, we move closer to them. But we can’t normally do this with someone who is so far away as to be incapable of touching. This is the great marvel of the Eucharist: although Jesus is very far away in Heaven, He comes near to us in the Eucharist, nearer than anyone else can be to us, because He is inside us whenever we eat the Eucharist.
And what does Jesus do while He is in the Eucharist? He tries to lead you to be good, to be holy, to be what you were created to be from the beginning. We call this day Good Shepherd Sunday, because we hear Jesus in the Gospel calling Himself by this title. A shepherd leads the sheep to where they can eat and be safe, and Jesus wants to do the same thing for us, we who are His sheep. In the Eucharist, we can hear Jesus tell us what it is that He knows is best for us, so that we may join Him completely in Heaven.

My dear children, rejoice that Jesus calls you to join the rest of us in receiving the gift of the Eucharist. Treasure this day as the day you began a new phase of your relationship with our Lord by the Holy Communion you are about to receive. Pray to Him today, and every day you receive Him, for everything you need to be holy, to be with Jesus in this life and the next. Ask Him, our Good Shepherd, to tell you your future so that you may live it out as best as you can. Let us not receive Communion lightly, but treasure each reception so that we may enjoy it here on earth, and rejoice completely in it in Heaven.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Third Sunday of Easter (OF)

Why is it that our Lord is not known at first by the disciples on the road to Emmaus? Did they not remember His face, His voice, His walk? How could they see Him and not know it was Jesus speaking to them, guiding them, encouraging them? Because they did not believe in Jesus as He really is. The faith of these two disciples was not in the God-man, but in a revolutionary, one who would restore the kingdom of Israel. They looked for the redemption of Israel from the rule of the Roman Empire, for God to elevate them to being the greatest power. But God did something far greater for them through Jesus, something which God had foretold throughout the centuries before the birth of Christ.
The great tragedy of many Catholics is that they don’t understand who Jesus is. We often try to paint Him as being close to what we are. If we are more liberal-minded, we see Jesus as the great revolutionary working to free the poor and liberate people from stuffy dogmas and doctrine. If we are conservative, we see Jesus as being more concerned with family values or human life or anything that is traditional and beneficial to human growth and prosperity. Yet Jesus cannot be painted into a corner; He is far more different than that.
This is the reason why the two disciples could not see Jesus when He was before them on that road: they were too enraptured in their particular understanding of Him. This is why Jesus almost seems to laugh as He exclaims His wonder that they do not realize who the Christ had to be and what He had to do. We can try to make Jesus be a guerilla fighter or a company man, but He is ultimately the Christ - the one anointed by God to be the Paschal lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
Do we see Jesus as He really is? Or do we keep Him in our nice, simple images that are rather comfortable to us? If Jesus does not challenge us, does not force us to reconsider our views or our ideas, is He really a good founder of a religion? Each Sunday, we gather together to do the same things these two disciples did: we break open the Scriptures to discover Jesus, we listen to the homily so that our hearts may burn as did the disciples’ hearts, and then we break the bread and discover once more Jesus really and truly present among us to be our spiritual food.

Brethren, let us humble ourselves as were the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Let us hear Jesus trying to reveal Himself to us through the sacred actions of the Church: the Scriptures, the preaching, the sacraments, in particular the Eucharist. Let our hearts burn with a desire to know Jesus, to love Him, and to serve Him in everything that we do. As we continue to rejoice in the victory that He won for us in His death and resurrection, let us not remain unaffected by what He did, but let our eyes be opened as were the two disciples so as to see Jesus for who He truly is: the savior of the world. May we receive this tremendous grace, so that we may progress more quickly on our own road, the road to eternal life.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Divine Mercy Sunday

As we bring the Octave of Easter to a close, we reflect on the great joy of the Resurrection which we have celebrated for the past seven days. We rejoice that Jesus is not dead, but that He is risen from the dead, victorious over all our enemies. But are we really joyful? Are we actually participating in that victory now? It’s easy to come and sing “Alleluia!” and rejoice that Jesus is no longer dead. But is he alive in our hearts as well?
Perhaps we know the story associated with why today is called Divine Mercy Sunday. A Polish nun named Maria Faustina recorded her visions of Jesus desiring that the world know His message of mercy, in particular on this day. This message, and the devotions and practices associated with it, spread in large part by the work of Pope St. John Paul II, who learned of this nun’s diary and message and spread it in everything he did. We all remember last year as the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, called by Pope Francis to deepen our understanding of mercy and to receive it. But did anything change?
There seems to be two different mindsets in the modern marginal Catholic. The first is the presumption of mercy, in which it is known with absolute certainty that God has forgiven me, is forgiving me, and will forgive me. But this is not known through the frequent reception of the sacrament of mercy - the confessional. It is presumed that, since God is love, and God loves me, He’ll forgive me out of love. The other mindset is amnesia concerning divine justice. This idea goes something like this: since God is love, and God is merciful, He won’t judge me, He won’t condemn me to Hell. All I need to do is love Him a little, and everything is fine.
Brethren, I do not know where these ideas have come from, but they are both fundamentally misguided and dangerous to your eternal salvation. Perhaps it is from the chaos that has wrecked the Catholic world since the 1970s, not only as concerns the liturgy but catechesis concerning the divine mysteries. Either way, many of you live from false principles that lead to dangerous practices. God is indeed merciful, as the events of Holy Week demonstrate for us. Yet mercy without justice is a free pass to do whatever you want, and that is not what Jesus offers us from the Cross.
Why is it that Jesus endured the heart-wrenching sufferings of His Passion and Death? Why did the Father call Him to do this - to take on our flesh, to suffer, and to die? Why did all of this come to pass? So as to win for us the divine mercy we need to be reconciled to God. However, this is not a mercy that continually forgives while never asking anything from us. God pours out His mercy upon us so that we may be strengthened by Him to live our lives in faith and in justice. We see this in the first Christian community, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. They abandoned their sinful ways and devoted themselves to the virtuous Christian life, being transformed by the mercy of God to be able to live upright and holy lives.
This is the great mercy Jesus shows to Thomas in the Gospel. Thomas is doubtful, wary of the arguments that Jesus has been raised from the dead. But Jesus comes to him on this day and reveals Himself, showing the wounds in His hands and feet, calling Thomas to put his hand in the open wound on His chest, from which poured forth the blood and water by which we receive the new birth, as St. Peter says in the second reading. Jesus comes to Him and offers Himself so that Thomas may not remain in a state of indifference or doubt. Jesus wants us to receive that same mercy, which He offers to us not in His physical presence before us, but in His real presence in the sacraments, especially the confessional and the Eucharist.

Brethren, do not remain obstinate in presumption or forgetfulness! God’s mercy is meant to transform us from lives of quiet desperation to lives of holiness and communion with God and with each other. Jesus wants to pour out His mercy upon the world so that we may indeed receive His peace, that same peace He offers the disciples each time He appears to them after the Resurrection. Receive His mercy, and become what the holy child of God you are meant to be. Do not merely rejoice at the Resurrection, but be transformed by this mystery so as to live your lives having faith not in your own abilities or actions, but in the mercy of God won for you in Christ Jesus. Do as Saint Peter tells you with whatever remains of your life: attain the goal of your faith - the salvation of your souls.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday

As the dust settles, as the light rises, as the people awake, this morning is different than any other morning. Normally when we wake up, we rise from sleep, from a state that does not persist. We are not meant to be asleep forever. But there is one who rises this morning who is not supposed to rise, not supposed to be awake at this hour. For death is supposed to be a persistent state, one that does not end, in fact, one that is the end for us all. Yet He is risen, and He will not enter that state ever again.
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that one would come along who would become the suffering servant of the Lord, one who would “cast death down headlong for ever” (Is 25:8). Saint Paul would proclaim a few decades after this day, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55). For indeed, on this day Death is cast down, humbled in the face of the One who once died but now will die no more. Death has no claim over Him, but He has one claim over Death: victory.
He whom John the Baptist called the Lamb of God has been immolated upon the altar of the Cross. He whom Pilate cursed at when he mockingly asked, “What is truth?”, now stands outside the sepulcher as the complete Truth revealed by God. He whom the priests shamed as being incapable of saving Himself now towers over every enemy of God and man as the one who has saved all. He is the Paschal victim, the innocent lamb whose blood reconciles sinners to the Father, as that beautiful sequence proclaimed.
What more is there to say on this Easter day? Jesus Christ is risen, risen from death, from the bowels of Sheol, from Hell itself as we say in the Apostles’ Creed. He stands over Satan, over sin, and over death as the Victor. The bonds of slavery are broken; we are set free so that we may enter into the eternal Promised Land of God. Yet this victory, while already accomplished in Christ, is not yet completed in us.
Jesus Christ has brought about a new creation, but the former is still around us. And like bad yeast which corrupts the loaf, we too can be corrupted by this world of sin and death, returning to our former ways, losing that Promised Land forever. We are all free creatures; the eternal choice stands before us: Jesus and life, or sin and death. The struggle is real, but the victory is also real.

Rejoice, brethren, for this day is the day which the Lord has made! Rejoice, because Christ our light rises in the east! Let us turn and greet Him with the sacrifice of praise, turned together towards the risen Son. Cast off the shackles of sin and be free in Christ Jesus the Lord. Become the new dough that rises in this hungry world, the bread of sincerity and truth. Proclaim by your lives that you feast on the Paschal Lamb, that you are sustained by the meat of the Eucharist, and become what you receive. Be glad, brethren, for Jesus has won the victory. Let us follow Him so as to receive the reward of that victory, the fruits of his labor and ours: the eternal victory feast of Heaven.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Vigil

On this most holy night, I offer only a few brief words. We began our Lent in darkness - literal darkness, if you remember the storm and the power outage. We began tonight’s Mass in darkness. How great can that darkness seem! It seems that we will never overcome that darkness, whatever it is that obscures our souls, makes it impossible to overcome. But on this night, as the world seemingly grows darker, more united to the darkness, light comes once more.
Easter is the feast of the new creation, in which the old order is cast out and the new is illuminated. Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, rises from the dead and pierces the darkness of this night with the light of the Resurrection. The Exsultet emphasizes this when it quotes the Psalms to declare that, “The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.” Indeed, this night radiates not only in the light of the Resurrection, but in the joy that should fill every Christian heart tonight, because the Lord is not dead - He lives!

Let us rejoice in this holy night, that Christ Jesus shines victorious over sin, over Satan, over death. Let us rejoice, also, with our newest members, who will die with Jesus in His passion and rise with Him on this night no longer members of this old creation, but incorporated into the new creation, which will find its completion not in this life, but in the life to come. Jesus is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

Why do we not celebrate Mass on Good Friday? If the Mass is the re-presentation of all that happens today, why do we not offer the Mass? Today there is no Mass because there is no need for the sign that points to the reality: we kneel before that very reality today. On this day, we are more really present at the Cross than we are during the Mass. We behold the wood of the Cross upon which hung the salvation of the world because it is happening today. This day is the day appointed by God from all of time to offer the one perfect sacrifice for redemption from sin.
Behold that wood upon which hung your Savior! Behold that bloody tree upon which He hangs because of your sins, because of my sins! Behold the Lamb of God bruised, derided, cursed, defiled, the Lamb who sheds every ounce of His blood so as to take away the sins of the world! All of this because you and I, because we rebel against God, because we choose anything and everything other than God. Because of this, as the prophet Isaiah says, “the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all,” and “the Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.”
Let us weep this day over the dead body of our Savior. Let us join the sorrowful Mother in weeping that her son has been killed, that she carries with her the sorrow unlike any other sorrow. Let us cast down our faces in shame that each one of us has caused this, each one of us has made this day necessary. But hear carefully the words Isaiah speaks at the end of his prophecy about the suffering servant: “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many.” Let us remain hopeful that Jesus the suffering servant may justify us by His passion and death.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday

What do we normally eat at a feast? While our customs may vary depending on our families and our cultures, we normally have meat at the feast. Meat has always been a standard feature of a feast, while the absence of meat gives the meal a rather penitential or impoverished characteristic. How can we celebrate Thanksgiving if we don’t have the turkey? Could it really be the Fourth of July without a hamburger or hot dog? Can we really enjoy the Super Bowl without chicken wings? Meat has been throughout human history and culture a symbol of feasting and rejoicing, in particular the Jewish feast of Passover, where the lamb is sacrificed and feasted upon by all at table.
Yet Jesus transforms this Passover meal on this night. He uses the great Jewish feast of freedom and salvation to establish a different feast, though still signifying freedom and salvation. Jesus uses the Passover as the type that foreshadows the complete sign of feasting and rejoicing. Jesus transitions the Passover from being the salvation feast of a small nation and people into the sacrifice of praise offered by the entire world. He does all of this in the institution of the most holy Eucharist.
The Passover meal heralds the ultimate feast of faith for Christ and His Church. Everything that the Passover represents for the Jews corresponds to a reality which we shall encounter over the next few days. But the central image of Passover is the paschal lamb, the animal sacrificed by the Jewish priest then completely consumed by everyone in the household. The lamb provides the meat for the feast, a feast that originally began as a meal eaten in haste, in preparation for leaving Egypt.
But if the Passover is the type or symbol of the Eucharist, then where is our meat for our feast? What shall we eat in our new Passover meal, which supersedes the old? We feast on the new paschal lamb, sacrificed upon the altar of the Cross. This is the mysterious reality at the heart of the institution of the Eucharist on this night. If the Mass is the feast of faith, then there must be meat for that feast, and Jesus offers us the purest meat possible: His own body, offered as the sacrifice so that we might pass over from death unto life.
This is why the Eucharist is called the source and summit of the Christian life: everything that we believe and do flows from this. We have bishops and priests so that they may re-offer this sacrifice and feed us once more this most savory meat. We receive the sacraments of initiation so that we may approach the table and partake of this feast. We go to confession so that we may be worthy once more to receive this meat. It is the sun that illumines our day; without it, our souls would grow dark and cold.
Yet how much do we appreciate this gift? How much do we really treasure this morsel from Heaven? What is our attitude towards this feast of faith? Do we treasure it with reverence and sacredness or do we treat it as another chore to check off the list? The Eucharist is not a snack to reward a child for a good deed; it is the food by which we are sustained in this hungry world. But it cannot nourish us if we remain indifferent to it, if we treat it as something less than what it is.
As we plunge into the mysteries of faith over these next three days, I implore you to spend some time in serious consideration of your faith. Does any of this really matter to you? Is all of this really the feast of faith, the center of our universe, or is it another chore that we check off the list? Is the Eucharist really the means of communion, of union with Christ, or is it just something that I pop into my mouth and then go off as if nothing happened? God desires so much more from us; will we give it to Him? I encourage you to spend some time tonight in adoration, in quiet time before the Lord who prays in the garden that He may do the will of His Father: to die for our sins. May we appreciate more fully this sacrifice so that we may be truly nourished at this feast of faith.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

5th Sunday of Lent - Death and Life

What do we fear most about life? What is it that we dread most about our mortal nature? There is one thing common to all people of all ages that we dread and fear: death. We fear death, that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. We hate death because we fear it, because we want to avoid it as much as possible. Our generation continues the quest for immortality, seeking the fountain of youth not in some mythical land far away, but in a pill or in a computer. We will do anything rather than die.
But death comes for us all. We cannot avoid it, we cannot pretend it will never happen. Yet there is more than one way to die. Certainly, our physical bodies can die. However, we can also die spiritually. How does this happen? It is the same as our physical death: we lose life. But how can we lose our spiritual life? We lose it when we remain enveloped in sin. We lose it when we are consumed by sin. We lose it when we choose sin over God. Our spiritual death is never just a death, but is always a suicide, for we choose that death for ourselves. Yet God desires not the death of the sinner, but that he live.
We hear about the greatest of Jesus’ miracles in the Gospel today, when He raises His friend Lazarus from death, and not just any death: Lazarus had been dead in the tomb for four days, a sign taken by the Jews to mean that one was completely and totally dead. Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, by His power and authority restores Lazarus to life. It is probably the greatest sign that Jesus offers up to this point in the Gospels. But it also has great meaning for us: it demonstrates that God is the Lord of life, and that He can restore life whenever He wills.
We hear in the psalm today that with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption. God desires life for all of us, as we see in the vision of Ezekiel in the first reading. For indeed, who can truly stand in innocence before the Lord? As the Psalmist puts it, “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?” None of us are totally innocent before God: all have sinned, both as individuals and as the human race. Yet God desires not death, but life. Knowing our weakness, knowing our infirmity, God desires to revive humanity by redeeming it from the bonds of sin and Satan, and this work will be accomplished so very soon in the passion and death of Christ our Lord.
Yet this redemption is not a ticket easily purchased, nor is it merely a free gift. God does offer us redemption and salvation, but it comes at a cost: our death to sin. Saint Paul recognizes this as he writes to the Romans in the second reading. Salvation is not something that is merely bought with a few words: it is something that costs us our life in sin. Saint Paul is not rejecting the physical world in saying this, but the truth that we are not meant to live for this world, to live for the flesh. We are meant to be animated by the Spirit of God to live for Christ. We cannot have the Spirit if we remain dead in sin. We cannot be lead by the Spirit if we cling to sin. We cannot live in the Spirit if we reject that same Spirit.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead serves as a sign that Jesus can raise any soul to life, even a soul that has been steeped in sin, wallowing in sin for decades. The history of the Church is filled with scandalous sinners who converted and became great saints: egotists, sex addicts, murderers, heretics, drunkards, even worshippers of Satan. Yet their eyes were opened to the error of their ways by the grace of God, they repented of their sins, and lived their lives with the same confession we hear on the lips of Martha: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world to save it. And we can do the same as them, if we believe as Martha and Mary did, that this same Jesus who weeps over death desires us to live and to live fully.
As we enter the last two weeks of Lent, we are plunged more deeply into the mysteries of these days. We are preparing for all that Jesus did and suffered from this day until Easter Sunday. Let us not merely listen to these actions and events, but let us be moved by them. Let our hearts be filled with contrition for our sins and a true desire to repent of them. Let us seek the mercy that can only be found in the confessional, for God desires us to have a sure sign of our pardon. Brethren, do not let your hearts remain dead to sin, but let them be alive in Christ Jesus, in His Holy Spirit. As Jesus raised Lazarus from death, so too will God raise our souls from the death of sin, but only if we respond to His grace and seek His mercy. Let us indeed seek His mercy, so that we may have the fullness of redemption in the life to come.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

4th Sunday of Lent - Blindness

Which sense would you be least willing to lose if you had to lose one of your five senses? For most people, sight is the sense they would pick to keep most out of the five. While we don’t want to lose any of them, sight seems to hold sway because it is the most useful for everything we do. Without sight, we cannot experience beauty, we would never know the faces of those we love, we would lose a tremendous amount of knowledge. Could you imagine not knowing colors?
Yet we not only possess physical sight via our eyes but rational sight from our minds. Unlike the rest of the animal world, we are able to possess knowledge and wisdom, to grow in our experiences and shape the reality as we have made it up to this time. But, just as our physical eyes can suffer from glaucomas, our rational sight, our inner eye, can become darkened. We can lose that pristine vision we once had of right and wrong, good and evil, holy and wicked and begin to see the world in bland greys. What causes this inner eye to lose the light? It is sin that darkens this eye, and only one can cure us.
In our Gospel, we hear that a man who was blind from birth receives his vision by the healing power of Jesus. This man can represent each one of us, for we too were born blind, not due to a physical defect, but to the defect of original sin upon our souls. And just as Jesus lifts the blindness from the blind man’s eyes, so too does He lift our original blindness from our souls in baptism. But we can lose that original vision over time, and we can even become blind once more, only we are trapped in a worse blindness because we had seen the Light of the world and beheld His glory, yet rejected it for something else.
We all have something that blinds us to the total truth which Jesus teaches us. For some, it is a favorite sin. For others, it is arrogance. Some are blind because of ignorance while others are blind from apathy. Whatever it is that stands in the way of clear vision, it is something that can be removed. But do we want it removed? We may be like the child who sits too close to the TV and doesn’t want to lose that spot, even though we may gain better vision because of it. We may be like the Pharisees in the Gospel, who do not believe that they are blind, which is the worst kind of blindness.
Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, the light proceeding from light, as we profess each Sunday in the Creed. He does not want us to remain in darkness, the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of pride, the darkness of sin. He wants us to see clearly, to be the children of light, as Saint Paul wants also, as we hear in the second reading. But to remain in the light means that we must be freed of sin, for the light only “produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth”. It means that we must cast off that which blinds us or keeps us in the darkness, and walk in the light. We cannot have it both ways, pretending to be children of light while assisting at Mass but living as if we belong to this world, the world of darkness, remaining secret and hidden rather than visible to all.
Brethren, let us be the children of light! Let us not remain in our sins or in our pride or whatever makes us blind. Let us be healed by Jesus the divine Physician so as to see clearly the Son of Man leading us to God. Let our hearts not find their rest in the filth and darkness of sin, but in the glory and light of God. Let us see the dawn of Easter rising on this day, the midway point of Lent. If we have done little to amend our life, let us not delay! The sun of the Resurrection rises in the east. Do we look for it eagerly, or do we cower in our blindness? Do we wish to remain in the darkness, or shall we be healed of our blindness, so that we may see the light in this world, and rejoice in that same light in the world to come?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

3rd Sunday of Lent - Living Water

What is the most essential element we need in order to live? Water. Without water, there is no life. NASA has a motto in their search for life beyond our planet: “Follow the water.” Wherever there is water, there is life. Humans can survive better without food than we can without water. It comprises most of the material in our body and is essential to almost every activity we do in order to live. Without water, there is no life. Jesus in our Gospel today offers the Samaritan woman not just any ordinary water, but “living water”, as He tells her. What is this living water? How do we get it? And can we lose it?
The living water which Jesus offers is our union with God in the Holy Spirit, who is poured out for us in the sacraments. We should automatically think of baptism whenever we hear about water in the Scriptures, for just as water gives us earthly life, baptism gives us heavenly life, opening for us the gates of heaven to be joined with God. We listen to this Gospel on this Sunday of Lent in order to help our catechumens prepare to receive baptism, hence the beginning of the scrutinies on this Sunday. We should recall our own baptism which gave us this living water to drink. But this is not the only sacrament in which we receive this living water, in which we receive the Holy Spirit.
Brethren, it is possible to lose this living water, to allow the well to dry up and become spiritually parched. And just as we have no physical life if we lose water, so too do we have no spiritual life if we do not have the living water of the Holy Spirit. How do we lose this water? How do we become spiritually parched? This happens when we fall into sin, when we violate our baptismal promises to reject Satan and all his works and all his empty show. It happens when our hearts become hardened by sin, as were the hearts of the Israelites in the first reading and the psalm. It happens when we lose faith in God, and thus begin to lose our justification, as Saint Paul says in the second reading.
Is it possible to regain these living waters? Is it possible to regain our faith and thus regain our justification? It is quite possible, but there is only one means of doing it. How? Through the confessional. God does not pour out His Spirit upon us only once at baptism or confirmation, but He desires to renew us constantly, just as the earth is renewed by rain. Yet we must not seek rain where it cannot be found. Would it not be foolish to build a house in the Sahara Desert and plant a garden and wait for the rains to come? Then is it not also foolish to ask God to increase our faith and pour out His Spirit upon us if we remain in the spiritual desert of sin?
Brethren, I spend one hour before this Mass in the confessional not because I’m bored or I need to be somewhere. I am in there because God has given me the authority to forgive sins and to restore the living water to you. I am in there because, like Jesus, I thirst for your salvation. In my nine months of being here, there are many of you whom I have never seen nor heard in there. Why? What prevents you from coming and receiving the mercy of God? What prevents you from being refreshed with the living water that Jesus wishes to give you? What prevents you from being free of your sins in the ordinary means God has given to you?
Many of you go to confession perhaps once a year yet come up to receive Communion every week. Would to God that it were the reverse! What’s the point of receiving Communion if you’re still parched by your sins? Why receive the Bread of Life if you still eat the bitter herbs of sin? Jesus does not want you to remain in your sins, that’s why He died on the Cross. But we must imitate the Samaritan woman and acknowledge our sins before Jesus if we wish to be truly refreshed by His living water. We must imitate her humility in order to be elevated to glory.
Brethren, let your hearts not be hardened! Hear the voice of the Lord calling you to repentance, calling you to drink deeply of His living water. Do not be like the Israelites at Meribah - testing God, challenging God. Do not remain in the desert of sin but come and be refreshed by confession. Yet we should not do this only in Lent, in this season of penance and sorrow. We need to take every opportunity to be freed of our sins and refreshed by the Holy Spirit so as to continue to be justified. I encourage you not only to go to confession this week, but to also go at least once a month. Then we can be like those who heard the Samaritan woman’s testimony and encountered Jesus themselves: they not only believed because of what she said, but because they joined her in humbling themselves and recognizing Jesus as the one true savior of the world. May we do the same, so that we may boast not in arrogance but in hope of the eternal and joyful glory of God.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

2nd Sunday of Lent - Transfiguration

NB: This homily is short due to the bishop's video for the Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal.

We hear the story of the Transfiguration on the second Sunday of Lent. Tradition tells us that this event occurred about forty days before Jesus’ passion and death. St. Luke in his Gospel sees this event as the moment when Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem, towards the sufferings of Good Friday. Why does Jesus do this? This happens for two reasons. First, Jesus wants His inner circle, His closest disciples and us to see Him as He really is. Who will be suffering that Passion? Who will be undergoing that cruel death? It’s not just any man, but it is God in the flesh. Jesus reveals who He is so that we may be comforted in knowing that He suffers with us.
But Jesus also reveals His full glory so that we may know the end of our journey. We like to know where we’re going. If we know our destination, we will make a greater effort to reach it. What Jesus reveals is not just His glory, but the glory that we will share with Him if we survive our passion. Our life is like Lent: we have many struggles with only a few moments of joy. But Jesus’ passion and death is not the end, for He rises on the third day. So too will our Lent come to an end, and if we have been faithful, we will experience our own Easter Sunday.
Let us rise and be not afraid to follow Jesus, to carry our cross daily. Let us remember the glory of the holy mountain, the glory prefigured for us in the Holy Mass. Let us be strengthened by the Eucharist to toil away at the work of our lifetimes, just as Jesus did after this day. Let us endure the toils of our daily Lent, so that we may join Jesus in receiving the wondrous glory when we join Him in the resurrection on the last day.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1st Sunday of Lent - The Desert

We are the children of temptation. As we enter into the first full week of Lent, we should reflect on this sentiment first: we are the children of temptation. We hear in the reading from Genesis and in the Gospel about temptation. Genesis shows us that first temptation of our parents Adam and Eve, and their giving in to the tentation. This is the original sin, the sin in which we were conceived, the sin in which we were born, the sin in which we lived in need of a Redeemer.
The Gospel shows that Redeemer beginning to do His great work of redemption, but the first battle He wages is not against any human foe; it is against the one who first tricked our parents into sin, the one who tricks all of us into sin: Satan, the devil. It was the devil who took the form of a serpent and tricked Adam and Eve to eating the apple and disobeying God. It is the same devil who tries to tempt Jesus away from obeying His heavenly Father. Satan tries using the three usual temptations, as outlined by our Saint John: the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and the lust of the eyes (cf. 1 John 2:15-16).
First, the devil tries to make Jesus make bread of stones. He is hungry after fasting for forty days; why shouldn’t Jesus eat? But Jesus reminds the devil that we live not by bread alone, but by the will of God. Next, the devil tries to make Jesus proud by demonstrating His power before all the people in the area of the Temple in Jerusalem. If only Jesus would throw Himself off the top of the Temple, the angels would save Him, and everyone would believe whatever He said. But Jesus, throwing Scripture back at the devil’s Scripture, reminds us that we shall not tempt God into signs and wonders, but humble ourselves before His majesty. Finally, the devil demonstrates his so-called power by showing all the worlds in his supposed control, calling Jesus to worship him and receive a reward. But Jesus forcefully reminds the devil that God alone has full dominion and power, and that everything truly belongs to God.
In undergoing these temptations, Jesus is beginning to unravel everything that was done in the garden so many millennia ago. Saint Paul in our second reading highlights this, reminding us that by the first Adam, we all have sinned, we are all children of temptation, but by Jesus our new Adam, we all have the possibility of justifying ourselves. We are all the children of temptation, but we can become once more, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, the children of God.
Brethren, let us throw off sin once and for all. Let us imitate our Redeemer and fight against Satan and all his temptations. Yet, even if we have sinned, let us rush to the sacrament of mercy, let us rush to the confessional, be freed of our sins, and strengthened by God’s grace to fight Satan once more. Let our Lenten penances not be a means of pride, but the seed of humility by which we shed off the old man of temptation and sin, and are clothed in Christ. Let us not remain the children of temptation, but let us be the children of God, the children of His promise, the children of heaven.