Friday, May 26, 2017


Homily for May 27th, 2017: John 16: 23-28.

AAsk and you will receive,” Jesus says. “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.@ Continuing to pray when God seems to answer only with silence increases our desire and strengthens our faith, as physical exercise strengthens the heart, lungs, and muscles. St. Gregory the Great, who was bishop of Rome from 590 to 604, wrote: AAll holy desires grow by delays; and if they fade because of these delays, they were never holy desires.@

To illustrate his teaching about prayer, Jesus reminds us that God is our loving heavenly Father, and we are his children. God is more loving, however, than the even best human father or mother B and wiser. Hence he will not always answer our prayers in the way, or at the time, that we think he should. When God refuses something we pray for, it is always in order to give us something better.  

 The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen told a story about a little girl who prayed, before Christmas, for a hundred dolls. She didn=t get even one. Her unbelieving father, who had taunted both her and her mother for praying at all, couldn=t resist saying on Christmas day: AWell God didn=t answer your prayers, did he?@ To which the child gave the beautiful answer: AOh yes, He did. He said No!@ In my own ninetieth year, I am grateful to have lived long enough to be able to thank God for answering some of my prayers, Not yet; and others, No.

Even when we have done our best to explain and understand prayer, however, it remains a mystery: not in the sense that we can understand nothing about prayer, but that what we can understand is partial only. We can no more explain Ahow prayer works@ than we can explain how the human mind works, or the human heart.

Above all, therefore, we need to ask for the gift of God=s Holy Spirit: the fire of God’s love, to burn away everything in us that is contrary to God, and to light up our way; his wisdom to see what it right and true, and to embrace it when seen. That prayer will always be answered, Jesus promises us. AIf you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children," Jesus says in Luke's gospel, "how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?@ [11:13]

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Homily for May 26th, 2017: John 16: 23b-28.

          “The Father himself loves you,” Jesus tells his apostles at the Last Supper, “because you have loved me and have come to believe that I come from God.” St. Augustine says, “His object in loving us was to enable us to love one another.” Love is something that must be given to us from without. And the first one to bestow his love on us was our heavenly Father and Creator. It is important to know that the love Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel reading is not primarily a matter of feelings. It is an attitude of concern. Feelings come and go, influenced by the weather, the state of our mental and physical health, our changing moods.

          None of those things matter for God. God does not change. He is always the same. From the moment of our conception in our mother’s womb, God wanted the very best for us. God loves us, Augustine writes, “so that we may be brothers of his only Son. . . . His object in loving us was to enable us to love each other. By loving us himself, our mighty head has linked us all together as members of his own body, bound to one another by the tender bond of love.” [Office of Readings, Thursday of the Fifth week of Easter]

          The love that God has for us, his creatures, enables us to approach him with confidence. “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you . . . ask and you will receive, so that your joy will be complete.” The French Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin, who died in New York City on Easter Sunday 1955, at the age of 73, used to call joy “the infallible sign of the presence of God.”

          How sad that so many of Jesus’ friends show little evidence of joy. To have it, you must cultivate thanksgiving. Let no day pass without thanking your heavenly Father for all the blessings he showers upon you. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again: I couldn’t tell you how many times I say, every day: “Lord, you’re so good to me; and I’m so grateful.” And if a long life has taught me anything, it is this. Thankful people are happy people, and joyful people – no exceptions. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


May 28th, 2017, Ascension Day, Year A.  Acts 1:1-11; Matthew 28:16-20.

AIM:  To show the universality of Christ’s missionary call, and its implications for daily life.


“When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted." Those doubts show that the first followers of Jesus Christ were not credulous peasants, ready to believe anything. Like many of us, they were often skeptical, and often doubted. The gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances all mention those doubts. The most persistent doubter, as you will remember, was the apostle Thomas who responded to reports that the Lord was risen: "I will never believe it without probing the nail prints in his hands, without putting my finger in the nail marks and my hand into his side" (John 20:25).

Until its climactic moment, Christ‘s ascension was an appearance of the risen Lord like all the others. It was only to be expected that on this occasion, as on those which had preceded it, his disciples doubted. What is remarkable is not their doubts, but the fact that Jesus ignores them. “Go ... make disciples of all nations," he charges them, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.”

That charge is not just long ago and far away. Jesus gives us the same command today. Now, as then, he issues this command to all his friends, fervent believers and skeptical doubters alike. We may think that before we can become Jesus’ messengers we must first overcome all our doubts and hesitations. We must be strong in faith, able to stand on our own feet. That is not true! Jesus’ first messengers and missionaries were often weak in faith.  That has remained true in every age. It is true today.

Jesus summons us to his missionary service just as we are: weak in faith, encumbered with doubts, hesitations, faults, and sins. He does not send us as his messengers to an unbelieving and spiritually hungry world because we are fit for the task. Rather he calls us to make us fit. It is in sharing with others the faith that is in us, that our own faith is deepened and strengthened.

Few of us are called to preach sermons about Jesus Christ. But every one of us is called, and in baptism and confirmation commissioned, to proclaim and bear witness to him through the testimony of daily living.  Here is what the bishops of the whole world said about this call at the Second Vatican Council. 

[The laity] work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven ... [making] Christ known to others especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope, and charity. [Lumen gentium, 31]

The laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth. [33]   

There are people here in our parish who are doing those things every day. Are you? One day the Lord will examine us about how we have responded to the call to be his messengers to others. Here, ahead of time, are some of the questions in that examination. They came to me years ago on an e-mail. I no longer know the sender.

God won't ask what kind of car you drove; he'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation. 

God won't ask the square footage of your house; he'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home. 

God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet; he'll ask how many you helped to clothe.

God won't ask what your highest salary was; he'll ask if you cut corners to obtain it.

God won't ask what your job title was; he'll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

God won't ask how many friends you had; he'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived; he'll ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won't ask about the color of your skin; he'll ask about the content of your character.

The testimony of deeds before words is powerful. You probably know the saying: “What you are speaks so loud that I can’t hear what you say.” Words are cheap and our world is inundated by words. People today are more impressed by deeds than by words.

Bearing witness to Jesus Christ in daily life is difficult. If you doubt that, perhaps that is because you have never seriously tried it for any extended period of time. With our own resources alone, the task is impossible. But we are not alone. We have an unseen companion in the missionary task: the same divine master and Lord who is saying to us right now, as he said to that little band of weak sinners and doubters on a Galilean hilltop two thousand years ago:

“Behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.”



Homily for May 25th, 2017: John 16:16-20.

          “What does this mean that he is saying to us, ‘A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me’” Jesus’ disciples ask one another. “We do not know what he means.” How often preachers, and readers of the gospels as well, repeat that statement; if not aloud, at least in thought: “We do not know what he means.” Not everything in Scripture is clear, simple, or obvious, by any means.

          If we believe that Jesus spoke these words in connection with the Last Supper, then Jesus’ “little while” would refer to the time between Jesus’ burial and his resurrection on the third day. That is the view of most of the Eastern Church Fathers. There is a difficulty with this interpretation, however. Jesus tells his disciples, “You will grieve, but your grief will become joy,” adding two verses later: “Then your hearts will rejoice, with a joy that no one can take from you;” and thereafter “You will have no more questions to ask me.” (vs. 22f) However, the appearances of the risen Lord to his friends were transitory and brief. Were they not only sufficient to give Jesus’ friends “a joy that no one can take from you,” but also to justify Jesus’ further statement that “you will have no more questions to ask me”?

St. Augustine solves this difficulty by saying that Jesus’ “little while” is the period between Jesus’ ascension to heaven and his return at the end of time in glory. This overlooks the joy which his friends experienced as soon as they saw him alive again, in flesh and blood – though also so changed that at first most did not recognize him.

We need not choose between these two interpretations. There is truth in both. Jesus’ resurrection appearances did indeed fill his friends with joy. But only at the end of time will we have no more questions to ask him. Meanwhile we thank God the Father for raising his Son from the dead, but also for the Son’s promise, which we shall hear in Saturday’s gospel: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”



Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Homily for May 24th, 2017: Acts 17:15, 22-18:1.

          St. Paul normally began his preaching with appeals to Holy Scripture – for him the Jewish Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament. The New Testament books were not written until after Paul’s death. Paul’s letters and accounts of his preaching in the Acts of the Apostles contain numerous examples of his Scripture based preaching. Paul’s address reported in our first reading today is an exception to this rule. He is in Athens, the center, in Paul’s world, of learning and sophisticated culture. What the Athenians knew about the Jewish Scriptures was comparable to what most of us know about the Koran: next to nothing.

          So Paul tries a different approach this time. He starts not with Scripture but with the actual situation in Athens, with its many temples to numerous gods and goddesses. This is an example of his becoming “all things to all people,” about which Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians (9:22). Paul begins then: “I see you are very religious.”  That is called, in rhetoric, a captatio benevolentiae: capturing the hearers’ attention and goodwill with benevolence or kindness – in this case with flattery. Referring to all the temples which he sees on the hill Areopagus in the center of Athens, Paul says that one in particular has caught his eye, because of the inscription it bears: “To an Unknown God.” The Athenians who erected it obviously wanted to cover all the bases.

          “What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you,” Paul says. This Unknown God is the one who created all that is, he continues. He has come down to us in the person of a man named Jesus, whom he raised from the dead. The mention of resurrection causes some to scoff. Everyone knows that is absurd: when you’re dead, you’re dead. Others react more politely, but still with condescension: “We’d like to hear more about this – just not now. Another day, perhaps.”

          Some, however, accept Paul’s message, and become believers. One is obviously a man of importance: a member of the Court of the Areopagus. Another is a woman of whom we know only her name, Damaris. Paul’s attempt to “become all things to all people” seems have had only modest success. It is a picture of the Church’s evangelism in every age. As in Jesus’ parable of the sower and his seed: despite the waste of so much of the farmer’s efforts, “some seed falls on good ground and produces a rich harvest, at a rate of thirty- and sixty- and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:8).

Monday, May 22, 2017


Homily for May 23rd, 2017: John 16:5-11.

          “I tell you,” Jesus says, “it is better that I go. For if I do not go the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” What is Jesus really saying? All depends on the meaning of the word “Advocate.” In the original Greek of the New Testament the word is “Paraclete.” In some versions of the Bible it is also translated “Comforter.”

          However we translate it – Paraclete, Advocate, or Comforter – it designates the One who makes Jesus present: the Holy Spirit, who takes the place on earth of the glorified Jesus, after he has risen and ascended to heaven to be, once more, with his heavenly Father. “It is better for you that I go,” Jesus says, because it was only when the Spirit had come down on his disciples that they were able fully to understand who Jesus was. The Spirit came upon them quietly, but nonetheless powerfully, when the risen Jesus entered the room where his disciples had gathered, with doors locked “for fear of the Jews,” spoke the Hebrew greeting, “Shalom – Peace be with you,” breathed on them, and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20: 19-23) The Spirit came dramatically a short time later, at the Jewish feast of Pentecost, in a “mighty driving wind [and] tongues as of fire.” (Acts 2) 

Jesus goes on to say that the Spirit “will convict the world in regard to sin.” The sin in question was people’s refusal to believe in Jesus. This has been a theme of John’s gospel from the beginning, where we read:  “He came to his own, yet his own did not accept him” (John 1:11); and two chapters later we read: “The light has come into the world, but men preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). The Spirit will also convict the world in regard to “righteousness” or justice, by reversing the unjust sentence at Jesus’ trial, which declared him guilty and not God’s Son. Finally the Spirit “will convict the word in regard to sin,” because in Jesus’ resurrection it is Satan who is condemned, and his power over the world crippled. 

As he was being stoned to death, the Church’s first martyr, the deacon Stephen, “filled with the Sprit … exclaimed, ‘Look! I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand.’” (Acts 7:55f). Down through the centuries since, and continuing today, the Spirit, who is the Lord’s gift, continues to make Jesus, now with his Father in heaven, present to us on earth. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017


Homily for May 22nd, 2017: John 15:25-16:4a.

          Just two days ago we heard Jesus’ words: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” In today’s gospel, Jesus returns to the same theme. “They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.” Is that just long ago and far away? Don’t you believe it.  

A recent book, entitled The Global War on Christians, by the American Catholic journalist John Allen shows that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world today. From Iraq and Egypt to Sudan and Nigeria, from Indonesia to the Indian subcontinent, Christians in the early 21st century are the world's most persecuted religious group. The secular International Society for Human Rights says that 80 percent of violations of religious freedom in the world today are directed against Christians. Our era is witnessing the rise of a new generation of martyrs. Underlying the global war on Christians is the fact that more than two-thirds of the world's 2.3 billion Christians now live outside the West, often as a beleaguered minority surrounded by a hostile majority -- Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, Hindu radicalism in India, or state-imposed atheism in China and North Korea.
           Most people in Western countries have little idea that this global war on Christians is even happening. “We’re not talking about a metaphorical ‘war on religion’ in Europe and the United States fought over issues like whether it’s okay to erect a nativity set on the courthouse steps,” Allen writes. “We’re talking about a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims. Christians today form the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence.”

          In the supposedly Christian country of Colombia, since 1984, 70 Catholic priests, two bishops, eight nuns, and three seminarians have been slaughtered, most falling victim to the nation’s notorious narco-cartels. Scores of Pentecostal and Evangelical pastors and faithful also have lost their lives. This shows two things. First, that Christians are a majority in a given country it doesn’t mean they’re safe; and second, radical Islam is hardly the only threat out there.

          What can we do about this persecution? “Don’t dismiss the power of prayer,” John Allen says. Also by supporting organizations that help victims we can make sure they don’t feel abandoned and alone. And we must also refuse to be cowed into silence about Church teachings on marriage and the sanctity of life by today’s bullying guardians of political correctness.