Preaching

A Puff of Smoke?

Puffy


Today's reading from James isn't the kind of address you would give at a typical graduation or ordination. Congratulations on all your plans...but you are a puff of smoke! And your plans? Who knows?

People may take too much offense to listen to James' follow-up: Make you plans in and for the Lord and then they will prosper.

 

 


Saint Giulia Salzano

GiuliaSaint Giulia was noted for her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary and founded a congregation of nuns called the Catechetical Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to teach children about the faith and spread the love of the gospel.

Canonized by John Paul II as a saint of the "new evangelization," she reminded her sisters they must always be ready to defend the faith and teach its truths, especially to young children. She hoped this mission would be hers until her dying day.

 

 


St. Brendan the Navigator

Holy Cross Church doesn't have a window dedicated to St. Brendan, but he is pictured in one of our windows. He is shown as one of the saintly students of St. Ita, who does have a dedicated window. St. Brendan was inspired to set out into unknown waters to preach the gospel in far off lands. 

The statues in Ireland depicting him emphasize his courage and his great zeal. 

St Brendan Vikings
St Brendan Vikings

 


Sts. Philip and James

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Though each was an apostle of the Lord, each was very different. James, observant Jew not insistent on imposing Jewish law on Gentile converts, was the first bishop of Jerusalem and conferred with St. Paul on the mission of the early church. Philip recruited Nathaniel and was rebuked by Jesus in this morning's gospel for failing to understand that Jesus and the Father are One.

The diversity of the Universal Catholic Church was established from the beginning and should be seen as a strength not a weakness. Let us pray for a spirit of mutual respect as we each follow the Lord.

 


St. Athanasius

Athanasius

Our Catholic concept of God, Trinity and the Union of Divine and Human Natures in Christ owes much to the preaching, teaching and courageous persistence of St. Athanasius. For hundreds of years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the church wrestled with how the human nature of Jesus interacted with his identity as the Son of God. An early and persistent heresy in the church held that Jesus, though most perfectly human was created by God the Father and hence not equal to God the Father in His Divinity.

St. Athanasius, despite being exiled five different times for his belief, preached that Jesus was truly Divine and truly human and developed theological language to help us understand this mystery, or at least teach it clearly.

It is because Jesus was truly human and truly Divine that our redemption by his death and resurrection are assured, not merely a fine point in theological debate!

Thanks be to St. Athanasius for his courage and preaching.


Priority of Love

Love
In John's gospel, Jesus points out that if we love God, we will keep God's commandments, not that we must first prove our love by obedience. It's a wonderful distinction, one often lost on those who harbor resentment or rebel against any restrictions on personal autonomy.

Love should change how we relate to God, family, friends and fellow human beings. 


St Mark, Evangelist

https://theurgetowander.com
St. Mark's Square With Leonine Column in Venice

 

MarkLion
A close-up of the lion atop the column. From theurgetowander.com

The lion has been the iconographic symbol for St. Mark from the early days of the church. The lion is the symbol of the city of Venice, Italy, which has claimed St. Mark as their patron. The courage of a roaring lion is sometimes required to witness the gospel in inimical times and places.

 


Bread is the Staff of Life

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My father used to say this all the time, but he didn't have the spongy, tasteless Wonderbread in mind. I wasn't really sure how exactly food was a staff, but we had bread available for most dinners, especially when company visited. The discovery of harvesting grain, removing the chaff, grinding the flour and baking the dough for nourishment gave us one of the most important foodstuffs for the human family. The bad nutritional rap modern, chemically adulterated, bleached and fiber-free bread has given this staple food should not be what we think about when we hear Jesus reassure us that He is the Bread of Life. 

Jesus' Body and Blood in the Eucharist is the basic food for human spiritual thriving and He has promised us that whoever eats this Bread will live forever. 

 


Saint Stephen and Saint Paul

In this morning's reading from Acts chapters 7 and 8, we have the ironic and hard to comprehend scene of St. Stephen being stoned to death while Saul (St. Paul) supervises. Most artistic representations of the scene avoid clearly depicting Saul at the martrydom, but this icon from The Holy Order of St. Stephen does not shirk from depicting it.

With this jarring scene bouncing around in our heads, it is well to remember that God's plan for the Church is sometimes unclear to us, but always leads to salvation. We can also take solace in the forgiveness extended to us for any wrongdoing, even a notorious one.

I'm not aware of any churches named jointly for Sts. Stephen and Paul, but it would be a spiritually challenging idea.

https://en.holyorderofststephen.org/


Peace I Give You

PeaceJesus Christ is the source of true peace and his post-resurrection appearance to his apostles is a great reminder of that. Once the disciples had even the smallest belief in the Risen Jesus' identity through his reassuring presence, his wounds and his sharing a meal with them, peace and the joy founded in peace could flow.

It is good practice to reaffirm our belief when we ask Jesus for peace. We should ask not only for the peace we seek, but for the grace for our belief  in Jesus' saving identity to grow stronger.

 


We Must Obey God Rather Than Men

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Peer pressure isn't intrinsically bad, it can influence people to be good citizens, or to keep up their properties and build up neighborhood pride. Often, however, it seems to produce conformity around less than important issues, like dress codes or musical taste, and sometimes encourages anti-social behaviors like cruelty, drug use or sexual promiscuity. 

The best moral compass comes from internalized values and from conscience, the kind the early disciples preached about when they began telling the world about Jesus' resurrection. When warned by temple officials they had been warned not to preach about Jesus of Nazareth, the disciples replied, "We must obey God rather than men."

Such courage can be ours with prayer.


Solemnity of the Annunciation

Annunication
It's always interesting when the liturgical cycle and the temporal cycle collide and give us pause to reflect on Salvation History, God's plan for the world. Though we celebrate the timeless truth of the Logos, we also avow that Jesus became the Christ in time. The Annunciation to the Virgin Mary that she was to be the Mother of God and her acceptance of the role, her "fiat," is placed nine months before the liturgically celebrated date of Jesus' birth on December 25th. Yet, since the date of Easter is not fixed and varies according to the lunar/solar calendar, this year the feast is celebrated at the conclusion of the Octave of Easter.

Confusing perhaps, but a reminder that we all have one foot in time and one in eternity thanks to the Paschal Mystery of Christ in which we participate by our baptisms.

Alleluia!


Divine Mercy Sunday

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Wonderfully today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday

Wonderful because the church wants us to consider the first fruits of Christ’s Resurrection Victory over sin and death to be mercy, not retribution or punishment

The powers of this world don’t usually offer mercy as the first order of business after an unequivocal victory. It’s payback. World history is scarred with the retaliatory behavior of victors toward the defeated: Emperors and empresses,kings and queens, presidents, prime ministers, generals and their armies, dictators, newly hired CEO’s, team owners, winners in civil lawsuits. The first impulse of the rulers of this world is not generally mercy, even though all their victories are only temporary and partial.

Jesus victory over death is permanent and a victory in which we share by our baptisms and by striving to follow Him. That’s the great joy of Easter and the reason Divine Mercy follows on Divine Victory.

Let’s not be Mercy hogs - pleading for and receiving God's mercy, but offering little of it to others. The insight that God is the source of all mercy, even the mercy we extend to each other, can help us hand the mercy on instead of holding it tightly.

God's mercy is more like swimming in an ocean or bathing in rays of sunlight, than going to the market for a transaction. There is a universe full of mercy. No need to hoard it, or hold it too tightly.


It's Easier To Speak Out Against God Than Against The Government



Trio

Three Blesseds are on the Roman Calendar this morning. Cardinal Bishop Clemens von Galen, Blessed Marian Gorecki and Blessed Bronislaw Komorowski. Fathers Gorecki and Komorowski are numbered among the 108 Catholic martyrs of WWII so recognized by John Paul II ( The group comprises 3 bishops, 52 priests, 26 members of male religious, 3 seminarians, 8 female religious, and 9 lay people ).

They spoke out against the evils of Nazism, prior to and just after the invasion of Poland by the Germans in WWII. Gorecki and Komoroski were arrested and imprisoned the day of the invasion and died in concentration camps. Well before the Nazis began the genocidal "final solution," Bishop von Galen went on to preach several powerful sermons against the Nazis, condemning especially their euthanasia program for invalids and those who suffered from mental illness. He spent the war  under virtual house arrest.

Speaking our against God seemingly few consequences in this life, but dare we speak out against the prevailing tide of popular opinion? Blasphemy against God is tolerated, even encouraged in our culture; speaking up in God's favor brings censure and condemnation.

 


Lenten Prayer

Shutterstock_124646857An investigative journalist once eagerly asked a desert monk who spends most of the day in prayer, these questions:

Reporter: "Does God speak with you?"

Monk: "Why? He has already said everything."

Reporter: "Don't you speak with God?"

Monk: "I don't pray to speak with God. I pray to feel God."

Good to ponder as we pray during Lent. 

 


No Pleading Necessary For Forgiveness

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No Pleading Necessary

We might get the impression from today's reading in which Moses pleaded mercy for the Israelites, that we too need to change God's mind toward mercy. Moses used two good arguments for God: you promised, and you'll look confused about your plan. 

Since Jesus offered Himself for our salvation and took all our sins upon Himself, we needn't plead for God's mercy, although our contrition should be heartfelt and sincere, we simply need to express our sorrow and ask.


"Faithfulness has disappeared; the word has vanished from their speech."

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There is an expression, sometimes attributed to Voltaire, "I wholly disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Removing certain words from public discourse or silencing debate all together is a powerful way to manipulate not only language, but ideas. The civility Voltaire advocated is gone. "Hate speech" has been defined by some groups as ideas with which they disagree. 

In a pluralistic society, we must expect to hear some views with which we disagree, and as long as the speech does not incite violence, or diminish the intrinsic dignity of persons should be tolerated in a healthy democratic climate. This includes speech of religious belief and the moral values we hold as a nation.