Sunday, June 11, 2017

Homily – Most Holy Trinity – A Most Memorable Baptism

Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
2nd Corinthians 13: 11-13
John 3:16-18

One of the biggest blessings for our Christian community is getting to witness baptisms and witness the Holy Trinity in action. 
Baptisms are usually joyous occasions.  Whether during Mass or in a private ceremony, baptizing a child “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” is a rewarding gift for the child, parents, Godparents, family, friends, parishioners, even the minister of the Sacrament.
This special day is filled with so much joy and hope, and endless possibility as a child’s soul is bonded to Christ for eternity.   
Although, there are times when the recipient of the sacrament is less than enthusiastic about the experience. 
I remember baptizing a rather rambunctious two year old once.  Thankfully, at his parent’s request, the baptism was done at a private ceremony (that should have been a hint about what was to come).
The young boy was more interested in running around the Church than participating in the sacred moment.
When time came for his dad to hold him over the baptismal font, he was having none of it. He screamed bloody murder and tried to wiggle from his father’s firm grasp. 

With an abundance of parental patience, the Sacrament was administered. 
When it came time to apply the Sacred Chrism, this deacon did his very best to get the oil on the top of the boy’s head, more a rapidly moving target.
And all the while, the young man had yours truly locked in a death stare.  If looks could kill, I’d be a dead man.
After the baptism, he returned to his whirling dervish ways. 
As the family was leaving and embarrassedly thanked me for the baptism, the young tot promptly ran up and kicked me in the shin. 
Let’s just say it was a memorable experience, one that taxed all in the Church. But even this baptism was joyous occasion. 
Although I must confess, the whole time I was praying, “Come Holy Spirit.”  
And “Jesus, forgive him for he knows not what he’s doing.”
Even though this child was making a scene, he was made perfect in Christ. Baptism makes each of us spotless; we become a new creation.
The Catholic Church baptizes using Trinitarian formula which is   “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  It is not considered a valid baptism unless these sacred words from Christ are spoken.

For those formed with the Baltimore Catechism, you might remember these questions about the Holy Trinity:
                      “How many persons are there in God?”
            “In God there are three Divine persons, really distinct, and equal in all things – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
“What does ‘trinity’ mean?”
            “Trinity’ means three-fold or three in one.”
            “Can we find an example to fully illustrate the mystery of the Blessed Trinity?”
            “We cannot find an example to fully illustrate the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, because the mysteries of our holy religion are beyond comparison.”
            “Is there but one God?”
            “Yes; there is but one God.”
Just a sampling of what the Baltimore Catechism taught about the Most Holy Trinity.
Perhaps you had a nun teach these lessons using a three-leaf
clover. Or in recent years had a theology teacher use the example of the three states of water (ice, steam and liquid) to illustrate the Trinity.
            Even the Pope's two primary ministries are reflective of the Holy Trinity: The Ministry of Unity (reflected in one God) and the Ministry of Diversity (reflected in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three in one).  To quote Saint Pope John Paul the Second:  “Unity not only embraces diversity, but is verified in diversity.”  The Vicar of Christ, currently Pope Francis, is expected to maintain Unity while promoting Diversity. Sounds paradoxical and a little confusing, not too unlike the Trinity.
On this Most Holy Trinity Sunday, it is important to remember that from the very beginning of our Christian lives, we all were sealed in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

That’s why every time we enter the Sanctuary we use Holy water to recall our own Baptism with the sign of the cross, and honor the Holy Trinity, this singular belief, this one dogma: one God, in three persons.
Or when Mass begins with the sign of the cross, Father uses the familiar words from today’s second reading from St. Paul: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Well-known Catholic blogger Deacon Greg Kandra said this about the sign of the cross:
"Just think of what that simple gesture means.
We touch our heads for the Father – the one whose mere idea, whose smallest thought, created us. This is where we began, in the mind of God.

We touch our hearts for the Son – the one whose unceasing love took him to the cross, and the one who taught us, as well, how to love through his own Sacred Heart.
We touch our shoulders for the Holy Spirit – the one who gives us strength, and who carries us on His shoulders — on His wings, if you will – and who enables us to be God’s arms, working on earth.”
We celebrate this important Solemnity one week after Pentecost to honor one of the greatest gifts of our faith:  The Blessed Trinity.

As Moses said to the Lord in today’s first reading from Exodus, we (the children of God) are a stiff-necked people,” but we are “pardoned from our wickedness and (our) sins.” And He receives us as His own.
Gospel writer John reminds us today, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him will not be condemned.” 
I will now forever remember these words when reflecting fondly on my encounter with an angry two year old.
We are all living and breathing icons of the Most Holy Trinity, from the time we are baptized, and born in Christ, to the time when our lives end on earth and we die in Christ to everlasting life. 
We are truly blessed for all eternity thanks to the beautiful gift of the Most Holy Trinity.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Homily – Visitation of Mary – ICOLPH Baccalaureate Mass

Romans 12:9-16
Luke 1:39-56

Your mission should you chose to accept it is to say “Yes” to God and live a life for Christ. It’s spelled out clearly in today’s Word of God. This is a Mission Impossible for many in today’s world.
St. Paul shared this mission with the early Christian community in Rome in today’s first reading. Mary shares the glory of this mission in her beautiful Magnificat as she meets with her cousin Elizabeth.
This is a special mission. One, sadly, not followed by many of our young people in today’s culture. 
Today’s culture encourages us to follow our own will, not the will of God.  Today’s culture encourages us to be rich and famous, and associate with the mighty and powerful.
The visitation is a beautiful example of how we are to live our own lives by saying “Yes” to God’s will. God has a plan for each of our lives.  To find out what it is we must first conform our lives to Christ.
Through Mary’s example we see the glorious beauty of saying “Yes” to God, the importance of living humbly, and the power of associating with the poor and needy.
It saddens me greatly that so many Christians get this wrong due to the infection of today’s way of life. It’s not the Way of Jesus.

And that’s your mission should you choose to accept it.
To follow Christ in all you say and do, to do the will of God in your own life. To inoculate yourself against the infection of our cultural pull to go your own way and leave God behind. Or to be rich or famous.   
My message to you graduates today is to use Mary and Jesus as your life’s models.
Serve others. Not yourselves. Help others. Not yourselves. Love others. Not only yourselves.
Jesus modeled this way of life for us.
Mary was the very model of Christian living. She’s the perfect disciple. She’s humble in accepting the will of God. She becomes the Mother of God, by sacrificing everything to bring to the world our savior.
She even sacrificed her own reputation in her hometown of Nazareth when she arrived home from her visitation to cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah with a growing belly that betrayed her pregnancy to the community.
Now here’s an unmarried 14 year old girl, carrying the very Son of God in her womb. But, to her neighbors in Nazareth, she was just a young woman suspected of sinning by having relations outside of marriage. But this is a woman who never sinned.
I’m sure there were people in her community who wanted her stoned to death. That was the punishment in her day for such offenses. 
But Mary knew she was on a Mission Possible for God. The angel Gabriel told her so when he said all things are possible with God at your side.
Her long barren cousin Elizabeth was pregnant with child after languishing many years. That child would be known as John the Baptist, the prophet who heralded the Messiah.
Mary herself was pregnant with Jesus, not by relations with a man, but by a bond with God, and trust in His promises to her, “his lowly servant.”
Here’s what she said, “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
Mary knew this mission was only possible because God loved her so much that he chose her to bear his only begotten Son.

Then Mary echoes St. Paul words by sharing the actions of God in the world:
God scatters the proud in their conceit. God casts down the mighty from their thrones. God lifts up the lowly, and fills the hungry with good things. God sends the rich away empty.
St. Paul says when we says “Yes” to God and live for Christ, we are to let our love of others be sincere, yes, even to love our enemies, or those who persecute or criticize us.  
We are to hate what is evil and hold on to what is good. We are to show honor to others at all times, and never honor ourselves or think ourselves better than others.
Please remember the next time you SnapChat or Tweet or pose for the perfect selfie.  Always let your actions be for the glory of God, never for your own glory.
We are to serve the Lord. And be people of hope, enduring affliction (the hard times in our lives) through perseverance in prayer.
We are to be people of gratitude, thanking God often for the many blessings in our lives.
We are to show hospitality and mercy to all those we meet, especially those living on the margins, as outcasts in our society.
This is your Mission Possible.
Graduates, are you ready to accept your mission?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Homily – Memorial Mass – Geraldine Gillespie Roe

Proverbs 31:10-12, 25-26, 28-31
1 John 3:1-2
  John 14:27-29, 15:9-12

What a gift we have in the Resurrection.
Geraldine understood the gift of the Resurrection.  It dictated how she lived her life, and the woman of worth she was to her husband, her children, her family and her friends. 
I sense we all saw glimpses of Geraldine in the woman of worth portrayed in our first reading from the Book of Proverbs.
            Through the gift of the Resurrection, this woman of worth Geraldine did not fear nor doubt, but believed in eternal life.
            Through the gift of the Resurrection, she knew her earthly mind and body would be restored. No more confusion. No more pain. No more suffering -- her strong, vital and brilliant self would be made new again in Christ.
Through the gift of the Resurrection, Geraldine understood Jesus broke the prison bars of death for her and rose victoriously with a promise to bring us, His believers, to Himself. 
That’s the message for the Apostles and for us all in today’s Gospel reading.
We’re at the sacred table for the Last Supper with Christ.
In that hallowed conversation, Jesus is reassuring the Apostles of a place in the Father’s House for His devout.
While the idea of Jesus’ imminent death shakes the Apostles, creating much fear, His reassurances calm their troubled hearts.
His death will be the greatest example of His love for the Father, His love for His closest friends, and His love for us all.
Franciscan Father Richard Rohr wrote these words, “I think this is Jesus’ major message:  there is something essential that we only know by dying. We really don’t know what life is until we know what death is. Death, which seems like our ultimate enemy, is actually the doorway. This is how Jesus ‘overcame’ and even ‘destroyed’ death.”
Jesus is leaving for the Father’s house. He’s leaving his followers with a promise to return in the Resurrection, a place in that house, and His peace.
This is a peace like none other.
          For context, it’s good to understand what the word peace meant at the time of Jesus. This word was proclaimed by Roman soldiers as Pax Romana or the peace of Rome. But this meaning had a violent undertone.
This was peace created by force and oppression.  Just think of the terror of the crucifixion and how it was used to scare conquered peoples into non-violent behavior and you understand the Roman concept of peace. In short, fear created peace. 
Jesus could tell fear was on the hearts of the Apostles in their final night together. That’s why he reassured them with the promise of His return, paradise, and His peace.
In their final conversation together, Jesus turns the meaning of the word peace on its head and instructs the disciples that only love creates peace -- most specifically, the love given to Jesus by His Father and shared with the disciples throughout their years together. 
This is the tie that binds.  This is their connection to Him, to the Father, to one another, and to the coming Resurrection.
Through its sanctifying power, the Resurrection is a divine gift for all humanity.
At the Easter Vigil we hear Christ’s Resurrection “washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners.
This Easter promise of the Resurrection is in Geraldine’s heart as she takes Jesus by the hand and joins Him in the Father’s house.
And what a reunion it must be. 
There she’s reunited with her mom and dad, and beloved little brothers Jack and Jim. There she’s reunited with her dear husband Willard and is surprised to find her son Jimmy there.
I can just imagine the conversation.
“What are you doing here, dear?”
“Ah, mom. I beat you to heaven. Now you know and can understand.”
What a gift we have in the Resurrection.
What a reunion awaits us all thanks to the love and peace that come from Christ.
Geraldine’s passing is only difficult for us who remain. Yes, there’s sadness and mourning here.
Catholic author Henri Nouwen wrote a beautiful book called “Turn My Mourning Into Dancing.”
In it he said this about our mourning when touched by the light of the Resurrection:
“If God is found in our hard times, then all of life, no matter how apparently insignificant or difficult, can open us to God’s work among us. To be grateful does not mean repressing our remembered hurts. But as we come to God with our hurts – honest, not superficially – something life-changing can begin slowly to happen. We discover how God is the One who invites us to healing. We realize that any dance of celebration must weave both the sorrows and the blessings into a (first) joyful step.”
So, as we take our first joyful steps in that dance, may we be thankful to God for the gift of Geraldine’s life. 
May we look forward to the gift of our own reunion with her and with all our
dearly departed loved ones someday.

May we be ever grateful for the gift of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.