Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday Homily 2013

I belong to a Franciscan Third Order Fraternity that meets at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston.  One of our spiritual directors was a Franciscan priest by the name of Father Philip.  Now Father Philip was originally ordained in the Eastern Rite, before transferring to the Roman Rite.  Now members of the Eastern Rite are Christians, who are like the Eastern Orthodox, but they recognize the authority of the Pope and accept Catholic doctrines.  Now there is an Eastern Rite practice that on Easter, people greet each other by one saying: “Christ is Risen!” and the other responding “He is risen indeed!”  Now at the first Mass he celebrated with us after Easter, Father Philip came out and greeted us enthusiastically with “Christ is Risen!”  Now some but not all of us knew the response, there was a weak “He is Risen indeed!”  This was not good enough for Father; he repeated the greeting: “Christ is Risen!”  The response came back a little stronger: “He is Risen indeed!”  But Father Philip was still not satisfied, he repeated the greeting louder: “Christ is Risen!”  And this time we responded with gusto: “He is Risen Indeed!”  Father Philip nodded and began the celebration of the Eucharist.

Now I ask that we take a closer look at that declaration, “Christ is Risen!”  Present tense!  It is acknowledging a reality that is happening here and now, not something that occurred only is the past.  Jesus Christ is our Risen Savior; he is present, here, now.  As he said in the Gospels, “Where to two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”  He is present in the Scriptures, because he is the Word of God.  He is present here and now in the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.  And He is present in each one of us, when we open ourselves, open our hearts to Him.  He is present in the joys of life that we all have experienced.  He is present with us during the challenges of life, guiding us, inspiring us, supporting us with power of His Love.  And He is present with us during the tragedies and sufferings that sometimes afflict us, helping us to bear the load, helping us to carry our daily crosses, comforting us when we are grieving. 

Christ’s Resurrection is a sign of hope for us, that suffering and death is no longer all that we have to look forward to.  The power of sin and death is broken forever, humanity has been transformed.

This mornings Gospel speaks of Peter and the other disciple seeing the empty tomb.  It reminds me of a scene from the miniseries, “Jesus of Nazareth,” by Franco Zeffirelli.  In the scene, the Temple official who had pushed for the execution of Jesus; arrives at the empty tomb, looks into it, and I believe says, “Now it begins; now it all begins!”  The Resurrection was and is a new beginning, those who witnessed, those who saw Jesus after he rose from the dead, were compelled to go out and proclaim to the entire world the Good News.  We, when we encounter Christ, also must give witness to the joy of that encounter by the way we live our lives, by the way we strive to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our witness may be public for the entire world to see and hear; it may be hidden, shared with, or witnessed by only a few of our family and friends.  However it occurs, we cannot be silent, and we cannot keep this Good News hidden.     “CHRIST IS RISEN

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday 2013 Homily

 Luke 19: 28-40
Isaiah 50: 4-7
Philippians 2: 6-11
Luke 22: 14--23:56

Who likes parades?  There are many different types of parades; some are with marching bands, soldiers, sailors, colorful floats.  Some are neighborhood parades, with Boy and Girl Scout troops, the little leagues, and the occasional school band.  And then there are parades that are spontaneous, with crowds of people, just marching together. 

This Sunday is Passion Sunday, but it is also known as Palm Sunday, because we remember the day that Jesus triumphantly entered the city of Jerusalem.  It started out with just him getting onto a little colt and riding it into the city, with his disciples following him.  However, when people saw him coming, they remembered the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, how the Son of King David was to enter the city. Crowds began to follow Jesus, waving palm branches; they were laying their cloaks on the road before him.  And they were all crying out, “hosanna, hosanna,” which is a word of praise for a savior.  So we see Jesus entering Jerusalem, proclaimed as a savior.  Yet, in today’s Gospel, we see how quickly the mood of the people of Jerusalem changes, from the people shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna,” to “crucify him, crucify him.” 

This week that we are entering, that the Church has traditionally called Holy Week, because of the events in Jesus’ life we are going to remember.  Events that occurred in a back water occupied country, thousands of years ago, to an itinerant Jewish preacher, and his followers.  These events did not warrant being recorded in the histories of the Roman Empire.  Yet, I will tell you here and now, that what we remember happening during that week in Jerusalem so many years ago, is the most important event that has ever happened for humankind, indeed for the whole universe.  The journey that began on Palm Sunday will become a journey of sorrow, of tears, but it will ultimately lead to a new dawn for all of creation.  The power of sin and death will be broken, and a new day of hope will be born.

Now either because we may be too young to realize this, or we have gone through this season so many times it has become routine, but we all need to realize what Jesus achieved, what he had to sacrifice to achieve it, and how much he loved all of us, those of the past, we here in the present, and the generations to come; that he was willing to make the sacrifice.  St. Paul realized this, those words he wrote to the Philippians, can be so stirring if we read them slowly and open our hearts to their power. 

I would encourage all of us during these coming days, to read over those words of St. Paul, reflect on them, and let them sink into our hearts and souls.  When we do, we may be able to see these coming days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and dawn of Easter Sunday, with new eyes and open hearts; that what we will experience will cause all of us to cry out anew, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest,”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Coat of Arms of Pope Francis

I have noticed that a lot of page views have been recorded for my posting about some confusion about Pope Benedict's coat of arms, when a new banner was hung from the center balcony at St. Peter's Basilica, some time ago.  I apologize if some readers were expecting something about our new Pope's coat of arms.

To remedy the situation, here is the coat of arms being adopted by Pope Francis.  The National Conference of Catholic Bishops have some detailed information about on their website.  And the liturgical blog, Pray Tell, has some comparisons of papal coat of arms, both past and current.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam; And a Jesuit Yet!

Okay, so this posting has the same title as a hundred plus other postings, but it hard to be more original.

This was a day of firsts; first Pope from South America; first Pope to use the name Francis; and the first Pope from the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. 

I was at work when the announcement came in.  I hurried down to our building lobby, which has a flat screen TV.  They always show CNN, and there it was, the scenes from Rome.  They replayed the scene of the white smoke coming out of the smokestack.  It appears they finally got the right chemical mix, because I have never seen such unmistakable white smoke coming out of the Sistine Chapel.  Waiting for that announcement, I was experiencing conflicting emotions, fearful that the College of Cardinals may have taken Cardinal Sean from us, but hoping he received the nod.  I finally had to go back to my office, and saw the first appearance of the new Pontiff on somebody's computer screen.  I had to go to the National Catholic Reporter website to find his bio.

The Franciscan in me is thrilled that he selected the name of our founder.  That he is a conservative, well, one could not expect otherwise.  I think he could make some Catholic capitalists a little uneasy ( maybe very uneasy)!  It is still too early to know what course he will set for the Bark of St. Peter.  The next few months will tell.  He has definitely set a different style from the moment he stepped out on the balcony. We are in for some interesting times.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dawn of the Conclave

The day of the Papal Conclave has dawned!  I am usually up early in the morning, so I was able to watch the opening Mass, celebrated in St. Peter's, with the cardinal's asking for help from the Holy Spirit.  I have to admit, as I watched the liturgy being celebrated, I was paying close attention to the role of deacons in the liturgy.  There is nothing as impressive as a liturgy in St. Peter's, it is the Catholic Church at it's grandest.

Now comes the waiting; and what is funny is that after such a gorgeous liturgy, the world will be focused on a simple stovepipe.  The press will be going crazy, they need feed the beast that is 24/7 media, and only crumbs may be coming out, if any. 

So settle in, folks, we may be in for a long day.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Franciscan Blessed Advice On Prayer

"Prayer is the beginning, the middle, and the end of all good; prayer enlightens the soul, and enables it to discern between good and evil.  Every sinner ought to pray daily with fervor of heart; he should pray to God humbly to give him a perfect knowledge of his own miseries and sins, and of the benefits which he has received and still receives from the good God.  How can a person know God who does not know how to pray?"

(Golden Sayings, Blessed Brother Giles of Assisi)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What Is A Conclave? A Helpful Resource Book

For those who are interested in learning more about what will be happening in Rome concerning the Papal Election, I would recommend a book “Conclave.”  The author is John L. Allen, Jr., a reporter and columnist for the National Catholic Reporter.  He wrote the book during the last years of the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II.  In it he outlines briefly what the roles of a modern Pope are; what happens when a Pope dies (in this case Pope John Paul II), and the process of electing a successor.  He outlines what qualities the cardinals, in general, would look for in a Pope.  He addressed the issues facing the Church, at least during 2005.  Some of those issues are still relevant for our current times.  However, the book is, in parts, dated.  Allen provides biographies of those cardinals, who would have been considered at that time, frontrunners.  It is interesting that in 2002, Allen did not consider Cardinal Ratzinger as one of those frontrunners. 

Still Allen is provides a lot of interesting information, some fascinating facts, and insider information, about what the Vatican is like during the time leading up to the election of a new Successor of St. Peter.  I would highly recommend this book.

Friday, March 1, 2013

National Catholic Reporter Trying To Influence Papal Conclave?

The Italian press has been very interested in Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM CAP, Archbishop of Boston, as a viable papal candidate.  It was John Allen of National Catholic Reporter who brought this to our attention on this side of the pond.  The national networks then picked up the story and ran with it. 

Things have quieted down, now that Pope Emeritus Benedict is safely ensconced in Castel Gandolfo.  The cardinals have yet to have their first meeting as a body, to set the date for the conclave.  Now while I was browsing through NCR’s website, what caught my eye was the picture of Cardinal Sean on the homepage.  The story was about his address at the 2013 National Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, in Washington DC.  Most of the posting was about the participants at the gathering, and covering the main points of his address.  Now I find it curious that on the week Cardinal Sean is in Rome with his fellow cardinals, to plan the election of the next Pope, NCR posts a story about the Cardinal speaking about Christian discipleship, missionary work, and social justice!  Just a coincidence or an attempt by NCR to influence the conclave?  Hmmmm?

Benedict Retires, Sede Vacante

The end of a momentous day in the life of the Catholic Church; which saw the first resignation of a Pope in over 600 years.

I was up early this morning, and so was able to watch Benedict’s final meeting with the College of Cardinals, as Pontiff.  As I watched the program, I was struck by how much Benedict XVI had aged, from the picture of him in 2005.  The ministry of being Pope has definitely weighed heavy on him.

Now, Benedict is ensconced in Castel Gandolfo, those cardinals that are not in Rome yet, are probably on their way.  The Bark of St. Peter is not entering uncharted waters, and many Vatican observers are saying that all bets are off, concerning a successor to Benedict.  And there is those concerns about having both a Pope and a Pope emeritus, living in the Vatican.  Having read Father Richard O’Brien’s Lives of the Popes; when the Church has more than one Pope, even if one is retired, mischief is possible. 

Now about my feelings about Pope emeritus Benedict XVI; I have to say they have been ambivalent.  As the Church’s doctrinal “enforcer,” I have always felt that his office was somewhat heavy handed in dealing with theologians who pushed the envelope in understanding and expressing the faith.  This continued during his papacy, with I think, a lack of due process, dialogue, and transparency.  While being hard on “liberal” theologians, Pope Benedict was making a mighty effort to bring ultra traditionalists, the Society of St. Pius X, back into the fold of the Church.  The SSPX own intransigence about Vatican II, sabotage that effort.  I was very uncomfortable with the Pope emeritus attempts to bring more traditional, even Pre-Vatican II elements back into the liturgy.

All that being said, I respected his attempts to deal with the child sexual abuse by clergy scandal, getting pedophile priests out of the Church.  His meeting with survivors of clergy abuse was inspiring.  Was there more he could have done?  Quick answer, “Yes!”  But he made more of attempt to deal with the crisis, than his predecessor.  I have always enjoyed his books, found them both enlightening, and challenging. 

He was a humble man, dedicated to the Church, and to its people.  He placed concern for the well being of the Church, before all else.  I hope he has a peaceful and fulfilling retirement.