Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Why Is No One Mentioning This?

I am not a expert on statistics, but I have had a few courses in statistical analysis and critical thought, and something is not adding up. I would greatly appreciate it if someone (anyone) had an answer to this, and could explain it to me. Let me begin by using an illustration (as I do so often). If, hypothetically speaking, 10,000 people moved into the city where I live (current population about 15,000), then you would expect the population to grow, right? Even accounting for the usual number of people who move out of a city in a given time period, an influx of that size would be noticed in the overall numbers, right? Let us imagine for a moment, that after that influx of 10,000 into a population of 15,000, that a census was done and it was found that the current population was 14,000. You would stop and ask, "what?!" That does not seem to make much sense, does it?

Compare that with our current "pandemic". There is a statistic called Crude Death Rate ("CDR") that gives the numbers per 1,000 people that die in a given time period. As a reference point, the CDR in 1919 (at the height of the Spanish Flu) was about 17 (17 people per every 1,000 in the world died that year). At the peak of the Black Plague, the CDR was estimated at about 500 (i.e. 50% of the world's population). In 2019, the CDR for the entire world was 7.8. In 2020 (after and including the onset of Covid), the CDR for the entire world (i.e. including all deaths for any reason whatsoever) is estimated that it will reach 7.7 (go look it up).

If we compare that with America, the numbers are only a bit different. In 2019 the CDR for America was 8.8, but the current number for the year of 2020 so far is 8.3. Am I missing something here? Seeing these numbers made me ask a question: how many deaths are occurring for things like heart attacks, cancer, lung disease, etc. Interestingly, the totals for those common fatalities are all down recently. This cannot be due to Covid. It is not as though a spread of a deadly virus suddenly cures tons of people of common fatal conditions.

If Covid is killing as many people as we are told, then we would expect even a small increase in the CDR, would we not? Yet, both worldwide and in America there is a decrease, not an increase. Someone is not telling us something here. We might presume that if people were traveling less, that it might decrease the numbers of death by car accident, but it would not impact the physical ailments that take people's lives.

Therefore, what is going on? I would expect with almost a million deaths to the "novel Coronavirus" (not to mention all the supposed suicides and other deaths caused by the despair that Covid has led to), that the CDR would go up; even just a little bit. Yet, that does not appear to be the case. If we throw into the mix all of these recent admissions that people have been "fudging the numbers" (i.e. calling certain deaths Covid, when that was not the actual cause), then something is not right. As my Grandma once said, "something stinks and it ain't the septic tank".

Consider it this way: in late 2019 things are going along as usual; people are dying at the normal CDR of 7.8 per 1000. Then a new virus shows up and begins taking lives in addition to those already dying of all the other maladies. That does not lead to a decrease in deaths (a CDR of 7.7), it leads to an increase in deaths. If, somehow, someone can explain how it works that Covid leads to less deaths in the world, then how is that a bad thing? A virus shows up and some people die of it rather than from other causes, but the end result is that less people are dying overall; that does not sound like something to run in terror from.

Without a clear explanation of why there are "so many people dying of Covid" and yet less people dying overall than last year before Covid, we really need to keep our eyes open. It appears that we are being lied to, and that someone is using this for a less-than-godly purpose. We have known that civil governments have lied to us in the past, but we do not always know the reasons. Whatever it may be, we need to persevere in our faith at this time. We need to recognize that there is a good possibility that someone is preparing to catch us off guard.

Whatever comes against us, if our faith is strong, then we can endure. If our faith is weak, we will give in to the wicked rulers and follow their lead. Will you stand fast? How will you respond when they encourage you to deny Christ? How will you respond when they demand that you deny Christ? You might save your life if you deny Him, but your eternal state will not be so pleasant.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:9-13).

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Being Willing to Help

I took a short ride on my motorcycle this afternoon. I like the back roads; I never drive in the big cities. Flying past the farms on a two-wheeled mechanical beast and seeing the countryside sprinkled with cows and horses is one of the most relaxing experiences (at least to some). This is true until something starts to rattle on the motorcycle. It was only my fly-screen (a very small "windshield"), but I needed to pull over and make sure it was not going to fall off. 

There I am on the corner of "N" and "M" highway, just down the road from the community of Possum Trot (not joking, there really is a Possum Trot, Missouri; it has an abandoned school and one house!). I was not really worried; you can ride a bike without a fly-screen but I stopped the bike and got off to check the bolts. After about a couple minutes a truck came by. The driver slowed down and looked over and signaled to me, asking if I was OK or needed help. He was a complete stranger, and might not pay attention to me in any other context, but he slowed to see if I needed help.

Is this simple act of neighborly help disappearing today? I am not asking whether it ever occurs (I know it does), but whether it is fading away. It seems that there is a growing hatred of others everywhere in American society. Those rioting in various places in these USA do not seem to protesting anything of real substance. They just seem to want to create more hatred. This is not helping us to overcome prejudice and bigotry. We all know this; it is nothing new. Yet, do we know how far we ourselves have fallen in this? Are we Catholics becoming just as hateful and disrespectful towards those whom we do not like?

How do you think about the lapsed Catholics who are running for political office? It is one thing to refer to them as lapsed, and entirely another to use vulgarity when referring to them. Do we speak about those who clearly want to promote the destruction of our society with similar hatred? I ask this question, but I am not really needing an answer because I have heard it multiple times. Disdain and anger are voiced by Catholics towards those who do not hold the faith (sometimes of their own fallen brethren). 

Just for a moment think of the politician that you like the least. Now imagine what you would do if the two of you were in an elevator together and he (or she) was in need of your help. Would you genuinely reach out to help him with the love of Christ? If you are not certain that you would, then you likely are part of the problem of spreading hate. Jesus never said it was OK to be hateful toward those that we dislike, but we all know it can be very hard not to get upset at sin (it is, after all, aggravatingly stupid!). Yet our anger just drives people away and does nothing to bring others to conversion.

How do we treat one another these days? Are we still willing to be kind to strangers in need? And if we are willing to stop and help someone whose vehicle broke down, would we also be willing to help someone whose soul has broken? That is what we are dealing with when someone comes against us with sinful foolishness. Although many (if not most) are probably not willing for us to help them with their eternal salvation, we will never get the chance if we do not try. Have you tried to reach out to someone blinded by their sin and lead them to the saving Grace of Christ Jesus? They are all over the place; you cannot miss them; go find one and ask God to help you show him Who his Redeemer is.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

We the People?

Someone once said that "sacred cows make the best hamburger". I agree, but I do not want to be the one to butcher the cow (the process is somewhat repulsive). As Catholics, however, we should be very careful about our personal "sacred cows". Apart from the Lord Jesus and His commandments for us, there should be nothing that is absolutely sacred. With that said, I want to touch on something that some might see as off limits for criticism: the United States Constitution. No, I am not going to attack it; I just wish for us to consider one of its basic aspects and compare it to Catholic teaching.

So then, at this point, someone reading this is wondering whether I am a socialist, or some other kind of traitor to our country. Have no fear, few things could be further from the truth. I love my country; I love it enough to point out its weaknesses (in hopes of fixing them). If anyone is curious (although I have said this before elsewhere) I am closer to a constitutional monarchist, but America is my home, and I love her (warts and all).

The words that begin the preamble to our Constitution are "We the people". Every American child learns about them in school: big gigantic letters, standing tall so that no can miss them. This is often a prideful point for many. "We" made this government; it was not made "for us" I have heard people say. Not everyone realizes that the concept of the people independently setting up their own governmental structures comes more from Jean Jacques Rousseau (who was not faithful to his Catholic education) than from anything distinctively Catholic.

When someone says "we the people" in their reference to the creation of a governmental structure, they are asserting their own authority to create their own authority (no, that is not actually a tautology). Although many Catholics may not recognize it, this is a decidedly protestant way of thinking (which should not surprise us since all of our founding fathers were protestant). Yes, there are many differences here and there, but protestants pretty much all agree that authority begins with the people. Whether it is Baptists ruling by committee, or Episcopalians ruling by a vestry, it is not much different.

Of course, there will be some protestants who object to this. They will say that my experience (in multiple denominations over a span of 22 years) is not universal. Yet, when the protestant principle of private interpretation is coupled together with the fact that most protestants see Christianity as a buffet style religion ("pick and choose what you like") it is hard to deny.

In contrast, the Catholic position has a different way of viewing the subject. Although not always well articulated (especially in places where there is a push to have more and more "lay leadership" in the Church), the Church teaches that power comes from God and should be determined by what He says first. In 1878, Pope Leo XIII wrote Quod Apostolici Muneris, where he said:
Hence, by a new species of impiety, unheard of even among the heathen nations, states have been constituted without any count at all of God or of the order established by him; it has been given out that public authority neither derives its principles, nor its majesty, nor its power of governing from God, but rather from the multitude, which, thinking itself absolved from all divine sanction, bows only to such laws as it shall have made at its own will. 
It is all quite clear, but notice especially the final statement. Those of this mind only bow to laws that they themselves made by their own will. You do not need to be an atheist in order to behave in this manner. There are many who claim that they want to serve God and yet will only serve Him when He commands those things that they already want to do or believe. True, the Declaration of Independence does make mention of a "Creator" but it only does so in reference to the freedom he has given to us and not in any sense of our accountability to him.

That final detail is a crucial point to realize. In essence it is saying clearly that "God gave us freedom to do what makes us happy" but never acknowledges that God calls us to obedience to Him and requires us to live by the principles that He has laid out (including in the area of political decisions). If it had done so, it would have been hard to start with "we the people", and the first words would likely be "thus says the Lord" followed by a reference to God granting us His grace to "have dominion" in this world (e.g. something about kings from the book of Proverbs).

It is interesting to note that the American Constitution has no reference to God at all. Many people have noticed this before me, and the usual explanation of this is that the Constitution is a political document and there is no need to refer to God when designing your own political sphere. Presuming you are rejecting the Catholic position, then that would be true; but not for us. Including reference to "the Creator" in the Declaration of Independence, but leaving Him out of the Constitution is like saying, "God gave us freedom to rebel against England, but from there we make our own choices". I wonder what Pope Leo XIII would say about that?

No, the Scriptures do not lay out for us a specific plan of political theory. Yet, that does not mean that we can ignore what the Scriptures say about good and bad politics, or what they say about where authority is derived from. If that had been included in our Constitution, bill of rights, and the Declaration of Independence, what might our nation look like today?

I have heard that when the Confederate States of America were setting things up at the beginning of the War Between the States, they also rejected such references to the Lord and His authority. Selfishness just seems to breed further selfishness. Where would be if all our forefathers had made a Catholic choice in these areas? And how might the hearts of Americans be impacted by this important truth? These questions need to be asked, and we need to consider them as we see the turmoil America is in today.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Stop Worrying!

Once, when I was about 10 years old, I jammed my finger back very hard, and it hurt incredibly. My grandfather asked if I wanted him to make the pain go away, and I said "yes". He stomped on my foot! It did not actually make the pain go away, but I did not think about my finger for few minutes because of the pain in my foot. That was what my grandfather was like; a bit rough around the edges.

Here is a funny little detail about all this Covid stuff going on: I do not remember the last time that we were feeling perplexed about some odd and seemingly unorthodox comment made by Pope Francis. This does not mean that he has not made any odd comments, just that we have not heard about them; our attention has been focused elsewhere of late. We have been more worried about riots, and communist takeovers, and toilet paper shortages! It is funny how a simple thing like a pandemic can change your perspective.

I have seen, more than once, that the fear of Pope Francis' (apparently) unorthodox comments and behavior, is often worse than the actual outcome of his unorthodox comments and behavior. One comment he made a couple years ago caused quite a few people that I know to respond with serious worry. They were concerned that the end result was going to be a total collapse of Church authority and an open acceptance of immorality in the Church. The actual result? well, I am not even sure that most people remember that he said it.

It is good for us to be concerned about something that our Holy Father says if it sounds contrary to the Catholic faith; we are called to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" in our lives. This means that we are foolish if we do not take notice at some of these things. We can, however, go overboard and spend more time fretting about what is happening than trusting our Lord to help us through it. To live in fear about something Pope Francis says or does (or any clergyman for that matter) is to live in disobedience to Christ's encouragement to trust Him in all things.

Fear is exactly what the devil wants to inspire in us, and it does not matter to him what we are afraid of, just so long as we are truly afraid of something other than God. Fear cripples us and prevents us from being able to grow in faith. We end up making decisions based more on what we fear than on the power of God (which is stronger than anything that we can ever fear). This is not the way to live.

Yes, we are supposed to be concerned about bad things happening, so that we can respond to them with wisdom and holiness. Responding to them, however, does not mean hiding in a back room, whining, and wringing our hands together because we have no confidence in our God. After all, ask yourself right now, what has greater influence on your decisions in life (especially the major ones)? Is it something that someone does or says, or is it our Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ? Are you taking as many precautions, right now in your life, to protect your soul as you do to protect your body?

This can be seen in many ways today. I have said it before, and I will repeat it often because few seem to recognize this. Worrying about what the Covid can do to you has far worse long term effects than what the Covid can actually do to you. Jesus said to trust Him and not to worry! The fear of the virus is worse than the virus itself. This may cause some to be upset at me (that is certainly not my goal), but: we cannot live in fear -- dying from a virus is not as bad as turning away from Christ and ending up in eternal Hell. I have seen many people who are cowering in fear and willing to do just about anything to avoid physical death, yet it seems that very few are willing to do much of anything to avoid an eternal death.

Do not give in to the devil. Turn away from him and place your full confidence in Christ. Our Lord does not want you to live in fear of anything in this world. Jesus is still on His throne, and He still rules over all. Develop the virtues of faith and hope; faith in the promises of Christ, and hope in His great power and love.

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Priceless Pearl

(The following is a brief summary of the homily I gave last Sunday in my three parishes. It is written at the request of a few of my parishioners.)

This does not happen to me often, and I do not want to give the impression that I am something special because of it, but it did happen and it stayed with me. I was praying for my parishes recently and pleading with the Lord that He would grant a particular request. In the midst of my prayer, I was overwhelmed with an "inner voice" that spoke to me. It was not merely an impression, but specific words that I could repeat out loud. In my heart I heard: "Don't presume to tell God what's needed here, as though you know more than He does; God knows what is needed, and He will always give exactly what is needed and it may not be the same as what you want!" Then as the words finished, I was struck by the realization that it was not the Lord Who was speaking to me, but rather the Blessed Virgin. Like a Mommy wagging her finger and saying "shape up kiddo!"

I had to change my perspective in that prayer. I knew how to pray rightly, but was not doing so at that moment. I quickly adjusted and said, "Lord, I think this is what is needed, but You know best." We have to do that at times in our lives: readjust our perspective on what really matters, and what the Lord considers valuable. In the gospel reading last Sunday we are told about a pearl of great value, and we all know that the ultimate Pearl is none other than Christ Himself. Yet, once we realize that truth, then we also must follow along and submit all our "values" to Him for that very same adjustment I referred to above. This is a hard task, but it is essential (and somewhat natural) for those who see Christ as that Pearl of ultimate value.

How do you determine whether you are keeping Christ as the most important and valuable thing in your life? Ask yourself quickly: "How do I make spiritual decisions?" If you are deciding on spiritual matters based on convenience then you can be sure that you are not keeping Christ first. Whether it is Mass attendance, prayer, Scripture reading, or any other spiritual discipline, we cannot decide our engagement with them based (even the slightest bit) on convenience. In essence, every decision must begin with the question "what will please Christ the most?" If we begin with any other question, then we will fail to obey our Lord (sorry, but this is guaranteed).

So then, quickly ask yourself, what is your "pearl of great price". What are you willing to give up everything to get? If it is not Christ Himself, then you are not walking in faith. If we place anything else first then that thing becomes an idol to us. It was St. Augustine who said, “idolatry is: worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped.” When we get things upside-down in our spirituality then idolatry always happens.

What we have to consider now is the state of things in our nation. Things are looking quite bad, and they are only getting worse. We should not be surprised if things degenerate to the point of there being a severe trial and persecution against the Church. How we will respond will depend largely on whether Christ is first in our lives, and whether we have allowed Him to order all our other "values". If things get bad and we do not have Christ as our "Pearl" then we will not endure. If He is indeed the most important thing in our lives, then we can endure anything. As St John Vianney said, "for those whom God loves, trials are not punishments; they are graces." My dear brethren, pursue that priceless pearl which is Christ Himself. Then, and only then, can you stand fast in whatever comes our way. God bless you!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Decline of America

The fireworks sale tents are up and running. People are preparing to observe July 4th in America. As I have asked in years past, I wonder what they are celebrating. The current state of our nation does not offer much in the way of joyful recognition. I have been thinking a lot lately about how we have seen things decline in these USA, and I came across a quote that was very helpful in thinking about the progression of a society.

Regardless of who said it first (and there are various debates about it--I won't bore you with them), the following quote is amazingly insightful.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship...The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been about 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.
Notice the first half of the quote before the ellipsis. That is always the danger of democracy -- voters with bad hearts. Give freedom of choice to people without a conscience and they will almost always choose evil. Yet, it is the second half of the quote that I want you to be thinking about more. Most of you know that I like studying history. The pattern listed here can be seen in numerous civilizations of the past. Ancient Rome is one of the most obvious; and there are volumes written to lay it out for us.

So then, we should be asking ourselves, what stage are we at here in America? After all, we are well past the 200-year mark that it mentions. Most would admit that we appear to be past apathy and heading into dependence. Of course, there is not a guarantee that we will move smoothly through these stages; any one of them could occur quickly and last only a short time, but that is not usually the case.

We have been forced into depending on the government for many things, and (by our own choice) we have manufactured various devices that force us to depend on them as well. Not all dependence is bad, but the current "nanny state" in these USA is certainly not encouraging faithful and diligent hard work. You can see dependence encouraged all over this land, and many of our politicians appear to want even more of it (they call it socialism--as if that were a good thing--but it is just another form of tyranny). This runs contrary to the basic principles of the Catholic understanding of subsidiarity and solidarity. Every time I mention how problematic Social Security and Welfare are (most specifically because they discourage family unity, parental responsibility, and basic hard work) people respond with, "but how else will they get the money they need?" It rarely occurs to people that there is another way.

So as we continue to go through this decline in our civilization, it is helpful to know that there are certain patterns that we can expect. And maybe, just maybe, this time we could prepare ourselves to move away from the phase of bondage to a new spiritual faith much quicker. Maybe, just maybe, parents could see the errors of the previous generations and decide to be faithful in how they raise their children. Maybe, just maybe, our penitence will be a part of turning this land of America into a new land of greater holiness that will not follow the pattern in the quote above. Remember, God loves doing miracles for His faithful people.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The World's New Normal; or the Lord's New Normal? part 3

Until recently, most Catholics throughout the world had been missing Church. Now what did you think of when you read the word, "missing"? Did you think I was saying that most Catholics have not been to Church, or that most Catholics have felt sad about not being at Church? There are two different connotations of the word "missing". People missed Church (they were not in attendance) but how much did they miss Church (feel saddened that they were not able to be there)? I am sure that most everyone reading this post "missed" Mass quite a bit.

What else did you miss? Did you miss the community of the Church? We here in southern Missouri have had public Mass celebration available for a few weeks now. In this, we are still required to practice social distancing (which should be called anti-social distancing!). Things are looking ugly in many places, and though not as bad here, it is still tense; everyone is a bit nervous about what will happen in the near future to our nation and to our Church. Which, however, are you more concerned about? Are you more concerned about the coming disintegration of this falling nation, or about the potential persecution on the Church (which always seems to come along with societal break-down)?

Considering the new normal that we are moving into, we want to be sure, as I said before, that we are moving into our Lord's new normal and not just falling into line with the world's desire to create a new normal from its own selfish motivations. I said in a previous post that the Kingdom of God does not grow the way that the world thinks (we looked there at the "how" of Kingdom growth). Politics and physical institutions may be related to the growth of the Kingdom, but they are not the heart of the Kingdom. Now we need to consider another vital aspect of Kingdom growth: the "where".

If you are one of the many Catholics who comes to Mass but really does not connect with anyone else in the parish, then you are working against the primary place of "where" Jesus is working. Just because you are attending the Mass does not mean that you are truly engaged with the community of the parish. You can be in a crowded room and still be "alone". The people you worship God with should not be strangers. No, you do not need to be best friends with every member of your home parish, but if you have no friends there, something is not right. Scriptures tells us that a parish is a small "body of Christ" and that the parts of the body cannot ignore each other (1 Corinthians 12:14ff).

Where do we find the center of all spiritual growth? It is always in the Church. That does not mean that only the Church grows, but it does mean that everything else is merely a by-product of the growth of the Church. The Church is not exactly equated with the Kingdom; rather it is the "region" where the Kingdom is experienced most clearly. With this being the case, that should inform how we think of the Church. Do you think of the Church as one of your hobbies? I hope that is not the case. The Church is the center of the Catholic life. That is not a new idea, but it is not always lived out in the lives of Catholics today.

How are you involved with the community of your home parish? Where do you find your best friends? What do you think about first when you think about Church? Is it just that thing you do on Sundays, or is it the center of your life? I am not exaggerating with that last statement. Some think that only priests and religious should have the Church at the center of their lives, and that is not true. To be clear: I am not saying that the laity are supposed to be at the Church 23 hours and 59 minutes of every day, but how do you make your decisions through the week? Does the Church come last in your plans?

It is in the Church that we find the grace to keep us moving on the path to Heaven. It is the Church that tells us how to obey our Lord, and it is in the Church that we find others who are on the same path (who can help us on our journey). It is possible to make the Church an essential duty, but not a major portion of our lives. It would be comparable to one of those 24-hour allergy pills -- some people really need to take them, but they ignore it for the rest of the day. When Catholics make Church the center of their lives, they find that their lives begin to have greater peace, and challenges become easier to bear. Our Lord Jesus rules over all creation for the sake of the Church (Ephesians 1:15-23); let us love it as much as He does.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

When Economics Contradicts Our Spirituality

With the recent surges in Covid infections in the general area around southern Missouri where I live, people have been worried about another potential "lock-down". Of course, this comes after many people have noticed that the lock-downs were not as successful as the politicians claimed they would be. Yes, many are still saying that lock-downs work, but with all the lies, it is hard to trust anything they say anymore. In fact, I read recently that a number of places that did not have lock-downs did not have any noticeably higher rates of infections. What the lock-downs did accomplish, however, was to damage our already shaky economy (which is to be expected when our entire economic system in America is based on greed).

So now the debate ensues: are we concerned more about financial stability or our physical health? Quite a difficult choice to make, and I thank God that it is not my job to be a part of that discussion. However they choose to come down in that issue, I think that something is entirely being missed. Few of those in positions of authority outside the Church (and not too many inside the Church, it seems) are talking about the tension between financial/health issues on one side, and our spiritual stability on the other. They are not even talking about the "mental and emotional" state of our nation (which always has to do with spirituality). It is as though the spiritual realm does not even exist on their radar.

Yet, we all know it is there. Just look at the news as ask yourself what the spiritual state is of those who are rioting, burning down buildings, and destroying the symbols of our American heritage. That did not show up overnight. It was the result of years of indoctrination in the public school system and an overwhelming emphasis on self-esteem (or, as one of my parishioners said recently: "those people didn't get disciplined enough when they were young").

So then, our current state of strife and unrest is a result of what came before; and I am not necessarily referring to racism (though that may play a part in some situations and cannot be discounted). Much of our situation is the automatic consequence of the fear of global disease coupled together with forced lock-downs, and them compounded by decades of governmental moral failures. Add to that the fact that our colleges have been promoting socialism and immorality for generations (and most Catholics are still sending their children to them [please stop!]), and you have a perfect recipe for spiritual instability.

Numerous times I have heard Christian parents justify sending their children to "good schools" (by which they mean a school that can teach them how to make lots of money) so that they can "get an education and a good job". In these instances, the children's financial stability is being chosen over their spiritual stability because the education being given at these schools is often anti-Catholic and gravely immoral. It is possible to show a concern for both spiritual and financial issues by sending them to a genuinely devout Catholic school (as long as the priority of spirituality is maintained by all involved). Yet, clearly, many have not done this.

This spiritual instability is not just seen in the fact that Catholic children leave the faith, but when they do, they often head towards complete spiritual chaos. Furthermore, those Catholic children who do not leave the faith will often be so confused about what the faith is, that they are living like non-Catholics. Outside the Church, things are even worse as large numbers who call for change to our nation have no more clear idea of what that change should be other than "I want my stuff (and I do not want to have to work for it)".

So then, what do we do when the leadership of the nation is focused on economic and health issues and ignores spiritual issues? What do we do when the means to accomplish economic and physical security contradict with the requirements for spiritual security? Which will you choose? Which will you teach to your children? The decision is not a small one, and if you do not decide now and take a stand, the day may come when it is too late. Our leaders are going to make certain choices for our nation, but that does not mean that we have to follow them or agree with them. It does mean, however, that we still have the priorities God has given us, and we still must persevere in the faith.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Are You Ready?

It has been over a month since public Mass was again resumed here in southern Missouri. I have been watching how things are playing out, and it is interesting to watch. In these last few weeks there have been some people (it is hard to tell if the reports are exaggerated or not) who appear to have a specific desire to destroy anything made before they themselves were born. That is the way that anarchists and totalitarian dictators like to do things, and we have seen it before (that is assuming you actually know something about world history).

Whenever this type of chaos is promoted in a society, the Church is usually the first to get attacked. What will those attacks look like here in these United States? I cannot predict, but I can say that we have an idea if we just look at the past. Think, for example, of how the communists treated the Church in 1917 when the Blessed Virgin appeared at Fatima. During times like those (and we may be saying "times like these" here in America pretty soon) when there are people who attack the Church directly, what should be our response? We can either turn away from the Church and save our skin; or we can deepen our commitment to the Church.

Yet, we must ask the question: how easy is it to deepen our commitment in the time of persecution if our commitment is weak beforehand? The answer is: not very easy at all. Whenever a society begins to have internal strife like we are experiencing today, there is always something going on in Heaven. What I mean is, our Lord is doing a work down here on Earth, and He is likely including the heavenly host of angels in the effort. There is a war going on and we are at the center of it.

I hear, almost daily, more and more people talking about these events like they are a clear sign of the end of the world. Yes, many of these things are awful, but that does not mean necessarily that the world is about to end. A thousand years ago there were even more trials going on and people all over Europe thought for sure that the world was about to end. Obviously, it did not. Yet, that does not mean that they were wrong to ask the question. In fact, the very asking of the question will often encourage people to look more deeply into their hearts to ensure that they are right with the Lord.

Have you been doing any of that introspective self-examination lately? If not, it may be too late someday. The world does not have to end for things to get really bad. Whatever happens, God is going to dividing up the "sheep and goats" (and some of this has already begun to happen). Those whose hearts are not really committed to Christ and His Church are either going to trickle away, or they will leave in a "huff" because someone let them know that they have to repent of their sins. When this division occurs it sometimes just looks like typical disagreements, but God is purging His Church of those who refuse to follow Him.

Look at what St. Peter said right before the persecution under Nero Caesar (who murdered Peter):
For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).
God always judges His own "household" before He turns to the world. This is because He loves us and wants us to be able to repent. St. Peter also said:
The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
So then, He gives us time to get our souls right, but that time is limited; He does not wait forever. So I encourage all of you: time to get your spiritual health taken care of. If you are struggling right now (with anything) do not let it wait until later to work on it. Now is the time; today is the day to put in the effort. The world may not end tomorrow, but we never know when God will call each of us to account.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Homily for Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2020

Someone once said to me that he did not want to be Catholic because the Church was too concerned with rules and laws, and that Jesus did not want us to worry about obeying rules, He just wanted us to love Him. The contradiction in that idea was not apparent to my friend (even after I tried to help him see it). It does not take long if you read the gospels to see that Jesus never supported that kind of lawlessness. Today, however, in the gospel reading, Jesus gives us one of the clearest statements of how love for God is always associated with obedience to His commands. Yes, there are some (like my friend above) who behave as though Jesus said something entirely different.

Many think that Jesus said to his disciples: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments (at least most of them; or at least the ones that are convenient; or maybe just a couple that you happen to like; well, tell you what, just do your best and I'll overlook the rest)." Is that what Jesus said? Our Lord did say the first part: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" but the last part in the parentheses, that was entirely made up (and we all know it). If we know this to be true, why do some live like they thought that the last part was what He really said?

We make excuses. That is the real reason, and we all know that just as well. We look at one of His commands and decide that we know better, or that it does not apply to us. That may be how we reason through it, but it is not right (and we all know that as well). There is no excuse, no doctrinal twisting, no turning a blind eye, that can change the fact that our Lord calls us to obey His commandments and says that if we do not, then we really do not love Him.

For those who know this and submit to it (even if they struggle with it), Jesus promises a great help. He knows that we are unable to obey Him on our own, and He says He will provide for us the very thing to help us to get through the struggle. It is as though our Lord said, "you have to obey Me, and if you are willing to do so, I will give you the means to do so: My Holy Spirit". Those who do not really want to obey will not take advantage of the Spirit and so, for them, the obedience is impossible. Yet, for those who are willing, the help of the Spirit is the means by which they can obey.

This means that the Holy Spirit of God is the very key to the faithful life. Did you obey God recently (I am sure you did), then you did it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Did you disobey God recently (admit it, you probably did), then you did it because you did not take advantage of the Helper that Jesus promised. He even said that the Spirit would be with us always (meaning especially in those times of temptation and trial) and that the world could not receive Him. The world does not accept the help of the Holy Spirit because the world does not want to obey God in the first place.

Finally, we must realize that the Holy Spirit is the very means by which we can make sure that our obedience stems from love for God and not merely from a sense of duty (which is good, but not a sufficiently holy obedience). This is why Christ says "if you love Me you will obey". Love and obedience go together hand in hand. They are two parts of one whole and for us to imagine that we can love God without obeying Him is a grave misunderstanding. Obedience without love is cold and superficial with no real commitment. Love without obedience is merely a sentimental feeling (and not true godly love). So, as our Lord said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; this is the first and greatest commandment". Let that always be our goal. In the Name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Homily for Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2020

You have probably heard me tell this story before, but when I was about 6 years old one of my friends had a little brother who was the biggest pest we could imagine. He would often wear a t-shirt that said "here comes trouble". We felt that it was perfect, for we knew how true it was. Looking back, that little boy's "trouble" that he caused was nothing compared with some of the things that the world can send at us (especially lately!). If your biggest trouble is an annoying toddler, then you have it pretty easy. Think for a minute: what are you troubled by? What causes you to worry?

In the gospel, Jesus begins by telling us, "let not your hearts be troubled". Our Lord knows that this world will bring us trouble (cf. John 16:33), and He wants to help us overcome it so He gives us this reminder that we can (with His help) deal with what the world sends at us. So let me ask it again: what are you troubled by? We are getting closer to having Mass being public once again, but it will not likely be just like it used to be. In fact, it appears that we will be required to do things a bit differently in order to avoid spreading this plague among the parish community.

Does catching the virus "trouble" you? Are you worried about it? It can be fatal for some, so it appears that there is genuinely something to be troubled by. Yet, when Jesus said not to be "troubled" He was not referring primarily to plagues and diseases. The context of the gospel shows clearly that He was speaking about our eternal destiny. This does not mean that Christ does not care about our physical well being; of course not. Yet, they should not be equal concerns in our hearts. Physical health is important, but it does not directly impact whether we are right with God; that is an internal status.

In other words, He was concerned about how we deal with our spiritual condition. How much do you "trouble" about whether you are in a state of grace? Which are you more worried about? Your spiritual health, or your physical health? If we seek to have extra rules and directives to help keep us physically healthy, how much more should we seek to protect our spiritual health? The Church has rules for these things (remember the Precepts of the Church?). How many rules and guidelines does the Church have for the right reception of Holy Communion? What if we were to apply them to ourselves with the same rigidity that some are insisting on with "social distancing" rules?

Now to be clear: God does not want us to live in fear about our spiritual well being because He is able to take care of us (that is the point of the gospel!). That, however, does not mean that we are to ignore our spirituality and only spend time working on our physical health (for He can take care of that too!). Both are important, but which is the one that matters for eternity (1 Timothy 4:8)? When our gracious Lord tells us not to "be troubled" then we need to take that to heart -- fully and completely.

Do not let your hearts be troubled: not about your spiritual well being. Do not let your hearts be troubled: not by a virus either (even if it is deadly!). With Jesus as our Lord (Who can conquer anything and everything that worries us) we do not need to go through life fearful. When we come together again to participate in the Mass as a parish, let us each make sure that our greatest concern is that we are right with God and that we are working to glorify Him in all we do. With that as our goal, we have nothing to worry about. In the Name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The World's New Normal; or the Lord's New Normal? part 2

Speaking with an auto mechanic friend of mine, he expressed frustration. He said that he knew exactly what the car was doing wrong, but had no idea why it was doing it, and thus no idea how to fix it. He described to me the two or three usual methods of performing this repair job, and none of them had been successful (it was a very odd situation). I believe that he eventually figured it out, but until he knew exactly what was happening, he did not know how to do the repair. Car repair is not the only time that this kind of problem arises in our lives; we always need to know what is wrong before we can know how to fix it.

As we seek to examine that first detail of "how" to move forward towards a godly "new normal", we have to acknowledge that God's word comes first, and our own ideas can never be allowed to do so. In other words, in many of life's challenges, our Lord has already laid out a plan for how to deal with things, but we frequently ignore it and choose to follow our own (human) wisdom instead of God's (divine) wisdom. Step one in learning how to be faithful is admitting that God knows more than we do and then doing our best to act accordingly.

Therefore, if we are asking the question as to "how" we accomplish a new normal that accords with the Kingdom of Christ, we must first see the way that His Kingdom actually grows. Many times in Scripture we are told that the Kingdom of Christ is (at least for now) a spiritual Kingdom (predominantly). This means that the Kingdom of Christ does touch on the physical realm; it is just as much a law of Christ that we do not commit adultery as that we be reverent when in the presence of the Eucharist. The primary means, however, for the growth of the Kingdom of Christ in this world is spiritual.

The Kingdom grows through changing men's hearts first, and then afterwards it changes society's laws, for only when hearts have changed can societal norms and laws be fully effective. Therefore, we need to be very cautious when we are seeking to make "physical" changes to our surroundings, so that we ensure that we are not making those changes our first aim (not that we should not make those changes, but that they need to be kept in their proper place). To be specific: influencing the political realm is important, but it is not our first and most important work. If your membership in a political party is more important to you than your Church membership, then something is seriously wrong with your faith.

In fact, this necessary balance is so crucial to the work of the Kingdom of God, that we could say that the local society will develop rightly if the Kingdom of God is already growing. This is so because the Kingdom always impacts the institutions around it. Even societies that are heavily influenced by wickedness can be changed by just a few faithful within that society (think of God's willingness to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were "at least 10 faithful people in the city"). It might take some time, but the Kingdom of Christ always wins in the end.

As the world systems develop and change over time, the Church should be the primary influence on those systems. This is, obviously, not always the case, but it is the ideal that we are supposed to aim for. When the opposite happens, we are in trouble. Today, we find that many in the Catholic Church (both laity and clergy) are listening to the world and worldly wisdom (sometimes equated with "science") more than to the Word of God. Whenever this happens we will see people within the Church trying to abandon the past and change Church teaching (e.g. much of what is coming out of the German Bishops these days).

Politics and political theory should not be excluded from this. It is not a neutral practice that is allowed to go any direction the people desire. The Church has spoken about political theory in various places, and although she does not advocate one political system over others, there are a few practices that she has directly stated are evil (such as socialism!). Therefore, politicians and those involved in civil leadership should be looking to the Church and asking what is the right way to do their job, but that is not what is happening. The fault is not entirely with the politicians; it can also be found in the fact that many (even Catholics) are treating the political sphere as though it were the ultimate authority in society. NO; as in "N", "O". Not true; never was, never will be.

Once we begin to see clearly in our heart, soul, and mind, how God wants us to move toward holiness (in the spiritual realm first, and the physical realm as a direct consequence) then we will be able to move forward. As with my mechanic friend, if he used the wrong method to repair the car, he would not have gotten far. The Catholic Church as a whole is currently not doing well at growing in holiness, which implies we are not using the right methods. Do not ignore the physical realm, but also do not allow it to become the primary means of spreading the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Homily for Fourth Sunday of Easter, 2020

"Follow us on the web." "You have 2 new followers." "100 people are following this topic." You have probably seen statements like these (maybe even if you do not have internet access!). What does it mean to follow? If occasionally paying attention to a website equates to following, then we would have to admit that there is not much involved. Is that how Jesus used the term when He commanded us to follow Him? This "internet style" of following would equate to showing up in Church on Sunday but never actually engaging with the Mass, or reciting a prayer without any heart-felt commitment. We all know that is not what Jesus wants from us.

In today's gospel, we are told about Jesus' activity as our "Good Shepherd". The foundational truth here that we each need to recognize is that He says He calls us each "by name". This means that all who are baptized must acknowledge the call of God on their lives. He calls each one of us (not just the clergy, or a few laity who are more devout, but all), and tells us that we must serve Him, and Him alone. This might sound like I am overstating the obvious, but that is not the case. Just because someone is one of Jesus' sheep, does not guarantee that he will not listen to the enemy. When Jesus calls us each by name, He is saying, "you are my sheep, and if you want Me to protect you, you have to follow Me and no one else."

This entails, of course, that we do not listen to the "robbers and thieves" that He warns us about in the gospel reading. This is harder than it seems because the devil never speaks to us with 100% lies; he always sprinkles a bit of truth in with His lies so that we will more easily fall for it. It is often hard for us to discern just what we are being told by the world, and that is why God gave us the Church. Yes, it is true that not everyone in the Church agrees on everything, but the Church's official teachings do not change; ever. We can be confident of that one certainty (if a teaching appears to have changed, then either we have misunderstood it, or someone misinterpreted something).

Here is an easy test to check your spiritual "pulse" on this subject. Ask yourself right now: if Hollywood actors and actresses disagree with the Church, who will you believe? If your doctor disagrees with the Church, who will you believe? If astronomers disagree with the Church, who will you believe? If college professors disagree with the Church, who will you believe? If politicians disagree with the Church, who will you believe? The Good Shepherd tells us to "flee from the thieves and robbers" who want to lead us astray, and though not all of those listed above contradict what God has said through His Church, when they do contradict we must stand fast with God's truth and listen to Him alone.

We all have to admit that there are times in our lives when we do listen to others that we are not supposed to be listening to; when we give heed to the errors of the world and then fall into sinful behavior. Our Good Shepherd is loving and cares for us. He will not leave us to the wolves if we willingly return to Him and seek His help. He promises to save us if we will hold fast to our commitment to Him (regardless of what the world might do or say). Do not allow the world to bully you and pressure you into compromising your faith. They are the ones who came to "steal and kill and destroy". Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd is the One Who came to give you an abundant life; follow Him and Him alone. In the Name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The World's New Normal; or God's New Normal?

The other day while driving to visit a parishioner, I had a driver pass me on a hill doing about 30 miles over the speed limit. It was clearly one of those people who should never be allowed behind the wheel again (I am sure you have seen them). The thought went through my mind quickly: "this is America, you have a right to be crazy--but you are not supposed to endanger other people's lives in the process." I spent the next few minutes pondering what the heart and mind of someone like that would be like. I have never (knowingly) spoken to someone with such careless and reckless selfishness, so I could do no more than guess.

We truly have become a remarkably selfish society. The problem (the really big problem!) is that Catholics do not seem to be immune to this great evil. We are supposed to be the "salt of the Earth" and keep these things from happening, and yet we seem to be helping this all to get worse. This sounds a lot like the numerous instances when Israel was punished in the Old Testament for not fulfilling her calling, and the New Testament tells the same story of some of the individual Churches as well (cf. Rev 3:14ff).

I said to someone the other day that I was looking forward to a return to normal. That was not actually true. What used to be "normal" (especially for Catholics today) is not what I want to return to. The selfishness that has so pervaded everything (not just politicians and actors, but everyone!), is not the "normal" that I want to return to. Sadly, most of those who are swimming in their own selfish behavior are unable to see just what they are doing. When we start getting past the "stay at home" orders, and the suspended Masses, and wearing surgical masks in public we need to be ready to accept a "new normal".

The "new normal" for the world appears like it will be fairly totalitarian (unless some of these politicians give up their lust for power). Regardless of what the world does, however, we need to be more faithful than we were before this plague came upon us. That means that we need a "new normal" that is distinctly and unashamedly Catholic. I am talking about a new normal that leaves behind the errors of the last half-century and returns to the roots of our faith.

Something has to change, or something is going to break. We cannot imagine that we can go on compromising our faith and that God is just going to ignore it and then make everything OK in the end. It seems like the modernist Catholics presume that we just need more modernism, and the traditionalists presume we just need more traditions. Although the traditionalists are far closer to the truth than the modernists (we do need to return to our historic Catholic faith--like that found in the Catechism of Trent), both are basically wrong.

It is not the outward actions that make us right with God (that was the error of the Pharisees 2000 years ago), but our inward hearts. The outward actions are what can help to guide our inward hearts to be right with the Lord (or, adversely, they can lead us away from God). If our outward actions humble us and exalt Christ Jesus, then they will be helping towards holiness (and the new modernist practices simply cannot do this).

The devil wants us to get caught up in the pursuit of anything other than the work of becoming a Saint. No matter what the details are, if he can accomplish this, then we become selfishly ineffective for the gospel. As Bishop Fulton Sheen one said:
The poor frustrated souls who are locked up inside their own minds keep their little egotistic heads too busy and their selfish hands and feet too idle.
Can you say "ouch"? If that statement does not come across like a smack in the face, then you missed it (and you should read it again). He wrote this half a century ago, and it has come true; not just for a few odd individuals, but for the majority of the world (even of the baptized).

If we merely keep doing things the same way we have been doing them, then we will be "locked up inside" our own minds, as the brilliant Bishop said. When that happens, all we can see is our own ideas and thoughts, and, consequently we become closed to the guidance and prompting of the Holy Ghost. As I said above, something has to change. If we do not turn away from the world, we will end up turning with the world (and that is not the narrow path that leads to Heaven).

Hence, what we need is a reassessment of our practices to ensure that they are actually guiding us toward greater holiness and usefulness in the Kingdom of Christ. Many of the presumed habits of the 20th century got us into this; continuing them is not going to get us out of this. In order to move in this "new normal" direction, we need to be able to answer a few basic questions. For example, we already know "who" "when" and "why". We are to work, right now, because it determines our eternal destiny. Yet, we have to dig deeper to ask a few other questions; like "how to grow?", "where do we grow?" and "what are we to grow?"

I hope I have sparked your interest in this subject. It needs to be examined with hearts that are open to the commandments of God and His truth. We each need to accept the call of the Lord on our lives, and be willing to suffer for His sake; anything less is not the faith that the Saints were willing to die for, but some counterfeit invented by the evil one. I want to return to this idea in subsequent posts (one for each question), so come back for more later...

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Homily for Third Sunday of Easter, 2020

My family likes to play a certain game where we quote something from a book or movie that we all know and see if the others can recognize it merely from the quote (remember the old t.v. show "Name that Tune"?). It can be frustrating when someone makes a reference but we cannot recognize it. They know something we do not and we have to dig deeply into our memory to figure it out. When the disciples on the road to Emmaus walked with Jesus, they did not recognize Him, but they did know that there was something special about Him because they asked Him not to leave.

Here we have another instance of those who knew Jesus before His death and resurrection seeing Him but not recognizing Him. What could possibly have kept them from recognizing Him this time? Last week the Apostles did not recognize Him because they were focused on their own desires and interests. This week is different though. The two disciples were somewhat overwhelmed by everything that had occurred (as they described to Jesus in the gospel reading). As St. Augustine once said about these disciples:
"They were so disturbed when they saw him hanging on the cross that they forgot his teaching, did not look for his resurrection, and failed to keep his promises in mind."
This is important for us to see because we often get overwhelmed by difficult things in our lives as well.

Yet, that is not the main thing that we should see in this gospel passage this Sunday. I want us to consider instead when it was that the disciples recognized Jesus. We are told it was "in the breaking of the bread". This is not an accident or a coincidence. Our Lord clearly wanted to use something to jar their memory, and He chose to use a normal part of life that made them think of His divine providence for them. We do not know if they recognized the "breaking of the bread" as a reminder of the Eucharist (since Jesus had only instituted the Eucharistic celebration a few days before His death) but for us today, what is more significant than God's provision for us in the Sacraments (and the breaking of bread obviously mirrors the celebration of the Eucharist)?

In any of those times when we are caught up by the challenging events of life around us (as we are today with this viral plague), we can easily miss the work of Christ in our lives. Yet, even while we are unaware of what our Lord is doing, He comes along side us, as He did with these disciples, and walks with us in our troubles and pains. This means that He is often already there before we even pray and ask Him to come and help us (remember that the next time you think God is not helping you where you need it!). He speaks to us with love, and sometimes even tells us where we have been wrong and foolish. As much work as He willingly does for us we still do not see it for what it is right away. It takes something deeper and more profound to shake us and wake us up.

When we are confused and trying to believe what the Church tells us about our Blessed Redeemer, Jesus Himself comes along side us and walks with us. He does it because He loves us; because He loves you. Only when we are willing to look beyond those things that are confusing us and look attentively for the work of Christ, can we see that God's hand is in all these things. Yet, this will only happen if something first catches our attention and helps us to think about God's provision for us; about how He has protected us, provided for us, and (most especially) given us His grace. Then, and only then, do we see what He is doing!

Therefore, my dear people, look for Him this week. Expect our Savior to be with you and ask Him to help you see that He is there. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you by reminding you of all the great works that He has done in your life so that you can see the great works that He is doing right now. You may think it is just the daily trials of these crazy days that we live in, but God does not see it that way. He sees you trying to get through this confusion and pain, and He wants to accompany you and have you recognize Him. Pray specifically for Him to send that special event that will help you to see exactly what He is doing, and have hope that He will answer that prayer. Then, do not let anything get in your way of seeing Him present with you. In the name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday, 2020

Last year after the celebration of the Triduum (the three days before Easter) I recall speaking to someone about the Easter Mass. He said, "Easter almost feels like a let-down". I knew exactly what he was speaking about; have you ever felt that way? What he was referring to was the fact that the Easter Mass comes after Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil (all of which are very different services from the normal Sunday Mass). It almost feels like Easter is "just ordinary" after all the different ceremonies of the Triduum.

That is actually the way that it is supposed to be, though we do not usually think of it like that. You need to understand that all the other 51 Sundays of the year are designed to be a "little Easter" and therefore are patterned after the original source for Sunday Mass: Easter Day. Easter is the norm, and the others are the copies (so that we can continue to celebrate the resurrection of Christ every Sunday of the year). So it is not a "let-down" exactly; it would be better to say that on Easter we return to "normal".

This does not mean, however, that we are supposed to allow ourselves to get bored with the normal pattern of Sunday Mass; especially this Sunday. The Easter season goes from Easter Sunday until Pentecost (May 31st this year), but the seven days after Easter are counted as part of Easter. This means that we are still celebrating Easter today; do not think that it has ended. Today being "Divine Mercy Sunday" is the conclusion of the real Easter celebration (this is also why you did not need to practice your weekly Friday abstinence last Friday).

In the gospel reading for today, Jesus set this pattern for the Apostles. He came to visit them first on the "evening of the first day of the week" (the first Easter). In other words, He came on the Sunday of His resurrection. Then He came "eight days later" (on "Divine Mercy Sunday") and appeared to them once again. He came to them as He comes to each of us on every Sunday (even if we cannot gather for Mass!). He comes to you and your family today. He approaches you in your very homes and says "Peace be with you".

When He comes to you today, He wants to find you keeping the pattern of Sundays. He wants to see you doing all you can to maintain the Lord's Day as a day of rest and worship. He wants you to say the rosary, or read the Scripture readings for today. He wants to find you being with your family (as much as you can). He wants to find you remembering that wherever we are, whatever we are doing, and however difficult the times are that we are going through, that we acknowledge that He is our Lord, and that "this is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it". And He wants to give you His peace. In the name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Homily for Easter 2020

When was the last time you had someone intrude into something you were doing? How did you feel? We usually get upset when someone pushes their way in when they have not been invited to something. Whether it is a party-crasher, or just someone listening in to a private conversation, it makes us upset. There is an ancient reference by one of the Church Fathers that refers to Jesus as “the Holy Intruder”. This is not an insult to Him, but a reference to how powerful His work is.

Jesus, when He was born into the world, He was “intruding” because He is not a creature, yet He took on human flesh. When He raised from the dead, He was “intruding” into the normal pattern of death, because dead people usually stay that way. When He comes into our hearts, He is “intruding” because it is not in our fallen nature to allow someone to tell us what to do. Yet, in all these things, He is not an evil intruder, but a “Holy Intruder”. He comes to bring goodness and holiness.

When Jesus first stepped out of that tomb on Easter morning, He was intruding into a world that have never seen a genuine, eternal, resurrection body before. He was bringing something fully new, and that was our very salvation all wrapped up in Him Who is our Savior. Let us each approach Him today with humble hearts, recognizing that we each need Him to do some “intruding” in order to drive away our sin, and fill us with His grace and mercy. In doing this, we can each rejoice fully in His resurrection and what it means for us. He comes into our lives so that we can come into His life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Homily for Palm Sunday, 2020

"Because of His great love"

I had to get my cholesterol checked a couple months ago, and I knew it was not going to go well. First of all, I do not do well when I get blood taken (usually I get light headed and dizzy). Second of all, I had to fast from midnight until after the test, and I always have difficulty with fasting (again, light headed and dizzy). Put those two things together and I was sure it was going to be unpleasant. I am sure you all know what happened: I almost passed out after they finished taking blood. I knew what to expect, but I also knew I needed to do it, so I went anyways (although I did try to come up with a few dozen excuses not to go!).

Have you ever had something unpleasant that you wanted to get out of, but went ahead with it because there was something powerful pushing you in that direction? When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on that first "Palm Sunday" He knew exactly what it was going to lead to: His crucifixion. Yet, He went through it anyway. I cannot imagine what it would have been like for Him to ride on the back of that donkey and know that those shouts of praise were going to turn into shouts of "crucify Him" in just a few days.

We are told by St. Paul in the second reading for today that Jesus willingly accepted what He had to suffer. He did not use His divine power to free Himself, but,
. . . emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 
What He endured was far worse than my petty little dizziness at my blood test, and Christ did it not just for Himself, but for every one of us. You, me, and anyone who obeys Him.

We can experience similar things in our lives. People may like us one day, and then turn against us the next day. This is a reminder that nothing in this world really is secure apart from God Himself. When He entered into Jerusalem to the praises of the multitude, there was no pride in Him; He was perfectly aware of the weaknesses of men, and knew that even His own disciples would fail Him. Because this world is fallen, everything in this world is weak, and if we place all our hopes in the things of this world, or even the people of this world, they will fail us as well. It is only our precious Lord Who will never fail us.

In this time of plague, what are you spending most of your time thinking about? Is it the weak things of this world -- those things that can fail us? If so, you are probably experiencing some depression right now. Jesus knows exactly how weak this world is, and He wants us to look to Him for our true strength, but if we focus on weak things, then we begin to doubt that He can really help us. This is the very opposite of what He went to the cross for: He wanted to deliver us from these weak things, and bring us into His presence for all eternity.

Instead of focusing on things like: the empty shelves at the store, the unemployment rate going up, or the continual stream of new rules about how to deal with this, we need to remind ourselves (every day) how amazing it is to focus particularly on the unlimited love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! He did not falter when it came time for Him to endure a horrible death. He did it, not because it was just the right thing to do; He did it because He had such great love for you and me. He did it because He knew that it would lead to many souls being able to spend eternity with Him -- which is something He truly loves!

When we think about what Jesus did for us, we all need to realize that we ourselves are just like the rest of those who failed Him. We might praise Him joyfully one day, and then the next day we choose a horrible sin; with no regard for how it hurts Him. Only when we realize and admit our failings and sins can we find true deliverance. Jesus knew we were all sinners, that was the point of the cross: to save sinners. This is why we must return to Him every time we fail Him; we go back and ask His forgiveness in Confession, and He always joyfully grants it. He knew what each of us would do, and He still went to the cross. He was willing to do all that because of His great love for us. Let us each realize and accept that great love so that we can find His grace and forgiveness. He willingly chose to undergo a painful passion and death for us, let us each willingly accept it and rejoice in it; both now and forevermore. ✠

Friday, March 27, 2020

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, 2020

"Blessed in the midst of suffering"

There is the story about the homeless man who was helped by a group of people from a nearby Catholic Church. When asked about his experience, he said, "I am so glad I was homeless. I never would have met these loving people or been able to be blessed by them if I had been a rich man." What an amazing perspective. He saw the work of God in his life, and how it was more powerful because of the suffering that came before. There are many things in our lives that are only seen well through the eyes of suffering.

In the gospel reading for today, we are all familiar with the story. Jesus comes and raises His friend Lazarus from the dead. We are certainly supposed to see an encouragement in this for us to be confident of our own resurrection which Jesus promises to all the faithful. Yet, there is also an important principle involved in this. Although we only have the stories of a few people whom Jesus raised from the dead, He was always doing the work of resurrection.

The work of resurrection that Jesus is doing (even now) can be seen in many different things. Whenever He comes to us, He is bringing us eternal life. That means that He is always bringing new life into situations and events that were dead. We might look at something and think that there is no hope of any good happening, but our Lord often has other plans. The Apostles' response to Jesus choice to visit Lazarus after he died shows that they were not sure what Jesus could do, but they certainly did not appear to expect Lazarus to raise from the dead.

When we look at our current situation, it might seem somewhat hopeless. It is easy, as I have said before, to slip into a depressing attitude about what we are going through. Not being able to go to Mass might seem like a "death" since you are being kept back from the very source of life that God gives to us in the Eucharist. Yet, the testimony of today's gospel should make us recognize just how God does things. We could even go so far as to say that God likes bringing life into situations of death. Remember: Jesus waited two days after hearing about Lazarus' sickness and said it was for the "glory of God" -- He intentionally let Lazarus die so He could raise him from the dead.

Since our Lord knows what He is going to do in every situation, He does sometimes wait for bad things to happen so that He can intervene in what is happening and show His glory to us, and thus help us to come to love and serve Him better. We are told in another place in Scripture that some Jews rejected the miracle of Lazarus being raised and still did not believe in Christ. We must not be like them; we have to watch for the work that God will do or we could miss it.

Both Mary and Martha said to Jesus that He could have stopped Lazarus from dying (which He could have), but Martha still had faith that Jesus could do something to help after Lazarus died. Which action of God really is more amazing? Is it more powerful for Jesus to stop a trial from happening, or for Him to allow it to happen, and then do a miracle in overcoming it? Obviously the latter. This is because, as I said before, God likes sending new life into situations where all we see is death and hopelessness.

So even though Jesus may not be raising the dead right now, that does not mean that He is not planning on doing a wonderful work for us. It may not be something that everyone sees, but like His own resurrection, it will be something that can be appreciated by those who love Him and believe in Him. Our current experience may seem quite scary for some, and for others it may seem like a "death" of a sort. Jesus, however, is setting things up to bring us life; you can be sure of it. Hold on to your faith; keep hoping in Christ; and, like Martha, trust that Jesus can always do a great work in the midst of our suffering. ✠

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Confession and Communion

I would certainly never say it is a good thing that public Masses are cancelled (yes, I know it supposedly helps to reduce the spread of the virus, but that is not what I am talking about). It is a spiritual suffering for every Catholic, and that is not something that anyone with a heart would wish on others. Yet, I want us all to recognize the proper gravity of what is happening and thereby keep a proper balance in how we view things right now.

To begin with, let us all admit what the normal rules are for Catholics. You are (normally) required to attend Mass every Sunday, and on Holy Days of Obligation. Also, you are required to receive Holy Communion at least once a year (preferably during the Easter season). Now, I want everyone to think about those two rules, just for a few minutes. Meditate on what those rules mean for you at this time.

This means that technically it is more an issue right now that the laity are deprived of being present in the Mass than that they are being prevented from receiving the Eucharist. No, I'm not saying that the Eucharist is less important, but rather that it is important that the Church normally says "be in Mass every Sunday" but only requires the Eucharist to be received once a year! We cannot take that difference lightly; one is required (about) fifty-seven times a year compared to the other which is required once a year. It is not wrong to receive communion at every Mass (presuming you are receiving in a state of grace, and we know that many do not), but the Church is saying something in how it has written the rules and the balance that it presumes in them.

It is a relatively new phenomenon whereby people receive communion at virtually every Mass that they attend. That was not the case in generations past. This, of course, does not mean that it was wrong for Pope Pius X, in the last century, to have encouraged more frequent communion. Yet, we also must admit that an increase in people receiving communion and a decrease in people going to confession was not a good combination. Nobody intended on having fewer people go to confession, yet when it happened at the same time as more frequent reception of communion, the result was obvious: more people receiving communion who were in a state of mortal sin.

We cannot imagine that the Lord would ignore the increasingly common occurrence of Catholics knowingly receiving communion in a state of grave sin. This must stop; and though many priests try to encourage people to go to confession, and not to receive communion until they do, not all listen. There is no excuse for refusing to go to the sacrament of confession; it is necessary for our salvation, and to treat it as optional is in itself a grave sin. I know this might be unpleasant to hear, but it must be said; especially now in this odd situation that the Lord has allowed us to enter.

We all know (or at lease we should) that no one except the priest is required to receive communion at every Mass. In this time of so many people being deprived of communion, it is as if the Lord is saying He wants "less frequent communion" rather than more. Better to have less frequent communion, and yet have more people receive it in a state of grace, than to have more frequent and they receive it in sin.

Think about the situation we are in: today it is easier to receive Confession than the Eucharist! What an interesting twist on what has been happening for the last century. It would be foolish to ignore the spiritual consequences of what we are going through. If God has not chosen this for us, at the very least He has allowed it to happen (and anything He allows He does willingly). Confession, available; communion, hard to find. Coincidence? I doubt it. Go to confession.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, 2020

"Whose fault is it?"

There is the old story of the guys who played a prank on a friend. While he was sleeping they came in quietly and placed a small dab of limburger cheese on his upper lip (in case you are unaware: limburger smells awful!). When he woke up he said "this room smells bad", and went into the living room. There he said, "this room smells bad too", and went outside. When outside he said, "the whole world smells bad!"

Blame is a hard thing to accept; we all know that. Like the man in the story, we will usually look for someone else to blame before accepting the blame ourselves. Yet, sometimes there is actually no one to blame. In this week's gospel reading, the Apostles asked Jesus "who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" In that instance Jesus makes it clear that the blindness did not happen because of any one particular sin. Of course, we all know that blindness (like any other physical ailment) is only a part of this fallen world; so in one sense, blindness is a result of sin in general, but not of any one instance of sin for the man in the gospel.

What our Lord also makes clear, however, is that the blindness was not merely haphazard, as though it had no purpose whatsoever. Rather Jesus says that it happened so "that the works of God might be made visible through him". In other words, the healing of the blind man in that instance was what was really on display. God wanted to show the wonderful work that He can do in the midst of pain and suffering. God often works in this exact manner. He allows a suffering to occur precisely so that He can show His grace in the midst of it. Do we all see that grace? Sadly, we do not. That is why we need to open ourselves up to the work of God so that it "might be made visible" to us.

In the midst of the pain and suffering of the world today (sickness, economic worry, the loss of public Mass, etc.), I can guarantee that God is wanting to do a wonderful work. He always does. The blind man in the gospel was not suffering for his own sin specifically, and what we are suffering is not necessarily for any particular sin of ours. Yet, as the Apostles asked the question, we should as well. It is a perfect (personal) question for Lent: "Lord, is there a sin that I am suffering for that I need to repent of?" That is one of the primary reasons why He allows us to suffer: to make us turn to Him in our time of need.

As we all struggle with the spread of a terrible virus throughout the whole world, we may be tempted to look for someone to blame. Ultimately, we will likely never know who to "blame" for this (and presuming that we do know, is prideful), so we should leave the "blame game" alone. Instead we need to ask "am I to blame?" This helps us keep the right focus, and it helps us to make sure that we are maintaining the virtues of faith, hope and charity. We need to be a good example of holiness in these days, and the only way that we can do that is by working, diligently, on the spiritual disciplines. When this pandemic is all over (and it will end someday), it is possible that the world will look different than it does now. Will Catholics be ready to step into the gap and encourage penitence and holiness in those around them? What we are doing now will make all the difference then. ✠

Friday, March 20, 2020

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent, 2020

I know this is a bit late for last Sunday. I was sick (yes again) and was unable to say Mass or give a homily to my people. It was a bit disappointing to prepare a homily and then find that I was unable to deliver it. Therefore, although this is not the way I normally do it, I have decided to rework that homily into a post here and give it to you. In the future, since I cannot now say public Mass on Sunday and give my weekly homily, I will be writing them out and posting them here so that those who are interested can read them. 

So, here goes . . .

"More than she bargained for"

There was once a wealthy man sitting in his new $11,000,000 home that had just been finished a few days before. He was entertaining guests and it happened to be raining. He noticed after just a few minutes that the roof was leaking directly on his head where he was sitting on his $5,000 couch. So he quickly calls the contractor who had built the house and starts yelling and complaining. The contractor simply says, “I don't see what the problem is; just move your couch.”

That is not exactly the solution to the problem, but we all know what it is like when we do not want to admit our faults and failures. In the gospel for the the third Sunday of Lent, Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well, and she clearly does not want to admit her faults (and they were apparently many).

The Samaritans had a vague and incomplete view of God and religion. They were confused in many areas, but Jesus does not confront her in that regard. No, rather He chooses to do spiritual surgery and make her open her soul to Him. He shows her that He already knows her sins, and when she realizes that she cannot hide anything from Jesus, at that point she also recognizes the reality that He is her Savior. In fact, we could say that she had no real peace until she admitted her sins. We often think the opposite: we can have peace if we hide our sins and go on with life. That is not what Jesus was doing for her; He was telling her that Confession and honesty about sin are the only ways to find peace.

In our first reading for this last Sunday we read of people who were fretting about whether God really cared for them. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that we find true peace only in Christ. These two, tied together, are saying the same thing that the Gospel is saying. Apart from God we fret and worry; when we come to Him in humble honesty, then we find real peace. We can only find that peace, though, if we are willing for Christ to do a work of spiritual surgery on our souls like He did for the Samaritan woman. No, the place and manner of surgery might not be the same for us as for her, but Jesus knows where to operate.

Many today are worried about the coronavirus, and that is something we genuinely should be concerned about. Yet, much more should we be concerned about our spiritual health. Do not allow any worries or concerns that you have about physical well being overshadow the importance of your eternal soul. The Samaritan woman had done something in her life that enabled (or forced) her to ignore her sins, and Jesus made her give it up.

She came to the well thinking that all she needed was physical water, and she got far more than she bargained for. The Lord knew what she really needed. Somehow that was the right moment for her, and she was open to hearing what Jesus had to say. Are you open right now for the Lord to speak to you? Are you willing to confess your sins to Him and have Him do a spiritual surgery for the healing of your soul?

Only when we let Christ look within can we be healed by Him and find that peace that He offers. Denial is no way to find peace; the sacrament of Confession is how God communicates His grace of forgiveness to us. Do not presume that because a penance service was cancelled, that you cannot go to confession. All priests can still hear confessions by appointment. If you have not yet gone to confession during Lent, call me; call one of my brother priests; set up an appointment. Open yourself to the Lord, and He will grant you His "pardon and peace".

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Affliction and Plague

Are you afraid? Are you concerned about dying? Are you frightened that something out of your control will end your life? How many of you, upon reading those questions, immediately thought about the coronavirus? If so, you should know that there is a good side and a bad side to that. The good side is that it is always helpful if we take seriously the fact that we have to appear before the Judgment seat of Christ someday. The bad side is that you may be fearful of the wrong thing.

To a certain degree we should be afraid--always--but not necessarily of some virus that can end our lives. Our Lord tells us often that our "fears" should have the right priorities. See, for example, the familiar passage in the gospel of Matthew:
[D]o not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (10:28).
Of course, our Lord does not want us cowering in fear about the possibility of spending eternity in Hell, but He does want us to have some kind of fear about it (or He would not have told us to do so!). The godly fear that we are supposed to have about the almighty power of our eternal Judge should always be with us. Yet, we all know that it fades at times. When that happens we need a good reminder to help get our minds back on track.

So then, what are the things in your life that cause you to worry? If you are truly worried about dying from the latest virus, I have to ask, "why?" What is it about leaving this world that causes you fear? Is it because you are unable to let go of things in this world (which is sinful, by the way)? Is it because you are genuinely frightened that you may not do so well when you stand before the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 3:13-15)? If neither of those are a concern for you, then why are you afraid? If you are properly detached from the things of this world, your faith is strong, and you are in a state of grace (and thus, been to confession recently) then you should be confident in Christ.

There is a wonderful passage in the book of Sirach that speaks of fear and the things that go along with it.
Much labor was created for every man, and a heavy yoke is upon the sons of Adam, from the day they come forth from their mother’s womb till the day they return to the mother of all. Their perplexities and fear of heart—their anxious thought is the day of death, from the man who sits on a splendid throne to the one who is humbled in dust and ashes, from the man who wears purple and a crown to the one who is clothed in burlap; there is anger and envy and trouble and unrest, and fear of death, and fury and strife. And when one rests upon his bed, his sleep at night confuses his mind. He gets little or no rest, and afterward in his sleep, as though he were on watch, he is troubled by the visions of his mind like one who has escaped from the battle-front; at the moment of his rescue he wakes up, and wonders that his fear came to nothing. With all flesh, both man and beast, and upon sinners seven times more, are death and bloodshed and strife and sword, calamities, famine and affliction and plague (40:1-9).
Notice what the author is telling us. He wants us to realize that there are a lot of things that everyone can be fearful of (and no one is without fear). Notice, specifically, that his list includes, right at the end of my quotation, "plague". In the Scriptures, a "plague" is not always a judgment of God; but it can be. This means that whenever a massive sickness spreads around us, we should ask ourselves, "if this is a judgment of God, what does God want me to learn from it?" Can you do that right now? If not, it likely means that your heart is so fixated on the things of this world that you cannot see the things of the next world -- and that is a dangerous state to be in (more dangerous than having an incurable virus!).

Right now, there are a few things that actually do have me a bit worried (not fearful, just a serious concern). I am more "worried" about a potential lock-down in the area I live in and the restrictions that go with it than I am about the virus itself. I am also worried, just a bit, about the panic that people are in; this can hurt more people than the disease can. We should be concerned about these things, because when they happen, sometimes people get a bit nutty. They start scrambling in desperation because they believe that physical death is the worst thing that can happen to them (and it is not). Those fears, however, are small.

When we encounter things like this virus, it is the time when we should be thinking more about our spiritual state than our physical state. That does not mean that we are supposed to ignore our physical health. It does mean, however, that we need to keep our priorities straight (as I said above). Try, right now, to measure your concerns. What really takes a higher level of importance in your heart? Is it whether you catch the coronavirus or is it whether you die in a state of grace? I have no idea whether the coronavirus is going to become a global catastrophe like the bubonic plague, or the flu pandemic of the last century. Whether it does or not, whether you catch it or not, each of us needs to make sure that we are working on our spiritual well being.

Although I am not sure it would work, the suggestion from the Polish Bishops is the exact right perspective. They apparently said that in order to decrease the numbers of people in the Mass (smaller groups = less likelihood of spreading the virus) then Churches should have more Masses, not less! If a parish that fits everyone into one Mass on Sunday had 5 Masses on Sunday, then you would have 1/5 of the people in the Church at a time (and the greater spiritual impact of more Masses offered up!). Aside from the exhaustion potential for someone like me who already does 4 Masses every weekend (I know how tired I am after 4 Masses in 24 hours, I am not sure what I would feel like after 20 Masses!). The point is correct though. We need greater spiritual devotion right now, not less.

The passage I quoted above from Sirach does not end where my quotation does. It goes on to point out just what we all need to hear right now.
Riches and strength lift up the heart, but the fear of the Lord is better than both. There is no loss in the fear of the Lord, and with it there is no need to seek for help. The fear of the Lord is like a garden of blessing, and covers a man better than any glory (40:26-27).
We all can get sick, and every one of us will die eventually. This means that our fear of death is a reality, and it can even cripple us. When we are crippled by the fear of physical death, then we need to get help. The fear of the Lord, however, will never cripple us. It will, in fact, give us strength; strength to move on, and strength to stand fast in these troubling and confusing times.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Good Suffering

"Well, I have to say, that was the best case of the flu I have had in a long time!" Can you think of the last time that you heard someone say something like that? I myself actually said it (quietly) just yesterday morning. Yes, I caught the flu recently and it knocked me out of commission for a couple days. You may be asking why I would have said it was the "best case of the flu". To begin with, as Catholics, we already know that all suffering is for our good and can be offered up to our Lord for the good of others. Yet, there is much more to it than that.

There are often times when we suffer something and can only see our own pain. In these times we forget about the beauty of "offering it up" and the suffering comes and goes with no spiritual fruit coming from it (on days like that, you can almost hear an audible sigh come from your guardian angel). I can thank our gracious God: this was not one of those times. Right at the beginning when I started feeling the onset of the aches, chills, and sore throat, the Lord put some people on my heart that were deeply in need of prayer. By the grace of God I immediately offered up my pain and suffering to our Lord for the sake of those very people.

The consequences of this are definitely more than I will ever know, but there are a couple that I am aware of. Firstly, it made the rest of the time being sick more bearable. I saw it as something I was doing for someone else (not just having to put up with). In addition, it caused me to remember those people more frequently and I offered up extra prayers for them as well. My perspective changed entirely on what my experience was all about because of the way in which our Lord promised to "use" our suffering (as small as the flu may be) by combining it with His sufferings.

It all makes me think of the time I was trying to teach one of my sons to hit a baseball. I would throw the ball to him as directly as I could into the line of his swing. At first, he missed every single one, but I kept up and eventually he nailed it. I can picture our Lord in Heaven saying, "OK, I will send this trial at him; let's see if he can take advantage of it". Each time we miss those opportunities, God says "try again" and gives us another shot.

How many "baseballs" has God thrown to you and you swung and missed? We used to say (maybe they still do; I do not pay attention to sports, so I do not know) when someone hit the ball real well that he "got good wood on that". We each need to work on our "hitting average" (to keep the metaphor) and take better advantage of all our trials and difficulties. Have you suffered something recently and "missed taking advantage of it"? Ready yourself, right now, for the next suffering that God will toss to you. He always throws it right where we can hit it if we only try. May Jesus help you to use it rightly so that you can offer it up.