FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 12th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, June 21, 2020:
Emmet Fox was an Irish spiritual leader of the last century. In particular, his ministry spoke to the challenges experienced during the Great Depression a century ago. He wrote, “There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer; there is no woundedness that enough love will not heal; there is no door that enough love will not open; no gulf that enough love will not bridge; no wall that enough love will not throw down; no sin that enough love will not redeem. It makes no difference how deeply seated the trouble may be; how hopeless the outlook; how muddled the tangle; how great the mistake. A sufficient amount of love will dissolve it all. If only you could love enough, you would be the happiest being in the world.”
More than a century later, we are all living in an unprecedented time of challenge. For months, we have lived under the cloud of the coronavirus pandemic, and there is currently no end in sight. More recently, we see racism and hatred once again rear its ugly face across our nation, inspiring righteous calls for justice from coast to coast. Heading into a presidential election, the partisanship and tribalism that tears at the unity of our nation is on the increase. In the midst of this whirlwind of negativity that surrounds us, it is not always easy to proclaim our faith boldly in word and deed; it isn’t always easy to be the ones that love the world into healing and holiness; it isn’t always easy to see our way through.
As always, God has a word for us today – one that is meant to speak to our hearts, speak to our lives, speak even to these challenges that we face. We heard Jesus in our Gospel say today, “Fear no one.” In the midst of all of our trials – personal and global - today Jesus gives us these calming, affirming words, “Fear no one.”
When we look at our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we know that he had an incredibly difficult task – God called upon him to proclaim impending doom to a people who would not listen. Jeremiah’s fidelity to God’s call was rewarded with gossip, back-biting and suspicion. This man, trying to fulfill the vocation God had laid out before him, found himself the subject of hatred and plots. We hear his anguished words, “I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Let us denounce him!’ All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.” It may have seemed to Jeremiah as though God had abandoned him.
But, the prophet never turned his gaze away from God. Even though God felt far off, Jeremiah was certain that God would remain on his side. At the moment when he felt the most alone, most abandoned, Jeremiah’s faith was the strongest. Jeremiah came to realize that when all else is gone, all of the false things that we rely on, the one true reality is God and God alone.
I think today, in the midst our situation, we can identify with Jeremiah. As our world seems to be so wrapped in pain and suffering, so consumed with fear and doubt, so troubled by hatred and anguish, we may wonder where God is. We may wonder how we will get through this. We may wonder what we are called to do. The world is not the way God intended it to be. Try as we might, we can give in to anger when love is called for, frustrated by our times. But, Jesus reminds us, “Fear no one.” When we give in to fear, there is no room for God. When we give in to fear, there is no room for compassion and forgiveness. When we give in to fear, there is no room for love and healing. Fear only gives birth to more fear, to more anxiety, to more hatred and suspicion. “Fear no one.”
We are called, like Jeremiah, remain faithful to God. We are called to participate in the process of re-creating the world day-by-day through the overflowing gift of God’s love within us – a gift that comes to us from God in an infinite and never-ending supply. The simplest act of love can become the most profound act of healing. Where can we love more in our lives and in our world? Where can we make a difference? Where can we be different than the negative noise that surrounds us all the time. Our acts of loving kindness can cut through that noise and bring forth something new, something holy.
We can never lose sight of the fact that God’s grace abounds, that God’s love is more abundant than evil. We know this in Jesus. In Jesus, grace and love overflows. It is this grace and love that allows us to make the right choices, and gives us the strength to proclaim our faith boldly; to proclaim God’s love with compassion to a world that just seems to be shouting louder and louder.
Remember, despite whatever negativity we see all around us today – everything from plagues, to hatred and division – always remember this: our God has an extraordinary love for us – for each of us, individually. "Not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father's consent." Allow your heart to be filled with that love. “Fear no one.” Jesus takes away our fear by reminding us of God's extraordinary care – a love so powerful, that even every hair of your head is counted.
The choice to love always is the only one that really matters. Speak in the light; proclaim the truth from the housetops! This is what we do when we witness to God’s great love. My friends, “Fear no one.” That is the message today. As simple as that; as powerful as that. Look to Jeremiah; look to Jesus and stand up for the faith that we share with the overwhelming love of God. We must be the signs of radical, never ending love in a world that needs us desperately.
“There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer…If only you could love enough you would be the happiest being in the world.”
May the Lord give you peace!
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (CORPUS CHRISTI), June 14, 2020:
St. “Padre” Pio famously said, “The earth could exist more easily without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” Three months ago during Lent, as we prepared to enter into quarantine and public celebrations of the Holy Mass were suspended, I made the comment that we were about to enter into the most serious Lent of our lifetimes. Rather than fasting from candy, or too much television, or video games, or soft drinks, we were called to fast from the Holy Mass, fast from receiving the Eucharist, fast from gathering in our communities or in our prayer groups, or faith formation. This was perhaps the hardest fast of our lives. But, my hope, especially today as we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, The Body and Blood of Christ, is that it was the most fruitful fast we have ever experienced. If we have been attentive to the hunger in our hearts, these months have made us profoundly hungry for God.
This feast of Corpus Christi, renewed in its importance today because of our long fast, came to us from the 13th century. First, from an Augustinian nun, Sr. Juliana of Liège who had a vision in which a glistening full moon appeared to her. The moon was perfect except for a dark spot which a voice told her represented the absence of a feast dedicated to the Eucharist. Juliana had tremendous devotion to the Eucharist and so she worked tirelessly for the Church to establish a feast.
And then there was another experience in the Italian town of Orvieto in 1263. A priest there was struggling in his own faith and belief in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He agonized over this, but in the midst of his struggle, one day while praying the Holy Mass at the nearby tomb of St. Christina, the host began to bleed as soon as he began to speak the words of consecration. The blood fell upon his hands and onto the corporal on the altar. He was awestruck at what had occurred. He immediately went to the Holy Father, Pope Urban and explained what had occurred. The Pope ordered that the corporal be brought to the cathedral in Orvieto with great pomp and ceremony. And one year later this great feast was instituted for the universal church. You can still go to the cathedral in Orvieto and see that blood-stained corporal today.
Just before we entered quarantine, I was called to the hospital for someone who was near death. The person had been away from the Church, away from the Mass, away from the Eucharist for more than 50 years. They wanted nothing more than to be reconciled. We celebrated the sacraments of Anointing of the Sick, and Reconciliation, then I said, “Would you like to receive Holy Communion?” Their eyes widened, “Is that possible?” “Absolutely,” I said. “Your sins have been forgiven and God wants to be close to you.” We prayed again and I gave communion to someone with tears running down their face. As I left, all I could hear repeating over and over was, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”
I was thinking of the tears of that person because I saw them again two weekends ago as we resumed our public celebrations of the Mass and person after person came forward to receive Jesus for the first time in months with tears in their eyes. “The earth could exist more easily without the sun, than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” Our time in quarantine has renewed in us powerfully that hunger for our Eucharistic Lord. And, I hope it gives us a new appreciation for this precious gift that is never farther away from us than the next Mass. Have you thought about the fact that for months, the number of people receiving Jesus in the Eucharist slowed to a trickle? From the millions who usually receive to probably just thousands throughout the whole world. Let us never take the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for granted again. Let us never allow that hunger to grow too great in us again. We know that before the coronavirus, that hunger was growing, not because of a pandemic, but because of our own distance, our own apathy, our own turning away from the Lord and His Church. These months have taught us once again how much we need Jesus, how much we need the Sacraments, how much we need the Church.
In John’s Gospel today, Jesus says, “If you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” What soil does for a plant, what milk does for a baby, Holy Communion does for our soul. By receiving regularly and with fervor, we thrive spiritually on the Body and Blood of Christ.
In Holy Communion, Jesus makes us one with Himself. Again Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in them.” It isn’t a question of living with another person, but of living in one another, sharing the same life. In Holy Communion we share the life of Jesus. This union began in our Baptism, was strengthened in Confirmation, but reaches its peak in Holy Communion. We return to that peak of intimacy and union every time we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood.
In Holy Communion, Jesus makes us one with each other. This sacrament is not only an intimacy between ourselves and Jesus. It is also a love affair that embraces the whole community. As St. Paul said, “As there is one bread, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one bread.” This is a social sacrament, a circle that includes Christ, yourself and all of your brothers and sisters – the one on your left and right, the one in front and behind – and includes the brother and sister on the margins of society, homeless on the streets, detained as a refugee, or marching in the streets of our cities for equality.
And so we pray today that through the gift of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, that we may all be nourished, that we may be united with our Lord, united with one another and assured of our eternal home in Heaven.
“The earth could exist more easily without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” May we never have to experience this hunger again. And may we leave this place repeating in the depths of our hearts, “Thank you Jesus. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Jesus.”
May the Lord give you peace.
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, June 7, 2020:
“God in three persons, Blessed Trinity!” We know those words from the great Trinitarian hymn Holy, Holy, Holy and they name the mystery of today’s feast. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – this great reality of faith that both draws us into the wonder of God’s nature and confuses us a bit when we try and understand or explain it with the mind. I was never very good at math, but it’s only in the Church that with the Trinity 1 + 1 + 1 still equals 1. Three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet still one God.
Our trouble with the Trinity comes when we try to dissect exactly what it means; when we try and come up with precise explanations of how something can be both three and one at the same time. And yet, we still try, don’t we? Most famously, St. Patrick gave the explanation of the Trinity using the image of the shamrock – three leafs, but still just one shamrock. We can spend a long time with furrowed brows trying to wrap our minds around this. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the mystery of God in Himself.” Now this statement, I think, helps us begin to get some place helpful. The Trinity is the mystery of God in Himself. Or in more simpler terms, understanding the Trinity tells us something about the very nature of God.
Our Scriptures today give us some helpful insight. In our first reading from Exodus, Moses encounters God who is described as “merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” St. Paul gives us one of the Trinitarian prayers that begins each Mass when he says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” In just those two brief passages we encounter a God who is merciful, gracious, kind, faithful, loving and who desires fellowship with us.
St. John gives us the ultimate insight into who this God in Three Persons is. In one of the most famous passages of Scripture, St. John writes, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” You know, you won’t find the word “trinity” anywhere in the Bible, but the nature of God in Three Persons – Father, Son, and Spirit – is everywhere. Over and over, we are given examples of this God who so loved the world – who so loved you, and me, and every living being – that He gave His only Son so that we might live forever. Love is the nature of God. Love is the nature of the Trinity. And love is what our God in Three Persons invites each one of us to share.
Sacred Scripture reminds us that we are all made in the image and likeness of our God. So, the more we understand God the more we understand ourselves. And this message could not be more important than it is right now. As our world continues to try and lift itself from under the weight of the coronavirus, for example, we have seen countless and moving heroic acts of love in the words and actions of the many, many women and men on the front lines of this pandemic, caring for and comforting those effected by virus. God who so loved the world works in them and through them to share that same love to those suffering through this crisis. When we embrace that love that comes from the very nature of God, our God in Three Persons becomes God in Many Persons – God in you and me and in anyone who responds to the challenges of our world with love.
As people march in the streets of virtually every city and town coast to coast for the cause of equality; as women and men of every race, color, and creed stand up for the unjust treatment of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, and so many others named and unnamed who have innocently suffered at the hands of others for no reason other than the color of their skin; as people stand up and speak out for an end to racism and violence and prejudice; we need to remember the image and likeness that we are meant to reflect to the world. I have been so moved by the thousands of people across our country who, in their chants of “black lives matter,” and “I can’t breathe,” are giving witness to God’s love. They give witness to the reality that in God sight, in God’s love, there is no place for racism, no place for prejudice, no place for the hatred and violence that have too long been a part of our nation’s story.
Understanding the Trinity tells us that God is not only in Three Persons, but God is in many persons because He is in you and in me and everyone who is part of the beautiful world that He created. God is not a loner who exists in solitary individualism, distant and detached from us. God exists in a community of love and sharing – in His very nature He is a Father, loving a Son, loving the Holy Spirit with a love so great that it can’t be contained and spills out into the world – to you and to me. In God’s most inner reality, He is a relationship of love. And our world needs to be overwhelmed with that love today more than ever. Only God’s love can route out what ails us in our hearts, in our homes, and in our communities.
Racism, violence, and prejudice are a corruption of that divine image. We are called to reflect that community of love to everyone – especially those on the margins of our society; especially those the rest of the world doesn’t see; especially those who are treated as less than worthy of the same love. The believer who reflects God’s love doesn’t divert our attention from the violence we see; doesn’t make excuses for the systemic racism that is our heritage; but instead with every fiber of their being tries to love the world to health, equality, justice, healing, and holiness. God in Many Persons.
God so loved the world that we too might love the world in return. My friends, let us call upon our God in Three Persons and ask Him to once again be God in Many Persons – in you and in me and in everyone – this day and ask Him to overwhelm any hatred, or racism, or prejudice in our hearts with His love. The great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The Trinity is the mystery of God in Himself; and God in us. Let us be encompassed by that mystery of love and light so that we might reflect God’s love, healing, justice, and peace to the whole world.
May the Lord give you peace.
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