Extraordinary Form Homily September 30, 2012
18th Sunday after Pentecost
Jesus crossed the lake to his home town of Capernaum. Just as he is getting out of the boat, some men hurry up to the dock to lay down their paralyzed friend, right in front of Jesus. And Our Lord goes to the root of the problem: he cures the man’s sins. Only after healing his sins does he heal his paralysis.
We take two lessons from today’s Gospel.
A Bold Move
Our First Lesson: the paralyzed man’s friends make a bold move by plopping him down right in front Our Lord. They don’t give Jesus any choice but to face their friend, and they don’t give their friend any choice but to face Jesus. St. Thomas writes: “the paralytic symbolizes the sinner lying in his sin; just as the paralytic can’t move, so the sinner cannot help himself.” Those who bring the paralytic to Jesus lead the sinner to God. Most of the time we bring a friend to God by praying to God for his soul. Sometimes more direct action is indicated. A good friend will take a buddy to an AA meeting if circumstances warrant an intervention. A good friend will insist that his brother get to confession if he needs it.
And this brings us to our Second Lesson: the Sacrament of Penance. This sacrament releases paralyzed limbs and hearts. Imagine paralysis in the ancient world, before motorized wheelchairs, handicapped ramps, and automatic doors. A paralyzed man had to lay on his back for the rest of his life, staring blankly up at the sky. So this paralytic lies in front of Jesus, helpless. Does Jesus cure his paralysis? Yes, but only after he forgives his sins. Our Lord points out that mortal sin is worse than paralysis. Indeed, it is sin that paralyzes. It puts us flat on our backs. The first thing in any distress—physical, emotional, or spiritual—is to go to confession. Jesus heals the man’s paralysis with a word, not only indicating his divinity, but showing how external paralysis only manifests the root problem: the internal paralysis of mortal sin. The first thing in any sickness is to get to confession, because the soul is infinitely more important than anything else. If our souls are all right, the rest of us will be perfectly all right. Even it pleases God to permit a persistent bodily infirmity, we will be all right.
A Pure Heart, a Strong Spirit
St. Maximilian Kolbe was sick from the age of 17. Tuberculosis struck him while in the seminary and left him with only 25% lung capacity the rest of his life. But see how this infirm man founded and oversaw the largest friary in the world, Neopokolanow near Warsaw, with 700 men. At the time of his arrest in 1941, he managed the largest printing business in Poland. He survived three months in Auschwitz while giving his food to others, and in the end freely offered his life for another man in the starvation bunker. Where did he get his extraordinary strength? Not from his weak body, which God never cured in his life. Fr. Kolbe’s remarkable strength came from a pure soul, a heart cleansed of sin.
If we are sick in spirit, and even sick in body, let us look first to our souls. If our nation is sick, let it look above all to its soul. Our Lord wishes to cleanse, heal, and strengthen us, but we must get on our knees before him. We must confess our personal sins, and repent of our national sins. Nothing else matters if the soul is diseased. Our souls must be our first concern.
Let us pray to the Blessed Mother, that she also bring our sick and suffering souls to her Divine Son, that we may share her purity, and the glory God has bestowed upon her, and all the saints.
Archbishop of Philidelphia,
From the Chaplain’s Laptop: Catholics elect persecution for the Catholic Church
September 28, 2012
Last week the Archbishop of Philadelphia stated unequivocally that it would be impossible for him to vote for Barak Obama. “I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion,” he told the National Catholic Reporter. The other day the Pew Research Center released a poll indicating that Mr. Obama leads Mr. Romney among Catholics by 54%-39%. Is the Archbishop out of touch, or are most of the nation’s Catholics out of touch?
Most of the nation’s Catholics are out of touch: out of touch with Catholicism. A Catholic who knows and embraces the teaching of his Church could never vote for a candidate who promises to provide more abortions, both here and abroad. A Catholic could never vote for a candidate who promises to further destroy marriage and family life by promoting homosexual practices. A Catholic could never vote for a candidate who has promised to force the Church to violate her own conscience.
You might be thinking that the Catholics who favor Mr. Obama are not “practicing” Catholics, and certainly among those who attend Mass “seldom or never” the margin jumps to 61% to 32% in favor of Mr. Obama. But even among Catholics who attend Mass every week, Mr. Obama leads Mr. Romney by nine points.
How is it possible that any Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday would vote for a candidate who has promised to persecute the Catholic Church? It is possible because of a fundamental ignorance of the faith among most Catholics (in the words of Pope Benedict, “a profound crisis of faith”). It is possible because bishops and priests have failed to make real converts of most Catholics. The Church in North America and Europe has failed to preach the Gospel with conviction and clarity. Thankfully, in recent years, a significant number of bishops and priests have begun to preach the Gospel, and many valiant laypeople are teaching Catholic truth through powerful means. Only time will tell if it is too little too late.
Tragically, we have largely failed in our stewardship of the Gospel. But God has not failed. The Word of God is not constrained (2 Tim 2:9) and no darkness can overcome it. Certainly, we will suffer for our sinful failure to speak God’s Truth, but the Lord will purify his Church through the very afflictions to be visited upon us. In the end, the Bride will return to her Lord and recover the joy of her youth. But we must pray to God, and to His holy Mother, to joyfully persevere in whatever persecutions may come to Holy Mother Church.
Sept 9, 2012, 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
A wise old priest told me as a seminarian once that the opposite of love is not hatred, but fear. It is through fear of the Jewish people, for example, that Pharaoh, or for that matter Hitler, tried to destroy them. Fear drives much of contemporary behavior as well. When I was a child they taught me to fear the Bomb—the Hydrogen Bomb, that is, and the Soviets who had plenty of them. Nuclear bombs themselves were developed out of fear. Today, among the many fears on everyone’s minds, “climate change” and terrorism. We fear each other—anyone on this bus might pull a gun on the rest of us; anyone on this plane might be a terrorist. Many people complained that over-the-top security at the Olympics and at political conventions cast a pall of restrictive apprehension over the normally enthusiastic crowds. How has fear so tightened its grip on contemporary society? I think it must be that as Christianity wanes in the West, a culture of fear and self-defensiveness replaces it. If there is no God, then there is no Father, and our trust in providence collapses. It’s every man for himself, since no one is looking after us all.
John Paul II began his pontificate with a clarion call to put aside fear. He stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s in October 1978 to speak these words to the world: “Do not be afraid to open the doors—even to fling them wide—to Christ!” Open them, not to just anyone, but to God. You can trust God, and in trusting God, you can begin to trust each other. John Paul truly echoed the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “be opened.” Jesus speaks this command in his native Aramaic--Ephphatha! How beautiful to hear the very word that Jesus’ divine lips uttered, in the language his mother taught him. Ephaphatha. And so he thus fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah, from our first reading: “Say to the those whose hearts are frightened: … fear not! Here is your God… He comes to save you… the tongue of the mute will sing.” The Messiah brings perfect love, which casts out fear, and opens minds and hearts.
Who was this man whom Jesus healed? He came from the Decapolis, a pagan region bordering Israel. He was probably not Jewish, and so his deafness is not only physical but spiritual as well. None of the people of that region had ever heard the loving words of God in Scripture.
And that describes many people today. They have never heard Jesus speak. Secularism—I mean our public educational system, our political system, our entertainment and news industries—do not let us hear the Word of God. Our young people have been taught from Kindergarten that God is a myth and religion is infantile superstition.
Come apart from the crowd: Silence
How does Jesus break through the man’s deafness? First, he takes him off by himself, away from the noise of the crowd, where he can speak to him alone. Only then are his ears opened, in the silence. The devil uses noise to keep us deaf to God’s word. He shouts God down. We must not let him do that. We must cultivate silence in our lives. Make space for silence in your life, or you will never hear God’s voice. “In the silence of the heart God speaks,” Mother Teresa was fond of saying. How much time do we let the TV, the computer, the cellphone, blare out at us, shouting down God’s voice? If you have children, guide them in the ways of silence. Silence the TV, the computer, the cellphone, so that they can begin to hear the voice of God. Hearing God’s reassuring voice, you will lose your fears. Only the Word of God can heal the many fears of mankind.
We turn to the Woman wrapped in Silence, Our Lady. We can and must learn from her how to be silent. When Joseph found out she was with child, she did not say a word. She let the Angel tell him what happened. She watched her Son grow in silence, and when he spoke, she kept his words in her heart. Our Lady of Silence, pray for us!
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time; Sept 2, 2012, Fr. Joseph IlloA Pure Heart
In 1948, Mother Teresa
picked up a man dying in a gutter, covered with worms. She did not want to do it; the very shape and smell of this man repulsed her. But once she overcame her initial repulsion, she recognized Jesus Christ in the man she was holding. He was the first of 47,000 people she and her sisters picked from gutters over the next 40 years. One of them, looking up into Mother’s face, asked “why are you doing this?” She replied, “Because I love you.”
It was not easy for Mother Teresa to practice this degree of charity. Daily, as she went into the streets, she climbed Golgotha to lift the dying body of Jesus from the Cross. To climb that hill, and to recognize the Body of Christ, she needed a pure heart
. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God,” Jesus says in the 6th Beatitude. The impure can’t even see
God, let alone feel his love.Hand Washing and Heart Washing
In the Gospel today, the question is one of purity. Christ’s disciples scandalize the Pharisees by launching into a meal without washing their hands. As St. Mark explains for his non-Jewish readers (that’s you and I), by the time of Jesus all Jews had adopted the ritual initially practiced only by priests: that of washing one’s hands before receiving God’s gifts. Catholic priests maintain this tradition—before Mass many priests wash their hands before clothing themselves with the sacred vestments, and during the Mass servers pour water over the priest’s fingers just before he enters into the Sacrificial Liturgy.
We must all purify ourselves before offering the sacrifice. So we begin every Mass with an act of penance, and again we purify our hearts just before receiving communion: “Domine, non sum dignus….
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof….” We cannot receive his gifts efficaciously, we cannot receive the gift of himself, with impure hearts. But how do we purify our hearts
? Certainly not with mere soap and water.
Purity is always an issue. We may purify ourselves in the confessional, and Christ may purify us in the Holy Mass, but it isn’t long until we manage to defile ourselves again. We defile ourselves in slight ways in almost every conversation with peers. We defile ourselves by how we regard or disregard others. We defile ourselves slightly and sometimes grievously on the internet. We defile ourselves with food and drink, and in how we behave off campus. It is almost impossible to make our way through this world without getting dirty. Thus the need for constant purification.Charity purifies
The Pharisees insisted on hand washing, but how best to purify our hearts
? St. Paul writes in our second reading: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Charity covers a multitude of sins, as St. Peter writes (1 Pet 4:8). Of course, we need to keep clear of worldly stain—the basic defilements, such as drugs, pornography, intemperance in food and drink, dirty speech, etc. But purity consists in seeking good, not just avoiding evil. Charity is the greatest good, and a pure faith cares for “widows and orphans.” Today that means befriending the friendless, helping someone with homework, listening patiently, from the heart, to people, calling Mom and Dad at least once a week, and putting up with annoying folks with a smile. Love is patient; love is kind.The Immaculate One
Mother Teresa became a saint by the heroic exercise of charity. She founded a congregation known as the Missionaries of Charity
. A few years after she picked up that first dying destitute from the gutter, she established her first Home for the Dying in a section of Calcutta called Kalighat. She named this home Nirmal Hriday, Bengali for the “Home of the Pure Heart.” The first day I went to that place, I felt weak and naseus. But the brothers took me first to a little statue of the Our Lady that Mother Teresa had set into a wall niche. And so everyone begins the day’s work at Kalighat with a prayer to the Immaculate Heart, asking for the purity necessary to attend to the dying Christ at Calvary.
Among all the wondrous virtues of Our Lady, her purity sets her apart preeminently. Don’t we long to share in that purity? Don’t we forget that such purity, such joy, is even within our grasp? Mother Teresa ended every prayer with this invocation: “Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cause of our Joy, pray for us.” We too can imitate Our Lady’s purity, and so share in her joy, by practicing the charity of her Son. Go to her, go to Him, to share in their purity.