Several years ago I was speaking with a former student from our school. He had just finished his freshman year at a nearby Catholic High School and was excited to tell me all the wonderful experiences he was having attending a “Catholic” school--one with all the amenities money can buy: sports, science labs, theater, band class, computers, clubs, and new teachers. I was happy for this student, and I hoped silently that he was at least getting some good Catholic formation among all these other subjects. As I was saying goodbye and walking back to the office, he excitedly called after me to tell me that his religion teacher had told him what “really happened” at the parting of the Red Sea. I stopped and turned around, mentally bracing myself for the dreadful explanation which was about to spew out of his mouth.
He proceeded to explain, in textbook fashion, as if he were reciting verbatim what he read or heard: “You see, Father,” he began to teach me, “the Red Sea was parted because there was an underwater earthquake many miles out in the sea which caused the water to recess, exposing dry ground for the Israelites to walk across to the other side. Then, in his innocent excitement, he exclaimed: “And because of the earthquake, a nearby volcano erupted, too!” I was bewildered by the inconsequential detail regarding the volcano. But I think volcanoes are awesome, so I let it go. I listened carefully to this enlightened student who was especially happy to have finally told the “truth” about the parting of the Red Sea. To which I replied, “NO! That is a lie!” I said it loud enough to get his mother’s attention, who was proudly listening to her son articulate so well a lie (probably one of many) that he learned at this prestigious and expensive “Catholic” school. I asked who told him this lie. Perplexed and skeptical of my intervention, he defensively told me that it was his religion teacher who told him "what really happened" with the parting of the Red Sea. "Liar, liar! Pants on fire!"
Wouldn’t it be great if pants really did catch on fire when someone was telling you a lie? Think about all these indoctrinated teachers, paid-for-politicians, out-to-lunch clergymen, creepy cardinals and career-climbing bishops, shady businessmen and women, lawyers in the courtroom, lowlife lobbyists, abortion doctors and nurses…POOF! "Hey, Liar! Your pants are on fire!" Imagine how easy it would be to choose a Catholic school for your child or to know which textbooks were providing facts or fiction. Or what doctors and nurses really know about dismantling babies in the mother's womb. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch on television the lying politician instantly ignite from her derrière as she lies behind her pretty little smile? POOF! "Hey, liar! Your pants are on fire..again!" What about those college professors who hold multiple degrees from prestigious universities and who author books? We are supposed to believe them because they "have all the answers," right? POOF! "Hey, liar! Your pants are on fire!"
Well, for those of you who find my fiery rant on liars offensive, let’s replace these flames with the growing nose of the famous Pinocchio. After all, the jingle actually goes: “Liar, liar! Your pants are on fire, and your nose is growing like a telephone wire!” I would be somewhat satisfied to see these lying teachers, doctors, lawyers, cardinals, and politicians grow their noses with every lie they vomit out of their mouths. The only problem with this disfiguring effect of growing a lie-induced elongated-nose is that it may become the next trend or evolution in humanity's “progress” toward the ugly and the stupid. We will honor their deceit with public bathrooms specially labeled for “Pinocchios”. We would develop government programs to accept and promote the legalization of “Pinocchios”. Our news stations would be saturated with defending the marginalized “Pinocchios”. We would even offer college scholarships to help the growing number of “Pinocchios” living amongst us. Universities would offer advance degrees on “Pinocchiology”. Public high schools would offer “Pinocchio Day” to remember the rejected liars of old who were never really accepted into society because of their disfiguring lie-induced elongated noses. "Liar, liar! Your pants are on fire, and your nose is growing like a telephone wire!" Do you see why I prefer the dramatic fire associated with liars?
All kidding aside, when most of us think of fire, we automatically think of the physical effects of fire. Fire can burn us--and it hurts when we get burned. We might also think about the spiritual consequences of lying: the unquenchable fires of Hell. In fact, Our Lord seems to talk more about Hell in the New Testament than He talks about Heaven, and He even describes it more vividly. There is no denying that Jesus knew, believed, and warned His listeners against the absolute reality of Hell. See for yourself in these Scripture passages: Luke 16:23, Mark 9:43, Mark 9:48, Matthew 13:42, and Matthew 25:30. Jesus even compares Hell to a burning trash heap outside of the walls of Jerusalem called “Gehenna” (Matthew 10:28). Although Dante depicts Satan encased in a constricting block of ice in the lowest realms of Hell, Jesus refers to Hell as burning with fire like the maggot-filled and perpetually-burning trash heap called Gehenna. What does all this have to do with liars among us? Well, the devil is called the “Father of Lies,” and I think we can all agree that there wouldn’t be a Hell without the devil. We can thus conclude that those who lie, the “Pinocchios” of our time, will find a most uncomfortable and eternal reality in the place prepared for those fallen angels and men who reject JESUS, who is Truth, and ignorantly embrace Satan, the Father of Lies. John Milton poetically calls this place "Pandemonium," which literally means the “Place of all Demons” or, for brevity's sake, let’s just call it Hell.
I prefer the warning that is given with the expression, “Liar, Liar! Your pants are on fire!,” because it associates lying with its eternal consequences! Just as the “Father of Lies”, the devil, the ruler of this world, is cast out and thrown into the all-consuming fires of Gehenna, so too with his offspring. We have to reject lies; otherwise, we become part of the lies. Recall the words of our Eternal Father, God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth, when addressing Satan in Genesis 3:15: “There will be enmity between her offspring and yours. She will crush your head while you will strike at her heel.” My brothers and sisters, we need to safeguard Truth and reject liars--whether they are teachers, politicians, clergymen, cardinals, Big Business executives, lobbyists, lawyers, medical professionals, or news anchors--who are committed to perverting truth and destroying life--especially yours! The reality is, we cannot see the pants of liars burning or their noses growing. But as Jesus Himself says: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27). Don’t be led astray by false shepherds who lie and pervert. We are at enmity with the Father of Lies. Let us turn to Her who crushes the head of the serpent.
Let’s revisit the Catholic freshman who attended a local “Catholic” high school and who was being instructed by his religion teacher regarding what “really happened” when the Red Sea parted for the crossing of the Israelites. The problem with these lies, these rationalizing explanations to miracles that are recorded in the Bible, is that they allow anyone to logically explain away ALL the miracles in the Bible. Here are a few examples that I have heard: 1) The manna was not miraculous bread from heaven but ant poop; 2) Jesus didn’t walk on water; He walked on a sand bar; and 3) the miracle of Jesus' feeding the 5000 men was just an example of the people sharing what food they brought with them. HOGWASH! These lies might sound logical at first but they do not accurately interpret Sacred Scripture; these lies limit God’s power as described in Sacred Scripture; and these lies ultimately rob us of believing in the greatest miracle in Sacred Scripture: THE TRUE PRESENCE OF JESUS CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST! With “Catholic” high schools successfully dismantling our children’s faith in the miracles handed down to us in the Sacred Scriptures, it is no wonder why so many of our youth are disassociating themselves from the Catholic Church. I use to be shocked by stories like these; now I am just numb to it all. With so many Catholic high schools and universities in this country, why do the polls continue to show that there is less attendance at Holy Mass?
At Saint Therese Carmelite School we are committed to sowing the seeds of God who is Truth, God who is Beauty, God who is One, and God who is Good. These seeds will take root in the earliest cultivating of our children’s hearts, souls, and minds. They are exposed to the best teachers, a Classical Curriculum that has proven to work for hundreds of years, and the Carmelite Family! Our children are taught from pre-K up to 8th Grade that the most important goal in their education is to "Become a Saint!" Let's put the CATHOLIC back into Catholic schools!
Please help us to continue the good work God is doing.
Become a Benefactor, become a friend, become a Saint!
Why is This Night Different?
Holy Thursday 2019
Why Is This Night Different?
What is Truth? This was the title of my homily on Palm Sunday and will remain the theme of my homilies throughout the Triduum. On Good Friday we will hear again, as we do every year on Good Friday, the conversation Pilate has with Jesus: “Then you are a king?" Jesus replied, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to my voice." Pilate said to Him, “What is Truth?” (John 18:37-38).
Tonight as we enter into the Solemn feast of our Lord’s Passover meal with His apostles, we are deeply connected and maybe even a little fearful of the scenes that follow this most unusual Passover meal. “Why is this night different from all other nights?,” is the first question asked at a traditional Passover meal. The other four concern 2) why Matzo is eaten, 3) why maror (bitter herbs) is eaten, 4) why the meat that is eaten is always roasted, and 5) why the food is dipped twice. I'm sure these other questions are significant in the liturgical process of the Ancient Jewish Passover celebrated by the Jews.
But my question is, “Why is THIS night different from all other Passovers?" After all, It is the most unusual Passover because it does not seem to finish, as is required by its liturgical norms set forth by Moses. Granted, we can see what those who sat with our Lord at this first Last Supper could not: the agony in the garden, the betrayal of Judas, the scourging, the crucifixion, the final scene of the Resurrection. We also know all those involved, their words, their temptations and fears, their heroic conversions, their tragic martyrdoms. We know those who followed after them and those who did not.
But imagine yourself at that Passover meal and not the Last Supper as we know it. The Apostles were longing for this great event all year, just as we may anticipate the excitement of Christmas. Even our Lord said to His disciples: “…With desire I have desired to eat this pasch [Passover] with you, before I suffer” (Luke 22:15, Douay-Rheims version). What does Our Lord mean by "desire" and why does He use that word twice in this statement?
I think we can all agree that to desire something means to wish or long for it, to expect something to happen. It is a word that expresses a yearning to obtain and to possess. The Latin word "desiderare" explains the word "desire" more literally and accurately. The original sense of desidare, in its Latin origin, literally means to "await what the stars will bring," from the phrase "de sidere" ("from the stars)," literally "from the heavens”.
I find this word extraordinary! We are challenged with this double use of the word “desire” to think that somehow our desire to be here tonight, our longing, our expectation, is connected to the same desire our Lord expresses in these words to His Apostles! Desidare--from the very stars in the sky--from Heaven itself! Again, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Because God desires to be with us so intensely that He, the creator of the stars, has guided us, just as He guided the wise men to follow the star, in order to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham: "And I will multiply thy seed like the stars of heaven... (Genesis 26:4).
Here we sit with Him who comes "from the stars" (de sidere) to be with us year after year, like He was, and perpetually IS, with the apostles on this most dramatic stage called “the Last Supper”. "Why is this night different from all the others?” Because He who created the heavens and the earth, He who has set everything in motion, and He who has crossed such impossible distances of time and space, is here with us de sidere (from the stars)!
This love that moves the sun and the stars is with us body and spirit--and with everything and everyone. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God” (Hopkins). If we can live out this reality, the rest will take care of itself. Our Lord shows us that this statement, "the rest will take care of itself,” is true. His betrayer did not stop God, His accusers did not stop God, Pilate and Herod did not stop God. Not even death could stop God from desiring to be with us tonight! Was this what Pilate could not hear when Jesus spoke to him: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice”. We sit with the Lord sharing this most amazing night, which is different from all the other nights, because He desires to be here with us.
Let us turn to Mary, the Guiding Star who listens to the Voice of Christ and who leads us safely home to our Loving Father after our prodigal journey ends and we are finally where our Lord desires us to be--at the Eternal Banquet in Heaven!
March 19, 2019 (Fourth Sunday of Lent)
On Ash Wednesday Jesus challenges us to do three things differently this season of Lent: FAST, PRAY, and GIVE ALMS; on the First Sunday of Lent we followed Jesus into the desert for 40 days where He was tempted by the devil with food (fasting), by tempting God (dumb prayers), and with the promise of ruling all the kingdoms of this world and all its wealth if only He would take a knee and worship Satan (giving alms). The Second Sunday of Lent we traveled with the Lord up Mount Tabor where He was transfigured in prayer and showed Himself in the Glory of the Resurrection. On the Third Sunday of Lent we met the Samaritan Woman at the well (Year A), and on the Fourth Sunday of Lent Jesus introduced us to the Blind Man at the pool of Siloam (Year A). * Note: Readings for RCIA are taken from Year A to complement the Scrutinies.
Several years ago I was able to view an exhibit of Impressionist Art at a museum in San Francisco. It was a wonderful experience! As I was admiring a painting too closely, the security guard said to me, “step back, sir.” As I began stepping back, I watched this amazing painting transpire before my eyes. Little dots and thousands of colorful lines began to come together and the painting started to come alive with recognizable shapes. The colors melted together and the artist’s intent was clearly seen. It was a wonderful experience.
"Step back" is exactly what we need to do in our spiritual life to see the big picture and what we have the potential to become. One might ask, “Like Jesus transfigured on Mount Tabor?” Exactly! Step back from the myopic work of the everyday grind to see if that is what is happening in your spiritual life. Otherwise, we may end up looking more like a “Drunken-Drip-Pollock” rather than a “Magnificent Monet”.
Today we are going to talk about spiritual blindness. I think if you re-read the Gospel a few times, scrutinize the words a little, and imagine it with prayerful meditation, then you will understand that this reading has a message for us with a two-fold purpose: the man born blind being healed because of his faith, and the non-healing of the Jewish leaders, who remained blind because of their lack of faith.
How do we approach this idea of spiritual sight? Are we being open to Divine Truth by reading the Scriptures and praying over them daily? Are we sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament speaking with our Lord who is Divine Truth, like the Samaritan woman in the Gospel reading whose Faith was restored during her brief conversation with Jesus? Are we going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly?
Today’s Gospel reading about the man born blind is not a parable. It really happened. A parable is a story that has a spiritual truth. Why does Jesus teach in parables? He says Himself: “Therefore, I speak to them in parables, because seeing, they do not see, and hearing, they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Then He goes on to quote Isaiah: “hearing you will hear, but shall not understand, and seeing you will see, but not perceive, for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” So whether Jesus is speaking to us in a parable or whether the Gospels are teaching us what Jesus actually did, do we believe?
But the Scriptures have a way of saying that God sometimes closes our eyes and hardens our hearts. Recall that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God in the book of Exodus. That sort of poetic language is a way of saying Pharaoh made bad choices that hardened his heart and made him blind to God’s Divine presence. So it is true with us today. We have the choice, whether to see the truth and have our blindness removed, whether to hear the truth and have our deafness removed. Think about some of the HOT TOPICS of our own time. Take, for example, the problems with marriage in our country and its devastating effects on our country: contraception, divorce, infidelity…what about abortion? We close our eyes and stop our ears all the time to save face, to be popular, to avoid rejection, to secure a job. One might say, “Can’t we all just be nice and get along?” NO! Today most of us can only understand abortion as some atrocious number like 54 million or 80 million or whatever the number is we may or may never know. Whatever! Babies being killed in their mothers' wombs are NOT NUMBERS! They are lives, real lives! These babies within their mothers' wombs have heart beats, tiny fingers and toes, little ears, tiny little noses, and sometimes the ultrasound will even show a baby sucking his or her thumb. Babies in the womb have souls! These are real babies and yet the business of abortion is BOOMING in this country! Just ask Hilary Clinton’s daughter; she is ecstatic about the economic benefits that abortion has had in this country and boasts publicly about it! Obviously, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, even rotten apples.
Regarding abortion, are our hearts hardened like Pharaoh's? Are we spiritually blind like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel? Are we deaf to these murderous politicians like Governor Cuomo or Senator Nancy Pelosi and so many more who are giddy with the advancement of abortion? The abortion industry has been so successful over the last 45 years that now these creepy politicians have no one left to vote for them. Who will vote for them? What will they do to get votes? Ponder these words the next time you stand at a voting box: “A nation that kills its own children has no future” (St. John Paul II).
There is a way that we can open our eyes to the horrific reality of abortion in this country. There is a new movie in the theaters right now called, UNPLANNED. The movie is based on a book written by a woman named Abby Johnson who worked for Planned Parenthood for ten years. She herself had two abortions. In her book she does not shy away from talking about her own blindness to abortion. She herself admits to assisting in the killing of over 20 thousand babies. Abby Johnson has since converted to the TRUTH. Abby Johnson entered the Catholic Church in 2012 and is now the mother of eight children. She has committed her life to serving God and fighting for the most vulnerable citizens of this country: our unborn babies. Please go to the theaters today and watch this movie! It will open your eyes to the spiritual blindness we ALL have regarding the heinous, deplorable, and sinful business of abortion. Let Christ open your eyes to the Truth about Planned Parenthood and then commit yourself to helping us stop the evil that has been infecting our country for the last 45 years.
LIFE begins at conception. So those who use pills called Option B, Plan B, or the Morning After Pill are committing abortions--not preventing pregnancies. Those numbers of babies who have been killed through the means of pills and other pharmaceutical methods are in the hundreds of thousands! What about the test tube babies that are conceived in laboratories and then thrown in the garbage when their purpose is fulfilled? Babies? YES! Open your eyes! Do you think you will be sitting innocently shrugging at the last judgment? Will your, “I didn’t know…” line get you a free pass to eternal bliss? Nope. We are all responsible for abortion in this country. Everyone of us will be judged on our silence, our apathy, our relativistic shrug, the turning away, the lost argument, the time we would rather spend watching Netflix than praying in front of Planned Parenthood. Do you think we might even be judged on the ghoulish politicians we elected and who have been enacting laws to advance abortion? I kind of think so.
Hardened hearts are made by our will to ignore the truth. Spiritual blindness is caused by OUR WILL to close our eyes to Truth. In just a couple of weeks we will hear the words of Pontius Pilate sound throughout this church: “What is Truth?” Well, what is truth? The mother's right to kill her own baby? What about the doctors and nurses who get paid to kill babies rather than save lives? What about Pilate and all the blind politicians who followed after him? Pilate never got blood splattered on him when he sentenced Jesus to be scourged. Pilate did not hammer the nails into the hands and feet of Jesus at His crucifixion, Pilate did not pierce our Lord’s side or crown Him with thorns. Yet, it is Pilate whose name and memory is immortalized for the killing of Jesus.
Ignorance is an incredible cause of spiritual blindness. Isn’t it true that in our hearts and in our minds we sometimes approach God in prayer with preconceived notions, putting our trust in popular trends like abortion, gay marriage, and transgenderism? Remember my experience with impressionism at the San Francisco museum? Well, we need to step back to get a more accurate look at what we are doing and where we are going. Let’s all just step back and take another look. Together, let’s ask a few basic questions about our relationship with God: “Do we read the Bible?" Maybe we should read it more. "Do we know what the teachings of the Church are regarding abortion and other hot topics of our time?" Maybe we should purchase the Catechism of the Catholic Church and learn them. "Do we really know Jesus?" Maybe we should pray more and--even better--pray without our preconceived notions and without our misplaced trust in erroneous trends like abortion.
Please go to the theater and see the Movie Unplanned! Open your eyes and see for yourselves the cruel and disgusting truth about the 80 million babies whose lives were taken in the most horrific holocaust the world has ever seen! Go and see for yourself what Planned Parenthood does not want our young, scared, and vulnerable mothers to know. The irrational irony of it all is that your 13-year-old daughter can have an abortion without your consent, but because Unplanned is rated “R”, she cannot watch this movie without an adult present.
Babies in the Mother’s womb are not numbers, they are not for profit,
they are alive by God’s will and by His design at the moment of conception!
Go see the Movie, UNPLANNED!
PRAY THESE PRAYERS DAILY:
Father, in the holy name of Jesus, deliver me from the evil
spirits that blind me and prevent me from seeing truth!
Father, in the holy name of Jesus, deliver me from
the evil spirits that harden my heart to know you!
Father, in the holy name of Jesus, deliver me from the evil
spirits that distract me from hearing your voice in prayer!