Everyone Can Become A Saint!

EVERYONE CAN BECOME A SAINT!

Given on Friday, September 20, 2019,

(Mass for Saint Therese Carmelite School)

 

Let’s review! At this year's first School Mass, I gave you a quote from Blessed Titus Brandsma. Do you remember how it goes? 

1. Titus Brandsma once said: “CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT WHEREIN EVERYONE AROUND YOU CAN BECOME A SAINT!” 

2. On the first day of School, I said in my homily that the adult human brain weighs only about three pounds and that the average adult heart weighs about eleven ounces.  A child's heart weighs less than that.  And yet, look at all the information we can pack inside the human brain, and imagine all the people whom we love who are stored up in your little hearts! WOW! That is a pretty cool thing to think about. 

3. At the September 5th Mass, we celebrated St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. At that Mass I gave you another quote by Pope Benedict XVI: “Those who change the world for the better are holy; they transform it permanently, instilling in it the energies that only love inspired by the Gospel can elicit. The Saints are humanity’s great benefactors!” Another really encouraging quote on becoming a saint! 

4. Last week, Fr. Matthias told us the story about the Father who wouldn’t stop digging for his son. Fr. Matthias was reminding us that God will never stop digging for us because God loves us sooooooooo much, like a desperate Father in search for his lost child. 

But how many of us really want to become saints as a lifelong profession? I remember one time many years ago before we reformed the School, I asked the 8th Grade students what they wanted to be when they grow up. I had many diverse answers: Doctors, teachers, professional basketball players, a few “I don’t know’s,” but one answer really stood out. One boy said, “I want to make 64 BILLION DOLLARS!” His eyes were big and bulging, he was filled with excitement. It even sparked a competitive argument among the other 8th Graders listening, “No, I want 100 Billion”; “I want a Ferrari”; “I’m going to live in a huge mansion on the beach!” All the while, I was silently calculating what 10% of that would be! Oh, man, what I would do with 10% of 64 Billion dollars!!!!! 

Today in the first reading, St. Paul gives some instruction to St. Timothy about the proper use of money. We can connect St. Paul’s teaching with the women who are mentioned in the Gospel. They were using their money to provide for Jesus and His ministry and, in doing so, contributed to the growth of the Church.  Like St. Paul, Mary Magdalene, and many other converted sinners who now love and serve Jesus, there are many ways we can serve Jesus. St. Paul gave up his life to serve him as a priest and bishop; Mary Magdalene was at the foot of the Cross and was the first to witness the Resurrection; and the 103 Korean Martyrs, whom we celebrate today, died for Christ! 

What does that look like in the classroom, on the playground, at the lunch benches? What does it feel like when you’re angry at someone, when your feelings get hurt, when you get into trouble, when you get sent to Mrs. Cornejo’s office? What exactly does it mean to “create an environment wherein everyone around you can become a saint?”  Well, for me and the other Carmelite Friars, we create an environment by wearing the Carmelite Habit, by reforming the school to a Classical Curriculum, by teaching faithfully and joyfully TRUTH and BEAUTY. We create an environment for future saints by living faithfully our Vows to GOD, by reverently offering the Holy Mass, by being obedient to our superiors. 

So again my question to you teachers and students is: “How do you create an environment wherein everyone around you can become a saint?” Think about it.  What is the goal, the purpose, the mission of St. Therese Carmelite School? TO BECOME A SAINT! To form Souls for Christ and to build GOD an Army of Saints! Saints change the world! Some of you will go on to become great and important people like Moms and Dads, priests, nuns, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, movie stars, athletes, comedians, waiters, chefs, investors, writers, parish secretaries, and MORE!

But everyone here, no matter what your dreams may be, was created by GOD to become a Saint!


The Miracle of the Holy Eucharist

"The Miracle of the Holy Eucharist"

Delivered on the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 23, 2019)

Let's review today’s first reading from Genesis and see the similarities between Melchizedek and Jesus. Melchizedek, the King of Salem (Peace), was known as the “King of Righteousness” or the "King of Peace." Jesus, the King of Jerusalem, brought the "Shekinah Glory" (the personal presence of God) to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as prophesied by Ezekiel, and was hailed as "King of the Jews". Melchizedek means "My King is Righteousness"; Salem means "Peace". 

Melchizedek, a mysterious Priest/King--the first priest ever mentioned in all of sacred Scripture--offered bread and wine to celebrate Abram's victorious battle over Kedorlaomer. Jesus, possessed of a Mysterious Priesthood--the first sinless and eternal High Priest (though He was not a temple priest like Zechariah and was not born into the levitical priesthood like His cousin John)--offered Bread and Wine (His own Body and Blood!) at the Last Supper in His victorious battle over sin and death. 

From where did the practice of using bread and wine for a sacrifice come? Although we sometimes think of all sacrifices in the Old Testament as being animal sacrifices, there were actually many kinds of sacrifices in the time of Melchizedek. Some of them were bloody but some were unbloody, like the thanksgiving sacrifice known as the "Todah". Coincidentally, Todah simply means “thanksgiving,” in the Hebrew language; but is translated as “eucharist” in the Greek language.The essential elements of a “thanksgiving offering” were to sacrificially offer bread and wine. It’s a kind of meal that you would celebrate with God to express your communion with Him (specifically your covenant relationship) and to give thanks to Him for whatever blessings He has given you; in this case, the blessing of victory over the enemies of Abram. So, the King of Jerusalem comes out to offer an unbloody "thanksgiving sacrifice" of bread and wine, which, as stated above, is called the "Todah." 

There is even an old Rabbinic teaching which says: "In the coming Messianic age all sacrifices will cease, but the thanksgiving offering (Todah) will never cease.” What is it about this sacrifice that makes it stand alone in such a way that it would outlast all other sacrifices after the redemption of the Messiah? Maybe you are even asking yourself, "Why have I never heard of this before if it is so important in relationship to the Holy Eucharist?" 

First, let's reiterate what a Todah sacrifice is and why it would be offered by someone whose life had been delivered from great peril. There are many reasons why a family would offer a Todah sacrifice, such as a family member being cured of a disease like leprosy or being delivered from an evil spirit, or a family being reunited after a serious rupture between its members, or economic recovery after financial ruin. The redeemed person would show his gratitude to God by gathering his closest friends and family for a Todah sacrificial meal. The lamb would be sacrificed in the Temple and the bread for the meal would be consecrated the moment the lamb was sacrificed. The bread and meat, along with wine, would constitute the elements of the sacred Todah meal, which would be accompanied by prayers and songs of thanksgiving, such as Psalm 116. That sounds like the Last Supper, right?! Sacrificial lamb, bread, wine… Oh, my! While the elements may recall the Passover meal (which is what the Last Supper was), the Passover could only be offered once a year at the appropriate time. The Todah could be offered anytime. 

One would think that the liturgical readings on the Feast of Corpus Christi would be about the Last Supper. Surprisingly, the Church does not highlight the events at the Last Supper but instead goes back to the public ministry of Jesus when He fed the five thousand. Why? Because just as the bread and wine offered by the mysterious Melchizedek in today’s first reading foreshadows the Eucharist, so, too, the feeding of the five thousand points our attention to the Last Supper and to the Eucharist. Let's look at some of these Eucharistic elements. First, in the Gospel of St. Luke, we read of Jesus fasting for forty days and nights while being tempted by the devil. St. Luke emphasizes that this fast takes place in "a deserted place" or in the "wilderness." The Greek word used in this passage for "desert" or "wilderness" is "ere-mos". 

If you were a First-Century Jew and were reading this account about Jesus in the ere-mos (the desert or the wilderness), it would echo or call to mind for you the Jews wandering in the desert or the wilderness at the time of the exodus from Egypt. So the setting of the feeding of the five thousand in the wilderness is itself already your first clue that this miracle is pointing back to the exodus from Egypt; and it doesn’t take a biblical scholar to know that in the exodus from Egypt, one of the great miracles was the miraculous feeding of the Twelve Tribes of Israel through the gift of the manna from Heaven--the miraculous bread from Heaven. The miracle of the manna was, of course, a foreshadowing of the Eucharist! 

Jesus then says to the Twelve, “Make them all sit down in companies of fifty each”. How long would it take the twelve disciples to get five thousand people to sit down in companies of fifty each? (I can’t even get thirty kids in my Art class to sit down long enough for a simple instruction!) So why does Jesus make the Apostles do this thing that would have taken such time and effort? Well, it’s because He is arranging the people at the feeding of the five thousand according to the same kind of groupings that you’d find in the first exodus from Egypt. Listen to the words of Exodus 18:25-26: “Moses chose able men out of all Israel [that means from all Twelve Tribes]...and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And those men rendered decisions for the people at all times” (Exodus 18:25-26). 

So what Jesus is asking His Apostles to do parallels what Moses did in Exodus 18. It is a significant detail because Moses is choosing certain men to rule over the different tribes and judge them. Similarly, Jesus has chosen Twelve Apostles who will eventually preside as priests and govern as bishops in His Church. 

With that in mind, we now see how the miracle of the five thousand points back to the Old Testament. But it doesn’t just point backward, it also points forward to the Last Supper. If you notice in Luke’s account of the feeding of the five thousand, he emphasizes four actions of Jesus concerning the bread. First, Jesus makes everyone sit down. Then, “...taking the five loaves and two fish, He blessed them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples” and then they give them to the people. So in the Greek, those four verbs (Jesus takes the bread, He blesses the bread, He breaks the bread, and He gives the bread) are the same four Greek words that reoccur at the Last Supper when Jesus is seated with the Twelve Apostles. He takes, blesses, breaks, and gives the bread to them and says, “This is my Body, given for you,” and then says, “This is the Cup of the New Covenant in my Blood, which will be poured out for you”. So the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves (the feeding of the five thousand) is also a Eucharistic miracle. Be careful! There are liars out there--WOLVES!--who want you to believe that this is NOT a miracle but just a nice story about 5000 people sharing their bread with each other. HOGWASH! 

It is vital that we, as Catholics, develop a relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus can take on many forms and thus disguise Himself as He did a number of times after His resurrection; for example, with Mary Magdalene by His tomb, with the two men on the road to Emmaus, with His disciples when, from their boat, they saw Him on the shore with the fish and the bread. So if our Lord decides to disguise His real presence in the form of Bread and Wine, then so be it and let it be so! 

As a priest, it is most important for me to encourage people to commit themselves to regularly spending a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament; it is also important to teach you how to make that holy hour. We can easily forget that this time with the Lord is more about His desire to be with us than our desire to be with Him. He is the One who longs for our company more than we long for Him: “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Mark 14:37). So how we can make a holy hour better spent? I would like to suggest dividing your Holy Hour into three blocks of twenty minutes. 

The first twenty minutes before the Lord Really Present in the Eucharist is a sacred time of intimacy between us and Him. It is a time to just be present to our God. It is also what Carmelites call reflective prayer: We are looking at HIM who is looking at us looking at Him… In the words of St. John Vianney, it is a time when “I look at Him and He looks at me.” It is a time when we lean on Jesus’ breast, like John did at the Last Supper, and allow His heart to speak to ours. It reminds me of the famous motto of Blessed John Henry Newman: "Cor ad Cor Loquitur" ("Heart speaks to Heart"). Reflective prayer in adoration will help us to grow in our “interior knowledge of the Lord” as we contemplate His words, His life, and His real presence before us. 

The second twenty minutes can be a time when we intercede for all the people we know and are part of our lives. At this stage of our prayer, we bring to the Lord all who have asked us to pray for them, including our families and friends, both living and dead. Often during this time in the holy hour, some person will arise in our minds who we feel the Lord is calling us to pray for, reach out to, contact, or visit. It is also a time to bring to Jesus our next appointment, our need to reconcile a festering argument, or maybe just a conversation we need to have with someone to clear the air. In this time of prayer, it is important to remember that Jesus is present everywhere and is not bound by time or space. He is with you and He is with me and He is also with whomever you are praying for. 

The last twenty minutes can be a time when we pray for the entire human family and the whole universe. Almost every time I leave the Sacristy to celebrate Mass, I say to the servers, “We serve the Mass…", to which they respond, “TO SAVE THE WORLD!” Do we really believe that the Eucharist gives us the power to save the world? YES! So we pray for persecuted Christians around the world, for the victims of famine, for an end to conflicts and wars, for wisdom for government leaders and, yes, even for Nancy Pelosi! She is so gross, but that’s why we pray for her. Gross people need prayers, too. 

So we have covered a lot of material today. The most important thing that I want you to remember from this homily is that we need to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! We need to adore Him, we need to worship Him, and we need to desire Him with the same intensity and urgency that He desires us. The only way to respond to the urgency of God’s love for us is to urgently love Him in return, even if it be imperfect! 

The Eucharist will save the Universe!


Why Is It So Hard to Say, "I'm Sorry"?

March 2019

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO SAY, "I'M SORRY"?

What is one of the hardest words in our vocabulary to say to another person? From my own experience, one that I find hard to utter is “SORRY”. I'm sure you've heard the 19th century children’s rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? That's a big fat lie, isn’t it? Words CAN hurt us--but words can heal us, too. You may be surprised by the etymology of the word “sorry” and the synonyms associated with it: “distressed, grieved, full of sorrow, painful, sore, full of sores, sad, sick, ill, wretched, worthless, poor”. Notice the similarity of the word sorry to the word sorrow. It is not uncommon to feel a variety of these words when dealing with forgiveness--either on the receiving side or the administering side. One word associated with the word "sorry," which I was surprised to discover, is the word “sore”. 

The word "sore" helped me to reflect on all the times we pick at a sore until it bleeds or gets infected. Then we wonder why the sore will not heal. In the same way, we can pick at our hurt feelings and resentments, our grudges and past injuries or insults, until they bleed us to death emotionally. As we hold on to these hurt feelings, we find ourselves getting infected and even sick at heart. We can even infect others by talking too much about our sores to the point of gossiping about our hurt feelings and who caused them. The remedy is simple and yet may be the hardest thing we can do: Forgive! 

The Book of Sirach challenges us with these words: “The words that come out of us make known the hidden thoughts within us”. Our speech and our actions reveal the secrets of our hearts. Have you ever seen the credit card commercial with the slogan, “What's in your wallet?” I think the question it’s asking us is, “Which bank will you trust with your purchases?” Just as our wallets are filled with maxed-out credit cards, we walk around with an internal bank in which we are constantly making deposits and withdrawals: the heart. We sometimes store up in our hearts clutter like old resentments, festering hatred, disgusting images, scary movies, violent video games, pornographic music, misguided politics, judgments of others, gossiping, and so much more. To counteract these types of clutter we need to make deposits in our hearts that will produce good fruit. But how can we remove the refuse and the distractions that “max out” our lives and exhaust us to the point of depression? According to our Lord, these dangerous deposits can only be removed by fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Then we can have hearts that are open and ready to receive forgiveness and deposit into our hearts the Word of God, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary pondered in her heart everything she experienced about Jesus. What do we ponder in our fickle hearts? 

Try depositing in your heart beautiful images of the life of Christ, so that when you pray, your thoughts will recall those images. Deposit good music that will push out all the noise and senseless chatter. Try staying away from social media for awhile and instead engage in wholesome conversations. Can you resist the temptation to carry your phone wherever you go? Stop your tweets and your compulsive texting! What you are saying is most likely not all that important anyway. Stop watching so much news! Why get so worked up about what these fools are saying? Can you really change their minds? Rather, pray for them! Pray the Rosary. Make holy hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Sit in silence. Start a journal of prayers and novenas. These are just a few suggestions from your Pastor who loves you and who wants you to really grow in holiness. 

Jesus insists that a person speaks “out of the abundance of the heart”. He, too, compares our speech, whether good or bad, to what grows on a tree: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit”. So, to all of you gossiping fools, STOP GOSSIPING!   Your rotten fruit is making everyone around you sick! Our Lord urges us to make wholesome speech a habit. Let us all think before we speak and do away with that terrible habit! Even Our Lord warns us about gossiping fools: “And I say unto you, that every idle word that men (and women) shall speak, they shall give account thereof on the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). Or to quote my cousin, Mary: “ZIP IT!” 

The Scriptures also compare the testing of our words to clay fired in a kiln. If properly prepared, a useful vessel emerges or a beautiful work of art is made; but if the clay is not fully dried, it will break apart in the extreme heat. When I was a student learning to be a perpetually-broke and out-of-work artist, I studied the art of making pottery. The instructor was most concerned about the preparation of the clay before it is was molded, formed, and baked. If pockets of air are left in the clay before it is put into the kiln, the air pockets will explode and break the form. So, how do you keep that from happening? A diligent student will patiently knead out the pockets of air; this kind of work is strenuous but necessary. The clay must be tested and examined carefully before being formed and placed into the kiln. Likewise, impatience is a reckless characteristic in the spiritual life. One of my favorite quotes is from St. Teresa of Avila: “Patience obtains all things." Just like the clay that is kneaded to produce a work of art, so we must go through the necessary discipline of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These are expected of all of us. Like kneading clay, our preparation is critical for the final product to emerge. While the frustrating air pockets can be likened to our everyday imperfections, the kiln can be likened to the everyday frustrations in life. For example: marriage, siblings, your boss, traffic, the playground, a death of a loved one, school, a sick child, cancer, overcoming an addiction . . . your pastor’s really long homilies! Life is the kiln and the struggle is real! 

Although I do not always trust the history of the so-called “History Channel," it does provide a useful image of reliving the past over and over and over. And like the History Channel, we may not be accurately remembering the past that we are brooding over and reliving in our thoughts over and over and over. Forgiveness is strength! Saying to someone, “I am sorry,” is a sign of maturity and strength. It is liberation from being enslaved to another person. Unless, of course, you prefer to be a slave to someone you do not like. That's right, you don’t have to like the person you forgive and you certainly don't have to become “besties” when it is all said and done. However, I am saying that the moment we start hating a person and brooding over their hurtful words and actions is the moment we become that person's slave. You are the one allowing that person to take over your thoughts, words, and actions. In effect, that person takes you away from following Christ, because we fail to forgive and love our enemies as our Lord demands of all His disciples. Just forgive or say "sorry" and move on with your life! Stop wasting your time and energy watching over and over and over the "history channel" of your own grudges and hurt feelings. If you are like most of us and are still having trouble with the concept of forgiveness, then ponder the wisdom of this humorous quote by Oscar Wilde, “Always forgive your enemies--nothing annoys them so much.” 

Someone once said to me, “Father, I don’t really like your homilies because they are not very practical.” I said, “Thank you.” I mean, really! How do you respond to a statement like that? Anyway, let me tell you about a helpful and very “practical” approach to forgiving someone who has hurt you, as well as a way for you to ask for forgiveness. Repeat this prayer of deliverance:

“Father, in the HOLY NAME of Jesus, deliver me from the evil spirit of unforgiveness. Father, in the HOLY NAME of Jesus, deliver me from the evil spirit of resentment. Father, in the HOLY NAME of Jesus, deliver me from the evil spirit of hatred. Father, in the HOLY NAME of Jesus, deliver me from the evil spirit of pride. Father, in the HOLY NAME of Jesus, deliver me from the evil spirit of blame. Father, in the HOLY NAME of Jesus, deliver me from the evil spirit of gossip. Father, in the HOLY NAME of Jesus, deliver me from the evil spirit of (insert an evil spirit that plagues you). Father, in the HOLY NAME of Jesus, give me the grace to forgive (name someone you need to forgive) as you have forgiven me.”


Liar, Liar! Pants on Fire!

June 2019

Liar, Liar!  Pants on Fire!

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!


Spiritual Blindness

March 19, 2019 (Fourth Sunday of Lent)

Spiritual Blindness

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! 

Father, in the holy name of Jesus, deliver

 me from the evil spirit of abortion! 

 

“BE GONE SATAN!” (MATTHEW 4:10)


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