More thoughts on The Priestly People…

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Priest, Prophet and King: Fulfillment in Jesus Christ Reflections

I had this below Bible passage sung at my First Mass, because I could relate to it as a new servant of Christ Jesus, “The Anointed One.” I was excited to be put into service by Holy Orders to more of Christ’ mission. I also had understood its application to the priesthood of the believer (the baptized) too, long before seminary time. It’s a great passage. It’s a great realization: He has anointed me.

Jesus proclaimed into fulfillment God’s coming as Priest, Prophet and King as One.

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God;” – Isaiah 61:1-2a

In our theme for Advent 2014 at our parish, we are recalling how such passages of the Isaiah prophecies did come into reality and fulfillment in the Savior Jesus Christ, and how He has elected a body of believers to live out a three-fold mission as His faithful. We are asked to bring good news, to bind up broken hearts, proclaim freedom and release from sin’s slavery into the graced life of God’s own people. We are asked to be priest, prophet and king via Him.

As Luke’s gospel tells, Jesus read this particular Isaiah 61 Scripture aloud in His home synagogue, at the beginning of His ministry, and He declared to them: (that) “Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

And The Fulfiller has passed down to us a ministry with Him in being priest, prophet and king and called us into acting in such a way as His followers. The Church of the Third Millennium, living in 2014-2015 needs to continually fulfill her calling as the Body of Christ on Earth. Jesus wants to live His Priesthood, His Fulfilling Role as Prophet, and His Inaugurator (and Finisher) Servant of God’s Kingdom come among us, and to be brought to Heaven. He wants to do so through us, His chosen.IMG_20141129_190907_570

We have a ministerial priesthood and a priesthood of believers which needs to carry out what was prayed over each of us at our baptism: We have been commissioned. How so? After we were baptized, we were anointed with the Holy Chrism. (This is the same oil that is later used for the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders.) As we were anointed with this oil, the priest (or bishop or deacon) said a prayer like the following: :

[Clergyman]: “The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation, so that, united with His people, you may remain for ever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King.”

Yes. We are anointed priest, prophet and king, as following in the footsteps of Christ. Jesus, Who was a priest in offering Himself up as a sacrifice for us all. He was a prophet in declaring the Kingdom of God. He was a king in His service to everyone in healing and in setting an example for us all of a life lived in holiness.

Most of us will not literally receive Holy Orders into a ministerial service to God and to in-front-of-the public roles in The Church. Many of us will not be called to a forward public ministry as a prophetic voice or a street corner prophet, getting in society’s face. Very few of us will be in a royal or special position of favor in society to move society as we think it should go. But that doesn’t matter. All of us are called into a priesthood of believers, as the baptized into Christ Jesus, where we shall be priest, prophet and king in the Lord’s own anointing for us to live in The Kingdom.

We can all be priests, prophets and kings in our own called way. We can live in this office of the believer in our everyday lives.

If we happen to be called into the specific office as Catholic priest, or to a prophetic leader’s role in social justice works, or in spreading forth the Church in missionary efforts—then so be it. Let those specific vocations come!

But all have the vocation of baptism and to be a Christian and to let God do something unique and good and holy through our lives.

So, getting started in this Advent Week One: Ask: How can I be a priest? Well, first, believe in what 1st Peter 3:29 says: “You are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare His virtues, who had called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

We have a parish prayer group and a youth band that likes singing that “chosen generation” verse. Amen!

That Bible verse describes who you are: there is a ministry for each all the baptized to be what this verse so says. Some call it lay ministry, but it could just be called “the Christian believers calling.”

When the parish asks for help or for lay ministry assistance, this is part of that calling of being “priest” (or “prophet” or “king”). There is a huge demand for lay people to step up to the plate and assist the parish staff in carrying out the parish mission. The clergy are few and staff (personnel) are limited, so it is the duty of the parishioners to be the busy ones and responsible ones to get the community life going.

The home life of the parishioners is important place to start. For families and marriages, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#902) mentions that parents play a special role as ‘priests’ in passing on The Faith to their children. If one is single, then you might be the one that has the time for service or just to run some errands for the parish (like delivering food), or in teaching a catechism class, or in singing in the choir, or in going out to the community with an evangelism team. You can come and pray at Holy Hours or Masses for the good of the parish (prayer ministry is vital!).

Last year a Catholic author wrote on the subject. His name was Jean-Piere Torrell. His big book was called: “Priestly People, A Baptismal Priesthood and Priestly Ministry.” It is sold by Paulist Press. It is a good read.

So was a book the year before called “Forming Intentional Disciples” by Sherry Weddell.

1st Sunday of Advent Homily The Priesthood of Christ and into His Church

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It’s Advent Week One: Be Priestly-like!

Our theme for this season of the Church will be the three-fold identity of Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King, and how this identity of The Master brings us into the same tri-fold being. From our Baptism rite and the baptizer’s prayer declaration we are now members to Christ and His Church as priest, prophet and king. Today we shall look at the first of the three main identities of Christ: His Priesthood. We shall see that Jesus’ ministry was to inspire us into a new sharing into His priestly holiness, given that we learn to die to self so to find the treasure of holiness springing up in us.

The Priesthood of the Son of God and His Church.

THERE IS THE PRIEST, JESUS, AND THEN THERE ARE PRIESTS IN THE SACERDOTAL MINISTRY, AND THEN THERE ALL THE BAPTIZED IN THE PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS.

ALL ARE CALLED TO BE HOLY.

First: There is THE Priest– Jesus.
As Scripture and Tradition teach, Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the Eternal High Priest who offered himself on the Cross as the true Paschal Lamb and Unblemished Victim for our redemption. He came to the world to be Our Priest, Our Mediator. He is God to humanity. And, in Himself, humanity may come to God, all by reason of Jesus Christ’ holiness, via His priesthood.
Jesus did come as Priest of Heaven to us. As the many references say of Scripture, He is like Melchizedek of old. Priest of the City of Peace. A mystery figure, but clearly a real person that works amazing, holy things.

Our church has a representation of Christ the Priest in it. It is the inside cross over the main entrance, where Christ is seen as Sacrifice Victim and Priest on it. He wears priests vestments on it. As you turn to leave Mass out that door, the High Priest over all of us (there) reminds us that THE Presider Jesus blesses us forth in holiness to be send us forth as his visible sign to the world.

Jesus brought forth a new order and a new creation and new life possible for humanity. He did so all by means of His Paschal Mystery; thus, he introduced a new form of life which is sublime and divine and which radically transforms the human condition” (SC §19). He makes us priestly from His holiness. Recall what He said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom and God’s righteousnes, and all things will be added to you.” (Mt. 6:33)

In other Sacraments He comes to bring sacredness. The Holy Father Francis is reminding us lately of the worth of Holy Matrimony for this. He says that marriage was renewed and raised up by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, for a covenant experience of holiness. Or as the author of Hebrews says, and a Church document: “Christ, Mediator of a more excellent covenant” (Heb 8:6), has opened a new way in which humankind adheres fully and directly to the Lord, and is concerned only with him and with his affairs…. (SC §20), like in matters of marriage and family. It’s God’s business to make marital and family love as holy.

In regard to Christ’s own priesthood, one might ask: How can Jesus, the “Holy One of God” (cf. Jn 6:69), Who is the source of all holiness, consecrate and sanctify Himself?
Pope Benedict wrote answers to that question, and he explains that “when Jesus says at the Last Supper (as recorded in John’s Gospel), ‘I consecrate myself,’ He makes Himself both to be priest and victim.” moreover, you could translate the phrase, ‘I consecrate myself’ to ‘I sacrifice myself.’ Therefore, we can now see that our Lord’s words, ‘I consecrate myself for them,’ constitutes His priestly act (and it is a sacrificial and mediatorial role) that He works. In other words, Christ the Priest is busy in the work of our salvation. He is a Real High Priest at work. Priest and Victim.

Pope-emeritus Benedict comments on the Gospel of John teen chapters, and there he points out how Jesus’ ministry has a concluding act that is a priestly act, by which Jesus the Son of God gives Himself over to the Father for us. It is the expression of the fact that He is both priest and victim. It contains the whole mystery of our redemption. His priesthood is next shared to the Church. We are allowed access ministerially by a few and totally by baptism to move forward to being what the author of Hebrews calls “the royal, priestly people” living in Christ’ holiness.

The priesthood was a familiar role to the Jews. Aaron, the brother of Moses, was a priest that served the ministry of His brother—the Deliverer of Israel. Then, when the Jews recaptured the Holy Land after the Exodus, they started a tribe of Levi which was the priesthood tribe to serve the other 11 tribes, in holy needs for the faithful in the land. These Levites were to help Israel to be holy, as God was holy. That commission went back to the Book of Leviticus.

In light of this teaching, we see that Christ’s words in John’s gospel teen chapters of “Sanctify them in the truth,” does constitute His consecratory formula for passing a ministry priesthood onto His apostles. Jesus also can make of all His Body of believers as sharers into His priesthood. We Catholics know this by the meaning of the Lord’s words at The First Mass (Lord’s Supper) of “Do this in memory of me.” It is a mandate to continue to offer the un-bloody sacrifice—words which we may say constitute the second part of the ordination rite of the Apostles, which completed it.

Since I know something of the ordination rite for ministry, let me share a thing or two of what we were taught. There is a consecration that configures a man in a special way to Christ the priest. It is priestly ordination. The one receiving the Holy Orders is to be a sign of Christ the priest, but even more, he is changed onticallly for this role, that is, he is changed in being and purpose. He is to act in the Priest Person of Christ in some special roles, so that the BrideGroom can use him to love and save His bride. As Ephesians 5 says of the Groom and Priest: “He lays down His life for her, so to make her spotless and pure.” Some of that laying down priesthood He gives through His called servants in Holy Orders. Thus, when the ordained priest or bishop offers Mass, He unites to what Christ the Priest is continually offering, His own Body and Blood, as the Sacrifice Sign and Saving Way to His bride. The priest or bishop acts like a tool in His Hand for this work. Jesus instituted Holy Orders to be His handy tool to consecrate visibly and show forth His Presence.

Next, we have the priesthood of the believers, the faithful. At baptism there is the announcement of the newly-baptized, (after the pouring of waters and regeneration): as these words were said over all of us Catholics: “You are anointed as priest, prophet and king.” You see, here is a priesthood given to each believer in their receiving Christ to their souls. Christ the Priest starts working within them.

I go back to some of Pope Benedict’s teaching, and I quote him saying that “in baptism a person is consecrated to God, is set apart and sanctified for God.” Yes. Each person is called to a holiness and sharing with the Holy Priest Christ Jesus. For the new millennium, Benedict promoted “the priesthood of all believers” in his appeal to the Universal Call to Holiness given to the baptized,” as the pope stated, “we become as His living human instrument when we begin Christianity.” As He lives in us, we represent Him to the world. We are set apart for this: to show Christ—to be as our Sacrament. Does that sound like a priesthood of the regular believer. Indeed it is. You are a sign of the Priest Jesus. He is looking to channel holiness into the world in the witness of your life and mine. Just because we are His baptized.

Commenting further on the final Gospel words of Jesus the Son to His Heavenly Father, of “ “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth (Jn 17:17-19).” Benedict says that for the believer, God looks to take us away from the selfish person we could be, but to instead leads us to be His own property, a person set apart for good works (a phrase from St. Paul). So that, as Benedict concludes, “starting from our relationship and adoption in Christ, they can carry out their priestly ministry for the world.” Benedict says that, as the Early Church Fathers dubbed it: “We are to be an alter Christus, or true other Christ’s to be world. We are each a representative part of Christ in the world and Of He Who is coming to save her.

Even lay men or secular people do give “sacerdotal actions” with Christ acting in and through us: We begin in holiness at our spiritual birth to souls in baptism, as brought to the Cross and a baptism of cleansing in Christ to us. He makes us holy. Therefore, we do become holy, so that we can let the holiness of Christ touch this world today.

The action of participating in the Offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should be the supreme glory of the lay priest, or the priesthood of the faithful, and it is really what separates us into a new reality, into the dying and rising mystery of a New Covenant in Jesus. As a priesthood of believers, or as Hebrews puts it, a royal priestly people, set apart for good works in Christ Jesus. Let us love the Mass. Let us keep celebrating it as the Church until Christ appears Gloriously on the Last Day.

And that is a good message for Advent.

Fr. John Hardon, a great catechetical leader over in Virginia for the 1970’s into the 2000’s, says that celebration of the Sacred Mysteries of the Faith is what a priestly believer should delight in. If we can be sharing with our beloved Christ, and communicate His love and presence running through us, then we have gotten the Message of the Church. He says: “We need oceans of grace from a merciful God to bring people back to their senses”—to bring them back from idolatrous self-worship to the worship of God; from adherence to their own will to submission to God’s will; and it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that “provides a sinful world with the single most powerful source of grace that it needs to obtain the mercy of God.”
Will they respect their priesthood of the laity and will they value and love and promote the priesthood ministry that Jesus did set up for service to His ministry through us.

He says: People are in a kind of sacerdotal ministry. They have a calling and a ministry to be signs in the world. They don’t need a collar, but they offer a type of priesthood. But are people living this all out joyfully? Pope Francis has brought this question up with his Joy of the Gospel exhortation. We need zeal for God’s house, and the Holy Spirit wants to give it.

Last Thursday night to Sunday night I spent as the priest with a team giving a men’s retreat. There were about three dozen of us men. We had an intense weekend looking to open up ourselves to the next level where we are better living our our baptism Gift. I want to thank the parish for letting me be loaned out to this retreat and this group to revive faith in them. I think it worked. Hallelujuah.

Christ the King Sunday homily—-Serving the Divine Master

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Long Live the Christ the King!

Let me start with a popular prayer, as I think it fits into Christ the King Sunday.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; (or) to be understood, as to understand;
(or) to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, (and) it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

We are glad to end the Ordinary Sundays of the Church calendar with a feast to exalt Jesus as King over all creation.
St. Francis would love that too. Jesus Is Lord of Heaven and earth! In that famous prayer associated with the saint of Assisi, Francis refers to Our Lord as “Divine Master.”

He says that this Lord has a way of peace, and that He has a powerful hate-quenching love, and that He a life for us of pardon and trusting faith and true enlightment. It is all in His reign and kingdom. That’s why it is good to be His citizen, by faith on earth! Jesus is a King Supreme and wonderful and His kingdom is so good! Francis’ prayer continues in his exaltation of Jesus, saying that “the Divine Master” brings a joy that fulfills the heart and overcomes one’s poor doubts or their injuries suffered or their sadness or soul-darkening despair. Let’s heed St. Francis’ prayer message.

The keys to living under Christ the King are all throughout this prayer.

First, you ask for a change in yourself. You pray: Make me a channel/instrument of Your Peace.
This means that you admit that there is a need for more grace to flow through your life. Help me make that change, Lord. Give me what I need that I may serve You well, and be Your channel of Your peace.

Another thing, you address God with utmost respect. “O Divine Master” is high praise. What term would you use to indicate reverence to God? Lord of Lords? Eternal One and Source? Pure Love of all loves? The Almighty? Or King of Kings, in using today’s feast as a recommended high praise phrase to God?

A Third thing (and it’s just for starters with this prayer!), is that you would know and agree with God that it IS in dying (to self) that one is born to eternal life.

These three pointers are worth our highlighting, up front. Get on board with them and you are seeking to serve King Jesus.

The Prayer of St. Francis teaches us even so much more. It teaches us what a mature believer would be doing in their lives.

Take a lesson from its prayer words: We can become free enough to not first seek self centeredness, (and not let sin dominate our life), and if we heed this call, then we shall be led to freedom, the freedom of not needing all attention on us first, but to seek to give consolation out from ourselves.

Then, from there, Francis prays that won’t demand our terms of being heard and understood to be first, but rather we would seek to understand. Also, we won’t be demanding love, but rather would be concentrating on giving out love out to others and to God with all our soul. This requires that we let God fill us up with His love. It requires a bending of the will to God to make room for the King’s desires.

Living under King Jesus and in The Kingdom of God is having the Living Savior help us to receive His offer of the Spirit so to give us access to heavenly direction and the sanctified inner life. Thus, the ways in heaven can get through to earth for God’s followers to live out now.

This is a reign that we Catholics are looking for!

What have Catholics hoped that would not happen in Maryland? We would hope that no one asks us to bow to a worldly king or leader over our allegiance to God and Christ. We Catholics in Maryland know about the founding of this colony that became the state of Maryland. In 1634 and on, the first English Catholic immigrants did not want to be under the worldly king of England, especially because he did not want us to exist in his realm. Only the Church of England, his new church, was permitted there. So Lord Baltimore and the Calvert family came here to move and establish the Catholic Church for the English in the new colony of Maryland. Freedom of religion for Catholics was threatened back home, as the English kings forced out their country’s Catholics from the land. English Catholics established a Colony in Maryland in 1634 and following so that one practice Catholic religion here and so not have a king stop you so.

These founding Maryland Catholics sought Jesus as King. The 380 years afterward in Maryland has been the continued hope in many Catholics for Jesus to be King, or Lord, or Most Important–Most High. Just this past Summer we had a reminder that all growth in the Catholic Faith in America could have stopped in 1814. 200 years ago was when Baltimore’s defense against the British invasion held, thinking of Ft. McHenry’s stand, as the flag was still there after heavy bombardment and attack. I am so glad we won that defense. The British intended to take our free country away and back into their king’s hands and it’s a certainty that if they won the colony back, they would have repressed the Catholic Church here. The first diocese of America was just underway in Baltimore, under Upper Marlboro-born Bishop John Carroll, and the great Assumption Cathedral was just underway in its building up on Calvert Street. The bishop heard the bombs bursting in air down in the harbor and knew well he should pray for a miracle defense. The prayers were answers. It was a decisive turn in keeping the English from meddling in America and/or controlling us here.

And we never have had a king over us in 238 years in this Old Line State nor in the USA. We Catholics can claim King Jesus as Head of Maryland, and while on this feast day, why not the whole of creation, too?! He is Christ the King of the Universe.

We can serve our governors, senators, mayors and government,too– providing that they don’t force us by law to be immoral.
We love God first. That’s what Catholics are supposed to do. And to those who do so, Happy Christ the King Sunday.

Jesus is Lord and King and Alive! Long Live King Jesus!

St. Paul’s Quick ‘Pointers’ and Pick-me-ups

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This little phrase of St. Paul is a nice pointer or pick-me-up. The above poster was made by one of our SPX School students. i like the child’s use of the red crayons and the highlighted Scripture words.

We clergy and religious see St. Paul’s little phrases of such encouragement on a regular basis in the Liturgy of the Hours Prayerbook. Each day, along with some psalms, we are treated to some other Scriptures to bless our day. Often, we are given a quick encouragement from one of Paul’s epistles. (It’s just nice to see it made into artwork by a student!)

Here are a few of Paul’s Pointers/Pick Me Ups:

The first comes from Ephesians 5:1
“God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
You read and reflect on the saint’s words, and you can face your day a little bit better, in that right perspective.

The second comes from Titus 3:1-2, 4, 5b, 8
“…be ready for every good work, (and) speak evil to no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone…(because) the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior (has) appeared…through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit… Those who have come to believe in God may (or ought to) be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels…for they are unprofitable…”
The Spirit of the Lord and kindness of Jesus is in us, if we could just cooperate fully in the inspired life God wants to move through us.

The third, and shortest example, comes from 2 Thessalonians 3:16,18
“May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with…you… (from) The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So go on now, and have a Day in the SON!

Already Gone

“Well, I’m all-all-already gone…. And I will sing this victory song…. Already gone!” –The Eagles, words to a hit song of the 70′s.

It seems like the house next door to the rectory has been burned and un-occupied for as long back as the 70′s. We were so used to its burned out shell. We had ceased worrying about all the varmits that might have been crawling or flying around inside its blackened ‘shelter.’ Its ugly slight on the neighborhood was like a permanent blemish on the face that one had just stopped even seeing in the mirror anymore, nor bothered covering up anymore. Having no neighbor to our right side has been true for about two years.

“Oh, that!
This was the response I would say to those first-timers to our rectory office at 16304 Pond Meadow–to those who hadn’t seen the arson-destroyed house.

“What happened?”
We’d say that its occupant had a lot of mischief and trouble going on inside, and the lifestyle really led to the fire destruction. It was a sad story, but when the fire broke out one morning, it was timely that our staff had discovered it so quickly (it was a late weekday morning) and that the fire department was so fast in response. Our parish office house could had gone up in flames next, but for the dousing of the flames next door. Plus, a person driving by saw the smoke and was able to rescue the woman inside (and dog) from being burned alive in the house. He is a hero. (I was at a Bowie City event that honored his actions.)

That all was about 23 months ago.

Then, just last week, we received a notice from the city that the house was to be demolished this on this 3rd week of November. Quickly, this past Monday, a demolition crew came and began whacking away at the house. It came down pretty quickly. Now, it is Wednesday the 19th, and the house is…. Already Gone. IMG_20141119_150740_684IMG_20141119_150715_902

Photos above show next door lot all cleared (no house left) and our house with a vacancy now next door.

Homily Sun. Nov. 16 33rd Sunday Blog Version of Homily–a little extended

We have two opposite examples in the Sunday Word today: a person in the gospel that Jesus calls a wicked lazy servant AND a person that is called (in an Old Testament Bible chapter) as someone of great virtue and a prize to know. I intend to compare one of them to the Church and its people….

…and you had better hope that I choose the virtuous person of Proverbs 31!

Yes, it IS that person in Proverbs 31! They are described by its writer as “a worthy wife,” of “value far beyond pearls,” “an unfailing prize,” and “a woman to be praised.” Nice words. So, it is a woman, it seems, who receives the compliment. Her husband “praises his wife at the city gates,” it proclaims.

Who is this person? For Solomon, who wrote of her 3000 years ago, she is Lady Wisdom.

For us, in looking to apply the wisdom of God come to God’s people via the Holy Spirit, Who is Wisdom, consider the virtuous person of Proverbs 31 now to be the Lord’s description of the Church.
You can base this viewpoint or interpretation on various saints writings like John of the Cross or of how the book of Revelation keeps saying to us that “The Spirit and the Bride say come.” “The Spirit and the Bride say come.” Yes, God’s Spirit, beginning with Wisdom, is poured out to us to become formed as the Bride to Christ, His Church, His Spouse. By the Spirit this work will be done. Jesus said: “I send Another Advocate to you, the Spirit or Paraclete, Who will guide you.” What’s He guiding us into? Into being wed with Christ and become one day the blessed who are called into the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.

Listen to the text of Proverbs 31 as if God were trying to recognize you and compliment you as being pleasing to Him. You, the member of Christ’ Body, who let yourself be led by God’s Spirit, consider what He has to say to you.

This Proverbs 31 reading will alone be what we focus on today, in keeping with my homily theme for Autumn on “The Faith That Does.” I am just preaching this Autumn on the first readings.

The Proverbs 31 person is described in our NAB Bible as “a worthy wife”. In the NIV Bible translation she is “a wife of noble character.” But in the Amplified Bible version is a translation I think also is helpful: she is a “capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman.” This is the wife to Jesus, she is the Church. This is the woman He wants to wed.

Verses 10-31 of Proverbs (in the original Hebrew Bible version) is an acrostic poem, that is, the verses each begin and go down along with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This virtuous woman is literally named, then, by “A to Z” in what God likes.
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Let’s take the first thing said:
“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.”

If God is speaking to us, Christ’ Body, the Church, in these Scriptures… then He says a few nice starting things. We are worthy. Or, we are virtuous. Isn’t that what we long to hear from the Love of Loves? That we are worth much to our lover? That we are virtuous? Meaning, excellent for Him?

Who is God speaking to? He speaks to the One who has chosen to let the Spirit of God move in them and then move to bless others. Wisdom is gracing this person, and they are quite open to participation in The Spirit. This language could be describing the practicing, virtuous Catholic.

When we are open to God’s movement in us, we have great “value” to God. We are more special than the great pearls the Lord of Creation has made, or his rubies, or gems, or mountains– because humankind has a soul to respond to Wisdom and when we do, we really shine!
“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.”

What’s the second point of Proverbs 31, and remember, listen to it as if God is speaking to His Church, including you.

“Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.”

Her husband: Who is this? It is God. God wants to bring us into loving union with Him again. How? He “entrusts His heart to her,” yes, He makes the first move. He offers His Heart. This refers to Jesus’ Sacred Heart, and One of Divine Mercy, the One pierced for our offenses, so to help make her (us) blameless in His sight, by His sacrifice.

What did Jesus want to win by His Sacrifice? Our lives, our hearts, our loving response.
When we indeed do respond favorably and generously to God, He “has an unfailing prize.”

Who, us? You? Me? “Unfailing?” But we have lots of failures, like our sins, our faults, our selfishness. Yet God in His love says He can win our love. And we can become “an unfailing prize.” A woman likes it when she is called a prize. God calls His body of believers who practice virtue and trust in Him as those to prize.

In the Bible it says that Jesus wishes to present us to God the Father as “unblemished.” It is what Philippians 2 describes “so may you (church) become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” Or as Ephesians 5:27 calls us then in our completion in the Spirit as “the glorious church” or glorious bride.”
[Also see 1st Thessalonians chapter 5. It has lots on this point of view.] To be called an unfailing prize is a big deal.

So, what is this virtuous woman, the Church, doing to please the Lord that would have Him “prize” us?

It is what this whole Autumn homily series is about. As We Do the Faith. As We Live Out the Faith. As We Pass the Faith to Others. As We Show Christ to the world, He Who is the Hope of Glory within us. This is how we please the Lord and it is what the Lord especially prizes about us! He loves us embracing His life and living it out on earth. God and humankind and meant to be in harmony and unity: to be wedded. We are as if in engagement with God in this life, as His intended partner for ever. Heaven will see the wedding take place of us to the Lord.

So, how are we so pleasing to God? The next line in Proverbs 31 says “She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She obtains wool and flax and works with loving hands. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.”
There’s the doing faith.

This woman, the Church, is taking initiate to work out her faith and trust in the Lord, with the inspiration of Lady Wisdom, the Holy Spirit outpoured.
The “woman” is being led by Lady Wisdom to be an active and faith-filled Church. Just like in the Acts of the Apostles, the believers have been led to work out and spread faith in Jesus Christ–to bring God’s good through her existence.
Here Proverbs 31 describe the virtuous person, the Church’s member, and the Church as a whole: She has obtained wool and flax, and now is busy at the distaff and spindle (which today would be a sewing machine, making nice clothes). She has given some of her work to help the poor and needy. She has been doing some good—

Christians are made for this!

The next line in Proverbs 31 sizes up how God sees people on this earth. Some people are all about charm: but God says “Charm is deceptive.” Some people are about beauty and looking good on the outside. God says: “…and beauty is fleeting.” God says that His bride will now charm Him by worldliness; nor sway Him with looks. He wants an inner beauty and something substantial there. He comes right out and says it in the next line of Proverbs 31: “the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

The Church which has a holy fear, also called Wisdom… they are led on to reverence and right judgment and understanding and piety and other holy gifts. This is the Church or bride that God wants to woo in Christ Jesus and via His Holy Spirit.

Where is this all going? Right to Heaven’s courtyards! As the whole long book of Proverbs comes to an end in chapter 31, the woman is led to the Temple gates of Heaven.

Hear our last line to examine today: “Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.”

Yes, God has a reward for those who wholly seek Him and serve Him and want to know Him well. “Give her a reward,” He says. Let her devotion and love be welcomes at the “city gates.” What city might that be? How about the City Gates of the New Jerusalem, located at Heaven?!

Proverbs ends her book with the virtuous person going forth into God’s Temple in Heaven.

It is what we all hope to reach.

Today I don’t have any one specific example of a person living out this reading, but I can think of many peopel here that do strive to live out the virtuous example of Proverbs 31. Thank you.

U.S. Bishops in Baltimore in Assumption Basilica

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Procession of US Bishops The Holy Spirit dome (interior)

Up in Baltimore this week, all the nation’s Catholic bishops are assembled for their Fall 2014 meeting. On the agenda for the U.S. Bishops for their week-long annual meeting were many things, and the report on them is given on their website www.usccb.org. Yet all began with prayer and The Eucharist, so the bishops began with an opening Mass at the historic Assumption Basilica on Calvert Street. They were all aware of the recent 225th anniversary here of this first diocese of the U.S.A.(Baltimore), as it is the primatial see and just had its anniversary some days ago.

In his homily at that Mass, host Archbishop William Lori noted that the original territory of the nation’s first diocese of Baltimore encompassed 25,000 Catholics spread out over an area that now covers 37 states; though at its start in 1789 there were just the originally established 13 states at the time. “Bishop John Carroll’s resources were small,” Lori said, “but he was industrious, calling together the diocese’s 22 priests for a synod covering such areas as religious education, finances, vocations and “mixed marriages.” Lori noted that the epistle reading of the opening Mass came from Titus, and he related that “just as St. Paul outlined how to make the church grow in his letter to Titus… Bishop Carroll wrote a pastoral letter, simply called The Pastoral Letter and in it he maps out the first leg of our journey together,” Archbishop Lori said. “They had faith, albeit the size of a mustard seed, that produced great works of faith, worship and witness.” Lori added that opportunity came knocking in the form of getting many French priests to Maryland, due to the French Revolution across the Atlantic. A religious group of them called The Sulpicians sent priests to Maryland, and their expertise was in seminary formation. The superior general of the Sulpicians came to the United States and established the young nation’s first two Catholic seminaries. They are present-day St. Mary’s-Roland Park and Mt. St. Mary’s- Emmitsburg, which has taught many of the nation’s priests and bishops in the last two centuries.

In the homily, the Baltimore Archbishop preached that “we are not the owners, but the stewards of God’s mysteries” (in echoing St. Paul to Titus). “His words stir something deep in us bishops as we ponder our ministry (today)… Let us humbly ask for the grace to build on the foundations that (American’s first bishop) John Carroll set down. … We are heirs, all of us, to this precious legacy.”

When Baltimore became an archdiocese in 1808, four dioceses — made archdioceses decades later — were created from its territory: Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Bardstown (now Louisville), Kentucky. Today there are 195 U.S. dioceses with 65 million Catholics. We have gone from 22 priests in the whole country to over 40,000 in 2014.

I am leafin’ it up to You, Lord

baby

In this cute photo, a little child is playing in the Autumn leaves.

They hardly know what to make of it, but the crunchy and colorful things are interesting.

They probably tried a taste of one… Then thought: Nope, this is NOT something to eat!

They watched some other older children dance and play around in a pile of leaves…. Then thought: Yep, this IS something to goof around in!

And while the seasons were in motion and in change around them, so was the child. The child was growing up. No longer a new born, but moving along into Infancy Place and headed fast for Toddlerville! Oh what fun is to be found in this stage of life.

And parents can catch some great photos of the young one’s while it’s all going on. Fall 2014. Pretty.

By Autumn 2015 this child will be up and walking around, and have learned a multitude of things about life on this earth. Today, it’s just simple joy sitting in the leaves.

And the photo gives me pause. I can pray a short little prayer with a pun in it: “I am leafin’ it all up to You, Lord!”

Homily 32nd Sunday Nov. 9

HOMILY WEB VERSION (a little longer than the live version)
STREAMS OF GRACE FROM THE TEMPLE OF GOD

We live with access to many graces flowing from God’s temple down into our own on earth. The house of the Lord and the hearts for the Lord are meant to receive streams of favor from God so to uplift us and change us into children of God.

Ezekiel’s visions (from the first reading in Mass) are about the promise of the Spirit of God to save and create us anew. The water image of streams from Heaven is about Life in the Spirit.

It is about the increase of holiness in a favored recipient or in the growing body of believers.

Let us listen in again to Ezekiel 47:

“Then, He (the Lord) brought me (Ezekiel the prophet) back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from it… and from below the altar…and then He led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep… then it was knee-deep… then to the waist… ( and) then it was a river deep enough to swim in (but too swift) but that I could not cross…He ( God) said to me, Mortal, have you seen this?

This opening Scripture image uses clear streams flowing out from the Heavenly Temple of the Lord! It was spoken to give us a sense of purity, refreshment, and goodness from it– as something flowing out to bless a person into an experience of the Divine–of the God of Life. The streams are flowing forth to us. We have the connection. Jesus has run the River of Life down to us! The streams are of abundant life, and eternal life, and they come to the physical and the spiritual/soulful sides of humankind. Can we put our toes in to God’s Living Stream? Or get knee-deep in holiness and new life?! Or even wade in to eternal participation (i.e. “partakers of the divine nature” 2 Pet.1:4 and “saved through water” 1 Pet.3:20) ?! Now The Spirit has immense power compared to mere mortal works, speaks Ezekiel. So we better take care, yet it does say that the supply coming is enough for a great throng or for a full regeneration to life.

Surely in Heaven this powerful flow is all about how our God is a God of Everlasting Life. All that is from Him is living. He is the source of life.
In God’s Son, and by His Spirit, He has “run” The River into us, in His Temple. Jesus clears the Way for to make Himself our Santuary, our Gathering into abundant life. In John’s Gospel chapter 2 (today’s gospel) is the clearing for the Stream, within His established place, and in John 3 He says we are “born of the water and The Spirit,” and in John 4 He tells the woman of Samaria that He gives “living water,” and in John 7 He speaks that “out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water,” and in John 10 He says “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly!” He wants us drenched in His transforming Spirit.


The physical and the spiritual make connections. I like to be besides clear streams and to get close to waterfalls. Don’t you, too? I took a trip up to West Virginia this Autumn just to walk and sit beside the Shenandoah River and enjoy its quiet passing by there. It was clean and warm enough to set your toes or legs into the riverbanks. It was probably good enough to drink, though I didnt…

That water had flowed down from some higher spot and from its rainfall there.

But what if water could fall from God’s throne and His temple in the skies down to earth and so wash us, heal us, cleanse us, rejuvenate us, and refresh and renew us?! That is what Ezekiel forecasted in today’s reading. That is what the Gospel of John has us know of Jesus–that He offers the Living Water and He will be our Temple, as He is Risen, and He embodies believers into Himself for grace and salvation.

Ezekiels gave the prophecies, namely, that, God’s Spirit would be poured out, as Ezekiel 34-37 first told of new hearts and a fresh outpouring to arouse the “dry bones people” into a living unity. God promises to the just: “I will put My Spirit into you.” Then, in Ezekiel 47! The prophet’s vision relates of graces flowing from God’s Temple, and Zeke sees ever-green trees on the side banks of this river stream of holiness, and many living creatures are noted to be seen “wherever the river goes (vs.9).” He sees that the Sanctuary of the Lord is the “source” and the water is healing into wholesomeness or fullness.
The sanctuary and/or hearts of faith of people on earth was the intended place where the River of Life was flowing.

My friends in Christ Jesus, we are those people meant to live in the holiness of God. We have this Feast of the Church today (Lateran Basilica) with readings about life in the Temple or Presence of God. We are Christ’ Church. St. John Lateran is a church and sanctuary in Rome with 16 centuries of history, and is still going. Look at a video of it on our parish web site show and hear the lovely Temple song of Bob Hurd that he wrote for the turning of Christianity’s Third Millenium. There are tens of thousands of Catholic parishes around the 2014 world too, keeping going what was started at Pentecost. We keep seeking grace from Our Lord God today. We all come with the need of grace in the Sacrament of Eucharist, and re-connection in the relationship with others in belief in God, who all need to drink in the Spirit of God to live in the culture of life that God pours out to us. We are meant to live a culture of life. God is Life. He is God of the living, not dead. Saints have come in recent decades warning us of this pervading, deceiving culture of death all around us. In the news recently, society applauded a woman who died by state approved self-suicide and scores of Americans called her courageous and a hero, and spoke that all states should let people have this right to death. Sad. While we Catholics are compassionate for all the suffering people, we also love God and we serve a God of life and we honor the Right to Life in His Name. We are courageous enough to trust Him and obey Him and to know that Life is Sacred. We witness to it, even knowing that the physical life is waning. God says in Ezekiel 47 today: “Mortal, what do you see?” We see that we need holiness and Thy Rivers of Life in us, O God!! Help us and bless us into Heaven when the time comes for our departure here. But in its due time. Thy time. As we wait in trust of Thee, help us be like Jesus, Whom they said: “Zeal for God’s House consumes Him.”

I would like to finish the homily by giving a parishioner example of someone living deeply in the streams of the Spirit and who believes in the culture of life, and dignity of life, and sacredness of it under God. We have been telling stories this Autumn from the pulpit here about people being stirred by God to a faith that works, or a faith that is doing, a faith that is active.

Some years ago, a woman in the parish saw that they had great rapor with not only their own teens in the family, but with the friends of their daughters. Many young women came to her for loving and serious advice on their teen problems.

Then came some young ladies sharing their most serious troubles. Crisis pregnancies. They had followed the culture’s over- permissiveness of behavior, and the teen girls were practicing activity meant only for marriage. Resulting from the practice were pregnancies. Crisis pregnancies. What were they to do? They were young women afraid to tell their parents and others, and afraid to keep the new infant life within them. This parishioner, along with some others, eventually were led by God to become pro-life counselors at the Bowie Pregnancy Aid center, which has spread now to Crofton/Severna Park and Annapolis in its efforts. These Life centers have been in operation for years now, and they use our parishioner (still at it) with other compassionate and loving Christian women who will be trained to meet with young pregnant mothers (and fathers) and to offer the truth and the alternative to the world’s preference for secret, quiet abortions. The big secret in the area is that thousands upon thousands of abortions have occured among our neighbors, even high numbers of Catholics, and it has been wrong. Yet what is a person of faith to do? This woman continues to offer loving help and advice and a network of caring people to respond to the ongoing crisis. She has helped save lives. She has helped women not to be destroyed or marred by this practice. She has prayed and loved the needy in this suffering area. And that’s a Doing Faith.

The Souls of the Just, the souls of the departed Homily: Nov. 2

HOMILY NOV. 2 ALL SOULS DAY LONGER BLOG VERSIONp IMG_20140614_245859_432your home.

God was saying that the lives of His good people will be given a reward to an afterlife with Him. This was a huge revelation to the people back then. It remains a huge revelation: God wants His good people to come Home to Him after our life on earth. He has given us souls for to possess us and for our lives to receive Him in.
We comfort ourselves with this gem of God’s word today on All Soul’s Day.

When Christ Jesus came, He spoke that provision for life into the everlasting and He made it come into reality. He said in John’s Gospel in chapter 5 (today): “Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also The Son give life to whomsoever He wishes… all judgment is given over to The Son… anyone who hears My Word and believes Him Who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (ch. 5:19-24)
Jesus also said:
–”I AM the Resurrection and the Life, the one who comes to Me (into Me) will never die, but live!” John 11:25
–Plus, also throughout John’s gospel Jesus proclaims things like: “I AM the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, whoever enters through Me (through Me, the Gate) will have life and have it abundantly and forever…and they will hear …and, as with all life, I have the power to take it up again. (Eternal life).”
–”In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. I AM going to prepare a place there for you… I will come back again and take you to Myself!”

These are from the gospel passages that we often use for Masses of Christian Burials, as is the Wisdom reading, which happened to be used on this past Friday for the farewell Mass for Michael Johnson, a 54 year old, formerly of Kitmore lane and Port Echo lane.
His family gathered to mourn and pray his passing, and hope of Jesus’ Promises for an afterlife for His own.

II
For much of their history, the Jews did not believe or understand anything about regular believers getting into Heaven for an afterlife. They had thought that mostly a person’s good name and family lineage is what did keep going (on into the future) but that the actual people of the past were dead and gone and no more. Just dust and bones.
Only God Himself could make a change to man.

Yet you hear a new development in these later Wisdom readings of the Jews, in their Greek diaspora times. They acknowledged that Greek philosophers were onto something of the existence of a soul in man. Hiding in the physicality of man was a spiritual chamber of the essence of a man.

The Hebrews put it together with their own covenant faith with God. Indeed, they concluded, if God made souls in humankind, then the Lord God would want to inhabit the soul. While some anointed figures seemed to be touched by The Spirit of God, and then get whisked away to the skies, like Elijah, then why not that for every good believer? Could God provide that?!

God’s answer to it was a Yes. God would give the just a reward for their live and fidelity; He would redeeming the souls of the just for a life in the hereafter. God would claim a home in the soul of the just, and that presence of the living God would raise them up to the afterlife. The Jews took this revelation and put it into the long-awaited expectation of the Messiah. He would accomplish this transformation of humankind. He would be its hope. And that is what the Book of Wisdom is about.

Its description of the life of the Spirit is so descriptive and alive, in Wisdom 7:21-28, that I highly suggest you read it today or this week for reflection. Wisdom 7:28 gives a sweet promise: “For God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with Wisdom.” Wisdom is another name for the Holy Spirit, and Wisdom chapters 7 through 11-12 is rich in teaching on The Spirit Who is Wisdom.

In the time that the Book of Wisdom (and Maccabees) was written, you see how the Jews were not so afraid to look upon death anymore. Immortality was possible for the just. Though lost away in diaspora or from their holy nation, now the Jews were willing to die as martyrs, because of the new conviction that the just Jew goes to Heaven. That’s the courage displayed in the Hanukkah story, and inthat the Masada event versus the Romans, and in the attitude of this Wisdom faith community, growing firm among the Jews one century before Jesus came. They will be faithful, even unto death, because God rewards the just.

III
Now, let us get to applying all of this to our own Catholic experience.

We live in the established covenant of Jesus Christ, united to His dying and rising. In Baptism we have our sinfulness buried, that is, our original sin and condition, of being eternally separated from God. We have forgiveness of sins, to lead us friendship with God, now and forever. It takes us to the Rising Mystery of Christ. In Christ we are risen to a new life, as we have been newly-started by God, even a new creation made of us (2Cor.5:17). We live in the outpouring and blessing of what this book of Wisdom teaches. Thus, we can stand without fear versus a culture of death, or one that sees suffering and death as something to be avoided, averted, or even attended.

In that culture of life example, that Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa (our new saints) both taught so strongly, we live out our faith in witness to the Lord Who IS within our souls, and Who IS our hope.

Dealing with death does take faith. Death is the total affront to humankind and this gift of life offered us. But we are a people of Life in Christ. We have a woman in the parish who has believed that. Out of that living hope she first was involved in some grief counseling for parish members who lost a loved one. She did that for a couple of years or so, but then her own husband came down with an illness and incapacity for himself, which began for her, then, a several-year journey of care and comfort for him. She had help from friends in the parish, and mostly had to journey through this sorrow and eventual passing of her husband as an experience with God.

This woman’s husband did pass, and we had his burial here in this church, and his widow, our parishioner, has written of her experience of caring for her dying husband and the lessons of how, by faith, she could deal with his passing. It was a journey of faith. She took her reflections and experiences, and revealed it to others. Though it was a vulnerable exercise and difficulty, she wanted to tell others of how she had the special help of the Lord God with her, and that noone need to walk alone in sorrow or recovery.
She is our example this week of the “Doing Faith” of Catholic Life, or “the Faith that Works.” That has been our theme this Autumn, of the example of people here living out their faith, in witness to the living God and Lord Jesus.