2cornucopias

Suffering

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/16 at 12:00 AM

  Our readings today speak of human suffering, and although suffering is by its nature is unpleasant, it is a part of this life. None of us escapes it, although hopefully we’re not as bad off as poor Job, whom we hear from in our first reading.

  •   What we may not realize about suffering is that suffering always shapes us; it always changes us. Today’s readings challenge us to look not only at the sufferings in our own lives but the sufferings in the lives of others as well, and to respond like Christ.
  •   As I mentioned, suffering always changes us: either for better or for worse. Sadly, our broken human nature often tends toward selfishness in the face of personal suffering.
  •   When suffering enters our lives, we often turn inward, complaining, losing hope, and in the worst cases, becoming bitter, angry, or cynical.
  •   As a priest there is nothing sadder to me than seeing an older person whose heart has been hardened by suffering, especially the suffering endured at the hands of others.
  •   Because all of us are sinners, we all hurt others from time to time, sometimes grievously and even purposefully. That is part of the human condition.
  •   If we are not careful, the sufferings we endure at the hands of others can lead us to harden our hearts and withhold forgiveness, which Scripture tells us will keep us out of Heaven! Maturing as a Christian requires that we learn to respond well to suffering.
  •   The proper response to suffering is to imitate Christ and entrust ourselves to Him!
  •   The Gospel shows us Jesus’ willingness to heal all our infirmities. Whatever our illnessor demons may be, Christ can give us healing and peace. And He desires to do preciselythat with all of us!
  •   Last Sunday I spoke a bit about St. Clare and how she drove away a legion of soldierswith the authority of Christ. She was an extraordinary woman who was the disciple ofone of the most extraordinary men this world has ever known: St. Francis of Assisi.
  •   What is most extraordinary about St. Francis is not all that he accomplished in his short44 years of life.
  •   What is most extraordinary about St. Francis is how the tremendous sufferings in hislife made him the man who is widely acclaimed to be the saint most like Jesus Christ.
  •   Although he grew up in relative comfort as the son of a wealthy merchant, St. Francisbegan embracing a life of suffering when he chose to go off to war in the town ofPerugia at the age of 20.
  •   During this war between Assisi and Perugia, Francis was captured and held a prisonerof war for a year. During this year of captivity, the young Francis had a crisis of faiththat led him to search out Jesus and to begin alleviating the sufferings of others.
  •   Over time as he began doing works of charity, his relationship with Christ grew to thepoint where the gentle saint felt compelled to renounce his inheritance and all worldlygoods and to fully embrace a life of radical poverty.
  •   His choice to follow Christ in the most radical of ways by serving the poor, the sick, andthe outcasts of society in utter poverty resulted in Francis being ridiculed and mockedby the townspeople, and being cut off from his family.
  •   Over time, even many of his fellow Franciscans, the brothers who joined with him in hiswork amongst the poor, turned against Francis in the most brutal and callous of ways.
  •   Yet Francis was not deterred. And his willingness to enter into the sufferings of others, and to endure sufferings at the hands of others – including his family and followers – eventually led St. Francis to a peace and joy that very few people have ever known.
  •   Over time St. Francis not only became like Jesus in his gentle bearing, patience, and inexhaustible charity, but two years before his death he even received the stigmata, bearing in his body the very wounds of Christ.
  •   If you ever have a chance to visit the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi, there you can see the slippers that St. Clare made for the wounded feet of St. Francis, and the poultice that she applied to his wounded side to help stem the flow of blood and prevent infection.
  •   These little relics – along with many others there – testify to the Christ-like nature of St. Francis and his willingness to embrace suffering as a means of becoming like Jesus and coming to the aid of others.
  •   One important lesson that we learn from St. Francis is that as we get into the habit of turning to Jesus in times of personal suffering, we become better able to help others in their times of suffering. We also become more gentle and forgiving with those who cause our sufferings.
  •   That’s precisely the challenge St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians makes to us today. St. Paul says that he has made himself a slave to all “so as to win over as many as possible.” He says: “I have become all things to all, to save at least some.”
  •   You see, St. Paul was willing to look past the sins and ugliness of others – intuiting perhaps that their bad behavior might be rooted in some suffering of their own – in order to minister to them.
  •   And so as we consider our readings today, as well as the life of good St. Francis, we must ask ourselves if we are willing to bear patiently with others when they treat us badly.
  •   To be sure, being patient with the sins of others doesn’t mean that we don’t correct them, for the Church has always recognized that admonishing our erring brothers and sisters is a spiritual work of mercy.
  •   However, it does mean that we must try to see everyone as Christ sees them, magnanimously looking past their faults and failings in order to see the good within them.
  •   Like Jesus, who was willing to suffer crucifixion and even death, we must be willing to suffer for others and at the hands of others to help them along on the path to salvation.
  •   When we can do this, it is then that we can best help them to find the remedy for whatever ails them.
  •   My brothers and sisters, all of us are sinners. All of us fall short of God’s glory. None of deserves God’s mercy, and yet His mercy is always available to us. No matter how terrible our sins, if we are sorry for them, God always forgives them.
  •   Even the worst and most evil of people are precious in God’s eyes, and He desires that they be saved too.
  •   Perhaps this mystery of God’s inexhaustible mercy is the most inscrutable of the mysteries surrounding God. Yet as hard to understand as it is, it is this mystery of mercy that we must all learn to practice with others.
  •   May we all learn to turn to God in our times of suffering and pain so that we may become more like Him who suffered for us. And may we all learn to show the same mercy to others that we have received from our Lord.

 St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

 

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

You can go directly to his homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

Pascal

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/16 at 12:00 AM
  • While most Catholic pilgrims to the city of Paris generally flock to Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur, Sainte-Chapelle and Rue de Bac, my favorite church in Paris is Saint-Étienne-du- Mont, which though off the beaten path a bit, is just as stunningly beautiful as the more famous houses of worship in the City of Light.
  • Best known for being the resting place of St. Genevieve, Paris’ patroness, Saint-Étienne also houses the tomb of the French philosopher and physicist, Blaise Pascal, whom most of us know for his famous wager!
  • Pascal’s wager states that it is a better bet for a man to believe in God and embrace His commandments, rather than not believe in God and live contrary to His laws.
  • For if a man believes in God and tries to live a virtuous life, but finds upon death that there is no God, all that he lost was of finite value – perhaps some of life’s pleasures.
  • But if a man does not believe in God and lives contrary to His laws, and finds upon death that there is a God, then his loss will be infinite, for he will have lost his soul for eternity.
  • Pascal’s point was that we all wager our souls by the way we live. Either we live for God, or we live for ourselves. And in Pascal’s mind, it makes much more sense to live according to God’s laws rather than risk our souls on the fleeting pleasures of sin.
  • This bold and startling reality of all of us having to choose either for God and His commandments or against Him is set before us today in our readings.
  • Sirach tells us today in no uncertain terms that God will honor our choice. He says: “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” He also tells us that, “if [we] trust in God, [we] shall live.”
  • And in the Gospel Jesus makes it clear that He has not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them! Those who break God’s commandments and teach others to do so will be the least in the kingdom of heaven.
  • “But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And then He goes on to discuss how to overcome certain sins.
  • So it seems rather simple, doesn’t it? If we just follow God’s commandments, we will be saved, right? The short answer is yes!
  • If we obey the Ten Commandments while also keeping the 2 greatest commandments of truly loving God above all else and loving our neighbor as ourselves, we have every right to hope in God’s salvation. Just as Sirach tells us today, “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you.”
  • But always keeping the commandments in each and every circumstance, and choosing to love God above all else and our neighbors as ourselves isn’t always as easy as it sounds, is it? Sometimes, even when we know better, we disobey God’s laws, don’t we?
  • That’s the scourge of concupiscence; it’s our sad inheritance from Adam and Eve’s sin.
  • Our Father in Heaven has given us the great gift of free will so that we might choose to love Him by following His commands. However this same great gift that enables us to love Godcan be used by us to turn against God. That’s the problem!
  • Even for those of us who know and love God and who believe in the truths of our Catholicfaith, always choosing for God is difficult, for we all have to wrestle with 3 great foes: theworld, the flesh, and the devil. At times they are fierce foes indeed!
  • Each of these foes can work against us so that we use our free will not for loving God, but forturning away from Him. So let’s look at each of them.
  • St. Paul speaks a little bit about the influence of the world in our epistle today, noting how the wisdom of our faith runs contrary to the wisdom of the world. Just as in Paul’s day, our Catholic values stand in stark contrast to the values our culture now embraces.
  • When the culture around you espouses tantalizing and enticing values like sexual freedom, the importance of wealth and material goods, and moral relativism, it’s easy to begin believing that the world’s values are the right values.
  • What makes things worse in our society is that our government is now embracing as good things contrary to the very laws of nature, like same sex unions and contraception.
  • And as these evils are enshrined into our laws, it makes it easier for the poorly formed Christian to believe the lie that these evils are good, and it makes it harder for the well formed Christian to practice his faith with integrity.
  • As for the devil, we must remember two things: First, that he is alive and well and working to take our souls to hell; second, that he is a liar who, like a skillful politician, will often use half truths to tempt us to sin – just as he did with Adam and Eve.
  • Not every temptation we experience comes from the evil one and his demons, but certainly some of them do. The hallmarks of his handiwork are fear, despair, pride, hatred, and unfulfilled promises of pleasure and power for the sins we commit.
  • Lastly, we must deal the flesh, i.e., our own passions and willfulness that often lead us to do what we know is wrong. The difficulty of the flesh is that our passions can be strong, and it is very easy to develop sinful habits and addictions that can be hard to break.
  • Just as the virtues grow into good habits through repeatedly using our will to act virtuously, so too do the vices grow into bad habits whenever we repeatedly commit a sin. Sadly, many people today are absolutely enslaved by their sinful habits.
  • Those who are enslaved by sin often believe that they can never be free of their sins. This is exactly what the devil wants us to believe. He wants us to believe we can never be free of our sinful habits so that we despair and ultimately turn away from God.
  • This, too, is one of his lies. For even a man with the most vicious of addictions never fully loses the ability to exercise his will. While our capacity to exercise our wills for the good may be mitigated by our habits, we always retain some capacity to choose rightly.
  • And in the spiritual battle we must all wage for our souls against the world, the flesh, and the devil, our Catholic faith gives us many powerful weapons. Of course first and foremost are the sacraments, most especially Holy Communion and confession.
  • Frequent recourse to these two sacraments forgives our sins, strengthens us in virtue, and gives us the courage to say no to temptations.
  • The practices of prayer, fasting, and alms giving, as well as meditating on Sacred Scripture and the faithful use of the Church’s sacramentals also greatly aid us.
  • We must also have recourse to the angels and saints, most especially Our Lady, for as the Virgin Most Powerful, she has the ability to crush the head of the devil, and as the Help of Christians, she gently helps to form us in virtue and strengthen us against sin.
  • Lastly, simply asking God to help you love Him more than you love your sins during those moments of temptation often procures for us the grace we need to avoid sin.
  • My brothers and sisters, while our fallen human nature often makes it difficult for us to win every battle against sin and temptation, by God’s grace we can win the war for our souls. We must never lose heart, even if our sins are great, for God’s grace is sufficient!

• So let us entrust ourselves to aid of Our Lady, who never fails to show her children the path to Heaven. With her help may our wills be strengthened to do what is right so that we may all be saints some day!

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

Link to Homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

St. Augustine

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/16 at 12:00 AM

 

  • On my left you can see our magnificent statue of St. Augustine, one of the Church’s greatest saints. St. Augustine was not only a great intellect, but his conversion story has consoled, encouraged, and inspired countless souls throughout the centuries.
  • While St. Augustine is one of history’s greatest theologians, no writing of his is more popular than his Confessions, the autobiographical book that details his conversion. It’s for this reason that our statue of him has him depicted holding the book of his Confessions.
  • Perhaps the popularity of this book stems from the fact that it reads almost like a love story. In it Augustine details the progression of his awareness of God’s love for him, and his response of love to God in return.
  • Truly, St. Augustine captures – perhaps better than any other spiritual writer in history – the dynamic of love that exists between our Lord and those souls who earnestly seek Him.
  • What we find in St. Augustine’s Confessions is that God is constantly reaching out in love to His creatures, to invite us to share in His divine life, if only we have the faith to see it.
  • Today’s feast of the Most Holy Trinity challenges us to see God’s love for us and to respond to Him in love by seeking holiness. The promise that our Lord makes to us in seeking holiness is that we will be joined with Him forever in Heaven in an eternal embrace of love.
  • Holiness is likeness to God, and becoming holy – becoming like God – is the primary challenge of every Christian and the goal to which every vocation is ultimately directed.
  • While holiness is difficult to attain, it is possible for us all. Its genesis within us is the love that we have for God. The good news is that we have plenty of reasons to love God, as our readings point out for us today.
  • In our first reading Moses is explaining to the Israelites why they should believe in God. He’s challenging them to choose God and His ways because the mighty works God has worked for them should make it evident that God has chosen them as His people!
  • Moses’ point is that God has reached out to the Israelites in marvelous, even miraculous ways. For this reason he exhorts the Israelites obey God’s laws.
  • The same is true for us! Like the Israelites of old, we have become God’s chosen people through baptism. Through baptism we share in the life of the Blessed Trinity here on earth as a means of preparing for sharing in the life of the Trinity eternally in Heaven.
  • So baptism is so very important, and that’s why we hear our Lord commanding the apostles in the Gospel today to go out and evangelize the nations by baptizing them in the name of the Trinity.
  • In our second reading St. Paul explains to the Romans how God has chosen us to be His adopted children. While we are all born in the darkness of sin, baptism washes our original sin away so that we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
  • As His children we are heirs of God the Father with Christ, and the inheritance that our Lord desires to share with us is the love that exists between the three Persons of the Trinity! Complete and endless joy in the eternity of Heaven is His promise to us.
  • And thus it is that we should strive with all our might to obey God and follow His laws, for obedience is the foundation of the spiritual life and our preparation for holiness.
  • Indeed, we cannot ever expect to be holy, we cannot expect to be like God, if we do not follow the way He’s marked out for us.
  • I realize that this it often seems difficult to obey God’s laws, which are enshrined for us in the teachings of the Church. Generally speaking, even though the Church’s teachings are clear, there is great confusion in our society about what’s really right and wrong.
  • One of the secrets of the spiritual life is that obedience is often a precursor to understanding. When we choose to be obedient to the Lord and accept difficult teachings with faith and love, we are often graced with a deeper understanding of God’s laws.
  • The humility and docility that obedience requires of us has a way of opening our minds and hearts more fully to mysteries of our Faith, and thus we should learn to be obedient to all the teachings of the Church – even if at first blush we may not understand or agree with them.
  • Moreover, obedience makes us pleasing to God. Just like any parent, our Lord delights in all His creatures, but like any parent He delights in His children more when we behave!
  • So, we can make ourselves more pleasing to God by being obedient to His laws and by seeking to imitate Him in every way.
  • But there is more to holiness than mere obedience. In addition to being obedient, St. Paul tells us today that we must be willing to suffer, as did Christ.
  • Last Sunday I asked what it is that keeps you from being holy and from being wholly consumed by the Holy Spirit. The basic answer to that question is the same for all of us: attachments – to ourselves, to the things of this world, and in the worst case: to sin!
  • And that’s why St. Paul tells the Romans today that if they wish to be glorified with Christ, they must be willing to suffer with Him. Suffering, in whatever form it comes, has the capacity to cut away our attachments that keep us from being holy.
  • So if we wish to be like our Trinitarian Lord so that we might be joined with Him forever in Heaven, then not only must we obey, but we must be willing to follow the Master wherever He may trod – even up the difficult path to Calvary.
  • Loving obedience and a willingness to follow Jesus even to a point of suffering are the sure path to eternal union with the Most Holy Trinity in Heaven.
  • But in our Gospel today Jesus tells us that our union with Him, and thus our union with the Trinity, begins even now as He tells us that He is with us always! So, union with the Trinity is not only a goal for eternity, but can be a reality here and now.
  • We live in union with the Trinity now through prayer, but this union is still contingent upon our obedience and willingness to seek God’s will in all things.
  • As St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions, the Lord’s best servant: “is he who is intent not so much on hearing his petition answered, as rather on willing whatever he hears from [God].”
  • If we are to be conformed to God’s will, then at a minimum it is necessary that we strive with all our might to stay always in a state of grace. If we wish to grow in holiness, we must first eliminate all mortal sin from our life.
  • When we think of mortal sin, we tend to think of sins against the 6th and 9th commandments. While sins against chastity are indeed very grave, we must also bear in mind that sins against the virtue of charity can also be mortally sinful.
  • Sins by which we offend our Lord, like intentionally missing Mass or taking the Lord’s name in vain can be mortal sins, as can sins by which we offend those around us, like participating in gossip, detraction, or serious lies – so we must root out these sins, too.
  • Today’s feast of the Most Holy Trinity calls us to meditate on the great love our Lord has for us. Not only has He created us and given us everything, but He also became one of us to save us from our sins. He constantly reaches out to us to draw us to Himself.
  • Let us respond with true filial love and devotion by seeking genuine holiness so that we might be pleasing to Him.
  • Through holy obedience and a firm intention to follow His will, even to the point of suffering, let us prove our love for our Trinitarian Lord. And let us trust that when we die we will experience the joyful reward of our labors.
  • St. Augustine, pray for us.

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

You can go directly to his homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61