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Good and Evil

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/05/26 at 12:00 AM
  • Every man’s soul is like a universe unto itself. Eternal in nature and capable of transcending time and space, our souls are mysterious and limitless.
  • Within each soul are both light-giving stars and beautiful planets, as well as ice- shrouded moons and black holes.
  • Each of us is capable of great good, of beautiful acts of virtue. We see this today in the steadfastness of Mary and the other women, in the fidelity of St. John, in the generosity of Joseph of Arimathea, and even in the repentance of the good thief.
  • Yet each of us is also capable of unspeakable evil. We see this so clearly today in the betrayal of Judas, in the murderous rage of the chief priests, in the cowardice of Pilate, and in the cruelty of the Roman soldiers.
  • And yet Christ makes a gift of Himself nonetheless for all of us, saint and sinner alike: a gift of redemption of which all men may partake – if only we are humble enough to ask for it, and contrite enough to receive it.
  • In considering the Passion narrative, we may try to content ourselves with the belief that we’re not as bad as those angry people who clamored for Barabbas’ release and screamed for our Lord’s crucifixion – and maybe we aren’t as bad as they were.
  • But even if we aren’t as bad as we could be, can we honestly say that we are as good as we should be? Do we truly measure up to the demands of Christian discipleship?
  • Of all the deaths this world has ever witnessed, Jesus’ death on a cross is the most extraordinary. This is so not because of the unjust brutality in which it was carried out, but rather because of the love with which Jesus accepted and allowed it.
  • In dying as He did, Jesus shows us what true love is. Though completely innocent and without sin, Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself, suffering the most cruel, inhumane, and unjust of deaths.
  • In so doing, Jesus shows us that true love is, by nature, both sacrificial and long- suffering. True love gives all of itself. And honestly, a love of this type demands a response. To remain unmoved in the face of such love is to deny a part of our humanity!
  • If we are to be good disciples of Christ by imitating Him in all ways, then we must be willing to give Christ and His Church the fullness of our love and devotion, seeking complete union with Him, and begging pardon for the times we fail to love as we should.
  • Ultimately, as we ponder Christ’s love for us poured out in His passion, we must realize that Christianity is a not a religion that can be practiced well by half-measures. Our Christian faith demands that we give Christ our all.
  • This is done not so much by great works on our part as it is by great love.
  • Over the course of Holy Week, we will see in beautiful detail just how much our Lordloves us as He becomes for us both priest and victim, offering Himself for our sins.
  • We will see Christ’s love shine forth as He gives us the twin gifts of the priesthood andthe Eucharist; as He endures His agony in the Garden, in His arrest, trial, and crucifixion,and we will see His love pour out of His wounds in all it’s crimson glory as He dies.
  • And as we see this, we must ask ourselves this week: How will I love Him in return?
  • May we each be given the grace this Holy Week to love our Lord with all our hearts, allour souls, all our minds, and all our strength – for His glory, and for our own salvation!

 

© 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, lease 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

The Essence of Christian Perfection

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/05/26 at 12:00 AM

That last line of the Gospel is a bit of a doozy, isn’t it? Jesus says to us: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Of course the question we must ask is: what does it mean to be perfect?

  • If it means never to commit a sin, then we are all in trouble, aren’t we? Certainly refraining from sin is part of Christian perfection, but refraining from sin cannot be the totality of Christian perfection, for Jesus would never command the impossible of us.
  • Lots of saints spoke or wrote about the meaning of Christian perfection, and the explanation that I find most satisfactory comes from St. Anthony Mary Claret.
  • St. Anthony wrote that: “Christian perfection consists in three things: praying heroically, working heroically, and suffering heroically.”
  • Notice that he uses the word “heroically.” What’s interesting about this is that “heroic” is the word the Church uses to define the standard of virtue a person must meet in order to be declared a saint.
  • In other words living a life of Christian perfection means living a life of heroic virtue.
  • In fact, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints issues a “Decree of Heroic Virtues” when aperson who is up for sainthood has been found to have lived a life of profound union with God andfidelity to Church teaching.
  • So in calling us to perfection today in the Gospel, Jesus is calling all of us to be saints!
  • Certainly we know of lots of saints who prayed heroically, like St. Teresa of Ávila who prayed soheroically that she went into ecstasies, or St. Rita, who through her heroic prayers was able toobtain miracles for even the most impossible of causes.
  • We also know of lots of saints who worked heroically, like St. Anthony of Padua who died at theage 36 from exhaustion, or St. Raymond of Penyafort, who lived to be 100 and worked strenuouslyfor almost all of those years.
  • Perhaps of most interest, though, are the heroic sufferings of the saints. In this vein it’s hard to topSt. Lawrence, who was roasted to death on a gridiron but still managed to crack a wry joke to histormenters as they were martyring him.
  • While we generally remember saints for one or two aspects of their lives, in truth all of the saintsprayed, worked, and suffered heroically in that they prayed, worked, and suffered as God willedthem to do so. This heroic union with God’s will is what made them saints.
  • And the saints were able to pray, work, and suffer heroically because they loved both God and neighbor in heroic fashion. They were heroic in their charity – and so should we be.
  • Our readings today remind us that we are not only called to a life of perfection, a life of holiness, but our readings also set the bar for the charity we must exercise if we hope to reach the Christian perfection of the saints.
  • In particular, our readings speak of charity toward others with regard to how we must bear with those who have hurt us or who have treated us unjustly, which is probably the truest measure of one’s charity.
  • Our first reading from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus commands us: “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.” We are told to “take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any,” but to “love [our] neighbor as [ourself].”
  • In the Gospel, which like last Sunday’s Gospel is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, our Lord tells us that we must love even our enemies, famously calling us to turn the other cheek when struck, and to pray for those who persecute us.
  • In saying all of this to us, Jesus is teaching us how to exercise heroic virtue. Christian perfection requires that we love everyone, even our enemies. He tells us that if we are able to pray for our enemies, this will make us children of God.
  • Really, to understand what Jesus is asking of us, we must put ourselves on the cross with Him and remind ourselves of how Jesus looked upon those who had crucified Him during those agonizing hours atop Calvary.
  • Do you remember His words? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even in the most terrible and agonizing moments of His suffering, Jesus was merciful to those who had crucified Him. He was merciful to all of us.
  • The responsorial psalm captures this well: “Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. Not according to our sins does He deal with us, nor does He requite us according to our crimes.”
  • Thus, all of us who are serious about holiness must learn a certain detachment from ourselves, from our pride, in order to grow in heroic virtue. Instead of indulging our pride and selfish anger, we must be willing to endure suffering at the hands of others for the sake of growing in virtue.
  • We must be willing to go the extra mile for others when they don’t deserve it, and to some degree, patiently overlook the bad behavior of others. Doing these things is how we love others in heroic fashion rather than merely exercising love as the pagans do!
  • While I have always been fascinated by the stories of the martyrs, I’m also quite fascinated by those saints who were heroic in their love for others, especially in their forgiveness of those who wronged them.
  • One beautiful example of a saint who practiced heroic forgiveness is St. Maria Goretti, who is also one of the modern martyrs of the Church.
  • At the age of 12, Maria was grabbed by an 18-year old neighbor, named Alexander, who tried to rape her, and when she said that she would rather die than submit to something so offensive to God, he took her at her word and began stabbing her.
  • As Maria lay dying in the hospital that same day, she forgave Alexander, who was eventually captured, convicted, and sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment.
  • Unfortunately, Alexander remained unrepentant in prison, until one night he had a dream of being in a garden, and of Maria handing him a bouquet of flowers. Upon waking, Alexander was a changed man and repented immediately.
  • When he was finally released from prison, Alexander went straight to Maria’s mother to beg her forgiveness. To her credit Maria’s mother said, “If my daughter can forgive you, who am I to withhold forgiveness.”
  • Alexander was present at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1950 when Maria Goretti was canonized.
  • As we consider today’s Gospel, we may be tempted to ask if we should ever oppose evil. Shouldwe not hold people accountable for their sins or at least correct them?
  • Certainly we should. Justice is one of the four Cardinal virtues, and admonishing sinners is aspiritual work of mercy. So it is a noble and good thing to seek and practice justice.
  • However, we must learn to temper justice with mercy, just as Christ did on the cross. In justiceJesus could have condemned us all, but He chooses to have mercy on us.
  • If we seek only to employ justice in a strict fashion and fail to show mercy, we may find that we aredenied God’s mercy at the final judgment.
  • Through the intercession of Our Lady, St. Joseph, and all the saints, may each of us learn to pray,work, and suffer heroically in this life so that we, too, might be saints in the next!

• May we learn to balance justice and mercy as Christ did so that we may love and forgive in heroic fashion. St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

© 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, lease 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

Most Holy

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/05/26 at 12:00 AM

 

  • On the Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, I spoke about the divine indwelling, i.e., that through the Sacrament of Baptism, the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, comes to dwell supernaturally within our souls.
  • This divine indwelling is a special intimacy all the baptized share with God, so long as we remain in a state of grace. For mortal sin robs our souls of our Lord’s supernatural presence, and it can only be restored through the grace of a good confession.
  • Of course we would never want to lose this divine indwelling through sin, even though it can be restored in the confessional, for the divine indwelling is a special gift – a gift enabling us to know God as He truly is, and thereby love Him as He desires to be loved.
  • Because we have been gifted with our triune’s Lord supernatural presence within our souls, we are called to live lives of faith, hope, and charity. In fact, we know from God Himself that His greatest desire is for His creatures to love and worship Him.
  • And because our Lord has commanded that we worship Him and love Him above all else, it’s important that we love and worship Him well! As Catholics, we do this primarily through the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
  • As I mentioned last Sunday, at Mass we are transported to Calvary, where our Lord’s redemptive sacrifice there is re-presented to us in an unbloody fashion, and ordinary bread and wine are changed into our Lord’s Body and Blood for our consumption.
  • Stop and ponder these mysteries for a moment!
  • In His benevolence the Lord of all creation comes to dwell within our souls through theSacrament of Baptism.
  • If we forfeit His supernatural presence in our souls through mortal sin, in His mercy He iswilling to pardon us and come back to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • And in His great love, our Lord is humble enough to give us His flesh and blood as true food and true drink in the Eucharist. As St. John tells us today, “whoever eats [His] flesh and drinks [His]blood has eternal life, and [God] will raise him on the last day.”
  • My brothers and sisters, is there any love that can compare with this love?
  • While the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is our central and most important form of worship, thereare other ways to worship our Lord. There are other ways to love our Lord!
  • I know that many of you have participated these past few days in our annual 40 Hourscelebration in honor of our Eucharistic Lord.
  • These annual 40 hours of Eucharistic adoration, as well as the 33 hours of Adoration we havehere every week, are an opportunity for us to be with God and thank Him for His love. They arean opportunity for us to love God in return.
  • So often when we think about our spiritual lives, so many of us worry about how close we are toGod. So many people tend to consider their spiritual lives only from their own vantage point andfor their own benefit.
  • But do we ever truly consider how close God is to us – regardless of how we may feel? Do weever really consider His undying love for us? Do we ever just consider God in Himself andmarvel at Him in wonder and awe?
  • In our decadent western society, we have been conditioned to think first and foremost aboutourselves. We are told that we need to take care of ourselves, that we have to do what’s best for ourselves, and we are all too quick to assert our personal rights.
  • We can see the evil fruits of our decadent selfishness most appallingly in our society’s willingness to abort unborn children for the sake of convenience.
  • Our society as a whole has become so selfish that we can think we can even change the nature of things inviolable, like marriage and the marital act, so that people can be free to pursue whatever form of gratification they desire – even if it be deviant in nature, detrimental to their well-being, and devoid of all dignity.
  • Demanding rights to self-expression and self-gratification, we have come to believe that we can define reality for ourselves and demand that others respect, honor, and even celebrate our selfish and depraved choices.
  • My brothers and sisters, this type of thinking and acting – which has become all too common in our society – is not only crazy, but it’s antithetical to a life of holiness and the proper practice of our Catholic Faith. This is why we need the Eucharist.
  • When we understand the Eucharist for what it really is: the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ – and not merely a symbol of His body and blood, then we can begin to understand what a tremendous gift it is!
  • It’s not simply that our Lord is giving us food and drink. He’s giving us His very self through an act of self-sacrifice! Jesus died for us so that we might live eternally!
  • Through the regular and worthy reception of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we are given all the grace we need to stay on the steep and rocky path to Heaven.
  • When we receive Holy Communion worthily, all of our venial sins are forgiven, we are fortified against future mortal sins, and our bonds with Christ, His Church and one another are strengthened so that we truly become one body in Christ.
  • It truly is the Bread come down from Heaven! It is a completely gratuitous gift!
  • But while there are tremendous graces to be found in receiving Holy Communion worthily, thereare tremendous graces as well in coming before our Lord in Adoration!
  • When we adore our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration, Jesus gives us a deeper understanding of Hissacrificial love, for the Eucharist is the great sign of our Lord’s self sacrifice; it is the great signof His love.
  • When we adore our Lord regularly, we begin to desire to imitate His sacrificial love and drawcloser to Him.
  • Indeed, adoration He teaches us that true joy and peace come not from seeking to satisfyourselves, but in humble union with Him!
  • In our humble union with Him, not only do we grow in faith in God’s goodness and come todesire Him more ardently as our final end, we are filled with the desire to love God by servingothers. True adoration always leads us to charity.
  • In other words, when we make a habit of adoring our Lord in the Eucharist, we learn to makethat fundamental shift from focusing always on ourselves to focusing on God and others. And then, not only do we grow in holiness, but we experience true joy – a joy that this world with all its pleasures can never give.
  • My brothers and sisters, as we celebrate this marvelous feast of Corpus Christi, may we each be given the grace to turn away from all selfishness and turn toward God in humble adoration.
  • May we show Him proper thanks for this great gift of the Eucharist by putting the needs ofothers before our own.
  • O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!

 

© 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, lease 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