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Heavenly Hope

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/23 at 1:00 AM
  • In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul speaks eloquently today of the hope we should bear for Heaven. Life here on earth is full of suffering, but as St. Paul tells us, our earthly sufferings “are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
  • Our hope in Heaven must be firm, because our God is a merciful God. He is a God who saves, and His greatest desire is that all of us be saved and enjoy the eternal benefits of Heaven.
  • For this reason our blessed Lord has given us innumerable aids in this life to help us along the path of salvation.
  • In particular, our Lord has given us His one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, which safeguards the Truth revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ, Who is the Word‐Made‐Flesh. The Church not only safeguards the Gospel message, but She also spreads it throughout the world.
  • Truly, the spread of the Gospel throughout the world is one of our Lord’s – and the Church’s – greatest triumphs.
  • From the beginning of Her history 2000 years ago, Holy Mother Church has followed in the path of our Lord’s suffering and death. Just as our Lord was unjustly persecuted, suffered the cruelties of crucifixion, and eventually died, so too has Holy Mother Church been subjected to the evils and inhumanity of wicked men.
  • We see this most especially in the lives of the Church’s saints and martyrs.
  • From the moment the Church was born in the Upper Room at Pentecost, men havepersecuted Her and tried to destroy Her. Persecution after persecution, especially in the first 3 centuries of our history, has spilled the blood of countless saintly souls who preferred to die rather than renounce our Faith or offend God.
  • This continent of Africa proudly boasts a large number of martyrs, both in the early centuries of the Church’s history as well as in modern times – as we see here in Uganda with St. Charles Lwanga and his companions.
  • But even though the first persecutions eventually ceased and the Catholic Faith became the state religion of the Roman Empire and spread throughout the world, Holy Mother Church has never relaxed in Her efforts of spreading the Gospel.
  • She does this in imitation of our dear Lord, Who never ceases to communicate His grace and truth to us. This communication of our Lord’s grace and truth is the primary theme of our readings today.
  • The prophet Isaiah tells us that the Word of God comes down from Heaven like rain that waters the earth, making it fertile and fruitful. And His Word is powerful, capable of producing great wonders.
  • For indeed, the Word of God that comes down from Heaven is no ordinary word like we speak to one another in order to communicate a message. The Word of God communicates God Himself – His grace and His truth – for the Word of God is the Word‐ Made‐Flesh!
  • In our Gospel today Jesus tells us the familiar parable of the sower and the seed, which gives us a powerful lesson about God’s Word. Namely, this parable makes it clear that

although our Lord is constantly sowing His Word among us, the effect that it has

depends on the disposition of the recipient.

  • Jesus explains this parable to His disciples: “The seed sown on the path is the one whohears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes andsteals away what was sown in his heart.”
  • “The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it with joy.But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecutioncomes because of the word, he immediately falls away.”
  • “The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxietyand the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.”
  • “But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, whoindeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
  • You see, my dear brothers and sisters, while it is true that Jesus comes to all of us freely,while He communicates His grace to all people and does not impose or force Himself on anyone, He desires that His Word take root within our souls and bear the beautiful fruits of virtue and holiness.
  • Our souls are like hidden gardens in which our Lord desires to plant Himself. But gardens must be tended. They require a great deal of effort in order to produce a harvest.
  • The rocks and weeds of sin and vice must be dug out and removed, and the soil itself must undergo the painful process of being hoed and broken open so that it may be properly prepared to receive the Seed.
  • It is for this reason that our Lord allows suffering of various forms to enter into our lives. When we endure suffering with equanimity and patience, offering our sufferings in union with our Lord’s suffering on the cross, our souls are made into that rich soil that can receive the Seed of God’s Word so that it can germinate and produce rich fruit.
  • In today’s parable, the people who are like the path, the rocky or the thorny ground, are those who have refused the cross of Christ or who have allowed their personal sufferings to harden their hearts rather than soften them.
  • Obviously we are to strive to be the rich soil through the patient endurance of our trials and sufferings so that when we hear the Word of God it may bear fruit abundantly within our souls.
  • But it is not simply God’s Word to which we must be open. We must be open to God’s grace as well.
  • Most parishes are filled with people who have heard the Gospel and believe in it. But how many people truly cooperate with the grace our Lord gives to us so that we can grow in holiness?
  • At every moment of every day our Lord is giving us all the graces we need to become holy. Yet how few truly holy people there are in the world! Our sinful human nature often tends toward sloth and mediocrity.
  • Yet if we wish to attain that level of holiness that will prepare us for Heaven, we must have zeal!
  • Our Lord tells us today that blessed are our eyes because they see, and our ears because they hear. As Roman Catholics we are blessed because we enjoy the fullness of faith that is only found in our Lord’s one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.
  • But what good is it to see and hear the mysteries of our Faith if we fail to act on them?
  • And so we must be zealous in trying to root out all the sins in our life while alsoworking diligently to acquire virtue so that we may more and more come to resembleour Lord.
  • We must be diligent as well in our prayer and be as perfect as we can be in fulfilling thedemands of our vocation in life.
  • Moreover, we must continually stoke the fire of love for God we have in our souls,seeking to please Him and fulfill His will, even in the smallest details of life.
  • This is how we prepare our souls, my brothers and sisters, so that they become that richsoil that bears fruit in abundance. This is how we prepare our souls for Heaven.
  • Let us pray today that we may always have the zeal necessary to tend well the gardensof our souls so that they may indeed become that rich soil that bears fruit in abundance!

 

Structure Unchanged

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/23 at 12:00 AM

 

  • When I spoke about the upcoming changes to the Mass  I said we are not getting a “new” Mass, but rather a new translation of the English version of the Roman Missal. The structure of the Mass will not change at all, simply some of the wording that we use.
  • Moreover, this new translation is really part of the on‐going renewal of the liturgy that Holy Mother Church periodically undertakes in order to communicate the timeless mysteries of our Faith to the different periods of history.
  • While this revision was undertaken to include new prayers and new rubrics that have been added to the Roman Missal in the past few decades, the new translation was also completed with an eye toward making it more faithful to the original Latin, thereby recapturing the beauty, depth, and poetry of the original Latin prayers.
  • Today I’d like to talk about the specific changes in the Introductory Rites and Liturgy of the Word. Please take a look at the foldout cards in the pew racks to follow along.
  • The first change we encounter is with the greeting. When the celebrant greets thepeople at the beginning of Mass, the new response will be: “And with your spirit”, which is a direct translation of the original Latin “et cum spiritu tuo.”
  • The priest’s greeting is not a simple “hello,” but rather a prayer that the Lord truly bewith us as we undertake the sacred mysteries of the Mass.
  • In response you are wishing that the Lord be with the priest in his unique role as thehead of this particular gathering of the Body of Christ.
  • The priest, by the grace received through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, is configured toChrist in a unique way, and it is through his spirit that Jesus Christ makes Himselfpresent to us, thus opening the door to the Heavenly Banquet.
  • So in essence, your response to the priest’s greeting is a prayer for him that he mayoffer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass well. I don’t mind telling you that I need all theprayers that I can get!
  • The next change is in the Penitential Act – our admission of guilt and asking for pardonas a means of preparing for these sacred mysteries. Generally here at St. Ann’s we usethe Confiteor, although there are other options that we can use at this part of the Mass.
  • Again, the new translation of the Confiteor is much more faithful to the original Latin.Now we will say that we have “greatly” sinned, which is a reference to King David’shumble admission of his sins in 1 Chronicles.
  • The new Confiteor also includes the triple “through my fault, through my fault, throughmy most grievous fault,” while striking our breasts 3 times, following the element ofrepetition that we find in other places in the Mass, such as the Kyrie and Sanctus.
  • The hope is that these modifications to the Confiteor will help us develop an even morehumble disposition as we prepare for the celebration of the Mass.
  • The next change is with the Gloria. For the past two months we have had thepermission to use the new Gloria. Once again we see a more literal translation of thisgreat prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
  • The very beginning of the Gloria is almost a direct quote from Luke’s Gospel: “Glory toGod in the Highest and on earth peace to people of good will,” again illustrating how the new translation relies more heavily upon biblical texts and images.
  • The verbal structure of the Gloria is changing a bit, too, into almost a litany of praise: “we praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, etc.” This is another literary tool found in the original Latin that creates a crescendo effect to our praise and thanksgiving.
  • As we move into the Liturgy of the Word, there are no major changes outside of the “And with your spirit” said in response to the greeting at the beginning of the Gospel until we get to the Creed. Yet the Creed is changing significantly.
  • The first change is that the Creed will now be said in the 1st person singular (“I”) rather than the 1st person plural (“we”) to be more faithful to the Latin. So while the Creed is a communal act, each of us is called to profess our faith individually.
  • The next change in the Creed is that rather than saying “of all that is seen and unseen,” we will say, “of all things visible and invisible.”
  • This more precise language better conveys the truth that some of the things we believe in as Christians are not just obscured from our vision, not merely unseen, but actually are incapable of being seen by the human eye.
  • The next section of the Creed espouses our beliefs re: Jesus, and much of the wording here is changing. First of all we are adding the word “begotten,” in “only begotten Son of God”, which reiterates the language used in the Gloria.
  • Even more so, the word “begotten” conveys our belief that the Father was intentional in begetting Jesus as His Son. We will also say that Jesus was “born of the Father before all ages” to emphasize that Jesus has dwelled with the Father from all eternity.
  • We will say that Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father” rather than “one in being with the Father.” For most of us “consubstantial” is an unfamiliar word, but it means “of the same substance,” which is a more theologically correct way of describing the relationship between the Father and the Son.
  • We will also say of Jesus that He “was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,” which again is more accurate than saying, “born.” The word “born” refers to the moment of birth, whereas incarnate speaks of the moment of conception. As Jesus became incarnate in His conception in His mother’s womb, we should say that He “was incarnate” and not just “born” of Mary.
  • Moreover, we will bow as we say these words in reverence to the central importance of the mystery of the Incarnation to our Catholic faith.
  • We will say that Jesus “suffered death and was buried” rather than “suffered, died, and was buried,” again to be more faithful to the original Latin text, which only uses 2 verbs (passus et sepultus) in this part of the Creed, and not 3.
  • In the final section of the Creed, we will profess that the Holy Spirit, “with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,” instead of “worshipped and glorified.” Again, this modification is being made to make our language more precise.
  • And we will say “I confess one baptism” rather than “we acknowledge one baptism” as a way of making our language stronger and more expressive.
  • Lastly, we will say “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead,” rather than “we look for….” This new language better expresses the hope and confidence in the resurrection that is proper to Christians.
  • Next week we will look at the changes in the Liturgy of the Eucharist and Communion Rite of the Mass.

• Again, I know these changes will take some time to get used to, but let us trust that our faithful embrace of this new translation will not only improve our worship of God, but also deepen our love and faith in Him.

 

Sinning

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/23 at 12:00 AM

• Our passions and sinful inclinations can truly harm us by distorting our souls and making it more difficult to see the Truth and act upon it.

• I have talked about some of the dangers of falling into sin through a weak will: how it takes away our peace and makes us vulnerable to committing more sin, and how it can ultimately lead our souls to hell.

• I have also mentioned how the virtues of humility and charity, along with the spiritual practices of fasting and penance, can help us learn to master our wills and overcome the temptations to sin that our passions can provoke within us.

• In our Gospel today our Lord gives us a little primer on sin and the importance of trying to avoid it at all cost. Therefore, I’d like to talk a little more about sin, its effects, and what we can do to avoid it.

• Benjamin Franklin once said that: “Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is hurtful.” And he’s absolutely right! Not only is sin hurtful to the one who commits the sin, but it is also hurtful to those around us.

• As I’ve mentioned before, sin enslaves us. It makes us less than who we are called to be. Sin robs us of our personal dignity and it distorts our true character. As the French author Andre Gide put it: “sin obscures the soul.”

• But our sins also affect on those around us, and our Lord addresses this in the Gospel today. And being a cause of temptation for others or inducing others to sin is a sin.

• Jesus says: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

These are pretty harsh words from the Prince of Peace! But we must take them seriously.

• When we lead others into sin through our sinful actions, we jeopardize their souls. Or if our sins are known to others or made public, they may cause scandal – which can cause people to fall away from the Faith, thus jeopardizing their souls!

• Sadly, the Catholic Church in this country knows firsthand the devastation that scandal can cause. For example, in the wake of the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Church in 2002, hundreds of Catholics left the Church, especially in parishes where abuses took place.

• But even on a small scale, giving rise to scandal and inducing others to sin is something we must be wary of. One issue that comes readily to mind is dressing modestly. When we dress immodestly, we may lead others to sin, and this is especially sad when it happens at Mass!

• Parents, too, must be very careful about what they say and do around their children. Children pick up on everything, and sometimes they can be very quick to call you out for your sins and moral failures.

• But what’s worse than that is that children often end up committing the same sins as their parents. If you’re living in a way that is morally compromising or if you have habitual sins that are apparent to your kids, it’s very likely that they will think nothing of doing the same things as they grow older.

• Thus, it’s very important that we try to make reparation for the damage we cause to others by our sinful actions. It begins by making apologies when necessary.

• As weak humans, all of us sin from time to time. No one outside of Jesus and our Lady have ever lived perfect lives. And because we sin, we must ask for forgiveness, first from God, but also from those who may have been affected by our sin.

• But in addition to asking for forgiveness, we also need to show we’re sorry for our sins and make restitution, and that’s why the priest gives us a penance whenever we go to confession.

• Penance helps us to restore the balance of justice we disrupted by our sin. It’s a way that we can make up for what we’ve done wrong. And that’s why it’s important for Catholics to perform acts of penance on a regular basis.

• Penance brings healing to our soul, and it helps us right our relationship with God. Penance also helps to deepen our sense of contrition, making us less likely to commit the same sin again in the future.

• In addition to talking about leading others into sin in today’s Gospel, our Lord also speaks about the necessity of avoiding whatever leads us to sin.

• We are told: if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. . . . And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. . . . And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, for it is better to go through life without these things rather than be thrown into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.

• Hopefully it’s obvious that our Lord is speaking figuratively here. He doesn’t really expect us to maim ourselves.

• Our Lord’s point is that we should do everything in our power to avoid those things that lead us into sin, what we call in Catholic parlance: “the near occasion of sin.” Jesus makes the point that we should do this because if we don’t, there may be – very literally – hell to pay.

• I say this not to scare you, but simply to underscore our Lord’s own words. Please understand, my friends, that when it comes to sin, the stakes are high. So many people today waltz through life, sinning with reckless abandon, with nary a thought to the consequences.

• And yet there are always consequences to our sins, whether we recognize them or not. Sin not only offends God, but it alienates us from God and makes it harder for us to love and live a holy life. So we must try with all our might to avoid sin at all cost.

• Personally, I love the stories of the virgin martyrs, like St. Agnes, and even more recently, St. Maria Goretti, who preferred to die rather than allow themselves to be defiled by sin.

• They give us hope and show us a great example of courage in the face of sin. The virgin martyrs remind us of how we are called to love God above all things – even our own lives.

• Now if we wish to avoid sin, then we must also avoid the near occasion of sin. For a lot of us in today’s world, that means being very careful about the type of media we expose ourselves to, especially on television and the internet.

• It also often means learning to avoid or limit contact with those people in our lives who easily lead us into one of the 7 deadly sins like anger, lust or envy.

• Ultimately, we must learn to constantly throw ourselves on God’s mercy, and trust that He will give us the grace we need to overcome temptation when we face it, and that He will forgive our sins when we fall prey to our temptations if we make a good confession.

• My dear friends, let us listen well to the words of our dear Lord today. Let us flee from every temptation to sin as if our lives depended upon it, for in truth, they do.

Copyright 2009 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC

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

Christian’s Life

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/09 at 12:00 AM
  • Chartres Cathedral just outside of Paris is often called the most beautiful church in the world. While there are many, many notable architectural and artistic elements in this church that make it so beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful element is the stained glass windows.
  • Vivid in color and simply magnificent in design, the windows detail the lives of prophets and saints as well as the entire story of our salvation history. In the beauty of these windows, we see the beauty of all that God has done for mankind, despite our sinfulness.
  • In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, our Lord speaks of all the good things He has done for Cyrus. Cyrus was a Persian king whom our Lord used to help liberate the Israelites from their Babylonian captivity in the 6th century B.C.
  • In 539 BC King Cyrus and his Persian army captured Babylon from the Chaldeans, and soon thereafter he wrote a decree liberating all the foreigners who had been captured by the Chaldeans, and this included the Israelites, who had been in Babylon for roughly 70 years.
  • In speaking of Cyrus in the first reading, our Lord talks about holding the right hand of Cyrus and of calling Cyrus by name. In His love and mercy, our Lord does the same thing with each of us, for our Lord’s grace is directed toward leading all people to Heaven.
  • In the first chapter of his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul speaks of all the blessings God the Father has bestowed on us in Christ, and St. Paul states that God has chosen us from before the foundation of the world.
  • In other words our Lord knows us, and He has known us for all eternity. God has called each of us – every single person – out of nothingness, and He has created us in His own image and likeness. Each individual human soul is a unique manifestation of God’s creativity and love.
  • Even though each person lives in a certain time and place in history, we have always – from all eternity – been in our Lord’s mind and heart. There was never a time when He did not know us or desire us to be.
  • And God has created us not simply to fulfill a particular vocation as a means of working out our salvation. He has an ideal in His mind of the person that He wants us to be. In His divine Providence, God desires each of us to grow toward this perfect image of ourselves.
  • Thus, the life of the Christian is one of striving toward the particular form of perfection that God wills for us. Our lives should be marked and shaped by striving for that holiness that God desires for each of us.
  • While the call to holiness is universal, how holiness is achieved and lived out by each of us varies in God’s providence. Thus it is that He calls us by name – that He calls each of us personally, individually.
  • Our readings today call us to meditate on God’s unfathomable goodness and to render unto Him some repayment for His goodness. While we can never truly repay God for His love and mercy, we should always strive to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him.
  • This we do by truly striving for that holiness our Lord has marked out for us. We render unto God what belongs to Him by becoming that ideal person He has called each of us to be.
  • Alas, this is easier said than done! Even when we desire holiness and earnestly seek it, the lives of the saints show us that there are many obstacles and setbacks in our journey toward holiness. The greatest obstacle to becoming the holy people God has called us to be is sin.
  • Nothing prevents us from becoming holy, nothing is a greater setback to fulfilling God’s will than sin. Sin is a poison that infects us, impeding our spiritual health, and thereby limiting our capacity for holiness. Thus, we must avoid all sin by whatever means possible.
  • Even those small venial sins that we tend to think are meaningless and that we thoughtlessly commit poison us and seriously impede our growth in holiness.
  • Of course we are poisoned by sin through falling prey to temptation. Temptation can enter our lives in a couple of ways. Temptation may come through our own human weakness and sinful proclivities.
  • Each of us has particular root sins that we often commit. Of the 7 deadly sins, each of us has one or two that we specialize in and that are the root for most of the sins we commit.
  • Many times we fall into sin simply because of defects of character. Our temperaments and the faults that we have neglected to correct within ourselves can make us prone to fall into certain temptations.
  • But we must never forget as well that there is a tempter, an adversary, who in the words of St. Peter is “prowling like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (cf. 1 Peter 5:8-9). I’m speaking, of course, of the devil, satan, who is as real as you and me.
  • And not only is the devil real, but in his absolute hatred of God, he seeks to lead into perdition man, whom God has created for Himself.
  • Throughout the course of our lives the devil studies us so that he can know the best ways to tempt us. He constantly sets snares for us and looks for the most opportune moments to slyly and shrewdly tempt us to sin.
  • Satan’s ultimate goal is to turn us away from God so that we will refuse God’s mercy and love and thereby condemn ourselves to an eternity in hell.
  • But while satan’s power is considerable and must never be underestimated, we should never think for a moment that he is more powerful than God! Nor should we ever believe that God ever leaves us alone in our struggle against satan.
  • In addition to His grace, most especially the graces we receive in the sacraments, our Lord has given us a most powerful weapon in our combat with the devil: His Immaculate Mother.
  • In our chapel we have the beautiful painting of Mary as the Immaculate Conception. Arrayed with the sun and crowned with 12 stars, with the moon under her feet, Mary is depicted with her foot upon the head of the ancient serpent as a sign of her power over him.
  • While our Lady does not take the place of her Son in the struggle against the devil, Mary is His weapon of choice! Indeed, other than our Lord Himself, Mary is the only human satan has never seduced for even the slightest moment.
  • And in her maternal love, Mary works to protect and tear away from the evil one every soul entrusted to her by God. While our fallen human nature is prone to sin, with the help of Our Lady, falling prey to temptation does not have to be inevitable in any situation.
  • When we call on her in times of trouble, Mary is swift to intercede, procuring for us every grace we need to conquer our temptations and rid ourselves of sin. And in the beauty of her holiness, we find the singular example of one who perfectly fulfilled God’s will for her life.
  • During this month of October in which we honor in a particular way the Holy Rosary, we are called and encouraged by the Church not only to seek Our Lady’s intercession in times of need, but to imitate her and entrust ourselves completely to her maternal care.
  • Indeed, if we receive Our Lady into our hearts and entrust to her our struggle to grow toward Christian perfection, Mary will never allow the evil one to harm us nor his seductions to lead us astray.
  • O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

© 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

Our Good Shepherd

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/09 at 12:00 AM
  • In the 25th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives us this grand vision of how, at the Final Judgment, He will judge each of us just as a good shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (cf. Mt 25:31-46).
  • Jesus tells us that He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. To the sheep He will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And they will inherit eternal life (Mt 25:34).
  • And to the goats Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” and these will go off to eternal punishment (Mt. 25:41).
  • Our Lord explains in this very important passage that each of us will be grouped with either the sheep or the goats based on our love for Him shown in our service to others in need. Specifically, Jesus speaks about fulfilling the corporal works of mercy.
  • Does this mean that we can earn our way to Heaven simply by serving the poor? Of course not. We are saved by God’s grace, not by our works.
  • However, although God’s saving grace is freely extended to all people, we must choose to accept or refuse His grace. Our willingness to serve Christ by serving the poor is a sign that we’ve accepted His grace. It’s a sign of our willingness to fulfill the great command to love.
  • As our Gospel for today explains, we must listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow it. Christ calls each of us by name and leads us, and we who recognize His voice willingly follow the path He marks out for us.
  • If we wished to be saved, we must choose to be one of His sheep by being obedient to His commandments, most especially the command to love Him above all else and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
  • Yet, our Gospel makes clear that Christ is also the gate through which we enter into salvation. The sheepfold – the pasture – within which we find salvation is His Body, the Church. Christ is both priest and victim; He is both shepherd and sheepgate.
  • To believe that we can find salvation through anyone other than Christ, or to allow ourselves to be shepherded by those who are not faithful to His teachings is like placing ourselves into the hands of thieves and robbers, who come “only to steal and slaughter and destroy.”
  • Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can go to the Father except through Him! (John 14:6)
  • Through our baptism, we enter into the Church – into our Lord’s sheepfold, and once in the Church we are shepherded by Christ’s teachings, which are safeguarded by His Church and communicated by His faithful shepherds, each of whom is an alter Christus.
  • But remember my brothers and sisters: we must choose for Christ! This is a choice we must continue to make daily, even once we are inside His sheepfold!
  • Even though our choice for Christ is made in a fundamental way at our baptism, we must renew our choice for Him constantly, for in our brokenness, we are often prone to wander far from Him.
  • As we consider His great love and mercy that we celebrated 2 weeks ago on Divine Mercy Sunday, why wouldn’t we choose Him? Jesus offers to us His unfathomable mercy, which is unlimited as long as we live on this earth.
  • Not only are the worst of sinners welcome to partake of our Lord’s mercy, but Jesus said to St. Faustina that the worst sinners have the greatest right to His mercy!
  • Jesus is the Good Shepherd who willingly lays down His life for His sheep. Our Savior allowed His Sacred Heart to be ripped wide open by a cruel centurion’s lance so that all mankind could find a home there!
  • That wound caused by Longinus’ lance not only opened up the sacramental life of the Church; it opened up the floodgates of God’s mercy!
  • In our first reading we see St. Peter proclaiming to the house of Israel that Jesus, whom they crucified, is indeed the Christ! He sets the choice before them: they can either accept Jesus as their Lord or deny Him – but they have to choose.
  • St. Peter tells the crowd that choosing for Christ requires that we repent of our sins. It requires that we turn away from the corruption of our generation.
  • Once inside our Lord’s sheepfold, we must follow Christ by imitating Him in every aspect of our lives. In all things we must seek the Father’s will rather than our own will.
  • Yet as the second reading today makes clear, following Christ and doing the Father’s will sometimes means that we are going to suffer – just like He did.
  • But, my dear friends, this should not be a cause for anxiety or worry for us. For when we look with the eyes of faith, we can see that suffering is often the sweetest gift God gives us to us because suffering borne with patience really helps to shape us into an image of Christ.
  • As St. Peter tells us today in our second reading, “if [we] are patient when [we] suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.”
  • Just as the rough grit of sandpaper is used to smooth and shape wood into something beautiful, so too does suffering smooth the rough patches of our soul caused by sin so that we may be shaped into something more beautiful.
  • So just as God the Father allowed His only begotten Son to suffer so that we might be redeemed, our Lord allows us to suffer so that we may imitate His Son, make reparation for our sins, and be strengthened in virtue.
  • When we willingly accept our sufferings and unite them to Christ’s suffering on the cross, we console our Lord!
  • Truly, if Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd, leads us by way of the path of suffering, we can be certain that it is probably because we need it for our own growth in holiness.
  • Allowing us to suffer then, is a way that our Lord shows us His mercy, and we can be certain that as the Good Shepherd He will lead us through the path of suffering into greener pastures.
  • My dear friends, as our Lord’s precious sheep, we must train ourselves to know the voice of the Shepherd. And as we learn to hear the voice of the Lord, let us strengthen our wills so that we may follow Him unreservedly, even when He leads us by the path of suffering.
  • For by faithfully following Him who loves us more than we can ever imagine, and by imitating Him in all things – even in suffering – we will be covered in His mercy and inherit eternal life.

 

Schism

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/09 at 12:00 AM

Perhaps the saddest event within our 2000 years of Christian history is the Great Schism of 1054, by which the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church was cleaved in half between East and West.

  • After a millennia of unity – albeit at times a very tense and strained unity – the Body of Christ no longer beat with one heart. Divided along cultural, theological, political and geographical lines, Rome and Constantinople were no longer sisters.
  • While there has been a general softening in hostilities between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and while recent popes have reached out with gestures of conciliation, this division between Eastern and Western Christianity remains unhealed.
  • Though centuries in its making, with facets that are many and varied, the real heart of the division between Catholics and the Orthodox is really papal authority.
  • Because the pope is the successor of St. Peter, the undisputed leader of the apostles and the rock upon whom Christ founded His Church, Catholics believe the pope to have authority over all bishops and patriarchs, whereas the Orthodox insist upon the absolute equality of the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople.
  • Because unity on this issue of gravest importance has yet to be attained, this sad division remains. And division is precisely the theme of our Gospel today.
  • In words that may shock ears attuned to a culture that insists that “being nice,” is the highest virtue, our Lord says: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! . . . Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
  • So how do we reconcile these words from our merciful Lord, Whom we are accustomed to seeing so generously healing the sick and lame, and so gently calling children to Himself? Didn’t Jesus die for us all, and doesn’t He want all of us to be one body in Him?
  • Yes, Jesus did die for all mankind without exception. And yes, He does want us all to be united as one body. But that unity is not contingent upon Him, but rather upon us. If there is a division between Christ and us, it is not Christ’s fault.
  • Our Lord knew during His time on earth that He would be rejected and despised by many. Jesus knew there would be those people who, hardened by sin and selfishness, would turn away from Him and oppose Him to their own peril.
  • And the hard truth is that while our blessed Lord desires the salvation of all men more than anything else, He will allow us to damn ourselves if we fail to reconcile ourselves to Him and the Truth He has revealed through His Church.
  • My dear brothers and sisters, I cannot say it enough to you: we must never presume upon our salvation. Yes, salvation is a free gift given by God. Yes, God is merciful beyond measure and will pardon even the very gravest of sins if we are sorry for them.
  • But our redemption is a process with which we must cooperate. Specifically, we must conform our lives to our Lord’s teaching as it is divinely revealed to us through the Church. And we must beg pardon for those times that we fail.
  • So our work in the process of our own redemption is that of seeking out the Truth that our Lord has so lovingly revealed in the teachings of the Church and written upon our hearts, and then – by God’s grace, so freely given – doing our best to live by that Truth.
  • Our work in the process of our own redemption is a matter of coming to know Christ, to love Christ, and to be like Christ. If we hope to be saved, my dear brethren, then we must have a real relationship with the Savior!
  • Because Jesus Christ is our brother and friend, we must be intimate with Him in prayer. Because He is our savior, we must constantly thank and adore Him. And because Christ will be our Judge, we must obey Him and seek His mercy for our sins.
  • As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us today, we must “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”
  • But as with all things, we must not think only of ourselves. True charity demands that we try to help others along the path of salvation. And so the life of the Christian is necessarily evangelical by nature – helping others to know the truth and live by it.
  • The primary way that we evangelize is by living our Catholic faith with authenticity, for we cannot hope that others will adopt our faith if we ourselves are failing to live it well. But living our faith with integrity is only the beginning.
  • In a society such as ours that is now embracing as normal and good a whole host of evil and perverse practices, and even taxing its citizens to pay for those evils, we must also be willing to engage in battle with evil.
  • In a society such as ours that understands contraception as a necessity, abortion as a fundamental right, pornography as a pastime, and same sex unions as a matter of equality, we must hold fast to and promote our Catholic teachings with all the more tenacity – for souls are being lost to these evils in our midst.
  • Indeed, my brothers and sisters, we must be so convinced of the Truth of what Christ teaches us through His Church that we are willing to suffer the loss of relationships with loved ones rather than deny or disobey it.
  • We must be willing to suffer the pain that division with others brings in order to remain true to Jesus and to help others know Him. That’s the meaning of today’s Gospel!
  • There can be no doubt that living our Catholic faith with integrity is difficult today because it requires nothing less than dying to ourselves so that Christ may live in us. Our faith demands that we suffer, for there is no Catholicism without the cross.
  • Moreover, our world is filled with many temptations and with so many charlatans who, tickling our ears with lies and half-truths, sow doubts in our faith and distort the truths of Christ’s teachings.
  • Yet we must not be discouraged, even when those we love turn away from us because of our adherence to our Catholic faith. We must not be discouraged even when we have to suffer for our faith, as did poor Jeremiah in our first reading.
  • For as Jesus told His disciples during His sermon on the mount: “Blessed are you when they insult you, and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven” (Mt 5:12).
  • Brethren, none of us likes to be at odds with others. None of us likes to suffer the pains of division or persecution. Certainly, we should never seek division with others, but being true disciples of Christ may necessitate it.
  • Our readings today ask us the question if we are willing to suffer division for our faith. For the sake of souls, let us resolve to suffer whatever divisions necessary in this life so that we may not suffer eternal division from Christ in the next.

© 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

St. Thomas Aquinas

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/06/04 at 12:00 AM

 

  •  Holy Mother Church celebrates the feast day of one of her most beloved and important saints: St. Thomas Aquinas, who, even though he died in 1274, continues to influence the Church with his philosophy and theology.
  • Originally, St. Thomas’ feast day fell on March 7th – the day he died. But in the reform of the liturgical calendar, his feast day was moved to January 28th, which is the day his relics were transferred to Toulouse in 1369, where they remain to this day.
  • When we think of St. Thomas Aquinas, most of us think of his scholarly accomplishments and the important theological works that he produced. For this reason St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of universities and students.
  • But in addition to his keen intellect and his patronage of scholarly pursuits, St. Thomas is also a great patron for those struggling with sins of the flesh.
  • When St. Thomas decided to become a Dominican, his family strenuously opposed him, for they wanted him to become a politically powerful churchman, something that would not be possible in a religious order as new as the Dominicans were in St. Thomas’ day.
  • Wishing to be free from family opposition, St. Thomas asked to be sent away to Paris, but his two brothers, both knights, captured Thomas en route to Paris and took him prisoner.
  • When Thomas steadfastly refused to give up the idea of being a Dominican, his brothers sent a woman of ill repute into his room to tempt him to break his vow of chastity, and hopefully thereby dissuade him from following his vocation.
  • When this woman entered his room, St. Thomas picked up a burning stick from the fireplace and chased her out. Then, falling on his knees, he prayed to be delivered from these trials.
  • Immediately, St. Thomas was enveloped in a mystical experience in which angels girded him with a cord of chastity, saying as they did so: “On God’s behalf we gird thee with the girdle of chastity, a girdle that no attack will ever destroy.”
  • From that time forward St. Thomas never again experienced the temptations of the flesh, and it is for this reason that he is a powerful intercessor for those struggling with the temptations of the flesh.
  • Last Sunday I spoke at length about marriage and the marital act, and how a disordered view of the marital act has not only distorted our society’s understanding of marriage, but has also led to the acceptance and proliferation of abortion and same sex unions.
  • This week I want to focus on the solution to these terrible problems in our society: chastity.
  • As a priest and confessor, it seems to me that of all of God’s wonderful gifts to humanity, thegift of our sexuality is the one that is most often misunderstood and misused – so much sothat our society is drowning in a sea of licentiousness and lust.
  • Truly, chastity has become a forgotten and even discarded virtue in our world today, eventhough it is one of the most beautiful and helpful of the virtues.
  • We see this very clearly in the movies, television shows, and music being produced today –so much of which extols and encourages lustful acts as healthy, normal, and even virtuous.
  • But as Catholics we know that there is nothing healthy or virtuous about any sinful behavior!Sin always wounds us! Yet we must do more than simply believe the truth.
  • No, my brothers and sisters, in response to the terrible sexual vices we see being promoted inall segments of the arts and entertainment of our culture, we must live the truth of human sexuality by learning to be pure and chaste, and we must encourage others to do the same!
  • And good St. Thomas Aquinas can and will help us in this difficult battle!
  • There was a message from Our Lady of Fatima that more souls go to hell for the sin of lust than any other. However, this does not mean that it’s the worst sin, only the most popular.But nevertheless, lust – in whatever form it comes – must be avoided at all costs.
  • Because they are pleasurable, sins of the flesh easily become habits that enslave us to sin.
  • As we habitually give ourselves to these sins over time, our understanding of human natureand human sexuality becomes distorted, and then we begin to treat other people as objectsrather than treat them with the dignity proper to all human beings.
  • This is why we need chastity. Chastity is the virtue that helps us fight lust and moderates ourdesire for sexual pleasure, which is so alluring and so easily corrupted.
  • Chastity is the successful integration of sexuality within a person so that we don’t misuse thisprecious gift. It is an enduring orderliness among all of one’s sexual instincts, emotions, thoughts, and desires. Thus, chastity subdues our impure inclinations and desires which allow the vice of lust to get a foothold within us.
  • In short, chastity, like all of the virtues, is a reflection of Who God Is: He is PURE LOVE! To say that something is pure is to say that it’s “authentic, simple, wholly itself, true.”
  • Having a chaste love or a pure love means loving with authenticity, wholly, and with truth, i.e., according to God’s will. Thus, chastity reveals to us the true nature of conjugal love.
  • Because our sexuality is the part of our humanity most easily corrupted, chastity can be very difficult to attain – and thus we need help! And that’s where St. Thomas comes into play.
  • If you pick up a bulletin today after Mass, you’ll notice in my weekly letter that I wrote about the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, which is a supernatural fellowship of men and women bound to one another in love and dedicated to pursuing and promoting chastity together under the powerful patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  • Obviously, the Blessed Virgin Mary is a powerful intercessor, and as the all-pure one, she is the perfect intercessor for those striving for chastity.
  • As for St. Thomas, throughout his life his behavior and demeanor proved that he had received a special grace of chastity and purity from our Lord – a grace that he is now ready and willing to share with others through the communion of saints.
  • By becoming a member of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, one places himself into the hands of St. Thomas and our Lady, and enjoys their intercession in fighting the sin of lust.
  • But there are certain responsibilities for the Confraternity members, namely: to guard one’s own purity, to seek the truth, to pray the Rosary daily, to wear a chastity cord or the medal of the Confraternity, and to pray prayers for chastity on a daily basis.
  • The Confraternity is open to all confirmed Catholics who are in full communion with the Catholic Church. To become a member, one has to be enrolled.
  • Therefore, I am planning an enrollment ceremony for all of you who are interested in becoming members on Thursday, March 7th – the original feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas.
  • In the next several weeks I will be providing information about the Angelic Warfare Confraternity and the enrollment ceremony in the bulletin and on the parish website.
  • If you are a baptized and confirmed Catholic, regardless of whether you struggle with chastity or not, I encourage you to think about becoming a member of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, for there are many graces for those who are members.
  • So please take a bulletin home and learn more about the Confraternity.
  • May we all strive for purity and chastity: for our own sake, and the sake of our society at large.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, 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 .
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Link to Homilies:
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