Friday, November 30, 2007

Homily for Saturday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time

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Fittingly, for the last day in ordinary time, we have apocalyptic readings. Be ready. Be ready. Be ready. If we truly believe the kingdom of God has come among us in its fullness through Jesus Christ, and that He is really and fully present to us through the sacrament of the Eucharist, then this is no time to be complacent! The kingdom of God is among us, and woe to us who become drunken or drowsy in this time of grace and fulfillment! Christians who live in an awareness of the presence of Jesus in their lives always become more concerned about their sins of omission than about their sins of commission. It is true that we commit many sins, but Jesus warns us that perhaps our greatest weakness is our drowsiness, and inability to see the kingdom of God among us. Lord Jesus, make us vigilant! We want to see your face!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Homily for Tuesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time

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If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor! (Ps 127). Jesus teaches correctly that everything that exists in parts eventually comes apart. He urges us to put our faith not in the things of this world, but to see the things of this world as a gateway to the kingdom of heaven. The man who places his trust in the Kingdom of heaven is like a man who built his house on rock, not like King Nebuchadnezzar who built his kingdom on sand. Jesus reminds us not to go looking for the coming kingdom, trying to out-predict everyone else regarding its definitive arrival. For the Catholic Christian, the kingdom of God is always near to us, and is always present through the Eucharist, which is Jesus Himself. The one who is prepared to receive the Eucharist faithfully and worthily, is also ready for the coming of Christ at the end of all time! Advent will be a season for us to become more watchful for the Lord's coming. May He not come suddenly and find us sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all - watch!

Turkey Bowl

On Saturday I played in a 5 man flag football tournament. The 'blue' team earned 2nd place, and today (Monday) I am as sore as can be! It was a miracle no one in this out of shape group was seriously injured, but we had a good time playing! These are mostly Catholic guys from Johnson county, including some of my good friends from St. Michael the Archangel Parish. I'm on the first row - the #4 second from the left!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King

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The rulers over the Gentiles make their authority over them felt, but it will not be so with you. Whoever wishes to be first among you must become the servant of all. I have given you an example, that what I have done, so you must also do.

A diocesan priest like myself makes three promises: celibacy, obedience and prayer. These three promises help a priest to keep from building his own kingdom. We all know the difference between a good king and a bad king. A good king is always seeking the good of his subjects. A bad king only serves himself. In imitation of Christ the eternal King of heaven and earth whom we celebrate today, a priest makes promises of celibacy, obedience and prayer.

Strictly speaking, because of celibacy, nobody needs a priest to preserve his life on the earth. The greatest gift a priest can give to those he is called to serve is an example of faith. He is to give them evidence that the Kingdom of heaven is greater than any kingdom that they can build on this earth. A celibate is not to have dependents, then, either a wife or children, who need him to maintain a stable kingdom on this earth. A priest through his celibacy is to imitate the words of Christ when He was questioned by Pilate. 'You say that I am a king. My kingdom does not belong to this world. If it did my subjects would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to you. As it is, my kingdom is not of this world. I came to testify to the truth. Whoever listens to the truth hears my voice.'

Because of obedience, a priest has no right to any kingdom on earth. Because of his love for his bride, the Church, a priest can and should pour out his life for his parish or for those entrusted to his care through specialized ministry. A priest can and should fall in love with his bride, and it should not be easy when a priest is reassigned by the bishop. A priest may even be allowed to stay at a parish in a single assignment for a long period of time because of his particular zeal or skill or success. Yet the promise of obedience should dissuade the priest from making himself into an idol or demigogue, and should do the same for his parishioners. He must be willing to hand any temporary kingdom over to others, just as Jesus handed His mission over to His disciples.

Because of prayer, a priest is discouraged from pride and self-reliance. It is natural to try to distinguish one's self through hard work, dedication and sacrifice, and there are in the priesthood some tremendous men distinguished for their intelligence, skill and devotion in their service to the people of God. But despite the many gifts of individual priests, all priests are expected to make a meaningful sacrifice of prayer as their first duty. For if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor. The success of Jesus' mission continued by the Church depends more on our hearing God's will and asking for His assistance than it does on the talents of the Church's ministers. Thus, a priest does not need to be perfect, but humble. Instead of putting pressure on himself to be more like God, who is all knowing and all powerful, a priest through his prayer should not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but should instead empty himself, and take the form of a slave.

In answering this call to the priesthood, I feel that I have escaped the rat-race of trying to build an impressive and lasting kingdom for myself here on this earth. This has been a great gift of God to me, and one that I am happy to share with other through my new ministry as vocation director. I am still the same guy that I was before ordination - I still want to have a successful life, to be admired by my peers, and to advance in the way of perfection. But through the promises of celibacy, obedience and prayer, it is a relief for me to know that I no longer have to make any major decisions in my life. I have handed my life back to God, trusting that He will give back to me a share in the kingdom of His Son, which is a greater, happier and more beautiful kingdom than any kingdom I could have chosen or built for myself.

A priest is entrusted by Christ to share in his kingly mission to govern His Body and His Bride, the Church, by always looking out for what is best for Her. He invites young men today to offer their lives generously in priestly service, and to receive from Him a great consolation and joy in being united to Him in an extraordinary way. We should have 50 seminarians for our Archdiocese. Right now we have 18. If young men in our archdiocese are looking to where they are needed, the priesthood is the place for them. If every young man in our archdiocese were willing to go to seminary, and to do whatever Christ and His Church might ask of them, we would only accept 1 out of 500 applications. Everyone else would be free to do something else with their lives. The problem is that less than 1 out of 500 young men in our archdiocese are giving God the benefit of the doubt in allowing themselves to be called by Christ and the Church to the priesthood. You and I both know that we as the Church of NE Kansas have more faith than this! Please join me in praying for more vocations to the priesthood for our Archdiocese!

Homily for Saturday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time - the martyrs of Vietnam

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Jesus clearly says in today's Gospel that there are some who are to become like angels, who neither marry nor are given in marriage. In saying this, he affirms that while all people may desire marriage, not all are called to it. Instead, some are called to attain to the resurrection of Christ in a singlehearted way, through celibacy for the kingdom. In accepting the call and gift of celibacy, priests and religious witness to the reality of the happiness awaiting us all in the kingdom of heaven, when our flesh will no longer have a chance to dominate our spirit.

Unlike America, which has a poverty of saints and martyrs, the tiny Vietnamanese peninsula is awash in the blood of courageous witnesses like Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions. Today's memorial marks the deaths of 133,000 Vietnamanese martyrs. These martyrs became like angels in offering their earthly lives in testament to the reality and power of Jesus' resurrection. May their witness inspire many, many vocations to the priesthood and religious life!

Homily for Friday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time - Miguel Pro, priest and martyr

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The producer of the movie Bella has plans to make another movie on the life of Miguel Agustin Pro, a 20th Century priest and martyr from Mexico. As vocation director, I very much hope he makes this movie, as I can use it to inspire vocations to the priesthood. Miguel Pro's relics are in the altar at St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood, my first parish, along with the relics of the North American martyrs. We need more American saints like Miguel Pro, for our continent is woefully short on martyrs and saints compared to other countries.

Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and must be constantly purified through the sacrament of reconciliation and the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist. Judas Maccabeus and his brothers are rejoicing at their opportunity to rededicate the temple of the Lord, and Jesus Himself in today's Gospel is trying zealously to clean out that same temple. May we never become desensitized to sin and its power to cast out the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us.

Homily for Thursday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time - St. Cecilia

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Most parishes will of course use the readings for Thanksgiving Day today, but I wanted to comment just a bit in this blog on St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. Cecelia was not necessarily a musician herself, but her virginity and her martyrdom constituted her 'song' which gave glory to God! I experienced much growth in my faith through my participation in the choirs at the St. Lawrence Center at KU. We sang for the Holy Father at WYD Denver in 2003 and again in Rome during pilgrimages in 1996 and the Jubilee Year of 2000. I hope through the intercession of St. Cecilia, to make of my life a 'song' that glorifies God.

Mattatias continues the bravery we have seen in 2 Maccabees by refusing to obey the king's orders, instead inviting all those wanting to be faithful to the covenant of Moses to leave Jerusalem and to withdraw with him into the desert. When Jesus himself arrives in Jerusalem, He weeps for her, knowing that in order to become what she is supposed to be, she must first be broken down piece by piece, and cured of her pride. Let us repent for our own pride, through which we give credit to ourselves, rather than glory and thanksgiving to God, for His presence and many blessings in our lives!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Homily for Wednesday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time - Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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When a child is brought to the Church for baptism, the child's name is proclaimed at the beginning of the rite as a reenactment of the Jewish tradition of presentation. The name is pronounced in the Church as a confirmation that this child belongs not to the parents, but to God. The parents are stewards of this precious gift, and in the end, they give God the chance to name the child. In baptism, parents proclaim the truth that they are not owners of the child they present, but are caretakers of the mystery of life.

The mother is 2nd Maccabees is extraodinarily courageous in directing her son to give up his life. The mother is able to give this instruction because she knows the power of God to give and to restore life is greater than the power of men to destroy life. This woman in 2 Mac prefigures beautifully our Blessed Mother, whose presentation in the temple we commemorate today. Mary taught her son that to obey the will of God was sweeter than life itself, and He, like the son in today's first reading, was able to say to his persecutors - You do not take my life from me - I freely lay it down.

Joachim and Anne brought Mary to the temple for her presentation in order to proclaim that Mary was a child of God, and that her life had lasting value only insofar as it was received as a gift. Mary became the handmaid of the Lord, willing to give her life back to God generously accordingly to his will. She did not guard her life our of fear, like the miserly steward we hear of in today's Gospel. Because of this, she was the first to receive the gift of eternal life from Her Son!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Homily for Tuesday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

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I don't know about you, but when I read the daily obituaries, I always pay special attention to the people who died who are younger than me. On March 17th, I will turn 33 years old. 33 is the best historical estimate of how old Jesus was when He was crucified. This is a birthday I have been looking forward to for this very reason. For me, it is a benchmark of when someone should be ready to die out of witness for his faith. I know that there are many young men and women who have died at a much younger age serving our country. Some of the great martyrs and saints died much younger than 33, and were not afraid to die because of their great faith. So I regard 33 as absolutely the latest date for one to be ready to do whatever Christ would ask him to do in order to strengthen his kingdom, even if this involved great sacrifice and persecution. Eleazar is the hero of today's reading from Maccabees. He says rightly how foolish it would be for one who is 90 years old like him to worry about preserving his life, rather than giving his life freely so that those after him would have a great example of faith. And so Eleazar is martyred, and the free gift of his life begs the question as to whether you and I are willing to die for our faith as well.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Homily for Saturday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time - St. Leo the Great

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Jesus tells us to make eternal friends with finite wealth. Of course there will be no need for money in the kingdom of heaven, and so the resources we have on this earth are good insofar as we use them to bring us closer to the kingdom of heaven, and evil so far as those resources use us to get us to prefer our kingdom here on earth. Jesus says as well that the way we use the goods of this world are a good indication of how we will use the gifts of grace that He brings us through the sacraments. If we use material resources to solidify our kingdom here below, we will also use the gifts of faith, hope and love to gain friends in this world only, rather than making friends who will welcome us into eternal dwellings. We should follow the example of the saints, like St. Leo the Great, one of only two popes to be called great. They are our friends who are already in heaven, and by their example and prayers they spur us on to victory!

Homily for Friday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time - St. John Lateran

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Today’s Gospel discourages us from turning our sacred spaces into secular marketplaces, but it does not discourage us from using our financial resources to build sacred spaces. It is true that the greatest basilicas, including the mother church basilica of St. John Lateran that we commemorate today, are as nothing compared to the temple of a human body, which is to be the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It is sad indeed when great basilicas are empty, and are not blessed by the presence of the faithful celebrating the great mysteries of the faith. But we should have such beautiful churches in which to worship God. Oftentimes, we give in too easily to the temptation to think that we should help the poor instead of building beautiful Churches. The reality is that we should sacrifice to do both. It is not an either/or proposition but a both/and proposition. We should not steal from the poor in order to build opulent places of worship, but we should also not give less than our best in the building of a Church and then fail to give to the poor as well, which I am afraid happens more often than not.
Just as the condition of the homes in which we live, the way we construct them, and maintain them, says something about the importance of the family that lives there, so also the Churches we build should speak to the dignity of the family that God is building there. The Church building should not serve simply as a convenient and comfortable place for the faithful to gather; it should be the very best building that a community can build, far greater than any neighborhood home. It should speak to the reality that what happens in the sacred space is different than what happens outside it. Catholic Churches should be especially beautiful since they house the living presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and are the primary locations where the faithful physically encounter their Lord.

Homily for Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

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There is happiness to be had in growing in virtue, and in breaking the habits of sin that lessen our freedom to love the things of heaven. But growing in virtue is always the result not of our asserting our willpower but of our letting the Lord find us and heal us at our weakest point. Our goal is not to become one of the 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance, but to find our joy in the kingdom of heaven, where the greatest rejoicing is for the one sinner who repents. Even as the Lord accomplishes great work in us, and habits of sin are continually broken, we are not to become less dependent on the Lord’s mercy, but to find our strength and our joy in our identity as sinners who are constantly being found. As St. Paul tries to tell us, this is the only way for our lives to gain an eternal and lasting dimension; to belong to the Lord at all times. Whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s.

Homily for Wednesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

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When I set up my 403b retirement account, my financial advisor asked me if I wanted to invest aggressively or conservatively. Of course I told him aggressively. I was in my 20s at the time, and wanted to maximize the return on my money without fear of loss in the short term. When I get in my 50s and 60s and see what I need for retirement, I’m sure I will ratchet my investments back and look for more security and less growth.
Our Lord Jesus is no financial planner, to be sure. When we sit down to negotiate with Him, He starts by giving everything that He has received from His Father to us, and then says, if anyone comes after me without hating his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Since Jesus has made the first move in losing his life for the sake of sinners, there is no response that makes any sense other than the loss of our lives.
There is no way to manage our discipleship in more aggressive or more conservative ways. We cannot make God a bigger part of our life; God’s life does not fit within our lives, any more than the Grand Canyon can fit in our living rooms. But we can and should lose our lives within the mystery of God’s life, and in response to the love revealed in Jesus Christ.

Homily for Tuesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

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It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that religious vocations come more often from poorer families. This is certainly a socioeconomic phenomenon – religious life represents a chance to receive a great education for very little cost, as well as security working within the mission of the Church. Thus, from a purely financial perspective, priesthood and religious life affords new opportunities for those of limited means while not holding this same attraction for wealthier people. But I think there are obvious spiritual advantages to being poor as well. There are disadvantages to being destitute, but obvious advantages to being poor. The more things that we have, the more time and energy it takes to use them. Today’s Gospel story illustrates that the more complicated our lives are, the less ready we will be to come and to dine with the Lord when He invites us. Have we ever been too busy to attend Mass, or so distracted in our lives that going to Mass is just another thing on the checklist rather than the true center of our day? Today’s Gospel encourages us to continue to simplify our lives; to use the things we have to draw closer to the kingdom of heaven rather than letting our things use us. May we seek the kingdom of heaven with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength, confident that everything else will be given us besides.

Homily for Monday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

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Friendships are important on this earth, but having friends in heaven is better. Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost, so He was always more keenly interested in those who could not pay him back. St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans that God allowed all to fall into disobedience, so that all might receive the Lord’s mercy. As great as it is to be without the sin that damages our relationship with God and with one another, as great as was the life of Adam and Eve before the fall, St. Paul submits that knowing the mercy of Jesus is better, and the bonds of love that are forged between sinner and savior are stronger. Inspired by the example of Jesus, who came to seek and to save what was lost, may we too be most interested in those people who can not pay us back, but who are in most need of the Lord’s mercy.

Homily for Sunday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

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Jesus was headed to Jerusalem, and the little town of Jericho was not that important of a stop. The great paschal events were to happen in Jerusalem – the trial, the way of the cross, the resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. All the most important things were to happen in Jerusalem, and by the time the Lord arrived at Jericho, Luke has told us over and over that Jesus had resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem. It is true that while in Galilee preaching the kingdom, Jesus often told his disciples when they ascertained his true identity as the son of God, not to tell anyone who He was, for He did not want to get dragged to Jerusalem too soon before He had a chance to teach his disciples about the kingdom of heaven. But Luke tells us clearly that by the time the Lord gets to Jericho, He is moving with determination; he intended to pass through Jericho, which makes his overnight stay at the house of Zaccheus all the more surprising, and all the more significant.
Jesus goes out of his way to seek out and to stay at the house of this wee little, miserable man, Zaccheus, who because of his greed had a little life indeed, a life with no friends. Everyone would see Zaccheus as a waste of Jesus’ time, given the enormity of his mission as the Messiah, and the growing anticipation of his arrival in Jerusalem. Sure, early on in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, maybe Zaccheus would have been worth a few minutes of Jesus’ time, but to dine at his house and to stay with him overnight at this crucial juncture. It didn’t make any sense. This would be like the Jayhawks driving for a game winning touchdown against Missouri, and then calling a timeout so they could go inside and use the restroom. And yet when Jesus looked up the sycamore tree, he did not see a worthless person, he saw a child of Abraham, our father in faith. He saw in Zaccheus a mustard seed’s worth of faith, and he took the opportunity to show his disciples how to seek and to save what was lost. Zaccheus’ tiny bit of faith in climbing that tree was enough for our Lord to consider coming under Zaccheus’ roof.
Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and I shall be healed. I know this is not exactly what we say before we receive the Holy Eucharist, but it is what the Latin says, and what most of the world says, before receiving the blessed Sacrament. And sometime soon, we will be saying it as well in the American Church. Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and I shall be healed. The Lord stands ready in tonight’s Holy Eucharist to come under our roofs. And just in case coming to dine with us isn’t surprising enough, the Lord humbles himself further by not only becoming our guest, but also becoming the very food that we eat.
As we receive the Holy Eucharist tonight, we should ask that having the Lord come under our roofs would have the same effect in our lives that it had in the life of Zaccheus. Because the Lord came to visit him, Zaccheus became a righteous man, a man of charity, a man who loved the kingdom of heaven more than the kingdom of earth. The same thing is supposed to happen to us when we receive the Eucharist; we are to be blown away and transformed by the miracle and the mystery that is before us. In our first reading from the book of Wisdom, we are reminded that before the Lord, the whole universe is like a kernel of grain or a drop of morning dew. We are reminded that if the Lord ever stopped thinking of us and loving us, our lives and our universe would vanish in a second. We are so insignificant compared to the glory of the Lord, and yet that Lord comes under our roofs tonight, and becomes our food. We are reminded that the Lord who loves us beyond all imagination will do 99.999% of the work, if only we have faith the size of a mustard seed. The Lord says to us, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, I will accomplish amazing things within you.
The tremendous conversion in the life of Zaccheus reminds us that we often do not bring much faith to bear when we approach the Lord Jesus in the sacraments. Even though we know our Lord is really present through the sacrament of reconciliation, and especially in the sacrament of the Eucharist, we oftentimes do not bring enough faith to come out of the interior rooms of our pride and selfishness. Much less do we find the humility, courage, faith and curiosity to climb the sycamore tree in order to see the Lord more clearly. In Jesus’ visit to Zaccheus, we are reminded that the Lord of all the universe will go to any length to reach out and to save what is lost. Will we have enough faith to let him find us?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Homily for Saturday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time

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It is not too difficult to tell if a young Catholic is growing in faith or is losing his/her faith. The ones that are growing in their faith are those who have decided their mission is to evangelize, and to share the treasure they have received. The ones who are losing their faith are always comparing the life they could have in Christ with the life they could have without him; in other words, they are asking the question, what’s in it for me?
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans is reflecting on the reality of the Gospel message being taken from the nation of Israel and given to a nation that will bear its fruit, the Gentiles. It is not that God is rejecting Israel; no, God does not annul his covenant. He is love, and does not change. But the success of the Gospel among the Gentiles was to one day serve as a catalyst for the Israelite people to recognize the true treasure of their faith, and to see Christ as the fulfillment of the messianic promise.
Our Church has said over and over that as Catholic people, we have been given the fullness of the means of grace that Christ intended the Church to have. This is to say that the Church Christ founded subsists in the Roman Catholic Church. Because we have been given much, much is expected. But until that day when the Church fully owns her responsibility not simply to guard the faith, but to evangelize, we should not be surprised that other Christian ecclesial communities will have great success, and even share in the gift of salvation, not as a sign that God has withdrawn his love from the Church, but as motivation for us to fulfill our mission to evangelize the culture!

Homily for All Souls

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Why do you wear black all the time? Or do you ever get tired of wearing black? After I give one of my hundreds of presentations on holy orders or on priestly vocations in grade schools, high schools, and youth groups, and open the floor to questions, these are two questions I usually get. And as usual, when I don’t have a good answer for a question, I usually make up an answer that sounds about right. I know that is borderline lying, but we’ll get into that in another homily. As far as answering the question – what’s up with all the black, I usually end up saying that the black symbolizes for a priest the death that he shares with Christ. A priest who acts on behalf of the Church in persona Christi capitis, carries about in his person the dying of our Lord. In Africa, I have heard that priests are known as ‘dead men walking’ Because a priest is celibate, he seems like one who is dead to this world. And that of course, is the point, and so this is the answer I give when people ask me why priests wear black. We wear black because we are supposed to be people who are comfortable with death, who carry about the dying of Jesus.
But I have to admit that even though I believe I am less afraid of death than some people, that even as a priest, who does everything he can to promote faith in Jesus’ resurrection, I know that I am more afraid of death than many people. I am inspired by people who face death with courage and acceptance, who truly carry the dying of Jesus more than I do even though I wear black everyday. I know that their faith is stronger than mine. I am not afraid to go to the hospital, or to the bedside of someone who is close to death, no matter what their age. But I am still afraid of my own death; life on this earth is good, the Jayhawks are 8-0 for goodness sakes – in football! – and I would rather have eternal life added on top of my earthly life, rather than having to face the reality of my own death.
One does not hope for what one sees. This advice from St. Paul tells us that even if we have hope in Jesus’ resurrection, since we do not yet see that resurrection completely, we will still fear our death in this world. And so fear of death is not incompatible with hope. Yet St. Paul says in tonight’s letter to the Romans that hope while not seeing completely does not disappoint. Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. So even as we fear our own death, our hope in the resurrection of Jesus ensures that fear of our death does not paralyze us, and does not dominate our lives. Far from disappointing, hope in Jesus’ resurrection frees us to be people of love, and the Holy Spirit constantly brings us the love that casts out fear whenever it threatens to paralyze our lives.
Many atheists say correctly that you do not have to believe in God in order to die for a good cause. Out of natural goodness and love one may find the courage to die for another, or for a worthy cause. But the reason we are here tonight is to celebrate not merely natural human love, but more importantly we are here to encounter again the supernatural love of God, revealed to us in the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Paul says that God proved his love for us by dying for us precisely because we are sinners. St. Paul is very clear in this point. Christ did not die for us because we are mostly good, but need a little extra help. Christ did not die for us hoping that if given his example, we might someday be able to pay him back. No, St. Paul is precise. God proved his love for us by dying for us for no good reason whatsoever. God is love; he does not need a good reason to start loving. And so Christ died for us while we were still sinners, his enemies. This supernatural love goes beyond the natural human love that can find the courage to die for a good reason. Supernatural love gives completely even when there is no reason to give; Christ gave himself up to death because it was his identity, and thus his mission to reconcile everything to the Father.
Were Christ to die for us out of natural love for us, dying for us because of our potential for goodness, then there would be reason for some of us to boast before God. There would be reason for us to compete to become more worthy of Christ’s sacrifice for us. But since Christ chose to die for us while we were his enemies, none of us has a reason to boast before God, or to compare ourselves with others. No, Christ died for each one of us at the same point; precisely at the point of our greatest failure, our greatest unworthiness, and our greatest weakness.
Were Christ to die only for those who were worthy, there would be every incentive for you and me to hide every weakness of ours from him. Sometimes we try to do this with one another; to get other people to love us by hiding our weaknesses. But since Christ died for us while we were still helpless, for the ungodly, there is no point in our boasting before God. Instead of trying to make choices that make us look more and more worthy of God’s love, we are to make the one choice of letting our lives be broken open, so that we may know Christ’s love at our weakest point, and be sure of that love at the time of our earthly death.
Tonight we commemorate the souls of all the faithful departed, those who have faced the final trial, their earthly deaths, trusting that Christ would be there to embrace them at their weakest moment. Tonight I am remembering especially my own mother, now deceased for over six years. I pray also for Ben Cote, a 7 year old boy from St. Michael parish who died this fall of cancer. I pray for Lauren Dopp, a junior at St. James Academy in Lenexa, who is facing imminent death while we celebrate this Mass. You all have similar people for whom to pray during this solemn liturgy. In commemorating the deaths of our beloved, may we be reminded of the shortness of our lives, that we may gain wisdom of heart. As we help the souls in purgatory with our prayers, may we be reminded to keep death daily before our lives, and to let Christ love us at our weakest points, so that we may hope for his loving embrace at the last moments of our earthly lives. May our reception of the Holy Eucharist tonight bring us all closer to the new and eternal Jerusalem. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen!