17 May 2010

The Mystery of the Ascension and the Mass (2010)

Hear, O Lord, my voice with which I have cried to Thee, alleluia: my heart hath said to Thee, I have sought thy countenance; thy countenance, O Lord, I will seek.

Dominica post Domini Ascensionem
Epist.: 1 Pet. 4:7-11
Evang.: Jn. 15:26-16:4

Sometimes, we ask questions the answers to which are contained in the question itself. Usually we do this to test a person’s ability to pay attention. Who, for example, is buried in Grant’s tomb? Or, What color is George Washington’s white horse? The following question also appears to contain the answer: When we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, what is it that we call to mind? If you were to answer, “The Passion and Death of the Lord”, your answer would be true, but inadequate, incomplete. If you were to answer, The Passion and Resurrection of the Lord, again, your answer, while true, would leave something more to be said. The complete answer may be found in the Canon of the Mass, just after the Consecration, beginning with the words, Unde et memores. There you will discover, that when we offer to the divine Majesty, from all of His gifts and presents, a pure Victim, a holy Victim, an immaculate Victim, the holy Bread of eternal life, and the Chalice of everlasting salvation, we do so while calling to mind not only the blessed Passion of Our Lord, not only His Resurrection from the grave, but also His glorious Ascension into heaven.

When we assist at holy Mass, we may be in the habit of imagining ourselves at the foot of the Cross, in the company of our Blessed Mother, St. John the beloved disciple, and St. Mary Magdalene. That we should so imagine certainly corresponds with the nature of the Mass, since the Sacrifice of Calvary and the Sacrifice of the Mass are one and the same Sacrifice, differing only in the manner in which it is offered: the one bloody and non-sacramental, the other sacramental and non-bloody. Yet even as we call to mind the Passion of Our Lord in this way, and even though the celebration of the Holy Eucharist necessarily entails the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, nevertheless, it is the Risen Lord who is made present under the species of bread and wine, and it is the Risen Lord whom we receive in Holy Communion.

07 May 2010

Divine Providence and Human Freedom (7th Sun. after Pentecost 2009)

O clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God with the voice of joy.
Dominica Septima post Pentecosten
19 July 2009
Epistle: Rom. 6:19-23
Gospel: Matt. 7:15-21

Today’s collect speaks of God’s providence, which never fails in what it orders. The root meaning of the word providence is “foresight” or “foreknowledge”. In a temporal sense, it means knowing something before it takes place. We apply this way of knowing to God because our knowledge is conditioned by past, present and future. God, however, is not conditioned by time since he exists outside of time—he transcends time. Because of his infinity and immensity, God is therefore present immediately to all time and every place.

In the context of the Bible, divine providence is much more than simply God knowing what will happen next. God does not simply know what is going to happen; rather, he has a plan, a plan for the universe that encompasses all that has happened, is happening, and is going to happen. In addition, the biblical idea of divine providence includes God’s infallible ability to carry out His plan through his loving rule or governance. In sum, then, providence in God is foreknowledge of a plan which the divine will accomplishes infallibly.

Enemies within and without (9th Sun. after Pentecost 2009)

My house is a house of prayer.
Dominica nona post Pentecosten
2 August 2009
Lectio Epistolæ: 1 Cor. 10:6-13
Lectio Evangelii: Luc. 19:41-47

Most Psalms have a story behind them. Psalm 53, from which the text of today’s introit comes, is no exception. David wrote this psalm when he was being persecuted by Saul. He was sojourning in the land of the Ziphnites, who let Saul know about it. Saul comes down and traps David. But then he is told that the Philistines have attacked the kingdom, so he withdraws, letting David and his men live another day.

David was being afflicted by an external enemy, but not because he was being punished for something he had done. His trials at the hand of Saul aptly exemplify what David writes in Psalm 33: “Many are the afflictions of the just, but out of them all the Lord will deliver them.”

Sometimes, however, the source of external afflictions lies within.

The Holy Trinity and the Mystery of Predestination (2009)

O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways!
Trinity Sunday
7 June 2009
Epistle: Romans 11:33-36
Gospel: Matt. 28:18-20

Today’s epistle may be regarded as having two distinct, though not altogether unrelated, purposes. The one concerns the Being of God, the other His acts and judgments in relation to men and their salvation. The one requires our faith; the other our trust. These two purposes arise from the two different contexts in which we this text is situated; namely, the liturgical and the original biblical.
In its liturgical context, the text of the epistle is given to remind us how utterly mysterious is the Being of God; that as Catholics, “we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. For the Person of the Father is one, that of the Son another, that of the Holy Ghost another; but the divinity of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.”1 He is three Persons in one God: “thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God”; “the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Ghost uncreated.”2 Likewise these three Persons of the Triune God are each infinite, eternal, and almighty; yet, they are not three uncreated beings or three infinite or uncreated or eternal or almighty beings, but one uncreated and one infinite, one eternal and one almighty Being. In short, the Father is God and Lord, the Son is God and Lord, the Holy Ghost is God and Lord; yet, they are not three gods or three lords but one God and one Lord. We confess these truths because, in the words of the Athanasian Creed, just “as the Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each person distinctly as God and Lord, so too the Catholic religion forbids us to speak of three gods or lords.”

The Influence of Culture on Prayer (Ascension 2009)

Dominica post Ascensionem D.N.I.C.
24 May 2009
Be prudent and watchful in prayers.

Since the liturgical season gives us the opportunity to contemplate the days leading up to Pentecost, when the “little flock” — the “Pusillus Grex” — had gathered in that high place known as the Upper Room to await and pray for the coming of the Holy Ghost, we would do well to consider this little mountain with two other high places of no mean significance in the life of Our Lord.

On His way to Jerusalem, our Lord climbed Mount Tabor — to pray. And as you know, He took with Him Peter, James, and John. And while He was praying, He was transfigured before their eyes: “His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow.” That is to say, Our Lord allowed the full splendor of His impassible divinity to shine forth, revealing to these three Apostles what the Incarnation really looked like when the Divine Power was not withholding from plain sight the full effect of its presence. Little wonder that St. Peter, no doubt speaking for his companions, imprudently desired to remain atop this mountain and avoid Mount Calvary, the mountain of supreme sacrifice, where our Lord manifested His incomparable charity, humility, and obedience.

Learning how to love things by using them (Sexagesima Sun. 2009)

But that upon good ground, these are they who, with a right and good heart,
having heard the word, hold it fast, and bear fruit in patience.
Sexagesima Sunday
Epistola: 2 Cor. 11:19-33 et 12:1-9
Evangelium: Lk. 8:4-15
15 February 2009

Every year on Whit Sunday, the Sunday after Easter, we are reminded that the mission of the Church is that of Christ. Recall what the Gospel relates, what Our Lord tells His awestruck disciples: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when He said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost.’” And with the Holy Ghost, God’s love was poured in their hearts. And when the Holy Ghost manifested Himself visibly on Pentecost, the Apostles lost no time fulfilling this Mission, the Great Commission given to them by Christ.

In today’s liturgy, originally celebrated at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (of Rome), the epistle provides us with an astounding example of this Mission in the person of St. Paul. Earlier in this same letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul informs us that he was “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus” might also be “manifested in” his body. Just to what extent he carried “in the body the death of Jesus”, today’s detailed resumĂ© of the Apostle’s trials and tribulations makes it impossible to accuse him of exaggeration. On the contrary, St. Paul may be said to epitomize the man in the gospel who heard the Word, held it fast, and bore fruit in great patience.

Easter Sunday Sermon (2008)

Thy knowledge is become wonderful.
Easter Sunday 2008

Since the time of man’s creation, and the first sin of Adam and Eve, the natural life of all men has been the same, an existence clearly described in the Book of Job: “Man born of woman is short-lived and full of trouble.” This was life for most people — you were born, you worked by the sweat of your brow. And if you had not been cut down by famine, disease, or war, and if you had the time and the leisure, you might — with the faint candlelight of reason, begin to grope around in the dark — begin to wonder and ask, what this short and uncertain existence was all about. But before you had a chance to advance very far, you came face to face with the very thing to which you would have had no answer at all. In short, you died. Yes, for fallen man, death was inexplicable. And for that reason, the purpose of the life that preceded it was, and is, an inscrutable mystery.

On Protecting the Eucharist from Unworthy Reception (4th Sun. after Easter 2004)

Fourth Sunday after Easter
(First Holy Communion)

9 May 2004

The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity & the Athanasian Creed (adapted from a sermon by Newman

“Go, therefore, and teach all nations;
baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”
—Matt. 28:19.

Trinity Sunday

That in some real sense the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are They whom we are bound to serve and worship, from whom comes the Gospel of grace, and in whom the profession of Christianity centers, surely is shown, most satisfactorily and indisputably, by the words of this text.

The first thing to observe about these words is that they blatantly contradict the ordinary rules of grammar. The Name is one, yet it embraces three Persons. The reason for this is not that Our Lord wished to obscure what would otherwise be clear. Rather, in communicating to us the eternal mystery at the heart of the Godhead, there could not but be a difficulty in the words in which Our Lord chose to reveal it. At the same time, however, the individual words themselves could not be more plain or exact. And this deserves notice; for it may also be extended to the details of this great Catholic doctrine, as found in the venerable Creed of St. Athanasius.

The Limitations of the Peace of this World (4th Sun. Advent 2001)

The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him: to all that call upon Him in truth.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
23 December 2001

As Advent draws to a close, we would do well to ponder what Advent is all about. Advent is a time of preparation, a time to prepare for the coming of the Baby Jesus, the coming of Christ into our hearts. We are, or should be, preparing ourselves by doing penance for our sins and striving to uproot our vices. As St. Paul exhorted us during the first week of Advent, “The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. . . . Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscenses.” Why is it worth our while to do just as St. Paul tells us, but that Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

But what is it about this peace of Christ that makes it worth my while to put on the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it really worth all the effort and trouble?