This coming Monday is November 11th, Veterans Day. Every Veterans Day we remember those men and women who have served our country in the military. We are thankful for all of our veterans, and I am personally thankful to all of our VOL parishioners who have served. Did you know Veterans Day has a Catholic origin? November 11th is the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. St. Martin of Tours is the famous 4th Century Roman Officer turned Catholic bishop. His conversion story is noteworthy. As we are told, one day he came across a poor man while he was on his horse. Filled with compassion for him, yet having nothing to give him, he tore his cloak in two and gave one half to him. That same night he dreamt the same scene, but instead of the poor man he saw that the face of Christ. This led to him leaving the service of the Roman government and entering the service of God, eventually becoming bishop of Tours in France.
The Feast of All Souls was celebrated this weekend. It is an important day for us all. It is personal, as we gather to pray for our dear loved ones who have passed. We are also doing our duty as Christians, as praying for the dead is a spiritual work of mercy. At every Mass there is an explicit moment when the dead are prayed for, and that is during the Eucharistic Prayer. Every Eucharistic Prayer prays for the dead. This is very appropriate because at every Mass the entire Church is present, that is both the visible and invisible Church. The deceased souls in Purgatory are present, even though we cannot see them with our eyes. I’ll use the first Eucharistic Prayer, often referred to as the Roman Canon, as an example to help illustrate this. I tend to use this one often for Sunday masses. Also, the Roman Canon is the oldest Eucharistic Prayer in the Latin Church, and one of the oldest in the entire Catholic Church.
Last week we talked about All Saints’ Day. In particular, what happens after we die, that we do not become angels, but remain human. This weekend we are talking about All Souls’ Day. On All Souls’ Day we remember all the dead, both our loved ones who have passed, and every other human being who has died. The day before we remember those in Heaven. On this day, we are specifically praying for those in Purgatory. We don’t pray for those in Heaven, since they are enjoying their eternal reward. We pray and ask for their help. Also, those in hell cannot be helped anymore. So by this logic we know that our prayers on All Souls’ Day are for those in Purgatory, who are those souls who have died, but can still be helped by their prayers.
We are getting closer to two special days in the Liturgical Calendar. I am referring to All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. These two days complement each in the mysteries that they teach us. In fact, the fullness of the Church is seen during these two days. On All Saints’ Day we are thankful for the Church Triumphant, and on All Souls’ Day we pray for the Church Suffering. We, the Church Militant here on earth, are specifically focusing on the other two parts of the Church, as the Church Militant, Church Suffering, and Church Triumphant make up the reality of the Church, as the Church is more than just what we see here on earth. Over the next two weeks we will go into these two celebrations. We’ll take All Saints’ Day first since that is celebrated first.
Faith is the ability to believe in what another person tells you even when you are not sure. To use the Language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is the total submission of one's will and intellect to God. It is a supernatural virtue given to those who obey i.e., those who listen and hear the voice of God. It is the ability to trust God even in those moments when we think things are impossible. It allows one to accept both good and difficult circumstances in life knowing that all will be well. Seeing the dark moments of life with the hope that it will be okay even when you do not see the way through.
Justice as New Evangelization The mission of the Church is to bring all people into a relationship with God and also to transform and sanctify the society in which we live with all its realities and challenges. Justice is one of the virtues that will help us to transform the world. Justice is a term that has been used to portray a number of ideas, including fairness, quality, and lawfulness. Distributive Justice is concerned with the distribution of money or honor or other resources that are divided among all who have a share in some public organization. In cases of distributive justice, things must be determined carefully.
In the Second Reading St. Paul encourages us to “compete well for the faith.” We might be surprised that he compares the spiritual life to sports and athletics. In fact, St. Paul uses athletics in multiple places. What does it take to be an athlete? What does it look like? I think it can be boiled down to 3 points: 1) sacrifice, 2) opposition, and 3) end goal. To be an athlete takes sacrifice. We have to sacrifice our time to get good, sacrifice relationships, and sacrifice our own wants and desires. How did Tiger Woods get to be the greatest golfer in his prime? How did Michael Phelps become a human fish and the greatest swimmer in Olympic history? How is Drew Brees a top 5 quarterback all-time statistically? These and other athletes become the best by putting in the time it takes, and this means sacrifice. Sacrificing their bodies as well is necessary. Every athlete encounters soreness and pain along the way.
A poll was released recently stating that only 1/3 of the Catholics in this country believe the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. This means that 2/3 of the Catholics in the U.S. believe that the Eucharist is only a symbol, and not really and truly Jesus’ Body and Blood. This failure begins with the clergy. Yes, catechesis is part of it too, but it is the shepherds who are at the root of the cause. I am not writing this to throw blame at those who have been ordained longer than me (I’ve been a priest 6 years for those keeping score at home.). Besides just restating the Church’s teaching, are there other arguments, or other ways, that we can come to know and believe that the Eucharist is Jesus’ Body and Blood? I think so. Here are a few in no particular order.
This is what the Lord says: “ Let my people go, so that they may worship me” (Exodus 9:1). This was God’s design for the people of Israel when He led them out of Egypt. God desires that His chosen people serve and Worship Him as their one true God. In the book of Exodus, we see Moses fulfilling this promise as he led Israel to prayer and worship. Our God is a jealous God who does not want to share His glory with anyone. All He wants is to have a true communion with us, His chosen people. However, for us to enter into that intimacy with God, we must be men and women of prayer.
Part of the rub, or the difficulty that comes with being a disciple of Christ, is the responsibility that comes with it. What I mean by this is that our life no longer becomes our own. We can no longer do what we want to do anymore. Christ now has a stake in our lives. We were created from nothing by God, and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are following the steps of Jesus Christ, not blazing our own trails. This is what St. Paul is trying to get across to us in the Second Reading from his letter to the Colossians.
One of the tragedies in today's world is our inability to pray well. Today, men and women are getting too busy with the struggles of life that they forget to spend little time with God in prayer. Prayer, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, is “the raising of our minds and our hearts to God.” By the above, it means for us to pray, we must set aside a few minutes daily to speak with God as we do with our friends and loved ones. Lack of communication destroys our human connections with one another. Likewise, when we stop praying we drift away from God who desires to be in communion with us always.
In the Gospel this weekend we hear about the known story of Martha and Mary. Jesus was very close to them and their family, as Lazarus was their brother. He was visiting them one day and was teaching them. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, glued to Him and hanging onto every word that He had to say. Martha, meanwhile, was concerning herself with the household things, and being a good hostess to their special guest.
Undoubtedly the human being was created for love, it is not a surprise for any of us to hear that the human being is in this world to love and be loved. The problem is that we forget it easily, and we get carried away by the rush of the world and little by little we lose love. In this race, we lose the importance of love which is at the bottom of the darkness, and we are focus on the problems, worries, and other things that become our center of interest.
The Gospel today gives us some vocational imagery, among other things. Jesus sent out 72 disciples ahead of Him to every place He intended to visit. From what they said when they returned, this was no insignificant task. They came back saying that even fallen angels, or devils, were subject to them because of the name of Jesus.
The human person is a being, gifted with the spirit of God. Hence humans can think and search for the meaning of their being. There are times in our lives that some questions can come to mind, for example: where do I come from? Where am I going? What is waiting for me? What sense does everything make? and so forth.
Since being ordained a priest, I always get a little nostalgic this weekend, as the first Mass I celebrated after ordination was on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. It was a special thing for me to celebrate my first mass on the day that the Church was celebrating the Eucharist. Today’s liturgical celebration has a special place in my heart for this and other reasons.
We are living in a time when people are seeking clarity for their faith due to the confusions and struggles of daily living. There is no doubt that many Christians are trying to live their faith with honesty, but sometimes, living the authentic Christian vocation could become a real cross. The Christian life can only be successfully lived out when we open ourselves to trust in God’s will. To attain this, we need to be men and women of prayer and faith.
This weekend we celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, Mary, and the disciples. They spent 9 days in the Upper Room preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles received what they were missing before going out into the world, that is the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the Church, as this was the first day of the Church as we know it. It was also the first day that the Church began to beget souls and increase in number, as we are told 3,000 souls were added to the Church that day.
This weekend we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. This is one of the solemnities that bishops transfer to Sunday. The Ascension is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday after the 6th Sunday of Easter. I wish it stayed on Thursday. The reasons why I think its better to be celebrated on its traditional day because it is closer to its actual day. What we are told in Scripture is that the Apostles went to the temple rejoicing after Jesus ascended into Heaven. We also know they went into the Upper Room, where Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, and they also prayed. Scripture doesn’t tell us how many days they spent, but the Fathers of the Church hold that they prayed in the Upper Room for 9 days. If we count 9 days back from Pentecost, not counting the day of the Ascension when the Apostles were rejoicing, the Ascension does indeed occur on a Thursday. So keeping it on Thursday retains this chronology that is supported by both Scripture and the Church Fathers.
The second reading, from the Book of Revelation, gives us biblical imagery of what Heaven is like. St. John the Apostle, the author of this book, saw a vision of the heavenly city. Just like cities have boundaries and entrances and streets, so does the heavenly one. The last paragraph from this reading tells us something that is quite remarkable. There is no need for the sun or the moon for illumination in Heaven because the lamp of the city is the Lamb. We know that Jesus is the light of the world. St. John, in his Gospel, uses this image more than once. Jesus is the light that has shone in the darkness. This will reach its fullness in Heaven, as the light of the world, Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb of God, will be the light that illuminates everything in Heaven.