24 November 2013 – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King Of The Universe

THE SUNDAY GOSPEL: OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE

Luke 23: 35—43

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” 
Even the soldiers jeered at him. 
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.” 
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”

PASTOR’S REFLECTION by Father Mike Joly: OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE

This is a great Solemnity! Today we celebrate the feast of Christ, the King of the Universe!  His kingship over all things is true whether we recognize Him or not, whether we bow down in awe or not.

Christ is so very the Eternal Son of God that His infinite power and greatness can go unnoticed by us as an ant climbing up a skyscraper is unaware.

There will always be two thieves living within the human race; the proud, self-righteous and unremorseful thief and the aware, repentant and humble thief. Which thief are you? Both of them hang on either side of the Christ King. The three crosses rise up before the crowd so that each of us can choose which kind of thief we are while we are in the presence of the King of the Universe. We are put into a position where we MUST choose one thief or the other and then to embody that choice and recognition.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians so beautifully identifies the crucified One between the two thieves. Jesus is the image of the invisible God — in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible or invisible…He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body, the Church…For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell and through Him to reconcile all things for Him” (Col 1 : 15—19). Yes, if it were not for Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, nothing would be held together; all would cease to exist; nothing would be reconciled with God and the Church would be “headless.” Only an “Almighty King” would subject Himself to such suffering and torture capable of human beings. Any earthly king who is NOT almighty would never subject himself so, for fear of losing the fight. God does not lose the fight.

The jeers of the rulers and soldiers echo on the lips of so many in this modern generation. The unrepentant thief’s hard-heart seems to be contagious today. “He saved others, let Him save Himself”

(Luke 23:35). But that’s not who Jesus is! Jesus doesn’t need a savior. We do. His entire Self as God is on the mission of love to save us.

Only one of the two thieves is humbled by God’s great mercy and willingness to suffer in order to pay the price for our sins. Just one thief is welcomed into paradise. The Man of Mercy hanging next to him softened the heart of the thief, who couldn’t help but repent. There, hanging on a cross next to the King of the Universe, the one thief receives the love of paradise from Jesus which makes any past sins or suffering of no consequence.

Today, we the Catholic Church, complete the worldwide “Year of Faith.” The Holy Spirit has been available in special abundance this Year for all those who desire an increase in faith, for all those who would come home to the Lord in His Body the Church, for all who Jesus calls to a NEW EVANGELIZATION which begins with our own hearts being set afire. We praise our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe! All belongs to Him especially, you!

17 November 2013 – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

THE SUNDAY GOSPEL: THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

LUKE 21:5-19

While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” 
He answered,
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them! 
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.” 
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

“Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name. 
It will lead to your giving testimony. 
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. 
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death. 
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

PASTOR’S REFLECTION by Father Mike Joly: THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

“Is God In Control or Not?”

False security is NO security. Living in denial DOES NOT make one’s fantasy world real. The “end times” certainly ought to be a sobering reality and on the radar of Millennials and those caught up as Generation X and Generation Y folks. But, if the end of time is not believable enough for recent distracted generations, we can at least grasp our own personal “end time.” As Scripture says, we will be on the planet for “seventy or eighty years for those who are strong” (Ps 90:10).

The final two Sundays of the Church’s worship cycle are upon us. They are intense. Advent is right around the corner. Our Scripture readings at Holy Mass are intended to be startling. “All that you see here — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Luke 21:6).

I continue to be fascinated by the more and more secular culture boiling up around people’s ankles, rising up to their waists and necks until they freely seem to “enjoy” being submerged in the secular, and carried away by its dooming torrent. Here are some examples:

Catholics, who have the wisdom and the light of Christ’s Church to guide our moral development, have recently been called to vote in local elections. We were reminded of the intrinsic evils which make up the platforms of some running for office. An intrinsic evil is a deeply embedded evil at the very center of a moral issue: evils like abortion (willfully killing the unborn), or euthanasia (falsely referred to as “mercy-killing), embryonic stem cell research and human cloning (both of which create many human lives which are disposed of as garbage), and homosexual marriage (a human re-definition and manipulation of a God-created vocation) are contemporary examples. “When you hear of wars and insurrections do not be terrified; such things must happen first, but it will not be immediately the end” (Luke 21:9).

Baseball games, soccer games, tournaments of one kind or another often bring very large numbers of kids with their parents to stadiums, convention centers, to Disney and the like. They are swept up in the secular current. I am repeatedly approached by individual faithful people. They tell me how they are intimated to break out of the herd mentality of unfaithful worshippers which surrounds them to worship on the Sabbath. Others share how it is “very uncomfortable” to excuse themselves from the secular itinerary of the little or big athletes with their parents, in order to worship at Mass, yet they do break away and do that very thing. GOOD JOB!

“See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, “I am He” and “the time has come.”  — “Do not follow them!” Jesus is speaking about two things. He speaks of people promoting wrong teachings and false gospels. So do not follow misguided individuals whose opinions are filled with spiritual error and whose hearts are not open to the Truth of Christ preserved in His Church. But Jesus is also talking about forces bigger than individuals too. Beware of the pervasive mentality; beware of the spirit of secularism which numbs the spiritual sensitivity of human beings until they begin to worship their bellies and their agenda for earthly achievement. The massive collection of human beings creating the current environment are not bad people (for the most part). They are, on the contrary, quite good people who live quite lost.

Here is another one. Men, women and youth who step up into leadership roles as retreat-team members often experience great intimidation, paralysis and fear when it comes to reaching out to people around them. They are afraid of being rejected, fearful of subhuman repercussions by coworkers or classmates who they invite on retreats. It’s true. They MUST reach out! You MUST reach out! The priest is not the sole proclaimer of the Gospel; he is the “soul” proclaimer which shepherds all of the other proclaimers. If evangelization does not happen then the Kingdom is thwarted.

We would like to think that we are in control. Of course, we are not. The frenzied question put to Jesus as to “When” will the end be, and “What sign will there be when all these things are about to happen” (Luke 21:7), these are futile attempts for us to grasp at some sort of control. Yet, God is in control, NOT US! The spirituality aware person sees how “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” He/she experiences earthquakes, famines, plagues, mighty signs from the sky” and the like, but realizes that God is in control. Families on vacation put God FIRST in their priority to worship. Retreat-team members draw on this God’s love and certainly as they reach out to invite their peers. And you are blessed to know Christ redeeming you, and through you, redeeming your corner of the world.

10 November 2013 – Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

THE SUNDAY GOSPEL:  THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

Luke 20: 27—38               

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.

Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless. 
Finally the woman also died. 
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them,
“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise. 
That the dead will rise
even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called out ‘Lord, ‘
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive.”

PASTOR’S REFLECTION by Father Mike Joly: THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

“Marriage is but a glimpse of the Resurrection”

Here is the good news: Even today, in such very secular and floundering times as these, people are still concerned about heaven. People in today’s Gospel as well; put forth their questions about heaven, particularly concerning the truth about marriage in heaven. The motives of the questioners (Jewish liturgical groups called Sadducees) are not very pure. They deny the reality of resurrection from the dead, and they attempt to trap Jesus in their own darkness and confusion. But Jesus’ answer to them is quite pure and full and true.

If we are concerned about whether marriage exists in heaven, be assured that it does. Though perhaps not as our human emotion and relations would have it, and certainly not as our secularized and frantic society would have it, there is the fullness of marital communion. The Bridegroom (Jesus) awaits His true bride (the Church). Since God is the Creator of all, having made humanity in His own divine image, there is a deep longing in the human soul to be “one with” the God who created us. It’s an insatiable longing for one’s true spouse, and only God can satisfy it. We crave earthly solutions to our longing for the divine and the holy. Of course, nothing on earth will ever satisfy or humanize our souls except the divine love of the One who made us.

And so God in His infinite generosity and compassion blesses the Church with ways to glimpse our “Spouse,” His love and His face, even now on earth. Marriage is one such divinely-instituted gift. The husband will say, “What I love most about my wife is her patience and her forgiveness.” The wife, when asked what do you love most about your husband will say, “He really sacrifices himself for those he loves.” They are actually glimpsing a small, imperfect face of Christ in each other. Jesus Himself is perfect patience and forgiveness and sacrifice and love. They are actually longing for Christ, and they encounter Him imperfectly in each other.

Indeed, all of the seven Sacraments are access ways for specific grace. While all of the Seven Sacraments connect our souls with eternal reality, marriage is the only Sacrament which draws on the souls of two human beings (a man and a woman) who reflect a tiny, holy glimpse of our heavenly union with Christ. In each other, they see and experience an imperfect foretaste of the perfect loving and fruitful union of God and us.

Times are very tough right now for the spiritually alert and the faithful in Christ. It’s not going to get any easier either. There is more and more insidious secular spirit which is breathed into the soul of the masses of people, turning them toward the profane and the earth-bound as the replacement for their Eternal Spouse, Jesus Christ. The rush toward the replacement is like a blind stampede. God is seductively being replaced by a fallen spirit which turns men and women away from our bridegroom. It’s reminiscent of the very faithful Jewish Macabee family in the first reading. The secular pressures upon the spiritually alert were intense a few hundred years before Christ. Since Christ, the evil lies and threats have intensified to a feverish pitch. Everything of the human soul is a stake.

“Encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2: 17). Thank God for marriage. Thank God that He affords humanity a Sacrament whereby a man and a woman can taste a bit of the Kingdom, for which each person longs. “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die for they are like angels and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”   (Luke 20: 34—36)

3 November 2013 – Thirty-first Sunday In Ordinary Time

THE SUNDAY GOSPEL:  THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

Luke 19:1 – 10

At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. 
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature. 
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.” 
And he came down quickly and received him with joy. 
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” 
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

PASTOR’S REFLECTION by Father Mike Joly: THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

“The Definition of Futility: Climbing a Tree In An Attempt to Avoid Being Saved”

People go to great lengths in order to experience salvation; and people also go to great lengths, attempting to avoid being saved. Which are you?

On the positive side, people who exert their spiritual potential in order to experience something of Christ now and to taste a bit of salvation actually look for Christ. They see Him in their own human dignity. They understand the holy gift of their physical bodies, their human sexuality. They grasp the purpose and the beauty of the Sacraments which feed their souls. They are humbled and hungry before the Infinite God of the Universe who was “intending to pass” through human history and to sanctify it. They seek Him out in the infinite mysteries of the Holy Eucharist or in the holy mystery of marriage or in the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. These people who do not run FROM salvation but TOWARD it understand the passing and fleeting world that surrounds them. They do not attempt to evade Christ. That’s foolish and futile.

But Zacchaeus does attempt to evade Jesus. He IS foolish and futile. Zacchaeus is a Jew and a wealthy man, though somewhat despised because he served the Roman occupiers, taxing his compatriots. In the midst of this boisterous crowd, Zacchaeus is nonetheless a loner. And Jesus intends not only to pass by the crowd, but to pass right THROUGH Zacchaeus’ own heart, letting salvation sweeten this man’s life. Zacchaeus is a short man, hidden in the crowd. He attempts to see Jesus, and to avoid Jesus’ eyes, who was “intending to pass by.” Merely to catch a glimpse of the celebrity, and nothing more than that, Zacchaeus escaped the crowd to run ahead and climb a sycamore tree.

The large sycamore tree grows in the frost-free lowlands of the Mideast. It’s sometimes called the fig-mulberry. It has heart-shaped leaves and bears edible fruit. In the book of the Prophet Amos, (himself a dresser of sycamores) we learn that the ripening of this tree’s fruit can be accelerated by cutting into the fruit with a sharp knife. Its fruit becomes sweeter and more palatable when pierced (Am. 7:14).

It is this tree which the short Zacchaeus climbs to catch a glimpse of Jesus, a celebrity-seeking glimpse like one might seek of the Kardashians (a superficial California “reality” show). Zacchaeus is like many broken men today who think that they are in control and whose hearts have never accelerated in grace or strength or healing or holiness. A lot of men today are lacking in true manhood as fathers or husbands or sons, because salvation has not pierced and passed through their hearts in order to ripen them.

But it is Jesus who is in control; it is Jesus who is about to cut into the heart of Zacchaeus and accelerate the ripening of this man’s humanity. “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). A name recognition followed by a command, followed by an urgency and finally the purpose.

Insert your own name instead of “Zacchaeus.” Listen to the Lord’s command to “Come down from there,” from whatever place in our lives we are attempting to avoid the Lord. Stop pretending in futility. Do it now, “immediately,” because time is unforgiving. The Lord intends to stay at our house. Salvation intends to cut open our hearts so that they ripen in a wonderful, beautiful, powerful awareness of God’s mercy at work in us as men, women, teens, children, families, human beings. This is Jesus’ purpose. “Today, salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9).

27 October 2013 – Thirtieth Sunday In Ordinary Time

THE SUNDAY GOSPEL:  THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

Luke 18:9 – 14

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else. 
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. 
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

PASTOR’S REFLECTION by Father Mike Joly: THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C

“The Meaning In being Human, Assuming My Own Sins or Acknowledging Everyone Else’s”

There are certainly plenty of sins outside of me, in other people’s lives. There are transgressions and delusions, apostates and false teachers. There is no shortage of opportunity NOT to acknowledge my own sins before the Lord and to avoid changing in me what needs to change. There are plenteous occasions for me to pray “ABOUT” other people’s sinfulness and frailties. Unfortunately for the one who does not acknowledge her/his own sin, there is no discovery of one’s true meaning; there is no finding Jesus Christ in a personal way; there is no Savior at work in me.

Pope Francis, our Holy Father, in his beautiful and piercing reality check tells everyone: “Sin, properly assumed, is the privileged place of personally finding Jesus Christ our Savior, of rediscovering the deep meaning he has for me.” (A Sense of Mission, October 2, 2013) There is a beautiful freedom and humanity hidden inside of one’s willingness to grapple with personal sin. We have to acknowledge our own sinfulness and the toll it takes on our loving communion with Christ, if we are to understand the meaning of what it is to be human. Consider these facts about our own sin:

1. My sin must be properly assumed by me,

2. It is then the “privileged place” for me to encounter personally the power and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. I  then become more in touch with what it is to be a true human being.

Failure to acknowledge and properly assume my own sin leads to a lack of repentance for my sin. And a lack of repentance leads to a refusal of divine forgiveness. And the result is a tragic lack of human meaning in my life. A lack of acknowledgement leads to a lack of repentance, which leads to a refusal of God’s mercy, which results in a human life without human meaning.

The tax collector in today’s Gospel passage “properly assumed” the state of his own sinfulness. This is good news for this guy. He is spiritually in touch with reality. He is correct. This means God is at work in him. Even from the last pew, this man enjoys “the privileged place of personally finding Jesus Christ our Savior.” He prays with awareness and sincerity, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 8:13).

It is equally good to sit either in the first pew or in the last. Physical location in the place doesn’t matter. What’s crucial is that someone is spiritually aware, powerfully plugged in, repentant, forgiven and renewed in Christ. This is the “privileged place of personally finding Jesus Christ,” of which Pope Francis speaks. My sin properly assumed by me creates this sacred moment and place for this encounter to happen.

The Pharisee who occupies the front pew in today’s Gospel may have as well sat in the middle or in the back. It doesn’t  matter. He or she is simply not in a true or holy internal spiritual place. The prayer is lost; it is misguided and prayer IS ABOUT everyone else around this person and God. The soul. “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous” (Luke 18: 14). A more true prayer and a more effective prayer may have gone like this:

“I praise you Almighty God for your infinite mercy. Your infinite love for me, in spite of my sin, of which you O God are fully aware, draws me to you more and more deeply. You search me and you know me through and through, yet you leave heaven just to be with me and to gain me back. Have mercy on me so that I may be free and healed of my sin for which I am truly sorry. Reclaim me for yourself so that I may give you full glory in how I live and in how I worship you. I love you with all of my being and will not be separated from you. You are the eternal Lover of My Soul.