Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter May 13, 2018

Today’s readings are a kind of prelude to next week’s celebration of Pentecost. In the first reading, Matthias replaces Judas Iscariot maintaining apostolic succession and magisterial authority.

The second reading demonstrates the need for this authority because, as St. John tells us, right doctrine, being able to acknowledge that the Man of Nazareth was and is the Son of God, that central doctrinal note is a sign of living in the Spirit and in the love of God.

These realities, apostolic succession, magisterial authority and right doctrine point to a more fundamental reality, which we discover in the gospel. Today we hear that Our Lord raised his eyes to heaven and prayed in earnest supplication that we might all be ONE. Unity is that more fundamental reality and it is not something we speak about often.

About the nature of this unity, this oneness, we discover that Our Lord and Savior deeply desires that we be one with Him just as He is one with the Father. Consider, for a moment, the monumental scandal of that prayer by our Lord.

While we might desire spiritual peace in union with Christ, or reuniting with a long lost loved one, or a reconciliation with an old friend that interior yearning of ours doesn’t compare to how the Trinity has labored since the Fall of man to draw us closer and closer to His interior communion. Indeed, part of the great scandal of the Christian thing is the revelation that our God is a Trinity, a single divine being that is mysteriously a communion of love at the same time. This is why St. John can say in our second reading that God is love. He doesn’t have love, or love others, He is love itself.  And it is into this love the Our Lord wants us to be incorporated.

How do we do this? We know that the family best exemplifies this communion of love. And it is fitting that today we celebrate Mother’s Day. In Genesis, when the Lord announces that He will make man in his own image, he creates them man and woman, so that in communion with each other they might be fruitful and multiply and bring new life to the world. Thank you Mom. But the call to unity that Our Lord voices in the Gospel today does not end there, in the domestic church. It must exist there, in the family, yes, but it must also exist in the wider church… in our parish… in our local church of the archdiocese… indeed in the whole Catholic Church.

St. Ignatius of Antioch on his way to martyrdom in Rome wrote a letter to a small Christian community in Smyrna. He start by saying “flee from schism”, flee from disunity, and then he urges these Christians to “follow the bishop as [our Lord] did the Father.” Follow the priests as you would an apostle and “respect the deacons as you would God’s law.”

Then, St. Ignatius writes that where the bishop is there is Christ and there is the Catholic Church. He uses the word “catholic”. It is first such instance in recorded history of the phrase Catholic Church and this letter dates back to about the year 108. That word “catholic” is often translated as “universal,” and that is a perfectly fine translation, but it loses something of the complexity of the idea in the original Greek. The Greek means literally “one according to the whole” and it expresses something more akin to the oneness which we share in Christ our Lord, the very oneness to which Our Lord refers in today’s Gospel.

St Ignatius, in that same letter, warned the Christians to avoid any Eucharist that is not guaranteed by the bishop. So as we approach the sacred mysteries about to be made real on this altar, let us be grateful for our bishop and grateful for our priests who provide us with this sacrament which both demonstrates and makes real the unity for which Our Lord prayed.

I said at the beginning that we do not often talk about unity. This is perhaps because we live in a society that revels and profits from disunity, in driving us apart from each other. We live in a society where the individual, not the family, is the center. And our technologies only drive us further apart. What’s more the great American virtue is anger, and being angry at bishops, priests, deacons, each other somehow translates into virtue in our minds.

And so, I pray that as we come forward to receive our Savior we be conscious of the fact that we are communicating with our bodies what we say we believe in our hearts, namely – that we are ONE. We are one with the Lord and, by virtue of Him, one with each other… each of us… all of us. Through our reception of Holy Communion we communicate that we acknowledge and desire this twofold unity with God and with each other.

I also pray that we surrender to this reality in Christ, that we let him embrace us. Let him draw us deeper into his love so that, in it, you and I and we may be transformed into the Christians who, as Christ says today, do live in this world but who do not belong to it.

Given at St. Peter Catholic Church, May 13, 2018

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Here is my latest column in The Catholic Voice on the dangers of wealth…

“When thinking about all the various ways that unity is undermined in our society, I have written about some ideological obstacles. They affect the way we view reality and how we think through solving problems in society. I’d like to address a practical obstacle that leads to an ideological one, namely our incredible wealth.” ….

Charity in Truth in “The Catholic Voice”

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On Easter Sunday this year I posted the following note on Facebook : “So my first Triduum as a deacon and all I can say is that Easter this year has been a totally different experience. I have been overwhelmed with such a level of gratitude for my family, my parish, my pastor, my faith, my Lord. A blessed Easter to all. He is risen!” The response to the post took me aback. Hundreds of people, some of whom I have not heard from for a while, reacted to the post and some even commented. One deacon, ordained only a couple years, responded affirmatively that it was totally different for him as well. And two friends asked me to extrapolate What happened? How was it different? Here is my attempt to explain.

I feel obliged to note a couple things for readers who are not exactly my close or even casual friends. First, my background is in theology. I have been working for the Church for 17 years now. When I talk about my family, I’m referring to my wife and our four kids. I was ordained on May 6, 2017.

I also feel obliged to say that I was rather happy as a layman. I was not “looking for more.” I love the Triduum. It has always been my favorite time of the liturgical year. It’s just that, this time, my perspective was different. Or rather, since we believe an ordained man is different in a fundamental way, I should say I was different fundamentally. My involvement in the liturgy was different and so physically I was looking at the movements of the event differently too. Read More

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Here is my latest column in The Catholic Voice on the folly of identity politics…

“Last month I wrote about how Christianity calls us to love the oppressed and the oppressor. It is this second part that we often forget. Indeed, when we talk about the church going out into the peripheries, we almost exclusively think of the areas of our culture and society occupied by the oppressed. ” ….

Charity in Truth in “The Catholic Voice”

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Here is my latest column in The Catholic Voice on virtue and politics…

“When I wrote last month about the purpose of politics, that politics provides a forum for the practice of virtue, I was reminded of a scene from the film ‘Gladiator.’ In the scene the upstart Commodus rejects the four chief virtues his father seeks in an heir: wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance. Rather, he lists the virtues with which he has been gifted: ambition, resourcefulness, courage (not on the battlefield), devotion.I thought of this scene because one of the difficulties we face in our culture is our skewed understanding of virtue. ” ….

Charity in Truth in “The Catholic Voice”

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Here is my latest column in The Catholic Voice on the possibility of a good politics…

“Last month I wrote about a tendency to judge others according to their political choices. This can have negative effects on holiday gatherings. Friendships and family relationships can fray when political choices become the measure by which we decide whether our neighbor is worthy of our love. This is a result in part of a skewed vision of politics.” ….

Charity in Truth in “The Catholic Voice”

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Here’s my article at the National Catholic Register on Fr. James Martin and the question of the sensus fidei.

“The Catholic Church’s teaching on the sensus fidei (sense of the faith) has been given attention recently, due to appeals to the concept by Jesuit Father James Martin, author of Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity..”…

 

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Here is my column in The Catholic Voice on the current state of affairs on politics…

“It’s been a year since the election and much of the acrimony still seems to linger. I was listening recently to a cultural commentator and convert to Christianity who was asked why he is so consistently joyful despite all the bad news. The trick, he said, is that he understands what politics is for.” ….

Charity in Truth in “The Catholic Voice”

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Here is my column in The Catholic Voice on World Mission Sunday.

“Later this month will be the collection for World Mission Sunday, a collection held all over the country for the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In our local diocese I am the director, and I’d like to write a bit about this collection and global solidarity.” ….

Charity in Truth in “The Catholic Voice”

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Here is my column in The Catholic Voice on the good work of Fr. Lawrence in Nigeria.

“As students return to school, I’m always reminded of the good work of the many Catholic saints who modeled for us the educational system from which we all benefit today: St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle, St. Joseph Calasanz and St. Lucy Filippini. Driven by their love of the Lord, they were called to bring hope and opportunity to the poor.” ….

Charity in Truth in “The Catholic Voice”

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Here is my column in The Catholic Voice on living mercy through being with others.

“In this, my final installment of reflections on living mercy, I wanted to draw from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium,’ the Joy of the Gospel. In that document, the Holy Father speaks to us about missionary discipleship, which is part of the pastoral vision of our archdiocese and which includes unity and living mercy. So what can we learn from Pope Francis that can help make living mercy a practical reality here?” ….

Charity in Truth in “The Catholic Voice”

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Here is my column in The Catholic Voice on physician prescribed suicide.

“I wish to continue this month with some meditations on living mercy, particularly as mercy relates to the question of physician assisted suicide, or more accurately, physician prescribed suicide. Twenty-five states introduced legislation in 2015 to advance this form of suicide. Last year, and again this year, the Nebraska Unicameral’s Judiciary Committee took up the question.” ….

Charity in Truth in “The Catholic Voice”

Also, here’s a link to a podcast from the Archdiocese of Omaha on the subject “It’s Good That You Are Here.”

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