Friday, October 23, 2015

Homily, God's Favorite Possession

Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II
St. Patrick’s Church
Roma, IT
October 22, 2015

Preaching Notes:

  • Paul speaks in no uncertain terms: we were slaves to sin and are now to be slaves of God for sanctification and eternal life (Cf. Rom 6:20-22). 
  • Our modern sensibilities find this idea almost repulsive; we do not want to be slaves to anyone, neither God nor man. Mankind has left the evil institution of slavery behind. We are people of a free society, free persons.
  • We can even find support from Jesus to this effect. Recall that in John’s gospel Jesus does not call the disciples slaves, but friends, for a slave does not know what his master is doing (Cf. John 15:15). 
  • Yet Paul is quite insistent about this slavery to God. He even begins his letter to the Romans identifying himself as a slave of Christ Jesus (Cf. Rom 1:1). 
  • Even Pope St. John Paul II in his devotion to the Mother of God considered himself a slave of Mary according to the consecration set forth by St. Louis de Montforte. Thus his Papal motto Totus Tuus, everything is yours.
  • At the heart of slavery is possession; someone other than yourself owns you. This is what challenges our dignity and self-worth. 
  • Yet in God’s love, there is a sacramental dynamic in which He takes possession of things. In baptism, He claims each one of us as His own beloved son or daughter: “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” In confirmation, He anoints us as His prophet, chosen to carry His Word into the world. In the Eucharist, He takes bread and wine and transforms them into Himself: “This is my body (and blood) which will be given up for you.” In the sacraments, God takes possession of something and identifies Himself with it.
  • Thus our enslavement to God consists in this, being possessed by God. We are His favored possession, His sacred treasure. He has taken us in and called us His own, even identifying Himself with us: “you will be my people and I will be your God.”
  • Christ the Incarnate Word does not exempt even Himself from this enslavement of God as Paul points out: “though He was in the form of God, [Christ Jesus] did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but emptied Himself and took the form of a slave being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).
  • And yet at the end, Paul undoes the analogy, for these slaves receive wages. Those enslaved to sin receive death, while those slaves of God receive eternal life (Cf. Rom 6:23). So rejoice in being slaves of God, His favorite possession and most precious treasure, and reap your reward, eternal life.   

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Homily, The School of Mary

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary
Domus Guadalupe
Roma, IT
October 7, 2015

Prayer and study, the two pillars of any vocation to the consecrated life, but most especially for those called to be students. Yet often it can seem that these two pillars are opposed or at least pulling in opposite directions. Yes, we can feel like Samson tethered to these two columns, ready to tear them down along with the rest of the building. After all prayer is a matter of the will and study of the intellect. 

In prayer, cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaks to heart, desires are shared and revealed, and in an intimate exchange of love a covenantal bond is forged. In study, fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeks understanding, questions meet answers or questions lead to deeper and deeper questions leading us ever more into the mystery, and we learn. These two pillars, the activities of our lives here, can seem as different as that questioning and doubting Thomas (who would not believe until he could see it) was from that clinging and ever searching Mary Magdalene in the garden before the tomb. Or as different as that Mary of "the better part" was from that ever serving and active Martha. 

Yet if we doubt in any way the connection between these two pillars, notice the subtle question posed by the disciples today: “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Lk 11:2). As if to say that this act of the will, this confluence of hearts in love which we call prayer can be taught; and furthermore, that those desirous of such a relationship must learn how to do it. 

Enter the school of Mary which we celebrate today enshrined n the gift of the Holy Rosary. Mary, the first disciple or student of Christ her very own son, understood well the communion—dare we say—between intellect and will, study and prayer, keeping all these things in her heart. And she desires us to do the same by contemplating with her the most sacred mysteries of her son in the Rosary. 

Indeed, we want both prayer and study to be an encounter with Christ, to insert us ever more fully into the mystery of His passion, death, and resurrection. The Rosary does just that. As we prayed in the opening collect so familiar to us from the Angelus: “Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel—the Joyful mysteries—may, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by his Passion and Cross—the Sorrowful mysteries—be brought to the glory of his Resurrection—the Glorious mysteries. 

The Rosary at Mary’s request places before our minds eye the life of Christ, and by stirring the affections of our hearts, seeks to delve us deeper and deeper into the sacred mysteries we are now celebrating.