Monthly Archives: May 2016

Homily – Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


Prov 8:22-31
Ps 8     R/. O Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
Rom 5:1-5
Jn 16:12-15


Audio: soundcloud.com/pereroger

When we examine Scripture and the history of salvation, one of the things that stands out very clearly is God’s desire for us to be in relationship with Him. From the Fall of Adam and Eve to the gathering of the people of Israel to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus until this very day, God is searching out for us, calling us to come to Him so that we might be in relationship with Him.

But not just any kind of relationship. God doesn’t just want to be friends: He wants us to be in communion with Him, to be one with Him. This is the heart of the Gospel message we’ve been hearing for several weeks now, and which, in a sense, culminated in the celebration of Pentecost last Sunday. God want’s us to be one with Him; that’s why He sent His Son Jesus to teach us about Him and His love for us, and to show us how to respond to His invitation; and that why He sent us the Holy Spirit, to make that union possible and to deepen our knowledge and experience of His love and mercy.

Trinity_StainedGlass.jpgAnd this is why now we celebrate this Sunday the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity,
because God is not isolated or alone, but is in His very being a relationship of love. Last year I described to you the notion of the Trinity as a communion of love: the Father is the One who loves; Jesus, the Son, is the One who is loved and who loves in return; and the Holy Spirit is the One who is the mutual love.

In celebrating this great mystery the Sunday after Pentecost, we also celebrate the reality that God wants us to be participants in that relationship of mutual love, in this communion of divine Persons. God created us not to be independent and solitary beings, but to be one with Him. That’s why He created us in His image and likeness: so that we, too, can love as He loves. In fact, loving is at the very core of what it means to be human.

But our capacity to love isn’t to be focussed on ourselves, on being loved. To love means to reach out to the other for the sake of the other, to desire for the other what is good for the other. And this is what Jesus teaches us most perfectly by reaching out to us in our sinfulness and bringing us mercy so that we might truly live.

As disciples this is key for us, because we’re called to imitate our Master. Jesus brought us into communion with the Trinity through Baptism, and He continues to sustain and nourish our union with Him through the other Sacraments. But He does this not just for our individual sake: we’re not united to Jesus just for ourselves alone. Precisely because we’ve been called to share in the life and love of the Trinity, we’re also called to share in Jesus’ mission to bring that same communion to the world.

Love, precisely because it always looks to the other, also always seeks to expand itself toward another. That’s why Mother Teresa wasn’t satisfied to just embrace one dying person, or why missionaries don’t stop after just one conversion. Jesus thirsts for everyone to share in His Trinitarian life, and so must we.

If we’ve truly experienced the love and mercy that Jesus has come to bring, then we need to share it with others; like Him, we need to desire that others may come to know and experience His love for them. This is our mission as disciples.

But we also need to love one another; we need to seek communion with each other as well. As a children’s book once put it, “If Jesus loves me and He loves you, too, then I ought to love you, too”. We need to reach out to each other to build communion, and not just as a closed-off group of mutual affection and appreciation, but as a community that is constantly reaching out to others to invite them in also. This is particularly the mission of the family and of the Parish, because it’s through us that the world will come to know and experience the love of Jesus. By the way that we greet others; by the way that we welcome them and include them, others will come to know that God loves them and wants them in communion with Him. But if we ignore them, give them the cold shoulder or push them away, then that becomes the experience of God we give them. This is why Jesus said, By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35).

When we ponder on this reality of being called to communion with God and with each other, we can begin to get a glimpse into what it means for the Trinity to be a communion of love.

As we celebrate today this great mystery of the God who reveals Himself as a communion of love, may we open our hearts to His invitation, allowing Him to draw us into this communion with Him, so that in turn, we might work to bring others in as well. Amen.

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Homily – Ascension of the Lord C


Acts 1:1-11
Ps 47         R/. God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Eph 1:17-23
Lk 24:44-53


Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, one of the five great feasts of the life of Jesus. In many parts of the world, this Solemnity was celebrated this past Thursday, the 40th day after the Resurrection, the actual day on which the Lord ascended into Heaven. When this feast is celebrated on Thursday, it’s a holy day of obligation — this speaks to its importance in the life of the Church. In many other parts, like in Canada, we move this Solemnity to the following Sunday. This was done in an attempt to make it easier for people to attend Mass on this feast. While it may have made it easier for people to celebrate this feast, it’s also regrettably obscured its importance. Since it falls on a Sunday, it seems we barely take notice of it. But the Ascension of the Lord is a significant moment in the life of the Church!

Our first reading today, describing the event of Jesus’ Ascension, helps us to see why. As I’ve mentioned before, repetition is always a call to pay attention. In these eleven verses, Luke uses repetition to call our attention to several key themes, but today I want to focus on just two of them: the Kingdom (vv. 3, 7); and, the Holy Spirit (vv. 2, 5, 8).

The ‘Kingdom of God’ was a major theme in the preaching ministry of Jesus. He often spoke of the ‘coming of the Kingdom’ or of the presence of the Kingdom. This was related to the ancient expectation Israel had for a Messiah King who would deliver it from its enemies and rebuild the kingdom of David. This expectation is explicit in today’s verse 6, Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6).

But this notion of a kingdom is more than just a political reality. For the Jewish mind, it included the reunification of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who had long been divided and scattered (cf. Sir 48:10; Jer 50:19-20; Hos 11:11; Lk 22:30; Acts 26:6-7). It also carried with it the hope that all God’s people would once again be gathered together under His Name and under His sovereignty.

However, as we know, Jesus spoke of a Kingdom that was much different than a political reality. While Jesus’ Kingdom embodied the aspects unity and Divine Sovereignty, its deliverance wasn’t in regards to political powers like Rome or the gentiles, but rather in regards to sin and death. This we discover more clearly through the Passion and Resurrection. That’s why Jesus spoke of His Kingdom as not being of this world (Jn 18:36).

But more than just these two mentions of the Kingdom, the whole scene is full of this symbolism. As St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, Jesus ascends into Heaven to take up His throne at the right hand of the Father (Eph 1:20-21; cf. Acts 2:33). This is why our feast today is so important: it’s the enthronement of Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven. First, as He said, in order to prepare a place for us so that He might take us up to the Father’s house (Jn 14:1-3). And second, in order to send us the Advocate so that His Kingdom might be built up in this world (Jn 16:7ff)

This is why the Ascension is necessarily tied to the Solemnity of Pentecost, which we’ll celebrate next Sunday. And Luke makes this link clear in today’s reading: you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (v. 5).

Jesus’ bodily Ascension to the Father is so that He might bestow on His disciples the gift of divine Life, which is the Holy Spirit (cf. Nicene Creed). It’s precisely through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Christ will unite His Kingdom, and not just the Tribes of Israel, but all peoples, together as one in His Name, in His Spirit, in His Kingdom, which we call the Church. Luke mentions this explicitly in our Gospel today, repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations (Lk 24:47); and in the first reading, too: You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

And so, my brothers and sisters, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins is the mission of the Church — of all the disciples of Jesus —, until the Kingdom of God is spread throughout the earth and all nations proclaim His Name. Because the great desire of the King is that none should be lost, but that all might be one in Him as He is in the Father (cf. Jn 6:39; 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pt 3:9; Jn 17:20ff). Again, this is why He has sent us the Spirit of unity.

In the mystery of the Ascension, Jesus has not abandoned us or left us orphaned (Jn 14:18ff), but rather has gone up to the Father for our advantage, so that we might be clothed with power from on high (Lk 24: 49) and be united to Him through the gift of the Holy Spirit. And all of this He does, not because of any merit of our own, but because of His gracious and merciful love for us; not for His own profit, but for our sanctification. Jesus is taken up into Heaven so that He might return to take us up with Him and share with us fully the glory that He has in the presence of the Father.

And so, my brothers and sister, you can begin to see now why the Solemnity of the Ascension is an important event in the life of Christ and of the Church: it further demonstrates His love for us, and continues His mission to draw us all to the Father for our salvation.

As we rejoice in this great gift today, may we open wide our hearts to the Lord, asking Him to make room in us for the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw us more closely to Himself, to conform us more perfectly to His image and likeness, and to enkindle in us the fire of His love, for our sanctification and the salvation of the whole world. Amen.

 

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Homily – Sunday Easter VI C


Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Ps 67         R/. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.
Rev 21:10-14, 22-23
Jn 14:23-29


Have you ever wondered why the Church teaches what she teaches? Have you ever wondered how the Church arrived at her teachings and why she continues to defend and promote them? It’s easy to miss it, but our first reading this Sunday gives us a beautiful insight into the life of the Church and into the historical development of doctrine.

Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles recounts for us the first major theological crisis in the Church. We’ve been reading it all week at daily Mass, but today we get a summary of the event, which has come to be called the ‘Council of Jerusalem’, the first ever Council of the Church’s Pastors.

The question at hand is about whether one is saved by the Jewish practice of circumcision and obedience to the Law of Moses, or by Baptism into Jesus. In other words, do those who want to be Christian first need to become Jews? Some said yes, others said no; and so began the first theological fight in the Church.

This was a major event in the life of the Church. The outcome established a method of dealing with theological problems, gave a specifically Christian direction for the Church, and instituted a benchmark to evaluate future challenges to the teachings of Jesus.

As our first reading indicates, the theological conflict began in Antioch, in the missions, if you will. Certain Christians, former Pharisees (cf. v. 5), were teaching that in order for gentiles (or pagans) to become Christian, they first had to be circumcised and taught to live according to the Law and traditions of Moses. Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them and decided to bring the matter to the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, the Church’s leadership at the time.

What an inspiration for Paul to have! He didn’t insist he was right, but humbled himself to go to ‘experts’ for advice. Who better to tell us what Jesus wanted and intended than the Apostles? This is now the role of the Bishops. And the ‘elders’? Well that’s just English for the Greek word presbyteroi, also translated as ‘Presbyters’ or ‘Priests’.

Here the Apostles establish a new method of interpreting the teachings of Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit: conciliar discernment. The Apostles and elders gathered together in prayer to better understand what the Holy Spirit was saying to the Church, and debated the matter as a tool of discernment. This particular portion of the text is omitted for this Sunday’s reading, but I encourage you to go back and read it. You’ll notice some very interesting points, namely Peter’s authority as Chief of the Apostles (he’s the first to make a formal statement); and James’ authority as Bishop of Jerusalem and host of the Council (he summarises the discernment).

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Council of Jerusalem set firm in the life of the Church a new course that separated her from the Jewish Religion, establishing a specifically Christian Faith.

After the debate, Peter, based on his experience with the conversion of Cornelius the Centurion (Acts 10) spoke out in favour of the faith: God, who knows the human heart, testified to [the gentiles] by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith He has made no distinction between them and us. […] we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will (vv. 8-9, 11).

In other words, salvation is through Jesus, not through the Law of Moses; and salvation through Jesus isn’t just for the Jews, but for all peoples. This is the reason why the Church is catholic, or universal. It’s meant for all peoples, not just a select group. It’s for this reason that the Christian Faith continues to spread to all nations; it knows no boundaries. Jesus died for all, and desires that all be saved. This is the purpose and mission of the Church.

The conclusion of the Council is also of particular importance, not merely for the decision that it makes, but for the way it arrived at this decision. After having debated the matter and reached a conclusion through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Council writes to the Church in Antioch (and everywhere): it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us — notice the collaboration with the Holy Spirit — to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well (vv. 28-29).

Through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles established a guiding principle for Church doctrine and discipline that has lasted even unto today: nothing should be imposed on the faithful except what is essential. Throughout the ages, in every controversy, this has been the litmus test used to evaluate the demands of the Faith.

So how did we get from the four precepts listed in this letter to the tome that is the Catechism? Well, there have two thousand years of sinful human history since then, with many, many challenges to the Faith over the years, each of which called for a clearer definition of what is essential. There were questions about whether Jesus was human or divine (He’s both); questions about Mary’s motherhood (She is mother of God); questions about the reality of the Sacraments (i.e., the Eucharist truly is the Body and Blood of Jesus); and so on, and so on.

Though the Bible is important and essential, Christianity is not a faith based on a book; it’s a faith based on a Person, a living Person — Jesus —, who invites us into a dynamic relationship with Him. As such, then, it’s a living Faith that deepens and grows over time. It doesn’t change or abandon its roots, but like a tree, it matures and blooms into the fullness of its nature over time.

I find this reading gives us hope, because if there’s ever anything in Church teaching that we don’t understand — or perhaps don’t like — then we owe it to ourselves to seek to better understand it. Where does it come from? Why does the Church teach this? What does it reveal about who Jesus is, what He’s done, and to what He’s calling us?

My brothers and sisters, nothing in the Church is random or accidental; it all serves a purpose: to proclaim Jesus Christ as the loving God who has come into the world to save mankind. May we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit so that He might guide us in the paths of Christ and into the heart of the Church. Amen.

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Homily – Sunday Easter V C


Acts 14:21-27
Ps 145       R/. I will bless your name for ever, my king and my God.
Rev 21:1-5
Jn 13:1, 31-33, 34-35


One of the greatest challenges of our society today is that of selfishness. People are generally only concerned with themselves. In our Gospel this week, our Lord gives us the remedy to such egoism: Love! Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (Jn 13:34).

You see, my brothers and sisters, love is the opposite of selfishness, it opens us up to others, and it causes us to want to give of ourselves for others (cf. John Paul II, Message for the XI World Youth Day, no. 6). Love leads us out of ourselves and toward others. That’s why love is the cure for selfishness, for injustice, for poverty, for every evil. That’s why love is the way of God; that’s why love is the way to God.

But in our Gospel today, Jesus doesn’t just invite us to love, He commands us to love: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another (Jn 13:34). So what does it mean to love one another? Jesus gives us two answers to that question.

First, this commandment is given to us in the context of the Last Supper, and it’s in this event that we find our first clue to understanding Christian love. Do you remember what’s unique about the Last Supper in John’s Gospel? If you said the Washing of the Feet, you’re right. If you remember Holy Thursday, John recounts how Jesus washed the feet of the Twelve, and it’s in this context that He gives us this new commandment. And we need to keep these two parts tied together: the Washing of the Feet, and the Commandment to Love. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you (Jn 13:15). Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (Jn 13:34).

So to love as Christ loves is to wash each other’s feet, to serve each other, to care for each other. This kind of love is best called ‘charity’, the virtue of loving God and others. The theological virtue of charity is a supernatural virtue: it’s one we receive as a gift from God, not one that we achieve by effort. That means it’s rooted in prayer, and is the result of God’s grace working in our lives. This is what distinguishes Blessed Mother Teresa from, say, Bill Gates or some other philanthropist. Charity is about receiving others for the sake of our love for God, and for love of them, and sharing ourselves with them in return. It’s unconditional and unlimited.

Second, the first verse of today’s Gospel gives us another clue: Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father (Jn 13:1). John repeatedly uses this term ‘hour’ to refer to the moment of Jesus’ glorification, the Cross (cf. Jn 3:14, 12:32). So to love as Jesus loves is to embrace the Cross: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:13). To love one another as Christ loves us is to lay down our lives for others. Charity isn’t just sharing with others; it’s giving ourselves to others.

To love as Christ loves, then, is a demanding love; it isn’t for the lukewarm or the half-hearted! To love as Christ loves is to die to ourselves, it’s to sacrifice our lives, it’s to serve. That’s why it’s a supernatural virtue, because it can only be the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us. But in order for the Spirit to transform us into vessels of love, we must open our hearts to God; we must first encounter His love. That’s why prayer and the Sacraments are essential for the Christian life, because it’s through them that we open our hearts to God; it’s through them that Christ teaches us to love; it’s through them that we receive the grace that sanctifies us. This is why Jesus made charity the distinctive mark of His disciples: By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35). That’s why in the Acts of the Apostles Christianity is called ‘the Way’, because it is the way of Love.

Now this isn’t new to you. Parent’s, whether you realise it or not, you’ve been living a similar love since the day your child was born. To wake up in the middle of the night to feed or console a child, to make sure they have clothes before you do, to provide for their needs first, these are acts of love. Combined with prayer and offered as a sacrifice of love to God, they begin to take on the character of charity.

It’s because of acts like this that Catherine Dougherty, the founder of the Madonna House Apostolate, was able to coin the phrase ‘I am third’: God first, others second, me third. Or that Blessed Mother Teresa was able to challenge us to ‘give until it hurts’.

Charity, as the supernatural virtue of loving, is a way of participating in God’s action, because through charity we share in God’s act of love; we’re able to love as He loves. In fact, charity is God’s love working in and through us. That’s why St. Paul called it the greatest gift that never ends (cf. 1 Cor 13:8, 13). It’s this love that makes all things new, that transforms the world in which we live.

In this Easter Season, as we continue to celebrate the Eucharist and receive the gift of God’s love made flesh, may we contemplate this mystery so as to learn to love as Christ loves, to grow in the virtue of charity, and to live according to God’s commandment to love one another as He loves us, so that through Him, with Him and in Him, we too, can make all things new with His love. Amen.

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