Fr. Bryan Howard
4thSunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – 3 February 2019
In one of the most famous and well-known passages in the Bible, St. Paul describes love in these words: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Love is at the very center of Christianity. After all, St. John in his first epistle says that God is love and that anyone who does not love does not know God. Those who love much are close to God, and those who fail to love are far away from God. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus describes the judgement after the second coming in terms of love, saying that those who will go to heaven are those who have fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed the stranger, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned. In other words, those who care for those who are most in need are doing the work of God.
When we look at the world around us it’s hard to take St. Paul’s claim that “Love never fails” seriously. There is hate, violence, selfishness, greed, and suffering all around us, and often even in our own hearts. In our more cynical moments we may think that St. Paul should have said, “Love often fails,” or “Love usually fails.” So, what does St. Paul mean? I think he means, first of all that choosing love is always the right thing to do, that no one can take God’s love from us, and that God is constantly offering us His love.
Love is always the right choice. The moral life is about making choices. God could have taken those choices away, made us always choose the right thing, but that wouldn’t be real love. Genuine love always comes from a choice to choose the good of another rather than your own good, especially when it costs you something. And deep down we know that’s true. We wish that we would always make the right choices; that we would always choose to exercise patience, kindness, generosity, courage, and gentleness. We know that it’s more important to be a good person than to be thought of as a good person. We sometimes get confused about what the right choice is and in those circumstances it’s important to go to God. If you have the time, it’s best to wait, spend some time in prayer, and ask God to give you guidance. If you have to make a choice right away, think about what God is asking you to do in this moment.
The best way to prepare for those moments is to have a well-formed conscience. Our conscience is the voice of reason inside of us that urges us to do the right thing and accuses us when we’ve done the wrong thing. You may hear people say that anything is okay as long as you follow your conscience. Well, many of the Nazis truly believed that what they were doing was for the greater good, does that make it okay? Or how about the Spanish Inquisition? Many of those people believed that they were protecting the Church, did that make it okay to torture confessions out of people? We have a moral responsibility to train our consciences to know what is truly wrong and what is truly right and to recognize good and evil. We’re experts at convincing ourselves that what we want to do is right, so we have to learn to be honest with ourselves about our own motivations. Everyone commits sins, but let’s never lie to ourselves about why we’re doing it.
Once we’ve formed strong consciences and trained ourselves to choose the good, then we can be confident that no one can take that away from us against our will. Mind control is science fiction. People may be able to influence your choices, but only you control what you choose. Even in the most dire circumstances, you are always able to choose the good. St. Paul tells us that neither danger, nor distress, persecution, hunger, or the sword can separate us from the love of God. Only sin, only our own free choice to act against God, can separate us from the love of God. Let us ask God to give us the strength that He gave to the prophet Jeremiah, recorded in our first reading today. That he may help us to stand against everything in society drawing us away from God and make us “a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land.”
It should give us great hope that God’s love never fails. Even in our sin and weakness, even when we do fall away from Him, God’s love for us never fails. He is always calling out to us, always calling us back to Himself, and always ready to forgive those who come to Him in penitence. If Jesus could look down from the cross upon the very people who put Him there, upon the Roman soldiers, upon the Jewish leaders and people, and, with great effort lifting Himself on the nails driven through His feet and wrists to draw a breath, ask God to forgive them. Then He can surely forgive us.
Fr. Bryan Howard
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – 27 January 2019
Today’s second reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians describes St. Paul’s theology of the Church as the Body of Christ. St. Paul explains that we are all united with Christ through our baptism in the one Holy Spirit of God using the analogy of the human body. Together, we are the Body of Christ because we are united with Christ and, therefore, we are united with one another through Jesus Christ. Just like many different parts, the limbs and fingers and toes and organs, make up a human body, so we make up the body of Christ. If all you have is an arm, then you don’t have a body, you have an arm. So, we cannot be the Body of Christ alone, it is only when we are united with the Church that we form the Body of Christ.
He probably came up with this analogy by reflecting on the first time that he saw Jesus, which we just celebrated on Friday with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Paul was on a journey from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus there when he suddenly saw a blinding light and heard a voice speak from the light. He heard a voice speaking from the light, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He asked who he was, and the voice replied, “I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.” Notice that Jesus didn’t ask, “Why are you persecuting my followers?” He asked, “Why are you persecuting me?” This may have helped St. Paul to realize just how deeply the followers of Jesus are connect to Jesus Christ.
St. Paul goes on to explain how the different members of the human body all play different roles, but they are all essential to the functioning of the body. As he says, “But God so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” In the Body of Christ we each have a role to play, a function to fulfill. Not everyone has the same spiritual gifts and not everyone has the same talents and abilities, but when we are united as one Church we have all of the spiritual gifts and all of the talents and abilities that we need to build up the Body of Christ and fulfill the mission of the Church on earth.
The study of the saints is a great example of this. None of the saints had all of the spiritual gifts, but each saint had a role to play. Some, like St. Thomas Aquinas, were gifted scholars and teachers. Some, like Pope St. Gregory VII, were gifted administrators. Mother Teresa had a deep love for the poor. St. Frances Xavier had a great missionary zeal. The martyrs, like St. Thomas Moor, display the courage to stand up for the faith in the face of persecution. One of my favorite saints is St. Germaine Cousin. She didn’t write scholarly works or die for the faith or start religious orders; she was just a shepherdess. However, she lived out the faith in her ordinary, daily life to the fullest extent. The people of her little town in France remembered her kindness, generosity, and fidelity, and eventually her story caught the attention of the outside world and she was canonized.
We are all called by God and given spiritual gifts to fulfill some role in the Church and in the world. What is God calling you to do? Most of us shouldn’t expect some deep, mystical answer to that question. What are your gifts, talents, and abilities? What do you have to offer? God gave you these gifts so that you might use them. So, how are you using them? We all have something to offer, something to contribute. We all have a part to play in the mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel, to make disciples of all peoples, and to bring souls to God.
This is what we do every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We gather together as one Body, each bringing what they have to offer and giving it to the Lord, and receiving back the graces they need to go back out into the world and keep doing God’s work. This is symbolized in the offertory. The gifts of bread and wine are brought up from the congregation and by members of the congregation. The priest received them, places them on the altar, and offers them to God on behalf of all of the people. You should spiritually place on that paten with the unleavened bread and in that chalice with the wine everything that you have to offer to God. Place on the altar your gifts, your talents and abilities, your prayers and your hopes, your sacrifices and sufferings. Place all of yourself on the altar for the priest to offer to God on your behalf, and ask the Lord to transform you, like He transforms the bread and wine into His Precious Body and Blood. Then when you receive Communion ask Him to strengthen you with His Spirit so you can go out and keep doing His work.
Fr. Bryan Howard
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – 20 January 2019
Have you ever been reading a book or newspaper article or watching a movie and come to a section that made you think, “Why is this even in here? What purpose does it serve? What’s the point?” It would be easy to think that about today’s Gospel of the Wedding Feast in Cana. The Gospel of John begin with a theological explanation of who Jesus is as the Son of God and Word-Made-Flesh; then, John begins to talk about the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, and the gathering of the first disciples. Then, he takes what seems to be a random tangent and talks about a wedding feast that Jesus happened to attend with His Mother and first disciples. The Gospel of John is the only one that records this event. I think the reason that this story was placed here, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, is to show us that if we invite Jesus into your life, and place our trust in Him, then we will be transformed, as Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”
I remember hearing a homily once where the priest said that Jesus had to make more wine for the wedding feast because He and His disciples had crashed the party, but I guess that priest didn’t read the Gospel very carefully, because it specifically says that Jesus and his disciples were invited. Jesus is always inviting us into a relationship with Himself, but He will never force Himself on us, we have to return the invitation. What happens because Jesus was invited to this wedding feast? Jesus doesn’t just make some wine, He tells the servers to fill the 6 stone water jars for the Jewish ceremonial washings and turns that water into wine, 120 to 180 gallons of wine. That’s a lot of wine, and it’s not just any old wine. The headwaiter says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
We are the wine. Jesus wants to help us to be more and better than we are now; better than we ever thought we could be. It takes the humility to admit that we need to be better, that we have problems, faults, and sins, and that we need help to overcome them. We know that when we sin, it always leads to pain, either immediately or in the long term. It has every time in the past and there’s no reason to think that it won’t every time in the future, and yet we continue to sin. God wants to transform us through His grace and to set us on fire with love for Him and for everyone around us, but we have to let Him do it. I’ve experienced what His grace can do in my life. When I’m praying and going to confession regularly, I’m a better priest and a nicer, more patient person. When I’m not, I struggle more, because, in our pride, sometimes we think we can do it all ourselves, without God’s help.
There’s another meaning in this passage, as well. I skipped over the part that usually draws people’s attention first, Jesus’ response to the Blessed Mother mentioning that they have no wine. Now, she obviously know that He’s going to help, since she tells the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Which, by the way, it what the Blessed Mother always tells us, “Trust Him! Follow Him! Do whatever He tells you.” Listen again to what Jesus actually says, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” First, everyone asks why He calls her “woman.” In English that sounds insulting, but it isn’t insulting in Aramaic, the language Jesus was probably speaking in. What I want you to notice is that Jesus references His “hour.” His hour refers to the hour of the crucifixion and the events that happen around it. More clearly, Jesus is saying, “This isn’t the time for me to perform a miracle with wine. That will come later.” This miracle of turning water into wine is pointing directly to the only other time that Jesus performs a miracle with wine, which is at The Last Supper, when He changes wine into His blood, saying, “Take this, all of you, and drink of it, for this is the chalice of my blood of the new Covenant which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.”
When Jesus comes into our lives He brings the Cross with Him. He transforms us through the power of His blood that was shed for us and through His Resurrection, and the only road to the Resurrection is through the Cross. From the very beginning of His ministry Jesus was plotting a curse straight to Calvary and to the Crucifixion. Jesus invites us, “Take up your Cross and follow after me.” We take up our Crosses in reaching out to those who are in need, in patiently enduring suffering for the sake of righteousness, and in willingly embracing suffering for the good of someone we love.
At the end of every day we stop for a few minutes, find a quiet place (if that’s possible), and ask ourselves, “What graces did God give me today? How did I respond to those graces? How can I do better tomorrow?” It won’t happen all at once, but if we keep responding to the invitations of the Lord, Jesus will transform us by bringing, more and more, the fire of His love into our lives.
I don’t have a full text types up for this homily, but I wanted to share the resource I used for it. Most of the information in the homily came from a handout that I got at a retreat for priests that I went to a few years ago. The retreat was by Fr. Michael Champagne, CJC.
You can download the page 1 HERE and page 2 HERE.
Fr. Bryan Howard
The Nativity of the Lord – 25 December 2018
Merry Christmas! We’ve finally made it to another Christmas and are once again gathered around the altar of the Lord to celebrate the incarnation, the becoming flesh of Jesus Christ and His coming into the world. For Christianity, today is perhaps the second most important day of the year, second to Easter, but culturally, and, of course, economically, it’s probably the most important day of the year. It’s almost like there are two different celebrations of Christmas, the Christian one and the cultural one which is influenced by Christianity but is participated in by many non-Christians as well.
The incarnation is one of the great acts of God’s love for us, along with the Creation of the universe and the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The incarnation is a sign of God’s love for us, showing us that God desires so much to be with us, to be close to us, that He came down to become one of us and open the gates of heaven so that humanity sits at the right hand of God in the person of Jesus Christ. When you love someone you desire nothing more than for them to love you in return. So, why should we love God?
Should we love God because of everything that He’s done for us? We should certainly be grateful to God for creating us, redeeming us, sending His Holy Spirit to be with us, and calling us to heaven, but that’s not why we should love Him. I say that for two reasons. First, if I love God because of what He’s done for me, then I might stop loving God when bad things happen to me. More to the point, though, is that that’s not what love is. If I love God because of all the good things that He’s done for me, then it’s not God that I love, it’s myself. Love isn’t about what I can get from you, but what I can give to you. Love always seeks to do good for the beloved, not to take from them.
Should we love God because of His majesty and power? We should respect God because of His majesty and power, but that’s not why we should love Him. The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It’s the beginning of wisdom, not the end of wisdom. When we’re immature in the faith we need to learn the Ten Commandments and the punishment due to sin to begin to learn discipline, but if we stop there we remain immature in the faith. As we mature in the faith we move on to the Beatitudes, the virtues, and the laws of love. We avoid sin and strive to do good not because we’re afraid of being punished, but because we’ve grown in our love for God. It’s like the difference between respecting your parents as a child because they’ll punish you if you don’t and respecting your parents as an adult because you don’t want to hurt or disappoint them.
We should love God for the same reason that we should love anyone, because of Who He IS. God is the source of life, goodness, and truth. He is all good, all loving, all powerful, all knowing, and all present. He is perfectly just, giving to each one what they deserve, but He is also all merciful, showing mercy to all. He cannot be contained by the entire universe, and yet He was contained in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and held in her arms. He is more powerful than all the armies in the world, and yet He came to us as an infant. He is the king of the universe and all riches are His, and yet He was born to a poor carpenter and lain in a feeding trough for a bed. He is no fairy tale that happened a long time ago in a land far, far away. He was born to Mary and Joseph, in the city of Bethlehem in the land of Judea about the year 2 B.C. and lived and died in Palestine, and yet He is the unchangeable God, the same yesterday, today, and forever. If we can learn to love God for Himself, then that love will be an immovable rock, and when the wind and rain of the trials of life come, that rock of God’s love will always be there.
So, get to know who God is. You cannot love what you do not know, but the more you get to know God, the more you will love Him and want to be near Him. We get to know God first by spending time with Him. Though He ascended into heaven, He didn’t leave us, but He left us His presence in the Most Holy Eucharist. We have Eucharist adoration here every first Wednesday from 8:30 AM to 7:00 PM and every Friday from 7:00 AM for an hour before the 8:00 AM Mass. You also get to know Jesus by talking to Him and listening to Him, that is by praying. Spend some time in prayer every day, and try to do it at the same time every day. Make that God’s time. Read the Bible or pray the Rosary or just talk to God, just pray. Finally, make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we hurt someone we love we have to go apologize to them and try to repair the damage we’ve caused, and it’s the same with God. God has given us the Sacrament of Confession so we can be assured of His forgiveness and receive the grace to be strengthened against sin in the future. There are many other ways to grow closer to God, but these three, staying close to the Eucharist, frequent confession, and daily prayer, are the most important and the most powerful. We know that God loves us, not least of all because He came to live and die for us, so we should also learn who God is personally, so we can learn to love Him better.
Fr. Bryan Howard
2nd Sunday of Advent – Year C – 9 December 2018
During this time of year we are tempted to indulge ourselves in all of the things that we like, and to indulge ourselves to excess. At Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, if we don’t eat to the point of barely being able to move, then we feel like we failed. Consumerism and consumption are the rule of the day. Of course, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but we are all tempted by our consumerist culture and can easily be tempted to overdo it. We need to get the newest smart phone, even though last year’s model was probably more than sufficient. Some of the companies even design the phone so that you can’t just replace the battery and so have to buy an entire new phone. And it’s not just phones, lots of companies design their products to fail or go obsolete after a certain amount of time so you have to buy a new one. Did you ever wonder why car companies come out with new models and designs of cars every few years? Well, GM started the practice in 1924 as an incentive for people to buy a new car even though their old one was still working just fine.
Over-indulgence is always bad. Drinking too much alcohol, eating too much, gambling too much, and spending too much eventually lead to problems like addictions, health problems, and damaged relationships. Virtue is in moderation: not too much and not too little. Courage, for example, is the mid-point between cowardice, not enough courage, and recklessness, too much courage. Temperance is the mid-point between lust and gluttony, excessive indulgence, and puritanism, the excessive denial of bodily pleasure.
We usually fall more on the side of excessive indulgence and not enough on the side of self-denial, but we need both in order to be balanced both physically and spiritually. The Church has a lot less rules about fasting than she used to. We are no longer required to abstain from meat every Friday, just in Lent now, but we are still required to do some sort of penance or to fast from something, whether that’s meat or sweats or television or something else of your choosing. It should be something that you’ll actually miss, a real sacrifice for God. Through these acts of self-denial we train ourselves to be able to say no to our desires and impulses. If we only ever give in to those temptations then our desires will begin to rule over us. If I can learn to say no even to good things, things that aren’t sinful, out of love for God, then I’ll be better able to say no when I am tempted to sin.
What is the most important thing in life? Money, pleasure, prestige are temporary and fleeting. They last a little while and then they’re gone. We can’t take them with us when we die, and they can’t even give us true joy here on earth. Don’t let the things in your life distract you from the purpose of your life: to love and serve God in this life and to praise Him forever in heaven. In today’s Gospel we’re encouraged to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” and to fill in every valley and level every mountain. The valleys and mountains are the things in our lives that keep us from God. Advent is about preparing to welcome Jesus at Christmas, so let’s really prepare to welcome Him.
The first way you can do that is by fasting and self-denial. When you fast, increase your hunger for the Lord.
Another way you can do that is by buying someone an anonymous gift or doing something for them in secret. That way, they can’t pay you back or return the favor.
Also, after Christmas when you’re putting away all of the things people gave you, pick out one or two of your older things to donate to good will.
Finally, if you have children, come up with a family charity to donate to this Christmas. Let the kids help pick it out and contribute to the donation from their own money.
In these ways we can all learn that Christmas isn’t about the things that we receive; it’s about the love that we receive from God and that we give back to God and one another in return.
I preached from an outline this week instead of a complete text, but I did want to post some of the resources that I used.
You can find the readings for the November 18, 2018, HERE.
I used the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Second Coming, paragraphs 668-679, which can be found HERE.
I also referenced Philippians 2:10-11 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-30.
Fr. Bryan Howard
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – 11 November 2018
Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. It was called, at the time, the Great War and the War to End All Wars. At 5 am in the morning the armistice was signed, and at 11 am, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the fighting ended. The war had left over 16 million dead, almost 10 million soldiers and about 6 million civilians, at the time that was about 1% of the population of the world. The war left all of Europe traumatized, so it’s fitting that today we reflect on the reality of death and on what follows after.
Since tomorrow is Veterans Day, I wanted to start by posing the question, “What would you be willing to die for?” Normally, we protect our lives with more determination than anything else, but there are some things that we value even above our live, and these are the things for which we may be willing to give our lives: family, freedom, homeland, and faith. Those who give their lives for the faith are called martyrs, and they get a one way ticket to heaven, and Jesus even said, “Greater love than this has no man, that he lay down his life for his friend.”
But what happens when we die? Spiritually, death is when the soul separates from the body, which happens when the body can no longer live. After death, the soul is immediately judged by God and either goes to purgatory, heaven, or hell. At the end of time there will be another judgement when purgatory will be closed down and all souls will be divided between heaven and hell, but your individual soul is judged right after you die. Those who die unrepentant for their mortal sins go to hell, because they’ve chosen to separate themselves from the grace of God by how they’ve lived their lives. Those who die in a state of grace, that is, those who strive to follow God in their lives, who repent of their sins, and who love God and neighbor, either go to purgatory or heaven. God is merciful, and forgives the sins of those who repent, but God is also just, and expects us to make up for our sins. If we don’t make up for them here on earth, then we must make up for them in purgatory. Now, purgatory isn’t fun, the Bible describes it as passing through the fire, but it’s also a place of great hope, because once you’re in purgatory you know that you will get to heaven eventually.
However, we believe that death does not mean that we are completely separated from our loved ones; we are still connected through the Holy Spirit and through the grace of baptism. We can still help the souls in purgatory by praying and sacrificing for them, just like we can pray for the living. The saints can help both the living and the souls in purgatory through their prayers, and the souls in purgatory help pray for us once they get to heaven.
Life is a great gift, because as long as we live we can repent and turn back to the Lord. Once we die we’ve lost that opportunity. I asked you before, “What would you be willing to die for?” Just as important is the question, “What do you live for?” That is the question that our Gospel asks us today. Jesus begins by rebuking those who prey on others for their own benefit, saying, “Beware of the scribes…. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” This goes for anyone who takes advantage of those who are most vulnerable or who only live for themselves. Whenever we act out of pride, greed, hate, envy, lust, gluttony, or sloth we are putting ourselves ahead of others and ahead of God.
However, Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t sin,” he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and, “They will know you are my disciples by the love that you have for one another.” The second part of today’s Gospel describes how Jesus watched people making their donations at the Temple, “Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’” That’s what it means to live a life of heroic virtue. The widow gave all that she had, and we’re called to give all that we have for God and for our neighbor. Just like in war very few soldiers get the opportunity to impact the outcome of a battle by one great heroic act, but it’s the quiet heroism of all the soldiers that makes a difference. So in life the little sacrifices, the small acts of kindness, the daily heroism of doing for one another without counting the cost is what really makes the difference.
If today is your last day and tonight you have to stand before the judgement seat of God, will you be able to make an account of your life? Live every day as if it might be your last, don’t wait to repent, because it might be too late. Start living now with your eyes set on heaven.
Fr. Bryan Howard
All Saints Day – 4 November 2018
A lot of non-religious people get religion and superstition mixed up. Because they have limited experience of religion, they think that religion is basically just another form of superstition. A superstition is something we do that we think has some sort of mysterious power over the universe. We can’t really explain why, but we do it anyway. However, when we look at the lives of the saints, we see that religion is really about relationships: our relationship with our self, our relationship with the world around us, our relationships with other people, and, most importantly, our relationship with God.
We probably all do some superstitious things. Maybe when you say that you hope something doesn’t happen you knock on wood, or maybe you won’t pick up a coin unless it’s face up, or maybe you won’t walk under a ladder, or maybe you wear the same pair of socks for every Saints game. Logically, we know that knocking on wood doesn’t prevent anything bad from happening, but we do it anyway, because, why not? That’s how many non-religious people look at religion. They see us doing a bunch of things, like pray rosaries, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and wearing scapulars, that don’t make any sense to them. Most of the time they don’t see any harm in religion, but they also don’t see any good, either.
Sometimes even people of faith can start to treat religion like a superstition as well. We can start to see religion as a check list: if I do all of these things, then I’ll go to heaven, or be blessed by God, or some other reward. Christianity is about having a relationship with God by becoming part of His family, which we call the Church, and which is made up of the Church militant, those of us still here on earth, the Church Suffering, those in purgatory, and the Church triumphant, the angels and saints in heaven. What kind of relationship do we want to have with God? Listen to St. Paul, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” We are the children of God the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, God the Son, and we are united by the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. We don’t do good things so that God will love us, we strive to do good because God loves us and we love Him.
Praying isn’t superstition, it’s talking with God and listening to Him; it’s a conversation. Fasting isn’t superstition either. Fasting is making a sacrifice for God and saying that we love God more than we love the thing we’re giving up. Devotions aren’t superstition; they’re ways of trying to become more like God, just like children try to imitate their parents. That’s what the beatitudes are, too. They’re ways of imitating God and becoming more God-like. When we become more humble, sorrowful for sin, meek, merciful, pure of heart, and hunger and thirst for righteousness, we are imitating Jesus Christ.
On this All Saints Day imitate the saints in trying to grow in love for God and for one another, imitate Christ in the way you live, and think about the reasons behind the religious things that you do. You may not know the reasons for all of them, like why we sit, stand, and kneel so much in Mass, but I bet, if you look into it, it’s all about growing in faith, respect, and love for God.
Fr. Bryan Howard
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – 28 October 2018
There was a very intelligent young man who grow up in a home with a Catholic mother and a non-Catholic father. His mother was very religious, but his father wasn’t very religious at all. During his teenage years, he began to think of Catholicism as childish and silly. He slowly began to drift away from the Church. When he went to college, to study law, he fully left the Church. He eventually got his girlfriend pregnant and had her move in with him. He basically, according to his own words, lived for the pleasures of life. Does that story sound familiar to you? I’m talking about a specific person, but I bet almost everyone here knows someone like that. It may be a very modern story, but it actually happened 1600 years ago. I’m talking about St. Augustine of Hippo, priest, bishop, and Doctor of the Church.
St. Augustine was never satisfied with his life. The pursuit of pleasure didn’t give any lasting satisfaction and neither did his intellectual pursuits. He went from one philosophy and religion to another, searching for the truth. Then one day while he was sitting in a garden reflecting he heard the words, “Take, read.” He saw that there was a copy of the Bible next to him and he picked it up and started to read. Through prayer and study and with the help of his mother, St. Monica, and the local bishop, St. Ambrose of Milan, he came back to the faith of his childhood and was eventually ordained as a priest and latter a bishop. He knew that there was something wrong, something missing, and he never stopped searching for it. Eventually, his search lead him back to God.
Our Gospel today follows a similar pattern. Bartimaeus the blind man was sitting on the side of the road begging, when he heard a commotion. Someone told him that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, so Bartimaeus began to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on my.” He had obstacles in his way, too. The people around tried to shut him up and stop him from bothering Jesus, but he didn’t let it stop him. He knew that He needed help, and he knew that Jesus could help him, so he kept calling to Jesus even louder. Jesus heard him and called him over and asked what he wanted. He didn’t beat around the bush but he got right to the point, “Master, I want to see.” And Jesus replied, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
This is a true story with a spiritual lesson. Bartimaeus knows what he needs, his sight restored. He knows where he can get it, from Jesus, and he keeps going no matter what gets in his way. Jesus says that his faith has saved him, but he needs faith to get it. Compare Bartimaeus to another man Jesus helped at the pool of Siloam. He was crippled, and had been coming to that pool for 38 years hoping to be healed. Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed, but he makes excuses. He doesn’t even say yes. Then, later, he hands Jesus over to the Pharisees. Bartimaeus needed faith to see that only Jesus could help him.
We have disabilities, too, spiritual disabilities. Sin is a type of blindness. It blinds us to what is happening in our own soul and we don’t want to admit that we have a problem. The pleasures of this world can never fully satisfy us. The only thing that we seek for its own sake is happiness. Whether it’s eating good food, watching a movie, seeking political office, trying to become famous, or playing the lottery, everything you do is for something else. You play the lottery to get money, which you use to buy a new boat, which you use to go fishing, which makes you happy. You can do the same thing with every decision. We may not always be right that something will make us happy, but that’s what we ultimately want.
The problem with sin is that it only makes us happy in the short term and makes us miserable in the long term. Even good things only make us happy temporarily. You’ll eventually finish that meal and get hungry again, and that movie will end, and that boat will need repairs. Only God can make us truly happy for all eternity, because he made us to be in a relationship with Himself. There is a God-shaped hole in our hearts, and only God can fit in it. So, never stop seeking God. Don’t let any obstacle stop you, and know that God will never put anything in your path that you can’t get through with His help.
St. Augustine wrote the first autobiography, and I’ll finish with his own words about his search for God. In The Confessions, he wrote, “Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you! Behold, you were within me, while I was outside: it was there that I sought you, and, a deformed creature, rushed headlong upon these things of beauty which you have made. You were with me, but I was not with you…You have called to me, and have cried out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light, and have shone upon me, and you have put my blindness to flight!”
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.