33rd Sunday Ordinary Time – 9 am Fr. Smith Homily

It would be difficult for us to understand the effect the Temple in Jerusalem had on Jesus’ contemporaries. It was the only “high rise” building in Jerusalem and could be seen to the horizon. Some of its exterior was covered in gold and when it reflected the midday sun, even visitors from Rome were amazed. When Jesus predicted that it will be completely destroyed, he is saying that the world as they knew it will end. 

Indeed, those who first encountered Luke’s Gospel knew that this had occurred. They knew the Roman interpretation of the event: that the gods of Rome were stronger than the Lord of Israel, as well as the Jewish interpretation: that as in its previous destruction, they themselves had sinned and needed to repent. (Jeremiah 17:20-21). Did Christianity have anything different to offer?  

St. Luke does, and being Luke, we must look at not only what he says but how he says it.  

He first connects the destruction of the temple to other terrifying, disturbing and potentially life changing events. Wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines and plagues: these are all mighty signs, but of what? Although they may totally disrupt people’s lives, they are then, as now, the background noise of earthly existence. Because of their powerful effects we may think that literally the world is coming to an end and believe that prophets must come in Jesus’ name. This denies God’s freedom, for only He decides when the end truly comes. Jesus alone provides the punctuation to history. 

It is important to note that Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostleshis second decision was to connect the two works. The Gospel tells us what to expect and Acts shows what has occurred. If you check even one of the selections from the Acts of the Apostles below, you can see what Luke is doing.  

They will seize and persecute youThis happened to Peter and the other apostles almost immediately after the Ascension, (Act 4 1-4)  

hand you over in synagogues (Acts 22:19) and prisons. Both Peter (Act 12:5) and Paul (Acts 16: 16-40) spent their time in jail and both were arranged by religious authorities (Acts 4:1-22, 18:12-17)Paul was tried by kings (Acts 25:23) and governors. (Act 23:33) 

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. Although Paul was a highly educated man, Peter and Stephen were not. (Act 4:13) Yet, they spoke with an eloquence that was truly divine (Acts 4:8-10 and 6:10)  

You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death. Jesus has already told his disciples, and they would no doubt have already seen, that even family members would cast them out. (Luke 12:51-53) Stephen was the first Martyr. (Acts 7:54-60) 

You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. Predicting the future was considered a prophetic act taken seriously by both Jew and GentileLuke would expect that this would predispose his audience to accept his conclusions: followers of Jesus will be hated by the world, but they are beloved by God and will be saved and restored in the resurrection of the Body. Literally not a hair of their heads would be destroyed. (See last week’s reading from Second Maccabees.)  

By your perseverance you will secure your lives. As he told us with the faithful steward it is in following Jesus by living good and holy lives, each day, here and now that will always and everywhere connect us to him. (Luke 12:42-48)  

Let us remember the Beatitudes:  

Blessed are you when people hate you,  
and when they exclude and insult you, 
and denounce your name as evil 
on account of the Son of Man (Luke 6:22)  

It is one of the great paradoxes of our faith that the seemingly indestructible temples of stone and gold protected by kings and armies will dissolve but the community of faith, the church of God in flesh and blood, will last as long as we are formed by the Spirit of God.  

In the end, what prevails is neither power, nor even penance, but blessing. 

 

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Fr. Gribowich homily

Transcript:
Good morning, everyone! It’s always great to be back home. My name if you don’t know who I am, is Father John Gribowich, which I recognize some faces here. I taught Central Catholic for about 10 years before I was a priest. Always great to be back home. It’s always the danger that, as Jesus said, that no prophet is never accepted in his native land, so I don’t know where my words will land with you today, but I’ll try my best to share with you what I feel the Lord’s put in my heart.

You know what, this past week up in Brooklyn, where I’m a priest, I participate in something called Dial-A-Priest, and this was a way to kind of interact with 4th and 5th graders at different schools. We would do this all through video conferencing, through a Skype session. And the children are all ready for the priest to show up, and they had all these questions. And of course, like when this happens, you very quickly get humbled, because children ask the darndest questions, right? And the first question that came out to me was, “so if God created the whole world and God created everything, then who created God?”

My gosh, you need like a PhD in Theology to answer some of these questions. And I’m like, “well, no one made God. Next question!”

And of course another question question I got was, “when we die and we go to Heaven, what’s Heaven going to be?” And I’m like, that’s a good question, because when you think about it all of us in some way shape or form ought to ask ourselves the question what is heaven going to be like. And for many of us I think we may just reduce it to being something – well it sounds like a better place than hell, so I guess I want to go to heaven.

But I think that a lot of us will lead to places of thinking of Heaven as some type of place that’s almost akin to like a resort, maybe, and we kind of look at it from a very material way.

Now, that is totally fine, because I think I do the same. In fact, if you ask me what do I expect heaven to be, like I said well you know I think I really expect heaven for me to be like, walking into like a really nice old-fashioned Irish pub, having Guinness after Guinness, and in the corner will be Bob Dylan and his band playing for all of eternity and I’ll be sitting next to Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley and I’ll be pretty content. As you can tell, I love Guinness and I love Bob Dylan and I love Irish Pubs, so that’s kind of what I want heaven to look like for the rest of the rest of my eternal life.

But the fact of the matter is that no matter how grandiose of an idea we could place in our minds of what looks like, the reality is that heaven is not a place as much as it is a relationship. Heaven in itself is a relationship.

Now of course the question is its relationship with who and I think probably would think well I guess the default answer is God. It is a relationship with God, and of course that’s true, but I think that what heaven is, it is a place where we are able to be in a perfected state of relationships with each other.

And when we think about it, what we really desire in this world are perfected relationships. We desire us to get along with people, right? If we look at it on a grand scale, then we would love it if we live in a world where there was no war, wherenNations got along, right? And there was no Injustice, that there was no poor people, or are there people suffering from other types of inequalities. We would love it if there was this great harmonious type of existence, and of course we thow up our hands saying it will never happen, but of course there are many people working for justice and in our own local world in our own global families, we realize how painful it is when children don’t talk to their parents, or when there’s alienation between siblings, or when just our neighbor just treats us in a way that just we can’t figure out why they’re doing what they’re doing.

All of us struggle with the relationships in our lives and we wish that somehow everything was right, but there was a genuine harmony and basically what we’re desiring what we were desiring that harmony, we’re getting along perfectly and enjoying each other’s company and loving each other and receiving the fullness of love. When we are desiring those things in our world, that’s simply proof that we are desiring heaven, we are desiring a place where are we are in harmony with our brothers and sisters. Because the proof of heaven is revealed through our desires. Why would we have desires that cannot be fulfilled?

We have lots of very easy desires, right? I’m hungry – I go open up the fridge, I eat something: fulfilled, right? I want a beer, I go to the pub, I get a Guinness: fulfilled.

The reality is that the desires in our hearts push us to seek higher things, to seek things that do not actually end – to seek a perfected state. We’re hardwired to not want to die, which is why we fight against death.

Now at the school that I go to, there’s signs around like, kind of talking about the different accomplishments that the university has been able to do over the last few years, and one of the signs, banners said, “Living to 125: a Reality.” I sit there thinking about that, like, do I want to live to 125? I don’t know why in the world anyone would want to live to 125, but you can tell that the reason why that’s such a great accomplishment is because we don’t want to die.

We fear death and the reality is that none of us can escape it, even if we had all the science in the world that makes us live to another 50, 60 years. Death is always around the corner, because we know of how many times a very tragic thing happens. As I always say, we can walk out the church today and be hit by a bus, right?

Life is very fragile, but yet we desire to live, and the Lord today in the Gospel is really showing to us something about that desire. The whole teaching of this Gospel is all contingent upon who Jesus is speaking to, just like those 4th and 5th graders were trying to get me with their questions. Well, the people who are trying to get Jesus in this Gospel are this group of Jews known as the Sadducees. And the Sadducees, well they didn’t believe in the resurrection, so they were sad, you see?

[pause] Oh, that didn’t go over too well – it’s too early. [groans]

Anyway, they were always looking at the things of this world as being an end in themselves and the Sadducees were very comfortable people. They were the ones who have a lot of well in a lot of position in society, so in their minds the way that God would reveal His blessings was by them having a lot of things in the world – a lot of material stuff, a lot of status. That was a sign of God’s blessing. This idea of heaven was like that was like, not necessary in their theological worldview because they had heaven on Earth if you will.

So of course they are trying to trap Jesus and saying, all right, so if we get married here and you have a situation where people are married five, six, seven, times, who were they married to in heaven? Jesus reveals that is, like, marriage doesn’t exist in heaven – it’s something that exists here.

And I think that we have to ask ourselves the question, what is the vocation of marriage ultimately doing for us. In a very real localized way it’s helping us to perfect a relationship with another. Which is why we are married for life, we enter a commitment, and we also believe that somehow God blesses and graces that commitment. Because what that is, is a preparation for eternity, and then in eternity we’re no longer have to be working at our relationships and perfecting them, but they are perfected in God’s eyes. The same God who wills each and everyone of us into existence in the first place. The same God who provides for us each and every day. The same God who helps us through the ups and downs of our married lives. That same God is who is waiting for us in heaven to allow us to experience that which is in the deepest desires of our heart, which is harmony with our Brothers and sisters

So, today at this Mass as we receive Jesus, maybe we recognize that we are not just given the strength and the grace to be in communion with God but we’re given the strength in the grace to be in communion with each of our brothers and sisters. The body of Christ at the altar strengthens the body of Christ that we all are. That is one in the same.

May we pray for each other – not so much to think that we need more things, or we need to acquire even the perfect state of heaven where we have everything the way we wanted.

Let us pray today to empty ourselves to be the person God wants us to be, for our brothers and sisters.

May God bless you all.

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Fr. Smith homily

Today’s gospel reading may seem arcane at best and ludicrous at worst. Yet it is serious and raises a crucial question for both the Jews and Christians: “What happens to the good person after death? 

The Sadducees did not believe in immortality in the Greek sense of the word. The Greek belief that purely spiritual soul was separated from the person at death to exist independently for all eternity was incomprehensible. Like the Pharisees they thought that humanity required having a body. Unlike the Pharisees the Sadducees did not believe that our body was resurrectedwhich our first reading showed meant restored and returned to the person at “the end of the world”, but held that the person lived on in their families. That is why a brother had to marry a deceased brothers wife if she was childless. The deceased brother could live on only in his children. We laugh as one brother after another married this unfortunate woman but for them it was not a laughing matter at all. They may have desired to put Jesus on the spot but it was not done frivolously.  

If people of our time were to object to a rather literal understanding of the resurrection of the Body, we would mostly ask where would all the people be put. They would take up too much space. That was not a pressing issue for the Sadducees. They were more concerned about community. The legitimacy that marriage provided for lineage was the most important issue. When Jesus says that in the coming age people neither marry nor are given in marriage he is challenging their beliefs to their core. Why should they believe him, indeed why should we? 

St Lukes answer is fascinating and beautifully crafted.  

After Jesus’ execution, Mary Magdalene and the other women go to the tomb and discover that it is empty. Two men in dazzling garments tell them that He is risen as hH said. What this means is revealed to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They meet Jesus and do not in any way think He is a ghost or spirit. He reveals himself to them and then disappears. He reappears seemingly out of nowhere as they were telling their story to the apostles in the upper room. He is not a ghost nor is he a zombie: He has a real body, He is risen.  

So what? 

It could seem as this is a nice way for Jesus to tell us that He has won and that we should follow him here so that we can also be risen and to go to heaven. True enough, but insufficient and no Jew would have made that mistake. That Jesus has been risen NOW means that the new world he promised has begun NOW. There are consequences not only in how we are to act, but why. 

Matthew and Mark as well as Luke tell us that Jesus has come to bring the Kingdom. The Kingdom is harmony between god and humankind, among all people and with nature. It begins with his resurrection. It will not be completed on earth but it is our task to make it as present as we can here and now. The Kingdom is not made real by our eloquence but by our actions. 

We have a perfect example of this with the recently concluded synod on the Amazon. The church called Bishops but also lay leaders to Rome to discuss the needs of this important region.  Disharmony reigns on every level. The Amazon is the lungs of the world and is being destroyed by carelessness and greed. This is maintained by an unjust use of power that has reduced many indigenous people to virtual slavery. The church is the only institution capable of combating it but because of lack of access to the Eucharist, antiquated notions of leadership and a failure to use the actual cultural expressions of the people, the church discovered that she too needs reform. The demands of the kingdom are immediate because Christ IS risen here and now and here and now we are called to manifest our rebirth. 

Too often envisioning the afterlife can become a parlor game. This is pointless and unscriptural: St Paul tells us: 

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, 
Nor have entered into the heart of man 
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor 2:9) 

Paul also tells us: But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:20)

We must then ask if we have been raised with him what fruits of the Kingdom have been born through us. 

 

 

 

 

 

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Resurrection of the Body To Come; Active Discipleship Today

The Last Judgment, Michelangelo, 1536–1541, Sistene Chapel (zoomed-in view of central figures).

FIRST READING
2 Maccabees 7:1–2, 9–14
November 10, 2019

The books of Maccabees can be confusing and have been very controversial over the centuries. Luther and the other reformers banished both books from the Bible because of praying for the dead and thus providing an opening for Purgatory (2 Mac. 12:38–46). Its clear statement on the resurrection of the body, not merely immortality, has made some Jews very uneasy as well. The seeming passivity applauded in 2 Maccabees has annoyed those of a more activist bent who fully endorse 1 Maccabees. Yet there is great wisdom to be found in them both.

Today, we read from 2 Maccabees and the first confusion is that it was completed before 1 Maccabees by a different author with a different theology about persecution and resistance. They do however share a common origin in the relentless assault on Jewish customs and worship by King Antiochus IV. This began around 200 BC with educational “reform” and culminated with his demand that Greek gods be worshiped in the temple at Jerusalem. We have looked at this historical situation previously in some detail, but will now look at its spiritual dimension.

Continuing this false worship would have ended Judaism. Some people, mostly the rich and powerful who did not wish to lose their positions, consented, sometimes indeed enthusiastically. Others however resisted. There were thus, as always, two principal options. The first was armed resistance. These books take their name from Judas Maccabaeus who led the eventually successful guerrilla movement. The story of his family is related in 1 Maccabees. However, there is the opposite approach of prayer and martyrdom. This is the approach proclaimed in 2 Maccabees. The tone of the book is set in the chapter before this with the martyrdom of Eleazar, an elderly and highly respected scribe. He was told that he had to publicly eat pork, for him a grave sin. When he objected his friends, who had previously capitulated, told him that he could bring food of his own choosing escaping the death penalty (2 Mac 6:22).

His response: Continue reading “32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Resurrection of the Body To Come; Active Discipleship Today”

31st Sunday Ordinary Time/St. Charles Borromeo – 11:15 am (Fr. Smith homily)

We celebrate today the feast of our Patron Saint, Charles Borromeo. To list even the most basic facts of his life, much less his accomplishments, would be an impossible task for a brief homily. Even more amazing is that he was only 46 when he died in 1584.

High points are found in the main window above the main altar. The principal scene is St. Charles distributing communion to a sick person on a stretcher. This commemorates his distribution of the Eucharist to the sick during a plague and for having Mass said in the open air, allowing the afflicted to more easily attend. If you look above the main window there are three windows with angels: the one on the left shows a scroll referring to his institution of religious education in his Diocese of Milan. He is considered the founder of both Catholic schools and Sunday school. On the right, the window reflects his emphasis on the Sacrament of Penance. In the central window, two angels bear a crown which foretells his canonization after his death. Not on our window is the clearest sign that he was a reformer: one of his priests who did not want to be reformed tried to assassinate him.

We remind everyone that there is more information on St Charles and the art in the church on our website. https://www.stcharlesbklyn.org/history/stained-glass-windows/

We could say much more about St Charles, but more relevant for us today is his cousin and successor Federico Borromeo. Like Charles, he was born a rich man destined for effortless success. He originally wanted to become a Jesuit, but although he did not, he was nonetheless claimed by the Church and named a cardinal at the age of 23. A most cultured man, he was dedicated to scholarship and moved by beauty. He created leaned societies and the first truly public library on the European continent. He wrote over 100 books and monographs on many subjects and, why we remember him especially today, can be credited as publishing the first hymnal for lay people. He also renovated the Cathedral in Milan, shoring up its foundations and beautifying its interior.

Now I do not mean to suggest that he was a mere aesthete. During the great famine of 1627-1628 he fed 2,000 poor people daily at the gates of his residence from his own income. He was an example of such absolute heroism that nearly one hundred of his clergy died caring for their flocks in the famine and resulting plague. This is beautifully told in Alessandro Manzoni’s novel “The Betrothed”. I should note that this is Pope Francis’ second favorite novel; coming after only the Brothers Karamazov. In it, Federico is portrayed as the model priest, and I must admit that I give it to young priests particularly to read his admonition to a well-meaning but cowardly pastor. I have no reason to believe that this did not reflect his actual beliefs and actions. After his death, the citizens of Milan erected a statue in his honor and wrote on the pedestal: “He was one of those men rare in every age, who employed extraordinary intelligence, the resources of an opulent condition, the advantages of privileged station, and an unflinching will, in the search and practice of higher and better things.”

He demonstrates the connection between beauty, worship and charity. Much of our efforts as a parish for at least the next 3 years will be to renovate the fabric of the Church building. There will be no major changes in the sanctuary or nave – the major visible changes will be decent bathrooms and a usable basement. Through it all, we must seek not to lose the forest for the trees and must remember that this building exists for worship: turning our minds and hearts to God. Beauty has always been the handmaid of worship, and a church needs to be a place where we recognize that we are doing something different. A church such as ours can literally stop us in our footsteps, slow us down and center us on the most important things. Given the distractions of our times, this is more important and needed than ever

Although I hope that people leave here feeling blessed and holy, worship is ultimately judged not by what we feel on Sunday but what we do the rest of the week. Who is better off among your family and friends or in our community because you went to Mass today? Did you help someone at work, did you show kindness to an annoying person, did you take time to offer your services to someone who needs them? The needs are endless, the opportunities without limit, and the power that comes from true worship beyond comprehension. Yet, how much of Jesus do we see in a country in which most people call themselves Christian, and more to the point what does St Charles add to this community? Who outside these walls would know or care if we disappeared tomorrow?

Today we will add another aid to our worship with our new hymnals.

We are bodily creatures and the more senses we can engage in our worship, the more effective it will be. Philosophers (eg. Suzanne Langer) tell us that each art form allows our bodies to connect with a dimension in the real world. Buildings engage us in space. A grand church building can be literally awesome and an intimate one engenders a serenity that no other structure can provide.

Music in this theory connects and develops our sense of time. Many of us seem dominated by time and trying to make each second effective. No wonder time itself may seem exhausting. Great music can suspend time and give us a taste of the infinite and a moment’s peace to gather ourselves together to praise and worship God

Please embrace this opportunity. We bless not so much the hymn books as ourselves, and desire to offer not only everything to God, but every moment. Unlike Federico Borromeo, we may not have extraordinary intelligence to display, nor either the resources of an opulent condition nor privileged station, but we can ask for an unflinching will to – by our worship – search for and practice higher and better things.

All Saints – Fr. Gribowich homily

Transcript:
Good evening, everyone, and happy All Saints. Glad that you are able to come here to rejoice, and all of those of us who have gone before us who are gazing upon God for all eternity in Heaven, and I’m glad that you got here to Mass at the last minute here, too. This is a holy day. So very blessed that we’re all here together, and also that you’ve had a very nice Halloween yesterday as well, and that you’re enjoying all your candy.

One thing I have to say is that every All Saints Day, it’s hard for me not to think about a very, very interesting conversation that took place between Thomas Merton, the famous Catholic monk of the 20th Century, and his professor in college named Robert Lax.

Robert Lax was himself a convert to the Faith, just as Thomas Merton was, and Lax played a very instrumental role in helping Merton discover his faith in Jesus and eventually becoming a Catholic. And after Merton became a Catholic, he and Lax were talking, and Robert Lax asked him saying, “Well now that you’re a Catholic, what do you hope to do?”

And Merton very much admired Lax, and he wants to impress him with some type of really sophisticated answer, now that he was a Catholic. So he kind of just thought it over and then he just kind of resort to saying,”well I hope to be a very, very devout Catholic and learn more and more about the Faith”. And Robert Lax looked at him with almost disappointment in his eyes, and he said, “You know, there’s only one thing you should hope to do now that you’re a Catholic, and that is to become a saint.” To become a saint – that it’s not necessarily about becoming part of a tribe and finding joy in becoming just Catholic for the sake of finding some sense of truth and meaning and what it means to be Catholic, but to look beyond what this world is and offers to where we are bound to go, and that is Heaven, right? That is what the Saints desire. Saints desire Heaven.

You know, it’s always profound for me thinking about that, because I have to ask myself the question: you know here as a Catholic priest; you know being in the world of Catholicism, so to speak: do I ever really think about the fact that fundamentally why I do all these things? Why I participate in the sacramental life of the Church? It is for the reason that I desire union with God: intimate union with God, and not just because I think that’s a nice thing, but because to be with He who has created and willed me into existence from the very beginning knows exactly what I need, how I need it, and desires me to want to be with him for all eternity. That is ultimately what a relationship with God looks like, right?

So this very famous encounter between Thomas Merton and Robert Lax is something that we can kind of take away and ask ourselves, “what is it that we really desire?”

Everyday or every year on All Saints Day, we hear the Beatitudes, and of course the Beatitudes we hear very often. We all know that in some way that this is the new teaching of Jesus, in a way to augment the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament that were given to Moses. And just on the surface level, we can always say that the Beatitudes always seem to have this, more of this positive tone, because it’s talking about blessed are you when you do these things, because then you receive these things as a result. Whereas the Ten Commandments are all about not doing certain things – prohibitions.

In our spiritual journey, we kind of need both. There are times where we need to really have a clear understanding what not to do. There’s going to be times for us know exactly what to do. We understand that just by the basic nature – for who we are are human beings, right? – I mean when you’re young, you’re a child, it’s better to be told what not to do than what to do, because when you’re told what to do, you end up doing the opposite.

So perhaps it is better as a rule to just understand what I should not do, because that is ultimately going to be at the problems if I do end up touching the burner when it’s hot, so to speak, right?

Yet I often find it that as well, as positive as the Beatitudes may sound, they can also have a tinge of legalism intertwined – the same type of legalism which is all too often associated with the Ten Commandments. What I mean by that is that there’s this understanding that could arrive that the Beatitudes are all about us, and our activity, and how we do things, and so we can go through them. If you just think, well okay, if I’m poor, if I try to detach myself more from the things of the world, I’m going to be blessed. Or if I really work for peace and I really try my best to mitigate peace in different relationships within my life, in the monks, the people I know, then I will be blessed, I will be a child of God.

And even the Beatitudes then become a source of obligation, a source of measuring ourselves up to see how well we’re doing. Going through them can often make us feel almost guilty because we’re not working hard enough at being detached from things. We’re not working hard enough at being humble, or we’re not working hard enough being a peacemaker. We’re not working hard enough and just allowing persecutions to hit us and being okay with that.

Yet, the Gospel of Jesus is not about us working harder in order to earn something. The Gospel – the good news of Jesus – is all about revealing the profound love that God has for us, despite our failures, despite our sin.

So just as Robert Lax challenges Merton to desire to become a saint, perhaps the best way for us to engage the Beatitudes is not thinking about what we need to do, but what we need to desire. And the way to know what we need to desire is to always go to the latter portion of the answer: if we desire the Kingdom of Heaven, the result will be for us to naturally want to be detached from the things of the world. If we desire to be confident, you’ll be okay when we mourn, because we know that God is with us. If we desire to inherit the land, you will know that God will give us everything that we need in order to not just survive, but to thrive and find a joyful life.

The Beatitudes aren’t caught up in us trying to live a more virtuous, moral life. They get to the very heart of speaking to our desires. What do we desire? I think in one word you could say that we all desire happiness, who desire a life – whether we are free of suffering, of pain, of anxiety – we desire a world where there’s justice. We desire a world where there’s peace. Because we know that these things resonate with how we are hardwired, because we’re hardwired not to live in a broken existence, but a whole existence.

If we take that one step further, we realize that what we ultimately desire is Heaven. Yet, we often think that Heaven is something that sounds better than Hell, but it’s not necessary something that can bring us happiness.

I was often taken from my first assignment as a priest saying daily masses, and most daily Masses are early in the morning. Especially there’s lots of older people, retired people – and there was someone who I think celebrated like an 86th birthday. I said, “Oh, happy birthday”. I said, “You’re one year now closer to Heaven.” And you think I was sentencing him to prison when I said that.

”Don’t wish on that me now, Father. Don’t talk about that.”

Don’t talk about that?! Why do you show up at Mass if you’re not thinking about Heaven?

We come here today on this holy day of obligation not just so that we can become good Catholics like Thomas Merton and what he thought he was supposed to be. We come here because we are obligated in our very being for complete union with God in Heaven. And in that sense, it’s not a burden, nor is it something that we wish to just kind of push off and one day, we’ll think about it, but it’s something that happens to us now. Because the desire for Heaven means to live life now, in its fullness, so that we can live in Heaven on Earth. And while it’s not Heaven in its fullness, it gets us more and more yearning and desiring what we are ultimately made for.

So today, on this Feast of All Saints, let’s look at our brothers and sisters who have gone before us and have reached the final goal of their life as being an inspiration for all of us who still journey and are distracted by the things of this world, thinking that they can possibly serve us, when we are made to be served by an infinite love that no finite person or thing could ever match.

God bless us all.

31st Sunday Ordinary Time – The Lover of Our Souls

FIRST READING
Wisdom of Solomon 11:22–12:2
Nov. 3, 2019
Celebration of Feast of St. Charles Borromeo

The Book of Wisdom, often called the Wisdom of Solomon, is very similar to the writing of Ben Sirach whom we read last week. Both taught the sons of rich Jewish families and based their teachings firmly in traditional Judaism. Ben Sirach wrote in Jerusalem around 200 BC at a time immediately before active persecution. He was primarily concerned with practical questions of contemporary life. Despite its attribution to Solomon, the Book of Wisdom might very well be the last written book of the Old Testament. It was most likely composed in Alexandria Egypt, perhaps as late as 30 BC. Alexandria was a great intellectual center in the Roman world and the author examined the philosophical teachings of the day. He also used to his advantage the relationship between the Egyptians and the Jews.

The Exodus is never far from the author’s mind. He returns in today’s chapter to the plagues sent upon Egyptian. For all their power, the Egyptians were foolish, because they worshiped the animal, indeed, insect world: Continue reading “31st Sunday Ordinary Time – The Lover of Our Souls”