Author Archives: Father L

The State of Grace

1st Sunday of Advent
Beloved in the Lord Jesus.
The planet Venus is called the ‘sister planet’ of earth. This is because like earth, it is a rocky, solid body; its diameter is nearly the same as our planet, and it has the same gravity and Mass as earth. Now if engineers were to build a spaceship designed to make the journey to the planet Venus, so that ordinary citizens could go to live there, well – I don’t think there would be any takers. You see, the surface temperature of Venus is 860 degrees F, the atmospheric pressure is 92 times that of earth; its clouds are made of sulfuric acid, and instead of oxygen, you would have to breathe carbon dioxide. We would no doubt refuse this invitation, because our body and our lungs are designed for this world. In our atmosphere, they work, but there, they would not work.
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Now in the same way, our human nature, while adequate for the ordinary life of this world, is not adequate for the life of the world to come: the New Creation that we call heaven. If we were to enter heaven with only our human nature as is, we would be no more able to survive there, than on the planet Venus. Just as we would need some extra power of breathing to survive on another planet, so we need an extra power in our soul, in order to live in heaven. What is this power, and how do we get it?
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The power that we will need, so that we can live in heaven, is a power ‘above and beyond our nature’ – ‘super- nature’, it is ‘supernatural,’ and so we call it the Supernatural Life. Now this is true not only of human beings, but of angels as well; no created being by its own nature, is able to have a relationship or union with God without a supernatural elevation of nature; somehow, we have to be made ‘like God,’ so that we can relate to him, and this is the supernatural life, which is in us as Sanctifying Grace. This is what we mean when we say that we wish to be in the ‘State of Grace.”I hope that I am in the State of Grace.’
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This supernatural life, is first of all, a gift of God; it comes first to us in baptism. And this is why Jesus Christ came into the world, to impart to us, supernatural life – to give us a share in his divine life. St. Paul encourages us today: Cast off deeds of darkness, he says, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
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This ‘armor of light’ of which he speaks, is grace. ‘Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ,’ is to walk in this life of God. But we must protect and nurture this Divine Life, as a soldier uses armor for protection. In our baptism we receive the seed of this supernatural life – we become ‘in the State of Grace.’ The Christian life then, is about protecting and growing this grace in us. Our life will be a success, if at the moment of death we have in our soul, this Supernatural life, if we are in the State of Grace; this will make union with God not only possible, but beautiful. On the other hand, our life will be a failure if we die without the supernatural life. Everyone who is in hell is there because they were not in the State of Grace when they died.
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Our Lord reminds us today of the End Times, the final and the 2nd Coming. Jesus is speaking about the Elect – the Redeemed – when he says, on that day, lift up your head and rejoice, for your redemption is at hand. The Elect are those to be found in the State of Grace. If we commit a mortal sin, a serious sin, then we lose this necessary supernatural life in our soul; but we can recover it, by being sorry – turning back to God, going to confession. We must never remain long without the State of Grace, but return to God, and begin again, immediately.
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The State of Grace is lost by grave sins such as skipping Sunday Mass, serious theft or lies; sins against purity, cruelty, lack of charity, and other things. Losing God’s grace causes us to be empty. It is told in the Gospel of St. Luke, that when Jesus was a child and his parents were traveling from Jerusalem, he became lost. There can be no sadness like that experienced by Mary and Joseph, the feeling of losing Jesus. St. Alphonsus tells us to learn two lessons from this event: one is, that we should never be among those who through our own fault of sin, lose Jesus from our soul. The other lesson is: that if we have lost the Lord due to sin, we should know that God easily makes himself found by those who seek him.
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Whether it is to be restored to the State of Grace after serious sin, or to receive more grace by confessing venial sins, which are a daily struggle – which we all struggle with – well, as we begin Advent today, this can be a beautiful time of grace for our parish and our families.
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What present does Jesus want for his birthday? He wants us to prepare our soul for him, for his Nativity. God’s Divinity stoops down to us in the form of a baby, so that our humanity might acquire the supernatural life, and live forever with Him in heaven.
May the Blessed Virgin be near us, and dear to us, in these holy days leading up, to the birth of Christ our Savior.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of dear Audrey Santo]

The King was a Servant

Feast of Christ the King
Beloved in the Lord Jesus.
One of the newest saints in the Church is St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, of Mexico. How did this young boy become a saint? Well, in the early 1900’s, the government was trying to suppress the Catholic Church; a group of Catholics called the Cristeros, took to arms to defend the right of Catholics to practice their faith.
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At that time, a young boy named José Sánchez del Río asked his mother permission to join the Cristeros, but she said, ‘you are too young.’ ‘Mama, he replied, “do not let me lose the opportunity to gain heaven so easily.” Eventually, the general of the Cristeros agreed to let the boy carry the flag for the troops, which he did.
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On February 5, 1928, the boy was captured and imprisoned. In order to terrorize him, they made him watch the hanging of one of the other captured Cristeros. But José encouraged the man, saying, “You will be in heaven before me. Tell Christ the King I shall be with him soon.” In prison, he prayed the Rosary and wrote a beautiful letter to his mother, telling her that he wanted to do God’s will.
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On February 10, they cut the soles of his feet and made him walk on salt. Then he was marched through the town to the cemetery where they would shoot him. The soldiers said, deny Christ, and you will live. But he answered: “Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”
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Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of Christ the King; this feast comes just before we begin Advent. Jesus Christ is the King of the Entire Universe, he created it, As scripture says, ‘All things were made through him.’ Yet during the coming Advent, we will reflect on the mystery, that this King of the Universe lowered himself to become a Child, to become a servant to all, in order to save all. This Lord, who with a glance could annihilate all that is, who by his will alone, has brought into existence not only the beautiful world, but you and I – this great and good God, has became a servant of the world. That’s the kind of king he is.
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The Son of God was obedient to his Father even to death on the cross. This King of heaven, was also obedient to his earthly parents, for it says in the gospel of St. Luke, that ‘he was subject to them.’ Jesus even made himself obedient to Pontius Pilate, who condemned him to death – and to the executioners who whipped him; he humbly obeyed them all, and gave every drop of his blood and his life for we sinners.
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Christ is King, but in his humility, he shows us that he is a king who came into this world to help us and serve us. While in the agony of the cross, he was ready to forgive – a servant to sinners: The good thief said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said unto him, ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise.’
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You know, it is told the story of St. Alexis, who was the son of an important Roman family. Because he desired to only serve God, he left home and lived as an ascetic for many years in the desert. Eventually he returned to Rome as a beggar; not recognizing him as their own son, his parents took him into their home where he worked as a servant and lived under the stairs for 17 years!
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But if Alexis, of an important family, could become their servant, how much greater a thing is it that God himself has lowered himself to be the servant of we creatures. If the King of heaven has done all of this for us, what must be our response to him? We must ourselves live our life serving Jesus Christ, serving the Good King.
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St. Alphonsus says, ‘Instead of being servants of this dear King of heaven, we often prefer to be servants of the devil. But the devil does not love his servants; he hates them and makes them unhappy in this world and in the next.’
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Since we have been delivered by Jesus Christ from the slavery of hell, let us then be true servants of he who died for us. And may the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for us, that we will become worthy of the promises of Christ. 

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. John Vianney]

 

The End of the World

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
In the Gospel today, we encounter this striking scene; Our Lord had just spent the whole day in the Temple[i] debating with the Scribes and Pharisees, but it was impossible to penetrate their stone hearts. As he was leaving there, he overheard some people speaking of the great beauty of the temple, and going on and on about it – But he said to them, ‘Do you see all these things? Amen, I say to you, there will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ – This place will be destroyed. And every single stone will be turned over.-
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The disciples were breathless with fear of what his words might mean. For them, those were shocking prophecies: the total destruction of the great Temple of Jerusalem, and the future destruction of the world. In the Holy Scriptures, we find that the earth – creation itself – is really seen as one giant temple. The Garden of Eden was described using some temple-imagery, the psalmist uses imagery to depict creation as a temple, with human beings as the priests, offering Creation to God.
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Now scholars tell us that the Temple of Jerusalem was really supposed to be a microcosm of this world, it was an image, if you will, of this world: The huge ‘sea’ of water, walls carved with flowers, a giant grape vine over the entrance; the blue veil in front of the Holy of Holies symbolized the sky, and beyond the sky, the Holy of Holies represented heaven. If the Temple was therefore a sign of this universe, what does it mean if would be destroyed? A sign of the coming end of this world; and so, in one breath Our Lord speaks of both. ‘I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ ‘This generation shall not pass away, until all these things have been accomplished.’
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And so it was true – the shocking destruction of the temple took place in those people’s generation, just 37 years after Jesus’ prophecy. After it was burned to the ground, the greedy soldiers searching for the gold that melted from the fire, turned over every single stone to get it. But not just the end of the temple was prophesied; the world as well: ‘the day nor the hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,’ says the Lord. ‘People will be eating and drinking – partying away – as in the days of Noah. ‘You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; nation will rise against nation; there will be pestilence and famines and earthquakes. They will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And there will be a great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world. So Our Lord is speaking at once about the end of the Temple, and also the coming end of the world.
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I was at an airport a few years ago, about to finally read this book I had with me, when a young Jewish man came over to talk. He was studying to be a Rabbi and he recognized me as a Catholic priest. ‘This is a sad time for us, he said, ‘it is the ‘Three Weeks;’ the Bein ha-Metzarim.[ii] This is when we remember the destruction of the Temple. I said to him, Yes, the destruction of the temple in 70AD. But you know, we Christians have another understanding of this, not so sad. The temple was great and glorious, for sure, and it was the site of the sacrifices by the priests. But the temple was a sign, a pre-figurement, pointing to a new priesthood of Jesus, the Messiah – a new Sacrifice – and a New Temple. Ezekiel prophesied an entirely new, glorious temple. And this glorious temple is in heaven, which the Jewish temple was preparing for. Destroyed? Only in the sense that it was a sign, preparing the way. That temple offered sheep and goats in sacrifice, but those pre-figured the True Sacrifice of the Messiah, which we renew on our altars today. The priesthood continues, the priesthood of Jesus – and at the Catholic Mass, we are participating in the praise of God in the Eternal Temple of heaven.
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We spoke some more, especially about the Jewish roots of our Faith. The Mass as fulfillment of Passover. Then he said, ‘Father, almost no one knows, even few Jewish people know, that it was also at this time of the Three Weeks, that we believe Moses threw down and broke the 10 commandments because of sin.[iii] So we are mourning this too. ‘That’s VERY interesting,’ I told him. And I thanked him for the discussion, time to get on the plane, he was on a different flight.
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So I’m on the plane, sitting down, just opening my book finally, and the woman next to me says, ‘You’re a priest.’ ‘Yes,’ I said. I’m Jewish!, she said. ‘Oh.’ In fact, I have been doing research on my religion in Israel. Father, did you know that this is a very sad time for us? It is when the Temple was destroyed. ‘I said, yes. And you know, it is very interesting, that it was also during this time, long before, that Moses broke the 10 commandments.’ ‘How did you know that?!!!!!!’, she asked me!
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Friends, people today live as if the world will never end, as if THEY will never end. When I cover the subject of the End Times with the kids in school, one question I always ask is very simple: ‘True or false: This world will one day come to an end.’ True. Strangely, we have to be reminded of this.
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At the end of the Liturgical Year, Mother Church presents to us this subject, to be pondered: the End Times. Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple, which happened in the exact detail as he described it. So when he tells us that this world will end, it will. This world, this life – is temporary. And so this week, we remember our mortality; we know not when the world will end, nor when our life will end; So?
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So we live today as a faithful child of God, come what may. What we have done in our past is not so important; what we choose to be today is what matters, so that we will end well. As St. John Vianney used to say, ‘All the saints did not start out so well, but they ended well.’ May the Blessed Virgin help us all, that when the end will come, we may end very well.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton]

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[i] A Parochial Course in Doctrinal Instructions, p. 540

[ii] The day the destruction of the Temple is remembered is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av at the end of the Three Weeks.

[iii] The breaking of the 10 Commandments was on the first day of the Three Weeks, Tammuz 17.

The Resurrection of our Body

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in the Lord,
The various parts of Holy Mass have symbolic meaning; for example at the Consecration, and when the priest raises the Host and the Chalice, we see ourselves at the Cross – reminded by the one that hangs here – And if the Consecration signifies the death of Jesus, Holy Communion is linked to his Resurrection from the dead. When the priest breaks the Host over the chalice and we might think of the tomb breaking open – a piece of the Sacred Host is broken and mixed into the Precious Blood. If at the Consecration, separation of Body and Blood signifies death, then this re-joining of Body and Blood signifies Christ’s glorious resurrection.
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And as for us – the fathers of the Church from the beginning called Holy Communion the ‘Secret of the Resurrection.’ Holy Communion is the antidote to death. Jesus said, ‘He who eats this bread will live forever.’
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Now in the gospel today, we see this encounter with Jesus and the Sadducees. The Sadducees only believed the first 5 books of the bible, nothing else. They also did not believe in the next life. When you die, they said, that’s it, you’re dead. So they did not believe in life after death, or the resurrection, because they did not find it mentioned in the first 5 books of the bible, so they thought.
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To make their point, they come to Jesus and propose a scenario to him, where a woman has had in her life, 7 husbands who have each died. And they ask, if there is really a resurrection Jesus, – ah, then – which one will be her husband in the life to come? But Jesus says, you are wrong because you do not know the scriptures. for in the resurrection, people do not get married. We will rise, in our glorified bodies; but in that day, we will not be married in an earthly way. We will be married to God, and also we will be in union with all the members of the Church, with our spouse or spouses from our earthly life yes – if they are in heaven – but this union will not have exclusivity, this ‘Communion of the Saints’ will be a whole new way of being together in perfect charity.[i]
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The Sadducees did not believe in life after death. But now we see how amazing a teacher Jesus is: Our Lord proceeds to quote from the Book of Exodus – which the Sadducees accept! Christ replies, ‘have you not read – where God says, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Notice, it doesn’t say: I WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he says, I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – aren’t dead. They are alive. So it’s brilliant – Our Lord shows them that even way back in the Book of Exodus, the resurrection is indicated. It says, ‘When the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching!
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So how many people these days are still Sadducees, who do not really believe that on that Great Day, we will be resurrected, alive, in our glorious bodies? No wonder people only live for transitory pleasures. The great secret for us Christians, is the resurrection. Not only Jesus rose from the dead, but we will too. This is why its called, the Good News! It’s why Jesus came.
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Jesus was born, he grew up, he worked; he died – and he rose in his glorified body, and ascended to Paradise. We are his followers. We are born, we grow up, we work and suffer and die.  And we will rise, in glorified bodies and enter paradise. This is why Jesus is called the First-born from the dead – because he went first; he conquered death and we will follow.
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Where do we get this power, to rise from the dead? The power comes to us from Jesus, mediated through the sacraments, beginning in Baptism, but so much in Holy Communion. As I said, the early Christians called the Eucharist the ‘antidote’ to death. They risked their life to get to Holy Mass, because our eternal life is at stake. This is why the martyrs were not afraid of death. Its why that mother we read about in the book of Macabbees, urged her sons to give their life for the Faith. They believed that God will raise them up. It’s why we are not afraid to die.
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St. Paul says, ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall all rise, in the twinkling of an eye. At the last trumpet, the dead will rise, and we shall be changed. At the little cemetery up at Mundelein, there is a very cool statue of an angel blowing a trumpet. This signifies the end of the world and the resurrection of the body.
 
There seems to be one main reason people are unhappy today. They don’t really believe in the resurrection of their body. They seem unsure of what the next life will bring. Friends, if a Catholic does not believe in the resurrection of their body, they are rejecting a central teaching of our Faith. Every Sunday we say in the Creed: ‘I believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.’ this changes everything about our life. As St. Paul says, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then our faith is worthless. But Christ has indeed been raised, he is the first, we follow him. As scripture says, ‘since death came through one man, Adam, so the resurrection of the dead comes also through one Man, Jesus.

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A few years ago we were burying a woman at Rosehill cemetery – it’s a big cemetery. After the prayers, as the people dispersed, a mother and her children walked over to chat with me, it turns out that the deceased was a very dear aunt to the children, Aunt Anne. They looked at me with their sad little hearts, so I said to them: ‘Do you kids want to hear a secret? ‘Look out at this vast cemetery. You see all those thousands of graves and tombs there? Their eyes scanned the rolling hills, the myriad of tombstones. ‘Those graves are all people who are waiting. And at the end of the world Jesus is going to wake everyone up and have them go to paradise with him, and it will be the happiest day in the world. ‘They will be alive,’ they asked? ‘Yes, I said, very alive.’ ‘Even Aunt Anne? Even Aunt Anne. And they were very happy, because they had faith in the power of God.
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You know, the word ‘death’ was rarely used by early Christians.[ii] They said, the person has ‘fallen asleep.’ We still say that in the Eucharistic Prayers. In fact, the word ‘cemetery,’ comes from the Greek word[iii] which means ‘sleeping place’ – The cemetery is a sleeping place, until the resurrection.[iv]
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If someone said to us, at a certain hour a dead person will be raised to life, we would run very quickly to see it.[v] Well, if you are a faithful Christian, you will one day not only see ‘some’ person raised, you will be raised.
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Let us then ask Mary to help us in our faith – Mary, help us to live and believe as true Christians, and one day be worthy of the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. +

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Peter]

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[i] Jesus says, just as angels don’t get married in heaven, we also won’t be married, in an earthly way, in heaven. – note that this is a dig, since the Sadducees do not believe in angels.

[ii] ‘The Histor of the Mass and its Ceremonies in the Eastern and Western Church’ – John O’Brien, p. 344.

[iii] (dormitory(κοιμητήριον)).

[iv] And also, in Germany of old, people saw the body placed in the ground

to be like the seed sown by a farmer awaiting growth.

Even grave stones were compared to those little signs

that a farmer places, to show what type of flower or plant is planted there.

In those days, words for burying a person in the grave

conveyed the idea of hiding a treasure until the future.

[v] Little Catechism, p. 38.

The Resurrection of our Body

5th Resumed Sunday after Epiphany
Beloved in the Lord,
In the ancient Jewish temple, sacrifices of animals were central to worship. We know, that these sacrifices prefigured the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The lambs that were offered for example, prefigured the ‘Lamb of God,’.
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Now it is a very interesting and rarely discussed fact, that when those animals were slaughtered and cut into pieces, as part of the ritual, the priest would then arrange the pieces back together, ‘re-forming’ the animal, if you will. Why? Well, it was part of their rules of the ritual – they may not have understood it, but it actually pre-figured the resurrection, when Jesus crucified, would be re-constituted in his body, alive.
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Now the Holy Mass is the re-presentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Various parts of Holy Mass have symbolic meaning; for example at the Consecration, and when the priest raises the Host and the Chalice, we are at the Cross – it is quite clear here, because we look at the Host and the Crucifix really, together. And if the Consecration signifies the death of Christ, Holy Communion is linked to his Resurrection.
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At Communion time, when the priest breaks the Host over the chalice – and we might think of the tomb breaking open – after that is a strict requirement in the Latin Mass, that after that Host is broken, the two halves of the host are placed on the paten, and fitted exactly back together. If then, at the Consecration, the separation of Body and Blood signifies Christ’s death, then this re-assembling of the Host signifies his glorious resurrection.
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And as for us – the fathers of the Church from the beginning called Holy Communion the ‘Secret of the Resurrection.’ Holy Communion is the antidote to death. Jesus said, ‘He who eats this bread will live forever.’ Our Lord spoke of the resurrection of the body on numerous occasions; John, 6:39 – This is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but I will raise them up on the last day. Verse 40: Every one who believes in the Son – I will raise them up on the last day. verse 43: ‘And I will raise them up on the last day.’
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When Jesus raised the boy from the dead, when he raised the little girl from the dead, and Lazarus too – these are all indicating the ultimate resurrection of the body. The Sadducees challenged Christ on the question of the resurrection – since they did not believe in it. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, or in angels, they accepted only the 1st 5 books of the bible – not the prophets or wisdom books or anything else. But Our Lord quotes to them from the Book of Exodus – which the Sadducees accept! Christ replies, ‘have you not read – where the Lord says, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Notice, it doesn’t say: I WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he says, I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – aren’t dead. They’re alive. It’s brilliant – Our Lord shows them that even way back in the Book of Exodus, the resurrection is indicated.
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So how many people these days are still Sadducees, who do not really believe that on that Great Day, we will be resurrected, alive, in our glorious bodies? No wonder people only live for transitory pleasures. The great secret for us Christians, is the resurrection. Not only Jesus rose from the dead, but we will too. This is why its called, the Good News! It’s why Jesus came. Jesus was born, he grew up, he worked; he died – and he rose in his glorified body, and ascended to Paradise. We are his followers.  We are born, we grow up, we work and suffer and die.    And we will rise, in glorified bodies and enter paradise. This is why Jesus is called the First-born from the dead – because he went first; he conquered death and we will follow.
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Where do we get this power, to rise from the dead? The power comes to us from Jesus Christ, mediated through the sacraments, beginning in Baptism, but so much in Holy Communion. As I said, the early Christians called the Eucharist the ‘antidote’ to death. ‘Here, eat this, and you will survive death.’ They risked their life to get to Holy Mass, because our eternal life is at stake. This is why the martyrs were not afraid of death. Its why in the book of Macabbees, we see a whole family, urged on by their mother, give their life for the Faith. They believed that God will raise them up, and it’s why we are not afraid to die.
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St. Ambrose explains, that death entered the world so that sin might come to an end. He says: Death was to bring an end to guilt; the resurrection enables our nature to continue forever.  St. Paul says, ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall all rise, in the twinkling of an eye. At the last trumpet, the dead will rise, and we shall be changed.  At the little cemetery up at Mundelein, there is a very cool statue of an angel blowing a trumpet. This signifies the end of the world and the resurrection of the body.
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There seems to be one main reason people are unhappy today. They don’t really believe in the resurrection of their body. They seem unsure of what the next life will bring. Friends, if a Catholic does not believe in the resurrection of their body, they are rejecting a central teaching of our Faith. Every Sunday we say in the Creed: ‘Expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi saeculi.’ I await the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Life of the world to come. This changes everything about our life. It makes life worth living.
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As St. Paul says, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then our faith is worthless. But Christ has indeed been raised, he is the first, we follow him. As scripture says, ‘since death came through one man, Adam, so the resurrection of the dead comes also through one Man, Jesus.
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A few years ago we were burying a woman at Rosehill cemetery – it’s a big cemetery. After the prayers, as the people dispersed, a mother and her children walked over to chat with me, it turns out that the deceased was a very dear aunt to the children, Aunt Anne. They looked at me with their sad little hearts, so I said to them: ‘Do you kids want to hear a secret? ‘Look out at this vast cemetery. You see all those thousands of graves and tombs there? Their eyes scanned the rolling hills, the myriad of tombstones. ‘Those graves are all people who are waiting. And at the end of the world Jesus is going to wake everyone up and have them go to paradise with him, and it will be the happiest day in the world. ‘They will be alive,’ they asked? ‘Yes, I said, very alive.’   ‘Even Aunt Anne?   Even Aunt Anne. And they were very happy, because they had faith in the power of God.
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You know, the word ‘death’ was rarely used by early Christians.[i] They said, the person has ‘fallen asleep.’ We say that in the Canon of the Mass as well. In fact, the word ‘cemetery,’ comes from the Greek word[ii] which means ‘sleeping place’ – The cemetery is a sleeping place, until the resurrection.[iii]
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If someone said to us, at a certain hour a dead person will be raised to life, we would run very quickly to see it.[iv] Well, if you are a faithful Christian, you will one day not only see ‘some’ person raised, you will be raised.
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Let us then ask Mary to help us in our faith – Mary, help us to live and believe as true Christians, and one day be worthy of the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. +

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Peter]

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[i] ‘The Histor of the Mass and its Ceremonies in the Eastern and Western Church’ – John O’Brien, p. 344.

[ii] (dormitory(κοιμητήριον)).

[iii] And also, in Germany of old, people saw the body placed in the ground

to be like the seed sown by a farmer awaiting growth.

Even grave stones were compared to those little signs

that a farmer places, to show what type of flower or plant is planted there.

In those days, words for burying a person in the grave

conveyed the idea of hiding a treasure until the future.

[iv] Little Catechism, p. 38.

Mary, help me

Friends in the Lord, on this Saturday of Our Lady, we wish to reflect on the particular role that Mary plays in the plan, or we would say, the economy of salvation.
The greatest treasure of the soul is grace; by it, we are raised to the honor of being the friends of God. For this reason, Jesus did not hesitate to call his disciples his friends. What then should we say of a sinner, who has lost friendship with God, and is now an enemy? As St. Alphonsus says, he must find a mediator who will obtain pardon for him.
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The Lord has given us this Mediator: He is Jesus Christ, True God and True Man. Jesus then provides the way to be reconciled with God. It is true however, that because of their sins, some people fear Jesus Christ. Because of their own sins, they believe him to be angry.
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Though a good father of a family loves his children, the child who becomes a delinquent, fears meeting his father. Hating his own sins, and hating himself, he supposes that his father hates him as well. In our sins, we sometimes fear this Jesus, who although our judge, has also suffered to redeem us.
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Nevertheless, says St. Bernard, if you are full of fear and trepidation, go to Mary, for she will intercede for thee with her Son. As at Cana in Galilee, Mother Mary obtains all that she asks from Jesus. ‘This divine Mother, concludes St. Bernard, is the ladder of sinners.
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When a child who is a delinquent in the family, fears to approach his father, he will nevertheless knock quietly at the back door, and speak with his mother in the kitchen – the merciful mother who is ready to speak, heart-to-heart. Mary says: I am the defender of those who have recourse to me, I have been appointed by my Lord to be a peace-maker between sinners and my Son.
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Cardinal Hugo says, Mary is the great peace-maker; she is salvation for those who are lost and in despair. The Holy Spirit tells us, that this Mother of Mercy never treats of war and vengeance against sinners, but only of peace. So let us go daily to this Divine Mother, who will show us the merciful face of Jesus.

God has already appointed the hour of our death

Friends in Christ, in the gospel today we see that people were warning Jesus that he was in danger: ‘Leave this area, they said, because Herod wants to kill you.” But Our Lord is undaunted by such concerns. He says, ‘Go tell that old fox, I will accomplish my death at the time that is appointed, I will die in Jerusalem and not before.
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The Lord God knows our whole life, every moment, and the hour of our death, he knows it all. Whether the Lord wants us to live to be 52, or 103 years, its up to him.
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Nowadays, health foods and exercise clinics and natural pills and remedies and medical precautions and ADVICE – advice from everyone on how to keep from getting this disease or that and extend your life – well. We should prudently take care of ourselves, but things are really way out of hand. People are fixated on squeezing every last day out of life and avoiding any possibility of sickness. Is this the way to live?
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The martyrs laughed at death. For many centuries, when there was a crusade, thousands signed up to go, with excitement. Still today there are Marines and Navy seals and many soldiers who are ready to go and pay the price to defend the country. We can learn something from these: as the Church says, life and health is A good, but not the ultimate good. The saints teach us to live each day as our last. Do the things our doctor says, be prudent, and then we accept God’s will however and whenever he decides.
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Holiness is to do God’s will all the time, exactly as we know he wants it, well? If God decides we will die suddenly in an accident or gradually over years – next month or in 20 years, then? ‘Thy will be done!’ We WANT his will, because God’s will is the best. In this way we welcome our death however and whenever God gives it.
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St. Charles Borromeo was unhappy with a painting he saw in his house.  It was a skeleton with a sickle, representing death. He called for a painter and ordered him to erase the sickle and to paint instead a golden key; he thought we should be joyful at the thought of death, because death is the key to heaven.

St. Luke

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Luke. St. Luke was a Gentile, born as a slave in Antioch, Syria. He worked for a family helping them in their household, and because he was very bright, they sent him to learn about medicine; in this way they would have a medical doctor in their house to help them. And so he became a doctor.
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We don’t know the circumstances, but he would become a disciple of Jesus Christ. One tradition is, that he was one of the 72 disciples sent out by Christ to preach. That is why it is the gospel for today’s Mass, about the 72.
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St. Luke certainly accompanied St. Paul on his missionary journeys. St. Paul says in the reading today, that when so many had abandoned him, Luke was still there, so he was a trusted friend. Of all the writers of the New testament, we are pretty sure that all were Catholic priests – except St. Luke – him we don’t know. He wrote the Gospel of Luke, and also Acts of the Apostles. He is the only one to write so much about the Blessed Virgin, including details about the conversation with angel Gabriel and other details, even about what Mary was thinking.
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How did he get this information? No doubt from Mary herself. We know that St. Paul and St. Luke spent a lot of time around Ephesus. Mary lived there, in Ephesus, you can see her house. And so St. Luke must have visited the Blessed Virgin often, and this is the source of his information.
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Finally, we know that he was an expert artist. This is the case, because he is the only person we know who painted a picture of the Blessed Virgin, known as the Hodegetria. In the fifth century, the Empress of Theodosius II brought this painting of the Virgin to the city of Constantinople where it was revered for years. But in 1453, the invading Turkish Muslims sacked the city. They destroyed monasteries and churches – the most beautiful art in the Christian world, and at this time, St. Luke’s painting of Mary disappeared.
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Escaping Christian artists however, remembered that painting, and they set about creating copies as best they could. Different artists remembered it differently. The Black Madonna of Częstochowa is thought to be one of these copies. Also, many believe that Our Mother of Perpetual Help is another copy of the Hodegetria of St. Luke.
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St. Luke is the patron saint of doctors, of artists, of bookbinders, and bachelors.

Help Me

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
In 1983, Ann Marie Cosgrove was going with her boyfriend to an abortion clinic. She writes about her experience. She says, if I went through with the pregnancy and had the baby, there was no guarantee that my boyfriend John was going to stick around. So I felt that I just had to make this decision and then move on with my life.
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John accompanied me to that place. Secretly, I remember wanting so much, just to hear him say – to have him turn to me and say: ‘Let’s just leave.’ I waited. He never said it. The counselor told me that there would be some sadness, but that it would go away. But it doesn’t.
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The next thing I knew, I was on the table. I was so scared that I started to shake. I looked up toward the ceiling and said, ‘God forgive me for what I am doing.’ When the doctor started the machine, I said ‘Help me.’ I felt darkness enter me as my baby’s life was being ripped away. I remember thinking that I would never be the same.
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From there, my life spiraled down. I started drinking, smoking crack cocaine. Whatever relationship I had with John ended the day my baby died, he hadn’t protected my family.
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Friends in the Lord, this is how the devil works. He lures us into sin little by little to try to destroy our life and the life of others. With Anne, it began with immodesty and sex before marriage; had she listened to Jesus’ commandments and remained pure, none of the rest would have happened. The devil tries to lead us, first by small sins, then big ones, until we don’t even remember where a Catholic Church is. He wants to pull us away from God.
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But Jesus never gives up on us; as long as we are alive, he wishes for us to return to him and begin again. One drop of his blood can destroy even the biggest sins, but we have to turn back to him.
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Christ has given us the rescue sacrament, to bring us back, it is called Confession. Our parish tries to offer confessions a lot, because we want to help people. People go to confession every month because they want to keep doing better; they confess their venial sins, sometimes mortal – because they want to convert their heart more to Jesus Christ.
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Other people confess because they are in big trouble; they are far from Jesus and have been living a life of sin. These people are like so many in the Gospels, who wish to leave the evil path, and walk the path of hope. When they experience the mercy of Jesus, they go away overjoyed and ready to live again.
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They are like the leper in the gospel today who Jesus healed. This man has this terrible disease, but Christ’s power takes it away, cures him. The disease is a symbol for sin. But Jesus does not heal him directly; he tells them, ‘Go, show yourself to the priest.’
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The Lord does this still now. He wants us to go to the priest, confess our sins, and hear the words of forgivness: ‘Go,show yourself to the priest.’ And the priest will say, ‘I absolve you of your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the  Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’
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How does it feel to come back to Jesus? To know that you can begin again? To be cleansed of your sins? Listen to Anne Marie Cosgrove tell the rest of her story: She says, ten years later, my mother was dying. My little brother began to pray the Our Father. Mom prayed with us and then she died. In that moment, I felt God calling me back. I remember telling God. ‘My plans aren’t working, I give up. I want the life you have planned for me.’
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On what would have been my mother’s birthday, I discovered the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I prayed it; I felt the mercy of Christ. She says, I went to the priest for confession, knelt down and said, Bless me Father for I have sinned, ten years ago I had an abortion. That was the beginning of my new life. She says, I told Jesus, ‘After what you did for me, I’ll go anywhere and do anything for you. I love you.’
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Friends, this is October, it is Respect life month. We pray for an end to this sick thing called abortion, that doesn’t help anyone: it kills a baby and wounds a mother.
And we pray to Mary. Mary, help those who have done very bad things; help them to find the mercy of Christ and live again. And Mary, pray for us, that we ourselves will follow only the path of Jesus and of goodness, because that is the path to heaven.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. John of  God]

St. Francis and the Stigmata

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and while there are a million things we can say about this great saint, I thought today we could speak of his having received the stigmata. In the older liturgical calendar, there was even established a special feast on September 17th to recall the stigmata of St. Francis.
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Stigmatists are those whose bodies bore wounds similar to Christ’s. Most had 5 wounds on hands, feet, and side, while others had only a wound on the shoulder from where Christ carried the cross. Although some suspect that St. Paul had the stigmata,  St. Francis is the first we know of with certainty, but then many other holy men and women.
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It was in the early hours on the feast of the Holy Cross, in the year 1224, when Francis was on Mt. Alverna in prayer. He had a hermitage there. Suddenly, all of the mountain seemed to be on fire; the bright flames which shined in the night, illumined the surrounding mountains and valleys more clearly than if the sun were shining over the earth.
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This mysterious light shone through the windows of houses in the area. Shepherds who were there, witnessed it. They were full of fear when they saw the mountain aflame; they would later tell the Franciscans, it lasted for over an hour. What was the cause of this firey mountain? It was at that moment that Francis saw in a vision, Christ-crucified, in the appearance of a 6-winged seraphim on the cross. He did not understand what this vision meant; still, he was filled with happiness because the Savior showed him a kind and gracious look.
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When the vision ended, his heart was burning with love of God. As Francis was trying to understand what he had seen, the marks of the nails began to appear on his hands and feet, just as he had seen them earlier, in the crucified Lord. The heads of the nails appeared on the inner side of his hands, and some pieces of flesh took on the appearance of the ends of the nails, bent backward. He tried to hide these from the brethren, but they noticed the blood and the great pain he had when walking. Not only did Francis have these stigmata, which became well-known, but he had also the gift of healing. He lived only 2 years after this, dying at the age of 45.
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St. Francis began his life as a spoiled, rich boy, who thought only of enjoying himself, but he responded to God’s call. Later he would say: ‘If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.’