28 March 2016

Easter Homily

Homily for Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
27 March 2016

Oh don't you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me
I said you're holding back
She said shut up and dance with me
This woman is my destiny
She said (Ooo Ooo)
Shut up and dance with me

"Okay," you're probably thinking, "Father Rob has lost it if he's singing Walk the Moon lyrics." Or you may be asking, "What does that song have to do with Easter?" Well, maybe nothing . . . or maybe a lot.

In this night / On this day, the Church is the one calling us to "shut up and dance" with her. She does so because her Bridegroom is risen from the dead, and she wants us to rejoice! In this night / On this day, she beckons us like a lover, seduces us like the sirens of the ancient myths to enter into the complete and total ecstasy and joy of the Glory of the Resurrection.

As the song says, "We were victims of the night . . ." Yes, we were. In the night of darkness of sin, we allowed ourselves to be moved by our desires, our wants, our needs. Yet, as victims of THIS night / LAST night (the Easter Vigil), this is where she tells us to "dare [not] look back" and to "keep [our] eyes on [her]." For if we look back, we can't appreciate the joy of the Risen Lord. Keeping our eyes on her, the Church will always lead us to Christ, just as the Blessed Mother does.

This is the night / day, then, that the Bride takes our arm, leads us to the cosmic dance floor, and rejoices with us in the wedding feast of her and her Risen Bridegroom. Yet, she and the Lord continuously desire for us to fall passionately in love with her. "Deep in her eyes" we can "see the future." Just as we feel it as we gaze deeply into the eyes and Heart of Christ in prayer and adoration - just as we will in a short while at the consecration -, so as we gaze deeply into the beauty of the Church, we can see our future, for, truly, "this woman is [our] destiny."

The Resurrection gives us permission to dance, to rejoice. This is the feast of victory for our God! Our "Alleluia!" becomes the song, the dance, the life, the future that we enter into. As Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint John Paul II remind us: We are an Easter people, and "Alleluia" is our song.

The Church beckons us, seduces us into the "Alleluia" because it is there that we continuously, passionately, and totally fall in love with our God. She invites us to "shut up and dance" with her because the more we gaze upon her beauty, truth and goodness, the more we stop worrying about the past and enjoy the promises that the Resurrection brings about. The "Alleluia" is the primal call of the Christian; it is the song of consummation of the Church.

This is the night / day, then, when that happy fault, that necessary sin of Adam brings forth for us so great a Redeemer. It is the time when Heaven is wedded to Earth, and we are reconciled to God. This is the night / day when the light of Christ illumines the darkness of the world, and invites us onto the dance floor, knowing that "we were bound together to be together" for Christ and His Church for all time and eternity.

This is the night / day where we need to simple "shut up and dance": Dance with the Bride and Bridegroom, with Christ and His Church in the ecstasy and joy of the Resurrection - that eternal Dance by which you and I share in the promises of Christ through Word and Sacrament. This is the night / day where you and I are seduced into the "Alleluia" - a call, a sigh which is ever ancient and ever new. This is the night / day when we rejoice, for this is the Feast of victory for our God.


25 March 2016

Homily for the Service of the Lord's Passion

Homily for the Service of the Lord’s Passion
(Good Friday)
25 March 2016

       Silence: It is needed. It is desired. It is highly anticipated.

There is a great and profound solemnity realized in the silence of death. It’s not eerie; it’s not disturbing. It is present, though, with a sense of anticipation.
      Like the Early Church, there is an anticipation of waiting to see what God will do next. Though veiled in the silence, veiled in the grief, the mercy of God helps us to see, to anticipate what the next move of God will be.

        Traditionally, today would be the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Here, in the silence of her world, Mary submits herself to the silent anticipation of the will of the Father. This year, however, our celebration of Good Friday supersedes that great celebration. Yet we encounter Mary, once again, submitting herself to the silent anticipation of the will of the Father.

        In the moment of that silence, she doesn’t completely understand.

        Two thousand years later, in the midst of that same silence, we still do not completely understand.

        But we ponder in awe and in anticipation – and in silence - of what God might do next.

        The silence of this day is not eerie; it is not disturbing. It is needed; it is desired. To sit and ponder in the solemnity and solace of the silence of the world this day prepares our hearts to anticipate how God will use the Suffering, Passion and Death of Christ for the salvation of the world. To sit and ponder the solemnity and solace of the silence of this day allows us to enter into the Paschal Mystery.

        It is in that solemnity, it is in that solace, it is in that desire, it is in that anticipation, then, that we can open ourselves to the will of the Father as we say, “We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.”

Homily for the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

Homily for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday)
24 March 2016

       “I want to draw your attention to what Jesus did when He knelt down and He washed the feet of the Apostles. He wasn’t simply teaching a lesson by His words. And He wasn’t just simply teaching a lesson by the washing of the feet. He was teaching a lesson by what was in His Heart. . . . So . . . make sure everything that you do and in every way that you are you demonstrate that you are men of compassion.”

          These words were spoken to the men of the ordination class of 2010 for the Diocese of Pittsburgh – my class. What Bishop Zubik was teaching me and my classmates that, in all times and in all places, we are to model our lives after the example, command and Heart of Jesus Christ.

          Am I always successful in this? By no means . . .

          Yet, the Bishop wasn’t just mentioning this to me, or Father Gillespie or Father Noel. He wasn’t saying what he said so that the other members of the clergy present would overhear. He just didn’t say these thoughts out loud so that those in the Cathedral could overhear a private talk. Rather, the Bishop mentioned this idea to not only explain the priesthood to us, as well as  to remind all present of the connection that the Eucharist has to a life lived in service and in mercy.

          I have to admit that it drives me a little crazy when everyone simply sees this celebration as simply “the Eucharist.” Now, I’m not trying to downplay the importance of the Institution of the Eucharist that we celebrate this day. But if today is only about Jesus giving us a spiritual snack and saying some cryptic words at a random Passover feast, then we’re missing the point. We’re missing the point because this celebration isn’t simply recalling the Institution of the Eucharist or re-enforcing the Institution of the Priesthood that was celebrated earlier today at Saint Paul Cathedral.

          This Triduum – these three days – are lived in the shadow and paradox of the Cross. Today, Jesus not only gives us the spiritual nourishment to carry out the mission of His Church, but He ultimately gives us the example of how we are to live out what we receive.

          On this day, March 24th, in particular, the Church remembers a modern priest who gave of his life to the point of death – Blessed Oscar Romero. As archbishop of San Salvador, Blessed Romero lived during a volatile time in his country’s history. Perhaps some of you have seen the movie Romero, which tells of the struggles – and victories – during his time as archbishop. Ultimately, Romero tried to not only stand with his people, but, also, tried to bring the message of Christ’s unconditional mercy to the people of San Salvador. Truly, he is a witness for our modern times, and truly a man who lived in the shadow and paradox of the Cross. Blessed Oscar Romero was martyred during the celebration of the Mass, giving his life bringing the compassion and mercy of God to the people in the best way possible: the celebration of the Eucharist.

          If we, who celebrate this great Sacrament here tonight, wish to be men and women who witness the compassion and mercy of God to our neighborhood, are we willing to give of our lives in the same way?

          I’m not saying that we need to seek a Mass where we will be martyred for the Faith. However, we need to ask ourselves: Do we take this great Sacrament for granted? Are we willing to be radical witnesses of the Gospel? Are we willing and able to be martyrs, being the face of the compassion and mercy of God in “everything that [we] do and in every way that [we] are”?

          Jesus washed His disciples’ feet not because He was being nice. Jesus washed His followers’ feet because He was showing us, demonstrating for us, modeling for us the humility of the Eucharist. For if the Eucharist is truly the Sacrament rooted in the Heart of God, then we who share in it must humble ourselves to be men and women of compassion. If we are to partake in this great Paschal Mystery, then you and I need to humiliate ourselves in such a way that in everything that we think, speak and do, we become “Merciful Like the Father.”

          As we enter the Mystery of this Paschal Triduum, we do so seeking to mirror what was in the Heart of Jesus when He knelt down before the Apostles and washed their feet. As we enter into these three days of suffering and joy, we seek the compassion and mercy of our God in the Eucharist we celebrate and share. To be “Merciful Like the Father,” to be compassionate like Christ, we find ways to lay down our own lives in the shadow and paradox of the Cross, which brings about for us the ability to be ministers of mercy and evangelizers of the Gospel, and, ultimately, will bring us to the full joy of the Resurrection.

12 December 2015

The New Eve

Homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8 December 2015

       You may have heard it said that the reason why we celebrate this Solemnity is one of the most misunderstood in the Tradition of the Church. Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

          Perhaps one of the reasons so many people become confused about whose conception we celebrate is partly due to the fact that we’re in the Advent season (preparing for the coming of Christ), and partly because of the Gospel story we just heard – the Annunciation of the Lord. But we must always remember that we celebrate today the event of Mary’s conception – not Jesus’.

          Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why would we be celebrating this type of feast for Mary?” The answer is found in today’s Gospel.

          I’m sure a few of know well the story of the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary. It was for this particular moment in Salvation History that we celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The doctrine of this feast teaches us that from the moment of her conception, Mary was free from the stain of sin. Why? Because of what we just heard: Mary, in her free will, was given the grace to say “yes” to the vocation waiting for her from the beginning of time.

          Now, there was one other woman in human history who was created without sin: Eve, the “mother of the living.” However, as the story of the Garden of Eden plays out, Eve, unfortunately, due to her free will, sins and becomes the “mother of the dying,” for all of her offspring has been condemned to bear the mark of Original Sin, and has been banished from the joys of Paradise.

          That is, until Mary, the “New Eve,” comes along.

          Because of the grace given to her at the moment of her conception, being freed from the stain of Original Sin, she is able to become the true Mother of the Living, since it is through her Offspring that the world is reconciled to God, and those of us who are reborn of water and the Spirit become alive once again in the glory of God.

          Without the “no” of Eve, we could not have had the “yes” of Mary. Without Eve rejecting the grace of God, we could have the example of Mary living in the fullness of that grace. However, without the offspring of Eve, we could not have had the Offspring of Mary.

          We take time today to celebrate this great Solemnity because without Mary, in use of her free will, cooperating with the grace given to her by the Father, she could not have brought forth the Son, who sent the Holy Spirit into the world so that you and I can be sharers and participants of that same grace given to Mary. We take time today to celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception so that we can understand and see how a live lived in full cooperation with the grace of God should look like.

          That life of grace is ultimately that symbiotic relationship of the life of God intersecting and influencing our lives. The Eucharist we participate in today and will receive momentarily is that symbiosis in action: It is the life of God instilling itself into our lives so that we can fulfill our vocations through and by the grace of God.

          We should not be confused about why we celebrate this great Solemnity today. Rather, we take this opportunity to become like Mary, finding new life in her Offspring, and allowing that life to more us into full cooperation with the grace of God. While in our humanity we are children of Eve, through our rebirth in baptism, we become children of Mary, the true Mother of the Living, for through her, New Life was birthed into the world. And through this gift of New Life, we care called to share in that awesome gift of grace.

          O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you!


Enjoy the journey . . . 

05 December 2015

Radical Change

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent
6 December 2015

        This Second Sunday of Advent often focuses upon the person and ministry of Saint John the Baptist. We know of the eccentric clothes that he wore and the strange, restricted diet he subjected himself to. But we often limit John’s existence to shouting, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” and dumping water on people’s heads.

       John the Baptist was the greatest of the prophets. As a prophet, he would had to have entered into his vocation of calling the people of Israel back to right relationship with God. However, as the greatest of the prophets – and, it should be noted, the last of the prophets – John had the great distinction of being charged with preparing the people for the immanent coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One. He had already pointed Christ out while still in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother. He pointed the Lamb of God out to Andrew and John, the brother of James. He acknowledged the Person and authority of Jesus when the Son of God come to be baptized.

          Yet, as “the voice . . . crying out in the desert,” John the Baptist follows the great example of the prophet Baruch in proclaiming what the Lord’s coming ultimately brings: a radical change of life. While the mountains will be leveled and the valleys be filled and raised, the Lord continues to call us to see beyond our normal understanding and comprehension of what is and to envision what could be, and even what should be.

          Baruch and John the Baptist, in calling us to prepare a way for the Lord, are also calling us to recognize how to discern, using the word of Saint Paul, the radical change of life that the Lord brings us, and to proclaim that change with joy. In recognizing that radical change in life for ourselves and for the whole world, we see what good things the Lord has done for us, and we are filled with joy.

          As we prepare our hearts and lives for the Day of the Lord, we gather in this place in the here and now becoming more familiar moment by moment of how the Lord has already radically changed our lives through our encounters with Jesus Christ in the Word, the Sacraments, and our participation in the life of the Church. Our lives, then, not only proclaim the works of the Lord, but also prepare in the lives of others and of the world a way for the Lord. We take on that prophetic role given to us at our baptism.

          Yes, a life in Christ calls us to a radical change in our own lives.

          The mountains in our lives need to be made low; the valleys in our lives need to be raised. Just as Baruch called Jerusalem to do, just as John the Baptist preached repentance, so must our lives – our thoughts, words and deeds – call others to reform their lives so that they, too, can enjoy that radical change in their lives as they encounter Jesus Christ.

          This season of Advent, when taken to heart, truly prepares us to accept and live out this radical change of life. This doesn’t mean that we become as eccentric as John the Baptist; this doesn’t mean that we become a “holy roller”. This radical change ultimately opens us up to go out and prepare the world for the impending Day of the Lord. This radical change empowers us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to become some of the greatest prophets of our time.

          As we prepare for the coming of the Lord, we ought to allow our encounter today with Jesus Christ – in Word, in Sacrament, and through the community gathered – to change us in the most radical of ways. Just as Baruch and John called others to reform their lives for the glory of God, so must we prophecy through our own lives how the Lord has called us to that deeper intimacy with Him. As we prepare a way for the Lord, as we become that voice crying out in the desert of society, we enter into a life of radical change so that the glory of the Lord will be revealed.


Enjoy the journey . . .

04 December 2015

Thankful Paradox

Homily for Thanksgiving Day
26 November 2015

We gather on this great day of thanks, continuing a tradition that women and men have done on these shores from the earliest days of colonization. But, of course, what we do and celebrate today isn't that much different from what we as Catholics have been doing for two millennia.

Whether we are gathering to give thanks around the table with turkey and stuffing or around the table of the Scriptures and the Sacraments, the act of returning thanks is in itself the least we can do for the Lord in gratitude of all that He has bestowed upon us. In our humility, we recognize that God is God, and we are not, and, in our humility and from the depths of our being, we thank Him for the varied and many ways that He bestows His love upon us.

Yet that is were the words, the canticle, of our Blessed Mother Mary come in to play. As I mentioned in my homily this past weekend, the disciple of Jesus Christ is poor, lowly and humble, just as Christ, our King, is. Mother Church consistently points to Mary in that regard - she was poor in spirit, lowly in disposition and intent, and humble of heart. The words of her Magnificat remind us that it is difficult for us to give thanks to God when we are haughty, prideful, and full of one's self.

When I celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism, I often remind those assembled that the infant about to be baptized ought to remind us of the attitude we need to have before the Lord: that of constant dependency. If we always acknowledge that we are dependent upon our God for everything that we need to live this life, the easier it is to come before Him poor, lowly, humble and broken to give Him thanks. Through her example, Mary not only witnesses to how we are to live that life of dependency, but her words of the Magnificat remind us of how paradoxical the Christian life truly is.

My friends, our souls DO magnify the Lord, and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior. Living the paradox of the Christian life is the way that you and I return thanks to the Lord. As we let go of ourselves and our pride, we increase the chances to open our hearts to be dependent on the Lord. To give thanks to the Lord is not something that we do just for an hour on Sunday or just one day in November, but is, rather, a way of life. It is the way of life modeled for us by Mary, and it is a way of life that you and I are live in a paradoxical relation to how the world expects us to live.

And, so, as we gather this day around the Table of the Word and the Table of the Eucharist - the great Altar of Sacrifice - as well as the dining tables of our families and friends, we enter into the realization that our giving thanks is not only a way of life, but it is a STATE of life. Mary's Magnificat points the way for us to live so that we are always in the state of being thankful.

How does your soul proclaim the greatness of the Lord every moment of your life?

How does your life rejoice in God?

As we give thanks to God this day, we thank and praise Him for not only all the blessings that He has bestowed upon us this day, this week, this month or this year, but we give thanks to our God for the opportunity to allow our lives to reflect the paradox that we receive, we become and we are in the Eucharist.

And, so, we pray:

Father in Heaven, Creator of all and source of all goodness and love, please look kindly upon us and receive our heartfelt gratitude in this time of giving thanks.

Thank You for all the graces and blessings You have bestowed upon us, spiritual and temporal: our faith and religious heritage, our food and shelter, our health, the love we have for one another, our family and friends.

Dear Father, in Your infinite generosity, please grant us continued graces and blessings throughout the coming year.

This we ask in the Name of Jesus, Your Son and our Brother. Amen.


Enjoy the journey . . .