Homilies for March 2015

“The Transfiguration” by Giulio Romano.

Second Sunday of Lent—March 1, 2015
The Transfiguration

Purpose: This Sunday’s readings focus on the idea of sacrifice. Abraham offers the greatest sacrifice of thanksgiving possible, his only son Isaac. This sacrifice prefigures the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus is the new Isaac, bound, and offered up to the Father. Our Lord was a suffering Messiah before he was a glorified Messiah. The cross came before the crown for Jesus and for us. Before he carries his Cross, the Lord ascends the mountain with his closest disciples and reveals his glory to them. The experience strengthens and encourages them before they must experience his passion and death.

Readings: Gen. 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 • Rom. 8: 31b-34 • Mk. 9:2-10

This coming August marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The attacks, using the world’s first atomic bombs, devastated those communities, killed or injured tens of thousands of people, and ended the Second World War. Twenty years after those bombings, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote:

The development of armaments by modern science has immeasurably magnified the horrors and wickedness of war. Warfare conducted with these weapons goes far beyond the bounds of legitimate defense. Indeed if the kind of weapons now stocked in the arsenals of the great powers were to be employed to the fullest, the result would be the almost complete reciprocal slaughter of one side by the other, not to speak of the widespread devastation that would follow in the world … Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. (Gaudium et Spes, no. 80)

The light of the atomic bomb contrasts sharply with the light of the Transfiguration, which is commemorated twice a year: on August 6th, the feast itself, and on the Second Sunday of Lent. The light of the atomic bomb was a destructive light, a terrifying light, a devastating light, which took tens of thousands of lives. The light of the Transfiguration, on the other hand, is a light of hope, a light of love, and a light of glory. It was a key moment in the life of Christ.

Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent, many homilists choose NOT to talk about the Gospel account of the Transfiguration. We figure that everyone already knows the story, or that it is too difficult to understand, so many speak on something else, like Abraham’s sacrifice. This particular year we hear Saint Mark’s account of the Transfiguration. The event took place a few weeks before Jesus would travel to Jerusalem to suffer and die. The Transfiguration has a three-fold purpose: it was intended for Jesus himself, for the Apostles, and for each of us.

For Our Lord himself, the Transfiguration was his early preparation for his own Passion and Death. The Agony in the Garden, recounted in Mark 14:32-42, was his immediate preparation. Luke tells us that Our Lord was praying, probably in the evening. Then something happens instantaneously: Jesus is “transfigured.” His Body changes and his clothing became “dazzling white.” His divine nature, which he has kept carefully hidden until now, shines through his human nature.

Then, Moses and Elijah appear. It was the consistent Jewish belief that when the Messiah appeared, he would be accompanied by these two historical figures. Why them? Because the Jews at the time of Christ believed that Moses and Elijah were the only two people whose bodies had been assumed into the next life. Elijah’s body was taken up to Heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kgs. 2:11). An ancient book, titled “The Assumption of Moses,” told of the devil trying to use Moses’ body for some sinister purpose. As a result, St. Michael came and snatched Moses’ body away from the devil and took it to Heaven. In addition, Moses and Elijah stood for things. Moses was the great Law-giver, bringing God’s law to men. Elijah was the great Prophet, the voice of God providing direction, guidance, and wisdom. These two men were the greatest figures in Israel’s history, and they came to speak with Our Lord during the Transfiguration. They spoke to Jesus of his departure—in Greek, his exodus—which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem (Lk. 9:31). As he approaches Jerusalem, the great Law-giver and the great Prophet appear to encourage Jesus so that he will completely fulfill all the law-giving and prophecy in the Old Testament.

As God, Our Lord needed no encouragement. As man, however, he needed encouragement. His sacrifice, his Passion and Death, were going to be bloody, excruciatingly painful experience. Not even the God-Man would want to endure it. These two Old Testament figures came to offer consolation and encouragement for the upcoming trial of his life.

After Moses and Elijah encourage Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit appear in a cloud. The cloud is one way God frequently appears to people in the Old Testament (remember the cloud that led the Hebrews out of Egypt in Ex. 13:21). And the Father called Jesus his “beloved Son” from the cloud. The cloud often represents the Holy Spirit (See The Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 697).

The Transfiguration was also for the Apostles. Peter, James, and John were the leaders of the Twelve. Jesus will also bring these three closest to him during the Agony in the Garden. None of the Apostles had been happy, hearing a few days earlier that their Lord was going to Jerusalem to suffer and die. They complained about it, but to no avail. So Jesus took them up the mountain to witness his transfigured glory. The Transfiguration gave Peter, James, and John greater insight into Who Jesus really was. God himself told them to listen to Jesus. The Transfiguration also gave these three Apostles hope by providing a window into the future. And they, in turn, reassured the rest of the Apostles about what was to come. Although no one really knew how painful Our Lord’s agony would be. It would take the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost—fifty days after the Resurrection—to help the Apostles really understand everything that happened to Jesus and to them. Finally, the Transfiguration account is meant for all of us. It shows us that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of everything God did for his people, especially through the Law and the Prophets of the Jewish religion during the thousands of years between the creation of Adam and Eve, and the Annunciation, at which the Blessed Mother said, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38).

The Transfiguration also teaches us that Our Lord Jesus is not just a man, not just a teacher, not just a great moral leader. He is also God himself, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God-in-the-Flesh. But as a man, in his human nature, with human beings, he underwent a tremendous sacrifice to die for us so that each of us could share in his life and glory forever, after our earthly lives are ended. He wants to transfigure every one of us, too, if we cooperate with him. So we need to heed the Lord’s voice, and obey his commands.

We do that by listening, by being active members of his Mystical Body, the Church; by obeying his teachings and morals; by living our faith—the seven sacraments, especially the Eucharist—our personal Mt.Tabor experience—prayer, and carrying our crosses with him. And we don’t just do that one day a week, occasionally when we feel like it, or when it’s convenient or easy.

The Transfiguration reminds us that our Catholic religion is not just for special occasions, like Sundays, or when we are in serious need; not just up on the mountain, like Midnight Mass at Christmas, Easter Sunday, or an ordination to the priesthood. Catholicism is supposed to permeate every part of our live, and touch everything we say and do. We may fail from time to time, but we have to keep trying to live as Jesus taught.

If we have lived by the teachings of Jesus, after our lives on earth are ended, we will get our own transfiguration. And we are going to change to “dazzling white” like a very bright light, too. We will be beautiful and handsome, without spot, wrinkle, blemish, or any disfigurement; we will be in perfect shape, like an Olympic athlete, only to a greater extent than we can possibly fathom.

May the Blessed Mother, who bore the Light of the world in her womb, pray for us that we will open our minds and hearts to the Light. Amen.

Further reading from The Catechism of the Catholic Church:  §554−56, 568, 1003, 2600.


Third Sunday of Lent—March 8, 2015
The Christian Sabbath

Purpose: To describe a specific commandment of the Decalogue, and to reinforce the idea that the Law liberates us from slavery to sin, and leads us to true freedom as sons and daughters of God. We can trust the Law because it is the source of wisdom, the expression of God’s love and power. Sabbath worship and rest are parts of the Law, which apply to us as well as to the Jewish people.

Readings: Ex. 20:1-17• 1 Cor. 1:22-25• Jn. 2:13-25

A Sunday that contains the passage from Exodus on the Ten Commandments is to the homilist what a nudist colony is to a mosquito, who asks, “Where do I begin?” A great place to begin is the Third Commandment: Remember to keep holy the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11).

A poll conducted a few years ago found that residents of Mississippi were more likely to attend weekly religious services than residents of any other state in the nation. Some 63 percent said they attend “church, synagogue, or mosque” at least once a week, or almost every week. The highest levels of church attendance occur in the South and Midwest, while the lowest occur in the Northeast and the West Coast. Louisiana experienced the highest percentage gains of church-goers, with North Dakota, Alaska, Montana, and Mississippi, close behind.

The command to “keep the sabbath” goes back to the early days of the Hebrew people. In fact, it originates in the garden of Adam and Eve. We hear in the Book of Exodus the Lord’s command to “keep holy the Sabbath.” If you look closely at the passage from chapter twenty of the book, you will notice that two commandments are described in some detail. The First Commandment describes the various types of idols the people were forbidden to worship, and the Third Commandment describes the type of activity forbidden on the Sabbath, as well as a reference to Creation as the origin of this commandment.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the Sabbath, or the Lord’s Day, is “a memorial of Israel’s liberation from bondage in Egypt” (CCC 2170). “God entrusted the Sabbath to Israel to keep as a sign of the irrevocable covenant. The Sabbath is for the Lord, holy and set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on behalf of Israel” (no. 2171).

For the Christian, the Sabbath is a holy obligation. Because of the Resurrection, our Sabbath is transferred from Saturday to Sunday. There are two principal obligations of the Sabbath, or ways to keep it: we are to worship and we are to rest.  Sabbath worship and Sabbath rest are the hinges of the Lord’s Day.

First, we are commanded to worship God, to spend time in praise of his name, and in thanksgiving for all he does for us. Catholics do this by attending holy Mass. When we gather on Sunday (or Saturday Vigil), we listen to God’s Word, celebrate the Eucharist, and grow in fellowship with one another. We recite the Creed as a reminder of our principal beliefs, and as reinforcement of those beliefs. The Lord wants and expects us to acknowledge his presence at Mass.

The most important reason to attend Mass on the Lord’s Day is not because it is an obligation, but because it is the greatest means of honoring the God who gives us so much every week.

The second part of the Third Commandment is Sabbath rest. Sabbath rest means ceasing all unnecessary work. The definition of “necessary” is that which is essential to life and health. For example, preparing an afternoon meal, feeding the dog, milking the cows, and clothing children are essential to life. For society, emergency and rescue workers, military service, and police protection are essential. On the other hand, tasks like mowing the lawn, cleaning windows, or organizing closets, while important, can and should be done on other days. Even commerce, like shopping, should be put off until another day. The purpose of Sabbath rest is to recharge us physically, mentally, and emotionally; to spend time, and deepen bonds, with family and friends, and to relax and reflect on the works of God. We need to slow down and focus on the abundant blessings in our lives.

The most important reason to rest on the seventh day is not because it is an obligation. The most important reason goes back to the Creation of the world. God created the world in six days. He spent those days shaping and molding the earth, the seas, and the sky, and then filling them with all sorts of wild and wonderful creatures. Then God created man in his image and likeness. After he finished creating the world and its inhabitants, the writer tells us that God rested. Scholars tell us that there is a symbolism here: the six days stand for life on earth, while the seventh day stands for life in Heaven. We are to work for up to six days, but then we are commanded to rest on the seventh day, and the reason that God himself rested. He didn’t rest from works of charity and mercy; he rested from works of creation. The seventh day is a little piece of Heaven. Every week, we are invited to participate in this little piece of Heaven. There, we will enjoy the vision of God forever, and rest in the bosom of the Father.

We sometimes forget what the Lord’s Day is. The Lord’s Day is not a catch-up day, a work day, a “me-day,” or a play day. It is the Lord’s Day to be kept and honored as he intends. It is a holy day, a sacred time given to us by the grace and example of God to keep us sharp, give us rest, and fulfill our lives by reminding us of the One who created us. Saint John Paul wrote of the Lord’s Day (Dies Domini) as a day of the new creation, and the risen Lord’s gift of the Spirit to us; as a day on which the community gathered for Eucharistic celebration; and as a day for us to enjoy company, fraternal charity, and rest. May we understand and use it as God intends. Our Lady of the Cenacle, pray for us. Amen.

Further reading from The Catechism of the Catholic Church: §1166-67, 2105, 2168-95, 2289.


Fourth Sunday of Lent—March 15, 2015
The Joy of the Christian Life

Purpose: To communicate the idea that God pardons and raises up those who have been unfaithful, those who have sought darkness rather than the light. We are reminded on Laetare Sunday that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son to deliver us from exile and slavery. 

Readings: 2 Chron. 36:14-16, 19-23 • Eph. 2:4-10 • Jn. 3:14-21

A man came home one day to find his kitchen, which had been immaculately cleaned hours earlier, in disarray. His young daughter had obviously been cooking, and the ingredients were scattered—along with dirty bowls and utensils—across counters and the floor. He was unhappy, to say the least. Then, as he looked at the mess, he spotted a small note on the table, clumsily written and smeared with fingerprints. The message: “I’m making something for you, Dad. Signed: Your angel.” In the middle of the disarray, and despite his considerable irritation, a feeling of joy sprung up in his heart. His attention had been redirected from the problem to the daughter he loved. He, in fact, delighted in her. Her simple gesture was an expression of love. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called “Laetare” or “Rejoice” Sunday. The priest celebrant wears rose-colored vestments rather than purple ones, and the readings talk about the kindness and mercy of God. The Gospel reading from Saint John contains one of the most quoted sentences from the New Testament: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life” (3:16).  Unfortunately, these beautiful words of Jesus, spoken to Nicodemus, are often cheapened by people waving placards that read, “John 3:16” at baseball games behind the home plate or center field. In spite of these “zealots of bad taste,” it is an important biblical text and teaches certain truths we need to remember.

First, this sacred text teaches us that the initiative of our salvation lies with God. Sometimes Christianity is presented in such a way that it sounds as if God the Father had to be pacified; as if he had to be persuaded to forgive us. Sometimes people speak as if God the Father is a stern, angry, unforgiving God, and Jesus, his Son, is the gentle, loving, and merciful One. (The Church condemned that notion centuries ago.)

Sometimes people present the Christian message in such a way that it sounds as if Jesus did something which changed the attitude of God to human beings, from an attitude of condemnation to one of forgiveness: that God the Father is sort of gleefully waiting to condemn us all to Hell, but that Jesus—by his death and resurrection—persuaded the Father to change his mind.

This text from Jesus, who was perfectly united with the Father, and perfectly knew the Father’s mind, tells us that the Father initiated everything. “God so loved the world,” John tells us. It was God the Father who sent his Son because he loved us and wanted to reconcile the world to himself. At the beginning of everything is God’s love for us.

The second lesson here is that the essence of God’s being is love. It is easy to think of God as looking upon his rebellious and disobedient children and saying, “I’ll fix them. I’ll break them. I’ll punish them good, and whip them into submission.” That is not the way God works. But it is the way we sometimes think. There are those people who also think that God wants people to be loyal to him in order to satisfy his own desire for power, to keep the universeh and everything in it, subject to himself.

Our Lord tells us that the Father did not act for his own sake, but for our sake; not to satisfy his own selfish craving for power, but to satisfy his love. God is not like a tyrannical emperor, a crafty politician, or a selfish brute, who treats everyone as a subject who must be reduced to complete obedience. God is the loving Father who will not be satisfied, will not rest until his wandering children are safely home. God does not crush us with brute force. Instead, he sent his only-begotten Son to pursue us—the “hound of Heaven”—to catch us and bring us home.

The final thing Our Lord tells us is that his love goes beyond one nation, one people, one race, to include all the people on earth. He loves the unlovable and the unlovely; the lonely and forgotten; the sick and abandoned; those who cooperate with his grace, and those who refuse to cooperate with his grace; the greatest saint and the worst sinner. All these people, and more, are included in the boundless love of God.

As Saint Augustine put it centuries ago: “God loves each one of us, as if there were only one of us to love.” Or the Jewish proverb, which says: “When you save one soul, you save the world.” Even if you were the only, single, human being left on earth, God would have still sent his Son, and that Son would have died on the cross just to redeem you. That’s how much he loves you! That fact alone should cause us to rejoice on this Laetare Sunday. Mary, Cause of our Joy, pray for us. Amen.

Further reading from The Catechism of the Catholic Church: § 219, 444, 454, 458, 706.


Fifth Sunday of Lent—March 22, 2015
The Grain of Wheat

Purpose: To explain and illustrate the power of the grain of wheat, which must first die in order to produce any fruit. Such dying is nurtured by obedience to the Commandments, and by our covenant relationship with God, a relationship rooted in love and mercy.

Readings: Jer. 31:31-34 • Heb. 5:7-9 • Jn. 12:30-33

From the end of March until the end of May, an annual ritual takes place. Men and women leave their homes early in the morning, and take their places in various types of expensive machines to begin a long day’s work. That work involves plowing up tons of dirt in row after row of field. And they don’t stop until the work is completed. That work will not bear fruit for several months, but when it does, everyone who eats will benefit. It is planting season, and it is essential for the survival of farmers and consumers.

The Gospel story today takes place in Jerusalem. Some recent Greek converts to Judaism witnessed the enthusiastic reception of the people, and asked the Apostle Philip to introduce them to the Lord Jesus. Philip and Andrew set off to speak with the Lord. In the course of their conversation, Jesus uses a familiar image to make a point about his mission on earth: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn. 12:22). A seed is a tiny beginning of life. But a tiny seed by itself produces nothing. Only when it is planted in the earth, and breaks open, does it produce any fruit. It is a fact of nature that seed must die before it can produce fruit. Our Lord is like a grain of wheat. He was “planted” in Bethlehem to grow up and save our souls. He grew up in Nazareth, and acquired skills as he did so. He died outside Jerusalem, and reaped a harvest of eternal life for us. As long as Jesus lived, we would not have life. But if he died, he could produce a harvest of eternal life. That happened to him, and can happen to us. Unless we die to self, our lives don’t bear fruit. Putting other people ahead of ourselves, taking care of the needs of others, sacrificing for the good of our neighbor is the essence of love. Followers of Jesus believe that any effort, any penance, any sacrifice of comfort and convenience, will bear fruit, if not in this life, then in the next life. This is especially true if the effort is made out of love for Christ and our neighbor.

It was a stormy night. The wind blew in all directions, and the rain came down in buckets. An elderly man and his wife sloshed up to the front desk of a small hotel in Philadelphia. The man asked the clerk, “Can you possibly give us a room. All the big hotels are filled.” The clerk replied, “Every room is taken, sir, but I can’t send a nice couple like you out in the rain at one o’clock in the morning. Tell you what? You can sleep in my room.” The guest asked, “But where will you sleep?” The young clerk replied, “Oh, I’ll be all right. Don’t worry about me.” Next morning, as the guest paid his bill, he told the young man who had given up his room, “You are the kind of manager who should run the finest hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.” Two years later, the young clerk received a letter with a round-trip ticket to New York City. He also received a note from the guest of that stormy night, asking the clerk to meet him in the “Big Apple.” When he arrived, the old man led the young man to the corner of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-Fourth Street. Pointing to the towering new building, the old gentleman declared, “There is the hotel I have built for you to manage.” Almost speechless, the young man, George C. Boldt, stammered his thanks. His benefactor was William Waldorf Astoria, and the hotel was the original Waldorf Astoria, the most luxurious of its day.

You never know how one good deed will bear fruit. Young George C. Boldt “buried” his own comfort and convenience by giving up his room for one night. He put a needy couple before himself. That sacrifice “sprouted” and brought forth the reward of becoming the manager of the most outstanding hotel in the U.S. George Boldt was not looking for glory or advancement that stormy night; he was simply being a good disciple doing a good work. But he didn’t need to know the fruits. God did, and when he did the right thing, God took care of the rest.

We don’t know exactly how our good works will bear fruit, if ever, in this life. But God knows, and that’s what counts. When we sacrifice time, talent, and treasure we bring life to those around us. Lent is an excellent opportunity to renew ourselves through sacrifice and service. Spending time with a sick neighbor, helping siblings with homework, running an errand for a friend, bringing someone to Confession with you are little acts of kindness that can touch and transform the lives of others.

“Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.” Unless our lives are shared with others, they remain shallow and fruitless. But when they are sacrificed and shared, they produce abundant fruit. We are tiny seeds, planted by the great Farmer himself in the fields of the world. Baptized in water, confirmed in the Spirit, purified by Penance, and nourished by the Eucharist, we grow and produce good fruit. May we cooperate in the great “planting season’’ of Lent, so we can share in the great harvest of life this Easter, and beyond.
Holy Mary, Disciple of the Lord, pray for us. Amen.

Further reading from The Catechism of the Catholic Church: §422-424, 1426, 2006, 2731.


Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord—March 29, 2015
Palms, a Cross, and a Veil

Purpose: To deepen the experience of people as they enter the doorway of Holy Week. The central focus of the day is the Lord Jesus, who humbled himself out of love for man, who refused to shield his sacred face from buffets and spitting, to offer his life on the cross to save us from our sins. All this he did out of love for us. Certain symbols can help us understand the power of this day, and the mystery of Holy Week. This homily includes messages from the Procession with Palms, as well as the sacred liturgy itself.

Readings: Mk. 11:1-10; Isa. 50:4-7 • Phil. 2:6-11 • Mk. 14:1-15:47

A young girl became lost in downtown London, England. She was from Charing Cross, a section of that great metropolis. She came upon a London policeman, who asked her if she was lost. When he offered to help her find her way home, she replied, “If I can get to the Cross, I can make my way home.” The Cross is the way home to God.

Today is Palm Sunday, which Pope Benedict once called “The great doorway leading into Holy Week, the week when the Lord Jesus makes his way towards the culmination of his earthly existence” (Homily at 27th World Youth Day, April 1, 2012). This is the most solemn week of the Christian year, in which we commemorate Our Lord’s journey to Jerusalem, which fulfills the Scriptures and opens the way to eternal life for each of us.

The liturgy opens with the blessing of palms, the reading of a short Gospel account of Our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem, and a procession with the palms. Then, we hear Old and New Testament readings, and one of the Synoptic accounts of the Passion and Death of Christ (John’s account is heard in Good Friday). The celebrant wears red vestments, and reflects on the Lord’s humbling of himself, culminating in his death on the cross.

There are so many ways we can reflect on this solemn occasion. There is a rich variety of biblical texts we could use to ponder the mystery of the day and week. There are three on which we could reflect: palms, the cross, and the veil, each representing a specific virtue to be imitated. Each of them is a rich source of reflection.

We begin with palms. There are three accounts of the entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem. In those accounts, as he comes into the city, people spread palm branches (called “leafy branches” in the Lectionary text Mk. 11:8) that they had cut from the trees, placing them on the ground over which Jesus entered the city. This was a gesture of respect for a king, and a gesture of homage (cf. 2 Kgs. 9:13, “At once, each took his garment, spread it under Jehu on the bare steps, blew the trumpet, and cried out, ‘Jehu is king!’”). The crowds were obviously acknowledging the kingship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The virtue to be imitated here is humility. Humility is a virtue which acknowledges the greatness and power of almighty God. Humble people bow their heads before the King of the Universe, and pledge their adoration and obedience to him. They recognize him as their creator, and the One who sustains their lives. He is the source of their gifts, and their destination after life on this earth. As the crowds laid palm branches on the ground, so too, we are to lay ourselves before the Lord in humble adoration. In a sermon by Saint Andrew of Crete, we hear the exhortation: “Let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours, and then whither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him.”

The second symbol is the central symbol of the Christian life, the cross. Jesus died on the cross, an event recounted in detail by all the Gospel writers. Mark tells us he was crucified around nine in the morning, an inscription was placed over his head, he was crucified between revolutionaries, and the crowds mocked him. At three o’clock, he “breathed his last,” and died on the cross. Andrew of Crete says: “Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing.” Church Fathers wrote of the connection between the tree of Adam, which led to man’s downfall, and the tree of Christ, which led to man’s redemption. In fact, it was the instrument of human redemption.

The virtue here is love or charity. Love is a virtue by which we express care for another, understanding of him or her, and reveal who we are. Jesus poured himself out on the cross, thus showing the depth of his love by offering the greatest gift possible. Especially around Valentine’s Day, we are told that the heart is the great symbol of love. While the heart is an appropriate symbol of love, the greater symbol is the cross because the cross reminds us that sacrifice lies at the heart of love.

The third symbol of the day is the veil. Saint Mark tells us that after Our Lord died, the veil in the sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom. The veil is a reminder of the Temple veil, which covered the Holy of Holies. Only the priest could enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple, through the veil. The veil is a symbol of the heavenly curtain, which Jesus, the High Priest, entered when he died on the cross.

The virtue here is faith. Faith enables us to pierce the veil of Heaven, and brings us into contact and relationship with God. The veil no longer separates us from our God. Christ won the ultimate victory on the cross and opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us. Through faith and by grace, we enter Heaven.

The Blessed Mother is the great example of these virtues. She is the model of humility, the mother of charity, and the pillar of faith. May her prayers and example help us to live these virtues in a particular way this Holy Week, and throughout the year. Amen.

Further reading from The Catechism of the Catholic Church: §606-23.

Rev. Ray E. Atwood About Rev. Ray E. Atwood

Rev. Ray E. Atwood was ordained in 1994, and has been pastor of Prince of Peace Cluster (consisting of St. Paul's Parish, Traer; St. Mary's of Mt. Carmel Parish, Eagle Center; and Sacred Heart Parish, LaPorte City) in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, since 2012. He earned an MDiv and an MA in Systematic Theology from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He is author of the book Masters of Preaching: The Most Poignant and Powerful Homilists in Church History (2011).


  1. Avatar Lalit Tudu says:

    These are really beautiful homilies. I really enjoy reading them and making use of the ideas in my preaching…
    Thanks a lot, with prayers..