Homilies for June 2015

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)—June 7, 2015
The Marian Component to the Eucharist

Purpose: The connectedness of the Blessed Mother Mary to her divine Son was seen throughout their earthly lives. This association truly still continues in the Eucharist.

Readings: Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ—a Solemnity being that highest level of liturgical celebration, and how appropriate this is! The Church is thus placing a strong emphasis on the truly incarnate presence of our Savior, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Closely related to this gift of God himself is the Blessed Mother Mary. To see this, we can ponder over a syllogism, which involves a basic three-part logical deduction. Hence, we know, first of all, that Mary is the mother of our Lord Jesus; second, that Jesus is God, and so we draw the simple, but powerful, conclusion that Mary is the Mother of God!

It would be truly impossible to overlook or dismiss the close connection between these two—our Lord Jesus, and his mother Mary. To begin with, he spent the first 9 months of his existence within her—with her body forming this very Body of Christ. One can thus hardly dwell too much on our Savior, without considering Mary, given this close connection, starting at the very beginning of his physical time on earth. There is a branch of the religious order of the Dominican Sisters, devoted to Mary, as Mother of the Eucharist—a title so profound and appropriate, especially on the occasion of this Solemnity, as she is just that!

A very intense film was released several years ago, which closely studied and portrayed the powerful subtleties of our Lord’s final days on earth, namely, The Passion of the Christ. There was an extremely significant undercurrent which ran through the whole screenplay of that movie, which affirmed this close mother-son union. Practically every part of our Lord’s life, as depicted in the film, included portrayals of Mary’s involvement and interactions. There was a true interplay or “partnership” between the two, lending an ever deepening understanding to her title as “Co-Redemptrix,” Audiences worldwide were touched by the almost frantic response of his mother to the childhood fall he took on the dusty streets of Nazareth—a foreshadowing of how she would again run to his side when the weight of our sins would push him to the ground a few decades later on the streets in Jerusalem, on Good Friday. A maternal sensing that would seem almost eerie, if it weren’t so beautiful, was masterfully displayed in the scene when the Mother of God strode over and bent down to the floor of the temple, exactly above where our Lord hung in the dank dungeon of the basement, with him looking upward towards the ceiling, knowing that she was close by, and surely solaced and sustained by her loving presence. How could anyone ever lightly dismiss the connectedness of this mother and her divine son?

Of course, as a “remembrance of him,” our Lord left behind his Real Presence in the Eucharist. Now retired Pope Benedict XVI had examined this mother-son connectedness in his 2007 Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. Rather early in the document there is a section entitled “The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary.” Let us look at a few passages from it:

Although we are all still journeying towards the complete fulfillment of our hope, this does not mean that we cannot already gratefully acknowledge that God’s gifts to us have found their perfect fulfillment in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. Mary’s Assumption, body and soul, into heaven is for us a sign of sure hope, for it shows us, on our pilgrimage through time, the eschatological goal of which the Sacrament of the Eucharist enables us even now to have a foretaste.

Hence, Mary’s body and soul have made a face-to-face encounter with her son Jesus again in heaven, which helps to underscore our own Eucharistic encounters, in this exalted sacrament.

This document further emphasizes her close, faithful maternal relationship:

This mystery deepens as she becomes completely involved in the redemptive mission of Jesus. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, “the blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son until she stood at the Cross, in keeping with the divine plan (cf. John 19:25), suffering deeply with her only-begotten Son, associating herself with His sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of the Victim, Who was born of her.

Again, this demonstrates the intense and unbreakable bond between her and Jesus, being faithful to the very end—even when his closest, hand-picked followers had fled!

Our Pope Emeritus concludes his treatment of the subject with this reminder:

Consequently, every time we approach the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic liturgy, we also turn to her who, by her complete fidelity, received Christ’s sacrifice for the whole Church. Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of Himself in the Eucharist.

Even the Church’s liturgical calendar reflects this close union. The month of May is one with a particular Marian emphasis, and it is followed by this month of June, the entirety of which is really dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This coming Friday, June 12th, however, we will be celebrating another Solemnity, that which again sets the tone of the whole month, namely, that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This feast is followed the very next day with the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary—once again, lending subtle emphasis to this close association of those two Hearts, so full of love for each other, and for all of mankind.

In closing, we remember that Mary is totally flesh and blood, or completely human—like ourselves—and so we can relate to her. Thus how much more can we relate to the Word Incarnate, who became flesh and blood (like us), namely, in the Gift of the Eucharist!

Suggestions for Further Reading: Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, §33; Catechism of the Catholic Church, §968-970


Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time—June 14, 2015
Our Lord Jesus Pines for Our Love

Purpose: The lament of the Sacred Heart is over unrequited love. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque communicated to the world how a faithful response to his love will be rewarded.

Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

We know that the year is divided up by the Church, relative to significant seasons, occasions, and so on, to form the liturgical calendar. As well, there are even months of the liturgical year that have specific devotional emphases. One example is that of this month of June, with its focus on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus. We celebrate this devotion specifically with a Solemnity each year, and this year it actually fell on this past Friday, the 12th of June (as it is celebrated each year on the Friday following the second Sunday after Pentecost).

As we know, the epitome of love is God himself, and this love really becomes personified, as God is love! This is really significant, so much so, that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote his first encyclical on this very subject, entitled simply, Deus Caritas Est—God is love. From the human experience, as a bodily source of this divine essence of love, we look to the heart, which is the central organ, without which the body cannot survive and function. Hence, the human heart is associated with love, and symbolically is seen as its source. We speak of that organ of the physical body of our Lord Jesus, as the Sacred Heart, and venerate it as this source of divine love—most especially during this month of June!

Although it didn’t originate with her, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the 17th Century Visitandine Nun (of the town of Paray-le-Monial, in France), did much to advance a passionate devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. About a century after her death, in 1794, Pope Pius VI issued Auctorem Fidei, a document which included a vindication of this devotion. There had been concerns about the devotional focus on an organ itself, but in reality, it was seen to involve the full and complete devotion of the Divine Person of our Lord Jesus himself, and not just the Sacred Heart itself—in isolation.

St. Margaret Mary’s visions—including Jesus’ removal of his heart from his chest, and holding it, engulfed in flames—centered around the basic lament of his unrequited love. He has loved us so much, yet this love is so often not returned. Hence, the central emphasis of this devotion is simply that of reciprocation, of recognizing this great love, and responding lovingly ourselves. Given the callousness so often shown towards God’s love, especially as manifested in the Eucharist, the devotion takes on a character of reparation. So, acts of atonement, Communions of reparation, etc., are important acts in keeping with this devotion. More specifically, our Lord asked St. Margaret Mary for frequent Communions, particularly on the First Fridays of each month, and for the observance of Holy Hours.

An additional figure, and a contemporary of St. Margaret Mary was St. Jean Eudes, who also did much to advance the devotion. He moved it from being a private to a public devotion, and helped establish a feast day for this devotion. Actually, Fr. Eudes was a devotee of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as well, but he had this associated devotion to the Sacred Heart. Little by little, devotion to the Sacred Heart was seen as separate, and so it increased. The first feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated on August 31, 1670, and was zealously promoted by the religious community of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

As a sign of favor to those heeding the message of the Sacred Heart, as communicated to this saint, Our Lord made the following 12 promises to those who would practice this devotion:

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
  2. I will establish peace in their homes.
  3. I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
  4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all in death.
  5. I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
  6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
  7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
  9. I will bless every place in which an image of my Heart shall be exposed and honored.
  10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
  11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart, never to be effaced.
  12. I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart, that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence, and they shall not die in my disgrace nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

So, during this month of June especially, we should strive for this spirit of reparation—of “making up” for all of the “unreturned love” originating from that divine source, namely, the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

Suggestions for Further Reading: Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est; St. Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul; Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1439, 2669


Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time—June 21, 2015
Fear as Evidence of an Incomplete Faith

Purpose: As is natural to humanity, trepidation is typically the reaction to danger. Prayerful appeals for a deepened faith, however, will allow man to live on a more supernatural level.

Readings: Job 38:1, 8-11; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41

Although it might seem a little hard to imagine, I do believe in the potential instructional, and even spiritual, value of certain cartoons (!) A particularly amusing one encountered not long ago nevertheless appeared to potentially have a deeper value.

This cartoon took place in the context of an office setting, and one character, known for his curious ability to avoid doing any real work for his company, yet year-after-year, maintaining his fairly respectable engineering career position, is one day approached by his boss. As the latter enters his office “cube,” he announces to his employee, “Wally, I’ve decided to let you go …,” but this employee (Wally) immediately blurtsout in anguish “So, I guess it’s because of that time that I told the other guys at lunch that your daughter more resembled a hippopotamus than a young woman”? He then goes on to admit to a couple of other silly little corporate infractions that he’d recently done. The boss is speechless at this gushing confession, but, after a moment, recovers his senses, and says that before this employee of his had interrupted him, he had been trying to say “Wally, I’ve decided to let you go to the training class, which you’d requested!” A frame of the cartoon goes by, with both remaining silent, then Wally lifts his head, and with a big grin, sheepishly asks, “That was quite a joke that I’d said about your daughter, eh?”

In today’s Gospel, according to St. Mark, we see our Lord Jesus’ dismay with his Apostles’ fear, or their lack of faith and hope. Admittedly, by human nature, given the intensity of the storm that their boat was encountering, their reaction was quite understandable. However, in life, and in whatever vocational state we would find ourselves in, there will be trials and the occasional crises. Yet so often, in the end, they really amount to being nothing more than mere tests, sent by God. Whatever one’s state in life, perseverance in that state is vitally important. It goes without saying that the majority of mankind is called to the marital vocation, but all too often, couples seek the “easy way out” of marital trials, through the option of divorce. It is quite rare that one hears of the celebration of the 50th Wedding Anniversary of a pair of atheists! Every state in life, including religious life and the single state, also has its challenges and tests, but without God’s grace, coupled with one’s conviction, one will not pass such tests—as would likely be the case with an atheist married couple!

So, unlike the character Wally in the comic strip episode, not to mention the frantic Apostles in the boat, let’s make our prayer one of more faith—never forgetting that faith is a gift from our Lord! Surely, we must assent to faith, but we need that invisible help from on high that we recognize as grace, to supplement our good will and conviction. Through prayer and the sacraments, most notably the regular reception of both confession and the Eucharist, God will fortify our faith, and thus, help us to persevere in our respective states in life.

Suggestions for Further Reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1765, 1808, and 1831


Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time—June 28, 2015
The Value of Exemplary Figures

Purpose: Everyone needs models of high levels of character, or virtue. St. Paul is one of the Church’s premiere “spiritual heroes”—the zealous figure who still inspires and motivates us today.

Readings: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43

I remember a particularly striking conversation with a seminarian-friend once during my priestly formation years. In the course of this chat, we were decrying the ubiquitous, or very common prevalence of mediocrity in our world, and how society was really suffering as a result. My friend was a passionate fellow, and with his emotions rising a little, he pounded his fist and declared, “We live in a world desperately in need of heroes!”I affirmed his observation then, and have subsequently come to see the real significance of this matter.

What has come to be a defining message of his papacy, our former Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI had denounced how this present age is beleaguered by a “dictatorship of relativism.” Absolutes, or high standards by which other things should be judged or evaluated, are so often frowned upon at this time in history. There seems to be little need for centralized figures representing commonly held and cherished values in today’s world, and so, in the end, when it’s all said and done, “Anything goes”! Someone who himself was truly what we could consider a “hero,” but of a former era, the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen, even in his day, made what could be seen as a prophesy, when he observed that “Mediocrity has a thousand hammers, with which to beat down anything that would try to rise above the rest.” This ideology has even found its way into the early educational system—a phase of formation when young minds and hearts should be challenged to develop themselves to the extent of their respective capacities—with the “Common Core” programs. Again, the ordinary and least common denominators are carrying the day.

The Second Readings at Sunday Mass are usually of a spiritual figure who was himself an indisputable “hero”—the great Apostle St. Paul. In today’s passage from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, this passionate man of God is displaying his typical encouraging and motivational style. One might say that he was God’s “cheerleader”—constantly urging his followers to higher and higher levels of virtue. The context of this part of his letter involved his citing the exemplary generosity of the Churches of Macedonia, which despite severe trial, had still shown great charity relative to the other Christian Churches. St. Paul was effectively saying that they had “raised the bar” of Christlike kindness, and that “you can do it too”—behavior of a true leader, and of a definite “hero.”

From what we can gather, St. Paul had a strong character. He could be quite adamant, or forceful in his style. One could almost say that he had somewhat of a “My way or the highway” style! But, maybe in a world where, in many respects, many seem to have “lost their way,” with clear norms being roundly and soundly denounced everywhere, his style might be just what modern man needs.

In recognition of the 2,000th anniversary of his birth, which the Church marked not too many years ago, then Pope Benedict seemed to recognize the urgent need to “unpack” some of the aspects of this dynamic character. Thus, he had declared the “Year of St. Paul,” a celebration of a saint that, one could say, “loved strongly.” Surely, he “stepped on some toes,” and his forceful style “rubbed some the wrong way,” but he was exonerated in the end by Holy Mother Church with canonization—a sure and ultimate sign of God’s favor. Pope Benedict evidently sensed the thirst of the world for a saint of such zeal, and discerned that a yea-long revisiting of this super Apostle’s life was something that we had a desperate need of.

Actually, we flag-out this saint’s memory annually with a Solemnity—that highest level of liturgical celebration, and this year it falls on tomorrow—Monday, June 29th. Interestingly, St. Paul’s memory is commemorated with an equally powerful fellow saint, one with an equally bold character, namely St. Peter—the two forming quite the “dynamic duo.” Thus, might our Lord and his Church, reflecting the mind of God, be trying to tell us something?

In the end, we know that truth, goodness, and Christ as our Savior will prevail. I think that we all know that we need figures in our world who will show us the way to him—those who will stand out in their zeal to coax us in the right direction, so much so, as to really be our heroes, those holy heroes we call saints, and most notably, bold saints, like the incomparable St. Paul!!

Suggestions for Further Reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, §828, 2013-2016; Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, Chps. II, IV, V

Rev. Joseph C. Klee About Rev. Joseph C. Klee

Rev. Joseph C. Klee is a priest with the Diocese of Columbus (Ohio), and was ordained in 2001. He currently has priestly responsibilities in Hispanic ministry and chaplaincies at state prisons. Fr. Klee has served as a parochial vicar, chaplain for a community of cloistered Poor Clare nuns, and has established and served as chaplain of a state university Catholic student association. He holds an MDiv and an MA in Moral Theology from the Pontifical College Josephinum, and an MS in a specialization of mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. Father worked in an advanced product design engineering capacity for Ford Motor Company for eight years, studied theology at the Angelicum University in Rome, and was a seminarian with the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in Mexico, Italy, and India prior to ordination.