Homilies for June 2020

For June 7, June 14, June 21, and June 28.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – June 7, 2020

  Readings: Ex 34:4b–6, 8–9 • Dn 3:52–56 • 2 Cor 13:11–13 • Jn 3:16–18
  usccb.org/bible/readings/060720.cfm

Main Point: Although we can’t understand God as Trinity, we can experience him as Trinity.

Exhortation: To experience God as Trinity, make the Sign of the Cross, perform a daily Examen, and strive to reflect His love within our families.

“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.” This is one of the most famous lines in Scripture because it speaks to our hearts. Today is Trinity Sunday, and we are invited to look into the very heart of God, to see him as he is — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now, we can’t understand how we can have one God in three persons. We cannot comprehend the mystery of the inner life of God, but that doesn’t mean we can’t experience him as Trinity. After all, how many of us here understand how vision works, how the light coming into our eyes produces images in our brains? Neither do we understand how vibrations in the air coming into our ears are perceived as sounds, or how chemicals come into our nose as smells. But we can see and hear and smell. In the same way, although we may not understand God as Trinity, we can experience him as Trinity.

Let’s start with God the Father. The Father is our creator. And He created us out of an outpouring of his love, although He had no need of us. God is complete within Himself, he doesn’t need us, yet He loved us into existence, as a free gift of love. We should be clear, without God’s love, we would not exist. When I meet someone who says they don’t believe in God, I am often tempted to say, “Although you do not believe in God, He believes in you. If He didn’t, you wouldn’t exist.” St. Paul says it is God in whom we “move and breathe and have our being”. So we can experience the Father in our existence, because without His love, we would not be here. God created us from love, and for love. But we are selfish, and we don’t love God as we should, so He sent us His Son to redeem us, to pay the price for our sins. This is how we can experience Jesus, when we realize that we deserve to receive a severe punishment for falling short of God’s love, for our sins. He came and paid the price for our sins. So we experience the Son as our redeemer, and as our friend, and brother. But that wasn’t enough, because God wants us to be happy with Him forever, and the only way that can happen is for us to be Holy. So He sent us the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, to help make us Holy. We can experience the Holy Spirit in that still small voice that urges us to do good, and avoid evil. He is always with us, at our side. So although we cannot understand the Trinity, we can experience His love as our Father and Creator, our Brother and Redeemer, our Companion and Sanctifier.

But how can we experience the Trinity in everyday life? God is with us always, but sometimes we aren’t mindful of him. I have three practical suggestions. First, make the Sign of the Cross, and say out loud, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We all have a goal in this life, and that goal is union with God in heaven. Like any goal, we need a road map that tells us how to get there. That road map is the way of the Cross. So when we make the Sign of the Cross, we experience the grace of God, and remind ourselves that we are in his presence, and we remember what he has done for us. The Sign of the Cross has real spiritual power, and making it frequently will help us deepen our experience of God as Trinity.

The second practical example is to examine our conscience every day. A good time to do this is with our prayers before bed. First, recall all the good things we have experienced that day, and thank the Father for them. Then, recall the ways we have fallen short, and ask Jesus for His pardon and mercy for these sins. Then ask the Father, and the Son, to send the Holy Spirit to help us to do better tomorrow. In this way we can grow in virtue, and in our experience of God as Trinity.

The third is to realize that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Typically, people think of this as our having intellect and free will, but Pope St. John Paul the Great taught us another way. He once said:

God, in his deepest mystery, is not a solitude, but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family, which is love (the Holy Spirit).

As Christians, we must realize that our families are called to be images of God. The love within our families should be so obvious that people look at us, and are actually reminded of God. The best way to experience God in our families is to imitate him. We can imitate the Father by being open to new life in our families, and tenderly caring for that new life. We can imitate the Son by forgiving one another when we fall short, as Jesus has forgiven our sins. We can imitate the Holy Spirit by being with each other, supporting each other in prayer, and as companions in a spirit of love. If we do these things, our families will, indeed, be images of the Trinity, and we will experience God’s love poured out for us. Then, we will know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Additional reading:
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, of the Holy Father Francis to Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, Consecrated Persons, Christian Married Couples, and All the Lay Faithful on “Love in the Family”: w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf.

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
– June 14, 2020

  Readings: Dt 8:2–3, 14b–16a • Ps 147:12–15, 19–20 • 1 Cor 10:16–17 • Jn 6:51–58
  usccb.org/bible/readings/061420.cfm

Main Point: Jesus is present in the Eucharist — body, blood, soul, and divinity — and receiving the Eucharist in a state of grace should transform our lives.

Exhortation: Strive to receive the Eucharist with great desire.

Jesus asks something absurd in today’s Gospel. He asks us to eat his flesh, and drink his blood. To make it worse, he says: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” So it is imperative to eat his flesh, and drink his blood! But how can this be? Jesus has ascended into heaven. He is not here. Of course, the answer is in the second reading when Saint Paul says: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Jesus gave us his Body and Blood under the form of bread and wine. But make no mistake: the Eucharist we are going to receive in a few minutes is in fact the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus said the bread and wine would be transformed. And so it is. But today we live in a culture that says the material world is all there is, that spiritual things are just imaginary. Yet, we profess belief in “all things, seen and unseen.” We know that spiritual things are real. But sometimes, we can doubt it: Is the bread and wine actually transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ?

In times of doubt, it is good to recall what happened to Hermann Cohen. Born in 1821 in Germany, Hermann learned how to play piano at the age of 4, and soon became a piano virtuoso, and an intellectual genius. By the age of 14, he was touring the great concert halls of Europe, and was adored by the public. Hermann was not religious, and soon fell into a very self-indulgent and sinful lifestyle. Addicted to gambling, and other vices, he was described as vain, and his behavior as depraved. But at the age of 26, he was asked by a friend to conduct a Church choir for a Eucharistic celebration. Having debts to pay, he accepted. During the service, Cohen felt strangely moved as the people prayed. Near the end, his gaze fell on the altar where there was a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament. When the celebrant raised the monstrance to bless the people, all fell reverently to their knees. Hermann felt compelled to bow down. He felt intense pain that this was not for him and, at the same time, a joyous hope. On leaving the church, he was euphoric. He thought the feelings would pass, but instead his sinful passions began to decrease. The following Friday he felt compelled to go to the church. During the blessing he burst into tears. On gazing at the Host, he experienced the presence of the Loving God. In the following days, feeling drawn by a strange, sweet power, he went back to the church. Finally, he dropped to his knees without knowing whom he was kneeling before, and prayed, “Who are you, Lord? What am I to do?” Soon he was attending Mass frequently, and he wept as others received communion. A few months later, he was touring in Germany and went to a small Catholic Church to attend Mass. This is how he describes what happened:

The singing and the palpable presence of supernatural power caused me to break out into fits of trembling. I felt both disturbed and moved. During the moment of transubstantiation, I was suddenly conscious of tears flowing from my eyes. God’s grace in all its strength poured over me. . . . As I dissolved into tears, I was seized by a sharp sense of remorse for my past life. And suddenly, under divine inspiration, I made a general confession before God of all the sins I had committed in my life. I saw my faults before me, multiplied by a thousand, hideous and repulsive, inviting God’s wrath. . . . And once again I felt a strange sense of peace, which poured over my soul like an oil of gladness — gladness that the merciful God would forgive me everything and, overlooking my crimes, have pity on me because of my remorse and bitter pain. . . . Yes, I felt that he would forgive me, and in a spirit of thanksgiving, I resolved that I would love him above all things, and convert. On leaving the church in Ems, I was as Christian as it was possible for an unbaptized person to be.

Hermann Cohen sought and received baptism and the Eucharist. The former carousing playboy, and celebrated artist, became a joyful adherent of Christ. He eventually entered the seminary and became Father Hermann Cohen. Armed with the Eucharist, and in union with Mary, he formed a society dedicated to the nocturnal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament so that Jesus may be adored 24/7.

We all should love Jesus in the Eucharist, and receive him with great desire. But sometimes we don’t perceive him there. Our vision is clouded and our senses dulled by sin. That is why we must confess our sins and receive God’s absolution. Confession prepares us to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace, and when that happens, we will experience God’s love at each communion. Then, we will agree with Father Hermann Cohen, who one said, “I should like the Eucharist to become a burning flame for your soul, so that, immersed in that flame, it might emerge burning with love and great-heartedness. I should like to see this Eucharistic altar, on which Jesus is sacrificed, accept your offering too, so that you may become a victim of love, whose perfume rises to the throne of the Eternal God!”

Additional Reading:
Honey from the Rock: Sixteen Jews find the Sweetness of Christ. Compiled by Roy Schoeman. 2007. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA.

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 21, 2020

  Readings: Jer 20:10–13 • Ps 69:8–10, 14, 17, 33–35 • Rom 5:12–15 • Mt 10:26–33
  usccb.org/bible/readings/062120.cfm

Main point: Fear is the root of sin and the main tool of the devil.

Exhortation: Live a fearless life by putting all our trust in the Lord.

Fear. Fear is the main cause of sin. Fear leads to arguments in families, between strangers, and even to wars. Fear underlies sin, because we are afraid we will be missing out on something, or afraid we will be deprived of something we think we need. Fear leads to desperation, which results in violent and sinful actions. Fear is the cause of great evils in individuals, in our society, and in our world. Fear is the chief, and maybe the only, tool that the devil has to lead us astray. When we are tempted, it is fear of missing out on an experience, on some pleasure, that propels us into sinful action. Fear of humiliation can result in prideful and arrogant actions and attitudes. Fear of rejection can lead us to lash out and act harshly toward others. Fear is clearly something we should avoid.

That is why Jesus tells us in the reading today to “fear no one.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said, “let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That is very true. But how can we avoid fear? Where can we turn to dispel these dark clouds of fearfulness? Who can save us from fear? Jeremiah says it well, “But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” God can save us from fear if we learn to trust Him. God is love, and perfect love casts out all fear. If we fully grasped the fact that we will live forever, our only fear would be of offending God, of falling prey to temptation, of committing sin.

A good example of overcoming fear is Les Ruppersberger. Les is a doctor, an OB-GYN. He had a successful practice with a few partners, a happy family, and a nice house. He considered himself pro-life because he did not perform abortions. He did perform tubal ligations and prescribed birth control pills, but did not think much of it. His busy professional and personal life did not leave time for Church, until one day . . . he had a stroke. Although he recovered well, the experience humbled him, and he decided he wanted to grow in his faith. So he joined a parish Bible study. One day at the Bible study a question came up no one could answer. So they decided to call one of the parish priests to come to the next session and discuss it. He came the following week, and during the coffee break, Les got into a conversation with the priest who asked him what he did. Les said he was an OB-GYN. The priest asked him what he did about contraception in his practice. Les said that was what patients requested, and that is what he did for a living. The priest replied, “Oh. I see you coming up for communion every Sunday. How do you reconcile giving out the pill Monday through Friday, and receiving the Eucharist on Sunday?” Les became so upset that he had to leave the meeting. The following Sunday, he could not get up to receive the Eucharist at Mass. A couple of weeks later, he received a package from the priest with a tape of Janet Smith’s talk “Contraception: Why Not?,” a copy of Evangelium Vitae, and an invitation to a Natural Family Planning class. Les listened to the tape, read the encyclical, and attended the class. Then on Respect Life Sunday at Mass, another priest was preaching about contraception, abortion, and euthanasia. The priest, who did not know Les, was walking up and down the center aisle and when he got to the word contraception, his finger was pointed right at Les. Les’s son leaned over and said, “Dad, I think he’s talking to you.”

Les knew what God was asking of him, but he was afraid. He was afraid he would lose all he had worked so hard for, afraid of the opinions of his partners, afraid of the reaction from his patients. In spite of his fear, the next day, Les announced to his staff and partners he would no longer be doing contraception, sterilization, or IUDs, and sent out 5,000 letters to his patients. His partners decided to cut his salary by a third, take it or leave it, so he took it. With the support of his wife and family, Les downsized his home, changed his lifestyle, and endured many days with empty hours in the office. He went to confession for 21 years of medical practice, doing what he thought was right but now knew was wrong, and, through the grace of God, received absolution. Les and his wife, Betty, became teachers of Natural Family Planning, and eventually led the Philadelphia Natural Family Planning Network, and the Alliance of Natural Family Planning Network. He also has a radio program on Catholic Radio called “NFP for Life.” His practice picked up with many women seeking NFP-only care. Eventually he became the president of the Catholic Medical Association, and has helped spread the good news of NFP throughout the medical community.

Les Ruppersberger displayed great courage. He overcame his fear through his faith in God. Les came to realize there is no resurrection without the crucifixion. There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. But the goal is worth it. Today, Les would tell you that an honest evaluation of the medical literature shows that contraception is not good women’s health. It is not part of God’s plan for life and love. Les learned to trust God. We all need to do the same.

Additional reading:
Physicians Healed: Personal, inspiring and compelling stories of fifteen courageous physicians who do not prescribe contraception. Edited by Cleta Hartman. 1998. One More Soul. 1846 North Main Street, Dayton, OH 45405-3832.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 28, 2020

  Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8–11, 14–16a • Ps 89:2–3, 16–19 • Rom 6:3–4, 8–11 • Mt 10:37–42
  usccb.org/bible/readings/062820.cfm

The gradual conversions of pious saints pale in comparison with the radical conversions of some of our most famous and noteworthy saints. Let’s be honest: the radical and sudden conversion of a scoundrel or a murderer to a rock star saint is much more interesting than the slow, continual conversion of a simple nun or father. For instance, St. Dominic was a pious man from his earliest years. His contemporary, St. Francis was anything but. They both had a tremendous impact on the Church in their time and even into our time. However, if you go to a Catholic goods store, you might have a pretty hard time finding a St. Dominic statue.

Today’s Gospel seems to be asking each of us to make a radical conversion. Who among us would dare say they love anyone or anything more than their mother? I have given my entire life to God as a priest and a religious. I, too, would hesitate when asked by the Our Lord if I love Him more than my mother. Isn’t Our Lord asking too much of us? To love God more than mom and dad; to take up our cross; to lose our lives for His sake. This is a lot to ask of us.

As tough as this is for us, there is good news. Great news, in fact. St. Paul tells us today Jesus already paid the price for us and each of us has already bought in through our baptism. We don’t have to worry about losing our life for His sake. We already have. We don’t have to worry about taking up our crosses. We died with Christ in Baptism. Though the challenge of following the prescriptions of Jesus today are daunting, St. Paul again reminds us, “You must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

The reality of our death with Christ in the waters of baptism helps each of us to realize how our conversion and continued conversion as a disciple of Jesus Christ is both radical and simple. In other words, we should have a little Dominic and Francis in us; we should continue the challenge of giving more and more of ourselves to God every day and the hard work of changing those ugly, stubborn sins and habits that prevent us from giving our life fully to Him. If we are already dead (and we are), every moment is a grace and blessing of incalculable worth. Having given the ultimate, we are now able to receive and live the ultimate with Our Lord.

Furthermore, in both the first reading from 2 Kings and the Gospel, we are explicitly shown where to begin our service of God and His people. In 2 Kings, the woman provides the prophet Elisha a simple room. She has the means and, in all likelihood, giving him a room was not much of a challenge. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us, “Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink… he will surely not lose his reward.” He reiterates the importance of firstly offering to God and to God’s servants what is easy and simple.

In other words, give wholeheartedly to the Lord and His Church today what you already have and what you are already willing to give. If I can’t give to the Lord what I already have excess of, how could I possibly take up my cross, give Him my life, or love Him more than my mother and father?

Here again, we see the importance of our conversion and the similarities of all conversions: it starts with what we give the Lord now and grows into our whole life. The conversion of heart must be matched by a conversion of life. Our growth in holiness is commensurate with our growth in virtue.

 

Note: These sample homilies originally appeared for June and July 2014 in the Homletic & Pastoral Review. All but the last, which is by Fr. Hyde, are by Dcn. Williams.

Deacon William Williams, MD About Deacon William Williams, MD

Deacon William V. Williams, MD, married to Lorraine, father of Ronald, Christina, and Jonathan, and grandfather of Emma and Charlotte, lives in Havertown, PA. Baptized in 1955, he was confirmed in the Catholic Church in 1998 and ordained in 2013. Deacon Williams is the President and CEO of BriaCell Therapeutics Corporation, and the Editor in Chief of The Linacre Quarterly, the official journal of the Catholic Medical Association.

Fr. Patrick Hyde, OP About Fr. Patrick Hyde, OP

Fr. Patrick Hyde, OP, is a member of the Province of St. Albert the Great (Central Province). He was ordained a priest in May 2016 and currently serves as associate pastor and campus minister at St. Paul Catholic Center at Indiana University. A native of St. Louis, he holds a BA (Latin and Journalism) from the University of Richmond, and an MA and MDiv from the Aquinas Institute of Theology.

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