Homilies for June 2022

For Pentecost Sunday, Mary Mother of the Church, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, and the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

Pentecost Sunday – June 5, 2022

Readings: Acts 2:1–11Ps 104:1, 24, 29–30, 31, 341 Cor 12:3b–7, 12–13 or Rom 8:8–17Jn 20:19–23  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/060522-day.cfm

Each year at Pentecost, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. Like we hear in the First Reading, today is the day the Spirit manifested Himself to the apostles in the upper room and moved them to preach the Gospel of Jesus to every corner of the earth. Of all the persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the one who may seem most difficult to relate to, to conceptualize. God the Son is easy enough — Jesus Christ was a man who lived and taught. He concretely existed, we can read His words. God the Father, too, speaks all throughout the Scriptures. The image of a father is one that helps us to relate to that Person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit — what is He? When you see images of the Trinity, you most often see the Three Persons depicted as an older man, a younger man, and a dove. How am I supposed to relate to a bird? Or to fire? Or to water? Or to wind? The Holy Spirit can seem ambiguous, a nameless force rather than a true Person who we can relate to. So who is the Holy Spirit, and what does He do in our lives?

I’d like to invite you to imagine yourself as one of the apostles in the upper room that day. You’ve spent three years of your life living with Jesus, whom you believe to be the Messiah sent to save the world. You watched him get crucified and then experienced His Resurrection. He’s given you His final command: go and proclaim the Gospel to all people. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And then He ascends — and He’s gone. He’s given you a worldwide mission and has seemingly left you to handle it. A book I recently read depicted this situation well: eleven untrained men, little to no theological education, no infrastructure, no money or resources, no plan, no experience or influence, living in a city that’s pretty hostile to them. Their situation seems bleak — and it makes sense why they stayed together in one place after Jesus left. Where would they even start? It seems like an impossibly hopeless task has been entrusted to them.

That situation — where it seems like there’s no way forward, no chance of success, seemingly hopeless — is the situation that best reveals to us the person of the Holy Spirit, so it’s fitting that He reveals Himself to the apostles there. The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God within us, the love of God that dwells within our hearts, the one who makes us believe — not just say with empty words, but firmly believe — that Jesus Christ is Lord, the unconquerable one, who brings victory even from death. The Holy Spirit enabled them to believe that against all odds, all human calculations, the message of Jesus Christ could transform the world — and that’s the only thing that mattered. And as they began taking those steps of faith, as they went out and proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus, they saw His power manifested. What’s striking is that if you read through the Acts of the Apostles, you’ll see that what the Apostles did isn’t anything remarkable or revolutionary. They proclaimed the Gospel, that Jesus died and rose from the dead and offers new life to every person. That message, so simple on the surface, proves to be transformative. Thousands upon thousands join the Church because of that message.

What the Holy Spirit did for them, and for those who heard them, He also does for us. It is by the Holy Spirit that we know that Jesus is Lord, as St Paul writes. It is by the Spirit that we know that God is our Father, that Jesus died for us, and to see how that reality is life-changing. It’s not a work of a dynamic priest, or a lively homily, or a thought-provoking book, or a powerful video that does this. Only the Holy Spirit can make that reality take root in our hearts in a transformative way. Those moments when I am aware of God’s presence and love for me in particular, when I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that my life is safe in His hands, when I trust that He will provide for my every need and that He will be with me through every trial — that’s what the Spirit does for each of us.

How did the apostles receive that grace? They simply stayed together and prayed. That’s it. If we ask, He comes. If we open our hearts in response to His knocking, He enters. God leaves no space that we offer to Him empty. Today, and every day, simply ask. Open to His knocking. And as you persevere in that, watch what happens.

Mary, Mother of the Church – June 6, 2022

Readings: Gn 3:9–15, 20 or Acts 1:12–14Ps 87:1–2, 3 and 5, 6–7 Jn 19:25–34  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/060622.cfm

Children learn a lot simply by watching. And as we often see, perhaps sometimes in embarrassing or funny situations, children imitate what they see. They’re in a natural state of learning, of absorbing all they can as they grow older and more mature. Today we remember that Mary is our Mother — the Mother of the whole Church, as Jesus gave her to us through St. John with the beautiful words, “Behold, your Mother.”

In the readings we heard in Mass today, we can learn an incredible amount simply by watching her, and striving to imitate her as her children. We first see that Mary stood there by Jesus at the Cross. Our Mother never flees from us in our sadness, in our deep suffering, but rather runs to us and is close to us as she can possibly be. She takes our suffering into her own heart just as her Immaculate Heart was pierced as she shared in her Son’s suffering. She offers us the comforting presence that lets us know that we are never alone, that we will never be alone. After Jesus had died, we know that she held her Son’s lifeless body in her arms. Nothing repulsed her; everything drew her closer. The same is true for us; she, too, stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, longing to bring us a love that only a mother can give.

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear after the Ascension, that the eleven remaining apostles drew to her presence. She united them as one family, one body, in prayer. They were afraid and confused, perhaps wondering why Jesus had left, what they were supposed to do now. And when they didn’t know where else to go, they ran to her. Because they knew what Jesus said. John heard some of his last words: “Behold, your mother.”

As Mother of the Church, both collectively and for each individual member, Mary stands by us as that refuge. When we don’t know where else to go, fly to her. She promises to stand by us in our sufferings, to draw closer and closer, and to pray for us, and to pray with us, leading us to communion with Jesus. She offers us a surety that we long for, a stability of presence, and a confidence in love. Watch her, imitate her, and run to her. May she be a mother to all of us, especially in the areas of our hearts crying out for a mother’s love.

Trinity Sunday – June 12, 2022

Readings: Prv 8:22–31Ps 8:4–5, 6–7, 8–9Rom 5:1–5Jn 16:12–15    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/061222.cfm

For years scientists have discovered various elements of our world that seem to push the limits of our understanding. The theory that time actually passes relative to the speed of the individual, the reality that everything is composed of various conglomerations of subatomic particles, the infinite vastness and continual expansion of the entire universe — all these theories boggle the mind. It’s hard to wrap your brain around and truly understand the possibility of some of these theories.

It honestly reminds me of the feeling that I would often have in my Trinity class in the seminary. That class always had the reputation of being the hardest to understand. You would often hear people say that they finished the course knowing less than they did when they started it. It can seem ridiculous to say that we have one God, who is also three persons but is not three gods. But it can also seem ridiculous to say that our speed can control how fast or slow time moves for somebody. Just because it seems ridiculous on the surface doesn’t mean that there isn’t an incredibly important truth being revealed to us. The mystery of the Trinity is essential because it’s the mystery of who God is, and if we don’t know who God is, then how can we ever hope to love him or be in a relationship with him?

Saint John gives us perhaps the shortest yet also an incredibly profound definition of who God is. “God is love.” That statement is so simple, yet reveals much about who God is and why we say that He is a Trinity. We don’t say that God loves, but that God is love itself. If we look at God we see what love is, what love looks like. And one person is not sufficient for love. Love is a relationship, which means we need two people involved in this. Two people at least are necessary for a relationship of love. The Father loves the Son with everything that He has and is. The Son receives that love from the Father and in turn loves Him back. Love does that to someone — when we are loved well by someone, the natural response is to love that person back. Love has this tendency to draw love out of the other person. And this love between Father and Son is so real, so complete, so perfect, that we say it is an eternal person — the love of the Father and the Son is the Spirit, the very presence of the love of God. And because love unites the lover and the loved, the Father and the Son and the Spirit are all united as one God. So if God is love, then God is Trinity — it’s the most perfect way to reveal love.

And when I know that God, there’s a foundation that is created that cannot be shaken. It’s knowing that God that allows St. Paul to write about boasting of his afflictions and sufferings. In the Second Reading, he lists this chain of events that we all experience that is rooted in the reality of a God who is love. Whenever we experience suffering on our own, it inevitably leads to discouragement, despair, and hopelessness. But look at this progression that St. Paul outlines: affliction produces endurance, or patience, a steadfastness that doesn’t back down or give up in the face of trial. And that patience produces proven character, one who was tested and able to stand firm. And that proven character produces hope, not a blind optimism but a confidence in a Person who we know will come through in the end. And the source and foundation of that hope, of this entire progression, is the love of God poured into our hearts.

Without love, the chain falls apart. But with that God who is love, who is willing to suffer and allow Himself to be killed for us, who is present with us always, that affliction actually becomes the most powerful source of growth. It gives us the opportunity to see God in the areas of our life that are the most painful, and thus need His presence the most. And how can love truly exist if it does not pass through the way of suffering?

It can seem paradoxical to say that suffering and love coexist, just as it can seem paradoxical to say that one God can exist as three Persons. That paradox reveals not a contradiction but a love that is unable to be stopped, a love that brings hope to whoever is willing to accept it. As we celebrate this Trinity Sunday, look at this God who is love, and receive the love that He has for you.

Solemnity of Corpus Christi – June 19, 2022

Readings: Gn 14:18–20Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 41 Cor 11:23–26Lk 9:11b–17    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/061922.cfm

No one likes being hungry. Whenever you’re hungry, it’s your body telling you that something is lacking, something is missing, and something needs to be done about it. The feeling naturally moves us to get rid of it — I want to eat so that I can get rid of the hunger. I’d be willing to bet that on a daily basis, most of us experience that feeling of hunger — perhaps like the crowd in the Gospel today who followed Jesus into a deserted place. They were hungry, I’m sure.

But I think we can all agree that there’s a hunger that we feel that can be more than physical — it’s a spiritual hunger, a spiritual longing for something more. That’s the hunger I want to focus on today. I’d imagine that at least some of us are at Mass today because of that hunger. We recognize that something’s missing in our lives, there’s some lack, and we are looking somewhere — perhaps the only place we know — to fill that desire. The people in the Gospel today, I am sure, experienced physical hunger as the day drew to its end and there was no food in sight. But I’d also imagine that they experienced a spiritual hunger that brought them out to the middle of nowhere to hear a wandering preacher, to witness the healings that He was working. They wanted more in their lives, and maybe, just maybe, He could do something about it.

Fr. Thomas Dubay, a great spiritual writer, describes man as an “incarnated thirst,” “a thirst in the flesh.” He says that we can’t help but seek the thing that we thirst for, that we hunger for, in some attempt to satisfy that desire. I’d argue that almost everything we do, everything we seek, is because of that hunger. That’s a good thing — that’s how God created us. The problem is not that we desire too much, though; it’s that we desire too little. We shrink our desires and settle for things that still leave us longing for more. That person, that item, that next great feeling. The prophet Isaiah pointedly writes to the people of Israel, and to us, if we are honest, “Why do you spend and labor and work for that which does not satisfy?” Why do we seek to satisfy the hunger again and again down dead end roads, hoping that this time will be different?

So what does satisfy that hunger? We might put different words to it: happiness, meaning, purpose, fulfillment. But the final answer to that question, the One that includes all of those things and more than we could ever imagine, is God. He is the only one who can satisfy that “incarnated thirst” that we all are. Other things might appear to satisfy for a while, but it’ll never be enough. Only He does. That’s what Jesus offers to those people — an abundance, where perhaps they thought there was nothing.

And that’s what He offers to us — something more than we could ever have imagined. As St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading, as the Gospels tell us, as the Church has done since the very beginning — Jesus offers us Himself. “This is My Body, given for you. This is My Blood, poured out for you.” In this place, at this Mass, we come face to face with the only Person who can satisfy the hunger of our hearts. At first glance, that might seem disappointing — it looks like a piece of bread, and maybe it doesn’t seem to have any concrete impact on my life. In the gospel, the apostles’ first thought was to use human means to satisfy the problem. But Jesus is working on a different perspective. He invites us not to fix but to trust. He invites us to look with the eyes of faith and to hear the truth of His words that we hear at every Mass: “This is truly My Flesh, given for you.” He invites us to give Him a chance to satisfy that desire of our hearts. It’s what the Church has done and has held onto faithfully from the very beginning because she has held faithfully to that promise of Jesus. The presence of the Eucharist, the true Body and Blood, is what makes the Church, is what defines our faith, and is what will endure to the very end.

It’s no secret that faith in the Eucharist in our world isn’t the strongest. Our own American church is taking great steps in the next three years to revive that faith — not by disseminating detailed arguments or proofs, but by inviting people to take a step of faith, to believe that just maybe, He can fill that hunger of your heart. If we give Him a chance, He will not let us down. As He comes into this place today, give Him the chance to satisfy.

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – June 26, 2022

Readings: 1 Kgs 19:16b, 19–21Ps 16:1–2, 5, 7–8, 9–10, 11Gal 5:1, 13–18 Lk 9:51–62  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062622.cfm

Next weekend, we’re celebrating Fourth of July weekend. So it might seem fitting that the second reading for Mass today is all about freedom. There are few topics more misunderstood, especially in America, than the topic of freedom, and the Church’s relationship with freedom. Freedom is often described as the ability to do what I want, when I want, however I want. When I can do whatever I want, make my own choices, not be influenced by others, than I’m free. And when I can’t do that, then my freedom is inhibited.

Now although there’s an element of truth to that, true freedom is something very different. Take, for example, driving a car. If you drive on the left side of the road, and I drive on the right side of the road, and there’s no traffic signs or stop lights, are we actually free? That’s not freedom; that’s lawlessness. Or the example of playing a piano — I can most assuredly sit behind a piano and hit whatever keys I want. But when a trained musician sits behind a piano, he doesn’t do that without some consideration for the basic principles of music. Does that make me more free than the musician?

God and the Church are often seen as the enemies of freedom the enemies of happiness. They tell us all the things that we can’t do. God’s the great restrictor. Look at all the laws, the rules, the commandments. They’re just out to make us all miserable slaves, right? The reality is, though, that God is the happiest of all beings. And He created us to be happy. He doesn’t want us to be slaves, but rather He wants us to be free. But He wants us to be truly free, not to settle for pursuing a false freedom that’s actually just slavery in disguise. St. Paul says as much in the second reading, that Christ set us free simply so that we could be free. But he says not to use the freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, to do whatever it is I want. He makes a connection between freedom and the law.

When we hear that word, “law,” we naturally have a repulsion to it. Something that tells us what to do, how to do it, what not to do. Freedom and law can seem like opposites. The problem, though, is that most of us don’t have a good understanding of what the law is actually trying to do. I’d be willing to bet that most of us learned the Ten Commandments when we were kids, as a list to memorize. “Thou shalt not” is probably burned into our memories. Even if we don’t remember the Ten Commandments any more, we almost assuredly remember that phrase. And we don’t like it. Because that’s all we know — don’t. That’s an incomplete picture of what the law is, where it’s leading us to, and most importantly, who is giving it to us. Just like the laws of traffic, or the principles of music that guide the pianist, the law is attempting to lead us somewhere. But if all we hear is “don’t” without ever hearing that vision, we understandably misunderstand its purpose.

There’s a crucial line that we often forget, that I don’t think was ever taught to me when I was taught the Ten Commandments. The First Commandment, in Exodus chapter 20, doesn’t actually begin with a don’t, but begins this way: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the place of slavery. God gave these laws to a people He had just rescued from over 400 years of slavery. A God who desires us to be happy, who wants us to be free, is on the other side of those laws, not trying to restrict us but trying to show us the path to true freedom.

If I don’t believe that, then I will always question what I’m presented with. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I tell my family goodbye, as in the First Reading and Gospel? Why can’t I get revenge on my enemies? I’ll never be satisfied. But if I do believe that there’s a God who truly desires my freedom leading me by showing me what the truly free and happy life looks like, then I’ll do whatever it takes. Because that’s what my heart was created to experience. Freedom is much more than doing whatever I want. Freedom is living the way I was created to live. Happiness isn’t a passing pleasure, but an enduring peace that is found only in loving communion with Jesus. The Spirit that lives in all of our hearts, as St Paul says, is guiding us to that true freedom. As we celebrate freedom in our country next weekend, let’s live for the freedom that God created us to experience.

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul – June 29, 2022

Readings: Acts 12:1–11Ps 34:2–3, 4–5, 6–7, 8–92 Tm 4:6–8, 17–18Mt 16:13–19    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062922-day.cfm

When you think about it, it’s really quite astounding that the Church actually still exists. The great empires of the ancient world were founded and led by powerful leaders with great skill and charisma. The Church, founded by Jesus, was entrusted to the two great pillars we celebrate today: St. Peter and St. Paul. St. Peter, the poor fisherman from a small town in Israel, who’s proven multiple times that he has an uncanny ability to put his foot in his mouth, who denied our Lord three times (which means he had time to think about it), initially disbelieved the Resurrection, and as the legend tells us, even tried to flee the persecutions in Rome. And St. Paul, the zealous Pharisee who was responsible for the arrest, imprisonment, and even death of many Christians, with a known reputation that was feared by these new followers of the Way.

Jesus picked the two weakest, least qualified, and most unlikely men to be the pillars on which the Church that He established would be built. On the surface, it would seem that Jesus set His newfound movement on a one-way ticket to self-destruction. But somehow, this Church has outlasted every empire, every nation. How? Because they knew Jesus, they believed in Jesus, and they followed wherever Jesus led them. Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ. And as Jesus met him in his own brokenness, in the pain of his triple denial, what came out of Peter’s mouth was not shame but an overwhelming love. Paul, in a similar way, encountered the love of Jesus in his own broken past, and he is now able to say with confidence, “I have competed well, I have kept the faith,” not because of his own power or ability, but because “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.”

Peter and Paul were rocks because they didn’t see themselves as rocks. They knew who the true rock was — Christ. Rather than hiding from or compensating for their weakness, they embraced it before the Lord, which is the one thing necessary for grace to work in miraculous ways in our lives. The existence of the Church today is proof of that. Without that foundation, we would certainly have destroyed it long ago. But Jesus made a promise — He will stand with it always, protect it always. The gates of hell will never prevail. Peter and Paul were confident not in themselves, but in that truth. As we honor them today, we ask their intercession that we would share in their confidence of the true rock, the true foundation — Jesus Christ.

Fr. Patrick Riviere About Fr. Patrick Riviere

Fr Patrick Riviere is a priest for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in Louisiana, currently serving as the Director for the Office of the Priesthood and as a Parish Liaison for the Office of Parish Support. Ordained in 2019, he has previously served at St. Thomas Aquinas on the campus of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux and at Holy Cross in Morgan City. He received his Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Comments

  1. Fr. Patrick, thank you for your reflections. My wife and I always appreciate your homilies when we are back home, it’s good to see you sharing here with the wider audience!

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