St. Augustine - DVD bio

Today’s homily began by describing Saint Augustine of Hippo on his deathbed, with destruction all around.  After I preached the homily, I came across this video of a new miniseries on this great Doctor of the Church.

An Italian company produced this miniseries.  Information about how to buy it is proving elusive, but I’ve sent emails to the company in Italy, and will post more information when I receive it.  But the trailer is fascinating.  I don’t think that the Doctor Hipponensis has ever been portrayed so dramatically.  For the site where you can watch the video, CLICK HERE.

2nd Sun. of Lent - Resources

Second Sunday of Lent  —  Resources
Gen 15:5-12,17-18  —  Phil 3:14—4:1  —  Luke 9:28-36

Scripture readings from Holy Mass:  CLICK HERE

Reflection from Father Robert Barron:  CLICK HERE

Reflection from Dr. Scott Hahn:  CLICK HERE

Reflection from Shane Kapler:  CLICK HERE

2nd Sun. of Lent - Reflection

Second Sunday in Lent [C]
Genesis 15:5-12,17-18  —  Philippians 3:14—4:1  —  Luke 9:28-36
February 28, 2010

Scripture readings from Holy Mass:

Verse for Recollection throughout the Day:
“This is my chosen Son;  /
listen to him.”
[Luke 9:35]

                At the age of seventy-five, Saint Augustine lay on his deathbed in a small town in northern Africa.  This man—who had early in life lived with a mistress for fifteen years, and fathered a son out of wedlock—this man, who had not been baptized until the age of thirty-three... knew that his life on this earth was drawing to a close…
                From his deathbed, Saint Augustine saw his own town collapsing.  There was little to glory in.  The forces of heretics and barbarians, which he had battled every year he was a bishop, had now united and were at his doorstep:  a tribe of barbarians who had been converted over to heresy had traveled down through Spain, into Africa, and then along the northern shore of the continent, pillaging towns as they went.
                This barbarian tribe reached St. Augustine’s town and destroyed it as well.  All the work that he had done as bishop fell apart before his eyes, as he saw the monasteries he had founded destroyed, the priests he had instructed and ordained murdered, and the churches he had built and preached in overthrown, and occupied by heretics.
                What do you imagine that Saint Augustine thought to himself as he lay on his deathbed and saw all this happening?  What do you imagine he said in his prayer to the Lord?

2nd Sun. of Lent - Pope Benedict XVI

Second Sunday of Lent  —  Angelus message of Pope Benedict XVI
Genesis 15:5-12,17-18  —  Philippians 3:14—4:1  —  Luke 9:28-36
February 28, 2010

St Peter’s Square
Second Sunday of Lent [C]
4 March 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the Second Sunday of Lent, the Evangelist Luke emphasizes that Jesus went up on the mountain“to pray” (9: 28), together with the Apostles Peter, James and John, and it was “while he prayed” (9: 29) that the luminous mystery of his Transfiguration occurred.

Thus, for the three Apostles, going up the mountain meant being involved in the prayer of Jesus, who frequently withdrew in prayer especially at dawn and after sunset, and sometimes all night. 
However, this was the only time, on the mountain, that he chose to reveal to his friends the inner light that filled him when he prayed: his face, we read in the Gospel, shone and his clothes were radiant with the splendour of the divine Person of the Incarnate Word (cf. Lk 9: 29).

There is another detail proper to St Luke’s narrative which deserves emphasis: the mention of the topic of Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah, who appeared beside him when he was transfigured. As the Evangelist tells us, they “talked with him... and spoke of his departure” (in Greek, √©xodos), “which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” (9: 31).

Therefore, Jesus listens to the Law and the Prophets who spoke to him about his death and Resurrection. In his intimate dialogue with the Father, he did not depart from history, he did not flee the mission for which he came into the world, although he knew that to attain glory he would have to pass through the Cross.

On the contrary, Christ enters more deeply into this mission, adhering with all his being to the Father’s will; he shows us that true prayer consists precisely in uniting our will with that of God. For a Christian, therefore, to pray is not to evade reality and the responsibilities it brings but rather, to fully assume them, trusting in the faithful and inexhaustible love of the Lord.

For this reason, the verification of the Transfiguration is, paradoxically, the Agony in Gethsemane (cf. Lk 22: 39-46). With his impending Passion, Jesus was to feel mortal anguish and entrust himself to the divine will; his prayer at that moment would become a pledge of salvation for us all.

Indeed, Christ was to implore the Heavenly Father “to free him from death” and, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote: “he was heard for his godly fear” (5: 7). The Resurrection is proof that he was heard.

Dear brothers and sisters, prayer is not an accessory or “optional”, but a question of life or death. In fact, only those who pray, in other words, who entrust themselves to God with filial love, can enter eternal life, which is God himself.

During this Season of Lent, let us ask Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word and Teacher of the spiritual life, to teach us to pray as her Son did so that our life may be transformed by the light of his presence.

Coptic icon of the Transfiguration

2nd Sun. of Lent - Saint Leo

Second Sunday of Lent    Patristic Reflection
Genesis 15:5-12,17-18    Philippians 3:14—4:1    Luke 9:28-36
February 28, 2010

Scripture readings from Holy Mass:

Verse for Recollection throughout the Day:
“This is my chosen Son;  /
listen to him.”
[Luke 9:35]

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope

The Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ

The Lord reveals his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses. His body is like that of the rest of mankind, but he makes it shine with such splendor that his face becomes like the sun in glory, and his garments as white as snow.
The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.
With no less forethought he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. the members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.
The Lord had himself spoken of this when he foretold the splendor of his coming: Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Saint Paul the apostle bore witness to this same truth when he said: I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the future glory that is to be revealed in us. In another place he says: You are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
This marvel of the transfiguration contains another lesson for the apostles, to strengthen them and lead them into the fullness of knowledge. Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, appeared with the Lord in conversation with him. This was in order to fulfill exactly, through the presence of these five men, the text which says: Before two or three witnesses every word is ratified. What word could be more firmly established, more securely based, than the word which is proclaimed by the trumpets of both old and new testaments, sounding in harmony, and by the utterances of ancient prophecy and the teaching of the Gospel, in full agreement with each other?
The writings of the two testaments support each other. The radiance of the transfiguration reveals clearly and unmistakably the one who had been promised by signs foretelling him under the veils of mystery. As Saint John says: The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. In him the promise made through the shadows of prophecy stands revealed, along with the full meaning of the precepts of the law. He is the one who teaches the truth of the prophecy through his presence, and makes obedience to the commandments possible through grace.
In the preaching of the holy Gospel all should receive a strengthening of their faith. No one should be ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed.
No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.
When it comes to obeying the commandments or enduring adversity, the words uttered by the Father should always echo in our ears: This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.

Reflection Question:
Why does Jesus show His glory to these disciples at this particular point in time?

Fri. of Week I of Lent - Feb. 26

Friday of the First Week of Lent
Ezekiel 18:21-28  —  Matthew 5:20-26
February 26, 2010

Scripture readings from Holy Mass:

Verse for Recollection throughout the Day:
“But I say to you,  /
whoever is angry with his brother  /
will be liable to judgment….”
[Matthew 5:22a]

In today’s Gospel passage, from very early in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives His first example of the “New Law”:  the Law of Love, in contrast to Israel’s understanding of the Law of Moses.  The examples that Jesus gives in this section of the Sermon on the Mount have a consistent structure:  “You have heard that it was said….  But I say to you….”

The example in today’s Gospel passage is about anger.  In contrast to the ancient understanding of the Law of Moses—“whoever kills will be liable to judgment”—Jesus explains that the Law of Love goes to the root of the matter:  “whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment….”

What can we say about anger?  Many people in the confessional will confess “the sin of anger”, saying something like, “I got angry ten times, Father.”  As an emotion, anger is not and cannot be a sin.  But the idea that the emotion of anger is a sin is common.

Where does this idea come from?  In fact, no emotion can itself be a sin, anymore than an emotion can be a virtue.  Maybe this latter point offers us a clue about why certain emotions are considered sins.  Because the “pop culture” around us equates “holiness” with “feeling good about ourselves”, very logically “sin” must be about “feeling bad”.  And so emotions such as anger, fear and boredom become our culture’s worst “sins.”

On the contrary, our Christian Faith teaches that sins come only from the human will.  There are indeed sins that proceed from anger, fear, boredom, and other emotions.  But the “bad emotions” are not the sins.  The “sins of anger” (or “of fear”, or “of boredom”) are the choices that we freely make when we choose to order our lives according to these emotions. 

Consider carefully what Jesus says:  He does not say, “Whoever is angry with his brother is sinning.”  Jesus says that when anger is within a person, that person will be “liable to judgment”, meaning that the freely chosen actions that flow out of a person filled with anger will be judged, no matter how large or small those choices are.  A person with anger in his soul will be held liable for his choices, not only if he kills out of anger, but even if he speaks ill out of anger.

Note also:  emotions come and go, but our choices remain.  Among the many “sins of anger” (free choices that flow from a soul filled with anger), one of the more powerful is the free choice to “nurture” or “nurse” the emotion of anger.  In a normal human life, anger can leave one’s life just as quickly as it enters.  But often, a person wants to use this emotion as a source of what he thinks is “strength”.  This active nurturing of anger is a true and common sin.

On the one hand, all of this is freeing:  because emotions are not freely chosen, we are not responsible for them, and should not believe ourselves guilty for our feelings.  On the other hand, Jesus has raised the bar:  even when angry, God will hold us accountable for our actions.  Our emotions are not excuses for poor choices, and we as Christians will be held accountable even for the small choices that we make.

Reflection Question:
Do you ask God to take away your anger, or to help you act justly in the face of anger?

click on the painting of The Sermon on the Mount for a lengthy discussion of meekness and anger, intellectually considered

Thurs. of Week I of Lent - Feb. 25

Thursday of the First Week of Lent
Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25  —  Matthew 7:7-12
February 25, 2010

Scripture readings from Holy Mass:

Verse for Recollection throughout the Day:
“Do to others  /
whatever you would have them do to you.  /
This is the law and the prophets.”
[Matthew 7:12]
Today Jesus gives us the “Golden Rule”.  He gives a new focus for our moral choices, asking us to see ourselves in others.  If we saw another person as “our self”, we wouldn’t make many of the choices that we do.

Unfortunately, we often don’t look on others as “our self”, and so Jesus, knowing how greatly we need help, offers a further perspective to help us in making moral decisions.  Jesus asks us to think as a father thinks.  More specifically, He is asking us to think as God the Father thinks.

How and why does God the Father give you gifts?  He does not give you gifts in order for you to become popular.  He does not give you gifts in order to make you more attractive.  He does not give you gifts in order to make your life smooth.  These things are not bad, but they are beside the point.  Beside the point of life, that is…

God the Father gives you the gifts you need to accomplish your vocation:  your reason for being in this world.  If we believe this, then we will accept what God the Father gives us as gifts that are means to that end.  It’s really no more complicated than what the Catechism taught us as children.  “God made us to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, so as to be happy with Him in the next.”

Reflection Question:
Our Reflection Question today is another verse from today’s Gospel.
It is a rhetorical question.
But reflect on Jesus’ point in asking it…

“Which one of you would hand his son a stone  /
when he asked for a loaf of bread,  /
or a snake when he asked for a fish?”
[Matthew 7:9-10]

Wed. of Week I of Lent - Feb. 24

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
Jonah 3:1-10    Luke 11:29-32
February 24, 2010

Scripture readings from Holy Mass:

Verse for Recollection throughout the Day:
“Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,  /
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”
[Luke 11:30]

In Catholic theology, typology is the study of types.  A type is something (usually, someone) who foreshadows or pre-figures some future thing.  A type of a person can foreshadow by means of some personal quality (for example, the physical strength of Samson might be said to foreshadow the spiritual strength of Christ; or the wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom who is Christ).  A person who is a type can also foreshadow through the events of a narrative, as in today’s readings, where the narrative involving Jonah foreshadows the narrative of Holy Week…

Jonah foreshadows Jesus Christ.  We see many things about Jonah and the events surrounding him that point to Jesus.  But Jesus Himself mentions one thing in particular.  He mentions for whom Jonah was a sign:  “… Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites.”  So will Jesus Himself, he explains, become a sign “to this generation.”

So He is for our generation, also.  We can look back, then, to the Ninevites, as if looking in a mirror, and ask how our lives might be reflected in theirs.  The Book of the Prophet Jonah is, in fact, very short.  It is only four chapters long, and the chapters are 16, 11, 10 and 11 verses long, for a total of just 48 verses!  Take some extra time over the next day, then, to read all 48 verses of the Book of Jonah.

Briefly:  read chapter 1 to hear how the Ninevites are sinners in God’s eyes, and how Jonah is called to self-sacrifice on their behalf (of course, Jonah does not immediately follow this call, and in this way, is not a type of Christ).  Read chapter 2 to hear how Jonah ‘converts’ while in the darkness (of the “large fish”) in order to carry out his call to serve the Ninevites.  Read chapter 3 to hear how the Ninevites heed Jonah’s prophecy.  And read chapter 4 to hear (again) how Jonah is not a type of Christ:  he does not understand the Lord’s mercy toward the Ninevites, and the Lord teaches Jonah by showing him mercy, too.

But we, as Christians, have even more reason to be grateful than did the Ninevites and Jonah.  In Jesus allowing Himself to be swallowed up by death, He shows us a mercy that is overflowing, abundant and without bounds.  On the Cross, Jesus not only takes away our sins, but destroys death itself.

Rejoice in this merciful love.  Give thanks for it, and ask God to help you in being an instrument of that same merciful love towards others.

Reflection Question:
Are you ever tempted to flee, as did Jonah, from the Lord calling you to be an instrument of His peace?

Tues. of Week I of Lent - Feb. 23

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
Isaiah 55:10-11  —  Matthew 6:7-15
February 23, 2010

Scripture readings from Holy Mass:

Verse for Recollection throughout the Day:
“If you forgive men their transgressions,  /
your heavenly Father will forgive you.”
[Matthew 6:14]

When we look at the Our Father in the context of Saint Matthew’s gospel account, it’s striking that the first topic that Jesus discusses after ‘handing over’ this prayer to His disciples… is the forgiveness of sins.  This is not surprising, but it is striking.  The Our Father is sometimes considered to be a compendium of the Gospel:  all of the Gospel’s riches are contained here in seminal form.  And after giving us the “treasury” of the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord begins to teach by discussing the reality of sin. 

So we begin the Season of Lent.  One of the acclamations that the Roman ritual provides for the conferral of ashes on Ash Wednesday is:  “Turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel.”  This echoes the first words of Jesus in the gospel account of Saint Mark:  “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  Saint Mark calls this proclamation of Jesus “the Gospel of God.”

Challenge those who dismiss either Lenten penance, or the Christian belief in sin itself.  There is a rising number who dismiss both.

As Christians, we begin—experientially, at least—to live the Gospel by facing our personal sin (original and actual).  Of course, there are other ways to begin teaching the Gospel, but in terms of simply believing and accepting in the Gospel personally, we must begin with the reality of our own sins.  This is why Jesus became human, and died on the Cross:  to destroy the power of our sins.

But Jesus’ words following today’s Gospel passage point us not only beyond our own sins, but even point us beyond the divine Love that we see when we look at the crucifix.  Jesus points us outwards, to “those who trespass against us”.  As Christians, we are defined not by our own sins, nor even—in the end—simply by God’s love.  In the end, we are defined by the manner in which we turn to others and forgive them as we have been forgiven by God the Father, by means of the very love by which He has forgiven us.

Reflection Question:
When I forgive, do I forgive as my heavenly Father forgives me, or in my own manner of forgiving?

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]

The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23  ¾  1 Corinthians 15:45-49  ¾  Luke 6:27-38

               In the year of Our Lord 955, Pope John XII became the 130th pope.  He was eighteen years old.  He was the son of a large and wealthy royal family, and was not interested in anything spiritual.  He gained the office of the pope through his family’s power, and he assumed the office simply for the earthly treasure it offered.
               Pope John XII is not the only corrupt pope in the history of the Church, but there’s little doubt that he was the worst.  There wasn’t much that was noble in him, but there was a great deal of nobility in a man whom he double-crossed.  In the year 962 Pope John crowned the king of Germany, Otto the First, as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  At the time of the coronation, the pope and emperor made a pact of mutual support between the Church and civil society.  But as soon as the coronation in Rome had ended, and the emperor returned to Germany, Pope John invited one of the emperor’s worst enemies to Rome in order to conspire with him.  And yet when this became public, the emperor remained faithful and loyal to the pope.  Even after the death of John XII, the emperor did all in his power to restore the dignity of the papacy, by encouraging holy and inspired men to fill the offices of the Church.
+   +   +
               In the lives of these two men, we see one of the paradoxes of the Church:  her members are both saints and sinners.  The Church is the Body of Christ, but that body is made up of weak human beings.  In other words, the Church is a divine institution, but it is also a human institution.
               This is part of the mystery that Saint Paul is preaching to the members of the Church in Corinth, in our second reading.  He is trying to make clear to them that the members of the Church are both saints and sinners.  But in making this point, Saint Paul is careful to avoid the pitfall that is so easy to fall into spiritually:  to sit back and think about the people we know in the Church, and divvy them up into two groups:  this person, this person and this person are the saints (and I’ll put them on this side), while that person, that person and that other person and all well known to be sinners, so they’re way over there.  But if the Church is the Body of Christ, it cannot simply have all the sinners on one side and all the saints on the other, like some sort of person with a split personality (or Siamese twins).  Some would imply that sinner have no place at all in the Church:  they would say that if you sin, you’re no longer part of the Body of Christ.  But that is false.
               Each and every member of the Church—with the exception, of course, of the Blessed Virgin Mary—is both a saint and a sinner.  Every member of the Body of Christ has within himself or herself this pull between our desire to sin—a desire to isolate ourselves—and God’s call to us to be holy—God’s desire that we rise above our fallen nature.
               This is the truth Saint Paul is preaching to us:  Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one—Adam—, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one—Jesus Christ.  We human beings, because of our fallen nature, are sinners:  we are children of Adam.  But God calls us to be more.  He calls us to bear the image of Christ.  But to do that, we have to reflect on what that image looks like.  With the eyes of faith, we have to gaze at that image.
+   +   +
               Our first reading seems especially to draw our attention to role of authority figures.  We have to realize that those in authority are sinners at the same time that they are called to be holy.  To continue to use the example of the pope:  we are blessed in our own day to have a pope that is very far removed from Pope John XII.  Pope John Paul II is a man completely dedicated to holiness, who has in his own life and in the life of his country and Church confronted and overcome many evils, including both Nazism and totalitarian communism.  Having such a leader makes one proud to be a Catholic.
               But consider what it would have been like to be a Catholic in the tenth century rather than the twentieth.  You can be sure that there were non-Christians in those days who mocked Christians for following such a leader as Pope John.  We could ask ourselves whether we would have been the sort of person who refused to follow the pope because of his bad personal example, or the sort of person like the emperor, a man of faith who continued to seek out what was best for the Church even in the midst of such scandal.  Just as David would not harm the head of his enemy Saul because Saul had been anointed by God to lead His people, so we are called to have respect for the offices of those in authority, if not their actions.
               In our own human experience, learning this begins—as all important lessons begin—in the home.  It’s there that children learn the respect that they must have for their parents.  Unfortunately, just as we witness the institution of marriage being mocked in the media and in the lives of many members of our society, so also is the institution of parenthood being mocked in our day.
               Certainly there may be in our day a clearer and more open understanding that parents are human beings:  that they make mistakes in what they try to do for their children.  Nonetheless, the parent who does not demand respect from his children in both language and action is doing a grave disservice to his children.
+   +   +
               As we begin the season of Lent this Wednesday, we enter into a very holy time of the year, during which we recognize that we are sinners by nature, and saints by calling.  This is true of all of us.  Every person, in spite of his or her sins, is loved fully by God.  God opened His arms on the Cross to show us the breadth and depth of His love.  During Lent, gaze upon the image of the crucifix, and ask God to help you to be a “living icon”, to show the love you see in the Cross to those around you in daily life.

Chair of Peter - Feb. 22

The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle
1 Peter 5:1-4    Matthew 16:13-19
February 22, 2010           

Scripture readings from Holy Mass:

Verse for Recollection throughout the Day:
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  [Matthew 16:19b]

Every year on the 22nd of February, the Church celebrates one of St. Peter’s feast days.  Peter is one of those saints so important to the life of the Church that he has more than one feast day during the year.  Today is “the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter”.

The chair is a symbol of authority.  Jesus refers to this in Matthew 23:2-3, when he commands and warns the crowd and his disciples:  The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.”  Of course, Moses must have had an awfully big chair for all the scribes and Pharisees to be able to fit into it… unless this “chair” is metaphorical, referring to the teaching and judging office that Moses held in the Name of God.

It’s in the Book of Exodus that Moses explains this office among the people of Israel to his father-in-law:  “Whenever they have a disagreement, they come to me to have me settle the matter between them and make known to them God's decisions and regulations” (Exodus 18:16).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares to Simon:  “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18).  The name that Jesus gives to “Peter” is a second metaphor for an office of teaching and judging, but to drive the point home, Jesus uses a third metaphor by speaking of the “keys of the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 16:19a).  These metaphors are given a concrete meaning when Jesus says to Peter… not that Peter can hold the roadmap… nor that Peter can decide what kind of business cards the apostles will have… but that “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven….”  This is actually a greater office than that held by Moses, yet its goal is the same:  leading those who follow Jesus on earth into His Kingdom.

The “power of the keys” is used in many ways:  some are specific to the Office of Peter (the papacy); others are shared with those ordained to priestly ministry.  The most common example of the latter is the Sacrament of Confession, in which a priest “binds” or “looses” sins based on the penitent’s sincerity of heart.

Which leads us back to the Season of Lent.  Jesus mediates the grace of His Death and Resurrection to us through the ministry of mere human beings.  These human leaders of the Church have been chosen by God, and so we pray for them:  to be faithful ministers of God’s grace to us.

Reflection Question:
How does Jesus’ gift of the Office of Peter help us in looking outside our own “world”?

The parish I serve

<b>The parish I serve</b>
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Colwich, Kansas (Diocese of Wichita)