2018-04-15 Third Sunday of Easter

April 15, 2018

15 April 2018

Third Sunday of Easter

Luke 24:35-48 + Homily 18 Minutes 56 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

While it is easy to identify bold personalities that enjoy a good fight, and others that shrink shyly from any kind of confrontation, psychologists do not find it easy to define the middle type that tries to control without seeming to do so. If it is hard to define “passive aggression,” you can recognize the indirect expression of hostility when you see it at work: sullen, procrastinating, self-pitying, cold and silent in a way that is far from golden.

   It is wonderful that the Risen Lord did not say to the trembling apostles in the Upper Room, “I told you so.” There is no tone of vengeful vindication or even the slightest condescension. He just serenely explains how these events had to be. The Lord has an assignment for the apostles, just as he offers each of us a plan for life. And he takes us seriously, only asking that we take him seriously in return. That is why he shows his wounds. They have not vanished in the glory of the Resurrection, for they are reminders that the new course of history will be fraught with challenges for which the Church must be prepared.

   On June 28 in 1245, Pope Innocent IV convened an Ecumenical Council in Lyon, France, where he would stay for several years for safety from the emperor Frederick II. He opened the Council with a sermon on the Five Wounds of the Church. They were: 1) public heresy growing out of personal immorality; 2) the persecution of Christians by Muslims; 3) schism in the Church; 4) the invasion of Christian countries by unbelievers; and 5) attempts of civil governments to control the Church. Does this sound familiar?

   In his day, lax and immoral Catholics were trying to justify their lifestyle by “paradigm shifts” in doctrine, Muslims were terrorizing Christians in the Middle East, the rift between Western and Eastern churches was growing and would not be checked even by the attempt of a second Council of Lyons some thirty years later, Mongol hordes were invading Hungary and Poland, and the Holy Roman Emperor was claiming political authority over the bishops.

   The French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, said: “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.” Having risen from the grave, he can die no more, nor can he suffer as he once did. But the Church is his body and “inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these little ones, you have done it to me.” Christ’s supernatural agony is a triumph of divine love for those whose salvation he bought with his own blood. He is not passively aggressive, because his confrontation in every age is a direct one against “the Devil and all his pomps.” There is no need for revenge, for to get even is never to get ahead.


2018-04-08 - Second Sunday of Easter

April 8, 2018

8 April 2018

Second Sunday of Easter or Sunday of Divine Mercy

John 20:19-31 + Homily

19 Minutes 19 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

   In the thirteenth century, Pope Gregory IX wrote that “the evening of the world is now declining,” and he thought that time itself would soon end. But the setting of the sun is prelude to its rising, and in the darkness of Good Friday was a rumor of expectation. Even our national lore links dawn with promise: “… by the dawn’s early light . . . at the twilight’s last gleaming…” Ellerton’s hymn about sunset senses what was going on in other parts of empire: “The sun that bids us rest is waking / Our brethren ’neath the western sky…”

   Gospel accounts are ambiguous about when the women discovered the empty tomb. John says it was “very early, while it was yet dark.” Saint Augustine, with his typical common sense, decided that Matthew’s account of the “end of the Sabbath” might simply be another way of describing what the other Evangelists recounted. Those hours clocked a change in the whole world. Christ predicted the moral confusion of those who would deny the Resurrection when it happened in their own precinct: “When evening comes, you say, ‘The weather will be fair, for the sky is red; and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but not the signs of the times!” (Matthew 16:2-3).

   In dark days, Churchill found solace in his paint box. He averred that if there is a Heaven, he would spend the first ten thousand years there painting pictures in the brightest colors. Without any intention of irreverence, one may indulge an image of the Risen Lord opening a celestial paint box and saying, as Turner said to a woman who complained that she had never seen a sky that looked the way he painted it: “Perhaps so, but don’t you wish you had?”


2018-04-01 - Easter Day

April 1, 2018

1 April 2018

Easter Day

John 20:1-9 + Homily

16 Minutes 12 Seconds

(From the parish bulletin)

We know directly from Saint Paul that Greek philosophers thought the Resurrection was a curious absurdity. Politicians more pragmatically feared that it would upset the whole social order. One of the earliest Christian “apologists,” or explainers, was Saint Justin Martyr who tried to persuade the emperor Antoninus Pius that Christianity is the fulfillment of the best intuitions of classical philosophers like Socrates and Plato.

Justin was reared in an erudite pagan family in Samaria, in the land of Israel just about one lifetime from the Resurrection. Justin studied hard and accepted Christ as his Savior, probably in Ephesus, and then set up his own philosophical school in Rome to explain the sound logic of the Divine Logos. Refusing to worship the Roman gods, and threatened with torture by the Prefect Rusticus, he said: “You can kill us, but you cannot hurt us.” Then he was beheaded.

Fast forward almost exactly a thousand years, and another philosopher, Bernard of Chartres, also admired the best of the Greek philosophers and coined the phrase “We are dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.” There had been long centuries without much effort to explain the mystery of the Resurrection with luminous intelligence. In the seventeenth century, Isaac Newton would describe himself the same way. Being intellectual dwarfs may sound pessimistic, but there was also optimism in the fact that, lifted on the shoulders of giants, they could see even farther than the giants themselves. In witness to that, less than fifty years after Bernard died, building began on the great cathedral of Chartres. The magnificent rose window in the south transept depicts the evangelists as small men on the shoulders of the tall prophets. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are closer to Christ in the center of the window, than Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel who lift them up, seeing in fact what the prophets had longed for in hope.

 The Risen Christ is neither a ghost nor a mere mortal. Ancient philosophies could be vague about things supernatural, and ancient cults could be distant from personal conduct. The Resurrection unites ethics and worship. The famous letter of an anonymous contemporary of Justin Martyr, meant to be read by the emperor Marcus Aurelius, said that the way Christians live “has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines.”

The Resurrection was the greatest event in history, and unlike other events that affect life in subsequent generations in different degrees by sequential cause and effect, the Resurrection is a living force for all time, making Christ present both objectively in the Sacraments, and personally in those who accept him. Thus, indifference to the Resurrection is not an option. The future life of each one of us depends on a willingness to be saved from eternal death. 




2018-03-31 - Easter Vigil Homily

April 1, 2018

31 March 2018

The Easter Vigil

Mark 16:1-7 + Homily

11 Minutes 44 Seconds


2018-03-30 - Good Friday - The Passion According to John

March 30, 2018

30 March 2018

Good Friday - The Passion According to John

John 18:1-19:42

23 Minutes 58 Seconds

(Note: There is no homily on Good Friday.)


2018-03-30 - Good Friday - Meditations on the Seven Last Words

March 30, 2018

30 March 2018

Good Friday - Mediations on the Seven Last Words

2 Hours 10 Minutes

  1. Father, forgive them, for they know what they do.
  2. Today thou shalt be with me in paradise. (at approximately 24:17)
  3. Woman behold thy son. Son behold thy Mother. (at approximately 46:07)
  4. My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me? (at approximately 1:03)
  5. I thirst. (at approximately 1:23)
  6. It is finished. (at approximately 1:44)
  7. Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit. (at approximately 2:01)



2018-03-29 Holy Thursday

March 29, 2018

29 March 2018

Holy Thursday - Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

John 13:1-15 + Homily

13 Minutes 5 Seconds


2018-03-25 - Palm Sunday

March 25, 2018

25 March 2018

Passion (Palm) Sunday

The Passion According to St. Mark 14:1-15:47 + Homily

27 Minutes 12 Seconds

[Note: The brief homily begins around 25:23.]

(From the parish bulletin)

   Ralph Waldo Emerson had moments more perceptive than his vague religiosity: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” He spoke not of consistency itself, but of a “foolish” consistency. As True God and True Man, Christ was perfectly consistent, but from the platform of a fallen world, that consistency could seem inconsistent.

   Consider how reluctant he was to let his divinity be known. He spoke of it cryptically in the synagogue at Nazareth, but insinuated enough to enrage his neighbors. Then he went into hiding. When he healed the leprous and blind, he ordered them sternly to tell no one. When he cured the paralytic at the Siloam Pool, he slipped into the shadows of the Temple like a fugitive. And he sternly ordered Peter and James and John not to reveal what they had seen on the mountain.

   Was it inconsistent then that he made a spectacle of himself when he entered Jerusalem? It was a flagrant publicity stunt, encouraging the cheers of children who enjoyed a good show: with a theatrical entrance foolish enough for some to mock him with a crown of thorns, and shocking enough for others to cut his nerves with nails on a cross. If he was so reticent, why did he suddenly burst into the city in a way that seemed to some like a circus come to town, and to others like an anarchist about to blow everything up?

   God is not inconsistent to those who listen carefully: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). With a consistency more perfect than human consistency, because it is from outside time, the hour of which he spoke at the Wedding in Cana had come, and the only clock that could measure it was his Love. His human will dreaded that hour, but his divine will embraced it, and in that valiant act, the selfish pride that brought sin and death in the world was confused, confounded, and ultimately washed away in blood.

   Jesus said that if the children singing to him were silenced, “the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:4). Here in our neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, the great glass skyscrapers now rising all around may seem indifferent, but the energy and skill that are building them cry out in testimony to God who gave life and intelligence. Dante read over the gates of Hell: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate—“Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” By entering the gates of Jerusalem, Christ opened the gates of Heaven where hope is fulfilled. That is God’s perfect consistency. “Lift up your heads, O gates! And belifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7).


2018-03-18 Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 21, 2018

18 March 2018

Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 12:20-33 + Homily 19 Minutes 4 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

There are those of us who remember how as schoolboys, the clever use of rhythmic dactyls in Virgil's metrical Latin verses made unforgettable the sound of horses galloping. And one of my schoolmates gained fleeting fame when our French teacher announced that, as our classmate was recovering from an appendectomy, the first words he whispered as he came out of the anesthesia were from a line in LaFontaine's fable about the Crow and the Fox: "Maître Corbeau sur un arbre perché . . ." 

   Fables have always been entertaining ways to teach children to remember moral wisdom. LaFontaine in the late 17th century drew on stories of Aesop, a Greek slave in the fifth century before Christ. Many of those fables in the Aesopica were adopted along the way in Welsh (Chwedlau Odo—“Odo’s Tales”), Middle Low German, and even Middle Scots. Moral truths have no national borders or chronological barriers. Everyone in any place can learn a lesson from Aesop’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, in which the tortoise defies all odds and wins the race because the hare was so smug that it took a nap.

   The parables of our Lord are different from fables, for they are about people, while fables make animals talk. Fables enliven moral consciences while Christ’s parables make moral points but also direct attention to eternal realities. When our Lord says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like . . .” he describes a heavenly reality, and not a fantasy.

   Commissioned as an apostle of the Good News, Saint Paul wrote: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). This race is not a fable about tortoises and hares. Those are illusions, but Paul’s race is an allusion. He is speaking of real people in Corinth, where the Isthmian Games took place before and after the Olympic Games, and whose winner received a crown of wild celery instead of the Olympic olive leaf. And celery leaves fade fast.

   Lent is a microcosm of life in its entirety, with all its trials. When Saint Paul speaks of discipline, he employs a Greek word used for wrestling and any struggle for victory—agonia, from which we get agony. The Anti-Christ wants us to surrender the race and tries to persuade us that life is nothing but agony without a prize. His plot is to discourage, while Christ’s Holy Church is constantly encouraging, through the Sacraments and the heavenly cheerleaders called saints and angels. Saint John Vianney was convinced of a fact more fabulous than a fable: “Not all the saints started well, but all of them ended well.”


2018-03-11 Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 11, 2018

11 March 2018

Fourth Sunday of Lent

John 3:14-21 + Homily 16 Minutes 6 Seconds

(from the parish bulletin)

The tears of our Lord gazing on Jerusalem, cannot be separated from his violent whipping of the moneychangers in the Temple the next day. Both were acts of love, for he saw how the Holy City had been profaned, and he saw that profanation most glaring in the House of God itself. The word “profane” means to be “outside the holy place.” Distancing oneself from holiness is at its worst when it takes place in a sacred space: “. . . your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit . . .” 1 Corinthians 6:19. Philologists say that use of the term “profane” has declined about 80% in the last two centuries. Because Christ knew what Heaven is like, the fracturing of its reflection on earth was not a mere annoyance. It provoked him to wailing and whipping.

The violent cleansing of the Temple was an instance of righteous anger, using the strength of temper. Sinful anger, on the other hand, is a loss of that temper. Christ’s righteous anger at the Anti-Christ was far different from the crowd’s anger at Christ.

Observers of the human condition remark how our society seems so angry. Political debates degenerate into shouting matches; comedians abandon wit for coarseness; commentators on websites let loose all sorts of invectives. Unrighteous anger is anger for its own sake—rather like Homer’s Achilles who supposedly was angry at the Trojans, but in fact was angry at the world, shouting down King Agamemnon and even cursing a river when it did not flow his way.

The Ten Commandments temper passion like tempering steel. An intemperate society turns those Commandments backwards: worshiping false gods, blaspheming, killing, lusting, stealing, envying and coveting. It is no coincidence, for instance, that in the past fifty years, with their precipitous decline in moral certitudes, teen suicides have increased nearly 500%, and violent entertainments rival ancient blood lust. The anger of young men in street gangs, is not the anger of the young Christ with a whip.

Trying to correct this without God inevitably fails. When Hollywood personalities, having profited so long from intemperance, suddenly affect the mantle of righteousness, the result is hypocrisy instead of salvation, with witch hunts instead of reform. In his novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the ambiguity of the Puritans: “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” Hawthorne’s daughter Rose, the widow of an intemperate husband, became a Dominican religious and founded a community for the care of dying cancer patients.

Sinful anger makes people into cowards, succumbing to the fads of the mob rather than the Gospel of Christ, which is why St. Gregory of Nyssa called that kind of anger a twisting of courage. It makes one a bully instead of a hero.