Monday, May 27, 2019

Our noble duty.

Homily: 6th Sunday in Easter – Cycle C
This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day.  Although this commemoration began as a memorial to the soldiers who died in the American Civil War, it has come to be recognized as a memorial for all who have died in service to the United States of America, particularly through the armed forces.  It’s original name, Decoration Day, points to the primary activity that marks this day: the visiting of cemeteries and decorating the graves of fallen service men and women with flowers or flags as a sign of honor and remembrance.  We will all do well to pay attention to this primary point as we embrace our activities this weekend.
I have to say, though, that I really appreciate this holiday.  As human beings, we recognize that the sacrifices that men and women make to defend our nation and our freedoms is something extraordinary; and that to have suffered death because of it is more extraordinary still.  In many ways these men and women are like martyrs: those who confront challenges to that which we value most (in this case, our nation and our freedoms) and who lay down their lives in defense of them.  These men and women exemplify the truth that Jesus spoke to his disciples the night before he died: “no one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  The men and women we honor this weekend loved us, as fellow citizens of this nation and, thus, friends, when they chose to serve our nation at the cost of their own lives.  Therefore, I appreciate this holiday because it honors something truly noble and worthy of remembrance.
In our second reading today, and over the last weeks of Easter, we’ve been hearing from the visions of John the Apostle while he was in exile on the Greek island of Patmos.  Although many over the centuries have called these visions a view of what Jesus’ second coming would look like, many more have said that these visions were given as prophecies of what the Christians in those days (and, really, Christians of every age following) would need to hear to strengthen them in faith so as to deal with the challenges that they will inevitably face to live the faith and to proclaim Jesus to others.  In these visions, John is often given a vision of a large multitude of men and women who stand before the throne of God in brilliant white robes.  These men and women are described as those who have “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb”.  In other words, these are the martyrs: the ones who have suffered persecution for the faith and who have remained faithful to Jesus, to the point of dying for him.  In all of these readings, these are the ones who have an honored place in heaven.
In today’s reading, which is from the last chapter of this book (and, thus, from the end of John’s visions), it is Christ himself who speaks to John and, thus, solemnly declares the following: “Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates.”  Again, “those who wash their robes” are the martyrs who have handed over their lives in the imitation of Christ.  Their reward is the very thing that was taken away from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: access to the tree of life.  Thus, we see that, through Christ, we have been restored to the paradise lost by our first parents.  The martyrs seemed to lose everything in this world when they handed over their lives to death on account of their faith in Christ, but that same Christ reveals that, in reality, by handing over their lives, they have gained eternal life.
Of course, we recognize the extraordinary nature of this giving of life, also, and so we regularly honor the martyrs for their witness to the faith.  Like the honoring of our fallen military men and women, the honoring of the martyrs is a truly noble thing to do.  The honoring of the martyrs should also be a reminder for us, however.  A reminder that every Christian is called to be a martyr in some way: that is, one who gives witness to Jesus Christ in his/her life.  This is epitomized in the title given by the Church to Christians still living in time (a title that those who are old enough will remember learning in their early catechism classes), and a title that is fitting to be reminded of on this Memorial Day weekend: for we are called the Church Militant.
Although the term “militant” translates somewhat literally to mean something like “marching”, as in “walking around in space and time”, we should, nonetheless, allow ourselves to think of the term in the sense that it invokes: that we are God’s “armed forces” here on earth, sent into battle to proclaim and defend the name of Jesus and his kingdom here on earth.  We are God’s foot soldiers and we have a noble duty.  When Christ returns, as he revealed in the reading today, we will receive “recompense” for our faithfulness to that duty.  Notice, that I didn’t say “success”.  God won’t measure our success, as if we somehow earn our reward in heaven, but rather our faithfulness to the duty, thus demonstrating our love for him and our faith in the fact that he has already won the reward for us.  In our faithfulness to the duty—faithfulness, that is, without compromises—we demonstrate our love for Christ and, thus, our willingness to lay down our lives for him so as to have our robes “washed in the blood of the Lamb”.
We would do well, my brothers and sisters, to reflect on our faithfulness this weekend as we honor those who were faithful to us: our nation and our freedoms.  Are we giving ourselves as fully as we ought to Christ and his kingdom?  Or are we making compromises and, thus, shirking our noble duty?  My guess is that the answer for most all of us is that we can still give ourselves more.  And so, let’s let the inspiring example of those who gave their lives for our nation and freedoms point us to the inspiring example of the Christian martyrs; and, thus, lead us rededicate ourselves to fulfilling our noble duty to Christ and his kingdom.  For it is Christ himself who, out of love for us, first laid down his life for us; and it is Christ himself who, out of love for us, continues to give himself for us in the Eucharist; and it is Christ himself who, out of love for us, will one day return to take us home to himself in the glorious kingdom of heaven.  “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”
Given at St. Mary’s Cathedral: Lafayette, IN – May 25th & 26th, 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019

¿Es nuestro amor super-natural?

Homilía: 5º Domingo en la Pascua – Ciclo C
          Me atrevería a decir que la mayoría de nosotros sabemos cómo se ve el amor abnegado. Esto se debe a que la mayoría de nosotros hemos tenido la oportunidad de ejercer este tipo de amor en nuestras vidas. Si ustedes son padres, saben que, para darles a sus hijos las mejores oportunidades en este mundo, tienen que hacer sacrificio tras sacrificio: tanto en cosas pequeñas como en cosas grandes. Si está casado, lo sabe, para darle a su esposa o esposo la felicidad que él / ella merece, usted también tiene que hacer un sacrificio tras otro: otra vez, tanto en las cosas pequeñas como en las grandes (y lo reconoce incluso cuando no lo haces... y a veces especialmente cuando no lo haces... ¿verdad?). Los mejores amigos también saben que muestran su amor más cuando hacen sacrificios el uno por el otro.
          Ahora bien, estos sacrificios del uno mismo se llaman amor porque están hechos para el bien del otro y no para el bien del que hace el sacrificio—sino puramente porque el que hace el sacrificio desea el bien del otro. Aunque a menudo consideramos a este tipo de amor como heroico, el hecho es que es muy natural para nosotros. Cuando sentimos una afinidad por o con alguien, estamos dispuestos a sufrir muchas cosas por ellos.
          Como cristianos, sin embargo, estamos llamados a llevar este tipo de amor al siguiente nivel. Se nos pide que amemos a todos—incluso a aquellos con quienes no tenemos conexión—y nos llaman a amarlos como si fueran nuestra esposa, nuestro hijo, o nuestro mejor amigo. Este es un nuevo tipo de amor: un amor que va más allá de nuestras inclinaciones naturales (más allá, al menos, de nuestras inclinaciones naturales debilitadas por el pecado). Este es un amor, por lo tanto, que está más allá de la naturaleza: un amor que es verdaderamente súper natural.
          Los apóstoles Pablo y Bernabé nos muestran un ejemplo de este tipo de amor súper natural en nuestra primera lectura de hoy. Para ver esto, primero debemos observar de cerca una parte de la lectura que podríamos ignorar si no conociéramos el contexto. Por lo tanto, echemos un vistazo más de cerca al comienzo de la lectura. La lectura comienza diciendo: "En aquellos días, volvieron Pablo y Bernabé a Listra, Iconio y Antioquía". Ellos fueron en una ciudad se llama Derbe, a la que huyeron Pablo y Bernabé después de haber sido expulsados ​​de la Listra, que era la ciudad a la que huyeron después de haber sido expulsados ​​de Iconio. Las Escrituras nos dicen que los judíos y gentiles en Iconio conspiraron para apedrear a Pablo y Bernabé, pero que Pablo y Bernabé descubrieron el complot y huyeron a Listra. Mientras proclamaban las Buenas Nuevas allí, los judíos de Iconio aparecieron, incitaron a la multitud y lograron apedrear a Pablo; después de lo cual lo arrastraron fuera de la ciudad, suponiendo que estaba muerto. No estaba muerto, pero al día siguiente, Pablo y Bernabé dejaron Listra para ir al Derbe y proclamar la Buena Nueva allí.
          Bueno, esa primera línea parece mucho más significativa, ¿verdad? De nuevo, dijo: "volvieron Pablo y Bernabé a Listra, Iconio y Antioquía..." ¡Volvieron al lugar donde la gente los quería muertos! ¿Y por qué? Bueno, las Escrituras no lo dicen claramente, pero creo que es por el amor que tenían por la gente de esas ciudades. Ellos no eran personas que conocían. Más bien, eran personas que necesitaban recibir la Buena Nueva de la salvación a través de Jesucristo; y Pablo y Bernabé no serían detenidos hasta que la gente de estas ciudades recibiera esta Buena Nueva. Sus esfuerzos no tuvieron ningún beneficio para ellos mismos; las Escrituras nos muestran que no les trajo más que amenazas de muerte. Más bien, sus esfuerzos fueron puramente para el beneficio de quienes los recibieron: el signo del verdadero amor de sacrificio en el nivel super natural. ///
          Este tipo de amor supernatural es el tipo de amor que Jesús manda a sus discípulos cuando les da el "nuevo mandamiento" de amar los unos a los otros. Y para estar seguros de que sus discípulos sabían que él quería decir algo más que nuestra habilidad natural de amarnos unos a otros, siguió este mandato diciendo: "como yo los he amado". ¿Y cuál fue el acto super natural de amor de Jesús? La cruz, por supuesto. Allí, él entregó su vida completamente para todos—todos los que alguna vez existieron, todos los que existían entonces o existen ahora, y todos los que existirán—sin importa de si lo aceptan o no. Y no lo hizo por ningún beneficio que obtendría para sí mismo—es el Hijo de Dios, no necesita nada—sino por el beneficio de todos los demás, simplemente porque lo deseaba esto para ellos... es decir, para nosotros. Este es el mismo amor súper natural que llevó a Pablo y Bernabé, llenos del Espíritu Santo, para regresar al Listra y Iconio; y este es el mismo amor súper natural que todavía estamos llamados a ofrecer en nuestras propias vidas hoy. ///
          Hace algunos años, Penn Jillette (que es la mitad del dúo de comedia "Penn & Teller" y que es un ateo declarado) grabó un pequeño video que describe cómo un hombre se le acercó después de uno de sus programas de comedia y le dio un pequeño libro del Nuevo Testamento y los Salmos. Dijo que le gustaba recibirlo. Como ateo, elogiaba a este hombre por hacer proselitismo porque, según él, le parecía que era una consecuencia lógica de la creencia y de ser una buena persona. "¿Cuánto tienes que odiar a alguien", dijo, "para creer que la vida eterna es posible y luego no decirle [sobre eso]?" Me atrevo a decir que su pregunta es una pregunta difícil para todos nosotros. ¿Amamos realmente con el amor super natural que Cristo nos manda tener si creemos lo que profesamos creer, pero luego decidimos no compartirlo? Mis hermanos, la respuesta es "no".
          Por lo tanto, me alegro de que estas lecturas nos lleguen hoy, durante esta temporada de Pascua, porque nos recuerdan que la Pascua no se trata solo de "aleluyas", sino que también se trata de inspirar nuestro apostolado—es decir, cómo vivimos como Apóstoles: aquellos enviados para proclamar esta Buena Nueva. Aquí, en la Eucaristía, nos encontramos con el amor sobrenatural de Jesús—la re-presentación del sacrificio de su cuerpo y sangre por nosotros—y en la despedida al final de la misa, somos enviados a salir de aquí y dale ese amor a todos los que nos rodean: ambos proclamando estas buenas nuevas a cualquiera que nos escuche y luego caminando con ellos hasta que conozcan el amor de Cristo por sí mismos.
          Por lo tanto, hermanos y hermanas, no permitamos que nuestra celebración aquí sea incompleta: es decir, algo que disfrutamos para nosotros mismos y luego salimos de aquí. Más bien, pidamos en esta Eucaristía la gracia de salir de aquí con los corazones llenos de amor—el amor verdadero y super-natural—listos para sacrificar nuestras propias vidas para que otros puedan vivir; y para que la visión de Juan de "un cielo nuevo y una tierra nueva"—hecha nueva por la muerte y resurrección de Cristo—nos sea conocida ahora, en nuestro tiempo.
Dado en el retiro “Profetas de Esperanza” del Pastoral Juvenil: West Lebanon, IN
19 de mayo, 2019

Is our love super-natural?

Homily: 5th Sunday of Easter – Cycle C
          I would dare to say that most of us know what self-sacrificial love looks like.  This is because most of us have had opportunities to exercise this type of love in our lives.  If you’re parents, you know that, to give your children the best opportunities in this world, you have to make sacrifice after sacrifice: both in little things and in big things.  If you’re married, you know that, to give your wife or husband the happiness that he/she deserves, you, too, have to make sacrifice after sacrifice: again, both in little things and in big things (and you recognize it even when you fail to do it… and sometimes especially when you fail to do it… am I right?).  Best friends, too, know that they show their love most when they make sacrifices for each other.
          Now these sacrifices of self are called love because they are made for the good of the other and not for the good of the one making the sacrifice—but rather purely because the one making the sacrifice desires the good of the other.  Although we often look at this type of love as heroic, the fact of the matter is that it is quite natural for us.  When we feel an affinity for or with someone, we become willing to suffer many things for them.
          As Christians, however, we are called to take this kind of love to the next level.  We are asked to love everyone—including those with whom we may have no connection—and we’re called to love them as if they were our wife, our son, or our best friend.  This is a new kind of love: a love that goes beyond our natural inclinations—beyond, at least, our natural inclinations weakened by sin.  This is a love, therefore, that is beyond nature: a love that is truly super-natural.
          The apostles Paul and Barnabas show us an example of this kind of super-natural love in our first reading today.  To see this, we must first take a closer look at a part of the reading that we might just ignore if we didn’t know the context.  Therefore, let’s take a closer look at the beginning of the reading.  The reading opens by saying: “After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.”  “That city” is Derbe, which is the place to which Paul and Barnabas went after they had been driven out of Lystra, which was the city to which they went after they had been driven out of Iconium.  The Scriptures tell us that the Jews and Gentiles in Iconium plotted to stone Paul and Barnabas, but that Paul and Barnabas discovered the plot and so fled to Lystra.  While they proclaimed the Good News there, Jews from Iconium showed up, stirred up the crowds, and actually succeeded in stoning Paul; after which they dragged him out of the city, supposing he was dead.  He wasn’t dead, but the next day Paul and Barnabas left Lystra for Derbe to proclaim the Good News there.
          Now, doesn’t that first line seem much more significant?  It said, “They returned to Lystra and to Iconium…”  They returned to the very place where the people wanted them dead!  And why?  Well, the Scriptures don’t say it plainly, but I believe it is because of the love that they had for the people of those cities.  These were not people that they knew.  Rather, they were people who needed to receive the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ; and Paul and Barnabas would not be stopped until the people of these cities received this Good News.  Their efforts were of no benefit to themselves—the Scriptures show us that it brought them nothing but death threats.  Rather, their efforts were purely for the benefit of those who received them: the sign of true self-sacrificial love on the super-natural level.
          This kind of super-natural love is the kind of love that Jesus commands for his disciples when he gives them the “new commandment” to love one another.  And just to be sure that his disciples knew that he meant something more than our natural ability to love one another, he followed this command by saying, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”.  And what was Jesus’ super-natural act of love?  The cross, of course.  There, he handed over his life completely for everyone—everyone who ever existed, everyone who existed then or exists now, and everyone who will ever exist—regardless of whether they accept him or not.  And he did it not for any benefit that he would gain for himself—he is the Son of God, he has no need of anything—but rather for the benefit of everyone else, simply because he desired it for them… for us.  This is the same super-natural love that led Paul and Barnabas, filled with the Holy Spirit, back into Lystra and Iconium; and this is the same super-natural love that we are still called to offer in our own lives today. ///
          A few years ago, Penn Jillette (who is one half of the comedy duo “Penn & Teller” and who is an avowed atheist) recorded a little video describing how a man approached him after one of his comedy shows and gave him a little book of the New Testament and the Psalms.  He said that he appreciated receiving it.  As an atheist, he was commending this man for proselytizing because, he said, it seemed to him to be a logical consequence of belief and of being a good person.  “How much do you have to hate somebody,” he said, “to believe that everlasting life is possible and then not tell them [about it]?”  I dare say that his question is a challenging question to us all.  Do we really love with the super-natural love that Christ commands us to have if we believe what we profess to believe, but then choose not to share it?  My friends, the answer is “no”.
          Thus, I’m glad that these readings come to us today, during this Easter season, because they remind us that Easter isn’t just about “alleluias”, but that it’s also about inspiring our apostolate—that is, how we live as apostles—those sent to proclaim this Good News.  Here in the Eucharist, we encounter the super-natural love of Jesus—the re-presentation of the sacrifice of his body and blood for us—and in the dismissal at the end of Mass, we are sent to go forth from here and to give that love to everyone around us: both by proclaiming this good news to anyone who will listen and then by walking with them as they come to know the love of Christ for themselves.
          Therefore, my brothers and sisters, let us not allow our celebration here to be incomplete: that is, something which we enjoy for ourselves and then leave here.  Rather, let us ask in this Eucharist for the grace to go forth from here with hearts full of love—true, super-natural love—ready to sacrifice our own lives so that others may live; and so that John’s vision of a “new heaven and a new earth”, made new by Christ’s death and resurrection, may be known to us now, in our own time.
Given at Saint Mary’s Cathedral: Lafayette, IN – May 19th, 2019

Monday, May 13, 2019

Remain faithful to the grace of God

Homily: 4th Sunday in Easter – Cycle C
Friends, this weekend we are celebrating a number of wonderful things: namely, the World Day for Vocations and Mother’s Day.  We also call today “Good Shepherd Sunday”, since the Gospel reading for the day, regardless of which year in the three-year cycle of readings we are in, is taken from the “Good Shepherd” discourse in John’s Gospel.  Certainly, there are many great things to preach on today, but I am going to focus in on a phrase from our first reading that, hopefully, will give us something to take home with us to ponder and to work on this week.
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Paul and Barnabas making their way to Antioch to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the community there.  Being Jews, they went straight to the synagogue to proclaim to God’s chosen people that the long-awaited Messiah had come: Jesus of Nazareth, who was persecuted and put to death, but rose from the dead on the third day and now lives, having taken his place at the right hand of God in heaven.  They came to proclaim to the Jews in Antioch that it is only in the name of Jesus that they can find salvation.  From the sound of it, they found a positive reception that first sabbath day as it says that many who were there began to follow them.
To those who began following them, Paul and Barnabas spoke to them and urged them to “remain faithful to the grace of God.”  This phrase—remain faithful to the grace of God—struck me as important.  Of all of the things that Paul and Barnabas could have told the ones who were beginning to follow them—for example, “go learn to pray”, or “go study the scriptures”, or “go serve the poor”—they chose to urge them to “remain faithful to the grace of God”.  I think that this is a great Easter message for all of us and it’s a theme that connects with our other readings today.
In the second reading, we continue to hear of John’s visions, recorded for us in the book of Revelation.  In this vision, we see a great multitude of people, too many to count, who are identified as “the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”.  This description is “New Testament speak” for the martyrs: those who have shed their blood for Christ.  And what does “having survived the time of great distress” mean, except that they “remained faithful to the grace of God”?  These who are identified as martyrs—and who, therefore, stand before the throne of God (that is, who stand in heaven)—are the ones who have remained faithful to the grace of God and, therefore, enjoy the reward for their faithfulness.
In the Gospel reading, we hear Jesus say, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish”.  He continues to say, “No one can take them out of my hand.”  This is a beautiful truth about Jesus as the true Good Shepherd.  What isn’t revealed here, however, is that, while no one can take one of Jesus’ sheep from him, his sheep, nonetheless, can wander away on their own.  Jesus’ promise is amazing and should give hope to everyone who comes to him; but it should also stir in us a desire to “remain faithful to the grace of God”, so that, having become a member of Jesus’ flock, we don’t find ourselves having drifted away from him and no longer able to hear his voice.  For when we can no longer hear his voice—that is, when we have failed to remain faithful to God’s grace—then we are no longer protected by his promise.
Friends, this really is the ongoing message of this Easter season.  Having feasted on the joy of Jesus’ resurrection, we perhaps find ourselves like those first followers of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch: excited but not quite sure what to do next.  To us the same instruction is given: “remain faithful to the grace of God”.  What does this mean for us?  Surely it means “Do not return to your life of sin”.  Sin is incompatible with the grace of God and so for us to return to the sin that we strove to leave behind during Lent would be an infidelity to the grace given to us by God (which, in point of fact, helped us to break free from that sin in the first place).  I would say that it also means to be docile to the Holy Spirit.  The grace of God, which we received at baptism, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit dwells in us to guide us and point us to God’s will for our lives.  He is not forceful, however.  We may choose not to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, but rather choose to follow our own will: in which case we stray from Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and make ourselves vulnerable to being overcome by the Evil One who seeks to separate us eternally from God.  If we make ourselves docile to the Spirit, however, we remain faithful to the grace of God and, thus, close to the protecting hand of Jesus.  Thus, enabling us to walk more confidently: ready to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to anyone who will listen.
Finally, I might also add, on this World Day for Vocations, that “remaining faithful to the grace of God” is also the way that we come to know and follow our vocation: whether that be to the priesthood or the diaconate, to the consecrated religious life, to marriage, or to the consecrated single life.  We cannot expect to know God’s will, which is made known to us through grace, unless we remain faithful to God’s grace throughout our lives.  Oh, and by the way, holy vocations foster other holy vocations!  Therefore, if you want to promote vocations to the priesthood, then remain faithful to the grace of God in your own vocation!  When young people see others leading joy-filled lives while following God’s will, it will inspire in them a desire to know that same joy in their own lives and they, too, will begin to discern God’s call.
Therefore, friends, let us spend some time this week reflecting on whether or not we have “remained faithful to the grace of God”; and, if we haven’t, to turn back to our commitment to do so.  In this way, we will stay attuned to the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd who leads us to eternal life, and we will also be great witnesses—that is, martyrsto the joy of a life united to Christ, which will lead others to him, so that there may truly be “one flock” and “one shepherd” throughout the world.  May God bless us all in this good work.
Given at Saint Mary’s Cathedral: Lafayette, IN – May 12th, 2019

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Communion with Christ through the Mass

          This weekend our Deacons preached all of the regular Masses and I was left to preach the Mass of First Holy Communion.  This is my homily for that Mass.

Homily: 3rd Sunday of Easter – Cycle C
Mass of First Holy Communion
Today, as we celebrate this Mass of First Holy Communion, we have an opportunity to take a unique perspective on our readings for the Easter Season.  As it is the third Sunday of Easter, we heard the readings for the Mass of this day.  These Easter readings—not specifically intended to be used for a Mass of First Holy Communion—give us a chance to think about Holy Communion in light of the Mass, in which it is received, as well as in the life of the evangelizing Christian community, in which its fruit is brought forth.  So, let’s take a closer look at these readings.
Let’s start with the second reading from the Book of Revelation.  Here John is given a vision of the great throne of God in Heaven and of how all of the creatures of heaven and earth turn to bow down in praise and worship of the one who sits on the throne.  The one whom they worship is called “the Lamb”.  Who is the Lamb?  It’s Jesus, of course.  And who is sitting on the throne?  It’s God, the Father, of course.  Thus, what we’re seeing is a vision of heaven, in which all of the creatures of heaven and all the creatures of earth are able to see God face to face (like I am looking at all of you).  And what do they do when they are given this vision?  Yes, they worship!  Now, let me ask this question: When we come to Mass, who is present here waiting for us?  It’s Jesus, right?  And so, what is it that we are doing when we celebrate Mass here, in the presence of Jesus?  Yes, we worship!  What we are offering to God in the Mass is our worship of him in thanksgiving for every good thing that we enjoy in our lives.  And so, what we hear about from the Book of Revelation today is truly a vision of what happens during the Mass: during this Mass and during every Mass celebrated everywhere, every day, throughout the world.  We would do well to remember that next time we’re having trouble paying attention: that is, to think about the angels and saints standing with us, shouting with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, riches, and strength, honor, and glory, and blessing!”  That would certainly make Mass a little more exciting, wouldn’t it?
Let’s move on to the Gospel reading, however.  Here we see a different perspective on what the Mass is.  Here we see Jesus appearing to some of his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.  As he makes himself known and as his disciples come to recognize him, Jesus calls them to gather around him in order to share with them a meal that he has prepared for them.  In this sharing of a meal with Jesus, the disciples—all of whom abandoned him when he was arrested and put to death—are now reunited with him.  This is also the Mass.  When we gather for the Mass, we gather to worship him, yes—like the image of the eternal worship of Jesus given in the Book of Revelation—but we also gather around a table—this altar—from which Jesus feeds us with a meal that he himself has prepared for us.  This sharing of a meal with Jesus unites and constantly reunites us to him.  Literally, in fact, it makes us one with him: as his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, enters our bodies and unites his with ours.  This act of communion (that is, of uniting with him) is the greatest privilege that anyone can receive; and it demands a true understanding of what it is and, thus, a true profession of faith in it.  Saint Justin Martyr, a second century Christian, wrote about this, saying: “No one may share the eucharist with us unless he/she believes that what we teach is true, unless he/she is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his/her sins, and unless he/she lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.”  Our young people have prepared themselves in this way and, thus, have now been invited to gather around this table of Christ’s Body so as to share in this union with him, just as the disciples gathered with Jesus to share a meal that he prepared for them on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, nearly 2000 years ago.
Finally, in our first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we are given a glimpse of what participating in the Mass and receiving Holy Communion demands of us.  The Apostles were brought forth to the courtroom of the religious leaders and questioned about teaching about Jesus.  These leaders didn’t understand who Jesus was and demanded that the Apostles stop teaching about him.  Peter, speaking on behalf of all of them, speaks up and says clearly: “We know who this Jesus is—that he is the Messiah, the Son of God—and, therefore, we cannot stop teaching about him: for to do so would be to deny this truth that we have come to know.”  Since we, too, profess that Jesus is the Messiah—and since we have worshiped him and have shared in this sacred meal of his Body and Blood—we, too, must teach others about him: both in the words that we speak and in the way that we live our lives.  To fail to do so would be to deny this truth that we have come to know: like Peter denying Jesus three times after he had been arrested.  When we receive Holy Communion—when we say “Amen” as the minister presents the Body and Blood of Jesus to us—we are promising God that we will teach others about him and the truths that he has revealed: even if that means being oppressed by worldly authorities who are hostile to this good news.  Our young people today are agreeing to take up this good work.  They need the rest of us to show them how to do it by being living witnesses of it in our own lives.
Today, however, we celebrate!  We celebrate because these young people will experience for the first time the fullness of Communion with Jesus as they receive his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity into their bodies; and we celebrate that, in doing so, they come more fully into communion with all of us who share in this same sacred meal.  Tomorrow, and every day after, they will go forth with us to teach about Jesus: both by the way that they live their lives more like Jesus’ and by the way that they share with others what they have come to know: that to know, love, and serve God in this world is the path to the eternal happiness for which we all long: that is, to stand in the presence of God, face to face.  May Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of the Eucharist, lead us—and especially these young people—by her motherly care into this fullness of God’s peace.  Amen.
Given at Saint Mary’s Cathedral: Lafayette, IN – May 5th, 2019