24 May 2016

Audio: Trinity Sunday homily

Here's the promised link to my Trinity Sunday homily. . .

Trinity Sunday 2016


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22 May 2016

Guiding us to All Truth

Most Holy Trinity

Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Jesus says to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” You mean, there's more?! Given everything that Jesus taught his disciples in the three short years he spent among them, I'm not surprised that the poor souls couldn't bear it. I'm not sure I can. What more can there be to tell? He's told us about the Law of Love; the necessity of forgiving one another; he gave us a commission to make disciples and baptize them; to remember him in the Eucharist; and he warned us that remaining in his word would lead to some nasty consequences for us in the world. All this he told his disciples back then, and we know it now b/c his apostles wrote it all down. The promises, the warnings, the teachings, the sermons, the miracles. . .all of it. All of it except that which the disciples could not bear right then. What couldn't the disciples bear? Jesus says, “. . .when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. . .and [he] will declare to you the things that are coming.” Apparently, the disciples could not – right then – bear the weight of all truth nor endure the news of the things to come.

Just last week we celebrated the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth. We celebrated the birth of the Church, the birth of our mission as witnesses to God's freely offered mercy to sinners. At the First Pentecost, the disciples were given the fullness of the Holy Spirit's power to preach and teach the Gospel to every nation. They were set on fire with a passion for giving testimony to God's goodness. The Holy Spirit swept through their anger and bitterness and disappointment and fear, burning away every trace of doubt, and set them all squarely on the path to becoming missionaries of Christ's peace. We could've come away from our Pentecost Sunday celebration last week believing that that was then and this is now, believing that the Holy Spirit blew through those people way back then, but now the Holy Spirit must surely rest in heaven with the Father and the Son. His work is done. No! In fact, Trinity Sunday is our celebration of the Holy Spirit's on-going work among us, his work in guiding us to all truth, his persistent enlightenment of the Church as we confront the things that are to come. Left without the enduring ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Church would fall into fundamentalism and fractious denominationalism. The Trinity abides among us in the mission of the Holy Spirit to the Church. 

The Church long ago accepted that the Blessed Trinity is a mystery, the central mystery of the faith. Being a mystery means that fully understanding the truth of the Trinity will have to wait until we stand before God face-to-face. Being a mystery does not mean that we can know nothing about the truth of the Trinity, only that what we can know is always partial, imperfect. We know that the Trinity is not three different gods. Nor is He one god with three working modes. Nor is He one god with two minor gods working for Him. The Church teaches that God is three Divine Persons in a unity of Divine Substance. One God, three Persons – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. What this unity is absolutely is beyond the finite mind. How these Persons relate within the unity is beyond us. We could say that it is too much for us to bear. . .right now. What we need to know and believe is that at the moment of creation, God the Father breathed the Holy Spirit and spoke His Son the Word over the void and everything that is came to be. The Blessed Trinity is inextricably infused into the very fabric of creation – transcending creation, of course! – but still abiding in the stuff of the universe. The Holy Spirit's continuing mission to the Church is to guide us toward the truth and strengthen us for what is to come. 

Where the Holy Spirit is so too is the Father and the Son. The Catechism teaches: “[God's plan of loving kindness] unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church”(257). Did you catch that? The missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit are continued in the mission of the Church. The Son's mission is to preach the Good News of the Father's mercy to sinners and to die for those sinners so that they could return to the Father made perfect. The Spirit's mission is to reveal all truth and strengthen the Church for the things to come. If their missions are continued in the Church, then the Church's missions are the same: preach the Good News; make sacrifices to bring sinners to the Father; reveal and teach the truth; and strengthen one another for the things to come. Inasmuch as our creation is trinitarian, and our re-creation from the Cross is trinitarian, so too is our mission as new men and women in the Church trinitarian. Can we bear this truth right now? Can we hear it and obey?

We can. . .if we will. Our celebration of Trinity Sunday is not simply a Mass to remind us that there's this really obscure dogma that theologians believe is really important. Trinity Sunday follows Pentecost because with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we have the full revelation of the Trinity to contemplate. And we have the missionary work of the Spirit to assist us in living out our trinitarian ministry. When we love and forgive and seek forgiveness and share the faith and live in hope, when we do all these things we so along with the Blessed Trinity as imperfect agents of Perfect Love. Our imperfect work with the Blessed Trinity sharpens our love for God, make His love in us more perfect, and brings us to more gratefully receive His gifts. Can we bear all the truth? We can. . .if we will. We can if we will give ourselves over to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in all things. We can if we will give ourselves over to the freedom bought and paid for by Christ on his Cross. We can if we will give ourselves over to the mercy that the Father Himself guarantees is ours for the asking. We can bear all truth and be strong for the things to come if we will make our own the sacrificial ministry of the Blessed Trinity.

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19 May 2016

15 May 2016

Come, Holy Spirit!

Pentecost Sunday
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Back when Jesus was still traveling around the countryside with his disciples, he promised them that he would one day go to Jerusalem and there he would be betrayed, put on trial, tortured, and killed. He kept that promise. He promised that after he was killed, he would go into the ground for three days and then on the third day rise again. He kept that promise. After he had risen from the tomb, he spent several weeks appearing to the disciples, and during these visits he promised that he would ascend to the Father. He kept that promise, ascending to sit at the Father's right hand right in front of his friends. But before he ascended, he promised that as soon as he arrived at his Father's right hand, he would send to his friends a consoler, a teacher, an advocate – the Holy Spirit. His fulfillment of that promise is recorded in our reading from Acts this evening. The coming of the Holy Spirit upon that frightened group of men and women in the Upper Room had a purpose and an consequence, an eternal purpose and a lasting consequence. The Holy Spirit comes us to still to strengthen our purpose and to renew the consequence of His arrival that first Pentecost. 
Why does the Lord send his Holy Spirit upon us? The Lord's reason for sending the Holy Spirit now is the same as it was on that First Pentecost – to imbue His people with the Law of Love, a law that requires no stone tablets, no wild man prophets, no animal sacrifices. He sent and sends His Holy Spirit upon His people to create out of those people a holy nation of priests, prophets, and kings; priests, prophets, and kings who need no temples, no hereditary priesthood, no special license to gain access through prayer to the Father. He sent and sends His Holy Spirit upon His people so that the truth and goodness and beauty of the living God might abide with them always, live in and with them always. Not in a single building in just one town in some foreign country. But always, everywhere, whenever His people call upon His name and invoke the memory of His great deeds. The Lord sends His Holy Spirit upon us now – in 2016 – for all these reasons and to strengthen us for the mission we have been given, the mission we have vowed to carry out – to go into all the world and bear witness to the mercy of God, the mercy He offers to every sinner. 
That's why He sends His Holy Spirit upon. So, what is the consequence, the result of the Spirit's arrival? We can see what effect the Spirit's arrival had on the scared witless disciples. They run into the streets, preaching in every known language, shouting out the Good News of Jesus Christ. We know from Acts that the Spirit-filled disciples continued to preach and teach in Jerusalem, drawing to themselves thousands of men and women who received the Father's freely offered mercy and joined the body of the Church. We know that the apostles were arrested, jailed, beaten, and eventually martyred for carrying out the mission they had received. But with them at every moment, with every word and gesture, with them stood the Holy Spirit, filling them with the Truth, the Truth who's name is Christ Jesus. They endured persecution and torture b/c the Law of Love was indelibly written on their hearts. They could not NOT preach and teach the Truth they so intimately knew. The consequence of that First Pentecost and the living-out of the apostolic mission those first few decades was the establishment of the Church – the living, breathing Body of Christ that thrives to this day and will continue to thrive until Christ comes again.

For you and me, right now, the result of the Spirit's presence in us and among us is the same as it was back then. We are strengthen and emboldened to carry out the mission we have received. This world's opposition to the Good News has not ceased. It hasn't let up even a little since that first day. I could rattle off examples, but you know all too well what that opposition looks like. The names have changed. The faces have changed. But the spirit that motivates that ancient hatred of God and His love for us never changes. His tactics never change. His temptations never change. He is a one-note loser who knows he's lost, and that makes him angry. Watch when a follower of Christ speaks the truth to those who will not hear it. Anger. Bitter, all-consuming anger. Our mission is not to fight anger with anger. We don't go out and proclaim God's mercy and then confront opposition with threats and violence. We confront opposition with the words of Christ himself, “Peace be with you.” Our moment of anger, bitterness, disappointment, and fear ended in the Upper Room on that First Pentecost. The Spirit that animates our mission is the Holy Spirit of God Himself – the very essence of promises-kept. If we are to be faithful missionaries of the Good News, then we must first be missionaries of Christ's peace. 
Notice the condition of the apostles. Scared to death, abandoned, cornered in a single room, waiting for the authorities to come kill them. And into all of that heated anxiety steps Christ, and he says to them all, “Peace be with you.” And he breaths the Holy Spirit upon them. He gives them Peace. That peace is not simply a calm, relaxing feeling. We're not talking about the tranquility that a sturdy rocking-chair offers. Or the mere absence of conflict or violence. Christ's peace is an assurance of strength, a guarantee of support. Christ is doing more here than just calming these worry-warts down. He's investing them with the power bind and loose from sin, the power to set men and women free from the snares of that ancient hatred that has dogged mankind for centuries. What worldly power can stand up to that?! None! So, be at peace with the Holy Spirit. Be at peace with your mission. Be at peace with the opposition to your mission. Go out and bear witness to the freely offered mercy of God to sinners. Meet anger, bitterness, disappointment, and fear with the abiding Spirit of Christ. Pray: “Peace be with you!”

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Young Priest Thumps Stereotyping

Can I get an "AMEN!"

As one of the many cassock-wearing, Communion-on-the-tongue-receiving, Latin-loving, Extraordinary-Form-Mass-saying young priests that have passed through the halls of Theological College, allow me to say plainly to anyone who would agree with the tone and sentiment of this article that you have deliberately and painfully pigeon-holed men who love the Church and cast us to be pompous little monsters simply because we have a different theological/liturgical outlook than you.  


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10 May 2016

General Update

It has been brought to my attention that I have been somewhat remiss in my blogging duties of late.


End of Semester Madness quickly overwhelmed me and my laptop got some kind of intestinal flu and starting randomly crashing.  Thus the absence of an Ascension homily.

New laptop is on the way and the semester is over. . .

SO. . .

Back to blog business.

Once the new laptop is up and running, I'll revive Coffee Cup Browsing.

The only foreseeable problem is The Knee. At some point in the very near future, I will need to get it fixed.


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01 May 2016

Our Aboriginal Vicar

6th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Maybe it's just me, but I get nervous when Jesus starts making promises. Of course, most of the time he's promising Good Things. Like forgiveness of sin and eternal life. But on occasion he promises things that cause me give him a squinty-eyed glare. Things like persecution, torture, and death. Then there are the promises that seem – I dunno – odd. Maybe. . .unclear. Like the promise he makes this morning: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” This promise seems straightforward enough, but what does it mean exactly? I mean, he'll send the Holy Spirit to teach us and remind us. OK. But how will the Holy Spirit teach us and remind us? Do we each get a tutorial with the Holy Spirit when we need to be taught and reminded? Is there a class somewhere? Or a maybe a C-SPAN call-in show where we can ask the Holy Spirit questions? No, nothing so complicated as all that. Jesus promises, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

What Jesus is telling us here is how the Holy Spirit will teach and remind us. It's rather straightforward process: 1) love Christ the Son and keep his word; 2) the Father loves those who love Christ and keep his word; 3) the Father comes to dwell with those whom He loves; 4) Christ the Son comes to dwell with those whom the Father loves; and 5) where the Father and Christ the Son dwell, so too dwells the Holy Spirit! So, the Holy Spirit teaches and reminds those who love Christ and keep his word. As I said, this is a straightforward process; however, we might wonder why we need the on-going presence of the Holy Spirit. After all, we have Scripture and Tradition, why do we need the ever-present Spirit to teach us and remind us? Scripture and Tradition are invaluable history, priceless records of how our ancestor's in faith lived out God's Self-revelation. However, neither Scripture nor Tradition can address every moral decision each of us must make on a daily basis. We need a way to access the wisdom of God when we are confronted by those difficult situations that the inspired authors of Scripture and Tradition could never imagine. We need a mechanism that allows us to participate in Christ's living love and word so that his wisdom can guide our moral choices toward holiness. We call this mechanism: conscience.

Many of our centuries-old Christian concepts have been beaten and abused in the last 50 years or so. None more so that the nature and purpose of moral conscience. For example, every Disney movie produced in the last 30 yrs pushes the notion that any moral difficulty is solved by “just following your heart.” For decades, faithful Catholics have been told by bishops, priests, religious, and theologians that conscience simply means “doing whatever you want,” so long as you claim you're doing it in “good conscience.” Conscience has come to means something like “the inalienable right to invent my own invincible truth.” To put it bluntly: this is the Devil's definition of conscience. The Church teaches us that “moral conscience. . .enjoins [us]. . .to do good and to avoid evil” (CCC 1777). Good and evil here describe objectively knowable standards of behavior not just subjective beliefs or wishes. Conscience does not invent the truth; it discovers the truth and urges us to do what is right. “[Conscience]. . .bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking”(CCC 1777). The prudent person knows and loves the teaching and reminding presence of the Holy Spirit.

Blessed John Cardinal Newman writes: “Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.” While Pope Francis is the current Vicar of Christ on Earth, your conscience is the primordial vicar, the first representative of Christ appointed to you by your Creator at your creation. This means that we are all gifted with the divinely assisted ability and moral duty to seek out and obey the truth. Not to invent the truth as we wish it to be. Not to claim authority over the truth b/c we find the truth unpleasant or inconvenient. But to uncover the truth, and use it to do the good. To accomplish this task, your conscience must be well-formed in right reason; grounded in the moral law revealed in Scripture and in nature; and docile to the legitimate authority of the Church to interpret both Scripture and Tradition. Our “aboriginal vicar” is first, but it is not last, and without the proper formation, it cannot be final. Christ comes to live with those who love him and keep his word. And with him comes the Holy Spirit. . .to teach us, to remind us, to strengthen and confirm us in the faith. Our Lord promises us both great rewards and difficult futures. But with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and among us, nothing merely difficult or troublesome or even terrifying can move us from our Father's love and His promise of mercy.


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29 April 2016

Lord, I'm tired!

St. Catherine of Siena
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA

Our Lord doesn't ask much of us. Love one another. Trust one another. Believe in one another. Correct one another. Remain in his love. Write our papers. Keep his commandments. Receive his peace. Take our final exams. Teach and preach all that he has taught us. Baptize in his name. Remember him. Forgive. Show mercy. Serve. Write evaluations. Keep his word. Feed the hungry. Visit the sick and imprisoned. Mourn the dead. Bless the poor. Grade exams and papers and turn in the grades. Drive out unclean spirits. Heal the blind and crippled. Complete faculty evaluations. Deny ourselves. Pick up our crosses. Finish up paperwork for accreditation. Compose syllabi and book orders for fall of 2016. Follow him. Oh, and, at last. . .die for the love we have for him.
O Lord! I am tired. My knees are swollen! My back aches! I have calluses on both my typing fingers! My eyes itch. I haven't slept well in four days. And I'm breaking out like a high school freshman. My room looks like a FEMA camp after Katrina. And I've not done laundry since the third Sunday of Lent. . .2014. I've forgotten how to read and I can no longer do basic addition or long division. I'm tired, Lord. I'm tired. What do you have to say, Lord? “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” Well, thank you, Lord. One thing: can you unchose me?

The answer, of course, is no. He can't. Or, he won't. He knows our limits. And the limits beyond those limits. And he knows all that we give and all that we hold back. When we've given everything we have, all that we've held back. . .he gives us a new limit and the strength to reach it. The strength he gives is not some sort of magical grace-dust or a boost of sanctifying merits. He gives us himself. He's the limit. Not as an example, or a model, or a roadmap. He is the Limit. The Omega of all our striving. Think about it. Our end, our goal – Christ himself – comes to us in our soreness and sleepiness and crabbiness and hands himself over to us so that we might be made perfect as he is perfect. The Perfection we seek surrenders himself to us, the Imperfect, and dares us to surrender ourselves to him in return. How do we accomplish this astonishing task of surrender? “This I command you: love one another.” And forgive, show mercy, preach and teach, deny yourself, and follow him. 
Looking for answers, or maybe just some small consolation, I've searched the ancient libraries of the world – Oxford, Cambridge, Rome, London, Beijing, Ole Miss. . .and I've read hundreds of books and manuscripts. Talked to masters, professors, mystics, seers, soon-to-be saints, and quite a few sinners. How do I surrender? How do I hand over my life, everything that I am to God? I found the answer. My guide: a diminutive mystic of the Thomistic kind, a fellow renowned for his wisdom, patience, and kindness. I asked him my desperate question. He hefted his walking stick. Climbed a chair. And locked his eyes with mine and said, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Expecting further distinctions or a citation from the Summa, I hesitated for a moment before breaking into tears. Love, or do not love. Forgive, or do not forgive. Believe, or do not believe. There is no try. Surrender, or do not. There is no try. There is no limit to surrender in love. Love one another as Christ loves you. He will not unchose you to complete the work he has given you to do. Therefore, with sore knees, cramping fingers, grouchy disposition, blurry eyes charge head long and recklessly into the work you have to do. . .knowing, knowing that Christ is your end, and he is always with you.

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24 April 2016

Our most difficult task

5th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Of all the difficult tasks our Lord leaves us to accomplish in his name, one stands out as the most difficult. He says to his disciples, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Our Lord commands us to love one another in his name. Given that he also commands us to forgive those who offend us; to show mercy to and pray for our persecutors; to stand ready to give public witness to the faith; and to give our lives as a sacrifice for another – how is his command to love another the most difficult task he leaves us to accomplish? Loving one another is not a discreet act, a one-time deal where we rouse ourselves into action and obey his command start to finish in a single movement. Forgiving a sinner can be done in a single act. Showing mercy, praying for our enemies can be done in a single act. Dying for love of another is certainly a singular, unrepeatable act. And even if we must repeatedly forgive, show mercy, and pray for our enemies, we do so individually, serially. But loving one another cannot be accomplished so easily. Loving one another is an on-going, life-long, habit of living with your brothers and sisters in the same sort of love that Christ himself shows us. The same sort of love that leads him to the cross. . .for your sake and mine.

And what sort of love is this. . .exactly? Pope Benedict XVI writes, “By dying on the Cross. . .Jesus 'gave up his Spirit', anticipating the gift of the Holy Spirit that he would make after his Resurrection. . .The Spirit. . .is that interior power which harmonizes [believers'] hearts with Christ's heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them, when he bent down to wash the feet of the disciples and above all when he gave his life for us” (DCE 19). To obey our Lord and love as he commands, we must set aside whatever it is that prevents us from washing our brothers' and sisters' feet; whatever forbids us from serving them as the least among the Lord's children; whatever stops us from seeing in them the Christ who died for love of us all. Jesus isn't talking here about the casual acts of charity that we all do everyday. . .a dollar for the homeless guy on West End and Veterans; a bag of shirts to St. Vincent de Paul; or the extra $5 at the register for Habitat for Humanity. He's talking about the extraordinary transformation of our hearts, minds, bodies, souls, and all our strength into a life-long habit of self-sacrifice for the salvation of the world. IOW, to be and do who and what he himself is and does for us. 
Without any doubt – this is our most difficult task. One we are well-tempted to avoid. One that I myself am well-practiced at avoiding. For example. My mom is a neat freak. Her house is as organized and as clean as any Swiss museum. When my younger brother and I were in our teens, mom insisted that we make our beds before heading to school. We hated making our beds. An utterly pointless chore! So, what did we do? We half-made the beds – lumpy, crooked, creased. Mom would see the beds, sigh dramatically, and then make them up for us. Worked every time. Because of this laziness, I never learned to make a bed. I never learned to fold a fitted sheet or how to do a sharp hospital corner. To this day, my bed is a more like a pile of laundry than a proper bed. When we avoid loving one another, when we succumb to the temptation to let others love for us, or when we love thoughtlessly, causally, we deprive ourselves of the practice we need to grow in holiness, to mature into truly self-sacrificing witnesses of God's mercy. Our Lord demands of us that we take up his cross and die to self, die to selfishness, and rise again to a new life in perfect charity and peace. Christ gives us all the help we need. However, he will not make our beds for us.

Lest we fall into despair at the difficulty of our task, remember John's vision, “[God] will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. . .The One who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'” We never love alone, forgive alone, show mercy alone, heal, pray, sacrifice, or hope alone. He is always with us. He is always the source of the love and mercy we share among ourselves. His demands on our generosity are his due b/c we can only be generous at all b/c he was first abundantly generous with us, giving us his life on the cross and eternal life through his empty tomb. As we approach the birth of the Church on Pentecost, give thanks and praise to our Father for the gift of His Son, for the gift of His Spirit, and practice-practice-practice the difficult task of loving one another. He will always help us. But He will do it for us. He will not do it without us.

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17 April 2016

Who belongs to the Good Shepherd?

4th Sunday of Easter (A)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Who belongs to Christ the Good Shepherd? Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” Who are these sheep? What does a flock belonging to Christ look like? John – in the Book of Revelation – describes his visions: a great multitude of people from nation, race, people, and tongue crowding the throne of God. These are all the saints who have survived the Great Distress. They certainly belong to the Good Shepherd! Paul and Barnabas in Acts tell the Jews who have not converted and who are hounding the apostles in fits of jealousy that they have rejected the Good News and now it’s time for them – the apostles – to turn their evangelical efforts to the Gentiles. Apparently, some of the Jews do not want to belong but the Gentiles now have a shot at belonging to the God Shepherd, and they are delighted. Who belongs? Who can enter this house? Who is worthy? Better: who can be made worthy? What does it take to be made a member of the Body of Christ, a member of the flock? And how is it done? And once done, what does a member look like? 
These are serious questions on the fourth Sunday of Easter because we are rapidly approaching the birthday of the Church at Pentecost. Some fifty days after the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit sweeps down on the desolate and deserted disciples to swiftly kick them in their collective behind, motivating them to step up to the challenge of giving their lives to the infectious spreading of the Good News. This is the Church. This is what the Church does: spread the Good News. Infectiously. This is what Paul and Barnabas are doing in Antioch. This is what the great multitude crowding the throne in heaven did before they died. This is what those given to Jesus by the Father are grateful to do. Belonging to Christ then is not about possessing a genetic trait or a political history or an attitude. Belonging to Christ is not about the mere intellectual assent to a theological formula or a philosophical worldview or knowledge of a wisdom tradition. Belonging to Christ means following Christ. Those who belong to him – know him, hear him, and follow him. And that can be anyone. Anyone at all. Any nation, any race, any people, any tongue. Anyone. Anyone given to Christ by the Father. . .

Wait! Anyone given to Christ by the Father? You mean we have to be given to Christ in order to belong to Christ? Yep. We are gifts to Christ from our Father, given to him for our salvation and the Father’s glorification. God the Father created each of us to desire Him before all things. And for our exclusive benefit we are made to worship Him. Our God has no need of our praise. Our longing to praise Him is His gift to us b/c in praising Him we are perfected in His love. We know the itching need to praise God only because He has graced us to do so. Our creation is a grace. Our desire to belong is a grace. Our need to worship is a grace. Our enduring existence is a grace. Our ability to say YES to God is a grace. Our capacity to obey, to be holy is a grace. And we ourselves are a grace to Christ, a gift to the Son from the Father in the Spirit. And all we need do is know him, hear him, and follow him. When we refuse to do these things, when we contradict the Word, disobey the Body, we do violence to ourselves as gifts, and we do not belong. . .by our choice.

To be clear: sin does not hurt God. Sin ravages the sinner. Abuses the Church. And defies every baptismal promise. Sin is the enemy of belonging, the adversary of a graced communion. When we sin, the longing we feel for God turns to loneliness. When we sin, the emptying-of-self that imitates Christ turns to abandonment. When we sin, the humility we rightly feel at our brokenness turns to shame and guilt. In sin, our longing for God becomes a rejection of Him and we end up living lonely, empty, and restless lives – not just imperfect but broken and lost. When we disobey – fail to listen to the Shepherd – our desire for holiness becomes a destructive appetite for material satisfaction that tempts us away from Christ. We cannot belong to Christ while rebelling against his Word; while rejecting the life of the Spirit he offers us.

Who can belong to Christ? Anyone, anyone at all. Who belongs to Christ? Those given to him by the Father who know him, hear him, and follow him. Why would anyone want to know, hear, and follow the Son as a gift from the Father? So that they might be perfected in their vocation to become Christ for others. Why would anyone abuse themselves as gifts to Christ by rejecting his saving Word? This is an ancient desire, one whispered by the Serpent in the Garden, the desire to become god without God, to be perfected through ungraced efforts, to be made holy by pious works alone; and this inordinate desire is named Disobedience b/c it is the willful refusal to listen to Christ in his Body, the magisterial witness of the Church, a refusal to listen to the Good News that your life is a gift, your progress in holiness is a gift, your life eternal is a gift. All just given to you freely, without charge or interest, handed over to you, an open-handed donation from God through Christ in the Spirit. 
Now, the hard question: what does a life that belongs to Christ look like? You belong to Christ, does your life look like a gift from God, a freely given grace, or does it look like an expensive debt that will never be paid off? If you live your life in Christ like an expensive debt, exactly who is it you think you owe? Christ? The Church? Who? Who among the saints, the Blessed Trinity, or the souls in purgatory has sold you something on credit? Is there a Jesus Christ VISA card I don’t know about? And even if you can identify your creditor, how are you paying off this debt? Good works? Prayer? Mass attendance? Donations? All perfectly good things for a Christian to do, of course; but if you are doing these things out of a sense of indebtedness, then you are not answering Christ with an excited and blessed YES. Instead, you are answering with a begrudging, “Here, Lord, take what's owed you.” This is not the Spirit that crashes into the disciples, creating the Church at Pentecost! This is not the Spirit that drives Paul and Barnabas to risk their lives for the joy of the Lord. This is not the Spirit that excites the elders around the throne to worship the Most High. And this is not the Spirit that seduces us, pulls us toward the Lord so that we may know him, hear him, and follow him. The fear of being a joyful Christian is a stake to the heart! Fear joy at your peril. No sheep of the Good Shepherd will live long trembling in the shadow of death. Know him, hear him, follow him, and walk free and clear of every fear, every limit, and belong to the only One on whose name we rely for help: Christ the Good Shepherd!

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14 April 2016

Our transubstantiation into Christ

NB. A Vintage Fr Philip homily from 2007. . .ah, the memories. . .

3rd Week of Easter (F)
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Irving, TX

SECRET DOOMSDAY CULT CANNIBALIZES EXECUTED MESSIAH, CLAIMS IMMORTALITY! The talking-head TV version of this newspaper headline opens with this talking-point: “Religious fanaticism in America today: are your children safe?” Then the talking-heads parade a line of Three-ring Circus Clowns who all demand that the Supreme Court ban religion as a public-safety hazard. The state-owned regulatory nannies and ninnies start squawking like geese frightened on a pond by a gator and before you know it Congress is holding hearings during which otherwise intelligent men and women are asking asinine questions like: “But Bishop, with all due respect, given the recent scandals of the Church, is there a way to tone down your body and blood rhetoric here?” 

Maybe we can forgive the routine ignorance of the media and its oftentimes sensationalistic and even hostile portrayal of religious folks, especially Christians in the U.S. Our faith is not easily understood even by those who have been initiated into it and strive with God’s grace to live it day-to-day! And surely we can forgive those in the Church who would have us curb the enthusiasm of Christ’s Eucharistic teaching in today’s gospel. I mean, are we really helping ecumenical efforts at the international and national level by insisting on all this blood and guts imagery? Wouldn’t it be better to focus rather on the more genteel and less violent imagery of bread and wine? These are great symbols of earth and home and harmony and human work. Besides bread and wine helps to keep us focused “down here” on the domestic community rather than “up there” on an inaccessible Big Scary Father-God. Aren’t we here really just to learn to live together and help each other and be at peace with the environment? 

No. No, we’re not. We’re here to be saved. We’re here to find the Way and walk it. We’re here to eat the body of Christ, to drink his blood and to share more and more intimately in the workings of the Blessed Trinity in human history. We are here…more literally…”to gnaw” on Christ. Not to nibble daintily or to consume politely but “to gnaw.” That’s the Greek. Gnaw. Now, let me see you gnaw symbolically. For that matter, let me see you gnaw a symbol. Let me see you gnaw on a memory, a memorial, a representation. Let me see you gnaw on an eschatological sign, a prophetic image, a metaphor for “making-present things past.” 

The quarreling Jews may have understood better then than we do sometimes now: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” This question actually belies substantial understanding! They understood Jesus to say “flesh.” Meat. Body. And blood. True food and true drink. Not mere symbols. Not just memorial signs. Not mere representational action in history. Not just an “absence of forgetting.” Real food, real drink for eternal life. And this is why they are shocked to hear Jesus teaching what can only be called cannibalism. I don’t think Jesus eases their fears any in the explanation of his baffling claim: “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him…the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” This is astonishingly clear and simple. And outrageously scandalous! 

From the beginning we have had immediate access to Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist. His real flesh and real blood. We will not eat the bread of our ancestors this morning. We will eat the bread of life from the banquet table of the Father. We will eat…we will gnaw!...as children, heirs, as a people loved, we will feast on immortality so that we may become him whom we eat. There is no other reason for us to be here this morning than this: our transubstantiation into Christ. Just ask Paul: we will not all die, but we will all be changed!

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13 April 2016

Joy in persecution

3rd Week of Easter (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Christ's church in Jerusalem is under persecution. Peter and the Apostles are arrested twice and brought before the Sanhedrin to answer charges of heresy and sedition. Both times they are sternly warned to stop preaching and teaching “in THAT name.” Both times they defy the authorities and continue doing what they were sent by Christ to do. B/c the Apostles must obey God rather than men, the persecutors are turning violent, and the Church is scattered “throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. . .” Saul is dragging Christians out of their homes and putting them in prison. By the standards of the time, none of this is particularly noteworthy. What is noteworthy is the reaction of the persecuted Church. We read in Acts: “Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” Also of note is the reaction of those who hear and benefit from this apostolic preaching: “There was great joy in that city.” How does the persecuted Church defy the threat of prison and violence? How do we answer religious rejection and secular condemnation? We do the ordinary: We go about preaching the Word.

The ordinary? Well, we can only consider our response to persecution extraordinary if we fail to understand our purpose as a Church. If we believe that the Church's purpose is to create and defend a particular version of western culture, then preaching the word in defiance of violent secular repression seems extraordinary. If we believe that the Church's purpose is to support the platform of a particular political ideology, or promote a particular economic system, then preaching the word in defiance of persecution seems extraordinary. If we believe that the Church's purpose is to provide us with a ready-made network of like-minded friends, business contacts, or just something to do on a Sunday morning, then preaching the word in defiance of the law, in defiance of all social pressure to stop seems more than just extraordinary; it's socially suicidal, even downright dumb. However, since the purpose of the Church is to preach the word, preaching the word – even in defiance of persecution, esp. in defiance of persecution – is the most natural thing for us to do. Why? B/c when the word of God is preached, there is always great joy. The Good News of God's mercy to sinners always brings with it the blessings of freedom, healing, and peace.

It is the nature and purpose of the Church to preach the word “in season and out.” If that's not enough to explain her defiance of persecution, then let this be enough: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Where would the hungry go to eat the bread of life if not the Church? How could anyone come to believe if there were no witnesses giving testimony? The Church is in the world to be the living sacrament of Christ, to point to and make present his saving power among the nations. Jesus says, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life. . .” How does anyone in 2016 “see the Son” and come to believe in him? Through the teaching and preaching and sacraments of his Body, the Church – alive and well 2,000 yrs after his resurrection. In defiance of persecution, social ostracism, ridicule, corruption, scandal, exile, and occasional defeat, alive and well for 2,000 yrs, living in his resurrection to preach the Good News of God's mercy to sinners. Our purpose is not victory over our enemies. God has always, already won. Our purpose is to tell the world that He has won, is winning, and will always win, and that He wants us all, everyone to share in that victory through Christ, His Son.

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12 April 2016

You know that I love you

3rd Sunday of Easter 2016
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary

Our Lord asks Peter a question—The Question, actually—the question that makes Peter squirm like a worm on a hot rock: “Simon [Peter], son of John, do you love me more than these?”* We can't help but wonder what went through Peter's head at hearing this question. He must've flashed back to the time Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” And he answered, “You are the Son of the living God.” He must've remembered rebuking Jesus when the Lord revealed that he would die in Jerusalem, and Jesus yelling at him, “Get behind me, Satan!” He must've remembered Jesus' prophecy that he would deny knowing him three times in the Garden. That memory must've made him blush in shame. His betrayal. Fleeing arrest. Outright lying. Now, the Risen Lord sits with him on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias and asks, “Simon [Peter], do you love me more than these?” Of course, Peter says that he loves the Lord. Could he say anything else? Truly, sitting there in the presence of the Risen Lord, could he confess to any other passion but the love btw friends, friends who willingly die for one another? “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

This first answer to the Jesus' question tells us that Peter is confused. “You know that I love you,” so why are you asking me if I love you? All those memories of rebuking Jesus, betraying him, denying him; all those chances to live out the radical love btw friends willing to die for one another; all those flashes of revelation into his teacher's true nature and ministry, the entirety of his short but intense life with this extraordinary man of God—they all collapse into this single, profoundly intimate meeting btw a sinner and his Savior: “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” No, Peter isn't confused at all. He's feeling awkward, spiritually clumsy. He wants this moment to end. What can I say to get this over with? Or maybe he's hurt that his teacher thinks he might not love him. He has every reason to doubt that he does. Or maybe Peter is offended by the question, “You know that I love you, Lord,” why do you ask? Why does Jesus interrogate Peter this way? Not once or twice but three times he asks. And three times Peter gives the same answer. By the third time, John tells us, Peter is “distressed.” He's worried. Does the Lord really think that I don't love him? Peter is “grieved” by the possibility, so he answers, a little desperately, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” 

This seaside scene btw Jesus and Peter brings to harvest a number of seeds planted by Christ in the hearts and minds of his disciples. Though Peter is the focus of this interrogation, the other disciples bear their own spiritual wounds and fruits as a result of Christ's teaching. Since he first said, “Follow me” to these fishermen, Jesus has taught them in word and deed to forgive one another, to be at peace with one another, and above all, to love one another. He's taught them to surrender themselves to God by taking up their crosses and bearing up under whatever burdens must be carried. He's taught them to remember him in the breaking of the bread, in daily prayer, in fasting and in taking care of the least among them. He's taught them that being first in God's kingdom means being last in the Enemy's; and that if they love him, if they are truly willing to die for love of him, they will feed those who follow him. Feed my sheep. Feed them with the bread of life. Feed them with the Word. Satisfy their hunger for heaven, their thirst for the truth. This seaside scene btw Peter and Jesus is not only Peter's reconciliation with his Lord, it is also his final exam, his last test as the Lord's favored student. 

As students of Christ, how would you and I do on this final exam? If the Risen Lord were to appear to us and ask, “Do you love me?” how would we react? Would we be confused by the question? Hurt? Offended? Embarrassed? Distressed? Or would we jump at the chance to tell the Lord that we do love him? Would there be that split second btw the question and our answer when we remembered that time when we had the chance to bear witness to God's mercy and didn't? That chance to forgive we let slip away. Would we recall all the times we've denied knowing Christ by failing to love as we should? Those times when we let our pride stand in the way of our humility? Would our failures to give God thanks for our blessings cause us to stutter an answer? Would we blush at our lack of growth in holiness? Our spiritual clumsiness when disaster strikes? Yes, probably; yes, to all of these. And then we'd remember what Christ taught from his cross: all is forgiven; every sin, every flaw and fault, every failure to love is washed away. And we'd say, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And he'd say to us, “Feed my sheep.” 

When Peter and the other Apostles are arrested by the Sanhedrin, did they remember this profoundly intimate meeting with the Risen Lord? They must've. The high priest accuses them, “We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name? Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching. . .” Before he responds to the accusation, Peter must've heard Jesus saying, “Feed my sheep.” So, he says to the priests, “We must obey God rather than men. . .” Rather than obey men, we must feed the Lord's sheep. Rather than bowing to your worldly power, we must bow before the glory of God. Rather than surrender ourselves to this world's hatred, we must teach others to surrender themselves to God's love. Peter must've smiled a little, recalling the grilling Jesus gave him by the Sea of Tiberias. Three times he had to confess his love for Christ. Three times Christ ordered him to feed his sheep. And now, here he is, standing before the powers of men, and he understands why Christ put him to the question. Jesus knew that he, Peter, could not feed his sheep if he himself would not be fed. The Lord absolved Peter of his sins, gave him a word of mercy so that when the time came to defy the world, he can so ready to die. I imagine Peter in front of the Sanhedrin, whispering, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

You know already, brothers and sisters, that we must obey God rather than men. We know this, but can we do it. More often than not, there is no conflict btw what we must do to satisfy the world and what we must do to satisfy God. But when a conflict arises, do we think immediately of Peter before the Sanhedrin? Do we think of him at the seashore with Jesus? Or do we think instead of all our failures and flaws, all of our sins and then excuse ourselves again from the obligation to put Christ first in our lives? Our failures and flaws cannot serves as excuses. After the death and resurrection of Christ, our sins are forgiven. We can no long demur in our duties to God b/c we are unworthy, or b/c we imagine ourselves to be too irresponsible to love properly. Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” If your answer is, “Yes, Lord, I love you,” then hear him say to you, “Feed my sheep.”

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08 April 2016

No fear in Christ!

2nd Week of Easter (S)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

In traditional iconography, St. Catherine of Siena is often portrayed carrying a ship on her shoulder. That ship is the Church. It reminds us of Noah's Ark, those who were saved from the flood. Most of us here this morning are sitting in the nave of the church. “Nave” derives from the Latin word, navis, which also gives us our word “navy.” So, the symbolic connections btw a ship on the sea and the church in the world are easy to draw. The disciples get into a boat and head out over the sea to Capernaum. A storm is brewing, the wind is kicking up, and the disciples are worried about capsizing. In response to this imminent danger, the disciples nominate a Task Force to address the crisis. The Task Force appoints a commission to study the problem. The commission selects a committee to hold hearings, and the cmte recommends that a working group issue a report. Eventually, the disciples vote on a draft of the report and release the document under the title, In navi durante tempestas, “On a Boat during a Storm.” Unfortunately, all the disciples are tossed overboard and drowned. In another version of this story, Jesus appears to his frightened disciples and says, “I Am. Do not be afraid” and the boat arrives safely on the shore.

My irreverent version of John's gospel story is meant to be a little cheeky and a little telling. When the Church confronts a contemporary crisis, whether its a crisis in the Church or with the world, how do we normally proceed? There's really no way to answer that question fully, of course, b/c each crisis presents its unique problems, thus requiring unique solutions. Maybe a better question would be: from what resources do we draw when a crisis confronts us? Even better: to whom do we turn when a strong wind blows up a storm? We humans are designed and built to solve problems, and we manage quite well considering our fallen nature. But the same instinct to solve problems often leads us to cause problems as well. When we flounder around trying to solve spiritual problems with secular tools, we invariably arrive at secular solutions that worsen the original spiritual problem. Jesus' last- minute appearance to the near-drowned disciples shows us the best way to deal with every crisis we encounter: look for the Lord and expect to hear him say, “I Am. Do not be afraid.” In other words, we are reminded again that we, the boat, the sea, the storm, all belong to God. Fear in a crisis is not only futile, it can be deadly—spiritually deadening.

Fear has its natural uses. Being afraid for our lives discourages us from doing all sorts of dangerous things. Leaping out of planes. Swimming in Lake Ponchatrain. Driving in New Orleans. Fear even has its supernatural uses. It makes us wary of sin. Using occult means for achieving our goals. But fear can also prevent us from doing the holy work we've been given to do. It can discourage us from risking our time, talent, and treasure in the pursuit of holiness. We are not baptized to seek spiritual safety, to cuddle close with our devotions and watch the world burn. We are baptized to go out and proclaim—in word and deed—the freely given mercy of God. We are baptized to go out and preach and teach and heal and forgive and be forgiven. BXVI, introducing the Year of Faith, teaches us that we must propose again to the world an encounter the Risen Lord. How? He writes, “. . .we need to renew our preaching with lively faith, firm conviction, and joyful witness.” Filled with faith, conviction, and joy, there is no room in any of us for fear. Leave no room for fear. And if fear should blow your way, stop, look for the Lord, and expect to hear him say to you, “I Am. Do not be afraid.”


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Thanks & Prayers

My Mendicant Thanks and Shout Out to W. Clement for browsing the Wish List and sending me an early birthday gift. . . 

As always, my Book/Paint Benefactors are in my daily prayers!


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03 April 2016

Are you unbelieving???

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

What do we know about Thomas? He's one of the Twelve disciples chosen by Christ to serve as apostles. He's called Didymus b/c he has a twin brother. And we know that he is absent on the night that the Risen Lord appears to his apostles. Oh, and we know that despite having lived and died more than 2,000 years ago, he's a thoroughly modern man. What makes him modern? When told by his friends that Jesus—dead and buried for three days—appeared to them, Thomas proclaims a thoroughly modern standard of truth: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks. . .I will not believe.” Modern philosophers and scientists would congratulate Thomas for demanding such a sensible and obviously right-thinking empirical standard for assenting to the truth of a claim. Jesus, on the other hand, isn't impressed. Appearing among his apostles a week later, Jesus allows Thomas to test his empirical standard. Now, Thomas believes. Jesus, far from praising his student's rigid need for proof, says, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” No one here has seen Jesus as Thomas did. Do we believe? And what difference does it make if we do or do not believe? 

It might seem strange for a Catholic priest to ask a church-full of Christians attending a Sunday Mass whether or not they believe in the Risen Lord. Why would any of us be here if we didn't believe? Let me suggest that there is a difference btw “believing that the Lord is risen” and “believing in the Risen Lord.” Simply believing that the Lord is risen is a matter of assent, saying, “Yes, I believe that” when asked. Believing in the Risen Lord is also a matter of assent—saying, “Yes, I believe that”—but saying Yes to the Risen Lord entails a commitment far more intimate and demanding that merely saying that he is risen. When prompting Thomas to explore his wounds, Jesus says to him, “do not be unbelieving, but believe.” How does Thomas respond? He doesn't say, “I retract my earlier statement of disbelief and now assent to the claim that you are risen.” No. He exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” Believing in the Risen Lord commits us to submitting ourselves to the rule and measure of Christ as the source and summit of all that we are. A church-full of Christians can easily assent to the fact that the Lord is risen w/o ever committing themselves to being ruled by the Risen Lord. Doubt about the mechanics of the resurrection is the smallest obstacle we face when it comes to bending the knee to Christ our King. 

How does Thomas overcome his disbelief? Through Christ's mercy. It is b/c he is merciful that Jesus allows Thomas to satisfy his doubts on his own terms. We know that this is an act of mercy b/c Jesus says to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Our Lord could've very easily left Thomas stewing in his doubt, left him outside the company of the blessed, and w/o the benefits of genuine belief. Instead, Jesus shows him mercy. Thomas is charged with the sin of disbelief, found guilty, and then pardoned; pardoned for no other reason than for the sake of the Gospel. The Gospel needs Thomas. And Peter and John and James and you and me. So, it is vital that we are not unbelieving but believing, that we are committed—heart, body, mind—to living under the rule and measure of Christ; thinking every thought, speaking every word, doing every deed for the sake of Christ and the spreading of his Good News. What is the Good News of Christ? That God freely offers His abundant mercy to all sinners. With repentance, we receive all that He generosity provides through the once for all sacrifice of His Christ on the cross. His mercy is our freedom from sin and our license to tell the whole world that Christ is Lord and God! 

Not too long after this meeting btw Jesus and Thomas, the apostles find themselves consumed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and set upon the world to preach the Good News and accomplish mighty deeds in Christ's name. Luke tells us in Acts that “many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. . .the people esteemed them. . .more than ever. . .great numbers of men and women, were added to them.” What were these signs and wonders? What exactly were the apostles doing and saying to bring so many to Christ? We know from Acts that the apostles were preaching God's mercy; baptizing those who repented; healing the sick and injured; freeing souls from unclean spirits; teaching the Word and breaking bread in memoriam. They were establishing the Lord's household among those who answered Christ's call to follow him. Why did they do these things? So that all may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief they may have life in his name. When we come to believe in the Risen Lord, when we come to trust in his name, we too accomplish mighty deeds, preach his Good News, and strengthen his household for all who answer his call to repentance and holiness. 

Do you believe? And what difference does it make if you do or do not believe? Do you call on his name in faith? And what difference does it make if you do or do not? After appearing to Thomas and some of the other disciples, Jesus reveals himself again at the Sea of Tiberias. To this group of disciples, Jesus not only reveals himself as the Risen Lord, he also reveals to them why it is necessary to listen to and obey his commands. The disciples are fishing and not having any luck. Jesus—disguised—tells the Beloved Disciple to cast his net over the right side of the boat. He obeys. The catch is so large that they can barely haul it in. At that moment, the B.D. recognizes Jesus and says to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Note that Jesus is unrecognizable to the disciples until the B.D. listens to and obeys his commands. The miraculous haul of fish is a sign for the B.D., and he instantly sees his Risen Lord. What difference does belief make? Belief in Christ makes it possible for us to see his words and deeds speaking and working in our lives. Belief in Christ gives us the courage and strength necessary to repeat his words and deeds, to put his words and deeds to work in building and fortifying his royal household. 

Belief in the Risen Lord means submitting ourselves to Christ as our only rule and measure. The disciples do not recognize the Lord on the road to Emmaus. Nor when he visits them on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. Nor will Thomas believe that he is risen until he appears in the flesh for inspection. Doubt, worry, fear, pride—all of these cloud the disciples' eyes and plug up their ears. Btw Easter and Pentecost the disciples find it difficult to recognize the Risen Lord b/c they have yet to make Christ the rule and measure of their hearts and minds. Here we are btw Easter morning and Pentecost. Does Christ rule our lives? Do we measure our holiness against his? What does anxiety measure? What does fear demand of its subjects? The Risen Lord gives us one last command before he ascends to the Father, “Peace be with you.” Be at peace. If our hearts and minds are torn apart by dread, or frightened by the unknown, or troubled by our past, then we cannot rest in the sure knowledge that Christ died for us b/c he loves us. And if we cannot rest knowing this truth, then we cannot come to believe in the Risen Lord. Be at peace. . .and come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life eternal.

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Mendicant Thanks to E. Menezes for hitting the Wish List and sending me Kim Holmes' The Closing of the Liberal Mind: How Groupthink and Intolerance Define the Left

I've read the first few chapters of this book, and it's great. Holmes traces the decline of classical liberal thought through the fascistic progressivism that currently dominates our cultural and political discourse. 

Get a copy! 

E.M., I'm praying for your discernment. . .

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27 March 2016


NB. No Mass at OLR this evening, so here's an Easter homily from 2014.

Easter Sunday
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

No one sees him rise. The grave stone is rolled away. His tomb is empty. The burial shroud neatly folded and left behind. Our Lord is nowhere to be found. Mary Magdala finds all this, evidence of theft, evidence of sacrilege and runs to Simon Peter, reporting, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” Mary did not see him rise. Neither did Simon Peter nor John the beloved disciple. No one sees him rise. No one who visits the tomb that morning knows what happened. Why? Because “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” He had to rise from the dead. And because he emptied his tomb that morning, rising to new life with the Father, we too are raised to new life. His resurrection from an ignominious death gathers us all up and treats us to the possibility, the promise of deathless lives lived in the unfiltered presence of God the Father Himself. And so, Paul declares, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above. . .Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Seek what is above, and ask yourself: where have I put Christ?

Where is Christ? Mary finds the tomb empty. Peter and John find the tomb empty. Their Lord's body is missing, and they do not know where the grave robbers have taken him. These three disciples believe that Jesus' body has been stolen b/c they do no understand – yet – that he had to rise from the dead. Do we understand this any better? We do, but then we have a 2,000 year advantage: centuries of personal testimony, libraries jammed with theological treatises, the sanctifying assistance of the Holy Spirit, the magisterium of the Church. We certainly understand the resurrection better than Mary, Peter, and John did back then. But understanding is not believing. Understanding is not trusting. When we believe in someone, trust someone that someone becomes for us the measure and means of how we live. Not just the center but the very foundation, the whole structure of our being. Knowing this, Paul writes, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above. . .” If you truly seek what is above, then you can answer the question: where have you put Christ? Where is he in your life? Have you set him aside as a decoration? An observer? Have you placed him on a shelf to be seen but not heard? If we believe in, trust in the Risen Lord, he must be more than a necklace charm, more than a dashboard saint. He must be the Lord of our lives. The means and measure of our everyday thoughts, words, and deeds. Everything we have and are is his and his alone.

What does all this mean? The resurrection is all about new life, new beginnings, a fresh start in an old world eaten through with corruption and bitter disobedience. The resurrection is all about leaving behind our old ways and taking up The Way in Christ, following after him toward the perfection of holiness. Yes, all of that. But more. Much, much more. You see, if you believe in, trust in the Risen Lord; if you give everything you are and everything you have back to him for his use in bringing the Kingdom to fruition; if you follow him, sacrificing for love of him and giving that love a body and soul in this world; then, you become Christ. Not just a follower. Not just an attendee. You fulfill your baptismal vows and become Christ. Paul says it, “For you have died [in baptism], and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” To hide your life in the life of Christ means that you have placed Christ above you, over you, hiding within his life so that yours is indistinguishable from his. The resurrection makes it possible for us to hide in Christ. Our human nature is made new in the resurrection. We have joined him in death, now we can join him in life eternal.

That promise – eternal life – is our Easter promise. We hide our lives in Christ so that his work is our work, his mind is our mind, his body is our body. In faith, we are bound to him. So much so that Paul says, “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” But to be bound to him takes more than understanding. It takes much more than just knowing the story of the resurrection, knowing the details of the tale. The resurrection gives us the authority and the power to act, to speak, to think with the heart and mind of our Risen Lord. Until he comes again, we are his Body. Until he comes again, we are his hands and feet. We are not Pilate, fidgeting over politics, making carefully crafted decisions with an eye on our reputations. We are not the crowd in Jerusalem, frothing for blood and easy victory. We are not the Roman soldiers at Golgotha, just obeying lawful orders. And neither are we Mary, Peter, or John, despairing at the loss of Christ b/c we do not yet understand. We know what has happened. We know what is happening. Christ is risen. With the Father, he lives. In his Church, he lives. And if we hide ourselves in his risen life, he lives in this world. No one sees him rise. But everyone is watching to see if his Church will rise. Show the world the Risen Christ. In your words and deeds, show them Christ!

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