09 May 2021

Loving as Christ loves us

6th Sunday of Easter

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

OLR, NOLA


AUDIO FILE

Every year on the 6th Sunday of Easter, I am tempted to put on my philosophy professor's hat and dive into making the proper distinctions among the various kinds of love – caritas, eros, philos, agape. But I remind myself that you did not come to Mass for a philosophy lecture. You came to Mass to hear the Word preached and to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. But then it occurred to me that by coming to hear the Word preached and by participating in the Sacrifice of the Mass, you are here to more perfectly receive the Self-Gift of God, who is Love! No, don't worry. Despite this revelation, I'm not going to lecture you with philosophy. What I am going to do is attempt to show you Who God is as Love and how we imperfect receivers of His love often miss the mark when receiving Him. To understand Who God is as Love and how we often miss the mark receiving Him, we can start here: As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.” Christ loves us with the love of his Father. If we will remain in his love, we will keep his commandments. God as Love is our end, our goal, our telos. We miss the mark when we fail to keep His commandments.

So, God is our end, our telos. Commenting on the reading from 1 John, the CCC teaches: “God's very being is love. . .God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (221). Who God is is Love. God doesn't love sometimes and not others. He is Love. God doesn't love this and hate that. He doesn't pick and choose who or what gets to participate in His Being as Love. All created things live and move and have their being in God by nature. As human persons – rational animals – we are given the chance by grace to participate here and now in the Divine Life, in the exchange of Divine Love that is the Blessed Trinity. God the Father created us for this. God the Son re-created us for this. And the Holy Spirit ensures that the invitation to share in the Divine Life is always fresh, always new. So, when we say that God is Love we are saying – in part – that God Himself is our ultimate Good. He perfects us. Makes us whole, gives us life eternal. God as Love is our target, our goal, our only objective. He alone is our final design and our perfect destination. Everything we say, do, and think is best done with hearts and minds intensely focused on this Good.

So, how do we get ourselves in trouble, knowing that Divine Love is our ultimate goal? The most common way we get lost along the Way is by confusing human love for Divine Love. Human love has come to be understood as little more than an emotion, a fleeting twinge in the gut, or an infatuation. A soup of neurotransmitters in the brain. We also use human love as a tool of manipulation, or a weapon against our enemies. How often are we told that if we truly loved sinners, we would approve of and applaud their sin? How often do we tell ourselves that if God really loves me, He would approve of and applaud my sin? Merely human love is all about unconditional acceptance and approval of whatever choices we make. Even if those choices are obviously harmful, maybe even deadly. Human love – to be truly loving – participates in Divine Love. God loved us into being. His love holds us in being. So, any real love we experience and share is an imperfect expression of His love. To remain in Christ, to remain in the Father's love, we must obey the Lord's commandments. These are the stones that line the Way and keep us from confusing human love with Divine Love.

Jesus tells his disciples that he is revealing the truth to them so that their joy may be complete: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” In the same way that our Lord loves us, we must love one another. Our Lord loved us to the Cross. He died so that our suffering may be turned to joy as we live and die for one another. He died in the Father's love so that we may know the Way of perfection through the pursuit of holiness – living in the world w/o being consumed by the world. We remain in Christ by striving everyday to become more and more Christ-like. To love, sacrifice, and forgive as he loved, sacrificed, and forgave. Being Christ-like is not about dismissing sin as irrelevant to love. Being Christ-like is about recognizing that true love and disobedience cannot co-exist. We do not love ourselves or our neighbors when we pretend that sin is not sin. When we soothe a seared conscience by congratulating ourselves on being tolerant and accepting. We always, always love the person. That's a given. We can never love the lie that takes that person off the Way of Divine Love. Remain in Christ's love. Love as he loves you. And remember: his love found him on the Cross.



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06 May 2021

Perfect Joy

5th Week of Easter (Th)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA


We know that charity is the cause of joy and joy is opposed by sorrow (ST II-II.28.1). But what is it to experience “complete joy”? It would seem to follow that complete joy is an effect of complete or perfect charity. God, of course, is perfect charity. And we desire to participate in His charity as a matter of grace. To the degree that we are far from His perfection, our desire for Him is imperfect. “[Our] joy is full, when there remains nothing to be desired” (ST II-II.28.3). Our Lord tells us how we can come to complete joy: “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. . .” What obstructs us from keeping his commandments? The demands of disordered desires, desires not properly ordered toward charity, i.e., we desire, we love that which cannot save us. To participate more perfectly in God's love, Jesus teaches us to desire, to love nothing and no one more than God Himself. Complete joy is possible for us only in the Beatific Vision. But while we are here, we can – with God's grace – approach perfection in joy through gratitude and surrender. Give thanks. And give up what cannot save. 


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03 May 2021

Please! Help!

If you read and enjoy the homilies I publish here, please consider giving to my Province.

The money goes toward the tuition, room and board for our student brothers (seminarians) in St. Louis.

They are skinny and malnourished. Also, their bookshelves are a disgrace.


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Christ is the only way

Ss. Philip and James

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA

Can it be any clearer: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”? This truth is what we have given our lives to. There is no salvation through any other name except Christ Jesus. Not sociology, psychology, or philosophy. Not BLM or the Republican Party or the NRA or socialism or capitalism or the Democrats or the State or social justice or racial purity or feminism or holding and professing whatever the currently correct ideology happens to be. We hold and profess the Apostolic Faith, a faith that transcends politics and cultures and nations, leading us to our ultimate end – God in heaven and our place at His table. The pressure to worship the idols of this age is tremendous. We see it everyday. And this is nothing new. Our ancestors in faith were pressured to swear allegiance to race, to politics, to ethnicity, to gender, and a myriad of others gods that cannot save. The apostles were sent to proclaim a simple message: Christ Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Anything beyond this, anything other than this is a lie. We preach the truth. Jesus Christ and him alone is our salvation.



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02 May 2021

Remain on the vine!

5th Sunday of Easter

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

OLR, NOLA

[After reading the archbishop's letter reinstating the Sunday Mass obligation June 6th. . .]

Hear again what the Lord teaches: “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” I'll put this in less-literary terms for you: you cannot “grow in holiness as a Catholic” on your own. Neither can I. To be Catholic is to be a member of the Body, attached to the vine of the Church, receiving nourishment and support from the source of our salvation – Christ Jesus. There is no such thing as a “personal Catholic,” or a “private Catholic,” or a “do-it-yourself Catholic.” You are a fruit-producing branch attached to the vine of Christ's Body, the Church; or, you are not. So, how do we remain “in Christ”? How do I stay attached to the vine and produce good fruit? Archbishop Aymond notes one way we have of staying attached to Christ – the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. This obligation has been dispensed for the last year b/c of COVID. Come June 6th – the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – that obligation will be re-instated. And thanks be to God that we are so obliged! If you, like me, struggle to grow in holiness, a firm rule always helps!

You see, the Church is an expert in human nature, an ancient Mother who understands her children. Every child sees “the rules” as unjust, unfair, maybe even mean-spirited. Surely, true freedom comes from having no rules, no laws, no restrictions whatsoever! And that would be true if there were no natural or supernatural consequences to our behavior. But we know – our choices have consequences; our actions cause effects. So, Holy Mother Church, in all her ancient wisdom, lays down a few rules for us to follow. One of these rules is: “You must attend Mass every Sunday and all holy days of obligation.” Missing a holy day or Sunday Mass when you could've attended is a mortal sin. This is the minimum required to stay attached to the vine of Christ and produce good fruit. NB. you are not required to receive communion every time you attend Mass. In fact, if you are carrying a mortal sin, you should not receive communion! To help with this problem, Mother Church requires that we all go to confession at least once a year. The older Catholics among us will remember this rule as “the Easter Duty.” Why all these rules? Didn't we get rid of these after VC2? No, we didn't. What we got rid of (apparently) is the truth that these rules are in place not to control us but to help us remain in Christ.

The Easter season is quickly coming to a close. We are on the edge of the summer months and Ordinary Time, that time of year where we turn toward Everyday Holiness and the sometimes sweaty work of repairing and fortifying our relationship with Christ. Where to start? Easy! Go to confession. A broken vessel cannot hold water. A broken soul cannot receive grace. Going to confession can be scary. You're worried that Father will laugh at you, or yell at you, or maybe be shocked at your sins. I can guarantee you none of that will happen. Priests are sinners too. We go to confession. And we've heard it all before. I've been hearing confessions for 16yrs. There is no new sin under the sun. Whether it's been a week since your last confession or 30yrs. . .come in and repair your relationship with God so that you can receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass and produce excellent fruit. The Church's rules are given to us to strengthen us, to point us in the right direction, to guide us around obstacles to holiness. So, bend a little and grow a lot. Your immortal soul depends on it!  



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29 April 2021

Surrender! Do or Do Not

NB. this is from 2016. The readings are not from today's Mass. 

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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25 April 2021

The wolves know our faith. . .do you?

4th Sunday of Easter

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

OLR, NOLA

Audio File

What makes a shepherd a “good shepherd”? First, and most importantly, a good shepherd protects the flock from predators. He watches for wolves and does what's necessary to either drive the beasts away or get his flock to safety. A good shepherd makes sure the flock is properly fed, sheltered, and given medical care when needed. He also guides them into green pastures and rescues them when they get lost. It should be obvious why we call the priest in charge of a parish “a pastor.” Now, it might not be entirely flattering to think of yourselves as sheep, but the point of the comparison is to highlight the relationship between the parishioner and the pastor. Your pastor is your spiritual father, your shepherd in the faith. He does for you spiritually what the sheep herd does for his sheep materially. I'm not your pastor. But. . .Msgr. Hedrick once designated me as The Pastor of the 6pm Mass, so I'm going to take advantage of that entitlement and do some pastoring this evening! As the wolves of the world gather in the forest around our green pasture, I remind you of this truth: “There is no salvation through anyone else [but Christ], nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Each generation of wolves invents a trap for the Lord's sheep, or reuses an old one. The simple strategy of these traps is to lure a wandering sheep away from the flock and slaughter it for a quick meal. Each trap follows a basic pattern: take a teaching of the faith, exaggerate just one element of that teaching, and call the exaggeration the whole truth. For example, the human person is composed of a body and a rational soul. The wily wolf will approach a wandering sheep and convince the poor thing that the human person is nothing more than a body, purely physical. If that's the case then the whole of the Christian life can be reduced to working selflessly for social justice in the political realm, improving living conditions for the poor and needy here on earth. That's all that it takes to be a good Christian. The truth is that our faith is both physical and spiritual – body and soul, heaven and earth. How does the wandering sheep counter the wily wolf? By knowing the faith intimately. By staying close to the flock and the flock's shepherd. By recognizing a wolf on sight and getting a whiff of its stench. So, do you know your faith well enough to battle a sheep-hungry wolf?

We could spend the rest of this year going through the thousands of lies the wolves have told about the faith over the generations. But there is one lie that stands above all the others for its effectiveness in capturing and killing the Lord's sheep. There are many paths to the mountaintop, little lamb. All those paths lead to the same place. IOW, Christ Jesus is not the only way to salvation. He is one of many possible options we can choose. This is an ancient trap that the wolves use generation after generation. It's appeal is obvious. If Jesus is just one of the many possible gates to heaven, then I needn't worry about being virtuous, charitable, forgiving, or holy. I can invent my own path – mix and match traditions from different religious sources and make-up my own moral system. My sins aren't really sins. My choices are automatically right and holy simply b/c I say they are. And best of all, I get to feel powerful when others applaud my inclusivity and open-mindedness. Heck! Even the wily wolves are clapping! And yet, and yet, “There is no salvation through anyone else [but Christ], nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Here and now, the wolves aren't likely to tell the sheep that there are other, equally powerful religious saviors. They are more likely to ply the sheep with the lie that political ideologies will save them and create paradise on earth. These ideologies run the gamut from the extreme left to extreme right. The State is God. Race is God. Wealth is God. Politics is God. Self-Identity is God. Sex is God. Party is God. The Markets are God. Being a Victim is God. Diversity is God. Inclusion is God. Equity is God. What all of these boil down to is Power is God. Political, cultural, social, economic, medical power is God. Any one of these or all of them together – used aggressively against the right groups of people – will save you and establish heaven on earth. And yet, and yet, “There is no salvation through anyone else [but Christ], nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” Why is it so easy for the wolves to corner and kill good Catholics? Because we believe that economic, political, cultural, social power can and should be used in ways that bring true justice to the least among us. And the wolves know this. So, they do what they do best. They take part of the truth, exaggerate that part, and call it the whole truth. And b/c many do not know their faith as well as they should. . .they swallow the lie and find themselves a meal for wolves.

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know mine and mine know me; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” And he did. On the cross. And he rose on the third day. Just as he said he would. He is our Savior. Not the State. Not our race. Not our money or our politics or our gender. Christ Jesus alone died for his sheep. To save us from sin and death. Not a politician or an actor or an athlete or an activist. Christ Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Not a president or a SC justice or a governor or a talk-radio host. We are enlightened and brought to holiness by the Word of God. Not the words of self-promoting academics. Not the words of HR bureaucrats in mandatory training sessions. Not the words of gov't rent-seekers and career functionaries. We work for God's Justice and Peace. Not the justice and peace that comes with slavery to a worldly ideology or violent revolution. Our revolution begins with conversion from sin and a return to God through confession and contrition. There is one faith, one baptism, one Church, and one Shepherd. The wolves, they know your faith, and they know it well. Do you? 



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22 April 2021

On being taught

3rd Week of Easter (Th)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA


What is it to teach? What is it to be taught? The Spirit teaches Philip, and Philip teaches the eunuch. It's a safe bet that the eunuch, returning to his queen's court, teaches a few of his friends. The secret of being taught is found in the eunuch's admission of ignorance – how can I understand unless someone teaches me? The eunuch knows that he can have an opinion of the reading from Isaiah. He can speculate. But to understand God's revelation in scripture – he must be shown the way by someone who has walked the way. The resurrected Christ shows the disciples the way to understand the scriptures. He opens their minds to understand. Being taught then is something like being led along a path. Like following. And teaching is leading the way. Philip leads the eunuch to read the passage from Isaiah as having been fulfilled in the divine person of Christ Jesus. When he sees this truth – the Way – he understands. Now, he is prepared to lead others. The best teachers and the best students both lead and follow. The Spirit is ever-ready to show us the way. Our task is to follow and be ready to lead when He calls. 


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18 April 2021

Touch him and see

3rd Sunday of Easter

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

OLR, NOLA

Audio File

Imagine for a moment that the Risen Christ appears to you and asks, “Why are you troubled?” Once you've gotten over the shock of seeing and hearing Jesus, you get down to business, cataloging all of your questions and wondering which one to ask first. Do you ask about heaven? Hell? The communion of saints? Do you ask about the state of your holiness? The eternal whereabouts of deceased friends and family? Maybe you want to some answers to the controversies that plague the Church, or the secret to settling our nation's political problems. As your mind whirls with questions, Jesus waits patiently for you to figure out what you think you need to know. After awhile he says gently, “Peace be with you. Why do so many questions arise in your heart?” This question brings your spinning heart and mind to a full stop. Jesus waits. You stare at him, gasping like a landed catfish. He holds out his hand and says, “Touch me and see.” Whatever questions, problems, anxieties, fears, or complaints you had lined up to air – they all vanish. Now, you're incredulous for joy, amazed that the Risen Christ is with you. Imagine how amazed and joyful you will be when you come to understand that he has always been with you. He never left your side.

OK. If he never left my side, then why do I have all of these questions, problems, anxieties, fears, and complaints that demand answers and solutions? John gives us part of the answer: Those who say, 'I know him,' but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them.” Harsh but true. Sin makes us stupid. Sin twists the intellect and will over time, teaching us to call Evil good and Good evil. Choose this error consistently and before long you become a slave to the vice of folly. You become a fool. Harsh but true. A fool cannot tell the difference between Truth and lies, Beauty and ugliness, Goodness and evil. Consistently choosing lies, ugliness, and evil reshapes the body and soul into a vessel of irrational doubts, nagging worries, insolvable problems, and angry fears. The intellect is ruled by the passions and the will is let loose to pick and choose its own twisted idea of what's good. So, why do I have all of these questions, problems, anxieties, fears, and complaints that demand answers and solutions? Because I am a sinner who chooses to wallow in disobedience and disbelief. Instead, I choose to believe that I am alone, abandoned by God and His Christ. I refuse to hear Christ say to me, “Peace be with you.”

But John gives us just part of the answer to the question of why we have so many problems, anxieties, and fears plaguing our hearts and minds. When sin is my default choice and foolishness my preferred mindset, then I shouldn't wonder why even ordinary challenges to My Self become extraordinary. Extraordinarily unsettling. But these questions, problems, and fears – even though they are fashioned out of freely chosen sin – they are real. Jesus does not say “Peace be with you” to the disciples because he thinks their fears are imaginary. He doesn't reassure them of his real presence among because he believes the trauma of his execution is a group delusion. They are afraid. They are traumatized. The very real, real-world force of his death and resurrection hits them all square in the gut. And their reaction is shock, terror, fear. What the disciples need – what we need – is not only rock-solid faith and obedience to his commandments but Real World reassurance as well. Abstract principles, psychological props, symbolic gestures all have their uses in helping us cope when things fall apart. But nothing comes close to knowing – truly knowing – that Christ is with us. “Touch me and see.”

Touch him and see. Touch him in the Eucharist. He is truly present – body, blood, soul, and divinity – really present in the consecrated bread and wine. Touch him and see him in the Church and his saints. We are his Body. We are his hands and feet and arms and legs. We speak his Word and accomplish great things in his name. Touch him and see him in your personal prayer. In the silence of our heart and mind as you quiet yourself to listen. Touch him and see him in the public prayer of the Church. This Mass. “When two or more are gathered in my name, I am with you.” Touch him and see him in the poor – the materially poor and the spiritually poor. Those who have little in the way of material wealth and those who do not believe. Touch him and see him in the sick and dying; those who mourn; those who spend their lives in prison; the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ignorant, the foreigner. Touch him and see him among the least of those who belong to him. Why do so many questions, fears, worries, problems arise in your heart and mind? Peace be with you. Touch him and see. 


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15 April 2021

No miserly gift

2nd Week of Easter (Thurs)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA


The Father does not ration His Spirit. He doesn't measure or portion out the gift of His Spirit. Rather than imagining the Father scooping up bits and dribbles of the Spirit and carefully dripping them on us. . .we would do better to imagine the Father wielding a Spiritual Flamethrower or a Fire Hose of the Holy Spirit! If there's a limiting factor to the Father's gift of the Spirit, it's us, the recipients of the gift. We are limited by our nature. By our desire for the Spirit. And most of all by our sin, our disobedience. If the limitless gift of the Spirit feeds our testimony, and our sin limits our receipt of the Spirit, then our testimony is limited by our sin. Christ, of course, had no such limitations. And our goal is to become Christ – perfected witnesses to the Father's freely offered mercy. We are sent as imperfect Christs into an imperfect world to be the signs and wonders, the showcases of what the Father can do when one receives His gift of the Spirit. The graced task set before us – daily, hourly – is to push against whatever it is that limits our reception of the Spirit. And show the world the Father's love.      



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08 April 2021

Incredulous for joy

Thursday of the Easter Octave

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA


The disciples move from being startled, troubled, and terrified to being incredulous, joyful, and amazed. What moves them such a long emotional distance in so short a time? Jesus answers their fear with an imperative, Touch me and see.” We might say that this is the sacramental, the incarnational response to human fear and doubt. We might say that Jesus – knowing human nature so intimately – knows that his frightened, dispirited friends need something more than an argument, a mystical vision, or a visit from an angel – they need him. Up close and personal, viscerally real – they need him. And they get him. Flesh, bones, wounds, and appetite. Fears allayed, they are ready. Christ opens their minds to show them how he has fulfilled Scripture and how they are witnesses to his fulfillment. While not yet set on fire by the H.S., they are nonetheless fortified in their mission with two truths: first, Christ Jesus was and is who he claimed and claims to be; and, second, they are the living, breathing recorders of how he revealed himself to the world. We are heirs to these truths and instruments of their proclamation. What fears and doubts we might have are defeated sacramentally and incarnationally: “Touch me and see.” What lingering hesitation we might have in preaching and teaching the fullness of his Good News is burned away by the H.S. Are we, are you, am I – like the disciples – living our lives “incredulous for joy”? 



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03 April 2021

What matters is the resurrection

Easter Sunday 2021

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA


What do we expect from the world? Acceptance? Tolerance? Approval? They tortured and executed our Savior for sedition. . .really for little more than inconveniencing the Narrative. And now we're expected to what. . .accept it? Tolerate it? Approve it? Why would they expect us to do anything but rage against the injustice? That's easy. That's all we've done for some five, six, seven hundred years now. We've knuckled under, bowed our heads, and flowed with the flow. They have every reason to believe that this Easter will be no different. What we know – but don't boast about – is that the Risen Christ has freed us from their expectations. His resurrection from the tomb has freed us from sin and death, and, therefore, the world – in all its myriad fascination with sin and death – has no power over us. Of course, it never did. But we pretended that it did. To our demise. We pretended that politicians matter. That policies matter. That declarations, resolutions, legislation, and regulations matter. We've pretended that credentials, test scores, rulings, and findings matter. They don't. What matters is the resurrection. And that you and I are dead in Christ and live again in his glory.

What the world fears most is not being taken seriously. That is, what the world fears most is being mocked for its ephemeral nature, for its swift and inevitable passing. The powers of the world dreadfully fear the ticking and tocking of the clock. Why? B/c what power and authority it has over us is fleeting – on an eternal scale, really, nothing at all. This is what defeat looks like: knowing your worst enemies are easily defeated in this world and then watching them rise again into eternity. . .while you languish in time and space, damned to repeat your pathetic struggle for accolades and empty victories. Like all false gods, History disappoints. When History is your God you should expect that you will end when history does. However, if Christ is your God, you should expect to rise to eternity even though you might suffer while traveling through. Christ did. That's what the Triduum is all about. Why would his followers expect anything different? What he shows us is that pain, despair, longing, abandonment. . .all of these are fleeting. . .if we offer them in sacrifice to God. In the world, these can grant you power and influence as a victim. Until the age ends and you find yourself yoked to pain and despair permanently. For heaven, these prepare you for sainthood. And that's the end of any proper supernatural life.

As the darkness consumes history – as it always does – find yourself firmly among those who have given themselves to the only one who has defeated sin and death. Find yourself stubbornly planted in the field that will produce the good fruits of eternal joy. Being “on the right side of history” is great for sixty or seventy years. You'll get your promotion, your raise, your trophies. But when the Angel of Death comes for your soul, you'll wonder: what good did I do in servicing the world? Won't the world reward me? Yes, it will. Or rather, it already has. And your reward is as temporary as your service. No more than a breath, dust on the scales. When the world passes, so do all its rewards. Stand up and stand firm for the Way, the Truth, and the Life – the eternal Life – that Christ alone offers and guarantees. Yes, you will suffer. For a while. Some more than others. You will suffer. Look again at the body of Christ on the Cross. Look again at his mother's pierced heart. Look again at your expectations. And ask yourself: am I a passing shadow, an absence of light; or, am I a light to the nations? A bonfire for Christ's love?



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Video of London Police ordering Catholics to end Good Friday

London Police interrupt a parish's Good Friday's liturgy and order everyone to leave. 


This is a Polish parish. I'm sure these folks are used to cops in black uniforms storming into their churches and ordering them to disperse.


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28 March 2021

A week of Thanks and Praise!

Palm Sunday
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
OLR, NOLA

Jesus rides into Jerusalem, knowing he will die. Between today and next Sunday we will hear again and again how Christ emptied himself out for our sake. How he took on the form of a slave for us. How he “humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Palm Sunday remembers the day he entered Jerusalem in triumph, hailed as a conquering king. What a difference one week can make. From King to Criminal, from Conqueror to Crook. He will be celebrated and honored, betrayed and falsely accused, wrongly convicted and executed. . .all this week. . .and for no other reason than to free you and me from the bonds from sin and death. He goes to Jerusalem – knowing he will die – he goes to Jerusalem b/c it is in Jerusalem that every righteous sacrifice for sin must be made. He dies in this one place so that every place from then on will be made right for offering the Father worthy praise and thanksgiving. I challenge you to spend this week before Christ's death on the cross giving God thanks and praise for His mercy. For making His Son the means of your freedom from the darkness of sin and death. Give Him thanks and praise for making us His children again.


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25 March 2021

On being greatly troubled

Annunciation of the Lord

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA

It is no easy thing to know and do the Father's will. Jesus had the advantage of being the Word Made Flesh, so he knows the divine will intimately. Mary too has an advantage – Gabriel announces the Father's will to her. But even in knowing His will both Jesus and Mary find themselves terrified, anxious. Jesus, near despair, will cry out on the cross, “Why have you abandoned me?” Mary, “greatly troubled,” contemplates Gabriel's strange message. Both know the Father's will and both will do the Father's will. But only Mary is comforted in her fear. Why? Jesus goes to the cross as a Victim, a sacrifice. He makes holy, surrendering to the Father, every human sin so that we might be free of sin. To accomplish this, he must take on our sin and die fully human/fully divine – as he is. Mary is a human girl, perfectly free of sin from her conception. And though she is afraid, she is also faithful and obedient to the Word. She says Yes b/c she knows the Lord is with her. When we come to know the Father's will and resolve to do His will, we too can be afraid, troubled, anxious, terrified. But if we say Yes – in faithful obedience – we can bring His Word into the world when and where we are. We may not hear Gabriel say to us, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Nonetheless, we can be consoled in knowing that we are indeed servants of the Lord.


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21 March 2021

Killing the Self

5th Sunday of Lent

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

OLR, NOLA

Audio File

Last Sunday we celebrated Laetare Sunday. In Advent, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice! Rejoice Sundays! Priests wear the distinctive rose vestments on these solemnities to signal that we are taking time away from our penitential preparations for a little liturgical partying. This Sunday, we should be wearing black instead of violet vestments b/c today could be properly called Morere Sunday, or Die Sunday. Jesus says, “...unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Dying is the seed of living. Dying is the way to eternal life. Without death to this world, there is no life in the next. For Americans living in the 21st century there is probably no more difficult teaching in all the Gospels. Here and now self is god. Self is All. Self is the Way, the means, and the end of being alive. Self is the living center, the source and the summit; Self is King, councilor, and minister. Self is the teacher, the student, and the subject to study. Self is the priest and the altar but never the sacrifice. Whoever wants to live must die. Whoever wants to live eternally must die to Self.

We could reduce “dying to Self” to “don't be selfish.” The sort of thing parents and teachers say to kids when they don't want to share their toys or candy. “Don't be selfish” means “sharing is caring” or “think of others sometimes.” As far as it goes, it's fine. Nothing wrong with encouraging kids to develop a habit of sharing. But what happens when that habit fails to develop into sacrificial love? What happens when sharing is taken to be enough to achieve eternal life? I'm still a Self doling out what's rightfully Mine to Others. Even if I'm sharing what's Mine willingly and gladly, I'm still thinking: It's Mine. Me. I. Myself. Mine. And is it sharing if I'm doing it b/c mom and dad said I have to? Is is sharing if my teacher made me do it? Or if the Church or my boss or the gov't made it mandatory? Maybe I'm motivated to share – or to be seen sharing – b/c I think my business will benefit; or b/c I'm running for office, and I need some good PR; or my therapist said that sharing helps me combat my narcissism. Sharing may be caring. Sharing might combat selfishness. But sharing isn't dying to Self. And sharing isn't the Way to eternal life. Whoever wants to live must die. Whoever wants to live eternally must die to Self.

Why is dying to Self so difficult? I said earlier: Here and now self is god. Self is All. Self is the Way, the means, and the end of being alive. Self is the living center, the source and the summit of the modern Unholy Trinity: Me, Myself, and I. Since the dawn of the western modern age in the 16th c. the Self has been the sole focus of all our human works. In philosophy, the Self is the inerrant subject. In theology, the Self is the source of truth. In psychology and medicine, the Self is both the patient and the doctor. In law, the Self is the autonomous legislator. In literature, the Self is the author, the main character, and the plot. What we have forgotten is the spiritual art of humility and the necessity of sacrifice for the Other. What we have forgotten is how to be Christ for one another; how to see and believe that nothing is truly ours; that nothing truly belongs to you, including you. Nothing truly belongs to me, including me. If you will have eternal life, you must come to terms with the fact that you are wholly owned and operated by Christ Jesus. We all are. Belonging to Christ is not a cultural identity or social statement or a family legacy. You choose to belong. And when you do, you become a new creation, a new man, a new woman. . .AND. . .you die to Self.

Are you dead to the world and alive in Christ? How can you tell? Watch and listen during your day. Who or what moves you to act? Are you moved by the movers of the world – TV, talk shows, internet influencers, celebrities, politicians? – or are you moved by the Word of God? Who or what shapes how you see and understand the world you live in? Do you see other people as little more than competing stomachs and mouths? Are they just “in your way”? Do you see political power as a means of achieving true justice in this world? Are you worshiping a politician, an athlete, an actor, some created thing as your god? Perhaps your favorite sin is being celebrated by the world as a sign of liberation! And now you think that God must surely change His mind and celebrate with you? Perhaps you think your opposition to the world celebrating the favorite sins of others gets you off the hook for committing your own favorite sins! Mote, meet eye. Eye, meet plank. Do you think loving another in Christ means the unconditional acceptance and approval of anything they feel is right for them? Do you expect unconditional acceptance and approval for any and all of your choices? And play victim when you don't get it? Are you dead to the world or alive in Christ?

Whoever wants to live must die. Whoever wants to live eternally must die to Self. We die to Self by drowning the Self in the waters of baptism and rising up a new creation. You were given a clean white gown at your baptism and told to bring that gown fresh and bright to your judgment at the end of the age. Maybe your gown is little tattered. I know mine is! Maybe its smudged, stained, frayed in a few places. Perhaps your gown looks like you wore in a Wrestle Mania match in the bayou! Doesn't matter. Anytime that Deadly Self re-emerges and tries to take your eternal life from you, you have recourse to the Church and the boundless graces of Christ's sacrificial love in the confessional. Yes. Dying to Self is difficult b/c the very air we breathe rewards us for thinking and acting as though the Self is the only thing that matters. But dying to Self is made easy by Christ, his Church, and your supernatural desire to find your place at the right hand of the Father. Deep down you know you long for Christ and his mercy. Don't let another day pass w/o coming to him and allowing him to give you eternal life.


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18 March 2021

Those who will not believe. . .

4th Week of Lent (Th)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA


God says to Moses, “I see how stiff-necked [my people are],” and Jesus says to the Jewish leaders, “. . .you do not want to come to me to have life.” Despite all that God has done for His people in the desert and despite all Jesus has done to confirm his identity in word and deed, there are those who simply refuse to believe. What's preventing them from believing? Jesus gives us a partial answer when he accuses the Jewish leaders: “How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?” Those who refuse to believe do so b/c they have convinced themselves that it is more important to be of one heart and mind with their peers than to be aligned with the Father. For them, God is safely abstract, distant, and easily ignored. But the benefits of being a well-respected member of the in-crowd are immediate and tangible. Dismissing the testimony of miracles and eye-witnesses comes easily when believing them will cost an in-crowd award, a place of honor, or a hefty donation. If miracles, testimony from witnesses, ancient prophecy, and the spoken Word of God Himself is not enough to convince the unbelievers, what will? Logical arguments? Scientific investigation? Probably not. Pride blinds and deafens. Pride makes it impossible to believe that there is Someone larger, more fundamental to me than my own ego. All we can do here is continue to bear witness in our preaching; doing good works that glorify the Lord; and teaching the Truth given to us by the Apostles. All we can do is struggle to be Christ for others and leave the door always open. 


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