18 October 2017

Top Ten List

NB. Eight years ago, while languishing in the Roman heat, I grew cranky. . .okokok. . .crankier and decided to lighten my mood and this blog with a Top Ten List. A friend recently suggested that I re-post that list. So, here it is:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Fr. Philip Neri's Top Five of Just About Everything!

Top Five Weird Food Combos:

1. blackeyed-peas & mayo on cornbread
2. peanut butter & banana on Ritzs
3. roasted chicken with yogurt & peanuts
4. apple/celery soup with pesto
5. vanilla ice cream with peanut butter and balsamic vinegar

Top Five Fav Halloween Costumes He Has Worn:

1. creepy surgeon with bloody knife
2. albino vampire with handcuffs
3. High Goth magician complete with goatee and earring!
4. Spartacus with sword (my mom's icing spatula)
5. ghost of a gorilla killed by poachers

Top Five Fav Christmas Gifts:

1. a doctor's home visit kit (three years in a row! yes!)
2. a LED digital watch in 1979. . .only kid in school with one of those
3. a tuition check from my parents in 1986
4. Santa's Magical $50 that appears in my stocking annually (yes, I have stocking!)
5. a stereo system with my first ever cassette: Huey Lewis and the News

Top Five Fashion Statements I Wish I Had Never Made:

1. getting my ear pierced in 1990 (ugh)
2. wearing a paisley shirt with poofy sleeves and an antique broach in 1985 (ugh-ugh)
3. letting my hair grow down to my shoulders a la George Michael ca. 1989
4. daily wear of all black--jeans, turtle-neck, boots, overcoat, glasses
5. plaid golf pants, burgundy IZOD shirt, pink IZOD sweater, loafers w/the penny ca. 1982

Top Five Dumb Things I Have Done That I Can Admit to in Public:

1. Frequently going out of town to parties with a drunk friend driving (stupid, stupid)
2. Moving into a large antebellum home with colleagues from my department who eschewed cleanliness and domestic responsibility like a rabid squirrel on crack
3. Agreeing to purchase a package of three-year magazine subscriptions that cost $600 (yea, I got out of it)
4. locking myself out of my apartment minutes after my roommate drives off for the weekend and then breaking the small window on the kitchen door only to realize that the small window is in fact not just a piece of the door but the entire window: $80 for replacement.
5. Helping some friends "clear out" their liquor cabinet before a move (shudder)

Top Five Dumbest Things I Have Ever Said:

1. 1986: the women's bathroom in the lobby of our dorm had no interior door. I was the RA on desk duty during fall sign-in for the freshmen. A mom comes in and asks for the bathroom. I directed her. Not wanting anyone to walk in on her unexpectedly, I offered: "Would like for me to watch?"
2. 1991: I was giving a literature exam, sitting at the desk in front of the class. After about fifteen minutes of quiet, for no apparent reason, I barked out: "KNIFE!"
3. I was at home one Christmas and my mom asked to me mix up some walnut brownies. I read the directions on the box and proceeded to mix. My mom comes into the kitchen and watches me mix the batter with my hand. My defense? "The directions say 'mix by hand'"!
4. To a psychotic patient on the adult unit of a psych hospital: "Are you going to throw that at me or come with us to time out?"
5. To my future housemate wanted to confess something to me before I allowed him to move in. We sat down, and he very solemnly declared, "I'm a Wiccan." I said, "Oh, I thought you were gay."

Top Five Books I Wish I Had Never Read:

1. Creative Visualization
2. Jonathan Livingston Seagull
3. It
4. The Book of Mormon
5. Handbook of Witchcraft

Top Five Things I Would Change in My History:

1. Go to grad school in psychology rather than English
2. Go to teach English in China ten years later than I did
3. Work for several years btw undergrad/grad school
4. Play sports/habituate myself to the gym in high school
5. Never start drinking

Top Five Religious Names that I Rejected in Favor of Philip Neri:

1. Br. Michael Mary of the Five Wounds of Jesus, not including the One on His Shoulder
2. Br. Philippe-Marie of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary
3. Br. Dominic of the Most Holy Face and Most of the Neck
4. Br. Angelo of the Litany to Baby Jesus, Son of Mama Mary
5. Br. Aldred of the Stocial Countenance, Brick of Westhamptonshire.

Title of my autobiography (to be published posthumously): Sittin' in the Shade With the Fat Kids Reading: The Life and Most of the Good Times of Philip Powell

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

14 October 2017

You do not have to go to the Wedding Feast

28th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP

Another parable of the kingdom and another warning that those unprepared for the heavenly feast will find themselves cast into darkness. Our Lord has been on a roll these last few weeks, preaching a gospel message that contemporary Catholics aren’t quite used to hearing! Maybe I’m wrong, but my sense is that most of us don’t often hear many homilies about the goats, the weeds, the bad fish, the lazy virgins, or the poorly dressed wedding guest. We hear a lot about the sheep, the wheat, the good fish, the well-prepared virgins, and the festively dressed wedding guests. These images better fit a comfortable, American vision of who we hope Jesus was back then, and who we want him to be now. Don't worry. I don’t intend to blast you with Hellfire and Brimstone this evening! But I can’t claim to be a preacher of the gospel, and then fail to preach the gospel right in front of me. This evening, we aren't hearing from our familiar, comfortable, American Jesus. We're hearing from Christ, our Righteous Judge!

We need to get something straight right from the start: you do not have to spend eternity with God. You do not have to receive or make use of the grace you’ve been given. You do not have to repent, confess, or enjoy freedom from sin. You don’t have to go to confession, come to Mass, take communion, say your prayers, do good works, live charitably with one another, or even forgive a single offense against you. You can ignore the grace you’ve been given. You can stride along the path of rebellion and disobedience. You can remain a slave to sin and do the bidding of your lowest passions as much as you want. You can skip confession, blow off Mass, forget your prayers, ignore the needy among us, hate one another and wallow in self-pitying angry and regret. You can be, if you choose, a goat, a bundle of weeds, a bad fish, a lazy virgin, or a badly dressed wedding guest. God will honor your choice out of His limitless love, and you can spend your afterlife as you lived in this life: without Him. And that’s the Catholic definition of Hell: “[a] state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed […]” (CCC n.1033).

In the parable of the Wedding Feast, the guest who arrives poorly dressed is thrown out into the darkness b/c he has refused to put on the garments of repentance. He wears his slave clothes. His rags are a gift from the Liar who has convinced him that he’s wearing Gucci! In fact, his rags identify him as a willful servant of disobedience. The master of the house invites good and bad alike. But to be allowed in – good and bad – have on the garments of repentance. Not the garments of absolute moral perfection. Not the garments of spotless holiness. But the garments that identify them as willing – even if imperfect for now – to be servants of the Master Himself.

The poorly dressed guest, the unrepentant one, is not tossed out b/c he comes to the feast for the free food, the free liquor, the good company. No, he’s tossed out b/c he comes seeking all the benefits of the Master’s Truth and Goodness and Beauty, but he himself is unwilling to take on truth, goodness, and beauty in return. In other words, he wants to feast at the Master’s banquet table, but he’s unwilling to abide by the Master’s Party Rules. “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Paul gives us the secret of the Wedding Feast: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. . .My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” God will provide the party dress, the tux for the feast. There is no reason for any of us to show up at the feast improperly dressed. From the limitless riches of Christ Jesus we are provided with everything we need to celebrate the feast when we are and where we are right now. Just ask. Paul says that he is able to live with scarcity, live in abundance, live well-fed and hungry, in every circumstance b/c his strength, his purpose, his drive comes through the Father. Not through his own willpower. Not through his own mighty character. Not through his own education or his social standing. But through Him who empowers us all.

The Good News this evening is that you don’t have to be a goat, a bundle of weeds, a bad fish, a lazy virgin, or a poorly dressed wedding guest. You can be. But you don’t have to be. Jesus died to give you the option of coming to the Wedding Feast decked out in the spiritual equivalent of Prada, Gucci, Chanel, and Burberry. Just ask. Just ask and gratefully receive. “[Our] God will fully supply whatever you need.”

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

08 October 2017

Dangerous for Mary, dangerous for us!

Our Lady of the Rosary
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP

It is the most dangerous announcement ever made: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” The angel Gabriel, sent by God to Mary, greets the virgin by telling her that she is most graced, wholly blessed, chosen, and attended to by the Lord. Very, very dangerous. And Mary knew Gabriel's announcement was dangerous. Luke tells us, “. . .[Mary] was greatly troubled…” Greatly troubled?! Troubled…and wise. Mary pondered the angelic greeting with dread. She understood that this particular, unique grace picked her out of all God’s human creatures. She understood that receiving an angel from the Lord meant a mission, a purpose beyond a mortal end; a life of singular graces; an honored life of doing the Father’s will for His glory. Dangerous for Mary? Absolutely! Dangerous for us? O, Yes!

Mary is being asked by the Lord to serve as bearer of the world’s salvation. To be the vessel of the Word, and the Mother of a redeemed nation. Saying yes to this mission places her in that moment of human history where the Divine Son takes on human flesh, and sets out toward a selfless, loving sacrifice so that we may all be healed. In her ministry to all of creation, the Virgin gives her body, her will, for the rest of us so that the Infinite Word might speak Himself as a Finite Word and gather us together into a single heart, a single mind, one voice in witness to the mercy and forgiveness of the Lord.[1] She is the mother of our salvation, the perfected vessel of our eternal healing. Mary is a preacher of the gospel, the first preacher of the Word in a fallen world that has been given over to the Enemy to rule. As the Mother of the Christ Child she has an incredibly dangerous job, giving birth to the Word of God among those who would reject His Word.

When you and I took on the responsibility of bearing the Word to the world – when we became preachers – we took on the dangers of opposing all that the world worships as good. Speaking the Word of Truth against the Lie riles up the worst resentments and the most violent frustrations of those in the world who resent Mary’s Yes, who resent the gift of the Christ Child, and who turn their faces against his invitation to participate in the Divine Life. The danger for us here is twofold: 1) that we are seen as the causes of resentment and frustration among those who reject the Word, and 2) that we succumb to the temptation to see these people as hopeless, beyond reach, and deserving of immediate punishment. The first – that we are blamed – is becoming common enough. The second – our unjust judgment of others – is scandalously common and unworthy of the Virgin-child who made our own Yes to bearing the Word possible.
This feast of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrates the BVM's intervention during the battle between Europe's Christians and the Turks of the Ottoman Empire in 1571 at Lepanto. Calling upon a 500 year old Dominican tradition, the Christians, the Holy League, dedicated their fleet and their fight to the BVM of the Rosary. And the Dominican pope, Pius V, called upon all of Catholic Europe to recite the rosary, praying for the Holy Mother to intercede on behalf of Europe's desperate defense of Christendom. Despite being woefully outnumbered in ships and sailors, the Holy League prevailed, and the Ottoman Empire's dreams of dominating the Mediterranean were crushed forever. This feast was originally named “Our Lady of Victory,” but over time a succession of popes have named and re-named the feast until Pope John XXIII, in 1960, settled on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Imagine for a moment. . .if our Lady of the rosary can intercede and help defeat an armada, how likely is it that she can intercede for you in prayer and help you defeat the temptations that threaten to take you away from her Son? If she help prevent an empire from conquering Christian Europe, surely she can help prevent temptation from conquering one Christian! The rosary is our weapon against the despair that the world pours out on us, and our way out of self-destructive judgment. With the rosary in hand, we can meet the dangers of violent opposition and avoid the dangers of judging others by submitting ourselves in both cases to the ministry of the Virgin Handmaid: “Lord, let your will be done in me according to your Word.”

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

05 October 2017

Jesus says, "No."

26th Week OT (T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA

I was not a popular kid in middle school. I know, I know. . .you're thinking, “How could that be?!” Well, frankly, I was a little weirdo. That kid who didn't want to join a team or hang out after school. I had books to read! It wasn't until I started my sophomore year of high school that that my stock started to rise. By my senior year, I was elected Class President. Let that be an encouraging story for all you weirdos out there. As happy as I was with being one of the Popular Kids at 16, I still flinch when remembering how I was treated when I was 10. It was all my own fault. I excluded myself. However, visions of extravagant revenge would often play out in my overactive imagination. I never wished any particular person harm, but the idea of the school being consumed in sheets of hellfire – after hours, of course – sounded pretty good. Being rejected, for whatever reason, stings. And the disciples feel that sting keenly when the Samaritans turn them and their Master away from their village. The disciples don't simply imagine fire consuming the village; they actually ask permission to set the place ablaze! Jesus says, “No.”

Jesus said “no” then, and he says “no” now. Why? Jesus knows from the start of his public ministry that most will reject the Good News. He warns his disciples again and again that preaching the Father's freely offered mercy to sinners would – oddly – rub most people the wrong way. There's just something about getting something for nothing that people simply do not trust, especially religious people. Even professed Christians struggle with the idea that God loves them according to His nature and not according to their deeds. Now, we don't know exactly why the Samaritans refuse to hear the Good News. It probably has something to do with Jesus being a Jewish rabbi headed to Jerusalem, but there could be other reasons too. Regardless, they say NO. And Jesus honors that decision by moving on to the next village. I like to imagine that the disciples are disappointed. . .just a little. Like I was when I stepped off the bus every morning and saw that the sheets of hellfire had failed to consume my school! We can be disappointed when others reject the Gospel. We can even imagine that their rejection – if it persists 'til death – will end poorly for them. What we can't do is hope for – much less ask for! – immediate divine retribution. Jesus says, “No.”

And he says “no” for good reason. For the Good News to have any appreciable affect on the sinner, it must be willingly received, freely taken in as the gift it is. God's grace prepares the sinner's heart and mind by making reception of the Good News possible. BUT that grace cannot and will not force a decision. Obstinate refusal is always an option. As much as we might loathe the idea of anyone refusing the Father's freely offered mercy, we must be prepared to encounter those who – like the Samaritans – will say, “No, thanks.” Rejection stings. But the rejecters aren't rejecting me or you. They are rejecting Christ. And when we start feeling the bruises of rejection, we need to recall that when the disciples asked permission to burn them all to ashes, Jesus said, “No.” No one forced or intimidated or manipulated into believing can say that he/she freely received the Good News. Our task, as preachers and teachers of the Gospel, is to present the Good News – in word and deed – as a way out of sin, as a way out of the spiritual orphanage of the Law, as a way out of futile religiosity and death-dealing nihilism. As preachers and teachers of the Gospel, we must be the kind of person who others say of us, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

01 October 2017

Repent first. . .mercy follows

26th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

So, you're in line before the Pearly Gates, and who do you see in front of you but the crooked IRS agent who audited your taxes and ruined you financially. And the infamous D.C. Drug Dealer who kept a client list and caused the downfall of several prominent politicians and televangelists. That abortionist who bragged on TV about performing more than 300,000 abortions in his lifetime. Imagine these folks ahead of you in line and think about how they might have gotten where they are. A tax collector, a drug dealer, a serial killer. We could add several others: the guy who intentionally spreads his venereal disease; the greedy bankers and portfolio managers who helped cause the 2008 economic disaster; political leaders in countries all over the world who deprive their fellow citizens of their human rights through corruption and murder. . .the list could go on, and so the line into heaven could get longer and longer. But the question here is: seeing these people ahead of you in line, you have to wonder, how did they get here? Such profoundly evil people in line to heaven. . .how?

The quick and easy answer, of course, is God’s grace. But that’s not much of an answer because no one is in that line without God’s grace. What does it mean for a serial killer or a greedy banker to experience God’s grace, repent of his sin, and find himself in a line to heaven? Remember our question from last week: are you envious of God’s generosity? Man’s capacity to receive God’s grace is not limitless. However, there is no limit to God’s generosity. Limitless grace poured into a limited vessel means one thing: overflow; assuming, of course, that the vessel is indeed filled. But for a sinner to be filled requires a certain awareness that he/she is empty in the first place. IOW, a sinner must acknowledge his/her sin as sin first.

Is this the point that Jesus is making about the son who refuses to work but then repents and does as he is asked to do. Having refused to work, the son is ripe with disobedience, rigid with refusal and dissent. Being so far from his father’s will, he is keenly aware of being lost. That despair drives him back to his father’s will and saves him. The other son, accepting his father’s will, eagerly agrees to work but fails to follow through. His disobedience is compounded by deceit. Believing himself to be filled with his father’s will, he is not “empty enough” to repent. He coasts, if you will, on his initial good will, believing that this is sufficient to save him from his father’s wrath.

How do serial killers, corrupt politicians, prostitutes end up in heaven with you, the righteous son or daughter? If they end up there, they do so first because being outside the Father’s will hurts too much to ignore. How long can a creature turn from its Creator and not feel the yawning emptiness of His absence? To be created is to have purpose. We are Purpose given flesh and spirit. You cannot NOT be what you were made to be for very long and fail to feel the corruption of your refusal. To repent of your refusal is like a tremendous rebound, the further you stretch away from God’s will, the harder, the faster, the tighter the comeback! A glorious SNAP! right back into the will of the Father.

Standing there in the heavenly line with the other former sinners – all of those who recognized the emptiness of their disobedience and repented – you can look around you and see some of the infamous wretches of history. If they are there with you, you are all there because you figured out that you are limited vessels, overflowing with the limitless graces of a loving God. The ones you are not likely to see standing in line are those who believed to the end that they were vessels once filled, always filled, and needing nothing more from God than His push for their own one-time yes, they pursue other, smaller desires. Having taken a sip of His grace, they believe their thirst is quenched and drink no more. Is that one little sip enough to keep them going for all eternity? I doubt it. We come back to the Father again and again, sometimes in joy, sometimes in tears, but always knowing that when we surrender ourselves and our sins to His mercy, we will be made new again. That newness – each and every time – pushes us out into the world to bear witness to the reality that any sinner and all sinners can receive the Father's mercy . . .if they first acknowledge their sins and turn to His will. It does no one any good to pretend that sin isn't sin. Or that God loves sinners despite their sin. Of course He does! He is Love, Love is who and what God is. That's not a serious question. The question is not: does God love the sinner? (Yes, He does!). The question is: which does the sinner love more – his/her sin or God? Our Father loves us so much that He wills that we choose, and He will honor our choice: eternal life with Him. Or eternal life w/o Him. If we choose eternal life with Him, the first step is to confess our disobedience and welcome Him into our lives with open hearts, open arms, and open minds. Then. . .our joy is complete.


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

24 September 2017

Magnify Christ in Your Body

NB. I woke up this morning *much* later than I usually do, so I didn't have time to finish my homily for the 9am Mass at OLR. Had to reach into the archives for this one. . .

25th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP

Sounding very much like Mary saying YES to the Lord’s angel at the Annunciation, Paul proclaims without pride: “Christ will be magnified in my body…” Christ will be made larger, brighter, sharper, denser, louder, and more skilled in Paul’s body. Fearlessly Paul adds, “…whether by life or by death.” Christ will be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death. Like Mary at the feet of the angel, Paul turns his life and his death over the Lord – and the work of the Lord – and confesses to his brothers and sisters that his life as a worker for the Lord will be larger, brighter, sharper, and more skilled precisely b/c the work he does will be done for the greater glory of God. And this is just the work of his life! Death is no obstacle for Paul b/c “life is Christ, and death is gain.” So choose! Live in Christ and magnify His work on earth. Die in Christ, be with Him eternally, and still magnify His work in His presence. Now that’s commitment.

But here’s what I want you to notice: Paul does not donate his time, talent, and treasure out of his excess. He doesn’t give over to the work of the Lord the overflow of his riches – the leftovers. Paul does not say “Christ will be magnified in my checkbook.” “Christ will be magnified in my volunteer hours.” “Christ will be magnified in my talent.” He says that Christ will be magnified in his BODY. His very flesh. And whether he lives or dies the work he does for the Lord will bear abundant fruit for others. Paul does not divide his life (or his death!) into neat packages addressed to different and equally worthy recipients: his family, his career, his friends, and, oh, one for the Lord too here on the bottom somewhere. Paul’s whole life – the first fruits, the abundant works, the failures and misgivings, and, finally, his last breath – all, his whole life is given to Christ for the enlargement of Christ.

What does it mean for Christ to be magnified in the body? The idea, I think, is to pull us out of the very human habit of abstraction, the very human temptation to lift our religious obligations to one another into the heavens where we can keep them safe from our duty to perform them on earth. So long as the obligation to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned remain abstracted moral imperatives far, far away, we are tempted to honor them in the abstract, neglect to perform them, and remain confident that the work of the Lord is getting done. Paul’s insistence that Christ will be magnified in his body is the clearest indication we have that the work of the Lord is to be DONE. Not just thought about. Not just written about. Not just preached about. And certainly not abstracted and lifted onto some kind of spiritualized “to do” list. The work is to be done. And done first for God’s greater glory.

Now. I know what you’re thinking! “Wow, Father is wound up this morning. He must think we’re all lazy bums laying around thinking about the good works of mercy, but watching Saints football instead!” Not quite. I’ve seen the generosity of this community, and I know what motivates you to be the Lord's instruments in the world. There is a hunger here for others to see and hear what the Lord has done in your lives. There is an eagerness here, a tangible need to draw others to the Lord and to witness to them the power of Christ’s mercy – to forgive, to heal, to bless. I’m not wagging my finger at you, but merely reminding us all where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. You came from Christ. You are with Christ. And you will be with Christ.

But there is a temptation waiting for us. An eager little devil waiting to pounce on our witness to the Lord. It is an opportunity for us to sin and delight the Liar. What is this temptation? It is the temptation to believe that we work for the Lord out of our own generosity, out of our own time, out of our own resources, and we are therefore entitled to a greater reward when we outwork our neighbors.

This is exactly the parable of the whiny workers from Matthew, a parable about our salvation and our growth in holiness.

The whiny workers begrudge the landowner’s generosity in paying full wages to the latecomer laborers. Why? For some reason they feel that their own labor and their own wages are diminished by the generosity of the vineyard owner. Somehow their day’s labor is diminished. Their dollar is devalued. They worked harder and longer under the fiery sun, so they deserve more than those who sauntered in at the last hour and barely broke a sweat!

These guys are upset b/c they are working out of a very human notion of justice, a temptation, I think, to believe that compensation is earned; to get what is owed you, what you deserve. But remember, this is a parable about salvation and holiness not a lesson on capitalist economics. Is it a human notion of justice you want applied to your eternal life? Do you want forever what you deserve? What you’ve earned in this life? Do you want the Father to give you a just compensation for your life’s work? The whole point of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is that we won’t be given what we deserve; we won’t receive from the Father what is owed to us. As I have said to you many times: we don’t want God’s justice! We want His mercy! And Christ has bought that mercy for us.

Our Final Wage was offered on the Altar of the Cross once for all. Unearned. Free. Whether you came to your salvation sixty years ago, or ten years ago, or three hours ago, your Final Wage comes from the bottomless cache of the Father’s generosity. Salvation is free. Holiness – the living out of that salvation morning, afternoon, and night – is work. But even that work is graced by a loving God Who would see us with Him for eternity. That grace is sufficient to help us magnify the Lord. 

Make Christ larger, brighter, louder, sharper, sweeter, stronger, kinder, truer, better, more beautiful, more loving, more faithful, more humble, more generous, and make Christ bigger, and bigger, and bigger in your life. Magnify the Lord til your knees buckle. Magnify the Lord til your back hurts. Magnify the Lord in your body til there is no room for sin. And when the Lord asks, “Are you envious b/c I am generous?” Say, “No, Lord! I am grateful in life and death, and I live and die to magnify you so that everyone may see and hear you as I do!”

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

16 September 2017

On the failure to forgive

24th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Mt. Carmel/OLR, NOLA

In Dante's Inferno, those who lived and died as slaves to anger are consigned to the Fifth Circle of Hell.* The violently angry spend eternity attacking one another on surface of the swampy waters of the River Styx. The sullenly angry sulk beneath the slime, forever stewing in their self-imposed loneliness. Though they share in the sin of inordinate anger – expressed in different ways – what these sinners have most in common is their stubborn refusal to forgive. . .while they could. Rather than release her offender from his debt, the violently angry sinner slashes out in a rage, causing him harm. And rather than release his offender from her debt, the sullenly angry sinner retreats into a silent, brooding resentment that slowly consumes all of his charity. When our Lord urges us to forgive our offenders as many times as necessary, he's not giving us some Hallmarkish therapeutic advice for Better Living. He's telling us outright that the failure to forgive – in the end – is tantamount to choosing to live for all eternity basting away in the slimy waters of the River Styx, Hell. The failure to forgive another is the failure to receive forgiveness from God.

If forgiveness were easy to give, we wouldn't need our Lord to command us to do it. We wouldn't need that image of the master turning his unforgiving servant over the torturers. That forgiveness is difficult to give is part and parcel of our fallen humanity. But why is forgiveness so hard to give? It might be b/c we are afraid that forgiving someone who has offended us might come to believe that his/her offense wasn't really all that offensive to begin with. If I can easily forgive being hurt, then maybe I wasn't that badly hurt in the first place. Maybe forgiveness is hard b/c we are afraid of being hurt again by the same person, by the same offense. If I forgive this hurt, maybe he/she will hurt me again in the same way. Or perhaps forgiveness is hard b/c we like the feeling of another being in our debt for sin. She hurt me and I'm not forgiving her b/c I like that she owes me. As our Lord makes clear, my failure to forgive is a trap for me. There is no justification, no way to make right, my refusal to grant to another what God has freely given to me. Yes, I've been sinned against – terribly wounded – and my fallen nature urges me to seek justice, to seek balance. But when I seek that balance w/o acknowledging that my own sins have been forgiven, what I am truly seeking is vengeance. 
And unrepented vengeance earns me a dip in the River Styx, or a visit with the master's torturers. Our Lord recounts at the end of his parable: “I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?'” The obvious answer here is: “Yes, Lord!” If you can't bring yourself to answer that question in the affirmative, why not? The most common reason I've heard as a priest goes something like this: “I could say that I've forgiven, but I don't feel like I've forgiven.” Our Lord requires us to “forgive from the heart,” meaning a genuine forgiveness that relieves the other person of his/her debt to us. No where does the Lord require us to feel good about forgiving another. No where does he demand that we be happy about it. Forgiveness is an act of the will – from the heart – we just do it. And then we go on with our lives knowing that no one owes us a debt of sin, knowing that we ourselves owe no one a debt of forgiveness. “Wrath and anger are hateful things,” Sirach tells us. And only a sinner holds them tight.

*Cantos VII - IX

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

10 September 2017

Discerning a priestly vocation?

For those discerning a vocation to the Order of Preachers, there's a new website operated by the OP friars of Memphis, TN. . .

Priest Vocation

Check it out!

Don't be a stubborn mule!

23rd Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Long after celibacy and poverty have become routine for us priests and religious, obedience remains a struggle. We can get used to not having that one special someone, and we can get used to relying on the community treasury for our basic needs. But surrendering my stubborn will to the authority of another? That's a very different story! When I'm asked to do something I don't want to do, I can hear that sneaky spirit of rebellion whispering to me – You're an adult! You're well-educated and entitled to your opinion! You know what's best for you! You have rights too, you know! That's the Self rising in pride to war against a vow made long ago. And because I am being perfected and not yet perfect, I need to be reminded of the wisdom of humility. Constantly reminded. The hand cannot grasp without the wrist. Nor the wrist bend without the arm. And so on. Humility – at the least – is the submission of one’s body and soul to the necessity of playing well with others. In other words, as Christians we don’t get to take our ball home just because we don’t like the rules of the game. We’re in this game of holiness together (like it or not) and sometimes that means (like it or not) that we have to hear that we aren’t playing well with others.

Despite our discomfort with delivering or receiving such a message, deliver and receive we must. The Lord tells Ezekiel, “If I tell the wicked, ‘O wicked one, you shall surely die [for disobeying me],’ and [if] you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.” My hand may stick a knife into my enemy’s heart because my enraged brain sends the order; however, I am held responsible for his death – Me, body and soul. Not just my hand, not just my brain. And when I am brought to justice for murder, it is perfectly reasonable to ask: who knew he was capable of murder? Who failed to teach him the sacredness of life? Who failed to speak out and dissuade him? The law will call this “culpable negligence.” Our Lord will call it “a failure to love.”

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, referring to Christ’s teaching on the greatest commandment, writes: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. . . Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Taking Ezekiel and Paul together we can see that love and obedience are inseparably bound together. Love without obedience is just sentimentality. Obedience without love is just groveling. Love with obedience is fraternal correction done well. This why Jesus, all too aware of our fragile egos and nonetheless painfully aware of the consequences of our failure, lays out a process for calling another to obedience in love: first, one on one; then, one with two or three more; then one with the whole Church. If the Church cannot extract obedience in love from the dissenter, then “treat him as you would a Gentile or tax collector,” that is, treat the stubborn one like an unclean stranger or a traitor to the family. This is not cruel. It is responsible stewardship. 
Reflecting on why fraternal correction is so difficult to deliver and receive, I am forced to look carefully in the mirror. I won’t claim to be an average American Catholic since most Catholics aren’t Dominican priests. However, my stubborn will was trained in the modernist assumptions of a rural working class family. Persons are highly autonomous individuals. Freedom is the unhindered right to choose whatever I want. And whatever I want is right for me. Years in religious life have done a lot to inform my intellect about the problems I face as a stubborn mule, but they have done little to move my will. What does Paul say, “I do what I do not want to do. . .” Essentially, the problem is this: when confronted with fraternal correction I immediately argue myself to two conclusions: 1). the person correcting me is not qualified to correct me because he is sinful too, and 2). I refuse to listen because my corrector is motivated by envy, or control issues, or a personal dislike, or political enmity, so he can't be correcting me in love. In one fell swoop I have committed two sins: presumption and lack of charity. And the dry well I have dug for myself just gets deeper and deeper.

That explains why I don’t hear correction well. Why don’t I deliver correction well? Basically, I distrust my own motives and I fear that the one I am correcting will point them out to me. Who wants to hear the ugly truth about one’s prejudices? There’s also the danger that the other guy will rebut with a correction of his own. And that correction might be true! Ouch. Like most of you, I do not want my freedom violated by a questionable correction, and I certainly don’t want my freedom restricted by someone with an agenda that fails to take love into account. . .even if what my corrector is trying to tell in love me is true. . .maybe especially if what he is trying to tell me is true! My experience tells me that it is truly the extraordinarily holy person who can deliver and hear a correction without the sins of pride and rebellion stirring up an over-the-top reaction. But holiness is required of us. For better and worse, we are nothing without love and we cannot grow in holiness without obedience.

Paul’s wisdom is our salvation here: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another. . .” Said another way, possess no debt except the debt of love that you owe to those whom you have promised to love. Alone, we are nothing. Together we are Christ, made one body in one baptism for the preaching of the Word. The discipline of humility that comes from fraternal correction is made possible by and strengthened by a closed mouth and an opened heart. Difficult? Not at all. It’s almost impossible. But if this life in Christ were easy we would have no need for the Church, no need for one another.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

03 September 2017

Don't put down your cross!

22nd Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Our Lord names Peter “Satan.” Last week, he named Peter “the Rock,” the rock upon which his Church would be built. How does Peter go from being “the Rock” to “Satan” in a week's time? Having declared his belief that Jesus is the Christ, and receiving his title, “the Rock of the Church,” Peter ends up doing what many of us do when confronted by a crisis of faith. We panic. . .and do or say something dumb. When Peter hears Jesus say that he – Jesus – must go to Jerusalem and die at the hands of his enemies, Peter blurts out the dumbest possible thing he could, “God forbid!” Apparently, in his panic, Peter forgets that Jesus is God – a confession he himself made just last week – and that God is telling him what must happen. Rather than comfort Peter or accompany him or engage him in encounter, Jesus rebukes him, “Get behind me, Satan!” Sorry. But Jesus would get an “F” in pastoral practice at the seminary! Rather than coddle Peter's lack of faith, Jesus calls him out as a tempter, giving him the name of humanity's greatest spiritual enemy. Jesus knows that he must carry his cross and die. Not even the Rock can be allowed to deter him.

So, what does all this have to do with the price of crawfish at Dorignac's? Besides showing us how even an Apostle, Peter the Rock, can allow his fear to overrule his faith, Jesus is revealing to us a truth bound to make us a little queasy – we all have a cross to carry and Satan's self-appointed task is tempt us into putting it down. Jesus knows that he is bound for Jerusalem and death. He knows he's going to be betrayed, tortured, and executed. He bears all this as his cross, along with humanity's sinful nature. If he were to allow Peter to tempt him into laying down his cross, humanity's salvation would be thwarted. We would – even now – dwell in darkness and death, without any hope for redemption. Instead, Jesus does what he must. He rebukes Peter and reveals another hard-to-hear truth: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” That's God's thinking not Man's. It is Satan who encourages us to set aside our crosses and make ourselves more comfortable. It is Satan who teaches us that our crosses are unbearable burdens; that our crosses are unnecessary restrictions on our liberty. It's his job to make us believe that we can still receive God's love even as we set aside the very tools we need to receive His love.

If you think it's strange to look at the cross you carry as a tool for receiving God's love, think again. Think this way instead: Jesus' cross was his tool for receiving God's love for all of humanity. The cross was the instrument – the tool – by which Jesus took up our sinful natures and gave them to our Father in sacrifice, freeing us from sin and death. If this is true for Christ, why can't it be true for us as well? Jesus himself says that taking our crosses is a condition for following him. Following him where? If you follow him, you end up where he did – dying sacrificially on your cross; that is, dying to self for the sake of Christ to become holy. In his desperation to prevent you from dying to self and becoming holy, Satan will tempt you with every trick at his disposal. One of his oldest tricks – the one Peter tries out – is to try and convince you that your cross is an unnecessary burden; that you have been unfairly treated in the games of crosses; that somehow or another you have been especially picked out of the crowd to endure extra trials. And b/c you have been so sorely mistreated by God, you deserve a break, you are entitled to set your cross aside and just coast for a while. And when you do, Satan slithers up next to you, and says, “Let me show you an easier way. . .”

And that “easier way” is indeed easier. . . and shorter, faster, less expensive. . .and deadlier. Set your cross aside – your tool for receiving God's love and growing in holiness – and your way is most definitely easier. Because there is nothing easier than choosing to be separated from God. . .forever. What Satan knows and we must never forget – no cross of ours is ever bigger than our Father's love for us. No cross of ours is ever deadlier than life lived in shadow of the devil's lies. Whatever your cross is – disease, poverty, bad marriage, sexual vice, alcohol, drugs, whatever it is – your cross is temporary, and Christ is always, always, always with you. Carry that cross while following Christ's teachings, dying to self in loving sacrifice for another, and you will better receive God's ever-present love and mercy; you will grow in holiness. Our crosses are not lifestyle choices, or a harmless bad habits, or unfair impositions on our freedom. They are living, breathing tools for lifting up our brokenness. By lifting up to God that which threatens to smother us in sin, we give Him glory, and He takes our contrite hearts as worthy sacrifice. When Satan tempts you to lay down your cross and take it easy, say to him, “What profit would there be for me to gain the whole world and forfeit my life?”

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

29 August 2017

Glittering gold, burdensome lead

St. Augustine
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Painting a vivid picture of their woe, Dante consigns Hypocrites to the Eighth Circle of Hell: “Down here, a people of elaborate design/perambulated at a mournful pace;/their attitude was hollow and resigned.//The lurid cloaks in which that are encased/had monkish cowls made in the Cluny mode,/obscuring almost all the upper face.//Without was dazzling filigree of gold;/within was lead, of such a density/that Frederick's copes were lighter sevenfold.//O weary mantle for eternity!”* Hypocrisy is not only a “weary mantle for eternity”; it is also a burdensome disguise for any Christian in the here and now, most especially the Christian minister, or those aspiring to become Christian ministers. In Dante's Hell, sinners live-out their principal sins. . .forever. Because they have chosen to be in Hell, sinners cannot leave their punishments behind. They made their eternal choices while alive on Earth. And now, God honors – forever – their choice to be separated from Him. For the hypocrite, he lived his life on Earth glittering in gold on the outside, while carrying his sin like lead on the inside. His spiritual progress on Earth is mirrored in Hell – he walks in circles, going nowhere, slowly. 
Our Lords says to the scribes and Pharisees, “Woe to you, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.” The spiritual leader who practices hypocrisy lives that sort of life that, in word and deed, glitters like gold on the outside but rots on the inside; and, in effect, locks the door to heaven, forbidding entrance not only to those whom he leads but to himself as well. A life lived in hypocrisy is an inauthentic life, a life where the freedom of the Child of God is shoved into a joyless, merciless spiritual straitjacket, and its misery is spread with the rule of a father's authority. Our Lord condemns the scribes and Pharisees to eternal woe b/c they deprive themselves and others of the Father's freely offered mercy, burying His offer in mounds of religious acrobatics – hoops to leap, walls to climb, moats to swim. Where these men should be bridges to God, they are instead obstacle courses. Where they should be teachers, they are scolds. Where they should be preachers, they are haranguers. And b/c they are hypocrites for money, they are triply-damned. “Woe be to you” (x3).

This all sounds severe. Maybe even terrifying. And it should. As ministers and aspiring ministers of the Gospel, we are doubly responsible to Christ the Judge for how we carry out his work. We are responsible for ourselves and those we are charged to serve. How do we avoid hypocrisy? Dante's infernal punishment of the hypocrite is our answer. Everything that glitters gold on the outside must be matched and even surpassed by the glittering gold on the inside. This doesn't mean constant moral purity! It means that we first receive the Gospel, teach and preach the Gospel, live out the Gospel, and then spend ourselves doing everything possible to lift up those who look to us for help. We unlock doors of mercy. We build bridges to Christ. We knock down walls around forgiveness. And we go to God – in the end – confident that we have done His work, bearing witness to His truth in love. 

*Inferno, Canto XXIII (trans. Carson)

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

26 August 2017

Tape it to your coffee pot or steering wheel. . .

21st Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Anthony of Padua, NOLA

Here in New Orleans we are experts on a few things. Food. Partying. How to wait for a hurricane, which usually involves food and partying. What to do when it rains for too long. And the absolute necessity of solid foundations. . .even if those foundations are nine or so feet off the ground. When you live in a city where the ground resembles a wore-out sponge and the sky never seems to stop crying, you learn to appreciate the usefulness of a rock-solid, never-shifting foundation. Even if everything on top of that foundation gets swept away, the foundation itself remains, ready to start again. We need good foundations for our buildings, and we need good foundations for our faith. In a world that seems to have lost its mind lately, where everything we once thought certain and sure has been swept away, we need the best foundation to keep our place. Christ himself has given us that foundation: Peter and his Church. On his profession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, Peter receives the keys to the kingdom of heaven from Christ and hears our Lord say, “. . .you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” IOW, come hell or high water, the Church is here to stay!

And stay she has for 2,017 years. Through the bloody persecutions of Rome's emperors. Through the destruction of the empire by Vandals, Goths, and Visigoths. Through the schism between East and West. Through the Black Death which killed at least half of Europe's people, some 140 million souls. Through three popes reigning at the same time. Through Luther's revolt and the rise of Protestantism. The best intellectual efforts of “Enlightenment” era philosophers and politicians. The French Revolution and its Cult of Reason. Napoleon's empire. The Kaiser's Kulturkampf. The Bolshevik Revolution. The First and Second World Wars. The post-Vatican Two turmoil. The Age of Aquarius. The best efforts of dissenters and revolutionaries within the Church in the 70's, 80's, and 90's. And now – in 2017 – the Church will endure through the current particularly American insanity that pretends to create reality out of thin air by using the correct terminology. Without a solid foundation in the apostolic faith, Catholilcs are liable to end up believing five-year old boys can be magically changed into ten-year old girls just b/c they say so. Thanks be to God we have the Rock of Peter and his Church.

All that the Church has endured over the centuries bears witness to Christ's promise that not even Hell will prevail against her. And his promise endures not b/c the Church is somehow mystically protected from harm. There's no magic at work here. Christ identifies both Peter and Peter's faith as the Rock the Church is built upon. With the Holy Spirit's guarantee to Peter against error and the living faith of the People of God, the Church navigates the world's dangers and the world's silliness to maintain a constant heading toward preaching the Good News and caring for souls. Along the way, members of the Body will jump ship and swim off to answer siren calls, finding themselves dashed against the rocks of all sorts of nonsense. Even religious, priests, and bishops have been and will be seduced on occasion. But when we cling – and cling hard – to Peter's confession – “You are the Christ!” – we can clearly see the silliness for what it is. The nonsense for what it is. What better way is there for us to endure than to cling – and cling hard – to the Way, the Truth, and the Life who is Christ Jesus?

Our Lord has a question for us all: who do you say that I am? That's not a rhetorical question. That's not a question the preacher asks just to sound like he saying something profound. It's a real question from 2, 000 years ago and right this moment. Jesus wants to know who you think he is. Your answer to this question determines whether or not you're in the boat or swimming toward the rocks. If, with Peter, you say, “You are the Christ!” then the next question is all too obvious: do you live like you believe he's the Christ? We are no longer living in a Christian culture. Not even in New Orleans. We can no longer look to our political and cultural institutions for support in the faith. Even our public language, our common ways of speaking with one another, no longer carries the weight of our Christian tradition. Maybe, at one time, we could move through our day and find constant reminders of the faith. This is probably true now only for those of us who work in the Church. So, it has to be said: just showing up is not enough anymore. Your faith must be chosen, intentional; it must determined and in evidence. If not, you are in danger of losing it, or leaving it behind. Tape it to your steering wheel, over your desk; stick on your alarm clock, or your coffee pot; write in on your hand or your favorite book; make it your desktop wallpaper, or your ringtone: Who do I say Jesus is?

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

19 August 2017

We don't teach the Lord

NB. This Sunday's Gospel reading tempts Catholic preachers into Christological error. You may hear your pastor/deacon say that the Canaanite woman teaches Jesus a lesson about inclusivity. This is the standard historical-critical interpretation from 1983. And it is wrong. Thus, I'm excerpting a portion of a Roman homily from 2008 to provide a less erroneous view:

We need to dispense immediately with the ridiculous claim that this story is about a “marginalized woman of color teaching Jesus a lesson about radical inclusivity.” Creatures teach the Creator nothing. Jesus and the woman, however, do manage to teach the disciples that access to the Lord’s table is about trusting in the Living Word and not about one’s lineage, nationality, or relative status according to the Law. The Canaanite woman is made a child of God by her faith! In her humility, she asks for help and then testifies that any help she receives will be a gift and not an entitlement. Jesus rewards her faith by giving her her greatest desire: “…the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.”

We can confess up front that more often than not we are the disciples in this story. We’re the ones wanting to protect Jesus from harm, to prevent others from defiling him or abusing his name. We will set ourselves outside the tent as guards against the unworthy, as gatekeepers against the annoying and the merely curious. With stout arms crossed across our proud chests we are vigilant against the unclean dogs sniffing around for hand-outs; those who have not earned an audience by showing loyalty; those who would waste the Lord’s time with trivialities; obviously, as his only loyal disciples, we are best selected as his secretaries, his guards, his watchers. Occasionally, we may even have to protect him from himself. Imagine if he wanted to do something stupid like sacrifice his life in order to save everyone! Everyone! Not just the deserving, the observant, the righteous, and the clean, but just anyone who might accept his invitation to join his eternal table. Oy! What a mess. Sometimes we might have to protect Jesus from Jesus. Sad but true.
The entire homily is here: Access Denied.

06 August 2017

Mankind's definitive deliverance from evil

NB. The new pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary, Fr. Jonathan Hemelt, will be celebrating all of the Masses there through the month of August. I will return to OLR in September.

I can't think of a better reflection on the Feast of the Transfiguration that these paragraphs from BXVI brilliant 2007 post-synodal exhortation:


10. In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. At the same time, He reveals that He Himself is the true sacrificial lamb, destined in the Father's plan from the foundation of the world, as we read in The First Letter of Peter. By placing His gift in this context, Jesus shows the salvific meaning of His death and resurrection, a mystery which renews history and the whole cosmos. The institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus' death, for all its violence and absurdity, became in Him a supreme act of love and mankind's definitive deliverance from evil.

11. By His command to "do this in remembrance of me", He asks us to respond to His gift and to make it sacramentally present. In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, His expectation that the Church, born of His sacrifice, will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the liturgical form of the sacrament. The remembrance of His perfect gift consists not in the mere repetition of the Last Supper, but in the Eucharist itself, that is, in the radical newness of Christian worship. In this way, Jesus left us the task of entering into His "hour." "The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving." Jesus "draws us into Himself." The substantial conversion of bread and wine into His body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of "nuclear fission," to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all.

23. Certainly the ordained minister also acts "in the name of the whole Church, when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the eucharistic sacrifice." As a result, priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the center of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests. The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord's hands. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality.

36. The "subject" of the liturgy's intrinsic beauty is Christ Himself, risen and glorified in the Holy Spirit, who includes the Church in His work. Here we can recall an evocative phrase of Saint Augustine which strikingly describes this dynamic of faith proper to the Eucharist. The great Bishop of Hippo, speaking specifically of the eucharistic mystery, stresses the fact that Christ assimilates us to Himself: "The bread you see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. The chalice, or rather, what the chalice contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. In these signs, Christ the Lord willed to entrust to us His body and the blood which He shed for the forgiveness of our sins. If you have received them properly, you yourselves are what you have received." Consequently, "not only have we become Christians, we have become Christ himself." We can thus contemplate God's mysterious work, which brings about a profound unity between ourselves and the Lord Jesus: "one should not believe that Christ is in the head but not in the body; rather He is complete in the head and in the body."

46. Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved. The homily is "part of the liturgical action", and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful. Hence ordained ministers must "prepare the homily carefully, based on an adequate knowledge of Sacred Scripture". Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided. In particular, I ask these ministers to preach in such a way that the homily closely relates the proclamation of the word of God to the sacramental celebration and the life of the community, so that the word of God truly becomes the Church's vital nourishment and support. The catechetical and paraenetic [moral instruction] aim of the homily should not be forgotten. During the course of the liturgical year it is appropriate to offer the faithful, prudently and on the basis of the three-year lectionary, "thematic" homilies treating the great themes of the Christian faith, on the basis of what has been authoritatively proposed by the Magisterium in the four "pillars" of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the recent Compendium, namely: the profession of faith, the celebration of the Christian mystery, life in Christ and Christian prayer.

82. In discovering the beauty of the eucharistic form of the Christian life, we are also led to reflect on the moral energy it provides for sustaining the authentic freedom of the children of God. Here I wish to take up a discussion that took place during the Synod about the connection between the eucharistic form of life and moral transformation. Pope John Paul II stated that the moral life "has the value of a 'spiritual worship', flowing from and nourished by that inexhaustible source of holiness and glorification of God which is found in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist: by sharing in the sacrifice of the Cross, the Christian partakes of Christ's self-giving love and is equipped and committed to live this same charity in all his thoughts and deeds". In a word, "'worship' itself, eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented".

This appeal to the moral value of spiritual worship should not be interpreted in a merely moralistic way. It is before all else the joy-filled discovery of love at work in the hearts of those who accept the Lord's gift, abandon themselves to him and thus find true freedom. The moral transformation implicit in the new worship instituted by Christ is a heartfelt yearning to respond to the Lord's love with one's whole being, while remaining ever conscious of one's own weakness. This is clearly reflected in the Gospel story of Zacchaeus. After welcoming Jesus to his home, the tax collector is completely changed: he decides to give half of his possessions to the poor and to repay fourfold those whom he had defrauded. The moral urgency born of welcoming Jesus into our lives is the fruit of gratitude for having experienced the Lord's unmerited closeness.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->