December 8, 2019

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 15, 2019, Year A (Gaudete Sunday)

John the Baptist in prison.

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

“Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?”

As you live out life as a Christian, trying to make the life of Jesus a reality in your own life, many are going to be observing you. In key moments, some people are going to be looking to you for help, hope maybe you’ll be their salvation, their way out. Very indirectly, perhaps very quietly, or perhaps quite directly, they might ask you: ARE YOU THE ONE WHO CAN HELP ME… WHO CAN BRING ME SALVATION IN THIS MESS… OR DO I LOOK FOR ANOTHER?

You are a Christian. You openly and publicly bear the name of Christ… and you do it for all to see. You identify yourself as a Catholic. You attend Mass… receive the Sacraments. As a result people are going to look at you… to examine your actions… to look into your life. And they will ask you questions about why you are a Catholic.

You have been baptized. You have been confirmed. As we heard John the Baptist declare in last Sunday’s Gospel, he only baptized with water, but the One who is to come would baptize in the Fire of the Holy Spirit.

Having been marked with the signs of Baptism and Confirmation, and having been joined into Christ’s Mystical Body in Holy Communion, the Church now sends you into the world around us. With Jesus, you are one who is sent. The word “Mass” is derived from “missa” , mission, being sent. You come to Mass to receive in order to be sent, in order to share what you have received.

And so as a baptized and confirmed Christian, as a representative of Christ, openly living the Christian life, you will encounter people who will be looking at you and your life and asking: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?” Is your Faith real, is your Faith true and right, or do we look to another? One of the reasons why Pope Francis is popular is that he is real.

John the Baptist asked that question of Jesus because he wasn’t so sure about Jesus. Oh, he had heard reports about Christ. He’s heard rumors about His miracles, miracles that we done quietly, privately, only for a few individuals and without any dazzling, public display. John had even baptized Jesus with a baptism of repentance, an ancient Jewish religious practice that was not uncommon. John the Baptist had done that at the beginning of Christ’s public life. John was quite sure about Jesus at that point, telling everyone that he, John, wasn’t even worthy to carry Jesus sandals. But now? Well…. he just wasn’t so sure anymore. You see Jesus hadn’t as yet liberated the Jews from the yoke of the Romans and their occupying army. Jesus hadn’t vindicated the Jews in front of the whole world, and so John wasn’t so sure that Jesus really was the Messiah, the Savior, after all.

Well, Jesus sent a reply back to John via John’s own messengers. Tell him, Jesus replied what you see and hear: the blind see once again, the crippled can now walk, hopeless lepers have skin that is clean once again, people that couldn’t hear can now hear and speak again, dead men are raised back into living again, and men and women who were without hope now hear good news. And happy are they who are not disappointed in me!

What, we must now ask, will be the message others receive about your life and mine? What kinds of things are happening in your life and mine that will give men and women hope? What will answer their insistent call to you: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?”

Each one of us here should be able to give the answer that Jesus gave. People that know us should be able to see, to have a vision and see what the meaning and purpose of human life is all about. They can dream the dreams that we dream. There is light in our lives, a light that shines in the darkness, a light that points to hope, the hope of eventual victory… the hope of the triumph of good over evil… the hope of peace… a light that reveals the presence of salvation in our lives. The blind, the spiritually blind, in other words, ought to be able to see God’s presence in humanity because of us.

Then there are the crippled. Others can see in us, or ought to see, a person who is actively doing something about the downtrodden in our world. We have, for instance, the Alternative Christmas Tree in the back of our church. Through it we are not giving money to some cause or some organized charity. And please don’t misunderstand me – many of those things are noble, very worthy and wonderful organizations. Here, however, we have an opportunity to directly respond to folks nearby as ones who are giving them gifts from God.

The lepers? All around us there are persons whose skins crawl with self-hatred. There are those who have been ostracized by others, cast away and left to shift for themselves. They are the lonely, the socially underdeveloped, the so-called freaks, and so on. Do we regard them as lepers and refuse to even get near them, or even breathe the air that they breathe? “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another, O Christian?”

And there are the deaf… those who can’t communicate… those who listen but do not hear. There are those who don’t understand Christianity… or Jesus… who have never really heard about Jesus Christ… who haven’t studied His personality… His character… and who would like to. Can you and I be answers to their prayers? Can we reveal Jesus to them in who we are and what we do?

And we are sent, finally, to raise the dead back to life again. I suppose for us it means going to those in our lives who are exhausted, worn out, dead tired, and giving them the energy of our love… giving them the power of our love, our enthusiasm. It means spending a lot of time and energy on them… our own time and lots of our precious energy… helping them to break out of their shell and bring them back into life again. It means giving them hope… something to live for… a life full of beauty, wonder, awe, goodness, and all of those things that make life really worth living. It means giving good news to those who are near death and have nothing but bad news because they have lost hope.

And so, Christian, as Christmas comes to you once again – Happy are those who are not disappointed in you. You are the one sent by God into their lives so that they need not look for another!

December 1, 2019

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2019, Year A

St. John the Baptist Preaching
Detail, St. John the Baptist Preaching, Mattia Preti (Il Cavaliere Calabrese), c. 1665.

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

Here we are with Christmas just two and a half weeks away. The shops and malls are loaded with goodies. Christmas songs fill the air. Parties are being arranged and delicacies prepared. Thoughts of home, of family, and of a lovely time fill our hopes and imaginations.

With all of these lovely sentiments in our hearts and minds we come to church today and hear about a weird guy living in the desert, wearing scratchy and horribly smelling clothes made of camel’s hair, eating locusts, calling people a bunch of snakes while telling them that fire and brimstone will come down on them, all the while threatening them with axes that will cut them down. The gospel picture ends with John the Baptist threatening the Sadducees and Pharisees with hell.

Aren’t you glad you came to church today just before Christmas to hear all of that? Well, John the Baptist reminds us that it’s likely we all need to pay attention to a few things that perhaps we have neglected in our lives, things that revolve around the presence of Christ… or His absence.

Take for instance those with whom we live — our wives, our husbands, our children, our parents, our friends. How have we loved them? How have we failed to love them? Who have we downright neglected or not treated as we should have?

Too often we take those around us for granted. We give them little, if any, of our time, our attention, our affection. Maybe we haven’t cared for the very well at all. It seems strange that we sort of assume that they know we love them without our ever actually telling them or showing them that we do love them… dearly love them. Daily routines, concerns about our work, and our habits can cause us to pay attention to material things at the expense of giving our families and friends our real attention, care, concern, and love. Maybe this Christmastime we can actually give them more of our selves as we prepare to celebrate the love of God for us made real in Christ Jesus.

What about our parents and our grandparents who live some distance away from us? Have we neglected them too? And our friends? Are there some changes we need to make because of our neglect?

Then there are those with whom we work. Our attitudes toward them are expressed in the ways we treat them or otherwise relate to them. Attitudes are the sources of human behavior. If we want to reform the way we treat others we have to begin with our attitudes toward them. We need to hear John the Baptist’s message as it applies to us.

Then, too, we should pay some attention to the way we have neglected our own selves. Are we physically out of shape? Overweight? Do we over indulge ourselves? Do we drink too much… drink too often… or eat too much? Do we care for our selves?

What is at issue is the way we have failed to love, failed to love and respect others, and failed to have love and respect our selves, selves that God gave us when He brought us into life in the first place. John the Baptist’s words ought to raise questions we should face and answer.

Finally there is the matter of Christ himself. We profess our faith in Him and our love for Him. But talk is cheap and words are easily spoken. It’s what we do that gives substance to love. Today we need to take an honest look at what we are actually doing in our daily lives that reveals our faith and love in Christ. Just how real is our relationship with Jesus Christ?

Repentance means change. And change is something we dislike. If you are driving to a destination and make a wrong turn, you can’t just say “oops” and continue on driving in a wrong direction. You have to turn around and get back on the right path. You have to make a change that makes a difference. Change has its demands, demands that go beyond mere words of regret. Advent calls us to make some changes in our routines.

Advent has more to offer us, however, than that. Advent has a Savior for us. Beyond our own efforts to recognize sin and failure in our lives, beyond our confessions and admissions that lead us to repent, Advent presents us with what we truly need – a Savior. For if we’re honest with ourselves we will admit that we cannot deal with sin, repentance, and conversion all on our own. We can’t manage our lives all by ourselves.

So I’ll leave you with the first three steps of the famous Twelve Steps found in Alcoholic Anonymous. Of the twelve, the first three are the most vital and critical. They deal with what John the Baptist is talking about. So, substituting the word sin for the word alcohol the steps are:

1 – We admitted we were powerless over sin – that our lives had become unmanageable.

2 – Came to believe in a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The only thing in life that is constant is change. The only certitude is this: that there is life where there is change. Something that is changeless is dead.

Change is hard on us all – on you and on me alike. It’s very difficult for everyone because who or what guarantees that things will be better as a result of change? A life lived close to God is the only real guarantee we have.

The wonderful thing about Advent is that in the end we are given the certitude of God’s presence in our lives in Jesus Christ. Advent is all about our expectant faith in the God who loves us enough to send us His very best… His only Son. And if we receive Him in our hearts and souls, deep down within and not simply with good wishes and nice thoughts, then the change that we enter into will move from incertitude into the certainty of God’s abiding love deep within us to empower us to deal with our selves, and to love ourselves and those around us as He would have us.

Prayer for the Advent Wreath Week Two of Advent

Advent

The lighting of the Advent candles symbolizes the hope that the coming Messiah represents in a world that very often seems dark, forbidding and hopeless. We do so because we are a people living in faith that our Divine Master will come again in glory at the end of time to dispense peace and justice. The joyous anticipation of the season of Advent is captured in the teachings of the prophets from the Old Testament: "Exult greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he…" (Zechariah 9:9)

Advent Wreath Prayer - Second Week

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Dear Heavenly Father:  in this second week of Advent, I feel a bit overwhelmed as I learn to set priorities in my life. At the base of your mountain, I realize I cannot climb it with too much baggage. I see you at the top of the mountain, ready to usher me into the holy city. Draw me up that mountain, Lord, for there I will find fulfillment and peace. As I light these two candles, help me, Lord, to cast aside that which is not of you, that baggage that holds me back from fully embracing you. Help me to make prayer the center of my life. I am preparing my heart, O Lord, for you to enter it once again, to give me life and hope, for you are the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.
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Collect Prayer Second Sunday of Advent

Almighty and merciful God, may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son, but may our learning of heaven wisdom gain us due admittance to his company. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

***

Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people. He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us. He is the Savior of all. May He come quickly and not delay. We ask this in His holy name. Amen.

November 24, 2019

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019, Year A

The Last Judgment

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

In today’s first reading we hear the prophet Isaiah calling us to climb to the top of the mountain and look for the Lord’s advent, the Lord’s coming into our lives. At the end of today’s first reading when we hear Isaiah cry out, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” We need to understand that Isaiah isn’t simply talking about nature’s daylight nighttime’s darkness, he is talking about what we see with our minds and hearts. He’s calling us to rise above our daily worries, concerns and anxieties in order to take a look over the whole of our lives with all of their peaks and valleys. As Christians we do that in the vision of Christ, the Light of the World, God’s gift to us.

The problem you and I face comes not from the fact that we are unconcerned or apathetic or lazy. The problem you and I have is that we’re far too concerned about so many other things. Often these are legitimate concerns, worries that are thrust upon us by the world in which we live. We are so caught up in all of the events of our days that we do not pay attention to our souls, our inner spirits, and our inner selves. This spiritual blindness is spoken of in biblical language as darkness. And what do we do in darkness? Usually we sleep. We sleep because we shut down, tune out, and turn off.

When we, through accident, through chance, or in some other unexpected event, become aware of God’s activity in our lives, we suddenly pay attention — we wake up. And in that moment of waking up we likely think that God’s coming to us is sudden, unexpected, startling. God has, however, always been there. He is actively present to us all of the time, each and every day. It’s our awareness of Him that has changed. God hasn’t changed in the slightest way. He is constant; He is always present. It is we who are inconstant, changeable and inattentive.

We often speak of Advent as being a season of time in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives. Perhaps we should see it as a season of heightened awareness, for the truth is that we should be looking for God already at work in our lives every day. God is always offering Himself to us. We, however, are not always responding because we’re not paying attention. Advent is a time to conscientiously, deliberately, and with awareness respond to His offer of Himself to us. We have to “see the Light,” so to speak.

It’s all a matter of seeing eternity in every season of our lives. It’s all a matter of paying attention to God’s presence to us in our lives as children, as teens, as young adults, in our middle age, and in the final seasons of our lives when we mirror the time when the leaves fall from their branches and the world goes to sleep under a blanket of snow. In each of those seasons of our lives God’s ever-present and everlasting love can break in upon us. We all, each one of us, feel it to be unexpected. But what is so unexpected about it? Why should we be surprised? God is always calling us to climb to the top of the mountain, look for His coming, and take a look over the broad range of our lives.

Our lives are cluttered with too many things demanding our attention, draining us of our energies, and blinding us to the big picture. Money only goes so far. Technology can only do so much. Medicines have a short shelf life. All of our human resources are limited. Only God has what we need. He has all that we need in an inexhaustible supply.

Can we look ahead? Yes, we can… if we take the time and make the space to do so. Can we trace the writing of God’s finger as He sends us His messages? We can. Can we seize the opportunity to make time during Advent to come to some daily Advent Masses? Attend Communal Penance Services? Read from the bible? Spend extra time in thoughtful reflection and quiet prayer? We can. But that is not the issue. The big question is not what we can do – it’s what we will do. It’s our will that is controlling, not our wishes.

We live in the time after the arrival of the year 2,000 A.D. Do you remember our worries when the year 2000A.D. arrived and we were told that our computers were not programmed for those digits and might shut themselves down and everything with them? We also live in the time after September 11th. We live in an age of terrorism. We live in an economic mess. We live with a lot of emotional anxieties. We would do well to ask ourselves the question: “Where is God in all of this?” and then seriously, during this Advent, pursue answers to that question. For questions are not denials, they are quests. And God always wants to be sought. All lovers do.

As your teachers taught you in school, the Greek philosopher Plato (who lived four hundred years before Christ) declared, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Every Advent, and indeed every time we come here to Mass, Holy Mother Church bids us to examine our lives. As your priest I have always had that purpose in mind every time I’ve stood here preaching homilies over the past forty years.

Once again we enter into and begin our journey through Advent, hopefully looking for the coming of the Lord into our lives. And so I repeat to you the words of St. Paul, words you just heard in his letter to the Romans, remembering that the Romans back in those days lived in a culture not altogether different from the one in which we presently live:

Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.”

In the words of Jesus you just heard in today’s gospel account:

So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

November 20, 2019

Plenary Indulgence for the Solemnity of Christ the King

Christ the King

A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who participate in the public recitation of the "Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King."

Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on the Feast of Christ the King:

◗ Publicly recite the prayer, "Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer – Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King" (see below)

◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Pope’s intentions (those intentions designated by the Holy Father each month).

◗ Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day).

◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of the Feast of Christ the King.

◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

You may gain one plenary indulgence a day.

Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer - Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King (Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor)

Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before You. We are Yours, and Yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with You, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known You; many, too, despising Your precepts, have rejected You. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Your Sacred Heart.

Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken You, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned You; grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of Truth and the unity of Faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.

Grant, O Lord, to Your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to It be glory and honor forever. Amen.
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27. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the above Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King, if it is recited publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ the King, and piously carry out the precepts in Norm 23...

A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the above Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King.

From the Enchiridion of Indulgences.

November 17, 2019

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 24, 2019, Year C

Jesus Christ

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

If there is no divine being above us we will be consumed by all that is around us. If Christ in His kingship is removed from our lives we will be at the mercy of any and all forces in this world that are more powerful than our own powers.

In the world of philosophers those who reject God or the reality of God are known as nihilists who claim we exist in nothingness. What we think to be real is, they claim, only a construction that we have made in our own minds.

The problem with nihilism is that it leads to anarchy, the complete loss of order in a world that they view to be essentially irrational. Tyrants come to power and thrive in such a world view.

Our nation’s Founding Fathers recognized the threat and grip of tyrants when they wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Our human dignity, our rights and our freedoms come to us not from any President, or Congress or Supreme Court; they come to us from God our Creator. No king, ruler, president or potentate confers our basic human rights upon us. Perhaps that concept does not seem to be very bold to us today, but it was the foundation of our Declaration of Independence, the beginning of what back then was known as the American Experiment. Experiment? Yes! What our Founding Fathers asserted back then was radical because people in the rest of our world were governed in those days by kings, dictators and totalitarians who ruled as if people were their possessions, as if their subjects belonged to them and not to God. Even now there are those in our world who despise our American democratic ideals.

The situation today was not much better in the early 1900’s, a time when World War I had been fought and the Treaty of Versailles, while ending that war, had at the same time laid the groundwork for World War II.

Let me fast forward now to the year 1925. Germany was in economic ruin. In 1924 Adolph Hitler published his book Mein Kampf. German National Socialism, Nazism, was gaining power. It advocated radical nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism.

Other dark storm clouds were gathering back then in the year 1925. Atheistic Communism was sinking its roots into Russian soil. Totalitarianism and secularism were on the rise, seeking to dominate entire peoples. The leaders at the top of all of these political systems hated the Catholic Church while at the same time the intelligentsia in the Western World also disdained Catholicism.

So it was in that context on December 11, 1925 when Pope Pius XI, a very well educated and intelligent man, established this Solemnity of Christ the King for the entire Catholic Church to be celebrated throughout the world at the end of the Church’s liturgical year.

We all recognize, of course, that there are dark forces surrounding us in our day. Radical Islamic terrorists seek not only the elimination of the State of Israel, they hate our American culture as well. The events of September 11, 2001 clearly reveal that. Furthermore they seek to subject the whole world to the will of Allah as they interpret it in their holy book, the Koran and Sharia Law.

And we have our own internal “isms” to deal with as well – materialism, consumerism, and secularism, to name the chief ones.

As Christians we claim Jesus Christ to be our King. We place ourselves under His kingship because we believe that with His power we can establish His justice and peace among us. But in order to do so, Christ relies on our freely chosen allegiance.  He relies on our willing cooperation and He relies on the gift of our very lives and souls in order to reveal His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. That kingdom is found in the way we relate to the people we find in our lives. It’s realized, made real, in our personal relationships.

This is the way it is in Christ’s kingdom. If Christ’s kingdom is to be revealed here on earth, made real in our world as it is in heaven, we must work to make it so. Do we expect God to be a “Big Daddy” and give it all to us without any effort on our part, in spite of our indifference, neglect and even our rejection of him? That would be childish nonsense. That would be foolish presumption. That would be arrogance on our part, namely the expectation that God will do it all for us anyway, even though we pay scant attention to Him and give Him little, if anything, of our hearts and souls.

My first words to you in this homily were: If there is no divine being above us we will be consumed by all that is around us. In other words if Christ is not our king then the principalities and powers of this world will rule us. We will have sold out to them, sold our hearts and souls for the cheap glitz and glitter of fool’s gold. If God is not our Father and Christ is not our king when we shall have our own gods and goddesses — and they will give us nothing. In the end we will have betrayed ourselves and lost our citizenship in the everlasting kingdom of God. Who are the gods and goddesses that our culture presents to us? What have they given us in return?

Christ is our King so that the powers of this world cannot hold us in their grip. Our freedom is found in “the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God.” If Christ is not our king then we will be consumed by all that is around us.

In a few moments we will pray the words of the Preface for this Mass. In that Preface we can find Christ’s mission statement. His mission statement of Christ is also our mission statement:
As king he claims dominion over all creation,
that he may present to you, his almighty Father,
an eternal and universal kingdom:
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.
This means that we must be a people of truth, a people who protect the dignity of life in all of its forms. We must be a people liberated from the seductive lures of this world and who live fully in God’s gifts to us. We must be a people of justice, who love others without self-interest, and who work for peace.

How easy it is to say those lovely words! How hard it is to truly live them! But that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? For we know that with men and women living and working on their own it is impossible to live out those ideals. But with God, with Christ as our King, all things are possible. He was crucified, died, and rose from the dead to hand over His Spirit to us in order that, in the power of His Holy Spirit, we might eventually reveal His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

November 10, 2019

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 17, 2019, Year C

Destruction of the second Temple
Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, Francesco Hayez, 1867.
Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

Who is your judge? I mean in the ultimate sense who do you look to as the judge of the true worth of your actions and your worth as a person? Some of us turn to our parents and judge our actions and our lives on their approval alone. Some of us look to peers – it is peer group judgment that is the ultimate criterion that determines our actions in life. Still others look to no one but themselves to judge the relative goodness, or lack thereof, in their choices and deeds.

One of the distinguishing marks of a Christian is the fact that he or she looks forward to the judgment of God. The Christian is aware of the constant in-breaking of God into his or her life. A true Christian sees this not as a threat or in negative terms but rather sees it as a summons, a calling, or as an invitation from God for us to grow.

To believe in and assert that Christ will come again is to believe in and assert that we are in the process of becoming, in the process of growing and maturing, and that heaven can begin here on earth. It is a tremendously hopeful vision. It gives us goals. It gives us something to work for. It gives us the power to overcome despair, hopelessness, and the inertia present when we hear ourselves saying, "What’s the use?".

Life isn’t meant to be lived in the feverish pursuit of the approval of others. Life begins that way but heaven help us if it ends that way. On the day I die I won’t care very much at all any more about what others may think of me. What will matter very much is whether or not I have lived in what is right, what is true, what is just, what is beautiful, and what is noble. All of the times I prayed and lived "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done" will be there with me.

You and I can work with inner peace. In spite of the most frantic activity and noise we can work secure in God’s judgment, with the peace that comes from knowing we are, in God’s eyes, doing what we must, and doing what is right. Furthermore, we can work with receptive minds, minds that are quiet and able to listen to and perceive what is real in all that we are doing. All of that does not depend on what other people think of me. All of that depends on asking the question "Why did God create me and give me life?"

When I was a child it was important that I receive the smiling approval of my mother and my father. When they frowned I was afraid and insecure. But back then I was weak and dependent, and so I constantly looked for approval and affection in order to validate my self-worth.

As I grew older I needed that same sort of thing from my friends and acquaintances. Without that, without being considered a nice guy, productive, alert, intelligent, and all of those things, I was miserable. Then one day I discovered that I was in bondage, that I was enslaved by the crowd. I didn’t have the strength to say and do what was right and ought to be done. God was not my judge.

As I grew older, while I had not read Malachi, I eventually came to feel the impact of his words:
Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays. (Malachi 3:19-22)
The Second Coming of Christ, the Last Days, the Day of Judgment, is always upon us. Today is a day of judgment for all of us in all that we do or say. It really isn’t very threatening; it’s more of an invitation. And when we pray to God "Thy Kingdom come," it too can be seen as an invitation, a seeking of that order of reality that is divine. Isn’t that the best way to always judge things, to judge my actions, my motivations, my loves, my relationships with others?

We ought to avoid the escapism of constantly dreaming about the future. Day-dreaming about the world to come, or the person I fancy I am going to be, is out of touch with the reality that is the world as it is here and now. It is also out of touch with the judgment of God that is upon us here and now. There comes a point when we have to get off of the merry-go-round and look at where we are in relation to the past that has brought us to this point and look to the future that calls us to act the way we do today.

I am what I am based on the many, many decisions that I made in my past. I also am what I am based on my vision of the future, based on what my life will say to God when I am called upon to give it over to Him. He gave me life. The question I must answer is "What did I do with it?"

Your life here is very real. You cannot say to yourself: "Well, I’ll really begin to live when I retire." If you think that way then you’re deluding yourself… you are trying to escape the judgment that must be placed on what you choose to do in the here and now, on the life you are living in whatever occupation you now find yourself.

What other think is of some value, of course. It always is. And God can be judging you through, with, and in them. But the ultimate reality is that you must be a self-actuating, mature, and independent person who has met the challenge of becoming a true son or daughter of God… the way Jesus did. Like our great heroes and heroines of the past, we have to have the courage and strength to stand alone and be judged by God alone.

What we consider today is the First Commandment: "I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before me." It is God who ought to be the ultimate judge of our worth and our deeds, not others, and not just ourselves.

And so you and I, especially in these times, are called to give witness, to give testimony in our world, in our times, that God is the judge of all things.

"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end. 'Then he said to them,' Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.' Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives." (Luke 21:9-19)

November 3, 2019

Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 10, 2019, Year C

Christ questioned by the Sadducees

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

Two weekends ago we heard about a power and control group called the Pharisees, and last weekend we heard about Zacchaeus, the tax collector representing oppressive and controlling governmental officials. Today we hear about another power and control group called the Sadducees.

The Sadducees’ chief concern was about money, power, and control, not about religion as such. Politics and profit were their big concern. Life after death didn’t matter much to them because they really didn’t believe in the immortality of the soul and the soul’s resurrection into everlasting life.

There are lots of Sadducees around today. They are the pushers of pills, pot and all that’s marketed under the Pleasure Principle. They set the standards of what’s “cool” and what’s “uncool” using the media to control us. They want to be in control of fashions and fads, setting the pace, the standard, the norm of what’s “in” and what’s not. I suspect they don’t have what it takes to make themselves important among their own peers. But maybe they have other motives, like a profit motive.

Jesus was a threat to the power of the Sadducees, both the 2,000-year-old variety as well as today’s. Had He left them alone they would have gladly left Him alone. But Jesus kept doing and saying things that threatened their power and influence over others. His teachings cut into their business interests and their cash flow. With all of this whipping of their moneychangers and throwing around of their tables in the temple they considered Jesus to be a dangerous fanatic who had to be dealt with. So they set out to make Him look like a fool. Later on they would join with the Pharisees and plot to kill Him.

In today’s Gospel account we find the Sadducees confronting Jesus with their ridiculous story of an unfortunate woman who had married and then lost seven husbands. They did not start with the real issue, namely belief in life after death and the consequences of our daily decisions in determining how we would live in that life after death. No. Instead they started with the question of who the woman would belong to in the next life. They were, no doubt, laughing before they finished with their crazy question. What a fool Jesus would look like, they thought, answering their clever little question!

Jesus wasn’t laughing. He ignored their silly question and instead asked them a question about their national heroes, namely Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. Did they think that God created these giants only to blot them out into nothingness after their deaths? Do you really think that all of those beautiful people in your lives whom you know, who are strong, loving and wise, who are compassionate and kind, and who care so passionately for life and love... do you really think that when they die they simply go poof, simply disappear into clouds of nothingness? The secular atheists of our day believe that.

There are a lot of silly questions that the worldly put to us. There are a lot of questions that divert our attention and take us away from the most fundamental and therefore the most important question of all. And that question is: Why do you exist? Why were you brought into being? What is the meaning of your life? We have an answer; they do not.

It is absurd to imagine that all of the love, all of the beauty, all of the compassion, care, concern, goodness, and hunger for justice and decency that you find in yourself and admire so much in others is there only to be blown away at death. It is really absurd to hold to the position that all of the goodness, love, and pursuit of justice that we have in our hearts and souls and have shared with others is only good for the few short years we live here on earth and then simply disappears into nothingness at death. That truly is absurd.

And what is equally absurd is the Sadducees question about who has ownership and control of the woman in the next life. Do you hear what the Sadducees real question is? It’s the question of which brother OWNS the woman. Which one controls her? To which male does this female belong?

When we deceive ourselves about Jesus, we deceive ourselves. When we play games with God, we play games with our selves. Furthermore we play games with those around us. Ultimately we play games with the life we are destined to live after death.

There is no such thing as a small decision in life. All decisions have consequences. Our life after death, who we are, and what sort of character we shall take with us into the next life is shaped and formed by the questions we answer in the way we live our lives right now, tomorrow, throughout the coming week, and throughout the remaining days of our lives. There’s really no such thing as a sinful life that doesn’t matter. Nor is there an act of love that’s of little or no consequence. Wasn’t that one of the main points of Jesus’ teaching?

What, then, are your questions, the questions you want to put to God? Are they silly and ridiculous? You hear people around you making God’s Church appear to be silly, stupid, and of little or no consequence. Those who think like the Sadducees are alive and well and quite active among us today. Asking the right question is of supreme importance.

For I believe that the reason why you were born, the reason why you are living here among us today, and the reason why you will die is to love God face to face. And I also believe that the face of God is found in those around us who are hungry for love, for goodness, and for decency. I believe the face of God is seen in those who are imprisoned in addictions and compulsive behavior patterns, in those who are lonely and have no one to love them, in those who are sick with self-hate and with self-loathing. And I believe, too, passionately believe, that God has fallen in love with ordinary humanity, has fallen in love with you and with me, not just saints, and that we celebrate here on this altar the Wedding Feast of the Lamb so that God’s Body and Blood can mingle with and become yours. And I firmly believe that we only have a glimpse here on earth of what love and marriage will really be in the everlasting life that awaits us.

To my way of thinking, it is a terribly mistake to think otherwise... to believe that a beautifully lived life disappears into nothingness when we die. The Sadducees had nothing of substance to offer at the time of Christ. And the Sadducees of today likewise have nothing of lasting value to offer us. But God, being a God of the living and not of the dead, has everything to offer you and me.

May we now and all of the days of our lives respond fully to His loving offer of Himself to us here on our altar in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb when with His Body and with His Blood He joins Himself to us in a marriage bonding that will last forever.

November 1, 2019

All Souls' Day 2019 | The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

All Souls' Day

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace." — Wisdom 3:1-3

"On this day [November 2nd] is observed the commemoration of the faithful departed, in which our common and pious Mother the Church, immediately after having endeavored to celebrate by worthy praise all her children who already rejoice in heaven, strives to aid by her powerful intercession with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who still groan in purgatory, so that they may join as soon as possible the inhabitants of the heavenly city." (Roman Martyrology)

Monsignor Bernard Bourgeois explains this commemoration: "Eternity with God is the life to which each disciple of Christ aspires. The Second Eucharistic Prayer at Mass asks the Lord to 'welcome them [the faithful departed] into the light of [his] face.' We believe that God welcomes his children to his home, into his very presence. To behold the face of God is the 'stuff' of eternal life. If one can see another’s face, the two people are close together. The same can be said for this image of eternal life. If the departed person has been welcomed into God’s presence, then that person will be close enough to God to behold the light of his face. And that’s eternal life — to behold the face of God for all of eternity."

The Holy Souls in Purgatory

"Purgatory is much more like heaven than hell, for the souls detained there are not in Satan's clutches, but ready for God's loving embrace. They have their pains, but they also have their joys. They have their pains, because they cannot see God, though they are so close to Him. Their knowledge that their sentence is terminating builds up the desire for heaven to such a pitch that the pain of privation is most intense. But there is a mixed feeling. They also have their joy. St. Catherine of Genoa wrote: 'Apart from the happiness of the saints in heaven, I think there is no joy comparable to that of the souls in purgatory.' Their state is such that it is more correct to call them holy souls than poor souls..." [Source]

Collect Prayer for All Souls' Day

Listen kindly to our prayers, O Lord, and, as our faith in your Son, raised from the dead, is deepened, so may our due hope of resurrection for your departed servants also find new strength. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Solemnity of All Saints [All Saints' Day] 2019


Today the Church celebrates all the saints, canonized and beatified, as well as those known only to God who are in heaven enjoying the beatific vision. During the early centuries the saints venerated by the Church were all martyrs. Later Popes set November 1st as the day for remembering the saints' holy example.

The Commemoration of All Saints was first celebrated in the Eastern Church. The feast was initially observed in the West starting in the 8th century. The Roman Martyrology mentions that the current date was first promulgated by Gregory IV (827-844) and that he extended this observance to the whole of Christendom. It seems certain, however, that Pope Gregory III (731-741) preceded him in this. Meanwhile, in Rome, on May 13th, there was the annual commemoration of the consecration of the basilica of St. Maria ad Martyrs (or St. Mary and All Martyrs). This was the former Pantheon, the temple of Agrippa, dedicated to the gods of paganism, to which Boniface IV had translated many relics from the catacombs. Gregory VII transferred the anniversary of this dedication to the 1st of November

What must we do in order to join the company of the saints in heaven? We "must follow in His footsteps and conform [our]selves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. [We] must devote [our]selves with all [our] being to the glory of God and the service of [our] neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history" (Lumen Gentium, 40).

Collect Prayer

Almighty ever-living Father, by whose gift we venerate in one celebration the merits of all your Saints, bestow upon us, we pray, through the prayers of so many intercessors, an abundance of the reconciliation with you for which we earnestly long. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.