6th S. Easter 2021: God, Demons, and Saints

Today’s homily is for 6th Sunday of Easter, May 9, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

I sometimes hear that the opposite of God is the Devil. I also sometimes hear that when we die we get beautiful angel wings–we become angels in heaven. I want to take just a moment to clear things up a bit. First of all, the Church teaches that God is the Creator of all things, heaven and earth, spiritual beings and human beings. So there are these three types of beings, Divine beings (That’s God), spiritual beings (that’s angels and demons), and human beings (that’s saints and sinners). 

St. Augustine said of angels, “Spirit is what they are, angel is what they do.” With their whole being the angels are servants and messengers of God. As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures.” (CCC 329-330) Angels are pure spirits, created by God to do his will. We, on the other hand, are body and soul. A unity of mortal flesh and an immortal soul. According to the Catechism, “The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual.” (362) Also created by God to do his will.

So, first of all, God is the creator and has no opposite. The devil is not the opposite of God, the devil is a creature, created by God, but who refused to love God and God’s creation. If you want the opposite of the devil, as I said, it is not God, but maybe Michael the archangel, or Gabriel, or one of the other angels in heaven. I hate to hear that maybe the devil is winning, as though he could. He cannot. To be aligned with the devil is and has always been a losing game. Never follow a loser. Satan rejected God, rejected love, and fell from God’s grace. He and the other spirits like him, called demons, are opposed to God, opposed to love, and opposed to God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven. They did not win. They cannot win. And they never ever will win. Period. 

So far we know that God is One and there is no other. Through Isaiah, the prophet, we hear, “I am the LORD, there is no other, there is no God besides me.”(45:5) And we know that God created pure spirits–who possess no body at all. Never have, never will. Those that follow God’s laws, obey him, and do his will are called Angels. Those that oppose him and his will are called demons. And we know that God created human beings, in his own image he created them body and soul. Those that follow God’s laws, obey him and do his will are called Saints. Those that oppose him and his will are called sinners. Human beings who die and whose soul goes to heaven are saints–not angels. Sorry to say, no wings–wings are for angels, not saints. 

And all of that brings us to today’s Gospel where Jesus says to his disciples, “As the father loves me, so I love you. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love…this is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” There is but a single difference between light and darkness, heaven and hell, angels and demons, saints and sinners–one is a place of love and a people that love, and the other is not. And each of us must decide which side we are one. As St. John said, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” 

My brothers and sisters we live in a world that wants to argue that there is no right or wrong, nothing is black or white, it’s all debatable–don’t you be fooled. There is right and wrong. There is light and darkness. There is good and evil. There are thoughts, words, and deeds that are consistent with God’s will and God’s command to love, and there are thoughts, words, and deeds that do violence to God’s law and God’s Kingdom. We must choose a side: Life, Light and Love, or Death, Darkness, and Division–our eternal soul depends upon it. A failure to choose and act in love is a choice against God. 

St. Augustine said, “Love alone distinguishes between the children of God and the children of the Devil. They may all sign themselves with the sign of the cross of Christ; they may all respond “Amen” to prayers and sing “Alleluia”; they may all be baptized, and come to church, and even build the church themselves. But we can discern the children of God from the children of the Devil by their love alone.” Choose love; with every word,  with every action; choose God.

5th S. Easter 2021: Remain Connected

Today’s homily is for 5th Sunday of Easter, May 2, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches, and that if we desire anything good in this life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control (the fruit of the Spirit-filled life), we must remain connected to him. The analogy is really as simple as can be; if we do not remain close to our Lord we simply cannot bear fruit. 

My friend owned a deli in Turlock and he enjoyed putting almond blossoms in a vase when they blossomed in February or March. I said, “Tom, as your friend, I must tell you, these flowers are beautiful, but they will never produce fruit. You should plan to get your almonds elsewhere this year!” We both laughed because the truth was obvious…so plain to see. The flowers were indeed beautiful, but they would never produce what the flower promised–an almond. If a branch does not remain connected to the tree–the beauty that it has today will fade by tomorrow, it will dry up and die. And that is the truth for all living things. And it’s true for us too. 

Like my good friend’s almond branch, there many people far more concerned with beauty, than remaining connected to God. Jesus called these kinds of people, “white washed tombs.” He said they look good on the outside, but on the inside they are full of dead men’s bones–there is no life in them. That’s the problem, to be life-giving, we must ourselves have life. And to be separated from our Lord, brings death to our soul. That is what sin is–it is those words or deeds that do not uplift, do not bring life, but instead bring sadness, separation, strife, suffering, and death to others. 

This is why prayer, repentance, and reconciliation are at the center of the Christian life. Through sin we become disconnected from God, from others, and even from ourselves, and when that happens, we simply cannot be life-giving and produce what our Lord desires for us to produce. When we live in sin we fail to love, we are robbed of our joy and we refuse to bring joy to others. We do not have peace in our life and we cause disease in others against whom we sin. Our world is in a gross state of unrest, and the cure will not come from the government or from self-help groups, it will come only by returning to our Lord. Our country and our world is moving farther away from The Life and that should cause great concern for us. And although I don’t get to decide what our world does, I do decide what I do. I stay connected to Christ Jesus and produce much fruit. 

How many here grow almonds? Walnuts? Apples? Figs? Many of us don’t grow them, but we do enjoy eating them. And this is our take away – trees do not need the fruit that they produce–hungry people do. Trees are deeply rooted and receive their nourishment from the air, the earth, and water. And when the soil is good, the air is clean, and the water fresh, they produce fruit for a hungry world. 

And so it is with us. When we are rooted in our Lord, when we remain connected to him, we produce much fruit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control (GAL 5:22). But the fruit isn’t for us–it’s for others who are hungry. And our world is hungry. Hungry for life. Hungry for love. Hungry for peace and lasting joy. They need Christ–they need Christians living their faith, providing good example, and helping them to see that although the flowers in their vase are pretty, well, you know. 

If we find that we have become bitter, unloving, unkind, and not at ease, we must return to the lord. Remain connected to him, and produce good fruit. We need life, we need to produce fruit–our world is hungry.

3rd S. Easter 2021: The Greatest Gift

Today’s homily is for 3rd Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Saint Augustine of Hippo said, “There are many kinds of alms, the giving of which helps us to obtain pardon for our sins; but none is greater than that by which we forgive from our heart a sin that someone has committed against us.” The greatest gift we can give is to forgive another from the heart. Last week was Divine Mercy Sunday, where we reflected upon the mercy of God–that out of love for us, God eases our pain. God reveals his great power not with a press or a flex, but with a release. God gives us a break. He shows us mercy.

Today’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles, to the Gospel teach us that God’s mercy is revealed in the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is a funny thing. We so often seek forgiveness when we wrong someone and repent, but we are often so slow to forgive when someone wrongs us. But listen, forgiveness is the defining characteristic of a Christian. 

Peter tells those who crucified Jesus, you did wrong! You handed Jesus over to Pilate. You denied the Holy One, you killed the author of life. We witnessed these things…we know they’re true!  But repent and your sins will be wiped away. And Jesus after rising tells the apostles that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name. This is the Christian message: Our God is a merciful God. Our God wants to forgive any wrong we have done. Our God forgave even those who put him to death on a cross. That’s an amazing message. That’s amazing love. We are called to love. We too are called to forgive. How will anyone believe in the love and forgiveness of God if we are not willing to love and forgive. 

I think it’s easy to appreciate what God has done on our behalf, but our goal is this life is to be like Him so that we can spend eternity with him. What better way to be like Him than to forgive like him?

This is what we say in the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, “forgive us our tressspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We seek to be forgiven, but the degree to which we will be forgiven is the degree to which we have forgiven others. Just take a moment now. Can you think of a single person against whom you harbor a grudge? Is there a single person–even if just one–that we need to let know that we love and forgive them? 

I think families are usually the best place to start! We ALL make mistakes, we all fail, we all fall, and our merciful lord forgives us time and time again. The Gospel today teaches that we are witnesses of the love and mercy of God–but what kind of witness will we be if we can’t even forgive our family? What kind of forgiveness should we expect from God, if we are unwilling to forgive others from the heart? 

Forgiveness isn’t about what others have done to us, but is instead about who we are, and the type of person we choose to be. And we are poor Christians indeed if we are unwilling to reach out in love to reconcile with others who have harmed us…because that’s what Christians do. We end the cycle of violence. We embrace the sinner. We forgive from the fullness of the heart. We are called to be instruments and examples of the way God loves and forgives the world. 

Easy? No, of course not. But neither was the cross. And it is only through the cross that we can rise with him. Forgive today, and rise up with Him. Happy Easter.