Pentecost Sunday 2021: Be Amazing!

Today’s homily is for Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

Years ago, I remember watching a beer commercial for Red Stripe Lager, from Jamaica. With Reggae music playing in the background, a very happy Jamaican man said, “Red Stripe, helping our white friends dance for over seventy years!” Now, I don’t know how true that is (Deacon Steve has some pretty sweet moves without Red Stripe), but what I do know is this, the Holy Spirit has been helping our Christian friends be AMAZING for over 2,000 years! That’s what the Spirit does—It makes me, It makes us, It makes the world amazing.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given to us. Out of love, God gave us his Spirit to change us into Christ’s body, and then gave us the gifts we need to transform everything and everyone we encounter to make the world amazing!

After Jesus’ resurrection he promised his disciples that he would send the Advocate, the Spirit of God, and then on the fiftieth day (Pentecost) Jesus made good on that promise! The Holy Spirit came rushing in and Jews from every nation under God were confused, astounded, and utterly amazed! The Spirit gave ordinary men the gifts they needed to share the truth of Salvation in Jesus Christ. And about three thousand people were baptized and saved that very day. Pretty amazing stuff.

My friends, the Holy Spirit has not gone anywhere! The Spirit is still alive in God’s Church. It is still alive in the world. God continues to renew the face of the earth! As Christians we still receive the Spirit at Baptism, It is still strengthened at Confirmation, and It’s gifts can still, through us, make the Glory of God visible to the world by caring about and working for justice. By caring about schools and hospitals, food shelters, and ministry to the poorest. By concern and support for immigrants in every land, by building bridges and creating unity, the Church continues to make the world a more amazing place! We need to be on board with the ministry and mission of Jesus and the Church. And the Spirit gives us gifts to do it!

The Teams of our Lady have been on retreat this weekend; it has been my joy to lead them as they learn more about how to live a life of virtue. A life of power and discipline. We spoke about the seven gifts of the Spirit: knowledge, understanding, wisdom, counsel, fortitude, fear of the Lord and piety. Pope St. Gregory the Great said, “The Holy Spirit gives knowledge against ignorance, understanding against dullness, wisdom against foolishness, counsel against rashness, fortitude against fear, fear of the Lord against pride, and piety against hardness of heart.” 

And with those gifts, we in turn produce the fruit of the Spirit! Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. We produce this fruit for a world that is hungry–starving even. Friends, without the Holy Spirit we cannot do anything! In fact, that’s what St. Paul told the Corinthians in today’s second reading. He said, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is amazing! He is the Lord the giver of life, proceeds from the father and the son, is adored and glorified, and has spoken through the prophets! (Sound familiar?) The Spirit made Christ present in Mary’s womb, makes Christ present in the Eucharist, in the Scriptures proclaimed, and in the Priest through whom God continues to forgive sins, welcoming sinners home, and making us amazing again. 

The Spirit makes water holy, oil holy, and moly holy! I’m not even sure what moly is but I bet it’s amazing! Holy Moly, holy cows, holy smoke, and holy mackerel are just a hint about how God is transforming the world. The truth is that Pentecost is a reminder that each of us has received God’s Spirit and It’s gifts, and have been made holy. We are called to join God each day in His work of renewing the earth. 

Red Stripe may or may not help men dance, but the Spirit of God does indeed make his Church and all it touches, amazing. Each day when we rise, we pray the words of the Psalmist, “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth,” and He does it with us…through us…through me…starting today. Go out there and be amazing! Bring love and light and goodness and truth. The world is still dark. Bring them the light. Bring them the transforming fire of God’s love. 

Ascension Sunday 2021: Be His Witness

Today’s homily is for Ascension Sunday, May 16, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

I once heard about these two Christians arguing over which was the true follower of Jesus. One finally offered a solution, he said, “The Lord said, ‘These signs will accompany those who believe: they will drink any deadly thing, and it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” He said, “Here, drink this poison. If you’re a true believer it won’t harm you.” The other man said, how about this, you drink it, and when you die, I’ll lay hands on you to bring you back to life.”

Jesus is not saying to pick up serpents or drink poison! Jesus is telling his disciples to be courageous! Do not be afraid! Right before Jesus ascended to the father he told his disciples, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” He said they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth.” This is the Christian mission: to be his witnesses. To proclaim the Gospel to every creature! Tell the whole world the Good News that the Lord has conquered the grave, death could not hold him, and that God has reconciled the world to himself in Jesus Christ by the forgiveness of sins! We have NOTHING to fear…not snakes…not poison…not death or disease. Do not be afraid!

St. Francis even preached the good news to animals. He believed they needed to hear the good news too! Jesus did say to proclaim the Gospel to every creature, didn’t he? Saint Francis believed that God’s desire was that all of creation–not just people–be renewed in the Lord. That’s why Catholics don’t just care about justice for people. We care about justice for the environment: land, air, and water. And justice for animals, wild and tame, on land and sea, and in the air. Catholics care about ALL of God’s creation and all of God’s creatures. 

Good news for some must be good news for all. That’s why we care about Racism, and Poverty, Abortion, and Euthanasia. We care about the Bible and about Sacraments, but also about Immigration, Human Rights, and Human Trafficking. Catholic Social Teaching helps us to understand, live, and teach how the good news of the Ascension is about all people and our world ascending to a higher plan, a better place. 

Ascension Sunday isn’t just about Jesus ascending to the Father, it’s about his disciples not standing there looking up in the clouds, but instead getting out there and proclaiming the Good News and transforming the world and our society one person, one creature, one law at a time. Catholics make the world a better place. We make the environment better, governments better, people better, and souls better. 

We cannot claim to be Catholic and care about Jesus and the Church but not the environment. We cannot care about abortion, but not clean air. We cannot fill ourselves with the Eucharist but remain unconcerned about those who starve to death in the street. We cannot both hail the prince of peace while at the same time advocate for war and support policies enforced by violence. We cannot love our neighbor but at the same time disregard laws or policy that have our neighbor’s health and safety in mind. 

I am not saying that any of these issues are simple. They are not. They are complicated, difficult problems that require real commitment, real care. We need the best minds, the biggest hearts, and the greatest lovers of God and his creation on board. Who better for the task than disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s little wonder Catholic Social teachings are used by the United Nations and governments of goodwill around the world when creating law. Making the world better has never been easy. Do not be afraid. As Matthew Kelly is fond of saying, “Be Bold. Be Courageous. Be Catholic.”

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.

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.