Sunday, December 20, 2015

Away in a Manger - Homily for the 4th Sunday in Advent (C)


Away in a manger.

In the United States, we are used to the light and joyful version of this song—which is really a kind of lullaby. The song happily recounts Jesus’ birth:

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…

But, if you lived in France, you would likely hear another version—and not only in French, but to a totally different tune.

[Normandy version]

This version is more haunting and sounds almost like a lament walked in a slow, step-by-step pace. When I first heard this version, I felt more compelled to linger about the words. And I realized something: the very first word: Away.

Away in a manger.

Away means to be distant, to be separated from. Away in a manger—somewhere, out there. It means that somewhere, away from me, Jesus is being born—not near to me, but away. Why does the song begin this way? Because there was no crib for a bed: the rooms at the inn were full. Jesus didn’t want to be born “away,” but it was our own distance, the distance of our hearts, that provided it. Hence, the lament.

*          *          *

No matter how hard we try to prepare for Christmas, no matter how much we say “I’m not going to become busy this year,” we do. We get wrapped up. We often can be away.

Advent always has this quality—this quality of being away. Even the readings throughout the entire season speak of the Old Testament and how ancient Israel was in exile and distant from the Lord. In the New Testament, we hear about how we are not yet in heaven and at home with the Lord; we are on pilgrimage. We still are, in a way, away.

Even here at Holy Mass, Jesus is so close to us—but we can be so distracted, which is another way to say that we’re away. Jesus is so close!

In this year of mercy, in particular, I think too of all of our brothers and sisters who have fallen away from the practice of the sacraments….

*          *          *

Note the last verse of Away in a Manger.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay.
Close by me forever and love thee I pray.

There is our prayer! Be near me, Lord. Be close, Lord, because I have fallen away. Be near to me—be near to all of us who are distracted, whose hearts are distant. Be born in us, Jesus! And not only in us, but in all who have fallen away.

This is the Year of Mercy, so let us pray in a particular way for this mercy: for ourselves and for those who are not here—that God will give us His grace. Because all of us can take this faith for granted and we can fall away.

God says: I want to be near to you! I want to be close to you! So, Lord, be close to us!

*          *          *

And if we’re honest, we must admit: we can’t do this ourselves. We’ve tried for four weeks now, haven’t we?—to slow down and be close. But we can’t do this ourselves. We need a Savior.

In the Gospel, we see Elizabeth in our similar predicament. Pregnant with John the Baptist, Elizabeth must be visited. Like the peoples of the Old Testament—and, even, like ourselves—she seems that she cannot take another step toward her salvation.

And who brings our Lord close? It’s Mary! Mary will take those steps, Mary will walk with the Lord, still in her womb. Mary brings Elizabeth her salvation!

And so too with us who are away! It is Mary who will draw our Lord close to us. If we cannot be near our Lord, if we struggle being close to Him, then look to Mary! “Mary, bring Jesus close to me! Because, Mary, I cannot take another step. Mary, visit us with your Son!”

Yes, Our Lord will be near. And not only to us, but to all who are away.

*          *          *

Let us offer that final verse of Away in a Manger for all who are away, who don’t know how to come back, or who are looking for home again. Let us offer this verse as a prayer for all who will visit here on Christmas, that they will know that God is close and so near and that they don’t have to be away anymore….

            Be near me Lord Jesus
            I ask thee to stay
            close by me forever
            and love me, I pray.
            Bless all the dear children
            in thy tender care
            And fit us for heaven
            to live with thee there.

Normandy version:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Join the Triumph of the Skies - Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Advent (C)



Let us continue on our journey to Christmas….

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled….

This song speaks of angels announcing our Savior’s birth. There is a backstory to this—kind of like Star Wars (you may have to watch the previous six episodes if you are going to understand this 7th installment…). If we want to understand what happens at Christmas, and why there are angels “harking,” we are going to have to understand the backstory—which will require us to go back to the beginning of Genesis (and even before the beginning, as weird as that sounds). For, before there was Eden and the serpent and so on, there was a war between the good angels who loved the Lord and other angels (who were created good) but who chose not to love the Lord. The bad angels—called demons—rebelled and there was a battle between Lucifer (Satan) with his minions and Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and all the good angels (including our own guardian angels).

We know that Satan lost and was kicked out of heaven. But the battle did not remain in heaven; the battle was also taken to Eden. It is there that Adam is supposed to do battle with the serpent, the devil, but Adam does not. And so he and Eve fall into sin: they choose not-God.

And so it happens that all of humanity, we who are the generations of Adam and Eve, fall into sin and darkness, cast out from Eden in a kind of exile which humanity continued throughout her history—seen also today in our first reading. Israel had been taken into captivity by her enemies; she had become a people that walked in darkness, praying to see a great light. They live with a hope of restoration, of being returned not only to Eden, but to the heavenly Jerusalem. There was an awaiting for this restoration that would come through the Savior, the Messiah, who would bring her peace and return her to union with God.

That is where peace truly comes from, right? It is when humanity is separated from God that we lose peace. After Adam and Eve had fallen, their sons entered into darkness such that Cain killed Abel. So, we know that when we are not at peace with God, we are not at peace with one another. Nations at war!

The Messiah would come, the Prince of Peace, who would not simply bring peace, but who is peace. And so we hear:

Hark! the herald angels sing!

What does this mean? It means: look! awake! pay attention! Over here is the Messiah! Hark! The one we have expected for so long! The one who will finally bring us peace! Hence the line,

            God and sinners reconciled.

That’s the whole point of Christmas, isn’t it?—that God should enter into our very existence so as to reconcile us with God and thus with others too, to bring about restoration and peace.

And how does this Messiah come? He comes as a little babe:

            Peace on earth and mercy mild.

Mercy, mild. Not severe mercy—severe mercy is what we see in the Old Testament. We see wars, death, and illness. And why? Because Israel in the Old Testament did not listen. What moved them were things like illness and death and hunger and war. They didn’t understand the logic of God. God had to speak their language. They were a Bedouin tribe.

Over the course of history, God prepares them to receive not a severe mercy, but a mercy mild. A mercy so mild, so un-threatening—that it is a babe!

Recently, I had the privilege of baptizing a baby at St. John’s NICU. And as mom was holding her little child—all of one pound and a few ounces—I baptized him (God and sinners reconciled). And in that moment, I saw how vulnerable God was in mercy, so mild…

God could have come with storm troopers; He could have come as Darth Vader or any military leaders of our world. But how does God come? As a little, vulnerable babe. That’s the invitation of mercy mild. An invitation He gives us now in this Year of Mercy.

We can then hear the next lines:

            Joyful all ye nations rise!
            Join the triumph of the skies!

The Triumph! Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, our guardian angels—they were victorious in battle. And now the Messiah comes to bring US victory. And over what? Over sin. Victory given in baptism and, when we make a mess of that, victory in the confessional.

Yes, it is in the confessional that we have victory over sin. We say to sin and to the devil: you shall not go any further! It is like Darth Vader in the final scene of the last Star Wars movie. Vader, he who was so evil, he had to choose—between good and evil—and when he did, finally throwing the evil Emperor down, the once-evil Vader became good. His mask comes off… He was victorious over evil. He was finally free, finally at peace.

To confess our sins is to participate in the triumph of the skies, of the victory of the angels and the Messiah. Indeed, there will be more rejoicing in heaven not over the ninety-nine who are righteous, but over the one sinner who repents (Lk 15:7). The angels rejoice, and why? Because the sinner, when he repents, has conquered sin and participates in the victory.

And there, in the victory, there is joy and there is peace.

When was the last time you were at peace? When was the last time you were “good” with God and at peace with Him? When was the last time you were at peace with your family? When was the last time you had peace in your heart?

Our Lord wants to give you that peace. That is why He comes to you this Christmas. This is the point of Christmas: to bring us peace as God and sinners reconciled.

If it has been over a year since we’ve gone to confession, then we have missed out on what Christmas is truly about: the gifts of God’s peace. If you haven’t been to confession in over a year, it is time to go to confession and receive what Christmas is truly about: your reconciliation and your triumph over evil.

If it has been twenty years, come back. We hear confessions all the time and it is an honor. It is not too late! Now is the time. Now is the day of the Lord’s victory. Now is the day of peace!

This Wednesday, we will have a special time for confessions. Come and enter the triumph of the skies!

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful all ye nations rise!
Join the triumph of the skies!
With angelic hosts proclaim:
Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Rest... and Let Nothing You Dismay - Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Advent

So, are you ready for Christmas? Yeah, me neither. There is so much to do! I must admit, it is so easy to crash into Christmas—it being here before we know it. That said,  I wish to continue our look at some popular Christmas songs so that we may more readily prepare. Last week, it was Joy to the World; this week, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

            God rest ye merry gentlemen,
            let nothing you dismay.
            Remember Christ our Savior
            was born on Christmas Day
            to save us all from Satan’s power
            when we were gone astray…

God rest ye merry gentlemen! Let nothing you dismay!

I must admit, it is so easy to fall into dismay in these days. On the one hand, we have had the constant bombardment of bad news and terrorism and death and evil in our world. It is so easy to become discouraged. And when I add to that all of the things I have to get done on my Christmas list… well, it can all become quite overwhelming.

But, let nothing you dismay!

This sounds irrational. How can we still be of good cheer and “merry gentlemen” even in the face of evil and a mountain of things to do? Two words: Remember-- and Rest.

And so, the next lines:

Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day
to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.

Remember Christ was born to save us from Satan’s power. Is there any doubt that Satan has been running amok? Don’t you find it odd that in the very season of hopefulness and peace, we become the fullest of anxiety, impatience, envy, and busy-ness?

“Busy” stands for something, you know. It stands for Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke.

There’s a difference between being busy and being full. Being busy is going all over the place, stressed out, never enough time, a huge mountain… Being full, on the other hand, can be content, peaceful, joyful. Leading a full life is much different than having a busy life. A busy life doesn't necessary mean being full. Often, it means quite the opposite!

That's one of the problems with being busy: it keeps us from remembering: Jesus' power, the graces we have, the purpose of life, and so on.

Here is the key for our Advent preparation, I think. John tells us to prepare the way of the Lord. And how? To raise the valley and to make low the mountains—that's ancient-speak for making a highway for the arrival of the king. But for us, this has a two-fold spiritual meaning.

First, the valley must be filled. The valley is our dismay, our hopelessness, our discouragement and despair. No more of that! Light shines in the darkness! Remember Christ is our Savior and our King born on Christmas Day and He overcomes every evil—even the present day! Let us be filled with hope—a hope that sees that God is in control and will help us always!

Second, the mountain: the mountains must be made low. That’s our pride, our mountain of stuff to do, the envy, the great peaks of anger and impatience. We need to make those low through humility: by admitting, “I don’t need to buy so much”; “I don’t need to go crazy this season”; “I don’t have to do so much to have a good Christmas and to be a good parent. I don’t have to be so… busy.”

Let us repeat the first line of our song:

God rest ye merry gentlemen,
            let nothing you dismay.

Rest. This is what we need. Rest is the key to our Advent preparation this week.

Why rest?

A man once told me, “Son, you can’t land a plane going 600 miles per hour.” Good point, that. The plane has to be slowed down and brought in for the landing. So too, we can’t expect to be flying through Advent at 600 miles per hour and then suddenly be at rest at Christmas—that would be called crashing into Christmas. And when we crash into Christmas, we are already tired of Christmas when Christmas arrives! Instead of being awake at Christmas, we fall asleep—like the town of Bethlehem, or the foolish who did not keep watch for the coming King.

So, we need to bring our plane in slowly—we need to rest.

What does this look like? It is Jesus at rest in the boat, even when the waves are crashing 'round.

Practically, I think, firstly, we need to take a quasi-Lenten approach to our consumption of media. Perhaps a little Lenten fast from the internet and from the news cycle would be good for us. We know what is going on in the world—and if there is something really, really important, we’ll hear about it. But let’s not BUSY ourselves with it right now. Let’s rest.

Second, I think we need to take more intentional time to breathe and pray. We have a perfect opportunity on Tuesday of this week: we will be celebrating our nation’s patronal feast day: Mary and the Immaculate Conception. I dare say that if we are too busy to go to this Holy Day of Obligation, we are too BUSY. Go to Holy Mass, pray, and let our Mother, the Untier of Knots, relieve that ball of Christmas lights. 

Finally, I think we need to give God more room to be God. Pope Blessed John XXIII—the Pope, a man who had the weight of the world on his shoulders and the anxieties and worries of nuclear holocaust on his mind—do you know how he would go to bed? He would take a moment to offer a prayer and then say, “Well, Lord, it’s your Church. The Pope is going to bed.”  … Let’s put our day to rest and get some sleep. I mean, really, if Jesus can save us from Satan’s power, I am certain that Jesus can bring order to our Christmas list and comfort to our worries.

Yes, it is so easy to let things get away from us—that “life just kinda happened”—and we wake up and realize we have gone astray. Well, here we are in the Second Week of Advent: the call to prepare is here renewed. Let us rest: rest from the world, rest through prayer, rest in grace. I think if we trust in this and walk in such hope, we will have a good Christmas, full of tidings of comfort and joy.

            God rest ye merry gentlemen,
            let nothing you dismay.
            Remember Christ our Savior
            was born on Christmas Day
            to save us all from Satan’s power
            when we were gone astray.
            O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy!
            O tidings of comfort and joy!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Let Ev'ry Heart Prepare Him Room - Homily for the 1st Sunday in Advent

Can you believe we are in Advent already?

During these four weeks of holy preparation, I want to walk through a few lines of a few Christmas carols such that, by Christmas, we will truly be ready for Jesus’ Coming. So, today I want to begin by singing a few lines from the quintessential Christmas carol:

            Joy to the world! The Lord is come!
            Let earth receive her King!
            Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room.
            (And that’s where I will end this song…)

“Joy to the world!” we sing. But notice the next line: Let earth receive her King. We just celebrated Christ the King last week, celebrating Jesus our Messiah who reigns.

And then the next line: “Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room.”

Prepare Him room. Prepare the King room!

*          *          *

This is The Theme of Advent. As we hear in the first reading, Jeremiah tells us that God shall raise up a “just shoot” (Jer 33:14) from the “stump of Jesse” (Is 11:1). All of the prophets, including the last and the greatest, St. John the Baptist, will therefore cry out: “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Is 40:3; Mal 3:1; Mk 1:3), “make straight his paths!” (Jn 1:23), and “repent…!” (Mk 1:15). This was the preparation necessary for Jesus’ First Coming.

Yet, in the Gospel, we hear our Messiah telling us that He will come again—for a Second Coming. Just like His first coming, where there was a star over Bethlehem, for Jesus’ Second Coming there will be signs in the sky and a need to “be vigilant at all times and pray” (Lk 21:36) else that “day catch you by surprise like a trap” (Lk 21:34-35). Preparation, therefore, is demanded of us so we are ready when the earth receives her King.

And yet, there is a Third Coming of our Lord, a coming that is similar to His first where He came humble and hidden as a little babe in the feeding trough of the manger in Bethlehem (“house of bread”); and that Third Coming is here at Holy Mass. For this coming, St. Paul calls his flock to examine itself and prepare well to receive holy communion, else our Lord come to the soul and find no room to dwell (cf. 1 Cor 11:23-32).

*          *          *

This Advent, this Coming, of Christ can be summed up in the ancient story of Christmas Eve. On that silent night, that holy night, Jesus the King approached the little town of Bethlehem. Jesus was hidden in the womb of Mary—Mary who was riding a donkey (a procession that would be fulfilled at Jesus’ Messianic entry into Jerusalem when He would be embraced as a King, and yet riding on a donkey). Mary and Joseph would enter into Bethlehem on that Christmas Eve, looking for room for Jesus. They would knock on the doors of the inns and on the doors of the hearts of those that dwelled therein. But there was no room.

Bethlehem! Of all places! This was The Place where there should have been room! The small, unassuming town was the center of the most specific of Messianic prophecies! The Messiah was to be born there! Of all towns, they should have been the last to let their hearts “become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.” They, of all people, should have been the last to have “that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” But it did.

*          *          *

            Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room.

Where did Jesus go? He went to the place where there was room: the simple and empty manger, occupied only by cows, oxen, sheep, and then by angels. It was there that

            heav’n and nature sing.

Heaven (the holy angels) and nature (the animals) received the King, but in the hearts of men, there was no room. Room would be made in the hearts of the simple shepherds who left their flocks that night—they would receive Him. But not Bethlehem.

Here is the challenge for us this Advent: we must become less like the inns and more like the manger. Less like the world and its drowsiness from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of this season—less like that and more like the humble, simple, receptive manger.

This doesn’t mean that we cannot sing songs or put up Christmas trees and the like. Indeed, I think we should! Even more, I must say: I don’t care about “Christmas Creep.” Why should I let my heart be filled with criticism about Christmas songs? What is Christmas but the coming of Christ—and don’t we believe that Christ is here every day in the Eucharist? So, I don’t care about Christmas Creep.

What I do care about is when we have become so full of celebration before Christmas that on December 26th we should be tired of Christmas. Radio stations turn off Christmas songs—we are too full! December 26th is when I’m just starting to cry out “Joy to the World!” (and I’m not talking “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”!)

Isn’t it a shame that the last thing that most people experience during these days of preparation and on December 26th is “joy”? Hustle and bustle, anxieties of life, arguments in families, and bickering about the red Starbucks cups? Yes, perhaps we are too full!

            Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room.

*          *          *

How shall we do this? I think the first thing is to let our Lord clean out our hearts. Let him clean out the resentment and the criticism and the worldliness—and all the gunk and dirtiness of sin that clutters up our hearts. I think we need to go to confession during this Advent season. Let our Lord prepare your heart; Let Him make room for you by freeing you of the darkness in your heart. “The people that have walked in darkness have seen a great light” says the Lord! (Is 9:2; Mt 4:16).

Second, I think we need to concentrate on what really matters: slowing down for quiet prayer, reflection, and time for family.

A couple of years ago, I had the honor to offer the funeral Mass of a holy man. This man was the father of a lovely family—wife, kids, grandkids…  As we prepared for his funeral, the family told me how their dad would write each one of his kids a letter for Christmas, telling each one of them how much he loved them and how he was proud of them. Of all the things they could have remembered as they prepared for his funeral, this was their favorite memory: dad’s letters at Christmas.

Such gifts require time, slowing down, praying, reflecting, and being with family.

I dare say, a good confession and a good letter—if we prepare and do well here, we will experience joy. A joy that will help us to see Jesus—not only in the crib, but in the Eucharist; a joy that will help us to see Jesus not only in the babe, but in our families that so need His presence!; a joy that will truly prepare our hearts and make us eager and ready when He comes again. We will receive our King. He will come to the doors of our soul and of our lips and He will find room.

And there will be joy!

            Joy to the world! The Lord is come!
            Let earth receive her King!
            Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room.
            And heaven and nature sing!
            And heaven and nature sing!
            And heaven and heaven and nature sing!

May it be so for you and yours this Advent.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ Is King, So Be Brave! - Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King

In every age, there are moments whereupon men and women are called to be brave. We are living in one of those moments.

In our world where there is the lived nihilism of barbarians and the grey of secularism, bravery is once more in demand. At Christmas, we meet Jesus, the light of the world and the king of all of the universe, who was born in the dark of night and in a world plagued by the savagery of sin. Yet, even in His littleness, this Jesus would announce that the “kingdom of God is at hand!” He would drive out demons, He would conquer sin and death, and He would establish a peace, the fullness of which will be enjoyed by His Saints when He comes again at the end of time, a day on which He will render justice upon all the world. The Kingdom of God is at hand!

We must remember these words, especially as we consider the events of our present day. This past week, one of my friends emailed me and said, “Father, I feel so little [in these days]… I feel so small… It crushes me [to see what is going on].”

These words come from a good soul, a soul that longs that love should conquer the injustices of the world. Yet the soul thinks the task too great, the powers of the world too strong for us little souls. This is precisely where fortitude, that bravery of the Spirit, is so needed; for we have so great a King—a King who entered into our littleness, literally becoming a little child. Our King, Jesus Christ, has lead and continues to lead the way in the battle between good and evil. And by His Resurrection He shows that evil is definitely conquered, that Love does prevail.

Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

So “do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Lk 12:32). If our enemy should destroy, then build! If our enemy should hate, then love! If our enemy should be cowardly by bringing in a Nothingness that unleashes the gates of hell, then be brave, knowing that the gates of hell shall never prevail!

Commit yourself. Commit yourself to long moments of prayer every day; the enemy would prefer you to be busy. Commit yourself to adoring the Lord often; the enemy would prefer you follow Instagram. Commit yourself to kissing your spouse like you mean it; your enemy would prefer your love to become lukewarm. If you are young, commit yourself to a vocation that will demand the utmost of your bravery and, when you have nothing left, to trust all the more in the power of Jesus, our God and King.

If our enemy should be so committed to evil, should we not be all the more committed to holiness? And so, for all of us, let us be united in the bravery that prayer requires of us; for yes, in every age, there are moments whereupon men and women are called to be brave. This is that moment. The Kingdom of God is at hand!

And one more:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Offering the Coins of Control - Homily for the 32nd Sunday in OT

From now until Christmas, we will encounter readings that touch on heaven, hell, death, and judgment. They prepare us for Christ’s coming, not only at Christmas, but most especially for the end of time whereupon we will all be judged—rich and poor alike—according to what each one has done in this life.

This morning, we see Jesus sitting opposite the Temple Treasury. In those days, sitting was the common posture for a teacher. But, in this moment, Jesus is not only sitting as a teacher, He is sitting as a judge (a great foil to the scribes who take “seats of honor in synagogues”), judging those who place their money into the Temple Treasury.

A quick detour about the Temple Treasury. The Temple Treasury would have been a sizable box at one end of the Women’s Court in the Temple. The money that was placed in this box would be used to build up the Temple. We remember that during Jesus’ day, the Temple was still being re-built. In fact, it was over the issue of the Temple that the people would crucify Jesus (cf. Mk 14:58), for He said, “destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it” (Jn 2:19). We know that He was talking about the Temple of His body—and, besides, Jesus loved the Temple; for the Temple was His Father’s House where, when Jesus was twelve, He would be found teaching—much to the amazement of the scholars there at the time (cf Lk 2:41-52).

So Jesus is in the Temple, sitting in His usual place of teaching, but now sitting as judge as both rich and poor alike are placing their money in the box to build His Father’s house. He sees the rich and then He sees a poor widow… and after seeing her, He gathers his disciples around Him and gives them His judgment:

Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more
than all the other contributors to the treasury.

But how could this be? She only put in two small coins. The rest were putting in large sums. Jesus responds:

she … has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.

*          *          *

What does this mean, “her whole livelihood”? It means that these were her last two coins—her only two coins. Once she places them into the treasury, they are gone, surrendered forever—such that, tomorrow, she has no more money for food, no more money for drink…. Indeed, one may rightly say that as the woman gives her whole “livelihood,” that she is really giving her entire life—a sacrificial offering even unto death.

She has become totally vulnerable. In fact, after this giving, she is even more vulnerable; for, now she has become totally dependent on God (or, at least, now she can feel it quite literally in her empty belly). She is going to need God in a way that no one else is going to need God tomorrow. She gave from her necessities; others gave from their surplus. They will have plenty; she will not.

*          *          *

Now, no one would have faulted the poor widow for holding on to her coins. Indeed, we probably would have encouraged her to hold on to them. “You don’t have to be so giving,” we would say. “You need to have money for food tomorrow.”

Quietly, we may even judge that her giving her last and her only is… foolish.

But let us remember why she is doing this. She is giving this money because it goes to build the Father’s House. She loves the Father so much that she wishes to give her very livelihood to build up His Temple. It is a love as foolish as Jesus’ love!

And notice: the widow gives, knowing that she will not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of her sacrifice. That’s how total and selfless her loving faith is.

*          *          *

How does Jesus respond? Typically, when someone exhibits such great faith, Jesus praises that person publicly: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith!” (Lk 7:9).

But here, Jesus says nothing. He doesn’t even say a word to her.

May I humbly suggest a reason why? He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t have to say anything because there is a conversation between Him and the woman that is already going on—and has been going on—and it’s taking place in her heart.

Just like the woman, Jesus loves His Father’s House too. Jesus’ love is foolish too. Jesus’ faith in the Father is total too. And Jesus’ sacrifice is an offering of His whole livelihood too. Jesus and the woman, therefore, share the same love, the same faith, the same Father—and so their hearts are already conversing, already one. Jesus doesn’t have to say a thing—all He does He look with a look of love. She has His heart and her heart is His.

This is what vulnerability to God does. It opens our hearts to receive Him, to be able to converse with Him even as with let go of our lives into the treasury of His heart, surrendering all that we are and all that we hold dear into the Fatherly care of Him who gave all to us in the first place.

*          *          *

What will tomorrow look like for the people in the Temple? For the widow, if she should make it to tomorrow, she will live in total abandonment to God. And if she should have food and drink, imagine her joy at having received that food:

            Praise the Lord, my soul!

For she will know, first hand, that all she has comes from the hand of the Lord. Everything will have become total gift. She will have discovered that there is a “dearest freshness deep down things” (Hopkins, God’s Grandeur) that comes from God. A sandwich will no longer just be a sandwich; a cup of water will no longer be just a cup of water. It will be all gift from God. She will know the Father’s love.

The others—they will go on tomorrow just like every day previously: thinking that everything is up to them. The food they eat will not be supernaturally provided, but simply the work of their hands. Life will be about control, about toil—and about the cost of maintaining that control. They will count the cost of love. Everything will have a price.

They will become godless, because the god they once believed in—a god they believed had no power to affect their daily lives—will prove powerless. And who will go on believing in a god like that? Being outwardly comfortable, they will continue on their way with no need of God, no space for Him—no room for Jesus at the inn.

And when they die, as we all do, they will see then that they were dependent upon Him for life—and especially now after death—for all the comfort and wealth in the world cannot build a bridge for us over the waters of death.

The poor widow will be in heaven—indeed, as her coins drop into the treasury, disappearing as do the treasures of this world, she is already there.

*          *          *

Jesus loves His disciples and so He gathers them to hear this, to reveal to them what He treasures. And perhaps as He gives His judgment, they start to consider:

Who will help this woman? Will God? Do I trust the Father? And isn’t He worthy of trust since He gave His heart’s treasure to us—that is, His Son?

And maybe those disciples who gave all and followed Jesus—maybe they are being called to purify their intention; for maybe they gave up everything to curry favor with the Messiah. Maybe they had mixed intentions which are being purified by the question: Do I sacrifice for love of God who selflessly sacrifices for me?

And maybe, as they see person after person dropping their coins into the treasury, maybe they may start to consider: what do I need to trust Jesus with? What do I need to place in the treasury of His heart? Where in my life do I need to let Jesus be Jesus?

Maybe it’s more than just the checkbook. Maybe it’s the calendar. Maybe it’s the job. Maybe there is a person that you need to place into the heart of Jesus… What worries you? What do you fear? What makes you vulnerable? Place that in the treasury!

It’s so easy to want control and to think that we have to control—and even that we’re in control. And maybe that’s the first thing that we have to drop into the treasury, to let it fall in total surrender… to be free of it… forever….

To turn and to see Jesus with His apostles—and to see Him looking at us…. and to converse with Him in our hearts, in total dependence, in total worship—amen, with our whole livelihood…

There’s freedom there. And joy.

And heaven. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Who Is On Your Side? -- Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints

St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Kateri Tekewitha, St. Maria Goretti, St. Joseph…

Our band director: St. Kyle of Cottleville…

St. Danny… patron of youth ministers…

Wouldn’t that be wonderful? We’re called to be saints, right?

St. Anthony Gerber… I like the sound of that….

*          *          *

For the past week, I didn’t know what to tell you about all the saints. I mean, how does a priest preach about all the graces of all the saints? Or even, how can I tell you about all the ways that God helps us to become saints? So many stories, so many graces!

Well, on Friday night, God helped me out.

I was standing at the center line of the soccer field at Tony Glavin’s soccer complex (… St. Tony Glavin…)  I was with a bunch of my brother priests (… and perhaps future saints!). We were practicing for the upcoming Souls and Goals soccer game between priests and seminarians.

So, practice on Friday…  We had been scrimmaging for a full hour and a half and there I was at mid-field, dribbling the ball. One of the guys came in with a good tackle and stole it away. Typically, I’d go run it down, but I had nothing left, not even for one more run. It was all in the hands of my defense now. At which point Father Schroeder (…St. Father Schroeder!...) swooped in and saved the day.

In this moment, something struck me as I stood huffing and puffing at mid-field. I realized that I couldn’t do it all by myself. Scoring goals and defending goals requires that I rely on others, on their talents and on the graces that God has given them. In other words, I was on a team and I needed to trust the team.

St. Theresa Avila put it this way (and I paraphrase): At the early stage of our spiritual life, when we are still absorbed in worldly affairs and engulfed in pleasures and honors and ambitions, we must take every opportunity to call upon our blessed Mother and the saints, so that they may do battle for us, since we often have little strength for defending ourselves. (Interior Castle, trans. Peers, p. 16).

*          *          *

It’s so easy to think that we are alone, that the darkness is winning, and that becoming a saint is impossible. So often, it seems we’re standing at the mid-field of life, weak and with little strength to fight temptation, much less to sacrifice for others. It’s in that moment that we are called to realize that we are not alone! We are on a team!

And it’s not just some future team out there some where. We hear of the great crowd surrounding the throne of the lamb… That’s here! Right here at this Holy Mass. The saints—Peter and Justin and Bridget and Lucy, to name just a few—the saints are gathered around here, the throne which is the altar and the Lamb which is Jesus. We heard the four creatures calling out—that’s the four Gospels right here. And the elders—that’s the priests. The saints are really with us and especially right now!

Here in the pews with us is St. Monica. She wept for her husband and her son’s conversion for years. She will help you who are grieving family and friends who have fallen away.

St. Thomas More: he knew very well the governmental problems of his day. And yet he kept the faith and stayed hopeful, even unto martyrdom! He will help us as we see the battles within our nation.

Do you sometimes struggle with doubt? Did you know that St. Therese of Lisieux did too? Or that Mother Theresa did not have one consolation for over thirty years? Go to them if you feel dry or lost in your faith.

Students: I forget who, but I heard a saint say that studying is crucifixion at a desk. Pope St. John Paul II knew this well when he had to do his studies literally underground as the Nazi’s and then the Communists occupied his country. He can help you with your pre-Calc homework, I promise!

St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Damian Molokai, St. Rita, St. Bernadette….

Brothers and sisters, our team is stacked!

So do not be afraid! The saints will help us as lights do on a runway, guiding us as we try to land this plane in the darkness. The saints help to light our way when times are dark. They will help us!

*          *          *

And why? Because they love us.

They see in you someone who is exactly where they once were: someone who faces the struggles of life, the burdens of sin, the darkness of the world, the disappointments and the fears…. And they came here, just like you now are, at Holy Mass, asking God, pleading with Him—and maybe even hearing about the saints who came before them and who preserved and did great things with God’s grace.

Perhaps they heard what I now tell you: that in heaven one of the joys will be for us to meet our holy friends the saints who have helped us along the way.

That thought gives me pause.

You see, we’re on the same field—those saints and us. We’re on the same field! Heaven and earth here, one.

We are all of us playing the same game, fighting the same opponent, working towards the same goal!

So I don’t have to wait until heaven to work side-by-side with them. We’re actually doing this together right now! St. Thomas More… he’s right there behind me. St. Ignatius is up there, leading the way. St. Maria to my left, and St. Therese on my right…

I am never alone. I’m on a team!

Let us remember the saints and call on them. Ask them to help you!

Because you see, you too are being called to be a saint. St. Kyle, St. Danny, St. Anthony… all on the same team, themselves lead by amazing saints who have come before. And when we respond, know that there will be saints who follow you just as we have been inspired by those holy men and women who have come before us. A great litany of saints following behind you!

Saints—sitting at your left and at your right, behind you and before you….

All you holy saints of God, pray for us!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mercy on the Way - Homily for the 30th Sunday in OT

What do you want me to do for you?

I can’t get this question out of my head or my heart. Here is a blind man, begging along a street, crying out to Jesus, and Jesus stops and asks him:

What do you want me to do for you?

God stops. He listens. His heart is open….

For the blind man, his request to see again wasn’t just a request to receive his sight—it was—but also something more (it always is). Back story: in the ancient Jewish culture, blindness was seen as the result of sin, either the person’s or that person’s ancestors. As a result, the blind were not typically allowed into the temple to worship. (Somewhat akin to how lepers were treated).

That said, the blind man’s request is not only to receive his sight, but to be able to re-enter the Temple and to worship the Messiah, the Son of David whose reign would be seen through the miraculous healing of the blind (cf. first reading). Ironic: only the blind man could see the Messiah….

God heals the man and brings him back into communion. Jesus does so from a heart of love, and not only for the man, but also for the crowds who were surrounding the man—crowds who were not physically blind but spiritually so. Perhaps they would see His mercy and “see.”

What do you want me to do for you?

*          *          *

On Monday, I had the chance to go on pilgrimage with a few of our parishioners to the Cathedral in Belleville to see the body (major relics) of St. Maria Goretti. The line was quite long—some people waited as much as two hours to see her!—and so there was plenty of time to read and to pray. Along the line, there were large banners which told the story of St. Maria Goretti.

She was 11 years old when she was canonized a saint. (Remember this, my young children! You too can be a saint, even when you are young!—and to us who are old, let’s not give up!)

Maria was poor. Her dad died when she was very young and so the Goretti’s had to join themselves to another farming family. There, Maria learned very early to have total dependence upon God. Maria loved Him and His laws. Just like St. Dominic Savio—also a young saint—Maria’s love for God was such that she would rather die than sin.

One of the boys of the house, Alessandro, often tried to get Maria to sin. He was not a good young man. One day, he tried to do some very bad things to Maria. She refused and told Alessandro that she did not want to break God’s law. Alessandro, in a fit of diabolical rage, critically wounded Maria fourteen times.

For the next twenty-four hours, Maria suffered greatly. Her doctors could not save her. In her agony, Maria—age 11—spoke her final words:

            I forgive Alessandro and I want him in heaven with me.

Soak in that for a moment.....

            I forgive Alessandro and I want him in heaven with me.

Her last words. This is what Maria wanted Jesus to do for her.

What do you want me to do for you?

“I want Alessandro in heaven with me.”

*          *          *

Alessandro was one of the meanest criminals to enter into the prison. For six years, he blamed and harbored resentment. Then, one night, St. Maria visited him in a dream. She came to him and then stooped to pick up fourteen lilies, one for each of the wounds. She handed each lily to Alessandro and with each lily she said, “I forgive you.”

This mercy changed Alessandro. He repented. And he changed his life.

Thirty years after being convicted, Alessandro was released from prison. And on Christmas Eve, he went to Mrs. Goretti’s home. He knocked on the door. Mrs. Goretti opened it. … Can you imagine? Seeing your daughter’s murderer there? How many of us would utter Jesus’ words?

What do you want me to do for you?

Not I.

Alessandro looked up and said, “Do you remember who I am?”

Mrs. Goretti replied, “Yes.”

Alessandro, a convicted felon, pitiful and low, then asked, “Do you forgive me?”

In his heart, Alessandro was answering Jesus’ question. Jesus, I want to be forgiven—by you, by Maria, by her mom.  That is what I want you to do for me… He was the beggar. He was asking for mercy.

Mrs. Goretti looked at him and had mercy, saying, “Alessandro, God has forgiven you. My daughter has forgiven you. So yes, I forgive you.”

At that moment, Mrs. Goretti brought the repentant criminal into her home as her adopted son. Alessandro would go on to become part of the Capuchin order, where he would write in his will that he hoped his life would be a testament to God’s mercy and how the little saint, Maria Goretti, had saved him.

*          *          *

What do you want me to do for you?

As I stood in line, Jesus was asking me this question. What do you want me and Maria to do for you? I knew what I wanted. I wanted forgiveness. I wanted people who I had hurt when I was younger—I wanted them to know that I was sorry. We all have things that we regret, words and actions that we can’t take back, people who have moved on and who we cannot offer our apologies. I wanted peace and innocence and holiness. I wanted to become a saint. And I wanted the same for my parishioners, especially for those struggling with forgiveness, for those who had been hurt, for those struggling to be pure and holy. This, Lord, is what I want…

I had fifteen seconds with St. Maria Goretti. I knelt down before her and prayed. She was so small… she was dressed in white… and…

I cannot put into words the inundation of grace in that moment. My heart was overwhelmed by a presence, an innocence, a tremendous sense of forgiveness—a moment only interrupted by the usher asking the next person to come forward….

I went to the closest pew and knelt. And I will admit: I wept. But it wasn’t sorrow. It was relief. They were tears coming from a heart knowing again a quiet joy, a hopefulness, a peace, a being safe, and—most wonderfully, wonderfully of all—that I had, so very truly, a new friend: St. Maria Goretti was going to be with me in my priesthood. The little, innocent saint would walk with me.

The words of the psalmist came to me:

            The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy!

*          *          *

A repair man came to visit St. Maria. Salt of the earth man-- today, he was dressed up in a suit. One of the newsreporters interviewed him as he left and I caught a part of his story. He was having trouble at home; his family was hurting and he didn't know what to do. The newsreporter asked him: "So, why are you here?" The man simply replied: "Because I believe she can help me."

Isn't that a wonderful faith?

And our faith tells us that someone even greater than St. Maria is here. Yes, Jesus is here!

What do you want Him to do for you?

Do you have regrets that you carry, sins that burden you? Do you need to be forgiven? Do you want to know God’s mercy? Do you want to be able to forgive? Are you alone—do you want Him to be with you? Do you struggle with anxiety—do you want peace? Do you feel tempted to doubt or despair; do you struggle with faith; do you long to hope again and to love and be loved?

Come to Jesus. Come and ask Him. Lord, I long to see! Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!

From the St. Louis Review, pictures and article of the day..

Sunday, October 18, 2015

To Drink of the Chalice - Homily for the 29th Sunday in OT

In ancient days, kings would extend their friendship through the sharing of a chalice. The king would drink and, then, he would offer that chalice to those close to him. By extension of that friendship, those who drank received the trappings of his kingdom.

But this came, of course, by oath: those who drank were promising to be the king’s friends—in good times and in bad. It was a chalice of blessing and a chalice of promised fidelity in love.

And so Jesus asks James and John, those who asked to sit at His side, “Can you drink the chalice which I will drink?”

They respond that they can. It seems easy enough: by the oath of friendship with this Messiah-King, James and John not only gain a powerful friend, but also all of His trappings. To drink of the chalice is, for them, a total benefit without any cost; nothing will be asked of them. Or so they think.

The chalice which Jesus will drink is not what they think it is. Jesus’ chalice is the Cross. This is why, on the night before He died, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed: “Father, take this chalice from me. But, not as I will, but your will be done" (Lk 22:42)

Note the contrast: what Jesus was crushed to drink, James and John were willing to gulp down. Truly, as the Lord Himself said, “You do not know what you ask.”

*          *          *

Jesus is not a king like the world’s kings. He is not interested in controlling others or amassing power through blind ambition and vengeance and war. What Jesus is interested is in love, a love that is poured out like a libation (Phil 2:17), a love whose kingdom-rule is self-donation and “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13)—and even one’s enemies (Mt 5:44).

James and John, this is your King. This is the one by whose throne you are asking to sit. Do you realize what you are asking? that you are asking to become like Christ who serves so as to exalt others? who suffers so as to bring mercy and consolation? who dies so as to bring eternal life?

Do you believe that suffering with your King, Jesus Christ, will really bring about the salvation of mankind? that your Good Friday with Christ will bring about an Easter Sunday for yourself and others?

*          *          *

“Come down off of that cross!” people will say to you, just as they said to your King. Don’t enter into long-term commitments, they will say. Make yourself comfortable and don’t get tied down, they will advise. Have a couple kids, fine, but don’t have any more—“come down off that Cross!” Because for the world, fidelity, generosity, perseverance in suffering, chastity—these fruits of the Holy Spirit—are scandalous and a "folly to the Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23), precisely because the world does not see the royal King in the Suffering Servant’s chalice. 

Jesus chose to drink of the chalice, to embrace the suffering and pain of the Cross. And for love of you.

*          *          *
On the night before Jesus died, He took a chalice and blessed it and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it. For this is the chalice of my blood. The blood of the new and eternal covenant…” Do we understand what this means? The king was offering friendship and a share in His heavenly kingdom to them: He loves them even unto death and the proof is in the chalice.

This chalice is now offered to you at Holy Mass. It is a chalice of the deepest friendship, of love, and of a rule whose power is found in the Cross. And with it comes an oath: that God loves us, but that we promise to love Him even unto the Cross (cf. 1 Cor 11:27).

So, let us ask Him: Lord, how are you inviting me to suffer for love? Is it cancer? Is it humiliation? Is it in a commitment? poverty? generosity? others being preferred over me? hurts from the past? the falling away of family and friends from the faith? the evil of the world?

Let us approach the chalice in trusting love and in confident faith—that Jesus, who invites us to suffer for the world and in love, will transform our sufferings, just as His were transformed, into grace, into redemption, into salvation for our human race.

“Can you drink of the chalice which I will drink?”

James and John replied, “We can.”

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Stunning Identity of the Rich Man - Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

When we hear today’s story about the rich man, it is easy to strip down the story to a simple moral lesson: namely, that in order to be in heaven, we have to sell everything and be poor.

That misses the point.

The total bring-us-to-our-knees moment comes right before Jesus tells the man to sell everything. The bring-us-to-our-knees moment is when it says:

Jesus, looking at him, loved him. 

The end.

Jesus loved Him. He looked at him and saw His child, His one for whom His heart ached and for whom He would go to the Cross. Jesus, looking at him, loved him.

*          *          *

Lovers, when they are in love, can gaze into their beloved’s eyes for what seems to be forever. They gaze, they look upon… and the moment is eternal. Words too deep for even the greatest and most able of poets are spoken there. Heart speaks to heart. Lovers know of this. Adorers know of this. It is why, when a priest came to St. Andre Bessett and asked him, “Andre, what do you say to Jesus in your long hours here in the chapel?” Andre simply responded by saying, “I look at Him and He looks at me.”

There is a union there, a gaze which is so completing and so total that nothing else matters.

*          *          *

When Jesus asks the man to sell what he has, it is not simply a formal, legalistic requirement in order to merit eternal life. How bland and sterile!

No, Jesus is inviting the man into a level of intimacy surpassing the man’s upside-down perspectives of what constitutes treasure. In other words, Jesus is saying to the man: “I love you. You are my treasure. Am I your treasure? Do you love me?”

You see, a man could keep the commandments without necessarily loving God and neighbor. To fulfill the commandment “thou shall not kill,” for example, leaves a whole lot of room for anger and violence. The law was the bare minimum of justice. Jesus wants the man to love.

This is why Jesus tells the man not only to sell what he has, but to sell and give to the poor. There is something going on here. Jesus could have simply told the man to sell everything and follow. But he tells the man to sell AND give to the poor. Why?

In that moment of giving to the poor, the man would have come face to face with those who have always been totally dependent upon the treasures he has possessed. And perhaps he would be moved, moved by love, to look upon them and love them—to gaze—to not simply be face to face, but heart to heart.

And maybe, just maybe in that moment, the man would have realized that this is exactly what Jesus has done for him: that Jesus entered into this man’s life and was bestowing the real treasure. The rich man isn’t the rich man; he is actually poor, for he has no eternal treasure. Jesus is the rich man. And the treasure that He is bestowing is the love that never ends.

And as amazing as that is, it is not what stuns me this morning.

*          *          *

What is stunning is this.

The man walks away sad. He has lost the gaze. (Literally, his “face fell.”) And as he walked away, I couldn’t but help think of Jesus still looking at him with love, even unto the horizon—like the Father for his lost son. 

You remember that story, right? The son came to his father and said, “Father, give to me my inheritance.” And the father gave his son half of the inheritance—that is, many, many possessions.

And the man went away sad, for he had many possessions.

The identity of the rich man has now become the Prodigal Son.

*          *          *

Children, go, sell what you have and give to the poor. May Jesus be your treasure, may His love be your greatest possession!

And if your life has been that rich man, turned away from Jesus and awash in the stuff of this life, our merciful Father wants you back. It’s not too late! 

Jesus, looking at him, loved him. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rediscovering the Parable of the Good Samaritan - By Request!

Bonus entry this week…. Yesterday at Holy Mass we read about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Every time this parable comes up, I give the same homily—taken from the writings of Origen and also Pope Benedict XVI. And every year, I think the homily is a flop, but then I have bunches of people who want me to preach it again or to post it online.

That being said, I am going to post here my notes on this parable. Most of these notes are “free-writing,” so pardon the lack of continuity, grammar errors, etc….


If you are reading this, it’s likely that you have heard the Parable of the Good Samaritan—the parable about how a man is robbed and nobody helps him except for a good Samaritan. The moral of the story is that we are supposed to be kind to others and help those in need. The End.

But is that it? Is that the deep treasure of this parable? Hasn’t Jesus told us this lesson—namely, “be kind”—many times before? Why does He employ an elaborate parable to highlight that point?

*          *          *

Modern-day tendencies in preaching and teaching have led us to to interpret Scripture firstly in terms of what I have to do instead of who Jesus is. In homilies, for example, more often than not we hear exhortations about being good instead of lengthy reflections on Jesus who is Himself the Good. That’s a problem because when the focus is simply on what I have to do (morality), it is so easy to lose the reality of who Jesus is. And more, when we lose who Jesus is, we actually lose the actual meaning of what we’re supposed to do. In other words, lose Jesus and you lose correct morality.

So, when it comes to scripture, we must try to see Jesus first, then morality.

Of course, when it comes to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we tend to do exactly the opposite: we see the moral lesson first and tend to overlook Jesus. We say, “I must be like the Good Samaritan and help others” instead of first realizing that Jesus is the Good Samaritan and going from there.

If we see that line of connection, that Jesus is the Good Samaritan, then it naturally follows: Is Jesus drawing other lines of connection? For example, who is the man who was robbed? who is the man at the inn? And so on.

This is where we begin and we realize that the parable is not just simply about a moral exhortation to be nice, but a sweeping summary of salvation history.

*          *          *

So... the man who was robbed... Who is he? 

He is Adam—and, by extension, all of humanity. And the robbers? They are the devil and his legion of fallen angels.

Of what did the robbers—the devil and his legions—rob humanity? Eternal life. Hence, the man who was robbed is left for dead, “half-dead”—meaning in the deadly state of sin, but still redeemable.

Is your mind blown?

Think back for a moment: what was the question that precipitated Jesus’ parable? A lawyer had approached Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” See the connection?

*          *          *

So what must I do to inherit eternal life? 

At this point in the parable, the answer is nothing: Man can’t do anything on his own for salvation. Hence, in the next scene of the parable, we see a priest and a Levite passing by the man without helping him. This has a deeper meaning too.

The priest represents the Old Testament temple sacrifices. 

Could those sacrifices redeem humanity and bring eternal life? No. Hence, the priest passes by on the other side.

The Levite (a scholar of the law) represents the Old Testament Mosaic Law. 

Could this Law redeem humanity and bring eternal life? No. Hence, the Levite passes by on the other side.

(Pope Benedict XVI is quick to point out, therefore, that we must not be too quick to judge the priest and the Levite for passing by—for such a judgment is to look back on them from the higher perspective that we have been given in Christ. Indeed, Pope Benedict points out that their passing by would have likely been out of love for God and the temple—misplaced as we now see it—because, they, knowing well the Mosaic Law, would have known that to touch blood or a dead man would defile them and keep them from temple worship. The very fact that Jesus uses their deep love of the temple as a critique of their uncharitable actions towards their neighbor highlights the Old Worship and the Old Law as being an incomplete love and thus clearly unable to save Man).

*          *          *

So, there is a third man that comes, a Samaritan. 

There is some history here. When the Jews were taken into exile centuries earlier, a few Jews were left behind. Many of them married with the pagan peoples (known as Gentiles) who had moved into the land. This new “race”—an admixture of Jew and pagan—were the Samaritans, many of whom worshiped the five gods (Ba’als) of the area (cf. Jn 4, The Woman at the Well). Long story short, the Samaritans were seen as spiritual harlots having cheated on the One True God—and could therefore do no good.

This is why it would have been a total surprise for the parable to be about a GOOD Samaritan-- much less for Jesus to use a Samaritan as the protagonist on a lesson about loving God and neighbor—and about entering eternal life.

It was a shocking as, say, God becoming man. As shocking as Jesus being God. (For “what good can come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46)).

The Good Samaritan is Jesus.

Now comes the crux of the story. Jesus is the one who is able to restore the robbed man. It is Jesus who is able to bring eternal life. So, the Good Samaritan, Jesus, reaches into the man’s half-dead state and lifts him up.

And that's The End, right?

For many Christians who are not Catholic, the rest of the story simply seems to be a commentary on the Good Samaritan's love: the Good Samaritan fills the man’s wounds with oil and wine, binds them with bandages, lifts him up, takes him to an inn, gives coins to an innkeeper, and instructs the innkeeper to take care of the man until he returns. 

But that's the whole second half of the story! Is Jesus simply wanting us to gloss over this as simply a moralistic exhortation to not just "be kind," but "be really, really kind." It would make sense to some degree, to see the superabundant charity of the Good Samaritan and do likewise.

But... there’s more.

*          *          *

Just as the characters in the first half of the story are connected to Old Testament figures, so too the actions and items of the second half of this story are connected to the New Testament.

What do the oil and the wine and the bandages represent? The Sacraments. (…!!!)

Oil is used at the anointings in Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and the Sacrament of the Sick. Wine is used for the Eucharist and at Marriage (cf. Jn 2, Cana). The bandages—the “binding” (Mt 18:18)—represents the Sacrament of Confession.

There, all seven sacraments.

This is how Jesus is going to heal the man. But there is more.

 *         *          *

He takes the man to an inn. (And there is plenty of room (unlike Lk 2:7)). The inn is the Church. Jesus brings humanity to the Church and then gives to the innkeeper two coins by which the innkeeper is to take care of the man. The coins are treasures of grace: the Holy Spirit, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and so on.

And who is the innkeeper? The steward-- that is, the Pope.

And what is the innkeeper-Pope supposed to do? To take care of the Man until Jesus returns—at which point the innkeeper will have to give an account of his stewardship.

That, my friends, is called the Second Coming.

*          *          *

So, let’s go back to the questions that precipitated this parable. The lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus responds by giving the man a veiled summary of salvation history—the “lesson” being that eternal life is a totally undeserved gift which we ourselves cannot “do,” but must first receive.

It is a total divine initiative.

*          *          *
It is only then that Jesus concludes the lesson by saying, “Go and do likewise.”

Here begins the moral exhortation. And He doesn’t simply mean “be kind” or “be really, really kind.” There is actually some specificity to what He means when He says “Go and do likewise”—and we know that there is specificity because Jesus has given us a lot of specific details through this story. They can be summarized as follows:

First, we have to receive the Good Samaritan in our lives; realizing that we are the man half-dead. We have to let Jsus pick us up from our “half-dead” sinful state. We have to let Him take us to the Church and fill us with the Sacraments and be cared for by the “innkeeper.".

In such ways, we are transformed to become another Christ—another Good Samaritan who can go and do likewise. This “go and do likewise” sounds much like the dismissal from Catholic Mass. 

What does it mean?

It's specific.It means:

1)      placing ourselves into the very lowliness of the man who is half-dead in sin and not passing by;
2)      lifting him up—through prayer, sacrifice, and the hard work of heavy-lifting charity;
3)      bringing him to the Church. It is not enough to just do social justice. We must bring people to the faith and to the Sacraments;
4)      which presupposes that we ourselves have received (at least to an initial degree) these graces from the Good Samaritan.

In this way, Jesus answers the lawyer’s second question: “And who is my neighbor?”

The answer to that is “everyone”—for “whatever you did to these least among you, you did to me.” (Mt 25:40). You see, Jesus is the Good Samaritan AND, by taking on humanity's lowly state, has become one with the man who was robbed, beaten, stripped, and left for dead.

Eternal life, therefore, is tied up with receiving the divine offering of charity from Jesus, the Good Samaritan (grace) AND in being transformed into Him, so as to see Him in our neighbor, and thus making us one in charity with the Good Samaritan and each other.

Hence, when Jesus says, “Go and do likewise,” He is inviting us to a radical union with His divine life, a life of charity, which brings eternal life for many.