Homily – Sixth Sunday of Easter

VI SUNDAY OF EASTERTIDE – A – 2020

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (Jn 14) Divine Providence was at work when they etched those words in stone above the front door of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Richmond. You see, many years after the cathedral was built, they would build the college campus of Virginia Commonwealth University surrounding it. And furthermore, they would place the dorms, so that a certain undergraduate would pass this message three times a day on the way to the cafeteria.

Later in the next chapter of John Our Lord would tweak His message to, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn 15:13) That sounds so odd or inauthentic. I remember newly arriving at VCU and being approached by fraternity members looking for me to pledge. Their pitch reminds me of Our Lord’s teaching, ‘if you come and do what we say, we’ll be your friend.’ I steered clear of these guys. No offense to you frat boys. Although the beer was enticing, I already had friends so I declined. Later I would join the oldest and largest fraternity in the world. I pledged the Alpha and Omega house.

If I rejected the friendship of the Greek fraternities on the grounds of insincere friendship, why do accept the Lord’s? The friendship that He came to establish is what is called a covenant. We can see how this relationship has been developing throughout the OT.

  1. Adam
    • God’s promise – I give you paradise
    • His command – Be fruitful and multiply, and don’t eat of the tree
  2. Noah
    • Promise – “I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood.” (Gn 9:15)
    • Command – “Be fertile, then, and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it.” (Gn 9:7)
  3. Abraham
    • Promise – great nation and descendants as numerous a the stars
    • Command – Worship God (the only), circumcision
  4. Moses
    • Promise – freedom from slavery, Promised Land, Divine Presence (tabernacle, pillar of cloud and fire)
    • Command – 10 Commandments and a way of life (yearly cycle of feasts)
  5. Jesus

  6. Promise – freedom from sin, salvation, personal involvement in our live and His abiding sacramental presence
  7. Command – be Catholic

Hopefully, we have all heard that God loves us. Well, love demands a response. Just as a young man professes his love to his girlfriend and he expects her to respond with the intention to exclusively spend her time with him, so there is a proper way to respond to God’s love – 10 Commandments.

In the Catechism before we get to the section of the moral life, we study the Creed. Likewise today’s Gospel passage is from the 14th chapter of John, the second half of his presentation of Christ’s life. Jesus establishes who He is and His love for us well before He starts in on commanding us. How wrong would it be for the young man demanding exclusivity and all the free time of a girl on the first date?

We have heard people complain that the Church is all about is rules. But is it not really all about a relationship? Like your homes, it isn’t uncommon for the teenaged member of the family to have such a great desire for independence that the love and support of the parents is obscured and all he sees is rules, rules, rules. This adolescent perspective isn’t lacking in our culture. There is an influential part of our society that wants complete and utter independence from any authority that can’t be controlled or manipulated by them. They bristle at the idea that one has to accept a rule that they can’t control, like human life is sacred, marriage can’t be reconfigured or gender reassigned. If their premise were accepted, that all rules have to be under human control, this would mean that the principles that govern mankind are merely governed by things in creation. We are more than the things of earth. Our bodies are only a part of who we are. We are created in God’s image and likeness. Our souls have higher law.

Just laws are in accord with one’s nature. I can’t expect the cat that shares my house to sit at the dinner table, wait for me to say grace and then be deft with the manners that govern the proper use of fork and knife. Why is it that often the oldest children are scolded before the younger ones? They have an ability that the younger ones don’t. They know better. Likewise our appetites and strengths don’t govern right and wrong like they do for animals. We answer to a higher law. In turn we enjoy the higher powers of freedom and immortality.

Human freedom is ordered to the good and not evil. To do evil is not freedom, nor a part of freedom, but only a sign that one is free. Freedom is not rooted in the physical ability to do evil, but in the moral ability to do good. “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the “slavery of sin.”” (CCC 1733) “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”  (Rom 6:16)

A sports analogy can help. There was a movie that came out a few years ago, called Million Dollar Arm. It’s based on the idea that there are those with extraordinary athletic abilities, no matter what sport they play. So, a baseball scout goes to India and to find some athletes who excel at cricket and bring them back to America to play baseball. Now, to bring these boys into professional baseball, they will have to surrender their way of throwing a ball for a cricket. I don’t know anything about cricket, but I do know that you can’t excel at golf, that is, you will lack the freedom to move the golf ball around the links as you wish, if you insist on using a baseball swing, stance, and grip. Now, tell me. Is this a lack of freedom? Who is more free, the one who insists on using the baseball, hockey, lacrosse or cricket swing to hit the golf ball, because after all these are more options, or the person who is disciplined and stays within the natural physics of golf?

The key to our excelling and living like the immortal divine family member is the moral life. Like the Indian boys pulled from the grinding poverty of India to be professional ball players in the US, they will have to adapt to new rules. When Christ teaches, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. He wants us to know what it is like to live like a royal member of His household. “I no longer call you slaves … but friends…” (Jn 15:13) We don’t know what it is like to live with slaves, but we do own pets. Why do we give them the privilege of living in AC, eating table scraps, watching t.v., going on trips and sharing the intimacy and love of our family?

Well, because our pets aren’t living like they do in nature. If they were tearing up the furniture, doing their business where and when they want, biting and abusing the members of the family, I’m sure that we would reconsider their status as indoor companions. But because they have altered their lifestyle, in as much as their nature permits, they live with us. In fact we extend their lifespan as much as our power permits. Well, Jesus doesn’t want to leave us outdoors to die like an animal. I will not leave you orphans. Yet let’s not get carried away with ourselves, it isn’t our nature to be divine. How will we know what is expected at God’s divine banquet table?

When Moses was sent down river as a baby in a basket, he was a condemned criminal for being born Hebrew. He is an image of the human race that lives under a death sentence because of our birth. In a wonderful way, according to God’s plan, the families that gave Moses this death sentence were the ones who saved him. The mother that gave him his Hebrew status, the very thing that condemned him, surrendered him so as to save him. And the daughter of Pharaoh, the king who condemned him, saved him by taking him in as his own mother. The daughter of Pharaoh gave him royal status. Yet at the same time, Moses natural mother is called in to nurse him.

Our mothers gave us life and a death sentence. The moment we are born, we started to die. To remedy to this problem, most of our mothers sent us down stream as infants. They brought us to the waters of Baptism and we entered into a new family. God became our Father and we are now brothers and sisters of His Son. Moses was nursed by his natural mother but then lived as Pharaoh’s son. Likewise our natural parents raise us but we live with the promised inheritance of living in the Kingdom of Heaven, as members of the royal family of the King of Kings.

It was Pharaoh’s royal daughter that brought the lowborn Hebrew baby, Moses, into Pharaoh’s royal family. Our new mother likewise has a status far beyond her adopted children. She is the one whom the angel declared to be “full of grace.” The Blessed Virgin Mary is always the mother of Jesus, a natural member of the divine family, but also she is the mother of those whom her Son adopts, us. Mary’s new status as our adoptive mother is established when Jesus tells John the Apostle, a representative of His the new Church,  “Behold, your mother.” (Jn 19:27)

To attain heaven, to live as a child of God, we have an adopted mother. How will we know what is expected at God’s divine banquet table? Follow the instructions of your mother. Devotion to her is a certain path to our heavenly home. Ad Iesum per Mariam. If we were to take her up on her plan that we pray the Rosary daily like she instructed the children at Fatima, how could we fail to miss her maternal guidance?

Pastor’s Piece – May 15

Here is the latest update from our chief pastor:

It is great news that we are now beginning to offer public celebrations of the Mass in some areas of our diocese. While we would like to join together as quickly as possible, we must proceed cautiously, consistent with guidance from state and local officials and health experts, in an effort to continue protecting the health and safety of parishioners, volunteers, staff, clergy and all who serve throughout the Diocese.

As we move forward, portions of the Diocese will reopen at different times as the commonwealth takes a regional approach to Phase One of re-opening. Governor Ralph Northam originally announced that many areas of the commonwealth will enter Phase One of re-opening on May 15. At the request of local officials in Northern Virginia, the Governor has delayed Northern Virginia’s re-opening until at least May 29. The areas impacted are Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties (and those cities located within that area) along with the City of Alexandria.

Parishes in Northern Virginia will not be able to celebrate public Masses at this time. However, all parishes in these Northern Virginia counties are permitted, but not mandated, to conduct Communion services, provided they are done in a manner consistent with existing social distancing protocols and health and safety guidelines. It is left to the prudential judgment of each pastor to determine if his parish is able to move in this direction. Please contact your local parish to see if it will be offering this liturgy.

Beginning May 16, parishes outside of Northern Virginia will be permitted, but not mandated, to resume public celebration of the Mass if the parish’s pastor feels confident that Masses can be celebrated safely and in accordance with diocesan protocols. As such, parishioners outside of Northern Virginia should contact their parish to know if Masses will be publicly celebrated. During this time and due to capacity limits, please do not plan to attend liturgies at any parish other than your own. Parishes will continue to livestream the Mass to the best of their ability.

Guidelines for celebrating the Mass in Phase One include gathering at no more than 50% of the lowest occupancy of the room or facility, ensuring proper social distancing and diligently maintaining cleaning schedules. Additionally, all parishioners are expected to wear face coverings while on parish property. Due to social distancing requirements, not all parishes will be able to accommodate 50% capacity. Pastors of parishes outside of Northern Virginia have the discretion to decide if they can safely enter Phase One. For the health of our priests and in order to allow for thorough cleaning between Masses, not all parishes will maintain a normal Mass schedule.

Until further notice, I am continuing the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. I encourage those who are 65 years old or older, as well as those with underlying health conditions, to avoid gatherings of the general public and attending public liturgies.

In laying out the details of how we move forward, I will continue to be assisted by the Diocese of Arlington’s Reintegration Working Group, which has been meeting regularly and is providing requirements, recommendations and resources to parishes as they begin to hold public Masses.

Key resources have been provided to help parishioners worship safely. In consultation with our pastors, I am confident we are responding to the best of our ability to the spiritual and physical wellbeing of the faithful and making appropriate progress in upholding with public health and federal, state and local directives. As this situation continues evolving, each phase will allow us the opportunity to take steps in a positive direction in unity and faith.

May we continue to pray for one another and all those who need our prayers, especially at this time. We will continue to keep the faithful updated as the situation evolves.

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

P.S. Please, feel free to participate at SSM this Sunday as has been the custom. Nevertheless I am changing procedure for Holy Communion. For those who are listening to Mass on 89.5 FM “The Martyr” in their cars, don’t line up for Communion. I will distribute to those in the church, porch and hall, and then give the final blessing. Afterwards I will bring Communion to your vehicle. Please, be waiting outside of it if you wish to receive. This will avoid the large groupings.

 

P.P.S. On May 29th, the Knights of Columbus will be collecting non-perishable food to replenish the Saint Lucy Project’s food warehouse.  Donations will be accepted at the Food Lion parking lot off Washington Street in downtown Haymarket between 10AM and 2PM on Friday the 29th.  If you can’t deliver your donation to the Food Lion parking lot on the 29th, you may bring any donations to Saint Stephens from May 11– May 28. There will be a bin labeled “St.Lucys” in the narthex for your donation

 

Homily – Fifth Sunday of Easter

Mother’s Day / Fatima Anniversary

Last week I spoke of how our nation’s bishops joined together to re-consecrate the U.S. to the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) and how the image of Our Lady of Fatima is in the sanctuary of St. Stephen’s throughout the month of May. Why do we do such things? Is this an example of ignoring the words of the Gospel today, “You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” Are we ignoring Jesus?

Quite simply faith in God and His Son is a family affair. Lets take a moment to remember one of the great events of our family history. The most marvelous miracle to grace the Christian era had to be the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. At this event the Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, during the First World War to deliver urgent messages about the need to turn to prayer, especially the Rosary, to steer the world from greater disaster. Her appearance wasn’t a onetime visit, but rather once a month for six months. While only the children witnessed her appearance, the Blessed Mother promised and delivered a miracle for those who accompanied the children. The concluding miracle was so tremendous that 70,000 people who gathered with the children witnessed the sun appear to dance in the sky. Atheistic secular newspapers reported it, and even witnesses miles away gave testimony to the event.

This week we celebrate Mother’s Day and we mark the 103rd anniversary of the BVM appearing to the three children at Fatima on Wednesday, May 13. All the popes of our lifetimes have had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Pope J.P.II attributed his survival from his assassination attempt to her intervention. That attempt occurred on May 13, 1981. Pope Francis has visited Fatima, and declared two of the visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, saints.

The message of these apparitions involved the events of the 20th century and the time period we are in now. At the time of the apparition, Mary said that souls were being lost due to a growing godlessness. The Blessed Mother spoke to the children about the need to pray and offer sacrifice for those who didn’t believe in God so that certain worldwide disasters could be avoided. The sad part is that these tragedies were not avoided but rather became part of our history like Our Lady predicted: World War II began, Russia rose to power to spread atheism, persecuting religious people and destroying nations.

The hopefulness of these messages is that through prayer, specific prayer like: praying the Rosary daily, coming to Mass every first Saturday of the month and through the pope consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Russia would convert and the world would know an era of peace.

Most of us remember the bloodless change of government that happened in Russia during our life times, but were we aware that it was in 1984 that Pope St. J.P.II, with all the bishops of the world, consecrated Russia and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

One year later, Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power. The Berlin Wall came down without a gunshot in 1989. In 1990 Gorbachev, the atheist communist leader visited J.P. II and asked him to pray for his country. As the forces of Communism dissipated, a last struggle was made to maintain it through a coup attempt against Gorbachev that was defeated on August 22, 1991, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. This is a story of a mother intervening to save her children from danger. Why wouldn’t she?

In sacred scripture Mary’s motherhood is nothing less than a perfect model of motherhood. At the Annunciation, she accepts God’s will and brings His Son, the Logos, into the world. Her humility enabled her to cooperate with God. She was the perfect instrument to bring the world its Savior. Her maternal love brings the world its greatest love, Jesus. Mary brought this Love of God to others. With her heart full of God’s love and Christ in her womb she goes on a mission of charity to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Her love for God doesn’t allow her to step aside and retire after she delivers God’s Son into the world at Bethlehem. She is there to begin the Gospel. She initiates His mission by having Him perform His first public miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana. She is faithfully with Him till the bitter end of His ministry when He offers himself for our sins at Calvary. Our Lady is even there in the upper room with the Apostles when they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And because of this, we see her as Mother of the Church.

In this role of Mother of the Church she intervenes to bring us to our senses, to bring us to her Son. Her urgent message at Fatima is that the reason for the discord in the world is godlessness. Whether it is a government that outlaws the practice of religion, such as the Soviet system, or a people who live as if God doesn’t exist, like in much of the West. This is what leads us to disaster as a people and damnation as a person. Mary leads us back to God.

All of our mothers have shared life and love with us. Our mothers did not benefit from being immaculate, but nevertheless they gave us a share of maternal love that is good preparation for the perfect love of Christ: complete, unconditional, and reliable every step of the way. Mothers give us a glimpse of the love Christ has for us. But this just points us in the right direction. As Mary told the waiters and Cana, “Do what he tells you.” We come to know love more completely by our own relationship with Jesus – by prayer, by making constant decisions to reject sin, by imitation of His friends (the saints), and His own mother. Speaking of imitating Mary, what was the circumstance in which she gave this instruction to the waiters?

She was orchestrating the rescue of the unsuspecting couple at Cana from a tremendous party foul, running out of wine. And what was the circumstance that gave Our Lady the opportunity to save this bride and groom from social disaster? They had invited Jesus and Mary to their wedding. This is a lesson for us all. We must learn to invite Jesus and Mary into our lives.

St. Pius of Pietrelcina (aka, Padre Pio), a saint our time, had a motto that I think needs to be recited every morning before we get our daily dose of fear from the media, “Hope, pray, don’t worry.” Let’s repeat that, …

I think that this is a fair contemporary rendering of today’s Gospel, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” That is, we hope for heaven, the Father’s House, where there are many mansions being prepared. It is the object of the supernatural virtue of hope. We trust that Divine Providence is working in our lives and in the world with all things to make us saints, to bring us to heaven. The exercise of the hopeful is to pray. Prayer is the expression of our faith. This invitation of Jesus and the saints into our lives opens us up to divine perspectives and possibilities. This all works to eliminate worry.

There are all sorts of words for worry, such as: anxiety, stress, lack of confidence, or low self-esteem. And there are lots of ready examples of worry, such as people driving alone in their cars with masks on. Such anxiety leads to a fate worse than suffering coronavirus, unhappiness. We can never ultimately place our trust in things, people, science or government. These can never provide for what we hope. When such material or temporal goods are the object of hope for a culture or society, it leads to upheaval, revolution, rash and extreme solutions to our problems that tend to dehumanize, such as Communism and Totalitarianism. These are extreme human solutions of a people who solely look to themselves to solve their society’s problems. But as of late, how closely we Americans resemble these people we once pitied?

The number one message of God’s Divine Word in sacred scripture for us personally is our redemption. How God prepared the world for a Savior and delivered. But the number one message of the Bible for society is that a people who invoke the Lord, who make a place for Him in their society will have a more humane solutions and enjoy greater freedom and peace.

As we honor our mothers this day we must honor our heavenly mother also. She doesn’t want brunch. She is not as impressed with a fancy flower arrangement as she is with the arrangement of five decades of Our Fathers and Hail Marys that beautifully crown our devotion to her in the Holy Rosary. She has given us the solution to world crises!

Think of the difference. The worldly powers demand we stay confined to our homes, threaten our livelihood, sacrifice our social life, and cut us off from the consolation of the sacraments. They turn our lives up side down, run rough-sod over revered constitutions and ignore the Bill Rights that we so proudly boast to the world about, all in order to resolve the unknown crisis. What is the solution prescribed by the Queen of Heaven for worldwide threats to our well being?

A minor inconvenience that I guarantee will give us many consolations. We are to set aside 15-20 minutes to invite Jesus and Mary into our life. How could we be content with less and still call ourselves followers of the Lord? An extremely flawed man, Governor Northam, gives an Executive Order and we upset our lives. The Queen of Heaven has the sun dance for us to prove the importance of her message and we think that it is too bothersome. Honestly, we have all had to recalibrate our understanding of inconvenience as of recent. Let’s readjust once more to make room for the Holy Rosary. Peace and freedom are resting on shaky ground. Our prayers are still very necessary for the continued conversion of godlessness in the world.

Pastor’s Piece – May 9

Happy Easter! Here is the anticipated message from our chief pastor:

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

From updates provided by state officials, we are preparing to enter Phase 1 of reintegrating our diocese back to normal operations. While this is not full reintegration of our normal lives, it is a step forward, as Governor Northam’s plan for Phase 1, which begins on May 15, allows for churches to operate at a maximum of 50% capacity, unless a local jurisdiction determines otherwise. Reinstituting the public celebration of the Mass at each parish depends on proper social distancing and the ability of parish clergy and staff to safely accommodate parishioners. This ability may vary from one parish to another.

Know that when we return to our churches to worship together at Mass, some restrictions will be essential for everyone’s wellbeing. A Reintegration Working Group is assisting me in developing those critical measures. This group is composed of pastors from diverse parishes in our diocese, medical experts, public health professionals, and others with pertinent expertise.

The Reintegration Working Group has been preparing requirements and recommendations that will be implemented in all parishes to ensure the safety and health of parishioners. Implementation will allow for some flexibility when appropriate. The Working Group’s approach will evolve as more information is provided by public health and government officials. We will provide pastors and the faithful with more information next week.

Since many still have concerns about attending Mass, such as having health conditions that make attending public gatherings inadvisable, the dispensation I promulgated from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and on Holy Days of Obligation will remain until further notice. I respectfully encourage parishioners who are 60 years old or older and those who have underlying medical conditions to ensure their own health and safety by staying at home until the dispensation is lifted.

The risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus will remain a reality for quite some time. Those who visit our parishes, ministries, charities and programs must recognize this inherent risk and take every reasonable precaution. Consequently, the use of face coverings and hand sterilization are recommended as a critical part of our gradual reintegration.

Diocesan guidelines will include limiting the number of persons allowed per Mass, maintaining social distance, and providing for an active cleaning schedule. Due to limited attendance, parishes will be asked to continue live streaming the Mass as much as possible. The Reintegration Working Group guidelines will also include measures such as omitting the presentation of the gifts by members of the assembly, omitting the

exchange of peace among those gathered, and suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood.

Thank you for your patience as we adapt to this ongoing situation. You can be assured that the Reintegration Working Group and I are working steadfastly to reinstitute quickly and safely the public celebration of the Mass, as well as diocesan and parish events, celebrations and liturgies. This will be done while doing everything reasonable to provide for the spiritual and physical well-being of all the faithful.

Going forward, we will continue to share updates regarding our guidelines through our website, social media, email and the Arlington Catholic Herald. I recommend everyone follow us on social media to receive the most current information regarding new developments.

I also encourage everyone to sign-up for our e-newsletter at ArlingtonDiocese.org/Email.

In closing, I am grateful for your faith, for your prayers, and for your continued support during this demanding and unusual time.

Please continue to pray for your priests and for me—know that I am praying for you and your families as well. I look forward to seeing you all very soon. God bless!

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

P.S. Details about how this effects our parish and our worship will be forthcoming. I need to meet with staff this week.

P.P.S. On May 29th, the Knights of Columbus will be collecting non-perishable food to replenish the Saint Lucy Project’s food warehouse.  Donations will be accepted at the Food Lion parking lot off Washington Street in downtown Haymarket between 10AM and 2PM on Friday the 29th.  If you can’t deliver your donation to the Food Lion parking lot on the 29th, you may bring any donations to Saint Stephens from May 11– May 28. There will be a bin labeled “St.Lucys” in the narthex for your donation

 

Pilgrim Virgin Statue to Honor Mary

May is the month we pay special honor to Mary, Jesus’ mother and our mother. The Legion of Mary has
been blessed to bring the Pilgrim Virgin Statue to many of the homes of our parishioners. The Pilgrim
Virgin Statue is currently on display in the sacristy at SSM.

As Jesus’ mother, Mary is unique among all Christian saints and also closest to Him in heaven. We do well to ask her to intercede for us especially in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. We encourage you to pray the Rosary during this time and continue your Marian devotions to honor our Lady who is a great intercessor for us in heaven.

When the Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, please consider having the Pilgrim Virgin Statue in your home for a week. Please contact Jackie Lorzing, Legion of Mary, if you are interested at legionofmary@katharinedrexelcc.org.

St. Lucy Project - Diocese of Arlington

Replenishing St. Lucy Food Project

Mark your calendars and start saving non-perishable food items for St Lucy.

On May 29th, the St Katharine Drexel Knights of Columbus will be collecting non-perishable food to replenish the Saint Lucy Project’s food warehouse. We are donating as much food as their food truck will carry.

Donations will be accepted at the Food Lion parking lot off Washington Street in downtown Haymarket between 10AM and 2PM on Friday the 29th.

If you can’t deliver your donation to the Food Lion parking lot on the 29th, you may bring any donations to Saint Stephens from May 11– May 28. There will be a bin labeled “St.Lucys” in the Narthex for your donation.

Tell your friends and neighbors. The more food the better. CDC and Virginia guidelines concerning the corona virus will be followed at drop off.

Please no glass containers.

We will also pass on cash and/or check and/or grocery store gift card donations. Make checks payable to should be made out to “CCDA” with St. Lucy Project in the memo

If you have food but are shut-in, or if you will be out of town, let the Knights of Columbus POC Craig Radcliff (703-850-5457) know and he will coordinate getting it from you.

Thank you and God bless you and your family.

Homily – IV Sunday of Easter

Good Shepherd Sunday

The lockdown called for by the CDC happened March 23, forty days ago, yesterday. As we know our Lent is roughly 40 days (Quadragesima). In a similar fashion our word quarantine comes from the same Latin source and means roughly forty days. In scripture the rains poured down on Noah forty days and forty nights, after which God initiated a covenant with him and his descendants. Moses standing on the threshold between the promises God made to Abraham and a new law went up to Mount Sinai and staid forty days to get the Ten Commandments. The Blessed Mother followed this Mosaic Law and was confined forty days after giving birth to Jesus. Jesus went in to the desert forty days to begin His ministry and initiate the New Testament.

On Friday, May 1, the fortieth day after the President’s recommendations to be locked down the bishops of the United States re-consecrated our nation to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her protection. This act is meant to be a reminder of the effective intercession of the Blessed Mother. We may recall how she rescued the couple in Cana from social disgrace on the day of their wedding when she advocated for them with her Son. The Church in America has a long tradition of turning to her. Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, the first bishop of the United States, promoted devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and placed the United States under her protection in1792. The Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1846 named the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, as the Patroness of the United States, hence the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

In our parish church this entire month, we are honoring the Virgin with this statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The Fatima apparitions started in May and spoke of the need to reform in order to avert world catastrophe and usher in an era of peace in our time. The daily Rosary was to be an integral part of realizing this prophetic plan to bring the world in accord with her Immaculate Heart. It is interesting to note that the last time that the churches closed like we are experiencing was exactly one year after Our Lady of Fatima last appeared to the children visionaries. These children were shepherds and so it seems appropriate bring them up on this Good Shepherd Sunday.

How do we know that we are with the Good Shepherd? The Good Shepherd provides for His followers. He established this universal church on the Twelve Apostles, so that throughout history and geography these followers may have His shepherd’s care. We may at times have questions about the men who succeeded the Apostles, their character, their instructions or even example. It seems to me though that that is part and partial to being apostolic.

Were these original bishops, the Apostles, without sin? Peter and Judas’ sins are notorious.

Did they always have the right motivations? James and John tried to angle for VIP spots in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Did they always believe? Thomas’ doubt is renown.

Did they always do what the Holy Spirit revealed? Startlingly we read in Galatians, “And when Kephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I (St. Paul) opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong.” Paul even speaks of James and Barnabas being in cahoots with this error. “I said to Kephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal 2:11-14)

Historically things can get real bad. E.g. the Arian Heresy denied that Jesus is the Son of God. It lasted formally for three hundred years and arguably gave birth to Islam and even some contemporary modern sects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. It has been estimated that over half the bishops at one time were Arian. Then there is the gloomy history of Reformation England. Only one bishop, St. John Fisher, maintained that the successor of St. Peter is head of the Church, the rest said that King Henry VIII was.

So we ought to conclude that it isn’t in individual bishops or in a singular pope, that we find the Good Shepherd but rather in their united effort. The Second Vatican Council teaches in Dei Verbum that “The Magisterium is not above the Word of God but serves it.” Likewise the Council fathers teach that this is also the case for Sacred Tradition. (DV #10) In other words, nobody is making it up as he goes along but rather is beholden to the gift of faith that is passed to him and in turn is obliged, and more importantly, equipped to ensure that that same deposit of faith is passed to the next generation of believers authentically.

Our union with the bishops, united to Peter’s successor, the pope, are how we know that we are under the Good Shepherd.

And so from the beginning and throughout history there is an imperfect use of this gift, yet it would be wrong to conclude that therefore they don’t have the means to speak for Christ authentically and authoritatively. We Jesus Himself gave instruction to His followers it wasn’t always heeded. Yet it was the Apostles who persevered. For example when Jesus was taught unambiguously of need to eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood, He lost a lot of disciples. Jesus turned to the Apostles and asks them if they are going to skidaddle. “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” (Jn 6:68) If it weren’t for Peter and the Apostles would the Lord have had any disciples left?

Ultimately they followed Jesus through obedience to Him and not what the crowd said or even what their own limited understanding dictated. Similar to those early disciples who left Jesus over the Eucharist it was revealed last summer that over 70% of Catholics in America don’t believe in the Eucharist. With such widespread misunderstanding of our Catholic faith today we must give the example of the Apostles.

When the Jesuits returned to Japan after having been expelled for 260 years there were amazed to find in a remote village in the north east of the country where the people gathered every Sunday to pray the Apostles Creed, the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition, and recite the Ten Commandments and the Eight Beatitudes. The flabbergasted missionaries asked about the custom and were told that a long time ago the “fathers” in preparation of their own martyrdom instructed the ancestors of these Christians to do this. And then the jubilation of these Jesuits turned to apprehension when the villagers said that they were given instruction by these same “fathers” that when others would come talking about Christ, they were to ask them four questions. When you enter your churches what do you do? Does your Lord have a mother? Where does the leader of your church live? Do your fathers have wives?

The timeless identifying marks of those under the guidance of the Good Shepherd. The true Presence of the Eucharist, the honor to the Blessed Mother, the successor of St. Peter in Rome and the discipline of celibacy in imitation of Jesus and the Apostles. Ultimately this is where we find the Good Shepherd.

God became one of us. The hallmark of the Incarnation is humility. This virtue is to be always present in the humble instruments that He uses to shepherd His Church. The Good Shepherd leads as one of us, not like those who bark commands over the flock, wielding sticks and employing dogs.

God the Son became one of us. So much so that He Himself practiced obedience, even when every fiber of His being didn’t want to. In the Garden of Gethsemane He resisted to the point of sweating blood. Nevertheless just as He taught His disciples He took up His cross. Chances are that we won’t literally be taking up instruments of our execution. More often the obedience that we are expected to imitate is that of the Child Jesus.

Take Joseph, Our Lord’s foster father. Sacred Scripture describes him as a just man. We know that God the Father entrusted him with the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary and His Incarnate Son, so he must have been quite admirable. Nevertheless that doesn’t mean that he was immaculate. He was a victim of Original Sin like you and me. And so, like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, Who humbled Himself to live and obey under Joseph’s roof and adhere to the Fourth Commandment, so we are called to follow good men who have flawed human nature and enormous and unimaginable responsibility.

Who of us was content with our father’s managing our homes at some point in our youth? Hopefully most can look back and see their father’s wisdom eclipsing their sophomoric understanding of the world. As the saying goes, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” We call this phenomenon 20/20 vision.

By-the-way we are in the year 2020 and 20 + 20 = forty. Hopefully the forty days that we’ve spent will give us the insight needed to improve things in ourselves and the world. Don’t forget the Holy Rosary in that improvement. The Blessed Mother was most clear and emphatic with it being the tool to improve the world in our time. The Good Shepherd not only obeyed Joseph, but especially His immaculate Mother.

We imitate the Good Shepherd and follow His humble lead. Regarding those whom He has called to lead us, we can rest assured that we can’t go wrong in obeying. The great thing about obedience regarding options that are moral (we can’t never obey an immoral law) is that you can’t be wrong. “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.” (Rm 13:1-2)

Pastor’s Piece – May 2

Happy Easter!

We all know that Governor Northam’s Executive Order 55 would have us remain at home except for some expressed purposes until June 10. We may have forgotten Executive Order 53 where most businesses will be allowed to function, while maintaining social distancing measures, starting May 8. Bishop Burbidge hasn’t forgotten. Although it may appear that our governor will maintain restrictions for the above businesses till June 10, our bishop together with the Bishop Knestout of Richmond intend to press the issue if public worship doesn’t resume May 8. Our bishop wants to show the governor our church’s good faith and commitment to the common good. So waiting till May 8 he believes will establish the sincerity of that commitment, but he assured his priests that “The Diocese is prepared to advocate further for a lift on restrictions if the May 8th date does not ease restrictions in some way.” (April 22, 2020 Presbyteral Council Notes)

I am hopeful that next Sunday will be a big change for the better for us. Of course it won’t be business as usual, but it will be reason to dispense with some cautions.

Bishop Burbidge has cancelled all Confirmations in May and so, I have cancelled all First Holy Communions this month. We plan to have the children make their First Holy Communions September 26 & 27. As far as Confirmation is concerned the bishop is taking extraordinary measures and granting me permission until December 31 to confirm the children and adults of the parish who are prepared.

You learned in catechism class that the bishop is the ordinary minister of Confirmation. At least that’s what I’ve been teaching eighth graders. But if we had an AP Religious Education class we would learn that he isn’t the only one who ordinarily confirms. Priests ordinarily do it when they baptize an adult, bring somebody (who’s not an infant) into the Church or when they encounter somebody in danger of death who lacks the sacrament. If fact the only sacrament that I am powerless to minister is Holy Orders. (Technically I don’t minister Holy Matrimony, rather I officiate the vows. So if you hear word that I’ve ministered matrimony it is reason to pray for my soul.)

I’ll do my best to imitate the successors to the Apostles and confirm our graduating eighth graders September 12. As far as the adults that I’ve been preparing in RCIA our date has yet to be determined. I’d love to celebrate the event on one of the great feast that our church has during June, such as Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, SS. Peter & Paul or the Birthday of St. John the Baptist. But we know how hard it is to predict the status of things a month from now.

In the mean time I invite everyone to check our cyber presence. We have done some work on these that you might find more helpful:

https://www.saint-stephen.org

https://www.katharinedrexelcc.org

https://www.facebook.com/katharinedrexelcc/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

https://www.facebook.com/St.StephentheMartyrMiddleburg/

By-the-way the Wednesday night Holy Hour (6:30-7:30pm) will continue. It was well attended.

Just in case you don’t have the same source of jokes that I have during our shutdown. What do you call a nun who sleepwalks?

A roamin’ Catholic. 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

P.S. Confessions this week can be found Wednesday 6:30-7:30pm (during the Holy Hour), Friday morning after Mass, and Saturday 3:45-4:45pm.

Homily – III Sunday of Easter – A – 2020

You may ask how I pass my time in this time of confinement? One of the activities filling up my time as of late is putting the eighth graders of our parish on the hot seat. It’s no wonder why the Church calls the preparation of adults intending to be baptized and join the Catholic Church, “the scrutinies.” As I scrutinize the confirmandi for pertinent knowledge of the faith they are to be confirmed in, one of my go-to questions of recent is, ‘When did the power the Resurrection enter into the disciples’ life?’

I’m not talking about Jesus rising from the dead being good drama and warming our hearts with a good story, but rather, ‘When did that event become something practical, personal, applicable and not just inspirational?’

Baptism connects us to the power of Easter Sunday. Notice here in the first part of today’s Gospel passage that the disciples are on the way to Emmaus. We got to figure that they are already baptized. It was the first thing that Jesus did to begin His ministry (the Baptism of the Lord). Then again on the last night of His ministry with His followers (the Last Supper) He says that He must wash their feet. Peter protests. “‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.’  Simon Peter said to him, ‘Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.’” (Jn 13:8-10) Jesus responds that those who are washed only need their feet clean. He is speaking of the washing of the disciples through baptism. Since we can’t be baptized again. Maybe the feet part is a reference to the Sacrament of Confession?

Throughout the Sundays of the Easter Season, the gospel passages reveal encounters of the disciples with the wonderfully mysterious presence of the resurrected Jesus. Last week we heard the dramatic account of Thomas placing his hands in the nail marks in the Body that just mysteriously passed through a locked door. He appears in flesh and blood, to see and to touch. He even eats and prepares meals for them. But at the same time, He can be unrecognizable like He is with the disciples on the way to Emmaus or Mary Magdalene who mistook Him for a gardener. Nevertheless, this mysteriously wonderful Body of Jesus always leaves the disciples with great joy.

Many today are content to say that ‘Jesus was a great man, a great teacher, he was a prophet, but his disciples got carried away and made him a god.’ No wonder there is a lot less wonder in the world. They’ve rejected the saving power of Jesus. He is the one source through Whom we arrive at salvation. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:16) He is the standard of all our actions. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40)

To accept Jesus as merely a prophet compromises heaven. One might begin to believe that death is the only end. This may lead us to think that there is no consequence to our lives because we ultimately end up as worm food. Take the disciples of the gospel today for an example. When they speak of Jesus as a prophet they are rather down-hearted, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel…” Their hearts are heavy. But, as we continue the passage, there is a great change in the disciples. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The good news is that the joy that they encounter is not limited to them alone. What St. Luke has provided for us is an outline for all disciples to encounter the Risen Lord. Firstly, there is a scripture lesson. Sacred Scripture is the warm up. It is how we come to know God’s plan. Jesus interpreted the Old Testament and applied it to their present circumstance. We follow a similar pattern today. It is how we begin Mass. We gather to hear the Liturgy of the Word. When I read the Gospel to you, I declare, “The Gospel according to …” And you respond, “Glory to you O Lord.” Then, silently we make three signs of the cross. The idea is that we wish to have Christ’s words in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts. We want Him in our hearts like these disciples.

After Jesus shares and explains Sacred Scripture to His followers, He shares a meal with them. It’s at the breaking of bread that they realized Who He is. Let’s take note, their disposition, regarding Jesus as a prophet, is dejection and anxiety. Their disposition upon seeing Him at the breaking of bread is joy, excitement and a desire to share the news. So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem…”

What a great opportunity that we have at Mass! Hopefully this absence from Mass for many will help more appreciate the Eucharistic manner that Jesus intends to use to be a part of our lives. Even for those who are unable to receive Holy Communion for a variety of reason that are present even if we are not sheltering in place, consider that the disciples in today’s Gospel are merely watching the Breaking the Bread and they were filled with excitement. It was a Mass on TV moment. I read in an article regarding how the Church as been in the situation where Mass was suspended for fear of contagious disease before. The great reformer of the Church and founder of seminaries, the Archbishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo, shut down the churches in that city during a plague. During this time he encouraged his priest to say Mass at the intersections of the city so that people could witness it from their homes. Our mere participation outside of receiving Holy Communion is efficacious.

Another important aspect of these disciples on the Road to Emmaus is that they expressed hope that Jesus was the one. “We were hoping he would be the one to redeem Israel.” This is further evidence of their Baptism. We receive the gifts, the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity at Baptism. These disciples seemed to have built a life around this hope. They had left homes, businesses and family to follow Jesus.

If our hopes are on the Lord, then we too should feel our hearts warm up to His word. Once we place our hope on pay-raises, promotions, new technologies, political leaders, stock market, entertainment or vacations to bring us security, joy or peace then we become less enamored or ardently desirous of the Lord. We might believe in His Resurrection, but do we believe that this means He is here for us now?

He has risen and is now here in a mysterious way to strengthen, encourage, enlighten, give us hope and fill us with joy, but as we learned sometime ago in catechism class we have to prepare ourselves. First we’re baptized, then we confess our sins, and we learn of the need communicate with God regularly through prayer and to even have time for making sacrifices, such as, fasting. Take another sacrament such as, Holy Matrimony. There we know that bride and groom become one flesh. Their conjugal relations bring them together not only physically. Such relations are enhanced through regular conversations. What we would their union be like if they didn’t talk all week long, show up with no preparation, and expect to have an ecstatic physical moment?

It would hardly be what that act is designed to be. It might give life, but would it convey love? Would it communicate or give assurance that this is the person with whom I want to build a life? Then again it might be a sin, a moment to end the relationship. I.e. To force the issue without consent is a violation on the deepest levels.

There is a similarity with receiving Holy Communion unworthily. This is why St. Paul teaches the Corinthians, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1Cor 11:29) They are abusing a gift and in turn destroying the relationship that is designed to be sustained by the reception of Holy Communion. He concludes that this is the reason for mortalities, “That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.” (1Cor 11:30) This is why the Church teaches that it is a mortal sin to receive unworthily.

Communion is meant to be our personal moment with God. St. Paul also says that if you accept Jesus personally, you’re saved, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rm 10:9) Our Protestant friends think that this is it. The only thing that is necessary. If our Protestant friend should ask us, ‘Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?’ Our response should be a resounding, ‘Yes! I have welcomed Him into my life, into my body and dinned with Him.’ How much more personal can one get?

In the Breaking of the Bread we meet the wonderfully mysterious Body of the Resurrected Lord.

Pastor’s Piece – April 25

Happy Easter!

Divine Mercy Sunday went well. Arriving a little early didn’t seem to deter the determined. I will be prepared with sufficient hosts tomorrow.

While many have found attending my Private Mass at safe social distancing recommendations or in the security of their cars to be edifying, this is not the only way in which to benefit from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that I offer at St. Stephen’s on a daily basis.

Read More: Pastor’s Piece – April 25