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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 – 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

Homily – Easter Octave A – Divine Mercy Sunday

In the 1950s Sci-Fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, we are treated to some state of the art special effects that appear rather primitive to us today. These aren’t the only aspects of the film that appear dated. There are the formal mannerisms of the people. The protagonist, the alien man from outer space, Klaatu, adopts the name Carpenter as an alias, and I don’t think that anyone asks for a first name.

These aren’t the only marks of the passage of a by-gone era. The arms race and the nuclear showdown in the world loom large. Additionally the film was almost a victim of its age before it was ever released. The censors (Motion Picture Review Board) had some concerns that Klaatu was too close of a Christ figure. It wasn’t that they thought that portraying Jesus Christ was bad, but rather because the population was so Christian they feared the audience might be offended by not portraying Him well enough. They didn’t want to be accused of blasphemy. If only we could bring some of those sensibilities back.

Indeed the same similarities to the Christ story seem intentional: a man not of this world, comes to earth to deliver a message of peace, but then is rejected by the authorities, disguises himself as an average Joe, takes the name “Carpenter,” is accepted by the innocent and women, is killed (shot to death), is brought back to life with his alien (i.e. other worldly) technology, reveals who he truly is, makes a post-revival address and then is carried off into space. But these are where the similarities end.

What caught my attention were the 1950’s prejudices. Secular society was esteemed. The natural sciences, military and government were the only considerations as to what might provide world peace. It seems that we have been on this path of thought in our society for a long time. Where has that gotten us? Are we any closer to world peace?

Human life seems more precarious than ever. We promote violence among mother and child with our steady abortion rate and state protections that follow. Some other measures of societal health don’t speak well either: the rates of divorce, suicide and drug addiction, I’m sure dwarf any 1950s measures. Then we’ve opened up whole new means of dissatisfaction, confusion and mental illness with what we think marriage, sex and genders are.

It is good to remember that the root of the word “secular” is the Latin, “saeculum”, meaning, ‘century’ or ‘of the age’. In a real way those who embrace secularism limit themselves to a knowledge that is as old as the generation before them and as farsighted as the next. How does this differ from what we profess?

We believe in the Logos, the Word through Whom all has come into existence. Or if you will, timeless principles upon which the universe was created and is sustained. We have a Church with two thousand years experience, not to mention the future that has been revealed. In a real way those without the light of faith, or at least knowledge of Christian history, have no means of judging things other than by the prejudices of the generation before them and their personal experience. They have no certainty about a future other than death.

In the movie, Klaatu promises to deliver the gift of world peace. Understandably the greatest threat to world peace at the time was seen as more world wars. So the thinking goes, if we can eliminate that, violá, we’ve accomplished peace. So the movie crescendos to where Klaatu delivers the solution to the threat of nuclear war. In his final addresses after his resuscitation and before his departure into the heavens (Not so unlike Our Lord today in the Gospel), the special extraterrestrial knowledge that we hopeless earthlings needed revealed to us is … more fascism.

His solution to the problem of peace is more heavy-handed government enforcement. Of course, he wasn’t advocating that we repeat the mistakes of a decade prior by putting the power in the hands of a national government. No. This broadminded progressive solution reached all the way back to the previous generation for an idea that introduces the international (or rather, interplanetary) governing body. Finally might will make right because, after all, the Interplanetary Police would be free of petty human concerns. They are robots. The idea was for Earth to enter a permanent pact with the other planets in this futuristic League of Nations in order to hold each other accountable. If any member should become aggressive with another world, so the agreement has it, then the consequence would be their destruction by the robots. How in the world does this have anything to do with what we celebrate today?

Jesus Christ died to deliver to the human race the solution. The post-resurrection divinely revealed answer to our problems is none other than what we celebrate today, Divine Mercy. If 1950’s Sci-Fi is an accurate window into that era, we can see why Jesus would be eager to redeliver this message again. And so for our era the Church has established that the mid-twentieth century Polish nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska, did receive inner locutions from the Lord that are worthy of belief. Through this humble instrument, like so many saints, He delivered the message of God’s mercy as a solution to our problems.

I am no student of St. Faustina. Yet in light of what I have read and of what multiple Church approved apparitions have said in the past one hundred and fifty years, we are on borrowed time. Practically all the approved messages and those being investigated currently speak of a chastisement before a time of peace and harmony that will be enjoyed by the world before the end of time. That is, there is to be a time of tribulation because of so much infidelity and disbelief that needs to be rectified. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said in an address in 1947, “God will not allow unrighteousness to become eternal.  … we cannot turn from God without hurting ourselves.” (https://www.ncregister.com/blog/joseph-pronechen/did-fulton-sheen-prophecy-about-these-times)

Now is the time of mercy. We’ve all just experienced how quickly ordinary life for the whole world can change overnight. If this isn’t a merciful wake-up call, I don’t know what one could be. What do we do with the time we have?

There are some very practical steps such as praying the Holy Rosary and or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In doing so we gain more mercy for the world. By doing so also we help mitigate the future troubled times and win more souls for the Kingdom. Yet the heart of the whole message is what we find in today’s Gospel passage.

The institution of the Sacrament of Penance. This how we get right with the Lord. By acknowledging our sins, confessing them sincerely, making a firm purpose of amendment and exercising the act of self-denial, i.e. penance, we activate our membership in the Kingdom. We are part of the solution. We are helpful members of the Kingdom of God working to expand its reign in the hearts and minds of more souls.

The urgency of The Day the Earth Stood Still is prompted by the threat World War III. In Klaatu’s farewell speech he gave an ultimatum, “But if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration.” (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Day_the_Earth_Stood_Still_(1951_film)

Instead of the threat of dispassionate robot calculated worldwide destruction, Christ announces His Divine Mercy. He is clear that challenging times are coming. He is offering us the means not to avoid them but to prepare for them and maintain a sense of peace in the midst of great chaos. As Archbishop Sheen preached, we “must realize that a moment of crisis is not a time of despair, but of opportunity. … Once we recognize we are under Divine Wrath, we become eligible for Divine Mercy. It was because of famine the prodigal said: ‘I will arise, and will go to my father.’ The very disciplines of God create hope. The thief on the right came to God by a crucifixion. The Christian finds a basis for optimism in the most thorough-going pessimism, for his Easter is within three days of Good Friday.” (https://www.ncregister.com/blog/joseph-pronechen/did-fulton-sheen-prophecy-about-these-times)

Pastor’s Piece – April 18

Happy Easter!

Easter Sunday went well. Nevertheless we need to change a few things, and for pastoral reasons, the earlier the better. So now I will offer my morning prayers an hour earlier. I can sympathize with the difficulty. The piety of my youngest brother speaks for many. When he was informed that the family was gathering to join me at church on Easter Sunday at 9:00am, he responded, “The one time in my life that the bishop says that I don’t have to go to Mass on Sunday and you want me to get up early!”

The second thing that we do well to do is for those of you listening to my Private Mass on you car radio, I will meet you where the sidewalk that extends from the church steps arrives at the parking lot for Holy Communion. Remember that if you’ve parked near the Parish Hall, I will meet you at the bottom of the office steps by the traffic cone for Holy Communion.

The latest information from Bishop Burbidge regarding this unique circumstance is that he has canceled all Confirmations in the Diocese of Arlington till May 8. That means we still need to prepare for our First Holy Communions scheduled for May 8 & 9 and Confirmations May 16. Of course whether we have those events will depend heavily on what the governor says before then. Nevertheless there are some things that we can be certain about regarding next month. If we are permitted to have public Mass in May, I don’t imagine that the bishop will make them obligatory. Secondly, we know that Governor Northam has shut the schools and their facilities down till June 10. So there is no hope that SKD will be meeting at Bull Run Middle School before then. You all are always welcome at your parish church SSM. That is the best that my crystal ball can come up with at the moment. We pray that this ends soon.

Till then, a joke, where did the Terminator find toilet paper?

Aisle B. Back.

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

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

 

Easter Sunday Homily

I’m borrowing the Gospel (Mt 28:1-10) from the Easter Vigil, since I didn’t have the opportunity to share it with you last night.

The women of the Gospel are given a great hope. Jesus isn’t in the tomb. Could it possibly be that He is still alive? This hope against all hope is entrusted with a mission. The angel said, that is, the ultimate authority, heavens’ mandate, assigned a task. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ What a marvelous and fearful thing that they have experienced and now have a responsibility to share. Are they not good models for us?

We too are entrusted with proclaiming the message of the empty tomb. It is not a metaphor. We are believers in life after death, in a man who returned from the dead. This changes everything. The message and the belief in the Resurrection comes with a formula for how it is to be actualized in our lives: Baptism, Ten Commandments, Sacraments of Initiation, weekly church, Holy Days of Obligation, fasting during Lent, avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins, practicing a virtuous life, including the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and daily prayer.

If we are believers, where is the evidence? As Sir Isaac Newton so succinctly explained about reality in his Third Law of Motion, “that for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.” (https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/newton3.html) The force of reality that we celebrate is life over death, grace over sin. As Newton explained, if object A exerts a force on object B, then object B also exerts an equal and opposite force on object A. So it stands to reason there should be effects of the Resurrection in close proximity to us.

We may not be feeling so confident of this divine power manifest in the world. We’ve had our wings clipped so to speak. We may even be fearful that we’ve lost divine favor since we are under a worldwide cloud. If we believe that this virus is a chastisement, and we have good reason to believe so, e.g. the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.” (Rv 3:19) Then are we saying that it God’s plan to punish? No. Is it your plan to discipline and a remove freedoms and privileges from your disobedient children? No. You would rather that domestic harmony is maintained through their obedience to you. Nevertheless punishment does become your obligation when you see that they are in danger.

We may gain a glimpse of this heavenly perspective from one of visionaries of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima. In regards to some of the calamities of the twentieth century of which the world was warned, such as: World War II, signs in the sky, the dominance of Russia and the destruction of nations, Sister Lucia said, “…let us not say that it is God who is punishing us in this way; on the contrary it is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given us; hence people are responsible.” (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html)

We can say that it was the best solution for obstinate disobedience. It was the lesser of two evils. So, no, I’m not saying that God is the cause of this, but I am saying that because of our sin, He is permitting this. In that sense, because it is of God, then we can dispense with our anxiety.

Look at the women of the Gospel. They were entrusted with a message. They must have anxiously thought, ‘I have to go all the way to Galilee? A whole 78 miles on foot and then, tell a bunch of men this unbelievable story. Who’s going to believe this from us?’

Here we are, the believers in the Resurrection. We are the faithful of a message that says God is involved in our lives. In fact, we believe that we have no life accept for God’s. As St. Paul asks the Roman Christian community, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rm 6:3-11) So, in fact, we are more than messengers of some unbelievable news. We are at the same time evidence of it. The power of the resurrected Christ is in our lives. “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (ibid.)

So we live in accord with the perspective that death is not the last word. And accordingly the loss of mobility, confinement, routine, threat of pestilence are opportunities to see God’s power manifest in our life anew. Our life as recipients of the power of the Resurrection gives us power to rise above the greatest anxiety of the human race, death, and consequently, its lesser evils, such as, disease, lack of freedom, and sin.

I hope that we might resolve to put the light of our Resurrected existence to work. We conquer death through vanquishing all that which makes us anxious: such as pride that puts our will first; or greed that believes that we are better providers than God; or envy that isn’t happy about what neighbor is or what he has; or anger that for most of us is often due to our own lack of patience with the weakness of another; or lust which is enamored merely with the surface of a person and is hardly an expression of care and concern; or gluttony that misses the beauty that less is more (and even healthy); and sloth that is one of greatest expressions of our ingratitude for the time on earth that we’ve been given.

If we feel a little anxious about the task to conquer sin, that is, to announce the Resurrection in our very lives, then, I invite you to examine what happens next to the friends of Jesus who just received their angelic mandate. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They aren’t alone with the heavenly command. He is with them. Once more He reaffirmed their mission, their obligatory task. But nevertheless they were also consoled and reassured.

Pastor’s Piece – April 11

Please, note that your pastor is now equipped with the coveted N95 mask. A highly trained and experienced medical professional has outfitted me like a pro. According to instructions outlined by Bishop Burbidge there is a way for me to minister the sacraments without fear of multiplying contagion. I feel up to the task, yet Prince William Hospital doesn’t share my enthusiasm. I don’t know of the other healthcare facilities. With this in mind, please, feel free to call upon my services to minister the Anointing of the Sick, Confession, Holy Communion and an Apostolic Pardon. Yet, keep in mind, it will only be possible for me to minister to you before you go to Prince William Hospital and possibly other facilities.

After all my middle name is Damian, as in St. Damien of Molokai. I can’t turn away from this challenge less I’d deny who I am. St. Damien never wanted to get leprosy, yet he knew it was a distinct possibility. Before I left for my stint in our diocesan missions, of which you have often heard me speak, my father handed my holy card of St. Christopher that he had recently found in a letter that my great grandmother had sent her son, his father, as he went off to World War I. The message was not lost on me. The man who named me Christopher Damian was handing me a relic from the woman who initiated the tradition in our family of the males being given the middle name Damian. For you see, Fr. Damien was engaged in his heroic work in her lifetime. I was experiencing the power of the Communion of Saints. In her life, Great-grandmother Murphy was renowned for her piety. She was seemingly teaming up with her favorite holy heroes to send me on my way.

In my time away, I never felt alone. I was reassured by the fact that I would be back home some day. The Diocese of Arlington is my home and I am ordained to serve here, so the bishop was obliged to bring me back. Nevertheless, if should be called heavenward then I would be truly home with those who had been rooting for me. This perspective, of always knowing that I was going home, kept me going. Each and every one of us who are baptized can call upon the power of our heavenly home.

In light of the Easter Resurrection and the eternal life that it shares with us, consider the perspective of our heavenly family. Those of us who are the beneficiaries of today’s miracle, today’s feast, will look back on our time on earth and say, what was I thinking? How could I have been so shortsighted? What was a mere ninety years? Why did I let the discomforts of that time bother me so? Why couldn’t I see them for what they were: my trials, my cross, the great test to make me a saint?

How could I have wasted time on earth being so anxious about the style of my shelter, the fashion of my apparel, the different flavors to give my mouth? How could I have spent so much time following the lives of the famous, of getting upset at politicians and given so little attention to those in my family, neighborhood and surroundings that could have been relieved by my attention, by my resources, by these talents that God gave me? Why was I so concerned about what God gave my neighbor? When after all, He had a specific plan and duty for me?

Please, be assured of my continued prayers with the power of Christ’s Resurrection. As I’ve said before, God was the first one to adopt the motto, ‘Never let a crisis go to waste.’

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

P.S. This Sunday will be like last Sunday. Confessions this week can be found Wednesday 6:30-7:30pm, Friday morning after Mass, and Saturday 3:45-4:45pm.

Homily for Palm Sunday

The drama of today’s Passion Narrative strikes at our hearts. What great lengths God has gone for our salvation is beyond human appreciation. Additionally it delivers a message for our particular time. Like the Apostles we too have had the Lord forcefully removed from us by the civil authorities with the cooperation of apostolic authority. I’m not saying that the bishops have betrayed the Lord for shutting us down, but they have set the scene for some for a passionate Passiontide. If this is the story of how Christ brought new life to the world, is it unusual that the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, might have to suffer in order for it to be renewed?

The Passion of the Lord is overwhelming. Let’s pare it down and just focus on the aspects that St. Matthew’s Gospel brings out that the others don’t:

30 pieces of silver

  • It is a prophecy of the Christ from Zechariah. “And they counted out my wages, thirty pieces of silver. Then the LORD said to me, Throw it in the treasury—the handsome price at which they valued me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the treasury in the house of the LORD.” (Zech 11:12-13)
  • We may not appreciate the sarcasm of Zechariah. He is referencing the fact that in Exodus, Moses prescribes that one pays thirty pieces of silver in reparation to the owner of a slave accidentally killed. (Exodus 21:32) So Zechariah fetches the handsome price of a slave and in turn gives a prophecy about the coming Messiah. After all this is how Our Lord regarded Himself for our benefit. “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6-8)
  • It might be reassuring to us who find Sacred Scripture overwhelming to know that St. Matthew gets his prophets confused too. He mentions that it is Jeremiah who is given the thirty pieces, when, in fact, it is Zechariah. We’ll explore why he gets confused a little later.

“Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”

  • St. Jerome (first translator of the Bible into Latin, 4th c.) holds that the rest of the disciples call Jesus “Lord” at this point. Perhaps Judas addressing Jesus as “Rabbi (Teacher)” shows how his crime extends from his lack of faith. How easy it becomes to rationalize various sins when we no longer believe in a God Who Himself lived according to His own precepts.

Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.

  • St. John Chrysostom (bishop of Constantinople, 4th c.) – Jesus makes clear that as it was stated that the blood of the lambs shed in Egypt were for the salvation of the first born of the Israelites, so it is Christ Who sheds His Blood for the remission of sins.
  • As the Hebrews sacrificed lambs for Passover and established God’s new covenant with Moses, we offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Passover marked God’s change of covenant from Abraham to Moses. The ritualized sacrificial meal that signifies the New Covenant/Testament is the Mass.

“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

  • We must accept Christ’s invitation as a group to prayer, but according to St. John Chrysostom, Jesus is teaching us the importance of study and retirement for our prayers. Need to separate at times too.

Only Matthew has this three-time prayer of Jesus.

  • Rabanus Maurus (Archbishop of Mayence, 9th c.) – The Lord prayed thrice to teach us to pray for pardon of sins past, defense against present evil, and provision against future perils.

Jesus to Judas, “Friend, do what you have come for.”-

  • I think that this reveals Christ’s compassion for Judas right up to the end. As we know Our Lord teaches in John’s Gospel, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” It was Jesus’ last appeal to Judas. An expression of love for him and an admonishment to love. “This I command you: love one another.” (Jn 15:13-17)

“Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?”

  • In St. Luke’s Gospel we read “… and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. … Then (the Apostles) said, “Lord, look, there are two swords here.” (Lk 22:36,38)§ Jesus gave an example of pacifism for Himself, but He didn’t mandate in for His followers.§ St. Augustine (bishop of Hippo, 5th c.) – “disciples had the sword by Our Lord’s permission, yet by “taking” it they have recourse to it outside of His will.” There are just times to take up a weapon and unjust times to do so. Christians do so morally when they protect innocent life, when they obey legitimate authority and subsequent moral orders.
  • Chrysostom – by doing so He is convincing His apostles of His willingness to do this.

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.

  • It seemed like a good idea at the time. But isn’t that how sin works? Despite the warnings from our conscience, we rationalize it. And then, once we’ve committed the sin and realize it as wrong. Then our shame is amplified and we wonder how we could, or anybody, have done such a thing? This is the familiar strategy of the Enemy. Diminish the gravity of sin or convince us that it is good and then shame us to the point that our sinful pride keeps us from being contrite enough to ask for forgiveness.

The chief priests gathered up the money, but said, “It is not lawful to deposit this in the temple treasury, for it is the price of blood.” After consultation, they used it to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why that field even today is called the Field of Blood. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of a man with a price on his head, a price set by some of the Israelites, and they paid it out for the potter’s field just as the Lord had commanded me.

  • We can see more clearly now why St. Matthew got confused with Zechariah and Jeremiah. Zechariah is given thirty pieces of silver to throw into the Temple Treasury, but this typo, the confusion with Jeremiah, helps us to see yet another fulfilled prophecy, the purchase a field with a bunch of silver coins.
  • Augustine – Potter’s Field is another message of mercy. This burial place for foreigners, that is, gentiles, not only speaks of Christ’s mission of
    universal salvation, but also the poor, the disposed, and the outcast. The earthen vessels of the Potter, the sons of Adam, have a home in which to rest in the Field (of Christ’s) Blood.
  • Origen (Alexandrian scholar, 3rd c.) – sees evidence against those who would hold that an intrinsically evil nature exists. “Whence Judas came to the acknowledgement of his sin… except through the good mind originally implanted in him.” Judas was good and could have had recourse to repent and get back to that goodness, but he despaired.
  • St. Leo the Great (Pope 5th c.) – he persists in his sin because when he sees in the last struggles of death he believed not Jesus to be the Son of God, but merely a man of our rank, for had he not denied His omnipotence, he would have obtained His mercy.

There is more but let’s skip it and get to the end. (We Catholics aren’t accustomed to lengthy Bible studies)

  • The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared
    greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening …o This isn’t a zombie apocalypse, but it is a foreshadowing of the true Apocalypse (the Resurrection of the Dead). The fact is, the Passion Event is the most important event in human history and sin and death is no match for it.o Chrysostom – he didn’t come down from the Cross. What He would not do for himself He did for others. He provides a greater miracle than Lazarus rising from the dead.

The Lord has grown weary of seeing so many of us like zombies, the walking dead. We who have been promised eternal life yet persist and get comfortable in our state of mortal sin. We are cut off from what offers true happiness now and we jeopardize that which brings eternal happiness to come. Is it any wonder that the
only sacrament that I am permitted to share with you regularly is the Sacrament of Confession? We mustn’t let our shame and fear keep us from seeking His forgiveness.

To restore the Mystical Body of Christ, we may have to endure a time of separation from the Head, but lets not suffer this without the fullness of sanctifying grace available in the Sacrament of Penance. It is clear that the world needs penance, that is, reform. May our use of this grace filled penance help leverage this change.

*All of the references to Church Fathers are from Aquinas, St. Thomas, Catena Aurea, Commentary on the Four Gospels, Vol. 1, St. Matthew

Homily for Fifth Sunday of Lent

I’m finally catching up. Not on Netflix. Honestly, I’m so overwhelmed by the selections of that service that by the time I’ve selected something, I don’t have time to watch it before the hour that I want to get to bed. So I’mvcatching up on: rest, books, my bike, yard work. I hope that you’re finding blessings in this difficulty.

A difficulty it is, yet such trials are not far from God’s generous mercy. “ThevLord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy; his wrath will come to an end: he will not be angry for ever. As a father has compassion onvhis children, the Lord has pity on those who fear him.” (Ps 103:8-9)

May be we don’t see the firm hand of a loving Father in all this. I think thatvthis pandemic has His signature. We can take a clue from God’s first reaction to His people’s lack of faith, “How long will they refuse to believe in me despite the signs I have worked among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disown them.” (Numbers 14:11-12) Moses intervenes and wins a reprieve. Yet throughout the course of their history, their infidelity is met by various calamities sent by God to bring them back to their senses and once more to His protective care from worse things and blessings.

Also it is interesting to me that in the Old Testament, the object of God’s wrath that most poignantly gets Israel’s attention is anything to do with the Temple. The Temple was built by King Solomon to house the Ark of the Covenant. It replaced the tabernacle or tent that was the Ark’s home during the years of wandering in the desert. It became the center of Jewish identity and practice of the faith. Before this permanent abode for the Ark, the Ark was the source of Israel’s confidence. They would win battles with the Ark in their midst. (This why the Nazi’s wanted it in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.) As time progressed Israel began to get complacent. Instead of reforming their lives according to the covenant that the Ark represented, they began to think that as long as they had the Ark, they would be o.k. So in the First Book of Samuel we see how God lets the Ark fall into the hands of the enemy in a lost battle with the Philistines. It doesn’t remain with the Philistines for long. They hand it back to Israel after they are plagued by a strange pestilence. (1Sm 6) (I don’t why the Nazi’s didn’t read that part of the story.)

Because of this, David who succeeds the first king, Saul, was rather uneasy about bringing the Ark into his city. “David feared the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” So David would not have the ark of the LORD brought to him in the City of David, but diverted it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.” (2Sm 6:9-10) Later it was revealed to David that his son, Solomon, would build the Temple for the Ark.

History continues another thousand years for God’s People. We see a familiar pattern emerge. “Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and by their sins angered him even more than their fathers had done. They, too, built for themselves high places, pillars, and sacred poles, upon every high hill and under every green tree. There were also cult prostitutes in the land. Judah imitated all the abominable practices of the nations whom the LORD had cleared out of the Israelites’ way. In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak, king of Egypt, attacked Jerusalem. He took everything, including the treasures of the temple of the LORD….” (1Kg 14:22-26)

Two hundred and twenty-six years after this sack, for their infidelity, the Assyrians carry off the Northern Kingdom of Israel into captivity. The faithful king, Hesekiah of the Kingdom of Judah, must then use the Temple wealth to ransom his own people. (2Kg 18:16)

One hundred and fifteen years after that the Temple is destroyed by the Babylonians, the remaining kingdom of Israel, Judah, is led off to exile. Scripture telegraphs the message that infidelity to God equals captivity and that faithful union with Him liberates. So as He liberate the Hebrew people from the slavery of Egypt, He works the miracle of liberation again when He calls the Persian Emperor, Cyrus, “His anointed”, and through this gentile, the Jews are liberated and restored to Jerusalem and the Temple is rebuilt.

Nearly two hundred years afterwards, the Greeks role into town. As you can imagine this brought a very attractive culture that valued many of things that we make a priority. And like Israel we too share in the guilt of compromising our faith for some of these same things. The Greeks emphasize wisdom, reason and athleticism. They brought to their conquered lands libraries and gymnasiums. The Book of Maccabees tells us, “they (sympathetic Jews) built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing.” (1Mc 1:14-15) Consequently this eventually leads to a statue of Zeus in the Temple. This is not a good omen. God is clear. It is the First Commandment. He is a jealous God. He doesn’t suffer idolatry well. Nevertheless the story of how the people of the Old Testament go their temple back and the origin of the feast of Chanukah is an exciting read.

One hundred and sixty-fives years from that moment we go from BC to AD. In Jesus lifetime on earth Herod the Great would reconstruct the Temple. This is the reference that we hear in the gospel, “The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” (Jn 2:20)

Jesus establishes a new temple in His very person. Similarly as the Temple of Jerusalem housed the Ark of the Covenant and was the sign of God’s presence with His people, Jesus is God among His people. In addition the Temple functioned as the place for the obligatory sacrifices for sins, so Jesus took on these roles in the New Testament. He is the priest and victim of the sacrifice that would expiate sin and redeem the world.

The Temple of the Old Testament is no more. Jesus predicted its demise by the Romans. “When his disciples approached him to point out the temple buildings. He said to them in reply, ‘You see all these things, do you not? Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.’” (Mt 24:1-2)

Christ is the Temple of the New Testament. The sacrifice of this temple is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Each church is a unique location of God’s presence and propitiatory sacrifice. But may be we don’t know this? Just this summer it was revealed that over 70% Catholics don’t believe this. As God would strike the Temple to get His people Israel’s attention, is it just a coincidence that we of the New Covenant should have our Temple shut down, worldwide? Is it also coincidental that it happens to be the first Holy Week since this incredulity was revealed?

A good and loving father disciplines his children. Scripture says, “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.”” The Book of Hebrews says that this is how you can identify legitimate children. “Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb 12:5-7)

Our gospel passage today is a foreshadowing of things to come. Throughout the gospels, we read of Jesus bringing life back to the dead more than once. Even Elijah and Elisha the prophets did as much. But the resuscitation of Lazarus differs from these. In these others the prophets or Jesus forestalls the burial, they arrest the onset of physical decay. The life restored had not completely fallen into the power of death. Where as Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. Death had exerted its full power over him. Jesus deliberately orchestrates this sign for the people of Bethany and for all of us. His own friend pleaded for friendship sake that He come to help Lazarus, “Master, the one you love is ill.” “But for Christ it was more important to conquer death than to cure disease. He showed his love for his friend not by healing him but by calling him back from the grave. Instead of a remedy for his illness, he offered him the glory or rising from the dead.” (St. Peter Chrysologus)

To make this point even clearer, when Jesus heard the news of his friend’s illness we are told, he remained for two days in the place where he was. “He acts like this so that human hope may perish entirely and human despair reach it lowest depths. The deed he is about to accomplish may then clearly be seen to be the work of God not of man.” (Chrysologus)

He wanted a bigger miracle, a better gift, for His friends and for us. The death of Lazarus reveals Christ’s power. He’s not toying with His friends or us, because read that when Jesus was brought to His friend’s tomb, He wept. “So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”” (Jn 11:36) Our Lord is most compassionate to our difficulty and suffering. He knows the stuff we are made of, “he remembers that we are dust. As a father has compassion on his children, the Lord has pity on those who fear him.” (Ps 103:13-14) Our pious acts in this time of anxiety will go a long way to helping our world reform. This is the end game and we are privileged to know it.