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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.” (

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.” (

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.” (

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.” ( 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.” (

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.

Annunciation – 2020

It was a most propitious sign that the ships The Ark and The Dove, transporting the Jesuit, Fr. Andrew White and the first governor of the Maryland Colony, Leonard Calvert et al. landed on the north shore of the Potomac, St. Clement’s Island, March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation), 1634. The occasion was the fruit of much sacrifice. Over a hundred years of religious persecution, a failed colony in Newfoundland, many rancorous negotiations with the Crown and the Virginia Colony, a three month daring trip across the Atlantic that included surviving storms which separated the ships for weeks, finally the English speaking Catholics would have a place to call “home” in the New World, Maryland. They would be able to build churches and openly receive the sacraments. Various historical circumstances would quickly arrive to challenge this plan, but through a War of Independence, religious freedom would be established in our land.

Interestingly the man who brought about a Catholic Colony in America was the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert (Leonard’s father). He would not live to see this dream realized. He died in 1632 from lingering complications of the plague that he had survived two years prior. The point that we can take from that interesting factoid is that a virus didn’t stop the dream.

Sacrifice may have been required but nevertheless the goal was accomplished.

The prophet Ezekiel had a vision of a temple from which blessings flow. The symbol for these blessings is water. The water comes from the temple and fills the earth distributing manifold blessings of life and healing. It makes barren lands, verdant, salt waters, fresh, trees ripe with year-round fruit and medicinal leaves. This same temple that Ezekiel describes has an east gate that he curiously mentions will remain shut. (Ez 47)

“Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the Sanctuary, which faces East; and it was shut. And He said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut. Only the Prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out the same way” (Ez 44:1-3).

Many Church Fathers have taught that this eastern gate of the prophecy is the virgin birth of Christ. As our Catholic faith teaches, “the Blessed Virgin Mary is perpetually a virgin – she did not have relations with Joseph after Christ’s birth.” So according to Ezekiel’s prophecy, “God entered creation through her womb…. The “Prince” is Jesus. He “sits in it to eat bread before the Lord.” Christ was nourished in the darkness of her womb. He gained the flesh and blood that He would offer on the cross to His Father. The “bread” reference refers to Bethlehem (which means “house of bread”). It also points forward to the super-substantial bread of the Holy Eucharist which is His flesh and blood.” (

The prophecy of Ezekiel has been fulfilled with the coming of the Christ. The Blessed Virgin Mary fulfilled the role of a gate that nobody but the Christ was to pass through. So she is that singular instrument through which all blessings flow. So she has been rightly heralded as the Mediatrix of All Grace.

God has chosen His Son to be the means of salvation for all. “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Act 4:12) God the Son chose no other means to enter the world than through the womb of the Virgin Mary. As unique as she is, her role was entrusted to another. The role of the Mother of God was given to the Church. E.g: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20)

Jesus is uniquely manifest in the Church. “As sacrament, the Church is Christ’s instrument. She is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all, the universal sacrament of salvation, by which Christ is at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for men. The Church is the visible plan of God’s love for humanity, because God desires “that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 776)

The temple of the New Jerusalem is the Catholic Church. Interestingly outside one of the eastern gates of the Old Jerusalem is the traditional childhood home of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also the scene of one of our gospel passages set at a place called Bethesda. It means House of Mercy. It was the name of a healing pool. The House of Mercy that Jesus established takes His flesh and blood, His DNA, from the Blessed Virgin Mary. For a man who never married, how does this lineage continue?

The bloodline continues in the faithful. In English we might say that the House of Windsor has a branch in Canada, now that Prince Harry has moved out of Windsor Castle. The word “house” is synonymous with family. This is especially true for ancient tongues like Hebrew. The House of Mercy that Jesus established is generated from the blood and water that flowed from His side at Calvary. “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (Jn 3:5) “For this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:28)

This House of Mercy, the Church, is up and running, yet many ignore it, are ignorant of it, or are bothered by it. The world, and we too, need a reminder of our precious and unique mandate. This doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is condemned, but it does mean that without us (the Church) their chances are greatly diminished.

God has a goal for the world and it is nothing less than many blessings, including salvation. I pray that our time away from familiar routines may reinvigorate our resolve to fight forces that impinge upon the source of happiness.

Bethesda, the healing pool that lies just outside of one of the eastern gates of Jerusalem, is presently owned by the White Fathers. The gate has had a few different names is history, but there is one that gets our attention, St. Stephen’s Gate. There is a stylized rendering of this gate in the floor of our church. This is the scene of the crime (Act 7:54) is where Saul (St. Paul) organized the stoning of the deacon Stephen.

Our forefathers, like Fr. White, won for us access to God’s many blessings through religious freedom. The challenge for us today is to combat the circumstances that demand freedom from religion. On this March 25, remember the blessings of Christmas, the feast of Emmanuel, God-with-us. The Annunciation, Mary’s, “Yes”, to God is where that begins. We ask her to help us say, “Yes” to God in all circumstances, and be open to receive His many blessings.

Homily for Fourth Sunday of Lent

IV SUNDAY OF LENT – A – 2017 Laetare Sunday
Father Christopher Murphy, Pastor

As sung by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith in the 1993 hit song Livin’ on the Edge, “There’s somethin’ wrong with the world today I don’t know what it is Something’s wrong with our eyes

We’re seein’ things in a different way And God knows it ain’t his It sure ain’t no surprise”

This rock band is not your usual prophetic voice. In fact it is usually a voice of vice. Nevertheless they are on to something. As they say, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut on occasion.” We have lost sight of the way that God sees things. A personal loving God, as He has revealed Himself, must be saddened by the state of disbelief today. Cardinal Sarah, in his latest book, The Day is Now Far Spent, makes a point from his perspective as a man from Guinea. “African man cannot understand a world without God. The river would no longer have sources, and the houses would be without foundations. A world without God and without morality is like a stillborn infant. The Sea of Galilee cannot exist without its source in the Jordan River. A world without God and without moral and religious values is a deadly illusion. Technological advances try to anesthetize man in an ever deeper sleep.” (p. 224)

I hope that as life slows down for most of us that we don’t squander this opportunity to get back to more of how God sees things. The confused may raise a fist to God and cry, ‘If there is a God, how could He let this happen?’

Firstly, His concern is our eternal happiness. Because so many of us have lost sight of that perspective a deadly epidemic that shuts down business such as Planned Parent for two weeks could actually save about 2,000 lives. (According to their statistics We must try to see things through God’s eyes. He gives us faith in order to do so, and blessedly it appears that He is giving us some time to get back to it.

We may find these times anxious, frustrating and unnerving, but we are all called to get back to basics. The basics of our own home, our family, our neighborhood, our next-door neighbors… One parishioner commented that she didn’t even recognize the neighborhood children out playing. We are getting back to the basics of free time. Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics speaks of leisure as necessary for the good-life, that is, in order to pursue the good. Josef Pieper “points out that religion can be born only in leisure — a leisure that allows time for the
contemplation of the nature of God. Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture.” He warns, “Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for non-activity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture — and ourselves.” ( And so I hope that we’re finding time for some fruitful pursuits, such as parents educating your own children, or those without children in the home – the basics that might include some needed exercise and reading. For all of you, I hope that this might be that needed opportunity for prayer. You parents might be faced with the challenging task of keeping the Lord’s Day holy by leading your family in communal prayer for the first time.

One of the common devotions from the treasury of our tradition is Spiritual Communion. Pope Francis and Bishop Burbidge have been encouraging us to put it to good use in this time that Holy Communion isn’t available for the most part. What is it?

Have you ever been confronted by your fundamentalist Protestant neighbor, “Have you invited Jesus into your heart?” I can’t help but think that Christ has instilled in these baptized separated brethren, that is, those who are separated from Holy Communion, a means to communion with Him. We find ourselves is a similar situation and sure enough we have a spiritual tool for this. We Catholics have a way of inviting Jesus into our lives, even if we can’t get to church.

“The basis of this practice was explained by John Paul II in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia: In the Eucharist, “unlike any other sacrament … God joins himself to us in the most perfect union.” Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. … St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you” [The Way of Perfection, Ch. 35.].1 .” ( Of course, allow me to explain that St. John Paul II and St. Theresa of Avila are not speaking of blowing off Mass for a soccer game, but rather the opportunity to regularly get into the habit of seeking communion with the Lord, especially if we are prevented from going to Mass for a legitimate reason.

The Council of Trent teaches that the Eucharist is received three different ways: 1. In sacrament only by those who come to Holy Communion with unrepentant sins. 2. Spiritually only by those who can’t receive, like most of you this Sunday, but desire to.
3. Sacramentally and spiritually, that is, those who are prepared beforehand and come to Holy Communion with a clean conscience.
Dr. Taylor Marshall explains: “So then, if a person is in mortal sin and receives the Eucharist, he receives it only sacramentally but receives no grace, but rather condemnation (1Cor 11:29-30). Now a person in a state of grace who eagerly seeks union with Christ and makes an act of the will (i.e. an Act of Spiritual Communion), this person does receive the grace and presence of Christ. Now then, the best way is to combine both the sacramental reception with the earnest desire of a spiritual communion. This is what spiritual authors call “making a good communion,” which requires preparation (sacramental confession or at least an act of contrition) and an openness to receiving the Divine Savior into a the palace of one’s heart.” (

It is my sincere hope that as absence makes the heart grow fonder, our forced absence from Mass will instill a longing and appreciation for that which we take for granted. I am reminded of the many communities that I served in the Dominican Republic who went weeks and sometimes months without the sacramental presence of the Lord. When I would finally arrived there were many souls who edified me with their gratitude. But in all honesty there were many who fell away from the practice of the faith, or who had been away so long that they had no idea what I was offering. This is a real danger.

If we should have the Mass suspended till May, how many might get plenty accustomed to the weekend and overlook the Lord’s Day. Even before this crisis (may be it’s the reason for the crisis) many of our parish had fallen into such bad habits. They sacrifice the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to seek the pursuits of the Massless masses. This is the blindness of our age.

Our Gospel passage today is an example of our how Our Lord heals blindness. This is not always welcomed as the Pharisees object. They’re upset because in their eyes Jesus isn’t respecting God’s law regarding the Sabbath. He is sinning. Furthermore, upon investigating the blind man’s healing, they object to his testimony because he is a sinner.

They are wrong about Jesus’ sin, but they are spot on about the sin of the blind man. His blindness is because of sin. “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” The Pharisees are correct. Sin is why there is blindness. This is why the blind man cannot see. They are correct that he is born in sin, because his parents are sinners. We too have Adam and Eve as our parents and hence the world suffers from diseases such as, blindness. What is the answer to the great problem of our sin and blindness?

I hope that you all said, “Christ”. He provides us with faith. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) With it we can see the hand of God in creation. We can see His image and likeness in our neighbor. We can see the help of God in our troubles, but the greatest gift is that we can see the Cross in our lives. We can know how God is using bad times, sacrifices or difficulties to make us holy, i.e. saints. From our own Way of the Cross, He is leading us to heaven.

How does the blind man of the gospel see? Jesus puts mud on his eyes and commands him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. Was it the mud or the waters of the pool that restored the man’s sight? No. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus heals and cures in many different ways. The common element in all of our Lord’s miracles is not mud or a pool, but rather the person who follows our Lord’s instructions, or if you will, blind obedience.

Look how blind faith grows through obedience. At first, the man called Jesus a “man”, then he saw Him as a “prophet”, as “a man sent from God” and finally as “Lord”, i.e. Divine. The scriptures say that no one can call Jesus, “Lord”, without the Holy Spirit, i.e. the power of faith.

Faith provides us the necessary grace to see how to cooperate with God’s plan for our salvation. This insight is diminished by our sin. “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God….” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1855) The Pharisees were right. Sin is the reason for blindness. Ironically, they forget their own sins and in turn are blinded to the work of God before them. How do we restore the vision that sin diminishes? “Mortal sin … necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:” (CCC 1856) By Confession, the baptized have a sacrament that Christ uses to wash away the mud. We can be restored to the light of faith regardless of how simple the instruments may seem. As mud didn’t restore sight to the blind man, but rather it was humble obedience to Christ, likewise, our participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, despite the lowly priest that ministers it, restores the sight of those already washed in the pool of the Baptismal Font.

Please, note that our regular Confession schedule has changed very little. You may find me in the box ready to assist you Wednesday and Friday nights from 6:307:30, and Saturday afternoon 3:45-4:45. If you are concerned about social distancing, the Confession Line at St. Stephen’s has been the safest place to be for years.

Latest Update on Building Project

Our efforts to construct a permanent home for St. Katharine Drexel are moving along quite well this fall.  Our meeting with the Diocese of Arlington Building Commission is scheduled for October 28 to gain conceptual approval of our approach, financing, and other aspects.

On December 8, 2019, we plan to hold a get-together between the Masses to provide you with an overview of the latest plans.  Refreshments will be available. Please mark it on your calendars.

Let’s Build Our Church: DBC Review

September 2019: An important update from the St. Katharine Drexel Building Committee.

The SKD Building Committee has been busy since June 2019 preparing the information needed by the Diocesan Building Commission to gain approval to proceed to the next steps of our project (e.g., design and construction). Since June, we’ve prepared a detailed financial analysis to demonstrate feasibility and our ability to pay for, own, maintain, and operate our new church building. We assembled all the necessary supporting studies and documentation as required by the Diocese.

What is the Diocesan Building Commission?
The Diocesan Building Commission is comprised of clergy, management, and external experts in real estate, architecture, construction and finance. The Commission was established to ensure projects are appropriately formulated and vetted prior to undertaking significant financial obligations and initiating costly design and construction.

The Diocese supports our need to have a permanent, spiritual home for St. Katharine Drexel to ensure that we provide for the spiritual needs of our current parishioners and minister to new Catholics, all by spreading the Word of Christ. Diocesan representatives lauded the significant support and efforts St. Katharine Drexel’s parishioners have undertaken – both financial and through community formation. This assessment is underscored by the investment the Diocese has already made in acquiring the land ($1.5M) and the support (financial and professional) the Diocese provided in securing the Special Use Permit from Prince William County.

Next Step: Diocesan Building Commission Review
We will be continuing our collaborative work with the Diocese in October to develop a path to build our church in a timely manner and within the appropriate financial parameters.

To that end, we are pleased to announce that the Diocesan Building Commission will formally evaluate our plan approach in their next meeting on October 21, 2019.

The purpose of this meeting is to come to an agreement on the basic financing approach and underlying assumptions and projections. Upon approval from the Diocesan Building Commission, we can then solicit proposals from and interview Design/Build firms, select a firm, refine our concept, start preliminary design, and other activities.

Your Support Makes This Possible
The most important factor that enabled us to get to this point is the incredible financial and spiritual support the dedicated parishioners of St. Katharine Drexel Mission have provided. We appreciate all you do and trust you will continue to support the building of our church through the fulfillment of your Capital Campaign pledge.

Are you new to St. Katharine Drexel Mission or haven’t yet made a financial commitment?  Join our community in supporting the SKD Capital Campaign. We are currently at 94% of our campaign goal and we truly need your help to make it the rest of the way. Together, we can Build Our Church!

In Christ,

David O’Flynn
Building Committee Chairman


P.S. – The SKD Building Committee is planning an event this fall to share further details and visual designs. Details will be provided in the coming weeks.