Homily for August 28, 2016 - 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time. In the Gospel of Luke (14:7-14) Jesus teaches us the importance of humility, a foundational virtue for authentic Christian living. A humble person knows who they are, recognizes their particular situation in the human family, and accepts themselves as they are without pretense or exaggeration. In humility we joyfully accept our real self and reject the false self we often built up based on our imaginings and delusions, whether these be for better or for worse. It is in accepting our real self that we find peace of heart and live in serenity while we work, by God's grace, to refine our good qualities and reform the negatives through a life of faith, prayer, sacraments, the Gospel, service to others.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
The Catholic Liturgy for Sunday, August 21, 2016, the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, can inspire us to draw up a personal spiritual workout plan for our souls, very much like we might do for our bodies with physical fitness in mind.
The first reading reminds us that we are all God's ambassadors among people who do not know Him and we need to be prepared for this task. Some of God's people will be called to serve as "priests and Levites" (as the Old Testament reading puts it, in New Testament Catholic terms, "priests and deacons") but ALL have the responsibility to proclaim God and his glory among others. This is what Pope Francis is saying all the time about the dangers of "clericalism", that is, of thinking that only those who are ordained are representatives and missionaries for the Lord. Not true! We ALL have our part to fulfill in the mission of Jesus, a mission of announcing the Gospel way of life by the way we live and of being images of God among all people. To think that ordination is the only way to be a presence to others in society and an influence in the Church is to miss the power and beauty of Baptism.
The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrew Christians reminds us that discipline is necessary in life, be it physical or spiritual discipline. Its goal is to do for our souls/minds what physical fitness does to the body: condition it, increase strength, bulk up the muscle. By a personal regimen of prayer, Scripture, practicing the virtues in everyday life, and receiving the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation we faithfully carry out a proven spiritual fitness plan. The Holy Spirit is our Personal Spiritual Trainer who will guide us if we listen and allow Him to act in us. The saints are spiritual role models who have undergone this training and show us what is possible; that it is INDEED possible for each of us to join their ranks as athletes for Christ.
In the Gospel, Jesus himself tells us that only the (spiritually) strong will make it to the Kingdom of Heaven; there will indeed be those who are not strong enough to endure the "race" of life, that is, fidelity to the Church and Gospel until death. In order to be among this spiritually fit team we need to be committed and faithful to our "spiritual fitness plan". So I like to ask myself: what are the components I put together for my daily physical fitness routine? How can I use this as a guide to formatting a spiritual fitness plan? Permit me to share some of this with you....
Nutrition...they say nutrition is 80% of a successful fitness plan, so I try to eat well and take supplements. Therefore, for me the first and most important element of a spiritual plan is the Holy Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of Jesus as nourishment for the soul. Sunday Mass is a given so I add Mass during the week/weekend as I can. I am fortunate to be at Fort Miley where we have chaplains of the military archdiocese to offer Mass daily at our chapel...but I cannot always get there for Mass. But I can go in and spend time in personal silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, and while it is not the same, the holy athletes for Christ (saints) tell us that if we really cannot receive actual Holy Communion then Jesus will come to us in spiritual communion if we ask Him. Anyhow, that's my #1.
Whole Body workouts...I like whole body routines as it saves time and gets the fitness done more efficiently (in my opinion) and so in my spiritual workout plan I choose prayer that is all encompassing: the Rosary. The rosary is a whole-soul workout as it includes meditation (reflecting on the rosary mysteries), Scriptural prayers (Our Father and Hail Mary) and the Gospels (events from Jesus' life). Not much left out, is there?
Fine tuning with isolation exercises...in addition to whole body, we each have need for isolation exercises depending upon our genes, needs, circumstances, physical therapy...and the same is true in a spiritual fitness program. This is where the Holy Spirit as a personal spiritual trainer is especially needed. In our prayer we can ask Him to show us what in our lives needs tweaking, extra attention. He WILL show us. Then we focus the virtues needed to improve that aspect of our lives. Is anger an issue? We try to practice gentleness or patience. Lizard of lust getting us down? We work on respect for the human person and chastity in what we see and say. Gluttony urging us on to more than we need in food or drink? We consciously think about our eating and drinking and make a plan to deal with it. So you can see that this aspect of the plan is constantly in need of review and changing according to our day and circumstances.
Relationships....just as we bring relationships into realm of our physical fitness so we do the same for our spiritual plan...and we DO bring relationships to fitness in one way or another. We consciously limit our time working out so that family, friends and work do not suffer. We hone the body for the sake of staying attractive to our present/future/intended partner. We strive for better health so that our time with family and friends is enjoyable and lasts as long as God wishes not his earth. So in the same way focusing on relationships is part of a spiritual routine: relationship with God, with others, with ourselves. And of course the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (aka Confession) is prime in this regard. It heals and forgives; it strengthens and enlivens relationships. A solid and effective spiritual workout program will give confession at least a monthly place in our personal program.
So as we worship at Mass this Sunday, let’s ask the Lord to help us form a good spiritual fitness plan and grant us the grace to stick to it even when inconvenient. Let’s give our souls the same attention we give our bodies and train to become solid athletes of Christ. Let’s go for the gold, the gold of the Kingdom of Heaven!
Sunday, August 7, 2016
From the Catholic Liturgy for Sunday, August 7, 2017. 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Gospel of Luke 12:32-48. In the middle of the hazy lazy days of Summer, the Church calls us to keep in mind that our earthly life is temporary and a preparation for eternal existence. Jesus teaches us that God is our loving Father who has prepared everything for us, for our return home to the Kingdom. He uses the example of an ancient wedding feast to remind us that we must always be ready for His return to planet Earth. At that time we will receive the praise and reward of a blessed joyful eternity if we have proven ourselves faithful servants of the Risen Master, Christ the Lord.