22nd Sunday Ordinary Time
- Written by Friar Shane Nicholas
In 1984, Poland was still under Communist control. The Prime Minister ordered the crucifixes removed from classroom walls. Catholic Bishops attacked the ban, which had stirred waves of anger and resentment across Poland. Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain in effect, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms. But one zealous communist school administrator, the director of the Mietnow Agricultural College, took the crosses down from his seven lecture halls where they had hung since the school’s founding in the 20’s. A few days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well. The next day, two-thirds of the school’s six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. They then marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the protest.
The soldiers surrounded the church, but so did the press, and pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world; so did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning: “There is no Poland without a cross.”
Today, perhaps, the cross has come to symbolize comfort to us because we have had to sacrifice little in our lives. But the more we are called upon to carry our own crosses, the more we will understand the one Jesus carried to Golgotha. Today’s Gospel challenges us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus.
Jeremiah lived from about 650 B.C to about 580 B.C, and most of his work was done in Jerusalem. When Jeremiah began his ministry the people of Israel had become so hardened by the numbing effects of their sinful ways that they no longer believed God, nor did they fear Him. Jeremiah preached for 40 years, and not once did he see any real success in changing or softening the hearts and minds of his stubborn, idolatrous people. The other prophets of Israel had witnessed some successes, at least for a little while, but not Jeremiah. He was speaking to a brick wall, to people who simply didn’t care about God or their religion. Judged by this world’s standards Jeremiah’s life was a failure. History shows that he gave them fair warning but the people of Israel ignored him and went on to suffer disaster. They lost everything. Their nation was torn asunder, their temple destroyed, and their leaders were carried off into captivity by their enemies... Today’s passage in the first reading, we hear Jeremiah accusing Yahweh of tricking him and offers us a powerful description of someone suffering for obedience to his conscience.
Last week, we heard Peter proclaim that he believes Jesus is the Messiah. And Jesus told him that upon that faith he would build his church. Today we hear what that faith will cost. Remember, the disciples and the entire Hebrew people were still thinking of a Davidic Messiah, a conquering king to come in and rescue them from their oppression and restore Israel to its former glory – to make Israel great again! That is why Peter couldn’t bear to hear or think of a suffering Messiah. Jesus rebuked him sternly, “Get behind me, you satan,” in an attempt to nullify this temptation to shrink away from the work for which Jesus had come.
Origen suggests that Jesus was saying to Peter: "Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It's your job to follow me in the way I choose, not to try to lead me in the way YOU would like me to go." Satan is banished from the presence of Christ, and Peter is recalled to be Christ's follower. Like Peter and Jeremiah we are often tempted to judge the success or failure of our lives, our ministries by the world’s standards. But Jesus teaches that worldly success is not always the Christian way.
Jesus gives us three things to do as disciples: 1- deny yourself, get rid of selfish thoughts, desires and tendencies from our hearts and let God fill our hearts. Allow God to live in your heart and so make your life a living sacrifice to God. 2-pick up and carry your cross, carrying the cross with Jesus always means pain and suffering Our personal sufferings become the cross of Jesus when we suffer by serving others selflessly; when we give of ourselves, our health, wealth, time and talents to others even when it hurts; when we join our physical, mental or emotional sufferings to Jesus’ and offer them with Him to the Father in reparation for our sins and those of the world; 3-follow Jesus, simply, as disciples of Christ, we should live our lives according to the word of God by obeying Jesus’ commandment of loving one another.
Pentecost 2017, Homily
- Written by Friar Shane Nicholas
Growing up in New Mexico we always had a garden. And it wasn’t a small one. We had an acre of land and we always had a garden that stretched the length of that acre and was about 25 feet deep. Every spring we would go out and spend about a week weeding the area, raking it out, and turning it. But we didn’t have soil, we had sand, so I never really understood why we turned it. But we did it anyway.
Then when all of that was done, we would plant the tomatoes, radishes, onions, peppers, and of course squash and watermelon. Because of living in the desert, the garden had to watered almost every evening. My grandfather would also take great care to use miracle grow weekly on the tomatoes and peppers.
All summer we would tend it, weed it, and eventually we were able to pick fresh tomatoes and peppers, pull up fresh green onions and radishes. Each year I was always amazed that from sand, we could grow vegetables.
Today we celebrate Pentecost. The birthday of the Church and one of the important days in the Liturgical calendar – the day the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples in that upper room.
But this isn’t something that happened once and is done. The Holy Spirit has been directing believers since. And each of us has been sealed with the Holy Spirit at our confirmation – the Bishop or the priest anointed us with Holy Chrism said the words: “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit,” and laid hands on us. Calling down the Holy Spirit into each of us.
They planted the seeds of the Holy Spirit in us. And from that point forward, it has been the duty of our parents, priests and ourselves to care for those seeds, to nurture them so they would grow and mature. We feed and water them with the Word of God and with the Sacraments. Once grown, they provide us with its gifts, and we can rest under its shade.
But we must know what we are feeding and watering and what the gifts from the Spirit are.
There are 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, and these 7 gifts produce different fruits depending on the needs of the Church.
Let’s talk about the 7 gifts a little bit.
1. Wisdom: The highest gift of the Holy Spirit because it is the perfection of faith. Through wisdom, we come to value those things which we believe through faith. The truths of Christian belief are more important than the things of this world, and wisdom helps us to order our relationship to the created world properly, loving creation for the sake of God, rather than for its own sake.
2. Understanding: is the second gift of the Holy Spirit and is often confused with wisdom. Wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, understanding allows us to grasp, at least in a limited way, the very essence of the truths of our faith. Through understanding we gain certitude about our beliefs that moves beyond our faith.
3. Counsel: through this gift, we are able to judge how best to act almost by intuition. Because of the gift of counsel, we need not fear to stand up for the truths of the faith, because the Holy Spirit will guide us in defending those truths.
4. Fortitude: gives us the strength to follow through on the actions suggested by the gift of counsel. Sometimes called courage, it goes beyond what we normally think of as courage. Fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs that allows them to suffer death rather than renounce their faith.
5. Knowledge: often confused with wisdom and understanding. Like wisdom, knowledge is the perfection of faith, but whereas wisdom gives us the desire to judge all things according to the truths of the faith, knowledge is the actual ability to do so. In a limited way, knowledge allows us to see the circumstances of our life the way that God sees them. Through this gift we can determine God’s purpose for our lives and live them accordingly.
6. Piety: is the perfection of the virtue of religion. We tend to think of religion today as the external elements of our faith, but it really means the willingness to worship and serve God. Piety takes that willingness beyond a sense of duty so that we desire to worship God and to serve Him out of love, the way that we desire to honor our parents and do what they wish.
7. Fear of the Lord: perhaps the most misunderstood gift of the Holy Spirit. We think of fear and hope as opposites, but the fear of the Lord confirms the theological virtue of hope. This gift gives us the desire not to offend God, as well as the certainty that God will supply us the grace we need in order to keep from offending Him. Our desire not to offend God is more than simply a sense of duty; like piety, fear of the Lord arises out of Love.
From these 7 gifts, we get the fruits of the Spirit:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control.
Love: Agape (love) an undefeatable benevolence and unconquerable goodwill, that always seeks the highest of the other. It is self-giving love that gives freely without asking anything in return, it is unconditional and describes the love that God has for us, and we are to have for one another.
Joy: is deeper than mere happiness, it is rooted in God and comes from Him. It is more serene and stable than worldly happiness, which is emotional. Joy is the awareness that God is one’s strength and protector.
Peace: is the result of resting in a relationship with God. It is the tranquil state of a soul fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, it is a kind of equilibrium that comes from trusting that everything is in the hands of God.
Patience: includes the concepts of forbearance, long-suffering, and the willingness to bear wrongs patiently.
Kindness: acting for the good of people regardless of what they do. It is doing something and not expecting anything in return, respecting and helping others without waiting for them to help us first.
Faithfulness: is committing oneself to something or someone, for instance, to one’s spouse, to a cause, or to a religion. Being faithful requires personal resolve not to wander away from commitments or promises. It’s not always easy to be faithful. True faith requires trust in God.
These gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit are not something that other people get. You have these gifts, you have access to these fruits. As I said, each of us were sealed with the Holy Spirit and given these gifts.
This week, starting this evening, take a gift of the Holy Spirit, meditate on it, contemplate it, maybe do a little online research of that gift and sit with it.
Tomorrow, take another gift, and do the same thing. By Saturday, you will have spent some time in the garden tending the gifts of the Spirit.