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Our Weapons Against Evil

In two recent blog articles (“Does Evil Exist?” and “The People of the Lie”), I reflected upon Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s Immortal Combat: Confronting the Heart of Darkness (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press. 2020) and what he says about our battle against evil.

Now I would like to conclude my discussion on his book by reflecting on his “Swords of the Spirit” as he presents them in the final chapter. As Fr. Longenecker writes, “The Christian life is a battle, or it is nothing at all. The baptized are warriors, and the Church is not mild; it is militant” (135).

To be militant does not infer a battle with tanks, ships, and planes. To be militant to be aggressive against a cause. Here, by “aggressive” I do not mean war for the sake of war. Rather, it calls us to acknowledge that Satan exists and that he remains steadfast in his attempts to tempt us into evil. We must be steadfast in our battle against evil.

Fr. Longenecker offers us ten “Swords of the Spirit” as our weapons, our resources and tactics in the battle against evil.

#1 “Sacraments”
As Catholics we know “The Sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1131). To put it more simply they are a way that God gives us grace. We need God’s grace if we are to win the battle against Satan (see my video series, Sacraments: Channels of God’s Grace for much more on the Sacraments). As Fr. Longenecker says, “Each one of the sacraments is a participation in the Cross and resurrection of Christ” (136).

#2 “Sacred Scripture”
Fr. Longenecker says, “The Letter to the Hebrews proclaims, “The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (4:12). Scripture is a dynamic force in the battle” (136). Scripture is God’s Word, revealing God’s way for us. Revelation 12:7-12 shows us that Satan can, and in fact, has already been defeated. Christ is victor over sin in his Crucifixion. We need to read and know the Bible. This is not a matter of memorizing verses. We need to live what God reveals to us as his way.

#3 “Small”
Earlier in his book, Fr. Longenecker discussed Mary’s place in the divine plan. She did not look for glamour and a name for herself (pride). She simply looked to fulfill what God asked of her, to be the Mother of Jesus and, in turn, the Mother of the Church. We might desire to perform the big and the bold. At times we might but often the small, taking “baby steps”, can be the best way to succeed against evil. Honestly, sometimes I look for ways to evangelize in great numbers. I look for ways to bring people back to church in large numbers. At times, maybe God will make that happen. More often, we are called to take it one step, saving one soul at a time. Maybe you don’t feel qualified to bring large numbers to Jesus. Perhaps God isn’t asking you to. God just wants to you be the best Christian you can be, bringing one or two souls at a time to him by the way you live your life. (See Fr. Longenecker on “small” on page 137)

#4 “Secret”
Here, I think of the gospel for Ash Wednesday where Jesus calls us to do our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in secret. Our service to God begins and ends in prayer. We are not to focus on the exterior. Rather, we are to work on the interior, what is going on in our hearts and soul. Satan loves the limelight. We are called to work in secret (see Fr. Longenecker 137-138).

#5 “Sacrifice”
As Fr. Longenecker writes, “Satan cannot understand the power of being small, so he can never understand self-sacrifice” (139). Our actions of self-sacrifice, “no matter how small, is a word thrust into Satan’s heart” (139). Our simple acts of fasting and abstinence for the good of others are important against Satan. They are acts of love and obedience.

#6 “Simplicity”
As was already said above, Satan loves the limelight. As Fr. Longenecker writes, simplicity is a “form of honesty…allows no lies.” When we lead simple lives, we are not as easily tempted by power and greed. When we lead simple lives, we reduce our efforts to have the fancy car or other forms of material wealth. It is not that it is wrong to have a fancy car. It is only wrong (as greed and pride) when we obtain the car because it is fancy (Fr. Longenecker, 140).

#7 “Steadfast”
We must be it in for the long haul. We might want everything to change in an instant. However, Fr. Longenecker reminds us, “When faced with faults or sins in our lives we should not attempt to break them quickly, but to bend them slower over time” (141). We need to be patient, continue the hard work and never give up (141). “Being steadfast in the midst of hardship, disappointment, and failure is the mark of a saint” (141).

#8 “Silence”
The battle against evil can involve words. However, “In the battle, there comes a time when speaking has ended” (141). We have said what needs to be said. Sometimes others are no longer listening. Sometimes the discussion has become unreasonable. Sometimes, we get trapped in the arguing (see Fr. Longenecker, 142). When we reach this point, we need to turn it over to God. At this point, prayer may be the best course of action.

#9 “Supernatural”
We may think the battle is for us to win. However, Fr. Longenecker reminds us “that “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers…with the evil spirits in the heavens” Ephesians 4:12)” (143). The battle is of “eternal significance” and that “we can do nothing by our own strength” (143). The battle is not ours alone. We need to rely on God.

#10 “Suffering”
The tenth sword is “suffering.” This may seem odd. We might think suffering is exactly what we want to defeat. Even Jesus, in his agony in the garden prayed, ““My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). In the end, Jesus accepted his suffering because He knew it would save us. Satan is happy when we put all our efforts into avoiding suffering. We overcome Satan when we accept suffering and offer it up for the good of others. In doing so, our suffering becomes two swords, suffering and sacrifice (#5). Remember, Satan does not understand sacrifice.

This concludes my articles reflecting on Fr. Longenecker’s book, Immortal Combat. It has given me a lot to think about. I hope these articles have been a help to you.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B – Homily

Second Sunday of Lent, Year B
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
Psalm 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19 (9)
Romans 8:31b-34
Mark 9:2-10
February 28, 2021

God put Abraham to the test,” and it was no easy test!

Abraham had waited for many years to have a son.  When Isaac was finally born, Abraham loved him deeply and recognized him as a gift from God.

The test…God said to Abraham, “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a holocaust.

Wow!  This is no small request.  How could God ask such a thing?

What was Abraham’s response?  He set about doing what God had directed.  Abraham trusted God.  So, he went “to the place of which God had told him.

He set up the altar.  He prepared everything.  He even had the knife in his hand.  It was at that point that God stopped him.  The Lord’s messenger said, “Do not do the least thing to him.  I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.

Yes, Abraham was devoted to God.  However, it was God who provided the actual sacrifice that day with the ram.  God provides the sacrifice even today.  In the Eucharist at Mass, we celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus giving his life for us. 

This does not mean life in this world is easy.  Is there anything you are withholding from God?  Hand it over to him as a sacrifice and He “will bless you abundantly.”

God is with us.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  We can count on God knowing that, “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all.”

Yet, it is still difficult. 

In the time leading to the event in today’s gospel, the disciples were coming to know who Jesus is.  Just six days before the Transfiguration, Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah.  Good news!  Actually, great news!

However, right after that, Jesus told his disciples for the first time about his coming Passion.  They did not understand why the Messiah would suffer and die.  They were greatly troubled by this.

Jesus knew they were troubled.  He also knew what events were to come.  To strengthen them, to strengthen us, He took Peter, James, and John up on the mountain.  He led them.  It was on his initiative, not theirs, that He did this.

It would be an amazing experience for them.  What they saw on the mountain was not just the human Jesus for “He was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white.”

That day, Peter, James, and John saw Jesus in his divinity.  They saw Jesus in the glory in which we will see him in Heaven.  Jesus is human.  Jesus is also divine.  We can have faith in him.

Yet, there was more.  Elijah and Moses appeared with Jesus.  Why?  Why them in particular?  Elijah was a great prophet.  His presence signified that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets.  Moses is the one who God delivered the Law through.  Moses presence at the Transfiguration signified that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.

Knowing Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophets and the Law, we can trust in him.

Seeing all this, Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!

Indeed it is good that they were there.  It was good for them to see this.  It is good for us that their experience has been shared with us in the gospels.  It helps us to know who Jesus is.  It helps us to trust in him.

Did Peter, James, and John immediately understand what they were seeing?  Perhaps not.  In fact we are told that Peter “hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.”

Terrified?  When they scared in human terms?  Perhaps.  But I think was not simply human fear.  While they may not have immediately understood what they experienced, they did experience it and knew it was an experience of the Lord.  They were terrified but they also felt joy.  Why else would Peter have said, “it is good that we are here”?

What they saw, what they experienced, gave them divine assurance.

It gives us divine assurance as we face our own suffering.

Yet, their experience on the mountain was not over.  There was one more thing, the voice from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.

Again, divine assurance.

What experiences of God have you had in your life?  Did it come in a big and visible way the Transfiguration?  Did you know what to say?  Even now, can you put it into words or is it beyond description?

What about the little things that we barely notice in the moment or maybe don’t even recognize God’s presence in the moment?  These little moments can be just as important as the big moments to strengthen us in faith.  For those moments we don’t recognize at the time, it can be a good practice at the end of each day to take a moment to reflect on our day.  Where was God present to us?

We are never alone.  God is always with us.  May we recognize God’s presence in the good moments as well as the bad and be filled with joy that transcends our sufferings.

“The People of the Lie”

On Tuesday, I posted an article, “Does Evil Exist?” based on my thoughts from reading Immortal Combat: Confronting the Heart of Darkness by Fr. Dwight Longenecker (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press. 2020). 

As I ended that article I referenced Fr. Longenecker’s discussion of how Satan distorts our desires (30-31) such that we make ourselves the center of our own universe (33-34) even to the point of deceiving ourselves (40).

Now, I would like to continue my discussion from his book. In doing so, I am going to jump ahead in the book. However, it is not that I think the material I am not reflecting on here is not important. It is very important. In chapter 4, called “The Three-Headed Hound of Hell”, he discusses power, pride, and prejudice. In chapter 5, called “Medussa and Her Sisters”, he discusses resentment, rivalry, and revenge. He offers some very interesting points that I do not feel able to summarize in a blog article. You might consider reading it for yourself.

What I do want to talk about in this article is what Fr. Longenecker calls “the People of the Lie”, hence the name of my article here. Before continuing I want to say that it would be very easy to start thinking about other people in our lives that might exhibit the behaviors described below. This might be an important tool to help understand them. However, I suggest another way to look this material. Ask yourselves if you fit the description. It is only when we admit our own shortcomings that we can repent and open ourselves more fully to the Lord.

The first sign Fr. Longenecker identifies about the People of the Lie is that they think they are never wrong (55). The most accomplished of them will not “deny and defend” in an argument. Rather, they will deflect (55). The second sign he describes about them is that they always have a sacrificial lamb, meaning they always have someone else to blame because there is nothing wrong with them (56, cf. 58).

He says, “Finally, the People of the Lie are impervious to criticism. They never apologize. They never repent” (60). Furthermore, “There cannot not a cure because a cure would have to begin with an admission that there is something wrong with them” (61). This is exactly why I said that it is important for us to look at ourselves to see how we fit the description. It is only when we recognize the behavior in ourselves that anything can be done to change. (As to our sins, there is always a cure available if we repent. The cure comes from Jesus’ death on the Cross.)

It isn’t that the People of the Lie intend to lie. Sometimes it starts with a little lie but then we need to lie more to cover up the first lie. The lies spiral until we get “trapped in a world of deception and deceit” (63). The lies become so great to even deceive the one lying (64) to the point where they become the lie (65).

So, what do you think? Do you exhibit some characteristics of the People of the Lie? I hope you can answer no with regards to your whole life being a lie or deception. However, perhaps there is one particular part of your life that you hide from even yourself in some way. Here you might make a general examination of conscience to ask yourselves if there are other sins that you have failed to notice in your own behavior or denying.

It is only when we admit we have sinned that repentance is even possible. As Fr. Longenecker says we need to be willing to say, “Whoops. I got it wrong. In fact I am not right. I messed up. I’m guilty. It’s my fault.” (114). Fr. Longenecker goes on to say, “Even if it is partially someone else’s fault, we’re accepting our part of the blame and not shifting it to anyone else” (114). If we want to work to improve the situation, to lead the world from sin to Jesus, we must be willing to admit our own failings and be willing to change ourselves. We need to stop putting all the blame on others and accept responsibility for our own actions.

Here we can turn to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1-5:

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

It does not matter whose sin is bigger. The best place for any of us to start is with our own sins. Then we can help the other person, starting with forgiveness.

This ends what I will offer today. I foresee one more article coming from Fr. Longenecker’s book discussing his ideas on how we can succeed in the battle against sin.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Does Evil Exist?

Does “evil” exist? There should be no question that bad things happen. One does not need to watch the news for long to hear` of violence and wars. There is theft and division. Yet, if one listens to the relativists who say there is universal truth, how can be there be evil if there is no right and wrong?

What does it even mean to say evil exists?

One way to approach this question is to ask if Satan exists (aka the “devil”). The answer to this is yes. We find him in the Bible as the one who tempts Jesus. Jesus himself speaks of him.

I just finished reading Immortal Combat: Confronting the Heart of Darkness by Fr. Dwight Longenecker (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press. 2020). The book begins with a foreword by Michael H. Brown. Brown states, “evil is the word “live” spelled backward. Evil is also living backward, for darkness aims us at the inverse of good” (x).

Evil is the opposite of good. To do evil is to turn away from the good that God has created us for. This is what Satan did when he turned away from God. There was a great battle in Heaven (see Revelation 12, especially verses 7-9). Defeated in that battle, Satan was cast out from Heaven. Cast out of Heaven, Satan has been leading people into temptation ever since. We still must “battle” against temptation and sin.

Fr. Longenecker discusses how in years past, we would speak being at war with Satan and evil. We tend to no longer speak in terms of warfare. For example, he discusses how the hymns that speak of Christian warfare are no longer found in today’s hymnals (11).

We have come to see wars as something bad. Wars in this world have often been fought for reasons of power and greed. This is not good. We do all we can to avoid such wars. From this, Fr. Longenecker says, “We haven’t beaten our swords into plowshares; we’ve been them into pacifiers” (12, See Isaiah 2:4, Joel 4:10, Micah 4:3).

I myself have not been one to speak in terms of warfare with Satan. Fr. Longenecker says, “We are embarrassed by the whole idea of the “Church Militant” “(14). I would not say I have ever been embarrassed by the term “church militant” but I have not embraced either it. It almost seems like an antiquated term.

Whatever term one chooses to us, Satan is real. Temptation and sin are real. We must resist. We need to acknowledge that evil is real so that we can choose the good. Fr. Longenecker says, “We all must choose, and not to choose is to choose” (14). He goes on to say, “To stand on the sidelines and watch the battle is be on the side of Satan, because all it takes for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing” (15).

In Revelation 3:15-16, we read, “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

We cannot sit idly by. Satan is real. He loves it when we sit idly by because it allows him to act slowly and cunningly in ways we don’t even realize. He walks us on a slippery slope to sin such that we end up in sin without ever realizing it. Satan is most powerful when we think he does not exist because then we let our guard down.

We need to acknowledge we are in battle with Satan and sin. It is not a war of swords, tanks, and fighter jets. It is not war like that in the Old Testament between Israel and other nations. It is a battle for our souls.

Jesus knew it would not be easy. In his temptation in the desert, He battled first hand with Satan. Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword” (Matthew 10:34). Was Jesus a warmonger? No. Jesus does not seek war. Yet He knows we are in a battle against sin for our souls.

We must realize that Satan is real. As Fr. Longenecker says, “To defeat the enemy, we must know the enemy” (18).

How did Satan get Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3)? It was not by force but by “cunning”. He asked them what God had said and distorted those words. He distorted their desire to lead them to seek to become like God (see Fr. Longenecker 30-31). Satan distorted our desires such that we make ourselves the center of our own universe (see Fr. Longenecker 33-34, cf. my recent articles “Do We Shape Our World?” and “If It’s All About Me”). The greatest deception Satan leads us to is when we deceive ourselves (Fr. Longenecker, 40).

Can we win against Satan? On our own, no. The good news is we do not have to do it alone. In fact, victory has already been assured in Jesus’ death on the Cross. Yet, we continue to face battles against temptation. We ask God’s help. In the coming days I hope to share some of Fr. Longenecker’s ideas in how we are to battle against Satan and temptation.

For now, let us pray the Prayer of St. Michael:

St. Michael the Archangel, 
defend us in battle. 
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. 
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, 
and do thou, 
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, 
by the power of God, 
thrust into hell Satan, 
and all the evil spirits, 
who prowl about the world 
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

First Sunday of Lent, Year B – Homily

First Sunday of Lent, Year B
Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (10)
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:12-15
February 21, 2021

In the beginning God created Adam and Eve.  They lived in the Garden of Eden until the first sin.

Satan came and tempted them.  They gave into temptation and ate the forbidden fruit.  Hence, the first sin, the original sin.

Then Cain killed his brother Abel.  Sin continued and spread until it was so bad that God made it rain for forty days and forty nights to flood the whole world to cleanse it of sin.

Yet, not all was lost.  There was someone good, Noah.  Before the rain began, God instructed Noah to build the great ark to save him, his family, and the birds and animals.

It rained for forty days and forty nights.  It was a long time after the rain ended before the waters receded and land could be found.

When the flood was over, God established a covenant with Noah and his descendants that He would never again destroy “by the waters of a flood.

And God never has.  God keeps his promises.

God gave a sign of that covenant that we see at times even today.  What is the sign?  God said, “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

The sign?  The sign is a rainbow. 

Do we not enjoy seeing a rainbow?  We see beauty in the rainbow.  We talk about the treasure at the end of the rainbow.  The treasure of the rainbow is not a pot of gold.  The treasure is the covenant God has made with us.  The treasure is God’s love.

God keeps his promise.

However, sin continued.  The people would grumble against God in the desert during the Exodus.  There was David and Bathsheba. 

Then came Jesus.  Just as all humans before him had to face temptation so did Jesus.  Thus, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert” where He spent “forty days, tempted by Satan.

Unlike us, Jesus is able to resist the temptation.  He knows Satan is cunning.  He succeeds against temptation. 

We know temptation is a challenge.  That’s why we call it “temptation.”  Knowing it is a challenge, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

Deliver us…we do not have to face temptation alone.  Just as the angels ministered to Jesus, God gives us each a guardian angel to help lead us from temptation to what is good. 

When we do sin, as long as we sincerely repent, Jesus provides the remedy for our sins.  As Peter writes, “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.”

Jesus Christ is the righteous, without sin.  We have sin and are unrighteous. 

Jesus died for our sins to put death to sin that we might live in the Spirit that God bestows on us in Baptism.  We are sealed with the same Holy Spirit in our Confirmation. 

God is patient in waiting for us to change. 

We need help to abandon sin.  We call out, “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

We ask the Lord to make his ways known to us, to teach us his paths, and to guide us in his truth.

God gives us the Holy Spirit who brings gifts that include knowledge, wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, piety, and fear of the Lord to help us.

What stands in our way?

Sin.

The most serious sins, mortal sins, separate us from God.  They can block us from hearing what the Lord says.  Our lesser sins, venial sins, do not break our relationship with God but they do make it harder to know what God is saying to us.

What do we need to do?

We need to “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  To repent we must acknowledge our sins and express true sorrow, contrition, for our sins.  God gives us the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for this.  It is a gift we cannot merit on our own. 

God’s forgiveness is a gift won for us by Jesus’ suffering, his death on the Cross for us. 

Lord, your ways are love and truth.  Please help us to repent of our sins and to follow your truth in all things.

Two Images

When I pray, there are two images I like to use. They are images of the same thing.

The first image is:

and the second image is:

One might look at these images and say, “Father, they are not images of the same thing. One is a Crucifix and the other is the Eucharist. They don’t look anything alike.”

You would be correct in saying one is Crucifix and the other is the Eucharist. However, they are images of the same thing. No, I have not lost my mind! They are the same thing!

They are both pictures of Jesus!

The first is a Crucifix. It is very important to recognize it not just as a Cross but as a Crucifix. What’s the difference? Jesus!

The Cross is a very important symbol in our faith. The Cross is the instrument that God used to save us. The Cross is made of wood from a tree. Deuteronomy 21:23 says, “anyone who is hanged is a curse of God” (see also Galatians 3:13). Dying by hanging on a tree was considered a terrible way to die by the Israelites. For the Romans, it was the way in which the most wicked criminals were executed.

Jesus freely choose to die in this way to take upon himself the sin of the world. We recall his Passion, the suffering He endured for us in the Stations of the Cross and during Holy Week.

The Crucifix is not just a “cross.” It is a “Crucifix”, meaning we see Jesus’ body on the Cross. Most Protestants use a “Cross” to symbolize that Jesus is no longer on the Cross. We use a Crucifix to remember that is Jesus, not the Cross itself, who saves us through his suffering.

Why did Jesus freely choose to be crucified? Because God sent him to die for us. Why? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).

When I look at a Crucifix, I do not see only a human who died in terrible suffering. Yes, Jesus endured terrible suffering in his Passion for us. I am terribly sorry that I have sinned. If we had never sinned, Jesus would not needed to die. Yet, again, He choose to do this to save us.

When I look at the Cross, what I see is Jesus’ love for us for as Jesus himself says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Jesus, thank you for doing this for me.

You may be thinking you already know what a Crucifix is. You know that it is Jesus on the Cross. You know that He died for us. You might ask what that has to do with the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance in the second image.

The answer to how the two images show the same thing is at the center of the monstrance, literally and more. In the center of the monstrance is the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament. It was ordinary bread until it was consecrated at Mass in the Eucharistic Prayer. Now, … now it is the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is not just a symbol of Jesus. It is Jesus.

It saddens me to hear that even many Catholics do not believe it is Jesus. It requires faith to know it is truly Jesus but that faith comes from trusting in Jesus’ own words.

(This slide is from my presentation of the Eucharist,
part of my series, Sacraments: Channels of God’s Grace)

So, when we look at a Crucifix and the Blessed Sacrament, in both we see Jesus.

Normally, the Blessed Sacrament, as the Eucharist, is kept in the Tabernacle. In the picture above, it has been brought from the Tabernacle and placed in the monstrance for the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. This can be done for people to come in and pray on their own as they adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Or it can be done when people come together to pray.

For more on Exposition and Adoration, I invite you to read my homily, “Why are We Here for Adoration?”, that speaks of my own experience of coming to embrace Eucharistic Adoration.

So, in my own prayer, the Crucifix and Eucharistic Adoration are both very important. Of course, one needs to come to church for Eucharistic Adoration but it is not often available.

That is why the Crucifix comes in. Eucharistic Adoration is primary as the Eucharist is Jesus while the Crucifix is an image of Jesus. While you do not have the Eucharist in your own home, you should have a Crucifix. The Crucifix pictured above hangs in my living room directly across from my recliner. So, I see it any time I am in the room, especially in the recliner. It reminds me that Jesus loves me.

See Jesus. See Jesus on the Crucifix. See his love for you. See him in the Eucharist. The Mass is the Sacrifice of Jesus. Know that He died for you because He loves you.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

New Website Article “Allowing Ourselves to Grieve”

I just added a new article on grieving, “Allowing Ourselves to Grieve” to my website at http://nebula.wsimg.com/22738ff69d3fc9af70ad3467a683114e?AccessKeyId=F465FCE598BCE1CD661B&disposition=0&alloworigin=1.

It discusses “grieving” and “mourning” as it relates to the death of a loved one. However, much of what it says about grieving can apply to any significant loss.

I pray it is helpful to anyone dealing with a loss.

Peace,`

Fr. Jeff

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11 (7)
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Mark 1:40-45
February 14, 2021

The “leper came to Jesus.”  The very fact that the leper came to Jesus would be amazing to the people around Jesus.  Even more amazing would be that Jesus touched him.

Why?  Because it broke the Levitical code for leprosy.

Leprosy involves skin diseases.  There were no cures for leprosy then.  It often became a terminal condition.  It was also contagious.  Thus, The Book of Leviticus provided very specific instructions on how to deal with lepers.

Lepers were to keep their “garments rent…head bare”, their beards muffled, and to cry out “Unclean, unclean!”  This was not punishment.  It was to protect others from the disease.

Furthermore, lepers had to “dwell apart” and make their “abode outside the camp.

Thus, they were isolated and alone, separated from their loved ones.

Today we might complain about COVID quarantines and precautions.  In quarantine and social distancing we might feel isolated.  However, our isolation is temporary.  For the lepers, it was often permanent.

It is in this context that this leper hears about Jesus performing miracles.  He comes to Jesus in faith, kneeling before Jesus, begging Jesus for help.  His words to Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean,” show he is certain that Jesus can help him.

Of course, Jesus does will it.  The man is made clean.

The leper is cleansed, healed of his leprosy.

What do you need Jesus to cleanse you of?

In the Prayer over the Offerings today, I will say, “May this oblation, O Lord, we pray, cleanse and renew us.”

In celebrating the Eucharist, Jesus’ death on the Cross is made present for us.  We are cleansed of venial sins (mortal sins require the Sacrament of Reconciliation) and renewed with what we receive in Communion.

To open ourselves to all that God offers us, we need to allow God to cleanse us of our sins and to transform us, as we prayed in the Opening Prayer, “grant that we may be so fashioned by your grace as to become a dwelling pleasing to you.”

What we need to do is to turn our hearts to the Lord so that we may be filled with the “joy of salvation.” 

Now is a perfect time to turn our hearts to the Lord.  This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent.  It is a time of acknowledging our sins with the ashes serving as a sign of our repentance.

We are called to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  We abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent.  Our fasting is a sign of our repentance.  Abstaining from meat is a sign that we are willing to sacrifice something for Jesus who sacrificed his life for us on the Cross.

Here I would like to shift back to the leper for a moment.  After Jesus healed the leper, He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything.”  Why?  Doesn’t Jesus want the word about him to spread? 

Yes, Jesus wants everyone to know about him.  Unfortunately, people who hear about Jesus were often just interested in the miracles.  They didn’t understand fully who Jesus is. 

Several times in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells those He does miracles for not to tell anyone.  This is called the “Messianic Secret.”  Why keep it a secret?  People cannot fully know who Jesus is until they see him crucified on the Cross.

Then, knowing of Jesus and his Crucifixion, is Jesus’ full identity to be publicized to the world.

Yet, we face relativists who tell us not to talk about Jesus.  How are people to know that Jesus laid down his life for all if we don’t tell them?  How are they to know what Jesus taught if we don’t tell them?

How are we to tell others about Jesus if we are trapped in our own sin and don’t know all that we should about our faith?

Lent is a time of conversion.  What are you going to do for Lent to open yourselves more fully to Jesus?

It can start with our sins.  When was the last time you examined your conscience and went to confession?  Look at the Ten Commandments and ask if you have loved God and neighbor.  For example, thinking of the isolation of the lepers, have you done things that isolate people, like racism? 

Confession is not an outdated practice.  It is something we need to lift the burden of our sins.  Remember what the psalmist said, “I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,” and you took away the guilt of my sin.

You can come to Fr. Bernard or myself after daily Masses to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  You can come during times of Adoration.  If these times don’t work for you, call one of us and make an appointment.  Let Jesus free you from your sins.

To open yourselves to the Lord, you might make time in your schedule to come to Stations of the Cross on Friday night.  If you can’t come because of the Coronavirus or other reasons, we have links on our website to several versions of the Stations of the Cross that you can do from home. 

You can also attend daily Mass.  If you can’t come during the week, during Lent we have a Saturday morning 9:00 am Mass at Holy Angels. 

Perhaps during Lent, you can give some time to the Lord seeking to learn more about our faith.  You can read from the Bible or other Christian writings.  You can watch or read materials on my website (www.renewaloffaith.org).  It is not just a matter of knowledge.  It is to deepen our relationship with Jesus.

So, what are you going to do for Lent?  How might it bring you closer to the Lord?  How might it bring others to the Lord?

What Are You Doing for Lent?

When we began the new liturgical year with the 1st Sunday of Advent on November 29, 2020, I spoke in my homily about new years’ resolutions. Then, what I said was in the context of our readiness for the Second Coming. We should ask ourselves what do we need to change in our lives. In making a “new year’s resolution” at the beginning of a new year in the church, we do so asking God to help us succeed in our resolution.

Then, on January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, I spoke in my homily on the challenges of 2020 and what we hope for in 2021. At the end of that homily I said, “Personally, I pray here for three things. The first, of course, is an end to the Coronavirus pandemic. The second is for all to return to church and for new people to come too. The third is that the Holy Spirit continue to guide me to teach through presentations, my website, and this blog to help grow closer to God.”

With the availability of vaccines, we are turning a corner in the Coronavirus pandemic (we pray in thanksgiving to God helping the researchers develop vaccines so quickly). We haven’t seen many people come back to church yet since the vaccines came out but, hopefully, people will return once they get the vaccine. Lastly, I continue to offer webinars, led by the Holy Spirit (I am currently doing a series, Treating Life with Dignity and Love on Catholic Pro-Life teaching).

Now, we will begin Lent in a few days. The distribution of ashes will be different this year because of the Coronavirus. In accordance with the Vatican, instead of placing the ashes on people’s foreheads, the priest will sprinkle ashes on top of the person’s head to avoid physical contact.

During Lent, we have our fasting and abstaining customs.

We also have the custom of making a personal choice to give something up for Lent. This can include giving up some time from something else and giving that time to the Lord. It might be coming to daily Mass. It could include praying the Stations of the Cross on Fridays in Lent. Many churches normally have a time for Stations of the Cross as a group on Fridays in Lent. If your parish does not or you cannot go, here are some links to find versions of the Stations of the Cross that you can do from your own home.

Have you given any thought to what you will do for Lent this year? Will it be the same thing as every other year or will you do something new? Will it help you become a better person? Will it help someone else? Will it show your love for Jesus?

If you have not yet decided what you will be doing for Lent, you might consider making an examination of conscience. Generally, when we speak of examining our conscience, it is in the context of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this examination we are identifying our sins to confess them so that we can receive God’s forgiveness. This is a good thing to do anytime of the year but especially during Lent.

In this context of discerning what we will do for Lent, by examining our conscience, I am suggesting we look at patterns in our lives of bad behaviors. The question here is there something we could give up or add to our lives to change the bad patterns in our lives.

For example, in examining our conscience, how are we doing with the Third Commandment to keep the Sabbath holy? Is there something in your life that keeps you from making Sunday a day for the Lord (see my article, “The Lord’s Day”)?

Another way to think about something to do for Lent is to ask yourself how are you doing at avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins. For example, when was the last time you went to Confession? If it has been a long time, you might ask yourself why you haven’t gone. Is it because of your pride, not wanting to tell the priest your sins? How might you change that? Perhaps one can make effort during Lent to turn from pride to the virtue of humility (see my article, “The Battle Against Sin”).

Another thing to think about for Lent is gluttony. Do you consume so much that others don’t have enough? Would that be against the Seventh Commandment, You shall not steal? Think about this as you fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

So, what are you going to do for Lent? I need to pray about this myself.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Video Recording of “Treating Life with Dignity and Love: Part II”

Hello,

Last night I offered the second webinar in my series, Treating Life with Dignity and Love. In this webinar, we built upon what I said in part I to discuss Catholic teaching about abortion and the death penalty.

Part II is now available on my website at www.renewaloffaith.org/prolife2.

You can register now for Part III at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_3PBguDBhTEejhlqqD1mEWQ.

As always, I welcome any feedback or questions.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff