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Three Saints to Aid Us

Last night I offered another webinar, Three Saints to Aid Us, covering St. Michael the Archangel, St. John Fisher, and St. Thomas More. The video recording of the webinar and slides are available on my website at www.renewaloffaith.org/threesaints.

I will leave the online evaluation open for a couple of days for those wishing to offer feedback – https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfvDD28YNiZe8ozW_yBgES8FHrgg_vKWMDvYKcd5DPU-EnUhQ/viewform?usp=sf_link

As always, I hope this webinar helps you grow in your faith.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

A Question to Ponder

I would like to pose a question for reflection – “Do you belong to your parish or does your parish belong to you?”

For the latter, what do you expect from your parish? Do you only go to your parish when you are looking for something for yourself? For instance, do you see your parish simply as a place where you go for the important sacramental moments like Baptism. Or when you are dying and desire the anointing of the sick and prayers for the dying? Do you only show up for funerals and weddings?

These are definitely important moments. 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). We need the Sacraments because we need grace. It is good to come for the Sacraments. Yet there is more to what it means to belong to the church than just receiving Sacraments.

What else do you seek from your parish? Do you come to Mass on Sunday seeking to “feel good” for one hour? Are you looking for music that makes you feel good in a superficial way or that truly brings you closer to God? The same can be said about the preaching, even for the whole Mass. Mass should help us to feel good but not simply in a superficial way but in how it connects us to God’s Word and what we celebrate in the Eucharist.

What else do people come to church seeking? Some come seeking help with physical needs. They come looking for food, clothing, or rent money. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus calls us to the Corporal Works of Mercy to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirst, and more. We need to help people when we can with their physical needs. This is part of what it means to love our neighbor.

However, church is more than just caring for people’s physical needs. We are also called to help people in their spiritual needs. This includes the Sacraments as I mentioned before. It can also include a compassionate visit (Corporal Work of Mercy – to visit the sick). It might be to follow the example of Veronica in the sixth Station of the Cross when she wipes the face of Jesus.

Returning to my original question, “Do you belong to your parish or does your parish belong to you?”, in the latter I am asking if you see your parish simply as a place you go to when you need something. Again, our parish should help us in whatever way it can but a parish is more than a charitable organization.

Please note that I said a parish should help its parishioners in whatever way it can. What about when it can’t?

This is where we can move from my question of “does your parish belong to you” to “do you belong to your parish.” If we only see our parish as a place we go in order to have our own needs met, then perhaps we see our parish as belonging to us.

When you look at ways in which your parish is not able to serve the needs of the people, you might ask yourself if there is something God is calling you to do to help. In looking at it this way, one begins to see themselves as belonging to the parish. To belong is not just what the parish does for you. It includes what you can do for your parish to help it fulfill its mission.

Are you called to be a good steward in giving of your time? It might be as simple as helping to clean the church to help it be germ free. Even pulling weeds in the garden can help make the parish beautiful on the outside to draw people inside.

As parishioners and good stewards we are called to use the talents God has given us to help our parish be Christ to the world. It can be in the way we live in accord with our faith. It can be in helping in ways that people never see like counting the collection to help the parish use its resources well.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, we show our care for others in simple ways like wearing a mask to protect each other.

We can be good stewards in sharing our treasure to build up the Kingdom of God.

There are various ways we can contribute to the mission of our parish when we choose to belong to it. It is more than just doing things for others. It is be there for others. It is to form a relationship with one another as well as good so that we are a community of believers.

When we belong to our parish, it is not just something we do for an hour on Sunday. It is part of who we are. Our faith shapes the way we live our lives. May we always follow Jesus as the way and truth and the life.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

7th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26
Psalm 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20 (19a)
1 John 4:11-16
John 17:11b-19
May 16, 2021

We come today between our celebration of the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost.  This is the time frame in our first reading today. 

The disciples had just witnessed the Ascension.  Jesus had told them to wait for the coming of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.  So, they waited but not in silence.  There was work to be done concerning Judas. 

He had been numbered among them and shared in their ministry in accord with Scripture.  There was Twelve of them.  The fact that there are twelve apostles is not random.  Remember, twelve was also the number of tribes of Israel. 

In the Jewish understanding, “twelve” signified completeness.  Thus, with regards to Judas’ place among the Twelve, Peter cites Psalm 109:8, “May another take his office.

So, Peter, as leader of the Apostles proposes naming a successor.  Who should be chosen?

Peter says, “it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us” be chosen.  To be an Apostle, one needed to have seen Jesus for themselves so that they might witness to what they have seen.

So, they identified two men who fit this criteria.  However, they did not want to make the final selection by their own will.  So, they prayed.

They prayed that the Lord would show which one He had chosen.  Thus, when they drew lots, it was not leading to it chance.  They were trusting in God. 

Thus, it “the lot fell upon Matthias and he was counted with the eleven apostles.

From this we have the process by which a pope is selected.  There is discussion about who would make a good candidate.  A human vote is taken but the process is designed with prayer.  The cardinals are praying and the whole church should be praying, praying that the person God has chosen to be the next pope is selected.

With the selection of bishops, there is also a process by which priests are nominated and their qualifications reviewed.  A recommendation is made to the Pope who makes the final decision but, again the whole process is designed with prayer and relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Please pray that the selection of bishops is always in accord with God’s Will.

As part of our prayer, for the election of popes, the selection of bishops, and church life in general, we do well to pray following the example of Jesus’ prayer. 

He prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.

We need to pray for unity, to be one.  However, this is not just unity between humans.  We need to pray that we be one with God.  God has a plan.  In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” 

God’s plan is not a popular plan today.  That’s because God’s truth is not popular today.  People want to live their lives in their own way.  God does give us free will. 

However, we use our freedom best not when we do what we want but when we do what we ought, when we do what is good.  Jesus prayed to the Father, “Consecrate them in the truth.”  God’s truth is what is good.

Remember how Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in your name”?  To keep us in God’s name is to follow what He wills for us.

John writes, “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God.”  To acknowledge that “Jesus is the Son of God” we must listen to what He says.  To “remain in him” is to follow Jesus as the way and the truth and the life.

The Ascension of the Lord

Ascension Thursday
Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 (6)
Ephesians 1:17-23
Mark 16:15-20
May 13, 2021

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord.

The Ascension might seem like just a step along the way from the Resurrection to Pentecost.  In the chronology of the events, it is a step in the sequence of events but it is an important step.

The Ascension is important enough to be included in the words we profess in the Nicene Creed.  The Ascension is explicitly mentioned in some of the Eucharistic Prayers.  The Ascension is important enough that today we celebrate it as a solemnity and a holy day of obligation.

Clearly, the Ascension is not just a step along the way.

The Ascension is the last event mentioned in Mark’s Gospel before Apostles “went forth.”  It is Mark’s Gospel that tells us that Jesus “took his seat at the right hand of God.”  There, He mounts his throne and intercedes for us with the Father.

Luke presents the Ascension as an important transitional moment.  Luke, of course, wrote the Gospel of Luke.  He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles.  Today’s first reading comes from the very beginning of Acts.  Luke begins by speaking of “the first book.”  This “first book” is the Gospel of Luke.

In Acts, Luke reminds Theophilus that in the first book he wrote of everything that Jesus did “until the day he was taken up.”  Like Mark’s Gospel, Luke ends his gospel with a short mention of the Ascension.

Having presented the Ascension at the end of his gospel, Luke did not need to include it in the Acts of the Apostles but he did.  Why?

To show it as a pivotal moment. 

Now, in the story of Jesus there are lots of pivotal moments.  There is Jesus’ conception when Mary said yes to being the mother of Jesus.

There is Jesus’ birth that we celebrate at Christmas.

There is Jesus’ baptism as He begins his public ministry.

There is the Last Supper when He gives us the Eucharist.

There is his Crucifixion when He dies for us on the Cross so that our sins might be forgiven.

There is his Resurrection as He shows us that God has power even over death.  In his Resurrection He reveals eternal life to us.

So, what is the significance of the Ascension?  Why does Luke include it in both the end of his gospel and the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles?

It marks an end to the gospel as it is an end to Jesus’ time on earth.  His Crucifixion was the end of his earthly life and the Resurrection was the beginning of eternal life. 

The Ascension marks the end of the time when Jesus spoke directly on earth to his disciples.

The Ascension is also the beginning of a new time.  Jesus returns to his place at the right hand of the Father.  From there He watches over and cares for us.  He never forgets us.  He is our Savior forever.

He wants us to know this.  Jesus did not simply disappear.  He ascended with his disciples watching so that we would know where He went.  Jesus does not want it to be a secret where He went.  It is good news!

One might wonder why Jesus left his disciples.  Why didn’t He remain with his disciples here on Earth?

It was necessary, it was good, for Jesus to return to his place in Heaven.  He did not do this for his own glory.  He ascended for us.  Jesus himself had already told his disciples, “it is better for you that I go.  For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

Jesus’ Ascension was part of God’s plan.  Jesus did not abandon us.  He left so that the Advocate may come to us.  Who is this Advocate? 

It is the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit that deals in each of us.  The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost.  For now, we wait…

Building on the Past for a Better Future

In the last article, “Why is Change Difficult?”, that I wrote on the subject of change, I found myself reminiscing about the past. The past is something valuable, something we can learn from. This includes the past as it pertains to God’s relationship with his people. The Bible contains many stories about how God has been there for his people. These stories speak of what God has to offer us.

One of the themes found in Archbishop Emeritus Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap.’s new book, Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living by Archbishop Emeritus Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap. (New York: Henry Holt and Company. 2021) is the importance of the past, specifically God’s place in our past and, thus our present and future.

Many people have lost sight of what God offers us. Archbishop Chaput writes, “It’s hard to imagine a greater irony than dying of thirst on the surface of an ocean” (63). God provides us an ocean of infinite grace but many people have no idea what God offers. They look for something more in life but they do not realize that it is God they seek. Instead, they drink what the world offers, wealth, power, and prestige, but these things can never quench our real thirst. We thirst for the living waters of the Spirit.

We live busy lives. Even if one is looking for God, one might not know how to recognize God. As Archbishop Chaput shares what a corporate consultant wrote, “We can miss God without the Church to slow us down, to point God out, to remind us of his presence” (182). Coming to Mass in the midst of a busy life can help us slow down. Sharing God’s Word from the Bible helps point out how God has been present to his people in the past so that we might more readily recognize his presence today.

It is important to remember both the good times and the bad times. We naturally remember the good times, perhaps even boasting of our successes. On the other hand, we like to hide our failures. However, as Archbishop Chaput shares from a pastor, “In some ways, Church history is similar to how the Jewish people recount themselves in the Hebrew Scriptures. They often don’t record their greatest stories but rather their worst. They show their humiliating attempt to follow God by underlining their failures and his fidelity” (187). Why? To show that the successes come not from their own efforts but from God. We read in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

It is in knowing the past that we recognize that true “success” and, more importantly, true life comes when we hand our weaknesses over to God and He responds with grace.

In showing the importance of the past, Archbishop Chaput turns to the “late British scholar and skeptic J.H. Plumb” (19) who “had a grudging respect for the legacy of Jews and Christians” (20) because of their view of the past. Today, many people want to remove any mention of the past. Speaking of Plumb, Archbishop Chaput writes, “he saw that destroying the coherence of the past could cause a paralysis in social matters. He knew that humans “need a compulsive sense of the value of man’s past,” not only for themselves as persons but also for the world at large” (20).

Our past is an important part of how we are. We may have moments that were terrible, embarrassing, and something we would rather forget. We have moments in our past that we never speak of. These moments are part of how we are. The fact that we have survived them can reveal to us how God has led us through difficult moments.

In acknowledging our weaknesses, we can see and admit how God has rescued us. The Israelites could not speak of how God set them free from the Babylonian Exile without admitting that they had ended up in exile because they had sinned. We cannot speak of how Jesus died for us on the Cross so that our sins can be forgiven without admitting we have sinned.

It is in admitting our failures that we can tell of God’s marvelous deeds. This is true in telling others of God’s marvelous deeds. It is also true even for us on our own. We cannot realize all that God has done for us until we admit our failures to see how God has rescued us.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

6th Sunday of Easter, Year B – Homily

6th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4 (2b)
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17
May 9, 2021

Peter is led by God to the house of Cornelius.  There Cornelius falls “at his feet” to pay homage to Peter.  Peter does not accept the homage for he knows he is “also a human being.”  Peter knows that “homage” belongs to God alone.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with “honoring” people for the good things they do.  For instance, to venerate the saints is to honor the example they are for us.

Today our nation gives honor to a category of people, our mothers.  We honor our mothers for the good they do for us.  We thank God for our mothers.  We thank our mothers for putting up with us when we didn’t always do what we should.

God “puts up” with us when we don’t do as we should.  “God shows no partiality.”  God offers his love to everyone. 

The Jews thought they were a chosen race.  They were in the sense that God had called them to a particular role.  However, they were not supposed to be an exclusive race.  Peter has come to know this in the way he saw the Holy Spirit “poured out on the Gentiles.”  Thus, led by the Holy Spirit, Peter baptizes Cornelius and his household. 

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.”

Salvation comes in a new way through Jesus but God had always been rescuing his people.  He rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  He sent the Israelites free from exile in Babylon.  He offers us salvation, setting us free from our sins.

Why?

Because love is of God.

It is God’s nature to love.  He reveals his love to us in “his saving power.”  We see his love revealed in a new way when He “sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.

It is God’s nature to love and He created us to love.  We love because we are first loved by God.

Love can be contagious.  “Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you’.

We are to take the love we receive and share it.  Ideally, mothers (as well as fathers) do this.

Jesus wants us to know his love.  It is what makes us complete.

What does it mean to love?

Love is more than a warm fuzzy feeling.  Love may lead us to “unpleasant” tasks like a mother changing a diaper for her baby.  I doubt anyone enjoys changing a diaper as a physical act but one willing does it in love.

Jesus tells us, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Jesus doesn’t just tell us this.  He demonstrates it to us as He gives his life for us on the Cross.  He does this because He loves us.

What is our response to Jesus’ love?

Is it obedience that is not just a legal obedience?  Or are we obedient because we are afraid of Hell?

Or are we obedient because we trust in God’s love?

Do we want to remain in his love?

Jesus tells us, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.

This is not a condition of God’s love.  God will always love us no matter what.  However, we separate ourselves from that love when we choose to go our own way.

Think of the little child who is totally dependent on mom and dad.  The child trusts mom and dad because mom and dad have always been there for the child.  Why are mom and dad there?  Because they love their child. 

As little children, when we experience fear, we count on our parents.  We are “obedient” because of our trust in them.

Then we grow up.

We become independent.  We think we know better and we go and do our own thing.  We might even become disobedient.  We may become “disobedient” because we think we no longer need our parents.

The same can be true for us as children of God.  If we are taught about God’s love, we trust that God loves us.  In that trust, we listen to what God teaches us.

As we grow up, we become independent.  We still want to know that God is with us just as we don’t “abandon” our parents. 

We begin to make choices for ourselves.  We think we know what is good for us.  Hopefully we have learned what is good.  Who determines what is good?

God’s commandments tell us what is good.  Yet, sometimes we think we know better.  We become disobedient.  We sin.

In choosing to commit venial sin, we hurt our relationship with God.  In choosing to commit mortal sin, we break our relationship with God.  It is not God who breaks the relationship.  It is us.

The good news is God does not stop loving us.  That’s why God makes repentance possible.  It is why Jesus laid down his life for us on the Cross, to heal our brokenness.

Jesus says to us, “It was not you who chose me, but I who choose you.

Jesus chooses to love us.  Do we choose to love him in response?

Celebrating Our Mothers

I wrote the following for our parish bulletin for Mother’s Day.

Mothers are important.  Eve was the first mother in the Bible.  “She was the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).

There is Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and the mother of Isaac.

We remember Moses’ mother who protected his life when all the young Hebrew male infants were killed (see Exodus 1:15-2:10).

There is Hannah who prayed earnestly to have a child and, when she did, gave him, Samuel, in service to the Lord (see 1 Samuel 1). 

Of course, there are many other mothers listed in the Bible.  In our Catholic faith, at the heart of motherhood is Mary, the mother of Jesus, the mother of God.  At the Annunciation, she said yes to being the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38).  She was a very faithful mother.  Even when the other disciples scattered Mary was there are the foot of the Cross as Jesus was crucified.  It was at the foot of the Cross that Jesus proclaimed Mary to our mother when He said, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:27). We celebrate her at the Mother of God on January 1st.  We celebrate a memorial honoring Mary as the “mother of the church” on the Monday after Pentecost.

What about your mother?  What comes to mind when you think of your mother?

Each year on the second Sunday in May, we honor our mothers.  Honestly, we should honor them everyday but we have this one special day for them.  What will you do for your mother today?

Will you say thank you for what she has done for you?  Will you provide a meal, remembering how many meals she provided for you?  Will you go to visit her, or call her if she lives someplace else?

Maybe you are like me and your mother has passed away.  We can’t call them or visit with them in person.  We can still pray for our mothers in Purgatory and know they will pray for us in Heaven.

These might all seem easy to do when we have a good mother.  Even if our mother is absent from our lives or is hard to get along with, we can (and should) pray for them.  Let us pray for all mothers as we thank ours for their service.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Why is Change Difficult?

After learning I would be moving to another parish at the end of June, in mid-April I wrote an article, “The Next Change.” In that article, I talked about the inevitability of change, that we are not alone in needing to deal with change, and the different perspectives from which we see change. It is the last one I would like to reflect more on today.

In “The Next Change” I spoke of the perspectives I see the change in, both in terms of leaving St. Luke’s and the future I have ahead at St. Mary’s of the Lakes and St. Benedict’s. The two perspectives I face parallel what the parishioners of both parishes face in that they are both losing a priest they have known and receiving a new priest that may be unknown to them.

Whether we like the way things have been or the priest leaving or not, the change brings uncertainty. Even if we don’t like the way things have been or the priest, there is always one positive when things don’t change. We know how things are. The saying is “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” Most people like stability because we fear the unknown. Without things changing we know how things are. If things change, we may need to change ourselves.

We don’t have to fear change. Change can be a good thing for it can bring opportunity. This is especially true when we don’t like the way things have been. We might even welcome the change. Here it is a question whether our desire for change is greater than the risk we see in the change.

What about if we like the way things are? Can change be a good thing then? Yes, because it can bring new opportunities or a fresh perspective. Sometimes we became complacent when things are going well and we just keep doing the same thing over and over without any thought. We are comfortable with the ways things are. We don’t want to introduce any changes that might rock the boat. We don’t want to take any risk. Here the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind.

However, when a new person comes who is open to learning and appreciating the way things have been, they can bring new ideas that bring a “new freshness” that makes things even better than they are. Thus, they bring new opportunity. The strengths of the new person may bring new life to our weaknesses (see my previous article on strengths and weaknesses “Having What It Takes”)

All this being said, even “change” can have “change” within it. As I have mentioned in my previous articles on change, I am used to going to a new parish and not knowing much about it or the parishioners knowing much about me. That is “normal” change. However this time is different. St. Mary’s and St. Ben’s is my home parish. This means I know some things about them and they know some things about me.

So, the change is different this time. In some ways this makes it easier. It is not a complete unknown. I am already in conversation with the staff at St. Mary’s and St. Ben’s. As we talk, not everything is new. For instance, when I look at the list of upcoming weddings, there are last names I recognize. I say last names because it is the couple’s parents that I know because their parents are near my age. This brings familiarity. Recognizing the names can bring a sense of familiarity. That brings comfort.

Yet, I caution myself that everything is not exactly the same. For instance, the children are not exactly like their parents. For the weddings I will do, it is the bride and groom getting married that is to be my focus, not just the parents (The parents are part of their family and important, just not the point of the wedding).

I also find myself remembering some of the musicians. These leads to me thinking about when I presided at Mass for the very first time. It was at St. Mary’s and I got to pick the music. So, it was all music I really like. I hope they still do some of those same songs but it is not all about me. I pray that they don’t just do music I like. I pray that they do music that helps bring everyone closer to Christ (a little something for everyone) and gives praise to God in a way pleasing to God.

I think I have drifted from my topic for this article of why change is difficult to reminiscing about the past. Actually, in the present change for me this is part of the challenge. It is good, it is even necessary to remember the past or we can’t learn from it. As, we reminisce, we just need to be open to the future that God has planned for us.

There is one more aspect of the difficulty of change I would like to include here. It is the transition itself. Seldom do changes happen in an instant. In this case, it will be just short of two months from the time from when the changes were announced to priests assignments actually change. So, I work hard to remain faithful to my current parish of St. Luke’s as well as preparing for what is to come at St. Mary’s of the Lake and St. Benedict’s. That means I have more on my mind right now. I count on the Holy Spirit to guide me.

Change does seem evitable and it can be challenging. We do not need to fear the change. God is with us. I will end now the same way I ended my previous article, “The Next Change”.

“God has a plan. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.

Yes, God has a plan. From the words that Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer, let us all pray “thy will be done.””

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

What Does It Mean to Love?

In March I wrote an article called “Chastity and Sexuality”. As part of that article, I discussed how sexual acts are meant to be an expression of the love between a man and a woman in marriage. Sex without love is a mere physical act without meaning. In love, sexuality expresses its true meaning.

Today I would like to reflect on what it means to love and care for others. To do so, I will use material from Archbishop Emeritus Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap.’s new book, Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living by Archbishop Emeritus Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap. (New York: Henry Holt and Company. 2021).

To define Love, Archbishop Chaput relies on C.S. Lewis who relies on the Greek language that has four different words for love.

  1. Storge, or the bond of empathy”
  2. Philia, or the bond of friendship”
  3. Eros, or romantic love”
  4. Agape, unselfish, sacrificial love – a reflection of God’s own love” (165).

English lacks this distinction. We have only one word for love. As Archbishop Chaput writes, “a husband can say he “loves” his wife and he “loves” cabbage. The word is the same. The meaning is rather different” (165). Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor (see Mark 12:28-34). We are called to love everyone but we love different people in different ways. This is why the distinction of the four types of love is so important. It is only in understanding that we love in different ways that we can fully understand human sexuality and chastity.

Love is more than just attraction. “Love is always more than a feeling. Emotions change. Feelings come and go. But real love is a choice, act of the will” (Archbishop Chaput, 165). We choose to love. In understanding this choice, it is important to realize that we can love a person with more than just one type of love from the four presented above. In fact, the different types of love can support one another. For instance, Archbishop Chaput writes, “Eros produces the family. Agape sustains it” (165).

Eros produces the family” in that it is in “eros” that a man and woman come together in the bond of marriage. It is in eros that a husband and wife come together in sexual intimacy and bear children. For the marriage and the family to survive, agape love, a sacrificial love is required. The husband and wife must be willing, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to be willing to make sacrifices for each other and for their children. The sacrifices they make strengthen their marriage. It is also a model for society to follow. To be a healthy society, we must be wiling to make sacrifices for others, even for strangers. This is the love that Jesus calls us to when He says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). In fact, Jesus doesn’t just say it. This is what Jesus does for us on the Cross.

God chooses to love us. God does not need us. God does want us (see Archbishop Chaput, 190). God is love (1 John 4:8).

Archbishop Chaput goes on to write, “First, philia is a preferential bond with a friend. The agape of the Gospel is non-preferential, like the love of God himself” (227). We choose our friends. We choose to love them in a particular way. This philia love can disappear. We lose old friends and find new ones. In following God’s commandment, love thy neighbor, we are called to agape love for all, even our enemies. We need philia love because we are created to love. We need intimacy but not all intimacy is eros love, romantic love. We need all four types of love as love is what we are created for.

How many friends do you have? I am not talking about the number of “friends” you have on Facebook. There are people who have hundreds of friends on Facebook but do they really know any of them. We need true friends.

Archbishop Chaput relies on Aristotle as he writes of true friendship.

“True friendship, for Aristotle, is more than mere mutual utility, though friends naturally seek to help and be useful to one another when the need arises. True friendship is also more than the joy friends take in each other’s company, though the pleasure of “fitting together” obviously animates friends. And true friendship is also more than a disposition of friendliness. We can be friendly with many people; we can true friends with only a few. Friendship demands the investment of a person’s time and energy. It involves risk, and also candor. It requires a willingness to place the task of loving the friend above our own natural appetite for being loved. the true and highest form of friendship, for Aristotle, is that of good persons who resemble and reinforce each other in virtue” (Archbishop Chaput, 228-229).

To truly live we need true friends. We need friends to help us become better people, to become who God calls us to be. We need true friends to help us understand what it means to love. This is what it means for friends to fit together. We need friends, philia love, to understand what eros love, the romantic love of a husband and a wife is meant to be. Storge love, empathy, motivates us to care for others. Philia love motivates us to agape love for all. Eros love strengthens us.

When looking for friends, we need people who “see the same truth“, who “care about the same truth” (Archbishop Chaput, 230). We do not have to go through life alone. We rely on God and we rely on true friends.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

5th Sunday of Easter, Year B

5th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Acts 9:26-31
Psalm 22:26-27, 29, 30, 31-32 (26a)
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8
May 2, 2021

The story told in the Acts of the Apostles is the story of the early church.  Acts tells us how “the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.  It was being built up and walked in fear of the Lord and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.”   

The church was already facing persecution and resistance in some places yet it was growing by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was at work through Paul who “had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.”  Yet, it was not only through Paul.  When Barnabas heard of Paul, he brought him to the Apostles.  It was one church working with individuals working together.

We are part of this church.  Thus, the story told in the Acts of the Apostles is not just the story of the early church 2,000 years ago.  It is our story.

We are to belong to the truth, the truth that Jesus brings.  If we belong to the truth, we will “keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” 

It is in keeping his commandments that we “remain in him” and “he remains in us.” 

Is this not what we seek when we come to church, to have Jesus remain in us?

We need to be connected to God.  We are created to know God, to be loved by God, and to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul.

To help us understand how we need him, Jesus uses the image of the vine.  He is “the true vine.”  His Father “is the vine grower” and we “are the branches.” 

What happens if the branches are cutoff from the vine?

They die.

The branches cannot exist without the nutrients and water they receive through the vine.  The branches cannot bear fruit on their own.  The branches need to remain connected to the vine.

We need to remain connected to Jesus.  How do we do this?

One way is through the Word, the Word we receive from God in the Bible.  The words we read in the Bible were written down between two and three thousand years ago but it is not an “old” word.  It is a living word that even today tells us the story of God’s love for his people and how we are to live.

This is why we read from the Bible at every Mass.  It is part of how we are to remain in him. 

How else do we remain in Jesus for, as Jesus said, “without me you can do nothing”?

We need the Eucharist. 

When we commit mortal sin, we break our relationship with God.  When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are celebrating the sacrifice of Jesus given his life for us on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  We confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be worthy to receive the Eucharist.

What is it that we receive?  It is the Body and Blood of Jesus. 

We need the Body and Blood of Jesus. 

Do you appreciate what we celebrate and receive in the Eucharist?  Unfortunately, over time we sometimes take it for granted.  It is good for us to reflect on what the Eucharist is.

Today, we have seven children in our parish who will receive their First Communion.  To prepare for this day, they have been learning about the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.

This is a very special day for them.  It is a day to be celebrated.  The children will be dressed up.  It is a day to celebrate.  In their Baptism, they are already children of God but they come to know Jesus in a new way in what they receive in the Eucharist.

As you come to Mass, do you think about what remaining in Jesus means to you?

As you come forth to receive Communion, do you think about what receiving Communion means for you?  It is not just bread and wine.  It has been transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus.  It is Jesus.

Think about the way we receive Jesus.  We do not reach into the ciborium to take Jesus for ourselves like we would popcorn out of a bowl. 

No, we receive Jesus by holding out our hands, one hand over the over to make a throne to receive Jesus as our king.  Then, we place the Eucharist in our mouth so that we may become what we eat, that we may become the Body of Christ.

And so we remain in Jesus and He remains in us.