Attitude of Christ

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily April 14, 2019

“All of us experience in this Palm Sunday Liturgy that very quick transition from ‘hosanna’ to ‘crucify him’, and how fickle the human person can be and how we can proclaim and yet not live and so we are called to reflect upon the beautiful mystery of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus and the power of that love and this evening I’d like to take a just few moments to reflect with you on the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  You may want to open your book to this its 923…St. Paul wrote to the Philippians because he was in prison at the time and he wanted to encourage them in their faith and he wanted to give them a solid foundation in who Jesus truly is and so he quotes this which is probably had its origin in a song in honor of Jesus. He said, ‘Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself.’  The Word was from all eternity, but the Word emptied himself in order to become one with us. He didn’t grasp that divinity, but rather concealed that divinity within his humanity and when we talk about grasping equality with God, who was the first to do that? Adam and Eve. They were the ones that wanted to be likened to God. That’s what the serpent told them that would happen to them if they but disobeyed God and so Jesus does exactly the opposite. He doesn’t grasp for that equality, but rather humbles himself and he emptied himself.  The Greek word in that is kenosis means an outpouring, a total giving of self is what emptying is about that he emptied himself in the sense of that divinity, although he was always divine, but he emptied himself of any of the manifestation of that ‘taking the form of a slave’, a slave, taking the form of sinful humanity for the greatest slavery while physical slavery is terrible, the greatest slavery is the slavery to sin and Jesus without sin take sin upon himself and so he takes the form of a slave coming in human likeness and found human in appearance ‘he humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death.’  Pride is one of the strongest human vices is the we be prideful that our pride is about how great we are and Jesus instead embraces humility even humiliation. He embraces that lowliness of becoming one with us in our sinful humanity and became obedient. Adam and Eve were the first ones to be disobedient and by our sin reflect their disobedience, but Jesus became obedient, obedient to do the will of the Father and the will of the Father was that he be totally faithful no matter what that meant and unfortunately because of human profidity it meant crucifixion and death upon a cross and so he became obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.

You know we tend to sterilize, sanitize the cross.  We wear it as jewelry as silver, gold, we kinda use it as a nice beautiful decoration, certainly a spiritual reminder, but the cross for anybody who lived at the time of Jesus was an absolutely terrible symbol.  It was the ultimate painful death that Romans could inflict upon a criminal was that of crucifixion, even so bad that a Roman citizen could never be crucified because it was such a humiliating, painful way of death and so Jesus accepted even death the cross, the ultimate of death of ultimate humiliation.  ‘Because of this God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth’, that God truly raised him up in glory in the resurrection and that Jesus name is truly holy. How often we find that the name of Jesus is used very lightly even as a curse word.  We should have respect and honor the name of Jesus. I was taught as a child that when Jesus name was said to bow my head in humble adoration recognizing the true dignity that is Christ that Christ is not just one of us, but truly our Lord and our Savior. ‘Every knee should bend of those in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.’  Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of our life. Do we proclaim Christ Jesus as truly Lord as truly God as Lord of our daily lives? And that is to the glory of God the Father for all ultimately gives glory to God and the one line that unfortunately is not included in this reading is the one that proceeds the very first line and it says, ‘Have this attitude in you that is in Christ Jesus.’  That we are called to the same attitude as Christ Jesus, the one of emptying ourselves, the one of living humbly, the one of being obedient to the Father, the one of being faithful even to the point of death, but also to be one with Christ in his resurrection for truly we are called to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection now and forever. What a tremendous dignity we have. What a tremendous call, but it is only if we put on the attitude of Christ Jesus, the mind and the heart of Christ and that is what we are called to do at every Eucharist.  As we come forward to receive communion we receive the body of Christ given over, the blood of Christ poured out for our salvation so that we might become ourselves the body given over in service and love to others, the blood poured out in loving care for those within our families and all whose lives we may touch.  What a tremendous call we have, but what a great challenge: put on the attitude, the heart and the mind of Christ Jesus. “

A Paradox

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily April 14, 2019

“Well it’s hard to believe but here we are, Palm Sunday.  I feel like I just blinked my eyes and we were beginning Advent it seems like to me and now here we are preparing for the most sacred and solemn week of the year, Holy Week and it is a Holy week to be sure.  Now one definition of the word holy is to be set apart. Friends, this upcoming week is a week that is set apart from all the rest because it is the last week for us to prepare to enter into and celebrate the paschal mystery, the Passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the central mystery of our faith.  Luke’s Gospel of the Passion tees this up for us I think very nicely. Now we can take from this Gospel a lot of different theological conclusions, a lot of different lessons, but the one that I want to focus on is this: there is no sin that is unforgivable. I’ll say that again, there is no sin that is unforgivable. Every sin that we have ever committed is able to be forgiven by God if we allow him to forgive us and I think we see a very powerful example of this in our Gospel today, this openness of Jesus, this willingness of Jesus to forgive.  We’re given this account of the criminal hanging next to Jesus on the cross. He is a public sinner, convicted of capital murder and he doesn’t make excuses for his behavior. He doesn’t deny his behavior. He doesn’t deny that he committed a crime in fact he admits that the punishment he is receiving is just and he tells the other criminal, ‘Look, we have been condemned justly, but this man Jesus has done nothing criminal.’ And then he turns to Jesus and says, ‘Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ It was as if to say, ‘Lord I am a sinner, but will you take me anyway?’  Jesus’ answer, ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Now the crucifixion of Christ is a paradox.  A paradox of course is a seemingly absurd or contradictory idea that is actually true and so the crucifixion of Jesus is a paradox.  It is at the same time the worst evil ever and the greatest good ever. It was the greatest evil in that creatures tortured and murdered their creator.  It was not simply homicide, it was deicide. At the same time it was the greatest good ever because it opened the gates of Heaven and it shed light on the mystery of human suffering. Our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to die on a cross and he did this on his own accord.  This was not something that accidentally happened to him. Remember in John’s Gospel he tells his disciples, ‘No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down on my own accord. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it up again.’ And he did this to show us his love for us and to provide for us a means of forgiveness of sins.  And so, let’s go back to our criminal on the cross. Like so many Gospel stories that we read we are meant to identify with those persons Jesus is addressing with those persons that Jesus is ministering to so we can put ourselves in the place of the criminal who does not warrant Heaven who is not deserving of Heaven at all and we can ask Jesus in essence the same words that the criminal asks, ‘Lord I am a sinner, but will you take me anyway?’  What do you think is his answer? We know what his answer is, don’t we?”

A Compassionate God

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily April 7, 2019

“So I’d like to see a show of hands from the congregation, who wants to go to heaven?  Good. Good answer. Show of hands, who wants to go today? Okay kind of what I thought.  Fantastic. I bring this up because a friend of mine sent me a survey from ABC News about Americans and their attitudes toward heaven.  According to the survey, 89% of Americans believe in the existence of Heaven. 85% believe that they’re going there. Now in a society that is becoming increasingly more secularized I’m glad to know that there is still a large percentage of folks who believe in the existence of Heaven, but what I found fascinating was the second statistic that there’s still this high percentage of folks who seem pretty confident that that’s where they’re going.  If we think about it a lot at times we can just assume entrance into Heaven. We see this especially when someone famous dies and we hear the Eulogies on television or on YouTube. In one case that I know of, the deceased had her wardrobe changed three times in a six and a half hour memorial service and speaker after speaker after speaker got up to the microphone and declared this person in Heaven. Now this was a protestant service, but we can run into this in Catholic funerals as well where the homilist will just canonize the deceased, declare the deceased a Saint right there and then at the homily.  Many of us have run into this. I know that I have, ‘Well ya know Good ‘ol Joe is surely up there singing and dancin’ with all the Angels and Saints’, but it’s dangerous when we start taking our salvation for granted as if we just automatically go to Heaven. We can gather from many of his letters that St. Paul did not take this for granted. He did not think that it was automatic that he was going to Heaven. Not in the least. In fact, in the letter that we read today to the Philippians in Mass he writes in reference to the resurrection, ‘It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it.’  In other words, St. Paul is a work in progress and he knows it. He knows that he still has a long way to go in the spiritual life and he knows that it would be a mistake for him to act or behave as if his own personal salvation has already been accomplished. He is aware that he needs to grow in holiness and so he states it twice, ‘I continue my pursuit, I continue my pursuit.’ He also says, ‘I consider everything a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things.’ And if you know anything about St. Paul you know that he’s not kidding. He lost everything. He was a Roman citizen. He was highly educated. He was a well respected man in the community and then he encountered Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus and it changed his life.  He would wind up beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned. There were multiple attempts on his life before he was eventually executed by the Romans. He was beheaded, but he didn’t care. He just didn’t care and as he tells us today, he was happy to share in the sufferings of Christ and considered the rest of everything else ‘rubbish’. Now, while we want to be careful not to take salvation for granted, we also have no reason to be afraid either because our God is a loving God, a merciful God, a God of compassion, a forgiving God and we see this on full display in our Gospel today. The Scribes and Pharisees bring this woman caught in adultery to Jesus. It’s a test as John tells us. They’re trying to trap Jesus by pointing out that the law of Moses instructed stoning for such a person and so they bring this woman to Jesus and they throw her in front of him.  Moses says a woman like this should be stoned to death. What do you say, Teacher? So here’s the trap, if Jesus authorizes the stoning, he would be guilty of a crime himself because as a Jew he cannot take part in such an activity. If he objects to the stoning he would discredit himself as a phony, as a fraud going against the law of Moses and so he replies, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be among the first to throw a stone at her.’ With this statement Jesus avoids their trap and turns it on the Pharisees and the Scribes because you see, they probably viewed themselves to be sinless, but they know that Jesus doesn’t consider them to be sinless and so if they cast a stone, they’ll be in trouble with the authorities as well. If they refuse to cast a stone then they’re admitting to be sinners. They’re only option is to walk away from the situation and so Jesus defeat them at their own game and then he turns to the woman, ‘Where are they?  Is there no one to condemn you?’ ‘No one, Sir.’ ‘Well neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.’ You see, Jesus doesn’t condone her behavior, but he doesn’t condemn her either and instead he meets her with love and mercy and he challenges her to living a life of holiness moving forward

Like so many accounts that we read in the Gospels, we are meant to identify with the person or persons that Jesus is addressing.  We can put ourselves in the place of who it is that Jesus is ministering to and so this same compassion that Jesus shows to this public sinner is the same compassion that he has for each and every one of us personally.  So we continue with this season of Lent. The liturgical seasons that the Church gives us are wonderful opportunities for us to reflect upon the relationship that we have with Jesus Christ. The season of Lent can serve to remind us that in spite of the mistakes that we make along the way of life towards our Heavenly Homeland, our God is a loving God, a compassionate God, a merciful God and a God who wants us to be with him in Heaven at the end.”

Forgiving Compassionate Love

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily April 7, 2019

“The scripture readings that we have on this fifth Sunday of Lent are ones that invite us to a time of reflection and meditation and personal prayer.  That reading of St. Paul from the letter the Philippians today is such a piece of deep theology as Paul reflects upon the whole mystery of our salvation and what it means to be grasped by Christ, but also to be in possession of Christ and his resurrection.  Paul says very very clearly that we are justified not by the works of the old law, the Mosaic Law, but rather we are made right with God through our faith in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the one who has brought about justification and we are one with Christ through our faith in Him, but Paul also says that we’re still in process with this.  He says, ‘I don’t yet possess the fullness of life in Christ Jesus and therefore I strain forward.’ And so there is that whole process of our own spirituality, our own spiritual growth as we seek to truly live in the spirit of Christ that we may share in the fullness of salvation in the gift of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and Paul even gives us the way to that.  It’s the paschal mystery. It’s the dying and the rising of Christ Jesus. It’s our own call to join our sufferings as Paul mentions with the very sufferings of Jesus that we are called to die to sin, to selfishness in our daily lives and to live ever more fully even now that risen life in Christ that ultimately we may live it in its fullness. I invite you to take that reading from the Philippians today and to meditate upon that in terms of your own spirituality for certainly the paschal mystery that we’re going to be celebrating during the Triduum of the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is at the very heart of our faith in Christ and it is the method of our own spirituality that all of us are on that journey of dying to sin and of rising to greater life.

In the Gospel today, Jesus doesn’t give us theology so much as he gives us pastoral wisdom.  Jesus is there teaching. They bring in the woman accused of adultery and they said, ‘Moses told us that we should stone such a person.  What do you say?’ One of the questions that comes to my mind is where the guy is in this thing? There’s a real injustice right there and that’s what Jesus is kind of referring to in this.  He knows that he can’t contradict Moses and so he undercuts Moses is what he does because he doesn’t say, ‘Oh Moses was wrong’ because to say Moses was wrong was absolute death in those days.  It was to be rejected. It was to be condemned and so he doesn’t say Moses was wrong. Instead he just leans over and starts writing on the ground and we don’t know what he was writing. I wish the scriptures woulda said what he was writing.  Was he writing out a list of sins? Doing an examination of conscience for everybody around? Or was he writing the names of people on the ground? We don’t know what it is, but obviously it had an impact and then he says, ‘The one of you without sin, throw the first stone.’  In reading the scriptures, it’s helpful for us to identify with different personalities within the scriptures to see ourselves in light of those individuals. We may see ourselves in light of the woman caught in adultery for we know our own sin. We know the times that we have compromised who we are in relationship to God and others and therefore we may identify with that woman seeking the forgiveness of God or we may identify with the crowd that just kind of stood there, stood around and was just kinda judgemental in their own mind or else we might be able to identify with the ones who picked up the stones who were all ready to stone her to death.  We can identify because we can people who are critical who judge others who could look down or condemn others or we might identify ourselves with Jesus who spoke with compassion, with forgiveness, who was not willing to condemn, but rather to convert and so each of us is invited to say, ‘where am I in this picture?’ and maybe the fact is we are two or three persons within that picture and that is okay to know that we are there though in one way or another and we are called especially to reflect that love of Christ, yes, to know the forgiveness of Christ, but the love of Christ and it’s important for us to realize that Jesus and the woman are there and Jesus says, ‘I’m not going to condemn you.’  That’s what he says to us in confession. Every time we go to confession Jesus says, ‘I’m not going to condemn you. I’m going to forgive you’ and how important it is for us to seek that forgiveness of Christ to be humble enough to say, ‘Yes I need the Lord’s forgiveness.’  But Jesus there does not say, ‘Oh honey, you’re just a human being. Don’t worry about it, you have your weakness and that’s okay. Go out and live your life.’ No, he doesn’t say that and he doesn’t say that to us either. He says to the woman, ‘Go and sin no more.’ And that’s what he says to us.  Go and sin no more. Reject sin. Embrace goodness. Embrace love.  We are invited to enter more deeply into this relationship with Christ Jesus knowing that Christ’s forgiveness is there for each and every one of us and that we are called to be Christ to others with forgiving, compassionate, love.”

With Open Hands

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily March 31, 2019

“We’re all familiar with this beautiful Gospel so richly packed.  We all know it as the story of the prodigal son but perhaps it should be called the story of the two sons and the loving father.  Jesus tells us this story in the context of him sitting down among tax collector and other sinners. Meanwhile Pharisees and Scribes are looking on from a distance.  They’re grumbling and murmuring at what they are seeing. How could this Rabbi, this would be prophet defile himself by eating with sinners? For to Jews to eat with anyone unclean was to make yourself unclean and clearly sinners especially tax collectors were seen as unclean, so why does Jesus sit with tax collectors and sinners?  We see it throughout the Gospels. Well today, he answers that question as he often does with a story and St. Luke tells us that sinners and tax collectors have been drawn to him in this scene. St. Luke also tells us that the parable of Jesus is intended for the ears of the Pharisees and the Scribes, so we can just picture the scene of the Pharisees and the Scribes standing at a distance just within earshot to make sure that they hear this blasphemy and Jesus begins his story.

A man had two sons and the younger son was deviant.  He was rebellious and he goes up to his father and he rudely and crudely and obnoxiously tells his father, ‘Give me my inheritance.  I want my money and I want it now.’ It’s akin to him saying to his father, ‘Dad you mean nothing to me. I wish you were dead. Give me my inheritance.’  Amazingly, the father allows his son to have the freedom that he asked for. He gives him his inheritance and we know what happens. We know that money does not buy happiness or buy us freedom.  He squanders all of his money on loose living and then when he has no money, a famine hits and he’s hungry and he goes out and finds the only job he can find, a job that is the lowest of the low for any Jew to accept.  He is hired to slop hogs, to feed the swine. After doing this for some time he realizes that his father’s own hired workers are eating much better than he and he has a change of heart. The shame and the guilt, they’re laid upon him and he decides to go back to his father to seek forgiveness.  When he gets to his father he tells his father, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against you and I’ve sinned against Heaven. I no longer should be called your son.’ And what does the father do? With open hands he embraces his son, he puts a ring on his finger, he gives him a fine robe around his shoulders, puts sandals on his feet.  ‘Kill the fatted calf for today we celebrate. My son was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and has been found. Let the celebration begin.’ Now let’s go back to the scene. We can see Jesus with these sinners, tax collectors, perhaps prostitutes sitting around near him and his eyes are gazing lovingly on him and now he turns his eyes and his head and he gazes at the Pharisees and the Scribes and what do they do in return?  Do they look down? Do they look away? Do they say anything? We don’t know.

Who do we identify with?  Which son are we? Are we the younger son who needs to pick himself up and leave the pig slop of his sins that he’s wallowing in, sins of perhaps substance abuse? Materialism?  Pornography? Infidelity? Our Heavenly Father is waiting with outstretched hands for us. Notice that the father does not go after the son and pick him up out of the muck.  No, the son is required, we are required to turn to the father, to come and ask forgiveness for Jesus, God, has given us that freedom and it all begins with humility. Now others of us are the older brother.  We think we’re good. We think we’re good because we go to Mass regularly. We tithe and we follow the Church rules. Yes, we pray, we pay and we obey and isn’t that our ticket to Heaven? No. We are guilty of the sin of presumption.  We need conversion just as much as that younger brother and it’s only with a sense of humility can we recognize this sin and have a change of heart for sin is insidious. We know how easy it is to fall into sin and how easy it is to fall back into that same sin.  Yet we also know that with the grace of God we can turn away from Sin and turn to God.  Christianity is not a presumption of God’s mercy rather as in our story.  Christianity is a life long celebration of second chances and the sacrament of reconciliation is our chance to start anew as children of our loving father.”

The Prodigal Father

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily March 31, 2019

“Well we’re all very familiar with that long parable called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  We’re familiar with that dynamic that took place there as Jesus was confronted by the Scribes and the Pharisees that were scandalized that he was eating and associating with sinners, with tax collectors, with public violators of the law and Jesus then gives this beautiful parable in which he describes really the generosity of God.  We call it the parable of the prodigal son and the word prodigal means foolish extravagance, foolish extravagance, and certainly the son was prodigal.  He was foolishly extravagant with what he had received from his inheritance. He wasted it all, so yes, there was a foolish extravagance, but I really believe that this parable should be called the parable of the prodigal father because the father is more foolishly extravagant than the son is.  The father had been terribly insulted.  You know, the younger son comes to the father and says in so many words, ‘Dad I wish you were dead so I’d get my inheritance, but since you’re not kicking the bucket go ahead and give me my money anyway.’  And the son receives that inheritance and then what’s he do? He goes off and he squanders it. He spends it all on wine women and song and then he finally comes to his senses. Now the normal father would say, ‘Son, what goes around comes around.  You gotta accept the punishment. You gotta accept the consequences.’ But that’s not what the father does in this situation and the father is representative of God and the father, first of all he’s looking out for him. He doesn’t go seek him out. He doesn’t go and try to grab him by the neck and bring him back because he wants that son to know his own free will and his own need for reconciliation, but when he sees the son he goes out and grabs him and the son says, ‘Father I no longer deserve to be called your son.’  And the father says, ‘I love you.’ And he puts a ring on his finger and a cloak on him and he says, ‘We have to have a party for you.’  That’s a prodigal father. Foolish extravagance with his love, but that’s how God the father treats every one of us with that extravagant love that he embraces him no matter what our sin may be if we but come to our senses and recognize our need for forgiveness and if we but approach him in that beautiful sacrament of reconciliation that we come to know that abundant love of such a prodigal father who forgives us and always welcomes us into deeper union with him, but the real enigma in this particular parable is the elder son who is really representative there of the Scribes and the Pharisees, but also maybe represents some of us as well, the ones who have been faithful and saying, ‘Why are you forgiving that guy?  Why are you forgiving that brother of mine who was so dissolute?’ And he holds that grudge and what’s interesting in the parable we never know what happens to him. That’s an open ended question. It’s an open ended response and so it is with us that if we tend to be judgemental, if we tend to be condemnatory of other people, we never know what God’s grace is going to do in our lives.  It’s up to us to respond.

St. Paul in the second reading today really approaches this from a little different perspective where St. Paul there says that, ‘Through the blood of Christ on the cross we have been reconciled.  We have reconciliation with the father because of the abundant love of Christ Jesus.’ We have that reconciliation and we are called not only to experience reconciliation ourselves, but we have the ministry of reconciliation that we are called to be reconcilers.  We are called to be ambassadors of the reconciliation of God, so not only are we challenged to accept it into our own lives, but we are challenged to bring it into our world, into our families, into marriages, into work situations, into neighborhoods, to be reconcilers, to be people who show tremendous love in care for others.  That is the tremendous challenge that we have.

I’m reminded of the Beatitudes: blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.  All of us are children of God by reason of our baptism. We’re adopted sons and daughters. That’s our dignity, that’s our vocation, that’s our call, but we are also called to be peacemakers, to truly be reconcilers, to truly bring that prodigal love of the father not only to touch our lives, but to touch others as well.  What a privilege that is, how blessed we are and how challenged we are to become a peacemaker in turn, to truly share the ministry of reconciliation. To know God’s love and to share that love with others.”