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THE WORD MADE FLESH MAKES US DIVINE

by St Hippolytus 

Our faith is not founded upon empty words; nor are we carried away by mere caprice or beguiled by specious arguments. On the contrary, we put our faith in words spoken by the power of God, spoken by the Word himself at God’s command. God wished to win men back from disobedience, not by using force to reduce him to slavery but by addressing to his free will a call to liberty.

The Word spoke first of all through the prophets, but because the message was couched in such obscure language that it could be only dimly apprehended, in the last days the Father sent the Word in person, commanding him to show himself openly so that the world could see him and be saved.

We know that by taking a body from the Virgin he re-fashioned our fallen nature. We know that his manhood was of the same clay as our own; if this were not so, he would hardly have been a teacher who could expect to be imitated. If he were of a different substance from me, he would surely not have ordered me to do as he did, when by my very nature I am so weak. Such a demand could not be reconciled with his goodness and justice.

No. He wanted us to consider him as no different from ourselves, and so he worked, he was hungry and thirsty, he slept. Without protest he endured his passion, he submitted to death and revealed his resurrection. In all these ways he offered his own manhood as the first fruits of our race to keep us from losing heart when suffering comes our way, and to make us look forward to receiving the same reward as he did, since we know that we possess the same humanity.

When we have come to know the true God, both our bodies and our souls will be immortal and incorruptible. We shall enter the kingdom of heaven, because while we lived on earth we acknowledged heaven’s King. Friends of God and co-heirs with Christ, we shall be subject to no evil desires or inclinations, or to any affliction of body or soul, for we shall have become divine.

Whatever evil you may have suffered, being man, it is God that sent it to you, precisely because you are man; but equally, when you have been deified, God has promised you a share in every one of his own attributes. The saying Know yourself means therefore that we should recognize and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image, for if we do this, we in turn will be recognized and acknowledged by our Maker.

So let us not be at enmity with ourselves, but change our way of life without delay. For Christ who is God, exalted above all creation, has taken away man’s sin and has re-fashioned our fallen nature. In the beginning God made man in his image and so gave proof of his love for us. If we obey his holy commands and learn to imitate his goodness, we shall be like him and he will honor us. God is not beggarly, and for the sake of his own glory he has given us a share in his divinity.

Christmas 2017 Homily

The Secret Formula

by Deacon John P. Gaulin

  • So, I spent the last two days in NYC, Massapequa Park, Long Island specifically, participating in the wake and funeral Mass for my boss’ daughter. Amanda was a 32 year old mother of a beautiful 18 month old son, Luke, and married to Jimmy, a really wonderful man and FBI agent
  • I share this with you because through that short – though long – two days, I learned so much about faith, hope, love…. and Christmas, and I’m not sure if I want or need to share the story with you… but here goes
  • Amanda’s disease has some fancy name, but by any name, it was brain cancer.
    • It seems to have been triggered by her pregnancy
    • And so for the past 2 years or so, she went through surgeries and therapies
  • As you can imagine, her time with baby Luke was preciously short, as her disease affected her intellectual capabilities
  • Last Tuesday, she lost the battle
    • And so the trip to NYC
  • In many ways, this journey was like some storybook experience. I met so many characters – from Uber drivers to the young priest – who will no doubt someday be a bishop – to Amanda’s family, her husband and his family, and of course, Luke
  • I could tell you about all of the events and all of the people, but I won’t…
    • But allow me to share just a few…
  • Obviously, this was a powerfully sad time:
    • A new dad loses his wife
    • A young boy loses his mom
    • Parents burying their child
  • And while they certainly had their moments, the whole scene had an underlying theme of joy
  • The power of Amanda’s life filled the funeral home, as person after person told beautiful stories of their experience with her
  • At the wake, Amanda’s brother-in-law read the eulogy that her husband Jimmy had written, but was understandably unable to deliver
    • It told their story, but woven throughout it was the message of hope
    • It was clear that the pieces of his life had been shattered and scattered, but it was equally clear that with the support of family and friends… he’d pick those pieces up, reassemble them and continue forward
    • Not a dry eye in the place
  • At the funeral Mass, Fr Greg gave a beautiful homily – elegantly connecting the wood of the manger, filled with hope, to the wood of the cross – which is for us the most powerful symbol of hope that we have
    • He called life after Adam and Eve ‘a mess’ and proclaimed that things like Amanda’s death cannot be explained outside the context of Original Sin
    • We are imperfect people, living in an imperfect world and ugliness is everywhere
    • If not for the hope of the manger and the cross, we would be immersed in despair
  • As I reflected on his homily during my seven hour, delay-laden wait at JFK airport, I realized something that I now refer to as the Secret Formula
    • Messiness (be it pain, suffering, loss or tragedy – messes of any kind) + Hope = Joy
  • And then it hit me… this is the meaning of Christmas
    • The first Christmas was mess: New baby coming, strange town, no place to stay
      • I think that qualifies as a mess
    • The trial, passion and execution of the most innocent man that ever lived
      • That was a mess
    • But Christ did not preach about ‘messes’ so much as how to get beyond them
      • Pick up your cross (aka “the mess”) and follow Me
      • Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace and sin no more
      • Today you will be with Me in Paradise
    • If we miss the HOPE, we miss the point!
    • Sure, LIFE has its messy times – with pain, sadness, tragedy
      • But how strong is your HOPE?
    • Strong Hope transforms the mess
    • One more quick story…
    • Luis is a Hispanic Uber driver, who does not speak English very well.
    • When I told him I was going to St Rose of Lima church for the funeral, his whole face lit up as he said, “Catholica!”
      • Then he showed me the rosary he wore around his neck
    • He went on to tell me that he used to be a drug dealer, drink excessively and was a womanizer
      • Then he came down with serious digestive issues
      • He prayed to Jesus for help, as his situation was extremely painful
        • And yeah, he made the promise: No more drug selling, no more alcohol, no more women… if only he would be healed
        • And he was; and he did
      • And while the skeptical among us might doubt his resolve, you be convinced had you seen the passion with which he was proclaiming his faith, his gratefulness for his healing and his commitment to keep those promises
    • You only pray with that much passion if you have HOPE
      • Please God, let us all have the depth of HOPE that Luis shared with me yesterday
    • Messiness + HOPE = Joy
      • During his homily, Father Greg shared a story about one of his brother priests who also lost a sister to cancer. As they discussed her death, his friend said to him, “Greg, I can’t wait to see her again!” – HOPE that leads to JOY
      • Amanda’s family left the funeral Mass with a Hope-filled confidence – albeit woven with sadness – that this was not the end
    • So, my request of you this day is two-fold:
      • During this special season, let the people you love know you love them. Let go of any difficulties and realize how precious life – and the time we spend with loved ones – is, and…
      • Please don’t let the trappings of Christmas blind you to the gift that is HOPE.
    • Life is a mess; HOPE is the antidote
      • From the manger to cross, the life of Jesus is all about bringing HOPE
    • May we embrace it and share it with one another, today and always

Merry Christmas

Homily for 14th Sunday in OT

There’s that classic story, which I am sure most of you have heard, about the guy who falls off a 100 foot cliff and is hanging on to a branch that he was able to grab as he was falling. Holding on desperately, he yells as loud as he can, “Help! Help! Can someone help me?!”

Out of nowhere, a voice answers: “I can help you, if you trust me.” The guy responds, “I trust you; I trust you!” The voice then says, “If you trust me, let go of the branch.”

The guy looks down, then up, then down again. Finally, he looks up and says, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Today’s Gospel reminds me a lot of that story. In so many words, Jesus seems to be telling us to let go.

We start with the opening line, where Jesus is chatting with the Father, and He says, “…for although You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, You have revealed them to little ones.” Who’s He talking about? The wise and the learned are the Scribes and the Pharisees. Is it because they are not smart enough to get the message? No – they are wise and learned. Their problem is that they won’t let go of what they know, to enable them to learn something new and better. They are so consumed with their own knowledge and intellectual prowess, that even when they hear the truth, they miss it.

Jesus goes on to say, “Come to Me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” We ask ourselves what this means, exactly. Is Jesus going to make the next car payment or pay the mortgage? Is He going to remove the cancer or heart disease? Is He going to end war, hunger, injustice? Is He going to take the idiots off the road? Not likely…

Jesus never promises to give us our solution or the answer we want. He promises to give us His solution, His answer. Said differently: “If you trust Me, let go of whatever your branch is.” This is usually not the answer we want to hear and too often we seek someone else.

Today’s Gospel ends with this insight: “For My yoke is easy and My burden light.” What could be easier than letting go? Sounds pretty simple… OK… play along with me. Imagine you are outside holding onto heavy rock. Now, in your mind, let it go. Easy, right? OK, still outside on a really windy day. Now, you are holding on to the winning lottery ticket, worth millions. In your mind, let it go. I mean now… right now… let it go. Come on; most of you still have it. Much harder, huh?! 

Well… I don’t know if this is going to make you feel any better or not, but it’s an old problem. The early Christians all realized that one of the important aspects of Christian living was letting go; that is, detaching themselves from those things in their lives that prevented, or tempted them away from, their commitment with God.

Let’s take a quick stroll through Church history and see how they dealt with problem of possessions…

One of the ways that the early Christian communities dealt with the challenge of possessions, was to place what they had at the service of the Community. Everything was held in common and distributed according to the needs of the Community and its members. They were happy to give and grateful to receive. As Christianity began to grow and faith communities expanded, they were no longer able to sustain this way of living. But the need to detach was just as important, maybe even more so.

This laid the foundation for the development of hermitages and monasteries. People literally insulated themselves against a world that valued personal possessions. It was a life devoted to prayer, study and manual labor. But not everyone was called to this way of life. So the question arose: How could lay people – married and unmarried – deal with the reality that possessions are an obstacle to a relationship with God? Jesus’ teaching still resonated with them: We cannot serve two masters. It’s God or possessions – pick one.

Fast forward to the 21st century in Lancaster, NY, USA: What are we to do? How do we live in this world of unprecedented plenty and still be able to have a relationship with our Creator?

Let’s be honest: if I had all the answers, I wouldn’t be 100 pounds overweight. But I do believe that no matter what our situation, God is constantly calling us to choose Him and He gives us experiences which – if we open ourselves to them – gives us some insights on how to live a holier life.

In my case, it’s my grandchildren. I make very different choices when I am with them. As soon as they show up, they are my priority… and it’s not a sacrifice. I am at my healthiest when I am with them. I eat less or not at all; I exercise more than I ever would if they weren’t there. I look at my fit bid when they leave to see how many step I had that day and it gives me a message: “Sorry, lost track about an hour ago!”

It’s at that those times that it dawns on me that love changes the valueof everything. What wouldn’t you give up for someone you love? Time maybe money in some circles, but it’s priceless when you get to spend it with a couple of toddlers, especially when you realize that they won’t always be toddlers.

Last week, Jesus told us that we needed to love Him more than our mother, father, children… and by extension, grandchildren. This week, He explains why. God is love and when Love dominates our lives, everything else pales by comparison.

Love God; love each other — and all the other pieces of your life will fall in place. It’s not a sin to have things; it’s a sin to hold on to them for dear life. And it is this lesson that is lost on the wise and the learned, yet is mastered by the little ones. So, while those who place their treasure is in possessions continue to ask, “Is anyone else up there?”, those dedicated to love recognize letting go as a little slice of  Heaven.

Welcome Father Dave!

We welcome Father Dave Richards to Our Lady of Pompeii parish in Lancaster, NY. Bishop Malone named Father David I. Richards administrator effective June 1.

Following his ordination, Father Dave served as parochial vicar at St. Gregory the Great Parish, Williamsville, and then at Queen of Heaven Parish, West Seneca.

Father Dave is also featured in a video series called, “In a WORD with Father Dave” that is aimed at middle school-aged children. It can be seen on Daybreak TV Productions’ Facebook page, YouTube channel and website, http://www.daybreaktv.org.