Sunday, May 26, 2024

2 June 2024 - Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - Mark 14:12-16 and 22-26

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the real presence of Christ with us in the Eucharist. This celebration is also known by its Latin title, Corpus Christi. The Second Vatican Council very famously called the Eucharist “the source and summit of Christian life.” Our Christian spirituality is to flow from the Eucharist as its source, the say way light streams from the sun as the source of the light. Moreover, our Christian spirituality has the Eucharist as the high point toward which all of our actions should ultimately be directed. Thus, our Christian spirituality should flow in two directions, with the Eucharist as the point from which our daily life starts, and with the Eucharist leading us back home to our eternal life with God after our sojourn in the world comes to an end. 

Our US Bishops have called us to three year Eucharistic renewal in which we are to grow in our understanding of the Eucharist and in our devotion to it.  This Eucharistic renewal started two year’s ago on this same feast day in 2022. You can imagine, that for me as a priest celebrating Mass many times each week, the Eucharist is very much at the center of my life.  In my years serving as a priest, I have grown a lot in my understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist, in ways that are difficult to put into words. I remember that in December 2019, I was working as vicar general in the chancery.  Some parishioners from St Michael parish in Paulding, located in rural Jasper country past Bay Springs and about a half hour from the city of Laurel, contacted me, telling me that since their cluster of parishes did not have a full time pastor, they had not had a Mass in their parish for almost two years.  The people continued the celebrate in their church through word and communion services led by the parishioners themselves.  They were wondering if I could find a way to have a priest celebrate Christmas Mass for them. So for a couple of years, interrupted partially by the pandemic, I traveled once or twice a month on a Saturday morning to that parish in Paulding and to the neighboring parish in Newton, to ensure that they would at least have Mass periodically. It really touched my heart the way that the people yearned for the Eucharist, similar to the way all of us Catholics yearned for the Eucharist during the pandemic when in-person Mass was not an option. 

Back in October 2021, I was invited to apply to a two-year program that the University of Notre Dame was conducting in conjunction with the Eucharistic renewal, in which Catholic leaders from all over the country would develop projects centered around the Eucharist.  I remember that I put off thinking about that invitation, and did not apply until the very last day, thinking that I had nothing to lose for applying. At the time, we were not even back in the prisons with our Catholic ministry after the pandemic. But when I got accepted to the program and started working on developing a project, I knew that the Holy Spirit was leading me to center the project on the prison inmates and the Eucharist. To be honest, a prison probably is not the first place we associate with the Eucharist, is it? The violence and the brokenness of the prison environment seems a long way from the presence of Christ. But, as I started training the inmates to see themselves as Eucharistic missionaries, bringing the Body and Blood of Christ to the reality of prison, as I visited inmates in solitary confinement who could not even come to the Mass I was celebrating in the prison, as I brought a tabernacle to the prison and explained to them what a tabernacle was, Jesus entered into the reality of the prison in a ver profound way.  As I write this homily, I realize that this same week, I celebrated Mass for more approximately 225 men and women in the prison. I see how their lives are touched by the presence of Christ and for the love and compassion that the Eucharist and our Catholic ministry symbolizes for them. Through this prison ministry experience centered around the Eucharist, I understand in a more profound way how the Eucharist needs rooted in the love of Christ. 

The most important understanding that has come out of my love of the Eucharist is that it should guide our words and our actions to share our faith with others and to enkindle a missionary fire within our hearts. It is important to note that the Mass does not end with our reception of the Eucharist. The Mass concludes with the commission we receive as we are dismissed into the world, as the priest states, “Go forth, the Mass is ended, live, the Gospel,” or “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” We who are filled with the body of Christ, galvanized as a community according to the purposes of God, must go forth from Mass to bring the values of our faith into the world. At the end of Mass, the priest sends the community of the faithful out as seeds of new life. It is our mission to nurture a world that is hungry for meaning and direction. It is only when we see things in this way, of really living the Eucharist in the world, will we understand the purpose of the Eucharistic meal that we receive at Mass. 

I really want to devote a lot of time here in our parish this upcoming year talking about the Eucharist and finding ways to live out the message of the Eucharistic revival as individuals and a community.  Stay tuned for more. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

7 June 2024 - prayers of the faithful - Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Lord Jesus - you love us with your Sacred Heart. 

Christ Jesus - you bring us the love and compassion of your Father. 

Lord Jesus - you call us to peace and justice.  

Priest: As we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus today, we are confident that Christ intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father. With faith in his love we make our prayers in his name:

1. For the holy Church, that all who believe in the Risen Christ and his Sacred heart may follow him faithfully. 

2. For our Diocese and for our parish community, that we may see the Lord in the signs he has left us, giving us new life in our baptism and nourishing us in the Eucharist. 

3. For all who are in need, that those with plenty may act with compassion so as to serve their brothers and sisters in Christ with justice.

4. For all who are sick or suffering and for those close to death, that Jesus, the risen Savior, may give them grace and strength. 

5. For the faithful departed, for their entry into eternal life. For the souls in the process of purification in purgatory.  ‘

6. For the prayers we hold in the silence of our hearts. 

Priest: God our Father, increase in our minds and hearts the new life we share with Christ, helping us to grow as your people in love and compassion. We ask this through Christ our Lord forever and ever.  AMEN.  

7 June 2024 - homily for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus - John 19:31-37

Each time that we gather around the Lord’s table for Mass, we celebrate God’s love for us in a special way. Today’s celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls 19 days after Pentecost, so it is always on a Friday. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a beloved religious devotion in our Church; it sees Jesus’ physical heart as a symbol of the love that he has for us. Many saints have contributed to our understanding of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  I most associate the Sacred Heart with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French Visitation Nun of Holy Mary from the 17th century. Her visions of Jesus conveyed this message: “Look at this heart which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love me in return. Through you, my Divine Heart wishes to spread its love everywhere on earth.” Devotion to the Sacred Heat goes back to the Medieval period.  In the 12th century, St Bernard of Clairvaux stated that the piercing of Christ's side reveals the goodness and charity of his heart for us.      

 As we reflect upon Jesus’ Sacred Heart today, our own hearts are to be touched by his death on the cross and by the way the soldier thrust a lance into his side, out of which blood and water flowed.  St Augustine of Hippo wrote about how Christ is the door through which we enter salvation, how that door was opened for us by his death and resurrection, by the soldier’s lance that opened up his side. We choose where we want to enter Christ, to enter from his side as he hung dying upon the cross, the side from which the blood and water flowed. The purification we receive from Christ is the water that flowed from his side. The redemption we receive from Christ is the blood that was shed for us.  

In his encyclical On Devotion to the Sacred Heart, Pope Pius XII calls the Sacred Heart of Jesus “a symbol of that divine love which he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit but which he, the Word made flesh, alone manifests through a weak and perishable body, since in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily." May the Sacred Heart of Jesus call us to a life of holiness today. May it call us to true devotion and love for Christ our Savior.  

6 June 2024 - prayers of the faithful - Thursday of the 9th week in Ordinary Time

Lord Jesus - you bring us hope in our faith. 

Christ Jesus - you are the beloved son of the Father. 

Lord Jesus - you are our savior and our redeemer. 

Priest: With humble hearts, we present our prayers to our heavenly Father: 

1. For our Church leaders and our governmental leaders, that God will lead them in guide them in their leadership challenges and in the challenging decisions that face them. 

2. For all who are recovering from natural disasters: that God will ease their pain, give them strength, and renew their hope. 

3. For all missing children, particularly those caught in human trafficking: that God will free them and reunite them with their families.

4. For an end to violence in families, neighborhoods, and cities. We pray that God will open new ways to resolve differences and protect the life and dignity of each person

5. For all who are sick: that God’s healing love will strengthen them, remove their pain, and restore them to wholeness.

6. For our deceased families members, loved ones, and community members, for their entry into eternal life. For the souls in the process of purification in purgatory. 

7. For our children and youth, that they may see God present with them in all their summer travels and activities. 

8. For the prayers we hold in the deep recesses of our hearts

Priest: With faith and hope, we present our prayers through your son Jesus Christ, our Lord forever and ever.  AMEN. 

6 June 2024 - St Norbert - homily for Thursday of the 9th week in Ordinary Time - Mark 12:28-34

Born in the late 11th century in the Premontre region of northern France, Norbert founded the religious order of the Norbertines.  He lived in an area of great warfare and enmity.  He faced a lot of indifference amongst the faithful. With a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, he and the Norbertines had great success in converting heretics back to the faith and rebuilding the faith in indifferent believers. The members of the Norbertines lived in priories during the week and served in ministry in parishes on the weekends.  Norbert was named archbishop of Magdeburg in central Germany, a region that had a large pagan population.  He worked courageously for the faith until his death in 1134. 

In the Gospel today, Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment of all, in which he states it is love of God and love of neighbor. I remember telling some friends in Yazoo City the other week that if our ministry is not full of the love of Christ, we are missing the point. I remember the Norbertine priests who served in our Diocese for many years, with their priory in Raymond, the order founded by St Norbert. We give thanks for the many priests and sisters who have come to our Diocese from different parts of the United States and from different parts of the world, bringing us the Gospel message and the love of Christ.   

4 June 2024 - prayers of the faithful - Tuesday of the 9th week in Ordinary Time

Lord Jesus - You are the son of the living God.

Christ Jesus - You are our savior and our redeemer. 

Lord Jesus - You nourish us with your body and blood. 

Priest: With faith and hope, we bring our prayers to our heavenly Father:

1. That we in the Church may hear God’s call to discipleship and seek first the kingdom of God in our lives. 

2. That we may know freedom of mind and heart so that we can serve those in need around us. 

3. That God’s word may touch our hearts and guide us into a deeper knowledge of God as we lives as disciples of Christ. 

4. For the prisoners and for the victims of violence, that God may accompany them on their journey and bring healing and transformation to them. 

5. For all who are recovering from natural disasters, whether they be storms, tornados, drought, wildfires or floods: that God will protect them from further harm, guide them to the resources that they need, and open the hearts of many to assist them. 

6. For healing for the sick. For the faithful departed, for their entry into eternal life.  

7.  For the prayers in the silence of our hearts.

Priest: We present these prayers with humble hearts through your Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord forever and ever.  AMEN.  

4 June 2024 - homily for Tuesday of the 9th week in Ordinary Time - Nicola D’Onofrio - Psalm 90

Nicola D’Onofrio was born in 1943 in the Abruzzo region of southeastern Italy, not far from the birthplace of St Camillus de Lellis, the 16th century founder of the Camillians, a religious order dedicated to the care of the sick. Wishing to join this religious order whose members wear black cassocks with a large red cross, d’Onofrio moved to the Camillian house of studies in Rome in 1955. He made his first profession in 1961, promising to obey poverty, chastity, and obedience, and dedicate his life to caring for the sick. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1963.  He made a pilgrimage to Lourdes and Lisieux in May 1964 at the suggestion of his superiors.  He asked for the members of his order not to pray for his healing, but for the will of God. “I am very happy to be able to suffer a little now when I am young because these are the finest years to offer up something to the Lord,” He told them. He died in June of 1964. He is being proposed by the order of Camillians as a candidate for canonization for the grace and courage in which he faced his trials and sufferings and for the joy in which he lived out his journey of faith. 

Our psalm declares today: “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.”  The Lord is our strength and our hope. Our problems and sufferings in life may not be solved, but God, our refuge, help us meet our challenges and sufferings with courage and grace.