25 April 20214 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
4 Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter - Cycle B - John 10:11-18

The poet WH Auden wrote, "Nothing can save us that is possible. We who must die demand a miracle."

What will the heaven Jesus of Nazareth offers us in the Gospels resemble? The cynic says, "Heaven is the Coney Island of the Christian imagination."

The satirist, who may be more correct than he realizes, writes, "In heaven, roast geese fly around with gravyboats in their bills. Strawberry tarts grow like sunflowers. Everywhere there are brooks of bouillon and champagne..."

The theologian borrows a line from today's first reading, "...we shall be like Him..."

After all is said and done, though, one point is certain, "Catholics talk about heaven but few are anxious to get there."

Courage! One Catholic writer may cause us to move up our reservations. Says he, "It is my firm conviction that heaven, to satisfy the whole person, must have all the beauties, splendors, and material pleasures possible." The author is Luigi Majocco, SJ. His book is Heavenly Humanism: a New Vision of Paradise.

The volume received good reviews from publications as diverse as Civilta Cattolica and from Panorama, the equal of Newsweek and Time. It has the official approval of the Church.

Professor Majocco of the Jesuit Social Institute in Turin argues that the usual image of heaven as the angel's playground has no box office appeal for us. In his heaven, we will be able "to receive all the caresses we have not been able to receive." Heaven will be "an entire world of friends and dear relatives and, in a way of speaking, crazy lovers."

In heaven we will discover "delicate perfumes, exquisite birdsongs, rhythmic dances...athletic competitions contested by some, watched with interest by others, and applauded by all - even the losers." It will be "impossible for us to be bored because we will be taking tourist trips through the cosmos and there are so many angels and humans to meet."

Of course the Jesuit will allow us to taste the pleasures of the table. However, there is one note of dismal news for this pansexual age. There will be no sex. I wonder how much influence Father Majocco's advanced age and his celibate vow colored his thinking on this point. So, all you lovers, take heart!

This book may be a target for laughs by TV comics (ie, if they can read books). Yet the 600 page tome offers magical pictures and worthwhile discussion points. Also out in his theological bullpen, Majocco has two formidable relief pitchers - George Santayana and a fellow Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin. And that is traveling first class.

Santayana was the late celebrated professor of philosophy at Harvard University. He wanted to lift heaven out of the non-excitement that literature usually lends to it. He counters that if we must discuss heaven, we should do so in "frankly material" terms. One such is the re-meeting of old friends - a point which, you may recall, Majocco emphasizes.

Father Teilhard, who needs no introduction, argues that heaven will be human, cosmic, social, and material.

Keep in mind heaven has to be material. Our defined teaching posits that the bodies of Jesus and Mary are already there. Also the Church teaches that in the general resurrection our bodies will head there directly.

Could it be that spiritual writers with their contempt for the material world have sold Jesus short? After all, He did say, "In my father's house, there are many mansions." Do picture yourself in a heavenly suite. Or this familiar line, "Come, ye blessed of my father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Consider this exciting line from St Paul: "Eye has not seen nor ear heard - neither has it entered into the heart of man the things (my italics) God has prepared for those who love him."

Beware though. Unlike American Express, heaven is not a place where one travels now and pays later. And discount

packages are simply out of the question. Nor are there travel agents. You do your own negotiating with God.

Remember Whitefield's line. "You take care of your life, and the Lord will take care of your death."

Hopefully the late Mr Auden enjoys the miracle

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
4 Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter: He Leads Us Beside Still Waters

Recently, I finished a Great Courses class on the Founding Fathers. The course focused mostly on the construction and implementation of the Constitution of the United States. It included many insights into those remarkable men who convinced our fledgling republic to embrace a system of government that would provide the stability missing in the Articles of Confederation.

Most of these early American leaders were religious people in that they believed in God and trusted in Him to guide the country. At the same time, most of them embraced a philosophy/theology that said that while God was concerned with mankind in general, He was distant from the individual. You might remember that they called this type of religion Deism. Simply put, Deism would say, that God created mankind and is concerned about His People, but He doesn’t get involved with an individual person’s problems or even his or her life.

It is easy for us to fall into a form of Deism, particularly when we consider some of our Easter formulas. For example, we say, correctly, “Jesus died on the cross to save mankind from sin.” Or, “He saved us from the power of the devil.” True again. But if we stop there, we could easily become Deists worshiping a distant but uninvolved God. Jesus does more than just care for mankind in general. He cares for us as individuals. No one is insignificant to Him. There is nothing about any of our lives, no situation, no event, no concern, no fear, no joy that the Lord does not want to embrace. He makes our needs His needs. He loves all of us and each of us. He loves every part of each one of our lives.

To remind us of the Lord’s concern for each one of us, to remind us that He rose from the dead to give His Life to all of us and to each of us, the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter is always taken from John 10, the Gospel of the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd cares for each one of His Sheep. He lays down His life for His sheep. Jesus did not just die for mankind in general. He died for you. He died for me. He knows His sheep. He knows you. He knows me. In fact, He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows everything that has effected our lives from the days when we were in our mothers’ wombs. He knows why we are more joyful or more deeply grieved than others in various situations. For example, He knows that a particular person who works hard on his temper is fighting off problems that person does not even remember. Perhaps there was violence in his home that ended when he was three and the offender was removed. He knows that the reason why one person’s joy is greater than another’s lies deep within the person’s mind. Perhaps he survived a serious illness and now embraces every positive moment of life with the overwhelming joy of someone who values every second of life.

And He saves us from our sins. Each of us. You know, when I come upon that expression, “He saves us from our sins,” I’m tempted to limit this to something like “I can go to heaven because of the Blood of Jesus.” And that is true. But there is more, so much more to “He saves us from our sins.” By saving us from our sins, He delivers us from eternal death. We luxuriate in the Presence of Jesus Christ. We treasure this Presence. We want to remain in this Presence. We look forward to resting in His Presence forever. “May eternal rest come upon him or her,” is not just a prayer we make for others. Within it is the profound hope that we also will rest with Him.

Every one of us is continually tempted to do really evil things, but giving into their temptations carries with it a huge cost. Giving in means giving up Jesus. And, by the Grace of God, we are just not going to do that. And, yes, we are tempted to go out and blow our minds on alcohol or some other chemical, but those sins cost too much. They cost shutting the special Presence of the Lord out of our lives. And yes, we are tempted to live a selfish lifestyle, use other people to satisfy our physical needs and behave more like animals than human beings. After all, the media presents this as normal. But for us, if hedonism is normal, we would rather not be normal. We are not going to sacrifice Jesus Christ for a few moments of pleasure. If TV and the movies portray it normal to be sinful, then we would rather be abnormal for the Lord. We would rather be crazy for Jesus in the eyes of an immoral world.

And this is yet another way that He saves us from our sins. He saves us from sinning. He means too much to us for us to squander His Presence. He means too much to us for us to become presumptive, to think that, well, “I’ll sin now and ask Him to forgive me tomorrow.” There may not be a tomorrow for us. Or, more likely, we may not value forgiveness tomorrow because we may have grown more in love with the sinful lifestyle than with the Lord.

He saves us from our sins. What would we be like without Jesus? Ask yourselves. Be honest. I shutter to think of the things that I would be doing. I consider the sins I commit now and am embarrassed to realize that if this is how I behave when I treasure Jesus’ Presence, how would I behave if I did not treasure His Presence? It is scary. Left to our own devices, left to focusing on ourselves, life becomes frightening.

But we are not left alone. We have the Lord. Because we value His Presence, we are protected from the physical and psychological dependencies that could easily take over our lives. Those who are sober addicts know this so well. Having the Lord in their lives results in their having an all surpassing reason to fight off giving in to the addiction.

The Lord told the parable of the merchant who found the pearl of great price. Everything was sold to purchase that pearl. We have found the pearl of great price. Or perhaps, to put it better, the Pearl has found us. And now we, like the merchant, are willing to do whatever we can to hold onto that Pearl.

Alleluia, we proclaim at Eastertide. Alleluia. Jesus has risen from the dead. He shares His Risen Life with us. Alleluia, He has saved us from our sins. Alleluia, He is still saving each of us from our sins. He means more to us than anything the world can offer. Alleluia. Jesus Christ makes us want to be better than we are. Alleluia, He saves us.

Alleluia we proclaim. We are sheep. And the Good Shepherd has found us, every single one of us.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
4 Easter

I Will Lay Down My Life for the Sheep

(April 25, 2020)

Bottom line: Jesus lays down his life for us so we can lay down our lives for those entrusted to us

"I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Some forty years ago when I was a young priest, I was in a summer meeting with a group of parishioners. All of sudden we heard an explosion like a gun going off. The window in our room shattered. Realizing someone was throwing rocks I started running toward the door with three men behind me. A couple of teenagers stood there with rocks in their hands. Seeing us, they let go of the rocks and began running. Filled with adrenalin I ran faster than I ever had. Unfortunately rounding a corner I slipped. The other three men kept the pursuit and a few minutes later were back marching the two boys in front. The boys were crying. We told them we were not going to call the police, but that we wanted to see their parents. They took us to their home which was not far away. The parents were mortified and promised restitution. That night I lay in bed, my body aching from bruises and scrapes, but I felt good. I was willing to put my body on line to defend the flock. I had a little bit of the feeling young dads - and moms - have. The are willing to physically lay down their lives for their children.

That was forty years ago. Today I would have much to offer as far as physical defense, but Jesus indicates that the shepherd also spiritually defend his flock:

A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.

Who is the wolf? Early Christian writers identify the wolf as Satan. More than ever Satan is attacking us - especially our children. Satan is cruel. Like a roaring lion, he attacks those who are weak and defenseless. He attacks our children and today he has powerful tools. To defend our children, to defend the flock, we have to pull together. We do that as a parish and we do that as an archdiocese. It's our way of uniting with Jesus, the Good Shepherd. 

I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus is the invisible shepherd. Representing him visibly in Western Washington is Archbishop Etienne. I'd to now give some details about our support for and unity with Archbishop Etienne through the Annual Catholic Appeal....

Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He lays down his life for us so we can lay down our lives for those entrusted to us. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
4 Easter

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
4 Easter
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