Response to the Supreme Court Ruling on Homosexual Marraige

     As a man of faith I believe that every human person is deserving of love, justice and equality. Yet it is precisely because I believe in love, justice and equality for all that watching the legalization of homosexual marriage in our great country tears my heart apart. Love, justice and equality must be rooted in truth and today’s decision by our nation’s highest court has attempted to warp our nation’s founding principles of justice and equality for all by twisting the truth of what marriage is.

     While I recognize that two people of the same sex can love each other very deeply, marital love is more than just a deep love between two people; it is a union which expresses the highest form of love available to mankind. Justice Kennedy is correct that “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.”[1] Yet to truly meet that strict criteria, marriage must be a union of a man and woman that is open to life. Through this marital union, a man and a woman, who because of their biological composition are different from each other, bring together their unique qualities for the good of their family, the good of our country and the good of the world. Men and women, while both equal in dignity and deserving of equal rights, are simply different yet designed to be complementary to each other. When a man and a woman join in marriage they bring together their differences to form something greater than they were apart, a fuller love which is simply not possible when two couples of the same sex attempt marriage. After all when two members of the same sex attempt marriage either the genius of the feminine or the genius of the male is missing from their marriage and thus there is something about their marriage that is incomplete. A homosexual marriage, then, is clearly not the highest form of love possible because part is missing. If our country, rightly wants to value the importance and dignity of each individual man and woman, how can we exclude either a man or a woman from the family unit and consider a family complete or whole with one of the two genders missing?

     SCOTUS, in attempting to define what marriage is has tried to lower the standard of love that exists in marriage. They have tried to redefine how human beings interact with themselves at their deepest level. This ruling has effectively washed away the history of our great country and attempted to redefine the future. By redefining marriage, our nation’s highest court, from a legal standpoint, seems to have reopened the gates to the wild west. After all what now keeps our country from legalizing marriage between a person and his pet, or a person and her Barbie Doll?

     In issuing their ruling, the Supreme Court has failed to realize that marriage is about a whole lot more than the romantic relationship of two individuals. Marriage is an institution centered on the procreation and education of the next generation of citizens. Only a man and a woman are designed by nature for the teaks of bringing new children into this world and we know that children receive something biologically, parentally and socially unique from both their father and their mother. In the words of Pope Francis “we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.”[2] What right does a state have to tinker with what has proven over millennia to be the best atmosphere for children, a loving stable family with both a father and a mother? Who is standing up to promote love, justice and equality for children raised a homosexual marriage?

     Our great country was founded by families seeking the freedom to exist beyond oppression. In hijacking love, justice and equality, SCOTUS has effectively extended its oppressive will to all corners of our great nation. Each and every American should be shaken to the core at the flexing of such unprecedented power.

     What comes next? Will my Church who refuses to perform same-sex marriage be stripped of our tax exempt status and sued. After all if a baker can be sued for refusing to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding what is stopping people from suing churches who recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman? As a Catholic priest, will I be arrested, charged and imprisoned for standing for my religious convictions that are millennia old? Will a nation founded under God systematically root out all vestiges of religion under the empirical rule of the Federal Justice System? I don’t know what the future holds for our country, but today I am deeply sadden that the highest court in our land has tried to erase the past and redefine the future. I love our great country, but I cannot violate my own conscience. So while I love all people, want all people to feel welcomed loved and appreciated at my Church and I despise any form of authentic injustice or inequality, I cannot agree with the court and change the definition of what marriage is because after all it’s not up to you, I, a country or the Supreme Court to define what marriage is.

[1] Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in his majority opinion for Obergefell v Hodges issued on 6/26/2015. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf . Pg 28.

[2] Pope Francis. Address to the members of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE). April 11th, 2014. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/april/documents/papa-francesco_20140411_ufficio-cattolico-infanzia.html

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

     JB 38:1,8-11 / PS 107: 23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31 / 2 Cor 5: 14-17 / MK 4:35-41

     A Happy Father’s day to all of our dads. Like most people, when I was younger, I believed my dad was superman. I thought he was the world’s strongest man, he was smarter than anyone else and he was the best athlete in the world. Like many children, anytime I felt threatened or scared I ran to my dad for protection.  Yet, as I grow up I now realize how truly special my dad is, but I have been forced to face the reality that he is human just like the rest of us. While my biological Father may not actually be the world’s strongest man, or the smartest, nor the best athlete in the world, our heavenly Father, who is divine, is truly all knowing, all powerful and all loving. Just as biological Fathers, in their love for their children, seek to provide them with all they need so too does our Heavenly Father desire to provide for our every need.

     In many ways today’s Gospel is a perfect parable for our life journeys. All of us, at times, find ourselves in the midst of the violent storms of life, we find ourselves in the middle of the sea on a boat that is in real danger of sinking and we become so desperate we are willing to try anything to stay afloat. Yet so often it seems that the harder we try to navigate the stormy seas of life, the worse the storms get. I think our lives, at times, continue to spiral out of control because we look inward on ourselves and think we have to control the situation, when in reality, often times the storms of life require the assistance of others. When we were little how many of us never hesitated to run to our dad for protection? Even if it was in the middle of the night and we had to wake him up, wasn’t he often our first choice for protection? Why not become like that little child in our faith lives and run to our heavenly Father in times of need? Why not be like the apostles in today’s gospel and turn to God, who alone has the power to calm the stormy seas?

     While we can easily be tempted to believe we can take control over every aspect of our lives, nothing could be further from the truth. Note that in today’s Gospel, St. Mark gives us the detail that Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat. He was asleep in the back of the boat where the steering is controlled. The disciples had been trying to take control, but in reality it is Jesus who sits at the controls and only when we turn our lives over to Him in complete trust and abandonment and only when we let Him take the controls can we be sure that we will pass through the storms of life unharmed.

     The early Christians saw in the image of the boat a symbol for the Church. The lesson they saw was clear. While the boat, in today’s gospel, was being tossed around, the disciples really had no other choice but to stay in the boat because if they would have jumped out of the boat they would have surely drowned. While storms will come in our lives we must remain right here in the protection of the Church. For when we remain in the Catholic Church, in this parish community with Jesus as the head we have the assistance of a 2,000 year tradition of teaching, we have the assistance of Jesus, the saints and our community to sustain us. Friends “the Church is ‘strength in weakness’ a combination of human failure and divine mercy”[1] and we know that by remaining in the protection of the Church “God makes use of evil in such a superb way and with such skill that the result is better than if there had never been evil.”[2]

     While “it is true: God disturbs our comfortable day – to – day existence,”[3] just as any good Father He is always there to be our protector and our guide, if only we are willing to turn to Him. As we gather this weekend to celebrate our Father’s let’s not forget to honor the Father of us all, God the Father. Let’s once again find the innocence of being the spiritual child of our creator. Why not be united with Him at all times in our thoughts and in our hearts so that when the storms do come we are ready and strengthened to weather them?

[1] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger .Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 223

[2] Wilfrid Stinssen. Into Your Hands, Father Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2011.Pg 15.

[3] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part III. San Francisco: Image, 2012. Pg 103.

Wedding Homily for my brother and sister in law

Perhaps the most abused word in the English language is the word love. Today we claim that we love God, you love your spouse, you love your children, but we also claim to love our dog, we love chocolate and how many of us say we love Laura’s dress? In fact I bet Philip loves that you love her dress and being his brother I love that he loves that you love Laura’s dress. With all this talk of love in the world don’t you think it would be helpful, at this moment, when we celebrate the love between Laura and Philip, to stop for just a moment and ask the age-old question “what is love?”

     The true meaning of love, which we celebrate today, is very simply the expression that I need you. Now this need between you is not 50% of Laura and 50% of Philip coming together as the yin and the yang, but rather 100% of Laura being offered to Philip and 100% of Philip being offered to Laura. You do not need each other to complete you, each of you are your own complete person and it is because you are each your own persons that you are able to give yourself totally to the other. It is this total gift of self to one another that makes your marriage a reality. In fact, as you know, the two of you are the ministers of this sacrament. I stand here as the Church’s witness and to offer the Church’s blessing, but the sacrament of marriage is not confected by me, it is conferred by each of you offering yourself totally to each other.

     My friends to be loved means to know that we are worth it in someone’s eyes. Certainly all of us need to look no further than the crucifix, to see that we are worth it to God, after all He sent His only Son into this world to die for us, but today’s sacrament of marriage reminds all of you who are married that you are also worth it in the eyes of your spouse, and your marriage shows the world a reflection of the love that God has for each and everyone of us. Philip and Laura today, you will stand before us and promise to give yourself completely to each other. You will no longer live for yourself but for the other.

     Your marriage is the way in which you will help each other become who God intends each of you to be; your yes to each other is a promise to make the other a saint. Today you stand not only before your friends but also before God and promise to give yourself totally to your spouse. Just as Christ gave Himself for us on the cross, you promise to lay down your life for one another, after all “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”[1]  Today you promise to give yourself totally, faithfully and fruitfully, until death, to one another, mirroring the love God has for each of us, and you promise to work to bring each other and your children to our heavenly home.

     As you stand before us today and say “I do” you will form a new relationship, the two of you will become one. Your love for one another will unite the two of you into one. The “I” will become the “we”, and the “mine” will become “ours”. By following the example of Christ, in daily laying down your life for one another, the Holy Spirit will increasingly lead each of you through your life long journey on your way to your ultimate goal of eternal life.

     The love we celebrate today is not some romantic idea expressed simply in words or feelings, but rather an expression to each other in your deeds, an expression that says through your way of life that you matter so much to me I will give my life for you. This love you express is not some feeling that may go away later in life. No “to fall into love means to fall into something, and that something is responsibility.”[2] Regardless of where life takes you, you are promising to journey unceasingly with each other on the path to heaven, until death takes you from this earth.  The love you express with complete freedom today seeks to limit your own freedom for the good of the other for “true love by its nature is uncompromising it is the freeing of self from selfishness and egotism.”[3] Through your marriage you will no longer look in on yourself, but outwardly to the other, taking responsibility for the other through faithful married service.

     So then what is this love that we are celebrating today? The great English writer G.K. Chesterton summarized love saying, “Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”[4] Today you come and sacramentally bind your love to each other for the rest of your life. You say to your spouse, you matter so much to me that I am willing to lay down my life for you to lead you to your true and ultimate goal of heaven. While the world puts so many different ideals about love before us, your marriage today is a reminder to us that true love, in imitation of the Blessed Trinity, is a laying down of one’s life for the good of the other. So after today’s wedding when you say to each other I love you, you will be saying in the words of the great 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom “I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us … I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.”[5]

[1] Jn 15:13

[2] Fulton Sheen. The World’s First Love Mary, Mother of God. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press) 2011. Pg. 26.

[3] Fulton Sheen. The World’s First Love Mary, Mother of God. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press) 2011. Pg. 29.

[4] Chesterton, GK. Orthodoxy. (1905 Reprint in Lexington, KY April 2013) Pg. 63.

[5] St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Eph. 20,8:PG 62,146-147.

Corpus Christi Year B

Corpus Christi Year B 

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Ex 24:3-8 / PS 116: 12-13, 15-16, 17-18 / Heb 9:11-15 / Mk14:12-16, 22-26

     When we approach the altar to receive Holy Communion, what will we see? What will we be thinking? What will we be holding in our hearts? How we answer this question depends on if we really believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Notice in today’s Gospel account of the Last Supper Jesus did not say, ‘this is a symbol of my body or this represents my body,’ no, He said, “THIS IS MY BODY.” Likewise with the chalice He did not say ‘this is a symbol of my blood,” but rather “THIS IS MY BLOOD.” To believe the Eucharist is simply a symbol of Christ makes absolutely no sense. “Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?”[1] Further in the Gospel of St. John, Jesus tells us “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.”[2] Just after saying that we must eat His body and drink His blood, St. John recounts that many of Jesus’ disciples left Him and returned to their former way of life. If Jesus were just speaking figuratively don’t you think He would have called back those who were leaving Him saying something like “hold on, it’s not really my body, it only symbolizes my body.” Jesus says what He means and means what He says.

     My brothers and sisters, today’s feast of Corpus Christi reminds us of the inestimable love God has for us, a love so great that He sent His only Son into this world to suffer and die for us and today, He continues to bless us with the opportunity to share in that same sacrifice and thus attain our eternal salvation. In our responsorial psalm, in which we just sang, “the cup of salvation I will raise,” we sang the same words which were sung at the end of the Passover meal. At that Passover meal, which we call the Last Supper, “[Jesus] took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.” In those days that cup was a large cup full of wine with two handles, which was passed around the table as each disciple took a drink which symbolized their friendship and intimacy. The blessing would have begun with a standard Jewish prayer formula: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ” but then Jesus altered the usual blessing. According to St. Mark, Jesus said: “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be poured out for many.” Jesus is obviously speaking about His own Passion, in which He would spill His precious blood for the forgiveness of sins. At the end of the meal, just before He was to be handed over to His death Jesus chanted the psalm “I will raise the cup of salvation, ” and He meant it in a unique way: namely, that He would allow Himself to be raised up on the Cross. His body would weep its precious blood.

     In just a few moments that same cup of salvation will be raised on our altar. The priest cradles the chalice of wine with the hands that were anointed with chrism at his ordination and blesses it by repeating Jesus’ words: “this is my blood.” Then the priest raises the chalice, offering it to the Father. So you see, the priest acts on behalf of Jesus to make His sacrifice present on the altar in this time and in this place. The very same sacrifice that was prefigured by Moses’ sacrifice recounted in today’s first reading, instituted by Christ at the Last Supper and that was enacted at Calvary is made present here so that all of us can share in the same graces He won by His Sacrifice on Calvary. Each of you will also join in the raising of the chalice. By virtue of your baptism, you belong to the common priesthood of believers and so also have a share in Christ’s Priesthood. You partake in offering His sacrifice in your mind and heart along with the priest. So at each Mass bring your regrets, anxieties, fears, uneasiness, joys and gratitude and in the silence of your heart offer them to Christ. Then at Communion when you drink from the chalice, you will literally raise the cup of salvation to your lips, just like the disciples. And while our chalice doesn’t have two handles, there is still a hand-off: from the hand of the priest, to the hand of the baptized. It’s as if we were at the Last Supper sharing the sacrificial banquet with Jesus and the disciples. Yet there is a big difference between the Last Supper and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we celebrate today. At the Last Supper Jesus had not yet died. The disciples partook of the Body and Blood of Jesus prior to His Passion, while we partake afterwards. The disciples received the Body and Blood of Jesus who had not yet suffered. We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus crucified and risen: His glorious Body bearing the marks of His sorrowful Passion.

     What a magnificent gift! “The Eucharist is not just a ritual meal; it is the shared prayer of the Church, in which the Lord prays together with us and gives us himself,”[3] and yet look at all the empty pews! So many people in the world are on a quest for God, as St. Augustine says “our hearts are restless until they find rest in you O God”[4] and He is right here. I bet though, if we were handing out gold or silver every Sunday, there would be a line from here to the arch; we would not have churches large or numerous enough to contain the multitudes that would be fighting to get inside. But our Lord is not content to give us merely earthly satisfaction; He wants us to give us eternal life! Holy Communion gives us strength for it is the most revealing proof of God’s love for us, and the most powerful means of fostering that infinite love in our lives.

     So when we approach the altar for Holy Communion, we should do so with the utmost reverence and presence of mind and heartfelt desire. We should worship the loving sacrifice of Jesus’ Blood poured out for our sins and long to enjoy the salvation that Jesus offers. When we drink from the chalice, Jesus comes into us in a most intimate way. He befriends us. My brothers and sisters, as you receive our Lord in Holy Communion beg the Holy Spirit to open your heart to that friendship. Beg the Lord for the graces that come with Holy Communion. And finally, look forward to the heavenly banquet in which we will recline with Jesus and enjoy His company.

[1] St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Lecture 22 chapter 4 paragraph 1.

[2] Jn 6:53

[3] Joseph Ratzinger Collected Works Vol 11. Pg 534.

[4] St. Augustine. Confessions Book 1 Chapter 1.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Year B

Dt 4:32-34, 39-40 / PS 33:4-5, 6, 9,18-19, 20, 22 / Rm 8: 14-17 / Mt 26:16-20

     Perhaps the hardest course I took in the seminary was the course on the Trinity. This course was filled with minute philosophical distinctions, complex Greek and Latin words for which their were no English translations and it required such precision that changing one letter on some of the words caused you to be a heretic. I remember sitting at my desk preparing for the final exam asking myself why I should even bother to study the Trinity, after all the word doesn’t appear anywhere in the bible and it is a mystery isn’t it? It didn’t take long for me to realize that while the Trinity is truly a mystery, to simply leave it at that does not do justice to God who revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,[1] and while the Trinity is truly a mystery He reveals Himself to us for a purpose, so it is in our best interest to try to understand Him a little better.

     Today’s Gospel gives us the clearest understanding of who our God is. You see in revealing God to be the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Jesus lets us see that our God is a relationship of love. Think about it for just a second. If the Father did not exist then there would be no Son, after all their can be no Son without a Father and if there was no Son then their would be no Father because a father can only be a father if he has a son. Thus our God who is a Trinity, 3 distinct persons in one God must be a God of loving relationship, after all this is what binds the three persons into one. While often times people in our society see God, as some big power in the sky out to seek revenge, today’s Gospel reveals our God to be someone completely different, He is a God of love, who reaches out to us wanting to draw us into that relationship of love.

     A few years ago I met a Muslim man and we began a conversation about our different faiths. After a while he said to me “your faith is beautiful, I wish I could believe that God was a loving Father who wants to draw me into relationship with Him.” While I reminded him that the doors of the Catholic Church are always open, he responded saying “I wish I could believe in your God, but in my faith we are called to submit to God, not enter into relationship with Him.”

     You see the Trinity is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. While the pagans knew to look beyond themselves for God and God revealed Himself to the Jewish people as a Father who had entered into a covenant with His chosen people, it was not until Jesus revealed God to be three in one – three distinct divine persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) yet still one Divine nature (God) that mankind could come to understand that God does not just tolerate each of us, but rather He calls each human person into a personal relationship with Him.

     Who then is this Trinity? While the Trinity will always remain a mystery, the Church, for two thousand years has painstakingly unfolded the teaching of who the Trinity is. Some of the Church’s greatest teachers have used complex philosophy and Greek terms, others like St. Patrick used a three leaf clover. Perhaps the best analogy I know is to think of the Trinity like a family. Each family has many distinct people – a mother, a father and perhaps a daughter. All three of these people are distinct human people, yet they are all one single unit, one single family and they are bound together by a deep life-generating and self-giving love. In fact, is it not the love between the members of the family that binds them together and makes them one? In the same way, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, while three distinct persons, are bound together as one God in love.

     When we come to understand the Trinity as existing in an infinite perpetual love, we come to a radically different understanding of who God is, an understanding of God that is distinct to Christianity. Our faith is not about our quest for God, but rather it is God’s quest for us. In fact, since God subsists in a relationship of love, every action of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit emanates from love. God created the world out of love for us, He rescued His chosen people from slavery in Egypt out of love, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ out of love to redeem us and to give us eternal life and as we recalled last Sunday on Pentecost, He sent His Holy Spirit, out of love to guide us and to help us bring His love to others.

     In revealing Himself as a Trinity, God shows us who He is. Each of the persons of the Trinity, subsisting in an infinite relationship of love, shows us that God does not simply tolerate us; He loves us. The Trinity reveals to us that while God is truly all-powerful, supremely just, knows all, and transcends all, He does not exist to lord power over us, but rather to enter into a loving relationship with us. So when we hear Jesus’ command in today’s Gospel to “go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” we are hearing His invitation to share in His mission. He is calling us not to simply go through the motions of a ritual, or to engage in some kind of intellectual mind game, but rather He is calling us to enter into a personal relationship with Him and to bring people into a relationship with God. God does not simply tolerate us, no He wants to enter into a relationship with us and as Christians our lives should express that we live in a relationship of love with God. God is on a quest to enter into a relationship with us. Will we open our hearts to allow ourselves to enter into that relationship?

[1] MT 28:19

Why I became a priest

     The simple truth is I never wanted to be a priest. Yet now, as I look back on my life, it is clear that God was calling me to the holy priesthood from an early age. I grew up in a very Catholic family; my parents brought me to daily Mass, encouraged family prayer and taught us that the faith should be at the center of our lives, but it was not until the end of my junior year of high school that I first realized the call to be a priest.

     My life, while focused on Christ, was full of distractions. I attended an academically challenging high school, played high school sports and worked a job. With all of those activities and an active social life there was very little time for silence, where I could have heard God’s call. Just before the Triduum, one of the monks who taught at my high school, challenged me to make a three-day silent retreat over the Triduum at the monastery. I agreed to make the retreat, not because I really wanted to spend the time in prayer, but because I was challenged and was not about to back down from a challenge.

     As the silence began to settle in on that retreat, deep down I felt an understanding that I was supposed to be a priest. I had previously been searching for colleges and discerning what to study in college but the thought to become a priest never crossed my mind. Yet as I continued in silence on that retreat the nudge towards the priesthood would not go away and the harder I tried to convince myself that priesthood was not for me the stronger the call became.

     As I left that retreat, on Easter, I found myself lying awake at night for the next few weeks trying to fight off the call to be a priest. While, I had never stopped before to think about where priests come from and I certainly had never heard of a seminary, I had other plans for my life that did not include the priesthood. Since the inner tugging towards the priesthood would not go away I finally gave in and decided to inquire into what it takes to be a priest.

     I approached a priest to inquire what the process was to become a priest; deep down hoping he would tell me not to bother because the priesthood was not for me. Rather then turn me away from the priesthood, he encouraged me and directed me to the rector of the seminary. After visiting the seminary and learning about the formation required to become a priest I felt more comfortable with the idea of becoming a priest, yet I still had other plans for my life. While I had a great respect for the men at the seminary I had no desires to enter the seminary.

     The harder I tried to suppress the tugging towards the priesthood, the stronger the pull to the priesthood became. After fighting the tug for months I came to realize I could not make it go away so I made a deal with God. I promised God that I would spend two years in the seminary and then leave, but in exchange for spending two years at the seminary He would make the rest of my life, after I left the seminary, successful.

Thinking I had tricked God, by promising Him two years at the seminary, I entered the seminary after graduating from High School. As I settled into the seminary formation program and began to spend focused time in prayer I quickly began to realize that I had approached God’s tug towards the priesthood in all the wrong ways. It did not take long for me to realize that there was a lot of selfishness in the “deal” I made with God.

     As I spent focused time in prayer and study at the seminary I quickly began to realize that God, who loves me with an unconditional love and wants me to be happy, was calling me to the priesthood and He certainly wants me to flourish so naturally it became clear to me that following His call was the only wise choice. As that first year in the seminary progressed I entered into a deeper relationship with the Trinity and began to trust God more and more. By the end of my first year in the seminary, I found the courage to change the question from what do I want to do to whom did God create me to be and what where is God leading me. As soon as I changed the question I found myself at peace knowing that I was being called to the Sacred Priesthood.

     In short, the answer is simple, I became a priest because after prayer, study and discernment, I believe that is who God is calling me to be. While I had to overcome my own selfishness and learn to trust the Lord, once I changed the question from “what do I want to do when I grow up” to “who is God calling me to be” I have found great peace in following God’s call to the priesthood. While I know my life will not always be easy or feel fulfilling, I know God has called me to the priesthood and by faithfully living out that call to the priesthood, God will bring me immense joy and peace.

6th Sunday of Easter Year B / Mother’s Day

     I come from a large family and even though my 5 brothers and 5 sisters are scattered throughout the country for school and work, we always try to make it a point to get together as often as possible. A little while back some of us were together and we noticed that it seems like every time someone finds out that we come from a large family, they assume my mom must be a saint. Now all of us certainly think our mom is a saint, but we don’t like the idea of her getting the credit for it, so we decided that anytime someone tells us our mom must be a saint we are going to take credit for it. Growing up, like most people, my siblings and I enjoyed life and we often left our mom no other option than to drop to her knees and pray, so after all why shouldn’t we get some credit for making her a saint?

     As my siblings and I were reflecting back on our childhood we realized that we frequently accused my mom of being too strict, too unpopular, and out of touch with reality, yet as we have grown up we are beginning to realize that our mom was not trying to make our lives a living hell, but rather she only wanted what was best for us, she wanted our joy to be complete. Like all good parents, Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that He wants us to remain in His love so that our joy may be complete. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and before He ascended into heaven, the feast we will celebrate next Sunday, Jesus summoned St. Peter and told him “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”[1] The Church founded by Christ on St. Peter, still feeds us today through the Holy Eucharist, the Word of God contained in Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the bishops, in union with the Pope.

     If you are anything like me, we can at times find ourselves wanting to remain in God’s love, but struggling to know how and our faith can become a source of stress in our lives. Yet there is no need for anxiety because in today’s Gospel, Jesus is very clear, “if you keep my commandments, you remain in my love.” If we simply stay in the Church, following Her guidance in living out the true Christian way, we can be assured of remaining in God’s love and hold out hope for our salvation. My friends, the Church is our mother. Just as mothers often have to put unpopular limits on their children and have to teach them truths that are unpopular, so too the Church must often speak truths that are unpopular and call us to a life that will not always be easy. Yet even when we don’t see it, like all good mothers, our mother the Church, only challenges us in the ways She does because like our own mothers, She knows that it will lead us to remain in God’s love.

     If we are honest with ourselves, I don’t think anyone here would say being a mother is easy, nor is living as a son or daughter always easy. Likewise living in the Church can be hard, but we can never forget that “love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God.”[2] Yet regardless of how hard it was at times growing up with my mom, she was always my mom. Like most of you I love my mom and I am not afraid to tell the world how great she is and I would be the first to defend her, if she came under attack. If we love our own mothers enough to tell the world how much we love them and we are ready to defend them at any cost, shouldn’t we also desire to express our love of our mother the Church and be prepared to defend Her, whenever necessary. I think today’s Gospel and the celebration of mother’s day gives us pause to ask ourselves two questions. First, do we stand up and defend our mother the Church when others attack Her? Secondly, do we take the opportunity to tell the world of our mother the Church? After all we know there are countless people out in the streets near this Church and near our homes that need to hear the message of Christ, but Christ needs your hands, Christ needs your feet, Christ needs your mouths, and Christ needs your lives to spread the message of His love.

     I think as Americans, we often like to think that we can do everything ourselves, but the reality is we can’t get ourselves to heaven on our own, only Christ can lead us to heaven. We need the protection and guidance of our mother the Church to lead us to heaven. We need to root our lives in Holy Mass on Sundays and living as members of this parish community.

     We are blessed to live under the protection of our Mother the Church, but there are many people out there who do not know the motherly love of the Church. We must go out and share the loving message of Christ’s resurrection and the gift of our Mother the Church. People are searching everywhere that their joy might be complete, but we know they will only find the fullness of joy in Christ. Just as someone other than ourselves, whether it was a parent, friend, or someone else, lead us to the safety of the Church, we too must lead others to that same safety, so that our world may truly be a world full of joy and peace.

     My friends find your safety in the Church. Bring others to the protection of our Holy Mother the Church. Come to your mother the Church and have life and have it abundantly.

[1] MT 16:18

[2] Karol Wojtyla. The Meaning of Vocation. United States: Scepter Publishers, 1997. pg 20.