Category Archives: Homilies and Talks

Homilies

Reflection for 7/1/22 – Fr. Michael Casagram

+Our text from the prophet Amos this morning is not an easy one to listen to. We are aware of the injustices in our own world, where the poor continue to be oppressed and where we are exposed very little to the plight of refugees or those without food to survive. The rich are in control of so much of the news and public thinking. And are we facing a famine for hearing the Word of God, facing a lack of inspired leadership among Nations?

Our gospel offers us some relief when we find Jesus sitting down to eat with tax collectors and sinners, reminding the Pharisees that God desires mercy and not sacrifice, that he himself has come not to call the righteous but sinners. May he have mercy on the sinful world of today and help us all to hear God’s word even now being spoken amid all the turmoil of our time.

(Amos 8:4-6, 9-12; Matthew 9:9-13)

Homily – Fr. Anton – Feast of the Sacred Heart

Love should be a 2-way street, going and coming,  back and forth.

But when love is one-sided, Unrequited, never gets returned,

            it’s  one of the most painful things we experience –

Our best theater, opera, literature, how many popular songs?

            reflect real-life tragedies, which prove:

 No one has the power to make another love them.

 

It even showed up in “Peanuts,”  by Charles Schultz.

His 18,000 strips,  close to 50 years of art, contained a lot of Heartbreak.

Schulz never intended  to write ‘Peanuts’   for children,

he used kids as a vehicle, it allowed him to use different themes, that would be heavy if an adult said them.

 

He showed a lot of heartbreak in scenes where Peppermint Patty loves Charlie Brown,

            but Charlie Brown loves the Little Red-Haired Girl,

where Sally loves Linus, who loves his teacher, Miss Othmar.

Lucy loves Schroeder, who wants nothing more than to play Beethoven on his toy piano.

These crushes may seem funny and sweet, but in one strip Lucy attacks her rival.

She flings Schroeder’s toy piano into the “kite-eating tree,” which chomps the instrument to dust.      Heartbreak is painful, in fiction and in real life both.

 

Today we celebrate a Feast of God’s love,

a divine love that was strongest on the Cross, when the Sacred Heart was literally torn apart for us, as the soldier’s lance pierced Christ’s side.

A love so strong, that it desires   ‘no one may be lost,’

including you and me,  ‘no one may be lost.’

But it also is a love that is unreturned.

As He said to St Margaret Mary Alacoque, the Apostle of the Sacred Heart,”

“Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it spared nothing,

even to exhausting and consuming itself,

in order to testify to that love;

and in return, I receive from the greater part, only ingratitude.”

 

He points to his Sacred Heart,   surrounded by thorns,  pierced with a sword,  consumed with fire.       His plea is for Love, because all that He has done,           all his redemptive work …

becoming human … his Passion and suffering … dying on the cross  … all the Love that He has offered  us time and again,

could be in vain unless we return His Love.

 

Sometimes we imagine  Christ didn’t really suffer like we do; that he possessed some Divine advantage that made his suffering different, somehow less painful.

 

On the contrary, that’s precisely what makes God’s love so great:

While we were still sinners, He took the initiative,

He became human,  like us in all things, except sin.

He labored and loved, sweat and bled, He suffered.

“By his wounds we have been healed.”

But there was the  risk. 

Even the almighty King of the Universe has no power to make us love Him in return.

 

As he passed through a village on his  way to Jerusalem, someone asked Jesus,

“Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

Just that thought probably broke his heart,  His merciful heart which longed that everyone be saved.  It pained Him to think that His Love and Mercy might not be accepted,

might not be  received.

 

In the Temple,  Jesus cried out in grief:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers!

How often I’ve wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

 

Closer to His Last Supper, Jesus  wept over Jerusalem, because of their defiant ignorance: “If only you had known the things that make for your peace!

The day will come when your enemies will surround you,

hem you in on every side, tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you,

not leaving  one stone upon another, because you did not accept the time of your visitation.”

 

His grief and tears, because, although     Humans can offer love,  God can offer love …

…  You can’t force anyone to  Love you!

 

Yet Jesus never gave up.

Even on the Cross,  as  the Romans were putting him to death,

as His own people were mocking Him… 

when you and I  would have cried out for vengeance,

              His Heart was moved with a pity that  comes from genuine love.

In His last plea, Jesus cried out for mercy and forgiveness.

 

“Who is there who would not love this wounded heart?”   St Francis of Assisi asked.

            “Who would not love in return   Him, who loves us so much?”

 

That’s the risk.  Christ knowingly took it.

Knowing that not even God almighty has the power to make us love Him in return.

 

Of all possible Feasts, today should be the day we specially return His love.

Homily – Fr. Timothy – “Into your hands I entrust my Spirit”. 6/23/22

Today we celebrate the birth of a man, the cousin of Jesus; the precursor of the Messiah; the first to experience the way of the new messiah.

We know the beautiful human story; a child of promise conceived in old age and the young niece, Mary, comes to assist the aged mother. The friends and relatives rejoice and are concerned about his name, John.

We know of his special mission from the hymn sung by his priest father, Zechariah. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people”. Zechariah includes the life of his child in the Benedictus, the panoramic view of salvation history. He gives thanks because the child will foretell the Messiah.

And we know how the child would experience the new Messiah, the new Moses; the Savior of all. When from his prison, John sent his disciples to ask Jesus to perform the work of Messiah in his life, to save him from the hand of the pagan murderer Herod. Jesus answer was, “and blessed is anyone who takes no offense in me.”

Rather than save John’s life by a mighty act which the Chosen People always expected from their God, Jesus told John that the new reign of God is the way of powerlessness. It is the gift of eternal life after having passed through the mystery of death. This is the way that Jesus would show us from the cross. This is the witness Jesus asked of the man John, his precursor who was about to lose his head at the whim of a dancing girl.

Monks have always found in John the Baptist something of a model. His life of austerity; his single-hearted joy in Jesus; his giving place to the true Messiah, called to us to follow the example. But above all we should model the last great act of John and not take offense at the Lord our God who will ask each of us the same faith and hope which will bring us into the eternal life of God.

What John was asked to do, what each of us will be called to experience is precisely what Jesus did. No longer will the Kingdom be established by mighty armed victories. The new Kingdom is founded on the personal commitment of each person. Jesus will give us the way and it is the way that John the Precursor was called to experience; it is the way of Jesus. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemani that this chalice of suffering and degradation would be taken from him. This was John’s request when he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. John was requesting to be saved from his hour; from the impossible situation caused by the pagans. Should not the Messiah for whom the entire life of John has been spent save his precursor?

No! John as the Precursor of the new Messiah must enter into the mystery of death with the faith and hope that offers his life into the hands of the Father. As Jesus in his final moment will pray – into your hands I entrust my Spirit.

As we celebrate this Eucharist we pray with John the Baptist and with Jesus, “into your hands I entrust my Spirit”.

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram, Becoming Living Members of Christ’s Body, 6/19/22

+BECOMING LIVING MEMBERS OF CHRIST’S BODY      19 June ‘22

This Sunday and each day of the week, the priest representing Christ, takes bread at this altar, giving thanks he raises it up saying: “This is my Body”. And then he takes the cup with wine saying: “This is my Blood which will be poured out for you and many for the forgiveness of sins.”

What takes place here at this altar is to take place in each of our lives all day long. Jesus, giving us his Body and Blood is an act of infinite love that seeks to evoke from each of us the total gift of ourselves in love for God and one another.

As St Paul has just reminded us in his first letter to the Corinthians recalling Christ’s words, this is Christ’s body for you, this is the cup of the new covenant in his blood, the blood carrying the very life of what is sacrificed. Each one of our lives is to become one with that of Christ so that we radiate his presence in everything we think, do or say. This Solemnity of Corpus Christi is to be a feast of the whole Christ, of our own lives as living members of his Body. It is to be our own feast in a  profound sense if God incarnate is going to be experienced in our world today and isn’t this the meaning of the “new covenant” St Paul has told us about.

Our gospel from St Luke speaks to us on many levels. The apostles are worried about the crowd that has gathered around them in a deserted place, where there is no lodging or provisions. Jesus tells them to give those gathered food themselves though they have practically nothing to give to such a huge gathering, only a few loaves of bread and two fish. What a beautiful description of the many life situations we all find ourselves in.

What is expected of us, what we know needs to happen far exceeds our limited capacities. Whether it is the demands of family or community, facing a failed relationship, disillusionment with what is happening in the Church, our own weakness and sinfulness, being the loving persons we are called to be seems impossible. Here is when we hear Jesus asking us to trust in him, inviting us to give him our very limited resources which he will bless and then be used to meet all our needs and those of all around us.

Each of our lives is to become Eucharist for others all the day long as we allow our lives to be blessed and given in love to all in need. Whether it is how we get out of bed in the morning, offer our morning prayer or the Divine Office we are committed to, whether it is thinking of others’ needs before our own, sharing a kind word rather than a critical one, whether working rather than seeking comfort, giving a gracious smile rather than downcast eyes, showing compassionate rather than being judgmental, it is all about being Christ’s presence to all around us, to all  with whom we live and work each day.

When the priest, representing Christ, says at this altar “this is my Body, this is my Blood of the New Covenant we are each and all being called to be one with his loving sacrifice, a sacrifice that is to continually giving new life to our world.

(Gen. 14:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Lk 9:11b-17)

Homily – Fr Lawrence – Trinity Sunday 6/12/22

Dear Brothers and Sisters – Way back sometime in the 4th century B.C., Plato wrote a dialogue called The Symposium. In it, a bunch of friends, including Socrates, are sitting around drinking. One of them says, “Let’s all make a speech about love,” and everybody thinks this is a grand idea. So they go around the table giving speeches. Among the group is Aristophanes, the Greek comedian. He’s a pretty funny guy. So for his speech he tells this story.

            Humans were originally built with four legs, four arms, two faces, and so on. They were very strong, and could travel by sticking out their arms and legs and rolling around like a ball. The problem was that they were so strong, they challenged the Gods, Zeus, Apollo, Hera, Athena, that bunch. So the Gods held a council and decided that the humans had to be reduced somehow. So Zeus took his thunderbolt, and struck every human with it, slicing them in two right down the middle. Now they only had two arms and two legs and were not nearly as strong. And Zeus told them, “Watch it, if you act up any more, I’ll cut you in half again, and you’ll be hopping around on one leg!” During all this disruption, the humans were scattered all over the place. Each of them had a deep longing for his or her other half, the half they’d been split from. So they spent their lives looking for this other half. And if by chance they’d find him or her, they immediately slammed together, making themselves one again, with four legs, four arms, etc. and presumably lived happily ever after.

            It’s a funny story, but it has some profound meanings. We all have the nagging feeling that we are not complete in ourselves, that we need someone else to be fulfilled as a human being. Some of us have been lucky enough to find “our other half,” as we say, and with love, and some hard work added in, have found contentment in a relationship.

            The point is that love needs at least two people, a lover and a beloved. In Aristophanes’ story, there is a third element needed when the two halves of a person come together. They need love, as a glue of sorts, to hold them together. So love isn’t love without two people and the love between them.

            We hear the Gospel of John say, “God is love.” Some of us may think that this means that God radiates love, that God is infinitely loving, or that God’s love for us is inexhaustible. These things are true, but that’s not the same as saying “God is love.” Saying “God is love” means that God in God’s self, in God’s very being, before any external object, is love.

            This, I believe, is at least one way of looking at the Trinity. As we’ve said, there is no love without two and the love between them. So, within the Trinity we have the Father and the Son, and between them, their love for one another, the Holy Spirit. This love flows between them in a circle, the Father’s love for the Son flowing back from the Son to the Father.

            Of course, it’s almost impossible to avoid seeing the Trinity in our poor earthbound imaginations as two people, the Father sitting over there, and the Son sitting opposite gazing fondly at each other, with the Holy Spirit like some kind of sparkly CGI energy in between them, all three wrapped up in a glowing orb. But of course, the reality can’t be like that. There aren’t two or three separate people in the Trinity. They are one in being. We say there are “three persons” in the Trinity, but that’s not much help, because “persons” simply refers back to the Trinity. The Trinity is the only occasion when we use the word “persons” in this sense. We also say that Christ incarnate is one person with two natures, just to confuse things a little more.

            Our readings today use the image of being “poured out.” The character of Wisdom in Proverbs is often associated with Christ. The prologue of John’s Gospel makes this connection, the Word, as co-creator. So in our first reading, when Wisdom says “from of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth,” we might take this description as applying to the second Person of the Trinity. In the second reading, Paul says, “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” The Holy Spirit too is “poured out.” This image of the persons of the Trinity being a sort of liquid might help to break down our anthropomorphic image of the Trinity, the Father as an old guy with a white beard, the Son looking like our favourite painting of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as a bird. At least the description of the persons of the Trinity as liquid might help us to realize how indefinable, how indescribable, how strange God actually is.

            This image of Persons of the Trinity being poured out brings us to another fundamental trait of God. The love that the persons of the Trinity have for one another is not internal, locked within the Trinity, not something they enjoy for themselves. Instead this love overflows from the Trinity out to creation, and in fact causes creation.

            Our first reading today gives us a delightful picture of the relationship between the Father and Wisdom, whom we identify with the Son. They are inseparable. “When the Lord established the heavens I was there.” They are co-workers in the act of creation, “I was beside him as his craftsman.” But this work of creation is not merely work, but a delight. “I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth.” What a great image. The act of creation is an act of play, fun, delightful. “Let’s make a platypus.” “Oh wait, I know, a DUCK-BILLED platypus!” And this same love spills over to us – “I found delight in the human race.” In a sense, the created world is what God’s love for us looks like. And in the created world, we are told that humans hold the highest place in God’s eyes. We are the very manifestation of God’s love for us.

So when scripture says that “God is love,” this means that God is love in itself, that God is pure relationship. There is no division in will between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Christ says, “He will glorify me because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” What is Christ’s also belongs to the Holy Spirit. He goes on, “Everything that the Father has is mine,” which is to say that what the Holy Spirit takes from the Son also belongs to the Father. In other words, the three Persons share everything with each other. But the point is that this sharing extends to us, to humanity. The Holy Spirt comes to share with us at least some of what the Trinity shares within itself.

We are made in the image of God. We each are little pictures of the Trinity. We all have this image of the Trinity buried deep within us. It has been obscured by our fallen nature, but it is still there. And the love that the Holy Trinity has for us is also meant to overflow, from us. And it does. It overflows in love for each other. The Holy Trinity teaches us that the love between the lover and the beloved naturally overflows beyond the immediate relationship. When we first fall in love, we want to share this love with the world. We have found our other half, as Aristophanes said. But love does not remain static, closed in on itself. Love is creative. As love matures, it bears fruit. For many of us, this means that the love between two people overflows into a family. For others, it means that the love we have inside us reaches out to our brothers and sisters in religious life, and to God directly. Love is creative. By its very nature it reaches out, beyond ourselves. It is what makes us need each other, to know each other, to interact, to relate. It is what makes us human and through Christ’s love for us, it’s what makes us divine.

Reflection – Fr. Michael Casagram – Being non-violent 6/13/22

+Today’s gospel provides us with some of the most challenging words ever spoken. Jesus saying to his disciples “offer no resistance to one who is evil..if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.” How different this is from the story we just heard from the Book of Kings, about what was done to Naboth due to Ahab and Jezebel being deceived by wealth and power.

As Fr Louis or Thomas Merton has pointed out in his Journals, as consecrated monks “restricting non-retaliation merely to physical non-retaliation is not enough—on the contrary, it is in some sense a greater evil.” If we are going to be truly non-violent as Jesus was, it means being so with our hearts, being truly loving persons in all circumstances.

One cannot help seeing the wisdom of what Jesus is teaching us in the face of all the gun violence in this country, the war in Ukraine,  the abuse in family life and the necessary care of our planet if we are to survive.

(1 Kgs 21:1-16; Mt 3:38-42)

 

Reflection – Fr. Michael Casagram – Pentecost

+THE SPIRIT MOVES WHERE IT WILLS

It is the day before Pentecost, a day of prayer to ask our loving God for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on each and all of our lives, on our Church and the world we live in.

We, like Peter in our gospel, want to map out the lives of others but it is more than enough for any of us to simply follow Jesus. Paul didn’t expect to spend the last years of his life in prison but this is where the Spirit led him. He remained there a full two years, receiving all who came to him, proclaiming to them the Kingdom of God.

Wherever we are, whatever we may be called upon to do, we are to be messengers of God’s very own divine life if we are true to the Spirit that comes daily to live in our hearts. May this be a day of prayer for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on each of us and on all of the human family.

(Acts 28:16-20, 30-31; John 21:20-25)

Homily – Fr Carlos – Hope

Even after the Resurrection there is still a lacking element in human life, that is, the Holy Spirit. The complete revelation of God will come when the Spirit too comes to live in the hearts of men. It is the Spirit that makes us understand the words of Christ in its fullest meaning. No one can understand the word of God if he or she is not inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Peace is a very precious commodity today. There are many ways of attaining worldly peace. It is a very lucrative business, billion-dollar business: like yoga centers, exercise club, meditation groups, counselling, zazen, sophisticated but expensive places where you could relax after a stressful week, etc. This is the kind of peace the world gives. However, the peace does not last so one must come back for more. That is why Jesus said that His peace is different from the peace the world gives. If you receive Jesus’ peace your hearts will not be troubled. The peace of Christ creates in the person a firm grasp of reality and it’s meaning. It becomes characteristic of a person, part of his/her personality You will have no stress.

Stress, in most cases, comes when we cannot get what we desire, or things do not happen the way we want them to happen. The Christian is not anxious that he does not see Jesus now. Jesus is in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will do what Jesus has done for us. The Holy Spirit will make us understand all the words and deeds Jesus has done.

Peace comes when we understand that Jesus has gone to the Father so that He will prepare for us wonderful blessings which we have not even thought of before and much greater than any of the desires and wishes we ever had. True peace is when you want nothing anymore except that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit live in your heart. There will be no temple in heaven, no need for sun and moon because the glory of God will shine on all.

Jesus in this farewell, reveals the depths of his love. His leaving them in earthly form albeit glorified form of his resurrection, will be a boundless joy for those who loved Him because He and the Father will now dwell in them. The Almighty Father because of the redeeming power of his death and resurrection will now dwell in the hearts of believers. The seeing stops and the believing through the Holy Spirit begins. The eye loses its function to see; and the whole being, the whole person that is the Christian now experiences the indwelling of the Trinitarian God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It will be now the power of the Triune God which will be source of power and strength for the believers to live in the world that seems alien to the spirit that is reigning in their hearts. They do not abandon the world but do everything to bring to others the joy and peace of having God dwell in their hearts and minds. The true believer will be no longer anxious if there is a lack in his or her life for, they believe that God will provide for them like He provides for the birds of the air. The key to this oneness with God is through love of Christ, the Son of God. No one goes to the Father except through the Son. However, this is not merely a horizontal love. John warned Christians: if you say you love the Father who you cannot see and not love your neighbor who you can see, you are a liar.
How does one detect a Christian in the world today: They are those who rejoice over the different gifts God has given its members; they will be those who are out there in the battlefield fighting for justice and rights of human beings; the right to life, those who bring honesty into politics, those who struggle for freedom of religion, for freedom to express one’s opinion and not be harassed, strongly defend the dignity of all human beings. In all these the true Christian rejoices over and not criticizing or hating them for doing such worldly things. Christians know that their duty is the change the face of the earth in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our holiness comes precisely for bring about the spirit and values found of the Kingdom of God in our world. We find the world today in a crisis with problems of war, violence, injustice, oppression, and exploitation of the poor. Many leaders call themselves Christians, but we fail to see the power of God working in them. The Gospel today challenges us to ask ourselves: is God dwelling in me and as Jesus promised? Do I experience the Love when Jesus and the Father dwells in me? The power of Easter can only be seen in Christians who live happily and full of hope despite the hostile world they live in. There are no external proofs of Easter like seeing the resurrected Lord in person.
After all Christ did not promise a life of security unaffected by what is happening in the world. The power of Christians is the power of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling of the Father and the Son. They will be like the sun and the moon that will lighten the darkness of this world. There is hope always because Easter has made our God even closer to us – no matter what our eyes and ears see and hear about our world.

Reflection for 5/17/22 – Fr. Michael Casagram

+We hear again this morning from the Last Supper discourse in John’s gospel. Jesus tells his disciples that he leaves his peace with them but it is not the peace of this world. This was clearly the case in the lives of Paul and Barnabas of whom we just heard about from the book of Acts. Paul found himself stoned by his own people because he proclaimed the good news.

Wherever we are as Christians, to persevere in the faith means realizing “ it is necessary ..to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” The whole mystery of Christ’s dying and rising is being lived out in each of our own lives and strangely enough this is a sure sign of their authenticity.

In our gospel, Jesus is about to face suffering and death but he is doing so because of his great love for the Father. It is this love that he shares with each and all of us, a love that enabled Paul and Barnabas to proclaim the good news in season and out of season. Here at the Eucharist, the supreme act of Christ’s great love is not only made present but is given to each of us so as to fill our hearts.

(Acts 14:19-28; Jn 14:27-31a)

Reflection – Fr. Michael Casagram – Eucharist

+Jesus inviting his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood gave cause as it does even today, for many to say “who can accept it?” It is a challenge to any of us who would be his followers for instinctively we know it means becoming one with his very own way of life, sharing in his suffering and death so as to share also in his glory.

To eat Christ’s flesh and to drink his blood means entering each day anew into his self-giving love in a world where self-interests and self-preservation are constantly encouraged.

As Christians we are all being called to discern each day what it means to be followers of Christ, to be persons of prayer so that we are not only able to do some honest discernment but to live into that fullness of life to which we are called, to be one with Christ, God’s very own beloved sons and daughters.

(Acts 9;31-42; John 6:60-69)