Mass and Homily offered at St. John Paul II Life Center in Austin, Texas.
I admit to being a little intimidated today. I have never done a funeral for a man who chose his pall bearers forty years ago. John’s son, Jack shared with me that when he went to arrange this funeral with the funeral director, he was handed an envelope. John Selman had the entire funeral mapped out. The funeral director said that John opened that file with him in 2015.
We are going to honor John Selman’s wishes today.
However, we have two tasks above all else that we must undertake this morning at this funeral.
What is a “practicing Catholic”? Usually, it means someone who is in Mass every week.
But let’s take another look at it. That seems rather “bare bones”. Someone who lives the Sacramental Life of the Church is certainly a “practicing Catholic”, but let’s go deeper.
Jesus, in the Gospel shows us to go deeper.
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Major countries have constitutions. The constitutions help the countries live in order, peacefully. The Kingdom of God also has a constitution, it’s the Sermon on the Mount.
If we live according to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and the Beatitudes, the world will hate us. Do you know anyone who lives the Beatitudes in their daily life?
Those who live the Beatitudes faithfully will not be passive, but active. Those who are faithful to Jesus’ Beatitudes will run afoul of the world. Ask the Apostles and Martyrs. They refused to follow the official religions and guidelines of the world.
I have read that an estimated 110 billion people have lived on earth since the first humans appeared.
The population that are alive with today on earth is about 8 billion people. Perhaps around 7% of all the people who have ever been born on earth since the beginning, are living today. All the others died physically, as we all will.
Where are those who are perhaps 100 billion dead who lived before us? Where are they? Where did they go?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus shows us how we will become as we undergo conversion and mature in faith.
Today, on the Feast of All Saints, we need to ask ourselves some questions.
Why should the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What could we possibly give them, from us?
Recall that Jesus dealt a lot with tax collectors. He called Levi, the tax collector to follow him, and dined at his house. St. Matthew was a tax collector who became an Apostle and Evangelist.
St. Luke said,
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus responded to them,
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.
During the Mass we offer intercessions for specific prayers of the faithful. We pray for those who have passed away or for our sick, or other special intentions our parishioners have requested. We pray for rain or a respite from the heat of the summer.
In one of the prayers of the Mass we ask the Father,
“Remember also those who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection, and all who have died in your mercy, welcome them into the light of your face.”
That is hope. That is faith.
Jesus taught us to pray. Jesus gave us prayers that we still use in his own words. The Mass is the greatest prayer we have, and he gave us the words. And he gave us the Lord’s Prayer as a model for all prayer, and to help prepare us for the coming of God’s Kingdom.
As we come out of the pandemic, it is becoming more and more obvious to me that the greatest damage of the pandemic and quarantine did not come from the virus.
Something even worse has been happening, here on earth. The way we responded to the pandemic has greatly wounded our humanity and our faith. Adults and children are struggling and suffering in ways that were not seen before the pandemic.
Here we are preparing to celebrate July 4th, the birthday of our nation, and give thanks for all the blessings we have in our country. We can also ask, “How are we doing as a nation?”
We are emerging from the Pandemic, but Covid still lingers in our neighborhood. This past week three of our team tested positive for Covid, including Fr. Gallo, Sister Olga, and Sister Lucero. The strangest thing for me was that it happened to the day, exactly two years ago in 2020, when Fr. Froy, Fr. Jose, Sister Olga and Sister Lucero and I tested positive on the same day for Covid. July 2020 was a tough month for all five of us.
In the second reading today, we hear the earliest known text of the Eucharist, written in a letter to the Corinthians around the year 56 AD, some 20 years after Jesus’ Crucifixion. St. Paul wrote:
Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Paul was sharing what the early Church had been practicing ever since Jesus’ Resurrection and Pentecost, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
That was the practice of the early Church, and it still is, now some 2,000 years later.
At the Last Supper,
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
This past week we had First Confessions and First Communion for many of our young people. I couldn’t help but be concerned, once again, that these children were not ready, despite two years of formation. They still didn’t yet get it. As pastor, each time this happens, I cannot help but experience some anxiety and concern for them. Then, I go back and read Jesus words at the Last Supper,
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.”
Recently, I spoke of how Simon didn’t understand his new title, “Peter”/Cephas/Rock. It took a while for Simon to become Peter. He received the title well before he understood how to be Peter.
You have heard me ask the question, “Where did Jesus go after his resurrection?” Remember the answer?
Jesus went into the Church. That is fundamental to our understanding of Church over the past 2,000 years, based upon scriptures.
Some 500 years ago there began a schism which has shattered many Christians into innumerable factions, perhaps as many as 50,000 different churches today, creating the impression in many quarters that the Catholic Church is just one more of those factions. The Reformation was a divisive schism leading to more factions, each with its own peculiar little twist or emphasis. This happened because many rejected the apostolic teaching authority of the Church.
Meanwhile the apostolic Church has survived. And Jesus lives in the Church. The teaching authority of the Church remains.
Here, in the third week of Easter, the Church continues to unpack the mystery of the Resurrection. The story of the Resurrection cannot be told without the foundation of the Church as part of the Resurrection mystery. And the foundation of the Church cannot be understood without understanding the role of Peter.
Few topics create divisions for Christians like the role of St. Peter. Disputes over the role of Peter and his successors in the Church have resulted in centuries of division among Christians, like Protestants, and before them, the Greek Orthodox. Roman Catholics and many others claim the primacy of Peter and his successors.
Have you ever been afraid to speak the truth?
We live in times when others want to restrict our right to speak our thoughts freely. Our Constitution guarantees us the Right to Free Speech as a basic right of American citizens.
Yet we observe every day that there are many, many layers of restrictions upon speech. This is particularly true of “Righteous” speech. In fact, it is not considered “polite” to speak of your faith in public. We can easily become isolated from others or even disenfranchised if they disapprove of our speech.
Some 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, the Temple and the city walls. They killed or carried off into exile most of the upper and middle classes of Jerusalem, taking them as slaves to Babylonia. The Jews remained in Exile for approximately 70 years, or two generations.
After those 70 years in Exile, the King of Persia, Cyrus, who had conquered Babylon, gave permission to the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem. None of those who went into Exile were still living. None of them knew Israel or Jerusalem, except for the faith and family stories which had been handed down to them in families of Faith. They were a defeated, devastated people.
The season of Advent is really short, lasting only four weeks. The only liturgical season shorter is Christmas, which lasts twelve days. Today and this week we bring the season of Advent to a close, as this is the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Advent teaches us something very important about God and our relationship with Him. Unlike every other religion, Jews and Christians teach that God comes to us. God created us. Others believe the same.
God loves us. Not all religions teach that God loves us.
More important is the fact that God comes to us. No other religion teaches that God comes to us. Advent. “Advenio”, “Advenir” in Latin. He comes. Our God comes to us. That is the most important lesson of the season of Advent.
In Advent, we learn again of God coming to us. “Advenio” in Latin. He comes. Our God comes to us. Several years ago, after 9/11, as a Deacon, I did a lot of work with Muslims on behaf of our Bishop. I worked in their mosques and with their Imams. I learned their concept of God. God, for them, never comes to them. They must go out to God to pray. They take off their shoes and kneel before him as they attempt to go to Him. For Muslims, God does not live in our world. God has no sons. God is not a Trinity. God is “out there”. He only speaks to us through “prophets”.
As Christians we celebrate the fact that our God comes to us. This is why we have Advent and Christmas. God never leaves us. We are baptized into Him, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us that if we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we will have eternal life within us. That is our Eucharist. We consume Him. He lives in us. We are invited to live with Him forever.
Forever. Eternity. What is that?
Christians are not strangers to persecution. Throughout Salvation History we see persecution and martyrdom of those who refuse to renounce their Faith in God.
Most people don’t realize this, but less than a hundred years ago, Mexico was one of the most advanced Catholic countries in the world, with Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals, orphanages, monasteries and convents. Less than a hundred years ago, in Mexico, a 14 year-old Mexican boy, José Luis Sánchez del Río, “Joselito”, was detained by Mexican soldiers in the Cristero War. They tortured him for his faith, even cutting off the flesh souls of his bare feet and made him walk barefoot through the town to the cemetery where he was killed by the soldiers. Along the way they cut him with machetes and taunted him to get him to renounce Jesus Christ. At times they stopped him and said, ‘If you shout, “Death to Christ the King” we will spare your life’. José would only shout, ‘I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey!’” “Joselito”, as he was called, was canonized as a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI. Saint Joselito. This fourteen-year old was faced with “apostacy”, as the church calls it, the renouncing of our faith. He stood firm against apostacy and held on to his faith.
I once heard a woman say, “I think my husband was made out of mud. I was created from the rib of a human being. That explains everything.”
Men and women say lots of things about each other. However, what Sacred Scripture says about men and women is of paramount importance, especially in these days when secular culture is putting so much energy into changing the way we see ourselves and in comments about marriage and the way we relate to one another. This event regarding Divorce happened as a challenge to Jesus. Listen again to the challenge, and Jesus’ response.
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.