June 27, 2014 - Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Deuteronomy 7.6-11
Psalm 103.1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 10 Resp. 17
1 John 4.7-16
Matthew 11.25-30

Today we celebrate the preeminent devotion, the greatest devotion of Christianity: the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the Sacred Heart we celebrate the human body of our Savior. The heart deservedly stands as a symbol of the whole body. It is at the center of the body, and the heartbeat is evidence of the life of the body. In the Sacred Heart, we worship the actual organ in the body of our Savior, beating from the time of its formation in the womb of the Blessed Mother, beating while he preached forgiveness and healed the sick, stopped by the Cross, pierced by the lance, begun again at the Resurrection, and still, today, beating in the body seated at the right hand of the Father.

Further, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is devotion to the love of Jesus, the twofold love of Jesus: the divine love and his human love. The Sacred Heart is truly symbolic of the love of God which created the world and which redeemed a fallen world, but it also expresses the fully human love which Jesus had for the crowds, for the suffering, for his disciples, particularly for the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” The Sacred Heart loved not only with the love of God, but also was the perfect human heart, loving in right relationship all things.

We are convicted by the Sacred Heart for our lack of love. If it were only a symbol of divine love, the love which created us, so stunning in its infinity, an infinity which is for all but no less infinitely for each, we are by definition incapable of such love, but, since it is also a symbol of Jesus’ human love, we are indicted when we see how much love a human heart is capable of. Consider how, in comparison, we love so little. How small is our love for our families, our friends, and our enemies! How little compassion do we have for the sick, the poor and the suffering!

The love, both human and divine, symbolized by the Sacred Heart is an unrequited love. Through all human history, God has loved humans with an everlasting love, but humans have ignored and insulted this love. There is no greater symbol of the human response to God’s love than the Sacred Heart pierced by a lance. Humans respond with violence against the very symbol of God’s love, as if, unable to repay the love, and refusing to be in debt, they try to destroy the love of God. Yet the lance, rather than destroy the Sacred Heart, only opens it further, pouring forth blood and water in the final symbol of the complete gift.

Jesus invites us today to learn from him, for he is meek and humble of heart. Let us take him up on this generous invitation. If we think that we know anything or have a certain amount of wisdom, but we have not yet learned about love, we are mistaken. We will be truly wise when we are masters of love: the love God has for us, the love we return to God, the love God has for everyone else, the love we have for those whom God loves. All this love is one Love. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” We will not be masters of love until the beating of our hearts is in perfect sync with the Sacred Heart. Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto yours.

June 26, 2014 - Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

The stronger the foundation, the more work which is required to build on that foundation. Sand is a weak foundation, so it is easy to dig a few feet into the sand and bury the anchors for the house. Rock is a strong foundation, so it requires a great deal of work to break through even a few feet.

Jesus contrasts the one who listens to his words and acts to the one who listens to his words and does not act. According to the analogy they have both built a house. Indeed, if we consider the analogy further we can understand that the rock is located under the sand. It is not as if the rock were bare rock. Wherever there is sand, there is bedrock underneath, perhaps 100 feet underneath, but it is there.

So the fool listens to the words of Jesus, nods in agreement, smiles even, then goes home and keeps living. Perhaps, occasionally, he tries to act according to the words that he heard, if it is not too hard. The wise man hears the words of Jesus and begins digging. He digs through 100 feet of sand, hits rock, and begins chipping away at the rock. Only then does he build his life.

It sounds like a lot of work. It is a lot of work. Following Christ requires more than a smile and a nod. It is not easy to build a spiritual life that is anchored in the rock, but it is worth it. As Jesus teaches us, when the winds come and the floods rise, the house built on sand will not stand. We are going to have trouble in this world. We must build our faith to withstand the trouble.

If we listen to the words of Jesus and act on them, a faith will be built in us that cannot be blown over, no matter how strong the winds. If we listen to the words of Jesus and act on them, a hope will be built in us that cannot be drowned, no matter how high the waters reach. Unquestionably, the storms are coming. If we play at being Christian, we are building a play house that cannot stand up to anything. If we take Christianity seriously, more seriously than we have ever taken anything, more seriously than we take money, more seriously than we take sports, more seriously than we take

June 25th, 2014 - Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3
Psalm 119.33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40 Resp. 33a
Matthew 7.15-20

After many kings who did evil, King Josiah began the work of restoring the temple. When the book of the Law was found during the restoration, he wept and committed himself fully to the Law. He had it read to the people so that they too could follow the Law. King Josiah begins anew the covenant between Israel and the Lord. He rids Israel of the pagan religions and celebrates the Passover of the Lord, that great feast which had not been celebrated for hundreds of years.

So what happened to the great King Josiah, who “turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might”? He died. He was killed in battle by the Pharaoh of Egypt who took over the country until the Babylonians arrived a decade later. And the sons of Josiah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Josiah never really had a chance to make his reforms stick. Too much evil had been done in Judah by the previous generations, and it is not so easy to undo centuries of evil with one good king.

So also in our spiritual lives. One good intention is not enough to undo a lifetime of sin. One good retreat or one good prayer will not change us. Our willingness to sin has made us weak. We confess our sins, but then we return to them. It is not possible to give in to temptation a thousand times and then simply decide to stop sinning, not without grace. God can accomplish anything in us, if we allow him, but allowing him may be dangerous. To purify the Israelites, God sent them into exile for 70 years. Who knows how God will purify us! It probably will not be pleasant or easy. Perhaps we are afraid of life without sin, or of the suffering that will free us from our sins. We would so like to start over fresh, as if none of the past had ever happened, but we cannot, because it did. God forgives our sins, but in order to free us from them, there must be fire, either in this life or the next. If we truly want to be free, we will embrace the fire in this life and allow it to burn away the attachments we have formed. And we can make this fire burn hotter now by fasting and penance, if we wish.

June 24, 2014 - Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Isaiah 49.1-6
Psalm 139.1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15 Resp. 14
Acts 13.22-26
Luke 1.57-66, 80

Today we commemorate the birth of a great prophet, and not just a prophet, but he of whom it was said, “Behold I am sending my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. A voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

The feast of Christmas, coincidentally, is placed near the winter solstice, near the darkest day of the year. The feast of John the Baptist, symbolically, is placed opposite Christmas, near the summer solstice, the lightest day of the year. In the northern hemisphere, the sun strengthens every day after Christmas and weakens every day after the feast of John the Baptist. This yearly astronomical event is a sign to us of the difference between the two men. John signals the end of something, something decreasing and fading away. When he says that he must decrease, he is not speaking only for himself but for the entire prophetic tradition of Israel. Jesus is causing something new to happen, something increasing.

John the Baptist marks the end of the age of prophecy. He is the last in a long line of the great prophets of Israel: Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others. Yet John was greater than all of these former prophets. He was greater than all before him inasmuch as the message he proclaimed was greater than theirs. They proclaimed justice, but he proclaimed the Just One. They proclaimed mercy, but he proclaimed the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

John the Baptist is great because, from his mother’s womb, he was a perfect instrument of God. God planned for him to prepare the way for Jesus. Before he was born, God had dedicated him as a prophet to the nations. His first prophecy took place while he was still inside his mother. Nevertheless, for all of his greatness, the character of John the Baptist in the Gospels is above all humble. He decreased; Jesus increased. He freely told his disciples to follow Jesus. He was never jealous of Jesus.

Thanks be to God for the great gift he sent in John the Baptist, but let us remember the words of Jesus. “The least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.” Every single one of us who are baptized into the Kingdom ought to exceed the humility and obedience of John. Not by our own strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) (A)

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16
Psalm 147.12-13, 14-15, 19-20 Resp. 12a
1 Corinthians 10.16-17
Lauda Sion
John 6.51-58

Manna is a kind of food that appeared on the ground each morning from the time that the Israelites left Egypt until the day that they ate the fruit of the promised land. Manna was free food: the only work was going out each morning to gather it up. Manna was abundant food: it fed 2 million people for forty years. Later generations of Israelites looked back on the time in the desert as a blessed time, depending entirely on providence for survival.

There were three lessons concerning manna. First, no one was to gather more than they needed. Each person was allotted one omer of manna a day, a little less than a gallon. When they went out to gather the manna, some people gathered a lot and others gathered a little, but everyone ended up with one omer per person. Whether this is the result of a miracle or if it means that those with too much shared with those who did not have enough, the lesson for us is the same: we should not take more of this world’s resources than we need. If we have too much, we should share with those who do not have enough to satisfy their needs.

The second lesson of the manna is that it must not be kept overnight. The Israelites had to trust that the manna would be out on the ground again the next morning. Those who tried to keep the manna overnight found that in the morning it was full of worms and smelled terrible. From this rule we should learn not to hoard the riches of this world. True, we are not wandering in the desert with manna appearing on the ground each day. It is very reasonable to save money: to save enough in case of a surprise car repair, to save enough in case you lose your job, but do not hoard money.

Some people collect money and property as if they only wanted to see how much they could have, as if they were competing in a game with the other rich people of this world. I do not refer only to millionaires and billionaires. Consider the very idea of collecting something. It is so acceptable in this culture to say, “I collect hippopotami”, but we Christians should look in horror at the idea of spending time and money, whether on ceramic doodads or unnecessary power tools. We are travelers in this world; pack lightly!

The third lesson of the manna is that on Friday the Israelites gathered enough for two days so that they would not go out on the Sabbath. This is a lesson we ought to take to heart. There is so little respect today for resting on the Lord’s Day. Six days a week have been given us to work; we must rest on the seventh day.

But how should we rest on Sundays? The usual forms of rest in our culture (ball games, shopping, and restaurants) involve someone else serving us. Should we sit home then and watch TV? A proper understanding of Sunday rest begins with what we all must do on Sundays: go to Mass. The point of Sunday is to worship God. Anything else we do is peripheral.

There is an old joke about a man who asked his pastor whether it was okay to smoke while he prayed. His pastor said, “Absolutely not! When you pray you should be completely devoted to prayer.” So the man went to another priest, but he changed his question, “Would it be okay to pray while I smoke?”

We Christians do not begin with a rule, because every rule has loopholes. We begin with the Holy Spirit. Our Sundays should be about praising God. Mass is not something to be fit in around a busy schedule. Mass comes first, everything else can be planned afterward. Those who work on Sunday should insist on having time to go to Mass, and they should take another day to praise God by resting.

Together, the three lessons of the manna teach us that we were not made for survival. The point of our lives cannot be getting through to tomorrow at any cost. We certainly were not made to succeed as the world sees success, with piles of money and stuff. Survival is secondary to praising God. As Moses puts it, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

The lessons of the manna were so important, so foundational to the Jewish religion that Moses took one omer of manna and placed it in the Ark of the Covenant, a box covered in gold. The Ark was placed at the center of worship. The Jewish Temple was merely a house for the Ark, and the Ark was a container for the manna. So really, the manna was at the center of Jewish worship, this special bread which God had given to his people.

Do you see where I am going with this? This temple, this church, is really just a house for that box right there. That box is the Ark of the Covenant, which is also called the tabernacle. Within the tabernacle, we place a portion of the bread. It is not ordinary bread that we put in the tabernacle. Indeed, it is not really bread at all. The bread is a symbol, which is to say, we see bread, we taste bread, but the meaning of the bread is something more. What is the something more? It is Jesus Christ, his Body, his Blood, his Soul, and his Divinity.

The bread is a sacrament, which is to say, it does not only symbolize this, but it in reality is Jesus Christ: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. When we receive the symbol of bread, we actually receive Jesus Christ. When we see bread and kneel down in worship, we are actually worshipping Jesus Christ. This is a mystery. It is not clear to us how something can have the accidents of bread, the sight, the smell, the taste of bread, the atoms and molecules of bread, but in reality be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is not clear to us, but that is not important. Jesus did not give us this sacrament and say, “Take and understand; this is my body.” No, he said “Take and eat; this is my body.”

We must believe that the bread is, as the Church tells us, as Jesus told the Church, actually his Body. We must believe that the wine is, as the Church tells us, as Jesus told the Church, actually his Blood. This belief is not a nice addition to our faith. We place the Eucharist at the very center of our worship, because it defines who we are.

Faith in the Eucharist is where we must begin. All other work in the Church is pointless unless we begin with the Eucharist. It is pointless to protest abortion unless the Eucharist is at the center of our work. It is pointless to give food to the hungry unless this food given to us by God is satisfying our hunger. We as a Church are not a gathering of people who like doing good things. We are a gathering of people around the Eucharist. The good things come later.

Christianity without the Eucharist would be like Judaism without manna, just a lot of laws. From the Eucharist we receive our mission from God and the spiritual energy to complete that mission. If we receive the Eucharist with faith in the mystery, and we receive it acknowledging that we want to serve God above all else, confessing every sin we have committed, rejecting any plans to commit sin in the future, then we will be transformed.

Jesus Christ came to earth to give his life for us and to us. He gave his life for us on the Cross. He gives his life to us in the Eucharist. When we receive the Eucharist, we hold the life of God in our hands. We eat the life of God. We become what we eat. Eventually we do not live anymore ourselves, but Christ lives in us. That is what the Eucharist is about.

Update and Status, Especially for Kindle Subscribers

I have not updated this blog in a while and have been rather intermittent for the past year. I began this blog when I had more free time, and my current pastoral responsibilities must always trump blogging, but I do hope to get back on track now. While this may be disappointing for those who use the website, it is of greatest concern to those who subscribe on their Amazon Kindle. So to clarify a few points:

This blog is always available for free at dailyhomilies.org. I have no interest in charging for it. Amazon charges a fee to deliver the blog to the Kindle. This fee is mostly kept by Amazon, and I have no control over it. It would be free on Amazon if I could make it so. I also cannot help anyone cancel a subscription, but it is easy to do and Amazon can help if you wish.

Even when I am not able to keep up daily posts, the archives are an important part of the website. My long term goal is to finish all the homilies for the various cycles. When this is completed, I will release a complete Kindle book. In the meantime, many homilies are available by looking in the current archives.

The reason why I inconsistently update is because a post is not a simple matter of writing a few paragraphs, but requires significant time. I could write a similar size blog post in a few minutes, but a quality homily should come not from me but from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in my reflection on the readings. While I preach at Mass every day, and I am always surprised and grateful to God when wisdom comes out which is not from me, this blog contains not so much homilies as a careful exegesis that provides a foundation for a homily. I do not want to just have "something" for each day, because I want what I do have to be useful for years to come. When the cycle returns to a homily that is in the archives of this site, I read that entry before going to preach. I do not read the homily to the people, but read it to myself as a beginning of what to say. I do not want to post homilies on this site that will not teach me something when I return to them three years later, though I have often had to correct something because of what I had learned in the meantime. Ultimately, I want to have a homily for every possible set of readings, not so that I would just preach the same homilies over and over without any reference to what the parish needs, but to get me started when I am stuck. There used to be many such tools (one of my favorites told which Summa Theologica article to read each Sunday), but they have mostly gone out of date with the new cycles of readings, so I hope to create one for myself, and I am pleased that others find these homilies useful. I am always grateful to those of you who have written me words of encouragement of the years.

I hope that this clarifies the status and purpose of this blog. I apologize to anyone who was expecting or depending on something else. If you would like to email me, my address is fatheradam@rejoice.cc

In Christ,
Father Adam McMillan.