Saturday, May 26, 2018

Trinity Sunday @ St. Apollinaris Parish

MAY 26-27, 2018
4:30 PM (SAT), 7:30 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM ORDINARY FORM (ENGLISH) MASSES

Today is Trinity Sunday.

The doctrine of the Trinity was fleshed out during the Fourth Century, due to what is called the Arian Heresy. What we have from that time is the Creed we normally recite at Sunday Mass.

The point in question revolved around the word “consubstantial.”

In the Greek language, the word was “homoousious” … which Arius cleverly twisted into “homoiousios” in order to spread his teaching. This would be similar to changing “consubstantion” to “cosubstantial.”

As early as the year 325, and then made even more clear in the year 381 the Creed we recite was formulated and finalized. Yet it wasn’t until the year 586 that the Creed was recited within the Mass.

For the next 500 years, this was good enough, until petitions were made to the pope for a feast day honoring the Most Holy Trinity. It was not until the 14th century, 300 years later, that was it placed in the Missal on the Sunday after Pentecost, and has remained there until the present day.

While the word “Trinity” itself is not used in Scripture, Jesus speaks of being “one” with God the Father, at Jesus’s baptism, the voice of the Father is heard, and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, today’s reading has Jesus instructing the Apostles to baptize using a trinitarian formula. The doctrine is alluded to in the Old Testament, and spelled out in more detail in the New Testament letters.

On top of the that, we have the hagiography of St. Patrick using a Shamrock to teach the Celts about the Trinity in the Fifth Century.

The scholastics devising an almost mathematical representation of the Trinity indicating that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all are God, yet are distinct persons, and then declaring step by step that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God; however, the Father is not the Son nor is the Father the Spirit, and on and on through the entire equation.

In art, we have the famous image of the Trinity from the Russian iconographer Rublev.

The renaissance painter Botticelli’s image of the Trinity, currently in a museum in London shows the Father and the Holy Spirit embracing the crucified Son.

The images of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries show the Father and Son enthroned – as if they are imperial or royal figures – with the Holy Spirit enshrined between them. Such images exist even in statues from that time – as seen at the parish Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Marsa, Malta.

But all of these images fall short of the immensity and majesty of God. Our human representations are merely attempts at encapsulating the infinite, immortal, invisible Triune Godhead in finite, mortal, visible ways.

Scripture tells us in Genesis that God created everything through His Word. And so perhaps we might seek a verbal means of expression.

And, for what it’s worth, we have just such a thing.

In our liturgical worship, we use what are called “doxologies” from the Greek “doxa” meaning “glory” and “logos” meaning “words.” And so, towards the end of the Introductory Rites, we sang (recited) the Gloria – “Glory to God in the highest … almighty God and Father … Lord Jesus Christ … with the Holy Spirit …

Most likely you are familiar with a simpler formula that we pray in various ways “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit …

At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer – whichever of the dozen or so is used – the priest prays “Through Him, with Him, in Him …” offering the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

One of the longer greetings in the Mass begins “Grace to you and Peace from God our Father …

And at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, we pray “Holy, holy, holy” – to the “thrice holy” Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Our worship is filled with verbal images of the Most Holy Trinity, and while it pervades the prayers, perhaps we do need today’s special Solemnity to remind us that through our Baptism we are called to share in the Divine Life of the Most Holy Trinity, and while there are concrete signs and graces of God’s presence in our daily lives, how that will come to be in the next life remains shrouded in mystery.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – let us pray for a deeper relationship to the One, True, God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And while our human understanding may fall short of the magnitude of God’s majesty … let us offer our prayers of praise and worship God with all our heart and with all our mind.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pentecost Sunday @ St. Apollinaris Parish

MAY 19-20, 2018

The rock band Pink Floyd was founded in 1965, and is distinguished for its extended compositions, philosophical lyrics, and sonic experimentation – making it one of the most commercially successful and influential groups in pop music.

A peculiar phenomenon was first observed in the 1990s concerning Pink Floyd’s 1973 albumThe Dark Side of the Moon (that’s the album cover with the triangular prism on it,) and the 1939 classic movie The Wizard of Oz. Supposedly, if you watch the movie with the sound turned down while starting the album at the third roar of the MGM lion, the music seems to match up with the movie.

This effect, known in popular culture as The Dark Side of the Rainbow, or The Wizard of Floyd, has been described as a synchronicity by it’s promoters; and as apophenia – that is, mere confirmation bias – by it’s detractors.

Nonetheless, it has become a bit of a pop-culture phenomenon over the last 25 or more years; and even has its own Wikipedia page.


Today is Pentecost Sunday. Fifty days since the end of the Paschal Triduum. Pentecost marks the end of the Easter Season.

Pentecost is associated with the coming of the Holy Spirit. And for most of us, we know that there are Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Fruits of the Holy Spirit … and perhaps you can rattle them off like a well-memorized lesson. But how do these affect you in your daily life? What is the place of these gifts and fruits for an Average Joe and Mary Catholic?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1831) “The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit … complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.

Which requires us to take a step back. If these gifts complete and perfect the virtues, what are the virtues?

The “big three” are easy: The theological or supernatural virtues are Faith, Hope, and Love. We receive these in Baptism, and they are strengthened in us through our exercising them in our daily lives; as well as through our worthy reception of the Sacraments, most especially the Holy Eucharist.
So, what do Faith, Hope, and Love do for us?

Like the scarecrow, the tin-man, and the lion – we all need a little boost. Not from a wizard, but rather from God. Faith affects the mind, Hope affects the soul, and Love affects the Heart.

In a similar way, the first three human virtues of Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude allow us to properly apply and use our mind’s thoughts, express moderation in our body and soul, and persevere when things become difficult.

Justice, the fourth of the human virtues allows us to balance the actions within our lives by giving of ourselves to God, and to neighbor … in an appropriate mix and measure

These seven virtues – which we possess in varying quantities – are in turn completed and perfected by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The virtues of the heart are perfected by the gifts of Wisdom and Fortitude. Wisdom allows us to make appropriate choices in prudently discerning between the desires of our heart, and Fortitude helps us to have courage as well as to follow through and persevere.

The virtues of the mind are perfected by the gifts of Knowledge, Understanding, and Counsel. Knowledge being what fills our mind, Understanding being how our mind processes what it knows within itself, and Counsel being the application of our mind to help others and affect external events.

The virtues of the soul are perfected by the gifts of Fear of the Lord and Piety. Fear of the Lord allows us to show proper reverence for God, and Piety allows us to respond to God’s grace in serving both God and neighbor.

And finally, “[t]he Fruits of the Holy Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.” By sharing in the Divine Life of God, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit become a foretaste of Eternity for us in our daily life.

As we grow in virtue by ordering our minds, souls, and hearts to God … the Holy Spirit perfects and completes our efforts through God’s grace. The end result, then, of living a Christian life is holiness – expressed in our lives as the twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … let us pray for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to be poured out in our lives … to complete and perfect our virtues … and as we conform our lives more and more – day by day – to God’s Holy and Perfect Will, may we experience the Fruits of Holiness in our lives through the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

6th Sunday of Easter @ St. Apollinaris Parish

MAY 5-6, 2018

Released as a non-album single in July 1967, the Beatles song “All You Need Is Love” was later included on the US “Magical Mystery Tour” album. It also appears in the 1968 animated film “Yellow Submarine” as well as its soundtrack album. Although it was first performed a week before as the British contribution to the “Our World” show which was a live global television link.

The song was written by John Lennon, although it was credited to both Lennon and McCartney. It captured the sentiments of the “Summer of Love” era. While the message is simple, the musical composition is full of asymmetric time signatures and complex changes. There are 7/4, 8/4, 4/4, and 6/4 measures mixed throughout. The song begins with the French National Anthem (“La Marseillaise”) and contains elements from Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” and Wayne Shanklin’s “Chanson d’Amour.” Other musical pieces that are heard in the fade out are “Greensleeves,” elements of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Beatles' own “She Loves You,” and “Yesterday.

In all, the word “love” is said in the song 111 (one-hundred-and-eleven) times.

Today is the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

Our readings today focus on salvation and love.

St. John tells us throughout his writings that God is Spirit, and so we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. He tells us that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness and no sin. And he tells us that God is Love, and if we remain in love, we remain in God.

Love then, doesn’t define God, but rather, it is God Himself that defines love.

We hear in the second reading:
In this is love
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
Human love, is a response to God’s primordial love … a love which pre-dates any other. And is shown forth in time in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the Cross – the same Sacrifice which we re-present on this altar in an un-bloody way.

God’s love, then is a higher form of love … a total self gift of Himself poured out in a sacrificial way. This sort of love is not a feeling or an emotion. Rather, Divine Love is an act of the will, and our own ability to love God and to love others as God loves us, requires that we make a choice. And in that choice, our love will be shown forth in what we say and what we do.

That is, while God loves us infinitely always … our love for God and our love for one another is as much … or as little … as we choose to make of it.

Jesus admonishes us to “remain in [His] love” and commands us to “love one another as [He] loves” not so that we’ll be miserable … not to keep us from being happy … but
so that [His] joy may be in [us]and [our] joy might be complete.
By remaining in Jesus love, we can experience not only a share of His Divine Life … not only a portion of His Divine Love … but in loving as He loves and by remaining in His love, we experience His Divine Joy to the fullest.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray for the graces we need to remain in His love, to respond to God’s love for us in our lives, and to receive His joy in its fullness.

May the Eucharist we receive today shine forth in our lives this week … as we bring God’s grace, love, and mercy … from this place … to those we will meet in the world.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

5th Sunday of Easter @ St. Apollinaris Parish

APRIL 29, 2018

I had the occasion recently to have dinner with the parents of an old friend with whom I served in the US Navy. Over twenty years ago, he and I were enlisted Sailors deployed to northern Japan. Part of being in the military is saluting. As enlisted men, we saluted officers; but we were not saluted.

His mother related that when he was serving aboard an aircraft carrier – that is, a traveling city – that he waited in a long line of enlisted Sailors to go ashore, while the officers got to cut to the front of the line.

This (his mother said), among other things, motivated him to go forward and become an officer.
And while the privileges of being an officer are immediately apparent – being saluted, and getting to move to the front of the line for the liberty boat – the responsibilities, of course, are also greater.

Today is the Fifth Sunday of Easter.

In the Gospel we hear Jesus tell us “I am the vine.” This statement is the seventh and last of Jesus’ “I AM” statements recorded in St. John’s Gospel.

In this simile of the vine and the branches, Our Lord points out that the branches have the privilege of sharing the life of the vine, but also have the responsibility of remaining on the vine. This is an admonition for us to remain united with Jesus Christ in order to share the Divine Life He offers us.

In sharing the life of Christ, we then have the opportunity to “bear much fruit.” Not for ourselves, but for God and for the Kingdom of God.

Today’s pericope is only the first half of the story, though.

Jesus goes on in the second half of this discourse to tell the disciples that they are more than slaves or servants, but that they are His friends. This statement applies also to us.

As His friends, we have the privilege of knowing His will, but also have the responsibility of remaining in His will. Through this, we not only share in His joy, but our joy is perfected in living out God’s will.

And finally, at the very end of this section of John’s Gospel, Jesus gives the great commandment … summarizing this all with the mandate to “love one another.

The more we open ourselves to God’s will, the more we find our own will aligning with God’s will. This in turn strengthens the life of God – what we call grace, mercy, and love – in us, and more closely unites us to God in Christ. And through that union, we are better able to not only love as He loves, but to become vehicles of God’s grace, mercy, and love to the wider world.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray for the graces we need to grow in our relationship to Christ – by remaining in him and by sharing in His Divine life. And as his disciples and friends, members of His Body, may we deepen our knowledge of God’s will and become more aligned with the Holy Will of God in all that we say and all that we do … so that we may experience the perfect joy of Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

4th Sunday of Easter @ St. Apollinaris Parish

APRIL 22, 2018

It’s no secret that I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in Italy – starting  first in Rome, then Norcia, Assisi, and ending in Florence.

Part of my spirituality is looking and recognizing those events that I would call “signal graces.”

Signal graces are the little miracles that God tosses at us every day. These are somewhat off-the-wall and unexpected things – hence they are not dependent on us. But in their own ways, they show us how God, like a good Father, showers us with blessings when we do our best to abide in His will.

And there were signal graces that “popped up” during my trip to Italy. Such as … a brief visit with His Eminence Cardinal Burke … getting tickets (out of the blue the night before) to concelebrate Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday with the Pope … and finding out that I knew the Father Prior – sort of the second in command – at the Benedictine Monastery from twelve years back at graduate school in Ohio.

While those three things might be seen as coincidences, I would call them God-incidences – signs of God’s immense love for me, and signs to strengthen me in my call within the priesthood.

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, sometimes called “Good Shepherd Sunday.”

It is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Pope Francis, in his message for this event, points out that each vocation is as diverse and unique as the individuals that make up the Church. And having a vocation is not limited to priests or religious.
Each of us has a vocation – a call from God – which we have received from before we were born, strengthened in Baptism, and clarified in Confirmation, and nourished in the Holy Eucharist.

In his message, the Holy Father points out three aspects that he says are needed to properly accept God’s call – that is to properly accept and experience your own vocation.

The first aspect is listening.

We listen first through prayer which is the key to our relationship with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We listen, too, to the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. And we listen to our hearts, and sometimes to each other. But in a noisy world, we need to recognize that God very often speaks to us in silence – in a still, small voice. And it is in that silence that we are best able to listen and hear God’s voice.

The second aspect is discerning.

Discernment is sort of a “Church-y” word that too often is over-used as a way to blow-off or a way to cop-out of doing anything. True discernment is done in relationship – our relationship with God, our relationship with the Church, and our relationship with one another. Discernment made outside of these relationships is fruitless, and is an exercise in futility.

The third and final aspect is living.

The Holy Father tells us that “the Lord continues to call [us] to follow him. We should not wait to be perfect in order to respond … nor [should we] be fearful of … limitations and sins, but [rather] open our hearts to the voice of the Lord.

The Greek philosopher Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In terms of vocation, the vocation that is not lived out in the fullness of God’s grace is not a worthy vocation.

God doesn’t call us to be perfect, but He does call us to live our lives according to His call, and within His plan … His will for us. And it is in living out our vocations that we can best discern where God is calling us to follow Him.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray for God’s grace “[to] listen to [God’s] voice, to discern our personal mission in the Church and the world, and at last to live [our our vocation] in the today that God gives us.

Let us listen, discern, and live out fully our own vocation in response to the voice of the Good Shepherd, Who knows us, Who lays down His life for us, Who leads us, and Who loves us.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday @ St. Apollinaris Parish

APRIL 1, 2018

A “Blue Moon” is second full moon occurring within a calendar month. Yesterday night was the second full moon of March. The “Paschal Moon” is the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. That was also yesterday’s full moon. Also, yesterday’s full moon occurred on March 31 in both the eastern and western hemispheres.

The last time there was a “Paschal Blue Moon” with Easter falling on April 1 was the year 1646.

The pope in that year was Pope Innocent X (the tenth). His rival in the College of Cardinals commissioned a painting of Saint Michael trampling the head of Satan … who oddly enough resembles Pope Innocent X.

During his reign there occurred both the First English Civil War, as well as the 30 (thirty) Years War in Germany.

History aside, the astronomical phenomenon we witnessed last night last occurred 372 years ago. Pretty cool.

Today is Easter Sunday. Jesus is risen! Alleluia! Resurrexit, sicut dixit! Alleluia!

This morning we heard from the beginning of the 20th Chapter of St. John’s Gospel.

My sermons over the past week have focused on St. John’s word play in Greek. And this morning’s pericope does not disappoint.

In today’s Gospel we hear that St. John, on arriving at the tomb first “saw” the burial cloths; and then St. Peter, when he showed up – in second place – went into the tomb and “saw” the burial cloths; and finally, that when St. John went into the tomb and also “saw” … and believed.

Awkwardly, three very different words are all translated as “saw,” providing us with a rather flat reading of a very dynamic story.

Fleshing out the meaning of these distinct words in Greek, it might be more proper to say that when St. John first arrived at the tomb, he “looked” (in the Greek “βλέπει”) into the tomb at the burial cloths. St. Peter, came in behind John, and entering the tomb he “examined” (in the Greek “θεωρεῖ”) the burial cloths. Finally, St. John enters in behind Peter, and “perceived” (in the Greek “εἶδεν”) the burial cloths.

Three different words, the first meaning to “look,” the second meaning to “examine,” and the third meaning to “perceive.” All, sadly, translated as “saw.”

We are here today for Easter.

How deeply are you participating in the liturgical action being played out in today’s Mass?

Are you “looking?” Sort of just hanging around, taking it all in.

Are you “examining?” Not just looking, but scrutinizing the details – the smells, the bells, the chanting, and the singing?

Or are you “perceiving?” Looking, examining, and understanding – not only with your mind, but with the eyes of Faith, the divine action and supernatural drama that is going on right here, right now?

Today’s Gospel reading begins with Mary Magdalene finding the empty tomb. During this week, we will hear of Jesus appearing to the ten disciples hiding in the upper room. And next Sunday, we will hear the story of Doubting Thomas.

Thomas moves from doubt to belief – by the supernatural virtue of Faith. The disciples move from fear to courage – by the supernatural virtue of Hope. And Mary moves from tears to joy – by the supernatural virtue of Love. Faith, Hope, and Love are the Baptismal gifts we have all received.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, may the eyes of our hearts be opened to be moved from looking, to a deeper participation in the Holy Mysteries of this day. May we be renewed in the supernatural virtues – the baptismal virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love – as we recall our own Baptism, and renew our Baptismal promises today … knowing that if we have died with Christ in Baptism, then we shall live with Him – and ultimately we shall reign with Him for all eternity.