In our Lenten journey the Church is constantly drawing our attention to the redeeming power of Christ's Blood. In his suffering and death on the Cross, Jesus becomes the source of salvation for all who believe in him. In the Gospel Jesus himself tells us that lifted up from the earth, he will draw everyone to himself. This is truly the meaning of redemption, which we acknowledge, saying: "We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
On Laetare , the Church as the new Jerusalem is called to rejoice. We are at the midpoint of our Lenten journey toward the full celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Another reason for special joy is that the word of God presents to us today such a beautiful description of God's mercy, which Pope Francis has just announced will be the subject of an Extraordinary Jubilee. Because God is rich in mercy – which is his love as it confronts all our weaknesses, our needs, our sins – we are indeed confident and empowered to rejoice.
Today through the word of God the Church presents to us in the Mass a great Canticle of Mercy. She praises God who removes guilt, pardons sin, delights in clemency and has compassion on us. In the Gospel parable we encounter the Father who tells us that we must greatly rejoice over the conversion of one of our own. This fully reveals that the Lord is kind and merciful.
In celebrating the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the Church presents to us the testimony of God the Father who introduces his Son to the world with these words: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." These words of the Father are the whole program of the Church and of our Christian lives. In addition, in the Transfiguration, Pope St. Leo the Great tells us that, in witnessing the glory of Christ, the Apostles are fortified for their future experience of seeing him in the humiliation of his Passion and Death. The Transfiguration fortifies us also in our faith in Jesus as the Son of the eternal Father.
In our reading from the prophet Ezekiel, God speaks, appealing to us to make for ourselves "a new heart and a new spirit." This comes about in the conversion of our life, when we turn completely to God, to live totally for him. The Church proposes to us to find in the Heart of Jesus the perfect response to God's call. The Heart of Jesus is then our model of total surrender to the Father's will. The Heart of Jesus is our inspiration. In contemplating this Heart,we are moved to respond to God's love, to his invitation to conversion and holiness of life.
The word of God shows us the value of the prayer of supplication. Queen Esther prayed earnestly for her people and God came to her assistance. Her prayer was likewise a prayer of adoration and praise.The Responsorial Psalm also draws our attention to the importance of thanksgiving. In the Gospel Jesus himself encourages us to trust in him: "Ask and it will be given to you."
In today's liturgy the word of God speaks to us about the word of God. Vatican II taught that the Church venerates the word of God just as she does the Body of Christ. Pope Benedict XVI supplemented and implemented the Council's teaching with "Verbum Domini," explaining the Church's mission to proclaim God's word to the whole world. Jesus tells us that we must live by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. In the liturgy we embrace God's word in the person of Jesus Christ and offer him to the Father.
"You did it for me."
God's words in the Book of Leviticus present us with the basic challenge of Lent: "Be holy for I ... am holy." This holiness manifests itself in charity. The challenge of charity reaches its climax in the Gospel, where we are called to love our neighbor as we love Jesus. Jesus identifies himself with his members:"I was hungry and you gave me food." St. Paul had the same experience when he heard the words: "Why do you persecute me." This challenge dominates our Lent and our lives: to recognize Jesus in others, to be holy as the Lord our God is holy.
"Sharing in the Paschal Mystery"
The journey to Baptism and the renewal of our baptismal promises are so much a part of the spirituality of Lent. Jesus, who is so closely identified with us, permits himself to be tempted and communicates to us his victory over temptation.This victory is fully communicated to us in the celebration of his Death and Resurrection. The goal of our Lenten observance is to enter into this Paschal Mystery.
Homily of February 6, 2015: given to Jesuit Fathers and Brothers at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos, CA: St. Paul Miki and Companions
The Heart of Jesus is the sign and symbol of his love. This love is the motivation for all the mysteries of Christ. It also explains the strength shown by all the Martyrs. There is a close relationship between the celebration of St. Paul Miki and Companions and the devotion to the Sacred Heart shown by the Church on First .
God promises to raise up for his people a Prophet like Moses. The promise is verified in Jesus, who proclaims God's word and is himself the Incarnate Word. Our Christian vocation is to listen to Jesus, who teaches us and brings us salvation. Jesus, who is Prophet and Savior, is also our High Priest who leads his Church in prayer. Today's Psalms point out so clearly that the content of our prayer is petition and praise, thanksgiving and adoration. Our liturgy is then all about Jesus Christ, Incarnate Word, Prophet, Savior and High Priest.
Homily of January 30, 2015: Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time (Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart)
Homily of January 29, 2015: Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time (Votive Mass of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ)
The Church invokes the Blood of Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, under many titles. Jesus himself explains the deepest meaning of his Blood in each Mass, saying: "This is the Chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins."The celebration of the Votive Mass of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ gives us a special opportunity to renew our Catholic faith in the meaning and power of his Blood. The Catholic Church tells us in her prayer that as we offer the Eucharist we celebrate anew the sprinkling of Christ's Blood.
Today we honor two outstanding collaborators of St. Paul in the preaching of the Gospel. The reading from St. Paul's Letter to Timothy that we proclaim today contains powerful counsels given to his fellow priest and Bishop. These counsels, apart from their immediate referral to Timothy, are applicable to all God's people. The apostle Paul suggests to Timothy "to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands." Paul reminds Timothy that God did not give him "a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control." Paul encourages Timothy to bear his share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.These words remain a legacy in the Church to encourage all baptized persons to recall the great infusion of power given to them in the sacrament of Baptism. St. Paul assures the whole Church today that all our challenges can truly be met with the strength that comes from God.
The message of Jesus is in continuity with that of John the Baptist: "Repent and believe in the Gospel."This is the context in St. Mark's Gospel in which Jesus calls his apostles, promising them that they will be fishers of men. The apostolic Church, like Jesus, calls people to repentance. The call to repentance is a key proclamation of the apostolic Church and of the apostles. Jesus is asking for a radical change in the hearts of those who hear him. He asks for a new way of life – a conversion. This conversion demands a profound attachment to the person of Jesus. Our own personal conversion is our response to the call of Jesus to embrace his Gospel. On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood before the people, saying: "Repent and be baptized...in the name of Jesus Christ." St. Paul also preached the need to repent and turn to God and to do works giving evidence of repentance. As we reflect on Jesus' invitation to conversion we realize that everything is grace. St. John Paul II told us that, as we reflect on the call of Jesus, we discover the new world of mercy. A response to Jesus can only be sustained by divine mercy. Today we praise and thank God for calling us to himself and we ask him to sustain us in our ongoing conversion till the end.
On one occasion when Pope St. John Paul II came to the United States he stated that the purpose of his visit was to tell again the story of God's love. Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales and through his life of gentle love and compassion for all tells again the story of God's love. In the prayer of the Mass we ask to follow St. Francis de Sales' example and to display his gentleness of charity. The Church takes this opportunity to tell again the story of God's love. Today she does this in the very words of Jesus, taken from the 15th chapter of St. John's Gospel: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you.... This is my commandment: love one another as I love you."
Homily of January 23, 2015: Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time (during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity): Votive Mass of All the Holy Apostles
St. Mark tells us that Jesus chose the Apostles to be with him and to be sent forth (Mk 3:14). In honoring the Apostles we honor the plan of God to establish an apostolic Church. This apostolic Church is identified with the one Church, which we celebrate especially during this week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is the same Church that produces martyrs like St. Vincent in the third and fourth centuries and disciples of charity like St. Marianne Cope in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fidelity to the Church of the Apostles we strive to promote the unity of the Church. The Second Vatican Council earnestly invites us to promote spiritual ecumenism, which is the soul of the whole ecumenical movement and which consists in a change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians.
Consubstantial with his Father
On this Memorial of St. Hilary we celebrate one of the great Doctors of the Church and Defenders of the Divinity of Christ. With St. Athanasius of the East and Pope St. Leo the Great, and in fidelity to the Council of Nicea, St. Hilary proclaimed Jesus Christ true God and true Man. This is the revelation of God and therefore the proclamation of the Church in every age.
Leading us in transition to Ordinary Time, the Church once again in our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews proclaims the identity of Jesus who is the final revelation of God: he is Word made flesh and Splendor of the Father. In the Gospel Jesus proclaims the Kingdom and calls us to conversion. With the call of four Apostles he lays the basis for the structure of his Church. In his apostolic church we find salvation in the name of Jesus.