Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter, Sunday of Divine Mercy

April 11, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 118
1 John 5:1-6
John 20:19-31

The first words attributed to the Risen Lord are “peace be with you.”  One can presume that the community of Apostles and other disciples that had gathered behind locked doors was in some state of disquiet. One reason was fear and confusion at Jesus’ death, but another may have been divisiveness and resentment since Jesus next speaks about forgiveness. He says, “If you forgive others’ sins they are forgiven; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” To receive fully Christ’s resurrection gift of peace, requires that we also accept forgiveness and exercise our Christian capacity to forgive.

The Gospel tells us that Thomas was not physically present when Jesus first appeared, and when informed of Jesus’ appearance, he refused to believe it. Thomas’ refusal to accept the Resurrection causes a further rupture in the community, which would require forgiveness and understanding from the other disciples. Jesus Himself set an example for them by His patience with Thomas’ doubt.

The way Jesus dealt with Thomas also sets an example for us. The Church today has its fair share of disagreements and misunderstandings, and suspicions and ill-feelings abound in all dioceses and parishes. There is the fomenting of discord among Catholics through those who benefit financially and cultivate vainglory by way of social media and blogs. Further, there have been persecutions and wars waged in the name of religion, and divisions that wound the Church and hinder our witness to the faith. The passion for being right has served the cause of egoism more than serving the cause of Christ.

Does this mean that anything goes … that there is no truth worth fighting for? Absolutely not. It means that there is no truth without Christ and that there is no love without Christ; it means that truth and love have their harmonious fullness only in Christ. Without Christ we lose sight of the truth and replace it with an egoism about being right. Without Christ, love becomes an emotivism of false security. What provided the occasion for Jesus to empower the Church, that is to send us the Holy Spirit, was the fact that Apostles were gathered in His name. Thomas had not put himself above the Church. Although he doubted, Christ’s love was the power that bound him to the others. The other Apostles did not close the doors to Thomas. He was still ready to believe, and the members of the Church grew even stronger in faith through his presence in Christ.

Thomas sets conditions before he will accept faith in the Resurrection of Jesus; these conditions include the intention to inspect Jesus’ wounds in almost forensic detail. The disciples have been entrusted with the mission of mercy, the power to forgive sins. This entrusted mission has enabled them to be merciful and patient with Thomas even in their own fears and doubts. Jesus peacefully encounters them again through the doors that their shameful fears have locked. He mercifully agrees to meet Thomas’ conditions for faith and in so doing manifests the inadequacy of these conditions. This encounter of faith with the risen Christ occurs in the presence of the disciples gathered together — as the Church. It is not an isolated experience of a crowd of individuals, each of them pursuing their own happiness or agenda. Our encounter of faith with the mercy of the risen Christ occurs in our presence as the disciples gathered at Mass with our focus set on Christ, and in that gathering we are transformed into the Church.

Jesus’ response to Thomas’ disbelief was to offer Thomas entry into Jesus’ wounds… to recognize that injury and division, misunderstanding and suffering, disbelief and forgiveness are part of living together as the Church, a community of disciples. They are part of His mission of mercy entrusted to the Church. Jesus shows Thomas His wounds and in so doing reveals to Thomas his own wounds. Thomas’ wounds are self-inflicted by sin. Jesus’ wounds are not self-inflicted, but they have been willingly accepted by Jesus in obedience to the Father for the sake of Thomas’ and our salvation. Jesus knew what His wounds would be. During His Passion as recorded in John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “This above all is why my Father loves me; for I lay down my life willingly that I might take it up again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the power to lay it down; and I have the power to take it up again. The Father has given me this power.” 

Jesus’ wounds are real wounds; they are not the scars of healed wounds; they are not scabby wounds; they are not bloody or infected wounds; they are glorified wounds in the mercy of the truth of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Thomas, the doubter and skeptic, responds to Jesus with awe and reverence. “My Lord and my God.” This prayer echoes throughout the history of the Church, and is spoken by most of us each time we attend Mass. Such is the transformative power of the Resurrection. May the Resurrection so transform us to grow in both belief and the power to forgive. If we pray for the desire to forgive and God grants our prayer, then we can pray with the Psalmist in communion as the Church, “Let the House of Israel say, His Mercy endures forever.”

Homily for Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil

April 3, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Genesis 1:1-2:2
Psalm 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35
Exodus 14:15-15:1
Exodus 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18
Isaiah 54:5-14
Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-2, 13
Romans 6:3-11
Mark 16:1-7

When the Sabbath was over, three women gathered the ingredients necessary to bury the body of Jesus. They went to the tomb early and thought of a few practical points they had overlooked. What about the heavy stone sealing the tomb? What about the guards? What about the official seals that had been put on the tomb? But when they arrived, the soldiers were gone, and the stone was rolled away.

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Homily for Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

April 2, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

“In the days when Christ was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”

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Homily for Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper

April 1, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15

In the liturgical life of the Church, the usual practice is for the priests of a diocese to assemble with the bishop and to concelebrate Mass on the morning of Holy Thursday, to bless and consecrate the Holy Oils that will be used at the Easter Vigil and throughout the year, and to renew their promises made at ordination. Because of the geographical expanse of our diocese, we do that as priests and bishop on Tuesday of Holy Week. The Lord has blessed me as your bishop because He gives me the opportunity to renew the promises of my priestly and episcopal ordinations here in this Cathedral where I made my initial promises, where I was ordained a priest, and where I have ordained priests who have made those same promises. Holy Thursday is about promises.

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Homily for the Chrism Mass

March 30, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Isaiah 61:1-3, 6a, 8-9
Psalm 89:21-22, 25, 27
Revelation 1:5-8
Luke 4:16-21

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; to place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, to give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.”

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Homily for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

March 28, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 21-22
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15:47

When you get right down to it, every death is a disaster. Death is a total and utter negation of every part of life that leads up to it. It ends friendships, it makes widows and widowers, it makes orphans, it closes the future, it ends life. Many nonbelievers, even those who enjoy life, in their more honest moments admit the unmentionable: death mocks our every action and achievement; it mocks all our hopes; it casts a shadow on everything we do in life.

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Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 21, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15
Hebrews 5:7-9
John 12:20-33

In today’s Gospel, some Greeks approach Philip in Jerusalem and ask to see Jesus. Some scholars tell us that seeing Jesus meant that they wanted to become part of His group of disciples. So, Philip went to Andrew and Andrew brought him to Jesus. Why Philip went to Andrew first, we are not sure but at the very least it indicates the ministry of the Apostles and the importance of them working collaboratively for and with Jesus. But when they get to see Jesus, He gives a strange answer to what seems to be a simple question.

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Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 14, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Psalm 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

The author of the Book of Chronicles tries to make sense of his people’s past. Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God patiently endured their transgressions and sins. He often sent prophets to call them to repentance, but the people disregarded the message and mistreated the messengers. Finally, God delivered the Israelites into the hands of the Chaldeans who slaughtered young and old, burned the Temple, and destroyed Jerusalem. Those who were left alive became slaves in Babylon.

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