Friday, June 22, 2007

Homily on Conscience and Truth based on Matthew 6

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be. “ (Matthew 6, 19-23)

When Jesus speaks of the eye, he is speaking of the conscience, by which we are able to hear the voice of God and to discern good from evil. St. Thomas More followed the voice of his conscience which brought him onto conflict with King Henry VIII who had him beheaded for his refusal to approve of his divorce and to take an Oath of Supremacy recognizing Henry as the head of the Church in England.

The Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes says,
“Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths." (GS 16)

A human being must never be forced to act against his conscience, especially in religious matters. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects this fundamental human right.

We should always follow our certain conscience, but we must be aware that conscience can sometimes be wrong. That is why it is necessary to properly inform our consciences. A person would still morally responsible for his bad actions even if he acted with a certain conscience, if he failed to inform his conscience properly.

The relativistic notion is false that “What's true for you is true for you, but it may not be true for me. This point became clear in the mind of Pope Benedict XVI when participating in a debate on the justifying power of the subjective conscience. Someone objected to the idea by saying that if were true that we could expect to see the Nazi SS in heaven since they carried out their atrocities with fanatic conviction and complete certainty of conscience. Pope Benedict came to the conclusion that the theory that a person could be justified merely by following his subjective conscience must be false.

A person can't be sure he's right just because he has a firm subjective conviction, lacks doubt or has no guilt feelings. A person is responsible for the evil he commits with a certain conscience when he "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin." (GS 16) People can become blind to what is true and good if they are ignorant about Christ and his Gospel, by giving in to temptation, scandal, the rejection of the teaching authority of the Church and a lack of true repentance and charity.

We have an obligation to form our consciences correctly by meditating on the Word of God and the teaching of the Church. It’s not an easy task since we’re prone to pride, and tempted to prefer our own judgments and reject even legitimate authority.

The task of educating our consciences doesn’t end with religious instruction. It’s a lifelong task, but the education of children in this regard is particularly important. A child who has not received adequate religious training is like a ship set in the ocean without a compass. Christ promised that the truth would set us free. The proper education of the conscience leads to true freedom and peace of mind.

In order for us to hear this voice clearly we need to pray, reflect and examine our conscience. St. Augustine says “Return to your conscience, question it. . . . Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.”

For more information see:

Conscience and Truth by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger presented at the 10th Workshop for Bishops February 1991 Dallas, Texas

Moral Conscience from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Homily on the Lord's Prayer Matthew 6, 7-15

In our Gospel today, Jesus teaches us that it is not the amount of words, nor the time we spend, but faith that is important as we pray to our Father in heaven.

This does not preclude spending an extended time in prayer. We see in the Gospels how Jesus spent whole nights in prayer. Nor does the teaching preclude the use of repetition in prayer as we do in the rosary, as long as we have the right intention and don’t look upon it as some sort of incantation. The most important part of the rosary is our meditation on the meditations in which we reflect on the lives of Jesus and Mary.

“Our Father, who is in heaven.” God is not an impersonal force, but Our Father in heaven. Our relationship with him should be a relationship built on love and trust, more than fear of hell.

“Hallowed be thy name.” Reverence is due to God’s Holy Name. His name should be honored and acknowledged by all creatures. We ask that his name be kept holy, not for his sake, but for ours. Irreverence degrades the irreverent person. Sin hurts God only in the sense that he loves us and hates seeing us degrade ourselves. We should pray the Divine Praises in reparation for sins of blasphemy.

“Thy Kingdom come.” Some people fear the end of the world, but we pray “Thy Kingdom Come”. We pray that justice may done on this earth. We pray that we might bring it about through our actions, especially through faithfulness to our daily duty.

“Thy will be done.” We ask God’s grace to fulfill his commands because in his will is our peace. God only commands what is ultimately good for us. When we obey his commands, we become instruments of his love.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” We don’t pray for an annual, monthly or even weekly supply. We ask simply for the needs of the current day. Alcoholics Anonymous encourages its members to remain sober by focusing on day at a time. The

Friday, June 15, 2007

Homily for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In 1677, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun, in France in a vision and revealed his Sacred Heart. She said

I could plainly see His heart, pierced and bleeding, yet there were flames, too, coming from it and a crown of thorns around it. He told me to behold His heart which so loved humanity. Then He seemed to take my very heart from me and place it there in His heart. In return He gave me back part of His flaming heart.
The Church promotes devotion to Sacred Heart of Jesus. The devotion precedes the private revelation and is solidly supported by Scripture. Jesus says: "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Matthew 11:29) "One of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water." (Jn. 19:34)

This devotion is essentially worship and a response to the Person of Christ. The Christian faith is a response to Christ as a living, loving person, not just embracing a set of principles. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a peripheral devotion, to honor and love God is the heart of our faith.

The person of Christ and His work can be summarized in love. He is our savior. He died for us. He proved his love by dying for us. Each one of us can say He died for me.

Love is the reason for our existence. It is why God sent his Son to redeem us, why he sustains us. He calls us to be with him forever. God’s love for us demands a response. When we commit sin, we don’t simply break a rule. We hurt the person who loves us most and whose love we should return.

Jesus loves us with a human and Divine love. Love is symbolized by the heart. The Biblical meaning of the heart is the whole interior life of the person: his or sentiments, memories, thoughts, reasoning and planning.

Jesus used the word 'heart" in this sense when he says

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, un-chastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile. (Matthew 15, 18-20)

Jesus has the most perfect human feelings and perceptions. He feels the sting of man's ingratitude. He feels the severity of being rejected. This rejection took the form of crucifixion.

He continues to love those who reject his love. He doesn’t force us to love him. Every sin is in some way a rejection of Christ’s love. Our failure to love him as we should hurts us. It also hurts him.

He told St. Margaret Mary that the ingratitude of man for his love was worse than his physical sufferings. We need to console Him and do reparation, first for our own sins and then for the sins of others.

We console him by placing our faith and trust in him, following his commandments, being faithful to our daily duty, honoring his Sacred Heart, loving God and our neighbor.

Below are the promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their homes.
3. I will comfort them in their afflictions.
4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all in death.
5. I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall grow fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9. I will bless every place where a picture of My Heart shall be set up and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.
12. I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.