Thursday, February 21, 2013

Queen Esther and Our Lady of Fatima - Homily for Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Queen Esther had been chosen Queen after King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) dismissed his wife Queen Vashti for not coming to him when she was summoned.
Now Queen Esther is in anguish because Haman, the wicked aide to has convinced the King to issue an order to kill all the Jews in his Empire. Haman did this because Mordecai, Esther’s cousin who raised her as a daughter, would not bow down and prostrate himself as Haman passed as the King had ordered. The King is unaware that Esther his wife is Jewish.
The date set for destruction was the 13th of the month of Adar which corresponds to either our month of February. It is also the very day that the Maccabees liberated Israel after a four-year battle with the Seleucid Empire.
Sister Lucia to whom Our Lady of Fatima appeared died on this date. Our Lady of Fatima’s first appearance to the three shepherd children was May 13, 1917.  Her last appearance was October 13,1917. On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt. He credits Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life.
Queen Esther clothed herself in sackcloth and ashes.  She fasted from food and water for three days and asks the Jews to do the same.  After the three days, she approached the King without being summoned.  She did this even though she was aware that the King could have sentenced her to death for doing so.
When the Queen enters into the King’s presence he extends his scepter thus sparing her life. He was so impressed by her courage and beauty that he promised her up to half of his kingdom. Instead, she invites him to two banquets and invites Haman – the man responsible for the order of the genocide of her people. At the second banquet she pleads for her life and the life of her people.  The King is horrified by what Haman has done and orders him to be hung on the same gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.  Persian law did not permit the King to reverse his decree, but he issued another decree that the Jews could defend themselves.  Instead of being destroyed, the Jewish people were saved and defeated their enemies in battle. The Jews celebrate this triumph each year as their Feast of Purim.  It doesn’t always fall on the same day.  In 2013, the Feast falls on February 24th.
Many see Queen Esther as a type of Mary and the Book of Esther as a type of the Apocalypse. A figure type is a person, place, thing or event foreshadowing a New Testament archetype (a perfect model or type). The New Testament archetype is always greater than its Old Testament figure type. For example, Jonah’s time in the belly of the great fish is a type of Jesus in the tomb. Moses is a type of Jesus.
The Jewish people were saved through the intercession of Queen Esther, so Mary intercedes for her people today.  The Apocalypse foretells a great persecution of Christians at the end of time, but the Book of Revelation speak about the Ark of the Covenant appearing in the sky and the Woman crushing the head of the dragon. (Revelation 12)
When the Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima she wore the Star of Esther. In the Old Testament of the Hebrew text, her name was Hádássah - meaning myrtle, a white, five-pointed, star-shaped flower. In the Hebrew text, her name was Hádássah - meaning myrtle, a white, five-pointed, star-shaped flower.
Like Esther, Mary came at Fatima to spare her children from destruction. She asked people to repent of sin, pray the rosary, go to confession, and receive the Eucharist worthily. On July 13, 1917, Our Lady said to the child Lucia: “…I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated. ... In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and an era of peace will be granted to the world.”
Had her requests been heeded the world would have been spared the horrors of World War II in which over 50 million people died and countless other wars and persecutions provoked by Communists throughout the world. In 1920, Russia was also the first country to legalize abortion. In 1913, Communist leader Vladimir Lenin demanded “the unconditional annulment of all laws against abortions or against the distribution of medical literature on contraceptive measures.”
Great evils threaten our world. Sin increases. So many hearts are hardened. We need to call on Our Lady in prayer.  Heed her requests at Fatima and Lourdes. Do penance, do the Five First Saturday devotion by going to confession, receiving the Eucharist, praying the rosary and meditating 15 minutes on the mysteries for five first Saturdays of the month in a row.  
Queen Esther asked her people to do pray and do penance with her. We must listen to the Blessed Mother today and ask her to intercede with her Son that he might spare us, our nation and our world. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Sign of Jonah and the Year of Faith - Homily on Luke 11, 29-32

The Gospel today reminds us of our need to live by faith and not to depend on signs and wonders.  The crowd demanded a sign from Jesus before they would believe in him. He tells them no sign will be given them except the sign of Jonah. He is referring to the fact that Jonah was three days in the belly of a great fish. So Jesus would be spend three days in the earth after his death, but on the third day rise.

In the meantime, the people should have repented and believed because of the truth he spoke, just as the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah.

Jonah was a reluctant prophet. He didn’t want to preach to the Ninevites, not because he was afraid he would be rejected, but because he was afraid his enemies would repent.  Jesus is far greater than Jonah, because he is God himself.  If the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, the crowd should have been moved to repentance even more by the Word made flesh.

Let’s not be like the crowd who demands signs before we believe.  Let’s not be like Jonah who feared sinners would repent and be saved.  We need to strongly denounce sin.  At the same time we must love sinners.  Especially during Lent we should pray, do penance and work for their conversion. St. Paul tells us that God ‘wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ (1 Timothy 2, 4) We should want the same.

This is a special year to grow in faith.  On October 11, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic Letter entitled Porta Fidei or Door of Faith to begin a Year of Faith which will last until November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

He chose to begin the Year of Faith on October 11th because it was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962 - December 8, 1965) and also the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Blessed John Paul II.  Pope Benedict believes that the Second Vatican Council was a  ‘the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century’ that is ‘ a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.’

While many appeal to a "spirit of Vatican II" which has little or no relevance to the council documents, the Holy Father is convinced that the Second Vatican Council, if interpreted and implemented according to the mind of the Church, can be a powerful guide for the renewal of the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI says that The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a systematic presentation of the Catholic Faith that enables the faithful to know the full symphony of Faith. In the Catechism ‘ we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith.’

Blessed John Paul II declared that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is ‘a sure norm for teaching the faith’.  It was his hope that it would ‘serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!’ 

Every Catholic home should have a Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Pope wants us to know and to treasure our faith, and to be fully converted to the Lord. The more we know and live our faith the easier we can share it with others with deep conviction.

Faith is deepened through prayer.  The summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed, and also the source from which all its power flows, is the Eucharist.  He hopes the Year of faith will deepen our love and appreciation for Jesus in the Eucharist.

The Pope also wants us to trace the history of our faith.  He wants us to see how the history of the Church has been marked by the interweaving of holiness and sin.  He wants s to know and love the great figures of our faith - Mary and the Apostles, to the saints, martyrs, confessors and virgins.  
He says it’s also a time to intensify our witness to charity, which is faith in action.  The Pope says “What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.”

In the conclusion of Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges the suffering that many Christians experience each day. He says  “How many believers, even in our own day, are tested by God’s silence when they would rather hear his consoling voice! The trials of life, while helping us to understand the mystery of the Cross and to participate in the sufferings of Christ (cf. Col 1:24), are a prelude to the joy and hope to which faith leads: “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). We believe with firm certitude that the Lord Jesus has conquered evil and death. With this sure confidence we entrust ourselves to him: he, present in our midst, overcomes the power of the evil one (cf. Lk 11:20); and the Church, the visible community of his mercy, abides in him as a sign of definitive reconciliation with the Father.

Let us entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed “blessed because she believed” (Lk 1:45)."