Monday, March 27, 2006

Homily worth reading By Deacon Emmanuel Ihemedu

St. Martin's Men of Emmaus
MARCH 26, 2006
“Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you.”
This psalm was composed after the chosen people of God returned from exile in Babylon. The psalm recalls the sadness of their exile experience, the suffering that they endured. Our first reading from the second book of Chronicles tells us the reason for the exile. It recounts the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile in Babylon (537 B.C.E).
This is the fall of the kingdom of David. The greatness of the kingdom of David was due to his fidelity to proper worship of God, and the fall of his kingdom under subsequent kings was as a result of their infidelity to proper worship of God and their failure to listen to God’s word brought to them by the prophets, the messengers of God.
The chosen people of God had desecrated the temple of God. The princes, the priests and the entire community were invaded by sin, immorality. In them there was no purity of heart, no right relationship with God. They had given themselves over to self-indulgence, the pursuit of worldly pleasures, the oppression of the poor, and worship of false values. They became morally weak and abandoned their relationship with God. God in his infinite love and mercy sent his words through the prophets as the guiding principle of life and living to dispel the darkness of their lives and to call them back to a life of relationship with Him. Yet they ignored the word of God and mocked the messengers of God. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie; and because of that God gave them up in their stubbornness. We know the consequences. The result was catastrophic
Their enemies invaded their land, destroyed the walls of Jerusalem and took them as slaves on exile. They appealed to God from the exterior to come and fight for them and the Lord gave them up to their own sins.
We are the new people of Israel. And everyday we are constantly at war with the worst of all enemies- sin, evil, and death. Like I said in one of my homilies, the center of this battle is not Iraq or Afghanistan. It is here at St. Martin, in our homes, our families, our places of work. It is even in the air that we breathe. It seems to me that sin is constantly invading our society, destroying the fabrics of our lives and taken us as slaves and exiling us from our relationship with God.
God sent his prophets to the chosen people to teach them how to defeat sin, evil, death and to return to him. In the same way, God in his infinite love and mercy has sent us his Son as our victory over sin, evil and death. Jesus is the Light of the World, who alone can dispel the darkness of sin in our lives. We have a choice: Either to come into the light of God’s love- Jesus, or to remain in darkness. Part of the strategy for winning this spiritual warfare is by accepting Jesus as the guiding principle of life and living. Coming into the light exposes our sins, but only that we can be forgiven.
How do we come into the Light? By allowing Jesus to circumcise our heart. It is a clean heart, a pure heart, a circumcised heart that God loves and that’s what brings us into the light of God’s love, not just an external observance of the moral or religious laws, no matter how relatively perfect that may be. This is the message that the prophets brought to the children of Abraham in our first reading and they ignored them.
Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God says Joel [2:13] and surely that is the basic program for every Lent. Deuteronomy [10: 16] tells us, Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and be no longer stiff-necked.
Lent, then, is the time to have our hearts circumcised by God, and that purification is not simply a matter of external disciplines. It is more painful than that, because it goes deeper.
The first step in this interior circumcision is the most painful, the opening of our heart before God, and in a very concrete way. It is clearly not a matter of privately informing God of what is in our heart - he knows everything already.
It is a matter of opening our heart then to whom? In fact it is to ourselves, because we have the inbuilt tendency to disguise, to hide from ourselves the truth that lies deep in our hearts about our thoughts, our desires, our temptations, the roots of our temptations.
In practice, this means opening our hearts to another, and through this other to come to know ourselves before God. This is one of the reasons Christ instituted the sacrament of reconciliation so that we can allow Him to circumcise our hearts, to open our hearts to ourselves through the mediation of our confessors and spiritual directors for the sake of transparency, so that there is no little or big dark secrets just between us and God. Any Secret between us and God does not lead to purity of heart but to self-rationalization, self-deceit, and self-destruction. Not all of us are masters in deceiving others, but most of us are masters at self-deceit. Being fully open and honest to our confessors and spiritual directors, before God, is the only way of being open and honest to oneself
The failure to circumcise the heart has been a disaster for so many Christians, including the clergy and therefore for the Church. Could the priest, who is drinking too much, continue down hill if he were really opening his heart to God in this very concrete way? Could the husband who is troubled by marital infidelity continue downhill and destroy his marriage if he was really opening his heart to a good confessor or spiritual director? Could the teenager who is troubled by the access to pornography on the internet continue downhill if he was really opening his heart to a good director, not just one of his buddies who are easy on him? And so many more traps, so many paths of rationalization, so many paths of disaster both personal and for the people of God whom we serve.
The truth is I cannot love the Lord and love the Church, which is one with Him, His Mystical Body, with all my heart, unless my heart is pure, and that requires the repeated circumcision of the heart, the often painful process of self-revelation that goes beyond the surface of my life and reaches the depths of my soul. I can wear this vestment as much as I want, if I don’t have purity of heart, it is nonsense. The hood does not make the monk. We are all called to be holy, to be saints. That’s what I’m called to be and that’s what you’re called to be. If we are not striving for sainthood, the devil is winning the war.
There is simply no other way to win this battle with sin, evil and death than to allow Jesus the Light to circumcise our hearts and dispel the darkness of sin in our lives, and God does that through the concrete ministry of the Church, which is the ultimate safeguard against self-deception, presumption, blindness, and personal shipwreck.
Those who cannot believe that God is so-loving avoid the light and remain trapped in the guilt and condemnation of their sin.
The light of God’s love is available to everyone. Let us come into that light more fully and allow him to scatter the darkness that lingers within us. Amen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How old must you be to attend MoE?

This was a question recently asked of us and I thought it would be appropriate to open this up for discussion.

How old should you be to meet with a group of men that pray and discuss the Gospel? How about when we really open up and bare our souls, talking in strictest confidence about issues and struggles that we face?

There is a certain amount of trust and confiendiality that we must guarantee if we hope to continue our successful mission. Without that, I believe, we begin to chip away at the foundation of the group.

I believe that is more of a question of maturity than age. Certainly maturity comes with age, but it is not the same for all.

We meet at 7:30am on Saturday mornings. It takes a certain amount of discipline, motivation and maturity to get up and make these meetings. So, in my opinion, if a high school aged guy wants to come and listen/learn/share with us, he should be able to. Just my opinion, and I am anxious to hear what the rest of you think. Lets discuss.

Friday, March 10, 2006

It's A Dangerous World Out There...

Kevin Brock of the FBI came last weekend and gave a fantastic talk to 70+ guys about the world of pornography, child abuse and violence in our society. Men of all ages, including several guys from the St. Martin's Youth Group, showed up at 7:30am to hear the message.

To say that Kevin is an expert on the dangers we face in the world today would be an understatement. As a director of Anti-Terrorism in the FBI and a 20+ year career in the Bureau to go along with being a husband and father of 1 boy and 7 girls (God Bless him!!), he had us hanging on every word.

There's no doubt that we live in a dangerous world. The criminal element is all around us. The really scary thing to me is the way our society tolerates and even encourages immorality and impurity. With the advent of the internet and more and more households online all the time, we really need to be careful.

Thanks Kevin for sharing with us your insights! We will no doubt revisit this issue indepth in future MoE meetings. Looking forward to seeing everyone again this weekend.

Peace and God Bless!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Why did God allow this to happen?"

Last week, a beautiful, twelve year old, Catholic girl was in the hospital because her appendix burst. When she returned home after her painful ordeal, she asked me, "why did God allow this to happen?" Whenever I hear people ask this question, I point them to a crucifix, and say, "why did God allow that to happen?" The Father has infinite and unending love for His own son, and yet, He let him suffer tremendously while on Earth.

When I was in Calcutta years ago, the sister who succeeded Mother Teresa as the head of the Missionaries of Charity said to me, "the greatest way to imitate Christ is to suffer. Those who are closest to Jesus on earth are those who suffer the most". The 12 year old girl is a great friend of Jesus Christ! Already in her young life she has had the opportunity to carry a part of Jesus' cross. The Father trusts this little girl in a big way. He'll never give any of us a cross that's too big for us to carry.

Normally, our suffering involves crosses that we don't choose. We accept them as Christ freely accepted his. He was an innocent victim who suffered for our sake: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15). Any of us who lay down our lives in any way and suffer for the sake of love are in intimate friendship with Christ. We do choose to make small sacrifices in Lent in order to become closer to Him, body and soul.

Who, then, are the greatest friends of Jesus Christ? Who see concrete signs in their lives of being loved and trusted by their heavenly Father? Those who are in physical, psychological, personal, or spiritual pain...those who hunger and thirst... those who are rejected and lonely... persecuted...outcasts... are laughed at... homeless... victims of violence...victims of disasters... etc. Those who carry their daily crosses are Jesus' closest friends.

Christian suffering, then, has great meaning. Our whole faith is centered on the suffering of our Savior. Suffering leads to love, and as I will write in an upcoming post, and it leads to glory. This seems like foolishness to the world, but as St Paul writes, "it is the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1). Ultimately, then, suffering is a sign of God's love. Anyone who imitates the Son in suffering for the sake of love receives the infinite and unending love of the Father.
Any other friends of Christ that I missed? Any stories of people who have taken up serious crosses? Anyone for whom we can pray?

Monday, March 06, 2006

St. Martin's Men of Emmaus

The Little Things
(delayed post due to user's technical deficiency)

Coming back from a 4-day silent retreat this weekend, my mind was opened to many things, but there are two that I feel compelled to share, as they relate to Lent.

The first: Doing little things well.

So often, I think that in order for me to have an impact on the world, I need to take broad steps, when really, if I take little steps well -- do an act of kindness for my wife, really be present to my children when they come to me, or power through an illness without mentioning it -- I can achieve much more. And in doing those little things well, I can move on to bigger things, like improving my virtue. In fact, by doing those little things well, I actually do improve my virtue ... my charity, my humility, my fortitude, my perseverance.

Which leads me to the second thing: Root sin ... Pride, sensuality, vanity, sloth.

I learned my root sin is like a tumor that has spread throughout my body. No matter how hard I try on my own, I cannot get rid of that cancer, because it has become a part of me, from my heart to my fingertips, from my fingertips to the ends of my toes.

The only solution is "radiation treatment" ... exposure to Christ, through the Eucharist, and through adoration.

Through the Eternal Doctor's loving power, I can stop the cancer. My yes, my simple Amen, can stop the spread, and in fact, I can allow His Body to overcome my own. If I share in His body, I become more in "communion" with others ... friend or enemy.

I can make His yes my yes.

And through treatment after treatment, I can make that yes radiate from the very center of my heart.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Something special for God this Lent

Yesterday, a SFA blogger asked, "Is there anything special we can do to make a good lent?" This is a very open-ended question with a million answers. I am tempted to just answer, "yes". But, I'll say a bit more than that, as usual! The Church wants us to focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during these holy 40 days, as Christ himself exhorted us to do (Mt 6). Let me use those as headings.

Prayer: Something special for God this Lent would be to attend daily Mass, in additon to Sunday. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest form of prayer. In Mass, we not only hear God's Word and encounter Him in the Eucharist, but we actually receive His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Making a frequent Communion with Christ is the best thing you can do this Lent, or any time. The next best thing you can do is spend time with Jesus in Adoration. Whether it's 15 minutes or a full Holy Hour that you can spend in His Presence, your soul will be grateful!

Fasting: Something special for God this Lent would be to offer a physical (but healthy) sacrifice to Him. We fast during Lent, especially, to be in union with Christ who fasted for 40 days in the desert. Whatever it is from which we fast (food, drink, television, etc.), it should be to draw our souls closer to God. The more we can detach from things of the world, the more we can attach ourselves to Him. If our fasting is merely external and doesn't draw us closer to loving Him and others, God himself has said that it's pointless.

Almsgiving: Something special to do for God this Lent would be to make a generous contribution to the Cardinal's Appeal. Like prayer and fasting, almsgiving should be part of our normal Christian living. But, in the season of Lent, maybe we can do more. Can I share more of my time and talent with those less fortunate? If not, I should give more of my treasure, so that those who do serve the poor will be better equipped. It is, after all, God's treasure; in almsgiving, we give back to Him what he has given us.

Whatever we decide to do this Lent, even if it's the smallest thing, if it's for the love of Jesus, it pleases him immensely. "If but a pin is given in homage, and given with a good heart, it will be enough for Jesus, who loves only the good will" (St Louis de Montfort).
Any other suggestions that MoE bloggers have??

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

St. Martin's Men of Emmaus

Prayer for youth as they transition into adulthood:

I was inspired by Sr. Andrea Falconer to write the following prayer for our youth. I am going to print the prayer to 'business cards' for ease of handout and use. Perhaps you might want to do the same or something similar.

Dear Holy Spirit,
As I move into adulthood please help me to hold-on to my faith and guide me to a vocation that will be satisfying and help fulfill Your will for me. Please let me know if I should stay single or marry; if single, please let me know if it should be in a religious order or as a lay person; if married, please bring the right spouse to me and let me know the right time to marry. Thank You for hearing my prayer. Amen.

St. Martin's Men of Emmaus

St. Martin's Men of Emmaus
Jesus Christ Superstar CD
One of my favorite pieces of music to listen to during Lent is the 'Rock Opera' "Jesus Christ Superstar" by Andrew Loydd Webber (spelling?). 70's music!
I have a loaner CD if anyone is interested.

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