Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

With the advent of modern social media, some friends and parishioners have from time to time suggested that I record and upload my homilies onto my blog. I have been hesitant to do so because it seemed egotistical for me to think that people would want to listen to them, but they reminded me that other priests have done so, that it is part of using the modern technology to reach people, and they told me they thought my homilies were good enough to post. So, taking their advice, I’ve decided that I will occasionally record and post my homily on my blog for anyone who wishes to listen to it. Here is today’s:

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

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How ironic!

This is probably the shortest post I will ever make on my blog, but isn’t it ironic that National Marijuana Day is celebrated on April 20th, Adolf Hitler’s birthday?

From the Yakima Herald: “You didn’t want to risk tipping off some square to your illegal activity, so you’d mention 420 and gauge their reaction. Now April 20 (4/20) is practically a national holiday, the subject of coverage in Time magazine and on network news and in newspapers all over the country every spring. Marijuana stores and businesses and advocacy groups have used the number in their names, including a Facebook group called Yakima’s 420 Club and the store Station 420 in Union Gap.”

Lunacy is alive and well!

Adolf Hitler · Born Apr 20, 1889

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Adolf Hitler

My Easter Homily

A few parishioners asked me if I would post my Easter homily on my website. Since we had recorded the Easter Vigil to give to our catechumen who was baptized, I have a video of it. If you wish to see my Easter homily you may click the link here: Easter Homily 2018

By What Authority Do You Say These Things?

The other night I dropped in on our young adult group and one of the young men asked me a question that he says friends of his frequently ask him: “With all the different denominations of Christianity out there, why should we worry about being Catholic?” I told him that the answer ultimately comes down to a question of authority. There are so many different denominations of Christianity in the world today, many of whom teach things that are drastically different from each other to the point that they can’t all be correct. While some things are differences of culture and custom, others disagree with each other about theology, and they can’t all be right. Therefore, with all the different churches saying different things that contradict each other, how do you know who’s telling the truth? Obviously, Christ is the truth, so we have to know who is teaching what Christ revealed, which means we have to ask the question, “Who has the authority to speak in the name of Christ?” We are the only denomination of Christianity that can point to a Scripture text that explicitly gives us that authority: Matthew 16:13-20. In this famous account Jesus says to Simon “…you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you let loose on earth shall be let loose in heaven.” We as Catholics take that as a clear creation of the church by Jesus, that Jesus gave the authority to St. Peter to speak in his name and that that authority passes down through the centuries to Pope Francis today. Of course, lots of non-Catholics will disagree with us and claim that that’s not at all what Jesus meant. They try to disprove it with a variety of arguments, but one thing they can’t do is provide a Scripture quote to authorize themselves. No one can point to a Scripture quote that says Martin Luther was authorized by Christ to speak in his name, or John Calvin, or Zwingli, or Henry VIII, or the guy who just got religion last week and rented a storefront and made himself a minister. Ultimately, we have to ask these people “by what authority do you speak in the name of Christ?”

When I first realized that God was calling me to be a priest, I didn’t just rent a storefront and appoint myself a minister. No, I went to the Church that I was convinced was the only one that possessed the fulness of truth and asked to be given the authority to preach in its name, which was done to me on May 12, 1990 by Cardinal O’Connor, who had the authority to ordain priests given to him by Pope John Paul II, a direct successor of St. Peter. Of course, that means I must always preach what the Church teaches is the truth and not my own opinion. Just because I was authorized to speak in the name of the Church doesn’t mean anything I think up is automatically true. I will only be helping people when I teach what the Church has taught me is the truth that Christ entrusted to her.

Years ago I remember a man asking me the following question: “Why do you feel you have to parrot everything the Pope says? You have a brain; think things out for yourself!” I remember saying to him, “Thank you for the compliment! You think I’m infallible?” I am not infallible. I have been wrong in the past and I will be wrong at times in the future. If I love my people I will not get up in the pulpit on Sunday and tell them my opinion. First of all, that’s not why they come to Mass. and secondly, how can I tell them with certainty to follow something that I may later discover not to be true? My mind is not the source of all truth. But when I teach the Truth that Christ has given through the Catholic faith that he gave the apostles and is handed down to us today through his Church, then I can speak with certitude and tell my people they must follow it, for what the Church clearly teaches as the truth of Christ must be correct or Jesus lied to St. Peter!

truth-will-set-you-freeLots of times people follow individuals who are very charismatic and perhaps do a good job praying and leading people in prayer before the Lord. I don’t question for a moment the sincerity of any of these individuals. I’m sure they are very well intended and are doing their best to follow the Lord. But before we can say we speak definitively in the name of Jesus we have to be sure that what we’re saying is in fact what he has revealed and that we are well schooled in what he reveals. We firmly believe that Jesus gave the deposit of revelation to the apostles and told them to preserve it through the generations and that he gave Peter and the other apostles the authority to speak in his name; therefore, in order to say we are speaking the definitive truth of Jesus we must be in union with that Church, be well schooled in what we believe, and have the authority to teach in the name of Christ given to us by someone with the authority to do so, namely, a bishop, one of the successors of the apostles. Many people today don’t do that. They somehow find Jesus and come to believe in him, and they want to go out and bear witness to him, and that’s wonderful. But they go out without any authorization from him and without any schooling on their own and rent a storefront and claim that they are now a minister for Christ and that they’re speaking the truth in his name. But how do they know that what they think is the meaning of a certain Bible text is the correct interpretation, especially when so many storefront preachers and denominations of Christianity disagree with each other? I get the fact that many people listen to them because they can be very charismatic and very entertaining and that they feel very comfortable around the person. Perhaps he is a compassionate individual that makes them feel good and that’s all wonderful. But try this analogy: suppose you were sick and needed a doctor and a friend of yours told you about this wonderful guy that they go to who is very compassionate. He’s funny and his office is beautiful, and you go to the guy and he is a wonderful person and he really gives you all sorts of good sounding advice. Maybe he even tells jokes, perhaps he sings and he makes your experience in his office so wonderful, whereas the doctor you used to go to you just went in, he met you, he gave you a prescription and that was it. You decide that, from now on this is the doctor for you! Then you discover that this new doctor you are going to is not in fact a doctor; he never went to medical school and has no medical degree. All he did was pick up a couple of books on medicine and read them. Would you be comfortable receiving medical advice from this man? And if he’s not giving you any medicine – which he can’t do if he’s not a doctor because he doesn’t have the right to give you a prescription – in the long run, is he doing you any good? He may have been very comforting and compassionate, but when you leave your still sick. So just because the experience was a lot more enjoyable doesn’t mean the man in fact helped you in any way. It’s the same thing when we seek out denominations of Christianity or storefront churches or ministers or whomever it may be that say things that we like to hear or who give us a lot more of an enjoyable experience in our prayer but who are in fact not giving us the truth of Christ. All that warmth is wonderful, but if it’s not being accompanied by the truth of Christ then it’s not doing us any good.

I don’t know if it still there, but I remember when I was in the seminary and we would go down to the cathedral once a month to serve mass for the Cardinal we passed a storefront church in Harlem whose title was “The True Church of Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith.” I realized right away what that minister was attempting. He realized that, with all these ministers out there saying such vastly different things, that people needed to know who in fact was teaching the truth of Jesus. He therefore decided to try to rediscover what Jesus taught the apostles to hand down to us, and that his church would be the place where people heard the true teachings of Christ. But what that man didn’t realize is that he attempted to re-create the Catholic Church! That is precisely what we are! We are the true Church of Jesus Christ of the apostolic faith. We are the only ones who can say that Jesus clearly gave us the authority to speak in his name. No one else can make that claim!

In the end, while it’s nice to look for exciting communities with uplifting music and powerful pray-ers, ultimately it is more important to find those who have the authority to teach in the name of Christ and who are faithful to what Christ revealed to the apostles. Neither exciting liturgy nor charismatic preaching will set you free, only the truth of Christ can do that, which he reveals in its fulness through the only Church he gave the authority to speak in his name: The Catholic Church.

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Do you want some good news about young people and faith?

Whenever we hear reports from the Pew Research Center or other surveys about religious practice in America we get bad news. We’re frequently informed of the exodus of people from churches and synagogues around the country. Tons of ink will then be spilled over why people don’t come to church any more and what we need to do to bring them back. Well, I’m happy to give you some good news from St. Ann’s. We seem to be doing something right, especially for our young people. For example: we are a relatively small parish, only getting between 500 and 550 people on a weekend, yet our teen club has 20 high school students who attend meetings on a Wednesday night twice a month and are very into the faith and spiritual element of the meeting; they don’t just come to see their friends and get free pizza! Two young men who went through our teen club when they were in high school have now begun a young adult group for people in their 20s. They too are looking to create a group with a solid spirituality and Catholic identity and not merely a social club. They have had about a dozen young people showing up and have been attracting an ever-growing number. One of our men recently asked if he could begin a men’s holy hour during our monthly nocturnal adoration. He attracted 18 men for their first event and are hoping for 40 this weekend. We have 22 young people signed up for our Youth Pilgrimage to Rome this summer. I have clearly explained to them the difference between a pilgrimage and a vacation, that we will have daily Mass and prayer along with visits to the sites of Rome, and they are actually looking forward to that part of the journey and not just eating gelato! But probably the most amazing thing to note is the number of people coming to our ChristLife program. We usually try to limit the group to 70 participants because of the size of Fr. Anthony Hall, where the sessions take place. Last Thursday for their opening session, they had people lining up outside hoping to be allowed to join. The current count is 102! And of that number, the majority are younger people, many in their teens and 20s! While some are from other parishes or people with no religious affiliation looking to learn more about Jesus, the majority are our own parishioners. That means that nearly 20% of our regular Sunday parishioners are coming to ChristLife! That is truly amazing! The Spirit is on the move here in St. Ann’s, and I am very pleased to let you know that! Perhaps we can serve as a model for other parishes.

Of course, the big question to ask is, “what are we doing right?” Why are we succeeding in reaching young people? I think a big part of the answer is that we’re not dumbing down the message. If we were only offering sport programs, dances, and trips to Six Flags, we could end up saying we’re being popular and a source of entertainment for teens and young adults. But we do more than that. They come looking to be challenged by the Gospel. Jesus was not a wimp, and he never called people to follow him by giving them sweet-tasting bromides. He showed them a completely different way to view life and to value what many people reject. Naturally, to follow what Jesus says means we have to make a radical change in our outlook on life and live by a completely different set of standards. Many people are not willing to do that and leave the Church for that reason. The mistake I believe many parishes and churches have made is to avoid the challenging topics and give people soft talk, or “Catholic Lite” every Sunday. I have always used the term “marshmallow theology” to describe this approach, giving homilies that are sweet and tasty but have no nutritional value whatsoever. Everybody loves a marshmallow once in a while, but try to live on marshmallows and you soon get sick of them! So toning down the message and just doling out platitudes is not going to win many people over. Oh it will suit the people who don’t want to be challenged and want to be allowed to bask in their own delusions of how holy they are. But that will never produce disciples. Sure, I’ve had some people leave St. Ann’s and go where they get the sweet nothings they want to hear. I let them go. We need warriors for Christ, people on fire with the Holy Spirit who are willing to be bold and be Catholic and who are not afraid of the challenge of the Gospel, and there are many other people who have told me they come to St. Ann’s because they get an authentic experience of Christ. That’s what we try to do at St. Ann’s. I believe our success is faithful, prayerful worship that is worried about the quality of our prayer rather than how quickly we can get people out the door, and a weekly challenge to radical conversion in Christ, reminding people of Jesus’ tremendous love for us, that he loves us so much that he doesn’t want to leave us where we are but wants to challenge us to be the best version of ourse023lves that we can be. When we allow Christ to change us, we grow in character, in dignity, in peace, and in joy. Our lives find meaning, and we naturally see the meaning in the lives of others and desire to call them to share in the joy in Christ that we have found. I believe the young people who are active here at St. Ann’s see that. They get that in order to know Jesus they need to think and act differently. They see through the mistake of soft teachings and want to be challenged to be better people. Once they see the results that a life firmly lived following Christ makes they see how true it is. They hunger for more and want to share their faith with others so that they can share the joy they know. That’s why they’re here.

So if anyone complains to you about the lack of interest in the faithS2240027 by young people, please tell them that it is not true of all young people, and that at St. Ann’s we have many young people willing to be disciples of Christ, and if they are the future of the Church, the Church is in good hands! Tell them to challenge our young people to think like Christ and don’t patronize them by feeding them platitudes. If people complain they get nothing out of Mass or that their parish has nothing to offer them, tell them to find a parish that provides authentic worship of Christ and where they are challenged to follow the truth of Christ and to make the radical changes necessary to be disciples of Jesus. If they do that, they will find, God, they will find meaning in their lives, and they will find peace.

 

Are You the Center of Your Own Solar System?

I frequently come across people who complain about how selfish the people around them are, as I’m sure you do too. In most cases, they are absolutely right. We can all be self-centered at times and fail to be concerned about one another’s needs. But every once in a while, I come across someone who seems to be pushing the limit to which others are responding to their needs beyond the limit of realistic expectations. They act as if everyone is supposed to be at their beck and call and jump whenever they cry out for

Attention

anything. What we end up doing is making ourselves the center of our own solar system.We make ourselves the sun and expect everyone else to live as planets revolving around us. This is not very realistic, is it? How many people are willing to allow their entire life to revolve around me and my needs? Not too many. I am certain that no one woke up this morning and prayed, “Heavenly Father, help me know what I need to do today to meet Fr. Carrozza’s needs!” It didn’t happen. Neither did anyone pray that prayer about you, and if we are expecting other people to do so, we’re going to be terribly disappointed. Furthermore, if everyone felt that way, we’d all be a bunch of suns expecting other people to be planets revolving around us.

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You can visualize the tension there: everyone is demanding attention and no one is getting it. That for me is a definition of living Hell! But if we place Christ at the center of our solar system, if we let Him be the sun around which we revolve, then we’re all revolving around the same “Son”. We’re all in harmony with each other, everyone going in the same direction, and with Jesus at the center of our lives, we realize that serving Him means serving one another.

 

Christ is the Center

We then will all naturally respond automatically to each other’s needs, everyone will be satisfied, and everyone will be at peace. That to me is Heaven on Earth! During Lent, let’s see if we can figure out whether we revolve around Christ or whether we revolve around ourselves and are expecting others to do the same. Ask Christ to be the center of your life. Ask Him to help you change and make Him the center, and to help you encourage others to do the same. When we do that, we will have harmony, we will have joy, we will have peace!

A blessed Lent to you all!

Some thoughts on Immigration for Catholics

As a Catholic and a priest who certainly desires proper treatment of immigrants – indeed of all people – I wasn’t sure what to make of the DACA policy. While I understand the concerns about legal immigration, I was also torn by the concern over returning children to a country they have never known. This article offered me some helpful insights to see what is clearly at stake. I recommend clicking the link to what St. Thomas Aquinas said about immigration. It is very helpful.

The Real Issues Underlying the Dreamer Debate

The problem with the “dreamer” debate is that it has little to do with children or their dreams.

Most of the “dreamer children” are now adults. On average, the 800,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program who entered America illegally as minors—alone, or brought by parents or relatives—are about 24-years-old today. Their dreams are also nothing unique or special. They consist of a path toward U.S. citizenship, a goal shared by millions worldwide.

Put succinctly, the only difference between “dreamers” and the millions of other minors who entered America illegally over the last half-century is a bureaucratic one: At some point within the last five or so years “dreamers” filed a DACA application.

Forgotten Considerations
This lackluster distinction notwithstanding, the DACA rescission debate has been framed in the imagination of many Americans as a highly emotional narrative. It evokes images of Elian Gonzalez-likechildren being torn at gunpoint from the arms of sorrowing relatives; aspiring high school and college students removed from dorms and classrooms; enterprising youngsters removed from jobs where they are esteemed by their co-workers. Supposedly, they are now to be deported by heartless ICE agents to a home country they barely knew and where they now lack roots and the loving support of family and friends.

While dishonest, this framing of the narrative is powerfully effective. An ocean of emotions drowns out anyone trying to focus attention on the tortured issue’s important elements. The organized crime role of “coyotes” and enablers who helped “dreamers” enter America illegally goes unaddressed. Forgotten is the fact that the parents of “dreamers” are just as likely to be undocumented, so families need not be broken up but can stay together as they return to their home country. The same goes for the unfairness, nay the injustice, in rewarding the dreamer parents’ scofflaw entry into the country, their cutting in line ahead of the millions of others who respect and obey the country’s sovereignty and immigration laws. Likewise, the anarchical behavior of President Obama himself who admitted he had no authority to implement a DACA-like executive measure granting administrative amnesty, and then did it.

Anyone raising such considerations is shouted down and denounced as lacking compassion. Ironically, the compassion toward the dreamers is not extended to the citizen realists who raise legitimate concerns about the nation’s future.

Using Young People as Pawns
Thus, the debate over DACA is not about children and dreams. It has turned these poor young people into hostages of a contrived narrative, using them as mere pawns in a bigger game—the charting of America’s course as a nation and the determining of what role government will continue to have.

In this broader struggle for America’s soul, liberals see DACA as an ideal battlefield. They have occupied the higher ground by wrapping themselves in the flag of fuzzy warm compassion. They have infused the issue with emotional hype, making rational debate impossible. This passionate framing of the narrative has divided conservatives. They are torn between Christian compassion and the need to uphold the rule of law. With the media as its willing partner, liberals see this conservative division as a win-win situation to be exploited.

A Debate Clouded by Emotion and Political Positioning
When policy becomes clouded with emotion and political positioning, it endangers the nation. The longer a solution is delayed by emotional stewing, the more difficult the problem will be to resolve. That is why the implications of DACA extend beyond immigration.

What Does Saint Thomas Say About Immigration?

When nations allow themselves to be run by emotions and feelings, they place themselves on the fast track to destruction. When feelings can be evoked to create “rights” for every individual who calls himself the victim of injustice, then nothing is sacred. When emotions control the granting of entitlements, then no budget can endure.

When feelings become the leading standard of judgment, they are easily turned against those who oppose these expressions of false compassion. There is no fury equal to that of those who attack the defenders of duty, virtue, and the rule of law. There is no greater tyranny than those whose passions are unleashed against God and reason.

How the DACA debacle will be resolved is still unclear. However, one thing is certain: Only a return to sound principles coupled with a practical wisdom in their implementation can provide just, quick, and compassionate solutions.

Maneuvering to a Better Battlefield and Victory
Since the ocean of emotions is a battlefield upon which conservatives cannot win, they should pivot to where they hold the advantage. This new battlefield must be based both on the rule of law and on principled compassion. Accordingly, it should be informed by the following principles and considerations:

1. It is the natural right of the State to regulate immigration into its territories in the interest of the common good of its citizens. It also has the duty to protect the nation’s best interests in the realms of defense, economy, health, culture, and social harmony and cohesion.

2. While every individual has a natural right to immigrate, this is not an absolute right enforceable against an established nation. From time immemorial, an immigrant’s admission into a host country has depended and continues to depend on the approval of that nation’s government. Government consent, freely given, is what distinguishes immigration from invasion.

3. The natural moral law obliges those who immigrate to respect the laws of the country in which they settle and to obey its government.

4. Illegal immigration is subversive of a nation’s common good and order since it disobeys just laws. It anarchically upends government policies, programs, and quotas implemented to regulate and order immigration prudently.

5. While there is much truth in Bismarck’s statement that “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable—the art of the next best,” the first natural duty of officeholders in a representative democracy is to honor their campaign promises. In so doing, they keep faith with their constituents and build much-needed social trust in their pledged word as political leaders. This is a rule of honor, but it also guarantees their political base’s continued support.

6. Just as uninterrupted adverse possession (“squatters rights”) under common law can engender property rights over time (Montana’s time limit is five years, New Jersey is thirty), so also, analogously, an illegal immigrant’s long-tolerated illegal presence—even when due to the negligence or complicity of previous administrations—can gradually engender an equitable right to his continued stay. Thus, in deportation proceedings, it is wrong to treat all illegal immigrants equally. Clearly, one who has been in the country uninterruptedly for thirty years has a different standing than one who has only been here for three.

7. An immigrant’s assimilation of the country’s heritage and culture is essential in maintaining social cohesion and harmony.

8. Saint Thomas Aquinas defends this cultural assimilation and explains that since it takes time, citizenship should not be immediate but should be delayed.

9. Federal law cannot be ignored. The enacting and changing of immigration laws are the purview of Congress. The role of the Executive and Judicial branches of government is to uphold the law. All three branches should strive to collaborate harmoniously for the nation’s common good.

The immigration crisis involves situations that need to be analyzed with great care. Solving this issue entails moral and prudential judgments that are best made quietly, without a media circus. It should not be simplified and infused with emotion. Rather, it must be addressed wisely by government.

With this practical wisdom, both the legitimate rights of illegal immigrants and the common good of the nation can and should be harmonized in keeping with the principles of justice and charity. Failure to respect this balance can lead the country to chaos.

No one will contest that immigration policy should be just, ample, and equitable. It should be charitable and compassionate. Reasonable efforts should be employed to alleviate hardships and adapt to particular circumstances. However, the system should be fair for all by rewarding compliance and punishing subversion. It should inspire social trust through its solid grounding in legal and equitable principle and good policy.

The debate over DACA is not about children and dreams. It is about a bitterly divided America. It is about grave concerns that there will soon no longer be an America about which to dream. It is the struggle between one America that wants a return to order and the rule of law, and another that dismisses sovereignty, borders, and the very concept of a nation.