Who is God?

This homily was given at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Sutherlin, OR on Christmas Day, December 25, 2022.

One dark night, a child was born.

He was born into a thick and heavy darkness, not only covering the eyes, but the minds and the hearts of man.

The darkness had weighed on us for centuries upon centuries, from generation to generation, as the whole world cried out with one question, one greatquestion: 

Who is God?

It’s the greatest and most important question of our human existence, because who He is determines who we are, the meaning and purpose of our life on this earth, and what comes after.

The Greeks sought God in philosophy, with reason and logical proofs.

They concluded, thousands of years before Christ, that there must be one Supreme Being, one Uncreated Creator of everything else there is.

They knew by reason that God must exist … but they did not know him.

They could not reason their way to discover this Supreme Being’s name, or his nature, or anything at all about who he is, what he’s like.

The long history of philosophy and human religions is the story of man seeking God in the darkness, groping for the truth by night, seeking but not finding, only seeing partial and obscure glimpses of the mystery.

Centuries before Christ, the prophet Isaiah sang: “Truly you are a hidden God, dwelling in inaccessible light!” 

As long as God remained hidden, the hearts of humankind were restless and unsatisfied, searching everywhere for the deepest truth of our existence.

Who is God?

Who is this Supreme Being, who is this Creator, who is it who holds the keys of life and death, who is it in whose image and likeness we are made, who holds the secret of our being, the reason of our existence, the purpose for which we were made and live and suffer and rejoice?

Some became afraid of finding the answer to the question: maybe there was no God there to find; maybe we are children of an absent Father!

Or maybe God is a tyrant, an abuser, who inflicts pain and suffering without lifting a finger to help.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come among us to answer the greatest question of our human hearts.

He reveals the whole mystery of God in Himself. 

“God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, but to us he has spoken through His Son.”

The Son of God, who reveals the face and the heart of the Father.

Who is God?

Look at the Nativity scene and see for yourselves!

God, who made the heavens and the earth, who set the stars in their courses, who created the universe and all humankind, God … is a little baby.

As we gaze upon the Nativity, so familiar to us, we discover that in these simple figures, the mystery of God is laid bare for our eyes to see: God made visible, touchable, adorable, unveiled, exposed, vulnerable before us.

God becomes a little baby precisely to reveal the depths of His heart for us.

For a God who can become a little child, laid in a manger among the straw, is a very different God than the philosophers could have imagined … different than the Jews ever predicted!

This is a God overflowing with love, a God who makes Himself poor and lowly so that we, little nothings that we are, might be lifted high, saved from the misery of sin and death, and filled with light and life.

This is a God who descends from the heights of heavenly glory to the depths of our poverty and hopelessness, into our darkness, into our sin and weakness, to save us and transform us and bring us back to Himself.

Now, today, all the ends of the earth have seen God and his saving power. 

Not power as we would expect; not power to force and coerce us to bend to God’s will.

No, the power of God is His glorious weakness: His making Himself the smallest, the weakest, to show us his heart and win our hearts for himself.

Christmas is God’s love story to humanity … and the Nativity of Christ is the beginning of the divine rescue mission to save mankind.

Jesus is the answer to which every human heart is the question.

So we come to Jesus, seeking the truth revealed in Him, today, and at every Holy Mass: We see Jesus born for us again, making Himself smaller than ever before: not wrapped in swaddling clothes this time, not lain in a manger, but clothed in bread and wine and laid upon our lips.

As we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we ask Him to reveal to us the Father’s face and the truth of the Father’s heart He knows so well, and to draw us into their divine life, their communion of life and love.

Our hearts find rest in God, as we discover in Jesus the pattern of our human existence, made and modelled as we are on the very life of God: to give ourselves away in self-surrender and let ourselves be loved; to seek to be little, preferring weakness to domination and love to power.

And on the last day, when life is changed, not ended, as we have learned God’s heart and conformed our hearts to His, we will return to the Creator, not as strangers, groping in the darkness, but as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of Jesus, rejoicing to return to the home of our Father and enter into his rest, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Episode 109: The Virtues and the Passions

19 December 2022 | Fourth Monday in Advent | Menlo Park, Calif.

This week, I share some thoughts from a recent discussion on authenticity and relatability. Are they virtues, and if so, how do they fit into our moral life and pastoral work? We continue to prepare for Christmas with the Carmelites, reading St. John of the Cross’s beautiful “Romances on the Incarnation.” Finally, Rachel and I discuss Barnaby Rudge, discussing the passions that give rise to mob violence and the role of fathers and sons.

Opening music: “Rorate cæli,” composed by William Byrd, sung by the Gesualdo Six, dir. Owain Park, 2021. All rights reserved.

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Episode 108: An Unpetalled Rose

12 December 2022 | Our Lady of Guadalupe | Menlo Park, Calif.

Christ’s peace be with you! In the midst of the busiest season of the year, we could all use a little break to contemplate something beautiful and discuss the deeper meaning of things. This week on the podcast, I wanted to pause and give you just that gift. We read a beautiful poem by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, then enjoy a lovely conversation with Rachel on Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop and the themes of martyrdom, memory, and much more.

Opening music: “Aue Maria” from the Mass of the Americas, composed by Frank La Rocca, dir. Ash Walker, 2018. All rights reserved.

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Return to Joy

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church, South San Francisco, CA on the Third Sunday in Advent, December 11, 2022. The audio is available here.

When we were little, around this time of year, Grandma and Grandpa would start coming round to ask what we wanted for Christmas, and we would tell them: 

I want this one book, I want that new game, I want a BMX bike.

And on Christmas morning, when we saw that big present under the tree from Grandma, and we just know under the wrapping paper was the bike we’d been dreaming of, our hearts just about exploded with delight.

As we get older, though, the things we want at Christmas tend to be a little harder to put on a shopping list.

We want rest from the busyness of our daily life.

We want time with our families and friends.

Maybe we want the kids to come home and gather around the table again, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

If we dare to say it out loud … we want joy!

The innocent, rapturous joy of the boy with the bike on Christmas morning. 

But these days, joy so often seems frustratingly out of reach.

We can’t order it off Amazon with free 2-day shipping.

We can chase after that joy with more and more stuff: a better vacation, a nicer car, new clothes, fine wines… 

But the more we look to creatures—meaning created stuff—the more we look to creatures to satisfy our deepest longings, the more frustrated, bored, hopeless, and empty our hearts become.

Because the truth is, even when we were kids, it wasn’t about the bike.

The childlike joy of Christmas morning is the joy of feeling loved…

Feeling, for one moment, for one morning, like everything, everything is right in the world, and I am safe, and I am loved, and we’re good … and I’m gonna ride my bike. 

Joy and love are inseparable; “joy is the fruit of love’s enduring embrace.”

So joy requires another person, just as love requires another person.

The boy on Christmas morning wouldn’t feel that same joy if he got a gift card to REI in the mail from a distant uncle he barely knows.

Maybe he could buy the same bike, but it’s not the same gift.

Joy is that simultaneous delight and rest we feel deep down in our hearts when we love another who we know loves us, who delights in us, who gives us the gift of their loving presence as we are present with them.

That’s why, today, the Church cries out with a wild, childlike joy: “rejoice!” – return to joy, that childlike Christmas joy – “rejoice! … in the Lord.”

And in case we missed it, she says it again: “Again I say, rejoice!—For indeed, the Lord is near.”

Jesus is near.

He is the one we’ve been waiting for.

Jesus is joy incarnate. 

In Jesus, all the deepest longings of the human heart are satisfied.

“The blind regain their sight; the lame walk; the deaf hear; the dead are raised.”

The busy find rest; the lonely are loved; the empty are filled with His goodness, and the hopeless and the bored come alive in His presence.

Today, at this Holy Mass, we rejoice in the presence of the Lord.

Here, in this church, we have the secret of that childlike Christmas joy the whole world longs for and strives for without knowing where to find it.

Jesus, the Christ-child, is born for us again on this altar in the Holy Eucharist, not wrapped in swaddling clothes this time, not lain in a manger, but clothed in bread and wine and laid upon our lips.

As we receive Jesus, the joy of the Father, the Gift of Gifts, we lay aside all earthly cares and rejoice in communion with the One who loves us so well.

Ask Jesus for the grace to remain in that joy, not just for a few minutes, not just for today, but all week long, from this Holy Mass to the next, and from that Holy Mass to the one after that.

As we live in His Christmas joy, we taste that love and delight and rest even now, “on earth as it is in Heaven.”

And on the last day, when we are crowned with everlasting joy, we shall enter the endless communion of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit in the eternal Christmas morning of God’s own delight, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Fight, Flight, Freeze

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church, South San Francisco, CA on the Second Sunday in Advent, December 4, 2022. The audio is available here.

Fear usually causes one of three reactions: fight, flight, or freeze.

Whether it’s a lion coming after you on the Serengeti or a call from your mom, who you’ve been avoiding, we tend to react in the same way.

Some of us get fired up right away, ready to fight back and defend ourselves.

Others run from danger. 

We see the name on caller ID and send it straight to voicemail.

“I’ll deal with them … later.” 

And others freeze up.

Sometimes, fear has so much power over us that we just stand there like a tree, rooted in place, powerless and paralyzed.

We feel afraid whenever we’re unsafe, whether that’s from physical danger, or emotional or moral danger that threatens our well-being.

It makes no difference to our nervous system; our bodies don’t distinguish between the prowling lion and the scary phone call.

It just perceives them both as threats and triggers the fear response.

And God designed our bodies this way to protect us from danger.

The problem is that sometimes, we perceive situations that aren’t really dangerous to us as a threat … and we respond accordingly.

Some of us fear God as a threat.

We’re afraid He’s going to punish us, that He’s not trustworthy, that He’ll abuse His power over us and reject us if He sees what we’re really like.

So we may fight against God by sinning to keep Him at arm’s length…

Or we fly from God, avoiding prayer, not going to Mass…

Or we might freeze up in His presence, our hearts going cold and numb without knowing why.

Fight, flight, freeze…

One response that we don’t typically have when we’re afraid is delight.

Yet, confusingly, that’s what today’s prophecy says about Jesus: “His delight shall be the fear of the Lord.”

Clearly, this is a different kind of fear than we’re used to.

But if you’ve ever stood on the edge of a cliff, or at the top of a raging waterfall, or a mountain peak overlooking the wide world spread out below, you may have tasted something of this other kind of fear.

If you’ve had a real, overpowering experience of God, in prayer, or at some difficult moment in your life, then you know it as well.

This is a holy fear, produced, not by danger and feeling unsafe, but by wonder and awe and love … and we can tell the difference at once by the kind of fruit it bears in our souls.

It’s not a fear that triggers us to fight or flight or freeze; this fear awakens something deep down within our hearts, making us feel alive, very small yet part of something great.

It produces peace, freedom, confidence, delight.

Jesus is not afraid of His Father, not the way we sometimes are.

Jesus gazes on the face of His Father with wonder and awe and love.

His delight is in the holy fear of the Father because He knows His Father’s heart; He knows Him, and He loves Him, and so He strives to please Him, never doing anything that would hurt His heart.

Jesus walked this earth the freest, most whole-hearted man who ever lived, because He lived at every moment in the holy fear of God. 

Take a good, hard look at our own hearts.

Which kind of fear do I have of God?

Look at the fruits in our own lives: is there sin, shame, coldness of heart, avoiding God, hiding from God … or delighting in God, seeking His face, striving to please Him, avoiding anything that might hurt His heart?

The first kind of fear, unholy fear, comes from a distorted image of the Father, from lies we have come to believe about Him.

So today, we repent of the lies we have believed about the Father…

And as we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we ask Him to show us the Father’s face and the truth of the Father’s heart He knows so well.

“Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

“Come, let us set things right,” says the Lord.

As we repent of the lies we have believed and return to the Father, we find that unholy fear loses its grip on us, and we begin to delight, like Jesus, in the holy fear of the Lord, the wonder and awe and love of God.

We begin to experience what it is to walk this earth in freedom and whole-hearted confidence as sons and daughters of the Most High God.

And on the last day, at His glorious and second coming, when “the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea,” we will not run and hide our faces…

We shall rejoice with Jesus and all the saints in the all-holy presence of God, for we know His heart, and He knows us, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Busy and Blind

This homily was given at St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, CA on the First Friday in Advent, December 2, 2022. The audio is available here.

Archbishop Sample says the greatest avenue of spiritual attack facing priests and bishops and seminarians right now … is busyness.

Busyness causes a kind of blindness: we see the trees, but we miss the forest.

We see the 101 things on our to-do list, but we miss the purpose.

Wherever the spirit of busyness takes over, there is worry, hurry, anxiety, restlessness, a lack of peace, deep exhaustion. 

And at the end of the day, we’re tired but wired, unable to rest, and we try in vain to treat our weariness of soul with our familiar addictions, which only leave us more empty and hopeless than before.

Make no mistake: the spirit of busyness is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus.

There is no beatitude that says, “Blessed are the busy.”

The demons and the damned are busy in hell, burdened under Satan’s yoke. But the angels and the saints live lightly, rejoicing in the presence of God.

Jesus offers us, blinded as we are by busyness, the choice to live differently.

We may have 100 things to do before this semester ends, but remember, onething is necessary: to live in the presence of the living God.

Today, Jesus calls us to declare war on the spirit of busyness: to keep our Holy Hours; to take a day off; to go for a walk and listen for his voice; to turn our laptops off at the end of the day and go to bed, trusting in Him.

As we receive Jesus today at this Holy Mass, we release the spirit of busyness and we receive the gentle yoke of Jesus, saying: “Lord, one thing I ask: let me hear your voice; let me see your face; let me dwell in your house, with you, all the days of my life.” 

For those who keep God before their eyes, not keeping busy but keeping close to Him, will see the bounty of the Lord even now in the land of the living; we will live lightly, and on the last day, we will enter into His rest, in the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Give Thanks in Everything

This homily was given at St. Joseph Parish, Roseburg, OR on the Thirty-fourth Friday in Ordinary Time, November 25, 2022. The audio is available here.

Yesterday, at the Mass for Thanksgiving Day, many of you shared things you were thankful for. 

Family, friends, kids, health, life, and pie were among the responses. 

Others identified spiritual goods: the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in our hearts.  

But one response was so bold, so unexpected, it stood out among all the rest. 

”I thank God for my sickness.”

We can all understand setting aside a day to give thanks to God for the good things He gives us, above all for the gift of Himself, Jesus Christ, who gives Himself away to save us from slavery to sin and death and raise us up for eternal life.

We give thanks for that gift, not just once a year, but every time we come to Holy Mass, where His sacrifice is renewed!

But in light of that supreme gift, everything else takes on a different meaning. 

We see everything in life comes to us from the hand of our Father who loves us, who is saving us, who allows even the most difficult and painful circumstances of this life for the sake of our ultimate good: eternal life. 

Because Christ is with us, in us as “the hope of glory,” the seed of eternal life sown in our souls, we “give thanks in everything,” even in sickness, even in suffering, even in those terrible trials we cannot change—because the winters of this life, terrible as they are, are passing, and summer is near. 

Today, now, at this Holy Mass, “our redemption is at hand.”

As we prepare to receive Jesus once more, lift up our heads and our hearts to Him and say: “Thank you. For everything that has come to pass…”

And we shall rejoice with Jesus among the saints in glory in the Kingdom of Our Father, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. 

The Poorest King Who Ever Lived

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 20, 2022. The audio is available here.

In the Lord of the Rings, there is an ancient kingdom called Gondor.

For many generations, Gondor was ruled by a royal family of kings and queens.

But when the last king died and his heir disappeared, the king’s steward took charge of the kingdom.

And for almost a thousand years, the stewards, who had been the servants of the king, ruled Gondor as if they were kings themselves.

So when Boromir, the son of the steward, meets Aragorn, the last, secret descendant of the line of kings and the true heir to the throne, he says:

“Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king.”

It’s not very appealing to have a king when you’re used to ruling yourself.

If there’s a king on a throne, then suddenly, my authority to make up my own rules, to determine my own destiny, is limited.

There’s another, higher authority that I must answer to. 

We think a king must be a tyrant.

We think someone ruling over us will only have his own interests in mind.

A king will use and abuse us, whereas if rule, then I can make sure that my needs are met, that I’m happy and safe and live a good life.

But Gondor, for all its pride, is on the verge of collapse.

The steward in charge has brought the kingdom to the point of ruin.

Gondor needs a king. Gondor needs a savior! … And so do we. 

I need a king, because if I look honestly at the kingdom of my own life, I have to admit that I am a useless steward—incapable of meeting my own needs, unable to engineer my own happiness, powerless to save myself from sickness, from loss, from grief, from despair, from death.

If that describes you, too, then this Sunday is very good news … because we have a king, and this king is no tyrant.

Ours is the poorest king who ever lived.

His throne is the cross.

No golden crown for him, but a circlet of thorns; not dressed in rich clothes, but stripped naked and exposed before the mockery of the crowds.

“Save yourself, you king; if you are the king, then get down off that cross and save yourself and us!”

Even in mocking him, they reveal the depths of their desperation for a savior, a true king with the power to deliver them from themselves, the terrible tyranny of self-rule, the desperate need to succeed on their own.

But our king, Jesus, does not get down from that cross.

He just … hangs there, between heaven and earth.

Jesus, who is God, created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, could have conquered the world without lifting a finger.

But he, the All-Powerful God, chose to make himself powerless.

He humbled himself as far as that, because He was after a greater prize than earthly kingdoms, greater by far than wealth and power and glory.

Jesus Christ came to win our hearts and souls back for God, His Father, and to win that kingdom, He had to show us what the Father is really like: 

Not a tyrant, not a bully, not an abuser in the sky, not a threat to our freedom, but a loving and kind and tender Father, a merciful Father, who gives everything He has away out of love for us.

Jesus Christ, the King on the cross, is the perfect image of the Father’s love.

And to all of us who admit that we need a king, Jesus gives us a simple invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-burdened; come into my kingdom, and I will give you rest. Come and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” 

Today, at this Holy Mass, as we receive Jesus Christ, the crucified King of the Universe, veiled here under the appearance of bread, we ask Jesus to rule over our own lives, in every detail.

And as we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we ask our most humble King to teach us how to live in His kingdom:

Jesus, teach us your way of humility instead of pride, meekness instead of insisting on our own way, powerlessness before God instead of grasping for control.

As we surrender our lives to the gentle rule of Jesus and learn the way of life of the kingdom of God, we begin to taste the peace, the happiness, the security, the freedom that we could not achieve on our own.

We will suffer, as our King suffered, but we will suffer like Jesus on the cross: in our suffering, we will be free, and no one will be able to take away our joy. 

And on the last day, when the veil is torn apart and the Heavenly King is revealed in all His glory, when every knee shall bend before the King of All, we shall cry out with all the angels and saints: “Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.”

And we will hear him say: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 

Christ is Passing By

This homily was given at Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, November 13, 2022. The audio is available here.

It didn’t have to happen this way.

God could have prevented this man from falling victim to the robbers.

He could have intervened!

He might have sent the good Samaritan down the road just a little sooner, with an escort of angels at his side, to drive the robbers away.

But instead, by the time the Samaritan reaches him, the robbers have done their work, and left him for dead by the side of the road.

St. Ambrose of Milan says this man is Adam, our forefather, and summed up in his miserable condition are all his sons and daughters.

Jericho is the city of sinful Man, the image of this fallen world, and Adam is going down from the city of God—from Paradise, the Jerusalem above—into this present darkness, into exile, by his own free choice.

Having turned from the law of the Lord to the sin of this world, it’s no wonder Adam falls victim to robbers, “the spirits of night and darkness,” who first steal the garments of grace we have received from God and then beat us up for good measure, leaving us wounded, humiliated…

But not alone.

Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, is passing by, and He is not too late to save us.

Yes, He could have prevented us from falling victim to sin and death.

And by the gift of His prevenient grace, He does prevent us from falling victim to many, many sins which might otherwise have ensnared us.

The spiritual director of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus attested that she never committed a mortal sin. 

But Thérèse herself was certain that if it weren’t for God’s prevenient mercy, she would have been the worst sinner who ever walked the earth!

The sins we do commit fall within the realm of God’s permissive will.

To be sure, Adam would not have fallen among the robbers if he hadn’t first strayed from God’s commands and made himself vulnerable to them.

God is not the author of sin; we are. 

But God permits that we fall, just as He permitted Adam to fall.

He allows us to turn from Him, to listen to the Devil, to fall victim to the demons, to choose Jericho over Jerusalem, sin over grace, death over life.

As a holy Archbishop said to me, “God knows I have many faults, but I love Jesus Christ with all my heart … and if it weren’t for the sins that have humbled me, that have left me powerless and dependent on on his mercy, I would not love Jesus and trust Him as much as I do now.” 

St. Thérèse says much the same: “The memory of my faults humiliates me, it brings me to never lean on my own strength … but even more this memory speaks to me of mercy and love. When you throw your faults with total, filial trust in the burning all-consuming brazier of love, how would they not be consumed without coming back?”

God permits us at times to fall among the robbers so that even our faults, even our sins, may become fuel for the fire of love and trust in Jesus.

For love and trust is the fulfillment of the law and the way to eternal life.

Here, now, at this Divine Liturgy, Jesus Christ is passing by. 

Whatever sins, whatever wounds lie in our past, whatever we have done or failed to do, we lay bare before the gaze of His saving mercy … and forgetting what lies behind us, placing all our trust in Jesus, we get up and set out for what still lies ahead.

There, in the new Jerusalem, we shall rejoice with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and our joy shall be full, for we shall know Him as we are known and loved, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The Great Ones

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 6, 2022. The audio is available here.

In the seminary, we often sing a hymn to the martyrs which goes like this: 

“These were thy great ones: we, thy least,
One in desire and faith with them,
Called by the Lord to keep one feast,
Journey to one Jerusalem.”

The seven brothers in today’s first reading were truly great ones.

“Even the king and his attendants marveled at their courage, because those young men regarded their sufferings as nothing.”


They were “ready to die rather than transgress the laws of their ancestors.”

For these holy brothers, the issue was not just about forbidden food; it was about who was king in Israel: God, or their pagan overlords, who wanted to humiliate them and destroy their faith by forcing them to eat pork. 

In the history of the Church, many martyrs have died for less.

Thousands upon thousands of Christians died in the Roman Empire because they refused to burn a pinch of incense before a statue of the Emperor.

The issue was the same: who was King, Christ or Caesar?

For the Christians, it was idolatry, blasphemy, to offer a sacrifice of worship to a man, when all glory, honor, and worship belong to Jesus Christ alone.

They were ready to die rather than deny Christ the King.

Most of us have grown up and lived all our lives in places where being a Christian was no great risk.

The United States, the Philippines, Mexico: these were Christian countries, and even as the faith is fading, we have not had much to fear.

When I became Catholic in high school, I got teased and lost some friends—I didn’t face torture and death. 

But make no mistake: we are living in a new apostolic age.

As we believe and follow Jesus, we can expect to suffer some consequences.

The teacher who bravely stands up for the truth that “God created them male and female…” 

The nurse who refuses to assist with abortions or euthanasia…

Or the pharmacist who refuses to dispense contraception…

Even the ordinary Catholic who dares to go out in public wearing a cross around her neck or praying the rosary, or says God bless you at Safeway!

The world sees our faith in Jesus and His Gospel as a threat to its own power, just like our forefathers who refused to burn a pinch of incense to the Emperor, or the Maccabees who refused to take a bite of pork.

Our reputations, our jobs, our livelihood may all be on the line before long.

It’s natural for us to be afraid, to count the cost … even to be tempted to burn the pinches of incense our new pagan overlords demand.

But like the martyrs, “one in desire and faith with them,” there comes a time for all of us that we must choose on whose side we stand: God or the world, Jesus Christ or the princes and powers of this age. 

Jesus Christ is the true King of the world.

And Jesus is not afraid.

All authority and dominion has been given to Him by His Father.

Jesus holds all the princes and powers of this age in the palm of his hand.

He knows it, and the Devil knows it: “he knows his time is short,” his power is temporary; his defeat is already accomplished; God’s victory is secure.

Following King Jesus, like the great martyrs in former days, we hold on to the faith of our fathers steadfastly, courageously, through times of trial.

We stand strong, like lights in the darkness, to give hope and a good example to those who might falter and fall.

Whatever we may risk, whatever we may lose, we know “it was from Heaven that we received them, and from Jesus we hope to receive them again.”

For Jesus is “faithful; he will strengthen us and guard us from the evil one,” the Devil, whom He conquered once and for all on the Cross.

And even though we pass through the valley of the shadow of death, following our King, we know that on the last day He, the King of Life, will “raise us up to live again forever.”

Today, at this Holy Mass, ask Jesus to encourage and strengthen us with faith in His kingdom and good hope through His grace.

Ask Him to be with us and support us when trials come.

As we receive Jesus today in the Holy Eucharist and choose to follow Him unreservedly, we are united in the Body of Christ with all the saints and martyrs.

We share in their strength, their courage, the full inheritance of the saints.

And when the final trumpet sounds, when the dead are raised and the Lord appears in glory, our joy will be full, and we will be welcomed into their company to share in the victory that lasts forever.