Sunday, August 30, 2015
Last week we talked about the usefulness of the Creed in helping us to share the same understanding of who our God is. Beginning this week we’re going to spend some time looking at each section of the Nicene Creed to learn what it means and why it’s included.
Before we can begin to talk about what we believe, we must take a moment and discuss what it means to believe. Literally, to believe means to “hold dear.” It has a sense of “preference” or “allegiance.”
One of the earliest examples of the English word “belief” is found in a medieval homily that warns Christians not to set their hearts, as we might say today, on worldly goods. The actual phrase is “should not set their belief” on them. So, literally, the homilist was saying that the faithful should not give their allegiance to worldly goods.
Belief is also tightly connected to the word “faith.” The English language does not have a verb form of the word FAITH. The word faith is a noun, but faith itself is an action, so English translators usually use the word “belief” instead.
The Christian act of faith is not a solo; it is made in communion with the confession of faith sung by the whole church. The “I believe” of baptism becomes the “we believe” of the community which gathers in faith. The Christian community is the “we” of faith.
In reciting the Creed, Christians declare, individually and collectively, our faith before both God and the world. So the purpose of our confession of faith is two-fold: Before God it is an act of praise and thanksgiving, through which we thank God for all that he has done in creation; and before our fellow human beings, we declare publicly that our allegiance is to God and not to the things of this world.
The Creed echoes the faith of the early Church. By it the individual Christian follows in the centuries-old tradition of the baptized who confessed their faith just moments before being changed by the waters of baptism. Today we profess our faith just moments before being changed by a different Sacrament – the Holy Eucharist.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Sometimes in the course of our lives, we may experience what is called an identity crisis. Experiencing significant changes in our lives, like a death in the family or a job loss, we can lose a clearly defined sense of who we are and what is important to us. It may take a while to find our bearings again, to realize what is really central to our sense of self and the meaning of our life.
The liturgy invites us each week to reaffirm our Catholic identity when we recite the Nicene Creed or Profession of Faith at
Because we say it every week, it can easily become a routine ritual
carried out with little thought. Let us
take a few moments to talk about why we say the Creed each week. Mass.
Think about how we recited the Creed on Easter Sunday. Abandoning our usual pattern, on that central day of the year we profess our faith by renewing our baptismal promises. This reminds us that the Creed finds its home first in the celebration of Baptism. Before entering the waters of the font, those to be baptized (or their parents in the case of babies) publicly profess their faith. In doing so, they claim their identity as believers in Jesus Christ, called by the Father and guided by the Holy Spirit. They commit their future to sharing the life of the Trinity.
So every week, we renew that commitment. We publicly profess again who we are and what is ultimately important in our lives. We do this together, as one voice, because our faith is a shared faith, not just a set of beliefs but a way of life, shared with all other members of Christ’s body.
In the Creed, we use ancient language to profess eternal truths. The words we use most often are the Nicene Creed. Occasionally, in a Mass said for children, we might use the Apostle’s Creed instead.
Both formulas reaffirm our faith in the Father who created us and all things, in the Son who redeemed us by His death and resurrection, and in the Holy Spirit who guides us and unites us in the Church. Thus we identify ourselves as children of the Father, redeemed by the Son, striving to live in the Holy Spirit. We base our lives on belief in the Trinity.
The Creed comes just after the readings and the homily. It stands as a communal response to God’s word. We hear what God has done for us and then we express our faith in response. Of course, the words only matter if we live by them. By proclaiming the Creed, we commit ourselves to live every day in the love of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Once upon a time, some people claim, a parish church during Mass was a quiet and orderly place. People arrived before Mass began and stayed until it was over. Once in the pews, few people left them until it was time for Communion, unless they had a medical emergency.
Those days, if they ever existed, are long gone. Some Sundays, our church seems nearly as busy as Grand Central Station. Some people arrive five or ten minutes after Mass has begun. Some leave as soon as they’ve received Communion, and many others bolt for the doors when they hear the first note of the recessional hymn.
We might raise some questions about the disrespect for the Eucharist that such behavior expresses, but our focus today is on those people who are told to leave before Mass is over.
There are three such groups in our parish. The first is composed of children ages six to 12 who leave the assembly after the opening prayer at our Sunday 9:00 and 11:00 AM Masses. They go to another room for the Liturgy of the Word presented at their level. They return during the Presentation of the Gifts and stay for the rest of
Another group is dismissed after the homily. They are the catechumens, those adults who are preparing for baptism and those who are preparing for full communion with the Catholic Church. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults calls for them to be dismissed from the assembly every week until they are baptized or received into the Church. Here at Risen Savior dismissal normally happens at the 9:00 AM Sunday Mass.
Sometimes people wonder why we are so inhospitable to these folks. Why can’t they stay for the whole Mass? There are two ways to answer that question. Those who are not yet baptized or received into communion are not able to join us at the table for Eucharist. That necessary exclusion could seem inhospitable if they were to stay. The more important reason they are dismissed, however, is so that they can reflect upon the Scriptures and homily and share their thoughts about what they’ve heard.
The third group that is dismissed from the Mass are the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who are taking Communion to the homebound. In a tradition that goes back to the very early Church, they are taking the Body of Christ to those who could not attend our worship: taking Christ not only in the Host, but also in their own presence. They are dismissed prior to the rest of us so that they can begin their journey and their ministry.
So, much like Grand Central Station, there are always people coming and going, but all of us are really moving in the same direction… moving closer to Jesus and His kingdom.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
This article was written by Fr. Bill McNichols,
the artist of the icon of St. Francis in the Church
the artist of the icon of St. Francis in the Church
It is not an exaggeration to say that Francis was probably one of the few true fundamentalists that ever lived. Following his conversion at age 25, the Gospels became his road map. Because Jesus said "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me," Francis named his group the Frati Minori, meaning “the Least Brothers.”
By the time Francis was in his early 40s he felt like a failure. His Least Brothers had grown from 12 to over 3,000 and he could no longer guide or control them. Following a dream, he surrendered his Order to the Pope and went to Mount La Verna, north of Assisi, to bemoan the sins of his failure.
While on the mountain, Francis asked Jesus to grant him two graces in order that he might completely follow the Gospels. First, he asked to feel in his whole being the pain that Jesus felt as he died on Mount Calvary. Secondly, he asked to experience the depth of the love that Christ had that made Him capable of forgiving our sins even as he hung from the Cross.
Francis had a vision of a six-winged angel, a Seraph, coming from the sky; the angel appeared as the crucified Christ. In answer to his prayer he felt both the pain of the Cross and the love of Christ. Francis lived two more years bearing the physical wounds of Christ – he was the first person ever to receive the stigmata. During those brief years he continued to heal with his wounds. When the brothers would wash out the bandages, the rinse water would be used to heal sick animals and people. For me this is the most beautiful part of the story as we are all asked to continue to work with and heal with our wounds; they don't disappear.
I've lost count of how many times I've drawn, painted or created icons of the love of Francis for and with, his Seraphic Lord Jesus. It's a meditation and contemplation I never tire of bringing to life; these wounds so ever-present in all of us that Pope Francis has referred to the Church as a "Field Hospital" where we tend to one another, as if on a field of continuing battles.
I hope this image brings you hours of meditation and joy and that it sends you back into the world to share in Jesus' Healing Gifts.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Have you ever heard anybody complain about the preaching in the Catholic Church? Have you ever voiced such a complaint yourself? I’m sure no one in this parish would ever be disappointed by the preaching here, of course, but I suspect you’ve heard such complaints somewhere sometime.
It’s easy to complain, of course, but much harder to improve the situation. Most people who complain about the quality of preaching are quick to agree that they wouldn’t want the job themselves.
Preaching is always a challenge. It requires finding useful connections between the Word of God and the people to whom it is addressed. It means figuring out how the word of the Lord applies to our own time and what it might say to the people assembled for the
Of course, those people who make up the assembly are often quite diverse. They range in age from one to a hundred. They are male and female. Some are highly educated and others less so. There are both the wealthy and the poor. Some are liberal and other conservative. Some are eagerly attentive and others wish they were anywhere but here. Trying to speak one message to such a diverse group is never a simple undertaking.
It might help to realize that the task of the preacher is also the task of those who listen. Together we must figure out what God is asking of us. Together we must make the word of God come alive in our own time and in our own lives. Perhaps the main function of the preacher is to be a catalyst who prompts everyone to grapple with this shared task.
We used to call what the preacher does the “sermon.” In the Catholic tradition the preaching at Mass is more properly called a homily. A sermon can be on any topic the preacher desires. A homily is based on the readings of the day, the feast being celebrated, or some part of the liturgy itself. Its ultimate goal is to help us enter more deeply into the Mass and thus to draw closer to the Lord who speaks to us.
One of the primary purposes of the homily is to help us all become more aware of how God is at work in our world and in our lives. The homilist tries to name what is happening at the time, to lift it up for us to see it more clearly, and then to challenge us to respond to God’s action. Being aware of the ways that God is present among us day by day should lead us all to a sense of gratitude for God’s presence and gifts. Thus the homily helps us to prepare to give God thanks and praise and leads us into the rest of the
Yet the work of the homily is not finished when the preacher sits down. The value of a homily depends on those who hear it. Do we listen attentively? Do we try to remember a key idea or word that struck home? Do we use the silence after the homily to try to figure out how we will respond? The real work of the homily begins when we walk out the church doors.