18 January 2014

March for Life: Contact the Media!

 January 22, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

We will hear two kinds of noise on 1/22/14 coming out of D.C. The cheers/prayers of America's Pro-Life youth and the thundering chirps of Media Crickets.

Every year, the presence of 400,000+ Marchers for Life in the nation's capital is all but ignored by our anti-Christian MSM.

Challenge for You: contact major media outlets and ask them to cover the March for Life. Tell them that you will be writing again to ask why they didn't cover the event -- if they don't.

Making it easy for you to write:

Washington Post Reader Representative 

New York Times News Tips

Wall Street Journal Digital Editor

CNN News Tip 

ABC News Feedback 

CBS News Contact Us

Fox News News Tips

Send them an email, asking them to cover the M4L!

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17 January 2014

Called to be holy

Headed out tomorrow for DC and the March for Life. If I remember to pack my camera, I will post pics when we get back.  The archdiocese is taking 500 CYO kids to the March! We'll be back on Thursday.  

Here's a 2008 homily to tide y'all over. . .

2nd Sunday OT: Isa 49.3-6; 1 Cor 1.1-3; John 1.29-34
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Paul Hospital, Dallas

John the Baptist, all the while running up and down the Jordan River baptizing folks for repentance in the name of Christ, freely admits upon seeing Jesus that he himself did not know Jesus! He says though that he does know one thing about Jesus; he says, “…the reason why I came baptizing with water was that [Jesus] might be made known to Israel.” This episode from John’s gospel occurs after John has baptized Jesus, so now John knows exactly who and what Jesus is. More than a herald of the coming of the Lord, John is now a witness to the Lord’s presence among us. He says, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. . .he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. . .he is the Son of God.” You may wonder why we are hearing about John the Baptist so soon after Christmas! He is the herald of Advent leading us to Christmas not a witness for Lent who leads us to Easter. We are hearing about the Baptist again so soon after Christmas b/c he makes a single confession of ignorance twice: “I did not know him. . .I did not know him. . .” You might say, here on the verge of Ash Wednesday and Lent, John the Baptist is showing us a way into the Lenten desert: do you know Christ?
There is no shame in confessing that you do not know Christ. You want to know Christ or you wouldn’t be here this morning. It’s likely that you know lots of facts about Christ. His first name: Jesus. His mom’s name: Mary. His dad: Joseph. You may know where he was born; where he lived and preached and taught; when and where he died. You may know all of the prophecies of his coming—Emmanuel, virgin mother, suffering servant, etc. And you may even know people who claim to know him well. But think for a moment about the difference between “knowing facts about Christ” and “knowing Christ.” Even John admits, “I did not know him. . .I did not know him. . .” But what John did know was that he was to baptize Jesus when he saw him so that all of Israel may be exposed to the unveiling of the Christ, the Son of God. How then do you know Christ? Factually or intimately?

I think this question makes Catholics a little nervous. It sounds very evangelical, very Protestant. The question seems to come with a whole bags full of sticky emotions, affective commitments, weepy testimonials, and a certain amount of religious theater—you know, the preacher running around, shouting, waving his arms, urging people to stand and clap. This is the Protestant version of Catholic calisthenics (stand, bow, sit, kneel, stand, bow, etc). Anyway, let me assure you that our Protestant brothers and sisters have no monopoly on knowing Christ, nor do have they cornered the market on asking whether or we know Christ. This is a universal question for Christians, a catholic question, if you will. John the Baptist comes to the fullest possible knowledge of Christ when the Holy Spirit points him out at the Jordan and says (more or less): “That’s him. Baptize him!” You and I need to hear the question and struggle with an answer because we are packing our things and looking toward the Lenten desert—that time we set aside during the year to face the Devil’s temptations with Christ. Frankly, I want to know who’s with me when I face down the thousands of temptations that peck at me all year!

So, back to the question: do you know Christ? If so, how so? I don’t mean here “by what means do you know Christ;” I mean, what is the quality of your knowledge? Casually, formally, ritually, liturgically, morally, or perhaps, not at all. With regard to the means of knowing Christ, most of what we know we know from scripture, tradition, the magisterium. We are gifted with reason so that we may deduce certain knowledge. We can ask our clergy, our family, our friends. They can tell us some things we may not yet know. Bits and pieces that can be shared with words or gestures, or gifts. We can watch documentaries on A&E or read a library full of books. But finally, ultimately we have to know to what degree of intimacy, to what depth and breadth do we know him? This is a matter of our salvation b/c we were baptized with him in the Jordan. We were with him preaching, healing, feeding, suffering, and dying. We were with him on the cross and in the tomb. He rose up from the grave, leaving us his Holy Spirit, so that—yes absolutely—we will be with him again, rising to the Father! How do you know Christ?

Listen one more time to how Paul addresses the Corinthians in the first letter to them: “…to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” Did you catch that? To you who have been sanctified in Christ and “called to be holy…” The depth and breadth of our knowledge of Christ is best measured in our holiness. Our holiness. Not our piety. Not our morality. Not our adherence to the law. But in our holiness. We have the question “do you know Christ?” before us. Another way to ask the same question is this: are you holy? YIKES! What does that mean? Am I holy? Well, you might say, I love my family and friends. I go to Mass, confession, holy days of obligation. I’m pious. I’m moral. I obey the law. I’m a good person, generally speaking. But holy? Yes, are you holy? Here’s your job, brothers and sisters: become holy. If you are already holy, then become holier. You are, we all are, as capable of becoming holy as we are of breathing, eating, sleeping. How so?

Listen to what the Lord said to Isaiah, “You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” As baptized members of the Body of Christ, we are the people of his Word, the tribe of David, the royal priesthood of his temple, the prophets of his coming again. Listen again, “You are my servant, Bob, Sue, Jill, Charles, Jeff, Fr. Philip, Richard, you are my servants through whom I show my glory.” We know that only the Lord is good and holy. So the only way we may be good and holy is to show our Lord’s glory. The way Christ shows the Father’s glory. The way the Holy Spirit shows the Father’s glory. We must be a light to the nations so that the Lord’s salvation “may reach to the ends of the earth.” And we can do this precisely because we have been made holy in Christ Jesus and called to the life of the apostle in baptism. Please, be moral, pious, obedient, generous, but be and do all these to show the Lord’s glory. And show the Lord’s glory so that all may hear the call to holiness. That’s our job as members of the Body.

John did his job—baptizing with water for repentance—until the Holy Spirit called him to holiness in Christ. Then he baptized with Christ, showing everyone who came to him the sign of their calling: “Behold! Look there! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Is this what we are doing? This is how we grow in the holiness that Christ died to give us. As you get closer to Lent, that deserted trek across our temptations to disobedience, freely confess, “I do not know Christ.” Take it as a temptation if you want to confess, “I do know Christ!” Why a temptation? Because we are growing in holiness. A confession of ignorance is the humble means of knowing him better, more deeply; it is the surer means of coming to the surer knowledge that you are all at once planted, nurtured, pruned, cultivated, but not yet harvested. All of the possibilities for our growth in holiness lie in this one confession: “Here am I, Lord! I come to do your will!”

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12 January 2014

Baptism of the Lord homily audio link

AUDIO LINK for "Just take the offer. . ." (Baptism of the Lord, 2014)


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Just take the offer. . .

Baptism of the Lord
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA


John, seeing Jesus standing in line to be baptized, must've been shocked. No, not shocked. Thoroughly confused. Maybe even a little intimidated. Here he is a simple prophet, carrying out his mission to baptize repentant sinners in water, and up walks the fulfillment of every messianic prophecy ever uttered in ancient scripture. As far as we know, this is the first time Jesus and John have met since they were both in their mothers' wombs—when John leaped with joy in the presence of his savior. They know one another not by acquaintance nor friendship but by the complementary gifts given them by the Father. One goes before; the other comes after. One baptizes with water for the remission of sins; the other baptizes with blood and fire for the salvation of the world. At first, John hesitates to baptize his Lord, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” In his shock, confusion, and fear John reveals the fundamental movement of grace, the primitive motion of the Father's love for His creatures: Christ comes to us. Before anything else happens in our lives as followers of the Christ, Christ comes to us.

How does Christ come to you, to me? Given our all-too-human tendency to think that all things divine must be overwhelmingly dramatic, we might expect that Christ comes to us in dazzling technicolor visions, or from the midst of a great conflagration, or in a booming voice while visiting a church. But notice how Isaiah describes the coming Christ: “. . .he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street.” No parades, no wailing over the Emergency Broadcast System, no magical appearance at a Saints' game. He brings forth justice in a whisper. He doesn't break a bruised reed when he walks nor does he quench a smoldering wick when he breathes. So quiet, so gentle is his coming to me and to you that we wait—like the coast lands—for his teaching. The primitive motion of the Father's love for us is His choice, His move towards us. Isaiah reports: “I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you. . .” I called you. I grasped your hand. I formed you. Says the Lord. For the victory of justice—the victory we share with Christ—is the Father's victory in Christ. He won for us. And He sent His Son as a sign of His victory. Christ comes to you, to me as a delicate triumph, as a small, singular success that manages nonetheless to “open the eyes of the blind” and set prisoners free.

The Son of God is no prisoner to sin. So, when he approaches John for baptism, John squawks, “But but but, you should be baptizing me! And yet, you come to me?” Jesus—I always imagine that he smiles—says, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” To fulfill all righteousness. Not a phrase we hear everyday. What does Jesus mean? First, he means that since he is the fulfillment of scripture's messianic prophecies, he must do all that those prophecies require. Second, he means that though he has no sin to repent, he still needs to show us the necessity of repentance and baptism. And finally, he knows that his baptism is to be followed by a revelation, a word spoken from heaven confirming his identity and mission: “. . .he came up from the water and behold, . . .a voice came from the heavens, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'” All righteousness is fulfilled by this revelation. All is right with the world b/c God's beloved Son is among us, sent to us for our salvation. The long-wounded relationship btw creation and its Creator is healed. You and I are approached by Christ and offered. . .everything. Everything we need to live freely, to think truthfully, to act justly, and to speak his Word of mercy to sinners. 
Last week, we celebrated the Epiphany of the Lord, the occasion of the magi searching for and finding the newly born Jewish king. That these Gentiles found him and offered him their homage tells us that the king of the Jews is also the king of the Gentiles. Today we celebrate the Lord's baptism and the final revelation of his identity and mission: Christ is King and Christ is the Son of God. He rules heaven and earth. And he rules not with fear or power or wealth but with his teaching, his preaching, and his love for the poor in spirit. Peter reminds his brothers and sisters in Acts that after he was baptized by John and anointed by the Father “[Christ] went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Christ rule is liberation from power, fear, and the spiritual oppression of things. We are approached and offered freedom. Approached and offered healing. He will not rule a heart that is not first given to him freely. He will not rule a mind that is not first turned toward him. He brings forth justice with a whisper. He doesn't break a bruised reed when he walks nor does he quench a smoldering wick when he breathes.

This can be both good and bad news for us. Good news b/c who wants to be coerced into being free? Bad news b/c we must be attentive enough to hear his approach and offer. This bad news, however, really isn't all that bad. Part of my job as a preacher is to make sure that you know that there's an offer on the table. And make sure that you understand the offer and the consequences of accepting that offer. So, here goes. There's an offer from Christ in front of you. He's approached you—each one of us—and laid before us a simple proposition: we repent of our sins, get baptized, and follow him, and eternal life awaits us when this life is done. Unlike the magi, we don't have to go searching for him. Unlike John, we aren't surprised that he's come to us. We don't owe him anything. We don't have to put up any collateral or sign away an organ or a child to follow. Repent. Get baptized. Follow him. He's not going to shout or jump or promise us great wealth or a better looking spouse. In fact, and here's the hard part of my job, following him in this world is a promise of conflict, persecution, trial, and near-constant opposition. When we pick up his offer and follow him, we become an irritant to the world. This isn't surprising. Christ himself is the Cosmic Irritant, and the world convulses to dig him out. Why would you or I be spared?

With all the conflict, trial, and persecution, you might rightly wonder how a follower of Christ is supposed to accomplish his/her mission to speak the Word of God's mercy to sinners. Isaiah prophesied in the desert and on the street corner. John baptized in a local river. Jesus preached on hills, from a boat, and in the market. The world tells you to be quiet. The world fears your good deeds. The world wants you to be embarrassed by the cross. It's the world that tells us that our faith is a “private matter.” It's the world that tells us that we believe in fairy-tales and tribal myths. And what does the world offer instead? Power, influence, wealth, celebrity. Corrupting power, compromising influence, dirty wealth, and fleeting celebrity. All to weigh down your soul and keep you enslaved. . .to what? Nothing eternal, nothing permanent. A lust for more? More corruption? More compromise? Our God has called us, grasped us by the hand, and formed us to be “a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind,” to live and breath His victory of justice. Take His offer and He will say on the last day, “These are my beloved children, with whom I am well pleased.”

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The Jesus Gym

NB. A never-preached Roman homily from 2010. I may tweak this one and give it a shot tonight. . .thoughts?

Baptism of the Lord
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

When hearing confessions or giving spiritual direction to university students—especially men—I frequently draw an analogy between developing spiritually and developing physically. Most of us have no illusions about what it takes to lose weight, build muscle, increase stamina, and get ourselves to the point where we are as fit as we can be. The whole unpleasant process begins with radical changes to the diet. Slowly increasing exercise. Maybe even a little weight-lifting. If you've ever started down this road, you know that you will not drop 25lbs in a week, nor will you be able to show off a six-pack by the weekend. Getting a flabby, overweight, diet-stressed body into some kind of shape requires determination, focus, commitment, and lots and lots of time. It wouldn't hurt if you had someone with experience to help. A professional trainer. A coach. Even a friend who knows how to keep you motivated. All of this applies to our spiritual growth as well. Being Catholics, we understand the sacramental nature of creation: the physical world is a sign of the spiritual, an imperfect revelation of God that both points to God's presence and makes Him present to us. We cannot, therefore, rightly divide the human body from the human soul and expect our spiritual lives to be fruitful. Just as the body needs proper diet, exercise, and a little hard-lifting, the soul needs its strength-training too.

We start our life-long regime at The Jesus Gym on the day we are baptized. From that moment on, “the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age. . .” As Catholics, we don't have any trouble understanding grace as divine help, a gift from God to assist us when we need it. What we do have trouble understanding sometimes is that the help we get isn't always the help we want. Like the skinny 18 year old freshman who wants ripped abs in a week to impress his girlfriend, we sometimes approach the throne in prayer and ask not for assistance to accomplish some goal, but rather we ask God to accomplish the goal for us, instead of us. The freshman is very disappointed to hear that his six-pack will take a semester or two with lots of hard work. And we are no less disappointed to learn that grace does not prevent us from traveling the ways of the godless nor desiring what the world would have us desire. Instead, grace trains us how to be godly men and women. The hard work of chiseling out a ripped spiritual six-pack is all ours. But we do not work alone.

And not only do we not work alone, we cannot work alone. Christianity is a team sport. We play as a team, so we train as a team and the perfect model for teamwork is the Holy Trinity: three divine persons, one God. The more perfectly we imitate this model of Love in action, we closer we get to that Jesus Gym spirit we've been wanting. As noted above, the first step on this new regime is baptism. I did not baptize myself. Nor did any of you. The Church baptized us all with parents, godparents, friends, fans, by-standers, accidental tourists, all the angels and saints—every one in attendance. And because we were baptized by the Church, we might think that the only thing we got for our trouble is a life-long membership to the Jesus Gym. As wonderful as that is, it's not even close to the full baptismal package. Paul writes to Titus, “[God] saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” First, notice: God saved. . .He poured out. We did nothing (nor could we do anything) to initiate the renewal of our relationship with God. It was His move and His alone. Second, notice: through Christ, by the Holy Spirit, through our Savior, by his grace. Christ Jesus is the only mediator, the only mechanism; he is the only way. Third, notice: us, us, our, we, heirs. Not “Me & Jesus.” Not “Jesus, MY Personal Lord & Savior.” His grace is poured out on US. . .WE are saved by the bath of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. . .Christ is OUR Savior. . .And WE are made HEIRS in hope of eternal life. This is what baptism does for us and to us: we are made just (righteous), so that we might work with God's abundant graces to get our spiritual bodies into the best shape possible.

But even before we can be baptized in water and the Spirit; even before we can be offered the chance at a right-relationship with the Father through Christ; even before it is possible for us to be heirs to hope in eternal life. . .The Jesus Gym must have a grand opening. It only makes sense. Plans were laid long ago with the prophets. They rounded up the initial investors. After a few false teachers and at least one wash-out (ahem), momentum starting building. Finally, the Plan was conceived and announced. And before it was fully born, there was one enthusiastic booster. Then, with some astronomical fanfare and a couple of sheep, the Plan was born, drawing its first foreign investors twelve days later. With this starting capital and two excellent CEO's, the Plan matured for a while and opened for business for the first time at a wedding in Cana. . .but the Grand Opening, the opening that makes The Jesus Gym not just another gym but The Gym for all peoples, tribes, nations, and tongues, this opening takes place at the River Jordan where Jesus' first booster baptizes him with water and then the Father baptizes him with His Spirit, saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Now, The Jesus Gym is open for business.

If, after all the bad analogizing, you are still listening, let me quickly tell you why Jesus was baptized. Here's a nice summary from the CCC: “The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners;. . .Already he is anticipating the 'baptism' of his bloody death. Already he is coming to 'fulfill all righteousness,' that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father's will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. . .”(n. 536). Remember, earlier we said that the Holy Trinity is the perfect model of teamwork. By imitating the work of the Trinity we come closer to the spiritual perfection for which we were made. By submitting to baptism, Christ demonstrated his acceptance of his Father's plan for our salvation. This shouldn't sound all that unusual: three divine persons, one God—perfect Love in action. The Son submits in love to take on human flesh in order to bring the Father's offer of renewal to us. And not only does he deliver the invitation, he becomes our sin; dies for us; rises again to the Father; and sends the Holy Spirit as our guide. The whole of his public ministry, inaugurated by the River Jordan, was to proclaim the Father's invitation and to leave us a body of teaching that serves to reveal what grace in action look likes. The Gospels answer the question: what does the perfected follower of Christ look like? Out of love, she dies for her friends.

Grace trains us for the godly life. What is the godly life? It is not scrupulous moral behavior. It is not meticulous orthodoxy. It is not righteous anger at injustice. It is not any one of these alone. The godly life is the life Christ left for us to follow. The godly life begins with baptism, grows with the Church, and ends with “Out of love, he ____for his friends.” How you fill in that blank will depend on how well you used your time and strength at The Jesus Gym. Most of us will spend our lives trying to decide if we have the courage to put “died” or “suffered” in that blank. Grace trains. But you have to do the work.

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