2017 Homilies (Written)

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John 3:14-21; 3-14-2021 (As Built, Amite #441)

 

  1. Witness, witness. 
  2. The year is about 1980. His name is Donald. For the most part, Donald is kind of a New York type of guy. Actually, he's kind of a very worldly guy. He has... I think it's either eight or nine brothers and sisters. It's a big family. His mom is the can-do and, well, does do mom. A little bit of everything, all day, every day, twice on Sunday. She works as a clerk, she can run messages, she can take, she could type, she can run errands, she can take care of the accounts, whatever it takes she does. His dad is a teamster, and, you know, his world was pretty good. Donald would tell you two things “My family was poor, and they were Catholic. That's our family.” He said “Man, then my parents separate.” and he says “Man, you kind of get caught up, even in high school, it just kind of unraveled. You know, you get caught up in the world, the speed of things.” He said “There's two things that I guess I enjoyed in high school.” Donald said “I enjoyed, for the most part, I enjoyed singing and I enjoyed being in the drama club.” and he says “So you know being that I thought it was better at singing, we started this band called,” ...I think they called it Cool Aid. Okay, didn't sell well. I get it, okay, I got you. And as a result, it formed into another group called New Kids on the Block. Oh, yes Lord, this is entirely possible. And as a result of it, he gets involved and, of course, he's getting a little popular, so he's trying to help his brother start his band called Marky Mark the Funky Bunch. I didn't even want to say that in church, okay. I was trying not to say it, but somebody knew the band. I just picked up on it. As a result of it, man, his world starts to grow, and then he realizes there's probably a little bit more to it than you think, and then he decides that, man, it's the discipline of movies that he likes, the structure, back like what he had in his faith, so he gets involved in movies. There was one called the Bullet, another one called Sixth Sense. Oh, Band of Brothers if you haven't seen it, which is absolutely remarkable. He's actually in another movie called Purgatory. You’ve got to watch it. It's absolutely excellent. But I’ve got to tell you my brothers and sisters in Christ, he's in other movies like... there was one called Saw 1, 2, 3, 4, whatever. You know, it just goes on, and but at the end of the day he's in a show that's actually very endearing, and I guess it's endearing because my mother makes me watch it, and we watch it just because she enjoys the meal in which they all gather on Sunday and they begin with the Sign of the Cross, and you and I call it Blue Bloods my brothers and sisters in Christ, and you know him as Donny Wahlberg, but you know what's amazing? It's all about his faith and being a witness to it.
  3. That is that Gospel. Those that are called to the light are called to the light and their works will be shown in the light, i.e a witness to Jesus Christ. Now stop, you're a first century Jew. Let's make sure we understand where this is taking place. John is the Gospel writer. John is the youngest of all. He will live to be well into his late 90s, early hundreds. As a result of it, they tried to boil him in oil, and that doesn't kill him, he's regulated to the island of Patmos. He has seen it all. He is very introverted, he doesn't like the limelight. Hence why he always kind of seems to write the Gospel, if you will, in third person “The one that Jesus Christ loved.” to keep his name from being always cast about. He's writing the story about the good lord talking to Nicodemus. Nicodemus is very phariseetic. I'll tell you why you know him, in the movie the Passion of the Christ, he's the one that lowered Christ to the ground with Joseph of Arimathea. He's the one that carried Christ to the tomb. This is obviously before that, and he's talking to Nicodemus because Nicodemus is now confused. He's a pharisee which means he's very well read, he knows the first five books of the Bible, he knows all the teachings and traditions of the church, and, as a result, there's something about Christ that's endearing to him, his good works, his light, that he's a witness to the good. As a result of it, he's questioning the good lord about “What do you mean that you're going to be raised up?” and the good lord is almost as if he's talking to a child. He said “Nicodemus, you're a Pharisee. Surely you know Scripture.“ Go back to the Book of Numbers when Moses is in the desert and they begin to complain, like we all do, because there's not enough manna, or there's not enough this, there's none of this. They're telling the good Lord to pack up your toys and go, and so what happens? The good Lord leads them to their own fruition. The problem is that they seem to be overcome by a lot of different snakes. They call them the fiery serpents. Now, I got to tell you, to Nicodemus that rang a really loud bell because Nicodemus knows that there's these nine choirs of angels, and the ones they call the fiery ones are called the seraphims, the ones that sit right next to the throne of god, and remember when some fell from heaven on day one? This is why they're calling them fiery serpents. Those are those angels that fell to the ground, or fell to Earth, if you will, according to our church fathers. Nicodemus is starting to pick up on it, and the good Lord said “In order to get help, Moses prays and I tell him ‘put a bronze serpent on a staff and then raise it up, and if you were bitten by a snake, I want you to acknowledge it by bowing in front of it.’” How many times today do you hear people say “You Catholics worship statues.” and here they are bound to a bronze serpent, or they bow into the one who created that image to tell you that “I control all things and all creation, even those that fall from my kingdom.” It's the insignia today that we use for the medical world, and he's saying “So when Moses raised it up, so will I be raised up.” Now, all of a sudden, Nicodemus is starting to catch on, so when he sees the good Lord raised at the crucifixion and he's saying “Now I understand why every knee must bend.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, man, he's telling them “Here you are in the desert, and now you see me, the same one that created that to save you is the same one that is now going on the cross.” This is why Nicodemus helps him get lowered from the cross and into the tomb of Arimathea. Just so you know, as a side note, if you look into this Gospel closely, you know when you ever go to the football games and there's always one guy holding up 3:16, “For so God loved the world that he sent the only son so that none may perish and that they all may be saved.” that's in this Gospel right here. My brothers and sisters in Christ, it's about being a witness to Jesus Christ.
  4. Look, go back in Scripture. All of our best players, think about it, our very best players are our very best witnesses. Sometimes words don't have to be spoken, a lot, not many, and sometimes it may be a little more than that. Go back in scripture. The Wedding of Cana, the last words our blessed mother ever says in scripture “Do whatever he tells you.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, do you understand that that conversation to his mother, calling her woman when everybody else is not listening because they're too busy about the affairs of a wedding, he told everybody at the wedding, and 2,000 later in Amite, that “She's the new Eve and I'm the new Adam, but mother, if you call me out, you're no longer being called mother. You going to be called woman.” That's a witness to Jesus Christ, that I'm willing to let my son go now, and even on the crucifix he's telling his mother again “Woman behold your son. Son behold your mother.” He's telling her again “This is how it will always be because this is what needed to be so that we could save our children.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, think about Peter on that proverbial day when he's got to go home and tell Mama, man, “Honey, I'm home.” “How was the catch?” I'm going to be a fisher of men.” “Well, that's great, but if you ain't got no fish in that boat, we ain't eating.” But yet at the end of the day, and just so you know his wife's name we believe is Porphyria, she too becomes a witness to Jesus Christ because if she doesn't agree, he can't leave. He's a devout Jew, as a result they understand these rules. My brothers and sisters in Christ, do you know hours before he's crucified, according to tradition, she was also crucified. In his last words to her, “Go with Christ. Go with God.” That is a witness to Jesus Christ. Every apostle is martyred knowing full well that the day they broke bread at the Last Supper, it's only a matter of time before Rome catches you, and beheads you, or some version thereof. My brothers and sisters in Christ, even Longinus at the crucifixion, man, can you imagine? You are the centurion's centurion. Everybody wants you to lead the charge. You've proven yourself in battle, people know that you're courageous, you care for your men, you're willing to give up your life, and then all of a sudden you stand before the good Lord and say “Truly that man was the son of God.” There goes your 401k. There goes your benefit package. Won't be any paycheck coming in this month. For two years he goes out and preaches the Gospel as a witness of Jesus Christ, and when the soldiers that were befriending him back in the day catch up, because under Pilate they were to behead him when they find him, they finally catch up to him and they realize “Man, this is our guy. Man, he led us in a battle, he protected us, he cared for us even more than Rome.” They told him “We're just going to say we never found you.” and according to tradition, he said “Oh no, you're going to fulfill your obligation as a soldier and I'm going to fulfill mine as a witness to Jesus Christ.” and they beheaded him. Can you imagine being Paul and being a Pharisee? The money, the power, the prestige, you go from that, to rags, to being beheaded. What a witness to Jesus Christ.
  5. Well, here you and I sit 2,000 years later. How great a witness are you and I to that fact? Well, let's see. My brothers and sisters in Christ, if I were to go to your work, and I walked into your office, would I know you're Catholic? Oh, wait a minute, stop. Don't confuse the issue here my brothers and sisters in Christ. For 1,600 years, from the year 33 to the time of Martin Luther, you're either Jewish or you're Catholic. Christian was just the denomination to say that you accept Christ as your savior whether you're a Jew or Catholic. If you're a Messianic Jew, you're now Christian, but there are only two types of worship. The Letter of Ignatius in the year 107 says that if you want to find Christ, go find the Catholic church. It was used as a noun. So I ask you yet again, are you a witness to your faith as being Catholic? Would they walk into your office and say “Whoa, truly this man, this woman, is Catholic.” or would they walk in and say “Huh, this person's a pagan.”? What would they say if I went, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to your car? Would I know you're Catholic? Will there be a rosary, a crucifix... not a cross? We follow a crucified Christ, Saint Paul. My brothers and sisters in Christ, if I just met you and we had a conversation would I know you're Catholic? Would you have a medal on? One of the saints? Would you have a rosary? How would we be a witness to his church? My brothers and sisters in Christ, in the conversation when somebody asked you to pray, would you say “I'll pray.” and you make sure you make the Sign of the Cross clearly and distinctly, or will you just give them one of these? Would you tell them “Let us pray.” and begin with the Hail Mary knowing full well that nobody in that group is going to chime in, or if they do it's very low? Will you protect her veil? Are you a witness to holy mother church? My brothers and sisters in Christ, if I was to go, per se, to your home, would I walk in and know that you're a Catholic family, or would I just walk in and say “It's just just another home.”? If I drove by the front of your house, would I know “Boy, that's a Catholic family.”? “If you don't acknowledge me in public, I won't acknowledge you before my father.” Stop apologizing for being Catholic. It's utterly disgraceful to shorten the Sign of the Cross so that nobody recognizes it, to belittle the prayer of the blessed mother because you don't want to disparage your friends but we have no problem disparaging her. You're either in, or you're out. You are either a believer in his church, or you are not. My brothers and sisters in Christ, if you are lukewarm he will spit you out of his mouth. Samuel Clemens was right. “If there is a fence between heaven and hell, it's owned by the devil.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, you know what’s amazing? That everybody wants to hire honest, hard-working, driven, family, respectable people, and yet all those gifts come because you're a follower of Jesus Christ and you're part of his church, but yet we don't want you to proclaim that, but yet we want the symptoms that come from the cause of being part of Christ and his church. At some point you have got to plant your flag. You’ve got to tell people “This where I'm at, take it or leave it.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, Archbishop Chaput was right. He said “We've made our faith such a private thing that we don't know how to go public, and imagine if it had been the other way around. How great our world would be.” Every day, every second of every day, every email, every text message, every look, every conversation, you're on the witness stand for Jesus Christ. Did you make the case for Christ? Did you make the case for his church? Yes or no. 
  6. I’ll leave you with this. Don't you ever apologize for being a Catholic. Make it known and be proud of it. “Welcome home my child to the table of all of my saints, for you have done what I have asked, that you have defended my faith. You have protected her veil.” and I’ll leave you with the anonymous words “When a victim gets hurt, when a victim gets hurt, it's not so much by the oppressor as it is by the silence of the bystander.” Be a witness to Christ and to the teachings of the Catholic church. 
  7. Amen.

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