PADRE'S PULPIT

Preaching the Truth in and out of season...Fr. Sistare's weekly homilies!!!

February 17, 2006

NEW WEBSITE

NEW HOMILY SITE: www.padregio.com
All my homilies, audio & text, will now be posted at that site.

February 10, 2006

6th Ordinary B 2006

UNTOUCHABLE?

My fellow lepers, I am one of you now.” Those are the words of Blessed Damien of Molokai after 12 years of serving those afflicted with the disease of leprosy in the 19th century. During that time, a decree stated that all lepers were to live apart from society forever on the island of Molokai. One of the concerns of the local Church was the spiritual care of these exiled souls. The Bishop didn’t dare send priests under obedience because to be sent to Molokai meant no return and inevitable death. However, Blessed Damien volunteered to minister to these poor souls. He freely went to Molokai, and ministered to these souls despite the pungent odors and horrific sights. After 12 years of service, Blessed Damien took the pulpit and began his homily, “My fellow lepers, I am one of you now.” Four years later, Blessed Damien finally died of leprosy in the year 1889.

In the Gospel, as well as, the first reading, we hear about the disease of leprosy. Leprosy is an infectious disease which attacks the “skin, mucous membranes, peripheral nerves, bones, and internal viscera, producing various deformities and mutilations of the human body, and usually terminating in death.” Due to the infectious nature of the disease, lepers were exiled and mandated to live apart from society. Despite the fact that lepers were untouchable and outcasts, Jesus reached out to them. In the Gospel, Jesus touched a leper and healed him of his disease. Jesus was not afraid to touch and cure those deemed untouchable or outcasts by society.

In one sense we were all outcasts. Adam and Eve by their original sin in the Garden of Eden made humanity untouchable. We were all outcasts and out of communion with our Heavenly Father. However, God loved us so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ to stretch forth his hands to heal us. God became one of us to save and heal all of us as spiritual lepers! By our baptism, we like the leper in the Gospel were cleansed and restored to health. After baptism, when we fall into personal sin, we still can be cleansed of our spiritual leprosy in the sacrament of confession. In fact, any and all sins can be forgiven with humble and contrite hearts. No person is untouchable! In fact, did you know that after Blessed Damien contracted leprosy he would go to confession by yelling out his sins from the shore to a priest on the boat. Talk about humility! Blessed Damien knew the importance of confessing personal sins and the need to be cleansed!

Blessed Damien eventually became one of the lepers while serving them. May we always remember the great love that God has for us in becoming one of us to save and heal us from our spiritual leprosy of sin.

February 04, 2006

5th Ordinary B 2006

Couch or Cross?

Couch or Cross? Knowing this is Superbowl Sunday, I am hesitant to ask that question knowing that many will be found sitting on couches this evening. Yet, I am not concerned as to where we will sit to watch the big football game but rather where we might spiritually find ourselves all too often. Spiritually, are we very comfortable, lounging on a couch or are we living out our faith, moving into action, and embracing the cross? Couch or cross?

The Gospel paints a great picture of moving into action and not getting too comfortable. First of all, we hear that Peter’s mother n’ law was sick and Jesus restores her to full health. She would have been within her rights to relax and take it easy after being healed. Yet, she immediately gets up and proceeds to wait on her guests. She embraced the cross and not the couch. We are then told that Jesus rose early the next morning and went off by himself to pray. He didn’t lounge around in bed but rose early to pray. His disciples found him and then approached him stating that the crowds were looking for him. Jesus gave an interesting response. “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” In other words, Jesus was not about to get comfortable in a certain town but rather realized it was time to move on to preach the good news to neighboring towns. Jesus’ was literally heading towards the cross, which he fully embraced for the salvation of all.

Couch or cross? Where do we find ourselves? I recently spoke with a man who attended the March for Life in D.C. and then shared his experience with a friend. The friend, puzzled as to why people would march in defense of unborn life, said to the man, “well, if it’s God's will that Roe v. Wade should continue then so be it.” I mention that statement because it is a common attitude that is very dangerous. What that man was basically saying is, ‘I can sit back and be comfortable with the current situation because God wants things this way.’ However, what that man failed to understand is the basic fact that God doesn’t will evil but tolerates man, with a free will, to make good or bad choices. Furthermore, God expects us all to work to end evil in our land for the salvation of souls. Can you imagine if Jesus took that approach and said, ‘Too bad for the human race, they are stuck in their sin.’ Can you imagine if our country took that attitude with slavery? Can you imagine if the world took that attitude with Hitler and Nazi Germany? That’s difference between embracing the couch and taking up the cross. The couch allows us to sit back and let immorality continue in our day while the cross demands that we move into action with the hope that things can and must change for the better.

This weekend, I pray that we are inspired by the Gospel to move into action. Peter’s mother n’ law moved into service after she was healed. Jesus rose early to pray and then journeyed towards the cross as he traveled to nearby towns. May we also move into action as we embrace the cross, not the couch!

January 29, 2006

4th Sunday Ordinary B 2006

Large and in charge!

Large and in charge! That would be a great way to sum up our first reading as well as the Gospel this week. Large and in charge!

In the first reading, we see how prophets were used to speak the word of God. It is interesting to note that if a prophet presumed to speak words that God didn’t command, God said “they shall die.” God was clearly large and in charge as he spoke through his prophets. The prophets in turn recognized the authority of God and the responsibility to speak God’s word faithfully and courageously.

In the Gospel, Jesus is also large and in charge. As a divine person, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus had authority. Even the demons recognized Jesus as the “Holy one of God.” The diabolical never can stand the presence of holiness so they cry out for Jesus to leave them alone. Jesus was large and in charge and sent the demons back to where they belonged. The crowds recognized a new authority in Jesus as well. “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” Of course, the religious leaders were puzzled at this new authority and stated, “What is this, a new teaching with authority?” Nonetheless, Jesus had divine authority and was large and in charge.

This is a great weekend to reflect on the proper authority of God and who really is large and in charge in our life. Every leader has a sense of authority but at the foundation of that authority they must possess the humility to recognize who is large and in charge. One might ask, 'By what authority does a priest change bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ?' 'By what authority does a priest forgive the most serious of sins in a confessional?' Quiet simply, left to themselves, priests have no authority. Yet, it is God who bestows upon his priests a certain authority to carry out priestly functions. Teenagers might ask, ‘who is my mom or dad to tell me I can’t stay out later?’ Quite simply, parents, working with God, brought us into this life and thus have been granted certain authority by God as parents.

One of the major problems we have in our modern society is that leaders have lost their sense of who is large and in charge. Many have forgotten that their authority is limited and comes by way of a gift from above. Those who try to separate God from the State would do well to read our Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our rights come from the authority of the Creator!

God is large and in charge! May we all never forget that our very lives, gifts and talents come from God. May we never forget who truly is large and in charge!

January 23, 2006

33rd Anniversary Roe v. Wade: January 23, 2006

The Land of Make Believe
“…Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord (John 20.”

Many of you might remember the children’s show, ‘Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.’ Mr. Rogers would inevitably call upon Mr. Trolley to come by and then we would all be taken to the ‘Land of Make Believe.’ In the Land of Make Believe we were introduced to characters such as King Friday, Queen Sara, Prince Tuesday, Henrietta Pussycat and X the Owl. The Land of Make Believe was a way to escape reality and enter the land of imagination.

In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus brings the Apostles to reality. In many ways they were in the Land of Make Believe in the upper room and couldn’t recognize Jesus. . Jesus brings them to reality by inviting them to look upon his wounded hands and side. Jesus showed them the reality that he was not a ghost but had truly risen and was in their midst.

Today, our modern society is trapped in the Land of Make Believe. Far too many avoid reality on the issue of abortion. Just as Jesus did, we need to point to the truth and the reality of the situation. Jesus woke the Apostles up by showing them his hands and side. We also need to wake this world up by showing society the victims. Modern technology combined with science clearly can show us an unborn baby’s hands, fingers, feet, etc… very early on in the womb. Ultrasounds can give the world a window to the womb! Some argue that the unborn baby is simply a fetus or embryo, not fully human. Yet, science quickly reminds us that a fetus or embryo is simply a stage in the development of a human being. There are hundreds of teens here tonight at this mass. Teenagers, are you fully developed and done growing? No, you were once a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, a newborn, a toddler, now a teenager and soon will be a young adult, and finally a senior citizen! Those are simply stages of development, all of which are fully human with a God given dignity and value!

We need to face reality and see the need to protect the children in the womb. The choice to destroy the most innocent of human beings can never be acceptable. We need to show the reality that there are always alternatives such as adoption, financial and other forms of assistance so that no woman ever feels that her only choice is to have an abortion. Over 40 million babies have died since Jan 23, 1973 and that means millions of women are hurting physically, psychologically and emotionally from the pain of abortion. We need help them face the reality of the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus that awaits them. Did you know the woman, coined ‘Roe’, Norma McCorvey, is pro life now? She has seen the reality and come out of the Land of Make Believe. Listen to her words:

"I am Norma McCorvey. I became known as Jane Roe on January 22, 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court released the Roe v. Wade decision which created a woman's "right to abortion". I am now a child of God, a new creature in Christ; I am forgiven and redeemed. Today I publicly recant my involvement in the tragedy of abortion. I humbly ask forgiveness of the millions of women and unborn babies who have experienced the violence of abortion…(March 23, 1997).”

Allow me to close by bringing us all out of the Land of Make Believe and showing the horrific reality of the situation for those of you born after 1973. I would like to invite the first row of teenagers to come forward and leave a space after ever 2nd person. That 3rd space represents a classmate that should have been here today. One in three children is aborted and that fact alone should move our youth into action. In the name of choice, some of your classmates are not here today. I pray that by your own pro life convictions each of you will help our future generations face the truth and reality. May you all be blessed with the graces needed to be strong leaders and bring our nation out of the Land of Make Believe!

January 21, 2006

3rd Sunday Ordinary B

REPENTANCE

Norma McCorvey saw the need for it!
Sandra Cano saw the need for it!
Dr. Bernard Nathanson saw the need for it!
Jonah and the city of Nineveh saw the need for it!

James, John, Simon Peter, Andrew and every saint thereafter, saw the need for it!

REPENTANCE!

The first reading mentioned the repentance of the city of Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah. Due to their disobedience, Nineveh was going to be destroyed by God. However, after listening to the prophet Jonah, the people of Nineveh by their actions, not simply words, repented. In the Gospel, Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to also change their ways and follow him in a more radical way. In fact, even after the initial call to follow him, all the apostles needed to repent later on in life.

Repentance is a good theme for this weekend as we draw close to Jan. 23, 2006, the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the legalization of abortion in the United States. In fact, the first three people I mentioned at the beginning of this homily all played a vital role in legalizing abortion. Yet, those three same people have since repented and changed their ways. All three now work diligently in the pro life movement.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson was a co-founder of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League),
group instrumental in the foundation of abortion in the US. Yet, listen to his words now.

“We in NARAL were in the business of coining slogans principally for the media…we
scattered catchy slogans for them…to use….in their stories. Slogans like ‘reproductive rights’, freedom of choice,’ pro choice.’ For many years we’ve known then to be hollow and meaningless. They’re just catchy and, essentially, without substance.”

Norma McCorvey is the woman coined as ‘Roe’ in the original landmark decision of 1973. Yet, Norma has also repented and changed her belief. Here’s her pro life words.

"I am Norma McCorvey. I became known as Jane Roe on January 22, 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court released the Roe v. Wade decision which created a woman's "right to abortion". I am now a child of God, a new creature in Christ; I am forgiven and redeemed. Today I publicly recant my involvement in the tragedy of abortion. I humbly ask forgiveness of the millions of women and unborn babies who have experienced the violence of abortion…(March 23, 1997).”

Finally, Sandra Cano, the woman coined, ‘Doe’ in the Doe v. Bolton case, which followed Roe and legalized abortion for all nine months, also has changed her tune. Here’s what pro life Sandra Cano now says.

"I am Sandra Cano. I became known as Mary Doe when the U.S. Supreme Court released Roe v. Wade's companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, which allowed abortion for virtually any reason. I am against abortion; I never sought an abortion; I have never had an abortion. Abortion is murder. For over twenty years, and against my will, my name has been synonymous with abortion. The Doe v. Bolton case is based on deceit and fraud… (National Memorial for the Unborn, March 23, 1997)”

Repentance! Dr. Nathanson, Norma McCorvey, and Sandra Cano all repented and now are pro-life! Thousands of pro lifers will march in Washington tomorrow on that dreadful anniversary to call our nation to repentance. 33 years later, no unborn child or mother is safe in our country. Legalizing abortion has only taken the precious lives of over 40 million unborn babies. Millions of women have been hurt physically, psychologically and emotionally all in the name of ‘choice.' As a people of hope we must look to the future and believe in the spirit of true
repentance. May our nation adopt that same spirit of repentance that moved Nineveh to see
the error of her ways and avoid destruction!

January 13, 2006

2nd Sunday Ordinary B

Behold the Lamb of God!

If you were to start a franchise sport’s team, what would you name it? The current NFL playoffs are giving us a look teams with strong animal names, such as, bears, panthers, broncos or colts. Our local team in New England is a noble Patriotic name while, our Bishop’s favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, represents a hardworking profession. Usually, teams are named after a strong or courageous animal, profession or group of people. Could you imagine naming a team the Lambs?

That name might seem odd for an athletic franchise but that was the title for the 2nd person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. Guys, imagine if you introduced one of your friends as a lamb? Yet, that’s exactly what happens in our Gospel account. John the Baptist saw his cousin, Jesus, approaching and he told his followers, “Behold the Lamb of God…” Lamb of God might seem odd to call another man but John the Baptist was right on the money with that title!

In order to see why John the Baptist’s reference was so brilliant we need to rewind to the Old Testament. In Exodus 12, the people were instructed with regards to the Passover to “…take some of the blood (of a lamb), and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them (9).” Further on in verse 13, they were told that the “the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.” The blood of a lamb on two wooden doorposts was the sign by which the faithful would be passed over or saved from the angel of death. Jesus’ blood marked the wood of the cross and by his blood we are all passed over or saved from death. We don’t have to run out to sacrifice lambs and mark our doors with their blood to be saved. Jesus’ one sacrifice for all time now marks the New and Everlasting Covenant!

My brothers and sisters, every time we participate at Mass, we acknowledge Jesus as the Lamb of God. At Mass, the priest elevates the host and cries out as John the Baptist did, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” When we attend Mass, we stand at the Cross and behold the Lamb that redeemed the world. By the saving work of Jesus, we are saved from sin and death. We still will die and most likely continue to fall into sin. Yet, we now have a way out and a great hope by the blood of the Lamb!

A lamb might not be the most ferocious or strongest of animals. A lamb might not be the most intimidating name for a sport’s team. Yet, may we always remember that it was the Lamb of God that won the greatest victory ever. “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”