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Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Cross and The Rosary

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 19, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

In today’s Gospel passage (Luke 9:18-24), Our Lord Jesus teaches us about true discipleship. 

In today’s Gospel Our Lord Jesus Christ asks His disciples who people are saying He is. And His disciples reply,
"John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’"

Yet, as Our Lord hears the answers of what other’s think about His identity, He does not stop there. Jesus wants to know who His disciples think He is. “But who do you say that I am?” And, Peter answers,“You, are the Christ of God.”

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord is asking us the same question. “Who do you say that I am?”

Now, if we sincerely acknowledge that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, then we must also acknowledge what Our Lord says next in today’s Gospel.

He taught them that He must suffer and die,  be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and rise on the third day. He adds, if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must take up his cross daily and follow Me. 

This is true discipleship. If we if we want to live a Christian life, than we have to make a choice. If we want to follow Him, we must reject whatever is in our lives or the world that is not of Christ.

There are many examples of what this means. One example I will relate in light of the times in which we live today is a person who experiences same sex attraction. Like all Catholics, such a person is equally called to live chastely. To pick up his or her cross is to strive to lively chastely and to reject the gay identity  that our society would force us to embrace. 

Fr John Paul Shea 
My brothers and sisters, the overall message of today’s Gospel is  to live as Christians we must reject whatever leads us away from eternal salvation. 

Maybe we have to deny our pride. Or, maybe we have to deny acting out on our anger. Maybe we have to deny turning on the computer because we know it will lead us into temptation. Or maybe we have to deny an unhealthy relationship with another person. Whatever the case, today’s Gospel teaches us that the Kingdom of Heaven is not something that is automatically given. No! The Kingdom of Heaven is something we must choose to receive by making changes in our lives today.

To deny ourselves and pick up our cross is not easy because we live in a culture that sees  the cross of Christ as foolishness. Our culture teaches us the easy way. We don’t have to take the responsibility that comes with marriage. Just live together. Our culture tells us that we don’t have to worry about
pregnancy. Use contraception. Should that fail, we can abort. Our culture teaches us there is no sacrifice in marriage. Just get a divorce.

Yet, as Christians we are called to deny the ways of the world opposed to our Christian faith! We are called to remain faithful to Our Lord and take up our crosses each day so to be numbered among His chosen ones. As long as we remain faithful to Our Lord we will share in his victory. But if we deny our Lord He will deny us.

We see so much wrong in our society and world today. We heard of the recent shootings in Orlando. We hear of shootings in our schools, and we wonder how such tragedies can take place in our country. Evils abound in our world today because our world has turned away from God! We witness such evils because we deny the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

The children of today are growing up with no morals. They are growing up with no
discipline. Instead of being taught to pick up their cross and follow Our Lord, the majority of children in our society are being taught to pick up nothing but their cell phone or computer and to follow the world.

Yet, this world we live in today is passing away, and it is taking many souls with it. In fact, we live in a time when many souls risk eternal damnation. Our Blessed Mother taught the children at Fatima to make sacrifices and to pray the Rosary because many souls are going to hell.
My brothers and sisters, today more than ever is the day for each one of us to seek conversion in our lives. If we want to be disciples then we have to make a decision. Let us be true disciples, deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will lose his life for eternity. But whoever loses his life in this world for the sake of Our Lord will find the gift of life eternal. Amen.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

From Death to Life!

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 5, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

In today’s Gospel passage (Luke 7:11-17), we  reflect on the powerful scene where Our Lord Jesus raises a man from death to life. 

Our Lord is traveling to a city and a large crowd of people are following Him. They pass by a dead man in a coffin who is being carried out. Our Lord sees the dead man and his mother who was saddened at his death, and He stops everything and touches the man’s coffin, orders him to arise, and the man sits up. The people who witnessed this event are astounded! They proclaim out loud,
“A great prophet has arisen in our midst. God has visited his people.”

My brothers and sisters, as we hear this story, let us remember that a great prophet has arisen in our midst! This prophet is Our Lord Jesus Christ! 

As you know, there have been many prophets in the history of our faith. In today’s first reading (1Kings 17:17-24), the great Prophet Elijah also raised a man back to life.

Yet, there is a difference between the prophetic ministry of the prophets of old and the mission of Jesus. The prophetic ministry of the prophets was to proclaim the word of God and to manifest God's power among the difficulties of their times. 

But Our Lord’s prophetic ministry is the fulfillment of all prophets. His mission was not simply to manifest God’s power but to restore God’s kingdom in its fullness! 

Our Lord Jesus Christ is greater than any prophet. He is the Son of God! He has come into a world plagued by sin and death in order to break the power of sin and death and restore us to life! 

As Jesus raised the dead man to life in today’s Gospel, so He wants to raise each one of us back to life from the death of sin. This is why Our Lord suffered and died on the cross! 

Even though He shares in the likeness of God, He came in our human nature to restore man's nature to end the death that comes from sin, and allow us to live with Him for all eternity!

Our Lord performed miracles and raised dead people to life when He walked the earth because the power of God was in Him. He did these things to show that the Kingdom of God had come into our midst. But Our Lord has taught us not to rely on miracles. He has taught us to rely on faith. God has continued to work miracles throughout the history of our Church during the past 2000 years in order to help us in our faith, but it is not the miracles of God that will save us. It is our faith that will save us! 

My brothers and sisters, we live in a world filled with suffering. We live in a world filled with pain. We live in a world where everyone of us will experience death. But this is not what God has intended for us! God did not create death, and He does not want us to die in a world that is perishing because it has turned from His plan of life!

In today’s Gospel we hear that when our Lord sees the dead man and his mother that He was moved with pity. What about our world today? How does our Lord feel when He looks down upon our societies today? What He sees must break His heart! The death, the corruption, the violence, the abortions, the misuse and abuse of our sexuality... God does not want these things! This is why our good and gracious God has sent His Son into our world!

Today’s Gospel passage gives us hope! Despite all the chaos in our world today, despite the immoral influences that are plaguing our society, despite the lies and corruptness of our political leaders, God is in control! A great prophet has arisen in our midst, and He is coming again to put an end to all violence, pain, suffering, and all that is not of God’s kingdom! 

Therefore, in these difficult times in which we
Fr. John Paul Shea
live we need to stand strong in our faith! Let us not live for a world that is passing away, for our world is deteriorating rapidly! But, let us acknowledge the gift of eternal life that Our Lord Jesus has come to give to us by following His call for repentance and conversion. For, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst.” This prophet is Jesus Christ, True God and True Man,  and He is coming again  to fulfill the establishment of His Kingdom! Amen.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

God's Greatest Gift: The Holy Eucharist

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, May 29, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today, we celebrate the greatest gift ever given to the world: the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Today's celebration of Corpus Christi was formally instituted by Pope Urban IV in 1264, but in reality the Church has been celebrating it  since Our Lord turned bread and wine into His Body and Blood on the night before He was sacrificed. We call this feast the Last Supper or Holy Thursday. Since the Last Supper, the Church has firmly taught that the bread and wine used in the sacrifice of the Mass become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ -- without destroying the appearance of bread and wine in the process.

The bread we eat looks and tastes like ordinary bread. The wine we drink looks and smells like ordinary wine. Yet, it is through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, that  Our Lord manifests Himself in our lives in deepest intimacy.

In fact, there have been many saints who have lived extraordinary lives because of their faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. 

For example, in the 1300s, Saint Catherine of Sienna and in the 1600s,  Saint Joseph of Cupertino both received no nourishment apart from the Eucharist for the last years of their lives.

Another saint is Blessed Alexandrina da Costa. She lived in Portugal during the early 20th century and became bedridden as a young woman after she fell out of a window because she refused to have sex with three men who broke into her home. This woman offered up all of her sufferings to Jesus, and she answered Our Lord’s call to fast on the Holy Eucharist. In fact, she lived on nothing but the Holy Eucharist for the last 13 years of her life!

My brothers and sisters, today’s celebration of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, calls us to deeper love and reverence for Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy
Eucharist celebrated during Holy Mass! It is a sacred oath given to us by Jesus Himself, which the Church has celebrated ever since in obedience to His Word,
"Do this in remembrance of Me." (1Cor 11:24)

Saint Paul tells us in today’s reading that “on the night he was handed over [He] took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in
remembrance of me.' I
n the same way also, Our Lord took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes!” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

These words of Saint Paul remind us that the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is a sacrifice. When we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist we are not simply making a gesture to be more loving and caring. 
No! When we worthily receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist we enter into His death. We share in the sacrifice that He suffered on the cross so that we can become one with Him in His resurrection! Therefore, as Jesus offered Himself to God as a Sacrifice, He expects us  to offer ourselves to God as well. We must be willing to sacrifice our own will and desires and pick up our cross and follow Christ. 
Many today in our culture do not want to give anything up. We want to live for ourselves. Our culture teaches us to indulge ourselves regardless of God’s laws and His teachings! But as Catholics we are called not to frequent the wayward places of our culture, but to live for God.

As Catholics, our job is to celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist with much  reverence. Therefore it's necessary to prepare to receive Our Lord worthily.  For, when we eat Our Lord’s Body and Blood worthily, we become what we eat! We become a holy temple because our Sacred
Lord lives inside of us. This is why we do not want to come to receive our Lord if we are conscious of grave sin. For, it is an act of pride and arrogance when we receive Our Lord knowing that we are living a lifestyle that contradicts the teachings of Christ's Church.

My brothers and sisters, the gift of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the greatest benefit ever bestowed on mankind! In the Eucharist, we receive Jesus in His True Presence. We should never take this gift for granted! May the grace of the Holy Eucharist protect us from all harm and from all evil so that we can live in Peace with Our Lord for all eternity. Amen!