We Yearn For Peace!

By Bishop Josph N Perry

My late father was a World War II veteran who was assigned 1942-1945 to the European Theatre. That generation of men has been dubbed the greatest generation for reasons of their patriotism, their family values, and work ethic. It has also been suggested that many of the WWII veterans that returned home had been made pacifists by the ravages of experience connected with that war. The sons they spawned turned out the Vietnam War generation – my generation – who fought that war, others of whom became draft dodgers and pacifists, protesters through the streets for an end of a longer than long and lengthy conflict in Asia.

My father would not allow me as a child to have guns and holsters and toys that dealt with war. I was ill-equipped to play with the neighbor kids when they played war or Cow-boys and Indians or pretended to shoot each other. I did no quite understand it back then, only later in my adulthood did I begin to understand what my Father was doing with me that he could not quite articulate.

Ours is a different generation. We have gathered to pray, once again, for a new year safer for our children to travel the streets and sidewalks to school and church and parks and other places. We cannot confine our children to inside the home. It is natural for children to want to be outdoors. Continue to encourage them as you have always done to be aware of what’s in front of them, in back of them, on the side of them. More and more kids travel to school on busses or in cars these days. Yet even then, encourage your children and grandchildren to be vigilant, to speak up to parents and teachers when they see something wrong and where to take refuge if danger closes in on them.

When we were growing up my mother did not allow us to watch certain TV shows that were considered “adult entertainment”. In the 1950s, adult entertainment was Payton Place and The Untouchables. We had to go upstairs while mom watched her favorite TV adult shows. I wasn’t able to watch The Untouchables until I became an adult and then got a kick out of some floozy sitting atop a desk filing her nails while her gang lord crook wearing a gun and holster next to his rib was on the phone bringing booze into the city. Those images were off-limits for children of my time. How things have changed with the tenor of morals displayed on the viewing screen and the troublesome Internet!

Today is different. Notice, the popular video games with which children and teens are engaged. Most of them have to do with rabid violence, high powered weapons cutting down opponents and blood spurting every which way. Kids have these at home and work them with their coins in video arcades and at shopping malls. This is considered innocent youth entertainment. And we purchase these games for our youth. I suggest we should fast from these images and other movies where people like actors Stephen Seagal and Vin Diesel and others act out glorified violence. Unbeknownst to us these images work themselves in the consciousness of our youth getting across the idea that violence and killing are the only ways to be somebody. A gun in the hand always renders one a false sense of power.

Now, I am not saying my parent’s methods of raising us were the best. All I know is that I did not turn out the worse for it. I believe there is something to be said for steering clear of giving birthday gifts and Christmas gifts and gifts in between that symbolize violence and killing so prevalent in our city and other cities across the country. Follow through with the rearing of your kids and grandkids on this. Support your prayers and messaging by fasting from the images and instruments associated with violence. Then, sooner or later, the kids will understand.

Bishop Joseph Perry

JNP2017

Bishop Joseph Perry: The Relevance of Church

Is it too late to save our families and ourselves for God?

It is not easy proclaiming the Gospel in a secularized world – a world that is of diminished religious tone.

In a recent address, December 21, to the Cardinals and staffs of the Roman Curia at the Vatican, Pope Francis recalled that we are no longer living in a Christian world. 

“Christendom no longer exists. Today, we are no longer the only ones who create culture, nor are we in the forefront or those most listened to … we are no longer living in a Christian world, because faith… is no longer an evident presupposition of social life; indeed, faith is often rejected, derided, marginalized and ridiculed… the faith used to be passed on within families and the example of parents; society too was inspired by Christian principles. Today, this transmission has been interrupted and our social context, if not anti-Christian, appears to be at least impermeable to the Christian faith.  Hence the question … how to proclaim the Gospel where it is no longer known or recognized?  It is pointless getting agitated. There is no need to get organized, or to make a noise. There’s no need for gimmicks or stratagems. In the mission of proclaiming the Gospel, you move because the Holy Spirit pushes you, and carries you.  And when you arrive you realize that He has come before you and is waiting for you.”

“Proclaiming the Gospel,” adds the Pope, “does not consist in besieging others with apologetic speeches … in shouting in peoples’ faces.  Even less is it necessary to fling the truths and doctrinal formulas on others as if they were stones … if people to whom it is addressed have no opportunity to meet and taste in some way God’s tenderness and His healing mercy… to facilitate, that is, make it easy not to put us in the way of Jesus’ desire to embrace everyone, to heal everyone, to save everyone.”  Always aware that without Him we can do nothing.

With these thoughts of the Holy Father in mind, is it too late to save our families and ourselves for God?  How about the evangelization of our households, our friendships.  How about fervent practice of our faith for these times and every time.  How about we men being intentional pastors of our households leading the way?

Bishop Joseph Perry

Bishop Joseph Perry: Genuine Intimacy

As one husband and father of five children with one on the way openly testifies:

(In our families) “we see the beauty of a child’s faith and we see the immediate negative consequences of sin. There is little that can motivate a man to improve himself more than seeing his weakness imitated by his son.  In the constant labor of family life, one either embraces the Cross and finds joy or one retreats to selfishness, shirks one’s responsibilities and accepts misery. The truth is that our vocation is labor and our spirituality must be one rooted in labor. Spending an hour trying to find a toddlers shoe, which for some inexplicable reason is never with its partner, is not a distraction from the life of holiness, it is where we find it! The laity is engaged in a struggle, a war that requires great labor and without spiritual fortitude and maturity it simply won’t be won.” 

Dr. Andrew Jones, PhD,  “Into the Battle: Finding Holiness and A Lost Shoe While We’re At It,”  Lay Witness, Sept/Oct 2014.

Don’t you find it strange that in a world obsessed with communications via cell phones, IPhones, Skype and the Internet, it has never been harder to stay in touch, to build and maintain genuine intimacy.  I’m not talking about that artificial contact found in bars or clubs where alcohol and atmosphere create the illusion that everyone is your buddy.  I’m not talking about that superficial contact found in the members of the family popping in and out of the house picking up food off the stove or from the refrigerator but never taking the time to sit down and enjoy a meal together.  I’m talking about real intimacy that lasts longer than the evanescent fumes of liquor and perfume, real intimacy that must be taken up after the gifts are unwrapped or exchanged back at the stores the day after. The kind of intimacy that takes time, demands sacrifice and intentional effort and is not circumvented by fear or disappointment, the kind of intimacy where each member of the family senses they are appreciated and respected.

This real intimacy I speak of puts other family members first and is willing to accept imperfection in ourselves and in our loved-ones.  It is also open to work with challenge and change. This is the only kind of intimacy that keep couples and families together in the hard times as well as the good times.

Bishop Joseph N Perry

Bishop Joseph N. Perry: Christmas 2019

It is indeed an honor to celebrate this sacred feast with you and to mark these festive days with worship proper to our lives.  May the peace and warmth of the season wrap you and those who mean much to you within the embrace of God.  May the turn of the calendar year mean another grace-filled twelve months for you and your loved ones with a wisdom that brings us closer to God.

Christmas as it has developed over the centuries touches some of the deepest strivings of the human spirit. We need something high caliber to give meaning to the mess we find in the world.

For several days we change the pace of our lives and dress ourselves not only in our material best but also in our best behavior for the feast.  For Christmas reaches down to the very best that is in human nature. Christmas also reminds us of the very best that God wishes for us.  After all, God gave us his best, his only Son, so that we might come to know Him and become sons and daughters like unto Him.

II

Christmas is a drama of the Divine dialectic, you might say, surfacing the many antitheses found in the human condition. 

“Peace on earth and good will towards men.” 

Mysteriously, once again, these festive days are haunted by political instabilities around the world that cause anxiety stirring the fiber of daily life.  Jesus was born within turbulent times where an empire subjugated the known world of that day. The very race within which the Savior was born was a conquered people whose misfits were routinely crucified as a means to intimidate and to cruelly turn the stabbing knife of oppression.

We think of Christmas as a warm interlude of welcome this time each year.  Regardless where we live, our images of Christmas involve families and friends gathered affectionately.  And so it should be.  We bring evergreens into our homes and apartments, real or artificial, and try to make them look as if they are snow or icicle laden.  With good food and drink, hugs and kisses, together with all these things we try to create the image of tranquility, the image of happy connections with important people and events, the guise of peace – at least all the good things we desire above the struggle and failure found in our individual lives.

Religious Christmas greeting cards attempt to punctuate similar images.  The scenes of Mary, Joseph and the Child are presented with warm glows and twinkling stars. The animals in the stable are clean and calm, the shepherds pastoral in appearance, the edge of their garments gold leafed and clean as any cleaners would make them; and the Wise Men majestic in their presentation of gifts and elegant in their robes with not a speck of desert sand or mud to be found on their vesture.

These scenes help us enjoy the intended effect of the once and coming of the Son of God but they do not mirror exactly the narrative that we find in the Gospels. But that’s alright.  God understands our need to dream and to have dreams come true.  Recall, God himself had a dream for the human race that we somehow lost grasp of.

The gospels describe a poor people in difficult times. Joseph and Mary are from Nazareth to the north, a small poor village no one would dream vacationing in.  The Holy Family, as we call them, took a journey which was highly precarious.  Typically, you had to travel in caravans or large groups or hire armed guards to travel with you to get through certain areas where robbers and muggers abounded.  There was safety in numbers.

As Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem they find no place to stay.  This is because the inns are filled with travelers due to the public census ordered by the emperor where everyone had to return to their ancestral towns and villages to register.  Nothing about this was a holiday while it occurred.

It strikes me how unready so much was that first Christmas. The world was unready before the entrance of God’s gift to the world – unready in mind and mood, unready by guilt and sin.  Is it possible that we might remedy each our own unreadiness in order to receive Him open-heartedly as it was meant to be that first Christmas?

In face of the world’s unreadiness shepherds are stirred as first witnesses of the Messiah’s birth. We have an idyllic picture of shepherds and their flocks. But, again, this was not the experience of the Gospel writers nor the picture they wished to paint. Shepherds were the lowest on the social pyramid, probably because they were rough dealing, rough talking and rough smelling. Society considered them nobodies. 

Indeed, friends, had we been there we would have seen nothing of our Christmas in that first Christmas. That first Christmas was real.  Ours is make-believe if not quite sanitized.

The gospel writer Matthew spruces up the story of Jesus birth with the arrival of the star-gazers (Wise Men) from the East who interpreted world events by studying the stars.  Luke, on the other hand, wants us to see and feel the destitution, the hardship and the forgotten people of the land. Luke wants us to see the migrants and the homeless people in the travelers Joseph and Mary.  He wants us to see the forgotten people of the world in the shepherds.  He wants us to remember how desperately our world and many of its inhabitants needed God. Luke wants to teach that God purposefully sent his Son to us precisely when we were overcome by the mess that was in the world.

The biblical figures in today’s sacred narrative were people for whom life was hard. They lived many days with fear of starvation or harm by robbers or annihilation by an oppressive empire.  We must find how we too are starved for things truly holy. We must face our own fears. These days can bring about a new peace on this earth that God wills for us despite — our mess.

So, truly, there is nothing glorious presented in the manner of Jesus’ birth.  But, this is the writer Luke.  Luke wishes us to see that God’s faithfulness is expressed precisely in our human events even when appearances seem to deny both God’s presence and His power.  Even when we are beset with the mess of our individual lives, the mess in our families, the mess in our Church, the mess in our society and in other conditions around and about.  If God is to be found anywhere, somewhere, we will find Him in the currents good and bad coursing through our lives, not in some Disney World-like reality.  In deigning to take on human flesh to live and walk amongst us and show us the better way He graciously took on our mess. And it was our mess that killed him.

Despite it all we need Christmas.  Had there been no Christmas we probably would have invented some semblance of it. For we human beings cry out for redemption from the awful mess that defines the world that we live in. We need a Savior to take us from all that has messed up our lives.

Luke, the author of the third gospel here, wants the world to remember that God promised to never abandon His people.  Luke wants us to remember the ancient promises that He will be our shepherd, that God saves and will always save us from a messed up world.  God keeps on saving if we can allow Him into our mess.  The more we mess it up the more God pursues us to straighten it all out.

The prophet Isaiah in the passage (tonight) (from the midnight Mass), writes a hymn of coronation for a new born king of Israel centuries before Jesus’ birth. The scene then was, simply, leadership had failed in Israel. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered by Assyria. The people of Judah to the south were afraid the same thing would happen to them.  Isaiah invokes the same ancient promises of God.  For the scriptures tell us consistently God always gets us through the mess!

III

Our task this Christmas is to find our identity with the shepherds and with Joseph and Mary.  Our task is to search out our own moral and spiritual unreadiness so that God can change it to readiness to receive Him this day and every day, to search and find our Savior within the incongruities of our situations.  

Apart from God we too are homeless. Apart from God we are sinful. Apart from God we too are nobodies.  Yet, today’s feast of the becoming flesh of God tells us in no uncertain terms that we are somebodies as far as God is concerned.  We always have been precisely when we were unimpressed by God’s attention to us.  Tonight, we have every reason to hope and to grasp the light of God.

 “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

This Christmas, I think of God deigning to come down to wallow with us in our mess. Religion’s job is to highlight the contrasts, the dialectic found in life. On the other side of holiness is found our sinfulness.  Opposite the purity of life preached to us is found impurity.  Opposite the peace the world craves is found perpetual conflict.  Opposite the rich is found the poor.  Opposite humility is found reckless ambition.  God’s coming intervenes in the mess we create struggling with the dialectic for we are frightened to find synthesis at the conclusion of the awful antithesis that is indicative of God’s Will to save. Christmas will be no more than cozy images if we cannot see the favor of God in our lives despite the nonsense we find in our lives and therefore in our world.

So, there’s nothing wrong with what we’ve done with Christmas in all its fascination and decoration or in all of its staging as long as we can recall what Christmas is meant to do – help us reach for the promises that one day the mess will be over and done with, for God’s redemption is at hand.

The shepherds and this expecting couple knew they needed God.  At times we’re not sure that we need God. We allow ourselves to think that what we have we’ve earned through our own hard work.  We often fail to notice God’s signature at the bottom corner of our life’s portrait.

Christmas is for the needy.  Christmas is for those who dream and who hope, who desire the more that only God can provide. The poor and the hungry, those helpless to clean up their lives, the lowest of laborers, they are still with us in our contemporary world. Though we live better we are not much better. On Christmas we remember people in need and among them we must include ourselves.

These festive days don’t be afraid to do the God-talk your households and friendships need.  And in the act of giving gifts make sure you invoke the name of the Christ child to loved-one or friend, this God-Child that inspires all we are and do.  After all, it is His feast we celebrate.

Bishop Joseph N Perry

Bishop Joseph Perry: Our Families

Each day gives us a moment to contemplate our families and what we really want them to be… to ask the blessing of God who has brought us together and appointed each one of us to be in this family.

Referencing  our religious roots … in Jesus’ day… each member of the family did something to produce food, practically the only industry.  Carpenters like Joseph would have spent as much, if not more, time building or repairing farming implements.  Jesus would have learned his father’s trade.  Jewish society was a lot simpler than anything we know.  From the moment they were physically able, children worked.  The men ploughed and planted, made repairs, shepherded the flocks and whatever else was needed.  Boys stayed with the men learning the crafts and trades of their fathers and other men in the family.  Girls stayed with the women learning how to turn wool into cloth and grain into flour.

In Jesus day, people lived in very small dwellings in extended family groups. They survived only by recognizing that their survival depended upon each other.  They lived in the same rooms, ate and worked together, prayed together.  It was the values of their religion that created their strongest bonds. Except for daughters who married, few left the home.

Our scriptures and church teaching emphasize the need for exemplary behavior on each our part in order to survive.  This call to proper daily behavior is a Call rooted in faith.  A strong family relies on its faith to guide and direct it.

A family is a living, breathing organism.  Members of the family live off each other; they cope, assist each other and aggravate each other.  They make the best of a situation; they invest in it, get to like it, maybe even need it.  Sometimes families live with situations they shouldn’t; and make bad human investments; and learn to tolerate unlikable things.

Families must be flexible, but within limits. Nothing is ever what it used to be, nor is it entirely different.  Each member needs room to grow.  Families need to expect change and crises as a way of life.  Our Church teaches that the purposes of marriage are mutual love and raising children.  Love is always stretched.  We have to discover new ways to express old love or loved ones begin to feel taken for granted. And children are naturally bundles of constant change. This makes the family a change agent, a growth industry!

Sometimes, families need to face the truth, to avoid a future catastrophe by bearing a present pain or embarrassment.  We need to allow ourselves to be in trouble.  If Mary was found a pregnant teen and Jesus was a runaway teen then we are allowed a scandal or two in the family.  A good rule in family life – all life – is to play the problem where it lies.  We almost always make it worse by trying to improve on our lie.

And, of course, families, like individuals, live on appreciation, without which even the best arrangements fall apart.  Because the family is not an institution; it is an occasion if not an unfolding drama of love.

We worry about our families.  We desire our children to have the best influences, the best education and a reasonable walk through adult life free of trauma and pain if at all possible. We want our families to be wrapped in the blessings of God.  These are good things to ask for.  For these reasons we fall to our knees asking God to keep us in His care.•

Bishop Joseph N. Perry

JNP 2009

Bishop Joseph Perry: The Culture Wars

Catching the news on screen and in print these days would suggest that a war is on between religion and the popular culture, over issues such as medico-moral applications, same-sex marriage and religious liberty.   One city newspaper commentator went so far as to say, “It’s always a good day when our elected officials get their marching orders from their consciences and their constituents, not from their religious leaders – be they Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise.”

For the longest time, in our lifetime, we have always thought there was or should be or could be or can be a friendly discourse between the two realms, that there was consensus on how citizens, regardless of faith or no faith, can responsibly and morally lead their lives and be a credit to themselves and society.  Increasingly these days agreement appears more and more disparate between the two realms.

These times call for prayer, prayer to be able to lead lives under the watchful care of God and pass to our children the best modeling and example of faith-filled lives.  For many of us, religious faith is the battery we run on.

If we are inclined to pray at all – we really don’t like God meddling in our lives.  We moderns have certain off-limits signs that we want God to observe.  Modern ideas conceive of a sharp and distinct chasm between popular culture and its civil freedoms and the messages and guidance that come from religion, the latter often accused as being anachronistic if not out of sync with progress and enlightened ideas.

Honest prayer turns us toward God and opens up our lives to great possibility.  That parable Jesus told his disciples (Luke 18) about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector both who came to Temple to pray on the same day.  The Pharisee’s self-serving-self-righteous prayer manages to keep God at arm’s length. Though appearing to be very open to God he is inclined to recite everything he has done well – just in case God has forgotten or has been too busy to notice.  He is not like the rest of men, or so we are made to believe by his recitation.

By contrast, the Tax Collector’s simple but honest prayer of repentance pleases God.  His is a humble stance that he is like the rest of men, a sinner, who marvelously has won God’s approval for his regret and his humility.

No one wins these kinds of battles that are current in the culture.  But the Christian faith continues on, by the grace of God and not so much by how well we have observed its tenets.  We strident Christians just figure that there are certain things we can never be and certain things we can never do simply because we love and admire the person of Jesus Christ, the Savior, who is coming back to take us with him.

When Jesus tells his disciples to be persistent in prayer He cannot mean be persistent in self-serving or dishonest or arrogant prayer.  Who are we to tell God what He should be.  We can only rely on the mercy of God.  Honest prayer comes from a stance of humility. We are children of God, not God’s equal.  Honest prayer opens us up to God, searches for God’s Will, not our own, prepares us to remove any off-limits signs in our lives that we know it all, thereby allowing God’s grace to touch our entire lives – our words, our thoughts our life’s pattern.  God’s Word is always trying to influence our lives completely.

When we discuss any number of things, it always helps to understand deeply that we are, as the Tax Collector was willing to admit, sinners in search of God’s Will.

CMCS archives JNP 2013

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Bishop Joseph Perry: Homily from Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum

Following is the homily from the closing Mass of the Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum on April 27, 2019, by Bishop Joseph N. Perry.

Mk 16, 9-15

In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, notice, Jesus’ disciples were forbidden by the authorities to teach about Jesus to anyone.  The townsfolk had witnessed Peter’s miraculous healing of a crippled man.  Because the rulers and temple elders were in no position to accept as good news the miraculous healing of the man, at the same time, they knew they could neither deny nor hide the reality of this phenomenon, so they instead tried to silence the disciples.  The name of Jesus was not to be mentioned by them or anyone.

Sometimes, we act as if that prohibition has been passed down to us.  We are uncomfortable referencing our faith before others. We might feel uncomfortable making the sign of the cross and saying grace before we eat out at a restaurant. If someone use the name of God in vain we remain stone silent. If we don’t try deliberately to hide our faith we at least do not often express it in public places.  Actually what has been handed down to us is not a prohibition but the calling to be loyal to Jesus, to “teach all nations”.  Jesus gave us this instruction in today’s passage from the gospel.

The gospel is often called the Good News. But many of us receive it as though it were bad news.  We act as if being Christian prevents us from having friends. But the joy of the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection is our birthright as Christians.  We own the patent to the story!

If we are naturally somewhat shy we may not want to impose on others’ lives.  Or we don’t want to risk alienating them.  After all, many of our friends and in-laws and outlaws are not so religious.  And we want to stay in their company.  And among buddies and in the public arena it’s not cool to seem pious or religious, we often think.

The true story is told in one of the parishes that: One Sunday afternoon a baby girl was being baptized.  She had a brother a few years older than herself. And on the way home, the boy was found crying crocodile tears in the back seat of the car.  Dad was driving but his mother leaned back and asked him what was the matter.  And the boy said:  “Father said that he wants all boys and girls to grow up in a good Christian home.  But I want to stay with you guys!” 

Out of the mouths of babes!

When Mary Magdalene saw the risen Jesus she could hardly wait to tell his other friends.  She ran through the streets of Jerusalem and pounded on the door to get their attention. They didn’t believe her.  As we share our faith experiences with others we also can expect skepticism, hesitancy, disbelief and yes, sometimes, even ridicule.  We lose friends while we’re active Christians, no doubt.  But then, there are those friends who re also mealy-mouthed in their loyalty to us and admit for sure their admiration of you for your sound faith in Christ.

But, there are other, sometimes more effective ways to share our faith with others.  Also in today’s gospel is mention of Jesus joining two disciples on a country road. We can powerfully influence others’ lives by walking with them, listening and not being afraid to mention the word “God” in our conversations with others.  By affirming and validating feelings that others express we can help them open themselves to God’s grace.

This reminds me – during one of the last major offenses of World War II, Dwight Eisenhower, the great general, was walking and gathering his thoughts one day when he came upon a young soldier who seemed depressed.  “How are you feeling, son?”  the general asked.  The soldier answered, “General, sir, I’m awful nervous.”  “Well,” said Eisenhower, “you and I are a good pair then because I’m nervous too. Maybe if we just walk along together, we’ll be good for each other.”  What a powerful support that was for that young soldier.

Sometimes we are tempted to compromise God’s Christian Call of us with what seems expedient or practical, whether among friends, in the office, engaging with coworkers in racist chatter; or in the voter’s booth, deciding an issue on the basis of selfish interest rather than the common good; or in the quiet of our heart giving in to confusion and disbelief.  The first Christians and certainly Christians through the centuries knew how challenging it was to live the faith.  For that reason they are sympathetic to us when we fail to act on our convictions or when our faith seems to not mean much to us.

We live in a society that claims to get along quite well without religious faith and practice; other things are important and command our energy and thoughts. There are people out there, even baptized people we know and befriend, even love, who admire Jesus Christ as a good man who lived back then and somehow ran afoul of the authorities and was given a death sentence.  Somehow his wisdom has endured through the ages.  But, these same people whom we know and love will not hand their lives over to Him. 

People tend to think of Jesus as a figure from the past instead of as a power in the present.  For some people Jesus is just a vague figure mentioned in religion classes of our childhood.  Truth be told, Jesus doesn’t want our acknowledgment of Him.  He wants our discipleship.  There’s a difference. Acknowledging Jesus Christ as a figure from history will not get you saved.  Being a disciple of Jesus, however, demands a conscientious, calculated, and determined commitment made to Him and his message.

The Easter gospels we hear through the season remind us how slowly even those who had been with Jesus during his ministry came to believe in and act by the power of the risen Christ. 

Looking back we can often see God’s hand in the events of our lives and slowly but surely as the months and years pass by these events begin to make sense.  For the followers of Jesus his death made no sense.  It was only in hindsight after the resurrection that they could see the fulfillment of God’s plan.  Because of the outpouring of the Spirit at that first Pentecost they were able to preach the message of Christ to folks gathered in Jerusalem – that He was not dead but alive and that He was the promised Messiah and therefore the fulfillment of all their hopes.

Peter was able to trust in Christ’s healing power working through him and the others.  Peter finally was able to speak courageously before the very group that turned Jesus over to Pilate and demanded his death.  When told by the authorities not to speak of Jesus again, Peter says in the reading today from the Acts, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”  May Peter’s resolve also be ours’!

Peter follows the instruction of Jesus given in today’s gospel, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”  The change in Peter after Pentecost was a miracle, I suppose, as the healing of the crippled man.  Peter was still Peter – ordinary, and profane in respects. However, empowered by the Holy Spirit, there was no stopping him.

We are talking about the faith of confirmed Christians here.  God uses us as we are, where we are. He uses us with the gifts we have at this moment. The important thing is that we use them.  How bold are we with our proclamation of our faith?  Some say, “My faith is private.”  Certainly, Jesus said it was just the opposite:  “Proclaim, preach heal.”  There is nothing private about that.

Each one of us might ask, “Is there any aspect of my religion which, although I certainly don’t deny it, I don’t fully live it either … because doing so would require more change, more effort than I’ve been willing to give?”

I was visiting one of our parishes for the sacrament of Confirmation recently and the pastor happened to mention to me that his brother paid him a visit not long ago and the two of them sat down for a meal together; that his brother looked around the room they were in and remarked in reference to the pictures on the wall and the statues: “You sure have a lot of religious crap around here!”

What do you expect, it’s a church rectory where priests live!  When I visit homes I always look around for signs that tell what is important to the persons living there. Are there religious art and symbols of our Catholic faith or are there just material possessions, nice things?

If we are compelled by the Spirit, we will have the wisdom to speak and act in effective ways as a Christian. The same Holy Spirit that empowered Peter to charge the people who condemned Jesus is available to us.  If we truly believe, is it possible that we can keep silent about what we have seen and heard?

May we today pray for the boldness to preach by our words and actions the signs of God’s reign among us.  We can strive in our dealings to be nonviolent in word and deed. We can extend compassion to the poor.  We can practice neighborly regard in Christian ways to people because all are redeemed by the blood of the Jesus we love and admire.

Some years back, I remember a saying printed on cards that could fit in your wallet or purse.  And the saying went like this:  “Should it ever happen that you are arrested for being a Christian and hauled into court, would there be enough evidence to convict you!”   This was the mantra of many a saint and Christian martyr before us.

Put another way, the first letter of Peter in the New Testament says it this way:  “Have reverence for Christ in your hearts and honor him as Lord.  Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect.  Keep your conscience clear so that when you are insulted those who speak evil of your good conduct as followers of Christ will become ashamed of what they say.”  (3, 15-16)

Most certainly, there will never be another act of love so pure. There will never be a triumph so celebrated as the humility of the Cross and the miracle of the empty tomb.  Life is so vibrant in everything around us at springtime and because of Jesus all that is within us rejoices as well.  The Lord has given us peace through hope, forgiveness through love.  And He has given us eternity through his act of his sacrifice. 

Those of you about to be confirmed – in your pronunciation of the baptismal vows of our faith today you state your willingness to enter upon and live these mysteries of our faith.  Glory awaits each of you with the Lord if you can remain faithful.