Sunday, November 15, 2015

Homily – 33rd Sunday – Year B November 15, 2015

By Deacon Jerry Franzen at Cathedral
Daniel 12: 1-3              Hebrews 10: 11-14, 18        Mark 13:24-32

“At that time, there shall arise Michael, the great prince.”
“Now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.”
"Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.”
Three lines – one from each of today’s readings.
We are nearing the end of the liturgical year,
and we are being reminded of the so-called “end times.”
Each of those lines gives us a part of that picture.


1. “At that TIME, there shall arise Michael, the great prince.”
We have an artist’s conception of that time
right here in the cathedral –
the rightmost panel in the window
above the north entrance.
Michael is that angel with the sword held high.
He is lording it over the devil; the devil is under his foot.
Yes the devil is in one of our windows!
We are talking about the time of the second coming –
the time of the final victory of Christ over evil - the end of time.

TIME is very important to us.
In this day of hustle and bustle, time often seems to go by so quickly;
children and grandchildren seem to grow up too quickly.
If you miss seeing them for as little as a week,
You may have missed a lot.
In just as little as a few years
they go from being children to young adults.
And we shake our heads in amazement and say:
“Where has the time gone?”

We look at ourselves in the mirror every day
and we wonder where our lives have gone.
WE are led to the following attitude:
All those plans we have, all those things we want to do,
while we still can, the ones we keep putting off,
we better do them, because we’re running out of time.
There once was a comic strip character named Snuffy Smith.
He would say “Times a-wasting.”
Sooner or later we all will come face-to-face with the reality                   that our time is up.

And at sometime later “there shall arise Michael, the great prince.”

2. “NOW he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.”
The letter to the Hebrews say NOW, the Lord is waiting
for his enemies to be his footstool.
Satan is Michael’s footstool in that window panel.
The Lord and we are NOW waiting for that time.
How does that play out?  How do we wait with the Lord?
Look to Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel.
We wait looking for the signs Jesus described.
The final resurrection will not happen
until all the events Jesus mentioned will have taken place.
Apparently, the world will end just as the world was created,
out of chaos.

The early Christians for whom Mark wrote his Gospel
were suffering persecution and probably
couldn’t wait for everything to end.
They looked for the Son of Man to come in the clouds for good
to finally triumph over the evil they were enduring.
They wanted their misery to stop.
Some might wonder if we are seeing these signs NOW,
as if the chaos of the end is about to be upon us.

Consider the mess the world is in:
—many things seem to be collapsing, not just the economy.
Nuclear weapons of mass destruction remain a threat
in a game now with more players than we would like.
The war in the Middle East seems to offer little hope of ending.
The scourge of abortion is unrelenting.
As we have seen in France, the threat of terrorism is ever present.
Advertising trivializes life,
and movies glamorize violence, drugs, and extra-marital sex.
For many of us, this may be the darkest time in history,
and it may look and feel very much like the end time
that Jesus predicted.
But here we are, countless generations and two thousand years later,
and we’re still waiting.
“NOW we wait until his enemies are made his footstool.”


So where does that leave us?
3. The third verse: “Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.”
How do these words of Jesus speak to us,
to our generations, and our time?
The truth is that the world as it is now,
and our lives as we are now living them,
are passing away.
Everything in this life,
everything we attach ourselves to, those we love so dearly,
our possessions, our very lives,  are deteriorating,
and will eventually come to an end.
And even if the world is not coming to an end any time soon,
our own personal worlds do occasionally collapse,
and we suffer our own apocalypses. —
It might be an irreversible illness or
 a disability that stops us from working in our professions.
One of my brother deacons has such a severe form of dementia
that he has had to retire from active ministry
and is able to do very little on his own.
Another deacon and his wife have found that they must postpone
his knee replacement and her two knee replacements,
because she has developed a serious condition with one of her feet.
That condition could make her much less mobile for three months. 
The terrorist attacks of yesterday (Friday) in France
might be considered, quite possibly by some, as signs of the chaos
that signals the beginning of the end times.    
We could experience failure in our life’s work,
the death of a spouse or child,
rejection by someone we love, abandonment by a friend,
or the loss of a life’s savings.

These drastic changes and these tragedies
can seem to them very much like the end of our lives,
the end of the world,
and make us anxious for Christ’s return.
But until then, we cling to the hope
that Our Lord’s teaching is not so much a stern warning
about the end of the world,
but a lesson on living in the world.

True, we must be watching and preparing for the second coming,
but we must not let the anticipation
of Christ’s coming in power and glory
blind us to his coming into our lives every day.
He comes to us ceaselessly, each time we come together,
each time his word is proclaimed,
each time his body rests on your hand and on your tongue.
Christ comes to you in each man, woman and child
whose eyes meet yours,
especially in those who hunger for food or justice or love.
The words of Jesus, that he will be with us always
even to the end of time, are not passing away.

We must cherish the past, learn from our mistakes,
grieve our losses, and live today as good as we can live it.
Live it as if it were the last day of our lives,
and hold on to the hope-filled vision
that Jesus will never abandon us, never leave us alone.
He will someday return to gather all of his faithful together
and make all things right.
True, we don’t know that time,
but, more importantly,
we do know what to do in the meantime.
We proclaim that knowledge very often;
it is the mystery of our faith that we proclaim.

We say:
“We proclaim your Death, O Lord,
and profess your resurrection until you come again.”


“When we eat this bread and drink this Cup,
We proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”

Friday, November 6, 2015

Homily Feast of All Souls Year B

By Jerry Franzen  Cathedral  11/02/15
Wisdom 3:1-9              Romans 6:3-9             John 11:17-27

My wife and I attended the Cincinnati Symphony production
this past Saturday evening.
The program included the Dante Symphony by Franz Liszt.
It was a musical adaption of the themes in Dante’s Divine Comedy,
his portrayal of hell, inferno, purgatory, purgatorio,
and heaven, paradisio.
Liszt’s original idea was to divide the symphony
into three movements as is usual for a symphony.
But he was convinced by his father-in-law
that one could not express “heaven” in music.
So there were two parts:
The first part was rather loud filled with the heavy use
of the bass and kettle drums,
 a foreboding bass clarinet solo, lots of brass
and a very bombastic ending.
Liszt  certainly expressed the power of hell, the inferno.

The second part was much more varied and more melodic,
with prominent uses of the string sections, the flute,
the bassoons, the clarinet and the oboe.
We could hear the more hopeful character of purgatory.
Since he agreed with his father-in-law and did not write
a separate movement for heaven,
Liszt wrote a beautiful lyrical finale
for the end of the second movement.
The women of the May Festival Chorus
served as an off-stage choir of angels
singing repeatedly in Latin
the first two lines of the Magnificat
with orchestral accompanyment.
Those lines are as usually translated into English as:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
It was beautiful; I now have one musical image of heaven.


So we have Hell – the state of a soul of a deceased person totally
and forever separated from God by the choice of that person.
Purgatory – Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church
has to say about purgatory:
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship but imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”
Purgatory is that state of purification.
Souls in that state will eventually go to heaven.
And Heaven is the state of being eternally in the presence of God.
As it turned out,
I think that Liszt’s ending for the “purgatorio” movement
with the beautiful finale of heavenly music,
was masterful, because the end result
of a soul’s existence in the state of purgatory
is always heaven.
Heaven is always the ultimate outcome of purgatory.  

Today we gather here at this Mass, our greatest prayer,
to offer our prayers for the souls in purgatory.
We don’t pray for souls that are with God in heaven;
They are saints and we can pray to them for their assistance.
We don’t pray for souls in hell,
because they are eternally separated from God in hell,
and our prayers can do nothing for them.

This Feast of All Souls is a reminder of our privilege
and duty to pray daily
for our deceased family members and friends
and all the faithful departed.
We are praying for those who died joined to God,
but yet need to be fully cleansed from all of their sins
and their sinfulness.
We believe that our prayers for them
can help to expedite their progress to heaven.
When we die, time has no meaning for us,
but we speak of a “time” that a soul would spend in purgatory,
because we have not found a better way to describe
the soul’s transition from purgatory
to the “joy of heaven.”
We have no way of knowing who is in purgatory and who is in hell,
so we pray for all of the deceased.


It is our privilege and our duty to pray
for the souls of the deceased!
It is our privilege and duty, because praying for them
is one of the spiritual  works of mercy.
We are privileged to serve God in this way here on earth.
It is a privilege to be able to help those
who have so ably helped us in our faith development
and a duty for us to give back to them.

I think of my deceased aunt Dorothy in this regard.
She did not live a perfect life; she did not have an easy life.
I am sure that she was tested here on earth.
Her husband left her shortly after her daughter was born.
She was then a single mother.
She was a live-in housekeeper for a priest,
while she raised her daughter.
She was eventually crippled by arthritis so terribly
that she could barely walk with a walker
and barely grasp items with her hands.
Yet she was a faithful and faith-filled mother, sister, aunt
and servant of the Lord.
She was tested and found worthy.
She facilitated my first opportunity to serve at Mass.
My sixth grade teacher was Sr. Catherine David,
a Sister of Charity of Nazareth.
She was also the director of the children’s choir
of which I was a part.

These two women and my parents are responsible
for much of my faith formation,
and it is truly a privilege for me and is my duty
to now be of service to them
by praying for their transition to heaven.
I can also think of other faith-filled people among my teachers,
my relatives and my friends.
I was privileged to know them and learn from them
and I feel it my duty to now help them, if needed.
I hope that we all can remember those in our lives
that have served in that same capacity.


Some are here praying especially for their family members
who have died this past year.
Others are praying for those who died further in the past.
On this solemn day, there is no doubt that all of us
who remember our deceased loved ones
are filled with varied emotions.
There is a certain sadness and longing;
there is a spirit of thanks and gratitude
as well as a renewed understanding of the challenge
we must embrace in our loss.
It is quite natural to have a sadness in our hearts
as we miss the physical presence and company
of those we loved and those who loved us in return.
But exactly because of that love between us,
we are able to entrust
our deceased friends and loved ones to God
and the abundant blessings that await them
in heaven.
We are consoled by the words of Sacred Scripture.
As we heard from the Book of Wisdom:
"The souls of the just are in the hand of God
-----and grace and mercy are with them.”
Saint Paul in the second reading wrote:
“We who have died with Christ, will also live with Him
—death has no power over us.”
And Jesus in the Gospel said:
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me,
even if he dies, will live and everyone who lives
and believes in me will never die.”

As we are sad and feel the emptiness
of the loss of a loved one or a friend.
we should be praying for their salvation.
We are here to take a special opportunity to do just that,
and we should remember them in prayer frequently.


But, there is a further dimension.
Having heartfelt sentiments for our loved ones,
and praying for them are very important,
but we must also go forth daily and
pass on their examples of faith, goodness, generosity and compassion
so that they continue to live on in each one of us.

We must carry on for them in the work that they have begun in us.
I think that Franz Liszt chose an appropriate expression for heaven,
and it is also the appropriate expression of how we go forward
from our sense of loss and sadness:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”