Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Homily From a Seminarian...

I am proud to present something else new on this blog. Practice homilies from seminarians! This one comes from Brian Soliven, 3rd year seminarian at the North American College in Roma. This is based off the readings for this Sunday, the Feast of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Enjoy. Don't worry. He was not preaching during this picture. :)

"We have just witnessed the power of our American citizenship, this past week with the presidential election. Regardless of how we voted, whether Democrat, Republican, Green Party, or Independent, we had the opportunity to cast our vote and in some small way influence the direction of the most powerful country on earth.

Yet, how many of us realize we are still citizens of something even greater then this. Something that is seen and unseen. Something that is much older, which in fact stretches into eternity. Brothers and sisters, we are citizens of Heaven! As Pope Leo the Great once reminded his people:

Christian, recognize your dignity… you share in God’s own nature! Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” -Pope Leo the Great

This is our birth-right. This is our truth. Imagine Jesus Christ telling the Jewish people, 2,000 years ago, that they share within themselves God’s very nature, his very essence. For them the Temple in Jerusalem was God’s chosen dwelling place. It was so holy in fact, only the Jewish high priest was allowed into the inner sanctuary once a year. It was this very place where Jesus commanded the Jews in our Gospel reading today-- “destroy this temple!” And I will raise it up in THREE days! Imagine the utter shock on their faces. He just told them to demolish their most revered site in the universe and he will build a new one in a matter of days. But they scoffed at him.

They did not understand the immensity of his words.

Jesus was not speaking about another building of brick and stone. No—something new was about to unfold. Jesus was referring to his Resurrection, when he would rise on third day ushering the Kingdom of God. This is our new citizenship. Through our baptism we are incorporated into the body of Christ, the new Temple. We are living stones, every single one of us.

Like our American citizenship, our Heavenly home also comes with advantages. I am not merely speaking about the ease of traveling abroad with an American passport, as great as that is. I am talking referring to our divine passports written in our very souls which give us access to something far more valuable--- God, here and now. We don’t have to wait until we die to call upon the fruits of our true home.

By sitting where you are now, on those hard wooden pews, listening to my raspy voice, you are caught up in the very mystery of what it means to belong to the body of Christ. All over the world, millions of fellow Christians, millions of fellow citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom are sitting on similar hard wooden pews, listening to some other preacher’s raspy voice, united not only through spirit but through the Body of Christ, His Church. The fullest sense of being a part of the body, is to be united through its visible expression in the world—the Roman Catholic Church. When we profess the creed at every Mass with the words: we believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, we are not just saying mere words, but professing our faith in the institution Christ established.

Wherever I go out in public, I always make it a point to wear my roman collar. Regardless, if I am at the grocery store, the movies, walking in the park, even at the gym at where I’m bench pressing 300 lbs weights with one hand, you will always find me with my collar. Okay, maybe I don’t go to the gym, but you get my point. I want people to know that a Catholic priest is around. At the same time, this little white collar also invites everyone who disagrees with the Church to express their opinion to me . I don’t mind at all. One of the biggest issues people always bring up is “why?” “Why do I have to go your church? Can’t I just worship in any other church? It’s all the same?

To them I answer: “NO it’s NOT the same.” The ONLY possible reason why anyone of us should be here and call ourselves Catholic, is because it is Christ who established it. It is not of our own making or creativity. It is for this reason that martyrs sacrificed their lives for the faith, why missionaries today, leave their homeland to enter the jungles of Indonesia and the cities of China and Africa to spread the Gospel. That is why. Christ does not leave us alone on earth to figure things out for ourselves. He founded his Church on the rock of Peter, the first pope, and has been passed down through history in a unbroken line of succession up until today.

As a testament to this, the Church celebrates today the dedication of the Cathedral in Rome, Saint John Lateran. It is the seat of the pope, just how the bishop in our diocese has his seat in the cathedral in downtown Sacramento. The cathedral of the pope, however, has one small difference-- it is the mother Church of all Christianity. It was given to successor of Peter in the 4th century by the than Roman emperor, Constantine. It the sign of the unity of our faith and the confidence we hold that what we practice comes directly from Christ.

With all these gifts at our finger tips, the history and the continuity of our 2,000 year old faith, can we honestly say we are taking advantage of our opportunities. I’m sure many of you have benefited from living in this great country of ours, and rightly so. Whether we realize it or not, we have the opportunity for greatness here. We have the chance to get a good education and make an honest living. We can move about freely in our world. We can speak our mind and protest without the fear of our government threatening us, like they do in other parts of the world. Relatively speaking, we have it good here.

How much so, then, should we take advantage of being baptized into the body of Christ? Christian, recognize your dignity…”

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