Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bartimaeus and "Living the Catholic Faith"

(30th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year B;This homily was given 29 October, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Mark 10:46-52)

We began our Fall Book Club again a few weeks ago, and this season we are discussing Archbishop Charles Chaput’s book Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the basics. As the title suggests, the book explores the fundamentals of what it means to live the Christian life.

In the second chapter, Archbishop Chaput says that there are three “requirements” for those who chose to accept God’s love and live in it as followers of Christ, three things that “are continuous throughout a Christian’s life.”

The first is conversion. Think about the very first words of Christ when He begins His public ministry: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 2:15). So the first requirement is to turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

The second one flows from that: discipleship. We become disciples of Christ, walking with Him in our daily lives. And finally, as we experience that ongoing conversion and continue to walk with Christ as His disciples, we encounter the third requirement for the Christian: transformation.

Our lives become transformed as we become more and more like Christ, in the way we talk, the way we act toward others, the way we vote (especially important for us to remember with elections right around the corner). In other words, we are transformed to be Christians not in name only, but in the way we live our lives.

In our Gospel this morning, we see those three requirements—conversion, discipleship, and transformation—in a profound and beautiful way in the life of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus.

As our Gospel narrative begins, we find Bartimaeus in the very same place each of us would be in without Christ: blind and in the dark. That is here we would be, spiritually blind and lost without God.

Now, make no mistake about it; Bartimaeus is able to get by. He is not stumbling around and bumping into things. He is able to provide for himself by begging for money in the streets of Jericho. But his life falls so far short of what it could be. He longs for so much more than what he has.

He is a man without vision, without sight . . . but not without hope. We know that because suddenly he hears that Christ is passing by, and “On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’
—Mark 10: 47

The crowd tries to silence him, and therein lays a great irony. The title “Son of David” is a Messianic title. The crowds do not yet recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They cannot see that He is the Anointed One of God. But blind Bartimaeus sees it! He is able to see that Jesus is the one of whom the prophets spoke; the one who would set the captives free, and give sight to the blind. So he cries out all the more: ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’

And suddenly Jesus responds; He instructs the crowd to call him. So they say to Bartimaeus:

Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.
—Mark 10:49

There we discover the very mystery of conversion. It is no longer the case that Bartimaeus is the one crying out. Now it is Jesus who is calling out to him. Long before we ever begin to call out to God—for grace and strength, for help or healing—long before the prayer of faith is ever on our lips, God Himself is already calling out to us. He is calling out to each one of us right now, calling us to a deeper conversion of heart and a renewed commitment to turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel.

Bartimaeus recognizes that call and he responds immediately. St. Mark tells us “he threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:50). What an odd description. He threw aside his cloak. Why did he do that?
Some of the Fathers of the Church comment on this passage and say that he is throwing off the old self, and putting on Christ (as St. Paul describes in the New Testament). He is getting rid of the old way of doing things, the old Bartimaeus, and getting ready to begin a whole new life with Christ.

In the early Church, when people were baptized, they were often fully immersed in the life giving waters of rebirth. They would remove their garments completely and enter fully into the water—dying with Christ in baptism—only to emerge a new creature. They would put on a new, white garment as a sign that they had put their old, sinful ways behind and had now put on Christ.

Today God challenges each of us, as baptized Christians, to throw aside whatever sins are keeping us from living a full life in Him. We are called to throw aside our old self, and put on Christ, even as we were clothed with that white garment at our own baptism.

But more than that; being a Christian involves more than just avoiding evil. We are also called to do the good. We are called not just to let go of bad things, but even to sacrifice good things in order to follow Christ more closely.

St. Jose Maria Escrivá comments on this scene, where Bartimaeus throws aside his cloak and goes to Christ, and says it is a representation for the sacrifice we are all called to as disciples of Christ.

Escrivá describes a time in his life when he had come upon a battlefield just after a major campaign (Election Year pun intended) had been fought. He described how the entire field was literally covered in army coats that the soldiers had abandoned—thrown aside, like Bartimaeus—as the battle raged on.

There were also water bottles; sacks filled with personal items like pictures or letters from loved ones. All of these items had been left behind by the victors, those who had won the fight! They were willing to sacrifice even those good things in order to win the victory that day. How much more willing should we be to make sacrifices in our lives to win the victory for Christ?

And so, as Bartimaeus experiences his conversion and comes to Christ, we are told “Immediately he received his sight and followed [Christ] on the way” (Mark 10:52).

That was the greatest miracle of all; not that he was healed of his blindness, however remarkable that may be. The true miracle is the life of transformation Bartimaeus now experiences as he “follows Jesus on the way.”

This week, how is God calling us to experience conversion, discipleship, and transformation? Where is God calling us, in the midst of our own lives and experience, to be disciples who are transformed and immersed in the mystery of Christ?

This morning Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist and gives us the grace and strength to encounter Him in a whole new way. God opens our eyes, like He did with Bartimaeus. But more than that, He opens our hearts and gives us everything we need to “follow him on the way” in our own lives this week.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


(29th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year B;This homily was given 21-22 October, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Mark 10:35-45)

Our Gospel for this weekend is about ambition. We all know people that are ambitious, sometimes literally driven by ambition. And sometimes ambitious can become obnoxious. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Ambition itself is actually neutral. It can be very good, even holy; or it can be base, self-serving, and downright ugly.

We find ambition in our Gospel this morning in the Apostles James and John. They approach Christ and say to Him:

Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.
—Mark 10:37

It is ambition almost to the point of embarrassment. After all that Christ had taught them, by word and example, about service and humility, about giving of oneself and not asserting oneself, about taking the lowest place. Instead, the Apostles James and John are seeking the highest places of all!

The other 10 Apostles catch wind of it, and they become indignant. They are furious. Sadly, they are not indignant because they want James and John to become better disciples; they are not indignant because they are offended for Christ, whose message has not been heard. They are indignant because they themselves are ambitious!

It is a very challenging Gospel, to say the least. These are the men Christ has chosen as the foundation for His Church, and they are so ambitious. But the response of Christ is important for us to consider.

Remarkably, He doesn’t squash the ambition of James and John. Instead, He takes their ambition and He purifies it. Remember, ambition itself is neutral. It can be used for selfish gain, but also for the greater glory of God. And so Jesus says to them:

You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?
—Mark 10:38

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Wednesday audiences throughout the summer months this past year, spent time reflecting on the lives and ministry of the twelve Apostles.

At one point he focused on James and John, and he commented on this very "ambitious" scene found in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark. He says that in the response of Jesus—Can you drink the cup? Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?—the Lord is trying to open the eyes of James and John.

Our Holy Father says that Jesus wants to open their eyes, first of all, to who He is, the Messiah that “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). But, at the same time, He is also opening their eyes to what He is calling them to do: to share in that very same mission of service, and to give their lives in the very same way, even unto the shedding of blood.

Jesus asks them: “Can you do this? Can you follow me and give yourself completely, even as I do?” James and John answer, very ambitiously, “We can” (Mark 10:39). Now that would seem almost too ambitious! It appears to be way over the top, except we know, historically, that they were able to do exactly that.

St. James is the first Apostle to be martyred for his faith in Christ. The Acts of the Apostles recounts how he was killed by the sword, under the reign of King Herod Agrippa, in the year 40 A.D. (Acts 12:1-2). He drank from that same cup, was truly baptized with the same baptism as Christ.

His brother, St. John, met a different fate. He was the only Apostle not to undergo martyrdom. Instead, according to one tradition, he was exiled to the obscure island of Patmos, where he spent his days in seclusion, separated from everything and everyone dear to him. Yet by the time his life was over he had written 5 out of the 27 books of the New Testament: The Gospel of John, the Book of Revelation, and three of the Catholic Epistles (1-3 John). That’s quite an ambitious undertaking.

These are the people Christ used to begin His mission of salvation: James and John, and the other 10 Apostles. That mission, some 2000 years later, has gone far beyond what any of them could have possibly imagined.

It’s not that James and John were too ambitious when they approached Christ that day. The fact of the matter is they were not ambitious enough! Christ wanted to take their ambition and purify it, to elevate it and direct it in the mission of the Gospel. He wants to do he same with each and every one of us.

This weekend in the Church Universal we celebrate World Mission Sunday. It is a chance for us to support the efforts of all those who give their lives to the spreading of the Gospel. But we also recognize that we are all called to share in the apostolic mission. God calls us all to share in the mission of the Gospel.

We do that first and foremost through prayer. We are called to share in the mission of the Gospel by praying for those who have not yet heard the message of salvation. We pray that they will have an openness to receive that message of Christ, which has the power to transform their lives forever.

Yet in prayer we also come to find that God desires our own transformation through the very same Gospel. In his message for this World Mission Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI writes that: “Only by dwelling in God do men and women burn with a flame of Divine love that can set the world on fire.”

God wants to set the world around us on fire, but first He desires that we be set on fire with His message of mercy. God wants to light a fire in each of our hearts, to place that “flame of Divine love” within us, and then to spread that flame everywhere in the world we live in. Are we giving Him our hearts in prayer so that He can do that?

Secondly, we participate in the saving mission of the Church through our financial support. Our collection for World Mission Sunday will go to support over 1100 dioceses throughout the world, helping thousands of people to be touched by the love of Christ.

And finally, we are called to share in the missionary work of the Church simply by the way we live our lives. We are living in strange times; the mission fields are no longer just in foreign lands. Each of us can think of people—perhaps living under our own roof, and certainly in the places we work—who have not heard or received the Gospel message of salvation through faith in Christ.

We are called to be missionaries to them, helping them to know and experience the love of God. Again, in his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI says that we are called to do that in two ways:

By loving God first, to the very point of giving our lives for Him (like James and John learn in our Gospel).

But also by stooping down and reaching out to the needs of all; again, like James and John, serving those most in need by following the example of Christ

This World Mission Sunday we ask God to truly make us ambitious; certainly ambitious in our businesses, and in family life or our personal lives. Guided by the Holy Spirit, there is nothing wrong with that. But above all we ask Him to make us ambitious in the mission of the Gospel; and in everything we do, might we do it first and foremost for the love of God, and for His glory.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Good Life, the Moral Life, and Eternal Life

(28th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year B;This homily was given 15 October, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Mark 10:17-27)

What do you think of when you hear the words “The Good Life”, or when you think of those who are living “The Good Life”? I think many of us would consider perhaps someone who has wealth; power and prestige; fame and fortune. That is what the Good Life looks like for a lot of people.

A friend of mine from the Diocese of Savannah was here visiting this past week. We had studied together for the priesthood and he had never really seen New England before, so I gave him a small tour of the great State of Rhode Island (it took about 15 minutes to get to each place we visited!).

Eventually we went over to Newport and traversed the Cliff Walk, checking out the various mansions all along Bellevue Avenue. At one point we were able to take a tour of Marble House, one of the first mansions built there.

William K. Vanderbilt commissioned Marble House in the late 19th century as a gift for his wife’s 39th birthday. He wanted to give her something special, so he decided to have this “cottage” built on the shoreline in Newport. It just so happens that the “cottage” was made entirely of marble, it was enormous, and cost about $11 million.

That is the image we often have of the Good Life; those who have unlimited means to do almost anything they want. And unfortunately, in our world today, many of those who are living the Good Life—celebrities or famous people who have inherited vast family estates—those who are living the Good Life are not necessarily living the Moral Life.

Now, to be clear, those two things are by no means mutually exclusive. There are many people—in Hollywood and elsewhere—who are living the Good Life but are also very moral and upright. It’s just that we do not often hear much about them.

That is what makes our rich young man in the Gospel this morning so compelling. We know already that he is living the Good Life. St. Mark tells us “he had many possessions” (Mark 10:22). So great was his wealth, in fact, that he was unable to let go of it when Jesus called him. But more than being a man of wealth and possessions, he was also a man who lived the Moral Life.

Jesus lists a series of commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother (Mark 10:19).

We soon find out that this young man has been following all of them from childhood! He was that good, that moral. Yet, remarkably, even after all his wealth and possessions, and after living such a moral and upright life, he is still able to see that something is wanting. He is not complete. There is still something missing in his life. He approaches Jesus and asks Him what he must do to find it:

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
—Mark 10:17

The Good Life and the Moral Life are simply not enough; what he is missing and what he longs for is Eternal Life. All of us—no matter how well off or how moral we are—all of us, in the very core of our being, long for Eternal Life.

In the Gospel this morning, Jesus Christ offers the rich young man, and all of us, the key to Eternal Life. That key is found in the final two words of Jesus’ response: “Follow me.”

Follow me, Jesus says, and put nothing else before that command; not wealth and possessions (as the rich young man soon finds out); not power or prestige; not even morality and your own good works and accomplishments. Follow me, and let that command define everything else in your life.

Because with Christ, there is no distinction between the Good Life, the Moral Life, and Eternal Life; when we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Good Life, the Moral Life, and Eternal Life are all the same thing. He summarizes all three of them with those two words: Follow me.

When we follow Christ, it doesn’t matter whether we are wealthy or poor; we truly live the Good Life. We are content with what we have—whether we live in Marble House with the Vanderbilt’s or in a tiny apartment on the outskirts of town—we live the Good Life because we live with Christ.

When we follow Christ, we also live the Moral Life. Following the commandments and the precepts of the Church can be difficult in the world we live in. It is not easy to live a life of sacrifice and practice self-denial. Yet when we have a real and growing personal relationship with Christ, then following the commandments of God is easy.

When we know and love Christ, and understand the depths of His love for us, obedience to the laws of God are no longer difficult because we know Who it is that has given us those commandments, and we also know why He has given them to us: so that we can be happy here in this life, and live forever with Him in Eternal Life.

To follow Christ is to have The Good Life, the Moral Life and Eternal Life.

In the year1904, as William K. Vanderbilt and many of his contemporaries were building “cottages” on the shores of Newport, a young man named William Borden had just graduated from a high school in Chicago. As one of the heirs to the Borden Family Dairy estate, he was already a millionaire, truly a rich young man.

For his graduation present his parents gave him a trip around the world. It was then, as he traveled throughout Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, that he saw human suffering and misery on a scale that he had never before imagined. He came back a changed man, and told his family:

“I am going to give my life to God as a missionary.”

Many of his friends and loved ones tried to talk him out of it; they told him he was wasting his life. William wouldn’t listen. Instead, he took out a cherished Bible, and on the inside cover he wrote two words:

No Reserves.

Years later, he graduated with honors from Yale University. Although many things in his life had changed, his determination to be a missionary for Christ had not. To the surprise of many, he entered the seminary just as focused as ever. This time he wrote two more words in the front cover of that Bible. Under the words No Reserves, he wrote:

No Retreat.

After completing his studies at Princeton Seminary he was finally on his way to China to become a missionary. But he had to make one stop in Egypt first, for some last minute preparations. It was there in Egypt, tragically, that William Borden contracted Spiral Meningitis. He died within a month.

At the young age of 25, a life filled with promise, filled with possibilities, and filled with hope, was over. But it was far from wasted. In the final days before he died, he had written two final words on the inside front cover of his Bible. Under the words No Reserves and No Retreat, he had written:

No Regrets.

This morning Christ comes to each one of us and offers us the same invitation that He offered to the rich young man in the Gospel, to William Borden, and to everyone who has ever heard the Gospel message: Follow Me.

Follow Me, Jesus says, and put nothing before that command, nothing before that invitation; not power and possessions, not your good works or accomplishments. Follow Me.

Might we do that this day, and discover that in following Christ, we gain the Good Life, the Moral Life, and Eternal Life . . . with no regrets.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Back to the Beginning

(27th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year B;This homily was given 7-8 October, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Genesis 2:18-24 and Mark 10:2-12)

One of the best-known commandments of the Christian faith is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), yet we find that spoken by Christ only once, in the Gospel of St. Mark. We are all familiar with Jesus’ exhortation to love ones enemies, yet that is found only twice in the Gospels (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:35).

But on four separate occasions, in four places in the Gospel, Jesus gives us His teaching on the permanence of marriage and the question of divorce (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Mark 10:9; Luke 16:18). Our readings for this weekend show us why that teaching was so important for Christ as He instructed the first disciples, and why it remains so central in our own time.

In our first reading this morning, from the Book of Genesis, we have God’s dream for the human family. It is His plan for creation and for the flourishing of life and love with Him and with each other. That dream became a reality in the Garden of Eden, Paradise right here on earth.

Man and woman were created in union with God, knowing and loving Him freely. They were also united to each other in total, self-giving love; Eve was taken from the side of Adam, bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.

But not long after that dream became a reality, original innocence was lost and the original unity between man and woman was broken. It was the loss of God’s dream for every one of us. We experience the effects of that loss on a daily basis.

In the Gospel this morning, the Pharisees hold up that broken dream for Christ—“in order to test Him”—and they ask him what He thinks about the very painful situation of marriage and divorce. Moses allowed divorce, they tell Him. What do you say?

Jesus surprises them all by pointing out that, when you go back to the teachings of Moses, then you haven’t gone back far enough! Jesus takes them all the way back to the beginning, to the Book of Genesis, and He says:

From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.

—Mark 10:6-9

With that very unexpected reply, Christ makes it perfectly clear that the dream of God found in the Book of Genesis is far from over. God has no intention of letting go of that dream. The original plan for unity—between man and woman and between all of us and God—that plan is the priority and focus of Christ from the beginning. And marriage is central to that plan; so central that Christ raises it to the level of a sacrament.

In the New Testament, marriage becomes the very image for the love between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:21-32). Christ, who many times refers to Himself as the bridegroom, becomes forever united to His Bride the Church. In the past 2,000 years of Church history, through all the difficulties and even the many human failures of members of the Church, Christ has never once broken that relationship. That is the Good News of the Gospel.

It is also one of the major themes of the teaching of our late Pope, John Paul II. From September of 1979 to November of 1984, John Paul II offered weekly presentations on the readings we just heard this morning. For that entire 5-year period, he taught at great length what would later be called the Theology of the Body.

The Theology of the Body is basically a way of looking at the original experiences of man and woman in the Garden of Eden, and seeing there the blueprint for the way God created us—body and soul—and seeing the key to what it means to live a full and blessed life right here in the present time.

Yet in light of all those insights, and after 2,000 years of celebrating the redemption Christ won for us, the question of divorce still remains a difficult and painful one in our own day and age. The statistics—in society, as well as in the Church—are daunting.

And while Christ’s reply in the Gospel regarding the permanent and unbreakable bond of marriage is the same response He gives to us today, there are a number of misconceptions that we should all be aware of, whether we are single, married or divorced.

Many believe that the Church insists a couple should remain together, no matter what the situation may be. That is simply not true. In some cases, such as abuse, where the safety of the spouses or children, physically or spiritually, is involved, the couple can and should separate (CIC, can. 1151-1155). No one should have to live under conditions like that.

Secondly, people sometimes refer to an annulment as a Catholic divorce. It isn’t. An annulment is simply a recognition by the Church that the union of two persons, while begun in good faith and perhaps even bearing great fruit in their relationship together, did not have the requirements necessary to make it a sacrament.

It is by no means a personal judgment on the character of the couple, or a matter of blame. It simply means that the consent between them, or their understanding of the sacrament, or some other essential factor for the sacrament was not present when they began their life together; the sacramental bond of marriage never existed.

Obviously this is too complicated to explain here, but anyone who has a question on annulment and marriage should feel free to contact their parish priest about that matter.

One final misunderstanding that people often have is that those who have gone through a divorce cannot receive communion. Again, this is not true. Those who are divorced and remarried—if their previous marriage has not been annulled—are not able to receive the Eucharist.

This is one of the most difficult and painful consequences of divorce and remarriage, and while many regard it as a “Church rule” or a man made law, it is based upon the words of Christ Himself in the Gospel this morning.

We do not have the authority to change those words; we are bound by them. But we are also bound by the rest of Christ’s words and teaching, as well. I began this homily with the Christian commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). That love is due to all people: single, divorced, married, re-married, all.

As people of faith and followers of Christ, we need to constantly evaluate our lives to see if we are following that commandment. Who are the people in our lives perhaps struggling in their marriage and in need of our prayers and help?

Who are the people in our lives who have experienced the terrible tragedy of divorce, and need to know that we are there to help them? How is God calling us all to go back to the beginning, and see His plan of love and life for the family and for each individual as men and women made in His image and likeness?

That’s God’s dream, from the beginning, and He invites every single one of us today to make that dream a reality, beginning now, and fulfilled ultimately in heaven.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Holy Name of Jesus

(26th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year B;This homily was given 1 October, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Mark 9:38-48)

How many times, in the course of an average week, do you hear the name of Jesus Christ spoken in public? There are many different ways of announcing that name; many different contexts in which that sacred name can be mentioned: in reverence, in devotion. But we can also hear that name spoken of in great irreverence, and with no devotion at all.

In St. Mark’s Gospel this morning, we hear the name of Jesus being used by a person who does not even follow the Lord. Yet because he uses that name with respect, and apparently with faith, it is able to wield tremendous power.

The apostles, St. John among them, are perplexed and even bothered by the use of Jesus’ name. John says to our Lord:

"Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us." Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.
—Mark 9:38-39

There is remarkable power in Jesus’ name. Later on in John’s Gospel, Jesus promises:

If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.
—John 14:14

Now, that is quite a promise indeed. Do we take that promise seriously? We are able to ask Jesus anything at all in His name, and He will respond to that need.

St. Paul, in His letter to the Church at Philippi, says:

At the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth, and under the earth.
—Philippians 2:10

So exalted is the holy name of Jesus! St. Bernard of Clairvaux says that “To speak of it gives light; to think of it is the food for the soul; to call on it calms and soothes the heart.”

The Church we are worshipping in this morning was founded in 1853 as the Church of the Holy Name, only later to be changed to Our Lady of Mercy. In 1965, the current building we are in was dedicated, and the men and women who built it held the holy name of Jesus is very high esteem. We know that because if we look around the Church the morning, there are many different images of Jesus’ name still present.

In back of the altar, on the front of the canopy above the cross, in blue and gold, is the image of the “Chi-Rho.” It looks like an “X” with a “P” in the middle of it. Those are the first two Greek letters in the title of Christ or Хρίστος. That symbol was used widely in the early centuries of the Church, and still is popular today.

Off to the left of the sanctuary is a large sunburst with the letters “IHS” in the middle of it. That is taken originally from the Greek and then later became the Latin rendering of the same holy name of Jesus (it was later mis-translated as an abbreviation for Iesus Hominum Salvator, or “Jesus, Savior of man,” but Fr. Lolio and I have already clarified this misconception with a well spirited debate).

And finally, on each one of the 10 lights that illuminate our congregation, we find the same monogram: IHS. Obviously the men and women who built this place had great respect for that holy name. We can ask ourselves this morning: how well do we esteem the name of Jesus? How are we to approach the holy name of Christ in our own lives?

I would suggest three ways that we can honor Jesus’ name as people of faith, called to bear that name in the world around us.

First and foremost, we should never use that name in vain. This should be rather obvious, since that involves one of the Ten Commandments, yet unfortunately in our culture it is not something we can take for granted. We should be very careful not to fall into the habit of using Jesus’ name as a mere throw-away word, or worse.

In 1846, Our Blessed Mother appeared to two small children in the French Alps, near the mountain called LaSalette. It is that apparition that the Shrine up in Attleboro, Massachusetts is named for. Yet of all the apparitions of Mary—Fatima, Lourdes, and several others—it is the only one where Mary appears seated.

She is sitting down, with her face in her hands, weeping. The children, Maximim and Melanie, approach Our Lady and ask her why she is so sad. Her response to them was that the people had forgotten her Son. They no longer worshiped Him as they once did; no longer participated at Sunday Mass. They were so caught up in materialism, industry and other things that Christ was no longer central to them.

One of her chief complaints was that many of the men and women of that area, in the work places and in the fields, had begun to use the name of her Son in vain. She told them how much this disturbed her; how it was a sacred name, and should be kept holy.

Do we keep the name of Jesus sacred? Is it holy to us, and do we use it for good, and for God in our daily lives? That is important, because it brings us to the second way we should observe the holy name of Jesus: We should use that name frequently, calling on the name of Christ daily whenever we find ourselves in need.

There is a Country song out—quite popular right now—by the artist Carrie Underwood called, “Jesus, take the wheel.” Like many Country songs, it tells a story. It is about a young girl who is driving across the country to see her mother and father (her momma and daddy, if you are reading this from the South). Her little baby is buckled up in the back seat.

Suddenly, as she is driving far too quickly and is somewhat distracted, she hits a patch of black ice and the car begins to spin out of control. More out of fear and a gut reaction than anything else, she cries out, “Jesus, take the wheel.”

The car winds up safely on the side of the road and no one is hurt; yet, suddenly she begins to realize that her life is a lot like that car ride: it’s filled with distractions, and moving way too fast. She has made some big mistakes and she finds herself very much in need. So right there on the side of the road, she bows her head and devoutly prays the very words she had blurted out as a reaction only a few moments before:

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can’t do this all my own
I’m letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I’m on
Jesus take the wheel

That is one clear example of the way we are called to live as people of faith. Whenever our lives are moving way too fast, when our minds are filled with distractions and we have made big mistakes—or perhaps a lot of little ones—we should not hesitate to call upon the name of Jesus. As we have already seen, there is tremendous power in that name, because it belongs to the person who can truly transform our lives and set us on the right road once again.

And finally, as men and women who bear the name of Christ, who are called "Christ-ians" by our very Baptism and eternal relationship with Him, we need to make sure that our words and actions are worthy of such a name.

The question has been asked before: If Christianity was suddenly outlawed in the place where we live, would there be enough evidence to convict us of that crime? Our words and actions speak volumes to those around us, people who know that we belong to Christ.

As we enter a whole new week with Christ, we ask for the grace to hold the name of Jesus in great esteem, never using that name in vain. May we call upon Jesus frequently, as He continues to guide us ever closer to eternal life. And may those around us recognize that we are worthy of the name of Christ, not only because we have His name on our lips, but because of the way we live and the way we love in the world around us.