June 10, 2018

June 10, 2018

Fr. Forlano, St. Stanislaus Parish

Is there an unforgivable sin?  Jesus says solemnly in today’s Gospel, “Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”  What does Jesus mean by this?  How does one “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit” and commit “an everlasting sin”?   To understand what Jesus means, we have to go back to the “original sin” that is recounted in the 3rd chapter of Genesis and the Lord’s response to that sin.  Adam and Eve succumb to the temptations of the Evil one – they eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, but the sin is much more than breaking a rule or not following a prohibition from God.  We can tell this from the dialogue that God has with Adam.  When God seeks out Adam after Adam sins, God does not condemn Adam.  Rather, He asks him a question, “Where are you?”  Adam explains that he has hid himself because he is afraid because he was naked.  He feels vulnerable and threatened by God.  We cover things up when we don’t trust the other – when we don’t have an intimate, loving relationship with the other.  Adam was created in this intimate loving relationship with God.  Adam and Eve, as the scripture says, “were naked without shame.”  There was total transparency with God.  But after the sin, Adam does not want to expose himself to God.  The temptation is to think that God does not love him anymore.  That because of the sin, God will reject him.  When the Lord calls him on the sin, “You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”, Adam doesn’t say, “Yes, I’m sorry.”  Rather, he blames Eve, and indirectly blames God for his sin.  “The woman whom you put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”  He is, in a sense, attributing to God the evil that has happened.  Likewise, with Eve, the Lord doesn’t condemn her, but asks her to examine herself, “Why did you do such a thing?”  Just like her husband, Eve doesn’t take responsibility for her action, but blames someone else: “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”  By not admitting her fault to the Lord, she is hiding herself from God.  It is the serpent who is condemned, but in the Lord’s pronouncement of the penalty, the Lord gives what has come to be known as the “proto-Evangelium”  – the first Gospel – or “seed” of the “Good News” when he promises that a savior will come.  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”  The offspring of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.  All the serpent can do is nip at his heel.  Jesus, God born of a woman, is this offspring who will bring the victory over sin and death.  God’s response to our sin is mercy right from the beginning.  God will work out our salvation, his victory, in a way we cannot imagine or plan.  The original sin is not to trust God and to take into our hands what belongs to God.  The original sin is not the desire to be like God, but to try to fulfill that desire without God, by taking things into our own hands.  The doubt or lack of trust is that I can’t bring my failure or sin to God.  He won’t work it out.  I, rather, have to present myself good to God for him to love me.  Hence the blaming. 

The Holy Spirit is the love of God – the love between the Father and the Son.  So the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is to doubt that God is love, is to doubt that God is loving, and to doubt that love is victorious and will “work it out” and therefore, the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit hides his sinful self from God.  The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin that is not confessed.  And are we really confessing our sin if we blame God or blame someone else for our sin?  To make a good confession is to be contrite – to take responsibility for what we’ve done and the choices we’ve made and say we’re sorry with the intent of not doing it again.  When we blame others we are in a sense justifying our own action – therefore remaining in our sin.  If we don’t bring it to God, the sin lasts – we are guilty of an everlasting sin. 

The Holy Spirit moves where He wills and cannot be controlled.  To try to manage or control the mysterious plan of God as it unfolds is to not trust the Holy Spirit.  When things don’t go our way – when things turn out badly, how easily do we blame God?  Or attribute what we don’t understand to some evil force?  The scribes in the Gospel are attributing to Satan what Jesus is doing because Jesus doesn’t operate according to their vision or plan of who the Messiah should be.  The one Jesus holds up as the model to follow is his mother Mary who says “yes” to what she doesn’t understand, “let it be done to me according to your Word” and opens herself totally to the working of the Holy Spirit.  She says yes to the Cross, the most mysterious way – beyond human understanding – through which God saves us.  We become “mother” and brothers to Jesus, we enter the intimate family of God, when we listen to him and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and his Mercy.  Let’s pay attention to God’s question to us, “Where are you?”  Where are we in our relationship with God?  Do we trust him?  Are we quick to blame others and God?  Pay attention to the words we use when we examine our lives and even when we go to confession.  Let’s pray for that grace to come to the Lord with all of ourselves, trusting that with the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: June 3, 2018

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: June 3, 2018

Fr. Philip Forlano, St. Stanislaus Parish

When we experience an exceptional love, our heart is filled with a desire that wants to return that love, cling to that love, and do great things for the one who has loved us in that way.  We make promises that reflect that desire.  “I promise to be faithful to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”  “I will lay down my life for you.”  When before the presence of the one who loves us in an unexpected way, even the ultimate sacrifice is offered without the sense that it would be a burden at all.  One freely says “yes” for the good of the other.  Whatever they ask for, I want to do.  Even if I don’t know how I’ll do it, I say yes.  This is the experience of the engaged couple or the newly weds.  Their plans for the future in many ways seem impossible, but they say yes filled with hope that it will work out.  We hear this confidence, certainty, and desire expressed by the Israelites in the reading from Exodus.  They have experienced the tremendous mercy of the Lord who heard their cry and freed them from slavery in Egypt.  They are the “chosen” people.  A weak, insignificant nation that the Lord wanted for his own.  This experience of being loved, preferred, and saved, unites them together and fills them with this desire for obedience and action.  When Moses comes to them and relates to them all of the ordinances of the Lord that the Lord is demanding of them, they respond without hesitation and with one voice, “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.”  To “seal” their promise with the Lord, Moses, on behalf of the people, sacrifices some young bulls, and sprinkles their blood on the altar, and then after the people make the promise again, “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do”, he sprinkles the blood on the people.  The idea in this common practice among ancient cultures – making a blood sacrifice – is that they say symbolically, to express the seriousness of the promise, that if they are not faithful to the promise they have made, may what happened to those bulls, happen to us.  The problem is that we are not very good at keeping our promises.  The history of Israel is one of repeated unfaithfulness.  The unfaithfulness is rooted in a forgetfulness of the Lord’s saving presence.  When the Israelites mingle with other nations, ignore the prophets, and take on the religious practices of those other nations, they loosen the connection with the saving event of the Exodus.  They rely on their own efforts and not on God.  They are not worshiping God according to the way God has revealed to them.  They don’t trust that the Lord who saved them in an exceptional way at the beginning will continue to save them in ways beyond their imagining.  They continue the ritual actions, but at the same time use the foreign gods as “back-up” and want to have a king and army like other nations.  There is a clinging to earthly power because of the fear that what God has revealed to them is “not enough.” 

The sacrifices of old come to fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ.  It is impossible for man to uphold his end of the covenant alone.  God’s saving action in the New Covenant is that God becomes man and offers himself – offers his own blood – not the blood of goats and bulls, taking all of man’s unfaithfulness on himself to reconcile us to the Father and to seal the covenant.  Only through, with, and in Christ, can we keep our promises.  Only in an offering made with Christ can our desire to love  – to do the impossible – in response to God’s love for us – find fulfillment.  St. Peter loved Jesus tremendously.  At the Last Supper when Jesus says that one of the Twelve will betray him, Peter promises that he would never deny him and that he “would lay down his life” for him.  But Peter, with good intention, and noble effort, cannot keep his promise.  He even pulls out the sword  – relying on human strength, instead of trusting in the plan that Jesus has revealed. 

At the Last Supper Jesus institutes the sacrament of the Eucharist – the sacrament of his sacrifice in which he will offer his body and blood for us on the cross.  In the celebration of the Mass, the saving action of Jesus is made present to us.  We enter into and are taken up into Christ’s sacrifice – his response of perfect love to the Father.  We do this in remembrance of Him.  In our faithfulness to the Mass, we do not forget God’s love for us and his saving action, which is not an event from the distant past, something merely historical, but a present action that unites us as one and fulfills our desire for loving as we have been loved. 

Today on this Feast of Corpus Christi, when we celebrate the great gift of Jesus’ real presence with us – giving us himself – his body and blood – in the sacrament, we also commemorate 15 years of Perpetual Eucharistic adoration at St. Stanislaus in our St. Katharine Drexel Adoration Chapel.  It is a tremendous blessing to have this chapel at St. Stanislaus because exposition of the Blessed Sacrament extends the graces that we receive at Mass.  It allows us to continue to worship Jesus present among us outside of Mass.  Why is this so special and such a blessing?  Because, as the Catechism reminds us, “The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world” (CCC, 2097).  When we worship God, we drop the fiction that we could ever face God as independent business partners – that we can hold up our end of the bargain alone.  Going to Adoration, we discover how worship consists in our becoming totally receptive to God.  It is not about our acting but receiving, letting ourselves be completely taken over by God.  The chapel has been such a grace.  Every time I’m tempted to “take out the sword” – to take matters into my own hands, to rely on my own efforts, to utilize the ways of the world to achieve what I want  – when I’m not trusting in God’s plan, I can go to Jesus.  In going to Jesus, I’m liberated from the illusion of my own crippling self-sufficiency.  I am not alone.  He who loves me is with me and gives me hope to follow and to live what I desire.  We all want to keep our promises – the promises that are not illusions.  In humbling ourselves before the Lord in worship and adoration, we receive what we need to live – a love that can only come from God.  We are here to give thanks for this great gift.  May we become what we receive and make our life a joyful response to God’s love.