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Preview: Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!

Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!

"A [preacher] who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental; they are necessarily reflected in his [preaching]." — BXVI

Updated: 2018-01-20T15:17:03.703-06:00


Funeral Arrangements for Mom


Mom's visitation and funeral arrangements:

Family will receive guests on Sunday, January 21, 2018 from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm at Olive Branch Christian Church, 8300 Craft Rd. Olive Branch, MS. 

Services to immediately follow. 

Burial will follow at Autumn Woods Cemetery.

Obit from Brantley Funeral Home 

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I ask your prayers for the repose of the soul of my mother, Nancy Rebecca.

She died this morning at 9.15.

God bless, Fr. Philip Neri, OP


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Thanks and an Update on Mom


Big Mendicant Thanks to Jenny K. for the bottle of paint.

Thanks to the anonymous donor(s) of all the jars of paint.

Mom is only able to breath w/o the vent for a few hours at a time. Since she has been intubated for a week, the doc said that he will need to perform a tracheotomy in order to avoid damage to her vocal cords. 

Please continue your prayers for her and for my dad, Glenn.

Frat., Fr. Philip Neri, OP


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Great News!


Great News!

Mom is breathing on her own this morning. The vent tube is still in place in case she needs it, but she's been doing all the work since around 9.30am (CST).

Thank you all for the prayers!

Frat., Fr. Philip Neri, OP

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Prayer Request for Mom


Prayer Request. . .for those of you who are not on Facebook: my Mom, Becky, has been in the ICU since Jan 2nd. She caught the flu and experienced complete respiratory failure -- she has COPD. She was put on a ventilator and has been on it since. Yesterday, the docs discovered that her right lung had collapsed. They inserted a chest tube to re-inflate it. We're hoping/praying that she will be able to come off the vent tomorrow (Tues).

Your prayers for her would be most appreciated!

Frat., Fr. Philip Neri, OP


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I Became a Child Among You


NB: A Christmas homily from 2006 -- Vintage Fr. Philip Neri, OP! The Nativity of the Lord 2006Fr. Philip N. Powell, OPChurch of the Incarnation, IrvingPODCAST! The Word speaks and everything is. The Word names everything that is “Very Good.” On stones, the Word etches wisdom and truth and promises His human creatures abundant blessings, strength, prosperity, and children like the stars. Wild men wander out of the desert to speak the Word again and again to bring back to memory and mind promises made and received, vows of obedience and fidelity, a covenant of identity, power, singular divinity. The Word of the Law and the Prophets recites for us a litany of loving deeds—miraculous acts of mercy, rescue, healing—deeds done for us, and repeats with near-chant solemnity His promises of salvation, fidelity, holiness, belonging, love, peace, fruitfulness, and friendship. The Words calls. Whispers. Bellows. Pleads. Bargains. Threatens. Cries. The Word came to what was his own, but his people did not accept Him. And so, the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw—finally!—His glory. What have we heard of this Word? What have we seen? We hear the cry to repentance and holiness, the cry for justice and peace. We hear the promises of eternal healing and glory. We see the reparation of disease and injury, the repair of sin’s ruin among us. We see the blessings of God’s hand in our lives, the abundant flood of riches—for some: health, wealth, education, children, loving family, a perfecting vocation; for others: gifts of intelligence, influence, generosity, strength to persevere, patience, peace; and still others: gifts of music, speech, art, wisdom, counsel, true holiness and insight. We hear the rustling Word moving in hearts spacious with joy, emptied of anxiety and fatigue, and the whispered invitation is clarion-clear: become my children! I became a Child among you so that you might become my children. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we see His glory. The Nativity of the Lord celebrates a unique event in human history, a miraculous intervention in space and time—Bethlehem some 748 years after the building of Rome: the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son takes on human flesh—one person, two natures: human and divine. The Word at creation, the Word of the lawful stones and the prophets, the Word of the whirlwind, the pillars of fire and dust, the Word of destruction, and the Word spoken to Mary, our Mother; this Word, the Son of God, becomes the Son of Man and lives here among us. The Christ Child has arrived. Infant Grace, Infant Mercy is here. We see and hear his glory as the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth and ready to fulfill for us His promise of salvation! Are we ready to hear this promise? Ready to reach and grasp the covenant that will save us? Our history with God has not been an exemplary story of careful attention and compliance! As a race we have been willfully ignorant, prideful, disdainful of being taught, and violent with God’s prophets. And we have been sacrificially generous, gracious, truly humble, and welcoming to the stranger and the outcast. It is this spark of charity, this flicker of holy light in our history that speaks to our readiness for the promises of God. A readiness, by the way, that is fundamentally a readiness to love and a readiness made ready only b/c God loved us first! If you will stand to receive the promises of God in His Son’s birth among us as Man, you will stand ready to receive the promise of your own godliness, that is, you will stand ready to become God with God. Our salvation is no mere rescue mission, no simple matter of healing the God-Man rift. The purpose of the Incarnation is our divinization. God became Man so that we might become God. The purpose of th[...]

How to grow in holiness


3rdSunday of AdventFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA If you need a summary of Christian spirituality, something short and sweet as a daily reminder of who and what you are, you really can't beat these three sentences from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks. . .” What do I do to grow in holiness? Rejoice, pray, give thanks. How often should I rejoice, pray, and give thanks? Always, without ceasing. And when should I rejoice, pray, and give thanks?In all circumstances.If Paul is being serious here – and Paul is always serious – then the Christian response to every victory, to every failure, to every set-back, to every moment of both progress and retreat should be met with rejoicing, prayer, and giving thanks! This third Sunday of Advent is a short pause in our season of preparation and repentance to remember that Christ is coming and he is coming again. The God of peace makes us perfectly holy and preserves us blameless – spirit, soul, and body – for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in response to this great gift from the Father, we rejoice, pray, and give Him thanks.  First, we rejoice! But how do we rejoice? Remember the Blessed Mother, carrying Jesus in her womb, visiting Elizabeth her cousin who was pregnant with John? When Mary came close to Elizabeth, John leaped with joy! John was conceived in Elizabeth's barren womb for the singular prophetic purpose of being the herald of Christ's birth into the world. John leaped with joy b/c he recognize his purpose in Christ; he “saw” his goal, the end for which he was made. And his reaction was to rejoice – to celebrate with exuberance and delight. When the priests and Levites ask John – “Who are you?” – he answers, “I am not the Christ.” He doesn't immediately tell them who he is; he tells them who he isn't (the Christ) and who it is they must come to know and love (the one who is coming after him). Each one of us, conceived in our mothers' womb by the loving will of our Father, has a purpose, a goal; and in the waters of baptism, we have been charged with a mission, the same mission that causes the not-yet-born John to leap with joy. John is the herald of Christ's birth, his first coming among us as a man. We – each one of us – is a herald of Christ's coming among us again, as our Just Judge. Accept this mission anew and rejoice! Celebrate exuberantly like John did in his mother's womb.   First, we rejoice; then, we pray. What do we pray for? Paul writes, “Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” If we will be fruitful heralds and prophets – like John – then we must surrender ourselves to the wisdom of the Father in prayer, testing, proving everything we say and do against the Truth of our faith. We cannot be authentic prophets for Christ if we lie about the faith, if we bear false witness against the Gospel, or pretend that we know what is true and good better than the Church does. There can be no such thing as a free-floating Christian prophet, someone who invents – apart from God's Word and the Church – his or her own truth in order to deceive. So, we must test everything and keep only what is good. Paul also tells us that we must refrain from doing any kind of evil. Prayer, especially joyful prayer, brings us closer and closer to God, strengthening our bonds with Him, and clarifying our purpose in the His truth. Whatever or whoever attempts to turn us away from our prophetic mission is tempting us to do evil. John came “to testify to the light, so that all might believe. . .” Ask God your Father in prayer to keep you sharply focused on your mission, to turn aside any temptation to give up. That's what we pray for. Rejoice, then pray, and, finally, give thanks! Giving thanks to God in all circumstancesbuilds humility and makes i[...]

What kind of person ought you to be?


2ndSunday of AdventFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA Last Sunday, I called Advent “winter's Lent.” And there is a penitential flavor to the season. But there is also a taste of rejoicing before we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord. We turn out our sins and expose them to the Lord’s mercy, AND we rejoice at the promise of His coming again. We take stock of the time we’ve spent so far, AND we offer to for God's blessing the time we have left. Repent and rejoice. Convert and sing praise. Confess and follow righteousness. Therefore, prepare His way in your heart, your mind, your body, and your soul. Lay a clear path to the center of your covenant with Him, open the gates of your reason for His light, make a gift of your work for His works of compassion, and your soul an offering of immortal praise. Now is the time for searching faults and finding mercy, for opening wounds and finding health. Advent is the time to straighten your path to God. Advent, winter's Lent, is that time for us to ask ourselves: what sort of person ought I to be? And so, what sort of person ought you to be? This is the perfect question for Advent because it is a question that requires us to think in terms of who we ARE and how we ought to ACT. It is a question that requires us to think about how we balance between being good and doing good. In his letter, Peter, asks his readers what sort of persons they should be given the coming of the Lord. He then immediately elaborates on the question by adding, “…conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” Who we ARE goes hand in hand with how we ACT. For the beloved of the Lord, being good and doing good are inseparately bound together. We wait and prepare and repent. We cultivate holiness and practice devotion. And like John the Baptist, we cry out in the desert of wherever we are: “Get ready! He’s on His way!” Who ought we to be? We ought to be prophets. As the One Who Comes Before the Christ, John the Baptizer appears out of the desert preaching repentance. As the prophet Isaiah says, he is the messenger sent ahead, a voice from the desert urging those who hear his cry to “prepare the way of the Lord.” This makes John a prophet, a herald. He’s the guy who showed up first, told the truth about Who and What was coming, and offers those who listen a chance to get themselves straight with God. He is an alarm ringing in Jerusalem, calling everyone away from sin and toward righteousness. John isn’t just about serving up the doom and gloom of The End. He offers more than a prediction and sharp tongue. John made it possible in his preaching for those listening to begin a better way toward God, to start over with the Father and bear good fruit. He offers a baptism of water to wash away repented sins. And he offers a vision of the straightened path to the Father: the good fruits of repentance will show that you are ready for the coming of the Lord AND make you a prophet. Yes, we ought to be prophets, but are we ready to be prophets? It is not enough that we acknowledge our sins, wash in the baptismal waters, and come spotless to God. Our acknowledgment of sin, our willingness to be found without blemish, must produce good fruit. Being good in theory builds lovely temples in the air. Doing good for show makes good religious theater. But airy temples never last and the curtain falls on even the best theater! Living our lives as prophetic witnesses – that’s the sort of folks we ought to be! But what does it mean for us to be prophetic? It doesn’t mean putting on camel hair shirts and eating locusts and honey. It doesn’t mean standing on the street screaming about fire and God’s wrath. It doesn’t even mean being particularly pious or holy if by “pious” and “holy” we mean being outwardly righteous for show.   No[...]

How well do you wait?


First Sunday of AdventFr. Philip N. Powell, OPOLR, NOLA I am not a patient man. I yell at the priory coffeemaker to hurry up. I can recite the entire Nicene Creed waiting for the doors of the seminary elevator to open and close. And I'm the guy behind you at the intersection honking his horn the second the light turns green. I have Patience Issues, but I bet some of you do too. That we have to wait sometimes is inevitable. In traffic. In the register line at Walmart or the DMV. We don't have much choice then. We also have to wait for the birth of Christ and his coming again. No choice. That we wait is a given. What's not a given is how well we wait; that is, how we choose to spend our time waiting.  So, here's question for you: do you wait well? I mean, are you able to pause in your day and give control of your time to something or someone else? A machine (the reluctant computer, the lazy coffeemaker, the elevator in no hurry at all) or a person (the cashier discussing his break time with a coworker, the SUV driver chatting on the cell phone stopped at the green light)? Can you hold your yourself in suspension, just stop and let something or someone else’s agenda, their needs, their wants, their time take precedence? Because that’s what waiting is. Waiting is what I (we do) do when I bring myself to acknowledge that my agenda, my needs, my wants, my time are subject to change, subject to the whims and quirks of other people, the random workings of machines, the weather, and the markets. Pretty much any and everything out there that can run interference on my plans does so, and so I wait, giving over to the hard fact that I am subject to other people, other things. That we wait is a given. The only question is: how well do we wait?Waiting well is what we are given the chance to do during Advent. And we start in earnest today. Just in case any of us holds the opinion that Advent is a season of joy, a pre-season of cheeriness gearing up for the Real Cheer of Christmas, we have on this First Sunday of Advent a sobering reminder of exactly what Advent is. From Isaiah we have this confession: we are sinful, an unclean people, even our good deeds are like polluted rags; we are dried up like fallen leaves, and our guilt carries us away like a wind! Yes, Advent is all about confessing ours sins, turning back to God, asking for forgiveness, and waiting, waiting, waiting on the arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Advent is penitential. It is winter’s Lent. And it is a season for us to live Isaiah’s confession: “O Lord, we are the clay and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands.” If Advent is going to be a season of good spiritual fruit, if we are to claim and name our sin, turn away from disobedience, and beg forgiveness from God, then we must bring fresh to our hearts and minds the wisdom of Isaiah’s confession: we are made from the stuff of the Earth, breathed into life by the divine breath, shaped, and given purpose by a God Who looks upon us as works of art, creations to be loved and saved and brought back to Him unblemished. This is our short time before celebrating the coming of our salvation for us to prepare ourselves to be found lacking, needful, and humble before the Lord. Starting here, we wait. Yes, we wait. And if we are to wait well, we wait on edge – the thin moment between repairing and giving thanks, confessing and praising, wailing and rejoicing. There is a still, quiet eagerness, a sharp keenness to this season. It demands of us a stiff attention to who we are as fallen creatures and who we can be as children of God. It demands of us an exercise of patience and a hurrying to be done, the practice of serene persistence and a rushing to finish. Our prayers this season provoke us into knowing ourselves completely, to know ourselves as we are, and to bring that knowle[...]

Feast or Fire? Who's Your King?


Christ the King (A)Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA What do you think of when you hear the word “authority”? Not so long ago here in the U.S. that word would have brought up images of security, certainty, limits, comfort. Scientists in lab coats solving problems. Military personnel defending the nation against our enemies. Police officers keeping the peace. Mothers and fathers raising families. And Catholic priests and religious teaching the apostolic faith. Pick another point in human history and “authority” might conjure images of the National Guard fighting rioters; overcrowded ration stations; or the church burning heretics. These days, “authority” seems to be something of a dirty word. Our national and cultural establishments have surrendered most of their moral authority to secularism's “long march through the institutions.” It is no longer entirely clear to many of us who we are, why we are, or where we are going. And waiting on the arrival of some person or event to give us direction is leading us to a national emotional breakdown. The solemnity of Christ the King is celebrated this morning in order to remind us that when the authority of the world betrays us, when it fails, as it inevitably does, Christ our King never has and never will. We can imagine the Christ the King in hundreds of ways. Glorious Ruler. Wise Leader. The Great God-Man. All would probably capture some aspect of his sovereignty and might. Matthew shows us what Christ the King looks like on the Last Day. The Just Judge. The Righteous Measure of Souls. Taking into his view the length and breadth of our lives in his service, the Just Judge weighs our deeds against our misdeeds, our generosity against our stinginess. He weighs the degree to which we have absorbed his love and shared it with our brothers and sisters through concrete acts of charity. He tests how well we have forgiven; how well we have hoped; how often we have depended on his gifts; and how sincerely we have submitted to his authority as our King. Those who stand transparent before him, the ones through whom he can see his own face, he will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” For those souls muddied by stinginess, hatred, self-righteousness, and greed, he will say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” It is the feast or the fire. The sharp clarity of this parable is shocking. There's no wiggle-room here. No “but what he really means is” interpretation. If Jesus had wanted to remain somewhat obscure in this teaching he could've done so. . .easily. He's done it before. But what we have here is a stark, black and white, Yes/No choice. (I don't think we modern, American Catholics are used to this sort of thing!) Our choice is simple: serve Christ the King by serving the least of his, or don't. The result of each choice is laid out for us as plainly as they can be. This is my choice. Your choice. How you and I are judged on the Last Day is up to you and me. Am I a sheep or a goat? An obedient servant of Christ? Or a self-serving sinner? Lest you think this whole parable about guilting you into being good boys and girls, keep in mind – there's nothing hidden here. Christ the Just Judge is laying out before us what Judgment Day will entail. There's no guess work, no gotcha's, no “if I had only known's.” With his authority as our Redeemer, our King, Jesus tells us – “Serve me by serving the least of mine.”   How do we serve the least among us? Start with Christ; that is, from the root of your service make Christ the top, bottom, and center of your work. Your motive is Christ. Your inspiration is Christ. Your strength and resilience is Christ. Above all, your f[...]

Watching for Vultures


St Elizabeth of Hungary
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic, NOLA

On the day the Son of Man is revealed we will be doing what we always do – shopping, eating, texting, cleaning house. If we are watchingrather than just seeing and listeningrather than merely hearing, we can watch his coming and listen to his revelation. In fact, if while we are shopping and eating and texting and cleaning house, if while we are doing the things we always do we also attend to the Lord, pay attention to his Word and his presence, we won't miss his coming again. Those left behind are the ones who make their lives about the things they do and only about the things they do. We were not created to shop, eat, text, and clean house. We were created to love God and to serve Him. We were born again in water and Spirit to grow in holiness and arrive at our perfection in Christ. The disciples ask Jesus where this revelation of the Son of Man will occur. He replies, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” IOW, where there is smoke, there is fire. If you attend to the Lord's presence and his Word, you will witness his coming again. Watch and listen.


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We serve b/c we are servants


32nd Week OT (T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic, NOLA

Our Lord is sounding a bit. . .irritated. . .with the disciples. They've asked him how many times must they forgive their brother. Jesus tells them. Seventy times seven. Taken aback by his response, the disciples say, “Lord, increase our faith!” Apparently, Jesus hears this plea as a request for a reward, a prize for doing nothing more than what the disciples are duty-bound to do. He answers their prayer – in no uncertain terms – with a biting analogy. The sharp point of his analogy is this: servants serve b/c they are servants. They do not serve b/c they expect a reward. Jesus asks, “Is [the Master] grateful to that servant because [the servant] did what was commanded?” Think long and hard about your own service to God – in worship, in works of charity, in prayer, in giving alms. Do you expect a reward for doing what you have been commanded by God to do? All that God commands us to do is commanded for our benefit. Nothing we do – not worship, not ministry, not alms-giving – nothing we do or say benefits God. Our obedience to His commands is our reward, our benefit. Waiting for God to thank us for our service is folly. Doing what He commands is wisdom. “Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love. . .”
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There are no fools in heaven


32nd Sunday OTFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA Are you wise? Or, are you foolish? What's the difference? According to Jesus, the wise live their lives prepared to enter the Kingdom at a moment's notice. The foolish live moment to moment gambling that the next moment isn't the moment they will be called to judgment. We could interpret Jesus' parable of the wise and foolish virgins as a scare tactic, one designed to frighten us into a constant state of paranoid readiness. You've probably seen the billboards: “If Jesus returns right now, where will you spend eternity?” There's certainly an element of “you had better get ready and stay ready” in the parable, a kind of “Jesus is going to jump out of the clouds and catch you by surprise.” However, if we can go to the foundation of the parable, we find a slightly less paranoia-inducing truth: every decision we make, every word we utter, every thought we think, everything we do prepares us or does not prepare us to enter the Kingdom of God. The wise know this and live accordingly. The foolish choose evil and call it good. And as our Lord makes clear, there are no fools in heaven. Say you wanted to try being a fool. How would you go about becoming foolish? It's really very simple. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us a foolish man acquires his folly by “. . .plunging his sense into earthly things, [by which] his sense is rendered incapable of perceiving Divine things” (ST II-II.46.2). Preoccupied with the things and thoughts and actions of the world, an otherwise wise man can become foolish by making worldly things, thoughts, and actions his principal occupation. IOW, when he forgets that his primary goal in this life is to serve God and prepare for the Kingdom, he chooses evil and calls it good. The vice of mistaking evil for good twists the conscience over time and drops the fool into deeper folly. In sophisticated theological circles we refer to this process with the phrase: “Stultus facit peccatum.”“Sin makes you stupid.” Sin must make us stupid b/c sin results from a deformed intellect informing the will that an evil act is in fact a good act. The foolish virgins, knowing that the Bridegroom could return at any moment, chose not to prepare properly for his arrival. This is no accident. They didn't “forget.” The didn't “fail to anticipate.” They chose not to be ready. When they plead with the groom, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” He replies, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” There are no fools in heaven b/c the Lord knows no fools. Avoiding folly in order to grow in wisdom is fairly straightforward. With every word, every deed, every thought ask yourself: does this word, this deed, this thought prepare me to live in the Kingdom of God? Ask yourself: does this word, this deed, this thought bind me more tightly to the world or to Christ the Bridegroom? Keep foremost in your heart and mind your deepest desire to find your perfection in the One Who created you and saved you. Keep front and center your longing for peace, your hope for resurrection, and your need to see the Father face-to-face. Do not grieve like those who have no hope, believing their beloved dead are dead forever. We will all die. But we cannot be dead in Christ. Only a fool chooses to live his or her life as if these few years on earth are all there is to living. Only a fool chooses to attaches himself to the passing things of this world and call himself content. We are made for eternal life. And while we live in the world, we live in wisdom, knowing that Christ the Bridegroom loves his Bride and will never abandon her. Choose wisely. Live wisely. There are no fools in heaven.Follow HancAquam or Subscribe -----> [...]

Ignoring Jesus' command to love


NB. Another late post. . .oh, and you really need to read this one in an ironic tone! St. Martin de PorresFr. Philip N. Powell, OPNDS, NOLA We should ignore Jesus’ command to love one another. (Oh, “loving God,” by the way, is fine b/c that’s mostly an abstract sort of thing that doesn’t really require us to do much beyond saying that we love God. It’s not like the God-lovers glow or anything). OK. Back to the reasons to ignore Jesus: First: Love is messy and it makes you act stupid: as a passion love is fine, but when indulged it turns the lover into a hopeless mess and promotes really dumb decision-making. Take Jesus, for example. Because he indulged in loving us, he ended up a bloody mess on a whipping post and nailed to a cross. He could’ve stopped the blood bath at any point, but he didn’t. He died for us instead.  Second: Love is expensive: show me one act of love that is free, and I’ll show you some land on Grand Isle that’s guaranteed not to flood. Love always has a price. What’s the point of willing the Good for others when it will likely lighten your wallet, cost you a gallon of gas, or force you to spend several minutes of your life doing something charitable. Again, just look at Jesus. Was his act of love for us free? Well, OK, free for us! That’s fine. But it cost Jesus his dignity and his life. Expensive, indeed. Third: Love requires us to focus too much on others: it would seem that the basic point of love is to fawn all over other people, wait on them hand and foot, and pretend to be all about their needs and their hurts. It’s all about them, them, them! What about me?! I have my needs and my hurts and my wants and me, me, me. . .Perfect example of this problem: Jesus tells his little band that if they want to be first they have to serve others! What is that? What kind of logic is that? To be first I have to be last, willing to sacrifice prestige, place, honor, and power in order to SERVE!? Jesus does this for us – again – but look how he ended up. Great for us. Not so great for him. Fourth: You have to lie when you love: not that lying is a problem when you have to do it, but loving is doubly difficult b/c to keep people liking you you have to tell them what they don’t want to hear. You can’t “love” if you make people uncomfortable or if you say unpleasant things to them. It would seem that charity requires us to lie in order to keep the peace. Being peaceful is more important than speaking the truth. Obviously! Didn’t Jesus say that he came to divide with a sword, to both cut the bonds of sin and to split apart families and friends? Is that what love does when it forces you to tell the truth? Who thinks that’s good? He spoke the truth and ended up dead. Not a good example of peacekeeping. I’ve given you four good reasons why loving one another is a problem: love is messy and makes you do dumb things; it is expensive; it requires you to focus too much on others; and it makes you lie. All good reasons to forget about love. And this is why Jesus doesn’t just suggest that we love one another or hint at the possibility of loving one another. He commands us to love. Commands. Do it! Love is the greatest commandment b/c our relationship with God depends on it. We cannot understand what God is saying to us through the prophets if we fail to love. And we cannot know what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, and excellent if we will not love. What’s worse: we cannot know anything of Goodness, we cannot imitate God, we cannot become Christ if we will not love. It’s a command. Not an argument or a suggestion or a Facebook meme. It is a command, an order. And if you will be more than you are, if you [...]

I command you to love!


30thSunday OTFr. Philip N. Powell, OPOLR, NOLA I'm here this morning to check your obedience! Let's see how well you do. I command you to stand. I command you to clap your hands. I command you to say hello to the people around you. I command you to sit. So far, so good. One last command: I command you to love one another. Ah, not so easy, uh? It's a bizarre command! Loving one another is not as simple as standing, clapping, saying hello, and sitting, is it? Surely, loving is a behavior. It is something we can do. I hope, it's something we do everyday. But it doesn’t seem to be that sort of behavior that can be demanded of us. And yet, that's exactly what our Lord is doing: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” You shalllove. We seem to get commands that forbid certain behaviors. Do not kill; do not covet or steal; do not commit adultery. Worship no other god but the Lord. These make sense to us as basic commands. But what does it mean for us to love God and to love our neighbor? If the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments, then I think we had better get this right!   What Jesus is doing here is truly astonishing. Basically, he takes a lawyer's question – which of the 248 observations and 365 prohibitions of the Law is the greatest? – and says that what is absolutely fundamental about the Law and the Prophets is that we love our God like a father and that we love our neighbors like we love ourselves. Jesus fulfills Moses' Law of Stone with the Law of the Heart. He moves the center of our moral lives from legal compliance to loving obedience, from mere procedural observation to perfection in charity. From the Law carved on the tablets to the Law carved into our hearts, Jesus orders our moral lives to the Divine Love of the Father for His Son in the Holy Spirit. As members of the Body of Christ we participate in the Divine Life of the Blessed Trinity, loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and with them loving everyone else as we love ourselves and our own. In charity – works of mercy, acts of compassion, labors of love – we show the world the love of the Blessed Trinity for us, for all of His creation, and we bring to perfection, to completion everything that He has made us to be. Not just good boys and girls. Not just morally pure robots. But truly free, truly liberated men and women who celebrate their slavery to God’s will. The virtue of charity – the good habit of loving God and neighbor – makes your will holy, that is, charity divinizes your will, makes your will God’s will and you flourish as a creature growing closer and closer to the Father. Now I'm channeling Thomas Aquinas! But it is vitally important that we understand that our moral lives are not simply a matter of crossing all our moral “T’s” and dotting all our moral “I’s.” There is more at stake here than being good boys and girls. Certainly, being morally good is important. It's impossible to behave immorally and love God and neighbor at the same time. But do we understand that our moral lives, that is, our lives in Christ, are not given to us by God b/c we behave morally? Your ability, your need to act with charity, to love God and neighbor, to be compassionate to others is God’s gift to you for your use in the service of His greater glory. We are graced with the need to praise, to thank, to bless the Lord! Jesus says that you are to love God will all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. You are to love God from the very center of your being, with everything that you are. With your heart you will love God intimately, passionately. With your so[...]

Peace is not the absence of violence


NB. I'm a little late posting this one. . .Feast of St LukeFr Philip Neri Powell, OPNDS, NOLA My younger brother, Andy, and I loved to fight. To this day we scare our mom by retelling old battles that she knew nothing about. Bricks to the head. Butcher knife chases. Pro-wrestler moves on the gravel driveway. That either one of us managed to get past high school is a miracle. Sometimes our battles drew parental attention and were ended by a belt and an order to go outside and split some cord wood. And even though we were busy fighting hickory trees with chainsaws and mauls, our hearts and minds were planning the next fight. No, we weren't beating up on one another. . .but we were hardly at peace. Peace is not merely the absence of violence. Nor is it the absence of emotional turmoil or spiritual distress. Peace can be comforting, sure, if peace is just a species of tranquility. But it isn't. At least not the sort of peace that we can expect when we detach ourselves from the things of this world and attach ourselves to Christ.  Our Lord says to the Seventy-two: “Go on your way. . .I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” What sort of peace does a lonely lamb experience among a pack of wolves? He adds, “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals . . .” What sort of peace do we experience going out into the world w/o cash, credit cards, shoes, or even a sack of snacks? We're to eat and drink whatever we are given. Is that vegan? Gluten-free? Low-carb? No sodium? Do you have a vegetarian option? What sort of peace reigns when all of our choices are made for us by strangers, and our only task is to heal their sick and proclaim the Kingdom of God? When we say to them, “Peace to this household,” what are we saying?   We are saying, in fact, declaring, that Christ the King rules here. Because you and yours have received us as disciples of Christ, and b/c you and yours have shown us hospitality, we acknowledge in the name of Christ that this household is indeed ruled by Christ. And b/c he rules, you and yours are at peace. Not without some worry. Not wholly lacking some turbulence. But firmly, gratefully subject to the Eternal King, confidently guided and supported by the sacrificial love he demonstrated on the cross. As disciples, we bear Christ's peace to anyone and everyone who is willing and able to receive it. Without vicious attachments to worldly things and worldly passions, we bear Christ's peace in word and deed, demonstrating ourselves his sacrifice of love on the cross. Follow HancAquam or Subscribe -----> [...]

ALL of it belongs to God. . .even Caesar


29th Sunday OTFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLA What belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God? Notice that Jesus doesn't say, “Repay Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is yours.” Or “Give to God what is ours.” Or “Give to God what is theirs.” Caesar gets back what is his. God gets all that belongs to Him. So, what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God? Whether we know it or not, this is the question that lies under all of our other questions about how we are participate in the affairs of the world. These are daily questions, of course, but they tend to cause us more problems around election time than any other. How can we be both citizens of this world and heirs to the Kingdom? How we think, feel, speak, and act as citizens of the world can determine whether or not we inherit the Kingdom. With our eyes firmly focused on the Kingdom, won't we eventually end up in conflict with Caesar and his rule? Absolutely. And the history of the Church bears this out. And continues to bear it out even now. What belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God? For us, members of the Body, the Church, the answer is easy but not uncomplicated: it ALL belongs to God! You, me, mine, yours, theirs, ours. It all belongs to God, including Caesar himself. Is this the point Jesus is making when he says that we owe Caesar what is his and God what belongs to God? Why not just say, “It all belongs to God”? Remember what Matthew tells us about the Pharisees. They are plotting against Jesus, trying to entrap him with a legal problem. When they ask their question, our Lord “knows their malice,” and asks them in turn:“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” Jesus knows that they aren't interested in a learned opinion on the Law. They aren't genuinely intellectually curious about his response. They're trying to snare him in an impossible political/religious position that they can then use against him. Jesus' brilliant response to their fake question explodes the trap. The coin has Caesar's face and inscription on it. It's his. Give it back to him. Everything else goes to God. The Romans can't fault his reply. The Pharisees can't either. But Jesus knows that everything belongs to the Father. And so do we. So, what do we – in 21stc. America – do with this bit of teaching?   We all know the standard answer here. We obey just laws. We pay our taxes. We vote in elections. We support our communities. We serve in the military. In other words, we participate in Caesar's state as upstanding, patriotic citizens. There is no contradiction btw being an exemplary citizen and a faithful Catholic. That's the standard answer. And there's nothing wrong with it. However, what happens when we come to understand that everything belongs to God? My life, your life, everything we are and everything we possess first belongs to God. You and I were and are gifted with everything we are and everything we have. Gifted. Given. You might say, “But Father! I worked all my life for my house! Nobody gave it to me!” God gave you life. He gave you the time and talent you needed to work for that house. He's giving you your life now to enjoy your house and your family and friends. At best, we can say that the things we have are borrowed from God, including our very lives. So, what happens when this truth becomes a daily reality for us? What happens when you wake up – alive and well – and note that you are alive and well? Do you give God thanks and then go about your day noticing the abundance of gifts you've been given? I hope so! Because Jesus says that we have to give it all back. At some point, it al[...]

Top Ten List


NB. Eight years ago, while languishing in the Roman heat, I grew cranky. . .okokok. . .crankier and decided to lighten my mood and this blog with a Top Ten List. A friend recently suggested that I re-post that list. So, here it is:Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Fr. Philip Neri's Top Five of Just About Everything!Top Five Weird Food Combos: 1. blackeyed-peas & mayo on cornbread2. peanut butter & banana on Ritzs3. roasted chicken with yogurt & peanuts4. apple/celery soup with pesto5. vanilla ice cream with peanut butter and balsamic vinegarTop Five Fav Halloween Costumes He Has Worn:1. creepy surgeon with bloody knife2. albino vampire with handcuffs3. High Goth magician complete with goatee and earring!4. Spartacus with sword (my mom's icing spatula)5. ghost of a gorilla killed by poachersTop Five Fav Christmas Gifts:1. a doctor's home visit kit (three years in a row! yes!)2. a LED digital watch in 1979. . .only kid in school with one of those3. a tuition check from my parents in 19864. Santa's Magical $50 that appears in my stocking annually (yes, I have stocking!)5. a stereo system with my first ever cassette: Huey Lewis and the NewsTop Five Fashion Statements I Wish I Had Never Made:1. getting my ear pierced in 1990 (ugh)2. wearing a paisley shirt with poofy sleeves and an antique broach in 1985 (ugh-ugh)3. letting my hair grow down to my shoulders a la George Michael ca. 19894. daily wear of all black--jeans, turtle-neck, boots, overcoat, glasses5. plaid golf pants, burgundy IZOD shirt, pink IZOD sweater, loafers w/the penny ca. 1982Top Five Dumb Things I Have Done That I Can Admit to in Public:1. Frequently going out of town to parties with a drunk friend driving (stupid, stupid)2. Moving into a large antebellum home with colleagues from my department who eschewed cleanliness and domestic responsibility like a rabid squirrel on crack3. Agreeing to purchase a package of three-year magazine subscriptions that cost $600 (yea, I got out of it)4. locking myself out of my apartment minutes after my roommate drives off for the weekend and then breaking the small window on the kitchen door only to realize that the small window is in fact not just a piece of the door but the entire window: $80 for replacement.5. Helping some friends "clear out" their liquor cabinet before a move (shudder)Top Five Dumbest Things I Have Ever Said:1. 1986: the women's bathroom in the lobby of our dorm had no interior door. I was the RA on desk duty during fall sign-in for the freshmen. A mom comes in and asks for the bathroom. I directed her. Not wanting anyone to walk in on her unexpectedly, I offered: "Would like for me to watch?"2. 1991: I was giving a literature exam, sitting at the desk in front of the class. After about fifteen minutes of quiet, for no apparent reason, I barked out: "KNIFE!"3. I was at home one Christmas and my mom asked to me mix up some walnut brownies. I read the directions on the box and proceeded to mix. My mom comes into the kitchen and watches me mix the batter with my hand. My defense? "The directions say 'mix by hand'"!4. To a psychotic patient on the adult unit of a psych hospital: "Are you going to throw that at me or come with us to time out?"5. To my future housemate wanted to confess something to me before I allowed him to move in. We sat down, and he very solemnly declared, "I'm a Wiccan." I said, "Oh, I thought you were gay."Top Five Books I Wish I Had Never Read:1. Creative Visualization2. Jonathan Livingston Seagull3. It4. The Book of Mormon5. Handbook of Witchcraft[...]

You do not have to go to the Wedding Feast


28th Sunday OTFr. Philip N. Powell, OPOLR, NOLA Another parable of the kingdom and another warning that those unprepared for the heavenly feast will find themselves cast into darkness. Our Lord has been on a roll these last few weeks, preaching a gospel message that contemporary Catholics aren’t quite used to hearing! Maybe I’m wrong, but my sense is that most of us don’t often hear many homilies about the goats, the weeds, the bad fish, the lazy virgins, or the poorly dressed wedding guest. We hear a lot about the sheep, the wheat, the good fish, the well-prepared virgins, and the festively dressed wedding guests. These images better fit a comfortable, American vision of who we hope Jesus was back then, and who we want him to be now. Don't worry. I don’t intend to blast you with Hellfire and Brimstone this evening! But I can’t claim to be a preacher of the gospel, and then fail to preach the gospel right in front of me. This evening, we aren't hearing from our familiar, comfortable, American Jesus. We're hearing from Christ, our Righteous Judge! We need to get something straight right from the start: you do not have to spend eternity with God. You do not have to receive or make use of the grace you’ve been given. You do not have to repent, confess, or enjoy freedom from sin. You don’t have to go to confession, come to Mass, take communion, say your prayers, do good works, live charitably with one another, or even forgive a single offense against you. You can ignore the grace you’ve been given. You can stride along the path of rebellion and disobedience. You can remain a slave to sin and do the bidding of your lowest passions as much as you want. You can skip confession, blow off Mass, forget your prayers, ignore the needy among us, hate one another and wallow in self-pitying angry and regret. You can be, if you choose, a goat, a bundle of weeds, a bad fish, a lazy virgin, or a badly dressed wedding guest. God will honor your choice out of His limitless love, and you can spend your afterlife as you lived in this life: without Him. And that’s the Catholic definition of Hell: “[a] state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed […]” (CCC n.1033). In the parable of the Wedding Feast, the guest who arrives poorly dressed is thrown out into the darkness b/c he has refused to put on the garments of repentance. He wears his slave clothes. His rags are a gift from the Liar who has convinced him that he’s wearing Gucci! In fact, his rags identify him as a willful servant of disobedience. The master of the house invites good and bad alike. But to be allowed in – good and bad – have on the garments of repentance. Not the garments of absolute moral perfection. Not the garments of spotless holiness. But the garments that identify them as willing – even if imperfect for now – to be servants of the Master Himself. The poorly dressed guest, the unrepentant one, is not tossed out b/c he comes to the feast for the free food, the free liquor, the good company. No, he’s tossed out b/c he comes seeking all the benefits of the Master’s Truth and Goodness and Beauty, but he himself is unwilling to take on truth, goodness, and beauty in return. In other words, he wants to feast at the Master’s banquet table, but he’s unwilling to abide by the Master’s Party Rules. “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Paul gives us the secret of the Wedding Feast: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. . .My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his gloriou[...]

Dangerous for Mary, dangerous for us!


Our Lady of the RosaryFr. Philip N. Powell, OPOLR, NOLA It is the most dangerous announcement ever made: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” The angel Gabriel, sent by God to Mary, greets the virgin by telling her that she is most graced, wholly blessed, chosen, and attended to by the Lord. Very, very dangerous. And Mary knew Gabriel's announcement was dangerous. Luke tells us, “. . .[Mary] was greatly troubled…” Greatly troubled?! Troubled…and wise. Mary pondered the angelic greeting with dread. She understood that this particular, unique grace picked her out of all God’s human creatures. She understood that receiving an angel from the Lord meant a mission, a purpose beyond a mortal end; a life of singular graces; an honored life of doing the Father’s will for His glory. Dangerous for Mary? Absolutely! Dangerous for us? O, Yes! Mary is being asked by the Lord to serve as bearer of the world’s salvation. To be the vessel of the Word, and the Mother of a redeemed nation. Saying yes to this mission places her in that moment of human history where the Divine Son takes on human flesh, and sets out toward a selfless, loving sacrifice so that we may all be healed. In her ministry to all of creation, the Virgin gives her body, her will, for the rest of usso that the Infinite Word might speak Himself as a Finite Word and gather us together into a single heart, a single mind, one voice in witness to the mercy and forgiveness of the Lord.[1]She is the mother of our salvation, the perfected vessel of our eternal healing. Mary is a preacher of the gospel, the first preacher of the Word in a fallen world that has been given over to the Enemy to rule. As the Mother of the Christ Child she has an incredibly dangerous job, giving birth to the Word of God among those who would reject His Word. When you and I took on the responsibility of bearing the Word to the world – when we became preachers – we took on the dangers of opposing all that the world worships as good. Speaking the Word of Truth against the Lie riles up the worst resentments and the most violent frustrations of those in the world who resent Mary’s Yes, who resent the gift of the Christ Child, and who turn their faces against his invitation to participate in the Divine Life. The danger for us here is twofold: 1) that we are seen as the causes of resentment and frustration among those who reject the Word, and 2) that we succumb to the temptation to see these people as hopeless, beyond reach, and deserving of immediate punishment. The first – that we are blamed – is becoming common enough. The second – our unjust judgment of others – is scandalously common and unworthy of the Virgin-child who made our own Yes to bearing the Word possible.  This feast of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrates the BVM's intervention during the battle between Europe's Christians and the Turks of the Ottoman Empire in 1571 at Lepanto. Calling upon a 500 year old Dominican tradition, the Christians, the Holy League, dedicated their fleet and their fight to the BVM of the Rosary. And the Dominican pope, Pius V, called upon all of Catholic Europe to recite the rosary, praying for the Holy Mother to intercede on behalf of Europe's desperate defense of Christendom. Despite being woefully outnumbered in ships and sailors, the Holy League prevailed, and the Ottoman Empire's dreams of dominating the Mediterranean were crushed forever. This feast was originally named “Our Lady of Victory,” but over time a succession of popes have named and re-named th[...]

Jesus says, "No."


26th Week OT (T)Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OPNotre Dame Seminary, NOLA I was not a popular kid in middle school. I know, I know. . .you're thinking, “How could that be?!” Well, frankly, I was a little weirdo. That kid who didn't want to join a team or hang out after school. I had books to read! It wasn't until I started my sophomore year of high school that that my stock started to rise. By my senior year, I was elected Class President. Let that be an encouraging story for all you weirdos out there. As happy as I was with being one of the Popular Kids at 16, I still flinch when remembering how I was treated when I was 10. It was all my own fault. I excluded myself. However, visions of extravagant revenge would often play out in my overactive imagination. I never wished any particular person harm, but the idea of the school being consumed in sheets of hellfire – after hours, of course – sounded pretty good. Being rejected, for whatever reason, stings. And the disciples feel that sting keenly when the Samaritans turn them and their Master away from their village. The disciples don't simply imagine fire consuming the village; they actually ask permission to set the place ablaze! Jesus says, “No.” Jesus said “no” then, and he says “no” now. Why? Jesus knows from the start of his public ministry that most will reject the Good News. He warns his disciples again and again that preaching the Father's freely offered mercy to sinners would – oddly – rub most people the wrong way. There's just something about getting something for nothing that people simply do not trust, especially religious people. Even professed Christians struggle with the idea that God loves them according to His nature and not according to their deeds. Now, we don't know exactly why the Samaritans refuse to hear the Good News. It probably has something to do with Jesus being a Jewishrabbi headed to Jerusalem, but there could be other reasons too. Regardless, they say NO. And Jesus honors that decision by moving on to the next village. I like to imagine that the disciples are disappointed. . .just a little. Like I was when I stepped off the bus every morning and saw that the sheets of hellfire had failed to consume my school! We can be disappointed when others reject the Gospel. We can even imagine that their rejection – if it persists 'til death – will end poorly for them. What we can't do is hope for – much less ask for! – immediate divine retribution. Jesus says, “No.” And he says “no” for good reason. For the Good News to have any appreciable affect on the sinner, it must be willingly received, freely taken in as the gift it is. God's grace prepares the sinner's heart and mind by making reception of the Good News possible. BUT that grace cannot and will not force a decision. Obstinate refusal is always an option. As much as we might loathe the idea of anyone refusing the Father's freely offered mercy, we must be prepared to encounter those who – like the Samaritans – will say, “No, thanks.” Rejection stings. But the rejecters aren't rejecting me or you. They are rejecting Christ. And when we start feeling the bruises of rejection, we need to recall that when the disciples asked permission to burn them all to ashes, Jesus said, “No.” No one forced or intimidated or manipulated into believing can say that he/she freely received the Good News. Our task, as preachers and teachers of the Gospel, is to present the Good News – in word and deed – as a way out of sin, as a wa[...]

Repent first. . .mercy follows


26th Sunday OTFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPOLR, NOLASo, you're in line before the Pearly Gates, and who do you see in front of you but the crooked IRS agent who audited your taxes and ruined you financially. And the infamous D.C. Drug Dealer who kept a client list and caused the downfall of several prominent politicians and televangelists. That abortionist who bragged on TV about performing more than 300,000 abortions in his lifetime. Imagine these folks ahead of you in line and think about how they might have gotten where they are. A tax collector, a drug dealer, a serial killer. We could add several others: the guy who intentionally spreads his venereal disease; the greedy bankers and portfolio managers who helped cause the 2008 economic disaster; political leaders in countries all over the world who deprive their fellow citizens of their human rights through corruption and murder. . .the list could go on, and so the line into heaven could get longer and longer. But the question here is: seeing these people ahead of you in line, you have to wonder, how did they get here? Such profoundly evil people in line to heaven. . .how? The quick and easy answer, of course, is God’s grace. But that’s not much of an answer because no one is in that line without God’s grace. What does it mean for a serial killer or a greedy banker to experience God’s grace, repent of his sin, and find himself in a line to heaven? Remember our question from last week: are you envious of God’s generosity?Man’s capacity to receive God’s grace is not limitless. However, there is no limit to God’s generosity. Limitless grace poured into a limited vessel means one thing: overflow; assuming, of course, that the vessel is indeed filled. But for a sinner to be filled requires a certain awareness that he/she is empty in the first place. IOW, a sinner must acknowledge his/her sin as sin first. Is this the point that Jesus is making about the son who refuses to work but then repents and does as he is asked to do. Having refused to work, the son is ripe with disobedience, rigid with refusal and dissent. Being so far from his father’s will, he is keenly aware of being lost. That despair drives him back to his father’s will and saves him. The other son, accepting his father’s will, eagerly agrees to work but fails to follow through. His disobedience is compounded by deceit. Believing himself to be filled with his father’s will, he is not “empty enough” to repent. He coasts, if you will, on his initial good will, believing that this is sufficient to save him from his father’s wrath. How do serial killers, corrupt politicians, prostitutes end up in heaven with you, the righteous son or daughter? If they end up there, they do so first because being outside the Father’s will hurts too much to ignore. How long can a creature turn from its Creator and not feel the yawning emptiness of His absence? To be created is to have purpose.We are Purpose given flesh and spirit. You cannot NOT be what you were made to be for very long and fail to feel the corruption of your refusal. To repent of your refusal is like a tremendous rebound, the further you stretch away from God’s will, the harder, the faster, the tighter the comeback! A glorious SNAP! right back into the will of the Father. Standing there in the heavenly line with the other former sinners – all of those who recognized the emptiness of their disobedience and repented – you can look around you and see some of the infamou[...]

Magnify Christ in Your Body


NB. I woke up this morning *much* later than I usually do, so I didn't have time to finish my homily for the 9am Mass at OLR. Had to reach into the archives for this one. . . 25th Sunday OTFr. Philip N. Powell, OPOLR, NOLA Sounding very much like Mary saying YES to the Lord’s angel at the Annunciation, Paul proclaims without pride: “Christ will be magnified in my body…” Christ will be made larger, brighter, sharper, denser, louder, and more skilled in Paul’s body. Fearlessly Paul adds, “…whether by life or by death.” Christ will be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death. Like Mary at the feet of the angel, Paul turns his life and his death over the Lord – and the work of the Lord – and confesses to his brothers and sisters that his life as a worker for the Lord will be larger, brighter, sharper, and more skilled precisely b/c the work he does will be done for the greater glory of God. And this is just the work of his life! Death is no obstacle for Paul b/c “life is Christ, and death is gain.” So choose! Live in Christ and magnify His work on earth. Die in Christ, be with Him eternally, and still magnify His work in His presence. Now that’s commitment. But here’s what I want you to notice: Paul does not donate his time, talent, and treasure out of his excess. He doesn’t give over to the work of the Lord the overflow of his riches – the leftovers. Paul does not say “Christ will be magnified in my checkbook.” “Christ will be magnified in my volunteer hours.” “Christ will be magnified in my talent.” He says that Christ will be magnified in his BODY. His very flesh. And whether he lives or dies the work he does for the Lord will bear abundant fruit for others. Paul does not divide his life (or his death!) into neat packages addressed to different and equally worthy recipients: his family, his career, his friends, and, oh, one for the Lord too here on the bottom somewhere. Paul’s whole life – the first fruits, the abundant works, the failures and misgivings, and, finally, his last breath – all, his whole life is given to Christ for the enlargement of Christ. What does it mean for Christ to be magnified in the body? The idea, I think, is to pull us out of the very human habit of abstraction, the very human temptation to lift our religious obligations to one another into the heavens where we can keep them safe from our duty to perform them on earth. So long as the obligation to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned remain abstracted moral imperatives far, far away, we are tempted to honor them in the abstract, neglect to perform them, and remain confident that the work of the Lord is getting done. Paul’s insistence that Christ will be magnified in his body is the clearest indication we have that the work of the Lord is to be DONE. Not just thought about. Not just written about. Not just preached about. And certainly not abstracted and lifted onto some kind of spiritualized “to do” list. The work is to be done. And done first for God’s greater glory. Now. I know what you’re thinking! “Wow, Father is wound up this morning. He must think we’re all lazy bums laying around thinkingabout the good works of mercy, but watchingSaints football instead!” Not quite. I’ve seen the generosity of this community, and I know what motivates you to be the Lord's instruments in the world. There is a hunger here for others to see and hear what the Lord has done i[...]

On the failure to forgive


24th Sunday OTFr. Philip Neri Powell, OPMt. Carmel/OLR, NOLA In Dante's Inferno, those who lived and died as slaves to anger are consigned to the Fifth Circle of Hell.* The violently angry spend eternity attacking one another on surface of the swampy waters of the River Styx. The sullenly angry sulk beneath the slime, forever stewing in their self-imposed loneliness. Though they share in the sin of inordinate anger – expressed in different ways – what these sinners have most in common is their stubborn refusal to forgive. . .while they could. Rather than release her offender from his debt, the violently angry sinner slashes out in a rage, causing him harm. And rather than release his offender from her debt, the sullenly angry sinner retreats into a silent, brooding resentment that slowly consumes all of his charity. When our Lord urges us to forgive our offenders as many times as necessary, he's not giving us some Hallmarkish therapeutic advice for Better Living. He's telling us outright that the failure to forgive – in the end – is tantamount to choosing to live for all eternity basting away in the slimy waters of the River Styx, Hell. The failure to forgive another is the failure to receive forgiveness from God. If forgiveness were easy to give, we wouldn't need our Lord to command us to do it. We wouldn't need that image of the master turning his unforgiving servant over the torturers. That forgiveness is difficult to give is part and parcel of our fallen humanity. But why is forgiveness so hard to give? It might be b/c we are afraid that forgiving someone who has offended us might come to believe that his/her offense wasn't really all that offensive to begin with. If I can easily forgive being hurt, then maybe I wasn't that badly hurt in the first place.Maybe forgiveness is hard b/c we are afraid of being hurt again by the same person, by the same offense. If I forgive this hurt, maybe he/she will hurt me again in the same way.Or perhaps forgiveness is hard b/c we like the feeling of another being in our debt for sin. She hurt me and I'm not forgiving her b/c I like that she owes me. As our Lord makes clear, my failure to forgive is a trap for me. There is no justification, no way to make right, my refusal to grant to another what God has freely given to me. Yes, I've been sinned against – terribly wounded – and my fallen nature urges me to seek justice, to seek balance. But when I seek that balance w/o acknowledging that my own sins have been forgiven, what I am truly seeking is vengeance.   And unrepented vengeance earns me a dip in the River Styx, or a visit with the master's torturers. Our Lord recounts at the end of his parable: “I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?'” The obvious answer here is: “Yes, Lord!” If you can't bring yourself to answer that question in the affirmative, why not? The most common reason I've heard as a priest goes something like this: “I could say that I've forgiven, but I don't feel like I've forgiven.” Our Lord requires us to “forgive from the heart,” meaning a genuine forgiveness that relieves the other person of his/her debt to us. No where does the Lord require us to feel good about forgiving another. No where does he demand that we be happy about it. Forgiveness is an act of the will – from the heart – we just do it. And then we [...]

Discerning a priestly vocation?


For those discerning a vocation to the Order of Preachers, there's a new website operated by the OP friars of Memphis, TN. . .

Priest Vocation

Check it out!