Posted by FrGamble
Mar 11, 2012

Third Sunday of Lent, Year B

Third Sunday of Lent, Year B
Ex. 20:1-3,7-8,12-17; Ps 19:8-11; 1Cor. 1:22-25; Jn. 2:13-25

I’d like to take a new look at our passage from the Gospel about Jesus cleansing the temple. We hear Jesus make a whip out of cords and drive out the money changers and those selling animals for the sacrifices. He shouts, “stop making my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

We usually immediately think that we shouldn’t be selling stuff in Church. However in the ancient temple you needed to have money changers and the sellers of animals nearby so that you could make the required sacrifices. I don’t think Jesus minds our Mission Committee selling SCRIP gift cards in the narthex to subsidize their trip to Biloxi this year. I love our Lighthouse Media Catholic CD kiosks in the balconies and in the narthex they give people a chance to take home an inspiring or educational CD about our faith. Every once in a while we have the girl scouts or boy scouts or our own youth group selling something as a fundraiser on the parking lot. I can’t see Jesus coming in and knocking over their cookie stand.

I think Jesus is referring to the “marketplace” as the hub of culture. The marketplace is where all of the worldly interests and motivations based on money, power, politics, and entertainment all come together. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but it has no place here in God’s house – in this Church. We need to drive the marketplace mentality out when we come inside a Church.

We are blessed, our Church is beautiful it look and feels like a Church. Its architecture lifts our hearts upwards and you know you are in a different place and have left the marketplace when you come in here. We should dress differently when we come to Church, act differently, behave differently, and feel differently. We speak a different type of language here. This was part of the reason the Church recently changed the translation of our prayers. Now when I say, “The Lord be with you.” You respond…”and with your spirit.” Yep, what we are about in here is not the secular it is the spiritual and sacred. That is why we use different words. When your having coffee in the morning and your wife comes down and says, “Good Morning, honey.” You don’t respond, “and with your spirit.” This is unique language for a unique thing. We now use words like consubstantial, paschal, incarnation, and other sharp and distinct theological terms in our liturgy – words we don’t often use in other places. We use smells and bells. Now we can’t use the incense as much as I’d like because we are a small Church and many parishioners are allergic to or have problems with incense. However, we still use the bells as a reminder of the great mystery that takes place on this altar, a mystery of the Eucharist too big for just words alone. I’m not wearing a suit, I’m wearing these weird vestments. About 50 years ago we all used to face the same direction for worship so even the priest was a mystery. You weren’t looking at my face, but instead we were all facing the same direction looking towards Him! I must confess I love celebrating Mass when possible facing to the east. It not only provides mystery but it reminds us all this is not a performance. I don’t have to always be thinking, am I smiling, did I look enough to my left and right, do I have a booger hanging out of my nose? Our liturgy is meant to be mysterious and different than the marketplace.

This leads to the number one complaint about Catholic Mass – it is boring. Well believe me I could bring some screens in here and have some awesome multimedia presentation. I could hire a rock band to play our music and I could make sure you and I were all entertained. However that would be worshiping ourselves and our own desires. That would be the marketplace mentality. What we are participating in right now is the Catholic Mass, which has been celebrated on this earth in an unbroken succession from the Last Supper when Christ instituted the Eucharist. This is not about what we want, this Mass is not about me, I didn’t make up these prayers, this liturgy has been handed down to us through the millennium from the Church that Christ established. Yes, it is different than the marketplace and that is exactly as Christ wants it to be.

Now every faith is not only about worship, but is also about living. We hear in our first reading the famous 10 commandments. These commandments are pretty common sense. In fact because we are made in the image and likeness of God it should come as no surprise that most everyone, even if they don’t believe in God, will agree that we should honor our father and mother, not kill, steal, lie, or commit adultery. However, just like in our worship we need to be different. We need to separate ourselves from the common practices of the marketplace. We do that by taking these commandments to a deeper level. When we as Catholics say, “do not kill”, we are not talking about just not murdering another. Everyone in the marketplace says that. No, we talk about the radical nature of this commandment. This is why we reject the death penalty, why we call it murder when the most innocent developing child in the womb is killed, and why we refuse to participate in gossip and kill the reputation of another. Yes, we are different and we take this commandment to its fullness and so respect the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death that we do everything we can to build people up and never do them harm or tear them down. When we say, “do not commit adultery”, we go further than avoiding that awful sin. We root out the mentality that leads to it. We reject the stuff the marketplace tries to sell us on the TV, in movies, and so prevalent on the internet. We don’t accept the pills and devices that make the sin possible. These are examples of how we drive the marketplace not only out of our worship but out of the way we live.

This means we are different. I hate to tell you this but with some of the recent news the cat is out of the bag, we Catholics are counter-cultural. That is okay it has always been that way and always will be. From the time Jesus drove the marketplace out of the temple till today we are a thorn in the side of the culture. We are a mystery to lots of people. As St. Paul says in our second reading a stumbling block and an obstacle to the world. This is an important role and something we must not shirk from. When we come here we drive away the world to be energized, refreshed, nourished, but then sent back into the world. You can’t stay here, there is not enough room in the rectory and God needs you out there. You are not called to be just mirror images of everyone else, you shouldn’t just blend into the crowd. You are called to be the yeast. You are called to change the culture not be consumed by it. We drive out the marketplace from our worship and life and then are driven back into the marketplace to be witnesses to the mystery of God’s love in its midst.


RonC Mar 11, 2012

Thank you, Father. I enjoyed reading this...

FleaStiff Mar 11, 2012

Depends what a church really is or is thought to be.

Just as a Western bar was also a center of commerce and news, it seems that the churches in Biblical times had other activities such as sacrifices and donations in accepted currencies only, hence the need for money changers and the acceptance of a marketplace inside the church.

Well, bars in America were the same way. They provided free lunches even to those who were unemployed, language training, job exchanges, cultural training for new immigrants, etc.

The only difference is that a church seems to suppress actual commerce on its site while fostering commerce that benefits the church but not its members: raffles, gambling, etc.

Perhaps there will be an addendum to this after the author considers that NYC Temple that pays attendees. Is that the ultimate money lender inside the church??

odiousgambit Mar 12, 2012

Good to be back to the homilies, Padre.

btw I was unaware that the Catholic Church had a position against the death penalty?

Wizard Mar 12, 2012

Thanks bringing back the homilees. I too didn't know that opposition of the death penalty was an official Catholic position.

hook3670 Mar 12, 2012

Good stuff Father, I enjoyed reading it. The only thing is going by the "correct and accurate" religious calender it is only the second Sunday of Lent! :)

FrGamble Mar 12, 2012

Yep, the Catholic Church has been a strong opponet of the death penalty. John Paul II made the teaching much stronger when he said and made sure it was added to the Cathechism that the cases when a state execution would be neccessary in today's world, "are very rare, if not practically non-existent" (CCC 2267)

FleaStiff Mar 14, 2012

In a strictly technical sense, I would agree that state executions are rarely necessary, but that does not make them undesirable or unrewarding.

Posted by FrGamble
Dec 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Homily 2011
A few weeks ago we were teaching our Confirmation candidates about different types of prayer and I was leading them into a Gospel meditation on our famous passage we hear tonight about the Birth of Jesus Christ. I was inviting our young people to reflect on what Joseph and Mary must have thought that first Christmas. Here they were a poor couple at the end of an arduous journey in a strange place at the behest of a foreign ruler who was oppressing the people and taking a census to raise taxes. There was no room for them anywhere and Mary was ready to give birth at any moment. The only place they could find was a barn with the animals and the only place to lay the baby was in a food trough. I wondered with the kids if they thought the holy family was feeling a little bit overwhelmed?

I gotta say that there have been some times recently when I have felt overwhelmed. We are at the end of a long and at times arduous journey for our parish in the building of our New Evangelization Center; which by the way should be ready by the end of January. I have been worried and hoping that everything from the details of the stucco to the fire suppression system all works out, then of course there is the issue of paying for the building. We have had some turn over in our parish staff recently as Kayla discerned a vocation to the religious life and some of our staff are heroically taking on new roles and all are working super hard. Change is always difficult and I’ve worried about how our parents, catechists, and our kids are doing. I feel the need for more adult faith formation programs and know that our website and in general technology here at the parish could be updated. My “customer service” so to speak could be much better; I think the average time it takes me to get back to people who e-mail or call me is one or two…months. I constantly fear parishioners are being lost in the shuffle or needs are not being met. The pastoral council and I share a vision of where we want to take the parish but we are struggling to implement it. I can’t seem to lose this darn weight and … then there is the parking lot! I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed too.

Then there is the birth of Jesus! Something happens at the nativity of our Lord. You can notice this fact in our reading. The passage takes a dramatic turn after Christ is born. You will never again hear about the census and the scene shifts to the poor hardworking shepherds in the field who have the Good News of the Saviors birth proclaimed to them. The birth of Jesus seems to change everything. How could this be? Our first reading talks about how God smashes the yoke of our burdens and the rod of our taskmasters; this all happens because of a little child?!? Yet this is what has happened to Joseph and Mary and can happen to us tonight if we let it.

First let’s note that nothing has really changed for Mary and Joseph, they are still stuck in a stable in a strange land at the behest of a greedy, oppressive, and occupying king. The only thing that is different is that Jesus has entered into their lives. He doesn’t enter into their lives and all their problems go away; He enters their lives in this crazy moment when things are far from perfect and a bit overwhelming. You are here in this Church tonight and Jesus will come into your lives and dare I say your lives are not perfect too. Many of us are struggling with financial difficulties, some here are overwhelmed, some are unemployed, some underemployed. Some have huge problems with our families, husbands and wives fighting or not talking to each other, kids misbehaving and causing huge problems. Some of us are dealing with serious and scary health issues that run the gamut from physical, emotional, to spiritual problems and addictions. Some are just worried about the future, much like Joseph and Mary were the night before Christmas. Then there is the Birth of Jesus!

Why does Jesus make all the difference in our lives? How can Jesus’ birth help us to overcome the worry, anxiety, and fear that we sometimes feel in our lives? The answer I think revolves around the way in which God enters into our lives.

Jesus, true God and true man, creator of the universe, comes to us as a baby - completely and totally vulnerable and needy. There is something in us that responds innately to the needs of others who are vulnerable. Our instinct is to focus on them and care for them putting aside ourselves and even our problems. When a baby cries we turn off the TV to listen, when a child is in trouble we do not hesitate to respond. God puts Himself into our hands in the ultimate act of humility and makes Himself vulnerable, needy, and dependent on us. God will not force us to respond to Him but He makes it hard to ignore Him when He is placed into our lives as if on our doorstep as a helpless little baby. Let’s not kid ourselves, if you and I do not respond to His cries, if we do not focus on Him and respond to His needs the Gospel of Jesus will go unheard and Him unknown. However, if we DO focus on Jesus we become His voice, His hands and feet, His eyes and ears and the faith grows. If we focus on Jesus in our lives a natural purification takes place and the parts of our problems due to our sinfulness, pride, and selfishness begin to be purged. We begin to see more clearly what truly matters in this life. We discover the joy of living for another and everything we do takes on new purpose, like when that new baby comes into our lives to give a new meaning to everything we do. We love our spouses and kids more fully because we are focusing on Jesus, We work more diligently and serve more generously because we hear the cries of Jesus, I defend my faith, share the Good News, and stand up for Jesus because He needs me to do so.

Without Jesus as the focus and anchor of our lives we become discombobulated and are subject the whims of our own desires who will toss us around like the waves, blow us off course, and eventually will overwhelm and sink us more deeply into the depths of despair.

On Christmas, God comes to you and enters into mine and your messy lives. He came to us 2,000 Decembers ago as a little child, silent and still and wrapped in swaddling clothes. He comes to you today truly present in a humble host, silent and still. He asks us to focus on Him, listen to Him, care for Him, respond to His needs, nurture and help Him to grow stronger in your life. He promises us that like that simple bread we and our problems will be transformed. The more we focus on Jesus Christ and do everything through him, with him, and in him the more our lives will be lived with purpose and meaning and we will replace worry, fear, and anxiety with faith, hope, and love. The more we focus on Jesus in our lives the more we will overcome being overwhelmed. This Christmas let us allow the child Jesus to enter into our lives in a deeper way, especially if we are struggling. Not so that all our problems can disappear but so that in focusing on Christ we may receive the hope and strength to overcome them without being overwhelmed.


EvenBob Dec 24, 2011

"The more we focus on Jesus Christ and do everything through him, with him, and in him the more our lives will be lived with purpose and meaning and we will replace worry, fear, and anxiety with faith, hope, and love. The more we focus on Jesus in our lives the more we will overcome being overwhelmed."

The truth is, the more a person is focused on anything outside themselves,

be it their kids, or their job, or working with the disadvantaged, or anything

that lets them have a purpose outside of their own selfish nature, the more

they will replace worry and anxiety with hope and satisfaction. Jesus is neither

here nor there, its just another place to focus your attention.

FleaStiff Dec 25, 2011


All I know is I'm going to have Mince Meat Pie today irrespective of the Connecticut Blue Laws which forbade a woman to make a mince pie, so whatever official pronouncements there are about this time of the year do not concern me: I shall drink and eat as a pagan even if to others its a celebration of Christ.


I've learned not to think of hominy grits when I see that word. That's about all I've learned about it.

AZDuffman Dec 25, 2011

@Fles It is "Homily" not "hominy."

"Homily" is the part of mass right after the Gospel, where the priest has some free-form time to explain the Gospel reading, or in something in general about the day being celebrated by that Mass. At funerals it is usually a eulogy of the person who passed away. It has nothing to do with how corn is ground.

To the good father, perhaps you can settle an argument? Growing up my parents called the Homily the "sermon." They insisted it was called "sermon" no matter how many times I told them it was not what we learned it was called. I mean, they really could get upset about it.

My guess is all Homolies are sermons but a sermon is not always a Homily. However, did they change what they called it, in Vatican 2 perhaps? Or was it always "Homily" and they remember incorrectly? Which would not be the only thing they remembered wrong.

FrGamble Dec 25, 2011

AZ, yep you are right a homily is a type of sermon. A homily was emphasized again in Vatican II and is now the official term for Catholics. A homily is different than a sermon in that with a homily you are given some texts from Scripture and therefore cannot choose whatever you would like to talk about. The idea is you would take the readings and try to break them down and apply them in some ways to the needs of the people. It is meant to be more practical and inspiring than a typical sermon would be (and shorter too!).

AZDuffman Dec 25, 2011

Thanks good Padre. That was pretty much what I thought as growing up the Homily was 99% of the time directly related to the Gospel reading. The other 1% was either a hijack of the time for some kind of annual fund drive (bad) or the priest yielded the time to a guest speaker, usually either a visiting high-rank person; missionary; or once a Friar who did speaking tours with younger people. (Can't say where the "Friar" title came from, but IIRC they said he was not a priest no a monk.)

Thanks for the posts. I am one of those Catholics that stopped going because I just didn't like Church very much due to all the singing and routines that didn't do a lot for me, but every now and then do like some theological discussion.

Posted by FrGamble
Nov 05, 2011

Homily for 32nd weekend in Ordinary Time

My grades in school have always been pretty good but I always had one big problem in school. I constantly was falling asleep in class. I would try everything. I’d purposely sit in the front row, but that just got me in more trouble because it was easier for the professor to see me. I found inventive was to prop my head up with my hands and still make it look like I was listening and taking notes. In Rome the situation got worse because the classes were in Italian and for most of my first year it sounded like I had Charlie Browns’ teacher, “Wah, wah, bawh, bah, …” We also were in an old lecture hall with about 200 people in it. Every break I would get a cappuccino or a double espresso, I even discovered these wonderful little candies called “pocket coffee” – chocolate with an espresso center, yummm. Nothing worked. At some point in class I would always start drifting away with a very noticeable head nod. Half way through the semester I began to notice that many of the Italians on the other side of the room were starting at me. It turns out they were all taking bets as to when I would fall asleep. It was embarrassing and I tried to fight it. However, nothing was as embarrassing as the class when in my valiant fight to stay awake I jerked myself from sleep and with an involuntary muscle spasm threw my pen about ten rows behind me hitting some poor young religious sister in the head. The Italians couldn’t control their laughing and the professor couldn’t help but notice - that was not good.

All this is to say that I identify with the virgins who fall asleep as they await the groom. They are doing something important; they are waiting for Wisdom personified in the groom who represents Christ. They love and are seeking wisdom like in the first reading. I was trying to do the same thing and seek after wisdom in those classes, but we all fall asleep. However, when they wake up five of them are ready for the groom and five are not. The five wise ones had plenty of oil, the five foolish were not prepared.

The first question we might ask is why don’t the wise virgins share their oil, are they being gluttons? Or why don’t they just pair off or group together and share the light? From all the way back to the Rabbinic Midrash up through St. Augustine this oil is understood as a symbol of our good works. You see it is not enough to pursue wisdom and then fall asleep and expect to pass the test. I definitely fell asleep in class but I woke up and worked hard staying awake for hours on end in the library for those good grades. When you are awake you’ve got to study, sacrifice your time, and your treasure. It takes hard work to truly be ready for that test. When we are talking about the wisdom that comes from faith it is not enough to just believe. This faith has to make a difference in your life. It has to change you. Faith manifests itself in good works, in service to God and neighbor, this is the oil that keeps your light lit. This is how your light shines for others to see. This is how others get to know God, through your loving care for them. If you don’t build up this special store of oil, how will others see the light of Christ and how will Christ know you as one of his followers. You can’t give this type of oil to someone else; they have to do it on their own.

You heard me mention a test. At the end of every semester there is a test. When we fall asleep for the last time in death, there will be a test. The cry will awaken us that Christ is here. It will be too late at that point to go out and get more oil.

It’s okay to fall asleep; it is guaranteed to happen to all of us. The important question to ask is: when we are awake during this semester we call life how are we doing in preparing for the final exam? Are we doing enough to make our light shine brightly in the world so that others may see God and His love through us? Are we preparing for the one whom we love and truly seeking after wisdom by living according to His great commandments?

Okay you can all wake up now, the homily is over.


odiousgambit Nov 06, 2011

>You can’t give this type of oil to someone else; they have to do it on their own.

That makes a little more sense. Now if I could just procure some of that special stuff on my own[g]

Posted by FrGamble
Oct 29, 2011

Homily for 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Mal. 1:14-2:2, 8-10; Ps. 131:1-3; 1Thess. 2:7-9, 13; Mt. 23:1-12

Our readings this weekend expose what we could call inauthentic religious attitudes. These are attitudes that lead to behaviors, very noticeable in some of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, which are not how God would want us to express or live our faith. I think these inauthentic religious attitudes can be best understood in comparing them to what God truly expects from us as followers of Jesus called to be authentic in our attitudes and actions.

The first thing that most likely jumps out in all of our minds when reading our Gospel today is the old saying, “Do what I say, not what I do.” I think my mom would say this every once in a while along with, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool your mom.” Anyway, this inconsistency between belief and action is not what we should have as Christians. Jesus is all about making sure we give good example in both what we say and do. He says in the Gospel, “Practice what you preach”.

What do we preach? We do not preach perfection. We do not say we are perfect and Lord knows we don’t live that way. We make mistakes, all of us, and we preach a Gospel of reconciliation and love. So if we are going to practice what we preach it does not mean we will never be a hypocrite, say a bad word, or never sin. The practice of Christianity is receiving and giving mercy. We are men and women who know we need forgiveness and know we receive it from a loving God. You know everybody that comes in for confession always says, “Bless me father for I have sinned, it has been this many days, weeks, months, etc. since my last confession.” I often think we should also say every once in a while, “Bless me father for I have sinned, when was your last confession?” Let me tell you if the priest has not been to confession in a few months kindly walk away. To give forgiveness you have to receive it. To be a good confessor you have to be a good confessee. We have to come to the realization that we need God in our lives; that on my own I have a hard enough time avoiding that extra donut much less something more serious. To this day some of the greatest Masses I’ve ever celebrated were in jails with a congregation who all knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were not perfect. This gave them a freedom to go to God without embarrassment.

This attitude of forgiveness leads to humility, which is the antidote to the next inauthentic religious attitude - Pride. If we are living our faith for accolades in this world and not the next we are doing it for the wrong reason. We are not called to be showy or even enjoy the accolades heaped upon us when we do good. If we cultivate an attitude of humility we will live out our faith in love to God and neighbor without worrying if someone notices us doing it. We also will not try to put on a show about how holy and perfect we are because we know it is false. The only way you or I can ever be perfect this side of Heaven is by pretending to be. Let’s be real and authentic by being humble.

If we are men and women who practice forgiveness in our lives, if we develop a humble and contrite heart, then we will also be willing to serve. The hardness and coldness of the hearts of the Pharisees seem particularly upsetting to Jesus. Because they don’t practice what they preach and because they pretend to be perfect they find themselves unwilling to help others in life.

Part of the reason why these inauthentic religious attitudes breed laziness and selfishness is because they convince someone they are better than thou. These awful attitudes breed judgment. Why is it that when discussing Christianity with people, especially with those on the internet, their first conceptions are usually about being judged or thrown in hell? This is a sign we are not living out the attitudes of Jesus as we should and are falling into the practices of the Pharisees.

To be effective in the New Evangelization called for by John Paul II we have to practice one of the fundamental teachings of Christ, namely forgiveness. This helps us to avoid pride and be humble. This humility helps us to have compassion and understanding for our fellow brothers and sisters in the human family who are struggling and not judge them. This will make us humble servants of the Lord and our fellow man, which is exactly what we are called to be as authentic witnesses and examples of Jesus Christ Himself.


odiousgambit Oct 30, 2011

Possibly from my own experiences in life, I focus quite a bit on how people strive for Power and Control [sorry to launch right into higher criticism]. So I can't help but view the relationship Jesus had with the Pharisees without looking at it through that lens. There is no better way to see the worst of someone than to challenge their authority, and so Jesus got to see a lot of ugliness out of the existing Jewish authorities right from the start. At the same time, his teaching is constantly modified by the need to mollify those who would perceive him as a threat. Paul's teaching heeded the need to keep from upsetting Roman authority. It is quite interesting that the resulting ministry is so effective.

The Jewish leadership clearly was spawning opposition from a fundamentalist viewpoint, the Biblical story picking up on one that seems to have started with John the Baptist's ministry in the wilderness. He evidently felt his best bet was to get away from these folks as much as possible, and Jesus I guess learned from him that such evasion would not save him from the wrath of those he would challenge. The dynamic could be claimed to be that you had one set in control who had to deal as best they could with Roman occupation, and another set that was deeply disappointed from a religious perspective in how they went about it. I don't doubt much of the problem was using the power they had to benefit themselves while ignoring others who suffered.

As an allegory for instruction in life, it is all quite excellent; repentance, humility, selflessness, and forgiveness should indeed be the finest qualities of a good person. As for "inauthentic religious attitudes", these qualities are often the same ones missing in any offender, but especially troublesome to see for someone in authority in the church. Just as in Jesus' day indeed!

Mosca Oct 31, 2011

that's a pretty good homily, FrG. Not bad.

Posted by FrGamble
Oct 23, 2011

Homily for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Before Cardinal Ratzinger was elected to become Pope Benedict XVI he was head of something called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, aka CDF. He was the main watchdog for the Vatican concerning teachings about doctrine, faith, and morals. He was good at his job because of his incredible intellect and deep understanding of theology. He was so good at his job that he was sometimes referred to as Cardinal Rottweiler instead of Ratzinger. When he was made our German Shepherd, I was a little nervous. As a young priest finishing my studies in Rome I dreaded when his first encyclical would come out. You see a Pope’s first encyclical, which is a special letter written to the whole world, is a watershed moment that often gives to us the theme of a particular pontificate. This encyclical would no doubt become the topic of our discussions in class and would have to be somehow woven into my already half written thesis. Knowing that Cardinal Ratzinger was one of the greatest minds in the world made me doubt that I would not even be able to understand the title of the coming encyclical much less its content.

The fateful day came and the title of the first encyclical of new Holy Father Benedict XVI was…”God is Love.” What?!? “God is Love”, that is second grade material. We are currently teaching to our kids preparing for first reconciliation that God is love. God is love? Come on can this be true! I was relieved and eager to read. What I discovered was an easy read with a novel and brilliant discussion about love followed by some practical suggestions of how we can better put love into practice in our daily lives.

I think it’s important for us to talk briefly about what the Pope says about love if we are going to understand these two great commandments: Love God and Love our neighbor. First, what is love?

Like Eskimos who have many words for snow the Greeks have four different words for love. C.S. Lewis wrote a great book called, “The Four Loves” that is worth a read. In this letter the Pope focuses on two Greek words for love: eros and agape.

Agape is the word for love used most often in the New Testament. This word Agape became almost synonymous with Christianity from the very beginning and what we are doing today was known thousands of years ago as “the Agape Feast”. Agape is sometimes considered the perfection and purification of love. It is love in its altruistic sense, where we love something so much that we are willing to sacrifice for it and not expect, nor desire, anything in return. Our only concern is for our beloved.

Eros is not used at all in the New Testament and for far too long Pope Benedict says we as Christians shied away from eros, from which we get the word erotic. Eros is a passionate love that intoxicates us and gives us great pleasure from the one whom we love. We will do anything to be with them, not for selfless reasons, but because we derive great pleasure from even being in the presence of our beloved. The Pope reminds us that this is a natural and healthy part of human love and he goes on to rehabilitate the passionate eros as part of love as we understand it and experience it as humans.

You see love in the Agape sense is beautiful; it is the husband who will not leave his wife’s side in the hospital, it is the mother who gets up untold amount of times in the night to comfort her crying child, it is the organ donor who gives a kidney to save the life of a stranger. However, we are not built for this Agape type of love all the time. We would get burnt out if we didn’t get a glance from our loved one through the oxygen mask mouthing the words I love you or the gentle smile of a baby who knows now for the hundredth time tonight that mommy will be there. Agape needs to be supplemented with some eros. We need to receive as human beings some pleasure from our heroic acts of love or we can dry out very quickly. Just as dangerous of course is living too long with the eros mentality of love. When we thirst after the pleasure we receive from being with someone we can easily begin to turn them into an object or superstition. We rob them of dignity as we use them for our own pleasure. So in summary, true human love needs the injection of passion and pleasure (called eros) into the high calling of self-sacrifice for another (which is the highest form of love there is - agape). We cannot have either one or the other we need both eros and agape.

How does this apply to our great commandments today? Well sometimes either loving God or others is going to require Agape or sometimes it is going to have the characteristics of eros. For example you come to Church and you are bored by an already too long homily and you don’t get the prayers, etc. However, you are here because you came to give your time, talent, and treasure to the Lord because you love Him and He is worthy of our praise, you are not asking yourself what is in it for me? Loving God often requires of us the highest form of love – Agape. Then my friends there are those times, whether it happens here at Church or in your personal place of prayer, when you become so overcome with the amazing love of God, when you feel connected with the one who made the universe and all of the sudden you feel and know your purpose and receive the rush of encouragement and energy to get it done, these are moments of the passionate love of God. When you love and serve your neighbor there are times when it is a chore, but you do it because it is what God commands you to do and you are showing then the highest example of charity. Then there are those times when you serve your community and receive that deep peace and fulfillment that you have done something good for someone and made a difference, which is a pleasurable gift that hopefully brings with it an increased passion for service.

Sometimes you might not think you are loving God because you don’t get the warm fuzzies. Sometimes you may feel like you are breaking the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself because you seemingly get nothing out of it. This does not mean the absence of love, but could be an example of true Agape. Persevere and as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us there will be many moments in your life that you will be treated to the unmatchable pleasure that is also part of your calling to love God and neighbor. True Love, like the type of love we are commanded to have in today’s Gospel is like a series of cycles where the passionate and pleasurable eros leads us to the sacrificial and highest form of love – agape. So in this Agape Feast today, where we recieve Jesus who gives himself completely to you in this Eucahrist, let us strive to do the same and love God and neighbor in the full sense laid out for us in the special encyclical "God is love".