Be Grapes of Glory

One bad grape spoils the bunch. Pursue whatever is just, true, and excellent so that you might be a grape of glory.

Homily for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A.

Workin’ in the vineyard

Let’s be honest: we’ve all been upset by this parable at some point. If we zoom out a bit, it helps us see the glory of what Jesus is telling us in the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

Homily for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A.

Soul Garden

Jesus is not the only one trying to plant things our soul.

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Prepare for the Glory of God

This is the holiest week of the year. Let’s make sure that we’re ready.

Homily for Passion Sunday, Year A.

Prepare for the Glory of God

This is the holiest week of the year.

This is the week we call to mind, through the living memory of the Church, and make present again the most sacred events ever to occur in the universe.

This is the week Jesus Christ our Savior instituted the Sacrament—the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist—by which He would forever remain present in his people.

This is the week Jesus Christ our King entered his royal city, was crowned as Lord of the Universe, and mounted his throne.

This is the week Jesus Christ our God entered his holy city and from his holy and glorious throne defeated the forces of sin and death and hell.

This is the week Jesus Christ shatters the tyranny of sin that had for too long reigned over humanity and ushered in a new age for all humanity.

This is the week we embark on this solemn journey with our Lord. We may have some fears, because despite the spiritual and heavenly reality of the situation, we can be all too distracted by the material reality. It is not easy to follow our Messiah as he is welcomed, betrayed, and crucified in Jerusalem.

If there is nothing spiritual, if there is no Father in Heaven, if there is nothing beyond the material world, then we are all fools. If there were nothing beyond the material, the existentialist philosophers would be right: the only meaning is what we make, and it dies with us. We know, however, that those depressing philosophers are wrong, because deep inside each and every one of us, we recognize that there is more to all of this than simple material things. If there weren’t anything more, then money, power, and fame would keep us content for all of our days. They don’t. We long for more. Our hearts know the truth: we were made to be loved by the God who created us. Our hearts are restless until they rest in God, because we are made to be filled by love, and the only one capable of filling our hearts is God, the limitless lover. This spiritual truth and reality is far more important than any merely material reality. Truth in a merely material reality is limited to the merely material. Spiritual truths are not so confined.

We all know what is coming this week: Jesus is about to die for us.

The material reality this week shows us the Jesus was tortured and died for us.

The spiritual reality this week shows us that God willingly breaks his heart open and pours out every drop for love—he empties himself totally—in order to repay the covenantal debt that is owed to him by humanity’s failure, our failure, to eradicate sin from our lives.

This is the week Jesus Christ shatters the power of sin and death over humanity.

This is the week Jesus Christ destroys the veil separating Heaven and Earth, opening the gate of Heaven to all who are willing to follow him and enter.

This is the week we welcome Jesus Christ, our God and King and Savior, into our hearts. As we embark on this most solemn and most holy journey, let us make those final preparations so we might greet our King well as he comes to us. Isaiah tells us to set our faces like flint in this task, for we know that in doing so we shall not be put to shame. The master has need of a place to celebrate these mysteries with us. Let us ask his Holy Spirit to assist us in preparing our hearts to be such places as the appointed time draws near.

Brothers and sisters: prepare for the coming and the glorification our God.

Entrata in Gerusalemme, part of the Armadio degli argenti, by Fra Angelico.

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Today’s Readings:
April 5, 2020
Passion Sunday, Year A
(For the Procession) Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66

Salt, Light, and Faith

We are Salt and Light to all the Earth. Our faith allows us to be good salt and power the light of Christ in our hearts.

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

John’s Journey

Perhaps the journey to hear John the Baptist preach was half the point.

Homily given for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A.

God’s Discipline

We cannot enter the wide gate, we must do the hard thing and strive for the narrow gate. “Whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.” This is not because God wants to see us suffer: when we suffer, God suffers with us.

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, given August 25, 2019.

Full homily: https://mattsiegman.com/2019/08/gods-discipline/

God’s Discipline

Recording of this homily from 6:30AM on August 25th , 2019.

Thus says the Lord: “I will send fugitives to the nations […] and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations. They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the Lord.” The Lord is telling us through the prophet Isaiah about the New Creation at the end of time, where God will gather all of his children to himself. This hopeful passage tells us that even in the days before Jesus was born, he intended to save all of us. There is something a little odd about it though. He says that he will send fugitives. Why fugitives? What’s that about?

It is as if God’s messengers will not be welcome in the world. It is as if they will have to sneak past the masters of the world to proclaim his Good News to all humanity. If you think about it, the words of the prophet are exactly right. The evil one, Satan, is constantly trying to distract us from God. He is constantly trying to steal our soul from God. He shows us the wide and easy gate through which we might travel, knowing that we must instead strive for the narrow gate. This is not because the devil cares about us and wants us to have an easy life: the devil hates us. If we take his offer and follow the wide, easy gate now, we will pay for it for eternity.

Instead, we must do the hard thing. We must remember the teaching from Hebrews: “whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.” This is not because God wants to see us suffer. When I was growing up, I remember my parents saying that punishing us hurt them more than us. At the time I thought it was nonsense, but as I’ve grown older, I understand what they were saying. They were being forced to inflict some sort of suffering on this child whom they loved—me, in many cases—in order to help their child learn how to behave and be a normally functioning human being. If that was true for my parents, imagine how true it is for God! God loves us more than any human being is capable of loving. He doesn’t want to see us suffer. It actually hurts God to see us suffer. Let that sink in for a moment. When we suffer, God suffers with us. He wants nothing more than for us to be healed. In fact, He could cure all of our pains and sweep away all of our sufferings in an instant. But he doesn’t. Why?

Now that really is the question, isn’t it? Why does God allow suffering? Why does God allow terrible things to happen to me, to people I care about, or just to people ever? This is the question that has, tragically, led so many to leave our faith, because they don’t get an answer that satisfies them. For many, the only answer is that God must hate us and enjoy watching us suffer. As I just finished explaining, nothing could be further from the truth. God doesn’t want us to suffer, but if he didn’t let us endure these sufferings, we wouldn’t be able to learn. The Letter to the Hebrews teaches us that “all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Brothers and sisters, without enduring some suffering, we cannot grow strong in righteousness. Without that growth, we will not have the strength Jesus tells us that we will need to enter the narrow gate. We stay strong and courageous through our sufferings so that God can “perfect and sustain us” (Prayer after Communion) through these trials. Through these trials, we learn to fix our hearts “on that place where true gladness is found,” (Collect) Heaven.

These trials are where we learn to show courageous strength which allows us to endure trails and persecutions for the Lord. This is what the saints did: St. Monica prayed for over 2 decades before her son Augustine—who would become a doctor of the Church—finally converted; St. Maximilian Kolbe and Fr. Emil Kapaun stared at evil in the face and brought hope to those around them, which saved many from death; St. John Paul II suffered his whole life, first enduring the Nazi occupation of Poland, later from an assassination attempt—after which he had the courage to forgive the man who shot him, and finally through Parkinson’s disease; Saint Mother Teresa, who struggled through spiritual darkness for 40+ years. This is heroic courage. In our prayers let us offer our sufferings to the Lord who suffers right along with us, and let us ask him to give us courage to follow him on the narrow path to eternal life.

Note: Saint Pope John Paul II wrote one of the most profound and moving letters on suffering I have ever read, On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering. If you have questions or just need something to uplift your soul, I’d encourage you to read it.

Today’s Readings:
21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
August 25, 2019
Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30

Rejoice! Jesus Christ is born today!

Adoration of the Child

Note: This homily was given at the Vigil Mass of Christmas. I encourage you to read the readings of the Mass prior to reading for the homily, so that it makes more sense.

Merry Christmas! Thank you for being here to celebrate Christmas with us!

You may be wondering why I read you a huge list of names just now. If I were you, I’d be thinking: “it’s Christmas! What in the world do all these strange names have to do with that? When there is the short option that gets right to the good part, why did he read all these names?”

This is Jesus’s family tree. Jesus, the Son of God, didn’t just appear out of thin air. Jesus had a mother and a father. Jesus had grandparents, great-grandparents, and ancestors who would otherwise be forgotten in the dustbin of history if someone in the family hadn’t bothered to remember them. Jesus Christ had flesh and blood, just like you and me.

These names tell us more than that, though. The people in this list are far from perfect. If you can think of a sin, someone in this list has committed it. Every single one of God’s commandments was broken, often in combinations and with a frequency that would make you think they were getting combination multipliers. What’s worse is that the people in this list are often the kings and leaders of the Israelite people! Even David, the great king of Israel, was guilty of both adultery and murder! I won’t go through all the details, it is Christmas after all, but Jesus’s family tree is full of sinners. Yet, this is the family he chose. God, unlike the rest of us, got to choose which family he entered. He picked a family with a history: some of it good, much of it bad. God picked that broken family, and He entered it. He entered that family not just to save them, but to save the whole world. This long list of names reminds us of our history. God promised Abraham that he would save the world through the Jewish people, and so their history is the history of our salvation. When we learn our history, we see exactly what humanity is capable of doing. But we can hope, too, because we also see that God knows all of this, and he still came to save us.

This long list of names is not pointless at all. We read it because it gives us hope.

We have hope because God became one of us and showed us how to live life.

We have hope because Jesus Christ opened the gates of Heaven and saved us from sin.

We have hope because Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Church, which provides us with the sacraments to save our souls and enter Heaven.

We have hope because no matter how difficult or challenging our lives are, we know that Jesus Christ, who was fully human, experienced it too: God knows how we feel.

We have hope because no matter how awful our leaders are: in the church, in politics, in whatever, we know that God is stronger than them, and he can still save us.

God saw us struggling to find him. He saw us struggling to follow him. God saw our need for a savior. For our sake, as Isaiah said, God could not stay silent. God would not rest until we were vindicated. God will not rest until our victory over sin shines like a burning torch. He loves us too much. Even though we turn away from God, he still loves us more than we can imagine. God did not create us and this universe and all that is in it so that we would fall into sin. God did not create us to die: God created us to live! God created us to live with him. God created us to live forever, in Heaven, with Him. God does not want to be with us for just one hour a week, or for a couple of special holidays in a year: He wants us to be with him now and forever! So, God formulated a plan to save us. This plan was so incredible, so unthinkable, that nobody could have expected it. Even with a thousand years of prophecies, the Jewish people didn’t expect it to happen like it did.

God’s plan to save us was this: he became a human being, one of us. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. Today, we celebrate his birth. Rejoice! Jesus Christ was born today!

Today’s Readings:
December 24, 2018
Christmas – Vigil Mass
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 89; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Matthew 1:1-25