Phone: 301-739-0390
Fax: 301-739-7082
church@saintmarysonline.org
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Homilies


Click here for Archbishop Lori's statement on the release of the Grand Jury report.
Click here for Archbishop Lori’s response to allegations of abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

Father Cibelli's Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday of Time Throughout the Year                              
12 August 2018 I need to address what’s been in the news the past few weeks regarding the most recent accusations and revelations of sexual abuse by clergy, including some that held very high office and not so far from home.
 
I must admit that I do not know where to begin and I am concerned that I cannot adequately address all the issues that such an awful and disturbing reality raises. But I cannot let that stop me from speaking about it.
 
It both saddens and sickens me that any priest would do anything like this. We know that all priests are humans and still sin, and any sin on the part of a priest is disappointing. But these sins and crimes are so horrible and such an abuse of the priest’s authority that they rightly cry out for not only human justice but, even more so, God’s justice.
 
Sadly, these men are the wolves in sheep’s clothing that the Lord warned us about (Matt. 7:15). Moreover, we are confronted with the fact that they were able to get past the shepherds, or in some cases, that certain shepherds were really hirelings and looked away in some way or another (John 10:12).
 
This sort of news is terribly difficult to bear. While only a few have discussed it with me, I can certainly imagine how you feel about it because I, personally, am disgusted and saddened and confounded at the fact that this happened. While there is consolation to be had in the fact that the justice is now being served, and that the vast majority of priests are not guilty of such atrocious sins, there is something far more important that we must consider in the face of this horrible reality.
 
We hear in the Psalm, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.…Blessed is he…whose hope is in the LORD his God.” (Psa. 146:3-4.)In fact, God promises His people through the prophet Ezekiel that, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, … says the Lord God” (Ezek. 34:15)This promise is fulfilled in no one else but Jesus Christ, and Jesus assures us in John’s Gospel that, “They shall all be taught by God,” and “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:41-51).
 
In other words, what the Lord challenges us to remember in the face of the worst scandalous actions, such as we are faced with today, is that the priesthood does not rise and fall on any one human being.  It certainly does not rise and fall on wolves in sheep’s clothing, but it does not even depend on the best, most saintly priest. When we look at a priest no matter what his talents are, no matter what his faults, no matter what his sins, it is the priesthood of One Person, and One Person only, that we are to see, and that is the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
 
In establishing His Church and His priesthood, Jesus gave us a safeguard against the sinfulness of those who would enter its ranks. He guarantees that when the sacraments are celebrated correctly that they will always produce their saving effect in the recipient despite the sinfulness (great or small) of the one administering the sacrament.
 
To quote a brother priest from the diocese of Arlington, whom I have never met, but who speaks very eloquently on this matter in a homily he recently posted on his parish’s website (http://straymonds.org/category/father-de-celles/[August 7, 2018, Column]). I would like to make Father de Celles’ words my own,
We don’t follow bishops or priests, or cardinals, or even popes, as much as we might love them. We follow Jesus Christ, and the Holy Catholic Church He founded. And by “Catholic Church,” I mean the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, full of sinners and saints, but protected by the Blessed Trinity from destruction and from passing on erroneous teaching to the generations. I mean the centuries of great and faithful saints, who have passed on what they received down the generations,what the apostles had received from Christ Himself.
So when a priest or bishop or cardinal commits an act that cries out to God for vengeance, or covers it up[we must demand justice be served to the fullest extent of the law.]But it does not affect my faith. … My faith is not in men, but in God. It is not in priests and bishops, but the Church.
 
What can we do, in the face of such disturbing news, to shore up our faith, persevere as Christ’s disciples, and help to right the wrongs? We may feel helpless to make a difference in the face of all of this, but the Lord assures, through St. Paul, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).”
 
So, I will suggest three simple practices.
 
The first is to start each day with the prayers called the Act of Faith, Act of Hope, Act of Charity. These can be found in just about any prayer book or your old copy of the Baltimore Catechism or something like it. You can even find them on Page 545 of the Pew Missal in church. These prayers are so useful because they remind us, in just a few sentences, of some of the most essential elements of what it means to be Christ’s disciples. I think when you read them, you will see what I mean. (But please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.) Please join me in praying these each day.
 
The next two are to invite you to join me in prayerand penancewith a twofold intention. The intention is, bothto heal the wounds these men have inflicted upon Christ’s Church, for the healing of their victims, and that these men would repent and do penance for their sins. It is alsoto ask God to make our current priests truly holy and self-sacrificing and courageous, and that more young men would respond to the call to be truly holy and self-sacrificing and courageous priests. Even though we are not guilty of these horrible sins, we make this offering of prayer and penance in union with Christ who died to atone for all of our sins, even though He Himself is perfectly innocent.
 
If you would like to join me and Fr. Larry in this offering, you can do so in a special way on Wednesday, August 22. That day we will mark with penance and prayer. For me it will be a day of fasting, and it will conclude with a Holy Hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament here in Church at 7:00 pm in which we will simply listen to a Gospel passage, pray in silence, and finish with the Litany of the Sacred Heart and Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart. Your presence would be most welcome, whether in person or in prayer, taking part in whatever way you think God is calling you. I will designate more days for this particular purpose on a regular basis, and I will share them with you if you would like to join me.
 
Mindful that I have not addressed everything possible on this subject, I will conclude for now, simply by thanking you for all your prayerful and personal support for me and Father Larry and for all the priests who have and will faithfullyserve you. I pray that God may always give me and my brother priests the grace we need to live up to the high calling with which He has entrusted us in service to Him and to all of you.
 
Most of all, however, I thank you for remaining faithful to our Lord – through His Church – to Jesus Christ, who is the true “shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1Pet. 2:25).



Twenty-first Sunday of of Time Throughout the Year                                                                      
26 August 2018

As Jesus finishes His teaching on the Eucharist, we see today that some of His disciples had a hard time accepting it. In other words, some of the men and women who had freely chosen to follow Jesus were having second thoughts. They had come to know and love Him to some degree, yet they could not accept what He had to say about His flesh being true food and His blood being true drink. 

How Jesus handles this is frequently pointed out as evidence of the truth of His testimony on the Real Presence. When His disciples murmur about this teaching, notice that Jesus does not turn around and say, “Hey just kidding guys” or “You’re taking me too seriously.” 

He lets them walk away.

In fact, “he knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him” (John 6:64).Jesus doesn’t change His teaching just to accommodate those who did not want to accept it. That is not to say, however, that He was happy that those disciples walked away. In fact, Jesus “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), but He who is “the way and the truthand the life” will not compromise on the truth (Cf. John 14:6). 

Yet, in addition to making it clear that Jesus meant every word of what He said about His flesh and blood and the Eucharist, this passage shows us that Jesus made decisions that he knew would disappoint His followers. My attention is drawn to this significance because I know that as your pastor I sometimes have to make decisions that may disappoint some or all of you. It’s easier to make these decisions when I know that I am doing so for the sake of one of the truths of the Faith, even though that can be very challenging too. However, there are also times that the decision is more on the prudential side, between options that are not right or wrong, but one may have certain benefits over another.

Any parent who has had to tell their children “No, you can’t have…” understands this dynamic. Parents try hard to make the decision that is best for their children, even though it might mean initial disappointment. Or maybe a given decision seems to benefit one child versus another.

So maybe you’re realizing where I’m going with this. Now that I’ve had a chance to hear from anyone who wanted to respond to the question of how to proceed with the Mass schedule, I have to make a decision.

But I need you to know not just the reasons in favor of one option or the other, I also need you to know that I don’t take this decision lightly, and I don’t wantto disappoint anyof you. Clearly this is not on the same level as Christ’s teaching on the Eucharist. Yet in as much as there are two options (and even possible variations on those options), I know I will be disappointing some of you whether I pick a or b.

I need you to know that I read through all of your responses and have taken them all seriously. There are even some ideas in there that I might not be able to address right now but could be helpful in the future.

My decision is not based on my own personal convenience nor even onlyon what the majority wanted. (Of approximately 145 respondents, there was a 60/40 split). Neither was this decision made any sooner than the last couple of days. I think you already know that I try to take a lot of time to make important decision with as much thought and prayer on the matter as possible. I certainly did the same for this.

I had to make my decision based on which schedule seems to provide for the needs of the greatest number of parishioners, especially factoring in the schedules that our neighboring parishes offer. While I don’t want to see any of you go anywhere else, there will always be times when another parish’s Mass schedule is more helpful.

I had to make my decision based on which schedule would help me and Father Larry best serve the needs of as many of you as possible.

Ultimately, my criteria had to be, how can we better grow as disciples of the Lord, by our devotion to Him in the Mass? Not that a schedule make or breaks discipleship, but does one of these two schedules facilitate that better than the other?

I have to admit that having more time in between Masses provides two very important opportunities: more time for prayer in church and more time for conversation with all of you on the way to your cars.

You hear me speak about prayer frequently, this is not by accident. It’s not that I am running out of things to say. It’s just that prayer is so important for our relationship with God, especially with how we participate in Mass. Having more time before and after Mass gives us greater options for developing this important aspect of the life of Faith.

I also realized two Sundays ago, when we first started talking about the awful scandal of clerical abuse that I had time to hear from people that I normally would not have. For some of you, a few extra minutes is enough to talk about whatever is on your mind. For others a few extra minutes allows us to begin a conversation that can conclude later.

Moreover, there is no virtue in being constantly in a rush or stressed. Sunday is not a day of rest for priests, but they do need to be able to set a good example for their parishioners, including what it means to pray and prepare for Mass and how to interact with others in a compassionate way. Sometimes that means slowing things down and taking a little more time.

There are other considerations that I could speak about, and I will do so eventually, but I also mean it when I say a reverent Mass can normally be celebrated in about an hour, and I certainly want to maintain that practice. (Of course the added solemnity of the 11:30 and on certain days the 5:00 pm Mass will mean that they normally will take a little more than an hour.)

So allow me to conclude by saying this. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns with me. For those of you who find it disappointing that we will keep the summer Mass schedule, I am truly sorry that this disappoints or inconveniences you. For those of you who are happy about it, I trust that you will at least be compassionate to those who are inconvenienced if not find a way to help. 

I ask that you would consider allowing your fellow parishioners hear this decision form my mouth.

Whatever group you fall into, please know you are my family – you are the people I happily spend every Saturday and Sunday with – and that you are important to me. I do not want to disappoint any of you. What I do want to do, however, is whatever I can to help you grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ, especially by means of participation in the Mass where He feeds us with His very Body and Blood.