Corpus Christi Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Today we are asked to celebrate the institution of the Eucharist. But we already commemorated this on Holy Thursday in Holy Week, didn’t we? Remember? Jesus took His outer garment off, put His towel around the waist, washed each disciple’s feet, and dried them with the towel. On that night, Jesus established the Eucharist, the everlasting covenant which was the salvation promise between God and His people. This wonderful covenant was renewed on the night when Jesus gave His Body and Blood away for our salvation. On Holy Thursday we already celebrated this institution. And then why do we celebrate this again today? We focus so much on Jesus’ passion and death on Holy Thursday in Holy Week. In the 13th century, Bishop Robert in Belgium convened a synod and instituted the celebration of the feast. From the country, the celebration began to spread, and on Sep. 8th, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull and established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.

In many countries, the procession of the Blessed Sacrament or adoration or benediction take place today. By doing this, people express their best way to reverence, honor, and respect the body and blood of Jesus Christ. They appreciate the presence of Jesus Christ among them and ask Him to bless their lives. Therefore, today we are reminded of the meaning of the Eucharist which is the everlasting covenant between God and His people.

We are celebrating Corpus Christi for three reasons. First, we give our collective thanks to God for Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and honor Him there. Second, this feast teaches the faithful how to develop our faith and devotion to the Eucharist. Finally, we are instructed to appreciate the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and as a sacrifice. And we learn more about the importance and value of the “Real Presence” so that we may be more appreciative of the Sacrament.

In today’s first reading, the Israelites are about to end their long journey in the desert to a settlement in the Promised Land. Moses stands up and addresses them on how they have been fed in the desert. “He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers.” Since manna is a prototype of the Eucharist, this speech can be considered an illustration of the Eucharist in the Old Testament. When I reflected on the first reading, one word caught my attention. Moses keeps saying, “Remember,” and “Do not forget.” I think these are key words when we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. No, actually this is what we do every time we celebrate the Eucharist. “This is my body.” “This is my blood…Do this in remembrance of me.” Celebrating the Eucharist is an act of remembrance of Jesus Christ, our Master. Here the word, “remember” is not merely an acting of recalling. It is more than that.

We don’t even know how important it is to remember. I don’t know if I told you this. I have a friend in Korea whose father has Alzheimer. My friend said to me one time, “Every time I go to visit my father, he doesn’t recognize me. I have to let him know who I am. My father became a different person.” And then he continued to say, “If you lose your memory, you are a different person. I think you are your memory.”

If you don’t remember your friends or families, you are not you anymore. I think he has a point. Our memory has everything. It contains knowledge, emotions, imagination, relationships, faith, love, hope, spirituality, concept of God and Trinity, and so on. Everything is in your memory. St. Augustine says in his book, ‘Confession,’ “The power of memory is great, very great. It is a vast and infinite profundity…this power is that of my mind and is a natural endowment but I myself cannot grasp the totality of what I am.” If you lose your memory, you lose everything.

Therefore, an act of remembrance of someone or some things means a lot to all of us. It is like we go back to the time when something happened and become a part of that time. Therefore, when Jesus says, “This is my body… This is my blood… Do this in remembrance of me,” we actually go back to the time when Jesus established the Eucharist and eat His body and drink His blood with Him. We become a part of Jesus’ body and blood by remembering and celebrating the Eucharist. In this process of remembering that we move towards eternity and partake in eternal truth. So when we hear the words “Do this in remembrance of me,” we might do well to think “Do this, to know me now, in the past and the future, for all eternity.”

In a few minutes time as we witness bread and wine becoming the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will not be watching a re-enactment of the last supper with a priest pretending to be Jesus. We all are actually there. Priests, in Persona Christi, are actually Jesus and we all stand with the disciples at the last supper ready to receive our Lord’s body and blood. When we leave this mass today, we take that gift, the source of our Christian strength with us. As we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, let us thank Jesus for coming to us in the form of bread and wine and enlivening us and sharing His precious life with us. And then we fulfill our mission to proclaim the life Jesus gives us in the Eucharist. 


The Holy Trinity Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Today is the feast of the Holy Trinity when we celebrate one of the greatest mysteries of our faith. In studying theology at the seminary, I remember a professor telling us that the most difficult concept of faith to preach about was the Trinity. Catechism of Catholic Church says in article 234, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.” It has always been and will be the mystery we accept on faith.

The story is told of St. Augustine of Hippo, a great philosopher and theologian. He was preoccupied with the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. He wanted so much to understand the doctrine of one God in three persons and to be able to explain it logically. One day he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this matter. Suddenly, he saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup with sea water, ran up and emptied the cup into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine drew up and said to her, “Little child, what are you doing?” She replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.” “How do you think,” Augustine asked her, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?” She answered back, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small brain you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared. This story tells us how absurd it is to understand the mystery logically.

There have been many logical explanations about the Holy Trinity. We believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are from one substance but three different persons. In order to grasp the mystery of the Trinity by logical reason, some explain that the Trinity is like one person who has three different roles. For example, I am a priest to all of you in the Church, I am a son to my mother, and I am a Korean citizen to my country. I am a person who plays three different roles in various circumstances. But the three persons in the Trinity is/are not one person. In my example, I have different roles but eventually I am one person. This is not sufficient enough to explain the mystery. Some say that the Trinity is like three leaves from one stem like a shamrock. But this is not an exact correspondence to the Trinity either. It is because the three persons in the Trinity work totally differently while three leaves in a shamrock have the same function. There is no way to figure out what the Trinity looks like by human reason and language. We are called to accept it on faith.

But St. Augustine’s explanation about the Holy Trinity draws our attention. He tries to unravel the mystery by the relationships among the three persons in the Trinity. St. Augustine talks about the Lover, the Loved, and Love Itself. If there is love, there is a person who loves and another person who is loved. Therefore, the Father, the Lover is surrendering to the relationship with the Loved who is his beloved Son through Love itself. The three persons in the Trinity have the relationship of love and give and take one another through the bond of love. I think this is one of the inspirational explanations about the Trinity.

In the first reading, Moses climbs the mountain of the Lord with two tablets to take God’s commandments. He encounters God and puts his head down in front of him. This is the moment when the relationship is formed between God and a human being. The Gospel tells us how God, the Lover, wants to build the relationship with human beings through his only Son, the Loved. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This Gospel passage shows us the culmination of God’s love toward humankind.

Today is the solemnity of the most Holy Trinity. The mystery of Trinity invites us to a relationship of love like the three persons in the Trinity bonded together through love. In the second reading, St. Paul says, “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you.” This is how we bond together in the love of the Trinity.

We are called to imitate the Trinity. Every time we trace the sign of the cross, we profess our faith, and when we say “Glory be,” we are invited to the relationship of love with the Trinity and our neighbors. As we celebrate this Trinity Sunday, let us reflect whether we, as members of the Church, foster life-giving relationships that contribute to the creation of a community of love.


Pentecost Homily: Deacon Bill Tunilla 2017

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost.  It is the birthday of the church, and since we are the church, we celebrate the birthday of our community of Faith.  But what does that celebration look like to us? 

A few years ago Sherry and I went to a Marriage Encounter Enrichment where the theme was “If you change the way you look at things, the way you look at things will change”.  The following story will help to illustrate the theme.

A young boy sat on the front porch with his grandfather at their farmhouse.  A car pulled up to their house and a young man got out and approached the grandfather and said, Excuse me sir, what are folks like around here?  Why do you ask said the grandfather?  I just left a town where the people were snobbish and not so friendly.  I’ve lived there for more than a year and I never felt part of the community.  The grandfather answered, “I guess that is the way you will find folks around here as well.  The young man thanked the grandfather and drove off.  The grandson looked a bit puzzled but said nothing.

A few hours later, another car stopped and the driver, a young woman got out and approached the grandfather and said, Sir what are folks like around here?  Why do you ask said the grandfather?  The woman said, I’m moving here from one of the nicest towns you could ever know.  The people were friendly and I felt part of the community. 

The grandfather replied, Well you will find people pretty much the same here.  The woman said thank you and got into her car and drove off.

The boy turned to his grandfather with a puzzled look and asked, “Grandpa, why did you give those two strangers opposite answers to the same question?  The grandfather said, because it’s a person’s attitude that determines how a person looks at or sees things.

Last Sunday on the Feast of the Ascension Jesus commands his apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  We now are called, like the early apostles we are tasked to build the community no matter how big or how small our role may be.  Being a part of the Body of Christ, means that our new life in the Spirit binds us into a community.  We are no longer just individuals along for the ride.

In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles the Spirit dispelled fear, doubt and instilled the people with special gifts, especially the ability to speak and to understand others.  These gifts have been given to us as well and are not to be used selfishly but to be used for the common good of our community.  

In our second reading St. Paul uses the metaphor of one body that has many parts and that through our baptism we were baptized into Christ’s Body.  But the use of the gifts we were given and how they build up our community is in our hands. Our God offers us the opportunity to use our gifts for the greater good of others but he never forces us to use them. It is one of the more difficult realities of today’s world where we are surrounded by a culture of individualism. 

Whether it is the celebrity in Hollywood, professional sports, politics or the everyday Jane or Joe, we often celebrate individual efforts or accomplishments. Generally we don’t consider the common good in our efforts.  That in itself is not necessarily bad, but if we don’t consider others or are not willing to give of ourselves, then the community we build will be like the young man’s in the story, snobbish and unfriendly.  On the other hand, if we give willingly and cheerfully like the woman, then others around us will respond in kind and the community we build will be strong and vibrant.

Living in community as with our own families is not always peaches and cream and can be very difficult and trying at times.  Inevitably we will find ourselves at odds with each other.  Jesus experienced this first hand after three years of living with his disciples he knew that disagreements and differences would come about.  Jesus knew the apostles, like us would need a helper and today we celebrate the Third Person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit coming to assist us in our lives and community.

It’s no wonder Jesus links the sending of Holy Spirit with the commission to forgive sins.  Forgiveness heals the breach between God and man, but also between two persons or groups.  It heals the differences in our lives and ensures we remain one body in Christ.  It is a soothing balm for our souls.

Forgiveness is about building relationships.  It is about opening doors between us rather than closing them.  It’s about allowing the peace of Christ to replace the fears that stifle our connecting to one another.  It’s about living in Holy Love with each other.  Somehow in our highly complicated and overly busy world, we can lose sight of the big picture and focus on ourselves and not others.

Building relationships and living in community is what we are called to do.  Jesus’ earthly mission was calling others into relationship with God and building up the Body of Christ.  We too are called to put away our individualism and do the same. 

As a community we can grow in love for God and one another.  We can share in our joys and our sorrows.  We determine what kind of community we live in.

Here at Holy Cross we have shared in the joy and celebration as Father Andrew announced we would be getting a second priest Father Michael.  After so many years without a priest many of us thought we would never see one yet alone two. 

In sharing community sorrow we expectantly lost Sr. Loretta on May 22.  Sister was our rock during our ups and downs.  She will be truly missed.  We will mourn as a family does and we will continue on our journey with her memory close by.  Life will be different but we will heal as a family and we again will determine the community we live in.  I hope a community of love and welcoming in which Sister would be most proud of. The ball is in our hands and it is up to us as we enter this period of uncertainty.  

Again Happy Birthday, this is Pentecost Sunday….the Holy Spirit is among us, to enlighten and guide us.…. to give us the strength to change the way we look at things so the way we look at things will change.


Vigil Service for Sister Loretta Luecke - Homily: Deacon Bill Finnegan

The readings for this Vigil Service for Sr. Loretta are beautiful and meaningful readings for all of us gathered here today.  The first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is a blueprint for how each of us is called to live our life as a Catholic.  St. John’s Gospel reading indicates what awaits us if we live in accordance with God’s will for us.

It is impossible, on this day, to hear that first reading and not think of Sr. Loretta.  Recall St. Paul’s opening words of the reading:

No one lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.  For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

This is exactly how Sr. Loretta lived and died.  She, and Sr. Joan (and you seldom saw one without the other), decided early on to dedicate their lives to Christ.  While other teenage girls, in the early fifties, were thinking of boys and dances, these two young woman were thinking about how they could serve the Lord. 

A life of prayer was important to them.  Indeed, as I recall, they chose the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, Missouri, because, among other reasons, they prayed the Breviary daily.  Such was the importance of prayer.

Diane, Cindy & I met the sisters almost as soon as we arrived in Alaska, and I have had the pleasure of working with one or both of them ever since.    Sr. Loretta loved Alaska, and the parishes in which she served here.  She served at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, our neighboring parish, for over 10 years, before coming here to Holy Cross in 2002. 

She served the people of Holy Cross through some trying times for our parish - and she was the symbol of stability and continuity that allowed the parish to thrive in spite of not having an assigned pastor for so many years.  She held us together. 

Sister was a force to be reckoned with - a great administrator.  But she also had a wonderful sense of humor.  Those of you who have heard her and Sr. Joan speak about their early life as novices, laughing the whole time, know what I am talking about. 

Those who shared morning coffee with her after daily Mass also got to appreciate her sense of humor.  But after a few stories, she would then announce, “Time to get to work”, and the daily life of the parish would begin again.

She will be sorely missed by all the members of Holy Cross, but especially by the small children who would ever so politely approach her office after Mass, each weekend, to ask for a piece of chocolate from the ever present candy dish.  And you had to be polite and say, “please”, or she wouldn’t give me a piece - I mean, she would not give the child a piece of candy until they did.

On the back of the worship aid you will find a verse from the book of the minor prophet Micah, which she, herself, picked years ago.  It reads, “This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with God.”  From my observation, this is exactly what Sr. Loretta did for her entire life. 

The Gospel today promises eternal life in the heavenly kingdom for those who hear the Word of God, believe in the One Who sent Jesus, and lead a life filled with good deeds.  Such a person, when she dies, the reading states, “has passed from death to life”.  That is what we believe has happened to our beloved Sr. Edward Marie, as she was named when she became a novice in 1953, and when she professed her vows, almost 62 years ago. 

She is now in the eternal presence of God, but she is also enjoying the loving embraces of her father, Edward, who died one day after her 15th birthday; her mother, Agnes, who died four days after her 22nd birthday, and just over a year after sister professed her vows; and of Fr. Ernie, the founding pastor of Holy Cross Parish, and a longtime friend.

She and Sr. Joan have been friends since high school, and have been virtually inseparable since coming to Alaska.  As most of you know, Sr. Loretta never liked to fly, and Sr. Joan was her comfort when she did fly.  They will take their final flight together later this week, as Sr. Joan escorts the body of her lifelong friend to her final resting place at the Motherhouse in O’Fallon.

May perpetual light shine upon Sr. Loretta; and may she rest in peace.  Amen.


The Ascension of the Lord Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

I am so sorry again for the news that Sr. Loretta left us on Monday last week. It was a shocking to all of us. I went to see her on Saturday last week. She looked better like I told you last weekend. She said to me that the life of the hospital was dull and she wanted to go home quickly but she laughed, talked, made a joke, and enjoyed my visit. I didn’t know that would be the last time I saw her and talked to her. I would’ve said thank you to her. I would’ve expressed my gratitude and appreciation more deeply but it was too late. I was shocked by the news that Dn. Bill passed to me Monday morning. I told daily mass people the news at the monastery Monday morning. After the mass, people were in tears and came to me and expressed their sorry and condolences. I also brought the news to people here in the parish at the Monday morning mass. We all were in sadness and sorrow. We offered the mass for her soul even in the shock that her death brought to us. 

It was so abrupt. We didn’t have enough time to part. We were not ready to send her out. That is why we are still sad. We still remember her smile, laugh, voice, love for the parishioners and friends, devotion to God, and passion for the Gospel. We didn’t know how precious she was when she was with us like we take for granted air, the sun, the beautiful nature around us so much that we are not even aware of them. That is why we miss her so much. But we, as Catholics, in the season of Easter, believe that her death is not an end but another beginning of new life. This gives us hope that we will rise again even in death. To remember her well, we live our lives by continuing the mission that she was loved doing. She left us and is at peace with God. She is at her eternal home. I said she was hoping she’d get home on Monday. She is at her real home right now. She left us the mission that she was doing. It is like Jesus leaves His disciples and ascends into heaven and commits them to continue His mission.   

What do we see in her abrupt death? I see Jesus’ last moment with His followers before He ascends. Jesus passes His last words to His disciples in today’s Gospel. We read the details of the Lord’s ascension in the Acts of the Apostles, the first reading. Jesus’ bodily ascension is described in details only by Luke-Acts tradition. On the other hands, in today’s Gospel, Matthew, apparently is not aiming at accuracy in historical details; Matthew is more concerned with transmitting a message. These farewell scenes focus on the last words that Jesus leaves with His disciples.

So what is the message that Jesus gives His disciples as He takes physical leave of them? If we take a closer look at the last words of Jesus in the Gospels and in Acts, we can tell what the message is. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Jesus gave His disciples a mission, a task to engage them until he returns in glory. The mission is to bear witness to the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth, to go to all nations of the world, and to proclaim the good news to the whole creation.

There is an ancient legend about Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Jesus is met by the angel Gabriel who asks him, "Now that your work is finished, what plans have you made to ensure that the truth that you brought to earth will spread throughout the world?" Jesus answered, "I have called some fishermen and tax-collectors to walk along with me as I did my Father’s will." "Yes, I know about them," said Gabriel, "but what other plans have you made?" Jesus replied, "I taught Peter, James and John about the kingdom of God; I taught Thomas about faith; and all of them were with me as I healed and preached to the multitudes." Gabriel replied, "But you know how unreliable that lot was. Surely you must have other plans to make sure your work was not in vain." Jesus quietly replied to Gabriel, "I have no other plans. I am depending on them!! "

The mission was given to the disciples and all of us, their descendants. This mission was being achieved by Sr. Loretta and we are committed to continuing the same mission for the rest of our lives. The ascension of the Lord is deeply related to the essence of Christian vocation and the plan of redemption. Jesus’ ascension reminds us of our calling and mission that we are supposed to complete God’s plan of redemption. As long as we live this mission, we are in solidarity with Jesus Christ and our departed brothers and sisters, and Sr. Loretta. Jesus promises all of us that the Holy Spirt will come and help us carry out the mission. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Our most beloved one left physically. Jesus also left but actually He dwells within us by sending His Spirit. In the hope that we will meet all the departed brothers and sisters, we strive to achieve the mission. But this can’t be done by our powers or talents. The spreading of the good news to all nations is not a goal that can be attained by human might and craft. That is why Jesus promises to empower all of us by sending the Holy Spirit. This is challenging. But by the help of the Holy Spirit, with the solidarity of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our selfishness and greed, and keep mission going until the end of the world. Jesus Christ gave us hope of our glorification in the end. Sr. Loretta is in the glorification. Jesus guaranteed we would meet together in heaven. Let us humbly resolve in this mass to continue the mission that Sr. Loretta was doing: spreading the Gospel by our love and compassion for others.