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Fr. Brian Soliven Sunday Sermons

Fr. Brian Soliven Sunday Sermons

Author: Rev. Brian J. Soliven

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Homilies by Fr. Brian Soliven, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Portola, CA.
95 Episodes
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One of the worst things to hear from someone is "Shame on you!" Whatever the cause, shame strikes to the heart of who we are. It is a dreadful emotion felt only in relationship to someone when a bond is ruptured, severed, or damaged. Shame makes us feel unworthy and hideously unloved. Maybe that's why we always turn our eyes away? Not Jesus. He looks squarely at us. He strikes the source of our guilt and imparts to his first priests in the Gospel reading: " “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jesus gives the Church the liberating antidote-- we call it the Sacrament of Confession. 
At 3pm on Good Friday, Jesus let out his last breath. His dead corpse was still nailed to the cross. It makes you wonder, where did his spirit go? The Apostles Creed which we recite in the beginning of the holy rosary gives us the answer in a short but reviling line: "He descended into Hell." Which begs another query, what was he doing there? If we are to live the joy we have in the Resurrection, we must first contemplate the events before Our Lord burst out of the tomb that Sunday morning.
The Easter Vigil is not for the faint of heart. It's called the "Mother of all vigils" due to its length and ancient rites, going all the way back to the early Church. It's on this night new adult Christians are baptized and reborn into eternity. I told the soon-to-be Christians: You are about to enter into the greatest story ever told. Never forget. 
Knowing he was about to be arrested and killed, Jesus gave humanity his two greatest gifts at the Last Supper. Everything was leading up to this moment. All the lessons he taught his disciples was now coming to a grand finale. Pay attention; these gifts were paid with blood.
We all want to be happy. The question becomes, "How do we achieve it?" If you've been listening to my sermons over these last few years, you know my answer: RELATIONSHIP. Happiness is not a something (money, power, pleasure, beauty) but a someoneContrary to what the world shoves down our throats,. Happiness is only found in love. The faster we realize this, the sooner the happiness will come. This Palm Sunday, Jesus shows us the secret to successful relationships. If you're like me, you won't like his answer. 
What do you see when you gaze upon a crucifix? Do you see your fear of rejection? It's there. Do you see your fear of loneliness? That's there to. Do you see your fear of pain and death? How about your fear of being laughed at? How about your fear of failure? It's all there. The deepest fears of our lives are all nailed on the cross with Jesus. We want to hide the our shame but Our Lord says no. Confront it all. Bare it all, he tells us. Our darkest, pus-ridden wounds will be the very means of our salvation on that cross.  
For most weddings, the bride is the star of the "show." Her dress, the hair, her very tear-soaked eyes capture the attention of all those seated in the pews. As she marches down the aisle towards her future husband, she notices something strange about his attire--he's wearing sweatpants! She explodes in anger; and rightly so. His clothing fails to capture the immensity of the moment. As human beings, the externals have power. They reveal the often invisible realities of the most important. The love between two people in the covenant of marriage cannot be seen, so we wear fancy dresses and suits to convey it. A police officers wears a uniform and a badge to show his invisible authority to give us speeding tickets. The beauty of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris casts our eyes upwards to the majesty of the invisible God. 
Jerry Miller from Indiana wrote the following post on social media in a desperate attempt to find his child:  "Looking for my daughter born December 4th or 5th 1978 in Covington Ky. at St. Elizabeth Hospital. I have never stopped looking! Adoption records are sealed. Birth father Jerry Miller (and) birth mother Kathy Kabich (unsure of spelling). I had a brain aneurysm shortly after you were born and wasn’t expected to live. You were adopted out while I was very sick. I just want you to know I have never forgotten." Every parent can relate to his tenacity. If your child was lost or missing, there's nothing you wouldn't do to find them. You'd sail across oceans, scale mountains, and cross barren deserts to get to them. After 40 years, Jerry Miller's search paid off; he found his daughter. God's fierce love for us is a lot like Jerry Miller. We call God our Father for precisely this reason. 
 "Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them" (from the Gospel reading at Mass). Notice where Jesus lead them -- "up a high mountain." For a first century Jew, this detail meant everything. Mountains are places of encounter with the living God. Where did Moses receive the Ten Commandments? Mount Sinai. Where is Jerusalem and its Holy Temple situated? On a mountain. Where does Jesus reveal his divine, radiant, glory? Mount Tabor. Whenever you think of mountains, think of God. When you think of God, think mountains. Even the way our Catholic churches are designed convey this awesome reality. You always walk up a flight of stairs to enter through the front doors. The altar, the sacred sanctuary, and the precious Tabernacle are elevated, accessible only by walking up stairs. These are "mini mountains," so to speak. It is here in our holy places that God again comes down to encounter each of us, if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear. 
Built on a hill outside the ancient walls of imperial Rome, lies the headquarters of the Catholic Church known officially as Vatican City. Why is it built there and no where else? Why not Jerusalem? The answer is simple: St. Peter made the decision to turn around and walk back to Rome. Rather than flee the torture of his fellow Christians, who were being crucified, doused with oil and lite on fire as human lanterns he turned around. Instead of repeating the same mistake he made 30 years ago when he abandoned Jesus, he turned around. Rising from the burial site of that Peter is what you see today; all because he turned around.  
It's shocking to think how quickly Lent has arrived. This Wednesday, we'll hit the ground running with Ash Wednesday, as blessed ashes are placed on our heads as a sign of our inner repentance. I'd like to invite you to attend one of the three masses that day: HOLY FAMILY (Portola) 8:30am & 6pm; HOLY ROSARY MISSION (Loyalton) 12:10pm.  Before we can even understand the significance of Lent and all the spiritual richness on offer to us, we must first understand the "why" of Christianity. Why does God want us to love Him? Why does God even create us? What is the purpose of existence? Why must we follow his moral commandments? Why does Jesus gives us his True Presence in the Eucharist? The questions are endless. The answers to all of these myriad of questions become easier when we understand one simple fact -- We are created to be one with God. That's salvation history summed in one line. Our God is relentless when it comes to getting us to our true Heavenly home.  
"The Kingdom of God is at hand," Jesus proclaims in today's Gospel. "The time of fulfillment has arrived." For centuries, the Jewish people waited patiently for the long promised messiah who would establish a new, everlasting Kingdom. Unlike the tired kingdoms of men whose fading glimmer relied on wealth, palaces and strength, God himself now would be its architect, builder, and power--a kingdom with no end. How do we become subjects of such a king? Listen and found out.     
It’s amazing how words can drastically alter your life. In this Sunday's gospel we hear St. John the Baptist proclaim, “BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD.”(Cf. John 1:29) That mere phrase was enough for St. Andrew and St. Peter to leave all that they loved, their families, homes, everything they held dear and follow Jesus. Those simple arrangement of words -- would eventually lead them to die for Jesus years later -- are repeated at every single Catholic Mass. Immediately before you receive Holy Communion, the priest holds up the chalice and the consecrated host and intensely says to everyone in the pews: “BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD.” After you listen to this homily, you will never hear those words the same again. You will want to weep. You may even want to change how you live. Either way, once you see the thousands of years of history and blood behind those words, you will experience the Holy Mass in a strikingly new way. Nothing will be the same.   (If you want to delve deeper into the Scripture verses cited in the homily, please refer to Genesis 22, Exodus 12, Leviticus 16 and Isaiah 53) 
Living in California, we know better than most, how devastating fire can be. It consumes everything it touches, annihilating, bulldozing, even transforming all in its path. John the Baptist will use this precise image of fire to describe the power of baptism that Jesus Christ will undergo in our Gospel this Sunday. Why? Like fire, our own baptism into Jesus Christ is total, all encompassing, and consuming. God wants all of us, not just pieces of us. He wants to be Lord of all aspects of our lives, not mere crumbs. Once we let the divine fire in, we'll become effervescent and radiant to the world, "shining among them like stars in the sky." (cf. Philippians 2:15) (This homily was given at an outdoor Mass in Jackson, California, in St. Katherine Drexel Catholic Church. While away on vacation, the pastor Fr. Colin Wen, welcomed me to concelebrate and be the guest preacher.) 
Jesus is born. God dwells with us like never before. How can we approach life the same as if this world-shattering event did not even happen? Oh did it happen. The coming of God as a baby even changed how we tell time. For the moment he was born, we charted our calendar from his birth at year zero to now. It is the year 2021, two-thousand and twenty-one years since His birth. Look around you, everything has changed... 
There's no better way to begin 2021 then by reflecting on the beautiful Solemnity of Mary, The Mother of God. Each year, we as the Church begin with her. Why? How could we not? Jesus himself began his earthly existence with her. If we want to follow Christ, our master, we follow his lead. Mary, who held the baby Jesus in her arms and stared at the tiny little face when he laid in the manger. Thirty-three years later, Mary would hold the battered, bruised, bloody body of the dead Jesus in her arms below the cross. Same face. Same love intensified. She stayed by the side of Jesus when it mattered, when almost everyone else abandoned him. Mary, teach us how to follow your son all the way to the end. 
We're constantly sold the illusion that the accumulation of wealth--the bigger house, the latest iPhone, the bigger truck--will bring us happiness. Nonsense! Of course, there is nothing wrong with those things by themselves. However, when we pin our value on material stuff, then we're trapped in an endless rat race; it's never enough. This Christmas, we remember that lasting happiness and the deepest joys are only found in relationship. In other words, it is love that sets us free. Nothing should be more important than family. After Christmas, I received the greatest gift I could hope for in the form of a simple text message. A parishioner sent me the following message: "Good morning father. I wanted to share a sweet story with you regarding your homily on Christmas morning. Steven* (name changed for privacy) had a falling out with his twin brother about 8 months ago and had not spoken to him since. After mass on Christmas morning he called his brother and they have been speaking every day since. Merry Christmas."  Praise the Baby Jesus! 
Have you ever wondered what God's biggest problem is? You'd be surprised. God's biggest problem is the same as our biggest problem. It is the root of all our interpersonal conflicts, why our spouses irritate us, why our teenagers drive us up the wall, and even why entire nations go to war. Yet paradoxically, this problem allows the possibility of what makes life even worth living, namely love itself. Without this "problem," love could not exist. I am speaking of freewill. The ability to choose is the unique gift that makes us human, created in "his image and likeness." For all of God's creative power and might, he bows before the majesty of our human freewill. The question is, how will we use it? Will you be like Eve? Or will you be like the Virgin Mary, for whom the Gospel in this Sunday's reading reveals as the most daring way?  
If you were to ask the average person for the reasons why they are happy, they'd probably give you a list of the things they have: a house, a family, health, food on the table etc. All great things. Now imagine if all those things listed was suddenly gone. Would that person still be happy? Yet for St. Paul in the second reading at Mass, he commands Christians with the utmost urgency, "Rejoice always... give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you..." (1 Thessalonians 6:16-18). He does not say rejoice only when things are well. He says "in ALL circumstances" (emphasis added). When life knocks the wind of out of us, we rejoice. When life stomps on our face, we rejoice. The Christian understands that even if all stripped away, so long as we have a living, heart-throbbing relationship with Jesus Christ, we are the richest people on earth. 
The first of the four candle is lit in the wreath. Advent is now firmly upon us. The four Sundays leading up to Christmas is probably one of my favorite liturgical seasons in the Church. The tone of the readings intensifies with an ominous tinge of the end of the world. So often we get bogged down by life's daily drudgery that we neglect questions of true eternal life. "Be Watchful! Stay Alert!" Jesus tells us in this Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent. "For you do not know on which day your Lord will come." (Mark 24:37-44) This season is an opportunity to take an honest stock of our souls and ask: "Am I ready to meet Jesus face to face or not?" Now is the time to prepare. 
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