Homily at the Portsmouth Abbey School

Twenty-sixth Sunday in OT C
AMos 6:1A, 4-7; Psalm. 146; 1 TiMothy 6:11-16; LuKe 16:19-31

Even if I just met you, even though I know nothing about you yet, even though I don’t know your history, your fears, doubts, and concerns, I know an undeniable fact about you—you want to be loved, you want trusting friendship, kindness, and happiness. You’re looking for gentle guidance, meaning and purpose to your life. you want to know why you are here, where you are going, what to do to be happy, what the meaning of all this is. You want real answers and honesty.

I know one person who can give you these. His name is Jesus Christ. He cared about you more than anyone else in your life. he has what you’re looking for, and is the answer to all your questions. And he is here tonight.

Here are 3 things he wants you to do to make sure that these deep yearnings are satisfied.
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The first one is found in the first reading. Don’t be complacent! “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”
Complacent refers to those who live in their little world and care about themselves and no one else— my video game, my phone, my friends, me me me. Nothing bothers them. Dishes? Not my problem. Mow the lawn? I don’t care. New students? I don’t care. Bullying? It’s not me. Need help with homework? I did mine. The complacent think everyone is here for them and they are here for no one. It’s always their way. Selfish! Don’t be like that.
Complacent people are rated very low in God’s radar. It’s about them the Lord says: they will be miserable. Ouch!!!

Find something you would die for and be committed to it. Each day is filled with unimaginable potential. Start looking now! In the meantime, love people. Don’t be weird. Be joyful. Go to confession often. Come to Mass even when you don’t have to. Read good books. Talk to grownups –. Look people in the eyes and respond clearly when they speak to you. Ask good questions and answer thoughtfully.
True meaning and lasting happiness are found only when you completely give yourselves to others as gift. We find ourselves truly only when we give ourselves completely. That’s the great paradox of the Christian life.

The second is found in the gospel. Don’t be indifferent! The rich man in the gospel is in Hell. He is there not because he was rich, dressed in purple garments, ate sumptuous food, owned a fine house, car, held powerful position, popular and good looking.
He was there because he did not care. He only lived for himself. As you walk thru campus/in class/ at home/ at recreation, there will be plenty of opportunities to care for someone in need. Help someone. Don’t ever go to bed without helping someone every single day. That’s what it means to be cool.

As pope Francis has reminded us at the WYD, “The times we live in do not call for young people to be ‘couch potatoes’, or to choose a sofa-happiness spending hours playing video games or in front of a computer screen”.
“Don’t opt for ‘early retirement’. Don’t ‘throw in the towel or act defeated’ before the game begins.
Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history, because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark”.

Do you want to leave a mark?

Then don’t be indifferent. Indifferent makes you blind, numb, and complacent.
Do what St. Paul suggests in the second reading. And that’s my last point. “Pursue justice, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness”.
Let me tell you— everybody loves a patient, gentle, respectful, hardworking, disciplined, prayerful, joyful, humble, friendly, and devoted person.
Everyone wants to befriend a charming, welcoming, grateful, appreciative, thoughtful, helpful person who is generous with their time, manner, words and smile.
Nobody wants to be around a grumpy, grumbling, moody, angry, dirty, impure, and difficult person.

Just look around you— who has the most friends? Is it not the most kind, gentle, helpful, prayerful, faithful, loving person? Yes or yes? Is it not the student who is hardworking, disciplined, smiles often, rarely gets angry who is most admired by both teacher and students? Yes or yes?
So if you want the best for yourself, love. Love deeply. Be charitable toward all. This is the road to sainthood.

You guys know St. Therese of Lisieux, right? When she was your age, she asked the same fundamental questions that you guys are asking: what to do to be happy, loved, friendly, faithful, accepted?
It dawned on her that it is not by being selfish, grumpy, careless, unfriendly, and difficult.

She realized it’s by loving others that she becomes loved, it’s by sitting with those are sad that’s she becomes happy; it’s by accepting others that she’s accepted; it’s by helping those in need that she finds true joy; it’s by asking thoughtful questions that she finds real answers. She did these and she became a saint.
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I know you guys want these; I can see it in your eyes; I can hear it in your voice. I can feel it in your behavior. Don’t be afraid to take the risk growing closer to Christ. By doing so, you might just become a saint. Amen

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Letter to those Returning to School

As September looms around, I have to keep reminding myself that there is no going back to school for me this year; it is the very first time ever that I will not have to attend classes. I wish I could say I don’t miss it. I hope teaching two days a week at St. Augustine school in Providence brings as much joy as being a student did.

lllBe committed and disciplined. A new day is dawned in the life of a student when he recognizes that even if he doesn’t have the highest IQ, a photographic memory or special talented, he can still be seated among the best. With discipline and commitment, studying can be truly enjoyable. In fact, they are the master key that opens all doors. Mastering them makes one a virtuous learner. All right thinking individual urges the cultivation of virtue — “good habit of the mind, by which we live rightly, of which no one can make bad use, which God works in us….” (ST I-II, Q. 55, art 4). Aristotle urged striving for excellence. St. Paul exhorts us to think only about ”whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8). All the saints, all successful historical figures and all meaningful accomplishments have taken discipline and commitment. Choose a specific time to do your studies. Commit to it wholeheartedly. Practice makes perfect. Practice allows us to master a skill until it becomes second nature to us.

jjjLearn to fall in love with learning. Let me make this point through an example. Take Itzhak Perlman, a Jewish composer who won 15 Grammy and four Emmy awards. He is said to be a genius performer and a “god” of music. It is reported that he has practiced daily for nine hours. One day, he put on an extraordinary performance at a concert in Vienna; afterward people came to greet and congratulate him. One member of the audience who was wowed by his performance said to him: “I would give my entire life to be as great as you are.” Perlman responded: “I have.” He has given up everything to follow this one dream. Today, he is on top of the world. How did he get to be so great? He hungered to be good at it.

Do you think the Olympic champions we admire watching on TV get to be so great without being hungry for greatness? Do you think they practiced only when they felt like it? Do you think they ever take the minimalist attitude i.e. “what is the least I can do to be an Olympic champion?” Was it easy for them to wake up every morning, eat the right food, and go to bed at a certain time regularly? When they go out there, did their body always cooperate? Absolutely not! Yet, they keep the faith; they fight the good fight; they push themselves to the maximum of the ability; they invest their heart, mind, and soul to achieve what they believe in. A few years later, they amaze us with their skills and their arts. They are now famous. They won the prize. The prize of a successful school year is not prepared in the spring; it is prepared at the beginning of the school year.

It’s never too late to become hungry for knowledge. Get lost in your studies and you will find joy in them. Be passionate and you can be the next great composer of our future, the next great light of hope for the whole world to see. You are made for greatness so don’t aim low; be hungry for learning and continue to learn until you are satisfied.

Mary and the Priest

IMG_0941It is often said that behind every great man, there always is a great woman. This certainly has come true in Jesus and our Blessed Lady. Just like a mother is always crucial for the kind of person a child becomes, Mary is vital for the kind of priest a man becomes. As we continue to reflect on a “Year with Mary, our Mother” as a Diocese that Bishop Tobin, it is fitting to ask: what can she teach priests?

She teaches the newly ordained priest that trusting in God’s plan is rational. Mary clearly did not know the ins and outs of what she gave her fiat to, yet in hindsight, who would say she had made a mistake? She put her hands in God’s hands and simply let Him lead her. As a result of that choice, she is referred to today as the “highest honor of our race, the Mediatrix, and Co-Redemptoris of our salvation.” No small feats! In just the same way, if the newly ordained priest embraces his ministry with deep devotion, intense love, and unwavering trust, he has nothing to fear; God may accomplish unutterable feats through him. Deep down, everyone has a natural desire to accomplish something magnificent, and extraordinary with his life. Our Blessed Lady shows us that this is possible when we accept God’s plan and follow it intensely.

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Mary teaches the priest how to be a father to her children. We learn from her how to accompany, serve, know and love the children she already knows and loves. Just as biological fathers learn how best to treat their children from their wives, Mary teaches the priest how to minister to people as their spiritual father. It is beautiful to observe how Mary dealt with Jesus when she found Jesus in the temple; she did not scold him; rather she said: “Son, why have you treated us this way” (Luke 2:48)? Her gentleness, motherly kindness, patience, and tolerance toward Jesus must have been a teaching moment for Joseph. We men don’t handle things that way. So, in dealing with the foibles and scruples of daily ministry, her abiding presence, “feminine touch”, inner sweetness are necessary if we are to be as fatherly, caring, gentle, and uplifting as possible in every situation. She teaches us that unassuming authority, asking questions, attentive listening go a long way. It is no surprise that the best and most effective priests around have a deep devotion to her.

 

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She is the avatar of the beatitudes and a model for all priests striving to become “pastors of the Beatitudes”. As “the handmaid of the Lord”, she accepted to live only as God saw fit. The priest needs that in order to jettison every part of his ministry to God’s will. She stood beside Jesus not only in his hours of successes, but also in the hour of seeming defeat. The priest needs that grace to stand with all in festive moments as well as in trying times. As the immaculate virgin mother who kept her purity before, during, and after giving birth, the priest needs her burning charity in order not to waver in chastity. She embraced her vocation with clarity of purpose; the priest needs this model when the path of priestly ministry becomes steep. In Mary’s exemplary life, the priest finds everything he needs to be all for all. Oh! How I want her beside me in every person I meet, every soul I touch, every Mass I celebrate, and every homily I give!

Advice for Life

As you come to the end of your pilgrimage as a seminarian, do you have any wisdom, or advice to impart to anyone trying to figure out their way in life?

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One of the most precious gifts I have learned during my time in seminary is the ability to remain silent before the Lord. Through it, my vocation grew exponentially stronger. Through it, I grew in confidence that I was travelling the right path. Through it, I truly get to know the Lord and grow in friendship with him. Through silence, I was able to hear the voice of the Lord resounding in the cathedral of my heart confirming in numerous occasions my vocation.

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Silence before the Lord is the foundation of our spiritual house. Deep down, the human person is wired for God. If he focuses on everything, but forgets God, he is restless; if he prioritizes God, everything else falls into place. Personally, I am at my best when I spend times in silence before the Lord; I am restless when I neglect to do so. Once I learn to prioritize silence, nothing seems to be insurmountable. I always feel like I can scale down any walls and break through any barrier when I strengthen my drooping knees before the Lord in silence (cf. Ps. 18:29). So, if we make silence before the Lord the bulwark of our lives, no spiritual earthquake can shake our house. Silence builds us up to face the inevitable misfortunes of life. when our peace and leisure is the Lord, we can live confidently and fearlessly.

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Silence is golden. Before the age of phone GPS, if you are lost driving, to find the right direction, you would need to turn off the radio, ask everyone to be silence, gather yourself. Then clarity is found. Do you ever wonder why? It is because it is in the classroom of silence that life’s puzzles are solved. Moreover, even nature teaches us the importance of silence. Trees, flowers, and plants flourish in the silence of the night. Is it not very telling that it is not in a palace or in the city that the King of kings was born, but in the silence of the night? Consciously or unconsciously, everyone longs for God, but he cannot be found in the noise of the iPhone, in the cacophony of Twitter, or in the confusion of Snapshot. God is the friend of silence. God does not speak in noise (cf. 1 Kgs 19:1-12). Being bombarded with noise in the car, in the market, the street, our bedroom, and even while jogging will not help our cause.

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Silence opens doors. It is in silence that life’s deepest secret is revealed. It is in silence that we understand what God is trying to convey to us. It is in silence that our restless hearts find. Silence is the key to live life with passion and purpose.

So, my advice to anyone who wants to treasure life in its fullest magnitude is to learn to cultivate silence on a regular basis. For Catholics, the Blessed Sacrament is the ideal locus of silence because the Lord, which heaven and earth cannot contain, is sacramentally present there waiting to overpower us with his love. However, if that’s not possible, any atmosphere conducive to silence will do.

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What is the concrete benefit of silence? A number of things: confrontation with one’s own self, seeing one’s dark side, a deep realization of one’s dependency upon God, the surfacing of the neglectful questions of life, an ordering of the priorities of one’s life, a simplification, a getting back to basics, a sense of meaning and purpose in life. It means any and all of these things. So, grace yourself with silence before the Lord; you will not regret it.

 

Fr. Brice’s Ordination on June 3, 2017

As I am still in the cloud enjoying my moment of glory before real life, let me share with you. what i think of my ordination.IMG_1510.jpg

The ordination was like my “Tabor Moment.” Jesus took three of the disciples and went up a high mountain; there, he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and conversed with him (cf. Mt 17:1-3). That was the closest experience they had of the beatific vision while on earth. Jesus allowed them to taste, though briefly, the contemplation of eternal joy so that when the cross happens, they might not falter in their faith (cf. Luke 12:32). Without a doubt, last weekend was not far from the experience of Tabor. It was a little foretaste of what it means to respond generously to God’s call. He allowed me to see the future joy that ministering well might bring, and the unceasing prayer, generous support, untold gratitude, and beautiful kindness we have in the Church community. Many laughed, cried, and savored the weekend with me to the brim; they have promised to pray for me; I blessed them; they congratulated me. Such a holy weekend is not easily forgotten. Such an experience propels me forward to serve selflessly, give myself willingly, and embrace my ministry wholeheartedly because I have the support of the people of God. So, in challenging times, tough days, this is a moment I will remember as I minister and spread the gospel of joy in every corner of the Diocese of Providence.

Furthermore, the people of God get it. I have been assigned to many parishes throughout our time in seminary. Consequently, I have met, befriended, and touched many. They have seen me grow, mature, and persevere year in year out. They know I will be their priests. They count on me to be their companion, guide, solace, minister of salvation, and dispenser of grace and blessing from the cradle to the grave. As soon as a person entered this world, they expect the priest to be available to impart on him/her supernatural life through baptism. The priest accompanies the dead to their resting place in the grave with rites and prayers of immortal hope. When they are suffering, they know the priest is there. When going gets tough in the journey, the priest strengthens them with the grace of the sacraments.

IMG_1455.jpgWhen they fall away from grace, they are reconciled with God in the sacrament of penance through the hands of the priest. Called to found a family, the priest is there to receive and bless this unitive and procreative love. The priest stands by them in the best and worst periods of their lives—new life, fears, doubts, concerns, sadness, troubles, or celebrations. He coaches them about how to win the race and fix their eyes fixed on Jesus, the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings (Gaudium Spes 45). Most importantly, behind the scene, in supplications, fasting, penances, study, hours on his knees, he prepares himself daily to live up to the lofty promises he made at ordination before God and his people. So, Out of gratitude and love the faithful come out in droves to celebrate and welcome the new priests as a way to tell them: “welcome them to our lives. We are glad you are here. Show us the way.” That’s what the ordination meant to me.

 

Why Spend Time Scripture Daily?

How do we discover who God is, what his plan is for us, and what he wants us to do? Why did the saints devour the word of God? Perhaps they found in them like Therese of Lisieux “a hidden, pure, and genuine manna.” Thus, it became part of their daily routine. It instructed their mind, shaped their desires, and informed their decisions. Mary pondered the word of God to the point it became enfleshed in her (cf. Luke 2:19). Here are a few basic reasons why we should be prayerful and reflect on the word of God daily.

Man Reading BibleDo you want to understand who you are? Do you want to know your own story even before you live it? Do you want to see the human race in his beauty and ugliness and foibles, at his best and worst, acting like an angel today and behaving like a beast tomorrow? Then read scripture. There you will meet David — a man to whom God gives everything — pleasure, power, honor and wealth, yet he took a poor man’s wife and murdered him (2 Sam. 11-12:1-14). There you will learn the story of the Israelites — taken out of Egypt by God’s strong arm. Yet during 40 days without Moses to remind them of the word of God, they turned to idols (Ex. 32-34). There you will see what happens when people abuse their God-given power in the story of Naboth, Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21). There you can meditate on the consequences of associating with those who cultivate no fear of God (1 Kings 11), discover the towering power of an unwavering faith in Susanna (Dan. 13), and ponder the depths of God’s mercy in the story of the prodigal son and the woman caught in adultery (Luke 15: 11-32; John 8:1-11). Scripture is our personal story. In it, we find ourselves.

modern-philosophy-by-rpc-2-638Would you like a complete guide for the 3 fundamental relationships that form the basis of life — God, neighbor, and ourselves? Look no further than the Bible. It provides the wisest and most prudent way to act with the wealthy when you are poor, with the young when you are old, and with authorities when you are a subject. What should we look for in a spouse? What is the regiment for a blessed and fruitful marriage? We only have to read the Books of Sirach and Proverbs to find out. Who am I? What am I afraid of? What should one do to attain eternal bliss? Only scripture tells us. How does one win friends and influence people to the right course of actions? That’s in scripture too. It is no doubt that the Bible is a library. Everything is in there. Read it in family, and among friends; treasure it; memorize it. That’s the recipe for a happy life.

Photo 5We forget easily. Interestingly, one of the most common phrases in the book of Deuteronomy is, “Remember O Israel, do not forget.” The human mind is darkened as a result of Original sin; our ability to remember God’s word is a perpetual struggle, and our desire to submit to it is weakened (cf. Rom. 7: 18-19). The remedy against this is to turn it into a habit. Constantly going back to scripture, analyzing it, mediating on it and contemplating allows it to sink in and become part of the very fabric of our inner being. Once it becomes ingrained in us, it starts becoming part of our thoughts, words, actions, habits and character. Character is our destiny; our destiny is heaven. Scripture tells us how to get there and the Church empowers us through the sacraments to help us on our journey.