Sunday, January 7, 2018

Homily for the Epiphany, Cycle B, January 7, 2018


Today is the feast of the Epiphany.   This is not a word that we hear every day. Epiphany is defined as a moment of sudden revelation or insight.  Have you ever had a problem you were dealing with and had an “ah ha!” moment, when you finally figured it out?  It usually happens when we understand something in a new way that changes our perspective.  The magi’s encounter with the Christ child was an Epiphany changing their hearts and minds to go another way.



The magi came in search of the newborn king of the Jews.   Who are the magi? They were a Persian priestly caste who were astrologers, those who studied stars to find meaning in them.  They were also considered “wise” and sought out for their knowledge by kings. What meaning in the stars would have prompted them to set out on a journey?   Historical sources of the time speculated that a new ruler of the world would emerge from Judah.  There must have been trouble in their own lands that prompted them to seek out a new leader in hope of finding peace. 



We have a similar situation today in the world where the powerful are threatened by Jesus and do they can to remove any reference to him.

Public displays of the Nativity or Ten Commandments are constantly being challenged in the courts.  The powerful want to be in control and feel threatened by God. We are troubled as well. The magi were not just ordinary men. They were the seekers of truth found in every age. 



The magi reached Judea and went to King Herod to ask where the newborn king was. This troubled Herod.   Herod was a paranoid and evil king. History tells us he even murdered his own sons to protect his power. Herod’s inherent evil prompts him to use the magi to find the newborn king. He tells them he wants to pay homage to this new king, but he really wants get rid of him.



After the magi’s encounter with Herod they set out to find the newborn king following the rising star that stopped over the place where the child was. The prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading speaks of this:



Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you.



There are some people, who doubt the appearance of this star that guided the magi.  Modern astronomers have concluded an alignment of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars at the time of Jesus’ birth that could have appeared as a very bright star.  Exactly how the star came to rest directly above Christ’s birthplace, may be in question, but we need to keep in mind that it wasn’t the star that determined magi’s destiny to find the child. It was the child, The Son of God and Creator of the Universe, who directed the star, for the magi to find Him.



The magi where overjoyed when they saw the star.  Upon entering the house, they prostrated when they encountered the baby Jesus. To prostrate, is to lay
face down totally flat ground on the ground. Now just think about this. Can you imagine these highly revered men lying face down on the ground on dirty floor of a stable where animals lived, ate, and did other things? They must have been totally awed at the presence of the infant Jesus, and felt compelled to give reverence due to divine king. The gifts they offered Jesus, gold, frankincense, and myrrh were also fit for a divine king, their absolute best. Tradition holds that the gold offered represented the kingship of Christ, the frankincense His divinity, and myrrh, for anointing of a royal body to preserve it upon death, represented Christ’s Passion.   Do we reverence Christ in the same way as the magi when we encounter him?  Are the gifts we bring Him our best?



Our Gospel concludes with the magi being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, but to go by another way to their own countries.  We’ve heard a lot about God sending messages in dreams the last few weeks. 

Mary, Joseph, and now the magi hear from God in dreams.  We can only listen to God if we are still and quiet enough to hear him.  After the magi’s personal encounter with Jesus they must have had an Epiphany in the quiet of their dreams that true peace wasn’t to be found in the ways of the world, which Herod represents.  True peace could only be found in the Christ child. The magi who came seeking truth, were Gentiles, represents Jesus coming for everyone, regardless of race or origin.   They represent a new beginning for us, a journey of humanity to Christ.



The magi give us a good model.   They followed the star to find the newborn king. In their personal encounter they give Him homage and their best gifts.  Finally, they listen to God in prayer to change their lives to follow him.  



We also do the same ourselves.  When we come to Mass we are overjoyed when we see the tabernacle light, the Star of Bethlehem, indicating the presence of Christ. We show homage to Him when we genuflect to the tabernacle upon entering, kneel during the Eucharistic prayer, and bowing in receiving the Eucharist. At the presentation of the gifts we offer the gold of our acts of kindness we’ve done through the week.  The frankincense of efforts in school or at work to build up the Kingdom of God.  The myrrh of mercy we give to comfort those who are suffering, through our presence and prayers.  We even journey like the magi to spend time with Jesus in one of the perpetual adoration chapels we have in our area.  Finally, we listen to him in quiet prayer, to have own Epiphany daily, to go another way to follow Christ.




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Be prepared as you don't know when you'll be called to the Wedding Feast - 32nd Sunday, Cycle A

During the month of November, we remember our loved ones who have died.  We have the hope that that they are in heaven or are being prepared for entry into heaven. Our prayers can help those who are in purgatory.   As we approach the end of the Church year the readings focus on the end times.  Christ will come again for the final judgement and our love ones who died in Christ will be raised.  We don’t know when that will be, but we are assured he will return.  We will all be called home to our Lord at some time as well.  We want to be prepared when he comes. 

The second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, one of the earliest Scripture of the New Testament, addresses a community concerned about Christ’s return and their loved ones who have died. The Thessalonians expected Christ to return in their lifetime. As some of them died there was concern they wouldn’t be raised when Christ returned.   St. Paul wrote to encourage them that those who had died with faith in Christ would be raised first. This same reading encourages us two thousand years later to assure us of Christ coming as well and that our loved ones with faith in Christ will rise with him.

So we know that Christ will return, but we don’t know when.   How can we prepare for his coming? The parable of the ten virgins gives us some insight.  We can learn from the wise virgins who were prepared.  Some background on marriage customs at the time will help understand the special role of the virgins in the wedding.    In the first stage of marriage the bride was betrothed to the bridegroom.  She was usually in her teen years and continued to live with her family until the groom was ready to take her into his home. When time came the bridegroom would come late in the evening dressed in his finest clothes to take the bride to his home and to begin the wedding festivities.  The virgins were family members, sisters and cousins, who would lead the couple with lit torches to the bridegroom’s house in the middle of the night.   This was two thousand years ago and there were no lights in the streets, so it was important for the virgins to be prepared to light the procession to the entire way. The wedding feast was a joyous celebration that lasted for a week and everyone looked forward to attending.    The wedding feast is an image of heaven, where the bridegroom, Jesus, welcome his bride, the Church into heaven.

As we heard there were some wise and foolish virgins.  The foolish ones didn’t have enough oil to keep their lamps burning to get to the wedding feast.   They asked the wise virgins for some oil, but they turned them down.   Why would they do that? Were the wise virgins selfish and not willing to share?   I don’t think so.  I think it’s because the oil was produced by themselves.  Their oil represents the preparation to be welcomed into the wedding feast.  The foolish virgins went off to obtain oil from the merchant, but returned to find the doors locked and the bridegroom not recognizing them.  The message we learn is that only those prepared for the wedding feast will be granted entry.

So what did the oil represent? What is something that can only come from us and we can’t be given away to others?  Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. This is the main component of the oil.   Faith can only come from our own conversion in our own hearts. We have to obtain it for ourselves.   We can have others who can lead us to faith in Jesus.  St. Paul was a great example of that.   Our parents, family, friends, teachers, religious and clergy are others who can influence our faith.  But we have to make the decision to come to faith in Christ ourselves. 

What else makes up the oil that lights the lamps?  It’s the things we do living as disciples of Christ.   Spending time daily in prayer is an essential element.  This is how we develop a relationship with Christ.  A relationship is something we cannot give away and takes time to develop.  It’s nurtured through time studying Scripture and good Christian media. Acts of mercy in showing love for our neighbor is another essential component.    We can’t give away these acts of mercy to someone else.  We have to perform them on their own. The oil is also made up of grace received by participating of the life of the Church through the sacraments.  We are first initiated into faith in Christ through our baptism.   For most of us baptism was a gift our parents chose for us to receive, but a few made the choice on our own later in life.  After Baptism we grow in our faith through the sacraments that nurture, heal, and strengthen us. We have to approach God’s ministers to receive the sacraments and it’s not something that we can give away to others.  

So how can we prepare to have an abundance oil to burn brightly in our lamps to enter the wedding feast?  By living in the present moment ready to accompany the bridegroom.  How can we do this? By weekly attending the Sunday Mass and Holy Days to receive the Eucharist.  We can pray daily to share our joys and struggles with Jesus and ask for His help on our journey.  Frequent reception of the sacrament of reconciliation will allow us to receive God’s Mercy.   We can love our neighbor through many ministries of our parish:  Thanksgiving food distribution, food pantry, and Gabriel project just to name a few.  We can also be beacons of light burning brightly in our schools, workplace, homes, and where we recreate by being kind, patient, and merciful to others.

If we put off living our faith Christ till later, the door to the wedding feast may be locked.  We don’t want to hear the words our Lord told the foolish virgins: Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.  Choose to live in the present time as Christ’s disciple.   It’s each of our responsibility to prepare for the wedding feast.  We don’t know the day or the time Christ will return, so start preparing now.


Replay Caesar what belongs to Caesar & to God what belongs to God - 29th Sunday, Cycle A

Our Gospel today ends with Jesus telling his opponents to repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.   This may be a familiar saying of Jesus, but what point was he trying to make?  Some background on the situation may be helpful to provide some insight.

The Pharisees were the Jewish religious leaders who would outwardly appear pious, but in their hearts were far from God.  They were constantly trying to accuse Jesus of violating the hundreds of Jewish laws they held everyone to. The Pharisees were also in opposition to Roman authorities who were in control of Jerusalem.   The Roman Emperor, Caesar, was the political leader, and also claimed to be divine. The Pharisees did not accept this claim.  The Roman currency used for commerce had Caesar’s image stamped on one side and the claim of his divinity on the other. The Pharisees would not permit the Jews to use the coins as they thought it was a form of idolatry.  They were only allowed to use unmarked copper coins for trade in the Jewish community.

The Herodian’s were a group of Jews who supported the Roman occupiers.   For this they received many favors to their benefit.    To protect their own interests, they would inform the Romans of anyone who opposed them.  They really didn’t have anything in common with Pharisees.  

So why would these two opposing groups come together?  So the Pharisees could trap Jesus and put him to shame, in order to get rid of him. The thought that by asking Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, he would be put in a no win situation.    If Jesus said it was ok to pay the taxes the Pharisees would turn the Jewish people against him.  If Jesus said paying taxes was unlawful the Herodian’s would report him to the Roman and have him hauled off to prison. The Pharisee’s had it all worked out to get rid of Jesus.

But Jesus knew their hearts were up to no good. True to form Jesus catches them in being hypocrites by asking for a coin used to pay the census taxes.   The Pharisee’s produced a Roman coin with Caesars image on it.   If they were truly practicing what they preach, they wouldn’t have any. Jesus turns the tables on them and shames the Pharisees by their actions.

Jesus finally answers with something they didn’t expect: to pay what’s due to both Caesar and also to God.   The Jews were living under Roman occupation and had to coexist with them.   Paying taxes to the Romans was not something that is inherently sinful. But if not paid the Jews would be subject to punishment or even death by the Romans. So paying the census tax to peacefully coexist was necessary.  

Jesus was trying to make a point to his adversaries: God is the one they owe their greatest debt.  The Herodian’s and Pharisees were both Jews.  As Jews they were called to give their all to God: to love him with all their heart, mind, and soul and to love their neighbor as their self.   They owed everything to God because he is author of life.  The actions of the Herodian’s and Pharisees reflected their inner disposition, which was to only benefit them.  They were trying to keep at the center of attention, rather than God. They weren’t open to Jesus’ message of making present the Kingdom of Heaven by loving God and neighbor.   They were focused on themselves and all the privileges they received, rather than being the selfless servant as Jesus was.

We all live in a world today that is ruled by secular powers that may not always follow Gods ways.   God has allowed them to be in power.  If there is something contrary to God’s ways we can make a difference by living out our Christian faith and making the Kingdom of Heaven present.  How can we do this?

-         By praying at meals at home and when out in public
-         Through patience and forgiveness when driving
-         By sticking up for someone whose being bullied or made fun of
-         In being present to others when they experienced a loss
-         By supporting issues and candidates that support the dignity of life

Or we can choose to ignore the situation and only look out for ourselves like the Pharisees did.

As citizens of the United States of America we are subject to taxes just like the Jews were.  We may not like to pay taxes, but to live peacefully we are required to pay them as well.  We pay those taxes with the hard earned money from the talents God gave us.    The currency we use has an important reminder on it: “In God we trust”. This is a reminder for us that God is the one we really owe everything:  our country, homes, families, and our own lives.  We all have to pay our taxes, but do we remember to pay to God what belongs to God? Do we give God all our heart, mind, and soul and love our neighbor as ourselves? As we come forward for the Eucharist today let’s thank God for all he has given to us, and ask for the grace to enable us to give Him all our heart, mind, and soul.





  

Monday, September 25, 2017

Seek the Lord while he may be found, 25th Sunday, September 24, 2017, Cycle A


I’d like to start off with a short hymn. Please join me if it’s familiar to you.



Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

that saved a wretch like me.   

I once was lost but now am found. 

Was blind but now I see.



This is one of the most famous Christian hymns and was composed by John Newton.  John was an Anglican minister, but his early life was not what you would have expected. In the mid 1700’s John Newton was a notorious slave trader. John lived a life of immorality, but in his own words, “made it a study to seduce and tempt others to a life of debauchery”.   John’s mother taught him Scripture at an early age, but she died when he was seven.  His father was a merchant navy captain and by the time he was eleven John traveled the sea with him.



On one of the journey’s a huge storm had raged for 11 days.  The ship was battered and one side was almost completely destroyed. John was so exhausted that he had to strap himself to the helm to keep awake.  For eleven hours he fought the raging storm and had much time to think about. His life was a wreck that was going down like the ship in the storm.  He recalled a Scripture that from Proverbs:



But since you refuse to listen when I call

and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,

I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;

Then they will call to me but I will not answer.



John felt he was beyond hope and being saved.



As I prepared the homily for today the beginning of first reading stood out to me:



Seek the LORD while he may be found,

Call him while he is near. 

Let the scoundrel forsake his way,

and the wicked his thoughts:

let him turn to the LORD for mercy;

To our God, who is generous and forgiving.



Isaiah’s prophesy was to call the lost sheep of Israel back into a relationship with Him.  God’s response was one of mercy and forgiveness and not of vengeance for their misdeeds.



Are we really trying to seek the Lord?  I suspect so, because you are all here.  But we all know people who are not.   Many of them are our own family, friends, and co-workers.   How can we help them to seek the Lord?  It may be hard to do for some of us.   We may have known them for a long time and think they are beyond hope.  We may have a strained relationship with them.   Our thoughts may be like the first workers in the vineyard who answered the call and toiled the longest.   We deserve our compensation, but why should someone living a sinful life for years receive the same reward as we do?  This seems unjust in our human way of thinking.



But as we heard in Isaiah:



For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.



God generously offers his grace of mercy and forgiveness to those who seek him.  Even to those who have lived are sinful lives and seek him very late in their life.   This can be very hard for us to understand, but its’ Gods way.   



How can we be instruments of God’s love and mercy?  First we can continue to seek the Lord ourselves and live following his ways. Second, we can invite others to seek a relationship with God.  One good way to start is to pray for those who don’t have that relationship.  For some that may be the only thing we can do.   We may not be able to invite others due to strain in relationship we may have with them. But God can place others in their lives who can do so and we can pray for that to happen.

 

If we have a good relationship with them we can invite and welcome to begin to seek the Lord through the sacraments.  This may be through RCIA or Welcoming Catholic Home that we have going on in the parish.  It could be as simple as inviting them to attend Mass with us. The Sacraments provide the opportunity to directly encounter Jesus to provide strength and healing.  We can be God’s instruments of mercy and forgiveness to invite others to work in the vineyard.



Returning to John Newton’s battle at sea it seemed he was beyond saving.  But as the storm raged John’s thoughts turned to Christ and he transformed his life. John turned to Bible Study, prayer, and Christian reading and He tried to be a Christian example to the sailors and slaves on ship.  He left slave-trading and later felt a call to ministry where he preach of Gospel of Christ for over 42 years in Olney, England.  There he composed many hymns over the years to support his services, one them being, “Amazing Grace”. 



So as we continue with to receive the Eucharist continue to seek the Lord, and help others to do so as well.  Regardless of when we turn to the Lord or the sins we’ve committed, God will be generous in his mercy and forgiveness. God’s grace is abundantly offered to all who seek the Lord. 








Monday, June 5, 2017

Pentecost - Lord send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.


Today’s Feast of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.   After Christmas and Easter, its next most important Feast of the Church.  It may not seem like it because we don’t have all the festivities that occur at these other feasts.  Pentecost gives us an opportunity to focus on the gift of the Holy Spirit and the mission we are sent on as disciples of Jesus.  The Psalm today sums up the mission:   Lord send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

In the Gospel Jesus sends his disciples out to the world to spread God’s love.  It didn’t sound like they were ready to go on this mission as they were hiding in a room locked away in fear of the Jews.   By returning Jesus fulfilled a promise he made.  He told them they would see him again and that he would give them an Advocate to be with them.  Jesus offers them his peace, and their fear is turned into joy.   Jesus then breathes the Holy Spirit on them.  This is reminiscent of God breathing life in the nostril of Adam to create man.  Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on the disciples so they can re-create mankind by making disciples of Jesus who will become children of God.  The disciples are given the power to extend God’s mercy, freeing mankind from the power of sin.  What another word for God’s Mercy? Love!

In Acts the Holy Spirit comes in a more dramatic way.  Jews from around the world are gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. This was a Jewish harvest celebration. Jews from around the world would typically gather for this feast.   A strong wind fills the place where they were gathered and tongues of fire came to rest on the disciples. This gave them the ability to speak many languages to people of many nations.   The gift of tongues enabled the Church to spread to Jews all over the world. 

St. Paul’s letter tells us the Spirit is given in different ways to each individual.   These different gifts provided the ability for the spread of the Church beyond the Jews to Gentiles.   Even though there are many different gifts of the Spirit, they’re all given to build up one Body of Christ. 

Most of us here have received the gift of the Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation.   Does this mean we’ve all been given the gifts of tongues to speak in other languages?  We have a growing immigrant and refugee population in central Indiana, but many of us don’t encounter people who speak a language other than English.  But we do have opportunities to speak the language of love by being Christ to others. We may do so by witnessing the joy that Christ brings to us in being his disciples.  Most likely this will be by extending acts of charity to others who are most in need.

I’d like to share an example of the Holy Spirit at work in the Kairos prison ministry that I’ve served in. To be effective I’ve learned that listening and being present to others is the most effective way to be a witness of Christ. Kairos is a four-day retreat very much like a Christ Renews His Parish where the Gospel and personal witnesses are shared with participants.  This is the first exposure to Christ for the majority of those who attend.   On the first day of the retreat I was paired up with an inmate, Bob, who really didn’t want to be there.   Bob put up a wall to prevent anyone from getting close to him.  I didn’t pressure him to participate, but daily I’d tell him I was glad he came and happy to see him.    After 3 days he finally opened up and started sharing with members of our table.    Bob was about 40 years old and said this was the first time in his life that kindness was shown to him without expecting something from him in return. He also found it hard to believe that anyone would give up four days of their own time to be with guys in a prison without being compensated.  By the end of the weekend Bob was so moved he agreed to continue with the Kairos.  Bob eventually become a Christian and a leader within the Kairos ministry inside the prison. This transformation was only possible through the Holy Spirit’s help.

So where are opportunities in your life to share your witness of Christ by using the gifts of the Holy Spirit?  It may be closer than you think if you’re open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  It may be with a co-worker, a friend, a relative, or maybe the homeless person you see on your way to lunch. It could be spending ten minutes listening to someone who seems troubled or could be as simple as looking at someone who is down and smiling at them. A simple prayer to help keep you aware is: “Come Holy Spirit”.    The Holy Spirit can provide the power to do some things that you never thought possible.   So remember to pray the simple prayer daily to be open to the Spirit so that you can help the Lord to renew the face of the earth.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter, Do not let your hearts be troubled, have faith in me.

Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples just before the last supper.  Jesus has been telling his disciples that he was going to suffer and be killed, and they weren’t ready to accept this.   They were disturbed by this and didn’t want to believe him.  They thought he was going to be a Messiah who would be a strong warrior who would rescue them from the rule of the Romans.  They weren’t ready for a suffering servant who would die in order to save all of us.  If you had followed someone for three years expecting to be freed from tyrannical rule, wouldn’t you be discouraged & frightened?
            Jesus knows this and tells his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me”.   Jesus wanted to give his disciples some hope to hold on to knowing that his death was near and they’d all be facing persecution as well.   He tells them something quite different from all who have come before him. He asks them to have faith in Him. Those who came before him: Abraham, Moses, and Jeremiah, all spoke of having faith in God and to follow God’s ways.   But none of them ask to have faith in them.   Jesus is different, because He is God.  He his human like each of us, but through his divine nature he reveals God the Father.  Jesus tells his disciples that there will be a place for them in His Father’s house and the he would be coming back for them.  Jesus was trying to give them a message of hope to carry them through the troubling times they would be facing.  
We all have times of trouble that we face.  When we struggle it’s good to recall these words of Jesus to not be troubled and to have faith in Him.  He understands our struggles, having suffered tremendous challenges himself.   When we are faced with challenges we can get overwhelmed with the present moment.   But the time we spend on earth is only a small fraction compared to our time we will spend in the Father’s house with Jesus for all eternity.  If we focus on the hope that Jesus offers, it can help carry us through the most challenging times.
Even though the disciples had been with Jesus for three years, they still didn’t know who he or the Father was. Jesus had been revealing the Father through His miraculous works.  He fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish.  He healed the sick: curing the leper, the blind man, the crippled and dumb mute.    He cast out demons from a possessed man.   He saved the life of the woman accused of adultery. He restored life to the centurion’s daughter and Lazarus.   Jesus revealed the Father by bringing a little bit of heaven to this world.  He did all this through the Father who dwells in him. So He was probably a little frustrated with Philip’s response to show them the Father.  Jesus tells them the way to the Father: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
He then tells the disciples something unbelievable:  Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater than these because I am going to the Father.    This must have been stunning to them.  How could these disciples do even greater things than Jesus did?  This seems impossible on their own!  But with the help of the Holy Spirit they’d be able to do miraculous things. Jesus was preparing them for his return to the Father and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
            Is it possible for us to do even greater things than Jesus did? Can you possibly imagine healing the sick, raising the dead and feeding thousands?   I think it’s possible.   I’m going to tell a story similar to first reading in Acts, but changing the time, place, and people to illustrate how we can do even greater things than Jesus did. A few years ago some people from the parish complained to our pastor that the people of Johnson County were being neglected in the distribution of food.   So he decided to appoint someone to take care of this so he could continue to dedicate himself God’s word and prayer. So Mark, Jerry, Dan, Tammy, and Rob took on the task to start a food pantry.  How would this pantry be supplied? Through of all the parish members’ generous donations of food and money to support the pantry.   And now seven years later we have a food pantry that has served thousands of people just like Jesus did.  I just told this story Friday to the men and women in Johnson County jail to illustrate how we are today doing greater things than Jesus.   I let them know that it’s all possible due through the Holy Spirit that empowered the Baptized faithful do greater works than Jesus.

If you just think about all the places here in central Indiana we can see today greater works than Jesus did.  Healing the sick and bringing the dead to life at St. Vincent and St. Francis Hospitals; caring for widows at St. Augustine home and St. Paul Hermitage, feeding the hungry through St. Vincent DePaul food warehouse, Cathedral soup kitchen, and many parish food pantries; housing the homeless at Holy Family Shelter; and Catholic Charities serving over 75,000 annually. These are greater things that Jesus told us we could do if we believe in him.  These miraculous works are still revealing the Father to those who don’t know him.  Each of us together as the baptized faithful is doing our part to perform miraculous works that are greater than what Jesus did when he walked the earth.   Do we still have pain, suffering, and troubles in the world?  Of course we still do.  We always will till Jesus returns.   But if we have faith in Jesus and don’t let our hearts be troubled, we can continue to do great things to reveal the Father’s love and provide hope for those who are in need.   If we provide them hope we can help them believe in Jesus and lead them to that special place prepared for them in the Father’s house.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Easter, Second Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23, 2017


Jesus gives his disciples another beatitude in today’s Gospel: Blessed are those who have not seen and believed.  Who here is blessed? You are all blessed for believing in the Risen Lord. Today we conclude the Octave of Easter with Divine Mercy Sunday. Last week on Easter Sunday, we heard about the empty tomb. Today Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection.

In Jesus’ first encounter with the disciples they were together on Sunday locked away in hiding.  They just experienced the death of Jesus and were in fear for their own lives.  Suddenly Jesus appears to them ere. Now try to imagine you are at your home with family and friends after a loved one died, it’s late at night, the doors are locked, and a loved one appears out of no where to greet you.  Wouldn’t you be frightened? When they saw him alive they probably feared he was mad at them as they had all abandoned him.  What does Jesus do?  He greets them with, “Peace be with you”. Probably not what they expected, but what they really needed to hear. Jesus shows his wounds on his hands and feet so they believe it’s really him.

Jesus then does something amazing: He breathes on them saying: “Who sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained”.  He sends his disciples to do His work of extending His mercy through forgiveness of sins.   Where else do we hear about God breathing?  In the second creation story in Genesis where God breathes life into the man formed out of clay. Here we see Jesus giving the power to his disciples to restore life to those who are deadened by sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  

The disciple Thomas wasn’t at the first appearance of Jesus and refused to believe
unless he could touch Jesus’ wounds himself.   Thomas is very much like people in our own culture today who must experience something themselves before they believe. When Jesus appears again he offers Thomas to see and touch his wounds. We don’t know if he did, but Thomas proclaims his belief: “My Lord and My God”.  Jesus came to Thomas to experience his presence to help him believe.

The Church helps us to believe by using all our senses through the healing power of the Sacraments.  We hear about Jesus through his Word in Scripture at Mass and the homilies help to put it in context of our daily lives.  But many of us like Thomas need more to affirm our belief. We can see Jesus when the priest elevates the host where we can say silently proclaim: My Lord and my God. We get to touch Jesus when we receive him in the Eucharist. We can feel Jesus comfort in receiving oil on our hands and forehead in the anointing the sick.  We can feel Jesus’ presence, by spending time in the chapel being close to Jesus in the tabernacle.

One of the most healing ways we encounter Jesus is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The priest in the person of Christ extends His Mercy by saying, “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Whenever I hear these words of the priest I feel totally renewed.  My relationship with God has been restored to the original state after Baptism as a new creation in Christ. It’s very healing.  It’s good to know that I can receive it again because I’m a sinner.  I do my best to keep from sinning, but being a fallen human being I’m going to sin again.   By admitting my faults to the priest, expressing sorrow, and being forgiven I’m remaining in a good relationship with God.  

It’s fitting today that we hear about the Lord sending the Apostle to extend his mercy through the forgiveness of sins.   Saint John Paul II decreed in May of 2000 that the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.  Saint John Paul II was very familiar with the message of Divine Mercy from St. Faustina, a native of his homeland of Poland.  I’d like to share some background on where this came from.

During the early part of the 20th century there were many evils going on through expansion of Nazism and communism and a deep disrespect for the dignity of life. In the 1930s, Jesus chose a humble Polish nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, to receive private revelations about Divine Mercy.

In these private revelations there were 14 time when Jesus requested that Divine Mercy Sunday be observed.  I’d like to share one of those revelations from Jesus with you:

My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. … Let no soul fear to draw near to Me. … It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary, no. 699)

Jesus also appeared to St. Faustina in a vision with his right hand raised in a blessing and his left touching his garment above his heart. Red and white rays emanate from his heart, symbolizing the blood and water that was poured out for our salvation and our sanctification.  The Lord requested this image to be painted with the words, “Jesus, I trust in You”, inscribed under his image, and that it be venerated around the world. Jesus said about this image that: “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish” (Diary, no. 48) and “By means of this image I will grant many graces to souls” (Diary, no. 742). The image of Divine Mercy is located in front of the altar is usually located in the confessional.
         Our Lord also gave a devotional prayer to St. Faustina with this promise: “Encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given you” (Diary, no. 1541). “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. … Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite mercy” (Diary, no. 687).

On Sunday at 10 am we will pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the Church.  Your invited to join, but if you’re not able please pick up a Divine Mercy Prayer card after Mass.  It’s easy prayer to pray and you can use your rosary to help.  The traditional time to pray the chaplet is 3 pm if possible, but you can pray it any time. Please pray this often and share with others the Good News of our Lord Resurrection and his desire to extend his Divine Mercy to anyone who comes to ask for it.



If you would like to explore more about Divine Mercy I’d recommend to look into the Marians of the Immaculate Conception Divine Mercy web site, http://thedivinemercy.org/.  If you want to pray the Divine Mercy devotion take it with you on the go and download an app to you Smartphone. http://thedivinemercy.org/apps/



           

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