The Feast of The Baptism of the Lord closes out the Season of Christmas. The question we may ask is why did Jesus, the Son of God, need to be baptized? He did not need to be baptized as we know that baptism is the 1st sacrament for the forgiveness of sin and He did not have sin. And that baptism makes a person a child of God which He already was. Jesus was baptized to show us the way in obedience by fulfilling the Law and through His baptism He made the waters of Baptism holy until the end of time.
All three readings on this Feast point to baptism. In the beautiful 1st reading from Isaiah the Israelite people are just about at the end of their time of exile. The message to them is one of hope and where to get this hope, “All you who are thirsty come to the water.” In other words, all of you who have a deep need to be satisfied (all of us) start out being satisfied in the waters of Baptism.
In the Gospel Jesus is baptized by John and coming up out of the water the Spirit in the form of a dove descends upon Him and the Father’s voice proclaims, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In our baptism the same happens to us!
And in the 2nd reading from the 1st Letter of St. John we hear, “This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ.” This points to the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross and points to the Sacrament of Baptism.
As disciples of Christ, let us never take our baptism for granted but always realize that through it we are cleansed from Original Sin, made children of God, filled with His Spirit and a are a temple of His Spirit, and are called and anointed to go out on mission to “Make disciples of all nations.”
Let us live our Baptism in stewardship of God’s grace given to us!
During the Christmas Season the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word Epiphany from the Greek means “manifestation.” What the Church is celebrating is the revelation that St. Paul proclaims in the 2nd reading “It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” This manifestation is monumental for us Gentiles (non-Jews) in the fact that salvation is offered to all peoples and that we are counted among the chosen people of God.
In the 1st reading the prophet Isaiah speaks God’s message to the Israelites who were in exile around 550 BC. He paints a picture for them about better days and unimaginable joy. Of course, we as Christians see the fulfillment of this promise in the coming of Christ that we celebrated last week. He is the Light that has come and the glory that shines on the people in darkness. He has brought better days and unimaginable joy!
And in the Gospel, as the wise men sought out the King of kings we as disciples need to seek Him out every day in prayer, in His Word and in worship. We too are to offer our gifts and talents for the sake of His Kingdom as grateful and thankful stewards of His grace.
The revelation has been made known…may we continue to make it known by our discipleship and stewardship in response to our loving God. Be filled with His light. Share His light!
The Sunday after Christmas Day is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the Gospel from Luke we see the obedience of the parents of Jesus as they fulfill the Law by presenting Him in the temple. At the presentation Simeon and Anna both praise God for the Christ child and they give prophesy about His future that will affect all peoples.
This is an important feast for all of us. We have all grown up in a family whether it was whole and traditional or broken and dysfunctional. This example of Mary and Joseph shows us what a family is supposed to be like which is obedient to the ways and will of God. God’s will for the family is that they look to His love for strength and sustenance and then turn to each other with that same love. God’s love is unconditional. Our love within the family must also be unconditional.
It has been said and is true that the family that prays together stays together. The family that attends mass together and spends time with God together at Church and at home stays together. And the family that plays together stays together…The family is an important part of the foundation of the Church and of society. As disciples of Christ in the family of God let us promote, encourage and lift up the family. As the family goes so goes the Church and society!
December 21, 2014
4th Sunday of Advent
10 am & 4:30 pm
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
The 4th candle has been lit on the Advent wreathe and it’s just a few days before Christmas. There’s much excitement and anticipation out there in the last minute preparations and in all the scurrying around. But on this 4th Sunday of Advent the Church helps us to take a time out, to take a breath and to refocus on the true meaning of what we are getting ready to celebrate in just a few days.
In the 1st reading we hear of King David’s desire and plan to build the Lord God a temple. At this time in salvation history the Ark of the Covenant and the dwelling of the presence of God on earth was in a tent. David wanted to build a permanent structure for the Ark but God said through the prophet Nathan that it wasn’t His will that David build the temple. It was His will that David’s son who would build it. David could not fully understand this but he trusted in God’s plan for his life…The Lord goes on to make a covenant with David that through David’s heir He would establish a house and a Kingdom that would endure forever.
Fast forward about 1000 years to the Gospel we heard today…We see the fulfillment of the covenant promise made possible through Mary’s “Fiat”, her “yes”. The angel Gabriel came to Mary, just a young teenage girl, and revealed God’s plan to her for her life if she would accept it. God’s will and plan for Mary’s life was for her to be the mother of the Son of the Living God for the sake of the world. She did not understand this at all but she gave her “Fiat”, her yes, and she trusted in God’s will. In accepting this she helped fulfill the covenant and promise God made to David 1000 years before. It was Mary’s “yes” that helped establish the House of God (Church) and the Kingdom that would last forever, the Kingdom of Christ Jesus the King of kings. And it was Mary’s Yes that made her the living temple of the dwelling place of God.
Fast forward again 2000 years to today, right here, right now. Now, each and every one of us are asked to bear Christ inside of us. We are asked to become a living temple and the dwelling place of God and to give His Son to the world. It is through us that the House of God, the Church, and His Kingdom will continue to endure. But each of us must decide what our answer will be every day of our lives. Will it be my will and my way or will it be His will and His way?
We might ask, who am I that God would accomplish His will through me? Look at David who was just a simple shepherd boy. As we heard in the first reading it was God who raised him up to be the greatest king of Israel, it was God who was with him to give him strength and who gave him the victory in all his battles…Look at Mary, just a young simple girl from an obscure place called Nazareth. It was God who raised her up and it was God who accomplished the giving of the greatest gift ever given through her…Even though we might not fully understand God’s will for our lives, if we say yes to Him and if we trust in Him He will lead us and guide us and He will do great things through us. All we have to do is say Yes to Him and to trust in Him…When I first felt the call to be a deacon I said, “Are you talking to me? Are you sure you called the right number?” I didn’t fully understand what I was being asked to do but my wife and I both said yes and we trusted and we continue to trust in Him. And I can truly say that whatever good I have accomplished it is definitely God accomplishing it through me. And whatever you are called to, whatever His plan is for your life, He will do great things through you if you say Yes. The saying is, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” He will raise you up! And as we heard in the Gospel, “Nothing will be impossible with God” for those who say yes and who trust in Him.
How does all this happen? As the angel Gabriel told Mary when she did not understand we are told the same thing, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The Spirit will do the same for us when we have the same response as Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”…And as individuals who are filled and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, who are disciples and servants of the Living God who are open to the will of God in our lives, we come together and form the House of God, the Church. The Church is the dwelling place of God, where we experience His love and His mercy. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical as Pope which was called Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), “In the Church’s Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive His presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives.” In other words, in the Church of Christ that He established, in the mass, and in the people of God is where the presence of God dwells on earth. And it is our responsibility, it is our calling, to take part in the sharing of the revelation of His love by offering ourselves as Mary did for the sake of others. Through us, the House of God, He can do great things if we allow Him to in big ways and in small ways as we offer ourselves. In just a few days we will be celebrating the Christmas Vigil and Christmas Day masses and the church will be packed to overflowing. A large number of the people attending Christmas Mass most likely do not come regularly. There’s a good chance that you will not be able to sit in your regular seat. But we are all called to be hospitality ministers and called to be welcoming to all even if it means giving up your seat. We are to show hospitality in this place not only on Christmas but every Sunday of the year. It is up to us to help everyone feel the presence of God among His people. You or me might be the reason someone chooses to come back or the reason they choose to stay away. When we offer ourselves for the sake of others and when we are welcoming and inviting to all we are revealing and sharing the presence of God.
And when we experience the presence of God in His Church we are not to keep it here to ourselves. You have heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!” I’m sure none of you ever used that expression, right?!! LOL…But it’s not supposed to be, “Whatever happens in Church stays in Church.” No! As disciples of Christ, overshadowed by the Spirit of God, we are not to keep it in Church, keep it amongst ourselves but we are to go out and spread the Good News to the world in love and in service. What did Mary do after she was over shadowed by the Spirit? She went out to minister to her cousin Elizabeth. She brought Jesus to her cousin and caused John to jump with joy in her womb. After we have felt the love of God amongst His people, after we have been strengthened by His Word and after we receive Him in the Eucharist we are to go outside of these walls and minister to others out in the world. We are to take Jesus to others and tell them what God has done for us and we are to invite them home to the House of God, the Holy Catholic Church and into the Kingdom.
So, in closing, this is the true meaning of what we are preparing to celebrate in just a few days. God has made a covenant with His people through His Son Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the world. As Mary was asked to share in this covenant by become a living temple and to take Jesus to others, we too are asked to share in this covenant by being “living temples” and givers of Christ. What will our answer be?
On the 3rd Sunday of Advent the 3rd candle (Rose) is lit meaning that the celebration of the coming of the light of Christ into the world is near. This Sunday is called “Rejoice” Sunday as we are now halfway through this penitential season.
Accordingly, the readings take on a tone of joy. In the first reading from Isaiah Chapter 61 we hear cause for the Israelite people to rejoice as they are returning from exile and slavery to their beloved homeland and to freedom. The prophet speaks for Israel as one that is overjoyed in God who has set them free. But as Christians we see this reading as a foreshadow of Jesus the Christ who was to come and offer salvation to all nations: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because He has anointed me, He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners…so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.” This is reason to rejoice, the Father sent the Savior to set us free!
In the second reading St. Paul encourages the disciples of Christ to “rejoice always” and to allow God to make us “perfectly holy in spirit, soul, and body, preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul is saying is to rejoice in Christ Jesus in all circumstances of our lives as we joyfully wait for His second coming. And also for us to live in holiness relying on the grace of God while we wait.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist joyfully and humbly gives testimony to Christ, the Light of the World. He points away from himself and toward Christ…We are also called to joyfully and humbly testify by our lives that Jesus is the Savior that has come into the world. We are to live our lives in the joy of the Spirit rejoicing in what God has done for us.
As disciples of the Light of the World we strive to live the words of St. Paul, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Let us rejoice always!
On the 2nd Sunday of Advent once again, like the 1st Sunday of Advent, we hear the Lord God speak to His people through the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. At this point in salvation history (Chapter 40) the people of Israel are about at the end of their exile in Babylon. The message is one of comfort and the forgiveness of sin. God is calling His people back to the Promise Land. The Old Testament writing looks forward to the Gospel as we hear, “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”
The Gospel passage is the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark. It does not start with the Nativity of Jesus like the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but starts with John the Baptist who fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah of a voice crying out in the desert. John is the forerunner of the Christ who would bring comfort and expiation of sins. In humility John announced the Good News that one mightier than him would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
During Advent we are to realize that God is calling us back to the Promised Land of His love. We are to remember that Jesus is the one who offers us comfort and forgiveness. But as His disicples we are also to be forerunners for Christ in the world. We are to be a humble voice crying out in the wasteland of the world about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
During this 2nd Week of Advent let us focus on the mercy and forgiveness of God who is calling us back to Himself and let us be mindful of those who need to hear this message of hope.
The readings on the 1st Sunday of Advent set the tone for this four-week season prior to Christmas. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival”. The Season of Advent is a time of preparation to get us ready to celebrate the first coming or arrival of our Savior at His Nativity but also to help us be prepared for the 2nd coming of Christ at the end of time.
In the first reading on this 1st Sunday of Advent we hear from the Prophet Isaiah who speaks at the end of the Babylonian exile. In this proclamation the people of Israel are pleading with God to reveal Himself to them. They feel He is absent from them during this time of trial as they acknowledge their sinfulness, “Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people…for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.” The first step for us during this penitential season is to realize and acknowledge that yes we are also sinners who need the healing presence of God.
In the Gospel Jesus tells His disciples (you & me), “Be watchful and alert…May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” In other words, as disciples wake up! Be always ready, live ready and be prepared by acknowledging our need for a Savior. Be alert and aware and not asleep like people of the world.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us as disciples of Christ we “Are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As we strive to live alert and ready the Lord has equipped us with the graces and gifts we need to be prepared. We find these graces in and through the Church in her sacraments (Reconciliation and Eucharist.)
Advent is the beginning of a new Liturgical Year. Let it be a new beginning for us as disciples of Christ, pilgrims on the journey toward our heavenly home.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
The Liturgical Year closes this Sunday with the great feast of “Christ the King” proclaiming Jesus Christ as King of the Universe. This is a fitting end to the Church Year and all it’s different seasons.
In the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel the people of Israel are given hope of a future king that would be a shepherd king like King David. He would gather and guide his people, protect them and give them security. In the past the kings of Israel had failed to do this so the Lord God tells Israel through Ezekiel that He Himself would be their shepherd king.
In the Gospel we see Jesus fulfilling the prophecy from Ezekiel and all the other prophecies of the Old Testament. But in the Gospel this Sunday we see Christ the King as shepherd at the end of time at the final judgment separating sheep from goats. What determined if people are sent to the right or left is if they were united to the shepherd King in their lifetime and if they lived it by imitating Him in their care for others.
In the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians we hear of the end when Christ the King will hand over His kingdom to the Father.
As disciples of Christ we are to, first of all, allow Him to be King of our hearts and of our lives. We are to be subject to Him in all things and look to Him to guide us, provide for us and protect us. But in union with Him we are to serve Him in others especially the poor and the less fortunate. When we serve others we are serving Christ. When we live the Gospel we have nothing to fear now or at the end of time.
Let us proclaim Christ the King in our personal lives and our lives in service as sheep of the shepherd King.
November (15) 16, 2014
Sat 4:30 pm; Sun 8 & 10 am
33rd Sun in Ord Time
Prov 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thess 5:1-6; Matt 25:14-30
An ornery old man wanted to be buried with all of his life’s savings. So he told his wife on his deathbed, “When I die, I want you to take all of my money and put it in my casket with me. I don’t want to leave a penny behind!” He even went as far as making her promise that she would fulfill his last wishes. On the day of his funeral, everyone watched as his wife put a shoe box in her husband’s coffin…As she turned, one of her good friends ran up to her and told her that everyone thought that it was a bad idea for her to bury all of their money with her husband. The wife explained to her friend that she was a devoted wife, a good Catholic mother and a woman of her word. So her friend asked, “How are you going to support yourself without any money?” To which she replied, “Oh, I think I will be just fine. I wrote him a check.” LOL
The point is, we can’t take it with us…which brings us to our readings today on this 2nd to the last Sunday of the Church Year. As always, at this time of the Liturgical Year and into the first part of Advent our readings focus on the end of time and the final judgment. The next few Sundays the Church helps us to take a look at our lives (the way we are living), and helps us to realize that we all will be held accountable in the end for what we have been given in this life.
In today’s Gospel we hear the Parable of the Talents where the owner of an estate, before going on a long journey, entrusts his possessions to 3 different servants. To one he gives 5 talents, to another two and to a third he gives 1. The first two invest and double what they had been given. But the scripture said the third servant “Went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.” Then the story continues, “After a long time the master came back and settled accounts with them.” As we are all familiar with the story, the master was overjoyed with the servants who invested and increased what they were given. But he was not happy at all with the one who buried his gifts…Of course the Master represents Christ; the long journey and return are His Ascension to heaven and His 2nd coming at the end of time; the settling of accounts is the final judgment; and the servants are you and me. A talent in Jesus’ time was a large sum of money but for us talents represent all gifts entrusted to us by God: everything we have been blessed with. The Lord blesses us with time, with abilities and with treasure but He expects us to invest them wisely and diligently for the good of the Kingdom until He takes us home or until He returns again…Each servant in the parable was given a different amount according to their abilities. The important thing is not how much we have been given but what we do with what we have been given. A steward is one who manages what belongs to another. How good of a steward are we with what has been entrusted to us? Do we invest our gifts, share them, increase them for the glory of God or do we bury them in the hole of selfishness, self-centeredness and apathy?
In the first reading from the Book of Proverbs we see a good example of investing one’s gifts for the good of the other. It is the advice from a mother to her son in what to look for in a “worthy wife, her value far beyond pearls.” No doubt a good wife is worth far beyond any material things, which I can surely attest to, and I’m sure all you husbands out there can say the same about your wives, right?? LOL…But we need to look deeper into the meaning of this 1st reading and see how it connects to today’s Gospel. In this reading from Proverbs we see the son is Jesus Christ, the wife is His bride – the Church (you and me and the entire Body of Christ). So this reading tells us what Jesus is looking for in His bride: one who brings Him good and not evil, works with loving hands, and reaches out to the poor and needy. In other words, Jesus wants His bride, the Church (you and me) to use our gifts of time, talents and resources that we have been given in service and for the benefit of others. He wants us to not bury our God-given gifts, to not keep them for ourselves, but to offer them and to increase them by sharing them…Fr. Robert Barron, one of the leaders in the New Evangelization, says in his homily this Sunday, “The world tells us to be go-getters but the Lord calls us to be go-givers.” Why does God ask us to give and share our gifts in order increase them? Because when we share we evangelize and when we evangelize we increase souls for the Kingdom. But not only that. When we share our gifts our faith increases and we are evangelized, we get closer to God and we become more like Him.
Now we have to fully realize that we all have gifts to share. Look at me, I have the gift of singing, LOL!! Ok maybe not, but I have other gifts. No one can say, “I don’t have any gifts.” 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Some have more than others but we all have been blessed. We all are given 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, we all have been given abilities and we have been given treasure. So how do we not bury them but increase them? We are given so many opportunities to share, invest and increase our gifts out of our gratitude to God here at Resurrection or at whatever parish is your home. There are many different ministries we can serve in - according to the talents we have been given. There are liturgical ministries within mass. There are ministries and acts of charity outside of mass…There is the opportunity every Sunday to offer back in gratitude a portion of our resources in the Sunday offering. There is the opportunity to help build our new church, and there is the opportunity to bless the less fortunate. All we have to do is take a look in the bulletin or our website for the different ways to share our gifts…We also have numerous opportunities to share and invest our gifts in our families and out in the world for the good of the Kingdom…When you are presented with an opportunity that tugs at your heart or if someone personally asks you to share your gifts, know that most likely it is God Himself who is speaking to you!
In the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians he says, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” In other words our personal end or the end of time will come suddenly when we least expect it. In order to be prepared for the final judgment we need to live our lives as good stewards of God’s many gifts. St. Paul tells us in today’s reading when we live our lives as Christian stewards we are “Not in darkness, for that day to overtake us like a thief. For you are children of the light and children of the day…let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” Children of the light and of the day live as good stewards of God’s gifts that have been entrusted to them and they are always ready, they are always prepared!
So the message this Sunday and into the beginning of Advent is for all of us to take a look at how we are living our lives and to realize that in the end we will all be held accountable for what we have been given. The message for us is to always be ready by living the Gospel as good Stewards of our God-given gifts every day of our lives in and through Christ…So we ask ourselves the question, “If Jesus returned today, what would we wish we would have changed in the way we lived our lives? The good news is we still have time to make those changes, no matter where we are right now on our spiritual journey. Because at the final judgment what we want to hear are Jesus’s words in today’s Gospel, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…Come, share your master’s joy.” Amen.
On Sunday November 9, 2014 the Church celebrates the feast of The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. This feast may seem unfamiliar because it is only celebrated on a Sunday every several years. It marks the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral church of Rome on the land owned by the Lateran family by Pope St. Sylvester I in the year 324 A.D. This cathedral is the episcopal seat of the pope as bishop of Rome (not St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican). Pope Clement XII said this basilica is the “mother and head of all churches of Rome and the world” and it is a sign of unity for all Roman Catholic churches with the Chair of Peter (the pope).
In the 1st reading from the Prophet Ezekiel we hear a beautiful description of a future temple that the people could look forward to. At that time the temple in Jerusalem was in ruins due to the Babylonian exile and the Lord was revealing to the people hope for the future. In this magnificent temple the Lord God Himself would dwell and from it healing, life-giving water would flow. As Christians, we see fulfillment of this in the Catholic Church Jesus established where healing and life flow from it in the sacraments and all the graces it offers.
In the Gospel we hear the familiar story of Jesus, in holy anger and zeal for His Father’s house, overturn the table of the money-changers in the temple. The Jews question Him about this and He tells them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Of course He was speaking about the temple of His body. In this He also fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel when healing, life-giving water and blood flowed from His side on the cross. The water symbolized the Sacrament of Baptism and the blood symbolized the Eucharist.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul takes it even further when He asks all disciples of Christ, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” In other words, through the life-giving sacraments and faith we are God’s temple!
So this Sunday we have two messages: (1) Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of establishing His dwelling place in His temple of the new covenant, the Church, where He is to be worshiped and glorified. It is to be adorned with the best because He is worthy of the best. (2) As disciples of Christ, through the Spirit infused in us WE are God’s temple called to bring healing and the life-giving message of the Gospel to the world…As disciples we must fill up with God’s graces as we gather to worship and take it to a world that desperately needs it’s grace.
On Saturday November 1st the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints and on Sunday November 2nd the Solemnity of All Souls.
All Saints, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was instituted by Pope Boniface IV in 615 and has been celebrated on November 1st since about A.D. 731 when Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of all saints especially those who have not been assigned a day in the Church Calendar.
All Souls Day is a day of solemn prayer for all the departed souls that was established by St. Odilo in A.D. 998. It was accepted by Rome in the 13th century.
These two great solemnities give us hope. In All Saints we honor all who have made it to heaven, those known and those unknown. We have the hope that if we also live as true disciples of Christ we too will be counted among the saints honored on this day. And it gives us hope knowing that we are not alone but we have those in heaven praying for us as we journey through this life as the pilgrim people of God.
All Souls gives us hope, the hope that by our prayers our loved ones, who may be in Purgatory, will be helped in their quest for heaven. And it gives us the hope that we too will be prayed for when we are in need.
As members of Christ’s Church, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, we are reminded by these two great feasts that we are part of the entire body of Christ: the Church on Earth (Militant), the Church in Purgatory (Suffering), and the Church in heaven (Triumphant). As we journey through this life let us always remember that this life is only a passing through and that we are citizens of heaven!
Strive to be saints on earth so that we will someday be saints in heaven!
The Gospel on the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time sums up the entire Jewish Law in Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees, “Love God and love neighbor.” This statement sums up our entire faith also as Christian disciples. Nothing else really matters but the need for us to have a personal relationship with our God in Jesus Christ and allow that relationship to manifest in love for neighbor.
In the 1st reading from Exodus the Lord tells us how to love neighbor in practical terms: care for the widow & orphan, lend without terms and be compassionate of other’s needs.
And St Paul tells us in his Letter to the Thessalonians that when we put our love of God into action we imitate Christ Himself as well as the saints.
As disciples of Christ we need to stay connected to Him who is the source of love. When we are connected to Him we cannot help but to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we do these two things with the grace we are given we will make an impact in the world. And St. Paul will say of us as he did of the Thessalonians, “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth.”
Praise be to God!
October (18) 19, 2014
29th Sun Ord Time
Sat 4:30 pm & Sun 8 am
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thess 1:1-5b; Matthew 22:15-21
We hear in the 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah, “I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God besides me.” The context of this reading is the Lord God talking to Cyrus the Great, founder & king of the great Persian Empire. God tells Cyrus, the pagan king, “Even though you do not know me, it is I who subdues nations before you, it is I who opens doors for you and it is I who makes you successful according to my will and purpose.” In other words, Cyrus may be known as “The Great” but it is the Lord God who is greater than all.
This sets up the Gospel passage where the Pharisees and the Herodians try to trap Jesus by asking Him the question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Now this passage has to be understood in relation to the 1st reading where we heard “I am the Lord and there is no other” and in relation to the supreme Jewish commandment to worship God and God alone…Jesus’ answer is, “Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” In other words give to Caesar his due but give to God, who is over Caesar, His due.
So, as disciples of Christ, followers of the one true and only God who is all powerful, creator and sustainer of all things, we must ask ourselves, “What belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God?”
First we look at Caesar who represents the state or the government. What is due Caesar is our abiding by the law of the land: paying of taxes, obeying traffic laws, not endangering other citizens, basically paying and doing what we must to live in this world and under this form of government.
What is due God? What belongs to God? Everything! God is all powerful and all loving, creator of all things and provider of all things. What is due to God is all praise and worship, all thanksgiving and gratitude. Really, what is due God is our whole life! We owe everything to Him. Whatever we have, whatever we have accomplished or whatever we will accomplish is because of the grace and the blessings of Almighty God. What the Lord wants is for us to believe in our hearts and our minds that there is no other God besides Him and to live our lives that way.
But sometimes our beliefs and our actions do not coincide (and I am preaching to myself also). Sometimes, when we are off-track, we place false gods, false idols before the one true God such as material things, pleasure, even people. We place more importance on the created things than the Creator. How we spend our time and our money tells us a lot about what we really think is important. It is said that if we take a look at our calendar, at our check book and at our credit card statements we will find out what is really important to us. If our calendar and our expenses reflect the sharing of our time in service and the sharing of our resources for the good of the parish community and for the Kingdom of God then we have our priorities in the right order – God first. If they do not then we need to seriously think and pray about reprioritizing the use of our God-given time, talents and our treasure…In the Gospel Jesus called the Pharisees and the Herodians hypocrites. They were supposed to be the “super religious” but they professed one thing and did another. We do not want to be categorized with them do we? If not we need to live the way we say we believe.
Now does God, who is to be worshipped alone, expect us to give all of our time and treasure to Him. No! That wouldn’t be realistic or practical. He knows that we have obligations living in this world: family obligations, work, school, the upkeep of our households and our vehicles, and so on. Even though He deserves all He only asks us for a portion. What He wants is for us to live in balance – but with Him on the top of the list first and foremost.
We might ask the question, why does God want us to know that He is the Lord and there is no other? Is He a supreme egotistical dictator? No! He is a God of love who knows only in Him will we find true joy. Only in Him as first in our lives will we find true peace and contentment. When we put other things in front of Him, when we have other things above Him on our priority list, we will never find true joy, or peace or contentment.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us how to live with God as our priority in his letter to the Thessalonians as he commends them for their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we live what we say we believe we place our hope and our trust in Christ and we show that hope in faith and in love by giving to God what belongs to Him: our hearts and the sharing back in gratitude of ourselves and of our blessings. It is in giving of ourselves from what we have been blessed with to a God who deserves our very best, is where and how we will be the most fulfilled. The more we give, the more that will be given to us. That’s how God works. We cannot out give Him. My wife and I can testify to this in our lives, over and over again.
And when we find this fulfillment, when we find this peace and contentment in putting God first in our lives we must tell others what we have found. We cannot hold on to it as a secret! Now let’s be truthful, you know we can’t normally hold on to a secret for very long, right? When someone tells us, “This is just between me and you” what is the first thing we do? We go to someone else and say, “This is just between me and you.” And then they go and do the same! We cannot hold on to a worldy secret, why do we hold on to the secret of the fulfillment we have found in putting God first in our lives?!! We must tell others what we have found which is called Evangelization, the telling of the Good News…Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”, says, “The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization.” If we have experienced the love of God and we have discovered the contentment and blessing of putting Him first in our lives, then we must tell others in our own way from our own heart. We are called to not keep this treasure to ourselves but to go out and share it in our families and out in the world as what Pope Francis calls “missionary disciples.”
In closing, because we acknowledge there is no God besides our God, we give to Him what is due. He has given us life, family and friends, He has given us a means of making a living, He has given us 24 hours in a day and He has given each of us different talents. But most of all He has given us a way to salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, His Spirit to assist us in living according to His will, and He continues to give Himself in the Eucharist…What do we owe God? Everything! In a few minutes during the offertory the choir is going to sing a song with the refrain “Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other god. Our God is healer, awesome in power.” Sing it with them, believe it, live it…Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar but pay to God what belongs to God!
The readings on the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to us about an invitation. But this is not just any invitation, it is the best, most important invitation we could ever get! It is an invitation to the banquet of the Lord!
In the 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah we hear how the Lord Himself will provide the best for His guests: rich food and choice wines. We also hear that He will destroy death forever, wipe away every tear and He will remove sin from His people.
In the Gospel Jesus tells the parable of the invitation from a king for guests to come to his son’s wedding feast. But the invited guests ignored the invitation and turned their back on the king. Of course the king in the story represents God, the son is Jesus Christ, and the guests are the people of all nations. All are invited to the banquet of the Lord where the best will be provided. The banquet is the Kingdom of God or more specifically for us Catholic Christians, it is the Mass. At the Supper of the Lord only the best is provided: the Lamb of God in the bread and the wine. All are invited but many ignore the invitation.
But as disciples of Christ, we need to take it further than just the normal understanding of the parable that all are invited but few respond. As disciples we have to realize that not only are we invited to the wedding feast (Mass) but that we have been given a divine invitation every day to come to spend time with our God. We are given an invitation to join the Lord in prayer, in His Word, to spend time with Him before the Blessed Sacrament and with Him among the poor…What invitations have we been ignoring?
We have been given a divine invitation to be a privileged guest. It is up to us to RSVP…and then to show up with our wedding garments on. The King is waiting for us!
On the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear of the vineyard both in the 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah and in the Gospel.
The Lord tells us exactly what the vineyard is through Isaiah, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.” In other words the vineyard is the people of God or the Kingdom of God. He tells us through the prophet, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done...Then He looked for the crop of grapes but what it yielded was wild grapes.” What the Lord is saying is that He cared for His people, He nurtured them, He protected them, He provided for them but they turned from Him.
In the Gospel Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard where God provided everything for His tenants but the tenants seized and killed His servants. They even killed His Son! The words spoken through Isaiah apply to this parable also, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?” In other words God has provided everything for His people, even His own Son. However, people do not realize this, they do not acknowledge it or want it.
As disciples of Christ, we must never forget what God has done for us, how He provides for all of our needs and especially how He provided a Savior for us. We must not let the thorn bushes and the weeds of this world overtake the vineyard of our lives so that we fail to see what God has done for us and we turn from Him. We do not want to hear Jesus speak the last line of today’s Gospel passage to us, “Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
How we continue to acknowledge God’s blessings in our lives is by living a life of thanksgiving and gratitude, by living a life of Stewardship, by giving back from what we have been given. This is how we bear good fruit. St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading, “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and seen in me.” Paul tells us to imitate him who was faithful and thankful to the end.
Disciples of Christ, continue to bear good fruit and glorify the Lord by your life!
The readings for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to us about obedience and perseverance as disciples of Christ.
In the first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel the Lord tells His people that each of us are responsible for our own thoughts and actions, and that we can make the decision to turn from bad to good or from good to bad. This ties into the Gospel about the two sons. One son said “no” to his father but later changed his mind and the other son said “yes” but did not follow through.
As disciples we have to make the choice daily to be obedient to the Father. We have to realize God has given us free will to choose to be obedient or not and that every day we need to make that choice. We are on a long journey to our heavenly home with many decisions along the way. When we humble ourselves to the will of God we are on the right path.
In the second reading St. Paul gives us the perfect example of humility in Christ Jesus, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found in human appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus shows us what it looks like to be obedient and humble before the Father. As disciples, with His grace, we are to follow His example every day of our lives as we continue on the path to eternal life.
God has given us the power to choose. May we repent of our failings daily and believe in the promise He made to us through the prophet Ezekiel, “But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.”
Perseverance to the will of God in humility and obedience is the road map to heaven!
Sept 21, 2014
25th Sun Ord Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Isaiah 55:6-9; Phil 1:20c-24, 27a; Matt 20:1-16a
There’s a story that will help us understand the readings a little better that is called, “God, can I have a penny?” - One day, while deep in prayer, a young man was trying to understand the thoughts and the ways of God. So he looked up to Heaven and asked the Lord, “God, how long is a million years to you?” God answered, “My son, to Me, a million years is like a minute.”…Then the young man asked, “God, how much is a million dollars to you?” And God replied, “My son, to Me a million dollars is like a penny.”…Finally, the young man asked, “God, could you give me a penny?” …God said, “In a minute.”
As we heard in our 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways, says the Lord.” God’s thoughts and His ways are not like ours. When thinking in the natural, like most people in the world, God’s way of thinking doesn’t make any sense. For example, in today’s Gospel the landowner (who represents God) hires laborers to work in his vineyard. Some he hires at dawn, some at 9 am, at noon, at 3 pm and at 5 pm. So some of the laborers worked all day in the hot sun but others only worked a short time. Yet they all got the same pay! Now if we were the ones who worked all day in the hot sun but got the same pay as the ones who worked only a short time we would be like, “Oh heck no! (That’s the clean version!) We would say, “Are you kidding me?…I worked since dawn and these Johnnie-come- latelies get the same pay as me?!!” But Jesus tells us this parable to show us that the Lord God’s way of thinking and His ways are different than ours…In the Gospel of Luke Chapter 6 it says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well.” In the flesh we say, “Really?!!” What’s our first reaction? If someone mistreats me or strikes me I’m getting back at them as soon as I can and as hard as I can! But the Lord tells us no, do the opposite…The whole Gospel message is a complete 180, totally opposite from the thinking of the world. Bishop Brom used to say that the world’s way of thinking is “stinkin-thinkin” which is opposite from what I call “Jesus-thinkin.”
The readings today are challenging us to re-think and to reform our way of thinking, they are challenging us to open our hearts and our minds to accept God’s way of thinking and His way of valuing instead of the world’s way. The readings today and the whole Gospel message challenge us to take on the mind of Christ.
When it comes to doing something for someone or to sharing the world asks, “What’s in it for me? What do I get out of it?” But the Gospel tells us to serve and to give not to get something out of it for ourselves but to serve and to share for the benefit of the other and for the Kingdom. We see the perfect example of this last Sunday in the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Jesus gave Himself for the sake of the other not expecting anything in return.
The world says to get as much as I can and keep it for myself, but the Gospel teaches us to live a life of stewardship, giving back in thanksgiving and in gratitude for our blessings. Our motivation should not be to get something back in return (even though we will) but to bless because we have been blessed.
The world says to live any way that you want and do anything you want, it’s your life, it’s your body. But the Gospel says the Father knows best.
So what is the reason God asks us to change from the world’s way of thinking to His way? First of all it teaches us to trust in Him in all things. But also because He knows by thinking and acting as the world does (selfishness, greed, revenge, what’s mine is mine) we will never be truly happy. When we let go, when we forgive, when we share, when we do not hold on too tight to anything, then we are not enslaved by anything and we are free and can find true joy. We have to ask ourselves, “What do I own and what owns me?” Whether it is material things including money or hate, bitterness and anger towards someone or something. Again, “What do I own and what owns me?”…Everyone wants to be happy. This a universal fact. But people go to the wrong source for happiness (things and ways opposite of God). The only way to true happiness and to true peace is to not hold onto the created things but hold on to the Creator of all things. The only way is to go to the source of joy and peace, Jesus Christ. When we go to Him and when we take on His way of thinking and acting only then will we be truly happy.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul writes his letter to the Philippians from prison. He was locked up because of preaching the Gospel. But even though he was being unduly punished and was in danger of losing his life he was still full of joy because his source of joy was Jesus Christ. It didn’t make sense that he was joyful in his situation, but he certainly was because he received his joy from God. The same can be true for us. Even though we go through trials in our life, even though it doesn’t make sense at the time, we can still be at peace if we look to the Prince of Peace, Jesus.
Now how do we take on the mind of Christ and God’s way of thinking? Can we just turn on a switch and make it happen? No, we need to fill our mind and our spirit daily with the things of God. The saying is, “We are what we eat.” If we feed on the Word Blessed Sacrament, if we read spiritual books, if we listen to Christian music and if we fellowship with other believers, than we will put on the mind of Christ, His thoughts and His ways.
But if we do this, if we think and act as God does we must be aware that we will not win any popularity contests out in the world. Most of the world thinks and acts opposite from God. As Christians, as disciples and imitators of Christ we will be going against the grain, we will be like a salmon swimming upstream…A good analogy of this is when I was at the Chargers game and it was a few minutes before half-time. I thought to myself I better go to the restroom before half when the whole stadium tries to get in there. So I went. Just as I came out of the restroom half-time started and as I was heading back to my seat I was totally going against the flow. I kept bumping into people, stepping around people and some of them weren’t too happy about it…That’s how living the Gospel is. That’s how it is when we think and value the way God does. When we stand up for what we believe, when we live the Gospel in our everyday lives, people will think we are weird, they will think that we are Jesus freaks, and some of them will not be too happy about it. But it doesn’t matter what people think. What matters is what God thinks! Because the way we think and act matters for eternity, for us and for those around us.
So in closing, the last verse from today’s reading from Isaiah, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” By virtue of our Baptism we are configured to Christ, called to go against the grain of the world’s way of thinking. So let us get rid of “stinkin-thinkin” and take on the mind of Christ, “Jesus-thinkin.”
On Sunday September 14, 2014 the Church celebrates the Feast of The Exaltation of the Cross. The vestments are red because of the death of Christ upon the cross.
In the 1st reading from the Book of Numbers we see Moses at the instruction of the Lord lift up a serpent mounted on a pole so that all who looked upon it would live. This foreshadows the Gospel where we hear it is Jesus who would be lifted up on a pole (cross) so that “everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”
At the time Christ walked the earth the cross was the most horrible, excruciating, humiliating form of capital punishment. So why does the Church celebrate it on this feast day? Because it is celebrating the great love of God for all people. Through the cross of Christ all who look upon it with faith may be saved.
But for Catholic Christians, disciples of Christ, we not only look at the cross for salvation, we look upon the cross as an example of what we are also called to: obedience and sacrifice as we heard from St. Paul, “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” As disciples we are to exalt the cross in our lives by being obedient to God and by offering ourselves as a living sacrifice for the good of others.
The victory is in the cross. As it is said, we cannot get to Easter Sunday unless we go through Good Friday. Lift high the cross!
The message for the readings on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time is summed up in the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.”
In the 1st reading the Lord tells us through the Prophet Ezekiel that we are to be watchmen for the house of Israel (for us today: the Church). The watchman’s task at the time this was written was to stand on top of the hill and watch for coming danger and warn the people of that danger. The watchman did this because of love for his people and for their safety…Likewise God calls us as disciples of Christ to be watchmen for His people to warn them of danger (to the soul) because of love for His people and for their well-being.
In the Gospel Jesus instructs us what to do if a brother sins against us. He tells us to go to that brother or sister in private, then with two witnesses, and then to the Church. He does not tell us to settle things in this way because of spite for the brother or sister, but because of His love for them and us. He desires His children to live in peace and to not let anything get in our way that will hinder our path to eternal life.
Disputes will arise in the Church, in our families and in our everyday life. As disciples of Christ and stewards of the Gospel we must seek to settle them through the love and grace of the Spirit of God. We must be watchmen for the house of the Lord!
The readings on the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time are difficult and not easy to hear. But as Catholic Christians they are key to discipleship and what it means to be a follower of Christ.
As disciples we are all called, by virtue of our baptism, to be prophets and missionaries of the Gospel. But it is not easy as we face opposition in this world. In the 1st reading from the Prophet Jeremiah we hear him say that because he proclaims the true message “I am an object of laughter, everyone mocks me…the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.” He also says that he will not speak the message anymore but that “It becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones, I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”
In the Gospel Jesus tells all disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Living as true disciples of Christ, as a prophet and missionary, is not easy. It is carrying the cross as Jesus carried it on the way to Calvary. But the message is so valuable, so important with eternal implications, we endure persecution and opposition for the sake of souls. As in the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans we “Offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.”
As disciples of Christ the message should be burning in our hearts and we should not be able to contain it. Even though we must deny ourselves and carry our cross we do so with the grace we are given for the sake of the world and for the glory of God!
On the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, as usually is the case, the 1st reading and the Gospel tie together beautifully. In the 1st reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we see Shebna, master of the palace, fall from favor and the Lord God himself appoint Eliakim in his place. The Lord says (paraphrase), “I will clothe him with robe and sash, and give him authority. He will be a father to Jerusalem and Judah. I will place the key to the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens no one shall shut and when he shuts no one shall open.”
The 1st reading and the placing of Eliakim in authority as master of the house foreshadows what takes place in the Gospel. Jesus places Peter in authority as first Pope of his Church (master of the House of God) when he proclaims, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church…I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Peter and his successors would be the Vicar of Christ on earth, having authority given to them by Christ himself. It is the Holy Father to the people of God that Jesus has clothed with robe and sash, who has been given the key to the kingdom and who binds and looses on earth.
As Catholic Christians, as disciples of Christ, we rejoice that our faith leaders go all the way back in an unbroken line to the first pope, St. Peter. We also rejoice knowing that God himself has appointed every successor to Peter since then. We trust in Almighty God in all things to lead and guide his Church with the wisdom that St. Paul proclaims in the 2nd reading, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and unsearchable his ways!”
Even though the Church has gone through difficult times and continues to have its struggles, we as disciples trust in the words of Jesus, “The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” With his appointed vicars such as St. Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and our present Holy Father Pope Francis, all who we have experienced in our lifetime, we are in good hands as sheep led by the shepherd appointed by Christ himself!
August (16) 17, 2014
20th Sun Ord Time
Sat 4:30 & Sun 8 am
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matt 15:21-28
The readings on this 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time reveal and confirm once again that salvation and the Kingdom of Heaven is offered and open to all peoples. But as we heard in the readings faith is the key to salvation for the Jew as well as the Gentile (non-Jews like ourselves). Faith involves trust and confidence which is built by knowing someone in relationship. So the key to salvation is faith built on a deep, personal relationship in and with the person of Jesus Christ. This knowing of Christ, this trusting and confidence in Him can only be built and sustained by communication with Him. In a recent homily Pope Francis said, “Put on Christ in your life and you will find a friend in whom you can always trust.” In other words get close to Jesus every day and befriend Him in constant communication, have faith in Him and trust in Him for all things and He will be there for you.
In last week’s Gospel Peter had the faith in Jesus to get out of the boat but started to sink when he began to doubt. Jesus told him, “O you of little faith, why do you doubt?” In contrast, in today’s Gospel, the Canaanite woman, a non-Jew, persists in believing in the power of Jesus and the Lord tells her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” The granting of the prayer request of the Canaanite woman (a non-Jew) because of her faith was a proof that salvation and the Kingdom of God is open to all. This wasn’t easy for the Jewish people to hear or to accept. They understood that they were the chosen people and they generally considered all others as heathens and pagans, not worthy of the one true God. So this instance in the Gospel about a pagan woman’s prayers being answered, and also St. Paul’s preaching of salvation to the Gentiles in the 2nd reading, and Isaiah’s message in the 1st reading that foreigners would be acceptable and that God’s house would be a house of prayer for all peoples was very difficult for the Jewish people to hear. To accept this message that all people are welcome in God’s Kingdom stretched their beliefs and took them out of their comfort zone…The message of love for all continues to take people out of their comfort zone to this day. The Gospel message is supposed to do that, it is supposed to stir us up. It is said that the Gospel comforts the afflicted but afflicts the comfortable. That’s because to love all is not easy. God is stretching us individually and as a community to love as He loves through our faith in Him.
What does this really mean? Isaiah gives us the answer in the first verse from today’s reading, “Observe what is right, do what is just.” As Christians, do what is right and just in imitation of Christ. Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you and your love ones. As Jesus loves all unconditionally we are to do the same. When Blessed Mother Teresa picked up the sick and dying, the poorest of the poor, out of the gutters of Calcutta she didn’t ask what religion they were or what nationality or race, or what political party they belonged to. She didn’t ask what grave sin they may have committed in their life. No, she picked them up and loved them no matter who they were or what condition they were in because in them she seen the face of Christ. Because of our faith in Christ Jesus we are to show His love to all…Now don’t get me wrong, in no way are we to accept, condone or promote things that we know are contrary to the Gospel or to Catholic teaching, against morality or against the natural law but we are to love the person, created in the image and likeness of God. We do not have to agree with what they are doing or how they are living but as Catholic Christians we are to love them as creations of God as He loves them. As it is said, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.”
Now what does this mean practically for us as believers of Christ today? How do we put this into action? In the Gospel passage the disciples missed the opportunity to show the love of God, to show compassion to the Canaanite woman. They just wanted to send her away. They wanted to get rid of her. We cannot miss the opportunities in our lives to show compassion and to show the love of God to all people. The dictionary describes compassion as an “active concern for the suffering of another.” Let’s start with opportunities for compassion in what’s happening globally: Our brother and sister Christians in the Middle East are under tremendous, horrific persecution (specifically in Iraq). What can we do to suffer with them? Pope Francis in his homilies and on social media is pleading with all Catholics and people of faith to pray fervently for them and for peace. Last Sunday on Twitter the Holy Father posted, “The news from Iraq pains me. Lord, teach us to live in solidarity with those who suffer.” He also posted, “Those driven from their homes in Iraq depend on us. I ask all to pray and for those who are able, to give material assistance.” Even though they are so far away they are still our brothers and sisters in Christ, they are part of His body, our body. When part of the body suffers the whole body suffers… Let’s look at opportunities for compassion in our own country, particularly at the so-called “border crisis” with the immigrants or probably a better word “refugees” (women & especially the children) who have come to our country fleeing from unspeakable conditions. I know this is a “hot button” issue with strong opinions on both sides. But as Catholic Christians, as disciples of Christ, it is our duty and call to love these who are suffering with the love of Christ. There is not an easy answer to solving this issue but I do know that as God loves them we are called to love them and show them compassion. We must see in each of them the face of Christ. What can we do? We can pray and in God’s love we can offer our assistance to organizations such as Catholic Charities who will see that our love offerings get to those in need. The information to do that is on our church website…Let’s look at opportunities for compassion in our community here at Resurrection. We can show God’s love by having an active concern for all who are suffering in different ways in our parish family. There are so many. After just about every mass someone comes up to me about a problem or concern, usually for a loved one. We can suffer with them by listening to them and praying with them and offering them any kind of assistance we can. We must show concern for our whole parish family. A good example is the air condition unit on the south side that went down a couple weeks ago. The people who always sit on the north side or in the middle could have said, “It doesn’t affect me. I’m good.” No, we must have compassion and concern for the whole community, all masses, and for those of all languages…And finally we can show God’s love and compassion in our own immediate and extended families by supporting one another and loving one another no matter what situation are family members are in at the moment. Even though it is difficult sometimes, we must see in our family members the face of Christ…Early last Friday morning before work I was going over this homily. I left the house a little later than normal but I still wanted to stop for a coffee so I did stop at 7-11. Outside of the door was a man who was dirty and barefoot. I figured he would ask me for money. On my way out sure enough he said to me, “Can I have a dollar, I am hungry.” I gave him my change (coins) I received from the clerk. As I was walking back to my car I could hear the words, “See in them the face of Christ.” So I opened my wallet, took out some money and went back and gave it to the man saying, “God bless you my brother.” In his face I seen the face of Christ!
If we profess to be Christians, if we claim we have faith in Jesus Christ, we must love all people and show compassion to all as the Heavenly Father loves all. Our religious philosophy, as I heard it said, cannot be “God and me, the hell with thee!” (I can say hell, it’s in the bible!) *Our faith cannot be only vertical (me & God). Our faith also has to be horizontal – extending to others. What is vertical and horizontal? It is the cross! Our faith has to come from and through the cross and it must extend horizontally to all people.
In closing, salvation and the Kingdom of Heaven is offered and open to all peoples. But faith is the key to salvation, a faith that is rooted in a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And through faith in Him, even though it may not be easy at times, even though it may take us out of our comfort zone, with His grace we must show His love and compassion to all. The Lord God is stretching us and challenging us individually and as a community to love as He loves.
“Oh you of little faith, why do you doubt?” Do these words of Jesus in the Gospel apply to us at times? For me, I can answer yes. I am like Peter who walks out on the water but fear and doubt creep in and I start to sink!
Our lives are sometimes like the boat that the disciples were in, tossed about by the wind and the waves. We all go through tough times in our lives. It is during the storms that we really need to keep our focus on Jesus. In the Gospel Peter started out OK but when he noticed how strong the wind was he started to sink. But then he did the right thing by crying out, “Lord save me.” The Lord is there for us, waiting for us to cry out to Him and He will ALWAYS pull us through.
In the 1st reading the prophet Elijah was running for his life, discouraged and afraid. He tried to hide in a cave to be alone but the Lord was there for him. God spoke to Elijah and said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord, the Lord will be passing by.” Elijah went out and there was a heavy wind that was crushing the rocks, there was an earthquake, and there was a fire but the scripture said the Lord was not in any of those. After all these frightening things there was a whispering sound and in the silence is where God was…
During times of turbulence in our lives, as disciples of Christ, we must pull away to seek the assuring voice of God in the silence of prayer and the Word where the Spirit of Jesus comforts us and strengthens us to make it through the storm. It is in the silence that Jesus tells us as He told the disciples in the boat, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” And it is in the silence of our hearts that Jesus calms the winds and the waves.
As disciples of Christ, after experiencing the calming of Jesus, we are to lead others who are going through difficult times to the calming and peace that only Christ Jesus can bring.
Then we will proclaim to Jesus as in the Gospel, “Truly, you are the Son of God!”
The readings on the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time reassure us that Almighty God can and will provide all of our needs and is the only one who can truly satisfy.
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah the Lord tells us, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come receive grain and eat.” Yes the Lord provides all of our physical needs but what He is talking about here is our spiritual thirst and hunger. If we come to Him, He will satisfy our spiritual needs and is the only one who CAN satisfy them…How does He satisfy our spiritual needs? By His Spirit present in His Word and in the sacraments provided to us through the Church.
And that brings us to the Gospel. We hear Matthew’s account of the feeding of the 5000. The crowds were in a deserted place and they were hungry. Out of His compassion Jesus provides for their physical needs by multiplying the bread and fish but more importantly this miracle foreshadowed the Eucharist in which He satisfies spiritual thirst and hunger to all who come to Him.
In the Eucharist St. Paul’s proclamation in the 2nd reading is fulfilled, “For I am convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
As disciples of Christ, as the 1st reading tells us, we need to come to Him heedfully on a daily basis and allow Him to satisfy the hunger inside of us that only He can satisfy. And as the 1st reading also tells us, “Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy?” In other words, why try to fill the God whole in all of us with things that will not satisfy?
And as we experience this satisfaction in Christ we are to lead others to this experience as Jesus told His disciples who wanted to send the crowds away, “Give them some food yourselves.” What we have found in Christ we must share with a hungry, deserted, lost world.
God can and will provide all of our needs and is the only one who can truly satisfy!
July 20, 2014
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
16th Sun Ord Time
Wis12:13,16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Matt 13:24-43
The readings today speak to us about the power and the mercy of God. Power and mercy, if you think about it, don’t really go together and are usually opposites…Look at the world, throughout history and including today, those with power usually have not shown mercy but used their power for their own good. When we see power in the movies or on television it’s usually used to take revenge on people or to force them to do the will of the one with the power…That’s what’s so startling about the image of God presented to us in today’s readings. God has power over all things yet he shows mercy! In our 1st reading from the Book of Wisdom we heard, “But though you are the master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us.” God, all-powerful, has the power to take our lives or do whatever he wills at anytime. Yet, because of his mercy, he doesn’t…I think about the times in the past when I wasn’t living a life according to God’s will and tremble at the thought of what would have happened if the Lord would have taken me then. I like to refer to those times as my “heathen days”. Oh, I was going to mass most of the time but my heart, my mind and my life was far from God. I think about it now and thank God for having mercy and patience with me! If my time had come then I would have been in big trouble. Can you think of a time when you would have been in big trouble if your time had come? Maybe that time is right now?...I heard about a young lady who was driving home late one night and fell asleep at the wheel. Apparently her car swerved and barely missed a pole, and was riding on two wheels while the other two were in the air and then the top of her car scraped the next pole before it landed on all 4 wheels. At that point, even though she was alone, she heard someone call her name and she woke up unharmed and thought, “Oh my God, what just happened?” God had mercy on her that night…How many near misses have you had in your life? How many near misses have you had that you didn’t even realize they were near misses because God’s hand was upon you! The Lord has mercy on all of us and has patience with us because he wants to give us all a chance to come to Him. He wants us to come closer to him no matter where we are in our relationship with him. He waits patiently for us to rid ourselves of what is not according to His will.
And that brings us to the first parable from today’s Gospel, “the Weeds among the Wheat.” Of course the Wheat are the ones living according to the will of God and the Weeds are not. There will always be Wheat and Weeds in the world. And God, in his patience and mercy allows the two to live side by side hoping that the weeds will come to repentance (change of heart). But in the Gospel Jesus is not talking about the world he is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the Church. Did you know there are Wheat as well as Weeds in the Church? Don’t look around to point out the Weeds in here because someone may be pointing back at you!...Once, there was a little girl in the kitchen watching her mother wash dishes. When she noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out from her beautiful black hair. She looked at her mother and curiously asked, “Momma, why are some of your hairs turning white? Her mother replied, “Well every time that you do something wrong and make me unhappy, one of my hairs turns white.” After thinking about it for a while, the little girl asked, “Is that why all of Grandma’s hairs are white?” …So, don’t be too quick to judge here in the church or in the world…The truth is, is that all of us in the church are Wheat, basically good, but we are also a little bit Weed, like one of my instructors told us in diaconate formation, we are all created good but bent towards sin. We are both saint and sinner. We are flesh and spirit. We should all be striving to live according to the will of God but we all fall short of his glory. And that is why we should be so grateful to God for his mercy and patience with us…But God’s patience with us calls for a response on our part. It calls for us to strive even harder to be more like his Son, to seek holiness in our lives. It calls for us to draw closer to Him and to deny our sinful nature…And it calls for us to show mercy to others as we have been shown mercy. Our first reading said, “And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind.” In other words, as God has shown us mercy in Jesus, we are to imitate Him and show mercy, compassion and kindness to all: our families, our neighbors, our friends, strangers and even our enemies. When we do this we are a sign of God’s mercy. This is power together with mercy, the two that don’t go together in the world’s eyes. But the power that we are talking about is greater than any other power, we are talking about the power of LOVE. With Jesus dwelling inside of us we have this power. But we can choose to use it or not, put it into action or not…God’s love for us is not earned, measured or even sensible, but we are called to receive that love and extend it to others, even to those who we might think don’t deserve it.
In gratitude for God’s mercy and in the power of love we need to be concerned with the welfare of His Body, the Church, where Wheat and Weeds are found. We need to use the power we have been given by utilizing the gifts we have been blessed with to raise up the Body of Christ…In the Gospel we heard the Parable of the Yeast, where the yeast caused the batch of dough to rise and turned it into a blessing which was a loaf of bread that was nourishment for the people. In gratitude we are to share our gifts, talents, and resources as yeast to allow the Body of Christ to rise and be a blessing to all…And we are to help others recognize their gifts and talents and encourage them to offer them for the uplifting of the Body…In this we all become the yeast and we rise together for God’s glory.
(Closing) We have so much to be thankful for. In his patience the Lord allows both Wheat and Weeds to grow together, waiting for both saints and sinners to respond to His love and to receive the free gift of his mercy. We are all both Wheat and Weed. The thing is, is that we all only have a number of days until we are called home, only a certain amount of time before the angels will gather us up. It is what we do with this time here on earth that will make all the difference…But let us not respond to God’s call because of fear of his power, let us respond in gratitude because of his love and his mercy.
Whoever has ears ought to hear…
July 13, 2014
15th Sun Ord Time
8 & 10 am
Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matt 13:1-23 (1-9 short)
The focus this Sunday is on the Word of God, written and spoken. In our 1st reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we heard a beautiful, poetic description of the Word and its effects. The Lord speaks through the prophet and compares His Word to the rain and snow that comes down to the earth and does not return until they have completed their purpose. The Lord God says, “So shall my Word be that goes from my mouth; my Word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” The written Word and the spoken Word come straight from the mouth of God and it has powerful effects. There is no difference in reading scripture privately or hearing it proclaimed at Mass, it comes from the mouth of God. What we have to be careful with is that it is read and heard in and through the tradition of the Church so that we have the true understanding of its meaning and intent…The Word of God is powerful and life changing. My wife and I can personally attest to this as we were totally transformed by attending a Catholic bible study in our younger years for over 10 consecutive years. It transformed our marriage relationship, our priorities and goals, our whole way of thinking…The RCIA team (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) can attest to its life changing power as we see group after group come through the RCIA process and be transformed by the Word of God. Just as God spoke His creating Word at the beginning of creation He continues to speak it today, creating and re-creating hearts and lives. The Word of God is food for our souls and a font where we receive strength and guidance. It is one of the main ways God speaks to His people. St. Paul describes it as, “Sharper than any two-edged sword” and St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Besides being attentive to the Word at Mass each and every one of us should have our own personal bible, marked-up, highlighted and worn looking. It shouldn’t look brand new or shouldn’t be covered with dust (smile). Besides our own bible in book form we can easily pull the entire bible up on our smart phones and our electronic devices anywhere we are. It is readily available to us. We really have no excuse to not read and meditate on it…I seen a license plate holder that said “Fight Truth Decay – Read your Bible.” And the letters B.I.B.L.E. stand for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.
The Word is comforting, helping us through difficult times when we really believe it. Such as scriptures like we heard in the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” They help us to not lose hope and to not give up during trying times, they help us to not be afraid…2 of the scriptures that I stand-on and claim for my life help me to be up here right now, “(Phil 4:13) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “(2 Tim 1:7) For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and self-control.” The Word of God is powerful and effective.
In the Gospel Jesus tells the crowds the Parable of the Sower. Jesus is the sower, the seed is His Word and the birds that eat the seed is the evil one. The different type of soil are our hearts that the Word falls on: the path – hardened; the rocky ground – shallow; among the thorns – distracted by the world; and rich soil – fertile and receptive. Through our Baptism we are all called to be sowers of the Word, to spread the Gospel. But from time to time we need to take inventory of the soil of our hearts. Is it hardened like the path where the Word cannot penetrate? Is it shallow like the rocky ground where the Word can’t take root? Is it distracted by the world like the soil among thorns? Or is it all of the above? Or, is it fertile like the rich soil that bears fruit? As disciples of Christ we all, including myself, need to take inventory of the condition our hearts and strive to improve its quality, its richness and how receptive it is to God’s Word. This can only be done through prayer.
Once we get ourselves back on the right track we need to be sowers of the Word, we are all called to be “Spiritual Farmers” spreading the seed of the Kingdom. Jesus calls each of us to commit ourselves to be part of the building of the Kingdom of God. This is done by us receiving His Word with receptive, fertile hearts then by spreading what we have received as spiritual farmers. How do we do that? Do we do that by hitting people over the head with our marked-up, color- coded bibles? That usually doesn’t work too well. Do we do it by shouting on the street corner? Some may be called to that but most of us are not. Most of us are called to be spiritual farmers, sowers of the Word, by putting the Word into practice in our everyday lives: at home within our families, at our jobs among our co-workers and supervisors, in ministry and service as we offer our time and talent, and so on. When we live the Word people will notice there is something different about us. With the Word inside of us, through the Spirit, it will come out when we need to share it with someone who is struggling with a decision, or with someone going through a difficult time or with someone who needs guidance or direction. If the Word is already inside of us the Spirit will bring it out when we need it….As spiritual farmers we are called to preach, teach and draw others to Christ and His Church. I will never forget the words of the Bishop at my ordination and at every diaconate ordination. The newly ordained deacon kneels before the Bishop and places his hands on the Book of the Gospels as the Bishop says, “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” This is for all believers: read the Word and believe it; share what you read and believe by being sowers of the Word in your circle of influence; and live it by putting it into practice.
But as sowers of the Word it can get discouraging when we don’t see immediate results. Don’t worry about results. We do our part and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest. Even Jesus was rejected by most. We just worry about taking care of our end and let God take it from there. We do not change anyone, the Lord and His Word does the changing as St. Paul said in 1 Cor 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.”
In closing, the Word of God is powerful and effective, transforming and sustaining. As disciples of Christ let us make our hearts receptive to the Word of God every day of our lives and sow it as “spiritual farmers” every chance that opens to us for the growth of the Kingdom.
“Whoever has ears ought to hear!”
On the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Jesus is proclaimed as the “Prince of Peace” and whoever is in communion with Him has peace that surpasses all understanding.
In the 1st reading from the Prophet Zechariah the people of God look forward to a new king whose “dominion shall be from sea to sea”. This king would ride in on a young donkey as when kings of that day would come in peace would ride donkeys but during war would ride in on a horse. We see this prophecy fulfilled as the King of kings, Jesus the Christ, rode in on a young donkey on Palm Sunday symbolizing His coming in peace.
In the Gospel Jesus tells us to come to Him and He will give us rest from our burdens. Life is burdensome at times with its daily problems and concerns, some large and some small. When we go to Jesus in prayer and His Word on a regular basis He will give us His peace and the grace to make it through.
And in the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans we are told “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” As Christians and disciples of Christ we are called to live more concerned with the things of the Spirit than that of the flesh. If we do that than we will have the peace of Christ.
Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” who gives us His peace. As His disciples we are called to also bring peace to wherever we go, at home, at the work place and in the market place. As His disciples we are to place our complete trust in Him which results in a peace that surpasses all understanding and we are called to help others know His peace also.
May the peace of Christ be with you!
The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul celebrates two pillars of the Church: St. Peter the 1st Pope, sent to the Jews and St. Paul sent to the Gentiles (non-Jews). This solemnity celebrates their lives, faith and service as key leaders in the beginnings of our Catholic Christian faith.
In the 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles, after James is beheaded by King Herod, Peter is also arrested and put in prison. The scripture said that he was secured by double chains and guarded by 12 soldiers. But the scripture also said the church (disciples) fervently prayed to God on his behalf. God heard their prayers and intervened by sending an angel to miraculously set him free. This shows us as disciples that the Lord God will intervene in our lives so that we are able to do His will as Peter did by leading the Church as the 1st Vicar of Christ. And it shows us as disciples we must lift each other up to God in fervent prayer so that His will be done.
In the 2nd reading towards the end of St. Paul’s life he encourages the young Timothy telling him that God has given him the grace to do His will even though at times it was not easy. He tells Timothy that his life was a sacrifice for the Gospel as it was poured out “like a libation” but now he is ready to receive his victory crown. As disciples God also gives us the grace to pour out our lives as a sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and if we do our victory crown awaits us.
And in the Gospel after Peter proclaims Jesus as “The Christ, Son of the Living God” Jesus gives him the keys to the Kingdom. In other words Peter and all popes after him was given the authority of Christ on earth. As disciples we also must proclaim Jesus as “The Christ, Son of the Living God” and we must live our faith lives under the authority and guidance of the Vicar of Christ and the Magisterium.
This solemnity gives us encouragement and hope as we believe and trust that just as Peter, with all his faults and doubts, and Paul with his stubbornness that we will also be given the grace to do God’s will as disciples of the Son of the living God. No matter if we are uneducated like Peter or highly educated like Paul God can and will use us if we are open and willing.
Saints Peter and Paul pray for us!
This Sunday the Church celebrates the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ also known as Corpus Christ. This solemnity was established in 1264 by Pope Urban IV from a request from St. Thomas Aquinas to honor Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and to recall its institution. Originally it was celebrated on Holy Thursday but was moved to the Thursday after Trinity Sunday because the Church felt Holy Thursday, the night before the Crucifixion, was a more solemn celebration. The Church wanted Corpus Christ to be a joyful celebration in thanksgiving. In most dioceses the solemnity is now celebrated on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday.
In the 1st reading from Deuteronomy the scripture recalls how God provided manna for His people, a bread from heaven. This of course was a foreshadow of the true bread from heaven that the Father would send, His Son Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel Jesus tells the people that He is the bread that came down from heaven and that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” This is absurd to the people who follow the Law that tells them they must not eat anything with the blood still in it. But Jesus does not back off from His statement. He repeats it even more strongly. The people reply, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” And many of them walk away.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul affirms the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic bread and wine.
The question for us today is “Do we truly believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist?” If we do than every time we receive it we become one with Christ and one with all believers who receive Him in the same way. St. Paul tells us, “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of one loaf.” In communion with Christ and His Church, through the Eucharist we are called to be the bread that is broken and shared. This means as disciples we are to be the broken Christ in humble service as we share our lives in living Stewardship in thanksgiving for the sake of the Kingdom.
We are what we eat! As we consume the Body and Blood of Christ in faith, allow it to transform us more and more into the image of Christ, broken and shared.
June 14, 15, 2014
4:30 pm Sat, 8 am Sun
Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13:11-13; John 3:16-18
Before we reflect on our readings I would like to wish a happy Father’s Day to all of us fathers and to those who act in the role of fathers. It’s a well-known fact that the father is the most significant factor in the well-being of the family concerning faith and morals. We fathers need to take our place as the spiritual head of our families for the good of the family, the Church and of society. Our role model is St. Joseph of the Holy Family.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity, 3 persons in 1 God, is the central mystery of the Christian faith. While this is the central mystery of our faith, it is a mystery that we cannot fully understand: how can 3 equal and distinct persons be one? Did you ever notice that we say in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit and we don’t say in the names of the Father, Son and Spirit? That’s because we worship 1 God not 3…While we cannot fully understand this mystery we can understand that within the Trinity and what flows from the Most Holy Trinity is perfect love. As we heard in the Gospel what might be the most well-known scripture verse in the bible, “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.” Yes, God loves us SO MUCH that He gave His only Son as a sacrifice, as a ransom for us through the Spirit. From the Trinity flows a perfect love for us no matter who we are, where we have been or what we have done. Everyone in this place is loved by God without measure whether you fully realize it or not.
In the 1st reading from the Book of Exodus the Lord describes Himself to Moses as “A merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” This is Moses’ second trip up the mountain with the second set of stone tablets. The first set he broke in anger because of the “stiff-necked people” that turned from God and worshipped the Golden Calf and they did other things we can’t mention. Even after all this, God still loved His people Israel…We are “stiff-necked” at times, refusing to be guided by God but He still loves us, He is still a merciful and gracious God towards us. The Lord does not care so much where we have been but is more concerned with where we are going. It’s like the front and back windshields of your car. The front is larger than the back because it is not so important where you have been but more important where you are going. Likewise, God is more concerned with our future, from this day forward.
But like all love, the tremendous love of God requires a response. It’s a sad thing when someone truly loves another but does not receive love in return. It’s the same with God’s love for us. We need to receive it and love Him back in return.
The way we love Him back in return and respond to His love is by a close, intimate, personal relationship with Him by communicating with Him on a daily basis…St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading how we are to love God back in return. First, he tells us to rejoice. As a people loved by the God of the universe we need to live with a joy that shows it in our lives, in our outlook and attitude and especially on our faces (smile God loves you). Next, St. Paul tells us to mend our ways. As a response to God’s love we need to turn from things in our lives that drives us away from Him, things and ways that reject His love. We need to acknowledge that we are “stiff-necked” at times and we do things according to our will instead of His will. We need to go to Him for His mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we need to meditate on His Word on a regular basis to allow Him to mend us into better people and better disciples…St. Paul tells us to “encourage one another, agree with one another, and live in peace.” As the Father and Son live in perfect unity through the Spirit in relationship, we need to live in unity through the Spirit in relationship not only with God but within our own families at home and within our Church family, the Body of Christ. We need to support each other, lift each other up (not tear each other down) and encourage each other to be the best we can possibly be through the graces offered to us flowing from the Trinity.
And, the way we respond to God’s immeasurable love for us is by living Stewardship as a way of life. We are familiar with the concept of Stewardship here at Resurrection. We hear of it in the readings throughout the year, we hear it in homilies, we see it in the monthly emails sent to us by the Director of Stewardship, we see it on the cover of our bulletin and we read the Stewardship column inside the bulletin every week. Stewardship is “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and love of neighbor.” Stewardship is our response to God’s love and everything He has done for us. It is a life of thanksgiving and gratitude for the Father giving us life, for the Father loving us so much He sent His only Son to die for us so that we would have a way to salvation. It is living in thanksgiving for Jesus willing to become man, suffer and die for us for our sake, for Him taking our place on the cross, and for Jesus giving us Himself every mass in the Eucharist. And Stewardship is living a life of gratitude for the Spirit continuing to be with us and for Him giving us graces and gifts that we need to sustain and equip us for all that we are called to do. Stewardship is a way of life in joyful thanksgiving, acknowledging that everything we have, everything we are and everything we will become is a gift from God. And because we are so thankful we willingly and joyfully share a portion of what we have been blessed with: we share of our time and our talents in service, and our resources to sustain and build the Body of Christ, not out of guilt or shame, but out of genuine and true thanksgiving.
But to respond to God’s love and blessings by living a life of Stewardship takes trust. The Gospel said, “Everyone who believes in Him.” Believe in the original text (Greek) means much more than our English believe. Believe in the Greek means to trust, to totally rely upon, to have complete confidence in. To live Stewardship as a way of life in response to God’s love takes a personal relationship with Him in which we totally trust in Him and have confidence in Him in the good times and especially in the lean and difficult times. I work for the Federal Government and if you remember last year the government shut down and sent its workers on furlough. We went without pay for 1 day a week for six consecutive weeks. During that time my wife and I continued to trust in the Lord and we did not stop our regular contributions to the church. The Lord provided all of our needs and we were blessed even more in the end!…The Lord gives us many opportunities within in our Church community to live Stewardship by offering our time and talents in service and we have an opportunity each Sunday (Saturday evening) to offer a prayed about, free-will portion of our resources we have been blessed with as we come forward out of our pews. Here at Resurrection, at this time in salvation history, we have been given a great opportunity to live Stewardship in thanksgiving by being a part of the Capital Campaign for our beautiful new permanent Church building. What an opportunity for us to be good Stewards of God’s gifts in response to His love by being a part of something that will give Him thanksgiving and glory now and for generations to come!
In closing, our God: Father, Son and Spirit, 3 persons in 1 God, loves us without measure. He is a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity. He does not care so much where we have been but cares more where we are going. And He provides for our every need. But this tremendous love requires a response…What will our response be?
And so on this Trinity Sunday I leave you with St. Paul’s Trinitarian prayer from the 2nd reading which is the priestly prayer at the beginning of Mass, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Amen.
Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Resurrection Sunday, closes out the glorious Season of Easter. Pentecost, when the Lord fulfilled His promise by sending His Spirit, is considered the birthday of the Church. So happy birthday!
The Jewish Feast of Pentecost celebrated the grain harvest and the Sinai Covenant between God and His people. At the new Pentecost, in the upper room where Jesus’ disciples were when the Spirit descended, the new covenant is celebrated inaugurated by the Paschal Mystery of Christ, the Bread of Life (grain).
In the 1st reading from Acts of the Apostles the Spirit came down in a noise like a strong driving wind and tongues of fire, and filled the disciples enabling them to proclaim the “mighty acts of God.” All, no matter their language, were able to understand the disciples signifying the unity of the Church.
In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us the same and only Spirit gives different gifts, not for our benefit, but for the benefit of the Church. Paul tells us each member of the Church must work together in unity for the good of the Body of Christ.
And in the Gospel, Jesus breathes on the disciples and fills them with the life-giving Spirit. He tells them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
As disciples of the Risen Christ we are members of the Church, the Body of Christ. We are filled with the Spirit of Jesus and called to use the gifts we have been given for benefit of the Body. We are called to live in unity with the whole universal Church under the guidance of the head of the Body on earth, the Vicar of Christ, the Holy Father Pope Francis and his bishops. And we are sent, with the power of the Spirit, to proclaim the “mighty acts of God.”
The Lord is Risen and is in our midst in and through the Holy Spirit!
The readings on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord start out with the beginning of St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. In the first verse he addresses Theophilus which directly translates to “God lover.” So this account, and all of scripture for that matter, is addressed to us who are disciples of Christ (God lovers).
In the 1st reading, just before Jesus ascends back to heaven, He tells his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” Then He ascends back to the Father in a cloud. As the disciples were looking on two men dressed in white (angels) tell them, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” In other words, Jesus has completed His work on earth. He has now entrusted his disciples to be His witnesses and carry on His work of salvation.
In the Gospel Jesus tells us exactly what this mission is that we are to set out to do as His followers, “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.” This is known as the “Great Commission.” This is our mission that we have been entrusted with. But He does not leave us alone as He tells us, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” He promises He will be with us always through the Spirit as we will celebrate next Sunday on Pentecost.
So, the two men dressed in white tell us, “Why are you standing there?” As disciples of the Risen and ascended Christ, we have been given the “Great Commission” to go out to be His witnesses and make disciples by spreading the Gospel by word and deed, by putting our faith into action by living stewardship as a way of life. We do not do this alone but together with the Spirit of Jesus and with each other, the Body of Christ.
The Risen and ascended Christ is in our midst, alleluia!
The readings for the 6th Sunday of Easter are a prelude for the Feast of the Ascension and for Pentecost. The Gospel continues from Jesus’ Last Supper Discourse where Jesus promises to send an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, after He ascends back up to the Father. In this Gospel passage we see another revelation of the Trinity, 3 Persons in one God forming perfect unity in relationship as community. As disciples of Christ through Baptism we are included and invited to live in union with the Trinity and with each other, the Body of Christ.
In the 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see an example of living in the power of the Trinity as Deacon Philip (ordained as one of the 7 deacons in last week’s 1st reading) preaches the Gospel accompanied by great “signs.” As disciples of Christ living in the power of the Trinity we too are to preach the Gospel in our everyday lives by word and by deed. When we are in communion with God and His Church we will also see great “signs”: the conversion of souls!
And in the 2nd reading the writer of 1st Peter tells us that even though living in communion with the Trinity will not always be easy with us facing persecution we are to “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” As disciples of Christ we are to keep ourselves ready by staying in close relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit so that we are always equipped and able to share our faith whenever the opportunity arises. That is our mission as disciples.
The Lord is risen and is in our midst, alleluia!
Sept 18, 2014
5th Sun of Easter
8, 10, & 4:30
Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12
My brothers and sisters, “You are a chosen race, precious in the sight of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.” This is what the Lord God tells us in the 2nd Reading. Do you realize what this means, that this great, awesome honor has been bestowed on us? That we, through Christ, are chosen to be among God’s own people, to be part of a holy nation, which is the Church, the Body of Christ. It’s not something to be taken lightly. Each and every one of us in this place, no matter our age, no matter if you are here every week sitting in the same exact place (God forbid if someone tries to sit in your spot), no matter if you are here occasionally, or if you are here for the first time – we are all precious in the sight of God and we are all chosen to be part of His people. What an honor, what a blessing!
But with this honor and blessing comes responsibility and it requires a response. For many years I didn’t realize this. I thought my being Catholic meant I had to go to Mass on Sunday, put in my 1 hour and that was good enough. Not the case! At the beginning of our 2nd reading from 1 Peter we heard, “Come to Him.” To be part of the holy nation and the people of God we must come to Jesus in a personal relationship who in the Gospel tells us is “Way, the Truth and the Life.” No matter where we are on our spiritual journey we are all called to come closer to the Risen Christ by allowing Him in our lives more fully and more concretely. We are to take our relationship with Him to the next level by seeking Him more in prayer, in His Word, in the Sacraments and before Him in Eucharistic Adoration.
1 Peter tells us, “Like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” As single stones, as individuals, we are called to come together to build the house of God (the Church). As single stones, yes we are beautiful and precious in the sight of God. But when we come together brick by brick placed on the foundation of Christ (Cornerstone) and the Apostles we form the “spiritual house of God”. And each of us are called to discern where we fit in in this spiritual building. Just as each stone in a building structure is unique and fits in a certain place, each of us have gifts to offer and we fit in the Church in a certain place and in a certain way. When we offer our God-given gifts and talents we do our part in letting ourselves be built into the spiritual house of the Lord.
This is fulfilling the call to be a holy priesthood by offering spiritual sacrifices. An ordained priest like Fr. Ken and Fr. Ed are part of the Ministerial priesthood and they offer spiritual sacrifices in the Mass on our behalf. We, the baptized but not in the Ministerial priesthood, take part in the “common priesthood” and are called to offer spiritual sacrifices in thanksgiving through Christ on behalf of the Church. First and foremost, as Catholics, in thanksgiving and gratitude, we are to offer spiritual sacrifices every Sunday at Mass. We can even start 1 hour before Mass by shutting down our TVs, music, computers and cell phones for a spiritual sacrifice and to prepare ourselves for Mass. You can offer the effort it takes to get yourself and your family ready for mass. Those of you with small kids know what it takes to get the whole family ready and to Mass on time! It’s probably even harder with teenagers! During Mass we are to offer our prayers and our singing unto the Lord as spiritual sacrifices. We offer our minds and our hearts open to the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word. During Mass we should offer our very selves, our whole being: mind, body and soul to God. Our whole being should be present. I remember when I was younger and didn’t really realize what was happening during Mass, much of the time my body was there but my mind and heart were far away. During Mass I would be thinking about what I was going to do after Mass: go get something to eat, wash my car, go to the movies, watch football! I wasn’t really offering my whole self, I was just there in body fulfilling my obligation. But now I do realize the great mysteries that are taking place at each and every Mass and I try to be there present with my whole being.
When the gifts are brought up we offer a portion of our treasure we have been blessed with in thanksgiving to maintain and to build up the house of God, our Church community. Our sharing of a portion of our treasure helps build up the Church by supporting ministries, by maintaining our current place of worship and helps to build our new permanent Church (underway!)…As you know here at Resurrection since the beginning of this past Lent, for the Collection the baskets are no longer passed through the pews but individuals and families come forward to place their offerings in the baskets. Now I have to admit, when I first heard about this I wasn’t so sure how it would work. I know it’s a big change and people DO NOT like change. But it was explained to us very well at a Pastoral Council Meeting by the Co-Chair the reason behind it: Before, as the baskets were passed through the pews it was like we were getting our contributions taken from us! Remember in the old days when the baskets were on a long pole and if you didn’t give anything the usher left it there in front of you or if he knew you he would hit you in the chest with it until you put something in! By getting up and out of our pew and coming forward as individuals and families, instead of getting our contributions taken from us, we are freely offering a portion of our blessings as a thanksgiving sacrifice, as a worship offering to help build and maintain the house of God. It is a planned, prayed about, free will sacrificial offering unto the Lord. What a beautiful thing!
And at the Liturgy of the Eucharist when Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is made present to us on the altar we unite our sacrifices of prayer, praise and thanksgiving with His as they rise to the Father like incense. At this time in the Mass we unite all our prayers, concerns and thanksgiving to the offering of Jesus to the Father which is the greatest prayer and offering of praise.
And after we have offered our prayers, praise and sacrifices to the Father as a royal priesthood during Mass, we are strengthened by His Word and the Eucharist to go out to live as a chosen race, as “missionary disciples” as Pope Francis calls us. We are strengthened and equipped to live a life of service as disciples of Christ. In our 1st Reading we heard of seven men who were called and ordained for service. The word for deacon in the Greek is diakonos which means “servant”. Through our common baptism we are all called and anointed for service in the example of Christ who said, “I have come to serve, not to be served.” We are all called to serve in the humility of Christ in our families, in our Church community and in the world. In service in and through Christ we are living our call to be a holy nation, a people of His own. By living as a royal priesthood, we offer spiritual sacrifices not only on Sunday but every day of the week so that we do our part as living stones in building up the spiritual house which of God. When we do this as “missionary disciples” we draw others to Christ and His Church.
My brothers and sisters, each and every one of us in this place are called (I quote 1 Peter) to be “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
What an honor, what a blessing! But with this honor and blessing comes responsibility and it requires a response. Come to Him as living stones and let yourselves be built into the spiritual house of God. This is what really matters! This is what is truly important because it is about eternal life, ours and those we help along our journey. Amen.
The 4th Sunday of Easter is also “Good Shepherd Sunday”. In the Gospel Jesus speaks of the shepherd who enters through the gate and the sheep knows his voice and they follow him. The scripture said the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them so he spoke plainly and said, “I am the gate for the sheep”.
To better understand what Jesus is trying to tell us we need to know who the shepherd is to his sheep and what he does for them. The shepherd is the guardian of his sheep. They have an intimate relationship with him where they know his voice and he knows each one individually. At times several shepherds would put their sheep into a sheepfold together for the night for safety. In the morning the shepherd would lead them out by calling each by name. And at times the shepherd would lay across the sheepfold and act as the gate so no one could enter and do harm to his sheep.
To tie into this we hear in our 1st reading from the Acts of the Apostles that Peter stood up with the Eleven and proclaimed to the people who this Jesus is and what was done to him. The scripture said, “They were cut to the heart” and they asked, “What are we to do?” Hopefully, when we hear the Word of God proclaimed we are “cut to the heart” and we also ask as disciples, “What are we to do?” What we are to do is seek a more intimate relationship with the Good Shepherd, who as we heard in the 2nd reading from 1 Peter is, “The shepherd and guardian of your souls”. As his disciples we are to seek to know his voice so that he may lead us in every decision of our lives and he may lead us to do his perfect will. We are to trust in him and allow him to be our protector from all harm and our provider for our every need.
The Good Shepherd knows each one of us by name. It is up to us to listen to his voice and to follow his lead.
The Risen Lord, the Good Shepherd, is in our midst, alleluia!
On the 3rd Sunday of Easter the Gospel is one of the most beloved passages in all of scripture, “The Road to Emmaus.” This passage is so beloved because we can relate to it very much in our own lives as disciples of Christ. The two, on Easter morning, were dejected and heading to Emmaus downcast and full of doubts. Jesus himself started walking with them but they did not recognize him. The scripture said, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.” Jesus appeared to be going past their village but the two invited him to stay with them. And their eyes were opened in the breaking of the bread. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”
As disciples of Christ, at times throughout our journey, we too may be dejected, downcast and confused. At times we too do not recognize Jesus walking right next to us. But if we do recognize him and if we invite him in to stay with us he will open our eyes to the fact that he is truly present to us at all times. This happens in different ways but for us as Catholics the main way is through the breaking of the bread, the Eucharist (the Mass). The Road to Emmaus is a description of the holy Mass. The Word is proclaimed and explained and the bread is broken (Christ in his Word and in the appearance of bread and wine). It is through the Mass that our hearts will burn with the fire of Christ. It is through the Mass that we encounter the crucified and the Risen Lord.
After the two on the Road to Emmaus encountered the Risen Lord they did not stay where they were. No, they immediately set out to evangelize and witness to others about their experience.
In the 1st reading from Acts we see a different Peter. Instead of the confused and afraid person he was before the Resurrection, now his eyes have been opened and his heart is burning because of his encounter with the resurrected Jesus. He is full of confidence as the scripture tells us, “Then Peter stood up, raised his voice and proclaimed.”
As disciples of the Risen Christ, we will be down and have doubts along our journey. We must realize that Jesus is always with us. We must continually invite him in to stay with us and we must be open to him in the Breaking of the Bread. As we encounter and experience Jesus we are also to “set out” with confidence to evangelize and to witness to others about the Risen Lord so that they too will have hearts that burn with Christ inside of them.
The Lord is risen and is in our midst…Alleluia!!
“The fifty days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one great Sunday. These are the days above all others in which the Alleluia is sung” (Universal Norms, 22).
On this Second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, we rejoice in the Resurrection as the redeemed people of God. This Easter we have extra cause for joy and exultation as two great men of God and of the Church are canonized as saints: Pope John XXIII who called the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II who instituted Divine Mercy Sunday in the year 2000 (just one great work among their many).
In the first reading on this Sunday we hear from the Acts of the Apostles about the early development of the Church. The scripture tells us, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” As disciples of the Risen Lord we would do well to follow this simple formula. As disciples we should follow the teaching of the first apostles and Church fathers as well as the apostles of today which are the Magisterium, the Pope and bishops. The bishops are to teach and guide the Church as teachers and shepherds in Christ’s name assisted by the Holy Spirit. As disciples we should devote ourselves to prayer and to the Eucharist. And we should devote ourselves to communal life which is stewardship as a way of life for the good of the community.
In the 2nd reading from 1 Peter we hear that it is not easy to live this life of devotion as disciples as our faith will be tested like gold going through fire. But if we endure the testing with the strength of the Risen Christ our inheritance will be “imperishable, undefiled, unfading and kept in heaven.”
And in the Gospel Jesus appears to the disciples behind locked doors who are afraid and worried and tells them, “Peace be with you” and “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus tells us the same thing behind our locked doors of fear and concern, “Peace be with you” and “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
On this Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), as disciples of the Risen Lord, rejoice that we have been redeemed by his great mercy. Devote ourselves to Sacred Tradition and to Sacred Scripture, and to communal life through stewardship.
He is risen and is in our midst. Alleluia!!
“The sacred Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord shines forth as the high point of the entire liturgical year. Therefore the preeminence that Sunday has in the week, the Solemnity of Easter has in the liturgical year. The Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, has its center in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Evening Prayer on the Sunday of the Resurrection” (Universal Norms, 18-19).
The Paschal Triduum, the 3 days, make up the shortest but the holiest season of the liturgical year and one continuous celebration: Holy Thursday (Mass of the Lord’s Supper), Good Friday (Passion of the Lord) and Easter Vigil/Sunday (Resurrection of the Lord).
I will reflect on the Gospels for each of these days in the Light of Discipleship:
Holy Thursday: After Jesus put a towel around his waist, symbolizing a servant, he washed the disciples’ feet. When he was finished he told them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?” “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” The disciples must have been in shock as the master took the role of the lowest servant and washed their feet. I believe this is the reaction he was going for! He wanted them (and us) to realize that to be his disciples we must follow his example and be servants, giving of ourselves for the sake of others.
Good Friday: On Palm Sunday we heard the Passion from the Gospel of Matthew. On Good Friday we hear the Passion proclaimed from the Gospel of John. From John we hear the story that changed salvation history from the Garden to the tomb where they laid the crucified Christ. As disciples we again see the example of Jesus doing the Father’s will and giving of himself in totality. He trusted in the Father as we need to trust in him for the greater glory of God. We need to carry our cross as disciples of Christ Jesus. There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.
Easter Vigil/Sunday: The Easter Vigil is the highlight of the entire Liturgical Year. On that holy night we hear from Matthew’s Gospel of the great earthquake that rolled away the stone that covered the tomb of Christ. We hear of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who encountered the risen Christ who told them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and they will see me there.” As disciples we need to encounter the risen Christ daily, not be afraid and go tell others about him…And on Easter Sunday morning we hear of Peter and John, after being told by Mary Magdalene that the Lord had resurrected, ran to the empty tomb and believed. As disciples we need to run to the resurrected Christ every day and believe. And we need to take others to the empty tomb and help them believe.
Conclusion: The Paschal Triduum was the most important event in history. May it be the most important event in our personal history!
Holy Week begins with “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord” when the Church recalls the entrance of Christ Jesus into Jerusalem to accomplish his Paschal Mystery for our salvation.
Jesus is the long awaited Messiah and is the fulfillment of the prophecy we hear from Zechariah that was proclaimed in the processional Gospel outside the entrance of the church, “Say to daughter Zion, Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” The King of kings fulfilled the Messianic prophecy by riding humbly into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to fulfill the Father’s will.
Jesus is also the fulfillment of the prophecy we hear in the 1st reading from Isaiah about the Suffering Servant, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets or spitting.” In humility, the King of kings took the treatment placed upon him for our sake.
And in the 2nd reading St. Paul tells of the humility of Christ, “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
In the Gospel we hear once again the Passion of the Lord taking place just a week after he was hailed by the crowds waiving palm branches. Jesus humbled himself out of love for us and offered himself up as the perfect sacrifice for the sake of others.
What does this show us as his disciples? If we are to be his true disciples, his followers, we are to imitate him in his example. We also are called to humbly offer ourselves for the sake of others in a disciple’s response which is Stewardship as a way of life. What does this mean? We too are to humbly walk like Jesus and in thanksgiving we are to share what we have been blessed with for the good of others. Jesus did not count the cost because he was sure of his Father’s love and sure of his promises. If we are sure of the Father’s love and his promises we will not count the cost either because we know that he cannot be out done in generosity and he will provide for all of our needs in abundance.
Jesus could have road in on a grand chariot pulled by a team of massive, beautiful horses but instead he road in on a lowly donkey to show us it is the humble and the meek that the Lord God uses for his glory and for the sake of others.
As his disciples, will we follow him in his example of humility and obedience in order to be used for the Father’s glory and for the sake of others? Or will we ride around on our high horse?
Let us strive to follow in the humble example of Christ Jesus, the long awaited Messiah and King!
On the 5th Sunday of Lent the RCIA Elect and Candidates will celebrate the 3rd and final Scrutiny in their preparation for the Easter Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist. The rest of us should also be preparing ourselves during the Season of Lent to celebrate the Easter mysteries.
The readings today point toward Baptism, new life and the filling of the Holy Spirit. In the 1st reading from the prophet Ezekiel the Lord tells us, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” A grave symbolizes death and in the scriptures symbolizes spiritual death. The Lord also says, “I will put my Spirit in you that you may live.” Through Baptism we are brought from death to new life, made a new creation and filled with the Spirit of God.
In the Gospel we hear the well known story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead in the tomb for four days but Jesus gave him new life symbolizing our new life through the waters of Baptism.
As disciples of Christ Jesus we need to relate the readings to our lives and allow them to help us in our journey as disciples. How do this Sunday’s readings speak to us? Jesus stood at the entrance to the tomb of Lazarus and commanded that the stone that blocked the entrance be taken away. What stones lay across our path? What obstacles are blocking us from living as true disciples of Christ in every facet of our lives? Is it selfishness, pride, greed or apathy?
When Lazarus came out of the tomb the scripture said, “The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.” What ties us up, what binds us so that we cannot live as true disciples? Is it fear, jealousy, bitterness, hate or anger?
During these last days of the Season of Lent, as Holy Week fast approaches, let us allow Christ to remove the stones from our lives and allow him to untie us from what holds us bound by seeking him in prayer and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Allow him to fill us with his Spirit so that we will be brought once again from death to new life so that we can live as true disciples through stewardship as a way of life. Let him heal us and fill us with his Spirit to make us new creations once again.
The Lord is true to his word as he tells us in the 1st reading, “I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”