Sunday ~ 4 June 2024 ~ Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity~ Bible Readings for Mass: I Exodus 34:4 – 6, 8 -9; Responsorial: Daniel: 3: 52 -56; II: II Corinthians 13: 11-13; Gospel: John 3: 16-48
Infinite. Eternal. Omnipresent. Omniscient. Perfect Unity. Words that attempt to describe God, that seeks to describe the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Yet words, the human mind could never hope to explain or describe God.
To attempt to explain or describe the Trinity would be like looking at a distant star and assuming one could understand and explain the universe. But as our mind may understand that reality our mind still struggles to comprehend and confine, to organize God, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit within the confines of our understanding and experience. We may use doctrine, theology, or even in song to build our perceptions. But it is an impossible task. God cannot be confined.
So let’s take a walk through the Spring garden. It is a warm afternoon and the roses, sweet peas, stocks, lavender, and other flowers are in full bloom. The afternoon heat has released immense waves of fragrance that fill the air. Is it possible to sort, organize, describe, or define either the scents or even the colors, the sensory power of this place of beauty? It would be impossible to define or fully express all that is found. However, it is fully possible to relate to and grow in relationship with this garden. It is impossible to understand, explain, and organize the Most Holy Trinity. But it is very possible to experience, relate to, and with God, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. For with God, all things are possible. But we must accept that the beauty, awe, and majesty of a great Spring garden is but a very tiny glimpse into the beauty of God’s holiness, the awe and majesty of God’s power, and the infinite fragrances of His mercy and love.
This great and beautiful day let’s not dwell upon many words and efforts to explain or understand God the Father, God, Jesus, the Son, or God the Holy Spirit. Let’s just enjoy the awesome and holy mystery of One and only God, in three Persons. Deeply reflect upon and embrace God’s Presence as we:
Renew our faith to worship and seek God in spirit and truth. May we each, and together, grow in realizing the beauty of God’s holiness. Even, perhaps in places and ways that may surprise us.
Humbly celebrate God’s mercy and forgiveness sent by the Father, given through Jesus the Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
And may God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ever lead us to grow and discover the infinite, eternal places and promises of His love.
May we thus experience, daily, and eternally the promise we read in God’s Word today: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” These few words will indeed bring us into a relationship with God of boundless joy, hope, holiness, and love. As we but follow Him who came for us.
Sunday ~ 28 May 2024 ~ Solemnity of Pentecost ~ Bible Readings for Mass (Vigil Mass): I: Genesis 11:1-9; Responsorial: Psalm 33; II: Daniel 3: 52-56; Responsorial: Psalm 19; III: Ezekiel 37: 1-14; Psalm 107; IV: Joel 3:1-5; Responsorial: Psalm 104; Epistle: Romans 8: 22-27; Gospel: John 7: 37-39
We gather today to celebrate Pentecost. Our Easter pilgrimage brings us to grow on now in the promised fullness of the Holy Spirit. The power, promise, and Presence of Christ, risen from the dead and ascended to God the Father brings us to humbly gather and prayerfully wait upon our God and Savior. The deep peace and security of this holy cycle of waiting upon and welcoming the fuller Presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and church is one well mapped out by God.
It is no accident that the Vigil Mass for Pentecost is so infused with Scripture. There will be no regret for anyone who takes the time to quietly and prayerfully reflect on each of the readings listed above. To do so is to follow the Lord in the preparations and promises of God to bring into the church and into our lives the Holy Spirit. To do so is to grow in the realization that the Spirit of God is united with, deeply, eternally, to the living Word of God. We must remember The Spirit of God desires not just a visit. God longs for us to be BAPTIZED, that is to accurately translate IMMERSE for each believer in the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Given in Baptism and opened and immersed in Confirmation the gift of the Holy Spirit is essential for all Christians.
Many are the gifts, works, manifestations, and graces we should experience as a result of this abundance of God in our lives. Many, too are the questions that arise at various times and teachings that have come pertaining to the promised Advocate of God in the Church. It is ironic that for so long so many have sought to organize, direct and control the wind, the very Breath of God in our midst. Again, there are many aspects of The Spirit of God we could well explore. But let us seek the Spirit’s wisdom pertaining to the symbolism and truth of The Holy Spirit and Tongues of Fire and Water.
The account of the birth of the church that Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus had risen from the dead describes the disciples waiting in prayer in the upper room. It was a season of reading the Old Testament promises, remembering the words of Jesus, and prayer. It was, and is a season that for the follower of Christ never ends. Always we seek to receive, to grow into God’s promise and Presence. And in God’s way and time, the Promise came. Like a mighty wind tongues of fire came upon all in the room. The Holy Spirit came not just to Mary, or to the Apostles but to all the disciples, men, and women seeking God in that place. So it is today. We all must seek God. We all must be filled anew with God’s promises and power.
We must each know the truth and force of the tongues of fire in our lives. Now, clearly, we are not Peter, James, or any of those apostles. Not all are called to be priests, bishops, or religious servants of God. But as the baptized, as followers of Christ, we each must know the grace of the tongues of fire.
It should be noted that of the gifts and works of the Holy Spirit listed in Scripture, several relate to the tongue, our words, and our message. The gift of tongues, teaching, preaching, encouragement singing of psalms, and spiritual songs to share but a few all express God’s recognition that the human tongue needs a lot of help. St. James in his epistle speaks of how powerful the tongues are for good and for evil.
A look at the media or social media will illustrate this quickly. Just listening to a gathering of Christians will bring one to hear a vast array of messages. Some good, faith-filled, and proclaiming the Presence of God. But others not so much. The Christian mouth is too often filled with words of anger, judgment, doubt, fear, and even hate. Chords of pride and spiritual arrogance too often accompany worn verses of divisive and exclusive spirituality focused on self-awareness instead of…Jesus.
This Pentecost we all would do well to bring to our Heavenly Father an earnest seeking of the Lordship of the Holy Spirit over our words, our message. We each need to allow the fire of God to burn away the dross of our empty, negative words and ramblings. Let us commit to those holy flames our dead and tired litanies of judgment, doubt, division, and fear. May we then seek the fire of the Spirit to ignite, from our hearts, God’s words of hope, mercy, and a love that welcomes others to grow with us in our quest for God’s Kingdom. Many are hearts and lives bound in doubt, sin, and chains of self. And for all of us, it is only the fire of God that can melt and break free hearts and lives long cold, and dead in our brokenness. From the despair and darkness of sin, God would free us to the freedom and joy of life in the Spirit. It is, perhaps a glimpse at the smile of God we see the holy paradox God uses to bring His Spirit into our lives. For it is in the Fire of God we are called to know and share the Living Waters of Jesus flowing from our hearts.
It is from our gospel for this Vigil Mass we hear the Words of Jesus call to us to let, from our hearts flow rivers of living water. Christ is speaking of His Spirit, sent from our heavenly Father. We are called to immerse ourselves in the fullness of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the flowing, abundant Living Water that is God, the Love of the Father, the Mercy of Jesus, and the Power of the Holy Spirit we are called to be drenched, immersed, swimming. And sharing. But, sadly the Christian life is much like some people at the lake or river. Perhaps they have not yet learned to swim. Or they fear the cold, the depth, the unknown. Plunging into a mountain lake or a flowing river involves letting go of the security of our special spot on the shore. But perhaps for some the way into the depths is step-by-step, gradually listening to and responding to our Heavenly Father assuring us it is alright. He won’t let us drown. Nothing is quite so special as a child (of any age) who has entered the water fearful and unsure to discover that they can learn to swim. It is as we learn the freedom of God’s holy waters we discover new freedom, healing, and increased power as we but follow our Lord.
This all applies especially to our words. Too often we let the dry harsh words from drought-stricken hearts to issue forth with words of judgment, doubt anger, and division. Too often where words of the living waters of God’s hope and welcome need to be flowing we find dry empty creekbeds and thirsty souls.
This Pentecost the Church, the world faces great trials and battles. As it always has. But as we draw closer to the return of Christ these tests will intensify. Now more than ever the fire of God empowering our lives and words is needed so that our Lord’s living waters can flow with all God’s power to quench the thirsts and droughts of sin and the world and to lift us heavenward in God’s mercy and holy hope.
6th Sunday of Easter ~ 14 May 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17; Responsorial: Psalm 66; II: I Peter 3: 15-18; Gospel: John 14: 15-21
We are reminded we are called to be an Easter people in which the joy, grace and power of the risen Christ dwells in our lives. It is six weeks since Easter. The celebration is, for most a memory tucked away under all that life has brought since then. But we are still called to celebrate this pinnacle of our faith, even as we approach the Solemnity of Christ’s Ascension and then the Day of Pentecost. It is the Spring time season of holy days and all the other celebrations of Mother’s Day [A very happy and blessed day to all the Mom’s who may read this!] , graduations and perhaps weddings. In other words this season of Easter and Spring time events of life bring us to trek upon the roads of life with all the busy beauty growing on about us. And these roads will inevitably bring us to holy Cross roads where we must choose which way to go. Will we seek Christ and the Kingdom of God? Or will the path of self and temporal pleasures be more alluring?
The coming next two Sundays will culminate the Easter season. And our Church, in the Holy Spirit will seek to bring our eyes, our focus on that which is eternal. We can hear the call to set our hearts on things above as we look to the Ascended Jesus. It is as we look to Christ we will also hear we are each called to be immersed (baptized) in the promised Holy Spirit. Each of us in our own distinct life are called, together to be empowered by the Holy Ghost to serve and proclaim Christ, King and Savior or our lives.
And, this Sixth Sunday of Easter our Bible readings would share with us the clear directions God’s love would call us to follow as we encounter those Cross roads of life. In so doing the Spirit of God can help us learn and experience the Presence and Promises of God.
St. Peter, in our epistle states: “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” What an amazing statement! As Christians we understand that it is the graces of God that would sanctify us. We recognize how God calls us to have places, holy, sanctified for prayer and worship. From the prayerful hermitages of monks and nuns to the great cathedrals,or our own parish we can see what these sanctified, consecrated places are meant to be. We can realize what it means to have a place for Jesus.
But the Holy Spirit is telling us, through the Apostle Peter, to sanctify Christ in our hearts! We are being told to consecrate, make holy, Jesus! In our hearts! We are being instructed to make a place, a sanctified, consecrated, holy dwelling place for Jesus in our hearts. We may pause and wonder, how can we consecrate God who is most holy? In our hearts, our lives? This brings us back to our Cross roads. It is, sadly very common and easy to see Jesus being profaned in the lives of humanity. Cursing that is now so popular and accepted expresses what is growing in hearts. As does, by holy contrast prayer and praise to God. Daily we chose the Cross roads we will take. Will I pray? Will I go to Mass? Will I take the time with Mary to pray my rosary? Or prayerfully listen to the wisdom of the saints? Will I seek to serve and see Jesus in others, however poor or unsuitable they may seem? Or will I turn and follow the road way of this world? Fueling anxiety, fear, doubts that God is Present and in control in my life? My parish? My family? Will I hitch a ride with the politics and agendas so fervent and so often shrouded in the flimsy gauze of pretended spirituality and faith? Will I yield to the despair of hate and judging as would pummel us in the news and social media? Or will I seek to sanctify Jesus in my heart, in my life?
Jesus in our Gospel, is instructing the disciples shortly before he goes to the Garden and his Passion. His Words are clear. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” Most Christians are familiar with these blessed words. It is rather easy to see the conditional process of which Christ might be speaking. If we love Jesus, then we will keep his commands and then God will send the Holy Spirit into our lives. But, as humans we often may be tempted to put the proverbial cart in front of the horse. How often do we believe, and act according to our premise of IF I KEEP God’s Commands I will prove MY LOVE and God the Father then will send the Holy Spirit? We make this promise a conditional statement of how to earn the love of God and the promise of the Advocate. As Catholics we believe and celebrate the graces of faith and works. They both are essential, and inseparable. But our works do not earn our faith. Both are graces and gifts flowing from God as we open hearts to our Lord.
This brings us back to our Cross roads and choosing to sanctify, or consecrate Jesus in our hearts. Are we choosing to make our hearts, our lives a place for Jesus? In our own rural, small town parish we are facing choices about this. Our parish mission, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Asti was discovered to have some serious structural problems with at least one of the great beams that support the distinct roof (designed from the wood and in the shape of a wine barrel). Care and maintenance of these places for Jesus and His people has always been a priority. But time, weather and hidden decay all have taken a toll. And it will take hard choices as to how this challenge will be addressed.
So it is with our hearts, our lives as a place for Jesus. We may faithfully work to be a place for Jesus in our hearts and homes. But in life there are times when weakness, decay may have set in. The damage from the storms of life are a part of life. They present us with Cross roads as to how we will care for and respond. It may be most sensible to simply accept the infamous bottom line of dollars and “sense” and eliminate the problem all together. Or it may be a time to build and grow, perhaps in ways unexpected and new.
And thus Jesus brings us back to the Cross roads of His Word. Instead of thinking the cart of obedience must go in front of the horse we may recognize God is realigning our priorities. Christ is saying IF we LOVE HIM THEN God will help, empower us for obeying the commands of love for God and others. It is as we choose to make a place, to sanctify Jesus in our hearts that our relationship with the Living Word of God, the Logos, with Jesus will grow stronger. The verb in the ancient Greek of the Gospel “to keep” God’s commandments may also be accurately translated as “Hold Fast”. As we make, sanctify, build a place for Jesus in our lives we will then grow holding fast onto our Savior and Risen Lord. We will love to hold fast the Living Word, Jesus.
Our life of faith brings us often to these Cross roads. The Holy Spirit would use the places to bring us to further make for Jesus a place in which to dwell and reign as Savior and Lord. And we will discover these places for Jesus in our hearts and the life of our families and Church.
The 5th Sunday of Easter ~ 7 May 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 6: 1-7; Responsorial: Psalm 33; II: I Peter 2: 4-9; Gospel: John 14: 1-12
St. Peter teaches us today in our Epistle that our risen Lord, Jesus is ever gathering and working to fit together living stones the faithful into his church. It is in the Gospel for today, as Jesus speaks to his disciples but a short while before his passion, when he becomes The Stone rejected by the builders that we are taught he goes to prepare a place, a home for us. This fifth Sunday Easter we are given a powerful insight into the reality God has designed us for a living place in Him, in God’s Kingdom. It is a blessing to see beautiful and holy places for God. Whether they be immense and glorious cathedrals or small chapels and hidden churches.
The love, and longing of Jesus are evident that He longs to bring us each and bring us together into holy, living, and powerful places for us to grow in the glory and mercy of the risen Christ. To hear this message is blessed and easy. To believe and grow in the infinite and eternal Truth God would share is much more challenging. God would call us each to be and grow as His living stones.
We are given an historic glimpse into this design of God by the first reading from the Book of Acts. The church is young and growing. As it grew then it continues to grow now. Receiving the Word of God and being nurtured by the Eucharistic Feast it grew in and through the blessings and struggles of the people of God. As they grew it was evident there were divisions between the Hebrew believers and Gentile widows. The latter was not receiving the help and nurture needed for body and soul. The Holy Spirit responded by bringing forth the order of deacons. This would be one of many diverse and living stones as the church grew.
Then as now, a difficult challenge was being realized. It was rather easy for the big, important, beautiful living stones of God’s love and grace to. be recognized. The need for them, their place, and their purposes were easy to see and fit in the growing faith of the people of God. The merciful hands of God were very evident in the Apostles. The denial of Peter was being transformed by the Paraclete as he lived his yes to Jesus. James, John, and the others each followed the Savior into their places designed by God the Father. The women of the church whose love and faith opened the path to the empty tomb and Risen Christ also grew into their roles as women of God.
But there can be no doubt that among the early disciples and as it is among the disciple of Jesus now there were those odd stones. The ones for whom it was very difficult to know where and how they could belong. And if we could listen to the heart of Peter, John, and the others even they knew deeply and painfully the question: how, and where could God use them? No matter how odd the stone is, or may feel it is, in the pierced hands of God it is brought and fit where it is needed and belongs. It is with the gospel of creation that we learn some of the graces by which the hands of God work to bring us, the odd stones we may feel we are, where we need to be.
We can sense the intricate beauty and design of the places of God. Each stone fits. Special stones may be carved, polished, and placed to share their luster, shine, or powerful beauty reflecting and refracting the exquisite allure God seeks to reveal to us. But we must heed the lesson of those strong granites, marbles, gems, and crystals. For each stone, each of us must allow the hands of God to uncover our hidden riches. We must allow ourselves to be broken, sculpted, and polished to become the living stones worthy of our Creator.
It is a trait of our human nature to often judge what we see from those initial glimpses. Or if we are given something for a long while we will still often decide that the outward appearance of feeling, even of ourselves is often correct and complete. Much like the stones we see above we may see or feel that someone or ourselves are just another rock among many. Perhaps drab, unassuming, perhaps worthy to be shoved aside with others. We may honestly realize we are far too small in life to matter much, especially compared to the great and glorious God with whom we love. But then one day some angel picks us up and brings us to Jesus. Placing us in his pierced hands the angel will ask. “What about this one?” Jesus smiles and says “Yes!, It is exquisite for me.”
All the while we still only see a drab, brown, rather seemingly useless stone. But God sees what is hidden. What is hidden to use beneath the dirt and grist of this world is seen by God. What is a flaw in God’s mercy is broken open. What seems so ugly is pressed. Hard. For as long as is needed until the crystals of God’s holy Truth are formed. The healing mercies of Christ may be hidden from others. Or even from the living stone itself. But God is at work. Our true colors, strengths, and brokenness are to be discovered. In God’s hands. In God’s time. In God’s way. The deep pressures of spirit soul and even body will not destroy the design or longing of God. He sees, even hears that which is alive and hungering to be. The stones indeed may cry out. But as the Prophet Ezekiel saw hearts hardened by the world and sin would become alive by the Holy Spirit.
And so is our shared resurrection quest. The angels of God, with his saints, help us to know we are called. We belong to and with him, and each other. And it is as Jesus gathers us together that we find ourselves placed in his holy rock polisher called the church. We may grow irritated and weary as we are tossed and burnished against each other. The work of any church will often have calls and cries, grumblings, and frustrations, as did the church of the first deacons. But God is at work. From the polisher of many graces, God will take these living stones and sculpt, cut, and polish us to be who we are called by God to be and woven to fit into the fabric of living stones becoming His new Zion.
It is in those loving, infinite works of God, as the living stones we are that we experience that Jesus is, in deed and in Word the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Christ alone takes these odd stones that we are, flawed, marred by sin, and makes the Way to help us reveal Him. Christ is the Truth. It is in Him we discover who we are. Truly. Really. Eternally. And it is in Jesus we learn day by day to grow in the Life He is. We cannot dare to become locked and cast into our false selves or the edifices of past understandings. We must ever allow God’s Spirit to make our actions, our worship, and our service for God alive, and growing in the splendor of Truth that He is.
4th Sunday of Easter ~ 30 April 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Responsorial: Psalm 23; II: I Peter 2: 20B – 25; Gospel: John 10: 1-10
This fourth Sunday of Easter we read again the message of The Lord, our shepherd. The importance of this is indicated by the frequency it is shared in both the Old Testament and New as well as in our liturgies. And framed within the season and context of our Easter celebrations it is given a very powerful and relevant emphasis. Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, and Shepherd calls for us, by name.In his incarnation, Jesus came seeking, calling for his lost sheep, for us. From the cross, when he cried, “Forgive them, they know not what they do”, he calls us to his mercy. In his death, he called to all who were awaiting his grace. And risen from the dead he calls us all to follow him to life, abundant and eternal.
But what does that mean? How do we learn to listen, hear and heed the call of Jesus, the Shepherd of our souls? The Gospel today again affirms the essential need for our relationship with God. Our experience and knowledge of the faith, Sacramental graces, and Scriptures are all excellent. But they have little meaning if that knowledge has not resulted in a personal and living relationship with God. This is at the heart of today’s Scripture. We need to know Jesus calls us by name. He calls us to life, abundant and eternal. Christ calls us to follow him.
Called by name: The Easter story tells of Mary coming to the tomb to tend to the body of Jesus. At first, she does not see him. After Peter and John’s arrival, she stays and sees a man she thinks is a gardener. She still knows not that it is Jesus. But when Christ calls her by name, she knows. It is as we trust and learn of Jesus we learn that he knows us as no other can. When Jesus calls us, he knows whom it is he is calling. Our Shepherd knows us intimately, deeply, good and bad. As the Psalmist reminds us before He knit us in the womb, He knew us. [Psalm 139: 13-18]. Christ can see beyond our sins, failures, and fears to become that person He created and redeemed. It is as we learn and heed the Shepherd’s call we also grow beyond who we think we are to that child of God. Cephas became Peter, and Saul of Tarsus became Paul. And whether we actually experience a change of name when Jesus calls, and we heed, we grow into our real identity. As we listen, we learn who we are and grow in the life to which our Shepherd leads us.
Called to life, abundant and eternal: Sheep learn. Not always quickly or easily but we learn. We learn the voice of Jesus. We learn that where he leads is good, blessed, and safe, even in the midst of trials. And there may be things our Good Shepherd brings us to unlearn. Sadly, sometimes we Christians have an attitude that God’s ways are dead ends, hopeless. We may get stuck in our faith.
We do well to remember Jesus calls us to Life! This includes God’s peace. As He repeated over and over to his disciples, Peace! As Christians, we must learn that when God is truly leading Jesus will lead us with his peace, regardless of outward conflicts or circumstances. St. Paul, who well learned to follow Christ knew what it was to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart”, [Col. 3: 15]. This life to which we are called is also infused with the love Who is and of God, by which our fears are conquered [I John 4:18]. And it is in the ways of our Shepherd, ways of God’s peace, infused with His love best realized at the Cross, we journey to and in the Truth that is Jesus. And it is as the sheep heed His voice, hear their name and follow his footprints we grow in the Truth that is Christ and in the freedom God alone can bring. Many more blessings and graces are experienced by those following the Good Shepherd. But these three, Peace, Love, and Truth especially bring us to realize the life, abundant and eternal to which we are called.
Called to follow: Jesus calls to lead us in and to abundant life. Jesus calls us. To follow. After his resurrection, our Lord challenged his disciples to continue to follow him. This would be a daily choice they (and we ) are called to make. They (and we) must determine who, or what will shepherd our lives. Many are the choices we face. Fear, doubt, unforgiveness, anger, and worry are powerful false shepherds. Lust, greed, and pride also offer many promises of gratification if only we heed their siren’s call. But as we choose Jesus and learn His voice’s power and beauty, we seek to follow our Good Shepherd. A very simple yet powerful way to grow in our knowledge and experience of Jesus, our Shepherd is to take a very familiar Psalm, the twenty-third, as our Sheep’s Creed. Prayerfully read, affirm, and say this, out loud. Let it become our Sheep’s Creed in our Good Shepherd.
3rd Sunday of Easter ~ 23 April 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I; Acts 2:14,22-23; Responsorial: Psalm 16; II: I Peter 1: 17-21; Gospel: Luke 24: 13 – 35
The beauty and hope of the Easter season continue. The message of Jesus, risen from the dead echoes in our churches, hearts, and minds. The early disciples were amazed at this development. It was not what they believed or understood would happen with Christ. Although over 2000 years later Christians today still are amazed and struggle with believing what we proclaim. In our Catholic worship, the season and celebration of the resurrection will continue until the Day of Pentecost. This is shared with many other Christian believers. Although sadly the celebration and message of Easter are focused only upon that one Sunday in Spring. Regardless there is shared a real challenge among the followers of Christ to live a faith where Jesus is experienced, recognized, and heard as having truly risen from the dead.
The Easter Gospel story of Jesus coming to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is shared this 3rd Sunday of Easter. There is much to which we can relate, even these two thousand-plus years later to the journey of these early Christians. Seeking the Holy Spirit’s help we can realize we share the road with them and learn how we can grow in the graces to better recognize Jesus and hear the Word of God.
First, let’s clarify what it means to see. recognize Jesus. Christ promised in the Beatitudes that blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. In honest humility, purity of heart is a grace for which almost all of us seek to grow yet one which we cannot claim to have attained. So are we precluded from this promise? I believe that fulfillment is a gift that will only be fully experienced when the fullness of God’s sanctifying mercies is achieved. But I believe it is a grace to which we are called to grow as we follow our risen Savior. We must seek and allow His work in our lives to prepare our eyes and ears for the infinite majesty, glory, and beauty of His holiness and love. That work is done as we walk with him. It is done as we learn and allow ourselves to listen. But first, Why? Why do we fail to recognize and hear Jesus?
As we walk on our Emmaus roads we need to learn from the two disciples who first walked and would accompany us now. They were Christians. They had been following Jesus. They knew Him and listened to His Word. They had been with the others in the coming to Jerusalem. Their hopes had soared with the triumphant entry of the Messiah into the City of God! Strong was their faith and understanding that Jesus was the Messiah that would conquer and remove the pagan Romans from their midst. Their faith was jubilant that their traditions and understandings of the Law and Prophets would be restored. But Holy Week, the Passion and death of Jesus crushed those hopes. Intensely. Then the women, gone to the grave to tend his body came back saying the tomb was empty. Some said they had seen Jesus. The incredible accounts slowly were growing. They now had to go about their lives. Uncertain, amazed, scared, yet also excited. But their faith and their hearts were not yet ready for all God would do. They must grow on, with Him. And so must we. We must let go of the immature, incomplete perceptions of faith, God, and all that the Kingdom of God means.
Jesus drew near and walked with them. And so Jesus seeks to draw close, to walk with us. As the two discussed and struggled with their faith and the Gospel message Jesus listened. Drawing out their challenges he leads them to hear and listen to God. In heart-kindling faith they awaken, slowly to hope, to believe, and to walk on, with God. Soon it is evening. They open their hearts and hospitality and welcome this Stranger who has accompanied them. The journey had been long. They were ready to eat their meal and rest. Little did they, or do we, realize what, or when God may reveal more of himself, His Kingdom to us. As the bread was broken their eyes were opened. They recognized Jesus.
They were good, faithful Hebrew followers of Jesus. They knew and had a strong understanding of the Law and Prophets and about the Messiah, about Jesus. But then, as now, God is, and God has so much more. The tomb, in so many ways, represents the efforts of humanity to confine, and control God. Jesus refused to comply with the expectations and demands of the minds and souls of that time. The deadly confines of sin, doubt, fear, and hate mortared together by pride and the weapons of this world could not keep Jesus dead. And it was as Jesus walked with them, and with us, it is as we allow Jesus to share His Real Presence with us in the bread and cup we accompany Him and each other away from the tomb into the freedom of His holy Cross.
Jesus, can we recognize You? Hear You? We will grow to better hear the Words of God as we let go of and turn off the cacophony of noise and voices with which the forces of this world seek to bombard us. We cannot always quell the noise and clamor of the world. But we can learn to discern and reject the barrages of anger, fear, and doubt that even many “Christian” outlets would spew forth. Is what I am hearing, dwelling upon building up my faith in God? Or do these messages impel me to worry, and seek ways and weapons that I think I control to secure my life? Am I placing my faith in a pill, an APP, or a gun? Or is my trust growing in Jesus?
And am I growing to recognize Jesus Present, truly, fully in the Host I receive at holy Communion? And do I allow His very Real Presence to then go forth and empower me to recognize Him in the poor, the immigrant, or in my neighbor? Even if they may live in ways I think are wrong or disordered? And am I growing in the freedom to recognize God’s glory in creation, a spring day, or the storms of life that I endure? Do I let the Holy Spirit, perhaps in what seem to be the ruins of my faith, raise my heart and eyes to recognize that it is, indeed from the tombs of life we are called to raise our souls to, and with God?
The roads to Emmause are many and continue to the holy thresholds of eternity. But we do not walk these ways alone. We must recognize Jesus is with us as we walk together. And we must remember the saints who have gone on before will meet and journey with us. And it is they who can especially help us to truly experience the truth we can recognize and hear Jesus as we follow Him.Pax et bonum.
Second Sunday of Easter ~ Divine Mercy Sunday ~ 16 April 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 2: 42-47; Responsorial: Psalm 118; II: I Peter 1; 3-9; Gospel: John 20: 19-31
It is the Second Sunday of Easter, also celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. We have journeyed from the glorious celebration of the Lord’s resurrection last Sunday. We are now amid the season where the Holy Spirit seeks to mold and make us into the image of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. The holy mercies of Lent have given us renewed opportunities to grow in the tender graces of conversion and penance. And now the Holy Spirit brings us to a growing resurrection renewal.
The shared celebrations of Easter and Divine Mercy provide us a feast, provide us holy moments of life-changing and eternal hope and grace. Easter brings us the celebration of Spring for our souls and spirits. The warmth and sunshine after a long season of storms are, in many ways a holy chapter from the Gospel of Creation that beckons us to new life in our Creator, our Savior, Jesus. Yet for many of us, the days following Easter are difficult. It seems our doubts, worries, and wounds are all waiting to challenge our faith and cast clouds over the Risen Son. So it is in the enduring mercy of God we come to this time of touching wounds and growing in our trust in Jesus.
The Gospel of John shares the witness of the disciples in the days after Easter. “The doors were locked for fear…” makes clear that the disciples were struggling with fear, doubt, and their wounded faith. God understands and knows the times and places we find our lives encountering. The disciples were struggling to accept and believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. So it is with the lesson of Divine Mercy.
The servant of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina Kowalska perhaps did not fully realize the struggles to which she was called to respond. She came from a poor family and with little education, she entered the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy sisters in Poland. In the years 1931 – 1938, she received messages, and the image is now known around the world. Neither she, her sisters, nor the world realized that they would be experiencing a world of war very soon. In poor health, St. Faustina would battle her sorrows of ill health and die at a young 33 years of age. As it was with the early disciples, as it was for St. Faustina it would be in places of unknowing, fear, doubt, and sorrow that the eternal message and power of God’s mercy would grow.It is by touching God’s holy wounds we find mercy.
PLACES of WOUNDEDNESS… The early disciples, Thomas were locked behind their doors of fear and doubt. St. Faustina must have struggled with her lack of education and seeming abilities. But they all allowed the Risen Christ to enter their lives, their places of life. Very real for us are the locked doors of fear and doubt that can lock us into lives where we fail to realize the Risen Christ. But we are not called to dwell in these places. Instead let us seek Jesus to come into our hearts, through whatever locked places there may be.
LISTENING… As Christ entered anew into the lives of the disciples, and as he entered in new ways into St. Faustina they first listened to the risen Lord. To truly know and grow in Christ we must always be learning to listen to God. Jesus came Our first reading today speaks of how the early church listened, they studied the teachings of the Apostles. Those words would come to be the four Gospels and the epistles. Healthy believers and healthy churches are people who listen to the Word of God. For the disciples in the locked room the first words Jesus spoke, in great power, was Peace! The Word of God, when heard in the Spirit of God, brings peace into hearts and lives. Yet the disciples, for St. Faustina, needed to listen to the growing Truth who is Jesus. Rooted deep in Scripture the messages they heard resonated with the power of Christ, risen from the dead. St. Faustina would both see and hear the Presence and promises of God in ways that would change lives beyond anything she would imagine. A very real and powerful way to grow in the Divine Mercy we celebrate today is to pray and heed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. We hear and pray from the chaplet: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and the whole world.” It is in that prayer we can hear Jesus calling us to enter into and share in his passion, his wounds.
TOUCHING WOUNDS… The disciples in their locked room were freed to trust Jesus as they saw and experienced his wounds. Thomas with his doubts well-known would be called by Jesus to literally take his hand and place it in the wound in the side of Jesus and through which he would proclaim: “My Lord and my God! It would be millennia later that an humble nun would hear and see Jesus and from the same wound in his side shining forth rays of red and white light illustrating the divine mercy of God’s heart. Symbolizing the cleansing waters of Baptism and the shed Blood of our Savior the promise and power of God’s Divine Mercy shine and beckon with hope for all. It is like Thomas, it is like Sister Faustina we are each called to enter the wounds of Jesus. And we are also called to allow Jesus to enter our wounds. As we touch the wounds of Jesus and allow Him to enter our wounds, the passionate power of His mercy enters and floods our life. In and from these wounds we learn to proclaim, grow, and share: “Jesus, I trust in you.”
Tonight the Church will celebrate Holy Saturday Easter Vigil. But today, Saturday of the Triduum we wait in silence. It is a time of anticipation but it is also a time to remember all that was occurring in salvation history. In I Peter 3:18-20a we read:
“18 For Christ also diedh for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly did not obey,“
Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison, some versions reframe that as Jesus went and preached release to those in Gehenna. These few words challenge us with wondering about spiritual geography and eternal destinations. But on this Saturday before Easter, before we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection we are given a glimpse into what, where Jesus was about while among the dead. It is in the Office of Readings for this day, the second reading we have an ancient homily, possibly from the second century that shares a profound and moving insight into this holy day.
From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday (PG 43, 439, 451, 462-463)
The Lord descends into hell
Something strange is happening — there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, ‘My Lord be with you all.’ Christ answered him: ‘And with your spirit.’ He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.
For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”
Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord ~ 7 April 2023 ~ Bible Readings for This Liturgy: I: Isaiah 52: 13- 53: 12; Responsorial: Psalm 31; II: Hebrews 14:14- -16, 5:7-9; Gospel: John 18: 1-19:42
This sacred and holy of days is, in many ways the dark night of the soul of the Body of Christ, the Church. It is the only day in which the joyful graces and gifts of the Holy Mass are not celebrated. In the midst of the Holy Triduum, we remember, we recognize Jesus is in the Tomb. Our sanctuaries are stripped. Only in the Altar of Repose is found the Holy Eucharist, the Body, and Blood of our Savior, our Lord, Jesus.
Attending the solemn time of our Good Friday Service, hearing the Scriptures proclaimed, and then sharing the prayers of Good Friday common throughout the worldwide Church prepares us to come and venerate the Holy Cross. Then the gentle reception of Holy Communion of the Body of Jesus fuels our anticipation of the Easter Vigil and our risen Lord.
To help us better know the truths and realities of this sacred time let us take the time, with Mary our Blessed Mother and prayerfully share the Five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. With Mary let us come to and focus on her Son bringing our spiritual roses for Him who suffered for us. And may our prayers also minister hope, peace and healing love to all who suffer, are imprisoned, persecuted or simply alone.
Christ’s Agony in the Garden: His Passion is here. Knowing well all it will bring He seeks the help of His Father, and His friends. His friends fail him but God sends His angels to comfort and bring strength. It was in a garden this all began with disobedience. It is in this garden the conquest of sin and death is affirmed.
Jesus Scourged at the Pillar: Betrayed and arrested Jesus endures the mockery of worldly justice. Condemned He is scourged in the brutal Roman way of intense punishment and humiliation the world had honed. Yet in the beating and scourging, by His strips we are healed.
Christ Crowned with Thorns: The King of the Jews, the King of Kings faces continued rejection and mockery from the forces of the world, of darkness. The Roman soldiers weave a crown of thorns and force it hard upon the head of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. As His head is crowned may we each bow our heads and hearts to receive the mind of Christ.
Jesus Carries His Cross: This earthly journey of love and faith Jesus began at Bethlehem is coming to a close. Struggling up the hill called Calvary Jesus carries His cross. But His Body is beaten and the abuse He has experienced causes Him to stumble and fall. The soldiers force a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus with the heavy wood. We are rarely aware of all the crosses others may bear. But may we be willing to help them with their crosses and to allow others to help us as well. And then may we better learn Jesus walks with us.
Jesus Christ is Crucified: First resting in a simple wooden manger in Bethelem Jesus now must rest on a hard wooden cross. The forces of evil rejoice in their proud ignorance of assumed victory. Creation and God’s angels weep as this great sorrow and darkness are experienced. But even in the darkness there is heard the promise and hope of forgiveness and God’s paradise soon to come. For all who trust and follow the Crucified it is realized, God is Forgiveness.