June 4 - The Holy Trinity
If someone asked you what is the central mystery of the Church, what would you say? Perhaps the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives; or the Resurrection? But although these elements are important, the Catechism has the following to say: “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself.”(CCC 234) This is how God reveals Himself to us. And that’s where we start in our RCIA classes: “Who, or What is God?”
The Trinity is the truth of God existing as a Triune God. Three divine Persons in One. It’s easy to say but difficult to explain. In fact, it’s impossible to fully explain. But even though we can’t explain everything, we can offer attempts to grasp or to comprehend some part of the whole:
FIRST EXPLANATION: In the beginning, before everything else, there was God. God always was, is and will always be. Even His name declares His existence: I AM WHO AM. St. John tells us that the Word was also present in the beginning and that the Word was God. This Word is Jesus, Who is begotten, not made. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; consubstantial of the Father, that is, both are of the same substance. John goes on so say, “…the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.”
In Genesis, we read that there was also present, “a mighty wind” that swept over the waters at the time of creation. This “mighty wind”, is the “powerful love of God” sustaining creation, and us, in existence. When God speaks, things happen. God said, by the Word (the Son of God), “Let there be light” and there was light. “Let us make humanity in our own image”, and we were made. The “mighty wind” is the love of God we just celebrated last week at the Pentecost. I AM, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; three Divine Persons in One.
SECOND EXPLANATION: We know that God IS and St. John tells us that God is LOVE. There are three parts to love. The one who loves, the one who is loved, the beloved, and the love between the two; the bond connecting the lover and the beloved. God is the Lover. Jesus is the Beloved. The Holy Spirit is the Love between the Two.
And so, the explanation of the Trinity as a community of Love is reflected. Whenever we fall in love with someone, there are those three elements. One is the lover who loves another. The other becomes the beloved and the bond between the two is their love for each other. The love between two can even manifest itself in an image of the lovers; a child. The reflection of this mystery is expressed uniquely in the Sacrament of Marriage.
If you remove any of the three elements of love, relationships fall apart. Love without an object of its affections is unrequited. God the Father, is the Lover; creator of all things visible and invisible. God loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, the Beloved, the Word among us to redeem us, to reconcile us to the Father, and to love us. Through Jesus’ work, we are now called “children of God” and “friends, not slaves.” The Son completes His mission of love and returns to the Father but we are not left alone. The Holy Spirit is sent. The Holy Spirit, the powerful Bond of Love engulfs us and carries us through our lives and back to the Father Who made us. God the Father, creates us. God the Son, redeems us, and God the Holy Spirit, sustains us.
THIRD EXPLANATION: At room temperature, water is a liquid. At 212 degrees Fahrenheit, water becomes a gas; steam. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water becomes a solid; ice. All three share the same substance, but in uniquely different forms of matter: liquid, gas, solid. The liquid is not gas. The solid is not liquid. The gas is not solid, yet all three are water. All share in one substance while being different in nature. God the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Spirit is not the Son; yet all three are God. Three distinct and Divine Persons; One God.
It’s trivial to think of Almighty God as a basic element. And the Trinity is more difficult to understand and much more involved than human love relationships. These explanations are just human attempts to explain some part of the reality of the Trinity. The full truth regarding the Trinity will be revealed to us in Heaven where all of our questions will be answered.
Our lives, if lived well also reflect the Trinitarian God because the Father creates us in love, the Son teaches us to love others, even our enemies and the Holy Spirit empowers us to life lives of fidelity in faith or: Love God, Love others, Make Disciples.
May 28 - Pentecost
Jesus is crucified, dead and buried. His followers, who have denied him, betrayed him, did not present themselves at the foot of the cross, save St. John, have retreated back to the Upper Room. The windows shuttered, the doors locked. They killed our leader, we will surely be next. Then, they hear that Jesus is back. Imagine what is going through their minds. How did we act during the suffering, the scourging, the crucifixion of the one we came to believe is God? What will be God’s reaction to our behavior? Certainly, he will be upset. Now to have God, I AM, disappointed with you, does that mean he’ll punish us? Send us away?
Well, Jesus comes to them and his words are not angry or upset. He says. “peace be with you”. Always forgiving, always understanding, always loving. For 40 days, the Jewish number of purification, Jesus presents himself and then ascends back to the Father. But he tells them wait for the gift of which I spoke about. Do not leave the city until that gift arrives.
It’s now 10 days later form Jesus’ ascending to the Father and the Jewish feast of Pentecost occurs; Pentecost, comes from the Greek meaning “fiftieth”. It is the 50th day after Passover. The Jews call this day, Shebuoth meaning “the feast of weeks”. This was 7 weeks after Passover. Seven weeks of seven days (the Jews saw the number 7 as the number of completion; i.e. creation of the world) is 49 days and on the 50th day, this feast was celebrated. It was a harvest festival of offering up the first fruits of the crops. It also became a feast of remembering the occasion of the Jews receiving the Law on Mt. Sinai. Passover is the deliverance from slavery; Shebuoth, the giving of the Law.
According to Deuteronomy, there were certain festivals that required every adult male to come to Jerusalem for that celebration. Shebuoth (Pentecost) was one such festival. That’s why there were so many people from other parts of the world in the city speaking different languages.
On this Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends upon those in the Upper Room in tongues of fire. Fire is significant. Recall in the Old Testament that God descended on Mt. Sinai to deliver the Law in fire. The Old Law was written on tablets of stone. Now, fire descends again for the New Law and writes it upon our hearts.
What is it that divides us most among peoples and cultures? Philosophy, politics, or food? No, it is language. Different languages not understood by others hinders communication, promotes misunderstandings and sharing of ideas. Language is divisive. But language is how we connect and communicate with others; the spoken word. Even in the written word, we fail to communicate. We can misread a text or email with no vocal inflection or tone.
Our word for sin comes from the German “sunde” meaning sunder; to divide. Wherever there is division, there is sin. Division between communities, spouses, families and cultures create problems. Sin is a division of us from God.
As the story of the Tower of Babel divides humanity by language, the Holy Spirit connects everyone on this first Pentecost in language. And although this gift of language is no longer present, it does express the fact that we are all united by one God. We all share in that Holy Spirit; the love of the Father and the Son.
Our young people have just received the Sacrament of Confirmation. They have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, counsel, piety, courage and fear of the Lord. These gifts will bubble up if and when they are needed to help them in their faith; their lives.
Even though language can still separate us, the Holy Spirit, that love unites us. Without words, we can love one another. Love, the strongest weapon in the universe can be expressed to everyone by the way we treat one another; by the way we Love God and others.
When we think of the Passover event of the Old Testament, we realize there is a complete story: enslavement of the Jews, Signs and wonders, release, wandering in the desert and then finally entrance into the Promised Land.
The “Passover: of Jesus is a complete story. We are enslaved to sin, Jesus comes, signs and wonders, crucifixion to pay for sin, resurrection overcoming death, 40 days of purification of the Church, and then finally, Jesus enters back to the “Promised Land” of Paradise. The Ascension of Jesus is both a dimension of Jesus’ royal position, but also the certification of his Priestly identity.
The glory of God was held in the tabernacle of the Temple until Jesus came. Now, Jesus ascends to enter the tabernacle “not made by human hands” again, Paradise. The Ascension is both a royal dimension but the priestly identity of Christ. In the new temple, Jesus, who maintains the scars of His crucifixion is seated at the right hand of the Father and now offers Himself as a sacrifice, once and for all which has not end. This is the understanding of the completion of the Paschal sacrifice.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gives us his body and blood. Then He pours this out at the crucifixion. His blood doesn’t make the lintels of doorways, but now, the lintel of our hearts helping sin to pass over us.
Jesus is also completing the Jewish feast of the Day of Atonement. Once each year, the high priest of the Jews would enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple to offer sacrifice sins of the people. Now, Jesus is in the Heavenly “Holy of Holies” every second of every day. But in Heaven, Jesus leaves behind time and the historical event of the crucifixion is not a single occurrence but a perpetual sacrifice for us.
CCC 662: The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his Lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands…but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood for he” always lives to make intercession’ for ‘those who draw near to God through Him”
Christ, in the Heavenly temple is the very center of the everlasting liturgy offered to the Father in Heaven.
So how does the blood poured out for us at the crucifixion on Calvary transfer to the Mass we celebrate today? We believe that we re-present Christ’s crucifixion at every Mass. We don’t re-crucify Him, but that moment in time of His crucifixion moves forward in time to be an actual element of every Mass.
The answer? The Ascension. Jesus is eternally present before God, the Father continuously offering Himself to the Father for us.
Christ takes the historical event of the crucifixion which occurred on earth 2000 years ago and He has brought it into eternity. His crucifixion is no longer bound by space or time for God lives outside time. This is why Christ’s sacrifice is brought to us at every Mass for the rest of time.
When a priest offers the sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus isn’t being sacrificed again, The Mass is a participation of the once and for all sacrifice of Christ which is eternally in heaven through the mystery of the Ascension. The Mass is united to the eternal sacrifice of Christ in Heaven and so every priest is participating in the sacrifice of our one High Priest, Jesus Christ, in Heaven.
“Beloved: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, “…
God has given each one of us many gifts. But each of us have one particular gift to use for the sake of the Kingdom. What is your special gift? Some, a great personality. Some, prayer warriors. Some, music or the ability to communicate well. All our gifts are different. Some listen well, some talk well, some play sports well. Whatever your gift, living that gift in the context of the faith shows the reason you believe.
If you haven’t found that gift yet, keep looking. I was convinced I should be a musician, then an educator but God had a different mission for me……the priesthood. And it wasn’t clear until I was 47.
Today, evangelizing the faith can be difficult. Difficult because of the climate against religion here and abroad, but in our country there is a specific problem. The culture of the US seems to have, as its ultimate end, a desire to be inclusive. Additionally, we are all taught that our faith is personal and we don’t discuss it lest we offend someone. The environment of inclusivity creates many ideas: some correct and some in error. And our attitudes of political correctness impede us from denouncing any ideas held by others. I don’t mean that we don’t listen to everyone or we push people out that don’t see things the way we do, but to place inclusiveness as the utmost function of a society means we have to accept everyone’s ideas as truth. Everyone is right, no one is wrong.
+. I create my own morality regardless of the fact that it is God who creates morality. Thy shall not kill becomes don’t kill unless it benefits me. Abortion becomes a right.
+. Sexual mores run wild. No one corrects, everyone must accept the notion that if no one gets hurt, it must be OK. But we don’t see the personal hurt it does cause.
So how do we progress our faith? Again, to progress Christianity, words are OK, but actions are better. Living a good Christian life is the best way to put Christ in the world. People will confront us; why do you Catholics do that? Why can’t I do what I want? Many of us are intimidated by this. Many of us don’t know the answers. It can be frustrating and we show ourselves weak.
Let me suggest a few ways to offer a defense of our Catholic faith in the world: When we are asked questions:
- Ignore emotional responses: no anger/argument/frustration. Keep cool, calm and use gentleness and compassion. Don’t be aggressive.
- Provide the answer calmly if you can. But if you don’t know the answer, be humble and honest. “No, I don’t know why that is.” But don’t leave it there! Tell them you will find out the answer. Educate yourself and them when you revisit the questioner to provide an answer.
- Don’t argue. Arguments are useless. If you start arguing, stop the discussion and change the topic. You may agree to disagree.
- Avoid emails and texting since intention and emotion can be misleading in written dialogue.
- Prepare yourself by reading up on topics you are not clear about. Really, there are only a few items people don’t understand about Catholicism: Mary, praying to Saints, Statues, True Presence, the Pope and his authority.
- Know where to go for help. Defending the faith is called apologetics, not apologizing but explaining. Ask someone who knows. Go to Catholic.com.
- We often assume someone’s faith position. Not all non-Catholics belief in the same things. Don’t reduce the person to a single faith orientation. See where the person is; they may be Moslem but do not believe what you think all Moslems believe. Same for Protestant denominations and our Jewish brothers and sisters.
- Use the power of stories/ narrative. Not bullet points of the catechism. Work in the story of your own life. “I used to not believe (a particular item) but because of (a particular event) I came to the understanding of “transubstantiation”, pro-life. Papal authority, etc….
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
Who can be saved? Who has the possibility of Heaven if Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me?
Christ came into the world not to judge, but to save and that is exactly what He did. If you ask Siri, who started the Catholic Church, the answer will be Jesus Christ. Every other Christian denomination and other world religions were all started by a human.
Christ gave His authority to the Church to bind and loosen. Also, through the Church, Christ gave all the sacraments through which we gain sanctifying grace. But this does not mean that only Catholics have the market cornered on achieving Heaven. Every human has the ability, if they wish, to attain Heaven.
In the Old Testament, God tells us, “…this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel ………I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts Jeremiah 31:33
Again, in the New Testament, we hear, “This is the covenant I will establish with them after those days, … ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds,’” Hebrews 10:16. Aquinas refers to this as the Natural Law: Do good and avoid evil.
Those who know Christ have the tools and relationship to live a just life if they choose and attain Heaven. The purest form or this relationship is by means of the Church which offers the true Bread of Life, and the complete offering of sacraments.
But this does not mean that only Catholics are going to Heaven. Other Christians out of a sincere belief, who strive to live a good life with Christ can attain Heaven. Those who, through no fault of their own have no knowledge of Christ, who live a sincere life to “do good and avoid evil”, can also attain Heaven. Those also, through profound ignorance, or mental disability can also attain Heaven by their attempt to do good and avoid evil.
But Jesus said, no one comes to the Father except through Me!
Jesus is the one who paid the price due every human through the Fall and original sin. The Fall locked the gates of Heaven. Since a man sinned, a man had to pay the price. Jesus, true human, paid the price through His death. But only a God could plead to God, so Jesus, in His divinity ascends to the Father and pleads for our justification. The gates of Paradise are unlocked and Heaven can now, once again be entered.
So, indeed, no one gets into Heaven except through the work Jesus did by opening the gates. Indeed, no one comes to the Father except through the work Jesus did; no one gets to the Father except THROUGH Christ; His suffering, death, resurrection, institution of the Church, the work of opening the closed gates of Paridise.
The fullness of Christ’s gift to us of the Church is the fullest sense of the way to enter Heaven, but God can do whatever He wants to do. No one in the Old Testament knew Jesus, yet in His death, Jesus descended into Hell to bring the good souls to Heaven who before then could not get past the locked gates: Adam, Eve, Noah, Moses, and all the good souls in waiting.
But all those who cry, “Lord, Lord” will not enter. You must live a good life to the best of your ability. Jews, Moslems, Hindus, all who strive for the good are welcome. The problem exists for those who do know God and yet reject God contrary to their conscience and knowledge. We can remove ourselves from God, but God will never remove Himself from us
So, then, why bother to be a Christian, or a Catholic? Does it actually matter to be Christian or not if everyone is connected to and participating in… the creative process of God and welcomed to attain Heaven? Here’s the difference: We Christians, have the gift of having a true relationship with the Word; with God Himself. And this relationship is more than just a passing knowledge of some ethereal being Who just created us and stands off in the distance watching us live out our lives. No. We believe in a God that is just like us; a person that can be touched, seen, and heard; a God Who shares in our humanity alongside us. A God Who wants to share in the lives of His creations. Our God is a person Who is like us in every way but sin. He knows what it is like to be us and He came so, “…. that [we] might have life and have it more abundantly.”
To be Catholic is to have the fullness of all the gifts of Jesus through His Church; every sacrament, the treasury of faith handed down from Christ to Peter, to the lineage of popes. The guidance and teachings of the Apostles, who lived with Jesus and hand on their faith to all through the Apostolic succession. Salvation cannot be earned; it is a free gift given to us. But we can refuse the gift and that’s when we get into trouble.
Today’s Gospel tells has Jesus proclaiming Himself as the Good Shepherd, one of the earliest images in Christian art. Jesus is indeed pulling from the pastoral surroundings of Israel where the image of a shepherd caring for sheep was very well know. But Jesus isn’t just telling us that He is the Good Shepherd, He is also reminding us of bad shepherds.
So often, Jesus is pulling from the Old Testament to portray His teachings of the Kingdom. From the prophet, Ezekiel, in Chapter 34, we hear “To the shepherds, thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock? …You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost but ruled them harshly… So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. They were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; over the entire surface of the earth my sheep were scattered. No one looked after them or searched for them.
In today’s passage, Jesus doesn’t directly address the priests of the Israelites, the “bad shepherds”, but He gives us the image of a good shepherd. A hireling will run at the site of danger, but a good shepherd will lay down his life for his sheep. And so Jesus does this.
Jesus tells us that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. He goes on to say He knows His sheep as He know the Father and the Father knows me. In our relationship to Jesus, this is not an intellectual knowledge of recognition, but an intimate indwelling of knowledge.
We belong to Jesus, we belong to God, whether we know it or not, all of us are God’s possessions, God’s treasures. Jesus knows the Father and vice versa and Jesus wants us to have that mystical union with Himself and His followers. For us to know Jesus as Jesus knows the Father. Again we have the nuptial relationship with Christ; we become one with Christ.
In today’s world, who do you listen to? Do you recognize the voice of the Shepherd? The voices we listen to influence us. Many are overwhelmed and depressed listening to the voices of the news, politicians, world leaders. Listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd to know Who and how to follow. The more you listen to errors, the more you can be convinced. Our children can hear that abortion hurts women. Children don’t want to hurt anyone; they can be convinced of the wrong thing.
Jesus calls us to a vocation of living the will of the Father; to be Christ to others and this will lead us ultimately to happiness.
In the Gospel of Luke, the movements of the characters are important. The overarching direction for the entire Gospel is always towards Jerusalem; towards the great salvific work of Christ. In today’s Gospel passage, the two disciples are moving away from Jerusalem towards the small village of Emmaus. This demonstrates these men had not caught the meaning of Christ and his work on earth nor will we live the Christian life if we are moving away from the truth; the Gospels, the Church.
But even though the two disciples are walking away, Jesus shows up. Jesus is always coming to get us. Even when we are on the incorrect path, He is always searching for us, even if we move away from Him. Our God is not a God who demands that we crawl to him; he crawls after us. The Gospel, the New Testament and Old Testament is not about us finding God but rather letting him find us. The two don’t recognize the Savior. How many times do we enter into struggles in our lives and don’t recognize God? Where is he? Why isn’t he helping me through all this suffering, hurt and pain? When in actuality, he is always right beside us.
Then there is this moment of great irony. Jesus asks them to tell him what has happened, what the talk is all about from Jerusalem when he, above everyone else, knows, understands and comprehends exactly what has occurred.
He was a great prophet, they tell him. We had hoped that he was the one to lead us, the promised one, the Messiah. Then, there is the buzz about Jesus coming back from the dead. “Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; … they [reported that they] had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.”
These disciples have all the right information but they just don’t “get it”. Just like so many of us, when we hear a joke or a story and all of the information is provided for us, we just don’t get it. They have not yet connected the pattern of the story; the incidents don’t make sense to them as if the details don’t stand together as a single story. Just as we all do sometimes, even when the information is repeated to us, we don’t see the patterns needed to make a connection to what is being said to us.
So, Jesus tells them the story again. But this time, he fills in the back story. He starts with Genesis, he traces all of the scriptures, the prophets, the information that pertains to the Messiah. How he would arrive, what He would do, how He was to suffer and die and how He would raise from the dead.
The village of Emmaus shows up and Jesus appears to be going on. The two plead with him to stay with them. Night is coming. Eat dinner with us. Why? Why not just let this unidentified person go on his way? Because the disciples are intrigued. They want to hear more from this unidentified traveler. The information, the stories he told them rested with them. Their hearts were burning.
Then, as he did on the night before he died and as we do at every Mass, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread. The bread that is now his body. Their eyes are opened. They see. They connect their loose ends of information. Now, they “get it”.
Think of your relationship with Christ.
As a child, we learn about the faith. Baptism, Mass, even Confirmation. Some of us “get it”, but many of us just don’t. We go on through life. We learn more, we listen, we see how the world works. More of us “get it”, the relationship with Christ we so desperately need. Marriage, family, more living. More of us “get it”. Still others, not so much. Some of us have to hear the stories over and over. Live through the sufferings of life, the sufferings of others until, finally, we “get it”.
The Mass is a great way to recall, re-hear the message, the sacrifice and the message of Christ. Bread is taken, blessed, broken and given so that we may recognize him in that breaking of the bread which has now become Christ Himself.
Finally, as we “get it”, our eyes are opened and even though we may be travelling in the wrong direction, away from Christ, we turn around to deliver the pearl of faith we have attained to someone else, if not by our words, by our actions as we live as Christ teaches us. The disciples from Emmaus, turned immediately, even though it was night; a very difficult time to travel with no electric lights, to share their story, their faith to those back in Jerusalem.
Even when we do not recognize him, Christ is with us. Even when we go the wrong way, he walks with us; crawling after us. Searching; looking for us.
Deacon Philip Moore
“The other disciples said to him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Before we say, how could Thomas say that? Let us think about times when someone told us about something important and the words that came out of our mouth were: unless I see it, I don’t believe it. This gives us something to think about. Are we too quick to judge; standing on our own righteous platform. Maybe we do this because we want to take the focus off ourselves and place it on someone else or maybe we just don’t want to believe what we cannot see.
Poor Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the other disciples after the resurrection. We really don’t know where he was but the important thing is he was not there. Thomas the Apostle, now referred to as “Doubting Thomas” was one of the Apostles of Jesus. And he could just not believe that Jesus was there unless he could see him and touch him.
Jesus then appeared and offered to let him do just that. Upon seeing Jesus in the flesh with his own eyes, Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus responded with one of the most powerful and prophetic statements about faith in all of Scripture: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Let that sink in, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. That is us, all of us!
Because of Thomas’s statement, he would be forever marked as “doubting Thomas”, even today, if there is something we don’t believe, we become a doubting Thomas. There is not much we know about the Apostle Thomas, he’s not a major Bible character, he’s only mentioned eight times in the entire New Testament, and four of those times are just lists of the twelve apostles.
Yet this moment in history and this Gospel of mercy and repentance, that was proclaimed today, is so important that Saint Pope John Paul II declared it Divine Mercy Sunday, The first Sunday after Easter. Why would he do this?
It all started in a little town outside of Cracow, Poland. A young girl, Helen Kowalska, the third of ten children who from the age of seven desired to become a saint and devote herself to God. With only three years of education, she left school to work to help provide for her family. After twenty-one years of prayer and sacrifice, in 1926 she entered the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She received her habit and was given the name of Sister Maria Faustina. In February of 1934 she had a vision of the Lord, who tells her to paint an image of Him as the Merciful Savior. He gave her strict instructions on how the image was to be depicted. It would show the fullness of God's love for us and His forgiveness.
Sister Faustina ran into opposition from her confessor. When she told him of the conversations with the Lord and what he was asking her to do, her confessor told her she must be talking about the image of God in her soul. Does this sound familiar? We just heard of someone else who had doubts. Sister Faustina continued to go about her duties in the convent, she was a cook, gardener, and doorkeeper. Not glamorous jobs yet performed out of love of God.
Finally, in 1934 work on the image began. Jesus’ right hand raised to give a blessing, his left hand touching his heart, and two rays of light coming from his heart. The pale one stands for water which makes souls righteous and the red ray stands for the blood which is the life of souls. The two rays represent the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation which purify the soul and gives all the graces of the Holy Spirit.
This Sunday, the Feast of Divine Mercy has a very deep and theological significance, the Paschal Mystery (the dying and rising of Jesus) and the mystery of The Divine Mercy. Jesus told Sister Faustina, “I desire this feast of Mercy to be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners. I am giving them the last hope of salvation, that is, recourse to My Mercy.” Can you hear the hope and love in this statement? Jesus wants us in heaven with Him.
Sister Faustina died October 5th 1938 at the age of 33. She was canonized by Saint Pope John Paul II April 30th 2000. To this simple, uneducated, but courageous woman religious, who trusted Him without limit, Our Lord Jesus consigned the great mission to proclaim His message of mercy directed to the whole world: “Today”, He told her, “I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My merciful Heart” Diary, 1588
(At the 5:00 on Saturday)
Tomorrow we will fulfill this message to honor the image of the Merciful Lord and recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Do not let this opportunity go by, come tomorrow at three o’clock and celebrate this Feast and receive the graces promised by Jesus. Let us carry in our heart every day the words that are depicted below the image, “Jesus I Trust In You.”
(At the 5:00 on Sunday)
Just a few hours ago, we fulfilled that message to honor the image of the Merciful Lord and recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Let us carry in our heart every day the words that are depicted below the image, “Jesus I Trust In You.”
Deacon Tim Conley
Have you ever had the baffling experience of watching yourself choose something you know is displeasing to God and it wasn’t the 1st time? The greatest pain is not the guilt that it brings. It's the loss of fellowship with Jesus! It's the feeling of no longer being at home, but standing on the outside, looking through the window.
Scripture says that Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father. What does “reconcile” mean? It means restoring friendly relations. How does this happen? By returning to God from our prodigal moments and bringing our sense of unworthiness to the sacrament of reconciliation. Father Kirk, founder of this church, once asked me: “Do you know why God gave us the sacraments?”? He said: “It's because we’re unworthy.”.
This is why this weekend, the church gives us Divine Mercy Sunday, to reflect upon the many mercies of God, he is so ready to pour out upon us. It all started in the 1930’s, when Sister Faustina Kowalska had an encounter with Jesus, who revealed to her the depths of His mercy. She was given a vision of an image she was told to have an artist recreate for others to see. In the vision, two rays were radiating from Jesus. The pale ray is the water that cleanses from sin. The red ray is the blood of Jesus, which is the life of our soul. After the homily, you will have the opportunity to see and venerate this image as a way to contemplate the power of mercy to free us from shame, to pass on mercy to others and completely trust in Jesus.
In the gospel, we learn that Jesus instituted the sacrament of confession as a great sign of His mercy. Many of our protestant brothers and sisters will say: “I confess my sins directly to God. Only he can forgive sin.”. The church says: “You’re absolutely right! Only Christ can forgive sin. The priest is a symbol of Christ.” If you reject the sacrament of reconciliation, then what do you do with the words of Jesus when he told his apostles: ”Whoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven. Whoever’s sins you retain, they are retained.?” Perhaps your argument is with the words of Jesus and not with the church.
Today, as we look upon the Divine Mercy image, let us take in the words that Jesus spoke to St Faustina: ” Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace.”
April 9 - Easter Sunday
In the Acts of the Apostles, our first reading for today, we are hearing Peter talk to
the household of Cornelius. Peter says, “You know what has happened all over
Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God
anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power”. Peter is referring to a
personality of the day. Everyone knew about John. Peter is also mentioning places
that everyone knew. The speech is in Caesarea, but everyone knew where Judea
and Galilee where located.
What if I were to say something like, before Wallace Wilkinson was governor, (in
KY), I knew his partner, in Glasgow, KY. I provided the music for a dinner to
introduce Gov. Wilkinson as a candidate at Barren River State Resort park. I was
at a meeting of educators to whom he spoke in Ashland, KY.
Does that seem as though I were about to tell you a legend or a myth. NO. Real
person, real places and real times. Far from something like, “in a galaxy far away”
or “once upon a time”. That’s how a legend or fairy tale starts.
No, Peter is using real places, real people, real times. To tell a real and true story.
Then Peter goes on and says, “This man God raised on the third day and granted
that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in
advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” A real story,
real people, real events.
Peter is not utilizing mythical language.
Today, Easter is not a myth or legend but a true story.
In fact, when you read the New Testament, every word, from Mathew to the
Revelation, is a message that grabs and holds onto you. It doesn’t use mythical
language, but real dates, times, people and places. St. Peter says “[we] who ate and
drank with him after he rose from the dead.
“Then every one of the Apostles, went out to preach the message of the life, death
and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, every one of them, less John, died because of
this message. No one dies for a myth. No one dies spreading the message of Star
Wars or the legend of the Headless Horseman.
Go to Rome. Go to the Basilica of St. Peter. Yes, it’s the offices of the
administrator of the Pope, the offices of the CEO. But above all of that, it is the
world’s most noticeable tomb. The Peter, who was sent out, on fire to proclaim
Christ even in the face of death.
We are not talking about a nice little incident to make us feel good about ourselves.
The proclamation was about Christ the Lord. Who was the Lord at that time?
Caesar. Caesar was being replaced. One reason Rome could not put up with this
St. Paul, who met Jesus in that wonderful encounter of being knocked off his
horse. Paul, this is Jesus talking to you. St. Paul, who proclaimed Jesus the Lord;
not Caesar the Lord. St. Paul knew that Jesus was the Lord over Caesar, because
Caesar had Jesus killed and Jesus arose over the powers that sent him to his death.
Caesar; death could not hold Jesus.
There are 3 important facts to learn from Easter.
1. This true story, not a myth proclaims that we have nothing to fear if
Christ is the lord of our lives. Not even our greatest enemy; death. Christ
brings life and life to the fullest. Earthly death will not stop us from
2. This life is a free gift to everyone, not just some, everyone can have this
life of Christ. Jesus came into the lives of sinners, entered into death, and
went down into Hell to retrieve the good souls waiting for the gates of
Heaven to reopen. Jesus went as far away from the Father as possible to
include everyone into his plan of salvation.
3. Christ is more powerful than any dictator or evil ruler of the world.
Tyrants, who may perhaps control our earthly lives, have no power over
our conscious acceptance of an immortal life to be lived with Christ.
The true resurrection of Christ from the dead, in space and in time shows us that he
is more powerful than anything in the earth. He has power over everything even
over life and death. Easter, especially now, in the face of this great pandemic we
all share in, brings to us the fact that nothing stands between us and Christ; no
sword, no death, no disease…. nothing.
Jesus brings about a new power; the power of love. Christ, who conquers
everything with love and peace, negates everything on earth which has been set up,
maintained or removed by the power of hate, force, intimidation and pain.
Have we let the earth shattering news of Christ become anemic, a quiet whisper
among people? The power of Christ’s life, suffering and death is still earth
shattering. It’s powerful. We need to re-emphasize, re-evangelize and hold up this
story and truth in the way we live, act, talk and love.
It is our job to continue to evangelize this revolution of Christ in the world where
peace and love overcome every time. We must evangelize ourselves, our families
our neighbors, our world.
We cannot just say, this message is for me; its personal, others don’t need to know
or hear about Jesus. We are compelled to bring the message out into the open. The
message that Jesus offers us all life eternal. Death has no bearing on us. Love
April 2 - Palm Sunday
When a priest is ordained, they usually prepare a prayer card to be distributed. A picture on one side, a prayer on the other. On the back of one newly ordained priest, the back of the card simply read: The Lord has need of it.
On Palm Sunday, there is a Gospel proclaimed before the procession into church. We only read this Gospel when we do the Solemn procession which is done only at once Mass. At the other Masses we use a simple procession. That Gospel story is about Christ sending forth his disciples to retrieve a donkey for his entrance into Jerusalem form St. Matthew, 21: 1-11. In the Passion for today, he also sends His followers ahead to procure a room for the Passover meal.
This would be like someone today coming up to our automobile and taking it. Jesus says,” … if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’”
That first Mass for a new priest can be a real boost to the ego. Friends, family, brother priests, all celebrating the fact that you’ve finally made it. You have accomplished your goal.
In signifying his humility, this priest simply says, “The Master has need of it”. No personal pronoun, just “it”. Jesus doesn’t ask for a beautiful horse. He asks for a humble donkey. This priest was saying that his priesthood would be spent in humility, doing would the Lord required of him; whatever the Lord had need of.
There are three sacraments known as character sacraments. They leave an indelible mark on our souls; Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. The Greek word standing behind our English word character means to brand. To mark like cattle are branded to announce ownership. We are branded to be God’s own. We are made for God. And again, everything we have is from God; our existence and every other gift we have.
We tend to look at our gifts as tools to be used to help us.
Are you intelligent? Great. My intelligence will help me to get into a good school, college a good career and a financially secure position. But, “the Master has need of it.” That gift of intelligence is meant to be used for others. Am I utilizing my intelligence to help others, to relieve suffering, to end hunger or educate others about Christ?
Do you have the gift of a great personality? A great personality helps you to have friends, make contacts and be happy. But, “the Master has need of it.” Am I utilizing my personality to attract others to the Faith, to the Church, to Christ?
Whatever the gift. Are we utilizing it for the others or just for our own personal needs? Not that acquiring security, money, comfort for yourself is bad. But if the Master as need of it, can I utilize it for him?
The Master had need of a donkey, a room. The Master has need of me. The Master has need of you.
Jesus, in his humanity experiences everything we humans do, except sin. In the Gospel story for today, he experiences the death of someone he loves. Even though he is sad, he is God and he can do what we can never do; he raises his friend from the dead.
There are three times that Jesus raises someone from the dead in the Gospels. The daughter of Jairus, the son of the Widow of Nain and today, Lazarus. St. Augustin tells us that these three accounts equate to stages of sin. First, in the daughter of Jairus, we see the death of a young girl. Having not left the household of her family yet, she is the image of the stirrings of sin in us, perhaps venial sins. Jesus, easily rectifies the situation by saying, “Talitha koum…. Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
At the city of Nain, he comes across the funeral procession of the son of a widow. The young man has been out in the world. It is also a much serious situation. The widow at that time, needed a man, in this case her only son, to provide for her. At his death she will be forced to become a beggar if she cannot rely on the help of others for food and shelter. Still Jesus raises him up. He brings him back from a more serious example of sin.
Now, today, he finds his friend, Lazarus, dead for four days. This is the Jewish measurement of true death. This reflects the death of a soul from sin. Lost from God. Sin is indeed, the loss of God’s friendship.
Jesus says, “where have they laid him?” Jesus is looking for Lazarus. Remember in the Garden, Adam and Eve hid from God after they had sinned and God came looking for them. God does not remove himself from us when we sin, we hide ourselves away from him. God is always looking for us.
“Lazarus, come out!......Untie him and let him go.” Sinner, come out from your sin. Untie yourself from the bonds that keep you away and go on with your life.
Imagine your worst enemy breaking down in tears. Perhaps he has lost a mother or father, or someone he loves deeply. Our reaction, even to someone as this is to soften our hearts and our opinions towards that person. Even someone that hates me can be hurt this badly. Now, imagine Jesus as he wept over the loss of Lazarus. But go deeper, imagine Jesus crying because of the loss of us when we sin. Again, sin is destroying the friendship with God.
All of us are in some state of sin. Sin like the daughter of Jairus’ death, the widow of Naim’s son’s death, or the blackened finality of Lazarus; who surely by now, his body has produced a great stench.
‘Where have they laid him? Where is he. God is looking for us. But the hope for us is that when God speaks, things happen. We may say something or express a hope, but our words don’t make things happen. In the beginning God said, “let there be light” and there was light. “Let there be water”. Jesus says, “Lazarus, come out!” and his words bring Lazarus back to life. The very person who said, “let there be light” and “Lazarus come out!” also speaks to us in the Mass when he says, “this is my Body; this is my Blood” and bread and wine become Jesus.
No matter where you are in your life. In grace, sin, addiction, terrified of the future, of death, a failure in your relationships, whatever, listen for that voice of Jesus saying “Come out, untie yourself and be free.”
“Where have they laid him:” Where have I laid myself? Say this sentence but put your name in the place of Lazarus. “Come out!... untie him and let him go.”
Deacon Tim Conley
When the disciples see the blind man, based on the cultural bias of the day, they assume this condition is the consequence of sin. Their question for Jesus, is not if anyone has sinned but who it was that did so.
As in the disciple’s case, whenever we make assumptions, we miss the mark. Jesus reveals that the man’s situation is part of a greater plan to glorify God. Before his healing would come however, there were years of suffering. How many times did he trip and fall? How many bruises had he received from bumping into furniture? He was dependent on others leading him by the hand. He was likely unemployable. If all of this was not enough, he would have to have also been aware that he was viewed by others as guilty of some evil he did not do. Given a choice, the man would certainly have chosen a different path to glorifying God.
What is it on your path that has not been of your choosing? Are you having to cope with being bipolar, dealing with depression? Struggling with unwanted feelings of same sex attraction? Do you Carry the wounds of childhood abuse; be it physical, emotional or sexual? Has there been a life-long battle with addiction? You’ve prayed for God to take it all away, but as yet, He has not. I was in my 30’s, the first time I ever came to grips with the sexual abuse of my childhood. Until then, I’d never told a living soul. Healing happened when I had “randomly” crossed paths with my abuser.
I came across another soul with whom, for the 1st time, I came in contact with a presence of unconditional love. That love was almost more than I could take! She told me something strange, that almost offended me when she said: “There is a gift in it”. My 1st thought was that if there was a gift in it, then I’d like to give it back! Over the last 30 plus years, I can’t tell you what a gift it has been, to have the privilege to have listened to so many tell their own story of abuse and see the relief and comfort in their eyes when someone finally truly understands.
St Paul said: “All things work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose”. If you do not see the gift today, don’t be discouraged. There will be a tomorrow when you will and know God is glorified.
Deacon Philip Moore
Today, we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent, called Laetare Sunday. It takes its name from the Latin word which begins the entrance antiphon for the day. Laetare means rejoice, and this Sunday is marked by a relaxation of the penitential character of the Lenten season. We look with expectation to the great Solemnity of Easter for which we have been preparing ourselves as a Church during the Lenten season. By its anticipation of the joy of Easter, Laetare Sunday is meant to give us hope and encouragement as we slowly progress towards the Paschal Feast. Today’s Gospel reflects this in the blind man. He rejoices in regaining his sight and believing in the one who healed him.
Do you remember as a child going into a dark room and being scared? We couldn’t tell our parents exactly what we were scared of, just that we were scared and wanted the light on. When our granddaughter comes to our house she wants the bedroom doors closed because it’s dark in those rooms and she doesn't like being that close to a dark room. Yet, I can give her a flashlight and she is glad to go into the dark room and shine the light. Because the light takes away all the scary feelings, the light empowers her to not feel helpless against the dark, the light brings her comfort.
Even as adults we all have those feelings of being scared of the unknown - - the darkness that surrounds us is sometimes overwhelming. It may not be a dark room; it may be something in our life that brings us darkness.
This is what our Gospel is about today, being able to shine a bright light on our problems and giving them to God. The blind man, as the Gospel says, could not see from birth. He was born into the darkness, into a life without light. We are all born into the darkness of sin, remember Adam and Eve gave us this original sin. Through our Baptism, that sin, that stain on our soul was washed away with the saving power of water. Just like the blind man in our Gospel washed in the pool of Siloam after encountering Jesus, we too encounter Jesus in our Baptism. Our sin is washed away and we become children of the light, brothers and sisters of Christ.
There is another aspect to our suffering, when the miracle comes, it shows the power of God. Affliction, pain, sorrow, disappointment, loss, always are opportunities for displaying God’s grace. It enables us as the sufferer to show God in action. Jesus could have cured the man’s blindness by just touching his eyes, but he used what was common, what was understood by the people of that day, he used spittle. If that seems strange, think about when you burn your finger, what is the first thing you do? You put it into your mouth. Jesus was a wise physician, he had to gain the confidence of the people, so he did what they would understand. Washing in the pool was also common at the time.
Now comes the big trouble, he did this on the Sabbath. This gave the Pharisees the excuse they needed to accuse Jesus of not being from God. By making clay, Jesus was guilty of working on the Sabbath. It was also forbidden to heal on the Sabbath. Medical attention could only be given if your life was in danger, even then you could only give attention so the patient did not get worse. The Pharisees are typical of people in every generation who condemn anyone whose idea of religion is not theirs. They thought that theirs was the only way of serving God. When they brought the man who was cured in and questioned him, he did not waiver, he spoke the truth and told them what Jesus had done for him. When we are faced with defending our faith, are we as committed as this man? Can we stand up to criticism and ridicule? Can we speak what we know to be true? When Jesus does something in our life that cannot be explained, are we willing to talk about it and share that experience? Let us be as bold as this man in the Gospel. And exclaim, this man opened my eyes.
In our Gospel last week, the saving water, the living water, allowed the women to see Jesus as the Messiah, the blind man this week in the Gospel, is able to see for the first time, through the saving water. We have all received this same saving water through our Baptism. Let us all exclaim that our eyes have been opened and that Jesus is our Messiah.
During this Lenten season we should reflect on how God has worked in our lives and thank him for dying for our sins and bringing us into the light.