Easter Octave Homily: April 27th

Youth Mass.
“Have many of you watched the tv or internet about the making of the two saints today? Probably not, since it was broadcast live at 3 a.m.! But, did any of you see coverage or watch stories about it. I didn’t expect it so. Therefore, I wrote a homily about them, and it has a lot of details… are you willing to listen in for awhile, as I teach on the Gospel of today but then tie in the new saints St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, the double pope saints?” (Good. I will.)

SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER HOMILY (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY, SUNDAY OF TWO SAINTS ANEW)
Alleluia! Alleluia! We celebrate the 8th day of Easter– its Second Sunday. It’s Holy Time in God’s Church. It’s the special time of year. We recall on the very First Easter time, that on the second Sunday of it, Jesus chose to come into the midst of the apostles at the Upper Room space in Jerusalem, and He showed them again that He was indeed alive and risen from the dead. He was ministering unbounded now, as John’s Gospel proclaims to us, walking through the walls, with Jesus showing His triumph and His divine identiy, yet also showing to them His human identity, asking surprisingly “Do you have any cooked fish to eat here?” He also showed the marks of His bodily crucifixion to them, mainly, to Thomas, the apostle who hadn’t been there the last Sunday, the Day of Resurrection, the Great Day of thePaschal Lord, His first official appearing. Thomas is astounded. He cries out: “My Lord and My God.” This is a five word prayer that some people use nowadays at the consecration, praising the Real Presence of Jesus come to the church at Mass. “My Lord and My God.” The servers ring the chimes to have us give attention to Christ’ arrival in Body and Blood to us, in Sacrament encounter. Perhaps it can signal you to pray “My Lord and My God” as St. Thomas did when He saw the Lord at the Upper Room on the original 8th day of Easter.

One other verse in today’s gospel that reaches into me is John 20:21. I said so in last Sunday’s homily, too, it is a verse for The Joy of the Gospel theme. John 20:21 should also become true of us, and not just of those at the first Easter time. “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Risen Lord.” They rejoiced.
Easter IS a time to rejoice in the Risen Lord. WE are the disciples today who are to rejoice.

This is a unique Sunday in the Church, with some extra rejoicing, courtesy of Pope Francis, that two popes would be elevated today to sainthood on this Eighth Day of Easter. These two holy people, new St. John the 23rd and new St. John Paul the Second, were pontiffs whom we knew in our own modern times. If you are in your late 60’s and up, then you probably knew something of Pope John XXIII and his influence on the world and to the Church. If you are in your later 20’s and up, then some of the same might be said of you knowing of the ministry of Pope John Paul II. They made an impact. We live in their blessings today. It is why Pope Francis chose for us to honor and elevate them in our recognition as our newest saints, done so on this Divine Mercy Easter Sunday, as led by the Holy Spirit for us to do. With St. Sister Fautina being the one with private revelations of the Merciful Christ showering mercy to the present age, and that she was made a saint by her fellow Pole, Pope John Paul II, it also is appropriate that the canonization of JPII can happen today, as St. Faustina might have wanted to return the favor to Pope John Paul II for recognizing and passing on the call of our Lord to appeal to His precious five wounds for mercy to an amuck society fallen further into sin in this modern time. Oh, dear Lord, how the world needs God’s mercy, and how it needs intercessors of mercy. Praise God.

For you younger folks, you can understand from this sainthood Easter Sunday that we, your “elders,” draw some deep meaning from the elevation of these popes to being heralded as saints. We (those of a previous generation or two) saw that this troublesome last century of ours, filled with wars and sins and more, was a time when God used the office of papacy to move the world into certain ways back into goodness and grace, rather than fall further into darkness. God would use the papacy, the chair (or office) Jesus first gave to Peter, to help for some great things to happen in the world via the Church.

When I was little, Pope John XXIII was leading things for our Catholic Church. That was over 50 years ago. Good Pope John was quite the influence on the world, They needed direction into peace and harmony, still quite soon after two successive world wars almost torn up the world. Many of our grandparents and great uncles had gone into war. So, in the late 1950’s and early 60’s, many nations and its leaders were listening to this friendly and engaging old pope, as he spoke of peace and of a natural law (or an inside built-in guide from God) to teach people about how to live in a higher design, in the honor of God, and now to strive to become nicer people, and folks with more understanding of others. (And with less war and division.) Pope John XXIII had people, even many non-Catholic ones, talking about the message of the Catholic Church a lot. It became popular. I remember as a kid going to a big world’s fair in New York—it was a large international festival of amusements and culture and arts and diversity. I attended it, a few times, as it was nearby where I lived as a boy. The World’s Fair was held in New York City, and I was impressed that the Catholic Church had a big pavilion in it, displaying our faith to the world. It was right in the spirit of openness of the pope of that time, Pope John XXIII, who is being made a saint today. (Do you see the large poster photos we put of him on the west wall of the church today?!) I was proud to be a Catholic at that World’s Fair Vatican exhibit. I was also proud of the picture of the pope we had in various places in our home (walls, bible, parent’s wedding document). Good Pope John also changed things for me as a young boy when the pope asked for countries to put the Mass in our own language, rather than just Latin anymore. I went from listening mysteriously to the Mass to better understanding it. Imagine it, now, if your Mass today was mostly in the Latin language—you might not follow all that was going on.

Let me tell you of the impact of today’s other saint upon me and the world. For Pope John Paul II, when he became pope, I wasn’t a little boy anymore, but I was a college student in 1978 at the University of Maryland. I remember that the pope came to D.C. and gathered hundreds of thousands of persons down to Washington to the big lawn”mall” and I attended it. It was a half-day gathering, centered on an outdoor Mass. Do you know what I did that day? I took a college girl on a date to it. It was a half-day celebration of music, and people together being happy, and then the Mass. My girlfriend/date was not Catholic, but she was getting used to sharing Catholic things with me, and this event surely was a very neat and very popular thing. Who else could draw hundreds of thousands of people on a weekday to the DC Mall?! No one but the popular Pope John Paul II. She was moved by the whole day. No, not by me, her date, but of something greater, the Faith of the Ages going back to Jesus and the Apostles. She “got” who we were all about, and why the Church IS special. Later, I can say, that college girl became a Catholic convert. She met a Catholic guy and they were married. In the 1990’s, they had me as their pastor for a couple of years, in a funny turn of fate.

This Pope John Paul II was fairly young, and he decided to travel all around the world doing gatherings and Masse, once gathering a million people for a Mass in Manila in the Philippines. He also had a World Youth Mass regularly, a special Mass and week in which he invited mostly teens and young adults to gather with their pope somewhere special in the world. I recall it greatly affected a college student named Larry. Larry was so moved by the pope when he came to World Youth Day in Denver, seeing the pope as a priest who loved his celebration of Jesus, that Larry was inspired to become a priest himself one day. Larry later lived with me for a Summer (in the 1990’s) as a seminarian, and now Fr. Larry is pastor of a parish that I used to be the pastor of. Fr. Larry is also playing baseball today on the priest and seminarian baseball team who takes the field today in a minor league stadium in Waldorf. He is the player manager of that team. I will see him today. His changed life is just one of millions affected by St. John Paul II.

There are many more things to say of these two new pope saints. Certainly they both promoted God’s Mercy to the world. They presented Christ Jesus as the Head of the Church, and over the body of believers (us!), Who was a Risen Lord on High at the Throne, Who also was greatly involved on earth in our affairs, being the life in our souls, and being the Life in our Sacraments, and the Center of our Story in Scriptures and the Traditions of Jesus’ believers.

I guess I should point out that these men were among the many Catholics who kept their faith and their allegiance to Church, when so many other things were going wrong in the world. Both saw the bad horrors of war. Pope John XXIII was in the medical corps and chaplaincy in WWI and treated the badly wounded of war. That was in his young adult days. Then he saw WWII come and as a Italian priest helping in Turkey, Greece and France—he saw his beloved part of the world get mostly destroyed and divided by the Nazi’s. As for Pope John Paul II, he already had personal family heartache in his mother dying when he was only 9 yrs. old, his brother dying when he was 12 yrs. old, his older sister passing away before his birth, and then his father passing, all before he reached the age of 22. That was enough sadness, but then his Poland got attacked when he was that young adult, and much was taken by control of the Nazis’. Then , some years later, the Communists of Russia came in and did even worse to Poland. Pope JPII knew war, too. All too well.

So it was interesting to see these two popes do so much for peace in their times. They were well know for being peacemakers. Pope John XXIII “Pacem in Terris” is still one of the great 20th century documents of the world. There is a Spirit of Peace available to guide us all, He said (of the Spirit of God). Pope John Paul II saw that the same Spirit offered human dignity and freedom to humankind, working with a natural, God-given inner law in humanity— if we could just cooperate with the Spirit. Their messages still bring us hope.

So, that is what I can say of these two pope saints, and by the way, did you also notice the poster photos of Pope John Paul II on our east wall, beside the picture of St. Faustina of the Divine Mercy, of whom JPII elevated to sainthood, and renamed this Sunday of Easter for the Divine Mercy?
Now we live in the time of Pope Francis. We have had over a year of his papacy, and much good is coming about through the office of Christ’ Vicar on Earth again. Christ does love his Peters in the Church! Francis is doing fresh things for the Church and world, but he himself knows that he is just building on the work of these two great predecessors of himself. Pope John XXIII was the one who said positive things in the late 1950’s, like: “We, the Church, must throw open our windows and let the fresh breath of the Holy Spirit in over us.” Indeed. Let the Spirit of God breathe and blow on us to bring new vitality to our Faith. As we get into 2014 a little further, God asks His Catholics to believe in this vitality, and to get into this freshness of the Spirit, and into the Joy of the Gospel.

Resurrection Day and The Joy of the Gospel, Part 2

RESURRECTION DAY AND THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL (PART TWO)
PART TWO How Pope Francis “The Joy of the Gospel (TJOTG) relates to this message of Christ’ Resurrection.

We talked last time of the Joy of Easter, and the Power of Christ’ Rising. Let us bring in Pope Francis to take it home.

Christ’ Resurrection is the key moment in all of Scripture and of Faith History. It is the revelation of God’s power in Christ, which is displayed as an act of saving love and outreach to all the lost sinners of the earth. Easter is about the Lord Jesus meeting with people in this world and working His plan in them (hidden in many ways) for the work of His sharing the victory of His rising and ascending. As the Holy Father says we believe in “the mysterious working of the Risen Christ and His Spirit” in our world, that can triumph over all the pessimism, fatalism, and mistrust of society, of its self-destructiveness and downward path without hope. “If we think that things (like that) are not going to change, we need to recall that Jesus has triumphed over sin and death and is now almighty. Jesus Christ truly lives. Put another way (from St. Paul): if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain.” TJOTG #275

Pope Francis’ continues His Resurrection encouragement words in TJPOTG #276: “Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world,” The pope tells us. “Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force.”

The resurrection, Pope Francis tells us, just like the light that shines forth in our churches at Easter, is the light that guides us during those dark periods when we feel alone and afraid, and even abandoned by God. “Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see persistent injustice, evil, indifference and cruelty. But it is also true that in the midst of darkness something new always springs to life and sooner or later produces fruit. However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads … such is the power of the resurrection, and all who evangelize are instruments of that power.”

Thank you, Pope Francis. Such goodness can be seen at Easter! I recall at our own Easter Vigil, when the church welcomed four persons into the fullness of the faith (and encouraged others to complete their RCIA journey), we had people joined together as Church tosay: we are here to become new in Christ. His power of resurrection is greater than all the downward and dark things that try to take down a person.

We had a beautiful Easter Vigil Mass. I enjoyed our liturgy and its connection of the Jewish Passover and its song of freedom–to that of the New Covenant Passover of Christ freeing us loose from the slavery of sin and the chains of death. Now we are pilgrims marching out of all that past life. We want to walk as children of God, someday to be at full strength and heading into Glory.
As we celebrated this New Passover in the Mass, as we celebrated the new signs (Christ in Sacrament) of our lives being led by Christ to new life in His Name. The Rising of His Son and His whole influence into our lives is where we aim our lives, as we pray: Praise God. Alleluia!.

Easter bids us to go forth in the newness of Christ Jesus and His Spirit, in the realization and openness to God’s saving work going on within and about us. The Easter message of Christ’ death and resurrection IS at the heart of our call to evangelization. Pope Francis says this (#110) “joyful, patient and progressive preaching of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ must be [our] absolute priority.’ He gives us an appeal from TJOTG: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.’… The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”

Passing on a nice Easter Reflection

“EASTER AND THE TRAJECTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE”

This reflection, by Fr. Frances Martin of our Archdiocese of Washington, gives us something nice to ponder. He sent it to me. I pass it on to you.

The whole trajectory of the Christian life is a successive dying to Sin, to its surrounding impact, to the deep wounds and vicious energy that lie in the depth of our being: it is the flowering of the gift of dying and living, a share in the dying and rising of Christ, that is communicated to us by the direct action of the Holy Spirit, as well as his action in baptism, the other sacraments, and the living and active Word of God.

“The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:10-11).

The death of Christ is his entrance and ours into the realm of Life. For our part, this trajectory is worked out in and through the inextricable enmeshing of Sin and Grace within us. The power by which we live is the power of the act of love in which our Lord Jesus Christ surrendered his life to the Father amid the murderous attempt of Sin and hatred, and then rose again: “The death he died he died to Sin, once for all, the life he lives he lives to God” (Romans 6:10) This victory is imparted to you when you are baptized into his death, the act of love in which he handed over everything to the Father: “So you too count yourselves dead to Sin but living to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

This Easter season celebrates the power of the life of Christ in the Church, this same radiant power that is purifying us. If we yield to it, it will endow us with a love for everyone, including our enemies. And with the Holy Spirit, it will penetrate our understanding of the inevitable outcome whereby the Church’s radiant presence will attract men and women to Christ (the Church is a Sacrament, the link between two worlds), so that it will be true of us as well that the death we die, physically or not, we die to Sin, and the life we live is the life of Christ, wholly moving to the Father.
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Take a look, sometime, as the message of Romans 6 in the Scriptures. It helps us realize the turn from sin to grace that Christ affords to us.

Easter is a Season– Don’t get “ordinary” too soon!

0106141220The Celebration’s Still A’Goin’

Certainly, by this Sunday and Monday, April 27-28, most people will have celebrated Easter Sunday and the Second Sunday (Divine Mercy) of Easter and will be back to work or school or their usual routines of our lives. However, our faith calls us to not to return to ordinary ways of living, not just yet. The Church doesn’t return to its season of “Ordinary Time” for quite a while. (And why go ordinary again, when the Celebration’s Still A’Goin?!)

We ARE still celebrating Easter, the most sacred of all feasts in our Christian tradition, and it is a SEASON, not just a day or an octave (although April 20-27th are the most vital of Easter days). Still, as the Church teaches and practices, Jesus’ victory over sin, evil, and death is cause for rich rejoicing: 50 days worth!
We have days of Easter going on now, with then, Ascension’s Feast (June 1) leading into Pentecost’s Feast (June 8). After that, then we can get “ordinary” again. For now, it’s “high time” in the Church calendar.

We Catholics tend to be pretty good at Lent. The 40 days of Lent were marked by many with a deliberate discipline: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving; and quite a crowd came out to begin it at our Ash Wednesday Masses. Lent is treated as a season or length of time by many Catholics. Good.
But, how though, do we mark the 50 days of Easter rejoicing? I suppose our waistlines could not contain a special dessert or cocktail every day of Easter (for this our feasting, not fasting, time), but our attention to celebrating this high feast appropriately calls us to a commemoration that is greater than its Lenten predecessor. We need somehow to get into the feast of faith and joy that is Easter.

In his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis recently challenged us not to be Christians “whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.” If we are to heed this message, perhaps we could benefit from doing something to help us remember that we are the joy-filled, celebrating people we are called to be. Here, then, is a few suggestions for 50 days of Easter rejoicing:
☼Make every Sunday of Easter special in some way, for each IS, in fact, Easter Sunday’s after-glow. Of course, going to each Sunday Mass of Easter is elementary to this plan (Easter gets a crowd, but the successive ones have less attendance). Perhaps you can arrive early and read the Gospels and think on them as a special preparation for Mass. (Too many just barely show up for Mass or come late. Easter would be a nice time for a change.)
☼ Attend the parish Confirmation Mass, on Monday, May 5, 7 p.m. with Bishop Bevard here. Our parish Confirmation always falls in Easter Season. Our bishop is Maryland born but serving in the U.S. Virgin Islands diocese. He should be interesting.
☼When or where possible, add some sort of bonus to your dining table or living room by adding flowers or decorations there, to say: Easter is acknowledged here. Or at work: put an Easter symbol or card or flower up somewhere.
☼ Take Holy Water home from church, and sprinkle it in blessing over your front doors, home crucifixes, holy items in home, or to your garden. (Note: we replenished the basket of bottles for you, over by the Holy Water dispenser.)
☼ At a meal: Make a toast to the Lord Who is Risen, or a prayer such as this: L/Give thanks to the Risen Lord . A/ For His Love is Everlasting. L/ Jesus Christ is Alive. A/ And He lives and reigns forever, and we are His flock, the glad sheep of His pasture.
☼ Send Easter Season greetings to people. It’s time to celebrate Jesus. It also shows that Easter is as special, and more so, than Christmas for Catholics.
☼ Wear a pin: “Jesus Lives.” “Jesus First.” “Alleluia.”
☼ Make a pilgrimage and arranged tour to one of the following: Holy Land Monastery (DC), St. Matthew’s Cathedral/ w/ Catholic Bookstore @K & 16 st. (DC), Shrine to Mary/ Shrine to St. John Paul II (DC), Basilica of the Assumption/ (Baltimore), Mother Seton Shrine/Grotto at MSM U. (MD).

Those are just some suggestions. Perhaps God has something in mind for you. Happy Easter Season!

Resurrection Day and the Joy of the Gospel, Pt. 1

IMG_20140415_115630_135 I am a new life in Christ. A picture from one of our school students.

Resurrection Day and The Joy of the Gospel

The Easter Vigil Fire and the Light of Easter Morning brings in the joy of Christ’s victory over death and “all things become new in Him.” Here is how the Easter Vigil sings out that newness:

The Exultet Song of Easter (beginning and ending of it) “Rejoice heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation! Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes forever! Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The risen Savior shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!…………………………. Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God. Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night! May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.”

We celebrate that All IS Become New in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Risen from the Dead. He IS the Morningstar of the restoration of humanity before Almighty God, as a Reconciliation Work dawns in Him. We gather around the Easter Candle (Paschal Candle) for these Easter Season liturgies and celebrations, praying that we continue (ourselves alive in Christ) “burning in His peaceful light on all mankind.”

On Easter Sunday and the Octave (2nd) Sunday of Easter the Gospel of John passages proclaim how the apostles met the Risen Lord in His Upper Room appearances to them. (Summed up in John 20:21 “they rejoiced when they saw the Risen Lord.”) Thus, there is great joy in this Good News, Jesus’ Lives and Saves and Loves Us. Resurrection Day is come!

With St. John the Evangelist and Apostle, you have his written celebration of Easter continue on in his later work, The Book of Revelation, or Apocalypse. We are invited up to Heaven with John for a glimpse of the coming on up. I enjoy the visions of the Lord of Glory in this Bible book. Read along here John’s Sunday Reflections on a particular day of his life, when he saw what was to gloriously come:

“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and… when I turned I saw seven golden lamp-stands, and among the lamp-stands was someone like a Son of Man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades…. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lamp-stands are this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp-stands are the seven churches…. Now hear is a part I really like in the Apocalypse Scripture
…He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”

This all comes from a senior Apostle John writing around 90-95 ad. What is he saying but that Jesus Reigns?!

As I see Christ’ work begun in His Rising, I see that He is bringing people, that is, even embodying them into Himself, through His Victory at Easter. He has the ultimate prize of eternal life to give to His faithful. He even can put us into Himself and into the Divine Family, as we abide in Him and believe and follow Him, as Jesus had said: “He/she who does the will of My Father, is brother, sister, mother to me.” “Intimate.” “Family.” “Joined into.”

I shared in the Easter bulletin that I like listening to a Bruce Springsteen song in Easter time. The song is called “The Rising.” I adjust some of its words in my head, yet I like when he sings
“Left the house this morning Bells ringing filled the air
I was wearin’ the cross of my calling On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here
Come on up for the rising Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising Come on up for the rising tonight li,li,li,li, li,li,li…
There’s spirits above and behind me Faces gone black, eyes burnin’ bright
May their precious blood bind me Lord, as I stand before your fiery light
Come on up for The Rising! Come on up for the Rising!”

I just imagine the song as a resurrection calling, and we ask for the Hand of the Lord to take us up, in our open palm of surrender. If we have opened our hearts to God’s will, then likely our palms will be open for the upward calling.

NEXT, IN PART 2, HOW POPE FRANCIS’ JOY OF THE GOSPEL RELATES TO THIS MESSAGE OF CHRIST’ RESURRECTION

Easter Vigil Homily and Easter Sunday Homily

Easter Vigil Homily Papal Notes on a Joyful Easter

During the Lenten Season, our parish took in the words of Pope Francis from his exhortation booklet, his manifesto for the faithful, The Joy of the Gospel. We made it a theme to follow. We are in a Francis Effect time in the world, with positive responses to the new Pope Francis. Still, we more deeply to know him and what he is asking of us to do in following Christ as a faithful Flock. That knowing of Pope Francis won’t come from just following network sound bytes and nice photos on tv or in internet reports, so he has written to us about joyfully living the gospel. What better time than Lent into Easter is there to give this closer look? And, to show a real love and interest in what God is saying through His new pontiff? He has prophetic words and actions to stir us up.

I hope you have attempted to read Joy of the Gospel, though it is not a real easy task. I said last Sunday that to read it and then not feel convicted about the Church and what she should be doing (but frequently is not doing, at least not wholeheartedly, that is, joyfully) –is maybe to have read it too casually. Francis has convicting things to say, which I said a couple of Sundays ago that I’d expect it to drive some people to confession on asking God for mercy and asking God to supply the vigor and interest to live and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ more fully.

On matters of the Resurrection and Christian Faith, we have read
Pope Francis saying that we are to be “a people buoyed in hope” because, simply, Jesus did arise from the tomb. In his recent book Hope in Mercy and in The Joy of the Gospel, he reminds Catholics how we are to reach Easter and richly experience it. He says in chapter 4, get from Lent and its serious prep what you need to be led you into Easter. Easter is the goal. Our work is to get there in being with Our Risen Lord. Our faith is founded on a risen Christ Jesus. Pope Francis says we are not to be looking, on the average day of living our faith, as if we have just come from a funeral. We need hope and joy, and only an open heart of desire for the Holy Spirit to have us active in what uplifts our heart and soul.
It is like the Angels message at Christ’ tomb, “why don’t you look for the living, not the dead? He is not lying here, He is risen. He is Alive and longing to see you.”

Pope Francis then commented on what he says could be the “Biggest threat to our “being church” – Having a’Tomb mentality.’
The biggest threat of all gradually takes shape: “the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to just proceed normally, lacking excitement, so while in reality faith is really wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness.” A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like “the most precious of the devil’s potions.” … For all this, I repeat: Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization! Or of the joy of the Good News (#83 TJOTG).

One of the topics of discussion in one of our book clubs is to define what “being Church” is.
I looked to see what Pope Francis wrote last Easter in his homily, in study of the Scriptures of people coming to the Jerusalem tomb of the Lord.

“How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness… and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do. (Easter Vigil 2013)
Here is another message from him:”There will always be light from darkness”
“However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads. Each day in our world beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history. Values always tend to reappear under new guises, and human beings have arisen time after time from situations that seemed doomed. Such is the power of the resurrection, and all who evangelize are instruments of that power. (#276 TJOTG).

Since we have two popes of the last century being named as saints next weekend, I though we should include some words from them
Pope John 23rd and Pope John Paul 2nd

From John the 23 rd
On the difference of Jesus’ Power in His Resurrection. It is a difference in direction: for the hopeful good and not for the fearful bad. We are led as sons and daughters to the Rising Up.
Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.

On the difference of what God’s forgiveness to us and His offer to live in us makes: “See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.”

John Paul the 2nd

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.

God says to us: Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence. You are in Easter territory and in confident hope and faith.
Christ has made us strongly free. What it means is that He has given us freedom in all its trueness. Freedom consists not in doing whatever we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
You will see what I mean. “ Christ has set us free, He has set us free indeed.” But when freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.

So I have given you papal inspiration for this Easter Vigil, all with Pope Francis picture up on the side walls, as was all Lent.
Yet I will read one more quote from the other living pope, Pope emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI. He had a book out in 2009 and it is called “The Joy of Knowing Christ.”
He says there how “The Gospel asks of you to find joy in detaching yourselves from material goods (as your focus), which are for the most part illusory, and to look for what aspires you to heaven. May each believer remain alert and watchful to be ready to welcome Jesus when He comes in His glory.” He says there that he think of the passage in Luke of the woman servants who were ready for their accounting. Jesus applauds them in Luke 12:37: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” Pope Benedict asks–What really were those women doing? They were minding their destiny. So urges the author of Hebrews, points out Benedict, the letter writer who salutes the greats in the realm of faith, like Abraham, the pilgrim for a higher life, to “the city which has its foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Heb.11:10. Our shared destiny, brothers and sisters, is the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise. He says on pg. 84 all these words of joy: ‘In the early church, believers formed ‘paroikoi’ [in Greek, parishes] to assist one another through the tension of living in this life in the light of Heaven’s destiny being our great call. Parishioners, then, are cooperators in minding their shared destiny in Christ. This activity brings joy and keeps a parish interesting.

I can only agree. Happy Easter.

Easter Sunday Homily: A Walk Out into Joy

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Pope Francis has called us to the Joy of the Gospel. We need to walk out into the wonder and joy of Easter and its high point of Good News.

Good News: Jesus is the Savior. Jesus is Risen. Jesus said that His Dying and Rising was for a purpose and plan to get us back into grace and friendship with God, and that the offer is now open for us. The Good News is Joyful News.

More to be added… Homily didn’t load right first time.

Good Friday Homily

By Fr. Barry 4-18-14
I am going to use some words from the American songman, Woody Guthrie, to speak about Christ Crucified and our need to remain in embrace of Jesus Christ, Crucified for our sins.

There is something very upsetting to the world about the Crucified Person Jesus Christ, Who claimed to be God and demonstrated that it was true, Who was the definition of all innocence and love and truth, Who said that He could forgive people’s sins and save people from being lost from life’s meaning and roaming in the dark. He said He was The Light of the World. And the world tried to extinguish His “Light.” And there He was put on The Cross.

Woody Guthrie wrote these lines:
“When Jesus came to town All the working folks around Believed what he did say.
But the bankers and the preachers They nailed Him to a cross
And they laid Jesus Christ in the grave.”

Woody commented on the rejection back then (and now) of men to Jesus’ coming–it was centered from people “in control”—but not so of the poor working folks, who more easily understood and believed what Jesus said and what He did and Why he did it. Perhaps the poor caught on more to Jesus’ ministry because they weren’t blinded by only what they wanted to see. The world today still has many who are blind and just won’t see Who Christ is—as the Savior for all. They’d rather do Him away than submit to Him and join the crusade of those many of whom have seen The Light.
The opening point: Often the poor or the poor in spirit and humbled of heart do see. They also can hear the Truth being said. Jesus said: “Those who want the truth will listen to My Voice.” It takes true humility to close one’s mouth of self-opinion and open one’s ears.

Woody Guthrie liked watching trains go by on America’s tracks. He imagined that the Body of believers in Jesus would be like people who saw that Jesus had given a way upon Him to begin a journey to heaven—and so they know they had better get on board a train bound for Heaven. To be in the Church and following Jesus, it was like this:
This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory,
Don’t carry nothing but the righteous and the holy.
This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train don’t carry no gamblers, this train;
This train don’t carry no gamblers, this train;
This train don’t carry no gamblers,
Liars, thieves, nor big shot ramblers,
This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train don’t carry no liars, this train;
This train don’t carry no liars, this train;
This train don’t carry no liars,
She’s streamlined and a midnight flyer,
This train don’t carry no liars, this train.
This train don’t carry no smokers, this train;
This train don’t carry no smokers, this train
This train don’t carry no smokers,
Two bit liars, small time jokers,
This train don’t carry no smokers, this train.
This train don’t carry no con men, this train;
This train don’t carry no rustlers, this train;
This train has no con men, nor rustlers
wheeler dealers, nor two bit hustlers,
This train is bound for glory, this train.
But our church (this train) isn’t filled tonight, and it seems often to have room in the pews for more. There are people doing all sorts of other things today and tonight, than to remember and honor Jesus and His offering at Calvary on this Good Friday. We can have some tears over that, not just for them, but for us of not telling them the truth, of Christ Who is Here for us. The Lord has tears over that. More should know Him by now through His Church.
And our tears go back, too, most deeply, for what happened in history this night at Calvary, because of all of us. Because of our sins, and God’s desire to forgiven them and restore us to Himself,
Jesus was crucified.

The puzzling rejection and rebellion to Almighty God’s offer in the Divine Son Christ Jesus has gone on for nearly 2000 years by our world. It is a fact of history: the world has ridiculed, minimised, hated, rejected, and sentenced to the death this One Jesus Christ. He has been charged as a liar, and a lunatic, and being One Who unnecessarily has stirred things up too much to be acceptable to humankind. The world also has said how they did not like how He changes up the rules set down for this world’s operation. The world does not like Jesus’ assessment of people. Jesus said that He came for us because we were sinners, because we were lost and sinful and doomed in our pride. The world has never liked that assessment, boasting: We don’t need a Savior. Who are you to say that of us?! The world turns away to reject Him anew. They find something else to be consumed with in their lives, even while they know themselves to be mortals and each heading to a one-day demise and a last heartbeat and last breath.

But from the Cross comes Jesus’ words for all of us: “Forgive them, Father”…. “I Thirst” for their salvation… (To a repentant thief and his last second confession, but to all who have delayed in response) “You, repentant one, shall be with Me in paradise”… and Jesus sums up His ministry: “It is finished.” It is accomplished. “Into Your Hands I commend My Spirit.”

But from His Holy Sacrifice into a Resurrection Jesus gives a new heart and a new breath to His followers, for He arose from the grave, and is no longer dead. He gives baptism into His death for the forgiveness of sins and Communion for ongoing participation in His dying to rising Mystery, and He gives anointing into His Spirit for one’s new life and friendship with God. He gives Confession for those fallen hard in sin or too frequent in other offenses, so to return to His Mercy. He blessed marital unions to be a participation in the divine. He chooses persons to receive His Holy Orders for being His instrument for the Church’s special service. These are the Sacraments. He also gives ministries and talents. He gives love from His own Sacred Heart for us to have a holy and deep love like His own, so to live a life of caring in this world, and to get out of the web of self. He gives all kinds of manifestations and blessings in the Holy Spirit. Because, as John’s gospel says: “If the Son sets you free, then you are free indeed.”

Woody Guthrie wrote this song:
Chain Of Broken Hearts
Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Jeff Tweedy
This world looks like a chain
Of heavy broken hearts . . .
It chains my brothers and sisters all apart
Link after link
It clatters thru my land
This long heavy chain of broken hearts.
Selfish pride is one link in this chain
And you better drive it out of your heart –
Brother – sister when you do it’s then that you’ll get loose
From this long heavy chain of broken hearts.
CHORUS
It’s this long heavy chain of broken hearts
It’s this long heavy chain of broken hearts
You gotta find your union before you can get free
From this long heavy chain of broken hearts.
Fear is a link in this chain
Of sorrow and trouble and pain . . .
Drive out your fear and you will break apart
This long heavy chain of broken hearts.
Jealousy in a link of the worst
A worry, a blister and a curse . . .
Join our union band and bring with your hands
This long heavy chain of broken hearts.
CHORUS

It’s when you are free from this chain
Love will come and filled you up again
Show your friends and neighbors how to break away
From this long heavy chain of broken hearts.

Jesus is the One Who said that only something radical could change our situation, and it would as a tremendous cost and sacrifice. He was willing to lead that turn-around. He started a movement. “Repent and Believe in the Good News” was His rally cry. Through this Lent, we had as a parish theme Pope Francis’ “The Joy of the Gospel.” His exhortation/manifesto of faith to the Church is to call us into the Joy of the Gospel to free our hearts to live anew. We are born again into life with Him, in Him, through Him, and always for Him.

After two to three years of a humble ministry to turn the world around, Jesus Christ was crucified. The world tried to extinguish Him—execute and keep dead His beliefs and claims and direction for humankind. Evil stood up and said it was bigger that Goodness and Righteousness, and that this world would ever be in its dark grip. It thought that humanity would prefer sin to grace.
Evil bragged that sin is easy and it delivers quick pleasures and one is already mired in it; so why would one struggle to reach grace (?) since that asks so much of the will and heart, and asks its followers to wait too long for its good to come?

We are here to say, as the 23rd Psalm says: Though I walk through the valley of the shadows, I fear no evil, for God is at our side, to shepherd us, and only Goodness and Righteousness shall follow me all the days to come ahead and more. All because of the Blood of the Lamb who has turned our mourning into dancing. I finish with a Woody song

Blood of the Lamb
Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Jeff Tweedy
Are your garments all spotless?
Are they white as the snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
Is your soul all spotless?
Is it clean as the snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
I am washed, yes I’m washed
I am washed in the blood
I’m all washed in the blood of the lamb
I’m all clean I’m all spotless
I’m pure like the snows
I’m all washed in the blood of the lamb
Have you laid down your burdens?
Have you found peace and rest?
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
I’ve laid down all my troubles
I’ve found peace and rest
I’m all washed in the blood of the lamb
Have you learnt to love your neighbors?
Of all colors, creeds and kinds?
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
I’ve learnt to love my peoples
Of all colors, creeds and kinds
I’m all washed in that blood of that lamb

Spring is Springing

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I was driving down a street in Davidsonville and I saw the colors of the season coming out. I thought I would pull over and take a photo or two, and you see them in the above shots.

Back in our parish, we have had a service team come and spend a few days in preparing our property to look nice for Holy Week and Easter. They did the usual nice job.

Though the grass is not growing as of yet, the temperatures got into the low 70’s today. Spring is here. The new birth of Easter is all invited. Lord Jesus, of the Eternal Spring, be praised and adored and honored on this Easter 2014, on this upcoming Sunday April 20th.
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I think the birds who came back in April can now shed their hats and coats and not resort to drinking coffee in the morn to get warmed up! image0011

Winning Weekends

The past few weekends have kept me busy. Church life usually brings a schedule of good busy-ness!

How I might comment on it (in this blog) is to say that I have many “Winning Weekends.” Great things happen on my weekends.

I am talking about what weekend life is for one in ministry. All Glory to the Lord for it, too. (Not to me.)

This weekend for Palm Sunday I had two of the morning Masses, and they were rich with all the prayers and songs and involvement of the start of Holy Week. The First Eucharistic Prayer and the incense over the gifts and the two Gospels (opening one of the procession to Jerusalem, and the drama narrative) did give the Mass a solemnity befitting Our Lord Jesus’ week of Passion. It was evident that the Spirit of the Lord was especially present in the church, and that many people had come in seriousness and devotion to pray on this special Sunday.

During the morn, I had many quick visits with people, and then I visited with the RCIA class for an hour, and then I had to prepare for our afternoon of prayer, and then we started it at 2 and went to 4:15p.m. A large number of people showed up for it. I was the presider. We had a Litany to Mary, a Rosary, a time of anointing of the sick (it was spontaneous, with many persons asking for it), Eucharistic Adoration, and a good time of devotion. We made a Consecration to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, too.
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(The guest priests prayed the 11:30 and the 4:30 Palm Sunday Masses, and the Vigil. I was glad this year that I was not as hard-pressed as other years, when, since 2008, I had been always doing all but one of the Palm Sunday Masses. We have two retired priests who come to help off-and-on and a Franciscan priest assisting me now in 2014. This has helped me a lot, since we had five Masses for Palm Sunday 2014.)

Then, a little later on for Palm Sunday, the Youth Group came to my house from 6 to 9 p.m. to see “The Passion of the Christ” film.

On Saturday afternoon (Apr. 19) leading in to the liturgies, I had some church errands for me to do (buying the palm trees and bringing them to church) along with doing two baptisms and attending the family reception(s). In the early evening, I assisted with the prep of the church for Mass, and made myself available as the second priest to hear 4 to 5 p.m. confessions (as I expected a lot of persons to come, though it was only about 12 people, and the guest priest heard all of them).
On Saturday night, I had a hospital visit to make for an hour of the evening. I also was able to fit in a dinner with a parish couple.

It was a rewarding and full weekend. Do you see what I mean, about a “Winning Weekend?”

Below is one of the couples for baptism with their sweet baby daughter, and the cake with her likeness on it (sweet too).
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Yet many weekends are Winning Weekends. The parish Masses make them splendid ones, as well as the
other activities that take place with parishioners.

On the weekend beforehand of April 5-6, I prayed two of the four parish Masses, and I heard the Saturday vigil confessions. I got to teaching the RCIA class on Sunday morn, as well as stop in for the Donut Sunday, socials of the first weekend of the month. I had some appointments with people on the weekend, and I gave my Sunday afternoon to the P.G. Stadium ballpark to support the Vocations Day at the BaySox game and its ‘double-header’ feature of the DC Padres (priests and sems) vs. a Catholic High School team. The Padres won that one. I got to throw out the first pitch at that game. (A high inside strike!)
IMG_20140414_134841 Demonstrating the famous Barry drop-fastball.

The weekend before that one (of March 29-30) included going all Saturday to the Youth Group retreat down at Camp Maria (off the Potomac in St. Mary’s County), and then taking a parish pilgrimage most of Sunday to the same county and a parish dinner down there. In-between, I had prayed two Sunday Masses at tSt. Edward parish and led our “Joy of the Gospel” book club (Sunday) session.

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It has been a busy time and I try to be engaged in a lot of parish ends, from the elderly to the youth and in-between. At our Catholic school and in our Rel. Ed. last week, we have held confessions for many of the youth and children. Plus, we had a Penance Service for all of the parish last Monday. We recently have held a Parish Liturgy Committee meeting to prepare for this Holy Week, and we have had a Parish Council meeting. This week is my Eucharistic visits (Masses and Communion calls) to all the homes and institutions of the elderly and home-bound. We also have all the liturgies of the Holy Triduum coming this week, and all their prep times each morning.

I keep in a good pace. I think, though, that the work of one priest in a parish is more suited to the man in his 30’s and 40’s. (I turned 57 last week.) I have been praying for vocations to come join the priestly fraternity of Washington and to bring help and new energy. My past parish (where I visited for the Spring Dinner on that pilgrimage) has asked the pastor (a younger man) to now lead his AND the neighboring parish for his duties, as the time of parish twinning has come to our diocese, with three couplets now going, and more coming ahead.

As a Lenten project in our parish, we did pray for all of the DC seminarians, for God to bless them in their preparations into a future priestly or diaconate life of service to the Church of Washington.

Tonight is the re-dedication prayers at St. Matthew’s Cathedral of the priests and bishops of this Archdiocese—as we gather for the Holy Oils Mass. My 25th time for a Holy Week and re-dedication. It was at St. Matthew’s Cathedral that I was ordained.

Fr. Barry

The Joy of the Gospel and Reform: Top to Bottom, Bottom to Top

The Joy of the Gospel and the Reform of the Church
Top to Bottom and Bottom to Top

Just a couple of weeks ago, nearly 3,000 people gathered at Loyola University in Baltimore at their Reitz Arena for a symposium on “The Francis Factor.” Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston and four panelists offered insight into the life and ministry of Pope Francis and his first year in the pontificate.

As the comments came in the gathering, one of the reasons people explained for why Pope Francis generates so much enthusiasm is that he “walks the walk of the Gospel.” As we have been reading in his exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel-TJOTG), we note how the pope is urging everyone to revitalize and awaken their own hearts and of their parishes and dioceses with the spirit of the Gospel. But he doesn’t stop there, the pope also speaks of doing the same for the papacy: He says in TJOTG #32 “Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy” What is the “conversion” to which he refers? It means that the way in which the papacy is exercised makes clear that it is wholly dedicated to spreading the Gospel and bringing greater unity in the church and among all of Christ’s followers. It means holding fast to what is essential to the papacy while recognizing the new pastoral challenges which the Church is facing in Rome and around the world.

This is no idle wish on the part of Pope Francis. On the contrary, he is already making important changes. He convened an international group of eight cardinals, including Cardinal O’Malley, to advise him in the work of reforming the Roman Curia so that it will exercise its responsibilities in ways that will truly foster the life and vitality of the church in countries throughout the world. He seeks to strike the right balance between the central authority of the church and that which is exercised more locally.

Already we are seeing results. You may have read that the Holy Father has established a new “secretariat for the economy” and named Cardinal George Pell of Australia to lead it. This new office is strengthened by the advice and participation of financial and managerial experts from various places. Its purpose is to oversee Vatican finances in a sound and transparent manner. No doubt other changes are on the way.

There are many who carry out their work in Vatican offices with great dedication to the Church’s essential mission of spreading the Gospel. It is amazing how a small group of people can manage a Vatican department that has a worldwide reach, deals in multiple languages and cultures, and addresses situations that vary widely from country to country. The prospect of significant change can be unsettling to any such group. Yet the prospect of orienting one’s daily work more directly to the spread of the Gospel outweighs any uncertainty that rapid change may bring.

In seeking the right balance between the central authority of the Church and a more local exercise of Church authority, Pope Francis mentions the episcopal (bishops) conferences. Our country’s episcopal conference is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Its main offices is in D.C. nearby the Basilica Shrine, and it convenes national meetings in Baltimore once or twice a year. The current president is Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville and all active bishops in the United States are members. The conference enables the bishops of our country to consult and work with the laity, including experts, and with one another in addressing challenges and opportunities the Church faces nationally. It also helps the Holy See understand the situation of the Church in these United States, in consult with the papal nuncio and papal ambassador residing and working in Washington.

From Top to Bottom. The pope is asking for evangelization to the priority from the top, as in the USA’s bishops’ plans. The Holy Father is contemplating how the role and work of these conferences can serve better to re-vitalize the greater Church. The pope is also setting precedent at the top to re-focus the Church on the right and vital things, and to present herself to the world as one with joy and Good News. The pope is showing how some things can be done differently or shaken up. It is not done for novelty, but done for vitality.

From Bottom to Top. The pope is writing to everyone in this exhortation and it is for us to more “bold and creative in the task of rethinking the goals, structures, style, and methods of evangelization in (our) respective communities” (TJOTG, # 33). What is more, he is urging us to do this together, not as members of factions or as lone rangers. “The important thing,” he says, “is not to walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.” The pope expects that if the movement of the Spirit is for more life and happiness in the Church, that it will surface from its great majority, the faithful lay persons. It all begins their in regular people’s souls.
(By the way, priests are regular people, too, but I hope you know what I mean here. We are looking for the Spirit to move in everybody, not just the ones wearing religious clothing.)

In the middle of the Mass. The pope has centered the whole second half of chapter four to asking the Church how homilies impact the faithful. He wants to know if people think they are done well and getting through? He wants to ask priests if they are preparing them in the Spirit and in a collegiality with parishioners and their day-to-day issues and problems.

Since everyone comes to a stop each Sunday to hear the Word of God and to have a reflection upon it (as led by a homily), the pope is wondering a whole lot about how this time of Mass is going for the Catholic Church. He also asks the faithful in the chapter about how much time and focus they are giving to be open in the Spirit, that is, in having a devotional life, a spiritual reading habit, a familiar time with the Bible, and other such personal ways to be roused in the Lord. He asks because, if one is not ever roused from Monday to Saturday in their spiritual life with God (in their own accountability), then how is a preacher to rouse the one who is spiritually sleeping a lot of the time? It is a pointed message of the pope here. (Chapter 3 and 4)

The pope wrote this exhortation in November 2013, yet he fashioned his work to lead through a series of Scriptural reflections and challenges in chapter 4 (like as in a Lenten self-study) and he leads his readers in chapter 5 to be so moved to go forth with fervor (from TJOTG) into the Easter and Pentecost and Marian Seasons (as the Church does in April-early June). He wants our feasting to be engaged in evangelism. We celebrate the high and great seasons of the Church with a fervor for love of Christ Jesus and a willingness to spread forth the Gospel.

This column comes right before we celebrate Palm Sunday and the sacred liturgies of the Triduum of Holy Week. As we continue our journey together through the last part of Lent and through the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), it is an opportune moment to reflect on the relationship of Christ’s death and resurrection to our call to joyfully proclaim the Good News.

For many, the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter conjure up conflicting feelings and emotions. From the readings, to the music, and even to the candle lighting, there is a somber mood throughout the Triduum, as we suffer with Christ during the reading of the Passion, which gives way to joy and light marking Christ’s victory over death at Easter.

Christ’s resurrection is the most powerful moment in all of Scripture. It is powerful not just because it reveals to the world God’s true power and his unquestionable love for us, but also the promise of life everlasting, and the path forward for all of God’s people, including us.

“Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world,” Pope Francis tells us. “Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force” (TJOTG. # 276).

The resurrection, Pope Francis tells us, just like the light that shines forth in our churches at Easter, is the light that guides us during those dark periods when we feel alone and afraid, and even abandoned by God.

“Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see persistent injustice, evil, indifference and cruelty. But it is also true that in the midst of darkness something new always springs to life and sooner or later produces fruit. However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads … such is the power of the resurrection, and all who evangelize are instruments of that power” (#. 276).

Such goodness can be seen at the Easter Vigil, when the Church welcomes into the fullness of the faith the newly baptized and confirmed. For it is during this Mass – recognized as the highlight of the liturgical year – that Christ breaks the chains of death and the church welcomes new sons and daughters in whose lives the saving power of Christ’s death and resurrection becomes real through the sacraments.

The Easter message of Christ’s death and resurrection is at the heart of our call to evangelization. “Pope John Paul II (said) that if the Church ‘is to fulfill its providential destiny, evangelization as the joyful, patient and progressive preaching of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ must be your absolute priority.’ These words hold true for all of us” (#.110).

Whether you attend Mass regularly, come once a year or have been away from church for some time, I personally invite you to be engaged with the Church and her celebrations this Holy Week and Easter. Let the Mystery of Christ have your attention.
And if you do attend Mass regularly, I encourage you to invite a neighbor, friend or family member to come to church this Holy Week and Easter to experience firsthand the life-giving, life-changing story of Christ’s death and resurrection.

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.’ (Pope Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation, Gaudete in Domino, The Day of the Lord). The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms” (TJOTG, # 3).

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