“Jesus The Shepherd and The Gate” Youth and Women Perspectives (in my Homily)

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER HOMILY 4-26-15

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Jesus says in today’s gospel: “I AM the Good Shepherd….I AM the Gate.”

I asked some 6th grade Catholics to interpret this gospel chapter of John 10. I also asked some adult women in their 30’s of what they thought about this gospel—in context to women’s issues today.

Those are the two viewpoints I will share with you today… for our ten or eleven minutes.

The students said that John 10′s message seems to simply indicate that we are the sheep, and as the believers, then, that we would be able to hear the Shepherd’s Voice, since He called us. He sees who heard him, because they are the ones (the responsive sheep) who promptly headed in His direction! Who is the Shepherd that notices this? He is Jesus Christ. He is an active shepherd, looking after his flock. He seems to personally know all of the sheep. (A fine interpretation so far, right?!)

The youth then interpreted the wandering fields as to being the world outside, and that the wolf is Satan, and he wants to steal kill and destroy the sheep out there (so the sheep had better be aware). The Gate is where the sheep are led back to before dark—which would be the Church and the place where believers unite in prayer, faith, love, service and such things. They come in The Gate to get in safe out of the dark. Ultimately, the students surmise, that going through this Gate also ultimately is Heaven. (Very good insight!) The students also note that the gospel depicts there is some time for the sheep to head home, but that the sheep had better get moving on homeward if they see the signs coming of the end of the day.

The youth agreed with me that maybe with could compare the sheep and the human persons in that we both have our freedom to roam on the hills and fields, but we also must both have our common-sense about us (on innate sense) to get back to the Shepherd’s gate: before it can gets dangerous out in the fields and in the dark. One doesn’t want to have strayed way too far by night’s coming. The students interpret the Gate as getting back close into Jesus’ good company.

That is a good wrap up, wouldn’t you say? John 10 is a straight up message–it’s clear and simple enough to know what Jesus is saying.

The young adult women see John 10’s message as Jesus’ claim to be the worthy center for the human race. (An interesting point of view!) They say “In John 10′s situation, He is come to shepherd people home to God, to goodness, to love, to unity. He is calling everybody to Himself.

The women see that Jesus has no problem in naming Himself as the One Whom the planet should center upon. They say “He is the only One worthy of such a call: for the world to gather around Him. Yet there are many imposters who would want the world to revolve around them instead!”

Then the women said something quite bluntly:  “Father, this is some women’s #1 problem or obstacle today in living a life of Catholic faith: it’s their huge ego.   There is something of an ego-epidemic going on in some of the social or work scenes we women are in. “

So, the women were juxtaposing a modern situation they see, of egos gone amuck in some women people they know, against the example of one Lord Jesus Who is calling the world to Himself, but it is not about His ego problem. Jesus is very humble and secure in Himself as well.  He also happens to be Divine!

So, I asked the young adult women: “What do you see as the problem then?”

They said: “It’s hard for a person with a big ego to make room in honor of another person in their circle. The ego-tistical folks want to be THE center in the room. Yet with Jesus Christ, He is calling us to make HIM THE CENTER in our being.   We were made to be centered in God and with God operating and inspiring us from within us.  Thus, Jesus ‘ call  is for us  to humble our selves and bend our will to God, because God is great, and should be treated so.

I said: “Well. I am sorry to hear of the growing ego problem which you are noticing among fellow women today. I do know how men have had our own very long-time problem through  narcissism and of living with egos too big for a God-centered life. .  They answered: “Sadly, some women are in the same rut today and might be more at fault than the men now, at least in being demanding and competitive with one another, and in a service to self that has gotten out of hand.

The women wanted to take note of Jesus’ example in today’s Gospel: “In this Good Shepherd Gospel, do you see how the Savior does not demand or insist with our coming to Him?  He is not winning followers for His ego, but Hus mission is to offer people into His safety and ultimately into the care of His Heavenly Father. God’s Son would come humbly into the world and invite (not coerce) persons to follow Him and live in faith.   He said simply:  “My sheep know Me and they hear My voice.” He meant that there is an inner call to people to become true and one and loving and good. When Jesus said: “I am the Good Shepherd,.” (thought these women) what He meant was in saying that ‘I can lead a person safely into a fulfilled life. Come with your soulful needs, and your un-met desires of fulfillment, and come with the longing to no longer be roaming alone out there on the far hills..   Choose Me.”

They women further commented on the example of Jesus seems to be quite counter-culture to today’s hyper and aggressive person who is all into being #1 and boasting proudly in their own selves and positions.  So, the women say that their interpretation of John 10– this Gospel says: “Jesus is the Center of All Attention. He is Life! We need to best be drawn in to Him, and out of ourselves.”   Thus the women advise:  We as women of God need to get this truism for our spirituality to be healthy. Because– If Jesus asks to reign in a human heart, then young women today (and men, too) need to move off of our self-entitled positions of pride, so to offer and let Jesus BE on the throne instead. A woman can certainly be successful and fully engaged in society; but she needs to trust herself into some humility too that comes being under the care of “The Good Shepherd Jesus…and The One Who Proclaims I AM the Gate.”

“Father Barry– More and more women today have an inflated sense of their own ‘fabulousness!’ They get stuck on themselves. By this, literally, some end up roaming out lost into a field where some trouble may come. Just like Jesus warned about. I wish they would listen to their Shepherd and have ears to hear the Lord.”

As I listened to them, I agreed with their conclusion:  If we are to be true as people ( as men or women), then we will need to heed John 10: “My sheep will hear My Voice and follow Me.” I recalled another related verse to today’s Gospel passage that we’ll need to heed;. it is from Matthew 11, when Jesus said:  “Come to Me, I will give you rest.  Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

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Addendum: Now, I looked up some women columnists and women professionals who would know whether or not that assessment of the Catholic women was spot on. Researcher and Writer Lucy Taylor said: “Us women ARE more egocentric and narcissistic than we ever used to be…More of us have huge expectations of ourselves, our lives and everyone in them. We think the universe resolves around us, with a deluded sense of our (‘greatness’) and believe we are cleverer, more talented and more attractive than we actually are… (Due to that) We have trouble accepting criticism and extending empathy because we are so preoccupied with ourselves… Narcissistic or egotistical women do have an overwhelming sense of entitlement and arrogance. (Research shows) there is growing evidence of an epidemic of ego—it is everywhere.“

Wow. That’s a strong voice of agreement.

Now– Let us see if there is another….
Psychology professors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell say: “In the workplace, in friendships, even in motherhood, the pervading culture now seems to have become one of competitiveness, superiority and one-upmanship…. It is a sphere of self-obsession that is the problem. Once a traditionally male syndrome, narcissism generally begins at home and in schools, where children (perhaps) are praised excessively, often spoiled too much and given the relentless message that they are ‘oh so special’… in result, we have many women clients who arrive for help after their bubble is burst and they are in a mess.”

Wow. That’s a second voice of agreement. Would we have a third (about over bursting egos being a hindrance today, even in lives of women taking their places in society)?

Margot Medhurst leads a large Christian Dating Service for professionals only, it’s called “Yours Sincerely,” and she concurs after three decades in the job that too many young women are in a Me, Me, Me attitude today. Medhurst says: “I have noticed a significant rise in this phenomenon of over-inflated egos in women in recent years. They tend to be in their 30s, and there is a wide discrepancy between how they perceive themselves and how others see them. They are often very plain, but see themselves as being absolutely ‘fabulous,’ ‘exceptional’ people…”

Ok, the women’s points to me have some merit about what is going on in society and of what may be hindrances in women’s receiving the Gospel. If a woman (or man) is struggling with entitlement issues and ego-centrism, then how can Jesus be exalted as Lord in such a life? Some bowing down to the Lord will be in order.

So people will need to get past the culture today that encourages “you” to be on the throne of life. We’ll need to laugh and rebuff today’s advertising slogans aimed at us to be the self-centric consumer: “Live Mas!” “Taste the Rainbow!” “Big Girls Need Big Diamonds” “Glamorous Every Day. Fabulous Every Way” “Pretty Attracts Us” “Love Me More” “Make Them Take Notice” and all such appeals. They all have some little lie in each of them.
Maybe the Lord would just have the slogan: “Love God. Let Him Reign–He’s The Lord. Love others, since He loves you.”

In ending, perhaps many in society will still not understand the issue. People, we are not pre-entitled to anything before God, and we have not been worthy of anything. We don’t really have any greatness of our own, not if it is lived apart from God. All we have there is our sin and shame. Our so-called goodness is not enought to live on; we are sinners in need of a Savior and His ongoing shepherding of life. We need the goodness of God in us, or we are eventually left at nothing. God came to us, meeting with poor and needy sinners. “Yet while you were yet a sinner, Christ has died for you.” Romans 5:8 Believe it. The greatness of a person is that the Lord offered Himself for you, and will take His first place in your heart if you will submit to God’s will.

Taking a walk in the Risen Faith [An Easter Season homily]

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The weather has turned nice out and it has opened up more opportunities to go outside and take some long walks.   I have done so a few times.   I have a liking to get out at least twice weekly for leisurely walks which last longer than an hour.  Last week I got to do so sharing it with a long- time friend, so we walked and talked. Our banter of topics ranged from the gyrocopter pilot who surprised Homeland Security in DC to that what has been our recent faith-stretching moments.

In the original Easter there was a group of disciples and apostles who took a walk from Jerusalem and headed to Galilee, excited in the Resurrection of Jesus.   It took place in thst Easter 33 a.d. on days 9 through 16 or 17.  My homily today begins in a meditation on what might have occurred on their walk, in recalling chronologically to what was happening back at the original Easter season, even right to the matching week we are in this 2015 Easter.  Day One of the Original Easter Season was Easter Sunday or the Lord’s Resurrection Day with His first appearances to others as the Risen Jesus.   Day 8 was His second major appearance to all the apostles, especially to one formerly missing apostle named Thomas.  Last Sunday we honored that occasion in our liturgy. Let’s go to Day 9. It was the Monday after that big 2nd Sunday appearance of Our Lord.  Probably the very next morning the band of believers left the area of Jerusalem and headed out. It was a large group of them making this walk in the Risen Christ. Some of the group had physically seen the Risen Christ, while others hadn’t.  Yet they all were “talking a walk in the Risen Faith.”  

Let do some wondering as the Lord’s followers are wandering with Him in amazement. Not just the apostles were in this walk back to Galilee; many of Christ’ disciples were also along.  Could we guess that Nicodemus (the converted Sanhedrin member) was walking along inn their group? Maybe Lazarus, too? Perhaps some of Jesus’ believing relatives might have been in that company.  We know how Mary Magdalene was there and Mary the mother of Jesus (who was now in the care of John) was traveling along with them. Count now the other women who were steadfast with Jesus in His ministry befire The Cross.   Count Mary of Cleopas, Susanna, and Johanna in the walk.   Today’s 3rd Sunday gospel also mentions the two disciples who had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus; I think they were included.  Plus: Peter and James and John (of course) and fellow apostle Nathaniel and the rest of the apostles.   Add in some of the healed and converted persons in Jesus’ ministry that rejoiced in the Good News of His Rising.   Maybe a few rabbis and some devoted holy women were along; I would highly guess that the apostle Nathaniel’s holy virgin sister Mariannme was along with them on the road.  

‘ Get a picture now of the group? Now I was pondering what they were talking about on the way and on what they were feeling in their post-Resurrection mode of faith.  What was the looks on their faces? Why also were they leaving back for home on this day? I was peacing together some answers. First, it was dangerous to stay there in Jerusalem or near the capital.   Arrests were immanent.  They had stayed to an eighth-day “behind locked doors”  because Thomas had to be found.   Once Thomas was found and rejoined –they need not stay around.   Jesus’ Body was risen so there was no grave to visit.   Secondly, they had word from Mary Magdalene that in Jesus’ first appearance to her He indicated that they were to head back to Galilee to meet him there.  This indicated a message that a “square one” moment was to take place and they were to go back to the start with Jesus—to the beginning of a Risen Jesus’ ministry now. I think that Thomas came back to the Upper Room that 8th day because the Lord had reminded him of how he needed community– it would have been a big sin to stay off aloof and stubbornly on his own.  He was part of a team. Now I imagine Thomas was speaking to them on this Resurrection roadtrip about what he thought Jesus’ words to him meant–that “blessed are those who have believed without physical sight or the use of touch” meant that the Risen Lord would be experienced now in a new faith dimension.    Thomas probably ssid: ‘Fellow travelers–Jesus actually is with us now in the same reality as before, but now more experienced by faith than in the senses.  Did He not teach us that “whenever two or more of you gather in My Name, I AM there in the midst or middle of you?”

I hear those two certain disciples join in with the walking conversation, saying:  “when we walked the croad to Emmaus with Him unknowingly –indeed our hearts had been burning within us –though we did not recognize him by sight yet. We can tell you now that our hearts are presently burning with the risen Jesus and He is with us right here! They encouraged those listening to their testimony, to be open to experiencing Jesus in the burning of the heart.

Then those two Emmaus disciples said, “But mostly, He met us in the sign of the breaking of bread– so that we would have a way to officially meet with Him even now. We believe He is to be encountered ahead in the Breaking of Bread.

They all must have had fascinating stories to share.

This group was not moving very fast from Jerusalem to Galilee region because it was a large group of them and you can’t walk briskly with a large group.  It took them days and days to get home. Still, there must have been some bounce to their steps, so much were they filled with excitement and also some bewilderment. ” What comes next?,” someone probably blurted aloud.

They had to choice of two routes home. A longer route had been favored in the past to avoid going through Samaritan country. I think that they likely took this shorter route home through the Samaritan territory, remembering Jesus’ acceptance of the Samaritans. It would have been radical, but I think this group, which eventually took the Gospel out to the world, would have started to feeling emboldened, now that Jesus was Risen and Lord! I bet their voices on the road, when away from towns, broke into a boisterous giddy sound in their conversations.   I bet if one had a look on the faces of these traveling apostles and disciples, you would have seen a look of astonishment on them.

So, as they head home down the road to get back to Capernaum, Cana, Nazareth, Bethsaida, Genneserat, Magdala, Chorazin and wherever “home” was in the Galilean region– I just wanted you to imagine with me today how it all might have been like.

30 Days with St. Therese –Part C (days 20-30)

We go to our third of three postings on Lessons from St. Therese on the spiritual life, as we add lessons #20 through #30. May each of these 30 short phrases (in all) from the Little Flower Saint (along with quick comments from me on each) edify your faith journey. Remember, Therese says that in little ways we become holy to the Lord. Just abide with God in all simplicity of life!

20. From St. Therese’ works– “God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness.”
In the saint’s blessed perspective, she tells us that we should not sell ourselves short from the holy life. It is offered to us and it is inspired. It is made to be attainable. Therese says that she was an ordinary person and did not have made grand things at her disposal–only a willing heart to experience God– and it was all grace-given to her.
Thus, we need to just be a person who wants to be inspired by God, and then, to let God do His thing in us. He will not ask us beyond our ability, though He may stretch us.

21. From St. Therese’ works– “I would try to fish with my little line, but I preferred to go alone and sit down on the grass… Without knowing what it was to meditate, my soul was absorbed in real prayer. I listened to distant sounds, the murmuring of the wind, etc.
Theresa’s experiences can be ours. We are sacred experiences happen both just naturally and super-naturally. We dispose oourselves to be reached by God, and then God does the contacting of us (super-natural). Theresa shares that she did not have a classes in meditation from some master teaching, nor any example around her of a great meditator. She just found the spiritual life on her own, even just in a fishing spot on her own, with time on her hands.

22. From St. Therese’ works– “Jesus has no need of books or teachers to instruct souls; He teaches without the noise of words.”
As the saint describes her simple ways of becoming holy, she says that it occurred not from great theological works or books, but from a Jesus and me encounter in day-to-day life. While books and other tools are quite helpful in the spiritual walk, Theresa explains that Jesus the Teacher often reached her via a mind and heart ready for God (in her).
The Blessed Mother Mary has said too that her “Yes” (or Fiat) to God was as simple and direct a prayer to God to say: Here I am, Lord, I am here to do Your will, to serve and love You.

23. From St. Therese’ works– “I find just when I need them (that) certain lights (of inspiration come)… often in the midst of my daily occupations (not necessarily in devoted prayer time).”
The saint tells us that the Light of God can come at anytime. We can invite Him to brighten our life in our dedicated prayer times, but God may be visiting us at others times in the day to shed His holy Light on us. We need to be ready for God all day/night long. He should have an open invitation to deal with us.

24. From St. Therese’ works– “I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences, and He always understands.”
In my own life, when I wrote a prayer journal-diary, I made the mistake of trying to write down just the perfect sentences and most beautiful of expressed words. It was too much work, and like a performance to give to God, rather than a prayer. Now, it is easier to pray and I realize that He understands me, even before I speak!

25. From St. Therese’ works– “Little children are as pleasing to their parents when they are asleep as well as when they are wide awake.” God loves us just for our being His. The doing part of our humanity isn’t the only means we have our pleasing Him. He loves us whether awake or asleep, doing or just being, or looking at Him or having our eyes closed and dreaming.

26. From St. Therese’ works– “I experienced a great desire to work for the conversion of sinners.”

Therese says that the Lord is much about the work of salvation. If we come to know Him, then we will realize that this is on His heart. We might ask: How am I to be used in spreading the Faith and in converting sinners to come to God?”

27. From St. Therese’ works– “He is always using His creatures as instruments to carry on His work in souls.”

Therese understands that many things we do on earth involves a tool or instrument for the task. We write with pens, pencils, keyboards, and buttons on a phone. These instruments help us to carry out what we our doing. Thus, the same it is for God, He likes to use us as “His instrument.”

28. From St. Therese’ works– “A word, an amiable smile, often suffice to make a sad soul bloom.”

Therese, the Little Flower saint, was described by her community and family as a person who chose kinds words and kind faces to offer to others. It is her way of becoming a saint. And we thought it was more complicated than that!

29. From St. Therese’ works– “It is not enough to give to everyone who asks; I must even anticipate their desires, appear to be very much obliged and honored to render service.”

Our saint reminds us that grace and goodness are seeded in thoughts and intentions, even before they are lived out and done. So it is with sins; they are often committed by thought and intention long before they are carried out in action. So let us ask God to be Lord of our thoughts and intentions, that His goodness/ godliness may proceed from within us into expressions and actions of it.

30. From St. Therese’ works– “Suffering opened wide its arms to me and I threw myself into them with love.”
As we conclude our 30 days with this saint (from more than a century ago), we realize that life isn’t so much different in 2015 than say it was in 1896. It was on Good Friday of that year that Therese coughed up blood in the illness that would take her life from us in the early young adult time of her life. Her final years were spent in physical suffering, but it is amazing to read that she turned suffering into something to embrace, if it had to be. She imitates Jesus in this way, for, as He was facing the Cross, He said, “If this cup of suffering not be taken away, Father, then, not my will but thine be done.” Jesus embraced His Cross. Thus, Theresa thought that she should embrace how she might glorify God in a finish to life that included physical suffering. She did so by Love. Christ’ Love.

Thanks for taking this journey of prayer.

They are publications that take you further into Therese’ life. You can read her full writings now, instead of just snippets, if you were moved by this saint. ###

Activities of a roaming (Roman) Catholic pastor…

The photo below is me at Niagara Falls. No, I didn’t get up there this past Easter Octave. It’s an older photo! johnniagra[1]
I will write here what one might call A Stream of Living blog…

As I have seen in some other personal bloggers, they like to report on all their recent activities and write them on their blog. That usually isn’t my style here. However, here’s a jotting of things that have happened over the last few days… it’s a remembrance of what has kept me occupied as a priest and person last weekend. I did a review of life on Sunday night on how my weekend went, and it prompts me on this Monday to write it down and share out.

So much of life just rolls by– maybe not as high volume like the Niagara– but we probably don’t self-reflect enough to appreciate what’s going on in our life story. We do need, with some regularity, to pause and look at the flow of life that is going by us. Before it falls away from being a clear memory up in our heads and valued down in our hearts.

I want to thank here the example of a fellow high schooler from my youth (H. Delaney) who taught me to value “a day’s reflection” as a way to pray in thanksgiving each night (or for a weekend’s close). I am still practicing it four decades later as a method of prayer and thanksgiving.

[In 500 words or less] A WEEKEND STREAM OF LIVING
Visiting a bereaved family and co-planning a Mass of Christian Burial (for Monday)…Planning a 2016 wedding with an engaged person… Taking some exercise… Two Sunday Masses to pray and preach… Assisting in welcoming a non-Catholic person to begin some informal investigative classes in Catholicism… Hanging out a good while at the doors after Masses to talk with people coming out of church… Taking a peek at who is in the Family Room (Crying Room) at Mass… Walking around at a wake service (Sat) and meeting people who knew our deceased parishioner and asking them to share a bit of the meaning and value of the beloved departed…. Going off and shopping at a store some distance away to buy an audio part to replace a broken part in our church system… Buying a carpet section for a safety issue at church (covering a cord)… learning and practicing a Christian song to play and sing at an upcoming event… Taking an evening visit over to see Mom… Doing a few private favors for parishioners… Going to a reception site in Greenbelt (Sat eve) to do a 50 years of Holy Matrimony renewal and party of a parish couple… Looking for hidden, plastic Easter eggs with the Sunday night youth group (around the outside of church property)… playing recreational games with some fellow clergy at my house… talking to someone about a problematic marriage issue… Treating myself to a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant…On Saturday–writing out my Sunday homily and getting a draft for Monday’s funeral homily… (Friday) Going to confession to a priest… Meeting with a guest clergyman (Sunday afternoon) before the special 4:30 Mass and Divine Mercy prayers–and having the church all ready for this celebration… praying a rosary… praying my Liturgy of the Hours… Vacuuming and dusting my house and doing the bathrooms… leading a class on the deeper meaning of the Seven Sacraments (with parish group)… Follow-up on this past week’s Parish Council meeting and prepping for a Deanery visit… Doing some finance work…. teaching a Bible study on the two prophetic figures of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2)… Watching a new movie on Mary… Watching an hour long EWTN show (which I had taped)… Food shopping…. cooking and eating and kitchen cleaning… Reading texts and emails and postal mail and while-you-were-out slips, and responding to them… Answering or making phone calls… writing letters to some parishioners… doing a burial service at a Veterans cemetery…. Calendar planning…. Making a couple of spiritual gifts to give to parishioners to uplift them… Writing a blog to finish the Praying 30 Days with St. Therese series… Speed-watching a MLB baseball game off my dvr… Going over to the church late night to make sure the doors are locked and church is alarmed (after earlier group event)… Calling a friend… Sleeping well each night (if not missing maybe a hour of zzz’s one or two nights)!
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The Missing Thomas in our lives/ 2nd Sun. of Easter homily

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2nd Sunday of Easter Homily Fr. Barry 1

Imagine an apostle in that first Easter octave saying the following: ‘Does anybody know what happened to Thomas? Where did he go? How come he isn’t with us? Who was the last to see him? I am concerned, for now that the Lord has come among us in risen appearances, it’s painfully obvious that our beloved brother apostle Thomas ISN’T here, so he is missing out on this great joy. Jesus is Alive but Thomas isn’t near to tell.’

‘Doesn’t anyone know where he is or of exactly why he has taken leave of us? Of course, we all were hurting on Friday and Saturday of Jesus’ passing– what a terrible trial it was–but now the Lord’s is a PassOVER death! It’s Victory. It’s proof of His identity as The Christ. Jesus has conquered death and He has used the Cross for forgiveness of sins!

Alleluia! But where has Thomas gone? Here in the Upper Room there is great joy! We wish Tom the Twin was here in the celebration…’
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We will get back to the rest of that story in a couple of minutes, but the angle of the Second Sunday of Easter story this 2015 for me is that many have been that missing Thomas in their own lives. Maybe not right now (or perhaps so)– but many of us have been awol from faith or withdrawn from a true intimacy with God and that Upper Room of Resurrection place– choosing instead to be elsewhere—instead of delighting with the Risen Lord.

I think the Lord sees a lot of roaming Thomases all about missing today…. Scores of them, missing from pews and/or from true participation with the Lord’s Church… And they are good people with a faith that has somehow fizzled or gone into doubts or fears or disappointments. It has kept them apart from the Risen Lord and His manifestation to His body of believers. That’s a major concern to Our Lord today and it should be for us too, the people gathered around the Lord’s Easter altar (as once the apostles, minus Thomas, did).

What of those ‘Thomases who have strayed from a marriage or from the committed support to a community of faith, the Church? Like that original eighth day of Easter–can we also say aloud(?)—that we are not all here. Jesus is Risen but people are off and away and missing Him. That bothers us that there is a ‘Thomas’ who is alone and without us or this close intimacy with Our Lord.

What of people that have been confused and off on guilt trips thinking that they are not good enough for God? And, thus, are far off from Easter joy? Or people who just have not practiced a faith that keeps updated with the Mass or the Catechism or the Church’s teachings on the Bible and key interpretations–and have just lapsed away? Or, differently, of the person disillusioned with all that God had asked of their faith and trust in Him –and how they just don’t want to bother trying anymore? Isn’t that like a missing Thomas situation? Do we miss them? There place in the pew might be right besides where you are today. Or what of the person who says “the world wins and I will play along with the world now and just get by for me and serve self as #1 (not God)?” Don’t you hurt for such a person? Maybe we have been that person before, ourselves…

An ex-member of a Bowie parish told me in 2014. “Jesus brought me a cross that I didn’t want–and, yes, I recall He said it was part of being a disciple, that we carry our cross. Well Father: I just don’t want that challenge. If He wants to give me Heaven, then I will take it– but I do not want to take up the work of Christianity and all that is of being a practicing Christian. Anyway, it’s all just only organized religion and now I think that God doesn’t care about any of it.” How would you respond to such a comment? Well, I gave the man back a look of compassionate love, on behalf of all of us. I had no words ready to say back to him. I just wanted to show hurt in my heart and our hearts that we’ll be having to go on living in the Catholic practice without him. I wanted him to feel or sense that he’d be missed by us.

Have you wondered if any of those above mentioned reasons (of being away from Christ’ coming to His Church and believers) does relate to our missing Thomas story in the gospels? Let us ask: Why was Thomas gone? Why is any of our brothers and sisters, who have received Christianity, choosing to stay away from us (or choosing to remain a distance away from The Church)? I’d like you to think about that today…

When ‘Thomas’ is gone—the family or the community or the ‘brothers and sisters’ ARE left wondering where the missing one(s) has gone off to. They ask: Why are they not with us? How have they become disconnected? We wish and pray they were here. What place are they at right now in their lives? Can they be found and be returned into the circle again? When you ask such questions, then the Holy Spirit is moving in you. You are meant to be His instrument for re-evangelising the distant believer. We call that today the “new evangelism.” It is the mission of reaching the Body of believers and getting us all gathered together around the Living Christ: the disenfranchised and the ‘franchised.’
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So we return back to the Gospel story with its happy reunion finish— with Thomas coming back to the Upper Room and experiencing welcome back and in seeing the Risen Lord. ‘Ever wonder what brought him back?

In the Resurrection of Jesus— God is come among our circle of faith. God has come with his Pascal victory– His Easter feast. He says come near. Come real near to where you see the marks on His Risen Body. Or where you are close by Him at table as He breaks the bread of New Life in Him. Real near. Drawn in.

In this appearance to a Thomas-included band of apostles, we note that God has sent some means out of communication to the strayed doubting Thomas to make a return back: to appeal to him to come out of his funk. I think that Thomas came back because of an inner call and a remembrance of the great faith that was stirred up in him by being around the other believers in Jesus and being in their stories.

This gospel is so joyous in that we see Thomas has returned to the apostles and Jesus appears in the upper room and now all have gathered up in faith again.

It’s an image of what we want The Church to be. A circle of Paschal Faith and joy. Where all the doubters or the fearful or the reluctant or the glass half- empty critics of Church van come back into reunion because Jesus is Risen and leading a Kingdom of God new order for believers, and we’ d better get into our Upper Room pronto.

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To just go one level deeper… I think that many of us hardy Christians are reluctant to go all in for Jesus. Even though we know how Jesus was raised and how He fulfilled His mission, we can get a little uncomfortable when the Lord says—“now, you complete in your own life in me, what is needed for today.” The cost of that for us is what is hard. I think that what hangs some people up into a holding pattern and not a further conversion is the depth of intimacy and honesty and deep love that the Lord is proposing to us. Many of us shrink away from it. “Not me, Lord. You’re probably looking for some new saint for rallying the Church. That’s not me. I got this faith life already that’s fine.”

I think that for the practicing faithful in the Church– like, the Massgoers and real do-gooders– that there are numbers among us who know that the Lord is calling for more intimacy with Him and for expression out of us that we deeply love Him. We are reluctant to take that step. Why?

Perhaps Thomas was this person. Maybe his faith was really pretty deep. Maybe he realized that the Lord would rise and then it would ask everything of him, the apostle. Could he go all in? Perhaps it all was a struggle for him. Maybe the doubting Thomas wasn’t dealing with a surface doubt of faith, or simple thing, but perhaps it was to give a faith that he could see that Mary had given Jesus, Mary Magdalene was starting to show, John the apostle was showing, and he realized he would be next. Could he do it?

We know that he did. He showed up in that Upper Room on that eighth day of the Risen Jesus–in the original Easter–and nothing was the same after that. Thomas the Apostle’s missionary work in India and to the Far East is a stirring story of what did happen for the rest of his life. Our strong Catholics with background to southern India certainly know the story first hand. Catholics who have studied the lives of the apostle-martyrs know that Thomas did go ALL IN for Jesus– no doubt about it.

The Holy Sacrifice

30 Days with St. Therese– Part B (Lessons 9-19)

We continue our posting on help from St. Therese for your spiritual life, as we add lessons #9 through #18. May each of these 30 short phrases (in all) from the Little Flower Saint (along with quick comments from me on each) edify your faith journey. Remember, Therese says that in little ways we become holy to the Lord. Just abide with God in all simplicity of life!

9. From St. Therese’ works– “Just as the sun shines simultaneously on the tall cedars and on each little flower as though it were alone on the earth, so Our Lord is occupied particularly with each soul as thought there were no others like it.”
In the saint’s blessed perspective, she tells us that not only does the Lord keep His eye on the sparrow or on the trees of the forest or the wondrous flowers on the meadows–but that we are very much in the attention of the Creator. How much do we delight in this reality?

10. From St. Therese’ works– “I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of His love, to unite me so closely to Him that He live and act in me.”
The love of God is more intimate and close to us than we could ever imagine. The issue is: How much are we willing to be open to such encounter with God? It is a little overwhelming, to understand how Love is such a blaze for us from Heaven. Jesus said: “I have come to spread the Fire around the earth (in My people) and how I wish all were already enkindled by it (Lk. 12:49).” Yet Jesus sends us the invitation, saying: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom… Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, to receive (in one’s soul) an unfailing treasure of (in) heaven (Lk. 12:32-33).”

11. From St. Therese’ works– “Ah! What peace floods the soul when she rises above natural feelings.”
Sometimes our emotions leads us to negative feelings and bad inner experiences, such as irritable moods, jealousy or envy, impatience or self-pity. But feelings can be directed to so many positive vibes, too. We can attain such confidence and security in God that we gain a peaceful, easy feeling in our everyday presence with Him.

12. From St. Therese’ works. “I have only to cast a glance to the Gospels and immediately I breathe in the perfumes of Jesus’ life.”
Daily Mass is a regular occurrence in many parishes today. The Gospels for those Masses are on a two-year (Yr. 1/2) cycle, so that many of the Gospels are covered. I enjoy preaching on the daily gospels frequently. I think there are many persons into a daily devotional time, too, that concentrates on a gospel reflection. There are helps for a daily reflection on your own on the Gospels. Some Catholic periodicals can be subscribed to of which give you the daily gospel in print, along with a reflection and/or set of questions to ponder on it. For many years I read either “Our Daily Bread” or “The Word Among Us” for this. Today there is a plethora of choices for gospel devotionals, as one goes to web sites that offer this daily help in the Word, like CatholicMoms.com has one, as does Creighton University’s online ministry, for two examples. There are many Catholic books sold on the same theme and devotional Gospel approach.
Some people just go purchase a “red letter” Catholic Bible that features Jesus’ words in red print, and they work their way through the New Testament that way, beginning with the Four Gospels. One can breathe in the perfume of Jesus’ life on a regular basis, in the aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15-17).
Of course, for Sunday Mass you receive a major gospel proclamation. These Sunday and Holy Day Gospels are also on a A/B/C cycle in the Church (three years). Most Sunday homilies do address an explanation of those Gospels, and there are so many points to receive and understand of the Words of Our Lord.

13. From St. Therese’ works– “A soul… burning with Love cannot remain inactive.”
A Contemporary Christian music artist told their audience that since their youth they have been diagnosed with a condition that causes them to always needing to be busy doing something. They say that as a child they were “hyper” and “un-still.” Then, as they discovered the joy of Jesus, and combined it with love of music, they had another reason to keep jumpy and joyful, so they said: Now it is all used as much as possible for the positive in my concerts! I have lots of energy, and I use it on stage to Christ’ glory. Now I really cannot contain myself! The Spirit is active!”

14. From St. Therese’ works– “In the heart of the Church…I shall be Love.”

Jesus is the Center of the Church. He is her Heart and Soul. We call His “The Sacred Heart.” Jesus has promised to come and share of His Heart to us throughout the Christian Revelation until Glory comes in Him. The prophesies of Ezekiel 36 show this tender promise of God: “I will give you a new heart… to replace your stony (hard) ones… for I will put my Spirit in you.” God’s Spirit is Love. It is a priviledge to receive Love and live it in the Church, Christ’ Body.

15. From St. Therese’ works– “God is more tender than a mother.”

Some of the greatest testimonies of love on this earth and her history have been of the mother to child type. Mothers can be able to show the deepest and dearest of loves to their children, that even at the time of death, some dying persons take value that they were loved by their mother, and from there found worth in this world. As St. Therese says (who, by the way, had a saint for a mother, though she passed early in life): God can be so much more wondrous and tender, and give us meaning and worth through to our last breath on earth. “God is Love” says the Word (e.g. 1st John 4:8)

16. From St. Therese’ works– “The elevator which must raise me up to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little.”
We are quite little when we are picked up in our parents or grandparents arms. It is such a great embrace. Some people can even remember these childhood memories, since they were so special to them. It almost makes one wish they had never grown up, if it meant not being raised up in loving arms again. Yet with God we all remain as children, and He will gladly raise us up into His arms and into Heaven. It will be a great joy coming! He also holds us mystically in many ways which we don’t realize right now. He lifts up our hearts, too. We say in the middle of every Mass (in the Preface prayer) “we lift them (our hearts) up to The Lord.”

17. From St. Therese’ works– “I had offered myself…to the Child Jesus as His little plaything, I told Him…to use me like a little ball of no value which He could throw on the ground, push with His foot, pierce, leave in a corner, or press to His Heart if it pleased Him.”
Besides all the joy that is possible for us to receive from God, the other side of it all is all the joy that is possible for God to receive from us, in our docility to His will, and our happiness to give Him any little pleasure.

18. From St. Therese’ works– “One feels that to do good is as impossible without God’s help as to make the sun shine at night.”
Therese found that even tiny things done with God’s help can be better than greater things done mostly from our own strength or supply. While we breathe in our lungs and have our hearts beat all by God’s help, sometimes we think our works can be done mostly from our own goodness or supply of service. Not exactly so. All that is good within us begins and ends with God and grace.

19. From St. Therese’ works– “I appled myself to practicing little virtues, not having the capability of practicing the great.”
Therese knew that she was simply a good French girl from Liseiux. She would not be queen, nor a soldier, nor a great woman of the arts, nor an inventor of a device to industrialize society. She didn’t have to be any of those. She had to be the best Therese she could be–herself in holiness of life. We know that such is true of our own lives. We need to be/become the person that we have been made to be, with the glory of God and virtue shining within us and out to the world.

The Paschal Mystery and a Life Glorious/ Easter Sunday Homily

Easter Sunday: what a great day!!IMG_20140827_064744_951IMG_20140511_185556_802christ-on-Easter Thoughts

On Easter I would like to put the exclamation point on the Paschal Mystery we have in Jesus.   Secondly, I would like us to think of ourselves as people involved in “a life glorious.”  These two big Easter views I proclaim to you (and with you).

The Pashal Mystery and Easter.

All throughout Lent I have posed to you various looks at the Paschal Mystery of our Catholic Faith.  Now, with the glorious celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection, we get a vision of where we end up:   Jesus’ journey finishes victoriously in Heaven. He leads us to Glory with Him.

The Gospels and epistles declare it, but none as uniquely in the New Testament than the book of Revelation.  There the Apostle John shares a Paschal vision of the Lamb (Jesus) victorious in heaven and John also sees the saints gathered there in celebration around the Lanbs throne.  Next he sees that the Church that is on earth can be participants in that upward glory and in worship.  In fact, the whole book of Revelation focuses on that Heavenly Liturgy and it urges us on earth to join in, like Jesus asked for at the Last Supper.  John says that in his vision the church is called by Jesus as the engaged bride to be wed by Him.  John hears a phrase in Heaven’ s courts that we now use and apply to Holy Communion in the Church on earth:  “Blessed are those called to the (wedding) Supper of the Lamb.”.

John writes and tells the 7 different church communities (which he knows in Asia Minor) to get their Faith Practice together.  He says that Jesus is Alive and among you and seeking to be glorified in His Body the Church.  He exhorts each church In Revelations a little differently, but the Paschal image He uses is all in common.   Christ Jesus, the second member of The Holy Trinity, is called He “Who is, Who was, and Who is to Come.” It’s the three-fold view of the Lord Who is Risen and Alive among us ( Who is), and Who died for us ad Sacrifice (Who was) and Had Glory still to arrive for us ( Who us to Come).

It is interesting that all three states are joined as one in that Revelation title.  The same tri- description of Jesus is given in a parallel Scripture in Hebrews , wnen it says there that Jesus is “today, yesterday and forever.”  It is the Lord’s way of showing that the Paschal Mystery was put into reality as Jesus rose to Heaven and to Glory.  Something came into reality for us– it’s that Dying/Rising/Glory Mystery I have shared with you for about for the past 7 weeks in homilies, bulletins and blogs and personal discussions with people.

It is about how earth and her people are so secretly wed or engaged with Heaven and Jesus Christ and of how important the Church’s role is in that.  Our Mass is much of the contact point between God and humanity, if we could but just get it more clear of how this is so!!

On Easter let us at least acknowledge the fact that this celebration is so engaged with He Who Is, Who was,  and He Who us to Come.   Jesus is all three in One as Pasch- Mystery. The Breaking of the Bread is the laying down Dying Mystery when Jesus said ” I love you” at the Last Supper.  Those who receive this Mystery ( and Love proposal) are ready to let the Rising and Glory stage come upon them.

Secondly….  Let’s look at our life glorious!

With Jesus Rising from the Dead and Going Up to Heaven to usher in a gathering of people into Himself—Easter starts a celebration when and where we take part in something glorious.   We are called His people, the ones He wants to give His favor.  He wants to make us temples of His glory, as The Blessed Son has found a way to forgive us divinely and still meet us humanly in holiness.  From the Cross to the Resurrection, this LORD Jesus gives us Mercy so that we can be made worthy to be partakers of the divine nature with Him.  Yes, in one of St. Peter’ s epistles he makes that startling point: we take part in glorious things now.  Christians partake in Christ and His divine nature!

The Paschal Mystery is the Dying, Rising and Glory Mysteries.   Can we let Jesus bring this fully into us?   Can we die to self as He gave example and took our sins to the Cross?   Can that make room for Christ Jesus to be seated as Lord in our lives now?  Can we rise in Him now to let new faith and sanctified love change us into a new person?  Will we let the process take it all the way to a glorious life with God and the saints and angels?

Those lived questions and hopes reveal in a person of what my priest acquaintance Professor Kevin Irwin says is someone with ” a paschal lens on life .”   Here, the Paschal Mystery shapes the way we live.

Fr. Irvin says of our Eucharistic Liturgy, such as this great one of Easter:  ‘One of the main purposes of the Eucharist is to place a paschal lens on life. When we view all of life through that lens, we are able to evaluate what really matters in life and to put away what detracts from living real life, based on the Gospel, in the faith and life of the Church.’

He says this “lens” then changes how we see and experience Mass and liturgy.  He says: “Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith.’  We need engagement with one another and God in our liturgies. “

‘The celebration of the Eucharist is not about getting us out of life for a respite in order that we might be touched and graced by God. Rather it is more about how this most sacred action helps us to experience the living God in this act and then to rediscover that same God in daily life.’

Those are words from a Catholic University Liturgy professor.  Fr. Irvin would like it that our parish was exploring such things of the Paschal Mystery during this Lent and Holy Easter. The Prof would probably gives us an “A” for it. 

 

 

Easter Vigil Homily: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia= Alright, Alright, Alright!

This is the New Life that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!!  Happy Easter Vigil as we get going into our Highest Feast of our faith!!

I feel like saying “alright alright alright! ” Matthew McConoughay made the exclamation well known in his happy moments playing a character in a recent popular film,  but you know the phrase was about earthly joys– so our eternal joys deserve a greater exclamation so let’s add on “Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia!”.  So if I say alright alright alright you add on “alleluia alleluia alleluia!!   OK?! …you know at Christmas we say “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”. Perhaps at Easter we should say “A blessed Easter and a happy new you!” Because Easter celebrates a new life in Christ for people like you and me.

Living the Jesus- hearted life IS the new offer to human experience where our souls are truly alive and sharing Jesus in us.  That is the new you!   alright alright alright IMG_7821edit-630x320

Easter is the feast of the new creation going on within us and proceeding forth to bring a kingdom of God through all the earth.  Easter celebrates an Eternal Spring.  It is the rebirth   of us to live in God, for God, by God!   It is forgetting the lifelessness and barrenness that lays behind, and going out into the fields of the Lord and rejoicing in “All Things New” coming up in color.   (Rev. 21:5)

Alright alright alright!  *

Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken humankind up into God himself. “Flesh and blood alone cannot inherit the kingdom of God”, as Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). Paul tells the sophisticated city folk of Corinth that they need the risen Christ or else their humanity is short changed.

Corinth is in modern day Greece and the Greek Catholics and Byzantine and Orthodox Catholics have a phrase that is said at Easter– and it goes like this: Christ is risen!  And the response is: ** “He is Risen indeed.”

Try it out:  I proclaim: “Christ is Risen!”.  **”He is Risen indeed.”.  (Earlier today I met with parishioners from that Eastern background for an Easter ceremony and then prayed that phrase, even in Polish, Russian and Greek.)

On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: “Rest assured, flesh and blood, that through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God” (CCL II, 994).   Alright, alright, alright!* ” For Christ is Risen!”**

In Easter, a new dimension has opened up for us.  Believers have a new dawn on their existence, the temporal loses out to the eternal, as like the night losing out to the sun which will set no more, when the earth itself rolls out of time, needing not her temporal rotations nor the star for her source.

Where do I get such elegant words?  It is a verse from the Book of Revelations. As the last paragraphs are put in the written New Testament (ch 21-22) it also says:  “The Glory of the Lord shines, there is no need in the eternal city for a sun or moon to shine, for God is the Light, and the lamp is the Lamb… and His people and nations shall reign for ever and ever.”  In that Light.   Alright, Alright, Alright!*

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!! For sure!

 On the Easter vigil of 2012, Pope Benedict described all about this New Light arriving in Jesus’ Resurrection.  I saved a few of his words from his homily..  He said of the Light of Easter:  “Creation has become greater and broader. Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy on this day with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word on Easter night, then, comes the account of the creation of the world.” (Creation Light).  In the New Covenant that is our following prayers and celebrations of the Church’ s Easter, we note the New Creation Light come in Christ!  It is as an Eighth Day of Creation or the start of the Eternal Day.  How so? Christ is Risen! **  That EVENT began the Endless Age of Jesus –for those who would want new life!   Alright alright alright!*

Pope Benedict last Eater Vigil message says “The seven days of Genesis are an image of completeness, unfolding in time. They are ordered towards the seventh day, the day of the freedom of all creatures for God and for one another. Creation is therefore fulfilled into New Creation on a Lord’ s Day/Sunday of Resurrection ( the 8th Day or new Sabbath). This directs us towards the coming together of God and his creatures; it exists so as to open up a space for the response to God’s great glory, an encounter between love and freedom. “. Thank you, Pope Benedict.  Glory is Love and Freedom in Jesus.  Glory is Love and Freedom.

St Edwards –did you catch on to that 3rd reading tonight, of the Exodus reading and song ( Sing a Song of Freedom)? We are taking the exodus song and making it our own in The Risen Jesus, our Deliverer.  He’s our Freedom. He is our Love.  Alright alright alright!*

What the Church hears on Easter night in its opening Scripture is the first element of the creation account: “God said, ‘let there be light!’” (Gen 1:3).  Then as we affirm in thus Mass that we now live in the New Age of Christ, we hear God say “Let there be My Life, in My People, as I am the Light of The World.  Let my people shine as I bring my Glory into them.”

God’s glory is “the Light” offered in Christ and His Spirit to return to be within humankind, who believe in Jesus’ Name.  This is a recurring theme in much of  the writings of St. John ( gospel, epistles, and revelation).  St. Iraneus Church Doctor sums it up: “The Glory of God is man fully alive.”

His Risen Life shared to us makes the new Christ Light possible.  Jesus makes freedom and progress possible.  Light chases out all fears and all turned in self pride.  Evil hides. Jesus’ Light creates brightness. It is daylight, and He comes forth from the grave, and He leads us out of sin and its end of death. He leads us to forever life in the Blessed..

Jesus rises from the grave; we rise up.  Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies.   All of that and more is the Easter Gift to us in Jesus’ Reign.

Christ is risen!**     Alright alright alright!*

Will we let God draw all of us after Him into the new light of the resurrection and let His Victory be the flags that flies over our hearts? That is what Easter faith is about.   Jesus Is Lord!  He is God’s new day for us.

HOMILY END

Other Notes:

In the Easter Vigil we receive 5 persons into the Church. One person is Nicholas who is to be baptized tonight– Let there be light come to His soul tonight.  Let there be a new day ahead forever in him (and in the thousands to be baptized around the world tonight).  We are all illuminated by God in baptism, and we demonstrate that in this Vigil Mass from a shared Fire from the Paschal (Christ) Candle. The candles symbolize ourselves ad being children of The Light, Children of The Lord. God is our brilliance.

Easter Candle

We have a nice 2015 Pashal Candle.  It burns daily for all our Easter time Masses, and for Masses of Christian Burial, and for all our Baptisms ahead.

Pope Benedict at the 2012 Easter Vigil said: “I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,” as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.   (So) Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1).. Amen.

Good Friday Homily: The Paschal Mystery and the Case of Philemon-Onesimus

The power of Jesus’ Cross and His Saving Love from there has transformed millions of people.  Many have been turned around for good through the Mystery going on through Christ’ Offering.  We call it “The Paschal Mystery.”  We took some looks at this key aspect of our Faith during our Lenten journey at St. Edwards.

We realize how we are in a deliverance mission of leaving the sinful, prideful ways of worldly self-dependence and delving further and further into the kingdom of God living.  This living depends on Jesus in us.  It engages us into intimacy and friendship and trust in God.  It puts us into covenant with God, via Christ Jesus’ Body and Blood, which results in the “new life” that comes about from the inside out.   The Kingdom of God is within you, said Jesus.   And the call to rouse us into faith’s awakening in the soul is the appeal of Jesus’ Cross and Loving Sacrifice.  Tonight’s liturgy puts us squarely to His Cross.  Last night’s liturgy appealed of His loving sacrifice, as from the Last Supper of Christ.

The power of the Crucified Son of Glory’s love has converted many here to put your first love and highest priority in life to be Jesus.   Your regular concerns are your responses to such questions, as “Do I live an affection for Jesus?  Do I show an appreciation of His saving act for me, for us?  Is my trust in His Word and Promises and I am assured that He is with me always?  Do others see this great love of mine in the Savior?”

When we don’t have an adequate, or better, a meaningful answer to those such questions going on in our lives–then we need to go Square One again–and experience the Reconciliation ministry of the Living Jesus, and of the Sacrament of Confession Jesus,or of doing what the Lord’s Prayer lays out– giving mercy to others even in our contention because Jesus forgave us.   A good many of you probably experienced the Cross during this past Lent.  If you’re not one of them, then cry mercy to God tonight.  It’s Good Friday.   This is the day Christ died for us.

In looking for one story that shows how Christ’ Cross of Mercy did change some lives– I go to one about a man who was in a prison.   He had been caught doing something wrong to his employer, and it led to imprisonment for a time, and at the close of his time of punishment, he decides to head back to his employer again for a meeting.

A special part of this story of the man’s imprisonment is that this prisoner met some reverend there that advised him on how to become a Christian.   It happened to be a Catholic bishop that took kind interest in the man called “One’” and Bishop Paul helped the man to repent, and to really get to know the Gospel of Mercy in Jesus Christ quite well.   One’ said that he wanted to meet and reconcile with the man he had wronged.  Yet he wondered if he’s only receive harsh words or even bodily harm from his old boss– since so badly he’d wronged him.  Bishop Paul said it was an inspired idea.  Christians should believe in the power of the Cross to effect merciful change.

Bishop Paul happened to know the prisoner’s old boss.  He said:  ‘I tell you what–One’- I will write a letter to him vouching for you as a changed man.  Your old boss is Phil, right?’  ‘ Yes,’ said One, ‘and it’s amazing that he happens to know you!  Then Bishop Paul said, ‘Phil knows someone else that you now know, too, that should make you happy.’  One said, ‘Who could that be?’    The answer:  He knows Jesus Christ.  Your boss is a believer.  It is growth time for his faith.  I will write to him about the merciful reconciliation the two of you can now have.   You are a brother in the Lord to him now, and not just a former employee.   Things are set up for Christ’ Cross to do some loving and changing.

This is a true story I am telling you.   It is from the New Testament.   It is the letter of St. Paul to Philemon, which I shortened to Phil.   The former servant worker was Onesimus, which I shortened to One’.   When is the last time you’ve read that short epistle?  Bishop Paul, or the Apostle Paul writes in the letter to Philemon that One’ was someone he met in prison, Paul’s imprisonment for preaching the gospel.  He says to Philemon that Onesimus was ripe for conversion and quite open to God.  After their many shared hours behind bars, Paul explained that he and One’ were heart to heart.  You have a new and true believer coming back to see you, Philemon.  He has called me “father” in our labors here; but he wants to call you brother now.

Onesimus’ chier problem, after his crime, was in finding how to repay his debt to Philemon.  He had run away from his master, and to return was usually to meet a beating or something.  The Apostle Paul tries to say in his letter to Philemon to remember his own great debt of sin to God, and that he had been running from God, but that God in His rich mercy, forgave him and gave him a jubilee start to Christian faith.  Paul asks to use this opportunity to give Onesimus a similar treatment–as a thanksgiving gift to God.

We don’t hear how it went in the end between master Philemon and his former servant. We just have the letter.   In the letter, Paul is asking the believer Phil to “put it on Christ’ account” of whatever recompense was needed in the hurt business concerning One’.    Then Paul goes further:  ‘Philemon, I know how you have been overjoyed whenever seeing me, the apostle, come to your house.  I’d like you to receive Onesimus, as if you were receiving me!’   The thing is:  Jesus said that all charity done in Him works this way.   Whoever receives an apostle actually receives Christ, but also whoever helps some person in great need has gone and helped Christ in that good work.   Believe it, Phil.

Paul was asking that the Way of the Cross and Christ’ Sacrificial Offering and Unconditional Love needed to be lived in the Christian community.  Relationships needed to change for the better in the Christian community.  Why?  Because Christ has put His grace upon us.  “Love one another, as I have loved you.  This is My New Commandment,” said the Savior.   And we can keep that commandment all because God’s love has poured out from that cross and come to enter us, with a fullness of love effect in mind in its completion.

So, I give to you a Bible example that sounds like it could have happened in modern times.  In fact, I bet Pope Francis has stories of One’s and Phil’s from his apostolic and priestly journey.   I know that Cardinals Hickey of Washington and Bernadin of Chicago had such similar faith experiences.

But the emphasis in my going to this epistle is to what we think Philemon did in the end (since it doesn’t say in the Bible).   We are all a bit like Philemon, and needing to grow in our own compassion as come from Christ’ Crucified and the Love of God on that Cross.

One other quick point, I think in the story of Calvary that the man who pierced Jesus in the side was likely an immediate conversion.   The Gospels say that “blood and water flowed out from Jesus’ side” and much of it landing on the centurion.  This was an outpouring of healing grace that we have had in the Church’s Sacraments ever since. It’s in John 19:34.   I can’t think that it didn’t affect the soldier beneath The now  confirmed dead Lord Jesus. Matthew 27:54 has a centurion confess and exclaim:  “Truly this was the Son of God.”  All who meet the Paschal Mystery have the same to say.  At the Cross it was poured out.

 

30 Days with St. Therese– Part A (lessons #1-8)

If you want a little help in the spiritual life, then why not ask for a saint’s help? Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897) lived in France. Though her lifespan was short, her saintly life has touched and influenced many others. It helps that she wrote a spiritual authobiography, and that the others in her Carmelite religious community verified her “Little Way” as being quite full of grace. May these 30 short phrases of St. Therese (and quick comments from me) edify your journey. Remember, Therese says that in little ways we become holy to the Lord. Just abide with God in all simplicity of life!

1. From St. Therese’ works– “I come to sing the mercies of the Lord.”
On the first page of the saint’s autobiography, she reminds us of where we all start: at the feet of Jesus and before His Divine Mercy. The Holy Mass begins similarly–in a calling or humble appeal for Mercy. Do you know by heart the Act of Contrition that we now use (sometimes) at Mass? I like to adjust it for personal prayer, as you’ll see below:
“I confess to almighty God and (out) to you, my brothers and sisters (with whom are one with me in the Body of Christ), that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault*, through my fault*, through my most grevious fault*; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters (into Christ with whom I am to be one) , to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

*=lightly strike the breast in these places

2. From St. Therese’ works– “I am but a poor little thing who would return to nothingness if Your divine glance did not give me life from one moment to the next.”
What might we be ashamed of in humanity? With Theresa we should be sad and turn from the pride of the flesh and the sinful arrogance that anyone is something outside of God’s part in our lives. We are only alive and growing in where we are wedded to God and part of Him. This is a fundamental lesson that those who are slaves of sin and of their fallenness need to find God’s help to be changed from the darkness.

3. From St. Therese’ works–”Love is repaid by Love alone.”
Theresa chose these words from St. John of the Cross as her own motto for the spiritual coat of arms she designed for herself. What motto would you choose?

4. From St. Therese’ works– “It is especially the Gospels that sustain me during my hours of prayer, for in them I find what is necessary for my poor little soul.”
In our own prayer, we would be use to review Gospel passages and know the “red lettered words” well (words of Jesus). Once per week (Sunday Gospel) is not a good diet of the evangelist’s help to our souls (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); we need a good helping of the Good News!

5. From St. Therese’ works– “True glory is that wheich will last eternally, and to reach it, it isn’t necessary to perform striking works but to hide oneself and practice virtue in such a way that the left hand knows not what the right is doing.”
We are called to live forth the possession of Jesus Christ and the new life in His Spirit, and it is not something to boast in or brag in, but to go about in some meekness or modesty. Christianity isn’t Lord, Jesus is Lord. We live the life of a Person in us, the One Who said: “Take My yoke from Me, and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest in your souls(Mt.11:29).”

6. From St. Therese’ works– “It is in my weakness that I glory and I expect each day to discover new imperfections in myself.”
For many who say they are living in Christianity, there is a value they mistakenly have for worldliness, and it may blind them to their further need of conversion in many areas of life where Christ is knocking at the door. The glory of the world is fleeting, and Christian Faith begins in the first beatitude of Jesus of one having the poor in spirit (or lowly attitude of needing God so much) for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Our quest is not to look ever too highly of ourselves, but to instead realize our weaknesses, and that in these areas we can become surrendered over to God and be conformed to Christ Jesus. We trade our unworthiness for the Glory of God to have a flag raised in us. (Ps.63:5-7). Theresa freely admitted she was far from perfect but in counting on God’s merciful love. She sensed how humility was a clear sign of God’s Presence among us in Jesus Christ. It is worth surrendering to!

7. From St. Therese’ works– “I have vanished as a drop of water which is lost in the immensity of the ocean. Jesus alone remained.”
If God is like the ocean, then we are like a droplet in it. Yet we are glad to be a part of its grandeur! God is great. We are joined to Him, even like as lost in His greatness. This is OK. As St. John the Baptist said of following Jesus (instead of him): “I must diminish, and He must increase.” Now, let us apply Therese’s Way, and pray, “Lord, let the “I” of me diminish, in all of self that tries to stand alone or apart of You, and, O Lord, may You increase in me. May Your Way fully come into me, if you please.
Let us use the water analogy of Therese, too. Allow your experiences with water–as a cleansing help, or refreshing source, or relaxing agent– to remind us of Jesus.

7. From St. Therese’ works– “I am a little brush that Jesus has chosen in order to paint His own image in the souls…entrusted to my care.”
How has God used you as an instrument of His love or peace or justice or faith? How have you been a brush as in His Hand, to paint the canvas around us?

8. From St. Therese’ works– “God is more tender than a mother.”
Think of a happy experience of being mothered (either by your own good mom, or in the care of someone like a good mom). The Church, too, is a mother. We are meant to bring comfort or strength or love affiliation to others and get them into Christ.