Ripping Weather

Tornados are usually associated with mid- America, and not the DC area.   We look at the sudden devastation and carnage with alarm, but from a distance.  It must be a terrible thing to lose one’s residence upon a ripping storm of wind.

I was in a Rockville Md. restaurant a couple of weeks back when the DC area went into sudden alarm.   Nearly every cell phone near me went buzzing in the early- warning mode.  It turned out that the wind storm hit elsewhere, such as upon Gonzaga High School (near DC’s Union Station), tearing off a chapel roof. Other places in Maryland/D.C. received damage.

The National Weather Service says that their detection services only give minutes in warning time, and they are reluctant to give false warnings out in a half- hour/ hour’s lead, except in super cell cases. The regular funnels in the sky form quite unpredictably.

People feel quite helpless with this info.  At least in mid- America, as in Oklahoma, they have shelters built for the expected tornados of the year.   Yet who can be ready for life’s storms?

Spiritually, we know that we will have our physical sufferings and calamities to last through, but the Great Storm to fear is for any person to go against the Lord in the end.  Jeremiah 23:19 says “Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord’s indignation shall come forth, and a tempest shall break out and come upon the head of the wicked.”

The Lord will reveal a fury on those who have dared flaunt His laws, as in committing the deadly sins.  Jeremiah’s Word of the Lord addressed those Israelites who had fallen from grace in following false prophets of idolatry.  They were sooooooo guilty before God in their bad sin.  Yet, in 2017 we Christians are also caught up in some serious business before God, in our falling into temptation in joining the modern world of idolatry and falseness, with all its associated pain.

For example, the culture is drug abusive, child eliminating, and greed run.   That right there would have a Jeremiah word to earth today.  The drug culture is everywhere,  bringing bad crime with it, such as here in Maryland.  We are guilty as Marylanders of it dominating society.   I think of Baltimore’s homicide reports being up so high already in 2017.   Protecting innocent life is also lost to us in society, with the rampant abortions still going on in America of millions of children gone (including Maryland or DC babies).  But what of how bad greed is– “the lust of money is the root of all evil” says the Word to us today, as we pursue it as a god, and watch some of our more powerful or talented people be sorely tempted into terrific sin of hidden corporate greed, as it does serious harm upon any people in their path.  Love of others is little considered here.

Whether it is personal sin or what is done in our society, there very obvious things in which such a prophetic message like Jeremiah 23:19 could be levied upon us, with Heaven saying:  “Stop!” “Repent of these ways!”  “Follow Me, not these false gods.  Turn to Me and be saved!– (while you can).”

There is a storm coming upon evildoers that needs immediate attention and address on this earth.  God is a judge of truth.   He will come in truth one day and nothing of darkness will be able to last before Him.  The Lord reigns and He sends His word down to us now:  ‘Be humbled, O people, I, your God, AM a force not to be reckoned with.  If you think a reckless wind storm in your fallen world is bad, then you are little prepared for what is so much greater and devastating. Amen.’

That was a spiritual message that God was looking to get across to me, and pass on.

In finish, in this blog entry, I look at a funnel picture from the newspaper, and I see a another similar message in it:  ‘Warn My people of my wrath.  Have them come to find shelter in My Mercy.  Lead them to repent, while they still can, to find their refuge in Me.’

Or, in the words of the old rock band BTO, whose song I just heard on the XM 70’s channel, the world’s storm winds are bad, but The Lord’s are…. well… You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

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Deciding to be married in the Church

imagesQVCV16ZLI feel like a lot of Catholic couples (or Catholic/non-Catholic ones) have made a left rather than a right, in their choices to be wed or to live together, but not as in a sacred union in the Church.

Did you notice the sign was wrong in the pic?

To be right with God in love and sexuality with a partner, the Catholic person(s) needs to be in a heterosexual union that is wed before the Lord in His Church as the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.   Yet the norm in the Catholic realm of young adults right now isn’t for that–but distinctly something other than Holy Matrimony.  People are making a left when they should be going right.

OK– it could be that a percentage may just be reluctant to enter Matrimony over their great respect for it, and they are working up to it.    Maybe another small percentage have a financial issue that is strapping them temporarily to a situation that they wish they were practicing.   Yet, we are talking about a whole lot of others, who were raised Catholic, that are unwed and living together now, and perhaps not for the first time with someone.  Or– they are wed, or going to be, but decided to go secular only with the union (sorry, but getting wed by a rent-a-rev at a park or hotel is still a secular affair, with just a religious decoration on top).    Some Catholics have parted ways with a Sacrament-led life in Christ, not seeing its integral connection with our Lord.   So they wed in some other way outside the Church (and of a special union of grace in Jesus).  Sad.

We are called to live holy lives before the Lord God, especially in the realm of love and relationship to a special someone.    To make a covenant of love in a church is the right setting for a marriage promise.  God has made a covenant of love with us, and He has used the Church for its main expression in Christ Jesus.   He awaits our covenant answer to Him.   We can give such a blessed gift by uniting and dedicating our love to our special someone (spouse) as in and unto Christ Himself.  A covenant love response– to the new commandment of Love– “love one another, as I have loved you.”  We can love the other another as in Christ, and to do so in a sacred sense as Jesus did it.   His laying down His life as groom to spouse made it possible for the Church to be born.  Thus, our laying down our married lives can make it possible for God to enter in to them and show His love in-the-middle.

I know that there are various ‘exceptions’ that people will give for not being wed in Church– and I won’t address them each here– but I will instead celebrate a couple who decided to wed in the Church last Saturday, after being wed civilly for years.   They came to a mutual understanding and mutual conviction with God that this was what He had called them to do.    They are both Catholics.   They entered Holy Matrimony on April 22nd, 2017 at St. Edward’s parish church.  Hurrah for them.   They want to live their love together for God and in God from now on.    God has put it on their hearts.IMAG1221_1

Marriage is a vocation.  It is a true calling from God to serve Him in this special way.  He takes the love shared in the bond and unites it to Himself, making it for true treasure in Heaven, for in it He is glorified.   “Love one another:  this is My New Commandment,” Jesus said, adding, “No greater love, than for one to lay down their life for another.”   thtt

I think of all the fruits of the Spirit that can be lived in such a union:   love, peace, patience, gentleness, self-control, joy, meekness… as the Bible describes it so.

Jesus is the Partridge in the Tree of Eden calling us to love in union with the sacred nature of who we are.   (For the practicing couple, it makes them a Partidge family? Well, it makes them a holy family, surely.)

 

 

A famous American pastor who was ready to grow in Holy Communion, but…

I read about a Western Massachusetts Congregationalist Protestant pastor of some renown, about his struggles as a shepherd of souls.   His name was Jonathan Edwards.  I know of this man from reading church history books, but also by that I have a relative living in that area nearby where he once did.   Jonathan Edwards was a theologian and writer and a preacher in a church in Northhampton. He wrote books and he expounded on the Bible and he preached 22 years in a church about the unsearchable riches of Christ.

After a couple of decades in ministry, Edwards was moved by the fact that, while we preach a simple salvation message of to trust in Jesus and His Mercy and Love, there is also given us a lifetime to grow in Jesus’ revelation to our minds and hearts, too.  We are to mature in our faith in Christ.   The Christian Church, then, he figured, ought to be a Church on the Move, seeking all the more to advance in the life of faith.    We Catholics call that faith’s deeper penetration of the Mystery of Christ, and we call it ongoing conversion.  Northmapton churcnh

In Pastor Edwards 22nd year in that Congregational church, he spoke to his people of how he was moved to a new place before the Lord, which was to give better respect the practice of Holy Communion.   Now while Edwards wasn’t Catholic, nor believing in the Real Presence and Body of Christ, he knew that he and his fellow New Englander Christian believers needed more elevation and attention and reverence for “The Lord’s Supper.”   He preached to his church one Sunday that no one should take communion unless they had confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior.   He said the link between one’s faith and their experience of Holy Communion needed much more exploration and depth.   And do you know what his church thought about that idea?  They voted him out as pastor of their congregation.  Even after 22 years of service there!   They didn’t want to be so challenged by Pastor Edwards.  Maybe they thought he was getting influenced by the reverence of Catholic Eucharist in the region, I don’t know.   But they were not willing to grow, nor even consider what further revelation their pastor was challenging them to.   They thought his challenge about faith and communion was too excessive.

And so there he was after 22 years of teaching theology and doctrine and giving pulpit addresses to that people, as he realized that there were two problems that were going on through his pastorate.    One– he had an unconverted people prevailing in the church, who were not willing to live under Jesus’ Lordship, but still wanting the Holy Communion (and not wanting a connection between it!).  Two– he had a people in the pews who had boundaries and limits on what the Lord would be doing among them.   You can imagine his disappointment to find this all out.

It was all there in that Springfield Massachusetts area church of Jonathan Edwards, and since there were plenty in both categories– unconverted or unwilling to go further in faith, it was plenty still enough to vote him out of the church.    He wondered about what his two decades or more ever meant in that Pioneer Valley home, near where the Connecticut River winds.

It reminds me of a non-Catholic Christian pastor who has come to believe in the true Body and Blood of Jesus of the Sacred Liturgy (Mass), but who says, ‘I can’t publicly come out, because they won’t support me, but usher me out of my post, and I can’t afford to lose my job, with a family to support.’   I told them to watch EWTN and its various shows, such as Journey Home, to nourish themselves privately.

In sharing a surprising account with you from my young adult life, I once was asked to fill in for a pastor at a congregational church for one summer, while I was a college student (and still going to Mass and serving as sacristan, lector, lead usher, and more in a New England parish), so I know a bit about their church, and I looked to see how their congregation and others in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire are doing, and there are still dozens of small Congregationalist churches in practice up there, but the denomination still doesn’t put an emphasis on Holy Communion to this day.   We pray, though, that there are those who hunger for more of Jesus and more feeding of their faith in Eucharist.    I know that a good number of people in churches like theirs have come to convert to the Catholic Church in recent times.  If you would google the EWTN tv show  “Journey Home”,  then look for the episode for Fr. Edward Fride Dec. 2016.”   He is a Congregationalist who took the Eucharistic leap into the Catholic faith.

As you watch conversion stories on this weekly EWTN TV show, you can see how there are many people heeding Jesus’ words, once given to Simon Peter:  “Put out into deep water.”  Many are finding in the Catholic Faith the deep faith and deep water.

For Catholics, too, growing in faith, we could borrow from St. Peter’s example, as he showed how he kept seeking experiences of greater impact in his soul. He did, and he was humbled, and it led to his sharing the Good News so fully in witness, becoming the saint we look up to today.   He had more of a gradual conversion than did Paul, with a blinded-by-the-Light experience.

I share the above Jonathan Edwards story because I came across it in Easter week and because I relate to it in wanting to help people in my parish to be fully converted to Jesus, and to be interested in the further penetration of the Mystery of Christ.    Sometimes I think I do alright in this pastoral mission (of helping people into deeper faith), but other times I don’t feel it so much (and wonder about comparisons to Edwards surprise after 22 pastoral years in a Northhampton church), as I wonder how moved each parish under my care has been to living for Jesus and in the Spirit and of the Lord’s Body, the Church.  This one at St. Edward and the others.  thM30CLBDM

Like the great Jonathan Edwards, who was just seeking to help others (and himself), I hope I can keep encouraging myself and others  to “put out into deep water.”  Like St. Peter did, and was blessed.

 

I also hope to have (and for lots of us to have) what St. Peter has said in this Sunday’s epistle:  “the genuineness of faith”.

O, for a genuine witness to Jesus from our lives!!  Lord, I pray!

 

 

2nd Sunday of Easter Homily

If you heard today’s reading from Acts with recognition, then congratulations, because you realize that it was our Advent theme of the 5 Loaves ( or 5 key ways) to be the Church.  It’s valuable 5 lessons are in the Advent’s blogs (at our parish web site) for your looking back…

Let the Color of your New Life in Jesus be seen before others.

sPeacock–a symbo1l of New Life in the Risen Lord.

On Good Friday I had a seafood lunch out at a restaurant with family members.   It followed a parish morning prayer service, a server rehearsal, and then a Way of the Cross at a Catholic cemetery, with a visit to dad’s grave.  4-16-2004.    It was fitted in to some free time before Evening Liturgy.

At the restaurant, I felt a little out of it.   In this place, the majority of people there looked rather oblivious of it being the day of the Lord Jesus’ death.   People were drinking alcohol and eating meat and carrying on around us, while we ate our fish meal.   While I had a good lunch gathering with my family, the scene around us had me see just how very secular our society is right now.  The stores that day were probably all busy, and while many people had to go to do their jobs or schools, some had it off–but not in acknowledgement of religion.  Those persons who had the day off were likely doing things like golfing, shopping, and maybe the kids were on the video/computer games all day—- and that was all sad to me, as society treats The Day Jesus Died as just any regular Friday.  With little notice.   Even the Washington Nationals had a game, with a bobble-head doll giveaway.  Real sad.

Good Friday is meant to be a day of mourning.   I suppose many were not intending to mourn–not at that restaurant, anyway.   Meaning—it just did not seem how Jesus was relevant to them, nor His death being important to them, nor the realization of His life-saving death happened on this day in history to save sinners.  Didn’t these people feel at all like sinners nor needing any saving?   Well, anyway, I was at the place, too–for awhile.  Maybe someone saw me there, and wondered:  Why is he here?

A Catholic saint once said:  If a person doesn’t appreciate Good Friday, then they can’t really comprehend or celebrate Easter Sunday.   I am concerned that there are an increasing number of people not acknowledging they are sinners in need of God, so what could Easter mean to us.

Now the Lord doesn’t want to win people over using guilt trips or finger-pointing, so my point isn’t of accusing judgment here, but just about the Lord’s perspective over us all.   The Divine Mercy in the Blessed Son saw all the human need and our misery, and came to save us.  Jesus defined His coming, saying:  “I have come to seek and save the lost.”  And, that, is who we all are. The lost folk.  Quite lost.  In a world with so much offered by God to us, even for redemption, but we wander and stray, into indifference or even defiance to Him.   God looked at all of the world and her history of our pride leading us far off-course from His original plan for us, and so from the Cross Jesus, God’s Son, bore our sins, saying:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”   Maybe in modern lingo, ‘These people are so messed up!  They really need this Divine Mercy, Father.  Forgive them, for they have it all so wrong that they even condemned me to a Cross.   They mock Me, but Salvation will come by here.’

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, can we ponder just how royally messed up we are as a world?   Yet, can we be baffled in joy, that God is come to save us anyway?!

Now, Divine Mercy Sunday is a bit different from the Good Friday perspective.   We have a Risen Lord coming to the apostles, and showing His triumph, while also bearing the marks of His crucifixion.   He will always be the Lamb of God for us.  He is a Lord of Triumph, too.  That is what Thomas sees, a Lord who died and rose, and he exclaims:  “My Lord and my God!”

He sees the two expressions of Jesus, His Sacrifice and Resurrection, joined into one.  So Thomas sees the connection of the Cross and Rising of Jesus as one thing.

Jesus lived out this connection.  As Jesus was up on the Cross, we know He prayed some Psalms in those three hours, ones that connection His dying and rising.  He prays the abandonment prayer of Psalm 22 “why have You abandoned Me to death?” along with Psalm 23, for sure, “though I walk the dark valley, I fear no evil… a table is prepared for Me even in the presence of my enemies… my cup (of victory) is overflowing, surely goodness and mercy shall follow in…to the House of the Lord forever.”   Jesus was praying those such Psalms, along with this one we prayed today, Psalm 118; it was on His mind and heart that fateful Day, as He pondered what lay ahead:  There is Resurrection after the rejection.  Psalm 118: verse 22: “The stone which the builders rejected is become the cornerstone.”  Hear Jesus praying: ‘I will start a work, Father, of saving people into a Living Temple, of My own body.  I am the Cornerstone for a whole new world.  The Building Block.  I was rejected, but I AM what can build up a new people.’

Psalm 118: verse 23:   “By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful to see…”  Jesus could see the New Day dawning, upon His Sacrifice being accepted by the Father.  Hear Jesus praying:  ‘WE have done it.  It is a wondrous gift of love, to bring back this fallen people, this lost creation, and give it a free way back to the Divine Friendship.  By God, US, it is done– for people now to believe and accept and live out.  This work of salvation is a wonderful thing for them, and I shall now arise!’

Psalm 118: verse 24   “This is the day the LORD has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.”   Easter really is the day God has given to us, and actually it is the first day of endless love and possibilities to be born from the fruits of Jesus’ Resurrection.   Easter is a Day, THE DAY to rejoice and be glad in it.   Easter, too, is a Season of the Church.  Easter, as well, is a whole new way of life.   Jesus may live in us now.   Easter is also the promise of Heaven and eternal life, given as a gift in the Redeemer Christ Jesus.

These verses bring a real happiness to our liturgy, for if you have walked with Jesus in sorrow through Lent and Holy Week, you are best ready for the Bright Side of the Story.

For God has a victory to bring for those who come and are humbled by the Cross of Christ.

Jesus sees His rejoicing faithful, and He hopes He may use their witness to bring the Good News out to touch others.   Like here in Bowie.   For the many people who are not surrendered to Christ in their hearts are just filling time, keeping occupied, looking to put off that emptiness of soul inside— Jesus wants to deal out purpose and meaning and love and fulfillment to them.   Jesus is given to be the New Life for these needy souls. You and I are meant to be examples of that, to reach the gloomy and the distracted and the disguised.  Life’s purpose is to live for God.  That’s what Catholic Christians should be ‘advertising’ in our lifestyles, and that Easter and Jesus Alive IS a reality.   And yes—-Grace provides a way out of sin and death and darkness.  We herald how Grace is making breakthroughs to people such as us.   It was in seeing our brokenness and need, and a Jesus to fill it– that brought the enlightenment.  His Cross has met our brokenness and His Resurrection has us truly set free.

“If the Son has set you free, then you are free indeed!”  So says Jesus.   He is Risen and we are free!

I am so glad to be in that realization and revelation, even if I do ask myself:  Who am I to receive this wondrous grace?  But The Lord has a marvelous love to share out.

It is the burden of pastors in churches to worry about the state of people’s souls.  To reach the lost person and help them to be found in Jesus, and then for them to grow in the Lord Jesus.   It is also supposed to be the concern of every baptized person to be interested in helping souls come to know Jesus, and for the body of believers to keep growing deeper, then, in their faith.  Hear our epistle speak to that today.  “May that the genuineness of your faith, so precious to you…even willing to be tested, prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”   Yes, St. Peter’s letter says that we hope for a genuine experience of Jesus in us, the whole Jesus, in His Paschal Mystery, that others may see their hope is in Jesus, too.  The message continues from Peter,  “Rejoice right along (until into that)…glorious joy, as (when) you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul.”   thM30CLBDM
Jesus is that “fisher of men,” so leading the Church at her start.

So, in a suggested follow-through of this Easter message, we present in the bulletin our second appeal to a parish renewal program getting started, with the need for a few to step up and help it get going.  Read the leaflet today and/or visit the parish website under Faith Formation today.    It’s about a training retreat program to learn how to put on a evangelistic outreach to the community of non-believers, tepid believers, and need-to-be-more engaged believers of helping the Good News of Jesus to spread out to others. IMAG0554

A resurrection style Lord of Sacrifice, as seen depicted in the Gate of Heaven cemetery chapel, Silver Spring.

Go out and tell the Good News, He is saying.  Let the colors of New-born Life in Jesus be seen by all.  s

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Sunday III and April 19 Emmaus homily message at St. Edward

admin-ajaxzzHappy Easter time!

The Four Gospels preach that the Lord Jesus Crucified is He Who is Alive from the dead.  Jesus is Risen!  In the Wednesday Octave Mass of Easter, as in the 3rd Sunday of Easter, the Gospel of the day gives us the Emmaus journey account of a man (Cleophas) and friend walking downcast from out of Jerusalem.  The evangelist’s account of this walk describes how a fellow traveler on the road joins along with them and raises some conversation with them,  Cleophas says of how he had thought before that the prophet Jesus was their hope, but that He and the dream died in Jerusalem on Friday.  He asks the Jewish stranger:  ‘How is it that you are not downcast, too?  Are you ignorant of who Jesus was, and how His death crushed people’s hopes?’ 

As Cleophas and companion travel on, the stranger who has joined them shares a different take on the ministry of Christ and its hope born through the suffering.  This brilliant man of faith tells them how Jesus was, is, rather, an amazing fulfillment of all the Messianic hopes, meeting all prophecies for a Hebrew to come and be a savior to people Israel and to the world.   Cleophas and the other man had probably looked incredulous at the stranger at first, but now after an hour or two’s walk, they are moved by the man’s words, and they invite Him, rather, plead with Him, to stay with them, and really enlighten them, over a meal and a complimentary stay there in Emmaus.

Then they the tell the stranger with them that Jesus had been the One upon whom they had trusted all their hopes to– and He suggests to them that they break bread together and pray.   They do so, and all of a sudden, the two men now recognize the stranger who has travelled with them.   It is the newly Risen Jesus.   “They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.”  This is the summation of the whole story.   Then, poof, Jesus goes.  They react by going to gather with Jesus’ core faith community, the apostles and Mary, and to share the Good News.   They run back to Jerusalem and the Upper Room.  When the arrive, they hear joyfully that the Lord Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter too.   A community of Jesus Alive is forming now.

These two actions–the journeying with a listening ear and heart—AND the welcome spirit and breaking bread action–are what we do at every Mass.   We do the Emmaus story every Sunday!   (And even in daily Masses, really.)  We do the Emmaus story in holding a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist.   Part A is the journey to Emmaus–the Liturgy of the Word.   Part B is the gathering at table with the Lord, recognizing Him as our Eucharist in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Have you considered this comparison with this Gospel before?  It’s all clearly there.  What we do as Catholics in Holy Mass has its model right here in a story from the first Easter day, on the road to Emmaus and in Emmaus.

We listen to the Word of God, taking a Sunday walk with it, and then we break bread with God on High in Christ. The difference is that with us, compared to the gospel persons in today’s account, we know Jesus is alive–or at least we have been told that Jesus rose from the dead.   They didn’t.

Yet sometimes, even knowing about the Resurrection, we still might not respond to this joyous Mystery of God, even upon hearing God’s Word, but like the first Emmaus walk and the two disciples, God will plant His Living Word in us, letting our hearts burn with it, touch us, and have us desire it all the more.

Did you know that the town name of Emmaus actually is translated to mean:  Yearning desired place.   What is your yearning and desired place?  Is it the Glory of God?  Then you have the burning in you.   It calls forth for a response and welcome and it leads to a greater recognition (or even first AHA recognition of Jesus Alive). Will we let the Word lead you to the Wedding Supper union?   It is designed to bring you to sup with God, at His table.

We the Church in Holy Mass call Jesus our Redeemer and we pray that the Spirit help us to be moved by Jesus, in Word and Sacrament.   The Spirit is given to us to magnify Jesus in our being.   Will it create light in the burning desire in our hearts for His Word?   Will we then flashed recognition of Our Lord in the breaking of the Bread?

These are deep questions for a people on the move, journeying with the Man from Galilee and heading to the place called Yearning Desire.

Can we be like Cleophas and the other person, all so touched by the Encounter with Jesus, so to become glad and to go seek others in the fold to share it with?  That is what our Parish Renewal program hopes to see happen, once people catch this fire.

Cleophas and that other person teach us to be glad like them– Jesus IS Alive and HE is the One to trust!

The children in Religious Ed were with me on Tuesday and Wednesday here in church and I told them that the lamb figure on the middle window in the east section was not just any ordinary lamb walking by.  The flag he was carrying was an Easter flag of victory, because, as I explained to them: He is Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, and happy are all called to His supper.

They caught on with recognition that Jesus is the Blessed Son of the Trinity, He is the babe of Christmas, He is the person that all the Good News describes being the best person ever to live on earth, and He is the Lamb of God, seen in the Heavens, too.   He is all of that.   They caught on to seeing that window anew.   And we adults need to catch on to seeing Jesus anew all the time.    He is (as our epistle describes) that “unblemished Lamb of Sacrifice” Who is Savior and Mercy to us, to Whom we are all indebted to.   Praise His Holy Name.0717132025

Easter Homily II: Easter and Mary Magdalene

IMAG1096_1Mary Magdalene came to The Tomb and found the soldiers on guard as dead men, with the Angel of The Lord sitting atop the grave boulder, which He had moved, saying The Crucified Lord is not here. As He is Risen, behold, see an empty tomb.

HOMILY        (Lengthened Blog version)

On this Easter Morn, we hear the Matthew 28 account of Mary Magdalene and Mary of Cleopas at the tomb of Our Lord, and then of the encounter of the Risen Jesus.  Last night at the Easter Vigil I preached on one of these women and of her inspiration to us.  It was of “the other Mary,” Mary of Cleophas.   Today I preach on Mary Magdalene and of her inspiration to us.   Both women were present for the whole Paschal Mystery:  They were there for the suffering Lord Jesus , and below Him as He died on the Cross, as well as coming to Jesus’ tomb to pray, therefore, putting themselves in place as the early witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection.

At the Cross, Mary Magdalene was a silent witness.  No words are recorded of her, only long sobs– as we hear Jesus address her later, “woman, why are you weeping?”   Jesus saw her weeping below His Cross of Sacrifice.   It moved Him to see His friend there for Him to the end.   So, He would meet her here on the First Easter’s dawn, as her great consolation and new hope.

Mary Magdalene knew Jesus as God’s Love revealed to the world.  She had been amazed with HIm, even since her deliverance from her darkness.   As she saw Jesus on the Cross, she might have commented to the soldiers:   “He won’t really need the nails, for His Love could hold Him up there.   He dies in the fullest Gift of Love ever.”

Mary Magdalen was one of the “three Mary’s” at the Cross.   The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary of Cleophas, and her made for the faithful trio.   Mary Magdalene was different from the other two, in that she was not related to the Savior by family ties.   The Blessed Mother was Jesus’ true mother, and Mary of Cleophas was Mary’s sister-in-law.   Our Mary was a Galilean woman from Magdala, a city more known to be influenced by Gentile than Jewish life.   Yet Mary of Magdala would meet Jesus and become one of His closest disciples.   As for new family ties, Jesus had said one time that “those who hear the Word of God and keep to it are mother, brother, sister–or family– to me now.”  Mary Magdalene certainly fit that description of Jesus’ new extended family by faith.  We have learned it, too, today, that if we accept Jesus the Word and keep with Him– in Scripture, in love and service, in Sacrament, as members of His body, the Church– then we are called Jesus’ brothers and sisters.   My opening address to you was as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus– just to acknowledge that family tie we have!

In Luke 8, we hear how Mary met Jesus while she was under the possession of darkness.   Jesus heals her out of seven demons.  What those sins or evil spirits were–we don’t exactly know.  Yet she had a full recovery.   7 is a number that denotes fullness.  You know it as such, such as of the 7-fold Gift of the Spirit or 7 days of creation or 7 Sacraments.   Mary of Magdala will be a changed, whole woman now.  Because Jesus will later call her “woman” as in Matthew 28, it tells us that she is a woman of the new creation in Christ.   He came to bring us back into Grace, like humankind had in the Garden of Eden.  In fact, as John’s Gospel describes Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene in that first public, official Resurrection account— it is in a Garden, on purpose.  Jesus is first the mistaken Gardener, in John 20, until Mary cries “Rabboni” in recognition of her Lord standing there.  She knew Jesus when He called her name.   It is the same for us awaiting after death; Jesus will call us by Name and welcome us into Paradise with Him.

On Mary Magdalene’s feast day, July 22, the Church gives the Song of Songs as the first reading, denoting our Mary as the one seeking the Lord as like the dove figure in that Biblical book about God and humankind drawing nearer to our full reunion.  This figure in the Song of Songs so desires to be one with her Lover.thhhh

I’d like to suggest here how Mary Magdalene is our saintly model of desire to be close with the Lord God of love.   We need to want Him so dearly, too.   What made this disciple so want to be near Jesus, that even after death she arises as dawn’s early light to go to Jesus’ tomb, even bringing spices, if perhaps the guards would let her in to pay her respects?   Let us pray for desire for Jesus!   There is a title of The Lord’s Anointed that befits this suggestion:  He is the “Desire of Nations.”   (From Haggai chapter 2.)

Mary Magdalene has the soul need for God.   Jesus is God–so she needs to be near Him.

Jesus accepts her close to Himself.  As we have learned from His episode in Bethany, in letting two women sit at His feet and be taught as disciples– Mary of Magdala would have had that opportunity from her Luke 8 meeting with Him and on.

Sometimes Mary Magdalene is given a mistaken identity or even a disparaging one– as Jesus’ intimate lover on earth, as in girlfriend or wife.  Shame on those who say such things, as they reveal in that ignorance or pride that they don’t know what kind of intimacy Jesus offers His followers.   John the apostle and Lazarus of Bethany were so close to Jesus, they get identified, too, as “the one Jesus loved.”  Mary of Magdala was a pure and close relationship to Jesus, showing what the kingdom of God offers anew.

By the way, Mary of Magdala meets Jesus in Luke 8, so the harlot woman who meets Jesus in Luke 7 is a different person.    Yet the same thing applies– Jesus would have women followers, and some were of those whom He had healed and converted– and they now were disciples, like the others, and with the apostles.

Mary Magdalene is a chosen example for Christians to follow, probably thanks to how John the Apostle appreciated her.   Under the Cross, John was there with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he did take notice how Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” was there, too.   When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary find that Jesus is Risen, it is to John, and Peter, that the news is delivered.    With Mary Magdalene, she is the symbol of humanity renewed by the grace of God, and bathed into the Paschal Mystery, for a new start to the world for the people of God.  We live in the world now with Jesus.  Jesus is the Gardener of our garden of soul and body, working us to redemption to Glory.

The Tree of Calvary becomes the Tree of Life’s new start, and the Garden of our seeking in faith and hope is where we find the Risen Lord, by faith, more than sight.  Yet He will present Himself as Sacrament to our senses.  Still, we are to know Him first by the heart and soul.  Mary calls Jesus by her favorite name for Him:  Rabboni.   She teaches us that we need to know our Savior so well, that perhaps we even have a special Name for Him.  Why?  Because we are in a personal relationship with Jesus.

It is Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Cleophas (whom I preached about on the Easter Vigil and copied to the parish pastor’s blog), along with Salome who seeking Jesus on that first Easter morn.   In imitation, you and I have come this Easter morn seeking Jesus.   Mary Magdalene and her firsts see Jesus and go prostate to kneel and worship Jesus.  It is what we come here to do on Easter 2017:  to bow and worship, and to be glad we have a Risen Lord.

What happens to Mary Magdalene later?  We know she is a witness for the Church in the Holy Land for 14 years after Jesus’ Resurrection.   The non-accepting Jews of Israel resist the movement of Jesus and this Way of the Lord (Christianity), and they put Mary Magdalene adrift on a large boat without oars, to ban her from Israel, and on that same vessel is said to be Martha of Bethany, Maximillian, Sinonius (the healed blind man of Jesus’ miracle), the Magdalene’s servant Sera, and the remains of Anne, Jesus’ grandmother.  They end up floating to Gaul, which is now known as France.   Mary Magdalene continues as an evangelist there, and a Basilica attests to that, in southern France, and Mary dies at 72 as a mystic in a cave dwelling, matching what the Song of Songs says as a “dove cooing her voice in the clefts, longing for her Love of Loves.”  The testimony is given, that like Mary Magdalen met the Angel at the tomb, so would she sees angels through her lifetime, even being ministered by them in her final days.”

This homily about Mary Magdalene is meant to reflect back on the One she so honored with her life–the Meaning of Easter.   JESUS is the Risen One.   HE is our Love.   HE is our New Life and Hope.   HE is the One whom we seek for a fullest knowing of Him, and WHO so promises us that such will be given to us, even in an Everlasting Way.

Mary’s seeking so diligently for The Lord, and not giving up, nor letting up after a Risen Jesus visit, tells us the same, as the Scriptures reminds us:  “It is whoever perseveres to the end who will be saved (Matt. 24:13).”   So seek the Lord fully!  The Lord has much to show us, even forever and ever, to our highest happiness!

Mary of Magdala also tells us to gather with others in this faith.  Jesus says to her, as in today’s Gospel, ‘tell the Good News that I Am Alive, then tell the apostles and others to go gather as one back to Galilee, where everything begins again with you.”  Mary tells Peter, and after they find Thomas, all go back to begin anew with Jesus: together.   Peter and the Church have been one since that time, when at Pentecost, the Spirit came to them to be the one, inspired, holy, out-to-the-world Church.   Amen.

we begin anew in Galilee– go tell Peter.

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Easter Homily 1 Easter and “The Other Mary”

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MARY OF CLEOPHAS, WITNESS TO THE CROSS AND RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
I thought it might be an interesting meditation tonight, to just highlight one person in the Story of Jesus in this climatic time of His ministry.  It will be of Mary of Cleophas, often referred to in the Gospels as “the other Mary.”  Who was this woman?Of course, as I lead in to this Easter Message, let us be clear that this Easter Day is all about the Lord Jesus, and His triumph over the grave, and His rising up.   His resurrection is our victory.   He came to defeat the hold of sin on us, so we could freely live in Mercy, and He came to set us free, too, from the slavery of death.  All because Jesus rose from the dead, is this all made possible for us.  Alleluia to Jesus, to the Father Who sent the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, that we may live in glorious union in them as children, a people reborn by Grace via The Lamb, to as many as received Him.
We are called to live saintly lives in loving response to Jesus Christ.  We have models to follow in the Gospel story.  In Holy Week we heard it proclaimed that “… there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.”  Tonight (in the Easter Vigil) we hear: “After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb….an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.  Then the angel said to the women in reply, Do not be afraid!  He, Jesus, has been raised from the dead!  Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples.  And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.  They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.  Go tell my brothers we begin again at Galilee, they will see me.”Let us get to know this “other Mary” in the Crucifixion and Resurrection scene.  By her own fidelity and response to Jesus, we learn from her how to love and serve Jesus so ourselves, as is fitting to our Savior.First — the factual part on Mary of Cleophas.  Second– the emotional story of “the other Mary” and the bigness of her faith.

The factual stuff on this Mary of Cleophas:  How should we understand this Mary called Jesus’ “mother’s sister?” The short answer is that Mary of Cleophas is probably the Blessed Virgin’s husband’s sister-in-law.  Mary of Cleophas may have had a previous husband named Alpheus, or this Alpheus may have been Cleophas. Going by an ancient historian Hegesippus, Cleophas was St. Joseph ‘ brother, who had a wife, Mary.  (Another lesser historical theory has Mary of Cleophas as sister to Joseph. )

She IS definitely, though, the third Mary in the scene at Calvary and the Risen account of Jesus, and this “other Mary” is called as such so as to be distinguished from The Blessed Virgin Mary, or of Mary of Magdala, who both were witnesses like her to the Crucified and Risen Lord up close.

Just like in a few of number among Jesus’ followers, Mary of Cleophas was a family relation to Jesus.  Reading the Bible, we find that Jesus had “brethren” in the Semitic sense who were named James, Joseph, Simon (Simeon) and Jude (Mt 13:55).  They were close kin to Him—is what that means—as Jesus was an only child of Mary.  We also know that Jesus’ mother Mary had a “sister” (in the general sense of the word as a close woman relative), and this woman is our Mary of Cleophas.  This is the “other Mary” who had the husband named Cleophas, so we think.

What else do the Gospels tell us? That, at the death of Jesus, we are told this Mary, wife of Cleophas /Clopas (Jn 19:25), was present right besides Mary, The Lord’s Mother.  In a gospel account, this “other Mary” was described as to be the mother of James and Joseph (Mt 27:56), but then in another account, she’s called the mother of James the Less and Joses (Mk 15:40).  So what gives?  It’s that Semitic way of describing things again. For, on one hand, James is described as the son of Alphaeus (not Cleophas) in three Gospels’ listing of the Apostles (Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15). Thus, we can infer that Mary the wife of Cleophas is unlikely to be a true sister of the Virgin Mary, since they bear the same name.  Mary’s mother wouldn’t have had named two Mary’s in-a-row, is the sensible conclusion here.   However, the inference is made that Mary of the Holy Family and Mary of Cleophas are closely related.  Likely, she is St. Joseph ‘s sister-in law or sister.  We can go with that explanation, as it all makes sense, and it shows her importance, while being called “the other Mary.”  On the Church calendar, Mary of Cleophas shares April 24th with Salome, the co-witness with her to Jesus.

Now for the emotional and spiritual/faith dimension of this special Mary of Cleophas.  She would be in the story of Jesus early on, even to His infancy. She would be in the story of the Mary, too.  Whether she sojourned to Africa with the Holy Family for safety isn’t known, but she was there to know it.  In the end, as Jesus goes to the Cross, this sister to Joseph is faithfully there.  She is a steadfast witness, maybe a model for cradle Catholics.

As sister-in-law to Mary, this other Mary was a very good, faith-filled, supportive person to her family, and a great co-believer in Jesus as Lord.

Now I think it’s amazing that anyone went up to Calvary to witness Jesus’ death.  It must have been wrenching and horrific and devastating.  Even if Mary, Jesus’ Mother, went there in confidence of her Son’s rising, and fulfilling the Father’s will—it had to be just unbelievably hard for her to be there watching, and even at the end, to be beneath His feet, and then receiving Him down off the cross.   But this “other Mary” was also there.   Probably she was borrowing off of Mary’s great faith and courage, and came along.   I have done that myself: borrow off of Mary.  There are things in life I wouldn’t have taken on, but for Mary’s assistance besides me.  (The priesthood may be one.)

Mary of Cleophas, was also there on Calvary’s hill to support Mary.  Someone needed to be besides her, as she kept near with Jesus to the end, at Golgotha.  This Mary also had the obvious reason of her co-wanting to show her great love for Jesus, going to Him to offer compassion and prayer in His time of most need.  Jesus would have deeply appreciated it from his aunt.

Of the leading men followers of Jesus, only John got up to Calvary among the Twelve.   So, we can’t underscore how hard it was to do this. thhhh

It was the same above reasons that this “other Mary” went to the tomb at the first morning light of Sunday’s dawn.  She courageously loved Jesus. Her compassion led her to the tomb, and it put her in place to be an early witness to the Resurrection of Christ.  This Mary, along with Mary of Magdala, and Salome, came to the Sepulchre. They were expecting a guard to still be posted there, to chase them off, but they came anyway with their spices, to see if they could put them on the shroud of Jesus.  With the boulder expected to be in front of the tomb, too, what were the chances?  Yet, they came, and in haste at morning light.   Love and courage does such things.

I think you and I know of some times that we found the love and courage to be somewhere or with someone.   An internal strength, supplied by God’s grace, just moved us to be where God wanted us to be, and where we hoped we could be in great love and give support out from our hearts.

That’s our other Mary.  She found that inner drive, the inspiration on that first day of the week, in Jerusalem.  It would put her in place to witness first the most amazing site of all time, the Risen Jesus.  Seeing the angel was stupefying enough, but then these women saw the Risen Lord.  “Do not fear, it is I.”    They recognized Him—though in great awe.   They immediately went into worship before Him.

You and I as Catholics, or related and supporting believers, know of the importance of worship of the Lord.   We are here this night to do it.   Coming just a little earlier than this “other Mary” did, but it was her first opportunity of when Sabbath was over.   We have the Easter Vigil come as a Saturday, it is day’s end now.   It’s sundown.  We begin our Easter praises.   We don’t wait for Sunday morn.   It can begin tonight.   And we’ll celebrate big tomorrow, too.

Let us be worship-ful and in awe of the Lord, Who is here among us, not as obviously, but just as real.  Faith believes and receives.    ###

Hardly anybody really ever goes far to explain who all the brothers, sisters, cousins and such are to Jesus—but from John the Baptist to Mary of Cleophas—He had some family in His ministry.  We do not hear of Cleophas or Joseph (Jesus’ adopted father) in the Gospels during Jesus’ adult life. We can imagine that after their deaths, the two families—deprived of their protectors and heads—came together under one roof. This would further strengthen their ties: the two Marys as “sisters” and Jesus and His cousins as “brothers”. Gospel and tradition kept these names without denying Mary’s perpetual virginity.

To end this whole study, we can see is that Jesus had dedicated followers to Him, and some were family.  Yet what was important about them was emphasized once by Jesus when, of praising His mother Mary, He said:  “Blessed is she who has listened to the Word of God and kept to it.”   It could be also said of Mary of Cleophas. Hopefully, it will be said of us, too.   Amen.    ###

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Extra info/

We borrow info above from Hegesippus. A native of Palestine, Hegesippus finished his Memoirs in the reign of Pope Eleutherius (AD 175-189) when he was an old man. He draws his information from personal sources, as he was able to question some surviving members of Jesus’ family. Hegesippus can tell us that: “After the martyrdom of James, it was unanimously decided that Simeon, son of Clopas, was worthy to occupy the see of Jerusalem. He was, it is said, a cousin of the Saviour;” Hegesippus recounts in fact that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.    To research more, see Prat, Ferdinand. Jesus Christ: His Life, His Teaching, and His Work, 2 vols. (Milwaukee, 1950).

Easter: The Fifteenth Station (Fulfillment!)

THE FIFTEENTH STATION:  THE FULFILLMENT

Candle 2Jesus has conquered sin and death.   He is Risen!

He’s the incomparable One:  God’s Son and Saviour, even come as one of us.   The Church starts each Easter in celebrating Jesus as the Light of the World.  A lit Easter Paschal candle              (representing Jesus) enters into a dark church at the Vigil Mass, but soon all have received it’s light, in their holding candles.   Each Easter Vigil begins also with the Exultet Song.

Let’s ponder upon some words of the Exultet…

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven, exult, let Angel ministers of God exult, let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

thD6S3GMD9Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice, arrayed with the lightning of his glory, let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.   On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light, for it is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human. 

May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Candle

 

 

 

Holy Thursday Homily (longer blog version)

It’s the Year of Grace, and we’ve been talking of the various ways God showers His favor upon us.   The Grace of God can certainly be noticed in the blessings of Jesus’ New Passover Covenant of Eucharist and how it is shared via Holy Orders for His Church.

Two of the things that’s so important about Holy Thursday is that it’s the Fulfillment Day of the Passover by God from the old covenants to the Jews into the new one of Jesus, AND, that it’s the Institution Day of the Catholic Priesthood.   When Jesus gathered His apostles and said over the bread and wine “This is My Body…this is My Blood… (and then gave it to them to receive), He then said:  (From this time on) “Do this in Memory of Me.”  Here He commissioned them to “do this” that is, be His priestly vessels to share HIS High Priestly Gifts to the Church, His own Body and Blood, His very Self.

God’s Son Jesus gave fully of Himself on Holy Thursday and into Good Friday, and the same Gift is passed onto The Church, God’s people.  Jesus gives and still says “take…receive….Me.”   We have a new covenant in Jesus’ Body and Blood, and we have priests to serve the High Priest in continuing on this special participation in His Offering.  Jesus says “I AM Eucharist–even in His words–I AM the Bread of Life.” These apostles He chose were thus charged with the sacerdotal ministry (to be priests) beginning on Holy Thursday, and they were to pray Holy Mass in His Name and Person for Him, as priests serving The Priest.   Once Jesus returned to reign in Glory and gave us His Spirit, this priesthood was put into work.   The Holy Mass was to be the main ministry for them to do in “Holy Orders.”  Teaching was important of them too in their commission.  Tonight, we recall that original vocation started for Jesus’ purposes.   This night is the anniversary of the priesthood Jesus shared with His body of believers, the Church.  We are nearing the 2000th anniversary of it, from 33a.d to 2017a.d.

On that Thursday of the Jewish Passover in Jerusalem, about 1984 years ago, Jesus was really there in an Upper Room giving up His Body and His Blood for the salvation of the world.   His Last Supper was to be the New Passover, whereby His Body would be our ransom and sacrifice for sins, and His Blood would then be our pardon and our Passover from death.  The action of this Last Supper into the action of His Cross at Calvary would be all the same Offering, and Altar, and Victim.   It is why the Church’s Liturgy tonight doesn’t have an ending, but is picked up tomorrow in the Good Friday Liturgy.   Just like the Last Supper led along to the Cross—it was all one action.  For Jesus, that was all evident, in that it was an overnight in which Jesus never slept, until His human ‘sleep’ into death on Golgotha’s Crossbeam.

This Great Offering of Jesus, as the conclusion of His Man of Galilee earthly ministry, was purposefully done as The Main Event of the Savior, on that Jewish Passover.  It was done there to become the New Covenant Passover in Jesus’ Name.  Jesus told them to “do this in memory of Me.”  His parting Gift was Himself, and this Last Supper Gift was the Mass continued into the Church, to receive in Sacrament His Body and Blood. This Main Event Pasch of Jesus, on that original Holy Thursday, had the elements of the Pasch of the Jews, but with updates of fulfillment in Him, the Son of God.  For example, now the bitter herb would be Jesus’ suffering or Passion, the story to be told would now be changed from what Moses did to what Jesus accomplished, the unleavened bread for the journey out of Egypt and the mystery manna bread was to now be given as the Body of Jesus, His Real flesh for the life of the world (as John 6 puts it–for Jesus said: “I AM the Bread of life).”  The blood on the doorpost of the Exodus, that saved those Jews who put it obediently over their entranceways, was now the Blood of the Lamb, The Lamb of God, Jesus, who saves us who obediently receive Him into our being.   And so many other connections were made—for Jesus to now offer a Paschal Mystery.  (Recommendation:  Read Brant Pitre’s “Jesus and the Last Supper.”)

Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, commissioned priests to serve the Paschal Mystery, particularly in service of the Holy Mass.  If you peruse the latter part of the Bible book of Hebrews, you can see how it was all written and explained by that Bible author, who saw Jesus primarily as the High Priest, come down from Heaven, to author a way for us to participate in salvation by Him, and to have Him as our holy mediator to God.

I mentioned the term Paschal Mystery…you recall what it is, right?  We have had a whole preaching series on the Pascal Mystery not so many months ago here—it is the Mystery we celebrate of salvation by Christ’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and the hopeful promise that comes in participating in it, which is Glory—life with God forever.

The simple Mystery of Faith formula can be remembered as the one we often sang in churches, as a song:  “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.”  Meaning:  Christ to our past, Christ to our Present, Christ to what is yet to come.

Or, better, stated biblically, as St. John records in Revelation, we celebrate our Jesus as The One “Who Is, Who Was, And Who Is To Come.”  John starts out His apocalyptic book with Jesus as Priest and Paschal Mystery.  Rev. 1:8 says (as on Jesus lips, reigning in Heaven): “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, Who is and Who was and Who is to come.”

Catholic priests know something of this three-fold identity of Jesus the Priest and Pascal Mystery.  I will briefly tell you of Jesus Who Is, Who Was, and Who Is To Come.

Jesus Who Is. He is the Priest Forever, every making intercession for His people.    Cardinal Wuerl was talking about this in his Chrism Mass at the Cathedral on Monday.   Jesus lives.  He is Emmanuel, God-with-us, which is the great prophet Isaiah’s view of the Christ. Jesus says “I Am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   One sure way He is– the Eucharist– is supplied for the Church’s whole journey, providing the people of God discern their priest vocations to serve her, and have them pray their Masses.  Please pray tonight on how you may support priestly vocations.  We need to find them and support them.

Jesus Who Is.  In a new book by N.T. Wright about Good Friday, he says that this Day of Christ’ Death (and its Holy Thursday lead-in) should be seen as a new starting point, as in Jesus as Alpha, and Wright say for too long some churches have seen the Crucifixion as just one day of wrath, when God took out His anger about sin, and had Jesus punished for us, to take our sins.   But that punishing definition is off, because then it leaves the Cross only as a past event, as if the Friday of Jesus Crucifixion was for wrath, and then an ending.  A closed event.   Yet read all of Revelation or the Book of Hebrews, and one can find how Jesus lives as Priest to keep on making intercession, and He can re-present His Sacrifice as He likes, without it being changed or having Jesus be re-crucified.  (As people crazily and wrongly claim of Catholics doing.)   Jesus is still seen as Lamb in a present tense in Revelation, as well as a future tense.   Because Jesus must be a present Lord, not only a past one.

Speaking of the past, Jesus did come into time and offer His life.   There was a definite day of Crucifixion for Jesus.   Jesus is the God who was—too.  We remember precisely the day He committed Himself to the Sacrifice, as on Holy Thursday He said:   “Would that I could pass from drinking this cup of suffering, yet, not as I will, but as You will, Father.”  Jesus chose to die for us, carrying out His destiny to be Yeshua–the God Who Saves.  He came and on that Cross could even offer up in Himself the sins to all the people in the past centuries and millennia who had sinned.   His offer at the Cross would be able to go way back into the past–even to the original sin.    We remember that in the Eucharist prayer at Mass.  Jesus died for us.  (Fact.  Historical Event.)

Who Is To Come.  Jesus’ offering also could go far into the future, for to give Mercy to the modern world of sinners, too, like ourselves.  Even from nearly 2 millennia ago, and 5892 miles away from here, on the other side of the planet.  He wanted to bless us in His Mercy and Peace and lead us to eternal life.  And His Love outpouring reached us.  And where are we headed?   We are headed to Glory.    Jesus said of Himself, that He is Who is, Who was, and Who is to come.    The Holy Mass is a prayer for preparation for His coming.  We await Him in a holy worship in His Body and Blood.   How more personal can a holy waiting for His Glory Arrival be?   St. Paul said of the Mass:  “We proclaim the Lord’s Death (Sacrifice) until He comes again (in Glorious appearance to us). ” When we get to Heaven, what will we do?  Worship Him.  So, we get started here, even in Jesus’ Body and Blood.

I tell you all of this because priests know these things of the Priesthood of Jesus and of the Pascal Mystery.   We also know why Scriptures like Revelation was written.  It is a letter by John to his churches (7 in Asia Minor) about how he sees a Heavenly Liturgy going on (via visions he received from Jesus) and how John urges the churches to have earthly Masses mirror the One above, celebrated in the same Lord Jesus among them on earth (as Sacrament).   This life in Sacraments (such as by Holy Mass) was to upbuild their ongoing relationship to God as His people in Christ.   Yes, take note, Jesus is speaking as the Book of Revelation starts, Who says He is the I AM–  the source of everything.   He is The One who first spoke to Moses with that title, and the one to institute a priesthood, even via Aaron, Moses’ brother, to celebrate the Sinai covenant He had made, and Jesus was also around in the bread and wine covenant with Abraham and Melchizedek the priest atop this very Jerusalem city.  Jesus speaks now in victory from Heaven of the New Covenant He has accomplished.  He speaks to one of his first priests, John, in this amazing revelation.   John the Apostle knows Jesus as “Priest.   Jesus is the One Who, as Priest and Perfectly Holy High Priest, did institute a New Covenant priesthood to serve His purposes for the Church.  John was there in the Upper Room when it was inaugurated– Passover Day.  John was now living the Mass as he wrote this letter.  He reminds us how Jesus, the Alpha, the new beginning, wanted to use priests them to lead His people in salvation to the Omega point, the life of living forever.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, Who is and Who was and Who is to come.”

Oh my, I could go on…. but let’s end on a personal reflection.

Have you had some real memorable Masses in your life?   I have.   I’ve been a lifelong Catholic.   I can remember school Masses in St. Joseph’s School in Penfield, New York in my third grade year, when excitedly, I could receive Holy Communion with my class at Mass.    I can remember six years after that when I was in a Mass with Bishop Hermann over at St. Pius X Bowie with a big Confirmation class.   I remember being given the Sacrament by him, under the patronage of St. Anthony, and I remember it being a windy afternoon outside, like it suddenly was Pentecost or something.

I can also remember being in college Masses with my buddies at Ohio U. or University of Maryland.   I had many enjoyable ones there.  I had a Mass on a Sunday at St. Pius one Sunday night on the Feast of St. Augustine where God really touched me.  It would lead me to a deeper commitment to Jesus, eventually leading me to be called to seminary and priesthood.  Seminary Masses were quite edifying, like my first Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday as a twenty-six-year old in a Cleveland seminary was so great.  It was quite dynamic and faith-deepening.   Jesus is clearly leading every Holy Mass.  Priests are instruments of His choice to do what He wants for His Church.

Then as a priest, there have been too many amazing Masses to try to single certain ones out.   Well, how about just one.  Down in one parish assignment in Leonardtown on a Holy Thursday, I recall a parish woman named Grace, who really lived out her faith, by the grace of God.   I would tease her– “you are the Grace of God in our midst.”   She so loved the Lord and the Sacred Liturgy.  She was on cloud nine on that Holy Thursday.  She came back on Good Friday to pray the Stations, and after the 14th one, she died.  She literally went on to the 15th station on her own, the Resurrection, as Mary Magdalene sees Jesus.   Well, Grace saw Jesus in person one Good Friday ago.  As she did the stations so prayerfully, I suppose He could not be without her another moment, so much did Our Lord love her.   Grace’s funeral Mass filled the parish church in an Easter octave weekday following.  You know, all through this Year of Grace, I keep thinking of her.

Lastly, there are many, many very nice liturgies that have occurred here in St. Edward.   Maybe this very evening I could also single this Mass out, for it is the ninth Holy Thursday I’ve had here, to celebrate back in my home town another anniversary of the priesthood day.   That’s special to me.   It is good to be here!   As Psalm 133:1 says:  “Behold, how good and pleasant it is, for brethren to gather in unity.”  That’s how I feel tonight.  Or as the Psalm line in Hebrews goes:  “Hinneh mah tov u mah nahim, sebet ahim gam yahad!”

So it’s the New Passover and with the Holy Orders in the priesthood serving Jesus by it.   It’s so good!