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