The Rising Up Life. Homily 5-7

How do we live a Rising Up life?  By the buoyancy of the Easter Lord Jesus.  We engage Him daily into our lives.  We do it by prayer, spiritual reading, service to the Gospel, and by loving in a God- breathed way in activities and relationships.  That’s for starters.    It’s the success formula and story of many a saint, such as the single Canadian woman Blessed Marie Leonie Paradis, whose feast is May 3rd. She came from a poor but religious family. Her pursuit of holiness as a Catholic inspired her to become a learned woman of the Faith, going on to teach in places in Canada as in New Brunswick and Montreal, and in the USA in New York and Indiana.  She founded an Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family.  Many others took up an imitation of her zeal for God and love of people.IMAG0460_1

What Marie-Leonie found was of how to let the Risen Lord into her being, so that He might be her inspiration.  She learned to live in tandem with Him.

Indeed.  The Risen Lord seeks avenue to live in His people.  This is the new life.  The prophecy was that God would put in us a new heart and spirit– Yes, His very Self in us.    I in you and you in me, as John’s Gospel tells of Jesus of this rising up life.

How do we say YES to the LORD today to the new life?

We hear about a changed Peter in the Acts 2 reading today for the opening Sunday Scripture.  He now lived in Jesus and we hear how his convicted teachings were so moving that his hearers “were cut to the heart.” They took Peter’s exhortation rather seriously–about becoming saved from their corrupt generation–and it says 3000 people expressed their repentance in baptism in that afternoon described.

A changed new life in the Risen Lord Jesus has the holy power to touch others and make a real difference– whether in St. Peter, Blessed Marie Leonie or in you and I.

So how do we say YES today to being joined in the Easter Lord Jesus, and Rise Up more in the New Life?

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‘Twere True? ‘Tis True

Long Teaching      There is a Part One, Part Two, and a Part Two all in here

Part 1

I heard a phrase this week: “If ’twere true, then it’d be most obvious.”  That twere word is from an old-fashioned English usage as in meaning if it were true (’twere), then it would be ( it’d be or ‘tidbe) thus and such.  I haven’t heard those phrases used in a while… but some folksy speakers favor them still today.  Listening to S.C. nominee Gorsuch speak this week shows that the homespun terminology is still much in circulation.

But how I heard the ’twere phrase was not in a good light.   It was used by some Christian anti-Catholic person, one who unfortunately, was speaking publicly in dead-set opposition to a Living Jesus with us in the Blessed Sacrament.  They said that the Eucharist couldn’t be real because the amazement and convincing factor wasn’t there, in their view.  So, in the folksy, olde-fashioned sentence, they said “if ’twere true, then it’d be most obvious,” meaning that they were trying to debunk the Eucharist*, saying “it,*” was not really Christ Jesus, in their demanding that, if “it*” were true, some special effects would be seen and felt to support the claim of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in our Catholic belief and practice.  

Cut to chase, the Eucharistic Jesus isn’t exciting enough for them to be real.  “It” seems too ordinary to them.  

What a short-sighted point of view this seems to be.   The “it” actually is a Person: Jesus.  There view does slight the Lord in some certain way.  

I am reminded of the account in Mark 6 when people also dismissed Jesus by saying that “they knew” how he was only (merely) a carpenter, just an ordinary relative from Nazareth, son of Joseph.  They “knew” it.  They made noise that Jesus could NOT be anything more (and surely not Messiah).   We know now how very wrong they were in belittling Jesus.  

Same thing with belittling Him as Sacrament and Bread of Life among us today. That’s a big mistake to make. It leaves out a major, personal experience of Christ from their lives.  Yet we Catholics will need to be the witness to His Real Presence, so that all Christians can be led to Him, the Bread of Life, for their full nourishment.

To those statements above of expecting a sign, or refusing to believe, I thought: ‘Like what special effects are they looking for to have prove to themselves the Eucharist is really Jesus?! A tingling sensation? A taste of true blood? A stupendous, instantaneous, miraculous healing to the communicant?’ What ‘special effects’ were they seeking of Christ or of the Church’s relationship to Jesus as Eucharistic Lord for our pilgrimage Home?   In their current faith practice, is it all a big feelings kind-of-experience they demand to have called their Christianity?  There is fault in that orientation, if so.

There are clear descriptions in the Bible (as proof) for the Real Presence, too, if they are searching.  I wondered:  How more clear in The Word can it be that John the Baptist or John the Apostle call Jesus the Lamb of God, or that Jesus calls Himself as “the Bread of Life” or the “Living Bread of Heaven,” as for us to “take and eat?!” of Him? ! (John 6, Luke 22)  Or, that He offered Himself purposefully on the exact Jewish Passover for sacrifice (John 13, Matt. 26), which was unnecessarily dramatic of Jesus if twere only a symbolic gesture He was making.  Yet, what if the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus, is Real Presence Blood to save us from death in sin?   Hebrews 9:11-28 has something to say about that, of this Church today in a living practice of Christ’ offering, as while we seek His Glory to come.  (Read it.)

Experientially, at each Mass, I get a sense of the blood on the doorpost of our hearts being applied onto us and into us, who want to be saved from death and our sins.  This, of course, is an update to the exodus story, as we live under the Exodus march now of Jesus.  As the author of Hebrews writes to the believers to experience in their present-time:  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14)

Oh my!   The anti-Catholic said “if ’twere true”– scoffing as he said it… but hallelujah, “TIS TRUE.   JESUS IS AMONG US IN HIS BODY AND BLOOD in the work of salvation, and He is building us up to serve Him for His kingdom!  The “I AM with you always” so promised Jesus at His Ascension (Mt. 28:16-20).  Jesus IS Sacrament and Paschal Mystery for us now, so that the great I AM has been and is now and will be ministering to us of His feast of salvation.

As for a convincing proof of Himself as Bread, back in Jesus’ public ministry in Israel, do your remember the big deal Jesus made of it about Himself.  In John 6, it says how even many disciples and the apostles did not get it, of what Jesus did after the Miracle of the Loaves.   Due to that, Our Lord said:  “You had your fill of the miracle loaves, but do you still not believe?”   The people had missed the sign (sacrament) unveiling of Jesus.  So, even with much of an amazing thing occur on the hill with the multitudes with all them getting fed from practically nothing at hand, they still didn’t believe.   Why not?  Because it was not to be any special effects or spectacle that would win hearts.  Jesus knew it was all about faith and its desire to catch on and believe.   In that John 6 dialogue text, Jesus asked His apostles, ‘as many have left, over this hard teaching, do you also want to leave?’  Peter spoke for the Twelve that they were staying; faith helped them see the Living God before them in Jesus–and in His signs.  ‘You offer Everlasting Life, Master!,’ says Peter, indicating that he and the band of apostles were remaining with The Lord.

So, it is true that some sincere disciples for Jesus today can get it wrong, at first, about Jesus as the Sign of God, the Sacrament for a living encounter in the Divine.   But we wish for them to “get it.” (Only by Grace did we, too.)

These denials of fundamentalists and charismatic Protestants and other non-Catholics about the truth of the Eucharistic Christ today are familiar.  Many do say something like the man did (If t’were true, tid’be most obvious); but they are exercising their prideful demands a bit too far.  Faith seeks understanding, and we hope they will arrive there to know Jesus as Sacrament.

There’s hope people will come to The Eucharist.  The Holy Spirit will be looking to draw them in to glorifying God by such an embrace of Jesus Real Presence.

In seeking such a demanding physical proof of God (sign, on their terms), maybe by faith they can really become surprised, because God IS offering a physical manifestation of His works in the 7 Sacraments.  It’s just not of the double-wow factor.   Jesus comes meek and humble among us.  That’s so vital a lesson to see in the Gospel story. Jesus says: “Come to Me… for I Am meek and gentle of heart… I will help your soul find its rest.”  That is the same Lord of the Gospels Who is Sacrament today.  We meet Him on those humble terms.  We kneel often in His Sign Presence to us, as in Mass or Reconciliation or in a Matrimonial union or Holy Orders consecration.   It’s a humble thing to experience God in Christ in Sacrament..

Part Two.   ‘TIS THE LAMB LEADING US!  IMAG0206

Our Lord And Savior Jesus presented Himself humbly before the Father.  See our Mediator kneeling in the Garden of Gethsename in our illustration on the page.

He kneels in a humble offering to God, doing so in the time directly which had followed the First Mass, the Last Supper.  Only in our own exercise of humility will we take note of God come to us in all humility.

Jesus Himself in His public ministry (as told in the gospels) was not touring around like a rock-star of today.  He did not have elaborate clothes, house musicians, magnetic appeal, and an oversized, look-at-Me personality.   As some Nazarenes commented of Him:  ‘You’re just a poor carpenter’s son, and a lone carpenter yourself now and widows son (with Joseph gone), and merely a relative of people we know, a man of no privilege (Mark 6).  How at all could you, Jesus, be God (?), the Messiah?’ they scoffed.

This denial of Jesus Christ as God in the flesh was a regular thing as Our Lord was in ministry, and that of some of the Jews rejecting Him when He came is clearly told in the New Testament.

Later, the rejection of Jesus as God in the flesh was the break of the first heretics of Christianity.   Interestingly, there is a tie-in to the same rejection of Jesus as Eucharist.  This has also been going on from early on in Christianity, though very much more in recent decades and centuries.   Many non-Catholic Christians insist on living apart from the Sacraments of the Church of the 2000-year-old Church begun by Jesus.  Why such resistance??

Refusal to acknowledge Jesus as Sacrifice and Sacrament in the Eucharist has been going around for centuries, even so in the time of Christ ministry itself (e.g. “How can He give us His flesh to eat?!” –John 6) ‘and many no longer followed Him (after His Bread of Life teaching).’

The connection of God coming as human and as flesh/sacrament are much related– The Word is Flesh; The Word is also Eucharist.  He is the same Word, expressed as flesh.   Think of the many times in bible stories when people would not acknowledge Jesus as God among them, because He was of the flesh.  They couldn’t imagine God as flesh, therefore, they would not believe.  The Lord in flesh was an automatic disqualifier for them.   Even the crucifixion of Jesus was about some Jewish leaders asking for the death sentence for a man claiming to be God among them as a man.   But, oh how wrong those Sanhedrin were!

Jesus said that He was giving His flesh for the life of the world, and that His Body offered was becoming Eucharist for the faithful:  God was extending His visit as flesh and His Presence to us via Sacrament.   The God Who became small as an embryo once was even becoming present as hosts and parts of bread transubstantiated.  Amazing this Lord of Heaven is!

It is important, then, to see how the objection of Jesus as God/man is tied together with the objection to Him as the Eucharistic Sacrifice today.  They are closely related.  As a person like this twere person goes so vehemently against Jesus as Bread of Life Sacrament, I suppose that they would have also missed Jesus as the Man of Galilee too.  Jesus just wasn’t spectacular or obvious enough for some people, I suppose. 

The recognition of the mystery of God among us is by faith, and that recognition is a Gift.  This is so true a point.   At some time in our lives we Christians all need to become like Thomas the apostle, who was missing from the assembly, and to come in and see what the others had said was true.   Thomas examines “the Body and Blood Jesus– even the nailmarks–and gets that it is all indeed true, so to exclaim “My Lord and My God.”  Believers outside of the Eucharist need to come in to those believers with the Eucharist and to recognize Jesus as the Eucharist, so to say “My Lord and My God” to the Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus said something very important to Thomas upon the doubting apostles’ coming back into the fold:  “Blessed are those who have not seen (nailmarks like you have here), yet who will still believe.”  

Because it is all by faith that we see.   No tingling or sensations, no fireworks, no overwhelming feelings– just Jesus recognition. 

The Jesus received in Mass from the faithful is related to same Man of Galilee, the man so often spurned, because of denials by so many that He was God in the flesh with them.  Read the Bible accounts. They are many detailing the above rejection.   When the Lord Jesus was in public ministry, numbers of people also demanded certain signs or amazing proofs from Him, in that same special effects mode, but Jesus did not serve them in that flashy way.  In fact, Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus doing many works among them in humble ways, almost as in secret.  Faith not flash was the way into intimacy with Christ.  The Gospels all communicate how Jesus was indeed already their Sign of Signs right in their midst.  He was Sacrament; He was sign– but not to the demand of people for a spectacular sign.  He came as one of us, not to wow but to gently meet us and heal us and save us. He once concluded, “This is a people making demands but no more sign shall be given them but for the sign of Jonah ( referring to His Rising from the dead).”. That would be His major sign, but it would only be manifest to people who were in faith with Him.

Jesus comes to us, maybe more humbly in surprise to us than we could ever expect.

Yet He is here.   Humankind, in our folly, make our demands on God, rather than roll out the red carpet and ask however might receive Him in. It is all due to our want to deny our sin and our need for help and transformation, and of our resistance to let it happen on GOD’ S terms, not our own.   It’s a problem of pride.   Believers who say they belong to Christ have such problems sometimes in pride, though given by word of promise to Christ the Lord.  Yet they fully don’t know Him yet.  They also are prone to errors.  Just read the epistles of the New Testament from James through Jude, and you hear the apostles trying to keep the Church one and true and moving to deeper conversion and convictions, rather they might lose their faith.  (John’s letters are particularly strong.)

Yet Jesus IS a challenge to us.   Anyone who says He is peachy and easy and just a buddy Savior has much more to know of Him.   When Jesus came, He knew that He would experience rejection or refusal from people to Who His True Identity.  John’s Gospel leads off with the real challenge before us:  “The Word became flesh… and to as many as received Him, to them He gave right to be becoming as children of God.”

Even while getting rejected as the Son of God meekly ‘sneaking’ (past our prideful eyes) into our world and history, Jesus continued to affirm His identity as The I AM.  He was God in human existence with us, and the God of eternity.  He said basic things (as recorded further in John’s Gospel) such as “he(she) who believes in Me (as such) has eternal life.”. “I AM the Bread of Life… anyone who eats of Me, this bread, has life eternal, and anyone who does not, does not have eternal life.”   Jesus says this.   The gospel records it.

‘Tis True.

Ah, the Irish like this word, ‘Tis!      And with the Real Presence, we Catholics can say of its truth:  ‘Tis!!

It also says clearly in John than many people left Jesus, because of not accepting who He was or what He said, as in looking for a different Messiah.  In His teaching on the Eucharist, particularly, they left Him. (See John 6.) These were those ’twere true, then followers.  They stopped following the Real Jesus due to stipulations, one might say.  Could they have been saying;  “Jesus, you are too much of the ordinary and sublime to actually be the Divine One you claim to be.’

Oh how wrong they were then.  And now.

Part 3.   Our Catholic testimony.   People undeserving but who have been blessed to see.

What the non-Catholics (who kid us about wafer worship) just don’t know!  Jesus is Eucharist for His people on the journey home to Him.   This is so dear to us who are Catholics.  It also startles us about Jesus.  Our God Who becomes small, whether as baby and man, or as Eucharist host– He does risk being missed or unnoticed or even disrespected or rejected.

By grace, we in the Catholic Church (and other Real Presence believers) have recognized Him, like those who did when on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24).  Praise be Jesus for His revelation to His people, and for His Gift to the Church.  The hidden part of the Emmaus story is of persons who had walked along as if without Jesus, and even heard His words, still had not caught on Who He was until the breaking of the bread.  Then, they knew Him.

We Catholics claim and believe God is with us, and even in ordinary-style signs and sacraments.  The Lord is right here among us, yet He still can be missed, as by those who will not see.  He is Sacrament to continue a physical reality with His Church, yet people just will not abide with Him in this Way.   I think of many ex- Catholics who have voted so with their departure from Mass-going. They had been right near Jesus, even to receive Him in as gift, but have departed away from this intimacy with Jesus to prefer some other place or experience.  Sad.  

Some of the younger generations are going off preferring a more dynamic, entertaining style of Jesus.  Even some of the older folks, too.  Yet the Word says “He came meekly.”  Notice it in Him as the babe in Bethlehem (Mt. 2).  Or the man of Galilee walking up to John the Baptizer (Mt. 11).   Or the man preaching on the hillsides (blessed are the meek–Mt. 5).   Or the one describing Himself:  “I AM meek and humble of heart.  Come to me, and rest. (Mt. 11:29).”   This One Person also proclaims I AM Food in John 6, to “eat and drink of Me,” as does He say in the Last Supper Gospels.

‘Twere true?   It really is true that the Humble Jesus, as in Mystery among us as Eucharist, is missed, or even dis-missed by people today.  Yet He is Real-ly there. Those who seek, find– says Jesus.  May they find Him as Eucharist among us.

How I love the EWTN tv show that has all the testimonials of people of other religions or denominations who have come to recognize Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread.   The show is called “Journey Home.”   Other live call-in radio shows on EWTN’s network feature many more such testimonies.   Catholic Answers Live is full of Eucharistic Jesus confessors.  ‘Tis True, they say.

Of my hurts as a priest is to know of former Catholics or former practicing Catholics who are not with us in Sacred Liturgy now.  I dearly pray for them to Come Home.

‘Twere is probably a poor relative of ’twas, as in “once before, He was my Eucharist, but not now.” As in someone saying: “I don’t want Him to be.  I want something more amazing or appealing.”   Would they demand it to not be so, of this Eucharist not to be Him?

As the destiny of the believer is to gather around the Throne in praise of the Lamb, in the Liturgy of Heaven, going to Mass is a getting ready and acquainted with the Lord as He is worshipped forever.   The Holy Mass is our connection even now to Heaven’s liturgy, as they go on simultaneously.   Scott Hahn’s book “The Lamb’s Supper” is a great read for someone to see the message of the Book of Revelation as of a communion of the Church triumphant in Heaven, united to believers of the Church Militant (fighting the good fight soulfully on earth’s pilgrimage) and the Church Suffering.   All are united into the Sacrifice of the Lamb, and we are made worthy only in the Lamb’s Offering.   Again, this is all about the meaning and mystery of Holy Mass.

As John’s Gospel proclaims, Jesus is God in the flesh… and then Jesus says “my flesh is real food, eat it in remembrance of Me… this is My Body…My Blood for you.”   In each Mass, we acknowledge this Truth.  ‘Tis True.   Blessed is the Lamb Who was slain, who reigns now.  This is the celebration of Heaven, of and in and by The Lamb Jesus.

And on earth we pray in every Mass:  “Lamb of God… have mercy on us… grant us peace.”

Mary, our model believer, embraces the Word made flesh among us. At the start to finish.IMAG0820_1IMAG0244

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twere.  ‘Tis.   Two shall be one, Bride to BrideGroom.

Twain is another old English language word with a tw start.  It’s used in phrases like “never the twain shall meet” but also in wedded lines like “twain thee, one love now.”

Which shall it be of the Eucharistic Lord Jesus: Never the twain shall meet (me and Jesus as Bread of Life)–or– twain us, one Communion and bond, Lord?

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I think I will sign off on that.  (I’d tweet off, but this is a blog!  If it ’twere a tweet, then this message would have been over in the first sentence! )

Photo:  San Juan Cathedral in the week of Epiphany.  I con-celebrated some Masses here.   In Spanish.

Bible Study Homily Jan 14/15 Church On The Move

Christmas season hopefully was a blessing for you, and now you ought to take the Christmas momentum of faith and move forward in holiness…into Ordinary Time.

On that subject, let’s do a Bible reflection with today’s second reading, and hear how St. Paul began to address the Corinth church and of how they were doing after he moved on from pasturing them.  It was all about their momentum (or non-momentum) of faith of why he wrote back to that church community.

As today’s epistle starts, Paul with Sosthenes were writing in hopes that the Corinthians would be  experiencing more deeply the sanctification given them by Jesus Christ.  Paul writes the letter because he is hearing reports that this Greek church was not staying united and motivated by the Spirit, but rather falling back into carnal-led living with factions and divisions. He does not want them to lose out from all the blessings they started with.

The report leads Paul to start off by saying he is writing to them as their bishop and shepherd, as “an apostle of Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:1) so he is speaking seriously and pastorally to them.   In other words– the epistle is starting to say:  ‘Your apostle speaks to you.  Why aren’t you letting the Spirit move you forward?  I hear of factions now, and some of you slipping back into carnal-only living.’   So, the bishop, their teacher, wants to teach them some more about keeping in the Faith and moving forward in it as a “Church on the move.”   Hello, it’s your pastor speaking…

In 1 Cor. 1:verses 2 and 7  Paul gets to the heart of the epistle’s message:  ‘You have been sanctified and made holy in Christ Jesus.  You are not lacking in any spiritual gift at your disposal.  So, grow brothers and sisters, grow in faith!

That is his opening.  Such an epistle does apply to us, too.  Even looking back to our own Christmas time just past, the Lord says that Christmas called us into sanctification in Christ, and now how are we doing in mid-January?    Is the effect of a Holy Christmas now giving us a start of a holy, sanctified year?

Let me comment on Paul’s words:  He is saying in Corinthians, in its start, and throughout the letter, how this gift of God in Christ presented to us is not just a past thing– our sanctification in Christ (or of Christmas) is meant to call us into further growth of holiness for right now–for we are the Church on the move.

Paul says to his church community– you need to keep growing beyond your start and foundation level, as it was when I, apostle Paul, pastored there for 18 months.   What about your growth NOW?  The call of holiness is beckoning you.  Become all the child of God you are mean to be.  As it says in verse 2: “you are called to be holy” and “with all those everywhere who call upon…Jesus Christ.”    You individually are called to be holy.   We communally are called to be holy, with all those calling on Jesus Christ.

A Church on the move… that’s the title of a book your parish staff is reading and discussing now. Are we such a parish?

In 1 Cor. 1: verse 2b takes our study further in today’s Word.  Paul says that believers are people who “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  There are two things there to point out–the Calling Out, AND the precious Name of the One called.

We are to call out for Him, asking for our continued growth.  We call out to God.  We are saying:  ‘Look, God!  I am open to You.   I am truly Your possession.  Please live in and through me.’

Perhaps the phrase “cry out” would say it better, for it puts some passion to the prayer.  “Help me, Lord.  I need You.  I cry out– help me not to just live alone, as in relying just on me.  You are in my life, so I am open to You, Lord, to live in me.  We’re partners!”

So, first we cry out. Then there is Who we cry out to.  We cry out not to an empty sky, nor to an unknown God.  We use the Name of Jesus.   He’s known. He is a Person.  It is He who lives in us, personally. We say His Name, and make it personal back to Him. Our relationship is about a  personal exchange with God.  And, He is not just your God, He is personally our God.  Our God.  The Corinthians were getting selfish again and forgetting that aspect.

So can we Bowieans or St. Edwardians forget how we are a saved community and fellow pilgrims, who are on the move, into sanctified life.

What is our common bond?  We belong to God now.  We long to be inhabited by God more deeply and meaningfully in our souls, for God to come as life to each of our being, and corporately so, and so for us all to be on a first-name basis with God and fellow believers here. That is what “church” is.

As we move on in our Bible reflection, we go to verse 3, which says next: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”

So the first two verses were of hearing of our calling to sanctification (the ongoing work past the foundational work of salvation) and then crying out the Name of the Lord together, which thirdly now provides steps of our being led on to  grow in grace and peace in Christ.  Look at verse 3 again and what it says.  Notice how sometimes those very words are in the greeting at Sunday Mass, as in “The Grace and Peace of our LORD be with you all.”

We have a 2017 theme of a Year of Grace in the Church.   What is grace?  How does it lead to peace?  A-ha! Guess what our church theme is for 2017?  It is understanding Grace and living in it under God.

There is sanctifying grace and actual grace.   There is Grace in the Sacraments with Our Lord.   There is a simple grace in any prayer we make.   There is living in grace, as in accepting Jesus.  There are virtues to live out for to be graceful.   Many virtues.  We can explore it all this Year of Grace 2017.

If we can understand and accept how God favors us, then we can give in, by humbling ourselves, to receive it (grace)–and so let the inner life of us have its fill of The Lord and His Light.  God so much wants us for His possession, as we say “yes” to Him.   He does not force things, but looks for us to accept things trustingly and lovingly from Him.  We progress in the Lord gracefully!

Knowing Jesus and living in relationship with Him together, by grace, leads to us knowing the Father.  As we come into deeper holiness, we delight in what is going on.  We are being transferred and transformed from this carnal and temporal world into the life of the kingdom, that is, in Christ Jesus, with He in us and we in Him.

Amazing.   Amazing is Grace.

To be in grace is to celebrate living in holiness and favor of God.  Just to offer a peak at where 1 Corinthians 1 was going onto today–Verse 8 of the chapter says that, by this plan, ‘He will keep you firm to the end,” to our fulfillment into Glory.  Verse 9 reminds us the key lesson of grace, in that “God is faithful, and by Him you were called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Lordship part of that verse is important.  Jesus must reign in us.   The flag of God’s possession must wave freely and reverently over our hearts in the Church.

May I just add on another Bible verse that Paul wrote that backs up this sanctification thing and this renewal and grow thing to our Catholic faith?  In Titus 3, a text proclaimed on Christmas Dawn Mass, it says this:“….when the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Whom He richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might become justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life…”

The text brings up that word again of “grace” and it speaks of a persons progress in justification to live it fully, and then it says how grace helps us “become heirs” to eternal life.   That’s big.   And how does it happen?   It says that Jesus saved us “through a bath of rebirth” (that’s the sanctification that 1 Cor. 1 spoke of) AND then by a “renewal in the Spirit (which 1 Cor. 1 also refers to, as in our way to grow in holiness, or grace.

Grace will have much to remind us of how Christ’ Gift in us and of His working Holy Spirit will lead us as His “Church On The Move.”  In our context of the Christmas Mystery, our celebration of Jesus is that He is come and He has sanctified us.

Next is God’s plan to call us into holiness. It is called the bath of renewal, which means, Life In The Spirit.  The Gospel today has John the Baptist say, “He is the One Who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”

I hope you are ready for that kind of work in 2017 in your soul.

To be a people on the move, a Church On The Move in the Spirit.

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Photo One: Singers at one of our Samba Gabi Christmas Novena Masses.

img953712Photo Two: Singers at another one of our Christmas Novena Masses.

“Little” Christmas Homily (and Words to How Many Kings)

imag0762_1Gaspar (Caspar) comes with Frankincense for the newly arrived King, Whose Star he followed.  This is a photo of a little statue I have on my vehicle dashboard.  Since last Christmas, I have had a devotion to this Magi Saint.

Little Christmas really isn’t so little.  The Epiphany is among the five biggest feasts of the Western (Latin- Roman Catholic) Church, included with Easter, Pentecost, Holy Thursday, and Christmas.  For some Catholics, and Orthodox believers, Epiphany outdoes Christmas, as they observe the Gentile coming to the Savior as “our” receiving the Light of Christ (as the Gentiles).   It makes all good sense.   It is the way they do it in Puerto Rico, where I have just spent the few days leading up to Epiphany.   There they exchange the presents on Epiphany, and have the bigger liturgy of the season, and do publicly celebrate Christ’ Birth.   It was quaint to see Old San Juan city have three dressed-up Magi figures walking the streets and posing on city squares and parks in the hype leading to the Feast of the Magi.imag0904

Of course, I am partial to Gaspar, the king who brings the gift to The Priest-King, in incense.

How so?  Well, it is via Holy Orders that I bring much of my gift to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am happy to returned here to St. Edwards for Epiphany Mass with you, here at home, and we have lots of festivity planned for today, with the extra carols before Mass, and our extra music in this Mass, and with our parties after all the Masses.   So we are try to do up Little Christmas a bit big, too.

I also have a Mass on this feast down at the Basilica Shrine for Mary as I con-celebrate a Mass with Cardinal Wuerl (2:30 p.m. today) in honor of some special parish helpers throughout the Archdiocese, and the Mass will be a big, festive one too.

I would like now to share a Christmas song with you that speaks of the Birth of the King of Kings, with honor given Him by magi, and the song communicates the wonder at how our King arrived among us.  I will sing it to you now.  It was recorded by the Christian Contemporary group called “Downhere.”   The song is named:  “How Many Kings.” thk5lnzl74

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected,
A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl
Just a child
Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have, whether costly or meek
Because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he will suffer
Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

All for me
All for you  (Chorus– How Many Kings…)

I was excited the first time I heard that song.  I have the recording of How Many Kings off a special Christmas CD.   I do love it when someone comes up with a new song to honor Christ (especially easy ones for guitar and voice).

The Magi followed a secondary sign to get to the primary sign.  The secondary sign was the Star.  It was leading them to the primary sign of seeing The Child Jesus, their shared hope for a world to be led by a Savior King.

I will propose to you that we practicing believers in Jesus are for many people their secondary sign.  We are like the Star over Bethlehem.   If we are living in the Light of Lights, then we shine The Hope for the world, that One can lead them to their fulfillment and destiny, and highest love. To God Himself.

Our lives should point to Jesus.   He is the Primary Sign.   Sign also means Sacrament, so we today in this liturgy point to Christ among us as Living Sign in the Eucharist.   Our lives also bear the saving life of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ.   This life we share, as our Communion or common-union.   We are drawn to Christ.   We shall encounter Him anew, celebrate the joy of salvation, and go forth from here as people of light.   Just as the shepherds went forth praising and glorifying God, and the Magi went forth in the same way, you and I have an invitation to experience the King of Kings (as He presents Himself to our lives) and to go forth in new life and a happy or content faith.

We have a community here to bear witness of what Christmas is truly about.  Let’s shine our light!

To you who have not experienced Light and inspiration this Christmas, then I invite you to extend the season and to seek Him to bring you light.   Go all the way to the Feast of the Presentation, if you so need to, as I have sometimes done in my life— seeking the renewal to the heart of the Mystery of Christmas.  The Presentation is the 40th day of Jesus’ life, when brought into the Temple at Jerusalem and ritualistically offered to God, especially as a first-born son who opened Mary’s womb.  February 2nd is the Feast of Presentation, by the way.

If you are still looking for Christmas, or wanting to savor it more, I can offer two reading suggestions– maybe for you to peruse “Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives” by Pope Benedict– or to read “The Day Christ Was Born” by Jim Bishop.  Both are good.

Why do we need to shine for Christmas?  Because people need to be led to the Lord by you and I, and they will notice the Light of Christ upon us, if it glows outward or inwardly.  We are the secondary sign, like the Star, which led the Magi.   Who knows whom will be led to Christ by your light (?) or mine, but it is your vocation to shine Jesus.   If they can see the reality of Christ shining upon and in us, then they will be led to Jesus Himself, the primary sign, Who will want to encounter them personally and bring them into His marvelous Light and Presence, too.   Do we not long to have that happen to some people around us in our life?

I see one of you in church today.  It was one of your neighbors who saw a light in you, and they came to Christmas Mass one year.  Now that man is a Sunday Massgoer, active in Church service, and he personally tithes money to provide a full scholarship to Catholic school for another parish member’s single child ( of a single-parent home).  Best of all, that returned Catholic is living like they are hopeful for Heaven.  Did your shining light matter to that soul? You bet it did.

Notice in today’s gospel that Herod had no clue of what or who the Magi were seeking.  Even though he sat in the chair as king of Israel in Jerusalem, though as a puppet king and sider and server of Rome, he had to consult other people of what the Scriptures and prophetic writings foretold of a coming Messiah.    It hadn’t been on his radar, nor had he known anything what the prophet Micah had preached. It just hadn’t been of any concern to him.  What a contrast the indifferent Herod was to the heart searching Magi, huh?!

Herod only wanted to know where the Magi’s star child was so as to wipe out the threat to his own reign as a king in Jerusalem.   Sad.   But the Magi perceived this, and they never came back from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to inform Herod that they had found the Hope of Hopes.  They went home by another way, and the Holy Family left Bethlehem, too, and disappeared from danger.

We in today’s time know the story, and we celebrate the Birth of Jesus, the Eternal Son Who came to earth to share life among us as man, too.   He is Savior and King of Kings.  We worship Him in a special way today, of how God manifested Himself in this Jesus of Nazareth, child of Bethlehem 2017 years ago.

Next week, friends, I will preach on the topic:  “What does a None celebrate during Christmas?”  A None is a person who says that their religion or belief in God is “none.”

The end of the road for a None is like the one in this photo.  Let us help people never to reach such a spot.   Share your faith and love of the Lord.

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Wedding Thoughts (Saturday homily)

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Here are some nice sayings from a wedded person to another, speaking of complimentarity….

Wedding Thoughts

You are the mac to my cheese
You are the horizon to my sky
You are the bacon to my eggs
You are the laces to my sneakers
You are the jelly to my peanut butter
You are the smile to my face
You are the gravy to my mashed potatoes
You are the bubble to my bath
You are the ink to my pen
You are the lead to my pencil
You are the ketchup to my french fries
You are the water to my ocean
You are the icing to my cake
You are the colors to my rainbow
You are the syrup to my pancakes
You just make life so in agreement with mine, and make it so much better!

Here now are some sayings on married love and newlywed love and advice…

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person.
- Mignon McLaughlin

Love is a surprise that God gives, like the gallons and gallons of wine for the Cana couple, for days and days of celebration, and where they had lack, and knew not of it, God knew, and gave, and the need was supplied gracefully, by Jesus, as His wedding gift, as given through Mary’s participation.
–John 2 meditation

Love is so big… this gift that God offers, so let it be a moving sea between the shores of your souls, as you love one another by it.
- Based on Gibran, The Prophet

I have found the one whom my soul loves.
- Song of Solomon 3:4

Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible—it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.
- Barbara de Angelis

As it was in the beginning, God created them, male and female… and a man shall leave his parents, and a woman leave her home, and the two shall cleave to each other and become as one, anew! Be fruitful and multiply.
–Genesis 2

The moment I heard my first love story I began seeking you, not realizing how the search was to be reached. I needed to learn a lesson, so to find you, that, lovers don’t just meet somewhere along the way. They’re in one another’s souls from the beginning.
- Rumi

There is no remedy to love but to love more.
- Henry David Thoreau

Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Love is patient and kind… not envious nor boastful… and it need not insist… for love believes, love bears, love conquers all, and while it’s important to have faith and hope, the greatest of virtues is love. Love never fails, it is ever and always.
–1 Cor. 13

Two souls with but a single thought, Two hearts that beat as one.
- John Keats

Love isn’t blind; it just only sees what matters.
- William Curry

Our love in sum? What mattered most? We were together. I forget the rest.
- Walt Whitman

When I first saw you I fell in love and smiled because you knew.
- William Shakespeare

Mike and Amanda, may God bless you in marriage, as His newest love story in the world.
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Homily: 8-14. A Summer of Luke– and Jesus hopes that we fully Acquire the Fire

Jesus desires that we fully Acquire the Fire. He speaks a line in today’s Luke 12:49 that says that He came to earth as Son of God to bring a Fire of Love and Life into us. He hopes it were already enkindled and ablaze, too.

Yet we will need to generously and openly and deeply receive this Holy Fire, and this is what God is waiting upon. The Fire of Faith outpouring is in the receiving phase. How will we freely comply in and cooperate with in God’s works?!

(This Luke 12:49 verse is the one I put on my 1988 ordination holy card, praying for a renewed Church ahead and a fired- up and inspired me!)

As we go through the Summer of 2016 in the Gospel of Luke, via chapters 9-13, we are given lessons on prayer, kingdom living, discipleship, intimacy with God, and now on The Holy Spirit. We also have been admonished this Summer about greed and vanity, or falling to foolish temptations. We heard the surprise word to Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the better part, which was sitting in an intimate circle with Rabbi Jesus. That was meant to unsettle those Gospel hearers who only want to be doers, to the exclusion of taking some quiet time of simply being with Jesus to learn from Him and to be personally loved.

We also had Jesus spell out who is our neighbor and where we might have problems with putting distances up to shut away certain people from us, in an unwelcome spirit. There are indeed some places God’s Word is pointing out of how we can better Acquire the Fire.

These are all inter-related Summer lessons in Luke, positive or biting, and they are all leading us to the same place– to be enkindled in God’s life, love and light. Luke is an inspired Gospel taking us somewhere– to become surrendered enough to be in God’s possession over us. This may bring some friction even with family members who don’t want a relationship with God. Jesus says to believe and get fired up in Him anyway.

That we become enkindled in God and fulfill in Him is Jesus’ dream in Luke 12:49
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Jesus says His friendship now can be in our hearts, as He sends the Holy Spirit.
God helps us to be stirred up to a new life with Him, no longer as distant or lost people away from Him, nor from others in His Body, but to now follow Him closely in faith and love right towards Heaven– the pilgrim’s destination.

Christian Life is participating together into Christ via the Spirit. He’s the mover and inspiration. He’s the full Fire to Acquire.

So–Pray! Love! Be thankful! Be glad! Serve! For we are children of God now, as pilgrims for paradise. When we act so, The Holy Spirit is upon us, and we’re being led to victory.

Just to repeat it: In Luke 12:49, Jesus is praying in hope that the fire of The Spirit would catch on and spread to a full blaze. He has come as Light to the world, and now will people freely and fully receive Him and His Spirit? That’s His pondering in Luke 12. He would ponder about it with us today.

The more we can get fired up about the Gospel of Jesus and His call–the better we’d all be. Jesus desires that the Fire be ablazing, but alas! It isn’t fully yet. Yet His Spirit will be offered and poured out on believers.

We are heading onto victory, if we follow Jesus. Sunday’s epistle today pictures Jesus as the pioneer and perfector of our Faith (Phil.3). The Word asks us to strive or strain forward to our goal and victory in Christ. The language sounds like Olympic talk, and it’s intended so. Paul was writing to Greeks in Phillipi who loved athletic competition. They’d be the ones to lay the ground for what are today our Olympic games.

As we watch the end of the Olympics, realize that those games will end, with a limited few athletes going home with the gold. Even so, Jesus intends for US to be winners in the Game of Life, to come up to Heaven one fine day and walk the streets of gold in glory.
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We are proud our Olympians of the USA. We had some speedy swimmers, like Katy Ladecki and Michael Phelps, and nimble gymnasts like 4 ft. 8″ Simone Biles, and some fast track racers in the Games like that Jeff Henderson long-jump guy.

May THEIR great earthly striving for a medal, encourage US to compete in the FAITH for a life well-lived and trained in righteousness for the ultimate reward: “I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus has for me… straining to what is ahead… toward the goal and prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus… In the end, God will transform us, even from our lowly bodies.”

Mary’s Assumption—some of the special plusses

th8UXRGELI O Blessed God of Heaven, I sit for awhile on a Summer evening, pondering the wonders that are still hidden from my eyes and my mind. Yet, by faith, I grasp some things. Like that Mary is in Heaven, body and soul. Images in Revelations of Mary tell me so, and, like 2000 years of Church believers, I do believe in Our Lady of Victory, the Blessed Assumption, Mary.

I am glad we Catholic Christians can celebrate Mary’s Assumption. It gives us some real plusses for our Christian faith to have Mary’s Victory to honor and her relationship to us as Mother and First Christian to bless us. I will mention four plusses.

Firstly, the Assumption of Mary is a gift of joy to us. Pope Emeritus Benedict has said: “The feast of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won. Love has won. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that this strength is goodness and love. Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven: there is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us. We have a mother in heaven. And the Mother of God, the Mother of the Son of God, is our Mother too. He Himself has said so. He made her our Mother when He said to the disciples and to all of us: ‘Behold Your Mother.’ We have a Mother in heaven. Heaven is open. Heaven has a heart. What a plus–to see it via joyful favors by Mary.”

Secondly, the Assumption of Mary, as related to her becoming pregnant with God’s Son incarnate (as told in tonight’s Gospel), shows her as a Gateway for salvation and the Savior. Mary was God’s gateway to earth and mankind, as Jesus is born in her (and hear the excitement about it in Elizabeth in tonight’s gospel). And now, by her blessed Assumption, she is our gateway to heaven. As the saints and wise believers of the Church have said for about two millennia, as God’s Son chooses to get to us through Mary, so now we get to Jesus through Mary’s help, as she is the model Christian and trusting disciple. Elizabeth shows this initial honor to Mary, as Mary’s relative was “full of the Holy Spirit” as she showered blessed words of Mary. We should pass through the heart of Mary if we are to be truly full-in-faith and children of the Father, while also brothers and sisters of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a plus part of our faith to have Mary, the Gateway.

My third point and “plus” sign is how The Assumption is an effective sign of hope. One of the great rallying cries of Marian-centered groups is that victory comes through Mary. She has conquered death through the power of her Son. She has vanquished Satan and destroyed sin. The Assumption of Our Lady assures us that in the fierce and relentless battle between good and evil in our world and in our own interior lives, if we stay in union with Mary, she will give us the last word and lead us to Jesus her Son. This is a powerful aspect of hope. There are no limits to her maternal love for us and no restrictions on the power of her intercession on our behalf. Our Sunday prayer group, the Catholic Women’s Association, is grounded in this kind of hope and attitude. It is good to be around them.

As for being Our Lady of Hope, in her Assumption, a II Vatican Council statement puts it very simply: “Mary shines forth on earth … as a sign of certain hope and comfort to the Pilgrim people of God.” Back to Benedict’s words. He points out that “only openness to the mystery of God, who is Love, can quench the thirst for truth and happiness in our hearts; only the prospect of eternity can give authentic value to historical events and especially to the mystery of human frailty, suffering and death. The mystery of the Assumption points us to eternity as the ultimate meaning and horizon of our lives.” Amen! What a hope! What a plus!

I have a fourth “plus” point for our Catholic Faith and Dogma on the Assumption of Mary. It is that the blessed Assumption of Mary is a source of Encouragement. It has sometimes been said very beautifully that both humanity and divinity are completely at home in Mary. Certainly, God made the perfect home for His Son in her heart. Our Lord spent thirty times more time with His Mother than He did in His public ministry. One of the homeliest reasons for the Assumption is simply because Jesus wanted his Mother to be with Him in Heaven. They were inseparable in life and it is only fitting they should be inseparable for all eternity. And how can we forget her humanity? She is utterly and completely one of us. She lived the life of grace in this world. She cooked meals and did the washing up, she kept the house clean and met the demands for hospitality and neighborliness, she loved Joseph and then we’d expect took special care of him before his death– far preceding her own sleep to death and assumption. Mary likely quietly and unobtrusively helped people, and no doubt did she inspire people to live gracefully (for she was so lovely, without the stain of sin), and because of that purity she had wisdom to dispense those who turned to her advice. We now can take to her wisdom and care for us, and it is another big plus in our Christianity.

She is joy, and a gateway, and our hope and encouragement to us– all Heaven sent!

In closing, all of this attention from Mary or on Mary never stops on her or comes alone from her. She is Jesus’ gift to us. He is the goal and the One Whom we love, and He lets us have His mother so that we can come Home to Him, and the Blessed Trinity. Mary does not come alone to us, but it is God Who comes and blesses us through her servant-hood. His love, through Mary, is being poured out. All Christians ultimately get to be this undivided love and heart with the Son. We now get to be God-bearers like Mary. We get to be vessels for the Holy Spirit to lead us to glory.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us.
O Immaculate Heart of Mary, assist us in turning away sin, so as to be totally open to God and say Yes every time to Him. Amen, and Amen!

Catholic Music Convention

I am away until Friday the 15th at a Catholic convention. As a photo below shows, the gathering was for hundreds of persons who have an interest and/or participation in Catholic music (used in liturgies). We were gathered together yesterday in singing “worthy is The Lamb to receive power and wealth, and wisdom and might, honor, glory, blessing!” We had a group of musicians leading thw throng, mostly made up of members of an organization called NPM–the National Pastoral Musicians. In this moment captured, our musical instruments were mainly of 2000 voices, joined by a few persons in accompaniment with instruments of strings and keys and horns.

This convention gathers people to bring together some music and praise to God, and to fellowship in the experience, and to go to various workshops and conferences to learn how to enhance Catholic liturgies. People also come to grow in faith and just be inspired by all the music. It’s real enjoyable.

This blog would be served better today if I had audio samples from this week’s convention … with all the musical styles represented and the great teachings. It has been a great feast here for me for the heart and ears.
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I was in a grand closing Mass when everything here seemed to hit its peak. Also, our final plenum was by Fr. Paul Turner as he taught on how our ultimate goal is to praise God in unity, even in our blend of diversity.

In a workshop today, also, a songwriter/liturgist shared some blessings in his life. One such blessing was in how he experiences the prayed Psalms at Mass as truly an act where he prays it WITH CHRIST to the FATHER. He says that The Spirit enables this dynamic prayer orientation. He said this revelation and enhanced prayer at Mass was in realization of how Jesus prayed those same Psalms in His life on earth and as one of us, and how the speaker started entering into the present reality that Jesus still is present to lead and prays the Psalms with His Body on earth. His Word remains active and living! Jesus truly prays the Psalm with us as the grand Mediator of earth to Heaven.

This participation was our subject for discussion and for singing some Psalms together afterwards, using this mindset.

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I come back to pray all the weekend Masses, the confessions, a baptism, and join along with a prayer/Bible study group. ‘See you then!

Good Friday homily: Forgive Injuries

Mass Intro.
In Maryland, we celebrate today, March 25th, exactly, the anniversary of the founding of Maryland as a colony, one for religious freedom, in 1634. Our parish west sanctuary window shows the English connection we have– of Jesuit Fr. Andrew White, the one who prayed the Mass on St. Clement’s Island, Md., marking Maryland’s beginning. It wasn’t Good Friday that year, but it was the Feast of the Annunciation, which, was a great beginnings day for our colony and state., in the womb, that Jesus came to earth. I was pastor there in that corner part of the diocese before I came here. I was praying some Masses on or across St. Clement’s Island; there is a large cross erected there on the island and sometimes the Jesuits bring a piece of The True Cross for Masses there.

Pic of island cross
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IMAG0204HOMILY. Jesus on The Cross is Love & Mercy at its greatest. It is Love best expressed ever on earth. It is Mercy and Forgiveness best expressed ever on earth. It the blessed combination in Jesus. We were the object of that intimate affection and care from God. He came to give us love and mercy. In Jesus. God, too, was hoping we’d return and love Him back. That would be Jesus’ gift of the Cross to the Father: souls returned.
Love Ran Red
Chris Tomlin wrote a song and cd two years ago entitled “Love Ran Red” about the crimson red all around Calvary and all over on Jesus and all spilled to the ground that first Good Friday. The lyrics went “At the Cross, At the Cross, I surrender my life… where your Love Ran Red, and my sin washed white. I owe all to you, I owe all to you.”

The image of the saving blood of Jesus’ splashed and spread all over the wood, while also spilled out like gallons of red pain all upon the hillside under the cross, and even left in a crimson trail where He walked along to Calvary–this is a Color of a Forgiving God. Love Ran Red gushing out onto the centurion who pierced Him, and then the blood of the Crucified was born by Mary as she held her Son in her arms before His being wrapped up into the shroud and onto burial in the tomb. All the objects of blood red was scattered about on Calvary, such as huge nails stained from their job, and the bloody crown of thorns, and the mockery king’s cloak they had put on him for sport, it was left on the ground all red-stained from the scourging’s work, and little streams and puddles of Jesus’ blood offering was at the foot of the Cross, running near where John and Mary and Mary Magdalene and few others were kneeling. Even pieces of flesh, His Body, were seen here and there, most which had peeled off his ribs there on the hill, loosening from the wear of the torture and trial before. St. John, seeing all this, would remember the Lord’s Last Supper’s words, This is My Body, My Blood, given up for you.

All this Blood-and-Body Red was of Jesus’ Self Offering of Love and Mercy given for us. Red was the color of love and of the Divine Mercy. It is poured out at Calvary not just to spill on that ground 2000 years ago, but for the Divine Mercy to pour out upon all of sinners. The “Good” in this Friday is that it was salvation blood for us to have our sins have a victim and offering in our brother Jesus.

Today the bloodiness of the first Good Friday turns to the deep spiritual reality of what happened there and how we are meant to presently experience it. While not at the Foot of the Cross like Mary was, we still nonetheless are asked to be intimate and close to the Mystery, realizing: This Body and Blood of Jesus was/is for us. Because we desperately needed it/need it. We see the Body and Blood from our hearts— in that part of our honest heart that knows he/she deeply needs a Savior.

Some in the world or even churches think that Jesus’ Cross is just some gesture of God from the past, but that’s where the spiritual reality surprises us. It is made present for us. It’s not just a past thing.

The Body and Blood of Christ from the Holy Mass, as established the night before at the Last Supper, is our particular, present connection to the Mystery. Jesus’ offering is a presented to go through time in “the Lord’s Supper.” Jesus said (didn’t suggest): “Do this in memory of Me.”

You could say that Jesus cleans up the bloodiness and horror of His Cross Sacrifice by establishing it as the bread and wine covenant sacrament to become His Body and Blood.
Yet while we see bread and wine, at first, in a Mass, Jesus says it is changed to become Him for us and into us. As He showed His apostles how to do so. Jesus is Sacrament. His Body. His Blood. Love and Mercy run into us at the Mass.

Yet even so striking, in our meditation tonight, Love Ran Red for our sins. Our sins cried out to God and it needed a answer and remedy and offering. Multitudes upon multitudes upon multitudes upon multitudes upon multitudes of sins from sinners needed a perfect answer of love and mercy. Like your sins. Like mine. We got the Answer and Remedy in Jesus on The Cross.

It is such an amazing and deep and lasting gift to sinners that we Catholics now never have to stop receiving of it. We have a Mass going on every second in the world, even scores of them at a time, but at least there is one celebrated in every second of time until Jesus returns. We definitely fulfill a Bible verse that urges: “Proclaim the death of The Lord, until He comes again.”

It’s the Year of Mercy in the Church in this Holy Week 2016 and we try to understand how much God’s love and mercy calls for us to repent of sins and stay turned from them, and so to give love and mercy in return to others as a gift of thanksgiving to God. Our forgiveness from God in Christ is not a past thing, but one that is active in us. This is why we do such things as practice the Spiritual Works of Mercy. I have gone over most of the seven for you this Lent, but saved the toughest one for now. Forgive Injuries is a work of mercy we are called to.

It almost seems impossible to do, but Jesus expects it. It will take grace! Lots of it! Among the injuries we suffer, and the offenses, and trespasses, and hurts and pain endured from others– Jesus asks us to forgive each of them. He taught so in the Lord’s Prayer: “Pray: Forgive us, Lord, our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He taught so in the sermons: “Forgive, as God has forgiven you.” “Do not return hated for hatred. Make love your aim.” “I say, even, pray for your enemies.”

Trespasses sound not as bad as injuries, yet they are forgiven. We can really get hurt by crossed boundaries and violations of other’s rights. Another spiritual work of mercy is to bear wrong’s patiently. That sounds easier than forgive injuries, because one can get scarred by an injury and be hurt for life, so “Forgive Injuries” seems a level up on a scale of difficulty. Yet we hear what Jesus said on The Cross for us: “Forgive them… for they know what they do (or how bad it is.)” Jesus suffered quite an injury. Crucifixion to Death. And on top of it, He was bearing all the sins of the world upon Himself there on The Cross.

He forgave injuries, and some of them were from you and me, even if you think there were worse sins than yours, yours still hurt him. God was so disturbed by our sins and separation from Him, that He came and died for us sinners. That is forgiving injuries.

Now, if you believe upon Him, then you know that the One who forgives all injuries is in you. He has lessons to teach of love and mercy.

So our coming to Eucharist regularly, or even coming to the wooden cross in the church middle aisle tonight, it is opportunity for our response to His Love and Mercy. And it’s our saying how we embrace what He has done for the world (and keeps doing), and pray we can pass the forgiveness along.

Remember the Holy Father’s visit in September 2015? The campaign was “Love is our Mission” by Pope Francis and his message was to practice mercy in that love, for Jesus always did so. popejeep