May 24, 2020
Pastor’s Perspective …
“PASSING THE BATON”
Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven. Our celebration today reminds us of how Jesus, when ascending into heaven, commissioned his disciples just as he is commissioning us today to be his witnesses to the world and his teachers to the nations. The critical moment in a relay race is the passing of the baton from one runner to another. More relay races are won or lost at that moment than any other. The feast of the Ascension might be compared to the passing of the baton in a relay race.
On this occasion over 2,000 years ago, Jesus passed the baton of responsibility for the proclamation of the Kingdom of God to his followers. Jesus commissioned them to carry on the work he has begun. In today’s first reading, Jesus tells his disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. And in the Gospel reading he tells them to be his teachers to the world. Practically, what does this mean? How do you and I, in the 21st century, carry out Jesus’ commission to be his witnesses to the world and his teachers to the nations?
There are many ways to do this as there are many Christians: We can do what two 25-year old college students did recently. After completing their degrees, they entered the seminary. We can do what Albert Schweitzer did. At the age of 30 he abandoned his music career in Europe to study medicine and became a missionary doctor in Africa. We can do what the basketball coach of Spring Hill College, Alabama, did a few years back. At the age of 45, he resigned his position and began to study for the priesthood. We can do what Mother Angelica did. In her 50s she began a religious television network. We can imagine the courage it took for these five people to do what they did.
There is another way to carry out the commission of Jesus, and it probably requires even more courage in the long run. It is to become witnesses and teachers in our homes, our places of work, and our schools. It is to carry out Jesus’ commission wherever we find ourselves. Practically, how do we do this? Do we suddenly turn into religious fanatics and start preaching to our families, our friends, and those around us? Not at all! We do it simply by making effort to become the kind of person God the Father made us to be. We do it simply by making effort to be the type of person Jesus teaches us to be. We do it simply by making effort to become the kind of person the Holy Spirit inspires us to be. We witness to Jesus by our lives: by our love when others need us, by our patience when others annoy us, by our forgiveness when others offend us, and by our perseverance when we feel like quitting.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, our lives speak much more eloquently than our lips do when it comes to witnessing and teaching the Gospel. People would much rather see a sermon than listen to one. Witnessing to Jesus and teaching others about him is simply sharing with them our own faith and love. It’s sharing with them the one treasure we have to share.
As we celebrate the solemnity of Ascension today, Jesus invites us to take from his hand the baton he received from his Father and to continue the work that his Father gave him to do on earth. We are to witness to Jesus and teach other people about him, wherever we find ourselves, and in whatever way the Holy Spirit inspires us to use.
May 17, 2020
Pastor’s Perspective …
“I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU AS ORPHANS”
From Easter to Pentecost, our readings focus on the early evangelizing mission of the apostles and on the promises of Jesus to his disciples, especially his promise of the Holy Spirit. Today's readings, explain who the Holy Spirit is, what his roles are, and how we can experience him in our daily lives.
Our first reading describes how the Holy Spirit helped the apostle Philip, to preach powerfully and convert the Samaritans in large numbers. It also explains how the baptized Samaritans received the fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit, through the imposition of hands by the apostles Peter and John. St. Peter in the second reading explains how the Holy Spirit will help Christians to practice self-control, to defend their beliefs with gentleness and reverence, and to lead faith-filled and God-fearing lives, during opposition and persecution.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus promised his disciples, us included, that he will not leave us as orphans, that he will ask God our Father, to send us another Advocate to be with us always. Jesus’ continued presence in us and in the Church, through the Holy Spirit gives meaning and purpose to all we are and all we do in his name. As the Divine Advocate, the Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds, to receive deeper knowledge of our faith.
In addition, the Divine Advocate will empower us, to defend our faith powerfully and guide us properly in the practice of true Christian love. The Holy Spirit will also help us to recognize Jesus in the poor, in the sick, in the homeless, in the marginalized, in the outcast, in the drug addicts and even in the criminals, so that we can become agents of healing and reconciliation in a broken and divided world.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to be open to the Holy Spirit and prepare ourselves to receive him anew, as we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. The purpose of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us is to help us grow towards maturity and holiness. We all have faults that prevent our growth: blocks of sin and imperfection, blocks due to childhood conflicts, blocks due to deeply ingrained personality traits and habits, blocks caused by addictions, and blocks resulting from bad choices we have made.
God, the Holy Spirit, helps us to see the truth about ourselves and to discern the obstacles that inhibit our growth and holiness. As the Good Counselor, the Holy Spirit also comes to our aid and gives us the strength to make difficult and painful decisions. God’s Spirit actually lives in us and we hear his voice, counseling and guiding us in the way of truth. Let us open the ears of our minds to hear him and to obey his promptings.
Remember, nobody truly says Jesus is Lord, unless he or she is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
May 10, 2020
Pastor’s Perspective …
“JESUS IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE”
Our readings today tell us how the early Church accepted the challenge of keeping Jesus’ memory alive by remaining a dynamic Christian community, bearing witness to Christ by their unity, fidelity in worship and spirit of loving and humble service. Today’s Gospel reading introduces Jesus as the Way to God, the Truth to be accepted and the Life to be lived and shared.
The first reading, taken from Acts of the Apostles, shows us the early Church as a loving, serving and worshipping community. It easily solved a problem of discrimination by instituting the ministry of the diaconate for the service of the community. St. Peter in our second reading encourages the early Christians to renew the memory of Jesus by making their community a spiritual edifice built from the living stones of believers upon the Living Cornerstone of Christ. Peter praises Christians, Gentiles and Jews, as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God’s own people.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus consoles his apostles who were sad and disheartened after knowing about his arrest and crucifixion by assuring them that he is going to prepare an everlasting place for them in his Father’s house in heaven. He gives them the assurance that he will come back to take them to their heavenly abodes.
In answering the question asked by Thomas, Jesus declares that he is the safest and surest way to God, discrediting the notions that all religions are equally sure ways to reach God or that no organized religion but only living a good life of sharing love is necessary to reach God. Jesus is the Way to God because he is the way of loving, humble and sacrificial service. Jesus is the Truth who taught and revealed truths about God and his relation to us. Jesus also taught moral truths by demonstrating them in his life. Jesus is the Life because as God he possesses the eternal life of God and shares his divine life with his disciples through the Word of God and the sacraments.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we accept Jesus as the way by walking the narrow way of loving, humble and sacrificial service. We accept Jesus the truth by learning and practicing what he taught as given in the Scriptures and in the teachings of the Church. We share the divine life of God by making use of the means Jesus established in his Church: actively participating in the Eucharistic celebration and properly receiving the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion; by the meditative and daily reading of the Word of God; and by allowing the Holy Spirit living in the Church and within us to guide and strengthen us.
Like the early Christian community these will help us to be a dynamic and vibrant Christian community bearing witness to Christ by our unity, fidelity in wor-ship, and our spirit of loving and humble service.
May 3, 2020
Pastor’s Perspective …
“I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD”
The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good
Shepherd Sunday and the World Day of Prayer
for Vocations. Each year on this Sunday, we
reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, devotedly taking care of his flock.
The priest in charge of a parish is called a “pastor” because pastor means shepherd, and he shepherds Christ's flock. As a shepherd, he leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects Christ's flock in his parish. The earliest Christians saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish dream, of a good shepherd. It is against this background, that we must pay attention to our Gospel passage today. Jesus says, “I am the gate for the sheep, whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture”.
Our first reading today, describes Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost day. He reminded his listeners that they have crucified their true hepherd. So, they need to receive the forgiveness of their sins by getting baptized and acknowledging Jesus as their shepherd and savior. In our second reading, he also encouraged the suffering Christians to follow the footsteps of Jesus their Good Shepherd, realizing the truth that it is his suffering and death that have enabled them to become more fully the children of God. My dear friends in Christ what should be our esponse? We need to be good sheep in the sheepfold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd: Our local parish is our sheepfold. We have to always hear and follow the voice of our Good Shepherd through homilies, Bible studies, counseling and advice from our priests.
We also need to be good shepherds in the different capacities God has placed us. Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is also a shepherd. Hence, pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, caregivers, government officials and politicians are all shepherds. Since shepherding a diocese, a parish, a civil community or a family is very demanding, dedication, commitment, sacrifice and vigilance are eeded every day on the part of the shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. As we celebrate Mother’s Day this month, parents are also reminded of the need to be careful of their duties as shepherds for their children, by leading exemplary Christian lives and so become role models for them by teaching and protecting them in body and soul.
Last of all, we need to pray for more vocations to priestly
and religious life so that we may have more holy and spirit-filled
shepherds to lead, feed and protect the Catholic
faith. On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, we are
asked to encourage and pray for our young men and women,
to respond to God's call to serve his Church in the priesthood
and religious life.
April 26, 2020
Hear to Serve …
“TAKEN A WRONG TURN”
In the days before such things as Google Map, when we had to unfold a state map, or call AAA and get what they called “Trip Tik”, do you re-member how easy it was to get lost if we weren't careful? We had all the facts before us, but yet there were times when we didn’t see the details, and we missed a critical turn, and ended up on the wrong road.
In the Gospel reading today, we hear of two disciples, Cleopas and the other one. They were on a journey to Emmaus. Their life had been turned upside down. Their friend, their rabbi, was condemned, crucified, buried, and now even His body was missing. All that they knew, all that they hoped for was dashed to the ground. They were lost in their misery. They were on the wrong road looking for a new way to live.
How many of us are feeling like Cleopas and the other disciple amidst this Covid-19 pandemonium? We have been asked to stay at home. Many of us are worried about our jobs and our savings. Plans have been changed. Many have had to cancel family gatherings, change plans for a wedding, or delay a Baptism. We can’t receive the Sacraments when we want. We can’t even visit our loved ones in nursing homes or our friends in their homes. Are our dreams dashed to the ground? Have we been left feeling our lives have taken a wrong turn and we are on the wrong road?
These two disciples didn’t understand the true meaning of Jesus. They still referred to him as only a prophet. They had hoped that Jesus would have restored Israel’s power, but they were still under Roman rule. They were astounded that angels announced to the women that Jesus was alive. They had the facts before them, but they missed the details. They didn’t see the real truth yet in Jesus. They expected Jesus to take a different road than the one that He did.
But the disciples somehow knew they were on the wrong road because they stopped and listened as Jesus explained scripture to them. They were eager to have Scripture explained to them. They were eager to hear how Scripture was fulfilled in Jesus. They invited Jesus to stay with them and to eat with them. It was only then when they broke bread with Jesus that their eyes were opened to all the details of the journey. It was only then that they could see clearly the meaning of their own life's journey. It was only after their dinner with Jesus that they had a real purpose and turned back towards Jerusalem.
What about us? How do we see things? As we travel the road we are on do we see the fine details? Are we stopping to ask Jesus to make himself clear to us? Even though public Masses are cancelled, are we attending them on TV with our Bishop? Do we still make the effort to get dressed for Mass and maybe light some candles? Do we respond to the prayers, stand for the Gospel and fully participate? We still are able to receive Jesus through Scripture. Even though we can’t physically receive Communion, we can be together in communion through phone calls, emails, Facebook chats. Jesus is truly with us when we make a Spiritual Communion.
During this time of social distancing, this time of sacrifice, it’s so easy to become separated from Jesus. And when we become separated from Jesus it’s so easy to focus on the wrong things, to become filled with worries and anxieties, just like our two disciples today. We need the self discipline to stop and to ask Jesus to journey with us, especially now more than ever. We have to realize without having Jesus in our lives we will be heading in the wrong direction to our own Emmaus. Without “The Breaking of the Bread” we cannot be in true communion with Christ and each other. There cannot be Communion without sacrifice. Let us stop our self-guided journey and invite Jesus into our lives in every way we can so that we can see the fine details like Cleopas and the other disciple, then we can be turned around and pointed in the right direction and get back on the right road to Jerusalem.
April 19, 2020
Hear to Serve …
“HIS MERCY ENDURES FOREVER”
During this Second Sunday of Easter we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. This was declared Divine Mercy Sunday by St John Paul II, in the year 2000 on the day he canonized a Polish nun by the name of Faustina Kowalski. Sister Faustina had several revelations from Jesus, and one was that the Church reserves the second Sunday of Easter to honor God’s infinite Mercy.
From Good Friday on, we see nothing but the mercy of God at work. Some of the last words that Jesus utters on the Cross are, “Father, forgive them they know not what they do.” This is Jesus’ prayer that will never be rivaled in mercy and love. Jesus, even though He is suffering in His own agony, prays for all of those that deserted Him, those that mocked and jeered Him, and those that crucified Him. Jesus forgives the sins of the repentant thief hanging next to Him. His humanity and divinity poured from the cross as blood and water, and His mercy poured out for all.
In today’s Gospel reading from John, we see more evidence of the forgiveness of God. The Apostles had their doors locked in fear of the Jews. But don’t you think they were also a little afraid of seeing the Risen Jesus? They literally abandoned Jesus and left Him hanging by Himself. I can imagine the shame and fear they felt. Yet, we see the forgiving Jesus, we see Jesus with a mercy that lasts forever. The first thing Jesus says is “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus commissions them and breathes new life into them. Jesus does not chastise or punish them. No, He gives them even more responsibility. Jesus gives them the authority to bestow God’s unending mercy upon us through the Forgiveness of Sins. Jesus institutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation upon us.
Even though Jesus wants to forgive us, we have to do our part. We don’t have to be perfect, but we do have to believe to be forgiven. We have to ask. Even though Jesus died for our sins, Jesus’ prayer on the Cross wasn’t a blanket amnesty. Peter wept bitterly as he repented. The thief on Jesus’ right asked Jesus to remember him. The Roman soldier proclaimed, “Surely this man was the Son of God.” We have to humble ourselves and come forward. Jesus wants to forgive us but we have to get over ourselves and ask.
As I look at my own shortcomings, the sins I committed deliberately, the sins I did in ignorance, the times I have abandoned Christ, I have to decide if I need and want God’s infinite mercy. Am I ready to humble myself like Peter, like the thief, like the Roman soldier, or do I rely on myself like Judas did?
Come, let us celebrate this Divine Mercy Sunday by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Let us thank Jesus for His sacrifice so we can be forgiven, and let us make it a point to visit the confessional as soon as we can.