What was it that thrust the Apostles out of the upper room where they were hiding in fear? How did they get from abandoning Jesus when he was arrested to proclaiming his Gospel boldly and fearlessly? It was, of course, the Holy Spirit that moved them outward. Through baptism and confirmation, we have received the same Spirit, and ours is the same mission.
The cross of Christ, which we venerate especially today, is how God refashioned creation into the image and likeness of His Son - who was perfectly obedient and humble. Ever since sin came into the world, God has been at work and His plan has unfolded over time. The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the altar of the cross brought forgiveness to all, as well as the promise of eternal life.
Holy Thursday Mass begins the great liturgy, the Sacred Triduum, which continues on Good Friday and concludes with the Easter Vigil. In today's liturgy we contemplate three mysteries: 1) The institution of the Eucharist; 2) The institution of the priesthood (both the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood); and 3) The command of Our Lord to love one another.
We do all of this "in memory of Jesus." When we "remember" Jesus and his words and actions in the Mass, we celebrate his real, true, and substantial presence in Word and Sacrament.
Today's Gospel gives us one of the most well-known of all verses: John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son...". To know the Son is to have eternal life. How do we know him? By being born again through water and the Holy Spirit. Lent is a privileged time for us to renew the grace that is given to us in baptism, so that we can stand with our brothers and sisters who will be baptized at Easter and boldly make our profession of faith.
"A leper approached Jesus, fell down on his knees, and said, 'Lord, if you will it, you can heal me.'"
This man is the model disciple. Even though we do not have leprosy (thanks be to God), we are all sinners, and thus are all "unclean". May we approach the Lord, give him glory, and believe that he has the power to forgive us and to make us clean again.
Today's Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is part of what we call the Epiphany; a manifestation of Our Lord to the whole world. Jesus Christ, true God from true God, did not need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sin; rather he was baptized in order to give us the Sacrament of Baptism, that we may be united to him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and he has established the sacraments in the Catholic Church as the means for us to know, serve, and follow him.
Today's feast of the Holy Family, situated within the season of Christmas, helps us to understand and appreciate the mystery of the Incarnation. We have much to learn from the Holy Family -- namely: 1) That we, too, should practice our faith daily, for this is pleasing to God; and 2) That our faith compels us to serve, teach, forgive, comfort, and share the love of God with the world.
At Christmas we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation. We profess what we can scarcely understand: God became flesh for our sake, so that we could become like God one day. God's Presence abides with us always, especially in the Holy Eucharist. At every Mass God is present to us in the Word and in the Eucharist -- not symbolically but really and truly present. We are called to take that Presence to a weary world.
"Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother? 7 times?" Jesus answer's St. Peter's question in such a way as to do at least two things: First, he shows us that God's love and mercy are infinite; there is no limit to the times that God will forgive those who approach Him with sorrow and contrition. Secondly, Jesus is once again teaching us that we should strive to be like God in this way - to forgive our brother or sister "seven times seventy times" -- in other words, without limit. Thus we will heed the command as found throughout the Bible: "Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy."
"God's ways are not our ways." To that we say, "Thanks be to God!" The parable of the landowner and the hired hands may go against our understanding of 'fairness' or 'justice', but it shows God's abundance and His desire for each one of us. Even though God's ways are not our ways, our ways should be more and more like God's way.
It is clear in all of the Gospels that Jesus intends that his disciples do what he did. In fact, he summed this up well during the Last Supper, after washing his disciples' feet: "What I have done was give you an example; as I have done, so you must also do." This entails not only the ministry of service, it includes the passing on of the Truth that has been handed on to us through St. Peter and his successors.
Imagine if God were to give you a blank check. "As me for anything and I will give it to you."
What would you ask for? What is your request of God?
Today's Gospel gives us a couple of parables, with the focus on the first, the story of the wheat and the weeds. Jesus explains what we already knew: God is the sower, the weeds are sown by the devil, and we are all called to be wheat (i.e., to bear good fruit). Whereas we, like the workers in Jesus' story, want God to come down here and pull up all the weeds, we must recognize that God delays because He is so merciful. God wants all to be converted and live.
Do we receive love from God because we deserve it or because we do good things? No, it is the other way around: We are compelled to do good things because we are loved by God. Even though the readings today seem to indicate that certain things are done in order to experience the love of God, we know that "God so loved the world..." and thus we pray that we may accept that love (and mercy, and forgiveness, and salvation). We show that we have accepted in in the way we love one another.
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." Our Lord came to call us to an intimate relationship with the Father through him and in the Holy Spirit. He came not to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. We would do well to accept that invitation to come to him again and again. Then, having learned from him, we can be his presence, his love, his mercy to others.
Today's Gospel gives us the story of "Doubting Thomas". It's easy for us to identify with Thomas, because I think it's safe to say that we all have questions and even doubts from time to time. But have we considered what the other disciples were going through (in light of Thomas' doubts)? Perhaps that could give us an insight into how many of us are feeling during this time of 'social distancing' and quarantine. Above all, may we receive with joy the give of the Resurrected Christ: "Peace be with you."
The Gospel for today is from John, chapter 11: the raising of Lazarus. This miracle of Jesus teaches us a great deal about God's power, the compassion of Jesus, and what God wants for each of us (i.e., eternal life). Personally, I find Jesus' words to the disciples to be very comforting: "This illness is not to end in death." No matter what we experience here on earth, we MUST remember that 'this will not end in (eternal) death'. We know how this ends: This ends in glory!
"Something strange is happening today...". That line, taken from an ancient homily on Holy Saturday, speaks well to what we are experiencing in out world today. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our life has changed for the moment. On top of everything else, the suspension of Masses with a congregation brings with it a great deal of sadness, anxiety, and even anger. Through it all, however, God is with us. Jesus Christ comes to us in the midst of our pain and suffering, and he calls us to follow him. He is the Light of the World, and he will lead us out of darkness into his own wonderful light.
The readings on the First Sunday of Lent every year include the temptations of Jesus in the desert by the devil. This year it is proclaimed after the story of the fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden. We can learn both how NOT to respond to the devil's attacks in the reading from Genesis; as well as how TO respond to temptation and sin by imitating the responses and actions of Jesus. May we not only say "NO" to the devil; may we strive constantly to say "YES" to God.
God calls us to holiness -- even, perfection. The Law was given to us through Moses with the invitation: "Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy." This refrain is woven throughout the Book of Leviticus, teaching us that the reason God gives us the Law is so that we may be holy. Jesus, the perfect Moses, fulfills the Law and points us to something greater: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Epiphany is the manifestation of the Light -- that is, Jesus Christ (Light from Light, True God from True God). As St. John writes in the Prologue to his Gospel: "The light has come into the world, and the darkness cannot overcome it."
Why was Jesus baptized? If the Sacrament of Baptism frees us from sin -- original sin and anything after that -- they why did Jesus submit to the "baptism of John"? Whereas baptism cleanses us and incorporates us into the Body of Christ, Jesus' baptism sanctified the water and and made the font a means of our sanctification. This is the Father's plan for us, and God is 'well pleased' to give us this gift.
(I got to preside and preach at Mass at my family's church today, since I am visiting them in Indiana this week).
The Feast of the Holy Family is well-situated within the Octave of Christmas, since it helps us to grasp a little more the awesome mystery of the Incarnation. At the same time, this feast reminds us of the dignity of our families and the family of the church and the world. May our families be "little churches"; places of prayer, service, and love above all.
"...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." This is the Good News that is ours today on Christmas. The prophet Isaiah pointed us to this day -- although he could only dream of what that might look like. Like the shepherds and the first to witness the birth of the Lord, we must go out into the world to proclaim this Good News. Yes, we do this through our words; we do it more effectively through our actions. Now we are all called to be Christ for others.
(The volume on this recording is a little high. I think I was just so excited at the nearness of Christmas!)
The Advent season comes to a climax as we get ready to celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It is God's will to be with us -- not just temporarily or symbolically; but eternally and truly. In light of this, may we have the gift of reverence and awe, with the faith of a child. God became human, so that we humans could become (like) God.