Friday, April 29, 2011


DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY : ACTS 5:12-16;: REV: 1:9-11, 12-13,17-19;: JN 20:19-31

A TIME magazine issue in 1984 presented a startling cover. It pictured a prison cell where two men sat on metal folding chairs, facing each other, up close and personal. They spoke quietly so as to keep others from hearing the conversation. The young man was Mehmet Ali Agca, the pope’s attempted assassin; the other man was Pope John Paul II, the intended victim. The pope held the hand that had held the gun and shot the bullet which tore into the pope’s body. John Paul wanted this scene to be shown around a world filled with nuclear arsenals and unforgiving hatreds. This was a living icon of mercy. The pope had been preaching forgiveness and reconciliation constantly. His deed with Ali Agca spoke a thousand words. He embraced his enemy and pardoned him. At the end of their 20-minute meeting, Ali Agca raised the pope’s hand to his forehead as a sign of respect. John Paul shook Ali Agca’s hand tenderly. When the pope left the cell he said, "I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust." This is an example of God’s divine mercy, the same divine mercy to which St. Faustina bore obedient witness.
Today is divine mercy Sunday. And Pope John Paul II, the second-longest reigning pontiff in the history of the Catholic church after Pius IX, and a staunch promoter of Divine Mercy has been beatified; called Blessed today.
The readings for this Sunday are about mercy, trust and the forgiveness of sins. The opening prayer addresses the Father as "God of Mercy." In the Psalm we repeat several times, "His mercy endures forever." "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever!" (Ps 118).
Besides mentioning the word, our readings illustrate mercy in action. How does God reveal His mercy? He does so, first and foremost, by sending His only-begotten Son to become our Savior and Lord by his suffering, death and resurrection. Divine mercy is given to us in the celebration of the sacraments. In today’s gospel, as we recall Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on that first Easter evening, we are vividly reminded of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – the power to forgive sins which Our Lord gave to his apostles. "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (Jn 20-23).
On April 30, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized the Polish nun who had received from Christ the amazing revelations of the Divine Mercy in the early years of the twentieth century, Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska. During that ceremony, the pope fulfilled one of the requests that Christ had made through those revelations: that the entire Church reserve the Second Sunday of the Easter Season to honor and commemorate God's infinite mercy.
Where do we see this mercy revealed in today's Readings?
First of all, we see it in the reaction Christ shows to those men, his chosen Apostles, who had abandoned him just two nights before. They had abandoned Jesus in his most difficult hour, but Jesus wasn't going to abandon them. He passes through the locked doors, passes through their fears, regret, and guilt, and appears to them. He hasn't given up on them. He brings them his peace. And he reaffirms his confidence in them by reaffirming their mission: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." We also see God's mercy in Christ's reaction to the men who had crucified him. Does he crush them in revenge? No. Instead, he sends out his Apostles to tell them - and to tell the whole sinful world, the world that had crucified its God - that they can be redeemed, that God has not condemned them: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And then, just to make sure that the Church is fully armed to communicate this message, Jesus gives the ultimate revelation of God's mercy - he delegates to his Apostles his divine power to forgive sins: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
This is the explicit institution of the sacrament of Confession, the sacrament in which the limitless ocean of God's mercy overwhelms the puny ocean of our misery. It was the ultimate revelation of the Divine Mercy. In the revelations of his Divine Mercy, Jesus asked St Faustina to commission a painting. The painting would show Jesus standing, dressed in a white alb, with his right hand raised in blessing and his left hand opening his heart.
Out of his heart there were to be streaming two beams of light - one white and the other red. He explained what those rays symbolized:
The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous [baptism]. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls [the Eucharist]. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross ... Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (Diary, 299).

Today Jesus is reminding us of the power and abundance of his mercy.
If our King and God has treated us with such overwhelming goodness, giving us much more than we deserve, we should strive to do the same for those around us. There are three simple ways we can do this, three ways we activate God's grace and be Christ's true followers by making ourselves into messengers of God's mercy. First, we can forgive people who offend, insult, or harm us, even when we think they don't deserve to be forgiven - just as Christ does every time we come to confession. Second, we can give others a gift, an opportunity, or a kindness, even when we think they have done nothing to deserve one - just as Christ will do for us today with Holy Communion. Third, we can patiently bear with the nerve-wracking foibles of those around us - just as Christ does with each one of us every single moment of every single day.
One way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Finding time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is another good way to receive Divine Mercy. The gospel command, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful," demands that we show mercy to our fellow human beings always and everywhere.
A priest was forced, by a traffic police, to pull over for speeding. As the cop was about to write the ticket, the priest said to him, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." The cop handed the priest the ticket, and said, "Go, and sin no more."
We radiate God's mercy to others by our actions, our words, and our prayers. It is mainly through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we practice mercy in our daily lives and become eligible for God’s merciful judgment.
The more we become like Christ in his mercy, through the power of his grace, the more we will experience the "indescribable and glorious joy" that he died to win for us. Today, as Christ feeds us once again from the very fountain of mercy, Holy Communion, let's ask him for the grace to be living images, living paintings, of his mercy in this world so wounded by sin.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

EASTER -2011

The boys and girls in Mrs. Stephens’ fourth grade Sunday school class entered the room and quickly found their seats on Easter Sunday. Mrs. Stephens wanted to help her students understand that there is so much more to the Easter holiday than new clothes, chocolate bunnies and egg hunts. It is more than family gatherings and tables filled with luscious food. Easter is about life. Easter celebrates the certainty of Jesus’ death on the cross, the fact that He was buried, and the reality that He came out of that burial tomb to conquer death – so that we can have life - eternal life with Jesus in Heaven and abundant life with Him here and now.
Mrs. Stephens came up with a plan. After sharing the Bible story of Jesus’ resurrection, she gave each one of her students an empty plastic egg and said, “We are going to take a walk outside and I want each one of you to find one sign of life and put it in your plastic egg.” As the children filed out of the room, Mrs. Stephens noticed Danny, a little Down syndrome boy who had been coming to her class for some time. His bright smile and sunny disposition had immediately won her heart. In fact, when it came to Danny, she often thought he had taught her so much more about the unconditional love of God and the joy of simply being a child of God than she could ever teach him. When she heard the other children make fun of him, it broke her heart. She always corrected the children and tried to help them see just how special Danny was, but Danny seemed oblivious to their hurtful words and thought of each child as his “buddy.”
The children soon returned from their walk, depositing their eggs on the teacher’s desk as they made their way to their seats. Inside one student's egg was a butterfly. In another was an ant. Others had collected flowers, twigs, blades of grass and leaves to fill their eggs. But one egg had nothing in it. Everyone knew whose egg it was. Mrs. Stephens silenced the giggles with a look of warning. When she asked Danny why he had not put anything inside his egg to show signs of life, his face broke into a huge grin as he responded, "Because the tomb was empty." Danny understood the profound truth of Easter. The empty tomb is the ultimate sign of life and a miracle like none other.
Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. The women knew Jesus was dead. Some of them had seen Him die. And they were sure His body was in the tomb; it had been there since Friday. But when they went to anoint the body on that Sunday morning, the tomb was empty!
When Mary of Magdela sees the empty tomb she thinks the natural thing. She makes up a reasonable story which makes it somehow understandable. Jesus’ body has been stolen. Looking at the supposed gardener she asks “If you have taken him away tell me where you put him.” It is the quite natural theory any one would make up. Where else could a dead body go if not found in the tomb ? Even the apostles did think in the same line. What would you or me would think if we were in Mary’s place ? The enemies of Jesus too spread the same story around: when the soldiers were asleep the disciples stole the body away. Now the next question is: Is it hard to search for a dead body missing in a small area like Jerusalem ? How can some one carry it to any distant place without any one noticing it ? Is it too small a thing that any one can tuck it in the pocket and sneak away ? Would the Chief priests leave any stone unturned to disprove the claim of the Christians that Jesus is risen by searching out the purported stolen body of Jesus ? Would you think that they allow their Jewish religion salvaged by the same person they tried to eliminate for the sake of protecting their religion ? No way.
Mary Magdelene kept looking further away than Jesus was. She kept looking for a dead body, an object; but Jesus was alive and standing beside her. The Risen Christ is nearer to us than any object could ever be. "Why are you seeking the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5) asks the angel ? If you look for only a historical Jesus, you are lost. He is alive and present everywhere. SO look for him with a new kind of eyes. So the resurrection is seeing our world in a new way.
Christians through the centuries have focused a lot of reflection on that large stone laid to the mouth of the tomb. Its removal was a sign of the resurrection, not a condition for it. Bede the Venerable wrote, “The angel rolled back the stone not to throw open a way for our Lord to come forth, but to provide evidence to people that he had already come forth.” He could present himself to the disciples in the locked house. And so, that stone could not have held him prisoner in the tomb. But we should not imagine that material stones are the hardest and heaviest things in the world. Thoughts, which are made of nothing at all, could be heavier and harder than any stone. We are able to seal our minds and hearts with impenetrable stones of prejudice, hatred and fear. "To behold the resurrection, the stone must first be rolled away from our hearts," said Peter Chrysologus.
What makes Christianity absolutely unique is the resurrection. In the Resurrection, reality becomes more wonderful than myth. Only the reality of the Resurrection can explain the reality of the history of the Church: A few weak, non-influential, and uneducated fishermen from Galilee, frightened out of their wits when Jesus was arrested and executed, suddenly become world travelers, phenomenally successful preachers, and valiant martyrs Would you think some one would make a sacrifice of their own lives for something that they knew was patently untrue ? Of course not. And the Church they spread continues to spread after they die, holding fast to the exact same doctrine they preached, century after century, in nation after nation. Only the abiding presence of the Lord can explain this, and only the resurrection explains the abiding presence of the Lord. This is what makes us, as Christians different.
As Christians, we must be prepared to demonstrate that Christ's resurrection was an event that occurred in time and space - that it was, in reality, historical and not mythological ( 2 Peter 1:16). The importance of this event cannot be minimized, for Jesus Himself proclaimed that His resurrection would prove His power over death (John 2:18-22). Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days. Not only that, but Christ's resurrection is the very heart of the gospel. St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain” (I Cor 15: 14). “Jesus is Lord, he is risen” (Rom 10: 9) was the central theme of the kerygma (or 'preaching'), of the apostles. The founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has. Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11:25-26). 3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. It is our belief in the real presence of the risen Jesus that gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayer, strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.
Christ's resurrection is not just a nice idea; it is the power of eternal life at work in us. The Easter Message means that God can turn prostitutes like Magdalene into disciples and broken reeds like Simon Peter into rocks. (Fulton Sheen). Let’s not preach a Christianity without the resurrection. Let’s prove to others that we are risen with Christ.
Let us remember that each time we try to practice Christian charity, mercy and forgiveness and each time we fight against temptations we are sharing in the resurrection of Jesus.

Friday, April 22, 2011


A man was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. His family watched in pain as he lost different aspects of his memory. First, he began forgetting ordinary things like how to turn on the shower or to use a toaster. Soon he could no longer remember people who were his old friends or close work associates. Then he began to forget even who his children were and finally his wife. As the man’s life was drawing to an end, his family gathered around the sick bed. He knew none of them. His wife placed a small crucifix in his hand. At first he seemed puzzled, then looked intently and said, “Jesus.” The man was Ronald Regan the former president of the Unites States.
“We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24).
The crucifix and the cross are the symbols of the loving and sacrificial offering of self for others. It is only in the cross that we see the face of God. We look at the sun and see the energy of God. We look at the stars and see the infinity of God. We look at the atom and see the complexity of God. But it is only in the cross that we see the face of God’s love. It is only in the cross that we see a love so great that God was willing to die for me. It is only in the cross that we hear the statement, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15: 13), and the cross states all this.

Whenever we see the cross, we should realize that he was bruised, was crushed and died for our iniquities. Is 53:5, “But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole; by his stripes we were healed.”
The cross is the symbol of the risen Christ who promises us a crown of glory as a reward for our patient bearing of our daily crosses.
The Monk Thomas Merton talks about the Cross and Suffering:
“The Christian must not only accept suffering: the Christian must make it holy. Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering. Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except perhaps to harden them. Endurance alone is no consecration. We can deny ourselves rigorously for the wrong reason and end up by pleasing ourselves mightily with our self-denial…..Suffering, therefore, can only be consecrated to God by one who believes that Jesus is not dead. And it is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.”
Because Christ's cross is the price of our redemption, we must treasure this gift unceasingly throughout life. Joy and gratitude to God for the work of the cross must be the bedrock of any Christian spirituality. At the same time, Christ calls us to apply the power of the cross in our lives so that we may truly "take up our cross and follow him." As St. Paul teaches so clearly in Romans 6, taking up the cross in our lives can only happen if we daily reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.
As we come forward to kiss the cross of Christ, we are proclaiming that we love the cross of Christ, because on this cross he saved us and we also proclaim that we love our own crosses because our daily crosses are also made holy by the cross of Christ.

Let’s thank Jesus, our crucified God for being crucified outside the walls, for being expelled and excluded like the sinners and outcasts, so that he can meet us where we feel that we are, always outside the walls of worthiness.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


A Jewish boy named David who was failing all his exams in the public school until his parents decided to send him to a Catholic school. At the end of the year David came out on top of the class. When his parents asked him what made him change so dramatically David replied, “You see, the moment I walked into that new school and saw that guy hanging on the cross, I knew that the people here were damn serious; so I decided not to take any chances.”
The crucifix might have helped David to improve his score but it is easy to see that David has misread the crucifix. The man on the cross is not there to scare little boys but to show them how much he loves them. He is not there to show them what would happen to them if they misbehaved; he is there to show them that he has already paid the penalty for their sins. He is not dying on the cross for what he has done but for what you and me have done; because he loves us. He died for us.
Two brothers lived together in the same apartment. The elder brother was an honest, hard-working and God-fearing man and the younger a dishonest, gun-totting, substance-abusing rogue. Many a night the younger man would come back into the apartment late, drunk and with a lot of cash and the elder brother would spend hours pleading with him to mend his ways and live a decent life. But the young man would have none of it. One night the junior brother runs into the house with a smoking gun and blood-stained clothes. “I killed a man,” he announced. In a few minutes the house was surrounded by police and the two brothers knew there was no escape. “I did not mean to kill him,” stammered the young brother, “I don’t want to die.” By now the police were knocking at the door. The senior brother had an idea. He exchanged his clothes with the blood-stained clothes of his killer brother. The police arrested him, tried him and condemned him to death for murder. He was killed and his junior brother lived. He died for his brother.
Can we see that this story of crime and death is basically a story of love? Similarly the story of the suffering and death of Jesus which we heard in the Passion is basically a story of love – God’s love for us. How should we respond to it? Well, how would you expect the junior brother to respond to the death of the senior brother? We would expect him to respond with GRATITUDE. Gratitude to his generous brother should make him turn a new leaf and never go back to a life of crime. He would be a most ungrateful idiot if he should continue living the sort of life that made his brother die. Gratitude should make him keep the memory of his brother alive. No day should pass that he should not remember his brother who died for him. Finally, if the dead brother has got a wife and children we should expect the saved brother, out of gratitude, to love and care for them. What God expects from us today is gratitude – gratitude strong enough to make us hate sin of every shade and color; strong enough to make us translate our love of God into love of all God’s people.
Let this holy week for us to be a time of being grateful to God for his unfathomable gift of salvation brought to us in Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vth Sunday in Lent

LENT V : EZ 37: 12-14;: ROM 8: 8-11;Gospel: JN 11:1-45

There was a guy riding in a cab one day. He was new to the city and was looking for a good place to eat, so he leaned forward, tapped the cabby on the shoulder and said, "Hey, Buddy." The driver let out a blood curdling scream and lost control of the cab. He nearly hit a bus, jumped the curb and stopped just inches from going through a huge plate-glass window and into a crowded restaurant. For a few minutes, there was dead silence in the cab. All you could hear was two hearts beating like bass drums pounding out a quick march. The driver finally turned around and said, "Man, you scared the living daylights out of me." The passenger, who was white as a sheet and whose eyes were as big as dinner plates, said, "I'm sorry, I didn't realize tapping you on the shoulder would scare you so badly." The cabby said, "Well, it's not your fault. This is my first day driving a cab. But for the last 25 years, I drove a hearse." Someone coming back from death would take us by surprise. Raising of Lazarus not only surprised those around the tomb, but surprises even us, because that is most uncommon.
The raising of Lazarus is the sixth of seven signs in John’s gospel. It is also the last and greatest of the miracles worked by our Lord to prove that he is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, and that through faith in him believers will receive eternal life. In other words, Jesus wanted to make this, his last recorded miracle, a convincing proof of his claim to be what he was---the Messiah, sent by God to give new life, eternal life, to mankind. Of course the seventh miracle in John’s gospel is Jesus’ own resurrection.

Traditional Jewish belief had it that the soul of a dead person somehow remains with the body for three days. After three days the soul departs finally from the body never to return, and that is when corruption sets in. When Martha objects to the opening of the tomb and says, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days” (Jn 11:39), she is expressing the common view that this is now a hopeless situation. Is that why Jesus delayed coming to the funeral, to let the situation become “impossible” before acting on it? G.K. Chesterton once said, “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.” In traditional Jewish mentality bringing back to life a person who is already four days dead and decaying is as unthinkable as the prophet Ezekiel’s vision in which the grey, dry bones of the dead are miraculously restored to life.
For the early Christians the story of the raising of Lazarus was more than a pointer to the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus rose on the third day; his body never saw corruption. For them this miracle is a challenge to never give up hope even in the hopeless situations in which they found themselves as individuals, as a church or as a nation. It is never too late for God to revive and revitalize a person, a church or a nation. But first we must learn to cooperate with God.
How can we cooperate with God so as to experience God’s resurrection power in our lives and in our world? Well, everyone knows the answer already: faith. But that is not the point that John makes in this story. In fact there is no one in the story, not even Mary or Martha, who believed that Jesus could bring Lazarus back to life after four days dead. No one expected him to do it, so expectant faith is not the emphasis here. Rather the emphasis in the story on how we cooperate with a miracle-working God is placed on practical obedience and doing God’s will.
To effect the miracle, Jesus issues three commands and all of them are obeyed to the letter. That is how the miracle happens. First, Jesus said, ‘Roll away the stone.’ So they rolled away the stone”. Did the people understand why they should do this heavy work of rolling away the tombstone to expose a stinking corpse? You bet they didn’t. But it was their faith in Jesus expressing itself not through intellectual agreement with Jesus but through practical agreement with him, through obedience. Why didn’t Jesus command the stone to roll away all by itself, without bothering the people? We don’t quite know. All we know is that divine power seems always to be activated by human cooperation and stifled by non-cooperation. As C.S. Lewis said, “God seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures.” God will not do by a miracle what we can do by obedience.
The second command Jesus gives is directed to the dead man: “‘Lazarus, come out!’ and the dead man came out” . We do not know the details of what transpired in the tomb. All we know is that Jesus’ word of command is followed by immediate obedience. Lazarus gropes his way out of the dark tomb even with his hands and feet tied up in bandages, and his face all wrapped up. Even a man rotting away in the tomb can still do something to help himself.
The third command again is addressed to the people, “Unbind him, and let him go” (verse 44). Even though Lazarus could stumble himself out of the tomb, there was no way he could unbind himself. He needs the community to do that for him. By unbinding Lazarus and setting him free from the death bands, the community is accepting Lazarus back as one of them.
Many Christian individuals and communities today have fallen victim to the death of sin. Many are already in the tomb of hopelessness and decay, in the bondage of sinful habits and attitudes. Nothing short of a miracle can bring us back to life in Christ. Jesus is ready for the miracle. He himself said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Are we ready to cooperate with him for the miracle. Are we ready to roll away the stone that stands between us and the light of Christ’s face? Are we ready to take the first step to come out of the place of death? Are we ready to unbind (i.e. forgive) one another and let them go free? These are the various ways we cooperate with God in the miracle of bringing us back to life and reviving us as individuals, as a church, and a nation.
We often bind ourselves with chains of addiction to alcohol, drugs, gossip, envy, prejudices, hatred and uncontrollable anger and bury ourselves in the tombs of despair. Sometimes we are in the tomb of selfishness, filled with negative feelings such as worry, fear, resentment, hatred, and guilt. Jesus asks us today to seek his help and that of the community around us to loosen those chains and come out of tombs of our own creation. Let us ask Jesus during this Holy Mass to bring the light and the power of His Holy Spirit into our private life and liberate us from our tombs.