Friday, April 28, 2017

EASTER III Acts 2:14, 22-33 1 Pt 1:17-21, Lk 24:13-35  
Karl Barth, one of the twentieth century’s most famous theologians, was on a street car one day in Basel, Switzerland, where he lived and lectured. A tourist to the city climbed on the streetcar and sat down next to Barth. The two men started chatting with each other. “Are you new to the city?” Barth inquired.
“Yes,” said the tourist.
“Is there anything you would particularly like to see in this city?” asked Barth.
“Yes,” he said, “I’d love to meet the famous theologian Karl Barth. Do you know him?”
Barth replied, “Well as a matter of fact, I do. I give him a shave every morning.”
The tourist got off the streetcar quite delighted. He went back to his hotel saying to himself, “I met Karl Barth’s barber today.”
That tourist was in the presence of the very person he most wanted to meet, but even with the most obvious clue, he never realized that the man with whom he was talking was the great man himself.
It is very much like the scene on the road to Emmaus, when two of the disciples walk for a while with the resurrected Jesus, and they, too, had no idea with whom they were conversing.
They began to speak to Him about all that had occurred in the Holy City during the previous week.  Most probably, Cleopas and his companion were husband and wife, residents of Emmaus and disciples of Jesus who had witnessed His crucifixion and burial.  The two disciples chose to leave Jerusalem on the third day after the death of Jesus – the very day they had received news that the tomb was empty.  They were “prevented” from recognizing the Stranger, Jesus, perhaps partly by preoccupation with their own disappointment and problems. 
Jesus did not reveal his identity in a blinding flash, he entered their conversation, he entered the past with them; he sifted it with them – but differently. 
Jesus listened patiently to the version of history that those two had.  He didn’t cut them off after a few words.  He heard them out.  Had he cut them off, their doubts and objections would have remained inside them, suppressed and therefore all the more powerful.  He listened, and in the light of what they said he read the past for them in a new way.  “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” 

His coming to them and walking alongside of them illustrates the truth that the road to Emmaus is a road of companionship with Jesus Who desires to walk with each of us.  "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). The incident further illustrates that Jesus is with us even when we do not recognize him. He may be walking beside us as a stranger.   
The Emmaus incident is the story of a God who will not leave us alone when we are hurt and disappointed. As Francis Thompson puts it, He is The Hound of Heaven Who relentlessly follows us when we try to escape from His love.    
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.”  This language is a clear reference to the Eucharistic.  “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”  This is how future disciples will recognize him too, in “the breaking of bread” –  an early term for the Eucharist. 
But immediately “he vanished from their sight.”  They will not be able to possess him as an object, nor locate him in himself alone.  Henceforth he is “the head of the body, the Church” (Colossians 1:18).   And he is no longer simply an historical figure, a regretted lost friend, a memory; he is the way forward; he is the Way to the Father; “through him we have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). 

Luke’s Emmaus story teaches us that the risen Jesus is present in the Word of God and especially in the Breaking of the Bread. He is the one who personally walks with us in our daily paths, talks with us through His Word, and with Whom we can talk through prayer.  And he is the One who opens our minds to understand and respond to His Word.   
Our tradition teaches us that the reading of the Scriptures, the study of the Scriptures and the proclamation of the message of the Scriptures are the primary ways in which we meet God.  Vatican II (Dei Verbum 21)  tells us that Jesus is to be equally venerated in the Eucharist and in the Bible.  Therefore, we need to study the Bible, learn the Bible, memorize the Bible and meditate on the word of God.  We know that Christ lives in the Bible, and so we need to spend time in the Bible to have a deep, intimate, loving, caring, long-term relationship with Jesus.  We know we are to brush our teeth every day.  Likewise, we are to read the Bible every day.  We need to read the Scriptures daily to meet and converse with Jesus Christ.  It should be a daily habit because people either read the Bible daily or almost never. Abraham Lincoln said:  “The greatest gift that God gave to human beings is the Bible.”  Another President John Quincy Adams, said that it was a principle of his to read the Bible through each and every year.  Theodore Roosevelt, said, “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”  Goethe, the great German philosopher, said that the beauty of the Bible grows as we grow in our understanding of it.  Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of God.

The Gospel says that their hearts burned within them as he talked to them.  The word of God should burn the heart of everyone who reads it. In that fire the goodness in us will be enkindled and the evil in us will be consumed. Let’s pray that the Lord may sow the seed of the love of God’s word in our heart so that we may love to read and understand his word everyday.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

EASTER II [A] Acts 2:42-47, I Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31

A small boy was being raised in a frontier city by his grandmother. One night the house catches on fire. The grandmother, trying to rescue the boy who was asleep in the bedroom upstairs, is overcome by the smoke and dies in the fire. This frontier city doesn't have much of a fire department. A crowd gathers around the house and they hear a small boy crying out for help. The lower floor is a wall of flames and no one seems to know what to do. Suddenly, a man pushes through the crowd and begins climbing an iron drainage pipe which runs to the roof. The pipe is hot from the fire, but he makes it to a second floor window. The man crawls through the window and locates the boy. With the crowd cheering encouragement, the man climbs back down the hot iron pipe with the boy on his back and his arms around his neck.
A few weeks later, a public meeting was held to determine in whose custody the boy would be placed. Each person wanting the child would be allowed to make a brief statement. The first man said, "I have a farm and would give the boy a good home. He would grow up on the farm and learn a trade."
The second person to speak was the local school teacher. She said, "I am a school teacher and I would see to it that he received a good education." Finally, the banker said, I would be able to give the boy a fine home and a fine education." The presiding officer looked around and asked, "Is there anyone else who would like to say anything?" From the back row, a man rose and said, "These other people may be able to offer some things I can't. All I can offer is my love." Then, he slowly removed his hands from his coat pockets. A gasp went up from the crowd because his hands were scarred terribly from climbing up and down the hot pipe. The boy recognized the man as the one who had saved his life and ran into his waiting arms.
The farmer, teacher and the banker simply sat down. Everyone knew what the decision would be. The scarred hands proved that this man had given more than all the others.
On this second Sunday of Easter which is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday Jesus appears to his disciples and shows them wounds on his hands which helps confirm them in their faith. The Apostles had abandoned Jesus just two nights before in his most difficult hour. Yet Jesus was not going to abandon them for their failure to stand up for him. He brings them his peace.
Apostle Thomas had not been with the Apostles when Jesus first appeared to them.  As a result, he refused to believe.  This should serve as a warning to us.  If we stay away from the gatherings of the believing community we might miss out on the important manifestations of God. Modern Christians, who are no longer able to "see" Jesus with their eyes like Thomas, must believe what they hear.  That is why Paul reminds us that "Faith comes from hearing" (Rom 10:17). 

The risen Lord gives the apostles the authority to forgive sins in His Name.  He gives the apostles the power of imparting God’s mercy to the sinner through the gift of forgiving sins from God’s treasury of mercy.   In the liturgy, the Church has proclaimed the mercy of God for centuries through the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.  In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 118), we repeated several times, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy is everlasting.”  The Gospel text also reminds us that the clearest way of expressing our belief in the presence of the risen Jesus among us is through our own forgiveness of others.  We can’t form a lasting Christian community without such forgiveness.  Unless we forgive others, our celebration of the Eucharist is just an exercise of liturgical rubrics.

Jesus sends out his Apostles to tell the whole sinful world, 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." 

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.  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.
As D.L. Moody walked down a Chicago street one day, he saw a man leaning against a lamppost. The evangelist gently put his hand on the man's shoulder and asked him if he was a Christian. The fellow raised his fists and angrily exclaimed, "Mind your own business!" "I'm sorry if I've offended you," said Moody, "but to be very frank, that IS my business!"
Moody rightly observed that this is the business of the church. The church has one primary motive: The proclamation of God's forgiveness and mercy in Christ.

In his conversations with St Faustina, Jesus promised to unleash on the world a flood of mercy.  He has been doing so, and he wants to continue to do so. The flood hasn't yet reached every heart.  It is our duty to become the pipelines for that mercy to refresh the shriveled and dried up hearts around us.  In this mass let’s resolve to be agents of God’s mercy to people thirsting for God’s mercy and forgiveness by going out to others and being merciful to them. Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

EASTER SUNDAY: ACTS 10:34a, 37-43; COL 3:1-4; JOHN 20: 1-9

One lady wrote in to a question and answer forum. "Dear Sirs, Our preacher said on Easter, that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed Him back to health. What do you think? Sincerely, Bewildered.
Dear Bewildered, Beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours; run a spear through his side...put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours and see what happens." Sincerely, Charles.   
Just last Sunday I read the news that A quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, a survey commissioned by the BBC suggests. What do those Christians base their beliefs on?
St. Paul writes:  “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your Faith is in vain…  And if Christ has not been raised, then your Faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins…  But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”(I Cor 15:14, 17, 20).  If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then the Church is a fraud and faith is a sham. But if Jesus really did rise from the dead, his message is true! Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have remained forever a good person who had met a tragic end.  All the basic doctrines of Christianity are founded on the truth of the Resurrection.  “Jesus is Lord; He is risen!” (Rom 10:9) was the central theme of the kerygma (or "preaching"), of the apostles.    
C.S.Lewis in his Mere Christianity says: I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Christ.(people often say) ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say, says Lewis. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; OR, you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
These are the Reasons why we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus; (a) Jesus himself testified to his Resurrection from the dead (Mark 8:31). (b) The tomb was empty on Easter Sunday(Luke 24:3). (Although the guards claimed (Matthew 28:13) that the disciples of Jesus had stolen the body, every sensible Jew knew that it was impossible for the terrified disciples of Jesus to steal the body of Jesus from a tomb guarded by a 16 member team of armed Roman soldiers). (e) The Jews and the Romans could not disprove Jesus’ Resurrection by presenting the dead body of Jesus. f) The apostles and early Christians would not have faced martyrdom if they were not absolutely sure of Jesus’ Resurrection. (g)The Apostle Paul’s conversion from a persecutor of Christians into a zealous apostle, preaching the Good News of Jesus throughout much of the Gentile world supports the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection ( Acts 26:15-18). (h)The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian Church, bravely facing three centuries of persecution, supports the truth of the Resurrection claim.
Pastor Rick Calhoun writes, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was never meant to be proved but experienced. As a matter of fact it cannot be proved, as none of us was there. We have to take the word of others who were. Those early witnesses were very passionate about their testimonies. Many were to be martyred in defense of their convictions. But ultimately the resurrection is to be experienced not proved. The most convincing evidence of the Resurrection of Christ is the transformation of the people who know Jesus and believe in Him.
Carol was the organist at her church. She was an outstanding musician, but she did something no organist should ever do. She overslept on Easter morning and missed the sunrise service.
She was so embarrassed. Of course, the minister and the church forgave her. They teased her about it a little, but it was done lovingly and in good fun. However, the next Easter, her phone rang at 5:00 in the morning. Jolted awake by the loud ringing, she scrambled to answer it. It was the minister, and he said, "Carol, it's Easter morning! The Lord is risen! ... And I suggest you do the same!"
The message is clear: We too can be resurrected. Christ shares his resurrection with us. He rises, and so can we. We too can have new life. We too can make a new start. We too can rise out of those tombs that try to imprison us!
Easter reminds us that every Good Friday in our lives will have an Easter Sunday, and that Jesus will let us share the power of his Resurrection. Each time we display our love of others, we share in the Resurrection.  Each time we face a betrayal of trust and, with God’s grace, forgive the betrayer, we share in the Resurrection of Jesus.  Each time we fail in our attempts to ward off temptations – but keep on trying to overcome them – we share in the Resurrection.  Each time we continue to hope – even when our hope seems unanswered – we share in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.  In short, the message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us – not pain, sin, rejection, betrayal or death – because Christ has conquered all these, and we, too, can conquer them if we put our Faith and trust in Him. 

Resurrection is Good News, but at the same time, it’s sometimes painful because it involves death. Before the power of the Resurrection can take hold in our own lives, we’re called to die to sin, to die to self. We may even have to die to our own dreams, so that God can do what He wants to do with our lives. As we celebrate the greatest feast of our faith, let’s ask the Lord for the grace to come out of darkness in our life to God’s marvelous light of resurrection.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday message of the cross (2017)

[Is. 52:13-53:12; Heb. 4:14-16, 5:7-9; Jn. 18:1-19:42]

A man was standing in line at a bank once, when he noticed a commotion at the counter. A woman was distressed, exclaiming, “Where will I put my money? I have all my money and my mortgage here!! What will happen to my mortgage?!”

It turned out that she had misunderstood a small sign on the counter. The sign read, "WE WILL BE CLOSED FOR GOOD FRIDAY.” She wasn’t familiar with the events of Holy Week, because she thought that the bank was going to be closed “for good” that coming Friday. “WE WILL BE CLOSED FOR GOOD . . . FRIDAY.”

Well, God closed for Good all sin account of humanity by the death of his beloved Son. That is why instead of mourning we are celebrating the death of Jesus. That is why we call GOOD Friday rather than bad or black Friday.

It was in the eternal plan of God that his son should be sacrificed to bridge the gap between us and Him. John tells that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." [Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9]  In Rom 5:8: Paul says, “But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. "For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21).

Based on the Bible and the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, Bible scholars and theologians try to explain the reason for Jesus’ death by various theories. But all these theories are based on the central fact that man cannot atone for his sin against the infinite justice of God. Since God is just, he cannot merely sweep our sins "under the rug." God's justice demands that our sins be punished. Not to punish sin would be unjust. God is both just and loving. Therefore, God's love is willing to meet the demands of His justice. But only a God–man could do that, and Jesus made that atonement by his suffering and death. Out of perfect love for us, Jesus took upon himself the punishment we deserve. His willingness to suffer in our place balanced the divine "scales of justice." The debt was now paid. His love paid the price. His passion and death atoned for our sins and redeemed us.
Since humanity’s sin against an infinite God required infinite atonement, only Jesus who was God and man could make that atonement. In other words, nothing less than the atonement made by one who was God as well as man could suffice as satisfaction for the offense against the Divine Majesty. St. Thomas Aquinas explains that by reason of the infinite dignity of the Divine Person, the least action or suffering of Christ had an infinite value, so that in itself it would suffice as an adequate satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. (NAE).

You may have heard the story of soldiers who were prisoners of war on the River Kwai. At the end of a hard day’s work, a Japanese guard insisted that a shovel was missing. He ranted and raved, but no guilty party stepped forward. Finally in his anger he shouted, "All die! All die!" He raised his gun and prepared to start shooting. Suddenly a Scotsman stepped forward and said, "I did it." One guard kicked him. Then they hit him. They bashed his head with their rifles. Soon he was dead. The other prisoners picked up his bruised body to bury it. The shovels were counted and none was missing. The Scotsman, innocent of the accusation against him, had given his life as a sacrifice for the rest.  You all know how the Polish priest St. Maximilian Kolbe offered his life in the gas chamber to save another man.

The challenge Jesus offers from the cross for us is to accept our unavoidable share of pain and suffering in this life, deriving strength and inspiration from the suffering of Christ, and to offer it with His sufferings for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of the world. Jesus proved that voluntary acceptance of suffering has salvific value. It was in fact a condition for his disciples: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16: 24, Mark 8: 34, Luke 9: 23).

      Soon we will do the veneration of the Holy Cross.  As the covering on the Cross is uncovered in three steps, the priest intones, "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world." As they kneel, the congregation responds, "Come, let us adore."

     The Holy Cross is then venerated by all, each one approaching the Cross with an appropriate sign of respect. Finally, the Cross is "enthroned" at the main altar.

     Why is the Cross such an important symbol? The Cross itself is an ambiguous symbol. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians speaks of how the Cross is a scandal and foolishness for unbelievers (1 Cor 1: 1- 23).

     In John's Gospel Jesus said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

     The Cross is nothing other than the love of God. The Cross that we venerate is not a symbol of death but rather a symbol of life-giving love, of divine love! When we venerate the cross, think about the suffering Jesus endured on the cross for you.

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday

On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood, in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of salvation, 3) the anniversary of Jesus’ promulgation of His new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). The word Maundy means Commandment; therefore Maundy Thursday means the day Jesus gave the commandment of love.  
 It was at the conclusion of the Passover meal that Jesus himself added two more symbols. He took a loaf and broke it and gave it to his disciples saying: Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me. Then he took a cup with wine. He drank from it and gave it to his disciples saying, “ Take drink of this, for this is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.” Thus was born our sacrament of the Lord's Supper, out of the experience of an ancient Jewish custom.
On this night, Jesus already knew that Judas had betrayed him and he already knew that the powers of darkness were circling. In this most vulnerable of moments, his focus is not on himself. If it were any of us we would be focusing only on ourselves. Rather, Jesus gives each person present all of his love.
He knew the trials that were soon to crush his mortal body. They would be a means to prove his worth: his love. “He loved his own in the world, and he loved them to the end.” Love endures anything. Love can draw forth good even from the worst of situations. Love redeems. The very betrayal of his friendship will let him demonstrate the authenticity of his friendship: “There is no greater love than to lay one’s life down for one’s friends.”
The Apostles sensed the added intensity in Jesus' words and manner, and their own expectations rose to a higher pitch. And when Jesus interrupts the Passover ritual by standing up, their eyes are fixed on him. Conversation ceases. Eating stops.  Jesus walks over to the large water jug, the silence deepens. Slowly, deliberately, but still without a word, Jesus begins washing their feet. Only Peter breaks the silence. Peter’s reaction, Master, are you going to wash my feet?” does not come as a request, rather as a resistant acknowledgment of what Jesus is about to do. Do humility and love need our ‘permission’? The question is: who is humble enough to receive someone else’s love? Am I humble enough to receive Jesus’ love for me? Jesus’ humility and charity are purifying in their effect. In fact, precisely the attitude, “You will never wash my feet,” needs to be washed away. Only the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, the childlike enter the Kingdom of heaven: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”

When Jesus started washing the disciples' feet, it was shocking for two reasons.
First, because of the nature of the task. 
In ancient Palestine, washing other people's feet was a job reserved for slaves. By lowering himself to the level of a slave, then, Jesus is making it forever clear to his Apostles, that the way of Christ is a way of self-giving, not self-indulgence. Jesus never sought to get, but only to give. His followers are to do the same. That in itself goes far beyond simply being nice.

But secondly, he was disrupting the sacred ritual of the most hallowed ceremony in Jewish tradition: the Passover Seder, the ceremony that God himself had commanded Moses to institute to commemorate the Israelites' miraculous escape from Egypt.
God himself had established the rules of that ceremony, and Jesus was deviating from them, adding to them, just as he did when he established the Eucharist. Clearly, Jesus sees himself as more than just another teacher or prophet, on the same level as Moses. Only God himself can alter God's commands.

Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ's presence in other persons. In practical terms, that means we are to consider their needs to be as important as our own and to serve their needs, without expecting any reward. 
When he washes their feet he shows his love. The main message here is not that I should go and wash the feet of others – though of course we are called to do that every day. No, the main message is that we are to let Jesus wash our feet, to let Jesus wipe away our weariness, to let Jesus heal the scars of our straying, and to let Jesus’ love renew our bodies and souls. This is what Jesus chooses to do in the face of death.
Symbolically we will have 12 people getting their feet washed now. Getting our feet washed, even ritually, also requires certain amount of humility. But all of us need to let Jesus wash us from the ground up, with all the affection and hope he has been carrying for us. If we won’t let him do that, we will lose our part with him. Decide today, do we want part with him? Then humble ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus.

Friday, April 7, 2017

PALM SUNDAY Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mt: 21: 1-11,27:11- 66
On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Union Army, at the McLean house in Appomattox, Virginia. This surrender ended the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil. State against state, brother against brother, it was a conflict that literally tore the nation apart. Five days later, on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, America’s most revered president, Abraham Lincoln, was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth in Ford’s Theatre. It was Lincoln who wrote the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in the U.S. forever. It was Lincoln who wrote and gave The Gettysburg Address. Lincoln hated war, but he was drawn into this one because he believed it was the only way to save the nation. On Palm Sunday the war ended. Triumph. On Good Friday, Abraham Lincoln became the first U.S. president to be assassinated. Tragedy. We begin today the triumph and the tragedy of the six days preceding Easter.

The Church celebrates this Sixth Sunday in Lent as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday.  The liturgical experts in the church are trying to remind us that the two Sundays belong together because you cannot divorce the two. We cannot just highlight the palm Sunday events and down play the Passion events.

Imagine the gospel story ended with Palm Sunday? The disciples probably wanted to capture and bottle that festive atmosphere. It was rather like Peter's reaction to Jesus' transfiguration when Moses and Elijah also appeared with Jesus on the mountaintop. Peter piped up and said, "Let's build some tabernacles right here so we can keep this great thing going forever!" So also on Palm Sunday: if they could have hit the pause button on the remote control of life, this would have been a wonderful image to freeze frame.
The problem is that there is no salvation for anyone on Palm Sunday. The people cried "Hosanna," which means "Save us!" But given the world we are in, there could be no salvation from that kind of happy parade. That festive atmosphere, though in one sense befitting the true, deep-down royalty of Jesus as God's Son, still all that hoopla just doesn't fit our world. It doesn't address the problems that need solving.

Before we can get to celebrate Easter we need to tiptoe past the tombstones and stand together at the foot of the cross. Palm Sunday runs right through the middle of Good Friday to Easter Sunday. We will hear another shout there under the cross in response to our shout of Hosanna. It is "Tetelestai!" – it is finished. Finished the payment for human sins. Until we hear that, until we see the empty tomb we cannot sing praising God, Halleluiah.

If Jesus came today we'd line the streets and strike up the band and have a grand parade right down Main Street. But it is also certain that, by the end of the week, we'd have him nailed to a cross, too. Why? Because the Kingdom Jesus came to establish still threatens the kingdoms of this world -- your kingdom and mine -- the kingdoms where greed, power, and lust rule instead of grace, mercy, and peace. And who among us really wants to surrender our lives to that Kingdom and that King?
It is not just the Jews who acted against him, but also the Romans. Not just the religious leaders, but also the common ‘regular’ people. Not just Judas, who we can readily write off as corrupted and evil, but also Peter, the faithful disciple, and the others, who never even get mentioned during all of Jesus’ trial, beatings, and crucifixion. Not one who Jesus healed, not one who Jesus forgave, not one who Jesus broke bread with speaks for him, acts on his behalf.

Before the beginning of the procession, Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-42), and when the procession was over, He cleansed the Temple (Lk 19:45-46).  On the following day, He cursed a barren fig tree. These events and reactions show how sad he felt over the situation and in Jerusalem. Would he feel anything different today? If we accept Jesus as king today, the King of our hearts let us resolve to stick up for him on Good Friday, let us try to make time for Him in our daily life; let us be reminded that He is the One with Whom we will be spending eternity with.  If only we will stand up for him, he will stand up for us before the Father.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

LENT V [A] : Ez 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-45 

A few years ago, a letter appeared in the national news that was sent to a deceased person by the Indiana Department of Social Services. It read as follows:
"Your food stamps will be stopped in March because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances."
If Lazarus received that letter he would have certainly reapplied, because his circumstances changed.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  By raising Lazarus Jesus showed he was the resurrection," he was claiming that he was the source  of all life; he was claiming that  he was divineAccording to John, the raising of Lazarus is the sixth of seven signs. It is the longest single narrative/story in the four Gospels, covering 45 verses. It is also Jesus’ last public appearance before His Passion and death. In addition, it is the last and greatest of the miracles worked by our Lord to demonstrate 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 demonstration that he is what he claims to be -- the Messiah, sent by God to give new life, eternal life, to mankind.  As this miracle took place a few miles from Jerusalem, Jesus also knew it would give his enemies the impulse and motivation to carry out his condemnation and death by crucifixion, which was the “debt” he, "the suffering servant" of God, was to pay for the sins of mankind.  Jesus explains the why of this miracle as, “It is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 

Lazarus’ sisters had sent word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus was ill and perhaps would soon die.  On receiving the message, Jesus waited two days so that the will of God might be demonstrated and God glorified by His Son through a major miracle.  At last, Jesus went to the house of Lazarus, knowing very well that his friend had died.  Jesus waited Lazarus to die because raising Lazarus four days after death brought more glory to God than just healing a sick Lazarus. On his arrival, Jesus pacified Martha with one of the most treasured of his teachings, which brings great consolation at funeral service, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.  Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus offers “eternal life,” which begins with Faith now and lasts forever in its fullness. Then Jesus asked one of the most important questions found in the Bible, “Do you believe this, Martha?”  Martha answered, “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Martha pronounced her confession of Faith as a response to Jesus who had revealed himself as the Resurrection and the Life.  Her Faith did not depend upon seeing her brother raised from the dead.  Proof begets knowledge and confirms Faith; Faith does not rest on proof but precedes it.  
 Seeing his friends Martha and Mary crying “Jesus wept.”  This showed that he was not only the Son of God, but also the Son of Man, fully human, sharing our grief and our sorrow and comforting us with his declaration, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”  Mary’s friends who grieved with her are the model of a supporting Church community, like our women who care.  There is something therapeutic about having friends around us when we are grief-stricken.  Hence, the Church must be a community offering compassion and consolation to one another.  Often, in our busy and active culture, we don’t have time to live deeply with our feelings and to share deep love or deep sorrow.

When  Jesus raised  Lazarus  from the dead,  he told  the  people to remove the stone  at the  tomb so Lazarus  could come  out.  Similarly we  ask  the  Lord  to remove from   in  front of  us  those  things which   keep  us from  a full  life  with  Christ:   this  is what  faith  is all about - to remove whatever hinders us in allowing Jesus to be the Lord  of our life. There are so many dark areas in our private lives.  Sometimes we are buried 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.  Is there an area of life where hope is gone?  Why not invite Jesus to visit this area?  If we want Jesus to visit our dark dungeons of sin, despair and unhappiness, let us ask Jesus during this Holy Mass to bring the light and the power of the Holy Spirit into our private lives and liberate us from our tombs.  When we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus will call our name and command, "Come out!” Jesus calls each of us by name to come out of our graves and to help others to do the same.  This Tuesday at 7.00 we have the parish reconciliation service. More than fulfilling the Easter duty contained in the law of the Church to confess once a year and receive communion worthily during Easter season it should be an occasion for us to remove all the blocks that hinders Jesus from giving us full life and to enjoy a stronger divine intimacy. As we are just a couple of Sundays away from the Greatest feast let’s us focus all our energy in preparing ourselves to enjoy the peace of the risen Christ when we are set free from anything that hinters us from freedom to know and love God.