St. Dorothy Catholic Community Orlando/Winter Park, Florida
Fr. Jim's Corner will consist of pictures, homilies and thoughts from Fr. James F. Profirio-Bond, OFJ, B.S.Ed, M.Ed, C.A.G.S., Associate Pastor in Team Ministry at St. Dorothy's. He was ordained to the transitional deaconate on January 23, 2010, by Most. Rev. Lionel J. White, OSB in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and ordained to the Priesthood on January 15, 2011 in Winter Park. Fr. Jim has been involed in Church life since the age of 7 as an altar boy; in 1969 he started his ministry as Director of Music & Liturgy for several parishes in New England,. He has conducted many choirs, bands and orchestras in the liturgical setting. He has also been Principal of several Catholic and public Schools across the country and was the founding Principal of Ave Maria Catholic School in Parker, Colorado. He was professed as a Third Order Franciscan in 1969 at St. Anthony's Shrine in Boston, MA. He began his journey to Priesthood in 1972 studying at St. John Seminary.
Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 1
Second Corinthians 5:20--6:2
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Ash Wednesday - Mar 6, 2019
St Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth, who are emerging from a crisis that divided their church community. Paul is still worried about them. So he encourages them to be generous with Christ, to put their whole lives under his rule. This is what he means when he says, "we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!"
Each of us needs to hear that call. Each of us needs to put our whole lives under Christ's rule, to stop resisting him.
There are two ways of resisting Christ, two types of sins.
First, we can take what doesn't belong to us. These are sins of commission. Dishonesty, greed, lust, gluttony - these are ways of taking what doesn't belong to us: things, pleasures, or opportunities.
Second, we can keep to ourselves what we should give to others. These are sins of omission. Kindness, forgiveness, help, patience - we owe these things to our brothers and sisters. When we hold them back, we fail to be like Christ.
One sin of omission is so common that we don't even notice it anymore, but it causes untold damage. It consists in failing to be true to our primary mission as Christians, the mission of spreading the faith, instead of just keeping it to ourselves. As St Paul put it, "we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us."
Ambassadors bring the message of their leader to citizens of another country. Our leader is Christ. His message is the Gospel. All the people in our lives who don't know Christ, who haven't experienced his forgiveness, who are seeking happiness in all the wrong places - these are people God has sent us to. Have we been delivering the message, or have we been holding it back?
The ashes that we use today are meant to remind us of these things.
First, they remind us that we are sinners. Although we are children of God, at the same time we are still children of this fallen world. Ashes are lifeless dust. Insofar as we still give in to our tendencies to selfishness and sin, we too are lifeless dust. Sin separates us from God, who is the source of all life. Without God's redeeming spirit in us, we would have no hope of eternal life.
Second, the ashes remind us that our sins, our acts of selfishness, cause damage. These ashes are made from the palm branches we used on Palm Sunday last year. They symbolized Christ's victory over sin.
Our sins forfeit that victory. They destroy the life that God means us to live, just as the palm branches from last year's Palm Sunday were destroyed to make these ashes.
Third, and most importantly, the ashes remind us that in spite of our sins, in spite of our deep-seeded selfishness, God hasn't given up on us. Christ is our Redeemer! He claims us for his own. We still have a mission in his Kingdom; he still wants us to be his ambassadors.
Yes, we are marked with ashes, because we are sinners, but the mark is given in the sign of Christ's cross, which won for us the grace of a fresh start and a new life. We are marked on our foreheads, because Christ wants us to go boldly into the world as his representatives. He is proud of us when we trust in him. He wants to change the world through us. The ashes are Christ's way of inviting us to make a fresh start.
Every one of us needs to be reconciled with God; otherwise we can't be his ambassadors. We need to experience again God's goodness towards us; then we will be able to help others have that same experience.
Today the Church gives us three ways to do that: prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.
Prayer has to do with our relationship with God. How is that relationship? Do we spend time together? Are we getting to know him better? Has some sin damaged this friendship, some sin that needs to be confessed? Without prayer and sorrow and repentance, our souls remain dark. How can we spread the light if our own souls are in the dark?
Almsgiving has to do with our relationships with others. Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Do we look for ways to encourage and help those around us, both those who are close to us, like family, friends, and colleagues, and also whomever else Providence puts in our path? Is there someone we need to forgive? Someone we need to ask forgiveness from?
Fasting has to do with self-governance. Are we governing our selfish tendencies so that God's grace has room to work in our lives, or are those tendencies governing us and blocking God's grace? Has some destructive, sinful habit enslaved us? Do we need to receive God's grace in the Eucharist, make a fresh start in developing our capacity of self-governance?
Prayer, giving alms, and fasting, one of these resonated in your heart more than the others. One made you think, "Yah, I need to work on that." Maybe it wasn't the easiest one or the one you would like most, but whichever one resonated most, that's the one God is inviting you to take on.
This Lent, starting today, say yes to that invitation. During this Mass, let's ask the Lord to give us a fresh experience of his love and his goodness [here you can reference the illustration you used], so that we in turn can fulfill our mission as Christ's ambassadors, the only mission that gives real meaning to our lives.
Psalms 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-
1st Sunday of Lent – March 10, 2019
There is a very strange phrase in today's second reading and I am paraphrasing. St Paul says that all we have to do to be saved is "confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Redeemer and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead." That's it. Believe in Christ and show that you believe by the way you live your life. That's all we have to do to put ourselves on the path to authentic happiness in this lifetime and everlasting happiness in the life to come. This is indirectly what Matt has done his whole life. True he was not “religious” as the definition goes but he emulated the Gospel with others he came in contact with better than I have. He was the epitomy of a saying that is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel, Use Words if you have to.”
Jesus inaugurated a brand new kind of religion, one built on a personal relationship between God, Creator and Redeemer of the world, and the individual soul. Before Christ came, religion was a matter of externals. There were two kinds of religion before Christ: pagan and Jewish.
The pagans sought to placate distant, unpredictable, and dangerous gods with external rituals. They believed that the proper ritual worked like magic. It would make the god happy and force the god to send a blessing. There was no relationship between the god and the believer. Only the externals mattered.
Jewish religion was a little bit more relational, since God was interested in his chosen people, and God had personally, consciously chosen them. But it was still based on an external factor: belonging to the race of Abraham. The mark of belonging was also external - circumcision.
In Paul's letter to the Romans, Paul explains that Christ has revolutionized religion: he has made friendship with God possible. Living in communion with God is not a matter of following some external ritual; it's a personal relationship with Jesus; it's believing in him, and bearing witness to that belief in word and deed.
Matt had, I believe from our many talks when I was a member of OGC, that relationship down pat with Jesus, his brother and he showed it in many different ways.
Here is another example of what I mean about our relationship with our brother Jesus.
A man's daughter had asked the priest to visit her sick father. The priest found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. "I guess you were expecting me," he said. "No, who are you?" said the father. The priest told him his name and then remarked, "I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was coming." "Oh yeah, the chair," said the bedridden man. "Would you mind closing the door?"
Puzzled, he shut the door. "I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the man. "But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer until one day four years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Prayer is just having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and see Jesus on the chair. It's not weird because he promised, 'I will be with you always'. Then just speak to him in the same way you're doing with me right now.'
"So, I tried it and I've liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown, or send me off to the funny farm."
The priest was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue. Then he heard his confession, anointed him, and returned to the parish.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the priest that her dad had died that afternoon. "Did he die in peace?" he asked. "Yes, when I left the house about two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?"
The priest wiped a tear and said, "I wish we could all go like that." Our faith in Christ brings God that close to us and makes it real.
Jesus made friendship with God possible; he revolutionized religion.
We all believe that, but sometimes it's hard to bring that belief deep into our hearts. Sometimes it gets stuck up here in our heads, and so we don't experience in our lives the fruits of this revolution. That's why there are so many mediocre Christians in the world. That's why very often instead of filling the world with Christ's light, the world fills us with its darkness.
How can we bring this revolutionary truth from our heads to our hearts, so it can really make a difference in our lives?
St Paul tells us the trick.
He wrote to the Romans that our faith is not complete unless we "confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord." The mouth is between the brain and the heart. If we share our faith in Christ with others, telling them about the forgiveness that he offers and the meaning in life that he reveals, that faith will become more alive for us as well. Now I don’t mean that we are trying to convert everyone or becoming what some might call a “holy roller”. Just as Matt did with his life, he emulated in his heart love for his God and love for his neighbor whenever and wherever he met them.
The best way to keep the faith is to give it away. That is what Matt did ever so quietly and without notice. But we aren't the only ones who benefit. Those who hear about Christ quietly benefit even more. As Saint John Paul II put it to a meeting of US Bishops in Rome in 1998: "By proclaiming the Gospel, Christians help others to satisfy the yearning for fullness of life and truth which exists in every human heart".
Each one of us knows someone who needs to hear about Christ. Each of us knows someone who has been screwed by organized religion in the name of Christ. And each one of us needs to grow our faith by sharing it. As we continue with this celebration of the unconditional live of Jesus, let's join Christ's revolution once again. When we receive him in the Eucharist, let's promise that this week we won't keep him to ourselves.
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Psalms 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14
Philippians 3:17--4:1 or 3:20--4
2nd Sunday of Lent - March 17, 2019
The natural seasons of the year give a rhythm to life. Each season provides nature with something it needs to keep growing. The same thing happens in the Church, with liturgical seasons. In each liturgical season God sends us graces we need in order to keep growing in wisdom, holiness, and happiness. But these graces don't benefit our souls automatically, the way sunlight benefits plants. Rather, we have to take them in on purpose. But how? How can we bathe in the supernatural sunlight that will make us grow, make us better, make us change, during this liturgical season?
Today the Church reminds us of the most effective method we have for drinking in all the graces God wants to give us during this Lent: prayer. Today's First Reading tells us that "The Lord God took Abram outside..." and had a conversation with him. That's prayer. The Psalm gives us an example of King David's prayer in the face of danger, "Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me..." St Paul, in the Second Reading, reminds the Christians in Philippi that while most people occupy their minds "with earthy things... Our citizenship is in heaven." Our attention is on God - that's prayer. Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus leads his three closest disciples away from the hustle and bustle of life, up to the top of a high mountain, where he can be alone with them, and give them a lesson in prayer.
We have to ask ourselves: is our prayer life in good shape? Has it improved in the last year, the last ten years? If it's out of shape, we won't be able to drink in the graces God wants to give us this Lent, the ones we really need.
Prayer brings many benefits to our lives. One that is often overlooked comes across in this Gospel reading. One of the reasons that Jesus brings Peter, James, and John up the mountain is because they need to see a glimpse of Christ's divine glory. Just as Lent is bringing us closer to Christ's passion and death, so in St Luke's Gospel the Passion is drawing nearer. They are on the way to Jerusalem.
Jesus knows that when his followers see him betrayed, scourged, and crucified, they will be shocked and disheartened. They don't know this, but he does. He knows they will need something to hang onto in those dark moments, something to give them hope and encouragement. This experience on the mountaintop is exactly that. It is meant to give them a deeper knowledge of Christ's greatness. This knowledge, this experience, will in turn enable them to persevere through the hard times ahead, and to help the other disciples persevere too.
God wants to do the same with us.
Even better than a good coach, parent, or doctor, he knows what lies ahead for each one of us: the triumphs and the temptations, the success and the struggles. He wants to equip us to get the most out of each of them. He wants to outfit us for each stage of our life's journey. But if we don't make room for prayer in our lives, he can't. If we don't go up the mountain with him and give him a chance to do fill us with his grace, we won't be ready when the future comes.
All of us have to ask ourselves about our prayer lives. We need to be honest. If our prayer life hasn't grown in the last year, we need to do something about it. God still has so much he wants to do in our lives. Improving our prayer life will give him room to work. Praying better doesn't require any special talent. Since we were all created for friendship with God, it's something everyone can do, like walking or breathing.
Getting better at prayer implies two things.
First, we have to make a commitment. We have to decide, firmly, that we are going to take the risk of setting out on the adventure of prayer. And it is an adventure, because we don't really know where God will take us. Second, we have to choose a tactic, some concrete activity that we can do to become experts in prayer, to continue along the adventure. We can choose a new tactic in every liturgical season.
Tactics are simple. For example:
Read a good book on the spiritual life before Easter. Learn a new devotion this Lent, reading about its history and starting to practice it. Come to a course or seminar on prayer. Today, as Christ comes once again to renew his friendship with us and to give us strength to continue our Lenten journey, let's each one of us renew our commitment to become great pray-ers. And let's not leave this church without choosing a tactic, even if it's a small one, to make that commitment come true. I can think of few things that would make our brother Jesus happier.
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15;
Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11;
First Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12;
3rd Sunday of Lent - March 24, 2019
People haven't changed much since ancient times. Nowadays the most popular topics of conversation are dramatic news stories. It was the same in Christ's day. Everyone was talking about these major events: the collapse of the tower at Siloam, and the violent tactics Pilate used to control the Jews. And Christ gives his opinion on these earthly events. But he gives it with as much authority as he had when he spoke about heavenly things. He knows the meaning of everything that happens in history. He is the Lord of history. And so he gives the definitive interpretation of these two tragic events. For him, they are parables of what will eventually happen to every human being in this fallen world: suffering and death.
They are not special manifestations of God's anger; they are typical occurrences in a world wounded by sin. They should not surprise us; they should keep us on our toes. When Christ decided to establish his Church, he delegated to the Church this same authority to continue announcing the meaning behind earthly events.
Jesus was "the light of the world" when he walked the roads of Palestine, and the Church keeps carrying that torch in every age. Unfortunately, however, not everyone heeded his voice back then, and not everyone heeds his voice today. The world is always seeking justice, peace, and prosperity. Individuals are always seeking happiness. Without fertilizing our minds and hearts with the truth about who we are and what we were created for, however, society will be barren of these most valuable fruits - like the fig tree that had no figs.
Imagine, for example, how different the world community would be if everyone followed the Ten Commandments. Our Lord knows the way to fulfillment and fruitfulness. As his disciples and children of the Church, we can know it too, and should strive to make it known.
It's kind of like greyhound racing. Greyhound racing is a popular betting sport in some parts of the country. It attracts crowds who enjoy watching sleek and beautiful dogs run as fast as they can around a track. Unlike racehorses, greyhounds run without the assistance of a jockey. To keep the dogs running in the right direction, they are trained to chase a mechanical rabbit made of fur as it zips along the track in front of them. A man in the press box electronically controls the speed of the rabbit, keeping it just out in front of the dogs. The dogs never catch up to it.
At a Florida track some years back, a big race was about to begin. The dogs crouched in their cages, ready to go. The gun went off. The man in the press box pushed his lever, starting the rabbit down the first stretch, while the cage doors flew open, releasing the dogs to take off after the little rabbit.
As the rabbit made the first turn, however, an electrical short in the system caused the rabbit to come to a complete stop, explode, and go up in flames. The only thing left was some black stuff hanging on the end of a wire. Their rabbit gone, the bewildered dogs didn't know how to act.
According to news reports, several dogs simply stopped running and laid down on the track, their tongues hanging out. Two dogs, still frenzied with the chase, ran into a wall, breaking several ribs. Another dog began chasing his tail, while the rest howled at the people in the stands. Not one dog finished the race.
You and I are not God. We need the guidance of God's wisdom if we are going to make it to life's finish line. Many voices that try to interpret current events and issues are also trying to influence our decisions and our way of thinking. They wouldn't mind if we never made it to the finish line. Christ gave us his Vicar on earth, the Bishop of Rome, to protect us from being led astray, to keep us focused on the truth, so we can keep moving through life in the right direction, making the right choices.
We all need to ask ourselves: Do I listen carefully to the voice of Christ's Vicar on earth? Do I pay attention to the guidance God wants to give me through his Church and those leading it? Do I value this great gift properly and actively?
In past ages, before the Internet, and much further in the past, before the printing press, people had an excuse for wondering what Christ's Church was saying about current issues and events. It wasn't so easy to find the guidance of Christ's Vicar. Not so for us. For us, it is easy. We can keep up with the voice of the Vicar with a few clicks of the mouse.
We all use many sources of news and social commentary. We owe it to ourselves, and to Christ, and to the Church, to use regularly at least one reliable source that gives the Church's perspective and the Church's news. We shouldn't learn about what Christ is saying through the false interpretations of Christ's enemies; we should go right to the sources themselves.
And it's so easy!
I know some people who have the home page of their computer to Catholic sites like zenit.org and catholicexchange.org, so that the first thing they see are headlines about what Francis is saying and what's going on in the Church. Others have made the commitment not to check the sports page until they've checked the Catholic headlines. Christ is constantly speaking to us, giving us the meaning behind the headlines.
I can think of few things that would please him more than if during this Mass we renewed our commitment to listen well.
Joshua 5:9, 10-12;
Psalms 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7;
Second Corinthians 5:17-21;
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
4th Sunday of Lent - March 31, 2019
Today is "Laetare Sunday" the Sunday in which the entrance antiphon of the liturgy begins with the word "laetare"]. "Laetare" means "rejoice". Midway through our Lenten journey towards Christ's Passion and Resurrection, the Church invites us to rejoice.
Christian joy is a unique joy.
It doesn't go away, like earthly joys, which wear out when whatever causes them wears out. Like new toys. When we get them we are filled with joy, but then we get tired of them, or they wear out. Friendship with Christ never wears out.
God's goodness, creativity, and love are infinite. So if we really know him, if we are actively living that friendship, we can never get tired of him, our joy can never wear out. This explains why Christians can sing hymns inside
concentration camps, because not even prisons can't take away Christ's love. Unfortunately, we sometimes let life's hustle and bustle drown out that friendship. When that happens, we stop experiencing Christian joy. One way to keep this joy fresh is to spread it, to fulfill our primary mission as Christians.
St Paul describes that mission in one short phrase. He writes to the Corinthians that "We are ambassadors for Christ." God has sent us out into the world the way leaders of countries send out ambassadors to other countries - to be his representatives, his messengers.
Christ has given each of us the power to speak in his name: to announce the "good news of great joy" to all the prodigal sons around us, at the office, at school, on our streets that the Father is waiting for them with open arms, that God's forgiveness is real, that life can have meaning. And when we tell others about it, it keeps it fresh in our own minds too.
Have you ever wondered how this parable would have ended up if the older brother had been a better brother? The younger, rebellious son abandons his father. The father has to respect that. He can't force the young man to love and trust him. He can't go out and try to force his son to come back home. He can only wait, hoping that the son will have a change of heart and come back. But the older brother doesn't have to wait. He doesn't have to be passive. If he had really cared about his father and his little brother, instead of just caring about himself, he would have gone after him. He would have done more than just criticize and judge him. He would have at least made one or two outings in search of him.
We can imagine the conversation they would have had at the pig farm. The older brother, "We miss you, and we would love for you to come back." The younger brother, "But how can I, what I did was so horrible?" "Don't worry, just come back - trust me, we'll work it out. You don't have to stay here eating corn husks..." How much joy that effort - even if it had been unsuccessful - would have given his father! How much of a help it might have been for his brother! And how much meaning and fulfillment it would have given himself!
Each one of us is surrounded by innumerable younger brothers who are lost and sorrowful. It is not so hard to open the eyes of our hearts to see them. How easy it would be to invite them back to the father's.
We are all Christ's ambassadors. We all have received the mission to spread Christ and share our Christian joy, as we say each week to bring it “out there”. In a sense, we are called to be God's goodness for others. In us, through our words, actions, and example, God wants them to discover how much he loves them, so that they can enter into friendship with him and experience Christian joy.
This week, we should renew our commitment to fulfill this mission - to be Christ's ambassadors - consciously, actively. One easy way to do this is simply to go out of our way for someone every day this week. We can go out of our way to help someone in little things, like giving up the better parking space, or taking time to actually find information for someone instead of just pointing them to the website. We can also go out of our way to help someone in bigger things - like taking the family to visit a sick relative in the hospital or the nursing home, or inviting the new family in the neighborhood over for a welcome dinner, or volunteering your most precious resource - time...
When we go out of our way for someone, we show them some of God's goodness. If each one of us makes this resolution, through us, this week alone, God will be able to reach out to hundreds of prodigal sons and daughters who are afraid to come home, who think that nobody cares. And whenever we let God work through us, our own friendship with Christ and therefore our experience of Christian joy will also be deepened. When we receive Christ in the Eucharist, let's renew that friendship, ask for the grace of Christian joy, and promise to do something this week to share that joy with others.
Psalms 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
5th Sunday of Lent - April 7, 2019
One of God's main policies in governing the universe is that he always gives us another chance. It may seem strange to speak of God as having policies. But if we define that a policy is a consistent way of behaving in the face of specific circumstances, God's habit of giving us another chance definitely qualifies.
This is what the prophet Isaiah tells us.
Through him, God explains: "Remember not the events of the past... see, I am doing something new!" God is inviting his people to look to the future with hope. At the time Isaiah was writing, the people of Israel were living in exile, as second-class citizens in Babylon. They had been unfaithful to God, and as a result, Jerusalem had long ago been conquered and its inhabitants scattered and enslaved. Naturally speaking, there was little room for hope. But in the midst of that situation, God reminds them that he has done wonders for his people in the past, and promises to do so again.
It's God's policy to give his people another chance, to bring them back from exile even though they don't really deserve it. Jesus follows the same policy with the adulterous woman. Notice that he doesn't ignore or excuse her sin - he acknowledges it and actually tells her to "go and sin no more." But at the same time, he doesn't condemn her. He gives her another chance.
It's a good thing God follows this policy. Otherwise, which one of us could have any hope? Otherwise, God would have to destroy us all. After all, aren't we just like the Pharisees - quick to condemn others, but in truth, guilty of hidden sin ourselves?
Giving us another chance is one of God's main policies. It's called mercy. It's called forgiveness. It's called real love in a sinful, fallen world. Let's savor God's mercy by seeing what a grace it was for this adulterous woman.
The incident occurred during one of Israel's great holidays. Thousands of pilgrims had flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast Day. Many of them camped on the hillsides outside the city or stayed with relatives in nearby towns. This kind of living circumstance, combined with the festive atmosphere, lent itself to irregular situations in which temptations could easily present themselves.
This woman fell into one of those temptations. And she was caught. Whoever caught her - maybe her own husband, or maybe the wife of the man she was committing adultery with - was furious. They turned her in to the Pharisees, Israel's moral and legal authorities, known for their strict adherence to the Law. Imagine how she felt as she was dragged off to be tried by this strict court for a crime that she had absolutely no defense for.
Have you ever been caught in the midst of a crime, even a little one? When someone is caught stealing, or lying, or even speeding - they get that sinking sensation in their gut. They know there is no escape. They have been exposed. They will have to pay the penalty. That's how this sinful woman felt: hopeless, ashamed, scared stiff. She knew that the penalty was severe. She knew that she would now be ostracized by her peers and her family, if indeed she survived at all
She was caught. She had nowhere to turn.
The Pharisees take her to Jesus, to see if they can force him to make an unpopular decision. But Jesus doesn't react the way they reacted. He understands exactly what they want to do. He also understands the fear, the regret, the shame that the woman is feeling. And so, instead of condemning her, he gives her another chance. He restores her freedom and her dignity. Imagine how grateful she must have felt, how relieved. Her worst sins had been exposed for all to see, and her judge had forgiven her. He had given her another chance. This is God's policy.
The Pharisees wanted to destroy the sinful woman. Jesus wanted to give her another chance. This was Jesus' mission. He came to earth to overcome sin and death with mercy and resurrection. To lead each one of us out of exile and into eternal life, just as God had led Israel out of Babylon and back to Jerusalem.
We are Christians. We are Christ's followers. We are Christ's representatives in the world. If his mission was to give people another chance, then our mission has to be the same. When Jesus commanded us to "love one another as I have loved you", isn't this what he meant?
We are called to be ambassadors of God's mercy. We are called to be instruments of the Resurrection. To do so, we will have to suffer, as Christ suffered before he rose from the dead. We will have to die to ourselves, to deny our natural tendencies to anger, resentment, revenge, and criticism. And so, each of us needs to ask ourselves: Is there someone in my life who needs another chance? Is there someone in my life who I have given up on, but who God hasn't given up on? Is there someone in my life whom I have condemned, as the Pharisees condemned this adulterous woman? Is there someone I have destroyed by gossip or criticism? Is there someone who in my heart I want to destroy?
Some of us will be able to think of someone right away. Others will need to ask God for light. But all of us need to change policies. Today, we need to adopt or re-adopt God's policy.
When Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist, let's thank our Brother for not condemning us, and let's promise him that, with his grace, we too will do our best to give everyone we encounter another chance, especially those who deserve it least.
Psalms 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-
Palm Sunday - 2019
Today the King comes to take possession of his Kingdom. Who is this King? God's only Son, the Anointed One, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. What is his Kingdom? The eternal, everlasting Kingdom where God himself rules every heart.
The King's triumphal entry into Jerusalem is the first act of the sacred drama of Christ's greatest work: his passion, death, and resurrection, by which he would redeem the world and establish his everlasting Kingdom. Today, we celebrate this triumph with the ancient symbol of victory: palm branches. And it is right that we should. But are we only spectators? No. We are called to be involved in Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The clue to this fact, that we are called to be more than just spectators, is the way Christ entered Jerusalem - on a donkey colt.
That means a bunch of things.
It means that Christ is fulfilling his Father's will, because Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a colt. It means that Christ is the Prince of Peace, because when kings in ancient times came bringing peace, they rode on donkeys, but when they came bringing war, they rode on horses. But most importantly, it is a parable.
Jerusalem stands for every human heart. And just has Jerusalem was surrounded by huge stone walls, every human heart too is surrounded by walls. And Jesus wants to go through those walls and win over those hearts. And he doesn't want to do it alone. He could have walked into Jerusalem on his own feet, but he didn't. He chose to need the colt. In the same way, in order to bring his Kingdom into people's hearts today, he chooses to need you and me. We are the donkey colts, carrying Christ into every city of the world, into every heart. Jesus wants to conquer the world through us.
This was Jesus' constant strategy. From the very beginning of his mission on earth, he chose to require human cooperation, coming among us through the humble obedience of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now, over 2000 years later, he continues to come among us through common, every day elements like the water of baptism, the oil of anointing, and the bread and water of the Eucharist.
Think of the wafers of bread that we will use in today's Mass.
They are so plain. Unleavened bread. Flimsy and fragile. They barely have any taste. There is nothing special about them at all, nothing attractive, from the world's perspective. And yet, through them is how Jesus Christ, Creator, Redeemer, and King of the universe chooses to come to us. Now, if we didn't bring that bread to the altar, Christ would not come. If we didn't give that bread to the Church and the Holy Spirit, it would remain forever just ordinary bread.
Think of the priesthood, the sacrament by which that bread becomes Christ's Precious Body and Blood. It is not the human power of the priest that does it, not his intelligence or athletic ability or personality - he is completely powerless to perform the miracle of the Eucharist, just as the donkey colt was completely powerless to save the world. And yet, if that person hadn't answered their call to the priesthood, Christ would not be able to come; he would have no donkey to ride. The priest gives his poor, imperfect, ordinary self to Christ, and through him Christ comes into the Eucharist, just as he came into Jerusalem riding the donkey colt. This is another case of Jesus' constant strategy. Jesus comes into the world through us, his ambassadors, through our ordinary, human cooperation; he comes riding on a plain, ordinary donkey.
This is the way Jesus has decided to work in the world. And so we should consciously lend him a hand. We should make ourselves into the best donkey colts we can be, carrying Christ wherever he wants to go.
The key to being good donkeys is obedience, docility. Our motto in life should be the one he taught us: Thy will be done. If he wants us to turn to the right, we go right; if he wants us to turn to the left, we go left. This is the lesson the Blessed Virgin Mary learned, and it was the mark of her greatness. Remember her response to the Angel Gabriel? "Let it be done to me according to your word."
Christ himself also gives us the example of docility.
His whole earthly life was lived in perfect obedience to the Creator’s will, as the first and second readings today remind us: "I have not rebelled," the prophet Isaiah speaks in the name of the Messiah; "He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death," St Paul explains.
I am sure that each one of us wants to bring Christ into the lives of those around us. We want to share with others the precious faith we have received. We want him to bring his love, his forgiveness, his wisdom, and his grace into those lives. We want him to ride right through the gates of Jerusalem and into the hearts of everyone we love, everyone we work with, everyone we know, everyone who is in need. He wants the same thing. All he needs is for us to be good donkeys, and he will take care of the rest.
Today, as we celebrate his Triumphal entry and receive him once again in the Eucharist, let's thank Jesus for coming to save us by becoming one of us, and let's renew our commitment to be good, docile, dependable donkeys, so he can conquer more and more Jerusalems.
Isaiah 61:1-3, 6, 8-9
Psalms 89:21-22, 25, 27
Holy Thursday Mass - Apr 18, 2019
The distinguishing mark of the Christian is self-forgetful love. This is because every Christian is another Christ, and the distinguishing mark of Christ was his love. The washing of his disciples' feet was a perfect image of what this Christ-like love is all about. In ancient Palestine foot-washing was a job reserved for slaves. It was one of the most unpleasant and humiliating tasks. People wore sandals or went barefoot. And they walked on roads shared by herdsmen driving their animals to market and traders moving goods by ox and camel. The dirt of these unpaved byways, therefore, was blended with dung. Even a short walk caked one's sandal-exposed feet with the filthy, smelly mix.
That's what Jesus washed off his Apostles' feet.
By freely, gladly, and willingly washing his Apostles' feet, Jesus, God made man, the King of kings and Lord of the universe, lowered himself to the status of a slave. In that way, showed what he means by the word love. For Christ, love is not feelings; it is not noble desires; love is self-giving. Love is active and costly. That's what the washing of the feet teaches us. And because he knows we're slow learners, he is going to repeat the lesson even more graphically by the suffering and death of his passion. If that's what love means for Christ, then it's also what love means for the Christian, for each of us.
If we want to be his faithful followers, if we want to live as the members of God's family that we are, we must strive to follow his example: "I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."
We are all here today physically or via Facebook Live because we want to do that; we believe in Jesus and want to follow him. We want to improve our own lives, the lives of those around us, and the whole world. And yet, sometimes we forget how simple it really is. Christ's strategy for changing the world and bettering our lives is self-forgetful love; it's washing each other's feet. If we live that, the rest will fall into place, both for us, and for our society.
A few years ago the British medical journal, The Lancet, did a study on why people desire euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. The researchers did in-depth interviews with people suffering from HIV-1 and AIDS. They came up with this answer: "Participants desired euthanasia or assisted suicide because of disintegration and loss of community, which combined to create a perception of loss of self."
In other words, the sick and helpless said, in various ways, "I am no longer who I was." And this led them to conclude, "I should be allowed to die with my dignity intact." But why would these people feel that they were no longer themselves?
That's where "loss of community" comes in.
They found that the people who used to care about them didn't care about them anymore, now that they were sick and dying. They saw that their feet were filthy, but no one came by to wash them, and so they conclude that they are not worth washing, and they lose hope. At that point, death starts to look like a solution, a way to stop spiraling further into worthlessness. Thus, the culture of death.
The antidote is Christ-like love. They need someone to wash their feet, to remind them that in God's eyes, they still matter, they will always matter. This is the message that every human heart needs to receive, the message that a healthy society knows how to send.
Today, the Lord is inviting us to renew our commitment to follow this path of self-forgetful love. I think we all want to say yes to that invitation. We want to make following Christ the central project of our lives. And there is no better way to do this than by making Christ in the Eucharist the central focal point of our lives. There we can learn to love as Christ loves.
There we can find the strength to put that lesson into action, because there Christ himself speaks to our hearts and strengthens our souls. Making the Eucharist the focal point of our lives doesn't mean spending all of our time here in Church, though God does call some people to dedicate their lives in such a way.
But for most of us, it means simple things, like receiving Communion regularly and worthily, going to confession beforehand when necessary. It means trying to get to Mass more than just on Sundays. It means including Mass and Holy Communion in birthday and anniversary celebrations and other special occasions. It means carving a few minutes out of our busy schedules to come and sit with the Lord, to drop by the Tabernacle, where Jesus is always waiting for us, praying for us, and keeping the gifts of his grace ready for us.
As we receive the Lord now in the Eucharist, let's thank him for all he has done for us, and let's renew our commitment to strive to be his true followers, radiating Christ-like love in everything we do.
Psalms 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Good Friday - Apr 19, 2019
As we contemplate Our Lord crucified today, we behold a tragedy, the tragedy of an innocent man publicly executed. Jesus’ only “crime” was to identify himself as the Messiah, and that’s who he was; he did so to the Sanhedrin, so they decided to have him killed, and he did so to Pilate, who sentenced him to death. His response leaves us as dumbstruck and confounded as the kings of the world mentioned in today’s First Reading: Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant is a description of Christ raised on the Cross: “…my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted…so marred was his look beyond human semblance…so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless…” He takes the punishments we deserve upon himself: “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins” He doesn’t just say, “never mind, I forgive you”; he hands himself over to evil men to be tortured and executed. He teaches us how horrible the effects of sin are, not just to us, but to him, and that our sins have consequences. Yet Isaiah also reminds us that by his wounds we are healed. His suffering is not in vain. He has won pardon for our sins.
Today’s Second Reading reminds us that through this suffering Christ made salvation possible for us. Our Lord assumed nature to redeem us, but also to experience everything we experience as human beings except for sin. When tragedy strikes us, we can rail against God, but Christ on the Cross reminds us that he is not ignorant to our sufferings because he himself has suffered. We know everything he has endured for us, therefore we know that when we’re truly sorry for what we’ve done he’ll grant us his mercy. We just have to ask. As the Bishop of Rome, Francis reminds us, God doesn’t tire of forgiving us; we get tired of asking for his forgiveness.
As today’s Gospel reminds us, Jesus had his ID card hanging right over his head: “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” It was meant as mockery, but it was the truth, the truth to which he had testified all along.
If the execution of a guilty man doesn’t give us remorse and it should, since it presents a failure of all society, not just the criminal, the execution of an innocent man should.
This tragedy is even more profound when we gaze upon the Crucified One and remember that we should have been on that Cross instead of him. An innocent man is dying, brutalized on the Cross, for us. Adam and Eve’s Fall and our sins incurred the death penalty. After all, God had given us and done for us, we’ve repaid him by turning our backs on him, again and again. Even in his last words, Jesus asks the Father to forgive us for our ignorance. Today is a day not to dwell on the tragedy we inflicted on the good God who came to save us, but the love with which he did. Let’s die to sin and turn back to God and back to love.
Blessed Carlo Gnocchi was born near Milan in 1902 and was ordained a priest in 1925. He became a military chaplain for the Italian army and while serving the soldiers during World War II he envisioned founding a charitable organization for war orphans and handicapped children, especially children handicapped due to the war. In 1945 his vision became a reality, focusing at first on the young, disabled children who were victims of the war, then extending to many disabled people in need of therapy and rehab. As a last gesture of giving himself completely for others he donated his cornea on his deathbed in 1956 to two blind children. At the time Italy didn’t regulate organ donation; it was a prophetic act of self-giving that was later more widespread.
As the song by R.E.M. reminds us, everybody hurts sometimes. Today is a day to unite ourselves with the suffering Christ. The suffering draw comfort and strength by having someone accompany them in their suffering. We accompany Christ in his suffering today, but he also accompanies us in ours. Whether we face great suffering or the little complaints of life, Christ shows us on the Cross that we’ll never suffer alone. Let’s also accompany Christ today in anyone we know who is suffering.
Acts 10:34, 37-43
Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Easter Sunday - Apr 21, 2019
On the first day of the week, the third day of his Passion, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Today is his day. Many great historical figures have led exemplary lives, taught wise doctrines, and even died for the truth. But only one has risen again. Among the vast array of humanity's greatest heroes, only about Jesus Christ can we say: "He rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the scriptures." Only in Christ's resurrection do goodness and power finally unite. The good guy wins! Only in Christ's resurrection does love prove that it is stronger than death.
In Christ and in his resurrection, a new - a wildly new - hope dawns for all mankind, the hope that if we stay united to him through faith and grace, we will rise with him, rise from our very tombs, and live with him forever in the never-ending adventure of heaven. No one else offers such a hope, because no one else has risen from the dead to be able to offer it - only the Lord.
The Resurrection is the definitive watershed in the history of religions; it makes Christianity absolutely unique. 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.
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.
St. Ignatius Loyola's famous little book, The Spiritual Exercises, contains several contemplations on the Resurrection. One of these deals with what St Ignatius thought would have been Jesus' very first appearance after rising from the dead - an appearance to his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This appearance isn't mentioned in the Gospels, but St Ignatius considered it to be common sense. In fact, as a caption to this section of his book, he wrote, "Don't be stupid." And indeed, Mary's name doesn't appear on the list of women who went to the tomb on Easter morning.
Why didn't she go with them, as she had done at the burial? Maybe because Jesus had already risen and appeared to her. Mary's great virtue is faith. She believed that "what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled." She had heard Christ's prophecies: "The Son of Man will be killed and rise on the third day"; "Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days." Mary meditated on this in her heart, and we can imagine how eagerly she was looking forward to seeing the risen Lord.
When Jesus finally appeared, we can imagine how lovingly she embraced him. What might they have talked about? Maybe they spoke about Mary's new mission - now she was the spiritual mother of the whole Church. Maybe they spoke about the Scriptures that Jesus had fulfilled through his passion, death, and resurrection. Maybe tears of joy were enough all on their own. And that joy was of a whole new kind - it was the joy of the resurrection, an everlasting joy that neither death nor suffering could tarnish ever again. And that's the joy that every Christian can look forward to, because of Easter; it's what makes us different.
Today we should relish this joy of Easter, thanking God for letting us share in this victory, for giving us this hope. But let's not stop there. Let's not just enjoy Easter, let's let it change our lives. Christ's resurrection is not just a nice idea; it is the power of eternal life at work in us. Why not do something for the eight weeks of the Easter season to plug into that power? Almost every one of us made an effort to live Lent in a special way. Most likely we gave something up for or did something extra special Lent.
That was a practical way to give the special graces that God sends during Lent some room to work in our souls. So, if we gave something up as a way to help us live the penitential season of Lent, why not take something up as a way to help us live the joyful season of Easter?
In the Second Reading, St Paul encouraged us to "think of what is above, not of what is on earth." Why don't we make an Easter resolution that will help us do that, that will help us keep in mind the eternal life in Christ that is waiting for us if we stay faithful to him?
It could be something simple: like inviting a friend or family member who has forgotten about Christ's victory to come to Mass on Sundays and then inviting them over for brunch or lunch like watching a classic movie together as a family each Sunday between now and Pentecost - a joyful, uplifting movie like having a special outing or get-together with friends on Fridays like taking some time each evening to re-read some of your favorite books, the ones that stir up joy in your soul
If we ask the Holy Spirit to give us some ideas, he won't be stingy. He just needs us to decide to let Easter make a difference in our lives, the way it should. Our souls need that as much as they needed the time of penance and contrition that we lived during Lent.
The Church is wise in giving us six weeks of Lent and eight weeks of Easter. Today, as we receive the risen Lord in the Eucharist, let's promise him that we will find a way to benefit from that wisdom.