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Readings

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7

Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 1

Romans 5:12-19 or 5:12, 17-19

Matthew 4:1-11
1st Sunday of Lent - March 1, 2020

Today’s readings remind us that one of the greatest blessings we’ve received from God is the power to decide, and also the responsibility of being able to decide. We’re free to choose, but that also means we’re free to choose something bad. Lent is a time when we remember and repent for the horrible choices we’ve made personally and as God’s people, and today’s readings show us how we go into these messes and how we can get out of them.

Today’s First Reading reminds us how temptation works, and that we have to take responsibility for our actions, because “the Devil made me do it” and “I didn’t know any better” are so often old, tired, and specious arguments.

Adam and Eve had life breathed into them by God himself. We came from dust, which is why every Ash Wednesday one of the formulas for administering the ashes is “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

God created a paradise for Adam and Eve, and he also created limits. These limits were for their good. They could eat the fruit, which is symbolic freedom, but they didn’t think of whether they should eat the fruit (consequences). All the serpent had to do was sow doubt about whether God had their best interest in mind. Eve considered her options and ate; Adam just seems to follow her lead, and the deed is done.
In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that Adam’s decision, as the head of humanity, had consequences, and so does the New Adam’s who is Jesus. Adam, as the head of humanity, was entrusted with its wellbeing throughout the generations. He sinned and lost it all, just like a gambler squandering his family’s livelihood and going bust. One of his sons murders the other out of envy, and death enters into the world, showing the effects of sin. That Original Sin of Adam ushered in death for us all. That is the power and consequence of making decisions. Eve soon led Adam to sin: sin never stays at home, it spreads, just like the consequences of Original Sin spread throughout history, and death reminds us of sin and its consequences. This power of decision has an even greater potential for good than for evil. Christ, the New Adam ushers life back into humanity through his good decision.

Christ, by becoming man, became the new head of humanity, since he was its greatest example and still is. He decided to lay down his life out of love for the Father and us, and through his decision, he conquered sin and death for us all. 

In today’s Gospel, the garden of temptation has been replaced, ages later, as a desert of temptation. Jesus fasts and prays before beginning his public ministry, and, like all of us, he too has to face temptation in making the right decisions. He does so to teach us how we can face and overcome temptations to decide well.

The devil tempts him to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. Eve saw the forbidden fruit as good for food. Jesus could turn that stone to bread in a snap. But he replies: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.” These stones being stones, and Jesus being hungry are all part of God’s plan, all part of God’s will.

God’s will for us and others should always shape our decisions.

Since the devil saw that Jesus was a scriptural man, he tried to use some scripture of his own. He took him to the top of the Temple in Jerusalem. The devil insisted that Jesus demands proof of God’s protection, and he had the gall to back it up with Bible verses. We need to have faith in God to make right decisions. Scripture helps us to know his will, not just justify our actions. We can try to make a Biblical case, but it is God who justifies or condemns our actions, not us.

Eve saw that the fruit was good for wisdom, for knowledge that would make her like God. The devil showed Jesus in an instant all the kingdoms of the world, and all Jesus had to do was grovel at his feet. He offered Jesus everything except the one thing the devil wouldn’t give up: being number one.
Jesus stays focused on who was number one: God and the mission he had received —“Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.” Serving God should always shape our decisions. If he is not in first place, our decisions will take a wrong turn.

When the Marvel Comics superhero Spiderman first gained his super powers, he decided to use them for himself by becoming a celebrity. He wins a wrestling match and gets “discovered” and starts appearing on television.

Minutes after his television debut a robber runs past him in the hall, and he doesn’t stop him because it’s not his problem. He continues his budding career and one day upon arriving home finds out from the police that his uncle has been killed. He tracks down the killer and discovers it was the same man who’d robbed the office. Spiderman learned from that one wrong decision what became his motto, “with great power comes great responsibility.” He decided to use his powers for the good of others, not just for himself.

Lent is only a few days old, and we make Lenten resolutions, usually something in the area of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This Lent pick something hard as a resolution, something that clashes with your convictions and your weakness. Pick something that is going to help you grow in virtue and holiness by flexing and testing your spiritual muscles for weeks. This process is painful, but also purifying because through healthy self-knowledge you grow in humility.

Do not get discouraged if you don’t keep it perfectly. It is a stress test that can teach you a lot.




Readings

Genesis 12:1-4

Psalms 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

Second Timothy 1:8-10

Matthew 17:1-9
2nd Sunday of Lent - Mar 8, 2020  (Fr. Jim's Homily)

Lent is about a week and a half underway, and today’s readings remind us that everything we’re commemorating during this season hinges on faith in Christ. He reveals to us the meaning of Lent, and he wants to be our light.

Today’s First Reading reminds us that Abraham, our father in faith, set out based on a promise that was fulfilled through Christ. Abram was promised to be the father of a great nation and a blessing to all nations. His name was destined to become renowned, and so it became.

He didn’t receive many instructions, just to leave his kinsmen and set out. In the Letter to the Hebrews Abraham is described as our father in faith: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go”. Hebrews also reminds us that Abraham didn’t receive the entire promise: “not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar”. In his lifetime he saw a glimpse of the promise, just as the disciples see it in today’s Gospel.

Abraham’s son Isaac was the first small sign of one of the Lord’s promises being fulfilled to become the father of a great nation. God asked him to sacrifice his son, and he was prepared to do it. As Abraham was leading Isaac up the mountain, Isaac asked him, innocently, what they were going to sacrifice. Abraham responded, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son”. This was not just an act of faith; it was prophetic because the true Lamb that God would provide for sacrifice would be his Son. Abraham only caught a glimpse, in faith, of what would be fully revealed in Christ.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that Christ was always at the center of our Heavenly Father’s plans, even before we became aware of it. In Christ, everything is revealed. Abraham died in faith, but never saw the promise completely fulfilled. When facing hardship we are consoled by considering when it will end. For a Christian the cynical expression “life is hard, then you die” holds no weight. Christ has revealed that “life is hard, and then you live happily ever after” if you have faith in him. Christ has shown that life can have a happy ending, no matter what we endure in our earthly existence. During Holy Week we’ll remember that he didn’t just teach this; he lived it.

In today’s Gospel, the Lord’s closest disciples receive a glimpse of his divinity and glory on the mountaintop to strengthen them for the trials to come. They see what the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises will look like. The Lord only took Peter, James, and John. They were his closest disciples and had the most need of encouragement. Peter would be entrusted with Christ’s flock in a special way. James would be the first apostle martyred. John would write some of the most sublime words of Sacred Scripture.

Our Lord’s face and clothes became as light. His face, like sunlight, represents his person and, at this moment, his divinity. Moses and Elijah converse with Jesus. Our Lord is at the center. The Law, represented by Moses, and the Prophets, represented by Elija, point to him. If a transfigured Christ flanked by the greatest exponents of the Law and the Prophets is not enough, a theophany occurs as well: God the Father identifies Jesus as his son, and how pleased he is with him. If Peter, James, and John had not believed in Christ, they wouldn’t even be on this mountain. Their faith necessitated a glimpse of the promise that would prepare them for the trials and tragedy to come.

When an immigrant sets out for a new land, he is setting out in the hopes of a better life. He is leaving everything he knows behind. He becomes a stranger in a strange land: a different language, a different cuisine, different fashions, different customs. We all dream of a better life, and sometimes reality sets in, but we pursue our dreams. We bring a little of our home with us, but we also know a new home awaits us. The Letter to the Hebrews describes all the great believers who preceded us as emigrants: “These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one”.

Abraham was the first emigrant in faith, and we’re all emigrants too. We’re setting out on pilgrimage in this life pursuing a dream that will come in Heaven. This pilgrimage means leaving things behind to pursue our dreams.

Peter in today’s Gospel, true to form, couldn’t keep quiet about what he was witnessing. He wanted to do something. Contemplating Christ is important, but that contemplation usually leads to inspiring us to do something in response. The Transfiguration was a brief glimpse of Our Lord’s divinity. In contemplating his divinity, his humanity becomes even more amazing: God suffered and died for me. What’s my response?

Have we stopped from time to time and meditated on the fact that God, all powerful, all knowing, loves us and wants to be Our Father, our brother, and the inspiration for all we are and do? Ask the Lord to help you be awestruck by him this week. It can be a powerful moment of decision and conversion in your life.

2nd Sunday of Lent  -  March 8, 2020 (Deacon Jane's Homily)
Readings

Exodus 17:3-7

Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

John 4:5-42 or 4:5-15, 19-26, 39
3rd Sunday of Lent - March 15, 2020
We all experience two kinds of thirst in life, and unless we understand the difference between them, we will always be frustrated.

The first kind of thirst is horizontal thirst. We thirst for, we desire, the good things of this earth: food, drink, companionship, fun, entertainment, a nice house, a good income, success at work or school. It's part of our nature to desire these things; there's nothing wrong with them.

But we also have another kind of thirst - vertical thirst. This is a deeper thirst, a deeper desire. It's a desire for meaning and purpose. This desire is also built into our nature. There is nothing we can do to destroy it, just as there is nothing we can do to destroy our natural desires for food and water. But unlike horizontal thirst, our vertical thirst cannot be satisfied by our own efforts. Only God himself can satisfy it. And he created us like that on purpose.

It's as if he put a homing device in the very core of our being, and it constantly draws us towards him, towards intimate, personal contact with his eternal, transcendent love. This is why even when all of our horizontal thirsts are satisfied, when we have money, success, and pleasure, we are still restless. Our deeper, vertical thirst can't be satisfied by things of this world.

As the Catechism puts it: "Man is made to live in communion with God, in whom he finds happiness". The meaning and purpose which alone will give us true happiness comes from friendship with God in Christ, not from worldly success, pleasures, and human relationships. When we forget that, when try to satisfy our vertical thirst with horizontal stuff, we put ourselves on the road to frustration, tragedy and disappointment.

We all know this - that's why we're here today. But the world/society around us is always trying to change our minds, to convince us that the vertical thirst is just an illusion, that we really can satisfy all the longings of our hearts just with earthly treasures and pleasures.

That's one of the evil one’s favorite lies. If the evil one can confuse us into thinking that our vertical thirst is just part of our horizontal thirst, then we won't even come and ask for God's guidance and gifts!
The great Spanish Jesuit, Blessed Balthasar Alvarez, was kneeling one day before the Blessed Sacrament. While he prayed, Jesus appeared to him as a little boy. The Child Jesus had a look of longing in his eyes, and both of his hands were full of glittering, beautiful, precious jewels. As the holy priest gazed at the vision, the Child Jesus spoke these words to him: "Oh! If only I could find someone to give these graces and blessings to!"

God is yearning to fill our hearts with his grace even more passionately than we are yearning for meaning and happiness! God created us with a thirst for his friendship, for divine wisdom, and for everlasting truth and love not in order to torture us, but to lead us towards the real paradise. But when we let ourselves be seduced by plastic paradises instead, his treasures go undiscovered, and our desires go unsatisfied.
As the Catechism puts it again: The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.

We are not like the Samaritan woman when she arrived at the well. We already know Christ. We have experienced his love and grace. We have tasted the water that springs up to eternal life - we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! as St Paul puts it in the Second Reading.

Even so, we still have periods in our life when, like the Israelites in the desert, we struggle, we cry out, we get thirsty, and we need God to remind us of his power and his love. But we know where to turn in those moments. We "have been justified by faith," as St Paul says, and so "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

 
Today we should thank God for that precious gift, of faith - the "gift of God" that never runs dry.
So we are not like the Samaritan woman when she arrived at the well. Rather, we are like the Samaritan woman after her conversation with Christ. In today's secularized world, we are the privileged ones, the countercultural ones who have met the Savior. We know that no matter what the advertisers say, horizontal stuff will never satisfy the human heart's vertical thirst. But so many of those around us don't know that, and so they are frustrated in life, and they don't know why. It is up to us to tell them.

 
All the Holy Spirit needs from us is a decent effort to spread the good news, and he will use our clumsy words to bring faith into thirsty hearts - just as he used the Samaritan woman's words to convert an entire town. Jesus is the new Moses, and each one of us is a wooden staff in his hands, and he wants to use us to touch the stony hearts of our thirsting neighbors, so he can open within them a flowing fountain of his saving grace.

This week, let's give him the chance.

TRANSFIGURATION -- Mt 17:1-9 ; Mark 9:2-8

 
  The Transfiguration, what a spectacular event! We need to keep in mind that nobody had an iPhone to record the event, and that Peter, James and John had all already died when the Gospels were written. So we need to focus on the message behind the story. What where the early writers trying to tell their readers and, more importantly, what is the Spirit trying to tell us today as we reflect upon this passage?

It might help us to understand this event a bit better if we put it into context within the Gospel itself. In the passages, which precede this event, Jesus predicts His suffering and death and Peter sternly rebukes Him. And Jesus, just as sternly, calls Peter a “Satan” and tells him to get out of His sight. Some days later, Jesus brings Peter, James and John on a climb up the mountain…..

The idea of climbing to the top of a mountain had great significance in Hebrew Scriptures and culture. You will recall Moses’ encounter with God on Mt. Sinai and Elijah also had an experience of God on a mountain. In today’s reading, Jesus brings three of His disciples on a climb up a mountain – and this requires some work. Perhaps the work required adds to the intensity of the experience.

  
Seven years ago, my grandson and I took a trip to Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca city high in the Peruvian mountains. Our guide gave us a choice: we could ride most of the way up in a bus or approach the site with a climb. We chose to climb and were rewarded by the most spectacular vantage point when we reached our entry place. So often in life, the things that we have to work for, are so much more appreciated and treasured. This also applies to our Christian Faith and our commitment to it.

So here they are on the mountain and suddenly Moses and Elijah are with Jesus. They are two of the most significant figures in the story of the Jewish people -- Moses, representing the Law and Elijah, the prophets. The symbolism of Jesus as a fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets could not have been missed by James and John and Peter, who is so excited that he wants to build three shelters. That way they can stay there because he declares that it is good for them to be there.

And the disciples saw Jesus in a new way – light shining from within Him, clothing dazzling white – Jesus in a state of absolute glory!!! This is a preview of the GLORY that is to come!

Then suddenly – God’s presence! -- A bright cloud! -- a common symbol of God’s presence in the Hebrew Scriptures. And God’s voice is heard, “This is my Chosen One, my Beloved. Listen to Him!” We’ve seen a similar scene before, at Jesus’ Baptism, a voice from the cloud – “This is my Beloved, with Him I am well pleased” and this time something is added – “Listen to Him!” And what has Jesus been telling them that they didn’t want to hear? -- That rejection, suffering and death are central to His mission.

   
Theologian Beverly Gaventa expresses this clearly:
What the disciples (and Mark’s audience) need to understand is that Jesus
is both the Son of God, powerful agent of healing and subject of dazzling glory,
and also the Son of Man, who will be betrayed and persecuted and crucified.  
The disciples, in common with many Christians throughout the church’s life,
want to have the glory that they can see without the message (of suffering) that 
they must hear, but the two cannot be separated.

The apostles respond by falling to the ground in fear, which is a very 
appropriate response to the divine presence. Remember in the Jewish tradition, a person who has an encounter with God is expected to die as a result of such a close revelation. Then what happens? Jesus comes and touches them and says, “Do not be afraid.” [There are over 300 times in the Bible that people are told not to be afraid in one form or another. I’m sure you can recall several important ones. The angel tells Mary not to be afraid, the same message is given to the shepherds who are told of Jesus’ birth, when Jesus appears to his disciples after the Resurrection, He tells them not to be afraid.]

Those of us who are parents may have a different reaction to the suggestion that we not be afraid or not worry. – You get a phone call at a very odd hour and the first thing your child says is, “Don’t worry, everything is all right.” Well, immediately, you know there is something to worry about and everything is not all right. I’m wondering if the apostles were astute enough to know that all would not be “all right”. They would not be staying on this mountain of glory. They would be climbing back down the mountain into the messiness of the world beneath them and the predicted sufferings to come. The full meaning of a mountaintop experience many not become clear until after a return to the valley – the valley where the real work of being a follower of Jesus begins.

With Jesus, the “Do not be afraid” comes with a promise – a promise to be with us, to send His Spirit, to walk with us always. On another mountain at the Ascension, Jesus followers receive the promise that His story and our story will be forever intertwined – whether we are on the mountaintops, or in the valleys, or someplace in between. “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20) These are the very last words of Matthew’s Gospel. May we have the courage to believe in this promise and live our lives accordingly and boldly?



Readings

First Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13

Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41 or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17,
Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 22, 2020)
Deacon Jane's Homily

  Anointing of David 1 Samuel 16:(1-13)  
Cure of the Man Born BlindJohn 9: 1-41
  Psalm 23

  The readings for the Lenten Sundays are so rich and I am choosing to focus on the first reading, the Anointing of David because I believe it has an important message for us today. As you recall, David wasn’t even considered by his father, he had been sent off to tend the sheep, and not until Samuel insists does Jesse send for him. In everyone’s eyes, he is “the one least likely” to be chosen as a future king for the Israelite people. It reminds be of my senior year in high school when the class voted for “the one most likely to” in different categories – most likely to become a millionaire, become a TV personality, to succeed, etc. etc. I don’t recall if I was voted most likely to be anything, but one thing I’m certain of is that in my Catholic high school, I would NOT have been the one voted “most likely to become a priest!”
  But, God has a habit of selecting the imperfect vessels to do the hard work. There are many examples of this in our Judeo-Christian tradition – Moses had dubious speaking ability (Exodus 4:10) yet he is chosen to confront the Pharaoh -- Ruth is a foreign widow (Ruth 1:16) -- 
Jeremiah protests that he is too young to be a prophet (Jer. 1:6) -- Mary, a pregnant teenager – Jesus, a carpenter’s son from the backwater of Nazareth – Paul a zealous persecutor (Acts 9:1-19)
  God reminds Samuel not to judge by human standards. God looks into the heart. God sees the true worth of a person, God sees what they can become if they open their heart to God and allow themselves to become fertile ground.
   

  Lent is a good time for us to look at ourselves and try to see ourselves with the eyes of God. To see ourselves as God looks upon us – Perhaps with equal parts of generosity and judgment. What would we see? Are we living according to God’s desire and vision for us? I firmly believe that God does have a desire and vision for every one of us. It may not be to do or to be something spectacular or noteworthy by worldly standards. But God has a vision for us and God doesn’t really want to accept our excuses just as God did not accept the excuses of the people mentioned earlier. God has a way of working with our imperfections and our less than optimal circumstances and actually using them to help achieve God’s vision. If you recall – when Samuel anointed David, The Spirit of God, rushed into him and God empowered him for the rest of his life. Jesus’s message tells us that God’s Spirit is eager to empower us as well.

  In the Gospel the religious leaders and even Jesus’s own disciples ask whose sin had caused the person to be born blind. Jesus tells them they are asking the wrong question. They are looking for someone to blame instead of looking for a way to help. Jesus doesn’t care that the religious authorities will be upset at his healing the blind person and on a Sabbath no less. For Jesus, the priority was to care for someone in need. He also doesn’t wait for the blind person to ask for healing – to touch His robes (Mk 5:25-34), to shout for mercy (Mk 10:46-52), to beg for crumbs from the table (Mk 7:24-30). He simply does what needs to be done to bring God’s healing.

   

   
  As we are in the midst of this health crisis, we would do well to follow Jesus’s example. What is important is for us to be concerned about the needs of others as well as our own – to make decisions which will help to slow the progression of the disease’s rampant spread – to give comfort and to show compassion. In Italy there are videos of people on their balconies singing together, an opera singer offering an aria to his neighbors from his apartment patio, groups forming cooperatives in their complexes to send a different person each day to pick up the food orders of all the neighbors. Not that there aren’t similar offerings being made in our country, but there are also reports of runs on gun stores as people rush to buy guns and ammunition.  
  As we are being reminded by the news commentators, “We are all in this together”. And I would like to add also that, “We are not in this alone”.

  Today’s Psalm, Psalm 23, one that is attributed to David, is undoubtedly the most familiar of the 150 psalms. Since it was a sung response, we might have missed its important message ---

  Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil;
  for Your are at my side.
  With Your rod and Your staff that give me courage.

We certainly are walking in a dark valley. Let us pray that in the days and weeks ahead, we will have the courage to choose the priorities that will help others and that will enable us to work toward the vision that God has for each of us, both in this time of darkness and also in our lives as they evolve after the crisis.

Readings

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Romans 8:8-11

John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-2
5th Sunday of Lent - March 29, 2020

St John points out that "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." And yet, in spite of his love, Jesus doesn't rush back to Jerusalem to heal Lazarus. Nor does he heal him from a distance, as he did with the Centurion's servant.

Jesus loves these friends, and yet he lets them suffer.

 
He lets them experience their helplessness and weakness, the painful separation of death and the loss of a loved one. Did he do it to punish them? Did he do it because he had no power to remedy the evil? No, he let them suffer precisely because he loved them. If God protected us from all suffering, we would make the mistake of thinking that earth is heaven, that we could make ourselves truly happy just by our own efforts.

But we live in a fallen, messed up world, a world in which suffering is inevitable as we are experiencing now with the CoronaVirus pandemic.

And God allows us to experience that suffering as a way to remind us that life on earth is a journey towards heaven - it's the path, not the goal. The goal is heaven, and the resurrection of Lazarus is an appetizer of heaven. What matters in life is not being perfectly comfortable: what matters in life is knowing, loving, and following Jesus Christ.

Jesus uses our sufferings to help us to do that more and more. Our sufferings remind us that we are not God; they should make us turn to God. God uses them as opportunities to act in our lives in new ways, revealing himself to us more completely, just as he did with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. In this way, he shows that his Providence is more powerful than even life's greatest tragedies. Nothing is out of reach for Christ's redemption.

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days, and Jesus Christ calls his name, orders him to come out, and he does. Death itself obeys Christ the Lord.

 
The crowd must have been stupefied, wide-eyed with disbelief, awe, and wonder that silenced them as Lazarus stepped out from the tomb, and then burst forth in a storm of joy and celebration. Martha and Mary must have been so awestruck and ecstatic that they didn't know who to embrace first, their brother or their friend Jesus. Lazarus, as soon as the cloths were removed, surely gazed into Jesus’ shining eyes with the deepest love and most determined, courageous loyalty that he had ever experienced.

 
It is no coincidence that the Church presents this scene to us towards the end of the Lenten liturgical crescendo: two weeks ago Christ told the woman at the well that he was the Messiah; last week he cured a man born blind, something no one had ever done before; and now he tops everything by raising Lazarus from the dead.

 
Jesus knows that in order to fulfill the Father's plan of salvation he will soon have to suffer humiliation, torture, and death. As that moment draws near, he performs miracle after miracle to bolster his disciples' faith, so that it will survive the horrors of Calvary.

And he is doing it to bolster our faith too, so that we can continue to hope and even in the midst of our crosses, which are nothing less than pieces of his Cross, which in turn was the undeniable proof that his Providence can bring good out of evil, just as it is going to bring Easter Sunday out of Good Friday.

 
To say that God's Providence includes tragedies does not turn tragedies into comedies.

Lazarus being raised from the dead didn't erase the experience of pain and loss that Martha and Mary went through during his sickness and after his death.

Jesus rising from the dead on Easter Sunday didn't erase the indescribable pain and sorrow of Good Friday. Just so, our sufferings and struggles really are sufferings and struggles. And we must never think that our faith in Jesus will make them go away.We will always have to suffer and struggle in this life. But Jesus has given purpose to our sufferings and struggles.

 
We know that he allows them for a reason, just as a good coach pushes his players beyond their comfort zone, no matter how much they complain.

 
When we accept Christ's cross in our lives, even through our tears, we grow in wisdom and spiritual maturity - just like Martha in today's Gospel passage.

Having purpose in our suffering also makes it possible for us to have peace in our sufferings. Christ has proven that he will bring great things out of the greatest tragedies. And so, when storms of evil rock our boats, even while we struggle to keep afloat, as we are as I speak in the world, our hearts we can be at peace. Jesus wants us to have confidence in him, to trust him no matter what.

 
Today, let's grant him his wish.

 
In a few moments we will pray the St. Dorothy Community Creed. When we do, let's pray it from the heart, expressing our unlimited confidence in Christ the Lord. And when he comes to us in the Eucharist today, let's ask him to strengthen all hearts that are still seeking purpose in their sufferings.

Readings

Isaiah 50:4-7

Psalms 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-

Philippians 2:6-11

Matthew 26:14--27:66 or 27:11-54

Passion (Palm) Sunday - April 5, 2020

Today, if we could be distributing palms, you would be holding them in your hands. In the ancient world, palm branches were the symbol of victory. For the Israelites in the Old Testament, the elegance, strength, and simplicity of this tree became a symbol of the just man or woman, the one in whom God's law triumphed. It also symbolized victory for the Romans. Palm trees were not native to Italy. And so, when the Romans started conquering other nations in the Mediterranean, the generals brought palm trees back to Rome as souvenirs of their victories. So the crowds waving palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem were declaring his victory. Today, we echo them, we join them, and we declare and celebrate Christ's victory.

But what victory is it? And how did Christ win it? It is the victory over original sin. Original sin, as tradition tells us, was mankind's disobedience to God and obedience to the devil. It shattered God's plan, let loose the scourge of evil, and gave the devil a certain power over earthly society.

Jesus, through his passion, death, and resurrection, reversed the disobedience of original sin by obeying his Father's will in spite of all the devil's attempts to thwart him: The betrayal of Judas, the abandonment of his apostles, the false accusations, the condemnation, the humiliation, the scourging and crowing with thorns, the torture of crucifixion - all of these sufferings were the devil's attempts to get Jesus to say "no" to his Father, just as he had gotten Adam and Eve to say "no".


But Jesus defeated the devil. He continued to love, forgive, and obey through it all. And so he, unlike Adam, unlike every other person in history, can say, "I have not rebelled" as was read in the first reading. His obedience establishes a beachhead in this world that is under the devil's sway: Jesus' Passion is D-Day for the devil, and liberation for us. This is the victory we celebrate.

It is easy for us to take this for granted. We get so used to hearing about how Christ came to earth to save us for our sins. Today, though, we should take some time to savor this truth, to refresh our appreciation of it. One way to think of it is to think of God as a painter and the earth as a painting. God creates the world and the universe, as a painter creates a painting.

But then God does something that no mere human artist can ever do.


God paints living beings into the painting. He includes angels and people, and gives them freedom to discover the beauties of the world and come to know and love the artist who created them. Unfortunately, some of the angels rebel against God. And they get the people to join their rebellion. By rejecting their friendship with God, they separate themselves from the very source of their existence, and they mar the original beauty, harmony, and happiness of God's creation. Their rebellion brings darkness and disorder into the painting. This rebellion was original sin.

What does the artist do now? He could just destroy the painting, angels, and people and start over. But that's not what God does. He doesn't want to destroy us; God wants to save us, to redeem us. So he decides to paint himself into the rebellious world of the painting. He becomes one of us.


And being one of us, he can reestablish on our behalf a friendship between God and man, between the painter and the rebels. And being at the same time God, he can instruct us infallibly about the way we ought to live, about the original plan the artist had for a beautiful, harmonious, and fulfilling life. This is the Incarnation: Christ becoming one of us in order to redeem us. And although the devil did his best to get Christ to join the rebellion - tempting him, torturing him, having him experience injustice, betrayal, and rejection - Christ stayed faithful. He proved by fidelity to his mission that God really does want to save us, not condemn us.


By joining forces with Christ, by accepting him as our Redeemer, by following his teachings and example, and by nourishing our souls on his grace as given by the Church, we become his partners in the redemption. We share and extend his victory. That's what we celebrate today.

Today and throughout this week we should give thanks to God for the great things he has done, reflect on his saving love, and renew our commitment to follow him. But the victory is too wonderful to keep to ourselves. There are still people who don't know about it. They don't know Christ, or they are afraid to follow him. They don't know that their sufferings in this fallen world, as the world is experiencing now can become meaningful and fruitful if they are united to Christ's sufferings.

There are two ways that each one of us can make this Holy Week truly holy, not only for ourselves, but for those around us - by our words and our deeds.

By our words. We should not be afraid to speak of Christ and the meaning of his Passion. We are his messengers. He wants to reach out to others through us. Who needs to hear the message? Maybe we can think of someone right away. Maybe we just need to be ready and willing, so that the Holy Spirit can work through us.

And by our deeds. This week, we can image Christ's Passion by doing what he did, by sharing our neighbor's burdens, by taking upon ourselves the crosses of others. It may be as simple as inviting someone to come and participate in the Holy Week liturgies via our Facebook Live broadcasts on Thursday and Friday at 7pm.

Today, on this day when we celebrate the victory of Christ's love, let's ask Christ to show us what to do, and let's promise him that we will not keep the victory to ourselves, that we will carry the palm branch not only in Church, but everywhere we go out there, as we state at the end of every Liturgy - being true messengers and ambassadors of the Redemption.