St. Dorothy Catholic Community Orlando/Winter Park, Florida
Easter Sunday, 2021
Acts 10:34A, 37-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Easter Sunday - Apr 4, 2021
Today we consider the mystery at the heart of the Christian faith. It is simple but extraordinary and powerful. It was so mind-blowing that even the disciples and the apostles Jesus told it would happen didn’t believe it until they saw him. It shattered all their concepts of life. In the whole history of humanity death was the greatest fear, the curse to wish or inflict on your worst enemies. It was conquered. “Christ is Risen,” says it all. We can no longer live the same way now that death has been defeated in Christ.
In today’s First Reading St. Peter reminds us that the Risen Christ only revealed himself to those who believed in him.
Only those who believed in him were then blessed by meeting and eating and drinking with the Risen Lord.
He reminds us that “everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name”: on the day of our Baptism we had an encounter with the Risen Lord that transformed us into children pleasing to Our Heavenly Creator, and God continues to reveal himself to those who believe.
An encounter with the Risen Christ in faith is always a salvific and transforming experience.
In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that an outlook of faith keeps our eyes fixed on the things of above.
When we gaze above in faith, we know the Risen Christ stands at the right hand of His Father and intercedes for us.
If we don’t see him it is because our faith is not strong enough and we need to beg for more.
The bishop of Rome, Francis describes a certain class of Christians in Evangelii Gaudium who seem to live a permanent Lent: they have not had an experience of Jesus and his love, and, therefore, the Gospel brings them no joy.
The Resurrection banishes vanity from our lives and changes our perspective.
In today’s Gospel, we see that the Resurrection didn’t sink in for the disciples until they witnessed the results themselves. It leaves us in hopeful suspense because death no longer had the last word.
The disciples had all the facts. Christ could raise the dead. Martha saw his brother Lazarus raised after three days in the tomb. The mourners of the dead little girl’s daughter mocked Jesus when he said she was sleeping, and then he “woke” her up.
Even Mary thought today that the body had been stolen. The disciples walking to Emmaus had all the facts. After the Transfiguration, Jesus told Peter not to tell anyone until he was raised from the dead and kept repeating that he would be raised from the dead on the third day.
The disciples were clueless. We can’t blame them. Even today there are a lot of disciples of Christ who are clueless. All the facts are at hand, but they lack faith, and so they live as if eternal life is a fairy tale.
We have many more signs that they did: the Church has testified to the Resurrection for over two thousand years, and many of her children have gone to the grave believing that someday they would rise, just as Jesus did.
Like John in today’s Gospel let’s look at the signs of Jesus’ resurrection–an empty tomb, a suspiciously well-folded head wrapping–and simply believe.
When members of the Eastern Church (including the Orthodox) wish someone a Happy Easter they do it with an affirmation of faith: “Christ is Risen.” The customary response is “He is Truly.”
One day an Orthodox bishop in the Soviet Union was asked to present the Christian position in a debate on religion.
After letting the fervent Communist opposing him have the first word, a long discourse explaining that God didn’t exist, much less the Son of God, and extolling the virtues of Communism, it was the bishop’s turn to head to the podium.
The bishop simply said, “Christ is Risen.”
The audience, some out of faith, many out of habit, responded: “He is Truly Risen.”
“Thank you,” replied the patriarch, and returned to his seat.
Nothing more needed to be said.
In Evangelii Gaudium Francis said, “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved”.
If we want this season to be more than relishing in the accomplishments of being faithful to our Lenten resolutions for a few weeks we must find this lasting joy.
Joy doesn’t mean an absence of suffering; rather, it means a “personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.”
Take a look in the mirror this week and make sure Lent’s over in your life.
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalms 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
First John 2:1-5
3rd Sunday of Easter - April 19, 2021
Jesus' favorite word after his resurrection is "peace." It is almost always the first word on his lips when he appears to his apostles, as in the passage we just listened to: "Peace be with you."
When we celebrate Mass, we may hear these same words, spoken to us in the here-and-now of our lives. Jesus didn't give this peace before his resurrection, but afterwards he does give it, and he gives it because we need it.
Christ's peace is the antidote to most endemic diseases of modern, secular society: stress, depression, and anxiety. We have all been affected by those diseases. As our friendship with the resurrected Lord grows deeper, we are gradually healed of those diseases, because he brings us his three-fold peace.
First, peace for our mind. When we look at his wounds, which he still bears in his glorified body, we know for certain that his forgiveness is everlasting; once he forgives our sins, we are truly forgiven; our conscience can be at rest.
Second, peace for our heart. When we see the spike marks in his hands and feet, we know for certain that we are loved with an undying, unconditional, personal, determined love - Christ's love.
Third, peace for our soul. Christ is alive, and he is ruling and expanding an everlasting Kingdom, and he has invited each one of us to help him do that by building up the Church.
We have work to do that matters, that is worthwhile, that will satisfy our thirst for meaning. The peace of the resurrected Christ is what we really need. The Psalmist put it well: "As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you alone, O LORD, bring security to my dwelling.
Christ's resurrection enables us to grow in this triple peace because in the middle of this stormy, turbulent world, it gives us a firm anchor: our hope for life everlasting. This has been exemplified through the centuries by the saints, and in a special way by the martyrs.
St Ammon and his four companions were martyred back in the third century. They were Roman soldiers at the service of the Roman governor of the great city of Alexandria, in Egypt. Their martyrdom happened during the wave of persecution started by the emperor Decius, who forced all Christians to worship Roman gods under pain of death.
Ammon and his companions, who were secretly Christians themselves, were on duty during a trial of prisoners accused of being Christians. The judge's interrogation was harsh and intimidating, and at least one poor Christian seemed to be wavering. The five soldiers saw what was happening and were afraid that their brother in Christ was going to deny his faith, thus putting at risk his eternal salvation. So they began to make encouraging signs to him, gesturing, nodding, bulging their eyes - anything they could do without putting themselves into too much danger.
But their efforts were so energetic that the judge couldn't help but notice. And when he inquired as to what was going on, the five soldiers broke ranks and declared themselves Christians.
This disturbed the Roman officials and caused quite a ruckus, but it also renewed the courage of the prisoners. In the end, both the prisoners and the Christian soldiers stayed faithful to Christ, suffering martyrdom instead of denying their Lord. The stormy persecution didn't steal their interior peace and lead them astray, because their anchor was firmly attached to the risen Lord.
We all want to experience this peace more deeply - peace of mind, heart, and soul. And Christ wants the same thing - that's why he suffered, died, and rose. But if that's so, why do we still find ourselves so easily overrun by stress, anxiety, and discouragement? Many obstacles can inhibit the flow of Christ's peace in our lives.
The most obvious one is evil or as some call, sin..
In today’s second reading St John puts it clearly: "Those who say, 'I know him,' but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them."
Sometimes we fall into evil/sin out of weakness. Those falls are easy to confess and repent of. But other times we allow subtle habits of evil/sin to take root in our lives.
For example, we refuse to accept some part of Church teaching on faith or morals which is based on the teachings of Jesus directly. Sure, we find plenty of reasons to justify this resistance - all the arguments we hear on social media and the printed or televised news, for instance. But at heart, to reject church teaching on faith and morals which is based on the teachings of Jesus), is to reject Christ's saving truth. It's like telling God that we trust him a little bit, in some things, but we trust social media and the printed or televised news, more in other things.
Subtle habits of evil/sin can also take other forms: like slacking off in our life responsibilities - just doing enough to get by, but not really giving our best; or wasting inordinate amounts of time on hobbies, entertainment, or gossip.
Evil/Sinful habits can also take not-so-subtle forms, as financial corruption, prejudice of race, creed, color, sexual orientation and political orientation statistics make clear. If we are not experiencing the peace of Christ's resurrected life a little bit more each season, maybe we need to do some spring cleaning in our souls.
For that, the best disinfectant or sanitizer is a serious private/personal confession to God where we admit our evils/sins and truly make atonement for them. As Christ renews his hope in us during this Mass, let's renew our hope in him too, and ask for the grace to receive his peace as individuals and as a nation.
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
First John 4:7-10
6th Sunday of Easter - May 9, 2021
Following Christ is not complicated. In fact, today Jesus reduces the essence of what it means to be his follower into one sentence. This sentence is his New Commandment, a commandment that summarizes everything he has taught: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. If we do that, we are on Christ's path, and we will experience the joy and meaning that only God can give.
And to make it even simpler, because he knows that we tend to complicate things unnecessarily, Jesus explains exactly what he means by the word "love," a word evil is always trying to distort: Put your life on the line for your friends. In other words, love is self-giving, and so, the greater the self-giving, the greater the love.
When we put our lives at the service of others, when we live in order to give and not to take, when we are willing to suffer so that someone else can rejoice, then we may call ourselves his disciples.
But Jesus went even further in order to make sure we would understand. He didn't explain the meaning of true love just with words; he also explained it with his deeds, with his own suffering and death. He accepted mockery, humiliation, torture, rejection, injustice, misunderstanding, betrayal, and finally death, not because he was too weak to resist, but to show us what love really is: self-giving, self-forgetful generosity.
Jesus Christ hanging on the cross; bearing the weight of our sins; thinking not of himself but of the men and women he came to save, even pleading for their forgiveness up until the very end; giving without counting the cost, even without asking for something in return - this is God's idea of love. It is ours?
In Peter Jackson's 2001 movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, we get a glimpse of an unusual love story. Aragorn, the heir to the throne of the great Kingdom of Gondor, is anxious and fearful about his responsibility to defend Middle Earth against the evil menace of Sauron. In the midst of his melancholy and doubt, Arwen, the beautiful Elf-Princess, finds him and comforts him. They have known each other for a long time, and it is clear that they are in love. But Arwen is an Elf, and elves are immortal.
So if she were to marry Aragorn, a mere human, she would have to give up her immortality. That has made them hesitate to pledge themselves to each other, even though their love is deep. As she tries to encourage Aragorn, Arwen realizes that only the power of true love can give him the strength he needs to fulfill his mission. She reaffirms her love for him, but she sees that it is not enough just to tell him that she loves him. She has to show it.
In that moment, she overcomes all of their previous hesitations and decides that she will give herself completely to him, sacrificing her immortality out of love, and she says in a passionate whisper: "I choose a mortal life."
In the movies, we always recognize that true love is costly - it's about giving oneself more than indulging oneself. Somehow, that's what makes it beautiful.
This is what Jesus meant when he told his parable about the grain of wheat. If it falls into the ground, gets buried, and dies, it ends up becoming a new plant and producing hundreds of new grains of wheat. But if it refuses to die, to sacrifice, to give of itself, it remains just a single grain of wheat.
This idea of true love is not pie-in-the-sky; it's practical. For example, it gives us a way to see our relationships from God's perspective. From a merely human perspective, we tend to look at our relationships in terms of what we get out of them.
This person is enjoyable to be around; This person rubs me the wrong way; This person is always asking favors...
But when we understand that the path to true wisdom and lasting joy is Christ-like love, self-forgetful, self-giving love, those considerations begin to take a back seat. When we are self-centered, we tend to be passive and reactive. But when we are Christ-centered, we tend to be proactive. We see relationships in terms of what we can give to them, and that's much more dynamic and energizing.
Imagine starting the week by making a list of things you want to do for people. It would change the whole tone of our week; we would be lighting lights instead of dodging shadows.
This week: think of one small thing you can do to ease the burdens of your other half; think of one small thing you can do to make your boss's or coworker's job just a little bit easier; think of one small thing you can do to bring some encouragement and joy into your parents' lives; think of a friend or relative who is suffering, and think of one small thing you can do to help support them.
Is it really so simple? Yes.
This is what self-giving looks like in real life. It is within all of our reach, if we are willing to step out of our comfort zones. Jesus did it for us on the wood of the cross, today, this week, let's promise to do it for him on the pavement of our daily lives.
Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
First Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
Pentecost - May 23, 2021
For the past seven weeks we have kept the Easter Candle here in the sanctuary, lighting it every time we have celebrated Mass. The living flicker of the Easter Candle reminded us that Christ is alive, that he rose from the dead just as the sun rises each morning to put an end to the darkness of the night. The tall, white faux candle with a flicker on top reminded us of God's faithfulness throughout all of history.
It symbolized the two miraculous pillars - smoke by day and fire by night - that had guided the ancient Israelites out of Egypt, through the desert, and to the Promised Land. Now it is Christ, the Risen Lord, who is our pillar of smoke and pillar of fire, our sure guide out of slavery to sin, through this world of trials and temptations, and into the Promised Land of Heaven.
But today we remove the Easter Candle from our sanctuary.
Until next Easter, we will only use it during baptism ceremonies, when Christ's risen life is given for the first time to new members of the Church and when we celebrate the life of one who has been called back home and has finished this class called earth.
Does the removal of the Easter Candle mean that Christ is no longer among us? No. Rather, today is Pentecost, the day when Christ's risen life was entrusted to the Church to all of us by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who descended, as tradition tells us, like tongues of fire on the Apostles and those gathered in the upper room, the Cenicle, nine days after Christ has ascended into heaven.
That new season in the life of the Church is paralleled by our new liturgical season, Ordinary Time, when we take the Easter Candle out of the sanctuary, because we ourselves become living Easter Candles, burning flames of wisdom, pillars of Christian faith and love spreading Christ's hope in the world.
Before Pentecost, the followers of Jesus could fit inside one room. Today, Christians are found in every corner of the globe. There is no natural explanation for this, because on a merely natural level, Christianity has relatively little to offer. Jesus promised that his followers will have to take up their crosses every day; will be persecuted, as he was; will have to strictly govern their natural impulses for money, sexual pleasure, power, and self-indulgence; will have to actively serve and be generous to their neighbors; will have to love and forgive their enemies.
Following Christ means following a narrow and steep path through life on earth. So how is it possible that Christianity has more followers than any other religion in the world? Because it is comes from God. When the Holy Spirit came down upon the folks in that upper room at Pentecost, they didn't receive a clever, man-made philosophy; they received the real seed of divine life.
That life grew in their souls, and produced fruit, and that fruit in turn carried the divine life to other souls, who welcomed it, nourished it, and produced more fruit. Our faith is not a new philosophy; it is a new life! And we are meant to pass it on to others until it fills every human heart, family, and society.
In 1620, when the Mayflower left Europe and crossed the Atlantic Ocean, there were no dandelions in America. But immigrants who had long used them for their valuable medicinal properties, and in salads, soups, and teas, brought them along to the New World, together with other imported plants. (This was before the modern era of golf-course-perfect front lawns.) By 1671, according to eye-witnesses, dandelions were everywhere.
On Pentecost, God sent a handful of dandelions from heaven to earth and planted them in the hearts of Christians. And ever since then, the flames of Christ's grace keep blossoming everywhere, tirelessly announcing the springtime of redemption that is gradually thawing the long, dark winter brought on by original sin.
How can we follow this call to be Easter Candles for the world? Most importantly, we have to make sure we keep the flame burning in our hearts. If we do, it will give light and warmth to those around us without our even realizing it.
Too many Christians have let the flame die out. They call themselves Christians, but they live mediocre lives. They have none of Christ's wisdom, courage, virtue, or joy, so they can give none of it to those around them. But today, Pentecost, God will renew the flame in each of our souls, and it will be up to us to keep it burning, to feed the flame.
We can do that in two ways. First, we have to make sure that prayer is our highest priority in life. What oxygen is for a flame, prayer is for our Christian identity. If you take away the oxygen, the flame will sputter and die. If we don't make an effort to pray each day, we will become joyless, mediocre Christians.
Second, this year we can make better use of the sacrament of confession sacramentally or through on a one on one basis with Jesus. When a candle is lit for a long time, excess wax can accumulate and start to stifle the flame. That wax has to be poured or cut away so the flame can thrive again. When we go about our lives in a selfish world, we inevitably do all kinds of selfish things, and that stifles the flame of Christian wisdom in our lives. Confession is how God cleans away the stifling wax.
Today, let's pray for a new Pentecost in our lives, our parish, and our world, and let's promise to do our part to make that prayer come true.
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalms 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20,
The Most Holy Trinity - May 30, 2021
We always start our prayers by making the Sign of the Cross to remind us of the greatest mystery of our faith: the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. It’s not a mystery as seen on TV where CSI checks a crime scene, fingerprints and DNA evidence, witnesses: it’s something so big that it doesn’t fit into our head. We couldn’t have ever figured out on our own that God was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God revealed himself to us as the Most Holy Trinity. Jesus came and said he was God’s Son, and that meant God was his Father. And Jesus promised to send his Spirit after he ascended into Heaven, so the Holy Spirit was God as well.
This is something so mysterious that we believe it because Our Lord taught it to us and we believe in him.
Moses in today’s First Reading reminds the Israelites, as he reminds us, that this great mystery of faith is God’s initiative. God chose to reveal himself to us as he is: the one true God. At the time of the Israelites, every nation had its god, and they all believed along with the big wars of nations there were always big wars between the gods as well, big gods and little gods: a whole pantheon of gods.
God revealed himself to the Israelites as the one and only God, and he showed it by going into Egypt, which had, according to the Egyptians, the most powerful gods, and he took Israel out of Egypt showing his power and made them into a nation with him as their God. The nation of Israel showed the world that not only was their God the most powerful God; he was the One and Only God. That revelation was a preparation so that one day God would send his Son and reveal to us that not only was there One God alone, which was what the Israelites believed, but that God is the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It’s the greatest mystery of our faith.
In today’s Second Reading Paul describes what happens to us at Baptism. On the day you were baptized, a minister poured water on your head or immersed you in the water three times, and each time They poured it they said: “I baptize you in the name of the Father ... and of the Son ... and of the Holy Spirit.” At that moment you received the Holy Spirit, who made you into an adopted son of God. God became your Father. Jesus became more than your best friends: he became your big brother. The Holy Spirit was poured into your heart so you’d call God Abba—“Daddy!”
Whenever we start our prayers, we remember this day of our baptism by making the Sign of the Cross and remembering the Holy Trinity and how God came into our hearts through our baptism.
Near the end of today’s Gospel Our Lord tells the disciples to go out and baptize everyone in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but it also says the disciples “doubted.” “Doubted” is translated from a Greek word used only one other time in the Bible: when Our Lord pulls Peter out of the water into which he was sinking: “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”. Peter stepped out onto the water with the faith he could muster but was overwhelmed.
The Eleven in this moment of “doubt” are about to witness the Risen Lord’s Ascension; they don’t know what’s going to happen next. In other accounts of the Ascension from their questions, they think what we call today the Second Coming was going to happen then and there.
The mystery of God is what we believe, and it is what we, as believers, share. We may not completely understand the Most Holy Trinity, but we believe. Everything we do as believers we do in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Lord reminded the Eleven, and he reminds us, that it is in the power of the Most Holy Trinity and counting on his presence that we spread the Gospel and baptize. There’s no reason to doubt.
St. Augustine was a great thinker and theologian, and one day he was walking on the beach, trying to understand the Holy Trinity. He saw a boy on the beach who was taking water from the sea in a little shell and pouring it into a hole dug in the sand. He asked the boy, “What are you doing?” The boy answered, “I’m moving the ocean into this hole.” St. Augustine replied, “That’s impossible.” The boy looked at him and said, “That’s easier than trying to understand the Holy Trinity.”
God had sent that boy to show St. Augustine that the Trinity was too big to understand completely or on our own. Pope Benedict XVI has a seashell on his Papal coat of arms in part because of this story of St. Augustine.
Thank God the Father for creating us and revealing himself to Israel as the One True God. Thank God the Son for obeying his Father in Heaven and coming down and becoming man to show us that God was Our Father and enabling us to become his adopted children. Thank the Holy Spirit for transforming us into God’s adopted children and for bringing the Holy Trinity into our hearts and helping us to understand and live this great mystery of our faith.