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So What?

Jesus was born on Christmas as a little baby laid in a manger.  What does this mean for us?

Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.  What does this mean for us?

Jesus did many great miracles?  What does this tell us?

Jesus teaches what it means to be a disciple.  Do we listen?

Starting at the Last Supper, Jesus gives us his Body and Blood.

Jesus died for us on the Cross.

Jesus rose on the third day.

Jesus ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Together with the Father, Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit.

What does all this mean for us?

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus we must be born from above.  Nicodemus misinterprets this to mean that we must literally be born again by reentering our mother’s womb to be born physically again.  Jesus then speaks of being “born of water and Spirit.”  From this comes the idea of being ‘born again.’

Some evangelical groups will ask when were you ‘born again’, meaning when was the moment that you turned your life over to Christ.  We can have powerful moments of conversion in our lives but our Catholic faith sees conversion as something ongoing in our lives.  As we listen to our first readings  from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how the apostles faced trial and persecution.   They did not flee in fear.  Instead, as our first reading ends today, “As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Jesus’ birth, baptism, miracles, teachings, death, and Resurrection are meant to change our lives to be better disciples.  As the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Eucharist strengthens us to live as his disciples.  May we grow each day in our relationship with Jesus, living as his disciples.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy, Year A – Homily

2nd Sunday of Easter, Sunday of Divine Mercy
Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

Last week we celebrated Holy Week that culminated in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The tomb was found empty.  Some wondered if someone had stolen Jesus’ body but we know that the empty tomb means Jesus is risen!

This fulfills Jesus’ words, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’  While the disciples had heard these words of Jesus, they were troubled in trying to understand.  What does it mean to be raised up?

The disciples are gathered together trying to make sense of what has happened.  It is in this context that Jesus appears to them.  Clearly, the body has not been stolen.  He is risen!

Risen, he is not just spirit.  To help them understand the Resurrection, he points them to his hands to see where the nails were driven on the Cross.  He points to his side where he was speared.  This is not just his spirit nor is it a new body.  Jesus is raised body and soul to new life.

This might be difficult to belief.  It was for Thomas.  Because of his disbelief, he is forever referred to as ‘doubting Thomas’ but would we have been any different.  No one had ever risen from the dead before.

Jesus shows us the Resurrection that we will share in after our physical death if we believe in him as the way and the truth and the life.

We think of the Resurrection as something that happens to us after our physical death but our life in Christ has already begun in our baptism.

Life in Heaven will be glorious and joyful as we stand before God.  Knowing of life in Heaven should shape the way we live in this world.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us about the life of the early church and the spread of the faith.  Specifically, today we hear how the disciples lived a communal life.  “They would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.”

We might think of this as applying to those in religious life who take promises of poverty.  That is one way of living this out but the passage applies to all of us in some way.

When I say it applies to all of us, some might be concerned if I am going to advocate for socialism.  I am not.  In fact, if you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2402-2406), our faith affirms the right to private property.

Then how does this passage apply to all of us?  I take it as an invitation for all of us to think about what we do have.  It says that each received according to their “need.”

What do we need?  How much of what we have do we need?  How much do we have just to look good?  How much do we hold onto?

I went to a workshop this week where the speaker commented on how many mini-storage places continue to pop up.  What are we storing in all of these storage buildings?  Or perhaps you have a garage that you can’t get the car in because it is full of stuff in boxes.

Do we really need all of the things we have in storage?

Maybe or maybe not.  There might be seasonal items or maybe we are storing some stuff in between selling one home and buying another.  Maybe we just have too much stuff.  Maybe it is time to clean ‘our closets’ and give what we don’t need to charity so that it can be used to help those in need.

What our faith is calling all of us to in this passage from Acts is simplicity of life.  This simplicity of life calls us to set aside our pride and concerns.  I say ‘concerns’ because sometimes we hold onto things we don’t need to be prepared for bad things.

It is good to be prepared.  We should have some in reserve but not the point of greed or hoarding.  The saying ‘you never know when you might need’ only goes so far as a reason to hold onto things.

Life can bring challenges.  As Peter writes we “may have to suffer through various trials.”  There is a point of being prepared and there is a point of trusting in God’s mercy.

When we hear of God’s mercy, we might most often think of his forgiveness, certainly something we need at times but God’s mercy is not just his forgiveness.  It is the aid he gives to us, the concern he shows for us.

Think of the disciples in the room where Jesus appeared to them.  They were sitting behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.”  In his mercy, Jesus did not want the disciples to live in fear.  He appeared to them so they could begin to understand what the Resurrection really is.  Jesus came to help us know how we are called to live.

Simplicity of life can help us know Jesus and to trust in him.  If we spend all of time and effort trying to have ‘more’, then we bind ourselves up.  If we live ‘simply’ we unlock ourselves to focus on what life in Jesus offers us.

Care for Creation

Yesterday I attended our annual diocesan Ministerium.  The speaker was Fr. Donald Senior, CP.  His topic was “Laudato Si’: Biblical Reflections for a Spirituality of Creation.”  Using Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si” he spoke about our relationship with God, each other, and the world we live.  He spoke a couple of different times throughout the day so I am offering just a few thoughts here.

There is much evidence for global climate change but there are also scientists who dispute it.  The average temperature has risen (about 1 degree I think) in the last 100 years.  Those who dispute global warming say the increase isn’t a pattern, just fluctuations.  I do know in my own lifetime I see shifts in patterns about how much snow and cold we get in the winter.

Whether one believes in global climate change I think we need to change the way we look at the natural resources we find in creation for two reasons.  First, it is clear that things like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are not good for the environment just like many pesticides are not good.  How much effect they have might be in dispute but why take the chance.

The second reason we need to change the way we look at our natural resources comes from our faith.  We recognize God as creator of all things, from the earth itself and the whole universe to life like us (for the Church’s position on Big Bang and the theory of evolution see my article “Catholic Teaching and the Question of Evolution“).

In Genesis 1:26-28 God gives us “dominion” over all things.  Some people think this means we can do whatever we want with creation.  We could but it would not be right.  Fr. Senior spoke about God’s dominion over us.  God has dominion over us but he does not use us for his own gain because he loves us and gives us free will.  We need to translate this into how we view our dominion over the earth.

We need to see creation as a gift and to cherish it.  We need to live with an “Attitude of Gratitude” and make wise use of what we have given.  It can start with simple things.  Those who are concerned about the environment, call for recycling.  I believe that if we appreciate what God has given us in creation, we should recycle.  To do otherwise is to waste what we have.  To waste it is to not appreciate it.  Why not recycle?

From Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si”, Fr. Senior presents six “implications for a “Spirituality of Ecology.”” as listed in his handouts

  1.  Moving away from an “obsessive consumerist lifestyle”.
  2. Moving out of our ourselves toward the other and their needs and dignity.
  3. Need to “grow in a sense of solidarity, responsibility, and compassionate care” with each other and with the world to which we belong.
  4. The summons to a profound interior conversion.
  5. The call for a spirit of gratitude, joy, peace, sobriety and humility.
  6. A realization of the “sacramental” view of life: elements of nature become revelations and channels of God’s presence, particularly in the Eucharist.

If we want to live as Catholic disciples, we need to look at #2 and #3 in terms of how we use our natural resources and stop over-consuming (#1).  This means undergoing ‘interior conversion’ (#4).  We need to stop over-consuming.  I emphasize the “over” because we can use what we have been giving in creation but to do so thoughtfully.

Here I will use the example of buying a car.  When you buy a new(er) car, is your faith part of the decision process of what time of vehicle you get?  Ask yourself why are you choosing the particular vehicle?  Are you picking a ‘showy’ car that makes you look good.  If so, what about the sin of “pride”?  Do you think about the effect on the environment (gas mileage as well as other concerns about the natural resources to make the car)?

Here, I want to be honest with you and tell you I drive a GMC Terrain that is larger than a lot of vehicles and doesn’t get the best gas mileage but I did not turn a blind eye to these considerations when I purchased it last summer.  I weighed that with other considerations like the benefits of all wheel drive and interior space versus my needs.  I found an in-between option where I sought a balance between gas mileage (that are vehicles that get worse gas mileage) and my other needs.

One final thought of our over-consuming.  Fr. Senior offered the observation of how many mini-storage rental places we see springing up.  How come we need so much storage?  Do we really need all the stuff we have in storage?  If not, how about showing “solidarity” and “compassionate care” by donating the things we don’t need to charity to help others who don’t have enough?

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Easter Vigil 2017, Year A – Homily

Easter Vigil
Genesis 1:1-2:2
Genesis 22:1-18
Exodus 14:15-15:1
Isaiah 55:1-11
Romans 6:3-11
Matthew 28:1-10
April 15, 2017

Holy week is the most special time of the year for us.  We began it on Sunday with the blessing of the Palms recalling Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem.  We read the Passion of Jesus to recall what he goes through for us.

Thursday night we celebrated the Last Supper.  The meal was the Passover meal and I spoke about the Passover as well as the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood.  We know that Jesus has united his sacrifice in his Crucifixion to the Eucharist.  Yesterday (Good Friday) we again listened to the story of Jesus’ Passion.  We had the veneration of the Cross venerating it as the instrument of Jesus saving us.

After his death, Jesus was laid in the tomb.  Tonight’s gospel tells us what happened next but before we get to that, let us turn our thoughts to tonight’s prayers and readings that led up to the gospel.

We started with the blessing of the Easter fire.  We started in darkness just as the universe was before God created all things.

From the Easter fire, we lit our new Paschal Candle that burns as a sign that Jesus is the Light of the World.  We lit our individual candles as a symbol of how we received the light of Christ in our baptism.

Then we listened to the Exsultet and several readings.  Our readings tonight span the story of Salvation History from its beginning with Genesis to being given new life as Jesus rises.

Our first reading from Genesis tells the story of creation not to give a scientific explanation but to tell us that God is the one who takes a “formless wasteland” and brings order to it.  Big Bang and the theory of Evolution do not explain everything.  The universe is too complex.  I see no way for there to be male and female and all the different elements of creation without God to direct it.  Just thinking about the complexity of the science involved proves to me God had to be involved.

Then we hear about Abraham who always did as the Lord directed.  He had waited many, many years for the son God promised him.  After Isaac was born, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son and Abraham is willing to do it!  We even hear that Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice.  When Isaac asked “where is the sheep for the holocaust” Abraham responded “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.

How right Abraham is!

Of course, we know that God stopped Abraham before Isaac is sacrificed.  God then sends a ram for the sacrifice “in place of his son.”

Then we remember the Passover event when God led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea.  They were led on their way by the angel of the Lord.  This is God saving his people.

There are many other stories that we could read and discuss but it would be too much for one night.  So let’s leap ahead to Jesus’ Passion.

Remember how Isaac carried the wood when he was to be the sacrifice?  Jesus carries the wood of the Cross to his own sacrifice.

Remember how the ram was sacrificed in place of Isaac?  Abraham said God would provide the sacrifice and God does in Jesus.

Jesus is crucified and laid in the tomb.  That much we heard yesterday but it is not the end of the story.  No, tonight we hear how the tomb is found empty.

Imagine the disciples’ confusion.  They are already bewildered that Jesus has been crucified and now the tomb is empty.  We know the empty tomb to be a sign of something wonderful but they did not yet understand.  Only when they see Jesus risen can they rejoice.

Tonight is our most solemn and most important liturgy of the year.  Jesus’ death and resurrection is the culmination of the story of Salvation History.

The Jews had seen themselves as a chosen people, the only ones to be saved.  They were indeed a chosen people but they were supposed to share their faith with others.  The idea of salvation being offered to the Gentiles is not entirely new with Jesus.

Speaking as a prophet of the Lord Isaiah said, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water.”  The invitation is offered to ‘all.’  Unfortunately not all accept the invitation.

Why not?

There are some who even today don’t hear about God in a way to help them believe.  Others may hear but disagree.  Rather than open themselves to the truth, they reject God or make their own notion of God.  Some might find it too hard.

It is hard.  Temptation is a powerful force.  We must try our best but in the end we must realize that we cannot pay the price on our own.  This is where Isaiah says, “Come, without paying and without cost.”

We cannot earn our salvation.  It is a gift that Jesus gives us when he gives up his life on the Cross.

Does this mean we live however we want and figure everyone gets into Heaven?  That’s what some like to think but while we never earn our way into Heaven on our own, we need to die to the things of this world so that we can rise to new life.  We must first give up this world to share in the Resurrection.

None of us are perfect.  We fall short in sin.  Sometimes we even commit the same sins over and over, unable to let go.  That’s when we had it over to Jesus and he pays the price for our salvation.

Good Friday 2017 – Homily

Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42
April 14, 2017

Jesus has died.

It was a horrible death.  It started when he was betrayed by Judas, one of his own disciples.  Peter denies him three times.  He is arrested, scourged, mocked, and crucified.

How could this happen?

He was supposed to be the Messiah, an heir to the throne of David.  Any good Jew knew that David had been a great king and built up the political kingdom of Israel.  God had promised a Messiah that would sit upon the throne of David so they naturally assumed the Messiah would be an earthly king like David.  Thus, they expected the Messiah to get rid of the Romans.  Instead he was killed by them on the Cross.

Well… first, as to blaming the Romans, yes it was sanctioned by the Romans through Pilate’s order but it happened because the Jews demanded it.  Pilate himself said three times he found “no guilt in him.”  Pilate only had Jesus crucified to satisfy the crowds.

As to expecting Jesus to defeat the Romans, yes, Jesus was the heir to the throne of David but his kingdom is not in this world.  If it were, his “attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.”

The Jews were looking for a Messiah to suit what they wanted.  If we read the prophets like Isaiah, we can see the Messiah foretold as a “suffering servant.”

Today we hear Isaiah’s fourth and final “suffering servant oracle” where he describes the servant as one marred so badly that “his look” was “beyond human semblance.”  Does this not fit how Jesus was beaten?

Isaiah describes the servant as one with “no stately bearing.”  Jesus is never described as having a royal or stately bearing.

Isaiah describes the servant as one who was spurned, a man of suffering.  Jesus suffered greatly during his trial and Crucifixion.

Read any of Jesus’ Passion narratives and you will hear of many prophecies fulfilled.  You will also hear how Jesus knew everything that was going to happen.  Throughout it, Jesus remains calm.  He remains in control.  Even when they come to arrest him, Jesus orders them to let his men go.

Rather than deny his accusers, he tells the high priest to ask those who had heard what he said about him.  Jesus stands by his words.

When Pilate asks what charge they bring against him, their only response is “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”  In reality they have no charge against.

Then why was he scourged, mocked as a king with a purple cloak and a crown of thorns?  For the answer we go back to the second half of today’s passage from Isaiah.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured…he was pierced for our offenses.”

So, you see, the crimes that led to Jesus’ death were not his crimes.  It was for our sins that “the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.”

Jesus died for our sins.  It was “through his suffering” that he justified many and “won pardon” for our offenses.  It did not start with Judas’ betrayal.  It started with the sins of us all.

For Jews, hanging on a tree was a humiliating way to die.  For the Romans, crucifixion was the most humiliating way to die.  Yet this is what Jesus did for us.

The final words of Jesus today are “It is finished.”  What is finished?  His life.  It might seem so.  He died on the Cross and his dead body was laid in a tomb.

Why did Jesus submit to all this?  Because he loved us.  I think we can be confused about what love is today.  Some people think that if they just find the right spouse, love will be easy.  The truth is love takes effort.  Jesus’ love for us led to great suffering.

Again, what was finished?  In his death Jesus fulfills his mission to save us.  But it is not the end.  The tomb is not the end of the story.  There is still Easter to come.

Holy Thursday 2017 Homily

Holy Thursday
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15
April 13, 2017

Tonight we begin something very special, our Easter Triduum.  The word “triduum” means three days.  What we begin tonight lasts until Sunday.  Our celebration spans three days but we need to view all of it as one event.

Our readings tonight begin with the story of the first Passover.  As Christians we might view Passover as an event in the past but for the Jews, it stands at the head of their calendar.  Even as we enter our Triduum Jews today are celebrating the Passover as a “memorial feast” and “perpetual institution.”

Today we might think of the Passover as a Jewish meal.  It is but it is also much more than that.  The first Passover came as God liberated the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  God commanded that they sacrifice a lamb that was without blemish and apply some of the blood to the doorposts to mark their homes so that the Lord might ‘pass over’ their homes as he went through Egypt taking their first-born.  That is original ‘pass over’ action as God set them free from slavery.

It is not a coincidence that Jesus chose to give his life for us at the time of the Passover.  In fact, right before his arrest and Crucifixion, he celebrates this feast with his disciples.  As he shares this Passover with his disciples, he takes this solemn feast and unites it to his Crucifixion to come.

He does this as he says “This is my body that is for you… This cup is the new covenant in my blood…do this in remembrance of me.”

He does not say here is this ‘bread’, here is this ‘wine.’  No, his words are clear referring to them as his Body and Blood.  These words are Jesus’ own words and they are how we know Jesus transubstantiates the bread and wine into his Body and Blood.  It truly is the Real Presence of Jesus.

Not only does he transform the bread and wine into his Body and Blood.  He speaks of his body and blood given up for us.  In doing so, Jesus unites what we celebrate tonight to his Crucifixion that comes tomorrow so that “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”  This, together with Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me” is Jesus directing us to celebrate the Eucharist.  It was not to be celebrated just once in the past.   Neither is what we celebrate a new sacrifice.  As we celebrate the Eucharist today, Jesus makes present what he did 2,000 years ago.

This is why the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith.  This is also why we have priests.  To celebrate the Eucharist as a sacrifice requests a priest.  All of this is why Holy Thursday is called both the Institution of the Eucharist and the Institution of the Priesthood.

All of this is very special but there is one more action we need to reflect on.  When I finish my homily, we will celebrate the Washing of the Feet.

This is not just a reenactment from a scene in Jesus’ life like a play would be.  Jesus washing the feet of his disciples gives us a “model to follow.

While washing of feet is a basic human action, washing the feet of another person is not viewed as a pleasurable task.  In Jesus’ days on Earth, it is a task given to the lowest of the slaves.  No leader or master would do this himself.  It would be considered demeaning.  Jesus changes that and says we must all serve.

To appreciate this we need to think about what Jesus does as he begins to wash their feet.  He “took off his outer garments.”  I will do the same in a moment.

This might seem purely functional to take off the robe for movement and not to get the chasuble wet but it signifies something far greater.  In Jesus’ days on Earth, the garments signified the status of the person.  Even today, my chasuble signifies the role I have as priest.

So, Jesus removing his outer garment, and my removal of my chasuble, is a sign of humility, recognizing that we are not here to be served but to serve.  I am a priest not to gain status but to serve you.

As we know celebrate the Washing of the Feet, I invite all of you to think about what the Eucharist and the priesthood means to you.

 

 

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year A – Homily

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year A
Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66
April 9, 2017

Our opening blessing of the palms begins the holiest time of the year for us.  Our name for this week is very simple, Holy Week. What we celebrate this week is the culmination of the entire story of Salvation History, the story of how God has always cared for his people.  What God does this week, he does for all his people, including us.

We start this week in the same way Jesus and his disciples started the week, with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus knows what is coming in his Passion but he still chooses to enter Jerusalem.  He knows Judas will betray him.  He knows Peter will deny him three times.  Still he accepts what must happen for our salvation.

He receives a royal welcome with people spreading their cloaks out and waving palms.  There is one piece different from the normal royal entry.  Generally, the arriving king would be seated on a great horse as a sign of leadership and strength in battle.  Jesus doesn’t enter on a horse but rather a donkey, a sign of Jesus’ humility, a sign of a different kind of leader.  This also fulfills a prophecy given through Zechariah.  This week we see many prophecies fulfilled.  This serves to tell us that all that happens fits what God has foretold.

The Jews were awaiting a great earthly king to defeat the Romans but Jesus is a different type of Messiah.  Jesus is not a warrior but a suffering servant as Isaiah wrote about.

Jesus did not come seeking glory for himself.  He was, as Paul writes, “in the form of God” and “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at.”  So, “he emptied himself” to become like us.  In everything Jesus does he is humble and obedient.”

As we proceed through the events of this week, it can be hard to take.  Even Jesus, while completely obedient to the Father, prayed three times “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will but as you will.”

Every time we celebrate Mass we celebrate the Eucharist that Jesus gives us at the Last Supper.  Every time we celebrate Mass we are celebrating the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the Cross.  Every time we celebrate Mass, we celebrate the new life that Jesus shows us in the Resurrection but this week we celebrate all of this very much in the context of how Jesus experienced “Holy Week.”

Today in reading of the Passion we hear much of what happened to Jesus in his final week but to come each day for the Triduum later this week brings it to the forefront.  Today we hear that Jesus is laid in the tomb but that is not the end of the story.

Today we hear how Jesus gives us the Eucharist but on Thursday we celebrate in context with the washing of the feet and reflecting on what it means to follow Jesus.

On Good Friday we again hear of Jesus’ Passion and how he dies for us on the Cross.  To help us think more deeply about this, on Good Friday, we will all come forth and venerate the Cross.  We also have Spanish stations and meditation at noon and the Living Stations done in English by our youth at 7:00 p.m. on Good Friday to help us reflect on what Jesus went through for us.

Then, the story goes to the next step.  Jesus does not remain in the tomb but for that you have to come back.

I want to encourage you to spend some time this week thinking about what this week really means for us.  This week was a very difficult week for Jesus.  How could the Messiah be crucified?

Yet, it is at his death on the Cross that the centurion says “Truly, this was the Son of God!

Video Presentation – Evangelization and Apologetics

Monday I led my third and final presentation for this Lent.  This topic is very important to me as I think helping people develop their own relationship with Jesus and then to share it with others is an essential part of God’s call to me.  As a priest, celebrating the Sacraments is very important to me.  Teaching others is as important to me.

You can get the handouts and view this latest session at “Evangelization and Apologetics.”

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Responding to Syria

It was reported in the news earlier this week that there was an attack in Syria using chemical weapons.  This is considered an attack by the government in power against its own people.  In response to this specific attack following a history of great conflict in Syria, President Trump ordered missile attacks against an airbase in Syria.

I wish to make no judgment on this response.  I haven’t had much chance to follow the news this week so my information is incomplete.  Therefore, it would be completely inappropriate for me to make any judgment.

That being said, I was sitting in church praying this evening before people arrived for Stations of the Cross.  My prayers always include a prayer for our government leaders to make good decisions that respect the dignity of all life.  As I offered my prayers the thought of “Just War Theory” came to me with the thought of reminding people about it on my blog.

Please allow me to say that by using the term “Just War Theory”, I do not mean to call what is has happened in Syria this week an act of war.  Certainly, there is great conflict within Syria with a terrible loss of life.  Whatever you think of what is going on in Syria, the events of this week give us reason to think about the ethics that must be considered in decisions regarding armed conflict.

You can read the complete list of criteria for a just war in an article, “Just War Theory”, on my website.  Here, I will just mention a couple of them.  The criteria that most seems to come up when one nation acts against another in such circumstances is “legitimate authority.”  I’m sure that will be brought up by some but I want to draw your attention to another criteria that I feel it often not given complete consideration, “probability of success.”

I stress “complete consideration” because I think ‘success’ is probably always considered in some way.  Why attack if there can be no success?  I feel what is sometimes forgotten is what defines ‘success.’  If you look at what happened in Iraq, if ‘success’ was defined in 2003 as ‘getting Hussein out of power’ then success was achieved.  If “success” is defined as making Iraq and the world better, I am not so sure.

Again, I do not have the information to make any judgment about this week’s events in Syria.  I just want to take this opportunity to point out to you what our Catholic faith says about “Just War Theory”.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

5th Sunday of Lent, Year A – Homily

5th Sunday of Lent, Year A
Ezekiel 37:12-14
Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Romans 8:8-11
John 11:1-45
April 2, 2017

Last week we heard the story of the man born blind and how Jesus gave him physical sight and then the man came to see Jesus as the Messiah.

Ezekiel speaks for the Lord, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.”  As Christians we see this as speaking of the Resurrection but in the days of Ezekiel there was no real belief in the Resurrection.  To see this passage as the Israelites would have, we need to realize it was written during the Babylon Exile.  They would probably have interpreted its immediate fulfillment as when God set them free from the Babylonians and they returned to Jerusalem.  This would have been seen as the restoration of life in Israel.

In the days between Ezekiel and Jesus there was some development of the idea of resurrection but not strong belief in it.  Now, for us as Christians, resurrection is central to our faith.

When Jesus arrives after Lazarus dies, Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”  So, clearly Martha has a belief in the resurrection as some future event but doesn’t understand Jesus’ place in it.

Jesus knows this.  Jesus knows He will soon be crucified and that He will rise on the third day.  He has been trying to tell his disciples this but He knows they do not yet understand.  So, He uses Lazarus’ illness as a way to help them all understand.

Even with faith in the resurrection, death can be a terrible thing.  Without knowledge of the resurrection, death is final.

As Lazarus is dying, Martha and Mary send word to Jesus.  They have complete faith that Jesus could help.  They both say to Jesus, after Lazarus dies, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Yet, Jesus does not come for He knows, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God.

Ultimately, Jesus uses this as a teaching opportunity to show that He has power even over death.  Lazarus has been dead for four days by the time Jesus arrives at the tomb.  People are shocked when He tells them, “Take away the stone.”  Why could He possibly want to do that but they do as He says in faith.

Jesus “cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” and Lazarus comes out.  Now, this is not the “resurrection.”  This is resuscitation, the restoring of earthly life, but it clearly shows that Jesus has power even over death foreshadowing what will come in his own Resurrection.

Jesus had told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

This can seem convoluted.  What is death?

When we think of “death” our thoughts most often turn to thoughts of end of life as we know it in this world.  This means the person is no longer with us.  It means they are separated from us.  Without faith in the resurrection, it means they are gone forever.

There is a death worse than physical death.  The death we really need to fear is death from sin.  Physical death means separation from our family and friends in this world.  Death from sin means we are eternally separated from God.

The reality is that physical death is natural.  We do not know when it will come, but it will come.  It is inevitable.  We might delay it but we cannot stop it.

Sin might seem inevitable.  On our own we struggle against temptation but there is a remedy from the death that comes from sin.  It comes on Good Friday when Jesus freely gives his life on the Cross so that our sins can be forgiven.  All we have to do to receive the remedy is to confess our sins and believe in Jesus as our Savior and redeemer.

Then we will have eternal life.