Skip to content

4th Sunday of Easter, Year B – Homily

4th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Acts 4:8-12
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29 (22)
1 John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18
April 22, 2018

Peter becomes a bold preacher for Jesus.  He faces questions and persecution but he is no longer afraid.  When Jesus was arrested, Peter denied knowing him out of fear.  Peter’s fear is no more.

What has changed?

We see part of the answer in the first line of today’s first reading.  It describes Peter as “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is courage.  Peter has received this gift.

Another part of the answer relates to other gifts of the Holy Spirit of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.  In listening to Jesus during his public ministry, Peter gained some knowledge of Jesus’ mission.  It is only after Jesus’ death and Resurrection, that, following Pentecost, Peter comes to understand all this.

Before Jesus’ death and Resurrection, Peter came to know Jesus as the Messiah but didn’t understand what that really meant.  When Jesus first called Peter, Peter followed immediately but it is only now that Peter truly makes Jesus who had been rejected by others his cornerstone.

Peter was not the first to refer to the Lord as “the cornerstone.”  We see this in our psalm today.  When Jesus was arrested, Peter denied him because Peter was afraid of the humans.  He was more concerned about what the humans could do than faith in Jesus.  Now, he has come to put his trust in the Lord.  Instead of trusting in “princes”, he now takes refuge in the Lord.

When I think about the words of Jesus that Peter heard before his passion that only come to full light in his death and resurrection, today’s gospel comes to mind.

It begins with Jesus identifying himself as the Good Shepherd and indeed he is.  Jesus’ words continue with “A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”  Peter could not possibly understand the full meaning of this until Jesus truly laid down his life for us in giving his life for us on the Cross.

Jesus is willing to do this because he knows this is what God sent him to do.  It is his vocation.

Peter, on the other hand, initially is like the “hired hand” when he sees the “wolf” come and arrest Jesus.  He runs and hides but he never abandons his faith in Jesus completely.  He watched what happened from a distance.

Peter finds more faith when he sees Jesus risen and receives the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  It is only then that Peter truly embraces his vocation as the first among the Apostles.

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter when, in all three years of our Lectionary cycle of readings, we hear from chapter 10 of John’s Gospel, which is known as the Good Shepherd Discourse.  So, this Sunday is sometimes referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday.”

Based on what I have already said about “vocation”, today is also the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.”

We are all called by God to be his witnesses in this world.  This is the common vocation of all of us.  For instance, when we hear Jesus’ words, “A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep,” we might think of parents who do so much for their children.

However, on this “World Day of Prayer for Vocations”, our Church invites us to think about vocations to the priesthood and religious life.  It is no secret that we have far fewer priests than in years past.  The number of religious has shrunk even more.

Why?

We live in a world that places focus on self.  The idea of being willing to lay down one’s life for one is being lost.  It doesn’t always mean crucifixion.  For a parent, it means giving up some of what they might want for themselves in possessions and time to for the sake of their children.

People today often blame the priest shortage on the fact that priests cannot marry.  I might agree that for some men, not being able to marry is the reason they do not seek to be priests.  However, I don’t think priests should be allowed to marry.  I cannot envision being a good priest, a good husband, and a good father.  As a priest, I “lay down my life” in the sense of not having a family of my own for the sake of the church family.  Being a priest for me is not just a job to fit in my life.  It is my life.

Likewise, fewer people are entering religious life.  Those in religious life lay down life in the way society seeks it for self-gratification, wealth, and power to put Jesus at the front.  While there are not many entering religious life today, I believe those who are can be a powerful witness against the worldly life lived by so many.

I hope that all of you see a witness value in those who lay down their lives to be priests and religious.  It is a vocation that doesn’t make sense to everyone but it is a vocation that comes from God.

Because it doesn’t make sense to the world, it is not a popular choice today and that makes it all the harder.  That’s why I ask that you regularly pray for those who are called by God to priesthood and religious life, hear the call, and have the courage to respond.

Do We Recognize Jesus? Homily for April 2018 Holy Hour

Homily for April 2018 Holy Hour
Acts 2:14, 22-33
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
1 Peter 1:17-21
Luke 24:13-35

In my homily this past Sunday I referred to the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. This is the story that we hear in tonight’s gospel.

Each of the four gospels include stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his Resurrection. Even The Acts of the Apostles speaks of Jesus appearing to his disciples and gives us the story of Jesus’ Ascension.

In some of the stories the disciples recognize Jesus but think he must be a ghost. As I have said in my homilies at Mass, we need to remember that Jesus is the first to rise in the resurrection so this is all new to them.

Knowing that they don’t understand what resurrection is, Jesus’ invites them to see his wounds from his Crucifixion, even to touch so that they know he is not just a ghost but has a body.

Resurrection is a key theme of our faith in general and a focal point of what Easter means for us. However, rather than focus on what “resurrection” is tonight, I want to look at the question of recognizing Jesus.

In this gospel passage on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples did not recognize Jesus as he walked with them. Likewise, in other gospel stories like when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene near the tomb, she did not recognize him.

Why not?

I think part of the answer lies in that they weren’t expecting to see him. When he appears to Mary Magdalene near the tomb, she assumes that he must be the gardener because who else would be there. Remember, no one had risen before. The two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus assume that he is just an ordinary person.

Actually, this gospel passage says, without saying why, that they were prevented from recognizing him. We might wonder why. I think the answer centers in the fact that Jesus first needs to open the scriptures for them to understand what has happened before they can understand “resurrection.”

As with so many topics of faith, we can look at “recognizing” Jesus on two levels. The first is recognizing Jesus as a human being. Here, we might think about how when Jesus goes to his hometown shortly after beginning his ministry, they recognize him as the son of Joseph and Mary, the boy they watched grow up. They know the human Jesus. Seeing only the human side of Jesus, they block out the possibility of Jesus being something more than the boy they watched grow up.

During his public ministry before his Crucifixion, people came to recognize Jesus for the miracles he did but many missed how these miracles point to Jesus as more than just the descendant of King David that would set upon David’s throne.

They had their expectation of a messiah. As the two disciples said on the road to Emmaus, they “were hoping he would be the one to redeem Israel.” Of course, we know that Jesus does “redeem Israel” but not from the Romans as they expected. Rather, Jesus redeems us from our sins.

It was those who failed to recognize Jesus in his public ministry that get him arrested and crucified. Of course, we know that Jesus had to die for our sins. His life was not taken from him. He freely gave it over, but, still they did not recognize him for who he truly is.

Do we recognize Jesus?

First, we need to realize that Jesus does not come to appear to us as he did to the first disciples after his Resurrection but that does not mean he is not with us.

Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us. Just as Jesus walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus so he walks with us. We can’t see him with human eyes but he is with us.

I spoke on Sunday about how we need to have regular contact with Jesus to recognize his presence in our struggles.

It is difficult for us to be aware of Jesus’ presence. There are too many distractions in our world today for one. For the times when God does something good for us, are we even open to seeing his presence or do we think we do it on our own? Do we give God credit for what he does for us?

Going back to the story of the two disciples walking with Jesus, when did they recognize him?

It was not while walking on the road. Even as Jesus spoke their hearts were burning from his words but they did not recognize him.

It was only when they sat down to eat with Jesus and he broke the bread as he did at the Last Supper that they recognized him.

The “breaking of bread” is, of course, a reference to the Eucharist. Tonight, we are not here to celebrate Mass but we are here to see Jesus in the Eucharist in the consecrated host that is in our monstrance on the altar.

Many people do not recognize Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist. They can only see with their human eyes. All they can see is a piece of bread, a small one at that.

Our brains get in the way. The bread does not look any different after the consecration than it did before. It doesn’t taste any different but it is Jesus.

I have heard that scientists have done tests before and after the consecration trying to find a change but they can’t and they won’t. We know it is Jesus but not based on science but on Jesus’ own words at the Last Supper when he says this is my body.

Our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is not based on science. It is based on faith, faith that is a gift from God.

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B – Homily

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9 (7a)
1 John 2:1-5a
Luke 24:35-48
April 15, 2018

For the last two weeks we have heard stories of the risen Jesus appearing to his disciples as told in the Gospel of John.  This week we hear a story of the risen Jesus speaking to his disciples from the Gospel of Luke.

What we hear today is not the first time Jesus appeared to his disciples after his Resurrection in Luke’s Gospel.  We see this in the very first line of today’s passage when it says, “The two disciples recounted what had taken place of the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

What they are recounting to the other disciples is what happened in the passage right before this one.  It is the story of the road to Emmaus.  Jesus had been crucified.  The tomb was found empty.  Later that day, two of Jesus’ disciples are walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

They are talking about what has happened when Jesus came up to them walking on the road “but they were kept from recognizing him.”  As they walked, Jesus explained to them what had been written about him in the scriptures.

Their hearts burned with zeal at what Jesus said but they did not recognize him until he broke the bread as he did at the Last Supper.  This is wonderful news!  Jesus is risen!

They immediately returned to Jerusalem to tell the others that they had seen Jesus.  That passage ended with news that Jesus had also appeared to Simon.

I tell all this to help us relate to what goes on in today’s passage.  As the disciples were sharing what happened on the road to Emmaus and the appearance to Simon, Jesus once again “stood in their midst.”

One might think they would be excited and joyful.  Instead, “they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.”  This meant seem odd, at least for Simon and two disciples who had already seen Jesus risen.

What’s the problem or, as Jesus says, “Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?

Yes, the three of them have already seen the Risen Jesus and the others have heard of him.  Yet, this is still all brand new.  Remember it is still the same day when the tomb was found empty.  No one had risen from the dead before.

Jesus wants to give them assurance.  He allows them to touch him so that they know he has flesh and bones.  He ate fish in front of them to confirm this.

From there, “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” and how the scriptures foretold all that would happen to Jesus.  Jesus helped open their eyes to see the scriptures in a new way.  They had expected a Messiah to be a great political king based on the promise the Lord made to King David that an heir of his house would sit upon his throne forever.

The Jewish expectation of a messiah in Jesus’ day focused on this one promise.  So, Jesus’ Crucifixion did not fit this at all.  Jesus gives them a broader view to look at the Hebrew Scriptures as a whole.

In our passage from Acts today, Peter helps the people to understand how what happened to Jesus was the fulfillment of all the God had foretold through the words of the prophets.

We have not seen Jesus for ourselves.  We have statues and paintings of him to help us visualize him but, again, we have not seen him for ourselves.

If we were to hear just one of the stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples after the Resurrection, we would probably tend not to believe, but with several stories, we begin to accept it.  And when we look at Salvation History as a whole, we see how Jesus really is the fulfillment of what God foretold.

Do you remember Jesus’ last words to Thomas last week?  “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  We have not seen Jesus for ourselves but we do believe.  We believe because the Holy Spirit has given us the gift of wisdom and understanding so we can take the knowledge of Jesus and believe.

When Jesus appeared today, the disciples were “troubled.”  What do you have going on in your life that causes you trouble?

Do you find it difficult to believe that God is there with you?  It might seem odd.  We have faith.  We believe that God is with us.  Why is it so difficult to find peace?

When we pray, we come closer to Jesus.  We are more aware of his presence among us.  Yet, then we finish our prayer and go out into the world and face the same old struggles or perhaps a new struggle.  These struggles can be very evident.  They distract us from Jesus.

This is why coming to church once in a while is not enough.  Coming to Mass is very important for one of our closest moments to Jesus in this world comes in “The Breaking of Bread” that we know as the Eucharist.

Yet, if we only come once in a while, the struggles of this earthly world draw us away from Jesus.  That’s why when we feel distanced from Jesus (when we might doubt) that we actually need to come more.

Then, even when we are not in church, to take some time each day to connect with Jesus.  We can’t wait for the bad times.  We need to remain connected to Jesus all the time and then we see our struggles through the eyes of Jesus.  We see past our doubt to see Jesus.

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy), Year B – Homily

2nd Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy), Year B
Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 John 5:1-6
John 20:19-31
April 8, 2018

Jesus has been crucified.  How could this have happened to the Messiah?

The tomb has been found empty.  What does this mean?

It doesn’t make sense.  The disciples are gathering together in a locked room.  They have locked the door out of “fear of the Jews.”

In human terms, they have reason to fear.  Jesus, the one whom they had come to follow had been arrested, beaten, and crucified by the Jewish leaders who opposed him.  His disciples were afraid the same thing could happen to them.  So, they gathered together in the locked room.

Jesus knew they were struggling to make sense of what happened.  He knew they weren’t sure what the empty tomb meant.  He knew they were afraid.

In his mercy, he comes to them through the locked door.  Knowing their fear, he greets them “Peace by with you.”  Knowing they don’t understand what it means to rise, “he showed them his hands and his side,” his hands where the nails were driven through, his side where he was lanced after his death and the blood and the water flowed out to show them that he is indeed the same Jesus who has been crucified.  Again, he says, “Peace be with you.”  In his mercy, he continues to offer them peace.

One of the Twelve, Thomas, was not there.  When the others tell him about Jesus’ appearance, he refuses to believe unless he sees for himself.  For this, he has been known since then as “doubting Thomas.”

Does he doubt?  Yes.  Why?  Because it seems impossible.  Remember, no one had risen from the dead before so this is all new.

Were the other disciples any different?  What did all the disciples do as Jesus was arrested?  Didn’t they run in fear?

Where were the others when Jesus appeared to them?  In a locked room!  If they had no doubt, why would they have been behind locked doors?

A week later Jesus appears again and speaks directly to Thomas, inviting him to touch his wounds.  Thomas immediately comes to believe.  In his doubt, he receives assurance.

What does it mean to doubt?  To doubt is to be uncertain about something.  The disciples were very uncertain about what “resurrection” meant but they still believed.  If they had lost all faith, why were they gathered together in a locked room?

We can look at the world today, see all the violence and wonder why is God in all of this?  Why doesn’t God do something about it?  Morality is on the decline with some giving up on any sense of an absolute truth or right and wrong.

It can make us wonder.  Some would call it doubt.  But in faith, we still trust in God.  We still come together because there is still hope in our hearts.  Where does this hope come from?  It is a gift from God.

I want to point out that when Jesus appeared and spoke to Thomas, Jesus did not explain the Resurrection and Thomas did not ask for an explanation.  Once he saw the Lord, that was enough.

That’s why Jesus came to him and to the others in that locked room.  Did Jesus teach to his disciples?  Yes, but he did not explain everything.  He spoke to their hearts to nurture their faith and hope rather than provide knowledge.

Jesus did this, as he does everything, out of mercy.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II declared that this Second Sunday of Easter be always celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.

What is “mercy”?

In church terms, we think of mercy as the forgiveness of our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Certainly, this is a form of mercy that we need throughout our lives.

We also talk about acts of mercy, starting with feeding the hungry and visiting the sick to counseling the doubtful and offering instruction but, again, what is mercy?

For the recent Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Vatican published a series of books.  One of them is called, The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy (Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2015.)  In this book (page 15), we read that the Latin word for “mercy” is “Misericordia.”  The word comes from “misere”, meaning “misery” and “cor/cordis” meaning “heart”.  Thus, it identifies mercy as “having a heart full of solidarity with those in need.”

This is at the core of who Jesus is.  Everything he does comes from his heart, from his love for us.

We can have lots of questions that we want to ask God.  In our humanity, we might like some answers but we don’t have all the answers.  That means we aren’t going to understand everything.  We might doubt (wonder) why things are the way they are.  This doubt is not a denial of God.  It simply means we have questions but in faith, we had it over to God and ask for his mercy.

 

Easter Morning Homily 2018

Easter Morning
Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 (24)
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-9
April 1, 2018

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb on the first day of the week.  They find “the stone removed from the tomb.”  She knows this is important and immediately runs to Simon Peter and “the other disciple whom Jesus loved” and told them about the stone.

Immediately, they both ran to the tomb.  Simon Peter goes in first and sees the burial cloths but no body.

The other disciple follows Peter in.  We are told “he saw and believed.”

What did he see?  What did he believe?

By the way, whose tomb is it anyway?

All the running tells us the fact that the tomb is empty is important.  Today, the fact that so many people come to church this morning tells us this is something important.

So, again, whose tomb is it anyway?

It is the tomb of Jesus.

This gospel passage standing alone assumes we “know what has happened all over Judea.

To understand the important of the empty tomb, we need to take a step back at what happened leading up to the empty tomb.  Obviously, Jesus had died or they won’t have laid him in the tomb.  What led to his death?

Jesus came as the Messiah but not the messiah that some people wanted.  They wanted a great political king who would free them from the Romans.  Jesus doesn’t do that.

These same people wanted a messiah that would agree with everything they said.  Jesus didn’t.  His words came from God our Father.

Jesus knew they were plotting to kill him.  He was not deterred.  Knowing what was about to happen and knowing how it would shake the faith of the disciples, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples.

It was not just any meal.  It was the Passover meal celebrated with unleavened bread and wine.  Jesus takes the bread and wine and transubstantiates it into his Body and Blood which he will give up for us on the Cross.

And so he gives us the precious gift of the Eucharist and tells us to keep celebrating it in remembrance of him.

Then came the arrest and trial of Jesus.  He was an innocent man but those who opposed him wanted him dead.  They beat him, they mocked him, and mocked him as the king of the Jews because they didn’t understand what it means for Jesus to be our king.

Ultimately, he was crucified, considered the worst and most humiliating form of execution.  Did it have to be?

Yes.

To understand why, we must understand that Jesus’ life was not taken from him.  He freely gave it up for us.

After his death, Jesus was laid in the tomb.  Now, we come back to the empty tomb on Easter morning.  The empty tomb means Jesus is Risen!  It means that Jesus was not defeated.  Jesus is victorious over death!

So, we can see Jesus’ death as something good (Hence, we call it Good Friday).  His death brings us salvation.

He did this because he loves us!  He died for our sins so that we might have eternal life.

This is what brings us here today.  We need the hope that Jesus brings.  It reveals God’s love for us.  It is the high point of salvation history.

God has always loved his people.  He watched over them.  He heard the cry of the Israelites in Egypt and rescued them from slavery.  He formed a covenant with them based on the Ten Commandments.  When people failed to follow his commandments, God allowed them to suffer the consequences of their sin but he did not stop loving them.

He sent prophets to lead them to conversion but they didn’t always listen.  Ultimately, God sends us his Son Jesus because he knows it is the only way for us to be saved.

Jesus died for us!

Jesus gives us a way to celebrate his sacrifice.  It is the Eucharist!  Every time we celebrate Mass, we are celebrating the sacrifice of Jesus.  Every time we receive Communion, we are receiving Jesus to strengthen us, to help become who Christ calls us to be.

Let us rejoice for Jesus Christ is Risen Today!

Thank you Jesus!

 

Easter Vigil Homily 2018

Easter Vigil
Genesis 1:1-2:2
Genesis 22:1-18
Exodus 14:15-15:1
Isaiah 55:1-11
Romans 6:3-11
Mark 16:1-7
March 31, 2018

We start in darkness tonight to remind us how before “God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss.

Our blessing of the Easter fire reminds us of how God brought light into the world.  We hear the story of creation from Genesis.  There are people who look at this creation story and reject it as disproven by science.

They are missing the point of the story.  The story is not trying to explain the “how” of creation by rather the “why”.  This story as we find it in the Bible today was first written down over 3,000 years ago.  The story is even older than that.  If God had tried to explain all the how/science, the people back then would not have understood it.

To understand the point of this creation story, I think the key word in the opening sentence is “formless.”  This story is given to us to try and teach us that it is God that brings order to the universe.

Scientists can talk about “Big Bang” but I think there is too much order and beauty to say that God is not behind it all.  The balance of nature, things like plants breathing CO2 and breathing out O2 while humans breath in O2 and breath out CO2. The way male and female come together to reproduce in all animals and humans cannot be a random chance of science.  God has brought order to the universe.

So goes the story of creation.

Then, God did not choose to create and walk away.  God has remained involved in what he has created.  This is the story of salvation history.  It is the story heard in the singing of the Exsultet and in our readings tonight.

From the story of creation, the Book of Genesis tells the lineage from Adam and Eve to Abraham.  Abraham was a faithful and righteous man to whom God promised descendants as numerous as the stars.

The problem?  Abraham and Sarah were a hundred years old but God fulfilled that promise in giving them Isaac.  With them well beyond childbearing years, clearly this happened by God’s grace.

Then, “God put Abraham to the test.”  He told him to offer Isaac “up as a holocaust.”  Amazing!  Even more amazing, Abraham is willing to do it because his faith is so strong that he is willing to do whatever God asks of him.

Genesis continues with the lineage from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and Joseph who end up in Egypt.

That brings us to the story of Exodus.  The Israelites had become slaves in Egypt until God sent Moses to rescue them.  God performed ten “plagues” revolving his power before leading the Israelites across the Red Sea to new life.

Just as the Israelites entered new life by crossing the Red Sea, we enter new life through Baptism.  Just as God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, Jesus will save us from slavery to sin but I am getting ahead of the story.

The lineage of the Israelites who become known as Jews by Jesus’ time continues through the Old Testament but to be a child of God and to hold Abraham as a father in faith is not just a matter of genetic ancestry.  It is a matter of faith.

We see in our reading from Isaiah that the Lord invites all who are thirsty to “come to the water!”  Salvation is God’s gift to us.  We cannot buy or even earn our salvation for we hear the words of the Lord, “Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy?

We cannot save ourselves.  We need to let God shape us and form us.  So often, God’s people have tried to live their way but it doesn’t work out.

We don’t have to figure it out.  God has.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

The people continued to sin.  God always loves his people and rescues them when they cry out to him.  This brings us to Jesus.

We are sinners.  That’s reality.  We must always try to learn the truth of Jesus Christ and to live it but when we fall short, we count on Jesus.

Jesus knows how much we need him.

This is why he gives us his Body and Blood in the Eucharist so that we might become what we eat.

This why he gives his life for us on the Cross.  He is the one “without blemish.”  He is the lamb sacrificed for us.  That’s the Passion of Jesus.

That’s where our story stopped yesterday as we celebrated Good Friday.  Please note that I said that is where the story “stopped” not “ended” for the story of salvation did not end with Jesus’ death.  It did not end when Jesus was laid in the tomb.

It continues in today’s gospel.

The tomb is found empty!  Jesus Christ is risen today!  Alleluia!

Jesus was not defeated in his Crucifixion.  He gave his earthly life so that we might have eternal life.  Jesus’ life did not end in earthly death and neither does us if we follow Jesus as the way and the truth and the life.

I thank Jesus for all he does for us.

 

Good Friday Homily

Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25 (Luke 23:46)
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42
March 30, 2018

Every time we celebrate Mass, we are celebrating the sacrifice of Jesus giving his life on the Cross for us but today, …today we listen to the story of what Jesus went through for us.

It is a familiar story to us.  There’s the betrayal of Judas Iscariot.  We remember how Peter denies Jesus three times. We might ask ourselves, do we turn away from Jesus in sin?  Do we deny the truth that Jesus offers?

He is scourged.  He is mocked with a crown of thorns and purple cloak.    There are the false accusations against him.  In fact, when they bring Jesus to Pilate who asks, “What charge do you bring against this man?,” their response is “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”  It seems they have no real charge to bring against him.

Pilate gets a lot of the blame for crucifying Jesus but three times Pilate says, “I find no guilt in him.”  Pilate’s only fault in what happened is giving into the crowd.

Jesus is innocent.  Why must an innocent man be crucified?

Last night our first reading was from Exodus and told of the Passover.  In the Passover celebration, a lamb “without blemish” was to be offered.  Jesus is without blemish.  He is without sin and he becomes the lamb that God offers as the sacrifice for our sins.

Those who want Jesus crucified try to act “innocent”.  When Pilate tells them to judge him according to their law, they say, “we do not have the right to execute anymore.”  They are trying to look like law-abiding citizens but really, they just don’t want to be blamed for Jesus’ death.

They try to look like friends of Caesar.  They cover up their true feelings.  They lie.  They are full of pride.  They are sinners.  Of course, we too are sinners.

Ultimately, Jesus is crucified but his life is not taken from him.  God is in control.  Jesus never tries to hide.  As his Passion begins, he goes to the same garden where he often met with his disciples so Judas knows where to find him.

When Judas and a band of soldiers come looking for him, he actually goes to them and tells them that he is the one they are looking for.  When questioned by the high priest, Jesus stands by what he said all along.

Do we stand up against adversity or do we run and hide?  Do we stand by what we have always said or do we try to twist our own words to save our skin?

Jesus is not afraid.  He offers no defense.

His final words?  “It is finished.”

What is finished?  Visibly his earthly life is finished.  But “it is finished” has a much deeper meaning.

Many of the people were looking for a messiah who would become an earthly king and defeat their enemy the Romans.  This is what they expected from the line of David but it was not God’s plan.

We see God’s plan in what we hear today from the prophet Isaiah.  We hear of a suffering servant who will be marred “beyond human semblance.”  Isaiah speaks of the servant as one who “had done no wrong” and that “it was our infirmities that he bore…he was pierced for our offenses.

Jesus’ purpose for coming is our salvation.  This means he must die for our sins.  This is his mission which is finished in his death on the Cross.

Jesus died for us.  In John 15:13, Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Look at Jesus on the Cross and you can see God’s love.

Knowing how much Jesus loves us, we should listen to him.  We know he is motivated by absolute love.  He has laid down his life for us and so we know we can trust him.  We can give our lives to Jesus.

Based on the love we see from God, may we say “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

 

Holy Thursday 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
March 29, 2018

In recent weeks we have heard Jesus speak of “his hour.”  Today we hear this hour identified as the hour where he passes “from this world to the Father.”

This verse referring to Jesus’ passing occurs at the Last Supper so it is not simply the exact time of his death.  It is more than that.

Let us begin by looking at when God chooses this to happen.  It is not just a random date.  He chooses the time of the Passover that was placed at the head of the calendar from the time of the first Passover.  The Passover is a “memorial feast”, “a perpetual institution.”

The Passover is an event that defines the Jews as a people.  It is the event where God sets his people free from slavery in Egypt.  This showed that God was not just a local god with power only in his own land but that He is the one true God and is God everywhere.

The Passover was celebrated from the time of the Exodus to the time of Jesus with the sacrifice of a lamb “without blemish.

The Passover is the time God chooses to be Jesus’ hour.

Like the Passover, Jesus’ hour is not simply an hour in history.  It is the time of our salvation.  In the Passover God set his people free from slavery in Egypt.  In Jesus’ hour, we are set free from slavery to our sins.

As much as the Jews were defined by the Passover, we are shaped by what we celebrate as Jesus’ hour.

Yet, it is not just one hour.  What we celebrate as Jesus’ hour takes place over three days, what we call the “Easter Triduum.”  It begins with the Eucharist.  What Jesus did at the Last Supper and what he tells us to do “in remembrance” of him is the Eucharist.

So, we call what we Jesus did then “the Institution of the Eucharist.”  It is Jesus’ Body and Blood.  To celebrate the Eucharist as a liturgy we need a priest to preside.  Hence, tonight is also seen as “the Institution of the Priesthood.”

This leads us to the washing of the feet.  By his example, Jesus shows us what it means to serve others.  He is the master.  The washing of feet was the role of a servant.  Jesus is our king but he does not come that we might serve him.  He comes to serve us.  This is an example for all of us but in a special way for priests.

In the Passover celebration a lamb was sacrificed.  A priest is one who offers sacrifice.  We call the Eucharist a sacrifice.  What is sacrificed?  Jesus.

This leads back to how I said that Jesus’ hour was not just one hour in time but an event spread over three days.  The sacrifice offered in the Eucharist is Jesus’ giving of his life on the Cross.  It is in this context that he speaks of the bread and wine as his Body and Blood given up for us, given up on the Cross.

So, as Paul writes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”  Every time we celebrate Mass, we are celebrating the Eucharist as the sacrifice of the Crucifixion.

So, that is two days.  Day 3 is the Resurrection.  We will hear of Jesus’ Crucifixion tomorrow and his Resurrection at Easter but as we proceed into our Triduum and reflect on the Eucharist, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, we must realize they are not three different events.  They are one event and can only be fully understand when they tied together.

We will celebrate this gift of the Eucharist in a few minutes but first we will celebrate “The Washing of the Feet.”  I will take off my chasuble just as Jesus took off his outer garment.  The outer garment can be a sign of status but being a priest is not about status.  It is about serving.

Twelve people will come forward.  They are not chosen because of some great thing they do.  They are chosen to represent all our parishioners.

As I get down on my knees, I will wash one foot of each person.  This washing is not for physical cleaning.  It reminds us of our need for God to cleanse our souls.

For me, it is a very humbly experience.  It is not about me.  As I go from person to person, I don’t see just twelve individuals.  I see all the people of the parish whom I have been called to serve.  I have been called to help make Jesus’ presence visible in your lives.

The Eucharist is key.  It is the Real Presence of Jesus.  I can’t say this enough.  Because of grace I receive in presiding I have NO DOUBT that it is Jesus.  It is Jesus giving his life for us.  It is the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is his Body and Blood.

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

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Year B
Mark 11:1-10
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24 (2a)
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15:47
March 25, 2018

We have two gospel readings today which show two very different responses to Jesus.

In our gospel at the beginning of Mass for the blessing of the palms we see the people in Jerusalem offer Jesus a royal welcome.  We see it in the way they “spread their cloaks on the road” while others “spread leafy branches.”  They cried out “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Clearly, they recognize Jesus as the Messiah!

Or do they?

They clearly give Jesus a royal welcome but do they really seem as the Messiah he is meant to be?

I ask because within just a few days of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem we see the people treating Jesus in a very different way.

In our Passion reading, Jesus is no longer given a royal welcome.  If fact, “the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death.”

We should not be surprised at what the chief priests and scribes were plotting because this is not the first time the gospels tell us of those who plot against Jesus.

But now it is even worse!

He is betrayed!  And not by one of the chief priests or scribes but by Judas Iscariot who was one of the Twelve Apostles.  Can you imagine being in Jesus’ place knowing that one of your closest companions is going to betray you and to do so with a kiss, turning what is normally a sign of affection into a sign of betrayal?

Judas was willing to do this for money.  What is your price to sell out Jesus?  A thousand dollars?  A million?  A billion?  What about a promotion?  What about playing on a sports team?  A round of golf?  The chance to sleep in?

Of course, Judas is not the only one who turns against Jesus.  There are those who will mock him as a “king” because they don’t understand that his kingdom is not of this world.

There are those who will strip him of his garments to humiliate him and scourge him.  There is the crowd that is overcome with a “mob mentality” and repeatedly call for him to be crucified.

Even his own Apostles scattered when Jesus, the shepherd is struck.  Peter himself, while watching from afar will deny Jesus three times.

Mind you what Jesus goes through himself is awful.  Even Jesus himself cries out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” but his disciples flee long before that.  They flee as soon as Jesus is arrested.

While what Jesus went through Jesus was awful, it is essential to know what Jesus did for us.  This year we are reading mainly from Mark’s Gospel on Sundays.  Mark’s is the shortest of the gospels but when it comes to the telling of Jesus’ Passion, Mark slows down and includes all the details for this is the hour when we truly discover who Jesus is for us.  As Jesus dies on the Cross, even the Gentile centurion recognizes Jesus as he says, “Truly this man was the Son of God.

There is a price to be paid for our sins and Jesus has paid the bill.  His life was not taken from him, he freely handed it over for us.

What are you willing to do for Jesus?  Will you make time for Jesus during this Holy Week?  Will you “keep watch for one hour?

Or will you betray Jesus?  What would be your price?

Throughout our Lenten season, we are called to give something up as a sacrifice for Jesus.  As Jesus sacrificed his life, what have you sacrificed?

Jesus received a royal welcome entering Jerusalem.  Do you welcome him into your life?

Jesus handed his life over for you.  Are you willing to hand your life over to Jesus?

Stations #10-12 – Homily for March 2018 Holy Hour

Homily for March 2018 Holy Hour
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Matthew 27:27-31

On Sunday we heard Jesus say, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23).  As I said on Sunday, “the hour” where his glorification starts in his Passion and leads to his resurrection.

God did not pick just any hour for Jesus’ Passion.  He picked the time of the Passover.  As our first reading states, God placed the Passover at the head of the Jewish calendar.  In the Passover, the story of God leading them out from Egypt is celebrated with the sacrifice of lambs. Now, our sacrifice is not the sacrifice of animals but that of Jesus himself.

Tonight, we are just eight days from the beginning of the Easter Triduum.  In less than four days we will become our celebration of Holy Week with the blessing of the Palms and the reading of the story of Jesus’ Passion.

On Sunday, we will hear Mark’s version of the Passion.  Then, on Good Friday, we will hear John’s version.  So, rather than read the whole Passion tonight, I selected these five verses from Matthew’s telling of the Passion to lead us into a discussion of what is depicted in the Stations of the Cross.  Tonight, I want to look specifically at stations #10-12.

In what I just read, Jesus is stripped of his garments.  This is depicted in the 10th station.  The stripping is part of the mockery they show to Jesus.  Imagine standing naked for all to see.  It would have also made the scourging worse as the cords hit bare flesh.  It was humiliating and painful.  Yet, Jesus endured it for us.  He did it so we would not have to bear the punishment for our sins.

I want to take this image of Jesus naked and reflect on what it is that we wish to cover up.  On the surface level, I don’t imagine any of us want to stand unclothed before a crowd.  That would be humiliating and/or defy all modesty but that is not the “exposing” that I want to look at now.

Picture yourself standing before God.  He is looking at you but not at your physical body but at your soul.  Your soul is fully exposed for God to see.  He can see the love you hold in your soul.  He can also see your sin.  Your sins are fully exposed before God.  How embarrassing!  But we do not need to fear this!  Jesus comes to take away the sin of the world!

Next, let us turn to the 11th Station where Jesus is nailed to the Cross.  Nails are driving into his hands and feet as he is hung upon the Cross.  Imagine the pain of the nails being driven through your flesh and bone.  Imagine the weight of your body on the Cross pulling against the nails.  How terrible!

Who is it that drives the nails in?  We generally blame the Romans and/or the Jewish officials for this.  If this was strictly a human activity the blame would fall to them. Yet, we know that Jesus’ life wasn’t really taken from him.  He freely handed it over.  He did so for our sins.

Some of you are probably familiar with Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ.  In an interview, Mel Gibson talked about the scene where the nails were driven into Jesus.  In making the movie, Mel Gibson made sure he was the one who drove the nails in as he knew it was because of his sin that Jesus gave his life.  Are we any different?

Now we turn to the 12th Station where Jesus dies on the Cross.  Jesus endured so much for us.  How can we call it Good Friday?  Because of the “good” it accomplishes, our salvation.  This is the purpose for which Jesus came.

If you read the latter part of chapter 11 in John’s Gospel (verses 45-53), you hear about the Sanhedrin plotting to kill Jesus.  In that conversation Caiaphas said, “It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish” (John 11:50).  He said this to justify their plot against Jesus.  He was right but not in the way he thought.

Now, I hope I haven’t depressed you too much talking about how badly Jesus was treated.  Jesus did this willingly because “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).  The love Jesus shows is what we need to focus on.

God sent Jesus to die for our sins out of love.  It was out of his love that God set his people free from slavery in Egypt.  It is out of his love that Jesus sets our free from our sins.  This action of Jesus’ love is what makes Good Friday “good.”

We must never forget the sacrifice that Jesus makes for us.  It is not solely an action of the past.

Look at the altar!

What do you see?

Do you see a piece of bread on display?  Stop looking with your earthly eyes!

What is upon the altar?

Jesus!

There have been those who think Catholics make a false idol of the bread in the monstrance but our adoration tonight flows from Jesus’ own words at the Last Supper.  He held the bread and proclaimed, “This is my body that is for you…This cup in the new covenant in my blood” given up for us.

The belief in the Real Presence of Jesus is not a human invention.  It is from Jesus’ own words.

What does this have to do with Good Friday?  At the Last Supper Jesus speaks of his body and blood being given up for us.  When are they given up?  On the Cross.  So, hearing Jesus’ words, “do this in memory of me” every time we celebrate Mass, we celebrate the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.  As we gaze upon the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance tonight, we see God’s love.