May 18, 2019

Love of Power or Power of Love

5th Sunday of Easter:  

What if you went up to a mother holding with her adorable baby in her arms and told her, “Ma’am, you’re loving your baby the wrong way!”   Imagine telling a father that the way he loves his daughter, his little princess, isn’t right. Or, what would happen if you told a married couple, celebrating their 25th anniversary, “Excuse me, but your love for each other seems inadequate.” What would be the reaction if I told two close friends that their relationship was not based on love but on using each other? Or telling a priest, it doesn’t seem that he really loves his flock, that he is inteased trying to control them!

Dare tell anyone that the way they love is wrong, misguided or not healthy, and you risk evoking its opposite - anger, rage and even violence.  So how do we judge our own way of loving, the manner in which we dare love, or how do we define it, and keep ourselves accountable?

The Christian always goes back to Christ himself, not just His words, but His actions.  “As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. We can not remain in our own love. Why? We are lousy lovers. We mess things up. We exaggerate love, we ignore it, we go from one extreme to another. 

Maybe it's because we may believe that everything in the world is about love - but it's our own type of love we want to give and receive. If that be the case, then it has nothing to do with love. Instead, it seems more to do about power and being in control!

A Christian has to be instead grounded in Christ’s expression of love, His manner and His example of loving. He tells us to “remain in HIS love”, he tells to “learn from him”, to “keep his commandments”. And we must, because faith in Christ is also trusting in His way of loving.  We are obedient to Christ because we trust Him over ourselves, better than ourselves - because all of us have been loved poorly in life. Many of us bear the wounds of cheap love and the scars of its many imitations - through broken promises, control, dependency, and even slavery in all its forms.  

Christ is here to show us a love that will set us free - that brings joy and a peace that no other can. I may not think myself worthy of His loving me, and no doubt, I am not. But we have to be reminded, again and again, of His words, “ It was not you who choose me,” He says “but I who choose you.”  He loves me to death. He loves you to death. You are worthy of Christ dying for you, regardless if you wish Him to or not. The fact is He did, not only does it show us how much He thinks of us in His heart, God respects us, give us our dignity, even if all we can see and experience are our wounds.

Maybe, this is why Christ, to save us from our oftentimes crude and confusing experiences of love, does not call us His lovers - He calls us friends.  Friendship, we understand a bit better than love. Friendship goes beyond feelings, emotions - it is profound and enduring, and tested beyond the natural circumstances of life. It is born from a duty of the heart and soul - it comes to the rescue and yet it is respectful. It does not seek to control or dominate the other. It can be as tender as it can be forthright.  Because this type of love concerns itself with our human dignity which comes from each of us being made in God's image and likeness, it is willing to tell us our faults and suffer loss to help make us what God intends us to be - to be truly and fully human as God intends us to be - with life to the full, fruit in abundance.  

As I have loved you, Christ says, in that manner, we are to love.
“What a friend we have in Jesus”.

May 12, 2019

First Holy Communion

Easter First Holy Communion Mass

Thank God for our mothers!  Without us knowing it, our mothers kept us safe for nine months so that each of us could be born into this world. Thank you!  Always be grateful to your mother for doing this, whether she is here or not. For our mother was getting us ready for our first birthday.

1.  Typically we have one birthday a year.  But for a Christian, do you not realize you can have many birthdays a year? For start, what did you eat and drink before your first birthday?

Everything that our mother ate and drank was changed. It became a new substance that nourished us, absorbed into our little bodies before we were born. We then became bigger and stronger and ready for our birt birthday.

2.  Many of us here have a second birthday. It was when we were baptized. Many of us received our second birthday when we were babies. Some got their second birthday when they were older. There might even be some here today who are still waiting for a second birthday.

When we were baptized, we were lifted out of the water and God gave us new birth. Along with ordinary food, now God began giving us a new type of food called "grace". It gives us special energy so that we can do special things such as speaking to Him in prayer, listening to Him when He speaks to us or doing something that can help us to become saints.

3.  And now you are getting ready for your third birthday - our most important one which we call Holy Communion because it is a special birthday gift by Jesus Himself. And because it takes a lot of preparation by Jesus and you and me to get ready, not everyone receives this gift at the same time. We only receive it by being invited to receive it by the Church.

Some are invited to receive this gift for the first time when they are the same age as you. Some are invited to receive this gift for the first time when they are adults. You can't just take this gift without being invited to do so by the Church. Our bodies and souls have to be specially prepared because it involves a kind of food.

1.  Before our first birthday, the food our mother ate was absorbed into us and made us grow and move. And the food you eat every day does the same.

2.  On your second birthday when you were baptized, the food of God's grace was absorbed into your body and your soul so that every day, you can do the things that Jesus did. And what did Jesus do? He lived, He died, He rose from the dead and he lives forever. With the food of God's grace, you can do that too!

3.  And because you have been prepared for nearly a year, you will receive the most sacred food that there is.  But remember what all types of food do - it can be absorbed into our bodies and even our souls and it helps change our bodies into something else; bigger, stronger, and even into saints.

The food you are going to receive for the first time today was prepared by Jesus Himself with His own Body.  He knew it would be very painful for Him to make Himself into food that we can eat and be absorbed into our own body and soul.  So He made a huge sacrifice.  He allowed His Body to be broken and His Blood to be poured out. And this is what happened on the Cross.

But then, something happened to His Body three days after He died.  It was transformed into a new type of Body, bursting with new life and new powers (that not even superheroes could ever imagine having). Risen from the dead, the Body of Jesus Christ now allowed Him to experience all at once, everything that there is, everything that was, and everything that will be. Christ experiences all of heaven and all of creation - everything.

Because Christ loves us so much, He wants to share this with you and me. But because it is so, so much to literally absorb all at once Christ wants us to slowly grow into the same type of Body and Blood He has now so that, when we are fully grown into Him, we can experience all the best what God has created in heaven and earth for us to enjoy.  There is the story of Adam and Eve who wanted to absorb all of this at once. They got sick because they were not ready or prepared and they were greedy.

In fact, Jesus is looking forward, not just for you and me, but for everything to grow into the same type of Body He has now, so that everything in heaven and on earth, in all creation, will have a new birthday that will last forever and ever.

What we are doing today, and every Sunday, is how God is making this happen, very slowly and carefully.  He begins with the bread and wine at Mass, and in the hands of Christ, He changes it into His heavenly Body and Blood.  The angels watch Him do this and are always amazed when they see the bread and wine changing into Christ's heavenly Body and Blood during every Mass. They see it happening because they are always with Jesus in heaven.

But all we can see from this side of heaven is what our mind remembers and recognizes as bread and wine.  So, what we do is we ring a bell to re-mind us that through the power of God, the bread and wine are here and now changed to make instead Christ's glorified Body and Blood substantially present for us to adore here on earth as the angels do in heaven.

This happens every time the Mass is said because Jesus wants us all to eventually have the same experience He has now of Himself with everything in all creation.  But we have to grow into this, more and more, Sunday after Sunday.

Remember, the food we eat absorbs into our body and helps us grow.  The nourishment Jesus now gives us at Mass is His own Glorified Body and Blood and because we can not see this in the same way as angels do, we see only a sign, not the reality before us.

But when we eat or drink of this Most Blessed Sacrament at Mass, the actual heavenly Body and Blood of Christ is absorbed into our body and soul, making us, Sunday after Sunday more ready to stand one day with Him in heaven and adore Him with all the angels and saints forever and ever. Amen. 

May 11, 2019

Easter Penguin Lesson!

I’ve often wondered when I’ve seen images of thousands of penguins all huddled together on some Antarctic background, how do you tell them apart? But more particular, after the breeding season and there are equally thousands of young chicks who have not ventured into the waters to feed themselves, how do the parent penguins, returning to a penguin colony of thousands, be able to tell who’s who. Not only that, a returning parent with a mouthful of fish must be able to recognise their own chick and ignore all the thousands of other youngsters who are all indiscriminately crying out for food.

It seems, that, soon after birth, the parents have bonded so intimately with their young, that even when they leave them to search for food and later return to the thousands who are assembled on the edge of the icy water, the parent is able to distinguish, not by sight (that would be impossible), but by careful listening, the unique pitch and tone of their own offspring amid all the thousands of hungry squeals of chicks nervous and afraid that they have been abandoned.  No so.

By way of a similar image, our Lord assures us that, not only has He his eye on up, but that even if we should be lost in the valley of darkness, He can always find us. We will never be lost. He knows us personally, intimately. We are not just a huge mass of a flock. He knows each of us by name, what is hidden in our hearts, our hopes, fears and dreams and anxieties of life.  He is a shepherd, Who not only knows His flock. He knows, cares for, loves and is protective of each and every one of us Whom He knows, not by number, but by name.

Here in this Eucharist, we call out to God who hears us, hears you and me crying out from the depth of our hearts and souls, “Feed me with everlasting life”. He responds to us most intimately through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, not only as a Good Shepherd who feeds us, but the True Shepherd who dares to nourish us with His own sacrificial Body and Blood. Because the Lord alone is my shepherd, there is nothing else I shall want, no-one else who hears me when I call, knows where I am, what I need, where I belong." Call to Him and you will be saved!

May 4, 2019

After Working Hours

It's still Easter. We continue to celebrate the event of Christ, who was crucified on Good Friday, rising from the dead on Easter Sunday. And much has happened since then. Countless baptisms of adults and children, the Sacrament of Confirmation of adults on the Vigil of Easter and last week over thirty of our young men and women of high school age. Next Sunday, on Mother Day's, many of our children will receive First Holy Communion for the first time.  The Easter Season, full of parish events of new life bringing forth will continue to June 8th.

These past few months, even in preparation for this season of Easter there has been much family, parish and local activity. This is good. It is important. Although there is great loyalty to the parish church and the local community, it is also important that we also see the big picture of what it is to be a Church, a Church that is described with the word "Catholic", universal, room and home for everyone. We get a hint of it here, but we get a taste of it as we reflect on the portion of the Gospel we have just heard.

The resurrected Christ stands on the shores of the great sea. He looks out into the whole world. In the midst of the great sea of the world, Christ sees a boat - He sees the Church. What does Christ see us doing? We are working hard together for the salvation of souls. And as we do so, are also preparing ourselves, and each other, for a journey to the shores of heaven where Christ waits for us.

And while we are out in this great sea, because our boat, like a huge ark, is "Catholic", and there is room for everyone, even for those who are adrift, or come alongside us. We invite them into the company of the Church.

From our perspective on board, it might at times seem very confining, bumping into so many people, everyone with different roles, gifts, backgrounds, abilities. But the gospel tells us that the Lord stands on the shore and looks out at the horizon, and from His perspective, He sees this big boat and everyone hard at work, well mostly everyone.

From where He is, the Lord has a great perspective. He can also see the whole world in which we are in. He can see the weather approaching. He can see any dangers on the horizon. He can also see the distant lands yet to be visited. If we pay heard to His calling out, we allow Christ to guide the Church in our mission. He sees what we don't. So we must trust HIs guidance, even if we do not see, we must believe.  

With so many distractions, outside and within, it can be easy to lose sight of Christ who continually guides us in His Church.

Christ has guided his Church through every sort of danger. He alone knows where all the fish of the ocean are and how they will respond when the nets are lowered. He knows the location of the hidden dangers we face. If we trust him, nothing can sink His ship. He will always get us to the shore. (Cf. Comp. CCC 758-769)  

Christ always waits for us to come home. When the apostles reached land, they did not speak much. There was no need for many words. They stood, quiet and humble before the mystery of God. In the same way, we too must sometimes be silent before God. He allows us time to catch our breath, to find our legs again.

For strength, for endurance and for the challenges ahead, the Lord prepares a sacred meal for us. It is not “comfort food”. It is the risen Christ Himself, His glorious and heavenly body is presented to us to behold. He offers us Himself in the Holy Eucharist to forms us more and more into His image and likeness. This doesn't happen in just one sacred meal with Him. It takes us to keep going out into the world and returning to Him, again and again, and again. Here we enter into Communion with the Risen Lord. From here He sends us out on a mission. Mission and Communion. Communion and Mission. We can never be complacent.

Christ got to Easter through a lot of hard work, borne out of love and sacrifice. It's now our turn.  Christ created a lot of waves. It's up to us to ride that wave. Although we cannot, at times, see the world from God's perspective, we trust the Lord who guides us and does so with gentleness and patience.

Gentleness and patience! These are two qualities Christ experienced firsthand from his mother Mary who trusted her Son when He left home and went into the big world to begin His mission. She was not afraid of sending Him into the world, although she knew in her heart the dangers.  She is our mother too, and likewise, sends us out into the world to follow her Son. During the month of May, dedicated to her, be assured that she will always look to her Son to guide the family of the Church. And, like the good mother she is, while we are far from home, she also waits and prays for our safe return, in the company of Christ her Son our Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Apr 28, 2019

Touching Mercy

A week has passed since the first disciples found out the news about Jesus having risen from the dead. Some of the disciples had even claimed to others that they had seen him, spoken with the Lord and that he was as real, if not more than he had been while he walked the roads of the Holy Land with them. It was indeed incredible news. But was it believable? For some, yes it was. For others, they first demanded hard evidence.

And as if to make this point through an example, we are told today about Thomas, who was called “the doubter”. It seems that he was determined to keep the door of his heart securely closed. Even the talk of Christ’s resurrection could not unhinge him. It took Christ himself to do so. But before Thomas could experience the reality of Christ's, he first had to reach out and touch Christ’s wounds – he had to join his own suffering, his hurt, his pain to Christ’s - not to experience the agony of crucifixion, but the tenderness of reconciliation and peace that the cross of Christ accomplished.

It is no accident that this Sunday we call Divine Mercy Sunday. The image of Divine Mercy, is not a vision, a picture or a painting. It is the resurrected Christ himself, body and soul.  With the assurance that our sins have been forgiven through the wounds of Christ now raised from the dead, an opening, a channel of powerful grace can now flood into our lives with those words of “peace be with you”.

When Christ stood before him, Thomas responded, "My Lord and my God". In those simple words, he was saying "Jesus, I trust in you".

All of us must do likewise. If we don’t, then we are only forensic scientists looking at Christ's wounds and taking notes.  No. Christ’s wounds are the tell-tale signs of divine love and sacrifice for you and me.  Christ's wounds, communicate not the horror of crucifixion, but the beauty of the resurrection - the depths of His love that knows no limit.  

Resurrected from death by crucifixion, does Christ continue to suffer? His only suffering now is when we are afraid of His wounds, afraid to reach out and touch Him.

And maybe that’s why an image of divine love we often see is a heart radiating fire - It takes courage to put one's hand into a divine fire, but it takes faith to do so knowing that you will not be burnt. Courage and faith.  Christ beckons us to have faith and be courageous. 

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will en-"courage" us to approach the man who was crucified and to allow ourselves to be filled with wonder and awe that He is resurrected, fully alive and offering us forgiveness from our sins and peace for our lives.

Apr 27, 2019

Nothing Can Stop Him

Vigil of Easter Sunday:

From among our number, tonight will be those who are to be baptized, confirmed in their Faith by the Holy Spirit and nourished by the substance of heaven, Christ's Body and Blood: these words I speak to you.

Tonight does not bring you to a finale or to your journey’s end. We stand at the threshold of a new day. We are about to enter into Sunday, the Lord’s Day. 

Sunday always approaches us through the darkness of the night. The rising sun must battle with and break the line of darkness. It is doing so now and is, hour by hour heading towards us even as we speak. As it does, darkness is fleeing. Our liberty is close at hand. The Lord of Light, Jesus Christ our Savior, has broken through the lines of darkness. He is coming to save the day and we are waiting for Him. Nothing can stop Him.

Through the waters of baptism, you meet Christ but for an instant in a quick flash of darkness, but the light. But do not be afraid. Follow Him out. He will lead you to safety where no shadows can touch you.

In Confirmation, his Spirit, his breath, penetrates into the depths of your being and is sealed forever strengthening you from the inside with the armor of divine protection.  In the Holy Eucharist, you are to be nourished with the very physical substance of heaven, Christ’s Resurrected Body and Blood so that your own will more and more take on the properties of immortality.

If you are ready to take this leap of faith I will ask those who are being baptized to lead the way for us all. And as your name is called out, take your position and come forward towards the Easter Candle – to Christ the Light of the World. (Comp. CCC 385-9)

Home at Easter

It is always a delight to see the church full on Sunday. Not just at Christmas and Easter but anytime we welcome so many visitors and guests. 

Especially welcome to the Sunday Mass if you are far from home, perhaps visiting family in the area or maybe they have brought you here this morning. Or maybe you are on vacation, spring break, or even on business for a few days, and you are continuing to do what you do every Sunday wherever you are, you have sought out where Sunday Mass is offered and you have kept the Catholic family promise, regardless where you find yourself.

But it is also a joy to have so many friends and neighbors who might be here for the first time, or who may be here after a long time away from Church and especially the sacraments.  We went through the local neighborhoods, knocking on doors and leaving cards and information on the doorsteps. (up and down streets!) Maybe you’re here because of a calling card left on your door.  One way or another, welcome home.  It’s a big church. There’s room for everyone. That’s why the word that best describes the Church is “catholic”, an ancient adjective that simply means “universal, belonging to all things”.

Whether you are here Sunday after Sunday, whether you arrive late or out of breath, have your favorite seat or find yourself hiding behind a pillar, nor chasing your kids behind the glass doors in the children’s area, regardless where you have come from or where you find yourself in life, here and now you, in this place, around this altar, you are home.

And when we are at home, it’s the only place where our lives are real.  It is here that we remember that God knows you by name. It is here where I can finally reflect on my life outside of the noise and craziness of the world. It is where sacred music and graceful movement, where the flickering of beeswax candles and the sweet smell of incense can raise our minds towards the heavens.  This is where we are assured that God listens to our prayers, our worries, our hopes, and even our fears.  This is where our souls can be fed, not with food for thought, but with food from heaven.  Here is where saints and sinners sit on the same bench.  And even though any one of us might have a thousand reasons not to be here, it only takes one reason to come home.

I am not going to preach at length on what the day of Easter truly means.  If you are even a nominal Christian, you know, at least intellectually, that today marks, in a way, the anniversary of Jesus Christ, who was killed on the cross and buried in a tomb on Friday, on the third day, He rose again. That’s the resurrection.

I would, instead of preaching on the resurrection of Christ, prefer to offer you an invitation, particularly if you have been away from Church and the sacraments for a while and simply need an excuse, not to come home (because you are home right now) but, stay home.

I’m not going to ask you to sign up, or hand you a free tee shirt or promise you success and riches. Instead, just keep coming back.  Find in here, a place that is not like what it is like out there!  Why the Catholic ritual of prayer works so well, is that we have been doing it for two thousand years. Open up your senses, and allow your sight, your hearing, touch, smell, taste, and posture to be purified by the sacred. Open up your heart, and allow gentle Spirit of God to slowly calm your fears and anxieties.  Open up your soul, to recognize your deepest longing for God, not in a brief moment – but for all eternity.  That is the invitation.

But here is my appeal, especially to those who have been away from the Church and the Sacraments, for whatever reason. Build upon this moment. Build upon this day. Build upon this Sunday Mass and return again next week. Because it will become more and more difficult to keep the door of our hearts and souls open, the longer we stay away from the one who loves us and offers us a place at his table.  Even if you do not receive Holy Communion, keep coming back. 

Begin to build up, slowly by slowly, the strength that it takes to get to heaven, or even just the courage to talk to God, heart to heart. I know it is not easy.  Maybe it will take some time to slowly turn the big ship around.  But now that you are here and have begun this momentum, continue to come about.

And maybe this is what Easter is all about. Finding life again, when we thought all was dead. 

Love of Power or Power of Love

5th Sunday of Easter:   What if you went up to a mother holding with her adorable baby in her arms and told her, “Ma’am, you’re loving yo...