Mar 27, 2021
Mar 20, 2021
Some have speculated about what the Greeks could have said to Our Lord. Maybe, because of the mounting political opposition to Christ and with His arrest imminent, maybe the Greeks offered Him asylum. Maybe they asked Him to return to Greece with them - that He would have crowds listening to him in Athens - He could dialogue with their great philosophers and wise men! He’d be safe in Athens. And even if He felt compelled to die for His beliefs, the Greeks would have reminded Our Blessed Lord that He could have a death like the great philosopher and wise man Socrates who, arrested for spreading new ideas and refusing to worship the Greek gods, he willingly accepted, even welcomed his execution and death.
And that Socrates was not put to death in a long, drawn out excruciatingly painful and barbaric execution, but instead was given the opportunity to die with dignity and respect. He was given a cup of poison to drink, then allowed to walk around until he felt drowsy. He was then given a comfortable couch to lay down and put his feet up, until he quietly slipped away in the gentle embrace of the sleep of death - beautiful and dignified!
How did Christ respond? He couldn't respond quoting Scripture. The Greeks didn't have the Jewish Bible. So instead, Our Lord used images from the language of nature. “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
Our Blessed Lord was not trying to be a philosopher. The prospect of the Cross does disturb Him greatly. He calls His approaching death by crucifixion, He calls it His “hour”. He says “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”
But what was that final purpose. His final purpose was not to influence our minds, our to give us a new teaching or philosophy of life - or a school of thought, or a manner in which we can become all better people. As important as all that is - Christ’s final purpose is to save our souls and to help us to reach heaven. Because of His love for us, He will take upon Himself the price of human sinfulness and pay that price Himself.
Christ could have avoided it. He had the divine power to even prevent his body experiencing any pain whatsoever. But no. Because of His intense love for you and me so that we would not die in sin and lose the opportunity to reach heaven, He willingly, freely, He desired with every fiber of His being to save us, even though in justice we do not deserve it.
The horrific truth of Christ’s crucifixion, is that you and me are fully responsible for it. He bleed to stop us bleeding! But often, we try to be like the Greeks in the Gospel today and offer Him a “more comfortable” solution. We so often resist soul searching - so uncomfortable it is - it’s so much easier to present oneself refined and polished, sophisticated, ready in an instant to pose for the camera - anything to avoid looking interiorly, within the history of our lives, searching with for that old wound that still slowly bleeds.
This year, we have a number of men and women who will be coming into the Church at Easter, to be fully initiated into the life of the Church, through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Easter will be their sacred hour, as it is ours, as it is for us every Sunday.
Their journey, our journey, is not one that takes us to Athens where we can pose and philosophize, admire the museums and gaze at the pretty pictures. Instead, the journey always takes us to Jerusalem, into the very Heart of Christ, opened up for us on the cross and its power to heal harnessed through every Mass where we know ourselves to be forgiven, freed of our sins, strengthened by His love most pure, and fed by His glorious and Risen Body and Blood.
Let us pray, brothers and sisters, that we will have the strength and the humility to accept the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our sins and respond by confessing our sins, professing our faith and living lives worthy of Christian discipleship.
Mar 14, 2021
Let us ask God for the grace of a new motivation to carry whatever cross we may find ourselves with and do so joyfully, knowing that, if we do so out of love of God and neighbor, then we too will share in the joy of our own resurrection from the dead.
Mar 13, 2021
St. Joseph’s privilege was to be the husband of the Virgin Mary – truly a match made in heaven. As her husband, he became the head of the family. Indeed, as a wife, Mary was subject to him. But her natural submission to him as her husband protected her – he protected her honor, her pregnancy, her livelihood.
Although he was foster-father to Jesus, let us never underestimate his fatherhood. St. Joseph had the same rights as a father over a son as any father of his day enjoyed and exercised. Not by the will of nature, but by grace Joseph was the father of Jesus, fatherhood delegated to him by God. And as Jesus considers us his brothers and sisters, St. Joseph also becomes a father figure for us - our guardian and our protector.
He was responsible to provide food and safety from the sweat of his own brow for Mary and The young Jesus so that the young boy would grow to full physical maturity and strength to travel long distances and provide miraculous food to all freely.
St. Joseph provides for us all a true example of faith in the midst of conflicts, doubts, and contradictions. To accept the truth of Mary’s child, to accept that the God of the universe should be born in destitute circumstances, that he accepted the exile of Egypt not knowing for how long - he is a man of patience and perseverance.
His humility was his power. He knew when to bow out and take a back seat for when the young Jesus who grew up calling him father, looked to the heavens and called out to God as Father on that unforgettable day in the temple when the young Lord wandered off by Himself for , we never hear of St. Joseph again.
Mar 6, 2021
Understandably, during this past year, we have given much attention to cleaning surfaces - not just our hands but also objects around us. In fact, there is now a great business for sanitizers and disinfectant products. It has become so much part of the local economy and our household products.
Two weeks ago I spoke of the sanitization of our ears, particularly within this very acoustically sensitive sanctuary and how we must be always sensitive to the hearing of all those around us, as well as for the sake of the priests and ministers - how noise, either from outside or from around us can distract us easily from hearing the whisper of God’s voice or following the prayers of the Mass so they can resound in our hearts and souls.
Last week I spoke of the sanitization of our eyes, so used to flat screens, phones and media - how the eyes are windows into our souls. And even though we may at times have to wear a mouth covering, we communicate with our eyes as does the gaze of Christ when He looks, seeing us before Him.
This week’s Gospel for the third Sunday of Lent has us hear about Christ sanitizing the sanctuary of the temple, cleaning out all the clutter and commerce that had, over years, creeped into the sacred space of prayer - that meeting place between God and His people.
This past year has forced us to do the same here inside the church. We have memories of long processions, the swinging of the incense, hymn books in the pews, the offering basket being passed around, a baptism font overflowing, coffee and doughnuts after the Sunday morning Masses and all the hugs and handshakes afterwards.
As much as we fondly remember and take comfort from these past memories of how Mass was typically celebrated here with all the “smells and bells”, the sweeping action and the effects of the pandemic might be compared to the opportunity Christ took to “clean house”.
This sweeping action has us returning to the bare necessities of worship, how we offering the sacraments. Even how we approach the sacrament of confession must be cleansed, examining our actions not according to our own standards and expectations, but through the simple but penetrating directives God has given us through the Ten Commandments (First Reading)
Far from being a sterile environment, we rediscover what we truly need for the essentials of prayer and worship. For the Mass, all we need is an ordained priest, bread and wine. For confession, one priest and a repentant sinner. For a wedding, all I need is a couple who are free to be married and two witnesses. To pray the rosary, all I need is to be able to count up to ten!
This is where it always begins. During these final few weeks of Lent, ask yourselves what is truly essential in my relationship with God, the Church, with my loved ones, what is that essential core of my being can often be suffocated by all the extra stuff that can clutter my life and stifle my ability to profoundly pray, fearlessly fast and abundantly give alms.
This is all summed up in that opening prayer we heard at the beginning of Mass for this Third Sunday of Lent:
O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,
who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving
have shown us a remedy for sin,
look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,
that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,
may always be lifted up by your mercy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.
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