Father’s Homily | Palm Sunday, 4/5

Homily, Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020

This Holy week is unlike any other holy week that we will experience. Hopefully, it will focus us on what is truly essential: our relationship with God. In a real, stark and visible way, the coronavirus has caused us to slow down, realize our fragility and reexamine our priorities. It has forced us back to what is truly important, our faith. It has called us to abandon our lives to God and his providence. The Our Father is especially vital these days as we pray, ‘Thy will be done.’

So in Holy week, let us enter it ever more deeply and consciously praying for an end to this coronavirus. Let us meditate on the passion Gospels read today and on Good Friday and see their contrast. Hopefully, in the light of this plaque, we will see the link between what we celebrate in liturgy and how we live our lives. We echo the words of Christ on the cross who said, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.’

Love of God and neighbor is the great commandment. This Season, we are asked to love our neighbor in a different way. We do so by social distance, washing our hands, and changing our behavior according to requests of our leaders. But even though separate physically, we are united spiritually through our liturgies, prayers, and contact of a technical nature.

There was a movie called the long Good Friday and we are living it. And in a sense, our resurrection will come, not on Easter Sunday, but later on in the Easter season, when we come together in the heavenly liturgy. But it’s so important that we still mark Holy week, more than ever, as it clearly presents us with the actual events of the dying and rising of Jesus. Even though we are not physically together, we are united in a very special, mysterious way. That’s the power of the liturgy. These liturgies enable us to experience in our lives here and now what Jesus went through then.  In other words, what we commemorate and relive during this week is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our own dying and rising in Him, which result in our healing, and redemption.  Just as Jesus did, we too must lay down our lives freely by actively participating in the Holy Week liturgies even at home. And we can do that by entering into our Livestream liturgies with an act of spiritual communion. And you keep Holy Week in your homes through prayer and reading the passion accounts in the gospel.

Proper participation in the Holy Week liturgies will also deepen our relationship with God, increase our faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus.  But let us remember that Holy Week can become “holy” for us only if we actively and consciously take part in the liturgies of this week. There is an old saying, ‘The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.’ If we keep these days well then we will, even in these difficult times, experience Christ’s peace and new life in us.

So let us begin our holy week.

Gospel Reflection | 4/3

Reflection| April 3

In the Gospel for mass on April third, we hear Jesus say, “if I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me.’ Jesus indeed did many works. But it begs the question, ‘What do works mean?” To do works is more than just physical. Celebrating the liturgy is a work. Prayer is work. Indeed our whole lives are works. As St Therese said, “all is Gift, all is grace.’

The coronavirus has changed the way we work or the works we do. Our hearts go out to all who have lost their jobs. We pray for them.  As I am isolated somewhat from you and you from me, I am challenged to work in a different way, digitally. And I know many of you are at home and finding new challenges that you never thought existed. Indeed who would have expected this?  But I get great consolation from Cassuade who speaks of seeing every event as stamped with the will of God. This event of the virus has slowed us down and forced us to go inwards. The saints would have seen this event as the will of God for now and they would make use of what this time brings. They would be formed by the works of the moment.

So I propose that we see God in all our trials, works, and sufferings at this time. JP Cassuade says, ‘love of God comes to us through all our works but hidden as it is in the Blessed Sacrament’. So even deprived of the sacrament of the Eucharist, we still have the sacrament of the present moment. Making an act of spiritual communion at Livestream mass is a powerful way of drawing fruit.

We have heard how important it is at this time to have a routine, to get up, pray, read scripture, get fresh air, wash hands. These are works that we can find God in. Indeed the bread that nourished the faith of Mary and Joseph was the sacrament of the present moment. Faith is the key. Faith means we see God in all our works. So let our faith be nourished today by our works in the present moment. If we do, then we, too, will become saints.

Father’s Homily | March 29

5th Sunday, lent 2020

John’s Gospel begins with a wedding and closes with a funeral.  There are four primary characters in this story: Jesus, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.  Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were good friends of Jesus.  John tells us that he “loved” them.  The funeral rituals of Jesus’ day were obviously different from ours.  When somebody died, there was no embalming. Instead, the body was wrapped in linen and, before sunset on the day of death, was put into the burial vault — a cave carved into limestone rock – often with myrrh, frankincense, and perfumes.  Then there was intense mourning for seven days followed by a less intense mourning period of twenty-three days.

The story of the raising of Lazarus proclaims the great truth that Jesus is Lord of life. He has the power to call us out of our tombs – for the Christian life only begins when we, even though we are dead, hear the word of God and obey it. We know from experience that we don’t have to be dead physically to be in need of being raised up. WE can be dead in the midst of life – hoping for a word and a community that will put us together again.

There can be many dark areas in our private life.  We often bind ourselves with strings of addiction to alcohol, drugs, sexual deviations, slander, gossip, envy, prejudices, hatred, and uncontrollable anger and bury ourselves in the tombs of despair.  Jesus asks us today to seek his help and that of the community around us to loosen those chains and come out of tombs of our own creation.  Is there an area of life where hope is gone?  Do we want to lock it up in a tomb and seal it away from Jesus or are we willing to have Jesus visit this area?  Are there times when we refuse to let God enter into our wallets, fearing that faithful tithing will endanger our savings?  Are we in the tomb of spiritual death caused by sin?  Are we in the tomb of selfishness filled with negative feelings such as worry, fear, resentment, hatred, and guilt?  When we go to Confession, Jesus will stand before our tomb.  He will call our name and cry out “Come out”!

If we want Jesus to visit the dark dungeons of sin, despair, and unhappiness, let us ask Jesus during this Holy Mass to bring the light and the power of His Holy Spirit into our private life and liberate us from our tombs.  Let us name the parts of ourselves that are wounded or dead, imprisoned or in darkness, and then give them to him to be healed, raised up and set free.  Let us name our darkness, our prison and our wounds – whatever these may be – and give them all to him. As a parish community, let us stand before the world and accept the challenge to untie those who are bound and help them to come out from their self-made graves.  Jesus calls each of us by name to come out of our graves and help others to do the same.