My Lord and my God!

My Lord and my God!‘ St. Thomas the apostle proclaimed to Christ as he found the risen Lord in front of him bearing His glorious wounds. It was just the week before when told of the Lord’s appearance that Thomas doubted, since he wasn’t there.  But today, in the upper room, Thomas professed his faith in Christ.  St. Thomas would go on to do great things for our Lord, reportedly ending his ministry in India, being martyred.

But St. Thomas’ life with Christ is a witness to the journey of faith – like our own.  Before he doubted; St. Thomas showed tremendous faith and courage. It was St. Thomas who uplifted the other apostles when after hearing of Lazarus’ illness Jesus decided to go to him. The apostles were fearing their safety since that journey would take them very close to Jerusalem, where the Sanhedrin were; but Thomas proclaims to the other disciples: “Let us also go to die with him.”[1]  His lesson is important to each of us who, like St. Thomas, ride the waves of faith and belief; we too need to fight the great deceiver as he places whispers of doubt in our minds. As Thomas did in the upper room, we need to surrender to Christ.  Open our mind, heart and soul to the reality that God is with us.  His Divine Mercy is always being offered and with it we are made strong; able to hold off Satan’s poisoned suggestions.

St. John Paul the Great would make His motto ‘Totus Tuus’; totally yours Mary, and of course Mary’s will was totally Christ’s. He would tell us: “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” He knew the strength of faith that comes when we surrender our self to the great and total other and the peace it brings to our hearts.

Let’s take St. Thomas’ example of surrender to Christ; let’s take St. John Paul the Great’s motto of surrender to the Blessed Mother and her Son as our own; and let’s surrender to Divine Mercy. When we do we will feel a great oppressive power lifted from us and a greater liberating power supporting us.  We will walk with Christ, energized by His Holy Spirit and fear nothing.

St. John XXIII, it is reported, used to finish his day with a prayer that though at first sounds funny is a perfect example of the power of surrender: “It’s your Church, Lord. I’m going to bed.”  May, these three saints: St. Thomas the Apostle, Good Pope St. John, and St. John Paul the Great intercede for each of us as we continue our life-long struggle of total surrender to Divine Mercy. Happy Easter! ————————- [1] John 11:16

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The Future Starts Today – Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy Sunday 2014  – Canonization of Popes John Paul the Great and John XXIII

Octave of Easter
Holy Mother Church celebrates her highest Holy Days in a most special way.  She deems them so powerful that they can’t be celebrated in 24 hours.  They celebrate them for 8 days – an Octave.  So, Easter, which started last Sunday – actually the Saturday evening prior ends today – the eighth day. What Christ did for us, deserves our total and continual celebration.  Like Christmas; Easter, even more so, it is that powerful and special.

What Christ did for us last weekend.
Easter the culmination of the Sacred Triduum, which started Holy Thursday evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, brings us into Christ’s battle and victory with Satan, with evil. We are strengthened with the knowledge that Christ is all powerful; God did battle with Satan and defeated him and death.  With the cross and the resurrection evil no longer holds power over mankind – we can be free from it. But, just as important is the knowledge that in spite of our failings and our arrogance God loves us, totally; the cross shows that better than anything else.  That Christ climbed up on that tree of death and changed it into a throne of unconditional love gives us an undeserved banner to hang onto to. By His Pasch we are at the center of God’s loving plan. In spite of our continual turning from Him, He still forgives us and gives us His love.

How can we celebrate this gift in one day? So the Church will take 8 days; of course she takes the next 5 five weeks, up to Pentecost, unpacking its meaning.  But on this 8th day Holy Mother Church celebrates the gift of Easter with two words.  Two words to explain Jesus’ actions; two words tells us what our Heavenly Father is all about.

Mercy and Love
Many years ago, Father Benedict Groeschel once stated that God’s primary personality trait is truth and justice, but He has one personality flaw that goes with it – mercy. He was telling us in a humorous way what God is about – what Easter brings to us – what those two words are that Holy Mother Church uses today – Divine Mercy.

Because of the God’s Love, or better said – because God is Love, He radiates mercy. Mercy is, in an important way, synonymous with Love.  For to love, truly love, we must continually forgive anything that falls short of love.  We pardon everyone for we love everyone. Today’s second reading we hear St. Peter tell us ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope…’[1] This is what we celebrate especially today – the living hope of eternal salvation through God’s mercy.

St. John Paul II
God is mercy, Divine Mercy and through it (as I said) evil is defeated – it will never have a permanent hold on us. I say permanent, because even though it can’t take control of us (if we don’t allow it), it can still affect us.  Evil is still around us, Satan still holds court in this world and he constantly strives to erode our ability to live the gift Christ died to give us; again, evil is still a reality.

St. John Paul the Great, in an interview, was asked if evil had a limit. His response was a profound yes! The limit of evil is Divine Mercy[2]. The effects of evil in the world can go no farther than Mercy.  Through God’s Mercy (Divine Mercy) on the Cross Satan and death were defeated. Christ faced Satan and his evil and absorbed it as it was thrown at Him (in the false testimony, the kangaroo court, the torture and abuse, the crucifixion, and mostly our sins) and returned love; He forgave, He returned mercy for each act of evil that pounded upon Him.  The evil couldn’t go any farther because it was washed away.  The limit of evil is Mercy.

Mercy is a verb
Christ’s actions of mercy are just that – actions.  Mercy isn’t a noun; it isn’t a talisman that He hanged around His neck and it brought Mercy.  Mercy is a verb, it is action, Christ worked mercy.

We are called to do the same.
But Christ isn’t here in the same way to work His mercy.  How does it continue against the evil of our time? Because it is our action as well.  We, Christ’s disciples, followers of His Way, are the vehicles of His Mercy.  By our actions we can show God’s mercy. How? By following Christ’s example and absorbing the evil thrown towards us and radiating back love.   In the Gospel of St. Luke (Chapter 6) we witness the Sermon on the Mount.  This is our game plan on how to live Christ’s example.  In it Christ tells those around Him ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’[3] This is God’s plan for His message of mercy. We are God’s plan for His message of mercy.

Evangelize
In 1959 St. John XXIII called for the great ecumenical council we now call Vatican II.  Most councils, throughout history, were called to discern and answer some great question of dogma or respond to a crises – this council was different – it was called together in 1962 to discern how the Church could relate to the people of the day – to look within Herself and renew what needed renewing and modify what needed to be modified so it could proclaim the timeless message of Christ.  Vatican II was convened to revitalize its most important mission – how to meet the world where it was and bring mankind to where God wanted them to be. In short how to evangelize within and without.

Live, radiate, attract
Our part in the Church’s evangelizing mission is the most important – it is to affect it.  The structures and hierarchy of the Church are there to protect the message and to teach, strengthen, and encourage us – but it is up to the faithful to put it into action – we are the verb! And we do this best by how we live our life; this is how we are most effective in our ministry.  People read and listen for only so long about the Gospel – but they will take notice and be more curious about it by how we live it; proof is in the pudding, so they say.

As I mentioned earlier we are Christ’s vehicle for Mercy today. But to truly proclaim this by our lives we need to interiorize, make our own this Divine Mercy, and only then will it radiate out, in a believable way, to those around us. Wow – not a small task! I ask myself how can we do this; how can we become vessels of mercy?  With all the societal pressures, opinions and influences how can we hope to know what living a life of mercy is truly like?

Our Guides
My brothers and sisters, today we celebrate the Canonization of two modern Popes: St. John XXIII called ‘Good Pope John’ for his humor and humility, and also called ‘The Council Pope’ for initiating Vatican II; and of course St. John Paul the Great called ‘The Divine Mercy Pope’, and ‘The Pope of the Family’; names that try to summarize the flavor, if you will, of their papacies.   They are fresh in many of our minds, they are current examples of what it means to live a life in Christ; let us look to them for insight in how to live this life as well.  They were world leaders, true, but they were still men. They still looked to God for strength in living a life well; look to them as mentors.  Let’s celebrate their lives by living as they did – living a life of Mercy, Divine Mercy. When we do then we will find a future that is built on what Jesus wished for His disciples in today’s Gospel “Peace be with you.”[4]

It is this peace, Christ himself – Divine Mercy, none other, that will bring mankind the future he was intended to have. Friends, let Christ find us, find us with hearts open to His Divine Mercy; the future depends on our decision and our actions, and as St. John Paul the Great said: ‘The future starts today, not tomorrow.’[5]
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[1] 1 Peter 1:3
[2] St. John Paul the Great: Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium
[3] Luke 6:36
[4] John 20:19
[5] St. John Paul the Great

Christus resurrexit!

Just four months ago, at midnight, we heard these words from Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.’[1]

As Christmas dawned, as Christ was born, the darkness of mankind was broken by a light from Bethlehem.  A solitary light, small maybe, but great in our darkness; it gave mankind a focus, a point that gave us hope.  Though He was still in His infancy, indeed just born, God brought the light of hope into our existence.  We were drawn to that light, though we didn’t know what it would accomplish, at least fully.

Today, we know.

Today, God’s light is not just a light in darkness, it has exploded in full force; it has obliterated the darkness that we knew.  Today, all is made clear to us. God has done what He proclaimed He would do, through the prophets, through Christ.  God’s light has burst into every corner and crack; it has driven the darkness out of every place; Christ has risen from the dead and Satan is howling at the brightness that love brings.

Our lives are now forever different because God has come and done battle with Satan and won.  From His resurrection Jesus shines back on the whole of salvation history, all is made clear and all is now good.  The light of the resurrection, His light, shines the truth and we rejoice.  But light only shines on us and does nothing else, if we don’t see it.  We must open the eyes of our soul to let the light in. St. Augustine said ‘God who created you without you, will not save you without you’[2].  Our hearts and desires need to be open to His light for it to bring about God’s will. This might be troubling because we will see with clarity things we don’t like about ourselves; but it brings healing. This light will show us where we need to change, what about us is far from the path of Christ.  But that is ok; it is good for us to take inventory of ourselves and our journey.

It might help us to remember that what we see about ourselves, in total clarity in this light; is what God sees and He still placed Himself on the cross for us.  His resurrection brings us this explosion of light and it also brings the warmth of love.  So let’s go forward on this Easter day, when light triumphs over darkness; when life defeats death; when God proves to be the greatest with joy and peace of mind because we now understand fully those words of Isaiah proclaimed that dark night of Christmas.

My brothers and sisters:
Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!
Christ has risen! He is truly risen!

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[1] Isaiah 9: 1
[2] St Augustine, Sermo 169, 13

Shade of the Almighty

Yesterday evening, as I was looking at the empty cross after our living stations production, Psalm 91 came to mind.

He who dwells in shelter of the Most High
and abides in the shade of the Almighty
says to the Lord: “My refuge,
my stronghold, my god in whom I trust!”

In my mind’s eye I saw up there, on that cross, the outstretched arms of Christ; it dawned on me that those outstretched arms were the shelter of the Most High; they cast the shade of the Almighty.  It is in and under those outstretched arms that we are meant to be.  They are our protection against the buffets of the evil one; they are our strength, our reassurance.  From under those arms of love we can rest in total safety, refresh our tired bodies and souls, and feel peace and joy.

I thought that if this is so desirable for us, then it is from those arms we must go out to bring others under their shelter, to share the shade of love and help others to come to the peace and joy we receive; and it is back to them, to that stronghold, that we can go to heal our wounds and re-energize from those efforts.

Participation

As I reflected on the opening part of the Mass today, “The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem” it came to me that there were five types of people, five groups that participated in Christ’s entrance.

The disciples
There were his His followers, those who witnessed to His ministry for the past three years or so.  Those who saw His miracles; heard His words; and yet time and again tried to keep from Jesus the annoying little ones who came to greet Him – or the sick and suffering who tried to touch him – thinking that He had more important things to do. Those who, if their hearts were opened to His message would not have been surprised by the events of the next seven days – but they were.

The Following Crowd
Then there were the people of the land who got caught up in the event that was Jesus.  They might have witnessed a miracle of healing; they might have partaken in the miracle of the fishes and loaves – they were caught up in these physical acts.  They were following a persona of greatness, one that they gave Jesus from their own hopes and dreams.  They didn’t understand what His greatness was about.

The Inhabitants of the City.
Then there were the inhabitants of Jerusalem. These people who were used to the maneuverings and manipulations of government and church.  They were sophisticated, wise to the world; or so they thought.  They were shaken, as the gospel tells us, by this procession, this pseudo-invasion of the rustic followers of this upstart.  There was no place in their scheme of life for someone to throw this type trouble into the mix of the politics of the day.  This display disturbed their sensibilities and they were annoyed to have to deal with it.

Mary
Then there was Mary, she who said yes to God.  She who understood the meaning of Christ; His life, His mission, His entrance into Jerusalem.  She who in her quietness, praised God’s will louder than any.  She trusted, and loved.  She kept her fiat from conception to this day and beyond as she carried Christ’s cross within her heart.

Us
Which brings us to the final group – ourselves. We who year after year enter into Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum listening to this entrance in Jerusalem; hearing about the how he was treated.  So I have to ask myself, and you, what group do we fall into?

The Disciples?
Do we enter into Holy Week only partly understanding what Christ has shown us throughout the year, indeed our lives.  Do we only partially listen to His message not caring to really dig into it?

The Following Crowd?
Do we enter Holy Week expecting Christ do something for us, perform a miracle for our comfort instead of expecting Him to perform a miracle for our eternal salvation. Do we want immediate and material gratification – no more pain, no problems, things handed to us – instead of joining with Him to affect true peace and joy through salvation and the cross that achieves it?

The Inhabitants of the City?
Do we look at Holy Week as an interruption in our daily lives – almost a bother? Do we begrudge the time we spend at Church or at home in prayer?  Do we chafe at the celebrations as taking us away from our work, friends, families ourselves?

Mary
Have we come to Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum with the obedient trust that she has with God?  Do we desire to participate totally with our Lord in His Pasch?  Not wanting to leave His side, always to be there and share with Him as He goes through His passion, death, and resurrection for us?  Do we offer our own fiat to the Father as thanks and praise for Christ’s fiat and Mary’s?

Depending on where our hearts and our minds are as we enter Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum our understanding and participation to today’s greeting over the palms will very.  I pray that each of us finds ourselves with Mary and take to heart this beautiful greeting where we hear:

Therefore, with all faith and devotion,
let us commemorate
the Lord’s entry into the city for our salvation,
following in his footsteps…

May Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum be a time of intense participation with our Lord for each of us.

Grandeur

In the opening meditation for the 2010 Way of the Cross at the Roman Colosseum, Camillo Cardinal Ruini reflects: ‘Jesus, the Son of God, died for you, for me, for each of us. In this way he gave us concrete proof of how great and precious we are in the eyes of God, the only eyes capable of seeing beyond all appearances and of peering into the depths of our being.

Would that we could always keep this idea as the lens we view each other with.  Throughout all of dealings with each other; the trials, the annoyances, the pain, and yes, the evil, that is passed among us; if we can only remember how precious God thinks we are.  When I look across at someone who is ‘bothering’ me I need to see the lifeless body of Christ on the Cross that hangs there for that person.  I need to see in this annoying companion God’s desire to help that person; a desire, that for Christ won the night in the Garden of Gethsemane to do the will of His Father.

This is my hope, my goal, to view those I meet with the grandeur that the cross reveals.[1] But, to do this I need to also remember that I too have this grandeur; I too am precious in God’s eyes; I too am that important.  In the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 7 starts with the powerful teaching about judging others. ‘Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?[2] In light of Cardinal Ruini’s meditation we can now see yet another aspect of judging; remember the grandeur of the cross in everyone we meet by first seeing it in us.

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[1] Way of the Cross opening meditation – Rome 2010 – Camillo Cardinal Ruini
[2] Matthew 7:3