Is That Really HIM?

By , April 30, 2011 5:46 am

Second Sunday of Easter, May 1st

We are now in the Easter season and the reality of the Resurrection will dominate the Scriptures over the next few weeks. Today’s Gospel, from the 20th chapter of John, is really one of the most dramatic scenes in the entire New Testament, in my opinion, coming only behind the actual descriptions of the death and resurrection of our Divine Lord.

Try to visualize it. The apostles are confused and frightened. Their leader has been executed. They retreat to the room where they had celebrated the Passover. A group of confused leaders if ever there was one. Then, suddenly, Jesus came and stood before them! The text says that at the sight of the Lord the disciples rejoiced but I think that they should even have been more frightened! They had now walked with Jesus of Nazareth for almost three years, had seen him manifest awesome power and teach a wonderful doctrine of God’s love for the human family and of our need to love each other. But without exception, they all failed him. What is he going to say? How angry will he be?

These words are addressed to these frightened apostles but they are also addressed to you and me after we have stumbled and fallen. PEACE BE WITH YOU. When I am talking about this in homilies, I often translate it into what I think would be modern English. “Take it easy, take it easy.” They failed and ran away when their support was needed but he has forgiven them.

This is a beautiful scene and we need to take it to heart. He will go on to talk about the apostles forgiving sins of others in his name but we can talk about that later this week. So many times I end these little chapters with “onward through the fog” but today the fog is lifted. The brightness of the Resurrection points the direction for all of us to enter into eternal life with God.

Peace be with you.

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Yes, Lent is OVER, but…

By , April 29, 2011 5:38 am

Well, those six weeks of serious prayer and thoughtfulness are behind us and we are in the midst of the Easter season where the liturgy of the Church reflects joy, optimism and magnificent hope in our ultimate salvation.

Should we slide back into our rather dull routine – careless praying, inadequate meditation, spy novels rather than spiritual reading? That may have been the habit in our past but it ought not to be this year. Let’s try to draw a little profit from those six wonderful weeks of thoughtful prayer.

My guess is that during Lent most of us spent some thoughtful time in self-examination about how we are doing in terms of our own direct relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let me suggest a different angle, a different approach. Lent is over but if you are a parent of a younger child, you are still that child’s chief religious teacher. With Lent behind us, many of us do tend to go on our lackadaisical way. Stop! What does that 8-year-old child think about you and your relationship to God? To a great extent, our children’s relationship to God is going to be affected and molded by what they see in us in terms of our prayer life and spirituality.

Over the last fifty years, I have come in contact with many men and women who have testified to the fact that their spiritual direction and formation was profoundly influenced by seeing the faith lived out in the lives of their parents. Do our children ever have us lead them in prayer other than grace before meals? Do they ever see us kneel beside our bed and talk to our Heavenly Father? What a profound message; what an excellent influence. When our children are small we pray with them and that is a wonderful thing, but as they grow a little older let’s let them see our living out our own faith and prayer life. It is not necessary to kneel when we pray but it does convey a powerful message to ourselves and to others in the family.

Let’s pray together.

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Labor’s Never Ending Struggle – Short Memories

By , April 28, 2011 6:34 am

Organized labors struggle to better itself and get its share of the economic pie go back to the late 1700’s in New England. At that time, you could be arrested for even wanting to discuss an increase in wages. This struggle would go on throughout the 19th century often marked by violence and bloodshed.

It was not until 1935 with the passage of the Wagner Act that organized labor really had a firm right to exist and to organize. In the 1950’s, about one-third of the American workforce in the United States belonged to Labor Unions. Today, union membership numbers less than half of that amount. For more than 20 years, working people in the United States have been losing ground economically. Now we see governors of a number of states who are attempting to blame the budget shortfalls on the working men and women of this country. In Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana, unions have become the whipping boys for politicians and their right to organize, being gained only after the struggles for 100 years, is being arbitrarily cast aside.

Where is the voice of the Church? In the 1930’s, when unions were under attack, bishops and parish priests stood side-by-side in the picket lines and helped labor gain its voice. Have the clergy of the Church today lost contact with their roots? I certainly hope not but we shall see.

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Westernized Muslims Face a Serious Problem

By , April 27, 2011 4:31 pm

Over the last few years, the Muslim population of England, France and the United States has increased rapidly. The vast majority of these people have become citizens of the countries to which they have immigrated. They are peace loving and productive people. Today, however, a House Committee is investigating Muslim communities in the United States to see if there is any danger of terrorist activities being fomented within those communities.

Muslims are quick to remind us that theirs is a religion of faith and peace and while I take them at their word as far as their lives in the West are concerned, they do have a problem about religious freedom as it has manifested itself in all Muslim countries.

I do not think that there is a single country where the Muslims are overwhelmingly dominant where Christianity can be practiced with any degree of freedom. In Pakistan and Egypt, Christians have been cruelly persecuted and in Saudi Arabia, Mass cannot be celebrated publicly. I do not expect Western Muslims to dictate policy to their home countries, but it might be more helpful to our understanding of their needs if they were more articulate about how sad and disappointed they were that Christianity is brutally treated in Muslim countries while Muslims in Western countries are so free to practice the Muslim faith or any other faith for that matter. I don’t know why we don’t hear more discussion about this. Shouldn’t we?

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Sunday of the Resurrection…Do We Believe?

By , April 23, 2011 4:06 am

Everyone loves Easter! Spring has arrived, the flowers are blooming, the grass is green, the heat of summer has not fallen upon us yet, people put on their best clothes and greet each other with exuberance – “Happy Easter, happy Easter, happy Easter.” There is nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, it is all very delightful but it is not the reality of what Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, is all about.

Spiritually, each one of us needs to transport ourselves back to that hillside outside Jerusalem, stand silently before that open tomb, a tomb now empty, and ask ourselves if we really do believe in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead!

This is the heart of the Christian message. This is the ultimate test as to whether or not we are really followers of Jesus. In the following 2,000, countless numbers have died because they answered “yes” to that question. They believed in the Resurrection, were committed to Jesus and they would allow nothing to turn them away from that faith and commitment. Happily, most of us are not asked to die for our faith but it would be perfectly valid to ask ourselves would we be willing to do so?

Let us thank God for his infinite love for us. Let us walk into the future with confidence knowing that we are a redeemed people. Let us continue to celebrate the great feast of the Resurrection.

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Is Good Friday Good?

By , April 22, 2011 3:12 am

I don’t think that anyone should challenge the use of the adjective “holy” which we place before the Thursday and Saturday of this very special week of remembrance but on Friday of this week we celebrate the agony and the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Is GOOD the right adjective that we should be using?

Good Friday does make a tremendous impact on the vast majority of the faithful in the Church. The four Gospels come together to describe the humiliation, agony, suffering, and ultimate death of our Divine Savior. The liturgy of the Church calls out to remind us that what we see in our imaginations and what we think about is that all of this has come about for each of us individually and for every one of us as members of the human family. All the events of this week coalesce to bring about, especially by the Resurrection, the redemption of the human family. Pain and suffering there well may be but certainly, in view of what flows forth from that pain and suffering this day is truly entitled to be called GOOD.

Good Friday walks us through these awesome events, which will end the human life of Jesus, but these events also move us into Holy Saturday, a day of thoughtful prayer entered into by the followers of Jesus all across this planet. We thank God for Good Friday and together we walk towards the Resurrection.

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This Thursday Is HOLY

By , April 21, 2011 3:11 am

Yesterday, we talked about the tragic betrayal of Judas Iscariot. Tomorrow, our minds turn directly towards the agony that Jesus experiences on his way to Calvary. Yet, today, Holy Thursday, is truly a beautiful, joyful day in the liturgy of the Church and it stands out as one of the great days of the year. This is the Thursday that we rightfully call HOLY.

I seldom go over three paragraphs on any given day on this blog. Therefore, I find Holy Thursday joyfully frustrating. There is so much here, so much that is beautiful, so much that we have to think about, pray over and for which we should thank God so I ask for your patience in putting up with the inadequacy of these few brief sentences.

The first thing that should strike us in today’s liturgy is the extraordinary example of humility that Jesus gives the apostles as he kneels before them and washes their feet.

The next awesome revelation today is a reminder of the institution of the Eucharist as the central act of worship in the Catholic Church. Here we celebrate that one of the seven sacraments that we call blessed.

Finally, with the institution of the Eucharist by our Lord, the Last Supper, we have the implicit establishment of the priesthood where frail human beings are commissioned to carry on the work of Jesus but, in a very special way, to bring about his continued presence, the center of our faith, the source of our strength, the cause of our joy.

Truly, this Thursday is Holy.

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Wednesday of Holy Week and the Drama Quickens

By , April 20, 2011 3:10 am

Today is Wednesday of Holy Week. But in the past, and even today in the Eastern Churches, this day is called “Spy Wednesday” because the Gospel utilizes St. Matthew’s Gospel to spotlight the betrayal of one of the twelve – Judas Iscariot. We all know so well the story of Judas, how he goes to the enemies of Jesus and cuts a deal for a mere thirty pieces of silver. Think about it; the crime of crimes and the betrayal of all betrayals. The human nature of the second person of the blessed Trinity is sold for a pittance of silver coins.

Sometimes when describing events in the life of our Lord, and especially with certain individuals who are portrayed as having failed him in this way or that, I say that in some limited sense they are examples of ourselves and our own failures. I don’t want to push this too far with Judas. Sinfulness abounds, moral mistakes, even catastrophes, are all around us but most of us when we fail, when we turn away from God, we do not do it with absolute malice.

Rather than thinking too much about the terrible failure of Judas on this particular day, let’s look ahead three days to the glorious reality of the Resurrection and that despite all of our weaknesses and failures we are a redeemed people.

Onward to the Resurrection.

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Go Forth and Sin No More!

By , April 19, 2011 4:36 am

Can you celebrate Holy Week without going to the Sacrament of Penance? Not when I was a kid. Until the second Vatican Council, most adult Catholics would make every effort to receive the sacrament of penance, usually on one of the last three days of this week. They would come by the thousands, and they would leave with a great sense of relief, feeling they were properly prepared to receive Communion on that day of days, Easter Sunday morning.

To me, it was a beautiful scene, as by the tens of thousands, we knelt before another weak human being, and confessed our own failings. We rose up, however, with calm confidence that whatever it was that we brought to the Sacrament of Reconciliation was now behind us, and a new beginning had been found.

Today the Sacrament of Penance, “Confession”, continues to be very important in the life of the Church, but it is used less frequently. This is not all bad. In the Church of my childhood, Confession was frequently superficial, repetitious, and lacking a determined effort at reform. Today, I find adult penitents far more thoughtful, more serious, and committed than was true prior to the Council.

It would be good if you could celebrate Reconciliation this week, but even if you do not, let the glorious thought of God’s infinite, personal love for you overwhelm you as you celebrate the Resurrection.

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We’re In the Home Stretch, Don’t Falter!

By , April 18, 2011 4:18 am

It’s almost over! It’s been five weeks since we marked our foreheads with the burnt ashes of the palms used in Holy Week of 2010. Most of us were pretty clear about how we were going to use these six special weeks of prayer and meditation. More than a few of us have slipped.

One of the great symbols buried in the stations of the cross are the fact that Jesus falls three times…and He gets up three times! As always, He is our example. Whatever we were committed to on Ash Wednesday, we need to now redouble our efforts to achieve it.

Six days, my friends. Six days of really pushing ourselves to our commitment. Was it giving up candy or movies? Be faithful during this Holy Week. Was it a commitment to be more sensitive to the pain of those around us? Redouble your efforts. Reach out with generosity and sensitivity to those in your office, family, or even on the bus, for that matter.

If you were a little disappointed in yourself, push that aside, and walk in the footsteps of our Lord!

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