Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another MS 150 Beckons

This weekend, I will be riding in the Sam's MS150 ride from Frisco Texas to Fort Worth Texas. The ride will be Saturday and Sunday, thus I will be posting remarks on the Sunday readings late. There will also be a post about my ride experience. The weather forecast is unpleasant. And if it is raining I am going to wait to begin until it stops. Hiking in the rain is okay with the correct clothes, but being wet and possibly cold is not my idea of fun. Besides, I do not really want to be on a slick road with skinny tires and 3000 other cyclists sporting the same. And my bike already has the 28's, which is the largest that it will accept.

But if it is just cloudy, or cool, or foggy, or hot or humid or whatever else, then I will ride and I will finish. Then there will be a post.

Saturday night I plan on camping out at the Texas Motor Speedway. I hope that the camping area has good drainage.

Maybe I will see some of you all there.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Preach Repentance in His Name

1. If we looked at the content of the Gospels we would notice that they contain much of Jesus’ teaching, and many of His miracles. But their focus is on His Passion, Death and Resurrection. When we read about the preaching of the early Church, we also observe that the primary content of the Good News is that Jesus the Crucified One has Risen from the dead. The proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus the Lord was not merely the idea of those who had been His followers and had been witnesses of the new kind of life which Jesus possesses. Rather, this truth is announced as the of His command to tell everyone in the whole world.
2. Some people in the days of Jesus have proposed that the disciples made the resurrection up. For example, the Chief Priests and elders bribed the soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus to say that the disciples stole the body while they were asleep (Matthew 28:11-15). Even today there are those that say the disciples invented the resurrection to explain their “experiences.” The documents of faith, that is the Scriptures, however, indicate that nothing of the sort happen. In the ancient world, people who wanted to learn would go in search of a teacher whom they liked. But the disciples were chosen by Jesus, they did not choose Him (see John 15:16). When Jesus was preaching, they were not quick to understand what He was teaching. They held the common opinion that the Messiah would be a great king leading Israel to political greatness. In spite of what Jesus told them, they persisted in this error right up until the time He was arrested. When He spoke to them about His resurrection, they would not even ask Him what He meant (Mark 9:32). When Jesus was arrested, they ran away. When He was crucified, they hid. And even when He rose again in glory, at first they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost (Luke 24:37). Jesus had to eat a piece of fish to convince them that He was indeed alive. (Luke 24:42-43). The disciples did not have the wherewithal to invent the resurrection. Nor does it make sense that they would persist in proclaiming a fiction that cost them their lives. Jesus resurrection is real, though we have to believe on the basis of others’ testimony.
3. Practically every year, I hear someone say that all religions are basically the same. Sometimes it is said by a parent trying to be okay with the fact that their children have left the Catholic faith. Others who hardly know God will say such a thing either out of ignorance or out of wishful thinking. In those cases, it is uttered by someone who rejects religion as stifling or restrictive. Its much easier to dismiss religion if you can lump them all together. In any case, it is simply untrue. (A quick study of religions will reveal marked differences). No other religious founder was crucified or rose from the dead. No other religious founder claimed to be God. Jesus is unique among all people who have ever existed. His resurrection is the single greatest moment in human history.
4. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord is the central teaching of our Christian faith. It is the heart and soul of our belief. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are participating in this same Mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And this celebration constitutes us as Catholics. Saint Paul will tell the Corinthians that without the resurrection of Jesus, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). But Jesus is Risen. He sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us.
5. When the disciples began to proclaim the good news of Jesus, we should note they did not simply announce the truth of the resurrection. Saint Peter did not say “You know that fellow Jesus whom you crucified about six weeks ago? Well, he’s okay now. He is alive.” And those who heard Saint Peter did not say “well that’s good, crucifixion is terrible, we are glad that everything worked out for him.” No, the people said what are we to do? (Acts 2:37). To which Saint Peter replied Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Jesus’ resurrection carries with it power and to believe has consequences. Knowledge of the truth obligates a person to conform themselves to the truth. Belief in the Risen Lord demands repentance and change. (That is why those who give themselves over to sin eventually lose their faith.)
6. And so the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection leads us to a crossroads- a place in which we must make decisions. Either we will believe and follow Jesus with our whole hearts, or we will part company with Him and go our own way. We may desire to put off conversion for awhile. That is a bad idea, since we do not know how much time we have. Or we may try to satisfy ourselves with being lukewarm in our Christianity. For example thinking that if we go to Mass, Jesus might not pay very close attention to how we actually live. That is foolish also. God is always present at every moment. If we really want to know the Risen Lord, then we must repent and seek out His mercy and forgiveness. And when we begin to know Him as He really is, a merciful and loving God, we will be eager to share our faith with others.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Divine Mercy

1. Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained (John 20:22-23). With these words, Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins to the Church. As Catholics, we believe to this authority is exercised through the ministry of priests in the Sacrament of Penance. Many people fear this sacrament, mainly because of not wanting to admit their sins to another person. On the other hand, many others have found that humbly revealing their sins in Confession and receiving absolution a source of great healing and even joy.
2. Certainly when Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them the Gift of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins, He was not intending to terrorize the world. Rather our Lord desired to pour His Divine Mercy on the world. God’s mercy motivated the Father to send His only Son into the world to save it. His Divine Mercy is what motivated Jesus to heal the sick, feed the hungry and associate with sinners. Mercifully our Lord sent out His apostles to anoint and heal the sick and expell demons. In His mercy for sinners, Jesus the Son of God offered Himself on the cross, dying to destroy our death, and rising to restore our life. In His mercy, Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after His resurrection and said Peace be with you, and filled them with joy (John 20:19-20).
3. The Risen Jesus sent His apostles into the world to teach and baptize all nations so that all people might be able to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness in their lives. It is then that same mercy that is operative in the Sacrament of Penance through which the sins of those who are already baptized are forgiven and we are returned to the purity with which God graced us on the day we were born again by water and the Holy Spirit (see John 3:5).
4. As a penitent, I have experienced God’s mercy so many times. In spite of my sins, the Lord has not just accepted me, not just forgiven me, but taken the sins away so that I am no longer guilty. That does not mean that I am not tempted or that there is no possibility of doing the same thing again. It means that I am no longer burdened by the past and I can start fresh. And as long as we are truly sorry for our sins, God will always forgive us and absolves us of our sins.
5. As a priest, I have witnessed God’s mercy and love in the confessional too. People humbly present throw themselves at the mercy of God, and receive it. Even when I do not know what to say, God helps me as a confessor with words of comfort and advice. But most importantly with the authority to take the guilt away so that the sin no longer oppresses a person.
6. Today is known as Divine Mercy Sunday. God’s mercy endures forever (Psalm 136, often translated mercy in place of love) and it is available always. But today is a special day to recall the quality and the quantity of God’s mercy. To confidently call upon our Lord for His mercy for ourselves and others who most need it. When our Lord appeared to Saint Faustina, He commanded her to paint a picture of Himself with red and white rays coming forth from His Sacred Heart. At the bottom were to be the words Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus asks that those who meditate on this image to reflect on Jesus’ Mercy and to trust in His mercy. In spite of all the sorrows that we endure as the result of sin, others and our own, God wants to share with us His mercy. And He has given that mercy as a gift to the Church to share with others.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jesus is Risen!

Here are some links to the Scriptures for the Easter Vigil:
Holy Saturday Vigil Gospel
Easter Sunday Readings
1. Jesus has been raised. He is not here (Mark 16:6). Every year, Father Marcus and I bury many people. You yourselves may have also buried an acquaintance or loved one. People of different cultures have different manners of celebrating funerals, but there is one constant. That is, when the person dies, that is what they are- dead. And when they are buried with whatever rituals in Church or in our families, they are buried. When we return according to our customs to visit the grave, we do not expect to see it torn open and the body missing. If we did, it would cause us great stress. And if we returned to the tomb to find it empty and a young man dressed in the whitest of clothes we have ever seen telling us our loved one was risen, that He was not here, we would go in shock I suppose.
2. Imagine the disciples’ shock. Already they were dealing with the grief of Jesus’ brutally violent death. And now the tomb is empty and they are told that He is risen. Jesus had told them that He would rise from the dead, but they had no idea what that really meant. No one had ever risen before, not like this. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, maybe that experience prepared them somewhat.
3. Several years ago I was in Mexico taking Spanish lessons. One of my classmates was a young woman from Japan. She had heard of Jesus’ name, but knew nothing about Him. As I was telling her His story, when I got to the part that Jesus rose from the dead to a new kind of life, her eyes glazed over and she went into a kind of shock. It was then that I realized how incredibly amazing Jesus’ Resurrection really was. All my life long I have professed His resurrection. But now I had to think about it. Jesus was indeed dead. And now He is indeed alive. I do not know what the young woman thought about what I said. To be honest, I became somewhat engrossed in my own reflection on the Mystery of the Resurrection. Did she believe me? Who knows? But what is important is that it is the Truth. Jesus has Risen. Yes He has truly Risen!
4. Hundreds of His disciples were witnesses to His new kind of life. As Saint Peter said in the book of Acts, they ate and drank with Jesus after the Resurrection. They did not imagine it. They did not plot to all agree to say it. They were all just as shocked as everyone. But you do not eat and drink with a ghost or figment of your imagination. The disciples were afraid at first, but as time progressed, they did not waver in their proclamation of Jesus Christ Crucified and Risen. Their faith became more and more sure, their knowledge became more profound, their trust became unshakeable to the point that they would willingly die rather than deny the truth they knew that Jesus had risen.
5. The resurrection of Our Lord is His greatest miracle. It is the conclusive proof of His Divinity. But the resurrection is more than that. The resurrection is the conquering of death. All funeral practices have sorrow attached, even a certain degree of despair that we will never see our loved ones again. But the Resurrection of Jesus is a glimmer of hope. And the more we believe and trust, the more hopeful we become. Death has been defeated. And if Jesus has risen from the dead, there is hope for every one of us too.
6. Gone is the thought of going down into the shades, where death is the master. We know that Jesus is the Master and death must obey Him. Death is the ultimate consequence of sin, but with the resurrection, the hope of eternal reconciliation with one another and being right with God abounds.
7. Saint Peter proclaimed to all who could hear him that Jesus had chosen the disciples to be witness of Jesus Christ to the whole world. As Christians, we have inherited this mission - to go into the whole world and proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ (Matthew 29:19-20). It is not a mission only for the priest or deacon or member of a religious order. It is not a mission only for adults. Everyone who is baptized in His death and resurrection is called to share the Gospel.
8. The question is, how do we proclaim the Truth we know in our hearts? It is very simple really. Everything we have and everything we do for the love of Jesus. If our hearts are focused on the Crucified and Risen Savior, then even simply making the sign of the Cross before we say grace at meals will become a witness to the power of the Resurrection. Our prayer life will become rich. We will eagerly look for opportunities to share our faith in Jesus Christ with others. Even if others do not accept us or do wrong to us, forgiveness will become easy.
9. The tomb is empty, Jesus is not there. The Sorrow of Losing Him on the Cross has been replaced with the Joy of celebrating His Resurrection. As Christians we already share in the New Life that Jesus Christ established on the day of Easter. Jesus Christ is Risen!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Special Prayers needed

Please pray for me. I have laryngitis and find it very difficult to talk, much less sing. Thanks for your help.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Today is the day in which we commemorate the death of Jesus on the Cross. All throughout the Church, there are people who are participating in the reading of the Passion, the Stations of the Cross or the Veneration of the Cross. As we use these various means of coming to terms with Our Lord's death, one can begin to ask Just who is to blame?

Certainly it is foolish to blame the Jews. After all, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Peter, James, John, Martha, Lazarus, et alia were all Jewish. It is difficult to blame the Pharisees or another of Judaism's theological parties for Jesus' death either. It is true that Jesus argued with them, but likewise they invited Him into their homes. Certainly some Jewish elders and high priests are demonstrated as at least partly culpable. But even some of them eventually became Christians. We cannot really blame any present Jewish person for Jesus' death anymore than we ought to blame those who live in Dallas now for the death of President John F. Kennedy.

I have heard others trying to make the Romans culpable for the death of Jesus. This idea makes not much more sense. It is true that the Jews at that time could not have legally crucified Jesus, the Romans had to be involved. But not all the Romans were enemies of Jesus. We have only to think of the Centurion whose faith amazed even Jesus. Although he did not have the political courage to do it, Pilate at least at first wanted to let Jesus go. It would be unfair to blame all "the Romans" for Jesus' death, even if some had to be materially involved in His crucifixion.

There have even circulated opinions that Jesus hated life and manipulated Judas to betray Him, all so Jesus could be arrested and killed. There is no scriptural evidence that Jesus was suicidal in His thoughts or behavior. Besides, if He hated life, why would Jesus have chosen the most difficult and painful death and even refuse what little anesthesia that was offered in those days? Most of those who despise life and want to die have that attitude because they want the pain to cease, not to increase to the limits of human capacity.

If we want an answer to the question who is to blame for the death of Jesus we must first remember that Jesus did not have his life taken away from Him against His will. Neither was His death a suicide. Jesus' death was a sacrifice. He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin in obedience to God the Father. That is not to say that others did not act freely to betray Him or demand that He be crucified. The Gospels have several examples of people wanting to kill Jesus, from the people in Nazareth, to scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem. But they were unable to do anything until Jesus Himself permitted it. Even the attempt to gain false testimony did not work. It was not until Jesus spoke the truth that He truly was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, that they had the evidence which the elders and the Chief priests thought was necessary to condemn Him. Jesus Himself stated No one takes it (life) from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again (John 10:18).
That all being said, if Jesus is a sacrifice for the salvation of sinners, then who is to blame for the death of Jesus? It is us, of every nation, every race, every culture, every religion, every language. Every one of us has sinned and fallen short of God's will for us (except for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and she still needed to be saved by Jesus). Every human being who ever lived needs the salvation gained through the death of Jesus. Therefore, if we ask the question "who is to blame" with the idea of condemning someone, then we have missed the point of Jesus' death. If we ask the question in order to understand the Lord's motivation for this act of love, then we might begin to understand.

Anyway, Christ died for us sinners, so that we could be saved. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday

1. Do this in memory of me. In this one command, Jesus instituted two sacraments of the Church- Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders. These two sacraments are intertwined in such a way that if there is not one, then there is not the other. Unless we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, we have no life within us (see John 5:53). But without the Holy Priesthood, we cannot celebrate the Eucharist.
2. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Most Holy Eucharist. His presence is not merely recalled, but is actual. Since the Eucharist is indeed Christ, we recognize that the Eucharist is source of all grace in the Christian life. We depend on the Eucharist not just because we recognize Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread, but because we need Him for our food. For us to achieve the glory marked out for us, Jesus Christ must live in us. God is not content with feeding our minds and hearts with His words, but He has generously provided to feed our bodies with His Word- Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that our whole selves may be prepared for the Glory of the Resurrection.
3. The Eucharist is more than the source of all grace. Likewise it is the summit of our Christian worship. Jesus Christ is our True High Priest who has offered Once for All, the sacrifice of Himself on the Wood of the Cross. Yet in the celebration of the Eucharist, we are present for and participate in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. By the Eucharist, Jesus has made it possible for us to be witnesses of His Passion Death and Resurrection. In an Unbloody manner, the Eucharist connects us to the greatest event in the History of the World- the Paschal Mystery of our Lord. Since Jesus is truly the One offering and the One offered, we rightly say that the Eucharist is the highest form of praise, adoration, and worship. Other devotions and practices are beneficial and commendable, but nothing equals the power and majesty of the Holy Mass because it is the prayer of Jesus Himself.
4. In order to continue our participation in this Divine Mystery, Jesus instituted the ministry which we call the Holy Priesthood, or the Presbyterate. As Jesus chose Apostles from the midst of His disciples, the Lord also chooses men to be priests to exercise authority and power in the celebration of the Sacraments. Let us not be amazed that God chooses to work in such a manner. Jesus uses Bread and Wine to become His Precious Body and Blood. Our Lord has chosen to use human agency for the procreation and population of the world. As Saint Teresa of Avila said Christ has no body now on earth but yours. God chooses men as the sacrament of His presence. These men are chosen to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and the other sacraments in persona Christi capitis- that is, in the person of Christ the Head. As priests, we do not celebrate sacraments on our own but rather we are instruments of Jesus for the benefit of the Body of Christ the Church.
5. Although the Ministerial Priesthood is a true share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, it does not exist for itself nor to lift its members on high above other Christians. The priesthood is for service to Jesus and service to His Church. When I say the words This is my body which will be given up for you, Christ is speaking through me. The words refer to the Consecration of the Gift of Bread. But I think they also refer to the priest. I mean that we too must offer up ourselves for others in union with Christ.
6. These days, most people view the priesthood, and in fact the whole of Christian faith from the point of view of lack. That is, many think "priesthood is not getting married," "marriage is not being free to go with anyone," "obedience keeps one from doing what they want to do," or "holiness is not having fun." In truth, doing God’s will is freeing. Freedom to commit one’s whole life, free to be what we are supposed to be.
7. This freedom is only possible because of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is made present each time we celebrate the Eucharist. And to think that the Eucharist and the Priesthood are pure gifts from God. All we have to do to receive is open our hands and our hearts.