Saturday, April 26, 2014

04-27-2014 -- Second Sunday of Easter, Year A

April 27, 2014 - 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Why are we told that Thomas is the one called Didymus? What a strange name. For the gospel writer to retain such a strange name, it must tell us something significant.

Didymus means twin. Thomas is a twin.
Why does the gospel writer tell us that Thomas is a twin?
And then not tell us who? Who is Thomas’ twin?

Are we supposed to guess? Let’s guess! Who is Thomas’ twin?

We know he wasn’t a twin to Peter and Andrew or to James and John. We are told that these pairs are brothers, not triplets. So it can’t be them.

Thomas could have been Matthew’s twin brother.
Or more intriguing, he could have been Mary Magdelene’s twin sister.

Or perhaps he is twins with Judas Iscariot and that’s why we aren’t told. This is all speculation of course.

So what is the real reason for making the point of telling us that Thomas means twin?

Are we supposed to read between the lines? Maybe so. Maybe we are supposed to see ourselves as Thomas’ twin. In that way, we could better enter into the gospel story.

We are a bit like Thomas after all. We don’t say, “I won’t believe until I’ve seen.”

Instead, we say, “If only I had certainty.” And we go off looking for a sign from God.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know for certain why things happen and how they will end up?

To know why people die from cancer? Why we are born with this color or that color skin?

Why there continues to be so much fighting in the Middle East? Why did so many people die because of all these extreme weather events?

Wouldn’t we like to know for certain that our spouse loves us beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we really count for something in this world, that we are the apple in at least one person’s eyes.

If only we could know for certain, we could put up with a lot of things, couldn’t we?

But the fact is, we don’t have certainty, so we become Thomas’ twin. There is a mix of belief and unbelief in each of us, faith and doubt.

What causes Thomas’ lack of faith? If we could understand what causes Thomas’ disbelief, then we might better understand ours.

Maybe it’s absence. Thomas was absent. He was not there in the Upper Room when the Lord appeared.

There may be many reasons for his absence. After all, the little group of Apostles had just lost their leader.

They must have been upset, depressed. Maybe Thomas wanted to be alone, maybe he couldn’t face the others. Or maybe he was the bravest and had gone out to get supplies.

Either way, the fact remains that he was absent. He missed out.
Let’s put it another way, a way that we might better understand. Thomas was not at church that Sunday morning. That’s always a mistake.

Whatever the reason, he corrected it the following Sunday.
He was there with the other Apostles when Jesus appeared again.

It’s a mistake when we say: I don’t have to go to church. I can worship God in my own way.

Why? Because we can’t find our way all alone. We can’t find faith all by ourselves. We rely on the faith of the church. We rely on the faith of this community.

We need each other because we all have our doubts and disbeliefs. There are times when each of us experiences the absence of Christ in our lives.

There is nothing wrong with that. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a reality.

Notice that Thomas did not have to place his fingers in Jesus’ hands or side. He just needed to be there when Jesus appeared. That was enough to make up for his lack of faith.

The gospel writer tells us that Thomas was a twin. Maybe Thomas is our twin. And like Thomas, we are given the opportunity to see and touch the Risen Lord.

We do that here, together. We need one another to survive in our faith, in our belief, and in our worship, so that, with Thomas, we can cry out, "My Lord and my God."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

04-20-2014 -- Easter, Year A

April 20, 2014 - Easter, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, during the Easter Season, instead of saying, “Hello,” people say, “Christ is risen!!”

And the response is, “Truly he is risen!!”

We Catholics are too stayed, too reserved to do that. It would make us a bit uncomfortable.

But the joy of Easter is something we should proclaim, if not with our tongues, then with our lives.

For the last 40 days we reflected a lot about sin, our need to change, the difficulties of our lives, our shortcomings, our faults and failings.

But Lent is over! The fast is over! Jesus died, but death is over! Sin is redeemed! We are forgiven! Jesus is alive again!

Christ is risen!! Truly he is risen!!

Today, we rejoice that we don’t face all our challenges alone. Jesus, who suffered and died, was raised to a new life.

So if we unite our own suffering with his, then we share the resurrection with him, we share the new life.

Easter is the surprise ending to the horrible death of Jesus. He did his best to show us a new way. He washed the feet of his disciples. He kissed Judas.

He healed the severed ear of the high priest’s servant. He answered Pilate’s questions. He looked silently at Herod.
He admonished the women of Jerusalem. He thanked Simon of Cyrene. He forgave the soldiers. He prayed for his murderers.

Finally, bruised, beaten, crucified, he breathed his last. But God rescued him and gave him new life.

This new life is a most precious, wonderful gift given to us. What are we going to do with it? The plot is yet to unfold for us. Our story is not over.

We must live in the joy of the resurrection, truly live. Otherwise we reach the point of death only to realize that we never actually lived.

Jesus is calling us to live in the resurrection. Jesus is calling us to new life.

We rejoice that we are not alone, we are not abandoned, we are not forsaken. Jesus is risen.

Jesus is with us again!
Jesus is forgiving us again!
Jesus is healing us again!
Jesus is guiding us again!
Jesus is loving us again!

The tomb may be empty, but our lives are not.

Our lives are important. With all our faults and failings, our lives are valuable and worthy of celebrating because we are filled with the glory of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

We are important. We are cherished. We are loved.

Christ is risen!! Truly he is risen!!

Friday, April 18, 2014

04-18-2014 -- Good Friday, Year A

April 18, 2014 - Good Friday, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Our lives can be filled with lots of different kinds of troubles.

Parents have to say goodbye to their children when they grow up.
And sometimes parents say goodbye to a child who dies too soon due to sickness or tragedy.

We have to sit at the bed of loved ones who are suffering, waiting for death to come.

Or maybe we have to watch as a spouse or parents slowly looses his or her memory.

Sometimes we mourn the loss of a friendship or even a marriage.

There are other troubles like bitter sibling rivalries, shocking family secrets, addictions to pain killers or pornography.

We have trouble at work when we see important matters getting swept under the rug.

And sometimes our pains are at school where we’re bullied and harassed because we just don’t walk with the crowd.

Relationships can be rough and raw.

Our successes in life don’t ever reveal our true character. Our true character is revealed in the way we deal with these difficulties of life.

So what if I can restore some pews or fix a bell tower or conduct a beautiful liturgy or give a meaningful homily? So what?

For me, being good at those things comes easy. It comes naturally. They are my strengths. It doesn’t reveal my true character.

It means nothing really if I cannot also do the difficult things too:  

Things like visiting and comforting the sick and dying, burying the dead, accepting and sitting with those who are different from me, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, giving comfort to those who are filled with anxiety, forgiving those who speak ill of me.

I cannot do just the things I like. I must also do the things that are difficult. There is no magic formula to make our troubles vanish.

In fact, quite the opposite is true. All I can offer you are the words of another who is more powerful than I am:

”Pick up your cross and follow after me.”

And as I reflect on my own life, I begin to realize that the cross I carry is not nearly as heavy as the cross Jesus carried.

While there is stress and anxiety in being a priest today, I seldom fall under the weight of my cross.

While there is loneliness and pain, I am seldom whipped to the point of the flesh being torn from my body.

While there is suffering and brokenness, I have never had a nail ripped through the flesh of my hands and feet.

So today I will take off my shoes out of profound respect for the one who died for me. I will venerate the wood of the cross on which he died.

I will whisper, “Jesus, give me the strength to carry my cross with grace, so that I can continue to follow you.”

And I will remember that today we venerate the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world.

From "The Reproaches" of the Good Friday Celebration of the Passion of our Lord

"My people, what have I done to you?
Or how have I offended you? Answer me!"

Holy is God,

Holy and Mighty,
Holy and Immortal One, have mercy on us.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

04-17-2014 -- Holy Thursday, Year A

April 17, 2014 - Holy Thursday, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Holy Thursday -- St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church
Scripture Readings

I don’t know if you noticed, but at the beginning of Mass this evening, the tabernacle was empty. It is empty now and it will remain empty until the end of the Easter Vigil.

Why? Because tonight we are not just remembering the Last Supper. We are actually participating in it.

Tonight we will recline at table with the Lord Jesus. We will hear him say to us, “Take and eat, this is my body given for you.”

The bread Jesus takes into his hands is his very life which is a gift from God the Father.

Tonight, it is this very gift that we will receive, the sacred body and blood of the Lord given to us at this supper.

And tomorrow afternoon, at the Good Friday service, the bread we will receive is also consecrated here tonight.

Why? Well first, because no mass is celebrated on Good Friday. And second, being here with Jesus at the Last Supper gives us the strength and courage to stand at the foot of the cross tomorrow afternoon.

The Eucharist gives us the spiritual grace we need to walk with Jesus these three holy days. We receive Jesus into ourselves so that his real presence continues among his followers.

It is beautiful and touching that we participate in the Last Supper. What a gift to be able to sit at the table with the Lord and share in his very life.

Now, as beautiful and as spiritually comforting and uplifting as this evening is, it is meaningless if we fail to remember that there is another very important work that takes place at the Last Supper.

Jesus rises from the table to wash the feet of the disciples. This simple action of Jesus is so profound. God desires to wash our feet, to purify us and to sooth us.

It is very humbling to have Jesus wash our feet. That’s why Peter protests. He thinks that maybe he should be the one washing Jesus’ feet.

And he’s right! He should be. And you and I should be as well.
We have been called to imitate Jesus through our own acts of service.

Pope Francis has said, “This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I am called to do.

“Washing your feet means that I am at your service. I love doing it because that is what the Lord has taught me.”

This is what the Lord has taught us: that we are called to help one another.

Are we really willing to help others? And what is it we are supposed to be doing anyway?

Any act of love or service or charity that takes us out of our comfort zone and humbles us is a type of foot washing.

The examples are endless:

Ignoring a nasty post online.

Refraining from posting a nasty comment when we really want to.

Holding our tongue when we’d rather say something snide or ugly.

But even more than that, doing something for someone who can’t do in return, not giving to a faceless charity, but doing something for an actual human person.

Risking one’s life to save the life of a friend.

Being kind and gracious when we could be otherwise.

Befriending a classmate who’s always being picked on.

Giving freely of ourselves to answer the call from Christ, “Follow me.”

Helping take care of someone who is terminally ill so that person can die peacefully at home.

Volunteering at a community service center.

Anything that challenges us to look beyond ourselves, to recognize and respond to the needs of others.

Our acts of love and service and charity help us touch and wash the feet of Jesus, because we know that what we do for the least among us, we do for the Lord.

Jesus has given us the precious gift of himself. Tonight we are reminded to get out there and give Jesus something in return.