Saturday, March 28, 2015

03-29-2015 -- Palm Sunday, Year B

March 29, 2015 - Palm Sunday, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We are usually drawn into a good story. Perhaps it is because there is a character that we can relate to. Or maybe it is a story that we can recognize. We feel like we fit in the story.

As we watch the story unfold we wonder how would we react in the same situation. Or we may even feel like we are there participating in the action ourselves.

The Passion Narrative that we read on Palm Sunday has that kind of power. We are drawn into the story. We take our places among the characters.

While the crowd shouted hosanna, the chief priests and scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus.

A woman anointed Jesus in anticipation of his burial. Her use of expensive perfumed oil upset some.

At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and said this is my body broken for you. Jesus took wine and said this is my blood poured out for the salvation of many.

After supper, Peter, James and John fell asleep while Jesus prayed. Judas betrayed. Peter denied. The others ran away. Jesus was arrested.

The Sanhedrin produced false testimony against him. The high priest tore his robes in condemnation. Pilot questioned while the crowd shouted crucify!

The soldiers led Jesus away striking and stripping him. Simon carried the cross. The soldiers crucified him and cast lots for his few meager belongings.

The chief priests and scribes mocked. Mary and the other Mary and Salome and the other women watched at a distance.

Innocent of the charges brought against him, Jesus breathed his last and died on the cross. Joseph of Arimathea took the body from the cross and buried it.

Mary and the other Mary watched in silence.

As we are drawn into the drama of the Passion Narrative, we ask ourselves, where am I in this story?

Am I with the crowds, fickle, going along with anything?

Am I with the disciples who deny and betray and run away?

Am I with the chief priests and scribes who mock and condemn?

Am I with the Roman soldiers carrying out the unjust orders of others?

Am I with Mary and the other Mary and Salome watching in silence?

As we make the journey with Jesus through this Holy Week, let us take the time to place ourselves within this story.

Let us meditate on Jesus’ passion, reflecting and praying and asking ourselves: where am I in this passion narrative?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

03-22-2015 -- 5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

March 22, 2015 - 5th Sunday of Lent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In the Gospel, some people from Greece want to see Jesus. So they find Philip and they ask Philip to show them the Lord. So Philip and Andrew bring them to Jesus.

We're not really told why the Greeks wanted to see Jesus. Maybe it was out of curiosity. Maybe they had heard about all the miracles that he had performed and they wanted to see for themselves.

Maybe it was a desire to become Jesus’ disciples. Maybe they wanted to follow him. Maybe they were looking and searching for something more in their lives.

Not everyone wanted to see Jesus for positive reasons. Remember, there were those who wanted to see Jesus lifted up on the cross because they wanted to see him die. He was a threat to their way of life and they wanted him gone.

We come here week after week for the same reason, because we want to see Jesus. Maybe others have brought us, maybe our reasons aren’t so pure and we come because we enjoy the spectacle, or maybe we have a true desire to grow closer to Jesus.

So we look, we search, and what do we see? We see the cross lifted up. And when we see the cross, we also see the crucifixion.

Crucifixion was a humiliating form of execution. People were stripped, nailed to a cross, and left there to die.

Crucifixions took place at crossroads where lots of people passed. So the crucified would experience the shame and disgrace. They would be mocked and ridiculed. The message was clear, step out of line and this will happen to you too.

But when Jesus was hanging on the cross, he had nothing to be ashamed of. He had done nothing wrong. He didn't deserve to be crucified. It wasn't a just punishment for his sins.

Jesus is lifted up on the cross for our sins and for our transgressions. And Jesus, when lifted up on the cross, transforms us into a new way of life. Our sufferings and our sins can no longer be seen as divine punishment or divine abandonment.

Jesus, in being lifted up, is not just put to death. Jesus is also glorified by God the Father. In this way we find redemption and forgiveness for our sins.

When we look at the cross we see our own salvation. When we look at the cross we see the resurrection, a new life; we see beyond our sins, our faults and our failings.

So in these last days of Lent, we lift up the cross to see glory, to see redemption, to see salvation, to see forgiveness.

In these last days of Lent, we lift up the bread to see the very body of our Lord Jesus given to us that we might be fed and nourished and strengthen.

In these last days of Lent, we lift up the wine poured out as blood, blood that gives life to the world.

This is the Paschal mystery that is unfolding before us in the coming weeks. We will see the Lord lifted up on the cross. But seeing Jesus is not necessarily believing.

Remember, there were those who saw Jesus on the cross because they wanted him to die. We see Jesus because we want him to rise to new life.

Our Lenten journey must bring this to a place where we see Jesus. And in seeing Jesus lifted up, we must make a decision not just to see, but also to believe.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

03-15-2015 -- 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B

March 15, 2015 - 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

I Googled John 3:16, part of today's Gospel, and I found T-shirts and prayer cards, wristbands and bookmarks, dogtags and billboards. I found this scripture citation painted on the faces of football players and even tattooed on peoples’ bodies.

The message seems clear, that faith in Jesus Christ can be summed up on a T-shirt or a tattoo or in one single scriptural citation.

To believe that the source and summit of our Christian life together, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Word made Flesh can be summed up in one scripture verse borders on the absurd.

This overly simplistic approach to our faith can certainly get us into spiritual trouble. Faith in Jesus Christ is not a scriptural citation that we can wear on a T-shirt or chant at a pep rally or prayer meeting.

Wearing scripture verses and quoting scriptural citations does not save us. The gospel passage today tells us that God's only son Jesus Christ saves us. And the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ is not summed up in John 3:16.

As a matter of fact, when we look at the entirety of the four Gospels and the whole tradition of our Catholic faith, we still do not get a clear picture of Jesus Christ.

In the end we are left with the mystery of faith. When we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death Lord until you come again. And as with any mystery there are parts of this that are difficult for us to grasp.

Saint Paul says we were dead in our transgressions, but because God is rich in mercy, he brings us to life with Christ.

It is difficult for us to understand that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world. Rather Jesus came to save the world.

But our common everyday understanding of Jesus is that Jesus judges and Jesus condemns.

But the gospel does not say this. The Gospel says that Christ the Light came into the world to save the world, but the people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil.

Evil deeds are done in darkness. They are secrets. And everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light.

And so we must ask ourselves today do we live in the light? Everyone who lives in the light, lives in the truth and performs works that can be clearly seen as done in God.

Jesus is talking about good deeds, acts of kindness and charity, good works that bring us to the light. When we do our good deeds, the light shines a little farther into the darkness.

What works do we perform in the world and in our community that bring light to the world? Too often we focus only on our deeds of darkness. We allow the darkness to block out the light.

As we continue our Lenten journey we must examine our lives to seek the good that we do. And if we don’t find any good, there’s no better time to start than today. We must learn to live in such a way that our good deeds overcome the darkness, pushing back the shadows.

We can Google John 3:16 or any other scriptural citation all we want, but unless we struggle to live in the truth, unless we struggle to live in the light, unless we struggle to live each day following the Lord Jesus then we will not be saved.

Salvation does not come from our ability to quote scriptural citations. Salvation comes from Jesus Christ. Many people choose to live in darkness because their deeds are evil. Let us choose, here and now, to live in Christ our Light.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

03-08-2015 -- 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

March 08, 2015 - 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

When we read the Gospels, I suspect we often think of the Temple as merely part of the background.

But for those who lived in Jerusalem, the Temple dominated everything, its size, its economic importance, the smell and the blood that resulted from all the animal sacrifice.

It drew the people in and gave them a sense of identity, a sense of belonging.

It must have been fascinating to watch what was going on, who was coming, who was going, who was in, who was out.

But Jesus knew the Temple had become something other than what it was intended to be. It was no longer the Father’s House; it was no longer a house of prayer.

In cleansing the Temple, Jesus indicated that he came to replace it. When Jesus says the Temple is to be destroyed, he is creating a new temple with his body.

Jesus is crucified at the time the lambs are being slaughtered for the Passover. This is significant because Jesus is the new Lamb. Jesus is the new Priest. Jesus is the new Temple.

Jesus brings an end to the Temple cult, an end to the market, an end to the money changers, and an end to the animal sacrifices.

Why does Jesus do this? Because Jesus must live in the truth. He must do what is good and right and just. He replaces the human institution of temple sacrifice with the divine institution of the Eucharist.

In this wonderful exchange Jesus now gives us his very self as the sacrifice on the altar so that we don't have to continue trying to find other sacrifices.

I want to suggest to you that these other sacrifices of ours don't always appease or please our God in the way we think they do. They only work insofar as they make us better people.

What our God wants and expects from us is to do what Jesus does. God wants us to live in the truth, to do what is right, to do what is just.

Our God does not expect us to be perfect. But our God expects us to make the best choices we can make in the difficult situations we find ourselves in our lives. Our God desires for us to live in the truth.

The challenge for us during this holy season of Lent is to look into our hearts into our souls and into our lives and ask ourselves, am I living in the truth? Or do I live in a world of lies, misinformation, and gossip.

Am I a person who looks for the good in others? Or am I a person who goes sneaking around with deceit in my heart, trying to manipulate and control others so that I can get my own way?

Jesus does not do this and Jesus does not want us to do this.
When we come here, we celebrate being set free from all that. We come here to rejoice in the truth.

We come here to worship in the New Temple. We come here to witness the sacrifice of the New Lamb. We come here to be fed by Jesus the New Priest.

We receive Jesus’ very Body and Blood given in this Eucharistic sacrifice which takes the place of the old Temple sacrifice.

If we live in the truth, Jesus, the New Temple, resides in our hearts and in our minds.

But we can pervert the Temple just like the people had in Jesus’ day.
And so today we call upon the Lord Jesus to come to us, to cleanse the temples of our hearts and minds and souls.

We do this asking Jesus to help us live in the truth, so that we can go out into the world and do what is good and right and just.