Saturday, April 18, 2015

04-19-2015 -- 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B

April 19, 2015 - 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The disciples had many different types of encounters with the Risen Lord Jesus.

There is Peter on the seashore when Jesus asks three times, “Do you love me?”

Thomas and the other disciples gathers in the locked room. Jesus appears to them and says Thomas, “Come put your hand in my side and believe.”

The disciples on the road to Emmaus. Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb.

In the gospel today, the disciples are once again locked together in the upper room. Jesus comes to them and asks, “Why are you troubled?”

They are troubled because they are slow in coming to faith, faith in Jesus, faith in the Resurrection.

These encounters with the Risen Lord help this transformation to take place.

The disciples are transformed from troubled people who huddled in fear to those who are able to boldly proclaim that Jesus has been raised from the dead, even in the face of opposition.

Peter was able to endure crucifixion. Stephen was prepared to be stoned to death. The transformation was so radical that many of the other disciples suffered persecution and imprisonment as well.

Today there are many Christians in our world who still suffer persecution and imprisonment for their faith.

The Islamic State has made it clear that it desires to kill all Christians, that includes you and me. And they are already making good on their threats in Syria and Iraq.

In our country we are not yet persecuted in this way, but more and more our society sees believers as being a little odd, old fashioned, sentimental, out of touch, out of step with the times.

There are many ways in which loyalty to our faith can lead to suffering. All I have to do is wear clerical attire out in public to discover this reality.

Doctors and nurses and even regular folk suffer persecution and ridicule for asserting the value of human life.

College students who try to live good and chaste lives are made fun of as being out of touch, prudish.

Employees can be ostracized or terminated for speaking out about injustices in the workplace.

We can be made fun of or talked bad about when we choose to tell the truth, because sometimes the truth is too painful to hear.

So we must ask ourselves, “how is the Risen Lord transforming me?” We are called to be witnesses to the resurrection. And our witness to the resurrection transforms us.

This happens in our daily lives. It can be as simple as telling the truth and being honest and standing up for those who are weak. Or it can be as difficult as being bullied, beaten, imprisoned or even killed.

We are strengthened by our participation in the celebration of the Eucharist Sunday after Sunday so that we can go out into the world and truly live as Jesus’ disciples.

The disciples had different types of encounters with the Risen Lord. These encounters changed their lives.

When we encounter the Risen Lord here in this holy place, how are we changed?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

04-12-2015 -- 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year B

April 12, 2015 - 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Every year around Easter, news reports and tv specials designed to raise doubts among believers begin to appear.

Programs about the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Judas or reports that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife are advertised.

There is a fascination with the DaVinci Code and the Illuminati.  These are all certainly anti-Catholic and many are even anti-Christian.

They all raise questions and create doubts in believers.  They create uncertainty and fear.

There are oppressive powers of unbelief are at work in our world today.  They may be designed to make us feel good, but they also leave us with our faith shaken.

Somehow we are deceived into believing that it is sinful to question our faith.

Questioning what we believe is how we grow in our knowledge of and love for Jesus Christ.  And greater knowledge of and love for Jesus Christ does not create doubts.

Jesus has the opposite effect. Jesus’ presence removes doubts.

In the Gospel of John there are several stories of journeys from doubt to faith: Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, and in today’s gospel, Thomas.

Thomas want to believe.  But, it is not always easy to have faith.  It is not always easy to believe.

Faith in Jesus, faith in the resurrection, may be more challenging than we thought.

Christians feel guilty about having doubts.  But the gospel reminds us that doubt was present right from the beginning, even among the apostles.

Thomas’ doubt was removed by Jesus’ presence.  Notice please, that Jesus is not attempting to shame Thomas.  Jesus is giving Thomas what he needs for faith.  This is what we see him doing in the gospels.  

Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night because he is discreet.  He’s afraid of being a disciple openly.

The Samaritan woman believes despite the cultural differences that tell her she cannot.

The man born blind comes to faith slowly.  It takes him several encounters with Jesus and the chief priests before he believes.

We are like them.  We want to believe but our doubts persist. There are those among us who want us to doubt.  They want us to question our faith.

So let us draw closer to Jesus because Jesus has the opposite effect.

Jesus removes our doubts so that we can cry out like Thomas: my Lord and my God.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

04-05-2015 -- Easter, Year B

April 05, 2015 - Easter, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In a recent article in America Magazine, the editor, Father James Martin, said, “Catholics can talk till the cows come home about Pope Francis, their own parish, and the Mass. But when you ask them about their relationship with Jesus, there are tongue-tied.”*

Traditionally, Catholics have not been comfortable using the language of friendship with Jesus. It just seems too intimate, too casual. Catholics like a more formal image of Jesus.

But which to choose?  There are so many.  So often, people see Jesus as they want to see him. Jesus who is rugged and not too feminine. Jesus who is strong. Jesus who is passionate. Jesus who is decisive. Jesus who is masculine.

Jesus the good shepherd. Jesus the teacher. Jesus the suffering servant. Jesus triumphant. Jesus resurrected. Jesus the nonviolent warrior, the divine fighter.

Today we celebrate the resurrected Jesus. Jesus who is present among us.

The resurrection is an invitation into the life and power of God. Jesus is not a figure from the past. He is present here and now, a living reality, our God desiring friendship with us.

And so we ask ourselves as we celebrate the resurrection, who is Jesus today? Or perhaps more importantly who is Jesus to me?

Is Jesus my best friend? Catholics in general are more comfortable with the divine Jesus than they are with the human Jesus.

But in the Gospels we experience the human Jesus. Jesus celebrated meals with his friends.

Jesus went with friends to see those were sick, touching them and making them well. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  This is very intimate.

Jesus had a personal relationship, a friendship, with his disciples. We need to work on developing the same.

But we have to understand that when we begin to speak to Jesus as a friend, we may not always get what we think we want.  Good friends tell us the truth.  

In a mature friendship with the Lord, we can come to understand that what we want is not always what we need.

What we want is not always what’s best for us.  What we want is not always what Jesus wants.

If our relationship with Jesus is grounded in the Gospels then our encounter with Jesus can be challenging.  Our friend Jesus desires to be with us through life, challenging us to live with passion, challenging us to change our hearts and change our ways.

Jesus is present here today in the Eucharist. Jesus is right here with us all the time. If we look with eyes of faith, we can see Jesus in the daily flow of our conversational prayer.

If we look with eyes of faith, we can see Jesus in those of the margins of society. If we looking with eyes of faith, we can see Jesus in the poor, in the outcast, in the downtrodden.

But most importantly, if we look with eyes of faith, we can see Jesus in the bread and the wine. Jesus is here with us on this Holy Night, our Light shining in the darkness.

We Catholics can and should talk about our Holy Father Pope Francis, who invites us to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

We Catholics can and should talk about our church parish as it celebrates 250 years of faith in Acadiana.

We Catholics can and should talk about the Mass because it is the source and summit of our lives, the font from which all blessings flow.

We Catholics need to learn to do a better job talking about our relationship with Jesus, our Lord and our friend.

*Martin, SJ, James, ed. America, March 30, 2015.

Friday, April 3, 2015

04-03-2015 -- Good Friday, Year B

April 03, 2015 - Good Friday, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Jesus, God’s only Son, is executed for claiming to be who he is.  His crucifixion is public. It is the most shameful way to be executed.  Jesus dies alone on the cross. It is complete humiliation.

In order for this to happen, Jesus must resign himself to the will of God.  

We are not fond of resignation. We are not accustomed to surrender. We are taught from an early age that winning is everything.

However, standing at the foot of the cross is not a win.  It is a surrender to the will of God. The cup did not pass over as Jesus had prayed it would.  

Jesus had to surrender his own will and accept the cross. Jesus had to accept the will of God.

On Good Friday, we are invited to reflect on the cross, to resign ourselves to the will of God for us, to accept the life that God desires for us with grace, dignity and gratitude.

On Good Friday, we stand at the foot of the cross, to venerate the cross, to accept the cross, to embrace the cross, to kiss the wood of the cross.

We are faced with this striking image of God who suffers and dies for the sins of the people, for our sins; our God hanging on the cross for us.

Each of us carries a cross.  Some of us carry our crosses in secret and some carry crosses for everyone to see.

Heartache, feeling under appreciated, being bullied, financial woes, cancer or some other illness, loneliness, depression, addiction, loss of a love one.

But on Good Friday, we are reminded that no matter how life treats us or where it takes us, we know that we are not alone.

No matter how many times we feel horror at the evil that surrounds us, we know that Jesus felt that too.

No matter how tough life gets or how close death comes, no matter how heavy the cross, we know that we are not forgotten, we are not abandoned.

God is no stranger to weakness, to pain, to shame, to loneliness. God’s only Son died alone nailed to a cross.

No matter how cruelly we are treated, God has experienced this too.  

As we approach the wood of the cross in the ancient tradition to venerate it, we think about the crosses that we carry.  

As we kiss the wood of the cross, we join our cross to Jesus’ cross. 

We let them mingle, our crosses and the Lord’s.

We share our pain and our suffering, our grief and our agony with the Lord. And he takes upon himself our suffering, he takes up our crosses.

We venerate the cross today so that tomorrow, in the darkness of the night, our most Holy Night, we will see the Light shining in the darkness, Christ our Light, overcoming the cross and bringing new life.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

04-02-2015 -- Holy Thursday, Year B

April 2, 2015 - Holy Thursday, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

On this Holy Night, priests and deacons throughout the world will get down on their knees in imitation of the Lord Jesus and wash the feet of 12 people.

There are about 400,000 Catholic priests in the world.  That’s over 4 million people who are having their feet washed on this night.

To have someone kneel before you and wash your feet is a very humbling thing. We know this because of our own discomfort with having someone wash our feet, but also because of Peter’s protest.

“Lord, you will never wash my feet.”

The Lord Jesus calls us to imitate him in this act of service.  “I have given you an example to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” The Lord Jesus calls us to wash the feet of others.

Of course, the footwashing is symbolic.  The call is a call to service, the call is a call to charity, the call is a call to reach out to those in need.

The call is a call to imitate Jesus through acts of service and acts of self-giving. The challenge is to look at our lives and see if there is any self-giving at all.

It’s easy to become completely self-centered and self-absorbed.

Today I see more and more people who push others around to get their way, not caring at all how their actions impact others.  The sense of entitlement is astonishing and disheartening.  

Many simply do not lift a finger to help others.  If we are going to call ourselves Catholic Christians, then it cannot be that way with us.  
Jesus, our Savior and our Lord, calls us to live lives of service, to be self-giving rather than self-centered.

Acts of kindness and acts of self-giving should simply be part of our everyday lives: a good deed daily or paying it forward from time to time or a gift to a favorite charity or volunteering at church or for some other civic organization or visiting the sick or elderly or any other act of kindness, act of charity or act of self-giving you can think of.

The selfless acts don’t end with the foot washing on this Holy Night.  Jesus takes bread and says of it: this is my body, broken for you.  Eat and be nourished.

Jesus takes wine and says of it: this is my blood, poured out for you.  Drink and you will live.

We are taught from an early age to believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Eucharist.

Jesus’ greatest act of self-giving, the Eucharist, is Jesus’ gift to you and to me.  Pope Francis reminds us that it is not a prize.  It is not meant to be hoarded.  It is meant to be shared, broken, given.

Food for the journey.  Strength for the weary.  Hope for the downtrodden. Forgiveness for the sinner. Healing for the sick. Inspiration for believers.  

Jesus gives of himself totally and completely so that hungry hearts may be fed.

On this Holy Night, we come to witness an act of service and act of self-giving.

The act of service, the footwashing.  The act of self-giving, the Eucharist. These acts inspire us to go out into the world and do the same.