Saturday, March 31, 2018

3/31/18 -- Holy Saturday

Tonight all we have is an empty tomb. When Mary Magdalene stood at the tomb she didn’t encounter some perfect radiant glowing Risen Christ.

All she had was a young man with a message telling her where to look to find the Risen Lord. We come to this Holy Shrine looking to find the Risen Lord.

We come here on this holy night because we believe that Jesus is God’s son.

Jesus who went against the establishment, Jesus who insisted that the Kingdom of God was near, Jesus who touched the lepers and made them clean, who healed the blind, who said the first shall be last and love your enemies, Jesus who called a little band of misfits to follow…

If we believe that Jesus is who he says he is, God’s only begotten son, then we are left with an empty tomb because God raised his only son from the dead.

Our God has done as God has promised. Our God has saved Jesus. God has raised Jesus from the dead.

Not only Jesus, This is what God does. Our God saves. Our God restores. Our God lifts up to new life.
Our God has saved throughout all of salvation history. That is the story we tell tonight. The readings speak about salvation.

Our God saved Isaac from his father’s attempt to slay him. 
Our God saved Abraham from the grief of losing his only son.
Our God saved the people from slavery in Egypt and led them to the promised land.

Our God still saves. Our God saves us from our pain and suffering. Our God saves us from our grief and sorrow. Our God saves us from disappointments and struggles.

Our God saves us from broken hearts. Our God saves us from illness. Our God rescues us from the darkness of sin and death and raises us to new life in Christ.

Christ is our light. We are joined to Christ in the waters of baptism and those waters are sprinkled upon us to remind us that our God saves us and raises us to new life. We are joined to Christ by receiving his body and blood in the Eucharist. 

Tonight we may only encounter an empty tomb but that empty tomb points the way to the Risen Christ, Christ our light.

Tonight is about our salvation. Tonight we sing our Alleluia with joy because once again our God has come to save us.

Friday, March 30, 2018

3/30/18 -- Good Friday

Words sometimes fail us. If you were asked to explain what Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross meant to you personally, you might find if difficult to put into words. 

Our emotions well up to the surface and get in the way. We Catholics know that. That’s why ritual is so important to us. When ritual is done well, words are not necessary to convey meaning. Words are simply not even needed.

Every Good Friday we do the same thing. The Good Friday service always begins in silence with the presider prostrating himself before the altar. This happens only once a year. What does it say?

Maybe is says that we acknowledge that we have had a hand in killing Jesus. We have killed the divine presence in one another with our callous words, our harsh condemnations and our mean spirited actions.

And what we’ve done to others, we’ve done to Jesus. Words can’t touch this tragedy so we lie face down on the floor to acknowledge our wrongs.

It’s like the aftermath of so many school shootings. People are left speechless because words cannot express the depth of the tragedy.

The other gesture is one that we all participate in. We venerate the wood of the cross. Some touch it lightly, others kiss the wood, others bow or genuflect, some even weep from a distance.

Those who venerate the cross come close to the crucified Jesus to find meaning for their own suffering.

The cross of Jesus can bring tremendous consolation and comfort to those who are imprisoned by addiction, those who are grieving the death of a love one, those who are struggling with health or self-esteem or identity issues, those who are tortured by scrupulosity or other mental health issues, those who are victims of abuse, neglect or torture.

Suffering runs deep and a tremendous amount of suffering is brought to the foot of the cross on Good Friday.

We don’t need words to know that Jesus is suffering with us. As a matter of fact, when we face this reality our words fail. So we rely on gesture and symbol and ritual. Our actions speak louder than our words. They are profound.

Our actions today unite us to the Passion of Christ. They do not fail. Our Good Friday ritual bring us tremendous consolation even in the face of suffering and death.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

3/29/18 -- Holy Thursday

Scripture Readings

We are called to serve. But what does that mean? To serve? Jesus washes the feet of his disciples as a model for all of us to follow. He takes the lowliest task and does it with great tenderness and affection. 

So what are we supposed to do? How are we called to serve? Sometimes we think too grandly. We think it must be complicated or extraordinary. 

But maybe we are called to serve in ordinary simply ways. Maybe we are simply called to do small everyday things with great love.

St. Therese of Lisieux believed that her way to heaven was to do little things with great love. She saw herself as weak and little, unable to climb the rough stairway of perfection.

For her, love was the key to holiness. Love made all the difference.

Her little way is one that we can understand. Her little way is one that we can accomplish. Her little way is simply doing ordinary everyday things with great love.

Love proves itself by deeds. Jesus stoops and washes feet. This Holy Thursday is not about me washing the feet of twelve parishioners. So tonight I’m not washing feet. 

After six years, you know that I am fully capable of stooping and washing your feet. The absence of that ritual this evening is a reminder that I’m not the only one who is supposed to be washing feet. 

Jesus says, “I have given you a model, an example to follow. As I have done, so you must do.” Jesus washes my feet lovingly. Jesus washes my feet tenderly. 

We must wash the feet of others. We must serve others. We must do this lovingly. We must do this tenderly. We must do this cheerfully.

This is easy to accomplish if we follow St. Therese’s little way. But there is one thing more we need. 

At the Last Supper, Jesus doesn’t only wash his disciples’ feet. He also institutes the Eucharist.

At the Last Supper, Jesus takes bread and says, “This is my body for you to eat.” He takes a cup of wine and says, “This is my blood for you to drink.”

Bread and wine become divine sustenance. Bread and wine become flesh and blood. Food for the journey. Food to nourish and strengthen.

Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist gives us strength to serve. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist gives us grace to do simple, ordinary everyday things with great love.

We might cook for others with great love, or clean for others with great love. We might do the grocery shopping or the laundry with great love.

We might visit the sick with great love. We might encourage others to blossom with great love. 

We might laugh and joke and smile with great love. We might be cheerful with great love.

We might heal the hurts of others with great love, with tenderness, acceptance and forgiveness. 

We might say please and thank you with great love. We might listen with great love. Whatever ordinary things Jesus sets before us, we are called to accomplish with great love.

We are all called to follow the example Jesus has set. “As I have done, so you must do.”

Nourished by the Divine Food we receive tonight from God’s table, we go forth to serve. We go forth to wash feet in our weary world.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

3/25/18 - Palm Sunday, Year B

Scripture Readings

The characters in the Passion of Jesus Christ will forever be remembered based on their actions that day. 

The Passion is a story of betrayal by Judas, denial by Peter and accusations by the chief priests and other religious leaders. Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate and beaten, mocked jeered and crucified by the Roman soldiers.

These actions lead to the murder of an innocent man. The characters will be remembered for their cruelty and treachery. 

Only one that we know of was able to redeem himself. Peter’s later threefold confession of love wipes away his threefold denial.

There are other characters. The woman who anoints Jesus. Simon who helps to carry the cross. Veronica who wipes Jesus’ face. The women filled with grief who look on from a distance. And Joseph who places the body of Jesus in his own tomb. 

These are remembered for their kindness. We are remembered mostly for how we treat people during difficult times. 

To be remembered with fondness, we have to treat people with respect and dignity and charity.

How do you want to be remembered?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

3/18/18 - 5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

Each one of us will fall to the ground and die one day. Last Saturday night, I thought it was my turn. I thought I was dying.

Whatever was happening to me was mimicking a heart attack and respiratory failure. My heart was racing and I couldn’t breath. It really felt like the end.

The gospel speaks about a grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying. What do we do with that? Whoever loves his life loses it. I love my life and I wasn’t ready to lose it.

Whoever hates his life preserves it for eternal life. I don’t hate my life. It’s not perfect. Who’s is? I don’t want to lose my life just yet.

We get to where it seems that this gospel just doesn’t make any sense. So what do we do? Let’s read on. Jesus is using imagery to try to make a point. If we read on we increase the likelihood of finding the point.

Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” That’s it, right there! Follow Jesus.

If last Saturday night was a near death experience, my doctor is not sure that it was, but I certainly felt like it was the end. I mean, I called 911. But I’m gonna tell you there wasn’t some great white light.

And I spoke to another priest who recently had a heart attack and he reported the same thing.

There seemed to be some battle between choosing good and choosing evil. And while the good was obviously the right choice, I must admit that the evil presented itself in a way that was very tempting.

Now, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know from your own experiences.

Whoever serves me must follow me, Where I am, there also will my servant be. To choose the good, we have to be willing to follow. And in following, the key word is serves. Whoever serves me is following me. How do we serve Jesus? How do you serve Jesus? How do I serve Jesus?

What disinterested service do we do for Jesus, in his name or on his behalf? It must be disinterested service because we are doing it for Jesus. We are not interested in getting anything in return, except grace.

What do we do to show that we are followers of the Lord? What? It has to be something. I have to be able to say this is what I am doing to better serve Jesus, this is what I am doing to better follow Jesus.

Otherwise, when the time comes there might not be some great white light.

I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? God save me. Then a voice from heaven came. I have saved you and I will save you again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Message from Father Rusty P. Richard

First, let me thank all of you for so many heartfelt prayers,kind thoughts and expressions of support and affection during my recent health concern.   I appreciate that more than I can ever express.

Fortunately, my concerns over this past weekend proved to be the result of some medication interactions rather than any issues relating to my heart.  But, as we all have experienced in our lives, it’s best to err on the side of caution. My weekend hospital visit and subsequent tests were all shown to be negative in terms of any physical condition related to my heart and all pointed to a medication interaction.   

I am now back home resting after being discharged and will return to my full duties very shortly. 

Life is often full of surprises and challenges, and while this one certainly got my attention, it is comforting to know that it wasn’t a matter of the heart. It is also comforting to have had the support of so many.  To me that made such a great difference.

God bless you all and again, thank you.

Rusty P. Richard, Pastor

Saturday, March 10, 2018

3/11/18 - 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

Most of us get lost in the darkness at some point in our lives. Yes? Some of us for longer periods than others.

The priest who really doesn’t want to be a priest anymore because the church has changed and doesn’t seem as welcoming or relevant or spirit-filled as it used to. He’s unhappy but still effective in ministry and really too old to leave and do something else. 

The woman whose husband wakes up one morning and says, “I’m not the man you married. I’m not the man you think I am.” She feels for her husband but just can’t bring herself to accept what is happening and doesn’t want to start over.

The young man whose wife says after five years of marriage, “I don’t love you. I’m over you. I don’t care about you anymore.” He’s trying to make it work but she’s not giving anything at all.

The person who gets the medical diagnosis and knows that the future hold surgery after surgery after surgery with no hope of improvement.

You can add your own story of darkness. Anger. Illness. Mental illness. Despair. Grief. Addiction.

Without light, we stumble around in the dark. Without light, the darkness overcomes, overwhelms, frightens.

The light overcomes the darkness. The light helps us find our way. We have reached the midpoint of lent and maybe we are still wandering about in the darkness.

Being at the midpoint means we still have a chance to turn things around. Are we going to allow ourselves to be filled with fear and dread or are we going to be hopeful?

Jesus always gives us another chance to turn things around.

Jesus is the light that helps us find our way. We should not prefer the darkness. But sometimes we do. Rather, we should seek the light and the truth.

Saint Paul tells us God is rich in mercy. God doesn’t want us stumbling around in the dark. God wants to rescue us. That’s why God sent his son Jesus: to be a light in the darkness, to rescue us from our sins, to bring us to the truth.

Are we open to God rescuing us? Are we open to Jesus, the light, showing us the truth? Are we open to Jesus, the light, showing us the way?

We all get lost in the darkness from time to time. But because of the great love God has for us, we are brought to new life in Jesus Christ. We are saved. We are rescued from the darkness. We are brought into the light. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

3/4/18 - 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

Because we had such a harsh winter, I’ve heard folks saying, “I need to get out into my yard and see what survived.” Some things will have to be uprooted and thrown out. New flowers, trees and shrubs will have to be planted. 

Flower beds need to be cleaned out. What survived needs to be pruned and fertilized. That way, everything will bloom with new life in the coming months.

Many of our homes could probably use a good spring cleaning as well. We can, without even realizing it, accumulate lots of clutter over the years. 

For example, I have an old collection of VHS tapes. I don’t know why I keep them. The tapes are probably dry rotted and the player is getting old too. The movie library could easily be replaced with DVDs.

We have a tendency to hoard things because we think there is a chance we might use them again. Believe it or not, we do that with stuff here at the church too. 

I can’t tell you how many dumpsters I’ve filled in my seven years here with stuff that’s outdated, stuff that’s gone bad, stuff that we will never use again.

If we haven’t used something since I’ve been here, it’s unlikely that we will ever use it again.

And while our yards and our homes could use some sprucing up, it would be sad if we stopped there.

Jesus cleanses the temple because, over the years, it had become more of a marketplace and less a place of prayer. This cleansing of the temple is an opportunity to look at our lives during this lent and do some good Spring cleaning.

There are some cobwebs in our hearts and some accumulated clutter that doesn’t belong, some bad habits, some sins, some hurts, some grudges, some prejudices, some selfishness.

If we do a good Spring cleaning, our bad habits can give way to new habits, habits that will help us grow closer to God and one another.

If we do a good Spring cleaning, our sins give way to virtues. We could pick one sin and identify the accompanying virtue. Then we could work on that one virtue this lent. Progress not perfection.

Selfishness gives way to generosity. Pride gives way to humility. Anger gives way to peace. Grudges give way to kindness. Prejudices give way to understanding and acceptance. Hurts give way to healing.

You get the idea? One sin giving way to one virtue.

Let us pledge here and now to undertake a good Spring cleaning of the temples of our hearts. Why? So that Jesus doesn’t have to do this for us. Look at what happened in the temple.