A Very Good Friday

April 7, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Baptism, Discipleship, Forgiveness, Guest Celebrants, Lent, Love, Mission, Obedience

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
April 7, 2023 – Year A

Readings: Is 52:13-53:12 / Ps 31 / Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9 / Jn 18:1-19:42
by Rev. Jay Biber, Guest Celebrant

There is a dimension to our faith that allows us to see and experience things in a way that’s deeper and contrary to the initial impression.  For instance, the very name that we have for this day is Good Friday. How can that be? How can that be, this greatest chaos, the unimaginable? The unimaginable is not that God rose from the dead, the unimaginable part is God in Christ died. He really did, that’s the unimaginable. How could this happen? This absolute chaos, and we call it good.

The letter to the Hebrews was written late enough in the first and second generations of Christians, for them to have had some time to reflect as a community, to absorb this trauma, and to reflect on it and then begin to develop a vision.

In the reading we just heard, “Son though He was.” When we are called son or daughter in baptism, it means you’re an inheritor, you’re in the will. I guess we would say everyone is conceived a child of God from that moment on. This familial relationship, this being a son, this being an inheritor of God, comes with baptism. God willing, it doesn’t end there, but begins a long journey, a great adventure of life.

Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and when He was made perfect. But wasn’t He perfect the whole time? In His mission and role as the Son of the Father, the first begotten of the Father, the mission becomes perfected in the obedience to the Father’s plan. The Father says this is what has to be done.

These people I love are yelling at me right now, are shouting insults at me right now, are denying they know me right now.  To bring these people whom I’ve loved from the beginning, to bring these people back up on the rails, back on track: This is the perfection. John even uses the word glory.

When I hear the word glory, I assume he must be talking about the Resurrection or maybe the Ascension. That’s the glory.  But no, when John writes about glory – “I will draw all people to me” — that’s not at the Ascension, that’s on the cross, the perfection of obedience. When He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.

How unusual is this faith? We can’t really wish anyone a “Happy Good Friday.” Yet this is the day the work gets done. It’s a work that gets done not only so that we can benefit from it, so that we can take the fruits of it and be nourished and grow up in it and become an adult in it and become mature in it and go through a whole life with it as the mysteries continuously unfold and more will be revealed, always more will be revealed.

It’s not just so that we can benefit from it. The strange part is the work gets done so we can do it. We become perfected by that openness, by that obedience to the will of God. Accomplish in me, Lord, what You will. Accomplish in me, Lord, what You will, and let me get out of the way so You’re free to do what needs to be done.

What is so good about this day is of course we see disaster; we see the emptiness of it. Did you notice in the liturgy that there was no singing when we came in today? There was no singing because of the day. You realize something different is going on right now, and it is. But it’s a great gift.

I believe that if you can imagine it, you just say, Lord, I haven’t got this figured out now, and I’ll never get it completely figured out. But somehow, I’m looking at You and Your suffering. I’m thinking of the scourges, I’m thinking of the crown of thorns, I’m thinking of Peter’s denial, I’m thinking of the apostles running away. No illusions, but in that is Your glory. and when my heart becomes shaped over the years along Your lines, maybe I’ll be able to do something like that. because I will have morphed through Your grace into You.

I was talking to a parent up in Lexington a couple of days ago, and one of the kids is having a hard time and just feels that it’s impossible to be good enough for God. It’s funny how conscience works. I suspect parents can identify with this. With one child something happens, and it goes right by. With the other one, the same word is said, and it sinks in deep, and it alters things.

Similarly, I’ve seen over the years people who have a particularly keen conscience. We use the word scrupulosity when it really goes to the far end and becomes a serious problem. But some have a greater conscience than others and have a deeper sense that whatever their sin is, it is so serious and irredeemable that not even God can touch it.

This is what happened to Judas, as we hear in Matthew’s gospel. He felt that somehow his sin was greater than God’s grace could ever be. His sin was greater than the divine mercy could ever be, and so, he acted accordingly in his hopelessness.

Remember that God didn’t wait until you’re perfect to love you. That’s what we learned today. God didn’t wait for you to be perfect to love you. Yes, Good Friday is very good, because, as St. Paul says, nothing can keep us from the love of God.

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The Woman at the Well

March 12, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Deacon Barry, Eternal Life, Faith, Healing, Lent, Love, Reconciliation, Thanksgiving

Third Sunday of Lent
March 12, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Ex 17:3-7 / Ps 95 / Rom 5:1-2, 5-8 / Jn 4:5-42
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist

For a few moments I’d like for you to put yourself in the place of the woman at the well in today’s story.  Imagine you’re her and you’re there.  It’s dusty and it’s hot, even in the shade.  The dust and the wind are hot, and they’re sticking to you because you’re sweaty.  You’re a long walk from the village. You’re alone.  The jars are heavy even when empty.

I am the woman at the well, and I swim in dirty waters.  I exist and I swim in the waters of this world, this culture. It can be a cesspool really. The world doesn’t love me; it doesn’t care about me. Society, the culture, they wish for my power as their own. I’m worth what I produce for it. My dignity is ambiguous, my morality is ambiguous, dependent on what others might see in me or gain from me, so I behave the same. This culture that corrupts me by bombarding me with its messages: consume, it’s your truth, love whomever you’d like, if it feels good do it, the baby is not a person, the old man is a burden. This culture that has shaped me is the same that will condemn me, shun me, ignore me, separate me whenever it seems helpful to it. Governments, business, academics, art, media, these can’t save me. I am the woman at the well, and I swim in dirty waters.

I am the woman at the well, and I am a cast away, rejected, shunned, alone with my sin and my pain. There’s a reason I’m at the well far outside of town, alone with the sun at its peak and the heat. I am a cast away. That’s because no one will be there, no one carries heavy containers of water in the heat of the day; they go in the early morning or the late evening when it’s cool. But me, I go when no one will be there, no one to deride me, no one to judge me, no one to make me feel worse about myself than I already do. No one can help me, no one cares, no one loves me. Do I even deserve love anyway? I just need to exist. I just need to get by. I am the woman at the well and I am a cast away.

I am the woman at the well and I doubt Him. Why talk to me? Why care about me? I am a woman, I am from Samaria, I’m a pagan. You don’t know me; You can’t know me. Everything about me is the antithesis of what someone like You would value. I float in sin. I doubt You can help me. You don’t even have a vessel, a container for the water, and my darkness is deep, too deep for You to reach. How could You sustain me for even a few moments, let alone eternally? No, this doesn’t make sense, this must be some trick. You must want something from me or wish to gain something by this encounter. I am the woman at the well and I doubt Him.

I am the woman at the well and I accept Him. Wait, He does know me. He really, truly, knows me. He knows my heart, hardened and despairing as it is. I’ve never met Him, and yet He softly identifies everything about my darkness. He dips deeply into my well of shame and loathing and somehow accepts it, accepts me. He accepts who I am. His grace is bigger than my past, much bigger. He’s met me in the dark and barren places of my heart where I am and offered me His love without requiring anything. And yet, I feel I want to return to Him somehow. I want to acknowledge this immense gift. I welcome His gift. It’s what I’ve unknowingly been seeking. He has risen me to pure living water. I’m unsinkable. I live. I am the woman at the well and I accept Him.

I am the woman at the well and I know Him. I’m not even going to haul the water back or the containers. I’m lighter than air now. I’m restored. My burdens lifted. My guilt and shame washed away. I’m floating. But what about the others? They don’t know, they can’t know. They swim in dirty waters. They are castaways. They doubt love. If they knew Him, they might be light. I must share. I must let them know, because even me, and all my darkness and brokenness and doubt, even me He loves and wants to save. You’ve got to meet Him. There’s nothing greater, nothing more important, nothing more beautiful. He is the living water, salvation, the Christ. I am the woman at the well and I want you to know Him.

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Glimpses of God

March 5, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Eternal Life, Faith, Father Nixon, Hope, Lent, Resurrection, Strength, Trust

Second Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Gn 12:1-4a / Ps 33 / 2 Tm 1:8b-10 / Mt 17:1-9
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Our gospel today talks about the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor, or Mount Hebron.  Since the fifth century, every August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the Second Sunday of Lent each year is also called Transfiguration Sunday.

Because the gospel talks about this great event in the life of Jesus Christ, and His three disciples, Peter, James, and John, were witnesses to it, we can say the main purpose of Christ’s Transfiguration was to prepare the apostles for the events of Holy Week, when Jesus Christ sacrificed, died, and was nailed on the cross because of His great love for each one of us.  In other words, He prepared them for His upcoming suffering.

On the mountain, Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than met the eye.  During the Transfiguration, they get a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ resurrection.

And like them, we, too, get glimpses of the presence of God in our lives.  We get glimpses of God in the love we receive from other people.  We get glimpses of God when badly needed help suddenly comes to us from out of nowhere.  We get glimpses of God when we look back over our lives, and what we couldn’t understand in the past makes sense now.  We see glimpses of God in the beauty of a fine day, a nice beach, a beautiful sunrise or sunset.  We see glimpses of God when a passage from the Bible or a homily strikes a chord in our hearts.  We get a glimpse of God when we spend time in prayer and experience the loving presence of God in our lives. We get more than just a glimpse of God when we receive the body of Jesus in Holy Communion. The Transfiguration, coming early in Lent, encourages us to continue our Lenten penances, because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead.

When Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain, Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about the Transfiguration until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  Of course, they didn’t know what He meant.  Unknown to them was that the glory of Jesus’ Transfiguration was preparing them to accept the scandal of the cross.  They would understand this only afterwards when looking back.

Brothers and Sisters, the good times take us through the bad times.  So, when our cross is heavy, or we are tempted to despair about the meaning of life, let us look beyond the pain of the present moment and remember those times when we got glimpses of God, those times when God sent us His consolation.  Let us look beyond the pain of life and see the presence of God in our world and the offer of life that God wants to make to each of us.  Let us look beyond the illusion of happiness that this life offers to the real happiness that God offers us.  Let us look beyond this world to eternal life with God.

In our first reading, we heard Abram being called by God to leave his present place and go to a new country.  He was seventy-five when called to leave his old country but had to wait another twenty-five years for the promised son, Isaac, to be born, so that the promise of future descendants could be fulfilled.  That was a long wait.  It was a long time for him to be continually looking beyond the present to the promise of God.  With faith, we can see what we cannot see with our eyes.

On the mountain, Peter, James and John looked beyond the appearance of Jesus and saw His future risen glory.  Let us look beyond and see that God is really with us.  God has not left us on our own. God is with us.

The Transfiguration of Jesus in our gospel was not just about Jesus.  It was a vision of the glorious future to which we are all called.  We encounter problems and negativities, and we get hurt going through life.  Then we have the choice either to say negative things, or we can choose to remember who we really are:  brothers and sisters of Jesus, sons and daughters of God since Baptism, and that the glory of the Transfigured Jesus awaits each of us.

We can choose to think in negative ways, or to remember the encouragement we receive in sacred scripture.  In his first letter, John writes, “We are already children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed.  All we know is that, when it is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He really is.  We shall be like Him.”

The glory of the Transfigured Jesus is awaiting each of us, thanks to our Baptism.  So then for one who believes, there is no room for negative thinking.  We will be tempted to think negatively because of the events that occur to us, but let us not forget our dignity, no matter what happens, and no matter what others think of us or say to us.

The second reading today also gives us an insight into what God has destined for us.  It says, “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to His own design, and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.…”  God’s grace was granted to us before the beginning of time.  Imagine:  Since the beginning of time, God had you in His plan and had His grace planned for you.  Since the beginning of time, God planned to transform us through His son, Jesus.

The disciples who experienced Jesus’ Transfiguration had to come down the mountain and return to normality, but they remembered the Transfiguration.  Like them, we live in normality, but we believe, and know, that God has destined great things for us.  We say the Transfiguration prepared the disciples for the scandal of the cross.  Celebrating Jesus’ Transfiguration early in Lent reminds us of what comes after the cross, because it reminds us of the glory of Jesus risen from the dead.  In our worst moments of pain, may we not think negatively, but remember the encouragement we receive in sacred scripture, and that God has destined the glory of the Transfiguration for each of us in the next life.

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Your Lenten Voyage

February 26, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Courage, Deacon Mark, Faith, Grace, Humility, Lent, Scripture, Sin, Strength, Trust

First Sunday of Lent
February 26, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7 / Ps 51 / Rom 5:12-19 / Mt 4:1-11
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon

Lent can present us with seemingly impossible odds of success. Be transformed in holiness in forty days despite being surrounded by temptation, working or going to school or both, raising kids, fighting chronic illness or pain, being distant from God or lukewarm in our faith, and struggling with any number of vices or addictions.  One might say that entering into Lent is like setting sail on a perilous voyage.

For this metaphor, the story of the intrepid British explorer, Ernest Shackleton, comes to mind. His famous voyage to Antarctica took place from 1915 to 1916. He and his crew were faced with nearly impossible odds of survival. His ship, the Endurance, was made of wood. The ice trapped it and then broke and sank it, leaving the crew in lifeboats.  No one else knew they were in trouble, for they had no radio nor phone back then.

Death could snatch their lives in any number of ways including freezing, starving, or drowning. They ended up making their way to a tiny island off Antarctica. Shackleton and five others left the crew there to go get help. They sailed by the stars over eight hundred miles in an open lifeboat, to try to get to a remote, South Georgia whaling island. If they missed it, they would run out of supplies and die, as would their crew back in Antarctica. Each day their routines kept them alive and brought a little hope, but as the days dragged on, doubt crept back. And not just of surviving, but of being heroes and transformed men. We will finish their story later, but for now let’s apply their plight to our 2023 Lent.

There was a recruiting poster for Shackleton’s voyage that read more like something to run from than to sign up for. “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.” Imagine if we had a recruiting poster for Lent. What would be on it?

It could read something like this, “Men and women wanted for a spiritual journey. No wages, facing your weaknesses, confessing your sins, long hours of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Returning unchanged…doubtful. Increased peace and holiness in event of success. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Maybe it is not as ominous as the Shackleton poster, but it is not exactly a picnic either.

And yet, just as Shackleton’s poster filled his ship with crew members, so too does Jesus’ Lenten invitation seem to fill Catholic churches on Ash Wednesdays.  God made us to desire and seek out challenges that will transform us into a better person, so off we set sail on our Lenten voyage with an ashen cross on our foreheads.

Mondays through Saturdays during a good Lent can be rough at times.  Knowing that where we are is not the best place we can be, no matter how good we may think it is, we go about our daily Lenten routine religiously. We pray extra with the daily Lenten readings on the USCCB website and with our Catholic apps like Hallow, iBreviary, and Laudate. We fast daily by practicing the virtue of temperance…no snacking between meals, less phone time, less gaming, less TV, less coffee… And we increase our acts of love using the grace from God’s word and the extra prayer and by making good use of the time freed up by abstaining from or minimizing non-essential things.

If you really go for it, if you really try to allow God to form you more into the person He created you to be, the person that will feel whole and at peace, then you will come to each Sunday needing healing and hope like Shackleton’s crew left behind on the island. Lenten Sundays are like repair and restocking islands along our Lenten voyage. Why? Because there is a good chance you will have a wounded ego, having stumbled in your Lenten promises. Good! Catholic author and scholar Mark Searle wrote, “Lenten penance may be more effective if we fail in our resolutions than if we succeed, for its purpose is not to confirm us in our virtue but to bring home to us our radical need for salvation (Ordo 68).”

In today’s gospel reading, we see Jesus, without using His divine power, overcome the same temptations with which Satan conquered Adam and Eve. Jesus uses God’s word and His faith in it. We can, too. The Church has set us up with the right scriptures. Read the daily readings daily. They prepare you to more fully receive the grace of the Sunday readings.

Here is what I am talking about. Next Sunday, the Second Sunday of Lent, possibly having stumbled, we will be encouraged by getting a sneak peek at the glory we are striving for in Lent, as we gaze upon Jesus’ glory in the Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John.  On the third Sunday, when our water rations are running low, we stop at a water well and listen in on the conversation between the lonely Samaritan woman and Jesus. Her encounter with Him restores her relationships in town, heals her interior wounds, and gives her life new purpose. The fourth Sunday, when we are losing our way in the dark and rough seas, we witness Jesus open the eyes of the man “blind from birth (Jn 9:1).” By the fifth Sunday, we are really wearing down and think we cannot go on. We start to lose hope of changing until we behold Jesus calling Lazarus to come out of his tomb, from death to new life.

These stories are like when Shackleton, dying of thirst and cold on his eight-hundred-mile lifeboat voyage, saw kelp and sea birds and realized that, though he could not see it, land and help were not far away. The sixth Sunday we see palm branches and know our journey is nearing its end; it is Palm Sunday, and the Resurrection is only a week away.

The daily readings the first few weeks of Lent are meant to remind us that we are sinners that need a savior.  Mark Searle points out that in the second half of Lent the readings shift from a focus on our weakness to the power of Christ to heal and to renew our lives.

What is your destination this Lent? What is the conversion Jesus is calling you to this year? What ominous, threatening invitation was on your recruiting poster on Ash Wednesday?

In today’s first reading, Eve looked at that forbidden fruit and saw that it was “pleasing to the eyes and desirable (Gn 3:6).” What forbidden fruit have you given in to? Maybe Jesus is calling you to research the Church’s teaching on a moral issue with which you disagree or have given up on such as divorce, fidelity in marriage, pornography, abortion, capital punishment, gay marriage, gender dysphoria, or schools teaching kids worldly morality? These are tough issues confronting all of us. Learn why the Church stands opposed to the world on these issues. She is our mother, and she has the wisdom of two thousand years of battling against sin under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

King David tried the forbidden fruit. Despite being his nation’s leader and above the law, when he committed the sins of adultery and murder, his life took a turn for the worse. David realized his sin because a friend pointed it out to him. His subsequent confession and recognition of God’s mercy is today’s Psalm 51.

A good daily Lenten routine would be to pray David’s words and make them your own, “My sin is before me always…Against you only have I sinned…A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.”  Jesus answers that prayer through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, confession, and Holy Communion. In baptism and confirmation, He gave us a new heart and a steadfast spirit; His heart and His spirit. In confession and Holy Communion, He renews them within us.

What happened to Shackleton’s crew, left stranded on that tiny island off Antarctica? For their daily routine, to keep them from the despair of the seemingly impossible odds and to make sure they were ready when the time for rescue came, they broke camp every day and packed to be ready to board the rescue ship. However, days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months.  And 105 days later, when they were thinking the daily routine was a waste of time, their captain appeared on a rescue ship and called out, “Are you all well?” And the crew called back, “All safe, all well!” Not a single crew member died.

While struggling to survive and to avoid falling into despair, the crew was not aware of all their captain was going through to save them. They were not aware of what he would endure and overcome out of loyalty to them. He sailed across eight hundred miles of freezing ocean in an open boat. Climbed a frozen mountain despite suffering from frost bite, skin ravaged by constantly wet clothing, and a tongue swollen from a lack of fresh water. He climbed down a freezing waterfall and crawled across cracking ice on a frozen lake. And astoundingly, did not stop to rest when he found shelter, food, and water, but set sail the very next day to go get his crew. He had to make four attempts to get to them, turned back by ice and other obstacles three times. On the fourth try he returned and saved them.

You know where I am going with this. Shackleton was just a man and he saved his whole crew against seemingly impossible odds. Jesus is God, infinitely powerful. He is our captain.  How much more so can He help us overcome our weaknesses this Lent?

Here is how you succeed. Imitate Shackleton’s crew. Keep your daily routine and when you fail, start it again the very next day. Have a crewmate or accountability partner and touch base daily. Use the daily readings and prayer to remind you what Jesus is doing while you struggle through Lent. He did not abandon us. He literally suffered, died, and went to hell and back for us. Our captain is with us every day as we pray, fast, and love. And when we fail even in sometimes shameful ways, He is shoulder to shoulder with us. He knows what temptation is like. He knows what feeling God-forsaken and lost is like.

He does not just show us the way to personal transformation. He IS the way. He IS our north star. The crucifix is our Lenten voyage compass, always pointing to heaven through our voluntary and involuntary suffering. Cajun priest, author, and spiritual director Fr. Mark Toups sums up Lent well and I am paraphrasing here.  He wrote, “Remember that Lent is not about you. It is about Jesus. He is the one who wants this Lent to be transformational for you. Lent is not about what you are doing. It is about what God is doing with what you are doing for Lent. It is not so much about checking off a list of things you achieved during Lent, but about those things helping set you up for a life-changing, personal encounter with Jesus Christ like Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration, the Samaritan woman at the well, and Lazarus in his tomb (13).”

This coming Easter Vigil when our Captain calls out, “Are you all well?” May we all be able to respond, “We are safe and well, my Lord.”  Amen.

Citations

Diocese of Richmond. Ordo – Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and Celebration of the Eucharist 2023. Paulist Press 2022.

Peter Kreeft. Food for the Soul – Reflections on the Mass Readings for Cycle A. Word of Fire 2022.

Fr. Mark Toups. Lenten Companion, A Personal Encounter with the Power of the Gospel. Ascension Publishing 2023.

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Hungry and Thirsty for God

February 22, 2023 |by N W | 0 Comments | Charity, Compassion, Family, Father Nixon, Generosity, Lent, Mercy, Sin, St. Paul

Ash Wednesday
February 22, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Jl 2:12-18 / Ps 51 / 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2 / Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Today is the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Our gospel today reminds us of the three traditional gestures, or balances, so that we can enter into the spirit of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  This also helps us to prepare for the suffering and death and resurrection of Our Lord, who is the source of our salvation.

Today the Church asks us also to fast and abstain. Fasting is a form of penance that imposes limits on the kind or quantity of food and drink. This is applicable to ages fifteen to fifty-nine. Abstinence refers to refraining from certain kinds of food or drink, like meat or those cravings or those foods that we like to eat every day. This applies to ages fourteen and above.

Why, brothers and sisters, does the Church ask us to fast and eat only one full meal today and on Good Friday?  (Fasting is only for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.) We don’t fast in order to save money or to lessen our expenses.

First, we fast so that what we gather or what we collect we can share with the hungry. Sanctifying ourselves has to do with tenderness and compassion for the poor and the needy. Our penance has a social dimension, so that we can be in solidarity with others who are hungry.

Second, we fast because we are hoping that we experience physical hunger, so that it will awaken in us a deeper level of hunger.  What is that deeper hunger? It is the hunger for God, hunger and thirst for God.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters observe fasting, which they call Ramadan.  It is said that, when they are at the height of their hunger because of long fasting, that is the time when they read the Koran, their holy book. They believe that, when the body is very hungry, it is open to receive God.

The same thing with us. When we feel hunger, it awakens the deeper hunger that we have: our hunger for God.  This hunger of ours for the Lord will bring us to our brothers and sisters who are hungry because of poverty.

In our first reading, the prophet Joel tells us that God, the Lord, is gracious and merciful. In our second reading, Paul reminds us that we are God’s coworkers, and he urges us not to receive God’s grace in vain. Connecting the meaning of the two readings, they tell us that the mercy that the Lord has given us, we will need to share with others.

How can we keep our penance and our compassion from making us sad people, because doing our penance or showing an act of compassion can be a very challenging thing?

Fasting is not only for food but also for our bad habits. Yes, it is true that every one of us here has our favorite food, but we also have our favorite sins. During the season of Lent, we’re invited to avoid these sins by denying ourselves, by controlling our desires and cravings.

Going back to the question, how can we keep a happy heart even if we deny ourselves? A spiritual writer said: “We can be happy even with our sacrifices and self-denial if we put emphasis on what we say ‘yes’ to, not to what we say ‘no’ to.” If we focus more on what we say ‘yes’ to, that makes us happy.

If we want to be happy in all our sacrifices, we need to focus on the reasons why we say ‘yes.’ For example, as parents, your ‘yes’ to your children is “I want my children to be successful, and that’s my commitment, that’s my ‘yes.’ But that ‘yes’ has a payment. It involves a lot of sacrifices. That’s why, in order for my children to succeed, I must work hard. Sometimes I work overtime. When I get my salary, I will take good care of it, and I will not waste it on my vices.”

That’s a big sacrifice on the part of the parents. They work so hard, even if they are tired. They continue to work overtime because of their love for their children, because they have that vision, they have that ‘yes’ that “I want a good future for my children. That’s a big sacrifice and it is meaningful for me, as a parent, and that’s what makes my heart joyful.”

So, brothers and sisters, we focus our commitment on saying ‘yes,’ because if we do that, we can be closer to the Lord. Our penance, every time we celebrate the season of Lent, is to be closer to the Lord and closer to the poor and those who need our help.

Saint John Paul II said, “The deepest fulfillment of every human person is in the giving of self.” Who can do this? Who can give their selves to others? Only those people who are hungry and thirsty for God.

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Untethered and Obedient

April 10, 2022 |by N W | 0 Comments | Deacon Barry, Discipleship, Healing, Humility, Lent | ,

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
April 10, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Lk 19:28-40 / Is 50:4-7 / Ps 22 / Phil 2:6-11 / Lk 22:14 – 23:56
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist

Today is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.  On this Palm Sunday, we gather together to join Jesus in His final journey toward His divine purpose.  After five weeks in the desert of Lent, we are all joyful and relieved that Easter is coming, and Jesus is near.

Just a few moments ago, we gathered in the commons with our palms being blessed, anticipating Him of whom we’ve heard so much.  There was a little excitement and a sense of community as we looked at others across the circle.  You could feel a sense of purpose.  Then we joined in that triumphant procession toward this holy place, our “temple,” just like the people in the gospel arriving in Jerusalem.  We, like them, were marrying our hopes and aspirations to those of this simple teacher from Galilee.

In very short order, however, our joy and hopes were crushed, as we listened in horror to the gospel dialog of the Lord’s Passion.  Thankfully, we know the outcome.  We know the victory.  We have the blessing to be on this side of history, looking back for our assurances.  The people there, the disciples there that day, had an uncertain future.  Their lives were so difficult in a brutal and occupied territory.

I’ve heard this Palm Sunday set of readings for years, and I read it quite a few times as I was preparing for preaching this weekend.  There is one character in the story that I could not get out of my mind this past week.  He’s a minor detail, really, easily brushed off and forgotten.  I’m talking about the donkey.

Why did Jesus need a ride and why did He choose a donkey?  Jesus had been walking all over Galilee, Judea, and Samaria, for three years.  He walked everywhere and I would imagine that He was very fit and used to walking.  He had set His mind on the journey to Jerusalem just a few weeks ago.  He was making a beeline to Jerusalem, and yet He stopped just a mile or so from the destination, and decided to send two of His disciples to go get a donkey for this last little piece.  Curious, isn’t it?

Every Jew in Jesus’ day and especially in His audience would have been very familiar with the prophesy of Zechariah about the king’s entry into Jerusalem.  Zechariah 9: 9-10 says:

Exult greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he,
Humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem;
The warrior’s bow will be banished, and he will proclaim peace to all the nations.
His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Jesus, choosing this donkey, verifies this prophecy.

What does it say to us, that He is riding in on a donkey?  It says to us that Jesus is a king, and that the King is coming to you.  To you and to me by name.  It says Jesus is a just Savior.  He wants to save you, to remove you from sin and death, to justify you, moving you from darkness to light.  It says Jesus is humble.  He is not riding a great stallion or being carried in an ornate wagon.  He is gentle, caring, and arriving on a common donkey.  It says Jesus is peaceful.  He is not conquering with horse and chariot, and bow.  No violence.  Peacefully, He comes to you.  He doesn’t force your heart.  He asks.  It says Jesus’ reign, His dominion, is universal from sea to sea.  That tells us He’s coming for everyone, every single one of us.  Are we open?  Are we ready?

Another curious thing about the story is that in order to complete this divine mission, in getting the help of this common creature, we learn that the donkey was born for one purpose and one purpose only.  The donkey had never been sat upon by anyone.  The donkey’s purpose was to serve the Lord.  But the donkey couldn’t come on his own.  He was tethered and needed guidance.  Luke makes so much of the fact that the donkey was tethered and needed to be untied.

I started thinking that maybe you and I are the donkey.  Weren’t we all born for one purpose:  to serve the Lord?  Aren’t we also tied up, bound to so many other things?  Take a moment and think about what ties you, what binds you, what holds you back and separates you from truly loving and truly serving Him?  Jesus, in His wisdom and compassion, sent disciples to help us, to untie us and lead us to Him.  The Church, her Sacraments, her clergy, and all her holy and prayerful people have all been around and are still here to help set our hearts free and guide us to the Master, whom we were born to serve.

What binds you?  What is your tether?  Is it pride, or fear, indifference, busy-ness, or shame?  There is something in the world out there causing separation.  Our tether has been expertly bound by sin.  Satan works around the clock to keep those knots tight and secure.  But this week, as we go through Holy Week, we learn how and by whom we are liberated.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

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Focused on the Light

March 14, 2021 |by N W | Comments Off on Focused on the Light | Deacon Eddie, Discipleship, Evangelization, Joy, Lent, Light, Mission, Self-Reflection

Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 14, 2021 — Year B
Readings: 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23 / Ps 137 / Eph 2:4-10 / Jn 3:14-21
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

This, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is also known as Laetare Sunday, from the first word of today’s antiphon: Laetare! which means Rejoice! Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom, gives us this special Sunday right in the middle of Lent. Lent tends to be a little bit somber: We’re fasting; we’re giving things up. Today, we’re called to take a break from that. It’s an opportunity to refocus, to reevaluate, to ask ourselves, “How are we doing?” (more…)

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Care for God’s Temple

March 7, 2021 |by N W | Comments Off on Care for God’s Temple | Easter, Father Salvador, Lent, Repentance, Resurrection, Sin

Third Sunday of Lent
March 7, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Ex 20:1-17 / Ps 19 / 1 Cor 1:22-25 / Jn 2:13-25
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor

A story is told about two altar servers who, one Sunday morning, while waiting for the Mass to begin, noticed that the priest was wearing a vestment in a color that was out of the ordinary. One of them said, “It is quite unusual that Father is wearing a pink robe today.” The other corrected him, saying, “It’s rose, not pink.” “How do you know?” the first asked. He answered, “Because Jesus ROSE from the dead; he didn’t PINK from it.” (more…)

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Keep Moving Forward

February 21, 2021 |by N W | Comments Off on Keep Moving Forward | Baptism, Discipleship, Father Salvador, Grace, Lent, Strength

First Sunday of Lent
February 21, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Gn 9:8-15 / Ps 25 / 1 Pt 3:18-22 / Mk 1:12-15
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor

During these difficult times, we all hunger for the Good News. The story of Noah, which we heard in the First Reading is, indeed, great news for all of us, God’s children. The Lord God told Noah that he and his descendants could move forward, free from fear. He promised that bodily creatures will never again be destroyed by a flood. (more…)

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How to Get Closer to Jesus

February 17, 2021 |by N W | Comments Off on How to Get Closer to Jesus | Commitment, Father Salvador, Lent, Prayer, Repentance, St. Luke, St. Mark, Wisdom |

Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Jl 2:12-18 / Ps 51 / 2 Cor 5:20-6:2 / Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor

Today, Ash Wednesday, as we begin the forty-day season of Lent, we may have at the back of our minds that this is the time we are supposed to give up something. Many, perhaps, will ask, “Is there anything else left that we can still give up?”

Since the beginning of this pandemic, we might feel, and rightfully so, that we have already given up quite a bit in our lives. We gave up shaking hands, gathering for parties in our homes or elsewhere, traveling, and going on vacations. Even in the church, we have given up sitting in our favorite pews and, for a good number of us, due to our health conditions, we are forced to give up being physically present in our liturgical celebration in the church. (more…)

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