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Monday, April 24, 2017

3rd Sunday of Easter



St. Luke's story about two disciples and their encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Emmaus has to be one of the most heartwarming and hopeful accounts in all scripture.  The two disciples, Cleopas and a companion, turned their backs on Jerusalem that monumental first day of the week and walked seven miles to Emmaus debriefing each other as they went along.  They were downcast, disappointed, full of sorrow and probably very confused.  Even though some women in their group and a few of the disciples had visited the tomb and returned with stories about a missing body and a vision of angels "who announced that he was alive," no one had actually seen Jesus.  

The hopeful part of the story is that Jesus sought them out.  He joined them on their journey and he walked with them all the way to Emmaus.  He interpreted scripture for them.  And when they invited him to stay with them; he accepted their invitation and shared a meal with them.  It was only after he blessed the bread and broke it that they recognized him.  Then he disappeared.  They returned to Jerusalem immediately to re-join their community and share their good news with the other disciples.  

There are many lessons for us in this story.  The most important lesson is that Jesus is always with us.  Jesus seeks us even when we try to run away.  He is with us in good times and bad times.  He is with us on our important, life changing journeys and our everyday activities.  We may not recognize him, but he is here.  Jesus speaks to us through scripture and in prayer.  Jesus is present when we gather as a congregation in worship, which is why we are called the Body of Christ.  Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist both through the priest in the act of consecration and in the bread and wine we eat and drink.  We believe that the consecrated host really becomes the Body of Christ and the blessed wine really becomes the Blood of Christ.  The risen Christ is very real and present here in Peachtree City, Georgia.  Having received Jesus through worship, word and Eucharist it is our responsibility to carry Him out into the world we live in, sharing the good news.  

God our Father,
our road in life is often tiresome
for it is the road of pilgrims.
Give us Jesus your Son
as our companion who journeys with us
and who warms our hearts with love and joy.
Let him keep breaking for us
the bread of himself that gives us courage.
Open our eyes to recognize him
in our downhearted and suffering brothers and sisters,
that they may see in us
something of our faith that our Lord is risen
and that he lives for ever and ever.
Amen.

Monday, April 17, 2017

2nd Sunday of Easter



“Peace be with you,” Jesus greets his disciples after the Resurrection when he enters the locked room where they are cowering in fear.  “Peace be with you,” he says again.    

Initially, when Jesus told his friends he was leaving peace with them, he was preparing them for his death. Over and over Jesus warned his followers about what was to come.  He wanted to comfort them.  In John 14: 27-29 Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, 'I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”  

What is this peace that Jesus is talking about? It is not peace, as our world understands it.  The peace that Jesus gives does not grant us immunity from pain and suffering, or even death, rather it enables us to face all these painful realities and triumph over them in union with the victory of Christ himself. Just as Jesus comes to the disciples hiding behind locked doors he comes to us today bringing his peace and empowering us to rejoice in his Resurrection.  He invites us to share in his Resurrection and life of glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  He invites us to join his pain and suffering with our own pain and suffering so that dying with him we may also rise with him and share in that peace which the world cannot give. 

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day when we reflect on the mercy and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.   As we continue our journey of faith during this week let this be our prayer.  

Prayer of entrustment to the Divine Mercy
O Lord, our God.
We place our trust in You,
Because you are mercy itself.
We repent of our sins and turn to You for mercy.
We trust You to provide for our every need, according to Your will.
Help us to forgive others as You forgive us.
We promise to be merciful by our deeds, words and prayers.
Though we have fears because of human weakness, we rely on Your infinite goodness and mercy.
We entrust to You the future of our planet, our Church, our nations, our families and all our needs. 
With loud cries, we implore your mercy on us and on the whole world.
Look upon us, created in your image and likeness.
Form us in the Heart of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit into the living images of mercy.
May all come to know the depth of Your mercy and sing the praises of Your mercy forever.
Amen!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Easter



When I was a child I loved Holy Week because during Holy Week we got special treats.  On Spy Wednesday, the presumed day that Judas bargained with the high priest to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, we ate hot cross buns.   And on Easter Sunday after mass all the children were showered with chocolate Easter eggs.  So, in the far reaches of my mind Easter and chocolate are closely aligned.    It probably was when I was about ten years old that I began to realize that Holy Week and Easter were more than hot cross buns and chocolate Easter eggs. 

If you are reading this, I think it is safe to assume that Easter means more to you than a sugar frenzy.  The celebration of Easter commemorates the most monumental event in human history, The Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Resurrection of Jesus is more than the fact of physical restoration of life; it is the culmination of our salvation history. The Easter Vigil readings trace salvation history from the story of creation to the many covenants God made with the children of Israel to baptism and finally to the Resurrection.  Since the creation of Adam, God has loved us, God has persevered with us, and God sent his own Son to die on a cross to save us and to guide us back to Him.   

Belief in the Resurrection is the central point of Christianity.  It is the heart of our Catholic faith, the focus of all our Church’s teaching and it is what we affirm every time we participate in the celebration of the Eucharist.  None of Jesus’ disciples or followers saw the actual resurrection.  What they saw was the empty tomb and appearances of the risen Jesus.  They believed because they saw Jesus with their own eyes.  In the Gospel of John 20: 29, Jesus tells the St. Thomas and us “"have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."   We are blessed because our faith in the Resurrection has brought us here today.  We are blessed because have received the greatest gift God has to offer, the gift of His Son, Jesus.  We are blessed because every time we share in the Eucharist, we are united with Christ.  For all these blessings, we should be shouting from the rooftops in Peachtree City, Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ has risen!  Alleluia! 

Lord God, loving Father,
we acclaim Jesus your Son as our Risen Lord.
We thank you that in him
a new, risen life has begun for us
and a new dawn has come for the world.
We pray that on this day of joy:
You pour out his Holy Spirit on us too,
that we may become new,
free in heart and spirit,
and break for each other the bread of love.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen

Passion Sunday



I believe that the foundation of Christianity and our Catholic faith is love.   And I believe that the whole point of Christian life is for us to receive the unconditional and overwhelming love of Christ and share it with other people.    So, as I reflected on today’s readings for Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord I found myself asking “where is the love in these readings”?  We begin Mass with a story of triumph that leads to death.  We hear about betrayal, the miscarriage of justice, torture, indifference and execution.   And today’s readings end with a sealed tomb.  It is an emotional roller coaster.   

In this dramatic narrative, Jesus is a lonely figure.  Although he is surrounded by people he is very much alone.  His friends failed him, one disciple betrayed him, another disciple denied him and the rest of them abandoned him.  The chief priests, scribes and elders spat on him and slapped him.  The Roman soldiers mocked and struck him.  The crowed reviled him.  Jesus endured all this humiliation, pain and suffering in obedience to his father and out of his unconditional love for us.  The story of the Crucifixion of Jesus is tragic, painful and shocking. Yet this is the greatest love story ever told.  Jesus on the cross is an eternal reminder of the profound love God has for us.  Jesus hanging on the cross is a story about love.    

During this Holy Week, we all have an opportunity to unite our hearts, our suffering, our pain and our sadness with that of Jesus.  We can gather with our community of faith to renew our commitment to service in the washing of feet and celebrate the last supper on Holy Thursday.  We can walk with Jesus towards his crucifixion and death by participating in the Station of the Cross and the Good Friday Liturgy.  Finally, we can celebrate the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday, renewing our baptismal promises, restoring our faith and rekindling our spirits of love, hope and joy.  


God our Father,
in the passion and death of Jesus, your Son,
you make us aware
of how deeply you love us.
Make us also conscious of how evil sin is
and help us to keep believing in your love
when we have to bear the cross of suffering.
For after the cross follows the resurrection,
for Jesus and for us.
Give us this firm faith
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

5th Sunday of Lent



A few weeks ago, I saw a tiny little article about an innovative investment initiative in Australia called the Lazarus Project.  It sounded to me like a get rich quick scheme so I ignored it.  However, as I was reflecting on the readings for today, the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11: 1 – 45, I remembered the little blurb so I Googled it.  It was easy to find and it still sounded to me like a get rich quick scheme.  However, what really surprised me was the number of initiatives called Lazarus this or Lazarus that that exist.  One is a scientific endeavor for “de-extinction”; another has to do with some sort of software; there is a Lazarus Project pain management program, a Lazarus Project mental health program and a Lazarus “Multi-Spectral Imaging Project.”  Also, there is an award-winning novel called the Lazarus Project and a not so good movie as well.  Clearly the Biblical story of Lazarus resonates with people but I wonder if they really understand the message.  

St. John's story about Jesus raising Lazarus demonstrates Jesus power over death.  It sets the stage for Jesus' own death and resurrection.  And it offers all of us who believe in Jesus the consolation that even when we die, our souls will live forever.  Although Lazarus is the focus of much of the action in this gospel passage, he is a silent participant in the drama that unfolds. 

It is the dramatic interaction between Jesus and Martha and Mary that carries the central message.  In many ways, Martha is the hero of this story.  When Martha greeted Jesus, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Her answer is confident and strong, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”   Just as Jesus directed this question to Martha, he directs the question to all of us.  “Do you believe this”?  Do you believe the words we repeat at every mass:  Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free or We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection, until you come again. These words are the heart our faith.   

So, the message of the miracle of Lazarus is that JESUS is resurrection and life.  The death of Lazarus provided Jesus with a way to demonstrate “the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11: 4).   And we must remember that Lazarus did not live forever.  Ultimately, he died.  And he like all of us is waiting for the time when Jesus will come again. 

As we complete the final days of Lent and prepare ourselves to enter into Holy Week, let us join with Martha, Mary, Lazarus and the entire communion of saints declaring “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world” (John 11: 27).



Merciful God,
you showed your glory to us all
by sending your Son
to conquer the powers of death
and call us forth into life.
Break the bonds which bind us,
that we may believe and proclaim Christ,
the source of life,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
AMEN