Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday (2nd Sunday of Easter) homily

This past weekend we just celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday instituted by our late Holy Father Pope John Paul The Great! This is a devotion that started to spread back in the 1930's based on the revelations given to St. Faustina Kowalska and for further information on Divine Mercy Sunday please visit: www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/index.htm


You may recall, (if old enough), in the early 1980s there was this mystery illness that started to gain attention and caused medical professionals to take notice. No one really knew how it was spread, what caused it, who was vulnerable, what was the best course of treatment, was there even any treatment, etc. so needless to say, there was a lot of fear, questions, stigma, misjudgments, and mystery surrounding this illness we now know to be HIV/AIDS. As you continue to read, remember the cultural climate of this situation, if you cannot recall this time period or were not alive then, imagine the fears associated with H1N1 Flu; multiply that by at least 10x! At least with H1N1 we know it is a form of the flu, with HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s it was a complete unknown in almost every way shape and form.

At the same time, a true story mind you, there was a young Franciscan priest residing at a parish in New York City along with three other parochial vicars (a.k.a. associate pastor) and a very prim and proper Monsignor who was the pastor. The Monsignor was a very well kept person, not a hair out of place, cuff links, the whole nine yards.

One day at dinner the Monsignor informed the other priests that a parishioner had called explaining that her son was in a local hospital dying of this mystery illness and was wondering if someone would visit him. The Monsignor proceeded to ask the parochial vicars if they would be free to visit this gentleman. One by one however, they politely excused themselves, perhaps for legitimate reasons or perhaps motivated by fear, who knows. Then the Monsignor looked at the Franciscan priest in residence and asked him, if he would be interested in going. The young Franciscan priest didn't say no but did acknowledge that he wasn't sure what he would say. Then the Monsignor asked, "Will you go if I go with you?"

The next day the two priests departed for the hospital. Before they entered the hospital room of the dying man, shrouded in in the mystery of this illness, they shrouded themselves in all sorts of protective gear, gloves, masks, hazard suits, etc. Then upon entering the room, the Monsignor seeing the dying gentleman, did something very uncharacteristic. Despite all the fears and implications it could have for him and/or his future ministry he took off his protective gear, his hazard suit, mask, gloves, everything and hugged the dying man. At this the dying man was in tears explaining this was the first time in a long time that anyone had embraced him, period! The Monsignor was also in tears and very touched explained to the young Franciscan priest, "I have been able to be for someone what Jesus has been for me everyday."

The dying man in the story was bound by the circumstances of his situation. Sometimes we too are bound by the circumstances of our own life situations or by our sins, or by own judgments, struggles, or sense of worthlessness. Whatever the case is, let us be clear, that the God's Divine Mercy, and what we celebrate today is about much more than going to the sacraments of Reconciliation, receiving the Eucharist, and the other prescribed prayers of the devotion. Divine Mercy Sunday is about coming to a deeper realization of the presence of God's mercy and just how much in love and in mercy God is reaching out to us.

The celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday stands in testimony to the very fact that God is and continues to reach out to us. God reaches out to us despite our past short comings, despite what we may or may not think of ourselves, despite any sense of worthlessness; God is reaches out to us!

In the sacraments God give us His complete and total forgiveness in the sacrament of Reconciliation and reminds us how much he reaches out us in the Eucharist. It is the Eucharist that we understand how much God loves us. AND this is why it is so good to be Catholic! For it is all well and good to give praise to God, to read and reflect upon the Sacred Scripture, but it is so much more to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. For it is in the Eucharist that, as we receive our Lord, we become ONE WITH HIM. Our God reaches out to us and loves so much that it is not good enough for Him to just receive our praise and worship but He gives Himself to us in His Body and Blood so that we may become one with Him.

In the cross we see the Lord reaching out to us. Yes, Jesus' arms were stretched wide on the cross for obvious reasons due to the shape of the cross. However, let us be clear, Jesus' posture on the cross is not simply a matter of circumstance but a matter of LOVE. Jesus' stretched arms on the cross remind us that He is always there to embrace us with arms wide open.

In our brothers and sisters the Lord also makes His mercy known. In the case of the Monsignor the dying man was able to know God's mercy and love. In the way we receive the embrace of others we can experience God's mercy and the way in which we reach out to others we can extend that mercy too.

And as we look to the scriptures this Sunday and in particular the Gospel, (Jn. 20:19-31 ). In the Gospel we see that despite their circumstances and fears that even a locked door was not going to keep Jesus out of the lives of the disciples. Jesus came and reached out to them, and said, "Peace be with you," despite their uncertainty and anxieties. This tells us that nothing will or can keep Christ away from us not even the locked doors of our hearts. We only need to embrace the mercy God is extending to us.

Furthermore, even when we are rooted more in struggle and doubt than faith as was Thomas, we see in what Christ did for him that our Lord will never stop reaching out to us and never stop doing what it takes to reach out to us in Word, Sacrament, or deed. As if to say, 'fine, if it takes you putting your fingers in my hands and your hand into my side to know that I am here, to know that I am very much alive, and to know that I LOVE YOU, then do it!'

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this weekend we celebrate God's Divine Mercy, reminding us that God continually reaches out to us in love. Despite our circumstances or what we can or cannot see, God is reaching out to us. May we embrace His mercy and offer that others in return.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Easter Mission

As we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday and throughout this Easter Season it is a time filled with joy, hope, and at times confusion. Yes, that's right, I said confusion. What do I mean by this???

Well, if we take a moment to think about it, how can we say that we believe in the resurrection which was meant to bring peace, joy, and hope and at the same time we see a world filled with violence, anger, famine, war, and other strife? While this negativity and certainly influence us or take the wind out of sails at times let us be clear that while down we are not down and out, while down we are not down for the count!!!

We always carry at least two things with us.

First is the hope we gain from the renewal of our baptismal promises. In this Easter Season we reclaim who we are, what we believe and what we are about!

Second is a sense of mission. Just as we were on a mission during our Lenten journey to grow closer to the Lord, we carry the same sense of mission into our Easter celebration. Armed with the faith we have renewed we are called to take that with us and share it everywhere we go!

Sort of like Kashi has 7 whole grains on a mission for a healthy life, WE the CHURCH have 7 Sacraments and 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit on a mission for the life of the world!

May we take the grace we receive by faith and the sacraments and bring that to where there is hatred, strife, despair, and by doing so, be the light and live the resurrection the world so desperately needs! By living out this Easter joy and taking it wherever we go we will help others to witness the resurrection in their midst!!! It will help others to take the resurrection from something that we not only believe but we experience too!

Peace be with you!