Sunday, April 26, 2020

Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter Reflection from the Archdiocese of New York

“Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”   From today's Gospel LK 24:13-35

Today’s gospel passage is often referred to when teaching about the Eucharist and how Christ is truly present in this sacrament.  We are all yearning for the Eucharist and for our parish community. During this time of social distancing, we may be taking time to pray and to come closer to the Lord, perhaps God is asking us to take that yearning and to transform it into something holy.

Today more than any other year He calls out to each one of us. It is indeed a calling almost too personal for us to resist. It has become personal because the crucifixion was as personal to our Lord as it is for us to hear of a family member who is ill or suffering.  This is why we can join into the mystery of hope that comes from a heart that knows He is truly risen, that death doesn't have the last word, that everything shall pass but His word endures. It is a calling to cooperate in God’s plan for the salvation of the world as we are the current carriers of the faith that we are also called to transmit it to everyone.
How do we do this?

It is true that at the moment we may not be able to go anywhere and that may make us feel like we are not doing anything. Yet we can, and we are. In Matthew’s gospel we read the greatest commandment that Jesus gives us “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it:You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37). Let’s take a moment and reflect: how are you loving God above all things? Are you speaking with Him more? Are you trusting Him more? Are you listening more during your prayer time? As a result of these changes, have your actions towards others changed?  Are you encouraging others when you speak to them over the phone? Are you praying for all the sick and for the souls of those who have left this world? Are you listening more to your family members when they share their thoughts with you? Are you seeing more of the goodness in your family members?

If you are not happy with your answers to the questions above, know that forming a relationship with God takes time, effort and persistence, just as a human relationship does. God can work with and through us, especially during this difficult time.
Let us thank God for all the ways He is working in our lives because by striving to love God above all things, and to love others as we love ourselves we are evangelizing.  Hence a great reason to be encouraged, and persevere in prayer like the first apostles who bore fruits. We are the fruit of their prayers.

Let us also be grateful for the people in our lives who evangelized us: parents, grandparents, teachers, youth ministers, neighbors, aunts, uncles, and our priests, we all have one particular person who came into our lives and introduced us to the beauty of prayer and a friendship with God. Let us pray in gratitude for all those who also made disciples out of us, and let us pray that we can always strive to do the same, and one day all together joyfully sit with the Father who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Second Sunday of Easter

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter which is called Divine Mercy Sunday!   In our Gospel today we have the familiar story of Thomas who needed proof that the apostles had seen the Risen Christ.  He was the sort of man who needed to see the marks of nails in Jesus’s hands and put his fingers right into the wound in His side before he could believe that Christ had risen from the dead. When the other disciples told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.”  He could not trust their tale. He could not be convinced.

Thomas believed after he had seen, after he had experienced the Risen Christ.  Our faith is one that is an experiential one.  Each one of us is given many different opportunities to experience our faith.  It is truly a matter of the heart.  We develop our relationship with God over our lifetime.  We do not have it all together at a certain point.  For each Christian the journey is unique.

As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday we ritualize one of God’s greatest gifts – mercy. To understand mercy is to look into the depths of the heart of God and see His great love for each one of us. It is to know that there is nothing that any one of us could do that would make God love us any less or any more. To understand mercy is to allow ourselves to be loved right where we are, right as we are.  Take some time today to reflect on God’s great mercy and love.  Are you able to accept and respond to God’s abundant love for you? 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Sunday

Sharing Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi message of Hope.  Happy Easter to all.

Pope’s Easter Urbi et Orbi message: “The contagion of hope”

Pope Francis’ 'Urbi et Orbi message on Easter Sunday challenges us to ban indifference, self-centeredness, division and forgetfulness during this time of Covid-19 – and to spread the “contagion” of hope.  By Se├án-Patrick Lovett

No banner hung from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica. No bands played the Vatican anthem. No floral arrangements decorated St Peter’s Square. Nearby streets were empty and silent, as Italy continues to respect a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

Inside the Basilica, surrounded only by his closest collaborators, Pope Francis delivered his traditional Easter Urbi et Orbi message to the city of Rome and the world.

A different “contagion”

Millions of people watched and listened on various media platforms as the Pope repeated the Easter proclamation: “Christ, my hope, is risen!” He called this message “a different ‘contagion’”, one that is transmitted “from heart to heart”.

This Good News is like a new flame that springs up “in the night of a world already faced with epochal challenges, and now oppressed by a pandemic severely testing our whole human family”, said the Pope.

Christ’s resurrection is not a “magic formula that makes problems vanish”, he continued, “it is the victory of love over the root of evil”. This victory “does not ‘by-pass’ suffering and death, but passes through them, opening a path in the abyss, transforming evil into good”, he added.

Comfort for those affected by the coronavirus

The Pope’s thoughts turned immediately to those directly affected by the coronavirus. “For many, this is an Easter of solitude, lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties”, he said.

“This disease has not only deprived us of human closeness, but also of the possibility of receiving in person the consolation that flows from the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation”, said Pope Francis.

“But the Lord has not left us alone”, he added. “United in our prayer, we are convinced that He has laid His hand upon us”.

Gratitude to those providing essential services

The Pope then expressed his gratitude and affection to doctors and nurses, and “to all who work diligently to guarantee the essential services necessary for civil society, and to the law enforcement and military personnel who in many countries have helped ease people’s difficulties and sufferings”.

Encouragement to work for the common good

Pope Francis acknowledged that “this is also a time of worry about an uncertain future, about jobs that are at risk”. He encouraged political leaders “to work actively for the common good”, providing the means “to enable everyone to lead a dignified life and, when circumstances allow, to assist them in resuming their normal daily activities”.

Not a time for indifference

This is not a time for indifference, said the Pope, “because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic”. He prayed that the risen Jesus may grant hope “to all the poor, to those living on the peripheries, to refugees and the homeless”.  Pope Francis also called for the relaxation of international sanctions and for “the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations”.

Not a time for self-centeredness

This is not a time for self-centeredness, continued Pope Francis, because “the challenge we are facing is shared by all”. Europe, in particular, was able “to overcome the rivalries of the past” following the Second World War, “thanks to a concrete spirit of solidarity”. It is urgent “these rivalries do not regain force”, the Pope continued. We all need to recognize ourselves “as part of a single family and support one another”. Selfishly pursuing particular interests risks “damaging the peaceful coexistence and development of future generations”, he added.

Not a time for division

This is not a time for division, said the Pope, as he appealed for “an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world”. Criticizing the vast amounts of money spent on the arms trade, Pope Francis called for a solution to the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. He said he hoped Israelis and Palestinians might resume dialogue, that the situation in eastern Ukraine might be resolved, and that “terrorist attacks carried out against so many innocent people in different African countries may come to an end”.

Not a time for forgetfulness

This is not a time for forgetfulness, continued Pope Francis, referring to the humanitarian crises being faced in Asia and Africa. He prayed for refugees and migrants “living in unbearable conditions, especially in Libya and on the border between Greece and Turkey”. The Pope prayed also that solutions may be found in Venezuela, allowing “international assistance to a population suffering from the grave political, socio-economic and health situation” there.

Christ dispels the darkness of suffering
“Indifference, self-centeredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time”, said the Pope. These words “seem to prevail when fear and death overwhelm us”, and we want to ban them forever, he added.

Pope Francis concluded his Urbi et Orbi message with a prayer: “May Christ, who has already defeated death and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, dispel the darkness of our suffering humanity and lead us into the light of His glorious day. A day that knows no end”.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week – the holiest week of the Liturgical Year. Some thirty five days ago we began our Lenten journey together as a community of faith.  In a few short days we will reach the end of Lent.  This is a week that one does not want to race through for it is a beautiful reminder of our God’s love for us.   

Today, on Palm Sunday, we read through the Passion narrative which is a rather lengthy reading.  It recounts the events of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His betrayal by Judas Iscariot, His Last Supper with His disciples, the Washing of the Feet, the Institution of the Eucharist, His arrest, trial and ultimately His Crucifixion.  There is so much to absorb in this Gospel that it at times boggles my mind.  I find my mind wanting to skip over parts of the story.

As we move into Holy Week, I invite you to set aside some time to journey with Jesus. Take some time to place yourself into the gospel scene. Take on the roles of the different people who are there.  Were you waving palm branches as Jesus rode into Jerusalem?  Were you one of the disciples at the Last Supper?  Were you there when He was arrested or had you fled?  Did you stay with Jesus all the way to Calvary?   Take the time to listen to Jesus’ message for you during these days as we approach Easter.