Sunday, April 11, 2021

Divine Mercy Sunday

 

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. Some twenty-one years ago, Pope John Paul II proclaimed that the Second Sunday of Easter would be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. This was proclaimed at the Canonization Mass of St. Faustina Kawalska, who worked throughout her life to make all aware of the merciful love of God.

In today’s Gospel, we hear the familiar story of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples while Thomas was not present and his reaction.  Thomas refused to believe without seeing – he needed proof that Jesus had indeed appeared to the others. Like Thomas, we too, are called to believe without seeing.  Thomas’ lack of belief should not surprise us.  He was reacting out of fear and grief. He wanted hard evidence that the Jesus who appeared to the other disciples was indeed the same Jesus who he saw crucified.  Thomas needed to see and feel his Lord.  A week later he would get his wish when Jesus would come again to the disciples gathered in the upper room.  Each time Jesus came, He greeted them with a greeting of peace.   “Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  (John 26)

With Thomas as our model, we can have great hope.  Even when our fears overcome us Jesus is still there for us.  We are blessed as we believe without having seen.  As we continue the Easter journey let us always remember that Jesus is always there for us and we are called to show mercy to all those we encounter.





Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Sunday

 

He has Risen Alleluia!  Alleluia!

Easter Blessing by David Whyte (in memoriam for John O’Donohue) 

The blessing of the morning light to you, may it find you even in your invisible appearances, may you be seen to have risen from some other place you know and have known in the darkness and that carries all you need. May you see what is hidden in you as a place of hospitality and shadowed shelter, may that hidden darkness be your gift to give, may you hold that shadow to the light and the silence of that shelter to the word of the light, may you join all of your previous disappearances with this new appearance, this new morning, this being seen again, new and newly alive. (From The Bell and the Blackbird)

 

May you have

 The gladness of Easter

which is Hope

 The promise of Easter

which is Peace

The spirit of Easter

which is Love



 


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Palm Sunday

 


Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of the Lenten Season, the beginning of Holy Week, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified.  Palm Sunday is known as such because the faithful will often receive palm branches which they use to participate in the reenactment of Christ's arrival in Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey, and to the lavish praise of the townspeople who threw clothes, or palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage. This was a customary practice for people of great respect.

Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday. The use of a donkey instead of a horse is highly symbolic, it represents the humble arrival of someone in peace, as opposed to arriving on a steed in war.  A week later, Christ would rise from the dead on the first Easter.

During Palm Sunday Mass, palms are distributed to parishioners who carry them in a ritual procession into church. The palms are blessed, and many people will fashion them into small crosses or other items of personal devotion.   The extra palm will be burned to create ashes for next year’s Ash Wednesday celebration.  The colors of the Mass on Palm Sunday are red and white, symbolizing the redemption in blood that Christ paid for the world.

As we begin this holiest week of the Church year let us take some time to pray, reflect and be present to each of the days of Holy Week.

 




Sunday, March 21, 2021

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 


Today is the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  At the Mass I participated in the cantor sang Rory Cooney’s Change Our Hearts.  While listening to this song I was struck by how much it mirrors the need our current world reality.  Right now, our world is suffering greatly.  We are besieged by Covid fatigue, increased incidents of violence, racism, and the crisis at our southern border.  Our world needs a change of heart.  Perhaps with the newness of spring this may happen.  As we enjoy this beautiful day take a few moments to listen to this song and allow it to fill your heart with the desire to change.

Change our hearts this time, Your word says it can be.
Change our minds this time Your life could make us free.

We are the people your call set apart, Lord, this time change our hearts.

Brought by your hand to the edge of our dreams, One foot in paradises, one in the waste; Drawn by your promises, Still we are lured By the shadows and the chains we leave behind. But

Change our hearts this time, Your word says it can be.
Change our minds this time Your life could make us free.

We are the people your call set apart, Lord, this time change our hearts.

Now as we watch you stretch out your hands, Offering abundances, fullness of joy.
Your milk and honey seem distant, Unreal, when we have bread and water in our hands.  But

Change our hearts this time, Your word says it can be.
Change our minds this time Your life could make us free.

We are the people your call set apart, Lord, this time change our hearts.

Show us the way that leads to your side, Over the mountains and sands of the soul.
Be for us manna, water from the stone, Light which says we never walk alone.  And

Change our hearts this time, Your word says it can be.
Change our minds this time Your life could make us free.

We are the people your call set apart, Lord, this time change our hearts.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Fourth Sunday of Lent

 

Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent or Laetare Sunday.  Laetare is the first word — meaning “rejoice” — in the Latin text. On Laetare Sunday (as similarly with the Third Sunday of Advent’s Gaudete Sunday) the Church expresses hope and joy amid our Lenten fasts and penances. The vestments worn by the priest are rose this day — this change in color indicates a glimpse of the joy that awaits us at Easter, just before we enter into the somber days of Passiontide.




 

This week we celebrate two great saints - St. Patrick, Patron saint of the Archdiocese of New York and St. Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

St. Patrick was a Roman of British origin, probably born near present-day Scotland. When he was sixteen years old, he was captured and sold into slavery. Six years later, he escaped and ended up on a ship bound for France where he trained for the priesthood at a monastery. Legend says that he used the shamrock to explain the difficult concept of the Trinity. An ardent and tireless missionary, Patrick endured much hardship, including beatings and imprisonment, to bring the Christian faith to the Celtic people. He has been honored as patron of Ireland since the seventh century.

 




St. Joseph was the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to the earliest Christian traditions, he was a carpenter or woodworker. The Gospel of Matthew calls him a "righteous man," meaning he was an observant Jew who obeyed God's law.  Joseph was engaged to Mary but when he discovered that she was pregnant with Jesus, he decided to quietly call off the marriage since the penalty for adultery was death by stoning. However, the angel of the Lord told him in a dream that he should go ahead with the marriage because Mary's child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This was the first of four divinely inspired dreams that are recorded in the Gospel of Matthew; for this reason, he is sometimes called "the dreamer." After each of these dreams, "he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him" (Matthew 1:24).  The Solemnity of St. Joseph is celebrated on March 19th. He is the patron of the Catholic Church, unborn children, fathers, immigrants, workers, travelers, carpenters, realtors, and of a happy death. He is also honored as the patron saint of workers on May 1st.

 

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis has proclaimed 2021 The Year of St. Joseph and has encouraged all the faithful to pray this prayer to St Joseph everyday:

 

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.

 




Sunday, March 7, 2021

Third Sunday of Lent

 

This Sunday is the third Sunday of Lent and we are nearing the middle of the Lenten season. This Sunday’s gospel speaks about the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus refers to His body as a temple that will be destroyed but rise again after three days. A great “mid-Lent” reminder of the joy we look forward to on Easter Sunday and on the life-giving power of our Lord. Let us continue toward this joyous day by prayer, fasting, and charity.

During Lent we are invited to fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  We do not perform these works to earn God’s pleasure or admittance into God’s presence. We already have that through what Jesus has done for us. Rather, our Lenten practices help us see and respond to those too hungry to fast, too scattered to pray, and too poor to give alms.

So, we ask ourselves:

• Do my Lenten observances make me more sensitive to those in need?

• Who are they and how shall I respond to them?

During Lent, we are called to fast, and pray, and to give alms.  Let us consider why we fast.

As penance - Throughout the Old Testament, people covered themselves in ashes, took off their fine clothes, and fasted to express their repentance from sin.

To make room for God - By emptying ourselves, even if just a little bit, we make room for God to enter our lives more fully.  When fasting and abstinence are hard, we are moved to turn to God in prayer for help.

To strengthen the will - Fasting is a spiritual discipline; just as physical exercise makes our body stronger, fasting strengthens our will. Practicing self-denial in small things strengthens our will to resist sin in other areas of our lives.

As preparation for mission - For Christians, fasting imitates the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert. Just as Jesus used this time to prepare for his public mission, fasting prepares us to continue His mission in the world.

In solidarity with the suffering Christ -Whatever small suffering we experience when we fast, brings us closer to the suffering Christ (and all people who suffer from hunger, malnutrition, and abuse daily).

Let us continue to faithfully live the Lenten journey as we journey to Easter.



Sunday, February 28, 2021

Second Sunday of Lent

 

On the second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading proclaims the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. This event is reported in each of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Mark’s Transfiguration story is similar to that found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ prediction about his passion. After this, in each of these Gospels, there is also a discussion of the cost of discipleship.

In each story, Jesus takes three of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—to a high mountain. While they are there, Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus.  First, we see that there are three persons on the “high mountain": Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. We see the priest, prophet, and King, the three offices of Jesus, embodied here by three physical persons. They seem to be in consultation and complete harmony, just as the Holy Trinity is three Persons in complete accord.

Next are the three witnesses, hand-picked by Jesus: Peter, chosen to be the “Rock” on which Jesus would build His Church; John, the youngest and the “beloved” disciple; and James, who would lead the Church in Jerusalem. This reminds us that the Father created, and nurtured man and He would build a Church using through his “beloved Son,” Jesus; and the Spirit would breathe life into the Church on the day of Pentecost.

We can also see each Person of the Holy Trinity in this passage: God the Father in the voice saying, “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him;” God the Son in physical form; and the cloud representing the Holy Spirit — just as He appeared in the desert in the Old testament. This is not something that would have been understood by the disciples, who “kept the matter to themselves.”

The use of the number three here is very intentional. The three on the mountain, the three witnesses, the indication of the three Persons, all point to the truth of the Trinity. This concept of God was completely foreign up to this point. What a mystery for the disciples, and us, to ponder as we continue the Lenten journey!



Sunday, February 21, 2021

First Sunday of Lent

 

On the first Sunday of Lent we read Mark’s account of this Jesus’ temptation in the desert.  In Mark’s Gospel, the desert marks beginning of Jesus’ battle with Satan; the ultimate test will be in Jesus’ final hours on the cross. In a similar way, our Lenten observances are only a beginning, a preparation for and a reinforcement of our ongoing struggle to resist the temptations we face in our lives. During Lent, we are led by the Holy Spirit to remember the vows of Baptism in which we promised to reject sin and to follow Jesus. Just as Jesus was ministered to by the angels, God also supports us in our struggle against sin and temptation. We succeed because Jesus conquered sin once and for all in his saving death on the cross.

Pope Francis has given us another way to look at fasting in Lent when he wrote:

DO YOU WANT TO FAST THIS LENT?

In the words of Pope Francis:

• Fast from hurting words and say kind words.

• Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.

• Fast from anger and be filled with patience.

• Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.

• Fast from worries and have trust in God.

• Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.

• Fast from pressures and be prayerful.

• Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.

• Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.

• Fast from grudges and be reconciled.

• Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

Pietrafitness.com





Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ash Wednesday


Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten season, normally observed as 40 days of prayer, fasting, and repentance in the days before Easter. In Ash Wednesday services, participants receive a blessing of ashes on their foreheads as a reminder of our mortality. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)”

The ashes are prepared by burning the palm fronds used during the prior year’s Palm Sunday celebration. They represent death and repentance, a reminder that we are human.

 More recently when one receives ashes, you hear "Turn away from sin and live the Gospel."

We encourage you to take a few minutes a day to pause, reflect, and pray throughout the season of Lent. These moments to reflect on your life and recommitting to your faith are a great way to prepare for Easter. 

Merciful God,

look upon us as we enter these Forty Days,

bearing the mark of ashes,

and bless our journey through the desert of Lent.

May our fasting be a hunger for justice;

our alms, a making of peace;

our prayer, the chant of humble and grateful hearts.

All that we do and pray is in the name of Jesus,

for in his cross you proclaim your love

forever and ever. 

Amen.

Wishing a peaceful and prayerful Lenten Season!



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”  The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.  Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.  He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.  He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere. Matthew 1: 40 - 45

Whenever I hear this story, I often find myself asking myself what are the things that I am ashamed of? What are the things I hide from?  What causes me to be distant from God?  Like the leper we must be courageous and willing to place ourselves in God’s presence.  He needed healing and was willing to ask Jesus for help.  We get to know God by bringing our brokenness to God and not trying to have it all together to seek help.  God accepts us in our need and with all our vulnerability.

“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’” When Jesus reached out and touched a leper, he reached across every boundary and did something totally unexpected.  Jesus is always willing to do the same for us.   All we need to do is ask and be willing to embrace our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Today we also celebrate Valentines Day.  It is a day where we celebrate love.  Let us acknowledge all our loved ones this year in a special way.  It has been a difficult year for all.  May our hearts and homes be filled with love, peace and joy this day and always.  Happy Valentines Day!




Sunday, February 7, 2021

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Today we celebrate the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  It is not just any Sunday as it is also Super Bowl Sunday and many states are being covered once again in a blanket of snow.  For the second time in a week snow is once again falling with the promise of not as much as the last one.  Nevertheless, the snow is falling and accumulating quickly. It is a beautiful sight.  I love watching the snow fall – it is so peaceful and calming. 

Looking at today’s Gospel reading the one thing that caught my attention was the fact that Jesus “went off to a deserted place” to pray.  Why did Jesus do this, after all Jesus is God?  The fact is that Jesus prays as an example for the rest of us.  As a reminder that we, too, need to pray.   We all had the experience of learning traditional prayers as young children.  As we grow and mature, we can allow our relationship with God to do the same.  We do not have to wait for the right time or have all the right words we just need to open our hearts to God’s abundant love.  It might begin as simply as settling down for five minutes, closing your eyes and placing yourself in the loving presence of God.  The more you do it the easier it gets.  Before you know it you will be settling down each day for longer periods and enjoying some relaxing time with God.




Sunday, January 31, 2021

Catholic Schools Week

 

Each year the last Sunday in January begins Catholic Schools Week.  The CSW 2021 - 2024 theme is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.” Catholic schools have a specific purpose to form students to be good citizens of the world, love God and neighbor and enrich society with the leaven of the gospel and by example of faith.
  
As communities of faith, Catholic schools instill in students their destiny to become saints.  Academic excellence is the hallmark of Catholic education intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person – mind, body and spirit.  Finally, service is fundamental to Catholic education and the core of Catholic discipleship.  Service is intended to help form people who are not only witnesses to Catholic social teaching, but also active participants through social learning.

The CSW logo emphasizes that the Catholic school, like the Catholic Church, is not a building or an institution, but it is the people. As the people of God, we work together to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth and raise up the next generation to do the same. The image of teachers and students forming the foundation of the school shows that they are active people of faith who serve others and God. May we all strive to live in active service of Jesus and his mission as we nationally join together during Catholic Schools Week and always.  May this week ahead be filled with many blessings for our Catholic School system.



Sunday, January 24, 2021

Word of God Sunday

 On September 30, 2019, on the memorial of St. Jerome, Pope Francis announced that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time would be celebrated as the Sunday of the Word of God in his Apostolic Letter, “Aperuit illis: Instituting the Sunday of the Word of God.”

In the Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, we are reminded of the role of the Word of God in the life of the Church:  In the hearing of God's word the Church is built up and grows, and in the signs of the liturgical celebration God's wonderful, past works in the history of salvation are presented anew as mysterious realities. God in turn makes use of the congregation of the faithful that celebrates the Liturgy in order that his word may speed on and be glorified and that his name be exalted among the nations.

Whenever, therefore, the Church, gathered by the Holy Spirit for liturgical celebration, announces and proclaims the word of God, she is aware of being a new people in whom the covenant made in the past is perfected and fulfilled. Baptism and confirmation in the Spirit have made all Christ's faithful into messengers of God's word because of the grace of hearing they have received. They must therefore be the bearers of the same word in the Church and in the world, at least by the witness of their lives.

The word of God proclaimed in the celebration of God's mysteries does not only address present conditions but looks back to past events and forward to what is yet to come. Thus, God's word shows us what we should hope for with such a longing that in this changing world our hearts will be set on the place where our true joys lie (Preamble, 7).

As the Church celebrates the 3rd Sunday of the Word of God, Pope Francis launched an appeal to all the faithful to keep the Sacred Scriptures close at all times and to read them frequently.  “One of the greatest gifts of our time is the rediscovery of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church and the faithful,” he said at the Sunday Angelus address.

Let us always seek to keep the Word of God alive in our hearts and minds.  Bernadette Farrell in her song, Word of God, invites us to reflect on God’s Word alive in our world.  

https://youtu.be/qJ0aQ6mou5E




Sunday, January 17, 2021

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Our readings continue with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, which concludes the Christmas season. Today’s reading from the Gospel according to John immediately follows John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus and his identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God. Having been baptized by John, Jesus begins to gather followers. The first followers sought out Jesus because of the testimony and witness of John the Baptist.

The first reading is taken from the first Book of Samuel 3:3b-10, 19 and gives an account of Samuel's vocation to take over the leadership of the Chosen People.  Samuel’s story is a familiar one where the young Samuel is sleeping and hears God calling him in the night.  Eli, the chief priest, told Samuel if he heard the voice again, he should respond, “Here I am, I come to do your will.”  The young Samuel did as he was instructed and followed the Lord’s instructions.

One of my favorite songs is this reading.  I remember when one of our sister’s introduced it to us and it has been a favorite of mine ever since.  The words are:

Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Make of me what pleases you.

Here I am, here I am, Lord.

You spoke my name and beckoned me to come.  Before you now I stand to listen to your word.

You have the words of everlasting life.  If I should turn to you, to whom would I go?

What joy it is to stand amid your glory.  Let me always stay in your presence, O God.

Show me the path that you would have me walk, And give me grace to do what is good in your sight.

May we always follow Samuel's example and be open to the call of the Lord.

Here is a link to listen to the song:  Here I Am, Lord

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Baptism of the Lord

 

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. This brings to an end the season of Christmas. The Church recalls Our Lord's second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to further his relationship with his heavenly Father.  The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.

In the Opening Prayer of our Liturgy, we hear: “Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.”

Let us pray this day for the grace to embrace the invitation of God’s will for us.  May we go forth in joy.  May we be led in peace.  May we know that God is with us, now and forever in all we do.



Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Epiphany of the Lord

 

Today we celebrate the first Sunday of 2021 and the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the revelation of the Messiah or the Savior of the world to all the nations and the peoples of the world. The visit of the Magi occurs directly before the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Matthew’s Gospel tells a version of 

Jesus’ birth that is different than the one in Luke. Of the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod . . .” The story of the census is found only in Luke’s Gospel, but we hear about the visit of the Magi only in Matthew’s Gospel.

We know little about the Magi. They come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following an astrological sign, so we believe them to be astrologers. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus.

We have come to consider the gifts they bring as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation. Gold is presented as representative of Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense is a symbol of his divinity because priests burned the substance in the Temple. Myrrh, which was used to prepare the dead for burial, is offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.

The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “showing forth.” Historically several moments in Christ’s early life and ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, his baptism by John, and his first miracle at Cana.

Today as we sing the traditional hymn -- We Three Kings let us recall that these three represent all of us searching for Christ in faith.  May we do so in faith, hope and love.