Sunday, March 18, 2018

4/6/2012 – Good Friday – John 18:1-19:42

      Scripture scholars John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg wrote a book entitled THE LAST WEEK about the events of Holy Week from an historical perspective.  Crossan and Borg call this day of Jesus’ crucifixion “the most solemn day of the Christian year”.   On the surface, calling the day Jesus died “Good Friday” might seem to be to be a contradiction in terms. In Spanish, today is called “Holy Friday”, while in German it is called “Sorrowful Friday”.  But we Christians know that calling today “Good Friday” is not a contradiction, because even though the horror of Christ’s death occurred today, it is also the day that the redemption of the world was accomplished. 
        We can make a connection between the death of Jesus on Good Friday with his resurrection which we celebrate on Easter in the Lenten observances we have been practicing these past weeks.  By praying the Way of the Cross on Fridays during Lent, we can make the connection between the sufferings that Christ endured and the sufferings and sacrifices that we endure in our own lives here on earth.  One of the prayers that is prayed at the ninth station, when Jesus falls the third time, states: “Almighty and eternal God, you permitted your son to be weakened, crushed, and profaned so that he might rise from the dead freed from the ravages of sin.  Help us to accept our weaknesses and failings as forerunners of our glorious resurrection in union with your son.”  Hopefully, uniting our sufferings, our weaknesses, and our failings to journey of Christ will help us grow in our faith and help find meaning in our journey.
         It is easy to say that we have faith and to praise the Lord when things are going well in our lives, isn’t it?  But when we go through those dark moments, we probably want to cry in pain and agony in the words of the psalm that we heard on Palm Sunday: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  In the passion that we heard today in the Gospel, there were those who abandoned Jesus and who only thought of themselves.  We saw Peter deny Jesus.  We saw Judas betray him.  We heard the crowd shouting to have Jesus crucified. Yet, we also saw the Blessed Mother, Mary of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala standing by the cross of Jesus out of love and loyalty.  We saw Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea give Jesus’ body a proper burial. 
         We have accompanied Jesus during Holy Week and we now honor him on this day that he died.  We venerate his cross out of our faith, out of our humility, out of knowing what the cross really means.  I will never forget an image from my first Good Friday liturgy as a priest.  That year, at St Richard parish in Jackson, we had all of our parishioners carrying rocks during Lent, to symbolize our sins and all that is keeping us from God.  We had everyone come an place their roots at the foot of the cross as a part of our Good Friday liturgy.  One young lady from our parish had been very ill for several years; she had not eaten anything by mouth all those years and had her nutrition brought into her body through tubes.  She rarely came to mass due to her medical condition, yet she was intent on coming up and venerating the cross of Jesus.  As she came up, one of the last to do so, dragging the box that contained her IV tubes and drips with her, there was not a dry eye in the entire congregation.  I thought – what a testimony it is to see this young lady uniting her sufferings with Christ’s sufferings, to find meaning in her faith in the cross of Jesus and in the redemption that it brings to us.  Today, as we connect our lives with Jesus’ passion and his death on the cross, we have hope in the resurrection that is come. 

29 March 2018 – Holy Thursday – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-15

     A couple of years ago, when I was serving as pastor at St James up in Tupelo, I received an email from Riley Manning, who was the religion reporter for the Tupelo Daily Journal in the midst of our Lenten journey.  This is one of the questions he asked me: For those who may not know, what is Holy Week and why is it important?
     In answering that question, I paraphrased a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, who stated that during Holy Week, we Christians reenact, relive, and share in the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. Pope Benedict said, that in many ways, the events of Holy Week tell us what our faith is all about. 
     We find ourselves commemorating Holy Thursday today in the middle of Holy Week.  One event of significance we have in our Holy Thursday liturgy is the establishment of the Eucharist for us as followers of Christ.  Paul tells us the simple and profound words of Jesus during the Passover that he celebrates with his disciples: “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In those words, Jesus gives us the gift of the Eucharist and the mandate that goes with it as well.  Paul goes on to say: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
      Perhaps it is the washing of the feet of the twelve representatives of our community of faith, representing Christ’s disciples, that helps explain to us what the Eucharist should mean to us and how we are to live out our lives of faith in the mandate Jesus gives to us.  At his first Holy Thursday mass as Pope, Pope Francis, made headlines all over the world for what he did.  Normally, the Pope celebrates Holy Thursday at one of the major basilicas in Rome, either St Peter or St John Lateran. The pope usually washes the feet of 12 priests during the mass, symbolizing the 12 apostles.  However, last year, he visited a youth prison for the Holy Thursday celebration, bathing the feet of 12 inmates, which included 2 women and 2 Muslims.  That was the first time that women had ever been included in the foot washing ceremony on Holy Thursday as celebrated by a Pope.  This evening, we will have the foot washing of 12 representatives of our community of faith.  However, all of us present today should feel Jesus washing our feet. Perhaps some of us feel resistance in our lives of faith right now.  Perhaps we are resistant to have Jesus wash our feet just as Peter was resistant.  Perhaps we don’t want Jesus to wash our feet, to give himself to us, to let him be servant for various reasons.  Perhaps we want our independence, to live according to our own laws and the laws of man rather than the laws of God.  Perhaps we don’t want to admit that we need to healed or saved or washed.  Or perhaps we don’t feel worthy.  Perhaps this year during Holy Week, God is calling us to name that part of ourselves that we need to surrender to him, that we need Jesus to love and to embrace, to wash and to clean. 
       Jesus gives us a mandate in the Gospel as he washing the feet of his apostles in a show of servanthood – to follow his model and to do for our brothers and sisters what Jesus has done for us.  The Gospel tells us that Jesus loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.  We are to love in the same way.  As Jesus washes our feet today, we are to feel love and gratitude in our hearts .  The way we approach the Eucharist and to live out the Eucharist, both today and everyday, is to flow out of that love and gratitude.
      Today we enter into the three days of liturgies before Easter – it is called the Triduum.  As we celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday together as a community of faith here at St Jude, let us see these three liturgies as a single prayer in our final preparation as we enter into the redemption and salvation of humanity that is made present in the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord.  

28 March 2018 – homily for Wednesday of Holy Week – Matthew 26:14-25

       Yesterday, on the Tuesday of Holy Week, the priests and lay ecclesial ministers from throughout our Diocese gather together in Jackson to attend the Chrism mass.  The Chrism Mass takes place in the Cathedral of each Diocese in the Catholic Church during Holy Week, reminding us of our unity in Christ through Baptism and its holy anointing, made possible by the ministry of the Bishop and his priests. The Chrism Mass is a key moment in which the unity of the Bishop with his priests is manifested and renewed. During the Chrism mass liturgy, the entire assembly is called to renew its baptismal promises. All the deacons and priests of the diocese renew their commitment of obedience to the Bishop in the ministries to which he assigns them. I always look forward to the Chrism Mass each year.  It is a great time for all of us in our very large Diocese to get together as one. 
         As the priests renewed their vow of obedience at the Chrism Mass last night, I thought about how many aspects of our lives concern making choices, since a priest renewing his obedience to his bishop is indeed a choice.  There are good choices we can make, choices that bring us closer to God.  Then, there are choices that take us away from God, choices that can weigh us down. 
         In today's Gospel, we hear how Judas betrayed Jesus, how he shared the meal with Jesus and the rest of his disciples in celebration of the Jewish holidays, while at the same time knowing in his heart that he would deliver Jesus into the hands of those who wanted to kill him.  Judas is an example of choosing to go down the wrong road and abandoning our faith. 
         Then we have Jesus, the Son of God, who could have demanded that people serve him. But Jesus came to serve others, not to be served.  Tomorrow, on Holy Thursday, we will remember how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, an action usually performed by a slave or a servant for a guest who had just come in from the dirty streets.  Jesus came to serve and to help others, which is so different from the attitude that Judas had, how he would betray his friend for his own personal gain.
         As we observe Holy Week this week, let us remember all those things we need to get rid of so that we will be more like Jesus, who came to serve, and less like Judas, who betrayed Jesus and thought of his own gain.

25 de marzo de 2018 – Domingo de Ramos

     Escuchamos una meditación muy larga de la palabra de Dios en la Pasión de Jesucristo esta tarde.  Para escuchar la proclamación de la Pasión de nuestro Señor del Evangelio de San Mateo, es importante para imaginar nuestra presencia en este lugar con Jesucristo y con la muchedumbre, en las calles y los barrios de Jerusalén.  Como seguidores de Jesucristo, somos participantes y espectadores como los demás. 
      En la narración de nuestro Evangelio, muchas personas han tomado muchas decisiones en sus vidas de fe – muchas decisiones para muchos razones.   Jesús tomó la decisión para seguir su camino a la cruz, para seguir la voluntad de Dios, para reconocer su identidad como el Hijo de Dios.  Jesús conocía que era un camino peligroso, un camino de mucho dolor.  Pero, nuestro Señor tomó su decisión en el amor y la compasión que tenía para nosotros, para todo el mundo. 
      Afuera de Jesús, había otras personas en las calles de Jerusalén este día.  Ellos hicieron decisiones sobre su fe y su destino.  Judas tomó una decisión para ser traidor a su Maestro.  Judas podía tener muchas razones para justificar su decisión, pero había un elección humana por su parte.  Y Pedro, la piedra, decidió negar al Señor tres veces, decisiones humanas también.  Poncio Pilato tuvo una decisión, y en esta decisión, Pilato firmó la sentencia de muerte de Jesucristo.
     Nosotros tenemos decisiones y elecciones humanas cada día en nuestro camino de fe – decisiones y elecciones grandes y pequeñas. Podemos seguir los valores de nuestra fe católica.  Podemos seguir el camino de la cruz con Jesús, el camino de salvación.   O podemos negar el amor de Jesucristo en nuestra vida, podemos destruir la confianza que nuestros hermanos en Cristo tenemos en nosotros.  Podemos tener solidaridad con Cristo y su cruz, o podemos vivir afuera de su camino.  Es nuestra decisión.  Hoy, entramos en la Semana Santa.  Es una experiencia muy profunda en nuestra vida de fe.  Vamos a aceptar esta invitación para acompañar a Nuestro Señor en su camino a la cruz.  Y con nuestro camino esta Semana Santa, podemos tener gozo con nuestro Señor en la resurrección de Pascua. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Book Review - Love - by Ernesto Cardenal

This is the second book by Ernesto Cardenal that I have read in recent months.  This priest from Nicaragua, who started out religious life here with the Trappists under Thomas Merton, and later returned to his native land, has a very cosmological outlook, linking our lived reality as disciples of Christ with all creation, not only here on earth, but in the cosmos as well.  All of this flows out of God's love.  A very interesting book, very much a meditation on different topics and aspects of God's love.  I have had these two books of his for a while, and am so glad I was able to read them.  By the way, the preface of this book was written by Thomas Merton.  It was first published in Spanish in 1970 and in English in 1974.  Merton passed away in December 1968.  

Monday, March 12, 2018

Book Review - Ten Popes who Shook the World - by Eamon Duffy

This was a very interesting book, telling the stories of ten different popes throughout history who had a huge impact on the world. From Peter, the first pope, to John Paul II, the pope during the last part of the twentieth century, these men certainly had different styles and interacted in profound ways according to their personalities and the historical circumstances that confronted them during their papacy, whether it be Pius XII serving during WWII or Paul III during the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent.  This was a very enjoyable book and kept my interest on every page.  

St Peter
Leo the Great
Gregory the Great
Gregory VII
Innocent III
Paul III
Pius IX
Pius XII
John Paul II

Sunday, March 11, 2018

March 25, 2018 – Palm Sunday –

     Even though Jesus entered Jerusalem on a humble donkey, the crowd welcomed Jesus into this holy city like he was a triumphant conqueror.  The people were astonished at the majesty of his presence.  Yet, a short time afterwards, Jesus enters into his passion and death on a cross.  As he carried his cross, as he died this humiliating death, the crowds saw his appearance as lowly and  humble.  He became the object of public derision.  On Palm Sunday, as we commemorate our annual entry into Holy Week, we commemorate this paradox – these dual aspects – of our faith.  On Palm Sunday, with the reading of Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem and with the reading of the passion, there is both triumph and rejection.  With Jesus nailed to the cross, there is both death and a promise of rebirth.
     There were two different types of people that welcomed Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem.  Some of those who waved palms and shouted “Hosanna in the highest” were expecting a Messiah who would bring power. might, and military victories to the nation of Israel.  Others in the crowd were looking for someone who would bring them a new-found hope in the midst of their desolation and despair.  They wanted a Messiah who would understand their lowliness, who would bring healing and nourishment to their bodies and souls, who would be with them in their moments of misery and suffering. Which group are we with?  Are we willing to wave the palm branches this morning, seeing hope and new life and encouragement in the midst of our Lenten journey, in the midst of what is weighing down our hearts?
      Palm Sunday presents us a paradox.  It would be easy to try to simply it, to not wrestle with the paradox in our minds. We started out today’s liturgy by recalling the moment when Jesus was most accepted by the public in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Then, we turn abruptly to the Passion, to his public betrayal and public failure.  While Jesus was ultimately betrayed by the public, while the laws of man condemned him, the law of God raises him up and the mind of God never leaves his side.  Jesus stays the course throughout his passion, even with all the internal and societal pressures that are weighing him down on this journey, that are wanting to bring him failure.  Thankfully, we know that the end of Holy Week will bring us hope and salvation, redemption and resurrection.   As we enter Palm Sunday today and trace Jesus’ journey every step of the way during this most Holy Week, may we sense God’s presence with us on our own journey, with the internal and outward pressures that weigh us all down.