Sunday, March 29, 2015

Celebrating Palm Sunday -


We have been getting our church ready for our celebration of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Come see our new floor, newly painted walls, new LED lights, polished pews, and refinished Stations of the Cross. The hard work of many hands helped bring this all together. So many people have a great love for our parish of St James the Greater in Tupelo. Our Palm Sunday liturgies will start with the blessing of the palms in the gym and then the procession to the Church. Join us at one of our five masses this weekend for the beginning of Holy Week: 

Vigil mass - Saturday at 4:30 pm. 

Sunday morning masses in English - 8:00 am and 10:30 am. 

Sunday mass in Spanish - 1:00 pm

Sunday evening youth mass - 5:00 pm

Saturday, March 28, 2015

3/29/2015 – Domingo de ramos – Marcos 14,1 – 15,47, Marcos 11, 1-10

      Cuando el emperador romano Constantino reconoció la Iglesia en el siglo cuatro, los cristianos en Jerusalén comenzaron a representar públicamente la solemne entrada de Cristo en su ciudad el domingo antes de Pascua. Este domingo tiene el nombre – Domingo de ramos.  Había una gran procesión por las calles de Jerusalén. La muchedumbre llevaba los ramos y cantaba "¡Hosanna en las alturas!".  Seguimos en esta misma tradición de la Iglesia Antigua hoy al conmemorar el Domingo de Ramos de la Pasión del Señor y el comienzo de la Semana Santa.  Además de la procesión con ramos, la otra característica antigua del Domingo de Ramos es la lectura del Evangelio de la Pasión en esta celebración.   La Semana Santa es un tiempo sagrado y especial en el año litúrgico de la Iglesia.  Es una semana donde completamos nuestro viaje con Jesús en su camino a la cruz, en su viaje a su muerte y resurrección y en la salvación que tenemos en él.
       En nuestra celebración de hoy, Cristo inicia su pasión entrando triunfalmente en Jerusalén en una entrada de amor y generosidad en lugar de poder y fuerza.  Sin embargo, en esta entrada triunfal, Jesús no entró como los grandes y poderosos del mundo; entró revestido de humildad y sencillez montado en un burrito. En esta entrada, era la gente sencilla que aclamaba a Jesús como el Mesías.  Era en esta ocasión cuando se hace realidad lo que ya antes había dicho Jesús: “Yo te bendigo, Padre, Señor del cielo y de la tierra, porque has ocultado estas cosas a los sabios y los entendidos, y se las has revelado a la gente sencilla y a los niños.”  Era la gente humilde y sencilla que reconoce que Cristo es nuestro único salvador.  La muchedumbre, llena de alegría, alfombraba el suelo con sus mantos y con ramos cortados en el campo para dar una bienvenida de gozo a su entrada.
  El orgullo y la arrogancia de los poderosos es lo que cierra los ojos de su fe. En lugar de alegrarse por la llegada de Cristo, los poderosos se sienten molestados ante el júbilo de la gente sencilla.
     
       Tenemos mucho ejemplos de fe en la historia de nuestra Iglesia.  Por ejemplo, en la semana pasada, en el 24 de marzo, marcamos el trigésimo quinto aniversario de la muerte del Arzobispo Oscar Romero de El Salvador.  Este año, el Vaticano declaró que el Monseñor Romero era mártir de la fe – murió durante la celebración de la misa en su país durante la guerra civil.  Romero defendía los derechos de los pobres en la mitad de mucha opresión y violencia.  C. El Papa Francisco expresaba su admiración por El Arzobispo Romero.  El Papa apoyaba a su causa de beatificación y canonización y llamándolo un santo hombre de Dios.  En comparación del ejemplo del Monseñor Romero, en el Evangelio de San Marcos, los discípulos de Jesús son casi nunca modelos de fe.   En la forma en que se representan en el Evangelio, tal vez nos preguntamos cómo estos discípulos continuarían el ministerio de Cristo después de su muerte.  Como acabamos de escuchar en la lectura de la Pasión, en la Última Cena, los discípulos insisten en que ninguno de ellos sería traicionar a Jesús.   Jesús predijo que su fe se agitará en los próximos eventos de su camino a la cruz. Pedro y los otros discípulos lo negaron.  Sin embargo, en su agonía en el huerto, mientras que Jesús oraba, los discípulos dormían toda la noche.  No sólo Pedro niega a Jesús, pero en el relato evangélico, no menciona los discípulos de estar presente en la pasión y muerte de Cristo.  De hecho, sólo las mujeres que habían sido seguidores de Cristo en Galilea son reportados como estar presente en la crucifixión, aunque a cierta distancia.                                          
       Como conmemoramos la pasión del Señor hoy y reconocemos la entrada triunfal de Cristo en Jerusalén antes de su crucifixión, podemos preguntarnos: ¿Cómo podemos tener los días de Cuaresma y el Domingo de Ramos y la Semana Santa un impacto en nuestras vidas?  Estaba edificado en la forma en veía los miembros de nuestra parroquia con sus promesas y compromisos de cuaresma: muchos de ustedes vinieron al via crucis, la misa diaria, el sacramento de reconciliación y la adoración del Santísimo durante la cuaresma para conmemorar este tiempo santo.  El año pasado durante la misa del Domingo de Ramos en la plaza de San Pedro en Roma, el Papa Francisco pidió a los fieles algunas preguntas muy directas que salen de la lectura de hoy del Evangelio de la Pasión: ¿Duerme en su vida de fe, al igual que los discípulos que se quedaron dormidos cuando Jesús estaban orando en el huerto?  ¿Te gusta el poder de Poncio Pilato en el Evangelio, que, cuando ve a una situación difícil, y luego se lava las manos de ella?  Esas preguntas nos dan mucho para reflexionar, ¿no? Esperemos que hemos visto en nuestras vidas y el compromiso que hacemos a nuestra fe en nuestro camino cuaresmal, y es de esperar las reflexiones y conclusiones a que hemos llegado a tener un impacto en la forma en que vivimos nuestra fe durante el resto del año.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Wow - 1,500 posts!


I just saw that the last post I made to my blog for Palm Sunday makes it 1,500 posts that I have made!  Wow – little did I know that I started this blog that this would be the case.  I thank all of you for reading my blog.  It has been rocky sometimes. As we know, the world of the internet can be a wonderful place where different ideas are shared, but it can also by a world of meanness and bullying, and unfortunately I have been the target of that as well.  As most of you know, at one point, I had decided to discontinue my blog due to the bullying and meanness out there.  However, I am thankful that the Spirit moved me to continue.  Blessings to all of you, the readers of my blog, and I hope that I will be able to continue for many years to come!

3/29/2015 – Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Mark 14:1 - 15:47

       As soon as the Roman Emperor Constantine formally recognized the Church in the 4th century, the Christian faithful in Jerusalem started to publicly re-enact the solemn entry of Christ into their city on the Sunday before Easter.  They held a grand procession in the streets of Jerusalem in which they carried branches and sang “Hosanna in the highest”.  We follow in this same tradition of the Early Church today as we commemorate Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and the beginning of Holy Week.  Besides the procession with palms or branches, the other notable ancient feature of Palm Sunday from the Early Church is the reading of the Gospel of the Passion on this day, which today comes from the Gospel of Mark.  Holy Week is a very special sacred time in our Church’s liturgical year.   It is a week full of sacred liturgy as we complete our journey with Jesus on his way to the cross during the holy season of Lent, as Jesus journeys to his death and resurrection and brings us the salvation we have in him.
      This past week, I was speaking to a man at the Sanctuary Hospice who is in his last days.  He had a large painting and several smaller images of St Francis of Assisi in his room.  He was telling me how he felt St Francis was accompanying him in his last days there at the Hospice House, how St Francis for him has been such a great example of faith.  And just this past week, on March 24, we marked the 35th anniversary of the date in which Archbishop Oscar Romero from the small country of El Salvador in Central America was gunned down by the military forces of his own country while celebrating mass.  The Vatican has official declared Archbishop Romero martyr for the faith.  Pope Francis has expressed his admiration for Romero, supporting his cause for beatification and sainthood and calling him a holy man of God.  We have a lot of great examples and models of faith in our Church throughout history.  However, in Mark's Gospel, Jesus' disciples are rarely models of faith.  In the way they are depicted, we perhaps wonder how these disciples would continue Christ’s ministry after his death.  As we just heard in the reading of the Passion, at the Last Supper, the disciples insist that none of them would betray Jesus.   Jesus predicted that their faith would be shaken in the upcoming events of his way to the cross.  Peter and the other disciples denied this.  Yet in his agony in the garden, while Jesus prays, the disciples sleep through the night.  Not only does Peter deny Jesus, but in the Gospel account, it does not mention the disciples being present at Christ’s passion and death.  In fact, only the women who had been followers of Jesus in Galilee are reported as being present at the Crucifixion, although at a distance.
       As we commemorate the passion of the Lord today and recognize Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem right before his crucifixion, we might wonder: How are the events of Lent and Palm Sunday and Holy Week going to have an impact on our lives?   I have been very edified in the way I have seen our parishioners taking their Lenten promises and commitments seriously, how many of you have come to Stations of the Cross, daily mass, reconciliation, and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during Lent to commemorate this holy time.  Last year during the Palm Sunday liturgy at St Peter’s Square in Rome, Pope Francis asked the faithful some very direct questions that come out of today’s Gospel reading of the Passion: How has your life of faith fallen asleep, just like the disciples who fell asleep while they should have been keeping watch with Jesus?  Are you like Pontius Pilate in the Gospel, who, when he sees a difficult situation, then washes his hands of it?  Those questions give us a lot to think about, don’t they?  Hopefully we have looked at our lives and the commitment we make to our faith during our Lenten journey, and hopefully the reflections and conclusions we have reached will have an impact on the way we live out our faith during the rest of the year.
       We have a lot going on all during Holy Week, and it is easy to put all the focus on the many liturgies that are going on in our local parish here in Tupelo, but during this upcoming week, I will join the other priests and representatives from all the parishes of the Diocese to make the journey down to our Cathedral of St Peter the Apostle in Jackson to celebrate the Chrism mass with Bishop Kopacz.   The Chrism Mass reminds us of our oneness in Christ through Baptism and our holy anointing that we receive through our baptism: this is made possible by the ministry of our Bishop and his priests in our Diocese.  During the Chrism mass, not only will the entire assembly renew its baptismal promises with the Bishop, but the deacons and priests of our Diocese will renew the vow of obedience to Bishop and their commitment to serve God’s people in the various parishes and ministries in our Diocese.  Also, during this liturgy, the Bishop blesses the oils that we will use in the Sacraments that we will celebrate this year.   The Chrism mass is a very special show of unity and loyalty to our Bishop and to our holy universal Church. 
       I really hope to see all of you at our liturgies this Holy Week.  Through these liturgies, we really make sense of what our faith is all about.  We have this beautiful renovated church in which we are celebrating our liturgies this Holy Week.   I really want to see our church full during our Holy Week liturgies.  And, as your pastor, I would like to ask all of you to especially attend our services of the Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday.  All of these are beautiful liturgies and all of them will help you grow in your faith as our Lenten journey comes to an end.  I know that we have busy lives, with a lot of commitments and responsibilities pulling at us and demanding our time.  However, let us all make a commitment to our faith this week as a community of faith to accompany Jesus on his journey to the cross and the resurrection. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

3/27/2015 – Friday of the 5th of week Lent – John 10:31-42

       In the Gospel of John, the crowd wants to stone Jesus; they want to kill him because they thought that Jesus spoke blasphemy, because he told them that he was God, not a man.  So often in John’s Gospel, the people misinterpret the words of Jesus, or they just can’t make that leap of faith in believing who he truly is. 
       Believing is a grace.  Believing is a gift from God.  I read an article by a Protestant minister from Chicago who expressed her frustration of having people approach her and telling her that although they consider themselves spiritual, they really don’t have any inclination to be associated with an organized religion, that it is not really for them.  I think that is a common attitude for many people to have in our modern world.  However, we can see in the Gospel how people many times either accepted Jesus or rejected him as a community.  The Bible also shows us how the disciples of Jesus and the early Church formed a community of faith that continued after the death and resurrection of Jesus, a community that grew and journeyed together.  And I am always so edified how we as members of the Church support each other and walk together as believers no matter what is going on in our journey, in both good times and in bad times.     
       We hear in the Gospel how many started to believe in Jesus when they came to him on the other side of the Jordan where John the Baptist was first baptizing people.  May we come to the Lord in our faith during these last days of Lent.  May we ask God to help us in our unbelief. 

3/26/2015 – Thursday of the 5th of week Lent – Genesis 17:3-9; Psalm 105:4-9

      We hear from Genesis today as we get closer to Holy Week.  Our reading from Genesis tells us about the covenant God made with Abraham. God promised to be faithful to Abraham and his descendants; God made Abraham the father of a great nation. The reading from the book of Jeremiah from the 5th Sunday of Lent from Cycle B talks about the new covenant that God will write onto the hearts of the people.  We in our modern world see the heart as the seat of our emotions; the Ancient Israelites also saw the heart as the center of their thought, intellect, and being, in the same way we see our brain and our soul.  So, writing his covenant on their hearts would mean embossing it on their very being.  We hear about covenants so much during Lent because Jesus is our new covenant, because the salvation Jesus brings us through his death and resurrection is our new covenant. 
       “The Lord remembers his covenant forever” – the psalmist expresses great confidence in this statement in Psalm 105. Think about when you have gone through a dark or difficult moment in your life, when it takes everything you’ve got to make it to the next day, when you walk by faith because daily life is such a struggle. Sometimes we need to take it one day at a time.  Sometimes that is the best we can do.  But God never forgets the covenant He makes with his people, that He makes with us. 
        “Look to the Lord in his strength, seek to serve him constantly.”  May we truly believe the words of our psalm today, placing our trust in our Lord, placing our trust in the covenant he has made with his people.

Friday, March 20, 2015

3/22/2015 – Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle A – The Raising of Lazarus – John 11: 3-7, 17, 20-27, 33B-45.

      A lot of what we are taught about our Catholic faith can appear to be a paradox, can’t it?  We are told that in order to receive the joy of our faith, we are called to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  It is order to prepare to celebrate the Easter mysteries, the salvation we have in the resurrection of the Lord, we are called to journey with Jesus for 40 days in the desert wilderness.  In order to be a leader in context of our faith, we are not called to amass power and authority, but rather we are called to be a servant.  In order to receive new life in Christ, we must first die to our old life and our old ways.  And not only are we are called to repent and convert at the time we initially called to be a disciple of Christ, we are called to a constant cycle of repentance and conversion and renewal in our life of faith.
        Perhaps in the ways of the world, all these things would be seen as a paradox, but they are the truths of our faith as well.  Today, perhaps we see a paradox in what plays out in today’s Gospel.  We all go through difficulties in our lives, don’t we?  In one way or another, we all go through moments of challenge and suffering, of anguish and pain.  And we would fool ourselves to believe that once we become a disciple of Christ, that this pain and those difficulties will go away.  In those experiences of suffering, we might not feel the presence of God.  We might feel alone and abandoned.  Martha, the sister of Lazarus who was so attentive in serving Jesus and caring for him we he visited her family on a previous occasion, runs out to meet Jesus on the road, crying out to him, “Lord, if you had only been here…”  I am sure Martha is thinking: you love my brother and my family so much, you weep at the moment you hear that my brother has died, and yet you were not here when we needed you most.  Yet, in that moment of heartache and sorrow, Martha is able to open her ears and her heart to the words of Jesus:  “Martha, I know that you believe that you will be resurrected on the last day, I know that is a part of your faith.  But it is I who am the resurrection and the life.  And whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.  And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
        When we grieve the death of a loved one, the suffering of a sick family member or beloved friend, the death of a relationship or the death of a dream we had in life, we could be wondering in our hearts: “Lord, if you had been here…” We might have felt that Jesus was not there with us in those moments.  But Martha, the Martha that is always busy occupying herself with a task, makes one of the most profound testimonies of faith in the New Testament: “Yes, Lord, I believe.  Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  Martha, the one who cried out to Jesus, now realizes:  Yes, Lord, you are indeed here, yes, Lord, it is in you that we have eternal life. Those paradoxes that exist in our lives and exist in our faith can be troubling, can’t they?  We can feel grief, frustration, or pain, but at the same time, faith and understanding can exist as well.  It’s certainly a paradox.
      Wisdom can come in different forms.  Julian of Norwich was a young woman who lived in the 14th century; she was an anchoress in her community. An anchoress is a woman of faith who lived apart from society in an isolated cell.  She is recognized today in our modern world as a great Christian mystic. There were some things Julian struggled to understand about her faith.  She wondered: in the great wisdom of God, why couldn't have sin been prevented and so then we would not be in the predicament we are in in our world.  Yet she hears these comforting words from Jesus in answer to her ponderings: In God's plan of salvation, it was necessary that there should be sin, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  In this, Julian comes to the revelation that no matter what, all things will be right in Christ.
     We place our hope in Christ.  We place our hope in our faith as we move forward through the holy season of Lent to the Easter mysteries to come. We have been approaching Lent as a special time in the cycle of our liturgical year: a time in which we examine our lives in a special way, at time in which we make special promises and commitments to God in our journey of these 40 days. Yes, there is a lot about our faith that be a paradox.  There is a lot about our faith that can be beyond our human understanding of things.  But, the Lord is indeed with us every step of the way, even during those times we don’t realize it.