Tuesday, March 21, 2023

9 April 2023 – Homily for Easter Sunday Mass – John 20:1-9

      Mary Magdalene came to the tomb in the early morning hours while it was still dark. Her Lord and Savior had just been crucified. The darkness of the early morning was overshadowed by the spiritual darkness that consumed her. Full of remorse, pain, and anger, Mary Magdalene believed that Jesus’ body had been stolen from the tomb. He had been put to death in the most violent and humiliating way possible, but now his body cannot even be anointed in the Jewish burial tradition. This is a first sign for Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the beloved disciple, of knowing that something special and unique was happening. Yet, they no idea what was going on, about the full implications that the resurrection would have on their lives and their faith.

        Last night, we celebrated the Easter Vigil Mass. The symbolism of that mass is striking. We had explained to the members of the RCIA class and their sponsors that this liturgy takes place in the darkness of night. The Easter fire symbolizes the light of Christ that is brought into our world and into our lives in a special way through his death and resurrection. We have our candles lit by the light of Christ in the paschal candle, symbolizing Christ as the source of the true light for us in our lives.

        During the season of Lent, we have been talking about how we are called to search for God in all things. We search for God in our joys, but also in moments of tragedy, suffering, and challenge.  We search for him in the quiet, prayerful moments in our lives, but also in the busy schedules of our modern lives, in those moments that change us and transform us in very profound ways. We search for God in the questions that we have and in the things that bind us and restrict us. During Lent, we journeyed with Jesus on his way to the cross. We meditated upon his sufferings and his passion. We knew that he would die on a cross on Good Friday, which is a big part of what we believe as Catholics. However, with the cross comes the resurrection.  We believe in the joy, the new life, the liberation that comes from the resurrection.

        Traditionally, in the Early Church, the Easter Vigil Mass was the time when adults would enter the faith. Last night at our Easter Vigil mass at Holy Savior, we had  a group of adults come into the Church as catechumens, those who had not been baptized yet, and candidates, those who had been baptized into another Christian denomination. These adults in the RCIA process underwent a formation that culminated into their entry into the Church last night. The joy those neophytes, their families, and their sponsors experienced is a great witness to all of us.

      But, look at what today’s Gospel says carefully.  The beloved disciple saw the empty tomb.  He saw all that was happening. And he believed.  Yet, it also said that this group still did not understand all that the Scriptures said. The members of the Early Church believed, but they spent a lot time figuring out what Jesus was all about, figuring out what relevance he had in their lives and in what they believed. We, too, are called to believe and to be witnesses. This Easter season that we are now entering is a wonderful time for us to examine our faith, to recommit ourselves to what we believe.  Perhaps we have not been attending mass regularly or are thinking about how we can become more engaged in our parish. Now is a good time to put some of that into action. For these next weeks during the Easter season, the Church invites us to ponder what the resurrection of Jesus really means to us, to ponder what it really means to live the resurrection in our lives.  Let us all accept that invitation. 

8 April 2023 - homily - Easter Vigil Mass - Exodus 14:15—15:1; Isaiah 55:1-11 - Baruch 3:9-15; 32C - 4:4, Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10

      Our Easter Vigil Mass tonight is the highlight of our liturgical year.  Catholics throughout the world gather together to celebrate this most holy night, in union with our Lord and with all of their brothers and sisters in Christ.  We welcome our new members into the Catholic Church during this Mass, with some receiving the sacraments of baptism, first communion, and confirmation, as we feel our spiritual solidarity with them, a great sense of love and gratitude. We have the largest group coming into the Church here at Holy Savior in recent memory, for which we give great thanks. We pray for them and with them as they receive these sacraments and as they consecrate their lives to Jesus Christ. Tonight, we are called to participate in a very holy and unifying experience tonight in our Easter Vigil Mass, the culmination of our Lenten journey. 

     The Easter Vigil Mass always takes place in the midst of the night. The light of Christ has gone out of the world with his death on the cross on Good Friday.  It will remain in darkness until the Easter fire is started, symbolizing Christ as the light of the world who rise from the tomb dispelling the darkness of the world. Tonight, we celebrate Christ as the source of love, light, and goodness.  

     In our first reading tonight from Exodus, God parts the Red Sea and leads his people out of the bondage of slavery and sin. God liberates the Jewish people in order for them to be able to live with him in holiness and unity. God liberates all of us who have been baptized in Christ. In the life giving Easter waters that we will bless tonight and that will be used in our baptisms tonight and throughout the Easter season, Jesus leads us out of sin and into our new life with him.  

     In our reading from the prophet Baruch, we hear God call his people and when they answer with understanding “here we are!”, they will shine with great joy for their creator. Those who will enter our Church this evening through our RCIA program have answered God’s call. They come forward tonight to acknowledge him. We celebrate with all who are receiving the sacraments tonight. As I was reflecting upon my own RCIA experience and coming into the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass while I was writing this homily, as I came into the Church 31 years ago at the Easter Vigil Mass. if I had not come into the Church through the RCIA program, I would not be standing here with all of you as your pastor in this Mass. The Holy Spirit will come upon those receiving the Sacraments in a special way this evening, filling all of us with the joy of the risen Christ. 

      “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here for he has been raised just as he said.” These are the words we hear the angel proclaim to the women who discover the empty tomb.  Without that empty tomb, without the resurrection, the birth, life, and resurrection of Jesus would have no meaning. Without that, he would not be the son of the living God. Christ breaks through the barriers of our doubts and our fear of death as he is raised from the dead on Easter morning. Death does not the final say. Through the Easter mysteries that call out to us to night, we are to believe that Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins and rose to life so they we might have eternal life with him. Tonight, in the darkness of night, Christ is the life of the world. Christ is the light of the human race.  Christ is our Easter joy.  

7 April 2023 – 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” isn’t 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 following these past weeks.  By praying the Way of the Cross on Fridays during Lent, we 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, but when we go through dark times in life, 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 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 and humility, 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.

Bulletin reflection - Easter Morning - 9 April 2023

      Easter has arrived! As Catholics, we look forward to our celebration of Easter. I always love our commemoration of Lent and our celebration of Holy Week and the Easter season each year.

     I think of Mary of Magdala in our Gospel today, of what she experienced on Easter morning as she goes to the tomb early in the morning before sunrise. She is astounded to find the stone moved from the entrance of the tomb, then finding the tomb empty. She wonders: What has happened to our Jesus? Has someone stolen his body? Even though she is confused, in an act of faith, Mary of Magdala tells some of the other disciples about what she witnessed. When the others see the empty tomb and the burial cloths scattered about, they are confused and perplexed as well. However, the beloved disciple starts to make sense of the situation. He is able to see and believe. It is significant to note that the belief in the resurrection of these first disciples does not stem from the actual appearance of the resurrected Jesus, but rather such belief developed from what was first reported to them, from the way they interpreted their experience of the empty tomb. 

     I have enjoyed journeying through the Lenten season with all of you as we tried to seek God in all things. I have enjoyed praying the stations of the cross on Friday evenings and the Lenten meals we have had together as a parish faith community. We look forward to a joyful Easter season together as we journey toward the celebration of Pentecost.  

      Jesus has risen from the dead! We celebrate his resurrection this Easter weekend.  

April 9, 2023 - Easter Morning - Prayers of the Faithful

Introduction - We rejoice that this is the day the Lord has made. God’s love and mercy reaches out to all of us today on Easter morning. By Jesus sacrifice on the cross, he has conquered sin and defeated death. A new life has dawned, as God’s loving care survives sin and overcomes death.  Jesus has shown us the way to the Father. May the promise of the resurrection fill us with hope and lead us to eternal life.  

Lord Jesus, you are the risen Christ. 

Christ Jesus, you were anointed by God with the Holy Spirit. 

Lord Jesus, you will come again to judge the living and the dead. 

Priest: Filled with joy by the promise of the resurrection, we no bring our prayers to God: 

1. For the Church: that by our mercy and compassion we may raise our brothers and sisters out of their pain and suffering, sharing the good news of the risen Christ with them, we pray to the Lord. 

2. That the peace that Christ brings may extend to all the nations of the world, filling our hearts with justice and healing, we pray to the Lord. 

3. For all who entered the Church at the Easter vigil Mass yesterday evening, that they may grow in love of the Lord as they live as children of the light, we pray to the Lord. 

4. For all who suffer from illness, hunger, isolation, or neglect, that their burdens may be lifted by the continuing mission of Christ in the world, we pray to the Lord. 

5. For all our sick and shut-in, for all who cannot be at Mass with us today, that they may feel our love and prayers reaching out to them, we pray to the Lord. 

6. May our disciplines of prayer, fasting, and actions of charity continue in our daily lives of faith in the joyful Easter season, we pray to the Lord. 

7. For the repose of the souls of the faithful departed.  For their entry into eternal life. We pray to the Lord. 

8. For the prayers we hold in the silence of our hearts, for our intentions spoken and unspoken, we pray to the Lord.

Priest: God of creation and compassion, in your love for us you have given us your only begotten son and you have raised him from the dead. Hear the prayers we make today through your son, for he is our Lord forever and ever.  AMEN.  

8 April 2023 - Easter Vigil Mass - prayers of the faithful

Priest: Our joy on this holy night gives us the confidence to place our trust in God for all things.  Let present our prayers for our needs, the needs of the Church, and the needs of the world. 

1. For that Church, that by word and example, we may always proclaim the glory of the resurrection of the Lord in the midst of our lived reality, we pray to the Lord. 

2. That the peace that God has willed from the very moment of creation may bloom in our hearts, in our families, in our community, and in the whole world, we pray to the Lord. 

3. For the newly baptized and the newly initiated members of our Christian family here and throughout the world, that they may grow in our new life in Christ Jesus, we pray to the Lord. 

4. For Christians around the world, that our faith in the resurrection may lead us to seek true unity in Christ, we pray to the Lord. 

5. For all of us gathered at Mass this evening, that just as Christ was raised from the dead, that we too might live in the newness of life, we pray to the Lord. 

6. For the repose of the souls of the faithful departed. For healing for the sick and the shut-in. We pray to the Lord. 

7. For the prayers we hold in the silence of our hearts, for our intentions spoken and unspoken, we pray to the Lord.

Priest: God of love, you raised your only begotten son from the dead to eternal life with you. Raise us out of sin and death into new life with you.  We present our prayers to you this evening through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord forever and ever. AMEN. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Prayers of the faithful - Holy Thursday - 6 April 2023

Introduction: We begin the Paschal Triduum this evening, the three-day remembrance of the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord.  We remember how Jesus’ life ended here on earth, in triumph disguised as defeat. This evening we hear how Jesus gave his disciples a model for the mission of the Church, as he came to them as a servant on his knees to wash their feet.  May Jesus’ lesson be a model for us as we continue to proclaim his passion, death, and rising.  May we continue to be of service to our neighbor. 

Lord Jesus, you washed the feet of your disciples. 

Christ Jesus, you gave us the Eucharist as the everlasting memorial of your light and life. 

Lord Jesus, you summon us to your table of reconciliation and peace. 

Priest: Animated by the love that Jesus shows humanity as he washed the disciples feet and commanded us to do likewise, we now turn to God with our needs and the needs of the world, desiring to be instruments of God’s grace: 

1. For the Church, that with love and compassion, we may serve those in need just as Jesus served his disciples at the Last Supper, we pray to the Lord. 

2. For those who are suffering in pain, in grief, or from want, that their burden may be lifted through God’s mercy, we pray to the Lord. 

3. For all who dedicate their lives to both ordained and lay ministry: that they may be renewed in mind and spirit as they serve to fulfill God’s mission, we pray to the Lord. 

4. For our Jewish brothers and sisters who have begun their celebration of Passover, that our prayer to God be united with their prayers on this holy night, we pray to the Lord. 

5. For our faith communities of Holy Savior and Immaculate Conception, especially for those who will be received into the Church on this upcoming Easter weekend, that our participation during these holy days may renew in us our mission to serve one another, we pray to the Lord. 

6. For the repose of the souls of the faithful departed. For healing for the sick and the shut-in. We pray to the Lord. 

7. For the prayers we hold in the silence of our hearts, for our intentions spoken and unspoken, we pray to the Lord.

Priest: God of the eternal covenant, you so loved the world that you created that you gave us your only son to live for us and die for us and to guide us to you. Inspire us to serve one another. We make our prayers through your son Jesus Christ, our Lord forever and ever.  AMEN.