Spring is here, it is nice to get out, enjoy the nature, soon leaves and flowers will appear on plants, it is beautiful. The same way we are done with winter of Lenten season and celebrated Easter and continue to celebrate. We are in a new spirit of Easter Season. Easter is all about God’s love and mercy. Time to time God revealed his love of mercy to humanity. Ultimately, this revelation through Jesus. God continues to send us the message of mercy though Saints. Especially through our Mother, through her apparitions, St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Faustina and St. Pope John Paul II. During the Papacy of St. John Paul II, he announced that it is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on the Second Sunday of Easter, which throughout the Church, will be called 'Divine Mercy Sunday. Now Pope Francis continues to emphasis the message of mercy and teach us.
St. Faustina of Poland is the well-known apostle of Divine Mercy. On the 30th of April, 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter, St. Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist in Saint Peter’s Square and proceeded to the canonization of Blessed Sister Faustina. The St. Faustina invites us by the witness of her life to keep our faith and hope fixed on God, the Father, rich in mercy, who has saved us by the precious blood of His Son. The Lord Jesus assigned St. Faustina three basic tasks during her short life: 1. to pray for souls, entrusting them to God's incomprehensible Mercy; 2. to tell the world about God's generous mercy; 3. to start a new movement in the Church focusing on God's Mercy. “The Lord of Divine Mercy” a drawing of Jesus based on the vision given to St. Faustina, shows Jesus raising his right hand in a gesture of blessing, with his left hand on his chest from which gush forth two rays, one red and one white. The picture contains the message "Jesus, I trust in You". The rays streaming out have symbolic meaning: red for the blood of Jesus, which is the life of souls and white for the water which justifies souls. The whole image is symbolic of the mercy, forgiveness, and love of God. The divine mercy chaplet, the novena starts on Good Friday to Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. Divine Mercy celebration invites us to receive God’s mercy and at the same time to share one another. Our Lord said to St. Faustina, "Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy. I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it"
Pope Francis continues the message of Mercy. During the year of mercy, Pope Francis said in one of his homilies, “Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion.”
Today, five of our children make their First Communion. They prepared by learning and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive First Communion, to experience God’s love and Mercy first time by the reception of the Eucharist. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them, their families and teachers, for their sacrifices and preparation.
Also, our Cluster will celebrate at Immaculate Conception Church on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. It includes Adoration, Divine Mercy Chaplet and sacrament of reconciliation is available.
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege to visit the Holy Land. One of the most powerful moments was visiting the Church of Holy Sepulcher. In this Church, we can see the place where Jesus was crucified, “Golgotha” and next to it a small church within the church which is the Tomb of Christ. It was not just Church of Tomb, but also of was Church of Resurrection. We read in the Bible, it was a garden. A beautiful morning, a joy filled morning a group of people, some of them surprised, others confused, still others running to tell others “He is risen”.
There is a story of Joseph of Arimathea. He was a very wealthy Pharisee, a member of the council, and a secret follower of Jesus. It was Joseph who went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. And it was Joseph who supplied the tomb for Jesus’ burial. I wonder if someone pulled him aside and said, "Joseph that was such beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. Why on earth did you give it to someone to be buried in?" "Why not?" Joseph may have answered. He only needed it for the weekend."
After the Last Supper, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane, then journeyed to Calvary. We were living these moments the last few days. On Good Friday we make three stops and sing with the Cross, “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.” And we come up to venerate the cross that brought us salvation. We come up to give their burdens to the One who hung on the cross for them.
At Easter Vigil, a large candle is brought into the darkened church. Its light illuminates the church. This time we sing, “The Light of Christ,” and respond, “Thanks be to God.” The One who hung upon the cross has brought light to a world of suffering in its own darkness. The heat of the flame confirms our hope that the transformation of Lenten winter into Easter spring time.
Inserted in the candle are five wax nails that signify the wounds that the crucified Jesus received in his hands, feet, and side. These nails are the symbol of great love. These symbols reminds us that God is with us in our hurts, grief, that God’s spirit of compassion is in our midst, in our love and concern for one another, and transforms hurt into healing.
The paschal candle will remain lit throughout the Easter season. It will then be given a place of honor near the baptismal font. During the year it will be lit at the celebration of baptism and funerals. By its light we welcome those who are reborn in the waters of baptism, and funerals by its light we commend to God the souls of those who will go before us in peace to the eternal dwelling place of our Father.
St. Agustin says Jesus departed from our sight, that we might return to our hearts and there find Him. He is Risen!! He is alive in our hearts. Let the Paschal candle brighten our hearts and minds. May the Risen Christ dwell in our hearts, families, community and bless us with His love, forgiveness and healing this Easter and always. I wish you all a Happy Easter!!
Max Lucado, in his book, And the Angels were Silent, reminds us that each of us has got a donkey that the Lord needs. He writes: Sometimes I get the impression that God wants me to give him something and sometimes I don't give it because I don't know for sure, and then I feel bad because I've missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don't give it because I'm too selfish. And other times, too few times, I hear him and I obey him and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other times I wonder if my little deeds today will make a difference in the long haul.
We are towards the end of the Lenten journey. A question to ask ourselves, how is it going? The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday and we enter into the Holy Week, and welcome Jesus into our lives, asking him to allow us a share in his suffering, death, and resurrection. In order to receive a new life, there is need of death to happen, the death of our selfishness.
On Holy Thursday there is a Chrism Mass in Cathedral Churches because it is a solemn observance of Christ's institution of the Eucharist and priesthood. In order to make the opportunity for most priests and laity to attend this Mass, the Diocese may celebrate prior to the holy week, as we celebrated in our diocese. At this 'Chrism Mass,' the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism used for Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and Anointing of the Sick.
The Holy Thursday liturgy in the parish communities, celebrated in the evening because Passover began at sundown. Washing of the feet takes place in this Mass. Food brought for the poor will be brought at the offertory. After the Holy Thursday evening Mass, the Blessed Sacrament carried in solemn procession to the flower-bedecked Altar of Repose, where it will remain 'entombed' until the communion service on Good Friday. And finally, there is the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the people during the night, just as the disciples stayed with the Lord during His agony on the Mount of Olives before the betrayal by Judas. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.
Holy Week can become "holy” for us only if we actively and consciously take part in the liturgies of this week. Holy Thursday institution of Eucharist Jesus said to his disciples, “This is my body broken for you; this is my blood and shed for you” and we see on Good Friday that sacrifice is completed on the cross. He broke himself for us and fed us. This is also the week when we should lighten the burden of Christ’s passion as daily experienced by the needy people through our corporal and spiritual works of mercy; break and share.
As the Church enters into the week before Jesus' Passion and death, Pope Francis writes in his Holy Week message, Jesus is present "in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases." At the end of every Mass we hear that “Go Forth, the Mass is ended.” We are commissioned and send out to meet those brothers and sisters in need. In other words, to do the washing of the feet in our daily life. Happy and fruitful Holy Week!
While Mother Teresa is certainly famous for the charity with which she poured herself out in love for Christ in the distressing disguise of lepers, AIDS victims, the dying, and the untouchables, she was likewise a great “Missionary of Mercy” in calling everyone to receive Jesus’ forgiving love in the Sacrament of Confession, a Sacrament she received at least once a week. She would counsel others, “One thing is necessary for us: Confession. Confession is nothing but humility in action. We call it Penance, but really it is a Sacrament of Love, a Sacrament of forgiveness. It is a place where I allow Jesus to take away from me everything that divides, that destroys. A confession is a beautiful act of great love. Only in confession can we go in as sinners with sin and come out as sinners without sin. … There’s no need for us to despair, no need for us to commit suicide, no need for us to be discouraged if we have understood the tenderness of God’s love.” She said elsewhere, very simply, “Confession is Jesus and me, and nobody else.” And then she told us, “Remember this for life.”
Lent invites us to reflect on God’s unconditional love and mercy for humanity. Last week we meditated on the parable of the prodigal son. Read the Gospel for this weekend, Close your eyes for a moment and see this story like a movie. The scribes and the Pharisees were constantly looking for something so they can trap Jesus. All of sudden, they found an adulterous woman. While Jesus was teaching, they brought this woman and threw her in front of Jesus. They thought they got him. Jesus has to oppose the law or agree that she should die. They thought his hands were tied. There was a moment of silence. We read in the Gospel that Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. The silence might have great power. Finally, He spoke, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
What a profound scene? Jesus was not promoting adultery. He was not teaching against marriage. They are no question that adultery is a sin. It violates the Ten Commandments, destroys marital covenant, destroys families, you name it, then how come Jesus tells her, go and sin no more. Jesus has something profound message for us. We see in the Gospel, that He continued writing on the ground. The scribes and the Pharisees left one by one. In a way, they were accepting their sinfulness. Then Jesus looked at the woman, and asked her “has no one condemned you?”, so neither I condemn you, now go, do not sin no more.
Jesus came to find the lost one. The woman caught in adultery didn’t leave the scene with shame, but with new spirit and dignity. How many of us might have stood in the position of Jesus, but did we give life and dignity to the person who was in front of us or send him/her with shame? On the other hand, how many of us might be ashamed of ourselves. Did we go to Jesus to get forgiveness and return with dignity?
Traditionally it is said that this woman was Mary Magdalene. She became a close follower of Jesus and she was first to the experience of the Resurrection. What is my/your personal experience with Jesus? Let us pray for the courage and humility to receive unconditional love from Jesus. Jesus gave us Sacraments thought his passion, death, and resurrection. During Lenten season he invites us to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Holy Week.