I don’t know the origin of the story but from two different priests the story of Regina Riley. Regina Riley’s story many parents can relate to. Then one Sunday morning she got the surprise of her life. Her two sons came in and sat across the aisle from her. Her heart was bursting with joy and gratitude. Afterward, she asked her sons what brought them back to Church. And then her younger son told the story.
One Sunday morning, while vacationing in Colorado, they were driving down a country road and it was raining cats and dogs. And then suddenly they came upon this old man, trudging through the rain with no umbrella, he was soaking wet. And he walked with a noticeable limp. Yet he kept walking on down the road. The brothers stopped to pick him up.
It turned out that he was on his way to Sunday Mass and the Church was 3 miles down the road. So the two brothers picked him up and drove him to the Church. And since the rain was coming down so hard and they had nothing better to do they decided to wait for him and take him back after Mass. Then the two brothers decided they might as well go inside rather than wait outside.
As they listened to the Sunday readings and sat through the Eucharistic prayers and Holy Communion something happened to both of them, something moved them deeply. They told their mother it was like coming home after a long, tiring trip.
This story is very much like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and meeting up with a stranger, who was Jesus.
If we look at the Emmaus story closely, we can find similarity with Mass? They were thrilled to follow Jesus. After the crucifixion, they are disappointed. Then they had heard a rumor that he had raised, but that didn't seem reasonable.
There is a couple of remarkable points in Emmaus' story. These two disciples had their own stories of good times and bad times. Jesus walked with them explaining the scripture and stayed with and breaks the bread. Later they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" The disciples did not realize at the time that their hearts were burning within them, it was only later they realized this.
Another beautiful aspect of the Emmaus story is that Jesus’ whole life is present at that breaking of the bread. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, Jesus did break the bread and gave to them and said, “This is my Body.” But the completion of that sacrifice took place the next day at the Calvary. But at Emmaus, when Jesus shared the scripture with them, the sacrifice is already completed.
Every Mass we gather with our stories of success, joyful moments, and disappointment. We listen to the word of God and offer ourselves at the Mass. Through the scriptures and breaking of the bread, Jesus nourishes us and sends us back to our normal life. The two disciples encountered Jesus at the breaking of the bread in a personal way. The question, do we encounter him?
Now we have to keep social distancing for our safety, but do we take to find time to participate in Mass online or TV and receive him spiritually? This is the time we will be tested in our faith.
When Jesus was sharing the scripture with them, there were burning within them. When Jesus took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Let us ask God to give us all an Emmaus experience in our celebration of the Eucharist.
One night in 1935, Fiorello H. La Guardia, Mayor of New York City, showed up at Night Court in the poorest ward of the city. He dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench. One case involved an elderly woman who was caught stealing bread to feed her grandchildren. La Guardia said, "I've got to punish you. Ten dollars or ten days in jail." As he spoke, he threw $10 into his hat. He then fined everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a city "where an old woman had to steal bread so that her grandchildren should not starve." The hat was passed around, and the woman left the courtroom with her fine paid and an additional $47.50
The second Sunday of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday. In the second part of today’s Gospel, we see doubting Thomas. In the first part, Jesus said to his disciples, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Jesus empowered his disciples to become the vehicle of his mercy.
God sends people to remind us of his mercy. St. Faustina wrote in her dairy, “God Said to me, in the old covenant I sent prophets willingly thunderbolts of my people. Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching human kind, I desire to heal it…”
St. John Paul II has a great role in spreading the message 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.
There are two parts to the message of Divine Mercy: devotion and being merciful. Marion Fathers came up with the acronym for the Divine Mercy celebration: FINCH and ABC. FINCH: F-Feast of Divine Mercy, I-image of Divine Mercy, N-novena of Divine Mercy, C-chaplet of Divine Mercy, H-hour of Divine Mercy.
What is ABC? A - Ask for God’s Mercy. B - Be merciful. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. C - Completely trust in Jesus.
Magnificat, prayer book, quote for the reading of the day from St. Faustina’s dairy. She prays, “O Lord, I want to be completely transformed into your mercy, and to be your living reflection…
Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearance, but look for what is beautiful in neighbors' souls and come to their rescue.
Help me O Lord, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbor’s needs and not indifferent to their pains and moaning’s.
Help me O Lord that my tongue may be merciful so that I should never speak negatively of neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness to all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the most difficult and toilsome tasks.
Help me, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness…
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful, so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor… May your mercy, O Lord, rest upon us.”
Pope Francis continues to emphasize 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.”
The message of The Divine Mercy is simple: God loves us – all of us. The Divine Mercy devotion should lead us to share that mercy with one another. Remember: A - Ask for His Mercy. B - Be merciful. C - Completely trust in Jesus.
He is Risen! Alleluia!!
A couple of years ago I had the privilege to go to a pilgrimage to Holy Land. We had the privilege to make the Way of the Cross to Calvary and visits where Jesus was crucified and buried. We celebrated Mass at the Church of Holy Sepulcher. It was a faith filed moment. Calvary is not a huge hill, considering where Jesus went to pray or where He transfigured, Calvary is a small one. Why? I don’t think Romans want to climb the huge hill to kill somebody. They chose Calvary for their own convenience. For Jesus, it is not just walking up the hill. He was scourged, crowned with thorns and carrying the cross. He was carrying our burdens. Jesus’ crucifixion site and Jesus’ tomb are in the Church of Holy Sepulcher.
At Easter Vigil, the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we read the creation story. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read an Easter Vigil, “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” Jesus on the Easter Sunday morning does a new creation, brought new life.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary brought spices to anoint the body of Jesus. Can you imagine when you walk into a tomb, fully expecting to see a dead body, and you see instead someone alive and well—someone different than the man who was buried there! Today we celebrate Easter. He is Risen!
This Easter experience is a past event, a present reality, and future hope. And we have this faith. This faith flows from our Easter experience. The death of the Lord effected a transformation of reality, a new creation. He was raised up.
Easter is a celebration of present reality. The reality is that Jesus lives! Not that Jesus died and rose again in the past, but that Jesus lives among us and within us right here, and right now. This is our Easter proclamation. We experience his presence in our lives in many beautiful ways. He is among us and within us when we are together as a community. He is here in the proclamation of the scripture for he is the very Word of God. We experience his real presence in the sacraments. The water that poured at the baptism is God's life poured into that person. When the sacred chrism put on the foreheads of the confirmed is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit that comes upon them empowering them to lead others to Christ. When you receive communion we receive Jesus Christ, his very life.
Easter is the celebration of future hope. This future hope is that we will all share in the fullness of the New Life. When we are baptized we are given a share of the Resurrection of the Lord, we become a new creation. Easter is the celebration of hope. Our hope is that we will share in the fullness of the New Life Jesus won for us through His suffering and death. It is our hope in Christ that helps us endure challenges like the coronavirus. The coronavirus has brought the pain of sickness, uncertainties, and confusion, but our faith gives us hope, beyond this pain and struggles, Easter Sunday tells us there is hope. The fullness of hope and happiness is Eternal Life.
All public celebration of the Mass and other services are canceled until further notice. But you are invited to join in online. During Holy Week all the services will be live-streamed. You can watch on Facebook or you can go YouTube and search for Fr. Shaji Joseph Pazhukkathara. When you watch the first time, please subscribe, it will automatically send you notifications. Let us keep distance physically for our safety, stay closer in our prayer, especially Holy Week celebrations.
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 for a death to happen. Death and resurrection happen in our day to day life.
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 Bishop may celebrate prior to the holy week, but this year it is going to be later due to our present situation. At this Chrism Mass, the bishop blesses the Holy Oils.
The Holy Thursday liturgy in the parish communities, celebrated in the evening because Passover began at sundown. 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. Again this year, we won't have any procession. Blessed Sacrament will remain in the Tabernacle. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.
Holy Week can become "holy” by active participation in the Holy Week liturgies. This year again we have limitations for active participation. But spiritually it could be more wanting to be there and join in the online celebration. The celebration of liturgy reminds our life. 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.
Good Friday we start nine days of the novena for Divine Mercy Sunday. Good Friday we see Jesus opened his heart on the Cross poured his love and mercy for each one of us. Let us look at the cross and prepare this week for Easter!
I take this opportunity to thank all those who mailed or dropped off contribution envelopes. We need to pay the bill, prepare for the future. Your generosity makes a difference. I won't see you for some time, but let us be united in prayer. Have a blessed Holy Week!