Congratulation to our First Communicants!
Once, a gentleman was visiting his son. On Sunday when he went to church he took his little granddaughter with him. While they were in the church, the little girl was observing everything,. Finally they went to receive communion. Grandpa received communion and she got a blessing. On the way back to the pew she asked, “Grandpa when am I going to get one of those?” Grandpa told her, “I will make sure in a couple of years you will receive First Communion.” She kept watching the priest, and grandpa knelt down and prayed. When the priest went to the tabernacle to keep the Blessed Sacrament, she asked grandpa, “What is he doing? Is he putting it in the microwave?”
First of all, I would like to congratulate all of our First Communicants! I am sure all of you are excited to receive the Eucharist, the Body of Christ. Look at the Cross, and it tells you how much God loves you. Look at the Easter Candle, and it tells you He loves you and wants to be the light of your life. Look at the Altar. Just as your parents feed you so that you can be strong physically, God feeds you from the Altar so that you can be strong spiritually. At your Holy Communion, Jesus comes to you. He wants your communion/relationship with him to be holy. He wants your communion/relationship with everybody to be Holy.
In today’s Gospel of Luke, Luke is presenting two different accounts. Two disciples were explaining how they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Among the Jews, this was a ceremonial gesture that began the celebration of an ordinary meal. But among the Christians, it was used as a description of the Eucharist celebration. We read in the Acts of the Apostles 2:42, “They held steadfastly to the apostles’’ teaching and fellowship to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.”
While the two were explaining the Emmaus experience Jesus appeared to them again and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He showed them His hands and feet to remove their doubts. We read the Gospel of John 20:27, where Jesus was appearing to the apostles and asking doubting Thomas to come to faith. Jesus showed them His risen body and assures us of the physical nature of our own resurrection on the Last Day. The resurrected body is a spiritual body.
Then he reminded them that His suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead are the fulfillment of Moses, prophets, and psalms. There is an emphasis on the term third day, and we can see a couple of references in the Old Testament. In the Book of Genesis 22:13, Isaac was for three days under a death sentence until God intervened to give him back alive to Abraham on the third day. In Jonah 1:17, the experience of Jonah coming forth from a whale after three days in its stomach, foreshadowed Christ’s resurrection from the grave after three days. In Hosea 6:2, Hosea depicted Israel’s restoration from exile as a third-day resurrection.
Saint Teresa looked at her with love and said, “My dear sister, have you forgotten that Jesus is still on earth and that He lives near you-yes, in the house with you, and often in your very soul. Have you also forgotten that you can see Him and can speak to Him as often as you like? Is not Jesus with us in the Most Holy Sacrament? Why then do you wish to have lived long ago, since that same Jesus who lived with Mary and Joseph lives also with you?” Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. And we who are united to Him through our baptism have risen with Him. Jesus lives with us and He gives Himself in the Eucharist as nourishment for our journey, so we can grow in Holiness.
Divine Mercy Sunday
God is love and merciful. He continues to pour out his mercy in the world through new Israel, the Church. In a dream, St. Theresa of Lisieux asked St. Faustina, an apostle of Divine Mercy, to trust in Jesus and she will become a saint. Later St. Faustina wrote in her diary, “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 humankind, I desire to heal it…”
Pope St. John Paul II declared that the second Sunday, the octave day of Easter, should be Divine Mercy Sunday. 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. 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.
Pope Francis continues to spread 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.”
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.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles talks about the corporal works of Mercy. Early Christian communities were united as a family in every aspect of life. They shared everything, supported each other, and worshiped together. The second reading from the first letter of St. John talks about keeping love for God and keeping the commandment.
In the Gospel of John, 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." We read in the Book of Genesis 2:7, God breathed on the first man and gave him life. We see other passages in the Old Testament about the breath of God. In Ezekiel 37:9, where God raises an army of corpses to new life by the breath of the Spirit. In the first book of Kings (17:21), we see Elijah revives the dead son of the widow of Zarephath. After the resurrection Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them new life: spiritual life.
Jesus asked them to receive the Holy Spirit, and then he commissioned them to forgive the sins. Jesus' ministry of mercy and reconciliation will continue through the apostles. A week later Jesus appeared to them and Thomas proclaims the faith, “My Lord and My God.” Apostles experience God’s mercy and proclaim it in a loud voice. 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 diary, “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 humankind, I desire to heal it…”
On Sunday, April 11 at 2:30 p.m. our cluster will have Divine Mercy Sunday service. It includes Adoration, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available. Please come and join. Thank you.
The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoice Sunday. Why is the Church inviting all believers to rejoice at the midpoint of Advent? Christ's coming to earth, which Advent looks forward to, is the only source of true, lasting joy. Entrance Antiphon for this weekend Mass, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” We light the Rose Candle, a sign of joy.
In the first reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah tells the Israelites rejoice because the prophet has been anointed by the Lord to bring the good news to the afflicted. This part of Isaiah is written while Israelites were trying to re-establish their lives in the Promised Land after the Babylonian exile. The prophet gave them comfort and promised the healing of broken hearts. He told them he is anointed to announce a year of favor. The year of favor is a jubilee year. We read in the book of Leviticus 25:10, “You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you when each of you shall return to your own property, each of you to your own family.”
The prophet’s promise came to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. We see Jesus’ inaugural address of his public ministry in the Gospel of Luke 4:16-21. After reading from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In the responsorial psalm, Mary says, Almighty has done great things for me, so her soul rejoices in God. In the second reading, Paul says to Thessalonians, “Rejoice always.” He reminds them to give thanks to God ,to do good things always, and to avoid evil.
This year we are reading from the Gospel of Mark, but we have a guest today, John. We read from the Gospel of John about specific identification of John the Baptist. John testified to the light, but he was not the light. Then Gospel says John was the voice in the desert. We see in the Gospel reading, people seeking the identity of John the Baptist. Why do they want to know about him? People had great respect for him, at the same time priest and Levites had questions about him. Priest and Levites, their interest was normal, John is the son of Zacharias who was a priest. In Judaism the only qualification for the priesthood was descendent. So the priest and Levites came to find out why John is behaving in a strange way.
The people of Israel listen to John because they didn’t hear the voice of a prophet for four hundred years. So they were eager to hear him. John told them “I am not the Christ.” Then they asked him, “Are you, Elijah? In the last weekend we reading we heard about John the Baptist’s dress. “John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” Mark 1:6. Also, they believed that Elijah will come before Christ. So they assumed this could be Elijah. John tells them, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’”
People started following John, so the Pharisees were interested to find out his authenticity. So they question why are you baptizing? John was saying to them, the Messiah is coming, you need to cleanse as much as any Gentiles do. Normally baptism was for the Gentiles who want to convert to Judaism or those who went out of Judaism and if they want to come back to Judaism. But John was giving them the baptism of repentance to prepare the way for the Lord.
This Gaudete Sunday invites us to rejoice at the same time repent and continue to prepare our heart for Christmas and for the coming of Christ in glory.