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.
In the ancient world, lepers were not included in the community. They were supposed to keep distance from others. The communities were afraid of them. Today we read this story and may say, it is so sad. Are we different from them? Flu season what do we do. We are afraid of those who are sick or self-conscious of our health. Jesus’ story, there were ten lepers. In this story there are two points for reflection: inclusion and gratitude.
What is inclusion? Some of them must have been limping with deformed legs, most likely relying on crutches. Some had lost fingers and even parts of their face. Many had horrible sores all over their bodies. They were hideous.
All of them had bells. All were required to call out continually, “Unclean, unclean.” The healthy would do everything possible to avoid them. That is why at the beginning of the Gospel the lepers stood off at a distance and called to Jesus to heal them. They were not supposed to come closer. Jesus told them “Go show yourselves to the priests.” It is because there was a ritual to be welcomed back to the community. Jesus healed them, not just leprosy, but brought them back to community.
Respect life month invites us to meditate on dignity of life. Fr. Dennis Mullen at the cluster mission reminded us that our culture tells us that we have to be young and wealthy. So we are tempted to move towards that goal. The Bible teaches that life is a gift of God and hence we have to respect it from womb to tomb. This weekend we celebrate Inclusion Awareness Day as a part of respect life month. Respect life month we celebrate life with our ability and disAbilities, our strength and weakness. We are one family. Because we like to see ourselves young, healthy and wealthy, sometime we forget to appreciate the rest of the community. Inclusion awareness Sunday is opportunity to reflect how we include everyone in the community by looking at our abilities, rather than looking at disAbilities. How we appreciate the gift of each and every one. In other words, how we celebrate our differences. This weekends reading invites us to “do something beautiful for God” by reaching out to others.
Father Henri Nouwen, the founder of the Pathways Awareness remarked that "I was always studying about God and teaching about God to all these bright students. I wanted to be smarter than others. I wanted to show them that I could be "with it". And I suddenly realized that it is not in strength and power that God was coming to me, but in weakness."
God’s love includes everyone. He opened his arms and heart on the cross to embrace everyone. So Jesus invites us to open our hearts, minds and doors for everyone. But in reality, sometimes many people with disAbilities are unintentionally excluded. Inclusion Awareness Sunday invites us to reflect that what I can do to include everyone.
Second point is gratitude. On the way to the temple priest, all of them received healing, but only the Samaritan came back to Jesus to express his gratitude. He was outcast twice, he is outcast because he was a Samaritan and then because of leprosy.
We try to teach our children to say please and thank you. When we reach our adulthood, do we still keep the positive attitude or do we become a more negative person. Do we count our blessing? Do we still keep that attitude of gratitude? It is most beautiful prayer. Eucharist is a beautiful prayer of gratitude.
Let us pray, Lord, may we never fail to recognize your love and mercy. Fill our heart with gratitude and thanksgiving. Lord, give us strength to bring others closer to you. Amen