First of all, I would like to congratulate all those who received the Sacrament of Confirmation last weekend and all of our children who are making their First Communion this weekend.
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?”
I am sure all of our children are excited to receive the Eucharist, the Body of Christ. Look at the Cross, and it tells us how much God loves us. Look at the Easter Candle, and it tells us He loves us and wants to be the light of our life. Look at the Altar. Just as your parents feed you so that you can be strong physically, God feeds us from the Altar so that we can be strong spiritually. Children, at your First Holy Communion, Jesus comes to you for the first time in the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. He wants to give you/us nourishment so we can be holy.
We have the Gospel of John chapter 21 for this weekend. There are so many beautiful moments in this Gospel passage. Peter decided to go fishing and the rest of them followed him. They worked hard but they didn’t get anything. When they came back empty handed the Risen Christ was waiting for them on the shore with fish and bread. First they didn't recognize Jesus, but they followed his command and lowered the net and had a miraculous catch. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 5, Jesus was calling the first disciples. There is some similarity between these two passages. At the command of Jesus Peter lowered the net and had a great catch. This point Peter said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Jesus' reply was, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” Peter was James and John followed Jesus. In the Gospel of John chapter 21, when John said, “It is the Lord” Peter sprang into the sea. He couldn’t wait to boat to get to the shore. When we look at these two Gospel passages we can see Peter’s transformation.
Jesus already had a charcoal fire with fish laying on it, and bread. He invited disciples for breakfast and it reminds us of the celebration of Eucharist. The ultimate invitation is to the heavenly banquet. Jesus took bread and gave it to them. They remember what Jesus did at the Last Supper and prior to that feeding the five thousand (John 6:11). During the Mass, before the Communion the priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” When Jesus called Peter, James and John the first time, Peter recognized the holiness of Christ and and his unworthiness. Here he jumped out of the boat and came to Jesus and joined for a meal.
The second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus commissions Peter to shepherd the church. Christ himself is the Good Shepherd. Now, he entrusts the care of his flock to Peter. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter’s love for Christ is the evidence of his love of God's people. Peter had denied Jesus three times while warming himself at a fire as Jesus was being interrogated (18:25-27) and now around the charcoal fire Peter reaffirms three times that he loved Jesus. Each time Jesus told him “Feed my sheep,” “Tend my sheep” and “Feed my sheep.”
As we meditate this passage, let us pray in a special way for our shepherds: Pope Francis and Bishop James Powers. At the same time we all are called to be shepherds on a different level. Let us remind ourselves of our call and responsibilities and renew the spirit in the Risen Christ.
Divine Mercy Sunday
Divine Mercy Sunday reminds us again God is love and merciful. He continues to pour out his mercy in the world through the new Israel, the Church. In a dream, St. Theresa of Lisieux told St. Faustina "Yes, you will be a saint just as I am, but you must trust in the Lord Jesus" (Diary of St. Faustina, 150). And also told her that she will be 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 says “Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles.” We see this expression which says that God works through the prophets and apostles. We read in the book of Exodus, God did many signs and wonders through Moses (Exodus 7:3; 11:10; Deuteronomy 6:22; 26:8). Even today, God continues to do signs and wonders among us. The second reading from the book of Revelation, John explains a vision. In the vision, there were seven lampstands, which symbolizes the prayers of the seven churches in Asia Minor, present day Turkey. The lampstand and vestment set stage for Christ, the Eternal High Priest. The seven stars are the angels who watch over seven churches. John’s vision was of Christ “One like a son of man.” Jesus passed over death and brought victory who has the power to lock and unlock the underworld.
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 revive the dead son of the widow of Zarephath. After the resurrection, Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them new life: spiritual life. A week later Jesus appeared to them and Thomas proclaimed 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 24th at 2:30 p.m. our cluster will have Divine Mercy Sunday service at Immaculate Conception. It includes Adoration, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Benediction and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available. Please come and join. Thank you.
Thank you to everyone who sent a card, gift, gave the goodies, called and so on on my birthday. Thank you for thinking of me and taking time to make the day special. Thank you!
Happy and Blessed Easter to everyone!
It is beautiful to walk through the reading for Easter. The Old Testament readings of Easter Vigil tells us the covenant history of salvation, beginning with creation and extending to the prophetic promises of a New Covenant. The first reading is from the Book of Genesis (1:1-2:2), narrates the fundamental doctrine of creation and prepares us for the celebration of baptism and for us renewal of baptism as a new creation. In the second reading also from the book of Genesis (22:1-18), Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son. It is the high point of Abraham’s covenant relationship with God and blessing on his descendent. On Good Friday, Our Heavenly Father allows his only begotten Son to be crucified on Calvary. In the third reading from the book of Exodus, Israelites marched on dry land through the midst of the sea (14:15-15:1). At Easter Vigil, if there is baptism and Christian initiation takes place. The parting of the sea is a critical Old Testament type of baptism.
The next two readings are from the book of Isaiah. In the fourth reading, the Lord will with his enduring love, resume his covenant love for Zion and rebuild with precious stones and grant it righteousness and prosperity (54:5-14). This reading shapes the mind of the believer, especially those who are receiving the Sacraments, about the dual reality of the church as both Bride and Temple. The fifth reading is an invitation for a meal. The Lord’s thoughts and ways are higher and His Words will not return empty (55:1-11). This passage is associated with the Gospel of Matthew (14:13-21) the account of the feeding of the five thousand. Ultimately it leads to the Eucharist. This reading prepares us to reaffirm our faith and particularly those who are prepared to receive the Sacrament of Eucharist for the first time. The sixth reading is from the book of the Prophet Baruch which talks about wisdom and law (3:9-15, 32-4:4). It is an invitation to walk towards the splendor of the Lord, and live the faith to the full. The seventh reading from the book of Ezekiel tells about the restoration of Israel (Ezekiel 36:16-17, 18-28). The Lord will gather the Israelites from exile, and cleans them by sprinkling the clean water, and give them a new heart and a new spirit, so they can grow in the law of love. The Sacrament of Baptism is the new cleansing and the Holy Spirit renewing the heart to grow in the law of love.
In the Gospel of Luke (24:1-12), we read an Easter Vigil, the women found an empty tomb and they met two men in dazzling garments. The men asked women, “why do you seek the living one among the dead?” An ancient homily on Holy Saturday notes that “God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and son of Eve.” Jesus on Easter Sunday morning does a new creation.
During Lent, the church didn’t have any flowers, and when we walk into the church on Easter Vigil in the light of an Easter candle, we are struck by the flowers and beauty. The Easter flowers remind us of the three gardens of the Lord we find in Scripture. The first garden is the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8) where God placed first parents. It was a place of joy and love but soon it became a place of sin, suffering, and shame. The second garden is the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36). This garden is a garden of challenge and the garden of choice. It was challenging, but Jesus chose to do the sacrifice for us.
The third garden is the garden of the Resurrection (John 19:41). I recall my visit to 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 is a small church within the church which is the Tomb of Christ. It was not just the Church of Tomb, but also the Church of Resurrection.
In the beginning God created everything and rested on the seventh day. On Easter Sunday, the first day of the week, God made us a new creation. I pray that we all can find one another in the garden of Resurrection - the New Creation. He is risen! Alleluia!!
The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. It is on Palm Sunday that we enter Holy Week. At the procession with Palms, we read the Gospel of Mark. Mark dedicates over one-third of his Gospel to Passion Week, the final days of Jesus’ life. This reading shows the importance and every year we celebrate them from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday. Jesus enters the Holy City of Jerusalem amidst thousands of pilgrims who came for the annual feast of Passover (Exodus 12:1-13). Prince Solomon used his father David’s royal donkey for the ceremonial procession on the day of his coronation (1Kings 1:32-40). Jesus entered the Holy City as a king of peace, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah (9:9-10).
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 I write this message we are in preparation for the Chrism Mass. At this 'Chrism Mass,' the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism used for Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and Anointing of the Sick. On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three things: Institution of the Eucharist, Institution of the Priesthood, and Jesus' promulgation of the new commandment of Love. "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:3). The original meaning of this feast is to celebrate the passing of the angel of death over the Israelites and their escape from Egypt ((Exodus 12:3). In the new Passover, Jesus will pass over to the Father through the upcoming events of his Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. The Holy Thursday liturgy in the parish communities celebrate in the evening because Passover began at sundown. Washing of the feet takes place in this Mass. In the Old Testament time, it was a gesture of hospitality, normally performed by a household slave. In John chapter13, Jesus washes the disciples' feet. The foot-washing may be a sign of priestly ordination as in the Book of Exodus 40:12. Food brought for the poor will be brought at the offertory. After the Holy Thursday evening Mass the Blessed Sacrament is 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.
On Holy Thursday the institution of Eucharist Jesus said to his disciples, “This is my body broken for you; this is my blood 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. Jesus completed the sacrifices on the Cross. The water and blood came from the side of Jesus. In the book of Numbers when Moses struck the rock, the water came out (20:10-13). Paul interprets this rock as Christ (1Corinthians 10:4) from which flows the spiritual drink of the Eucharist. St. John Chrysostom says, "The water and blood symbolizes Baptism and Holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, the cleansing of water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit, and from the Holy Eucharist." Holy Week can become "holy” for us only if we actively and consciously take part in the liturgies of this week. Let us meditate on these beautiful liturgies and renew our own faith.