Our salvation is only in Jesus: A homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)

Tgoodshepeherdoday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday.  Any kind of shepherd you can think of–you have a shepherd and the sheep behind him, following from behind.  That’s not good enough for Jesus.

What makes Jesus the Good Shepherd is that he doesn’t just want us to follow him at a distance, from afar, to follow behind him.  He wants us to be in him and he wants to be in us.

Today we celebrate first communion at the 8:45am Mass and 3pm Mass.  Jesus wants to be in us, and he wants us to remain in him.  He doesn’t leave us on our own to follow him behind.  He comes within. God in us, us in God.

This is what St Peter says today in our first reading.  Listen to what Peter says: “There is no salvation through anyone else,nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

This is a lot like John 3, where Jesus says that only he can go to heaven.  No one else.  It’s impossible for any of us to get to heaven by ourselves. We can only do that if we’re in Jesus…who is the resurrection.

Peter is saying that we have no hope without being in the Lord….no hope for eternal salvation, and no hope from salvation from our problems on earth.

A lot of people look to all kinds of saviors and shepherds to rescue them and guide them to greener pastures–money, Dr. Phil, Opera, bigger houses, more stuff, nicer cars, drugs.  If I only get this thing or that thing, we delude ourselves, then I’ll be okay.

None of that saves us.  Only Jesus can do that.  Salvation–eternal and earthly–is only in Jesus.

Another thought–today is Good Shepherd Sunday. We pray that God will give us many more holy, good priests.

Prayer is the soil in which saints grow: A homily for the Third Sunday of Easter (B)

Pope Francis document, known as an apostolic exhortation, entitled Gaudete et exsultate (Rejoice and be glad), is seen in this picture illustration taken at the Vatican

I’ve been thinking about prayer in relation to our readings.  Partly this is because I received in my email a great quote this week, and I edit it a touch: Prayer is the soil in which saints grow.  How true

In our first reading from Acts we hear about two guys, Peter and John, who had just been on a journey to the temple at the 3:00 hour of prayer. They happen upon this crippled man. Peter prays over him–and all the sudden the crippled man isn’t crippled anymore. Now people see this happen, and they begin to praise PETER…and then Peter launches into a speech.  We hear a part of it today. He says, “it wasn’t me! It was Jesus. I’m just a sinner like you.”  What strength Peter and John had–it was from prayer. It was prayer that gave them the power, the grace to do all they did.

Our gospel tells us about the two men after their beautiful experience on the road to Emmaus. They “recounted” the experience. They meditated on it, contemplated it….and Jesus “opened their minds.”  They prayed about it all.  And we don’t know a lot of what happens to these two men, but we know they go back to Jerusalem and spread the faith….all because they prayed.

In both cases we see this—-Prayer….then mission.

Prayer comes first.  I’m reading through Pope Francis’ new exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, the third one he’s written to date. Listen to what he says: “You too need to see the entirety of your life as a mission. Try to do so by listening to God in prayer.”  Pope Francis is saying that our life is a mission….we’re all here for a reason, or 10,000 reasons…we simply need to pray to figure it out!  PRAYER then mission.

Prayer makes saints.  Because prayer helps us to know our mission and gives us the strength to do it.  Otherwise we’re operating on our own strength and doing what we want.  Better rely on God’s strength and do what he wants.  Prayer makes all that possible

True for us as indivudals….true for families….true for churches……prayer is the soil in which saints grow

The doors that open and those that don’t: A homily for Divine Mercy Sunday (B)

the-divine-mercy-jesus-i-trust-in-you-ii-terezia-sedlakova-wutzayThe Gospel today talks about doors….so I’ve been thinking about the doors of our lives.

Sometimes doors open for us. That is mercy. I think about when God gives a new job, or when a new relationship forms, a new ministry at church. It is mercy that opens these doors! Sometimes doors open in unexpected ways and when we’re not even looking for them. I think about the story I use all the time of a couple that met because of a car accident. Their kids owe their lives to a fender bender! It is mercy. God opens new doors for us all the time. Puts the right people together at the right time.  It’s mercy.

Sometimes, though, the doors do not open for us. That, too, is mercy. There’s a saying: “If the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door.” Sometimes we are convinced a certain door is “our door.” But, for reasons we may never know, it isn’t. And God keeps it closed for good reason, and that reason is mercy. Sometimes we are convinced that some job or some promotion is meant to be ours, but someone else gets it. That’s because God has a different door in store for us. I had been a priest for 8 months when I heard that Roncalli needed a new priest. I wanted that assignment….on top of my OLG assignment. I had a list of reasons why that job should have been mine.  It didn’t come to pass. Someone else was selected. The door was closed.  But now I thank God because perhaps, had that door been opened for me, I wouldn’t be here at St joe’s today.  Sometimes God closes a door and it is mercy.

The doors that open, the doors that don’t–sometimes it can be hard to accept.  Here’s the thing. St Faustina gives good advice here: just say three times, JESUS I TRUST IN YOU.  And then, she says, all our anxieties fall away.  Jesus I trust in you. You opened this door and closed that door…I trust in you.

There is a door we must always keep open: the door of our hearts. Listen to this from St. Faustina: “All grace flows from mercy….God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest.” (No. 1507). It is our job to keep the door of our hearts open to God. A sad thing happens when we try to shut God out. Sometimes you see this with people. They resist and resist and resist some more. They have an objection for everything. But ultimately, even if it’s in their last breath, most people open the door.

And here’s some good news: God knows how to break down the doors. The apostles in Gospel today, they had the door closed and locked. But Jesus came in anyways. Thomas, the door of his heart was closed. His mantra: “I will not believe!” But then he sees Jesus, and he never has to put his finger in his side….he falls on his knees and confesses God’s mercy.

Jesus is the source of all mercy. In the Eucharist, he enters our doors and dwells within us….so that he lives in us….and together, Jesus mixed with us, we can be sources of mercy and grace for a world that needs it so much!


The Via Dolorosa: A homily for Palm Sunday (B)

1280px-Pieter_Bruegel_d._Ä._007Today Holy Mass begins with a procession. This is wise, becuase with Mass today we begin an incredible journey with Jesus. During this week we recall what that journey must have been like for Jesus when he walked the stations of the cross 2000 some years ago.  We heard about many of those stations in our gospel today.

Today we have an invitation from Jesus to walk with him through his journey.  In the Holy Land, they don’t call it the stations of the cross. They call it the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow.  It’s actually a street in Jerusalem.  We walk with our Lord through the thick and thin, through his agony and sorrows.

Maybe you’ve noticed in your life that sometimes it is in sadness that one comes to experience the Lord in some deep way. It is in the suffering that people find Jesus, a lot of times.  This week is a week to spend in the sorrow of our Christ.

I always think of the beautiful painting by Pieter Bruegel called The Way to Calvary (above).  It depicts Jesus’ journey with the cross.  But there are a thousand other things going on in the painting. There are lots and lots of people. And no one is looking at Jesus. No one seems to notice what is going on.  Everyone is too busy.

That can’t be us this week.  Let this week be a prayerful week.  Even if you’re on Spring Break in Florida, go to the Holy Thursday Mass. The Good Friday service. Easter Mass, of course–the Vigil if you can.  I also encourage everyone to contemplate ONE station of the cross this week. Just pick on and really sit with it.

Have a holy and blessed Holy Week.

God will raise us: A homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)

170307085951-jesus-lazarus-restrictedGod will raise us. This seems to be the message of all our readings. In our first reading from Ezekiel, we hear God say that he will raise us up out of our graves. St Paul says in our second reading that the same spirit that rose Jesus from the dead, lives in us. In our Gospel we hear about Lazarus who is raised from the dead by Jesus.

God will raise us. He raises us out of addictions, things that enslave us and have power over us. He lifts us up out that…because the spirit that rose Jesus from the dead which is living in us is more powerful!

A lot of times people have disappointments and setbacks. Jesu raises us up out of it.  Sometimes it’s daily circumstances and problems that plague us. Sometimes there is great loss.  God weeps with you, just as he weeps with Mary and Martha.  God doesn’t just take the pain away, but he enters us into it. He brings meaning and hope to it.

Even our sins, Jesus raises us up out of them and back into a state of grace…every time we go to holy confession.  Jesus divinizes us very time we go to holy communion.

Jesus is constantly lifting us up….from sin to grace, from unbelief into belief, from darkness into light, from ignorance into wisdom, sickness to health.

Sometimes we get so stuck in the thing we want lifted out of, that we start to lose hope. But here’s the thing: we know he will lift us up because he’s done it a thousand times before. Just read the bible….story after story of God raising folks up.  God works on his own clock.  His clock is different from ours. That’s ok.  Just like this Spring: I’m not sure it will ever come.  But it will, because it has come every year.  So I can have confidence it will come again this year.

Twofold is the call today:

  1. We gotta let Jesus lift us up.  We can be stubborn sometimes. We like our ruts.
  2. We have to also lift others up. We believe that we are the Church–and the Church is Jesus–so that means it’s our job to lift others up.  Sometimes it’s a simple kind word. Sometimes it’s the heroic actions of the saints.  O yes, we are called to those too sometimes.  This is why we started St Vincent de Paul, why we have our habitat for humanity project, why we do all the chairtable things we do here.  It’s because we are Jesus and Jesus lifts people, raises people up.

God bless you.

The difference light makes: A homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent (B)

thToday, as we celebrate Laetare Sunday, we have a little bit more light in the church. We take a break from the dark, penitential purple and we marry it with the Easter White….the Church’s way of saying, we’re getting there. So buck up and keep on going. Rejoice in what is to come.

Of all the Masses throughout the year, of course hte Easter Vigil is my favorite. The Mass starts in the dead of night. It is dark. No candles, no lights are on. Just darkness.  And into that darkness….a fire….a light….JESUS.  With Jesus comes the light….because he is the light.

And light is one subject of our readings today.  We hear about the man born blind today in our gospel, a man who never saw anything but darkness….until that day, that day when he met Jesus…the Light….and he could see.

St Paul says that we’re given a choice: live in the light or live in the dark. Choose the light.

I know a Dominican who went through a bit of a botany stage in his life. He told me how he planted two plants.  Same sized pots, same soil, same seeds. He watered them the same. The only difference was–one he put in a dark room with little light, and the other he put in the light of day.

No surprise–the one that was in the darker room grew, but not so well: it was unfruitful, it looked weak, it was not tall. No roots.  But the one in the light….that thing grew like crazy.  It produced fruits, its roots were deep, it was pretty and green.

We’re wired like that. We need the light.  And Jesus is the light.  We’re made by God to need our Jesus.  If we don’t have him, by George we’re like that deadly looking plant.  We don’t produce fruits, we don’t live beautiful lives, we neglect our roots.

The challenge for us today is this: live in the light.  Sometimes people prefer darkness, as we hear in the Gospel of John.  Which is one strange thing about sin: it makes no sense, none whatsoever.  Why on earth would anyone live in that dark room if he had the chance–and the invitation and command!–to live in the light???  Of course we all have done that.

Live in the light, says Jesus.  And that will change EVERYTHING.

Jesus wants to clean your temple: A homily for the Third Sunday of Lent (B)

downloadToday we see Jesus cleaning out the temple.  He wants to clean out your temple, and my temple, too.  He wants to clean up our lives. Scripture says that our bodies, our souls are temples of Jesus.  He wants to do some spring cleaning.

Because there’s a lot of pollution in our bodies and lives. We consume a lot of spiritual junk food and literal junk food. Jesus wants to clean it all out, he wants to purify our lives.  How does he do this?  How does he purify our souls?

Well, for one, he gives us the ten commandments, as our first reading says.  These commandments are a roadmap for us to heaven, and to happiness and holiness on earth.  Following these commandments brings about a pure heart, a pure life.  Whenever there is dirt and pollution on our souls, it is because we have failed in one of these commandments.

When Jesus cleaned out the temple in our gospel, he seemed a little upset. He has every right to be.  And I imagine he is with our lives too.  Get into shape, he says.  And it is time.

So let’s review them and how to live them….

Whenever we fail in these commandments….it is time to have the ultimate temple cleansing…CONFESSION.  GO TO CONFESSION.