3rd S. Easter 2021: The Greatest Gift

Today’s homily is for 3rd Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Saint Augustine of Hippo said, “There are many kinds of alms, the giving of which helps us to obtain pardon for our sins; but none is greater than that by which we forgive from our heart a sin that someone has committed against us.” The greatest gift we can give is to forgive another from the heart. Last week was Divine Mercy Sunday, where we reflected upon the mercy of God–that out of love for us, God eases our pain. God reveals his great power not with a press or a flex, but with a release. God gives us a break. He shows us mercy.

Today’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles, to the Gospel teach us that God’s mercy is revealed in the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is a funny thing. We so often seek forgiveness when we wrong someone and repent, but we are often so slow to forgive when someone wrongs us. But listen, forgiveness is the defining characteristic of a Christian. 

Peter tells those who crucified Jesus, you did wrong! You handed Jesus over to Pilate. You denied the Holy One, you killed the author of life. We witnessed these things…we know they’re true!  But repent and your sins will be wiped away. And Jesus after rising tells the apostles that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name. This is the Christian message: Our God is a merciful God. Our God wants to forgive any wrong we have done. Our God forgave even those who put him to death on a cross. That’s an amazing message. That’s amazing love. We are called to love. We too are called to forgive. How will anyone believe in the love and forgiveness of God if we are not willing to love and forgive. 

I think it’s easy to appreciate what God has done on our behalf, but our goal is this life is to be like Him so that we can spend eternity with him. What better way to be like Him than to forgive like him?

This is what we say in the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, “forgive us our tressspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We seek to be forgiven, but the degree to which we will be forgiven is the degree to which we have forgiven others. Just take a moment now. Can you think of a single person against whom you harbor a grudge? Is there a single person–even if just one–that we need to let know that we love and forgive them? 

I think families are usually the best place to start! We ALL make mistakes, we all fail, we all fall, and our merciful lord forgives us time and time again. The Gospel today teaches that we are witnesses of the love and mercy of God–but what kind of witness will we be if we can’t even forgive our family? What kind of forgiveness should we expect from God, if we are unwilling to forgive others from the heart? 

Forgiveness isn’t about what others have done to us, but is instead about who we are, and the type of person we choose to be. And we are poor Christians indeed if we are unwilling to reach out in love to reconcile with others who have harmed us…because that’s what Christians do. We end the cycle of violence. We embrace the sinner. We forgive from the fullness of the heart. We are called to be instruments and examples of the way God loves and forgives the world. 

Easy? No, of course not. But neither was the cross. And it is only through the cross that we can rise with him. Forgive today, and rise up with Him. Happy Easter.

2nd S. of Easter: Mercy Is Divine!

Today’s homily is for 2nd Sunday of Easter, April 11, 2021, also known as The Sunday of Divine mercy, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Sister Faustina, also known as The Apostle of Divine Mercy, for her visions of Jesus; the merciful love of God revealed to the whole world. On this second Sunday of Easter, referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday, we take a moment to reflect upon our merciful God, and how we are called to reveal God’s mercy to the world that they, like Thomas, might come to believe. 

I remember as a kid playing the game, “mercy.” In that game, one person is overpowered by the other and then cries out for mercy, at which time the other, more powerful person, stops the pain and renders the mercy requested. Did anyone play that game growing up? I think that game is a helpful starting place for understanding Divine Mercy. 

In the Creed we say, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty…” The Catechism teaches that God’s Fatherly might, his omnipotence, is revealed, “by the way he takes care of our needs…by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.”(270) God chooses to reveal his power neither in punishment nor even in justice, but rather in mercy. Isn’t that something? True power, Godly power, is revealed not with a flex, nor with a press, but with a release. That’s what we celebrate today, and that’s what we are called to do and to be for others. 

The church offers up for us (you may remember studying them in Catechism class) the Works of Mercy. The seven Corporal Works of Mercy are the works we do with our corpus, or our body—our hands and feet. They are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. The seven Spiritual Works of Mercy are more of the mind, heart, and mouth. They are: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offences, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead. 

All throughout Jesus’ ministry he gave us examples of both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I think in just his journey to the cross he performed every one of the Spiritual works of Mercy, and in today’s reading he counseled the doubtful Thomas. Jesus never wags the finger, never raises the judgemental eyebrow, he just meets the ignorant, sinful, doubtful, and diseased right where they are; he loves them, and gives them just the right thing that they need to believe. That’s Divine Mercy. 

Divine Mercy is never about what we are owed, what we deserve, or what we’ve earned—in fact, it isn’t about us at all. Divine mercy is called Divine Mercy because it’s about God. It’s about God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s desire for our friendship, God’s desire for our joy and fulfillment that can only be found in him, and about his desire that we experience his love and come to believe and find peace and rest in him. 

Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, I will not believe.” Jesus said, “Put your finger here, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” No shaming, no admonishment, no insults, no pressure—only love. Our world is so full of violence and suffering and pain. We need mercy. So many of us are under tremendous pressure and are crying out for mercy. Ask God to give you mercy, and have eyes open to see how it is revealed—and believe. 

And be an instrument of God’s mercy to others. We all need a break. We have so many opportunities to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, comfort the afflicted, and pray for others. That’s Divine. Be God’s partner so that all might come to believe.

Easter Sunday 2021: An Example to Follow

Today’s homily is for Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

A very happy Easter to everyone! Today we join countless millions who have celebrated this most glorious and miraculous event–He is risen, my friends! Truly He is risen! That was the exciting proclamation that Peter shared first in Jerusalem, that St. Paul shared in Judea and Samaria, and that we are called to share to the ends of the earth. He is risen! Death could not hold him! They put him to death but God raised him up! It was said of those first disciples, “You could beat them, you could whip them, you could stone them, and you could kill them, but you could not make them deny that on the third day he rose again!” And here we are, praising what God has done–reconciling the world to himself through the death and resurrection of his only begotten son, so that all who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life. That’s Good News. We should live it.

I think there is much by way of how we live it given in the example of Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. Salome, you might remember is the mother of James and John, the fisherman and sons of Zebedee–referred to by Jesus as “the Sons of Thunder.” Interesting right? James and John are referred to as either the Sons of Zebedee (their father) or as the Sons of Thunder (Salome). Salome had spirit! You remember that she was the one who approached Jesus and said, “Command that these sons of mine sit at your right and your left in your Kingdom.” (MT 20:21) I love it. She knows Jesus. She is courageous. And she lives the good news.

On this Easter Sunday, we can look closely at the actions of these women and find for ourselves who we are called to be, and what we are called to do. They were irresponsibly optimistic, one hundred percent committed, and faithfully obedient Catholics.

They were irresponsibly optimistic because they went out, spent a bunch of money on spices so they could anoint Jesus, got up very early in the morning–before daylight–and started right to the tomb even though they knew they had no way of even getting in! They didn’t have anyone to roll the stone back! God proved that even though they didn’t have a way, that doesn’t mean that God couldn’t provide a way. I think we should live more like that: optimistic, expectant, always knowing that God is going to to something great to glorify His name!

Secondly, they were committed. When they looked up and saw that very large stone rolled back they could have walked right back home and said, “No way! I don’t know what’s going on. I’m outta here.” But they didn’t. Instead they went right into the tomb to find the Lord. Their goal was to find the Lord and to anoint him, and nothing and no one was going to stop them. I like that. They were willing to enter the grave to encounter Jesus. That sort of commitment is hard to find today. As Jesus’ disciples, we too need to commit to serving him in the poor, the marginalized, the homeless and the helpless–and we can’t let anyone or anything get in our way. 

Finally, they were faithfully obedient Catholics. Did you notice that the angel told the women, “Go and tell his disciples and Peter.” That’s interesting, right? Wasn’t Peter one of Jesus’ disciples like all the rest? Clearly, he is not. He was a disciple called to a particular role to lead the disciples on earth. Peter knew it, that angel knew it, the other disciples knew it, and the women knew it too. Though many Christians today would deny it, we do not. We stand alongside these faith-filled women, and are obedient to Christ’s vicar on earth, the Pope.

The angel told these women to “go and tell,” and because they did, and others did after them, and others after them, this Gospel was written, preserved, and proclaimed! For upwards of 70 generations parents have told their children that our Savior is Risen, and his vicar on earth preserves the authenticity of that witness. If you are here today because you heard the Good News of Christ’s rising, that he is both Savior and Lord, and that he founded the Holy Roman Catholic Church upon Peter, the Rock, take the time today to say a prayer for the person who shared that beautiful message with you. If they are still alive, thank them in person.

On this wonderful Easter Sunday, I want to encourage all of us to be irresponsibly optimistic at all times, commit yourself and your family to Christian service, and be faithfully obedient to the Church and its teachings, and to our Pope. In a time where it is increasingly popular to be negative, look out only for oneself, and to throw off authority and leadership, we remain committed to a positive, optimistic attitude, to service to others, and obedience the Church, to the Pope, and to our Risen Lord. Happy Easter. He is risen! Truly, he is risen! Go live that Good News with the whole world.