2nd S. Easter 2022: Be Divine

Today’s homily is for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 24, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

John’s Gospel tells us quite plainly, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” This is not a history book nor a science book, this was not written to teach us how the heavens go, it was written to teach us how to go to heaven; the very path to eternal life, the salvation of our soul. In God’s merciful love, his son paid a debt of sin that he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. And in God’s merciful love he inspired the sacred authors to write the roadmap of salvation. We don’t know of any other way that a person might be saved except through the waters of Baptism. 

What a wonderful gift these Scriptures are to us, that preserve the life and teaching of God’s people, Jesus, and the apostles, whom our Lord bound together by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and charged with continuing His work of healing and forgiving sins. 

Make no mistake, the sacred scriptures are quite clear, Jesus came to earth and planned to stay with us until the end of time, and He has—not in his flesh—but in the flesh of his ministers by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just soak that up for a second. Jesus is here guarding and guiding his Church. That was John’s vision. He saw Jesus sitting in the midst of seven golden lamp stands that represent the seven churches of Asia Minor, the candle being the bishop,  Christ’s light in a world of darkness. In god’s merciful love he remains among us protecting and guiding the Church. 

And our bishop has ordained the ministerial priesthood and deacons to be his help in making Jesus a visible reality in the community of faith and in the world. What an honorable vocation, what an exceptional calling. Tragic to have such a shortage of men willing to be his voice, his eyes, his hands and heart. Jesus still sits amidst his Churches—not just in Asia Minor, but throughout the whole world, on every continent. That’s why we must support missions and missionaries—that Christ might be in every country and every community. In God’s merciful love he sends out men and women to share the good news. 

Jesus said to the apostles, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” And the Apostles courageously went forth, and in Acts we heard, “Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles.” The sick and those possessed by demons carried into the streets in the hope that the first Pope’s shadow might fall upon them and they might be healed. What a sight. The mission and ministry continues still to this day. The harvest is abundant, but the laborers few. I’m asking for a few things today—first, pray for vocations to the priestly, religious, and diaconal life—not just today, but everyday. Make it a part of your morning or evening prayer, or at meals. Secondly, read the Bible–get one if you don’t have one. If you are a Christian who has not read the story of Jesus’ earthly life from beginning to end, then you need to. Thirdly, support our parish, our diocese, our ministers, and the bishop who makes Christ present to us. With words of affirmation, with service, in financial generosity, or with a card that says thank you for letting Christ the teacher, healer, and servant live among us through your life. And finally, be merciful. Give someone a break–even when they don’t deserve it. Allow God’s Divine Mercy to flow through you to others. Be Divine.

Easter Sunday Vigil 2022: It is Good…Again

Today’s homily is for Easter Sunday Vigil Saturday, April 16, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

I remember bits and pieces of when we were just little, before we were even in kindergarten, and my mom had made tacos–it was perfect. The table was set, my mom had done such a beautiful job, tortillas, beans, hamburger, onions, tomatoes…but my dad came home drunk and angry, which was not uncommon. I remember him taking the beans, dumping them on my mom’s head and flipping over the table–all of my mom’s hard work wasted on the floor. Immediately, with tears in her eyes, my mom began picking up the pieces, starting over, making it good again. And, can you believe, that all these years later, there’s still nothing my mom and our family loves more than Tina’s tacos. My brothers and sisters, listen to me, sin and violence does not have the last word, love does, God does. 

God created us in the divine image; “male and female he created them.” And he blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.’” What a beautiful plan, what an amazing start…what love God had for his creation, what confidence he had in their potential. He gave them everything, put them in charge of everything, and loved them above all else, but they did love him back. They flipped the table, it came crashing down, and they were lost…we were lost.

In the garden with Adam and Eve, when Cain killed his brother, Abel, with Noah and the flood, and again with the tower of Babel, we are a sinful, arrogant, violent, selfish, impatient, and unloving people–and we cause sadness and suffering. We dump beans on people’s heads and flip over tables and create brokenness. In this way, in this sinful condition, there is no way to be saved. 

But God did not want us lost. He did not want us without his love, and so even as that first sin took place, God had already begun a way to save his children–not with what they could do (he already tried that), but with what he would do. We call that Salvation History; beginning with the call of Abraham, then Isaac, and Jacob, with Moses who led God’s people to freedom from slavery, to Kings David and Solomon, to Isaiah the Prophet, through whom the Lord siad, “My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” 

Jesus is that word that came forth, and the salvation of unworthy, broken souls like yours and mine, is the end for which it was sent. With Mary’s obedience who said, “Let it be done to me according to your will,” and Jesus’ obedience to his fathers will, who said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” It was Jesus’ obedience, even to death on a cross, that paid the price for our disobedience in the garden, and our disobedience even still.

But death could not hold him! No sir! Death will not have the last word. Death has no power over life! Darkness has no power over light! And he is risen! Our Lord is truly risen! Alleluia, he is risen! Not just for his sake, but for ours, who believe and enter into the waters of Baptism. Somehow, through Jesus’ obedience, we who though disobedient, can still achieve the righteousness of God and hope in salvation. All of human history unfolded to this very moment that we celebrate tonight, Jesus conquered the grave and brought life to all who believe. As the angel said, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.” Pope Francis said, “The whole of salvation history is the story of God looking for us: he offers us love and welcomes us with tenderness.” Tonight we not only celebrate Jesus’ rising, we celebrate our rising too, and we also celebrate the elect, who enter into baptism, and candidates whose baptism is brought to completion in Confirmation. God still looks for us, offers us love and welcomes us with tenderness. Love and life still conquers sin and death. Believe that. Tina’s tacos are the proof.

Palm Sunday 2022: Humility

Today’s homily is for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, April 10, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

St. Augustine said, “If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is still humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are fruitless.” My brothers and sisters, today we begin Holy Week and witness not only the humility of God, but if we look carefully, also its fruit. 

I’m going to offer a confession that, sadly, may not come as a surprise to some. Here it is, I like to be liked. I like to be appreciated. I like to have nice things said about me behind my back, but even more right to my face. Some of you may even know that I enjoy being the center of attention and am quite comfortable being center stage, and while none of these things are wrong in and of themselves, they can become stumbling blocks to salvation. You see, if we desire praise and applause more that humility and sacrifice; if we desire power and influence more than humble service; if we desire honor and privilege more than the crown of thorns and the cross, we will seek only comfort and refuse to pursue the very life of holiness that is required to enter into eternity with God. And that causes me to be more than a little concerned for myself and others. 

My motto is often, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re this darn good!” Or “The good Lord broke the mold when he made me!” That’s the feeling Jesus had today as he entered Jerusalem. The people praised him! They worshiped him! They got on their knees and yelled “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” And no doubt Jesus was like, “Finally, the respect I deserve!” And who could blame him? So often our Lord was rejected and ridiculed, but his day had finally–Jerusalem’s king had arrived. I just know that Jesus and his apostles loved it…but they didn’t love it more than the Cross.

No sooner was Jesus welcomed as the King was he stripped of his dignity, stripped of his clothing, mocked by soldiers and rulers, and even criminals. He was spat upon, and beaten, and falsely accused. And in spite of all of this, Jesus humbly loved, showed mercy, and forgave others–because that’s what God does. And this is the key for you and I–Jesus never forgot who he was. Jesus never acted out of character. God is love, and when they exalt you as king you love them, and when they ridicule you love them, and when out of ignorance they insult you and beat you and hurt you, well…you love them. So many times I find myself willing to love, forgive, and show mercy when I am in a position of power, when I’m at the top of my game, but God living in me is truly revealed when I am able to love when I am beaten, when I lose, when I am in the dirt. That’s the mark of a true Christian. That’s the criteria for entering heaven.  

In the verse before the Gospel we heard, “Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” That’s our example of humility; being willing to obey God’s law of love, mercy, and forgiveness–even to the point of humiliation, suffering, and death to self. We can desire to be center stage. We can hope that all speak well of us both to our face and when we are not around. We can hope others are pleased with us at all times, but we cannot desire these things more than heaven, lest we begin to compromise. If we desire praise and power more than humility, mercy, forgiveness, and love–then the things that we desire the most become our master, and we cannot serve two masters. 

As we begin holy week, we are offered two very different pictures of how the world receives us; one of applause and fanfare, one of scorn and derision. Our call is to humbly follow God, regardless of how others feel about it. We love, period. In good times and bad. I know you love in good times, but do we love in the bad times? Do we humbly embrace our cross when it appears? Or do we kick rocks, become bitter and angry, and become unkind?

The fruit of this brief earthly humility is not without reward, “Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.” God’s desire is to exalt us, but it must begin with accepting our humanity, humility, and often humiliation for the love of God. It means loving God more than anything this world has to offer. The fruit of which is nothing short of eternal life with God…our exaltation, our reward. As St. Elizabeth Seton said, “The gate of heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it.”