Good Friday 2021: What’s So Good About Friday?

Today’s homily is for The Lord’s Passion, Friday, April 2, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Today’s Gospel should make you sick. It does not offer us Good News. It does not offer us hope. It offers only one tragic incident after another. From the betrayal in the garden to placing his stripped, beaten, bloody, and bruised body in the tomb, the Gospel reveals the total spectrum of human weakness, arrogance, self-righteousness, cowardness, and sinfulness. It should make us mourn this human condition, weep with sadness at the sight of our broken state of existence, our depravity, our inclination toward evil, deceit, and violence, and sin. 

From this vantage point, we begin to see with greater clarity the amazing gift of God in the Incarnation. We see the love that God has for us that He would not want us this way forever. That while we were yet sinners He sent a savior–his own son, born in a manger to a loving home with Mary and Joseph. Jesus was a good man, who taught the way of love, of inclusivity, of mercy, and forgiveness. Jesus gave us an example by which we should live. He healed the broken, he fed the hungry, he instructed the ignorant, he spoke out against bad leadership, and bad religion. He wept at the sight of the human condition; lost sheep with no shepherd to guide them. He mourned Israel who was so far from God, and he wept at Lazarus’ tomb that this tragic human state ultimately ends in death. God is love, and Jesus loved us so much.

And we betrayed him. And we denied him. And we mocked him, and spat upon him. And we beat him, and stripped him, and humiliated him, and we yelled with all the other sinners, “crucify him!” And we crucify him still when we lie, cheat, bully, gossip, and remain silent in the face of injustice. When will we learn? When will this arrogant people drop to our knees, repent, seek forgiveness, and return to the Lord?

Today is Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, but what’s so good about Friday? This day doesn’t seem good at all! And I’ll tell you why; because we are proud. Because we like comfort. Because we are a forgetful people who need constant reminding that love demands sacrifice. And sacrifice requires discipline. And discipline and sacrifice cause suffering, and hardship, and struggle, and death. We forget that Jesus said, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain. And so we must die. But we don’t want to die, do we? 

We want the rainbow but we don’t want the rain! We want a paycheck but not the work that earns it. Kids want their allowance but not the chores, and students want an A, but not the effort that it demands. We want Easter, but we don’t want Lent. We want comfort but not the cross. It’s no wonder that this Friday doesn’t seem Good to a people who want the resurrection, who want eternal life, but don’t want to die…not to ourselves, not to greed, not to arrogance, not to pride, and certainly not to our God. We want the beauty and bounty of the Lord, but we won’t bend the knee. What’s so good about Friday?

Friday is Good because it reminds us that there is value in hardship, and sacrifice, and suffering. It reminds us that God gave his very life for others and if we don’t do anything else while on this earth except give our life to others in humility and service, we can be like God. 

Friday is Good because we are reminded by Jesus’ example that just because we sacrifice and serve and suffer doesn’t mean we should share our suffering with others! Even while on his way to Calvary he prayed, encouraged, and he offered hope. He forgave those killing him and even while staked to his own cross, he inspired a convicted felon by assuring him that he would be with him in paradise. 

Friday is Good because despite our arrogance, and selfishness, and pride. In spite of our daily stumbling and falling and failing. In spite of our wickedness and poverty, and desire for comforts and things that cause sin, we know that we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, who has been similarly tested in every way. Our Lord knows this condition…and weeps for us too. He says on our behalf, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” 

Friday is Good because no matter how far we’ve fallen. No matter what we’ve ever done. No matter what violence and brokenness and destruction we have caused, we can always “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” 
My broken brothers and sisters, Friday is Good, because God is Good. [call] God is good, [response] all the time. [call] All the time, [response] God is indeed good. Friday is Good. Repent. Approach the throne. Bend the knee. And die to yourself and with our Lord today.

Palm Sunday 2021: Three Points

Today’s homily is for Palm Sunday, March 28 , 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Today we witness the tragedy and consequence of human selfishness. We witness the tragedy and consequence of human cowardice. We witness the tragedy and consequences of poor leadership. But most of all, we are confronted with the truth of human weakness and sin, and a God that loves us to death in spite of it. Make no mistake, God became one of us and freely died both because of us and for us. That’s amazing love. 

In this love story, I want to point out three examples by which I think we should live. 1. Give and don’t count the cost. 2. Love everyone greatly, and 3. Be bold and courageous. 

In the house of Simon the leper a woman came with an incredibly expensive jar of perfumed oil. Can you imagine a bottle of cologne or a bottle of perfume that was worth your total salary for a year? Without a second thought, she broke it and lavishly poured it upon our Lord–not for a second counting the cost. A fraction of this sort of generosity is still scoffed at in our day. 10% of your wages for the Church! The Bishop’s Ministry Appeal? The Turlock Pregnancy and Health Center? Too often in this life we are no better than Judas and the others who scoff at generosity to the Lord and to His missions. Too often we hold tightly and want to keep for ourselves what we should offer to the work of the Lord in our midst. Lesson 1: Give and don’t count the cost. She did a good thing for Him, and so can we by serving our brothers and sisters in need, and financially supports those that do. 

Lesson 2. Love everyone greatly.  Jesus chose twelve disciples–one who he knew very well would betray him someday. He chose to teach and to love Judas in spite of his many flaws and failings. And eventually, in Judas’ weakness he betrayed our Lord, but still Jesus loved him. I think sometimes we seek only to surround ourselves with people of good moral character, of good standing, with members of the church, Bible study groups, and fraternal organizations. I call this the Christian huddle. It’s warm, it’s comfortable, and there is little risk of betrayal there. But Jesus loved everyone, even at personal risk. He saw the good in sinners. He loved others in spite of their weaknesses. If we only spend time with good, like minded people, how will our world ever become a better place? We are called to be lights in a world of darkness. Lesson 2: Love everyone greatly, both saints and sinners alike. You could be hurt. You might be betrayed, but in doing so, you walk in the footsteps of the Lord. 

Finally, Lesson 3. Be bold. Be courageous. Peter said to the Lord, “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.” Jesus says, “You will deny me three times by morning.” Peter says, “I’ll go to my death for you! I will not deny you.” But he did. And we do too. If your Lenten journey has been anything like mine, I started like Peter and ended up the same way. I love Peter’s enthusiasm for the Lord. This is the same courageousness to which God calls us. 

It’s an attitude that says, “I’ll go to my death for you!” But like Peter, we will stumble and fall. Sometimes our fear will get the best of us. We will sometimes crumble because of human weakness and sin. But get back up, dust yourself off, and be courageous and be bold. Say, “I may have failed last time, but I won’t fail again.” Peter proved himself weak at our Lord’s Passion, unable to stand the test, but as we know, he returned, led the Church, and went to his death boldly proclaiming salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. His courageousness did not come overnight or all at once, but even in his weakness he was courageous and bold. The Lord rewards perseverance. Lesson 3. Be courageous. Be bold. 

God took on human flesh. God became one of us. Vatican II documents Joy and Hope reads, “He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart, he loved.” He gave us each an example to follow. So, give and don’t count the cost–be generous in supporting missions, ministries, and our Bishop. Love everyone greatly–even sinners, backsliders, the helpless, and the hopeless. And always be bold and courageous. We will fall and we will fail, but if we are faithful, we will rise to new life with him.

5th S. of Lent 2021: A Grain of Wheat

Today’s homily is for the 5th Sunday of Lent, March 21 , 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

Jesus teaches his disciples, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit,” referring of course to His death, but also to ours. St. John Paul II, in his Exhortation, Chrisifideles Laici said, “It must be remembered that Christian witness is to be considered a fundamental obligation that can even lead to the sacrificing of one’s life, to martyrdom, in the name of love.” He said that “The history of the past twenty centuries, as well as that of the last century, is filled with martyrs for Christian truth, witnesses to the faith, hope, and love that is founded on the Gospel.” 

Estimates suggest that 100,000 Christians lose their life each year because of their faith in Jesus Christ. On Jan. 13, this year, Vatican News reported, “Every day, 13 Christians worldwide are killed because of their faith, 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked and 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned, while another 5 are abducted. 1 in 8 Christians worldwide are facing persecution.” Can you believe it? 

I go to work Monday to Friday…the week flies by, I say, “Where did it go?” One month turns to another and just like that a whole year has gone. I lament Mondays, love taco Tuesdays, and look forward to Fri-yeah! while 13 people are martyred each day, 91 this week, almost 400 this month–all the while I seem only to want to escape even the slightest discomfort. I don’t think I’m alone in that. Many Christians in developed nations have all but removed themselves from the scourging at the pillar, the discomfort of the cross, the humiliation of Calvary, and in doing so have denied themselves the glory of the resurrection. 

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” I am not without reproach in my desire to seek comfort. I mean, I am a man! I don’t mind carrying my cross, as long as it’s not too heavy, and the trip is short, and the cross has some padding, and maybe if it’s kinda small. 

How do we in this first world comfort enjoy the victory of the cross and the martyrdom that is required? How do we without persecution walk in the footsteps of Christ and lay down our life for others? St. Ignatius, on his own way to martyrdom may offer some helpful insight. He said, “Now is the moment when I begin to be a disciple. May nothing seen or unseen distract me from making my way to Jesus Christ. Fire, cross, wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing of the whole body, cruel tortures inflicted by the devil–let them come, provided that I make my way to Jesus Christ.”

His answer is quite clear, we must remain focused on Jesus. Not on comfort, but on Jesus. Not on the wealth of this world, but on treasure in heaven. Not on politics and pleasure, but on unity and sacrifice. As I speak with kids who have done wrong at school, they often want to avert their eyes to things less uncomfortable. I sternly say, “Look at me,” as I remind them of who they are, where they are, and what is expected of them. They are far less concerned about living right, than who might be watching. I say, “Look at me.” And as the weight of their wrongdoing finally sinks in and they bow their head, and sometimes there are even tears, I say, “Look at me.” I start stern and end in love. I say, “You can do better. I know you can. Show me what you’ve got.

In their willingness to look at me there is death to sin, death to self, and only in that is there hope for resurrection. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. We need to ask ourselves, how often do I divert my eyes? It’s time for the Bishop’s ministry appeal–look away! Oh jeez, here come the Knights of Columbus–another fish fry! Look away! There are the homeless–look away. Here are children without clothes–look away. There are the hungry and in shelters–look away. Here are those who are in prison–look away. 

To seek only comfort and the path of least resistance and to look away from sadness, suffering, helplessness, and hopelessness, is to look away from Jesus. We turn away from our Lord who said that which you did not do for these least brothers of mine, you did not do for me. Pick up our cross? In truth, too often we don’t even want to follow him. We certainly don’t want to run to him.The answer is quite simple, really, when God presents us with the discomfort of sin, brokenness, addiction, homelessness, and a life of irresponsibility, we have a choice to make, we can look away, or we can admit with Jesus, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” And in that moment, we remain fixed on Jesus, pick up our cross, and donate, serve, support, and yes, sacrifice. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat…but we were created for so much more–produce much fruit and be his disciples today.