Monday, April 8, 2013

Notes and reflections for a homily on the Sunday within the Easter Octave

Following the Mass yesterday at Holy Hill, I was asked to share the text for my homily based on the appearance of risen Christ to St. Thomas.  A bit was said impromptu but I'm posting what I had prepared before me... and I've provided something of a "more finished" end...

What do our Scriptures tell us today on this “Mercy” Sunday?

         1) St. John the Evangelist tells us in today’s Gospel: “Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”  Twice in the passage He does so.  The Risen Christ has the power to enter the places of the heart which we keep locked up, out of fear.  His love is not deterred by our stubborn lack of faith.  He actively seeks us out to reveal to us His power and His love.
         2) It is in spite of our stubbornness of heart that the Risen Jesus reveals His power.  “Love conquers all fear,” St. John’s First Letter tells us (1 John 4:18).  Jesus only invites us to look at His wounds and to touch them in faith.  As He says to Thomas, so He says to us: SEE MY WOUNDS … look upon my RISEN BODY and see what GOD desires for you to BECOME.  Forget your betrayals and infidelities.  LOOK at ME.
Jesus reveals to Thomas and to us the beauty and the truth of our humanity.  That even our many WOUNDS can become life-giving … an opportunity for compassion, a door to let God into our lives again.  Do not be unbelieving but belief.  Because as St John tells us, our faith in Christ is our means of conquering (1 John 5:4).
3) Jesus can still be touched today.  St. John of the Cross tells us that faith touches God (see Spiritual Canticle, 12.4).  For this reason, Jesus says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Brothers and sisters, our FAITH permits us to personally encounter God and to touch the glorious wounds of Christ.  Faith brings us HEALING.  Those who refuse to believe outright are crippled by arrogance, unable to acknowledge whatever their minds cannot grasp.  This is a GREAT misery—to allow our tiny minds to be the measure of reality.  …Christian faith is NOT some “feel-good” optimism or mere positive thinking; but rather, faith embraces the truth that reality in God is NOT bound by or restricted to the limits of our paltry understanding.
4) In Jesus, God enters the locked upper room of our heart and reveals His power to save us.  Mercy brings LIFE and LOVE where there was NONE.  Christ desires to enter the dark recesses of our hearts and to carry there the light of His love—He wants to free us from fear, from sin, from death.  For this reason He accepted the Cross.
Blessed John Paul II, a man well-acquainted with suffering, having lost all the members of his family to death by the time he was only 20 years old, a man who worked in labor camps at the time of Nazi occupation, and a man who was nearly murdered by an assassin while blessing the multitudes at St. Peter’s… this man wrote:  “The cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of man’s earthly existence” (Dives in misericordia, 8).  The cross—in our petty sufferings, our impatience, our inconveniences, our misunderstandings—this cross is the path that, with Jesus, leads us to Resurrection and a peace that knows no limits…
         5) Let us trustingly examine our hearts before the Risen Christ who enters the locked Upper Room of our heart and desires to give us His peace there.  His is not a peace conditional upon our merits and righteousness.  It is HIS peace, bestowed at His pleasure, to reveal to us the indomitable mercy that comes to us from the Father.  A love that triumphs over death in any of its particular manifestations during this passing life.  Jesus is like that owner of the vineyard, hiring workers throughout the day and paying them as HE wishes, who asks: “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matt 20:15).  His “plenty” stems from His inexhaustible life, shared with His eternal Father, and now broken open to be poured out, through the Holy Spirit… upon whomever He pleases.  May God grant we might be truly surrendered to the unfathomable gift of this Life.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Homily at Holy Hill

The Lord is risen!  He is truly risen!  Alleluia!

     Brothers and sisters, there is NO love like the love of God in Jesus Christ.  God is PASSIONATE for the man and the woman He created—He is passionate for each and every one of you and me.

He is passionate enough to accept being truly immersed in OUR suffering, and even to surrender the power of death… so to enter into our pain and our loneliness and our fear.  In His Son, Jesus Christ, God scours the very depths of HELL to look for us and to take us upon His broad shoulders and to bring us home to Himself.

  It was YOUR flesh and blood and MY flesh and blood that God took to Himself in Jesus, so to reveal to us A LOVE STRONGER THAN DEATH.  Our humanity now has “a place within God” because Christ rose to new life with OUR humanity (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, p. 274).  This is the meaning of our Easter celebration.  After the horror of the crucifixion, and the abandonment and the shame, God FREELY reveals His gift of RESURRECTION.  Jesus told His disciples, “I am going away and I will return to you.  I do not leave you orphans.”  Brothers and sisters, though at times we may think God is silent HE NEVER abandons us.  When we think He does not remember us in our suffering, it is especially then that God is most active preparing an eternal dwelling for us.

  So then, it is not ONLY Christ’s victory we celebrate today, but the promise of OUR VICTORY in Jesus.  Following the homily, we will renew our baptismal promises and be sprinkled with the newly-blessed Easter water, that symbolizes the waters poured upon us in Baptism.  On the day of your Baptism, God made an eternal covenant with you.  On that day, through the action of the priest in the company of the whole Church, God etched into your very being the very name of His Son and planted in you the seed of eternal life.  We bear this SEED.

  ETERNAL LIFE is not a perpetual “continuation” of the life we experience now.  It is a life of abundant love and joy, a life that has NO fear or self-concern.  It is the life we LONG for in the depths of our hearts—to know a LOVE that has no end or conditions.

  It is our Christian belief that the gift of RISEN life begins here on earth.  Brothers and sisters, understand! We are not celebrating an event of the past, or an event to come in the future.  It is a reality NOW in this moment….  We who are baptized into Christ’s death are baptized into His resurrection.  But the disciples running to the tomb in today’s Gospel show us HOW we are to receive this gift of new life.  We are told Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved ran to the tomb, the other disciple who arrived first, BENT DOWN and LOOKED into the empty tomb, saw the burial cloths, entered the tomb and BELIEVED.  We are called to BEND DOWN in faith, to make ourselves small as it were—to put aside our selfishness, our pride, our resentment of others—and to believe—to humble ourselves before the mystery of Jesus Christ risen from the dead.  Many do not come to know Jesus as Lord, even many baptized Catholics, because they refuse to run to the tomb, to humble themselves and to believe.  They insist on holding on to the hurt and anger that is so familiar, rather than to embrace the freeing love of Christ Jesus that makes us new.

     We Catholic Christians believe that the Risen Jesus touches our lives and transforms us EVERY TIME we receive the Sacraments—when we come to Holy Communion, when we receive the Sacrament of Penance—we encounter the living Jesus.  How many do not come to Sunday Mass because they think there is nothing to be gained there!  And yet EVERY time we receive the Eucharist, we receive the RISEN LIFE of Jesus Christ into our own body and soul!  We can go pray by ourselves, go get exercise, commune with nature and even stand on our heads, BUT nothing we do can give us that RISEN LIFE that we receive in the EUCHARIST.  God wants us to receive His Risen Life…  Imagine the person you love most and how you would so desire to give what is most intimate to them … imagine then, this person you love casually dismissing this most intimate gift of yourself.  How much MORE Christ wishes to give us the gift of His Risen Life in the Eucharist.

    Today, let us all “run to the empty tomb” moved by love and let us bend down and humble ourselves so to receive through faith the gift of Christ’s Risen Life.  Jesus Christ is our Savior, now and forever!

     Let me finish with the words spoken last night by Pope Francis in Rome:
“Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life!  If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward.  He will receive you with open arms.  If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed.  If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do" (Easter Vigil Homily, Vatican Radio).