Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday

Today, we join the whole church in commemorating the Divine Mercy of Our Father in Heaven. This feast, Divine Mercy Sunday, was established in 2001 by Pope John Paul II so that we might take time after the joyous celebration of Easter to reflect on the mercy that God has shown to us through the death and resurrection of His son. Although the celebration of the Feast of Divine Mercy is relatively new, the roots of this feast reaches throughout the history of Christianity.

In our Gospel today, we see the disciples locked in a house. They’re terrified because they just saw their master, their teacher, brutally tortured and killed by the religious and civil leaders of their land. They’re terrified that these leaders will come after them next, so they go into hiding. They gather in a house and lock the door. They want to hide, they want to get out of sight so that they won’t be next.

All of a sudden, their teacher who they thought was dead and whose body had been stolen appears to them. They’re amazed, they’re frightened, they’re terrified. What does our Lord say? “Peace be to you.” What an amazing thing to say. This simple phrase, “Peace be to you”, really shows the heard of the Christian mystery. It shows why Christ died and rose again: to bring peace to our lives.

Now, this is not saying that we’re going to have an easy life. We know that there are struggles in life. We all have challenges that we have to deal with. In our second reading today, St. Peter says that we may have to suffer through various trials so that our faith may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We will have to struggle, we will have to face the challenges that come to us, but Our Lord promises us peace, he promises us mercy.

This is what this feast is all about. It is all about realizing in joy the mercy that has come to us through the death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the celebration of the fact that through Christ’s death and resurrection, we have been adopted as God’s children. We no longer are isolated from him in sin. We are now his adopted children, and can now inherit eternal life. This should bring us great joy, and should also bring us great peace.

How should we react to this mercy? Other than the great joy that this brings, how else should we receive God’s mercy, to Our Lord’s call for peace? The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that the early disciples devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles and the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. The early Christians reacted to this message of mercy by giving up everything. They were willing to sell everything they had and give it to be distributed to those in need. Most of us who are Christians are not called to sell everything we own and give it to the Church for redistribution, but how many of us would be willing to do that? Fortunately, we have many brothers and sisters who have entered religious orders who are willing to give up everything, and even close themselves off from the world to enter into a spirit of prayer and sacrifice for all our sakes.

Even if we’re not called to give away everything we own, all of are called to serve the poor. The first reading also reminds us that we are also called to gather on a regular basis, weekly at a minimum, for the celebration of the Eucharist within the Mass. Whenever the New Testament uses the phrase, “the breaking of the bread,” it is referring to the Eucharist. Likewise, we are called to be committed to “the prayers.” In the first reading, this would be regular periods of prayer throughout the day. This practice has carried over to our day in the Liturgy of the Hours, a form of prayer which priests, transitional deacons, and those in religious life are committed to praying at regular periods throughout the day. The Liturgy of the Hours is not exclusively for those in religious life, but is open to and encouraged for all members of the Church. Not everyone is able to take the time or has the desire to pray in this manner, but all are called to spend some time throughout the day in prayer. This might be praying a rosary on the commute to or from work, taking short breaks throughout the day to say a Hail Mary or Our Father silently, even just looking for opportunities to say, “Thank you, Lord, for your mercy and love!” It doesn’t even have to be a memorized prayer, just a brief prayer from the heart.

Because of the mercy that God has shown to us, adopting us as sons and daughters through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, we now have the opportunity to inherit eternal life. This mercy is best expressed in our Lord’s blessing, “Peace be with you.” May we be able to say with the psalmist, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.”

Homily for Easter Sunday

For 40 days, we fasted, sacrificed, and prayed in preparation for these days. Thursday, we were there when Our Lord gave us the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Friday, we watched as Our Lord was tortured, crucified, and died. Saturday was spent in a watchful anticipation. It was all worth it, because Our Lord has risen from the dead, and we can shout, “Alleluia! Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! Alleluia!”

While we know now that Our Lord had to suffer, die and rise again, we can see in today’s Gospel that the Apostles and disciples didn’t have the clarity of vision that we have with 2,000 years of hindsight. They were still reeling from the fact that their master, whom they had followed for three years, was now dead, killed by the religious leaders and secular authorities. To top it off, now there’s a report that the tomb had been broken into and his body stolen, the ultimate insult to pile on top of injury. Peter and John couldn’t believe it. They had to see for themselves.

Too often, we’re like the Apostles. We have to see it to believe it. If someone tells us in the middle of drought that it’s going to rain tomorrow, we might say something like, “I’ll believe it when it happens.” In some cases, it might even be good to be skeptical, especially when someone is trying to cheat us or lie to us.

There are things, however, that we must accept without any proof. Much of what we profess in the Creed every Sunday cannot be fully demonstrated, and must be believed through an act of faith. This act of faith comes about when we consciously accept a truth that has been revealed by God.

We celebrate one of those revealed truths today. Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead so that we may also rise with him after our time on Earth has ended. His resurrection and appearance to his Apostles demonstrate to us what will happen for us after our deaths. We must have faith that the resurrection of Our Lord into his glorified body will also happen to us, that our bodies will be glorified as his was. We must also have faith that, as the Apostle Peter said in the first reading, “everyone who believes in him receive forgiveness if sins through his name.”

May we be open to that forgiveness, and pray that those who have died may enter into glory iwth Christ.

Liturgia Horarum for PDAs/Smartphones

To start the “Catholic BlackBerry” movement going, the entire Liturgia Horarum — Liturgy of the Hours in Latin — is available in iSilo format, a cross-platform mobile format. While using the Liturgia Horarum on the BlackBerry is not as easy as the original books, it is a convenient way to carry the Liturgia Horarum without having to lug around a fairly large, somewhat expensive book (the four-volume set in Latin is approximately $100 before shipping per volume).

Catholic BlackBerry

As I’ve continued to play with my new BlackBerry Pearl, I’ve been able to see the power that these smart phones really can have. I also can see the addictiveness that has caused them to be labeled “CrackBerry”. One thing I’ve had a hard time finding are add-ons with a specific Catholic mindset, such as Rosary programs, liturgical calendars, and so on. There is much that these devices can do in a Catholic environment, so I’d like to hear how others use their BlackBerry as Catholics. Also, I’d really like to hear about Catholic programs and tools that are available for these phones.

New toy

Right now I’m playing with a new toy. Verizon gave me a really good deal on a BlackBerry 8130, so I had to take them up on the offer. I’ve really enjoyed the new BlackBerry in the (relatively) short time that I’ve had to play with it. I can definitely see why they call these things “CrackBerries”. Very addictive toy! At least I’ll be able to be found: just call my cell phone since I’m probably playing with it. Must download more stuff…

Homily for Good Friday

Of all the images that have been created that portray the Passion of Our Lord, one of the most moving has to be that of Michelangelo’s “Pieta”, in which we see Mary with her son’s body draped over her lap. She is looking down at the face of Jesus with an expression of sorrow and anguish. We are reminded of this powerful image every time we read the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, as we did today.

While this moving image is one of sorrow, it should also bring us great joy and hope, as it depicts the greatest moment of salvation history. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, accomplished his mission. He suffered and died for our sins. Through his blood, our sins are washed clean.

Our Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross was prefigured in the covenant that God made with the Israelites. Through the law given to Moses, the Israelites were commanded to offer the sacrifices of goats and bulls so that the transgressions of the Israelite people would be forgiven. These sacrifices were not a one-time-only event, but needed to be repeated year after year.

The mission of Our Lord was to be the perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice that would end all other sacrifices. No longer would animal sacrifices be necessary for forgiveness of sins. Now we unite ourselves with his sacrifice through the waters of baptism which washes away our sins and make us sons and daughters of God. Likewise, through the Eucharist, we participate in the sacrifice of Christ. At every Mass, we are standing at the foot of the Cross with Mary and the beloved disciple. Even through 2,000 years and many thousands of miles separate us, the Sacrifice of the Mass makes this moment present to us wherever and whenever we are.

Today, as we venerate the Cross, may we be able to do so with great joy, but also with the realization that Christ died for our sins.

Homily for Palm Sunday – Blessing of Palms

Today, as we begin this last week of Lent, this Holy Week, we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem shortly before his Passion and Death. He approaches the city very humbly, riding on a donkey, but the people of Jerusalem line the path before he can enter the city. To use a modern phrase, Jerusalem rolls out the red carpet before him.

Why would the people greet Jesus in such a dramatic manner? If it sounds like they were welcoming him as their king, it’s because they were. This whole event is the public proclamation of Jesus as their messiah. The term messiah is frequently understood in Christian circles as synonymous with savior, but it had a different connotation in Jesus’ time. The Jewish people were under the control of the Romans, and were looking for a great king that had been foretold by the prophets. This king would free the land of Judah from the foreign oppressors, and would set up a great Jewish kingdom.

Jesus was thought to be this great king, and his entry into Jerusalem was seen as the fulfillment of the prophesy of the prophet Zechariah. In this prophesy, written about 500 years before Jesus’ time, Zechariah foretold that the great king would come to Jerusalem “triumphant and victorious [. . .] humble and riding on an ass.” (Zech. 9:9) This king would not only restore the kingdom of Judah, but he would also bring about peace among the nations.

The problem with this view is that it understands the messiah as an earthly king. The people were looking for the establishment of an earthly kingdom, but that wasn’t Jesus’ mission. He came to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and to establish it here on earth through his Church. Instead of establishing a kingdom solely for the Jews, the Kingdom of Heaven proclaimed by Jesus is open to all humanity, both Jew and Gentile.

Through the waters of baptism, we have entered into this kingdom. At the same time, we pray within the Lord’s Prayer “thy kingdom come”. If God’s kingdom is already here through the establishment of the Church upon earth, why do we pray that it will come? As members of the Kingdom of Heaven, we want to see God’s plan of salvation come to fruition. In essence, by praying “thy kingdom come”, we are looking forward to the return of Our Lord Jesus Christ and our triumphal entrance into Heaven.

This is foreshadowed within the Mass when we sing the “Holy, Holy, Holy” immediately before the Eucharistic Prayer. With the people of Jerusalem, we exclaim, “Hosanna in the highest” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Today, as we sing these words, may we enter more fully into the Kingdom of Heaven, and proclaim to the world that Jesus is Lord and Messiah.

More Montana Pharmacy Board News

Apparently, Planned Parenthood is not happy with the Montana Board of Pharmacy. Planned Parenthood of Montana has petitioned the board to change their rules regarding religious objections to birth control. Please keep praying for those pharmacists who are following their consciences, not only in Montana, but throughout the United States.

Ordination Wishlists

With my impending ordination, I’ve had several family members ask me what they should get me as a gift. In response, basically because I’m not exactly sure myself, I’ve created a wishlist at Amazon.com that I can email to family and friends. I’ve also added an icon to the side bar of the blog which will allow anyone who would like to peruse my wishlist to do so with little or no trouble. I’ll probably create some other wishlists at other merchants, but Amazon was the first site that came to mind when discussing this with my parents.

Update on Catholic Pharmacist

For those who have “friended” me on Facebook, you may have seen the article in the Billings Gazette regarding the Catholic pharmacist in small-town Montana who no longer dispenses birth control. He was reported to the Montana Board of Pharmacy, which has dropped all charges against him. Please keep Mr. Lane and his family in your prayers. He has taken a very courageous stance for life, and will be attacked further.