I enjoy this week’s reading from Ezekiel. How often do I, in my heart of hearts say to myself, “God, Your way is not fair! Look at all the things I have to do as a Catholic and how I am expected to live in my daily life. Look at how everyone is living…why do I get stuck being the token Christian?” And God’s response: “Listen, My goal for you is heaven and eternal happiness with Me. Get over what you think is unfair. I made fair. And believe it or not, I know what I am doing.”
But that is the issue for us…“believe it or not”…do it the hard way…do it the easy way… just do it God’s way and we will make it. And as Blue Eyes sang so well…that’s life. You may be a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, poet, a pawn and a king…been up and down and over and out…God is the great equalizer…pick yourself up and get back in the race.
This is what the concept of the Old Testament Sabbath is all about. Sabbath is a vision of freedom. On this day slave and master are equals. The “hallowing” of the Sabbath means precisely this: a rest from all relationships of subordination and a temporary relief from all burden of work. (A reminder of what heaven is all about.)
Now some people conclude from this that the Old Testament makes no connection between creation and worship, that it leads to a pure vision of a liberated society as the goal of human history, that from the very beginning its orientation is anthropological and social…indeed revolutionary. But this is a complete misunderstanding of the Sabbath.
God is a fair God. The account of creation and the Sinai regulations about the Sabbath come from the same source. To understand the account of creation properly, one has to read the Sabbath ordinances of the Torah (the first five Books of our Bible). Then everything becomes clear. The Sabbath is the sign of the covenant between God and man; it sums up the inward essence of the covenant. If this is so, then we can now define the intention of the account of creation as follows: creation exists to be a place for the covenant that God wants to make with man. The goal of creation is the covenant, the love story of God and man. The freedom and equality of men, which the Sabbath is meant to bring about, is not a merely anthropological or sociological vision; it can only be understood…theologically. Only when man is in covenant with God does he become free. Only then are the equality and dignity of all men made manifest.
If, then, everything is directed to the covenant, it is important to see that the covenant is a relationship: God’s gift of Himself to man, but also man’s response to God. Man’s response to the God Who is good to him is love, and loving God means worshiping Him. If creation is meant to be a space for the covenant (the place where God and man meet one another) then it must be thought of as a space for worship.
Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. We see this in this week’s Gospel. His disciples taking His words to heart in the Our Father each day gives us a spiritual reminder and uplift of all we are entrusted to do as the followers of Jesus and all we are truly capable of. By praying the Hail Mary we acknowledge Mary’s powerful faith and her love for Jesus and us. In our imperfection but faith fired hope we say: “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Like any mother she sees beyond our faults and imperfections to someone she loves with all her heart.
We also hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us through our consciences. At times we ponder what we should say or do. Openness to the Spirit of God enables us to hear the voice of Jesus and say or do what He would say or do. When someone tells us of a good thing that has happened to another person we know, we increase their joy with words of congratulations. When we thank people for what they have done for us, we increase their joy. At times we are told of those who are sick or mourning the loss of a loved one. Those words lead us to visit them and offer them words of comfort and love.
Each day is another opportunity to hear God’s voice in all the ways we use to communicate with one another. The more we listen, the more we respond with our life-giving presence and words. The constant blessing is not only our life-giving words to others, but the chance to speak them from our hearts. Life-giving words are Resurrection words – they lift us both those who hear them and those speak them.
At the beginning of Lent, I was switching between radio stations and hit the song “Love Without End, Amen” by Aaron Gale Barker…made popular by the country singer George Strait. If you haven’t heard it recently, do a search and find it. Baker (and Strait) gets the Season we now have and will celebrate (and he has a great melody stream too).
Love is the most powerful force in the world and in our lives. In spite of the violence, injustice and pain we inflict upon each other as human beings and in spite of the devastating power of weapons we have developed to protect and defend ourselves, no power other than love will bring peace and unity. Once Jesus was arrested, He was no longer the one doing things for other people, people were doing things to Him. The Scripture passages that recount His Passion do not focus so much on the physical brutality He experienced with the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, or the extremely painful act of crucifixion. The Scriptures speak about the betrayal, denial, abandonment, and injustice. Through it all Jesus remains silent and passive. There are no words of rebuke, no threats from His mouth, no expressions of disappointment, and no words that would in any way say He was giving up on us. Jesus suffered in silence, but the love in His heart was not extinguished, compromised, or denied. As we saw on Good Friday, His words on the cross expressed only love: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” “This day you will be with me in paradise.” “Son, there is your mother, mother, there is your son.” Jesus not only died for us and our sins, He rose to give us a share in the new life of Easter.
The older we get, the harder it is to trust and the easier it is to become skeptical and cynical. Yet none of us wants to be this way. Something inside us wants to trust, to hope, to believe in the goodness of things, to again feel that trustful enthusiasm we once had as children, when we were innocent (and innocent means “unwounded”), and we could still take another’s hand in trust. No one wants to be outside the circle of trust. The Resurrection makes real this desire we all have in the depths of our hearts.
When Jesus rose, He told his disciples to go back to Galilee. Galilee was a geographical place, but even more it was the place where His disciples first came to believe in Him. Jesus was calling them back to their initial innocence, joy, and trust in His love for them. To return to the idealisms that first drew themselves to Jesus. The Resurrection was far more than the body of Jesus coming back from the dead. It was the final, emphatic proclamation and reality of the powerful depth of His love. It was that love that renewed His first followers as they laid the foundation of Church, the Body of Christ in the world. We are now the living members of the Body of Christ in the world today. Easter is our time to be renewed by the powerful hope that love is more powerful than evil. Hope is more powerful than apathy or despair, and faith is more powerful than distrust. As you come to Church this Easter Sunday, welcome to Galilee! Welcome home, where once again we are told by God…I love you! May that love permeate our minds and hearts in all we do each day! There is no greater love and it is God’s gift to us – without end … Amen.
The blessed palms we will take home today ask us to think about how we welcome Jesus into our lives, and, even more…they point to how welcome we are into Jesus’ life. After all this time of preparation of Lent, we begin the Mass this week declaring Him King of our life and our all. But, we know the rest of the story don’t we?
We know that the welcome of Palm Sunday changes dramatically five days later into betrayal, denial, rejection, injustice and condemnation to a painful death on a cross. But not even that lack of welcome stopped Jesus from inviting us into His life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Although Facebook and other tools on the Internet certainly lead many people to post…publicly…thoughts that are much too personal for all involved) we do not readily reveal our thoughts, words, motives and desires to anyone who comes along. No…the inner part of our hearts hold those people and things we most treasure. It is so clear that we are in the heart of God. We are so special and loved by Him that the words spoken to Jeremiah the Prophet apply to all of us: “The word of the Lord came to me: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. ‘Ah, Lord God!’ I said, ’I do not know how to speak. I am too young!’ But the Lord answered me, Do not say, ’I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:4-8) Right after the water was poured over our heads when we were baptized, the priest or deacon anointed our foreheads with Sacred Chrism and prayed, “As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may you live always as a member of His Body, sharing everlasting life.” Our everlasting, eternal life, eternal relationship with God began the moment we were baptized. And…yes, we are all priests, prophets, and princes and princesses in the Kingdom of God.
Anyone who prays is engaged in priestly activity, because prayer is speaking to God on our own behalf or on behalf of others. In Baptism we become a child of God, a member of God’s family, and consequently, a brother or sister of Jesus. Jesus is the great High Priest, the One Who offered His very life on the cross for love of us and love for the Father and His will. Our blessing is that Jesus has made us God’s children in the intimacy of His life with the Father and Holy Spirit. One of the powerful ways to recognize our priestly character is to pray as Jesus did: “Our Father, who art in heaven…….” Those are the very words He Himself has given us to help us speak to the Father from the heart just as He did in these (and countless other) words of prayer. We are all prophets. That does not mean we go around calling people to repentance, but that by the very way we live our lives everyday, we proclaim the goodness, love, mercy and compassion of God as His children to all He entrusts to our care. We are also princes and princesses. That does not mean we have crowns or sit on thrones. Our kingly role is seen in Jesus Christ our King (and eldest Brother). Our power is His power, the power and privilege to love, forgive and humbly serve no matter what.
Palm Sunday is a reminder to us that every Sunday…well everyday…is Palm Sunday. In other words, everyday is a day to give thanks for the welcome God has given us to be part of His life and to welcome God in all we say, do and think each day. How powerful and life giving it is to be welcomed by God and to welcome Him into our daily lives. How blessed we are to be the blessing of His welcome to one another. Happy Palm Sunday! Happy Everyday!
The idea is that every aspect of human existence was better in the “good old days” than it is today. What childish nonsense! All of us are required to live in the present. The “good old days” are right now. The advances in modern technology and medicine are tremendous. People are living longer than ever before. The quality of life is much better now than in the “good old days.”
This Catholic Church of ours has our spiritual welfare in mind during these forty days. In Lent we rise above childish limitations to appreciate the value of this special liturgical season. The Church sees Lent in terms of three different aspects of our life in faith. The first aspect is: the Pascal Mystery, the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ which brings about our salvation. The Church gives us these forty days as a preparation for the celebration of the great event of Easter. The Paschal Mystery is at the very heart of our faith in Christ…as the Savior. It is through the Paschal Mystery that the Church came into being.
With the first aspect of Lent comes the second: Christian initiation. Early in Church history it became clear that the most appropriate time to introduce new members into the faith and Christian community is through the spiritual birth of baptism as the Church was celebrating Her own birth. Lent then became the annual season of preparation for the Sacrament of Baptism.
The third aspect of Lent is: Repentance and Renewal. The Church recognizes that Easter is the time for us Catholics to become reconciled to God and to His Church through the repentance that comes to us in the Sacrament of Penance. Each liturgical year one of the three aspects of Lent take on a prominence. And so during the year of Cycle A it is the turn of repentance to occupy center stage, because of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which features parables about the forgiveness of Jesus. As St. Paul preached repentance to the Romans by explaining how the Lord forgives sinners. “For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly.” Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
So Jesus suffered, died, and rose for all sinners, even the really bad ones. On this Second Sunday of Lent, we should turn our attention to our need for repentance by going to Confession (which isn’t just for the CCD students) as an important part of our preparation for Easter. And giving up treats, snacking between meals, (… or Twitter, Facebook, etc.) like we did in the “good old days” puts us in the proper penitential frame of mind.
This weekend we celebrate the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings this weekend focus on trusting in God. In the First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of comfort to the Jewish people who were in exile in Babylon. In the Second Reading, Paul tells the Corinthian community to not make any judgment before the appointed time. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters. He tells us not to worry about tomorrow, to live today in the present and be appreciative with all that we have. Jesus calls us to discipleship to get our priorities in order. What are things in life that distract us from having a relationship with the Lord? Jesus reminds us that we are God’s precious children. We must put his future in the hands of God and pray only for the modest needs of today. As we prepare to start the season of Lent, let us Let Go, and Let God!
As Lent of 2017 is becoming a reality in our lives (Ash Wednesday, March 1st)…I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to consider spending one hour each week during Lent to visit Our Lord in the church. Trusting in the Sacred Heart of Jesus…many conversions, healings, and prayers-answered have been granted to those who invest their time with our Lord Jesus.
If you are in need of a positive change in your life and heart, then go to the Sacred Heart of Jesus beating for us under the veil of the Bread from Heaven! Come and Adore Him!
This weekend we celebrate the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings this weekend focus on loving God and loving Neighbor. The First reading from Leviticus focuses on Moses teaching the people to love your neighbor as yourself. In Paul’s Letter to the Corinthian’s, he reminds the community that they are God’s temple and are to be holy and helpful. In today’s Gospel of Matthew, we continue reading the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus calls his followers to be whole and complete. God cautions us to not take revenge or harbor grudges.
If we are dealing with a misunderstanding, holding a grudge with a family member, co-worker, classmate, fellow parishioner, priest (or bishop), let us let go of the negativity. You know: Let Go, and Let God.
We are invited to remember our baptismal call and spread the light of Christ around us. Let us give “light” to those around us searching for God in their life.