4th Sunday of Easter Year – B – 2015

4th Sunday of Easter Year – B – 2015

Acts 4:8- 2, 1 Jn.3:1-2, Jn.10:11-18

A soldier dying on a Korean battle field asked for a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The Medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied.

“The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand.

As we continue to reflect on the meaning of the resurrection, the 4th Easter Sunday is called Good Shepherd Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We celebrate the risen Lord as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

The priest in charge of a parish is called pastor because pastor means shepherd of Christ’s sheep. As a shepherd, he leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects Christ’s sheep in the parish. The image of God as Shepherd has its precedence in the Old Testament literature.

God has been depicted as a Shepherd in the book of Genesis (49:24), and in the book of Psalms (23, 74, 80). In our gospel today, Jesus shows us that he is the Good Shepherd. By saying so, he becomes the fulfillment of the Old Testament. As the gospel shows, Jesus has three characteristics of a good Shepherd: caring, compassionate, and guiding.

First, he is a Shepherd who cares for his flock. His caring can be seen in his great love for his sheep. He loves his sheep so much that he is willing to lay down his life for them. Here, Jesus contrasts himself from a “hired man” who abandons the sheep when the wolves come. He is different from a hired man because Jesus has concern for his sheep.

Second, he is a Shepherd who feels compassion for his sheep. Sheep are powerless in the face of wolves. He shows compassion for them by protecting them from harm. His compassion likewise goes beyond the flock that he is called to care.

Third, he is a Shepherd who guides his sheep. Sheep cannot graze on barren land, but someone must lead them to pasture, to water, and to shelter. They must be sought out when they are separated from the flock because they will never find a way back themselves. This is how he guides his flock.

Introducing himself as the shepherd of his flock, Jesus makes four claims in today’s gospel.

1) He knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice: Just as the Palestinian shepherds knew each sheep of their flock by name, and the sheep knew their shepherd and his voice, even so Jesus knows each one of us, our needs, our merits and our faults. Of course the knowledge talked of here is not mere intellectual knowing but knowledge that comes from love and leads to care and concern for the other.

He loves us as we are, with all our limitations, and he expects us to receive and return his love by keeping his words. He speaks to us at every Mass, through the Bible, through our pastors, through our parents, family and friends and through the events of our lives.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, he speaks to us in our consciences, and he SHOUTS to us in our pain!” (C.S. Lewis).

2) He gives eternal life to his sheep by receiving us into his sheepfold through Baptism. He strengthens our faith by giving us his Holy Spirit in Confirmation. He supplies food for our souls by the Holy Eucharist and by the divine words of the holy Bible. He makes our society holy by the sacraments of matrimony and the priesthood.

3) He protects his sheep by placing them in the loving hands of his mighty Father. Without him to guide us and protect us, we are easy prey for the spiritual wolves of this world: that includes Satan, as well as the seven deadly sins of pride, avarice, envy, gluttony, anger, lust and sloth.

In the first part of chapter ten of John’s Gospel, Jesus adds two more roles to those of the good shepherd. He goes in search of stray lambs and heals the sick ones. Jesus heals the wounds of our souls by the sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in illness and old age by the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

4) Jesus dies for his sheep:  Just as the shepherds of ancient days protected their sheep from wild animals and thieves by risking their own lives, so Jesus died in expiation for the sins of all people. In the final part of this gospel Jesus invites those who are touched and saved by the love of the Shepherd, to shepherd and care for others.

“There are other sheep that are not of this fold and these I have to lead as well.” Though he cares for his own, he does not discriminate and ultimately dies because he cares for all peoples.

The 4th Sunday of Easter is also called “Vocation Sunday”. Jesus the Good Shepherd calls out to us. And if we are His sheep, we will be listening to Him and we will also follow Him. Yet the call of Jesus also goes further and deeper to those for whom He has a particular calling. Vocation Sunday focuses on the call to the priesthood and religious life.

Pope Francis in his Chrism Mass homily has this to say to those who are shepherds or preparing to be shepherds of God’s flock. He said that the priests are to have the smile of the Father and the smell of the sheep. He said that the priests are to bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need, to be close to the oppressed.

So humbly I ask you, my dear people of God, to pray for us priests that we will lead you to hear the voice of Jesus and to follow Him to the green pastures of eternal life. Yes, pray for us priests and pray for those who are preparing for the priesthood and for those who are thinking about the priesthood. May I request you to thank God for me and to pray for me as I am completing 20 years of my Priesthood on Tuesday.

May we lead you to believe this, which is taken from Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Yes, with the Lord as our shepherd, there is indeed nothing we shall ever want. All we want is to listen to Him and follow Him.

Let us pray for vocations to priestly and religious life so that we may have more holy and Spirit-filled shepherds to lead, feed and protect the Catholic community. Amen.

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3rd Sunday of Easter Year – B – 2015

3rd Sunday of Easter Year – B – 2015

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19, 1 Jn.2:1-5, Lk.24:35-48

The priest of a small Hindu congregation in a tribal area in India was being persuaded by some energetic Christian missionaries. He listened for a while and then said to them: “Gentlemen, look. I have a proposal that will settle this. I have here a glass of nux vomica, a poison which I use to kill rats.

If you will drink this poison and remain alive as your God Jesus Christ promised, I will join your religion – and not only myself, but my entire Hindu congregation. But if you won’t drink the poison, well, then, I can only conclude that you are false ministers of the gospel you preach because you do not trust that your Lord would not let you perish.”

This created a problem for the missionaries. They conferred with each other and said, “What on earth are we going to do?” Finally, they arrived at a plan of action. They came back, approached the Hindu priest and said, “Here is our plan. You drink the poison, and we’ll raise you from the dead by the power of Jesus!”

Our scripture for this third Sunday of Easter is about believers. But it is also about doubting and wondering and trying to figure things out. The common theme of today’s readings is the challenge to adjust our lives in the living presence of the risen Lord, well aware of his presence, within us and all around us. This awareness should strengthen our hope in his promises.

And this should bring us to the true repentance for our sins and the renewal of our lives. This renewal of lives should lead us to bear witness to Christ. The readings also remind us that the purpose of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus was to save us from sins. These are the words of Jesus to his Apostles.

“You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations.” And this is the risen Christ speaking to us from the gospel. And his words are echoed by Peter in the first reading, “Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.”

Even in the second reading, the apostle John urges his readers to stop sinning, and if they have sinned they should seek forgiveness in Christ who by his sacrifice has taken our sins away. Most people who are living in sin silence their consciences if ever they trouble them, with the promise of repenting some future day.

But is it possible that a change of heart can be brought about in a single day? Can we possibly alter our tastes, our will, our character and habits without any difficulty in a brief period of time? We might be inclined to sit back and say, “Why all the fuss if everyone is a sinner, and forgiveness is easily got?”

But John issues a solemn warning, “We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments.” ‘To know’ is one of those terms which had a special meaning in sacred scripture. It had almost nothing to do with intellectual understanding. To know God meant to abide in God, to have a close and personal relationship with him.

And this is only possible if we live in imitation of Christ, if we put on Christ, as St Paul says. Christianity gives us great privileges, but it also makes great demands on us. The demand is this that we cannot be like Christ unless we are pure in heart.

There is a story of a poor and simple man who regularly visited a certain church, and would always pray on his knees before a large crucifix. He was once asked why his lips never moved while in this attitude of prayer before the image of Christ crucified. His reply was, “I look at him, and he looks at me.”

For him words had given way to contemplation. And truly, those who look long enough at Christ, whether before a representation of Christ, or just mentally, will finally become like Christ and that for all eternity, because of the vision of him as he really is.

If we look back over our lives most of us will find something or other that we very much regret. We might remember speaking or acting in ways that hurt or damaged others. We might be aware of not doing something that we could have done and, that in our heart of hearts, wanted to do.

Sometimes these experiences of personal failure can leave us very burdened. We can find it hard to move on from them; they trouble us and we struggle to be free of them. They can weigh heavily on us and drain us of energy. We can find ourselves going back in memory to them over and over again.

The first disciples of Jesus must have felt like this in the aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion. During the days of Jesus’ final journey, they had all deserted him. Their mood in the aftermath of Good Friday can only have been one of deep regret. They must have felt that their relationship with Jesus was over.

According to the today’s gospel, however, the first words the risen Jesus spoke to his disciples were, ‘Peace be with you.’ These words assured the disciples of the Lord’s forgiveness. For those first disciples, the initial experience of the risen Lord took the form of a profound experience of forgiveness. This was the risen Lord’s gift to them.

The gift of forgiveness can be difficult to receive at times. We wonder if we are really forgiven. When Jesus said ‘Peace be with you,’ they responded with alarm and fright and thought that they might be seeing a ghost. The risen Jesus then questioned them, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts?’ It took the disciples a while to realize that they were forgiven.

Before we can receive the Easter gift of God’ forgiveness that comes to us through the risen Lord, we must first acknowledge our need of that gift. In other words, we need ‘to admit the truth.’ The truth is that we are always in need of the gift of God’s forgiveness. Recognizing our need and asking God for the gift of forgiveness is what we call repentance.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a privileged opportunity to admit the truth, to acknowledge our need of God’s forgiveness and to ask directly for it. In that sacrament that the risen Lord says to us, ‘Peace be with you’. The words of absolution include the prayer, ‘through the ministry of the church may God grant you pardon and peace.’

Who was it who said, ‘to err is human, to forgive is divine’? If that is true, we need divine help to do what is divine. The greatest example we can offer is forgiveness. As the Father forgave us through Jesus’ Death on the Cross, so we forgive others through our example. There are many ways to forgive, but our example has to be a Christian example.

There are different ways to forgive. The Christian offers forgiveness first, not seeking an apology from others. We should offer forgiveness from our hearts and through our words and actions before someone who has wronged us even asks for it. This is the message that alone can bring peace to the world, and that realize Jesus’ words: “Peace be with you.” Amen.

2nd Sunday of Easter – 2015

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) – 2015

Acts 4:32-35, 1Jn.5:1-6, Jn.20:19-31

A priest was forced by a police officer to pull over for speeding. As the officer was about to write the ticket, the priest said to him, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”The police officer handed the priest the ticket, and said, “Go, and sin no more.”

Jim Williams was driving too fast late one night when he saw the flashing lights of a police car in his rearview mirror. As he pulled over and rolled down his window of his station wagon, he tried to dream up an excuse for his haste. But when the patrol man reached the car, he said nothing. Instead, he merely shined his flashlight in his face, then on his seven-month-old in his car seat, then on his three other children, who were asleep.

And lastly he did on the two dogs in the very back of the car. Returning the beam of light to his face, the police man uttered the only words of the encounter. “Son,’ he said, ‘you can’t afford a ticket. Slow down.” And with that, he returned to his car and drove away.” Sometimes mercy triumphs over law. So it is for sinners who call out to Jesus.”

The readings for this Sunday are about God’s mercy, the necessity for trusting faith and our need for the forgiveness of sins. The opening prayer addresses the Father as “God of everlasting Mercy.” In the responsorial psalm we repeat several times, “His mercy endures forever!”

God revealed His mercy, first and foremost, by sending His only-begotten Son, to become our Savior and Lord by His suffering, death and Resurrection. Divine mercy is given to us also in each celebration of the Sacraments, instituted to sanctify us.

We have been celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ for the past week. Today we celebrate one particular aspect of the Resurrection: Divine Mercy. We see divine mercy at work in the appearances of Jesus. First the angel announced his Resurrection, but no one believed. Then he himself appeared to Mary Magdalene. She believed, but no one believed her.

Then he appeared to Cleopas and another disciple in Emmaus. Then he appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to a group including nine other apostles. Only Thomas was left out now. With all these people testifying to the Resurrection, surely he will believe. No.

The story of St. Thomas’ unbelief in today’s Gospel passage seems to condemn him. But this passage in fact condemns all of the apostles: either for not believing in the Resurrection, or for not acting on their belief. Because the Gospel says, “the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews.”

St. Thomas claims that he will not believe until he puts his fingers in the holes made by the nails and his hand into the side opened by the spear. He does not want to believe in a ghost or a con man. He thinks everyone else might have been fooled, and he is not willing to be fooled along with them.

As a side note, there is someone else left out, someone whom Jesus never appeared to: his mother, Mary. When Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”, he meant her above all. She receives every blessing in Scripture, and this is no exception. She believed in the Resurrection before anyone else. She did not even go to the tomb on Easter morning. She knew that no one was there.

The Gospel says that one week passed before Jesus appeared again. That must have been an uncomfortable week for Thomas. Thomas was still sad, still mourning the death of Jesus. Everyone must have seemed crazy. Thomas could not leave in case Jesus appeared again, but it must have been very hard to stay when everyone around him was celebrating.

God is merciful. Not only does Jesus appear to Thomas, but he tells him to put his finger in his hands and his hand in his side. Whatever it takes, Jesus is willing to do, but Thomas was wrong. He did not need to touch Jesus to prove to himself the reality of the Resurrection. As soon as he sees Jesus, he falls down and says, “My Lord and my God.” Nevertheless, Jesus was willing to undergo any humiliation Thomas needed.

This is mercy. Our God is not aloof. He does not stand far off and tell us to make the arduous journey to him. He comes right down to us. He stands inches away and asks us to take one step. We have to make the journey, but he will be with us every step of the way. He will not put up with us living in sin, but he will do everything he can to help us get out.

Mercy does not take away justice. What is right is right. God will not let sinners into heaven. He will not let unbelievers into heaven. It would not be just. If heaven was full of sinners and unbelievers, it would be a lot like earth, which is not exactly perfect. If heaven is going to be perfect, all the people in heaven have to be perfect.

It would not be merciful if God made an exception and let someone bad into heaven; it would ruin heaven. Instead, he does everything in his power to make us good.  Jesus tells the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

He gives this immense power to them for one reason: because we need forgiveness. The priests do not receive this power to increase their importance. They passed this power on to their successors and assistants, the bishops and priests. Even today, every priest in the world can forgive sins. How amazing!

Life would have been terrible if we had been saved but there were no forgiveness. Only small children would go to heaven. We would lose our salvation as quickly as Adam and Eve. God has made it so easy to have our sins forgiven. We do not need to climb Mt. Everest or slay a dragon. We only have to go to one of the half a million priests in the world and confess our sins.

Maybe you would prefer killing a dragon. Satan wants us to be afraid of Confession. Jesus has made it so easy, but Satan tries to scare us away. We do not need to climb Mt. Everest, but we have to climb over our pride, which might be harder. Only we can get in our own way.

But when we do get in our own way, Jesus will help us find our way again. If Thomas does not believe, Jesus will appear on Thomas’s terms. If we commit sins, Jesus gives his priests the ability to forgive sins. Who knows what secrets are contained within the mercy of God!

So we need to accept God’s invitation to celebrate and practice mercy in our Christian lives. One way the Church celebrates God’s mercy throughout the year is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Finding time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is another good way to receive and give thanks for Divine Mercy. But it is mainly through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we practice mercy in our daily lives and become eligible for God’s merciful judgment.

When Christ appeared to the apostles, what did he say to convince them who he was? Did he work a miracle? No. He showed them the wounds in his side, his hands, and his feet: his battle scars from his fight with death. Christ, the victor over death, shows us His divine mercy. He invites us to share in the strength of His Body and Blood, and invites us to share fully in the life of His Holy Spirit. Amen.

Easter Sunday – 2015

Easter Sunday – 15

Acts 10:34, 37-43, Col.3:1-4, Jn.20:1-9

A certain kindergarten teacher was telling her students the story of Jesus. In her class was a little boy who came from a non-Christian family. He was paying very close attention to the story because it was all new to him. As the teacher told how Jesus was condemned and nailed to the cross to die the boy’s countenance fell and he murmured, “No! That’s too bad!”

The teacher then went on to tell how on the third day Jesus rose from the dead and came back to life. The boy’s eyes lit up with delight and he exclaimed, “Totally awesome!” On Good Friday we heard the story of the suffering and death of Jesus. Like the little boy many of us felt like “No! That’s too bad!”

Today we hear the rest of the story and again with the little boy we can now exclaim “Yes! Totally awesome.” Today we can again sing “Halleluiah” that we have not sung all through Lent. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad (Ps.118:24).

Why do we rejoice today? We rejoice because our faith in Christ has been vindicated, truth has triumphed over falsity, justice over injustice and tragedy has turned into comedy. The story of the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday is the story of the triumph of falsity over truth, of injustice over justice, of evil over goodness.

Death is not the end of the story. There is one more chapter. This is the most important chapter because, as the saying goes, they who laugh last laugh best. And in the last chapter of the story of Jesus we see him rise from the dead in all glory and majesty. He is vindicated. His enemies are shamed and confused. Jesus regains his eternal glory with the Father.

It is good news to know that truth is immortal. We can suppress Truth, accuse it of being a lie, condemn it, torture it, kill it, and bury it in the grave but on the third day Truth will rise again. Remember this and do not give up on Truth even when everybody seems to give up on it. Do not give up on Truth; do not give up on Justice. Do not give up on doing what is right.

True will always be true and just will always be just. Right will always be right even when the world around us would have it otherwise. We must learn to believe in the sun even when it is not shining; knowing that by and by it will shine again. It is the end of the story that counts. That is why the church asks us today to rejoice and be glad.

Even when we are going through very difficult times: through betrayal, unjust discrimination, lies, misrepresentations; even when the enemy seems to be winning the battle in our lives, we need to rejoice and be glad. Today Christ has won. And we know that in Christ we shall overcome.

 

And today is EASTER…. EASTER…. HALLELUJAH….. HALLELUJAH ….

We need to sing Hallelujah because Existence extends beyond the gloom of the grave into the Glory of God’s eternal light…HALLELUJAH

Easter is the demonstration of God that life is essentially spiritual and timeless…. ALLELUJAH

Easter tells us that life is to be interpreted not simply in terms of things but in terms of ideals…. HALLELUJAH

The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death —- that is not the great thing — but that — we are to , and may , live nobly now because we have to live for ever… HALLELUJAH

Tomb, you shall not hold Him longer: Death is strong, but life is stronger; stronger than the dark, the light; stronger than the wrong…. HALLELUJAH

Easter changed the midnight of disappointment into a sunrise of joy, it changed the midnight of fear of death into the sunrise of hope in immortality…. HALLELUJAH

Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity… HALLELUJAH

Immortality is a state of being in grace here right now…. HALLELUJAH

Too long our concept of immortality has suffered from the particular misconception that immortality is a state of being that occurs when we die! But if we are immortal at all, we are immortal now, this very moment… HALLELUJAH

Why postpone our adjustment to a sublime condition? Let us be as fearless in the discipline of our souls as of our bodies… HALLELUJAH

It is amazing how completely tangled nerves relax, how anxieties and fears evaporate if once we incorporate into our daily philosophy of life the slogan, ‘” USE YOUR IMMORTALITY NOW.”  HALLELUJAH

We pray You, O Christ, to keep us under the spell of immortality… HALLELUJAH

May we never again think and act as if You were dead and you are dead… HALLELUJAH

Let us more and more come to know You as the Living Lord who has promised to them that believe ;” BECAUSE I LIVE , YOU SHALL LIVE ALSO”. (Jn.14:19)

EASTER… Yes, Easter is that JESUS THE LIVING PRESENCE is with us and JESUS THE VICTORIOUS POWER is with us. So let us sing HALLELUJAH… HALLELUJAH. Amen.

Good Friday – 2015

Good Friday – 2015

Is.52:13-53/ Heb.4:14-16, 5:7-9/ Jn.18:1-19, 42

Whenever we mention “Good Friday” the first impression we have is the cross. Obviously that is the most recognizable and easily understood symbol of Good Friday. It is simply because Jesus died on the Cross on Good Friday. We have just heard the gospel account of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The gospel recounted for us how Jesus was betrayed and abandoned by his own disciples, how he was rejected and condemned by His own people, and how He suffered and eventually died on the cross. Today we are also reminded that Jesus suffered and died for us even though we are still sinners.

There were three crosses on Golgotha. On the right and on the left were two robbers crucified for rebellion and murder. On one cross Jesus died for our sin; on another cross the unrepentant thief died in sin, and on the third cross a repentant thief died to sin. On the center cross hung a sinless Sufferer! He was dying for the sins of the world.

Jesus spoke seven times during the closing moments of his earthly life, as he died on the Cross. It has been an age old practice in the Church to reflect on these last words of Jesus from the cross as an integral part of Good Friday observance so that we may repent of our sins, resolve to renew our lives and thus participate fully in the joy of Jesus’ Resurrection.

THE WORD OF FORGIVENESS: Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk.23:34). Now, from the cross, Jesus’ thoughts reached above his pain and rejection. Instead of being consumed with his own pain and misery, Jesus asked forgiveness for those responsible for the evil done to him. Jesus prayed for those who condemned Him, mocked Him and nailed Him to the Cross.

If someone hurts our feelings can we forgive that person, pray for God’s blessings on him or her and continue to treat him or her as our friend? Here is a Chinese proverb: “One who hates another digs two graves: one for himself and the other for the one he hates.”

THE WORD OF ASSURANCE: Then [the thief on Jesus’ right] said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”(Lk.23:42-43). When sunlight falls on wax it melts, but the same warmth hardens the clay.

The waxy heart of the thief on the right melted with repentance at the sight of Jesus crucified. We are here to remember how Jesus died on the cross to save each human soul, paying his life as ransom. Will we follow the example of the repentant thief who, seeing the death of Jesus, was converted.

THE WORD OF COMFORT: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (Jn.19:26-27).

This is Jesus’ loving death-bed gift to each of his followers: giving us his mother as our mother, the mother of Christians, mother of the Church, to honor, love, and respect and imitate. She is the supreme model of trusting faith in God, the model of perfect obedience to the will of God and the model of perfect surrender of one’s life to God.

THE WORD OF DESOLATION: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matt.27:45-46). This fourth and central Word of Jesus on the Cross is another prayer, from the Psalms. Every one of us experiences despair and rejection at certain periods of our life. Jesus’ word of desolation teaches us that there is no despair so deep or evil so overwhelming. He is there by our side, feeling everything that we are feeling, and that He will not fail us, forsake us, or abandon us.

THE WORD OF SUFFERING: “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst” (Jn.19:28). Jesus expressed this thirst for souls. So by saying that He was thirsty, He was actually saying that He was putting all His faith in the saving power of God. And that is what we should be hoping and thirsting for – that we share in the victory of the resurrection of Christ.

THE WORD OF TRIUMPH: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished” (Jn.19:30). The Savior was about to die. It was for this cause that Jesus came into the world, and now that his mission was accomplished, he raised his voice in a triumphant shout: “It is finished!” So, when Jesus said “It is finished,” what is finished? It is the debt we owe God by our sins. It has been paid in full! This is a cry of victory.

Can we die saying joyfully and gratefully the sixth and seventh words of Christ in all sincerity? It is possible if we live our Christian life doing the will of God in all sincerity and commitment.

THE WORD OF COMMITTAL: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last”(Lk.23:46). Jesus was always submitting Himself to God, and when He died, He died just as He had lived. Jesus entrusted his spirit –his life – and all that had given it meaning – to God his Father in faith.

We, too, are told, “Commit to the Lord your way; trust in Him, and he will act” (Ps.37:5). Let us live in such a way as to hear the welcome words of God our Father, “This is My beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt.3:17).

Holy Thursday – 2015

Holy Thursday – 2015

Exo.12:1-8, 11-14, 1 Cor.11:23-26, Jn.13:1-15

There is an absolutely terrible old joke about a bill collector in Georgia who knocked on the door of a client who lived out in a rural area. This client owed the bill collector’s company money. “Is Fred home?” he asked the woman who answered the door.” Sorry,” the woman replied. “Fred’s gone for cotton.” The next day the collector tried again. “Is Fred here today?”

“No, sir,” she said, “I’m afraid Fred has gone for cotton.” When he returned the third day, he said sarcastically, “I suppose Fred is gone for cotton again?” “No,” the woman answered solemnly, “Fred died yesterday.” Suspicious that he was being avoided, the bill collector decided to wait a week and check out the cemetery himself.

Sure enough, there was poor Fred’s tombstone. On it was this inscription: “Gone, But Not for Cotton.” That’s terrible, I know, but it is a reminder that tonight as we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim that Christ is neither gone nor forgotten. We assert our faith that He is present, here with us, as we receive Holy Communion in remembrance of him.

Today we celebrate the feast of the First Mass. On Holy Thursday, we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of Salvation, 3) the anniversary of the promulgation of Jesus’ new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. The first reading from Exodus, gives us an account of the origins of the Jewish feast of Passover. In the second reading, Paul quotes another source for this tradition. He says he received this “from the Lord,” suggesting that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church.

Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration.  First He washed His Apostles’ feet – a tender reminder of His undying affection for them; then He commanded them to do the same for each other.  The incident reminds us that our vocation is to take care of one another as Jesus always takes care of us.

Finally, He gave His Apostles His own Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine. Thus, Jesus washed their feet, fed them and then went out to die. Jesus’ washing of the feet taught the disciples that no person is better than any other, and no person is worse than any other. He taught them that the rituals of their daily lives could be transformed.

So, from now on, when a mother wipes the face of her child or when a father gives his children a bath, washing of the feet is repeated. Also, this simple gesture of Jesus reminds us that love knows no bounds and excludes no one. Whether Pope or President or Prime Minister, street person or welfare recipient, we are all called to stoop to serve.

We need to serve humbly. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ’s presence in other persons. To wash the feet of others is to love them, even when they don’t deserve our love. It is to do good to them, even if they don’t return the favor.

It is to consider others’ needs to be as important as our own. It is to forgive others from the heart, even if they don’t say, “I’m sorry.” It is to serve them, even when the task is unpleasant. It is to let others know that we care when they feel downtrodden or burdened. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to turn the other cheek instead of retaliating when we’re treated unfairly.

Let us imitate the Self-giving model of Jesus Who shares with us His Body and Blood and enriches us with His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth – with others that we become true Disciples of Christ and obey His new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Amen.