Easter Sunday

                                                         Easter Sunday

             Acts10:34a, 37-43, Col.3:1-4 or 1Cor 5:6b-8, Jn.20:1-9

Wish you all a Happy Easter! May the Risen Lord Bless you all!

Joseph of Arimathea was a very wealthy Pharisee, a member of the council, and a secret follower of Jesus. 

It was Joseph who went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. And it was Joseph who supplied the tomb for Jesus’ burial. I wonder if someone pulled him aside and said, “Joseph that was such beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. 

Why on earth did you give it to someone to be buried in?” “Why not?” Joseph may have answered. He only needed it for the weekend.”

Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church. It marks the birthday of our eternal hope. “Easter” literally means “the feast of fresh flowers.” We celebrate it with pride and jubilation for three reasons:

1) The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian faith. The Resurrection is the greatest of the miracles – it proves that Jesus is God. 

That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins…

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (ICor.15: 14, 17 & 20). If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then the Church is a fraud and faith is a sham. But if he really did rise from the dead, his message is true!

Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have remained forever a good person who had met a tragic end. People would remember some of his teachings, and a handful of people might try to live according to them. 

All the basic doctrines of Christianity are founded on the truth of the Resurrection. “Jesus is Lord; He is risen” (Rom 10: 9) was the central theme of the Kerygma (or “preaching”), of the apostles.

2) Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even though he dies” (Jn.11: 25-26). 

Christ will raise us up on the last day, but it is also true, in a sense, that we have already risen with Christ. By virtue of the Holy Spirit, our Christian life is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ (C.C.C. #1002, #1003).

3) Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. 

It is our belief in the Real Presence of the risen Jesus in our souls, in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament and in Heaven that gives meaning to our personal, as well as to our common, prayers.

Our trust in the all-pervading presence of the risen Lord gives us strength to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears. The prayer of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland reads: “Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ within me, never to part.”

Easter reminds us of an empty tomb! Today’s gospel does not present us with risen Jesus. Instead, it presents us with the empty tomb! In the Gospel the angel says: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!” (Lk.24:5-6) 

This empty tomb means that Jesus is risen and is living among us and we should not look for Him among the dead.

Unfortunately, you and I look for life in things that have no life in them. We turn to money, war, power and using things such as alcohol and drugs. 

We never find love, joy and peace in these things – instead we become spiritually empty tombs! Yet we continue trying these things in the hope that they will give comfort and peace.

Easter breaks that feverish human cycle of searching for life in things that are dead. Easter calls us to shed the old life and accept new life. Easter calls us to get out of the tomb of selfishness, greed, prejudice, addiction and hostility. 

Easter invites us to get out of pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust and to accept a new heart, new birth and a new person. You and I get a new life after each Easter.  

Try it for yourself as you leave here today. Believe in the “new life” shed the old. Start with yourself, now spread this joy to your family, to your friend, to your workplace, and to the world.

Easter, the feast of the resurrection, gives us also the joyful message that we are a “resurrection people.” This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits and dangerous addictions. 

It gives us the good news that no tomb can hold us down anymore – not the tomb of despair, discouragement or doubt, nor that of death.

Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the real presence of the resurrected Lord in all the events of our lives.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Ps. 118:24). Easter reminds us that every Good Friday in our lives will have an Easter Sunday, and that Jesus will let us share the power of his resurrection.

Each time we display our love of others, we share in the resurrection. Each time we face a betrayal of trust, we share in the resurrection of Jesus. 

Each time we fail in our attempts to ward off temptations – but keep on trying to overcome them – we share in the resurrection. Each time we continue to hope – even when our hope seems unanswered – we share in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

In short, the message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us – not pain, sin, rejection nor death – because Christ has conquered all these, and we too can conquer them if we put our faith in Him.

We need to seek our peace and joy in the Risen Jesus:  The living presence of the Risen Lord gives us lasting peace and celestial joy in the face of the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of our day-to-day life. 

“Peace be with you!” was His salutation to His disciples at all post-Resurrection appearances.  For the true Christian, every day must be an Easter Day, lived joyfully in the close company of the Risen Lord. 

Be Blessed and be a Blessing. Amen.

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Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Is.50:4-7/ Phil.2:6-11/ Mk.14:1-15, 47

You might have heard of a story about a husband and a wife who had quarreled. It had been a high-pitched quarrel, each digging heels in to preserve the position each had vehemently taken. Emotions ran high. As they were driving to attend a family wedding in a distant city, both were nursing their hurt feelings in defensive silence. The angry tension between them was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

But, then the silence was broken. Pointing to a donkey standing in a pasture out beside the road, the husband sarcastically asked, “Relative of yours?” The wife quickly replied, “Yes, by marriage!” In modern communication, the ass is a symbol for awkwardness, dumbness, blundering ineptness, non-sophistication. Yet, an ass plays a key role in the drama of Palm Sunday at which we’re looking today.

Today’s Mass began with a festive and a celebrative kind of mood. Yes today is called Palm Sunday, and at the beginning there was the procession with palms to commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

The celebrative procession with palms gave way to a solemn mood where we heard of betrayal and denial, agony and pain. Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday. In short, we can say that the mood in today’s Mass went from “palm to pain”.

And with that, we also enter into Holy Week and we can also say that “the pain is increasing” until it reaches its climax on Good Friday in a painful death on the cross. Yes, from this Sunday to the next Sunday, we will be confronted with a mixture of emotions – of joy and sorrow; glorious entry and humiliating exit; life and death.

Yes, we move from palm to pain. Yet it does not stop just there. Because pain and suffering and death do not have the last say and neither do they determine the final outcome. The final outcome is always in the hands of God who will be victorious, and in Jesus Christ who has conquered sin and death.

It is in the humble palm branch that we see the unfolding of pain and suffering and death. Yet it is also a sign of the victory and glory to come. As it is, this palm branch will slowly dry up in the days to come. It will turn from green to a brownish color. In the end, it will just be a dried up stiff branch.

Yet in the future, this palm branch together with the other palm branches will be collected and burnt and made into ashes for Ash Wednesday’s imposition of ashes. So what was thought to be dead and useless will be given a new purpose and a new meaning. Yes the ashes take on a new meaning and a new purpose and they become a sign of our repentance and conversion.

The same way life is like a cycle of ups and downs. And as it is always said, what goes up must come down, and what goes down must come up. Hence, we can say that nothing stays up always, and nothing stays down always. Today’s liturgy has two opposite and contrasting moods.

We began the liturgy with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowds spread their garments on the road and shouted: Hosanna in the highest!  (Praise God and his Messiah, we are saved) As we recalled that gospel scene, we too waved the palm branches in remembrance of that glorious moment when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem.

But as we move on into the liturgy, the mood begins to swing drastically. From “Hosanna in the highest”, we hear of human drama in the darkest and lowest. We hear of betrayal, desertion, abandonment and crucifixion. Within a span of an hour, we hear of glory tumbling down into agony.

And in that cycle of glory and agony, we are invited to see our lives in that one week of the life of Jesus. We too had our days of glory when we walk with sunshine confidence and everything seems to be going right and under control. But within a week, or even a day, or even in a matter of hours, things start crumbling and tumbling down.

And this is where we are invited to share in that moment of glory-to-agony experience of Jesus. The readings prepare us for what is to come on Good Friday.  At the same time, the readings also prepare us for our own Good Fridays when we feel the agony of a sudden serious illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a friendship, failure and disappointment, heartaches and distress.

Yes, in a short time and maybe even overnight, we plunge from glory to agony, and fall into the darkness of the tomb. The gospel also ended with Jesus buried in the tomb. But with Jesus we wait. Because what goes down must come up. Agony will be turned into glory. But we must wait. With faith and hope in the power and love of God, we wait till the agony of darkness will give way to the glory of light. Amen.

4th Sunday of Lent Year – B

4th Sunday of Lent Year – B
2 Chr.36:14-16, 19-23; Eph.2:4-10; Jn.3:14-21

A man dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven.

You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, and loved her deep in my heart.” “That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth two points!” “Only two points?” the man says.

“Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithes and service.” “Terrific!” says St. Peter.

“That’s certainly worth a point.” “One point!?!! I started a soup kitchen in my city and also worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.” “Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” St. Peter says. “Two points!?!!”

Exasperated, the man cries, “At this rate, the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God.” ‘Bingo! 100 points ! Come on in!’

Today is the first day of the fourth week of Lent. Today is “Rejoice Sunday” too. So, three weeks done is 21 days, and there are 19 days left until the Easter Triduum.

We are halfway through! I hope these days of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving have been fruitful. We should not stop or slow down.

When a runner reaches the halfway point of a race, they rejoice, but they keep running. So we too should rejoice but keep running this race.

Why does the Church invite us in the middle of the penitential season of Lent to rejoice? It is because, “God so loved the world so much that he gave his only son.”

These forty days provide an opportunity for God, and he is always going to take advantage of an opportunity to save us. We are trying to listen to him.

We are trying to love ourselves less and our neighbors more. We are trying to be perfect, and he, who wants us to be perfect, is using this effort to effect real change in our souls.

It is not we who are accomplishing this change, lest we should boast. But God cannot accomplish the change unless we are trying to be perfect. We try, and he accomplishes.

God built the road; we are just driving on it. We are not saved by our works, for our works are insufficient, but they are necessary.

Just as a car does not move because I push my foot on a gas pedal slightly: it moves because of the gas and the engine and the design, but until I do press down slightly, the car will not go anywhere, so too we do not actually accomplish our salvation by means of the little works we do, the fasting and the praying and the almsgiving, but without them we are not saved.

So what is the one big difference between God and us? God gives and forgives! We get and forget! God loved the world so much that He gave.

We love the world so much that we forget that He gave. So it is correct to say that this Lent we are saving ourselves because we are finally making use of the grace of God.

The goal of all this effort is to believe in Jesus. God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

If you are looking for something to believe or someone to believe in, I can recommend Jesus, but it is not easy to believe in Jesus.

Believing in Jesus must mean something other than going to Mass on Sunday and something other than saying the right words and even something other than a particular feeling of faith, for wicked people often appear to lack nothing of these normal religious attributes.

If I believe in Jesus, I believe that he will not fail me; I believe that his commands are true and good, and I believe that my happiness comes from him and nowhere else.

If I have faith in Jesus I am making a statement about how my whole life will be structured. It is this kind of faith that has the power to save.

If I believe in God, this faith has to change my whole life. The ancient Israelites forgot how important God was. They thought that he would not mind if they sinned.

He sent them prophets to warn them, but they ignored the prophets, so he sent a different kind of messenger: the King Nebuchadnezzar, who came and destroyed Jerusalem, and carried the Israelites back as slaves.

We should not imagine that the situation is any different now. God does not expect less of us. He expects more from us because we have been given more grace.

If he was not willing to preserve Jerusalem, his holy city, when the inhabitants had given themselves over to sin, he will not have any special protection for our country or any other country.

The citizens of Jerusalem thought they were safe because of their allies and their strong walls and their other defenses, but an empire arose from nowhere and conquered them easily.

We are being confronted by some difficult decisions: do we believe in our country or do we believe in Jesus?

This does not have to be a contradiction, but it slowly is becoming one. Our country has risen, and someday it will fall, but Jesus is forever.

Do we believe in the general opinion of society or do we believe in Jesus? There are a lot of voices that call traditional morality “extreme”.

And then there is a constant buzz that says that Jesus cannot be trusted, that we have to make certain allowances, certain indulgences, certain reasonable adaptations.

We call it “updating” Christianity, but that is only because we live in a culture obsessed with have everything up-to-date. There has always been a voice opposed to Christianity. Do we believe in that voice, or do we believe in Jesus?

Believing in Jesus includes three elements: 1) the belief that God is our loving Father,

2) the belief that Jesus is the Son of God and, therefore, tells us the truth about God and life, and

3) the belief that we must give unquestioning obedience to Jesus. “I believe” means I put my trust in Jesus and I seek to obey Him.

We must do “good works” if we have been truly saved. In other words, if we are saved by our Faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, good works will follow as our acts of thanksgiving.

This favor from God is constantly being offered, and our challenge is to respond to it gratefully by leading a good life.

Thus, we will receive from God eternal life, the very life of God Himself. Then we will experience peace with God, peace with men, peace with life and peace with ourselves.

Believing in Jesus is not easy. It is a decision we make and a decision we fight for every day. In every action we say what we believe in and we decide what we will believe in.

So we need to reciprocate God’s love by loving others. God’s love is unconditional, universal, forgiving and merciful. Let us try, with His help, to make an earnest attempt to include these qualities as we share our love with others during Lent.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3rd Sunday of Lent Year – B

3rd Sunday of Lent Year – B
Ex 20: 1-17; I Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

Two friends, Bill and Tom, were drinking coffee at an all-night café. They got into a discussion about the difference between irritation, anger, and rage.

At about 1 A.M., Bill said, “Look, Tom, I’ll show you an example of irritation.” He went to the pay telephone, put in a coin, and dialed a number at random. The phone rang and rang and rang.

Finally, when a sleepy voice at the other end answered, Bill said, “I’d like to speak to Jones.”

“There’s no one here named Jones,” the disgruntled man replied as he hung up. “That,” Bill said to Tom, “is a man who is irritated.” An hour later, at 2 A.M., Bill said, “Now I’ll show you a man who is angry.”

He went to the phone, dialed the same number, and let it ring. Eventually, the same sleepy voice answered the phone.

Bill asked, “May I please speak with Jones?” “There’s no one here named Jones,” came the angry reply, this time louder. The man slammed down the receiver.

An hour later, at 3 A.M., Bill said, “Now I’ll show you an example of rage.” He went to the phone, dialed the same number, and let it ring.

When the sleepy man finally answered, Bill said, “Hi, this is Jones. Have there been any calls for me?”

That kind of gets to you, doesn’t it? Have you ever said, “Don’t make me angry? Most of us, probably, don’t like to be angry. But, when you do get angry… Aristotle has written, “It is easy to become angry.

Anyone can do it. But to become angry at the right moment, to the right degree, for the right purpose, in the right manner, that is difficult.

Only the wise person can accomplish it.” What is implied in Aristotle’s words is the realization that there are different kinds of anger.

There is a destructive anger, which is unfocused, irrational and wasteful. But there is also a constructive anger that is precise, appropriate and useful.

Aristotle believed that constructive anger is valuable. So did Jesus.
In today’s gospel we see Jesus using constructive anger to motivate himself in the dramatic action in the temple.

Now we are not completely sure what Jesus was angry at. He was not angry at the temple itself, for as a good Jew the temple was the center of his religious life, and he prayed in the temple often.

He could not be angry at the fact that people were selling animals, because animals were required by Jewish law for sacrifice.

Perhaps he was angry at where the animals were being sold or how they were being sold. Perhaps they were sold in an unfair way that discriminated against the poor.

Whatever the reason was, it is clear that Jesus perceived in the action of selling some injustice, and his response to that injustice was anger.

Anger motivated Jesus to act against what he believed was wrong. The example of Jesus reminds us that, as children of God, we are required to do more than pray quietly and promote a peaceful inner disposition.

Constructive anger is a virtue when it is exercised on behalf of the kingdom. Now this can surprise us, because some of us were taught that anger is a sin.

But only destructive anger is sinful. Constructive anger is not a sin. It is a positive and valuable part of human life.

Look at your own life over the past year. If you cannot think of any time when you were angry, that is not necessarily a good thing.

Never being angry does not make us holy; in fact, it might indicate that we are indifferent, indifferent to the injustice and evils that are a part of our world.

If, on the other hand, you look over the past year and realize that you are always angry, that is not a good thing either.

When we suddenly burst into rage at the slightest comment, when we explode without any reason, when we discover that we are living constantly with an internal tension, that is an indication that there are unresolved issues in our life that need to be faced.

That is a sign that destructive anger controls us. And destructive anger needs to be eliminated. But contrary to never being angry or always being angry, constructive anger is healthy.

It helps us identify what is wrong, and it motivates us to work against it. If you recognize in your life a growing tendency toward self-indulgence and self-centeredness, constructive anger can motivate you to act, to turn things around.

If you realize that you are experiencing abuse or manipulation in a relationship, constructive anger can force you to demand a change or to abandon the relationship altogether.

There is no doubt that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. But he is also the Lord of Justice. Jesus did not sit meekly by when he saw evil being imposed on others. Jesus was not afraid of constructive anger.

He used it to build the kingdom. So should we. “When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.” – St. Francis de Sales.

Once upon a time the sun and the wind got into an argument about who was stronger. They decided to settle things with a test. “Let us see who can force that man over there to take off his coat”, said the wind.

The sun agreed. So the wind blew with all its strength, but the harder the wind blew, the more the man held on to his coat. Then it was the sun’s turn. He shone down strong and soon it was very warm and the man removed his coat.

It is not enough that we have the zeal. Anyway the violence is not convincing. Jesus knew that if he suffered and died for my sins, I could not resist loving him.

This is how the weakness of God is greater than the strength of the human. I do not need God to force me to keep his commandments, though I do need him to help me.

If someone tried to violently force me to follow a religion, I would resist, but since someone loved me so much that he was willing to die to save me, I am very interested in learning more about that love.

Our relationship with God must be that of a child to his parent, one of mutual love, respect and a desire for the family’s good, with no thought of personal loss or gain.

We are not supposed to think of God as a vending machine into which we put our sacrifices and good deeds to get back His blessings.

Be Blessed Be Blessing. Amen.