Sunday, June 26, 2016

Christian Freedom

June 26, 2016 –– 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:16b, 19–21 / Psa 16: 1–2, 5, 7–8, 9–10, 11 / Galatians 5:1, 13–18 / Luke 9:51–62
Christian Freedom

Throughout my forty-plus years of pastoral ministry I have listened to people complain about the difficulty of understanding St Paul. There are a number of reasons for this, but a crucial one is that Paul cannot be read superficially. If you try to read a few verses of his letters apart from their context (which means reading the whole letter and discovering its setting), you’ll not understand Paul very well. It’s also important to learn about the issues Paul often addresses as well as some words Paul uses in a technical way. The letter to the Galatians is a great example. We discover a very Pauline vocabulary with words such as freedom, law, love, flesh and Spirit. 

One of the gifts God gave to his human creation was freedom. We have a “free-will” that can make rational and autonomous choices. That is why our world is broken today; Adam and Eve chose to disobey. Inherent with freedom is an inevitable repercussion. The Catechism says: Freedom makes man a moral subject. When he acts deliberately, man is, so to speak, the father of his acts. Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil (CCC 1749).

St Paul’s letter to the Galatians is about the interplay of God’s law, human freedom, and the tendency to commit sin (this is one way to understand his word flesh). This is in contrast to the way God’s Spirit works in us. Grace works in our lives to help us obey God––to be the kind of humanity God intended when he first created us.

What should we expect from God? Some people mistakingly think grace and Christian faith is merely "forgiveness." There was a popular bumper sticker that said Christians aren't perfect, only forgiven. The Christian gospel does offer forgiveness, but forgiveness is only the beginning. God has made a way to forgive our sins so that his life––his Spirit––can come into us. Salvation is given to restore us to what God first intended, before disobedience and sin entered our world.

This means God's work in us creates change. St Paul told the Corinthians: If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2Cor 5:17). The way to understand what Paul says here about freedom is to see it within the big picture of salvation. Christians do not keep God’s law in order to earn grace. We are forgiven through the death of Jesus. But here is the question: does "freedom" mean that Christians are free to sin?

Let's consider this thing of freedom a bit more. Freedom means we are not in bondage to guilt and fear just because we fall short of God’s perfect law. Freedom is the joy of knowing God loves us and wants our best. Freedom means Christians have been loosed from the tyranny of self-effort. Freedom means a liberty to respond to God from our hearts.

We need to hear that last one again and again: Freedom means a liberty to respond to God from our hearts. This is the crux of "Christian living." Because of what God's Spirit does, Christians are “free” to respond to the God who saves them––but not “free to sin”. The freedom we have in Christ is God's gift. It is incongruous that God would give us a gift that sanctions sin. What St Paul says in his letter to the Galatians is that God gives us a gift that frees us to be like him––a gift that frees us to love.

There is a sense is which every human being is free" to love whatever he or she desires. We all have a God-given desire for happiness and fulfillment. Every one of us is "free" to respond to that––and we do. Yet left to themselves, people want to do what they want to do. We too easily desire wrong things. Self-will is at war with God’s will; there is a warped view of “freedom” in our world. Paul calls this life according to the flesh. It’s also true that a Christian (a person in whom the Holy Spirit dwells) can, in specific actions, act like someone without faith. We live in a world that tells lies about values, and morals, and happiness, and having once had our identity in those lies, everyone is susceptible. But a person who has been born of the Spirit does not have to live that way because God's work is always urging a person on to true life and obedience. This is what Paul is talking about here:
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law (vs 17,18).

The good news of the Gospel is that Christians are “free” ––truly free to love and obey God, but not free to sin. We are free to love because love is such a basic character of God. When God sets a person free, it is a freedom to respond to God and be like him. St Augustine has been quoted: “Love, and do what you will.” God-given love is not just a sentimental feeling; God-given love is a Christ-like attitude that his Spirit works into us. God comes into his people so that they can be like him. So Paul says the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (v14).

And yet, as important as it is, “trying to love” is not the focus. We cannot love, God-style, by ourselves. Love is a by-product: Jesus loves through us as we focus on him. Paul says if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law––in other words, we live unto Jesus instead of trying to keep a list of what Christians “do” (or don’t do). The essence of Christian faith is that God comes to live in us so that his life can be expressed through us! Think what would happen if everyone in the world always lived in the Spirit and said no to the flesh! It would be heaven on earth. We are “free” to love God. Are you doing your part? Are you staying open to God’s Spirit?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Being Real About Forgiveness

June 12, 2016: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Samuel 12:7–10,13 / Psalm 32 / Galatians 2:16, 19–21 / Luke 7:36–8:3
Being Real About Forgiveness

Two things are crushingly hard: trying to live up to something you’re not, or for most people to think of you as an awful person. We see both in the Gospel reading.

We probably do not think often enough of how we live in a culture obsessed and warped by image. People often give more attention to looking good than being good (in so many contexts). What if everyone spent as much time caring for the soul as the body? Yet we too easily focus on the veneer. It’s threatening to us simply to be real.

This comes into focus in the two characters from the Gospel reading. First, consider Simon. Simon used other people of reputation to elevate himself. His hospitality was actually patronization. Being at his table was a big deal. That is why he was not courteous to Jesus; Simon's mind was on himself. He wanted to look important. Simon had no spiritual discernment in spite of his outward religious identification as a Pharisee. His assessment of things was based on the outward appearance. Simon wanted Jesus in his house because Jesus was reported to be a mighty prophet. He could tell everyone that he knew Jesus–– "had him over for dinner the other night.”

Then there is the woman. Luke tell us she is a sinner. This means something specific, beyond what is generally true of all us. Tradition says this woman was a prostitute. She suffered from a horrible image. We have no details, but almost never does a person choose a sordid lifestyle as a preference. Sometimes it’s “collateral damage” ––people crash to an awful bottom when they’re caught in a bubble that bursts. Others try to live in a fantasy of their own making. Both are crushing, and God wants better for us.

These are the dynamics at work between Simon and the woman. Simon is focused on his image, even as his projected image of Jesus fades––If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him… Simon was thinking of himself and his reputation. What would happen when the word spread about this incident at his dinner? There was no concern nor consideration of the woman, and Simon did not really know Jesus.

Simon had two options. Simon could have recognized and rejoiced at this woman’s demonstrative but humble display that said so powerfully: I need forgiveness and love. But to do that Simon needed to recognize his own sin, and that's hard to do. Simon had a respectable image. How could he identify in any way with this groveling wretch of a woman who had disrupted his dinner party? Simon had never faced his deep need of forgiveness, so how could he appreciate what this woman experienced?

The one who recognized the most about Jesus was this woman. The woman had no difficulty  showing her need. At first it seems odd that such a person would have that measure of intuition. Yet when you think about it, the greater a person's need, the greater the awareness. It's the person with no pretenses, the person who is humble and honest, that is most open to the reality of love and forgiveness. It was because this woman was down and out––because she needed love so badly––that she recognized what kind of man Jesus was. She was so close to bottom there was nowhere else to go. That comes into focus when we look at Simon, this woman, and Jesus.

I have an outward reputation as a Christian. But if that’s all it is, I’m in serious trouble. Think also of David. He was king, and that certainly carried the pressure of an outward image. What if David had chosen privilege and image over honesty and repentance? This is an issue for most of us who are regularly in church. There is an external pressure to be outwardly righteous and we sense that. At one level that can be good. Yet it is here that we need to guard against the world’s exaltation of image. Sin tries to tell us it doesn’t matter as long as the outward appearance looks good. It’s easy to fall into an attitude that's more like Simon than the penitent woman.

If we try to live behind an image we are being like Simon the Pharisee––and we could end up like the woman before her restoration. Today we are reminded that forgiveness is a basic issue for all of us. We all need to be forgiven. Early in the Liturgy we have the Penitential Act. The Confetior reminds us: I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned…. Do we mean it? Do we embrace an awareness of our need for love and forgiveness that can only come through Jesus? Do we extend that mercy to others?

We can be like Simon and be more concerned with what other people think of us instead of what God thinks of us. We can be critical and unforgiving toward others, especially if we think doing so can make us look outwardly good––but that’s only image.

We need to be like this woman. We can admit our need of forgiveness, and in doing so, find the kind of forgiveness that causes us to respond to our Lord with abandon. 

When you respond to the “altar call” at Communion, do you come freely admitting that you are a sinner who need forgiveness? The invitation is to come just as this woman did. In our hearts we can fall before him and bathe his feet with our tears. Then we can become models of the love we have received. Having received grace, we respond to God in gratitude. Having been dealt with graciously, we practice graciousness toward others. That's what this story tells us, and that's what we are called to in every Eucharist.

Let’s be real about forgiveness. It’s so much more than image.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Personal Pentecost

May 15, 2016 –– Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2:1–11 / Romans 8:8–17 / John 14:15–16, 23b–26
A Personal Pentecost

Today is Pentecost Sunday. All around the world Christians look back to that day in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and fulfilled the promise of Jesus. Each week we “confess” I believe in the Holy Spirit… So here is a question for us on this Pentecost Sunday: What are we expecting to happen today because we believe Jesus has given us his Spirit?

Think for a moment about the things Jesus said the Spirit would do. Jesus will no longer be with his disciples to give them guidance, so the Spirit is the Counselor. Jesus will no longer be with his disciples to teach them, so Jesus says the Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus himself, and the effect of the Spirit is that Jesus is made known and glorified in and through his followers.

Before Pentecost the Spirit had not yet come as promised. The disciples did not have the power to stand firm. When the soldiers came to the garden to arrest Jesus, the disciples had flushed like a covey of quail. Peter did follow “at a distance.” But in the courtyard, when he was accused by a servant girl, Peter cursed and denied that he knew Jesus at all. Then, after Jesus' death and resurrection, the disciples locked themselves in a room because they were afraid. Were these men really the ones Jesus said would do greater works than these in my Name?

Then it happened….. a noise like a strong driving wind…. what seemed to be tongues of fire resting on each of them…. speaking in different tongues. It so affected them that onlookers thought they were drunk. Now here is a big question: Do we believe the Holy Spirit wants to do the same thing in us? I do not mean a copying of all the particular phenomena and events. Rather, do you believe the Holy Spirit so wants to invade and control your life that unbelievers will think something is “wonderfully different” about you?

One brief reading of this Pentecost story is enough to show that these were changed men. The Spirit had come in power and it was evident. Where before things were not fitting together, now these so-called ignorant and unlearned men have the power to understand. They remember the Old Testament teachings and the words of Jesus, and see them come together in the death and resurrection so that their lives are totally transformed.

A holy boldness entered the lives of people who had previously been characterized by timidity and downright fear. Peter, who would not own up to a slave girl that he was a follower of Jesus, is now able to give a contextual teaching of who Jesus was in terms of Old Testament prophecy.  And Peter is bold––even confrontational––as he proclaims the resurrection of Jesus while at the same time accusing his hearers of being the ones responsible for crucifying God's Messiah. This is the fulfillment of Jesus' promise, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…

So each week we confess, I believe in the Holy Spirit…. We would likely say we believe that the Spirit of God is powerful. It was the Spirit who brooded over the earth in creation. It was the Spirit who was at work raising Jesus from the dead. So why shouldn't the people in whom the Holy Spirit dwells understand the plan of salvation and have boldness declaring it? Or for that matter, why shouldn't people who have the Spirit living in them almost routinely be a channel of healing and other miraculous signs? The Spirit did that through Jesus, and––because of Pentecost––did the same through those early followers.

I assume most of us believe that, at least “conceptually.” We believe the Holy Spirit indwells Christian believers. But that should only heighten a crucial question for us: Where is the boldness among so many who say they are Christians to give public witness to their faith? Where is the miraculous in our fight against sin? How often is world looking at us in the Church and saying, “Wow, what is it with you?!” You see, what we believe about the Holy Spirit is not only found in our doctrines. It is fleshed out in our day to day lives. Life in the Spirit means we open ourselves to be invaded, as it were, by an outside entity––to allow someone else to come in and control our lives.
I think part of the problem is that much of our faith formation does not make it clear and does not emphasize that Christians are people who give their lives away. Maybe we try too hard to make things easy and inviting. Jesus did not do that. He told people to count the cost. Paul told the Romans that life is either controlled by the “flesh” (the temporal, that is passing away), or the Spirit (who is the very power and holiness and life of God). The “world, the flesh and the devil” tell us lies; we are tempted to be seduced by giving our priorities––our hearts––to things that have no lasting value. God wants to give us his Spirit––the very source of life and love.

There is one huge question for each of us on this Pentecost Sunday: Have you had a personal Pentecost? Have you come into a living relationship with Jesus through a conscious indwelling of the Holy Spirit? This is more than confessing right things about the Holy Spirit; it’s about his living presence and control in your life. Jesus wants to transform our lives.

God is doing some wonderful things in our congregation; the life of the Spirit is evident. We have much to be thankful for. But periodically we need to examine ourselves, and Pentecost is a great time for that. I freely confess to you that I regularly need to face whether the Spirit is free and powerful in my own life, or if practices and patterns have crept in that grieve and quench the life of the Spirit. On this Pentecost Sunday we are reminded that we are here to be changed so that our lives are becoming more and more like Jesus. Jesus calls us to an indwelling intimacy of his Spirit within each one of us. Jesus wants us to be his witnesses so other people will give their lives away to him. You see, Pentecost is not only something that happened in the history of the church almost 2000 years ago. Pentecost is what Jesus wants to do in us.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

In Christ

Thursday: May 5, 2016 –– The Ascension of the Lord

In Christ

Ever since the first disobedience the full glory of God and his truth has been veiled from our world. While the glory of God is certainly present in all of Creation’s splendor, human perception is blurred, distorted, and sometimes blind. There is a “flat” way of looking at what we think is reality.

So, physically, if I am “here” I cannot be “there”. There is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) mentality. This is so dominant that it continues to infect us as Christians. While giving assent to many orthodox details, it seems that too many people do not “connect the dots.”

So, for example, we affirm that Jesus is bodily present in the Eucharist. Jesus is here! Yet just a few minutes before the Real Presence happens on our altars, we affirm in the Creed that Jesus ascended into heaven  and is seated at the right hand of the Father. And even as Jesus is both on the altar at our parish and seated at the right hand of the Father, he is also present in countless other churches around the world. There is a mystery here. It goes beyond our “flat” understanding of the world. Jesus is in heaven. Jesus is here.

On this Solemn Feast of the Ascension we rejoice and celebrate that Jesus bodily ascended into heaven. Why? How is the Ascension really significant for us?

There is a little phrase that occurs especially in St Paul’s letters again and again. It is simply in Christ (or in him). This little word in is pregnant with meaning. In Christ is explosive, and it’s our identity.

Jesus goes ahead of those who follow him and in every way he leads and opens and achieves for us what we could never do for ourselves. It starts in Baptism. Jesus was baptized for us, and when we are baptized we start a journey of faith that is based in Christ.

When we are in Christ, all that Jesus does becomes the paradigm of our personal salvation. When Jesus lives obedience to the Father…. when Jesus suffers…. when Jesus dies… when Jesus rises from the dead…. it is all for us. When we follow him, he leads us into and through each of those things, and they are our salvation. The Ascension tells us that what Jesus did up to and through his death and resurrection was not enough! After Jesus was risen he ascended into heaven.

This is not just because heaven is Jesus’ true home; it is because heaven is also our true home. And how shall we get to heaven? Yes, it is through the death of Jesus for our sins and his rising in victory over death. But it does not stop there. We have hope of heaven because Jesus, our Savior, ascended into heaven ahead of us––for us––to lead us there.

Now here is where it gets mystical and yet truly relevant to us in the here and now. Just as Jesus, ascended, is in heaven and sitting at the right hand of the Father and yet is also physically present with us in the Eucharist––in other words, both in heaven and on earth at the same time, the same is also true of us in a mystical way!

Christ is the Head; we are the Body. St Augustine’s closing words in the Office of Readings for today affirms: “the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.” When Jesus ascended into heaven, he took us there with him. When we gather to worship and feed on the Body and Blood of our Lord, he is here with us. Both are true all the time.

Yes, our physical bodies are still quite limited here on earth. In our bodily existence we have joys and sorrows, exhilarations and pains. Yet something else is true. This is how St Paul expresses it to the Colossians: Since you have been raised up in company with Christ, set your heart on what pertains to higher realms where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. After all, you have died! Your life is hidden now with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1ff). Our hearts are in Christ, our Head, in heaven.

As Christians we are in Christ. He has gone ahead of us in every way to make our salvation possible. We follow him in death to cancel the debt of sin. We follow him in resurrection for victory over death. We follow him in ascension to our home in heaven.

But in the meantime, while our physical bodies are still on earth, our “hearts” are with Christ in heaven. When some earthly pleasure wants to steal our hearts away, we remember that our hearts are not our own––they are in Christ in heaven. When some earthly pain threatens to crush the very life out of our souls, we remember that our hearts are not our own––they are in Christ in heaven.

Jesus has ascended. Because we are in Christ, we follow him––today and every day until our physical death––to our true home. That is salvation––in Christ.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bearing Truth

Wednesday: April 4, 2016 –– 6th Week in Easter

John 16:12–15
Bearing Truth

How often do we think, “I wish God would just show me everything and make it plain”?  Maybe imagining God as the Jack Nicholson character Col. Jessep (or not!) in the movie A Few Good Men, would tell us why he doesn’t…. “You can't handle the truth!”

Jesus, shortly before going to the cross, tells his disciples: I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.

What if, when he first invited those early disciples to follow him, Jesus had been explicit with who he was, what was going to happen to him, and…. what was going to happen to them if they followed him?!

They were not ready for what would come later, when the Spirit of truth…. will guide you to all truth. First Jesus had the disciples walk intimately with him for three years, listen progressively to his teachings, and observe first hand the many and mysterious miracles that shattered all expectation and understanding.

Then––on the other side of the cross and resurrection––the Spirit of God (the power of God that first moved in the incredible acts of Creation, and then raised Jesus from the dead) fell upon and filled the spirits of those disciples. It was then, after Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances and teachings, it all came together and they understood. There are two things I want to emphasize from this.

First, as we read the Gospels––which are accounts of Jesus’ mighty words and mighty deeds during his earthly ministry––the fullness of what it all means is not given. We are given a faith-motivated account of what the disciples saw and heard during those seminal years. This in itself is the basis for what the Catholic Church later called “Development of Doctrine.” It is the idea that while the New Testament gives us truth––reliable, authoritative, and even inerrant truth, it does not give all truth. Rather, the details of truth…. the implications of truth…. the fullness of truth, is unfolding as the Spirit makes it clear to the Church.

It is important here to understand there is no “new” truth, in the sense that something else can be interjected where there was nothing before. Rather, truth is an unfolding of what has always been, even though hidden for a time. More simply, something that was once true is not, later, going to be false; conversely, something that was inherently false and wrong is not later going to become right and true.

Holding to this universal paradigm is essential. It allows for progress in understanding, which is dynamic and life-giving; it also holds to an unshakable core, which while static gives the kind of foundation necessary for endurance. This tension is always present in the Church.

Yet this tension is also present in our personal spiritualities. Even as Jesus was laying the foundation for the Church, he was also lovingly shepherding each of those men who followed him. With wisdom and compassion he gives them just what they need at just the right time. He did not project a “Pentecost standard” on them until they were ready for it and had experienced it. Rather, he patiently took them through each step toward the ultimate purpose and goal he had for them both personally and corporately.

Think of your own spiritual journey. If you have a “healthy” Christian life, you should know and experience and understand more now than you did ten years ago. There are things now you could not have handled then. And if we stay open and humble and obedient (and if we live another ten years), we will know and experience and understand more then than we do now. Why doesn’t the Lord give it to us all at once (we sometimes impatiently ask)? Jesus says, I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.

This is true even among different Christians. Some learn faster. Some are capable of more. Some Christians seem almost to “ooze” holiness while others seem to fall way short of a most basic Christian identity. Can we believe that one reason is what one person can “bear” compared to another?

St Jane Frances De Chantal once made this observation about what is sometimes called a “white” martyrdom (in which the person lives a marked life of total surrender––in contrast to a “red” martyrdom, in which a person suffers a violent death for the faith):

When another sister asked how long the [“white”] martyrdom would continue, the Saint replied: “From the moment when we commit ourselves unreservedly to God, until our last breath. I am speaking, of course, of great-souled individuals who keep nothing back for themselves, but instead are faithful in love. Our Lord does not intend this martyrdom for those who are weak in love and perseverance. Such people he lets continue on their mediocre way, so that they will not be lost to him; he never does violence to our free will.”

This is another way Jesus says to his disciples, I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. If we are open and humble and obedient, Jesus knows how much to draw us into the unfathomable mysteries of his life and grace…. and passion. For all of us who own his Name, the goal and our destination is sainthood; the rate at which we get there is dependent––yes, a bit on our own will, but more––on the loving mercy of the Lord who calls us. Listen to him saying, I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. 

If you are hearing his voice and trusting, know that whatever is happening in your life right now is exactly what Jesus has given for your journey to sainthood. And wherever you might be on your journey, it remains: I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Divine Mercy

April 3, 2016 –– The Second Sunday of Easter: Divine Mercy Sunday
Acts 5:12–16 / from Psalm 118 / Revelation 1:9–11a, 12–13, 17–19 / John 20:19–31
Divine Mercy

The gospels do not tell us what Jesus looked like. We do not know how tall he was, the shade or texture of his hair, or the shape of his nose. Pictures of Jesus are mostly a figment of the artist's imagination. Even those inspired by visions are, at best, private revelation, and not infallibly true. The first chapter of Revelation gives us a verbal picture of Jesus, but it’s surreal––beyond literal description, because Jesus is the risen, glorified Christ.

The writer is John, the man who Scripture calls “the disciple Jesus loved”––the one who laid his head on Jesus' shoulder at the Last Supper. John hears a voice and turns around to see who is speaking: I saw…. one like the Son of Man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead (v.12–17a). This disciple, who was the man closest to Jesus when he was on earth, turns around and sees the Son of God––and falls to his feet like a dead man!

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Mercy is, indeed, Jesus on the cross, shedding tears and inviting us to believe in the incredible love of God. But the reason it is mercy is because, ultimately, Jesus is the Lord with blazing eyes and a tongue like a double-edged sword, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth (Rev 1:5). One day we all will face him in all his power and glory. He will ask each of us: Have you lived believing me, loving me, and following me?” We should never forget that… and pray for mercy.

But we can pray for mercy with confidence. Notice the first thing Jesus says to John: Do not be afraid. This is the essence of what Jesus said to his disciples the evening of that first day of the week––the night of the first Easter Sunday––when they were locked away because of their fear. Jesus appeared (through the locked door, which surely escalated their fears even more) and said to them, Peace be with you

Think about our own fears. What are we afraid of? Maybe it is the awful stories of violence that appear in our news daily. Maybe it’s the current political scene that seems to offer few good choices with reasonable hope. Maybe it’s something closer––a personal financial catastrophe or a relationship that is painful or falling apart or an awful physical affliction. Or maybe the fear is even closer, deep in the heart; a voice that keeps shouting to your spirit, “you’re no good; you can never be forgiven for what you’ve done.”

On this day that Jesus has given the Church as a special grace of Divine Mercy, we are invited to hear some of the last words Jesus gave in Holy Scripture (which occur in the final book of Revelation): I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One. Once I was dead, but now I am alive for ever and ever! I hold the keys of death and the netherworld. This is why Jesus can say, Do not be afraid

Because Jesus is God and because Jesus died and rose again, he is still saying to all who will hear: Peace be with you. That's the gospel. There are two things every human being on earth should be afraid of: death and hell. It’s the power of sin, and those two things are behind all our other fears. But even more, there is a way not to be afraid: it is to know him who hold[s] the keys. The one who holds the keys is the Son of God; he died for us to wipe out our sins and he rose from the dead to show that death itself is not greater than the love of God. We are offered mercy.

So on this Divine Mercy Sunday Jesus is saying to each one of us, "Let me be, in your life, who I really am." Ask the Holy Spirit to imprint this picture of who Jesus is deep in your mind and heart. If we do that we will be gripped by Mercy, and our lives will be different. This is our faith.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

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