Archive for April, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 26, 2010

There are two points that I would like to reflect on from today’s Gospel: the first point is about God, the second point is about you and me.  Let’s start with the point about God: Jesus says that He and the Father are One.  This is Our Lord’s most clear and direct statement that He, Himself is God.  The line that follows in Saint John’s Gospel, says that the Jews who heard Jesus say this took up stones with which to kill Him.  They understood what He was saying and they wanted to stone Him to death for it.  Jesus made a clear claim to be God.  If it were not true, that claim would be blasphemy, and according to Jewish law blasphemy was punishable by death.  We know that Jesus Christ IS God.  He claimed to be God and He proved that claim by the many signs and miracles that He performed.

We profess this Truth every Sunday in the Creed.  Every week we reaffirm our belief that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God: “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, one in being with the Father.”  Jesus and the Father are one and yet they are not the same Person.  The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father and yet the Father and the Son are both one God: totally and perfectly one.  The same is true of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is not the Father or the Son, but nonetheless He is really and true one God with the Father and with the Son.  This reality can be difficult to grasp; it is a mystery that we will contemplate for all eternity.  God has revealed Himself to us as a Trinity, and we accept His revelation in humility, realizing that we will contemplate God for all eternity and never fully comprehend Him because He is Infinite, and we are limited creatures.

God has revealed Himself as Three Persons in one God because He wants us to know Him as He is.  Knowing that God is a Trinity also reveals something to us about ourselves because we are made in God’s image and likeness.  The Truth that God is Three Persons in one God reveals to us that God is love.  If God were only one person, He could not be love; He could only be a lover: because love is a relationship between persons.  There has to be more than one person in order for there to be love.  If God were only one Person, He could only love Himself: He could only have selfish love.  But we know that God existed from all eternity as Three Persons: from all eternity the Trinity exists as a community of love.  From all eternity the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father.  From all eternity the Holy Spirit proceeds from them both as the love of the Father and the Son for each other.  The Truth that “God is love” depends on the Truth that “God is a Trinity.”

Because our God exists as a community of love, and we are made in His image and likeness, we know that love is the highest meaning of life.  Through Jesus Christ, these eternal realities connect with our lives.  This leads us to the second point that we take from today’s Gospel: Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.  Jesus is not just referring to the Apostles and the disciples who saw Him and ate with Him.  He is referring to all of us.  We are His sheep and He we are still called to listen to His voice and follow Him.  How do we hear His voice?

We hear the voice of the Lord in several ways.  The Scriptures are the inspired Word of God.  Through Scripture, God speaks to us.  Father John often says that Scripture is God’s love letter to each one of us.  That is why it is important for us to study and pray with Scripture, so that we can come to understand what God is trying to say to us through it.

We also hear God’s voice in prayer.  Not that we hear a physical voice.  But God speaks to us in the silence of our hearts.  If we spend time in prayer and quiet ourselves before Him, He will speak to us.  Prayer is meant to be a conversation with God and conversations have two elements: we have to talk and we have to listen.

God also speaks to us through our conscience.  The Catechism calls the conscience that most secret core of every person.  Our conscience is a sanctuary where God’s voice echoes in our depths.  (cf. CCC 1776)  Our conscience prompts us to do good and avoid evil.  Through the conscience, God calls us to repent from sins that we have committed and bring them to confession.

Finally, we hear God’s voice through the Church.  The Holy Spirit guides the Church into all Truth.  Jesus entrusted the Sacraments to the Church and through them He continues to be present to us.   Through our Baptism, we became sons and daughters of God.  At our Baptism, our bodies became Temples of the Holy Spirit.  In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus shares His life and His divine grace with you.  In the Sacrament of Confession, the Lord restores our souls to life when we have fallen into sin.  Through the Sacraments, we encounter the Lord in a most profound way.  The Sacraments give us the strength that we need to follow Christ more faithfully.  Let us be attentive to the various ways that Our Lord is trying to speak to us and let us make use of all the many ways that the Lord offers us His grace and strength to follow Him.  Lord Jesus, help us to hear Your voice and to follow You.  Amen.

April 25th

April 26, 2010

Today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus, Himself, is the Good Shepherd and that we, His sheep, hear His voice and follow Him.  How do we hear His voice?  We hear the voice of Jesus through the Sacred Scriptures, through Tradition (that which has been handed down to us from the Apostles) and through the Church.

Jesus Christ handpicked twelve Apostles who closely accompanied Him throughout His public ministry.  Those Twelve were eyewitnesses of His bodily Resurrection and they were commissioned by Him to take His message to the ends of the earth.  Jesus gave the Apostles, and their successors, the authority to teach in His name.  Jesus said to the Apostles: “He who hears you, hears Me.”  (cf. Luke 10:16)

The Apostles were given the Holy Spirit to guide them into all Truth.  (cf. John 16:13)  The Holy Spirit guides the Church and protects it from teaching error.  Because we know that the Holy Spirit guides the Church we can have confidence that the Church will never lead us into error when it teaches on faith or morals.  Through the Apostles and their successors we hear the voice of Christ.  The Church carries on the mission of Christ and teaches in His name.

The Church was promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead it into all Truth, yet we know that gift was entrusted to weak vessels.  The shepherds of the Church are sinners, just as are all the members of the Church.  We know that the Church is holy and at the same time it is constantly striving to become holy.  The Church is the spotless bride of Christ and the Church is full of sinners who stand in need of forgiveness.

There have always been scandals and failures in the Church, there have always been attacks on the Church from within and from without.  We must not allow ourselves to become discouraged by the human element of our Church.  We know that we can trust the teachings of the Church on faith and morals because we know that the Holy Spirit will not allow the Church to lead us into error.  Jesus Christ promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church.  (cf. Matthew 16:18)  The Church is the pillar and foundation of truth in the world.  (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15)

Let us pray for our Church and her shepherds during these days.  May the Lord bless and strengthen our Holy Father and the bishops united with him.  May they have the wisdom and the courage that they need as they continue to guide the Church.

God bless,

Father White

Third Sunday of Easter

April 19, 2010

The central character in today’s Gospel, after that of Jesus Himself, is Saint Peter: the first Pope of our Church.  Jesus Christ built His Church upon the foundation of Saint Peter and the Apostles: that is what we mean when we say in the Creed that we believe in One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Our Church is Apostolic because it is founded upon the Rock of Saint Peter, whose name literally means “rock,” as well as upon the other Apostles and their successors the bishops.

The reason that the apostolic origin of our Church is important is because it is through the Apostles and their successors that we are linked through the centuries back to Jesus Christ.  The Apostles closely accompanied Jesus throughout His earthly ministry and they were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  They met with Jesus after He rose from the dead and they talked with Him; they touched the nail marks in His hands and in His side.  Jesus Christ entrusted them with the Good News, He commissioned them to take His message to the ends of the earth.  Jesus sent the Apostles to baptize and teach all nations.

Furthermore, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the Apostles into all Truth.  Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church.  He gave the Apostles the authority to teach in His name.  Because of Apostolic Succession, we know that the teachings of Jesus Christ have been faithfully handed down from Apostles through their successors, the bishops, down to our very day.  Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit, Who is God, would be with the Church and guide it.  Because of Apostolic Succession, we can have great trust and confidence that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and therefore will not lead us into error.  The Holy Spirit guides the Church when she teaches on faith and morals; if that were not true, we would have no way to know the Truth.

The Church was given the gift of the Holy Spirit in order that it could teach us and lead us into the fullness of Truth.  Of course, we know that gift was entrusted to weak vessels.  All the leaders of the Church are sinners, just like you and I, just like the Apostles.  Remember: Jesus built His Church upon the Apostles and one of the Twelve Apostles is the one who handed Him over to be killed.  Saint Peter, the Rock, denied Jesus three times.  The Gospel tells us that in the Garden of Gethsemane all of the Apostles, those upon whom the Church was to be built, “forsook Him and fled.” (cf. Matthew 26:56)  Isn’t it a scandal that those who would lead the Church abandoned Jesus?  Yes.  And yet we must remember that we all abandon Jesus whenever we sin.  When we sin, we choose some thing over our God, Whom we are to love above all things.

Throughout the history of the Church there have been scandals and failures; and yet the Church has never taught error.  On the one hand the Church is the spotless Bride of Christ which leads us into deeper union with our God; on the other hand, the Church is made up of weak sinners who betray their Lord.  We know that both of these things are true of the Church and yet are not a contradiction: they are a paradox, but not contradictory.  The Church is called to be holy; in Heaven it is already perfectly holy.  We, members of the Church on earth, are to strive for that holiness.

The all-too-human side of the Church can at times cause us to become discouraged; and yet we should never lose hope.  It can be difficult to experience the betrayals and attacks upon the Church from within and from without.  Yet we know that Our Lord has already won the victory.  Jesus Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church and therefore we can have great hope.

Those same Apostles, who abandoned their Lord and ran for their lives when Jesus was arrested on Holy Thursday, were completely transformed at Pentecost.  Once they had received the Holy Spirit, they went out boldly preaching the Good News that Jesus Christ had truly arisen from the dead.  Those same Apostles, who deserted their Teacher in the Garden of Gethsemane; were later beaten, tortured and killed for the message that they proclaimed after the Holy Spirit had strengthened them.

Let us not become discouraged or despondent but let us all remember to pray for the shepherds of the Church and especially for our Holy Father: “Almighty and Everlasting God, have mercy upon Your servant Pope Benedict, our Supreme Pontiff, and upon all bishops, priests and deacons.  Direct them, according to Your loving kindness, in the way of eternal salvation, that with Your help they may ever desire that which is pleasing to You and accomplish it with all their strength.  Amen.”

April 18th

April 19, 2010

We continue to celebrate the joy of Our Lord’s Resurrection all the way until Pentecost (fifty days all together).  It is good for us to meditate during this season upon what Our Lord has done for us by dying and rising from the dead.

By dying, Christ destroyed our death; and by rising, He restored our life.  Through His death, Christ made atonement for our sins and by rising from the dead and ascending into Heaven, He has opened the gates of Heaven to all who believe and faithfully follow Him.  Through Baptism, our slavery to sin was destroyed and we are to live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

In virtue of our baptism, we have all died to sin, and grace (the very life of God) dwells within our hearts.  We no longer live for this world: we live for the world to come.  We are called to follow Christ and put sin to death in our hearts.  The forty days of Lent was a time for us to focus on rooting sin out of our lives so that we could follow the Lord in holiness.  The whole purpose of Lent is to rid ourselves of sin so that we can live in the joy of the Resurrection.

Of course rooting sin out of our lives is an on-going, life-long task.  As long as we are breathing, we will experience temptation.  We need to be constantly vigilant; and yet we can place great trust and confidence in God Who has not withheld His own Son from us.  So much does God love us and desire our salvation that He sent His Beloved Son to die in order to save us from sin and death.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (cf. Romans 5:8).  In times of temptation, let us fly to the Lord and entrust ourselves to His merciful love.  Let us have unbounded trust and hope in Christ, Who is truly risen!  Amen.  Alleluia!

God bless,

Father White

Divine Mercy Sunday

April 12, 2010

Today is the final day of the Easter Octave and the Feast of Divine Mercy.  We focus in a particular way, this day, upon the great mercy of our God.  We should never forget the Justice of God; it is a great help to the spiritual life to keep the reality of the last judgment before our eyes.  While not forgetting God’s Justice, lest we become presumptuous, we should nevertheless place great confidence in God’s mercy and entrust ourselves completely to His mercy.

There is not a sin that God will not forgive, if pardon were genuinely sought.  As long as we ask the Lord for mercy with some level of sorrow for our sin and a firm purpose of amendment we can trust that Our Lord will grant us the mercy that we seek.  Our God is rich in mercy.  So much does He desire to pour His mercy out upon us that He did not withhold His own Son from us.  God loves us so much that He sent His own Beloved Son to die so that we might live.

The very purpose for which the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity became a man, suffered died and was buried and rose again from the dead was precisely to bring us, sinful men and women, mercy.  The Eternal Son of God, Who is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father; for Whom and through Whom all things were created; set aside the glory of Heaven, which He had from all eternity, and became a man like us in all things except sin for one reason and for one reason only: to reconcile us with the Father.  While we were yet sinners, Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.  (cf. Romans 5:8)

Jesus Christ came to bring mercy and pardon to sinners.  The Pharisees were scandalized when He forgave sins.  The ability to forgive sins is reserved to God alone, they argued. (cf. Luke 5:21)  Jesus proved His divine authority to forgive sins by the miracles that He performed.  He also shared His authority to forgive sins with His Church by bestowing that authority upon the Apostles.

Today’s Gospel is the account of the institution of the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation.  Jesus breathed on the Apostles and gave them the authority to forgive sins.  “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”  As He was sent to forgive sins, so also He sends the Church to forgive sins through the persons of her ministers: the bishops and priests.  What a wondrous gift we have in the Sacrament of Confession!  Through that great Sacrament we, sinners, obtain pardon of our sins and mercy.  Through the absolution of the priest sinners are reconciled to the Father, grace is restored to the soul; souls that were dead in sin are brought back to life.

God did not spare His own Son, but allowed Him to be handed over to death that we might be saved from sin and death.  (cf. Romans 8:32)  Jesus Christ, Who was perfectly obedient to the Father, was sacrificed in order to save us, who fall into sin again and again.  How unfathomable is the love that God has for us!  As we contemplate Our Lord’s great love and mercy, let us not forget that we, too, are called to be merciful as Our Heavenly Father is merciful.  (cf. Luke 6:36)

We will be held to the same standard as that with which we judge others.  It can be very easy for us to desire God’s mercy; it can be more difficult for us to be merciful.  Yet, Our Lord commands us to stop judging, lest we ourselves be judged.  (cf. Luke 6:37)  In order for us to be forgiven our trespasses, we must forgive those who trespass against us.  If we want to be shown mercy, we must show mercy.  “Blessed are the merciful,” Our Lord says, “for they shall obtain mercy.”  (Mt 5:7)

To whom are we to show mercy?  We are to be merciful to everyone, without qualification.  We are called to show mercy to those whom we might think do not deserve our mercy; we are to show mercy to those who might not ask for our mercy, we are even called to be merciful to those who might not even want our mercy.  We are commanded to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  We are called to be reconciled with our brother before we bring our offering to the altar.  There isn’t anyone that we can justify withholding mercy from and there isn’t any reason that can justify unwillingness to forgive.  If you don’t think that you can forgive someone for what they have done to you, just remember that Jesus Christ forgave those who were putting Him to death as they were putting Him to death.  As they drove the nails into His hands and His feet, Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  He Who was perfectly without sin forgave those who inflicted upon Him a most shameful death, a death that He did not deserve.  He underwent that most cruel death in order to save us and to give us the supreme witness of God’s love.  A Crucifix shows us the price that was paid to win mercy for us.  If Jesus Christ suffered that ignominious death in order to obtain mercy for us, how can we refuse mercy to others?  We cannot.

Let us thank God for gift of the Sacrament of Penance and make frequent use of it.  Let us approach the tribunal of God’s mercy with deep humility and reverence.  Let us also remember to show mercy to others in the same measure that we wish to receive mercy from Our Lord.  Let us place unbounded hope and trust in God’s mercy and, in turn, show that mercy to others.

Easter Sunday

April 5, 2010

The Lord is Risen!  Alleluia!  For forty days we have been meditating upon our Lord’s Passion and death.  Today we recall, in a particular way, His Resurrection from the dead; and yet we must realize that the death and Resurrection of Christ cannot really be separated.  In different seasons we focus on different mysteries of Our Lord’s life and death, and as a result, we sometimes compartmentalize these two mysteries, yet the death and Resurrection of Our Lord are two parts of the whole Mystery of our Salvation.

The death and Resurrection of Our Lord cannot really be separated.  It is sometimes said that “we are a Resurrection people.”  However, there could not be an Easter Sunday without Good Friday.  Christ won our Redemption once and for all upon the Cross: by His death.  The Resurrection is the victorious completion of that work of our salvation.

The prayers of the Mass confirm the fact that the death and Resurrection are not to be separated.  Whenever the Lord’s Resurrection is referred to, the Lord’s death is also mentioned.  In the prayers of the Mass for Easter, the Lord’s death is mentioned again and again along with His Glorious Resurrection.  In the Preface of Easter, we praise God for giving us Christ as our Paschal Sacrifice, who destroyed death by dying and restored us to live by rising from the dead.  The Easter Sequence begins by calling all of us, Christians, to praise the Paschal Victim: the Lamb Who shed His Blood in order to reconcile us with the Father.  The Sequence goes on to recount that Life with Death did fiercely strive and through dying Our Leader now reigns alive.  These prays of today’s Mass show us that Lord’s death and Resurrection belong together: together they form the whole of the great Mystery of our Salvation which we are celebrating on this Solemnity of Solemnities.

It is also imperative that we remember that we are not merely celebrating historical events on this Holy Day.  It is true: the Liturgy of Easter commemorates the historical, bodily Resurrection of Our Lord.  Our Catholic Faith is founded upon the historical fact that Our Lord Jesus Christ really, truly, rose from the dead bodily.  We know that the Lord truly rose because of the testimony of many eyewitnesses, the Apostles as well as many others saw Our Resurrected Lord; Saint Thomas touched Our Lord’s resurrected body and placed his finger into Our Lord’s Sacred Wounds.  Saint Paul also teaches us that if Our Lord did not really rise from the dead then our faith is in vain.

The death and Resurrection of Our Lord is a real historical event; and yet it is not only an historical event that has come and gone almost two thousand years ago.  The death and Resurrection of Our Lord is a reality that we continue to come in contact with today.  The merits of Christ’s death and Resurrection are applied to our souls and they continue to affect us.  Everyone who was baptized at the Easter Vigil last night was baptized into the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  At every Mass, Christ’s Sacrifice is re-presented upon the altar.  In the Eucharist we encounter Christ, Who died, rose and is now seated at the Right Hand of the Father in Glory.  When we receive Holy Communion, Jesus nourishes our souls with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

The Lord’s death and Resurrection have merited for us the glory of grace: through our Baptism into His death and Resurrection, we have become adopted children of God; we have become Temples of the Holy Spirit and as long as we are in a state of grace, we share in the very life of God.

We are called to daily take up our cross and follow Christ; we are to die daily to ourselves, so that Christ can raise us up; through Baptism we have become members of the mystical Body of Christ and we continually share in His death and Resurrection in our lives.  We share in His death: we need to continually put our sinful human nature to death and unite ourselves to Christ Crucified.  We are to daily unite our sufferings and trials to those of Our Lord and, in this way, unite ourselves regularly to the Cross of Christ.

We also share in Christ’s victory.  Christ, by His death and Resurrection has won the victory.  Our Lord has already crushed the head of the ancient serpent.  He has opened the gates of Heaven to those who faithfully follow Him.  Christ offers us the grace to share in His victory and conquer sin in our own hearts.  Let us humbly give thanks to God, Who has given us victory through Jesus Christ.  (cf. 1 Cor xv. 57)  May we strive to remain always faithful to Christ, that we may one day share in the fullness of His Resurrection and be with Him forever in Glory.  Amen.

April 4th

April 5, 2010

The Lord is Risen, Alleluia!  For Christians, Easter is the most important celebration of the entire year.  From the way in which it is celebrated, one might be tempted to think that Christmas is our most important holy day.  Christmas is important, to be sure, but Saint Paul tells us that if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain.  (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14)

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is foundational for our Christian faith.  Jesus Christ destroyed sin and death and opened the gates of Heaven for us precisely by His death and Resurrection.

Easter is such an important celebration that it is celebrated for fifty days.  We fasted for forty days in order to prepare ourselves for Easter, and now we celebrate the fact that Our Lord is truly risen during the Easter season.

The eight days following Easter are all celebrated as one long solemnity, liturgically.  These eight days are known as the “octave” of Easter.  After the Easter octave we enter into the Easter Season in which we continue to celebrate Our Lord’s resurrection.  During these days, we hear about the various appearances of Our Lord after His Resurrection but before His Ascension.

May you and your family experience the joy of Easter in abundance.

God bless,

Father White

Maundy Thursday

April 5, 2010

Holy Week is a very special time that the Church gives to us; it is a special week set apart for us that we might spend time with Our Lord, entering into the sorrowful mysteries of His Passion, which won for us our redemption.  Each day of Holy Week brings before our eyes a different phase of the Lord’s Passion in detail.  On Holy Thursday every year, we commemorate in a special way Our Lord’s Last Supper with His Apostles and for that reason, this Mass is known as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus Christ did three very significant things at the Last Supper; and each one of those things, in its own way, reveals to us His great love for us.  The first thing that many of us probably think about when we think about the Last Supper is the Eucharist, for at the Last Supper Jesus instituted the Eucharist.  Jesus gave the Apostles, and us through them, the most extraordinary gift imaginable.  At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us the greatest gift that was ever given.  Jesus, Who IS Almighty God, gave us the gift of Himself.  He gave not just a symbol, not just a representation, not just a reminder, but Himself: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Jesus promised to remain with us always and He fulfills that promise through being really, truly, wholly, and substantially Present in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Jesus taught us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for the one you love; not only did He lay His life down for us, He goes even further and gives us Himself as food so as to be united to us.  Love desires union.  Jesus loves each one of us so much that He wants to be united to us.  He gives Himself to you in Holy Communion in order to unite Himself to you.  He thirsts for you; and He thirsts that you would thirst for Him.  He desires that you desire Him.  The Eucharist is the greatest gift that can be imagined: it is the total self-gift of God.

The second thing that Jesus did at the Last Supper, which we commemorate at this Mass, was institute the priesthood.  In the Upper Room, at the Last Supper, Jesus ordained His Apostles as the first priests of the New Covenant: He instituted the ministerial priesthood as the channel through which He was going to give Himself in the Eucharist to the world.  He gave His Apostles the sacred power to make His Body and Blood present; and that sacred power was not given to the Apostles for themselves, it was given to them so that they could give the Lord’s Body and Blood to others.

After Jesus ordained the Apostles, He gave them an example of what priesthood was about: service.  The third thing that Jesus did in the Upper Room was to give an example of how we are to love.  At that first Holy Thursday, Jesus, Who is Almighty God, knelt down before the Apostles and washed their feet.  He, Who created the universe and everything in it, humbly performed a service that was ordinarily reserved for slaves.  Then He commanded the Apostles to love one another as He has loved them.

This commandment to love one another in loving service is the New Law which Jesus not only commanded, but also taught by His own example.  In order to fulfill this new law we need to die to ourselves.  Our weak, fallen human nature is inclined towards sin.  Because of our fallen nature, we have a tendency to be proud and self-reliant and seek our own selfish interests and put ourselves ahead of others.  Jesus establishes a new order: which is, in reality, a return to the order which God established in the beginning: the order of love.  Jesus calls us to love others as He loves them, but in order to do that we have to put our pride to death and serve others in true love and humility.  True love puts others ahead of self; true love seeks the good of the other; true love is willing to serve the other; true love sacrifices itself for the beloved: just as Jesus did for us.  We were made for this kind of love.  Sin is really a failure to love as we were created to.

These three things that Our Lord did at the Last Supper, reveal the great love that God has for us and they also demonstrate the love that we are to have for others.  During the foot washing ceremony, I encourage you to meditate upon the amazing humility and the immense love that our God has for us.  Let us pray that we may imitate Our Lord in loving service of others.  Lord Jesus Christ, help us to live the love that you call us to.  Help us to love you above all things and help us to love others as You love them.  Amen.