Archive for May, 2011

6th Sunday of Easter

May 31, 2011

Jesus said to His disciples (and He says to us): “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments . . . and whoever loves Me will be loved by My Father and I will love Him and reveal Myself to him.”  We were made to know God: not to just know things about God but to know Him.  God created us to love Him and we cannot love someone that we do not know.  How do we come to know God?  In order for us to Know God, He has to reveal Himself to us.  God is pure, infinite Spirit.  He is so far above us that we cannot know anything about Him, other than the fact that He exists, unless He reveals Himself to us.  We come to know God through His own Self-revelation and of course the fullness of that Self-revelation has come to us through Jesus Christ.  In Christ God has become man so that we can come to know God: and not just know about God but really to be relationship with God.

Jesus has revealed God to us: He has shown us the Way to the Father.  Jesus taught us that God is love: He showed us, on the Cross, how much God loves us and He calls us to imitate that love.  We are called to love God in a radical way: with all of our minds, with all of our hearts, with all of our strength.  God is asking you to give Him everything.  And He is not asking you to do something for Him, which He has not already done for you.  God already gave Himself to you completely: Jesus gives us everything that He IS and all that He has each and every time we receive Him truly present in the Eucharist.

He has given us every good thing and even given Himself to us completely and He asks us to return that gift of love by a total gift of ourselves to Him.  God desires us to give ourselves to Him without holding anything back.  It is impossible to love God like that without His assistance.  Without the Holy Spirit moving in our hearts, in our souls, we cannot love God the way that He calls us to love Him.  Our nature is too weak; our fallen nature is too inclined towards self-love and pride.  The Holy Spirit, Who is the love of the Father and the Son, Who is the very Spirit of love must help us if we are to love as we are called to love.  Through our Baptism, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  The Holy Spirit fills our hearts with His gifts and He bears fruit in our souls by His very presence.  That being said, we need to do all that we can to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  Our hearts have to be open and willing; we have to allow God to work on us.  God will reveal Himself to us, but we have to open our hearts to receive that revelation.  We need to seek God: our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.  We need to ask for and accept the graces that the Holy Spirit wants to give to us.

How do we open ourselves to the gifts God wants to give us?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  We need to root sin out of our hearts in order to have hearts that are capable of receiving God’s Self-revelation.  God gave us a free will and He will not take it away from us.  We have to choose to follow God and that is a choice that we have to make again and again, each and every day.  God will not force His friendship upon us: we have to want it: we have to seek it.  If we are attached to sin, God will respect our free will and leave us to our sins.

Some of us here this afternoon may be thinking to ourselves: “then I will not be able to have that intimate friendship with God, because I have had this or that sinful habit for a long time; I can’t break free from it.”  The only sin that is inevitable is the sin that I am not willing to fight against.  Breaking free from sinful habits is hard.  It takes a lot of effort, we need the help of God’s grace; breaking habits takes time and it is not easy.  But God calls us to live in the freedom of His sons and daughters.  He wants us to reject sin and follow Him with all of our hearts.  We have to beg God for the grace to break free from a sinful habit.  We have to use the means that He has given to us: frequent the Sacrament of Confession, receive the Eucharist often, spend time in prayer and offer small sacrifices to obtain freedom from sin.  We can fight against a sinful habit by trying to cultivate the opposite virtue.  Mostly importantly, we should never give up trying to rid ourselves of sin.  Let us not settle for mediocrity.

God wants us to choose Him above everything else.  Sometimes the temptation can be to give God our prayer time, and maybe even offer our work up to Him, but then to keep the rest for ourselves.  We need to offer ourselves to God completely.  Give back to Him the part of your heart that you struggle with.  Give Him your fears, anxieties, and hardships.  Give God your leisure, your joy and your relaxation.  All time belongs to Christ.  Jesus wants to reign in every part of your heart, in every part of your life.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t have leisure time, or enjoy time with our friends and family: it means that we offer even that part of our lives to Him.  God made us to be in relationships with other people.  He created us to love and to work and to rest.  We can and should offer to God our recreation as well as our work; our friendships as well as our struggles.  God should be in the center of everything.  That doesn’t mean that we only talk about God when we visit family or friends.  It means that when I go to visit my family and friends I offer that time to God.  That might mean that my recreation and my conversations need to look differently than they do now, but we should keep in mind the fact that sin never makes us truly happy.

We also need to keep in mind the fact that God is always with us.  We come to Church to encounter our God in a way that is closer and more intimate than anywhere else in the world.  We are never so close to God as we are right after we have just received Him in Holy Communion.  But God is always with us.  He knows our thoughts.  He is our constant companion.  We tend to forget that God is always with us, but it would help us greatly if we learned to be more aware of His presence with us throughout our day.  That awareness of His presence will grow if we stop pushing Him away by our sins.  If we truly seek God, He will make Himself known to us.  The more that we come to know Him the more we will come to love Him and thirst for Him Who thirsts for us.

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May 29th

May 31, 2011

This is a very exciting time of the year and many special things are happening: summer is quickly approaching, graduations will be celebrated soon; school is almost over and excitement is in the air.

The month of May draws to a close and June will soon be upon us.  May is a month in which we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in a particular way.  We had May Crownings at the school and at the Church.  May is a very appropriate time for us to focus on Mary for in May all of nature begins to bud forth in new life and Mary was the beginning of the new spiritual life that was to be ours through Jesus: through Mary our God came down from Heaven that we might have life in abundance.

June is a month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  We often see Jesus and Mary depicted in art with their hearts exposed and on fire.  Mary’s Immaculate Heart is often pictured crowned with flowers and with a sword piercing it (the sword foretold by Simeon); Jesus’ Sacred Heart is usually depicted crowned with thorns with a Cross above it.

The heart is a metaphor for the whole person.  Sometimes when we want to poetically speak of love we say that we love someone with our “whole heart.”  The Sacred Heart of Our Lord is also a reminder to us that Jesus truly became a human being: in Christ God really becomes one of us.

The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are portrayed as on fire to show the great love that they have for each one of us.  Their love is not like the love that our hearts have: sometimes hot sometimes cold.  Their Hearts are furnaces of burning love: Jesus and Mary desire that we draw closer to them: that we become ever more fully united with God and conformed to Jesus Christ.

The Cross, the crown of thorns and the sword are reminders to us of all that Jesus and Mary suffered in order that we might be saved from the power of sin and death: they are the symbols of victory.

As we have honored Mary during this past month, let us now adore her Divine Son, in a particular way in His Most Sacred Heart during this up-coming month of June dedicated to His honor.  Most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, on fire with love for us, enflame our hearts with love for You!

God bless,

Father White

Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 25, 2011

Today is known as Good Shepherd Sunday: because the Gospel for the fourth week of Easter is always taken from a passage of the Gospels where Our Lord explains that He is the Good Shepherd and that we are the sheep of His flock.  The image of a Shepherd is a very suitable image for Our Lord in many ways.  A shepherd is always with his flock; a shepherd defends his flock and guides his flock.  The shepherd cares for the sheep and seeks out the lost.  Our Lord came among us as a man to do many of the things that a shepherd does: He came to seek the lost, He came to heal the sick (both physically and spiritually), He came to rescue us from the power of sin and death and He came to show us the way to the Father.  Furthermore, He said that He would never abandon us, but that He would be with us always, just like a shepherd is always with the sheep.

The shepherd is also a good analogy from another angle: from the view of the sheep.  Sheep follow the shepherd, they need the shepherd to protect them and guide them for they are defenseless animals, and sheep tend to be rather foolish.  We are the sheep of Our Lord’s flock.  We are called to follow Him wherever He leads us; we are completely dependent upon Our Good Shepherd’s divine assistance: for apart from Him, we can do nothing.  We need Jesus to feed us with Himself I the Eucharist, to guide us and protect us from day to day.  We ought to call on His help whenever we are in need.  Another similarity to sheep is that we also tend to be rather foolish at times.  We know that prayer brings us peace and joy and we know that sin makes us miserable, yet how often do we find ourselves forgetting to seek God’s help and falling into sin?  We know sin doesn’t make us happy and yet we keep straying from the path that we know will lead us closer to God.  Thankfully, Our Lord never abandons us to our own devices, but patiently seeks us out each and every time we wander off.  We have a free will which is capable of choosing God or turning away from God in sin, but as often as we stray, Our Lord calls us back and He never wearies of welcoming us back into the fold whenever we turn away from sin again and renew our commitment to follow Him.

In another Gospel passage, Our Lord tells us that His sheep hear and know His voice and that is how His sheep know to follow Him.  How do we hear the voice of Our Good Shepherd today?  We hear our Shepherd’s voice in all the little inspirations that come to us throughout the day.  Whenever we hear the whisperings of our conscience we can know that Our Good Shepherd is calling us.  That is true of the times that my conscience tells me that I ought to not do something as well as when my conscience tells me that I ought to do something.  Sometimes we have a sense that we should help someone that we see needs help, or that we should visit someone we know is lonely, or call and talk to someone we haven’t spoken to for a long time.  We ought to listen to those little inspirations.  The Catechism tells us that in our conscience we can hear the voice of God.

Another way that we hear the voice of Our Good Shepherd is through the Sacred Scriptures and through the Teachings of the Catholic Church.  Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to teach in His name: He said to the Apostles: “He who hears you, hears Me.”  Jesus promised that the Church would be led into all Truth through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It was the Church that assembled the New Testament of the Bible and proclaimed that those Books were truly inspired by the Holy Spirit.  We know that the Church cannot teach error in the areas of faith or morals, so if we ever find that we disagree with the Church about some matter, we can be certain that it is we and not the Church that is wrong.  Jesus Christ promised that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church.  If we disagree with the Church, we need to pray and also study to learn why the Church teaches what She teaches.

Our conscience is a sure guide to what we ought to do or not do, but our conscience must be properly formed.  We have an obligation to form our consciences: in other words, we must always seek the Truth: and Scripture tells us that the Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth in the world.  (1 Tim 3:15)  By forming our consciences in accord with what the Church teaches, we will find true freedom and peace of heart.

Our Good Shepherd has not abandoned us.  He guides us and He remains always with us.  He remains with us and feeds us with Himself in the Holy Eucharist; He guides us through our consciences and in a particular way through the Church.  Let us thank God for these many gifts that He has given to us: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank You for coming to seek out the lost; we thank You for laying down Your life to save us and for remaining with us always in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  We are grateful Lord, that You continue to guide us through the ministry of the Church.  We pray, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, for the shepherds of the Church.  May they guide the Church faithfully and receive the reward of their labors.  Raise up more shepherds for Your flock, Lord: give the men that You are calling to the priesthood the courage to answer the call and the perseverance to follow where you lead.  Help each one of us here to hear Your voice and to follow You ever more faithfully.  Amen.

Third Sunday of Easter

May 25, 2011

“He was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”  The road to Emmaus is a beautiful narrative and in it many of the early Saints saw a picture of the Mass.  As Jesus and the two disciples walk along the road, Jesus interpreted for them what referred to Him in all the Scriptures.  Then, once they arrived at the house, they recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.  So, too, at Mass we hear the Word of God proclaimed to us (and, hopefully, the homily helps explain the Scriptures to us); then we recognize Our Lord in the breaking of the Bread at the altar.

Our Lord truly comes among us at the Eucharist.  At the words of Consecration, Our Lord is made truly present on our altar and He comes to dwell within our souls when we receive Him in Holy Communion.  Our Lord gives Himself to us as Food.  He feeds us with Himself so that He might fill our hearts with His grace and transform our hearts.  When the disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they were transformed by that encounter.  Prior to meeting Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they were walking along the road looking downcast.  They had heard the news that Jesus had risen from the dead, but they were walking away from the place that it took place.  They had not yet encountered Our Lord and they lacked faith.  Once they encountered Jesus, their hearts burned within them.  They set out at once: they couldn’t wait to share the news that Jesus has risen indeed and they encountered Him.

The Eucharist is not an empty ritual.  In the Eucharist we encounter Our Lord and God in a way unlike any other way.  When we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion we are closer to God than we are anywhere else in the world.  Only in Heaven will we be closer to Our Lord than we are right after we receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  Through Holy Communion Our Lord gives us Himself and He is the Author of all grace.  When we receive Our Lord, He also gives us the graces that we need to follow Him and love Him: of course we have to have hearts that are open to receive all the graces that He wants to give to us; we must receive Our Lord in Holy Communion with reverence and with love.  We have to have hearts that are open; we have to allow Jesus to work in our hearts.  Our Lord does not force His way into our hearts; we have to let Him in and welcome Him.  We have to rid our hearts of sin in order to prepare a fitting place for Him to dwell.

Making our hearts ready to receive the King of kings is not an easy task.  We have a weak, fallen human nature which is inclined towards sin.  Left to our own devices, the task would be impossible.  Yet Our Lord knows that our hearts are weak reeds blowing in the wind and He did not leave us without assistance.  There are many things which are meant to help us as we endeavor to open our hearts to God.  Our Lord gave us the Sacrament of Confession so that we might receive pardon for sin and clean our souls.  The Lord has given us the Church which guides us and offers us many helps as we journey towards Our Lord.  The Lord gave us His own Mother to be our Mother.  She is a most powerful intercessor for us with Our Lord.

This month of May is a month in which we Catholics, in a particular way, honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Mary is not only a person who lived two-thousand years ago: she is not just someone that we remember.  She is someone who is alive in Heaven.  She is reigning, right now, at the right hand of Her Son; yet we can talk to her, we can have a relationship with her; we can get to know her.  Our previous Holy Father, now Blessed Pope John Paul II, is a witness to the possibility of that relationship.  He lost his earthly mother when he was very young and yet he knew that he had a heavenly Mother who was also Queen of the Angels.  He had a great devotion to Mary.  He knew that Mary constantly intercedes for us.  She is a Mother ready at every moment to help us.  She is your Mother: she wants you to go to her and ask her for your needs.  She wants to help us; yet many graces are un-received because we fail to ask for them.

Mary’s ultimate goal, of course, is to draw you and me ever closer to Her Son, Jesus Christ.  One of the things that we can and ought to ask her for is the grace to overcome our sins.  We can also ask her to help us receive Her Son in Holy Communion with greater love and devotion.  Our Blessed Mother is a most sure way to greater union with Our Lord.  Let us invoke her powerful intercession during this month dedicated to her honor and as we thank and honor all of our mothers on this Mother’s Day, let us not forget to honor and thank our spiritual Mother: the Mother of Our Lord and our Mother.  O Mary our Queen and our Mother, help us to overcome our sins, obtain for us the graces that we need, and draw us ever closer to your divine Son.  Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us.  Amen.

Low Sunday

May 25, 2011

Our Lord rebuked Saint Thomas for his unbelief and offered Thomas proof of His bodily Resurrection by allowing him to place his hand into His sacred wounds.  This conversion from incredulity to faith in Saint Thomas is recorded, as is everything in the Gospel (Saint John tells us), that we might believe and through our belief come to have life.  The life that Saint John is talking about is not merely biological life: we received that from our parents and one day that life will come to an end.  Each and every one of us here will one day, sooner or later, experience physical death: it cannot be avoided.  The life which is the result of belief that Saint John alludes to is much more than physical life: Saint John is referring to the supernatural life that Our Lord offers to us: and this is life that will never end.  In what does this faith consist?  How do we receive this supernatural life that Our Lord offers to us?

We first received a share in that supernatural life on the day that we were baptized.  At our Baptism we received the Holy Spirit into our souls for the first time.  When we were baptized we became temples of the Holy Spirit and we began to share in God’s own divine life.  As the Holy Spirit took up His abode within our souls, His very presence brought that divine life to our souls as well as certain gifts.  The presence of the Holy Spirit within us continues to bear fruit in our souls.  Faith is a gift that the Holy Spirit freely bestows upon us.  It is one of the theological virtues.  Theological virtues are so called because they have God as their object, they are known only through His revealing them, and God infuses them.  Faith is a gift that we have freely received.  Do not think that it is an accident that you are a Catholic.  It was not you that chose God; it was not even because your parents raised you in the Catholic Faith that you are a Catholic.  God has called you and you have responded.  You are not here in this Church today by accident.  God has called and you have responded: even if your response is not at the conscious level.  God has called you and He continues to call you to an ever-deeper relationship with Him: He has given us the gift of faith and we are called to deepen our faith and through our faith we will receive abundant life.

Faith is a free gift from God and yet we are also responsible for our faith.  We have to cooperate with and diligently care for the gift that God has entrusted to us.  Our faith is something which we must guard and cultivate within ourselves.  I first use the word “guard” because we live in a culture that is, in many ways, hostile towards our faith.  Whenever we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation we make a promise in the Act of Contrition not only to avoid sin but also to avoid occasions of sin.  There is much in our culture, in particular in the media, which is an occasion of sin and we need to avoid those things.  We need to be careful about what television programs or movies we allow ourselves to watch, we must be prudent about which websites we allow ourselves to surf, we ought to be judicious about what types of books we read; we need to pay attention to the lyrics of the songs that we listen to and if those lyrics are offensive to our faith, we need to steer clear of those songs.  We ought to bear in mind the fact that our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, who will be beatified this weekend in Rome, coined the phrase “culture of death” to refer to the culture in which we live.  And that death which our culture breeds is not only the physical death that comes in the forms of war, abortion and contraception; it is also the spiritual death that comes from sin.

Besides being careful to guard our faith against the constant attacks in the culture, we also need to cultivate it: we need to do something to help our faith to grow.  For plants to thrive it is not enough to pull out the weeds around them: the plants also have to be watered and fertilized.  Besides merely avoiding sin and its occasions, we also need to nourish our faith.  We help our faith to grow in two ways: by continuing to learn about our faith and by putting our faith into practice.  We are not asked to have a blind faith.  God gave us an intellect as well as a soul.  Faith and reason are meant to work together.  It is permissible to ask questions about our faith and search for answers.  The more that we understand what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and through the Teachings of the Church, the more it helps us to believe.  The more deeply we believe, the easier it becomes to put our faith into practice in our daily lives.

The Epistles of Saint James teaches that faith without works is dead.  It is not enough to say that we believe: we have to practice our faith.  Living our faith means receiving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament with faith and devotion.  Living our faith means coming to Confession regularly and taking time to pray everyday.  Yet our faith is not only a matter of what I do at Church or while at prayer.  Living out our faith also means allowing the Sacraments and prayer to transform my life.  As Christians, we are to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said that we show our love for Him by following His commandments, and His commandments are only two: love God above everything else and love your neighbor as yourself.  Those two commandments are impossible for us to follow without God’s help: we need His grace, we need His divine assistance to love the way that He calls us to love.  Let us ask Him to increase our faith that we may follow Him more fully:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of faith and we ask You to increase our faith.  Help us to guard and cultivate this great gift that You have freely given to us.  Give us the graces that we need to root sin out of our hearts.  Grant us the strength and the courage to put our faith into practice each and every day.  May we do all that we do for Your greater glory.  Amen.

Easter

May 25, 2011

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”  After our forty-day journey through the desert of Lent, we arrive today at the glorious season of Easter.  Throughout Lent we meditated upon Our Lord’s Passion and now we turn our attention to Our Lord’s victory over sin and death.  Today we celebrate that day that Our Lord rose from the tomb.  We do not forget what Our Lord did for us: there could be no Easter without Good Friday: there could be no Resurrection without the Cross; but death does not have the final word.  We believe that Our Lord really, truly, physically rose from dead and that by His death and Resurrection He destroyed the power of sin and death: Our Lord conquered the devil and opened for us the Gates of Heaven.  Our Lord’s Resurrection is the new exodus that frees us from slavery to sin and allows us to live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Saint Paul teaches us that through our Baptism, we are baptized into the death and Resurrection of Our Lord, which means that we are able to participate, even now, in His victory over sin and death.  We do not have to be slaves to sin: through our cooperation with God’s grace we can overcome our sins.  Throughout Lent we practiced self-discipline in order to root sin out of our hearts and grow in virtue and become more Christ-like.  Through our Lenten observances we prepare our hearts to celebrate with joy this most Solemn day of the year.

What does it mean to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection with joy?  The culture in which we live has a tendency to confuse joy with pleasure.  Pleasure is a passing experience and it can be morally good or it can be morally bad.  Joy is much deeper than a passing sensate experience.  True joy comes from knowing God and doing His will.  Sometimes when we think of celebrating Easter the temptation can be to think of gorging ourselves on whatever it is that we gave up for Lent.  It is true that we relax our Lenten discipline once Easter has arrived, but hopefully our Lenten practices have had an effect on our hearts.  The purpose of giving things up for Lent is not simply to deny ourselves things.  Giving things up for Lent is aimed at transforming our hearts and making us more like Christ.  There is a story of a young boy who said that he had given up fighting with his brother for Lent, but that he couldn’t wait for Easter so that he could really give it to him.  The boy in the story clearly missed the point of Lent.  Lent should help us to break sinful habits so that we can be freed from sin and experience the freedom that Christ won for us.

Our Lord’s victory over sin and death is a victory that Our Lord won for us.  He became a man like us in all things precisely so that He could die and rise to save us from our sins.  At Easter, we celebrate that victory.  Through our Baptism we already share in His victory.  The way that we celebrate that victory is by conforming our hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  In just a moment we will all renew our baptismal promises.  In the renewal of our baptismal promises we renew our promises to reject Satan, and we refuse to be mastered by sin.  We will profess our faith in God and in all that the Church Teaches.  Let us be attentive to these promises that we make.  These are solemn promises that we are all making to God.  Let us do all that we can to be faithful to these promises: for in fulfilling them, we will find that true joy that we all seek.

May Our Risen Lord be the source of our joy this day: may we all be mindful that we also hope to one day rise with Him and enter into His eternal life, His perfect joy and His resplendent glory for all eternity.

Lord Jesus Christ, help us to experience the joy of Your Resurrection this day.  Give us the graces we need, Lord, to be faithful to the promises that we made at our Baptism and that we renew today.  Help us to seek You above all things; draw us ever closer to Yourself until we share in the glory of Your Resurrection forever.  Amen.

Good Friday

May 25, 2011

“He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins . . . by His stripes we were healed.”  It was to save us from our sins that Jesus suffered and died.  The Catechism tells us that sin is an offense against God.  God is all-holy; He is all-pure.  We were created in His image and likeness: we were created to reflect God’s love and His holiness.  God created us to love Him and to serve Him and to be united with Him forever.  Our First Parents lost God’s friendship by turning away from God and by disobeying His will.  As a result of the sin of Adam and Eve we have all inherited a fallen human nature.  Because of sin, the Gates of Heaven were closed: sin frustrated our destined union with God.

If Jesus had not become a man and suffered and died to save us from our fallen state, we would be without hope.  But God is love; He did not abandon us, but sent His own Son to pay the price for our sin.  The price that Jesus paid on the Cross was not just for the sin of Adam and Eve: it was for all sin.  He died for you and for me personally: He died to save us from our sins.  Jesus had each one of us in mind while He hung upon the Cross.  On this day Our Lord died to save you and to save me from our sins.  Jesus’ death and Resurrection opened the Gates the Heaven for us that we might be united with Him forever in Heaven as we were created to be.

Jesus Christ poured out His blood and died that we might have life: through His death we have access to life in abundance: because Jesus died for us, we are able to do more than merely survive in this world: through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father.  Through our Baptism into Christ’s death we have become sons and daughters of God.  Because Christ died for us, we are able to have that friendship with God: because of His death it is possible for us to attain the union with God for which we were created.  But we have to respond to what Jesus did for us.  We have to accept that abundant life that He offers to us.  Jesus said that if we would be His disciples, we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him.  We have to imitate Our Crucified Lord.  The Cross is the sign of our salvation.  On the Cross our Lord laid down His life for us: and we are also called to lay down our lives.

What does it mean to lay down our lives?  It means rejecting sin.  It means loving God more than I love myself.  Sin offends God and Jesus died to make reparation for our sins, but that does not give us license to go on sinning.  Jesus died out of love for us and calls us to respond to His love: He calls us to turn away from sin and love as we were created to love.  We reject sin not only to avoid the negative consequences of sin or out of fear of Hell; we reject sin out of love for Him Who first loved us and died for us.  If we truly love God, we want to avoid offending Him.  Laying down our lives means putting our fallen, selfish human nature to death and putting God first in our hearts and putting others ahead of ourselves.  Jesus said that if we love Him, we will follow His commandments and His command to us is to love.  We are to love as He loves us.

Today’s liturgy is meant to help us to enter into the Sacrifice that Our Lord made of Himself on the Cross.  Good Friday is the only day of the entire year that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not offered.  This absence of the offering of the Mass recalls to our minds the day that the Lord died and was buried.  May this solemn liturgy inspire our hearts with gratitude for all that Our Lord did this day to save us.  May our veneration of the Lord’s Cross inspire our hearts with greater love for Our Lord and strengthen our resolve to reject sin and follow Him ever more faithfully.

Palm Sunday

May 25, 2011

Palm Sunday is the beginning of the holiest week of the entire year. This week we walk with Our Lord as He underwent His Passion: these days of Holy Week connect us to those historical events in Our Lord’s life by which our redemption was achieved. Holy Week is not just a time to remember and meditate upon all that Our Lord suffered for Our salvation: it is a time for us to enter into it and really walk with Jesus as He suffered, as He journeyed to Calvary, as He was laid in the Tomb and Rose victoriously on Easter Sunday.

There are two extremes that we experience in this first liturgy of Holy Week: joy and sorrow. Today we began with the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The palm branches were blessed and they will be distributed at the end of Mass. These blessed palm branches are to remind us of Our Lord’s victory. The palm branch is shaped like a “v” and it is a symbol of victory. In Catholic art the martyrs are often depicted with palm branches to signify their victory over sin and death by laying down their lives rather than reject their Faith. The palm branches that we will receive today are to remind us that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death.

Our Lord entered Jerusalem in a triumphant procession to shouts of “Hosanna in the highest.” This phrase was the acknowledgement that Jesus was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah: the One Who came to set us free. We sing the same refrain at every Mass just before Our Lord descends upon our altar at the Consecration: when the bread and wine are transformed into His very Body and Blood. The Church puts these words on our lips at every Mass to remind us that at the Consecration we truly welcome Our Lord and Our King into our midst.

We also heard the reading of the Passion in today’s Mass; and this Gospel reminds us that the triumphant entry into Jerusalem was only a precursor to Our Lord’s Passion. Just a few days after the crowd welcomed Jesus as their King, they rejected Him and called for His execution. The Church puts these words onto our lips to remind us that it was for our sins that Jesus died. Our Lord did not die for humanity in general. He died for each and every one of you in particular, and for me. He had you, personally, in mind when He laid down His life on the Cross. He died to save you from your sins. It was not the nails but His love for you that held Him to the Cross.

We have to remember that Our Lord’s Sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross is not merely an historical event. Through the Mass, Calvary is made present to us. The Mass is the un-bloody re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary. At every Mass, on every altar, the same Sacrifice is made to the Father. Let us be clear: Jesus does not die again: He died once and for all on the Cross. The Mass makes that once-and-for-all offering that Jesus made of Himself to the Father present to us. At every Mass, we stand at the foot of Calvary. The Eucharist is the same offering that Jesus made on the Cross: it is the total offering of the Son to the Father. It is the same one that makes the offering at Mass: Jesus acts through the priest to offer Himself. And the Sacrifice has the same effect: through our reception of Holy Communion the victory over sin and death that Our Lord won on the Cross for us is applied to our souls.

In a similar way, all of the liturgies of Holy Week are not just commemoration of historical events. Holy Week is not just a way for us to remember Our Lord’s suffering and death: it is a way for us to enter into the very events that destroyed sin and death and opened for us the Gates of Heaven. Let us enter into the sacred mysteries that we come in contact with during this Holy Week. The more we enter into them, the more fruit they will bear in our hearts and the more joy-filled we will be when we celebrate Our Lord’s victory over sin and death at Easter.

Lord, help us to truly walk with You during this Holy Week. Give us the grace to grow in our appreciation of all that You did for us and all that You continue to do for us. Lord Jesus, You died to set us free: help us to turn away from sin and live in the true freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Draw us, Lord, ever closer to Yourself. Amen.