Monday, April 17, 2017

Pope's Easter Message



Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!

Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!”

The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfilment. By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.

All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim: “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).

In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life. Today too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms.

The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization. He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.

He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labour, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction. He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.

The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes. Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.

In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.

Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in beloved Syria, so greatly suffering from a war that continues to sow horror and death. Yesterday saw the latest vile attack on fleeing refugees, resulting in the death and injury of many. May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen.

May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.

May the Risen Jesus sustain the efforts of all those who, especially in Latin America, are committed to ensuring the common good of societies marked at times by political and social tensions that in some cases have resulted in violence. May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law.

May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony. May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict.

The Risen Lord continues to shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe. May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.

Dear brothers and sisters, this year Christians of every confession celebrate Easter together. With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message: “The Lord is truly risen, as he said!” May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.

Happy Easter!

© Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2017



This item 11543 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org








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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday: He Has Risen as He Said!

Today is Resurrection Sunday or Easter Sunday! It is the most important day in the liturgical calendar.  A small baby boy was born unto us on Christmas. He grew, got baptized by John; performed miracles and taught. However, what confirmed all of this was today: the resurrection. During Jesus' time, many men claimed to be the messiah, the chosen one of Israel.

Some even performed 'miracles' which were nothing more than parlor tricks. Magicians like David Blaine would have had a great following in those days because the people were ignorant and could easily be tricked into believing 'tricks;' Jesus, of course, was suspected of being such a fraud or magician. This was why He was heavily scrutinized, especially by the Pharisees and scribes who wanted to keep their monopoly on Judaism. They doubted Him, questioned Him, tried to corner Him and make Him look like a fraud.  

Well, Jesus proved them all wrong.  He said He would rise and He did (Matthew 17:23).  Jesus is the resurrection (John 11:25). Even after He died on the cross on Good Friday, the disciples wondered what would happen next. The shepherd was struck and the flock scattered (Matthew 26:31). Things seemed hopeless, but Jesus came back. Notice He appeared to a woman first.  Women are an important part of the body of Christ. In Jesus' day, women did not have much value. Their word was not as strong as that of a man's.  It sounds awful I know, but that was just how people thought back then. We cannot hold that against them because that was their culture. Nevertheless, the fact that Jesus appeared to a woman (Mary Magdalene) and she was the one who told Peter and the rest shows how important women are in God's plan (Mark 16:9). Women have worth.  Their word has value and strength.  They are equals to men. March is the month of Women's history and this fact of Jesus appearing to a woman should be focused on in Christians squares.

The resurrection proved the disciples and others that Jesus was, in fact, the messiah, the chosen one of Israel. Catholicism would not have succeeded if Jesus did not resurrect. Christianity would have just faded just like other cults at the time led by false messiahs. The resurrection validated the new covenant and its beliefs. Think about it. If I today had a group of friends, said that I was the chosen one, spoke eloquently but did not back up my talk with honesty, truth, and authority, then there is no way my group of friends would congregate to develop into a worldwide major religion. It would just die out the instant I became boring to my friends or died and turned to dust.  With Jesus it was different.  Yes, He died like everyone else, but He rose again.  He showed that He was telling the truth. He was no liar. Jesus showed He is the ruler of life and death, of heaven and even hell (1Corinthians 15:27 )!   Death cannot stop Him.  The Romans could not stop Him, The Jews and others could not stop Him.  Satan himself cannot stop Him!  Jesus is the Lord of all!   

God died for each one of us because we have value. We are made in His image and likeness.  He rose again showing He is in control of all things, including death (Romans 14:9). The resurrection is our hope. Death is not the end of it.  Death does not have the final say, Jesus does.  To the world, death seems eternal; but to us, death is just a nap (Wisdom 3:1-9). Jesus rose and His resurrection was a testament to everything He said. This was why people converted.  This was why Catholicism spread around the Roman Empire and elsewhere faster than a virus. Atheists claim Jesus was a myth, but logically speaking, no myth can have so much weight so as to convert so many in such a short time. People convert because something happens; because truth takes hold.  They convert because they see the evidence and it speaks to them.  The resurrection was this evidence, this reason, this 'happening.' The early Christians would not have allowed themselves to be tortured and killed for something that was not legitimate.  Who would?  We can tell by logic alone that the resurrection was factual and historical.  

Let us hope in Christ and await the final resurrection of the dead as we meet our Lord.  Jesus has risen from the dead and He said!  Alleluia!    

Please remember to be generous and consider being a regular donor.  Donate at www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus or on the paypal button on this site.  Your help will help me continue this work and expand it.  

 

Here are some reflections from holy writers:




When [Mary] came and said these things, the apostles heard them and drew near to the sepulcher with great eagerness. They see the linen clothes lying there, which was a sign of the resurrection. For if they had removed the body, they would not have stripped it first, nor, if any had stolen it, would they have taken the trouble to remove the napkin and roll it up and lay it in a place by itself apart from the linens. They would have taken the body as it was.
Therefore, John tells us by anticipation that it was buried with much myrrh, which glues linen to the body not less firmly than lead. He tells us this so that when you hear that the napkin lay apart from the linens, you may not endure those who say that he was stolen. For a thief would not have been so foolish as to expend so much effort on a trifling detail.


— St. John Chrysostom

(344 - 407)


Source: "Homilies on the Gospel of John, 85.4," quoted in Joel C. Elowsky, ed., John 11–21, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 340-341.





When these men (I mean Peter and John, the writer of this book, for he gives himself the name of the other disciple) heard this news from the woman's mouth, they ran with all the speed they could and hurried to the sepulcher. They saw the marvel with their own eyes, being in themselves competent to testify to the event, for they were two in number as the Law enjoined.
As yet they did not meet Christ risen from the dead, but they infer his resurrection from the bundle of linen clothes, and from that time on they believed that he had burst the bonds of death, as holy Scripture had long ago proclaimed that he would do. When, therefore, they looked at the issues of events in the light of the prophecies that turned out true, their faith was from that time forward rooted on a firm foundation.


— St. Cyril of Alexandria

(375 - 444)


Source: "Commentary on the Gospel of John 12," quoted in Joel C. Elowsky, ed., John 11–21, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 341.

 
Hidden first in a womb of flesh, he sanctified human birth by his own birth. Hidden afterward in the womb of the earth, he gave life to the dead by his resurrection. Suffering, pain and sighs have now fled away. For who has known the mind of God, or who has been his counselor if not the Word made flesh who was nailed to the cross, who rose from the dead and who was taken up into heaven?
This day brings a message of joy: it is the day of the Lord's resurrection when, with himself, he raised up the race of Adam. Born for the sake of human beings, he rose from the dead with them. On this day paradise is opened by the risen one, Adam is restored to life and Eve is consoled. On this day the divine call is heard, the kingdom is prepared, we are saved and Christ is adored. On this day, when he had trampled death under foot, made the tyrant a prisoner and despoiled the underworld, Christ ascended into heaven as a king in victory, as a ruler in glory, as an invincible charioteer.
He said to the Father, "Here am I, O God, with the children you have given me." And he heard the Father's reply, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool." To him be glory, now and for ever, through endless ages. Amen.


— St. Hesychius of Jerusalem

(412 - 450)

Source: "Easter Homily, 5-6," quoted in Joel C. Elowsky, ed., John 11–21, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 337.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Coptic Christians Attacked in Egypt

On Palm Sunday, a day which begins the Passion of the Christ as He entered Jerusalem on a donkey while the people praised Him with palms, a horrific attack took place in Egypt against Coptic Christians.  Worshipers were gathered at St. Mark's Cathedral with Pope Tawadros II leading the Palm Sunday service when a bomb went off killing many participants.  Not too long before, a bomb had gone off at a parish north of Cairo.  Pope Tawadros II was said to have planned to visit that site before the building he was present himself was attacked.  He is fine, but obviously upset over the attack.  ISIS has claimed responsibility. The method of the attack was via suicide bombers.

The Coptic Church is believed to have been established by St. Mark around 45-50 AD. It separated from the Catholic Church headed by Pope Saint Leo I at the time during of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD after its bishops took a different stance on the nature of Christ (hypostatic union: Jesus' divine and human natures). The Church is a branch of the Oriental Orthodox and is one of the oldest Christian Churches.  Its patriarch, Tawardros II is called "pope" due to the fact that bishops and patriarchs were referred to "pope" or "father" at the time.  Only the pope of Rome is the successor of St. Peter and Vicar of Christ.

Pope Francis has condemned the attacks during Palm Sunday Mass in Rome. He said, “I express my heartfelt sorrow, and pray that the Lord will convert the hearts of those who sow fear, violence and death, and those who make and traffic arms.” Christians around the world have also offered up their prayers and have condemned the attack.  Security has been increased at local cathedrals and other centers of Christian worship.

Over 30 Coptic Christians were killed in the blasts.  The total may increase if those wounded succumb to their injuries.  Those present describe the carnage as immense.  Worshipers had blood-covered palms in their hands; the blood of modern martyrs!  Let us pray for our Coptic brothers and sisters.

































Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday: He Suffered For Us

Before I begin the reflection.  I want to announce that at the end of 2017 I will have to suspend this ministry due to lack of funds.  The content will remain up for as long as it can be sustained, but will not be updated.  

I was hoping and trusting on the Christian good-faith nature of fellow Catholics to help me run this work via donations.  Unfortunately, not many have responded which is disheartening and unfortunate.  

Our Church tries so hard to form the consciences of baptized Catholics and it seems that we need to do more work.  It seems a large portion of Catholics today just want to receive and not give back to the Church in order to help her.  This is why many parishes are closing throughout the world. Going to Mass, sitting in the pews is not enough. Catholics must participate and help the Church financially and in their professional capacities in order to fulfill Christ's command to go out throughout the world and preach the Good News.  

I created "Sacerdotus" after a bishop I worked for called me that due to my vocation to the priesthood and my use of ornate surplices like Solanus Casey.  The nickname stuck, so I used it for Christ and the Church.  Via "Sacerdotus," I reached out to those out in the deep who have left the Church or were never part of her.  This includes atheists due to the fact that I was one myself. After Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called on priests, religious, seminarians and lay people to make use of social media, I created a Twitter account and later on, profiles on other networks. The popularity of "Sacerdotus" grew and shocked me. A religious sister on Twitter advised me to start a blog, which I did.  

With only $10, I bought Sacerdotus.com and the site began to grow, now worth over $2,000.  I started with 12 views and now am about to reach 1 million, thanks be to God!  As mentioned before, I hoped for fellow Catholics to help me due to the fact that I am in formation and cannot afford to go into debt.  The Church cannot allow seminarians or religious to have debt or this will burden their respective communities/dioceses.  This is why I asked for help.  Some responded, but not many and not frequently.  

In response, I tried offering an advertising service and that helped for a bit.  To supplement this, I began to write books hoping Catholics and other will buy them to help me offset expenses. Unfortunately, the response to the books has not been what I expected.  It seems as if Catholics just do not care about the faith or spreading it.  I am hoping this is not the case.  Moreover, it is mind-boggling to me that some Catholics contribute to other alleged "Catholic" sites which are based on gossip, conspiracy theories, distortion and slander of the Holy Father, yet, seem to not want to help Catholic sites that truly are faithful to the magisterium, do not slander the pope and focus on evangelization.  My content is geared around Catholicism, Science, Philosophy and other worldly issues in order to "go out into the deep" and fish for those far away from the Church.    

I am hoping that "Sacerdotus" was helpful to you reading this. So far, there have been over 20 converts due to the content on "Sacerdotus," whether here, in my books or podcasts/broadcast.  As I write this, I am in NYC and will be participating in liturgies receiving atheist friends into the Church! I call this a true success despite not having enough funding to continue expanding this work.  I hope that in the future, readers will be more generous and understand my situation and help me continue and expand this work.  Donations will help me with expenses and are not for restitution or "payment" of services offered.  This is not a business, nor do I want it to be.  I genuinely just need some extra help from my brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith.  Any amount is truly welcomed.  God will reward you. Please consider donating and becoming a benefactor by donating monthly, bi-monthly etc.  This will allow me to continue this work and expand it so I can reach more people via many channels. You are a part of this work as well. One of the differences between "Sacerdotus" and Catholic Answers or EWTN is that you can directly help in this work. You can offer an article to be posted on Catholic Faith Sharing or can join me live on my broadcasts and podcasts.  Catholics Answers, EWTN or any other Catholic site will not allow this.  I am not attack them, please do not misinterpret me. They have been instrumental in my own conversion.  What I am pointing out is that our work here is more open and truly a grassroots effort that excludes no one unless there is conflict between the person's views and that of the Church.  So again, please do not let "Sacerdotus" disappear, please donate and become and regular donor.   

***
Please help this ministry by donating via PayPal or Www.gofundme.com/Sacerdotus.  Your gift will help me continue this work and expand it.

You can also help by purchasing my books. My latest book, "Introduction to the Catholic Church" will truly benefit Catholics and others who are curious of the Catholic faith. You can purchase it in paperback for $12 or Kindle Ebook for $9.99.
seehttp://www.sacerdotus.com/2017/02/new-book-introduction-to-catholic.html









REFLECTION:

Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. Today we remember the Passion of Christ. Jesus entered Jerusalem while the people shouted Hosanna and threw Palm branches in his path.  The King of the Jews, the King of Kings, the King of the Universe and anything else beyond is about to suffer for us all.

Hosanna is an exclamation of supplication in a moment of emotion. The Palms are a sign of victory and joy. The people celebrated the Triumphant entry of the King of Kings into Jerusalem. Ironically just a few days later some of these same people will call upon Pilate to crucify Him.
Zechariah 9:9 prophesied this day. The account of the story is read prior to the procession with the palms and comes from Matthew 21: 1-10. In the Catholic Church, red vestments are used to symbolize the blood Jesus would shed as a result of His entry into Jerusalem. One procession with palms is done. Palms are used for the procession; however, other kinds of greenery can be used in its place, according to the Directory on Popular Piety and Liturgy. These sacramentals are meant to remind us of Christ and His passion. They are not magical items or meant to bring about superstitious beliefs. The Directory states: "Palms or olive branches should not be kept as amulets, or for therapeutic or magical reasons to dispel evil spirits or to prevent the damage these cause in the fields or in the homes, all of which can assume a certain superstitious guise. Palms and olive branches are kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the messianic king, and in his Paschal Victory."    

The first reading during Mass is from Isaiah which is connected to Jesus. It reflects on how Jesus is a gifted speaker who spreads the Good News yet offends many or stirs up a commotion among the people. Because of this, He is beaten, his beard is plucked and He is mocked. This reading is a foreshadowing of the Passion of Christ. 
Despite being abused by the people, Jesus returned no insult or attack (1 Peter 2:23). He braved it all for the sake of all (Isaiah 53:4Matthew 8:17). Jesus was truly obedient, even unto death.  Today we live in a world where Christ’s message is not popular. Priests, religious, laity, and even our separated Christian brethren face all kinds of hardships just for speaking the name of Christ and what He stands for. The Word of God is being criminalized in many parts of the world.  This opposition shows us how bad the world dislikes Christ and religion. Elsewhere in the world, Christians are being killed just for believing in Christ.  While things may seem bad and scary, we must not fear. God is with us. We must be strong and not give in to the pressures of the world and preach Christ in season and out of season (2 timothy 4:2). Like Christ, we must bear it all for the sake of salvation. God is with us, no one can stand against us (Romans 8:31). It may seem like God has abandoned us and this is why the responsorial Psalm begins with this phrase. This Psalm is another foreshadowing of Christ’s passion. Christ Himself felt abandoned by the Father. However, this is not so. God was there present comforting Him and us as well who struggle today.
Finally, the Gospel tells the account of Jesus’ arrest and His last supper where He instituted the Holy Eucharist.  Christ defined for all the true meaning of the Passover meal by breaking bread and sharing wine which are His body, blood, soul and divinity. Like with the Hebrews during Passover, this meal protects us from the plagues in the world and prepares us for the Exodus to our spiritual promised land (Exodus 12:1-14).  The journey will not be easy.  We will be attacked by the world and will walk through the desert of life (Matthew 10:18Exodus 13:18).

Furthermore, we read how Judas is there present during the meal. He sells out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas is the first to leave the first Mass at the Last Supper.  How many times do we see people leave Mass early? Perhaps we may have done it ourselves? We are imitating Judas the betrayer when we leave Mass early. In doing so, we make whatever we are leaving Mass for more important than Christ. Granted, there may be emergencies we may have to attend to, but this is where faith comes in. God will take care of any emergencies for us. 
Moreover, we continue reading how Christ tells the disciples how they will flee when He is arrested. Each boldly claims that he will not leave Christ. How many times have we been vain in thinking that we have total control of faith? How many times have we thought that we control grace in us? It is God who sustains our faith and nourishes us with His grace (James 4:6). We only cooperate by the suspension of our free will in order to submit to God’s will.  Christ then goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He cries tears of blood showing the pain and anguish He was going through.  We again see Christ’s humanity. He is one of us! He is the perfect Adam we must imitate (Romans 5:12-181 Corinthians 15:45).  However, like the disciples, we often fall asleep when we are in His presence. Instead of praying, we slack off and get distracted to the point of dosing off. We must avoid this by asking God to teach us how to pray and give us the strength and demeanor to be in His presence to pray even when our human frailness gets in the way.  It is in prayer that we unite with God.

Lastly, we continue reading how Christ is taken to trial. The Son of God, God Himself is treated like a criminal. He is sentenced to be killed by way of Crucifixion. His crime is love (John 3:16). Christ came to save all, first to His own people the Jews. Ironically, it is sometimes our own that betray us. We must avoid being like the Jews of Christ’s time who were with Him, saw His works and still wanted no part of Christ. Like the Jews in the desert, they saw His works and still did not want to believe (Psalm 95:8). Christ is then made to go through a horrible death. First He is made to carry a heavy cross. Throughout the way, He is mocked, spat on, hit and falls down three times for the sins of the past, present and future (Hebrews 13:8). He dies on the cross and is buried. God is dead!

Today, this phrase still echoes among western societies throughout the world who have lost their Christian roots and especially in universities teaching our youth. Some believe philosopher Nietzsche to have coined the phrase “God is dead,” but this has existed way before his own birth. Christ is nailed to the cross and dies. The people of His time said, “God is dead.” The Son of God who performed miracles and preached the good news dies. We know that in reality He is still alive (Revelation 1:18). Man can kill God because God allows it out of love. Today’s age of secularism, atheism, and relativism shout, “God is dead, we have killed Him!” However, God is alive and well. He rose from the dead showing He is the God of the living and dead (Romans 14:9). He is the one who IS; who is dependent on no one for existence (Exodus 3:14).
We must not be like the Jews of the old covenant who saw and still did not believe, nor do we want to be like the Jews in Jesus’ times who like their ancestors saw Christ’s works yet did not believe as well. They even proclaimed Him as their king by throwing palms onto His path only to reject Him and call for His execution days later. We should not be like them. We must never lose faith nor let the world silence it as it grows more hostile to religion.  Today we lift up our palms, not like those hypocrites in the Gospel reading before Mass, but like those in Revelation 7:9 who see the Lamb of God, hold their palms out to Him in joy and wear clean white robes showing they are made spotless by the blood of Christ shed for all during His Passion.
Palm Sunday is upon us. Raise your palms high and let the world know that we are Christian and will not be silenced.  We are in Christ and no one can stop us.  We are the Easter people who defy all odds in the name of Christ the Lord (Philippians 4:13).    
May Christ teach us how to live and suffer in faith. He suffered for us all showing that each human life has worth and is sacred.  When I say each human life, I mean every one including non-Catholics, those who hate us, those who do not trust us, those who call themselves pro-abortion, gay, lesbian, transgender, atheist, agnostic or indifferent.  Jesus is the King of all and suffered for all because all people have value and God loves all so much that He wanted humanity redeemed.  Let us shout Hosanna to the King with sincerity and remain with Him through good times and bad times until the end of time comes.  May Jesus Christ be praised!


Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040917.cfm






Here are some reflections from holy writers:



Let us run to accompany Christ as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us…
Let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory.
Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children's holy song: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel."

— St. Andrew of Crete
(650 - 740)

Source: Office of Readings, Oratio 9 in ramos palmarum: PG 97, 990-994.



If Jesus reign in my soul, in your soul, meant that he should find it a perfect dwelling place, then indeed would we have reason to despair. But Jesus makes do with a poor animal for a throne…There are hundreds of animals more beautiful, more deft and strong. But it was a donkey Christ chose when he presented himself to the people as king in response to their acclamation.
For Jesus has no time for calculations, for astuteness, for the cruelty of cold hearts, for attractive but empty beauty. What he likes is the cheerfulness of a young heart, a simple step, a natural voice, clean eyes, attention to his affectionate word of advice. That is how he reigns in the soul.

— St. Josemaría Escriva
(1902 - 1975)

Source: Christ Is Passing By, 181.


When Jesus enters Jerusalem, the whole city is in agitation. People are asking themselves, "'Who is this?' And the crowds [say], 'This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee'" (Mt 21:10-11).
This was not the first time that the people recognized Christ as the king they expected. It had already happened after the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, when the crowd wanted to carry him in triumph. Jesus knew however that his kingdom was not of this world; for this reason he had fled from their enthusiasm. He now sets out for Jerusalem to face the trial that awaits him. He is aware that he is going there for the last time, for a "holy" week, at the end of which the passion, cross and death await him. He faces all this with complete willingness, knowing that in this way the Father's eternal plan will be fulfilled in him.
Since that day, the Church throughout the world has repeated the words of the crowd in Jerusalem: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord". She repeats it every day while celebrating the Eucharist, shortly before the consecration. She repeats it with particular emphasis today, Palm Sunday.

— Pope St. John Paul II
(1920 - 2005)



Source: Homily on March 23, 1997.



Sunday, April 2, 2017

5th Sunday of Lent: Open Your Grave & Rise!


Today’s readings deal with Faith and the Resurrection.

The first reading is from the prophet Ezekiel and tells us of how God brings life to those in the grave. God says that He will raise the dead of Israel and bring them back to their land. Because of this, they will know that He is God. He then promises that He will put His spirit in them. This is an allusion to the resurrection of Christ. As we know, Jesus was crucified, died and was buried (1 Thessalonians 4:14). However, He rose from the dead. We read in Matthew 27:50-54 how the dead walked out of their graves and entered Jerusalem. This event must have been frightening for those who witnessed it.  However, it was not a scary scene like in “The Walking Dead” series. This event was foreshadowed in the first reading where God says that He will raise the dead of Israel and because of this the people will know that He is God. Ironically, in Matthew 27:54, the centurion and those with him said, “Truly this man was God’s son.” God is the one who restores life to us both spiritually and physically.

This brings us to the responsorial psalm which begins with a cry out of the depths to God. It is a prayer asking God for mercy, redemption and renewal. When we sin, our spiritual lives slowly die. There is nothing worse than a spiritual death. The human being becomes immoral, not knowing right from wrong.  He or she is lost in darkness and because of this, begins to fall not knowing where he or she is going. The Psalm reminds us that God is the one who saves us. He is the one who brings us out of the depths of the spiritual grave. We must trust in Him.

The second reading from Romans tells us that we cannot truly please God if we are in the flesh, or in sin. It is only in living in the Spirit that we truly please God because we are restored with God’s grace. St. Paul makes it clear that if we do not have the Spirit of Christ, then we do not belong to Him. When we sin, we die spiritually and physically. This is why St. Paul tells us that the “body is dead because of sin.” Because of sin, we are open to all kinds of ailments and diseases. Original sin damaged creation and all things exist without the perfection it had prior to the fall of Adam and Eve. Christ will restore our lives to what they were supposed to be. He rose from the dead and will give life to our bodies and entire existence as well.

Finally, the Gospel tells us about Lazarus who is the brother of Mary who anointed Jesus with perfumed oil as well as Martha. Lazarus is extremely ill; basically at the point of death. Jesus is told of the illness and replies that the illness Lazarus is going through is not to end in death but will serve as an example of the glory of God. In other words, Christ was telling them that He will be using this opportunity to show God’s glory via a miracle.  Jesus then plans to go back to Judea where He had some problems with the people. The disciples advise Jesus not to go because the people will stone Him. Jesus then reminds them that those who walk in light do not stumble basically reminding them that He will be safe. Then He tells them that Lazarus is “asleep” and He will awaken Him. They thought He was referring to sleep, but Christ was referring to the fact that Lazarus had passed away. Jesus knew this despite not being at Lazarus’ home. When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had already been buried for four days. Martha and Mary met with Jesus and Martha voiced her frustration to Him telling Him that if He had been there that Lazarus would still be alive.

Nevertheless, she still has faith that whatever Christ asks of God will be granted. Martha believes in the final resurrection on the last day and Jesus replies saying that He is the resurrection and the life and that those who believe in Him even if they die will live. Christ then asks Martha if she believes Him and she replies, “Yes, Lord” showing her deep faith. Martha then calls Mary to tell her that Jesus is there and is asking for her.  Mary approaches Christ and falls to His feet voicing her frustrations as well just like Martha did. Next we see Jesus showing His human side. Despite being the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity, He becomes “perturbed and deeply troubled” when He sees Mary crying and the Jews who were there crying as well. He then asks to be taken to where they had laid the remains of Lazarus and they take Him.  Once again we see Jesus shows His humanity. He begins to cry as well. Here we have God crying. The Jews present ask Jesus “could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died? The people are complaining as well just like Mary and Martha did. Jesus is perturbed again we read, but goes to the tomb to see Lazarus’ body. Martha tries to stop Jesus saying that there will be a stench because the body has been there for four days. Jesus reminds her that God will show His glory via the death of Lazarus and calls out “Lazarus, come out!” The dead corpse once lying in state comes to life and walks out. Imagine the scene for a moment. A man is dead for four days and all of a sudden walks out still wrapped in bands like a mummy of sorts. Had it been me witnessing this, I probably would have run faster than the cartoon character “Road Runner” and would have been screaming like Mariah Carey!

However, the scene should not bring fright. It was not a scene of a zombie movie or “The Walking Dead” series (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Lazarus woke from his sleep as Christ said he would. This Gospel shows not only that Christ is God and that God has power over life and death, but also shows Christ’s humanity and genuine love. We also see how the people get frustrated that Jesus did not act quickly in either preventing Lazarus from dying or raising him from the dead.  How many times do we get frustrated when we pray for something and God does not grant it right away or perhaps not in the way we wanted? This is a natural reaction because we still do not see the full picture. We are like little impatient kids who feel that waiting just one minute is like a lifetime, so we get frustrated. Our doubts grow just like atheists who see children suffering in the world and quickly declare God as non-existent or uncaring. Those who let this impatience get the best of them eventually doubt and fall into atheism believing God to not exist.  Yesterday was "Aprils' fools day" and the atheist's holiday (Psalm 14:1). We must not be like this.

Like Martha and Mary we must have faith. Christ understand us. He shares our joys and pains as we read in the Gospel how He wept despite being God who can do anything (Isaiah 53:4). God does care. He understands what we go through everyday. This is what is unique about the “God of Christianity” as atheists and academics describe Him. The “God of Christianity” IS GOD. He is not a distant deity who demands sacrifices and does not interact with the people. Christ is with each of us and shares with us our joys and our pains. The Gospel today is preparing us for Easter Sunday where Christ Himself rises from the dead. Death is something we all suffer. It is hard to get over the death of anyone, family or friend. However, it is our faith in Christ who is the resurrection and life that keeps us focused and of sound mind. We cry and are sad yes, this is a normal human response that even Jesus went through (John 11:35). However, we relax and know that death is not the end. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and will bring back to life those who believed in Him as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.  We must open up the graves that are our lives without God.  Without God, we are like a rock that is inert, dead and lifeless.  God gives us life.  We must seek Jesus in order to obtain life for Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)!  May Jesus Christ be praised!


Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040217.cfm


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Here are reflections from holy writers:





But what was the message sent by his sisters? "Master, the one you love is ill." They did not say, "Come," for the intimation was all that was needed for one who loved. They did not venture to say, "Come and heal him," nor did they venture to say, "Command there, and it shall be done here."
And why would it be any different with them if, on these very grounds, the centurion's faith was commended? For he said, "I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word, and my servant shall be healed." These women said nothing like this, but only, "Master, the one you love is ill"—as if to say: It is enough that you know. For you are not one that loves and then abandons.

— St. Augustine
(354 - 430)

Source: "Tractates on the Gospel of John, 49.5," quoted in Joel C. Elowsky, ed., John 11–21, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 3.



Do you see her faith? Do you see her undoubting mind? She affirmed in two ways that he was God and the Giver of life, even though she was led astray on account of her simple nature: "If you had been here," she said. What are you saying, Martha? Your reasoning is false. For he was there and he has been and still is present everywhere.… "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." Do you see how she believed him to be God and able with his power to restrain death and to raise the dead? For she was saying, I know that if you had been here, death would not have prevailed.

— St. Andrew of Crete
(660 - 740)

Source: "Homily 8 on Lazarus," quoted in Joel C. Elowsky, ed., John 11–21, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 12.



When Martha professed her faith in Christ and wiped out by her reverent confession whatever blame there was in womanhood, a message is sent to Mary, because without Mary death could not be banished or life be restored. Let Mary come; let the one who bears the name of his mother come so that humanity might see that as Christ dwelt enclosed in the Virgin's womb, so too to that extent the dead will come forth from the underworld, the dead will come forth from the tombs.
— St. Peter Chrysologus
(380 - 450)

Source: "Sermon 64.2," quoted in Joel C. Elowsky, ed., John 11–21, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 18.









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