Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid!

Putting this story in context, we know that Jesus had heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, was beheaded and given to a woman who danced for the king. Jesus who was grieving, withdrew to a deserted place where people tracked him down. Jesus was moved with pity when he got out of the boat. He taught them, but the disciples were very anxious and wanted him to send them away to get food. Jesus asked them to give them some food yourselves. The disciples complained, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have.” Jesus asked them to “bring them here.” Was he asking them to bring to him the 5 loaves or the people? He then transformed the five loaves into enough to feed 5000 men, not including the woman and children.

When I was ordained 27 years ago I was quite nervous and my homilies were a mess. No comment! Anyways, the bishop called me into his office about this issue. I assured him that I was well prepared, but my anxieties took possession of me. The bishop suggested I use a story or humor to start the homily. I told the bishop it was a great idea, but I did’t know any stories. The bishop offered me an example, “I begin sometimes saying, ‘I am in love with a beautiful woman… and her name is Mary!’” I thought that was a great idea and told the bishop so. The next Sunday, I went into the pulpit with great confidence and peace. I couldn’t wait to share the Good News. I began my homily like this, “The bishop is in love with a beautiful woman!” After a moment for it to sink in, “But I forget her name!” Needless to say, I was called into the office by the good bishop, but he was merciful to me.

Whenever we fail to be calm, we can make huge mistakes. Jesus asked the disciples to get in the boat at first, but then he began to ask us to get out of the boat in the storms of life. We can all relate to Peter. When we get anxious, we stop seeing the persons before us, and focus only on our fears, real or imagined.

It is like this boat that we can imagine being in together. What happens if someone points out that there is a whale on the starboard side? Yes, everyone runs to the other side and before long, we forget about the whale and focus only on the fact that we are dipping deep into the water. We react and run to the other side. This continues until we capsize or see Jesus walking on the water. Jesus calms and encourages us, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” And yet our terror and fear blind us. We start focusing on the anxiety and depression like it is an illness. Like Peter, we doubt that Jesus knows cares, or can cure our mental turmoil, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus simply says, “Come.” We know his voice.

So like Peter, we get out of the boat and walk on the water until we lose our focus because our addictions, financial woes, relationship problems or children floundering terrorize us. While we are sinking, we cry out, “Jesus, save me!”

What irritates us is that Jesus does catch us, but he says those sometimes dreaded words, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Those words sometimes sting. We forget we have much to learn. We forget that we must constantly step out in faith to learn more about God, to fly on our faith, and walk on water like Jesus. After all, we are created in the likeness of God.

This reminds me of the story of the farmers who found an abandoned eagle egg, and then placed it in a chicken coop. The eagle hatched and was adopted by the chickens. He grew up to peck, scratch, cackle and run around like his adopted chicken siblings… but he did not learn to fly. One day, after a very long time, a beautiful golden eagle flew above them. The shadow caught the little eagle by surprise and he looked up. He hollered out to his fellow chickens, “What is that?” The other chickens said, “O that is an eagle, the king and queen of all the birds. They fly and rule the skies. Us? We are just a bunch of chickens.” The little chicken that looked like an eagle simply said, “Oh.” And then he went back to pecking and scratching and cackling. He died a chicken, for that is really all that he was.

IMG_6341          You see no chicken could teach the little fellow how to fly. Only a disciple who walks on water like Jesus can show others how to do likewise. Often we resort to the behaviors of those around us, because we don’t know how to be kind, merciful, compassionate and loving like Jesus. We can only learn to fly and walk on water like Jesus if we have faith. But if the anxieties and fears overwhelm us and blind us, we simply cry out to Jesus. He immediately stretches out his hand saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” All of us must not only learn to walk on water, but we must learn how to fly like the Eagles. Jesus is our true flight instructor and “lifesaver”. Isn’t that Good News?

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ August 13, 2017

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1 Kings 19:9-13 ~ After the wind, earthquake and fire…there was a tiny whispering sound.

Psalm 85 ~ Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Paul’s letter to the Romans 9:1-5 ~ Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie;

Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33~ After Jesus fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

                  Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened: and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

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“Rise and do not be afraid!”

Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord

6 August 2017

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. His face shone like the sun and his clothing became white as light. And Behold, Moses and Elijah appeared conversing with Jesus. Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord it is good that we are here. If you wish I can make three tents; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”   While Peter was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they went prostrate and were very much afraid. Jesus came to them and touched them saying, “Rise and do not be afraid.” When they raised their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus alone. Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

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IMG_5979Every time we come to the Eucharist, we go up the mountain and experience the transfiguration and the glory of God. Sometimes our clouds of anxiety, depression, fear, addictions or worldly affairs prevent us from seeing the love of God. That is so sad.

I am a licensed mental health counselor and I counsel part time at a psychiatric hospital in Jacksonville. Many of the people have serious addictions that require treatment plans and a commitment to sobriety. It is like some of the things that we fast from during lent. Many of us give up sugar with a secret benefit of losing weight. There is nothing wrong with that, except after Lent we begin to realize that nothing has changed and it sometimes gets worse. We relapse and fail to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

When we listen to Jesus and do a fast that he suggests, we would be foolish to stop that fast after Easter Sunday. God is very clear in saying, “This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly; setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” In other words, Jesus is taking us up the mountain with Peter, James and John to undergo a reality check. At Queen of Peace in Gainesville they say: “The Mass never ends, we take it with us. Thanks be to God.” After Mass today, we are changed forever. We have heard the Word of God! When an addict quits drugs, alcohol, or internet porn, they can never go back. If they do, we call it relapse. Most addicts go through many relapses before they find total peace and sobriety. We do it one day at a time and humbly admit our weakness.

In order to heal we ask addicts to go to anonymous meetings (90 meetings in 90 days). This is so they can replace a bad habit with a good habit. (Lent and Easter combined can transfigure us, but most of us stop after 40 days and neglect the 50 days of Easter to listen to Jesus for 90 days). It is like seat-belts. Why do we wear seat-belts? Some will say safety, but when I was a kid we didn’t have seat-belts in the car. We knew wearing a seat-belt increased the chances of surviving an accident, but we didn’t take it serious until the introduction of an annoying ding, blue lights in our rear-view mirror, or slogans like, “click it or ticket”. The mountain transfiguration with Jesus is a wake-up call to take this Eucharist seriously, to listen to Jesus. Eternal life depends on it.

When I look at the group of men or women before me, they are detoxed from their destructive behavior. They are balanced. Sometimes I play my flute and ask them to breathe in… and breathe out… After I play, it seems that their anxiety and depression are momentarily balanced and they seem quite normal. I believe they are normal. We all need depression to sleep and we all need anxiety to wake up. It is when they are out of balance that trouble snowballs. They need to take this calm and serenity out into the world even when they are triggered or tempted. We must stay calm when we encounter the Cross.

We are like a little toddler having a temper tantrum because Mom is weaning the child off of breast milk. The key to recovery of any addiction, including getting into bad relationships, is to wean our selves off. Even if an alcoholic misses an AA meeting, he or she will be fine if he simply puts on the seat-belt of sobriety in the morning. All of us need to be weaned off of worldly things and mean it when we say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We need to go up the mountain and then listen to God asking us to listen to his Beloved Son.

Beloved, this Eucharist must somehow further the mission of Jesus and not our own pursuits. Our partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus must always be good news for the poor, the oppressed, the homeless and the addicted. Jesus in me tells me to continue to visit those imprisoned by addictions and to be an instrument of God’s peace to console, to understand and to love. In the book, The Imitation of Christ, we hear, “Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. He has many seekers of consolation, but few of tribulation. He finds many companions at His feasting, but few of His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him; few are willing to endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His Passion. Many reverence His miracles, but few will follow the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus as long as no adversities befall them. But if Jesus hides Himself and leaves them but for a brief time, they begin to complain or become overly despondent in mind.” (Thomas A Kempis)

Jesus is trying to wean us so that we too hear God’s voice, “You are my Beloved”

We all must wrestle with God from time to time, just like a child being weaned wrestles with its mother.  So when Jesus comes to us and touches us, let’s listen to him…

“Rise and do not be afraid!”

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Daniel 7:9-14 ~ As the visions during the night continued, I saw:

Psalm 97 ~ The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory

2 Peter 1:16-19 ~ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.

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Best Baked Bread Ever!

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
22-23 July 2017
St. Monica & St. John the Evangelist Catholic Communities

Wisdom 12: 13-19 ~ And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.
Psalm 86 ~ Beloved, you are good and forgiving.
St. Paul to Romans 8:26-27 ~ The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
Gospel according to Matthew 13:24-43 ~ Jesus proposed another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.” He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”

Jesus goes on to teach that in the first parable, “The one who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son o Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Jesus did not explain who the slaves of the Master were. Who do you believe are the slaves? Jesus tells us that the harvesters are the angels, which means that is not any of us. I am certainly not an angel.
My hunch is that the slaves are those of us that are ministers of the Word and the Eucharist. The good seed are the baptized. St Paul has told us in Philippians that Jesus took the form of a slave, something to be grasped.” So we priests and you ministers and volunteers of St. Monica and St. John are slaves, something to understand, something to ponder. We ask Jesus what to do with the weeds that seem to be in heaven. I am pondering writing a book called, “Mosquitoes in Heaven”!
Beloved, what if the mustard seed is the church of St. Monica? Surely it is the smallest of parishes that was sown by Jesus in 1858. It survived a civil war and so much more. But when we grow, we have become the largest parish in Palatka where people from all over Florida and parts of the States have come to her branches and dwell here. St. John the Evangelist in Interlachen is the same. People are fed through the food distributions and ministries to the poor. People come in and rest within the bountiful branches of our beautiful but simple sanctuary.
I love the parable of the yeast where God is portrayed as a woman and Jesus is the yeast. Look at this unleavened bread with no yeast (hold the unconsecrated bread). This is what we use at Mass. It really is rather tasteless and, well, flat. But this is the wheat gathered into the barn. God takes the gift of Jesus and mixes him into all of us through the Word and at Communion until we all rise together as the whole Body of Christ resurrected. Wow!
Now this is real Good News, don’t you think?
Let’s make the Best Bread we have ever eaten!!!

 

 

“My Son, you are the sacrifice!” God

IMG_539814th Sunday in Ordinary Time

9 July 2017  ~ St. Monica & St. John the Evangelist Catholic Communities

Zechariah 9:9-10 ~ “See, your king shall come to you, a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.

Psalm 145 ~ I will praise your name forever, my king and my God..

St. Paul to Romans 8:9-13 ~ You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Gospel according to Matthew 10:37-42 ~ At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

                  Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

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2000 years before Jesus, Abraham was asked to carry a pretty heavy cross even before he knew what crucifixion was. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac who was just about 12 years old. Isaac was more than willing to go with his Father alone, like any child would love to go on an adventure with their Dad. He just didn’t know he would be the one who would be killed!

When they got to the place of sacrifice after three exciting days, Isaac was confused. His father said very little and there was something missing. The “little one” was beginning to understand hidden things. Abraham told the servants that he and the boy were going up the mountain to pray and that they would come back to them.

So Abraham put the wood for the fire on Isaac’s shoulders while he carried the fire and the knife. Isaac labored and was burdened with his yoke. Abraham also labored and was burdened with an emotional and spiritual yoke. Have you ever felt burdened like this?

As the wood shifted on Isaac’s shoulders and he nearly fell over, he called out, “Father!” Abraham answered, “Yes my son.” Thinking that his father might be forgetful in his old age, Isaac asked, “Dad, here is the wood on my shoulders and you have the fire. Where is the sacrifice?”

Abraham answered, “My son, God will provide.”

Isaac trusted his father, but must have been paralyzed with fear when his father started to tie his hands and feet and place him on the wood he carried. This was terrifying, but at the last second, his father lowered the knife to plunge into his son’s heart.

He unties Isaac. And then grabs a ram caught in the thicket.

Fast forward 2000 years. It is the Passover feast when all Jews sacrifice and feast on a lamb. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is caught in the thicket in the Garden of Gethsemane. The burden of his emotional cross is crushing. Many of his disciples have abandoned him, one has betrayed him, and his closest friend is about to deny him three times. His physical cross would be horrifying.

Jesus cries out on that very dark night, “Father!” God answers, “Yes my beloved son.” Jesus questions God, “Father, here is the wood of the Cross I am about to carry and here is the fire of the people’s anger… Where is the sacrifice?”

God, the Father answered, “My beloved Son, you ARE the sacrifice.”

Jesus answered, “Okay. Not my will, but your will be done.”

Let us ask ourselves if our burdens and weariness come from anxieties and worries over worldly attachments. God does provide a lighter load in the shape of a cross, but Mercy and love for others lightens the load.

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Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

IMG_6409You, the beautiful people of St. Monica and St. John communities have invited me to dine with you. You have set me up with a little room with a bed, table, chair, lamp, computer, and Putnam County hospitality in order that I may stay with you. You are wonderful stewards of your community, love for the poor, faithfulness, small faith communities, thirst for wisdom, and Eucharist. All of us have been baptized into Christ Jesus. We were baptized into his death. Here, we learn to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus.

Bishop Felipe has invited me to stay awhile with this community just like Father Amar was urged to do three years ago. And so I have come to stay with you, break bread with you, and love ya’ll.

Jesus has told me that whoever receives me, receives Him. And whoever receives Jesus receives the one who sent him… God alone. Amazing!

Since I received First Communion, we have come up to this table with this short prayer on our lips. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

And yet we often love father or mother, son or daughter more than Jesus. We don’t always take up our crosses and follow after Jesus. We are not worthy of Jesus. I certainly am aware that I am not worthy to be your pastor. But here is the really Good News: If we give only one cup of cold water to one of God’s little ones to drink, we will not lose our reward. We are worthy because Jesus says so. His blood and love make us worthy. What a punch line!

Thank you for your cold cup of water and oh so much more. I see Jesus in you.

Once we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus we receive Jesus and God into our bodies and souls. Potential converts look at us and say, “See how they love. I want what they have!” Then we give others the opportunity to invite Jesus into their souls and give Jesus a cold cup of water. It is too easy to focus on our setbacks like our crosses, our abusive upbringings, our brokenness, our war stories, or our addictions. These are setbacks. But if we can focus on the truth that we are God’s sons and daughters, then the cross we carry becomes our joy and Good News today! We cry out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responds to our kindness, our cold up of water; “Today, my beloved, you will be with me in Paradise.”

As Father Amar has reminded us so often, “Why are you so stressed, if I am not? I am not attached to anything, just as long as I am with the Lord.” We are not only with the Lord, but the Lord is within us! O my!

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St. Monica & St. John the Evangelist

IMG_5403I am so excited to be called to minister to the beautiful people of St. Monica in Palatka and St. John the Evangelist in Interlachen. I begin this Saturday, July 1st. It will be the 13th week in Ordinary Time. Here are the readings:

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 4:8-16 ~ “I know that Elisha is a holy man of God. Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that when he comes to us he can stay there.”

Psalm 89 ~ Forever I will sing, the goodness of the Lord.

St. Paul to Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 ~ Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? …If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.

Gospel according to Matthew 10:37-42 ~ Jesus said to his Apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds one’s life will lose it and whoever loses one’s life for my sake will find it.

     “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, that one will surely not lose one’s reward.”

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If you are in the neighborhood, come join us. I will be preaching at all the Masses.

St. Monica Masses:  Saturday Vigil @ 4:30 pm, Sunday at 9 am

St. John the Evangelist: Sunday @ 11:30 am and 2 pm (Spanish)

 

It has been a whirlwind since I left Queen of Peace Catholic Community in Gainesville.

~Wedding of Clay and Alicia at the Cathedral of St. Augustine

Graduation of my niece Rachael from my Alma Mater in Daytona Beach

~ Faith and sharing with the theme of BLESSED< BEAUTIFUL< BROKEN<BELOVED

Ordination to Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle of our classmate at St. Meinrad pre-theolgy class…

~ Ordination of a fellow Coast Guar officer to Richmond diocese ~ Father Miguel

 

Funeral of my beloved classmate and priest… Greg Ryan

And then a trip to Aix-en-Provence FRance and Paris… Normandy, Mont St. Michel, and Liseaux

We have seen the Lord!!!

IMG_53703rd Sunday of Easter, 2017 ~ I must decrease…

Gospel: Matthew 28:1-10

So Jesus went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and give it to them, but vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

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None of us recognize Jesus at first. We are usually caught up in our narrow vision. It’s like texting while driving and not seeing how much harm we can cause because we were so focused on our immediate emotional gratification. We don’t see those we harm because we focus on our own fears, pain or broken relationships. However, when we accept Jesus calling us foolish, then we are on our way to burning hearts of love within. We will see while the world around us remains in darkness.

Jesus is all around us, but we are distracted with our phones, pads, addictions and fears. It will take a severe power outage or satellite crash to get our attention. I remember when I was in Puerto Rico in 1996. This was before my life was enslaved to a cell phone (we didn’t have them). A hurricane was forecast. I was on the base, but was sent home because they thought the coast was clear. In fact the worst side slammed us. I lived on the bottom of a two-story house on the side of a hill. My bed was levitating and all power had gone out. When the morning came, there was quite a bit of devastation and my friends had to rescue me. But there was the most profound silence that opened me to the whisper of God. There was no TV or telephone so I was open.

For two weeks, there was no power and no sound of electricity. I could hear a car coming miles away if it could get by the debris. It was wonderful and hot and sticky. I loved it. I prayed, I sang and found myself sleeping better. My prayer was my food.

I wonder what it sounded like when Jesus broke the bread in Emmaus? O Beloved, God is alive. We are already living in heaven. Remember what he said to Martha at the death of her brother. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me and dies, will live. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Have we a chance to even be open to Jesus walking with us, or will be in the middle of a television show or text or internet? Mother Teresa of Calcutta shared a prayer with us. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace. While they two were sharing about what happened in the breaking of bread, Jesus came into the room with locked doors and said, “Peace be with you!” They were very startled. Jesus might startle us a number of times. (Stay with Us!)

Jesus asks a few questions of us today. How will you answer these questions?:

“What are you discussing along the way?”

“What are you hungry for? What are you thirsty for?”

“What sort of things stop you or distract you from this mission of God?”

Let us be prepared for Jesus to call us foolish. If they had recognized Jesus, he wouldn’t have walked with them on that day. Jesus comes when we don’t recognize him. Wasn’t it a really great day?

Jesus was recognized in the breaking of the bread because they saw the wounds in his hands as he broke the bread. His power was unleashed.

If the power goes out around you, simply allow the power with in you to kick on. Those two ran back to Jerusalem seven miles without any streetlights. The Light was within them burning brightly. They had incredible energy to walk over 14 miles in one day. Jesus is the Power of the world, the Prince of peace. Let us rejoice and be glad.

I am so glad that Jesus has called me a fool, because it woke me up to a joy I cannot contain. “I have seen the Lord!”

So God made a better way

When the moment was right he sent his own Son

And he opened the way so that everyone

Could have hope and believe that when time was done

He’d be able to make us one

 

Now I understand that there is a key

It’s Jesus in me a reality

That God is in Christ, and that Christ’s in me

That with faith I see what is unseen.

 

To hear with my heart, to see with my soul

To be guided by a hand I cannot hold

To trust in a way that I cannot see

That’s what faith must be!!!!

(Lyrics and song by Michael Card)

Have you seen the Lord?!!!

Divine Mercy Sunday

dscf9385Gospel: John 20:19-31

On the evening of the first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they say the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

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This is Divine Mercy Sunday. We give away mercy, just like Jesus. Beyond locked doors and fear, we proclaim, “Peace be with you” to our enemies and betrayers. Have you?

What a wonderful day it is. If we forgive others we are forgiven.

Jesus breathes on us today, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We are given wisdom, knowledge, understanding, courage, counsel, reverence and a wonder and awe. Jesus tells us that we will be known by our fruit. We are like trees that offer medicine every month of the year. God continues to replenish our fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, self-control and faithfulness.

In some ways we become like the two on the road to Emaus when they didn’t recognize Jesus. Jesus says to them, “How foolish you are. How slow of heart. Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer and die and be raised. Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets he interpreted every scriptural passage that referred to him. When they urged him to stay with them, they finally recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Let us all become foolish in order to meet Jesus on the Way.

Let us be fools for Christ. Let us be joy. Let us be instruments of God’s peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love. Where there is injury, let us be pardon, despair to hope, darkness to light, sadness to joy. O Divine Master of Mercy, grant that we might not so much be consoled as to console, not so much to be understood but to understand, not so much to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Mercy Sunday is about looking within our own souls and sharing the mercy and love we have been given by Jesus when he broke through our locked doors.

We not only hunger for the Body and Blood of Jesus, our souls are thirsting for our Beloved God of Mercy and Love.

We receive God’s gifts gratefully. (Jesus and His Spirit)

We cultivate them responsibly. (You will know them by their fruits)

Share them lovingly in justice with others. (They shared everything in common)

And return them with increase to the Lord. (See how they love! People joined us.)

Jesus is like a rescue diver. “Don’t grab me!” If we grab, he will kick us, and go deep, but we will eventually learn how to swim. If we stop breathing, he will gift us with his breath, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” Let us receive Jesus in our midst.

Let us receive his breath…. Breathe in….. Breathe out…..

Good News!!!!!

The best Easter ever!

And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow…. Gospel according to St. Matthew 28:1-10

The Magi who came seeking the Messiah were overjoyed at seeing the star of Jesus, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Women who came to the tomb seeking Jesus the crucified were not expecting an angel with the appearance of lightning. After seeing the angel of the Lord, the women went away from the empty tomb fearful yet overjoyed. But then Jesus greeted them as they ran. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage like the Magi did. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of humility, surrender and love. Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

Here I was in Fallujah, Iraq on Christmas night 2004, I was exhausted, beat up and depleted. I had celebrated about 19 Masses in three days. It was rainy and cold with broken glass all around me. A 19 year old Marine on lookout was unable to receive communion and asked for me to bring Jesus to him. I almost said no, but here I was. He was fearful yet overjoyed at seeing me with the Eucharist. We didn’t know that the battle was over. My homily was the same for every Mass and Communion service. “If this is not the best Christmas ever, then something is wrong.” The Marine looked at me from the mud, death and broken glass as if I was crazy. Even though I truly believed that every day living and believing in Jesus makes it the best ever, my hope was frail and despair was building. My joy was on life-support.

This young Marine reverently opened his grimy hands to receive the Body of Christ. I thought of Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the crèche and on the cross. As I began to sing O Holy Night, which is really an Easter hymn of resurrection, the Marine sang louder and louder in an operatic voice. Could the whole world hear this Marine? With our eyes closed, tears streamed down my face and soul. I was no longer afraid. When I opened my eyes and saw the Marine radiant with face awash in tears, he gave me a smile and simply said, “Yep, Padre, this is truly the best Christmas ever!” We had approached Jesus, embraced his feet, and did him homage. We offered him gifts of innocents lost, broken minds, and love. Jesus simply said, “Do not be afraid! Tell my brothers and sisters the Good News! You will see me in the Eucharist!” And now today is the day that springs from the best Christmas ever. It must truly be the best Easter Ever…

Some people are still trapped in the rubble of life and some, like you, with the help of God, are raised from the rubble and rebuilt with strength, courage and patient hope. We have the choice, will we step out of the tomb new and renewed, resurrected in our lives, or will we be tempted to return to the tomb with our same old perspective, and, like shackles, take them again into our life’s experience?

This is the atmosphere of the tomb, but Jesus wants to instead, open the way of life, the way of joy and the way to lasting peace. The light has conquered darkness; hosanna to God in the highest!  ( Check out the short video clip which will inspire)

Best Easter Ever

I pray for each and everyone of us that we might be filled up, filled up with the joy of salvation, filled up with the joy of justice, filled up with the joy of the Sunday experience so that our lives speak something, so that our lives mean something, so that our lives have a purpose, so that our lives have an impact. Jesus is the light that comes into our world, his words echo through the Gospels, may we remain young as they also echo in our lives fully alive with strength, courage, wonder, awe and hope, as Good News.

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