Reflections on Faith - Reflections on Easter - April 2007
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|April 23, 2007
EASTER VERSION OF PAY IT FORWARD
Dear friends. I’d like your permission to take ‘leave’ for a while. My wife and I are going to head south and spend time babysitting a couple young granddaughters. After that, we’re going to spend some ‘us’ time. We’ll be gone for a couple weeks. As Tom Bodet has said, “We’ll leave THE LIGHT on for you.” Below is a ‘reflection’ for the week of April 23rd. Blessings. See you in a couple weeks. Deacon Tom!
At the Easter vigil of 2006, I ended a much longer homily with a short message. In part, my weekend homily for the third week of Easter 2007 had a similar theme – about being sent. As I prepare to leave home and parish and begin a couple weeks of travel and vacation – I would like to share some words about how all of us are sent – we are dismissed at the end of each Mass. In the words of a recent book -- we are invited to Pay It Forward! Here is my version of that book.
- - - -
When Jesus was quite young… perhaps not yet 8 or so – one evening he was sitting at a table that his father Joseph had made. Jesus mentioned an idea to his mother Mary… "You see Mom, what I want to do is to get about twelve followers… And I plan to do something really special for each of them. I will give them something they couldn’t do or get on their own. And then when they ask how they can pay me back, I tell them – they don’t have to pay it back -- they have to Pay It Forward.
His mother looked up from her preparation of bread dough. “What do you mean – pay it forward?” And Jesus replied – the twelve people that I help – they will have to do something special. Each of them has to pass on something so powerful… so wonderful to twelve other people. I want each of them to do this.
So then 144 people get helped. Then those 144 people do something special to pass on to another twelve. Jesus’ fingers moved the beads of a counting tool that Joseph had made… Within a short time – it gets so big – as many as 248,832 people each get a wonderful gift that they couldn’t pay back…
His mother looked at him… “Well Jesus – you always have nice ideas – loving ideas. But don’t get your hopes up too high, okay?” “Now say your prayers and that’s all for tonight.”
- - - -
As I prepared to preach at the Easter Masses… I prayed and gathered materials. And one day I was meditating about the Easter Vigil Mass and the other Easter Masses. I thought about most all of us looking for something in our lives… most of us wanting to understand the love of Jesus… I was looking for guidance about what to say… what to preach that would challenge – but also would help.
I lifted my mind to the Lord… I saw him on the cross… and I said: “Jesus, what can I possibly say to your people this Easter season? How can we ever do anything to thank you for the gift of love you have shown us? How can we possibly pay you back for giving your life for us….” Now you may scoff – but a voice in my mind became very clear … I heard Jesus say: “You can say they don’t have to pay me back… Just tell them that I only ask them to please PAY IT FORWARD.” And now He’s waiting for you to agree to do this -- all you have to say is I WILL!
|April 16, 2007
EVERYTHING IS WRONG
I am not one to ‘forward’ emails – but I did receive one a while ago that says a lot about what has happened to us – and what has happened to Christianity in our country. I’d like to hear from you if this evokes any thoughts.
DID YOU KNOW?
As you walk up the steps to the building which houses the U.S. Supreme Court you can see near the top of the building a row of the world's law givers and each one is facing one in the middle who is facing forward
with a full frontal view - it is Moses and he is holding the Ten Commandments!
DID YOU KNOW?
As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak doors have
the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion of each door.
DID YOU KNOW?
As you sit inside the courtroom, you can see the wall, right above
where the Supreme Court judges sit, a display of the Ten Commandments!
DID YOU KNOW?
There are Bible verses etched in stone all over the Federal Buildings
and Monuments in Washington, D.C.
DID YOU KNOW?
James Madison, the fourth president, known as "The Father of Our
Constitution" made the following statement "We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
DID YOU KNOW?
Patrick Henry, that patriot and Founding Father of our country said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation
was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on
the Gospel of Jesus Christ".
DID YOU KNOW?
Every session of Congress begins with a prayer by a paid preacher,
whose salary has been paid by the taxpayer since 1777.
DID YOU KNOW?
Fifty-two of the 55 founders of the Constitution were members of the
established orthodox churches in the colonies.
DID YOU KNOW?
Thomas Jefferson worried that the Courts would overstep their authority and instead of interpreting the law would begin making law....an oligarchy....the rule of few over many.
DID YOU KNOW?
The very first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, said, "Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers."
I ASK YOU: How, then, have we gotten to the point that everything we have done for 220 years in this country is now suddenly wrong and unconstitutional?
|April 9, 2007
BORN AGAIN ON EASTER MONDAY
At our parish in the mountains, I preached over the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil). These are the three holiest days of the Church’s calendar year. All three days -- my theme revolved around love… and in a sense… about being born again to recognize that love… and to be transformed by it.
There is a wonderful Catholic Christian writer and speaker of these times: Ralph Martin. And in a book (published by Emmaus Press) entitled Fulfillment of all Desire – Ralph writes these words:
“And finally, it’s important to realize that there is only one choice; either to undergo complete transformation and enter heaven, or be eternally separated from God in hell. There are only two ultimate destinations, and if we want to enter heaven we must be made ready for the sight of God. Holiness isn’t an “option.” There are only saints in heaven; total transformation is not an “option” for those interested in that sort of thing, but is essential for those who want to spend eternity with God. Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb 2:14)”
From my Easter homily when I spoke about discovering (or in some cases re-discovering) the gifts given to us in our Baptism with water – in my own way, I encouraged us to pray for a new baptism – a Baptism in the Spirit. When that baptism happens to us – we can, like many of our evangelical brothers and sisters say that we are ‘born again.’ And as Ralph Martin suggests – we can’t be ambivalent about this idea of being holy – of crossing over and being transformed.
Gosh – there is so much to say that speaks to this. For example – the Red Sea is a symbol of our baptism… God’s people set free from slavery to sin – and crossing over to a new life – starting over again. And if you study Scripture – there is so much… so very much that happens related to water… water flowing from a rock… water turned to wine… Jesus and the woman at the well and promising water that will refresh forever… and water flowing from the side of Christ… How about those beautiful words, “Like the deer that yearns for running streams – so my soul is yearning for you, My God.
So I urge you to consider the beauty and the mystery that happened for each of us when we were baptized with water. We were given gifts then – and from those gifts, we look to be born again.
And if I may tie this short reflection to the readings for the Mass today – you’ll notice that in this first reading after Easter – there we find Peter after the Pentecost event. Imagine – just yesterday we celebrated Easter and already the Church gives us a reading about Peter on Pentecost. What happens? Peter is set on fire. Peter is, in a way, born again with the Baptism in the Spirit. You know how they all talked in tongues and converted many to Christ. Well you and I can have access to the power of the Holy Spirit – sharing in the glory of the Risen Christ – if we are but born again.
Lord Jesus – you walked the way of suffering and crucifixion – may we be born again to share in your glory.
|April 2, 2007
YOUNG PEOPLE, JOHN PAUL & WYD
April 2nd, 2005 was yet another day that angels wept -- the anniversary of the passing of John Paul II. My reflection is a tribute
to John Paul, 'the Great.' I share from the experience and eyes of a few young people who saw and loved and prayed with JPII at
World Youth Day in Toronto.
"We had been told that when he landed, he would exit from the plane on a lift - away from the eyes of the camera and of people.
He was, of course, an old man. but on this summer day, I watched an old man descend the stairs, step by painful step, down to
ground level. And then I watched him reach out to a child and then to a man in a wheelchair. and then we heard his faltering
words. and I wept. I was overwhelmed by Love.''
This description from Cheryl Ann Smith, a visitor to World Youth Day in Canada - these words describe the arrival in
Toronto of the Apostle of our times...Our Holy Father Pope John Paul. This man - this anointed, elevated, holy man has done so
much to demonstrate what it means to be ''one who is sent'' - an apostle. John Paul has often given an example of carrying the cross
as Christ did. He has allowed nothing to prevent his paschal walk...''And do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot
kill the soul,'' even all the hairs of your head are counted.
Pope John Paul has loved - really loved all peoples - but especially the young. He wrote a book, a masterpiece of philosophy
and theology - it is called Love and Responsibility. In it, he details in a layered, easy-to-follow fashion, what it is to
be a child of God - and how we are to love one another. It is my understanding that he wrote this book from his own pastoral
experience as a priest, bishop and all-the-time minister to young people.
You may remember a story I've shared with you. about a rather worldly, almost hedonistic young African, Marcel Zibognon. He found
himself in France during an earlier World Youth Day. he was so overpowered by the love and awesome presence of the Holy Father,
that Marcel came back into the Church and the Sacraments - he went to college and eventually became a Dominican Priest. Those who
have heard him preach know what awesome work God has been doing in Father Marcel.
I have read several accounts of young people who visited World Youth Day - recently completed in Toronto. One experience that
I saw repeated was that of tears. crying with joy. Young people going to Confession...unburdening themselves of the sins of these
centuries. Another experience I saw repeated is patience...food was hard to get to because of long lines...outside toilets with long,
long lines. Canadian hosts who aren't known for being that patient...they put up with overflowing streetcars and other strained
facilities. Another woman, Elaine Dalton wrote of her WYD experiences and described the opening day welcoming ceremony for the Holy
Father as thousands and thousands Clapping, Cheering and Crying...
The Holy Father seemed to bring enough patience and love to inspire the young people and their hosts. Another thing that I read was
of the great numbers of young people visiting the booths and tables where various religious and lay apostolate organizations had
literature available in multiple languages - the words on the brochures and literature all said, ''Come - follow me.''
Here are a few selected words from the Holy Father's closing remarks at WYD in Toronto.
Dear Young People, on a hillside near the lake of Galilee, Jesus' disciples listened to his gentle and urgent voice; as
gentle as the landscape of Galilee itself, as urgent as a call to choose between life and death, between truth and falsehood.
The Lord spoke words of life that would echo forever in the hearts of his followers. Today he is speaking the same words to you,
the young people of Toronto and Ontario, of the whole of Canada, of the United States, of the Caribbean, of Spanish-speaking
America and Portuguese-speaking America, of Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Listen to the voice of Jesus in the depths of
your hearts! His words tell you who you are as Christians. They tell you what you must do to remain in his love. You are called
to be transformed. ''Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light'' (Eph 5:14), says Saint Paul. The
''spirit of the world'' offers many false illusions and parodies of happiness. There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the
darkness that enters young people's souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love. The
greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom
by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility. The Lord is calling you to choose between these two voices competing
for your souls. That decision is the substance and challenge of World Youth Day. Why have you come together from all parts of
the world? To say in your hearts: ''Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life'' (Jn 6:68).
Jesus -- the intimate friend of every young person -- has the words of life.
Just as Christ changed the world, John Paul II helped to change the world. Our world will never be the same. Isn't that what
Apostles do? Lord, we thank you for the Church, the Holy Father...and the power of your love found in those who are not afraid...of
those who know that you have counted every hair on our heads.