Saturday, March 28, 2015

Palm Sunday - Passion of Our Lord according to Mark - "We are . . ."

Today we stand at the threshold of the holiest week in the Church, Palm Sunday.  Today we celebrate our Lord’s triumphal arrival in the city of Jerusalem.  We stand by the roadside waving our palms; shouting, ‘Hosanna’!  We celebrate our Lord Jesus’ arrival; our deliverer, come to release us from the bonds of oppression; to overthrow the harsh rule of our conquerors, to cast off our chains of slavery.  We cheer his coming because we desire to be free!

Today we read the gospel of Mark, the Passion of our Lord.  At the beginning of Holy Week, it is our glimpse into the future of what is coming, of what will be: of what must be.  It is quite fitting that we each take our part in the proclamation of the Word of God.  Our participation in the reading is more than taking a part in a play, like an actor on the stage.  We each live our part in our Lord’s Passion.  We are the Narrator. We are the Voice: We are Peter, we are Judas, and we are Pilate.  And especially, we are the Crowd.  
We know the story of our Lord’s Passion and are called to retell it to all we meet, so they too may know Jesus’ sacrifice and glory.  We recall His triumphant arrival to cheers and glad tidings.  His moving through agony and suffering.  His ending in humiliation and an undignified death on a cross.  We cannot be called Christian if we are not familiar with this terrible narration.  

We echo the voice of Peter, professing our love for Christ, only to deny Him through sin and disobedience.  Our actions speak more forcefully than our words, when we fail to live fully our life in Christ.

As Judas, we know our Lord’s voice and hear Him teach the Truth of God’s love and law.  We hear the Word calling us to place God first in our hearts and of loving others, as we are loved, but we turn deaf to the Truth when we place our wants, our needs and our desires before our love of God, the common good of all in our love for all our brothers and sisters.

We are Pilate, when we deny the Truth of Christ out of fear of the opinions of others.  When we fail to speak out against oppression, against hatred, against injustice: we side with the oppressors, with those who hate and those who profit from injustice.  We are Pilate, when we fail to stand up for the poor, the stranger and the marginalized who suffer the indignities of inequality and discrimination – those unrecognized and persecuted children of God.  In our fear of going against the prevailing and popular views of our peers – we, like Pilate, wash our hands of the Truth of Jesus Christ.

We are the Crowd – shouting and cheering our Lord, when we hope and believe that He will bring us our desire for freedom and liberation.  We celebrate and adore Him for all the good things He brings us that correspond with our heart’s desires.  But when we discover that there is a cost and a risk; a sacrifice that needs to be made, changes will be required of us – we turn against Him, against His message; rejecting His ministry.  

Placing first, our comforts of the now, we raise our voices against the promise of the ever-after; counting the price of sacrifice too high.  What seemed so good before is now looked upon as too costly, too difficult, too hazardous; too unpopular.  

We reject it.
We deny it.
We vilify it.
We crucify it!

Our Christian identity is inextricably tied to Jesus’ Passion.  We cannot have Jesus without the suffering.  We cannot have Christ without the cross.  It is by His death that we have Life. It is in His suffering that we gain our freedom.  It is in His Body and Blood, brutalized and poured out, that we acquire grace.  It is in Him crucified that we receive God’s promise of forgiveness and mercy, of everlasting peace and joy, and Eternal Life. ~ Amen.

Deacon Don

Thursday, March 26, 2015

5th Sunday in Lent - John 12: 20-33 - Interesting Times

There is a saying; erroneously attributed to the Chinese, that goes, 

“May you live in interesting times.”

I believe that the present time is as interesting as any other time that has ever gone before.

Jeremiah lived in an age where the Jewish people were being pressured by the king of Assyria to follow false gods.  Despite their efforts to remain true to God, they became overwhelmed by the constant pressures to conform to the prevailing culture.  Their young people were led away from faith in God and the people were threatened and punished for failing to worship the idols of their conquerors.  Over time the faithfulness of the Jews weakened; becoming almost forgotten among them.  These were interesting times for the people of God.

Jeremiah struggled against weak leaders of the Jewish community who, for political expediency and survival, compromised with the people’s relationship with God.  They placed their own interests above the good of God’s chosen people; leading them away from their faithfulness to God.

Jeremiah relentlessly reminded the people that their survival depended on their relationship with God and remaining faithful to the covenant He made with them.  But the people continued to be led astray; turning away from faith.  In their hard-heartedness they made excuses: justifying sin to keep the comforts and pleasures of their new age among strange gods.  

Jeremiah saw that a change of heart was needed among the people so they could break away from these bad shepherds to return to God.  He foresaw that God would make a new covenant with the people, so they no longer needed to rely on leaders who placed their own benefits above the good of the people.  God would reveal Himself directly to His people; giving them the intellect and willpower to know Him, so they may remain faithful.  

God’s voice spoke directly in the hearts’ of all His people; breaking their stony hearts so they responded with desire to be with Him; remaining faithful.  In His love and mercy, He forgave their transgressions and remember not their past sinful ways.  He renewed their hearts; making them clean, so they became His people.

Lent is a time of reflection and repentance.  It is also a time of sacrifice.  In Lent, we mirror sacrifice in the things we give up, but we are called to an even greater sacrifice. 

God gives us an intellect to know Him.  He calls us to be truly honest in our reflection on those false idols we have allowed to grow in our own hearts.  This knowledge of God calls us to repent the idols of our own making that have turned our hearts to stone; moving us away from our loving relationship with God.  

In His divine mercy and love, God gives us willpower to sacrifice our selfish allegiance to the present age: with its false idols that the ungodly have persuaded us to follow. Those who, for political expedience, self-interest, power and control, extol the comforts, conveniences and pleasures of this world; hardening our hearts against God.  They, by enticement of the evil-one, work to create a relentless noise, attempting to drown out the voice of God.

In His divine mercy and love, God’s voice whispers to us in the cracks of our stony hearts; calling us to repentance; forgiving the sins of all those who hear Him and respond; seeking new – clean hearts.  

God’s promise of salvation is for all who make sacrifice; dying to the pleasures and comforts of this world, so we may rise with Christ to our new life; returning in faith and love to God, our Father.

“If today you hear God’s voice harden not your hearts.”

Deacon Don

5th Sunday in Lent - 3rd Scrutiny - It takes a community of believers . . .

In death, Lazarus hears the voice of Jesus and responds; – returning to life.  We too have heard the voice of Jesus calling us to: “Come Out!”  
Come out of the darkness  
Come out of grip of death 
Come out of the world of sin and corruption
Come out of the tomb of despair and desolation 
Come out - into the Light of Christ – into Life eternal and - the loving embrace of God.  
Be alive - live in peace: live in joy!  
Be free from the binding cloths of sin and sorrow.  
Come out – to live in the perfection of God’s love.

In sin, we too were dead, like Lazarus, - but, like Lazarus, though dead in sin were able to hear the Word of God, - the voice of Jesus - calling us to us – “Come Out” and respond.  

How sweet the sound that stirred our hearts.  We moved toward His voice – a sound, so pure and inviting – even in our sinfulness - we could not resist!  
We responded to His voice – 
We emerged from our dark and lonely place, where the evil-one enticed us by the temptations of worldly pleasures.  The corrupter lured us away from the grace of our baptism – down into the dark emptiness of sin – to languish; despairing of hope and freedom.

Then we heard the voice of Jesus calling us to, “Come out.”  We too struggled, like Lazarus, within our death shroud; emerging from the tomb still wrapped in the trappings of our sinfulness.  We hopped and staggered – swayed and lurched; struggling within that cloth that bound us: struggling to be free, but held in place, struggling against the whispered temptations of the evil-one, who still seeks to hold us within his deadly grasp.

As we emerged from our tomb of sin, Jesus greeted and welcomed us.  He called to the others nearby to unbind us from the cloths wrapped around us: our outer deathly attire of sin to reveal the inner body come alive through His Word.  Our brothers and sisters, at Christ’s bidding, worked together to free us from our bonds to walk among them in His Light. 

Through God’s love and merciful sacrament of reconciliation, we move back into the Light and Life of Christ.  We are Prodigal children, beloved of God, received into the Father’s loving embrace.  He calls for celebrations in heaven at our return- for:
We who were lost are now found – 
We who were dead are now alive!  
We, who lived in darkness and have re-emerged into His Light of new Life.
We, like Lazarus, came back to life through the call of Christ and the helping hands of the community of believers.  

Jesus continues to use the community to help bring about the Kingdom of God.  He calls each of us to ‘unbind them and let them go free’ – as we witness to the graces of our own baptism and discipleship, so we may help free others, who respond to His call, to “Come out!” from the deadly grip of sin to live in new Life in the Light of Christ.  

As disciples, we are the called and blessed - people of God, who do the will of the Father through:
Our prayers, 
Our lives of Christian fidelity 
Our active participation in the life of the Church 
Our faithful witness of the Gospel to the world
And our sharing the love we receive from God through Jesus with all others.

So, let us rejoice in this Gospel message: witnessing Christ calling - “Come Out!” to all our brothers and sisters who are dead through sin.  Let us be His hands; helping others to unwind the cloths that bind them, so they too may walk free in the Light of Life with Jesus and be welcomed into the Kingdom of God, our Father. ~Amen.

Deacon Don

Monday, March 16, 2015

4th Sunday in Lent - 2nd Scrutiny - Man Born Blind

Jesus anointed the man's eyes with spit and clay
Today we celebrate the 2nd Scrutiny in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults for our Elect.  In preparation for entry into the Church through the sacraments of initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, they have studied the Word of God, heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and discovered the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer, scripture and tradition.  

The ‘Three Scrutinies’ are part of our Elect’s final step of preparation, wherein they are purified and enlightened.  They are purified by the Word of God; turning away from their former lives in darkness and enlightened by the Light of Christ, so they may see with new sight, the Truth of Christ.

Today’s Readings are taken from Year A in the Lectionary.  They are fitting and appropriate to the Rite of Christian Initiation in our Elect’s preparation for Baptism and serve to remind all the faithful of their own Baptism and entry into the Life of Christ, as adopted children of God.

Jewish belief in the time of Jesus was that being blind or any physical affliction or any other misfortune was a result of sin committed by the person or by their parents.  It was God’s punishment.  Blindness or other incurable affliction was an eternal damnation – a predestination from which the victim would not recover and their ‘sins’ were never forgiven.  It was a life without hope, despite the best efforts of the afflicted to live righteously.

Jesus, through this sign, this miracle, changes that reality of life for the Jewish people.  He does the impossible, thereby turning the culture completely on its head.  In curing this man’s blindness, Jesus brings new reality to the Jews: forgiveness to a sinner.  A complete turn-around – moving from a life of no hope to a life filled with hope; restoring a future to this man and to the people of God.

Jesus is the Light that dispels the darkness.  He is the Light come into the world; bringing salvation to God’s people through the forgiveness of their sins.  His light illuminates the pathways for the One of whom Isaiah spoke, the One for whom John the Baptist called out, “Make straight the pathways of the Lord.”

Jesus is the One who brings healing to a wounded world.  Last week He gave life-giving water to the woman-at-the-well.  Today, Jesus restores sight to a man-born-blind and in doing so, brings His Light into the world and forgiveness of sins for all, except for those whose hearts are hardened against the Truth of Jesus Christ.

“None are so blind as they who will not see.”  With spit and mud, Jesus anointed the blind man; telling him to wash in the waters of Siloam, from which the Jewish priests filled their golden jugs for the Feast of Tabernacles.  The feast which the Jews celebrated to commemorate their entrance into the Promise Land: their escape from slavery into their hope for the future.  

The Scribes and Pharisee’s refused to see the light of the future, Jesus Christ.  In their hard-heartedness they failed to understand what the man-born-blind came to know: That Jesus is the hope and promise of the future for all people.  He is their deliverance from the slavery of sin.

We pray today for our Elect and for the whole world: That the Light of Christ, the hope of the future, will continue to penetrate the darkness, so all may come to see the Truth in Christ Jesus.  That all may be freed from the darkness of sin and division and rise up rejoicing in God’s promise of salvation and Life Eternal found in Jesus Christ. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, March 15, 2015

4th Sunday in Lent - John 3:16

We cannot watch a sporting event on TV without seeing someone hold up a sign like this. It is instantly recognizable – simple; - elegant even - in its simplicity of message – 
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life.”
This is a message of great joy! Fitting for this Rejoice Sunday, this Laetare Sunday, Rejoice Sunday that we do celebrate and rejoice - a God who loves us so much that he sacrificed is only Son – to save us from our sins against Him - to bring us into heaven to be with him for all time.  

This is the Good News we are called to share with the whole world.  By our life, - we are to live our Christian lives; reminding everyone of God’s unsurpassable love for us.  As disciples of His Only Son, we all are His heralds of the Good News of Jesus, the Christ – called to share His Light with all the world.

This message of Good News comes with a warning too.  It is a message that speaks of consequences.  It tells us that our loving God is also a demanding God.

We are warned - that if we do not believe in the Christ,  - we will not share in God’s love, or live His peace or grace, - but we will suffer death, and eternal damnation – cast into darkness where no Light exists - forever and ever.

For John, this world was a place filled with darkness.  It was a dismal place – a world: 

  • Without hope -
  • without peace -
  • without justice -
  • without love – 
  • without salvation – 
  • a place without the Light -

It is a world where only the Light of Christ can dispel the darkness.

The children of the master of this world, the evil-one, love the darkness:

  • Darkness hides their corruptions, 
  • In darkness they worship evils, 
  • In darkness they plan their deceptions,
  • In the dark their hatreds fester and grow,
  • Darkness breeds their selfish desires
  • In Darkness base cravings are satisfied
  • Darkness is where sin flourishes and thrives

Where sin speaks to the sinner; justifying their evil deeds and destructions.

John wants all followers of Christ to leave this dark world behind – He wishes us to live in a world filled with light, - the Light of Christ – to live as reflections of the Light of Christ 

  • Light overcoming darkness, - 
  • The Light of peace, 
  • The Light of justice,
  • Light conquering sin
  • God’s Light of eternal love – 

The Light of Christ - leading us to salvation and Eternal Life

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent, so all those who were bitten could look up, - see- and believe in the power of God – so they may live, -- so too for us - is Christ lifted up on the cross, - so we too may see, - believe and have Eternal Life.

The Lenten season of reflection and repentance is a season filled with expectation and hope.  We look to the future and the glory of God in the Light of Christ.   We disciples know that on Easter Sunday Jesus overcomes death, - triumphs over sin, - Rising up to New Life; bringing His Light into the world – bringing salvation and Eternal Life to all who believe in Him.  

We know that the stone is rolled away from the mouth of the tomb and the burial clothe is found empty.  

  • We know that He is raised up on the third day.  
  • We know Jesus sends us the Advocate to be among us  
  • We know all this comes to pass and it is the Truth.  

Jesus was lifted up on the Cross for all to see – so we may believe – and be delivered out of the darkness to become children of the Light.

As we approach Easter, let us look up to Jesus on the Cross and - be lifted up in God’s grace of love and mercy; turning away from sin, and darkness to live in His Light
Let us see our Savior on the Cross and - be lifted up in the joy of His Resurrection; proclaiming the Good News of Salvation to all the world
Let us encounter Christ on the Cross and - be lifted up by the Glory of God – A God - who in His great love for his children, sent His only Son to save us; giving us Eternal Life with Him forever ~Amen

Deacon Don

Monday, March 9, 2015

3rd Sunday in Lent - RCIA Reading Year A, 1st Scrutiny

This morning we celebrate the First Scrutiny in the Rite of Christian Initiation.  Our Elect, will stand before God and His Church as they begin their journey toward Jerusalem: death to sin and rising to New Life in Jesus Christ.

Jesus with the Woman at the Well
The readings this morning are taken from the lectionary for Year A and are proper to the Rite of Christian Initiation.  The gospel story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well is, in its self, a journey from unbelief to belief – a journey each of the Elect join as they hear the call of the Holy Spirit within their hearts: a journey from unbelief to belief in Jesus Christ.

What begins as an ordinary request for a drink of water becomes an intense encounter of identity, revelation and conviction; moving this woman from her lonely, sinful, and empty life, - leaving behind all her old ways, - to arise to a life of faith, hope and joy, the life of discipleship in the Way, the Truth and the Life found in Jesus Christ.  She is so strongly held in her new found life, that she begins to proclaim to others that she has found the Christ, the Messiah; inviting them to also encounter Jesus: to be healed and be changed.

The woman’s transition is seen in the way she addresses Jesus.  She begins by calling him a “Jew” (in a most unfriendly way).  As their conversation progresses she calls him, ‘Sir’. Each time a little softer and gentler.  Finally, the woman calls Jesus a prophet.  By the time she reaches her village to tell others about her experience with Jesus, she recognizes Him as the Christ; announcing to the others that she has found the Messiah.

This remarkable transition – from a life of unbelief, a life of sinfulness – moves into a life to belief, an awakened desire for a new life - a life of grace – and a life filled with a need and desire for a closer relationship with God through His Son, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

This is the faith journey of those who come to faith In Christ Jesus through the Church’s Rite of Christian Initiation.  The faith journey each traveler finds, with God’s abundant grace, in the Christian community.  It is where we believers witness to them our own journey in the love of God.  Where they may hear the Father’s call within their heart to come home among His beloved children.

In the Father’s love and mercy, He invites each person to journey into an ever closer encounter through His Word, Jesus Christ.  Each heart is called and purified – moved from indifference and unbelief – to engagement and faith – to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord!

We, as Jesus in the story, are each evangelizers whether we realize it or not.  By our lives, - we walk in faith, - leading others to Christ.  By our thoughts, words and deeds – our lives of discipleship – we witness the Lord’s love and the Light of Christ to the whole world. 

We do God’s will – making known His promise of salvation and everlasting life found in Jesus: calling all others to His loving embrace - family, friends, co-workers, classmates and everyone we encounter in the everyday of the world; fulfilling our baptismal call, ‘to make disciples of all nations’.

Let us be known by our lives.  Let us be known as followers of the Way.  Let us be known as Christians, by our love for one another found in Jesus Christ, and by our belief in the resurrection and the promise of life everlasting, in the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ~ Amen.

Deacon Don