Sunday, April 26, 2015

4th Sunday in Easter - A Reflection

Today we have Jesus’ story of the hired shepherd who, when the wolves come, runs away leaving the sheep unprotected to be scattered and devoured.  Without the Good Shepherd to protect them (who will lay down his life for them) the sheep become just another passing meal for the wolves.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  He has laid down His life for us; saving us forever from the wolves of sin.  By His voice, we are led through the valley to drink from the life-giving stream.  We walk to the cadence of his song comforted by His presence.  We are nourished by the bounty of His love; knowing He will always lead us to lush pastures where we may dwell safe and secure under His ever-watchful gaze.

We are His sheep, Jesus is our shepherd.  We trust in Him for all we will ever need – even if we never give it a thought.

Jesus has not banished or destroyed the wolves.  They still lurk on the edges of the pasture, waiting for us to wander out of ear-shot of the Shepherd.  

Sheep have a tendency to be unaware or unmindful of their surroundings.  This why they need a shepherd who will rescue them when they do sheepy-things like wander away as they search for greener pastures in the next field; falling into crevices, getting caught in brambles and being captured by wolves.  Sheep are frustrating creatures who need the constant vigilance of a shepherd who is dedicated to their welfare: not someone who is only in it for a paycheck.  Sheep wander constantly, so they easily get away from an inattentive and uncaring shepherd; falling prey to the wolves waiting for their next meal.  After all, a wolf is a wolf is a wolf – he will not change or be dissuaded from his wolfiness.

We are saved only by staying within earshot of the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  He loves us and cares for us so much that He gave His life for us.  It is only through His voice that we are fed and watered – He provides us all we need.  We are to trust in Him and should not be distracted by what appears to be ‘greener fields’ or sounds like the babble of refreshing brooks over the next rise.  For:

The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right path
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.
You set a table before me
in front of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Indeed, goodness and mercy, will pursue me
all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD
for endless days.

Deacon Don

Sunday, April 19, 2015

3rd Sunday in Easter - Luke 24:35-48 - "An Unequal Expression of Love"

“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all nations . . .”

Is there an expression of love equal to this?  

  • An innocent – Suffering – a punishment for bringing to the people God, the Father’s message of His love for all His people.
  • Jesus, in His human condition, frail and vulnerable – Sacrificed – a cruel and painful death on the shameful cross. 
  • In a dark lonely tomb – Burial - the ultimate finality of His human condition.  The reality of mortality – the end to the experience of this life.

This is, ‘The-story-so-far . . .’ that the disciples faced in that room.  They had difficulty in making sense of what Clopas and his companion told them of their encounter with the Lord while escaping to Emmaus.  The disciples are distraught, confused - nothing makes any sense to them.  The empty tomb is a mystery.  The strange message from an angel, given them by Mary Magdala, that Jesus would meet them in Galilee.

Jesus’ followers, his companions for the last three years, are frightened, disheartened and bewildered by all that has happened.  
They hide because they fear that they too may suffer persecution for their association with Jesus.
The loss of their leader leaves them alone and directionless.  The last three years have come to naught; shattering all their hopes and dreams.

What happened to his body?  What does Mary’s message mean?  How does Clopas know it was Jesus he met on the road and why didn’t they recognize him until he broke the bread?  Why did all this happened? What does it all mean?

It is easy to understand why, when Jesus appears to the disciples – they are startled and terrified.  This is something new and strange.  This is an unprecedented encounter with the Risen Lord.

Jesus shows the disciples that He is not a ghost.  His appearance among them is not some apparition or vapor or a reflected image.  He is real flesh and bone.  He takes nourishment, just as they do.  He is their Jesus, the Christ resurrected.  In that room they encounter the Risen Lord.  He is the fulfillment of all He promised.  

Jesus risen is the power and glory of God.  He is the beloved Son; suffering pain and death for our sins – a sacrifice, once for all – for all people, for all time, - so we may be freed from captivity to sin through repentance; - asking God’s forgiveness of our sins to receive His mercy and love.  

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, the psalms and the prophets.  God’s Son, sent to live among us; revealing to us the Father’s great love and desire for His children to regain what was lost through Adam, the heavenly kingdom and eternal life.  It is only through the Risen Jesus, the innocent one, sacrificed, that we are welcomed into the embrace of our heavenly Father forever.

It is by our encounter with the Risen Christ that we have all revealed to us.  Only when we truly accept Him risen do we, like Peter, John, James and the others, begin to understand all that has happened.  Only when we receive Christ present among us – real flesh, real bone, - in a most human estate – can we make sense of His life, death and resurrection.

In the Risen Christ, we now see the glory of God revealed.  In the Risen Christ, we now have our inheritance – the promise of God, the Father realized.  In rising up - beyond the reach of death - Jesus has shown us the Father’s love.  Meriting for us forgiveness through repentance of our sins; delivering us from the grip of a death in sin to the glory of life everlasting. 

Jesus is the one who, “. . . has no greater love than this, (than) to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This is the Good News of Jesus Christ that we are called to bring to all nations.  

This is the unequaled expression of His love. 

Deacon Don

Sunday, April 12, 2015

2nd Sunday in Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday

"I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6-7)
"I desire mercy, not sacrifice.  For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:13)

On Divine Mercy Sunday, the floodgates through which all the graces of heaven flow are open.  Our Lord’s love and mercy freely pours out like the sunshine on a bright clear day; showering down on all human kind.  We, his beloved children, need only to stand in the Light of God, repenting our sins – opening ourselves to his mercy and grace.

Jesus promised that on the first Sunday after Easter that: “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Diary 699)  What a tremendous opportunity Divine Mercy Sunday presents to us!  
Repent, ask God for forgiveness and receive his mercy and love.  Wipe the slate clean and begin anew - walk in the Light of God, sinless.  Take up our discipleship in Christ Jesus, live fully our life of love and good works – be the face of Jesus to all we meet, spread the good news to the whole world and love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I once received one of those chain emails we get too often.  Most of the time I get prayer chains (goes with the territory of being a Deacon, I guess), but this one was different.  This email was empty of love and good fellowship.  It lacked both of Jesus’ two commandments: to love God above all things and to love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves. 

This email had a list of fourteen statements - each advocating no love for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ – those seeking a life away from poverty, oppression and corruption.  People: - men, women and children - who come here to our shores, to the land of milk and honey - hoping for a better life.

It is easy to vilify the alien, the stranger, placing the blame on them for a variety of problems; saying, “if we keep them out - all our problems will be solved,” but in our hearts we know that is not true and - certainly we know in our hearts it is not the way we are called to live as Disciples of Christ.

  • Jesus asks us to look into the faces of each of these least of his people and see His face
  • Jesus asks us to look into the suffering lives of each of these people and see His suffering (for our salvation)
  • Jesus asks us to look into the hearts of each of these people and see His heart - burning with love for all God’s children

The Word of God, Jesus, the Christ, asks us to live our lives in a radical new way.  He calls us into discipleship by looking at the world through his eyes; seeing each of us as beloved children of God.  Just as Jesus is not of this world, we too, as Disciples of Christ, are not of this world, - a world which worries itself over worldly things, - but we are called to aspire to higher things – to the things from above.

In Matthew, Jesus tells us: 
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 
Are you not of more value than they?
And can any of you - by worrying - add a single hour to your span of life? Matthew 6:25-27

Jesus asks us to trust in him - by living his Word – to love as he loves – completely - without hesitation: 
To love our brothers and sisters and not count the cost, 
  • To love others as we would love ourselves,
  • To share our abundance with those who have less; - with those who have nothing,
  • To care for the sick, the sorrowful, and the lonely as we too desire care
  • He asks us to greet the stranger with love and hospitality, to welcome him; giving him, comfort and shelter
  • Jesus tells us to speak up for the voiceless, the vulnerable and the oppressed; 
  • To make room at the head of the table for the poor, the outcast and the displaced, so they too may have their fair share in God’s bounty
  • Jesus asks us to be peace makers, speaking out against oppressors and warmongers who - for lust and greed, - pride and envy, - fear and hate  - victimize and conquer the weak and defenseless
As disciples of Christ - we can do no less than to be the face of Jesus;   To be called followers of Christ, - to wear the name of Christian - is to live the Gospel message, not only this day, but everyday - and in every way.

So, on this day the Lord has made – on this Divine Mercy Sunday, - when God’s unending love and mercy is poured out through the gates of heaven - let us ask God for mercy and forgiveness of our sins - for what we have done, - for what we have failed to do – and for what might do better.  

Let us seek God’s abundant grace poured forth from the Fount of Christ’s Mercy, - for us and for our salvation.

Trust in Jesus, - Believe in the Gospel - and Love as He loves - by loving God and all our brothers and sisters in the world. 
Deacon Don

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"Happy Easter"

“You know what has happened all over Judea, 
beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, 
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.”

These are the words of Peter, who lived with Jesus: – ate with Jesus, spoke with Jesus, listened to Jesus – saw the miracles Jesus performed:

  • Turning water into wine
  • Healing lepers and the sick
  • Curing the lame
  • Giving sight to the blind
  • Making the deaf hear
  • Restoring speech to the mute
  • Feeding the multitudes
  • Casting out demons
  • Raising the dead to life

Peter witnessed all this and more from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry through the end.

We Christians know these stories well because Peter and the other disciples, except the betrayer Judas, spoke of what they saw.  And because Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in them to preach the Truth of the Gospel to the whole world.

From these witnesses we have the Truth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lived, who proclaimed the kingdom of God and the Father’s promise of a place for each of us.  They saw Him crucified, dead and buried.  These few, who walked with Jesus, bring us the Truth of He who died, was raised from the tomb and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God, the Father.

From the witness of Peter, of John, of James, Matthew and the rest, we have come to believe.  They have seen and testified, we have heard and come to belief - in the Truth of Jesus Christ.  By this we are known as Christians:

  • By His life that gave us the Truth of God’s love
  • By His death that atoned for our sins; reconciling us to the Father
  • By His resurrection that brings us to Life Eternal in God’s heavenly kingdom

It is God’s love for his children that He gave his Son to the world: to teach us, to heal us and to reconcile us to Him.  Through Jesus’ sacrifice we have salvation and everlasting life in God’s loving embrace.

Blessed are we who have not seen, yet come to believe – it is through these first disciples, these witnesses of the Truth that we come to know and believe so we may continue to proclaim to the world -Jesus Christ is Lord! – Alleluia, Alleluia ~ Amen

Deacon Don

"Behold the Cross" Good Friday 2015

Behold the cross
Behold this instrument of cruelty
Behold this sign of defeat 
This surety of destruction and death

The agents of the evil-one found delight in the cross for its ability to instilled fear in others
They loved the cross as it crushed hope and decimated peace
On their cross mercy and forgiveness ceased to exist
They cherished the cross for its enslavement of the powerless
By the cross they ruled through intimidation of the weak and vulnerable

The worldly found their strength and courage in the cross
This tool of terror allowed them to seize authority over the defenseless 
By this dreadful sign they destroyed hope, abolished joy and vanquished love

By this icon of evil they instilled fear and dread among the people
Behold this embodiment of wickedness – this instrument of destruction and death

Behold the wood of the cross – on which they hung the Savior of the world

In the crucifixion of Our Lord, Jesus, the world’s symbol of hate and defeat becomes the Logos of forgiveness and strength.
For those who used the cross to instill fear and terror – we see the cross transformed into a sign of compassion and mercy
They who spread dread and horror by the cross – As they lifted Christ up to defeat Him, Glorified Him; making Him forever our sign of hope and love

For the weak and powerless, 
For the oppressed and defeated, 
For the lost and despairing – 
The cross has become a symbol of strength and courage, our sign of hope for the world and life eternal in the glory of God.  
In Christ on the cross we are held in the embrace of God’s promise for all who believe.  
On His cross, Jesus conquered death to sin; giving us life eternal.

Christians venerate the cross of Christ as a sign of our Lord’s triumph of good over evil, 
Of life over death, 
Of love over hate, 
Of compassion over hardheartedness, 
Of mercy over cruelty, 
Of forgiveness over condemnation.

In the shadow of His cross:
Sinners may leave their sorrows
The lost will find direction
Those despairing are consoled

From the shadow of the Christ’s cross:
Hope springs forth
Joy abounds
Peace reigns
Mercy radiates
Forgiveness reconciles

From this cross - once signifying destruction and death
Now abundant Love and eternal Life flows
Through our Lord, Jesus Christ - In the glory of God, the Father ~Amen

Deacon Don