Homily 3rd Sunday of Easter Cycle A April 30, 2017

It’s time to believe. It’s time to put aside unbelief and foolish thoughts, such as it’s impossible that Jesus could be raised from the throes of death. It’s time to put aside for good childish thoughts and believe with the faith of adults who believe that God raising his Son is not some made-up story by 12 guys who want to make-up for running away from him in his hour of peril. It’s time to grow up and believe, Cleopas, and whoever the other guy was that you were walking with, as our Lord opened the Scriptures to you.

                I bet you thought I was saying those words directly to you. It’s time to believe. Well, in fact, it is for all of us. It’s time to stop the foolishness of doubt, and the immaturity of unbelief, and the craziness of not trusting their witness; the women who told these 2 disciples and the rest of them that the tomb was empty. And they found everything just as the women told them. And they were astounded by what they discovered at the holy site. Yet, they still doubted. How many times did he tell them he must rise from the dead? As much as parent tells a child to stop that. He told them a thousand times! It’s time to believe. Enough of the nonsense of unbelief and silly questions.

                It’s time to believe with everything we have, and everything we’re made of, that he is the Savior of the world, of all people, and that God raised him from the dead. Now is the time to believe. How much more proof do you need, Cleopas and the other guy, whatever your name is? He’s walking with you. Your hearts are burning inside as he speaks to you. He comes in to stay with you at dusk. He breaks bread with you. He opens your eyes. How much more proof do you need? Do you need him to pick up that huge boulder that closed the door of his tomb and throw it at Pontius Pilate?

                Well, he won’t do that because he’s not an angry Person. It might have been cool if he did. They could make another violent video game out of Jesus throwing a one ton boulder at Pilate. He doesn’t do those things. He says, “Father, forgive them” as they’re killing him. That’s the kind of Person he is. It’s time to believe.

                Get rid of all the nonsense that makes you doubt that God can do what he has already done. Be rid of all the phony political correctness that can and will ruin your faith, or water it down to the point where we become blind like Cleopas and his friend. Do away with all the wily tricks of the Wily One – you know who he is – and place all your faith, hope, and trust in God…. Cleopas and friend.

                It was a long walk on the Road to Emmaus. The Gospel tells us Emmaus was about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem at the time of Christ. Today, the place is nowhere to be found. But the professional diggers, known as archaeologists, have an idea where it was. Thank God for those smart people with shovels who love unearthing history. Just don’t do it on a Civil War battlefield, because you’ll get 3 years in jail.

                It took much of the afternoon to arrive at Emmaus. Just enough time to recite all the Scripture passages that connect to the Speaker. Jesus did all the talking on the walk. Unlike some folks who like to talk, everything that Jesus said was meaningful and powerful. Around mile-marker one their hearts start burning, and it’s not from indigestion from eating too much pizza. It’s from the power of God’s word.

                At mile-marker two they’re on fire. The house of their soul is on fire. It’s time to believe, Cleopas and friend, with the eyes of faith, and see who’s before you. Mile-marker three they could start a forest fire without lighting a match. Jesus keeps speaking to them, probably about the Suffering Servant in the Book of Isaiah at the 3-1/2 mile-marker. By the time they reach mile-marker four their hearts are so much on fire that they could heat half of Alaska in the wintertime. When are you two going to start believing that God raised his Son from the dead, Cleopas and the other guy? At mile-marker five their hearts have become nuclear. The two walkers with Jesus can blow up the world, not with bombs, but with God’s love.

                You can see Emmaus in the distance now. There it is, two miles away, three hours after we started walking. At mile-marker six, Jesus has touched their hearts so strongly, and their hearts are burning so much, that they can replace the sun, and light up the entire Earth.

                Finally, there’s the sign that says, “Welcome to Emmaus. Incorporated, 100 B.C.” At mile marker seven, there’s nothing left for Jesus to say. He’s interpreted the entire Scripture for us, all that points to his life, death, and resurrection. There’s nothing left for our Lord to say except, “It’s time to believe.” It’s time to be rid of the doubts, the fear, the excuses, the childish ways.

                Our lives are a walk on the Road to Emmaus with the Lord. What mile-marker are you on? I figure I’m at about 5 to 5-1/2 miles in. Somewhere between nuclear and replacing the sun. The question for us always, as we get older; “Are our hearts burning within as we walk this walk with our Savior?” For parents, are we teaching our children the life of Christ so their hearts will burn for him from an early age? Not burn with the too-many rotten ways of our culture, but burn with faith in Jesus Christ, and him raised from the dead?

                What mile-marker are you on? Make sure the mile-marker of our age is consistent with the mile-marker of our faith. As we approach mile-marker 7, meaning the end of our earthly life, we want our strength of belief in the Risen Christ to be at the same mile-marker. Where there’s nothing left to say except, “I believe. Stay with us Lord, for the night of eternity draws near.”

It’s time to believe what he has done for us.  

                    

               

               

Homily 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy) Cycle A April 23, 2017

In the very first appearance by Jesus on the same evening of his resurrection that occurred that morning, there’s an increase of faith for the 10 Apostles who are present that simply cannot be measured by any human process or device. To say that their faith jumps leaps and bounds within a matter of minutes or seconds would be an understatement.

                Judas has gone off to his eternal state, wherever it happens to be, after his dirty deed of betrayal. Thomas was absent – he was probably attending a Red Sox game – and missed out on Jesus’ first appearance to his chosen Disciples. Because of his absence that led to doubt and disbelief, Thomas’ faith in the Risen Lord was one step above that of Judas. Doubt and disbelief in Christ risen will flatten anyone’s faith like skinny pancake.

                What’s absent here, besides Thomas, is the ability to go inside of Jesus. To enter inside Christ. Judas chose not to go inside the Heart of Christ. To enter into that realm of Divine mercy. If he did, Judas would have found compassion, forgiveness, and pity that he desperately needed in his time of desperation. For whatever reasons, besides cooperating with the devil, the betrayer remained outside the body of Christ, even when Jesus invited him in each day to touch his Divine heart. He just couldn’t get inside of Jesus, and rejoice in the countless good things of God. Judas’ money-purse was more important to him than entering the body of Christ.

                Thomas, on the other hand, was absent from the school of Jesus’ risen appearance, while he out trying to catch a foul ball at Fenway Park. Whatever Thomas was doing when Jesus appeared, it was secondary in importance to being present for our Lord’s appearance. I understand he didn’t know Jesus was going to show up. Point well taken. But whatever he was doing, even if he was assigned to get some food for the rest of them, he was in the wrong place. Whatever it was, he was in the wrong place on that first night of Jesus’ resurrection. He wasn’t where he needed to be.

                He didn’t get inside of Jesus like the other 10. Thomas, at the most opportune time, was outside the body of Christ. There’s a grave spiritual danger living outside the body of Christ. And I mean literally, the body of Christ. Because every time you receive the Eucharist, you put your finger into his nailmarks, and your hand into his side. Every time you receive the Eucharist, you get inside of Jesus.

                I really dislike preaching to the choir, which is you. There was a lot of people here last Sunday at the 7:30 & 10:00 Masses. At the 10:00 Mass, when the two Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, Deacon Kevin, and myself were finished distributing Communion, do you know how many hosts were left between the four of us? Three. I had one. Deacon Kevin had two. And the two ministers returned empty plates back to the altar from serving the back rows. There were a lot of hosts consecrated for that Mass. Way more than what is normally consecrated. I predict we won’t need as many hosts this week. It’s a grave spiritual danger not getting inside of Jesus. Coming to the Eucharistic Banquet on Easter Sunday only is like Thomas; hit or miss with Jesus. But mostly miss.

                To Thomas’ credit, although he is absent at the opportune time resulting in his being outside the body of Christ, missing out on the power to forgive and retain sins, to his credit he expresses how badly he wants to get inside of Jesus. Whether Thomas was testing Jesus to return, or really didn’t believe the proclamation of the other 10, is irrelevant. The Spirit is moving Thomas to get inside of Jesus, and Thomas is cooperating. Whereas Judas refused the Holy Spirit, Thomas wanted to put his body into the body of Christ. He literally wanted to put his body inside of Jesus. His finger into the nailmarks. His hand into his side.

                Thomas was so bothered by the fact he wasn’t present on the first Easter night, that he wanted to jump into his Lord and his God. What a powerful image of closeness to Christ! In a world and at a time when so many remain outside of their Savior, and so many believe they can appear in the Upper Room once or twice a year and consider that to be good enough, we have Thomas expressing the depth of how committed and deeply we are to get inside of Jesus. Not to look at him from a distance, but to get inside of his holy body, and burn with a desire to touch it.

                The benefits are too many to count. An awareness of his ever-present grace; receiving his Body and Blood in the host, of which we will have enough today; hearing the word of God proclaimed; listening to my boring homilies; the opportunity to worship our Savior; having a prayer life and participating in the Great Prayer of the Church in the Liturgy; being present with God and for God.

                Thomas not being present the first time Jesus appeared after his Resurrection is an image of living a life that is far too worldly. While Jesus was making a startling appearance, Thomas the Doubter was too busy out there in the passing world. Whether he knew it or not, he was too busy for the Risen Lord. We must always guard against being too busy for the Risen Lord.

                Today’s message is to get inside of Jesus. Fear will keep us from getting inside of Christ, which is why our Lord says, “Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to get inside of me.” Put your finger on his pulse. And put your hand into his side and move it all the way up to his heart. That’s how deeply he wants us inside of him.    

Homily Easter Sunday Cycle A April 16, 2017

At the moment that death was destroyed inside the tomb of Jesus, there was much confusion that reigned outside the tomb in the moments after. There was a great earthquake, as Matthew reports in his Gospel. An angel from heaven descended and rolled back the stone. How often does that happen? The guards were shaken with fear, acting like dead men. And two women who came to pay Jesus a visit – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – probably thought the end was near in the midst of all this confusion right before them.

                A lot of confusion on that first Easter morning at dawn on the first day of the week. It seems as if death put up a mighty fight against its opponent, eternal life. Death didn’t want to lose its power, in the same way a person who is obsessed with power doesn’t want to lose it, be it politics, the Church, or corporations. Lots of men and women go down fighting when losing power, especially when they know they’re on the wrong side of good, like death was. Death had a really hard time being honest about itself, that it was evil. It thought it owned us, and that it had a right to own us. Death believed that it, and us, were somehow friends or family, and that we had all the reason in the world to get along, and stay happily together.

                The power of death is unmistakable. It’s very powerful. Anyone who has lost someone they love would know this. The heart-wrenching damage it can cause to a person or family at times is obvious. I’m sure we’ve all seen it. Looking at someone who has stopped breathing and stopped moving, not even offering a gentle hand anymore, is debilitating.

                So, when the Holy Spirit was reunited with the holy and raised body of our Savior, death put up a protest. It had to make its noise. The noise of earthquakes and descending angels who sit on rocks removed from tombs; the noise of guards acting like dead men.

                But in the grand scheme of God’s plan for us, it can make all the noise it wants. At the end of the day, or the beginning of the first day of the week, it leaves with a whimper. The noise of death being defeated may sound on the surface like a clanging gong, or a clashing cymbal. It may sound like a sold-out stadium cheering the home team. It may sound like it doesn’t want to let us go. But when put side by side with life that comes to us today through Jesus Christ, death is softer than a bud blossoming in the springtime.

                When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary get frightened by the earthquake, seeing an angel, and the running away guards, confusion reigns. Confusion abounds. Confusion is in front of them. Death is making its noise. The first sense of calm is offered by the angel, probably Gabriel, since he was involved in all the important matters of God. The angel basically says, “Chill out, Mary and Mary. Don’t let all this noise of death beat you up and scare you to death. He has been raised from the dead and is already off to Galilee. He’s forever awaken.”

                Many times angels will offer the first sense of calm when needed. They usually don’t appear before us like this scene in the Gospel. But they have a way of making their presence known. They are the first experience of calm after death loses the match against the eternal life of Jesus Christ. Angels assist us in knowing that God reigns even in the midst of confusion. Even the worst confusion possible, which is death. That God is in charge. God is there for us with his messengers. And they never fail to care for us. They are the first wave of calm.

                Then, the two holy women are off and running, off to let the Apostles know what they’ve been told. And what happens on the way? The second and final wave of calm.

                Encountering the risen Jesus is the good noise. Instead of earthquakes and running guards screaming for their lives, the women encounter the noise of the most awesome, relaxing, uplifting music of Jesus’ voice saying, “Do not be afraid.” Almost as good as Bridget singing.

                The risen voice of Jesus has no fear attached to it. It is pure joy, pure happiness, pure delight. This is the voice we celebrate this most holy night (day). It is the good noise of God that forever replaces the ugly noise of death. It is the noise he desires us to hear, and completely trust, especially when death is before us. Trust always in the beautiful noise of the empty tomb. Its silence is profound.

                Mary and Mary encountering Jesus after he has been raised; the conversation they hold with him; the pounding of their hearts from seeing him alive; the footsteps of Jesus in his sandals; and so much more, signify the universal noise of Resurrection. His noise is the noise of the firstborn of all creation. And that, my friends, is the noise we now own, thanks to Jesus the Christ, Risen Savior and Redeemer.    

Holy Week Schedule of Masses and Events

The following is our schedule for Holy Week. There is NO morning Mass on Holy Thursday. Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper will be at 7:00 P.M. On Good Friday, Stations of the Cross will be held in the Church at Noon. Our Good Friday Service will be at 3:00 P.M. Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening will begin at 7:30 P.M. And Easter Sunday morning Masses will be at 7:30 & 10:00 A.M.

Homily Passion Sunday Cycle A April 9, 2017

In 2013, the Red Sox won the World Series. It was the first time they did so at home in 95 years. In 2004 & 2007, they won the World Series on the road. The year after 2013, being 2014, they came in last place, playing all year like they had a bunch of donkeys tied to their uniforms. In sports language, from 2013 to 2014, the Red Sox went from first to worst. it sounds good because it rhymes. It’s a saying that has a sparkle to it, spoken by a priest with a sparkling personality.

                First to worst. That would be Holy Week coming up; or at least much of it. Today, we have first. Jesus is first place in the hearts of those who welcome him into the city where God made his home in the Temple, the holy city of Jerusalem. Today is an upbeat, positive emotion for us in our faith. We celebrate, along with the many believers over the past 20 centuries, the arrival of our Savior within the city walls where religion is zealous, and very emotional, and so serious. Religion in Jerusalem is not a game. And those who enter the arena best be believers in God. Otherwise, you would be treated like the Romans, which was not good.

                Our Lord today reaches the height of his good popularity. We ask the same question every year on Palm Sunday; “How can Jesus be so celebrated and worshipped today, and then be so roundly rejected in just a few short days? Were there two different sets of crowds following Jesus within this span of 5 days? One set worshipping him, proclaiming him the Son of David, and the other group plotting to kill him? Or, did some of those who celebrate him today turn their celebration into hatred and become part of the crowd yelling “Crucify him?” We know human beings are fickle. But are we that fickle? I’m afraid so. We can worship God one day with adulation, and be angry at him the next.

                First on Sunday, and worst on Friday has much to do with crowds. With mobs and mobs of people who gather for a purpose. Today, the purpose for us on Palm Sunday is for us to rejoice in the fact that Jesus safely arrives in his city of destiny. It’s nothing short of a wonder he made it. From King Herod at his birth seeking to destroy the newborn King; to being pushed to the edge of a cliff by his own people in Nazareth; to coming so close to being stoned by religious leaders for speaking words reserved for God alone, “Your sins are forgiven.”

                Today, he makes it to his city of destiny, and we should be exultant in the fact that he actually came in first place. Jesus beat all the Old Testament Prophets fair and square. He healed more; he loved more; he had more compassion and pity; he taught more; he forgave more; and he raised more from the dead. Today is like 2013 for the Red Sox; Jesus wins the World Series at home. He made it home, after 3 years of public ministry with countless highs and lows.

                Passion Sunday is a reminder in our faith for us to rejoice that Jesus is more than ready to walk the toughest part of his walk over the next few days. And I pray we don’t turn our attention away from him during this coming week. From his perch on the never-ridden donkey, as he takes in all the praise and glory before him like Tom Brady after the Super Bowl, he sees a crowd of happy people with smiles and laughter. People who take their religion very seriously. While seeing this crowd of happy faces, he sees also a crowd – the same people – he is gathering for the glory of heaven.

                He’s not on the donkey saying, “Look at me. Look how great I am.” That sort of thinking is for people with oversized egos. Jesus is on the donkey saying, “Look at me and follow me, so that I can bring you to first place also.” He’s starving for souls. Jesus’ reaction to the celebration is not about a self-serving ego. His reaction and his vision concerns our destiny, as he arrives at his own. His destiny and ours are intertwined, and cannot be separated.

                This day we rejoice that Jesus arrives at his destiny. Today he comes in first place; 2013 all over again. By the end of this week he will go from first to worst. I invite all of you good people to participate in his rising and his downfall, especially on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Come and experience what he went through for each of us.

                This setting here is as close as we will get to being part of the crowd, from the crowd of rejoicing, to the crowd of ‘Crucify him!” It would be nice to have you here as part of the crowd.