Monday, April 30, 2007

Hangin' with believers

Anon asked, “Why is it that so many people struggle with belief in the real presence? For others, it seems to come as natural as breathing? Why do some people struggle with chastity and others seem to live it without experiencing much temptation? Is it our personal backgrounds, how we grew up, that causes these vast differences in people? Any comments/thoughts welcome.”

Short answer: I don’t know.

Long answer:

Anon, these are really good questions. I have been asking very similar questions for a long time, and will probably ask them for a very long time. My questions have been: why is it that some people are devout Catholics and other don’t believe in anything? Why is it that we have these incredible discussions on this site about God, and most people will never enter into such discussions? Why is it that I’m a priest and some of my buddies from school don’t even go to Church?

Maybe they’re not the same questions as the ones you’ve asked, but they are posed in the same spirit…why is that some people have more when it come to faith and morals than others? The best way for me to explain it – as I think I’ve done on here before – is to say that everything in terms of faith and morals is grace…everything is a gift from God, and that we are free to use the gift or not. To me, it’s the whole question of free will. At the heart of it all, I truly believe that God offers every man, woman, and child the gift of faith in one way or another during his or her lifetime. For us, the gift of faith is given at Baptism; if we (with the help of others) use it, then it leads to receiving the gifts of the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

We are truly free to accept what God offers us or to reject it. God’s grace is at work with our free response: “the divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom” (CCC, # 2022). What this means is that God helps each person to freely choose to share in his life in various ways – to love our neighbor, to believe in his Real Presence in the Eucharist, to live chastity, etc. He makes the offer, and we are free to accept it or not. At the core of it, it really is a free choice that we make.

Now, there are many factors that enter into each choice, as you suggest. Some would be: family backgrounds, personal gifts, formators (religious, teachers, etc.), friends, experiences, etc. These will greatly contribute to our free choice, one way or the other. I look at my own response to the Real Presence years ago. It was rather quick and easy, once I knew the Truth. This was mainly because the Truth was presented to me by a priest who really believed it with every fiber of his being. But, I had also been given a great foundation to believe in such a thing by my parents and teachers (who taught me about the Real Presence years before it, but it never registered with me). So, for me, my free and clear choice to believe was because others, in some way, had chosen to believe. A big part, then, of my belief was believing in others who believed. This has been true of Christians for 2000 years, and is one of the underlying realities of Christianity (i.e., I wasn’t at the Resurrection, but I believe in the testimony and witness of faith of those who were).

If we’re saying that our free choice to believe in God and live it out in different ways is due, in large part, because of the free choice of others to believe, so the opposite is true. I would argue that many struggle to believe in the Eucharist because they don’t see too many people around them believing in it. I’ve had Protestants tell me flat-out that they don’t believe in the Real Presence because they don’t see faith in the Eucharist among Catholics! Young people, by and large, struggle with living chastity because they don’t hear or see much of the virtue of chastity around them.

So, the choices that others have made for or against God directly affect our own choices. I would say that when we see examples of people who believe and live a virtuous life, we see evidence of God’s grace helping us to choose the same. Anon, if you or anyone is struggling in the areas of faith and morals, I would suggest looking at your support group of friends. Do they believe? Do they live what they believe? If not, try hanging with people who do believe and do live. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to believe, and how much more freedom you experience in choosing Christ. Ultimately, freedom is choosing what’s good; if we surround ourselves with people who regularly choose what is good (Christ), then it will greatly help us to choose Christ.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Easter, 4th Sunday - homily

“The Father and I are one”.

When I look back on my childhood and teenage years, I see that the times that I was happiest and at peace were those times when I was one with my father (and mother). That is, the times when I was obedient to him and doing what I was supposed to be doing. But, when I disagreed with him or was rebellious in some way, that is when I experienced anxiety and unrest. One of those times was when I was in my early teenage years.

My father and older brother had had an argument. Now, our family was a loving family, but, like any family, we had our disagreements. My father and brother had a disagreement to the point where my brother was… kindly asked to leave our home temporarily. A few days later, my brother called me, asking to bring him some food. I said, ‘ok’. Now, we lived in Bethesda, and he was staying at a friend’s home in Silver Spring. I was close to the legal driving age, but not quite there…! I nervously drove the food to my brother, convinced that the man who had been behind me for a large part of the trip was an undercover cop!

That whole experience brought me a lot of anxiety and nervousness. For whatever reason – loyalty to my brother, disagreeing with my father about their argument – I decided to do something stupid and dangerous just to go against my father. It wasn’t until I came back into my father’s good graces again for this time and others that I was at peace. Usually, our relationships with our fathers (and mothers) on earth directly affect our relationship with our Father in heaven.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel that “the Father and I are one”. What an amazing relationship the Son and the Father have. They have infinite love for one another, giving themselves completely to the other for all eternity. How this all happens is a mystery to us, and especially when we try to factor in the Holy Spirit who is the love between the Father and the Son. When Christ says that he is one with the Father, it means that he is united with the Father in mind, heart, and action. His thoughts are one with the Father, and he acts in union with the Father’s Plan. He enjoys the Father’s love completely because he is completely united with Him.

Christ invites us to share in this relationship with the Father. He invites to be one with the Father…to be one with the Father’s love. How do we do this? We come into union with the Father by being one with Christ through the Church. So, each one of us can ask ourselves, ‘am I one with the Father? Am I one with the Father in mind, heart, and action?’

Am I one with the Father in prayer? The first step in being united with someone is communication. We have to talk with and listen to someone in order to be one with him or her. Do I pray to the Father? We do this in the Lord’s Prayer, of course, but also when we come to Mass. The entire Mass is a prayer to the Father, in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit.

Am I one with the Father in worship? God the Father gives us the commandment to “keep holy the Sabbath”. This is played out in the Christian faith with the Eucharist, the Mass. It is for every Sabbath…every Sunday to be here, and to worship. Am I one with the Father on this? And, do I come dressed to worship as he says in 1 Chronicles: ‘Worship the Lord in holy attire”.

Am I one with Father in his moral teachings? Early on in Scripture, the Father says to the first married couple, “be fertile and multiply”. For our married couples, ask yourselves, “are we one with the Father’s Plan to be open to life? Are we open to procreation, to be fertile and multiply? Every time we come together as husband and wife, are we one with the Father in being open to life?”

For me as a priest, am I one with the Father’s Plan to be generous in service? Do I serve generously and promptly? Just this past week, there were two examples where God called me to serve generously and promptly. On Thursday (my day off), a family called me as their father was dying. I got there just in time to anoint him and give him a special blessing before he died. The next day, the 2 year old daughter of parishioners had a serious accident where she lost many of her (baby) teeth. I had a small window of time to be with the parents at Children’s Hospital, to pray with them and offer support. Both families were grateful that a priest was with them. I could have said, ‘no, I’ll do this tomorrow’, but the Father wanted me there right away. He calls parents to be generous as well – changing diapers in the middle of the night, for example. Are we one with His Plan?

If I am a single person who is struggling to find the Father’s Plan, am I one with the Father? Do I trust that He has a plan for me? In general, is each of us one with the Father with his Plan for us? Do we hear his call to holiness, and live for others, or do we live for ourselves?

If any of our answers to these questions is no, can we change them to yes? Of course, and our Father will receive us back immediately. He desires union with us. The prodigal son parable shows us that. Just like when my father welcomed me back when I messed up, so our heavenly father embraces us fully when we return to him. When we are one with him, we are one with happiness and joy. The first reading tells us that: the Apostles, even though they were being persecuted, were filled with joy because they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The best for us to be one with the Father on earth is through the Son in the Eucharist. We call it “Holy Communion” because we come in union with God and one another. As we receive the Eucharist today, let us understand more deeply and go deeper into union with the Father. When we are one with the Father, we are one with love.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Freedom to forgive

Here are two recent posts related to forgiveness:

“Midnight ponderer”: I understand there is a great healing process for the person who can forgive another. I admire everyone that can forgive another person's indescretions. I need help with all of this 'forgiving' though. Can it be a finite thing like : one time per person? For example, I do not know how to reply to an extended family member's criticism of this aspect of our religion. She says "What use are all of your church rules, you have many hypocrits because people can do anything they want, then God and christians forgive them and they get to go to heaven anyway". I sure doesn't sound fair when she puts it like that. Can you help me counter with the appropriate answer?

"Anon": “Are there some basic steps for forgiveness? I honestly do not think I know how to actively forgive someone. There is one particular person who has done some things that really hurt me. In my head, I understand that she must be hurting herself in order to unleash that kind of venom, but, even with that understanding, my heart still feels bruised. I pray for her at Mass and adoration, but when I find myself thinking about her, I feel sick to my stomach. Just yesterday she called my home, and when I saw her number on the caller ID, I literally felt ill. How do I get my heart and body to cooperate in forgiveness?”

To “Midnight ponderer”, there is a story which involves the late, great Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Archbishop Sheen was an extraordinary preacher who was very popular in the 50s, 60s, and 70s – he even had a show on NBC. One time he was preaching to a packed house at St. Matthew’s Cathedral here in Washington when a man came into the Church off the street. He was yelling all kinds of things when Sheen finally paused to hear him. The man said, “you Catholics are all a bunch of hypocrites!” Sheen didn’t miss a beat, responding immediately: “yes, and we have room for one more”. You can use that as an appropriate answer to your family member!

In a sense, we are all hypocrites. None of us is perfect. Christ preached a Gospel of forgiveness. We continue to study, follow, and teach this Gospel. Just because we don’t live it perfectly, does that mean that we abandon it? Of course not. In fact, it’s exactly because we’re not perfect that we need Christ and his Gospel. But, the focus is not on us.

The focus of Christianity is Jesus Christ. The point is that He offers forgiveness - despite all of our imperfections, selfishness, stubbornness, etc. – whenever we turn back to Him. It is an infinite amount of forgiveness. This is an unbelievable mystery!! It might be a little too unbelievable for some people, so they mock it instead of pursuing it.

God’s forgiveness has no end, so we are all called to have abundant forgiveness as well. Jesus says to forgive, not seven times (which implies a limited, finite amount), but seventy times seven times (which implies abundant forgiveness).

To Anon, the best way I have learned to forgive is to ask for forgiveness. Regular Confession is so key to living the Gospel of forgiveness, if you ask me. If I am constantly seeing how often I sin against God and neighbor, and how often I am forgiven by God and neighbor, then I will be much more prone to forgive. We pray each time in the Our Father, “forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us”. That reminds us that we will be forgiven if we have forgiven others; also, it means that we will not be forgiven if we haven’t forgiven others.

If we make regular acts of the will – doing a daily examination of conscience, going to Confession regularly, etc. – that lead to our own forgiveness, then we will make regular acts of the will that will lead to forgiving others. In other words, our wills lead us to forgiveness, and our hearts and bodies follow our wills.

Finally, forgiveness is all about conversion of heart. This is what Mp’s family member or anyone who takes the cynical view of Christian forgiveness misses. The process of forgiveness is one of the most beautiful things to witness or experience in the world. In it, a person turns away from self (sin) and turns toward God and others…toward love. Ultimately, forgiveness leads to true healing of mind, body, soul, and strength as well as freedom. The person who forgives others freely – while not condoning sinful behavior – is living true freedom; the person who ignores or avoids others who have hurt him or her is not living in freedom. The former is living the virtue of humility; the latter is living the vice of pride. If we are living humility, then we are living in freedom…the freedom to forgive as God forgives.

Friday, April 27, 2007

An "ATM of Grace"?

1) Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are welcome!

2) Blogger party: next Saturday, May 5, 6-8 pm, all purpose room. Please reply under my post from yesterday, "Blogger party!", if you will attend and what you will bring.
“Ginger” made the following comments about faith a little while ago:

“(Faith is) knowing that you can handle your spiritual progress on your own. For a while I thought I needed a spiritual director but all I ‘really’ needed was the confidence of handling my faith independently and I do have that confidence now. :0)…I would rather do it on my own than have the religious whether be it priests, nuns etc feel that they are pushed by someone else to help certain people. No one is happy that way…When I say on my own I mean I will still go to Mass and get the sacraments.”

Ginger, I appreciate your candid comments, but I do have to say they are not consistent with Christian spirituality and doctrine. While each of us is on an individual journey of faith, we live out our faith in community. Faith is a shared experience. Christ brought people together. He didn’t worship the Father by himself; he gathered people together either to teach the Scriptures or gather them around a table to celebrate the Eucharist. Christ taught us to pray “Our Father” and not “My Father”. Your last sentence does convey your appreciation of the communal aspect of our faith, and that you can’t do it all on your own.

Regarding the idea that “you can handle your spiritual progress on your own”, I would advise some caution there. First, whenever we do things on our own, we run the risk of being wrong in our discernment of God’s Will. For example, a mother of five young children really feels God calling her to attend daily Mass each morning. She feels a great attraction to the Eucharist, and knows that the Mass is the greatest prayer. She thinks, how could God not call her to receive the Eucharist daily? Well, her parish only offers one Mass in the morning, and it’s while her kids and husband are busy getting ready for school and work. If she pursued this, she would be neglecting her primary vocation as wife and mother. If she has a spiritual director, he/she would remind her what St. Francis de Sales taught: God doesn’t call us to practice devotions that take us away from our primary vocations (marriage, e.g.).

Second, there is a bigger point here that has to do with the Church. If God wanted us all to walk the journey of faith individually, why did he establish the Church in the first place? The Church is not just a dispenser of the sacraments; she is not an “ATM of Grace”. For example, if I go to the Church just to receive the Eucharist on Sunday and have no other involvement with the Church the rest of the week, then I defeat the whole point of the Eucharist. The Church is God’s family of believers who experience faith, prayer, the sacraments, healing, joy, sadness, and love together. Christ formed the Church so that we would experience His Kingdom together, not merely as a group of individuals. Everything we have ever learned or experienced about Christ is because of the Church, because of what others in the Church have taught us.

Finally, Christ established the priesthood so that he could continue to offer his ministry of grace, healing, counsel, and forgiveness. Christ is the minister at every Mass, he is the minister in every Confession…it is Christ acting in the person of the priest. While it is not on the same level as the sacraments, spiritual direction and counsel is an experience whereby God often speaks through his priest. It is one of the main components of any faithful priest’s life. A priest, like Christ, is called to serve. He is called to be there for his people, listen to their problems, and offer appropriate, wise, Christ-centered advice. How many times was Christ “pushed by someone else to help certain people”? It was many times, and they all led to experiences of happiness for those involved. That is my model as a priest, and I want to offer similar experiences of happiness for you and for all those who are in need at St. Andrew’s.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday's Mass readings

Blogger party: next Saturday, May 5, 6-8 pm, all purpose room. Please reply under my post from yesterday, "Blogger party!", if you will attend and what you will bring.
Reading 1 - Acts 8:26-40

The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip,
“Get up and head south on the road
that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”

So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch,
a court official of the Candace,
that is, the queen of the Ethiopians,
in charge of her entire treasury,
who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home.
Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit said to Philip,
“Go and join up with that chariot.”

Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said,
“Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied,
“How can I, unless someone instructs me?”
So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
This was the Scripture passage he was reading:
Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who will tell of his posterity?
For his life is taken from the earth.
Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply,
“I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this?
About himself, or about someone else?”

Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage,
he proclaimed Jesus to him.
As they traveled along the road
they came to some water,
and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?”
Then he ordered the chariot to stop,
and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water,
and he baptized him. When they came out of the water,
the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away,
and the eunuch saw him no more,
but continued on his way rejoicing.
Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news
to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 66:8-9, 16-17, 20 - Let all the earth cry out to God with joy

Gospel - Jn 6:44-51

Jesus said to the crowds:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blogger party!

Fr. Mike's refresher course continues tonight, 7 pm, in the school. It is open to any adult Catholics who have questions about their faith and / or those who need to be confirmed.
Let's have a party! When I initially asked bloggers about the idea of having a get-together, the overwhelming response was, 'yes!' So, we're going ahead with it. I have reserved the all-purpose room here at St A's for next Saturday night, May 5, after the 5 pm Mass. So, that'll be 5/5 after the 5!

Let's make it a potluck dinner. Casual dress. Open to all bloggers of our sites - St. Andrew's, St Francis, St John's, GW.

I know that it's rather last-minute and everyone is busy with games and different Spring events, so let's keep it simple. Cold dishes would be preferable. We will have access to the oven in the kitchen at 4 pm in case anyone needs to heat up their dish. But, given the weather and logistics of the event, I would prefer to steer away from that.

Then, it's the matter of who is bringing what. I know, "Anon" will bring this, "Anon" will bring that...! I guess it really doesn't matter that much to have a name attached to a side dish or main dish, but it would be helpful. Keep in mind, "Anonymous" will not be accepted on any name tag that night! We're going to know who each other is on May 5 (that's kinda the whole point, right!), so we might as well get started on names now with the sign-up.

So, please indicate if you're able to come, and what you will bring. If bloggers want to bring their spouses, that's fine, but we should limit it to that (bloggers and spouses only). Please indicate if your spouse will be coming. For those who will need to get a babysitter, the party will probably go no later than 8 pm (although I don't know what kind of partiers bloggers are!). We'll have dinner, dessert, and music - I'll bring a Karaoke machine for anyone who's interested.

I can provide drinks - sodas and waters.

Please reply on the "comments" section of this post so that everyone will see how many are coming, and what's being provided. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave those as well. I think I've covered everything, but let me know if I missed something here. I will make another post at the end of next week with an update.

Come on bloggers, don't be's time to get together and meet one another. It's party time!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The secular agenda: vehemently anti-Christian

Here's a story of interest. It shows us how those who actively promote a secular agenda are so vehemently opposed to Christ, the Church, and Christian doctrine:

"In its brief filed last week with the U. S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Thomas More Law Center urged the court to reverse a federal judge’s ruling that an anti-Catholic resolution of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was constitutionally justified because the Church opposed adoptions by homosexual couples. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, a President Carter appointee and one-time counsel for the National Organization for Women (NOW), ruled that the Board resolution condemning Catholic moral teaching on homosexuality and urging the Archbishop of San Francisco and Catholic Charities of San Francisco to defy Church directives does not violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national Christian legal advocacy group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is appealing the ruling on behalf of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and two Catholic residents of San Francisco. Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, observed, “Judge Patel clearly exhibited hostility toward the Catholic Church. During oral argument and in her written decision she claimed that the Church ‘provoked the debate’ by publicly expressing its moral teaching, and that by passing the resolution the City responded ‘responsibly’ to all of the ‘terrible’ things the Church was saying. This judge attempted to rationalize the evocative rhetoric and venom of the resolution which are sad reminders of Catholic baiting by the Ku Klux Klan.”

Just one week after the anti-Catholic resolution, the San Francisco Board voted—again unanimously—to condemn some 25,000 Evangelical teens who gathered in the city to express their opposition to homosexual conduct. Openly gay San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno said the teenage group is “obnoxious” and “disgusting” and should not be tolerated. He told the Christian group to “get out of San Francisco.”

Thompson remarked, “The policy of San Francisco is one of totalitarian intolerance of Christians of all denominations who oppose homosexual conduct. My concern is that if the judge’s ruling is allowed to stand, it will further embolden the San Francisco Board in its anti-Christian attacks.” The anti-Catholic resolution, adopted March 21, 2006, alludes to the Vatican as a “foreign country” meddling in the affairs of the City and describes the Church’s moral teaching and beliefs as “insulting to all San Franciscans,” “hateful,” “insulting and callous,” “defamatory,” “absolutely unacceptable,” “insensitive[] and ignoran[t].”

The resolution calls on the local Archbishop to “defy” the Church’s teachings and describes Cardinal William Joseph Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible for safeguarding the doctrine on the faith and morals of the Church throughout the Catholic world, as “unqualified” to lead.

Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center attorney handling this matter, observed, “Our constitution plainly forbids hostility toward any religion, including the Catholic faith. In total disregard for the Constitution, homosexual activists in positions of authority in San Francisco have abused their authority as government officials and misused the instruments of government to attack the Catholic Church. Their egregious abuse of power now has the backing of a federal judge.”

Catholic doctrine proclaims that allowing children to be adopted by homosexuals would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. According to Church authority, such policies are gravely immoral and Catholic organizations must not place children for adoption in homosexual households. Accordingly, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has directed Catholic organizations to adhere to the Church’s moral teaching.

The Law Center’s lawsuit claimed that the City’s anti-Catholic resolution violated the First Amendment, which “forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion, religious beliefs, or of religion in general.” The Law Center argued that the “anti-Catholic resolution sends a clear message to Plaintiffs and others who are faithful adherents to the Catholic faith that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community and an accompanying message that those who oppose Catholic religious beliefs, particularly with regard to homosexual unions and adoptions by homosexual partners, are insiders, favored members of the political community.”

In her written opinion upholding the resolution against the Law Center’s constitutional challenge, the federal judge defended the City by essentially claiming that the Church invited the attack by publicly expressing its teaching on moral issues. The judge stated, “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith provoked this debate, indeed may have invited entanglement, by its [doctrinal] statement. This court does not find that our case law requires political bodies to remain silent in the face of this provocation.”Thompson commented, “Even more remarkable was the judge’s questioning during oral argument.

When Mr. Muise explained to the judge that the constitution is a restriction on government because the government has the power of the law to coerce behavior, the judge responded coldly, ‘You saying, the power to condemn someone to Hell isn’t more important to some people than being condemned by the state to have to pay a fine or go to jail?’ Mr. Muise, who was stunned by this comment, responded by explaining that the Church doesn’t condemn anyone to Hell, only God has that authority. To which the judge wryly stated, ‘I’m glad to hear that.’”

Monday, April 23, 2007

A profound exchange

A quick question to start from “Anon”: Why did the deacon give the homily today for Fr. Mike? I thought that when the deacon was present for mass, he'd read the gospel, but the priest, as celebrant, should do the homily.

A large part of a deacon’s ministry is preaching the Word. So, here at St. Andrew’s, the deacons preach the 3rd Sunday of every month.
We had a very interesting exchange from a post back in February. The first anonymous blogger wrote, “I have read and been told that Hell is, in essence, permanent estrangement from God, or, living eternally in the total absence of God. Lots of people live in that state on earth, some by choice and some not. Hell for those people will be different only in that the state is permanent with no hope of ever having communion with God. Right?”

Then “Zophiel” responded:

"Anonymous,I think you've got it right. What I remember from the teaching is that Hell is essentially a choice, one chooses to be estranged from God, usually due to something like Pride, which is why it's considered a "deadly sin". I don't know that I would say any person living on Earth is completely in that condition, simply because the earth is saturated with God, like a sponge in the ocean. But I think there are people approaching that state, who continually shut out God's attempts to get through to them, because they won't let go Pride, Greed, Lust, etc. And, if they don't figure things out by the final moment, they'll like finally achieve the state of Hell in the end. Which is why we should always be praying even for our enemies, because such a fate is horrible beyond our ability to imagine, and if possible, made even worse because it is chosen.It's the more unpleasant part of Free Will. If we are to have the ability to choose God, then we must also have the ability to choose Not-God. The latter is Hell.”

Another Anon commented: “Being estranged from God may usually be by choice, but not always. Some people cannot choose God because they truly lack the capacity -- they do not have the mental, intellectual, developmental (trying to find the right word) wherewithal to make the internal decision. It can come from having suffered horrendous treatment from others (spirit gets crushed)or from being born with deficiencies. But whatever the cause -- self or not -- many people are quite used to the absence of God. Hell is not going to shock them.”

I find this to be a very profound and substantial exchange! I would agree with most of it. A couple of things to keep in mind: 1) Hell is an eternal, not a permanent, state. 2) In order for someone to go to Hell, he/she has to choose it. Remember, the three conditions of a mortal sin are a) grave matter, b) full knowledge, and c) full consent. Mortal sin is how we break our relationship with God; anyone who dies in a state of unrepented mortal sin goes to Hell. But, to be in that state involves a full and free choice.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

3rd Sunday, Easter - homily

Ultimately, good wins over evil…Last week was a very hard week for all of us Americans, but especially all those in the Virginia Tech family. We might feel helpless watching the news reports, wondering, ‘is there anything at all that I can do?’ There are three things, at least, that we can do. One, pray. We can pray for the victims, their families, the students, faculty, and alumni of Virginia Tech. We can also pray for the gunman. Second, forgive. We can have a real culture and spirit of forgiveness that leads to healing. We have seen already that the great men and women of Virginia Tech are moving toward forgiveness. Third, we ourselves can choose good and avoid evil. We want to be on the side of good, and live in a culture of goodness and virtue. Ultimately, good wins over evil.

Evil is all around us. I don’t say to scare anyone; I am just saying what is true. One look at a newspaper on any given day shows that. On Monday, evil reared its ugly face in a major way. So many of the news analysts and pundits are exploring the mind of Seung-Hui Cho, trying to figure out how this happened. With our spirituality and theology, we know what was at work there. It was the work of the Devil. We see so much evidence that points to demonic activity. First and most obviously, Cho took 32 innocent lives, and then his own. Second, we see so much chaos in his words and thoughts. God is all about order; the Devil is all about chaos. Third, Cho was very self-centered and narcissistic in his approach to life. He focused so much on “me, me, me”; that’s the way the Devil wants us to live. Finally, he even used the name Jesus Christ in a heretical and blasphemous way. It was the work of the Devil through Cho.

Ultimately, good wins over evil. Since evil did its heinous and horrible acts on Monday, we have seen good begin to take over in Blacksburg. So many on the campus have turned toward prayer in a major way, and are already talking about forgiveness. And, prayers have come from all over the world to Blacksburg. We are learning, too, of the tremendous acts of heroism that have occurred. Just like 9/11, good will win over evil at Virginia Tech.

Jesus talks about death in today’s Gospel. As we recently celebrated, Christ himself endured an awful death on Good Friday. He tells Peter that he, too, will suffer a terrible death; St. Peter was also crucified…upside down. He says to Peter that his death will glorify God because it will be for others, and it will show the greatest love there is: to lay down your life for your friends. He says, “Follow me…to the Cross”.

On Monday, he said it to Liviu Lebrescu, the professor who barricaded himself against the door of the classroom so that many of his students could escape to safety. “Follow me, Liviu, to the Cross. Your death will glorify God because it will be an example of heroic love…laying down your life for your friends”. Christ was with all of the victims on Monday. He was. He was there, saying, “Follow me, and I will show you eternal life”.

Jesus commands Peter to “feed my lambs”. Priests continue to feed God’s lambs with Himself, the Lamb of God. Especially now, we need Jesus in the Eucharist. We need to have him with us… within us. We need him to save us from sin. We need him to protect us from the evil one. We need him to keep us safe. Maybe most important of all, we need to know he is with us. When we leave here to go into a dangerous world, we know that he is with us, and that, ultimately, we will be okay.

Obviously, the grace of the Eucharist helps us to pray, to forgive, and to choose good over evil. As we receive the Eucharist today may each one of us know, and may all of those in the Virginia Tech family know, that God is with us. ‘If God is with us, who can be against us?’ With God with us, we live in faith, not fear. May each of know that God is with us, and that, ultimately, everything will be okay.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Two articles for reflection

The following are two current articles from Zenit, a Catholic news source:

Panel Backs Hopes for Unbaptized Infants Who Die
Pope OKs Publication of Report on Limbo

Benedict XVI authorized the publication of a report that expresses the hope that babies who die without baptism are able to get to heaven. The report by the International Theological Commission, published (Friday), concluded that there are serious theological and liturgical grounds for the hope that such babies are saved and enjoy the beatific vision.

The commission says the theological hypothesis of "limbo" appeared to be based on an unduly restrictive view of salvation. The 41-page document noted this is an "urgent pastoral problem," especially because of the large number of unbaptized babies who die as victims of abortion.

The commission's documents are not considered official expressions of the magisterium. But the commission does help the Holy See to examine important doctrinal issues.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in No. 1261 explains: "As regards children who have died without baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. "

Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: 'Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,' allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism. "All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy baptism."

Here (are excerpts of) a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from this Sunday's liturgy…

Jesus' triple question is explained by his desire to give Peter the possibility of canceling out his triple denial of Jesus during the passion. God always gives men a second chance, and often a third, a fourth and infinite chances. He does not remove people from his book at their first mistake.

What does this do for us? His master's confidence and his master's forgiveness made Peter a new person; strong, faithful unto death. He fed Christ's faithful in the difficult moments in the Church's beginning, when it was necessary to leave Galilee and take to the roads of the world.

Peter will be able in the end to keep his promise to give his life for Christ. If we would learn the lesson contained in Christ's interaction with Peter, putting our confidence in someone even after they have made a mistake, there would be a lot fewer failures and marginalized people in the world!

The dialogue of Jesus and Peter should be transferred to the life of each one of us. St. Augustine, commenting on this passage of the Gospel, says: "Questioning Peter, Jesus also questions each of us." The question: "Do you love me?" is addressed to each disciple.

Christianity is not an ensemble of teachings and practices; it is something much more intimate and profound. It is a relationship of friendship with the person of Jesus Christ. Many times during his earthly life he asked people: "Do you believe?" and never "Do you love me?" He does this only now, after giving us proof of how much he loves us in his passion and death.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Inactive priests, psychics, etc.

1) Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!

2) Our theme for Youth Group this Sunday night will be, “Virginia Tech: We Remember”. Around 7:30, we will go over to Church for a Prayer Service. All are invited.
Anon commented, “I was surfing the net when I came across the website about married priests. These are priests that left the priesthood after Vatican 2 to get married. They believe that since they were ordained they will always be priests regardless if they are married or not. Once a priest always a priest. They perform baptisms, marriages etc. Are these marriages and baptisms valid?” You are correct that once a man is ordained a priest, it is forever. So, the priests to whom you refer still have the power to consecrate, forgive sins, etc., but it is highly illicit (against Church law) to do so. They are most likely doing this on their own, and not in a parish church or with the Church’s approval.

Normally, people ask if they can still consecrate the Eucharist which they can. With regard to Baptism, anyone can baptize (in case of emergency). But, these priests are no longer ordinary ministers of the Rite of Baptism, so any baptisms they perform would not be in a parish church or with the blessing of a bishop. Regarding marriages, I quoted from Canon Law # 1108 the other day about who can witness a valid marriage: “Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them…” A priest who has left the active ministry is no longer delegated by the local bishop or pastor, so any marriage that he witnesses is invalid.

Another Anon wrote, “Since school was out yesterday I watched the Oprah Winfrey show. She had John Edwards the psychic on her program. He was doing readings for people who wanted to get in contact with their dead loved ones. Although the show itself was fascinating I was wondering this whole act of talking to the dead must be dangerous as a malevolent spirit could come through and do some real damage. She also had Alison Dubois on her program who is both a medium and a psychic. Alison works for the police department finding missing people. Apparently she is very good at her work and has helped out the police department a great deal. There is also a tv show about her called "The Medium" Could someone comment on the church's position on all this. Thanks”.

A priest said to me once about such psychics that for every case in which they are right in their “premonitions”, they are wrong a hundred times. I don’t pay a lot of attention to psychics, and I would strongly warn against fraudulence. The Church’s position can be found in the Catechism (#2115 – 2117):

God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.

All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others—even if this were for the sake of restoring their health—are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday's Mass readings

Reading 1 - Acts 5:27-33

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 34:2 and 9, 17-18, 19-20

The Lord hears the cry of the poor

Gospel - Jn 3:31-36

The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Married "in the Church"

Do you know an adult Catholic who has not received the Sacrament of Confirmation? Please invite them to come to Fr. Mike’s Catholic refresher course tonight (and every Wednesday) at 7 pm in the school. During the Easter season, Fr. Mike will especially prepare those who need to be confirmed. Adult Confirmations are celebrated by the Archdiocese at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on the feast of Pentecost.
Anon asked, “Are Catholic marriages done outside the church valid and if not, why not? God is everywhere.” First, by “Catholic marriages”, I am assuming you mean a marriage where at least one of the spouses is Catholic. Second, let us be reminded that “valid” means that the marriage takes place; an “invalid” marriage is one where the bond of marriage does not occur. Third, there are a couple of ways to interpret your question, Anon. The first is a general approach to “outside the church”. By this we would understand that the couple has chosen to be married without the Church’s approval.

I have already worked with several couples who have chosen this route either in a prior marriage or in their current marriage. They either chose to get married quickly by a justice of the peace or in the church of the non-Catholic spouse without the permission of the Church. Canon Law # 1108 states: “Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses…” So, a marriage which is not contracted in the presence of a bishop, pastor, priest or deacon and before two witnesses is an invalid marriage. One of the main points here is that the ordained minister (bishop, pastor, etc.) and witnesses represent the Church and the Church’s approval of the marriage.

Let’s keep in mind that Christian marriage originated in the Catholic Church. Christ has raised marriage to the level of a sacrament; it is through the Church that each valid and sacramental marriage occurs. For a Catholic to go “outside the Church” to get married, then, would be for him or her to enter into a marriage that is not valid or sacramental.

Let’s also keep in mind that to go outside of the Church for marriage means to be deprived of the
Church’s beautiful, enriching, and necessary preparation for this most important sacrament. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a most sacred act between the spouses whereby they promise their love to the other for the rest of their lives. The promises they give to the other are so powerful that they need to understand to what they are consenting. The Church requires at least six months of preparation which helps the couple to understand marriage more fully, the responsibilities of raising and educating children, communication within marriage, moral issues, the sacramental life within marriage, etc. Another huge component of the six month period is spiritual discernment and prayer for the couple: ‘is God calling us to get married’? The couples to whom I have offered this preparation have been grateful to get it, and are much more equipped to live out their marital promises.

Finally, the specific approach to your question, Anon. Yes, a Catholic couple needs to get married in a Catholic church for it to be a valid marriage. Canon # 1118 states, “A marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic party and a non-Catholic baptized party is to be celebrated in a parish church.” The parish church is part of the “canonical form” of a Catholic marriage. Canonical form means to follow the form (or formula) as prescribed by the Church; other sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, etc.) follow the same form of being celebrated in a church.

The sentence after this one in #1118 does allow an exception, granted that it is approved by the local bishop or pastor: “It can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor.” This does not contradict the whole idea of being married in the Church because it still carries the Church’s approval or permission in some way. In other words, the Church does allow situations where it will dispense from the requirements of canon law when there is a good and just reason. The Catholic couple that comes to the Church for this or other kind of dispensation can be married “in the Church”, mainly because the Church has given its witness and approval for their marriage. To have a marriage recognized, witnessed, and approved by the Church is my understanding of what it means to be married “in the Church”.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We always have to be ready

Yesterday was an extraordinary day in the United States. Watching the news coverage of the overwhelmingly tragic events at Virginia Tech evoked emotions that ranged from profound sadness to shock, anger and curiosity. It was one of those days when prayer was the only times I could find any comfort or peace, whether privately or with others. To all of the families of the victims, the students, faculty, alumni, and to the entire Virginia Tech family, I offer my heartfelt condolences and sympathy on behalf of the entire St. Andrew’s community.

In the Fall, we had a discussion at Youth Group about salvation. We talked about salvation in terms of getting to Heaven, and that Christ is our salvation. A big point we made was that we always need to be ready to go to Heaven. This means to be in close friendship with Christ at all times, because we never know when our time on Earth will come to an end. This point was made abundantly clear with the events at Virginia Tech yesterday.

Especially in a world where evil is all around us, we always need to be ready to go to Heaven. I remember years ago watching television with my good friend, Fr. Wells. We were watching the news when the story of a local policeman being murdered came on. A moment or so later, Fr. Wells said quietly but firmly, ‘I hope he (the policeman) went to Church on Sunday’. It was not said in any kind of a judgmental or critical way; it was said in a hopeful and caring way. The point was that, no matter how the deaths of our bodies come about, our souls should be in a state that is ready to see God face to face.

My hope, then, is that all those who died at Virginia Tech yesterday were ready to go to Heaven. Of course, it was extremely unfair that their lives ended so early and abruptly by the awful, evil, and vicious acts of a psychotic coward. In no way did God actively will their deaths. But, for some mysterious reason (the same reason that He allows all evil), He allowed the deranged gunman to kill them. We know we live in a world where, on a daily basis, people reject Love and choose hate, often in the form of murder. I know that today I might be the victim of violence, so I will prepare myself accordingly. I will not live in fear; rather, I will live in faith. Living with faith overcomes all fear, even the fear of death.

As Catholics, we realize that “our citizenship is in Heaven” (Phil 3). We live on this Earth knowing that the main reason we are here is to get to Heaven. We are not living for this world only- we are living in this world with our eyes on Heaven. This means living for God and for others (i.e., holiness). If we live this way, then we will be ready to go when the time comes. If we are not living this way, Christ calls us to change our lives. He doesn’t want any of us to live in fear, and certainly wants none of us to be apart from him for all eternity.

As I told the teens in the Fall, we never know when the time will come. It could happen stepping out of your car and getting hit by a metrobus. It could happen walking the dog in a snowstorm and a tree falls on you. It could happen taking notes during class. We never know, so we always have to be ready.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Prayer in school?

DC ‘Hood was victorious yesterday at the Verizon Center!! We beat the CYO coaches by one point in a very close and competitive game. Many people said it was better than the Wizards game! Thanks be to God, I played well and was hitting my jump shots. One of our players, a seminarian, hit two free throws at the end of the game to win it for us. Then, in the “championship game”, we beat the CYO all-star 11th and 12th graders by several points.

All in all, a great time for everyone involved. Thanks to all who came out to support us, especially the large contingent of St. Andrew’s fans. Next DC ‘Hood games: 1) May 4, 7 pm, at Holy Redeemer, Kensington and 2) May 18, 7 pm, versus St John Neumann at Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg. Go ‘Hood!
An anonymous blogger posted the following about prayer in school. Safe to say that this hits the nail right on the head.

After being interviewed
By the school administration,
The eager teaching prospect
"Let me see
If I've got this right.
You want me to go into that room with all those kids,
Fill their every waking moment with a love for learning,
You want me to wage a war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases,
Check their backpacks for weapons of mass destruction, and
Raise their self esteem.
You want me to teach them patriotism, good citizenship, sportsmanship, fair play, how to register to vote,
How to balance a checkbook,
How to apply for a job.
make sure the students pass the state exams,
Even those who don't come to school regularly or
Complete any of their assignments.

I am to make sure that all of the students with handicaps
Get an equal education
Of the extent of their mental
Or physical handicap.
I am to communicate regularly with the parents
and am supposed to this with just
A piece of chalk,
A computer,
A few books,
A bulletin board,
A big smile
On a starting salary
That qualifies my family
For food stamps!
You want me
To do all of this

Then you tell me...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Divine Mercy Sunday

DC 'Hood vs. CYO coaches at Verizon Center today, after the Wizards game. Go 'Hood!!
Today the Church celebrates the second Sunday of Easter which, since 2000, is also Divine Mercy Sunday. The following are excerpts from the Divine Mercy Sunday website which explain today's feast:

"Despite evil’s attempts at discrediting Catholic Priests, many fallen-away Catholics will soon be returning to the practice of their faith. The reason: the Church’s new feast on the Sunday after Easter. What new feast you might say? It is the “Feast of Divine Mercy”. The Catholic Church has been celebrating this feast ever since the Vatican had made it official on April 30th in the Jubilee year 2000. Why would every Catholic want to come back, you might ask? It is the promise that Jesus Himself made for a complete forgiveness of sins and punishment on that day, even to the most terrible sinner imaginable. God in His great mercy is giving mankind a last chance for salvation.

When did Jesus make this promise and how does one get it? Jesus left all the details in a diary that He commanded Saint Faustina to write in the 1930’s. It was her job to record everything that He wanted mankind to know about His mercy before He returns to judge the world. To get this great promise one has to go to Confession and then receive Holy Communion on that Feast of Divine Mercy, which has now been called Divine Mercy Sunday throughout the whole Church. Jesus said, “Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Diary, 300) To receive Communion worthily one should be in the state of grace and without serious sin...

In Saint Faustina’s diary, she recorded that Jesus also indicated that He Himself is there in the confessional. He told her, “When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity." (1602)

Jesus knew that people would need to hear these words today, so He went on to say “Come with faith to the feet of My representative...and make your confession before Me. The person of the priest is, for Me, only a screen. Never analyze what sort of a priest that I am making use of; open your soul in confession as you would to Me, and I will fill it with My light." (1725) "Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.” (1602)

Many feel that their sins are unforgivable but, Jesus said, “Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. In the Tribunal of Mercy (the sacrament of Confession) ...the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated." (1448) "Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.” (1602)

Every sin imaginable could be forgiven by Him!...

On the evening of His resurrection Jesus appeared to His Apostles and the first thing that He did was to give them the power to forgive sins (John 20:19-31). This is done through the power of the Holy Spirit. For sure it was not the Lord’s intention just for the Apostles to forgive sins but rather for that power to be passed down through the Holy Spirit to the priests of today. That is why Confession is so much of an uplifting experience; we are actually receiving heavenly graces and the forgiveness of sins from the Lord Himself!...

Remember these words of Jesus, “ I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment." (699) "Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity...tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.” (965) Wake up people of the World, and repent of your sins, this just might be our last hope of salvation!"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Speed cameras in Montgomery County

Montgomery County has a new program: speed cameras. This "automated speed enforcement program is the first in Maryland to enforce speed limits in residential areas and school zones with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. The program got underway March 12 with a 30-day warning period". With the warning period now over, motorists will receive citations ($40) if they are photographed speeding in the enforcement zones.

Here are the locations (St A's parishioners: see District 4 - Arcola Ave., especially):

Dufief Mill Road
Bells Mill Road
Quince Orchard Road
Stone Ridge View Drive
Glen Mill Road
Travilah Road

Strathmore Avenue
Jones Bridge Lane
Grosvenor Lane
Wilson Lane
Cedar Lane
Kensington Parkway

Wayne Avenue
Piney Branch Road
Calverton Boulevard
Powder Mill Road
Cannon Road

Arcola Avenue ( Amherst Avenue to Orebaugh)
Randolph Road ( Georgia Avenue to Veirs Mill Road )
Bel Pre Road ( Geogia Avenue to Layhill Road )
Georgia Avenue North ( King William Drive to Spartan Road )
Georgia Avenue South ( Morningwood Drive to Hines Road )
Ednor Road
Briggs Chaney Road ( New Hampshire to Good Hope Road )
Parkland Drive
Independence Avenue

Wisteria Drive
Richter Farm Road
Woodfield Road- Route 124

Warfield Road
East Village Avenue
Appleridge Road
Centerway Road

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rev. "Peacemaker"?

1) Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!!

2) Thanks to the blogger who nominated this site in a few different categories for the “Blogger’s Choice Awards”, and to Kat Mills for letting me know about this. You can go to the voting site and cast a vote for St Andrew’s Q & A (for Best Religion Blog, e.g.) by clicking on the title of this post.
I just returned from a few days of R & R at the beach which were very enjoyable and relaxing. It was good to get away, and enjoy the newness of life that the Easter season brings. I had a ton of fun (and yes, stayed out of trouble, as one parishioner has already asked me!), but also had a little mini-retreat experience. Being able to celebrate Mass and make a Holy Hour with the Blessed Sacrament in the hotel room certainly helps to enter into a prayerful mode!

Nevertheless, I was able to catch up on television after giving it up for Lent. I caught up, and then some! I think it would have been possible, after watching three days of TV this week, to know every possible opinion concerning Don Imus’s remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Every channel, it seemed, had some “expert” repeating and analyzing Imus’s inane and deplorable comments. The interesting thing is is that when Imus made his hateful barb, hardly anyone heard it. It wasn’t until the media got hold of it, and repeated it dozens and dozens of times, that the firestorm began.

As Christians watching all of this unfold, we see it in relation to Christ. When there is a dispute that is bringing a rising amount of tension, Christ calls for peacemakers. As we watch all of the players in this game, how many peacemakers do we see? Are there any? Are there men and women who have stepped forward to work toward reconciliation between the two sides? Working toward peace? Toward forgiveness? We would expect this, especially if the person has “Rev.” in front of his name.

It has been very interesting to hear some major Christian themes to be evoked in this process. One newspaper journalist wrote that an apology is not enough for Don Imus; he needed a full “conversion”. That was the word she used. She was saying that Imus not only should change his manner of speaking, but that he should change his whole life so that he can see others with the dignity they deserve. Wow! Also, I heard one TV analyst saying that Imus should have 1) admitted he was wrong, 2) said he was sorry, and 3) asked for forgiveness. His point was that if Imus had done these three things, he would still have his job and wouldn’t be in the enormous mess he’s in. If each of us did that on a regular basis, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in – individually and collectively.

Finally, there are examples of Christian dignity here. The Rutgers women have shown a class to them, certainly; but, it’s beyond merely presenting themselves well in appearance and speech. They have a spirit about them that shows why they should be respected. They defended their own dignity as women, daughters, and students; I didn’t hear them all, but one of the women said that she is a daughter before anything else. She’s so right. It is because she is a daughter of God that she and the others should always be treated with dignity and respect. That is the line that Don Imus crossed; he lost sight of them as persons. That is the hurtful part. But, with their class and grace, they have restored their dignity as persons. In addition, they are open to engaging in a dialogue with Imus that will hopefully lead to reconciliation and forgiveness. Amid all of the older people involved, they are the Christian examples.

Now, all we need to do is to get them to talk with the hip-hop rappers about THEIR hate-filled words (lyrics)!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Easter Thursday's Mass readings

Reading 1 - Acts 3:11-26

As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John,
all the people hurried in amazement toward them
in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people,
“You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this,
and why do you look so intently at us
as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence,
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
And by faith in his name,
this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong,
and the faith that comes through it
has given him this perfect health,
in the presence of all of you.
Now I know, brothers and sisters,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away,
and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment
and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus,
whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration
of which God spoke through the mouth
of his holy prophets from of old.

For Moses said:
A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.
Everyone who does not listen to that prophet
will be cut off from the people.
“Moreover, all the prophets who spoke,
from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days.
You are the children of the prophets
and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors
when he said to Abraham,
In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you
by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 8:2ab and 5, 6-7, 8-9

O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!

GospelLk 24:35-48

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them,“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

And he said to them,“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 the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"My Lord and my God!"

The following is Pope Benedict XVI's Easter homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters throughout the world,Men and women of good will!

Christ is risen! Peace to you! Today we celebrate the great mystery, the foundation of Christian faith and hope: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, has risen from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. We listen today with renewed emotion to the announcement proclaimed by the angels on the dawn of the first day after the Sabbath, to Mary of Magdala and to the women at the sepulchre: “Why do you search among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here, he is risen!” (Lk 24:5-6).

It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of these women at that moment: feelings of sadness and dismay at the death of their Lord, feelings of disbelief and amazement before a fact too astonishing to be true. But the tomb was open and empty: the body was no longer there. Peter and John, having been informed of this by the women, ran to the sepulchre and found that they were right. The faith of the Apostles in Jesus, the expected Messiah, had been submitted to a severe trial by the scandal of the cross. At his arrest, his condemnation and death, they were dispersed. Now they are together again, perplexed and bewildered. But the Risen One himself comes in response to their thirst for greater certainty. This encounter was not a dream or an illusion or a subjective imagination; it was a real experience, even if unexpected, and all the more striking for that reason. “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘peace be with you!’” (Jn 20:19).

At these words their faith, which was almost spent within them, was re-kindled. The Apostles told Thomas who had been absent from that first extraordinary encounter: Yes, the Lord has fulfilled all that he foretold; he is truly risen and we have seen and touched him! Thomas however remained doubtful and perplexed. When Jesus came for a second time, eight days later in the Upper Room, he said to him: “put your finger here and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing!” The Apostle’s response is a moving profession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:27-28).

“My Lord and my God!” We too renew that profession of faith of Thomas. I have chosen these words for my Easter greetings this year, because humanity today expects from Christians a renewed witness to the resurrection of Christ; it needs to encounter him and to know him as true God and true man. If we can recognize in this Apostle the doubts and uncertainties of so many Christians today, the fears and disappointments of many of our contemporaries, with him we can also rediscover with renewed conviction, faith in Christ dead and risen for us. This faith, handed down through the centuries by the successors of the Apostles, continues on because the Risen Lord dies no more. He lives in the Church and guides it firmly towards the fulfilment of his eternal design of salvation.

We may all be tempted by the disbelief of Thomas. Suffering, evil, injustice, death, especially when it strikes the innocent such as children who are victims of war and terrorism, of sickness and hunger, does not all of this put our faith to the test? Paradoxically the disbelief of Thomas is most valuable to us in these cases because it helps to purify all false concepts of God and leads us to discover his true face: the face of a God who, in Christ, has taken upon himself the wounds of injured humanity. Thomas has received from the Lord, and has in turn transmitted to the Church, the gift of a faith put to the test by the passion and death of Jesus and confirmed by meeting him risen. His faith was almost dead but was born again thanks to his touching the wounds of Christ, those wounds that the Risen One did not hide but showed, and continues to point out to us in the trials and sufferings of every human being.

“By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24). This is the message Peter addressed to the early converts. Those wounds that, in the beginning were an obstacle for Thomas’s faith, being a sign of Jesus’ apparent failure, those same wounds have become in his encounter with the Risen One, signs of a victorious love. These wounds that Christ has received for love of us help us to understand who God is and to repeat: “My Lord and my God!” Only a God who loves us to the extent of taking upon himself our wounds and our pain, especially innocent suffering, is worthy of faith.

How many wounds, how much suffering there is in the world! Natural calamities and human tragedies that cause innumerable victims and enormous material destruction are not lacking. My thoughts go to recent events in Madagascar, in the Solomon Islands, in Latin America and in other regions of the world. I am thinking of the scourge of hunger, of incurable diseases, of terrorism and kidnapping of people, of the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion, of contempt for life, of the violation of human rights and the exploitation of persons. I look with apprehension at the conditions prevailing in several regions of Africa. In Darfur and in the neighbouring countries there is a catastrophic, and sadly to say underestimated, humanitarian situation. In Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the violence and looting of the past weeks raises fears for the future of the Congolese democratic process and the reconstruction of the country. In Somalia the renewed fighting has driven away the prospect of peace and worsened a regional crisis, especially with regard to the displacement of populations and the traffic of arms. Zimbabwe is in the grip of a grievous crisis and for this reason the Bishops of that country in a recent document indicated prayer and a shared commitment for the common good as the only way forward.

Likewise the population of East Timor stands in need of reconciliation and peace as it prepares to hold important elections. Elsewhere too, peace is sorely needed: in Sri Lanka only a negotiated solution can put an end to the conflict that causes so much bloodshed; Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and instability; In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees. In Lebanon the paralysis of the country’s political institutions threatens the role that the country is called to play in the Middle East and puts its future seriously in jeopardy. Finally, I cannot forget the difficulties faced daily by the Christian communities and the exodus of Christians from that blessed Land which is the cradle of our faith. I affectionately renew to these populations the expression of my spiritual closeness.

Dear Brothers and sisters, through the wounds of the Risen Christ we can see the evils which afflict humanity with the eyes of hope. In fact, by his rising the Lord has not taken away suffering and evil from the world but has vanquished them at their roots by the superabundance of his grace. He has countered the arrogance of evil with the supremacy of his love. He has left us the love that does not fear death, as the way to peace and joy. “Even as I have loved you – he said to his disciples before his death – so you must also love one another” (cf. Jn 13:34).
Brothers and sisters in faith, who are listening to me from every part of the world! Christ is risen and he is alive among us. It is he who is the hope of a better future.

As we say with Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”, may we hear again in our hearts the beautiful yet demanding words of the Lord: “If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honour him” (Jn 12:26). United to him and ready to offer our lives for our brothers (cf. 1 Jn 3:16), let us become apostles of peace, messengers of a joy that does not fear pain – the joy of the Resurrection. May Mary, Mother of the Risen Christ, obtain for us this Easter gift. Happy Easter to you all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Tuesday's Mass readings

Reading 1 - Acts 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”

Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 and 22

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Gospel - Jn 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Monday's Mass readings

Reading 1 - Acts 2:14, 22-33

On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.
“You who are children of Israel, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.

For David says of him:
I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit that he received from the Father,
as you both see and hear.”

Responsorial Psalm - Ps 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.

Gospel - Mt 28:8-15

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel;
then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, “You are to say,
‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
And if this gets to the ears of the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.
And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday - homily

In the early Church, people would greet one another in the following way to celebrate Easter. One person would to say, “Christ is risen!” And, then, the other would say, “He is risen indeed!!” So, let’s try it here. We have a full Church, so this should rock! I will say ‘Christ is risen’, and you say, ‘He is risen indeed’. “Christ is risen…HE IS RISEN INDEED!” Wow, that was good. On behalf of Fr. Mike and the entire staff here at St. Andrew’s, I wish you and your families a very blessed and joyous Easter.

For God, all things are possible. We hear that so often…today, among all days, it is played out. Years ago, when I was out of the seminary, I was working in sales. One of my co-workers and I started talking about faith just before Lent one year. He was raised Catholic but didn’t go to Church much. He’s a nice guy, and a lot of fun. But, he was really struggling with life, and admitted to living with a lot of fear. He began to ask a bunch of questions about our Catholic faith; I was very interested to try to answer his questions. We kept talking more and more, and then HE made a deal with me. He said that if I write one Scripture quote on his bulletin board every day during Lent, then he would go to Confession at Easter (it had been 25 years since he’d been). I said sure!

So, I wrote a Scripture quote every day on his board that was pertinent to his life – even did it on Saturdays and Sundays, just to be sure! Then, at Easter time, he went to Confession. He told me it was for an hour and a half! And, at the end, when the priest laid his hands on him to give him absolution and the blessing, my buddy felt chills go up and down his spine. I told him that was the Holy Spirit.

He had struggled so much after losing his Dad a few years before that, battled problems with alcohol, and had no prospects for getting married. He called me a few weeks ago to tell me that he’s getting married. To hear the peace and happiness in his voice is remarkable. He living in faith now, not fear. He has found his way out of the darkness and found life. He has had a Resurrection experience.

With God all things are possible. We have spent the past few days recalling the events of Christ’s suffering, passion, and death. He really suffered. That was really his body and blood on the Cross. The man was dead. What must have the Apostles and disciples been thinking during those two days- ‘he’s gone…he died like everyone else before him. Was he not the Son of God? Was he a liar and a blasphemer?’ Then, we hear the joy they experienced on the third day. He is no longer dead. He is alive! The same flesh and blood that was dead on the Cross is now alive. Christ has won victory over death! With God all things are possible.

Each one of us is going through, in some way, what Christ went through in his Calvary. Each one here today – young, old, whomever – is carrying a Cross and walking through Calvary. Maybe because of the death of someone close to you recently, family problems, problems with alcohol or drugs, peer pressure, anger, hatred, loneliness, rejection, unforgiveness…because of your sins or the sins of others, whatever - you are carrying your Cross. The Resurrection shows us that we can get through Calvary, we can get through our suffering and go to the other side. We have the hope that God will win victory over our Cross. With Him all things are possible.
Every Sunday, not just today, is a feast of the Resurrection. How awesome would it be if our Church were this full every Sunday! We not only hear about the event of the Resurrection and think about Christ’s rising, but we see the risen body of Christ…in the Eucharist. It is the same risen Christ who appeared to the Apostles and disciples who appears to us in a few minutes. I said on Good Friday that at every Mass we are witnesses to the Crucifixion, and that’s true – Christ’s sacrifice is re-presented on the altar. But, what has happened since the Crucifixion? The Resurrection. So, the Eucharist is the RISEN Body of Christ that we see and receive in Holy Communion. We come here to receive the risen Lord, and then to go forth from here as witnesses of the Resurrection.

There is a tee-shirt out there about a basketball player, Lebron James. I love basketball, and Lebron, you’re cool. But, the shirt says “WITNESS” on the front, as if we are witnesses to him like he’s the next Messiah or something. When we leave Mass, it’s like we are wearing shirts that say “WITNESS” on the front, and “TO THE RESURRECTION” on the back. We have seen the Risen Christ, and have received him in the Eucharist, and then we go forth to witness to him and to his love.

As you receive the risen Body of Christ today, may you know his peace, joy and love. May you experience the joy of the Resurrection after having gone through Calvary. May you know God’s love this day and all during the Easter season.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Seven Last Words of Christ

Good Friday, SAA Church:

"Born for this": Noon
Confessions: 1 - 1:45 pm
"7 Last Words": 1:45 - 3 pm
Stations of the Cross: 3 pm
Confessions: 4 - 5 pm
Celebration of the Lord's Passion: 7:30 pm
"There was never a preacher like the dying Christ. There was never a congregation like that which gathered about the pulpit of the Cross. There was never a sermon like the Seven Last Words."- Arch. Fulton Sheen, "The Seven Last Words" (the following is taken from Sheen's book)

The Seven Last Words of Christ

1. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"

His executioners expected Him to cry and curse like all those who had been crucified before Him. Instead, He cried out for the Father to forgive those who were executing and mocking Him (soldiers, Pilate, Herod, etc.).

Do I forgive 'those who trespass against' me?

2. "This day you shall be with me in Paradise"

"No one before (the thief on the right of Christ) was ever the object of such a promise, not even Moses, nor John, not even Magdelen nor Mary!"

Like the thief, do I give my sins to Christ who will then promise me Paradise?

3. "Woman, behold thy son"

'Thy son' is John, who represents us (the Church). "Woman!" is the 2nd Annunciation; "behold thy son" is the 2nd Nativity. We are born of Mary in the 2nd Nativity of the spirit; Christ is born in the 1st Nativity of the flesh.

It has been said that Jesus never denies His Mother anything. Do I ask my Mother to intercede to her Son for me, my friends and family?

4. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

While He is still in union with the Father, Christ brings atonement to all those who have abandoned God, doubt God's presence in their lives, or are indifferent towards God.

Christ knows what I'm experiencing whenever I've been abandoned, rejected, lonely, hurt or isolated.

5. "I thirst"

Not said to anyone there at Calvary, or even to God. He says to all mankind, "I thirst...for love!"

Christ thirsts for my love; do I thirst for His?

6. "It is finished"

Christ triumphantly says this, like an artist who puts the finishing touches on a masterpiece. His work of Redemption is finished, but not complete (see Col 1:24). As the Mystical Body of Christ, we complete Christ's work of Redemption (by taking up our own Cross).

Do I accept crosses in my life with faith?

7. "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"

Like the Prodigal Son who returns to his father's house, Christ is on the road back to His Father's House after spending His divine riches of power and wisdom on all humanity for 33 years.

Do I entrust my life to my Father in Heaven?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Institution of the Eucharist

Mass of the Lord's Supper tonight, 7:30 pm, SAA Church. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to follow after Mass and until midnight.
Tonight we celebrate the night when Jesus instituted the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. What a night! The following are excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's beautiful apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist, "Sacramentum Caritatis" (Sacrament of Love). To read the full text, please click on the title of this post.

The new and eternal covenant in the blood of the Lamb
9. The mission for which Jesus came among us was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery. On the Cross from which he draws all people to himself (cf. Jn 12:32), just before "giving up the Spirit," he utters the words: "it is finished" (Jn 19:30). In the mystery of Christ's obedience unto death, even death on a Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), the new and eternal covenant was brought about. In his crucified flesh, God's freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact. Human sin was also redeemed once for all by God's Son (cf. Heb 7:27; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). As I have said elsewhere, "Christ's death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form." (18)

In the Paschal Mystery, our deliverance from evil and death has taken place. In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus had spoken of the "new and eternal covenant" in the shedding of his blood (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20). This, the ultimate purpose of his mission, was clear from the very beginning of his public life. Indeed, when, on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he cried out: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). It is significant that these same words are repeated at every celebration of Holy Mass, when the priest invites us to approach the altar: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant. The Eucharist contains this radical newness, which is offered to us again at every celebration. (19)

The institution of the Eucharist
10. This leads us to reflect on the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It took place within a ritual meal commemorating the foundational event of the people of Israel: their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This ritual meal, which called for the sacrifice of lambs (cf. Ex 12:1-28, 43-51), was a remembrance of the past, but at the same time a prophetic remembrance, the proclamation of a deliverance yet to come. The people had come to realize that their earlier liberation was not definitive, for their history continued to be marked by slavery and sin. The remembrance of their ancient liberation thus expanded to the invocation and expectation of a yet more profound, radical, universal and definitive salvation. This is the context in which Jesus introduces the newness of his gift. In the prayer of praise, the Berakah, he does not simply thank the Father for the great events of past history, but also for his own "exaltation."

In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. At the same time, he reveals that he himself is the true sacrificial lamb, destined in the Father's plan from the foundation of the world, as we read in The First Letter of Peter (cf. 1:18-20). By placing his gift in this context, Jesus shows the salvific meaning of his death and resurrection, a mystery which renews history and the whole cosmos. The institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus' death, for all its violence and absurdity, became in him a supreme act of love and mankind's definitive deliverance from evil.

11... "The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving." (21) Jesus "draws us into himself." (22) The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of "nuclear fission," to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).