Saturday, April 10, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday

At the end of today’s third reading St John’s tells us the reason why he wrote His gospel. He says that he has written all these things down so that we will believe that Jesus is the Christ; and that through this belief, we might have life. The reality is hat if we look at the reason why Our Lord became flesh, dwelled among us, suffered, died, was buried and on the third day rose again we will discovered that He did all this just so that we could have life.
Jesus is very specific when he says in the 10th chapter of this same Gospel: “I have come so that they may have life and they may have it abundantly”. But this abundant life is not the kind we see all around us in nature, especially in this time of spring. Jesus is talking about a supernatural state of existence. What St Paul’s describes in his letter to the Galatians when he says “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me”. What he is talking about is a spiritual state in which we are so close to God that his supernatural life and our natural life cannot be separated.
This supernatural state I’m talking about is our natural state of being. What I mean is that we, every man, woman and child that has ever walked over this green earth, was created to be in this state, in this special relationship with God. Sadly our first parents Adam and Eve were given an opportunity to preserve this supernatural life but at the end failed, and misused the freedom that comes from this state of being by disobeying God and committing the first sin which lost for them and us (their offspring) this special relationship with God. So from that moment on, it was not that we are born with evil in our hearts but that we are born spiritually defective. We are born without the capacity to acquire and maintain the state of grace we were created to have, we were born in a state we call “Original Sin”.
When the Lord says that he wants us to have abundant life he is telling us that he wants to restore in us this capacity to reconnect with God at the spiritual level. And the way he does this is by sharing His own divine life with us. Adam and Eve lost this for us, Our Lord Jesus gained this capacity back.
During the Easter Triduum last week we remembered Jesus sacrifice in the cross and throughout the Easter season we celebrate his resurrection which created bridge by which now we can receive this abundance life I’ve been talking about. Today, however is a very special Sunday… today we celebrate God’s Divine Mercy. The church has selected the First Sunday after Easter to make sure we are reminded that we do not deserve the life Jesus won for us in the cross. This was a gift given to humankind because of God’s infinite mercy and we cannot do anything to earned or deserve it.
Of course once we acquire this capacity by the waters of baptism our lives are not supposed to be like the lives of unbelievers. Our life is supposed to reflect the life of Christ which lives in us. Why? Because our Lord paid a very high price for us and it would be a great affront to God if we were to waist this gift. Now this statement begs the question from each one of us here today so…What am I supposed to do with this wonderful gift? The answer lies again in our Lord Jesus, he is the example we are supposed to follow. What did he do with his life? He gave it back as a perfect and pure sacrifice pleasing to His Father. We are supposed to take this supernatural state in which we encounter ourselves, because of our baptisms, and protect it so that we to can return it to him as a pure sacrifice of worship to God the Father.
How we protect this gift? Through the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation, which cleanses us from our sins and gives us the strength to deal with our own brokenness.
How do we return this gift to God? Well… In every mass there is a moment in which the priest raises the body and blood of our lord and repeats these words “Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, forever and ever.” At this moment we all answer either by singing or saying “amen”. This is the moment in which we connect with Jesus offering of His own life in the cross. This moment my brothers and sisters is the culminating moment of the mass, this is the moment in which our voices join the voices of angels and saints, in the eternal worship of God in heaven. This is the moment in which heaven and earth touch. And this is the moment my brothers and sisters in which we should return to God the gift of life he has given us. This is the moment to raise to God our own lives with all its sins, weaknesses, problems, pains, and struggles, everything we have, everything God has given us that is good and bad to take all this and offer it all as a pure sacrifice of worship for His glory.
Our life, the life we have been given by God is not for us to keep, is for us to take and follow Jesus example and spread around wherever we go so that we can return it to God as a pure sacrifice of worship. It is in the mass in which we bring this offering to God, but it is where we are the rest of the time, in our homes, our schools and our jobs were we are supposed spread this gift we have been given. When we do this every moment of every day has the potential to become a pure sacrifice of worship for the glory of God the Father.
This is what Jesus did when he was alive; this is what Jesus wants us to do with His wonderful Easter gift, to spread His life into the world and to this abundantly.

5ft Sunday of Lent

On first sight, you might think that today’ and last week’s Gospel (The parable of the prodigal son) are two very different readings. However as I was listening to Father Kurt last week it occurred to me that if you were to place these two readings side by side you will find some things in common. The most significant been that both these stories have the same three characters: God, a sinner, and an accuser, and in both of these stories the accusers make what any good lawyer will call “just demands”. In today’s reading, we see the scribes and Pharisees demanding a judgment from Jesus for a woman that was found in the act of committing a grave sin. In last week we read how the older son speaks to his father about how he feels treated unfairly because he has never asked Him for anything, but when his younger brother returns after wasting his inheritance the father showers him with Gifts.
In both of these stories both sinners’ and accusers stand in the presence of God waiting to hear judgment, and in both cases the most amazing thing happens. Unexpectantly and with complete disregard of the way we humans understand how justice is supposed to work, God ignores the accusers and forgives the sinners.
Now you might think that these two stories are just about the fact that God forgives the sinner. But the stories go beyond this; their main point is to present a God so loving and so eager to forgive sins that he will go out of his way not to condemn us for our sins. Look at today’s reading, when the accusers corner Jesus into bringing judgment by using the same law God Himself gave to Mosses. Jesus refuses to become a Judge and becomes the defense lawyer!! The story says that he bent down and began to write in the sand and “Starting with the eldest ones” he disposed of the accusers one by one. It is not until there was not one person to bring charges on the sinning woman that Jesus assumes the role of Judge. At this moment He delivers the one phrase every human being that has ever lived will give anything to hear God say when they stand in His presence: “I do not condemn you”.
It is not by accident that the Church in Her wisdom has placed these two readings right in the middle of lent; they are here to remind us about God’s incomprehensible desire to forgive our sins. But the Church does more than this, during this season it gives us an opportunity to reach God’s mercy, an opportunity to hear the voice of Jesus telling us, “I do not condemn you, Go, and from now on do not sin any more”
Now if I were to tell you that I know of a sure way in which you too could be lavished with gifts of grace from God, a sure way in which you too can hear the words of forgiveness that we all are so eager to hear, would you believe me? Every Wednesday during lent and every Saturday throughout the year before mass, right here in this same hall, God’s mercy is given for free to anyone that is willing to accept it.
I’m talking about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Through the ministry of His Church and by the power given to the apostles we can all have our sins forgiven. Isn’t that great news my brothers and sisters??? The sad truth is that just a few of us take advantage of this opportunity. We have many reasons, some of us might have no time to come at these times, some of us might be too ashamed, some too fearful, some might think that the priest will somehow think less of us, some might have some type of temporary impediment like previous marriage or a marriage not consecrated by the church and decide they do not want to bother with such things. The sad reality is that these are not valid reasons they are just excuses. Because of them we end up behaving like the woman in today’s reading, we wait until external circumstances drag us to God in search of mercy, when we should follow the example of last week’s son that recognized his sins and admitted to God: “Father… I do not deserve to be called your child”. God’s forgiveness is available to us for free and we turn our backs to Him because we feel we can go one more week without having to look at our sins and failures, we can go one more week without experiencing his divine mercy.
I believe that the Church has placed these two readings in lent to remind us that there is no need to wait. God is waiting, eager, hungry for our repentance and ready to shower us with gift of grace and forgiveness. We just need to take the first step. I hope to see you here on Wednesday, 7:00PM.