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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Mutual Love
By Father Pete Iorio

One day, as St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa, 1910-1997) and her Missionaries of Charity were tending to the poorest of the poor on the streets of Calcutta, they happened across a man lying in the gutter, very near death. He was filthy, dressed in little more than a rag and flies swarmed around his body. Immediately, Mother Teresa embraced him, spoke to him softly and began to pick out the maggots that were nesting in his flesh. A passerby was repulsed by the sight of the man and exclaimed to Mother Teresa, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Her response was immediate, “Neither would I!” Obviously, monetary gain did not motivate the diminutive woman known as the Saint of Calcutta; love did. In her writings, Mother Teresa frequently affirmed the motivating power of love. Quoting Jesus in today’s Gospel, she wrote, “Jesus said, ‘Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other.’” She continued, “We must grow in love, and to do this we must go on loving and loving and giving and giving until it hurts – the way Jesus did. Do ordinary things with extraordinary love: little things, like caring for the sick and the homeless, the lonely and the unwanted, washing and cleaning for them.” Elsewhere, Mother Teresa remarked that the greatest disease in the West today is not tuberculosis, leprosy or even A.I.D.S.; it is being unwanted, uncared for, unloved. That she did her part in trying to “cure” this disease was attested in everything she did and in every word she said.

Jesus speaks of love.  The English language is somewhat deficient when it comes to the actual meaning that Jesus meant. In Greek, there are four separate words that we only translate as love.  We say: I love ice cream. I love school. I love money.  Storge is the word in Greek for that meaning. The word in this commandment of Jesus is agápe.  It is a love that requires total commitment and trust. It is the kind of love with which God loves us, a love that should be the model of the love we have for others.  This love should be more than just a warm feeling toward others (filia); it should be a compassionate gift of ourselves to meet the spiritual and bodily needs of our brothers and sisters. Agápe implies a reaching out to others in a caring attitude for their wellbeing without expecting any favor in return.  It is strong, positive, difficult, determined action.  Jesus repeats the command to love one another three times, first explaining what it is (“a new commandment”). Then He explains how it is to be applied (“as I have loved you“). So the measure of love is not the individual but Jesus Christ Himself who gave up His very life out of love for all humans.  Mother Teresa got nothing in return for picking maggots off a dying man.

The second reading from the Book of Revelation has Christ saying: Behold, I make all things new. I realize that when I fail to love unconditionally, I can begin again and ask Christ to give me the grace to do so, or at least strive to do so.

The Latin word CARITAS is the translation of Agápe. From Caritas comes our word charity.  In charity, we give money and food and clothing and help to the poor. Our church is even considered a charity. The tax law change which raises the amount you can deduct on taxes makes me reflect more deeply on my giving. Did a tax deduction motivate me to give to charity? That is giving and also getting back. The teaching on Agápe love forces me to think about giving to charity even though I won’t get a tax deduction in return.

 Jesus notes that this kind of love which imitates Him is the trademark of his disciples. Not only is this a new commandment, but also, Jesus teaches, it is the greatest.  To love, in fact, is to know God—”Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). The early Christians practiced this love literally. That is why a writer in the second century named Tertullian stated that the heathens held the Christian congregations in high regard: “See, how these Christians love one another!” 

Human relating matters. How we treat others is an indication of our love for God. Remember that Jesus linked love of God and love of neighbor as the two greatest commandments.

The fact is that Jesus’ death and Resurrection served, not just as an example of how to love, but as the agent that actually freed us from our selfish love through His indwelling presence.  It was this new kind of love which was manifested by the first disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45).  It was a love that was attentive to the poor and the needy. During his life on earth, Jesus Himself was lovingly present to those who were not at all lovable: the sinners, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the lepers, for example.  He allowed himself to be moved with pity and compassion when he encountered those in need, and he was moved to tears in the midst of sadness.  Jesus loved by serving others, by helping them and by healing others.  His was a love that healed and built up, that challenged and inspired people.  It was a deeply forgiving and sacrificial love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (15: 13).

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Jealousy and Unity in Diversity
By Fr. Pete Iorio

Have you ever paid attention to how creative God is? I just walk around the circle of our grounds and am amazed at the variety of flowering plants and shrubs and trees that a wonderful couple donates and plants in that space. There is always something new and beautiful.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I am grateful for the amazing diversity of moms I have encountered. Thank God, not all of you wonderful women who gave us life and teaching and nurturing and wisdom are all the same. God knew what He was doing when He created you.

Each year the Church offers us this Sunday as the Good Shepherd Sunday. With words and characteristics that could describe mothers, the Gospel clearly speaks of the tenderness that Jesus has for his sheep. He says that his flock is the gift of his Father and that in his care nothing will be lost. It is a Gospel that gives us confidence in the God who calls us and cares for us throughout our lives. For many the image of the Good Shepherd brings comfort, security and peace. Especially in difficult times, it is good to be sure that Christ cares for us.

While this message of the Good Shepherd speaks of tenderness and care, this is not how everyone who heard Jesus say this responded. John chapter 10 continues with verse 31.

31The Jews again picked up rocks to stone him.s32Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?”33The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.”t34* 

Theologically speaking, we say that in Jesus Christ is the union of humanity and divinity, also called the hypostatic union. In one person is two natures, fully human and fully divine. This is not accepted by the Jews even though Jesus goes on to highlight Scripture where this principle is mentioned.

What God has done in Jesus, God is doing everywhere – in you and in me. God puts together human and divine. We are at the same time, children of earth and also children of heaven. We are made in the image and likeness of God. This is really Good News. Many today find it difficult to believe.

We also find another theme in the readings, the theme of the diversity of the flock of Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles after Pentecost and after the conversion of Saul to Paul, we see that Paul and Barnabas brought the Church to the countries of the Gentiles, saying that the Lord commanded him. Upon hearing these words of the apostles, the Gentiles or non-Jews rejoiced and glorified God. With joy they will embrace the faith that promised them eternal life. Thus grew the early  Church, despite the resistance of the Jews who did not want to accept the new Christians.

In fact, they were filled with jealousy. Jealousy arises when we see someone else enjoying something we wish we had.   Jealousy is self-focused. Why were they jealous? Those Jews were jealous of the large crowds gathering to hear Paul and Barnabas preach. It upset them to see these outsiders receiving so much attention and not them. That is how jealousy works: when we see someone enjoying something we want, our desire for that object grows and if we are not careful, our desire can turn into resentment and even to hatred and violence. This jealousy cycle drives a lot of the conflicts in our world. It is an attitude that says that a particular person or a particular group does not deserve such and such.

But God’s desire is that as different as He made all of his children to be, we should be united in love.

In the book of Revelation , John has a vision of this growth and diversity of the Church. He saw a large crowd, composed of people of all nations and races, of all peoples and languages. The Church was not limited to a single group, but it had to grow to include all those who heard the word and the Good News. This is the vision that the Church must move towards especially today. It is the vision of Christ.

I notice that most folks (myself included) tend to associate with people of the same culture and race, of the same economic class, and with the same ideals. It is difficult to establish good relationships with people we see as different. Perhaps it is out of fear, or through intolerance, but even in the Church, we use words that appreciate diversity, but our actions indicate something else. I know that I have to be deliberate about loving those who are different from me. When my human nature would prefer the easy way, I call upon the divine nature in me to actively promote unity in diversity.

The Good Shepherd readings invite us to contemplate the idea of ​​diversity in our community. We see that the Good Shepherd is committed to the well-being of all his flock. The differences that exist between us should mark our heritage and our culture, but they should not exist as barriers to our unity. These distinctions must demonstrate the richness of the community of faith, and not separate us from each other. These differences should indicate the creativity of our God, not serve as a reason for fear and distrust.

If we listen to the voice of this Good Shepherd, it will guide us from fear to trust, especially trusting in the goodness of those who are different than we are. In the diversity of our parish and of our community and in our nation, we will all find what we need to live with the security of the Good Shepherd and also be able to follow his lead in caring for all.

Third Sunday of Easter

DO YOU LOVE ME?
By Deacon John Hackett

In our gospel reading today we listened in on the resurrected Jesus’ conversation with Peter after they had both just finished eating breakfast. [Isn’t that a nice touch…eating breadfast with Jesus!]  Well, at any rate, some folks refer to this conversation with Jesus as Peter’s Conversion. Others call it Peter’s Confession. Actually, Peter’s Confession is probably more appropriate, whether we understand confession to mean a declaration of faith or an admission of guilt. You see. It’s easy to see Jesus 3 questions: “Do you love me?” and Peter’s 3 answers of “yes” as Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus. But what is not so easy to see is how this dialogue represents Peter’s confession of guilt. To see the penitential aspect of what is going on here we need to read a couple of the words in the story in the original Greek in which it was written if we really want to see what’s going on. So I’ll try my hand at that in a couple of minutes.

But first, let me ask you this: Did you ever wonder why Jesus had to ask Peter three times “if he loved him?”   BTW, you might remember here Peter’s earlier denial of Jesus 3 times… But that’s not all. In English, when Jesus asks “Do you love me?” and Peter responds, “Yes, I love you,” it all sounds so well and good. But in Greek, we find out that Peter is not exactly responding to the same question that Jesus is asking him.

You see, in the Greek language, (the Greek Bible), there are three different words translated by the one English word LOVE. There is EROS love, which means a sensual, sexual, erotic type of love,. Then there is PHILIA love, meaning love of the likeable, the admiration and devotion we have for a worthy person or thing, such as love for a good friend, a brother, a love of parents, love for a hero and so on. Finally there is AGAPE  love which means a self-sacrificing and unconditional love. It is love for a person who may not deserve it and when there is nothing tangible to be gained. Agape love is in the will, totally in the will. It is a calculated decision to love.

As an  everyday example of agape love, (if you are a dog and cat owner as I am) think about the love you have for your dog. You know, dogs have this special way of lavishly returning affection upon you and being useful to you. But cats (on the other hand) are something else! You know the joke about the difference between a dog and a cat. A dog looks at his owner who feeds him, protects him, and cares for him, and says to himself, “He must be a god.” A cat looks at his owner who feeds him, protects him, and cares for him, and says to himself, “I must be a god.” Now, this is not a propaganda against cats. Actually, I like cats; I like my cat. On the contrary, it is a compliment to cat lovers for their selfless and unconditional love for these quite exceptional animals.  And so cats, by their very nature, serve to give us a wonderful example of the self-sacrificing and unconditional love we call agape love. However, the best example of agape love is not found in the cat-human relationship, but in the love that Jesus has for us, which made him give up his life for us undeserving sinners.

Well, back to the gospel story. And this time, as promised, let’s work on a couple of words in Greek. Jesus asks Peter, Do you love me? “agapas me? (i.e. Do you have agape love for me?”) meaning, “Do you love me in such a manner as to sacrifice your life for me.” Peter knows that he hasn’t lived up to this standard of love. He knows that he disowned Jesus in order to save his own head; even denied him 3 times. So what does Peter answer? He answers, “philô se“…Yes, Lord, I have philia love for you,” meaning, “Yes, Lord, you know how deeply I like and admire you…”Philo se”.

With that being said, we are already beginning to see why Philo se is a confession of failure? Peter is saying to Jesus, “Yes, I like and admire you, Philo se…but no, I have not been able to love you with a self-sacrificing love as you demand, but only with a philia love.” So Jesus asks him a second time whether he has agape love for him (“agapas me”) and Peter again replies that he has only philia love for him…philo se.  Finally, not willing to embarrass Peter any further, Jesus then asks him “Well…Do you have philia love for me?” And Peter answers “Yes, I have philia love for you.” End of the interrogation! Jesus accepts Peter the way he is. At this point, even his philia love is good enough.

The Peter we see here is not the loud-mouthed, boastful man who thought he was better than the other disciples. He is now a wiser, humbler man who would not claim more than he can deliver. Peter’s confession here can be likened to that of the father of the possessed boy who confessed to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (in Mark, Chap 9:24). What Peter is actually saying in his replies to Jesus is:  “I love you, Lord; you know I love you Lord, please… help my lack of love.”

In ending, we often hear hymns that profess our love for Jesus. Think of: “O, How I Love Jesus” or “O, the Love of the Lord Is the Essence.” Peter challenges us today to realize that hymns like these only tell half of the story. The other half is that there is a part of us that does not love God, that denies the Lord when our life, our future or our well-being is at stake. Peter’s example invites us to bring this negative side of us to God for healing. So today, let us join Peter in his confession: “I love you, Lord; you know I love you Lord, please…..help my lack of love.”

I Thirst for You
By Deacon Mike Jacobs

Today Peter proclaims his unfailing love for the Lord and Jesus commissions him to feed his sheep. Jesus asked three times if Peter loved him, the first two being for heroic love and then Jesus settles for a friendship love. What this is showing us is that Jesus is thirsting for our love and is willing to do anything to get it, even unto death on the cross.  You will notice that in the first reading that Peter, facing persecution, proclaims Jesus name, the lamb that was slain and who rescues us from sin.  Peter’s love for the Lord is becoming heroic.

Mother Teresa wrote a letter to her nuns that captures the great thirst that the Jesus have for our love, I would like to share with you.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock… (Rev. 3, 20)

It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.

And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My Spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you, and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father (“As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…” (Jn. 15:10) I come – longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.

I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.

I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations, I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? “Come to Me all you who thirst…” (Jn. 7: 37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.

I Thirst for You. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation, and give you peace, even in all your trials I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart. 

Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life. – and I will. I promise you before My Father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest. 

Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My Kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you, or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you gave Me the joy of being your Savior. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal; so come now, and unburden your soul. 

No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: “I THIRST…”(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…” (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”

“Jesus is God, therefore His love, His Thirst, is infinite. He the creator of the universe,
asked for the love of His creatures.  He thirst for our love… These words:  ‘I Thirst’ –
Do they echo in our souls?” 
Mother Teresa

Are we willing to open the door of our hearts to the Jesus, He is knocking, will we answer.

ff

By Deacon Don Griffith        

Having had some conversation with the the Apostles, it was a sign- an initiative of His grace- that led them to recognize the Lord.  Peter had denied our Lord three times, yet the Lord does not dwell on that.  Instead, for each denial, Jesus confirms Peter’s calling, reminding him of his mission, and entrusts the care of Christ’s entire flock to him, joining loving Christ to the care of souls.  This is in imitation of Christ, Who loved us so much, Who cared so much for our souls that He came down from heaven and took our nature and as both priest and victim freely offered Himself to the Father in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.  Sharing the Lord’s burning desire for the salvation of souls, and strengthened by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the Apostles state that they must obey God rather than men, and boldly proclaim the Gospel, rejoicing that they suffered dishonor for His name.

         Having had some conversation with the the Apostles, it was a sign- an initiative of His grace- that led them to recognize the Lord.  Peter had denied our Lord three times, yet the Lord does not dwell on that.  Instead, for each denial, Jesus confirms Peter’s calling, reminding him of his mission, and entrusts the care of Christ’s entire flock to him, joining loving Christ to the care of souls.  This is in imitation of Christ, Who loved us so much, Who cared so much for our souls that He came down from heaven and took our nature and as both priest and victim freely offered Himself to the Father in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.  Sharing the Lord’s burning desire for the salvation of souls, and strengthened by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the Apostles state that they must obey God rather than men, and boldly proclaim the Gospel, rejoicing that they suffered dishonor for His name.

There is a great deal of stuff going on; turmoil in the world. Even within the Church, it seems as though the Lord is asleep as the Church is being tossed about on the stormy sea and taking on water.  Outside the church, there are such things as violence against peoples of faith, those who desire to twist Christian moral teaching and label it as hate speech, as well as those who propose that the seal of the confessional is only sacred for some sins and not all. All these and more. Outside the Church and inside. In these trying times, the lesson from last week makes itself heard even louder- JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU. Let us not fear, let us praise the Lord for He will rescue us.

In the sacraments,  we encounter the Risen Lord, and with the grace of the Holy Spirit we are sent on mission to witness, in word and deed, the salvation offered to all people in the name of Jesus through the blood of His cross.  desires to dwell among people.  He Who has the words to eternal life, The Sovereign King of the Universe  is made present to us on this altar, and gives us His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to nourish us and remind us, just as He did for St. Peter, of our mission to proclaim the gospel of the Lord and to strengthen us so that we may rejoice when we suffer dishonor for the sake of His name.  This we do because we must obey God. f

Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy

Believing is Not Seeing
By Deacon John Hackett

Our man of the hour today is Thomas. But we don’t just call him Thomas; we call him Doubting Thomas. Why in the world, (he of all the apostles), had an insult attached to his name. I don’t know. Peter denied Christ three times, but I never heard anyone calling  him Denying Peter. Even Judas, who committed treason against Jesus, is not given the nickname: Betraying Judas. But poor Thomas can’t rest in peace as just “Thomas”. No, he has forever been branded: Doubting Thomas!. 

Of course, I do not deny that Thomas doubted. That much is certain. He did, and with great gusto! He wasn’t there with his fellow disciples when Jesus appeared to them that first Easter evening. When they told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas replies, “Unless I see in His hand the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hands into His side, I will not believe.” He demands visible, tangible proof before he’ll budge a fraction of an inch. He is pig-headed, recalcitrant, a mule of a man. A dyed-in-the-wool skeptic.

And for all that Thomas is, I am thankful. Thank God for the man who doubted Easter.

For all his pig-headedness, for his doubt, for his denial, for his dyed-in-the-wool skepticism – for all that, I thank God. Why? Because, as St. Gregory put it, “More does the doubt of Thomas help us to believe, than the faith of the disciples who believed.” I thank God that Thomas doubted, for when he later “touched the wounds in the flesh of his master, he healed in us the wounds of our unbelief.”

So..what was Thomas’s hang-up? He wanted something “real,” something you can sink your teeth into—or, rather, in his case, something you can sink your finger into, like that hole left by a crucifixion nail. He had seen the blood drip from Jesus’ dying body; he had seen the steel penetrate that body; he had seen the wood-smeared crimson; he had seen the stone rolled in front of the tomb. He had seen it all. And for Thomas, seeing is believing.

There’s only one problem: believing is not seeing. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen,” (from Hebrews 11:1). Actually, faith is believing the exact opposite of what you see, for that is how God reveals Himself to us. 

God always wears a disguise. Jesus looks like a man, lives like a man, dies like a mere man. Yet faith says, “Jesus is God.” You do your daily work, you sweat, you put up with rude customers, you deal with unruly students, you do the ho-hum work of the daily grind. Yet faith says, “My labor is holy, divine work, for I am God’s tool that He uses to take care of others.” Yet you get sick, you lose weight, you hurt, you cry, you wonder how long you can last. Yet your faith says, “I am a blessed child of God, well-pleasing to Him, and I will live forever in Christ.” 

Believing is not seeing. To believe is to confess that God is where God seems not to be, to confess that God is good when God seems to be bad, to confess that what is really real is the God hiding behind the exact opposite of what you see. That is faith.

And that is why faith is a gift. Because you can’t do it

Like Thomas, we deem these things to be real: a freshly dug grave at the cemetery; a bank account fizzled to near nothing; a child who just won’t listen; a spouse who doesn’t care; peers who mock; friends who betray; a conscience that won’t shut up; a job that doesn’t satisfy; a sickness that grows stronger and more vicious day by day. Those are the things we consider real -as real evidence that God is holding out on us- is mad at us -doesn’t love us as much for us as He does for others.

Thomas was as we are. Yet Christ doesn’t appear and slap him for his doubt; He holds out His scarred hand for Thomas to see. “Reach here your finger,” He says, “and see my hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas reads like braille the scarred message of love inscribed on the Savior’s skin. He believes. He sees with the eyes of faith who Jesus really is, and he proclaims: “My Lord and my God.”

That is the way of our Lord, the way of grace. He doesn’t abandon Thomas to drown in a sea of doubt. He stretches out His nail-scarred hands and pulls him in. And so He does for you.

He takes your doubts and your fears and your shame and your bitterness and He makes them His own. And He takes His faith and His hope and His life and His joy and His glory and He makes them your own. He doesn’t remove your outward troubles; He gives you something better: inward peace. He may leave in place your dysfunctional family, your disease, your addiction, your pain, but He will not leave in place a heart empty of peace.

That’s what He’s all about: giving to you …..the peace that passes understanding, the kind of peace that knows that no matter how unfaithful you have been, God will never be unfaithful to you. The kind of peace that knows that no matter how great your sin, Christ’s love is always greater. The kind of peace that knows that no matter how bad this world may get at times, any suffering here is not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us. That’s the kind of peace Christ gives: peace of heart when surrounded by ten thousand enemies.

In ending, along with Thomas, we know these things to be really real: the mercy of the Father, who never denies his baptized children; the love of Christ given and shed for you in body and blood; and the grace of the Holy Spirit, who gives you the peace that passes all understanding.

Divine Mercy
By Deacon Don Griffith

We know that God’s mercy is intimately connected to the forgiveness of sins.  For those who may have been praying the Novena to the Divine Mercy there is this image of the Ocean of Mercy.  This word ocean calls to our mind different thoughts.  To be in the middle of the ocean with nothing around- we can’t see the end of the ocean.  God’s mercy is vast.  We don’t know how deep the ocean is.  God’s mercy is unfathomable.  And for this last thought I hope I don’t push the analogy too far, but I’m a poor swimmer so it happened that I enlisted in the United States Navy.  In boot camp, we had to step off the tower and swim across the pool.  Since we weren’t good swimmers, they first taught a small group of us to float on our back.  I’d try to swim, and I’m not very good, I’d breathe in water, arms and legs would cramp up and I’d just about drown.  Finally they said just float, and every once in a while I’d get a little push from the instructors and eventually I make it across.  So that brings me to my last thought about the ocean of mercy.  God’s mercy is vast, God’s mercy is unfathomable.  There are those who are fighting and struggling against this ocean of mercy-in a sense rejecting it; and rejecting it leads us to drown- it costs us our eternal life.  Instead, let us be open, allow ourselves to be buoyed up by the Ocean of Mercy itself, float on our back in silence because the water has come in our ears and our gaze is fixed on Him and we say I want to do your will, help me to do your will.

         Having thought of the word ocean, let us turn now to mercy. St. Thomas has a couple questions on the topic of mercy, and I can’t cover them all but in one of them he says Mercy is especially to be attributed to God, as seen in its effect, but not as an affection of passion.  Huh? For us, we see another person’s misery and we are affected with sorrow at this misery as if it were our own, and then we work to get rid or remove this misery. The getting rid of the misery is the effect of mercy.  When we consider that the cause of all our misery is sin, let us ponder anew those words of the priest: Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.  God the Father of mercies so loved the world that in the fullness of time he sent his Only Begotten Son Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father, and, pouring out his own dear Blood, wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness as it is said during the Easter Vigil.

This past Easter Vigil there were 7  who knelt on the steps of this altar as we sang all you holy men and women pray for us and we begged Lord have mercy and then they turned, and led by the Light of Christ walked down to that font unsealed by the Father of mercies and waded into that ocean of mercy so to speak and by water and the Holy Spirit were reborn and made new, with no stain of sin neither of original sin nor of personal sin, nor was there left any punishment for sin.  All of this being made possible by His blood the blood of the new and eternal covenant which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world (I John ii, 2).  Yet God goes further, because the Creator knows His creatures so very well.  The institution of the sacrament of Penance we hear in the Gospel today.  Our Lord knew that some members of His Body, would fall into mortal sin after baptism.  What a tremendous gift of love and mercy Our Lord entrusted to the Church through the ministry of the Apostles and down to our day through the bishops and priests.

And there is even more.  The possibility of the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven through indulgences which are imparted to us through the infinite merits of Christ and the abundant merits of the saints—all those holy men and women whom we begged pray for us on that Holy Night of the Easter Vigil.

And yet there is even more, a special grace as we know from our Lord’s private revelation to St. Faustina and that is with trust in Divine Mercy the worthy reception of Holy Communion in a state of grace remits all sin and all punishments due to sin.  Just as the Gospel on Easter Sunday was of our Lord’s resurrection, and the gospel today is the giving of the sacrament of penance, those two events occurred on the same day, so it is with Easter Sunday and Divine Mercy Sunday that liturgically, they are the same day.  Having seen the cleanliness of those coming up from the baptismal font on the Easter Vigil, so it is for us today, which is that same day, that in the state of grace worthily receiving Holy Communion, the Lord Jesus pours out this ocean of mercy upon His entire Body throughout the whole  world so that His whole body might shine forth with His radiance.

Having experienced such a great outpouring of Divine Mercy should lead us, out of love for Him, to those corporal and spiritual acts of mercy for others.  To Him be the honor and glory for His mercy endures forever.

The Power of Christ’s Blood
By Deacon Mike Jacobs

You have heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words, this picture before you speaks volumes and my words cannot do it justice. I would like you to listen to John Chrysostom catecheses on the power of Christ’s blood.  St John lived from 347 to 407 is a Doctor of the Church, of the Eucharist and was called the “Golden-Mouthed”. If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt.  Sacrifice a lamb without blemish, commanded Moses, and sprinkle its blood on your doors.  If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood.  In those days, when the destroying angel saw it on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side.  The Gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood.  Now the water was a symbol of Baptism and the blood, of the Holy Eucharist.  The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple and I have found the treasure and made it my own.  So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

There flowed from his side water and blood.  Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you.  I said that water and blood symbolized Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.  From these two sacraments the Church is born:  from baptism, the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit and from the Holy Eucharist.  Since the symbols of Baptism and Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam.  Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim:  Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh! As God took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church.  God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat?  By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished.  As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life. (ST. John Chrysostom)

When Jesus appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection, it was not just to show them he was alive; it was also to show them they were alive with new life and to teach them how to live it.  Now that Jesus is risen, we are his risen Body on earth.  Now we are the Savior, the Messiah, because he continues his saving presence and mission in us.  The “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the favor of sharing in his own divine life by being incorporated into him.  It is because we are in Christ as members of his Body, that that we live by his life, that we are identified, one with him in everything he is as the incarnate Son of God.  Because we are “in Christ” we share in his divine identity, life and mission.  This means that the title which describe Jesus in his mission now describe us.  Jesus is living in us to continue carrying out his mission on earth.  Everything he is a Savior he is now in us.  And everything as Savior, we are called to be “in him”.  This is the logical and awesome consequence of Jesus’ words, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

          So we must be “Son of David” to the world.  Jesus’ first words to his disciples are “Peace be with you”.  He has done what the promised Messiah-King was to accomplish; He has brought God’s peace to the world.  It is not the kind of peace that is established through military power or which is dependent on control of the environment.  It is the “peace of Christ” that interior “tranquility of order” which the world cannot give and the world cannot take away.  When Jesus says, with the authority of the promised Son of David, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”, he is saying that we — or rather, he in us now –must be Son of David and Messiah to our world.  It is through us, through Jesus Christ working in and through our own human actions, that all of God’s promises are to be brought to fulfillment.  It is we who are sent to bring the fullness of life and joy and peace to the world.  This is not the peace of the contented cow in the pasture that just rests in satisfaction of all her felt desires.  This is “God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding”, (phil 4:7) and it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit poured out to our hearts (Gal 5:22; Rm 14:7).  What we are sent to bring to the world is not just some human contentment.  Jesus was not the “Son of David” his people expected: just an earthly king bringing earthly prosperity.  He was the “Son of God,” bringing a divine destiny to the human race.  And so we are sent as Jesus was, to be more than human: to be the human presence of God himself in the world and to bring the world to that divine fulfillment which is found only in union with Christ by grace.  That is why Jesus breathed on his disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”.  This divine fulfillment presupposes deliverance from sin and so Jesus says, “If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them.”  This refer to more than Baptism and sacramental absolution.  Each one of us is named “Jesus,” “God-saves,” because each one of us is sent to “save his people from their sins” (see Mt 1:22).  We do this in many and varied ways, but it is always a characteristic of our mission.

Finally, we are sent, as Jesus was, to save the world through bodily presence, through physical, human contact.  Jesus was called “Emmanuel,” “God-with-us”, because he was on earth for people to see and touch and interact with in human ways and he still invites people, as he invited Thomas, to see and touch his physical, risen Body.  We are that Body and it is only through experiencing Jesus made flesh in us, expressing his love in our human actions that many people will be able to believe.  As his risen Body on earth we are “Emmanuel.”  We are the touchable Jesus.

The Essence of the Divine Mercy Devotion – for Holy Hour
By Deacon Mike Jacobs

The message of the Divine Mercy is a call and challenge:

         Trust in God’s Mercy and Be Merciful.  

The Message of Divine Mercy is that God is merciful. He is love itself poured out for us, and He wants no one to escape that merciful love.  The message is that God wants us to turn to Him with trust and repentance while it is still a time of mercy, before He comes as the just Judge. This turning with trust to Him who is Mercy itself is the only source of peace for mankind. Turning to and imploring God’s mercy is the answer to the troubled world. There is no escaping that answer.

Divine Mercy is God’s love poured out on the undeserving in creating us, redeeming us and sanctifying us. It is “Loves second name” (Rich in Mercy, John Paul II).  Mercy has been described as love of the unlovable and forgiveness of the unforgivable. It is love in action.

What God most wants of us is to turn to Him with trust. And the first act of trust is to receive His mercy. To trust God is to rely on Him who is Mercy itself. The Lord wants us to live with trust in Him in all circumstances. We trust Him because He is God, and He loves us and cares for us.  His mercy is always available to us, no matter what we have done or what state we are in, even if our sins are as black as night and we are filled with

fears and anxieties.

The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to my mercy.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, 723)

But there is more we can do. As Catholics, as Christians, we can go to the Sacrament of

Reconciliation and be reconciled to God and to man.  The Lord wants us to live reconciled with Him and one another.

Not only are we to receive His mercy, but we are to use it, being merciful to others by our actions, by our words, and by our prayers; in other words by practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  The Corporal Works of Mercy are feeding the

hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the travelers, comforting the prisoners, visiting the sick, and burying the dead.  The Spiritual Works of Mercy include teaching the ignorant, praying for the living and the dead, correcting sinners, counseling those in doubt, consoling the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, and forgiving wrongs willingly.

The message of mercy is the content and the challenge of Sacred Scripture. In the Hebrew Bible we see a God of mercy who calls His people to be merciful. In the New Testament Jesus exhorts us:

“Be merciful even as your Father is merciful”(Lk 6:36).

He sets the highest goal for us and expects us to obtain it by His merciful love:

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).

When He comes again, He will judge us on our mercy toward one another:

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

The message and response of mercy is not something new. In the past, God spoke a message of mercy through the patriarchs and prophets — through Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah and many others.  In the last days God has spoken to us by His Son, Jesus Christ, who is Mercy personified and incarnated.  God continues to speak a word of mercy even to our generation, through the Church and its shepherds, and through holy men and women —mystics — whom God has chosen as His vessels.  In our century He revealed Himself to Saint Faustina, a simple and holy nun in Poland during the 1930s. He called her to be His secretary and His apostle of mercy. He spoke to her of His mercy and the way He wants us to respond to it.

The message of The Divine Mercy — Jesus Himself — is at the heart of the gospel. The message of mercy presents the truth and the call of the gospel to our present age. This message of mercy is proclaimed by St John Paul II, in his encyclical Rich in Mercy, as the message for our age. His encyclical is a strong summons for us to implore mercy for ourselves and for the whole world — NOW!

In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead, in the spirit of His messianic mission, which endures in the works of mankind, we lift up our voice and plead: that the love which is in the Father may once again be revealed at this stage of history and that, through the work of The Son and The Holy Spirit, that love may be shown to be present in our modern world and be shown to be more powerful than evil: more powerful than sin and death (Rich in Mercy, 15).

Our Lord’s revelations to Saint Faustina speak of now as the time of mercy. There is a special urgency in this message. Repeatedly, our Lord stressed that now is the day of mercy before the coming of the Day of Judgment. Now is the time to prepare for the coming of the Lord. “Write this,” He said to her: 

“Before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy… I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of [sinners). But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation” (Diary, 83, 1160)

To this powerful message from the Lord, Saint Faustina adds her own exhortation. “O human souls,” she asks, “where are you going to hide on the day of God’s anger? Take refuge now in the fount of God’s Mercy” (Diary, 848) 

Our Lord’s words to us through Saint Faustina are unmistakably clear:

“Speak to the world about My mercy: let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times, after it will come the

day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy, let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed

forth for them” (Diary, 848).

So, the challenge awaits us now to speak out and tell the world of this infinitely merciful God who is waiting for us to turn to Him with trust and become merciful to others as He is merciful to us.  God’s mercy as presented to us through Saint Faustina:

“God’s floodgates have been opened for us Let us want to take advantage of them before the day of God’s justice arrives… O what a great multitude

of souls I see! They worshiped The Divine Mercy and will be singing the hymn of praise for all eternity” (Diary, 1159, 848).

Our Lord not only taught Saint Faustina the fundamentals of trust, and of mercy to others, but He also revealed special ways to live out the response to His mercy. These we call the devotion to The Divine Mercy. The word “devotion” means fulfilling our vows. It is a commitment of our lives to the Lord who is Mercy itself.  By giving our lives to The Divine Mercy — Jesus Christ Himself — we become instruments of His mercy to others, and so we can live out the command of the Lord:

“Be merciful even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). 

Through Saint Faustina, Our Lord gave us special means of drawing on His mercy: an Image of The Divine Mercy, a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a Feast of Mercy, a novena, and prayer at the three o’clock hour — the hour of His death.  These special means are in addition to the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, which have been given to the Church.

Palm Sunday

Mercy Gives Way to Paradise
By Father Pete Iorio

Kathleen Dowling Singh has accompanied thousands of people at the end of their lives. She reports that those who are most afraid of death are religious people. That is shocking to me. Somehow the message of hell, fire and brimstone was beaten into them instead of the merciful love of God. Fear of death is not good news. The Gospel which means the good news of Jesus Christ is that perfect love casts out all fear. Jesus on the cross offers that good news to the repentant thief.

“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What mercy! What a hopeful message! What a joy! Consider this all merciful, loving God who is love is certainly greater than any human love.

This same message of mercy is offered to those who crucified Him, when Our Lord uttered a prayer: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

There’s a story about Saint Siloan of the monastery of Mount Athos. An angry old monk went up to the saint and said, “God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.” The saint was upset and responded, “supposing you went to paradise and from there, you looked down and saw somebody in hellfire. Could you possibly be happy?” The angry Monk responded, “it can’t be helped. It would be their fault.” The Saint said with a sorrowful countenance gazing into his eyes, “Love could not bear that.”

If you have ever loved someone, like your children, could you imagine being in the perfect joy of heaven thinking that your children are being tortured by God for one or more sins that you see in them? I don’t think so.

Jesus offers good news which always offers hope, boundless love and mercy. From the cross, he utters two merciful phrases: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” – to those who crucified him and “today, you will be with me in paradise.”

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