May 19, 2019 - 5th Sunday of Easter

THE ROAD HOME

 

No matter how you cut it, love is of the very essence of our lives. Without some measure of love, we are going to be, or very likely, we are, quite miserable. Getting right to the point, the ultimate experience of love is God's total love for us, and, of course, our willingness to accept this. And why wouldn't we, accept this? Well, as I read them, our Scripture Readings for this Fifth Sunday of Easter are inviting us to some deeper reflection on the subject of genuine love, and to the under­standing that it will cost us.

 

God is, after all, perfection: perfect being, perfect wisdom, perfect love. We, on the other hand, are sinners, repentant, redeemed, but yet, not at all perfect. We are going to have to work at our end of this kinship. Paul and Barnabas are teaching this. Enduring hardships and adopting a practice of prayer and fasting will bring us to the entry of the Kingdom of God. For his part, John, in Revelations, encourages us with his message of a "new heaven and a new earth". We hear God telling us, "See, I make all things new." Whatever the cost, it is worth it.

 

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks with strong conviction: "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another." Did you notice John comments that this was after Judas had left the upper room? If we are immersed in our own self-interest, can we truly love the other? As long as we make exceptions in our loving, we are really not fulfilling Jesus' new commandment.

 

We are living with Jesus the "greatest story ever told". It is some time ago that Jesus gave us this commandment. Our chaotic, confused world needs us to live daily this manifesting of Jesus today. Because Jesus empowers us, we can have answers to the chaos. When you receive Jesus in the Eucharist, ask Him how he wishes His power to be implemented in you and in your family.

 

Fr. Jim

May 12, 2019 - 4th Sunday of Easter

THE ROAD HOME

Once again, this Sunday we encounter a multiple celebration. We continue, joyfully, to express our gratitude to Jesus who on Easter brought us to new life in His resurrection. This Fourth Sunday of Easter has been traditionally known as "Good Shepherd Sunday". We read and hear of Jesus as the Shepherd of His Church. We are His people, the sheep of His flock.

But, for us, this is also Mother's Day! We don't care to think of Mom as somehow taking a back seat. Yet, the idea of Mom sharing the celebration with the One Who redeems us, is not at all to be deemed a snub. In the greater percentage of our homes, we have readily honored Mom, and have been grateful to her, for carrying the banner of faith, often quietly, but wholeheartedly. Happy Mother's Day to all of our Mothers and Grandmothers.

Our Scriptures bear witness that not all was easy and thriving for the new "Church". People struggled with the idea of this Jesus from Nazareth as a prophet sent from God. In the second reading, from Revelations, John's vision sees the new Leader, Jesus, as a Lamb. People were gathering around and paying homage, to a gentle, vulnerable lamb. In that early context, and in our world of turmoil, a great many people are not going to be impressed. We might even ask ourselves about our following.

In the Gospel, however, Jesus speaks firmly and with conviction of His "sheep", of His leadership. His authority and power come from above. Most assuredly, it behooves us to adopt this tone in whatever manner we express our faith. A "disciple" is a follower, one who eagerly learns from the Master. The image of sheep melds readily into the concept of discipleship.

Jesus is ever our leader, master, shepherd, Redeemer. He is ever vitally in our lives. Hence, we always follow Him, no matter the tone of our world, no matter what at times may be going on inside of us. We are being led, and will often be led, through some dark times. Jesus calls us to follow him, carrying our cross. Without a doubt, He is leading us to His eternal life. Look closely. This is the road home.

 

Fr. Jim

May 5, 2019 - 3rd Sunday of Easter

THE ROAD HOME

Recently I found myself telling someone this, rather old, story. It's about a Mom who is dutifully attempting to pry her adult son out of bed early on a Sunday morning. She is being relentless. His resistance proves not to match her fervor. She is telling him he has to get up and get to Mass. He responds one last time: "Oh, Mom, why must I get up?  Just let me sleep". Her final argument: "You have to get up! You're the priest!"

Do you need someone to convince you to come to Mass on a Sunday morning? What ultimate convincing argument provides the effective motivation? It's humility, isn't it? It is, after all, God we are coming to worship, to serve. In just two brief sentences I have used three words, humility, worship, serve, that are not usually all that attractive in today's world. Well, could love - our love for God, or better, God's love for us - strike the chord that appeals?

We believe in a living God. This is the starting block. Jesus asks us, further, to believe in Him. In His public life, in the stories of the Gospel, Jesus gives us ample reason for believing in Him. He is consistently inviting us to a relationship with Him. He is presenting us with a unique way of life. It will result in an eternity of untold happiness and glory. However, He tells us also that this friendship with Him won't be easy. To the faint of heart this may be a deterrent. Yes, God, and Jesus, insists on challenging us. Yet, as we read the Acts of the Apostle and the Gospels, we discover that the Apostles, and others who followed closely, discovered something.

Whatever this "something" is, when they owned it, you couldn't shut them up, not with threats, not with beatings. Death, martyrdom, was effective.  No, not really. Those who heard them and also believed firmly in Jesus continued to carry the message. Some of those very people brought it to you. Now, what are you, are we, going to do with this "Good News"?

In today's Gospel we hear Jesus asking Peter if he loves Him. Jesus asks three times. That moment had to be more than a little bit uncomfortable for Peter. But he was growing in that moment. You and I have to be more than just passive witnesses to the Gospel.

It is a guarantee that Jesus asks each of us this same question: "Do you love me?" Each day He asks us this question many times. It is our moment to grow - to believe, to love. "Lord, you know that I love you!" But, please, Lord Jesus, ask me again tomorrow.

Fr. Jim

April 28, 2019 - 2nd Sunday of Easter

THE ROAD HOME

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. We continue to celebrate with the utmost joy Jesus' Resurrection. Further, our Scriptures today assist in reminding us that this is the Sunday of Divine Mercy. We are gifted by God, always, in a multitude of ways. Every day has to be, for us, a celebration of gratitude: God's mercy, God's love, God's limitless generosity.

As we, the People of God, the Church of God, throughout our world, rejoice together in all our wondrous benefits, here at home in our Resurrection Parish, we are favored with one more fond blessing.

Today is First Holy Communion Day for our youngsters in Second Grade. It is a day of joy for them, most certainly, and for their families. We want to prayerfully join them as they receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.

This is a memorable day. In years to come they will look back, as each of us does, so very often, recalling how they felt and how important this event has been for them. Hopefully, for each of them, this will prove to be a rising into a new height of experience of God's love and their kinship with Jesus.

In today's Gospel, the Apostles and others are sequestered in the upper room when the resurrected Jesus joins them. First, it's a moment of fear, but then complete delight, joy and hope. Finally, they believe, almost fully.. We learn Thomas was not with them. He does not share the experience. In hearing of this visit of Jesus, he has a problem with the news. There has to be something of a sense of not being included in such a beautiful moment. Perhaps, this feeling had something to do with his reluctance to believe. But, he has his moment. Jesus invites Thomas to believe, to be close to him.

Perhaps again, our First Communicants have had a feeling of being excluded. Here is their moment! Jesus invites them in.

Congratulations to all of you receiving Jesus for this first time!!


Fr, Jim

April 21, 2019 - Easter

THE ROAD HOME

Happy Easter to all, people of Resurrection Parish, and all our visitors. This being our Parish Feast Day, we are doubly blessed. This is, more importantly, the Feast Day for all who are in love with Jesus Christ. We rejoice! Jesus' resurrection is the bountiful promise of our resurrection. This is the firm pledge of our new life. During these past days of our Lent we have lived our willingness to repent. We have been practicing a new discipline, prayer, fasting and generous giving of ourselves. We have been seeking a disposition that opens us to embrace this new life.

Each and all of our Scripture readings for this celebration are reminding us that this newness is not some lofty treasure, off in some distant future. It is now, a supreme gift, to be lived as totally as is Jesus' resurrection. Our life is beginning, now, a life in Jesus Christ. Jesus abandons the tomb. We are free to do the same - abandon anything that does not enhance this new life.

When Mary of Magdala made her way to the tomb early in the morning, she was heavy of heart. All that seemed so promising only days earlier was now gone. Then, the tomb was empty! Another layer of sadness. Mary was most certainly a woman of faith. But her heart was breaking. She was badly shaken. Then, the figure, the man she had thought was the gardener, standing quietly a few feet away from her, turned and gently spoke her name: "Mary". That was all. But it was enough - more than enough. The familiar voice, the gentle tone. In a breath she was kneeling at his feet. All was restored, and she was whole again, her life renewed and replete with meaning.

Here is the depth of the Easter blessing. The resurrected Jesus speaks your name: forgiveness, healing, love, the complete embrace He has always been offering to you, to each of us. It is our day of resurrection. This new way is clearly marked.

Happy Easter!!

Fr. Jim

April 13 & 14, 2019 - Palm Sunday

The Road Home

It is PALM SUNDAY. It is the beginning of HOLY WEEK. Our Lent has come to this moment. We who love Jesus Christ find ourselves at a kind of precipice. We are anticipating the incomparable joy of EASTER. Yet, as we face these few days, we know there is a path to follow to bring us to such joy.

            And the path is one of pain, suffering, and self-abandonment, and yet, moments of glory. When you read over the first reading, from the prophet Isaiah, words spoken by the Suffering Servant of God, try experiencing yourself as the one speaking. Can you recall those moments, times past, when you were dreading some event, feeling remorse or dread, feeling this alien weight in your chest? Here we are.

            Of course, it is Jesus who is this Suffering Servant. He is taking on this unspeakable burden for us. But when a loved one is suffering, we don’t merely look on, untouched. We can’t. We find ourselves drawn right in to all that the other is experiencing. Jesus suffers; we suffer. Jesus ascends this wretched cross. We, at a loss, humbly wait at the foot of the cross. Jesus dies!

            Now, it is we who die—to self. This is where—and how—our transformation takes place. Jesus’ death was not just a moment of anguish, and he’s gone. Jesus’ dying is something none of us will ever experience. As we live into the days and moments of Holy Week, it is absolutely necessary for each of us to feel ourselves surrounded by, encompassed by, the several events to which we are invited.

            On Holy Thursday, celebrate the Eucharist as if it were your First Communion, only this time with a more mature grasping of what Jesus Christ is doing with and in you. Then, let it be the Eucharistic Jesus who leads you, each of us, into the oh-so-dark scenes of Jesus’ suffering and death on Good Friday.

            The death of Jesus is not the end! His story continues with our remembering his Resurrection in the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday. The remaining challenge given to us during all of this is our eager walking the path of transformation.

 

Fr. Jim

April 6 & 7, 2019 - 5th Sunday of Lent

The Road Home

This is the Fifth Sunday of Lent. It is late in our time of repentance. Yet, God is the eternal NOW, ever present to us, ever eager to share His divine holiness. Through the prophet, Isaiah, the Lord tells us: “See, I am doing something new.” We are this “something new.” The intimacy we enjoy with God is truly indescribable. All we need do as our part of the covenant is live it, daily. It is as simple, and as immediate, as this.

            But we hesitate. What might be the obstacle? We are reluctant. Have we not received the message? Once again, our Scriptures for this Fifth Sunday are so invitingly positive. In the Isaiah reading God appears as delighted, joyously providing all that is needed for us to grow in a life of holiness.

            We are aware of this. We have a hunger inside of us, a hunger, a thirst, that only God can sate. We don’t need to waste our energy searching somewhere else. God is in our midst. In his letter, Paul tells us he “has been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.” It is a unique and awesome realization. It has to be our desire that we have this identical openness to Jesus, disposed to his reaching so deeply inside of us. We don’t need to hide. We don’t want to hide from this fullness.

            In John’s Gospel for this day, we are privileged to witness the gentleness of a forgiving Jesus. This woman who has been unfaithful, and is now terrified for her life, stands or kneels, humiliated in the presence of Jesus. Can we imagine this scene? Jesus, in turn, gazes at her with love. This is the character of our crucified, risen, Jesus Christ. You see, our Lenten period of penance becomes complete as we surrender, to be possessed by our redeeming Jesus Christ.

 

Fr. Jim

March 30 & 31, 2019 - 4th Sunday of Lent

The Road Home

These Lenten Scripture readings each week are so rich in their promises. Their richness arises from their author, Jesus, the Son of God. There is no one who has lived on this earth who could ever be like Him. He is Divine, knowing all the hidden mystery of God. At the same time He is human, not sharing in sinful humanity, but rather living deeply what human life, without sin can, and should be. Sadly, we will never be able to grasp this.

            But, not to be disheartened. The Israelites, in our first reading, are finally at home, the Promised Land. It’s the fulfillment of a dream. Their delight, their joy, can scarcely be described. Paul, in his letter, insists on our being risen to an exquisite level of happiness. We are in Christ! It is his definition of what it means for us to be disciples. He speaks of us as ambassadors–-for Christ. Our official Church gets it. Today is known as “Laetare Sunday.” Rejoice!!

            Yet, there is more. Perhaps it is in our Gospel that we find the jewel of the message. We are all familiar with Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son. The Father forgives his wayward son. Could we see him as too “soft”? After all, where the discipline? Jesus is telling us, God forgives, everyone, everything! Look again. It is Jesus, God’s Son, telling a story, teaching an echoing doctrine, as it were.

            In the story, a parable, do we get the various lessons? For example, who is the Father? Okay, but can we discern what might be going on in the “Father”? And now, in a story about forgiveness—we can’t help but see our image. Having given this some thought, what’s your reaction, your response? Take your time.

            And finally, another son, the older son. What a volume of emotions; anger, hurt, bitterness, vengeance. Is it, are they, familiar? The bottom line: “Son, daughter, everything I have is yours!”

 

Fr. .Jim

March 23 & 24, 2019 - 3rd Sunday of Lent

The Road Home

We just have to come to believe in God’s total love for us. Our Scripture readings for this Third Sunday of Lent give strong evidence. That burning bush that intrigued Moses is burning in our midst as well. Elizabeth Barrett Browning captured this image in one of her poems:

 

            “Every common bush is afire with the presence of God; but only those who see take off their shoes. The rest sit around plucking blackberries.”

 

            God is present in all of His creation. He wants to be known by you and by me. He does not hide from us, but realizing his presence demands our attention. Because our Divine God is also mystery, we need to take time with His word to allow his gentle but determined revelation to sink deeply into our interior.

            In the Gospel, Jesus does come across as somewhat stern. It’s not that he wants us to cower in fear. But he is speaking the glaring truth. We are sinners. He, as the Son of God, desires our repentance. This is our role in this whole matter of redemption. Jesus, as our Messiah, our Savior, does all the rest. It is very likely it will take all of eternity for us to fathom the enormity, and the beauty of this, His gift.

            However, as we continue reading this Gospel message, Jesus does soften His words with the parable of the reluctant fig tree. He now has to be the gardener willing to save the tree, ready, yes, even eager to give it some added TLC. We, of course, are the tree.

            Do not, in the least, make light of God’s love for us. Do not doubt his constant, caring presence. During this Lent, we do well to read these Scriptures at least three times. We tend to miss so much, especially since we so often peruse them very quickly in our first reading. Enjoy and live the story of our redemption!