Easter SundayApril 4th, 2015 at 12:23:55 pm
Every year during Holy Week, before Holy Thursday, we celebrate a special Mass called the Chrism Mass. During this Mass the sacred oils used throughout the year are blessed and all priests have an opportunity to renew their promises and dedication to the Lord and His people. It is a great day. I was particularly struck by Pope Francis’ homily this year during this Chrism Mass. He reflected on the tiredness of the priest, he says, “Let us never forget that a key to fruitful priestly ministry lies in how we rest and in how we look at the way the Lord deals with our weariness. How difficult it is to learn how to rest!” I often have that good feeling of exhaustion back at the rectory very late at night after a long day of laughing with kids, forgiving sinners, administrating the parish, talking to couples, praying with people, anointing the sick, burying the dead, and teaching the faith.
It is there on the couch, usually eating some hastily made pasta in front of the TV that the Pope’s words hit me, “How difficult it is to learn how to rest.” The Pope says there is a dangerous type of weariness that priests can be susceptible to, he calls it, “wanting yet not wanting” and describes it like this: “[the priest] having given up everything but continuing to yearn for the fleshpots of Egypt, toying with the illusion of being something different.” The Pope continues, “I like to call this kind of weariness “flirting with spiritual worldliness”. When we are alone, we realize how many areas of our life are steeped in this worldliness, so much so that we may feel that it can never be completely washed away.” It’s so weird, I spend all the day living often as a counter-cultural symbol and an implicit rejection of the world and it’s often confused values and then at night it is like I binge on this spiritual worldliness in the form of TV. I catch up on sports first and then see what else is on. I feel like I am living what the comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes about. I remember one time the remote control batteries ran out and not being able to find any I took them from the fire alarm. That is just bad. Have you ever had that experience were you are watching TV and somehow you lose the remote? I don’t remember throwing it, where is it? Well I guess I’m just going to be watching this info-commercial. You always start off watching those things going, “Who in the world watches this stuff?” and then a few minutes later you’re like, ‘that is a really good point.”
Anyway I share all of this with you to say that I am exhausted every time I read our Gospel today from John. First of all Mary Magdalen goes to the tomb early in the morning, while it is still dark. I mean can we really call that ‘in the morning’ if it is still dark? I have trouble getting up for 8:07 daily Mass. She sees the stone rolled back from the tomb and then runs back to the other disciples. Running early in the morning? My Lenten discipline was to try and work out at 6:30am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Let me just say, I’m happy Easter is here. Then when Peter and John hear this news they literally race to the empty tomb. More running, I’m getting tired just reading about this. However, the disciples are only just beginning to pick up speed. This experience of the Resurrection inspires a few uneducated fishermen and poor men and women huddled together in fear after the crucifixion to change the world forever. This early Church never tired of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ even when they were exhausted even in the face of great persecution and martyrdom. So what makes me so tired? It is not my ministry; it is the world! The world my friends, is what sucks the life out of us and holds us down. The message of the Resurrection is that we are called to rise above this world, not to sink deeper into its mind numbing materialism and fleeting pleasures.
Listen again to what St. Paul says to us this morning, “Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Lately I have begun working with my spiritual director and a life-coach to free myself from flirting with spiritual worldliness. Disciplining myself to intentionally rest with the Lord, who wants us to relax but to do so in a way that fills us with wisdom, true joy, peace, virtue, and brings us ever closer to Jesus. To use our recreation to not only relax but re-create ourselves by being creative, active, and adventurous. Let us refuse to just sink back into the tomb of a couch and roll the barrier of an electronic screen in front of our face, but rather let us rise to read, learn, play, create, visit, call, tell stories, love each other, and serve the common good. Easter shows us that this earth is not our true and lasting home, its pleasures are imperfect, imitations, and do not last. We are made for so much more. One day we will die like Christ to this world and like Him we will rise above it to the right hand of God. This is what we are made for and as baptized Christians let us find ways in our lives right now to die to the world and its weariness and rise to rejoice in the Lord in whom we run and grow not weary!
Good FridayApril 3rd, 2015 at 10:55:18 am
Our liturgy today begins in such a solemn way, the ministers walk out and prostrate themselves on the floor as we all knell. There is no sign of the cross, no introduction, no “Let us pray”. In a real way we are continuing the three day liturgy called the Holy Triduum. It began last night with the Lord’s Supper and the washing of the disciples’ feet on Holy Thursday. There is no final blessing that Thursday as instead we all accompany Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane and keep vigil with our Lord until his arrest, imprisonment, mockery of a trial, beatings, spittings, scourging, condemnation, betrayal, denial, abandonment, the way of the cross, His crucifixion and death – all of which we remember today on Good Friday. Tomorrow the world is silent as our Lord is in the tomb and no sacraments are celebrated or given until the sun sets in darkness and we gather in vigil to anticipate its rising again, which we know will happen, just as we know the Son of God is Risen.
Yet for all the solemn and sober ways we venerate and remember Our Lord’s Passion today there are moments throughout our prostrations and silence that punctuate why we call this Friday good. Our First reading today begins with the words, “See my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.” It goes on to describe in detail, so many centuries before Christ, what God’s suffering servant would have to endure. However, all is prefixed by this statement of exultation. Then we read every year John’s account of the Passion of our Lord. In the Gospel of John Jesus demonstrates a sense of power and control even while enduring the humiliation and suffering of His passion. From the moment in the garden where He simultaneously proclaims Himself who they are looking for and that He is God with the powerful words, “I AM”, which causes His attackers to fall unto the ground. He sets His face like flint asking those who strike Him why they did so, He engages Pilate and convicts him to wrestle with the false notion of subjective truth, on the cross He gives His dear mother into the care of John and makes her the mother of all disciples. It is Jesus, not His torturers, who determines when this ordeal will be over when He says, “It is finished.”
What can we learn from this so that in our own humiliations and sufferings we can manage to recognize that there is somehow good still present and possible? Firstly, we must trust and have faith that Jesus is with us in our own sufferings. He suffers with us. While we are painfully aware that we are often not in control of our lives, we can trust that Jesus who has conquered sin and death is with us. It is He who boldly proclaims and inspires us to believe that sin, evil, suffering, or even death will not have the last word. I believe that with all my soul, mind, and strength.
We know that Friday when our Lord died was not called good by anybody. When Jesus died and darkness came over the whole world nobody dared to say it was good. We must be gentle with ourselves in recognizing that when the darkness of difficulties comes into our life it clouds our ability to see clearly the hope held out to us by Jesus. This is natural and normal. However, no darkness remains forever, no night lasts for eternity, the Son will always break through. This is what Jesus knew and it is what He offers for us today on a Friday now perpetually known as good. Trust in Jesus, have hope in Him. Let Him give you the confidence to persevere in faith and love throughout the trials and tribulations of life. Our life on earth is only finished when Jesus says it is; and when He does, only then will we truly ever know just how good things can be.
Holy ThursdayApril 2nd, 2015 at 1:06:37 pm
I thought maybe I would post my Triduum homilies as blog posts this year in case anyone would be interested.
Holy Thursday 2015
I am already thinking about and drooling over the traditional Easter meal my mom makes. Everything is great, but the centerpiece of the meal is the roasted lamb. I really like lamb. It is full of flavor and has that gamey taste to it that is kind of exotic and savory at the same time. It can stand up to pretty strong herbs and goes great with a number of side dishes, including a wonderful mint sauce that my mom and I enjoy. Yeah the lamb is pretty much perfect, it is as Exodus describes it today – without blemish. Somehow this one thing being so good makes everything else better or if disaster strikes and the rhubarb pie is burnt you can at least point to the leftovers of lamb and say, “boy oh boy, that lamb was sooooo good.”
It strikes me that at the Lord’s celebration of the Passover with His disciples there were two things without blemish that made that meal so special, the roasted lamb and the Lamb of God – Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ that holds this all together and makes us able to have good things to say about a meal that, let’s be honest, was far from perfect. Sitting around the table are a collection of Jesus’ closest friends, all of whom would soon abandon Him at His time of greatest need. One has already sold Him out for silver and the leader of the group, Peter, will curse and deny he even knew this Jesus three times before the cock crows. Looking around at the side dishes all I see are bitter herbs like horseradish (which reminded the Jews of their bitter struggles under the Egyptians), salt water (to symbolize the tears), hard boiled eggs (to show that through the cruelty of their enslavers the Israelites grew hard and strong). These are not appetizing and the only thing we might be able to say is, “boy oh boy, at least that lamb is good!” He is perfect and it is Jesus Christ who in the midst of persecution, tears, and suffering we look to in order to proclaim this meal a success.
We gather here tonight to share in this meal and we all have blemishes. None of us are perfect. We feel inadequate or sinful. Maybe we are addicted to something or our past still haunts us and we haven’t had to courage to bring it to the Lord in confession. We feel lonely or unloved or worst of all unworthy of being loved. Look to the Lamb of God! See in Him the strength to be better, feast on Him who strengthens you with His grace!
Some of us gather for this meal surrounded by other problems many of which are out of our control. We are looking for jobs, or better jobs, or a living wage. Our loved ones are sick, our children struggling with their faith or have left it altogether, or we ourselves have been diagnosed with something that scares us and we don’t know how to handle it. We look at our world and we see attacks on religious freedom, our first and fundamental right. We see the disintegration of family and redefinition of marriage. We see violence and terrorism in the news around the world and live in fear about if or when it will reach our shores again. Look to the Lamb of God! See in Him the hope held out to us of the Kingdom of God. See in His perfection that which awaits us.
If we focus on Jesus during this meal we will not only receive His love and grace to strengthen us and make us better, but we will also be filled with hope - and no matter what the side dishes of our lives may present us with the main course holds us together and keeps us from despair – the lamb of God! Outside of this perfect Lamb of God we observe in this small meal the broken but lovely people who may have blemishes, but are mostly clean, but not all. This is how Jesus describes us who gathered about Him so many years ago and who gather about Him tonight at St. Paul’s. We are clean, but not all. We are good, but broken. We are hopeful, but frustrated. We are strong, but overwhelmed at times. What holds us all together, what makes us better, what gives us hope is the only one without blemish, the perfect one Jesus Christ.
How does Jesus rescue this meal? By a simple gesture of service. He washes our feet. He does this as a model for us to follow. He says afterwards, “what I have done for you, you must do for one another.” Fed and nourished by the Lamb of God we are inspired to follow His lead, humble ourselves, and serve our sisters and brothers. Jesus is made real and truly present in the miracle of the Eucharist and in what He inspires in us. We who fill this Church are united in the fact that we all need help, that all of us have blemishes. When we focus on the unblemished perfect Lamb of God we lose sight of our faults and fears and we are nourished and strengthened to give ourselves to each other like Jesus has given Himself to us. In this way no matter how bad it gets, no matter how awful the side dishes life serves us become, we can see in this sacred meal and in a community of believers who love one another and care for each other, our perfect savior Jesus, and we can say, “Boy oh boy, that Lamb is soooooo good!”