The One Condition

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily May 5, 2019

“So it was the year 1798, this was during the French Revolution and Napoleon had taken Pope Pius VI prisoner for refusing to relinquish his power.  Napoleon had a meeting with the Pope and in this meeting he told Pope Pius VI his intention to destroy the Catholic Church. He said this was a goal that he had in mind that he wanted to destroy the Catholic Church.  Holy Father responded, ‘Well how are you gonna do that? The priests have been trying to destroy the Church for over 1,000 years!’ The Church is divinely instituted. If you want any proof, it’s still around. We’re still here.  If we think about it, what country or company or organization is around for 2,000 years? And so we were instituted by Christ at the very beginning when he instituted the Church. We are still around today and we ain’t going anywhere because it is a divinely instituted organization instituted by Jesus Christ himself.

Now in today’s Gospel our risen Lord appears to seven of his disciples on the Sea of Tiberius, but have you ever wondered why Jesus appeared to only a few of his disciples a handful of times after his resurrected?  Why didn’t he make himself more available? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to make multiple appearances to more people in an effort to strengthen this divine institution of his? Well Cardinal John Henry Newman actually commented on this.  He said that, ‘If Jesus had appeared publicly and indiscriminately to all, the power of the resurrection would have been lessened. Some would believe, others wouldn’t. Some would get it, others wouldn’t. Some would be fascinated, others indifferent.  Cardinal Newman went on to say, ‘Instead he chose to appear to a small group of his dedicated disciples who knew him, who loved him, and who understood him confident that they would be effective bearers of his message. Friends, you and I are those disciples today who now eat with him and drink with him after his resurrection at his table of plenty and so we have been called.  We have been called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. It’s also interesting to look at our Gospel today in that John gives us a series of flashbacks to before Jesus’ crucifixion. Today we read that peter and the other apostles are fishing. This is reminiscent of when Jesus called his first apostles to put down their fishing nets in order to follow him.  Today we read that the apostles climbed on to the shore to see Jesus with a charcoal fire. The last time we read about a fire in the Gospel it was Peter who was warming himself by the fire during Jesus’ interrogation after he’d been arrested from the garden of Gethsemane and then finally we have Jesus inviting them to share in this meal of fish and bread, a flashback to Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fish in order to feed the 5,000.  What is the author trying to tell us in all this? Why these flashbacks? What’s the point? Remember that there’s nothing in John’s Gospel that is coincidence or there by accident or mistake. Well I think it’s simple. It’s to point out to us that Jesus is faithful. It is an illustration to his fidelity. He was faithful to his disciples before his death and crucifixion and he is faithful to them in the glory of his resurrection and so he continues the same pattern of behavior even though they were not faithful to him.  Even though they messed up, they abandoned him, they denied him, they literally left him for dead. The same thing goes for us as well. He is faithful to us and he doesn’t love us any less when we mess up. His love for us is constant. His love for us is pure and I think this is evident in his conversation with Peter at the end of our Gospel today. Jesus takes Peter aside to talk to him. Now remember their last encounter prior to Jesus’ death Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. Today, Jesus gives Peter a chance to affirm his love and renew the commissioning of Peter as his Vicar.  The one condition for this is love and so he asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?’ Love. this is the one condition for all of us who desire to be followers of Jesus Christ and note here that Jesus doesn’t criticize Peter.  He doesn’t lay into him. You know, ‘What happened to you? Where were you? Why did you do that in my hour of need?’  He doesn’t say any of this, just simply asks him, ‘Do you love me?’ And Jesus asks us this same question as well and so a point for us to take home is that God loves us even when we mess up.  God loves us even when we mess up royally, even when we fail, even when we turn our back on God through sin he doesn’t give up on us. He doesn’t stop loving us. He continues to pursue us no matter what and he is always, always, ready and willing to forgive us just as he was with those first disciples, those who were called in the very beginning to spread the Good News in those very early first days of Christianity and those of us he calls his disciples today, to spread the Good News of the victory of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.”

Wherever We Are

Fr. Tom’s Homily May 4, 2019

“That rather long Gospel today has so many different messages and symbols within it that remind of us the presence of the risen Lord.  You know, Peter and the disciples were back up in Galilee and they had already experienced the risen Lord, but they didn’t know what it meant and so they went back to what they did know and that was their old job and Peter says, ‘I’m gonna go out and fish.’  And the other Apostles say, ‘Ok well we’ll come fishing with you.’ Of course Simon Peter being the expert fisherman that he is, he catches nothing all night long and then Jesus is there on the shore and he says, ‘Oh put the net on the other side.’ And then they draw in this huge draft of fish and they have to drag it in to shore and when they open it up they have 153 fish.  Now that’s interesting that they put the number there 153. Now you can be sure that the Apostles did not sit there and say 1-2-3-4-5. That was not it. 153 was the number of species of fish that at that time they believed existed in the world and so that 153 fish means that all people would be gathered together into the net of the Kingdom of God that that’s truly what it is about is that great diversity of people being brought into the Kingdom of God and of living in that relationship.  And then Jesus invites them, he already has fish on the coals, but he invites them to bring some of their own and remember the word for fish in Greek also stood for Jesus. Among the early Christians the symbol of the fish was symbolic of Christ and the reason for that in Greek its ichthus and ichthus would be Jesus Christ, Song of God, Savior if you take the first letter of each of those words that spells ichthus and so the fish itself already there is a symbol of Christ and the bread is there reminding us of the Eucharist that its through the Eucharist that Christ reveals himself to the Apostles there and it’s also through the Eucharist that Christ reveals himself to us and then we have that whole story of Peter going back and forth and to be honest with you, the English doesn’t do it justice because in Greek there’s three words for love.  There’s eros or passionate love. There is philos or friendship, brotherly love or there is agape which is self-sacrificing, truly serving love. Now Jesus asked Peter, ‘Do you agape me? Do you love me with a self-giving love? And Peter’s response is, ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you philos, as a friend.’ I love you as a friend and Jesus asked him again, ‘Do you love me with the love of agape, of truly self-sacrificing love?’ And Peter said, ‘You know Lord, I love you philos, as a friend.’ And then the third time, Jesus says, ‘Ok Peter I will take you where you’re at.’ And so he says to Peter, ‘Do you philos me?’ And Peter says, ‘Yes, I love you as a friend.’ Peter was being very honest there and Jesus accepted Peter where he was at, but then he also goes on and says, ‘Ultimately you will love me with agape love.’ And after the power of the Holy Spirit had come upon Peter he was transformed.  He was made truly a new person through that gift of the Holy Spirit and he loved the Lord with agape love, stood up in front of the Sanhedrin today in the first reading, stood up before the Romans in Rome, gave his life for Christ. He truly learned agape love, but Jesus led him along slowly through that infusion of the Holy Spirit and so we too are challenged. We’ve already been gifted by the Spirit, but Jesus does ask us, ‘Do you love me? Do you love me?’ Do I love Jesus just as a friend as somebody that I just kinda like or do I love Jesus agape, self-sacrificing, self-giving? And Jesus takes us wherever we are at, but he just invites us as the final words of the Gospel say today, ‘Follow me.’  If we follow Jesus we will truly discover the fullness of his risen life, the fullness of eternal love.”

We Want Proof

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily April 28, 2019

“For approximately 8 years between 1930 to 1938, Jesus appeared to Sister Faustina, a simple cloistered nun from Poland and he asked her to write down what he said to her.  Jesus told her that he desired that the Church add a feast day to the church calendar and Jesus was very specific about the purpose of this feast day and he was specific about where he wanted it to be placed on the Liturgical calendar.  Listen to the words of Jesus recorded by Faustina. ‘My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the feast of mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open.  I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the font of my mercy. The feast of mercy emerged from my very depths of tenderness. It is my desire that it be celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the fount of my mercy.’  On April 30th, 2000 at the canonization of St. Faustina, Pope St. John Paul II declared that this Sunday be known as Divine Mercy Sunday

In today’s Gospel on that evening of the day of the resurrection, Jesus suddenly appears to his apostles.  They are fearfully huddled behind locked doors in the upper room. No doubt they are thinking that the Roman soldiers will next come after them.  They are not feeling peace. They’re full of angst and fear and then they hear those words of mercy, ‘Peace be with you.’ In this Gospel and in the words of St. Faustina, Jesus tells us that we will never experience true peace until it becomes the fount of his own mercy and mercy is not merely an attribute of God for mercy is the essence of God for God is love and mercy is what flows from the font of God’s love.  In our Gospel we read that Thomas refused to believe for he was a skeptic, Doubting Thomas. Unless he probed the nail marks with his fingers and placed his hand into the side where blood and water gushed forth from Jesus, he would not believe. This is exactly what many of us suffer from, this inability to have that genuine faith in God, in His love and in His mercy. Today we are locked in our own private upper room constructed with walls of our angst and our fear and like Thomas, we are not present to hear those soothing words of compassion granting us his peace for we have no room for the grace of God to enter in to us because we are already full, full of ourselves.  What caused Thomas to doubt? Was he more intelligent than his gullible colleagues? Today, the term Doubting Thomas is not really seen as a criticism for we take pride in being from the ‘Show Me State’. We want proof.  We want certainty and wasn’t it just a healthy dose of skepticism that prevented Thomas from acknowledging the truth and the reality of the Lord’s resurrection?  No. Thomas doubted because of his ego and his pride for pride is the root cause of all sinfulness. Pride prevents us from admitting our weaknesses, our mistakes, our shortcomings and we are all like Thomas.  We tell ourselves that we have faith, but we doubt. We’re fickle. In the Gospel we hear that beautiful prayer of exhortation, ‘Lord I believe! Help my unbelief.’ One week after the resurrection again on the first day of the week, Jesus invited Thomas to take on his doubts, to humble himself, to acknowledge that he, Thomas, is a sinner and he invites him to believe.  Thomas was able to confront his sinful pride and acknowledge the divinity of Jesus. Doubting Thomas became St. Thomas. He makes this beautiful profession of faith that’s been recited throughout the millennia, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Today on this second Sunday of Easter, Jesus asks the same thing of you and me. He wants to free us from our anxiety and our fear which leads to doubt and doubt results in cynicism.  He wants to give us his true peace, to respond and Thomas did, we must humble ourselves and acknowledge our sinfulness and trust in his mercy for our world is troubled, our Church is wounded, Bishops and priests have committed grievous sins and we wonder why the Church reacts so slowly. Churches are being bombed. Christians are violently attacked and killed. Non-believers now outnumber believers and many of us are luke-warm.  We allow God’s mercy to pass over our exterior, but we do not allow God’s mercy to enter into our hearts. When his mercy enters into our hearts then we too can become merciful as God is merciful. ‘For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.’”

To Come Around

Fr. Cullen’s Homily From Sunday Morning Mass April 28, 2019

“As we live in this age where a lot of people write everything down on all kinds of instruments, paper, tablets, machines, this that and the other, we’re very locked into what was said.  ‘Where was that written down? What paper is that in? What section? And there’s a time for that, but there’s also a time for oral tradition and just because it’s not written down does not mean it’s not true or doesn’t carry authority.  I can remember when I was young, some of you kids here are pretty young, you start to go out and your parents say, ‘I want you home by ten o’clock.’ Well you look at your watch or your phone and it’s about a quarter to eleven and you say, ‘Oh my God.’  So, you get home and your parents say, ‘It’s after eleven. I told you to be here at ten.’ And you say to your parents, ‘Now where is that written down?’ Written down or not, it carries the same authority and so it is in The Church. A lot of things are written down, but a lot of them are not, but they have the same authority and that’s why The Church and The Bible go hand in hand.  Much like those of us who maybe have written a journal in our lifetime, you write everything down in there and then after awhile you put it in order. ‘Well I thought of this later, but this should come first chronologically and so on.’ And then you get the journal and diary put together and maybe somebody picks it up and reads it. The reason it has authority is because you wrote it.  The reason the Bible has authority, the Church, the Apostles wrote it after God breathed on them the Holy Spirit and just like you didn’t put everything about your life in your diary, so not everything about Christ is in that book. That’s why we need both of them to go together. Some people just pick up the book and run with it. That would be like me picking up your diary and run with it and say, ‘I have everything in that book that I need to know about that person.’  Well, I don’t. I don’t.

So that’s one thing, the second thing, Thomas today.  Today we honor in the Church the feast of the first fallen away Catholic.  Thomas was a fallen away Catholic. We’ve got a lot of them in the Church and our families.  I was one in college, fallen away Catholic where we drift away and we think we can handle it on our own or sometimes it’s because of the scandal or the clergy or the lay people in the Church.  We say, ‘I’m not going to buy into all of that.’ Well whenever we think about it it’s always important to come around and back there is the tabernacle and burning up to the left hand side is the red tabernacle candle.  That has been there for 2,000 years. In the early days, they didn’t have churches, but the tabernacle was in somebody’s home, a prominent person where they would host and house the Blessed Sacrament and so that’s been going on and our dear Lord breathed on the Apostles his authority, his spirit and said he would be with them until the end of time.  So it crossed my mind when I finally came back to the Church in college is ‘Why am I out of the Church and Christ is in the Church?’ I could not explain that. Why? Because of you and me. He loves us. He promises that he would be with us until the end of time and that’s why when you go to Church, the Sacraments, everything you can sense his presence and his love for you and me and what leads up to that and follows away from it is that word that he used in the Gospel story today, ‘My peace I give to you.’  A lot of people in the world have problems. I visit jails, hospitals, nursing homes, people’s homes. I come out and people ask, ‘How ya doin’ Father?’ ‘Fine, I’m doing fine.’ You get some people, they’re unemployed, they’re blind and a lot of times I go there and they’ll say, ‘Father, would you say a prayer for me? Would you remember me in your next Mass or in your Rosary?’ And I think, ‘My God, if there’s someone that should give up, it should be them and they don’t. So that’s why we have all of this and why we read the scriptures today and the week after Easter we celebrate the resurrection because someday they’re going to bury us, put our ashes our body in some kind of container.  People will stand around and cry and do this, that and the other, but then when that’s over, just wait for that voice to come through from our Dear Lord, ‘Harry, Salley, Fred, Mary, get out of that grave and come home to be with me forever.’ That’s worth stayin’ if for no other reason. May our dear Lord bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!”

A Sign Of Hope

“This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Certainly this Easter Sunday is a day of the Lord in a most unique and special way as we celebrate the power of God to bring out of death New Life.  We gathered on Good Friday remembering the power of evil that nailed Jesus to the Cross. We walked with Jesus, we stood at the foot of the cross. We watched as he was placed in the Tomb and we remember that historical fact of Jesus’ death upon the cross and his burial, but today we come to to celebrate the resurrection and it’s interesting that our scripture reading today does not really talk directly about the resurrection.  It talks about the about the fact that when the women went there the stone had been rolled back and they found there was no one there. The body was not there and so they went and told the others and Peter and John came and they too, witnessed the fact that the tomb was empty. The empty tomb does not prove the resurrection. An empty tomb just means there’s no body there. The proof of the resurrection came as those Apostles and the other followers of Jesus experienced Jesus personally that they had a personal encounter with Christ Jesus that they came to know the gift of that Risen Lord.  They experienced the resurrected Christ and it was only when they experienced the resurrected Christ that they knew resurrection themselves. That they knew new life through the power of the Holy spirit. Those 40 days in which Christ appeared to them manifested himself in his risen body but then he sent the Holy Spirit when and it was finally on Pentecost is when the apostles came to a deeper understanding but it was always because of a personal encounter with the risen Christ Jesus. We remember the reality of death. We know that there is death within our world, within our lives. We know the power that there is disintegration.  We know that there is the power of evil that kills not the body but the spirit and we are reminded though that the power of Jesus is one to overcome that of evil to bring about new life, eternal life.
As I was thinking about an image for today’s homily with the resurrection I couldn’t help but think about the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral this past week.  I’m sure we all witnessed at least glimpses of that on television and certainly that was a tragedy for particularly the French people and they mourn that for many different reasons, some because it was the house of God, some because it was a national monument almost a museum or an art gallery, but they mourn the fact of that burning and recognize that there was a need to rebuild but I really as I looked at those images on television I couldn’t help but think of how maybe that is kind of emblematic, symbol of the unfortunate state of faith within the Western Civilization where secularization and where over concern just about the moment about the pleasure of the time has really eclipsed the act of faith, but there is a small and powerful group of remnant among all of those in Western Europe that continues to be a sign of Hope but we know that the collapse of that roof took place partly because of the fire but also because the building had been neglected.  There was rot within the building. There was that disintegration and maybe that’s a reminder of what can happen to faith life, that faith life can become weakened if it is not attended to, that our faith can become very much just a passing thing of a day or two rather than really permeating our lives, but it is only if our faith is strong, if it is nurtured will it be able to sustain itself in the midst of the perils in the midst of the problems of our life.  One of the things that was interesting to me was that the walls are still standing as well as the main bell towers, but inside the church there was a statue of the Blessed Mother a piera, holding the dead body of Christ and right behind was a large gold crucifix, a reminder of Jesus’ suffering but also his resurrection. What a beautiful symbol that those survived in the midst of that terrible destruction and Fire. To me, glimmers of hope. Hope not just for the rebuilding of that church but hope for rebuilding of faith because it truly is the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that will bring about new faith, new life, new vitality for Christ enters into the ashes of life in order to bring forth his resurrection and it’s the same within our lives.  It’s the same within our church. I’m convinced that the unfortunate things within our church the devastation that we have seen because of the abuse of power and the abuse of others yes, it’s terrible in itself and must be rejected totally but I also believe that Jesus will use that also as the moment of grace to bring about deeper spirituality deeper commitment deeper relationship in a greater life in Christ Jesus and Jesus wants to enter into our own personal lives where we experience disaster where we experience disintegration where we experience all the conflicts that accompany us in life to allow Jesus in because Jesus will transform. He will bring about new life. It’s only though for us if we encountered the risen Christ ourselves that we will truly come to faith.  Each of us needs to have that deep awareness of Christ living today. We don’t come today just to celebrate a historical fact yes, it’s a historical fact, Jesus rose from the dead but we come to celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive today and that we can encounter Christ today and the power of his resurrection, the power of his eternal life and that we are called to encounter him in so many ways in other people, in his word, in baptism but I would also say most of in the eucharist that every Eucharist is an experience of the Risen Christ yes, it is the body of Christ given over it’s the blood of Christ poured out but in every Eucharist it is to glorify Christ it is the Christ living in glory who becomes present on our altar, who comes into our own body as he shares with us his very self and so we are called to truly experience the resurrection of the Lord not just to celebrated it as a remembrance but as a reality for our life today.  Many of you know that is one of my favorite dialogues around the Resurrection comes from the Eastern Church where the one person says ‘Christ is risen’, ‘Christ is truly risen!’ is the response. Christ is risen. That’s the reality that’s the historical fact. Yes, Christ rose from the dead. The apostles, others experienced him and he transformed their lives. Christ is truly risen means that Christ is risen in my life that I have experienced the risen Lord Jesus that I know the power of the Resurrection that I know the power of forgiveness and of healing and of growing in new life that I truly experience the Risen Christ. That is the call for each and every one of us to open our mind our heart in faith to allow in the risen Christ Christ. Yes, Christ is risen and hopefully we can say, ‘Christ is truly risen in my life and in yours.’ Alleluia!”

Alive And Well

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Easter Sunday Homily April 21, 2019

“Well, the tomb is empty.  He is alive and he is well.  This is something that the Holy Father has talked a lot about in recent talks and in some of his writings that Jesus was not just another historic figure who passed through time but he is alive and well today. This is what we celebrate today, the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, the victory of his resurrection and people who do not have faith sometimes struggle with this.  They struggle to recognize it, they struggle to come to grips with this reality that this is an actual true story that happened. It is not something that is fictional that Jesus Christ conquered death by dying himself and it is a paradox for sure, but it is the essence of what Christianity is and so this is what we celebrate today.  For those of us who call ourselves Christians, today is the greatest most happiest day of the year. It is a day to rejoice and a day for us to celebrate because death no longer has power over us. St. Paul writes about this a lot. He says, ‘where o death is your Victory? Where o death is your sting?’ and that is so true with the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and you know this is something for us to keep in mind often because there is a lot of darkness in our world.  There can be a lot of pain and suffering in our country and even in our own lives we experience physical pain, emotional pain, sickness, loss, disappointment, abandonment, betrayal, the list can go on and on and on and sometimes our sufferings are minor. You know we have minor little aches and pains and sometimes our suffering is not so minor. Sometimes our suffering is pretty heavy, but in our pain and suffering our God is with us because he experienced pain and suffering first hand in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ who was fully God was also remember fully human and he took that human nature to a cross.

A few days ago on Good Friday we commemorated Jesus death on the cross.  He died on the cross. He was willing to be mistaken for a sinner and a Criminal by being crucified in between two other criminals.  Why? So that he can experience things as we do and so our God has experienced all those little and sometimes not so little aches and pains that we do.  He’s experience pain, sickness, loss, disappointment, certainly betrayal, abandonment and not in some theoretical or hypothetical sense but really, personally, from the inside out and so we cannot say to our God, ‘oh God you just don’t understand.  You don’t understand my pain. You don’t understand my suffering.’ Our God understands our pain and suffering perfectly because he has been there and he has done that and he chose to do it on a cross. He chose a cross. This was not some unfortunate accident that happened to Jesus 2,000 years ago.  Remember Jesus in John’s Gospel also says, ‘no one takes my life from me but I have the power to lay it down. I willingly lay it down. I willfully lay it down and I have the power to take it up again’ and he chose the cross in order to draw all men and women to himself because he loves us and he wants us to be with him in heaven at the end of our Earthly lives.  We can say to someone ‘I love you’ and that’s nice but to show others just how much we love them it is what we are willing to do for them and so Jesus was willing to hang on a cross for us to show us the height and breadth and depth of his sacrificial love. This is the same Jesus who gives himself to us every time we attend Mass on Sunday when we receive him in the Eucharist.  We receive Grace when we receive the Eucharist to help us on our journey toward heaven in this life so that we might be with him for all eternity in the next. Friends this is what our lives are all about or should be about, not our possessions, not the things that we have. I mean these things are good things, but they are meant to help us on our journey toward Heaven. This day is a day of hope.  The catechism of the Catholic Church defines the theological virtue of hope as the virtue by which we desire the kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness placing trust in Christ’s promise and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. I’m gonna read that first part of that definition again. ‘Hope is the virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness.  So when we say hope as a Christian, as a Catholic, that’s what we’re talkin about, so a question to ask ourselves in light of this definition of Hope, do we desire heaven? At the end of my life do I want to be with Jesus in heaven? Here’s a question to reflect upon, so your life on Earth here is finished and you’re standing in front of the gate and Jesus is behind the gate and he asked you one simple question, ‘why do you want to come in here?’  What would your answer be? Do we strive for Holiness? Do we strive for perfection and charity? Do we strive to live out our baptism in our discipleship in Christ well and in a way that is pleasing to God or we just content with getting by? We are all friends, not to just get by but we are called to holiness. We are called to perfection and charity that’s what all the Saints have in common. Holiness isn’t going around saying a lot of prayers and prayer is certainly good don’t misunderstand me but holiness is perfection and charity perfection in love heroic virtue and that’s what we are called to.  As my mother likes to say, ‘You know none of us are getting out of this alive.’ and so we are people of hope our hope is in the Lord and as baptized persons we have assured and certain hope of eternal life in Christ Jesus. When we were baptized we became a new creation and we were made members of the mystical Body of Christ, so Christ is head of his mystical body The Church and we are all members of that mystical body so when we say church we’re not just talking about this building although it is a church it is God’s house, but when we talk about The Church we’re talking about all of the members all of us who are members of The Church all of us who are members of the body of Christ and so when we are baptized we are made a new creation.  Original sin has been washed away and we share in Christ’s very being and we read this very beautifully last night in St Paul’s letter to the Romans where he talks about ‘we have life in Christ we share in his very being in his very essence’ and that was Paul’s belief and the belief of the early Christians that we are just not part of an organization or community but we are members of Jesus’ sacred body and self, and so his life, the life of Jesus is our life. His death, his human death is our death so that his rising might become our rising. This is our faith. This is our hope. The tomb is empty. He is alive and well. His victory is our victory today and this is what we celebrate today.”

50 Ways to Celebrate 50 Days of Easter

For 40 days your family has fasted, prayed, and given generously.  These labors prepare our hearts to taste and see the goodness of our risen Lord.  Remember that Easter is not just one day or even one week.  Easter is a season of 50 days, celebrated until Pentecost.  Pope John Paul II once said, “We are a resurrection people, and Alleluia is our song.” 

Find ways to continue celebrating Easter beyond this week and beyond baskets of candy.  How have your Lenten practices prepared you to experience Jesus anew?  How might you continue living some of the positive faith practices you prioritized during Lent?  What would your Family Life look like if you practiced living in the joy of the Resurrection with the same vigor that you practiced living the penances of Lent?

50 Days of Easter: Ideas for Living the Resurrection as a family

The ideas in this list will not fit every family situation or schedule, nor are they meant to be practiced in entirety. Pick and choose what works best for your family. These practices are intended to be fun and enjoyable — so only choose what brings joy and life into your family. Most of the ideas in this list are not specific to the day or order listed (except as indicated in bold, pertaining to feast days). Happy Easter!

Be inspired to try something new. Prayerfully consider how Christ may be calling you into newness of life — individually and as a family unit. Live the Easter Resurrection!

50 Days of Easter

  1. April 21: Easter Sunday: Attend Mass together with your family (Ascension Easter Mass times: 8am, 10am. and Noon). Enjoy the sweets and bunny, but emphasize the Lamb!
  2. April 22: Make homemade dessert. For busy families, don’t overdo! A basic cookie recipe or rice crispy treats will suffice!
  3. April 23: Make something creative with all of those left-over, hard-boiled Easter Eggs.
  4. April 24: Try this simple Easter Cross Craft.
  5. April 25: Create a Resurrection Garden
  6. April 26: Go for a family bike ride on the trails.
  7. April 27: Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet with your family.
  8. April 28: Divine Mercy Sunday: Celebrate with a Holy Hour here at Ascension.
  9. April 29: Have you signed your kids up for Vacation Bible School yet?
  10. April 30: Register for Family Day at Prairie Star Ranch (May 5th)
  11. May 1: May Day: Celebrate May Day by leaving a small bunch of flowers or a sweet treat on a neighbor’s porch.
  12. May 2: Kansas planting weather is in full swing! Plant something with your family. If you don’t have a particularly green thumb, start simple. Try potting fresh herbs (basil and mint grow easily) or plant a row of impatiens. For more adventurous growers, check out these ideas for a Marian Garden.
  13. May 3: Take a tour of the Brookside Art Fair
  14. May 4: Ribs for Kids at McGonigles
  15. May 5: Family Day at Prairie Star Ranch: If you like Trail Hiking, Fishing, Rosary Walks, Yard Games, Giant Inflatables, Gaga Ball, Tower Power, Pole Corral Rides, or Horseback Riding, then try Family Day at Prairie Star Ranch. Gates open at 9:00 am.
  16. May 6: See a family Movie together
  17. May 7: Fly a kite
  18. May 8: Plan a May Crowning
  19. May 9: Ride The Ferris Wheel at Scheels
  20. May 10: Hold a family brainstorming session for summer fun. Find ideas here.
  21. May 11: Try the Lenexa Art Fair (enjoy music, festivities, and a family friendly atmosphere)
  22. May 12: Mother’s Day
  23. May 13: Feast of Our Lady of Fatima
  24. May 14: Go out for ice cream with your family (Quicktrip has $0.59 soft serve cones!)
  25. May 15: Find new ways to emphasize and experience faith as a family during the coming summer.
  26. May 16: Visit Deanna Rose Children’s Farm (free after 2 pm, M-Th)
  27. May 17: Choose Summer reading at your local library or at Trinity House
  28. May 18: Do something Free!
  29. May 19: Church Hop (visit a historic Catholic church in KC Metro).
  30. May 20: Take a family break from screen time
  31. May 21: Make time for yourself
  32. May 22: Plan a summer splurge
  33. May 23: Go to Reconciliation as a family
  34. May 24: Go the Extra Mile with a Day Trip
  35. May 25: Ascension Couples Golf
  36. May 26: Arbor Day in Overland Park OR take your family to the Symphony (in an atmosphere any family can handle)
  37. May 27: Find more ways to keep your summer faith filled
  38. May 28: Spring clean and donate your extras to Catholic Charities or another charity.
  39. May 29: Take your child on a “Date”
  40. May 30: Feast of the Ascension Start a Family Novena to prepare for Pentecost (Join yourselves with Jesus’s Apostles and followers who prayed for the 9 days between the Ascension and Pentecost). Or, pray one decade of the Rosary as a family.
  41. May 31: Feast of the Visitation Share a guided family prayer/discussion or pray a decade of the Rosary together.
  42. June 1: Enjoy Rose Day at Jacob Loose Park OR Pick berries at the Vaile Mansion Strawberry Festival
  43. June 2: Plan a family movie night at home.
  44. June 3: Vacation Bible School Starts today!
  45. June 4: Stay Close to Home
  46. June 5: Reset your outlook to take more positive notice of your child.
  47. June 6: Take your family to Old Shawnee Days
  48. June 7: Compose a thoughtful handwritten note for your child or spouse. Place it under their pillow or in a place they will find on their own.
  49. June 8: Reconnect with a friend of family member that you have not seen in a while.
  50. June 9: Pentecost

Attitude of Christ

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily April 14, 2019

“All of us experience in this Palm Sunday Liturgy that very quick transition from ‘hosanna’ to ‘crucify him’, and how fickle the human person can be and how we can proclaim and yet not live and so we are called to reflect upon the beautiful mystery of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus and the power of that love and this evening I’d like to take a just few moments to reflect with you on the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  You may want to open your book to this its 923…St. Paul wrote to the Philippians because he was in prison at the time and he wanted to encourage them in their faith and he wanted to give them a solid foundation in who Jesus truly is and so he quotes this which is probably had its origin in a song in honor of Jesus. He said, ‘Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself.’  The Word was from all eternity, but the Word emptied himself in order to become one with us. He didn’t grasp that divinity, but rather concealed that divinity within his humanity and when we talk about grasping equality with God, who was the first to do that? Adam and Eve. They were the ones that wanted to be likened to God. That’s what the serpent told them that would happen to them if they but disobeyed God and so Jesus does exactly the opposite. He doesn’t grasp for that equality, but rather humbles himself and he emptied himself.  The Greek word in that is kenosis means an outpouring, a total giving of self is what emptying is about that he emptied himself in the sense of that divinity, although he was always divine, but he emptied himself of any of the manifestation of that ‘taking the form of a slave’, a slave, taking the form of sinful humanity for the greatest slavery while physical slavery is terrible, the greatest slavery is the slavery to sin and Jesus without sin take sin upon himself and so he takes the form of a slave coming in human likeness and found human in appearance ‘he humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death.’  Pride is one of the strongest human vices is the we be prideful that our pride is about how great we are and Jesus instead embraces humility even humiliation. He embraces that lowliness of becoming one with us in our sinful humanity and became obedient. Adam and Eve were the first ones to be disobedient and by our sin reflect their disobedience, but Jesus became obedient, obedient to do the will of the Father and the will of the Father was that he be totally faithful no matter what that meant and unfortunately because of human profidity it meant crucifixion and death upon a cross and so he became obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.

You know we tend to sterilize, sanitize the cross.  We wear it as jewelry as silver, gold, we kinda use it as a nice beautiful decoration, certainly a spiritual reminder, but the cross for anybody who lived at the time of Jesus was an absolutely terrible symbol.  It was the ultimate painful death that Romans could inflict upon a criminal was that of crucifixion, even so bad that a Roman citizen could never be crucified because it was such a humiliating, painful way of death and so Jesus accepted even death the cross, the ultimate of death of ultimate humiliation.  ‘Because of this God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth’, that God truly raised him up in glory in the resurrection and that Jesus name is truly holy. How often we find that the name of Jesus is used very lightly even as a curse word.  We should have respect and honor the name of Jesus. I was taught as a child that when Jesus name was said to bow my head in humble adoration recognizing the true dignity that is Christ that Christ is not just one of us, but truly our Lord and our Savior. ‘Every knee should bend of those in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.’  Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of our life. Do we proclaim Christ Jesus as truly Lord as truly God as Lord of our daily lives? And that is to the glory of God the Father for all ultimately gives glory to God and the one line that unfortunately is not included in this reading is the one that proceeds the very first line and it says, ‘Have this attitude in you that is in Christ Jesus.’  That we are called to the same attitude as Christ Jesus, the one of emptying ourselves, the one of living humbly, the one of being obedient to the Father, the one of being faithful even to the point of death, but also to be one with Christ in his resurrection for truly we are called to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection now and forever. What a tremendous dignity we have. What a tremendous call, but it is only if we put on the attitude of Christ Jesus, the mind and the heart of Christ and that is what we are called to do at every Eucharist.  As we come forward to receive communion we receive the body of Christ given over, the blood of Christ poured out for our salvation so that we might become ourselves the body given over in service and love to others, the blood poured out in loving care for those within our families and all whose lives we may touch.  What a tremendous call we have, but what a great challenge: put on the attitude, the heart and the mind of Christ Jesus. “

What Makes Divine Mercy Sunday Such A Big Deal?

Divine Mercy Image
Original painting of the Divine Mercy (by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934). Public Domain courtesy of Wikipedia.

By Ray Martin

I knew that Divine Mercy Sunday was always after Easter and that it was a day to recognize the victory won for us by the resurrection of Christ, but after hearing Fr. Alessandro talk about it during his homily on Easter where he said that Jesus wants to offer us “special graces” that will flow down on Divine Mercy Sunday and how we should participate in going to confession, I thought maybe there’s more to this feast day than I’m aware of.  The more I started looking into it, I realized that I really had no idea what made this coming Sunday so important.  I knew there was an image, a painting of the image that St. Faustina saw and that she had written a diary, but that’s about all I could come up with.

So What is Divine Mercy Sunday?

Well, Pope John Paul II declared that the Sunday immediately following Easter should be Divine Mercy Sunday.  Why?  Apparently in the 1930’s Jesus told St. Faustina, a nun from Poland, that not only should we celebrate a Feast of Mercy, but that it should be the Sunday after Easter.  Pope John Paul II made this surprise announcement in a homily on May 5, 2000 when he Canonized St. Faustina who had written the messages that she was being given by the Lord.  

If you’re being hard on yourself for not realizing that this feast day was important, you partly don’t know a lot about it because:

  1. it’s relatively new as of the turn of the millennium
  2. Catholics aren’t forced to believe in the visions of St. Faustina, they’re the tradition that the Feast is based on…but it’s not ALL that it’s based on.

Even back in the Old Testament we hear about the mercy of God, and then Jesus himself spread a message of our merciful Father who wants us to show mercy to the sick, the poor, the naked, the thirsty, etc.  The ultimate act of Love demonstrated by Christ in dying on the Cross showed us that there’s no sin so great that can’t be forgiven by God if we chose to turn back to Him.

What Makes Divine Mercy Sunday So Special?

Reconciling with our Father is the biggest benefit of this Feast of Mercy.  There are many ways to do so, but what marks this day so extraordinary is that there’s a Plenary Indulgence offered by The Church, a special one.

What’s The Difference Between A Plenary Indulgence & Going To Confession?

I’m glad you asked because I had to look it up myself!  Here’s my understanding: when we are given absolution from our sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest says, “I absolve you from all of your sins”.  As an ambassador or representative of Christ himself, we are forgiven in that very moment from our sins.  (If you aren’t sure who gave them the right to do so, check out John 20:22 where Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on the Disciples and tells them to go forgive sins).  The Church says that after we confess, we are no longer separated from the love of God meaning we’ll go to heaven, but depending on what we did God might keep us in Purgatory for a little while.  Yes, we’re reconciled in our relationship with God, however there could still be a temporal punishment where we need to be purified on our way to eternal life in communion with the Saints.

A Plenary Indulgence however, can eliminate even the temporal punishment, or time in purgatory.  The Plenary Indulgence offered by The Church on Divine Mercy Sunday is unique because rather than being available for others or souls already in purgatory, it’s only available for yourself.

How Do We Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday And Get These Extraordinary Graces?

    • Go to confession on or before Divine Mercy Sunday
    • Attend Mass and receive the Eucharist
  • Participate in a Divine Mercy Prayer Service which will include adoration, praying the Creed, and a devotional prayer to our merciful Lord Jesus such as “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You!”

Ascension will host a prayer service at 3:00pm this Divine Mercy Sunday  in the church where we will sing a Divine Mercy Chaplet, offer the sacrament of Reconciliation, and experience Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  All are welcome to attend!

For more on Divine Mercy visit www.thedivinemercy.org or USCCB.

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A Paradox

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily April 14, 2019

“Well it’s hard to believe but here we are, Palm Sunday.  I feel like I just blinked my eyes and we were beginning Advent it seems like to me and now here we are preparing for the most sacred and solemn week of the year, Holy Week and it is a Holy week to be sure.  Now one definition of the word holy is to be set apart. Friends, this upcoming week is a week that is set apart from all the rest because it is the last week for us to prepare to enter into and celebrate the paschal mystery, the Passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the central mystery of our faith.  Luke’s Gospel of the Passion tees this up for us I think very nicely. Now we can take from this Gospel a lot of different theological conclusions, a lot of different lessons, but the one that I want to focus on is this: there is no sin that is unforgivable. I’ll say that again, there is no sin that is unforgivable. Every sin that we have ever committed is able to be forgiven by God if we allow him to forgive us and I think we see a very powerful example of this in our Gospel today, this openness of Jesus, this willingness of Jesus to forgive.  We’re given this account of the criminal hanging next to Jesus on the cross. He is a public sinner, convicted of capital murder and he doesn’t make excuses for his behavior. He doesn’t deny his behavior. He doesn’t deny that he committed a crime in fact he admits that the punishment he is receiving is just and he tells the other criminal, ‘Look, we have been condemned justly, but this man Jesus has done nothing criminal.’ And then he turns to Jesus and says, ‘Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ It was as if to say, ‘Lord I am a sinner, but will you take me anyway?’  Jesus’ answer, ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Now the crucifixion of Christ is a paradox.  A paradox of course is a seemingly absurd or contradictory idea that is actually true and so the crucifixion of Jesus is a paradox.  It is at the same time the worst evil ever and the greatest good ever. It was the greatest evil in that creatures tortured and murdered their creator.  It was not simply homicide, it was deicide. At the same time it was the greatest good ever because it opened the gates of Heaven and it shed light on the mystery of human suffering. Our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to die on a cross and he did this on his own accord.  This was not something that accidentally happened to him. Remember in John’s Gospel he tells his disciples, ‘No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down on my own accord. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it up again.’ And he did this to show us his love for us and to provide for us a means of forgiveness of sins.  And so, let’s go back to our criminal on the cross. Like so many Gospel stories that we read we are meant to identify with those persons Jesus is addressing with those persons that Jesus is ministering to so we can put ourselves in the place of the criminal who does not warrant Heaven who is not deserving of Heaven at all and we can ask Jesus in essence the same words that the criminal asks, ‘Lord I am a sinner, but will you take me anyway?’  What do you think is his answer? We know what his answer is, don’t we?”