Divine Mercy Sunday [B]

Divine Mercy Sunday [B]
Acts 4:32-35  +  1 John 5:1-6  +  John 20:19-31
April 11, 2021

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this Sunday (2:59)

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (4:39)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday (20:49)

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 Regina Cæli address for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Benedict’s 2008 Regina Cæli address for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 2002 Regina Cæli address for this Sunday

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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:

CCC 448, 641-646: appearances of the risen Christ
CCC 1084-1089: sanctifying presence of the risen Christ in the liturgy
CCC 2177-2178, 1342: the Sunday Eucharist
CCC 654-655, 1988: our new birth in the Resurrection of Christ
CCC 976-983, 1441-1442: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”
CCC 949-953, 1329, 1342, 2624, 2790: communion in spiritual goods

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As today’s Gospel Reading begins, three things have taken place.  Both Peter and John have seen the empty tomb, John has believed in the Resurrection, and Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus had appeared, has told the apostles of His appearance.  Yet despite all this, “the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews.”

But why were the disciples afraid of the Jews?  Why weren’t they out on the streets, preaching boldly the Good News of the Resurrection, shouting “Alleluia!”?

The story of St. Thomas’ unbelief in today’s Gospel Reading seems to condemn him.  But this passage in fact condemns all of the apostles:  either for not believing in, or not proclaiming their belief in the Risen Jesus.

The Season of Easter—which began last Sunday and lasts for seven weeks—lets us reflect on the Resurrection.  At the same time, we need to ask ourselves what our lives should look like because we believe in the Risen Jesus.

A simple description of the Church in her infancy is given in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles“The community of believers were of one heart and one mind”:  that is, they possessed the heart and mind of Christ.  “With power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great respect was paid to them all.”

Of course, today’s First Reading is set after the day of Pentecost:  that is, after the Holy Spirit had descended upon the Apostles, gifting them with the graces needed for their work.  The power and the presence of the Holy Spirit is the difference between the First Reading and the disciples at the start of the Gospel Reading.

A simple description of the life of the Christian is given in today’s Second Reading:  “The love of God consists in this:  that we keep his commandments. … It is the Spirit who testifies to this and the Spirit is truth.”  This Holy Spirit is the One who makes it possible to keep the Commandments.  All of the Commandments are commands to love.  God commands us to love our God and our neighbor.  But the events of today’s Gospel Reading give these two great commands focus by considering how God and man forgive.

The great English author G. K. Chesterton once wrote about the false forgiveness that man often offers:  “it seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful.  You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions.  So you tolerate a conventional duel, just as you tolerate a conventional divorce.  You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.”  By contrast, Chesterton in another work described Christian forgiveness:  “Charity means pardoning the unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all.”

The world has problems, and each of us who lives in the world has problems.  There is a lot in our lives to distract us, to tempt us to think that the sin and evil around us and within us is nothing of importance.  But the Holy Spirit whom we wait for during these fifty days of Easter leads us to face our own difficulties and the difficulties of the world squarely, looking them in the eye through the light of Christ.

When Christ appeared to the apostles, what did He say to convince them who He was?  Did He work a miracle?  No.  He showed them the wounds in His side, hands, and feet:  the battle scars from His fight with death.

Christ, the victor over death, shows us the evidence of His Divine Mercy.  He invites us to share in the strength of His Body and Blood, and invites us to share fully in the life of His Holy Spirit.  Yet these invitations serve a larger purpose.  God wills that each of us might courageously proclaim the Good News about the Risen Jesus.  But our proclamation must begin with our extending Jesus’ Divine Mercy to our debtors as willingly as we have accepted Divine Mercy for our own debts.

Thursday in the Octave of Easter

Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 3:11-26  +  Luke 24:35-48
April 8, 2021

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

It is only in “the breaking of the bread” that the disciples come to know Jesus, and it is only in this that they become more than disciples.  Only in the Eucharist do we share in the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, and become members of Christ’s Body.  This is the goal of our lives as Christians:  not merely to learn about Jesus, but to enter into His life and saving mission.

On the day of the Resurrection, Jesus is preparing the apostles for the day of His Ascension.  After He leaves the earth, it will be up to them to act in His name.  First, they must preach penance for the remission of sins, and then suffer inevitably for standing up for what is true.

In all of this, the waves of impact from the news of the Resurrection continue to spread throughout the world that God created, bringing peace to His people on earth and glory to God in the highest.  Throughout history and throughout our own lives, it is our calling to continue to be faithful witness to the news of the Resurrection.  Yet only Christ’s Holy Spirit can sustain us in offering ourselves for such witness.  So for this calling we pray during the Easter season for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in abundance.

Easter 1-4

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 3:1-10  +  Luke 24:13-35
April 7, 2021

But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”

Easter Monday we heard the chief priests and the elders respond to the news of the Resurrection by covering their tracks with lies.  Yesterday, we heard Mary Magdalen respond to Our Risen Lord when He called her by her name.  She cried out, “Teacher!”  Yet we are called to recognize in Christ much more than simply a teacher.

Today we hear of more events which took place on the day of the Resurrection.  The word “disciple” means “one who learns”, and the two disciples of today’s Gospel passage are obviously devoted to learning.  Undoubtedly they asked themselves what all these amazing events could mean.

We are told that Jesus joins them in their journey, though the disciples, like Mary Magdalen, do not recognize who He is.  Jesus preaches to them the meaning of the Scriptures, which help them learn.  These Scriptures help them learn the meaning of what had happened over the previous few days.  But still, they do not recognize Jesus.

Only in “the breaking of the bread” do they come to know Jesus, and only in the Eucharist do we Christians become more than disciples.  Only by sharing in the Sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood can we begin to imitate Him in our lives as He wills.

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 2:36-41  +  John 20:11-18
April 6, 2021

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter boldly proclaims to the Jewish people:  “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  The response of these Jews is pretty easy to guess.  Acts tells us that “when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other Apostles, ‘What are we to do…?’”  You can almost imagine what they, in their fear, expect Peter to reply.

But Peter delivers to them Good News:  “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts then tells us that there were two groups in that crowd:  there were those who accepted this Good News—some 3,000 persons—and there were those who did not accept this Good News.

Here is the first lesson of the Church’s life and saving mission.  Unfortunately, it’s a difficult lesson to put into practice.  We need to choose to be in that first crowd, the crowd of 3,000.  We need to accept the Good News about the love that God wants to give us.  This is the love that Jesus, from the Cross and in the Holy Eucharist, is dying to give us.

Easter 1-2

Monday in the Octave of Easter

Monday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 2:14,22-33  +  Matthew 28:8-15
April 5, 2021

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed ….

During most of the liturgical year, the First Reading at Holy Mass comes from the Old Testament.  But Easter is different.  During Easter, we hear first from Acts of the Apostles.  Why is this?  There are plenty of apostolic letters that could be proclaimed:  Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 John, Jude, and so on.  These New Testament epistles preach about the Resurrection.  So why do we hear, each and every day of the Easter Season, from Acts of the Apostles?

The answer is that what the apostles were about throughout Acts is what God is calling us to throughout Easter.  In a phrase, this answer is:  forming the Church and living out her mission.

The Church was conceived, so to speak, from the water and blood that poured forth from the side of Jesus crucified.  But the Church was born some fifty days later, on the feast of Pentecost.  The story of Acts is the first history of the Church:  going forth, out into the world, to proclaim in word and action the saving mystery of Jesus, crucified and Risen.  This Church has lived on earth for some 2000 years, and each of us is called to share in her life and saving mission.

Easter 1-1

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
Acts 10:34,37-43  +  Colossians 3:1-4  +  John 20:1-9
April 4, 2021

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

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click HERE to read Monsignor Charles Pope’s Easter homily

click HERE to watch Bishop Michael Burbidge’s homily for Easter (6:47)

click HERE to watch Archbishop Alexander Sample’s homily for Easter (12:36)

click HERE to watch Archbishop Charles Chaput’s homily for Easter (17:05)

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click HERE to read the 2019 homily of Pope Francis for Easter

click HERE to read the 2012 homily of Pope Benedict XVI for Easter

click HERE to read the 2000 homily of Pope St. John Paul II for Easter

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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:

CCC 638-655, 989, 1001-1002: the Resurrection of Christ and our resurrection
CCC 647, 1167-1170, 1243, 1287: Easter, the Lord’s Day
CCC 1212: the Sacraments of Initiation
CCC 1214-1222, 1226-1228, 1234-1245, 1254: Baptism
CCC 1286-1289: Confirmation
CCC 1322-1323: Eucharist

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Easter is not just the single day of Easter Sunday, but a season of seven weeks plus one more day.  The Church celebrates Easter for fifty days so as to be able to ponder thoroughly the mysteries of this holiest season of the Church’s year.  There are three mysteries of our Faith that the Church celebrates throughout the Easter Season.  They are the first three Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.  We need to see how all three of these are part of a single plan.

The First Glorious Mystery is the proper focus of today:  the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  This mystery is presented by today’s Gospel Reading, where the young apostle John serves as a model of how to ponder.

St. John, who served God as both apostle and evangelist, accomplished all he did because he was the Beloved Disciple.  As an apostle and an evangelist, he was like a zealous Martha.  But before he acted zealously, he was a faithful Mary.  The Beloved Disciple at the Last Supper took the stance that Mary did at the meal in her home, sitting and listening at the feet of the Word made Flesh.

In many churches, we see above the high altar the youngest of the apostles—St. John—at one side of the Cross, and our Blessed Mother on the other.  This is the scene of the Crucifixion that the Church celebrated just days ago.

But on the third day, John ran with Peter to the tomb.  Along with Saint Peter and the beloved disciple, Saint John, we also see the wrappings lying on the ground.  John saw and believed.  With no sign of Jesus and without a word from Jesus, John saw and believed simply because the tomb was empty.  It is ironic that on the greatest feast of the Christian year, Christ doesn’t even appear in the Gospel passage, nor speak a word.  We see only His empty tomb, and hear only silence.

Following His Resurrection on Easter Sunday, Jesus appears several times in His glorified body.  Yet He remained on this earth only for forty days proclaiming the Resurrection in this glorified body.  He remained only forty days because He had in store a different means of proclaiming the Resurrection, by means of a different body:  the Mystical Body of Christ.  What Jesus did in a glorified body for forty days, He would do until the end of time in His Mystical Body.

The Second Glorious Mystery is the Ascension.  The Ascension is the bittersweet transition between two means of Jesus revealing His love for fallen man.  The first means was the physical body that He received from the Blessed Virgin Mary—through the power of the Holy Spirit—at the Annunciation.  The second means was, is, and will be “unto the end of the age” the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.  All of the Joyful, Luminous, and Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, as well as the first two Glorious Mysteries, make possible the event of Pentecost:  the “birth” of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.  All of those earlier mysteries are preludes or prologues to the event of Pentecost.  Even the Resurrection that took place on Easter Sunday morning.

The Third Glorious Mystery is the “birth” of the Church at Pentecost.  This is what Jesus died for.  This is what Jesus rose for.  Jesus’ resurrection in a glorified body foreshadows what the Church becomes on the day of Pentecost.

Jesus bears new life when He rises from the dead.  Yet He wants His new life to ours.  The Church—the Mystical Body of Christ—is the means by which we share in the life of the Risen Jesus.  The Church makes it possible for Easter to be not a mere historical event, but an ever-present reality:  in fact, the source of strength and grace each day that we live on this earth.

St. John teaches us to pray during these fifty days of Easter for a great gift.  God has a gift ready for us, the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  That is why we hear every day of Easter from the Acts of the Apostles:  the book that describes the Church at work through the Power of the Holy Spirit.  The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the culminating mystery of Easter.  We don’t simply celebrate it on the last day of Easter as an afterthought:  it is the mystery that Jesus leads us towards through His Resurrection.

Resurrection appearances multiple

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday
April 3, 2021

… suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell ….

How ought Christians spend Holy Saturday morning and afternoon?  Is this time simply an extension of the tenor and tone of Good Friday?  What happened to Jesus during the time between His Death and Resurrection?

Although Jesus was not subject to death as every sinner is, Jesus submitted to death.  His sacred Body did not undergo corruption or decay during this time.  However, Jesus was “divided”, so to speak, during the time between His Death and Resurrection.

When a sinner such as you or I dies, the sinner’s body and soul are separated.  The body decays, while the soul heads off towards its eternal reward or punishment.  The souls of those headed for Heaven may have to wayfare through Purgatory.  Yet regardless of where the soul heads after death, it will not be reunited with its body until the end of time.  However, after Jesus’ death, something very different happened.

The Nicene Creed, which the Church usually professes at Sunday Mass, does not mention what Jesus did between His burial and His Resurrection.  But the Apostles’ Creed does affirm that “he descended into hell” (Latin: “infernos”; Hebrew: “Sheol”; Greek: “Hades”).  This is not the place where the damned face eternal punishment.  Instead, the Catechism refers to it simply as “the abode of the dead” [CCC 633].

Even morally good persons who died before Christ’s saving Death were destined for this “abode of the dead”.  Due to the merit of sin, both Original Sin and actual sin, even those who were just in terms of their human moral actions could not enter Heaven.  Only by the grace and merit of Christ’s Passion and Death could anyone enter into the presence of the Trinity in Heaven.

So when Jesus descended into the abode of the dead, He revealed Himself—bearing the wounds of His Passion and Death—to the just.  Those who wished were able to follow Jesus out of that abode and into Heaven.  This saving work that Jesus carried out is traditionally called “the harrowing of Hell”.  This saving work that Jesus performed even as His sacred Body lay in death reminds us of the depth and extent of God’s love.  At the same time, this work is a call to Jesus’ disciples to bear in daily life a love for others that is as deep and extensive.

Lent 6-6

Good Friday

Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13—53:12  +  Hebrews 4:14-16;5:7-9  +  John 18:1—19:42
April 2, 2021

We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.

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click HERE to read Monsignor Charles Pope’s reflection

click HERE to watch Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s homily (11:44)

click HERE to watch Bishop Michael Burbidge’s homily (5:19)

click HERE to watch Archbishop Alexander Sample’s homily (14:42)

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click HERE to read the 2014 Good Friday address of Pope Francis

click HERE to read the 2009 Good Friday address of Pope Benedict XVI

click HERE to read the 1998 Good Friday address of Pope St. John Paul II

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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this day by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:

CCC 602-618, 1992: the Passion of Christ
CCC 612, 2606, 2741: the prayer of Jesus
CCC 467, 540, 1137: Christ the High Priest
CCC 2825: Christ’s obedience and ours

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What is most striking about the scene in Gethsemane is not the betrayal of Judas, but the wandering of the other apostles.  Only two continued to follow Jesus after his arrest, Peter and John.  They follow Jesus, bound and carried away by the soldiers, at a distance:  their faith is wavering.  We know that before the night is over, Peter denies his Lord and Savior three times.

It is only John, the Beloved Disciple, who continues to journey with Jesus.  It is John who is beneath the cross with our Blessed Mother Mary.  We can be sure that even at the Cross, John, the youngest of the apostles, perhaps in his early twenties at this time, did not fully understand the death of his Master.  He wept for his Lord but could not fully understand what was taking place there on Calvary.

We know that of the apostles, only one did not become a martyr, and that apostle was Saint John.  It was he who had been faithful to the Lord’s Cross, who had shared Our Lord’s death not at the end of his life, but near the beginning.  Throughout the rest of his life as an apostle he prayed deeply about this great gift, this great sacrifice that Christ made.  Throughout the rest of St. John’s life, as he continued to serve others, his mind turned back, year after year, to that Good Friday and the hill of Calvary, where the love and the glory of God were brilliantly revealed.

Through the Eucharist which Christ, at the Last Supper, had given St. John the power to celebrate, John was able to enter into that scene once again, to return to that day which is today, and to that hill of Calvary.

There is no offering of the sacrifice of the Mass on Good Friday.  Yet still we are able to share in the fruits of that sacrifice.  As we enter into Holy Communion with Our Lord, let us turn our minds again to the sacrifice of Calvary, and the love in Christ’s Sacred Heart which allowed Him to offer it for our salvation.

Crucifixion - Massys

Holy Thursday — Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Holy Thursday — Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Exodus 12:1-8,11-14  +  1 Corinthians 11:23-26  +  John 13:1-15
April 1, 2021

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His Hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.

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click HERE to read Monsignor Charles Pope’s reflection

click HERE to watch Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s homily (14:40)

click HERE to watch Bishop Michael Burbidge’s homily (8:01)

click HERE to watch Archbishop Alexander Sample’s homily (16:43)

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click HERE to read the 2018 homily of Pope Francis

click HERE to read the 2012 homily of Pope Benedict XVI

click HERE to read the 2003 homily of Pope St. John Paul II

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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this day by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:

CCC 1337-1344: the institution of the Eucharist
CCC 1359-1361: Eucharist as thanksgiving
CCC 610, 1362-1372, 1382, 1436: Eucharist as sacrifice
CCC 1373-1381: the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist
CCC 1384-1401, 2837: Holy Communion
CCC 1402-1405: the Eucharist as the pledge of glory
CCC 611, 1366: institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper

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You might be tempted to think that Jesus, knowing that in just a few hours He was going to be nailed to a cross, would have had more important things on his mind than a meal.  If someone came up to you, and told you that you were going to be killed in less than 24 hours, would you sit down for a meal?  Many people would skip eating all together:  after all, if you really knew that you were going to die in less than 24 hours, why feed your body?  Wouldn’t there be more important things to put first?

But if you would answer “yes, I’d sit down for a meal,” then ask yourself, “Would you sit down for a banquet?”  Would you spend about three out of your remaining 24 hours at a banquet?  That’s what Jesus did.  Of course, to use the word “banquet” is still selling short what Jesus did at the Last Supper.  Yet the Last Supper was a banquet.

The Passover Meal was the ritual meal by which the Jews declared that the sacrifice of their ancestors had been worth it.  If they had to choose for themselves, they would do it all over again.  They would make that choice because freedom from slavery is worth the price that had to be paid, for God had something greater in mind for His Chosen People than slavery.

Some Jews, like Judas Iscariot, thought that that “something greater” was a powerful kingdom on earth.  But Jesus came into this world for something that goes beyond any earthly hopes, plans or desires.

Jesus came into this world to destroy the power of sin and death.  Jesus came into this world to offer freedom from sin, not from Pharaoh.  Jesus came into this world to open up again the gates of Heaven, not the Red Sea.  This is the freedom that Jesus won by dying on the Cross.  But tonight, Jesus institutes the Eucharist.  He establishes the Holy Eucharist in the form of a sacred meal.  In reality, it is a sacrament that allows us to share in the power of the Cross, and makes us present at Calvary.

This Sacrament of the Eucharist is the foretaste of all of the goodness that God has prepared for us.  Jesus gave us this Sacrament on the night before He died as a way of sharing in His promise to deliver us from every form of slavery.  He wills to free us through the Eucharist from every one of our sins, and to lead us from this world into something that is greater and that lasts forever.

Lent 6-4