The Life-Giving Vine

May the joyful light of the resurrection lift you up!

Easter season is an amazing time of grace and transformation for the Church around the world.  As we progress through the season, we learn more about Jesus and our relationship with God in him.  Last weekend Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd because he leads, protects and provides for all our needs.  This image was a favorite among early Christians because it spoke of the Church’s dependency on God and God’s ever-present care for all his people.  Culturally they understood the symbiotic relationship that it presented.  This weekend, we hear Jesus describe our connection and dependency on God in another image from nature: the Vine and the Branches!  Jesus is an amazing teacher!

Jesus’ message is clear and easy to grasp.  God is the source of all life, love, knowledge, truth, peace, and all things that we recognize as good.  God is life-giving!  Being connected to God is life and not being connected to God is death.  God is the root and the trunk and the sap that flows through the vine branches.  The branches are the Church, the community and individuals that make up the Church.  This image from Jesus is open to a variety of ways of understanding how greatly everyone and everything needs God.  For us whom God identifies as his own people, a holy nation, a priestly and prophetic people, the image of the vine and the branch reminds us of who we are and how greatly we depend on the community of believers and the sacraments of the Church.  Baptism grafts us into the life-flowing sap of the Holy Trinity and fills us with the very life of God in the Holy Spirit.  To turn away from that, to choose sin or to remain willfully in a pattern of behavior that rejects God and the teaching of the Church is spiritual death.  It is to reject the life in Christ that we are called to.  Jesus came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly!  It is a life of joy-filled hope and salvation.  This is what it is to live the faith and participate in the sacraments.

May God enrich you with all that is good! +++ Fr. Peter

Follow The Shepherd

May the joy of the Risen Christ fill your hearts!

This weekend is not only Good Shepherd Sunday, it is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations!

All who have become members of the Body of Christ have an inherent desire to seek God in prayer.  Prayer should have a place of priority in a Christian’s life.  A Christian should pray every day at least 3 times a day: in the morning, at mid-day and at night.  Just like the meals that health professionals recommend, prayer is a kind of food that every soul must have for the nourishment of the spiritual life which ensures joy and peace through an intimate relationship with God.  The body cannot live without eating or breathing, the soul languishes without prayer!  Mothers have a special role in family life.  Like Our Blessed Mother Mary, mothers show their children the way to Jesus and how to pray to God from the heart.  Fathers have an extremely important role in the family as spiritual leaders.  They give strength and firmness by modeling prayer and the Christian virtues.  One important mode of prayer is listening to God with the ear of the heart.  Mothers and fathers need to pray together and teach their children how to listen to God and be guided by him.

We believe that each one of us is singularly and uniquely gifted by God and because of that, God has a special plan and vocation for every individual and a way for them to use their gifts and talents for the benefit of others.  This activity is directed toward the building up of God’s kingdom.  Some of us are called to serve God in special ways through marriage vows, vows of religious profession, live singly or be ordained for service.  Rising from vocations, there is also ministry.  Many of the members of the community of St. Edward are active in ministries of caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, proclaiming the Word or serving Communion, Hospitality, teaching the faith and various other efforts that make a difference in people’s lives.  These are all good and important activities but there are more ways to be active!

If you feel like doing something radical, try completely committing your life forever to Christ and follow the way he leads you!  Many men and women in the Catholic tradition have responded to God’s call and have made the total commitment to sacrifice their lives in service to the Christian community and the needs of the human race.  In their vows of poverty, simplicity, chastity and obedience, they have put on Christ in a powerful and wonderful way!  Some are called to be priests, some are members of religious communities, some are deacons, some live and work quietly among us as consecrated virgins while others are called to marriage.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd of souls, are you willing to follow where ever he leads you?  Say “Yes” today and every day!  Mother Mary did!

God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

Repentance And Conversion

Peace, grace and Easter joy be with you all!

We are reminded that a great part of our witness to Jesus as The Redeemer of the Human Race is to embrace a lifestyle of conversion.

In the first reading, Peter identifies Jesus as God’s glorified servant and Author of Life whom the Jewish leaders put to death.  Peter testifies that God raised Jesus from the dead as proof of his true identity and that he understands that those who promoted his death were unaware of who Jesus really was.  Peter proposes to them a remedy for their sin: repent and be converted so that their sin may be wiped away!

In the Gospel, Jesus had just revealed himself to two of his disciples in Emmaus the evening before and now reveals himself to a large group of his disciples.  At the end of the account, Jesus summarizes the reason for his suffering, death and resurrection was so that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name everywhere in the world by his disciples.

A key word in both readings is repentance, which is a semi-accurate translation of the original Greek word metanoia.  Repent, as Websters Dictionary says, is to feel sorry or self-reproachful for what one has done or failed to do.  By God’s grace, the person is moved by conscience to feel contrition, sorrow, or regret for their sins as well as penalties undertaken on their account.  The Greek term, metanoia, directly signifies the change of mind and of heart that occurs in conversion.  The difference in our understanding of what repentance actually means is very important.  Repentance is not just something to be done on account of a sin, but is rather a way of life that focuses on becoming an image of God: a true human being.  Through our baptism, we are members of the Body of Christ – Jesus is the restorer of the human person!  This new life we are given calls us to the constant turn of the heart and mind toward God as an inner state of prayer with a posture of listening with deeply interested love.  The focus is not sin.  The focus is God’s saving love!  This is God’s work in us.

May God fill you with peace and joy! +++ Fr. Peter

Divine Mercy

Happy Easter!  May the Divine Mercy raise you up in hope and courage!

Mercy Sunday is a special day for those around the world who have made the effort to pray the Divine Mercy Novena beginning Good Friday and culminating the second Sunday of Easter.  The Chaplet of Divine Mercy was given to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska on Good Friday in 1935 by Jesus who wanted her to pray it as a Novena (9 days) with special intentions for each of the nine days it was prayed.   St. Faustina relates in her Diary that Jesus made several promises to grant many special graces to those who would pray the Novena.  This Sunday many of the faithful will begin to realize the graces and gifts that Jesus promised to those who would pray the Chaplet.  Those who were included in the intentions will receive life changing graces in their lives as well!  I am very happy that we include praying the Chaplet in our parishes, especially at St. Edward where it is prayed with the Rosary before all Masses.  Jesus also made promises to those who would display an image of the Divine Mercy which is prominently displayed in our Churches at St. Thomas, St. Bernard, and St. Edward.  The rays streaming from the heart of Jesus in the image have symbolic meaning: red is for the blood of Jesus which is the life of souls and the pale color is for water and Baptism which justifies souls (diary par. 299).  The whole image is symbolic of charity, divine love and forgiveness referred to as the “Fountain of Mercy.”

In the Gospel reading Jesus says to all those who were gathered in a room with the door locked: “Peace be with you.”  In saying this, a wave of grace washes through the hearts and minds of his disciples.  Jesus’ Word heals and strengthens his followers.  Any feelings of guilt, shame or recrimination is removed and they all experience the peace that only God can give through his mercy.  Easter season is a season of surprise and blessing coming from the heart of the Savior by Mercy.  Let us rejoice and be glad!

May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter