The story of Lazarus helps us enter into a deep and real encounter with Jesus. Although Jesus is the All Powerful Lord and Savior of all he is also human and weeps at the death of his friend and he grieves with Martha and Mary because of their loss. Jesus is not afraid to cry, to weep and to grieve. He is not aloof or separated from our pain, longing, or suffering any more than he is separated from our feelings of joy, hope and gratitude! Jesus is not afraid to feel and express his emotions in a healthy way with other people. Jesus’ words to unbind and set Lazarus free are directed to us today.
Let us think about Lazarus for a moment. He is bound up in a dark cave and he is dead. These are the effects of sin. Jesus has come to show that he can free us from these effects if we trust and believe in him!
Close your eyes, try to identify the places of injury on your body or soul that have been damaged or died because of sin. Think about your personal Spirit, has part of it died or been diminished in some way?
If you feel that you are in darkness and have lost sight of hope, If you feel unable to give or receive love, If you can no longer voice your true thoughts and feelings, If you did something bad or were made to do something bad, If you are unable to move forward and make changes in your life, If your mind is constantly dwelling on negativity, fear, guilt, or caught up in anger obsessing on past hurts and trauma, If you feel ashamed, If you have been carrying the burden of an unspoken secret, If part of your body is suffering from the damage of abuse, or anything else– ask Jesus to free you!
If you feel that you are cut off from God and are unable to pray: pray in the name of Jesus! Pray with a humble, sincere and repentant heart. Pray from the heart and simply be honest with Jesus. Ask him to help you pray.
Remember: You cannot have lust or a wrongful attachment in your heart. You cannot be effective in prayer if you mistreat your spouse or your children or neglect the poor. You cannot harbor a grudge. You must have faith in your heart and no bitterness toward someone else. Pray with great hope and in secret. Pray according to God’s will with an obedient attitude and live that way. Pray in agreement with other believers and with delight in God’s goodness and love! Fast and pray while abiding in God’s Word, Jesus Christ! May the All-merciful Lord raise you to eternal life! +++ Fr. Peter
The blind man in today’s Gospel is a very important figure for all of us to consider. From our birth, we have all been affected by sin and the spiritual blindness that comes with it. But thanks be to God, through our baptism, we know about God and we believe in Jesus as God’s Son, our Savior and Redeemer. Baptism has given us the light of faith and understanding. But our blindness is not entirely removed. There are still blind spots that affect us and the people around us. We are not able to discover them or change without God’s help. Today is a day that we open ourselves to God’s grace: to be touched by Jesus and begin a new life!
In the story, Jesus uses his saliva and earth to make clay. We remember the story of creation in Genesis when God formed man out of the slime of the earth. Jesus smears the slimy clay on the man’s eyes and instructs him to wash in the pool—symbolizing baptism. In baptism we were washed clean from our sin and we became born again; that is created anew spiritually as a child of God. The darkness of sin has been removed and we walk as children of God by the light-vision of faith. But our journey of faith is not an easy path. At times we are misled or wander astray not entirely certain of the right way to go. We experience doubt, confusion, fear, love, passion and pleasure. Some of what we experience or perceive to be good we discover later on wasn’t good; it wasn’t what we thought it was. When that happens, we turn to God asking for pardon and begin again our journey of faith renewed by God’s cleansing mercy. Through this process, we experience an increase in our faith. We are more enlightened with spiritual vision and understanding. We are more firm at applying our faith to daily life.
Remember, Lent is a season of Kairos , that is a special time when the Lord is at work with us helping us to see more clearly the path for a closer life with him. If we are sincere, Jesus will help us avoid things that cause us problems by showing us what they are and then showing us the way to avoid them. May God bless you all during this holy season! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace and grace to you all!
In the first reading, the Israelites’ physical fatigue and thirst reveals the deeper level of their spiritual aridity and lack of faith. This happens even though God has been providing everything that they need in a unique and powerful way. Moses is frustrated with their hardness of heart and their constant doubting, bickering and complaining rather than trusting in God. Change is not easy.
In the Gospel story, Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman and surprises her in a special way. She carries an empty jar to the well each day to satisfy her bodily thirst. But in the encounter with Jesus, it becomes clear that the empty jar also represents her spiritual emptiness. What she thirsts for spiritually is grace and mercy from God. She has had a hard life and she longs for intimacy and fulfillment. She comes to the well at mid-day to avoid the scorn and ridicule of the other townspeople. She quickly discovers that Jesus doesn’t treat her the way other people do. He is kind and understanding toward her. He knows her whole life story with the bad decisions, the embarrassing failures, the mistakes, the losses and the pain. Instead of ridicule and rejection, Jesus offers her a remedy. For her part, she has only to put her faith and trust in him. Her response is to leave the jar behind—her emptiness, pain and spiritual thirst. As she leaves, something has already begun springing up inside of her, it is faith! She believes in Jesus’ love, understanding and care for her! The wellspring within her is the grace and mercy of God flowing upon her life through baptism. We come to realize that Jesus came to the well on that day and at that hour to satisfy the longing that she had for God and to save her from her sins. Jesus came to the well thirsting too. He was thirsting for her faith and trust. We are reminded of our own thirst for God and God’s thirst for our faith and trust in him! This is an encounter that brings joy and fulfillment. We are also reminded that baptism has brought us into the life-giving waters of grace that flow from God’s faithful love and mercy through Jesus.
May God continue to fill you with the life-giving water of divine grace! +++ Fr. Peter
May the light of Christ’s glory fill you with hope and peace!
The readings this weekend fill us with a sense of the kind of pride that God wants us to have for ourselves as his children. They also lead us to the hope that will sustain us through difficulties along the way.
Abram, because he listened to the Lord and put into practice what was asked of him, was promised blessings. But God, being good beyond our dreams, was not satisfied with just blessing Abram so he also promised Abram that he would be a source of blessing to others as well.
In the Gospel, Jesus leads his disciples up into the presence and glory of God. The story uses the word “transfigured” to describe the change in his appearance revealing the fullness of God’s light and glory shining through his body and his humanity. The voice from the cloud confirms Jesus’ identity as Son of God and directs the disciples to listen to him, which means believe him and put into practice what he says to do.
What do these readings give us today? The context is that Abram has to leave home, his place of comfort and go on a journey. Along the way he has to trust in God’s presence though invisible and there he discovers his identity as God’s chosen one. At the time he was baptized, Jesus was identified as God’s beloved and here again on the mountain his identity is confirmed. But now Jesus is on the way to the hill of Calvary where he will suffer and die – for our sake. The change in his appearance on Calvary does not reflect his glory as the Son of God rather; it manifests our human disfiguration caused by sin. Jesus gives the disciples a glimpse of his true glory as a kind of food that will sustain them as they witness his crucifixion and death. The hope that Jesus gives the disciples is given to us today to sustain us through the journey of Lent and the rest of our lives. The glory that Jesus shows the disciples on the mountain is the glory that he will share with those who follow him through the call to leave their own comfort zone and struggle for conversion in life and finally death as they hope in the resurrection. Through this part of Lent, we are being punctured: experiencing the pain of our own shortcomings and sins. Our first inclination is to blame others or deny that the problem is within ourselves. Repentance, turning our hearts to God, is the path to peace and healing. Today, as we turn to God, Jesus lifts us with confidence as he says “rise, do not be afraid,” keep going! I love you! I will make you a blessing to all and you will share in my glory!
Peace to you! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace to you and your house!
Our Lenten journey has begun and the traditions of prayer, fasting, alms giving and care for the poor assist us in our penance, i.e., “turning our hearts to God.” Last weekend we were reminded that no one can serve two masters. We have to choose one or the other. For many of us this means choosing to serve God rather than ourselves and our own appetites or inclinations. We do this by serving our spouse, our children or grandchildren, a stranger or neighbor in need, friends and that sort of thing.
The readings this weekend take us with Jesus and his time in the desert. He unites us with him in his own struggle with temptation. His forty-day struggle reminds us of the forty years of Israel and their failures but Jesus reverses the failure by his obedience to God’s word. The temptations Jesus faces ask him to use his divine power to provide for his own needs like food and then he is tempted to produce a sign that would compel others to give him worldly glory. The final temptation Jesus faced was to make the choice to serve God or the devil. This is important for us to remember because it shows his humanity: he too had to wrestle with human nature and conform his will to doing God’s will. He also shows the community of believers how they are to respond to such temptations—look to God’s Word as the guide and follow it. Although we know and remember at Easter that his victory is ours, right now at the beginning of Lent we draw strength from his example and we try to imitate him in our own struggle against sin. It is good to have resolutions in Lent by which we seek to exercise control of our own desires and our own will. It is also beneficial when we fail in these things so that we remember that it is not by our own power that we are saved. God repeatedly saves us. God is gentle and loving as we discover these things through his mercy and we are saved from excessive pride. Sometimes we discover that some of our best made plans must change because God has a better one!
May God bless you with peace and love! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace be with you!
We continue to listen to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Mathew’s Gospel. From Mathew, Jesus’ teaching is described as a higher form of righteousness. Jesus points out a manner of life that comes from the heart with wisdom and understanding. At first glance this may make us feel more distant from God because it is harder to live that way. On the other hand, we know that Jesus came to assure us that God intensely loves and cares for us. We also know that Jesus came to bless and to heal our brokenness. Having these two important keys for understanding, we can understand Jesus’ teaching as deeper rather than higher. Jesus goes to the roots of the law, the depths of the heart and leads us to a deeper relationship with God. When we grow in depth and spirituality, we encounter the darkness affecting the human spirit and the deep flaw of human nature. As we near God in his marvelous light, more of our own imperfections show up. But Jesus is the Divine Physician who exposes our wounds and leads us more deeply into the way of prayer and healing!
We experience inner conflict when we are confronted with the reality that our own thoughts and behaviors do not always conform to the way of life that Jesus calls us to. This weekend our attention is directed toward God’s law that we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
We know that everything flows from the love of God. This is the first and most important Commandment. Loving your neighbor as you love yourself—well, what if we don’t love ourselves or we don’t understand how to love ourselves properly? Then we are not going to be able to love anyone else properly. There is a balance here. It falls in between always putting ourselves down and always being selfish, arrogant and egotistical.
Jesus invites us to ask him to show us how to love ourselves so that we may love our neighbor correctly. If we ask, he will show us how beautiful God’s love is, first for ourselves, then for everyone else. When we experience and understand that God loves us unconditionally, even with our sins and faults, we change. We begin to love ourselves humbly, that is in truth. Then we begin to love others with God. When our love is perfected, our love will entirely reflect God’s own love—even for those who make themselves enemies.
God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter
May God’s holy light shine in your hearts!
The first reading from Sirach tells us that if we choose, we can live God’s commandments! Following this bold, clear statement, the sage adds that there are two roads: one is toward good, the other is toward evil. It is obvious that we believe in God, we believe in Jesus and we believe that there is right and wrong. If we didn’t share these same beliefs, we wouldn’t come here to worship together. But believing these things and truly taking them to heart and living them out in concrete ways requires a conscious choice and an effort. The teachings of Jesus remind us that there is more to true Christian living than just having good intentions. Jesus points out that what is present and active inside a person’s heart is already known to God and if what is there is not good, it needs to change. We need to know that. We also need God’s grace to push the wrong things out of our hearts. We can blame other people or use them as an excuse for our own hardness of heart and bad behavior. Change from within removes barriers that cause us unhappiness, distress, tension in our relationships and sin, which separates us from God. We all want to be good and do the right thing! We want good things to happen! Sometimes things just go the wrong way or we don’t take the steps we should to correct them. Today, Jesus points to our hearts as the starting point of our words and actions and that we are accountable for what is there; no one else. St. Paul provides a special key—it all revolves around forgiving and being forgiven and that leads us to the Cross of Jesus! The Cross is where every sin must go: every hurt must be laid down there, every offense committed must seek mercy there. Every heart finds cleansing and instruction on how to live before the Cross of Jesus. If there is something in your heart that needs to change, don’t wait! Ask the Lord for help today! Ask for forgiveness, and give the gift that you are given! +++ Fr. Peter
May the Light of Christ fill you!
Jesus tells us that a candle is not lit to be put under a bushel basket. It is lit and put up in a high place so that it’s light will be seen. A Christian community is evangelized in order to evangelize! That is what a true community is like: it is a group of men, women and young people who have found the truth and joy of Christ and the Gospel and they sincerely try to follow it and share it with others. When they assemble for the liturgy, they experience God’s action of grace: a purifying renewal, they are strengthened in purpose and vision and support each other. They carry on the mission together. It has never been an individual journey or conversion. It has always been and will always be a community on pilgrimage and conversion. It is a family of faith that believes in God and has a deep reverence and respect for God. In this family setting each one finds companionship as a source of strength and in moments of weakness they help one another. Although different, they are united in faith. By loving and supporting one another they give light and example. Christians preach by their own lives. They avoid harboring grudges and harsh judgements toward others because they know this is a sin against the Body of Christ and the unity that we are called to. Everyone who loves God and receives his holy word hears the call to follow him in a new way each day. Our nation and our towns need to be guided by the light of the Gospel. Each person has some positive thing from God to contribute and promote what is good! This is a reality that God makes happen in his people’s lives. One day when the mailman delivered the mail, I smiled and waved saying “Thank you! Have a good day!” He responded: “Thanks for saying that. I was just chewed out by someone a few minutes ago.” I had no idea what he was going through but a simple word and gesture became a light to dispel the darkness and gloom. God is always at work to help his people!
May his blessings always be with you! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace to you!
Beatitude, understood properly as a term, means the state of complete blessedness or happiness. The beatific vision is to be in the full possession of the only truly perfect good, which is God. There are 8 supernatural actions that the Lord enumerates in the Sermon on the Mount, the last of which is indicated twice to emphasize its excellence. Simply stated, the beatitudes are the crowning achievements in the Christian life on earth. They are acts of virtue (moral excellence) that have been perfected to the highest possible degree by the person who has become habitually docile to the Holy Spirit. It almost goes without saying that while humility, meekness, desire for justice, chastity, compassion, mercy, charity, working for peace no matter the cost are acts of virtue, they also manifest the real presence of special, God given gifts in the person. A beatific or happy life is the result of using these supernatural gifts in a manner guided by the Holy Spirit. All of us desire fulfillment and happiness at the deepest level within. As Christians, we regard Jesus as the revealer and teacher of truth. Jesus teaches us the truth about the human person and about God. Through the beatitudes, he reveals that the way to true happiness consists in a life of virtue in communion with God in the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t have to struggle with sin while we are in the world, but it does mean that we can experience the blessedness of the kingdom! May God guide you into the way of peace! +++ Fr. Peter
May the grace of Christ raise you up!
The readings offer a complexity of themes that generally flow toward the coming of God’s manifold grace and power to enlighten and lead people into a relationship of peace with God. Jesus is depicted as stepping into the prophetic vocation where John left off, however with a nuance. With Jesus, the kingdom is AT HAND; it is not coming in the near future as John would say. At almost the very start of his public ministry, Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, James and John to follow him in a special way. They are called to be his disciples and for some mysterious reason, they leave everything they have to follow him. In reflecting on my own vocation and the mystery of the call that I received, I have to say that it is indeed a mystery. I had a great job and was doing well, making plans to build a house, settle down and get married then suddenly, everything changed. I left it all behind, family, friends, pets, personal income, plus some hopes and dreams. Having said all of that, I can say with St. Paul that it has been at a cost but nothing compared to the great gain of the gift of God’s call to follow the Lord! It has been a great adventure worth much more than anything I’ve left behind!
This weekend I invite you to consider your financial commitment to support your parish and the ministries that happen through life in the parish. In this effort, we express our discipleship and the willingness we have to make a sacrifice for the future of the Church. Being good stewards of the gifts and resources we receive from God is good discipleship. I encourage everyone to consider what they are able to give. We ALL have something to give and we all have a need to give! Our way to success and our future joy does not consist of the same people giving more; rather, it consists in more people giving! God’s continued blessings to you all! +++ Fr. Peter