Peace and grace to you all!

Here it is Pentecost Sunday already!  In the mind of the Church, the time from Easter to Pentecost (50 days) is viewed as 1 great day.  Do you remember how the day began?  It was at the empty tomb where two men in dazzling garments proclaimed “he is not here, but he has been raised.”  At first, the reality of Jesus’ resurrection was hard for the disciples to believe but after frequent surprise visits, their confidence and faith became solidly grounded.  It seems as though Jesus had to lead them through a series of steps to help them transition from being accustomed to his physical presence to his invisible, spiritual presence to the whole community.  As we can see, Jesus was preparing them for a special gift!

Today the Church remembers the gift of the Holy Spirit by which the Church discerns and recognizes the presence and action of God in the community.  In fact, Jesus’ physical and visible presence in the world is now through you, me and the whole Church.  This is God present in mystery!  We all recognize the Spirit at work within us as we hear God’s Word—are not our hearts burning within us?  We recognize the Spirit among us by the desire to act for the good giving dignity, respect and service to one another; this is love.  The Spirit moves us to cross the street of our own comfort zones and beyond our own interests out of ourselves—even to the ends of the earth—to share the good news of pardon, peace and new life in Jesus!  It all begins at home within ourselves just as it did for the disciples.  We give public witness as they did when we use our words and actions to build up the body of Christ and choose to forgive and begin anew rather than descend into harshness or criticism or grudging.

We also recognize that the Spirit empowers each of us with different gifts for service.  I know that many of you have been watchful in prayer and pondering what role of service you might choose for building up the body of Christ at St. Edward, St. Bernard and St. Thomas.  Teaching the faith, assisting the poor through St. Vincent de Paul, singing in the Choir, Lector/Reader, Eucharistic Minister, the Soup Kitchen, Catholic Daughters, or serving on the Bazaar committee, are just a few ideas of many possibilities.  Try to trust that God will direct you and guide you to the place you need to be!  Remember, it is through using our gifts that God is visibly present and this brings joy to you and the community!  May God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

Resurrection To New Life!

Peace be with you!

The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord that we celebrate this weekend completes a full circle of faith for us.  When the Son of God became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, the foretold restoration of fallen humanity had begun.  In the person of Jesus who is fully God and fully human, we recognize the union of mankind with God; the marriage of human nature with divine nature.   Jesus’ mission was to reconcile mankind with God but the love and intimacy in the way God chose to do this—by becoming human is good beyond our imagining!  God was not satisfied that we should know Jesus as the one who suffered and died to take away our sins: our Redeemer, our Rescuer, our Savior.  This was not enough!  Jesus raised his human body from the tomb of death and showed himself to the disciples—fully alive!  He reveals the resurrection to new life.  Jesus shows us that a sinner does not have to die in sin but through him may find forgiveness and a completely new life.  But even more than this, Jesus takes his human body to heaven where it is enthroned at the “right hand of the Father”!   Just sit back and contemplate this event.  Let the shock of God’s exaltation of human nature sink in to your heart and mind!  Jesus changed human status from broken, fallen and condemned, to wholeness, holiness, exalted and enthroned at God’s right hand!   Additionally, we are not separate from God as individual persons but perfectly united and one with God!  This union does not destroy or eliminate our individual identity but rather augments and completes it because in it, we become fully who we are, united to each other and to God.   I hope that everyone can feel the confidence of love and trust that God is extending to each person.    Once this invitation is understood and accepted, we will no longer doubt or stand looking up into the sky.  We will work together diligently to make disciples of all nations, bringing them to the waters of regeneration in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  It is time to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit that we may be builders of the great and eternal kingdom!  God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

The Fruits of the Spirit

May the joy of Easter emanate from your hearts!

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his followers that he would send the “Advocate” to remain with them as a teacher, and as one who would remind them of all that he had told them.

For the leadership and the people of the early Church, the presence, action and teaching of the Holy Spirit was plainly visible as they clarified the divisive issue of circumcision.  The Holy Spirit is still strongly active in guiding individuals and the whole Church through the course of time.

Pope Francis continues to have a deep and positive impact on Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and non-believers alike.  Within a few moments of his first public address, it was highly evident to all that the spirit of St.  Francis of Assisi had come upon him.  As many of you know, St. Francis was known as a man of simplicity, humility, and great care for the poor.  This same gift of the Holy Spirit has been given to the Holy Father to remind us on how to live the Gospel!  His missionary efforts around the world have had profound effects.  Most notable to me was his visit to the Central African Republic where a Muslim coup caused the country to spiral into civil war.  Against the wishes and pressure of his advisors, Pope Francis was eager to visit the danger zone and he brought the Gospel of peace to them!  This is a defining characteristic of his ministry—he goes where the Gospel is needed the most.  It takes faith and courage to do that.

Two of his encyclicals include joy in the title:  The Joy of the Gospel and The Joy of Love

The Holy Spirit always comes to restore, strengthen, confirm, console and encourage.  The fruits of the Spirit are joy, courage, kindness, gentleness, humility, patience, understanding, goodwill, speech that is directed toward the up-building of each person and society.  The Spirit is agile and creative too; like a bubbling spring that always seeks what is good and finds ways to make good things happen even against all odds.  The encyclicals remind us of the joy we have when living life in the Spirit.  Those who are worldly, selfish and forceful, and do not walk as humble servants of Jesus do not experience joy.  Within each one of us there is an enlightenment that comes from the Gospel that helps us keep Jesus’ word alive in our hearts, words and actions.  Just as the Holy Spirit equipped and accompanied the disciples to proclaim the Gospel as Jesus did, we are called to be the chosen witnesses who proclaim it today.  May we be watchful and ready to welcome, console, confirm, strengthen and encourage those who come into our presence seeking God.  God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Easter Joy

May the joy of Easter lift your heart and mind!

Last weekend was Good Shepherd Sunday.  Listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd and following him wherever he calls us is an amazing adventure of faith.  Listening and discovering another person’s love language is a means to helping each other experience God’s voice and love.  When we speak someone else’s love language, we make each other feel valued, appreciated and loved.

This weekend we are given another paradigm that points to a much deeper and fuller intimacy between ourselves and God.  It is much more human in terms of relationship because it is not between a shepherd and sheep; it is love between God and Jesus, Jesus and the disciples and the love of disciples for each other.  This mutual love and goodwill is the true trademark of the community that Jesus founded, the Church.

As I reflect on the positioning of this set of readings in the context of the Easter Season, I am reminded of my own pilgrimage and the way the calendar of the Church leads us personally and communally in a cyclical fashion through particular stages of life toward union with God.  Every year we grow closer to what we hope for: the Beatific Vision in which we are all completely united to God in God.

At Easter, one of my favorite phrases among the prefaces of the Mass states ”the joy of the resurrection renews the whole world.”   When I reflect on this phrase while living in the Easter Season, it seems that we are on the very threshold of experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven!  But now in these readings we return to a context of farewell.   Jesus is preparing us for the departure of the Easter Season of grace, but we are not to worry or be sorrowful.  Rather, we are to focus in faith and make a daily effort to be ready for the moment he returns to gather each one us personally and intimately to himself!  It will be like the most perfect celebration and we will experience a true happily ever after in heaven!  May God’s promise of love sustain you in everlasting hope! +++ Fr. Peter

Pray For Vocations!

May the light and joy of Easter fill your hearts!

This weekend is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations!  There is a popular hymn by Dan Schutte called “Here I Am Lord”.   This hymn gives a good summary of what the attitude and response of each Christian and Prophet referred to in Sacred Scripture has been!  “Here I am Lord.  Is it I, Lord?  I have heard you calling in the night.  I will go Lord, if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.”

Each person is singularly and uniquely created by God and endowed with special gifts.  God calls everyone to use their gifts for the benefit of others and for building up his Kingdom, the community of faith.  Everyone has the gift of a vocation in which they find the fulfillment of the meaning and purpose of their lives.  Some are called to be priests, to preach the Word of God, to administer the Sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist, and to help the sick and the suffering and the poor and to give their lives in sacrificial service after Christ.  Others are called to serve as Deacons, to proclaim God’s Word and serve others.

Many men and women are inspired by the Holy Spirit to serve the needs of humanity in a radical way by choosing to live the Gospel under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  Their prayers are powerful as they intercede for all humanity and their lives give witness of the love and mercy of God as they serve the needs of others in charity.

Married couples are a living sign of God’s love for the human family in their mutual love for each other and their children as they lead lives of faith and teach their children to listen to God and follow the way of life that Jesus taught.  Today is also Mother’s Day and this vocation of motherhood is extremely important because mothers are the first to teach the children the ways of the faith.  Fathers also do their part but today we honor all mothers in their vocation!

All vocations are important and form part of God’s plan for the good of the whole Church.  Today, the Church needs more men and women serving as priests and religious.  Please pray for an increase in Priestly and religious vocations and a generous response to God’s call!

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

Our Easter Mission

May the splendor of Christ risen from the dead fill your hearts and minds!

The Easter Season is a time of grace, conversion and consolation from the Lord!  I know that many of us are experiencing special gifts of grace that make change possible at this time.

In the first reading the disciples are speaking and doing things in the name of Jesus.  Peter and John had just recently healed a crippled beggar.  The authorities are offended and upset about publicizing Jesus’ name because they executed him.  Who are the authorities in our day who oppose public prayer or recognition of God as source of life and love?  Who are the ones who speak out in the name of Jesus regardless of the opposition?  The disciples felt honored to have suffered for the sake of the name of Jesus, what do you do with your discomforts, inconveniences and suffering?

The Gospel reading takes us to the sea shore and the story of the great catch of fish.  In this story, John, as the one who loves, is the first to recognize Jesus—love is always the first to believe!  Peter jumps out of the boat again.  The net is dragged to shore but doesn’t tear.  Jesus feeds them again which is the third time Jesus shows his presence in the Eucharist since he rose from the dead.  And Peter is fully reconciled to Jesus then gifted with his mission to follow Jesus.

That is a lot to unpack!  I will just say that the net signifies the Gospel with its capacity and power to gather people of every language and culture into an unbreakable unity of faith and love.  This is at the heart of the mission of the Church.  Peter’s reconciliation with Jesus empowers him to be a reconciler between the human race and God.  Forgiveness of sins brings salvation to the whole world and Peter has a special role to play in it!  You and I have a special role to play in our giving testimony to the great things God has done for us!  Like the disciples, let us do it with joy, confidence and in a most congenial way!  May God bless you always! +++ 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.”

This Sunday the Divine Mercy devotion will begin at St. Edward at 3:00pm.  All are invited to attend.  There will be Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and then concluded with Solemn Benediction.

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

He Is Risen!

Happy Easter! Alleluia!

It’s hard to imagine what the first Easter must have been like.  There were only a small number of people who followed Jesus and they had just suffered a horrible, tragic loss in seeing him die on the cross.  They were still feeling the shock waves of his death when a couple of people they knew reported the unthinkable—He is risen!  The event of the resurrection of Jesus sets Christians apart from the world in a special way.  Look around you.  There are more people in Church today for one reason.  Jesus died, to take away our sins and then rose again!  You are here and so are they because they believe, they have faith and hope in God’s mercy and the resurrection to eternal life.  Millions of people around the world have made a special effort to get dressed up and go to Church today to celebrate what their faith means to them.  Like you, I wish everyone had a strong faith and a sense of purpose about what to do with their faith.  Imagine what our world could be like if everyone worked together to build societies that honored God and put the Gospel values into action!  I am reminded that the followers of Jesus were few but they grew in number because they lived a sincere faith and the Lord showed his favor through them.  We have the same opportunity.  If the world we live in is to grow in holiness and remain a good place to live, then the faith that brings us here must go out with us into our homes, our schools, our places of work, our neighborhoods, our public policies and wherever else we go.  We must be glad to share what our faith gives us with other people.  The tomb is empty because God raised him from the dead!  There are those who would roll the stone back over the tomb by covering up their faith or by denying what really happened by sliding back into fear, anger or any form of darkness that leads to a dead end .  As a people of faith, let this Easter be the time when we sincerely recall our salvation and rededicate ourselves as disciples of Jesus.  He gave us the Gospel and its power!  Let our words and actions show our good will and the Good News of the resurrection! +++ Fr. Peter

Holy Week

Grace and peace to you!

Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday begins Holy Week.  It is called Holy Week because through the scriptures this week, we are brought into the historical account of Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and death: his sacrifice and love for us that won our salvation.  The liturgies this week take on a special character too.  This is partly due to the focus on the passion of Jesus in the readings but also because we engage our physical senses through doing things out of the ordinary like, the reception of the holy oils, the washing of the feet, the empty tabernacle, the use of incense, the veneration of the cross, the ceremony of light with fire and candles and special readings and seasonal hymns.  As we incorporate these things, it is important to realize that we are not re-enacting the historical events upon which our faith is grounded, but rather we are enabling ourselves through a fuller use of our senses to enter more deeply into the Paschal Mystery.  The mystery we enter calls us to remember the events of the past when God delivered his people from oppression and slavery.  This mystery compels us to ponder what is now happening in our lives: to recognize the ways that God is leading us on a path of conversion and healing, deepening our faith and our personal relationship with God.  Through Lent, we have encountered temptation and some of our faults have been revealed to us.  Our lives have changed because God is leading us to a new way of life.  This “anamnesis” or remembering-in-a-special-way bolsters our hope and confidence in God’s loving plan of salvation for our future.  We know that we are never abandoned nor forgotten and we are always delivered and forgiven when we turn to God for help.  My prayer is that we all grow in holiness as we enter this special week in a new and deeper way.   God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

The Power of Hope!

Peace and grace to you!

The readings this weekend are filled with power!  The power of hope!  Faith in God as the one who speaks the truth and the one who always fulfills what he promises assures our hope and trust that he will accomplish what he says.  This weekend we get a special glimpse of God’s plan—ultimately, our salvation.  Although we don’t know the details of our lives ahead of time, we do know that we must walk by faith and make sense of the events in our lives by using the lens cap of faith as we go.

The prophet Ezekiel makes a bold declaration that God will open our graves and we will rise from them, plus we will live with a share of God’s divine Spirit within us!  Paul’s vision of the Christian experience makes sense of sin coexisting with the Spirit of Christ in the human person.  He assures us that those who live with the Spirit of Jesus, even though they fall into sin, can rightfully hope in a resurrection of the body as a gift of God’s grace.  The power of the Holy Spirit cleanses us from sin through the Word of Christ.  This is manifested in the Gospel story when Jesus calls Lazarus forth from death to life.

Lazarus is a great image for all of us to ponder.  We know that at this event he is wrapped up, tied up, in the bands of sin, death and burial.  Obviously, he has succumbed to the power of nature and suffered death, which is the ultimate suffering for the human person.  He has also committed sins.  But the Word of Jesus cleanses him and compels him to rise to new life.  In the light of today’s readings, we also should pause to consider a couple of questions for ourselves.  What are the natural powers, sins, people or events that have bound you up in life?  How have you been hindered in life or closed into a place of darkness, loneliness, isolation, anger, fear or hopelessness?  We are all burdened in different ways to varying degrees.  More importantly and much greater than any of these burdens however, is the power to be set free of them by Jesus and his Word.  I pray that each of you experience some special freedom, liberation from sin, hindrance or death and walk in joy as children of light.  May God bless you! +++ Fr Peter