He Is The 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 not life; it is death.  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 sinful behavior 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.  May God enrich you with all that is good! +++ 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.

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

Jesus, Our Redeemer!

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.  The conscience of the person is impacted and they 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!  May God fill you with peace and joy! +++ Fr. Peter

Jesus, Fountain Of 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 some 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, then rose again!  You are here and so are they because they believe, they have faith and hope in 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 and wherever else we go.  We must be glad to share with other people what our faith gives us.  The tomb is empty!  Not because his body was stolen but because God raised him from the dead!  There are those who would roll the stone back over the entrance by covering up their faith or by denying what really happened.  This is a time for us to be grateful for the new freedom Jesus has given us from our old sins and attitudes that lead to a dead end.  We have been raised with him in sure and certain ways!  As a people of faith, let this Easter be the time when we sincerely rededicate ourselves as baptized disciples of Jesus.  He gave us the Gospel and its power!  Let our words and our actions show our good will and the Good News of the resurrection! +++ Fr. Peter

Holy Week!

Peace be with you,

This weekend we begin the drama of Holy Week.  Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem amidst the joyful cries of “Hosanna!” by the people who believe him to be the long-awaited Messiah is up-lifting indeed!  This joy-filled acclamation at the beginning of the week increases our sense of shock and wonder at his arrest, mock trial and brutal death on Friday.  How could the mood in Jerusalem change so quickly?  How could some of the people who acclaimed him one day, turn around and hatefully condemn him a few days later?  We are moved to consider our own fickle behavior.  It seems like Jesus is lifted up only to be thrown down by betrayal and corruption.  How did Jesus endure and keep his faith through this erratic drama?  The readings from Isaiah and the Philippians give us some insight: Jesus was committed completely to God his whole life.  He was familiar with the fickleness of human beings and found that God was his final hope.  He chose obedience to God above all things even though it brought suffering and death, he believed God would reward him.  As Holy Week unfolds, we are reminded of our own call to holiness, to faithfulness and obedience to God’s will.  If we are disciples of Jesus, we too can expect to have hardship, suffering and even persecution in our own lives.  These forces are brought about by sin.  It should make us feel remorseful to know that our sins brought this injustice and pain upon Jesus and we should be acutely mindful of our treatment of others.  It is also uplifting to know that when we suffer for Christ and remain true to his teachings, we can be confident that that God will not abandon us but will sustain us and give us strength to persevere.  This week, let us draw closer to Jesus by uniting our YES to God with him so that through our suffering we remain constant in faith and grow in holiness giving increase to a rightful hope in the joy of his resurrection!  May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Jesus Frees From Darkness!

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

Rescued From Darkness!

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 born again or created anew 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 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 revealing them to us and showing us His way.  May God bless you all during this holy season! +++ Fr. Peter

Thirst for God

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 a change that brings joy.  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

Vision Of Glory

Peace and grace to you all!

The event of the Transfiguration was for Jesus and his disciples a dazzling and affirming memory.  Most of us have had moments of glory in our lives in which we have felt blessed, affirmed and strengthened.  These memories are imprinted in us and they never fade or leave.  I remember my best friend who received the Most Valuable Player Award for his outstanding performance through a basketball tournament when we were in High School.  He was given a trophy that he still has!   Fr. Craig Boly’s mother Frances was chosen as the Rose Queen in 1939 and I know first-hand that it remained a dazzling memory for her!

There have also been moments of extreme awkwardness and discomfort due to misunderstandings, illnesses or mistakes.  The Transfiguration   provides a contrasting back-drop of dazzling beauty against deformity, horror and ugliness for Jesus and ourselves.  For Jesus, it was being arrested amidst false accusations, gross miscarriage of justice, abuse of power, brutal beating and horrible disfigurement of his body by being crucified.  For ourselves, it reminds us of our own beauty and glory even though there are failures and struggles in life with injustices, betrayal, illnesses or when bad things happen to us or our friends or family and we have no control.

It reminds me of the day my friend William Manfield informed me that he was dying of cancer.   The day was bright, sunny and warm while we sat on a park bench in Victoria watching ships and boats pass by in the Straight of Juan de Fuca: it was a lovely day and William still had the glow of life and love showing through him.  In the months that followed, that glow faded away as his body was disfigured by the disease and finally by death.  It is hard for us to encounter things like that but such times help us to remember what is important and how to cherish those memories.

In the Transfiguration, God gives us an image that far surpasses any earthly glory.  It shows God’s vision of the human person restored and fully alive!  That’s who Jesus is!  This directs us in faith to the object of our final hope.  Like Jesus, we know that our mortal lives are passing, but there is a resplendent, glorious, and eternal life to come!  The memories we have can help to anchor our hope in God’s faithful promises.  The knowledge and belief of Jesus’ commitment to God’s will leads to final triumph over sin and strengthens us!  It firmly sets our moral compass to follow Jesus the guiding star of our lives when darkness surrounds us.  Abraham Trusted God in the midst of extreme difficulty.  Jesus was obedient to God even when it meant losing his friends and laying down his life.  God is asking us to trust and be obedient too.  How do your memories help you love, let go and live for God?  May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter