Recognize His Presence!

Peace to you!

This weekend the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  As the Church teaches us, we know that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life.  Echoes of the desert experience of our ancestors from the Book of Exodus remind us that God is ever-faithful in love and care for his people: it’s a Covenant relationship.  Today, we have a much deeper knowledge and experience of God’s love and care for us in the Eucharist because it is the real and true presence of Christ that far surpasses the Manna of the desert which prefigured the Eucharist.  Jesus established the celebration of the Eucharist as the New and Eternal Covenant.

Many Catholics, when they hear the words “Body and Blood of Christ,” visualize in their minds the consecrated Host and chalice at Mass.  We remember (anamnesis: Greek) when Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood with his disciples and we enter more deeply into the New and Everlasting Covenant in Christ and the whole Christian family each time we celebrate it.  St. Paul reminds of this when he tells us that “we, though many, are one body.”  For us, Christ’s sacrifice and gift of the Eucharist is not only an event at Mass; it is not only the real presence of God hidden in the gifts of bread and wine, it is also a living relationship that each one of us has with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and with each other.  The Eucharist brings us together as the Body of Christ to be the real and true sign of God’s presence in the world.

As we grow in our faith journey, we realize ever more deeply that the Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist.  This is a living reality that defies definition because it is a divine mystery.  But we are caught up in it, we share in the very life of the Holy Trinity!  Imagine what our Catholic family could be like if we were always consciously aware that each person is a living Host, a tabernacle of the real and true presence of God.  Therese of Lieseux came to realize that she was a small Host given for the world in love.  In one of the hymns that we sing at Mass, the words of a prayer of St. Augustine are quoted: “eating your body, drinking your blood, we become what we receive.”  May we continue to grow in recognition of the love and goodness of God in the Eucharist and, like Therese, that we can live more perfectly the Eucharist in relation with other people.

God’s blessings to you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Holy Trinity

Peace and grace to you all!

It is good to stand before the mystery of life, and all that is, and ponder it.  Creation is always surprisingly new!  This weekend we stand before the mystery of the Creator and source of all that is – God, that is why God is called Father: Father = source.  As Christians we profess one God, three persons; a mystery that saints and sinners have pondered since the beginning of revelation!

Because God is the first priority in our lives we should ponder the mystery of God so as to understand God a little better, to be in awe, love, listen to, desire to be with, and celebrate in our worship more profoundly.

Not all that we know about God can come from our own personal experiences of God.  The largest part of our knowledge of God is based upon Sacred Scripture, which is also Divine Revelation and the Church whose task it is to teach the truth about God, as Jesus did, to all people.  In the Gospel this weekend Jesus assures the disciples that the “Spirit of Truth” will guide the Church to all truth throughout all time.  The Church has always been active in speaking and teaching through the centuries so that all people would know God, love God, trust God, and follow his way of life – to where?  To peace and happiness in this life and to enjoy forever the life with God that is to come!  Even in the midst of suffering, there is joy.

In the last few weeks of Easter, Jesus repeatedly promised his disciples that “whatever you ask the Father in my name, I will give you.”  Jesus also told his disciples to remain in “the city” until they received power from on high.  This event of being empowered with the Holy Spirit is what we celebrated last weekend.  One great gift of the Holy Spirit Jesus gave the disciples was to forgive sins and through this gift, we all find our Spiritual renewal.

Another gift of the Spirit is prayer.  For many, when asked about their prayer, they say they pray to “Jesus” or they pray to “God” or one of the Saints.  This is all good!  But for those who have not tried it yet, how about consciously saying a prayer to the Father, asking in the name of Jesus, while knowing you are praying and speaking with the help of the Holy Spirit?   Last weekend’s second reading told us that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit – this is because God the Father and God the Holy Spirit move us to do it!

The mystery of God is about a relationship, a communion of complete love, an out-pouring of love for the sake of the good of the other.  Try to enter this relationship with your prayer of the heart!  God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

Seeing The Spirit

May God the Holy Spirit glow within you!

This weekend we celebrate Pentecost which is also the birthday of the Church when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and disciples of Jesus uniting them in one Spirit and one faith in The One Lord. When we speak about spirit on a personal level, we are usually referring to something about matters of interest or passion in life. We notice people who are filled with a kind of spirit: a team spirit, a school spirit, a work spirit, and a family spirit. People of spirit are fired with a special passion, love and energy for particular things. You can hear it in their voice, see it in their eyes and on their face and it shows in the way they spend their time and money. Their whole heart is into it. They get excited about it and they are obviously more animated and energized while they are engaged in what they love.

Understanding spirit at a personal level helps us to better grasp why God gave us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The presence of the Holy Spirit makes people on fire for Jesus and the Gospel! The Holy Spirit builds, unifies, animates and sanctifies the Church. The Holy Spirit is Truth, guiding us in the truth of God! The Holy Spirit is the breath of God speaking and inspiring action in the members of Christ’s body, the Church. The Holy Spirit is the gift of enlightenment and sure sign that we are God’s people: God’s adopted sons and daughters. The gift of fiery faith that we have from the Spirit is not like the flame of a match that can be blown out by the wind or drowned by water. No, the gift of God the Holy Spirit dwelling within us is an eternal, unquenchable, loving fire that drives us into action and ministries. The Holy Spirit within us loves to be shared and expressed with other people in prayer and good works. Its fruits are purity, gentleness, kindness, generosity, joy, peace, hospitality, healing, forgiveness and unity. The Holy Spirit equips the Church in its mission by filling the members with gifts and inspiring them to action for building up God’s Kingdom. One sure sign of the Holy Spirit that I notice is the light of the Spirit in a person’s eyes. Wherever I encounter people, I can visibly detect the presence of the Spirit within them. Look for it! Can you see it too?

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to ignite us with God’s pure love and passion for life and goodness and share this joy with others! +++ Fr. Peter

Jesus Our Restoration

Peace to all at St. Edward!

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 beginning of the restoration of humanity foretold by the prophets had begun.  We recognize by faith the marriage of human nature with divine nature, the union of mankind with God in the person of Jesus who is fully God AND fully human.  We know that Jesus’ mission was to rescue the human race and restore the image of the human person as God created them.  We recognize the love and intimacy in the way God chose to do this – by becoming human as one of us.  The Ascension of Jesus makes this wondrous restoration in a spectacular way.  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 as being alive!  He reveals the resurrection as a new life that is a lived experience for those who follow him.  Now 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 the human person sink in to your heart and mind!  Jesus raised human status from condemnation, to enthronement at God’s right hand – above all angels and united with God!   I hope that everyone can feel a new confidence in the love that God is extending to each person.    Once the restoration in Jesus is understood and accepted, no one will 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.  This is an amazing rebirth and joy!  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

Love One Another

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

Jesus tells us this weekend that “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

In this Gospel the word love is used many times. In everyday life we hear the word love used frequently and in a lot of different ways: I love sunsets, I love whipped cream and peanuts on top of my banana split, I love family gatherings, and etc. All of which are good things and it is important that we have them. But when we go beyond the things that we like or being open only to things that conform to what we think they should be, we begin to understand what Jesus is saying. It’s good to remind ourselves that Jesus had to make a human effort to keep his Father’s commandments in order to remain in his love and so in like manner we have to make an effort to remain in God’s same love.

We know that the core of the love that he calls us to is a sacrificial, self-surrendering love. It is a kind of giving that focuses completely on God and the other person. Like a boy who gives his coat and hat to his sister to keep her warm and protect her from the cold. Or a mother who rises early to prepare meals and make sure her family has clean clothes to wear and food to eat. Or a father who is always watchful for the safety and well-being of his wife and children repairing the house or the car and lots of other things.

Many of us really enjoy making sacrifices for others and I know that is because the Spirit of Jesus lives within us. We do especially well when we surrender our hearts and desires to God and give the sacrifices we make to those we love or think well of. Today Jesus calls us deeper. Another part of the giving we do is forgiving. In order to remain in God’s love like Jesus, he shows us how to forgive. Fathers must be ready to forgive sons. Sons must be ready to forgive fathers just like mothers must be ready to forgive daughters and daughters must be ready to forgive mothers. Brothers and sisters must be ready to forgive each other and friends must also be ready to forgive each other. Then Jesus calls even deeper when he commands us to love our enemies. He says  Bless those who curse you and pray for those who persecute you. If we do what he commands, we can remain in his love!

May God give you strength in mercy! +++ Fr. Peter

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

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.  By doing this, the Lord showed his favor through them and more and more people wanted to have this grace-filled experience in life.   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