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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday

Whenever we hear of Our Lord or the Blessed Virgin Mary speaking to someone, it's never those who are in high position. It's never the brilliant theologian who can teach on any subject under the sun. Nor is it the bishop who is held in high regard because of his position within the Church. No, those who have received the grace of legitimate private revelation from Our Lord are without exception those who are very humble.

The feast we're celebrating today came from one such revelation. During the 1930's, Our Lord revealed to Sr. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun, what we have come to know as the Divine Mercy. St. Faustina, canonized in the year 2000, came from a very humble background, and had received very little education. For this reason, she didn't hold a lofty position within her convent, but spent her time as cook and gardener. It was to this humble religious sister that Our Lord chose to express the depth of His Divine Mercy.

Out of these revelations have come two devotions which I think many Catholics are familiar with. First is the image of Divine Mercy, a painting of Jesus with one hand touching His heart and the other raised in a blessing. From His heart are two rays, one red and the other white. In her diary, St. Faustina writes that Jesus explained that “the pale ray stands for the water which makes souls righteous.” These waters are the waters of baptism, by which all of us have entered into the merciful embrace of the Church. Our Lord continues to explain that “The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls.” We receive this Blood when we receive the Eucharist. By this explanation, Our Lord shows us that we receive His Divine Mercy through our baptism and reception of the Blessed Sacrament in the Eucharist. (

The other devotion that many are familiar with, especially since many parishes have regular opportunities for communal recitation of this prayer, is the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Through this Chaplet, we extend the offering of the Eucharist, the offering of Our Lord's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in intercession for the whole world. It's a very simple devotion, prayed using a Rosary, but has great power. Our Lord promised that those who “recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death.” Likewise, Our Lord promised that he will intercede on the behalf of someone who is dying if we pray the Chaplet in their presence. This is a devotion which all Catholics should be encouraged to pray on a regular basis. It is especially encouraged to be prayed at 3:00 PM, the “Hour of Great Mercy” during which Our Lord died on the Cross. (

This promise of Divine Mercy by Our Lord is not just mercy for us at the hour of our deaths, but is also an admonition to extend that mercy to others through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. As Jesus tells the disciples in today's Gospel passage, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Jn 20:21) Our Lord was sent to earth to bring the mercy of God to His people, and He now sends us to do the same. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the Corporal Works of Mercy as “feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.” Likewise, the Spiritual Works of Mercy are instructing, advising, consoling, comforting [...] forgiving, and bearing wrongs patiently.” Of course, prayer for the living and the dead is a vital Spiritual Work of Mercy. (CCC 2447) Through these works of mercy, we share with our neighbors the mercy which Our Lord has given to us. Our Lord sums this up by giving us three ways of practicing mercy to our neighbor: by deed, by word, and by prayer.

Lest we think we can get away without these works of mercy, He warns us that if we do not share His mercy, we will not receive that mercy on the day of judgment. This is a very stern warning by Our Lord, and one that we need to pay close attention. To repeat Our Lord's words, “If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment.” (

On this feast of Divine Mercy, may we allow His mercy to come upon us and allow us to be sent as He sent His disciples.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Homily for Good Friday

When discussing literature or a movie, people frequently use the term “climax”, a point in the story in which the greatest amount of tension and struggle occurs. It's also considered the high point in the story, and the rest of the story either builds up to the climax or concludes it. It can be said that Good Friday is beginning of the climax of the Scriptures, as the Old Testament and Our Lord's ministry build up to this point in His life, and the remainder of the New Testament shows us the consequences of His death and resurrection.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that Jesus came to take all the sins of humanity upon Himself and to suffer and die for those sins. All the pain and anguish that Our Lord undertook throughout his Passion and Death were to make atonement for sin. It's popularly thought that Our Lord saw those sins as he prayed in the Garden before being betrayed, which is why He asked for the cup to pass. If that's the case, it's all the more amazing that He was willing to follow the Father's will to His death.

Yet, He did embrace the Father's will and allowed Himself to be Crucified. At Morning Prayer this morning, one of the Intercessions states, “on the Cross you embraced all time with your outstretched arms.” He bore the guilt of all the sins of humanity, and was made perfect through His suffering on the Cross. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that “when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:9) With all our sins upon Him, His death was the final act which reopened the gates of Heaven to all humanity. Salvation is now open to each of us; we only have to obey Our Lord's commands.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Homily for Holy Thursday

When we read the Scriptures as Christians, it's easy to see striking parallels between the events described in the Old Testament and what we believe to have been revealed by Jesus in the establishment of the New Covenant. In fact, we believe that the Old Covenant was a preparation for the coming of Our Lord and points to Him, so it shouldn't be a surprise that there is a direct parallel between the Passover in Egypt and the Eucharist which Jesus established before His death on the Cross.

For the Jewish people, the celebration of the Passover is the high point of the year, so much so that, as we see in the first reading, the month in which the Passover occurs is the first month in the traditional Jewish calendar. For those who are Jewish, Passover is not merely a time for celebrating something that happened thousands of years ago, but is renewed year after year. Through the blood of the sacrificed lamb smeared on the doorposts, the Israelite people were spared from the slavery of Egypt and the death which was brought down upon the Egyptian firstborn. To this day, the Passover represents the unique relationship that the Jewish people have with God in being the people He chose as His own.

As Christians, we also have a Passover celebration, but instead of partaking in a sacrificed lamb once a year, we partake in the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God through our celebration of the Eucharist. Every time the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered, we are not merely remembering Our Lord's death on the Cross, but are once again a part of that Sacrifice, united with all those in the past, present, and future who participate in this Sacrifice. By the Blood of Our Lord, we are spared from the slavery to sin and death that all humanity suffers under, and unite ourselves to the New Passover by receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord in the form of bread and wine.

Just as the Passover from Egypt marked the Israelites as God's Chosen People, our participation in the Eucharist also makes us part of the Chosen People of God. As members of God's Chosen People, we follow Our Lord's commandments, but also are called to follow His example. Before sacrificing Himself on the Cross, Jesus humbled Himself to serve His disciples by the most menial of tasks: washing their feet. We may not be comfortable with foot washing today, but it would have been worse in Jesus' time. Most people wore very basic sandals and walked along dusty roads which had also been used by animals. Foot washing would have been essential upon arriving at a destination, but was reserved for lower servants, if the household had any.

By Our Lord washing the feet of the disciples, he showed that he was not only their master, but also came to serve. He challenged them to serve others as He served them; He also challenges us to do the same. Washing others' feet may not have as much importance today, but it shows us that we need to be aware of opportunities to humbly enter into service of others, especially those we may consider less than ourselves. Our participation in the Eucharist should lead us to emulate Our Lord without concern for ourselves, and bring us to a greater concern for those who are less fortunate than we are.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Homily for Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

When Our Lord entered into Jerusalem in the Gospel reading that we heard at the beginning of Mass, He was greeted by a great crowd that rejoiced and sang hymns of praise. Where were those people at the end of the week when Our Lord hung on the Cross? Many members of the crowd that were praising him at the beginning of the week may have been jeering and insulting him as He was treading through the streets of Jerusalem carrying His cross. They may have been a part of the crowd that had been riled up by the Jewish authorities to call for His death.

Why the change over only a week? They were looking for an Earthly king, a king who would lead the Jewish people out from the oppression of the Roman Empire. They were looking for a king who would establish a new kingdom of David, fighting the wars that needed to be fought and would lead the people into the glorious new Kingdom of Israel. They were looking for a great king who would become the next King David, conquering the enemies and uniting the people.

Was that the mission of Our Lord, to become an earthly king? No, it wasn't. Our Lord did not come to Earth to find earthly honors and glory. He had all the honors and glory that he could ever want in heaven, and he willingly gave that up. He humbled himself and came to earth, becoming a human being just like any of us. St. Paul says it so eloquently in the second reading: “[He] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming human likeness and found human in appearance.” (Phil. 2:6-7) In other words, He became one of us.

He lived a simple life here on earth. He preached, He taught, He led, He healed, He challenged, and in the end He died for our sins. He died in the most humiliating and painful way that the Roman Empire used: Crucifixion. Our Lord not only humbled himself to become human, but humbled himself again to be hoisted up on that Cross, to be treated like a common criminal. He was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:8)

He died as a common criminal, but that's also where Our Lord got his greatest honor. St. Paul tells us that “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.” (Phil. 2:9) When he was lifted up on the Cross and died there, his name became glorified to all the nations. To this day, Our Lord is known and praised throughout the world for the fact that he did die for our sins and that he is the Son of God. If he had been just an earthly king, his name would probably be just another footnote in the history books, just like the Caesars who ruled at the time that Our Lord lived.

Our Lord's name is praised to the heavens because He humbled Himself and did the father's will, even to His death. All of us are called to follow His example and be humbled to the father's will. We are not called to seek earthly honors or submit ourselves to whatever the world tells us is the popular or relevant view. Instead, we are to find the Truth, as proclaimed by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and follow it. Sometimes the culture might agree, sometimes not. Either way, as Christians we are called to follow the Gospel proclaimed by Our Lord without compromise and without apology. May this celebration of Our Lord's Passion give us the graces to follow His Gospel throughout our lives.