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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Third Sunday of Easter

April 26, 2009

Today’s readings for Mass are very similar to last week’s when Jesus visits the disciples who locked themselves in a room for fear of the Jewish authorities. Only this time, Luke is stressing the tangibility of the Risen Christ. He emphasizes that Jesus is not a ghost and actually was raised from the dead. As he reveals his wounds he also asks for something to eat to prove that he is truly alive. He then calls the disciples to be witnesses to his resurrected state and he spends time with them to teach them how to read scripture in light of this glorious event. Luke, always the doctor, wants his readers to notice the healing and forgiving aspects of Christ’s life.

In Acts, Luke (the same author) sternly accuses the Jewish people of the time of killing the “author of life.” He does not try to soften his message and he does not justify or excuse their actions, but Luke notes that they acted out of their ignorance. Instead he stresses God’s power in raising Jesus. Luke realizes that acknowledging the wrongs that one has done more directly leads to repentance. If we own our sins, we allow ourselves to feel remorse for that which we have done. The metanoia, the change of heart, that we experience with repentance is the only adequate response to God’s gift of new life that is offered in the restored relationship with the Risen lord. It is only at this time that we can receive the “peace” that the Risen Christ offers us.

For all the sins we have committed in life, we really do not understand why we act as we do. During the sacrament of reconciliation, most people say they want forgiveness, but they may actually want healing even more. After a sin is forgiven, one still must heal and be restored to right relations with God or another person. Our genuine sorrow for our rightly claimed actions can lead us to depend upon God more fully. When God heals us of what is broken, we are called to be witnesses to the amazing power that the author of life continues to create in us.

This Week’s Liturgies

Our Lady – On April 22nd, Jesuits honor Mary as the Mother of the Society of Jesus. In the Gesu church in Rome, a painting of Our Lady of the Way (Maria della Strada) is portrayed to represent Jesuit spirituality. Mary had been a central figure to Ignatius’s spirituality. In 1541, seven months after papal approval of the Jesuit Order and two weeks after his election as the first general, Ignatius celebrated Mass at Our Lady’s altar in the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome.

This week’s readings will focus on the first deacons of the Church, Stephen and Philip, who witness their dedication to Christ through service and suffering. Saul, later Paul, finds out that Christ loves him even though he is an avid persecutor of the new Christian sect. In the Gospels, we hear how Jesus became incarnate for us and gives his life and body to us as the new bread that will sustain us and bring us to eternal life. Saints Peter Chanel and Louis de Montfort: [yes, the Chanel perfume-maker is a descendant of Peter Chanel] Chanel was a Marist missionary who cared for the poor and the sick in the Pacific Islands, but was martyred when a local chief’s son asked to be baptized. Montfort preached missions on Mary and the Rosary in the early 18th century. Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the Church and a great mystic, offered the church her spiritual reflections. Pope Pius V implemented the reforms of the Council of Trent, revised the Roman prayer books, published a catechism, and restored moderation to the papal court. Quote from Catherine of Siena: If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.


Come to the Portland Community Chorus’s concert this Friday, May 1st at 7:30 p.m. at South Portland Auditorium. Tickets are $12.00 pre-sale and $15.00 on the night of the concert. The entertainment though is priceless.

Missa Brevis and Laudate Dominum, Mozart; Cantate Domino, Pitoni; Hallelujah Amen, Handel; Keep Your Lamps, arr. Thomas; Set Me As a Seal, Clausen; If You Believe in Music, Fry; As Torrents in Summer, Elgar; Home on the Range, arr. Mark Hayes; The Storm is Passing Over, arr. Baker; and Route 66, Troupe/Shaw.


Our seniors take their final exams this week and prepare for their Pedro Arrupe Service projects for the last month of the year. On Tuesday, our partners will join us for a chance to meet the seniors who will work with their staffs for the next four weeks.

Trip to Downeast, Maine – Washington County

A week ago I traveled to Washington County in Downeast, Maine to begin planning for a service/immersion trip to the poorest region on Maine. My travels took me to the cities of Machias, Eastport (easternmost city), and Calais, and to towns such as Lubec (easternmost town.) The juxtaposition of the poverty in the region and the wealth of natural resources are striking. The seacoast and the forests are incredibly pristine, but it stands in stark contrast to the hopelessness of the people that has been passed on for generations. More on this later, but if you would like to assist us with connections or funding sources for this project, please contact me as you are able.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Divine Mercy Sunday - Second Sunday of Easter

April 19, 2009

Easter Peace!

Today is the eighth day of the feast of Easter, the end of a weeklong celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. Alleluia! Alleluia! The church stretches out the feast into an entire week to emphasize its solemn significance. Pope John Paul II in the millennial year named this day, Divine Mercy Sunday.

We are brought back to the very first day of the resurrection when the disciples, filled with grief and fear, gathered behind locked doors waiting for the furor of the Jewish leaders to die down. At this point, the risen Jesus comes to them and offers them “peace” and then manifests his wounds to them. He wishes them “peace” once more and breathes upon them to so they may receive the Pentecostal Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Thomas, who was not with the remaining original Twelve, returns the following week and is wished the same “peace” by Jesus and is able to participate in the mission given to the remainder of the Twelve – “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

It strikes me that this peace of Jesus has real power to it and it not merely the idea of peace that we think of in our world. Often we think of peace as an absence of war, tension or conflict or else we may think of it as serenity or contentment. As we see in the Gospel, the peace of Jesus takes away all fear, grief, and shame that can keep us separated from the Risen Lord. It forgives and consoles. It unites and restores. It allows us to go deeper into a personal relationship with the Lord that impels us to bring the story of God’s redeeming action to others. This is not a passive peace, and when we receive it, we are thus sent into the world to spread the Gospel and to forgive or bind the sins of others. What a gift! Prior to this Christ event, forgiveness of sins was only done by God. Now we can extend it to others through Christ because it comes from the Father. We can do our part in bringing God’s love to those in our lives who longingly need it. I’m sure you can think of many who need to hear this good news.

This week’s liturgies

We continue into the second week of Easter by listening to the accounts of the first apostles (the ones who saw the Risen Lord) in the Acts of the Apostles, especially when the Holy Spirit is sent to create the new Christian community. The disciples through this gift are able to overcome all their difficulties to testify to the resurrection. They realize they are living in a new time in human history and they realize that eternal life with God is now a reality.

St. Anselm is honored on Tuesday as the archbishop of Canterbury and a doctor of the church. Anselm was a gifted theologian and philosopher who laid out proofs for the existence of God and wrote about the theology of the Incarnation. His method of theology is summed up in “faith seeking understanding.” Anselm became archbishop of Canterbury in 1093 as part of the displacement of the English hierarchy with Normans following the Norman Conquest in 1066. Let’s remember St. Anselm’s college in Manchester, New Hampshire in prayer.

On Saturday, the church honors St. Mark, the evangelist, who wrote the first Gospel. He is symbolized by the kingly lion as his Gospel opens with the voice of John the Baptist, the lion roaring in the desert, crying, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” Mark journeyed with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch, Syria and served as an assistant on a missionary journey.

Dominican Republic

Please pray for the safety of the Cheverus travelers who journey to the Dominican Republic in an alternative Spring Break. Tom Simisky, S.J., and Maureen Curran will lead 10 students from Cheverus into a service and cultural immersion trip as part of their Haiti Solidarity Club. Spring Break

We will pray each day for the safety of each of our students on their April vacations. We pray for their rest and rejuvenation so that they will be focused upon their studies and extracurricular programs when they return next week. Happy Patriot’s Day to everyone.

Cheverus Auction

Please contact me if you would like to purchase a raffle ticket for our annual auction that will be held on May 9th. Tickets are $100.—each and the grand prize is $7,000.--. Tickets are limited. The auction is our prime fundraiser for the year. Please contribute as generously as you can to our auction or to our annual fund.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Sunday

April 12, 2009

This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
Happy Easter to you all! The Lord is Risen. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Over the past several days, we watched the horrific trial and death of Jesus where a good and innocent man was unjustly tortured and killed. This very morning, he has been vindicated by God and raised to a new plane of existence in our consciousness. St. Peter tells us that because of the way that Jesus lived his life, by doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil, he was put to death, but God has raised him and granted that he be seen by those who ate and drank with him. The Spirit asks us to preach that he is the one appointed by God as the judge of all the living and the dead.

The Resurrection transforms us. The Christ event takes our shame and confusion that we felt the past few days and turns it into a healing forgiveness; it takes our sorrow and grief and brings us a deep lasting joy. It makes our tentative love much more forthright and we establish right relationships with others because God offered us right relationship with him. Everything seems rosier and little can erode our peace.

Notice how the women in the Gospel remain faithful to the Jewish custom and to the person of Jesus. They want to bury him with dignity by caring for his body with ointment; they also want to say their goodbyes to him for the last time before his body begins to decay. And they travel to the tomb the forces of life still press against them, but when they enter the tomb they encounter a young man in a white robe sitting inside the tomb tells them not to be amazed – that Jesus, the crucified, is not among the dead. (I would be amazed.) The events had to be so convincing for these women to run and spread the word. They left with instructions to seek Jesus in Galilee where it all began. They are to seek him, and if they do, they will find him.

And what do they discover when they seek the crucified Jesus? They find that he returns for them because he loves them and wants to be with them forever. Being loved makes us perfect to the other person. We are cherished and beheld in that person’s eyes and our faults are minimized. This love makes us stand taller and straighter. We are loved even though we can’t love that person back perfectly. Jesus forgives us as well, which makes us become less hunched over and restored to a right relationship. We are pulled closer to the person by receiving or her generous compassion.

This is what happens to us with Jesus in his resurrection. He tell us that everything is O.K. between him and us, and we feel his forgiving, restorative love that reassures us that we are still lovable to him. His loving us makes us perfect in his eyes. He only sees our best. We are like the first women at the tomb who experience a fear turned into amazement. We receive the same call to tell others that we are redeemed because Jesus has been raised from the dead. Our deepest prayers are answered. We do need and indeed have a redeemer. Jesus has become our Christ of faith.

My friends, seek Christ at all times and we will find God by our side. He is working throughout the entire world to console us, to restore us to right relations, to forgive us, and to make us perfect by loving us. Let us live in the perfection of his love from this day onward.

Alleluia. Alleluia.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Passion Sunday and Holy Week

April 5, 2009

Today is Palm Sunday and we come to the final days of Lent and our holiest days of the year. Today as we walk into the church, our eyes are caught with bright red banners and thronged-palms that are waved in the hint of a rich celebration. Our senses have become accustomed to a sparsely adorned church for the past 40 days. We sense that something exciting will occur today as we assemble at the doors to the church, yet shortly after singing our Hosannas, our jubilation turns to a solemn realization that our Messiah will have to die a brutal and shameful death. Something seems to have gone wrong.

Perhaps the grace for which we may want to pray this week is to sympathize with Jesus as he suffers in many ways. Suffering isolates. Holy Week comes alive to each believer in some fashion and we may take a look at the ways in which we continue to deny or betray Jesus or the ways in which we add more weight to his burdens. In the end, Jesus dies alone, even wondering if his dear Abba has abandoned him. Part of us turns away from him in horror and shame. Perhaps all that we are invited to do this week is just to watch closely the events of Jesus’ final hours and to learn from him about what he is feeling. May we merely be compassionate to him in his last days.

Let us begin with today’s liturgy by attuning ourselves to the heart, mind, and feelings of Christ as he enters into the Holy City knowing that the cursed cross awaits him. I quote St. Andrew of Crete on this entrance into Jerusalem, “So let us spread before his feet not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him.” Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. Monday of Holy Week

The church begins the week with selections from the prophet Isaiah’s “servant songs” that tell the story of God’s righteous and just servant who is tormented and killed. The early Christians could recall scripture and begin to make sense of the brutal and unexpected condemnation and death of Jesus. In the Gospels for the week, we hear about the religious leaders’ growing threats to Jesus. Amid all the furor and swirl of hostility, we become startled that even his closest disciples will betray and deny him. Tuesday of Holy Week – The Chrism Mass

In many dioceses, the Mass of Chrism is held on this day. The bishop will bless the three oils that are used throughout the church year for the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, holy orders, and for the anointing of the sick. These oils are collected by each parish at the Cathedral and are brought into the local church during Holy Week for use at the Easter services of initiation. Particularly striking at this Mass is the assembly of priests from the diocese who renew their solemn pledge to their local ordinary, the bishop. It is the one time in the year when the church sanctuary is filled with priests who concelebrate the Mass with the bishop.

Wednesday of Holy Week – Spy Wednesday

The church recalls the events of Judas the Iscariot who arranged to betray Jesus. Matthew’s account shows Judas eating during the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread with Jesus and their good friends after he had already arranged to hand him over to the chief priests for thirty pieces of silver. All is now arranged now for the Prince of Darkness to rule the earth.

Holy Thursday – The Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Only one Mass can be celebrated in each parish this day. In the readings, we hear of the institution of the Eucharist as the celebration that will remember Jesus until he comes again in glory. We also see how the cultic priesthood is established, but that the prophetic priesthood is offered to al during the great mandate to wash one another’s feet. Jesus’ gesture of humility and service are traits that we are to imitate as disciples. They are also the gestures that heal us and make us able to care for others in a deeply loving way. I invite you to spend this night in prayer with Jesus in his final moments of freedom before his great Passion begins. What would you want to say to him before he is carried off and lifted up for the world to see?

Here is a text from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “Into each of our lives Jesus comes as the bread of life – to be eaten, to be consumed by us. Then he comes as the hungry one, the other, hoping to be fed with the bread of life, our hearts loving, and our hands serving.”

Here are the first lines from the Pange Lingua (Sing, My Tongue): Sing, my tongue, the ageless story as the cross is lifted high! Tell how Christ our Savior conquered, when for us he came to die as a victim in the battle, death’s dominion to belie.

Good Friday

No Mass is offered in the church, but we venerate the cross and recall his steps during the Stations of the Cross. During the service of veneration, we head the Passion narrative once again. The church is bare: no flowers, no candles, no music, an empty tabernacle, and the altar is bare. Our eyes are focused squarely on the cross and on human suffering. In true Ignatian contemplation, as we gaze upon the sufferings of Jesus, we find our own chaos bubbling up into our consciousness and we present that to Jesus who will take it to the grave with him. We look at his suffering, which we know isolates, and we look at our suffering and feel isolated. We are left standing by the cross with the dead Jesus and we stay with our own darkness in the darkness of this world

And we sing the haunting song, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Holy Saturday – The Tomb

No Mass is celebrated during the day on Saturday. The absence of the celebration reminds us that we wait at Jesus’ tomb. Perhaps we find that we are still in the tomb with him. Maybe we have one more thing to say to him before we let go of him. We linger in the darkness and the meaninglessness that we encounter in our suffering. However, we do realize that in our faith, Jesus must die and be buried. We have to let him do this because he does it for us. Don’t rush yourself to come out of the darkness, but rather, let the Lord lift you out of it when God vindicates him. In our faith we know that it soon comes.

Holy Saturday - The Great Vigil

During the evening hours, we anticipate the Lord’s resurrection with a solemn vigil, which leads to a joy that will overflow into 50 days of celebration. The vigil consists of hearing God’s great story of love for us as we recall God’s loving acts of creation, redemption from slavery, and sustenance throughout all the periods of trial and doubt. The Easter Vigil is arranged in four parts: the Service of Light where the Pashcal Candle is lit; the Liturgy of the Word with up to nine readings; the Liturgy of Baptism to welcome new Christians into the community; and the Liturgy of the Eucharist that is restored to us to remember God’s great love for us.

I invite you to participate as fully as you can in the mystery that unfolds this week by participating in the sacrament of reconciliation and by participating in your worship at your local church. Holy Week is much more than just attending Easter services. We first have to gaze upon the Cross and walk with Jesus. The journey is worth it.