The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

6th Sunday of Easter

In today's Gospel, during the last supper, Jesus tells His apostles how He wanted them to live after He was gone.

One of the things He said to them was: 'If you love me, keep my commandments'.

What did Jesus mean when He said “If you love me, keep my commandments”?

When He said this Jesus was not talking about keeping a specific set of commandments but rather about following a specific way of life.

Remember in last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus told Thomas “I am the way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father, except through me”.

Do we believe those words? Do we believe that there is only one way to go to the Father?

It’s true. There is only one way. If we want to get to Heaven Jesus shows us the way. We need to follow His way. We need to follow the Truth. Following Jesus will lead us to Eternal Life with the Father.

We can't truly call ourselves disciples of Jesus…. we can’t really call ourselves Christian if we don’t listen to His words and make a sincere effort to follow them.

We wouldn't be much of a Christian if we didn't try to live as Jesus taught us to live.

But if we are to live as Jesus taught us to live, we must be clear about one thing.

We don't keep His command­ments so that He will love us, rather, we keep His commandments because He loves us.

During that same supper Jesus said, 'Love one another as I have loved you.'

It was He who first loved the apostles, and He loved them uncon­ditionally.

Isn’t it true that the greatest need each one of us has is for love, to love and to be loved? Real, unconditional love.

Sometimes we find it very hard to believe but that is exactly how God loves us. With real unconditional love.

Perhaps it’s a holdover from our childhood but isn’t it true that often we have a tendency to be­lieve that God will love us only if we are good, and therefore we should be good if we want God to love us?

Many of us when we were children, particularly at Christmas, were enticed to be good for goodness sakes so that Santa could bring us presents. And we were told that if we weren’t good, we would not get presents.

Has this type of thinking carried over to how we think of God? Do we still think that way?

The Truth is that God loves us, not because we are good, but rather God loves us because God is good.

We exist because of God’s love. God's unconditional love for us is the Good News.

Our response should be to try to return that love not out of fear but out of obedience to God’s will for our lives.

And we do that by listening to His command to love one another.

Jesus knew that the Father loved Him. He responded by loving the Father.

How did Jesus show that He loved the Father?

He showed His love for the Father through His obedience, even unto death – death on the cross.

And it is through this same obedience that we are to show our love for Jesus.

What does this mean for us in practice?

It means listening to His word and putting that word into action.

To love is to obey. And to obey is to love.

But sometimes our pride gets in the way. Too often it seems we know a better way.

Sometimes, with the help of Satan, it seems we know a better truth.

That’s often when we look for a better life in this world than the one that is offered to us by God.

Sometimes we do this by proclaiming our love for God with our words and asking God to intervene and give us the life that more correctly follows our vision of how it should be.

All to no avail and so then in our pride, we deny God with our actions or by trying to force our own vision of what we believe our life should be.

This is not love of God but rather love of self.

Real love of God is shown by doing the right thing. You see, others know us by our actions, not so much by what we say with our lips but rather how we respond in obedience to God’s words.

It is true that it is not easy to live as a disciple of Jesus in this modern world.

Very often to be a Christian means we have to swim against the current, we have to go against the popular opinion.

Too often we are concerned about what others will think rather than if what we are doing is the correct thing to do.

Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and stop trying to make it our own way, with our own truth and our own way of life.

It is as though God has made a mistake with our lives and now we are going to help God correct it - come Hell or high water.

At other times it seems to us that the cross God has given us seems too heavy to carry. We begin to think that this cannot be God’s will for my life.

We forget that to follow Jesus quite often means we are called to go against the easy way.

It is not an easy thing for us to go against our pride and submit ourselves to God’s will for our lives.

Perhaps I am trying to carry the cross by myself? It never was an easy thing to follow Jesus.

But it is precisely for that reason that Jesus has given us an Advocate.

The word Jesus used for the Holy Spirit is the word 'Advocate'.

Advocate is a legal term for one who defends someone at a trial.

The Holy Spirit was the great defender of the disciples in the times of trial which they faced.

When we are weak and especially in times when we are battling our pride we must pray to this same Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit comforts us in times of sorrow, enlightens us in times of darkness, and like He did for the apostles, this same Holy Spirit will enable us to be brave and strong in times of weakness.

The Holy Spirit will help us to humbly accept and follow with courage the path that God has chosen for us in this life.

All followers of Jesus can expect to suffer. But, as St Peter says (Second Reading), it is far better to suf­fer for doing the right thing than to suffer for doing the wrong thing.

Isn’t it true that quite often, in our pride, we suffer in this life for the wrong thing.

But, we have the exam­ple of Christ who, even though He was innocent, humbly and obediently, suffered and died for our sins.

He calls us to join in His suffering and thereby giving our sufferings true merit.

“If you wish to be my disciples, daily take up your cross and come follow me.”

The apostles knew that Jesus loved them. And we know that Jesus loves us too. There is no mistaking God’s love. You can feel it in your heart.

If we choose not to love others then we are also choosing not to love God. If we choose not to love God then we are choosing not to go to the Father.

Love is our connection to God and through Him our connection to each other.

It is time to swallow our pride and to put our words into action.

If we want to go to heaven then we must humbly follow Jesus’ command:

'Love one another as I have loved you.'

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

5 Sunday of Easter – A

The Truth ... extremely dangerous word. Pilate was afraid of the truth, when Christ stood before him. Also were afraid of the Truth: high priest Annas and Caiaphas, and the Pharisees, and Sadducees, scribes and priests in the temple ... and those for whom Christ was uncomfortable.

They were afraid of the TRUTH all the totalitarian leaders and autocrats.

They were afraid and still are afraid of the Truth politicians, but also small everyday liars. The truth does not cease to haunt all those who miss it.

He who in his own words is true, Jesus Christ, before Pilate clearly states: "For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth.

I'm afraid of - the Truth ... and perhaps especially this little truth about myself - I too ... I do not want to accept it, because it exposes my petty-mindedness, the Truth tears off my mask and makeup.

Some are trying to drown it, others to kill it, or muzzle. Still others pretend that it doesn't exist. For all those who are uncomfortable with the truth – the only one solution is relativism, and individualism …

Some people try to avoid it diplomatically, to dispose of a smile of pity or brutally close the truth's mouth, or yell, drown out the slogans, music, or even cleverly manipulated with quotes from Scripture.

There are those who did not want to hear about truth and neglect it in irony, mockery, scorn, ridicule, demonstrating that it does not exist ... that is relative, it depends on the system, on the situation, the culture, my health and many other "objective factors".

And Christ is the Truth; He is a signpost on the road, the road leading to the life. Christ is the truth that leads to Life. He is the True Way of Life. He is the Way in the Truth to Eternal Life.

He repeated constantly: "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and ye shall know the truth and the truth will make you free." (John 8:32) And maybe because we are not free, we do not want to know the truth? Perhaps, because there is no life in us that we escape from the truth? And what is my relationship to the truth?

Jesus to say, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

Just eight words but arguably the most important words spoken in the 5000 years of recorded history.

Thomas a Kempis wrote in the 15th century:

"Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living."

And what about you and me? Do we know the Way we are going in our lives? Do you know the ultimate Truth? Are these: Truth and the Way leading you to the eternal Life?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

4th Sunday of Easter – Good Shepard Sunday – Vocation Sunday

Jesus said:

My sheep hear my voice;

I know them, and they follow me.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

No one can take them out of my hand.

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,

and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.

The Father and I are one.”


How to talk today about vocations? How to talk in the present situation of constant attacks against the Pope and priests about priestly vocations? It seems that priesthood becomes the least desirable “job”, one of the most dangerous and the most loathed and despised vocation.

I think we have to realise that there is one principal and fundamental vocation we forgot for so many years. It is the first and the most basic vocation, the first even in a chronological sense. When God created humanity, He created it as man and woman and gave them an order: “"Be fertile and multiply”. I put into your hands a creative power. You are my co-workers in the task of creation.

And it doesn’t means only in creating human body but in creating the human being in his totality, the human personality, human attitude, human morality. Parents have an opportunity to model the lives of their children, to really and deeply form them. Is this a guarantee that their lives will be problem free ... of course not. It is a guarantee that the children will always have God in their lives ... to help them through hard times. But, it’s up to the parents to form the human’s values in their children, and it is parents’ primary vocation, the most fundamental and the most indispensable vocation, to create the human, the fully mature and responsible person.

We can even say that the school and the church, even the seminary is not able to correct or to supplant what was distorted in the family life.

And the enemy of God know this perfectly, and this is the reason that he is attacking so furiously just the family life. Fathers who have never time for their children, because they are so busy, mothers pursuing their goals and zeal, and children being form by TV.

Few days ago I got from one of our parishioners an interesting story:

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were only complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honour them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home... Not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long-time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked... And NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name? ....

We just call him 'TV.'

He has a wife now....We call her 'Computer.'
Their first child is "Cell Phone".

Second child "IPod"

We have to be aware of the responsibility, parents’ responsibility and vocation. If we have problem with priestly vocation, if we have problem with our entire life … is it not due to the fact the the formation of our children we left to the stranger, whose name is TV?

If Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel: “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me”, we have to ask ourselves a serious question: whom are we listening to, whose voice is forming our children, who has the bigger influence in our families?

September 11, 2001, the Pentagon was slammed by a hijacked airliner. People were trapped in the flaming building. A police officer ran inside and kept repeating in the darkness, "Follow my voice." Six people did. They owe their lives to that voice.

Who is my shepherd? Whose voice do I listen to and follow?

Do I follow the voice which is telling me the kind and nice things or rather the voice telling me the truth even if it's not kind and sometimes difficult and disturbing?

Where this voice is guiding me? To freedom or to slavery?

Who is my shepherd? Whose voice do I listen to and follow?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Communion 2011

This Sunday we celebrate the great gift of Communion. Let's humbly ask the Lord that we may receive him in a way that will lead us to salvation.

The Church is the Body of Christ …

"God needs the Eucharist more than you and I do." It is the way He fulfills his desire to be with us till the end of the ages.

Pope Benedict XVI prayed:

With the Eucharist, therefore, heaven comes down to earth, the tomorrow of God descends into the present and it is as if time remains embraced by divine eternity.

Stay with us, Christ; give to us the gift of yourself and give us the bread that nourishes us for eternal life. Free this world from the venom of evil, of violence and of hate, which contaminate consciences; purify it with the power of your merciful love."

Thanksgiving after Receiving Holy Communion

Dear Jesus, I believe that You are present within my heart.

You said, "This is My Body and My Blood."

And I know You love me and want to be with me.

From my heart, I thank You for all You have given to me: my life, my parents, my health, Baptism, protection, and all that I have.

Make me more grateful still.

Generous Lord, I ask for still more: Protect my soul and body.

Be good to those I love.

Watch over me and make me good and faithful to You.

Jesus, I promise to receive You often in Holy Communion.

Remain with me, dear Jesus, today and always.

Never leave me in life and be with me in the hour of my death. Amen.

3 Sunday of Easter – A

Last Sunday's Gospel was the Gospel of Doubting Thomas. This Sunday's Gospel is the Gospel of the Confused Disciples.

It was Easter Sunday evening. Two disciples were walking to Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem. Their discussion went something like this: How could it be that our master, Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in word and deed, could be put to death last Friday? He really seemed to be the long sought Messiah, the Christ. But He is dead. Now we hear about some women who claim that He has risen from the dead. They told His closest followers; so they went to the tomb. They found the tomb empty, neither Jesus nor His body. We don't know what to make of this. They talked. They questioned. They remained confused.

Then Jesus started to walk with them. He explained the Scriptures, the Word of God, how the Messiah would first suffer and then enter into His Glory. He ate with them. During the meal He recreated the Last Supper. He took bread, blessed it and gave it to them. And they recognized Him in the breaking of the break, the first Christian name for the Eucharist.

So often, we walk along the road of our lives confused. We have difficulty solving our problems. We doubt our own ability to come up with the answers we need. Some people tell us to look into ourselves for the answers, as though we had a secret chamber someplace within us, or as early heretics would call it, a hidden Gnosis, where all the answers to our questions can be found. This early heresy of the Church still continues in those who think they have all the answers within themselves. It is true that through baptism God dwells within us. It is also true that we need the gifts He gives us to find direction in our lives and, eventually, to help us understand His Life and His Kingdom. We need the gifts of Word and Sacrament.

Sometimes we act as though we have all the answers to life. We don't. In fact, we don't even know the correct questions to ask. So many people spend their lives seeking the answers to the wrong questions. For example, most people try to answer these questions: How can I become prosperous? How can I become rich? Their whole lives are spent chasing the illusion that happiness can be bought. If they are among the few who do become rich, what do they have to show for their lives? A bank account? A lot of stuff? Does that make a life really successful? There is a reason why we have never seen a luggage rack on the roof of a funeral car.

Another question that so many people spend their lives trying to answer is: How can I become better than everyone else? Again this is not a question that our lives should revolve around. We want to be the best person we can be, but we become arrogant and proud when we consider who we are in relation to other people. "Look at that tax collector," said the Pharisee in the Temple. "You know, Lord, that I am a lot better than him. I do lots of good things. Let me remind you in case your forgot." But the tax collector merely beat his breast and said, "Have mercy on me a sinner." Only he left justified. When we devote our lives to answering the question How can I be better than others? whether it is better than others before God, a better parent than my neighbours, a better teacher than the girl in the next classroom, a better priest than another man, etc., we are simply asking the wrong question, one that leads to arrogance. The question we need to ask is, How can I be a better person than I am?

We think we have all the answers. We don't even know the right questions. Another questions we should be asking ourselves is one that we are secretly afraid to ask: How can I be different than what modern society claims is the norm? The norm of society tells Teens that drinking, taking drugs and doing things that belong in a marriage is all part of high school and college. The norm of society tells adults that cheating on their jobs, and in their marriages is part of life. The norm of society tells people not to get carried away and sacrificing too much of themselves to help others. It is difficult to ask How can I be different? because none of us want to be different from everyone else. We want to fit in. We want to be part of the boys, part of the girls. We don't want people mocking us. It is a difficult question to ask How can I be different? and, yet, that is what holiness is. To be holy is to be different, set apart for the Lord.

There are many other questions we all need to ask ourselves, questions about how to be a good husband, wife, father, mother, Teen, child, priest, deacon, etc. We are not given the answers to our questions today, on Confused Sunday. But we are told where the answers can be found. Jesus led the disciples on the road to Emmaus to the Truth through Sacred Scripture. The Bible is not just the Good Book. It is the living and effective Word of God. We go to Scripture to seek the answers to our problems. We need to meditate on Scripture and let the Word of God work on us.

And Jesus broke the bread for them.

What Jess is doing nowadays for us? Every Sunday? Even every day? He opens for us the scriptures and brake the bread

Peace can be found in the middle of confusion when we are open to the second great gift presented in today's Gospel, the Eucharist. Those disciples finally recognized Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts on fire?" We may not have the answers to the profound questions of life, or even to the daily concerns of life, but we do know where peace is found. St. Paul put it so beautifully in the conclusion of the Letter to the to the Philippians, "The peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." That's Philippians 4:7. We cannot understand our world or even our lives, but as long as we have the Peace of Christ, our hearts and our minds will be guarded from all that can destroy our happiness. In Him alone we find our joy. We cannot understand His Peace. But we can enjoy it. Those disciples who had this marvellous encounter with Christ ran back to Jerusalem, to Peter and the boys, and told them what they experienced. They had not become profound theologians. But they had become committed Christians. That was their joy, the gifts of Word and Eucharist.

Without these two GIFTS - the WORD and the EUCHARIST … We will never discover the answers we need to life. We will always be confused about what happened to us in the past, what we should do in the present, what the future holds. Some may ask: Why is it that I did everything I could possibly do as a parent, or as a husband or wife, and life turned out rather messy? Others may ask: Why is it that I followed everything my parents asked, worked hard in school, and I am still not good enough for them? All ask: Why is it that other people break the rules and have it all?" We cannot answer all the question of life. Still, we can be at peace, even in the face of unresolved issues. We can be at peace because we have our anchor, Sacred Scripture, and our joy, the Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. We may not know why things have happened, or even what things have happened. We may not know the best course for us to take in this or that situation, but we do know this: If we stay united to the Lord in Word and Sacrament, we will never go wrong.

We need to trust God and let that Peace which is beyond our understanding guide our lives. Then we will no longer be confused.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino