Archive for April, 2023

Jesus is Our Good Shepherd

April 29, 2023

4th Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today we honor Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and promises to take care of the sheep entrusted to his care. We have the popular images of Jesus the Good Shepherd carrying a sheep over his shoulders, or we have a smiling Jesus sitting under a tree, with a little lamb on his lap. These images of Jesus teach us about his tenderness and his compassion. A shepherd is more than that. A shepherd walks before the sheep, seeking out a safe path, taking them to the pastures, to water, and to shelter. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice and they trust him.

In the first reading today, St. Peter reminds his Jewish people that they have crucified their true Shepherd. They need to receive forgiveness for their sin by receiving baptism in the name of Jesus and acknowledge the risen Jesus as their Lord and Savior. In the second reading, St. Peter invites the suffering Christians to follow the example of their Good Shepherd, the suffering servant. Suffering and death help us to become more fully the children of God.

Today’s gospel says how much love Jesus has for His flock. He says: “I am the good Shepherd.” What does this mean? First of all, He is not working for pay but provides for his sheep’s needs, leading them out to pasture. He keeps them safe and healthy, he does not want them to be lost or get hurt. The good Shepherd knows each member of His flock. The Good Shepherd protects them to the point of risking his life for them, and He did. Our Good Shepherd shows the true way to the Father. He gives and leads us to, the fullness of life. He saves us from sin and death. He opens for us the gate of heaven and offers us a life of fellowship with His Father.

In this parable, Jesus compares Himself to the Shepherd and the Gate. The image of the Good Shepherd represents His ownership. The image of the Gate represents His leadership. Jesus is the gate, the only way in and out. He is the one Mediator between God and mankind: to reach heaven, all must go through Him. Jesus gives the assurance that whoever enters through him will be safe and well-cared for.

We are invited to be a shepherd to those who are entrusted to our love and care. Pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, and caregivers. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and blessings for their welfare, and guarding them against physical and spiritual dangers.

As we celebrate good shepherd Sunday, let us pray to the Lord that we may be His good sheep, listening attentively to His voice, and following His example of self–giving love. Let us also pray for all our shepherds, especially our religious and political leaders: may they follow the example of Jesus who was willing to serve and lay down His life for his sheep.

The Risen Lord with the Most Beautiful Smile

April 23, 2023

3rd Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

A small boy was walking home after Sunday school. He was thinking about the lesson. When you give something to another person, you are really giving it to Jesus, and you will find the risen Jesus in everyone you meet. As he was walking, he noticed an old woman sitting on the roadside. She looked lonely and hungry. He sat down beside her and gave her chocolate. She accepted it with a beautiful smile. Then they sat together in silence, just smiling at each other. Finally, the small boy gave the woman a big hug and went home with a smile on his face. His mother saw a big smile on his face and asked, what made you so happy today? He said, I shared my chocolate with Jesus. Then, he added, you know, she has the most beautiful smile in the world. Meanwhile, the old woman returned to her home where she lived with her sister, and said to her you know, today I ate chocolate with Jesus. Today’s Gospel tells us that we will meet and experience the risen Jesus in unexpected places and persons.

In the Old Testament lot of people encountered God in an unexpected way. Abraham entertained three Angels when he was unaware. Jacob laid his head on a stone while he slept and saw a stairway to Heaven. While Moses was taking care of the sheep, he heard the voice of the Lord coming from the burning bush. Prophet Isaiah says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty temple, Seraphim singing Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His Glory,” before his own cleansing and consecration as a Prophet of the Lord. (Isaiah 6:1–6) Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and Jesus got Saul’s attention by knocking him to the ground and making him blind.

Our readings today have one common and encouraging theme. No matter what happens in our lives, the risen Jesus is always with us. God is near to those who seek Him. The Emmaus incident is the story of a God who will not abandon us when we are disappointed.

God’s self–disclosure to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus was unexpected, but radically different from others. While they were walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, their eyes were closed from recognizing Him. When Jesus was at the table with them, He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave the bread to them. At that moment, the eyes of the disciples were open and they recognized Jesus just before He vanished from their sight. Jesus will come to us in an unfamiliar way to support and strengthen us, when we least expect our risen Lord.

The Easter and the Emmaus journey tells us that God never forces Himself on us. He joins us in a walk in the garden, enjoying the beautiful scenery, visiting with a friend, sadness of death, or reading a letter from someone we love. God speaks to us in the voices of those who are hurt and sorrowful, in the faces of the poor and the needy.

We need to find Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread, as the Emmaus disciples understood. When we approach the altar to receive the Sacrament, we see and receive Christ Himself. The Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ; it feeds us and fulfills our spiritual needs. When you receive the body of Christ let us recognize the risen Lord who is smiling at you.

Meet our Risen Lord at Mass with Opened Eyes and Burning Hearts

April 22, 2023

3rd Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Victor Feltes

On Easter Sunday afternoon, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking seven miles to Emmaus. Everyone journeys down the road of life. They have heard stories of Jesus’ Resurrection yet feel uncertain, pondering it, discussing it, and debating it. This is how they first meet the Risen Lord, with eyes not yet recognizing him as he walks with us. Jesus initiates the encounter. One whose name means “Glory to the Father” (whose life is meant to give glory to the Father) has questions about Jesus, the Nazarene called Christ. Cleopas and another disciple discover on their journey the very best person to answer the questions on their hearts. This meeting on the road to Emmaus parallels, beat-for-beat, how Jesus meets us in the Holy Mass.

Upon greeting and gathering his disciples near himself, Jesus begins a presentation of God’s Word. Starting with the Old Testament, he proclaims and explains how the Scriptures refer to him. Jesus preaches a homily pointing to himself. They hear, listen, and believe. These Christians would now profess as their creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ… For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried, and on the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures.” Next, they repeatedly petition the Lord: ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over. We pray, Lord, that you will grace us amid the darkness of this world.’ And the Lord grants their requests.

Before, his disciples’ spirits had been heavy and downcast. But now that the Lord is with them, with a new spirit they lift up burning hearts to the Lord our God, rightly giving him thanks. Then at table, having presented to Jesus the customary bread and wine, he takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to them. With that their eyes are opened and they recognize his real presence, made known to them in the breaking of bread. In conclusion, they go at once and with rapid steps walk seven miles more to share their Good News about Jesus Christ with others.

Every Sunday since those early days, Christ’s Church has celebrated the Breaking of Bread, the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, in fulfillment of his instruction to “Do this in memory of me.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, we have testimony from the second century showing that the basic outlines of early Eucharistic celebrations match the Holy Mass today. Around the year 155 A.D., St. Justin Martyr composed an open letter to the pagan Roman emperor to explain Christians’ beliefs and worship. St. Justin wrote:

On the day we call the day of the sun (that is, Sunday), all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read… When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things. Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves…and for all others… Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren. He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks that we have been judged worthy of these gifts. When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: ‘Amen!’ [Then] those whom we call deacons give to those present the ‘eucharisted’ bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.

And St. Justin Martyr adds:

This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth (that is, baptism), and who lives as Christ handed down to us (that is, the Christian moral life). For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink… [W]e have been taught that the food consecrated… is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus and St. Justin Martyr, we today are invited to encounter Jesus Christ at Holy Mass. Let us always recognize him, rejoice in him, and receive him with eyes opened with faith and hearts burning with love.

His Resurrection has Changed Everything

April 16, 2023

Divine Mercy Sunday
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

The resurrection of Jesus was a new experience for the disciples, even though Jesus had often explained to them about His resurrection. The apostles must have been afraid beginning on Holy Thursday, because their friend and the messiah was dead. They all abandoned Him. His own disciple betrayed Him. The crowd which welcomed Jesus with palms turned against Him and called for the release of Barabbas. The apostles, now afraid of the crowd, stayed in their homes for their own protection.

The harmony among the first Christians that we see in our first reading is the fruit of Jesus’ resurrection. The new community, gathered around the resurrection, was no longer afraid. In the second reading, St. Peter reminds us that we have been transformed through the resurrection of Jesus. His resurrection gave us a new birth and hope. Through our baptism, we share in Jesus’ resurrection. St. Peter reminds us that we have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” The resurrection of Jesus has changed everything. Nothing will ever again be the same.

Look at how Thomas changed. Before he met the risen Jesus he was depressed, absent from the group of apostles, and disbelieving. At first, he said: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) After seeing the Risen Jesus, he proclaimed: “My Lord and My God.” (John 20:28) What a difference after seeing Jesus: from fear to Joy, seclusion to the mission, absence to presence, disbelief to faith, and a mere existence to new life. His life was completely changed after seeing Jesus.

Jesus presented Himself to His disciples during their time of fear and confusion. He restored their peace. He commissioned them as ministers of the sacraments. The sacrament of reconciliation is the sacrament of mercy.

As we celebrate today Divine Mercy Sunday, we are reminded that God extended His mercy to us by allowing His son to pay the ransom for our sins. Christ accomplished this through His paschal mystery.

We must also extend this mercy to others. We are called to be apostles of mercy. As we spread the good news of Christ’s resurrection, we must thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because His Mercy and generosity endure forever.

We, too, are the witnesses of the Risen Lord. We shall certainly encounter people who will doubt our faith. This must not discourage us; we must remain focused on our mission. So, as the true disciple of Christ, let us continue to announce the good news to the whole world that Jesus Christ, our Lord has truly risen from the dead.

Today, Jesus invites us to see Him and touch Him. He invites us to encounter his wounded and glorified body. In that encounter with Jesus, he will help us to have faith in Him. One day, despite our wounds and weaknesses, our bodies will be glorified like Him.

From Fear to Peace: Celebrating Divine Mercy

April 15, 2023

Divine Mercy Sunday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

During the Exodus, before descending in fire and smoke upon a trembling Mount Sinai, God gave instructions to prepare the Hebrews for this encounter. The Lord said to Moses:

“Go to the people and have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow. Have them wash their garments and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Set limits for the people all around, saying: ‘Take care not to go up the mountain, or even to touch its edge. All who touch the mountain must be put to death. No hand shall touch them, but they must be stoned to death or killed with arrows. Whether human being or beast, they must not be allowed to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds may they go up on the mountain.”

Then Moses came down from the mountain to the people and had them sanctify themselves, and they washed their garments. He said to the people, “Be ready for the third day.

On the third day, as all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blast of the ram’s horn and the mountain smoking, they became afraid and trembled. So they took up a position farther away and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid, for God has come only to test you and put the fear of him upon you so you do not sin.” So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.

A pair of themes throughout the Old Testament are the holy otherness of God and the deadly sinfulness of man. Our Fall made it dangerous to approach God carelessly. And even Moses was mysteriously told, “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” Compare and contrast that with this Sunday’s Gospel.

On the third day, despite the doors being locked where the disciple were, the Risen Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. And he said again, “Peace be with you.” A week later when Thomas was there, Jesus appeared again and said, “Peace be with you.” He then invited Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

In former times, seeing the Lord or merely touching the mountain or ark of his holy presence could mean death. But disciples in the New Testament are invited to see his face and touch his wounds. In the New Covenant, we are called to receive Jesus Christ alive in the Eucharist. Today we celebrate Divine Mercy, mercy reflected in how — even after our sins led him to his Cross — Jesus returns and repeatedly wishes us “Peace.” In forgetting our past, we fail to appreciate what the Lord has done for us. And too few rejoice in his Divine Mercy because so many do not realize their need for it.

On Easter Sunday evening, Jesus breathed on his apostles saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Why would Jesus give them this power to forgive sins if he did not intend them to use it? Why would he give his Church such a Sacrament if we did not need it? Jesus wishes you a peace beyond your fear. He desires to forgive your sins and personally give himself to you in the Eucharist. Will you trust him enough to regularly encounter his healing Divine Mercy in the confessional so that you may receive him all the more reverently, fittingly, lovingly and joyfully at his altar?

Easter Makes All Things New — Funeral Homily for Donna Falkenberg, 75

April 12, 2023

By Fr. Victor Feltes

On the first Good Friday, Christ’s Church lost her bridegroom. What would become of her children, already born and yet to be born? However, Jesus had said, “I will not leave you orphans.” In God’s good providential plan, they would not be left abandoned. Behold how Easter Sunday made all things new. Similarly, in 1966, when Donna was eighteen years old, her husband “Sonny” Braden, Jr. tragically died. She had one infant daughter then and was pregnant with another. What would she do? God’s providence lovingly provided for them. She found and wedded Rodger in 1972, gifting her children a wonderful dad.

Donna’s daughters, Kelly and Lisa, tell me she loved traveling and made friends everywhere she went because she would talk to anybody. She had words of wisdom to share and a way of knowing what people needed to hear. Many of her daughters’ friends consider Donna a second mother. Her Lord, Jesus, also journeyed far from place to place and struck-up conversations with strangers. A woman at a well, a tax collector at his post, or a disabled beggar on the street could each have their lives forever changed and blessed by encountering and befriending him.

Donna sold Home Interiors and Gifts for thirty-two years and ranked sixteenth in the nation for sales. She had a knack for beautifying things and could make a house a home. Before Jesus died and rose he said, “I will prepare a place for you. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. … I am going to prepare a place for you, …come back again, and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” Jesus intends to beautifully transform us, first our souls and later our bodies, that we may live after this life in a beautiful home with him.

Donna loves an eclectic combination of foods, including ice cream, popcorn, candy corn, and ketchup (though not necessarily mixed together). She would clean out the refrigerator to make what she called “Messy Meals,” adding spaghetti sauce, cream of mushroom soup, or creamy cheese sauce to make leftovers deliciously new. Interestingly, even after being resurrected in a glorified body, Jesus still eats food. St. Luke records how on Easter evening Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room and while they were still amazed and incredulous for joy he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish and he ate it in front of them. Now Jesus did this partly as a proof that he was truly alive and not merely a ghost. But John recounts how later along the shore of the Sea of Galilee the risen Jesus invited seven disciples to a meal. “Come, have breakfast,” he said, and he shared his fish and bread. Though Jesus has no need for food to live, for “death no longer has any power over him,” he still seems to enjoy eating.

Donna’s daughters tell me of her quick wit. “It sometimes shocked you how she snuck it in, but it kept you on your toes.” And Donna could be playful, such as putting a cherry tomato in her cheek and saying, “Tomato, what tomato?” We see that Jesus can be playfully witty, too. After his resurrection, he appeared incognito to a pair of disciples going to Emmaus. He asked, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” One of them, Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And Jesus slyly and dryly replied: “What sort of things?” That is subtly very funny.

As a faithful Catholic, Donna attended Masses here at St. Paul’s Church. As her health declined, if you visited her at home in this past year you would find her enjoying Hallmark movies, since she kept that channel always on. I think one reason she loved both our Catholic Faith and those Hallmark movies is that these stories have happy endings. God has built within us an innate longing for happiness, and he intends to fulfill our longings through Jesus Christ. Jesus became like us so that we may become like him—perfectly holy in our souls and gloriously resurrected in our bodies. Through Jesus Christ, we can live with God forever, free of death and sadness and full of peaceful happiness.

Jesus’ resurrection shows us that goodness will not be lost to death, but raised up again in a beautiful way to endure forever. In these examples from Donna’s life I have shared we see that whatever good things we love, and whatever good there is in us, can find a happy home united with Christ who loves them, too. Behold how Easter makes all things new.

Why the Third Day?

April 8, 2023

Easter Sunday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Why did Jesus rise from the dead on Easter? Christ’s resurrection was foretold, for instance in the 16th Psalm: “You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.” Furthermore, Jesus rose again because without the Resurrection our Redemption would be incomplete. As St. Paul told the Romans, “[Our Lord] was handed over for our transgressions, and was raised for our justification.” In the words of the Church’s Catechism: “The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life.” Jesus Christ came to redeem and save not only our souls but also our bodies and the rest of creation as well. Easter changes everything. Instead of living in a secular world where nothing really matters because cold death claims all, we now can live forever with God in Christ’s Kingdom.

Jesus rose again on Easter, but why did he resurrect on the third day in particular? Why not choose the first or second day, or the fourth or fortieth day to rise again? I see several reasons why God chose the third day to be Easter.

First of all, this number of days helps to confirm Jesus’ death. If Jesus had resurrected right away, immediately after being taken down from the Cross or sealed in the tomb, some would wonder if he had ever really died. Absent a miracle, no one could survive flagellation, crucifixion, and two nights alone in a cave without medical aid. The three days establish that Jesus was definitely dead.

Another reason for the three days was to fulfill the Scriptures. Post-resurrection, Jesus said, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” Many Old Testament passages foreshadowed this. For instance, Jesus and St. Paul both liken resurrection to plants sprouting, and it was on the third day of creation that God said, “Let the earth bring forth… every kind of plant.” It was “on the third day” that Abraham obediently offered Isaac in sacrifice, reasoning that God would keep all of his promises by raising his only son from the dead. But Heaven halted Abraham’s hand and he received back his beloved son alive on the third day. Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days… so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth.” Jesus also said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (He said this in reference to the temple of his body.) The Book of Ezra records that the second Jewish Temple was completed on the third day of the month. And there are other Old Testament stories and signs one could cite as well. Jesus rose again on the third day in fulfillment of the Scriptures.

A third reason for the third day is what Jesus was doing on the second day. While his body was in the tomb observing a perfect Sabbath rest, his soul descended to the abode of those who had died before Christ. St. Peter writes in his First Epistle how Jesus “went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits;” that “the gospel was preached even to the dead.” Christ declared on earth, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Jesus used these three days to open heaven’s gates for all the just who had died before him.

Another reason for the third day is to signify a New Creation. “The third day,” Easter, was a Sunday. In Genesis, God’s work of Creation began on this first day of the week. Likewise, Easter Sunday and the Resurrection mark the beginning of a New Creation with Christ.

Though there may be millions of more reasons in the mind of God, a final, important reason I see for why Jesus rose on the third day is to give his Church a saving lesson in faithful endurance. The apostles had witnessed Jesus work many miracles. For example, they saw him use five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand men. Then, the following day, they heard him speak about the Real Presence. “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink,” he said, and “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” However, people would not accept this teaching and in his Gospel St. John records, “as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Then Jesus asked his apostles, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

They believed in Jesus. His teachings were challenging, but they stayed with him. How shocking then was it for them to witness the torture and death of their Messiah, the Christ. Throughout Holy Saturday, they were full of doubts and fears, yet the disciples remained together in the Upper Room in which they had eaten the first Eucharist. Those apostles might have discreetly fled for home and missed out on Easter entirely, if they had not religiously respected the Sabbath which kept them from traveling far from the gathered Church. Therefore, when Jesus appeared on the third day, none of them had strayed too far away. Except for Judas and Thomas, all of them were there on Sunday to encounter their Risen Lord. They saw Jesus, and touched him, and he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and the deeper meaning of their past and present and future. Then their doubts and fears and desires to be elsewhere, which had felt so very strong before, were now emptied of power, replaced with joy and peace. However, they never forgot what they experienced on that Holy Saturday leading to Easter Sunday, and they present to us a saving lesson for our faithful endurance.

Jesus Christ works miracles. He teaches beautiful, challenging things. And today, he is risen from the dead. The betrayals of Judases and doubts of Thomases do not change the reality of these things. Called here by God, you have gathered in this Upper Room for Easter. You have drawn near to Christ’s Holy Eucharist and his Church. Whatever doubts or fears (or even desires to be elsewhere) you might feel, I pray you will hereafter never stray nor remain far away. To whom else would you go? Only Jesus Christ has the words of eternal life. Remain here for him with his Church so that you may encounter and know the Risen Lord and us more deeply. As I said before, Easter changes everything. Instead of living in a secular world where nothing really matters because cold death claims all, we can now rejoice that we can live forever with God in Christ’s Kingdom.

3 Mysteries Remembered

April 6, 2023

Holy Thursday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

[Our] Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” At this same Supper, Jesus washed his apostles’ feet, drying them with a towel. Then, when he reclined at the table again, Jesus told them, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

For this Mass of Holy Thursday, the Church directs me to preach “a homily in which light is shed on the principal mysteries that are commemorated in this Mass, namely, the institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the priestly Order, and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity.” This no heavy burden. Jesus makes it easy by his actions that night. At the Last Supper, Christ gives us these precious gifts: his Holy Eucharist, his Holy Priesthood, and his holy model of loving service which he commands us all to follow.

Our Bishop William Callahan noted at this week’s Chrism Mass that without priests there would be no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist there would be no Church. The priesthood is essential to the Eucharist, and the priesthood and the Eucharist are essential to Christ’s Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the words of the first century bishop and martyr St. Ignatius of Antioch in teaching “that without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church.” (CCC #1593) And the Second Vatican Council famously teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” For in the Most Blessed Sacrament is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, for it is Jesus himself. All the Church’s other sacraments, ministries, and good works flow from this one sacrifice, are united to it, and united to Christ.

Perhaps there are young men here tonight with a vocation to the priesthood. If you think you may have this divine calling, I urge you to actively pursue it. If you pursue this path and discover you are not called, you will be no worse off but blessed from the experience, and for the rest of your life you will never have to wonder or worry whether you might have had this calling. But if priesthood is your vocation, you will not find anywhere a greater life.

When Jesus commands at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me,” and declares, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do,” he was not only ordaining priests of the New Covenant and showing how them how to serve. Christ’s words are addressed to all disciples; not only that we should faithfully attend Holy Mass, but that we should live the way of love we see from him. The night before offering his Body and Blood on the Cross, Jesus gives these sacramentally in the Eucharist. Before offering up his death on the Cross, we see Jesus humbly provide loving service at table. Do you realize what he has done for you? Jesus has given us a model to follow, so that as he has done for us, we should also do. Do this in memory of him.

We are Worthy to be Saved in God’s Merciful Eyes

April 1, 2023

Palm Sunday (Year A)
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

The readings today remind us of the passion, crucifixion, and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and the savior of the world. It reminds us of God’s love for us. Yet, our sinfulness makes us unworthy of that perfect love. So He sent His only begotten Son to redeem us by His passion, crucifixion, and death.

We have just said we are unworthy of God’s love because we have sinned, again and again, against Him, our loving Father. So why can’t He just leave us alone? This is the paradox of love. You and I are WORTHY TO BE SAVED in God’s merciful eyes!

So He sent His only Son Jesus to suffer and die so that we may be saved through Him. Yet, as we read and re-read the gospel passage on the passion, crucifixion, and death of Jesus, we see the same pattern of the response of the people then and the people now. Many people then denied, rejected, and brutally opposed the offer of salvation. Many people do the same things now. Let us pray and pray harder for the conversion of the people who continue to crucify Jesus, now by their frequent rejection of the Son of God.

Jesus has suffered and died but it was not the end. The last verse in the gospel reading today tells us that they “secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and assigning a guard.” Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. This is the source of our hope. This is the reason why we keep on reading and reflecting on the passion, crucifixion, and death of our Lord. The forces of darkness may have sealed a tomb but the victory of the Light has been seen in the Resurrection.

On the first day of the “Holy Week,” we commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The people removed their cloaks, waved palms, and sang hosannas while Jesus, riding on a donkey, passed by. Removing our clothes is a symbolic act of surrender to the Lord. It is a way of becoming open, confessing our sins, and accepting His offer of salvation. No more, disguise. No more resistance. On the other hand, the palm has been a traditional symbol of victory and rejoicing. (Leviticus 23:40) Thus by laying palms on the path of Jesus, the people acknowledged that in Jesus, there is victory. The donkey is an animal of peace. By riding on a donkey, Jesus showed that He is the prince of peace.

Let us pray that as we come in the name of the Lord, He may shower us with His blessings. May we continue to journey with Jesus, allowing Him to fill our hearts with hope, love, and peace so that we can become an instrument of hope and love to others and peace to all the earth.

Let us weep over our sins and remember that God will always forgive us. We need to welcome Jesus into our hearts in a special way during Holy Week. We can be like the prodigal son and God like his father. We need to love and ask God to strengthen our weaknesses. With God in our hearts, we can do anything.

8 Great Reflections on the Passion

April 1, 2023

Palm Sunday (Year A)
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Today’s Gospel is long, but this reading is rich. So here, briefly, are eight great reflections on the Passion.

  • At the Last Supper, Jesus told his apostles, “One of you will betray me.” They each replied, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” except for Judas Iscariot, who said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” (Rabbi means teacher.) There is a big difference between Jesus just being a teacher and being your Lord.
  • In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus lovingly willed to save us but his humanity understandably dreaded the tortures his self-sacrifice could entail. He prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” In this, Jesus shows us that we are allowed to pray for any good thing, even for ourselves, if we remain open to God’s will.
  • When Judas arrived in the Garden, he approached Jesus and kissed him saying, “Hail, Rabbi!” Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Jesus did not say this sarcastically; Jesus would die for Judas. Our Lord remains a friend towards us even if we betray him.
  • When the guards and soldiers laid hands on Jesus to arrest him, Peter struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear with a sword. But Jesus commanded his disciple to sheathe the sword. Christian violence cuts off the ears of our enemies’ servants making them unable to hear the Gospel.
  • At his religious trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus responded with silence, until the high priest said, “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Then Jesus affirmed it was so. Even when the high priest’s judgment was erring, Jesus obeyed his legitimate religious authority.
  • In his trial before Pilate, the governor hoped to let Jesus go: “Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?” The name “Barabbas” means “the son of the father.” Barabbas was a murderous rebel, a political revolutionary. Like the crowd that day, every generation is tempted to choose a different savior than Christ.
  • On his Cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the beginning of the 22nd Psalm. That psalm says, “They have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.” Not only did this psalm prophesy Christ’s sufferings but also his resurrection, saying, “I will live for the Lord; my descendants will serve you.”
  • Finally, when Jesus died, “the veil of the sanctuary (inside the temple, which separated the place of God’s presence from the rest) was torn in two from top to bottom.” This veil was torn from the top as an act of God. Formerly, only the Jewish priests could even enter the building. Now, today, we as Christians are invited to approach and adore and receive our Lord in his temple.

The People at the Passion (Part 3 of 3)

April 1, 2023

By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

From history, we know that our Lord Jesus Christ died because He was condemned to death by the Jewish authorities who handed Him over to the Romans to be executed. He was put to death, because he said He was the Messiah, the Son of God, the one to whom God had given the power to judge all men. This statement was considered blasphemy, so the Sanhedrin said that He had to die. The Sanhedrin closely followed the teachings of Moses. They did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Throughout the history of Israel, the prophets often had to suffer injustices in order to carry out the mission God had given to them.

On Wednesday night, I talked about many of the people who were against Jesus. They inflicted very much pain and abuse on Jesus. Today, I want to remind you of the people who loved, trusted, and followed Jesus through His life and to His death.

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Jesus’s Mother was the most faithful of His followers. From the Annunciation to the Crucifixion of her Son, Mary can be seen as God’s ultimate validation of free will. She was obedient to God when He sent the Angel Gabriel to her. She was a very young woman, but her faith in God was strong. She was willing to do whatever God asked of her. She and St. Joseph were very loving parents. They protected Jesus from His birth, and during His years of growing to manhood. They taught Him and took him to the temple, where He learned the Jewish laws about God.

St. Joseph died before Jesus began His public ministry, but Mary continued to follow Jesus to His death. Mary was actually His first apostle. She was the first human to kiss the face of God and the first to believe in Jesus as her Savior. She was the first Christian. She was also probably the only disciple of Jesus who never left his side or doubted Him. She stayed and accepted to the very end, even as Jesus died on the Cross. Down through the ages, the weeping Mary of the Cross witnessing her son’s torture and death stands in solidarity with all believers who also suffer and live under the shadow of the Cross. Can you imagine how Mary felt watching her child die such a terrible death? She was helpless and all she could do was watch. She stayed at the foot of the Cross until the end. She never left all morning and was there in the afternoon when Jesus took His last breath. When His body was taken down from the Cross, she followed Him to the grave. She wanted to stay with Him as long as possible, even though it hurt her to watch Him suffer. Mary loved her son so much, she did not want to leave Him even after He died.

As Christians, we know we have to accept that suffering and death are just a part of life. It does not make it easier when we are living through it, but we should look to Mary as an example. We can copy her strength and bravery for the sake of our family and do whatever we can out of love, it will help us through those times. Mary showed incredible love, courage, and strength.

Peter the Apostle

St. Peter was a fisherman. He and his brother Andrew, were among the first four disciples of Jesus. Jesus called and they left everything behind, including their boats and fishing equipment. Peter was always a leader. He wanted to protect Jesus and keep Him safe. When Jesus told him that he would suffer and die, Peter would not believe it. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew his sword and cut the soldier’s ear off. Peter was with Jesus and witnessed all the miracles, including the cure of Peter’s mother–in–law, and in the home of Jairus. He was at the Transfiguration, the Last Supper, and the Garden of Gethsemane. During the passion, he followed Jesus along the road to Calvary. Jesus gave him the keys to make him the head of the church. He was our first pope.

John the Apostle

At the very beginning of his public ministry, Jesus chose John and his brother as His disciples. The two are the sons of Zebedee, a fisherman. Jesus calls them, “Sons of Thunder.” It is a title that James and John earn by their quick judgment of others and eager enthusiasm. The gospels give John a position of importance among the twelve apostles. He is one of the first four disciples called by Jesus.

From the very beginning of his call, John is always with Jesus. He is one of the few who was with Jesus during the public ministry. He is probably one of the few disciples to witness all of the miracles performed by Jesus. During the passion and death of Jesus, John was with Him. He even stayed at the foot of the Cross as Jesus suffered and died.

St. John is also the author of the fourth gospel. His gospel is the only one that tells us that St. John and Mary were among those at the foot of the Cross when Jesus died. As Jesus was dying, He looked down at them and said; “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26–27) When Jesus said this, He was actually giving Mary to all of us as our Spiritual Mother. John at the foot of the Cross is a loyal friend. Faithfulness and loyalty are Love.

The Roman Centurion

In the Bible, we are given a glimpse of the roman centurion. He was the commander of over 100 soldiers in the Roman army. He was in charge of overseeing the crucifixion of Jesus. He may have been in charge of arresting Jesus. And he would have accompanied Jesus on the road to Golgotha. He had probably presided over the crucifixion of hundreds or even thousands of men and had probably become insensitive to the agony these men suffered.

The Roman Centurion is mentioned in three of the four gospel accounts. He is not mentioned for his cruelty, but for a marvelous transformation that occurred at the death of Jesus. Most of the men that were crucified were criminals, thieves, and murderers. They cried out in agony and pleaded for their lives. When Jesus died, he knew that this was not an ordinary execution. The darkness, the earthquake, and the cry of abandonment from Jesus convinced the soldiers that this was NOT an ordinary man. The events terrified them. The roman centurion said this man IS TRULY THE SON OF GOD.

The Good Thief

We know from St. Luke’s Gospel, that there were two thieves crucified with Jesus, one on either side of Him. One of the thieves mocked Jesus saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other thief said to him, “do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to our Lord, “Jesus remember me when you come in your kingly power.” Jesus replied, “truly, I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:3943) This second criminal has become known to us as St. Dismas, he is the patron saint of all criminals and convicts, especially thieves.

Mary Magdalene

St. Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus cast seven devils out of Mary Magdalene. He also tells us that she poured expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet as she cried. She dried his feet with her long hair. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and several other women followed Jesus on the road to Golgotha, and remained at the foot of the Cross, even following to His burial place. She was a faithful disciple, following Jesus during most of His public ministry, passion, death, and resurrection.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus

Joseph of Arimathea is described as a good and just man, he was apparently wealthy, and a follower of Jesus. After the crucifixion, he requested permission from Pilate to remove Jesus’ body from the Cross. With the help of Nicodemus, he wrapped the body in fine linen and had it placed in his own unused tomb. These men were both members of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council. They were secret followers of Jesus. Nicodemus came to Jesus secretly at night to discuss the Jewish laws.

Both Joseph and Nicodemus did a great sacrifice—Joseph gave up his tomb and Nicodemus paid for costly burial spices and ointments. The Gospel of John (19:39) says it was seventy-five pounds, an extraordinary amount. This was an act of love for Joseph and Nicodemus. Two high-ranking religious officials, exhausting themselves to honor their Lord.

The worst night of their lives, when darkness seemed to cover the world, became the dawn of something new. The men and women who witnessed the trial, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ saw more than words could ever express. What they saw in their lifetime, we have seen in the scripture, and the result is amazingly the same. We may not have seen Him physically, but we see Him in our Faith.