True Witness to Abundant Life

4th Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14a, 36-41 Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6 1 Pt 2:20b-25 Jn 10:1-10

Misconceptions about Suffering / False Martyrdom
In our modern age we run the risk of losing a cultural understanding of Martyrdom, and of Suffering. In the media, martyrdom is often portrayed as someone killing others in the name of God. In our high-schools, and in the media suffering is a way of "Feeling Alive" - consider the problem of "cutting" in high-schools, or movies like "Fight Club" which glorify self-mutilation.

One of the common misconceptions that we can have from today’s readings is that suffering is good. Suffering is not good – it is terrible. To think that I must inflict self-suffering is a false sense of martyrdom. True martyrdom, true witness to Christ is when I suffer because of my witness to His love. Holiness is related to wholeness – when I lead a holy life I develop a healthy sense of self. If in the course of witnessing to Christ I suffer because of my witness to who Christ is – then I am suffering in the sense that St. Peter speaks of in the second reading today. Throughout the ages, and even today there is in the world, some false sense of martyrdom, where we bring suffering upon ourselves needlessly.

True Martyrs reflect the Truth of Christ
What is the driving force of the martyr? - Martyrs are motivated out of love and knowledge of Christ. This ties us into the Gospel today. Jesus is the sheep herder, and we are His sheep when we recognize His voice and follow Him. In our lives of prayer, we come to recognize Christ’s voice calling us along the way to Holiness. This is the path that we are all called to. We begin with a personal encounter with Christ where he becomes for us distinct and undeniable.

Do we Christians authentically witness to Christ?
Many people today deny Christ this opportunity. They feel as if they know what Christianity is about through the people that they encounter who call themselves Christians. Many times that is you and I, we find ourselves in the role of the Pharisees, that we are not encountering Christ, therefore we are not authentically witnessing to Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to point out to you where you do not authentically witness to Christ – and ask for the grace of conversion – to change, so that your life becomes like clear crystal – so that people look at how you live your life and give praise to our heavenly Father.

Is Christ different than any other religious figure?
Because of our poor witness to Christ, many people today think that the Church does not provide an authentic understanding of who Jesus is. They say – He was a nice man, He had some good teaching, but He is no different than Buddah, the Dalai Lama, Shiva, Muhammad or any other holy figure. The world teaches that they are all the same and that they all teach about the same thing.

How Christ is NOT David Koresh
This is not true. Part of being a sheep, a follower of Jesus Christ is knowing who He is, and recognizing His uniqueness throughout all of time. Jesus came and claimed to be the Son of God. This is a profound claim. Many people have come throughout time claiming to be the Son of God, but their actions revealed them to be a fake – they were not. Think of David Koresh, who was the leader of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco Texas in the 1990’s – He claimed to be the Son of God, but was not – he was a religious nut.

If we think that Jesus is no different than any other religious teacher – a nice guy, then we don’t know him and we don't take him seriously. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God- and either he is (because he rose from the dead) – or he was isn't. If Jesus is not the Son of God then he is just another religious nut – like David Koresh and has no moral authority at all.

What makes Christ unique, undeniable, Son of God
But Jesus is not like David Koresh, he is not a religious nut-case. He is also not like the Buddha, or Muhammad or any other religious figure throughout all of time because he did come and teach us the way to God, the way to abundant life. He also showed us that he is Truly the Son of God. He did this with his actions and his deeds. He cured the sick, fed the hungry, raised the dead, instructed the ignorant, corrected the sinners. Then at the end of all of this, when He was crucified, He entered into death and then was raised, resurrected from the grave to lead us to eternal life with our heavenly Father. He didn’t just say that he was the Son of God, he proved it with His actions.

The False image that the world has leads us to repent
How do we who call ourselves Christian’s listen to the words of Scripture today – words that call us to repent, to change our ways, to believe in the Gospel and to give an authentic witness to Christ so that the world can truly recognize Him as the Son of God, in a distinct, undeniable way? How do we exhort our brothers and sisters on this planet to listen to Jesus, and walk in the way of holiness?

True Witness = True Martyr. God brings goodness out of suffering
I began this homily by reflecting on a misconception of suffering that can be had by a poor understanding of today’s second reading. We are called to be martyrs, but we are not always called to martyrdom in the classic sense. All of us gathered here today suffer from sickness, infirmity, and poor health. God does not desire that we suffer. As Christians we are called to endure the sufferings that are placed before us with courage, with the knowledge that God does not will suffering, but rather that he brings great goodness out of suffering. In this way we are invited by Our Lord this week to unite our sufferings to His, and so to allow our life to reflect His, that we can become authentic witnesses to Christ, so that the world can no longer deny Him.

Let us end with the Prayer – the Anima Christi – a Eucharistic prayer that helps us to unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from Christ's side, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints
and with Thy angels
Forever and ever


How does God enter into our plans?

Third Sunday of Easter Cycle A

Acts 2:14, 22-33 Psalm Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11 1 Pt 1:17-21 Lk 24:13-35

Planning sets us apart from the other creatures

One of the things that set us human beings apart from all the other creatures on this planet is our capacity to plan. As humans we have the ability to think about what has happened to us, or to those around us and to plan so as to improve our lives.

Dogs and Cats Planning?

Think about this. When was the last time you saw your dog sitting down with the estate planner to write out a will, or your cat planning out her retirement, or your canary bird thinking about a business plan for being cute and sweet sounding?

Humans plan all the time

Animals don’t – but we humans do. While it would be silly to see your dog sitting down with the Financial section of the newspaper to see how his investments in Purina Dog Chow is doing, we don’t think twice when a human is planning. How many of us here are planning to buy a new car or a vacation this summer? How many of us here spend time planning our families? How many kids we will have, where we will live, what we will do? Or, if you are younger – planning what you want to be when you grow up? A Mom, or a Dad, or a Priest? How many of us here are thinking about our retirement or planning for our death?

Planning is how we achieve at a good goal

At the heart of all planning is working to achieve some good goal. The goal of planning a vacation is a relaxing time at the beach, or in the mountains – to have an enjoyable time. The goal of planning a family is to have a happy, fulfilled life and the goal of planning for our retirement and our death is to help those whom we love.

What is God’s involvement in our plans?

The question that we are called to reflect on today is that of God’s involvement in our plans. All of us here today have many plans for our life, but how many of those plans include God?


To look at this question from another angle, It is clear from the readings today that God has a plan for us, and that He is actively working his plan. How does God work into our plans?

How does God enter into our plans?

The Gospel today shows us how God enters into our plans, and how we can respond when he does. In the Gospel today the two disciples are on the road to Emaus. Why?


They are sad about what has happened to Christ, they are leaving town, dejected, depressed. Things didn’t go according to their plan. On Palm Sunday things were going like gangbusters, Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This was the time and place where their plans for freedom from Roman oppression were going to be realized. Then came Good Friday, Christ was crucified. Being good Jews they stayed in town for the Sabbath, and now it is the morning after the Sabbath (Sunday) and they are getting out of town.

Christ is the Good Shepherd – going after his Lost Sheep

It is at this point in their plans – the lowest point of their plan that Christ meets them on the road and He begins to walk with them. At this low point of their plans they begin to talk with Jesus about where they are at – truthfully from the heart. Jesus then responds by sharing their struggles, and then showing them how their struggles tie into God’s plan for their lives. At the end of the day, they come to the inn and share a meal with one another. It is in the breaking of the bread – the Eucharist that they recognize Him – They see how God has entered into their plans and where their plans must now lead them.

The Road to Emaus ends up being God’s Plan

You see, when the disciples set off from Jerusalem that morning they did not know that they were cooperating with God’s plan. They were thinking to themselves, anyplace has got to be better than this place. What they didn’t realize is that they were actually going to Jerusalem, it wasn’t until they encounter Christ in the Breaking of the Bread at Emaus that Christ shows them their vocation.

Letting God into our plans is how we learn our Vocation

Along the way they were met by Christ, and as they shared with Christ, they learned from him and realized that He was giving their journey a purpose, a mission, a vocation. Their encounter with Jesus set their hearts afire so that at the end the day they were doing the will of the Father – they proclaimed the resurrection of Christ to the Apostles!

Imagine being the one to tell the Pope the most amazing piece of news in the history of time!

Where is God in the Plan’s for your life?

If we went to a retirement planner to plan for our retirement he would not say to us - go each week and buy a powerball ticket - then you will be taken care of in your old age - no! He would encourage us to hard work, discipline, saving, so that when we get to an old age we can retire. Likewise, St. Peter exhorts us not to trust in treasures like silver and gold, but in what is eternal - the Blood of Christ. When we are planning for after retirement - after we die, we need to follow the same advice - to pray for conversion, to fast and to open our hearts so that God's plan for our life can be realized - eternity spent in communion with Him.


Power, Authority and Humility

Thursday the 2nd Week of Easter

Acts 5:27-33 Psalm 34:2 and 9, 17-18, 19-20 Jn 3:31-36

The readings today lead us to reflect on the relationship between Authority, Power and Humility. In the Acts of the Apostles the court officers do not like hearing what the Apostles are telling the people – they are on the “hot seat” and they know it. They say to the apostles – “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.” - There is a truth in this statement that they want to avoid.

They then try to exercise their power and authority to silence the Apostles teaching – they are trying to imprison the Gospel and avoid their responsibility in the death of Christ.

Let’s take a moment and place ourselves in the shoes of the court officials. The best way that I can think of doing this is to put myself in the role of being a Father, and having to correct my children who have blatantly disobeyed me. How do I feel? – hurt, angry, upset. What is worse is when my children are correct and reflect to me how I have gone against God’s will. These accusations pierce to the heart.

How do I want to respond (how do I normally respond) – with Anger, misusing my Power – and abusing my Authority. Authority is the legitimacy of my position where I exercise power (in this case, as the Father), or here as a Deacon. Power is the ability to affect change in the people (the people of God, or the People of my family). When I misuse my power, I end up undermining my own.

So God has given us Power and Authority – but for a right use. He calls us to use our authority legitimately – to exercise our power with love. In order to be effective at this we need to rule from a place of humility.

Actual humility means that we are rooted in the Truth of who God is, and who we are in relationship to God. We understand that we are His most beloved of all creatures. The more we practice humility, the more we are able to hear the truth of what is being said or done, and the more we are able to exercise our power and use our authority to build up the Kingdom of God – to make good disciples of those whom we are given power and authority to guide in our lives.

Let us pray today for the Humility to enter into an honest relationship with God , and the courage to exercise our power and authority with justice and love.

Tell everyone about this life!

Wednesday the 2nd Week of Easter
Acts 5:17-26 Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 Jn 3:16-21

Contrasting Light and Darkness
Luke and John contrast darkness and light in the readings today. In Luke’s Acts of the Apostles – the Apostles and so the Gospel (the light) are imprisoned (in the dark), yet God frees them so that they can do His work (show the light). Jesus also contrasts darkness to light – saying that those who are sinners prefer the darkness while those who follow Him prefer the light. Because we are his disciples, we are called to seek the light and avoid the darkness.

The Gospel cannot be imprisoned
The imprisonment of the Apostles – At this time in the history of the Church this meant the imprisonment of the Gospel. The Gospel will not be imprisoned – the Good news cannot be contained.

What are ways that the world tries to imprison the Gospel
Religion ought to be private – you can’t bring it in here.
  • You can’t mix politics and religion
  • You can’t bring religion into school
  • Your religion is your opinion – don’t push it on me
Religion is the source of intolerance
  • People who are devout are ignorant
  • People who are devout are insensitive – pushy with their faith.
  • Religion teaches hate – it causes division.

Take a moment and reflect on which of these questions paralyzes you from preaching the Gospel.


How ought we respond when the world tries to imprison the Gospel?
As Christians we cannot allow these arguments to imprison the Gospel, or our faith life. The counter to this argument is to follow the direction of the Angel who freed the Apostles from imprisonment – go and tell the people everything about this life!


Dear Holy Mother Church

Tuesday the 2nd Week of Easter

Acts 4:32-37 Psalm 93:1ab, 1cd-2, 5, Jn 3:7b-15

Who is the Church?

The Church is the community founded by Christ with the mission to show humanity how to live reconciled with one another through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let us break that apart a little bit.

The Church is a community founded by Christ
During Easter the Church reflects on her birth from the side of Christ as he hung upon the cross in the sleep of death. Just as Adam was put into a deep sleep so that Eve could be born from him, Christ was put into a deep sleep so that Holy Mother Church could spring from Him when His side was pierced by the soldiers lance – and blood and water flowed forth.

We’re on a Mission from God

The Church has a mission – We don’t meet in order to plan meetings we do not exist so that we can continue to exist. The Church has a mission, a very important purpose in the world - To show humanity how to be reconciled to one another through Christ by the Power of the Holy Spirit.

How can we be reconciled through Christ?

Our community is founded on the Sacrament of Baptism – which we hear a little about in today’s Gospel. We call one another Brother and Sister because we have been born anew in Baptism through Water and the Holy Spirit – We become Brothers and Sisters because we are all united to Christ. The mission of the Church calls us to become reconciled to one another by allowing Christ to be at the center of our relationship. When we do this we invite His presence into our relationships as the source of healing, wholeness and communion.

Two Practical Ways that we can do this

In Marriage

In sacramental marriage Christ expresses His love to me in a unique way through my spouse. Christ also calls me to express His love to my spouse by unconditional love and service to her. In marriage we can strive to begin each day with this thought about what our vocation is, and how we are to love our beloved – As Christ loved the Church, or as the Church loves Christ..

In Baptism

In Baptism we are united to Christ through His Death and Resurrection that destroys sin. Christ conquers Sin and Death so that we can live free of their evil effects. When we are reconciled through Christ we allow our Baptism to take root in our lives; we allow ourselves to be healed of division and that we give thanks to God for His transforming grace in our lives. This means that we recognize that the greatest stumbling block in our relationship to one another is our own sin, and not the sin of our Brothers or Sisters.

The Holy Spirit moves where he wills!

Ask the Holy Spirit – who moves according to the will of the Father to point out to you one relationship of your life that is in need of the light of Christ, so that you can be reconciled by the Holy Spirit.


Dear Holy Mother Church

You are the community founded by Christ with the mission to show humanity how to live reconciled with one another through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit


May your Savior guide you in carrying out your mission today!