Give thanks to God for his Good Works

Saturday within the Octave of Easter

Acts 4:13-21 Psalm 118:1 and 14-15ab, 16-18, 19-21 Mk 16:9-15

Lunch with a Friend – Why was Jesus hard to recognize?
I once was having lunch with a friend when he asked me – Why is it that no one recognized Jesus when he rose from the dead? At that time I had a difficult time answering the question – and the implication – that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but rather that someone disguised as Jesus did. This doesn’t really satisfy on a few accounts
  1. Someone dressing up does not explain Thomas’ reaction, or Jesus walking through the walls, or the guards fleeing, or the earth quakes, or people rising from the dead.
  2. All of the Apostles (except for John) died horrible deaths. The odds of 11 men voluntarily going to death for a hoax is about zero.

When in doubt – ask St Augustine.
St. Augustine explained that The Apostles were surprised to see Jesus risen from the dead because they were not expecting him. They did not plan to see him again – so he was not recognizable to them. We see in today’s Gospel that Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, and to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus that they did not recognize him until the breaking of the Bread. It was an Aha moment, where they finally perceived Him.

They were consumed with the tragedy of the crucifixion that they had not yet had time to move beyond the cross into the Resurrection. We often have to remember in our Church where we experience Easter instantaneously, we very readily move from the grave to the Resurrection, that the Apostles were not so quick on the uptake. They were not expecting to see something out of place, so they didn’t recognize Jesus right away.

Our Response to God's good works - Thanksgiving

In the Acts of the Apostles the Jewish leaders perceived that the Apostles were ordinary men – yet they spoke with truth and conviction. They gave glory to God for the work he has done through Jesus Christ.

In the Psalms we see that God always has the initiative, that he is always acting, and that we are always responding with praise and thanksgiving.

Easter is a time of thanksgiving – so let us give thanks to God for all of the good things that he has done for us this day – recognizing that he has called us – ordinary women and men to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.


We adore you O Christ...

Good Friday

Is 52:13—53:12 Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25 Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9 Jn 18:1—19:42

How many gathered here today wear a Cross or a Crucifix?

How many of you wear it daily?

Today we commemorate the death of Jesus on the Cross. Part of the reason that we venerate the cross today is that the Cross of Christ reminds us of the story of our salvation.

What is the Story of your Cross?
What is the story of your cross that you wear? Why do you wear it? Is it a nice fashionable piece of jewelry, or is their a deeper reason?

Our lives are shaped by the Cross
Our lives are shaped by the Cross – If we let them be.
Our life in the Church begins with the sign of the Cross. The cross is signed on our foreheads as we are claimed for Christ. Every time we enter into prayer we begin with the sign of the Cross.

The Story of my Tau
I wear a cross every day, and the cross I wear has a long and colorful story. It is, in a way a witness to my ongoing battle with Sin, and a reminder of who I am called to be. Before I was ordained a Deacon I used to work at a retreat center out near Akron, Colorado. And, at the end of a retreat we would give to each of the participants a little wooden cross that the Franciscans wear called a Tau. With the cross came the encouragement to wear their cross each day, as a reminder that Christ calls each of us daily to take up our crosses and to follow him.

Since my days at the retreat center I have worn my Tau Cross every day. When I get out of the shower each day, the first thing that I put on is my Tau, and I say a small prayer that we pray at the stations of the Cross. We adore you O Christ and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

We Adore you O Christ and we praise you…

What does it mean to carry the Cross?
This year, during lent the Church extolled us to carry our crosses each day. During lent she encourages us to battle our love for sin, and replace it with a deeper love, a greater adoration for Christ, so that we can enter with him into paradise – eternal happiness, peace and joy.

How do we show our Adoration for Christ?
There are two ways of showing Christ Adoration that I would like to share with you today – Adoration in sharing our life with Jesus, and expressing our adoration in our willingness to take up our own cross and follow him.

Adoration is sharing our lives with him.
The first way of adoration is prayer where we share the important parts of ourselves with those whom we love. This is why prayer is such an important part of our lives as Christians. Prayer is when we call upon the grace that we have from Baptism, and speak with Jesus. Prayer is time spent before the Blessed Sacrament, and especially in those few precious moments after receiving Holy Communion, when we sit or kneel quietly in our pews and enter into the depths of our heart, and share ourselves with Christ – Who suffered and died on the Cross.

The Second way of adoration is taking up the cross.
Taking up the cross requires courage. It is not an easy thing to do. Sure it is easy to get up in the morning and hang a little cross around your neck and go about your day. The challenge o the cross is to allow that moment of prayer transform your day. Taking your cross into the day means being willing to battle sin at every moment of the day. It means that when I am tempted, I call upon the power of the Cross, sometimes by touching it under my shirt and reminding myself that I am called to hear the word of God and to follow it – trusting that this way will lead to holiness, and to happiness in my life.

We adore you O Christ and we praise you…

How do we give praise to God?
Am I embarrassed to give praise to Christ in my world today? What is effective praise. Are we Christians who stand around and say “Praise you Lord Jesus” with our lips, but only when we are at Church on Sunday, and only for an hour? To give praise to God means to be willing to do the work of the Father. To correct the sinner, to feed the hungry, stand up for the oppressed. As Christians we praise Christ when people see our Good works and give praise to our heavenly Father. It is not enough for us Christians to be involved in good works, but rather we need to let people know the reason for our Good works – that we love as Christ has taught us to love by showing us his great mercy. We come to know this as we come to understand the evil of the sin that we do, and the great mercy that Christ spoke to us as He hung upon the Cross and said to us – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world!

What made the Cross Holy?

The sign of torture and abusive power
Up until the time of Christ the Cross was a sign of torture, humiliation, suffering and of pain. It was a warning to people everywhere not to oppose the power of the Roman Empire, because by the cross they imposed their will on you in terrible ways. It was a sign of power that had no compassion, power that did not care about the cost.

Christ transformed the Cross
Christ transformed the meaning of the Cross once and for all. He transformed the cross through His expression of love. Christ transformed the meaning of the Cross because he willingly, lovingly laid down on the Cross to enter into death – to bear for us the price of our sins so that we might enter into communion with God through his suffering.

Holiness comes through obedience and action
Holiness comes through two things, obedience and action. Christ transformed the Cross into a symbol of God’s love by His obedience to the Father’s desire that we share in communion with Him again – that the sin of Adam be washed away in the blood of His own Son. Christ listened to the will of His heavenly Father and so took action, by dying on the Cross so that we might share in His relationship with God.

Every Cross has a story to tell.
Every Cross has a story to tell – the story is about how the cross leads us to holiness, how the cross reminds us to listen to our Heavenly Father, and how the cross leads us to act on what he has called us to do – To take up our cross and follow him, so that others will see the good works that we do and give praise to our heavenly Father!

Where is the story of your cross going to take you this year?


The Sickness of Sin

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

Ez 37:12-14 - Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 - Rom 8:8-11 - Jn 11:1-45

How did you get injured?
When you wear a neck brace everyone wants to know what happened. Did you have a car accident? Hurt yourself Skiing? Mountain Climbing? Fall on the Ice?

I did it to my self – what do you think about that?
How would you respond if I said I got this injury on purpose? What? I am Aghast? Why would you injure yourself? You don’t seem like the kind of guy who would attempt suicide, or self-mutilation…

What if it was a horrible disease?
What if I didn’t have a neck injury, but rather I purposefully infected myself with some horrible disease like the plague, leprosy, hepatitis, AIDS, Ebola or something worse?

What would you do?

Would you let me come and stay in your house – infected with a terrible disease?
Would you be my friend?
Would you tell my family? Boss? The Doctor? Social Services?

We are crazy to hurt ourselves
You would be right to think that I was crazy to hurt myself, You would be right to think that I am not sane to infect myself with a horrible disease. There is something horribly wrong when people do that – and they need help.

I am Not Sick – I used this brace to illustrate the sickness of my soul
Providentially for us, I am not physically sick or injured. I do not have some really bad contagious disease. I wore this neck brace to illustrate a disease that affects all of us, it is a sickness of the soul – it is sin

Sin is killing me
Sin afflicts me, The sin that I commit tears me down, it destroys my soul, it is my sin that is killing me and it is often hard to visualize. So I wear a neck brace to remind myself that Sin is killing me, and I need to change so that I am no longer crippled.

A Man was Ill
The Gospel today begins with the statement – A Man was ill. Which man? You and me. Like Lazarus we are ill because of the Sin that we have not repented from. Sin is a sickness of the Soul.

We need sin like lung cancer needs cigarettes
Like Lazarus, we are dying – we often don’t see it because we often don’t recognize the true state of our soul. We are like an emphysema patient dieing from lung cancer, and yet we keep on smoking cigarettes.

Mary prays for Lazarus
Fortunately we are like Lazarus, we have a family that does care for us and wants to do something about our sickness. We need to pray for one another, and to counsel one another to get better. Lazarus had his sisters who prayed for him – the Gospel says that they “sent word to Jesus that the one who he loved was ill…”

Lent is Hospital for the Soul
Lent is the time when the Church invites us to go to the Hospital for our Soul – a place of healing and rest, so that we can be healed and so enjoy the celebration of Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Seven Deadly Sins
The Monks of the Early Church used to evaluate their relationship with God in terms of the “Seven Deadly Sins” – Seven ways that their relationship with God was sick, and dying. They had specific ways of addressing the illnesses of the soul, and this lent we have an opportunity to dip into some of their wisdom, to get some help, so that we leave this lent spiritually more healthy than we entered into it.

What are the Seven Deadly Sins?
Lust – Pornography is polluted love – Antidote is Chastity
Lust – Pornography destroys my ability to love purely, it is polluted love. Lust replaces true love – seeking the good of the other which heals, cleanses, strengthens and builds up with selfish love, which takes, destroys and spreads its hatred because it ends up empty. Lust is a sickness of the Body.

Gluttony fills a hurt with stuff. – Antidote is fasting
Gluttony – Gluttony attempts to fill a hurt within myself with food, or busyness or distraction. It is not always a physical ailment, but rather a psychological / condition where we have been hurt and we protect ourselves by indulging our body. Sometimes we can be a glutton with food, or with busyness, or with drugs or alcohol. Gluttony is a sickness of the Body.

Greed hoards gifts meant for others – Antidote is generosity
Greed – Greed means that I hoard the gifts that God has given me and use them for my selfish gain, rather than steward them and use them according to God’s plan. Don’t misunderstand me – I am not suggesting that we must give away what we own, but rather that we need to use what God has given us in cooperation with His plan. Greed kills within me any ability to be thankful, or grateful to God for the gifts that he has given me.

Laziness leads to couch-potato-dom – we are meant for motion – Engage the world with charity
Sloth – Laziness. A kind of depression, where I give up, and stop caring for my self. Sloth is taking a laize-faire attitude towards the spiritual or practical situation of my life, and rather than engaging the world, I just try to hide in the corner and ignore it. Look at the Human Body – it is created for action and motion, not for couch-potato-dom.

Anger comes from unforgiveness – Antidote is Forgiveness
Anger / Wrath – The root of anger is unforgiveness. If I am suffering from this affliction of the soul, it is time to ask – Is there someone I need to forgive. The struggle with Injustice makes this especially difficult – and so we need to forgive, to turn justice over to God who can judge justly.

Envy is distrust of God’s generosity – Antidote is focus on your mission (Vocation) Envy – Distrust of God. Envy is really an expression that I am mad at God for the gifts that He gave another rather than myself. It is always a case of paying more attention to the other guy’s toys rather than using the gifts that He gave me. It eats away at my soul because I no longer focus on the vocation that God called me to, but rather I focus on what I don’t have…

Pride is blindness to the Truth – Antidote is Humility
Pride – Blindness – I do not see myself for who I am but rather I see things out of proportion. Either I need to get some spiritual glasses or have Jesus wash out my eyes with clay and spittle (Remember last weeks Gospel).

What is the medicine for the Deadly Sins?
The reason why Lent is like a hospital for the Soul is that we are encouraged to spend our time during Lent with Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. These are the three great cures for the Soul.

Prayer – time with the Sanctifier
Prayer increases the time I spend with God – If I want to live a holy life, If I want to live a life filled with the presence of God – who leads me to the fullness of Joy, then I need to spend time with the one who sanctifies. This means I need to work on my relationship with God.

Fasting curbs Gluttony, Lust, Sloth and Anger
Fasting – Fasting curbs the appetites of my body. If I struggle with Lust, with Gluttony, Anger or Sloth, Fasting puts me to work. It attacks the disease at its core, by reminding the flesh that it is the Spirit that leads me to eternal life.

Almsgiving curbs Envy, Pride and Greed
Almsgiving – Just as deadly as the sins of the Body, are sins of the heart. Giving money to those in need attack my pride – because I learn to see myself as God sees me – a beautiful creation of His love, created to steward the gifts that he has given me. It also attacks my greed, and my envy by focusing myself on the mission that God has called me to, in my own particular situation.

Lazarus is sick, Mary helps with prayer
In the Gospel today we see that Lazarus, like us is sick with Sin. His sister Mary acts to help him by sending word to Jesus – Lord, the one whom you love is Ill. That is us. When we see a brother or Sister struggling with Sin, then we need to pray for them, not gloat about how much better we are then they.

See the Love of Jesus – He weeps for the sick
Also notice that the one who is sick is the one who Jesus Loves, and He weeps for us, and is perturbed. See how much that Christ loves you, even though your sickness is leading you to Death.

Jesus comes to us according to His plan.
When Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick he doesn’t come immediately, but rather he comes according to Gods plan, at his time, so that God’s grace can be maximized. The lesson we take from this part of the Gospel today is that of patience, and perseverance. We need to persevere in our Lenten disciplines, trusting that God hears our prayers and will answer them in his own time, for our better good.

It’s not too late to start (or restart) lent – Jesus wants to awaken us from the death of Sin!
Jesus than says to his disciples that “He is going to awaken Lazarus” – To bring him back from the dead. This is what Christ is saying to us today. “I don’t care where you are with your Lenten resolutions, if you have been faithful throughout lent, or if you quit 3 hours into Ash Wednesday – I want to bring you back from the dead!” It is never too late to begin to repent, to change your mind, to ask Christ to reveal to you the depths of your Sin and so lead you into new life! It might be the 5th week of Lent, we might be at the threshold of Holy Week – there is still time to get to the banquet full of Joy!

Jesus is calling you from your tomb of sin!

Today Jesus is coming to the tombs that we have dug for ourselves with our sin.

He is standing outside and calling us away from the sickness that afflicts us. Jesus is calling us to witness to the Gospel this week by accepting his healing love, by hearing his tears over our illness and death and changing our minds about our sin.

When we allow Christ – who is The Way, The Truth and The Life into our lives, through conversion, we witness the power of his Cross and Resurrection to our families and friends, so that they too can come to believe and be healed!