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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Divine Mercy is God's Gift to Our Time!

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23, 2017
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today is the Second Sunday in Easter and  Divine Mercy Sunday!

Divine Mercy is God's gift to our time, declared Pope Saint John Paul II in his sermon at the canonization of Saint Faustina Kowalska. He canonised the young Polish nun in 2000. Her visions of Jesus Christ revealed to the world the boundless love and mercy of our God.  

In a world filled with suffering, violence, and confusion, Saint Pope John Paul II proclaimed that the Sunday after Easter would be the feast of Divine Mercy, therefore fulfilling one of requests of Christ made through Saint Faustina.

Saint John Paul II recognized that the choice for Divine Mercy Sunday to be celebrated on the second week of Easter was not random but instead had been a little recognised part of the Church from the beginning. 

The readings for today (John 20:19-31) -- with Thomas invited to put his hands into the side of Christ to aid his unbelief -- liturgically allow us to celebrate the mystery of God's self sacrificing love. God so loved the world, He sent His only Son. 

That Our Lord gave Saint Faustina revelations of His Mercy during the early 20th century is no coincidence. God sent his message of Divine Mercy into our world as He knew we would be entering into difficult times.

Saint Faustina lived 
during the advent of World War I, a critical time in human history. Before her death in 1938, she predicted that
St. Faustina, Secretary of
God's Divine Mercy
"there will be [another] war, a terrible, terrible war," and she asked the nuns to pray for Poland.

In her messages from Jesus, Saint Faustina seemed to indicate urgency in Our Lord’s message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. God knew that the wars and violence and dangers would continue to escalate and that the message would be needed even more in our times. It is of utmost importance that we call upon God’s mercy because the time of judgement is nearing. 

In His messages given to Saint Faustina our Lord Jesus told Faustina that “she will prepare the world for [His] final coming” (Diary 429). Our Lord Jesus said to Saint Faustina, “Speak to the world about My mercy ... It is a sign for the end times. After it will come the Day of Justice (Diary 848).” Our Lord said, “I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of sinners. But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation” (Diary 1160). He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice. (Diary 1146). This is a reference to what happens to sinners if they refuse to repent. 

In one of her visions in 1935, Saint Faustina writes: "I saw an Angel, the executor of God's wrath... about to strike the earth...I began to beg God earnestly for the world with words which I heard interiorly. As I prayed in this way, I saw the Angel's helplessness, and he could not carry out the just punishment." 

The following day an inner voice taught Saint Faustina to say the prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I would recommend all Catholics to learn and pray this prayer. As some of you know, when we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, we repeat the words, “For the sake of His sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.” 

In these words, we are asking God to intervene in our lives and in our world so that all will heed Our Lord’s call of repentance. We are begging our Lord to give us more time so that more persons will convert their lives to God before his justice descends upon the Earth.

My brothers and sisters, let us take to heart the message of Divine Mercy given to our
Fr John Paul Shea
Church through Saint Faustina. Like the message of Fatima which was also given to our Church in the early 20th century, the message of Divine Mercy calls us to recognize the seriousness of the times in which we live today and our need for repentance and conversion.

Our Lord is coming again, and He is coming soon as a just judge. We must never forget this. But He doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants to save us because He is merciful.

The message of Divine Mercy therefore is a message of urgency. We do not know when Our Lord Jesus is coming again, but it is clear that we have reached a critical phase of the end times which began with the birth of our Church 2000 years ago. In just the past century alone our world has seen more violence, more wars, and more disregard for God’s revealed truths than anytime throughout the past 2000 years! With the rapid increase of immorality in this society and world, even within our Church today we are witnessing compromises toward the truths of our faith given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday on this second week of Easter, let us understand the seriousness of our call to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and the teachings He has given to our Church. Let us call upon our Lord’s mercy for ourselves and for the world. Let us seek God’s mercy while there is still time because time is short! For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!


Sunday, April 16, 2017

He is Risen! So Shall We!

Conversations About 
the Resurrection of the Body

Riding the Matterhorn in Disneyland California
by Susan Fox

I want to live where soul meets body
And let the sun wrap its arms around me and
Bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing
And feel
Feel what it's like to be new

(Soul Meets Body sung by Death Cab for Cutie written by Benjamin Gibbard)

So I was waiting in line for a wild ride on the Matterhorn in Disneyland, California. Probably it was my third time round. 

I happened to hear a Mormon father talking to his three sons, telling them about the planets they’d rule with their wives in the life that is to come. They would get to tell everyone else on their planet what to do to live a godly life. Oh boy.

I turned around (they were behind me in line). I said, “Is God your Father?”  

“Oh yes!” he responded. “Well,” I said, “God is my Father too! And that makes us brother and sister so I will be there with you!” 

He was careful not to choke with laughter.  But I’m sure I’m the last person he expected to see on his private planet.

However, I am Catholic, and I fully expect to see him at my banquet in the Kingdom of God. I asked Our Father to invite him. But I will be dressed in a different state, wearing my
You are invited to my banquet too!
high-powered resurrected and spiritual body, having shuffled off my temporal coil.


Christ in His Resurrection showed us this future body is fully fleshed with bones and muscles, able to eat and drink. Apparently it is also capable of suddenly appearing in rooms as well! 

Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24: 36-43)
But one thing my Mormon friend didn’t understand about the afterlife was that marriage is a natural institution, not a supernatural one. No one will be begetting children in the Kingdom of Heaven. The sensual aspect of our natural bodies will not be part of the future man. Instead it will be transformed into something better. We will be like Him! 

"Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is." (1John 3:2)

That isn’t something a Mormon would comprehend. In fact, they deny that the Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Their leader, Brigham Young, said if that had occurred, their women could not be baptised by the Holy Spirit as they risked becoming pregnant. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were gods with a carnal nature when Mormonism was founded. Today they define the Spirit as spirit. But the Father and Son still  are identified as immortal beings with a carnal nature.


To the Mormon at Disneyland, Jesus would have said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matt 22:29-30) That’s what He told the
Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. They had asked Jesus about the widow married seven times without having any children. In the future life, “Whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matt 22:28)

Jesus’ response? “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Matthew 22:29-30) The widow will be living the perfect realisation of her humanity completely satisfied by her deep participation in the Trinitarian Life of God and supernatural love of neighbour, known as the communion of saints. 

In fact, Jesus said, “people at the resurrection will be like the angels in heaven.”

Note the word “like” in that quote. Jesus is not saying we will be flying around as pure spirits with no bodies. No in fact our likeness to angels will not occur through dis-incarnation, but “by another kind of spiritualisation of his (our) bodily nature, that is by another system of powers in man.” according to Pope Saint John Paul II in his classic work Theology of the Body (Section 66.5) 

Theology of the Body is a series of weekly audiences given by Pope John Paul II in the early 1980s. It is generally associated with the unity and indissolubility of marriage. But to my surprise he has a big section on the Resurrection of the Body. And using Scripture, he has nailed down what it will be like living in eternity with God.  

The pope rejects Plato’s idea that the body and soul are only temporarily linked in favour of Aristotle’s teaching that body and soul together constitute the unity and integrity  of the human being. That would seem to be borne out by Christ’s words on the Resurrection in Luke. (Theology of Body, 66.5) 

"But those who are considered worthy to share in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In fact, they can no longer die, because they are like the angels. And since they are sons of the resurrection, they are sons of God. (Luke 20:35-36)

“This statement allows us above all to deduce a spiritualisation of man according to a dimension that is different from that of earthly life,” Pope John Paul II said.  “It is obvious that we are not dealing here with a transformation of man’s nature into an angelic, that is purely spiritual nature. The context indicates clearly that in the other world man will keep his own psychosomatic (both mind and body) nature. If it were otherwise, it would be meaningless to speak about the resurrection.” (Theology of the Body, 66.5)

Then He defines resurrection:  “Restoration to the true life of human bodiliness, which was subjected to death in its temporal phase.”

Speaking again to the Sadducees, Jesus reminded them, “But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matt 22: 31-32)

The Future Life: Full of living men and women whose unique lives we are familiar on this earth. We will have living bodies completely integrated with living souls in one unity known as the human person. 

However, peaceful co-existence between body and soul  is not what we experience now. The pope reminds us of St. Paul’s quote, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind.” (Rom 7:23) In fact, doesn’t it feel like we always  start with good intentions, but quite frankly then we end up doing ill instead of good?

“Eschatological (future) man will be free from this opposition,” the pope said. Good news! Our body will return to “perfect unity and harmony with the spirit!” (67.1) Man will no longer feel at war with himself or capable of sin. In the supernatural state of life, we will have complete self-mastery of spirit over body.

Pope John Paul II noted that in this earthly life many spiritually mature individuals manage to use the energies of their spirit to master the forces of the body, but there is always the possibility of St. Paul’s opposition: “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind.”

But future man is perfectly spiritualised. The possibility of such a war within himself is “completely eliminated.” (Theology of the Body,67.2) Yahoo! The fact that humans have complete and effortless self-mastery in heaven does not mean that man is dehumanised, but in fact we have the perfect realisation of our humanity.

The spirit’s primacy will be realised. “It will be manifested in a perfect spontaneity without any opposition on the part of the body.” (Theology of the Body, 67.2)

Nevertheless we shouldn’t see this as some sort of victory of the spirit over the body, the pope cautions. “The resurrection will consist in the perfect participation of all that is bodily in man in all that is spiritual in him… and in the perfect realisation of what is personal in man.”  (Theology of the Body, 67.2)

This is no Nirvana that the pope is writing about. Our unique individual personality will be still there. In fact, the Catholic Church teaches that we are not to deny our senses, but in fact we are to work at their sanctification in this life. They’ll be with us for eternity in a resurrected form.

As my mother lay in the hospital — mere days before her death in 2001, I brought in a bunch of herbs from my garden. She was recently and suddenly struck blind, dying of Sepsis, her body swelling. But she savoured the smell of the herbs with such gusto. I have never seen another human being enjoy the sense of smell as much as she did at that moment. That is God’s plan for all of our lives, but we often wait too long to experience that sense of joy.

The next step for Mom and all of us,  who live a good life, is another kind of  divinization. 

“Participation in the inner life of God Himself, penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine, will then reach its peak, so that the life of the human spirit will reach a fullness that was absolutely inaccessible to it before,” the pope said. (Theology of the Body, 67.3)

This will be a fruit of grace, that is of God’s self-communication in His divinity — not just to man’s soul — but to “the whole of man’s psychosomatic subjectivity.” (Theology of the Body 67.3)  Now psychosomatic means both mind and body. Subjectivity  refers to the fact that not only will man experience God in his interior state, but he will also see him face to Face. 

“The divinization in the other world (indicated by Christ’s words) will bring to the human spirit such a range of experience of truth and of love that man would never have been able to reach it in earthly life.” Pope John Paul II added. (Theology of the Body, 67.4) 

Wow.

I used to visit an elderly woman in the nursing home who wept when she remembered her beautiful home before they incarcerated her in a tiny room. I used to console her by reminding her that what was ahead — the future life — would make her lovely expensive hacienda look like a trashy low-rent motel. "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard nor has it entered the mind of man what God has prepared for those who love." (1Cor 2:9)

One of the consoling aspects of this theology based on Jesus statement, “they will take neither wife nor husband,” is that we retain our male, female form in the next life. The soul forms the body. The integrated soul and body is either female or male. If we are no longer male and female in the resurrection, then why would Christ bother to tell us “they take neither wife nor husband.”

“The words, take neither wife nor husband, seem to affirm that human bodies, which are recovered and also renewed in the resurrection will preserve their specific masculine or feminine character and that the meaning of being male or female in the body will be constituted differently in the other world than it it had been “from the beginning” and then in its earthly dimension.” (Theology of the Body, 66.4) So “from the beginning” refers to the Fall of Adam and Eve. The human body was not subject to corruptibly before the Fall as it is now, and it will be spiritualised in its resurrected form. But it will still be male and female. No sex change operation in this life will change that reality.


Perhaps the most compelling and consoling
paragraphs about the future life in Theology of the Body come from a commentary on 1Corinthians 15. (Theology of the Body, 70-72)


"But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.(1Corinthians 15:35-44)
So, Paul says, there is a natural body, and there is a supernatural body. Then he draws the analogy between the first Adam and the last Adam Christ. 
“The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven...And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” (1Cor 15:47-49)
Look in the mirror. See the Face of the glorified Christ. There is your future, dear man.


St. Paul actually encountered the Person of Jesus Christ in his glorified Body on the road to Damascus. Based on that experience, he  wrote that in the resurrection, the body will
be “imperishable, glorious, full of power, spiritual.”  The historical man — namely us — is subject to the “slavery of corruption.” (Rom 8:21) “To this slavery of corruption the whole of creation is indirectly subjected because of the sin of man, who had been placed by the Creator in the midst of the visible world that he might dominate.” (Theology of the Body, 70.8)
So we read the whole of creation “waits with eager longing for the revelation of the sons of God.” Wake up. That is your bell ringing, dear baptised and sanctified human kind! “and (creation) cherishes the hope that it itself will be set free from the slavery of corruption to enter into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom 8:19-21)
Remember the Prologue of the Gospel of John defines those children as those “who did accept him.”  He gave power to them to become children of God. They believe in the “name of him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself.” (John 1:12-13) And so in our re-birth in Baptism we are born anew -- not out of human will or urge of the flesh, but of God Himself. And having been faithful to God during our lives, in our death, we are reborn into a spiritualised body full of power. 
But in our humanity today, we carry within ourselves as did Adam and Eve the “particular potentiality (capacity and readiness) for receiving all that the second Adam became, the heavenly Man, namely Christ; what He became in His Resurrection.” (Theology of the Body, 71.3)
St. Paul agrees, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of earth, we will bear the image of the heavenly man.” (1Cor 15:29)
So the pope concludes that the same humanity, which seems to be in dishonour in this life, nevertheless carries within itself the desire for glory, the tendency and capacity to become “glorious” in the image of the risen Christ (Theology of the Body, 71.3)
So, go ahead. Look in the mirror. You are weak, sinful and often sick in this life, but someday you will be riding high with the Sons of the Resurrection.

Riding with the sons of the Resurrection, the communion of saints
Standing at the coffin of my Aunt Breta, I told my little son, James, about the Resurrection. Seeing her in death, he became disturbed. “Mother, when is she going to wake up?”
From our perspective in this life, James, it seems to take awhile. 

Soul Meets Body
(sung by Death Cab for Cutie written by Benjamin Gibbard)

I want to live where soul meets body
And let the sun wrap its arms around me and
Bathe my skin in water cool and cleansing
And feel
Feel what it's like to be new
'Cause in my head there's a Greyhound station
Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations
So they may have a chance of finding a place where they're
Far more suited than here
I cannot guess what we'll discover
When we turn the dirt with our palms cupped like shovels
But I know our filthy hands can wash one another's
And not one speck will remain
I do believe it's true
That there are roads left in both of our shoes
But if the silence takes you
Then I hope it takes me too
So brown eyes I'll hold you near
'Cause you're the only song I want to hear
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere
Where soul meets body
Where soul meets body
Where soul meets body
I do believe it's true
That there are roads left in both of our shoes
But if the silence takes you
Then I hope it takes me too
So brown eyes I'll hold you near
'Cause you're the only song I want to hear
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere

Friday, April 14, 2017

By His Wounds, We are Healed

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
Good Friday, April 14, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

This is a very wounded world we live in.  No one is exempted.  This is what original sin is all about; because of our wounded nature, we keep on hurting each other, consciously or unconsciously, even though we desire to love and care for each other.

Indeed, when we reflect on the gospel text (Jn. 18:1-19:42)  we can identify with the different characters in the Passion play.  In fact, this explains why on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday, the congregation is asked to speak for those characters who denied Jesus and the crowd who called for His execution.  In so doing the Church reminds us that all of us have different roles to play in the suffering, not just of Christ but of the world. 

Let us not be na├»ve and think that we are suffering because others have done us injustice.  We have our part to play in every problem, misunderstanding, quarrel or conflict.
So today, if you feel that you are alone in your suffering, assuredly you are not.  The world suffers too.  Most of all, Jesus suffers in His humanity and His love. If you feel betrayed in a relationship -- with your spouse, your children, your close friend -- remember Jesus endured that as well.  

He was abandoned by His apostles; even Peter, James and John could not keep vigil with Him in His final moments.  But what is most heart-breaking is that one of the Twelve
betrayed Jesus and sold Him out for money!  If you were Jesus, you would have been heartbroken too.  No wounds pierce our hearts deeper than those inflicted by people we love.

Equally painful for Jesus was to know that His chief apostle, Peter, lacked the courage to acknowledge their friendship even to a maid and some servants.   That is how we feel too.  In times of trouble, our bosses do not stand up for us. In
times of failure, even our parents and loved ones condemn us.  In times of need, our friends play us out and abandon us.  Few stand up to defend us publicly, although in private they say they support us.  This is the truth.  Many lack courage to risk their lives to stand up for others even though they are right.  We all want to be accepted and to be popular.  We see
which direction the wind is blowing and accordingly, we choose what is in our best interest; not for what is right.   This was the case for Pilate as well.  He saw the devious intentions of the priests, but instead of taking a firm stand on Jesus’ innocence, he allowed the popular wish of the people to determine the fate of Jesus for fear of losing his office and position.


Then there are others who are enslaved by past hurts and resentments.  We find it difficult to forgive those who have hurt us, much less to forget the psychological pain.  Some of us carry our wounds for years.  We cannot forgive our siblings or even our parents for failing us.   Indeed, much of our pains today is due to the inability to let go of those hurts that wound us deeply.  We bear so much resentment.  But
what we see at the cross is the silence of those who had been wounded.  Jesus was silent and only uttered words of excuses and forgiveness for His enemies.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, grieved silently with Him but uttered no words of anger or hatred.  With Jesus, she would have said in her heart as well, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

Finally, some of us cannot accept our illnesses, our immobility or are still grieving over the death of a loved one.  We are angry with God that we are not able to look after ourselves.   We cannot accept that He took away our loved ones, especially if they had suffered a sudden death, such as in an accident, or even from a short illness.  Departures are always painful, as they create a vacuum in our lives, knowing that we cannot see or touch or hear them anymore.  Someone has to be blamed and we cannot understand why God is so cruel to take away someone whom we love and depend on so badly, leaving us alone.

What must we do?  How can we heal our pains?  The prophet Isaiah says, “through his wounds we are healed.”   How do the wounds of Jesus heal us?  He shared our sufferings. Not only that, but He carried our sufferings on our behalf.   
He was without sin and He suffered unjustly and innocently for our sake.  “They gave him a grave with the wicked, a tomb with the rich, though he had done no wrong and there had been no perjury in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9)

Unlike us, He was not suffering for His sins.  As Isaiah says, “And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried. But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God, and brought low. Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins.  On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through him his wounds we are healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us.”  (Isaiah 53:4-6) Jesus suffered to waken us to our sins and to God’s love and mercy.

Jesus showed us how to suffer positively.  Again, Isaiah said, “Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)  It is not enough to suffer in life like a stoic but to suffer in a 
redemptive manner, using our sufferings to transform ourselves and to inspire others.   It is how we suffer that will inspire others and give hope to them.  When we visit patients in hospitals, we see some who are full of bitterness. We leave the hospital feeling sad.  But if we meet patients who are suffering  with love and faith in God, we leave feeling hopeful and encouraged.  

Jesus is our leader in suffering and in salvation.  He perfected His love for God and for us through the sufferings He went through.  His love of God was not sheer sentimentality, but a giving of Himself and His life.  

Before His enemies, Jesus was faithful to His identity.  Twice He said to those who arrested Him, “I am He!”  He was hinting at His divinity.  Before Pilate who thought he had power over Him, He said, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given you from above; that is why the one who handed me over to you has the greatest guilt.”  

In no uncertain terms, He made clear His mission and identity.  “Yes, I am a King, I was born for this, I came into the world for this; to bear witness to my truth, and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.”  This is in direct contrast to many of us who succumb to our enemies.  Instead of being true to our faith, we give in to the pressures of society. We adopt secular values, consumerism, and anti-life opinions. 

We are called to contemplate the Crucified Christ.  In the first reading (Is. 52:13-53:12) the suffering servant will be “lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.” 

This foreshadows Jesus' death on the cross. Indeed, the sufferings of the Crucified God on the cross is something beyond human imagination; that God would die in Christ on the cross.  Truly, “His soul’s anguish over, he shall see the light and be content. By his sufferings shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself.”  When we know that God suffered, we can accept the mystery of suffering since God was not spared from suffering either. 

The image of the Crucified Christ gives us hope and courage.  Regardless of our weaknesses, we know that Christ will understand for He has been through all trials, sufferings and temptations.  “Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme High Priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin.”   So none of us should ever feel unworthy or hopeless.

We can “be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.” 

“During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard.”  With Jesus, in times of trials and even death, we too must say, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  Let us not be afraid to accept His divine will and find peace for our souls.  

Through suffering, we will also learn obedience.  Mary and John and a few women stood by Jesus at the cross. He was not alone.  And just as He sent Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus to give Him a proper burial, so too, God will send the most unlikely people to help us endure the storms of life.

HAVE A GOOD FRIDAY.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Ride to Betrayal

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.
We relive the events that brought about our redemption and salvation. We find our own dying and rising in Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection, which will end in our healing and reconciliation.

Attentive participation in the Holy Week liturgy will deepen our relationship with God, increase our faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. Today’s liturgy combines contrasting moments, one of glory, the other of suffering: the royal welcome of Jesus in Jerusalem and the drama of His trial, culminating in His crucifixion, death and burial.

In the Shakespearean classic, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare narrated the betrayal of Julius Caesar by his best friend Marcus Brutus. In that tragic play, Brutus was tricked into joining a team of conspirators who wanted to kill Julius Caesar. On the fateful day of Caesar’s assassination at the Capitol, he was stabbed in the back by his murderers, but the stab from Brutus came as a very big shock to him. He felt betrayed by a friend and was disposed to defeat. 

Shocked at the betrayal, Caesar died with the words “Et tu Brute?” (and you Brutus?). You may have had similar
personal experiences of betrayal by a trusted friend. 

These are usually very painful and traumatic experiences. In the light of our personal experiences of betrayal by a trusted friend, we can better understand the agony Christ went through in today’s passion narrative (Mt. 26:14-66 or 27:11-54). Judas, one of the closest friends of Jesus conspired with the chief priests to hand Jesus over to them at the cost of thirty pieces of silver. Perhaps, he thought Jesus would miraculously escape as he had always done, but the whole drama became clear to him only when Jesus was taken away to be crucified. His inordinate love for money led him to betray his master.

Most of us may have condemned Judas for betraying Jesus, but when we closely examine our lives, we find traces of Judas in us. When we develop inordinate love for money, making us indifferent, negligent or ready to kill someone

(including procuring an abortion), steal and lie just to fill our pockets, we are no better than Judas. Some of us in a bid to acquire wealth, power or fame betray people, harass others, abuse privileges, turn the truth upside down and sell expired and substandard goods including drugs. Maybe we just cut corners on our expenses and this results in a loved one's harm.

These actions are no less than the betrayal of Judas. Our human nature tempts us to indulge in any of these activities especially when we suffer lack. In situations like this, we have to obey the will of God which invites us to do only what is good and avoid what is evil. Like Judas, Jesus has also called us to be his special friends. We sit round his table and dine with him each time we participate in the Eucharistic celebration. Therefore, let us try not to betray Him for he has called us to strive towards perfection as is Our Heavenly Father.

On another note, while we recognize that many of us are like Judas, betraying Christ through their actions, we cannot fail to also recognize the fact that most of us are also suffering betrayal from our friends. Many have been betrayed by their

spouses, lovers, friends, relatives and those dear to them. Some have had to suffer betrayal on account of their openness or charity or trust reposed on people. 

Today’s first reading (Is. 50:4-7) is a message of hope for you. Do not feel disappointed in God for allowing you to pass through such terrible experiences. St. Peter advises us to rejoice when we share in Christ’s suffering because we shall shout for joy when his glory is revealed (cf. 1 Pet 4:13). 

Though we may suffer when we are determined to do good and avoid evil, the first reading also assures us that in the end, we shall not be put to shame. Christ -- though He was betrayed and killed -- was not put to shame because God raised him on the third day. Perhaps, your day of resurrection is coming soon; the day God will put an end to your sufferings and shame your enemies. Do not lose hope but remain steadfast in faith and fervent in prayer.

We need to answer five questions today: 1) Does Jesus weep over my sinful soul as He wept over Jerusalem at the beginning of His Palm Sunday procession? 2) Am I a barren fig tree? God expects me to produce fruits of holiness, purity, justice, humility, obedience, charity, and forgiveness. Am I a barren fig tree? Or worse, do I continue to produce bitter fruits of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy and selfishness? 3) Will Jesus need to cleanse my heart with his whip? Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of the Holy Spirit in me by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; neither does He approve of my business mentality or calculation of loss and gain in my relationship with God, my Heavenly Father. 4)Do I welcome Jesus into my heart? Am I ready to surrender my life to him during this Holy Week and welcome Him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior? Let the palms/branches remind us that Christ is our King and the true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in life. 5) Are we like the humble donkey that carried Jesus, bringing Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service to our families, places of work and communities by the way we live our lives?

Are you a donkey with a Christian name or one carrying

Christ? An interesting old fable tells of the colt that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday. The colt thought that the reception was organized to honor him. “I am a unique donkey!” this excited animal might have thought. When he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone the next day and be honored again, his mother said, “No, you are nothing without Him who was riding you." Five days later, the colt saw a huge crowd of people in the street. It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary. The colt could not resist the temptation of another royal reception. Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street, but he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him. Thus, the colt finally learned the lesson that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus to ride on him. As we enter Holy Week, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives to see whether we carry Jesus within us and bear witness to Him through our living or whether we are Christians in name only.

Beloved friends, today, the Church encourages us to look inwards and see how much of Judas resides there. Like Judas, is there anything we value more than our union with

Christ? Like the crowd, are we always sincere in our chants of “alleluia”? Do we truly recognize Christ as the Son of David especially when there are forces pushing us to deny Him? Like Peter, have we denied Jesus when we should have proclaimed Him? If we find ourselves wanting, let us not be discouraged because it is for our sake that Christ died.

Like Peter, let us weep sorrowfully for our sins and repent of them. Therefore, as we begin the Holy Week, let us strive to join in the activities and also try to reconcile our broken relationship with God. It's a good time to go to confession, if you haven't already. 

Pope Francis going to confession 
The second reading (Phil. 2:6-11) presents Christ to us as an epitome of humility and obedience. He was humble and obedient even unto death. Let us try to imitate him and so, instead of betraying Jesus, let us obey and solidify our friendship with Him. Happy Sunday. God loves you.

Ad Maiorum Dei Glorium