When God’s Love Hurts.

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Fulton, before the accident.

When God’s Love Hurts – By Cassandra Poppe

“On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children, only the first step is painful. Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses. . . . We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken; for,whatever we do, the cross holds us tight — we cannot escape from it. What, then, have we to lose? Why not love our crosses and make use of them to take us to Heaven? But, on the contrary, most men turn their backs upon crosses, and fly before them. The more they run, the more the cross pursues them, the more it strikes and crushes them with burdens. . . . If you were wise, you would go to meet it like Saint Andrew, who said, when he saw the cross prepared for him and raised up into the air, “Hail O good cross! O admirable cross! O desirable cross! receive me into thine arms, withdraw me from among men, and restore me to my Master, who redeemed me through thee. “ — St John Vianney

Crosses. Suffering. The human race has been plagued with hardship ever since that fateful day in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve desired more than the goodness God had already given them. And from that point on, most viewed suffering as a punishment from God – until that first Good Friday when Our Lord transformed punishment into a blessing. It seems natural for us to try to alleviate hardships when they come. A painkiller, a massage, an adjustment to the thermostat. How many little things do we do each day, each hour, to tweak the comfort level around ourselves? As these first 2 paragraphs were written, I have already adjusted my posture, scratched an itch and taken a sip of my drink. All actions taken almost without thinking and all done to increase my comfort.

But what happens when our discomfort becomes full blown suffering? Suddenly our pleasure and comfort seeking instincts are challenged and no matter what remedies we try, our suffering is not eased. Cancer. The loss of a loved one. Crippling persecution. An accident. These crosses do not refine and perfect our souls in little ways, as the everyday annoyances in life can. No. These crosses are life changing, redirecting our souls directly towards Calvary, to bring about in us a profoundly holy transformation. But only if we are able to see the love that is hidden within the cross.

While we may not cheerfully embrace our crosses, our Catholic faith teaches us of the immense value in suffering. We have Crucifixes to remind us of Our Lord’s suffering and sacrifice, inspiring us to mortify ourselves for love of Him. We understand that suffering is a part of life and a tool we must use well for the sanctification of our soul. Others avoid suffering, seeing it as either a punishment or from Satan.

And while this view may be correct in certain circumstances, we must always remember that all suffering is allowed by Our Lord. If He allows it to happen, we must treat it as an invaluable opportunity to grow in holiness, and give glory to God. No matter what. I do not say this lightly, as it is indeed both a joy and a burden to be trusted by Our Lord. He requires much of those He loves – sometimes more than we think we can handle. But we may rest in the fact that as long as we remain firmly at His side and under the loving watch of Our Lady, all things are possible.

When Our Lord redirected our lives that fateful January morning, I felt it more than I heard it. That deep percussion-like boom one hears when a firework is sent skyward, before it explodes. This was immediately followed by my husband’s unintelligible cry. Flying to the kitchen window, I saw what will haunt me forever. My four year old little boy was slowly moving away from the burn barrel, completely engulfed in flames from his waist to his head. His hands were clenched at his sides, moving them up towards his face in slow motion, pieces of his fleece jacket peeling away and falling behind him.

What followed could rival the goriest scenes in a horror movie. Grey, cadaverous forehead. Deformed ears. Skin still bubbling from the heat trapped within. Long strands of flesh hanging from little hands and arms like a partially unwrapped mummy rising from its tomb. Shrieks of pain. Tears of terror. As my son was laid at my feet on the kitchen floor, I collapsed before him, unable to do anything for him before the ambulance arrived. And so I prayed. The two prayers that came to me were, “Mother of God, be with us,” and “Thy will be done.” And looking back, I understand why.

From that moment on, Our Sorrowful Mother took me as her child, showing me that sometime God’s love looks very ugly on the surface. I had gotten a taste of this truth before, when my husband and I struggled to make our marriage work, and again when I cared for my father in his home as he died of cancer. But this by far was the most crippling form of suffering I could have endured. I wanted to take on Fulton’s burns as my own. “Lord, let me suffer these pains for You!” I prayed. “He is too little!” But I see now how that would have been the easy route for me. I already understood redemptive suffering, binding physical pains to the wounds of Our Lord on the Cross as an offering of love. But I could not do that for my son. This emotional anguish was new – and so instead of suffering with Our Lord, I suffered at the foot of Fulton’s cross with Our Lady. If she saw the love hidden within the Our Lord’s Cross, surely I could find the love in Fulton’s suffering. And that is what I needed to find. Otherwise, his suffering made no sense. I did not want to be a bystander on Calvary, disgusted by the scene before me, or to be one to rage against God amid the pain.

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I have known far too many bitter souls in my life who, do not take the time to examine their crosses and embrace them for the gift they are. Help me find the gifts, Sweet Mary. Help me find the love! And what love there was! Just as word spread of Christ’s suffering and brought about conversions, so too did Fulton’s suffering inspire others to the faith. I received letters from people who have returning to a life of prayer because of Fulton’s powerful story. Some grasped for the first time what it means to ‘offer it up’ and embraced their own crosses with a new found love for God. They saw through Fulton’s and my experience, that love cannot be complete without some form of willing suffering or sacrifice, choosing to participate in God’s plan through the cross laid upon their shoulders, even when they could not yet see the love.

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Truly, His call to take up our crosses and follow Him was a call to suffer for Him that others may be saved. And for the first time I understood the words of St. Paul when he said, “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (Col. 1:24) when hearts previously unmoved by Christ’s Passion were moved by the sufferings of a little boy. Praise God!

Two years after the accident, the love continues to reveal itself. Patients in the hospital are learning Fulton’s ‘brave breath’ techniques to help them get through the pain. His burn cards, a social reintegration solution we invented together, have given confidence to other burn patients who are struggling with re-entering society. And his mere presence in restaurants or the mall have brought people to tears, once they talk to him and see how strong he is. He has brought hope and healing to adults who suffered various crosses in silence, inspired for the first time to face their own past hurts. His scars show them their own woundedness, and come to realize their scars are proof of their strength, not their weakness.

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Fulton, through the cross he carries and the scars he bears, has touched far more souls than he ever could have before the accident. And only in Eternity will we know how many hearts he helped return to the Church and into the loving arms of Our Father. Please Lord, may I be numbered among them, for I have learned so much.

My trials have taught me that every crisis forces one to redirect his life. We are handed a cross, designed especially for us, and asked to choose. We cannot choose whether we will take the cross. No. The cross is ours to bear no matter what. But we can freely choose how we respond to it.

Do we accept that cross and prayerfully carry it to its completion? Do we give hope to others along the way? Or do we curse our cross as it grows in weight and model for others how to stumble and rage against the One who gifted us?

I have tried both responses to the carefully chosen crosses Our Lord has sent me in my life. I can assure you that while cursing those things in our lives that cause us to suffer may feel more natural, embracing our suffering is by far the easier response, for it is the only response that coincides with God’s will.

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My prayer for you this Holy Week is that you open your heart to the cross God has given you and cherish it as a priceless gift. Just as Christ’s Passion draws hearts to love Him more, may you draw others closer to Our Lord through your suffering. Praise His name through your pain. May God be glorified through you!

“Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. And Jesus hearing it, said to them: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” John 11:3-4

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Fulton’s next big surgery is coming up on April 14th 2015. Please pray for Fulton! Come and see his progress on his Facebook page ‘Pray For Fulton’

Cassandra Poppe’s blog is Let us kneel

From Gay Pride to True Humility: Joe’s amazing conversion story.

Ash Wednesday marks four years since I rejected the “gay lifestyle” and came back to the Catholic Church. I didn’t have a singular moment of conversion like St. Paul. Rather, it was a slow drip, a series of gradual, often hesitant pivots towards the Church.

The first pivot came when Saint John Paul II died.

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Pope John Paul II had been the only pope I’d ever known up to that time. My childhood parish had a painting of him on the altar next to the tabernacle. I’m from Chicago, so naturally I have Polish ancestry, and a Polish pope was a point of pride when other kids called me a dumb Polak or a Commie. I was a toddler when Pope John Paul II was elected, so I had never experienced a conclave before. A German? They’re calling him “God’s Rottweiler” and he was in the Hitler Youth?

Despite my secular, sinful life, I’d always had a soft spot and sympathy for Holy Mother Church, even during the explosion of the priest sex abuse scandal. I was willing to give Benedict XVI the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to know more about him. Some of the news coverage cited his pre-conclave homily as sealing the deal for the cardinal electors. Then Cardinal Ratzinger declared, “We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything for certain and which has as its highest goals one’s own ego and one’s own desires.” That hit me right between the eyes. So I started, occasionally, visiting Catholic websites, learning more about what this “relativism” is. There are some incredible resources out there.

It’s unclear how much of it was sentimentalism and how much was the pursuit of truth. I knew in my heart that my way of living was wrong. But I didn’t change my life. I was Catholic in name only. I hadn’t attended mass in years, despite a parish a block away from my apartment. The weekend gay bar hopping, binge drinking, pornography consumption, and casual hook-ups went on and on. I was young and “you only live once.” Nevertheless, a seed was planted.

The second pivot came when I found an old prayer book.

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An elderly relative had died, and I was helping family clean out their house. I found a copy of “My Prayer Book” by Father F. X. Lasance in a drawer and snuck it into my backpack. For whatever reason, I was too embarrassed to tell anyone I wanted it, or ask if I could take it. Surely they’d have said yes. The book was at least a half-century old and barely used. Most of the pages stuck together. Over the course of several months, I read it cover to cover. It was astounding.

Immersed in that culture that “has as its highest goals one’s own ego and one’s own desires,” in that book I encountered beautiful reflections on self-denial, on forgiveness, even “The Blessing of Pain and Grief.” It catechized me in a way that 12 years of Catholic schools and an ostensibly Catholic family failed to do. A few years later when I lost it, I was able to order a replacement online from Fraternity Publications. I highly recommend it.

The third pivot came after overhearing a conversation at work about the Real Presence.

The Priest says: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

I’m not sure how they happened onto the topic, but the office secretary was talking to another employee about Roman Catholics, and she said, “We believe that the Eucharist is the body of Christ.” 

“We do?” I thought? Like, THE body of Christ? Huh? No, it’s just a symbol. What was she talking about? I’d never heard that before, and I’m Catholic. Whatever.

Some online research confirmed what she said. It felt like a punch in the stomach. Again, after 12 years of Catholic schools and Catholic parents I did not even know such a fundamental doctrine of the faith? How was that possible? Had I ever received worthily, validly? If one needs to be in a state of grace to approach for communion, why did everybody go up? Why didn’t my mother go to confession? How come she’d never encouraged us kids to regularly confess? The more I read about the Real Presence, the more ashamed I felt, even betrayed.

The fourth pivot came after reading an article on “the Latin Mass” on the front page of the Chicago Tribune.

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The article preceded Pope Benedict’s moto proprio Summorum Pontificum. Several Chicago parishes offered the mass. “Fans” quoted in the article gushed over how transcendent the Latin Mass was, how it was so beautiful they wanted to cry. I’d always enjoyed history, and I knew this was the mass my parents grew up with. So one Sunday, I visited one of the parishes.

I expected to witness the mass I grew up with, only in a different language, with nice(r) music, and with the priest facing the other way. What I encountered was baffling and frustrating. I had no idea what was going on. For long periods, nothing happened. The priest just stood there, facing the tabernacle. He wasn’t talking at all, much less in Latin, from what I could tell. But a realization hit me, seeing the priest there before the tabernacle: This is what mass is all about: the Eucharist!

The night and day difference between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form sent me back to the Internet. I found some podcasts on iTunes by Dr. James Dobbins that dove into the history of the Extraordinary Form, about how much traces back to the Temple in Jerusalem, the symbolism of ad orientum, and so on. It was like finding buried treasure. I returned to that parish several times, window shopping as it were.

The fifth pivot came when someone asked me to be their child’s godfather.

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For one thing, I never expected that parent to ask me. We weren’t particularly close. For another, I knew this was a serious, sacred obligation I was entering into. It wasn’t merely an honorific title. For the first time in 15, maybe 20 years, I went to confession.

The Lord blessed me with a gentle and patient priest behind the confessional screen. He counselled me that my same sex attraction was, alas, a heavy cross to bear. But he didn’t make me feel dirty, or like a pervert. After he lead me through making an act of contrition, I left the confessional absolved, attended the holy sacrifice of the mass, and approached the communion rail in a state of grace for the first time since I was a child. I slid back into my sinful ways pretty quickly. But I’d poke my head out of the sewer now and then, to listen to Father John Corapi (good preacher, pray for him, sad situation) on Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio station in Chicago, or to attend Holy Week services.

Finally, two years after my God-child’s baptism, I found myself waking up Sunday mornings with my conscience telling me, “You should go to mass.” I’d trek to the “Latin Rite” church and sit in a pew near the back, watching the priest from afar, knowing more now about what was going on. My head knew what was true, but my heart was lukewarm. Sin continued.

The final pivot came came that Lent.

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My conscience had been gnawing at me. “You’re a hypocrite. You can’t call yourself Catholic but live this way.” So I challenged myself: Lent is only about 40 days, right? Six weeks? This year’s Lent, let’s try to do everything the Church teaches, especially as it pertains to purity. No more porn. No more hours wasted on gay hook-up websites. No more lusting. Complete celibacy and chastity. Mass every Sunday. Regular confession.

I did it.

The first two weeks were rough, don’t get me wrong. Whether it was through grace, or the intercession of Our Lady, the saints, somehow I did it.

What’s more, I liked it! It was liberating. I was free of the weight, the rules, the oppressive expectations that the gay lifestyle places on you. Style your hair a certain way. Dress a certain way. Decorate your home a certain way. Think a certain way. Listen to certain music, watch certain television shows. Conform.

My friends’ first hint that I’d “changed” came from seeing my “likes” of Catholic posts on Facebook and from my decision to sit out the gay pride parade despite living so close to the parade route. My social circle has shrunk considerably. My best friend cut me off after I declined to attend his “wedding.” Other friends accuse me of being a “self-loathing homosexual.” Another friend, who I’m still close to, has told me to my face, with all sincerity, that he is worried about my mental health.

Ultimately though, this is not about me being happy or freed or spiritually fed/fulfilled/whatever you want to call it. My conversion was about understanding my role vis-a-vis God, that I was made to know, love, and serve Him in this life –not myself or my ego or its desires– and be happy with Him in the next.

I cannot quite explain why I so readily accept the Church’s teachings on same-sex attraction. It’s all perfectly logical and rationale to me. I’d lived that lifestyle and knew how ugly it was, what a lie it was. If I wanted to follow Christ, I would have to take up a cross. There was no “conversion” in that regard.

In a culture that says it’s all about Me, I realized that no, it’s not, and humility and sacrifice must be part and parcel of my life from now on. He must increase, I must decrease. Perhaps that’s why the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite played such a vital role in my conversion and continued efforts to life out the Faith. The Extraordinary Form is not about me. On that account, one might argue, its silence is deafening. I would not have reverted back to the faith without the Extraordinary Form. It has helped me strengthen my faith, grow in charity, battle my pride, and strive for purity in a way the Ordinary Form, as commonly offered, could not.

I’ve remained celibate since that Ash Wednesday in 2011. I’ve struggled with impure thoughts and actions, but am light years from who I used to be. With frequently confession and the graces flowing from that sacrament and the sacrament of the Eucharist, and His most merciful Sacred Heart, I soldier on in the Church Militant. Oh yeah, I think Our Lady’s on my side too!

Since I was invited to write this story for a family oriented blog, my advice to Catholic parents would be this: Teach your children obedience. Teach them obedience to you as mothers and fathers, and obedience to God and the Church. Model that obedience to them. It will require struggle, humility, and sacrifice, potentially the ultimate sacrifice. Never forget that your role isn’t to be their friend, or to give them the happy or comfortable childhood you never had. Your role is to get them to heaven. Trust in Jesus.

May God bless us all this Lent.

Joe.

Station 4 – Jesus meets His Mother.

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The 4th Station – Jesus Meets His Mother.

Jesus had been abandoned by his followers and denied by Peter. He was alone even as the crowds milled around him in the crowded streets. In the midst of that searing loneliness Jesus met His mother. How deeply Mary felt the pain of her son’s journey to Calvary. How she suffered to see Jesus abused and on his way to death. She was powerless to change the course of events, she could only be there. There was only that moment of seeing one another, of deep recognition, of shared faith that never wavered even in this absolute darkness. Mary’s presence was all she could give to her suffering Son. 

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Fr. Sam Explains…

The fourth station of the cross has to be one of the most moving encounters we have in our possession as Church. In it we see the whole summit of Our Salvation. Mary our Beloved Mother encounters her son on the tragic path towards his death. No mention of this is in scripture. Why? Do you think any words could express this encounter? Do you believe they even exchanged words? What could be said?

Mary and Jesus stand united under the tree of the Cross, both of them perfectly fulfilling the will of God. They are the perfect contrast to Adam and Eve who chose to disobey God under the tree of knowledge;

“In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.” – (Romans 5:18-19)

The loving gaze between Mary and Jesus spans the whole of Salvation. Mary gazes with agonizing love into her sons eyes as her heart wrenches, ‘Behold Mother, I make all things new’. From this tree comes life through death, gone is death from life.’ 

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A Family Perspective…

A major turning point in my own conversion was the first time I watched ‘The Passion of the Christ’ film. The bit that really got me was when Jesus met his mother on the road to Calvary. Mary is standing in a side street almost paralysed by grief, watching Jesus pass by. It is as if she is hesitating to go to Him because the reality of what is happening is too awful. Then suddenly He falls under the weight of the cross.

Mary has a flashback of when Jesus was a toddler and a time He fell and hurt Himself: she of course drops what she was doing immediately and runs to comfort her little boy telling Him “I am here”.

As soon as she has this memory, she forgets any sort of horror or fear of the crucifixion taking place and immediately runs to her Son. All she sees is her Son, her beautiful Son and she screams out to Him “I am here!” because that is all she can do.

At the time my own son was 2 years old and I related immediately to Mary as a parent. To imagine anything like this happening to my own son was too much to bear. I suddenly understood her helplessness, her grief and the haunting words spoken to her by Simeon 33 years previously “…and a sword shall pierce your own soul too…” (Luke 2:35)

When I viewed the Stations of the Cross through Mary’s eyes I began to see it from a new perspective – unconditional love of a parent. I asked myself – “What was Mary feeling? What if this was my child?” It brings home the fact of Jesus’ total humanity, as well as His divinity.

If you have not yet had the chance to visit your church and walk around the Stations of the Cross, please try to do so. I would also very much recommend watching ‘The Passion of the Christ’ – but be advised, it is the most moving, realistic depiction of the crucifixion I have ever seen and certainly not for kids. It is available on YouTube.

Thought for the week…  

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” – Mother Teresa

 
 
 

Dear Jesus…

Help me walk along side my loved ones when they suffer.Help me be able to say “I am here” just like your Mother did.

Thank You, I love You Jesus. Amen.

 

 

Ash Wednesday and Lent

“Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return”.

What is Lent and Ash Wednesday?

Lent is the Holy season in which we prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It lasts for approximately 40 days. We prepare with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is also a time to remember our Baptismal promises and for repentance. Basically, Lent is a time for “spring cleaning” our lives while giving thanks to God and strengthening our relationship with Him.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Although not a Holy Day of Obligation, Catholics go to church to receive a sign of the cross on their foreheads from ashes (ashes from the blessed palms used on Palm Sunday the previous year). This mark is a reminder of our mortality and a call for repentance. The priest blesses the ashes and says, “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return”.

Fr. Sam Explains…

If there is ever a day throughout the year where you can spot Catholics at a glance, Ash Wednesday is it. It is the only time of the year whereby Catholics literally wear their faith on their foreheads. The ashes themselves are made from burnt palms which were used in the previous years ‘Palm Sunday’ services. This instantly reminds us, that all earthly glory, even that given to Christ himself on earth, fades away. It reminds us of the fragility and mortality of our earthly life and our need to be redeemed by our heavenly Father. Our bodies then must fall temporarily into dust, like all things. But this should serve to challenge us in our everlasting accomplishments: Am I focusing all my time and energy on earthly things that are passing away? Or on heavenly things that will remain forever? The ashes we receive then shouldn’t be a gloomy reminder of death, but the glorious promise of eternal life’. 

A Family Perspective…

‘Giving something up’ for lent is a pretty useless exercise if you don’t know why you are doing it. Fasting is not a body detox, a way of losing weight or an opportunity to see how far we can push ourselves. It’s not even really worth anything as a discipline exercise. In fact fasting is ONLY worth anything at all if used in conjunction with prayer. Then it becomes an incredibly powerful spiritual tool.  

When we pray we begin to understand that our fasting sacrifice is actually all about love. It helps us understand that love and sacrifice are actually inseparable. We can then relate this to the sacrifice Jesus made for each one of us on the cross.  When we feel the pinch of our little sacrifices during Lent, we also begin to experience something else – gratitude. Thank you Jesus, for sacrificing everything, for me.

Lent is a time when family prayer is essential.  We are truly preparing as a family for Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. With children it is best to keep prayer time short and to the point and above all – regular. Meal times are a good time to pray with kids: ‘Dear Jesus, thank you for giving your life for us on the cross. Amen.’ Short and sweet and to the point. Along with this prayer you could also invite your children to give up something small at the dinner table ie. ketchup, dessert, or water instead of juice (it is much better for kids to fast like this as a daily exercise rather than try to give one thing up for 6 weeks and then fail!) Then the money saved can be given to the poor.

Thought for the week…

FASTING IS USELESS WITHOUT PRAYER.

Dear Jesus…

Help me learn that love and sacrifice are inseparable. Help me understand your sacrifice on the cross and help me understand how much you love me.

Thank You, I love You Jesus. Amen.

Download this newsletter to use in your school or parish: Ash Wednesday and Lent.doc Ash Wednesday and Lent.pdf

Happy 1st Birthday Faith in our Families!

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Fouth Sunday of Easter – Year C

“… My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me....”

Gospel: John 10:27-30

27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

Gospel Summary

Jesus speaks with absolute certainty of His complete authority alongside His Father, and of assured eternal life for his followers. He explains that nothing can ever change this and that by saying that He and His Father are one, He once again reveals Himself as the messiah.

Relating the Gospel to our lives today.

This week’s very short Gospel is all about certainty. The first thing that comes to my mind is the Glory Be prayer:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

This prayer, like this week’s Gospel, speaks to us of Gods ultimate authority. He is the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end. He is in charge at all times and nothing happens unless He permits it.

This is no easy concept to grasp when faced with the reality of injustice and suffering. Take the recent Boston bombings for example – God in His ultimate authority allowed that to happen – but why? Isn’t He supposed to be a loving God?

Isn’t it funny how we never ask God “Why?” when he sends us blessings – we reserve “why?” only for when he sends us suffering. My own children are exactly the same. I never hear a peep out of them when it is time for ice-cream or treats, but when faced with the injustice and suffering of having to tidy their room or do their homework the wailing and gnashing of teeth never cease!

This week’s Gospel also speaks to us of hope and the assurance of eternal life. Is it possible that, like little children, when faced with the question of injustice and suffering we are incredibly short focused?

This life is only temporary. Our suffering is only temporary. And the injustice we have to face is only temporary.

We can understand all three of these situations as we look at Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Through His death and resurrection Jesus teaches us that death is not the end. There is a life after this one that is happy, free from suffering and injustice, and is everlasting.

But through His death, He also assures us that in this life there certainly will be suffering and injustice. Even the son of God was not spared suffering and injustice.

Jesus did not come to take away our suffering. He came to show us that suffering has meaning and purpose. Whether we like it or not, our suffering in this life is part of Gods ultimate plan.

  • This life is only temporary.
  • Jesus has given us eternal life.
  • Ultimately, God is always in control.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

 

Easter Sunday – Year C

Gospel: John 20: 1-19

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Gospel Summary:

On Friday afternoon when Jesus died, the women had not been able to finish the customary preparation for burial. The Sabbath began at sundown on Friday, so Mary of Magdala hurried to the tomb Sunday morning to complete her task. She found the tomb empty. Certain that Jesus’ body had been stolen, she ran back to get the other disciples. Peter and the other disciple also found an empty tomb but with Jesus’ clothing rolled neatly and placed where his body had been. The disciples still didn’t understand about the resurrection and Mary wept. As she cried, two angels appeared asking why she was crying. She then saw a gardener and asked him where the body might be. When he called her by name, Mary immediately recognized Jesus.

Applying the Gospel to our lives today:

HAPPY EASTER! This is the most important feast of the Christian calendar – and the one on which the whole Christian faith rests. St. Paul puts this perfectly when he tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:

“…And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…”

The resurrection IS Christianity. Other religions have some great moral values and inspired teachings, but none of them have a claim anywhere near to the resurrection. Science has given us awesome advances and wonderful cures, but it has yet to raise anyone from the dead. In fact I struggle to think of a single claim throughout history more radical and more outrageous than that of the resurrection! Even some Christians seem to forget the radical outrageousness of the resurrection, preferring to focus on easier things like youth club pool tables and cake sales for Africa. But here it is – there is no escaping it – we have a God who lowered Himself to take on human form and then DIED FOR US to take away our sin, and then ROSE FROM THE DEAD so that we may be ASSURED of our future destiny –  eternal life with Him. Our God has gone to a lot of trouble to let us know how much He values and loves each one of us!

When we have our dark moments, our lack of faith, our moments of weakness, let us meditate on the resurrection for a few moments and apply it to our situation:

“C’mon! if He rose from the dead He can surely fix my marriage!”

“If He rose from the dead He will lead me out of my impossible debt.”

“If He can beat death, He can show me how to beat my addiction.”

“His resurrection has assured us of life after death. Now I can rest easy knowing that one day I WILL see my deceased loved ones again.”

The resurrection IS Christianity. Lets spend a few moments to meditate on how joyful that is! – and then reflect that joy to those around us!

The strife is over, the battle done,
The victory of life is won,
The sung of triumph has begun: Alleluia! Alleluia!

HAPPY EASTER!

Passion Sunday – Year C

“Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Gospel: Luke 22: 14–71, 23: 1-56,

1 Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3 Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5 But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” 6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9 He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12 That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” 17 18 Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19 (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.”

23 But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

26 As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28 But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us’; and to the hills, “Cover us.’ 31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Gospel Summary

The chief priests and the scribes, unable to sentence Jesus to death them-selves, handed Him over to the Romans. Pilate could not find Jesus guilty of any crime and so to appease the angry crowd, he had Him flogged. But the worked-up crowd continued to shout for Jesus to be crucified. Eventually Pilate gave in – even though he knew he was condemning an innocent man to death.

Jesus was led away and given His cross to carry. When it became too much, the soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry the cross. Then they crucified Him. He was stripped, mocked and brutally murdered. And all the time He continued to beg His Father to forgive the people doing it to Him. He was recognised as innocent by the criminal hanging next to Him and by the Roman Soldier at the foot of the cross.

Then the sky grew dark, and at 3 o’clock Jesus shouted “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Then Jesus died on the cross.

Relating the Gospel to our lives today.

If you have not yet had the chance to visit your church and walk around the Stations of the Cross, please try to do so. I would also very much recommend watching ‘The Passion of the Christ’ – but be advised, it is the most moving, realistic depiction of the crucifixion I have ever seen and certainly not for kids. I saw it first in my early twenties and it had a major impact on me. It is available on You Tube.

Holy Week is such a mixture of emotions – from the high of Jesus’ entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to the washing of the disciple’s feet and the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, to the agony in the garden and finally Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, and then the excitement and joy of the Resurrection. Quite frankly it is emotionally exhausting!

But don’t be afraid of this emotion. We have Mother Mary to guide us through this next week and show us what it truly means to love Jesus.

It is when we view the events of Holy Week through the eyes of His Mother that we can begin to understand that it is all about love. We have a God that loves us so much that He would rather send His only Son to die for our sins, rather than risk spending eternity without any one of us. Through Jesus’ crucifixion we are saved. Through His glorious Resurrection we are assured of eternal life! Thank You Jesus! Thank You for doing for me what I could not do for myself! Thank You for loving me so much!

  • Jesus died on the cross for me.
  • He has taken away my sins.
  • Through His resurrection, I am assured of eternal life.

Dear Jesus,

Thank You for dying on the cross for me. Thank You for taking away my sins. Thank You for doing the work I am not able to do for myself. Thank You for assuring me of eternal life through your Resurrection. You are the Son of God, You are the Light of the world, You are the Way the Truth and the Life.

I Love You Jesus, Amen.