Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 30, 2017: 3rd Sunday of Easter

April 30, 2017: 3rd Sunday of Easter

"Stay with us. It is nearly evening the day is practically over." Luke 24:29

The Jewish people of Jesus' time measured their days not from morning to night but from evening to evening. Thus, Jesus began the day of His death with the Last Supper, the first Mass, and He ended the day of His resurrection with the second Mass. After a Liturgy of the Word (lasting for the time it takes to walk about seven miles), Jesus "took bread, pronounced the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him" (Lk 24:30-31).

The early Church realized that Jesus' timing of the first two Masses (Eucharists) was very significant. Led by the Spirit (Jn 16:13), they devoted themselves to the breaking of the bread, that is, the Mass (Acts 2:42). Wherever the Church has emphasized devotion to the Mass throughout its history, it has seen the love, power, and glory of God.

Therefore, let us fully enter into the Sunday celebration of the Mass. May it be the center of our Sunday and of our life. Let us pray the Mass daily or as often as possible. Let us visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently. A life eucharistically centered is a life centered on the crucified and risen Christ.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

April 23, 2017: Divine Mercy Sunday A

April 23, 2017: Divine Mercy Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily

Nearby the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland, is the St. John Paul II Church and Conference Center.  One of the remarkable items on display within the Church is the white cassock Pope John Paul II wore on that fateful day of May 13, 1981, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, when a gunman named Ali Agca shot him four times. All four bullets hit the Pope. From the blood stains on the cassock, one can tell that John Paul II bled heavily. Although Ali Agca aimed at close range, somehow the bullets missed lethal targets, one grazing the pope’s right elbow, and another deflecting off his left index finger before passing through his abdomen, a fraction of an inch from a major artery. During his recuperation, John Paul II said, “It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path.” After recuperation, John Paul II visited his assassin in prison to offer him pardon and reconciliation. As John Paul II sat at the side of his assassin, Ali Agca expressed fears that Our Lady of Fatima might come after him next. He kept asking the pope, “Why aren’t you dead.” The Pope stated the contrary, that he came to forgive and not to harm. Ali Agca did not ask for forgiveness; nevertheless, John Paul II took the hand of the gunman and showed the world that a Christian must forgive his enemies, even when they do not want forgiveness.

For Ali Agca to see the person whom he believed he had killed was a fearful moment, as if seeing a ghost. It makes me wonder how the disciples in the Upper Room felt when the Risen Lord appeared to them? We are told that on the eighth day after Jesus’ death, the disciples gathered in the Upper Room behind locked doors in fear of persecution. John, who was in the Upper Room with the other disciples, told us that Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you!" and he showed them his hands and his side; he showed them his wounds. The disciples realized that it was not an apparition: it was truly him, the Lord.

Jesus invites us, the modern-day disciples, to behold these wounds, to touch them as Thomas did, to heal our lack of belief. Above all, he invites us to enter into the mystery of these wounds, which is the mystery of his merciful love. In particular, Jesus desires us to meditate upon the wound in his heart, how it is the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity. Jesus told St. Faustina, “I desire that you know more profoundly the love that burns in My Heart for souls, and you will understand this when you meditate upon My Passion. Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion. This is the prayer:“O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.” (Diary 186, 187)

Jesus desires us to move from doubt to trust in him. Jesus did so with Thomas as he invited Thomas to put his finger into his pierced side. Today, through the image and prayer of Divine Mercy, Jesus desires us to receive abundant graces in order to move from fear to confidence and from doubt to trust: “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory. I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You.” By means of this Image, I shall be granting many graces to souls; so let every soul have access to it. Let the rays of grace enter your soul; they bring with them light, warmth, and life.”

As we receive graces from venerating the image of Divine Mercy, we are called to be his merciful love to others; we are called to be Apostles of Mercy. Jesus asks that we be merciful in deed, word, and prayer. Jesus tells us through St. Faustina’s Diary, “I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third — by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies Me and pays reverence to My mercy.” Whenever our hearts are moved to compassion, wherever we are, we can always put this compassion into action either by some deed that helps alleviate another person’s suffering, by some word that comforts or assists them, or by prayer. As St. Faustina wrote: “If I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically.” Of course, one of the great prayers of mercy, is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

As Pope John Paul II forgave Ali Agca, he modeled for us what it means to be Apostles of Mercy. In 2016, Ali Agca was prompted to tell a reporter how the Pope changed him. He said, “After John Paul II visited me in prison, I thought about it, and I studied the Gospel at length...I know the sacred books better than many others. If [Pope Francis] welcomes me, I’ll be a priest and I will celebrate Mass...” He also expressed a desire to go to Fatima in Portugal in May, 2017, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions. He said, “I’ll pray there, maybe even together with the pope, to the Madonna, my spiritual mother.”
Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that afflict the bodies and souls of those around us. By alleviating and helping to heal their wounds, we profess Jesus and make him present and alive. By our mercy in action, we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as their “Lord and God.”

Friday, April 21, 2017

Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23, 2017 at Ascension Catholic Church

Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23, 2017
at Ascension Catholic Church

12:00-2:30PM Confession
2:30PM Songs of Praise (by Grace Notes)
3:00PM Chaplet of Divine Mercy (sung)
3:30PM Sunday Mass

April 21, 2017: Friday of the Easter Week

April 21, 2017: Friday of the Easter Week

[After resurrection of Jesus, the disciples] soon left Jerusalem and returned to Galilee. It was a great relief to be able to abandon the city where they had suffered so much. Galilee greeted them with all the serenity of its spring season—the olive trees, the green grass, the fragrances in the air, and the blue of their beloved Sea of Tiberias, on the shore of which they had experienced so many happy moments with Jesus. They stayed in Capernaum, in the houses of Simeon, the sons of Zebedee, and other friends.

They went back to their usual activities almost immediately, always with the freedom that they found in their attachment to no one but Jesus, their friend who had conquered death.
One evening, Peter felt the need to go back out onto the lake. “I’m going fishing”, he said to those who were with him, without thinking that everyone would join him. The night fell gently on the tranquil water. Peter pushed the boat out onto the lake, rowed out, and cast the net—and then realized that he was doing this not because he wanted to fish but because he wanted Jesus. One day he had encountered the Master while casting his nets; he had encountered him in accepting to row back out onto the lake; he had encountered him on this same boat, doing the things he was doing now. He now realized that he could do nothing, experience nothing without desiring that Jesus be present with him, in their midst.

At the first light of dawn, they decided to go back. Simon was disappointed not because they hadn’t caught anything but because Jesus had not appeared. A stranger approached them on the sandy shore and called out to them from a distance, “Children, have you any fish?” (Jn 21:5). They answered bluntly, almost in unison, “No” (Jn 21:6). They looked at one another in amazement. John stared intently at the stranger. They cast their nets, without even paying attention to what they were doing. Immediately the nets were full. John whispered to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter recoiled. Of course! Who else could it be? How could he not have recognized him at once? Without thinking, Peter jumped into the water, to the astonishment of his companions, except for John, who understood everything.

Jesus was smiling at him. They looked at each other, but Peter did not dare speak. There was already a fire there near Jesus, with a fish roasting on it, and some bread. The fire seemed to have been burning for a long time. As soon as the others had reached them, Jesus turned to them, saying: “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught” (Jn 21:10). Simon did not leave the others any time to react: he jumped onto the boat and, with an immense effort, dragged the net to the shore by himself. Jesus continued to smile and, without waiting any longer, said, “Come and have breakfast”, giving each of them pieces of roasted fish and bread.

Everything was so simple, so natural, just like it used to be—and yet the man who was standing in front of them, looking at them, serving them, touching their fingers with his own, and eating with them, smiling silently, was the one who had been crucified and had died!

By Dom Mauro-Giuseppe Lapori, "Simon Called Peter"

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April 19, 2017: Wednesday of the Easter Week

April 19, 2017: Wednesday of the Easter Week

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-35)

Today’s gospel reading, in which St. Luke tells of the Risen Lord’s encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, is one of the literary gems of the New Testament. It also summarizes neatly the long and sometimes difficult path the first witnesses to the Resurrection had to walk in order to arrive at the fullness of Easter faith.

As Luke sets the scene, there is, at first, bewilderment: things had gone terribly wrong; the one whom these disciples had hoped would “redeem Israel” had died a shameful death in which Israel’s leaders were complicit, because they regarded him as a blasphemer. Bewilderment then gives way to deeper confusion: these two anonymous disciples had heard the women’s tale of an empty tomb and a vision of angels who “said that he was alive.” But they could not grasp what this “being alive” meant, or what it had to do with the still-incomprehensible suffering and death of the one who was to “redeem Israel.”

The stranger—the Risen One—then begins to make things clear: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself,” including the necessary passage through suffering of the redeemer of Israel. And yet they still did not grasp what had happened, or who this stranger was. It is only when “he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” At which point “he vanished out of their sight.” Stunned at their own blindness—“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”—they rush back to Jerusalem to make their profession of Easter faith, where they are greeted with a parallel act of faith by the Eleven and their companions: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

Empty tomb and appearances; Word and Sacrament; the Cross and the Resurrection: in its corporate memory of the beginnings of Easter faith, to which Luke bears witness in this marvelously crafted narrative, the Church held fast to everything that had shed light on the radically new situation of those who had met the Risen One—and those who believed the testimony of their friends who had. The Scriptures had to be read afresh, with new eyes; messianic expectations had to be recast; common acts that had once indicated table fellowship, like the breaking of bread and its blessing, now took on deeper meanings; the very idea of “history” changed, as did the idea of God’s “redemption” of Israel, which now seemed to extend beyond the familiar boundaries.

In an Easter sermon with the suggestive title “The Heart of Stone Beats Again,” Hans Urs von Balthasar suggests that this particular Resurrection appearance ought to resonate in a special way with those living in late modernity, who might well recognize themselves in the disciples who wandered down the Emmaus road some two millennia ago. All of us, Balthasar notes, are in a hurry—but to where? We are all beset by “a constant stream of images”—meaning what? “There is so much hustle and bustle. What we can contain in our heads is so little, and the more that forces its way in, the less we can hold.” Busyness, we discover sooner or later, is no substitute for purposefulness. Busyness, we may even begin to suspect, is one of the psychological tricks we play on ourselves to avoid confronting the fact that we are all destined for the grave.

What, then, are we looking for, in this often aimless wandering? We are looking, the Swiss theologian suggests, for what those two confused and perplexed disciples found on the Emmaus road: “the tangible reality of resurrection from the dead.”

The challenge today, as for the disciples en route to Emmaus, is to overcome our disbelief that anything could be so good, so true, so beautiful. That radical quality of the New Life promised by Easter faith, Balthasar suggests, is why Christians are dangerous, and why Christians are persecuted. “Right from the beginning,” he writes, “Christianity was seen as a total, highly dangerous revolution.” Once, in the days of St. Lawrence, whose major station is revisited today, it challenged Roman authorities, who were convinced that the cult of the gods was necessary for public order. Now, it challenges cultures committed to skepticism and its moral offspring, relativism.

The Emmaus story ought also to be reassuring to Christians at those moments when faith falters. As pilgrims have discovered along the Lenten itinerary of conversion, the momentum in Luke’s gospel is always toward Jerusalem; thus, the two disciples in today’s Easter story are walking in the wrong direction—away from Jerusalem, and away from the Cross. Yet their misdirection is repaired by the Risen One, who walks with them as he walks with us, even when we are headed in the wrong direction. He walks with us in the Scriptures and in the Holy Eucharist; he walks with us into the confessional; and in that pastoral accompaniment, he points us back to the right path—the path to the New Jerusalem.

By George Weigel, "Roman Pilgrimage"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April 18, 2017: Divine Mercy Week 9 - Choose More Difficult Task

April 18, 2017: Divine Mercy Week 9 - Choose More Difficult Task

I venture to say that most of us work hard. Would you agree with that? Even those of you who are retired, you work hard and don’t sit still. We were taught as children, “Nothing worth having in life comes easy. Life rewards those who work hard at it.” I once saw an inspirational poster for high school students. It read :

Easy work in life include complaining, blaming, lying, cheating, pretending.
Hard work in life include inspiring, mentoring, helping, learning, giving.

As the poster points out, it does take more mental and emotional energy to remain positive and life-giving in interacting with people in our daily lives. Mother Teresa adds an additional depth to this bit of wisdom by connecting humility to the tasks we do every day. She said that if you want to remain humble, choose always the more difficult task.

What do you think she means when she says, “If you want to remain humble, choose always the more difficult task”? In a documentary on Mother Teresa, a filmmaker captured Mother Teresa in action at a convent she was visiting. The sisters were looking after orphaned children with severe physical and mental handicaps. The camera focused on Mother Teresa taking a wet towel and wiping down dusty metal cribs. It was a menial task, a task overlooked by sisters. It was humbling work for the Superior General of the entire order of the Missionaries of Charity to spend over an hour wiping down the cribs with wet rags. Yet the fruit of her work was an unforgettable inspiration for her sisters and for those who watched her documentary for years to come.

Mother Teresa often said, “It’s not how much you do, but how much love you put in doing it.” The difficult tasks that we perhaps avoid may require us asking God to give us a more generous heart and a desire to be humble. The Mother Teresa sisters pray every morning before Jesus for this grace. And we should, too. Every morning, the sisters pray together before Jesus one prayer without a fail. Let us make this our daily prayer as well.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

April 16, 2017: Easter Sunday A

April 16, 2017: Easter Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Do you ever go back to the church where you were baptized? Does your place of baptism have any meaning for you? The church building where I was baptized when I was six-years old in South Korea no longer exists. Although I still have a photo of the priest pouring water on my forehead, I vaguely remember what happened.

Sometime ago I made a private pilgrimage to Wadowice, Poland, the birthplace of St. John Paul II (also known by his given name Karol Wojtyla.)  There is a beautiful museum built on the site of his family home that displays in great detail the history, culture, and the life of the saint. Next to his childhood home is the Basilica of the Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary. In a side chapel in the basilica is the baptismal font where St. John Paul II was baptized. In 1979 during his first pilgrimage to Poland, then-Pope John Paul II stated: “In this baptismal font, on 20 June 1920, I was given the grace to become a son of God, together with faith in my Redeemer, and I was welcomed into the community of the Church” Besides his baptism, there were other significant events in his life celebrated in that church. Pope John Paul said, “In this church I made my first Confession and received my first Holy Communion. Here I was an altar boy.  Here I gave thanks to God for the gift of the priesthood and, as Archbishop of Krak√≥w, I celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.  God alone, the giver of every grace, knows what goodness and what manifold graces I received from this church and from this parish community. To him, the Triune God, I give glory today at the doors of this church.”

What is the connection between the Easter celebration and our baptism? St. Basil explained:
All of us imitate Christ’s death by being buried with him in baptism. If we ask what this kind of burial means and what benefit we may hope to derive from it, it means first of all making a complete break with our former way of life, and our Lord himself said that this cannot be done unless a man is born again. In other words, we have to begin a new life, and we cannot do so until our previous life has been brought to an end. When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another. Our descent into hell takes place when we imitate the burial of Christ by our baptism. The bodies of the baptized are in a sense buried in the water as a symbol of their renunciation of the sins of their unregenerate nature. We receive saving baptism only once because there was only one death and one resurrection for the salvation of the world, and baptism is its symbol.

The women in the gospel witnessed the empty tomb and were transformed into believers after hearing the message of the angel, “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.” Here we are 2000 years later, and should we not be in awe of the event? It’s not just a story that we read over and over, but an actual event that we should ponder and encounter each time we celebrate. Some may feel that they’re here today out of obligation. Yet, if we really look into our hearts, the Holy Spirit who was sealed inside us at baptism has invited us back to the place where it all began. We are here out of love for the God who loved us first and gave himself for us to open the gates of heaven. We are here because we stand together to confess, proclaim, and celebrate that Jesus is alive, that Christ has risen, that Christ has triumphed over death and over every experience of evil in the world.

St. Gianna Molla said, “Where else can we find a God who loves us so much that He came to share in our lives day by day, minute by minute?” So we must not hide our hope. As Our Lord said to us, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 14-16) If the empty tomb gave so much hope and encouragement for the disciples 2,000 years ago, we too should not hold ourselves back in fear, laziness, or indifference in proclaiming who Jesus is for us and who Jesus is for the world.

While the world is locked behind the heavy stone of fear and selfishness, we, the ordinary men and women of faith, proclaim with boldness that there is no evil that Christ has not conquered. We are commissioned by God to the difficult yet uplifting task of building a civilization of love. May the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, stir in us the desire to do something great for the world, refusing to allow ourselves to be limited by mediocrity. Happy Easter!

Friday, April 14, 2017

April 14, 2017: Good Friday A

April 14, 2017: Good Friday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
A nurse working on the oncology floor of a hospital was having a difficult afternoon with a family. It wasn’t the fault of the family or the nurse. There was just nothing that the doctors, the nurses, nor the family could do for a man in his 30’s with cancer who took a turn for the worse that afternoon. His brother was ranting and raving with all his angst and his frustration. “Why aren’t they doing something else? Why isn’t this medication working? Why is God letting him die?” The young man’s mother spoke, “Son, don’t question God. We aren’t supposed to do that.” Have we not had similar moments in our lives when we questioned God over a situation that we could not control?

Even Jesus cried out aloud to God on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” His mother, Mary, stood below the Cross in agony not able to relieve her Son of any suffering. Blessed Mother accepted and trusted not knowing why this suffering had to happen. When Blessed Mother said her fiat “Let it be done to me according to thy word,” at the greeting of Archangel Gabriel, she did not know the great suffering her Son would endure. She pondered in her heart over the years the words of her young son when he was found in the temple after being lost for 3 days, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” At Calvary, she put her faith in the God who created her and sustained her.
(Photo on the right: Basilica of the Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary, Wadowice, Poland. Church where St. John Paul II was baptized)

For Jesus, his cry from the Cross was not a cry of despair nor resentment. He was reciting a prayer from Psalm 22 that he had prayed since he was a child. Psalm 22 begins with, “My God why have you abandoned me.” The later lines of the same psalm, however, are filled with trust, “For [God] has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out...All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before him. For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations.”

From the very beginning of his Passion, Jesus embraced every moment and propelled the drama forward: in the garden, where he is arrested; at his interrogation by the Temple officials; in the unjust proceeding before Pilate; in addressing his mother and his friend, John, from the Cross; in declaring his mission finished and giving over his spirit. In all those moments, Jesus did not despair. He was strengthened by the awareness of his Father’s love for him and Blessed Mother’s constant prayer for him.

The Calvary that we experience in life should not be an occasion of despair for us. As Blessed Mother stood at Calvary, she did not despair. Her thoughts, as she stood by her Son crucified on the Cross, did not dwell on her own ability or inability to control the situation. Rather, her thoughts were wholly on her Son. She does not stage a revolt either against God, who allows these things to happen, or against mankind, who tortured and killed her Son. Just as her Son embraced the Cross, she embraced her place next to her Son, echoing her consent of distant past, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Her consent was a heart-to-heart union with her Son’s own consent in the Garden of Gethsemane, "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!" Each time we pray the Creed and receive Eucharist, we also give this assent to God, “ be it.” In that moment of union with Jesus who gave up his life for us, we also give our whole self to him, full of hope and trust that the Father will bring forth resurrection of life even amidst the darkest moments of our lives.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April 13, 2017 Holy Thursday A

April 13, 2017 Holy Thursday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
After one of the masses in Napoleonville, a mother of a priest approached me and said, “I’m going to visit the old folks at the nursing home and bring them communion.” She said this with a wide grin on her face. She herself is up in her 80’s, and she doesn't consider herself too old to serve. She didn’t seem like a person who would retire; she wanted to serve as long as her body allows . Do we also have this kind of attitude toward life?

Tonight, Our Lord demonstrates for us the intimate connection between the Eucharist and a loving service to others. Before sitting down for the Passover meal, in a surprise move, Jesus got down on his knees and washed the feet of his disciples. While he washed the feet of his disciples, Jesus was only too aware of the bickering among his disciples as to who was the greatest, and who should rank before the other. The disciples had yet to learn that in the Kingdom of God, the leader is one who serves. It is a poignant message for us priests, parents, teachers, employers, and managers.

Like Peter, we may not fully understand the meaning behind what Jesus did. Jesus explained to his disciples: "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,  you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."

Jesus, who is Our Lord and Master, King of Kings, took off His cloak of Royal Splendor and became a Servant. He washed the feet of those whom He had chosen to continue His Redemptive work. He showed them what they were chosen to do. Then He enlisted them to live lives of self emptying Love for the world. To bear the name "Christian" is to walk in this kind of love in the midst of a broken and wounded world waiting to be reborn. Just as the body of Jesus is broken and given to us at Mass, we are also called to be broken up and given to others. There is something lacking if we are devout in our regular attendance at Mass but our lives are lived individualistically and selfishly. There is also something lacking if we are totally committed to caring for others but never gather in community to remember, give thanks and break the bread together.

As the footwashing of disciples is re-enacted this evening, we are reminded to live the Eucharist we are receiving. Eucharist that we receive only becomes real after we leave the church. To live out the Eucharistic celebration means that we are to imitate the humility and love that Jesus has for us as we go about our daily lives. We live in a world which God still loves. He still sends His Son into that world, through the Church of which we are members. That world is being recreated anew as He continues His Mission through us, the Church.

April 13, 2017: Institution of Priesthood - Holy Thursday

April 13, 2017: Institution of Priesthood - Holy Thursday

Pope Francis and the Seven ‘Pillars’ of Priesthood

What is Pope Francis’ vision for the priesthood – how are our priests and future priests to serve their people most faithfully and fruitfully? Here are seven key concerns which have emerged from both Pope Francis’s spoken words and also the witness of his own priestly ministry.

1) The strength of a priest depends on his relationship with Christ. Pope Francis has said that the touchstone of how deeply a priest is living his vocation is the extent to which he seeks Christ in his daily life. In a typically direct question, Pope Francis asked a gathering of Rome’s priests at the beginning of Lent, “At night, how does your day end? With God, or with television?” At the heart of any priest’s ministry must be a living relationship with Christ, so that the priest sees as Christ sees and loves as he loves. It took the disciples time to really “become Christ” to others so this is not a given at ordination. For this to happen, the priest needs to continue to grow in union with Christ through prayer and intimacy.

2) Just as he must be close to Christ so the priest must be close to the people he serves. In his first Chrism Mass homily, Pope Francis famously spoke of how priests must be “shepherds living with the ‘smell of the sheep’” If priests truly are to be pastors rather than administrators they need to “go out to meet the people,” especially the lost sheep. The pastor who stays behind his computer in the presbytery, he declared, is not an “authentic pastor.” Pope Francis praised one priest for knowing his parishioners so well that he knew not only their names, but also their pets’ names! In an age in which so many priests, bishops and curial officials are enslaved by administrative tasks, Pope Francis is summoning them to reprioritize toward the Church’s evangelical mission.

3) As Pope Francis emphasized in the homily of his inaugural Mass, a priest’s authority must be linked to service, especially to the care and protection of the poorest, weakest, the least important and most easily forgotten. This means that priests have to leave their comfort zone and have "real contact with the poor and the marginalised.” Francis, who was known as the "slum bishop" in Argentina because of his work among the poor, has said reaching out to those on the margins of society was "the most concrete way of imitating Jesus". His own first visits after moving to the Vatican were to a jail for juveniles and to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa to pay tribute to impoverished immigrants who have died trying to get to Europe.

4) The priest must be a minister of mercy. Pope Francis told a group of ten newly-ordained priests that the most important advice he could give them was simply, “Be merciful.” His motto Miserando Atque Eligendo (“Chosen Through the Eyes of Mercy”) highlights that his own vocation was born in an experience of God’s mercy, when as a 16-year-old boy he went to confession on the feast of the St Matthew, the great convert. Pope Francis’ reminder in his first Angelus address that God never tires of forgiving us is a clear call to priests never to tire in faithfully dispensing that mercy, both sacramentally and in their daily living.

5) The priest is called to a simplicity of life. Diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty, but commit themselves to a simple lifestyle. Pope Francis has repeatedly criticised priests who give in to vanity and worldly ambition. During his years in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio’s example of living in a small apartment rather than an episcopal palace, taking public transportation rather than a car with a driver and cooking for himself (all of which we see mirrored in his new life as Pope) was a clear challenge to his fellow priests to examine the sincerity and authenticity of their own spiritual poverty.

6) The priest must be a model of integrity. There can be no place in priests for a haughty clericalism, any kind of abuse of their position or a concern to climb the ecclesial career ladder – Pope Francis is calling and requiring priests to understand that their authority derives not from worldly power but from personal integrity and humility in imitation of Christ. Paying his pre-conclave bill at the priests’ residence personally immediately after his election was not just a nice gesture indicating a total absence of a sense of privilege, but it was a real sign that no priest should consider himself exempt from the demands of ordinary accountability. Otherwise priests can “become wolves not shepherds”.

7) Finally the priest is to be a source of blessing for his people. The anointing which he receives at his ordination is not meant just for himself – it is to flow through him to those he serves. As Pope Francis said at his first Chrism Mass, “A good priest can be recognised by the way his people are anointed... when our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news.” This was also very much the theme of his second Chrism Mass homily – the priest is “anointed with the oil of gladness so as to anoint others with the oil of gladness.” In his preaching, in his prayer, through being truly present to his flock in the realities of their everyday lives, the priest is to help them “feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, Christ, has come to them through the priest.”

Here are words for us all from Pope Francis:

“Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may be always be shepherds according to God’s heart. And pray for those whom God is calling to be priests that they may respond to this call with humility and joy.

Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his spirit in our hearts so that this anointing may spread to everyone, especially to those “outskirts” where our lay faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us”

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Donaldsonville Holy Week Mass Schedule 2017

Ascension/ St. Francis Catholic Churches, Donaldsonville Holy Week Mass Schedule
(Note: No 7AM mass on Holy Thursday, Good Friday) April 13, Thur - 7PM Holy Thursday Mass, Ascension April 14, Fri - 6:15PM Way of the Cross, St Francis 7PM Good Friday Service, St Francis April 15, Sat - 8PM Easter Vigil Mass, Ascension April 16, Sun - 8AM Easter Mass Ascension / 10:30AM St. Francis

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 12, 2017: Wednesday of Holy Week

April 12, 2017: Wednesday of Holy Week

Only Strong Through Grace

Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” –Matthew 26: 22

St. Francis of Assisi once went into a town, and the entire populace was all excited and making a fuss over God’s troubadour. Wisely, he did not bask in this over the top tribute but rather grew annoyed. He went up to the pulpit and declared to them all, “Do not praise me; I may yet be the father of many children.” His honest appraisal put a damper on the festivities. Francis knew himself.

We are all weak. We can all fall. We often do. We are never “there,” arriving in a place that is free from temptation. Maybe it seems like weakness that the apostles questioned their own loyalty and asked Jesus if it was one of them who would betray him. Wouldn’t it be obvious if you were the one about to betray him? Evidently not, as they all asked that unnerving question. Perhaps it is not so much a sign of their weakness but of an honest recognition of their weakness. Never say never. We can all fail miserably. Rather than look down on others’ failures, realize we are just as capable of doing the same thing. The reason we haven’t is by the grace of God.

Father, help me to recognize that I am a sinner. I don’t want to beat myself up or put myself down, but I want to recognize that I depend on your grace. Help me not to judge or look down on others for their failings and misdeeds. I am capable of doing the same things given the right circumstances. No, Father, I don’t want to judge or condemn. I just want to do my best and rely on your grace. In the end, you alone will be the one who figures it out. Amen.

by Fr. Thomas J. Connery
Taking Lent to Heart

April 11, 2017: Tuesday of Holy Week

April 11, 2017: Tuesday of Holy Week

Worth the Price?

Amen, Amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times. –John 13: 38

A New York City cabdriver called one of his passengers informing her that she left her pocketbook in his backseat. The passenger, ever grateful, offered to reward him but he declined. “If you don’t mind, just let me know how much there is in your purse.” When she informed him, the driver wrote the amount in a notebook and explained, “I’m keeping track of what it’s costing me to be honest” (Barbara Arnstein, Reader’s Digest).

The cost of honesty can add up to quite a bill. The cost of discipleship can cost a life. Peter thought he knew the price of following Jesus, but when it came down to it, the price was too dear. Rather than paying the price, he denied his Savior. The possibility of receiving the same treatment terrified him. How much is Jesus worth to us? Where do we draw the line? Does he win over our politics? our morality? our relationships? Where do we draw the line? There is a price for everything. How much is Jesus worth to you?

Father, I want to be faithful. I want to love you above all things. I want to be loyal. I want to stand up for you. Oh, I am fine in church and with my church friends, but when I am outside that familiar circle, I back down. I allow myself to be intimidated. Father, I want to give witness to your Son, Jesus. I just need a little more grace or a kindly push from you. Help me to stand up for my faith. No more backing down. Amen.

by Fr. Thomas J. Connery
Taking Lent to Heart

Monday, April 10, 2017

April 10, 2017: Monday of the Holy Week

April 10, 2017: Monday of the Holy Week

According to the traditional catalogue of “fruits of the Holy Spirit,” patience is one of those perfections into which Lenten pilgrims must grow, as the itinerary of conversion gradually equips us to become the kind of people who can enjoy the glory of eternity within the light and love of the Holy Trinity. “Gradually,” of course, suggests that growth in patience is, more often than not, an exercise in patience.

The theme is introduced in the first reading at Mass, the first of the four Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah. Here, the chosen servant of the Lord is depicted as a man of godly forbearance, familiar with the weakness of humanity, who will reshape history according to the patient rhythms of the divine mercy:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, Until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching. (Isaiah 42:1-7)

Patient waiting for the working out of the divine plan of salvation history is also the lesson taught by the psalmist in response to Isaiah’s portrait of the noble Servant of YHWH. As sung by the Church, the first and last verses of Psalm 27 are a confession of faith in the coming Kingdom—no matter how long delayed its advent may seem—and an admonition to patient, courageous, watchful waiting along the pathways of history:

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27)

The gospel reading for the day continues the story of Jesus’s friendship with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, which, read through the prism of today’s theme, appears as an ongoing lesson in patience. At their first encounter in Luke’s gospel, when a family disagreement breaks out over whether the duties of hospitality are being ignored, Jesus teaches Martha and Mary patience with each other: there is a place for work and there is a time for contemplation, but listening to the Lord should always inform the active life. Now, Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with a precious substance and dries them with her hair, and Judas complains about the waste of money this extravagance represents. Jesus tries—in vain, as the gospel of John has it—to teach Judas patience; seen with the eyes of faith, Mary’s anointing is not a waste of money, but a preparation for Jesus’s burial.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

April 9, 2017: Palm Sunday A

April 9, 2017: Palm Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
If you were to get a phone call from your child at 3AM, what thoughts would go through your mind? A mother recalls answering a call from her son at three in the morning. As she answered the call, the son said, “Mama, I’m doing terrible things and I can’t stop. I’m gonna die.” The mother, who had a habit of sleeping with a rosary in her hands, calmly replied, “Yes, my son, you are going to die if you continue on the path you’re on. I pray that you choose life and not death, my son, but you’re the only one who can choose. I beg you to choose life. I’m praying for you. I love you.” With that, the call ended. She began to pray her rosary earnestly, particularly the Sorrowful Mysteries. As she prayed, she imagined Blessed Mother standing by the Cross silently as she witnessed her son die. The earthly mother who had watched her son struggle with drug addiction for some years, had come to realize that all she could do was to surrender herself and entrust her son to Our Lord.

There is a scene in the movie ‘Passion of Christ’ when Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. The next scene is a darkened room where Mary the Mother of Jesus is asleep. Then she awakes as if from a nightmare. She asks, “Why is this night different than any other night?” Mary Magdalene who awakes as well replies, “Because once we were slaves, and we are slaves no longer.” As we begin the holiest week for Christians with Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, these lines spoken by Mary and Mary Magdalene foreshadow Our Lord as the New Moses who will lead us out of our bondage to sin in a New Passover. He is the New Passover Lamb whose blood shed on the Cross will deliver us from eternal death. And Blessed Mother models for us how to be a faithful disciple of Christ, by surrendering and placing all her trust in God in the midst of her son’s Passion and death.

All of us here struggle daily against the tendency to sin and to doubt God’s goodness and His mercy. We must be reminded that we must choose life and not choose death. If we continue to walk on the path of selfishness and sin, we remain slaves. In our daily struggles against sin, our encouragement comes from meditating on the sufferings and crucifixion of Our Lord. Jesus came to be one of us, to open the road to heaven for us, to make us all sons and daughters of God, to preach the message of divine forgiveness and mercy to mankind. He was scourged, tied to a pillar, spat upon and insulted, jeered at and mocked. He was nailed to a cross on Calvary between two thieves! As we gaze at the crucifix in our homes, on our rosary beads, and on our altars, we are reminded that he immerses himself into our misery and redeems our lowly human nature in order to elevate us to be children of God. He did this for us so that he can be with us every day, close beside us, to encourage and help us on the way.

Let us embark on this Holy Week accompanying Blessed Mother on the Way of the Cross to Calvary. Perhaps we could pray her Sorrowful Mysteries or pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary. As we pray, we console her as she weeps for many in our world who still do not know the love of her Son and what her Son has done for them. When we are burdened by sadness or a broken heart, let us hold the hands of Blessed Mother and ask her to not let go. In our deepest sadness, Blessed Mother meets us right there at Calvary. She tenderly cradles us in her arms and weeps with us when we so sorely need her help. She tells us as she told St. Juan Diego, “Am I not here, who am your mother?”

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April 4, 2017: Divine Mercy Week 7 Humor and Irritation in Life

April 4, 2017: Divine Mercy Week 7 Humor and Irritation in Life

Here is a question that most of us ask ourselves often, “Why do I get irritated and annoyed at small things in life?” It’s probably common for us to become annoyed and bent out of shape after encountering a discourteous clerk at the store, a child asking for the 5th time for a snack, a person who is always late to a meeting, or a car parked in ‘your’ parking spot.

If you ask this question to secular experts, the advice they give you is to “breathe slowly and remind yourself that this too shall pass.” If you could ask one of the saints the same question, you would get an unexpected answer. For example, Mother Teresa said, “Accept small irritations with good humor.” She said that accepting small irritations is how one remains humble before God. Remember, if we think that we are putting up with much annoyance every day, just imagine how much irritation we cause God every day? How often do we use God’s name in vain when we are frustrated with something? He hasn’t struck you down, yet, has he?

Pope Francis said being a disciple means to have a spirit of joy and a sense of humor. He said, “An apostle must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A heart filled with God is a happy heart which radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident! So let us not lose that joyful, humorous and even self-deprecating spirit which makes people amiable even in difficult situations. How beneficial is a good dose of humour!”

Two American archbishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Kurtz visited Pope Francis one day. They discussed a wide range of serious and grave matters. At the conclusion of their meeting, Pope Francis offered to walk the two archbishops to the door, to which Cardinal Dolan responded that it wasn’t necessary for him to do so. Pope Francis joking replied, “No, I want to make sure you leave.”

We all should take the advice of Pope Francis when he said, "A sense of humour is a gift I ask for everyday. Because a sense of humour lifts you up, it shows your life is short and to take things in the spirit of a redeemer."

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April 2, 2017: 5th Sunday of Lent A

April 2, 2017: 5th Sunday of Lent A

Click to hear Audio Homily
I wish there was a class or seminar on how to face death. Most of us are never prepared for the death of a loved one. Yet we also know that even if we did attend a class or seminar on death, we would still not be ready. For we are never ready for death, whether we are a faithful believer or a non-believer. At a funeral service, a non-believing person shared with a priest, “Perhaps there is Heaven for the faithful who believe there is life after death. Perhaps, then, to die is the greatest day of their life, but I do not observe that Christians live this way. It seems to me that they are as anxious as anyone else about dying, and earnestly seek to avoid death just as much as anyone else.”

Would any of us say that the day we die is the greatest day of our life on earth? Sounds odd doesn’t it? Like Mary and Martha grieving for the loss of their brother Lazarus in the Gospel, we would be weeping and sad--perhaps even be angry at God. When Jesus finally arrived after few days of intentional delay, both sisters complained to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The presumption of the sisters and those who came to comfort them was that if Jesus loved Lazarus, he would not have let Lazarus suffer and die. He would have prevented his sickness and he would have prevented his death.

Even though we are believers, we too have this presumption somewhere in the back of our minds. We hope that if we are faithful believers, Jesus would spare us of awful suffering in this life and give us painless death. So we find it puzzling and even offended at God when our loved one goes through agonizing and prolonged death process. It should be natural for us to wonder why God allowed some of the greatest of saints to suffer greatly in their dying process. Take for example St. John Paul II who suffered years of Parkinson’s Disease, St. Padre Pio who suffered the stigmata for 50 years, and St. Faustina dying at age of 33 with tuberculosis. It is a mystery why those who are called to a special holiness, those who loved God most ardently, are allowed to suffer in a great way.

Jesus does not in any way relish in our suffering and death. In fact, he fully participates in it himself. When Jesus arrives at the tomb of Lazarus, he weeps. He does not diminish the horror of suffering. He shows us that to weep and to mourn over the suffering and death of the world is natural. He recognizes that suffering and death is an evil, but he allows it to take place because he is going to conquer death rather than cure illness.

Next Sunday, we will welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with palms and then hear the painful account of Jesus’ passion and death. Then the week after we will hear about the the account of the Last Supper, betrayal by Judas, enormous suffering under the hands of religious leaders, and ultimately death on the cross. Some may wonder why we relive Jesus’ passion and death over and over again every year. Why focus on such a dark part of someone’s life, namely death? Why don’t we celebrate and remember the joyful memories of a person?

Perhaps it’s because we are forgetful that Jesus conquered death, which is our greatest fear and dread. We are forgetful of the glory of Our Lord’s Resurrection, which is the greatest testament of God’s love and assurance. Living comfortably here on earth, we are lulled into thinking that this is our home when in fact, we are in exile. Our personal prayers sometimes reflect this attitude: “Fix my health. Fix my finances. Grant me what I want.” In a sense we are asking God to make this earthly world a better place and we’ll be happy to stay here forever.

Jesus’ raising Lazarus from death shakes us from this attitude. We too will die one day. All of our belongings that we worked so hard to accumulate will end up in an estate sale or in the landfill. Our bodies will decompose and only our bones will stay in the tomb for many years. Yet we have the assurance from Jesus that he will call us out of our tomb, allow us to experience the resurrection of the dead, and enjoy his friendship for eternity. With this understanding, can we now say to ourselves that the day we die is the greatest day of our life because we will be with God forever in Heaven?

As we journey with Jesus to Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we ask Our Lord to instill in us gratitude for what he suffered for us to conquer death--our greatest fear.