16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Our readings today are about discipleship.

 

What is a disciple? The dictionary defines it as a student or a follower. That’s what we’re all called to be as Catholic Christians; students and followers of Christ.

 

The first reading begins with the Lord appearing to Abraham by the “terebinth of Mamre, while the day was growing hot.” What’s that mean? Well, a terebinth is a tree of the cashew family that used to be used to make turpentine. Mamre is a place, about 4 kilometers north of Hebron. The terebinth of Mamre was a place where pagans held sacrifices and it was believed that the tree itself wouldn’t burn.

 

So Abraham was camped out near this tree, or possibly grove of trees, around noon, when the Lord showed up. When Abraham looked up he saw three men. He ran to them and asked them to do him a favor. He asked them to accept his hospitality, to rest under the tree (remember, it’s hot) and to wash their feet. He also offers them “a little food.” The men agree. Abraham runs into the tent and tells his wife Sarah to whip up some rolls from “three measures of fine flour.” That’s about a half a bushel of flour, so it makes a lot of rolls.

 

Then he has a servant prepare a tender, choice steer along with curds and milk. When this “little food” is ready, Abraham waits on the men while they eat.

 

Now, the story doesn’t tell us who these three guys were. But, they do know Abraham’s wife’s name is Sarah and they promise that when they return, same time next year, Sarah will have a son. All the signs point to these three guys being messengers from God, maybe even angels.

 

Clearly Abraham is impressed with the three. He spreads out a feast for them and calls it a little food. Notice that he didn’t prepare the meal himself. He left that up to Sarah and the servant. But he did serve the meal and wait on the men while they ate. Like a true disciple he didn’t want to miss this opportunity to hear what the men had to say. He wasn’t going to spend a minute in the kitchen while these three were around.

 

And, they had plenty to say! Elderly Sarah would give Abraham a son in less than a year. And, as we know today, that’s exactly what happened.

Fast forward a few thousand years and we find Jesus hanging out at Martha and Mary’s house, something he did fairly often. We’ve heard this story many times. Martha is in the kitchen whipping up food for Jesus and the others gathered there. Her sister, Mary, is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to what He has to say. I can’t imagine there’s a single person in this church who can’t sympathize with Martha. She’s doing all the work! It’s not fair! But that’s not really the point of the story. Remember, I said that these stories are about discipleship, about being a student or a follower.

 

Whether the situation is fair to Martha isn’t the point of the story. There are a couple of things that we may overlook in our empathy for Martha. First, we know that Jesus does outrageous things, especially when it comes to women. Forget the unfairness between the two sisters. Mary belonged in the kitchen with Martha because that’s where women were supposed to be. But Mary wanted to be a disciple. She wasn’t going to let any silly society rules about the roles of men and women get in her way. She was seated at the feet of the Master. And Jesus was behind her 100%.

 

Mary was the precursor of centuries of strong, intelligent, holy women who have taken their proper place in history. Look around this church at all the statues of women saints. They didn’t stay in the kitchen where they belonged. They followed Mary’s example.

Saint Ludmilla, born around 860, founded the first Christian church in Bohemia along with her husband Duke Borivoy. She was martyred in 921.

 

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was the daughter of a king. She built numerous hospitals where she served the sick, dressing the most disgusting sores with her own hands. She’s depicted carrying roses because the food she was carrying to the poor was miraculously turned into flowers. When her husband died she was forced from her palace and had to wander the streets, but she still continued to help the poor. Elizabeth died at the age of 24.

 

Elizabeth’s cousin was Agnes of Bohemia. She was the sister of King Wenceslas. She was raised in a monastery after being engaged at age three. Unfortunately her fiancé died when she was only six. She was engaged two more times, the last to Frederick II. But Elizabeth wanted to be a consecrated virgin and appealed to the Pope to intercede, which he did.

 

Agnes built a convent and a hospital and then another convent for the Poor Clares. She became a Poor Clare herself and her inspiration brought hundreds of other girls into the order. Unlike her cousin Elizabeth, Agnes lived to a ripe old age. She died in 1282 at the age of 77.

 

I won’t boor you with any more history, but I think you get my point. Ludmilla, Elizateth, Agnes, and all the other holy women depicted by the statues in our chapel were descendants of Mary. Her actions in today’s Gospel, choosing the “better part” and Jesus approval of what she did, opened the door to holy women down through the centuries.

 

God calls all of us to be disciples and to make disciples. Sometimes, like Mary, we have to step out of our comfort zone; to defy society’s rules. By following Mary’s example along with the examples of all the holy women…and men…depicted in our church, that’s exactly what we’ll do and Jesus will praise us for choosing the better part.

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time–7/4/16

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.

 

Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

 

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

 

These words, written in 1796, are from George Washington’s Farewell Address. I think they make it pretty clear that our Founding Fathers, at least THIS Founding Father had some definite ideas about the place of religion in our new nation. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” Somehow, in the last 240 years, our politicians have forgotten these words, or at the most, just pay lip service to them.

 

“In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.” In other words, don’t tell me you’re a patriot and then subvert the firmest props of citizenship. You can’t be a patriot and be immoral at the same time. It’s been proven time and time again that democracy won’t work if citizens aren’t moral. We all depend on one another. This is especially true of our so-called leaders. Notice Washington uses the phrase “mere politicians”. Like most of his peers in the 18th Century, George was a humble man. Today’s politicians….not so much.

 

“And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.” I had a conversation with someone this week who said he has no religious principles. I asked him if he agreed with the statement “Thou shalt not kill” and he said “yes”. I pointed out that that’s a religious principle. He may not belong to a church, but he has religious principles in spite of himself. Our entire system of laws is based on religious principles. We get in trouble when we forget that and pass immoral laws. Washington warned us about that but we seem to have forgotten it.

 

“It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

 

In this election year we all have to make some serious choices. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, we have to chose the lesser of two evils and it’s not always easy to tell who that is. From our First President who chose to step down because he didn’t believe any one man was more important than either the office or the citizens he served, to our present crop of politicians who all seem to think that they’re above the rest of us, our country has deteriorated. Neither one of our presumptive presidential candidates seems to have a religious affiliation.

 

Our religious rights are being constantly challenged and being a Christian is often looked down upon. Just this week the Supreme Court made yet another pro-abortion ruling. A transgender flag flies over our Saint Louis City Hall. I can’t even imagine what the response would be to a “Catholic Pride” parade downtown.

 

But this is a weekend to celebrate. For all our faults, the United States is still the greatest nation on earth. And you and I are Catholic Christians. That’s who we are and what we are. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” This world is only temporary. We’re just passing through. Nothing that happens in this life can hurt me because Jesus Christ has died for my sins. “From now on, let no one make troubles for me, for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.”

 

So, enjoy the picnics and the ball games and the fireworks. Give thanks for all the good gifts that God has given us. Pray for those who are less fortunate than we are. And remember Jesus’ words to the Disciples in today’s Gospel: “Into whatever house you enter, first say ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.” It’s a win-win.

 

Happy Independence Day and Peace be with you!

Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Our Old Testament reading today and our Gospel tell similar stories. Each involves healing. In the first reading, Elijah visits the home of a widow. While he was there, the widow’s son took sick and died. Elijah took the boy to his room and asked God for healing, and the child recovered.

 

In the Gospel, Jesus and His followers came upon a funeral procession. The deceased was the only child of a widow. Jesus took pity on her, touched the coffin, and said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” And he did.

 

Both of these stories bring home the fact that God has the power to heal. Why He heals some and not others is a great mystery, but He DOES heal. He doesn’t just bring back the dead, like Jesus did with his friend Lazurus, but He also healed the blind, and the deaf, and the leper. He’s God! He can do that!

 

But what is healing? The practical part of us says that when a blind man regains his sight, he’s healed. When a child’s cancer suddenly goes into remission, she’s healed. But that’s a very narrow, short-sighted view of things. Healing is more than just a physical thing.

 

What about the terminal cancer victim who accepts his diagnosis with the determination to live out his last days at peace with God, enjoying the time he has left with family and friends? Is that guy healed? Our faith tells us that he is. Isn’t that person, who we would normally call “sick” actually spiritually healthy. By sharing in Jesus’ suffering, isn’t he drawn closer to God? And if we’re drawn closer to God aren’t we the healthiest people of all?

 

Archbishop Carlson has asked the churches of the Archdiocese to celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick next Sunday. Priests will be anointing the sick at most of our churches, including Saint John Nepomuk. But there may be some confusion about what the sacrament means. Here’s what the Scripture says, in the Book of James, “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven”

 

The Catechism tells us that “ The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has as its purpose the conferral of a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age.” (ccc 1527) And, The anointing of the sick conveys several graces and imparts gifts of strengthening in the Holy Spirit against anxiety, discouragement, and temptation, and conveys peace and fortitude (CCC 1520)

 

 

When I was a hospital minister part of my job was to offer anointing to Catholic patients. You’d be surprised how many people, especially older people, would panic and say “absolutely not!” They were confusing the Sacrament of the Sick with what we used to call “last rites”. In their minds, anointing was the last step before death. Sometimes I was able to convince them otherwise, sometimes not. Old habits die hard.

 

Yes, anointing is appropriate for someone on the verge of death. But it’s not a “kiss of death”. It doesn’t mean you’re going to die, at least not right away. As the Catechism says, it confers a special grace. Any time someone becomes seriously ill, he may receive the sacrament. What’s “seriously ill” mean? It usually doesn’t mean the flu, but in some cases it might. I suffer from diabetes. I consider that to be serious and I’ve been anointed every time the condition seems to have gotten worse.

 

Any time you’re going to the hospital for surgery, that’s serious. You should be anointed. Any one suffering from the effects of old age should be anointed.

 

The actual anointing is done with oil that was blessed by the Archbishop on Holy Thursday. Each year the old oil is disposed of and replaced with newly blessed oil. Father will anoint the person’s forehead with oil and say, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit”. Then he will place oil on the hands and say, “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up”. To each prayer the sick person responds: “Amen.”

 

Remember just a couple of weeks ago we talked about the Holy Spirit and how He works in our lives. Here we have another example of His amazing power. Father calls on His grace to free us from sin and raise us up.

 

So, to sum up. If you feel the need to have the Spirit enter you through the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, please see me after mass. Next Sunday at

9:30 mass, along with the rest of the Archdiocese, we’ll celebrate this beautiful gift of God.

 

 

Corpus Christi

Stewardship thought for the week

May 29, 2016                                                                     Feast of Corpus Christi

 

“They all ate and were satisfied.  And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.”     LUKE 9:17

 

The story of the Loaves and Fishes shows us that when we share what we have, even if it doesn’t seem like that much, miracles can happen!  Do not think that your gift is too small or insignificant!   God blesses all the gifts we offer and makes them wondrous.

 

 

Last week’s collection: Envelopes $617.00; Loose $178.00

Total: $795.00                                                   Remember, God can never be outdone in generosity.

 

Upcoming Masses:

Date Intentions Celebrant
Saturday, May 28 Lee Lauer Father Frank Koeninger
Sunday, May 29 Josef & Marie Sedlak Father Paul Rothschild
Saturday, June 4 Michael Tallent, Jr. Father Paul Rothschild
Sunday, June 5 Joe Klein Father Paul Rothschild
     

 

 

 

 

A Look Back – The parishioners of St. John Nepomuk (SJN) responded in great numbers to the call to serve during World War II. At the close of the war, 202 names were listed on the “Honor Roll,” with an additional 21 alumni from the Hessoun orphanage. Three men from the parish and two from the orphanage were killed in action.

 

As described in the last edition, Fr. Prokes, the administrator of SJN, organized “The Home Front” to support the overall war effort, especially providing aid and comfort to parish service members. The organization undertook many actions to provide this support. Each service member received a crucifix, rosary and missal. Fr. Prokes published a monthly periodical, the “Messenger” that contained stories of the parish, schedules of events and spiritual readings. This publication was a true reflection of home and was provided monthly to each soldier. Service members were also mailed a copy of the “Register” (the precursor to the Review) on a weekly basis. Each month service members received a present to remind them of the support from home and each Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, each soldier received a special, attractive package.

 

Most important of all, the parishioners at SJN provided spiritual support. Soldiers were encouraged to participate in a retreat at the White House prior to reporting for duty. A weekly Holy Mass was offered for those serving. On June 11, 1943, a special “service-men’s altar” was erected in church. Lastly, in May and October of each year, public Rosary pilgrimages were made at the Hessoun Orphanage to pray for the soldiers and for peace.

 

 

Annual Catholic Appeal—We did it! We’ve exceeded our ACA goal of $3,731 with total pledges of $3,780. However, there are still seven cards that haven’t been turned in. Please return your card if you haven’t already.

 

Picnic News: Our picnic/barbecue will be held on Sunday, June 5 and coincides with the Lafayette Square House Tour so we’re expecting a nice crowd.

 

Thanks to Jim Peterson for once again stepping up to be our picnic chairman.

 

We are still in need of prizes. If you can donate something, especially gift cards from local merchants, it will be much appreciated. We will also need desserts. Last year we ran out and had to make a last-minute “dessert run” to the store.

 

 

CHARITY OUTREACH MAY:  Thanks to everyone who contributed to our May collection. The items have been given to St. Martha’s Hall Emergency Shelter and will be put to good use.

 

 

2nd Collection next weekend will be for Cardinal Glennon Hospital.

 

Memorial Day: Monday is a day set aside to remember those who have given their lives that you and I might be free. Our secular society wants us to think it’s a great day for picnics and barbecues and an excellent time to buy new furniture.

 

There’s nothing wrong with those things, as long as we keep the purpose of the holiday first and foremost in our minds. Please pray for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us and for their families. Pray for our nation, that these brave men’s and women’s sacrifices have not been in vain. And, thank God for the brave servicemen and women currently putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom.

 

 

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6th Sunday of Easter

As Catholics living in the twenty-first century our faith has been much affected by the Second Vatican Council. The Council, which began in 1962, clarified and codified a lot of things. Sadly, as human beings, we all read things into the Council documents that weren’t really there. Also, as human beings, a lot of us were resistant to some of the things that the Council said. Some of us still are.

 

As an adult convert, the modern Catholic Church is the only Church I’ve ever belonged to. Some of the things that the rest of you grew up with are very foreign to me. My mass has always been in English. In my experience, the priest has always faced the congregation. Joining the Church in 1968, all the big changes had already taken place before I ever set foot into a Catholic Church.

 

Because the Church works so slowly, it’s almost fifty years since Vatican II and some Catholics are still resisting some of the so-called “new” things. Ironically, my life has been more affected by one of the Vatican II reforms than most of you. That would be the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate. If not for the Council, I wouldn’t have a clerical vocation, or a job.

 

Church Councils don’t happen very often. Vatican II was the twenty-first Church Council in the 2,000 year history of the Church. Historically Church Councils have been called to deal with controversy and heresy. The very first Council took place in Jerusalem around 50 AD. It was called the Council of Jerusalem and we read about it today in the first reading.

 

The issue with the council was whether you had to be an observant Jew in order to be a Christian. More importantly, at least for the men, was whether you had to be circumcised to follow Christ. Obviously, the Jewish converts were much more agreeable to this than the Gentiles. It was a big deal and threatened the future of the new Church. So, the Apostles agreed to meet and discuss the issue.

 

As we know, the Gentiles won the argument. The only requirement to join the new Church was to abstain from certain foods and from unlawful marriage. “If you keep free of these things, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.” Notice that the Apostles said “It’s the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…” In 50 AD, and in 2016, our leaders are guided by the Spirit.

 

Here we are, twenty centuries later, and we’re faced once again with the issue of unlawful marriage. It’s funny how things keep coming around. Just this week our Missouri legislature failed to address religious freedom. After all these centuries, marriage is still a contentious issue.

 

Here at Saint John Nepomuk we have a lot of weddings. These are “lawful marriages”, the only kind that the Church recognizes. Thanks to Vatican II, this is an issue for me, just as it is for all Catholic clergy. Don’t get me wrong. If a couple chooses to have a civil union, that’s not my concern. Whether it’s a man and a woman, two men, or two women, the Church doesn’t recognize a civil union as a sacrament. It’s just a contract. And without a sacramental marriage, a couple living together as man and wife are committing a mortal sin.

 

And no matter what the Supreme Court says, no matter what the Missouri legislature says, if you show up at Saint John Nepomuk wanting an unlawful marriage, I won’t do it. You’ll have to go somewhere else. Given the political climate in the United States today, I suppose there’s a good chance that I might be sued or even arrested. Who knows? But, regardless of the consequences, I’ll still refuse. I don’t think the Scriptures could be more plain. It’s right there in today’s first reading. “If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.”

 

Now, some of you may not care what happens to me.   And that’s ok. A lot of better people than me have suffered for their faith. I’d be proud to be in their company. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

 

I will keep Jesus’ word; no matter what. That’s all there is to it. Because of my vocation, I’m in a position where some day I may have to put up or shut up. That’s not a surprise to me. I knew what I was getting in to when I was ordained.

 

But, what about you? Chances are you’ll never be in a position where you have to take such a serious stand. But we’re coming up on an important election. I can’t tell you who to vote for and I wouldn’t expect you to vote for a candidate just because I told you to. In fact, what you do at the polls is between you and God. But I would suggest that you think seriously about the consequences of your decision.

 

Little by little we’re losing our religious freedom. If we don’t pay attention one day we may wake up and find that our beliefs are illegal. It’s happening already. Please take this seriously. Most of our ancestors, including the Bohemians who built this church, came to the United States for religious freedom. It would be a shame if all their efforts were in vain.

4th Sunday of Easter–Good Shepherd Sunday

On this 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, we hear one of the shortest Gospel passages of the whole reading cycle; just five sentences. But, even though it’s short, it says an awful lot. We call it “Good Shepherd Sunday” because Jesus begins by telling us, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

 

We HEAR Him. He speaks to us. We recognize His voice, just as the sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. That’s important. Sometimes we Catholics get a bad rap because we don’t read the Bible as much as some of our Christian brothers and sisters. The thing is, we don’t read it as much as we hear it. Every Sunday when we come to mass, we hear three readings, a Psalm, and parts of scripture that are repeated in every celebration of the Eucharist, for instance, the Lord’s Prayer. Every three years we pretty much hear the whole Bible.

 

There’s a reason why Father doesn’t just say the opening prayer and then ask us to sit down and read the readings assigned to that day to ourselves. Jesus wants us to HEAR Him. He wants us to listen to the readings, not just to read them. It’s especially true of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus speaking to us and He wants us to hear Him. How do we know? Because He just told us. 4-legged sheep follow their shepherd because they recognize his voice!

 

Over the years I’ve discovered that I almost always get something different from the readings when I hear them read out loud as opposed to just reading them out of the book. The spirit works through the lector, the deacon, or the priest, to give them the gift of inflection. The way the words are said convey a different meaning than the way the words are presented on the page.

 

Here’s something you may have never thought of. The Gospel readings are in the Sacramentary, along with the other readings. But we proclaim the Gospel from a separate book, the Book of the Gospels. The deacon, or some other minister, carries the Gospel into church as part of the opening procession. We give the Book of the Gospels much more respect than paper and ink alone deserve. We’re bringing Jesus’ words into the church.

 

Did you ever wonder why we don’t carry it back out? It’s because you hear His words and you carry them out of church, in your minds and hearts. Again, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.”

 

As far as we know, Jesus never wrote down anything. God the Father inspired all scripture, but Jesus wasn’t into writing. He was into speaking. “My sheep hear my voice.” He didn’t say anything about His sheep reading His blog, or following Him on Facebook or Twitter. And He handed His teaching authority on to His bishops at Cesarea Philippi when He said, “Whoever hears you, hears me.”

 

But, here’s our challenge. When Jesus spoke, people listened. There was no television, no radio, and no Internet. His listeners were just that; LISTENERS. Our Gospel readings usually begin, “Jesus said to His disciples….” He didn’t have to say “please turn off your cell phones and other electronic devises.” They hung on every word that He said.

 

Today, there’s just so much competition for our attention. We’re inundated with constant noise. Even the Son of God has a hard time getting through to us. That’s one reason why we need to come to mass. At least for these few minutes each week, we’re away from outside distractions and free to listen to God’s word. For the other 167 hours per week, not so much. Let’s not waste this valuable time.

 

We’re also living in a time when we’re surrounded by false prophets. We may want to listen, but maybe we’re not sure which voice is actually His. During this election season we’re constantly told conflicting things. Do we welcome everyone into our country or do we build a wall? Should we encourage hard work or should we focus on giving people free stuff? I’m sure all these people mean well, but they can’t all be right. We have to discern the truth.

 

In matters of faith, there are a lot of people who claim to be speaking for Jesus. Again, they can’t all be right. How do we decide? For me the answer is simple and I already gave it to you earlier. Jesus told Peter and the Apostles, “Whoever hears you, hears me.” He left us one Church with one teaching authority. Lucky us; it’s the Church we all belong to.

 

What else does He tell us in this short Gospel. He promises us eternal life. He promises us that we shall never perish. “No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of my Father’s hand.” That’s some serious stuff.

 

You and I can live forever if we follow Jesus. The only person who can take us out of Jesus’ hands is ourselves. We have to follow Him. We have to listen. We can’t just go off on our own. We all know what happens to a sheep when he leaves the flock. The wolf has a nice dinner. Jesus closes by telling us that He and the Father are one.

 

In five short sentences Jesus has given us everything we need to know. Listen to Him, follow Him, and we’ll go to heaven. That’s it. It’s so simple. Yet, it’s so difficult.

2nd Sunday of Easter–Divine Mercy

Mother_AngelicaMother Angelica died on Easter Sunday. I’m sure most of you know who she was, but just in case….She was the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Starting in a garage, she grew EWTN into a worldwide media network reaching more than 250 million people. Even though she’s been unable to do TV work since 2002, her programs are still the most popular on the network.

 

Mother was quite a character. Her down-home style and her sense of humor attracted millions of people to her, and to Jesus. She was a nun of the Franciscan order of Poor Clares and was devoted to Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.

 

She wasn’t afraid to be outspoken when it came to her love of Jesus. She once said, “Do we love Jesus enough to defend Him?” What a great comment!

 

Mother Angelica was 92 years old and had been sick for a long time so her death wasn’t a surprise. In fact, her community in Hanceville, AL, had been planning for her passing for a long time. They had prepared a week of liturgies to mark her death. But, being the person she was, she died on Easter. We’re not allowed to pray the Office of the Dead during the Octave of Easter, so all the services that had been prepared for so long had to be scrapped and a new series of services had to be prepared on very short notice. I’m sure the cantankerous nun is smiling in heaven, seeing so many priests and religious scrambling to prepare for this week.

 

Two things Mother said, among the thousands of quotes attributed to her, will always stay with me. She once said, “When I think of all He’s done for me and how little I’ve done for Him, I could cry.” Here’s a woman who’s taken the Gospel to millions of people around the world in spite of her many physical challenges, and she doesn’t think she’s done enough! How insignificant our contributions are by comparison. “When I think of all He’s done for me and how little I’ve done for Him, I could cry.”

 

She often said, “We’re all called to be saints”. As you and I sit in this beautiful chapel surrounded by statues and images of great saints, her words should be a constant reminder to all of us of what God’s calling us to be. She said her greatest fear was not to do God’s will.

 

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Our readings remind us of just how merciful God can be. In the Gospel, the Apostles are gathered in a locked room “for fear of the Jews”. He stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Think about that. Think about what’s just happened. Jesus was tortured and killed and these guys ran away. They hid. They deserted Him when He need them the most. Peter, the one chosen to lead His new Church even denied that he knew Jesus, not once, but three times! And Jesus’ first words to them were “Peace be with you.” He forgave them. That’s Divine Mercy.

 

All the Apostles weren’t there. Thomas was missing. When he came back, he refused to believe. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and pub my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

 

A week later, Jesus returns and this time Thomas is with the others. Again Jesus wishes them peace and offers Thomas the proof that he said he needed. Jesus didn’t rebuke Thomas. His mercy extended even to “doubting Thomas.”

 

If Jesus could forgive them, why wouldn’t we think that He’d forgive us for our transgressions.

 

In the first reading, Peter and the others have been doing signs and wonders. Not only did Jesus forgive them, He gave them power to do wondrous things so that people might believe. They believed so strongly that they thought even Peter’s shadow falling on the sick would heal them. More proof that no matter how sinful we might be, we can do great things with the help of the Holy Spirit.

 

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, when we realize that a crippled nun could start in a garage and build up a massive communications network reaching millions of believers and nonbelievers, we should realize that we can do great things too. Maybe we’ll never reach millions of people, but we can spread the Gospel to everyone we meet. That’s our mission. That’s our calling. As Mother Angelica said, “We’re all called to be saints.” Our only fear should be not to do God’s will.

 

 

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