Christ is Risen, Alleluia

“Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!”

The beautiful sequence we pray at morning Mass ushers into our hearts the hope we so longed for all of Lent, the hope of new life. Our “victor King” is reigning in our hearts as we open our hearts to His Mercy which He so gladly pours into us. Whether this past Lent was good for you or you barely made it through here we are at Easter Sunday morning. It is a new beginning and the Lord welcomes all of us to embrace the beauty that awaits us just like the beauty of a colorful sunrise.

In the Gospel reading for today (John 20: 1-9) we hear about Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb and Simon Peter, along with the “other disciple,” running to find only “the burial cloths.” The disciples did not understand but the “other disciple” believed and we too have the choice to believe that Christ Jesus has obtained for us a new life.

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I am reminded of the joy of the resurrection every morning when I look out my bedroom window and see a beautiful sunrise. Even though we know, in our minds, that Christ’s love is always present, we can be overwhelmed by darkness and despair. We stand in the dark, like barren trees, waiting, watching, and hoping things will change. I am sure all of us have experienced dark times in life. It is so often like being trapped in a place where you know, deep in your heart, the Lord doesn’t want to see you hurting but you can’t seem to pull yourself out of the dark pit. To get out of the darkness we need to be like the other disciple. We need to come out of the tomb and just believe Jesus is risen and we too can rise. He is offering us new life if we just surrender to His loving care, His healing touch, His guiding Spirit. Then, as if we have never seen a sunrise ever before, our gaze moves to the risen Son of God and we are astounded. We realize, with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective, we too can rise out of our darkness. The sky lights up with the colors of life and we rejoice, only our God can create such beauty and promise.

Today, on this Easter Sunday morning, let us all truly allow the Son to rise in our hearts, in our lives, and embrace the beauty of His love for each one of us, individual and unique. He has brought us a new life, a new beginning and it doesn’t matter whether we kept our Lenten promises perfectly or if we struggled to observe just one day of lent. His offer of a new beginning is real and for each one of us. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we are given the chance to embrace the glory of creation in all the facets of life which reveals His love.

Happy Easter my friends!

Scripture quoted from: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032716.cfm

Repent! Repent! Cultivate!

In today’s Gospel reading (Luke 13:1-9) we hear Jesus say, “if you do not repent, you will all perish.” Twice, Jesus advises the people to repent or they will perish. Then he follows his advice with the parable of a fig tree which would not produce fruit. The fig tree was in danger of being cut down if the gardener had not pleaded for it to be spared by saying, “’I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”

Jesus calls us to repent and when I google the meaning of repent in the dictionary I see that it means to, “feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.” As I look out my window into the sleeping rose garden of St Paul of the Cross Retreat Center in Pittsburgh, I cannot help but think that repenting is much like recognizing where our hearts are like the hardened soil winter leaves behind. Through repenting we approach the hardened parts of our hearts and try to loosen the soil so it will be open to receiving the cultivating shower of God’s Mercy and Grace.

It is difficult for a plant to thrive in hardened soil and the same is true about our hearts, they can’t thrive without a fair share of repenting. All of us are faced with times in our lives when our hearts grow hard. Possibly it is when we have been hurt and toughen up as a way of protecting ourselves from being hurt in the future. Sadly, some of us toughen up so much that it takes traumatic events to even loosen us up a little bit. These traumatic events can leave us in tears, feeling like God has abandoned us or just doesn’t love us. We cry out, “Why Lord, why have you allowed others to hurt me so much!” But, if we look deep into our hearts and recognize this pain can bring about many good things, then and only then, will our hearts be open to be cultivated with His love.

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Photo taken at St Paul of the Cross Retreat Center Rose Garden, Pittsburgh

The hardened winter soil found around the rose (and our hearts) can be loosened through repentance if we truly set the eyes of our hearts on the Lord and allow the repentance to open us up. Our hearts can then be cultivated to produce good fruit. We soak in the love of the Son found in the healing Sacraments, the Eucharist, His Word, each other and find that only through repentance and cultivation can our hearts bloom as the rose blooms opening itself up to God and to others.

 

Trust in Him

In today’s gospel reading (Mark 4: 35-41) we find Jesus finishing up a long and tiresome day of teaching in parables to the crowds. Jesus was so tired that when he requested to retreat to the other side of the sea and he disciples took him “just as he was, in the boat.” Jesus was so tired that the rising winds and the waves beating on the boat did not disturb his slumber at the stern of the boat. His disciples were anxious and afraid as they shook Jesus awake wondering if he cared at all that they were perishing. When Jesus awoke, he calmed the winds and sea then asked the disciples, “Why are you afraid?” Have you no faith?”

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Jesus also asks us why we are filled with fear and why we don’t trust Him when we emphatically plead for His attention in the midst of the storms of our lives. Jesus gives us the perfect model for us to mimic as we go out on mission as His disciples. After long and tiresome days of working to spread His love we are understandably exhausted and need to rest. But to truly achieve that rest we need to trust in the Father and believe that all will be well.

How many times have you been so tired at the end of the day that you collapse in exhaustion? For whatever reason, we seem to need to reach this point of utter exhaustion before we are able to let go of our anxieties and trust in God the Father to just take care of everything. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like Jesus, trust in our companions to accept us as we are, and trust that the Father will care for all our needs?

 

Love Anyway

 

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Our Gospel reading (MT 2: 13-18) guides us through the story of Joseph being warned by an angel about the impending danger for the baby Jesus. Joseph responds immediately to the angels’ warning by fleeing to Egypt and remaining there until the death of Herod and the danger had passed. Jesus escaped the vengeance of Herod but the Holy Innocents, all the young boys in Bethlehem did not. Shortly after the birth of Jesus, a time when Christians pause in adoration, these unsuspecting children, became the church’s first martyrs. And so it is that shortly after Christmas, we pause to remember innocent lives sacrificed to calm the fear of just one person.
Herod was certainly fearful of what would happen to him if a new ruler would rise to power. Nothing was going to keep him from protecting his position of power. We too are often caught in the grips of fear when we perceive something will enter our little protected world and bring change or worse yet, eliminate the need for our presence. It’s easy to fall into this trap and lash out at all those around us in a protective nature just as Herod lashed out at all those innocent children. We can too often be just like Herod and kill with our words or unkind behaviors. Sadly, it doesn’t matter the sweetness we discover in Christmas or the kindnesses others show us. We so very quickly throw aside those good things and react in a furious rage.
I think of some simple advice which has been attributed to Blessed Mother Theresa. So today, as we remember all those who have been sacrificed, may we remember to not sacrifice others in order to protect our egos. Instead, let us rejoice in Love which wants only to dwell in our hearts. May we have the strength to follow Blessed Mother Theresa’s wise advice in her writing known by many:

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Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway

– Sandra Monier – Assistant Director of Retreat Ministry, St Paul of the Cross Retreat Center, Pittsburgh

T’was the Night of Jesus’ Birth

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T’was the Night of Jesus’ Birth,
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
not even the church mouse.

The animals were munching
in their stable where
They hoped that the Savior
would soon be there.

The sheep were all nestled
down for the night
While the shepherds made sure
that all was just right.

Everyone thought
and didn’t want to say
All was just the same
another boring Bethlehem day.

When out in the sky
there arose such a light,
The shepherds couldn’t look
‘cause it was so bright.

There was a beautiful angel
up in the sky
The stunned Shepherds couldn’t
figure out why.

The angel told them
In a manger of a stable there lies
A baby—the Savior
In the town nearby
The shepherds went off
to where the baby lay.
They knew they would see
the Savior this day.

More rapid than stallions,
they ran so fast
To see the Savior—
they didn’t want to be last

Now Peace!
Now Joy!
Now Everlasting Life!
On Goodness!
On Love!
God’s Greatest Light!
To the city of Bethlehem!
To the door of the stable!
They hurried on their way
as they were able.

From the dry desert sand,
The three kings they came
Following a star,
For they knew its name.

So over the dunes
They came from the east
This long journey
They didn’t mind the least.

And then in a twinkling,
The star burst bright
Their journey had ended
With joy and delight.
They found the New King,
Born today
In the city of Bethlehem,
So far away

They saw His mother
By the child’s bed
With Joseph softly rubbing
Baby Jesus’ sweet head.

Their hearts were excited
The Christ Child they found
The gifts they had readied
Were perfectly sound.

The visitors awed for what they saw
A child—
His eyes
His dimples
His cheeks
His nose
Oh so regal
Truly a King to save us all.

But His smile gave a great blessing
For He knew their coming
Was a sign of His life’s service
For man’s eternal saving

The Kings thought to themselves,
And sighed with a pause
O’ this child is much better
Than meeting the Santa Claus

They spoke not a word,
wanted to give more
Gave all they had,
And could only adore.
Led by the star, signaling a King
The wise men nobly gifted
Gold, frankincense and myrrh,
For One so regal, all truly fitted

As they left that place—
so holy and mild
They glowed with love
For they saw a Savior—the Christ Child.

They went to their homes
And proclaimed from the heights,
A Merry Christ Mass to all
And to all a Blessed’ Night!

Reigning In Our Pit

In Sunday’s Gospel reading (John 18: 33-37) we hear Pilate ask Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” When Jesus answers, he not only answers Pilate but also answers the doubts we have when we question Him. Jesus asks Pilate, “Do you say this of your own accord or did others say it to you about me?” Imagine being asked this question by Jesus. Are you willing to look into the depths of your heart, examine your every action, and truly see if HE resides there as King?

"There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." - Corrie Ten Boom

“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” – Corrie Ten Boom

Taking that honest look into the depths of our hearts can be a difficult task and it can be a little scary, especially if we know there is something we don’t want to face which dwells in great darkness. But, we can expose all the darkness in our hearts to the light of God’s love and never ending mercy, if we seek to use the gift of fortitude given to us by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, the deep dark recesses of our hearts reveal a trembling and fearful child hiding within which God truly loves and desires so much to see again. Having the Lord as King in our hearts is not about submitting ourselves to a heartless, unloving ruler. Instead, it is about being vulnerable and trusting that He will love and accept that inner child who hides in our darkest pit. It is about recognizing that everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is God’s LOVING will for our lives working itself out in the present moment.

As we end another church year, let us resolve to open our hearts to Him and despite the suffering which may come our way, trust in His love. Let’s start the New Year, the season of Advent seeking a Savior to rescue us from our dark pit, from our fears of being unlovable, from the sin which holds us captive. Let us resolve to allow Jesus to truly reign in our hearts and in our lives as a loving God, one who knows us, accepts us, will be with us always, and will guide us to be with Him forever in paradise.

Right Rules

What are those rules for practicing Sabbath again? Surely a common question for someone new to the Jewish faith. There is so much to remember; no working, no gardening, no hobbies, no fixing flat tires, no caring for a fire which means no barbecues, no cookouts, no cooking eggs, pancakes, no traveling, and so much more. My head starts to spin and and I wonder how to make sense of it all. Jesus, a good Jew, helps us to see the law of His Father’s love and mercy to guide our daily lives.

To read more go to:  https://thepassionists.org/daily-reflections/rigth-rules-10-30-2015

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Seeing with New Eyes

In today’s Gospel reading ( Mark 10: 46-52) Jesus gives sight to the blind. But not because he just happened to be walking past Bartimaeus, the blind man. No, Jesus took note of and healed Bartimaeus, because of the persistent requests of Bartimaeus for Jesus to have mercy upon him, a sinner.

Persistence, a trait so many of us struggle with regardless if it is persistence in our prayer, persistence in our work, or even persistence in our commitment to a relationship. Imagine being Bartimaeus, sitting in the dirt on the side of the road and person after person walks past you. You can’t see them but you can feel the dust kick up and hit you in the face. Then, you sense the presence of God, you feel the warmth of His love nearby but you still cannot see exactly from which direction He approaches. Only God the Father reveals the identity of His approaching Son. No one else sees His identity but you because you are looking with the eyes of your heart. Still, you want to be healed of the physical limitations you experience in your blindness.

Jesus tells you, your faith has saved you, your faith has healed you. This is so true in our daily lives too. Our faith, our belief in the love Jesus has for us can turn our perspective around and help us to truly see His love shining in every aspect of our lives, in every little corner of our days. Being aware of His love helps us to be persistent in loving others, even when times are difficult and especially when we are challenged to even like the other person.

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May all of us see with the eyes of Bartameaus. May we see the love and mercy Our Lord has for each of us.

Jesus Loved

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All of us know that disappointing feeling when we are given a set of parameters which seem impossible to achieve. Maybe we have had the unpleasant task of telling a child they didn’t make the team, or told an employee their performance is not up to par with company expectations. It’s never easy, regardless of whether we are on the giving or receiving end of disappointing news. In today’s Gospel (Mark 10:17-30) Jesus delivers disappointing news to the rich man. But, in doing so, Jesus gives us a great example of how to navigate such an experience. Just before delivering what seem to be insurmountable expectations, “Jesus looking upon him loved him.” What an invaluable thing to do before venturing into any discussion…love the other person.

Why be different?

We hear in today’s Gospel reading (Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48) Jesus telling his disciples that “whoever is not against us is for us.” This takes us back to the first reading (NM 11: 25-29) where Joshua calls out to Moses and urges him to stop others from prophesying in the camp. In both instances people were following Jesus as good disciples and there was a protest which came from someone close to Jesus. In the first reading, Moses identifies the issue boldly as jealousy. It is comforting to see not much has changed between the time of Moses, Jesus and present day.


When we are devoted to a particular cause we can easily get caught in the mindset thinking how we do things is the right way and no effort on anyone elses part is at all adequate. This mindset, often running rampant in volunteer organizations, can be lethal. Sadly, our churches are not exempt from this way of thinking, from this way of existing each day.


None of us should have pet ministries, or exhibit control over any ministry in the church. We certainly don’t corner the market on ways to perform our ministry and just because someone doesn’t do things the same as we do them certainly does not mean it is wrong. Sadly, this chases people away from active participation in the church, the one thing we don’t want to do.


Instead, we need to embrace others, as Jesus did and still does through us; when we are open to having His love work through us. It also helps if we let go of the control we have over the way things are done and simply rejoice in the efforts made by others. When we volunteer for the church or other non-profit organization, we need to see that the community, in fact everything, belongs totally to the all-loving God who embraces everyone.

Why should we be any different in our behavior?

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