Monthly Archives: April 2011

Tuesday Night at the Mission

Last night at the mission we thought about death as Jesus faced it and accepted it in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Dying you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life,” we say at Mass. He accepted death and changed it forever. He will  be with us as our Savior at the moment of our death.

The two most important moments of our life are “now and at the hour of death.”

Tuesday evening our reflections will be on prayer. We need to pray, especially today. Is it possible to pray? How do we pray?

There are some reflections on prayer on Bread on the Waters, and some explanations of the common prayers we say as Christians.

You can learn to help your children pray at that site too.

The important days of Holy Week are coming up this week. Find out about them at this same site. It’s for adults and children.

Here’s a sample for introducing a child to Good Friday:

On Friday,

(We call it “Good”)

Jesus was nailed

to hard, hard wood.

Beneath his cross,

his mother stood

and cried for what they had done.

“Oh, if I could hold him,” she said,

“Hold my only Son!”

“Father, take me,” Jesus said,

“Take me in your hands.”

And God reached down

and took him,

and held his only Son.

“I am God who raises up,

your life has just begun.

I am God of the living,

no grave can hold my Son.”

April 18: Monday Evening at the Mission

The other day, one of the parishioners at St Mary of Mount Carmel Church said he finds the Catholic Catechism from Rome hard going, and it is. Tonight at our mission I’m going to recommend to the people the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, published by the US Biishops in 2006.

I like this catechism for a number of  reasons, it’s easier to read than the Roman catechism and has a lot of stories in it. They’re stories about people who have done a great deal for our church and our world; they’re examples of the faith we profess, saints like Elizabeth Seton, John Neuman and uncanonized saints like Dorothy Day.

Here in St. Mary’s two saints are honored whom I find  particularly meaningful today, especially for those of Italian heritage: St. Lucy Filippini and St. Pio.

I’m interested in St. Lucy because she comes from the same period and region the founder of my community, the Passionists, comes from: the Tuscan Maremma, the poorest part of poor Italy in the 18th century. She believed if you educated girls and women you could change the family and change society. She founded a community of teachers:The Institute of the Religious Teachers Filippini, For more on her and her sisters see here.

Two of her sisters minister in this parish today.

We need saints like Lucy and Padre Pio today.

Unfortunately, we adults think the catechism is for kids and that’s all behind us, but  as Jesus said, we’re always learners. With Catholic schools closing, especially in inner city areas, we need adults to pass on the faith to others.

Our theme for Monday night is “Following Jesus.” We don’t do that just with our feet or with our will, but we also follow him  with our hearts and minds. He is “our Teacher and Lord.”

The story of the Passion and Death is the great book we read these days of Holy Week. Tonight I’m going to look at that book which opened before us in Matthew’s Gospel on Palm Sunday this year. Take a look at the beautiful commentary on the Passion narrative from Matthew by Fr. Donald Senior.

We are going to reflect this evening on the story of the Last Supper and  Jesus’ prayer and agony in the garden.  7 PM

Then we’ll  have Benediction and  remember Jesus who is present and prays for us.

Parish Mission: New Brunswick, NJ

This afternoon I begin a parish mission at St. Mary of Mount Virgin Church in New Brunswick, NJ, preaching at the Palm Sunday Masses  and conducting mission services till next Wednesday evening.

These days of Holy Week speak with “a well-trained tongue;”  We celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, remembering the days when Jesus was arrested, judged unjustly, scourged and crowned with thorns, led to a cross and was crucified.

“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again,”

We take into our hands palm branches this Sunday, as those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem did long ago. We listen to the story of his passion and death; they witnessed what happened to him long ago. They heard his call to faith as we do now. They promised to follow him, but the next days came. How many followed him then?

These are precious days when God’s graces are given and God calls again. The graces are given through Jesus Christ and his life-giving Cross; the call is made through his bruises and wounds and through his empty tomb.

Let us follow him, like those whom he invited into the supper room and received him in bread and wine. Like Simon of Cyrene, let us carry someone’s cross. Like the women who met him on the way, let us have compassion on those who are hurting or are in trouble. Let our hearts be open to the needs of our neighbor and the misery and hopes of our world. Like the thief, who called from his nearby cross, let us ask him for forgiveness. Like Joseph of Arimithea let us tend his body, like Mary his mother, let us hold him in our arms.  Like Mary Magdalen let us see him risen from the death; like Peter and James and John let us be enflamed with new dreams for our world.

From Monday to Wednesday, at 7 PM I will conduct of service of preaching and Benediction, followed by confessions.

The Passionists provide an excellent commentary on the gospel accounts of the Passion of Jesus and the devotions that arise from this mystery at Bread on the Waters. The commentary is by Fr.Donald Senior, CP. and can be found here.

We Have Signs

In today’s lenten reading at Mass from John’s gospel (John 10,31-42), Jesus goes to Jerusalem for another feast, the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple. It’s a feast celebrated sometime in late November to late December, recalling the rededication of the temple after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century BC.

The Jewish feasts are signs in John’s gospel that reveal who Jesus is; they inspire his words and the miracles he does. In fact, he replaces them. On the Sabbath, (chapter 5) he heals the paralyzed man at the pool at Bethsaida. The Son will not rest from giving life as the Father never rests from giving life. On the Passover (Chapter 6), he is the true Bread from heaven, the manna that feeds multitudes. On the Feast of Tabernacles (chapter 7-9)  he calls himself the light of the world and living water. On the Feast of the Dedication, he reveals himself as the true temple, the One who dwells among us and makes God’s glory known.

Once more, Jesus proclaims in today’s gospel his relationship to the Father, “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Yet, once more hostile listeners do not see the signs and accuse him of blasphemy, trying to stone him or have him arrested. But Jesus evades them and goes back across the Jordan to the place where John baptized and “many there began to believe in him.”

So many signs are given to us. We have the scriptures, the sacraments, the witness of the saints. How tragic not to follow them to the Word made flesh!

“To maintain this divine friendship, frequent the sacraments, namely confession and holy Communion. When you approach the altar do so for this one reason alone, to let your soul be melted more and more in the fire of divine love. Remember that you are dealing with the holiest action that we can perform. How could our dear Jesus have done more than to give himself to be our food! Therefore let us love him who loves us. Let us be deeply devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. In church we should tremble with reverential awe.” ( Letter 8)

Lead me on, O Lord,

Through your holy signs,

through them, let me come to you.

Knowing Jesus Christ

St. Augustine has an important reflection in his commentary on the psalms in today’s Office of Readings. It’s about the way we see Jesus Christ, who is God and also human, the Word made flesh.

“We contemplate his glory and divinity when we listen to these words: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made. Here we gaze on the divinity of the Son of God, something supremely great and surpassing all the greatness of his creatures. Yet in other parts of Scripture we hear him as one sighing, praying, giving praise and thanks.

We hesitate to attribute these words to him because our minds are slow to come down to his humble level when we have just been contemplating him in his divinity. It is as though we were doing him an injustice in acknowledging in a man the words of one with whom we spoke when we prayed to God. We are usually at a loss and try to change the meaning. Yet our minds find nothing in Scripture that does not go back to him, nothing that will allow us to stray from him.

Our thoughts must then be awakened to keep their vigil of faith. We must realise that the one whom we were contemplating a short time before in his nature as God took to himself the nature of a servant; he was made in human likeness and found to be human like others; he humbled himself by being obedient even to accepting death; as he hung on the cross he made the psalmist’s words his own: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We pray to him as God, he prays for us as a servant. In the first case he is the Creator, in the second a creature. Himself unchanged, he took to himself our created nature in order to change it, and made us one with himself, head and body. We pray then to him, through him, in him, and we speak along with him and he along with us.”

In these final weeks of Lent John’s gospel sees Jesus claiming to be “I am,” the Word confronting his opponents in the temple. Soon, we will see him praying with fear in the garden, silent before his enemies, struggling to bear his cross, dying a cruel death.

If we neglect his divinity, we call into question God’s gift of redemption to our world and our our own call to be God’s children. If we neglect his humanity, we call into question our own humanity, becoming other-worldly and ignoring the lowliness of our human condition.

We need to keep a “vigil of faith” as Augustine says.

Jesus in the temple

The temple in Jerusalem where Jesus often speaks these last few weeks of Lent has a significant place in Jewish prayers. For example, Psalm 24, from our morning prayer today.


The earth is the LORD’S and all it holds,

the world and those who live there.

For God founded it on the seas,

established it over the rivers.

Who may go up the mountain of the LORD?

Who can stand in his holy place?

“The clean of hand and pure of heart,

who are not devoted to idols,

who have not sworn falsely.

They will receive blessings from the LORD,

and justice from their saving God.

Such are the people that love the LORD,

that seek the face of the God of Jacob.”

Lift up your heads, O gates;

rise up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may enter.


Who is this king of glory?

The LORD, a mighty warrior,

the LORD, mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O gates;

rise up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may enter.

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD of hosts is the king of glory.

The temple was not considered a world apart from ours to the Jews but a place where God the Creator was present, who is always at work recreating the world. So this psalm begins by recalling that the earth is the Lord’s who founded it on the seas and established on the rivers. We know little about the temple’s ornamentation, but it would not be surprising to find it ornamented with symbols of the earth.

In our churches the great signs of the earth are bread and wine.

The temple was a place of blessing, where hearts and hands were blessed to take part in the Creator’s glorious work.

Yet, creation has a destiny beyond the form it has now, and that destiny is also signified in the temple. “This temple has two parts, one is the earth we inhabit, the other is not yet known to us mortals .” (St. John Fisher)

Given its importance, it’s understandable why Jesus spends so much time in the temple, according to John’s gospel. As the Word of God, he is the one “through whom all things were made.” He is the one who lifts up this world to a destiny “not yet known to us mortals.”




God’s Forgiveness

Time and place are tools that help us understand the gospels. On our lenten journey, we are in Jerusalem with Jesus. From the 4th week of Lent, John’s gospel, describing what Jesus did in the Holy City, is the preferred source for our Mass readings on Sundays and weekdays before Easter.

Unlike the synoptic gospels which present him making a single journey to Jerusalem, John’s gospel indicates that Jesus went often to the Holy City, as one would expect. He’s more than a dutiful Jew visiting the temple to celebrate the Jewish feasts, though. He’s more than a simple Galilean peasant from Nazareth caught in a random attempt by the city’s leaders to squelch a possible revolution. In John’s gospel, he is the Word made flesh, the Savior of the world, replacing the temple and its worship; he’s God’s presence on earth. “I am.”

Going to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts was essential for Jesus’ mission. During the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple, and the Feast of Passover he makes startling claims before the Jewish people and their leaders. The false witnesses who testify later at his trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin are not far from the real claim he made; he came, not to destroy the temple, but to be its replacement.

Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman (3rd Sunday A), which John describes at length, takes place as he returns from Jerusalem after driving out the buyers and sellers from the temple during the feast of Passover. He is the purified temple and all will be drawn to him. The Samaritan woman and her neighbors who welcome him stand for all the outsiders called to worship “in spirit and in truth.”

The temple was the place where sin was forgiven. Today’s reading about the woman caught in adultery (Monday, 5th week) takes us to the temple area and reminds us that Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes away the sin of the world. He is a sign of God’s mercy to the woman standing before him, and to all of us. His forgiveness is far beyond the forgiveness of the scribes and pharisees who would stone the woman to death, according to the Law of Moses.

God’s forgiveness goes far beyond their forgiveness–and far beyond ours too.