Tag Archives: mercy of God

All Souls Day

All Saints Day and All Souls Day belong together. On the Feast of All Saints we affirm the capability of humanity for goodness and holiness. We’re all called to be numbered among the saints of God.

On All Souls Day we remember that we’re all weak and sinful. We can lose hope in the call of God, and so we ask God’s mercy for ourselves and those who have gone before us in death.

St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians and Corinthians, affirming God’s promise of eternal life, open our prayer today:

“Just as Jesus died and has risen again, so through Jesus God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep and as in Adam all die so also in Christ all will be brought to life.”

At Communion, we hear the words of Jesus:

“I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord. Whoever believes in me even though he die will live and anyone who believes in me will never die.”

Still, death can sadden us; it can weaken our faith. Praying for the dead strengthens our faith and benefits those who have gone before us. Our opening prayer asks for that grace.

Listen kindly to our prayers, O Lord,
and, as our faith in your Son,
raised from the dead is deepened,
so may our hope of resurrection for your departed servants
also find new strength.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

 

 Eternally Yours

    In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Mk 12: 18-27) a group of Sadducees (a powerful priestly party that denies the resurrection of the dead) tries to confound Jesus by getting Him to comment on a hypothetical situation that would make resurrection from the dead ridiculous. They cite a situation similar to the one in today’s first reading from the Book of Tobit, where Sara, the daughter of Raguel has had the misfortune of being widowed seven times. They ask Jesus, “ At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her. “ Jesus answers them :

    “ Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled.”

    Jesus neutralizes their petty traps handily. But, in this sacred Scripture passage our Lord also gives us some hints about the mystery of life after death. Our loving God will give us the gift of being “ Like the angels in heaven “. Jesus seems to say that God IS the God of the Patriarchs, and since God is the pure source of life, He can only be the God of the living. Therefore these Patriarchs, many years after their “deaths”, must still be alive with and in Him. He is also our God, and always will be. We also have the hope of always living with Him throughout eternity.

    On this Pentecost Sunday, at Mass in my Parish the last song about the Holy Spirit was accompanied by the music of Beethoven’s “Song of Joy” from his 9th Symphony. As soon as I heard the melody I thought of my father, who did so much to introduce me to the music of this, our favorite composer. The Spirit of God filled my eyes with tears as I felt my father so alive and present within my soul. My mother was there with him. Like on so many other sacred moments, I knew that they still lived in God’s arms, and were there waiting for me. On the day of that Mass, through the loving power of God, I was able to feel palpably the presence of the Communion of the Saints with all of us in that joyful church building.

    Yes, “ We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. “

    Amen! Thank You Jesus, for Your mercy. Through Your Passion and Resurrection, You have given us the hope of living in your Love forever!   

Orlando Hernandez

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Lent 1
Luke 5,27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.

It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely apostle than Levi, also called Matthew. Tax collectors like him, agents of a feared and hated government, were despised by ordinary Jews because they belonged to a profession considered greedy, unfair and unclean. They were unwelcome in the synagogues and temple. No good Jew wanted  anything to do with them.

Yet Jesus called Matthew and ate with him and his friends. Jewish leaders in Capernaum were outraged: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus’ answer is the answer of a merciful God. “The healthy don’t need a physician, but the sick do.”

There are no incurables among these sick either, no one whom God won’t cure. Tax collectors are God’s children and belong to God’s family as anyone else does. The call of Matthew is a lenten reminder that God doesn’t reach out to a favored few; he reaches out to the whole wounded world. So should we.

When St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, preached missions in the 18th cenury in the towns of the Tuscan Maremma, he set up a platform in the village square to speak to all who came by. The crucifix he held high in his hands was a sign of God’s mercy offered to all and denied to none. Bandits were common in Tuscan Maremma, and Paul brought many of these “unofficial Tax-collectors” back into society. Jesus wanted them to be saved.

“I rejoiced that our great God should wish to make use of so great a sinner…I tell my beloved Jesus that all creatures shall sing his mercies.” (Diary)

Lord,
who are the tax collectors I wont eat with
and the sick I won’t heal?
Let me see them
and welcome them as you did.

3rd Sunday of Advent C: The Year of Mercy

Audio homily here:

In the time of Jesus when pilgrims from Galilee came up to Jerusalem to pray in the temple, they came a number of ways. Many came down the Jordan Valley, a journey of 90 miles. When they reached the city of Jericho they turned eastward onto a steep, winding road that ascended for 3500 feet and went on for 15 miles to the city of Jerusalem. I have a picture taken from an airplane in the 1930s showing that winding, climbing road through the desert. It had to be the hardest part of their journey.
Bethany 2

In the bible the journey to Jerusalem, especially the last part up that steep winding road through the desert, became a symbol of the journey to God we all make. We’re pilgrims on our way to meet God, and that way, our life journey, can seem hard. It’s not always easy. I think that’s why John the Baptist went into the desert to preach, where the hard winding road began.

John’s father, Zachariah, a priest in the temple in Jerusalem, told John at his birth: “You, my child shall be called a prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.” (Luke 1) Where precisely did John prepare the way? We can’t be sure, but many think it was at the River Jordan near Jericho where he welcomed weary pilgrims and invited them into the refreshing waters of the river, that they might be strengthened for the last part of their journey. But more importantly, he strengthened for the journey of life they were living.

In today’s gospel, we see ordinary people, soldiers and tax-collectors among them. John spoke to each of them, not eloquently, but simply. He told them to do God’s will all their lives. If they did that, God would bring them into his presence.

Certainly, John would use the words of Prophet Isaiah, as we do all through Advent. Isaiah also knew the road to Jerusalem and saw it as a hard journey, but God would make sure we would make it, he said. God would lead the blind on that road, the deaf, the lame– no one was too weak or too small. God would help the lost sheep to make that journey. The weakest of humanity would make the journey by God’s mercy.

This week we began, as Pope Francis has asked, the Year of Mercy. He opened the door of St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to begin the year.

We might see this year as simply a Catholic event, but it’s more than that. Right now, our world needs to hear of God’s mercy.

In his encyclical Laudato Si, on the care of our common home. The pope mentions that for almost 200 years, since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the time of the Enlightenment, our world has been convinced of the unlimited progress of human power and potential. Unlimited human progress. We can do anything. But there are signs in our world now, ominous signs, that our world is weak and blind and lame. There’s increasing skepticism, increasing fear, an increasing option for violence. We’re worried about the way ahead. We’re worried about the future.

We have to open the door of our own minds, in this year of God’s mercy, to know that this is God’s world. Yes, the journey isn’t going to be easy. It’s a winding, wearying, road where the end isn’t in sight. We don’t have all the answers, but we have the one important one. God is with us and he is with our world, weak and blind and lame as it is.

God is our hope.

The Sacrament of Penance

Prodigal son

Penance is a neglected sacrament in our church today. Few Catholics receive it. It was among the last sacramental rites to be revised after the Second Vatican Council and little catechesis accompanied its introduction. The Mass, with its changes in language and form, got most attention after the council. It seems to me that Penance needs to be better known and better celebrated.

Like the Mass, this sacrament has different names. It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Penance and also Confession. Each term describes something about it.

It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation because God shows us mercy here, a mercy that reconciles us to him and to our world. The prayer the priest prays after the penitent confesses sin explains the sacrament:

“God the Father of mercies through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church may God grant you pardon and peace. I absolve you from your sin in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Reason can point to a God all-powerful and infinitely wise, but faith says God is “the Father of mercies.” God reveals himself as merciful in Jesus Christ who died and rose again from the dead. Appearing to his fearful disciples on Easter Sunday evening he said to them:

“’Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (John 20,19-23)

God is merciful and mercy brings “pardon and peace.” The mercy of God is a favorite theme Pope Francis stresses today in his preaching and ministry. It is a prominent theme in the recent Synod on the Family. We need to believe in it.

Besides the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament is called the Sacrament of Penance. To do penance is to try to heal the wounds and damage we have caused through what we have done or left undone in life. The penance given the penitent by the priest in confession is part of a life-long way of penance. We’re also part of a church that must be always penitential, a church always needing to be reformed.

The sacrament is called Confession because we look at ourselves in the light of God’s word and try to uncover and express what are our sins and how they prevent us from loving God and neighbor as we should.

Reconciliation, Penance, Confession. The simple steps taken in this sacrament are concrete expressions of these themes. We can confess individually, probably the most familiar way, or as part of a group. There are two ways for celebrating the sacrament in groups, one ending with individual absolution, the other with general absolution.

Briefly, individual confession before a priest can be done either kneeling or face to face. It begins with the Sign of the Cross, a sign of God’s blessing and God’s presence. Then there is a short reflection on God’s word so that we might know our sins and be encouraged to confess them to our God. This step should also take place in our preparation for confession.

We express our sins to the priest, receive a penance from him and pray that God forgive us.

The priest then declares the mercy of God and the grace of pardon and peace in the prayer mentioned above.

The sacrament concludes with an expression of thanksgiving to God, who is merciful.

A fuller treatment of the Sacrament of Penance can be found in The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults,  now free online.

Zacchaeus, Come Down

Zachaeus
We celebrate two days at the beginning of November that look beyond this world to the world to come: the Feast of All Saints and All Souls Day, November 1st and 2nd. The Feast of All Saints is not just a feast of canonized saints, like Mary the Mother of Jesus, Peter and Paul, Mother Teresa. It celebrates our belief that a great number– beyond counting according to St. John– are with God now. Each of us knows some good and faithful people who must be among them.

What about All Souls Day? I wonder if on that day we recognize there’s human weakness, as well as human goodness, in those God calls for judgment. They need God’s purifying mercy for their sins, their misuse of God’s gifts, their meanness, their lack of faith and hope and love. We know people like that too, maybe we can see ourselves in them.

The more important of these two November days is the Feast of All Saints, which proclaims the God’s mercy to be stronger than our sinfulness. It’s beyond what we expect. We hope and pray for it.

Our readings for this Sunday are about God’s mercy, a mercy that pursues us through this life and into the next. (Wisdom 11, 22-12,20) Our gospel story about the call of Zacchaeus is a special lesson in God’s mercy. Zacchaeus, the chief tax-collector in Jericho, is a wealthy man whom Jesus called down from a tree and then stayed in his house on his way to Jerusalem. (Luke 19, 1-10)

As Jericho’s chief-tax collector, Zacchaeus was an agent for Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Perea in Jesus’ day. Archeologists are still uncovering ruins of a good many of Herod’s building projects in Galilee and elsewhere. He built on a grand scale and he built lavishly, to impress his allies, the Romans.

Of course, you need money for his kind of building, and that’s where tax-collectors come in. There was no dialogue or voting on government spending then. Herod told his army of tax-collectors, “Here’s how much I need; you go out and get it. Go to the fishermen along the Sea of Galilee and the farmers near Nazareth and get what I need; I don’t care how you squeeze it out of them.” And the tax collectors went out and got him the money, and kept some for themselves.

You needed to be tough and relentless for the job. It had to leave you hard headed and hard hearted. People bitterly resented the tax collectors. Zacchaeus, chief tax collector in Jericho, led them all, and he was the one whom Jesus called down from a tree and stayed with on his way to Jerusalem.

The only words Jesus said to Zacchaeus, according to the gospel, are these: “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” No thunderous warnings or stern corrections. Jesus declares that salvation has come and they sit down for a feast. In this story you can hear echoes of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, also from Luke’s gospel.

Zacchaeus encountered the goodness and mercy of God in Jesus and it changed him. Goodness and mercy changes people. When we encounter the goodness and mercy of God we’re changed too.

We have to ask: Is God’s mercy a thing of the past, or limited only to this life? Will it also pursue us in death? Jesus will judge us at that moment. Will his judgment of us be like his judgment of Zacchaeus? When he calls us home, will he be merciful as he was to the tax-collector?

We see now in signs; we hear promises. Then we will see him face to face, and his goodness will change us, the sight of him will purify us.

God’s mercy pursues us, now in signs, then face to face. As we look upon the Bread come down from heaven at Mass we hear, “Behold, the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” God’s mercy is proclaimed, as it was for Zacchaeus, at a supper.

Holy Souls

Before the altar in our chapel in this month of the Holy Souls, there’s a large stack of names sent in to be remembered at Mass. Just names written on paper. No eulogies, no lengthy description of who they are, what they did, or anything else about them.

In one sense, they represent us poor mortals as we are in death. We have nothing, except hope in the mercy of God. We are in God’s hands.

We place the names of our dead before the altar and great crucifix that hangs over it because of  the promise of Jesus Christ:

“And this is the will of the one who sent me,

that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,

but that I should raise it on the last day.”

Our prayers at Mass say the same thing; we don’t earn eternal life, it is a gift to us. “All life, all holiness comes from you, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit.”

God blesses the bread and wine with the presence of his Son, and he blesses the world he loves so much.

“Remember those who have died in the peace of Christ, and all the dead whose faith is known to you alone.”

Even though others forget, a merciful God remembers.