Friday, May 23, 2014

Christ's Ascension, Holy Spirit's Descent: Sacrifice Accepted, First Fruit Given

There is a parallel between Christ being raised up on the Cross, when the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom giving the people access to the Throne of Mercy; and Jesus being taken up into heaven, when the heavens were torn open giving the people ready access to the heavenly homeland. We have only to recall the words recounted in the Gospel of John: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later” (Jn. 13:36). We have the Lord's assurance that we will, one day, follow Him into His heavenly dwelling place. As we journey towards the Kingdom, we have the assurance of God's boundless mercy for any of our misguided steps.

Jesus' Ascension into Heaven by John Singleton Copley, 1775

For the weeks after Easter, the Mass liturgy directed our attention to the Farewell Discourse of Jesus recounted in the Gospel of John. These words were addressed to the apostles as Jesus was preparing for the events of His great Passover. With these words He instructed the disciples to peer through the veil and approach the Throne of Mercy. While the prospects of boundless mercy were awe inspiring, the price the Master was about to pay was heart wrenching. Seeing their distress at the thought of His absence, Jesus sought to console them by promising to send a Helper to accompany them in all their undertakings. The promise Jesus made to the disciples, He likewise makes to us.

Even though we are deprived of physical contact with the Risen Lord, we are not left without a Guide and Companion for the journey. Jesus reminds us that His departure is necessary. His Ascension into heaven proved that the ransom was accepted. In His flesh, Jesus demonstrated that the children of Adam and Eve once again had access into Paradise. The descent of the Holy Spirit was to be the first fruit of Christ’s return to the Father’s right hand. The coming of the Spirit is the sign that the Father had, in fact, looked upon the sacrificial offering of His only-begotten Son with a serene and kindly countenance. More than that, He actually received it on His altar on high in the sight of His divine majesty.

The Lamb that was slain, lives now in the presence of the Father to intercede for us so that we may be open to the promptings of the Spirit Who is our Advocate and Guide. By breathing forth the life-creating Spirit, the Son Who is nearest the Father’s heart gives us access to the community of Love and the glory of universal harmony that is the Trinity. When you stop and think about it, there really is nothing more wonderful and great as this life hidden with Christ in God.

--Fr. Jerome Machar OSCO

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pledge and Private Vow of William Clifford (br. John of the Cross)

The Confraternity of Penitents is so grateful to God for William Clifford's pledge and private vow to live the Confraternity of Penitents' Rule and Constitutions for Life, made with joy on May 8, 2014. William took the privately vowed name of br. John of the Cross in St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church in Port Chalmers, New Zealand. William (br. John of the Cross) is the first pledged and privately vowed member from New Zealand! He is also a formator in the Confraternity of Penitents and the newly appointed Regional Minister for Pope Saint John XXIII Region consisting of New Zealand and Australia. God be praised for the great grace of William's pledge and private vow!

We share two photos taken after William made his pledge and private vow. He wrote, "Praise God! Thank you so much for everything. Nothing can take away my happiness today."

William (br. John of the Cross) with his wife and three sons and priest, Fr. Michael Dooley, who accepted his pledge and private vow in the name of the Church.

William (br. John of the Cross) with the second witness to his pledge and private vow (his wife was the first witness), his three sons, and Fr. Dooley.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

At the Well with Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know;we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4: 1-42)

Many of us have been in the situation of Jesus at the well. We get caught in the ultimate family feud. Something insignificant has happened and no one gives in. Things happened so long ago that we do not even know what they are and what everyone is fighting about, but no one is going to give in. The Samaritan woman remembers the feud. She says to Jesus, “Why are you asking for a drink of water from me? You know the rules. Samaritans do not talk to Jews.”

The Samaritans had turned to idol worship and entered into mixed marriages with pagans. They tried to come back to Israel, but the situation got complicated when the Israelites were sent into the Babylonian exile. When they returned to Israel, the two peoples had developed in different ways.

Do we practice love when someone is venting under so much anger? Do we offer an olive branch? Do I desire an olive branch, to come back into fellowship with you after you have offended me? After Jesus’ resurrection, the Samaritans came back into observance. Jesus drew every single person into a relationship with himself. He came to bring all people to God.

What is needed to receive others with love? We need to enter into great trust in God and have him handle our anger. Jesus got the Samaritan woman to know herself, and by recognizing herself to come to know God. We need to put words to our sacrifices. We need this before we come to our just Savior. We have sinfulness in ourselves. We have some big items to bring to Jesus. If we put words to our sinfulness, Jesus will heal us.

How did the woman feel when she just owned up to her sins? Jesus did not trim her down. He forgave her. The woman was engaged in promiscuity which is something celebrated today, unfortunately. The woman came to the well to draw water to comfort her thirst. She came at a time when no one else would see her. But Jesus was there. People come to Christ for comfort and conversion. We have received the living waters in baptism, and Jesus promised this woman living water. God offers us living water in the sacraments of the Church. We receive God himself in the Eucharist. Jesus gives all of himself for everyone. He comes to those who confess their sins. They receive the fruits of that confession, His Body and Blood. You already showed your faith in Jesus Christ when you come to church. The woman at the well believed Jesus. We believe what we have heard. Draw close to the well so you can be free and receive the living water that is Jesus. When you drink of Him you will not be thirsty again.

--Father Jacob Meyer, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Homily for First Holy Communion Sunday

On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know  the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet,powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
(Luke 24: 13-35)

Welcome to our our First Holy Communion children! You are going to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus for the first time today! Body. Blood. Soul. Divinity. You are going to receive all of Jesus today. You have been preparing for this since your Baptism. And you know that in the Eucharist, the bread and wine are completely transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. The bread and wine are present as accidents in appearance, but you will receive the real Body and Blood of our Lord. There is a great big word that describes what happens here. Trans-substantiation. There is another big word that goes with the Eucharist. That word is Concomitance. This word means that Jesus is fully present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in in even a little bitty piece of the Blessed Sacrament. No matter if you get a bigger piece or smaller piece of the Blessed Sacrament, you are getting the whole Jesus. Jesus never gives us a part of Himself. He never holds anything back. He gives Himself to us completely. The children know who they are receiving. And not only the young people celebrate what we are receiving, even though they will receive Christ for the first time today. We also celebrate Our Lord who died for us. We celebrate Him in every Mass.

The Gospel account of the road to Emmaus shows us the Mass. We come to Mass, whether or not we had a good week at work or whether or not the kids behaved. We take the road to Mass and that is like the road to Emmaus. The disciples on the way to Emmaus did not know who was walking with them, but they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. As Jesus explained the Scriptures to them, so during the Mass we read the Scriptures and the priest explains them to us. The disciples said that their hearts were burning within them as Jesus spoke to them about the Lord. Our hearts should be burning within us as we hear the Scriptures read and explained. They recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, in the Eucharist. And then Jesus disappeared. Did he really go? Jesus was truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity, in the Eucharist. He is truly present to us. He vanished from the sight  of the disciples on the way to Emmaus but He was not gone. He was present in the Bread.

Jesus loves us so much that He is never far from us. We recognize His Presence in the tabernacle when we genuflect. We are not genuflecting to a gold box. We are genuflecting to the Body, Soul, Blood, and Divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist housed in the tabernacle.

At your First Holy Communion, we give you a candle. This is a symbol that you are to be the light of Christ to the world because the light of Christ is to be in you. Just like Jesus is in the tabernacle, just like Jesus was in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so Jesus will enter you when you receive the Eucharist. And be grateful for your Christian parents who will bring you to receive the Eucharist every week. Every week you will walk on the road to Emmaus to this Mass. There may be 400 other things that you have to do at home, but you come to Mass once a week to receive the Lord. You take this road to Emmaus, no matter how busy you are or how disappointed, and you come to see Love here. You come however you are. You come however you feel. You can always come to this altar. You can take the road to Emmaus and know that here you will meet Jesus. No matter how tired you are, you will be refreshed. Here is where grace is dispensed. Here we meet the source of love, Jesus. Here we understand that Jesus first gave His life for us, that He left everything for us, that He gave everything for us. Here we receive Jesus himself. He is so full of love for us that he gives Himself to us, and He wants us to be so full of love that we give ourselves to Him.

Remember this. Jesus will always love you. He will always be here in the Eucharist.

--Father Jacob Meyer, CFP Visitor

No Stranger to Evil

When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ (John 10: 4-5)

Good Shepherd Sunday and Mothers' Day fell on the same day this year. There is a special meaning to these holidays coming together. Colleges are also ending for this year, and young people are coming home from their freshman year in college. I remember my first weekend home from college. Mother wanted all of us to go to Mass together and to sit together in the same pew. Now at college, I was used to going to Mass at 5 PM or maybe 6 PM or maybe 10 PM, but I dragged myself out of bed and went to Mass with Mom in the morning to make it happen for her. And the Mass for the day was Good Shepherd Sunday. I had heard these readings before, but it was as if I were hearing them for the first time. I was supposed to be a sheep and be a follower of Christ. The readings convicted me. 

I went to the priest and asked him if he could hear my confession. Father looked at me like., "You're home from your first year in college and I'm going to hear your confession? Hmmm." Father hears confessions and he gets an earful about what happened in the first year of college. And after I got done with my very long confession, I said to Father, “But Father, I am confused. I believe in Jesus. I thought I was following Him. But if I am one of the sheep, why do I stray?” The Scripture reading says that the sheep do not follow the voice of strangers. I had been telling Father for 15, 20, 30 minutes how I had strayed. Was not I a sheep? Why was I straying?

Father said something that was filled with wisdom. He said, “The problem is not that you do not know the voice of Jesus. The problem is that you have been a friend to evil and sin. You do not know evil and sin as strangers, and, unless evil and sin are strangers to you, you cannot recognize the voice of Christ.”

Mother was trying to tell me this in her own way. Mother wanted me to come to Mass and be with her. This was the voice of Christ that I did not understand. I should have listened to Mother more often. I realized that when I was at school, I was not listening to Christ. I will had immersed myself in the world, not in Christ, and the world was no longer a stranger to me. I had to look at my friends. What was I like when I was with them? I was not conformed to Christ. I had to change who I was with and what I did. So I decided to get new friends and so I joined a fraternity! If joining a fraternity is a step up, that shows you how far I had fallen. What our friends to speak about and do will enhance or impede our faith.

My parents had a change of heart, a conversion, when I was in high school. They had to change their friends, too. When I went to the seminary I was immersed in Christ and in friends who knew Jesus. When I left the seminary for my summer vacation, my worldly friends were happy to see me again and asked me to go out with them, and I said, "Sure! Let's go!" But when I was with them, I was miserable. I realized that I did not want to go where they wanted to go. I had changed. I could not be happy and follow their voice any more. As a priest, I am happy that I follow the voice of the Lord.

Can you distinguish the voice of the Lord from the voice of evil? Have you become friends with evil and sin so they are no longer strangers to you? It is never too late to get new friends, to listen to the voice of the Lord, and to make evil and sin strangers again. My Mother’s prayers were what brought me back to the Lord. She prayed for me. She was an example by her very life. It was not that she spent a lot of time catechizing me, but she lived the life of the Good Shepherd through her prayers and example. It is she who brought me back into the fold of Christ. My Mother started to pray for our spouses when we were children. So that means that she has been praying for the Church and all of you, the Body of Christ, because you are my spouse! Let us come into the fold in response to our Mothers' prayers or anyone else’s and be part of the Good Shepherd’s flock.

Father Jacob Meyer, CFP Visitor

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recognizing God

     The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
“I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles,
   so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” ’ (Acts 13: 44-47)

If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ (John 14:7)

Today's readings present us with an interesting problem. The God of the universe desires to make His presence known and experienced by people who keep putting their fingers in their ears, making it impossible for them to hear Him. They keep closing their eyes, making it impossible for them to see Him. Throughout the texts of Revealed Salvation History, God has attempted to overcome the handicaps and surmount the barriers of His Chosen People. The Holy One made use of signs and wonders and eloquent prophets. Despite His dauntless efforts, the people refused to hear the voice of God and did not recognize His Presence among them. The Sacred Scriptures recount how the descendants of Adam and Eve had not walked in company with God; had not cared for one another; had not acted as if they were created in the image and likeness of God.

They looked at the beauty and grandeur of creation and did not acknowledge their Creator. They forgot that they were created to tend creation in company with God Who is the source and summit of all that exists. Rather than tending the garden entrusted to them, they abused it and its resources for their own sordid purposes. To refresh our own memories, it might be helpful to ponder these few lines taken from the second chapter of the Book of Genesis.  "Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation. At the time when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens-- while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil, but a stream was welling up out of the earth and was watering all the surface of the ground-- the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being" (Gen. 2: 4-7). We were made to possess the breath of the Spirit and to reflect the grandeur of God.

Even though we cannot see God, He sees us. No matter how intently man looked at the wonders of creation. he failed to recognize the hand of its Creator. God seeks us out even before we can identify the object of our deepest longing. Because He desired to be found, the Master of the Universe chose to become a man and dwelt among us. He took to himself our infirmities and once again breathed upon us His life-creating Spirit. By rising from the dead, He transformed our sin-hardened hearts into hearts of flesh that could love and show compassion. The glory of God shined on the face of Christ. Through His Passion, Death and Resurrection, Christ manifested the Father's love for the human race and made all who believed in Him heirs of the Kingdom. Let us entrust ourselves to the love and will of God and thus come to know the blessings of a life hidden with Christ, in God. When Christ our life appears, may we appear with Him in glory.

Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Battered and Bruised for Christ

. . .  they had the apostles called in, gave orders for them to be flogged, warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. And so they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name. Every day they went on ceaselessly teaching and proclaiming the good news of Christ Jesus, both in the temple and in private houses. (Acts 5: 40-42)

As I was pondering this passage, the wind was howling and everything that was not tied down was being blasted. The wind of the Spirit blows us in directions and places we don't anticipate. At times we feel like we are being blasted on every side. As we make our way through these passages of life, we emerge battered and bruised and much worse for wear. Driven by the Spirit, the apostles spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. It was this proclamation that got them beaten and ejected from the Temple. They did not cower under the lash. Rather, they rejoiced to be found worthy of being battered and bruised for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.

In a world that seems to be adrift for want of a moral compass, we are called to announce the Good News of salvation. Like the apostles, we must be open to the movement of the Spirit and not closed in upon ourselves by threat of persecution. It is important that we submit our wills to the love and care of God. Guided by the Spirit, it must be our constant business to proclaim Christ: Christ crucified and risen from the dead; Christ who is the love of the Father made tangible. Should we experience persecution because of the Gospel we proclaim, we should rejoice in the grace that enabled us to do so. It is a grace to be battered and bruised for the sake of the name of God and Jesus.

The Holy Spirit was the apostles' comfort and support in times of adversity and challenge. Paul reminds us of this in the Letter to the Romans. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8: 31) No matter what we have to endure, God is at our side. Our only responsibility is to be faithful to our calling. If we are willing to offer the Lord our meager resources, He can and will take care of the needs of the multitudes. We must never forget that it is the Lord who blesses our efforts and builds up His Body which is the Church. Seeing ourselves as members of the Body of Christ, we can know ourselves as loved and able to love others as we are loved. When The Lord Jesus returns again in glory, may He bring us all together into everlasting life.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO