Saturday, December 24, 2016

Graces at Christmas and in the New Year, from St. Anthony of Padua

May God bless all of you who support the Confraternity of Penitents with your prayers and in other ways. As a thanks to you, we share this reflection from St. Anthony of Padula. May you have a blessed Christmas and a joyful new year.

This shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. [Lk 2.12]

This shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. [Lk 2.12]

Notice these two things: humility and poverty. Happy the man who receives this sign on his forehead and in his hand (that is, in word and deed). What do the words, You shall find the infant, mean, if not: You will find wisdom babbling, power made week, majesty laid low, the immense made small, the rich made poor, the Lord of angels lying in a stable, and the Food of angels made like the fodder of animals, the unlimited confined to a narrow manger? This, then, will be  sign to you, so that you do not perish like the Egyptians or the people of Jericho.

And so, glory be to God the Father on high, and in earth peace to men of good will, for the Word Incarnate, for the Virgin giving birth, and for the Savior being born. Maybe he who is blessed forever deign to bestow that same glory on us. Amen.

--St. Anthony of Padua, Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, trans. Paul Spilsbury. Padova, Italia: Messaggero di Sant' Antonio Editrice, 2010. vol. iv, pp. 8-9

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pharisee vs Publican

Was the Pharisee, in the gospel of the Pharisee and the publican, all that bad? After all, he prayed regularly; he fasted; he tithed. Isn’t that what we are all called to do?

I think we can take this Pharisee at his own words, and believe him when he says that he fasted, tithed, was not dishonest, nor greedy, nor adulterous. Those things are good and virtuous practices, and we are pleased that he hasn’t chosen the opposite way of life. But the most important thing of all was missing in his daily existence, and that was a heart that is humble before God. A perfect example of that was not only his vanity, but also his judgmental attitude toward the tax collector, who
was also in the temple to pray.

Right about this time in the gospel reading, everyone nods their heads, knowing that this Pharisee is going to get his come-uppance (a negative term for his deserved “reward”). Sure enough, Jesus says that the Pharisee was not in a right relationship with God. On the other hand, the tax collector, who had humbled himself, was deemed by Jesus to be in right relationship to God.

Yeah. Jesus! Perhaps we might be inclined to say that today. Then we remember that we are called in every parable to put ourselves into the story. Do I live like that Pharisee – things like counting up my rosaries, faithful Mass attendance, using the church envelopes, volunteering for church activities… And thank God I’m not like those other so-called Catholics who don’t go to Mass regularly, or who dissent with Church teachings, or who party too much, or… they are well on their way to hell...

UTOH! Do I regularly fall into this trap of self-deception, becoming the judge of the salvation of others (and thereby implying that I surely am not like them)? Do I realize that this is a confessable sin? Recognizing and acknowledging our own sinfulness is an act of humility that puts us back in
right relationship to God.

Humility is the core foundation of our relationship with God. God calls us to always preach the Word and to at times call others to repentance, which is a spiritual work of mercy. We must always carefully distinguish between judging the actions and judging the person. There are indeed actions
that are objectively and intrinsically good or evil, but we must not take the next step of determining the guilt (i.e., salvation) of the person. That is a responsibility that lies only with God. Leaning this balance correctly is what we call wisdom, a gift from the Holy Spirit and the right application of revealed knowledge.

--Deacon Joseph Pasquella

Monday, September 26, 2016

In the Presence of God

The image that Job presents of God is awe-inspiring: “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea” (Jb.9:8).

We are in the presence of the Master of the Universe even though we do not see Him. Unable to grasp the awesome grandeur, we worship and adore Him. As we bow down before the Divine Majesty, He stoops down from His cherubic Throne and raises us up.

Job reminds us that in the presence of the All-Holy One, no one is holy or pure. If we are permitted to stand upright before Him, it is because of His mercy and loving-kindness. God acts with power, which we know not. His love is everlasting. Like Job, we choose to believe in Him, even though everything we touch turns to dust.

The self-revelation of God to us is totally a gift. “By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation. Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men. God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit” (C.C.C. #50).

Trust in the living God is the anchor of our souls. For this reason, we should seek the Presence of God in all things, good and bad; in all circumstances, favorable or painful; and in all people, likeable or distressing. We have been loved without measure, and we are to love without measure.

Only those who totally empty themselves in service of others, as Christ emptied Himself for us can enter the Kingdom. To follow the Lord is not to find earthly glory. To follow the Lord is to embrace the Cross, where the emperor has no clothes and the king has no place to rest His head. Only He Who is powerless and rejected by all has the power to win all of humanity for the sake of the Kingdom, making them Children of God. By being nailed fast to the wood of the Cross, Christ freed us to surrender to the Father’s will for us.

How awesome to think that we are loved, even though we do not deserve it. When asked to explain the mystery of redemption, all we know is that we have heard the call and responded to the promptings of the Spirit. The rest in in God’s hands.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Friday, September 16, 2016

Gentle, Still Passages of Life

11 He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ (1 Kings 19: 11-13)

Elijah the prophet's vision is awe inspiring to say the least: a howling wind, a tremendous earthquake and a raging fire. These phenomena bring to mind previous manifestations of God’s presence on Mount Horeb. When God visited His people, loud thunder and fierce flashes of lightning filled the sky and fire prepared His path. A trembling shook the ground and filled the people  with fear and terror.

God is not a play thing or a toy. He is the creator and master of the universe.

Recall the words penned by the psalmist: “The heavens declare the grandeur of God and the firmament declares the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1).

All these manifestations demand that we acknowledge God’s power and majesty. Because of His greatness we have reason to hope, even in the face of severe trials. At the presence of the Lord, all of creation trembles.

But the people He has called into His presence have nothing to fear because He is their Rock, their redeemer. No matter what threats we must face, the Lord of Hosts is with us.

Over the tumult, one can imagine hearing the voice of the redeemer: “Calm down and don’t be afraid. It’s me” (Mat. 14:27).

When we encounter storms while responding to the call of the Lord, He manifests Himself and clothes us in His abiding grace. Our confidence rests in the belief that Christ is near to guard and protect us.

We are allowed to face our own weaknesses so that we would learn to depend on Christ’s redeeming power. It is when we call out to Him for help that He stretches out His powerful right arm to save us. Recall the words taken from the Gospel of Mark: “Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Hush! Be still!’ Suddenly the wind lulled and there was a great calm” (Mk.4:39).

Even on stormy days, when we seem to be tossed about in every direction, the Lord is present to be our peace and rock of refuge.

In the lull, there is a hush and a gentle breeze carries the words: “Rise up, my love, my beautiful one! Come away with me. The winter is past, the storms are over and gone” (Song 2:10-11).

The voice of God’s Love Incarnate has the power to take possession of our hearts. The object of our life’s journey calls us to himself. We are invited to come away from the tumult of the world and enter into fellowship with Christ and to live the freedom of the Children of God. When the Beloved Son comes to us in those gentle and still passages of life, may we go out and stand before Him.

--Fr. Jerome Machar, OSCO

The Lion of Israel

 A passage taken from the Book of the Prophet Amos brought to mind images of Aslan and Narnia. The profession of faith recounted in Deuteronomy is very straightforward. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God. The Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4). The one God is the Lion of Israel. When His roars, who will not be afraid?

Despite our egalitarian approach to life, we are not God’s equals and we cannot domesticate the Lion of Israel. We live in His kingdom by His grace and benevolent will. This can prove disconcerting in a “feel good” society.

Some of us may remember Mr. Beaver telling Lucy “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you”

The Lion of Israel is ferocious, not safe, but at the same time He is good, because as Saint John wrote, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). “Let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 JN. 4:7). To love God is to be willing to take risks, because love is not safe. Divine love does not ignore sin, but allows for mercy. Love isn’t safe, but it is good and seeks the truth.

“The lion roars – who will not be afraid?” The Psalmist wrote, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God” (Ps. 14:1). Since there is no God, the individual considers himself free to do whatever he or she wills.

We seem to keep forgetting that God does not need our belief in Him for Him to exist. The ancients knew this and celebrated it in their liturgical songs. “Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered. May His foes flee before Him. May He blow them away like smoke – as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God” (Ps. 68: 1-2).

With all His might, God protects all that is His own. As we read in the Gospel of Saint John, “I give them eternal life, and they will never be lost; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (Jn. 10: 28-29). God not only speaks words of love, but He also has the power to save all those He has made His own.

“It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

 When the Lion of Israel roars we have no reason to fear. While He may not be safe, He is good and loving. Certainly the Prophet Isaiah understood this. “The right arm of the Lord is not too weak to save, not His ear deaf to hear” (Is. 59:1).

The Lion of Israel is on the prowl, looking for someone He can free from slavery to the world and claim as His very own. The Lion of Israel is not tame, nor can He be domesticated, yet He roars with the inexpressible fullness of Love.

 While the circumstances may differ, each of us is called to have faith and trust in the Lord. When we hear the roar of the Lion of Israel, let us kneel before Him in humble adoration. True life begins when we stop living for safety and start risking self-sacrificing love.

--Fr. Jerome Machar, OSCO

Purified by Divine Love

We gathered at Mass to hear the Word of the Lord and partake of the Bread of Life.

Like the prophet Isaiah, we find ourselves in the presence of the heavenly host, that cloud of witnesses that stands where the Most High dwells. With the prophet, we are given a glimpse of the divine majesty and forced to acknowledge our sinful unworthiness to be there.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews put it quite clearly: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). “For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).

It takes my breath away to think that we take the living God into our hands. Think about it. The fire of divine love places Himself in our grasp.

The zealot Paul had a similar experience of God’s overwhelming presence. While on his way to Damascus, he was wrapped in a light that blinded him and brought him to his knees. Like the prophet, I can imagine his saying, “I’m doomed!” (Is 6:5).

Both Paul and Isaiah found themselves confronted by the Holy One of Israel. In the light of that vision, each had to grapple with his unworthiness.

We find a parallel story in the Book of Genesis. “Jacob was left alone, and wrestled with a man there until the breaking of the day. And when the stranger saw that he was unable to overpower him, he struck his hip joint and dislocated it” (Gen. 32: 24-25).

Having been purified in the crucible of divine love, these men are all set aside for a special ministry to the people of God.

God’s Word is a live coal and the Holy Spirit is its fire. We are cast in to the crucible of divine love each time we receive the Bread of the Word and the Bread of Life.

Like the patriarch Jacob, we mindlessly wander into the presence of God. “Surely the Lord in in this place, and I didn’t even realize it” (Gen. 28:16).

We cannot always be focused on the Presence of the Holy One in our lives, but when we are granted a glimpse of His presence we must acknowledge that He is holy and we are not.

By the freely given grace of God we, each time we hear the Word and receive the Sacred Body of the Lord, are conformed to the person of the Beloved Son and made new. God is the only one who can purify our lives and empower us to serve the Gospel.

Like those who have gone before us, may we see the Holy One and repent of our sins. When the Sacrament of Divine Love touches our lips, may it take away our iniquities and cleanse of us our sins. Having been purified by Love, may we be used as ministers of love, forgiveness and reconciliation.

--Fr. Jerome Machar, OSCO

Objects of God's Ferocious Love

Several times, I have mentioned Aslan in a homily. Some people were taken aback that I should present such a ferocious image of God as this lion from the Tales of Narnia.

At the risk of repeating myself, God is not a household pet. He cannot be caged or domesticated. He is the God of glory and majesty and He loves us.

We read in the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (Jn. 3: 16-17).

It takes strength of will and self-mastery to forgive. Only a God of power and might can take our deformed nature and reshape it in the grandeur He intended from the beginning of time.

It takes great love to recreate us in His image and likeness without destroying us. It takes child-like trust to place ourselves in the powerful hands of the Potter Who desires to shape us into vessels capable of containing His Spirit.

The purpose of the image is not to frighten us but to remind us that we are the objects of God’s undying and ferocious love.

It is with this ferocious lover that Abraham is haggling for the lives of the people in the condemned city of Sodom. Remember that. Knowing that we are loved we can take to risk of making demands of the One who loves us.

Abraham is imposing upon one who accepted his hospitality.

Abraham is haggling with one who allowed him to wash his feet.

Abraham is seeking clarity from one who accompanied him on his journey.

That is not a bad context for heartfelt prayer.

The story of Abraham mirrors ours in many ways. God comes into our lives, uninvited. He is willing to accept whatever we are willing to offer in the way of hospitality. Then He takes us with Him as moves on. The ferocious and infinite love of God allows us to connect with members of the Blessed Trinity, for to grow is love of all whom He loves and to pour ourselves out in serve of those He sends our way.

Having grown up in an old ethnic neighborhood, I find it easier than some to imagine the passage of time. When I was growing up, someone was always running to a neighbor to get a cup of sugar. There was always someone ready to offer a helping hand when you were in need and you never imagined being sent away empty-handed.

No doubt, this is what Jesus had in mind when he told the parable. “Imagine going to a friend at midnight because a surprise visitor has come from out of town and your cupboard is bare. Hospitality demands that the visitor has to be fed." Breaking bread with a guest is a sign of sharing life. As Jesus is telling the story, you can almost hear the pounding on the door and the grumbling from inside the house. Yet Jesus keeps building the dramatic tension. This request goes beyond self-respect; it goes to the heart honor and community identity. Anyone who could was expected to help. Being refused in a time of need would be unthinkable.

On one side of the door is pounding and loud cries for help. On the other, growls of protest and threats of reprisal. The parable seems to be a long drawn out question: Would you expect a friend to refuse you in your time of need? Of course, the answer is NO! And so the pounding and begging gets louder and louder, until the door opens.

 As to a trusted friend, we turn to the Lion of Israel in our times of need. Because He has a ferocious love for us, we can be confident that God will give us whatever we need. Through the parable, Jesus is encouraging us to express our trust in God’s ferocious love. Like the neighbor in need, we should not get discouraged or give up. We need to remember Jesus’ words: “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you” (Lk 11:9).

--Fr. Jerome Machar, OSCO

I Will Place My Law within Them

“I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). So the Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah.

God is speaking to His people, assuring them that He Himself is their teacher. All of us who are taught by God are taught to love one another by the mere fact that God is writing His Word upon our hearts. By means of this implanted Word, we discover the path to newness of life.

As God promised to His Chosen People, He now speaks intimately to each of us, calling us by name; not just any name, but a name known only between us as intimate friends.

The life of faith is not a recital of rules and regulations. The life of faith is entering into an embrace of love that brings us into communion with the Persons of the Trinity. In that embrace, we come to know that we are loved and forgiven.

In this knowledge, we will become Ambassadors of healing and reconciliation for a world scarred with violence and sin. This pardoning mercy flows from the pierced heart of Christ and is freely given to us to be shared with all who are in need of forgiveness.

Having been conformed to Christ in baptism, it is not out job to condemn sinners but to call them back to fullness of life and grace.

The mystery of grace is not that we seek to know God, but rather that we come to realize that we are known by Him.

Acknowledging this love, we can love others with the same all-consuming love. In a world that continues to seek retribution and to fan the flames of hatred, such love is absolutely revolutionary.

The message will not be written on banners or placards, but shall be etched upon the tablets of our hearts. When God pours forth His Spirit upon us, we will not burn the cities of man, but will be consumed by the fire of divine love.

I will close with a few words of Pope Francis, spoken at the prayer vigil in Krakow: “This is no time for denouncing anyone or fighting. We do not want to tear down, we do not want to give insult. We have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred, violence with more violence, terror with more terror. We are here today because the Lord has called us together. Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, and its name is family... Let our best word, our best argument, be our unity in prayer.”

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

St. Lawrence was put to death simply because he was a deacon.

According to tradition, Lawrence had been assisting Pope Sixtus at the altar when both were arrested. After Sixtus was beheaded, Lawrence was given three day to collect and hand over the treasure of the church. During this time, he sold all the vessels of the church and gave the proceeds to the poor of Rome. According to the traditional accounts, Lawrence led a procession of poor, crippled, blind and suffering people into the emperor’s present and boldly declared: “These are the true treasures of the Church.”

It is shocking at times to think some people are more concerned about the sacred vessels of the altar than about human beings who are sacred to God.

Viewed in the context of St. Lawrence, we can say that a church that has a large endowment and a beautifully appointed sanctuary cannot consider itself rich as long as there are poor and destitute people sitting outside its door unattended to.

Money bestowed in charity is the seed sown with a prodigal hand. Help should be given freely and cheerfully, not grudgingly.

If we truly believed that God has a homeland prepared for us, we would waste less on ourselves and sow more in hope of a bountiful harvest. God is able to make grace abound in and around us. He can and does provide us with our daily bread, giving us enough to supply for the needs of others. We must never forget the unspoken answer to Cain’s question. We are our brother’s keeper!

The great desire of our souls should be to see Jesus in the poor and to recognize Him in the Breaking of the Bread. As we are fed by the Living Bread, we should pledge ourselves to become bread to feed the world.

A loaf of bread cannot be made unless the wheat grain is sown into the earth where it casts off its outer shell and releases the abundant life it contains. The salvation of the world depends upon the self-emptying of the wheat grain.

In the church, everything is oriented and consummated by values that begin with charity and with realities that are destined to remain, even after this world passes away. Like Saint Lawrence, may we desire to be a sacrifice worthy of the Master so as to bring about the transformation of the world.

--Fr. Jerome Machar, OSCO

Self-Made Man? No Way!

You may recall the words spoken by the Prophet Micah that echo sentiments from Ezekiel: “He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8).

These words are hard to take, living in as society that stresses self-realization and self-assertion.

Only if we acknowledge ourselves as sinners in need of God’s mercy can we begin to live a life of mercy and humility in the presence of the Holy One who created us.

When we are reduced to our littleness can we find the freedom we need to think, to pray and to meditate. When I acknowledge that of myself, I am nothing, then I can allow God to be everything.

It is so tempting to identify ourselves with what we have accomplished and to forget that there is nothing we have that we have not received from the hand of God. I wonder if Saint Paul had this in mind when wrote the church in Corinth: “What makes you makes you superior to anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

My brothers and sisters, we are not self-made!

God made us and empowered us to work for His greater glory. We have no reason to be cocky and self-sufficient. All we have, all we do that is good, has been made possible by the grace of God working in us.

God who is the same yesterday, today and forever will provide for our needs and merely asks us to depend on Him and not on ourselves. All we need to do is reach out our empty hands and find the breadth of life.

Jesus promised the apostles that when He returns at the end of time, He will make all things new.

Only those who are willing to forsake the old things will find entrance into the New and Heavenly Jerusalem.

May God give us faith to rest our hope on His promise. Embracing the Master who emptied himself of all glory to redeem us, may we be ready to become poor with the poor Christ. Hearing the voice of the Father may we be ready for every service and sacrifice. He will guide us as we journey home and shine His light on our path. Blessed be God who is ready to give everlasting life to the humble of heart.

--Father Jerome Macher, OSCO

The Worst That Can Happen Has Already Happened

 There is nothing like a little bad news in the media to make people start talking about the end of the world. When we read the Apostle Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians, we can only guess Paul’s times were not too different from ours.

We always think we are living in the worst of times and that the Lord must be planning to fix things by bringing the world to an end. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, guess what? They do!!!

And when they do, the trick is to keep our focus on God and His faithfulness to the covenant. It is by clinging steadfastly to faith in God that we will find shelter from the distressing times we live in. By remaining centered on the Word of God, we will find the guidance we need to run along the path of God’s commandments and discover that our hearts have been expanded with the unspeakable sweetness of love. Our security in times of adversity depends on the provident care of God who is in control of everything that happens to us.

Our faith tells us that the worst that can happen has already happened. God was impaled on a tree. The event was so outrageous that the sun refused to shine that day.

But the story does not end there. On the third day, Christ rose from the dead. Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said: “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

Through the paschal mystery we have peace with God and in Christ we find a peace that the world as we know it cannot give. Jesus gives us the reason for our confidence. “Take courage! I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat. 28:20).

This means that the Lord is in charge, no matter who else says otherwise.

Only by holding fast to the Gospel, can we hope to find courage and strength when facing adversity. When the Lord returns in glory, may He bring us all into everlasting life.

--Fr. Jerome Macher, OSCO

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fools for Christ

Saint Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth: “We are fools on Christ’s account” (1 Cor. 4:10).

We who have been called to follow in the footsteps of Christ have no cause to be proud. All we have, all we are, all we do that is good and praiseworthy, is a gift of God’s grace. In a world that is self-asserting, we are called to be Christ-asserting. If we believe that all we have is gift, we cannot be other than Christ-asserting. In the eyes of image-builders, such talk is foolishness. Even though we are fools for Christ, if we follow the call of the Good Shepherd, we will be granted moments of light and insight.

In the late 70’s, a miniseries entitled Jesus of Nazareth was aired on prime-time television. As I was preparing these reflections, I recalled a scene from that series. Some of you may remember it: Jesus is inside Matthew’s house, telling the parable of the prodigal son. All the while, Peter is standing outside the open door, refusing to go. During the narration, Peter is granted a moment of light and insight: Jesus is the all-loving and all-forgiving Father, Matthew the prodigal and he (Peter) the older dutiful son. Overwhelmed by this insight, Peter enters the house and walks directly to the Lord. With tears streaming down his face, he slowly and deliberately declares: “Forgive me, Master. I’m just … a stupid man.” Recalling this moment, I am reminded that Jesus is the Savior of mankind and even though I am less than nothing in his sight, He loves me. In a success driven society, such talk is foolishness.

We may be fools, but God uses us to bring about the building up of His kingdom. Though cast off and rejected as worthless by power-driven secular society, we are precious to God. Though poor in the sight of the world, we are rich in grace because of Him who became poor for our sakes. As fools on account of Christ, we walk in conformity to His will and bear His cross with which we can overcome the world and contribute to the building up of the heavenly kingdom. As companions of the Lord of the Sabbath, we are called to celebrate God’s provident care for us. We need to listen to the voice of the creator of the Universe as He calls out to us: “My house is your house. Come right in! Come in and feast upon the Meal I have prepared for you.” Gathered around the Table of the Lord, may we lift up our hearts and offer Him praise, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Saturday, September 10, 2016

911--Fifteen Years -- 2001 -- 2016

Fifteen years ago, the world was shocked at the sight of planes flying into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Later, clouds of smoke billowed from the Pentagon and from a field in Shanksville, Pa. The reality of these attacks cut through our petty narcissism and opened our hearts to the needs of others. For a moment, we saw the true greatness that America stands for. As we recall the acts of terrorism, we must never forget the acts of valor and generosity they evoked. I am reminded of a line in Alan Jay Lerner’s musical Camelot, “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”

Unfortunately, we have forgotten.

Once the dust cleared, we forgot about the needs of others and sought to make our personal worlds secure. We seem to have lost sight of the fact that the path to true peace requires each of us to lay or lives in the service of others. Despite the fact that we have built monuments to 9/11 we have not been able to build bridges of peace and brotherhood.

In this setting, the conversation between God and His Servant Moses is very instructive. Certainly, you recall how God pointed out to Moses that the people had forsaken Him and as a result He intended to wipe them out and start all over again. Seeing how corrupt the people had become in such a short time, God pronounced a verdict of total destruction. Standing in the breech, Moses speaks up. Forgive me for what I am about to do. “O Lord, you seem to have forgot that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.” Moses reminded God of His covenant with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Israel. If the Lord would be forgiving in this instance, He would see that there would be a faithful remnant.

Paul seems to have taken up this theme as he wrote to his co-worker Timothy. “I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:16). The apostle knew well that had God not been merciful to him, he would have perished. God is not ignorant of the reality of sin. He also knows that love is stronger than hate; and that the Cross is the Tree of Life.

The Son of God who died on the cross has risen from the dead and reigns upon the throne of Glory. We must never let it be forgot that once there was a spot where the Lord of Life conquered death and brought us all into the kingdom of light and life. Recall these words written by the apostle John: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the Spirit who is in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).

In the the Gospel of Luke, we have heard about God’s desire to seek out, to find, to welcome. The philosopher Maimonides seems to have understood the power of God’s mercy. He wrote: "let not a penitent man imagine that he is far from the Excellency, because of the sins he has committed, the thing is not so. Rather, he is beloved and desired before the Creator, as if he had never sinned; for his reward is great; for lo, he has tasted the taste of sin, and hath separated from it.”

We must never let it be forgot, that the Gospel presents mercy as an excess of God’s love for a fallen and broken world. The mercy of God expands our souls. It makes us think of that spot that was Camelot, for us. God, in His mercy, draws us to himself, purifies us of our sins and then sends us forth to bring mercy to all.

Because we have received mercy upon mercy, we can seek to pour out our lives in service to others and as agents of peace and reconciliation. Our ability to live as Children of the Kingdom springs from the fact that we are at one and the same time sinners pardoned and sinners restored to dignity. The mercy of God brings knowledge and compassion. The one who shows us mercy conforms us to the image of His Beloved Son. As we receive the mercy of the Loving Father, we are empowered to share it with others.

For a moment, the events September 11, 2001, brought us into contact with our own fragility and vulnerability. For a moment we remembered that we needed one another.

 The scriptures remind us that we are the objects of God’s delight. “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1: 31). The reason we believe in a kind and merciful God is because Jesus not only told us, but acted mercifully. Like the God who repeatedly forgave the erring Israelites, Jesus always acted mercifully towards those who came to him. We are invited to embrace the truth that we are Beloved of God and cause of His joy.

When we return to the Father and repent, do we get what we deserve? No. When we return to the Father, we get what He offers us --- Forgiveness. My brothers and sisters, don’t let it be forgot that once there was a spot… that was known as Calvary.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi

”O sacred banquet in which Christ is received, the heart replenished with grace, and the pledge of eternal life bestowed!” As we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we are focusing our attention on the sacrament that is source and summit of our Catholic faith. It is in the Eucharist that Christ, who took flesh in Mary’s virginal womb, offers Himself to each one of us as the source of divine life and fountain of grace (CF. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 55). In the Eucharist we encounter the Risen Lord and are drawn into communion with the life-creating Trinity. The Catechism puts it this way: “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through Him to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC #1325). 

When we say that the Eucharist is the "source and summit of Christian spirituality" we mean, that Christian spirituality flows from the Eucharist as its source, the way light streams from the sun. And that Catholic spirituality is realized in and ordered to the Eucharist as the summit to which all our actions are ultimately directed. Through the Eucharist God and man are brought together in a bond of love. Through the Eucharist we are drawn into the life of the Trinity, who is Love itself. Simultaneously, this deepened love of God leads us to a greater love of neighbor. The priest Melchizedek offered bread and wine to celebrate God’s blessing and the Lamb of God felt pity for the people that followed him into the wilderness and fed them with bread from heaven. 
The one who showed his love for those who followed Him and fed the multitude in the wilderness has become our living bread so that we might come to fullness of life in Him. This Bread is blessed and broken as food for our journey because of God’s loving kindness. Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus: “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not parish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). We ponder the mystery whereby perishable bread is transformed into Christ’s glorious and life-giving Body by the power of the Holy Spirit. By entering into communion with Christ’s sacramental Presence, we corruptible human beings are given a foretaste of future incorruptibility. “God is love.” His is not a sentimental, emotional kind of love but the love of the Father who is the origin of all life, the love of the Son who dies on the Cross and is raised, the love of the Spirit who renews human beings and the world. Thinking that God is love does us so much good, because it teaches us to love, to give ourselves to others as Jesus gave himself to us and walks with us. Jesus walks beside us on the road through life” (Pope Francis, Angelus, May 26, 2013) 
“O sacred banquet in which Christ is received!” It takes my breath away to think that Jesus Christ who emptied himself of the grandeur that was His as God and made himself nothing by taking the nature of a slave (Cf. Phil 2: 6-7), emptied bread of its substance to make it His living and life-giving Body. And then to think, we who enter into communion through the Bread of Life are filled with the grandeur of God’s only-begotten Son. Through the Eucharist, Jesus is fulfilling the promise he made to the apostles before his ascension. ”Behold I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mat. 28:20). The Feast of Corpus Christi reminds us that we need to be present to Him who has promised to be present to us. In gratitude to Him who gave Himself to us entirely, we should respond by giving ourselves to Him entirely. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, the re-creation is signified. Corruptible bread becomes the incorruptible Body of Christ and individual members of the human race are brought into communion with the Trinity. 
In the celebration of the Eucharist we are given a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy that is celebrated in the New Jerusalem, our heavenly homeland. What we eat becomes part of us; but when we take the Eucharist we become part of Jesus and enter into his life. By the vision of faith, we come to recognize the risen and glorified Lord in the breaking of the bread. Through our participation in the paschal sacrament we are conformed to Christ. This bond with Christ sets us on fire with love of all our brothers and sisters. In order for this bond of love to be established, it is essential we are aware of what we are doing whenever we gather around the table of the Lord so as to be actively engaged in the sacred rite and enriched by its effects. Our daily lives need to reflect the communion we receive and the Eucharist we celebrate. Having partaken of the bread that was blessed and broken, we commissioned to give ourselves, pour out ourselves in the service of others and in the love of God.   
This is why we celebrate a feast in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ. With grateful hearts, we bless the bread and pour out the wine, recalling how God has fed the hungers of our hearts and healed the wounds of our lives. The Eucharist reminds us that we are loved by God and redeemed by the blood of Christ who died on the Cross because of our sins and rose from the death for our justification. Not only today, but every time we partake of the Blessed Eucharist, we must be willing to pour out our own blood, sweat and tears to build up the fraternity, the brotherhood and sisterhood of human kind, and strive to build up a nation that stands in fraternity with the other nations of the world. May your Sacrament, O Jesus, be a light to the mind, strength to the will, and attraction to the heart; may it be a support to the weak, comfort to the suffering, viaticum of salvation to the dying, and for all may it be a pledge of future glory. Amen (St. John XXIII, Jesus, King of Nations)

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Keep Praying!

Prayer is a powerful antidote to evil. Saint James proposes it as the occupation of the person of faith, no matter what the circumstances. He seems to be echoing the sentiments that the apostle to the Gentiles wrote the church at Thessalonica, “Never stop praying” (1 Thes. 5:17). If you are suffering – keep praying. If you are in good spirits – keep praying. If you are sick -- keep praying. If you have sinned – keep praying. If you know someone who has strayed from the truth – keep praying. The believer is to pray with the tenacity of a child who knows his Father’s love for him. When we pray, we do not look to our worthiness or merit. No, we trust in God’s gracious kindness and mercy that has made us His own. Recall these words spoke through the Prophet Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine: (Is. 43:1).

God’s favor and mercy are extended to all those He has made His own in the blood of His Son. Because He has redeemed us, we are precious in his sight. Because we are His children, He calls us to come to Him in faith and confidence. We believe that we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. When we pray, we are to remember the fascination we had as children when we played with fire. Jesus said as much : “Let the children [within you] come to me; do not prevent them” (Mk. 10:14). Jesus told us that we need to change our attitude: “I assure you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3).

Despite the fact that we often forget we are God’s Children, God never forgets that He is out Father.
We have to rediscover the joy of our youth when we were teachable and willing to depend on our heavenly Father. We need to be renewed in spirit so that we might entrust ourselves with child-like abandonment into the love and care of God and so discover the Father’s deepest mercy. Let us live in the joy of the children of God and manifest the Spirit that transforms the world.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Have Love for One Another

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13: 35).
Through Baptism, God recreated us in the image of His Son. He has conformed us to the image of His Son. Since Christ is the love of the Father made visible and tangible, we are to extend God’s love to the whole of creation. Having been confirmed in the faith, we are called to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom by the lives we live. God is love and those who abide in love abide in God. The world will know that we are followers of Christ if we love the people God loves.

The law of God is love and the name of God is mercy. Those who are disciples of Christ are called to show compassionate love and infinite mercy to all we meet. The Father manifested His love for the world by sending us His Only-begotten Son. The Son manifested His love by sending His disciples into the world. The love of God which we have received as a gift, we are to give as a gift. Leo the Great put it this way: “Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God's own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member” (Leo the Great).

This is how the world will know that you have been crucified with Christ and that your life is now hidden with Christ in God, if you have love for one another. Just as Christ showed His love for us by surrendering himself for the life of the world, so also are we to lay down our lives so that others might live.

Faith that does not manifest itself in acts of love is lifeless. Grace is not grace unless it is lavished upon others. Only the empty vessel can be filled. Remember what the apostle to the Gentiles wrote: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2. Cor. 4:7). Since our citizenship is in the kingdom of light and life, we are to have nothing to do with the works of darkness and death. We are clay lamps that bear the Fire of the Spirit. We are challenged by the Risen Lord to let our light shine before all people so that they may know the depths of love and become obedient to the will of God and the demands of faith.

We who have contemplated the Lord’s glory, are commissioned to make the Light of Christ visible to the whole world. As light was the beginning of the first creation, so the Light of Christ is the beginning of the new creation. Through the power of the Resurrection, man who was created in the image and likeness of God is enabled to share the very life of God. “The Lord, who is the Spirit, makes us more and more like him as we are changed into is glorious image” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Having been made in the image of God who is love, we are to make known the love God has lavished on us in Christ. “Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 18).

This is how all will know that we are disciples of Jesus, if we ascribe all our works to the mercy of God the Father and to the love of the risen Christ. Christ works in us not only to will and to do good; but He also works in us making what we do successful.

In his first Letter, St. John wrote: “Greater is He who is in you the he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). The word of God is a word of truth and grace. His works are works of mercy and compassion. All that God says and does flows from the boundless love of His heart. All men will know that we are children of God if, like Him, we are merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth. Listening for and appreciating the love of God allows us to live the commandment to love others.

Through the mystery of the Incarnation the Beloved Son came into the world to seek out and find the lost. Rich in mercy, He laid down His life to save sinners and to recreate them in His holiness. Moved by pity, He redeemed mankind and while on earth showed compassion to all who came to Him.

In Him who is risen from the dead, all things are recreated. His victory over sin and death is the cause of our joy because the old order of things has passed away. Christ, our Paschal Lord, makes all things new. The joys that Christ imparts are like an effervescent fountain, pure, refreshing, abundant and eternal.

“As we have borne the image of the earthy, so let us also bear the image of Him Who is from heaven, we must greatly rejoice over this change, whereby we are translated from earthly degradation to heavenly dignity through His unspeakable mercy, Who descended into our estate that He might promote us to His, by assuming not only the substance but also the conditions of sinful nature, and by allowing the impassibility of Godhead to be affected by all the miseries which are the lot of mortal manhood” (Leo the Great).

This is how we can know that we have truly put on the new person, if we strive to look at others with eyes of Christ and to love them with the heart of the heavenly Father. The distinguishing character of a disciple of Christ is not some outward garb or austerity of life but fraternal love and compassion for those in need. Then we will manifest the depth of God’s love for the human race. “Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to [others’] suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self-centeredness” (Pope Francis).

--Father Jerome Machar OSCO

Being Open to the God of Surprises

The People of God were united in their profession of faith: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). Believers were to attend to these words with the ears of their hearts and ponder them whether they were at work or at rest. The more they would ponder these words, to more they would be united in faith and love, thus truly anchored in their identity as the People God had called to be His own. The strength to be human rests in a faith rooted in the Incarnation. God so loved the world that He became a human being, binding the human race to Himself for all eternity. Because God has loved us, we have an anchor for our souls. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: “This steadfast hope leads us into God’s inner sanctuary” (Heb. 6:19). 

This hope is meant to serve as a bond of unity, and not to be a cause of division. This hope flows from God’s eternal purpose and draws us into the communion of love that is the Trinity. Greater is He who draws us together than the theological-philosophical arguments that tend to drive us apart. I find myself reverting back to comments made by Pope Francis at the end of the 2014 Synod. “[There is] a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals. [Likewise] the temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.” 

The promises of God can be depended on. Our fidelity to the Truth is not served when we turn a deaf ear to those we do not understand. It is impossible to love God when we hate the brother with whom we do not agree. As God cannot be love one minute and hate the next, we too must find the path to purity of heart and unity of spirit. It may seem that we are in this world like a ship at sea, tossed up and down. We need an anchor to keep us sure and steady. May we cling to the anchor of our soul as we seek to know the Truth. And may we live the Truth in compassion and love.  

Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Monday, May 9, 2016

Be Not Afraid

Then the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Be not afraid, go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.” The words spoken to the apostle to the Gentiles echoes those addressed to Isaiah the prophet: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will support you with my right hand” (Is. 41:10).

The God of salvation speaks tenderly to His spokesmen. He called them both by name and knows them intimately. God goes on to say: “I have put my words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of my hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth” (Is. 51:16). We need to learn how to speak the truth in love.

We have only to recall the words of the beloved disciple, “You belong to God, my dear children. You have already won the victory; for greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1Jn. 4:4).

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! Because He is truly risen, He has conquered death and restored life to all the children of Adam and Eve. “Where sin abounded, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant” (Rom. 5:20).

The Light of Christ has come into our lives and revealed the darkness of sin for what it was, thereby making us children of the Light. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Christ has established a field hospital to bind up our wounds and nurse us to abundant life. God’s every word is directed to bringing us to fullness of life in His Son. Having been redeemed by His blood on the cross, we have become a new creation.

As members of the new creation, we have reason to trust the God of our salvation. The Psalmist wrote: “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him” (Ps. 62:5). Because God is faithful, we have nothing to fear.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (Ps. 18:2). By His grace God supports us and by His providence He delivers us for evil. Trusting in God, our hearts find peace. We have no need to fear what anyone can do against us. With God at our side, we need not be afraid to speak the Gospel of Life and Truth. Pondering His Word, we strengthen our faith and hope.

Paul was right when he wrote, “If God is with us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31) The Lord Himself has chosen to be our inheritance and we can be confident that all that He does is for our blessing. God is always with us to shield us from harm and to guide us on the path to life.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Friday, April 8, 2016

Harmony and Disharmony in the Church

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  (Acts 4:32-37)

Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.’ What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.  The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.  (Acts 6: 1-4)

It is interesting how many people like to quote Acts Chapter 4 and present an idyllic image of Christian community. It is so warm and fuzzy to imagine a church where everyone is in total agreement and there are no struggles. Everyone’s needs are met, and peace and serenity reign supreme. In this context, some people find today’s passage from Acts 6 somewhat disconcerting. The community is experiencing growing pains, and the peaceable Kingdom seems to have disappeared. The disciples, who had once been recognized by the way they lived in fraternal accord with one another, have begun to turn in on themselves. They had lost sight of the need to proclaim the gospel message by caring for one another.

Personal needs and wants sometimes make it hard to hear the message of mercy and salvation. When an individual is hungry or is feeling alienated from the community, it is hard for him or her to listen to words of peace and reconciliation. This sense of emptiness causes them to murmur and complain against everything and everyone, even God. Murmuring places individuals outside the circle of mutual trust and weakens the bonds of communion within the community of faith. Murmuring keeps us from being able to hear and respond to God's word. This reading from Acts reminds us that we need to make use of all the means that lead to salvation. In order to do this, we must depend on God who brings about our salvation. It is the grace of God at work in us that brings about the building up of the heavenly kingdom in our time.

God's grace is at work in us, even as we experience growing pains. In times of difficulty, we should not murmur. Rather, we should turn to the Lord in prayer so that we can attend to our corner of the garden in peace and joy. This is where the children of the kingdom differ from the broader secular society. The way we deal with conflict can be an example for others. We can work through difficulties by listening to differing opinions and prayerfully discerning the truth. By acting this way, we can help others find Christ Who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. In these moments we become the lighthouse that warns mariners in the sea of life to avoid the rocks and guides them safely to the other shore. It is the will of God that we all find a place at the banquet of the Lamb. At times we need help getting there.

     We need to be content in life and have an attitude of gratitude for the blessings we have received. Because we have been graced by God we can be kind to our brothers and sisters in their time of need. In these moments of graced insight, those who are strong can come to the aid of the weak. By so doing, we can enter into the heart of the gospel and be conformed to the heart of Christ in tranquility and peace. Following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, may we be attentive to those who are close to us and solicitous of those who have wandered from us. In the power of the Holy Spirit may we be gentle towards the weak and confused ones so as to manifest the infinite mercy of God reassuring words of hope. When the risen Lord returns in glory, may He bring us all into everlasting life.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Palm Sunday: What Did You Go to Church to See?

On Palm Sunday, we enter upon the most solemn and holy week of the year. Holding our palms and singing the hymn of the children, I suggest we ponder the question John’s disciples had once asked Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Lk. 7:19). Then I would offer a word of caution. Just because we have doubts, does not mean we do not believe. Because of our frail human condition, faith is often mixed with doubt. We have only to recall the heartfelt plea of the father of the possessed boy: “I do believe! Strengthen my weak faith” (Mk. 9:24). Holding the palms, we need grace to continue our walk with the Lord through all life’s disappointments. As we gaze upon the Face of God’s steadfast love, are we willing to admit our duplicity of heart? Remember, as we look at Him with doubt, guilt and shame, He looks at us with love (CF. Mk. 10:21). 

Palm Sunday

Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God is full of compassion and love. He can and does deal with our uncertainty and ambivalence. As He did with John’s disciples, He does with us. He looks at us and asks: “What did you come to the church to see?” (CF. Lk. 7:24) Perhaps, you came hoping to recapture lost memories and feelings from your youth. I can remember braiding and weaving palm fronds into elaborate designs and then decorating the crucifix that hung in our kitchen. What happened in the church had an impact on what we did at home. Faith and life were integrated. With aging, however, life became bifurcated and compartmentalized. 

So, “what did you come to the church to see?” (CF. Lk. 7:24) Perhaps you came to participate in a pilgrimage of faith. Sometimes pageantry can bolster our faith. God has never ceased to call to Himself a people so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a sacrifice of praise can be offered to the glory of His name. Like those pilgrims on that first Palm Sunday, we are surprised to discover the Holy One of Israel in our midst. In commemorating the Lord’s solemn entry into Jerusalem, we become partakers of the cross and glorious resurrection.  May we who today follow Christ into Jerusalem by means of sacramental signs follow Him into the eternal Jerusalem. 

Knowing that the palms we hold can serve as reminders and as challenges, I will ask the question a third time: What did you come to the church to see? Perhaps you came to peer into the eyes of mercy. There is something shocking and disconcerting about the quick shift from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him!” How quickly warm devotion can turn to total rejection. The pageantry of today brings us face-to-face with our own duplicity and God’s steadfast love. Even when we are unfaithful, God remains faithful. The passion story is not a tragedy. It is the story of redemptive love. Jesus accepted His Father’s will for the salvation of the world. He humbled himself, obediently accepting His life and death for love of us. How blessed are we that Jesus prays for us, as He did for Peter, that no matter how fickle and cowardly we might be when faced by trials, our faith will sustain us. 

It is important to maintain a healthy balance between pondering what we have done to Christ and remembering what He has done for us. The Beloved Son of God was humble and obedient. He fulfilled the Father’s will for the salvation of the world by becoming human and freely embracing His passion. Because He remained faithful, the cross of Christ has become the path by which we can flee from sin and receive a steadfast spirit. It was because of our sins that Jesus was crucified, and “through His wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5). At the heart of the Palm Sunday liturgy are words taken from the Letter to the Philippians, “He humbled himself” (Phil. 2:8). These words demonstrate God’s way of dealing with sinful humanity. God humbles Himself to walk with us. Jesus humbles Himself to take to himself our infidelity. The Beloved Son stripped Himself of the grandeur that was His as God's Beloved Son and clothed Himself in the flesh of sinful humanity so that sinful humanity might be clothed in His divinity. 

The Scriptures tell us how, throughout history, God has desired to be with His beloved people. Today He enters the city where His name is enshrined and glorified. Through the mystery of the Incarnation, He united human nature to Himself in an unbreakable bond of love. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities so that by His wounds we might be healed and made whole. For our sake Jesus willingly endured His passion and death. He remained obedient to the Father even to the point of death. In His meekness, Jesus reveals the pride and iniquity of the human heart. In the face of rejection, Jesus reveals the mercy of the heart of God. In love’s embrace, His heart speaks to ours. In that moment of communion, each of us can be brought to newness of life in Christ, Who makes the love of God tangible. God’s ways are merciful, loving, and welcoming. God’s words propose, they do not impose. Unlike us, when He talks to us, He also listens for a response.  

Recall these words taken from the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer, “That we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe.” Let us walk humbly with our God and when He returns in glory may we follow Him into everlasting life.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO