Thursday, April 30, 2020

Fourth Sunday Of Easter Pastor Notes

4th Sunday of Easter

In the Sermon on the Mount one of Jesus’ more sobering teachings is “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” In Saint Luke’s Gospel, when someone asks Jesus “Will only a few be saved?” He answers in almost the same words. Taken by themselves these sayings of Jesus would seem to imply that only a few will find salvation. At the same time, Scriptures also tell us that God wills all people to be saved. This sounds like a contradiction, but is it?

The answer may lie in another discourse with His disciples. After He tells them how difficult it will be for the rich to be saved they ask Him “Then who can be saved?” Jesus replies by telling them that salvation for all of us on our own is impossible, but not for God. No matter how hard we strive to get through that narrow gate, we will not be able to do so without God’s help. And that might give us a perspective on today’s Gospel.

Jesus tells us that He, Himself, is the sheep gate. It is only through Him that we can find entry into the Kingdom as members of His flock. The narrow gate is not some impersonal object that we have encounter. It is the Person of Christ, Himself, lovingly calling to us by name and doing everything that He can to keep our feet on the narrow path that leads to eternal life. Jesus alone makes it possible for us to get through to find pasture. Nevertheless, He still warns us that those who attempt to get in any other way are thieves and robbers. We have to listen for His voice and respond. And we thus have to come to get closer and closer to Him each day so that we can truly know Him and so recognize His that voice.

If we fail to form that intimate relationship with Christ through prayer, study, and keeping His commandments then we are likely to become attracted to other voices and mistake them for that of Christ. These other voices are those that lead us to destruction by inviting us to climb over the fence so to speak. These voices are the ones that falsely tell us that the pastures they point to are greener than the Lord’s. These are the voices of worldliness, materialism, secularism, etc. that try to convince us that true happiness lies only in the things we know in this life. These are the voices that try to convince us that life ends with death and so we should “eat, drink, and be merry” before we die. These are the voices of Satan, himself.

But, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will go after us even when we go astray. Jesus will come looking for us and for as long as we are alive will constantly, and lovingly call us to return to Him. He indeed laid His life down for us and will do whatever is necessary to keep us from being lost. Nonetheless, He will never force us to come home to Him. We have to freely respond and seek His mercy when we go astray. We cannot presume that just because wills all of to be saved we can do whatever we want and God will automatically be forgiven. When we become lost, we have to allow ourselves to be found.

Throughout the history of the Church, Jesus’ teaching about the narrow and wide way has led alternately to optimism and pessimism about who and how many will be saved. If nothing else, it certainly reminds us that we can never take salvation for granted. But, knowing that Jesus, Himself, is that narrow way that leads to eternal life should give us hope. Thus, as priest friend of mine remarked, those who find salvation are those who say to God throughout their lives “Not my will, but your will be done” while those who fail are those to whom God must say to them in judgement those very same words.    
                                             Father Tom

Mass suspended until May 29

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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Divine Mercy Message

                                                          DIVINE MERCY MESSAGE

The disciples are “sheltering in place” in the room where they ate the Last Super with Jesus. Of course they are not doing so for fear of a virus or some expected natural disaster. They are simply afraid that the same Jewish and Roman officials who executed their teacher and friend will be coming after them as well. These men are simply being cowards. They even have the doors locked. But this the third day since Jesus was crucified strange things have been happening. That morning Mary Magdalene likely accompanied by Mary the wife of Cleopas came bursting in to tell them that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb and that they had seen a vision of angels who told them that Jesus was risen. When Peter and John went to the tomb to investigate they confirmed what Mary Magdalene had told them. Now Cleopas, himself and another of their friends rushed in excitedly to tell them that they had encountered Jesus on the way to Emmaus and had recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. What did all this mean? Could they believe any of it?

Then it happened. Jesus, Himself, stood in their midst and greeted them with a cry of Shalom, peace! They could not believe their eyes. How did He get into the room? Was He real? Was He just a ghost? No, it really was Jesus in the flesh showing them His five wounds breathing the Holy Spirit on them and giving them a mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them; whose sins you retain are retained.” Jesus said nothing to any of them about how they had run away when He was arrested. Jesus didn’t even tell them how to accomplish that mission. He seemed to know that the Spirit He had given them would guide them on the path to mercy – the great and wondrous Divine gift Jesus had just shown to them. Afterward, according to Luke, He asked them for a piece of fish and ate it in front of them. There could be no doubt, Jesus was there and He was truly alive, only different.

Of course we also hear of how Thomas was missing. He likely had just gone out to get some fresh air as most of us do when we are hunkering down for safety’s sake. Call it cabin fever, being “stir crazy” or whatever, we all know how it feels to be confined and not able to go about as we want. Maybe he was returning after a long walk. We may never know. However, once he was back inside that upper room, his fellow apostles and the other disciples present started excitedly telling him that not only was Jesus risen from the dead but that Thomas had just missed Him. Thomas could simply not believe it. There was simply no way that Jesus could have come back to life. Who could ever believe such thing even if it was attested by the other ten Apostles plus any other disciples like Cleopas who may have been present. It was simply mass hysteria. “I will not believe unless I not only see Him, but am able to touch the wounds in His hands and feet and put my hand into the hole in His side.”
Of course as some of the ancients pointed out, Thomas’ absence was not an accident. Jesus knew he was not there when He had appeared that evening after His Resurrection. Jesus was going to use Thomas’ doubting to make a statement about faith especially about the faith in Christ that countless men and women were going to have. Thus, the next time Jesus came, Thomas was there. “Put your finger in the nail marks in my hands and feet. Put your hand into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

While we always have the image that Thomas probed Jesus’ wounds with his fingers and artists have even depicted the even in that way, the Gospel actually does not confirm this. Instead, it simply gives us Thomas’ reply “My Lord and my God!” Those very words suggest that at this point Thomas may have been practicing a little social distancing from Jesus, falling to his knees in wonder and awe. What Jesus says to Thomas next “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen but believe” of course applies to all us in the future who come to believe in Jesus. Yet, we can easily miss a subtle point about where Thomas’ faith lies. Thomas still does not believe Jesus is risen – He knows it! Jesus is right in front of him obviously a living, bodily presence. Thomas’ exclamation “My Lord and my God!” expresses Thomas’ faith in what he can’t see – Jesus’ Divinity. Through the eyes of faith Thomas sees that Jesus is not just a man who has miraculously come back to life. Instead, Christ is the embodiment of the very God whom Thomas worships and adores. Now Thomas understands the answer Jesus had given him at the Last Supper. Jesus is alone, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

All eleven of the Apostles now knew the full import of why Jesus commissioned them to be His ministers of mercy and reconciliation. All of them now came to understand that only now were they properly prepared to be ministers of mercy, because now they all knew that they had experienced God’s mercy. They all now knew how great sinners they were and how it was only by God’s grace that they had been chosen by Christ and remained His friends even though they deserted Him in His hour of need. Even though only Peter denied Jesus by his words, they all had denied Jesus by their actions. Only John had found the courage to stand near the cross and more than one commentator has speculated that that was only because the Blessed Mother, herself, shamed him into being there. Yet now their sins had been forgiven by the very one they all betrayed and thus they all now knew what it meant to be merciful as God is merciful. 

                                                                                                                   Father Tom

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Live Streaming Easter Sunday Mass

Since we can not attend Church in person 
we are going to live stream the 
Easter Sunday Morning Mass on 
Facebook live at 9:30 AM.
(There will be no congregation in the church, just Father celebrating the Mass)

So like our Facebook page

or just click on the Facebook icon on the bottom of the Home page

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Confession Times


Confessions will be heard on Good Friday April 10 at 3:30 PM and on Holy Saturday April 11 at 4:30 PM.  Until all are heard.  One person in church at a time. Please remain in the vestibule or outside the front door until it is your turn.

Father Tom's Easter Message