Jesus Wept: A Reflection on the 5th Sunday of Lent

Jesus Wept: A Reflection on the 5th Sunday of Lent

John 11:35…Jesus Wept…it is one of the verses that when I was your age I had to memorize.  Our Sunday School teacher would randomly test us on chapter and verse and we would have to know it.

Jesus wept…

It is also one of the verses that has always stuck with me.

Jesus Wept…

It’s the shortest verse in the bible but there is so much power behind it.  It always moved me when our Pastor would preach on it.  But it was just recently that I saw a new insight into.  A couple years ago, Fr O’Brien was preaching on this reading.  He had one line that has always stuck with me…” Jesus Wept not because his friend Lazarus died, but because all humankind has to die.”  Jesus wept because there was evil in this world and because of it we would have to experience death.

Jesus wept…

I know many of you were too young or maybe not even alive to remember when 9/11 occurred but I was in my second year at West Point, getting ready for my American Government class when the first tower got hit and in class when they went down.  I wept.  I wept not because I knew those people dying, but because it was just such an evil act.

Jesus wept…too

Last year, 49 people were killed at Pulse.  They died because a man allowed evil to grow in his heart and control him.

Jesus wept…too

I have had friends die in the Global War of Terrorism that has been going on now for 16 years. I wept.

Jesus wept…too

You see Jesus wept alongside me and each one of us when evil occurs because conflict, strife, ugliness, murder, war, and death are not from him.  They are the absence of him in the lives of mankind.  When we gossip, when we bad mouth someone, when we do harm to others, when we lose a friend, when we lose a family member, Jesus weeps with us.  Because we are not experiencing the world as God intended it for us.  We are experiencing a distorted and ugly version of what he made for us.

In DC there is one of the most beautiful churches that you could ever worship in.  It the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Every time that I go there I am drawn to one of the 90 chapels that is located there.  The one I always going to first and spending the most time in prayer and reflection is the Shrine of the Queen of Peace.  In that image, we get a foretaste of what God truly wants for us.  He wants us to feel that same safe love and peace that we felt when we were young and held by our mothers.  But he wants even more than that.  He wants us to feel the perfection of that feeling in Heaven.

But until we get to Heaven we are called to bring that peace into this world.  We are called to be the peacemakers of this world.  To do what we can to bring beauty and love into an imperfect world by first knowing our savior Jesus Christ and second spreading that love to the rest of the world.  Let us pray in song that we can do that.

Be more then the Law: A reflection on the 6th Sunday of OT

Be more then the Law: A reflection on the 6th Sunday of OT

Who has been angry with their brother before?

Who has called a friend or someone in class an idiot?

Who has called someone a fool?

Jesus is telling us that all these things are just as bad as breaking the 5th commandment…Thou shall not kill.

I won’t ask you to raise your hand on this one but how many of you have ever had impure thoughts about someone?  Watched a movie or video clip that was pornographic?  Read a book or a magazine that was overly sexual?

Jesus tells us that that those things are just as bad as breaking the 6th commandment…thou shall not commit adultery.  He even goes so far (and his extremely exaggerating) in saying that it would be better for us to pluck out our eye to think lustful thoughts about someone.

If even tells us that we shouldn’t have to take oaths because our Yes should always mean yes and our noes should always mean no.  Meaning that we are truthful all the time, so much so that we don’t even need to take an oath for someone to believe us.

But how many of you have lied today.  How many of you have cheated this semester?  How many of you have told your parents you would do something, knowing that you had no intention of doing it?

You see we are called to do more than just follow the letter of the law, the literal meaning of the law.  The scribes and Pharisees did that.  They would only do EXACTLY what the Law said they had to do, and if they wanted to do something they would try to bend the rules so that they could do it.  The scribes and Pharisees were more concerned about looking like they were doing the right thing, then actually finding out why they were called to do the right thing.  This lead to them sinning while still following the Law.

The would insult one another, they would gossip about one another, they would hold impure thoughts about other men’s wives, they would lie unless they were under oath, because these things were not directly forbidden by the Law.

You see what Jesus was trying to show us here is that little things add up to big things.  If we insult someone enough times, then we start seeing them as less human then us.  It becomes easier for us to commit violence against them.  It is a common tactic used to divide people, to group up people, to make them separate then us, so that we don’t see their humanity.  We call them “Ivan,” a name for the Russians we used in the Army, “Charlie,” a name for the Viet Cong we fought during the Vietnam War, or how about “illegals,” “refugee,” “Muslim,” “Gay,” “Snowflake,” “Liberal,” “Nazi,” “Fascist,” and many others.  All used to make a person different from us so that we can think lesser of them

My challenge to you this week is to prevent yourself from committing those small sins that end up leading to the big ones.  To stop gossiping, to stop the name calling, to try to control your impure thoughts, and to stop treating others like you would be treated.  This week live with Love and Hope as your primary motivator and not fear or hate.

Sacrifice: A reflection on the 2nd Sunday of OT

Sacrifice: A reflection on the 2nd Sunday of OT

I want you all to close your eyes (well just squint them cause you can’t read if they are closed).  I want you to use your imagination to try to build the scene.  First imagine yourself by the River Jordan.  You are there with plenty of other people. Some are older but there are plenty of young people there.  Imagine a very thin but strong looking man standing by the waters of the Jordan.  That is John the Baptist and you have been following him for months now listening to his preaching.  You have been baptized with him, washed ritually cleaned.  You respect him highly and think that he will help you find the answers to life that you have been looking for.  Why am I here…what is my purpose…how do I become a better person.

Now let me read the passage from this Sunday’s readings:

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. (The same words we hear at the Mass now. As he says that you smell a combination of a slaughterhouse and a BBQ Resturant, and you know that is the smell of the sacrifices happening at the Temple of Israel.)
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

What would you do if that was what you saw?  What would you think of Jesus? How would your life change from that moment?

In our modern times, we think of Lambs as what?  (Weak, Mild, Soft, etc…)  But for those that lived that scene they would have remembered the smell of the sacrifice and would have known that a lamb was used to sacrifice to God.  To bring us closer to God.

Sacrifice is something that is not fully understood in our current world. We have a society that teaches to look out for oneself before looking out for anyone else.  It is those that have the most money, the nicest cars, and the biggest houses that are held to high esteem.  We live in a society that thinks if we try hard enough we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and overcome anything, even sin.

Yet the Hebrews know that we do nothing on our own.  That everything we get is a gift from God.  That all the food, cattle, and money we have is given by God in our care.  They would sacrifice the first fruits and the first born of their cattle to God, not because he needed it, but because it reminded them of where these items came from.  That they wanted to return to God some of what was given to them as a sign of thanksgiving.

In the same way, they knew that their sin destroyed the relationship they had with God.  They would offer their best to God as a sign of repentance, of reparations, of justice, of wanting to be fix the relationship with God.  Those things didn’t benefit God at all but they did benefit those that gave.  It was a physical sign of what could not be seen, the repentance they held in their heart.

So why does John call Jesus the Lamb of God?  Because Jesus comes as the final sacrifice for all our sins.  That through his sacrifice man will finally be able to be in full communion with God.  He provides the perfect sacrifice to finally deal with the sins of humanity, so that they can truly have a full and total relationship with God.

To this day we continue to make present that sacrifice Jesus made through the Mass.  Through the Mass we offer up our prayers and wants to come into communion with God and with Jesus.  To fix our relationship with God.

As Christians we are called to be like Christ, to be little Christs.  It is why we are asked to be sacrificial in our nature.  That we are asked to do things like giving of our free time on our days off to help feed the poor, like this Friday as we cook the soups. It is why you the teens come together to hold the Senior Prom.  It becomes a sacrifice of our time and talent to provide a night for the seniors of our parish and to help those of us here that can’t afford to go on the Summer Retreat.  It is why we sacrifice our time now here at Joy and Devotion so that we can become closer to God.

It is why we come to Mass every Sunday, God doesn’t need us at the Mass but through the Mass and through our worship we share with God and give thanks to God for all he has done for us.  So, as you go through this week try living as a lamb and sacrifice for God.

Make America Great Again! A reflection on the Election and the 33rd Sunday of OT.

Make America Great Again! A reflection on the Election and the 33rd Sunday of OT.

Thank you to The Holy Spirit, Archbishop Jose Gomez, Stephen Colbert, and all those that said you are afraid for our country both before the election and after for the inspiration to write this. It isn’t great but…

Last night I stayed up until about 2 am before I just couldn’t fight going to sleep.  The night started off as a slight interest in how much Trump would lose by and turned into a roller coaster of Trump is going to win.  In the end, I just gave up on trying to watch.  You see I know one thing the entire time…no matter who won, Jesus Christ is still King!

What an interesting road we have been on since the beginning of the year and now we start the new journey of our 45th President.  One that half the country didn’t vote for.  The election was filled with fear, terror, rumors, and allegations from both sides.  We know that over half of each party is in true fear of the other party.  Think about that for a second.  To be truly afraid of a fellow American because of their beliefs.  Someone that you go to school with, work with, or even go to Church with.

Jesus speaks about fear in this week’s gospels.  He tells us that when we hear of wars and tumults, when we hear of nation raising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, not to be terrified because he will be with us in the end.  You see one of the things that we know from both history, what God & Jesus has told us, and what Archbishop Jose Gomez of Houston reminded us on is that “politicians come and go; nations rise and fall; empires fade away – what remains and what continues is the Church that Jesus established on the rock of St. Peter.”

No matter who won last night, we are called to follow Jesus Christ as children of God and missionary disciples.  To be faithful to Christ and to build God’s Kingdom here on earth.

 

Why is it that we should look to God on how to build our society?  Just like with any creation it takes on the aspects of the person that built it.  If I was to sit here and attempt to make a sculpture it would turn out horrible, because I am a flawed artist.  No instead you should look to a great artist with much less flaws then me to make a sculpture.  It is the same with society…we can look to these flaw rulers to make our society but in the end, we will still have a flawed society.  With our flawed rulers, we start forgetting who the human person is.  We listen to the flawed ruler rather than God and we start seeing others as not our brothers and sisters in Christ but we label them Democrat, Republican, Muslim, illegal immigrant, and pit ourselves against one another.  With our flawed rulers, we marginalize those that are different.  We make enemies of those that disagree with us.  But, we may find rulers that have the least number of flaws and they led us towards a better society, that does less horrible things, but in the end they are still not perfect rulers and cannot make a perfect society. In the end we should look to that perfect ruler, Jesus Christ, to build our society.

Instead if we want to make America Great again, we need young men and women like yourselves who are committed to serving God and living their faith in every aspect of their lives.  We need youth like 15-year-old, St. Jose Sanchez del Rio who till his dying breath shouted “Viva Christo Rey” during the Mexican Revolution and inspired others not to hide their faith but proudly declare their love for Jesus. We need youth like 24-year-old, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassatti who turned away from the things the world and his society said were important, money and power, to help the poor and feed the hungry all while lifting them up in prayer to God, till his death of polio.  Like 10 and 11-year-old Bl. Francisco, Jacinto, and Lucia who brought the message of Our Lady of Fatima to the world, helping to bring many to Jesus during the tumults of the First World War.

Our new President wants to Make America Great Again. However, it will never be great if we relay on his vision and those of other men. As Archbishop Gomez said, “Our country and our world will be renewed – not by politics, but by saints.” Saints who know that Jesus Christ is King. Saints who love their fellow man no matter what. Saints who want to bring about the Kingdom of God. “And that means you and that means me. If we want a greater America, we need to become, by the grace of God, greater saints.”

 

Reflection on 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reflection on 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

We live in a world that calls for instant gratification.  We want some random book or item we order it on Amazon and in some cities you will have it at your door by the end of the day.  We want answers to a question and we only have to do a Google search to find the answer.  If we are hungry we go to one of the many numerous vending machines or restaurants and get food.  If we are bored we simply turn to Netflix, to Amazon, or YouTube to find exactly what we want to entertain us.

These are all good things, in moderation of course, we are able to learn faster because it doesn’t take weeks for books to get to us or spend days upon days going to bookstores and libraries to find the book you want.  Arguments and disagreements are quickly solved by simply asking Google.  We don’t have to watch MTV for 5 hours to see that one music video that everyone is talking about. Yes, MTV actually played Music Video when I was younger.  But in this passage we see that we can’t translate that into our prayer lives.

Jesus tells this parable to a group of his disciples who have lost hope in the coming of the Kingdom of God.  The parable talks about a widow who is seeking justice from a corrupt Judge.  At first the Judge doesn’t listen to her but after her persistent petitions he gives her justice.   Jesus then reminds the disciples that if a corrupt Judge can be swayed to do justice by persistence how much more will God do justice if we ask him for it.

Imagine if you went up to your father or mother and asked them to eat and since it is Friday and you rather abstain from meat then do some extra penance you ask them for some fish, how many of your parents would instead just toss a live venomous snake on your plate?  Or if you ask for eggs for breakfast they instead toss a live scorpion on your plate?  Not many of them would do that, right.  So Jesus explains that if your parents, who are sinners, know how to give good things to you how much more will God, who is perfect, give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

But it is easy to be persistent when it is easy, when we have no obstacles in the way, it’s easy to pray the rosary when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we see quick answers to our prayers.  But what do we do when we hit an obstacle? What do we do when it starts getting old and boring?  What do we do when God doesn’t answer our prayers as quickly as we want him to?  For many of us we give up, we stop being persistent.

I want to leave you with a story I recently heard from Brandon Vogt.  A smart and gifted boy, like many of you here, leaves home for college.  He joins a fraternity and makes new friends.  The spend their time partying, chasing girls, and embracing new thoughts and ideas.  He even gets involved in a new age group that allows him to be spiritual but not religious. He moves in with his girlfriend and they have a baby together, without being married.  The entire time the smart and gifted boy’s mother is at home crying and feeling like she can’t change anything.  But being a good Catholic she does what she can and prays for him daily.

The mom’s prayed and fasted for many years for her son to return to the Catholic Church. Then when her son went off to another college she went with him and met a bishop there.  The Bishop became a spiritual guide to her and saw how sad she was about her son not being a good Catholic.  The Bishop promised her that a son of so many tears will not perish.

That young man and the Bishop ended up becoming friends.  The young man would ask the Bishop lots of questions.  Similar to what you guys do with your adult mentors here.  Finally, at the age of 32 the man got Baptized.  The young man’s name was St Augustine, the one the city is named after, and he would go off to become a Bishop himself and become one of the greatest Saints of the Church.  The mother was St Monica and she never faltered as it seemed like her prayers were not being answered by God.  She never gave up hope and continued to pray for over 20 years for that one thing.

It is in that time that we have to be the most persistent.  When we ask for big things we have to be willing to pray big.  We have to be willing to always talk to God and ask him “have you answered this prayer for me and I haven’t seen it?  How will your will be done through this petition?  How will I grow closer to you?” I hope each of you have been persistent in praying the rosary this week.

St Monica, Pray for Us