Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, April 5: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66

FOCUS: We remember the suffering of Christ and are called to accompany
others in theirs.

Each year on Palm Sunday, we recount the story of Jesus’ passion.
We hear about the events leading up to His arrest: the agony in the garden,
the passing of His back and forth between Pontius Pilate and King Herod
and the chief priests of the temple. We imagine what it was like for Jesus to
be judged by human beings. Each year, we are invited to enter into this
story, to remember it and to accompany Jesus during those trials.

It is not the pleasant escape that we might find when we watch a
movie or read a book. Rather, with His eyes we see the crowd whom He
loves, shouting for His death.

With Him, we witness His closest friends abandon, deny or watch
from a distance. We see the cruelty of rulers and soldiers, who mock Him,
beat Him and gamble for His garments. We are asked to remember the
horrible death He endured, a public and agonizing death of being nailed to a
cross.

It is an unpleasant business, the suffering of Jesus and of the world – for Jesus’ death and resurrection did not remove suffering from our lives or
the lives of those we love. And it can be terrifying to experience suffering
ourselves or to walk with someone who is in distress.

None of us has to go far to know something about suffering….either
in ourselves or in someone we love. These days we are all somehow
affected by the spread of a virus that plays no favorites, but only desires to
attack, because it does not know how to do anything else. Yes, this kind of
suffering brings fear, confusion, anxiety and despair and may even cause
some to question their faith in God.

But whether our suffering is due to the spread of the corona virus or to
something else, we have choices that have to be made. We can be like Peter
who denies, or the soldier who jeers. We can be an acquaintance who
watches, or Pilate who washes his hands of the matter.

Or we can be like Joseph of Arimathea, who refuses to participate in
an unjust persecution, or like the women who do not run from the agony of
Jesus’ death, but tended to His broken, lifeless body. Perhaps we will be
like the centurion who praises God even in the midst of darkness. (“Truly
this was the Son of God!”) Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47

It is much easier, in the midst of affliction and suffering, to find a
distraction…something that will help us escape from the situation. Yet each
year, Palm Sunday puts suffering squarely in our midst. Why?

Because our suffering, and the suffering of the world, are bound to
that of Jesus’ suffering.

We are asked to enter into our Lord’s passion – to walk with Him, to
accompany Him as He faces cruelty, injustice, pain and abandonment, so
that we may walk with others who suffer. We are asked to accompany them,
to be for them what some of the more admirable people were for Jesus in His
darkest hour.

We may feel we can do nothing much regarding the suffering of those
affected by the corona virus, for example. However, Jesus never turns away
from anyone who comes to Him in prayer. We can pray for others; people
we may never meet in this life. Jesus was certainly always there for others
when they needed Him. He is here for us today…and He does ask us to help
alleviate suffering when and where we can. We accompany Him to the
cross, but He is the one who is carrying the weight of the cross. Carrying
the cross by ourselves would crush us. With Jesus, the burden is lightened.

So as we enter into Christ’s passion and partake of His victory found
in the Eucharist, let us pray for the grace to see what is before us, to open
our hearts to those who need us and to accompany those who suffer…just as
Jesus did, and continues to do so, for us.


Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, March 29: The Fifth Sunday of Lent

FOCUS:  Faith in Jesus and the Resurrection helps every believer to live a life free of fear.

          The Gospel today tells us that Jesus wept when He learned of the death of His good friend Lazarus.  The tears of Jesus remind us that Jesus is fully human and fully divine.  We know that He walked on water and raised the dead, but He was also capable of feeling loss, pain and grief, just as we do.  Jesus experienced sadness, and our story today tells us of sadness experienced by others, particularly the two sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

          Their sadness is increased because they do not understand Jesus’ behavior during their brother’s illness.  They sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick and at that time, our Lord was only two miles away.  Days passed and as Lazarus became more ill we still do not see Jesus coming to their aid.  What they do not know is that Jesus has a miracle in store for them, something they could not even imagine.

          Jesus seems to make no effort to be there to comfort the sisters during their brother’s last hours, nor during the funeral or the days that follow.  By the time Jesus does make the short journey from Bethlehem to Bethany, Lazarus has been in the tomb for nearly five days.

          Martha and then Mary both confront Jesus about what they see as a lack of concern:  Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.   Martha also makes a profession of faith:  Even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give it to you.  As upset as Martha may be both about her brother’s death and Jesus’ absence, she believes there is still reason to hope.

          When Jesus does arrive, he states:  I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.  Jesus then asks Martha, Do you believe this?   The answer to this question defines the life and faith of every believer.  It is the same question asked of each of us when we confront our own mortality or the death of someone we love.  Soon to face His own passion, Jesus has come to Bethany to show Martha and Mary that life does not end in death.

          With an authority that comes from God above, Jesus orders:  Lazarus, come out!  Indeed, Lazarus comes out of the tomb.  Once the wrappings that bound him are removed, everyone can see that he has not only overcome death, but the illness that caused it.  In the same way, all believers will one day be called forth from their tombs, and freed from the chains of illness, sin and death that make up so much of our lives here on earth.

          At Bethany, Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel (the first reading):  when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people.  In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul gives all of us the hope that we can experience the same gift of new life given to Lazarus:  the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also.  Once we understand that faith is stronger than death, we have nothing to fear.

          The hope of the Resurrection helps us to overcome death and reach out to the victory that awaits us in heaven.  Grief is the one emotion shared by every person at some point during life on earth.  Joy is the one emotion shared by every saint in heaven, all of whom have exchanged their crosses for the crowns of glory!

Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, March 22: The Fourth Sunday of Lent

FOCUS:  Christ is the light of the world.  He shines for all who seek Him and He empowers us to live in that light.

There is something truly comforting and reassuring about the words of today’s Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd.  It seems to speak to us not just of the promise of one day sharing in the eternal life of God, but of the ongoing blessings of God in each one of our lives:  the blessings of family, community, material well-being.  At a time of difficulty and challenge, as we all struggle living with the effects of the corona virus, it is refreshing to hear once again these words of comfort and reassurance. Yet there are many whose lives are far removed from this picture of overflowing cups and verdant pastures.  There are many who truly walk in the dark valley full of fear, despair and in need, lacking courage and whose lives are more closely related to the blind man we hear about in today’s Gospel.

As we look all around us, it is difficult not to see a world broken and divided on so many levels.  So many of our brothers and sisters are suffering because of poverty, illiteracy, violence and inequality, not to mention the many millions who suffer under the effects of illness, natural disaster and famine.

In the face of such a world, we might be tempted to despair or, worse still, imitate the Pharisees in the Gospel by being shortsighted and concerned only with ourselves. Today, however, as we continue our Lenten journey with its emphasis on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we are once again challenged to live as children of the light, for that is what produces every kind of goodness, righteousness and truth.

Our Gospel today is the second of three great coming to faith experiences recalled in St. John’s Gospel and used during Year A of the liturgical cycle.  Last week we heard of the Samaritan woman at the well and next week we will hear the account of the raising of Lazarus. Blind from birth, the man’s disability removed one of the great joys of life: the gift of sight.  Not only did it exclude him from being able to appreciate the beauty of creation, but because blindness – or indeed any disability – was seen in the first century as a punishment for sin, he was also excluded from family and society at the very time that he needed their support and comfort the most.

He was all alone in life!  That was until he came into contact with Jesus, and what an encounter that was!   Through His healing touch, Jesus moves this blind man in a way that was beyond his wildest imagining.  Not only is he healed of his physical ailment but through His words and most importantly His action, Jesus elicits words of faith.

Asked by Jesus if he believes in the Son of Man, the newly sighted man responds, “I do believe, Lord” and worships Him.  By doing this, Jesus not only restores his physical vision but opens his eyes of faith.   In that one special and life-changing encounter the blind man moves from physical and spiritual darkness and exclusion to the land of faith-filled vision and renewed relationship with God and community.

It is into this same light-filled land of faith and relationship that each one of us has been invited by virtue of our Baptism.  Like David in our first reading, we have been chosen by name and anointed to be God’s instruments in the world.  And as our second reading challenges us:  You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness of faith.

Because we have the gentle touch of Jesus in our lives, and we recognize His light in our world, we seek to imitate Christ with our lives of faithfulness, prayer and service to our brothers and sisters.  We may not be able to bring about the dramatic restoration of vision but we can each shed the holy light of compassion and hope on the lives of those who are less fortunate than we are.

Lent gives us the possibility to express in a very public and tangible way, our faith.  It gives us an opportunity not to judge by appearance, but as God would see us.   This is our time to begin to lay the foundation for a more just world because only with these qualities can our fractured world possibly be healed.

Ways to Attend Mass from Home

EWTN.com has daily Mass as well as recitation of the Rosary and other devotional programs. Mercy Home for Boys and Girls also televises Sunday Mass (you can go to mercyhome.org/Sunday-mass for more information. The televised Mass is normally on Sundays at 9:30 AM on WGN – channel 9.) Relevantradio.com is also a good source of Catholic devotional material.  They also have Masses streamed from their website. For more local options from within our diocese, visit http://www.dioceseofjoliet.org/bishop/content1.php?secid=74

Act of Spiritual Communion by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri: 

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.