Saturday, April 21, 2012

3rd Sunday of Easter, B: After Emmaus

Today's Readings, Psalm and Gospel

The disciples listen...but how closely?

Today our Gospel begins where the story from Emmaus leaves off.  The two disciples go to Jerusalem to tell Peter and the ten remaining apostles, along with the disciples gathered there of the miraculous appearance of the resurrected Christ.  He appears to them but is only recognized in the breaking of the bread.

In our first reading from Acts, we hear Peter's kerygma (proclamation) to the people in the Temple that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited messiah and that he comes to save all.  Soon thereafter a miracle will occur, three thousand will be baptized.

The Psalmist exhorts our God to "Let his face shine upon us", the same refrain that the two disciples from Emmaus must have been "hearing" in their hearts.  They were longing for their friend Jesus again, but were troubled that he had not overcome his oppressors with his earthly might.

In First John, our second reading of the day, the Evangelist calls us to refrain from sin and repent when necessary.  Ultimately his message is to not be a hypocrite, instead to remain steadfast in our faith, in our yearning for God.  We must accept this disposition to truly be happy while trapped in our mortal bodies.  By listening to Jesus' commandments (to love friend and foe) then we will understand truly the love of God; it will make us (imperfectly) perfect.


This is the final book of Luke, chapter 24.  In the beginning is the resurrection account.  In verse 5 two angels say to Saint Mary Magdalene, Joanna and James' mother Mary, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" Later we hear that when the women recount their story to those who should believe, none will except Saint Peter (and of course, Saint John).  

From verses 13-35 (35 is today's first verse) the story of the appearance on the road to Emmaus is told.  The important thing to remember and meditate on here is that the two disciples do not recognize the Christ while they are walking and speaking.  It is only at the breaking of the bread that they hearts are burning with fire.  Yet the Lord disappears at this instant(31f).

We hear in our Gospel proclamation today that these two disciples quickly fall into doubt in the very next verse from this passage.  The risen Christ must assure them that it is he; the resurrection happened and he shows him his glorified wounds.  

Who are these mysterious, never named disciples?  Saint Luke is appealing to all of us:

  1. Who have doubts...
  2. Who like to speak about that things of our lives, perhaps hesitating to bring them to prayer...
  3. Who have to constantly be reminded that Jesus cannot be put into our simple, cognitively flawed minds to be absorbed once and for all....
We must instead:

  1. Pray without ceasing...
  2. So that our minds are opened up to reveal scripture (Lk 24:46f)...
  3. To accept the paschal mystery is beyond our comprehension...
But ultimately, to know that we must recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, the Eucharist, the sweetest and sublime of all the Sacraments and our food for the journey!

Afterwards, the last verse of Luke's Gospel following His Glorious Ascension into Heaven is this:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divine Mercy Sunday, April 15 2012 (B)

Jesus, I trust in you...
Plenary Indulgence for Divine Mercy Sunday

Today's Readings and Gospel

Jesus and Divine Mercy (who is God) and His mother Mary (who is the Mother of God)

Sometimes, Momma said, "They will be weeks like this".  Rejoicing in the resurrected Lord, dead tired (thanks be to God), please indulge me.  The Divine Mercy Homily will appear soon....

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Vigil of the Lord's Resurrection, 2012:

Jesu Christus Resurrexit Sicut Dixit, Alleluia!

Holy Saturday - Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

Tonight's Readings and Gospel

{1 Corinthians 1:18 and following}
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.k
For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,n
but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,o
but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

We are here this evening, as participants in our liturgy, to celebrate the coming resurrection of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  We began with a service of light, but not just any light, Lumen Christi, the Light of Christ.  He came into the world to overshadow the darkness (Jn 1:1f), the darkness of evil, to raise us from sin and certain death.  He comes not to condemn the world but to save us. 
Most especially and of paramount importance is this: He gives us renewable nourishment, the Bread of Life in the Eucharist.  We will celebrate this Sacrament, the sweetest and most sublime of all in just a little while (our first time since Holy Thursday). 
When we do so our faith informs us that Jesus is truly present.  In fact the resurrected Christ in His glorified body will be present on the altar, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the consecratory words of a priest of Jesus Christ, our good pastor, Father Lee and me and my brother concelebrants.  The same very Jesus of Nazareth, who roamed the Earth 2000 years ago and now resides in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, will be here to with us, the gathered assembly of His faithful disciples today.
We begin our reflection and in fact we will end it with the story of Carlotta Paciulli. 
It is a true story.  It is a story that illustrates “Divine Providence”, the invisible hand of God (to the human eye) seen through the story of our lives, all of our lives.  Hindsight can be 20:20 when viewed through the lens of faith. 
{The hand of God can be obvious to us if we have sight to see it.  It is important to hear and reflect on others stories so we can learn our own stories anew.  In Carlotta’s story it is important to trust that the hand of God will become apparent, and I ask you this indulgence on this blessed Easter night: try to view the stories of your lives through the lens of faith.

Divine Providence is that same hand of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit that guided Jesus to accept the chalice of crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday.} 
And now, her story:
Carlotta was a young, beautiful Italian woman of the working class.  She lived in Southern Italy near Matera just a bit inland from the western shores of the Adriatic Sea.
She met the love of her life, Michael, a gifted barber, who was from a nearby village.  They married in the late 19th century and had four children. 
There was terrible poverty and disease in Southern Italy at this time.  The formerly autonomous province of Apuglia, in fact all of Italy was now united under the rule of King Victor Emmanuel II.  Unification took its toll on the poor as many starved in the recession that ensued.

Carlotta’s husband Michael was sent to New York, the great city in the land of opportunity, the USA.  Laborers and skilled workers alike were needed here and Michael was a very good barber, a trade high in demand.  So he left Italy so as to earn enough money to support his immediate and extended families back home, planning to return in a few years.

He was successful in this endeavor for many months, perhaps even years.  However, one day he received a fateful letter from Carlotta.  It read: his two beloved boys had died from an infant disease which swept through his homeland.  His heart broken he wrote a letter home, one sentence long.  It read, “I am dead inside and cannot return home, for I have failed my family and my sons are lost.” 
He meant forever.
Carlotta was crushed.  Her husband’s decision was unbearable, in fact untenable.  When they had wed in their local parish her dreams were realized.  They were devout Catholics; in fact their faith had carried them through so many trials including the terrible war of unification.  She must have thought and prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46).  By doing so, she would have literally echoed the cry of our Messiah on Good Friday from the Cross-just before he breathes his last breath.
In fact Carlotta knew in this moment something of what Mary must have felt like at the foot of the Cross as she watched the love of her life, Jesus the Son of God, die.  She was now a Mater Dolorosa, the sorrowful mother and wife.  For Carlotta, 1900 years after that fateful Good Friday on Cavalry for Mary.
My friends, tonight is different for us.  Because tonight we emerge from the mysteries of the passion of Christ, what the Sacred Triduum (Define) is all about, Tonight we move into the glory of the risen Messiah, Easter Sunday.  Jesus calls us to new life in him.  First, in this world, so as to prepare ourselves for the next where there can only be goodness. 

The goodness which is profound joy itself: standing before God in all His glory accompanied by the great cloud of witnesses: the Angels and the Saints (both known or canonized, and the vast majority of unknown: ordinary folk all around, like you and me).  The Beatific Vision of the mystical City of God in heaven.
It is different because we are adopted sons and daughters of God, by virtue of our Trinitarian Baptism.  We are no longer slaves to sin as our Lord’s passionate death, the pure and unblemished singular sacrifice that removes the shackles of sin once and for all and opens the heavenly gates now and for all eternity.

Tonight we emerge from our most solemn days,
Yesterday was perhaps the most solemn of days, Good Friday.  Good Friday?  What is so good about the crucifixion of the awaited Messiah of Israel, the anointed one and its true King?  This event which when viewed in it's temporal context not through the 20:20 lens of faith was a scandal to the Jews and a stumbling block to the Gentiles.  It is "good" because, simply put, it is of God.  We will return to this theme.

Tonight after our service of light we listened to the story of a people, our story, we the descendants of Judeo-Christian tradition.  We listened to four of the stories from the O.T…. and then the Epistle of John…which was followed by our great festival prayer, “Glory to God in the Highest” from which we have fasted from during Lent. 
Finally our Gospel from Saint Mark tells us that the first witness to the resurrection was good Saint Mary Magdalene, the one who anointed the feet of our Lord while at supper.  Overjoyed she seeks out the two: Saint Peter, upon whom the foundation of our Church is built (imperfect, yet perfect through God’s grace) and Saint John the author of the Gospel, the Epistles and the final chapter of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.  It is John, who might be viewed truly as the least of the brethren at the time whence he comes upon the Tomb.  He who believes first without seeing the Lord.
In a few moments, we will celebrate some other Sacraments.  This is in fact what makes our Easter Vigil so special: the pinnacle of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults where so many stories have been exchanged on Thursday nights at 8PM.  You are welcome to join us.  Here good Deacon John, who proclaimed our Gospel tonight, moderates the group of searchers and seekers of the one true faith.  Here is where Steve and Helen, Jim (walker……….) help teach
(fill in using worship aid)
using the time honored and true tradition of simple comfort items: coffee and cake, the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Let us pause to welcome our (soon to be) new fully initiated members of our “comfy” faith community , the family of the Eucharist here at Ss Cyril and Methodius in and around greater Deer Park.
And now, the rest of the story.  Carlotta Paciulli was her married name. She was in fact my maternal great-grandmother.  Her third child, the first to survive in Italy, was Angelina, my paternal grandmother, Nanny.   Nana met Michael Suglia, my papa, here in New York. 
You see Carlotta’s family and friends helped her get to NY with her two surviving children to rejoin her husband here.  They took the risk, when many before and since have perished, of travelling in steerage class of a freight ship to be reunited with their husband and Father, Carlotta and their two little girls my Nana and Aunt.  They especially did so because marriage is a Sacrament, for a man and a women to enter into a lifelong covenant of love.  Its permanence shines through in their story.
Had they not risked that harrowing trans-atlantic journey, my grandmother would have never met my grandfather, here in NY.
Divine Providence.  God’s master plan for the universe and his creatures.  You and I are his favored creatures, created in his image and likeness, Imago Dei (Gen 2:24).
Had all of this, including the terrible death of Carlotta’s only two sons not occurred, It is reasonable to assume that I would not be standing here today.  Nor would my six brothers and sisters the children of my Father, nor my nine nieces and nephews. 
My friends, we must trust in God, for He made you and me.  Our struggles may be a mystery to us, but he has a plan.
John 3:16

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.k
For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,n
but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,o
but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Mike and Joan's Suglia's Wedding:
L-R Gus&Ann (Parents), The Newlyweds, Nana and Popps (Grandparents)
Auntie (Fran) and Uncle Peter Santino

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Passion Sunday of Our Lord (Palm Sunday) B:

It was an astounding sight.  Right there inside the den just off our living room.  I walked into the room and I saw what I now could say was the most beautiful creature I had ever witnessed.  It was a hummingbird just outside the window, hovering along a row of late springtime flowers.

I grew up loving nature.  In fact my favorite show was "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom".  I cannot honestly recall why.  My dad also loved it, perhaps it was a first strong similarity that we shared.  It was on at about 7PM on Sunday nights.  Perhaps again, the time was early enough that a young boy could watch it  without a worry about it getting too late and impinging on the sad reality of "bed-time".

Methinks now that I may have a better perspective.  I just recently completed (a great blessing) a very good theological education.  First given at home and then in the seminary.  My education teaches me that the hummingbird scene is deeper than just a simple scene from our beautiful world.

You see, there is something utterly mysterious about what the hummingbird outside my window was actually doing.  It was feeding itself with nectar from the fresh flowers, yet at the same time helping the very same flowers with cross-pollonization.  Another way of expressing this is this:  the bird, a creature designed by God, while seeking and finding food, was helping a plant propagate its own species, by transferring pollen to the same plant species.  Either one could not exist without the other.  The hummingbird could starve and the plant would never see another springtime because no new seeds would be produced through cross-pollenization.

For me, nature is beautiful and at times very complete.  Other times it can be violent.  We see other birds like Robbins swooping down to the ground and then plucking up worms for their brood.  Even more horrifying are American Eagles, the great symbols of national unity in the USA.  They will have two or three chicks (hopefully) every spring and it is highly usual for one of the stronger chicks to literally kick a weaker chick out of the nest while both parents are away hunting.   Some would say, "Well only the strong can survive".

Charles Darwin says this is survival of the fittest.  In fact this is taught in nearly all of our public schools.

This CANNOT be an objective, universal truth for us Catholics.

Why?  Because....

Though he was in the form of God, he deemed being God something that could not be grasped.
Rather he humbled himself, taking the form of a slave..... (Ph 2:5f)

Jesus, was and is the weakest of all of God's favored creatures, in the fullness of His humanity.  He never turned his back on anyone (See lepers, adulterers, murderers, tax collectors, zealots...).  However, he cannot raise us without our cooperation with His holy will.  Necessary is our posture of repentence.

So that at the name of Jesus, every head should bow and knee should bend, to the praise and glory of God the almighty Father. (Ph 2:11f)

Nature is not perfect but God the creator of all things will occasionally offer us an image of perfection; hummingbirds and flowers cooperating naturally with his will.  He will also show us evil, a great mystery, like a lion taking down an innocent gazelle fawn.

Our world that we live in is in the shadow of original sin, fallenness.  Christ IS OUR REDEMPTION.

The simple, shepherd like carpenter from Nazareth witnesses to suffering and then submits to the most violent and evil of all tragedies, the Crucifixion.

He does so to restore original grace, as was intended in the Garden before the Fall.

Eternal life.  This is what you and I are called to.  This is what we believe in.  This is what our Trinitarian God, still a great and profound unsolvable mystery leads us toward: eternal life.

Here is where His joy is made complete, as his good and faithful servants gather around Him with all the Angels and Saints at the heavenly banquet.  Here is where there will be no more wailing or gnashing of teeth, nor sorrow or tears.  Here is Where only His glory and our eternal joy, with Mary the Mother of God can and will be made complete.

In the name of the Father,
and of the Son
 and of the Holy Spirit.