The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Acts 8, 5-8. 14-17; Psalm 66; 1 Peter 3, 15-18; St. John 14, 15-21
Reading 1 Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20

R. (1) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R. Alleluia.
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R. Alleluia.
“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R. Alleluia.
He has changed the sea into dry land;
through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him.
He rules by his might forever.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R. Alleluia.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R. Alleluia.

Reading II 1 Pt 3:15-18

Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.

Gospel Jn 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Consistency, integrity or contradiction?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth

In today’s Gospel Jesus is talking about two the most fundamental concepts of our life: the love and the truth. In our multicultural and tolerant world both: and love and truth are not only misused but abused and denied. Instead of love we have sex and pornography, instead of truth we are proposed relativism and falsely understood tolerance, where everybody has his own private truth.

And so we can ask a legitimate question: “What is love? What does it mean to love?” Jesus is answering it in the most direct and clearest way: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And so we can continue to question further: “What are the commandments I should keep?” This question was already asked in the Gospel by a young rich man who would like to be a disciple of Christ. (Mk 10:17-20)

Young rich man asked "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered him: “You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”

Am I able to say together with this young man: “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy." If not why do I say that I love God?

During his last visit in USA Pope Benedict XVI said:

While it is true that this continent is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior.

 Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs?
 Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death?
 Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel (…)
 How can we not be saddened as we observe the sharp decline of the family as a basic element of Church and society?
 Divorce and infidelity have increased, and many young men and women are choosing to postpone marriage or to forego it altogether.
 To some Catholics, the sacramental bond of marriage seems scarcely distinguishable from a civil bond, or even a purely informal and open-ended arrangement to live with another person.
 Hence we have an alarming decrease in the number of Catholic marriages in the North America together with an increase in cohabitation, in which the Christ-like mutual self-giving love (..) is simply absent.

In such circumstances, a deep reflection is arising: “Is my life consistent and integral or rather contradictory? I pretend to love Jesus, but do I keep also His commandments?


 What does it mean that the Father will send us the SPIRIT OF TRUTH?
 We are afraid of the truth.
 For many of the contemporary Catholics the truth is very inconvenient, awkward, problematic and tiresome.

Especially if this truth is not going together with my wishes and desires.

Today many live without belief in the existence of truth. Some use the word without understanding its authentic meaning, as if it can denote only a personal opinion, a thing that is "true" only for the individual who holds that idea. This widespread relativism, the system of thought which refuses to affirm that any one idea or law can apply to all persons, is "true", has crept with increasing power like an infection into the body of the Church.

The Church cannot be the Body of Christ unless the Church leads us into all the truth, for Christ is the Truth. The Church cannot teach the truth without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit of truth, for the human members of the Church are incapable of grasping and remaining faithful to the Word of truth without divine grace. The Lord promised the gift of the Holy Spirit so that man might persevere in the truth and so be saved.

To love Jesus means to trust him. And that means that we trust his radical teaching about an ideal of unselfish love with all –even the most difficult- consequences off this love.

Jesus knows that his teaching seems unpromising and so he sends to those who try to be unselfish an Advocate who is the "Spirit of truth." This divine Spirit will be present to our inmost being and will assure us that the path traced out by Jesus will in fact lead to freedom and joy. This powerful Spirit will also guide us in knowing how to love properly in all the circumstances of our lives. But our obligation and our deepest task is to not put the obstacles to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

How we can recognize that we have the Spirit of Christ and not the spirit of the world?
St Paul in the letter to the Galatians gives us the clear answer:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;

But the deeds of the flesh are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, conflicts, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, egoism, and things like these, of which I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-23)

And once again the same question is arising: “Is my life consistent and integral or rather contradictory? I pretend to believe Jesus, but do I live according to His Spirit of truth?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

5 Easter Sunday – 20 04. 2008

Reading 1 Acts 6:1-7

As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
R. Alleluia.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
R. Alleluia.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
R. Alleluia.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
R. Alleluia.

Reading II 1 Pt 2:4-9

Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture: Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Gospel Jn 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What is the deepest meaning of these words of Jesus Christ? Why Jesus call Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life. What He would like to tell me by this statement?

"The Way" - Strange words from Christ, calling himself "the way." Not, I can show you the way. Not, here is a guide book to follow. Jesus says, "I am the way."

"The Truth" - and we know that He said also: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jn 8:31-31

but also: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."” Jn 18:37

"The Life" – “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life” Jn 5:24

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” Jn 6:47

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Jn 6:54

What does it mean for me that Jesus is my Way, My Truth and my life?

Few days ago I was listening with a certain curiosity a discussion of some of my friends. One of them tried to proof that for us Christians and Catholics Jesus is an option, that we have a choice, that we as priests we shouldn’t press and push the Catholics in their moral and religious decisions.

It was really a peculiar dissertation in the mouths of a priest. Later on I read these words, the words of today’s Gospel: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” and I clearly realized that for me Jesus is not an option, not a choice not a possibility, not an alternative!!!

Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life is for me not an option … He is an obligation with all consequences of this statement!!

Jesus is the only WAY of my life and I shouldn’t have any other paths or passages, which are not in accordance with HIM!

He is the only TRUTH in my life, and I shouldn’t believe any other truths or create my private religious or moral truths!

Jesus is not an option He is my LIFE, because what is the other option besides LIFE ??? The DEATH!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

4th Sunday of Easter – Good Shepard Sunday – Vocation Sunday

Reading 1 Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Responsorial Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading II 1 Pt 2:20b-25

Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Gospel Jn 10:1-10
Jesus said:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Good Shepherd

“Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. … he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.

I am the gate for the sheep.
Whoever enters through me will be saved …” (Jn 10:1nn)

These words invite us to meditate this Sunday on the place and the role of guides in our social life. We have plenty of guides and leaders. And we have plenty of imposters, of those who claim to be the guides but in reality they misguide us and lead us astray. I won’t like to talk about them, because it could be imprudent or even unsafe :-)

I prefer rather to talk about the characteristics or attributes of a Goode Shepherd. Jesus Himself gives us these distinctive features which will help us to distinct clearly the one from the others.

God's image as Shepherd did not originate with Jesus. It preceded Him by centuries. One finds the figure of speech strewn throughout the Old Testament like a common pebble. You will discover it in the Books of Zechariah, Isaiah, Ezechiel, and Jeremiah for openers. And don't forget the celebrated 23rd Psalm which is our Responsorial Psalm today: "The Lord is my shepherd."

Already in the Jn 10:11-14 Jesus clearly says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,”

This kind of attitude is impossible for those who are not pastors, who are impostors and pretenders. This is the most important characteristic of a Good Shepherd. Jesus Christ is the perfect example.

In the book of Sirach (18:11-12) we read: “LORD'S mercy reaches all flesh, reproving, admonishing, teaching, as a shepherd guides his flock …” what is confirmed in 2Tm 4:2: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who as a Good Pastor will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power:

proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, having itching ears will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.

But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; always be sober, endure suffering put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.”

The impostor and pretender don’t seek the good of the sheep especially if it is not popular and well-liked, but the imposters are searching rather their own popularity and esteem.

One of the Canadian bishops used to repeat:

“If I don’t tell you what you want like to hear, you will not listen to what I have to tell you.” And this is the second feature of the Good Shepherd. He is not searching for his own esteem and tells the truth even if sometimes he is politically incorrect, and unpopular. And once again, Jesus is the best example of this.

And the third characteristic: “whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The Good Shepherd the one who is appointed by Jesus Christ enters through the gate, means through Jesus Christ and the gatekeeper opens the gate for him. Jesus Himself appointed the gatekeeper St. Peter Apostle:

“‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’”

And after Resurrection by the Sea of Tiberias He reconfirmed: “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.”

And this is the fourth feature of a Good Shepherd – love of Jesus.

St Augustine used to repeat:
“I am the Christian and a sinner with you, but I am a pastor for you. Pray for me so that I can be a Good Shepherd for you.”

So let us repeat the features of a Good Shepherd:

1 The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,
2 He is not searching for his own esteem and tells the truth even if sometimes he has to be unpopular,
3 The Good Shepherd is appointed by Jesus Christ and enters through the gate, means through Jesus Christ,
4 Good Shepherd loves Jesus Christ.

Pope Gregory the Great wrote:

“A religious leader should be careful in deciding when to remain silent and be sure to say something useful when deciding to speak. In this way he will avoid saying things that would be better not said, or leaving unsaid things that ought to be said. For, just as thoughtless remarks can lead people into error, so also ill-advised silence can leave people in their error, when they could have been shown where they were wrong. Negligent religious leaders are often afraid to speak freely and say what needs to be said – for fear of losing favour with people. As Truth himself says, they are certainly not guarding their flock with the care expected of a shepherd but are acting like hirelings, because hiding behind a wall of silence is like taking flight at the approach of the wolf.” From The Pastoral Rule of Pope St. Gregory the Great From the office of readings for Sunday week 27

Sunday, April 06, 2008

3rd Easter Sunday - A

Two hippies were walking down the street the other day.
Suddenly coming the opposite way they spotted a Catholic Priest.
They knew he was a priest because he was wearing a white Roman Collar.

The priest had his arm in a cast. As they drew near to each other one of the hippies said “Hey man, what happened to you?” The priest said “I slipped in the bathtub and broke my arm”.

The hippy replied “Sorry to hear that man, have a good day” and they moved on. Suddenly one hippy said to the other “Hey man, what’s a bathtub?” The other hippy replied “How should I know, I’m not Catholic.”

It used to be that you could tell Catholics apart from other people. Maybe when you saw a large family walking together – you thought – they must be Catholic. Or if you saw someone make the sign of the Cross – you immediately thought – they are Catholic. Or if you saw a cross or a scapular around someone’s neck – you thought – they are Catholic.

These things made Catholics easier to spot. Nowadays it is harder to identify a person as a Catholic. Over the past few years we seem to have made a concerted effort to blend in with the rest of society.

This has even carried over into our area of worship.

Let me ask you a question. Why did you come to Mass today? What was the main reason for you to be here? Is it really because you know that it is a sin to deliberately miss Mass and even if you didn’t want to come – you had to come anyway.

Is it because you want to join others and meet your friends at church? Or did you come to participate as best you can in the Mass, listen to the homily and be uplifted as best you can by the beautiful voices of the choir?

It seems over the years our reasons for coming to Mass have changed. In the world we live in today we are conditioned to being entertained. We turn on the TV to watch a show or a game – our primary intent is to be entertained – sometimes to relieve the boredom.

We go to hockey games and football games – again to be entertained. We go to the show, we attend the theatre – again to be entertained. In all of these things – we need to have something in them to appeal to our senses. Otherwise we would be bored.

What happens to us a church if the homily is boring – or if the singing is not the best. Do we leave the church bored or with a feeling of having wasted our time?

We have been conditioned to come to church to be entertained in a way. If our senses are not challenged then we lapse into boredom – even in church.

Let’s just look for a moment at what the Church teaches about why we come to Mass and what we should be doing when we are there.

First of all, the church teaches us that the Mass is the supreme prayer, the supreme act of Adoration. If this is the case then we need to look at what is Adoration. Adoration is praise. Praise is something we give to God – not because he needs it but because we need to give it.

At the Mass there are four types of prayer we need to use in order to properly participate in the Mass.

The first and foremost is Adoration – where we give praise to God.
The second is Contrition – where we review our lives and ask God for forgiveness for the times that we did not love Him or our neighbour.

The third is Thanksgiving where we thank God for the great gift of His Son who died on the Cross for us – while we were still sinners.

And the fourth prayer is our prayer of supplication where we ask God for the things we need – either temporal or spiritual. The graces we need to live holy lives.

You notice in all these prayers – we are directing our attention toward God. We are not sitting there being entertained.
We are actively participating in the Mass by responding to the prayers at the appropriate time as the priest celebrant moves us through the four types of prayer which constitute the Mass.

When we come to Mass do we actively participate in it by praying these four prayers.

If we are waiting to be entertained – we will end up bored. But if we participate in the prayers – in an active way – adoring and praising God through prayer and song, pleading with Him to forgive us our sins, thanking Him for His many gifts and asking Him to give us our daily bread, to heal us and our neighbour and to give us the graces to live good lives.

Are children taught this? Do they understand what is happening at the Mass? Do we recognize what is happening at the Mass. How Jesus comes to us first through His word -

And then through Holy Communion where He actually gives us His body and blood so that we might commune with him. So that we might become one with Him. As Catholics do we believe this? Do we recognize Him at the breaking of the bread?

If we do – how do we approach Him for Holy Communion – is it with reverence and adoration in our hearts – or has communion become for us merely a community meal – a symbol of Jesus – and we eat this meal simply in memory of Him and to express our unity with each other?

As older Catholics don’t we sometimes wonder what has happened to the great wonder and awe with which we used to approach the communion table? We weren’t allowed to touch the Host - only the priest celebrant could do that. We received the Lord on our tongue while kneeling down at the communion rail.

Somebody asked me the other day – when did this all change?

Of course we immediately think of Vatican II. Vatican II - the great council of the church which ended in 1965. A gathering of all the world’s bishops. A council which seems to have changed our Church forever. Or did it?
I grew up in the pre-Vatican II church. I got married just as the Council ended. I honestly don’t remember having any problem with the Latin Mass simply because we had a missal that had Latin on one side and English on the other. And we easily followed and responded.

I do remember that the churches were full and that you didn’t dare sit in a pew that belonged to another family. You could identify a priest or a sister because they wore religious garb.

During an RCIA session in the past someone asked me why do some people stand while others kneel during the consecration and why do some people take communion on the tongue while others receive it in the hand? Which way is the right way? Now, this is a legitimate question especially since this person is new to the faith and wants to know the reasons. How would you answer those questions?

I was about to answer when a Catholic in the group responded with “It’s because Vatican II changed all that”. I thought that was the right answer until I reviewed the documents of Vatican II and I was surprised by all the things we attribute to Vatican II that simply aren’t true.

Yes, many things changed after Vatican II but not all of them as a result of the teachings of Vatican II.

I’ll just briefly review a few of them. I think you may find them enlightening.

Communion on the hand. Where did this come from? Did Vatican II teach us that we should now receive communion in the hand. No, it did not. A dutch priest started to give communion in the hand instead of on the tongue because he felt that the people should receive on the hand like the priest did. The Vatican was shocked and forbade the practice but in open disobedience – the priest continued.

The habit spread like wildfire until the Vatican was forced to issue an indult (that is temporary special permission) which allows a bishop to give permission for communion to be given on the hand after proper catechesis has been given. The Vatican’s concern of course is that small particles of the host, each of which are the whole and complete Christ – would be brushed off the hands and onto the floor instead of being consumed. Even today the universal indult is still in place.

There is a reverent way to receive communion in the hand. You approach the minister - You make a slight reverence such as a bow of the head. You make your hands into a throne by placing them one on top of the other then you gently pick up the host and place it into your mouth. You then check your hands to make sure that no particles of the host remain on them. Is this the way you receive Holy Communion?

So much for the myth that Vatican II changed the way we receive Holy Communion.

Did Vatican II allow individual priests or people to change the liturgy, such as prayers, response, or posture during the Mass no matter what their reasons were?

No, it did not – in fact Vatican II taught the following “ no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority”. So why are some people standing and some people kneeling – I guess that’s a question for the bishops to answer. We all know that some people for health reasons cannot kneel.
So this does not apply to them.

Did Vatican II do away with Latin? No it did not. It in fact recommended that it be kept in parts of the Mass along with the vernacular and most especially in the music. In fact all the Vatican II documents as well as all encyclicals and official documents of the church continue to be distributed in Latin, because Latin is still and will remain the official language of the Church.

Did Vatican II do away with devotions such as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and praying the Rosary?
No it did not – in fact it promoted and encouraged devotions explaining that devotions are not private things such as an apostolate but rather the prayer of the whole church and are to be greatly encouraged especially those promoted by the Holy See.

Did Vatican II break with the past and start a whole new church? No, it did not.
In fact Pope John the 23rd referred to the continuity and the link between the past councils such as the council of Trent and Vatican I.

Did Vatican II change the role of the laity and the clergy? No, it did not. In fact it went to great lengths to explain the necessary difference and similarities between the two. Interesting to note here that throughout the decree on the laity – there is not one mention of ministry.

Did Vatican II democratize the Church. No, it did not. It reaffirmed the power of the Pope to act on his own. It did explain that Bishops when they are in union with the Pope also take part in the Magesterium. But those Bishops or anyone else who speak on their own without being in union with the Pope have no authority to do so whatsoever.

The council taught the following “The college or body of bishops has for all that no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head, whose primatial authority, let it be added, over all, whether pastors or faithful, remains in its integrity.

For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as the Vicar of Christ, namely, and as pastor of the entire-Church) has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered”. This is the teaching of Vat II.

Doesn’t that make you wonder where some of these dissenting theologians get their authority from? If even a Bishop or group of Bishops has no authority to speak against the church – where do these individual guys get their authority from? It seems that they make themselves into their own magesterium. And Thousands upon thousands of Catholics listen to them, believe them and follow their teachings.

Did Vatican II teach that ordinary people can sometimes reject church teaching and in fact are obliged to do so? No, it did not. The council affirmed that all people owe their obedience to the Pope and the church’s teachings in all cases.

Did Vatican II teach that people must obey their conscience. Yes, It did but it added important provisos that are often conveniently overlooked or ignored by some.

In order to properly form your conscience you must study what the church teaches and what the church teaches must take precedence over everything else that you may read or are told. Conscience is never just a matter of personal opinion or private preference. It never exists in a vacuum of individual sovereignty. It is not a pious alibi for doing what we want or what might be convenient for us. You can’t make yourself into your own magesterium telling yourself what you choose to believe or not believe.

Here's the key to understanding conscience:

Just as John the Baptist demanded conversion, repentance, humility and honesty from ancient Israel, so a right conscience speaks to the individual heart. And always, as Vatican II noted in its Declaration on Religious Liberty, ". . . (I)n forming their consciences, the faithful must pay careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church.

For the Catholic Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of truth. It is her duty to proclaim and teach with authority (emphasis added) the truth which is Christ and, at the same time, to declare and confirm by her authority the principles of the moral order which spring from human nature" (14).

Vatican II can never be invoked as an alibi for Catholics to ignore the teachings of the church.

A properly formed conscience will never reject the teachings of the church.

Now I ask you - Is Humanae Vitae – the Church’s teaching on birth control – Church teaching or not? By whose authority do we reject it’s teaching?

If we're sincere about our faith, "conscience" can never be used as an excuse for dismissing what the Church teaches by pointing to her theological critics, by listening and believing to dissenting theologians because they are saying what we want to hear, by voter surveys or public opinion polls,, and then doing what we find more convenient. That's dishonest. And God made us for something better than that.

If the council seemed to reaffirm the past then why even call the council? If we are not to break with the past and start anew then what was the real reason for convoking the second Vatican Council.

Maybe Pope John the 23rd’s opening remarks give us a clue.
In calling this vast assembly of bishops, the latest and humble successor to the Prince of the Apostles who is addressing you intends to assert once again the Church's Magisterium [teaching authority], which is unfailing and perdures until the end of time, in order that this Magisterium, taking into account the errors, the requirements, and the opportunities of our time, might be presented in exceptional form to all men throughout the world.
The problem facing us, the Pope pointed out, is the same today as it has ever been: Men stand either with the Church or against Her; and rejection results in bitterness, confusion, and war. These Councils testify to the union of Christ and His Church and promulgate a universal truth to guide individuals in their domestic and social lives.
Pope John XXIII was quite clear about what he wanted the council to accomplish which was the defense and advancement of truth.
The Pope went on to say: “The greatest concern of the ecumenical council is this: “that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously. (effectively)”
Does that sound like a break with the past to you? Does that sound like the Pope wanted a whole new church? And does it sound like we have met that requirement to teach the Catholic faith more effectively since then? I propose that we have effectively done the exact opposite.

In our haste to have an unauthorized break with the past even though the council did not want this to happen, when we threw out the catechisms after Vatican II - even though the council did not direct us to do so, we also threw out the methodology by which we taught our children the faith. We went to concepts instead.

We threw the baby out with the bath water.

The end result is that we are now approaching the 4th generation of uncatechized Catholics – Catholics who do not know their faith and who have no clue what being a Catholic means. And so it is very easy for them to come to church or not – what difference does it make?

Understanding of the Mass and true belief in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist has dipped to new low because the faith has not and is not being taught except in RCIA and RCIC.

As Catholics what are we going to do about it? Do we ourselves believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Do we reflect this in the way we receive Him in Holy Communion?

What have we taught our Children and where are they today? We need not only to ask those questions but also to answer them.

If children today are not taught the Catholic faith in our Catholic Schools – who then is going to teach them?

And have their parents been taught their faith well enough to pass it on to their children?

These children will be the potential Catholics of tomorrow. No wonder our church seems to be dying in this part of the world.

Look around you and count the young Catholics among us.

If you didn’t understand the Mass – why would you want to come to a church that seems to have nothing in it for you? Wouldn’t it seem like an exercise in boredom to you? A waste of time? Have you sat next to a kid in church with a scowl on his face because he didn’t want to be there.

I think we recognize this and we want to do something to change it. We wonder why people have stopped coming to church and we do search for ways to bring them back.

But instead of teaching the faith – instead of teaching the truth - we seek to improve the entertainment value.

Something that will get them to come. That will make them want to come. Something that will make them feel welcome.

So we strive to make the music better, we want to make the homilies more relevant and understandable. We make sure we greet people as they come through the door. And we do reach out to fallen away Catholics. And all of this is commendable and to be encouraged but we mustn’t forget about teaching the main reason why we gather for the breaking of the bread.

We mustn’t forget about catechesis. We need to teach the truths of our faith. Children and adults both need to know why we are here. What God expects of us. Why are we here? Where we are going? What is actually happening at Mass?

The old Baltimore Catechisms asked us. Why did God make us?
The answer of course is: God made us to know Him, to Love Him and to serve Him in this world so that we might be happy with Him forever in the next.

The nuns taught me that when I was 6 years old – and I have never forgotten it. How many kids today question why they are here and what reason is there to keep on living.

When they come to Mass do they recognize that it is really and truly the risen Lord who comes to them in the form of Bread and Wine? That He loves them and wants them to come to Him and dine with Him and wants them become part of Him through holy communion. He stands at the door and knocks. We need to answer that door.

This is what makes us different. Yes, Our Lord is present in His Word and also in the Community of Believers but as Vatican II teaches us He is present in a much more substantive way especially in the Eucharist. That is what makes the Catholic Church different. It is the Holy Eucharist.

And Jesus said to them “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures.

And it happened that, while He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. Can we say the same?

Deacon Bernard Ouellette
Second Sunday of Easter, Cycle A - Divine Mercy SundayHomily from Father Clyde A. Bonar, Ph.D.
Acts 2: 42-47;
1 Peter 1: 3-9;
John 20: 19-31

"God is Love, Mercy is His Deed"

Introduction - Why we don’t like the Feast of Divine Mercy?
It is remaining us about our sinfulness, about our insufficiency, about the fundamental truth that I am NOT god? And I am not able to save myself!!

In the Old Testament, each year to cleanse the people of their sins, the priest offered animal sacrifices to God. Christ changed all that. Through the Blood of the Cross, Jesus himself became the sacrifice, the Lamb who was slaughtered.

On Good Friday, we witnessed the three hours Christ spent on the Cross. On Easter Sunday, singing "Alleluia," we rejoiced at the Resurrection of Jesus.

By his death on the Cross Christ demonstrated the mercy of God. Today we celebrate God’s mercy for us sinners. We celebrate that by the Divine Mercy of God, the Blood of the Cross cleanses us of our sins.

In his revelations to Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), Jesus told St. Faustina his "Heart rejoices in this title of Mercy," and that he desires "that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy."1 Today is the Sunday after of Easter. We call it Divine Mercy Sunday.

"The Flower of Love"

St. Faustina wrote in her dairy, "Mercy is the flower of love. God is love, and mercy is His deed."2 Story after story in the Bible tells us of the mercy of God.

Remember the story of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32-34)? After leaving the slavery of the pharaoh, the Hebrew people are traipsing in the desert. Moses goes up to Mt. Sinai to talk to God. And stays on the mountain for 40 days. The people start to worry, ask themselves what happened to Moses, where is God. Aaron tells the people to gather all their gold, their rings and earrings; melts the collected items of gold, and makes a golden calf. Aaron tells the people to worship the golden calf, to offer sacrifices to the golden calf.

That’s the sin of apostasy, the people turning away from God, putting their faith in an idol made of gold. God’s pretty upset, Moses pleads for the people. What’s God do? Shows mercy. God renews his covenant with the Hebrew people, tells them again he loves them and will take care of them. "God is love, mercy is His deed."

In the New Testament we have the well known story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32). The younger son tells his father to give him his share of the family fortune. The father does and the son sets off to look for a better life. As the story develops, the son commits one deadly sin after another. To begin with, there is failure to honor his parents: the money given to the son is the father’s old age insurance. The son just says, Give me the money; and never worries about how his father will get on in his old age. That’s the sin of pride, the son putting his own selfish wants before the needs of others. And how does the son use his inheritance? He violates the Sixth Commandment, spending his father’s money on high living and "loose women."

What’s the father do, when the prodigal son comes home broke, hungry, and in rags? The father puts the finest robe on his son’s shoulders and gives a party – his son is home. Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son to illustrate the mercy God has for us. Our Father in Heaven shows us mercy even when we act like a prodigal son. "God is love, mercy is His deed."

Check the Bible. Story after story telling us of the Divine Mercy of God. He renewed his covenant with the Hebrew people after they misbehaved. God forgives our sins. Whatever the sin, God shows mercy to the sinner.

Are we the sinner in need of mercy?

Are we the sinner in need of mercy? You bet! As a person hesitated in confession, the old priest reassured him: "Don’t be afraid to mention your sins. You can’t tell me anything I haven’t heard before." And, it’s true. In the confessional, priests are told every sin you have ever imagined.

One heart rending confession I’ll always remember. I was hearing confessions in the local jail. With tears in his eyes, slowly in a whisper, the man said, "I shot my son." His old girl friend, the mother of his son, was now sleeping with another man. In his anger the inmate went after them, and in the bedroom, in the dark, he started to shot. His bullets killed his own son. The sorrow in his voice pleaded for mercy, for forgiveness of his dreadful sin.

Another time, in the hospital, a lady was scheduled for major surgery. She’d asked to see a priest. She too began to cry as she made her confession. She told of a loving husband, always kind and considerate, but she’d been the one hard to live with. She always criticized her husband, screamed and yelled at him. "I’ve been an awful wife," she told me. She continued, "And my son, I kicked him out of the house." Probably the lady exaggerated. But faced with the uncertainty of her operation, she wanted to hear of the mercy of God, to be forgiven for the times she failed to show love.

All too often penitents confess violating the Third Commandment: they miss Mass. One cheerful young chap told me he was a "good Catholic," that he always came to Mass on Easter and Christmas." His average, two Masses a year. Another penitent did better, she got to Mass about six times a year. I tell them that’s not enough. God forgives, God shows mercy. Then I tell them that God really does expect to see us in church each Sunday and every Sunday.

We all have a list of sins, some sins more serious, some less serious; some sins we do often, others very seldom. Truth is, we always have some sins to confess; some temptations are hard to resist. Yes, we are the sinners, we need God’s mercy.

"Fount of Mercy"

Christ told his disciples, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them." God the Son instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For all those bad things we do, when we confess our sins, the priest is ready and eager to tell us of God’s mercy, that God forgives all our little transgressions and God forgives the worst things we might do. Every sin can be forgiven, God’s mercy is boundless.

Jesus told St. Faustina, "When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting for you there. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul." Jesus continued, "there is no limit to My generosity." One day when she herself was making her confession, Sister Faustina remembered that when the priest rose to give absolution, "Suddenly his figure became diffused with a great light, and I saw that it was not Father A., but Jesus."3 St. ThérPse of Lisieux says God shows his mercy in the confessional like a mother lovingly clasping a child to her heart.

That’s a prime place to hear of God’s mercy, in the confessional

To remind us of his mercy, on the evening of February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to St. Faustina "clad in a white garment. One hand [was] raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment to his breast. From beneath the garment, slightly aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale." A pale ray for the waters of baptism, a red ray for the Blood of the Cross. Faustina’s soul was in awe, she had great joy. Jesus told her to paint an image just as she saw it, and add the words, "Jesus, I trust in you."

We call the painting the Image of Divine Mercy. Christ promised that souls who venerated this Image would not perish. A reminder that by the mercy of God we will become participants in eternal life.

A way to ask for God’s mercy is to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The Lord told Sister Faustina, "Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death."6 Jesus said to recite the Chaplet for nine days, on the beads of the rosary. His instructions:

" "First of all, you will say one Our Father and Hail Mary and the I Believe in God [Apostles’ Creed].

" "Then, on the Our Father beads you will say the following words, ‘Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.’

" "On the Hail Mary beads, you will say the following words: ‘For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.’

" "In conclusion, three times you will recite these words: ‘Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world."7

When we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, God promises to embrace us with his mercy. God promises the same indulgence when we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for a dying person.

We have three very specific ways to seek and to receive God’s mercy: during the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by venerating the Image of Divine Mercy, and by praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.


Jesus told Sister Faustina that he wanted a feast of Divine Mercy, and asked her who knows anything about such a feast. On the occasion of the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska on 30 April 2000, Pope John Paul II decreed that throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday.

The promise of Jesus is that God wants "to grant a plenary indulgence [complete pardon] to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My [His] Mercy."8 Today we celebrate, we rejoice in the Divine Mercy of God.