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Monthly Archives: April 2018

5th Sunday of Easter

April 29, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


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Last Sunday in John’s Gospel we reflected on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I pointed out to you that 5 times in that short Gospel Jesus spoke about laying down his life, referring to how in love he gave away his life for us. Joined to Him, we are invited to lay down our lives in love for others.

This Sunday we are given another image of how the Risen Lord Jesus gives his life for us and to us, how he shares his risen life with us. He says: “I am the Vine and you are the branches.”

In connection with this beautiful image on intimate and constant communion, Jesus commands us to “remain in me”. He makes the command 5 different times in these 8 verses. “Remain in me.”

We are called to remain in him because when we are cut off from Him we wither up and die before we die and then when we physically die we die forever. Just as branches that are cut off from the vine wither up and die, so we do when we are cut off from the Lord Jesus.

As the vine, he is rooted in the One who is necessary for life and life in abundance, the source of all life, connected to the Father himself. In the Son of God, we are connected to the Father who is the Source of life. Cut off from Jesus, our lives shrivel up and lose their ultimate meaning.

John, in his 1st letter points out how we know that we remain in Jesus and he remains in us — by the gift of the Spirit given to us. It is by the Spirit poured into our life at baptism and given to us anew at every celebration of the Eucharist that we remain in the Risen Jesus and he remains in us.

When we remain in Jesus, when we remain connected to him, then we bear fruit. That is our mission as branches attached to the living vine—to produce fruit. 5 times Jesus states in this Gospel passage that our mission as the branches, as we stay connected to Jesus, is to bear fruit. Over and over again Jesus stresses this point—we are to bear fruit. For fruit is not for the vine nor for the branches, but for the nourishment of others. Fruit is for others—for others to eat.

Bearing fruit means we lay down our lives in service of others, we give away the gifts given us to nourish other’s lives, to feed them by our life-giving love. Bearing fruit happens when we love one another as Christ loves us. In fact, when we remain in Jesus and he remains in us, when we have this intimate communion of life with him as branches connected to the living vine, then we have the energy to love as he loves.

Another way to understand what bearing fruit looks like is to return to what John states in his first letter about how we know that we remain in him and he in us is by the Spirit he gave us. For there are 12 fruits of the Spirit, signs of the Spirit of the Risen Lord at work in the lives of believers. The 12 fruits of the Spirit are: Charity, joy, and peace Goodness, generosity, and gentleness Patience and kindness and faithfulness Self-control, modesty, and chastity.

When we see someone who generously shares of themselves and their gifts, we know the Spirit of the Risen Lord is at work in that person and we see the fruits of such generosity. When we see someone who is patient and kind in the face of hatred and violence, we know that the Spirit is at work. When we are around people whose joy lifts us up, whose peaceful spirits bring peace to our troubled souls, we are in the presence of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

When we are connected to the Son of God as branches to a vine, and the sap of the Spirit flows from the vine grower (the Father) and the vine into our lives, then we can produce the fruits of self-control, modesty and chastity. In a secular society which has turned people into objects to be used for one’s pleasure and then thrown away when done with or simply erased by the click of a computer mouse, the invitation of the Spirit of the Risen Lord is to produce the fruits of chastity, modesty, and self-control in order to bring the God-given dignity of the other to light. One of the 7 deadly sins is Lust, which causes the lustful one to feel cut off from others and from God. When lust “flares up” in the human heart, most people think they only have 2 choices: to indulge lust or to repress lust. Indulging leads to separation from others and from God and from our truest, best self and can lead to a heart to wither, like a branch cut off from the life-giving vine of love.

But repressing lust is not a good option either, because whenever we don’t deal with something as powerful as lust but simply try to put a “lid on it”— then it forces it’s way to the surface in more powerful and destructive ways.

The 3rd option, one that is life-giving and transformational, is the one suggested by Pope St. John Paul II in his “Theology of the Body.” Rather than trying to repress lust or trying to ignore it, we surrender our lust to the paschal mystery.

What does this look like? When a lustful thought arises in our mind or a lustful desire arises in our heart, we immediately turn toward the Lord Jesus and give it to Him. We make the experience into a prayer by crying out, “Lord, help me.”

In other words, as we allow lust to be crucified with Christ, we also come to experience the “resurrection” of God’s original plan for sexual desire as a life-giving force, as the power to love in God’s image. As we do this, Pope St. John Paul II states that “the Spirit of the Lord gives new form to our desires.”

We can do this with any deadly sin, such as Anger or Pride, for when angry or prideful thoughts come to mind or arise in our heart, we immediately turn to the Lord Jesus and give them to Him. He is called the Savior of the World for a reason, for he wants to set us free from what enslaves us.

The Holy Spirit, the bond of love between Father and Son, strengthens us to love as we have been made to love.

The beauty and power of God’s love for us is that we do not have to do anything on our own power. We are made to be connected to Christ Jesus, the Life-giving vine. Without him, we can do nothing of value at all; but with Him, we can do all things for the Glory of God. We do not have to do anything on our own. With Him and In Him and Through Him we can produce the fruits of the Spirit.

The Lord Jesus invites us to remain in him in a very intimate way as we share in this Holy Eucharist. He remains with us by the gift of His Body and Blood and by the gift we are to one another.


3rd Sunday of Easter

April 15, 2018

Deacon Bill Hough


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Our Scripture readings, especially during the Easter season, are meant to always remind us of the Paschal mystery – the life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Today, by our celebration of the Mass we not only remember the life of Jesus, but we participate in His presence here and now in the Word and in the Eucharist.

Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles takes place right after Peter has healed a crippled man at the entrance of the temple. Peter’s question to the observers is, “Why are you amazed at this?” He begins to explain that it is not through his own power that this man has been healed but the power of Jesus – the Savior and God of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

And Jesus is still present and acting through the Apostles. Peter encourages them to be converted and repent so that their sins may be forgiven. Peter’s own life is a testimony to the love and forgiveness of God.

In our second reading from the first Letter of Saint John, we are reminded again of the mercy of God. Jesus is our Advocate who takes away the sins of the whole world. If we truly know Jesus, we will live in right relationship with Him. His love for us will be reflected in the way we show our love for others.

It doesn’t mean we won’t ever sin. But by sharing in God’s life, we will always try to follow His will. And His will is that we lead moral and ethical lives.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus Himself gives testimony to the meaning of the Paschal mystery. The entire 24th chapter of the Gospel of Luke explains it all. It begins with the empty tomb. From there we see the appearance of Christ to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Today, before He leaves to return to the Father, Jesus appears to His disciples who were startled and terrified (desconcertados y llenos de temor) and thought they were seeing a ghost (fantasma).

His question to them is like Peter’s question to the Jews in our first reading, “Why are you amazed?”. Jesus asks them, “Why are you troubled?”

Finally, when Jesus shows them the wounds on His hands and His feet and allows them to touch Him, they became overwhelmed with joy. Jesus is indeed alive. Everything that has been written about Him has been fulfilled.

Then Christ does three things that are very familiar to us today. First, He wants to share a meal with his disciples. Next, He opens their minds (les abrio le entendimiendo) to understand the Scriptures. Then, he gives them their mission to preach repentance, for the forgiveness of sins to all the nations.

As I said, we are not here just to remember Jesus. When we come to Mass, He becomes present to us today. Like the disciples, we hear His words in Scripture and He opens our minds to their meaning in our lives. We share a meal with Him in the Eucharist. We do more than touch Him – Christ becomes part of us.

Pope Francis states the Paschal mystery very simply. The Good News of Jesus is this:

Jesus Christ loves you; He gave His life to save you; and now He is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen, and free you.

What does He free us to do? Today Jesus gives us the same mission He gave to the disciples. Let us go out to all the nations and let them see the evidence of our love for God by the way we love each other.


2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy)

April 8, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


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In my Easter Sunday homily, I pointed out that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear. That’s right—faith’s opposite is fear, not doubt. We see that theme woven into the Gospel today

The basic fear is that this is all there is and that death is the end of everything. Other fears arise from this foundational fear, such as the fear of being abandoned, or the fear that I am all alone in this world

Look at the behavior of the disciples to see what fear can do to the human person. Full of fear, they are living behind locked doors, cut off and isolated from the rest of the world, hiding and helpless

Are they afraid that the crowds who waved palms and sang the praises of Jesus as the next King of Israel might mock and ridicule them? Are they afraid that the news they heard from Mary Magdalene might really be true and that Jesus is back from the dead, and that he might be coming to punish them because of their cowardly behavior? Are they afraid that the “leaders of the people”, the ones who killed Jesus, might track them down and put them to death as well

But the disciples, frozen by fear, cannot keep the Risen Jesus from coming to them He is the embodiment of perfect love, an as the first letter of John conveys, perfect love casts out fear

Jesus, risen from the dead, casts out fear with the gift of His peace, a peace the world cannot give, a peace which makes whole what seems to be irreparably broken By the gift of His peace, the Risen Lord restores the relationship he had with his disciples, shows them that even death cannot separate him from them, and that by his mercy, they are forever forgiven

Fear flees in the face of such a love for if Jesus can live after death, so can they, with him The authorities can kill them, but with Jesus they will live on

Which leads us to so-called “Doubting Thomas. Thomas, who was absent when the Risen Lord first appeared to his disciples, shows us that wrestling with doubts can actually lead one to a more profound faith, a richer faith

Too many Christians and non-Christians know Thomas only for his struggle to believe But there is more to the story of Thomas He only has four lines in the whole New Testament, and today we hear two of them
Previously in John’s Gospel when Jesus decided to go back to Judea to visit his dying friend, Lazarus, it is Thomas who speaks up “Let us go along to die with him.” (11:16) So, we could call him, “Courageous Thomas.

Thomas also speaks in the Last Supper discourse in John’s Gospel where he asks Jesus: “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” (14:5 It was because of this “smart” question from Thomas that we are gifted with one of Jesus’ most powerful statements about his identity: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (14:6 Surely we could call this Apostle, “Smart Thomas”, for asking one of the best questions in the New Testament

The last words we hear from Thomas are “My Lord and my God” (20:28) the most powerful confession of faith in all the Gospels So, why don’t we call him, “Thomas, the Confessor of the Faith.

No, we limit our understanding of who Thomas is to one line, “Unless I see in his hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nail, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (20:25 But even here Thomas is pointing us to something very, very important Thomas wants to see the wounds of Jesus, and Jesus needs someone to point out the importance of his wounds.

For even in his resurrected body, Jesus still has the wounds of his crucifixion The tomb is empty, but the wounds remain Even when he ascends into glory to be seated at the Father’s right hands, Jesus still is marked by the wounds of his love for all humanity Jesus needed a way to let us know that his becoming one of us and one with us in our humanity, was not just a short, unpleasant episode that’s over and done with. No! The Son of God has a human body even now And that human body, even in its Risen, glorified form, still carries the wounds he suffered for our salvation Because of those wounds, God never forgets what God has done for us, even if we forget, even when we are ungrateful and sinful Because of those wounds, the river of God’s merciful love keeps flowing out over the world and into lives thirsting for such a mercy

The wounds are a sign of God’s mercy, the mercy of a God who lifts fear from our hearts and would replace it with love

The mercy of a God who will seek and find us no matter where we hide, no matter how many locked doors we hide behind, no matter how many times we lock the door to our heart and throw away the key

The mercy of a God in the Risen Christ reaches out to touch us with compassion in the most wounded parts of our lives, to mend what has been broken, to make whole again what has shattered

Thomas also teaches us if we want to be healed of our wounds, we need to reach out and touch the wounded body of Christ In order to experience the new life the Risen Jesus longs to share with us, we are called to reach out and touch with compassion Jesus living in the wounded lives all around us

In those wounded by hunger and thirst, in the sick and in the stranger Jesus living in the broken lives of people all around us

When we reach out with compassion to touch Him living in our brothers and sisters, who because of their wounds feel alone, forgotten, abandoned, then we find healing for our deepest wounds.

As we share the peace we have been given, peace flows like a river into our lives

As we share the mercy of God we have received, God’s mercy heals us and brings us new life

Mercy given in and through the Risen Christ, not given to be kept, but to be shared and given away Peace, forgiveness, and joy—all these gifts flowing from the Merciful One, Risen from the dead Mercy which comes flowing into the apostles, and especially Thomas, as he touches the Wounded Christ now Risen. As Thomas gets into the wounded Body of Christ, then he experiences Mercy Then he knows joy and peace and the fullness of forgiveness and new life

SO WE MUST TOUCH THE WOUNDED BODY OF CHRIST in order to receive the life-saving, world-renewing mercy of the Risen One We need to touch the wound of the living Body of Christ Instead of turning away, reach out to touch with a cry of belief in his presence in his wounded body See in the brokenness, both our own touched by Christ and the brokenness in others the very presence of the Risen Christ, and in the touching, by “getting into” the wounds, our woundedness is healed as peace flows like a river into us, joy erupts as light in our darkness, new life blossoms and blooms

EVERY SAINT DID THIS—REASON they are SAINTS, REASON in their life of belief they received the Mercy of God only to have it flow through them into the world in a specific way to touch and heal and help the wounded body of Christ Seton—- orphaned children to teac MacAulay— wounded by sicknes Rother— the wounds of the forgotten ones, crushed by poverty and injustic The saints teach us that the only way into the peace of the Risen One is through his open wounds The saints show us that the way to receive joy and share it—touch the wounded ones Forgiveness—freely flows into our lives when we reach out to touch the wounded Body of Christ

WHAT DID C.S. LEWIS SAY “If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them,” wrote C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. How much do I want joy? Peace? Eternal life? Do I want these things enough to reach into the wounded Body of Christ