Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sixth Sunday in Easter

Link to Mass Readings:

“Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
What he has done for me.
Blessed by God who refused me not
My prayer or his kindness!”

Do people know we are Christians? There is a question that was popular a few years ago, and cuts to the heart of the matter: “If we were accused of being Christians, would there be enough evidence to convict us?” For the most part, I’m scared there wouldn’t.

Christ came to make disciples, not establish churches. When we gather on Sundays, it is to worship God with each other, and remember who we are. It is not a fulfillment of our duty as Christians, but respite. Church is when we renew ourselves for what’s outside these walls.

The Scriptures today are about being visible witnesses to Christ. In the first reading, Philip proclaims the Christ to the city Samaria, and the crowds were converted because of his words and the signs he was doing. When we look at our lives, would people be converted by our words and actions? Do we talk about Jesus, or is it a secret we keep until Sunday? Are we acting as the hands and feet of Christ, ministering to the poor and vulnerable? How do we know we are Christians?

Why are we Christians? The second reading warns us to always be ready to explain why you hope Christ will come again, why you hope for salvation. Can we explain it? What is it that drives us to believe something so foolish, that we cannot touch or see?

It is not easy to be a follower of Christ. There is a lot expected of us. But because we believe, we ARE followers of Christ. We are duty bound to follow His commandments, and if we do so we will suffer. But it is ok if we suffer, because Christ has given us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate to be with us. We will not suffer alone. And if we follow Christ’s commandments, and love Jesus, we will be loved by Him and the Father in return. We live for love and hope in the mercy of God.

Why are we Christians? Why do we pray? So often we take for granted our faith and the habits we accumulate, but it is not enough to be comfortable. We should have a reason for our faith, and if we don’t, we need to pray about why we call ourselves Christians. And if we call ourselves Christians, we need to pray about how we know we are Christians.

There is a song I remember from when I was a kid:

“They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love.”

Fifth Sunday in Easter

Link to Mass Readings:

We are all called to the priesthood.

In different Christian churches, we hear the call to ministry differently. Many Christian churches rightfully emphasize what they call The Great Commission, where Jesus commands the disciples to go make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Even though this was spoken just to the disciples, they understand that it was a command to all believers.

In the Catholic Church, we tend to focus on ministry as being the sole area of priests. We understand that there are nuns, and monks, and missionaries that preach the gospel in foreign nations, but for some reason we think that ministry is a special calling that is only for a few in the church. And this couldn’t be more wrong.

In the second reading, Peter tells us we 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.” In Catholicism, it is our Baptism and Confirmation that anoints us to the priesthood, and every man and woman in the Church is ordained to ministry.

Catholics believe in both the common priesthood of all believers, and the ministerial priesthood of bishops and priests. Below is a quote from the Catechism explaining the difference:

1547 “The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, ‘each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.’ While being ‘ordered one to another,’ they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace—a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit—, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.”

We are all called to live the life of Christ, and continue his work in the world. That is what it means to be priests. What we commonly call priests are those who are called to minister to their fellow priests. These priests are supposed to take care of the Church as it goes about its mission, and administer the sacraments Christ left to keep His Church renewed in His Grace. No one is higher than the other.

We are called. We are a spiritual house built upon the cornerstone. As we minister to the world, we should not let our hearts be troubled, because Christ is with us. We will be good priests if we follow the word He has left us, and listen to His voice in our hearts.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Link to Mass Readings:

“For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.”

Grace is more powerful than sin. In the first reading, Peter stands with the rest of the Apostles, and addresses the people of Jerusalem. The same people who cheered for the crucifixion of Christ just a short time ago, he stands in front of. To these people he says, “Repent and be baptized, everyone one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Not even killing God is too big for forgiveness.

This is what the Easter season is about, the power of the resurrection. Everyone is called to share in it, to take into their life the Life of Jesus. When the Lord is our shepherd, our cup overflows, “Even though I walk in the dark valley / I fear no evil; for you are at my side.” His Life is neverending, and when we share in that we have more than is sufficient to meet every test. Sunday is a feast day, and the Easter season is a celebration: the time of renewal is at hand and we have won!

Not that victory is easy. The world is relentless is trying to convince that we have in fact lost, that God is not the way, the truth, and the life or that we aren’t worthy of forgiveness. These are lies. Jesus bore our sins on the cross that we might live for righteousness, that with His grace we might be like God. Let no one take that away from us.

The parable of the sheep and the sheepfold and the gate is confusing. It is easy to see how the Pharisees did not understand. But if Jesus is the gate through which the sheep enter and are saved, then who are the shepherds who lead them out? The shepherds are the ministers of the Church, who come in the name of Jesus to help guide sinners to salvation.

We should be wary of who tries to lead us out. We have been saved by a shepherd who knows us and calls us by name. We will hear a lot of voices in our lives calling our names, trying to get us to follow them. It is very easy to be distracted from Jesus. But we have been given a shepherd, and it is our responsibility to listen to His voice in our hearts and in our lives. We must try hard to know the shepherd, because it is not always easy to know if He is speaking to us. But He is always there, gently calling us to Himself.

We have been given guides to help know Him; his word in Scripture, the Church and the Tradition that has been passed down. The lives of His saints stand as models for us, and above all the life of His Son. If anyone tries to take us away from these things, reject them. “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Let us embrace the Life given to us this Easter season, and show the world the overflowing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.