Happy Easter everyone! Christ is Risen!!!
For those of you who came to Mass here last week, you know that the Deacons preached. Thankfully, they each did a great job preaching on Divine Mercy and helped keep Fr. Rey and I busy in the Confessional by inspiring you (and I) to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. I am sure Fr. Rey will attest also, that heartfelt and honest Confessions are one of the greatest joys of being a priest. Even though the Deacons preached, I was inspired by last Sunday’s readings, so I thought I would share my reflections with you here in the bulletin. (For those of you who might have been excited that I wasn’t preaching, sorry, even that can’t stop me!)
In our Gospel last week, John 20:19-31, the Risen Jesus miraculously appeared to His Disciples although the doors were locked, but Thomas was not with them and would not believe their testimony that they saw the Risen Lord. A week later, the Risen Jesus appeared again in the same way. This time, Thomas was with them and Jesus instructed Thomas to put his fingers and hands into his nail marks in order that Thomas would “not be unbelieving, but believe.” Jesus, risen from the dead, so desperately wanted Thomas to believe. Do we so ardently desire everyone to also truly know the power and intimate love of God in the Risen Jesus? Thomas came to believe and wholeheartedly proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” The Gospel writer, John, goes on to clarify, “these things are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” By believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and God, we have life, and not just eternal life, but joy and happiness. We have fulfillment in this life and in the life to come. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? Jesus, who once walked on this earth, but died, has been risen from the dead. He is alive, He is active, and not only is He at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, but He is still alive and active in this life on earth. To believe in Jesus means, as Thomas exclaimed, that He is my Lord and my God. Is He Lord of your life, does He, as God, have power and influence over every aspect of your life?
Our second reading from the First Letter of St. John (5:1-6) says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God [becomes an adopted son or daughter of God], and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him [thus they love one another]. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” In other words, if we really love God, if He is really and truly Lord of our lives, then we will gladly keep his commandments, and follow them willfully, and joyfully, and not grudgingly. I hear from many young couples in confession who are truly striving to follow God’s will and commandments in their marriage, but are often influenced by the malformed sex-crazed culture. They maybe have an idea of what the Church teaches, but don’t know how to live it; while others simply are wanting to learn what God and the Church teaches regarding sex and marriage, wondering if there is a better way of life. If you are like these couples, a resource that might help is a book in the parish library called The Good News of Sex and Marriage, by Christopher West that is written in question and answer format. Once, a man of active faith came and confessed having a vasectomy years ago after his wife had a difficult pregnancy. He said that he knew that the Church teaches that it is wrong, but he thought that it was the best thing to do for love of his wife. I told him that God knows the intention of his heart, and even though the intention might be good, the action is still sinful as the ends don’t justify the means. I asked him if he understood why it was sinful, why the Church teaches it is wrong? He correctly talked about how it is because it is not being open to life. I then also asked if he knew the underlying sin behind the mortal sin of contraception and permanent sterilization? I explained to him that contraception and permanent sterilization are rooted in pride and a lack of trust in God. It’s taking your fertility into your own hands and not letting God be Lord of that aspect of your life. So, I ask you, have you let God be Lord of even that aspect of your life? Have you in the past, or currently, not kept God’s commandment by using contraception or being sterilized, and not confessed it? Our Gospel says that those who do believe, and do keep God’s commandments, will have life in his name. Countless data confirms that couples who do not contracept are happier in their marriages, partly because they have more honest and open conversations about their desires in the marital embrace and having children, which increases their love and respect for each other. Their marriage is much more about love and wanting the good of the other rather than about selfish use and getting what they want from the other. The Church has what the world needs, and so we need to do a better job witnessing and sharing the truth of God’s plan for a joy-filled marriage. Also, this summer is the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. At the time, it was considered surprising and confusing to many, but now has been proven prophetic. In part, it continued to declare that if contraception would become widespread, that it would lead to unhappy marriages and their destruction. Fifty years later, we can see all around us that it has proven to be true. We will have some articles in the bulletin every so often on different aspects of that document and teaching, revealing truly, once again, that the Church has what the world needs, in particular regarding sex and marriage.
Finally, our first reading is also challenging. It comes from the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-35), soon after the disciples received the Holy Spirit, and describes what the early Church looked like: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.” Can you imagine living that way? Can you imagine not having anything of your own but everything used for the good of others? Even though the Church today, in the Compendium of Social Doctrine (paragraph 175ff), teaches that every person has the right to own private property and goods, it also teaches that “the universal destination of goods requires a common effort to obtain for every person and for all peoples the conditions necessary for integral development, so that everyone can contribute to making a more humane world.” This teaches that every person has the responsibility and obligation to help make it possible for every other person to have the basic necessities of life, which includes life, liberty, food, drink, shelter, basic healthcare, and education. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, if we give of our excess money to help the poor, that is not charity, but rather that is justice. That is us carrying out our obligation to help them have basic human rights. The early Church saw that their money was not their own, but that it was given by God for the good of others. With this attitude, is there any wonder that at the time there “was no needy person among them”? What would the world look like if we, the current Church, had more of that attitude? I therefore ask you to reflect on whether you see all that you have, including the money you’ve earned, as yours, or has it ultimately been given by God and thus really belongs to him and his purposes? Is Jesus Lord of your finances? Have you let him influence that aspect of your life? Paragraph 175 of the Compendium of Social Doctrine goes on to say, “This principle (of the universal destination of goods) corresponds to the call made unceasingly by the Gospel to people and societies of all times, tempted as they are by the desire to possess, temptations which the Lord Jesus chose to undergo (Mk. 1:12-13, Mt. 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13) in order to teach us how to overcome them with his grace.” I encourage you to think about how strong is your desire to possess? Are you called to tithe a little more to help curb that desire? In the Old Testament, which still holds true today, the Lord calls people to give the first fruits of what they received, and to give a tenth of it. That means to give back to God not what is left over but first, give God your best, and at least a tenth of what you have been given by Him. Sadly, most Catholics do not give a tenth to their parish and other charities. Can I ask you to consider if your finances and budgeting reveal that you are giving to God first (so not what is left over, less important) and are you giving a tenth? If you aren’t, I encourage you to make a plan to gradually increase until you do. I promise you, your life will be fuller because you will be led by the Holy Spirit to rely on our Providential Father who provides for all that we need, even and especially in the unforeseen rainy-day needs. God’s plan for our life is better than we can ever imagine, so let us entrust ourselves to Him and let Him be Lord of every aspect of our livesBACK TO LIST