Dear sisters and brothers,

I’ve heard it said that “Disappointment is what happens to our plans when life gets in the way.” In a very real and shocking way, life definitely has gotten in our way.  Whether it be our personal life or business life, our plans have been turned topsy-turvy – or worse – destroyed.  Lives have been lost, businesses ruined, and the future looks dim.

Surely this shouldn’t be the case when it’s Life itself – but the disciples, traveling on the road to Emmaus, were “downcast” nonetheless.  Until they recognize that Life, Jesus, in all His glory, is in their midst.  Cleopas and his wife are bound to be disappointed.  As they traveled back to Emmaus, the scriptures say, “they were conversing” about what had happened in Jerusalem.  (By the way, the word “conversing” is the Greek word “homilein” and gives us the word we use to describe what we do at the ambo every Sunday.)

In today’s reading from the Acts of theApostles, Peter preaches, “God raised Him up relieving Him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held by it . . . God raised this Jesus, of this we are all witnesses.”

How do we see ourselves as travellers – are we strangers in a strange land?  It certainly seems that way for us – as Christians.  We often experience “social dislocation” in a secular culture – the ancients called it a pagan world.  Any way you choose to describe it, it seems as Christians don’t belong here.  Our King and our values are upside down from anything amounting to worldly success - the last will be first, the poor will be glad, the least is the greatest – in a nutshell, we are aliens in the mainstream.  Remember, we follow a man who was put to death for saying the things that we now profess.  This old world hasn’t changed much.

Which way are we willing to put our trust – in the Jesus who has conquered death and given us New Life or in a world that says, life be damned?  When government leaders tell us that there are more important things than living – that the economy is more important than saving lives, are we not to conduct ourselves with fervent involvement?  If we know that Jesus conqueered death and restored all to New Life, aren’t we responsible for what we know?

Peace and Love,    

Deacon John

Dear sisters and brothers,

One positive we can take from this pandemic is that it has caused many of us to think about life. I’ve thought about things I’m missing and enjoy in life. I was particularly sad Easter Sunday morning – I know I was supposed to be filled with the joy of Jesus’ Resurrection and the promise of eternal life – and I was for a while. But then I slipped back into missing my family and how precious they are! I’ve thought about the quality of life I’m living. I want a full satisfying life, don’t you!? No one wants to merely exist. But how do we actually experience that type of life? Just wanting a full and satisfying life doesn’t make it so.

This week we read a fascinating passage of Scripture that describes how Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. In the last line of the gospel, John, the Evangelist, tells us the motivation behind the words he has written – that his readers might come to believe that Jesus had risen.

We have been experiencing a similar “world” as the disciples did following Jesus’ death. We have had to shut the doors of our life, our mind, or our heart in some cases. Life is now different and, I suspect, will continue to be different in the months and possibly years ahead. Where are we living? Is it in the freedom and joy of resurrection or behind “locked doors”? How is our life after Easter? How will our lives be after COVID-19?

Throughout the world, throughout our country, Jesus is entering the locked places of our lives. Unexpected, uninvited, and sometimes unwanted. He steps into our closed lives, closed hearts, closed minds. Standing among us He offers us peace – “Peace be with you”. He breathes new life into us. Throughout the country, strangers are becoming friends, individuality is giving way to unity and hope lies in the midst of physical, emotional, and financial ruin. We read of families being fed by strangers, health care professionals losing their lives for the well-being of others. The boundaries of race, economic, education, and language disappear as volunteers feed those in need with food, smiles, conversation, encouragement, and prayers. In the midst of all this chaos, Jesus enters saying, “Peace be with you”.

We are living in a time of great tragedy and hardship. The great tragedy is not that we are “locked” in our houses. That is just our “starting place”. Whatever your life is today, whatever your circumstances are, that’s your starting point for your story of resurrection. If you’re dealing with deep loneliness, sorrow and loss, that’s your starting point. That’s the room that Jesus enters. The great tragedy will be if we refuse to unlock our doors, and refuse to step outside to a changed world – a world where there is new life and hope! Jesus breathes peace and hope into us. He breathes peace and courage into us. He breathes peace and strength into us.

So take a deep breath, take it all in, let it fill and enliven you. Let it give you the hope, courage, and strength to unlock and open your doors to a fruitful life filled with love and peace.

Peace and Love,

Deacon John

Dear sisters and brothers,

Even though church buildings are closed, Christians will still be able to celebrate Easter, the greatest feast of the Christian Church year. The Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ will not and should not take second fiddle to the COVID-19 crisis

Todays’ message is one of hope even during this time of social distancing and hand-washing (and possibly some “foot washing” in a broader sense of the word). This week, in addition to daily mass, we will be live-streaming the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, April 9 at 7:00pm and Easter Sunday mass will be live-streamed at 9:30am, April 12. Stations of the Cross can be prayed and seen at 3:00pm on Good Friday, April 10.

My Easter message is that Jesus has lived and died and risen for us. He is the source of our salvation, especially in these difficult times. We are praying for all the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic and for their families. Jesus carried His cross for us and tells us that we must carry our crosses, no matter how painful they may be. Jesus promises to be with us to share our burdens. I encourage all of you to join together in prayer at our celebrations this week and, of course, to spend extra time in prayer throughout this Holy Week and Easter season. Please be patient with one another – I include myself in that – and with this difficult situation. None of us likes or wants it! God is with us in our sufferings and, as I heard from a Holocaust survivor, He weeps with us. We need to help and encourage each other especially the most vulnerable and also our medical personnel.

Generally, when we think of Easter, we think of a time of joy. This Easter, however, seems more like a time of sadness. But, you may be surprised to know that the first Easter also started with sadness, but the good news is that the sadness turned into victory. It’s that victory we celebrate on Easter.

In this unusual and unprecedented time, it’s our faith that directs our actions and transforms concern into compassion for our neighbor. We hold on to the certain hope that we are the beloved sheep of the Good Shepherd and are always under His watchful eyes.

As we are forced to observe this Holy Week in the solitude of our homes, we kno9w that God is with us, His beloved people. For all of you, our staff continues to encourage self-care and caution. We see this not only as a time for reflective prayer, but also an opportunity to reach out to others through phone calls and other technology.

Trusting Christ’s promise to remain with us always, we wish for all of you the gifts, joy, hope, and Easter peace!
We are an Easter people!!

Happy Easter!

Peace and love,
Deacon John

Dear sisters and brothers,

Palm Sunday in most Christian churches involves the distribution of palms and a commemoration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna”. But what’s the meaning of His decision to ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey? And what does this have to do with the Covid-19 crisis facing the world at this time? It teaches us that the only path to victory over adversity is the road to humility.

Just a few months ago, the great powers of the world were confident. America, the #1 economy in the world, was in the midst of one of the longest “bull markets” in recent history. Europe was getting ready for another high tourist season in spring and summer. But then a tiny microbe came along and changed all of this. Political leaders, business leaders, and scientists, were all caught unprepared and confounded. Economies went into a tailspin. So what are we to learn from this crisis and how are we to find our way out of it? Maybe the Lenten season provides some clues to answering this dilemma.

Palm Sunday marks the transition from Lent into Holy Week. Lent begins with ashes – then we come to Palm Sunday. Jesus, anointed king of David, enters the royal city – on a donkey? Instead of coming in a royal chariot or on a stallion – a warhorse – He’s on the back of a donkey! Jesus’ earthly beginning was extremely humble – the end of His earthly life wouldn’t be any different.

Today we hear the reading of His Passion – the indignity, the cruelty, that Jesus had to endure. As a crucified man He was stripped naked and put on display for the world to see. However, this is not primarily a story of violence and humiliation. The events of Holy Week are more about love and humility. Everything He did, He willingly did – humbly – He lowered Himself in His birth, in His ministry, and in His death. He humbled Himself. He called the people of God to recognize that they couldn’t save themselves. That they needed a savior – and God sent them one – a gift from a loving Father.

Of course, we should try to minimize the damage of the Coronavirus. But if we simply try to work our way out of this mess by our own “greatness”, we will have failed to learn the lesson of Palm Sunday.

Acknowledge our absolute dependence on God. The road of love and humility is the only way out of this crisis caused by the tiny microbe. It has brought us to our knees. From this position we should pray that what comes from this is a “New World” – a changed world – one that is good, loving, and humble.

Peace and love,
Deacon John

Dear sisters, and brothers,

In the beginning, God creates human life by breathing divine spirit into clay. Instantly matter is animated and the first person draws a breath. But it’s not too long before the spirit of God living among us is deadened by sin. By the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy, the people are grieving and mourning – “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off” (Ez37:11).

How can a people feeling so discouraged, dejected, and disheartened breathe new life within them? God alone is the source of spirit and life. If our graves are to be opened, both spiritually now and literally, later, our hope lies in only one direction! Yet despite Ezekiel’s prophecy, and a host of prophets before and after him, people continue to try other avenues to rejuvenate what they’ve lost. Drink, drugs, and sometimes food are at the top of the list for some. Material consumption often takes priority and overtakes those strategies for the majority. Another car, new clothes, new furniture, remodeling the house, and yes, hoarding food and toilet paper may seem to be the answer for the moment. “Life just won’t be the same unless I go to the beach for spring break!!” But most things we reach for are just ways to pinch ourselves to see if we’re still alive!

What if we tried God? A truly spirited people find that they need less of everything to sustain a vital life: less stuff, fewer parties; a dramatic downturn in attention and flattery from others. The craving for people and things to meet “our needs” evaporates and we turn our attention to others, perhaps for the first time in our lives. The spirit of the living God, unlike everything else we may try, brings us to fullness of life.

Peace and love,

Deacon John

Dear sisters and brothers,

History is full of stories of people who triumphed over seemingly insurmountable disadvantages and challenges.  John Milton, the famous poet, was blind. Beethoven was deaf when he composed his Ninth Symphony. Albert Einstein was dyslexic.  Helen Keller, one of the world’s most renowned women, was blind, deaf, and mute from early childhood yet she became a teacher, author, and educator.  George Handel, the great musician, wrote his finest composition, The Hallelujah Chorus, which is part of his “Messiah”, while going through the throes of poor health and pursuit by creditors.  He told contemporaries that his faith in God was the only thing which sustained him through his darkest hours.

As we approach the midway point of our Lenten journey, each of us has good reason to reflect on the challenges and obstacles we face.  We are in the midst of such a challenge. Like all the rest of our world, we’re now subject to the same obstacle and its consequences. But like the famous people I just mentioned, we’re also capable of overcoming whatever is standing between us and what God is calling us to do.  Every step of the way of our lives God gives us the grace necessary to grow as faithful disciples.  

All of us are a little insensitive at times – not quite understanding or appreciating what is really happening around us.  Our lack of openness and seeing can be caused by prejudice, fear, the unknown, and any number of other causes. What might shake us out of our narrow minded thinking is being confronted by some other points of view, some new knowledge or experience and discovering that we’ve lost out on a great many things in life because we’ve looked within ourselves.  The blind man in today’s Gospel is open to much more than the amazing fact of his having been healed. He sees its implications; he comes to believe in Jesus and worship Him. Lent ideally should lead us to encounter Jesus, confirm our belief in His saving mission and challenges us to a deeper and more authentic worship.

What is authentic worship?  Worship is far more than attendance and involvement in ritual, as important as those are.  We are now living the reality of an absence of these rituals. There’s no telling when we as a parish community will gather together.  Bishop Joe has canceled masses and dispensed us from our Sunday obligation because of covid-19. Our chapel may be empty, but that doesn’t mean that parish life is suspended.  More than ever we must now turn to our sisters and brothers – reach out to comfort and accompany each other in any way possible. 

I would urge all of us to accept this challenge and practice true and authentic worship by reaching out via any means possible – call, text, email – make a connection with those who need assurance that someone is concerned and willing to help if needed.  If truth be told, we all need these personal connections. Don’t’ be selective! Authentic worship includes a mission to reach out to others who are in need of some “light” – some hope. Authentic worship always requires a response of love and compassion for others.  Authentic worship includes an encounter with Jesus, who gives us “sight”, but then it must lead us to reach out to others with a healing hand bringing them to “see”!  

Go in peace to love and serve the people of God.

Peace and love,

Deacon John     

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