Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Carver/Plympton, MA

Homilies

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

End of mission as pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes

May 27, 2018

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

 

          I always fret about preaching on Trinity Sunday.  But another preacher dismissed my concerns saying, “It’s easy.  All you have to say is, ‘The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It’s a Mystery.  Thus endeth the sermon.’”  Unfortunately for you, here does not endeth thie sermon!

          There are mysteries all around us.  Just because we don’t fully understand something, we dare not assume that it is not real.  For example, love is a mystery.  We’ll just focus on emotional love; the Greeks called this eros.  There are other kinds of love, and the Greeks had a distinct word for each of them.  But let’s stay just with emotional love. 

This love is a mystery.  How can another person love me?  (If they really knew me, they couldn’t love me.)  Of all the people I know and care about deeply, why do I love this person differently from the others?  How can it be possible that someone I love does not have that same love for me?  How do I still have this emotional love for one who has betrayed me?  It is a mystery.  But it is real.

          With elegance, simplicity and still with mystery, Saint John described God this way: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” [1]  He also wrote, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” [2]  This is not the emotional love of which I have been speaking.  This is divine love, but it shares the same characteristics:  it is a mystery; it is real; and it is experienced by you and me in the Holy Trinity.

          There seems hard-wired within human nature a sense that there is an omnipotent God.  The cave man attributed divinity to nature itself and so worshiped trees, thunder, the sun.  Others – like the Greeks and Romans – imagined God as being just like people – only bigger.  Some cultures accepted a more other-worldly dimension to God, the Great Spirit. [3]  All these intuitions were graces given by God, as Saint Paul told the Athenians, “so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him….” [4]  Our human experience embraces the mystery that an all-powerful God exists, and that God is our Creator.  God is real. 

When the time was right, God revealed his Name through the Old Testament prophets.  And in the fullness of time God graced humanity more completely by becoming one of us.  The Word of God, the self-awareness and self-love of God, the second Person of the Trinity, became flesh. [5]  His human mother and the father given to care for him named him Jesus.  Jesus revealed the nature of God’s love for each of us, inviting all humanity, along with himself, to call God “Abba,” that is, “Father.”

That Jesus is God in human flesh is a mystery.  We know of Jesus through pagan historians, and the testimony of his apostles, who traveled and ate with him even after he was raised from the tomb.  And we know of Jesus through the witness of countless disciples who preached, lived, and even died to share the Good News of Jesus.  Even today you and I experience the presence of Jesus in his gospel and in this Eucharist.

You and I are alive in the Spirit of this Triune God.  Our Creator and Christ Jesus, who died in obedience to the Father and was raised from death, sent us the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.  The mystery of the Holy Spirit was real, as it gave courage to the earliest disciples, empowering them to preach the Good News despite seemingly insurmountable difficulties and great physical danger.  And the mystery of the Holy Spirit is just as real today.

This same Holy Spirit enlivens this parish and the whole Church even now.  In the past twenty years I have witnessed that Holy Spirit bring people to faith, most as infants but also many as adults who accepted Christ for the first time or as Christians coming home to Catholicism. 

My ministry would have been impossible without the countless volunteers who rise up from their busy lives to be catechists, to enhance the liturgy through ministries, to decorate our worship space, to care for the temporal needs of a parish, as with bingo, the Finance Council and Pastoral Council.  So many of these volunteers have already been called back home to the Father, caring for us still by bringing our needs before God’s throne.  And we would all be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge our parish’s staff members, past and present, former pastors, and Fr. Nick Driscoll, Fr. George Bergin, SVD, Deacon Paul Jones, Deacon Paul Coughlin, Sr. Elizabeth, Ann, Kathy, Joanne, Linda, Pat, Brenda and all who supported their good work. 

It has been my privilege as your pastor to attend the dying and comfort with words of faith and hope those who grieve.  There have been happy times too, in the few marriages here and there and the many baptisms and confirmations.  My special joy is to bring the sacraments to the housebound and those in crisis at the hospital.

What a privilege it is to wear this Roman collar.  It usually opens doors when people are hungry for solace and hope.  Sometimes the collar is resisted.  But it has always presented an opportunity to introduce Christ.

But, enough about me.  The Holy Spirit has anointed each of you as well, empowering us to preach the Good News, as happened in the beginning, despite seemingly insurmountable difficulties and great physical danger. 

The area where the Holy Spirit, I pray, will kick every parishioner in every parish in the butt is in focusing on keeping our young close to Christ and his Church.  Little League and high school football won’t cut it.  Youth ministry is essential as our millennials and next-gens face, poorly equipped, a world hostile to Christian values.  Such a ministry implies that the whole family could be reconnected, “with a little child to guide them.” [6] 

The Spirit empowers each of you to preach the Good News to a hungry, thirsty world.  Like the early Christians, Our Lady’s parishioners will be beset by what may seem insurmountable difficulties.  One that comes to mind is our financial responsibility for the work of the gospel.  The early Church, in the Acts of the Apostles, found finances to be as troublesome as was being persecuted. [7] With the arrival of the collaborative, the expenses shared by the three parishes will increase significantly.  So must everyone’s tithing and generosity in time as well as treasure.    

Another seemingly insurmountable difficulty is the shortage of priests.  We must be communities that foster and pray for vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life for women and men.    

The greatest seemingly insurmountable situation is, however, society’s focus away from God and totally toward self.  This is not so much the hedonism of former times, but the heresy that “I am the center of All” which infects the Information Age in which we are enmeshed.  Just try to get someone’s face away from their electronic device!  The message of the Cross – which is other-centered, the love of others – stand in direct contradiction to the main flow of culture today. 

You and I are also beset by great physical danger.  In some parts of the world Christians are crucified or burnt alive in their churches or massacred in their villages.  Meanwhile, within our Western world, Christians are marginalized or ignored – quaint antiques of a bygone era – the only sub-set of society deserving of ridicule.

But the Holy Spirit has anointed each one of us, impelling us to preach the Good News despite seemingly insurmountable difficulties and great physical danger.  And the mystery of the Holy Spirit is just as real today as it was at Pentecost.  The Spirit empowers each of you and challenges you to preach the Good News to a hungry, thirsty world.

 

[1]  1 John 4:16b.

[2]  1 John 4:8.

[3]  Acts 17:22-32.

[4]  Acts 17:27.

[5]  John 1:1-ff.

[6]  Isaiah 11:6c.

[7]  For example, Acts chapters 2 and 4.

 

Pentecost

May 20, 2018

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

 

          Pentecost: the Greek word for the Jewish “Feast of Weeks,” which fell on the fiftieth day (hence the prefix “penta”) following the ceremony of the barley sheaf during Passover week.  Pentecost began the offering to God of the first fruits of the year’s growth.  Do you think it only by coincidence that Christ’s disciples experienced the on-rushing of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost?  Isn’t it more likely that God was intending a sign, a beginning, of new growth? 

Tongues as of fire appeared over the disciples still cowering in the Upper Room where they had celebrated the Lord’s Last Supper.  Now on the fiftieth day a rushing wind announced the arrival of the Spirit.  And so, the Church came to life.  Though Jesus had stayed with them after Easter until he ascended into heaven – within their sight – forty days later, the Apostles were still paralyzed for fear of the crowds.  But with the arrival of the Spirit, the Apostles rushed into the streets and marketplaces and boldly proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ.  And, miraculously, their audience, comprised of many foreigners as well as Jews, each heard the Apostles’ message in his own language!

          Luke in his Acts of the Apostles recalled the arrival of the Holy Spirit as happening with “a strong, driving wind.”  John’s gospel described the arrival of the Holy Spirit as Jesus breathing on the disciples, blowing the Spirit into them.  Wind and breath.  Both in Hebrew (ruah) or in Greek (pneuma), wind and breath are the same word.  And these words can also be translated “spirit.”  The Holy Spirit (pneuma) arrived either in a wind (pneuma) or a breath (pneuma).

          But Luke also recorded the arrival of the Spirit on Pentecost as being like a fire.  It’s about this fire that I want to speak.  “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them.”  They were on fire with the Holy Spirit and commenced to preach about Jesus for the very first time.  Fear was out.  Fire was in. 

          This reminded me of a bit of dialogue in an old Western movie.  Two elderly characters, one a cowboy, the other a Native American, encountered each other on the trail.  They had known each other as young men, combat opponents in the Indian Wars.  Over the years their common experiences as warriors had mellowed into a begrudging respect.  But this time the old Indian saw in his adversary a weariness, a lack of spirit, and declared, “My friend, the fire has gone out of your belly.”

          This Pentecost, let’s check our own bellies.  And not just for the swell of too much pasta or beer or not enough exercise.  When home furnaces used to be fueled by coal, one of the nightly tasks was to bank the fire to reduce the flame and conserve the warmth of the embers, in hopes the next morning the coals could quickly be stoked, reviving a brilliant fire. 

Let’s check out the fire that the Holy Spirit has put into you and me.  Sometimes if our faith is deep and familiar, we may have banked those fires so they keep ourselves safe and warm, but we may forget to stoke the coals that would provide brilliant heat.  This our parish needs – every parish needs – to have faith-filled Catholics who do not protect the warm coals of our religion while hesitating to be on fire with that same religion.  It is time for every one of us to demonstrate for all to see and hear our enthusiasm, just as the disciples did on that first Pentecost, our “fire in the belly.”  

Not that anyone in our parish is like this, but I remember a sorry encounter in 1989 at the old Cardinal Cushing Hospital in Brockton (now the Good Sam):  Because there was a visiting priest saying Mass one Saturday afternoon in my parish, I was able to duck out to visit a hospitalized parishioner between confessions and dinner.  At the hospital, I spoke with a woman also visiting this parishioner and she told me that, though she lived in a nearby parish, she always attended Mass at the hospital chapel, “Because,” as she said, “they get you in and out.  You’re not one of those ‘modern’ priests who sings ‘Alleluia’ are you?  Thank goodness they don’t get into that religious nonsense at the chapel.”  Whether one likes hymn singing or not, this woman – though she has the faith somewhere deep inside – has definitely banked the fire of the Holy Spirit, and is not likely to let her faith burn brightly enough to inflame anyone else to find faith through her witness.

This Pentecost, consider the fire of the Holy Spirit that came to the Church on that first Pentecost and has been personally put into our bellies at both our baptism and confirmation.  Allow the warmth that is our faith to glow into fire so that we may be bolder in proclaiming Jesus as Lord.  In a world of political correctness, in a time when faith is expected to be pigeon-holed and kept private, in a situation where zeal about Jesus is counted as extremism, in a culture where wrong is considered right and right is considered bigotry, there is a great need for the Holy Spirit to enliven in us those gifts that were bestowed on you and me individually at our confirmation:  wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

With these gifts of the Spirit burning within, you and I can ignite the fire of faith in our family, our parish, our towns.  And if there are enough Christians to speak boldly about Jesus, and to witness by the way we live, we can renew our society.  This was Jesus’ intent when he sent the Holy Spirit to the Church:  new growth, fire in the belly.  Jesus promised, “Peace be with you.  As the Father sent me, so I send you.…  Receive the Holy Spirit.”

 

Third Sunday of Easter

April 15, 2018

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-9

1 John 2:1-5a

Luke 24:35-48

            You may remember the TV show Ghost Whisperer.  It’s still on some of the cable channels  It was a fantasy about a Melinda, who has the “gift” of communicating with people who, having died unexpectedly, are confused about what had happened and so are bound to walk the earth.  By helping these ghosts resolve their outstanding issues, Melinda assisted them in embracing their death and traveling toward the “light” that awaited them.

            Jesus did not come back from the dead as a ghost.  Jesus was not confused about what had happened to him.  Jesus had freely accepted the cross.  Jesus did not need to travel toward the light.  Jesus is the light. 

But his disciples, encountering the living Jesus after his crucifixion, quite understandably confused him for a ghost – some kind of disembodied spirit.  Jesus understood their confusion.  He showed them his hands and feet with the nail marks of his crucifixion.  Jesus invited them to touch him, “because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”

The disciples were still stunned, so Jesus took a second approach.  He asked, “Have you anything here to eat?”  It seems ghosts don’t need to eat.  Why would they?  They’re dead.  So Jesus took some baked fish “and ate it in front of them.”  He made a show of it for their sake.

From the Easter encounters we learn two things.  The first is the significance of one’s body.  God created humans as embodied spirits.  Both the body and the soul are integral components of who a person is.  The Greeks thought of the body as a shell that entrapped the “real” human being.  And when that shell – the body – was disposed of, the person would become perfect.  By his death, Jesus did not escape his body as the Greek philosophers hoped to do.  This dualism of body and soul is not what we Christians believe.

Christians believe, instead, that our body will be transformed as was Jesus’ body on Easter.  Like Jesus, some day you and I will be immortal, raised from the dead.  How our resurrected body will operate is unclear.  Certainly, Christ’s body was both the same and different after Easter.  Jesus disappeared from the disciples’ sight in Emmaus after they finally recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread.  Jesus simply “stood in their midst” without seeming to approach other disciples; he was simply just “there.”  Jesus was no longer limited in any way by the laws of physics.  And we suspect that neither will we be after resurrection. 

Because the body is so integral a part of who a person is, Christians show great respect for the body.  Along with meeting people’s bodily needs such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and clothing the naked, even so burying the dead is “a corporal work of mercy” on which our salvation depends.  At a funeral Mass, the body is incensed as a sacred object.  It was a temple of the Holy Spirit.  But this body was no shell.  Human beings are incomplete without it.  So, it is the bedrock of our faith to look forward to  “the resurrection of the dead.”

And we understand a second thing:  Because we are body and spirit, God encounters us through our body.  You and I did not have the privilege of seeing the risen Jesus with our own eyes, or of eating baked fish with him on Easter morning.  But you and I do meet Jesus physically in these ways:  first, in this Eucharist where our body and soul are nourished by Jesus himself.  Today’s gospel portion where Jesus ate the baked fish actually begins with a reference to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who failed to recognize the risen Jesus until he “was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”  There is an obvious Eucharistic connection on Easter.  In the bread of the Eucharist, you and I touch and are touched by Jesus.  We eat and become one with him, and we become one with each another. 

But at this liturgy Jesus also touches us physically in our body and mind through our ears with the bread that is the Word of God – the scriptures.  As Jesus himself did in that first Easter encounter, “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”  Jesus’ place in our salvation is clarified and celebrated with the scriptural Word of God that is broken and consumed by us at this gathering.   

Well, what does all this about the body mean for us today?  It is summed up in the final verses of today’s gospel:  Jesus suffered and then rose from the dead so “that repentance for the forgiveness of sins[,] would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  The implication is that witnesses not only see something, they say something.  Witnesses give testimony.  Here we come back to our own bodies:  It is in our way of living that we give witness to Jesus’ passion and resurrection and the forgiveness of sins.  This is not theoretical.  This is not exclusively spiritual.  But this is particularly physical:  that you and I witness to Jesus through our human interactions through the activity of our body, just as Jesus interacted with his disciples both before and after Easter. 

Saint John wrote it in his letter more boldly than I dare say it:  “Those who say, ‘I know him,’ but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them.  But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”  And this becomes evident in how we join our bodily acts to what we claim as our spiritual faith.  As Jesus said to those early disciples, he also says to today’s disciples (you and me):  “You are witnesses of these things.” 

 

Second Sunday of Easter

Divine Mercy Sunday

April 8, 2018

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

Acts 4:32-35

Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

1 John 5:1-6

John 20:19-31

          Today we hear a gospel selection that, unlike the usual three-year cycle of readings, is repeated every year, the episode of the so-called “Doubting” Thomas.  Even now, if ever we encounter someone who is hesitant about choosing a course of action or who does not believe what he is told, we might call him a “doubting Thomas.”  And by doubting, we don’t mean a good thing.

            But doubt and lack of faith are not the same.  The late American monk who, ironically, shared the same name, Thomas Merton wrote, “Faith is not the suppression of doubt.  It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it.”  Merton went so far as to say, “The person who has never experienced doubt is not a person of faith.” 

The original Thomas was going through doubt.  His doubt was actually a kind of struggling to believe.  When honest doubt leads to honest questions that lead to answers (not always the same as proof), it is a good thing.  Thomas had questions, because he had not yet had a personal encounter with the Risen Jesus.  The other disciples had already seen the Risen Jesus; Thomas had not.  Thomas did not say, “It is not true.”  He said, “How can this be?”  This gospel passage traces Thomas’ working his way through doubt toward faith. 

Had Thomas really doubted, he would have returned to Galilee, leaving his companions to their delusions or lies.  But he did not go back to Galilee.  Thomas was there, in that locked Upper Room in Jerusalem.  Though his life was endangered just by being with the disciples, Thomas kept coming back, because he wondered about the personal experiences the others had told him about. 

            People you and I know have questions about God or about the Church.  You and I may have similar questions.  People frame these questions as “doubts.”  But these are not truly doubts – at least at first.  They are longings for a personal experience of God.  People just don’t have questions about something that they’re not interested in.  That’s the curious thing about those claiming to be atheists: they seem to be always talking about God issues.  Sometimes we believers can’t get them off the subject of God!  I think these atheists are secretly longing to be convinced.  But if their questions are framed as doubts, these people may stop coming to church, or reading scripture, or even praying – precisely the places where their questionings may be satisfied. 

Unanswered, their questions will fairly quickly become solid doubts.  And their doubts turn to stubbornness; and stubbornness leads to a tunnel-vision.  They devise a rationale not to believe that is hard to break through.  Moral theologians describe this state of mind as “invincible ignorance.”  Nothing can convince them of God’s love for them. 

            Even though many of the early Christians had not themselves seen the Risen Jesus with their own eyes (and we include ourselves among such Christians), they nevertheless discovered a personal experience of Jesus within the community of faith.  It was within the communal life of the Church, where everyone donated what they had and everyone took what they needed, that these early Christians both found a personal experience of the Risen Jesus and expressed their personal experience of faith in Jesus as the Christ.  So remarkable was their communal life that even critical pagan contemporaries commented on how much Christians loved one another. 

            It is time for you and me to invite the so-called doubters among us to join us in this Christian community, the Church.  That means we cannot lock ourselves up safely inside the church as a sort-of “Upper Room” for fear of things “out there” in the world.  Remember that Jesus is the source of our peace.  And we’ve received a commission from Jesus:  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Jesus and our faith community actually hold the answers to people’s questions and yearnings – those of others and our own.  You and I have been sent to continue broadcasting the good news of Jesus.  Jesus breathed on us to empower us to bring forgiveness and reconciliation to his children who are drifting from God.

            Thomas did not doubt.  He just had questions.  He needed to be personally engaged in the mystery of the Resurrection.  Despite all the graphic details about nail marks and puncture wounds, nowhere is it said that Thomas actually touched these when given the opportunity.  What scripture does say is that Thomas made the first, profoundly theological statement by any believer about who Jesus really is:  “My Lord and my God.”  And, as a priest from India reminded me once, it was this faith that Thomas brought to the subcontinent of India, the same Catholic faith that has persisted in India for twenty centuries.    

            Saint John wrote, “The victory that conquers the world is our faith

[we might add, Thomas’ faith].  Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  Let’s confess our faith and unlock the doors to this Upper Room, and share this faith with others.

Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday)

March 31, 2018

 

Easter Sunday

April 1, 2018

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

[There are various gospel selections proclaimed by the Church on Easter.  The one from Saint John was read this morning.  Last night at the vigil, Saint Mark’s version was read.  Both of these relate the disciples’ Sunday experience of an empty tomb in which they had buried Jesus’ body that Friday.  In John’s recollection, they discover rolled up burial linens.  But in Mark’s version there is a young man, clothed in a white robe, sitting there.  I’d like to refer to Mark’s gospel this morning.]

Upon entering the tomb on Easter morning, the women who had come to prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial because on Good Friday the Sabbath had begun and no work was permitted, even this holy duty to bury the dead.  So on Easter they found the body of Jesus missing.  They found instead, “a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe.”  This young man told Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome that the crucified Jesus had been raised up.  “Look at the grave,” he said, “[Jesus] is not here.  You will see him in Galilee.” 

Well, just who is this “young man?”  Usually in the New Testament a person “dressed in white” is the description of an angel.  But in the light of last Sunday’s gospel (Palm Sunday), we may want to reconsider whether this young man really is an angel or something else.  In Palm Sunday’s gospel according to Mark, this young man also appeared.  Do you remember?

            When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane and “all deserted him and fled,” Mark’s gospel mentions that “There was a young man following [Jesus] who was covered by nothing but a linen cloth.  As they seized him he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.”  To say the least, this was a bizarre detail, perhaps unnoticed by many of us.  Who was this naked young man?  His running away wasn’t very “angelic.” 

            I would suggest that the naked young man in Gethsemane and the robed young man at the empty tomb are the same person.  The fact that he appears only in Mark’s gospel and not in the other three suggests he is not an historical, a real person, but a literary device used by Mark to teach us something.

            Perhaps this young man in white may represent the early disciples of Jesus, but may also represent you and me.  Each of us is a follower of Jesus, as was this young man, apparently.  No matter why we’ve come to church this Easter – to show off new clothing, to please our mother, to get back in touch with our religious roots, out of habit, or because our spirituality is based deeply in the Eucharist – no matter why, the common ground for each of us is that Jesus is significant to you and me.  Whether we have jumped into the deep end of the pool of faith or we’re just testing the water with one foot, each of us is here because of some relationship with Jesus.

            That relationship began in our baptism.  In the baptismal ritual you and I were covered by a white cloth, quite literally.  On our baptismal day this white cloth or robe represented, as it represented on that young man in Mark’s gospel, Christ’s embrace of us and our connectedness with Christ.      But when we have been faced with doubt, when following the Lord has burdened us with a cost, a demand, some may pull away from Jesus.  For some of us this is a violent, uncharacteristic jolt:   We have been strongly tested by some turmoil and been afraid or angry or have just given up.  The white cloth which is symbolic of our connection with Christ is yanked away and seemingly lost or abandoned.  And we run away from him, naked. 

On other occasions there has been no great crisis.  Out of forgetfulness or laziness or inattentiveness we may have allowed our baptismal robe just to slip quietly off, barely noticed onto the floor.  Perhaps we’ve had a long history of wandering from the Lord.  It just hasn’t seemed important to maintain our intimate connection with Christ.

In either case there we are:  Fully exposed and alone.  This is not necessarily bad, if, like the king in the fable who finally realized he had no clothes, we finally acknowledge how naked we are without Jesus.  Not only as individuals, but we as a nation may fail to discern that some of our political and social problems reveal a drift away from God.   Our body – individually or nationally is well clothed, but we stand – disrobed – when it comes to our relationship with God.  Perhaps today’s social and moral conflicts and various international crises expose our vulnerability without faith in Christ.

Recognizing how exposed and unprotected we are when far from Jesus is not cause for despair.  Instead, it should lead us to say, “At last I understand what I lack.  Now I know the gift for which I must reach:  It is a connection with Jesus that I need.”

            And so the naked young man in the Garden of Gethsemane reappears in Mark’s story, no longer naked and running away, not even just-barely-covered by a linen cloth, but now fully enveloped in a white robe, sitting at the Lord’s empty tomb, connected to Christ again.

            This is the message of Easter:  That the Lord overcomes our nakedness.  The Risen Lord offers each of us life.  Not a life of aimless running, exposed to the assaults of the world’s whims, but a new life where, no matter the outside turmoil or temptations, we are assured of the encompassing love of Christ.  In many cases the turmoil or temptation outside us will remain.  But being clothed in Christ offers each one of us the confidence, the fortitude, the hope, the wisdom to face these, and conquer.  And the final thing which Jesus will conquer in us is death itself.  Jesus does not promise merely a meaningful life philosophy.  Jesus promises us resurrection and eternal life.

            Jesus wants to enrobe each of us in his love.  Our baptismal cloth, the young man clothed in white – these are only symbols.  The reality is that we stand in various stages of undress before the world.  Do we recognize that nakedness?  The promise of Easter is:  You and I need only to put out our arms and allow the Risen Lord to enrobe us in himself.  And the Risen One will give us new life – even the resurrection of our body.  Alleluia!

 

Good Friday

March 30, 2018

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Psalm 31:6, 12-13, 15-17, 25

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

John 18:1-19:42

            Even in tonight’s solemn ritual, in which we shall reverence a wooden cross, you and I can only glimpse what the cross of Jesus was like.  “We have become so used to the image of the crucified Lord that we fail to realize how shocking a crucifix would have been to the early Christians.” [1] 

There was in Rome a government official named Rabirius Postumus, who had been accused of crucifying Roman citizens convicted of crimes in one of the outer provinces.  Even speaking in the Forum in defense of Postumus, the great orator Cicero admitted that if the accusation were true, there could be no defense, because, as Cicero said, “The very name of the cross should never come near the body of a Roman citizen, nor even enter into his thoughts, his sight, his hearing.”  Crucifixion, Cicero declaimed, was the cruelest, most repulsive, most horrible form of the death penalty. [2] 

            It is profoundly significant that Jesus should have died in this way – suffering on a cross.  Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will – even to death.  But why death on a cross?  Any death of the Eternal Word of God become flesh – even death in old age in a bed surrounded by family and disciples – would have been an infinite gift to us from God.  Even from such a peaceful death, Jesus would have been raised from his grave and death would have been defeated.  But Jesus died in an ignominious execution, tortured in a way that was not permissible for even the lowliest Roman criminal to even see, much less to have inflicted on him.

            There is not one of us here in this worship space who has not known a loved one with cancer.  Some of them have endured great suffering in their condition, so that the idea of a morphine drip was embraced by everyone as a blessing.  Many have struggled with our own chronic impairment or someone else’s birth defect, or the consequence of an accident or other injury that has inflicted mental or physical pain over years.  Others still have wrestled with emotional turmoil and despair, as the zest has gone out of life. 

The Father chose this horrific death for Jesus so that you and I would comprehend that God goes into our very experience of suffering – and worse – and that God’s healing power touches us even in the most despicable of situations.  In Jesus Christ, God has overcome death and has conquered every manner of dying.

“In a commentary on Psalm 85, St. Augustine explains it this way:  ‘God could give no greater gift to men than to make his Word, through whom he created all things, their head and to join them to him as his members, so that the Word might be both Son of God and son of man, one God with the Father, and one man with all men.  Let us then recognize both our voice in his, and his voice in ours.’” [3]  Through faith, you and I are invited to recognize our human voice in the divine Jesus – who is both God and human, like us – and how Jesus’ voice speaks to the world through our voices and our actions as we continue his ministry. 

We also recognize our crosses in his cross, and his cross in our crosses.  In any distress in our own life and in the lives of people we love, with faith we know that Jesus has endured this – and worse – before us.  And he has defeated the enduring effects of this struggle and suffering.  Jesus has even defeated death itself, and promises to each of us new and ever more abundant life.

In a moment we shall reverence a wooden cross as a sign of gratitude that Jesus has gone before us in the burdens of life, but also as a sign that we believe his promise of new and more eternal life.

[1]  Peter G. van Breeman, Certain as the Dawn (Denville, NJ:  Dimension Books, 1980), p. 24. 

[2]  Hans Küng, On Being a Christian (Garden City:  Doubleday & Co., 1976), p. 396. 

[3] John R. Aurelio, Mosquitoes in Paradise (New York:  Crossroad, 1985), p. 97.  

 

Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday)

March 29, 2018

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16bc

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-15

            “Just do it.”  That’s the successful slogan of a famous athletic footwear company. [1]  As I prepared for this evening, similar words resonated from Saint Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth:  “Do this…”

            Today the Church celebrates the institution of two, great sacraments.  Paramount is the Eucharist.  In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we hear the oldest, written record of the Last Supper.  On the night of Jesus’ arrest, he first celebrated a sacred meal with his closest companions.  He took bread, blessed it, and announced, “This is my body that is for you.”  He charged them, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Likewise, of the cup of wine that he blessed, Jesus declared, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  He commanded, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  This we do tonight and at each Eucharistic gathering.

            The second of these two sacraments is the institution of the priesthood.  With the mandate “Do this,” there had to be people who could “Do this.”  Jesus conferred on the Apostles authority continually to do as Jesus had done:  the first priests to share the bread and wine transubstantiated into the body and blood of Jesus.  

            Words recollecting Christ’s offering bread and wine as his body and blood do not appear in John’s rendition of the Last Supper.  Those words were already imprinted on the minds of the early Christians.  Their priests’ blessing over the bread and the wine was so familiar in their gatherings each Sunday that they needed little to re-hear those words. 

            What the early Christians did need to be reminded of in John’s estimation (and what we need to hear) is that Jesus was “giving [us] a model to follow.” So in a parable in gesture, Jesus bent down to wash the dirt- and dung-covered feet of his Apostles, the work of a slave, in order to show them what his sacrifice was truly about.  The model that Jesus gave us redirects our understanding of the mandate, “Do this.”

            When Jesus commanded, “Do this,” did he only mean for us to take and bless bread that would become his body, and blessing a cup of wine that would be his blood?  To Saint John it seemed imperative that Jesus intended his disciples to go beyond the sacrificial meal and to do what that bread and wine signified:  that Jesus was allowing his own body to be broken, his own blood to be spilled for love of others.  Beyond the sacrifice on this altar, Jesus intended that you and I “Do this:”  As my disciple, each of you must be broken open; each of you must live in such a way as to spill your blood for love of others. 

            Jesus established the Eucharist through which he would be truly present to each of us, food for our life’s journey.  And he established us a priesthood as a ritual component to make this Eucharistic presence possible.  But on a deeper level, Jesus established for each Christian a priesthood of service, of lifestyle of self-donating love. 

            We expect our ordained priests to live lives of service.  In the Latin Church we call priests to remain celibate, to give the only reality which is theirs to give:  their very self. [2]  This self-donation is expressed in the words of Jesus: “This is my body that is for you.”  The priest’s focus is to remain God, undivided by the care of one family so that care may be taken of all God’s people.  As an act of love, each priest gives up the comfort of a wife, and the joy of children. 

            But the Lord was not establishing a caste of priests, like the hereditary priesthood of the Jewish religion.  While the Christian priesthood’s purpose is to confect the Eucharist for all the people, Christ’s mandate at the Last Supper to “Do this” surpasses ritual. 

“Do this” applies to the whole priestly people – every one of us.  The good news here is that we disciples are charged to continue the self-donating love of Christ.  While the celibate priest is not changing 3 a.m. diapers or checking off the “Honey do” list, married people do.  Jesus’ words, “This is my body that is for you” equally expresses the marital love which exists between spouses. [3]  Within a family, there is hardly a married person alive who is not already breaking open his or her life to serve the needs of spouse and children.  There is nary a parent alive who does not regularly donate his or her life’s blood for the family and for neighbors. 

            For Catholics, the sacrament of Matrimony is also a participation in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  The family is the locus where Christ is manifestly present in our neighborhoods.  The family is the place of loving sacrifice.  The family is the place where more than feet are washed.  The family is the place where life is created and where life may be nourished and sanctified.  Matrimony is much more than a covenant between this man and this woman:  It is a sacrament of the living presence of Christ among us.    

            So this is a night sacred not only to the ordained bishops, priests and deacons of our Church; it is at the same time sacred to those who are, who were, and who will be married.  In our various ways, each Christian is called to a priesthood of service, a joyful life of self-donation.  

Our master and teacher commanded that we wash one another’s feet.  Foot hygiene, obviously, was not Jesus’ intent.  He intended that his dying for our sins on the cross would be the paramount example that guides our lives.  He intended that his true presence in the Eucharist would enable and strengthen each one of us to live in this way, for Jesus will be our companion in this way of life, not just an idealized exemplar.  Jesus is the model of how to live.  His command is clear: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

[1]  “Just Do It” is a trademark of the Nike shoe company.  The slogan was coined in 1988 at an advertising agency meeting. “Just Do It” appears alongside the Nike tick logo, known as the “Swoosh.” 

[2]  Cf. James M. Cafone, “Celibacy:  A Talk to Seminarians,” The Priest, Vol. 49, no. 5 (May, 1993), p. 34. 

[3]  Cafone, Ibid.

 

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

March 25, 2018

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

Mark 11:1-10

Isaiah 50:4-7

Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24

Philippians 2:6-11

Mark 14:1-15:47

            As Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, the crowds cheered him with Hosannas.  Jesus was at the height of his popularity.  Could he not establish his kingdom now?  But if Jesus had opted to be Jerusalem’s earthly king, his name might have been forgotten just like most other kings.  He would have achieved Andy Warhol’s vaunted 15 minutes of fame, and that’s it.  But the events of the following week exposed Jesus’ kingdom as not being of this world.

            It is unusual to quote this man here, but Martin Luther said, Crux probat omnia.  (Literally, “The cross proves everything.”  Or, another way to translate this:  “The cross measures everything.”)  The crucifixion of Jesus was an obscene death. [1]  Yet we hang crucifixes in our churches and in our homes.  We carry aloft the processional crucifix as it were the flag of a conquering army.  We take this defeated, humiliated, executed, nearly naked man and hang him up on our walls, where everyone may see his disgrace – just as his enemies did the day they killed him.  We do not even hide his indignity from our children:  We may hang a crucifix above a crib or child’s big-boy bed!  On special religious occasions, we even present children a crucifix to wear about their necks.  Is there, perhaps, something strange about us Catholics?  Nobody else in the world seems to display the broken, bleeding Jesus.  Most of our fellow Christians look upon an empty cross without the body of Jesus on it. [2]

But the cross measures everything.  If you and I discover the presence of God in the cross, then we may discover the presence of God even in the darkest moments of our own life.  That is what Jesus teaches through his crucifixion.  Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, experienced the deepest possible pains of human life.  But Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, also defeated death itself when he rose from his tomb on Easter morning.  That is why Jesus is the Light of the World.  That is why we lift Jesus up on the cross: Christ crucified is the pathway to Easter and our hope for eternal life.  We look to the cross and we are saved.  The cross measures everything.

[1]   This train of thought is from (Francis Conroy, Good News (homily service), September 14, 1975.

[2]  From Celebration (homily service) September, 1994, p. 408.