Sunday, April 26, 2015
We begin with some basic questions for all of us: Why are we here? Why do we gather week after week for this liturgy we call Mass?
To celebrate the Sunday Eucharist some of the early followers of Christ risked their lives. Even though there was great personal risk, the faithful were exhorted to gather. One bishop in the early years of the faith wrote, “Let no one deprive the Church by staying away; if they do they deprive the Body of Christ of one of its members!”
Today, at least in the United States, there is no persecution of the Church. But the statement of this third century bishop is still true: the community of believers suffers when we do not gather with it.
There are many reasons that we gather. Some of us are here because it’s a habit. Others come out of obligation. Some come because their parents insist on it. Others come to seek the Lord. Some come because they are burdened with problems. Others are here because they are grateful for God’s gifts. And many of us are here for a combination of those reasons.
More basic to all of these reasons, however, is that we are here because God himself has called us here. It was God who called us to share His own life through baptism. It was God who called us to carry on the mission of Christ in the world today.
And we come for Eucharist, which comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. We gather each week to give God thanks and praise. Sometimes we may forget that. It’s easy to focus on what we hope to get out of coming to church rather than on giving thanks for what God has already given us.
The most important thing we find when we gather is the presence of Christ himself. Christ who is in each of us who has gathered. Christ in the Word of God proclaimed. Christ in the presider of the liturgy. And Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
We come here to remember who we are. Here we are reunited with one another and with He who is our head. Those who say, “I don’t need to come to Mass to pray,” miss the point. We’re here because God himself has asked us to be here, so that He can feed us and strengthen us to be Christ-bearers all week.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Most of us think of Easter as one day – a day when we eat lots of candy, visit relatives, and maybe even have an Easter egg hunt. But, just like the Lenten Season lasts for 40+ days, the Church wants us to celebrate the Easter Season for 50 days!
The Church reminds us that the whole Easter Season is like one glorious Sunday, during which we celebrate the thrill of knowing that Jesus’ resurrection has made it possible for us to share his life forever. We celebrate the resurrection not by eating chocolate eggs every day, but by remembering that Christ died on the cross for us and rose again. We must live our lives with that fact in the forefront of our minds.
The Resurrection teaches us that our death, like Jesus’ death, will not be the end. Instead, it will be the step into a new life that will go on forever. That’s the Easter message, and it’s such good news for all of us that it deserves a lifetime of celebration.
Let’s think about some of the days of Easter.
The first day of the Easter Season is, of course, Easter Sunday. For us Christians, Easter is the high point of the Church’s calendar. The date fluctuates from year to year: last year Easter was celebrated on April 20th, and next year it falls almost a whole month earlier on March 27th. Have you ever wondered why this most important feast moves from year to year?
Easter is always celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the first day of Spring or the “Vernal Equinox” on March 21st. What does the cycle of the Moon have to do with Easter? Our celebration of Easter is based on the celebration of the Passover, which is when Jesus was crucified. Our Jewish fore-bearers kept track of time on a Lunar calendar: Passover begins the day of the first full moon after the first day of Spring. So, planning the Holy Day based on the cycle of the moon is part of who we are in our Judeo-Christian heritage.
The first eight days following Easter are called the “Octave of Easter.” The octave begins with Easter Sunday and concludes with the end of the Second Sunday of Easter. These eight days are all considered “solemnities” – the highest of feast days.
The fortieth day of the Easter Season celebrates Jesus’ ascension. He told the crowds and His disciples that He would return to the one who sent Him, and so He does. But Jesus also tells His followers that even though He is leaving them, He will not leave them alone. He promises to send the Holy Spirit, which He does on the 50th and last day of Easter - Pentecost.
There are many days of Easter and the Church is here to celebrate them all. We invite you to take an active part in celebrating this Easter Season. Just as we take time to solemnly reflect on the Passion of Christ during Lent, we are called to celebrate Christ’s resurrection throughout the Easter Season by keeping it in the forefront of our minds and attending Mass every week.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Over the past year we’ve hosted three Healing Services. These services brought our community together to strive for a deeper sense of spiritual awareness and to pray for the healing of memories, family-life, and grief.
There are so many areas of our lives where we need healing. We are surrounded by an aggressive culture and live in a violent world. Daily we are bombarded with images of brutality in our cities and in countries around the globe. As we see these images we become accustomed to the violence they portray and can begin to accept it as normal.
The reality is that on any given day the media presents us with more violence than our grandparents might have witnessed in their entire lives. While we see the result of this cruelty in the news, much of it is “make believe” in television shows; but as any psychologist can tell you, the mind knows no difference between what is real and what is vividly imagined.
Daily, we see images of mass murders in Africa; reflections of violent crime portrayed on television and first-person shooter video games; websites devoted to glorifying the actions of murderers and psychopaths; and more. Our society, and especially our children, come to understand that we handle our problems through violent acts instead of dialogue and conversation.
Jesus told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” He goes on to tell them that He doesn’t give peace as the world gives it. We understand peace to be the absence of conflict. But the peace that Jesus refers to is the Jewish concept of “Shalom” (Shă - lōm). Most of us understand Shalom means “peace,” but that’s only a small part of the meaning. Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, and harmony. In short, Shalom means perfect and full peace living in right relationship with each other and with God. This is the kind of peace Jesus gives: this is the kind of peace that we’re missing in our world today.
We will gather on Sunday, April 19th at 5:30 PM to explore the inner peace and global peace that Shalom calls us to. Through music, prayer and reflections we will look to rid ourselves of those things that serve to distract and prevent us from true peace.