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5th Sunday of Easter

Posted by Fr. Matt on May 23, 2013 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Fr. Matt’s Corner:  . . . AsI have loved you . . .

 

            HappyEaster again to each of you!  As Paul andBarnabas return this weekend to Antioch,where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had nowaccomplished, they reported what Godhad done with them and how He had opened the door of faith.  That doorof faith, as we know, is Jesus Christ Himself (the Gate, the Lamb, the Shepherd). 

            So, Iwonder what works God is accomplishing through you and through me this week.  What doorwill He open in our lives?  Maybe it willbe the door of faith as He invites usto trust Him more deeply than we have before or to open the door of faith to someone else’s heart.  Maybe it will be the door of hope or encouragement to someone who is struggling.  Maybe it will be the door of love – for Jesus (God) islove.  This Jesus has loved us to theend – or, to borrow the words of Buzz Lightyear:  ‘to infinity, and beyond!’  So now, He gives us a new commandment:  love oneanother.  As I have loved you [i.e.to death and beyond!] so you also shouldlove one another.  Wow!

            Husbandsand wives, you know what this means, because that’s exactly the vow you madebefore God and man:  husbands, to laydown your life for your bride just as Christ laid down His life for His bride,the Church (that’s us, folks); and wives, to receive and accept the gift ofyour husband in such a profound way that you return the gift of yourself tohim, bringing forth new life.  New life,that’s what this Easter season is all about, and it comes about through love –true Love – as Christ has loved us.

            As Church,we are that holy city, a new Jerusalem,coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  As Church, we are the Bride of Christ wholays down His life for us and who makesall things new.  Our task, as Hisbride, is to open up our hearts, our souls, and our bodies to receive His loveso that we can share in His work of creation – conceiving in our hearts thatgift of new life, and sharing that life with the world.  What a joy it is to have such wonderfulchildren ready to open the door of faithwithin them next weekend as they receive the Lord Jesus in their First HolyCommunion!  Let us pray for each of themand for all children who yearn for God’s love; and let us pray for all of us –that we may be effective vehicles for that love to continue its outreach to allpeople.

            Do I reallylove as He has loved me?  Do others seein me a door of faith opened tothem?  Or am I sometimes more of astumbling stone blocking that door?  MayJesus say to us and about us this Easter season:  Behold,I make all things [including you] new!

            Peace to allof you, my friends, this holy Easter day, and to all who love the Lord insimplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt

 

4th Sunday of Easter

Posted by Fr. Matt on May 23, 2013 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Fr.Matt’s Corner:  ... Hear My Voice …

 

Happy Easter to all of my favoritepeople!  As track and field and diamondare slowly revealing themselves from beneath the snow, so too are we beingrevealed to ourselves through the Lord Jesus and His triumph over sin anddeath.

This past week, we’ve been praying,questioning, worrying, pontificating, listening, and praying for, over, andabout the Boston bombings and its perpetrators and its victims.  What does the Lord Jesus reveal to us todayabout all these mysteries of life and death, heroism and violence, blessing andcurse?  He is the Shepherd who says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, andthey follow me.  I give them eternallife, and they shall never perish.  Noone can take them out of my hand.  MyFather, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take themout of the Father’s hand.  The Father andI are one.”

He is the bearer and the giver of life. He calls us to heroic virtue – to stand with that great multitude that stood beforethe throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branchesin their hands.  These are the ones whohave survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and madethem white in the blood of the Lamb.  Hewants to fill us His blessing so that we, in turn might be a light to theGentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth. 

Hearing His voice, following Him, andbecoming an instrument of salvationall revolve around our vocation.  Unlikevacation – which lasts for a short time – our vocation is a life-long,life-transforming, and life-giving gift. A vocation is a structure of committed love.  While there are innumerable occupations andstates in life, there are 3 basic structures of committed love – 3 basicvocations.  The first is marriage whichpoints to greater life on earth.  Mostpeople are called to the vocation of marriage. The other 2 vocations are priesthood and consecrated life (whether inreligious community or as an individual) which both point to greater life inheaven. 

Through the three-fold vocations ofmarriage, priesthood, and consecrated life, Jesus gives us eternal life.  It is the Lord – the Good Shepherd – whocalls us; for it is He who knows usmore deeply than we know ourselves. That’s why it is so critically important to take the time to hear His voice – which is to pray. Pray to hear your ownvocation; pray for your children, your friends, your neighbors, and your familyto hear their vocations.  Pray for the courage to follow Him in your vocation; pray for others to do likewise.

Peace to all of you, my friends,this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt

 

3rd Sunday of Easter

Posted by Fr. Matt on May 23, 2013 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Fr.Matt’s Corner:  ... do you love memore than these? …

 

Happy Easter to all of you, my dearfriends in Christ!  Even as the track andbaseball and softball seasons get underway (with snow still lingering on), Ithink we’re all ready for a new start – the start of summer.

So it is with our faith as well, aswe continue going deeper into the mysteries of our faith this Easter season(with 5 more weeks of Eastertide to come!). Easter is a season of baptism – of new life – and as new life promisesto bud out in grass and flower and leaf, so our faith beckons us to spring upin life.  When Peter today hears that “It is the Lord!” who has come to us, heimmediately goes for baptism, and jumpedinto the sea. 

After he comes out of thosebaptismal waters, Jesus came over andtook the bread and gave it to him. That’s what He does for us at every Mass as well – He takes the bread,changes it into His body, and gives it to us to eat.  So far, it’s all been good for us:  we get in a nice bathing and we are fed withthe Bread of Life – pretty easy, eh? Jesus has done all the work (sacrificing His Body and Blood – His life –for us).  But now comes His challenge.

Whenthey had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, doyou love me more than these?”  Uh oh,why is He asking this?  Jesus has shownus God’s love for us, and He has shown us that His love conquers all – even death!  He now invites us into the life of God – alife of self-sacrificing love.  Not onlyare we not to offend God by stealing, lying, gossiping, and other obviousheinous crimes against God’s gift.  Nowwe must do more:  Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” In other words, “Amen, I say toyou, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  Because God has loved us with everything,our response must be everything – not justavoiding evil (that’s the merely obvious), but also doing good.

Jesus promises that following Himwill cost us everything that is not God: for Peter, that would mean family, house, livelihood, liberty, and evenhis earthly life.  But He also promisesthat following Him is the only way to true joy and eternal life.  Peter and the other disciples would later befound rejoicing that they had been foundworthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name of Jesus.  So it was for Jesus Himself, so it was withPeter, and so it is now with Peter’s current successor, Pope Francis.  May we be with Peter and the other disciplesin following Jesus – rejoicing that wehave been found worthy to suffer dishonorfor the sake of the name

Peace to all of you, my friends,this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt

Divine Mercy Sunday

Posted by Fr. Matt on May 23, 2013 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Fr. Matt’s Corner:  . . . My Lord and my God! . . .

 

            Happy Easter to each of you!  Certainly, by now, you have all heard the news: He is risen!  As unbelievable as it seems – as unfathomable as it indeed is, He is truly risen!  But have you seen Him? 

            I don’tthink I’ve ever really let that truth sink in … at least not yet.  Jesus Christ truly died; and Jesus Christ truly rose.  I want to believe; and in some miniscule way, I know that I really do believe – but too often, I’m like those first disciples who needed to see Jesus over and over again after the Resurrection.  The Truth just takes awhile to sink in.  I’m stubborn and pig-headed; I like my own daily routines; I get absorbed in things that don’t really matter, and these drag me down (like taxes!).  But the Truth …

            We have seen the Lord!  He is risen! Everything now changes. EVERYTHING!  I need to shout that to myself over and over again – almost as if I need to see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side before I’ll really believe it … and now LIVE it.

            At times, I have heard Jesus say, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  I hope – I trust – that each of you has heard that invitation to faith as well.  In those times, I have known great peace and joy – and a renewed hope.  Not a false or counterfeit hope (i.e.:  I’m OK, you’re OK); but a true, deep, and abiding hope that flows from the pierced heart of Jesus who said to them, “Peace be with you.” Obviously, this wasn’t enough, because Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.”

          Divine Mercy is given to us.  There is no sin too small or too large for God’s Mercy to forgive and to heal.  This Sunday afternoon, come check out the Divine Mercy celebration at St. Mary’s and St. Joe’s parish in Iron Mountain (just show up any time between 1 – 4 PM).  Encounter.  See.  Jesus.  Receive a share in that gift of Divine Mercy, and then be ready to let God use you as a conduit for that same Mercy to others.  For as He said then, so He says to us now:  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

            Peace to all of you, my friends, this holy Easter day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt

 


5th Sunday of Lent: Habemus Papam!

Posted by Fr. Matt on March 16, 2013 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Fr. Matt’s Corner: ... Habemus Papam!

          Yes, we have a pope (Habemus Papam)! As we come near to the end of Lent, we also come to the beginning of the pontificate of Francis. It seems that God is saying what He is always saying: See, I am doing something new! Our Father is the God of past (as it was in the beginning), present (is now), and future (and ever shall be); but He seems to be most interested in our future.

          That, after all, is what this most holy time is all about. Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Paradoxically, Jesus – who is the same yesterday, today, and forever – is precisely the source of our hope of something new for you and for me. So it is that our Catholic Faith – which is the same yesterday, today, and forever – is precisely what brings hope to our troubled lives.

          Pope Francis, in his first homily, said very simply and boldly: “I would like for us all … to have courage, precisely the courage, to walk in the Lord’s presence, with the cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will go forward.” After all, He is the resurrection and the life, and He says to you and to me: Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.

          With this knowledge, let us go forward, like St. Paul: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. Jesus is calling you and me to really and truly believe in Him. Jesus asked this question to Martha; He asks it of us. “Do you believe this?” If you do, then “I will open your graves and have you rise from them! Lazarus, come forth!” Do not worry about the stench; pay no attention to what mere mortals may think or say, for The Resurrection and the Lifethe Light of the WorldJesus is here and is asking for you. Why remain sitting at home? Why remain in the cold of your tomb? Martha went to meet Him; Mary, as soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him; while Lazarus in his tomb had been dead for four days.

          But now … “Roll away the stone!

          “Lazarus, come forth!”

          Will you take the courage that is offered to you? Will you emerge from the tombs of fear that have kept us from walking in the Lord’s presence, with the Cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified?

          Peace to all of you, my friends, this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt

4th Sunday of Lent

Posted by Fr. Matt on March 14, 2013 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Fr. Matt’s Corner: ... This man welcomes sinners

and eats with them!. . .

         Greetings to you, my dear friends in Christ. As Holy Week and Easter draw nearer, are the works of God being made visible through you? This season of Lent, as we strive to grow in Faith, Hope, and Love we are becoming a new creation! St. Paul says this in relation to the ministry of reconciliation that God has given us through Christ.

          That’s precisely why Jesus – who did not know sin – came: to be sin for our sake, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him; and to welcome sinners and eat with them. Where do we see this? How does this happen?

          As St. Leo the Great said: “What was visible in our Savior [Jesus Christ, in His earthly life] has passed over into His Mysteries [the Sacraments].” Perhaps the two greatest joys that I experience as a priest are centered precisely on this Man who [1] welcomes sinners and [2] eats with them. It’s all about this ministry of reconciliation that Jesus has left us: the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the Eucharist.

          I’m often asked something like: “Where in the Bible does God say that I have to confess my sins to a priest?” Of course, this is the wrong way to approach the Bible, and it’s most certainly the wrong way to approach God – looking legalistically at religion to find out ‘what’s the least that I can get away with and still be OK?’

          What should our approach to God be like? How about this: I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son…’  I know that sounds humbling, but just listen to what comes next: While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him … put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet … and celebrated with a feast … because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found!

         That’s the great joy that I have as a priest when we celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and Eucharist (Mass) – the joy of seeing the Father come running down to welcome sinners and eat with them – the joy of seeing my dear friends become a new creation in Christ!

          Peace to all of you, my friends, this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt

3rd Sunday of Lent

Posted by Fr. Matt on March 5, 2013 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Fr. Matt’s Corner: ... Who am I. . .

          Lenten blessings to all of you, my dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ. Once more we are reminded how it feels to be (at least in earthly terms) acephalous as a Church. As of this past Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI vacated the Chair of St. Peter – reminding us all the while that Jesus Christ is still in charge of His Church.

          Since I haven’t had the opportunity to do so, I’m going to use this little article to speak just a bit about the papacy of Benedict XVI – and what a gift he has been to us. I have been happily fasting from television this Lent, and so I have been spared much of the empty rhetoric of the self-appointed spokespersons of the Catholic faith on the nightly news. But I have heard from other sources some of the rumblings going on.

          Of all that, I think Kenneth Whitehead’s article in Crisis magazine sums things up rather succinctly: “All in all, then, the attempt … to put Pope Benedict XVI in his place has not proved to be very impressive—especially if truth is considered to be a necessary element in making any such judgment. This kind of critical account of the pope and his papacy, however, is not so much based on what he has actually said and done, but rather upon what his critics think he should have said and done—based on criteria of theirs often far removed from anything resembling authentic Catholicism. He has been weighed in the balance and found wanting by his critics precisely because he has so faithfully and authentically reflected and represented what the Church and the faith truly are; he has been faulted and vilified because he has been such a “good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).”

          I will highlight here just a few of the gifts Pope Benedict XVI has left us. (1) Toward greater unity among Christians (see John 17:21-23), he not only reached out to Anglicans, but added and furnished a room for them within the House of God (the Catholic Church) – while simultaneously reaching out toward schismatics such as the SP X society, trying to bring them back. (2) He dealt with the sexual abuse scandal within the Church with very harsh words “filth” and even stronger actions. (3) He has continually and gently beckoned us back to what is the essence of the Catholic Faith: the real Person of Jesus Christ, Love, Hope, and Faith, the real Person of Jesus Christ, the lives of the Apostles, the writings of the Church Fathers, the lives of the saints, and the real Person of Jesus Christ.

          Thank you, Pope Benedict, for your gentle humility, your love of the Church, and your fatherly care. Thank you, Lord, for his brilliant mind. Thank you Holy Spirit for our next pope, whosoever he may be.

          Peace to all of you, my friends, this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt

2nd Sunday of Lent

Posted by Fr. Matt on February 22, 2013 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Fr. Matt’s Corner: ... Look up. . .

          Lenten blessings to all of you, my dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ. As we begin this second week of Lent, are you joyful? I think there’s a natural tendency among those of us who take Lent seriously to ... well, take it too seriously – or, more precisely, to take ourselves too seriously. If we do so, we can miss the whole point of Lent.

          It’s certainly good and necessary to take a serious look at our souls and our sins and to take seriously the call to do penance – fasting, praying, and works of charity. But those are only the road on which we walk – they’re not the destination to which we are called. If all we do is look down on our own actions and feeble efforts, we’ll likely miss the moments of grace that God sends us. After all, the Lord God took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.” And Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.

          The whole point of Lent is to break out of our cycles of sin by which we look at ourselves – living as if our god is [our] stomach – and to Look up through a renewed dedication to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – to see beyond to what God wants to give us. I know that our Lenten penances can seem like walking uphill – but that’s only Jesus’ way of taking us up the mountain to pray. Living within the safety bubble of our comfort – when we seem to be in control of the mundane, secular realities of life (or perhaps when those mundane realities seem to be in control of us) – it’s very easy to fall (spiritually) asleep gazing at the ground. You or I might be as Peter and his companions ... overcome by sleep.

          But God says to Abraham and Peter and you and I: “Look up”. For while He was praying His face changed in appearance and His clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with Him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His exodus that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Then Peter and his companions entered into that state of prayer - becoming fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. This Lent is a time to live differently – to look up, to become fully awakefor our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.

          Peace to all of you, my friends, this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt

1st Sunday of Lent

Posted by Fr. Matt on February 22, 2013 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Fr. Matt’s Corner: . . . If You Are the Son of God . . .

          Lenten blessings to all of you, my dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ. Though the ashes on your forehead have likely worn or washed off by now, we are still in the beginning stages of our Lenten journey together – one in which, like Jesus we will be led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days.

          The desert has a way of stripping away all but the true essentials – in fact, it can be that place where even what we think of as the bare necessities are severely lacking.  As hard as it can be for us to imagine … no phones, no texting, no music, no news, no entertainment, no comfy couch, no medicine, no transportation, no friends … so try to imagine even no water and no food.  Yet, He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over He was hungry.  That desert was for Jesus a place of complete solitude with only Himself, His Father, the Spirit, and the Devil.  He willingly entered into that desert – stripping Himself of all His glory and all His power and all that was and is His due. 

          Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, allowed Himself to be tempted and prodded and mocked by the Devil himself … “If You are the Son of God, prove it!  Use Your almighty power to serve Yourself and to make Yourself known and believed and loved by all!  Grab control away from that Father of Yours and take it for Yourself!  It’s so easy, let me show You how.” 

          But Jesus reveals Himself as the true Son of God ironically through His great humility – and if He Who was and is and Who is to come has humbled Himself – then that must be the path for you and I to become also children of God.  Pride is the path of the Devil and the key that he uses to lock us into Hell.  Humility is the path of Jesus and the key for our freedom as sons and daughters of the Most High.  Humility is the road of Lent. 

          Humility is often ridiculed and is always misunderstood in our world where all the kingdoms of the world (along with most of the media outlets) have been handed over to the Devil who may give it to whomever he wishes. But our holy father, Pope Benedict XVI has shown us great humility in accepting both his own failing strength (due to advanced age) and the intense demands of his office.  He has given us a reminder that the office of the Vicar of Christ is bigger than his own person, as he said that Christ is still the head of His Church.  For himself, he said, “I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”  As he enters this desert with Jesus this Lent, may our prayers be with him – and may we join them there ourselves.

          Peace to all of you, my friends, this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt

 

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Fr. Matt on February 8, 2013 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (1)

Fr. Matt’s Corner: . . . I saw the Lord  . . .

          Greetings to all of you, my dear friends in Christ.  Can you believe it?  Lent begins this week already!  With that in mind, I offer you a word of hope and challenge.  It is simply that the Light is ON for you this Lent.  Our readings for this weekend reveal 3 important men who had a life-changing encounter with God. 

          Isaiah saw the Lord with His glory, and said “Woe is me, I am doomed!  For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”  But, God would not let Isaiah’s sins impede God’s love and mission for him.  “See, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?”  “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

          Paul recounts for us that after Jesus Christ died for our sins and was buried, “He appeared to me” although he was the least of all and “not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  But, God would not let Paul’s sins stand in the way of God’s love and mission for him – for, “by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me has not been ineffective.

          Finally, Jesus revealed a glimmer of His glory in the fishing boat of Simon Peter who then fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  But, Jesus would not let Peter’s sins impede God’s love and mission for him – for Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  So that when they brought their boats to the shore, Peter left everything and followed Him.

          Are you seeing a pattern emerge here?  Isaiah, Paul, and Peter – in their sinful states – saw the Lord Who then forgave their sins and gave them a new mission. Through that God-given grace of forgiveness and mission, the world has been forever changed, and that same light of God’s mercy and grace is now ON for you.  Let this Lent be a time of encountering God’s love and mercy and healing for you. 

          At St. Margaret’s, in addition to our usual weekly confession time (Friday mornings from 7:45 – 8:15), that light will be ON for you Friday evenings from 5-6 pm. (That still gives you time to have your fish and eat it too!)  At St. Anthony’s, in addition to the usual confession times (Saturdays from 9-10 am and from 3-3:45 pm), that light will be ON for you on Wednesday evenings from 5-6 pm.  For most of you, it’s been a long time since you’ve had that loving and forgiving sacramental encounter … 6 months, 1 year, 6 years, 60 years.  In the immortal words of Packer’s linebacker coach Kevin Greene, “It is time!”  Do not be afraid; from now on all your sins may be forgiven.  The light is ON for you.

          Peace to all of you, my friends, this Holy Day, and to all who love the Lord in simplicity of heart,

Fr. Matt


For more information about "The Light is ON for you", check out our homepage:  www.stanthonyniagara.org


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