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Month: March 2018

Stupendous Love

Stupendous Love

Today we take a good hard look at sin while we marvel at salvation.  The gloom of sin is a foil for the brilliance of salvation.  We stare in wonder as the Lord Jesus conquers the treacherous betrayal of a disciple through the stupendous love of the cross.  On Passion Sunday the crucifix is decorated with palms!  It signifies the suffering caused by sin and the victory won by Christ.

Let’s take a few minutes to stare sin in the face not only the sin of Judas and Peter, but our sin.  As he sits at table with the Twelve, Jesus says, “One of you will betray me, one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:18).  This saying is vague, so each one of the Twelve begins to say, “Surely, it is not I?”  We know that Jesus is talking about Judas, but he is also talking to all those “eating with him.” 

As we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we should always remember that Jesus was betrayed by one of the Twelve who ate with him at the Last Supper.  The stories in the Gospel are not merely a record of history.  They are also our stories.  Jesus is addressing us when he says, “One of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”

Jesus continues to offer his Body and Blood to us, even though we sin against him.  We gossip and betray one another almost daily.  We fail to love Jesus in the least among us – whether the unborn, sick, elderly, prisoner or immigrant stranger.  We hold grudges, harbor anger, look with lust, and tell lies.

To proud Peter, Jesus says, “This very night before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times” (Mark 14:30).  There is a little bit of Peter in all of us.  Even when we fully intend to be faithful to Jesus, we stumble and fall.  He knows that we will deny him in times of temptation.

With full knowledge of our sinfulness, he keeps pouring out his love.  In Baptism he washes us with the water flowing from his side; in Confession he says, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34); in Holy Eucharist he graciously feeds us with his mercy.  Today, as you receive Communion, marvel at his faithful persevering insistent love.

Learn from his love.  He loves so well because of his deep relationship with the Father.  As he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” (Mark 14:36).  Jesus is fully confident in the Father’s almighty power over the universe.  “Father, all things are possible to you.”  The Father is in control ……. not Judas, or the chief priests, or Pilate.

Jesus’ love is rooted in faith that the all-powerful Father is with him and that his providence is guiding him in the darkest hour.  We also can win the battle over evil if we have that kind of faith.

More than anything else, the cross is an event between Jesus and the Father.  So he says to him, “Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”  Jesus wants one thing, to do the Father’s will.  His love is perfectly obedient.  “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).  Today, ask God for obedient faith, for the grace to seek God’s will alone.

As you deal with an illness or cancer, or if you have been wronged or betrayed, or if you feel helpless because of your own sins, don’t focus on the sickness or your enemy or your sin.  Rather, focus on the Father’s almighty providence.  Ask the Lord Jesus for obedient faith to trust that his grace conquers all evil.

On Passion Sunday the crucifix is decorated with palms.  It signifies the suffering caused by sin and of the victory won by Christ.  Stare in wonder as the Lord Jesus continues to conquer the treacherous betrayal of mankind through the stupendous love of the cross.

The Miracle of Spring

The Miracle of Spring

I have been on the road for the last two weekends.  Last Saturday, March 3, I celebrated Mass and helped with confessions at the retreat for junior high students in Centennial.  Then on Sunday, March 4, I celebrated Masses at St. Paul’s Newman Center in Laramie.  This Saturday (March 10), I attended the fundraiser for St. Anthony’s Tri-Parish School in Casper, which was well attended and a wonderful evening.  Then on Sunday, I celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s parish in Wheatland and at Mary Queen of Heaven parish in Chugwater.  It was the first visit to those parishes.  The homily from this Sunday’s Mass is below.

Take time to marvel at the miracle of Spring in the next few months.  Each Spring, new life is poured out as pure gift from God.  Farmers and ranchers work hard during calving and planting season.  Yet, their toil is tiny compared to the immensity of life bursting forth all around them.

The buds on the trees are bulging.  New leaves are not far behind.  Before long the grass will tint the land green.  Flowers will pop out on the prairie as sentinels to the beauty of God.  Wheat sprouts will poke out from tiny kernels of grain packed with power.  Newborn calves wobbly on their legs will soon frolic with delight across the pasture.

Take time to marvel at the miracle of Spring in the next few months.  Each Spring, new life is poured out as pure gift from God.

Do you know that LENT is an old English word for SPRING?  The miracle of new life in creation also overflows in our spiritual lives.  Grace is poured into our hearts as pure gift from God.

St. Paul says, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5).

The land is so barren in winter; yet it is completely transformed in spring.  Our hearts are often desolate because of the cold dark winter of sin.  Yet, God renews us with mercy, grace and forgiveness again and again.  It is pure gift.

“When we are dead in our transgressions,” God shows us the “immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast” (Eph. 2:7-8). 

Are you taking time to marvel at the miracle of new life offered to you this Lent?  It is not something we accomplish.  Rather it is the GIFT of God.  It is even more powerful than the miracle of spring.  It is especially abundant in the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.

Have you been to confession?  When you go to confession, do you embrace forgiveness as pure gift?  Often, people will say, “I know that God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself.”  But that is a sneaky form of prideGod’s job is to forgive.  Our job is to receive forgiveness.  So when we start to decide whether or not we are eligible for forgiveness, then we are making ourselves bigger than God.  We’re doing God’s job.  It is a form of pride.

Our stance before God is to receive grace like children receive gifts from their parents.  Jesus said, “Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).  This was so confusing for the Pharisees.  For them, to experience the kingdom of God, you had to be old enough to read the Torah and keep the commandments.  But Jesus says, “Nope.  It’s pure gift.  Unless you accept it like a little child, you will never enter into the Father’s mercy.” 

“By grace you have been saved through faith.”  All that you have to do is believe it and accept it as a gift.  “It is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” 

 Pope Francis is a strong witness of how God loves us so freely. He keeps focusing us on God’s mercy.  In his first Angelus address, Pope Francis said, “It is not God who tires of forgiving man, but we who tire of asking for forgiveness.  Let us never tire, let us never tire!  He is the loving Father, who always forgives, who has that heart of mercy for all of us.”

Several years ago, a young man in his twenties told me that he had been angry with both parents for his entire life.  His mother spent much of her time drinking and partying.  His dad was absent for most of his life.  Yet, he decided to tell his mom “I forgive you, and I love you.”  He said, “I felt my soul for the first time in years.  I felt so good inside.”

By the grace of forgiveness, he went from the cold dark winter of sin into the bright warm light of spring.  He found the grace to say I forgive you because he had worked on his relationship with God.  He went to Mass every Sunday.  He came to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  He was active in leading youth retreats.

Finally, his relationship with God matured enough for him to forgive.  He experienced a new springtime in his spiritual life.  He was amazed by the gift of new life.  The only work that we have to do is to open ourselves to grace.

Let the Father’s love re-create you this Lent.  St. Paul says, “We are his  handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works God has prepared in advance” (Eph. 2:10).  When that young man let God re-create his heart with the gift of MERCY, then he could do the good work of forgiving his mother.

Take time to marvel at the miracle of Spring while new life is poured out as pure gift from God.  Sit in quiet by yourself in nature.  If you are a farmer or rancher, take ten minutes just to be quiet and take in the beauty of spring.

Then realize that God wants you to have a spiritual springtime.  Marvel at the miracle of new life given to you this Lent.  Pray the Stations of the Cross or go to confession, and receive the Life flowing from the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).  That gift is renewed at every Eucharist.  Let it refresh you.  Receive it as pure gift.  Let God re-create you in Christ Jesus for the good works of God.

Conscience Protection Act

Conscience Protection Act

Congress is considering whether to include the Conscience Protection Act in must-pass government funding legislation.  A decision will be made prior to March 23, 2018.

Currently, nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether. Churches and pro-life Americans are being forced to provide coverage for elective abortions—including late-term abortions—in their health care plans.

This situation would be remedied by enacting the Conscience Protection Act.  I encourage you to pray and to act by emailing and calling Congress in the coming week, especially on Monday, March 12.  Please tell them that enacting the Conscience Protection Act is urgently needed to protect Americans from being forced to violate their deeply held convictions about respect for human life.

Members of Congress can be reached by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected with your representative or senator.