Reflections from the Shrine ...
Sunday In The Octave of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday April 8, 2018
LET US BE MERCIFUL TO ONE ANOTHER AS THE LORD HAS FIRST BEEN MERCIFUL TO US
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. It was a decision made by Saint John Paul II that determined the second Sunday after Easter to be designated as Divine Mercy Sunday. He did this out of respect for Sister Maria Faustina who had visions of Jesus that stressed his mercy and his boundless forgiveness of the sins of his people. The painting in our chapel reflects this vision. We see Jesus pictured with the rays of light coming from his heart - a red glow and a white glow. We associate the red with the Sacrament of the Eucharist where Jesus shed his blood on the cross for us. The white color represents the Sacrament of Baptism when we received the life of God, the Holy Spirit, in our hearts, our souls, our whole being.
All the readings from Scripture today beautifully portray the mercy of Jesus. In the Gospel we have Jesus instituting the Sacrament of his mercy, the Sacrament of Confession: "he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." It is like when God breathed into the clay in the Book of Genesis to create Adam.
The mercy of God is his greatest attribute. Part of the Great Commandment is to love one another as Jesus has first loved us. The extraordinary expectation of Jesus is that we have the same mercy with one another as he has first shown compassion toward us.
The words of Jesus to forgive one another their sins is not just for priests or seminarians in preparation on the way to priesthood. It is meant for each of us, to forgive one another as Jesus has first forgiven us. As the reading from the Acts of the Apostles states, we need to be a community of believers "…….of one heart and mind," in the mind and heart of Jesus himself. That means forgiving the wrongs of our own family members, our neighbors, or even perfect strangers we may encounter while driving or shopping at the local store.
Not once, but three times in today's Gospel, Jesus says: "Peace be with you." Those four words can be so powerful as we exchange them each time we participate at Mass at the Sign of Peace. It is a peace much deeper than the absence of war. It finds its roots in doing the Father's will that describes the core of Jesus' life and ministry. That is why Jesus can say so confidently to each of us: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." So on this Divine Mercy Sunday we have our mission: to be merciful to one another as Jesus has been merciful to us, trusting in the truly awesome love and forgiveness that God first offers to each one of us.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
JESUS KNEW THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH HE CAME. DO WE?
Why are you here? I know you are here to come to Mass. As a good Catholic, you want to participate at Mass. It is part of your obligation as a Catholic. But I am asking a bigger question. Why are you here in this world? For what reason are you alive and still kicking?
Do not say it is to watch the super bowl with the Patriots this Sunday. Perhaps that will bring some excitement and enjoyment sharing the game with family and friends. Really - what is the purpose of your existence? Why do you have a place in this sometimes confusing but still beautiful world? It is a fundamental question we all need to answer.
Jesus has a clear answer to that question in today's Gospel. When Simon and some of his fellow disciples go out looking for Jesus early in the morning to bring him back to their village, he has a clear response. "He told them, 'Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come." He had success healing and preaching in one village. The people loved him and probably wanted him to stay. But no, it was time to go, to move on to other places that needed his compassion and powerful preaching.
As one commentary says: "His ministry is not to restore bodies to health but to restore spirits to wholeness." Simon's mother-in-law is a good example. He healed her of her fever. However the Scripture continues: "Then the fever left her and she waited on them." Jesus attended to her physical illness but also restored her desire and energy to get up and serve the people in the house of her son-in-law Simon.
We read of the enthusiasm of Saint Paul in his letter to the Corinthians to be busy about preaching to a whole variety of people, both weak and strong: "To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it."
So I return to that important question: Why are you here? Perhaps you are not called to preach as a priest from the pulpit with a microphone. But as Followers as Jesus are we not all called to preach the Good News by the example of our lives? That is true - as parents, teachers, truck drivers, construction workers, students - no matter what is our vocation. Underneath it all, that is our purpose in life.
Perhaps, especially as Lent approaches we too, like Jesus, need to get away to "a deserted place" to think and pray about that question. Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?
As Lent quickly approaches, I plan on offering a Scripture reflection again, on the Mass readings, on Tuesday mornings in the cafeteria from 10 AM to 11:30AM with a coffee and snack included. If you would like to be part of it, mark your calendars and plan to attend. It will begin on the morning of February 27th and end on March 27th.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
OUR LORD JESUS IS THE REAL DEAL AND HE CALLS US TO LIVE IN A SIMILAR MANNER
A few weeks ago, on January 15th, we celebrated the memory of Martin Luther King. When he stood up to speak, whether it was at the Lincoln Memorial where he gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech or a Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, people were quiet and listened. That was because he spoke with authority; he practiced what he preached; as Alcoholics Anonymous says: "He did not just talk the talk, but he walked the walk."
In the opening lines of today's Gospel we read: "The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes." What was the difference between Jesus and the Scribes? They knew the Scriptures in their minds and they could preach about it with clarity. But often they said one thing and practiced another. There was division between their words and their actions.
But not with Jesus. Even in the synagogue, a place of prayer, there was a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus healed him with his brief but powerful words: "Quiet! Come out of him." In this way Jesus showed the compassion of God, in both Word and deed.
Again on the question of the great authority of Jesus, we read: "All were amazed and asked one another, what is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."
That is because Jesus is the real deal. There is nothing false or duplicitous about him. He practices what he preaches and preaches what he practices. That is true where ever he is, whether in the Synagogue in Capernaum or on the hillside multiplying loaves of bread for the people to have their strength with food for the journey home. It is also with all types of people, be it his own disciples or the poor, the lame, and the blind.
Jesus gives us the tremendous challenge to live with the same "authority" in our lives. As Christians we need to ask Jesus to heal the "unclean spirit" in our own lives - the jealousy, the resentments, the pride - that can so easily separate us not only from God but also from the people that are important to us. Then as the healing continues to take place in our own lives by God's grace, we are better able to be messengers of healing to the wounded people that God sends into our lives. The refrain in today's readings from Psalm 95 says it so well: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
Just a reminder - the beginning of Lent is just a few weeks away. How are you going to use this special time of penance, prayer and alms giving to grow deeper in your relationship with God and with others?
Father John Sullivan M.S.