Divine Mercy Sunday

On April 22nd, I had the great experience of being the celebrant for the “Grand Reunion” Mass at the high school that I attended many decades ago. It was a truly inspiring gathering because the venue for the Mass was filled with former students and classmates and it was a great day to rejoice not only in the Paschal Mystery, but also in the Divine Mercy Sunday devotions with the fellowship and fraternity of former students and colleagues.

The Gospel really hit home. The “doubting Thomas” Gospel was the one for the day and the filled chapel left no doubt in my mind that the lessons learned many years ago from our teachers in high school still had a great impact on our religious practices and beliefs. Those present were certainly those “blessed who have not seen yet believe” and the participation and singing in the Mass really inspired me and encouraged me in my vocation as a religious priest.

I mentioned this to one of my classmates after the Mass, and he suggested that not only the sound teaching that we experienced in high school but also the example of our teachers had such a positive impact on us that spirituality had become a constitutive element of our makeup. I was so humbled to hear him speak this way and then when I began to think about it and remembered both the teaching and example of so many of our teachers, I realized how full of truth my classmate’s remark was to me.

I was honored to be singled out to celebrate the Eucharist at the gathering and it made me stop and give a special thanks to God for my vocation just as the impact of the reunion made so many of those present to stop and give thanks for their respective vocations in the ministry of proclaiming the Paschal Mystery and Divine Mercy in their respective lifestyles. It was a great time to rejoice in fellowship and particularly so by beginning with the celebration of the Eucharist…..all of those who are blessed who believe even if they have not really seen, but have experienced the Divine Mercy in their lives.

Come, Holy Spirit

Last week, I had the opportunity to concelebrate the liturgy for the celebration of the sacrament of Confirmation.  A family member had a son who was being confirmed and I was invited to be a concelebrant at the Mass.  At first, I wondered how I was going to “fit” this celebration into a crowded calendar, but after some maneuvering, I managed to find the time needed for this momentous Christian initiation liturgy.

I was a very inspirational event for me, perhaps one intended for me by the Lord as this time during the Lenten season.  As I sat in the sanctuary and looked out at the faces of those being confirmed, I was touched by the integrity and devotion of the young adults being confirmed.  There was no lack of “being totally involved” in this Kairos moment in their lives.  The enthusiasm with which they “dialogued” with the Bishop and the solemnity with which they approached the bishop to be confirmed, inspired my own commitment to the Lord’s service and gave me great hope for the future of the Christian community.

I was reminded of St. Augustine’s famous quote about “our hearts are made for You, O Lord, and they will not rest until they rest in You”.  The Confirmandi exhibited a vitality in their expression of their faith commitment that touched my heart and my soul.  It stirred my heart as I watched them receive the Holy Spirit into their hearts in the very sacramental grace of the moment.  I was renewed and recalled to mind that invocation of the Holy Spirit where we pray, invoking the Spirit to come and renew the face of the earth.  Certainly, the change that I saw on the faces of the children confirmed, “confirmed” in me the special presence of the Spirit at that moment and inspired me to invite the Spirit into my heart that afternoon in a special way that renewed my own heart and soul. I was very thankful for the grace to be part of this very special afternoon Confirmation liturgy.

Untie him and set him free

“Untie him and set him free”.  These words from John’s Gospel on the raising of Lazarus from the dead have always struck me with a poignancy that truly affects my heart.  More than just the physical removal of the bandages from the now “brought back to life” Lazarus, the passage has always impressed on me a meaning for Lent that we as Christians and particularly, myself as a consecrated religious, should take note of in our Lenten times of contemplation.

Jesus restores Lazarus to life and his first words to the those is the crowd is to untie the bonds of death that still bind Lazarus to the land of the dead.  This too, I find, is the message that Jesus is giving me during this Lenten season.  I am being given the chance by Jesus to be “untied” from all of the bindings that keep me in the darkness of “death”.  Jesus calls me to come forth from my tomb of isolation and despair into the brightness of a new life in Jesus. Jesus gives us life and frees us from those things that bind us down…resentments, anger, envy, jealousy and complacency.

My call to religious life is one way for me to cut the ties that bind me to the bands of sin. I can through Lenten reflection and penitence give my life to Jesus in a way that frees me to live a life of love and joy. I can be brought back to life and live of life of service and commitment to God’s ways and not my own self-centeredness – a life that leads from the tomb to a new birth in the womb of a Christian community of Norbertines who will continually call me forth, untie me and set me free to proclaim God’s love and joy to the world.  May reflection on this reading do the same for you.