Category: Sermon

Believe! ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Last week, during the Mass of Easter Sunday, we learned that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb where Jesus was buried and found it empty. She went and told Simon Peter and John and returned with them to the tomb. After they left, she stayed behind weeping. She looked again into the tomb and saw two angels who asked her why she was weeping. “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they laid him. Then, seeing a person whom she thought was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”

“Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

“Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene tells the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” and what he told her.

What was their reaction?

They went into a room and locked the door!

Mary was the first person to proclaim the resurrection and she was not believed, even by those who had been told by Jesus what would happen in these times.

What’s with us? Why do we need proof? Why do we always need proof?

Now in this week’s Gospel, Jesus himself comes into the room where the disciples were cowering and says, “Peace be with you” and shows them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced. Jesus makes no mention that we know of about their fear and hiding, but instead breaths the Holy Spirit upon them and exhorts them to their mission as ministers of the Word. In John’s Gospel, this is all quite matter of fact.

So let me ask you, did they all believe at that time? We know that Thomas didn’t since he wasn’t present on that day and since he was a no-nonsense and fatalistic kind of guy anyway. (Remember when Jesus was going to Judea to raise Lazarus, Thomas says “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”) But what about the others? Don’t we all know some people, who, when presented with the facts, say, “Well, maybe it’s true, but probably not…” I’m thinking specifically about some people and current scientific knowledge.

But back to the disciples…my guess is that it took Thomas to challenge the Lord, the physical Lord, to come and show him his wounds for some of those disciples to come around. “Show it to me in black and white!” How many of us base our beliefs on evidence, like these disciples?

And here is Thomas. This is a comforting person, in my mind. You always know where you stand with him. In the Gospels, he’s always jumping right in and telling you what he thinks. No beating about the bush.

Proof? I’ll give you proof!

And then he believes. Remember that movie that had the line “show me the money!”? That’s Thomas. And unlike those of us, myself included, who hang back, once he is shown the money, he’s off and running. What a gift that must be, to have all your doubts cast aside and then immediately to go out and get on with the job.

So let me ask you about Mary Magdalene. All she has to hear is Jesus speak her name and she knows what’s up. She proclaims the faith, the risen Lord, and does so fearlessly. In the Gospels, she is mentioned more than many of the Apostles. She was a person of some means, since we are told she is one of the women to provide for Jesus and his disciples.  And unlike Thomas, she doesn’t demand anything. She simply sees, believes, and acts.

Why isn’t she one of the bigger names in the Bible? Why isn’t she one of the leaders?

Let’s go back to today’s second reading where Peter is proclaiming the new faith. He is talking about Mary Magdalene. Simple, committed, rejoicing, willing to accept trials, and rejoicing with an indescribable and glorious joy.

And the Responsorial Psalm. Mary has recognized Jesus from the beginning as the cornerstone.

And the first reading from Acts. Who provided all the meals and needs of the Apostles and disciples from the beginning, to the time when they set out to preach the good news? Mary Magdalene.

Thomas and Mary Magdalene.

Which one are we imitating? Which one do we resemble? Is it one or the other? Or is it both? Or neither?

I’ll be glad to have either’s way of thinking, because it is plain to see. Plain both before we believe, and plain after we believe. It is a direction. There’s no middle ground.

As someone once told me, being a Dominican Friar is not a matter of taking it up when you think about it. It’s not a matter of study during the week. It’s not a matter of prayer or meditation. It’s everything you do. There’s no time off.

And I believe that person was telling me that to be a Christian, to believe in the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, you must live it every moment. Not in big ways, not in momentous acts, not in fiery exhortations, not in anything that looks like some big deal. Just in the simple day to day experience of knowing that we are attaining the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

We are true brothers and sisters of Jesus who will go with him to his Father and to our Father. And as brothers and sisters today, we say “Rabbouni!”

Lord, teach us today the simple pleasure of membership in your family. Teach us the true meaning of your death, burial, and resurrection. And make us worthy of the coming of the Paraclete so that we may also be comforters to our earthly brothers and sisters.

Amen.

Easter Sunday – A Celebration of Renewal! Br. Michael Marshall, Novice

First Reading – Acts 10:43A, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

 Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 5:6B-8

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Sequence — Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

Gospel – Matthew28:1-10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

What is Easter all about?  Yes, it is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus after the gory death on the Cross… BUT what is it COMPLETELY all about?  In the secular world, it is a day of the Easter Bunny bringing a basket of goodies and egg hunts; which these things relate to other things taking place around the time of Easter.  Think about how Easter takes place in spring, and various plants are beginning to bloom after a long winter; as well as many animals come out of hibernation, and some produce more offspring.  It is a day of renewal or rebirth.  Some people may see the day of rebirth as a coincidence or scientific thing because the celebration occurs on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox; therefore presenting the case that it obviously is a time of things returning back to life.  Essentially all of these things of the secular world are on target with what Easter is REALLY all about.  I mentioned that it is a day of renewal or rebirth, BUT the Resurrection is a celebration of spiritual renewal to preach God’s love!

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus preaches about His death and resurrection as being a new beginning, because He tells his followers and the religious leaders many times that the “temple” will be rebuilt three days after it has been destroyed.  In the Gospel passage from Matthew for today, we see that Jesus speaks with Mary and Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection, and instructs them to tell the others that He will soon meet them in Galilee.  Which then this leads us to the passage from First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Peter instructs the apostles and other followers of Jesus as to what they have been called to do.  Peter says, “He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.  To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”  Instead of the Resurrection being a “The End” to the ministry of Jesus, it essentially became a renewal because it was now the mission of the apostles to continue the preaching of God’s love.

We see in the Second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians that Paul is also preaching about renewal and a fresh start through the image of yeast eventually losing the ability to make dough rise, therefore old yeast has to be replaced with new yeast.  He is instructing the Corinthian community that in order to continue to do ministry within the community, a spiritual renewal is necessary.

So, just as Paul is instructing the Corinthians that renewal is necessary, we need to remind ourselves that Easter is a celebration of renewal for us today.  We can look at the children enjoying themselves while hunting for eggs and appreciate the plants that have come back to life, but we need to remember that this is a time to renew our spirituality in order to spread the message of Jesus Christ.  Everybody needs some renewal in their life… nobody is exempt!  Easter is this celebration and reminder to help us grow!

Now unfortunately, recent tragic events have taken place around the world.  People are being killed by government leaders in the Middle East, Christians are being persecuted and killed for senseless reasons, and unfortunate military action has become the response to these tragic events.  The whole point of Easter is missing from this picture! All of this conflict and persecution are the complete opposite of God’s love.  Therefore we need to take the opportunity of renewal and be like Peter; recognizing that we have been commissioned to preach God’s love, with the hope that God’s love will prevail over conflict.  It is not an easy task, but one which needs done!

Heavenly Father, as we celebrate the Resurrection, may we be reminded that it is a celebration of spiritual renewal in order for us to spread the Gospel; which is the message of Your love.  This we ask through Christ, Our Lord.  Amen.

Hell, Vigils, and Lullabys ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Holy Saturday. Sabbatum Sanctum. The day after Good Friday and the day before Easter.

As children, we were taught that on this day, Jesus went down to Hell. It is in the Creed as “He descended into Hell.” As a child myself, this day was one of sadness, fear, and anticipation.

In Sunday School (where we who did not attend a parochial school were forced to go), the nuns depicted this day to us as the time during which Jesus freed all the righteous people who had lived before his time from bondage in darkness and distance from God. We were told that everyone from Adam and Eve was unable to enter heaven because Jesus had not opened it for them.

You can imagine what went through my mind thinking about this day. The nuns in my parish did not always do a good job of explaining what was going on this day and how it affected people in hell. So we kids made up lots of interesting stories. I always thought back to the hymns that sang about our longing for Christ to save us from our sins and the “sins of the world.”

Still, what were those people doing in hell before Jesus came to free them? We were assured that they did not suffer the same fate as sinners, who were tormented by the devil and the fires of hell. Eternal hellfire. That was a pretty scary concept.

It was only later as a youth that I found out about the “harrowing of hell.” Growing up in rural Maryland, I knew what a harrow was. To me, it was always a disc harrow, a bunch of metal discs in a row used to break up clods of dirt after ploughing. And so Jesus used this instrument to open up the soil of hell to let the dead ascend, finally, into heaven. Of course, this was always done in a dark, murky atmosphere suitable to that part of hell that wasn’t on fire.

Holy Saturday…that was quite a fearsome day!

Back then, in the 1950’s, we either didn’t have Easter Vigil as we do today, or my parents never took us to it. Easter Sunday was always THE day for us and Mass was always THE most important ceremony of the year. So from Good Friday to Easter Sunday was a time of agitation.

Of course, the agitation and anticipation was all about the Easter Baskets with colored hard-boiled eggs, candy, and especially jelly beans. And the fact that the solemnity of Lent was at last gone, and maybe the nuns would let up on us…

What must have been going through the minds of the Apostles and the women disciples? I never heard this discussed growing up, but in my adult life, it became one of the things I thought about on Holy Saturday. We know it as anticipation. They experienced it as the utter destruction of their whole world.

Their Teacher was tortured and died a horrible death on a cross. Now what?

For all of the Apostles but John, there must have been intense shame. They had all deserted their Teacher and his mother and had gone into hiding. Imagine their feelings on this day.

What we know today was all taught to them, so there should have been no surprise. But we can say that from the distance of two millennia and the evidence of the empty tomb. This group of grieving souls had none of that.

“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

Written many years after Holy Saturday.

Now what?

Although all of this was presented to them by Jesus, they really didn’t know what was happening.

They weren’t anticipating Easter eggs, baskets, jelly beans, the solemn joy of the Easter Sunday Mass.

They were deserted, bereft, scared, ashamed, and deeply sorrowful.

We get some or all of these feelings at times of crisis in our own lives. I’ve had them during and after a crisis, and believe me, the sinking feeling in my stomach is quite real and quite frightening.

But wait. We were told the Gospel stories so that we might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. The disciples thought they had nothing. We have the Word. They had despair. We have triumphant anticipation.

It’s probably a good thing we were never taken to the Vigil. I can’t imagine I’d have done well sitting through all those readings.  Seven readings, six psalms, an Epistle, the Gospel…it just goes on forever, doesn’t it?

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.”

Now I know that the Vigil is actually the most calming lullaby God could ever sing to me. It tells our whole story, from the beginning of time to the Resurrection. Everyone is created, everyone goes through bad times, everyone sees glimmers of hope, everyone in some way gets through the troubles, everyone can pray these words from one of those psalms:

O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!

You are clothed with majesty and glory,

robed in light as with a cloak.

Because we know that while now we may shed tears, dawn will bring incomparable gladness.

We have Holy Saturday to teach us how to live through all our times of despair and fear. We have salvation history in all those readings, we have the stories of a small group of terrified disciples who on Sunday will experience that incomparable gladness. We have the anticipation we remember as children and the delight we see in our own children’s eyes on Sunday. And we have the words of John, the disciple who stayed with his Teacher through all the horror and who was told to care for the Blessed Mother:

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

We have come through the dark nights of our souls and we will be able, finally to say Alleluia.

Lord, help us to remember that your son suffered, died, and was buried for our sakes. Help us to remember that even as we face crisis and trouble, the next day will bring incomparable gladness if we trust in you. Help us to remember that Easter comes after Holy Saturday.

Amen.

 

He Died! The Great Redeemer Died ~ Br. Brenden Humberdross

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion 2017 Reading: John 18:1 – 19:42

The Great Redeemer Died!

He died; the great Redeemer died,
And Israel’s daughters wept around;
A solemn darkness veiled the sky,
A sudden trembling shook the ground.

 Come, saints, and drop a tear or two
For him who groaned beneath your load;
He shed a thousand drops for you,
A thousand drops of precious blood.

 Here’s love and grief beyond degree,
The Lord of glory died for men:

                                                                                (Isaac Watts)

Today, we stand at the centre of the holiest week in the Christian calendar, and of the most important event in human history. Today we remember not only the death of the man Jesus, not only humankind’s rejection of God, but of the opening of the way for all of humanity to a full relationship with God.

In less than 24 hours we have seen Jesus betrayed by one of his closest followers, interrogated, beaten and humiliated, and finally brutally murdered upon the cross of Calvary. At this point, the disciples would have been despairing; their master, who had seemed to promise so much, was gone. What were they to think of his message? Was he really the messiah or were they wrong? I’m sure that doubt and fear would have been at the forefront of their minds as they grieved for their spiritual leader. However, for us, with the hindsight that distance brings these events take on a different meaning. We should be able to see in the events of Good Friday a different message, not one of despair and fear, but one of hope.

On Thursday night, Jesus left the relative security of the Upper Room where the Eucharist had been instituted and went to the Garden of Gethsemane. The gospel reading today makes it clear to us that Judas, the betrayer, was well aware that this was a place that Jesus and His followers frequented, so why go there? This action is the start of a number of signs in today’s reading that point out for the keen observer that Jesus was totally in control of the events surrounding His passion.

Jesus knew very well that Judas would be able to find him and yet still went to the Garden. When the betrayer and the soldiers appeared Jesus didn’t run, He stood his ground. When approached He asked the mob who they were looking for, to which they responded “Jesus the Nazarene”; and it’s here that we see the first miracle of the Passion. Jesus responded with the words “I AM”. These words were so powerful that they caused the mob to turn away and fall to the ground; but why? Jesus was revealing to the mob, to His disciples and to us his true identity; I AM is the very name of God! When God appeared in the Burning Bush to talk to Moses what name did he give? I AM…Jesus was revealing through the power of His name that he was the Lord God and that no matter what was to follow we shouldn’t fear, but have confidence that all was in His control.

When the mob had recovered Jesus handed himself over to them and it was at this point that Peter leapt to his aide and cut off the ear of the servant; was Peter arrested with Jesus? Surely he should have been for such a violent crime? However, we know that he wasn’t; why? The answer is simple, the Lord of the Passion didn’t allow it. Before handing himself over Jesus said to the soldiers, “…so if you are looking for me, let these men go”; and instead of ignoring the “Nazarene criminal” the soldiers obeyed; the Lord of the Passion exerted His will to control the events.

If the Apostles and Disciples were able to see these events through our eyes their attitude towards what followed may have been totally different. Instead of seeing the acts of brutality performed against their friend, their Master, and their Messiah degrading Him and diminishing Him they may have been able to rest in the knowledge that Jesus has revealed himself as the Great I Am. They may have been able to stand firm knowing that He was in control of events and was truly Lord of all that was happening. They may have even had the foresight that in some way, the Messiah would overcome whatever seemingly earth shattering events were overtaking them.

And thus it should be for us; we should mourn, we should feel grief at the rejection of the Saviour of the whole human family however, we should also rest firm in the knowledge that Jesus is the Lord of the Passion and it is all part of the great plan for the redemption of humanity.

 

Maundy Thursday and Miracles ~ The Rev. Dcn Brett Whetstone

 

 

 I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Maundy Thursday is perhaps the worst day in church history. In fact it is probably the worst day in the history of all humanity. Maundy Thursday is the day that the embodiment of Gods perfect  love came to us in the person of Jesus and we rejected him. It was on that last night that there was no hope left for Jesus. One of his best friends had just betrayed him for money, and another was about to deny him three times, and all the rest of his disciples would run away in fear for their lives. It was in a moment of hopelessness, that Jesus gave us a sign of hope , when he said “this is my body and I give it to you”. He was letting us know it would be ok, that he had a plan.

In the establishment of the Eucharist Jesus gave the church many things, but the most important thing he gave was the assurance that God had a plan.

I was listening to a sermon that was given by one of my favorite authors, a Roman Catholic Dominican Priest from England, and he was talking about this very moment in church history, and he asked the question: ” have you ever thought how odd it is, that every Sunday we gather to remember the moment that the community ran away, when they were dispersed?” He continued on to say that, “we gather in hope to remember the worst moment, because it is when it is darkest that God comes to us” or to rephrase that I like to say that it is when it is darkest that God comes to us and we start to see his plan.

Several years ago a friend of mine posted a cryptic post on Facebook. She and I had gone to Bible school together and had reconnected online. In her post she simply said, “If you pray I need you to pray.” So that evening I spent some time praying for her, and the next morning I woke up and checked Facebook as I do every morning and saw her post, she said that her husband’s cancer had returned and that it was going to take a miracle for him to make it. Several months later, at the age of 32 her husband had passed away.

So here is my friend, she and her husband fellow ministers doing exactly what God wants them to do and tragedy strikes. Where is God’s plan in all of this? That’s the question that I was asking, but not her. She said despite this being painful, and despite her feelings of sadness and anger, she knew that God had a plan, and she wanted everyone else to know this as well.

Time went on, as if does in these situations and I happened across another Facebook post from her several months later. This one caught me off guard. She had just announced that she was pregnant.

She had explained that they had trouble conceiving their first child and they sought out help from a fertility specialist. In doing so the specialist had fertilized several eggs, and as luck would have it the first egg was all they needed to have for a healthy pregnancy. Because they went to a Christian hospital for the procedure, the hospital froze he remaining fertilized eggs in case they needed them again in the future. Well the future arrived, and even though her husband had passed away she moved forward with getting pregnant again, because he wanted her too, and he time was right. She got pregnant and experienced a normal pregnancy.

After nine long pregnancy months, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Baby and mom were healthy and sent home from the hospital and to a brother who was anxiously awaiting their arrival. But then after three shot days of being at home, the unthinkable happened. My friend’s newborn daughter spiked a high fever, and no amount of medicine was brining it down. They rushed to the emergency room, where dozens of tests were run. Then the news came. My friend’s daughter had somehow contracted meningitis. Her daughter was hooked up to breathing machines and all sorts of monitors. She was not expected to make it.

So there sat my friend who had just lost her husband a short time ago, about to lose her daughter. She was desperate and didn’t know what to do. Then faced with the decision that no parent should have to face, she made the decision to take her daughter off of the ventilator. She didn’t want to see her baby suffer any longer.

She removed her daughter from the ventilator and held her close to her, cuddling her, crying and praying.  Then the unthinkable….the unexplainable happened. Her daughter, who just moments ago was not able to breath on her own took a breath. Then another, and another and then minutes turned into hours and hours turned into days. The miracle that she had prayed for was happening right before her eyes.

Through all of this she never lost hope, she pressed on knowing that no matter what, God had a plan, and that He was going to see her through it., and He did.

I believe that God had his hand in all of this, the entire time he was there with her giving her the strength that she needed to make it through the loss of her husband, and the near loss of her daughter, and now you can see the fruits of that plan, because she travels all over the country talking to groups large and small about grief and trusting in Gods plan. She has been interviewed by people magazine and has a best selling book. So when Jesus said those words 2000 years ago this is my body and I give it to you, it was Him letting us know that he had a plan, it was Him letting us know that He has us covered and that no matter what happens he will see us through it.

 

Let us pray:

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he
suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood:
Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in
remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy
mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

Salvation on a Donkey ~ The Rev. Dcn. Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

Today is Palm Sunday……but what does that really mean? Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, and as told in Matthew 21:1-11, commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified.

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” “

Palm Sunday is known as such because the faithful will often receive palm fronds which they use to participate in the reenactment of Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey, and to the lavish praise of the townspeople who threw clothes, or possibly palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage. This was a customary practice for people of great respect. Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday.

So here we have Jesus, basically riding to His death, not in a carriage, or on a magnificent horse, but on an humble donkey. But this serves to remind us that even though He is the Son, our Savior, He chooses to come to us where we are, as a humble servant for His people. The use of a donkey instead of a horse is also highly symbolic, it represents the humble arrival of someone in peace, as opposed to arriving on a steed in war. A week later, Christ would rise from the dead on the first Easter.

During Palm Sunday Mass, palms are distributed to parishioners who carry them in a ritual procession into church. The palms are blessed and many people will fashion them into small crosses or other items of personal devotion. These may be returned to the church, or kept for the year. Because the palms are blessed, they may not be discarded as trash. Instead, they are appropriately gathered at the church and incinerated to create the ashes that will be used in the follow year’s Ash Wednesday observance. The colors of the Mass on Palm Sunday are red and white, symbolizing the redemption in blood that Christ paid for the world.

I love the picture represented in Matthew. Everyone around are taking off their coats, and laying it in front of Jesus, as He rides in on the donkey. Even those too poor to have a fine coat, gather branches or palms off the trees, to lay at Jesus” feet. This reminds me of a fairy tale prince, who discards his cloak, covering a puddle so the dainty princess may cross without getting her feet wet. Yet in Matthew, the people are clearly showing their support, and adoration, for the Lord, Jesus Christ. I wonder how many of them knew what was to happen just a few days later. But Jesus knew, and yet He didn’t enter the city under cover of darkness. He rode in on a donkey, an humble symbol of peace.

Palm Sunday Prayer:

Almighty God,

On this day, your Son Jesus Christ entered the holy city of Jerusalem and was proclaimed King by those who spread garments and palm branches along His way. Let those branches be for us signs of His victory, and grant that we who bear them in His name may ever hail Him as our Lord, and follow Him in the way that leads to eternal life.

In Jesus’ Name We Pray,

Amen.

Where’s the Proof? ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Jesus wept.

He was human, after all. We can presume he laughed too, can’t we? He loved to have children around him, and they wouldn’t come to him if he were always glum. And casting out beams from our eyes to me is certainly humorous in a sardonic way.

And he “groaned within” or “groaned in the spirit” so we know he was capable of deep emotion.

But when we think of Jesus, we are guided by Isaiah—“he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Fasting, marathon praying, casting out evil spirits, admonishing his followers and others… we know this was a serious guy.

And we can presume he had one thing on his mind: our salvation. This man of sorrows wanted us to be joyful.

But in today’s readings and Gospel, we come up against a real stumbling block, one that dogs us even to this day. Our unbelief.

In fact, that’s a theme throughout the New Testament. Our unbelief.

“OK, you say all these things can happen. Give me some proof!” We doubt everything. We fear to trust. We cower in uncertainty, just as almost everyone in the Bible does at one time or another.

Jesus wept. He wept for his dead friend Lazarus. He wept for the unbelievers. He wept for the believers who would become backsliders. He wept for the condition of humankind then, before, and now.

“Give me proof.”

It is sad, isn’t it? We all need reassurance, proof, pats on the back.

What Jesus gave as proof was what we call miracles. He raised Lazarus from the dead. He turned water into wine. He cured lepers. He made the blind see. He cast out devils.

This is how he taught his followers and his doubters.

And in a few weeks, we will hear from the pulpit that when he showed himself to thousands after his death, they became believers too.

Why do we need these proofs? We certainly don’t get them today. We don’t see people raised from the dead. We don’t see the blind made to see. We don’t…we don’t…or do we?

What is a miracle? The Bible gives us healings, serpents, transfigurations, resurrections. But that was thousands of years ago. What do we have today?

Do you need to see your dead brother brought to life? Do you think it’s even possible? Do you need to see the cancer sufferer cured? Do you think it’s even possible? Do you need to see your life turned around? Do you think it’s even possible?

Let me tell you for a minute one of my own “miraculous” experiences. Eight years ago my son called me and told me that the sonographer could not detect a heartbeat in the baby in his wife’s womb. He was distraught. His wife was distraught. My wife and I were distraught. But Mike did tell me that the doctor wanted to wait a week and have the sonogram taken again.

That was a bad week. What did I do? Yes, I worried. Yes, I was distraught too. But then I thought, “I’ll pray to my mother in heaven and see if she can help.” Let me tell you now that I think my mother is truly a saint in heaven. And since I firmly believe in the communion of saints, I got right on the prayer train to her. Our Fathers, Hail Marys, Rosaries, lots of made up prayers and supplications.

Of course I included Jesus and Mary in the prayers, figuring I should go direct as well.

And the next week…they heard a heartbeat.

Do I know if this was a miracle? I have no idea…that is, I have no proof. But to me, that was a miracle and proof of God’s continuing presence in our lives.

Now I have quite a few friends who take all this as malarkey, and figuratively pat me on the head and say, “whatever makes you happy.” You know the comments. But even in my own doubt (Lord I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.) I figured that this was a true miracle and my mother had one in the win column. But you know it takes two miracles to make a saint, so a year later, there was a similar event that needed divine intervention. Down to the station, back on the prayer train, and more supplications to Jesus, Mary, and Doris, my mother.

Sure enough, another miracle, my sister recovered. Doris has had several more miracles over the years. Maybe I should call the Vatican…

But back to the sermon, the First and Second Readings and the Gospel are talking about life and death, and coming back to life and being alive in the spirit. These are our wishes. In fact, this is what we all hope will happen after we die. We believe there is no end, but a continuation in another realm.

However, let me call your attention back to Psalm 130 from this morning.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleading.

If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
for this we revere you.

My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak.
Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord…

Here the psalmist is not asking for proof, miracles, signs. He knows that God will forgive us and he counts on the Lord. That’s the essence for today. We can ask for, we can rely on miracles, but if the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, do we need those signs?

I love them, actually. I firmly believe I have experienced miracles, but I also know that God speaks to us without signs and symbols. So the miracles for me are a comfort. But the daily comfort is there, if only I ask.

Amen.

Lord as you show us your miracles every day, hear us as we pray, Lord, we believe. Help thou our unbelief.