Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ascension Sunday

Each year, Holy Mother Church commands her pastors to bless a large candle at the Easter Vigil. This candle is then processed through the Church and placed in the sanctuary, where it burns at each Mass of Eastertide until today.  This Paschal candle is meant to be the symbol of the resurrected Christ, who is the Light of the World banishing the darkness of sin. This candle reminds us that He who once was dead lives once more and does not rest in the tomb, but remains close to His apostles, showing them His sacred wounds and further instructing them on the mission that He has given to them. But on this, the feast of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven, Holy Church commands us to extinguish this candle so as to better awaken us to the reality of this feast: the reality that our Lord no longer physically remains on this earth, but has ascended to the right hand of the Father, as we profess in the Creed.
Yet we should not greet this moment with sorrow over our Lord’s Ascension, as if He is leaving us behind or abandoning us. For, on the contrary, the Psalmist tells us that “God ascends in jubilation, and the Lord ascends with the sound of the trumpet” (Ps 46:6). We are called to rejoice on this day, not to be sorrowful. We are to rejoice, for our God and King mounts His throne prepared for Him, to reign over His Kingdom. We are to rejoice, for our High Priest ascends to the altar of Heaven, where He who is ever-living makes a continual intercession for us before God (Hebrews 7:24-25). We are to rejoice, for the Lamb who was slain goes to prepare the wedding feast in which the faithful will be united with Himself at the end of days (Rev. 19:7-9).
We should not be sorrowful that He has left, because this world is not ready for Him to rule. Our Lord now possesses that glorified and incorruptible body which is promised to all on the last day, but this day has not yet come. Our world is still filled with corruption and sin, still remaining dark in many corners of the world, still blind to the true Light which burns without being extinguished. How can He remain here in that state of finality when the world remains incomplete? Our Lord ascends to Heaven so as to remind us that we are not meant for the world as it stands now, but for the glories that await in the world to come.
But whom are these glories meant for, if not for all of humanity? And how will all hear of these glories, if no one preaches them, if no one is sent out to preach? (Rom 10:14-15) This is why the last command given by Christ to His apostles is to “go out into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature”, waiting for the Holy Ghost to come so as to be His witnesses to the utmost parts of the earth (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). This is the mission of the Church, that mission which we must pray for, support, and do in our own lives, just as Jesus commanded His apostles before going to His seat at the right of the Father.

Let us then rejoice at this Mass today, that the Lord has risen on high and taken captivity captive (Ps 67:18). Let us pray to our Lord this day that He may be nearer to us not in His physical presence, but in His real presence in the Eucharist. Let us also pray for the fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost, that we may be strengthened and encouraged to proclaim the Gospel message to every creature. But let us also prepare ourselves for that day when He will return, as the angels promised. Let us be watchful and look to the East in eager expectation of our Lord coming as He left us, so as to subject all beneath His feet and to rule in that eternal Kingdom where all shall be gathered to Himself and share in His glory for ages upon ages.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Easter - 100th Anniversary of Fatima

The place: Europe. The year: 1917. War has plagued the continent for over three years at this point. The ravages of trench warfare, poison gas, machine guns, and tanks never seems to end. But another war is brewing in Russia, where revolution will explode in October, killing the tsar and his family and leading to the rise of godless Communism. Everywhere it seems as if chaos and disorder rule the day. It is in the midst of this most depressing time that something incredible occurs in a small town in Portugal.
Three shepherd children are caring for their families’ flocks in the fields when they see a bright light. When their eyes adjust, they see a lady clothed in white. She asks them to join her in praying the Rosary. After the Rosary, she promises to visit them for four more months. Thus ended the first apparition of our Lady at Fatima in Portugal, which occurred one hundred years ago yesterday. In fact, Pope Francis has been in Fatima to celebrate the centenary of the apparitions, to honor everything that Mary did at Fatima, in particular her message. But what is her message?
Our Lady revealed to the children a few secrets. First, she showed them what hell is really like. The tortures and pain were so tremendous that one of the children remarked later on that the children were so scared by what they saw that only the assurance of Our Lady that she would take them to heaven calmed them down. The Virgin reminded them that this is what awaits sinners who do not repent and turn to Jesus. It is the ultimate fate for those who reject what Jesus declares in the Gospel today: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” There is no other way to follow to get to heaven except the way of Jesus; there is no other truth to believe except the truth that Jesus is Lord and King, victorious in His resurrection from the dead; and there is no life possible except life in Christ, animated by His grace and mercy to be the saints we were meant to be.
Not only did she reveal the truth about hell, but the Virgin Mary also predicted that another war would break out after the current war ended if men did not abandon their wicked ways. She also gave a prophecy of the Church in calamity, destruction seeming to occur everywhere. Yet, despite all of these terrifying visions and prophecies, the Lady ended all of this with a simple but hopeful promise: “In the end, my immaculate heart will triumph.” In truth, how can she not obtain the triumph? That heart has most completely and most willingly obeyed God from the very first moment she could act until now and until the end of time. How can Satan overcome a heart most united to God through her divine Son?
Indeed, the victory of Jesus Christ is shared by the Virgin Mary because she is the greatest of all disciples. She shows us how to follow Jesus the way; she shows how to adhere to Jesus the truth; and she is the best witness of how to live in Jesus our life. All of the saints put together cannot match her fidelity, her virtue, her purity, her sanctity. This is why we crown her as Queen - because God has already crowned her Queen of heaven and earth by her faithfulness to everything He commanded her to do.

Let us indeed crown our Lady today, but not only with a crown of flowers, but in our hearts and minds as our mother and our queen. Let us heed the warning that she gave at Fatima and still gives today: repent and believe in her Son. Convert, and be no longer the slaves of Satan, the pawns of a sinful world, but become the children of Mary, the brethren of Jesus. Let us do what she asks of us, so that we may join her and all the angels and saints in the Father’s house, where a place is prepared for all who adhere to Him who is the one way, the one truth, the one life.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Good Shepherd Sunday - First Communion

My dear children, today is indeed a special day. It is the first day that you will join us in receiving Holy Communion. You will approach to receive that most precious food that we can ever eat: the Most Holy Eucharist. You may be asking, “Why is this so important?” Hopefully, your teachers have helped you to understand the greatness and importance of what you are beginning to do today. You are not receiving any normal food, but you are receiving Jesus Christ Himself, who gives us His Body and Blood to be our spiritual food.
Why is it that Jesus does this? Why does He want us to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood? That is because Jesus wants to draw us closer to Himself. If we want to be near our parents, our friends, or anyone we care about, we move closer to them. But we can’t normally do this with someone who is so far away as to be incapable of touching. This is the great marvel of the Eucharist: although Jesus is very far away in Heaven, He comes near to us in the Eucharist, nearer than anyone else can be to us, because He is inside us whenever we eat the Eucharist.
And what does Jesus do while He is in the Eucharist? He tries to lead you to be good, to be holy, to be what you were created to be from the beginning. We call this day Good Shepherd Sunday, because we hear Jesus in the Gospel calling Himself by this title. A shepherd leads the sheep to where they can eat and be safe, and Jesus wants to do the same thing for us, we who are His sheep. In the Eucharist, we can hear Jesus tell us what it is that He knows is best for us, so that we may join Him completely in Heaven.

My dear children, rejoice that Jesus calls you to join the rest of us in receiving the gift of the Eucharist. Treasure this day as the day you began a new phase of your relationship with our Lord by the Holy Communion you are about to receive. Pray to Him today, and every day you receive Him, for everything you need to be holy, to be with Jesus in this life and the next. Ask Him, our Good Shepherd, to tell you your future so that you may live it out as best as you can. Let us not receive Communion lightly, but treasure each reception so that we may enjoy it here on earth, and rejoice completely in it in Heaven.