Our youth ministry performed the stations of the cross beautifully again this year!
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In a study done in 2017 by the the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, the research are on the United States Catholic Conference, about why our young people are leaving the Church (15-25), one of the reasons we are losing them is their struggle with the beliefs of the Church, especially some of the moral beliefs. One thing that struck me was the statement by many of them was that they felt that they were not given a space to discuss their doubts and struggles with the faith.
One thing I wondered was if we, the older church, had helped them to develop a living relationship with Jesus? It was this relationship that allowed Thomas in today’s gospel to ask his questions, to struggle with his grief and loss, to wonder why. It was being part of a community that welcomed him in spite of this fears and questions that provided Thomas a safe place to wonder why.
Although this study did not provide the solution, it did provide the questions. We all wonder why people do not practice the faith, even if they are brought up in families that practice the faith. We mourn the loss of the church that was filled with all ages of people; from the baby crying in the back of the church to the person who has been coming for their whole life’s.
Thomas again provides us a direction and the beginning of the solution. Thomas turned to the Lord in his doubt and fear. He touched the wounded Body of the Lord and found healing for his fears and doubts. He could only do this if he knew Jesus in a deep way. The place for us to start is to develop our own personal relationship with Jesus. We do this by spending time in prayer, by talking to Jesus about our joys, but also our doubts and fears, we develop a relationship with the Jesus Thomas knew by reading the Gospels…..but, most importantly by spending time with Him, our crucified and risen Lord.
The other important part is to commit ourselves to be a part of the community of faith. If we are going to invite others into the community of faith, then we will have to ask in they will find Jesus here…not just in the tabernacle, but in the tabernacles of our hearts. We have to ask ourselves if the way we live matches what we say we believe.
Thomas stands in front of us today saying: it is ok to doubt and questions, but do it in the community of faith. Touch the wounded Body of Christ in the poor and needy, in the hurting and struggling and believe.
My brothers and sisters, let us commit ourselves as a community to pray for the Young Church, our teens and 20 somethings, that they will find Christ through us and with us. May we hear and say to them what Jesus said to Thomas: Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!
In that Upper Room, an ancient rite began remembering the freedom of the People of Israel, but, ended as the memorial of the new Exodus: our Exodus from death into life, from the slavery to sin into the promised land of the Redeemed.
Tonight, we are the people who gather in the Upper Room; but the Lamb is the One who left us the memorial of His death and resurrection in the Eucharist. The unleavened Bread of the Seder. The bread of the journey of freedom, now is the eternal presence of the Lamb who freely gave his Life for us. The wine that was shared there is now the Blood of Christ out poured for us. Whenever the Church gathers here, in the Upper Room of Calvary, the Jesus who died and rose is present in our midst and we do this in His memory. Here we experience the grace of Calvary. Here, the grace that flowed from his pierced side continues to flow into us through the mystery of the lasting Gift; until he comes again.
The challenge of the sacrifice of the Upper Room is found in Jesus’s word: “Do this in memory of me.”. This extends beyond the Upper Room into the mission of the Church. The gift of the Eucharist is the grace to live lives of service. To be slaves to others and wash their feet. We cannot limit this to those whose feet are clothed in nice shoes and comfortable. The challenge of the Eucharist is to wash the dirty feet of those who struggle every day, to embrace those who don’t look or act the way we think they “should” act. To love the sinner and saint alike. The Christian is to serve the world; not dominate it. The Christian is let go of pride and looking for a pat on the back and serve in memory of the One who washed feet and embraced a criminal’s death. The mandate of service is to put ourselves at the service of the poor and needy of the world; doing all in memory of Him who died and rose.
In the Upper Room of Jerusalem and tonight, the role of the ordained priest is clearly defined. He is to lead the community in service; the ordained priest is to lead the community in washing feet; not of the powerful, but of those who the world throws away. The ordained priest is called to live his life in memory of the one who loved the leper and the outcast, who served the poor and needy. He is, Pope Francis has said: to smell the like the sheep. And this cannot happen in an Upper Room above the people of God; but only by standing with them as a brother and fellow Christian. This community of faith belongs to Jesus; this parish is not mine. We are Christ’s People who have been entrusted with a mission together. I am called to bring Christ to you as a servant; and you to Christ so you can serve.
Those feet are washed tonight are a challenge to us all: to serve the world in His name fed by His living presence. We, priest and people, cannot hide in the Upper Room and be comfortable, safe, and warm. Like Jesus who left the Upper Room to die for us; so, we, priest and people, must leave the Upper Room of our comfort and safety and wash the feet of the world…even if it means betrayal, suffering, and death itself. “Do this in memory of me”.
My brothers and sisters, let us commit ourselves tonight to serve one another and the world. May the greatest among us be the one who washes the feet of others, without looking for praise or a pat on the back and shares the essence of his or her very self, the one who embraces the Cross of others. Strengthened by the grace of the Eucharist, may you and I commit ourselves of life to service: may we commit ourselves to “do as He has done”.
Christ is Risen! Yes, He is truly Risen!
Now, an Empty tomb?
For the last three days, this is what has attracted our attention. So, how do we make any sense of it? In all reality, only in faith. But, the faith of a Christian is not faith in an idea or a concept that can measured or found under a microscope. The faith of a Christian is in the living person of Jesus Christ who is a real today as he was in that Upper Room, on Calvary and who left that tomb.
With the eyes of faith:
The Upper Room is the place where He gave us the very gift of Himself in the Eucharist and the mandate of discipleship: serve each other
The Cross is the eternal sign that all darkness is destroyed. There is always mercy and forgiveness. It is in the Cross we find the true meaning of Love: true love is to sacrifice oneself for another who is friend or stranger, sinner or saint, poor or rich: for all people.
The Empty tomb is the sign of the truth that Jesus conquered the power of death. He overcame the grave and it has no power on those who faith in Him. When we come face to face with the tomb, as sad as it is and as bad as we feel, our friend Jesus stands right next to us. He lets us know we are not alone and death is conquered. He is our Hope. He is our Light. He is the Love that conquered death.
The mystery of this holy day is that our friend Jesus who loves us so much that he died and rise of us….
just think of that, Jesus died for you……Jesus rose for you…..for each one of us.
He freely did this and only asks one thing in return……Love each other in the same way. Like Him, our love cannot be contingent on who the person is; he commands us to love all people no matter who they are.
Loving this way means we encounter the Cross and struggle, ours and others, but we also the empty Tomb promises victory and hope. We encounter sin, but also forgiveness We will know defeat and pain, but also victory and healing We will come face to face with death, and find Life eternal, Jesus our Risen Lord.
Like the man born blind who eyes were touched by Jesus with mud and spit, may our eyes be opened to see with eyes of faith. The grace of this Easter is the grace of faith to see the powerful Love of God in Jesus Himself and in the mystery of His life
So, now with eyes of faith is all makes sense
An Upper Room: the gift of Sell and Service The Cross: the truth of God’s self-giving Love
The Empty Tomb: Life and Hope
Now, it all makes sense!
Christ is Risen! Yes, He is truly Risen!