Today we celebrate the birth of the Church

Pentecost – Solemnity

Happy birthday everybody. Or, I guess I should use the proper name for this solemn day…Pentecost. So…Happy Pentecost everybody.

Today we celebrate the birth of the Church. Roughly, some 2000 plus years ago, on this day, 50 days after Easter, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, manifested in the sound of a mighty wind and in tongues of fire and filled all who were present with power and grace. This event, as recorded by St. Luke in the 2nd chapter of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, marks the beginning of the “age of the Church.”

This solemn day of Pentecost finds its beginnings in the ancient Jewish festival of the same name, but is also known as the “Festival of Weeks.” In the ancient Jewish tradition, Pentecost consisted of a seven-week season committed to celebration and thanksgiving. By the end of the 2nd century, Pentecost in the Christian tradition, had manifested itself into a 50-day festival starting immediately after Passover. During this time, fasting and kneeling were prohibited as it was a designated period of rejoicing and celebration. This practice of Pentecost continued late into the 4th century when the Feast of the Ascension was added at the 40th day following Easter. It was then, around this period of time, that the celebration of Pentecost as a 50-day celebration was interrupted and the 50th day following Easter was begun to be observed as Pentecost.

I share with you this brief history lesson not just in hopes of providing a little education, but also in hopes of providing a little inspiration.

Our Catholic Church since the 1st Pentecost, has rejoiced and celebrated her birthday from the very beginning. From her very inception, our Catholic Church has remembered her origin and her mission by recalling that glorious and mysterious day. A day in which a promise had been fulfilled. A promise to send an Advocate. An Advocate of truth who guides and empowers the Church to fulfill her commission to spread the Gospel throughout all the world. This commission to spread the Gospel is as real, and as vibrant, and as necessary today as it was 2000 years ago.

I recognize that this commission is a challenge. It is indeed as much a challenge to carry out today as it was for those who have gone before us as they set the example for us. This challenge to live out the command of Jesus Christ to go and spread the Gospel, baptizing and making disciples, is not an easy task, nor was it ever intended to be. Yet, as made evident to us through all three of today’s readings, the expectation to evangelize the world was given to us not without help nor without power.

This power, though not necessarily manifested in the same manner as it was some 2000 years ago, is available to each and every one of us here today. This power, manifested in both word and deed, allowed the Apostles to go forth and boldly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, and is of the same source which guides and directs Christ’s Church today. This power, this power of the Holy Spirit, has been given to those who have been confirmed by the Church in full measure and it is we who are responsible for carrying out the mission and purpose to evangelize and build the kingdom of God here on earth.

Now, there is a cynical and grumpy man who has been known to not have such a high esteem of birthdays. He has been heard to say on more than once occasion, and in his typical curmudgeonly way, something that sounds a lot like this, “Why do people always want to celebrate their birthday? Really, all you have to do to have a birthday is not die in the past 365 days.”

Cynical, grumpy, curmudgeonly men notwithstanding, I challenge you this most solemn and holy birthday to make the next 365 days a year worth celebrating. A year worth celebrating because you endeavored to make it a year worth living. A year worth living not just for yourselves, but a year worth living for your faith, for your Church, and for your Savior.

During the next 365 days, each and every day, you have an opportunity to make a difference in the world in which you live, and in the life you are living. You have an opportunity to show a kindness to someone whose life is full of bitterness and regret. Or, to demonstrate God’s justice by allowing yourself to be an instrument of his mercy to someone who is desperate and full of despair. You have the ability to act in charity by not only giving out of your abundance, but also by giving out of what you have in short supply. This year can be the year you make a friend out of an enemy and promote peace and cooperation instead of conflict and division.

God willing, you have 365 days to prepare yourselves for what ought to be a most glorious and wondrous celebration. A celebration resulting from your cooperation with the Spirit of God to effect positive change in your world through the fulfillment of the great commission of Jesus Christ by spreading the Gospel to all of your world. A celebration, I remind you, which has continued on throughout history…the celebration of the birthday of the church…which started in a small room full of people who were willing to allow themselves to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and make a difference in their world.

Of my many weaknesses,

6th Sunday of Easter
Gospel of St. John 15:9-17

Of my many weaknesses, and there are a few, my tendency to “overthink” solutions to problems is one with which I struggle. This weakness causes me to look past the clear and simple solution of a problem, and instead, direct my focus towards the more complex and complicated one. This expense of unnecessary energy and effort has on many an occasion resulted in failure and discouragement and leaves me right where I started; having a problem in need of a solution. I wish I could tell you that as I have grown older, I have been able to eliminate this weakness, however, that would not be entirely true. Yet, that does not mean I am not without a solution. It just means that I don’t always apply it. So, today, I would like to share with you, those who may suffer from this same weakness, a solution. When faced with a problem or struggle the best way to find the fix is to…K.I.S.S it.

If you had a father like mine, you may be already familiar with the acronym K.I.S.S. For those of you who didn’t have a father like mine, I will fill you in. K.I.S.S stands for Keep It Simple… I will let you insert your own descriptor that starts with the letter “S” here. The idea behind this acronym is of course; when presented with a problem the best solution is typically the simplest solution.

Now, with all that being said, I propose that Jesus himself was a proponent of the K.I.S.S method as evidenced by his instruction to his disciples in today’s Gospel.

First, for a little context. If you recall last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus was instructing his disciples about the importance of “remaining” in the vine in order to produce fruit. He said that since he was the vine, and that God, his father, was the master gardener, it is imperative that we, his disciples, remain in him in order that we bear fruit.

If you are like me, then your response upon hearing Jesus’s instruction to “remain” in the vine, may have been to develop of a complicated set of rules. We might have created systems and mechanisms that govern behaviors, attitudes, and appearance. We may have created rules about the places where we can go or the people with whom we associate.  We did this in hopes that these rules will keep us attached to the vine. Rules that we believe would allow us to meet all the perceived nuances and subtleties of our faith and therefore allow us to be considered obedient followers of Christ.

You see, there is comfort in rules. Rules direct our charity, dictate our relationships, and define our roles in our communities and allow us to feel comfortable in a chaotic, lost, and out of control world. Rules provide comfort and support and, typically, when we feel comfortable and supported we tend to think that our rules our right. Once we have convinced ourselves that our rules are right we then come to believe that we are right. And when we come to believe that we are right because of our rules, we are then no longer dependent on the vine, the source of our righteousness, Jesus Christ.

Jesus, the vine, the source of our righteousness, has only one rule, “love one another as I love you.” The quintessential K.I.S.S method, if you will, simple, clear, and direct. His promise for obeying his only rule; “If you keep my commandment you will remain in my love.” To love one another is to remain dependent upon the vine, Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned previously, rules provide comfort, stability, and support. However, the love that Jesus is commanding us to emulate is a love that motivates us to step out of our comfort zone and experience the insecurity and vulnerability of taking risks. Risks that involve offering refuge to the displaced and disadvantaged. Risks that require the removal of labels and ideologies and insisting that our all our human interactions first begin with respect and dignity. Risks that are associated with responding to challenges and struggles in love.

The love that Jesus is speaking of in today’s Gospel is transformative and allows us to be in right relationship with him and with one another. We are his friends and we are friends one with another. We are not slaves or servants who are valued because of our ability to adhere to rules and perform tasks; rather, we are called to relationship, a friendship founded and forged in love and fellowship.

This love is not designed to make us feel comfortable. That is not the ultimate goal of this love. Rather, this love will challenge us to re-examine the rules that govern our behaviors, beliefs, attitudes. This love will cause us to speak kindly to people that we previously ignored and will cause us to engage in service that was once “just something we don’t do.” This love will cause us to look upon the suffering of others and allow us to see ourselves, and our savior, Jesus, in their pain and misery. This love will cause us to respond to that suffering first with love knowing that is exactly how Jesus responds to our suffering.

To love one another as Jesus loves is the simplest commandment. To live out this commandment however, becomes our greatest challenge. There are a host of problems that confront our society, affect our decisions, and cause us to seek the comfort of rules. May we, I pray, respond to these problems; these problems that challenge our positions, opinions, and beliefs, as Jesus commanded… may we respond first in love.

As some of you know

5th Sunday of Easter
Gospel of St. John 15:1-8

As some of you know my wife is an English teacher and often times I will ask her to proof read my homilies in order to check my grammar, verb tense, and punctuation. I am truly grateful for this evaluative experience as it; 1) ensures that my homilies are written properly, and 2) has taught me that I have repetitive tendency to misplace my modifiers.

In addition to this feedback my wife also provides me with insight regarding my presentation style. She has frequently made the comment, “Jason, must you always tell stories about yourself?” To which, I reply, “I like telling stories about myself, and, besides, who better to tell stories about… other than myself.” She then, typically, pauses, sighs, and with a very subtle eye roll, says, “But, you’re just not that interesting.”

So, with that being said, I want to tell you about something that happened to me this week.

My employer provides me with an opportunity to learn and develop new skills each year through a 3-day experience called annual training. I must confess that I am not always eager to participate in this 3-day training, but not for any other reason than I just don’t like trainings. This distaste for trainings is most likely a symptom of a flawed personality, but, nonetheless, when I go I do my best to endure the time, gleam as much useful information as possible, and avoid disruptive outburst. This year, however, was an especially unique challenge.

On the last day of training I, along with my co-workers, were treated to a 45-minute motivational speech. The speaker started the speech with the proposal that there are only two ways in which one can choose to live life; happy, or, unhappy. This premise, that life is defined by your own personal sense of happiness caused me to pause and consider the validity of this claim and gave me something to think about for the next 45 minutes.

The question of one being either happy or unhappy, I believe, is an attempt to oversimplify the complexity of the human being. Also, I believe it is an attempt to reduce the value of human suffering and trial and eliminate the need for God’s grace and mercy. However, I digress. The question of living life as either happy or unhappy is not my purpose today. I do, however, want to share with you is the evidence found in today’s Gospel (John 15:1-8) that life is in fact quite binary; meaning that we have the ability live life in one way or another.

The theme presented in today’s Gospel is very much an either/or scenario. Remain in Christ and he will remain in you, and you will bear fruit; or, do not remain in Christ and be removed from the vine, wither, and eventually thrown into the fire. There is very little room for alternative options in this very direct and plainly spoken discourse Jesus had with his disciples.

As followers of Christ it can be very easy to forget this reality; our responsibility to “remain” in Christ. Especially, in light of today’s ever present and often repeated message that “everyone is entitled to live their own truth as they see fit” relativism. This message that the one true God, the gardener, and the one true vine, Christ Jesus, whom his disciples, the branches, must within remain, in order to produce fruit, is often rejected by a world that esteems personal happiness as the sole purpose for existence.

My counter argument to this worldly teaching is that we, as followers of Christ, are called to be fruitful. We are called to be individuals who produce observable, measurable, and definable behaviors of; charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, modesty, self-control, and chastity, or, more directly, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to live life in a bi-dimensional, self-aggrandized, over-generalized, self-defined existence of happiness. Rather, as followers of Christ, we are called to live life to its fullest and in all its complexities. We are called to bearers of fruit.

Our choice to remain in Christ, the true vine, allows us to produce fruit that positively impacts the lives of those around us. Our choice to remain in Christ allows us to assist each other, our families, our neighbors, our friends, our enemies, and those whom we yet do not know, to live life as God himself ordained when he looked over his creation and declared it to be good.

Our responsibility is to remain in Jesus Christ, and we do this through partaking in his sacraments, through the reading of his Word, through the fellowship with and the serving of the body of believers, and through the conscious decision to carry our cross and follow him. We remain in Christ by choice, made possible by the grace and mercy of God through the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We remain in Christ, the vine, when we allow ourselves to be pruned and cared for by God, the master gardener, so that we can produce fruit more abundantly.

Now, with that being said, let me ask you, are you fruitful? Is your life charitable, joyful, peaceful? During the course of your day are you responding to people and circumstances with patience, kindness, and goodness? Are you faithful to your promises? When confronted with a challenge are your responding with gentleness or are your words harsh and abrasive? Do you live your life within reason and within your means? And, are you living the vows you have taken? As we remain in the vine we cannot but help but be fruitful.

The challenge presented to us, this day, is to take a moment, examine our life, and identify the fruit we are producing. If we are truly remaining in Christ, the vine, then we must be producing fruit.  Our goal this day, as we prepare ourselves to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, should be with the intention that as we receive Jesus, he will receive us, and we will then effect the world in which we live, with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Fear

4th Sunday of Easter
Gospel of St. John 10:11-18

Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being alone. Fear of being in a crowded room. Fear of being unknown or the fear of being found out. The fear of having too little, or having too much, or having nothing at all. The one thing we all have in common is our fear.

Sometimes our fears are present and real. We wake up to them in the morning, close our eyes to them at night, and struggle with them in our dreams. Sometimes our fears are self-created and imagined; monsters that exist in our closets and under our beds. And, sometimes our fears are just out of our control. We are a vulnerable, fragile, and susceptible species and often times, in our journey through this sometimes violent, hostile, and insufferable world, we come up against forces that threaten our health and well-being.

When we examine this world in which we live, and I am specifically referring to this first world American culture, we discover an entire economic structure built upon the pre-tense of fear. Pills that prevent this; investments that prevent that; promises of prosperity and security if only one would do this or belong to that. These mechanisms, inventions, and strategies which are created, marketed, and perpetuated to us, a people who by their very design are born with a desire, a desire that can only be filled by God, attempt to satisfy and placate this temporal struggle.

The catechism teaches “the desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself (CC 27).” Our inability to satisfy this desire by our own designs then becomes the source of our fear. St. Peter, in today’s first reading, indirectly addresses this reality, our innate desire for God, when he boldly proclaims, “there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

When he professes this cure for the condition of humankind, he does so to a group of religious leaders who have brought him to trial to explain the healing of a man who was born lame. He was speaking to men who held fast to the belief that their salvation was afforded to them through race, tradition, and law. He was speaking to an institution that was frightened that its very system was under attack by the message of the Gospel; which professed salvation not as an exclusive privilege of birth and obedience, rather as a gift freely given to anyone who believes.

For those of us here today, sitting in this church, our church, we hope and pray, it is not a struggle of belief in the salvific power of Jesus’s name; rather, I propose, that our struggle is with our inability to live firmly in the belief that Jesus is exactly who he professed himself to be, “the Good Shepard.”

Our human condition; our fragility, our vulnerability, and our susceptibility are not eliminated because of our belief in the salvation freely given through the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, it could be argued, that because of our faith, and our efforts to live out that faith, we often times find ourselves in direct opposition to the world in which we live. The words of St. John in his First Epistle in today’s second reading ring ever so true when he wrote, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” It is not an unfamiliar reality that belief in the name of Jesus causes one to be rejected by a world desperately seeking salvation through created and temporal mechanisms and inventions.

However, as I mentioned earlier, our struggle is not one of belief, our struggle is with fear. As followers of Christ we are not immune to fear. We experience hardship, doubt, pain, suffering, and uncertainty. The fears produced by these real or imagined causes afflict our joy, courage, and witness. We come up against the wall of what we profess vs. what we experience and our resolve to live out our faith falters and weakens.

Yet, unlike the promises of the world, the promises of Christ hold true and permanent. The Good Shepard lays down his life so that the sheep will not be scattered or lost. The Good Shepard knows those who belong to him, and those who belong to him also know him. The Good Shepard searches out for us and we will hear his voice, and we will be gathered to him. These are the promises of the Good Shepard. These promises are the cure to our fear.

Gathered here today, together, in front of this altar, we have brought with us many things. We have brought with us our prayers and hopes for intercession and relief. We have brought with us our joys and thanksgivings, and our praises for the blessings of God in our life. We have also brought our fears and our concerns, our doubts and our despair. We have come before the altar of God exactly who we are; with our good and with our not so good. And for this we are thankful and celebrate the beauty and mystery of God’s grace. I encourage you, each and every one, that this day, as you approach this altar, that you bring with you all of who you are. Every part of you- the good and the bad- and place it all, in its entirety, at the feet of the Good Shepard trusting in his promises.

The other evening my wife and I were walking to our car…

3rd Sunday of Easter
Gospel of St Luke 24:35-48

The other evening my wife and I were walking to our car after having spent a very pleasant couple of hours at the movie theatre. I was commenting on how pleasantly surprised I was by the fact that the movie had turned out NOT to be a “scary” movie; because I really dislike scary movies. In a rare moment of agreement, at least as far as movies are concerned, my wife also commented on how much she enjoyed the movie, even though it was NOT a “scary” movie; because my wife, on the other hand, really loves scary movies. Overall our time together that evening was enjoyable and pleasant and full of peace… and then I got into the car.

As we were backing out of the parking space, I had to suddenly bring the vehicle to an abrupt halt as a group of young adults were standing directly behind our car taking selfies with their phones. They appeared to not at all be interested in getting out of the way, and it wasn’t because they were ignorant of my car or the fact that I was trying to back out. So, there they stood, and there I sat.

I sat there and stared at them through my rear-view mirror, and I could see out of the corner of my eye that my wife was staring at me, waiting. Waiting to see if the old-man curmudgeon, which, on more than one occasion I have been not so subtly accused of desiring to become, would reveal himself and impress upon this obtrusive group of young people to take their picture taking, duck-face making, conglomeration somewhere else other than directly behind my car. I stared at them. My wife stared at me; and nobody said anything.

Eventually, the group of young adults moved on and I was able to put the car into gear and safely exit the parking lot. It wasn’t until we were on 17th street, headed for home, when my wife, with a sly grin and a twinkle in her eye said, “You really wanted to get out of the car back there, didn’t you.” I paused, considered my response carefully and said, “Yeah…now that I am a Deacon I guess I can’t do that anymore.” She agreed, and we both laughed; however, one louder than the other.

Now, believe it or not, the story I just shared with you has relevance to today’s Gospel and I ask for your patience and attention as I attempt to make a point about a group of selfie-taking young adults and an aspiring curmudgeon.

In today’s Gospel, Luke describes Jesus’s appearance to his disciples in the upper room. We read that Jesus suddenly appeared and was welcomed with shock, dismay, and disbelief. He extended to them his peace; he revealed himself to them through his scars; and then he proved to them his corporality by consuming baked fish. He opened their minds to the Scriptures, and when they began to understand and believe, he reminded them of who they were, stating, “You are witnesses of these things.”

Let us take a moment and examine this word “witness”. It carries with it a greater meaning than just an observer of events, it also implies testimony. This Greek word (pronounced martus) translated to the English word “witness” is also the same word from which is derived the English word “martyr”.

This same word is also found in today’s first reading, in the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter proclaims, “God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” It is here where we find Peter possessing the title and the mission of Jesus’s call to be a witness. It is here where Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaims the Gospel, and calls upon those who hear his voice to “repent and be converted.” It is here, as well other place in the Gospel’s, where we find the Apostolic church both in office and in action. In her office, in the witness of the Apostles as it has been handed down through their successors; and in her mission of being “sent out” to proclaim the Good News.

We are a church that not only has preserved the office of the Apostles, but we are also a church that continues to carry out their mission. The mission of going out “to all the nations” sharing the message of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.

Now, this essential truth is absolutely important to understand in regard to the mission the church, the witness of going “to all the nations” is not just for the ordained or the religious. Rather, the mission of being a witness is for all of the church. We here today, whether we be clergy, or laity, are called to be witnesses of Christ in all that we do, in all that we say, and in all that we are. For the entire Mystical Body of Christ, comprised of all her members, empowered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and with the charity drawn from the Eucharist, is called to the labor of building God’s Kingdom here on earth.

So, going back to the events of this past week, you must know, as I was driving down 17th street fuming over a group of young adults whose agenda differed from mine, that my answer to my wife’s question about my desire to get out of the car and confront that inconsiderate mob, was in fact, in error. The truth of the matter is this. I should no longer act in a certain manner just because I am now a Deacon; rather, I must act in a certain manner because, like all of us, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am a witness of Christ in all that I do, and in all that I say, and in who I am.

I was in high school, a junior I think…

Second Sunday of Easter
Divine Mercy Sunday
Gospel of John 20:19-31

Today, the Second Sunday of Easter, was declared by the Holy Church on May 5, 2000, to henceforth be ever known as Divine Mercy Sunday. Today’s Gospel, read every Second Sunday of Easter, describes the event during which Jesus entrusted to the Church his authority to forgive sins. We also read about the Apostle Thomas, the one who doubted, and learn that everyone, including the Apostles, are in need of God’s mercy.

I was in high school, a junior I think, and I was driving back to school after lunch. I came to an intersection and the vehicle I was driving suddenly lost traction (it was mid-January in Wyoming and the road conditions were icy) and slid into the intersection colliding with another vehicle. No one was physically injured in the accident; not me, the passenger riding with me, or the old man driving the 1972 Jeep J-series pickup…it was pink. Not bright pink, but like red paint sprayed over gray primer pink…and it was smooshed. The vehicle I was driving, a 1984 Ford F-150, 4×4, two-toned blue, pickup with a white topper shell had sustained significant damage to the grill, front bumper, and left front quarter panel; so much so that it was impossible to open the driver’s side door. I vividly remember this day and the damage to this pick up, because it was my dad’s pickup, and I was “technically” not supposed to be driving it.

My dad worked out of town during the week and his company supplied him with a “work truck.” His work truck had tool boxes, fuel tanks, and was primarily used for work. His personal truck, the 1984 Ford F-150, 4×4, two-toned blue, pickup with a white topper shell was not used for work. In fact, this truck was not to be used for anything other than, of course, for whatever my father wanted to use it.

The concepts of ownership and authority made sense to me at that time… I am sure… because I had spent the two previous summers working to earn enough money in order purchase my very first car; a 1981 Mid-Night Blue Ford Mustang. A car, by-the-way, which at the time of this incident was safely parked in the driveway of my father’s house because, “Mustang’s aren’t that good in the snow and the pick-up had 4-wheel drive.”

So, like I said, the concepts of ownership, authority, respect, and the common courtesy of asking someone’s permission before borrowing their stuff had to have been concepts that I understood and practiced, even at the age of seventeen. But on that day, they weren’t and I didn’t. I borrowed my dad’s pickup without his permission. I denied his authority, disobeyed his rule, and rationalized and justified why it was perfectly ok for me to do the wrong thing.

The accident, I remind you occurred on a school day, during lunch, and I had to go back to school. I managed to get the damaged pickup back to my father’s home, where I parked it in the garage, and then got into my car and drove back to school. Thinking that I had at least two days to prepare for the return of my father I went back to school relatively confident that I had a couple days before I would receive consequences for my disobedience… and, at the very least, I had a good story to tell.

Later that evening… as I drove up to the house, late because I had basketball practice, and it was dark, very dark, I noticed my father’s work truck sitting in the driveway. I got out of my car and through the kitchen window I saw my father, still wearing his work clothes, sitting at the kitchen table talking to my mother. It was at that moment I seriously considered running away and joining the carnival. I was convinced that whatever fate, fortune, or failure that awaited me as a carney would be far better than whatever was waiting for me on the other side of that door.

I want to be clear. My father is not, nor was he ever, an abusive man. The dread and apprehension that I felt that evening was not a result of the fear of my father; rather, it was because I knew I had disappointed him. I had disobeyed him, taken his hard-work for granted, and denied his authority. In essence, much like Thomas, I denied the position and authority of my father, and acted upon the belief that my own set of rules and perceptions of the world in which I lived, were all that mattered.

I walked into the house, put my basketball stuff away, came back into the kitchen where my parents were still sitting, and stood looking down at the linoleum floor. My father, standing up from his chair, said, “Well, should we go out and look at it?” I nodded and followed my father out the door.

Our garage sits on the back of the property and it is about a 25’ walk from the back porch of the house to the door of the garage. It was a quiet walk for there was no need to say anything. We both knew why we were out there. We got to the garage, turned on the light, and I promise you that somebody must have entered that garage while I was at school and beat that truck with a sledge hammer. Because that 1984 Ford F-150, 4×4, two-toned blue pickup with a white topper shell looked way worse than it did when I parked it 6 hours earlier. I didn’t say anything.

My father, still looking at his damaged pickup, asked, “Nobody got hurt…right?”.

“Yeah.” I answered, “Nobody got hurt.”

We stood there for a few minutes looking at the damage caused and the words I had spoken earlier that day came to my mind as if they were being played over the radio of that 1984 Ford F-150, two-toned blue pickup with a white topper shell. In that period of silence, I heard the rationalizations and justifications that perpetuated my disobedience.

My father then sighed which caused me to come back to reality, and for the first time that evening I looked my father in his eyes, and he said, “Let’s go back inside and have dinner.” He added, “You will get that to the body shop tomorrow, so we can get an estimate.” I told him I would, and I followed him back to the house.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today, the Second Sunday of Easter, is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

Their eyes were opened and they recognized him

Easter Day
The Resurrection of the Lord
Gospel of St. Luke24:13-35

“Their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” What a wonderful description for this glorious Easter Sunday. I hope your day has been a day of joy, of celebration, and of renewal. A celebration of new birth, of life, of victory over sin and death.

As a community we celebrated and continue to celebrate those who entered our fellowship last night at the Easter Vigil. Individually, we are celebrating the end of our Lenten penitential journey. Some of us, for example, may be celebrating the wonderful taste and satisfaction of a hot cup of coffee, flavored ever so subtlety with a dollop of sweet hazelnut cream, just enough to give that dark, layered, deep color a gentle hint of blonde. Other’s of you too had opportunity to celebrate similar simple pleasures as well… and we are thankful and full of joy.

We also find additional reason to celebrate as we discovered in this afternoon’s Gospel. It is there where we read about the encounter the disciples on the road to Emmaus had with our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. We see in their encounter his desire to walk and to fellowship with us. His desire to make himself known and to bring us into relationship with him and with one another.

The details of this encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus is not unfamiliar to us; yet, its message may sometimes escape us as we too sometimes have difficulty recognizing Jesus. The challenge we have this day is to put ourselves on that road… the road to Emmaus.

Emmaus is West of Jerusalem which meant those two disciples were traveling towards the setting sun. Their chosen path leading them not towards the sun rise, the dawn of a new day, but rather towards the sunset, the ending of their story. They were leaving Jerusalem, which for them, had once held promise, and was now the very source of their discouragement and disappointment; the city was where their hope had perished. They were leaving the community of believers. The very people with whom they had previously traveled difficult miles, endured long hours, and suffered the heat of the day and the cold of the night. They were abandoning the very people with whom they had witnessed the miracles which inspired their faith; and with whom they grew in hope and joy. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were not just walking… they were walking away.

We read about their disappointment, frustration, and discouragement regarding the events they had just witnessed in Jerusalem. We read about their inability to understand the significance and the promise fulfilled in the resurrection. Even as Jesus accompanied them along the road, his words and his teaching and instruction caused a “burning within their hearts”, yet, the Gospel is very clear, they were prevented from recognizing him. How sad it must have been that first Easter to have travelled the same road alongside Jesus and not recognize him. How sad it is this many years later to travel a similar road and not recognize him.

The road to Emmaus, for all its disappointment is in truth a wonderful illustration of God’s love for us. As Jesus encountered these two disciples, so too does he encounter us. Jesus walks alongside us, as he did with them, when we are discouraged and down. Talks to us, as he did with them, through his word and with reason, helping us to know him and understand him. Jesus is just as patient with us, as he proved to those two disciples when he walked seven miles… in the wrong direction…, when we lose our way and are engulfed in doubt and despair. As he did with those two disciples, when light began to fade and the day turned to night, Jesus waited but only for an invitation, as he does so patiently with us. And when we have opened ourselves to him, as did to those two disciples, he too will open our eyes and allows us to recognize him. Recognize him in the Eucharist; in the Sacraments of the Church; in his Word; in each other.

Those two down-trodden, discouraged, and dismayed disciples were no longer. For once they recognized Jesus, the moment their eyes had been opened, they immediately changed their direction, hurried back to Jerusalem, rejoined their community, and bore witness to the work that he had done in their lives. They celebrated, in true joy, the wondrous grace and mercy of God. The fulfillment of a promise that did not end at Calvary, on the cross, but continues to this day in the lives of each one of us. The promise that Jesus want us to know him, to recognize him, to fellowship with him at his table.

We have gathered here this day to celebrate not only the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, but also his presence here with us. His presence here in the Eucharist. His presence here inside each of us. His presence here in each other. Invite Jesus this day to open your eyes and reveal to himself to you, that you too may be filled with joy, and his love… one for another.