Monday, April 30, 2012

More Vocations!

Readings for April 29, Good Shepherd Sunday:
Acts 4:8-12
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28-29
1 John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18

In 1965 the United States Catholic population was around 45.6 Million people.
In 2011 the United States Catholic population was around 65.4 Million people.

In 1965 the United States was home to over 179,000 religious sisters and 12,000 religious brothers.
In 2011 the United States was home to just 55,000 religious sisters and 4,000 religious brothers.

In 1965 in the United States, 58,000 priests ministered at 17,000 parishes.
In 2011 in the United States, 39,000 priests ministered at 17,000 parishes. 

While our Catholic population has increased by 20 million souls, the number of men and women who are ministering to them as priests and religious has drastically decreased. This is because the past 50 years have been pretty turbulent ones. After Vatican II there were many people – bishops, priests and laity – who felt that things needed to be entirely changed. The Church had to catch up to the modern world and ‘get with the times’. For many, this meant tossing out our centuries-old traditions, rejecting the teaching of the Church, and starting something wholly new. After 50 years we can see that this was not truly what best for the Church. Mass attendance among the laity has dropped from around 85% in 1965 to only 22% today. This is but one statistic of many that shows us that quite often it was not the solid food of the Gospel and teachings of the Church that was given, but instead a watered-down version that leaves one desiring something more. So they leave in search of it elsewhere. They go to one of these new protestant communities because it’s more exciting. Or, even worse, they simply stay home.

In the midst of these turbulent times in the Church and the world, we are desperately in need of men and women who are willing and able to step up to the task of leading souls toward Heaven in a bold way. We need priests who know that they are not just one of the guys but are consecrated to be Jesus Christ in the midst of the world. We need religious sisters who are not fighting to build something new in the world but rather thrive on being a spouse and bride of Jesus Christ. We need religious brothers who are willing to step out there and be the love of Jesus Christ for the Church. We need men and women who are willing to lay down their lives for a glorious calling in this life and an even greater Heavenly reward.

As I was reflecting on what to preach this weekend, I kept thinking of how priests have specifically impacted my own life. When I was battling depression and suicidal thoughts as a teen, it was to the priest who was there to give me hope. When I was wandering without faith or belief in God, it was a priest that helped me to find the Lord. When I was drowning in sin as a college student, it was a priest who brought me to life through confession. When I was struggling with my own vocation, it was a priest who welcomed me and brought about the gift of clarity to see my calling. These are just a few of the many experiences that I’ve had with priests in our own diocese, a handful of men. Unfortunately, I never saw many religious brothers or sisters, so I couldn’t have those experiences with them that others might have had. But the reality is that God works through these men and women to bring salvation to individuals and to the whole world. That is our entire mission.

As I’ve said before – the primary goal of every person is to glorify God. We do so by becoming saints in Heaven. We become saints in Heaven by being holy on Earth. And the path to holiness that I have necessarily involves me doing everything in my power to ensure that each of you hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ and grows in your relationship with that same Christ. If you don’t come to know Jesus more deeply, it’s a mark against me. If you don’t know God’s love more deeply, it’s a mark against me. If your life is not transformed at least in a small way, it’s a mark against me. My entire life is focused on saving your souls. We need more men and women who have that same desire, that same longing to lay down their lives for the sheep that they might enter the gates of Heaven.

Recently, St. George parish has produced a number of vocations. Baton Rouge seminarians Josh Johnson and Brad Doyle, as well as Maronite-Rite seminarian Alex Harb all call St. George home. Also from our parish is Sr. Mary Martha Becnel, who is one of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. In our youth group we have two young men who are applying to enter seminary this year, one young lady who will be entering a convent this summer, and others who are discerning a vocation to priesthood or religious life. Certainly we can see the Spirit moving here in our midst, but the reality is that we must continue to pray and support vocations.

If you think someone might make a good priest or religious, let them know. Whether they’re 5 years old or 45 years old; let them know. Parents, if your child expresses a desire to pursue one of these vocations or you think they might make a good priest or religious, support them and encourage them. If someone is here today who is thinking about a vocation currently and has any unrest in your heart, be not afraid, for it is the Good Shepherd who calls you.

We must be pro-active in increasing vocations. We must talk about them and talk to others about them. But most of all we need to pray. Pray for priests by name and pray that our hearts might become like that of Christ the Good Shepherd. Pray for religious sisters by name and pray that they might be joyful spouses of Christ Jesus. Pray for religious brothers by name and pray that they might be able to witness to the world the transforming love of the God. Pray for us. Pray for our perseverance in our vocation. Pray that we might remain faithful to our promises to the Lord. Pray that we might be people of holiness. Pray that we remain open to the Holy Spirit. And pray that many many more might see our joyful example and come to follow in our footsteps to continue to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our world which so greatly longs to hear it.

Statistics from Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sympathy for the Devil?

I and others have sometimes struggled with the reality of a loving a merciful God permitting souls to go to Hell for all eternity. It seems contrary to His essence. A friend of mine pointed me to this article from Crisis Magazine entitled "Sympathy for the Devil and Mercy for the Damned". It's a dialogue - fictional, to be sure - that I think helps to shed some light on this. Well-written, worth the read, and thought-provoking!

Receive Well

Mantegna's Crucifixion with Host Superimposed
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-9
1 John 2:1-5
Luke 24:35-48

*Weekend of First Holy Communion*

With the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, we are set free from our sins and the doors of Heaven are thrown open for the faithful to enter joyfully into Paradise. This is great news and should bring joy to our hearts and a longing for that day when we get to join God for all eternity. But in the midst of our joy, it’s important to remember that just because the gates of Heaven are opened to us doesn’t mean that we can sit back and relax.

When he was with the two disciples in the gospel story today, Jesus didn’t say that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and then we’d do whatever we wanted to because we’re all going to heaven. He said that the Christ would suffer and be raised on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name. We rejoice that Heaven is open and praise the Lord that our sins can be forgiven. But we must also do those things that grant us God’s forgiveness: turn away from sin and follow the commandments of God. This is the hard part because sin appears to be a good thing, or as I’ve heard it before, it tastes good while it’s happening. We eat too much because food tastes good. We cheat because it’s easier than being honest. We hold grudges because it’s easier than forgiving someone who hurt us. It’s almost always easier to do things that are wrong or avoid doing things that are good. But the thing is that as Christians, Jesus tells us that we are to do what is right, not what is easy.

The neat thing is that the thing that opened the gates of Heaven is also the way that the Lord helps us to pass through them. It was Jesus’ death on the Cross and His Resurrection that opened the gates of Heaven. And it is that same death on the Cross that we celebrate here at Mass. In an unbloody manner, we participate in and receive the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross when we receive Holy Communion. When we receive Holy Communion well, we receive special blessings that help us to do the things we’re supposed to do and avoid the things we aren’t supposed to do. Notice that I said receive Holy Communion well. Not just receive Holy Communion. What do I mean by that?

Practically speaking, we ought to watch the children as they receive Communion today and imitate it ourselves. See how they have dressed up and made this a special occasion, not just something that happens casually but something they have really prepared for. They come not with sin on their hearts but with purity and simplicity because they know Who it is that they are receiving. Notice that they receive intentionally with their hands raised like a throne to receive Jesus their King. Listen to their excited “Amen!” as they receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Watch them pray in their pews after receiving Holy Communion and experience for the first time the union of their body with that of God. And lastly, listen to the joy that they have in singing after receiving Holy Communion. If all of us can approach Holy Communion in the same manner, we will surely gain many graces and will be more than ready to enter the Heavenly Gates when our day comes.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

God has created my heart only for Himself. 
He asks me to give it to Him that He may make it happy.

-St. Jean Vianney-

Monday, April 16, 2012

Let us pray for the Pope!

Today is the Holy Father's 85th birthday! 
Let us pray for the Pope!

V. Let us pray for Benedict XVI, our Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, 
and make him blessed upon the earth, 
deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. 

Our Father....
Hail Mary....

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, 
look mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, 
whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. 
Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, 
he may edify those over whom he hath charge, 
so that together with the flock committed to him, 
may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Or in Latin! Oremus pro Pontifice!:

V. Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto.
R. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, 
et beatum faciat eum in terra, 
et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.

Pater Noster...
Ave Maria...

Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum Benedicto, 
quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, propitius respice: 
da ei, quaesumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus praeest, proficere: 
ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. 
Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divine Mercy

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 John 5:1-6
John 20:19-31

From 1931 until her death in 1938, Sister Faustina Kowalska, a humble nun in a convent in Poland received a number of visions of Our Lord, who spoke to her of His great mercy. To her He gave a chaplet of Divine Mercy to pray for an outpouring of mercy upon the world and described the image of Divine Mercy that is now so famous. But I think most important of all are the revelations that He gave, which are recorded in her diary, now compiled as a book entitled Diary: Divine Mercy in my Soul. One of those revelations is quite beautiful and worth sharing:

My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy (Diary, 699).

It was in light of this and many other revelations Saint Faustina received that Blessed John Paul II named the Second Sunday after Easter the ‘Sunday of Divine Mercy’. This change in the liturgical name was a difficult pill for some to swallow. As I noted at the beginning of Mass, we are in the last day of the Octave of Easter – a string of eight solemn feast days. There is no higher feast than a solemnity and so many think that to emphasize the Divine Mercy is a downgrade of the celebration of Easter. In reality, though, this feast of Mercy does not trump Easter but is actually the key to unlocking the meaning of Easter..

When we think about mercy, it often comes with a negative connotation of sin and shame from which we must be cleansed. That part is one element, the more important part is the reality that Mercy is the manifestation of God’s love. The Latin word for Mercy, Misericordia, comes from the phrase ‘troubled heart’ or ‘wretched heart’. Mercy, then, is nothing other than the outpouring of God’s love for us because His heart is troubled when we lack peace. He knows that we were created for Heaven and that in this life we are called not to live in sorrow or distress but to dwell in His peace. As the last line of our Gospel points out today – these stories are conveyed that we might believe and have life in His name. And so great is the tenderness of His heart that He will go to great lengths to bring us that peace for which we long. We see this clearly in our readings today, most especially the Gospel.

When the Risen Lord appears to the Apostles for the first time, we hear that rather than come in tossing tables and ranting about how they had abandoned Him in the Passion, He comes and gently says, “Peace be with you.” He shows them His wounds as if to say ‘and this is the cost of that peace and the depth of my love.’ He then repeats Himself, “Peace be with you.” And then, because He doesn’t just want the disciples to have peace, but rather all humanity, he continues by breathing upon then and giving the Church the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we too might be able to come to know the peace of Christ in the same way that the disciples did in that first encounter with the Risen Lord. He seeks for all of us to have peace and gives us the means to attain it.

The Incredulity of Thomas by Caravaggio
As we gather here tonight on the Octave of Easter, the same night when Saint Thomas was so profoundly changed, I think it fitting to turn to that great Apostle and make His experience our own because we all have our own trials, doubts, and struggles as the apostles did in the wake of the Lord’s death and Resurrection. Saint Thomas was so saddened that he refused to believe until he put His hand into the wounds of Christ. And when Christ comes to Him and reveals those same wounds, Saint Thomas’ heart is transformed by the Mercy that pours out from them and in a moment he moves from obstinate unbelief to crying out “My Lord and my God!” In the same way the Christ appeared to Saint Thomas, He does so tonight. Let us see in the elevation of the Sacred Host and Precious Chalice not the appearance but the reality of Christ present with us and cry out “My Lord and My God!” that we too might know the transforming peace that Our Lord longs to pour out upon us and which our souls so greatly desire to receive.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Something New

Acts 10:34, 37-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-9

As I sat in silence gazing upon the Cross after the Good Friday Liturgy two night ago, I found myself asking what seemed to me a foolish question: Why do we look forward to Easter so much? Letting this question come up over and over in my mind, I began to reflect on what Easter is, what it means for the Church, the celebrations that are part of it and a whole variety of topics that I was hoping would lead me in the direction of a homily for today. In the midst of all these things going on in my mind, a woman stood up and quietly ascended the sanctuary steps and approached the Cross. She knelt down, holding on to the Cross, and prayed for a couple of minutes. As I saw this woman literally coming to the foot of the Cross with what I assume were the crosses she herself has been asked to bear, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the liturgy we had just celebrated where all of us came forward to reverence the Cross, each in his or her own way. A genuflection, a gentle touch by one’s hand, a kiss. I could see by the look on people’s faces that they each had their own crosses and sought consolation in the Cross that Jesus bore. Here I began to understand the beauty and power of the Easter celebration.

All of us experience suffering in our lives. The Resurrection of Christ puts that suffering into context.

When Peter enters the empty tomb and finds the burial cloths lying there, something changed in his heart. The description of the burial cloths seems to indicate, especially in the original Greek, that the scene was not like that of Lazarus, who was revived from the dead and then needed to be unwrapped. The burials cloths of Christ lay in the same place that He was laid to rest. Rather than having to unroll the cloths, it seems that the Lord Jesus simply passed through them as He would later pass through the locked door and greet the Apostles. As Peter looked at the cloths lying there where they were to start with, it seems that he then realized that something entirely new was taking place; something they were still trying to grasp.

The Resurrection of Christ from the dead shows us that God not only takes things and makes them better. He makes them wholly new. He transforms them and elevates them to a whole new reality. We who were once simply creatures made by a Creator are now sons and daughters of God the Father. Though once bound by sin, we now have freedom through the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist and reconciliation. And most incredible of all, we who are deserving of eternal death are given by Christ the promise of eternal life if we simply follow in His ways.

Yes, Heaven will be even greater than this...
To us on Earth, Heaven is a reality that brings such great joy to the soul who contemplates it. And yet we know that even these thoughts fall infinitely short of the glory that awaits us. So as we rejoice today in the great mystery of the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, let us be mindful of the words of St. Paul and think not of earthly things, but rather of heavenly things, as we eagerly wait in hope for that day when we too are joined with that Resurrected Christ for all eternity in that place where all things are made new.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Obedience and Christ

Readings for Good Friday:
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

In the prophet Isaiah, we hear today about an unnamed servant who is raised up high and who, though marred and beyond human semblance, brings kings to silence. This servant was spurned by the people and yet it was their sins that he took upon himself. People saw him as smitten by God, but he was pierced for their sake, and their guilt was placed upon him who was innocent. In the midst of this torment he remained silent until he was placed in a grave that was not his own.

Taken by itself, this passage seems to be an account of the Passion of Christ, as if Isaiah had somehow seen the future and simply recorded the story of Christ’s own sufferings. And yet we know that it was written centuries prior to those horrendous events. This and many other passages scattered all throughout the Old Testament books seem to point directly to Christ; again, as if someone had actually known the future. The prophets speak in great detail and the ancient stories of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, and many others seem to have clear connections with the life of Our Lord. When I first began to really take my faith seriously and read the scriptures, when I would come across these and similar passages, I thought it was a great coincidence – I was fascinated how things tended to happen again in a pattern of sorts. Then one day I realized that none of that was coincidental, nor was it a pattern that human writers used to help us see things more clearly. Rather, the patterns that were shown in the Old Testament and lived again in the New Testament were quite intentional.

When the Word of God became incarnate and dwelt among us, He came not to do His own will by the Will of the One who sent Him (Jn 5:30) and so the life of Christ is wholly and entirely guided by the Will of the Father. In making the Father known to the world, Christ chose not to make up His own way of revelation but instead worked – and truly lived – within the only revelation of God that the Jewish people knew: the Sacred Scriptures. The narratives, prophecies, and prefigurations of the Old Testament, then, were not stories Christ could make use of. They were the things by which he configured His life. Christ knew the scriptures and knew them well. He knew who the Messiah was to be, what He was to do, what He was to suffer, and how He was to die. Christ, being obedient to the revelation of God in the Scriptures, then lived His life in conformity with those things. How many times, after all, did we hear just within this Passion narrative the words ‘so that the scriptures might be fulfilled’? He did this, so that the scriptures might be fulfilled. He said that, so that the scriptures might be fulfilled. He endured and permitted these things, so that the scriptures might be fulfilled. He didn’t endure the sufferings that describe the servant in Isaiah because He thought it was a good idea. He endured them because he was obedient to the Father in all things. As St. Paul said this past weekend, “He was obedient even unto death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

As we gather here to celebrate that incredible mystery and venerate the sign of that greatest act of obedience, the question that each of us must ask ourselves is this: do I truly try to conform my life to that of Christ, or do I sometimes seek rather my own preferences and ideas?

Ideally, we would all follow the Will God and conform ourselves to Christ and have no hesitancy in doing so. The problem, though, is that when we seek to do these things, when we seek the Will of the Lord, we will suffer. It’s not a possibility. It’s not a probability. It’s a guarantee. As the Book of Sirach so clearly puts it: When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials (2:1). And we have only to look at His closest companions, the Twelve Apostles, to verify this.

Andrew, Philip, and Simon were crucified. Peter was crucified upside down. Bartholomew was also crucified, but not before being beaten and possibly skinned alive. James the Greater, Judas Thaddeus, and Matthias were stoned to death. James the Lesser was beheaded. Matthew and Thomas were speared to death. John alone died of natural causes, and he spent his last days exiled on an island because of His faith. All of this is not even to speak of the countless other physical, spiritual and emotional pains they experienced in their lives in service to the Lord and His Church.

Pope Benedict XVI Venerating the Cross
We will suffer. When we make the personal choice to live the faith, we will certainly find our trials. St. Paul reminds us that in baptism we put to death the old self and put on Christ. And so, like Christ, we too must conform ourselves to the will of God. We must set aside our preferences, our desires, our ambitions, and our ideas, those things that we are so strongly attached to and so strongly resonate in our hearts. And in the place of those things, we are asked to place the Will of God.

The good news in the midst of that is that, like Christ, we too have no need of trying to discern what God’s Will for us is. As Christ has the Old Testament within which to configure His life, we too have a guide given to us. When Christ founded the Church, He gave her the gift of the Holy Spirit and promised that the Spirit would lead her into all Truth. And by the Spirit’s guidance, the Church gives to us today the Sacred Scriptures, the Catechism, teaching of the Popes through the ages, and countless documents on doctrine, liturgy, and the moral life. In these we find God’s Will for us and our lives. But, also like Christ, we will have to suffer greatly at times to conform ourselves to these guides. At times our opinions, desires and preferences will be contrary to that of the Church and we will be asked to set aside those opinions, desires and preferences and follow her in Truth. It happens to all of us, but that is the road that we must take because it is in obedience to Christ and His Church that we find salvation. So let us make great efforts to strive forward by setting ourselves aside and seeking the Lord’s Will in all that we do. To aid us in this difficult task, let us begin to make our own the words so beautifully spoken by St. Gabriel Possenti:

I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces.
I want to do God’s Holy Will, not my own.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Divine Mercy Novena

As we celebrate Good Friday today, we also begin the Novena to the Divine Mercy. In the 1930's, Sister Faustina Kowalska (now Saint Faustina) began to receive visions of Our Lord, who told her to pray a chaplet that His Divine Mercy would be poured out upon the world and hearts converted to the Lord. Too, she was told to spread this chaplet and intentions. Blessed John Paul the Great greatly encouraged this devotion to the Divine Mercy and named the Sunday in the Octave of Easter 'Divine Mercy Sunday'. Please join in the novena prayers for souls throughout the world. The specific prayers for the Novena and the Chaplet can be found HERE.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Face-Melting Quote of the Day

From the Holy Father's homily given today at the Chrism Mass in Rome:
We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal. Amen.
  Complete text found HERE.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Passion and Me

Jesus' Entry into Jerusalem
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 1:15-47

As we come once again to this opening of the most holy week of the year, the entire community is invited to take part in the proclamation of the Gospel – that beautiful narrative of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem up until His death and burial. With this we all truly enter into Holy Week. We are not simply bystanders; we are not men and women simply reflecting on an historical event that unfolded nearly 2000 years ago. We are there among the people of Jerusalem. With our palms today we welcome the King of Glory into our presence. And as happens so often in our lives, we quickly turn away from Our Lord and begin to look to ourselves and our own desires. Today we join the Jews of 2000 years ago in crying out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” We cry out only twice, but sure we intend it many more. And it’s not them. It’s us. It’s me and it’s you.

As we watch His Passion unfold, we are blind to the reality of what is truly taking place before our very eyes. We do not fully understand that every sin of ours today is another wound to Our Lord.

Every time we decide not to attend Sunday Mass because something else came up, we are the three who fall asleep and are awakened by Jesus’ sorrow words, “Could you not keep watch for one hour?” When we fail to stand up for Christ or His Church, we are Peter turning away saying, “I do not know this man!” though only a bit ago we promised, “I will not deny you.”

Each act of greed or anger is another stripe across the back of the Lord. Our lustful acts and gluttony tear open His flesh because we have failed to properly make use of ours.

Our vengeful, impure and judgmental thoughts are thorns piercing the Sacred Head of Christ. Every word of profanity, gossip, degradation, or self-exaltation is another curse hurled at Our Lord as people spit upon Him. And when we exclaim ‘Oh my God’ or ‘Jesus Christ’ without really meaning it as a prayer, we are the guards that mock Jesus by dressing Him up and saluting Him, “Hail King of the Jews!” before slapping his head once more.

As we pass by those in need when we can help, we are the bystanders who watch as Our Lord continues to fall face down into the dirt path, buckling under the weight of the Cross pressing down upon Him. As we offer the drugged wine, we hold out to Him the times we have given in to drunkenness or drug use.

The nails that pierce His Holy and Venerable Hands are the many times where we have sought to tear control over our lives and our world from the hands of our God – our lack of trust and faith, our lack of openness to the Holy Spirit, and more physical things such as trying to build up unnecessary wealth for ourselves or using unnatural means of contraception to control our family.

And now after these many things we gaze upon our handy work. God has been rejected, bruised, beaten, pierced and now hangs nearly lifeless for all to see. And the amazing thing is that He let every bit of it happen. Like the suffering servant from our first reading – He has given His back to those who beat Him, his cheeks and face to be struck and spat upon. Rather than strike out in anger at us, He has permitted every one of these offenses to happen because He loves us.

My brothers and sisters, these are harsh things to ponder, but they are no reason to despair. In the Passion of Our Lord we find a sad story of creation’s rejection of the Creator. But more importantly, we find the story of the depth of the Love of that Creator for us, His creation, such that He would undergo anything to join them to Himself for eternity. He would go so far as to empty Himself of His glory and become obedient “even to the point of death – death on a Cross.”

This love is too much for us to understand and these things too far beyond us. Our Lord knows this clearly and for that reason He cries out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”

Father, forgive us. For we know not what we do.