Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s Video: Second Sunday of Easter B – Divine Mercy Sunday & St. Julie Billiart, April 8,2018

Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s Video: Second Sunday of Easter B – Divine Mercy Sunday & St. Julie Billiart, April 8,2018

Today is also the Divine Mercy Sunday as promoted by St. Faustina: “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. 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 angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.” Before St. Faustina we recall the words of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 A.D.), “mercy consists in bringing a thing out of non-being into being.” We see this transpire concretely in the life of the early Church. The believers “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to prayers.” They were filled with awe; they were witnesses of wondrous signs; they lived for the good of the other; they were selfless and generous; they overflowed with “exultation and sincerity of heart.” God “in his great mercy” gave them – and us – “a new birth to a living hope” through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 2:42-47). That is what the Apostle Thomas is looking for the Lord’s open side (cf. John 20:19-31). This is what John the Apostle speaks about God’s mercy that Jesus empowers his disciples to be a reconciling community as He prayed for his persecutors’ forgiveness as he hung on the cross. The first message of the Risen Christ is: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them” (Jn 20:22- 23). Those who accepted the Holy Spirit and His mission becomes the New Creation (2 Cor 5:17). It does experience a bit as a foretaste – the justice, peace and joy of the Kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17) but still experiences itself and the world as permeated by sin. Thus, the struggle will go on as dark as the world may seem, Christians should always keep in mind St. Paul’s battle cry: “Keep in mind that Jesus Christ is Risen from the Dead” (1 Cor 15:20-28). We are sure to follow Him.

The true sign of whether we have been open to the power of the risen Lord is our willingness to create “just relationships” with our fellow human beings and to focus on creating that ultimate community where there will be no more division (Gal 3:28; 1 Jn 3:14) until its completion: union and communion with the Triune God and with each other in the eternal banquet: “I will be their God and they shall be my people for ever and ever”(Rev 21:3). How am I committed to follow the peace of the risen Lord Jesus in the midst of moral conflicts of abortion versus the value of human life?  Watch the video on Divine Mercy Conference 2013 by Fr Michael Gaitley M.I.C. click this link:  http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2015/04/11/divine-mercy-conference-2013-fr-michael-gaitley-m-i-c/

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

“Lord Jesus Christ, through your victory over sin and death you have overcome all the powers of darkness. Help me to draw near to you and to trust in your life-giving word. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and strengthen my faith in your promises and my hope in the power of your resurrection.” In your Mighty Name, I pray. Amen

Reading 1 ACTS 4:32-35 – They were of one heart and mind.

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R.Alleluia.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just:
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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 be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 1 JN 5:1-6 – Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.

Beloved:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.

The word of the Lord.

Alleluia JN 20:29

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me, says the Lord;
blessed are those who have not seen me, but still believe!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 20:19-31 – Eight days later Jesus came and stood in their midst.

Bishop Robert Barron’s Homily – Divine Mercy click below: 

On the evening of that first day of the week,

when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nail marks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Reflection 1 – The Day the Lord Made

Dr. Scott Hahn’s Reflection on 2nd Sunday of Easter click below:
Listen Here!

Three times in today’s Psalm we cry out a victory shout: “His mercy endures forever.”

Truly we’ve known the everlasting love of God, who has come to us as our Savior. By the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ pierced side (see John 19:34), we’ve been made God’s children, as we hear in today’s Epistle.

Yet we never met Jesus, never heard Him teach, never saw Him raised from the dead. His saving Word came to us in the Church – through the ministry of the apostles, who in today’s Gospel are sent as He was sent.

He was made a life-giving Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 15:45) and He filled His apostles with that Spirit. As we hear in today’s First Reading, they bore witness to His resurrection with great power. And through their witness, handed down in the Church through the centuries, their teaching and traditions have reached us (see Acts 2:42).

We encounter Him as the apostles did – in the breaking of the bread on the Lord’s day (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10).

There is something liturgical about the way today’s Gospel scenes unfold. It’s as if John is trying to show us how the risen Lord comes to us in the liturgy and sacraments.

In both scenes it is Sunday night. The doors are bolted tight, yet Jesus mysteriously comes. He greets them with an expression, “Peace be with you,” used elsewhere by divine messengers (see Daniel 10:19; Judges 6:23). He shows them signs of His real bodily presence. And on both nights the disciples respond by joyfully receiving Jesus as their “Lord.”

Isn’t this what happens in the Mass – where our Lord speaks to us in His Word, and gives himself to us in the sacrament of His body and blood?

Let us approach the altar with joy, knowing that every Eucharist is the day the Lord has made – when the victory of Easter is again made wonderful in our eyes. – Read the source: https://stpaulcenter.com/the-day-the-lord-made-scott-hahn-reflects-on-divine-mercy-sunday/

Reflection 2 – Divine Mercy

On this Divine Mercy Sunday we recall the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Mercy consists in bringing a thing out of non-being into being.” We see this transpire concretely in the life of the early Church. The community of believers “was of one heart and mind” and “they had everything in common.” There were filled with awe; they were witnesses of wondrous signs; they dedicated themselves to the good of the other; they were selfless and generous. They lived with the faith that “conquers the world.” That is what the Apostle Thomas is looking for in the Lord’s open side. “The secret of Christ’s heart is revealed to us through the clefts of his body” (St. Bernard).

Divine Mercy

“Justice is based on love, flows from it, and tends towards it. In the Passion and Death of Christ – in the fact that the Father did not spare his own Son, but for our sake made him sin – absolute justice is expressed, for Christ undergoes the Passion and cross because of the sins of humanity. This constitutes even a “superabundance” of justice, for the sins of man and are “compensated for” by the sacrifice of the Man-God. Nevertheless, this justice, which is properly justice “to God’s measure,” springs completely from love: from the love of the Father and of the Son, and completely bears fruit in love. Precisely for this reason the divine justice revealed in the cross of Christ is “to God’s measure,” because it springs from love and is accomplished in love, producing fruits of salvation. The divine dimension of redemption is put into effect not only by bringing justice to bear upon sin, but also by restoring to love that creative power in man thanks to which he once more has access to the fullness of life and holiness that come from God. In this way, redemption involves the revelation of mercy in its fullness.

“The Paschal Mystery is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of mercy, which is able to justify man, to restore justice in the sense of that salvific order which God willed from the beginning in man and, through man, in the world. The suffering Christ speaks in a special way to man, and not only to the believer. The non-believer also will be able to discover in him the eloquence of solidarity with the human lot, as also the harmonious fullness of a disinterested dedication to the cause of man, to truth and love (Source: St. John Paul II, +2005, Magnificat, Vol. 17, No. 2, April 2015, pp. 109-110).

Reflection 3 – Peace be with you.

Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world as a poor man, born in a manger and into a family that did not have much to speak of in terms of education, wealth, power or fame. His father was a carpenter and He eventually became one, too.  Jesus came to serve His father’s people and not to be served. He led man out of their bondage to sin as a servant. He was always happy and delighted to do the Father’s will. He did only what was good in the eyes of the Father and was fully reliant on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was totally obedient to the Father up to the Cross. This is the Jesus Whom we know as Christ, our Lord and Savior. He did everything for us. He died for so that we may have eternal life with the Father in His heavenly kingdom.

Most of us have acknowledged our loyalty and allegiance to Jesus, the Christ.  As a matter of fact, we call our ourselves CHRIST-ians. We proclaim His Word to all with the hope of drawing the whole world closer to Him.

Today, Jesus is coming back into our lives with a very simple message, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This message is not new to most of us. Jesus wants us to share with others the life He gave us. He desires that we share with everyone His gift to all of us, the very same peace that is now dwelling in our hearts.

Jesus wants to see our deeds, our hearts’ motivations, our fruitfulness, more than our words. To make sure that we are able to pursue what He wants from us, He has breathed upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit. He has given us the Spirit to empower and enable us to go beyond our human aspirations and be one body in His Name.

What has our response been to God’s plan for us? Has our attitude been one of complacency, cold indifference or maybe a heart that is lukewarm? The only acceptable response a man who calls himself a Christian can make is: “Yes, Lord send me as I come to do your will.  Into your hands I commend my spirit, O Lord!  By the power of the Holy Spirit, thy will be done!”

With the power of His Spirit, Jesus wants us to be a community of believers with one heart and one mind, with none of us ever claiming anything as our own; but rather have everything held in common and distributed according to one’s needs.

Has our attitude towards ministry work and apostolate as something that is only for the righteous, as something that is solely ours or for those who are close to us in terms of relationships and not to be shared? Do we open the doors of authentic servanthood to all men?

Let us remember that everyone who believes in Christ has been empowered. Jesus, himself said: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

The commission we have received from our Lord did not discriminate or give priority to some. Let us go and preach the gospel of forgiveness and make disciples of all nations! For those who remain complacent and idle… remember Mt 20:6-7: ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ ‘You too go into my vineyard.’

Direction
Respond from the heart and do God’s work by sharing Christ and His love with everyone.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, I find it quite difficult to live a righteous life, more so do what our Lord Jesus did while He was with us. By the power of the Holy Spirit anoint me and make me your humble servant. In Jesus, I hope
and pray. Amen.

Reflection 4 – Unless I see – I will not believe

Do you know the joy of the resurrection? The Risen Lord Jesus revealed the glory of his resurrection to his disciples gradually and over a period of time. Even after the apostles saw the empty tomb and heard the reports of Jesus’ appearance to the women, they were still weak in faith and fearful of being arrested by the Jewish authorities. When Jesus appeared to them he offered proofs of his resurrection by showing them the wounds of his passion, his pierced hands and side. He calmed their fears and brought them peace, the peace which reconciles sinners and makes us friends of God.

Live and proclaim the Gospel of mercy in the power of the Holy Spirit
Jesus did something which only love and trust can do. He commissioned his weak and timid apostles to bring the good news of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This sending out of the disciples is parallel to the sending out of Jesus by his heavenly Father. Jesus fulfilled his mission through his perfect love and obedience to the will of his Father. He called his first disciples and he now calls each one of  us to do the same. Just as he gave his first disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, so he breathes on each of us the same Holy Spirit who equips us with new life, power, joy, and courage to live each day as followers of the Risen Lord.

The last apostle to meet the resurrected Lord was the first to go with him to Jerusalem at Passover time. The apostle Thomas was a natural pessimist. When Jesus proposed that they visit Lazarus after receiving news of his illness, Thomas said to the disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). While Thomas deeply loved the Lord, he lacked the courage to stand with Jesus in his passion and crucifixion. After Jesus’ death, Thomas made the mistake of withdrawing from the other apostles. He sought loneliness rather than fellowship in his time of trial and adversity. He doubted the women who saw the resurrected Jesus and he doubted his own fellow apostles.

Through the gift of faith we recognize the Risen Lord and receive new life
When Thomas finally had the courage to rejoin the other apostles, the Lord Jesus made his presence known to him and reassured him that he had indeed overcome death and risen again. When Thomas recognized his Master, he believed and exclaimed that Jesus was truly Lord and truly God! Through the gift of faith we, too, proclaim that Jesus is our personal Lord and our God. He died and rose that we, too, might have new life in him. The Lord offers each of us new life in his Holy Spirit that we may know him personally and walk in this new way of life through the power of his resurrection. Do you believe in the good news of the Gospel and in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring you new life, hope, and joy?

“Lord Jesus Christ, through your victory over sin and death you have overcome all the powers of sin and darkness. Help me to draw near to you and to trust in your life-giving word. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and strengthen my faith in your promises and my hope in the power of your resurrection.” – Read the source: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2018/apr8.htm

Reflection 5 – Divine Mercy Sunday every 2nd Sunday of Easter

Divine Mercy Sunday is another name or title given by the Holy See to the Second Sunday of Easter.

The tile “Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday” was first approved by the Holy See in 1995 for the use of the Church in Poland. Subsequently, upon request, the Church in Russia and the Church in the Philippines received a similar provision. Then, acceding to the wishes of the Christian faithful from all over the world, on April 30, 2000, Pope John Paul II, declared that “this Second Sunday of Easter … from now own throughout the Church will also be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’”

The Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in its decree issued on May 5, 2000 formalized this declaration and by its inclusion in the Roman Missal made it binding throughout the universal Church. (The full text of the decree is found in Appendix 1.A).

The decree simply states: “The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II has graciously determined that in the Roman Missal, after the title ‘Second Sunday of Easter’, there shall henceforth be added the appellation ‘or Divine Mercy Sunday’ and has prescribed that the texts assigned for that day in the same Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Rite are always to be used for the liturgical celebration of this Sunday.”

What was Pope John Paull II’s and the Congregation’s reason for acceding to the wishes of the faithful and giving the Second Sunday of Easter an additional designation “Divine Mercy Sunday?” The Christian faithful, according to the decree, wished to praise the “merciful and gracious Lord (Ps 111:4), who, out of great love with which He loved (Eph 2:4) and (out of) unspeakable goodness, gave us His Only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, so that through the Death and Resurrection of this Son He might open the way to eternal life for the human race, and that the adopted children who receive His mercy within His temple might lift up His praise to the ends of the earth.” They also wished to “praise that Divine Mercy in divine worship, particularly in the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, in which God’s loving kindness especially shines forth.”

By giving this additional designation to the last day of the Octave of Easter, the Holy Father and the Congregation for the Divine Worship fulfilled the wishes of the Christian faithful, while at the same time safeguarding the true meaning and import of Easter. The original designation, Second Sunday of Easter, continues to proclaim, with all its splendor, the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s dying and rising, His victory over sin and death, and His gift of new and everlasting life. The added designation, Divine Mercy, points to the inscrutable mystery of God, the mystery of Divine Mercy. It unveils the truth that “the Paschal Mystery is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of (Divine) Mercy, and that the paschal Christ is the definitive incarnation of Mercy, its living sign … (and) its inexhaustible source” (John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, 8,7).

This added designation directs the hearts of the humanity of God’s boundless mercy and love “manifested in all its richness by Christ, our Risen Lord. It proclaims with joy and confidence that “merciful and gracious is the Lord (Ps 111:4), who, out of great love with which He love us (Eph 2:4) … gave us His Only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, so that through the Death and Resurrection of this Son He might open the way to eternal life for the human race, and that the adopted children who receive His mercy within His temple might lift up His praise to the ends of the earth.” (Decree of the Congregation fro Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments).

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday on April 23, 2006, attested, not only to the key significance of this Sunday’s celebration, but also to the unity of the Second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday when he said: “On this the Second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, may God’s blessing of reconciliation and peace be with you all.” Summarizing John Paul II’s understanding of “the mystery of God’s merciful love,” which was at “the center of his Pontificate” and, in some way “summed up his Magisterium,” Pope Benedict XVI underscored the importance of this message with unmistakable charity: “the cult of Divine Mercy is not a secondary devotion but an integral dimension of a Christian’s faith and prayer.”

Reflection 6 – His Mercy Endures Forever!

On Good Friday, Jesus suffered not only extreme physical pain, and worse still, emotional and moral pain. His trusted disciples abandoned him. Judas sold him for thirty pieces of silver. Peter denied him three times. And the rest of the disciples, save John, went into hiding. Just when Jesus needed their help, they failed him. That is why despite the news from reliable witnesses that he has risen and is alive, they obstinately refused to believe. One reason for this must be fear. They were afraid to face Jesus because of what they had done to him. They thought he would surely condemn them for their infidelity.

Now, Jesus appeared to them for the first time. He stood in their midst and the first words he uttered were: “Peace be with you!” These were spoken so gently and so warmly as if telling them, “I know how you feel. I understand your situation. I forgive you. Do not be afraid. All is well.” Those were like the words of a mother tenderly consoling a weeping and terrified child. There was no trace of bitterness, anger and resentment towards his unfaithful disciples, but only warmth of love and forgiveness.

Today, let us rejoice with the whole Church: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!” “Let us give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever!”

This second Sunday of Easter is the celebration of the Feast of the Divine Mercy. In a decree dated 23 May 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.”

Let us, therefore, celebrate the mercy of God for us. Like the disciples of Jesus, we, too, have been unfaithful to Him. We have turned our backs on Him and have failed Him so many times. But Jesus does not condemn us, nor is He angry with us. It is because He is the God of mercy. Mercy is the word for generous love towards sinners.

St. Thomas Aquinas said: “Mercy consists in bringing a thing out of non-being into being.” When we are in sin, we lose the friendship of God and the life of divine grace within. Jesus said: “I am the vine, you are the branches; apart from me you can do nothing.” Practically we become nothing; we are spiritually dead. But in His mercy, God brings us back into being, and restores us to new life with Him.

How does God do this? In the Gospel this Sunday, it says: “Jesus breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

This text is generally considered as the scriptural basis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation – the great fountain of God’s mercy within the Church. God’s mercy and forgiveness are being offered to us in the sacrament of Confession.

A priest was hearing confessions one afternoon. Somebody walks into the confessional box, reeking with alcohol. The man is obviously drunk. The priest waits but the man says nothing. So he coughs and clears his throat to attract attention, but still the man says nothing. The priest then knocks loudly on the wall to get the man to talk. Finally, the drunk speaks: “Pal, don’t disturb me! There’s no toilet paper in this one either.”

Nowadays, many Catholics do not anymore appreciate the value of the sacrament of Confession, and therefore do not avail of it for years and even decades. For most of them, it is just a seasonal sacrament – an annual obligation, at best. That is not correct. We need God’s mercy and forgiveness at every moment of our lives.

This is the message that needs to be proclaimed with clear conviction and urgency. In a world where people are losing the sense of sin, where the value and sacredness of human life is not anymore acknowledged, where having more of material things is the benchmark of success, and when people have become self-sufficient and proud, the message should be loud and clear: we need God’s mercy and His grace to reform our lives and walk along the way of conversion and salvation.

And how wonderful it is to realize that God looks at us with love and mercy! St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina was once confronted with a man who said: “I don’t believe in God!” Padre Pio just smiled and said: “But God believes in you!”

This reminds me of a story about a boy trapped inside the second floor of their burning house. His father could not get in anymore. There was no way out but through the window. The father urged the boy: “Jump, son! I am down here. I will catch you.” But the boy said: “Dad, I’m afraid! Where are you? I cannot see you.” But the father shouted back, “Don’t worry, son! You can’t see me, but I see you. Just jump, and I will catch you!”

Do not worry that we cannot find God; He finds us. Do not be afraid that we cannot see God; He sees us all the time. Do not be sad that we cannot love God enough; He loves us unconditionally with a heart so full of mercy and tenderness.

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, let us rejoice and be glad in this thought: God loves me unconditionally. I am special and precious in His eyes. He looks at me with the eyes of mercy and love. This is expressed beautifully in a love song by Michael Johnson entitled, “The Love She Found in Me”: “Give her thorns and she’ll find roses; give her sand and she’ll find the sea; give her rain and she’ll find rainbows; just see the love she’s found in me.”

That is the way God looks at us. Indeed, He is absolutely the greatest lover. But He cannot force His love upon us. He patiently waits for our return into His loving arms. When will we go back to Confession in order to avail of His mercy and forgiveness?

And if God is merciful to us, we should also be merciful towards one another. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask the Father to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Imagine a world where people treat each other the way God treats us. That’s the way it should be. That’s the way heaven begins here on earth! (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).

Reflection 7 – Being healed and overcoming spiritual death through The Divine Mercy of Christ

In the year 2000, on the 30th of April, Pope John Paul II extended to the whole Church that this Sunday, the Octave of Easter—also called Low Sunday or White Sunday, because the newly baptized and confirmed would come to this Mass dressed in their new clothes, white robes—would now be referred to as the Feast of Divine Mercy. This is significant because the image of Divine Mercy portrays Christ’s white light of healing for those who were wounded by sin, just as the waters of Baptism and the Oil of Chrism have healed and brought to new life those received into the Church at the Easter Vigil.

Five years after Pope John Paul II extended this special feast to be celebrated by the whole Church in honor of God’s healing mercy through his Cross and Resurrection, the Pope died. On Divine Mercy Sunday, six years later, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, beatified Pope John Paul II. Now, St. Faustina’s devotion to Divine Mercy is known the world over. This Sunday marks the first Divine Mercy Sunday for the now Pope Saint who championed it’s cause.

Pope St. John Paul II taught us all a great deal about God’s mercy. In his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, he wrote:

Through the Incarnation God gave human life the dimension that he intended man to have from his first beginning; he has granted that dimension definitively—in the way that is peculiar to him alone, in keeping with his eternal love and mercy, with the full freedom of God—and he has granted it also with the bounty that enables us, in considering the original sin and the whole history of the sins of humanity, and in considering the errors of the human intellect, will and heart, to repeat with amazement the words of the Sacred Liturgy: ‘O happy fault … which gained us so great a Redeemer!’” (John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, 1)

At the Easter Vigil during the Exultet, we heard those words sung, “O happy fault…which gained us so great a Redeemer!” Because of our sins, we have all suffered and caused the suffering of others.

Original sin turned love in on itself, and through our selfishness we have failed to show our love for God and neighbor. When we fail to love God above all others, and our neighbors as ourselves, we wound ourselves and others through sin. St. Thomas recognized the resurrected Christ by his wounds: the power of the resurrected Christ for healing our humanity. As Christ was wounded and able to overcome both death and the wounds he incurred, so can we by Christ’s mercy and love. The power of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection transforms our past, present, and future so that we may learn to love properly, and that our wounds, and the wounds we have inflicted upon others, may also be healed and gloriously transformed by God’s mercy.

Pope St. John Paul II further taught that the mercy that transforms our wounds is Christ himself:

Above all, love is greater than sin, than weakness, than the “futility of creation,” it is stronger than death; it is a love always ready to raise up and forgive, always ready to go to meet the prodigal son, always looking for “the revealing of the sons of God,” who are called to “the glory that is to be revealed.” This revelation of love is also described as mercy; and in man’s history this revelation of love and mercy has taken a form and a name: that of Jesus Christ. (John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis , 9)

Jesus is the Divine Physician who has come into our lives to offer us his healing balm, the balm of the Cross and the Resurrection, the balm of his mercy through which our humanity is transformed and made glorious, a new creation.

Transformed by God’s mercy, we live our life more abundantly, and give witness to the great power of Christ in our lives. This is our salt, this is the light we are meant to share with the whole world. As we have received the peace of Christ, we must go forth to all nations and proclaim that peace to them, because all people deserve the opportunity to know and be healed by the love and mercy of Christ that has benefited our lives.

Aided by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, let us envelop all humanity in the love and mercy of Christ by proclaiming him to the entire world. What can you do? First, pray! Pray for God’s healing in your own life, and in the life of those you love. But even more so, pray for those people you don’t like. Secondly, be healed and converted to Christ yourself. Thirdly, filled with his love, and in thanksgiving for all the great miracles Christ has worked in your life, share that joy with others. Fourthly, never hold back anything from Christ, and trust in his Divine Providence for your salvation. Lastly, with faith and hope secured in Christ, know that your witness will truly help others to come to Christ. Your faith and hope in Christ, and your love of him, is not meant to be private. Share the mercy of God with others, and the mercy you have received will only be magnified. Let your life be one of the many signs worked by Christ “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” – Read the source: Fr. Philip-Michael Tangorra http://www.hprweb.com/2018/03/homilies-for-april-2018/

Reflection 8 – God’s Mercy Endures Forever!
 
There are three important celebrations this Sunday. First, it is the second Sunday of Easter. Second, we celebrate the Feast of the Divine Mercy. It was Pope John Paul II who established it as feast in the universal Church in the Jubilee Year 2000. On that same day, he also canonized the humble instrument of the Divine Mercy, the Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska. And third, we commemorate the solemn beatification ceremony of the same Pope John Paul II that took place in Rome on May 01, 2011.
Perhaps, some of us may ask why these three celebrations are clumped together in one day. The answer to this lies in the fact that there is only one underlying theme in all of them: Divine Mercy.
God is love. And love shown towards sinners is mercy. The Latin word for mercy is “misericordia”, coming from two words “miser” (poor) and “cor” (heart), literally translated as “heart for the poor” or “heart for the sinner”. This is precisely the mission of Jesus. He suffered and died on the cross as the unblemished lamb of sacrifice so that we, ungrateful sinners that we are, will not perish, but may have eternal life and salvation. The resurrection of Jesus is his victory that gave us new birth and eternal life. St. Peter proclaimed this in the second reading: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1Pet 1:3).
As we look at the Gospel, we see how the mercy of God is manifested in and through the Risen Lord. Instead of reprimanding his disciples who abandoned him during his moments of suffering, Jesus appeared to them and greeted them: “Peace!” Instead of taking revenge on his cruel persecutors, he asked the Father to “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” He then sent his disciples to tell them about God’s love and forgiveness. And most importantly, to make sure God’s mercy and forgiveness are always readily available to all his followers, he instituted the sacrament of Penance: “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”(Jn 20:22-23).
The Sacrament of Penance is the sacrament of God’s overflowing mercy. That is why every priest is reminded that when a penitent comes for confession, no matter how tired he is or how inconvenient it may be for him, he has to find time to hear that confession, for he must always remember that at that moment God’s mercy is at work in that person.
Truly, it is fitting that we celebrate on this day the boundless mercy of God for us sinners. And it is indeed significant that the beatification of Pope John Paul II took place today. It was he who officially universalized this devotion by declaring the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. And it was also he who made possible the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska.
But what does Divine Mercy really mean? Many people are saying that there really is no Hell. For them, the existence of Hell it is inconsistent with the idea of an infinitely merciful God. How can a merciful God punish sinners? How can a God of love create a place of torment? Sadly, many people only want to hear about God’s love, and not about God’s justice. So, it seems inopportune and even anachronistic for the priest to preach about the evil of sin and the horror of hell.
In the Divine Mercy devotion, Jesus revealed many important truths to St. Faustina. And it should be pointed out that, when talking about God’s Mercy, Jesus had also to speak about sin, evil, hell and eternal punishment.
Let me cite some quotations from the Diary of St. Faustina. First, sin is ugly. Jesus said: Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full (Diary, 1448). Sin separates us from God for it is our rejection of His friendship. So a soul that is separated from God is rightfully described as a decaying corpse, devoid of life and beauty. Yet God is always ready to grant the sinner His unconditional forgiveness. But if he persists in the life of sin, and refuses to seek God’s forgiveness, this will eventually lead to his eternal separation from God, to his eternal damnation.
Second, souls suffer punishment: Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity…tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near (Diary, 965).
Third, Hell exists, and it is for real. St. Faustina wrote that God had given her a vision of hell“so that no soul mayfind an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.”She also wrote, “I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me” (Diary, 741).
What is the point of telling us these things? Good parents want the safety and well being of their children. So they will not shy away from telling their children about the dangers of playing with fire, or running carelessly across the street. These are not meant to scare them or limit their freedom. These are important warnings so that they will not be harmed. And if earthly parents are like that, how much more for God who is our loving Father?  Jesus said, “If you, then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (Mt 7:11).
The messages of the Lord Jesus to St. Faustina, therefore, are proofs of God’s infinite Mercy. And it is during these times, with the rapid spread of the culture of death in the world, and with many people losing the faith, that we should take serious heed of these messages, lest we fall into the trap of the enemy. Pope Benedict XVI said about this in his homily during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday: “Today we are once more painfully aware that Satan has been permitted to sift the disciples before the whole world.”
Life in this world is a serious spiritual battle. Yet we go on life not without hope and courage, for Jesus assures us: “I am with you always until the end of time.” Like the Apostle Thomas, let us affirm our faith and trust in Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” Let us rejoice and be filled with hope, for God is love, and “His mercy endures forever.” (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).

Reflection 9 – From doubting to Thomas the believer

Most of us have imperfect recall when it comes to remembering names. But nicknames stick. When a nickname is an implied criticism, it is harder to get rid of than a crooked nose. Likewise, the apostle known as Doubting Thomas has a valid complaint: “I make one wrong and people never forget it. Where’s the justice in that?”

As the Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “We must learn to regard less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” By taking a closer look at the probable cause of Thomas’s doubting, we might come to understand him – and ourselves – a little better. For even if our faith has not yet been shaken by the winds of doubt, the lives of the saints suggest that our time of testing will come.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, all the disciples were overcome by fear. In the gospel (Jn 20:19-31) John and Peter and the others were hiding behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” They expressed no expectation that Jesus would appear to save the day. We can be sure that the hair stood up on their arms when, like a lightning bolt on a lackluster day, Jesus suddenly stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he breathed his Spirit on them, sending them out as his gospel messengers. But Thomas was not there. Maybe he was the only one brave enough to go out for supplies. Maybe he was so devastated by Jesus’ death that he had to be alone with his grief. Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

Before Thomas doubted, he showed great courage and faithfulness. Recall the story of how Jesus decided, despite threats of arrest, to go to Bethany, near Jerusalem, to raise Lazarus. Only one disciple immediately supported him. Thomas roused the others by saying, “Let us also go to die with him” (Jn 11:16). At the Last Supper, Jesus assured the disciples that where he was going they too would go. Once again it was loyal Thomas who spoke up, seeking direction lest they get separated from him. “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5). Despite these two stories in which the apostle is looking good, he did not become known as Heroic Thomas or Loyal Thomas.

By seeking proof of Jesus’ rising, Thomas prompted high praise for all of us. He had been left out of the most stunning experience the disciples had ever had. Perhaps his refusal to take their word about the resurrection was rooted in the fear of discovering that they were victims of an illusion. Thomas had to have proof before he could go on. Although a painting by Caravaggio depicts Jesus guiding Thomas’ finger into the open wound in his side, the Gospel does not say that the apostle actually touched Christ’s wounds. He saw his Master and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus surely understood Thomas’ doubting. But he used it as an occasion to say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” If Thomas had not suffered his crisis of faith, we might not have been so well praised for our believing.

It has been said that only those who have a deep faith can survive a deep doubt. The apostle best known as Thomas the Believer encourages us to trust in Jesus, risen and waiting to raise us up. As we approach the altar, we make Thomas’ prayer our own: “My Lord and my God!” (Source: Fr. Hilarion Kistner, OFM, editor. Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, April 19, 2009).

Reflection 10 – Peace be with you

Our Lord stands in the Upper Room where the doors have been locked from fear of the Jews and he twice greets his Apostles with “Peace.” But what kind of peace does our Lord wish his Apostles? The peace which is the absence of conflict? If one goes to a graveyard everyone is at peace. Why? Because they are all dead. There is nothing happening. This is not the peace with which our Lord greets his Apostles. His peace is an inner peace, which is the fruit of grace born of an upright conscience in which man experiences integrity.

Adam and Eve experienced this peace before the sin because they enjoyed the union of all their interior forces with God. The body served the passions, the passion served the intellect and will and these in turn served God. This peace was shattered by the disobedient and unloving Adam and Eve. They lost peace because they lost grace and union with the Trinity. Adam was not responsible for this peace but it was caused by grace, the presence of the Holy Spirit elevating man to communion with God in heaven. In losing this peace, the human race entered a period of turmoil, an inner turmoil caused by our inability to experience personal communion with the Trinity and an outward turmoil caused by the violence which resulted from lust.

When Christ stands in the Upper Room in his risen body, he first shows his Apostles the means to return to this peace of grace, the glorious wounds, and the signs of his triumph over sin and death. His crucifixion has won the forgiveness of the Original Sin and all sin by opening heaven to us again by sanctifying grace. His flesh is the necessary means how to experience this life. John, in his vision in the Apocalypse, transfers images used in the apocalyptic prophecies of the Old Testament, especially to Christ. This includes his body. He was sent to earth to accomplish this part of the atonement by suffering death. So his body is now a necessary means to experience the second part of the atonement, the renewal presence of the Holy Spirit. Not only as God, but now as Man, Christ “holds the keys of death and the underworld” (Rev 1:18). These keys are the authority given to Christ in his human nature to forgive sins and exercise divine judgment at the end of time.

In the Upper Room now, he invokes this second part of his mission by breathing on the Apostles. The Word through his human nature imparts the divine love and breath of the Father – what the Fathers of the Church called the osculum suavissimum, the sweet kiss of the Father and the Son – the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and associates himself actively with reestablishing the peace of conscience of the whole human race by instituting the sacrament of penance. This is not the final public manifestation of the Spirit, which will be given on Pentecost, but it is a pouring out of his Spirit through his flesh. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:23).

In a sense, Peter’s shadow is a symbol of the healing power imparted by Christ to the Church. “The sick were taken out into the streets and laid on beds and sleeping mats in the hope that as least the shadow of Peter might fall across some of them as he went past” (Acts 5:12-16). So the healing of body wrought by Peter’s shadow is a trace of the healing of spirit wrought by Jesus’ risen body. The sacraments are extensions of the power of Christ’s body throughout time and space which in turn acts from the power of his divinity.

In order to experience this healing, though, one must believe in it. Thomas would not believe that Christ had risen, and so there would be no power communicated by his risen body to his Church. He represents the spirit of our age, which blends a skepticism and pessimism about religious things, together with his own melancholic temperament. God uses his slow surrender in faith as the occasion for the most complete confession of Christ’s divinity: “My Lord and My God” (Jn 20:28). This is a model for us today.

Thomas is invited to physically associate himself with the marks of the wounds, and by faith he spiritually confesses those glorious wounds to be still present in Jesus’ body as it now exists in heaven. The sacrament of penance demands both the exterior association by physical confession of sins with the lips, but also spiritual association by contrition and satisfaction. In these three acts, the Christian implements the faith of Thomas and through the body with the glorious wounds experiences again the peace brought by the Holy Spirit. With Thomas, we who have “not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:29) must confess: My Lord and My God! (Source: Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP. “Homilies on the Liturgies of Sundays and Feasts,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Vol. CX, No. 6. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, March 2010, pp. 35-36; Suggested reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 448, 976, 1422-1470)

Reflection 11 – The Ideal Parish

One of the most difficult and saddest decisions that a bishop must make is to close a parish. Unfortunately closing parishes is now a common occurrence in many parts of the nation. Demographics are supposed to explain it, but there are other reasons as well, for example, the shortage of priests, falling Mass attendance and the indifference of parishioners. At the root of it all is weak faith.

Nevertheless when the FOR SALE sign posted in front of a parish church, parishioners suddenly become upset and grieve almost like for a deceased love one. Most of them begin to appreciate the sacrifices of past generations, the hard work of the pastors, and the dedication of the parish church and school staff, among which the sacristans, music directors and custodians are not the least important. At times, almost reluctantly, people admit that the parish was the center of their religious lives.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the parish as a “definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church; the pastoral care of the parish is entrusted to a pastor as its own shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishop” (CCC: 2179).

Today’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 4:32-35), seems to describe the ideal Christian community. Believers who “of one heart and mind,” and no needy person were among them because they practiced a kind of Christian communism and “distributed support to each according to need” (Acts 4:35). This was without a doubt a description of the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem. Things soon changed. It was bound to happen. Human nature with all its weaknesses soon asserted itself. Even in the times of the apostles problems arose about property held in common. We have the tragic example of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) and the complaints of some about discrimination in the care of widows – widows who spoke Hebrew seemed to be favored at the expense of those who spoke Greek (Acts 6). Within twenty years, St. Paul criticized some communities for factions and sexual immorality (Gal 5:20-21). He often warned of false teachers and apostles. Before long the writer of the Book of Revelation was forced to reprimand Christian communities in the name of Jesus for factions and cliques, personality clashes, envy and jealousy, lukewarmness and indifference, dissensions and authority problems, and, of course, the ever-present danger of sexual immorality.

From the very beginning the Church has had to face the challenge of creating a Christian community as described in the first reading out of leaders and believers who were all too human. Indeed the Church is a community of saints and sinners.

As the Church grew and Christian communities were established, Church organization also developed. Priestly ministry was exercised by men called by God and ordained to become shepherds of Christ’s flock. Bishops were the successors of the apostles. They associated priests and deacons in their ministry, and these three levels of priestly ministry are acknowledged to be of divine origin. For the first four centuries dioceses and parishes were for practical purposes the same since the Christian community was cared for by a bishop. With the end of persecutions and the spread of the faith, bishops found it necessary to depend more and more on priests to tend to the spiritual needs of the faithful. Parishes gradually were identified according to the division of responsibilities delegated to priests by bishops. Up to the Council of Trent (1537-1542) parishes had loosely defined boundaries but then Trent decreed that parishes be established with definite boundaries and that the pastor, or parish priest, have jurisdiction only over the faithful residing within these boundaries.

After Vatican Council II and the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law we now have parishes that are territorial but there are also personal parishes based upon rite, nationality or language. What a parish should be can best be understood by considering the duties a pastor assumes by virtue of his appointment. Canon law requires that he sees to it that the Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly. He is to provide opportunities for the reception of the sacraments, especially Holy Communion and reconciliation. He must be concerned about the people’s active participation in the liturgy, an instructive Sunday homily, catechetical programs, family prayer and social justice. He also has an obligation to those who have strayed from the faith and those outside the Church, because they too are God’s children.

We in America have special problems that we must address through our parishes. The closing of many parishes may be a distressing phenomenon, but it is only a surface eruption. Underlying it are spiritual maladies that were highlighted by Pope Benedict XVI during his 2008 visit to our country. He spoke of “a quiet apostasy” occurring because some Catholics have conformed to the spirit of the age rather than thinking in harmony with the Church’s teaching on issues like abortion, cohabitation, homosexuality, marriage and sexual morality. Our Holy Father identified materialism, secularism and individualism as eroding our faith. Materialism closes our eyes to spiritual values. Secularism leads many to be “Sunday-only” Catholics. Individualism has look at the Church as mother but not teacher. As a result the people sensed the presence of division and polarization among American Catholics, who are no longer the “spiritual leaven” they were baptized to be.

What the Holy Father seemed to sense among some Catholics in America reflects on what American Catholic parishes are. What our parishes should be and will be remains to be seen. It depends on us. (Source: Rev. George M. Franko, “Homilies on the Liturgies of Sundays and Feasts,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Vol. CIX, No. 6. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, March 2009, pp. 40-42; Suggested reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1536, 1560, 1562, 1568, 2179; Code of Canon Law, 515, 519, 528, 529).

Reflection 12 – Something Greater Here than Solomon, Jonah…or even Houdini

Purpose:  Jesus’ miracles—especially that of the Resurrection—profoundly and permanently transform reality. After his resurrection, Jesus commissioned the transformed apostles to go and preach the Good News to the ends of the earth. This same risen Lord seeks to transform us as well, first during our earthly pilgrimage by means of the sacraments; then, when that pilgrimage ends, by means of our own rising from the dead.

Have you ever seen children enthralled by one of those magicians-for-hire at a birthday party? As a kid, I loved magic, and practiced for hours various tricks contained in the magic kit my parents bought me, before I tested them on family members and friends.  Live performances by such famous illusionists as David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy, and Penn & Teller thrilled me. Magic seems to effect the miraculous: a woman’s body supposedly cut in two and restored; metal passing through metal as solid chain rings link themselves together; yards of fabric pulled from an empty hat; elephants disappearing from a stage. (Even more impressive, watch David Copperfield make Lady Liberty vanish on You Tube.) While entertaining, we know magicians guard secrets that ultimately “dis-illusion” us: the laws of physics render impossible what seemed to happen right before our very eyes.

Unlike master illusionists, Jesus performed authentic miracles that transformed reality in a profound and permanent manner. In today’s passage from the fourth Gospel, we encounter the risen Christ, whose human nature is truly transformed and radically glorified. The body that now passes through locked doors (and serves up a fish fry, according to John 21!) is the same tortured and crucified body nailed to a cross days earlier. Indeed, Thomas probes with his fingers those very marks of his Passion. “Once I was dead,” Christ announces in St. John’s vision recorded in today’s reading from Revelation, “but now I am alive forever and ever.” Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus performed many miracles, including the resuscitation of several corpses, including those of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5) and Lazarus (John 11). Resurrection, however, is an entirely different reality than resuscitation! The little girl and Lazarus eventually experienced a definitive death, as did everyone Jesus healed. The “life in his name” promised in today’s Gospel, the life for which each human being yearns, is life on a wholly new plane. This new life, nonetheless, remains my life in continuity—the physical life that began at conception, and the spiritual life to which Baptism gives birth.

Three Apostles—Peter, James and John—previously received a glimpse of Jesus’ resurrection on Mount Tabor where, transfigured, Jesus’ face “shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light” (Mt. 17:2). After Jesus rises and bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit, all the Apostles are likewise transformed. The Gospel portrait of these uncomprehending, hesitant men gives way to the description found in the Acts of the Apostles: dynamic, bold preachers who (except for John) suffer a martyr’s death. In today’s Gospel, we witness the transformation of Thomas, who forever gets the bad rap of “doubting” simply for asking to experience what his brothers did a week earlier. His adamant “I will not believe” becomes, in the risen Lord’s presence, “my Lord and my God!” The first reading from Acts manifests the change accomplished in Jesus’ closest companions, through whom “many signs and wonders” now happen: miraculous healings, exorcisms, and religious conversions.

Today’s readings, of course, speak to us about our own radical transformation in Christ. Through the witness of those who knew Jesus before and after His resurrection, who saw Him in visions, who touched his risen body, and who performed miracles in his name, the Lord announces his desire to reconfigure us on multiple levels! He wants to deepen our belief in him as Lord and Savior just as he did with Thomas. He wills to exorcise evil from our hearts and bring healing to our illnesses, especially to the self-inflicted wounds of sin. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,” Jesus tells the Apostles in our Gospel. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church sings in its responsorial psalm (118) that “{God’s} mercy endures forever,” a mercy that reaches us with special intensity through the sacrament of Reconciliation. This sacrament, and that of the Eucharist, progressively transform us into Christ over the course of our lives. At the end of our earthly pilgrimage, God’s transformative work culminates in our own resurrection from the dead!
Further reading from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: nos. 988-1004. Read the source: http://www.hprweb.com/2016/03/homilies-for-april-2016/

Reflection 13 – Divine Mercy Sunday

Purpose:  Being healed and overcoming spiritual death through The Divine Mercy of Christ.

In the year 2000, on the 30th of April, Pope John Paul II extended to the whole Church that this Sunday, the Octave of Easter—also called Low Sunday or White Sunday, because the newly baptized and confirmed would come to this Mass dressed in their new clothes, white robes—would now be referred to as the Feast of Divine Mercy. This is significant because the image of Divine Mercy portrays Christ’s white light of healing for those who were wounded by sin, just as the waters of Baptism and the Oil of Chrism have healed and brought to new life those received into the Church at the Easter Vigil.

Five years after Pope John Paul II extended this special feast to be celebrated by the whole Church in honor of God’s healing mercy through his Cross and Resurrection, the Pope died. On Divine Mercy Sunday, six years later, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, beatified Pope John Paul II. Now, St. Faustina’s devotion to Divine Mercy is known the world over. This Sunday marks the first Divine Mercy Sunday for the now Pope Saint who championed it’s cause.

Pope St. John Paul II taught us all a great deal about God’s mercy. In his first encyclical,Redemptor Hominis, he wrote:

Through the Incarnation God gave human life the dimension that he intended man to have from his first beginning; he has granted that dimension definitively—in the way that is peculiar to him alone, in keeping with his eternal love and mercy, with the full freedom of God—and he has granted it also with the bounty that enables us, in considering the original sin and the whole history of the sins of humanity, and in considering the errors of the human intellect, will and heart, to repeat with amazement the words of the Sacred Liturgy: ‘O happy fault … which gained us so great a Redeemer!’” (John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, 1)

At the Easter Vigil during the Exultet, we heard those words sung, “O happy fault…which gained us so great a Redeemer!” Because of our sins, we have all suffered and caused the suffering of others.

Original sin turned love in on itself, and through our selfishness we have failed to show our love for God and neighbor. When we fail to love God above all others, and our neighbors as ourselves, we wound ourselves and others through sin. St. Thomas recognized the resurrected Christ by his wounds: the power of the resurrected Christ for healing our humanity. As Christ was wounded and able to overcome both death and the wounds he incurred, so can we by Christ’s mercy and love. The power of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection transforms our past, present, and future so that we may learn to love properly, and that our wounds, and the wounds we have inflicted upon others, may also be healed and gloriously transformed by God’s mercy.

Pope St. John Paul II further taught that the mercy that transforms our wounds is Christ himself:

Above all, love is greater than sin, than weakness, than the “futility of creation,” it is stronger than death; it is a love always ready to raise up and forgive, always ready to go to meet the prodigal son, always looking for “the revealing of the sons of God,” who are called to “the glory that is to be revealed.” This revelation of love is also described as mercy; and in man’s history this revelation of love and mercy has taken a form and a name: that of Jesus Christ. (John Paul II,Redemptor Hominis , 9)

Jesus is the Divine Physician who has come into our lives to offer us his healing balm, the balm of the Cross and the Resurrection, the balm of his mercy through which our humanity is transformed and made glorious, a new creation.

Transformed by God’s mercy, we live our life more abundantly, and give witness to the great power of Christ in our lives. This is our salt, this is the light we are meant to share with the whole world. As we have received the peace of Christ, we must go forth to all nations and proclaim that peace to them, because all people deserve the opportunity to know and be healed by the love and mercy of Christ that has benefited our lives.

Aided by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, let us envelop all humanity in the love and mercy of Christ by proclaiming him to the entire world. What can you do? First, pray! Pray for God’s healing in your own life, and in the life of those you love. But even more so, pray for those people you don’t like. Secondly, be healed and converted to Christ yourself. Thirdly, filled with his love, and in thanksgiving for all the great miracles Christ has worked in your life, share that joy with others. Fourthly, never hold back anything from Christ, and trust in his Divine Providence for your salvation. Lastly, with faith and hope secured in Christ, know that your witness will truly help others to come to Christ. Your faith and hope in Christ, and your love of him, is not meant to be private. Share the mercy of God with others, and the mercy you have received will only be magnified. Let your life be one of the many signs worked by Christ “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”

Reflection 14 – Forgiveness 

Carefully backing into a parking lot space, the driver of a big, heavy old Rolls Royce was angered when a teenager in a cool sports car zipped in and stole his place. Getting out of the car, the youth grinned and said, “You got to be young and quick to be able to do that, Pops.” The older gent grinned too, and continued to back up his Rolls, crunching the tiny sports car into a total wreck. “And you have to be old and rich to be able to do that, Son,” he said.

I share this story because it has a lot to do with the theme of today’s liturgy, which is forgiveness. At first, we must admit, we are easily distracted by dealing only with the more appealing and exotic gospel story of Thomas, his doubt and dramatic reclamation. But when we are sidetracked too narrowly like this, we miss the whole impact of the combined three readings that tell us that the point of the second Sunday after Easter, and the first indication from Jesus of what his faith community would be about, was that it would be, above all, like himself, a reconciling community. In a word, the one who prayed for his persecutors’ forgiveness as he hung on the cross left that legacy to his community as one of its most outstanding characteristics.

Forgiveness of those who have harmed us–who are harming us–then, is the hallmark of Christianity. The very message of Calvary itself and the first message of the Risen Christ is: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them.” Such open forgiveness was, when you think of it, a profoundly shocking idea then, and is a profoundly shocking idea now. And yet, on those occasions when it has been put into practice, we recognize its authenticity.

Elsa Joseph was a Jewish woman who was cut off from both her children, both girls, during the Second World War. It was years later that she discovered that her daughters had been gassed at Auschwitz. A former concert violinist, Elsa responded to this tragic news by picking up her violin and going to play it in Germany. And there in the halls of the homeland of her children’s murderers she played her violin and told her story that cried out to heaven for vengeance. But she did not seek vengeance. She spoke of the world’s deep need for reconciliation and forgiveness, without which it was tearing itself apart.

“If I, a Jewish mother, can forgive what happened,” she told her audiences not only in Germany, but in Northern Ireland, and in Lebanon and in Israel, “then why can you not sink your differences and be reconciled to one another?”

Then there is the Anglican Bishop Tafi, who, when he heard the news that his son, a university student at Teheran, had been waylaid and shot to death, forced himself to his knees and he prayed, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” Archbishop Oscar Romero, hearing rumors that the San Salvador death squads were out to get him, wrote that he pardoned and blessed his killers beforehand. An eyewitness reported that Father James Carney, an American priest in Honduras, who was murdered there, prayed for his murderers before they threw him out of a helicopter to his death below.

It is this radical concept of forgiving love, grounded in Jesus’ witness, that sharply distinguishes such people as Elsa Joseph, Bishop Tafi, Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Father James Carney from those other martyrs, the Kamikaze terrorists. Yes, both share one thing in common: they are prepared to die for a cause. But whereas the terrorist, in dying, adds to the violence of the world, hating and cursing what he has killed and encouraging others to do the same, the man or woman who responds to violence by begging God to have mercy on its perpetrators comes close to redeeming the world.

We may feel in our bones that such heroic forgiveness as we just mentioned is beyond us, and yet we recognize that when forgiveness is actually given and practiced, it speaks to the world’s deepest needs. If the world is to be saved, the chain of evil and the vicious cycle of revenge have to be broken. It was Mohandas Gandhi, I think, who said that if you practice an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, you’re going to wind up with a universe of toothless and blind people.

An unknown woman in the Ravensbruck concentration camp wrote this little prayer and pinned it to the dead body of a little girl there. I’d like to share her prayer. “Oh, Lord,” she wrote, “remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the sufferings they have inflicted on us.

Remember rather the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity; the greatness of heart that has grown out of all of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.”

Betsie Ten Boom, who died in the same concentration camp, steadfastly refused to hate the guards who beat her and eventually beat her to death. Her dying words are both simple and profound. Listen to what she said: “We must tell the people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that he is not deeper still.” That is incredible: There is no pit so deep that Jesus is not deeper still. Calvary in the twentieth century!

For all of that, the injunction to forgive, the inner demand of being a Christian to forgive, there are people who cannot bring themselves to offer forgiveness. And there are people who cannot bring themselves to accept it. I think of a man that every once in a while I visit in jail. He should be there because he has committed a terrible murder. But he’s so caught up in his own guilt that he cannot accept forgiveness, even from God. He feels there is no hope for himself either in this world or the next. He spends his time hugging his guilt to himself, thereby blocking out the forgiveness of the Christ who is on record for forgiving other murderers.

This man is light years away from another murderer in Dostoyevsky’s great classic, Crime and Punishment. Here the murderer recognizes his guilt, his unworthiness, but offers them as the very reason for being open to mercy. He cries out in a famous passage from the book:

“You’re right. I don’t deserve any pity. I ought to be crucified. Crucified and not pitied. But he who takes pity on all men will also take pity on me. And he who understands all men and all things, he alone is judge. And he will judge all and will forgive them: the good and the bad, the wise and the meek. And when he has done with all of them, he will say unto us, ‘Come forth, you also. Come forth, ye who are drunk. Come forth, ye who know no shame.’ And we shall all come forth without being ashamed, and we will stand before him. And the wise will say, and the learned will say, ‘Lord, why dost thou receive them?’ And he will say unto them, ‘I receive them, oh wise men, I receive them, oh learned men, because not one of them ever thought himself worthy of it.’ And he will stretch out his arms to us, and we shall fall down before him, and we shall weep, and we shall understand all.”

Forgiveness. There are probably very few of us here who have not been hurt or know people who have been hurt deeply. A spouse has walked out of our lives. Children have disappointed us. Parents have abused us. Friends have betrayed us. The company to which we gave so much devotion has fired us without notice, leaving us unemployed and bitter. We have been refused promotion. We have been treated unfairly. There’s a host of deep and abiding hurts in the personal histories of most of us.

But forgiveness is hard, isn’t it? To consciously break the vicious cycle of revenge is hard. Forgiveness, after all, is the deliberate decision to put up with an uneven score, and that rubs our American psyches the wrong way. To surrender a right to get even in a nation of Rambos with Uzi machine guns blasting enemy bodies all over the media is almost un-American. But the point is that we are not just anybody. We are a community that was born out of Calvary’s forgiveness, called to be a reconciling community.

A wise man who knows what it means to forgive–his youngest son had been brutalized by a police officer–offers three somewhat earthy bits of practical advice that are worth sharing. He said, “I’m not very good at spiritual discipline, but after being called by a friend to practice what I preach, I sat alone in my study and made believe I was a priest in the confessional. I said out loud, ‘Officer, in the name of God, I forgive you.’ I felt kind of foolish at this creative hypocrisy, but it did get the juices of forgiveness going. I felt the caricature I had made of the officer change. Oh, a year later when that same cop drove past my house I had to go through the whole forgiveness process again. Forgiveness by fallible creatures is repetitious.” That’s real wisdom. For us weak creatures forgiveness indeed turns out to be a repetitious affair.

The second bit of wisdom he offers is this: “Don’t forgive too fast.” By that he doesn’t mean to harbor lingering revenge. He means that we have to allow time for the hurt to surface, for the hatred to be visible and recognized and acknowledged to the point when perhaps we can say out loud, “I hate you.” It is only when the hurt, the enemy, is out there and regurgitated that we can feel its full impact and come to terms with forgiveness. That’s what our friend means by saying “Don’t forgive too fast.” Otherwise our forgiveness is too shallow. It hasn’t grabbed sufficiently hold of the evil.

And finally he gives this delightful advice: “It’s good to remember that when you pray for your enemies it doesn’t automatically make them your friends. They are still your enemy. They’re still out to get you. They still hate your guts.” And he adds for emphasis: “They are still your enemies and you’d better guard against them because they might wallop you when you’re down on your knees.”

But that’s their problem. Yours and mine is to enter into today’s Scriptures, especially the gospel. And to remember that it’s not a gospel of Jesus talking to priests; it is a gospel of Jesus talking to the entire community. His Easter gift is to breathe into that community the spirit of Calvary: “Receive its spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven.” This is not only our mandate to continue the mission of Jesus. It turns out to be the condition of our own forgiveness, for we must remember that we were also commanded to pray thus to the Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Source: Rev. William J. Bausch. More Telling Stories Compelling Stories. Connecticut: Twenty-Third Publications, 2000, pp. 26-31).

Reflection 15 – The power and glory of God’s mercy

Today’s first reading from Acts has one of those verses we Catholics should know by memory: Acts 2:42–“[The disciples] devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.” Isn’t this amazing? Teaching . . . fellowship . . . bread . . . prayers. That sounds, for good reason, like today, right here and right now! Catholics, either in Jerusalem in Biblical times, or in [this city] today, hold to the catechesis or instruction of the apostles (teaching), to friendship and mutual support (fellowship [kononia]), to the celebration of the most holy Eucharist (the breaking of the bread), and to community praise and petitions (prayers).

The earliest believers were united as a family. The Church teaches that such unity is not broken by death, and that we who live here and now are inseparably linked with those who are already in the arms of Christ. Our parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents, who have died, but who are alive in Christ (Lk 20:28, 1 Cor 15:22), can do more for us now in prayer than even while they lived on earth. That is the Communion of Saints. What mercy that is!

The second reading from Saint Peter says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His great mercy, gave us a new birth to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

What mercy that is!

In the Gospel, when Jesus appeared to the Apostles and showed them His hands and side, “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” That is found in John . . . 20:20! With real 20-20 vision, they were able to see the Lord—except, of course, for Doubting Thomas, who had to see for himself. When he did, he offered the beautiful prayer which many say when they receive Holy Communion: “My Lord and my God!”

When we truly see Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine, how can we fail to approach the blessed sacrament without the deepest reverence, the greatest piety, the most profound thanksgiving? The holy Eucharist, which is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ (CCC #1374), is the greatest mercy ever given!

This is Divine Mercy Sunday, which is based upon a divine revelation to a Polish nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), who kept a diary which is now regarded as a spiritual classic of the twentieth century. Based upon God’s revelations, she developed an image of the Lord with the words: “Jesus, I trust in you.” Saint Faustina (canonized in 2000) is also the source of the beautiful Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is among the favorite prayers of so many. The devotion to the Divine Mercy means that we center our faith and hope in the merciful love of God, and in the desire to let His mercy flow through our hearts, minds, and souls. As Saint John Paul II said:

Indeed the message [St. Faustina] brought is the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies.

As we specifically hear in today’s Gospel, Christ’s priests are commissioned to forgive sins (John 20:22-23) in and through the power of the sacrament of Confession; and that there is no limit to God’s forgiveness if we seek it with a sincere and repentant heart. (See St. John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia [1980]; Eph 2:4-7.)

Just before we receive Holy Communion we say: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” That sounds odd until you realize it’s directly from the Gospel, when a centurion tells Jesus that he’s not worthy to have Jesus come under his roof (Mt 8:8).

Divine Mercy Sunday helps us to recall, in sorrow, that we are not worthy; and that we must strive now, and always, to be more faithful disciples of Christ and of His bride, the Church. And Divine Mercy Sunday helps us to recall, in joy, that the Lord, through the sacred power of the sacraments, has given us the means of spiritual growth and, especially through Confession (CCC #1424), of reconciliation to Him, and to others; and that God’s “mercy is endless, and the treasury of [His] compassion inexhaustible” (Divine Mercy Prayer; cf. Psalm 32; Isaiah 53:5; CCC #2840).

After the Our Father, the priest will offer this embolism, which is an extension of the last petition of that sacred prayer:

Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

That is the spirit of Divine Mercy Sunday and, in fact, of every day for Christians: Like the early apostles, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) in Christ and His Church; like St. Peter, we rejoice in the living hope Christ has given us; like St. Thomas, who doubted and then believed, we see the Lord through the eyes of faith (cf. 2 Cor 5:7); and like Saint Faustina, we believe in the power and glory of God’s mercy. – Read the source: http://www.hprweb.com/2017/03/homilies-for-april-2017/

Reflection 16 – Peace is born from the encounter with Christ

With the invitation to contemplate the risen Christ from whose pierced cost springs his mercy.

1) Peace and forgiveness.

The liturgy of this Second Sunday of Easter celebrates the risen Christ who gives peace and forgiveness. In fact, today’s Gospel tells us that, on the evening of his Passover, Jesus enters the Upper Room, where the Apostles were locked up, and tells them: “Peace be with you”. With the offering of the gift of his peace, Christ fills the heart of the apostles with his mercy. The traditional Jewish greeting shalom, that is peace, on the mouth of the Risen Lord is not only a wish but a gift: the gift of the peace that only He can give and which is the fruit of his radical victory over evil. The “peace” that Jesus offers to his friends is the fruit of God’s merciful love for men. This immeasurable love has led Christ to die on the cross and to shed all his blood as a meek and humble Lamb “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).

This explains why St. John Paul II wished to name “Sunday of Divine Mercy” this Sunday after Easter, which celebrates Christ as the Lamb who has been sacrificed for our sins and who has risen by defeating death and sin. The love of God is stronger than evil and death, and in the risen Christ love and mercy have won.

On this Feast of Divine Mercy, let us fill our hearts with the mercy of God who freely loves, forgives and gives peace.

Indeed, this peace is the fruit of the victory of God’s love over evil; it is the fruit of forgiveness. True peace, profound peace, comes from experiencing God’s mercy.

Today, to us, as about two thousand years ago to the Apostles, Jesus gives, along with his peace, the Holy Spirit so that we may spread in the world his mercy that forgives and gives new and true life.

Today, it is to us that Christ gives the mandate to bring to men the remission of sins. Consequently, the Kingdom of love will grow and peace in hearts will be sown so that it may also be affirmed in our relationships in the family and in society.

2) Missionaries without fear

Today, the Spirit of the Risen Christ drives out fear from our hearts. Jesus urges us to leave the “Cenacle” that the fear has transformed into a locked place. His Spirit pushes us to be an “outgoing Church” (Pope Francis): “As the Father has sent me, I send you” (Jn 20, 21). During the last supper the Cenacle was the place where Jesus had given the bread, but, after the passion and death of the Messiah, for the Apostles, that hall had become as a sepulcher. They lived there in fear, and in fear of death.

But the fear of the Apostles and of all of us does not stop Christ. In the same way as the great stone that sealed his tomb was not an obstacle to him, so our fear is not an obstacle for him. He comes in this sepulcher, full of fear and with locked doors. The bolted doors were not an obstacle for him, as the sepulcher stone was not.  Above all, it was not difficult for him to come to these people whom He had chosen and of whom one had betrayed him, the other denied him, the others fled and abandoned him. In the same way, as he then entered the place where his Apostles had taken refuge, so today he comes to meet us driving away our fears. It is there that He makes us rise.

After Christ’s encounter with Mary Magdalene in love and in desire, this meeting in the Cenacle is important because it makes us understand that the risen Christ meets us there, where we died in our fears, in our frailties, in our sins, and in our selfishness, to make us rise through joy and peace.

Today, it is to us that the Risen One says: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20, 19.21.26). It is evident that it is not just a greeting. It is a gift, the gift that the Risen Lord gives us, his friends. It is a gift to share. Therefore, this peace, purchased by Christ with his blood, is also a task. It is not just for us, it is for everyone, and we, the disciples of today, must take it everywhere in the world.

In this way, we participate in the peaceful battle begun by the Easter of Christ, helping him to affirm his victory with his own weapons: those of justice and truth, of mercy, of forgiveness and of love. These weapons do not kill but give life and peace.

 3) Witnesses of joy.

In today’s Gospel Jesus says many times: “Peace be with you” and the disciples “rejoiced”. Joy and peace are the sign of the presence of the risen Christ.

Why is the experience of the risen Jesus who stands among us and shows us his hands and his side, an experience of peace and joy? Because we know who we are for Christ and who Christ is for us. He is the one who carries those nailed hands and that pierced side for us. He is infinite love who gives himself. And we, who are we for him? We are a finite, limited love that expands in his Love.

The pierced side shows the heart that loves infinitely and totally. The nailed hands show that the power of God is to wash the feet and to be nailed to the service of love for man. That is where we recognize the Lord. In these hands, we see the whole life of Jesus, all that He has done at the service of love, with a Love so extreme as to die for it to give life.

We are all called to respond to this resurrected Love. How? Witnessing Christ with joy.

Let us take as example the Consecrated Virgins to whom – on the day of consecration – it is said: “Christ, Son of the Virgin and husband of virgins, will be your joy and crown on earth until he will lead you to the eternal wedding in his kingdom, where, singing the new song, you will follow the Lamb wherever he goes “(RCV, homily project No. 38).

To respond to Christ’s love these women offer themselves totally and joyfully to him. In fact, joy does not consist in having many things, but in feeling loved by the Lord, in giving oneself to God and the neighbor, and in loving one another in God. Joy comes from the experience of being loved and becoming missionaries of this Love in a total way.

Totality is a profound requirement of consecrated virginity, which does not admit mediocrity. Consecration is by its very nature a generous and total act of love that carries the consecrated woman up, on the cross and therefore elevated and in the deep of the heart of Christ.

Thanks to her consecration, the virgin engages in four “duties”: that of praising God with more sweetness, that of hoping in God with more joy, that of loving God with more ardor, and that of being a missionary of mercy becoming a perseverant witness of the joy to be loved and to love in a pure and free way. It is as St. Augustine taught already in De sacra virginitate: “Therefore go on, Saints of God, boys and girls, males and females, unmarried men, and women; go on and persevere unto the end. Praise more sweetly the Lord, Whom ye think on more richly: hope more happily in Him, Whom ye serve more instantly: love more ardently Him, whom you please more attentively.” 

Patristic reading – Saint Augustin of Hippo (354 – 430) 
Tractate CXXI.
on Jn 20:10-29

1). Mary Magdalene had brought the news to His disciples, Peter and John, that the Lord was taken away from the sepulchre; and they, when they came thither, found only the linen clothes wherewith the body had been shrouded; and what else could they believe but what she had told them, and what she had herself also believed? “Then the disciples went away again unto their own” (home); that is to say, where they were dwelling, and from which they had run to the sepulchre. “But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping.” For while the men returned, the weaker sex was fastened to the place by a stronger affection. And the eyes, which had sought the Lord and had not found Him, had now nothing else to do but weep, deeper in their sorrow that He had been taken away from the sepulchre than that He had been slam on the tree; seeing that in the case even of such a Master, when His living presence was withdrawn from their eyes, His remembrance also had ceased to remain. Such grief, therefore, now kept the woman at the sepulchre. “And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre.” Why she did so I know not. For she was not ignorant that He whom she sought was no longer there, since she had herself also carried word to the disciples that He had been taken from thence; while they, too, had come to the sepulchre, and had sought the Lord’s body, not merely by looking, but also by entering, and had not found it. What then does it mean, that, as she wept, she stooped down, and looked again into the sepulchre? Was it that her grief was So excessive that she hardly thought she could believe either their eyes or her own? Or was it rather by some divine impulse that her mind led her to look within? For look she did, “and saw two angels in white, sitting, the one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.” Why is it that one was sitting at the head, and the other at the feet? Was it, since those who in Greek are called angel” are in Latin nuntii [in English, news-bearers], that in this way they signified that the gospel of Christ was to be preached from head to foot, from the beginning even to the end? “They say to her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” The angels forbade her tears: for by such a position what else did they announce, but that which in some way or other was a future joy? For they put the question, “Why weepest thou?” as if they had said, Weep not. But she, supposing they had put the question from ignorance, unfolded the cause of her tears. “Because,” she said, “they have taken away my Lord:” calling her Lord’s inanimate body her Lord, meaning a part for the whole; just as all of us acknowledge that Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, our Lord, who of course is at once both the Word and soul and flesh, was nevertheless crucified and buried, while it was only His flesh that was laid in the sepulchre. “And I know not,” she added, “where they have laid Him.” This was the greater cause of sorrow, because she knew not where to go to mitigate her grief. But the hour had now come when the joy, in some measure announced by the angels, who forbade her tears, was to succeed the weeping.

2. Lastly, “when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, If thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master.” Let no one speak ill of the woman because she called the gardener, Sir (domine), and Jesus, Master. For there she was asking, here she was recognizing; there she was showing respect to a person of whom she was asking a favor, here she was recalling the Teacher of whom she was learning to discern things human and divine. She called one lord (sir), whose handmaid she was not, in order by him to get at the Lord to whom she belonged. In one sense, therefore, she used the word Lord when she said, “They have taken away my Lord; and in another, when she said, Sir (lord), if thou hast borne Him hence.” For the prophet also called those lords who were mere men, but in a different sense from Him of whom it is written, “The Lord is His name.”1 But how was it that this woman, who had already turned herself back to see Jesus, when she supposed Him to be the gardener, and was actually talking with Him, is said to have again turned herself, in order to say unto Him “Rabboni,” but just because, when she then turned herself in body, she supposed Him to be what He was not, while now, when turned in heart, site recognized Him to be what He was.

3. “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.” There are points in these words which we must examine with brevity indeed, but with somewhat more than ordinary attention. For Jesus was giving a lesson in faith to the woman, who had recognized Him as her Master, and called Him so in her reply; and this gardener was sowing in her heart, as in His own garden, the grain of mustard seed. What then is meant by “Touch me not”? And just as if the reason of such a prohibition would be sought, He added, “for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” What does this mean? If, while standing on earth, He is not to be touched, how could He be touched by men when sitting in heaven? For certainly, before He ascended, He presented Himself to the touch of the disciples, when He said, as testified by the evangelist Luke, “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have;”2 or when He said to Thomas the disciple, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and put forth thy hand, and thrust it into my side.” And who could be so absurd as to affirm that He was willing indeed to be touched by the disciples before He ascended to the Father, but refused it in the case of women till after His ascension? But no one, even had any the will, was to be allowed to run into such folly. For we read that women also, after His resurrection and before His ascension to the Father, touched Jesus, among whom was Mary Magdalene herself; for it is related by Matthew that Jesus met them, and said, “All hail. And they approached, and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him.”3 This was passed over by John, but declared as the truth by Matthew. It remains, therefore, that some sacred mystery must lie concealed in these words; and whether we discover it or utterly fail to do so, yet we ought to be in no doubt as to its actual existence. Accordingly, either the words, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father,” had this meaning, that by this woman the Church of the Gentiles was symbolized, which did not believe on Christ till He had actually ascended to the Father, or that in this way Christ wished Himself to be believed on; in other words, to be touched spiritually, that He and the Father are one. For He has in a manner ascended to the Father, to the inward perception of him who has made such progress in the knowledge of Christ that he acknowledges Him as equal with the Father: in any other way He is not rightly touched, that is to say, in any other way He is not rightly believed on. But Mary might have still so believed as to account Him unequal with the Father, and this certainly is forbidden her by the words, “Touch me not;” that is, Believe not thus on me according to thy present notions; let not your thoughts stretch outwards to what I have been made in thy behalf, without passing beyond to that whereby thou hast thyself been made. For how could it be otherwise than carnally that she still believed on Him whom she was weeping over as a man? “For I am not yet ascended,” He says, “to my Father:” there shalt thou touch me, when thou believest me to be God, in no wise unequal with the Father. “But go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father.” He saith not, Our Father: in one sense, therefore, is He mine, in another sense, yours; by nature mine, by grace yours. “And my God, and your God.” Nor did He say here, Our God: here, therefore, also is He in one sense mine, in another sense yours: my God; under whom I also am as man; your God, between whom and you I am mediator.

4. “Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples, I have seen the Lord, and He hath spoken these things unto me. Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side.” For nails had pierced His hands, a spear had laid open His side: and there the marks of the wounds are preserved for healing the hearts of the doubting. But the shutting of doors presented no obstacle to the matter of His body, wherein Godhead resided. He indeed could enter without their being opened, by whose birth the virginity of His mother remained inviolate, “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said He unto them again, Peace be unto you.” Reiteration is confirmation; for He Himself gives by the prophet a promised peace upon peace.4 “As the Father hath sent me,” He adds, “even so send I you.” We know the Son to be equal to the Father; but here we recognize the words of the Mediator. For He exhibits Himself as occupying a middle position when He says, He me, and I you. “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” By breathing on them He signified that the Holy Spirit was the Spirit, not of the Father alone, but likewise His own. “Whose so-ever sins,” He continues, “ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever ye retain, they are retained.” The Church’s love, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, discharges the sins of all who are partakers with itself, but retains the sins of those who have no participation therein. Therefore it is, that after saying “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” He straightway added this regarding the remission and retention of sins.

5. “But Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. And after eight days, again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and put it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.” He saw and touched the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every doubt, and believed the other. “Jesus saith unto him, Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed.” He saith not, Thou hast touched me, but, “Thou hast seen me,” because sight is a kind of general sense. For sight is also habitually named in connection with the other four senses: as when we say, Listen, and see how well it sounds; smell it, and see how well it smells; taste it, and see how well it savors; touch it, and see how hot it is. Everywhere has the word, See, made itself heard, although sight, properly speaking, is allowed to belong only to the eyes. Hence here also the Lord Himself says, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands:” and what else does He mean but, Touch and see? And yet he had no eyes in his finger. Whether therefore it was by looking, or also by touching, “Because thou hast seen me,” He says, “thou hast believed.” Although it may be affirmed that the disciple dared not so to touch, when He offered Himself for the purpose; for it is not written, And Thomas touched Him. But whether it was by gazing only, or also by touching that he saw and believed, what follows rather proclaims and commends the faith of the Gentiles: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” He made use of words in the past tense, as One who, in His predestinating purpose, knew what was future, as if it had already taken place. But the present discourse must be kept from the charge of prolixity: the Lord will give us the opportunity to discourse at another time on the topics that remain.

Ps 68:4
Lc 24:39
Mt 28:9
Is 26:3 – Read the source: Archbishop Francesco Follo https://zenit.org/articles/archbishop-follo-peace-is-born-from-the-encounter-with-christ/

Reflection 17 – Experience love by allowing forgiveness

In today’s Gospel, we hear, over and over, the word “see”.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord (Jn 20:20).  They tell Thomas: “We have seen the Lord” (v. 25).  But the Gospel does not describe how they saw him; it does not describe the risen Jesus.  It simply mentions one detail: “He showed them his hands and his side” (v. 20).  It is as if the Gospel wants to tell us that that is how the disciples recognized Jesus: through his wounds.  The same thing happened to Thomas.  He too wanted to see “the mark of the nails in his hands” (v. 25), and after seeing, he believed (v. 27).

Despite his lack of faith, we should be grateful to Thomas, because he was not content to hear from others that Jesus was alive, or merely to see him in the flesh.  He wanted to see inside, to touch with his hand the Lord’s wounds, the signs of his love.  The Gospel calls Thomas Didymus (v. 24), meaning the Twin, and in this, he is truly our twin brother.  Because for us too, it isn’t enough to know that God exists.  A God who is risen but remains distant does not fill our lives; an aloof God does not attract us, however just and holy he may be.  No, we too need to “see God”, to touch him with our hands and to know that he is risen, and risen for us.

How can we see him?  Like the disciples: through his wounds.  Gazing upon those wounds, the disciples understood the depth of his love.  They understood that he had forgiven them, even though some had denied him and abandoned him. To enter into Jesus’ wounds is to contemplate the boundless love flowing from his heart. This is the way. It is to realize that his heart beats for me, for you, for each one of us.  Dear brothers and sisters, we can consider ourselves Christians, call ourselves Christians and speak about the many beautiful values of faith, but, like the disciples, we need to see Jesus by touching his love.  Only thus can we go to the heart of the faith and, like the disciples, find peace and joy (cf. vv. 19-20) beyond all doubt.

Thomas, after seeing the Lord’s wounds, cried out: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).  I would like to reflect on the adjective that Thomas repeats: my.  It is a possessive adjective.  When we think about it, it might seem inappropriate to use it of God.  How can God be mine?  How can I make the Almighty mine?  The truth is, by saying my, we do not profane God, but honor his mercy.  Because God wished to “become ours”.  As in a love story, we tell him: “You became man for me, you died and rose for me and thus you are not only God; you are my God, you are my life.  In you, I have found the love that I was looking for, and much more than I could ever have imagined”.

God takes no offense at being “ours” because love demands confidence, mercy demands trust.  At the very beginning of the Ten Commandments, God said: “I am the Lord your God” (Ex 20:2), and reaffirmed: “I, the Lord your God am a jealous God” (v. 5).  Here we see how God presents himself as a jealous lover who calls himself your God.  From the depths of Thomas’s heart comes the reply: “My Lord and my God!”  As today we enter, through Christ’s wounds, into the mystery of God, we come to realize that mercy is not simply one of his qualities among others, but the very beating of his heart.  Then, like Thomas, we no longer live as disciples, uncertain, devout but wavering.  We too fall in love with the Lord!  We must not be afraid of these words: to fall in love with the Lord.

How can we savor this love?  How can we touch today with our hand the mercy of Jesus?  Again, the Gospel offers a clue, when it stresses that the very evening of Easter (cf. v. 19), soon after rising from the dead, Jesus begins by granting the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.  To experience love, we need to begin there: to let ourselves be forgiven.  To let ourselves be forgiven.  I ask myself, and each one of you: do I allow myself to be forgiven?  To experience that love, we need to begin there.  Do I allow myself to be forgiven?  “But, Father, going to confession may seem difficult…”.  Before God we are tempted to do what the disciples did in the Gospel: to barricade ourselves behind closed doors.  They did it out of fear, yet we too can be afraid, ashamed to open our hearts and confess our sins.  May the Lord grant us the grace to understand shame, to see it not as a closed door, but as the first step towards an encounter.  When we feel ashamed, we should be grateful: this means that we do not accept evil, and that is good.  Shame is a secret invitation of the soul that needs the Lord to overcome evil.  The tragedy is when we are no longer ashamed of anything.  Let us not be afraid to experience shame!  Let us pass from shame to forgiveness!  Do not be afraid to be ashamed!  Do not be afraid.

But there is still one door that remains closed before the Lord’s forgiveness, the door of resignation.  Resignation is always a closed door.  The disciples experienced it at Easter when they recognized with disappointment how everything appeared to go back to what it had been before.  They were still in Jerusalem, disheartened; the “Jesus chapter” of their lives seemed finished, and after having spent so much time with him, nothing had changed, they were resigned.  We too might think: “I’ve been a Christian for all this time, but nothing has changed in me; I keep committing the same sins”.  Then, in discouragement, we give up on mercy.  But the Lord challenges us: “Don’t you believe that my mercy is greater than your misery?  Are you a backslider?  Then be a backslider in asking for mercy, and we will see who comes out on top”.  In any event, – and anyone who is familiar with the sacrament of Reconciliation knows this – it isn’t true that everything remains the way it was.  Every time we are forgiven, we are reassured and encouraged, because each time we experience more love, and more embraced by the Father.  And when we fall again, precisely because we are loved, we experience even greater sorrow – a beneficial sorrow that slowly detaches us from sin. Then we discover that the power of life is to receive God’s forgiveness and to go forward from forgiveness to forgiveness.  This is how life goes:  from shame to shame, from forgiveness to forgiveness.  This is the Christian life.

After the shame and resignation, there is another closed door.  Sometimes it is even ironclad: our sin, the same sin.  When I commit a grave sin, if I, in all honesty, do not want to forgive myself, why should God forgive me?  This door, however, is only closed on one side, our own; but for God, no door is ever completely closed.  As the Gospel tells us, he loves to enter precisely, as we heard, “through closed doors”, when every entrance seems barred.  There God works his wonders.  He never chooses to abandon us; we are the ones who keep him out.  But when we make our confession, something unheard-of happens: we discover that the very sin that kept us apart from the Lord becomes the place where we encounter him.  There the God who is wounded by love comes to meet our wounds.  He makes our wretched wounds like his own glorious wounds.  There is a transformation: my wretched wounds resemble his glorious wounds.  Because he is mercy and works wonders in our wretchedness.  Let us today, like Thomas, implore the grace to acknowledge our God: to find in his forgiveness our joy, and to find in his mercy our hope. – Read the source: Pope Francis  https://zenit.org/articles/holy-fathers-homily-on-divine-mercy-sunday-full-text/

Reflection 18 – How to continue the Easter experience

How well do we live the Easter experience in our daily lives? We are an Easter people, because we know and celebrate that Jesus has risen from the dead. And yet, we’re not always shouting, “Hallelujah!” We don’t always feel like celebrating — not in our worship nor outside the church where our joy could influence people toward faith in Jesus.

It’s hard to feel like the Good Friday experience of carrying our crosses has really ended.

This Sunday’s second reading describes what the Easter experience is supposed to feel like: We should rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. But how does that happen?

The attitude of joy does not come from reaching the end of our cross-like burdens. Rather, it comes from knowing that Christ’s death and resurrection have overcome our crosses, and by uniting ourselves to his life, we are victorious even before we see the battle end.

Furthermore, it comes from knowing that we have the ultimate victory — eternal life in God’s abundant love — and we know that this gift is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” and that it’s being safeguarded by the power of God because, by choosing to have faith in Christ, we have accepted the gift in advance.

This joy-from-knowing is the true definition of “hope”. Hope isn’t wishful thinking. Hope means celebrating what is certainly going to happen before it happens.

Some Catholics say that they’re afraid they might lose their salvation because they don’t trust themselves to stay close to Jesus always. They’re afraid that something will tempt them to turn away from Jesus between now and the hour of death. If you worry about this, let me ask you: During times of suffering, do you reject God or run to him?

Even when we get angry at him, we’re actually very close to him. We’re angry because we believe in him and trust him and he seems to be disappointing us. This is a normal part of the Christian life: Our faith is purified by our trials.

To embrace life as an Easter people, we must learn to remember that our sufferings are temporary and that someday we will enter into eternal joy. This is what we celebrate even while carrying our crosses.

Questions for Personal Reflection:
In what ways has God apparently disappointed you? What is he doing — or not doing — that’s upsetting you? How is this increasing your closeness to him, even if it feels like he’s silent and distant?

Questions for Group Faith Sharing:
Give an example of wishful thinking: What have you wished for in prayer? What have you been begging God to do? How is this different than hoping (joy-from-knowing)? Even if your wish never comes true, what’s your reason for a higher hope? – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2017-04-22

Reflection 19 – Seeing a miracle at every Mass

“My Lord and my God!” This exclamation of Thomas in this Sunday’s Gospel reading used to be our exclamation at the raising of the Eucharist during Mass. It would be good to renew this habit. It’s an awe-filled, humble recognition of Christ’s Lordship and of the reality of his presence in the form of bread and wine.

Saint John Paul II wrote in his encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his body and his blood.” (You can get to know the entire amazing document by downloading my 5-Part Catholic Study Guideon it)

Notice how Jesus convinced the disciples that he had truly come back to life in the flesh. At first, they thought he was a ghost, or they didn’t know what to think. They found the miracle of the resurrection too incredible to grasp.

Jesus opened their minds to the truth of the miracle by showing his wounds. He does the same for you and me in every Mass.

Through the use of our logic and our senses, it’s difficult to grasp the truth that the bread and wine miraculously become the actual body and blood of Christ — the same broken and bleeding body that died on the cross 2000+ years ago. It’s even harder to see and understand that the resurrected Jesus is also there!

During Mass, we enter the timelessness of eternity to benefit from the living Christ. When we realize that we personally need the sacrifice he made on Good Friday, because we’ve sinned, we begin to look at his wounds from a crucial perspective. It is then that we begin to understand the truth about the Eucharist.

The first step toward believing in the miracle of the Eucharist is to want Christ’s death to save us from our sins and to want his resurrection to take us to heaven. The final step occurs when our desire to unite to Jesus is so thorough that we yearn for him to consume our lives with his presence. We want the divine Jesus to come to us in the flesh, in whatever manner he chooses, to transform us into his likeness.It is this desire that makes us exclaim whenever we see the Eucharist, “My Lord and my God!”

Questions for Personal Reflection:
Have you ever doubted the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? How do you feel when you look at the Eucharist? Does your spirit exclaim, “My Lord and my God”? Why or why not?

Questions for Community Faith Sharing:
How has Jesus revealed himself to you in surprising ways — “in his many forms of presence”? When have you found him incredible, difficult to grasp? What helped you accept the truth of his presence in that situation? And how has Jesus revealed his presence to you in the Eucharist? – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2018-04-07

Please follow Romeo Hontiveros at Twitter click this link: https://twitter.com/Trumpeta

Reflection 20 – St. Julie Billiart (1751-1816 A.D.)

Born in Cuvilly, France, into a family of well-to-do farmers, young Marie Rose Julie Billiart showed an early interest in religion and in helping the sick and poor. Though the first years of her life were relatively peaceful and uncomplicated, Julie had to take up manual work as a young teen when her family lost its money. However, she spent her spare time teaching catechism to young people and to the farm laborers.

A mysterious illness overtook her when she was about 30. Witnessing an attempt to wound or even kill her father, Julie was paralyzed and became a complete invalid. For the next two decades she continued to teach catechism lessons from her bed, offered spiritual advice and attracted visitors who had heard of her holiness.

When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, revolutionary forces became aware of her allegiance to fugitive priests. With the help of friends she was smuggled out of Cuvilly in a haycart; she spent several years hiding in Compiegne, being moved from house to house despite her growing physical pain. She even lost the power of speech for a time.

But this period also proved to be a fruitful spiritual time for Julie. It was at this time she had a vision in which she saw Calvary surrounded by women in religious habits and heard a voice saying, “Behold these spiritual daughters whom I give you in an Institute marked by the cross.” As time passed and Julie continued her mobile life, she made the acquaintance of an aristocratic woman, Françoise Blin de Bourdon, who shared Julie’s interest in teaching the faith. In 1803 the two women began the Institute of Notre Dame, which was dedicated to the education of the poor as well as young Christian girls and the training of catechists. The following year the first Sisters of Notre Dame made their vows. That was the same year that Julie recovered from the illness: She was able to walk for the first time in 22 years.

Though Julie had always been attentive to the special needs of the poor and that always remained her priority, she also became aware that other classes in society needed Christian instruction. From the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame until her death, Julie was on the road, opening a variety of schools in France and Belgium that served the poor and the wealthy, vocational groups, teachers. Ultimately, Julie and Françoise moved the motherhouse to Namur, Belgium.

Julie died there in 1816. She was canonized in 1969.

Comment:

Julie’s immobility in no way impeded her activities. In spite of her suffering, she managed to co-found a teaching order that tended to the needs of both the poor and the well-to-do. Each of us has limitations, but the worst malady any of us can suffer is the spiritual paralysis that keeps us from doing God’s work on earth.

Read the source:   http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1347

SAINT OF THE DAY
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_Billiart
“Saint Julie” redirects here. For other uses, see Saint Julie (disambiguation).
SAINT JULIE BILLIART

St. Julie Billiart.jpg

Saint Julie Billiart painted in 1830, by an unknown artist
BORN 12 July 1751
Cuvilly, Picardy, France
DIED 8 April 1816 (aged 64)
Namur, Belgium
VENERATED IN Roman Catholic Church
BEATIFIED 13 May 1906 by Pope Pius X
CANONIZED 22 June 1969 by Pope Paul VI
FEAST 8 April
PATRONAGE against poverty; bodily ills;disease

Saint Julie Billiart (12 July 1751 — 8 April 1816) was a French religious leader who founded, and was the firstSuperior General of, the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Childhood[edit]

She was born on 12 July 1751, at CuvillyPicardyBeauvaisOise, France, the sixth of seven children of Jean-François Billiart ` and Marie-Louise-Antoinette (née Debraine). By the age of seven, she knew the catechism by heart, and used to gather her companions around her to hear her recite it and to explain it to them. Her education was confined to the rudiments obtained at the village school kept by her uncle, Thibault Guilbiert. In spiritual things her progress was so rapid that the parish priest, Father Dangicourt, allowed her to make her First Communion and to be confirmed aged 9. She took a vow of chastity five years later.

She was held in very high esteem for her virtue and piety, and was commonly called, “the saint of Cuvilly”. When twenty-two years old, a nervous shock, occasioned by a pistol-shot fired at her father by an unknown enemy, brought on a paralysis of the lower limbs. Within a few years she was confined to her bed, and remained incapacitated for 22 years. During this time, when she received Holy Communiondaily, Julie exercised an uncommon gift of prayer, spending four or five hours a day in contemplation. The rest of her time was occupied in making linens and laces for the altar and in catechizing the village children whom she gathered around her bed, giving special attention to those who were preparing for their First Communion.

Amiens and Viscountess[edit]

At Amiens, where Billiart took refuge with Countess Baudoin during the French Revolution, she met Françoise, Viscountess of Gizaincourt, who became her co-laborer in the work as yet unknown to either of them. The Viscountess Blin de Bourdon was 38 years old when she met Julie, and had spent her youth in piety and good works. She had been imprisoned with all of her family during theReign of Terror, and had escaped death only by the fall of Robespierre. A small company of friends of the viscountess (young and high-born ladies) was formed around the couch of “the saint”. Billiart taught them how to lead an interior life, while they devoted themselves generously to the causes of God and the poor. Though they attempted all the exercises of an active community life, some of the elements of stability were wanting, and these first disciples dropped off until only the Viscountess remained.

Institute of the Sisters of Notre Dame[edit]

In 1803, in obedience to Father Varin, superior of the Fathers of the Faith, and under the auspices of the Bishop of Amiens, the foundation was laid of the Institute of the Sisters of Notre Dame, a society which had for its primary object the salvation of poor children. Several young persons offered themselves to assist the two superiors, Julie and Françoise. The first pupils were eight orphans. On the feast of the Sacred Heart, 1 June 1804, Mother Julie, after a novena made in obedience to her confessor, was cured of paralysis.

The first vows of religion were made on 15 October 1804 by Billiart, Blin de Bourdon, Victoire Leleu and Justine Garson, and their family names were changed to names of saints. They proposed for their lifework the Christian education of girls, and the training of religious teachers who should go wherever their services were asked for. Father Varin gave the community a provisional rule by way of probation, which was so far-sighted that its essentials have never been changed. In view of the extension of the institute, he would have it governed by a superior-general, charged with visiting the houses, nominating the local superiors, corresponding with the members dispersed in the different convents, and assigning the revenues of the society.

The characteristic devotions of the Sisters of Notre Dame were established by the foundress from the beginning. She was original in doing away with the time-honored distinction between choir sistersand lay sisters, but this perfect equality of rank did not prevent her from putting each sister to the work for which her capacity and education fitted her. She attached great importance to the formation of the sisters destined for the schools, and in this she was ably assisted by Mother St. Joseph (Françoise Blin de Bourdon), who had herself received an excellent education.

When the congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame was approved by an imperial decree dated 19 June 1806, it numbered 30 members, In that and the following years, foundations were made in various towns of France and Belgium, the most important being those at Ghent and Namur; Mother St. Joseph was the first superior of the latter house.

In the absence of Father Varin from that city, the confessor of the community, the Abbé de Sambucy de St. Estève, a man of superior intelligence and attainments but enterprising and injudicious, endeavored to change the rule and fundamental constitutions of the new congregation so as to bring it into harmony with the ancient monastic orders. He so far influenced the Bishop, Msgr. Demandolx, that Mother Julie had soon no alternative but to leave the Diocese of Amiens, relying upon the goodwill of Msgr. Pisani de la Gaudebishop of Namur, who had invited her to make his episcopal city the center of her congregation, should a change become necessary.

In leaving Amiens, Mother Julie laid the case before all her subjects and told them they were perfectly free to remain or to follow her. All but two chose to go with her, and thus, in the mid-winter of 1809, the convent of Namur became the motherhouse of the institute and is so still. Msgr. Demandolx, soon undeceived, made all the amends in his power, entreating Mother Julie to return to Amiens and rebuild her institute. She returned, but after a vain struggle to find subjects or revenues, went back to Namur.

Later life, death and canonization[edit]

The seven years of life that remained to her were spent in forming her daughters to solid piety and the interior spirit, of which she was herself the model. Msgr. De Broglie, the bishop of Ghent, said of her that she saved more souls by her inner life of union with God than by her outward apostolate. In the space of twelve years (1804–1816) Mother Julie founded fifteen convents, made one hundred and twenty journeys, many of them long and toilsome, and carried on a close correspondence with her spiritual daughters. Hundreds of these letters are preserved in the motherhouse. In 1815 Belgiumwas the battlefield of the Napoleonic wars, and the mother-general suffered great anxiety, as several of her convents were in the path of the armies, but they escaped injury. In January 1816, she took ill.

She died on 8 April 1816, at the motherhouse of her institute,