Heart

I grew up in the artsy and historical neighborhood of Sta. Ana in Manila and Fr. Jesus Galindo, OFM was our Parish Priest in Our Lady of the Abandoned back then.

I will never forget his informative homily and inspiring messages of hope.

He gave profound messages about the love of God and love as a verb in the light of the gospel.

Sharing his reflections, which was the main theme of the Gospel this Sunday.

Love one another, heart

Fr. Jesus Galindo, OFM in action. My wife and I visits the historical Spanish architecture inspired church of Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish in Sta. Ana, Manila last December 2017

During the early centuries of the Church, when Christians were being persecuted and martyred, some of them offered to die in place of others (just like St. Maximilian Kolbe did during World War II in the concentration camp of Auschwich). The pagans were amazed at this and remarked, “See how they love one another.”

Reading today’s papers or watching the news on TV, all we can say is, “See how they kill one another. See how they cheat one another. See how they insult one another.” (Wait till the electoral campaign begins.)

The great Mahatma Gandhi, when asked to express his views about Christianity, said: “ I have great respect for Christianity. I often read the Sermon of the Mount and have gained much from it. I know of no one who has done more for humanity than Jesus. However, the trouble is with you, Christians. You do not being to live up to your own teachings.”

Another Hindu monk who read the story of Jesus in the gospel said to a Christian: “If you can live what is taught in this book, you will convert the whole of India in five years.”

Of course, not everything is dark and negative about us.

There are also some good things going for us. Fr. Joseph Dau Vu, SVD, chaplain to Vietnamese refugees in Morong, Bataan, tells how the “boat people” were abused, robbed and even killed by fishermen from neighboring countries. But when Filipino fishermen spotted them, they offered them food and shelter. Why – they wondered? Because they are Christians. (Cf. Bel San Luis, SVD, Word Alive, Year C. p. 57)

“I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Jesus made this pronouncement in his farewell discourse, during the Last Supper. Hence, it is his last and most urgent wish.

As if he were saying: “I am going now. You might forget all the other things I did and said. Just don’t forget this one. This is the summary of everything I have told you.” And so it is indeed; for this is what our final “exam” will be about: Not about doctrines, not about catechism, not about the Bible, but about LOVE: “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink.” Etc.

Why is this commandment called new? What is new about it? Love of neighbor is found in the Old Testament: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev.19:18) All other religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam) teach about love also.

What, then, is new in Christ’s commandment? “As I have loved you,” that’s what is new. Our love has to be like Christ’s, that is, sacrificial. Not emotional, not romantic, but self-sacrificing – to the point of death.

Love means different things to different people. It is perhaps the most used and abused word in the dictionary. In the name of love, young lovers elope, or steal. In the name of a newly-found “love” some spouses abandon home and children. That might be passion, infatuation or lust; but certainly not Christ’s love.

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. ”We usually recognize people by their uniform or attire, by which we can tell whether a person is a doctor, a policeman or a security guard. In church we wear habits, pins or crosses.

We know well, however, that these external symbols can be quite deceiving.

We often hear stories about truants disguised as priests, policemen, collectors etc. whose sole purpose is to extort money.

Christ did not choose any external mark or symbol to identify his followers.

Love is, or should be, the mark of our identity, our uniform and our habit.

We may wear crosses or pins, recite rosaries and novenas, receive holy communions, etc.

If then we go home and abuse or insult our household help, our yayas, our drivers…we simply are not true disciplesof Christ. Discipleship is not a matter of external attire; it is a matter of a loving heart.

Fr. Mark

This prayer goes to Fr. Mark Ventura and to all the priest who risk their lives to serve others.

You came from among us to be, for us, one who serves.

We thank you for ministering Christ to us and helping us minister Christ to each other.

We are greatful for the many gifts you bring to our community: for drawing us together in worship, for visiting us in our homes, for comforting us in sickness, for showing us compassion, for blessing our marriage, for baptising our children, for confirming us in our calling, for supporting us in bereavement, for helping us to grow in our faith, for encouraging us to take the initiative, for helping the whole community realize God’s presence among us.

For our part, we pray that we may always be attentive to your needs and never take you for granted.

You, like us, need friendship and love, welcome and a sense of belonging, kind words and acts of thoughtfulness.

We pray, also, for the priests who have wounded priesthood.

May we be willing to forgive and may they be open to healing.

Let us support one another during times of crisis. God our Father, we ask you to bless our Priests and confirm them in their calling.

Give them the gifts they need to respond with generosity and a joyful heart. We offer this prayer for our priests, who are our brothers and friends.

Amen.

Fr. Mark Ventura

Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura, known for his anti-mining advocacy, was in the middle of blessing the children and talking to the choir in a gymnasium in Barangay Piña Weste when he was shot on the head and chest.

Fr. Mark Ventura was a young Catholic priest was shot dead in Cagayan province on Sunday, becoming the second cleric slain in around four months.

He was murdered at about 8:15am right after celebrating Mass at a gymnasium in Brgy. Peña Weste, on the outskirts of Gattaran town.

The priest was blessing children and talking with the choir members when a still unidentified male donning a motorcycle helmet emerged from the back of the gym and shot the victim twice.

Quoting reports from the Police Regional Office No. 2 in Tuguegarao City, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde said the suspect ran towards the highway and rode on a single motorcycle driven by another unidentified companion and fled towards Baggao, Cagayan.

Archbishop Sergio Utleg Tuguegarao has already led prayers at the site of the crime. He still has to issue his statement as of this posting.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has deplored the priest’s murder, offering their prayers for Ventura, for his bereaved family, and the lay faithful of Tuguegarao.

“We condemn this evil act!” said Archbishop Romulo Valles, CBCP President.“We are totally shocked and in utter disbelief to hear about the brutal killing of Fr. Mark Ventura.”

The bishops also appealed to the authorities “to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice”.

Ventura is currently the director of San Isidro Labrador Mission Station, a post he only assumed early this month, in Mabuno village, also Gattaran.

A priest for almost seven years, he was also known for his anti-mining advocacies and for helping indigenous peoples in the province.

Prior to his assignment in Gattaran, Ventura served as Rector of the Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary based in Aparri, Cagayan.

In December 2017, Fr. Marcelito Paez, 72, was killed by still unidentified gunmen after he facilitated the release of a political prisoner in Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

+Eternal Rest grant unto the soul of Father Mark Ventura, O LORD. May Your Perpetual Light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

STATEMENT of the President of CBCP

Good afternoon. Please find below the statement of Abp Romulo Valles, CBCP President, on the brutal killing of Fr. Mark Ventura of Tuguegarao:

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are totally shocked and in utter disbelief to hear about the brutal killing of Fr. Mark Ventura, Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao. Right after celebrating the Sunday Eucharist at eight o’clock in the morning today, he was shot to death by murderers riding in tandem.

We offer our prayers for Fr Ventura, for his bereaved family, and the lay faithful of Tuguegarao. We also pray for Archbishop Sergio Utleg, his priests and the religious of the archdiocese, who this year, in union with the whole Church in the Philippines, are celebrating the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.

We condemn this evil act!

We make our appeal to the authorities to act swiftly in going after the perpetrators of this crime and to bring them to justice.

May God have mercy on us all!

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

Absp. Romulo G. Valles
President
April 29, 2018

Tell

When “Tell the World of His Love” – the official theme song for World Youth Day 1995 in Manila was sang during the Solemn Eucharistic Celebration and Veneration of the Blood Relic of St. John Paul II at Manila Cathedral last April 7, 2018 – the wonderful memories of that youth event came back and I felt the saint’s presence in our midst.

I was in high school then. I was glued on television and monitored all the live reports from media.

Tell the World of His Love

As Asia’s bastion of Catholicism, the Philippines has been blessed by three papal visits: one from the revered Pope Paul VI in 1970 and by the late Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995, respectively. His most famous visit was during the World Youth Day in 1995. Known as the “saint-maker” who beatified 1,388 faithful and canonized more than 470 saints, the late Pontiff was beatified by his successor Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s Square last May 1, 2011 before 1.5 million people. I believe his deep love for God expressed in his genuine love and concern for people, regardless of age, race, status, religion makes him deserving to be recognized as a saint. He brought people closer to God.

Let’s look back at some of St. John Paul II’s inspiring messages to the young people:

Sense of vocation

“It is always Christ who sends. But whom does he send? You, young people, are the ones he looks upon with love. Christ, who says: ‘Follow me,’ wants you to live your lives with a sense of vocation. He wants your lives to have a precise meaning and dignity.”

(International Youth Forum Mass, University of Santo Tomas Seminary, January 13, 1995)

Meaning in life

“Too many young people do not realize that they themselves are the ones who are mainly responsible for giving a worthwhile meaning to their lives.”

(Prayer Vigil with the Youth, Rizal Park, January 14, 1995)

Vocation to love

“The vocation to love, understood as true openness to our fellow human beings and solidarity with them, is the most basic of all vocations. It is the origin of all vocations in life.”

(Prayer Vigil with the Youth, Rizal Park, January 14, 1995)

Inalienable dignity

“If you defend the inalienable dignity of every human being, you will be revealing to the world the true face of Jesus Christ, who is one with every man, every woman, and every child, no matter how poor, no matter how weak or handicapped.”

(Prayer Vigil with the Youth, Rizal Park, January 14, 1995)

Criticizing adults

“Sometimes you are very critical of the world of adults, and sometimes they are very critical of you. This is not something new, and it is not always without real basis in life. But always remember that you owe your life and upbringing to your parents, and the Fourth Commandment expresses in a concise way the demands of justice toward them (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2215).”

(World Youth Day Concluding Mass, Rizal Park, January 15, 1995)

Freedom, responsibility

“How many young people think they are free because they have thrown off every restraint and every principle of responsibility? How many of them think that because certain forms of behavior are socially accepted, they are therefore morally right? They abuse the beautiful gift of sexuality; they abuse drink and drugs, thinking that such behavior is all right because certain sectors of society tolerate it…

“Build your lives on the one model that will not deceive you! I invite you to open the Gospel and discover that Jesus Christ wants to be your ‘friend’ (cf. Jn 15: 14).”

(World Youth Day Concluding Mass, Rizal Park, January 15, 1995)

Farewell: ‘Be strong’

“Kayo ay isinugo ni Kristo tulad ng pagsugo sa Kanya ng Ama. Salamat at pinakinggan ninyo ang kanyang Salita.

“Inaanyayahan ko kayong maging mga alagad ng Ebanghelyo, at mga tagapagtaguyod ng kanyang Kaharian sa inyong mga pamilya, parokya, samahan, at sa bawat bahagi ng inyong buhay bilang mga Pilipino. Nawa’y maging matatag kayo sa inyong pananampalataya at pagmamahal sa inyong kapwa.”

(Christ sends you even as he himself was sent. I thank you for listening to his word, and I encourage you to become apostles of the Gospel and builders of God’s kingdom in your families, parishes, groups, and in every aspect of Filipino life. Be strong in faith and love!)

(Farewell to Young People, Rizal Park, January 15, 1995)

Alleluia

Are you living as an Easter people of God or still in Golgotha?

As married couples, there are a lot of practical lessons that we can learn about relationship from the death and resurrection of Christ as shared by Fr. Mark Demanuele, MSSP during the Easter Recollection organized by the The Feast Bay Area Couple’s Ministry.

As a missionary, Fr. Mark shared his journey of challenges as an Easter person.

Easter people of God

The beauty of the cross is in the promise of Easter, where God shows His natures as a redeemer and restorer. If your marriage is in a time of stress and pain, put your hope in the one who sees past the immediate circumstances of your life and into a hopeful and wonderful future. It is very possible that God could use the current difficulty in your marriage to create something even more beautiful and enduring than you could ever imagine. As you celebrate Easter with your family this year, take some time to reflect on the meaning for your marriage. Allow the wonderful and powerful spiritual truths of Easter breathe new life into your relationship, and your bond will be stronger for it.

He pointed everyone to the powerful exhortation of St. John Paul II back in 1986:

“We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of his Paschal Mystery – the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. “We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!”. We are not looking for a shallow joy but rather a joy that comes from faith, that grows through unselfish love, that respects the “fundamental duty of love of neighbour, without which it would be unbecoming to speak of Joy”. We realize that joy is demanding; it demands unselfishness; it demands a readiness to say with Mary: “Be it done unto me according to thy word”.

In particular if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up.

If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume and in due course bearing fruit.

Jesus resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.

Characteristics of Easter people as shared by Fr. Mark:

  • Easter people rejoice in Jesus’ death AND resurrection. (Romans 5:10)
  • Easter people preach the resurrection more than one day a year. (Acts 4:2)
  • Easter people long for their resurrection brought by Jesus as much as or if not more so than a temporary bodiless existence in heaven. (1 Corinthians 15; Philippians 3:7-11; Revelation 21)
  • Easter people long to see Jesus restore creation from the curse of decay. (Romans 8 )
  • Easter people speak up at great cost against the ‘principalities and powers’ of this world because Jesus is our risen King and he is king over them all. (Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 2:7-9)
  • Easter people are willing to deny themselves and lose all things for the sake of Christ now because Christ, by the power of his resurrection, has promised to restore all things and reward his disciples in the ‘life after the next life’. (Matthew 19:27-28; Mark 10:28-31; Revelation 21:5)

As an “Easter People,” our response to the gift of forgiveness and eternal life compels us to try to live lives that reflect our new status. We are a people forgiven, healed and renewed by Jesus’ Body and Blood, and we are called to share that Good News with the whole world.

Our response can and should be rooted in love. As Jesus himself has told us, love for God and love for our neighbor is the foundation of Christian living. Because God first loved us, loved us so much that we were given God’s only son for our salvation, our response to this love is not only to love God as deeply and fully as we are able, but also to love everyone else as deeply and fully as we love ourselves.

As couples, our relationship with God matters most.

We need to nurture the loving relationship of husbands and wives like how Christ offered His life in the cross.

In this time of violence, strife, argument and disagreement, God continues to call us to love not to hate. God continues to call us to look beyond the immediate to the eternal.

What in a moment of anger or outrage might satisfy our pride is most probably not consistent with the loving future God wants for us.

It is not God who has created the turmoil that surrounds us; it is turmoil of our own making born from our love of self above our love of others.

This Easter, amidst the joy and celebration of our new lives in Christ, let us also celebrate the joy of new life with others.

Let us begin to set aside our pride and petty difference that not only separate us from each other, but also separate us from God.

Let us strive to become an “Easter People” who know and reflect God’s love through our love for one another as equals—equally beloved children of God.

Real

Fr. Bob McConaghy, Spiritual Director of The Feast Bay Area puts it succintly that we are servants not volunteers in doing God’s work.

A volunteer can leave anytime but a servant has a giving heart.

They focus on others, not themselves. This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less.

When we stop focusing on our needs, we become aware of the needs around us.

Real Servants

With my fellow servants in The Feast Bay Area together with Fr. Bob.

God is always more interested in why we do something than in what we do. Attitudes count more than achievements.

Jesus “emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant.” When was the last time you emptied yourself for someone elses benefit? You cant be a servant if you’re full of yourself. Its only when we forget ourselves that we do the things that deserve to be remembered.

We serve to get others to like us, to be admired, or to achieve our own goals. That is manipulation, not ministry.

Pastor Rick Warren shared these thoughts about being a real servant for God.

Real servants don’t try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for His purposes.

We can measure our servants heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants. How do you react when youre taken for granted, bossed around, or treated as an inferior?

Real Servants Think Like Stewards, Not Owners

They remember God owns it all.

Servanthood and stewardship go together since God expects us to be trustworthy in both. The Bible says, The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master. How are you handling the resources God has entrusted to you?

To become a real servant, you’re going to have to settle the issue of money in your life.

Money has the greatest potential to replace God in your life. More people are sidetracked from serving by materialism than anything else. They say, “After I achieve my financial goals, Im going to serve God.” That is a foolish decision they will regret for eternity. When Jesus is your Master, money serves you, but if money is your master, you become its slave. Wealth is certainly not a sin, but failing to use it for Gods glory is. Real servants are more concerned about ministry than money.

The Bible is very clear: God uses money to test your faithfulness as a servant. Thats why Jesus talked more about money than he did about either heaven or hell. He said, If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? How you manage your money affects how much God can bless your life.

Real Servants Think About Their Own Responsibilities, Not What Other Servants are Doing

They dont compare, criticize, or compete with other servants or ministries. Theyre too busy doing the work God has given them.

Competition between Gods servants is illogical for many reasons: were all on the same team, our goal is to make God look good, not ourselves, weve been given different assignments, and were all uniquely shaped. Paul said, We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Theres no place for petty jealousy between servants. When youre busy serving, you dont have time to be critical. Any time spent criticizing others is time that could have been spent ministering. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping with the work, she lost her servants heart. Real servants dont complain of unfairness, dont have pity-parties, and dont resent those not serving. They just trust God and keep serving.

If you serve like Jesus, you can expect to be criticized. The world, and even much of the church, does not understand what God values. The disciples criticized one of the most beautiful acts of love shown to Jesus. Mary took the most valuable thing she owned, expensive perfume, and poured it over Jesus. Her lavish service was called “a waste” by the disciples, but Jesus called it “significant,” and thats all that mattered. You service for Christ is never wasted, regardless of what others say.

Real Servants Base Their Identity in Christ

They remember they are unconditionally loved and accepted by grace, so they dont have to prove their worth when they are threatened by lowly jobs. Most of us are too insecure to be servants. Were afraid our weaknesses and insecurities will be uncovered so we hide them with layers of protective pride and pretensions.

One of the most profound examples of serving from a secure self-image is Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Washing feet was the equivalent of being a shoeshine boy, a job devoid of status. But Jesus knew who he was, so it didnt threaten or bother him to do it.

If youre going to be a servant you must settle your identity in Christ. Only secure people can serve, when you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectation of others. You are freed to serve.

Real Servants Think of Ministry as an Opportunity, Not an Obligation

They enjoy helping people, meeting needs, and doing ministry. They “serve the Lord with gladness.” Why do we serve with gladness? Because we love the Lord, were grateful for his grace, we know serving is the highest use of life, and God has promised a reward. Jesus promised, The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me. And Paul added, He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other Christians.

Imagine what could happen if just 10% of all Christians in the world got serious about their role of being a real servant. Imagine all the good that could be done. Are you willing to be one of those people? Albert Schweitzer said, “The only really happy people are those have learned how to serve.”

Easter Vigil

Fr. Mel Sandoval celebrated the Easter Vigil Mass last night with tons of love. He served with passion for the Lord! Led the parishioners of St. Martha to the ultimate worship.

The children and the youth of the parish served gladly together with their families.

Fr. Mel sang the Exultet and the prayer to the Saints straight from the heart.

Easter Vigil Mass

Fr. Mel during the ceremonial blessing of light.

Easter Vigil Mass Sta Marta

Crossing from darkness to light. Little angels praising the risen Christ.

Know more about the Easter Vigil Mass from ACatholic.org:

The Easter Vigil Mass is the most important Mass in the Catholic Church. Catholics throughout the entire world will celebrate this most holiest of nights, in union with Jesus Christ and with all of their brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. We welcome our new members into the Catholic church during this Mass and feel a great spiritual solidarity with them. We pray for them, and with them, as they consecrate their lives to Jesus Christ. It is a very holy and unifying experience to attend the Easter Vigil Mass.

The Easter Vigil Mass always takes place after nightfall. Our church lies in darkness and waiting. The light of Christ has gone out of the world and darkness will have covered the earth where ever the Easter Vigil Mass takes place. A match will be struck in the darkness and the Easter fires will be lit outside of the church, representing Christ’s return from the tomb. Jesus Christ is the light that dispels the darkness of our world.

The people of different parishes throughout the world will gather around a brand new fire that has begun to burn, and a new paschal candle will be lit for the first time. The priest will act in the place of Jesus Christ, as he leads the people who are gathered there with him to the darkened, empty church. A new Easter candle will burn brightly, leading the procession of the people of God. The priest acts “in persona of Christ,” carrying the newly lit paschal candle into the church that awaits his return in total darkness. He brings the light of Christ into the church for the first time since Good Friday. It is Jesus Christ alone who dispels the darkness of our lives. All that we do, and all that we are, is nothing without him. He is the source of all the love, light and goodness in our lives.

There are many local traditions that will take place throughout the world during the Easter Vigil Mass. Often times though, each person that enters the church for Mass that night will light their own candle from the new Easter candle at the doors of the church. Their individual candles will collectively fill the entire church with light, representing the light of Christ that burns within each one of us. The new paschal candle will later be dipped into the baptismal waters three times when the waters are blessed, calling down the Holy Spirit to descend upon the waters.

It is fitting that the first words of the holy scriptures for Mass that night will be:

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. God then separated the light from the darkness…”

Then the creation story will be retold to all the people.

The psalm that follows will repeat “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” This is fitting, because the new parishioners who are baptized that night will also renew the face of the earth and the very church itself, with the newly ignited fire of the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

The next reading from the old testament will recount the story of how God tested Abraham by telling him to light a fire and offer his only beloved son to God as a human sacrifice. This is because God wanted to test Abraham to see if he loved his son more than Him. When it came right down to it, Abraham did not love his son more than God, because he made the decision to obey what God commanded him to do. Because he obeyed God, the angel stopped him from sacrificing his son, and Abraham was greatly blessed because of this. This is why Abraham became the father of many nations. This is also something the new catechumens and candidates will do upon their entry into the Catholic church during the Easter Vigil Mass. They will choose God above everything else in their life and we should make a decision along with them, to do the same.

The next reading tells us how God parted the red sea and led His people out of the bondage of slavery and sin in Egypt, into a new life to be lived in holiness and unity with Him. This is true for all of us who have been baptized and the ones who also will be baptized on this night as well. Jesus led all of us out of sin, through the waters of baptism, into our new life in him.

The next reading begins by saying that the one who has become your husband is your Maker, his name is the Lord of Hosts. This reflects the decision that Abraham made to choose God above everyone else, including his own son. We are called to love God and the Lord Jesus Christ more than any other person in our lives as well. This does not mean that our marriages and family are not important though. It simply means that our love for God should always come first in our lives.

The next reading says “Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water”. It recognizes the deep hunger that every human person has for God. Psalm 42 describes this thirst for God very well when it says “like a deer thirsts for water, so I thirst for you, my God”. The new catechumens have recognized this thirst for God and His living waters, yet we too, continue to thirst for God through out our lives.

The next reading tells us how God calls his people and when they answer with understanding “Here we are!”, they will shine with joy for their Maker. This describes how the catechumens and candidates have answered God’s call and have come forward to acknowledge Him. If you have ever been brought into the Catholic church at the Easter Vigil, or have witnessed others who have, then you may have noticed that our new Catholics do seem to glow with the light of the Holy Spirit the whole night. So do we though. We will be shinning with joy at the Easter mass as well, especially if we went to confession and set things right before the Lord during the season of Lent.

The next reading says that God “will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities.” And that “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.” We will be His people and He will be our God. What an absolutely beautiful reading this is. It gives us all much hope for the future. The things of the past are no more. We have been created anew. This is true for every person who is brought into the Catholic church, whether that is at Easter this year, or many years ago. Every Easter we are made new again, through the power of Jesus Christ.

The next reading says:

“Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”

Every single one of us who have been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ can trust these words as the truth, and the gospel reading tells why. The gospel says the women from Galilee went to the tomb at daybreak. They saw that the stone sealing Jesus’s tomb, had been rolled away, and then they saw an angel who said to them:

“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Behold, I have told you.”

Then, Jesus met the women on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.”

The birth, life and death of Jesus Christ has no meaning without his resurrection from the dead. Jesus would have been considered an imposture, a fake, a liar, or at best a prophet, but He would not have been recognized as the Son of the living God if it were not for his resurrection from the dead. Jesus physically died, passed through the gates of hell, defeated death itself and was raised to eternal life. There were many people who personally saw Jesus Christ, resurrected from the dead. It is the most talked about event in human history, both in the time of Christ, and over two thousand years later in our modern times as well.

Every single human being that has ever lived is afraid to die. There are some people who are absolutely terrified of dying. We often ask ourselves what is the point of life? But, death is actually our biggest concern. Everyone of us wants to know what happens when we die? Do we just cease to exist? Is heaven and hell real? Is God real?

It is a beautiful thing that Jesus Christ not only died for the forgiveness of our lives, but he also did his best to shatter our fear of death. It isn’t so much what we say in life that matters, but what we actually do. Jesus knew that his words would only go so far in helping us to believe in him. He rose from the dead to physically prove to all of us, that there really is life after death. We were also created for eternal life.

Jesus Christ broke through the barriers of our doubts and our fear of death, when he was raised from the dead on Easter morning. The stone that sealed the tomb of our Lord was merely a door through which He passed into eternal life. Death is but a door that we too shall pass through. There really is no such thing as death. Death does not the final say. Jesus Christ does.

As long as we believe that Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins, that he rose from the dead to eternal life, so that we too, might live forever, then we will. We need not fear what death has in store for us, because Jesus Christ went ahead of us, to light the way to our Father’s kingdom. This is why He is the Light of the World, the Light of the entire human race. And this is our Easter joy!

Cross

Today, for Christians, is a special day set aside to commemorate the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s also a day that we can set aside, no matter what religion or spirituality we affiliate ourselves with, and challenge the mystery of the cross. We can be authentic disciples by embracing our hearts and confronting the cross that we personally carry.

On this Good Friday, let us find our cross.

Cross

The Cross becomes a symbol, not of death and degradation, but of self-sacrifice, love, and our ultimate triumph over death. It is the very core of our Christian faith and it is a day we should treasure.

A cross can be embraced, and it can also be forced upon us – against our will. My question to you is: What cross do you carry?

The first cross that some of us bear is the Goat Cross. Some of us are undergoing some painful experiences inflicted upon us by others, as if we were a scapegoat, forced to bear the scars of other people’s sinful actions. As a result of the Goat Cross, we blame our parents, teachers, culture, the church or even our government. If this cross is carried, it frequently ends up in the courtroom.

Another cross is the Crybaby’s Cross. These are those who always say, have pity on me; I need special treatment; make an exception for me for I am a wounded disciple. We find comfort in asking: Do you see the heavy cross I am forced to carry in my life?

We have the Cranky Cross. Because we carry the cross of not finding a job; of being overworked and/or underpaid or the cross of sickness or of family problems, we become angry, bad-tempered, irritable, grumpy and crabby. Those of us who carry Cranky Crosses are crosses to others.

The Cross of Our Humanity is the cross of human nature. We can be stingy, eager to serve and also self-serving, kind and also mean. Such is the nature of the human condition, and often it’s hard to bear!

We further carry the Cross of Others. It’s heavy with sin and mistakes of our family and country. This is a difficult cross to embrace since it is a sharing in government’s guilt and sin. It’s hard enough to embrace our own sins, but to carry the sins of all with whom we are associated including religion, government and society is truly to walk in a saving figure’s footsteps.

There are many other crosses that we bear, but the heart of this reflection is a promise of a new era of justice and peace for all. You and I need to embrace and carry our crosses, to deny our very selves as we surrender to God’s will.

On this Good Friday, embrace your cross with great affection and love. When you do so, you can release from it the power to fertilize and pollinate humanity. Great is the power in each of our crosses to create a new breed of humans, true son and daughters of God.

My prayer for you is the grace to understand and embrace fully your cross on this Good Friday and every other day that you are called to do so.

Source: Good Friday Reflection: Finding and embracing your cross by Elton Letang