Homilies for April 2019

For Apr. 7, Apr. 14 (Palm, or Passion), Easter (day), and Apr. 28 (Divine Mercy).

Fifth Sunday of Lent – April 7, 2019

   Readings: Is 43:16–21 • Ps 126:1–6 • 2 Phil 3:8–14 • Jn 8:1–11
   usccb.org/bible/readings/040719-yearc.cfm

Preliminary notes: This Sunday you can use the readings for year A — the raising of Lazarus — or year C — the woman caught in adultery. I will use C, the woman caught in adultery. In this homily, I use the Gospel story as a model for confession: if you have an upcoming parish confession time in the next two weeks before Easter, don’t be afraid to insert the day and time tastefully into this homily.

Have you ever felt beyond God’s mercy? You did something wrong and you can’t even imagine God would forgive you. Maybe it was the first time you became aware of a sin as a kid: you went and snuck a popsicle from the freezer and can’t imagine mom will every forgive you.

We’ve all been there at some point. We’ve reached our wits’ end.

Today’s Gospel gives us an example of someone like this but it also gives us Jesus’s merciful response. The scene begins with a bunch of men ready to stone her. She knows how the law of Moses treats her crime. It says, “You shall bring them both out to the gate of the city and there stone them to death” (Deut 22:24). Thus, she expects no reprieve. She figures all is lost. She assumes her sin is unforgiveable.

Yet these men move and ask Jesus a question before the stone her. They want to trick Jesus. They know Jesus is merciful but they also know Moses’s law is above all else among the Jews. They ask him, “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground. If we imagine ourselves in the place of the woman, we are probably nervous at this point, wondering when the first stone is coming. We hide our face, too afraid to even look. But, Jesus writes calmly on the ground, then tells them they can cast stones. However, he gives a caveat: they must be without sin. Surely, we think as the woman there, we compare ourselves to the men with the stones. Compared with us, these men are sinless. It will be seconds before the stones start piling on.

But the rocks never come. You’re in shock, and wondering what has happened. Then, after sitting crouched in the corner1 for a while, you look up. There is Jesus, who offers you a hand up. He then says, “Has no one condemned you? . . . Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

This experience is much like the experience we have when we fall and go to confession. We’ve done something we know is wrong and our conscience eats away, condemning us. Then, we fear confession. We think, “Oh, no, how could I ever say that to the priest?” Trust me, even we priests have this experience: for us it’s going to our fellow priests who are often our friends or former classmates.

But then, when we go to confession, we experience the overflow of God’s abundant mercy washing over our souls.

God’s mercy is so strong that some early Christians actually skipped this passage in their Bible as they were scandalized by it. They didn’t think God’s mercy could be so abundant. But we know it can be. In fact, when we look to the other passages the Church gives us this week, we can see them as celebrations of this abundant forgiveness we receive in confession.

The second reading from the Letter to the Philippians states, “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Knowing Jesus is not a pure intellectual exercise. We know him as a person. But you know what creates the biggest obstacle to this? Sin. Thus, if we are to have such a transforming knowledge that we would give all else up, we need to be cleansed of sin, we need to go to confession.

This week’s Psalm has the verse: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” When we dig into the verses, we see a lot of times where God, through his mercy, took the Israelites from sorrow to joy. We even see one that is another model for confession: The Israelites were captive in Egypt, then God brought them out through difficult trials. Likewise, before confession we are often captive in our sin and God can bring us out of that, with far fewer trials than the Israelites.

The woman caught in adultery is a lot like us when we sin. We think all is lost, we think Jesus will be mad, but, if we go to confession, we freely receive God’s healing balm. We are cleansed by his wonderful mercy. I want to invite you all to go to confession more often, even in these two weeks before Easter if you haven’t been for a while.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – April 14, 2019

Note: The two homilies of Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, are written as a pair on the theme of “Entering into the Passion,” which also makes a great way to announce the liturgical events of the Holy Triduum and invite everyone, either at the end of the homily or the end of Mass.

Procession Homily

   Reading: Lk 19:28–40
   usccb.org/bible/readings/041419.cfm

Today we enter into the Passion.

We begin now on the Mount of Olives. From there, we enter — with Jesus — into Jerusalem. We remember what he said a few chapters beforehand: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Lk 13:34).

We enter into Jesus’s sorrow; we enter in the foreshadowing of all that is about to happen.

We walk slowly with all the other pilgrims. We enter into their joy at the Passover feast while keeping this foreshadowed sorrow in mind.

We enter into Jesus’s humility. He seeks not to come on a powerful animal like a horse or camel, but on a simple donkey often used for freight, not people. To the Jews, the donkey was a sign of the Messiah and of peace. We look at how we often choose to go in power and glory rather than remaining simple and humble. Looking at our own lives, we realize we probably would have preferred a war horse to a simple donkey.

The gates finally open and we physically enter the city. We enter into the last week of Jesus’s earthly life. We enter into the week which will save us.

People are calling out and praising Jesus. So much so that he notes the rocks would cry out. Do we enter into how profound a reality this is? We can think of Jesus’s salvation in merely legalistic terms but it really is a cosmic reality.

Finally, as we reach in, we enter into Jesus’s mind where he can see the Romans razing the whole city to the ground in 40 years. He weeps for these who will not accept him, those who will die in that battle and destruction. This allows us to enter the new Jerusalem, the Church, so let us now go forth, entering into it like the crowds entered Jerusalem with Jesus 2000 years ago.

Mass Homily

   Readings: Is 50:4–7 • Ps 22:8–9, 17–20, 23–24 • Phil 2:6–11 • Lk 22:14—23:56
   usccb.org/bible/readings/041419.cfm

In today’s second reading, St. Paul suggests that we enter into the Incarnation. He notes the Second Person of the Trinity was purely God but chose to enter into our world; he chose to enter even into our death, so as to allow us to escape from eternal death.

The long Passion narrative has six parts we can briefly enter into: the Last Supper, the agony in the Garden, the trials, carrying the Cross, Jesus’s death, and the silence after his death.

We enter into the Last Supper to see the reality of a God who comes to us so simply in the Eucharist. We see here not only the rest of the Passion in miniature, but we see Jesus’s gift we can receive every day. In the Eucharist, we have the opportunity to enter into Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection every day.

Then, as Jesus leaves the upper room, he walks out to a garden to pray. We enter in with him: not just to the garden, but to his heart so burdened with what is about to happen. He is suffering. He knows what will happen. His struggle is so real that he sweats blood. When we face difficulty, do we let Jesus enter in and help us? Even though he sweat blood in his difficult prayer, he had the strength to do the right thing. Each time we face some difficult choice — where we know the right thing to do but also know it isn’t the easiest — we can enter into this prayer in the garden with Jesus.

Jesus is tried multiple times by rulers and by the crowd. Each time, they seem to just put off the inevitable we all know will happen: Jesus will be crucified. Let’s enter in to see how Jesus lives these trials and how we can live life when society or cultural elites don’t think we’re doing the right thing. So often today, society encourages us to do the wrong thing. For example, we all know abortion is wrong and should never happen, but if you look to Hollywood or New York City media, we have to search for cultural leaders who agree with that. Technology has made our lives easy, and cultural leaders seem to want to promote such ease even to varied forms of immorality regarding human life and sexuality. When we feel judged by our culture, how do we react? When Jesus was judged unfairly, he did not lose his resolve. He did not cave and apologize for speaking the truth. We can enter into Jesus’s trials when our culture judges us and tells us we are wrong.

Next, we enter into the carrying of the Cross. We all have our particular cross we are asked to carry with Jesus. Some are lazy and will tend to do nothing unless provoked; others need to avoid yelling curses at every second person. Even though such tendencies may seem opposite, these are both crosses those people need to carry. God allowed that, when each of us was created, we’d have some little cross where we tend to some sin more than others. Jesus grants us these so we can become more like him, so that we can enter into the Cross. We enter with our weaknesses and faults, carrying them up Calvary with Jesus.

As he dies, we enter into what seems like utter blackness and lack of hope; we enter into moments where we feel lost and abandoned; we enter into seeming hopelessness. But even in that dark moment Jesus is there. If we acknowledge him then, he can help lift us out. You may have heard the saying that Jesus descended to Hell or to the domain of the dead. He did descend, to bring up the righteous who died before him. However, for us, we can see how at that moment we can feel this dead, or in Hell. Jesus wants to bring us up from that moment.

Finally, we enter into the eye of the storm. Jesus has died and is now buried. We enter into those few moments between the two most pivotal moments in history: Jesus’s death and his resurrection. We enter into the silence where things seem all upside down. At times things in our life don’t make sense, but Jesus wants to set them right if we let him.

Now, if we really entered into the Passion we can enter into the Resurrection. We don’t enter the Passion just to feel sad; we enter to be redeemed. Human life has ups and downs while we all search for the perfect life. If in those down moments we enter into the Passion, we allow ourselves to enter into Jesus’s redemption that leads us to the perfect life where we are all resurrected. We enter not into some abstract heaven of pillowy clouds or choirs of saints, but a perfect wonderful life for both our soul and our body.

Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord
– Mass of Easter Day – April 21, 2019

   Readings: Acts 10:34A, 37–43 • Ps 118:1–2, 16–17, 22–23 • Col 3:1–4 (or 1 Cor 5:6B–8) • Jn 20:1–9
   usccb.org/bible/readings/042119.cfm

Imagine sun-tanning on a beach, then, in the afternoon, someone comes by and offers you your favorite flavor of ice cream. Afterwards, you have a wonderful shrimp dinner. You would feel pleasure.

Imagine, now, your daughter’s wedding to a man you highly respect. She walks down the aisle, then promises her life to this man, then you toast her at the reception with silly stories of her childhood. You would feel joy. Even if an uncomfortable tux made you not feel too much pleasure, you would feel joy.

Likewise, going back to the sunny beach, you would likely fulfill those desires for pleasure even if this was two weeks after grandma died and you lacked joy.

In our society, we often confuse pleasure and joy. Joy is something deeper and more profound, something more worth striving for. But how often do we settle for pleasure?

It is right to have these things together. Usually we feel joy sharing pleasure with friends and family: we go chat over a delicious coffee or we go to the beach as a family. And we often add pleasure to a moment of joy: just remember the banquet after the last wedding: it probably tasted far better than your average food.

However, we always put pleasure at the service of joy. We can all understand a person who sacrifices for their family, but would wonder about someone who gave up on their family to have a pleasurable vacation.

In the Resurrection and the apostles’ mission right after, we see this lesson of prioritizing joy and we also see an even-deeper joy.

In today’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is seeking Jesus at the tomb. Then he appears. She is overwhelmed with joy. Her joy at the Resurrection not only satisfies her, it goes beyond. It drives her outward to run back on uneven roads to tell the others.

The Resurrection brings a deeper joy than we can experience in our day-to-day life.

Her joy is such that it motivates Peter and John to run back. John realizes Jesus has risen and is filled with joy as well.

It will take Peter a little longer, but he too is filled with joy. In fact, his joy is so overwhelming that, despite being a kind of shy, salty fisherman, he forgets his displeasure of public speaking and has to share this joy. The first reading was simply him getting up before the crowd and telling them how much joy Jesus gave him. Later in that same passage, we will see 5,000 added to the numbers of the disciples. That is a joy that transforms not only him, but the crowd.

Such joy is so far beyond pleasure that pleasure or displeasure becomes an afterthought. I think all of us want such a deep joy.

But you know what? Such a joy at the risen Lord is an essential part of Christianity. Our relationship with Jesus should bring us that joy.

Any kind of joy often takes a few difficult steps first. To have the joy of a university graduation, you need to pass Calculus II; to get the joy of a new child, you have to go through the pregnancy and birth. Likewise, it isn’t just automatic that because we are baptized Christians we experience such joy. We need to respond to God’s grace. That joy usually starts in those who take their faith a little more seriously. Maybe the next step is making it every Sunday to Mass or maybe its twenty minutes of prayer each day. It probably varies between those here. However, one thing I can promise is that moving towards Jesus brings us joy.

In our lives, we have pleasure and we have joy. We might initially confuse them. However, when we reflect, we realize joy — not pleasure — is what matters. As we get close to the risen Lord, we experience more of the deepest joy.

Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter)
– April 28, 2019

   Readings: Acts 5:12–16 • Ps 118:2–4, 13–15, 22–24 • Rev 1:9–11A, 12–13, 17–19 • Jn 20:19–31
   usccb.org/bible/readings/042819.cfm

I don’t know how many of you have ever seen a painting called The Incredulity of Thomas, painted by Caravaggio. Often, when we think of the Resurrection, we think of a perfectly manicured lawn with everything sitting perfectly. Then, we imagine the upper room where the apostles hid as some kind of idyllic setting with wide windows looking down on Jerusalem.

Caravaggio breaks these notions. In this painting we see Jesus pulling aside his cloak while the dirty hand of Thomas reaches inside. The apostles don’t look like these idealized figures, but like the tough fishermen Caravaggio used as models. This is a more realistic image than we often have. It wasn’t that Jesus rose in some idealized world, but he rose in the midst of our difficult and messy lives. The room was probably pretty barren, as they were hiding out, wondering if the Sanhedrin would get them next and crucify them.

As Jesus entered the messy world, he enters our messy lives. Today’s readings each tell us something about accepting him in. The second reading shows how Jesus comes even when we are down. The Gospel tells us that it is a personal relationship. The first reading tells us how Jesus heals us. Finally, the Psalm tells us how to respond.

In the second reading, John seems completely abandoned. He’s alone and imprisoned on the island of Patmos; imprisoned for proclaiming Jesus’s name. He feels despair. All seems lost. It is like the darkest moments we’ve had. Nothing seems to work. Then, John says, “I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day. . . . When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead.” It was a powerful revelation of the risen Lord to him. He was not alone. God did not abandon him in his moment of need.

Do we turn to God in our need? In our messiness? God wants to be with us in these most difficult moments. We might not be “caught up in the spirit,” but we will be helped along the path.

Then we move to the Gospel. Our society might consider Jesus some shadowy figure or ghost, but he is a person. Not only that, he wants a personal relationship with each of his followers. Thomas was not there the first time. Maybe he was afraid, or maybe he was the opposite, out running errands for the rest hiding inside — whichever way it was, he wasn’t there and has trouble believing the wonderful news. The next time Jesus comes, he doesn’t chide Thomas, but he doesn’t ignore him either. Jesus looks at Thomas and invites him to take up his doubts. He responds exactly to what Thomas wanted. Jesus wants to respond specifically to our messy situations. When we have our doubts or troubles, Jesus wants to come there and heal us.

Moving on to the first reading, we see how Jesus does that. He heals us. As Peter would walk by the crowds coming close to him after the Resurrection, the people would be healed. Likewise, in our lives, when we get close to Jesus, especially after his resurrection, he can heal us of so many spiritual ailments. He may or may not heal us of physical ailments, but definitely of the spiritual ones. So often these spiritual ailments are what cause the real messes in our lives.

Finally, after Jesus has come into our lives and helped us be cured of spiritual sicknesses, what do we have? We have today’s psalm where we repeated two lines: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting,” and “His mercy endures forever.” When we see how much God does in our lives, that should be our reaction. Thanksgiving is the proper response to a God who comes into the messiness of our lives and cures us. A God who raises us up to be with him. Let’s prepare for the final day where we too will be raised up with him in glory.

  1. Archeologists and historians tend to think that stoning was not as Renaissance artists imagined but putting the person in a pit and putting enough stones on them to crush them. Nonetheless, the wording I used of a “corner” leaves open either the artist’s version of against a wall or the historians’ version of a pit.
Avatar About Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC

Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC is most well-known for his presence on Twitter and Instagram (@FrMatthewLC) where he has over 50,000 followers between the two platforms. He is a religious priest with the Legionaries of Christ ordained in 2013. He is currently enrolled at the STL program out of Sacred Heart Major Seminary. He lives in the Archdiocese of Washington where he helps at Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center and produces material for Regnum Christi.

Comments

  1. Avatar Sello Mokoka says:

    On Holy Saturday during the night virgil await the Risen Christ. What we must realised is not about the empty tomb but the its main contents, the Risen Christ.
    The stone that the builders rejected has become the Chief Cornestone and has preceeded the disciples to Gallile, where “peace” is now to reign in the whole world, when the risen Christ enters the closed room His diciples where gathered; peace be with you, He greeted them.
    The risen Christ has brought back joy to the whole world. The Son is back butnwill soon go back to His father God, to be seated on the right hand of the Father.

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