Homilies for April 2022

By Dcn. Jerome Buhman: Fifth Sunday of Lent Year C; Palm Sunday; Easter Sunday; Divine Mercy Sunday.

By Rev. John P. Cush, STD: Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A; Holy Thursday; Good Friday; the Easter Vigil.

Fifth Sunday in Lent – April 3, 2022

Year C

Readings: Is 43:16–21 Ps 126:1–2, 2–3, 4–5, 6 Phil 3:8–14 Jn 8:1–11  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/040322-YearC.cfm

April is here! When April arrives, I often think of one thing: potatoes.

I am from a very large Missouri farm family, whose mom claimed Irish descent, and so when early spring arrived, it was time to plant potatoes. A lot of potatoes.

Now potatoes are a cool weather plant and were among the very first things planted in the spring. And spring is the time of rebirth and renewal. Thus, for me, the potato is a sign of new beginnings.

The season of Lent is a new beginning for us, as well. After all, the word Lent is just an old Germanic term for spring, which is the time of renewed growth and new beginnings. The season of Lent allows us the opportunity to clear the debris of sinful winter from our souls and prepare to plant the seeds of Easter. It is a time of new spiritual beginnings, symbolized today by the Irish potato.

Now the potato was not native to Ireland and the introduction of the simple potato into Europe and Ireland provided a new beginning for people there, as the nutritional value of the food provided the basis for a massive population explosion. 

But the history of the potato in Ireland had its difficult and tragic periods as well, times that threatened to shatter the country and its people, but also provided avenues for new beginnings. In the 1840s, a terrible potato blight caused the tragedy known as the Great Irish Potato Famine, but it also provided a new beginning for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who brought a simple faith and very little else with them to new countries. Despite the tragedy of the blight, the people were able to move to a new beginning.

The new beginnings that today’s readings speak of are the renewal of our relationship with God. We accomplish this new beginning by a self-examination: a looking to see where there is any blight in our lives. Once we have identified the blight, bring it to God and ask forgiveness, for we know he loves us and forgives us! How do we know this? How do we know God will truly forgive our past transgressions and give us a new beginning?

Just look at today’s readings. God says in the First Reading from Isaiah: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” The Responsorial Psalm says, “Although they go forth weeping, They shall come back rejoicing.” Paul tells us in the second reading: “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” And Jesus himself tells us, as he told the woman in the Gospel, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

These words from Scripture are like good potatoes, chock full of spiritual nutrition. They provide us with the strength and nourishment we need in the face of the blight of sinfulness. And if we encounter that blight in our lives, and we will, then the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a perfect way to rid ourselves of that blight, and the penitential season of Lent is the perfect time to take advantage of this beautiful sacrament. In a sense, the sacrament provides us with a new beginning.

If we can achieve this new Lenten beginning for ourselves, we can better serve our neighbor. If we better serve our neighbors, we better serve the Church. If we better serve our Church, we better serve all creation. And if we better serve all creation, we better serve God.

Let us all work toward a new beginning; let us look for the potato in our lives, and when we find it, everything else is, as they say, gravy.


Year A

Readings: Ez 37:12–14 • Ps 130:1–2, 3–4, 5–6, 7–8Rom 8:8–11Jn 11:1–45

If we needed any further proof of the Divine Inspired authorship of the Fourth Gospel, that of the Evangelist Saint John, all we need to do is to look at its structure. On a human level, it is simply astounding. We can see that the Gospel, which most believe to be redacted around 100 AD, is divided into two main sections, the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory. After the Prologue (“In the beginning was the Word . . .”), the Book of Signs takes us through the first eleven chapters. The Book of Glory, beginning with chapter 12, takes us through the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord, and, as we know, John’s Gospel ends with the prologue (“Jesus did many other things . . .”)

The Book of Signs is a curious thing. Compared to that of the Synoptics, things seem slightly out of order. John famously places the Lord’s cleansing of the Temple in his second chapter, immediately at the beginning of his public ministry. With the placing of the cleansing of the Temple so early on in the Gospel, we can forget that Jesus did this in his ministry after He raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany, then He goes to Jerusalem triumphantly, then He cleanses the Temple, that definitive act of defiance which seals his fate. It is at this point that Jesus, a plague and a problem to the Jewish religious leaders, but, by and large at this time, ignored by the Roman authorities, becomes not just a religious rebel, but, in the cleansing of the Temple, a place where money was exchanged, in fact now a political insurrectionist.

So, a reminder as to why we call this section of John’s Gospel the Book of Signs: You see, in John’s Gospel, we have a particular phrase for what are called “miracles” in the other Gospels. In John, we call them “signs.”

Each sign, each act that Jesus performs in this first part of John’s Gospel, gets bigger and bigger, each one pointing to the reality that is right in front of the people of Jesus’ day: namely, that this Man is the Messiah. From the wedding feast at Cana, to the various healings performed by the Lord, to the crucial moment that is the Bread of Life discourse in the sixth chapter of this Gospel, where Jesus loses many followers, those who simply could not accept the teaching and message He came to bring, it all culminates in this Gospel’s 11th chapter.

Jesus is at his low point, at the nadir of his popularity when we encounter Him here. He’s away from the main stage, away from Jerusalem. He received word that one of his closest friends, Lazarus, is dead. Jesus waits three days, foreshadowing the time He will spend in the tomb, before going to see Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary. The Lord loves these women. They are his friends and he delights in their company. He delays in his arrival outside of Bethany so that the glory of God can be shown. He finds his dear friends, these women whom he loves and who love him, weeping, with Martha, filled with confusion, yet with faith in the one she has come to know as God, confronts Him. Then we see Jesus at His most human (recall the shortest verse in all of Scripture: “Jesus wept.”). Jesus is sad, crying with and for Martha, Mary, and His deceased friend, Lazarus. He is truly sorrowful, grieving in His human nature, but He does not despair.

We see the Lord Jesus at His most human in this Gospel, but then, suddenly we see Him at His most Divine. By His own power as divine, He raises the long dead, stinking, rotting Lazarus (remember the verse in the King James Version: “He stinketh”) from the dead. This was not just resuscitation; this was a resurrection. And this is the greatest sign of who Jesus is, the most undeniable proof of His Divine Sonship until He rises from the dead at Easter. What’s the difference between the raising of Lazarus and the resurrection of Jesus? The Lord is raised to eternal life; Lazarus is raised to earthly life. Lazarus will die once more on earth, but the Lord Jesus will never die.

Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb, and we read that Lazarus comes out, bound hand and foot. The Lord says these simple words: “Untie him, and let him go free.” A simple question — if he were bound, hand and foot, as the Gospel recounts, how then did he come out of the tomb? Did he hope? According to Saint Bernard, Lazarus just floated out. Regardless of that aside, Lazarus s raised to earthly life by the Lord Jesus as a foreshadowing of what will so soon occur to the Lord Jesus Himself.

With this in mind, what is the Lord Jesus saying to us today? The same Jesus, who is fully human and fully divine is calling to us, beckoning us to let Him untie us and to let us go free.

What’s tying us up and refusing to let us go free? I’d venture to guess it is sin. Jesus wants us to be free from sin, so He offers us the beauty of the sacrament of penance, something of which we should all partake often, especially in these last days of Lent, as we venture onward towards Holy Week.

What’s tangling us in its web? What is ensnaring us in layers of linen that so binds us? Is it worry? Is it lack of knowledge of what will come next? Is it despair? We need a break, a day when we don’t receive a gut punch, making us as a College, a Church, a world, fall to our knees gasping for breath.

It is Jesus alone who can heal us. Look to the fact that in March of 2020, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in what many believe is his finest moment as the Supreme Pontiff, alone on a rainy, cold night in an empty piazza, one only a few weeks prior teeming with life, offered the greatest Orbi et Urbi of modern days — a blessing not from himself, as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, but from God HIMSELF, Christ, the Lord, truly present sacramentally in the Eucharist. Only Jesus can make that first incision, only he holds the scissor. Jesus is there, loving us, gently unwrapping the layers that bind us and cause us not to live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. But we can help, too, once that first thread is pulled. This is our task now as brothers and sisters of Christ and of one another.

For those who enjoy the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, I think that Samwise’s encouragement to Frodo in The Two Towers (film version) is what we need to hear right now:

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know.
It’s all wrong
By rights we shouldn’t even be here.
But we are.
It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you.
That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.
I know now.
Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.
Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

The Church is clear in the path she lays out this Lenten season: Christ, the light, the teller and the subject of the Greatest Story Ever Told, is leading us on this journey. Our task is to keep burning bright for each other. We need not to despair, but to trust in the Lord who desires to untie us and let us go free.

Palm Sunday – April 10, 2022

Readings: Lk 19:28–40 Is 50:4–7Ps 22:8–9, 17–18, 19–20, 23–24 • Phil 2:6-11 • Lk 22:14–23:56  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041022.cfm

Growing up on our farm in Missouri, we used our fireplace throughout the winter and created a lot of ashes. We used the ashes from those fires to fertilize our garden, leading to maximum plant growth in the spring. When the green shoots of our early vegetables emerged from the earth, we knew the ashes had done their work.

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of the holiest week in the Church calendar. In a way, today marks the beginning of the end of the season of Lent, which began back on Ash Wednesday. On that day, we were marked with ashes symbolizing mortality, penance, and a call to conversion. Those ashes were symbolic fertilizer for us to plow into our daily lives so that we could grow new life in Jesus Christ.

But having fertilized the soil, our work of growing was not complete. In Lent, we planted within ourselves the seed of the word of God so that it sprouted into good deeds and righteous living. And we cultivated each seedling with the disciplines of Lent. Our commitment to prayer, fasting and almsgiving throughout Lent, our commitment to more closely following in the footsteps of Christ, our commitment to repentance, forgiveness and mercy: all of these should now have grown within us a new life in Christ, symbolized by the green palms of Palm Sunday which are laid down before Jesus, welcoming him into our lives in a new way, just as he was welcomed into Jerusalem.

Palm Sunday is, on the one hand, a chance to look back at our journey through Lent, to see in what ways we used those ashes to grow in our faith and love. But our Palm Sunday Mass is a two-parter. We have the glorious entrance into Jerusalem and the waving of the palms. But then we switch directions. We hear the Passion of Jesus Christ that will lead to his crucifixion. The people who once cried Hallelujah now cry Crucify Him. Today’s feast is also an opportunity for us to look forward to this week of passion, death, and resurrection. It is a chance for us to look at our own lives, not only to see what growth our Lenten ashes have brought to us, but also to see in what ways we still have to die with Christ so that we may one day rise with him.

One way to do so is to look forward to the Triduum, those three most holy days of the Church calendar, and use their themes to reflect upon how they can help us grow from the ashes. On Holy Thursday, Jesus gave us his body and blood to feed us, to provide us with that essential nourishment we need. In our own lives, how do we feed others, both physically and spiritually? How do we support the poor and starving, whether they suffer from starvation of body or soul? On Good Friday, Jesus sacrificed himself to save us. In what ways do we give of ourselves to enable others to reach heaven? What are the things that we do each and every day that require us to sacrifice something in our lives to contribute to another’s salvation? On Easter, Jesus rose from the dead, bringing both joy and hope to his disciples. How do we enkindle joy and hope in others? How do we daily bring word of Jesus’ resurrection to a waiting world? How do we evangelize?

For evangelization is one of the key elements of the feast of Palm Sunday. The ashes of Ash Wednesday and the disciplines of Lent have helped the seeds of God’s Word flourish in our lives. We are called to evangelize, to be like the joyous throng in our Procession Gospel to acclaim Jesus as our king through our words and actions. We are to hand to others the living palm of faith, so that they too can join the multitude that follow Jesus, even through pain and suffering, to ultimate salvation.

Holy Thursday – April 14, 2022

Readings: Ex 12:1–8, 11–14Ps 116:12–13, 15–16bc, 17–181 Cor 11:23–26Jn 13:1–15    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041422-supper.cfm

I quote from the rubrical instruction from the 2011 Third Edition of the Roman Missal: “After the proclamation of the Gospel, the Priest gives a homily in which light is shed on the principal mysteries that are commemorated in this Mass, namely the institution of the Holy Eucharist, and of the priestly order, and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity.”

Often in a parish setting, these two reasons for celebrating Holy Thursday are often overlooked or, at least, very much downplayed. The key moment for this day is seen by many in parochial ministry as a rather vague notion of service, the justification being that the Gospel narrative, taken from the Evangelist John, does not explicitly mention the institution of the Eucharist or of the priesthood. The big event in many parishes is the symbolic action of the washing of the feet, an event which is commemorated in many religious communities with the Superior washing the feet of her subjects in a private ceremony.

I can assure you that this is not the case in many parishes, where I have seen this simple, beautiful act, re-presenting the Lord’s humility in John 13, done in many different ways, the vast majority designed to be emotive and to maximize inclusivity. I have witnessed the washing of the hands of each member of the congregation; I have seen the congregation wash each other’s feet; I have seen the Pastor wash three sets of feet, the Parochial Vicar wash another three sets of feet, the Deacon wash three sets of feet, and the Sister who was pastoral associate wash another three sets of feet. My dear readers, I have seen it all when it comes to this symbolic event.

The reason I think we see this tremendous cleavage between the symbolic gesture of the washing of the feet and the institution of the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist is that, in many views, the priesthood is seen as a prestige, an opportunity for power, part of a patriarchy that dominates and that has come to be served, not to serve. Nothing, of course, could be further from the reality. All three aspects of this holy night are intrinsically joined.

And so, a brief homily then on three things — the Eucharist, the Priesthood, and service — and please note that I used the word brief. I pray that this is possible. I believe that the key to understanding all three mysteries as one is to be found in a phrase from Saint John Paul II, namely “gift and mystery.”

First, the priesthood:

As you know, Pope John Paul II’s reflection on the occasion of his fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination was called Gift and Mystery, and this is appropriate. The priesthood is a gift, a tremendous gift and every day, in the course of my living out of the ordained life, I realize just what a gift it is. I really thought about being a priest in high school because I adored the priests who taught me. They were my heroes and I wanted to be just like them when I grew up. It’s really as simple as that. It really was a case of what the French philosopher Rene Girard called mimetic desire. They had something I wanted and so I knew the only way that I could get it was to become like them.

And what was it that they had that I wanted? It was pretty simple — it was the ability to celebrate Mass. It is Jesus Christ in the Eucharist — he is the sole reason. And what a mystery this gift of a vocation is. I never thought my priesthood, my life, would be what it is. Surely there are holier men, smarter men, than me and yet, knowing my weaknesses even more than I do, the Lord called me to be his priest, and has given me this great gift of the Eucharist. To receive the Eucharist is an awesome thing, but to consecrate it, to be the bridge between God and man, to be the one who, through no power of my own, transcends time and eternity on the altar, that place where Heaven and Earth kiss, it is indescribable. There is nothing like the Eucharist because there is no one like Jesus.

Now, on to the Eucharist:

Saint Thomas Aquinas, toward the end of his life, was asked to write a treatise, a compendium, on Eucharistic theology, to encapsulate all that we as Catholics believe about the Eucharist. He wrote and he wrote and he wrote, until he could write no more, and in a rare moment of frustration, he took the manuscript that he was writing and threw it at the foot of the crucifix. The story is that the corpus, the figure of Christ on the Cross, came to life and spoke to St. Thomas Aquinas. Jesus spoke to Thomas and said: “Thomas Aquinas, no one has written as well as you have concerning my Eucharistic body and blood. Whatever it is that you want the most, I will grant you.”

Imagine if Jesus spoke to you, right here, right now, and said to you, “Whatever it is you want most in the world, I will grant to you.” What would you say? What would I say? What would I really say? Thomas Aquinas looked at the Lord squarely in the eyes and said three little words, and, of course, they were in Latin, because that’s what they were speaking then, three little words: NIL NISI TE, which means NOTHING BUT YOU. What do you want most in the world? Nothing but you.

Thomas Aquinas knew that if he has Jesus in the Eucharist, he has everything. Padre Pio once said: “It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun, than to do without Holy Mass.” The Eucharist is the single most important thing in the universe, the most precious gift that God has given to man. It is not just a sign, not just a symbol. It is Christ, true God, true man, sacramentally present to us in the form of bread and wine that is, after consecration, truly, substantially changed into Christ’s body and blood. The Eucharist is not just a “nice thing,” not merely a symbolic sign of sharing and community, it is Christ’s true Body and true Blood.

At Holy Mass, we come to celebrate the single greatest gift. God, the second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Son of God, comes to us, to feed, to strengthen, to nourish us in the simplest of accidents, the simplest of food, the staple of the diet of the Palestinian culture of Jesus’ day, bread and wine. He who created the stars of the universe, who fashioned the heavens, who singlehandedly harrowed the halls of hell, freeing all of humanity from the snares of Satan by his death and resurrection, he comes to us in this simple, humble way. Jesus, ever meek and humble of heart, the Sacred Heart whom we honor and adore, this Jesus comes to us as food; he enters us, becomes one with us, and, unlike earthly food which becomes integrated into us, this heavenly food makes us becomes more and more like him whom we receive.

I have to say that I love Mass. I really, truly do. It’s the main reason I’m a priest. When I was a high school student, every single day we had to attend Mass as part of the school day, and I thank God that we did. I would look up at the altar and see those priests who were teaching me in classes, reverently celebrating Mass, and I wanted to do that, too. I wanted to be like them, because they had this great gift, this great ability. I have been so blessed as in my life as a priest because every single day in my life (except for one, actually the day Pope Benedict XVI came to Yankee Stadium in New York and we were not permitted to concelebrate, only to distribute Holy Communion), and sometimes, due to pastoral circumstances, several times a day, I have been able to offer Holy Mass. I know how unworthy I am to do this; I know I am sinner, but I know that this is why I was born. In spite of me, through my hands and the hands of my brother priests, at this altar, heaven and earth meet, time and eternity kiss, God and man are once again reconciled. What we do here at this altar is nothing less than the unbloodied sacrifice of Calvary. What we celebrate at this altar is the nothing less than the entire paschal mystery. And you and I get to receive him, Jesus, our Lord.

In the tabernacle, the Living God dwells; when we reverently receive his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we too become tabernacles, living, walking, breathing tabernacles, shrines in the flesh of the Living God.

And finally on service:

There are moral implications of our reception of Holy Communion? How is our day different because we have received Holy Communion? Is my day different because I have celebrated Mass? Do I recognize the Christ who lives in you and transforms you more and more by the Communion that you had received? Do we strive to see Christ in each other and then to be Christ to each other, recognizing that everyone whom we meet, especially the people that God has placed in our daily lives, whom we see every single day and whom we sometimes don’t appreciate as much as we should?

Thomas Merton, the twentieth-century Trappist spiritual writer, in his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, describes the experience of how each of us must treat each other after reception of Holy Communion. His epiphanic moment, granted, is not overtly Eucharistic, but I believe that we can transpose what he describes to our Eucharistic life:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness . . . This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” And he adds: “Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time.”

Today, filled with love incarnate, the Eucharistic Jesus, shine like the sun, and let everyone whom you encounter know, by your love, that they are shining like the sun, too.

Good Friday – April 15, 2022

Readings: Is 52:13—53:12Ps 31:2, 6, 12–13, 15–16, 17, 25Heb 4:14–16; 5:7–9Jn 18:1—19:42    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041522.cfm

Why did he do it? I mean, really, why did Judas betray Christ? There are just so many theories. Some believe that Judas betrayed Christ because he, in a misguided way, wanted to help Jesus “clear the air” with the Jewish authorities and thus be able to get his message out even further. Others posit that Judas was possessed by the Devil. We read that Satan “entered him.” Did he have free will? Some have speculated that all this is part of a grand scheme of events, all part of the plan and Judas was just playing his part in the vast cosmic drama. Still others have the thought that Judas was just trying to force Jesus to take a stand, that he was disillusioned by Jesus’ slow pace and focus on the world to come rather than the revolutionary actions that this zealot wanted. A few, in a rather odd way of thinking, seem to imply that the Lord Jesus wished Judas to betray him so that all this lead to the events of the Passion, Death and Resurrection. And there’s those who take the story on face value and hold that love of money, pure and simple greed for those thirty pieces of silver, was at the cause of Judas’ actions. Perhaps the most radical interpretation I had ever come across held that Judas had been simply a representative character, someone who represented the people of Israel of Jesus’ day. So much for contemporary scholarship.

Frankly, in some of these accounts from exegetes, theologians and spiritual writers, Judas comes across as almost a victim of circumstance, who just had the whole situation get out of hand. Why did he do it? Maybe he just was greedy; personally, I think we’ll never know the whole situation and I don’t believe that we really need to know why he did it. This is not said to mitigate the betrayal of Jesus with a kiss. What we do need to know for certain is THAT he betrayed the Lord. What we do need to know for certain is THAT he sinned and turned away from the Lord. We need to know THAT he was the agent who handed He who is truth, goodness, beauty and love incarnate to the hands of sinful men. Why he did isn’t as important as the fact that he did it.

The fact is, for all of us, that we all, each in our own way, sin. Each of us, in thought, word and deed, betray the Lord who loves us by giving us life, who taught us through Sacred Scripture, through the unchanging Tradition of the Church and the Magisterium, and by whom we’ve been fed by his Real Presence in the Eucharist. We sin, sadly in great ways, by mortal sins and in little ways by venial sins. We sin by our personal actions and by our cooperation in social sin, the prevailing attitude of this world that leads to the culture of death. We sin in our actions and our attitudes. All of us, especially those of us who share in Sacred Orders and those of you configured to Christ as his Spouse in consecrated life, need to recognize this sad reality.

We have two options, then, on this Good Friday. We can survey that wondrous cross and we can shiver with despair, and that is a logical reaction. All too often in our lives, we are like Judas, and, in our sins, betray the Lord. We, by our sins, hammer down the nails into his hands and feet; we, by our sins, crown the King of the Universe not with many crowns, but with thistles and thorns; we, by our sins, thrust the spear into his side, forgoing all too often the blood and water which flow from his side, the fountain of sacramental life, and instead can just be satisfied with the bitter gall that this world serves up time and again.

And it is good to stand in fear and trembling of the cross of Christ. But never, ever, gaze on the cross in despair. For, as we will sing in just a few moments, the salvation of the world has hung there and the tree of shame has become the tree of victory.

At its root, sin is a three-fold alienation from God, others and our own self. What we need then to battle this alienation is a three-fold reconciliation that can only come from one who is like us in all things but sin and one who is also fully divine. It can only come in and through the Lord Jesus, true man and true God.

Our lack of basic integrity has to be healed. Jesus is the one who opens His arms wide on the cross in an embrace of love for you and me. Through His action of total self-giving, He conquers sin and death to bring us to new life.

When we look on this cross, we do so in awe and say: “O Crux ave, spes unica, hoc Passionis tempore! piis adauge gratiam, reisque dele criminal,” which roughly translates as “O hail the cross, our only hope in this passiontide, grant increase of grace to believers and remove the sins of the guilty.”

However, the good news is that, once we recognize our sin, we have no need for the despair that overtook Judas. We have the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, of having our souls cleansed, shriven of the dirt and defilement of sin. The Cross today then stands as the Mirror of Truth. May our veneration, our kiss, of the cross of Christ today not be like that of Judas, but that of Mary, the Mother of Mercy, who kept station at her Son’s cross. May we not be like Judas and fall into despair when we recognize, when we acknowledge our sins, but as Saint Francis De Sales urges us: “Do not be disheartened by your imperfections, but always rise up with fresh courage,” and may we, in our lives, continue to be the mercy of God in the midst of the misery of mankind.

Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil) – April 16, 2022

Readings: bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041622.cfm

Tonight, on this night most sacred, the holiest of our Church’s year, a night when earth and heaven meet, when justice and truth kiss, when the Lord breaks the bonds, smashes and throws to the ground the chains of sin and sorrow that weigh us down, this most holy night when the Lord of all truth unties the shroud that has bound us, like Lazarus, and lets us go free, I offer you a fairy tale, from the Brothers Grimm:

“There was once upon a time a shepherd boy whose fame spread far and wide because of the wise answers which he gave to every question. The King of the country heard of it likewise, but did not believe it, and sent for the boy. Then he said to him, ‘If thou canst give me an answer to three questions which I will ask thee, I will look on thee as my own child, and thou shalt dwell with me in my royal palace.’ The boy said, ‘What are the three questions?’ The King said, ‘The first is, how many drops of water are there in the ocean?’ The shepherd boy answered, ‘Lord King, if you will have all the rivers on earth dammed up so that not a single drop runs from them into the sea until I have counted it, I will tell you how many drops there are in the sea.’ The King said, ‘The next question is, how many stars are there in the sky?’ The shepherd boy said, ‘Give me a great sheet of white paper,’ and then he made so many fine points on it with a pen that they could scarcely be seen, and it was all but impossible to count them; any one who looked at them would have lost his sight. Then he said, ‘There are as many stars in the sky as there are points on the paper; just count them.’ But no one was able to do it. The King said, ‘The third question is, how many seconds of time are there in eternity.’ Then said the shepherd boy, ‘In Lower Pomerania is the Diamond Mountain, which is two miles and a half high, two miles and a half wide, and two miles and a half in depth; every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on it, and when the whole mountain is worn away by this, then the first second of eternity will be over.’

“The King said, ‘Thou hast answered the three questions like a wise man, and shalt henceforth dwell with me in my royal palace, and I will regard thee as my own child.’ ”

In this fable, we learn two lessons, lessons which I believe are at the center of all of our readings: patience and perseverance.

First, patience: One of the things we can learn about God from the readings we proclaim this evening which take us through salvation history is that we have a God who cooks with a crockpot, not with a microwave. We have a God who takes his time, who allows for human freedom and with it, the mistakes and sins we commit, a God who gives us time to repent and turn to him, a God whose love for us transcends even death itself. Simply put, God is patient. Salvation history teaches us that fact.

God is patient. I know that I am not. I would have scrapped everything if I were the creator and started on a new project right after Adam and Eve’s fall. I would have been so hurt by the lack of faith shown by the Israelites in the desert; I would have been so dumbfounded by the lack of trust in the people of Israel and the need for the prophets to arise to keep them on task and faithful. I would have been one who would have liked the three days in the tomb to be three minutes and I would have been the apostle to have asked the Lord in his earthly life to reveal his plan to me so that I could make my own plans around it.

I am not patient, and I used to be worse, especially in my years of teaching high school, but I’m trying to be more and more; I believe that my lack of patience is all part of a desire to control because at my essence, I am a person who, if left to his own devices, would be a big, frenetic ball of chaos.

But thanks be to God, that he is patient, merciful, and kind. Easter shows us the patience of the Lord. The fact is, the Lord’s cooking with a crockpot, marinating, letting things sit! This is so apparent.

Patience, so apparent in our God this evening: St. Thomas Aquinas stated that patience is attached to fortitude because it helps us to resist giving way to sadness, and to bear up under the difficulties of life with a certain equanimity or steadiness of soul. By it, we do not give way easily to emotional sadness or excessive anger, just like Jesus faced his passion. He suffered, but he never despaired. This is the way of God the Father, as demonstrated in his loving, providential care of us. This is the way of the Lord Jesus, as demonstrated in his most sorrowful, yet glorious and life giving. This is the way of the Holy Spirit, the bond of love and knowledge that exists between the Father and the Son from all eternity.

Patience, as I understand it, is an act of fortitude, since it helps us to endure painful or difficult things without weakening in our faith or our commitment to the truth. With patience, we are steady in the face of the annoyances and contradictions of life. Look to God the Father in the readings; look to his Son, Jesus, our Lord, God the Father puts up with his people, who time and again betray him, turn their back on him, are so willing to worship false gods, so eager to take the easy way out. Look to God the Son, who was born, well, to die, to save us from our sins. A single drop of blood from a prick of the finger of the Lord would have been enough to save us; and yet, our Lord, ever the extravagant lover, says that it is not enough.

Like Flannery O’Connor, the great American Roman Catholic writer, who explains that she uses the grotesque so that the blind may see and the deaf may hear, Jesus, in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, goes over the top for us. He loves us, beautifully, personally, passionately. He is enthralled with us, captivated by our beauty, he who is the all-beautiful one. He never wants us to want for anything, so he opens up his arms on the cross in an embrace of love for us, demonstrating his complete, utter, total self-giving, He wants to give us everything, and, because he loves us and cares for us, he is willing to let us not choose him and to do our own thing.

This brings us to the second aspect: perseverance. Like that little bird that comes in the Grimm Brothers’ tale, the readings on this most Holy Night tell us that God is willing to go the distance with us, and, because he is God, who can neither deceive or be deceived, we should too.

In our lives, many problems, difficulties, anxieties can last a long time. Not all (or even most) things can be changed for the better simply or quickly. And so patience and suffering are often necessary acts of fortitude; they require great strength and brave endurance. Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this world you shall have tribulation, but have courage, I have overcome the world.” The Resurrection of Christ from the dead proves this.

In this night of Easter joy, with our hearts filled with the Risum Paschalum, the Easter Laugh, as Christ Jesus bests Satan’s pride through his patience and perseverance, may we have the courage and strength to imitate Christ, the patient one, the persevering one, the risen one. To him be glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.

Easter Sunday – April 17, 2022

Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37–43Ps 118:1–2, 16–17, 22–23Col 3:1–4 or 1 Cor 5:6b–8Jn 20:1–9  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041722.cfm

Easter is a celebration of new life in Christ, and the symbols of Easter all underscore this theme of new life, even those symbols that we think of as secular. Take, for example, the Easter bunny, a creature based on the notable fecundity of rabbits, illustrating the new life that Easter brings. And the Easter Bunny’s gift of eggs are also symbols of new life. And, perhaps most especially, the time of year that Easter occurs — spring — is a symbol of rebirth and life. In fact, the word Easter itself comes from the name of an ancient goddess of spring (Eoster), a term that has been thoroughly Christianized.

Interestingly, the word “spring” has so many different uses in the English language and many of these forms of the word “spring” can circle around and describe aspects of our feast of Easter today.

First, and perhaps most obviously, we have the season of spring. Spring is the season of new life, new growth, new beginnings. In our feast today we celebrate new life in Christ now risen from the dead, defeating death and winning for us the chance for our salvation. But it is also a chance for us to grow deeper in our faith; a chance to dedicate ourselves to fostering the growth of his kingdom on earth. It is a chance for new growth in our life in imitation of Christ.

Second, a spring is a source of life-giving water, and in the Church our spring of life-giving water is the sacrament of baptism. From ancient times, the sacrament of baptism has been linked to Easter. Paul says in Romans chapter 6, “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.” At the Easter Vigil, we baptize catechumens, we renew our own baptismal vows and sing in the responsorial psalm that we “will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.” Today is a perfect day to reflect upon our own baptismal responsibilities and promises and work toward living those out in our daily lives.

In this same vein, the word spring can also be used more generically as the source or foundation of something. Our feast today is our source of hope and the foundation of our faith. It is in the resurrected Christ that we find our way to salvation. As St. Paul says, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might live in newness of life.” And the joy of this Easter celebration of new life should inform our everyday actions and should be the wellspring of all our earthly activities.

Also, a spring can be a coil that quickly returns to its original shape after being pressed or pulled. This can aptly describe our lives as followers of Christ we are often pressed or pulled by the secular world but are called by our baptism to be resilient and return to our mission as faithful witnesses to his Word.

Spring can also be used as a verb to release or free something, as in “to spring from prison.” Easter does the same thing as it springs us from the prison of sin and releases us from the tyranny of death without hope.

And finally, “to spring” is to jump forward. While the first Easter was a historical event of a particular time and place, its impact is universal, timeless, and ongoing. It is a springboard for us to use to leap more fully into the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Let the joy of this feast be a motivation for us all to learn more deeply about our faith, apply ourselves more diligently in our works of charity and use it as a starting point from which we are to spring more fully into a life of Christ-filled living.

All of these meanings of spring come together here this morning on this great celebration of the Resurrection. May this Easter be the spring from which we draw our strength as well as the springboard by which we bring Christ to the waiting world.

Second Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday – April 24, 2022

Readings: Acts 5:12–16Ps 118:2–4, 13–15, 22–24Rev 1:9–11a, 12–13, 17–19Jn 20:19–31 bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/042422.cfm

You know, the Bible is full of mysteries, some more famous than others. What really happened to the Ark of the Covenant? Where did Moses cross the Red Sea? Or was it the Reed Sea? And what did Jonah smell like after three days in the belly of a giant fish?

One of the things that has puzzled me over the years makes an appearance in today’s Gospel. We hear from Thomas, who is called Didymus, which means “the Twin.” Thomas evidently was a twin — so who was Thomas’ twin? Thomas’ twin never shows up in the New Testament.

Well, after diligent searching, I believe I have found the twin — maybe — sort of. Now, I’ll warn you, this homily might get a little confusing – you might want to draw a chart.

So, why would Thomas, known as Doubting Thomas, be called a twin? He really could be a physical twin or . . . the answer could lie in the word “doubt.” You see, doubt means to be uncertain about two choices or, even more literally, it means “to be of two minds.” So, Thomas was of two minds — one might say he was a twin within himself — and on more levels than one, for he had more than one choice to make in the days following Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection. To help distinguish the respective inner conflicts Thomas went through, I’ll be referring to Thomas A and Thomas B. And each of these Thomases has a choice in today’s Gospel. Let’s start with Thomas A.

Thomas A is of two minds about believing in the resurrection of Jesus: his senses and reason told him one thing, while his heart told him another. And after seeing Christ’s brutal death by crucifixion, he convinced himself that Jesus must be dead . . . and yet, there he was in the upper room, with the other apostles and he encountered Jesus. So, Thomas A had a choice: to believe in the resurrected Jesus or not. We know how he chose when he uttered those remarkable words of belief: My Lord and My God.

Now to Thomas B. Like Thomas A, Thomas B has a choice. Although it is not explicit in this reading, just as the other Apostles had earlier received the Holy Spirit and had been sent, so Thomas B has a choice: to stay safe in the upper room and remain silent in his knowledge of Christ, or to do Christ’s will and go forth and evangelize. We know that Thomas B chose the latter; by tradition he traveled to India where he preached and was eventually martyred.

Now things get a little trickier. You see, not only does Didymus mean twin, but the name Thomas itself means twin. Yet another twin! So, who is this “third twin”? Well, we are! You and I — we are all twins of Thomas, and, like Thomas, we are all assailed by doubt at times and we all have the same choices that he did. First, do we believe in the resurrected Jesus? Do we seek to encounter him? And second, do we always choose to do his will and evangelize?

Well, we are human, so we do have doubts and we do not always make the right choices. Of course, God knows this, and that is why, through his Holy Spirit (the same Holy Spirit breathed on the disciples), the same spirit we all receive at Baptism, he provides us with his Divine Mercy.

What is mercy? If you look it up, you might find it means compassion or pity. But that doesn’t encompass it all. Compassion and pity are emotions, something you feel. Mercy is active; it is something you do — as in an act of mercy. Mercy is an act of love, not just for someone who deserves it, but perhaps most especially for those who do not.

Divine mercy is the love of God beyond what we deserve. The greatest act of mercy in history was what we celebrated last week on the death and resurrection on Jesus. That is mercy. It is that merciful act of love that Jesus breathes on his followers in the form of the Holy Spirit. It is that merciful act of love that we attempt to show to others through our evangelization efforts.

So, at the end of Mass today, we will say, “Go forth, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Our choice today and every day, is “how am I going to do that?” Once we decide, God’s Spirit will be there to help us. No doubt about it.

Rev. John P. Cush, STD About Rev. John P. Cush, STD

Fr. John Cush is a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Ordained in 1998, he serves as academic dean and as a formation advisor at the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City-State, as well as an adjunct professor of theology and contemporary Church History at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy. Fr. Cush holds a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and is the author of The How-To Book of Catholic Theology (Our Sunday Visitor, 2020).

Jerome Buhman About Jerome Buhman

Jerome Buhman is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Madison, WI, serving at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. He has a BA in Philosophy and MAs in History of Science and Library and Information Studies. Besides working full time at the parish in sacramental preparation and RCIA, he is a husband and father of two.

Comments

  1. most apprecuated.

Trackbacks

All comments posted at Homiletic and Pastoral Review are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative and inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.

Speak Your Mind

*