Homilies for April 2023

For Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, and the Third Sunday and Fourth Sunday of Easter

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord – April 2, 2023

Readings: Mt 21:1–11Is 50:4–7Ps 22:8–9, 17–18, 19–20, 23–24Phil 2:6–11Mt 26:14—27:66  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/040223.cfm

Each year on Palm Sunday, we are given an opportunity to participate in the Passion of Jesus. The priest takes the part of Jesus, others give voice to other characters like St. Peter and Pilate, and the congregation gives voice to the crowds. When Pilate asks the crowd what is to be done with Jesus of Nazareth, in St. Matthew’s Gospel, the response is “Let him be crucified!” In some parishes, you can hear the people truly call out that horrific phrase of condemnation for the innocent Lamb. The reason for this practice is not just to keep our interest or to break up a lengthy Gospel text. The Church allows us this opportunity to remind us that we are the ones who put Jesus on the cross.

Not one of us was physically present at the crucifixion, but it was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross. His salvific act cancels out the sins of all humanity, past, present and future. By calling out “Let him be crucified!” we are reminded that this complete act of love for each and every one of us was brought on by our own sinfulness. We do not like to hear such words as these, but if we do not accept that we are sinners, that our sins have consequences and those consequences can have eternal effect, then the Passion of Our Lord is rendered meaningless. Jesus did not die on the cross just because he made enemies of the Pharisees or the Romans saw him as a revolutionary. Jesus took upon the cross freely as an oblation for our sins and to restore us to our Heavenly Father.

The two Gospels read on this day tell the story of two different crowds. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, the crowds that praised Jesus on his triumphant entry into Jerusalem were not the same crowds that called for his crucifixion on Good Friday. The crowds that accompany Jesus who saw his miracles, heard his preaching and were moved to conversion proclaimed, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” It would be easy for us to say, “I would have been in that crowd and not the one that called for Jesus’s death.” Then we would be like Peter who stated he would never deny Jesus, that he would even die for Jesus. We do not want to think that we would fail Jesus, that we would turn our backs on him, but we do. That is why he died on that cross. When we are able to really repent, acknowledge deep in our hearts that we have offended God, then we can truly appreciate what the Lord did for our salvation.

With that deep repentance and appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, we can then honor our Lord by making a sincere confession. As we enter into this week we call holy, we should make a confession that is not just a laundry list of sins, but an opportunity at real conversion, to let go of those sins that prevent us from truly being one with the Lord. We need to be like Peter, not boastful, but acknowledging what we have done and weep bitterly for our sins. Let us not place palm branches or cloaks before the Lord, but our sins so that he may trample upon them and set us free. Then let us praise the Lord in our lives and prepare to celebrate the glory of Easter.

Holy Thursday – April 6, 2023

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/040623-Supper.cfm

Each year, we have this beautiful custom at this Mass to reenact the Mandatum of Jesus, by washing of feet. Our celebration is beautiful and reminds us of the humility of Jesus, but it is different in a very practical way. When the priest washes the feet of his parishioners, most often, the feet are already quite clean. Due to being nervous, many of those selected make sure their feet are clean and some even go get pedicures because they do not want to be embarrassed. Our feet are not as dirty as they would be in the time of Jesus. We wear socks and shoes that protect us from the elements. In the time of Jesus, the feet were the filthiest part of the human body. Some people walked barefoot, while many had sandals. In a day of walking around, your feet would accumulate dust, dirt and maybe certain smelly substances left behind by various animals. It was these kinds of feet that our Lord and God kneeled down to wash. You can understand why Peter was so upset by it; he did not believe that the Lord should stoop so low, like a slave. Jesus was willing to get dirty to show his love to the apostles and then instructed them to go and do the same.

Fr. Aloysius Schwartz was a priest who took this command to heart. Born September 18, 1930 in Washington D.C., Father Al grew up with a strong desire to be a priest. He took a very different path to priesthood because he felt called to be poor to serve the poor. At the age of 27, he was ordained a priest and made his way to Korea, where he became a priest of the Diocese of Busan. Fr. Al wanted to serve those who were devastated by the ravages of the Korean war. He forsook comfortable living and made a home of a shack in the slums of Busan. He believed he had to be poor for people to trust him. He lived a life of extreme poverty that caused him health problems, but he was committed to this style of ministry.

His heroic example caused many to listen to him and the Gospel message. He began orphanages for those who lost their parents due to the war or were abandoned due to extreme poverty. He served these children by showing them they were not forsaken by God, that they were loved and that they had something to offer the world. In his schools, they learned basic studies, the faith and some trades to prepare themselves for life outside of the orphanages. He constantly celebrated Mass for them, heard confessions and led them in prayer. He began a community of sisters, now known as the Sisters of Mary, who became spiritual mothers to the children under their care. Father Al also built hospitals, clinics and hospices to care for the homeless, elderly and the disabled. In full imitation of our Savior, Father Al washed the dirty feet of thousands who would otherwise been forgotten.

Where did Father Al find the strength to do all of this magnificent work? The reason we celebrate this Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper: the Holy Eucharist. Father Al celebrated Mass every day, often three times a day to nourish his communities and to be nourished himself. He drew strength from the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. He knew he could do nothing separated from Christ and that Eucharist would give him the strength to be faithful. He encountered many obstacles and roadblocks in his ministry, but the Eucharist was his constant consolation. Father Al was a priest took to heart the words of the Lord at the Last Supper: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Let us imitate our Lord just as Father Al did.

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion – April 7, 2023

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/040723.cfm

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37–39) Those words spoken by our Lord Jesus would have sounded significantly different after his death on the cross. Can you imagine the disciples repeating those words in the darkness of Good Friday? They would have been puzzled when they first heard them; even more so now after Jesus’s ignoble death on the cross. “Is this what he meant? How could anyone do that and why?”

Father Aloysius Schwartz was a man and a priest who understood those words of Jesus and lived them completely and totally. Leaving behind all family and friends, he went to serve Christ in the poverty of South Korea in the 1950s. Like our Savior, he was misunderstood and made many enemies. People conspired against him, threatened violence, spread rumors and accused him before the religious authorities. His resolve never wavered for he truly believed he was doing the will of the One who created him and redeemed him. Father Al embraced the cross, carried it and died over and over again upon so that only Jesus could shine through his ministry and good works. Despite his true desire to serve the poor, Father Al was rejected by many in the church. He suffered greatly from calumny, and word spread that he was not a faithful son of the Church. At one point, an official from Rome, acting on those false reports, suggested that Father Al leave the priesthood. Father Al was deeply hurt but he kept embracing the cross. Eventually, the official visited Father Al in Busan, South Korea and saw the incredible work that was being done. His visit changed his heart and mind and gave Father Al his blessing.

Father Al loved to run and eventually ran marathons, but then he noticed something wrong with his health. He was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Father Al had another cross to bear and he did not run away from it. Uniting his sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus Christ, Father Al did not give up. When he could no longer walk, he used a wheelchair. He accepted the cross and offered it up for all those under his care. Father Al did not feel sorry for himself but looked to see what more he could do before he went to meet his Savior after death. He opened more schools in the Philippines and shortly before his death in 1992, he opened schools in Mexico for the poor. When asked how he was doing, his answer very often was “I offer myself as a victim.”

Most of us are not called to live a radical life like Father Al, but we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Our individual crosses vary in sizes and weight, but we cannot run from them. When we do carry our crosses, we do so with the help of the Lord. We find that we are closer to Him when we do. On this Friday that we call Good, we remember that total gift of self that Jesus offered at Calvary. We remember that he did this out of love for us, to pay a debt none of us could ever pay. As we venerate the cross today, let us resolve to be worthy of the Lord, find inspiration in Father Al’s life, let us lose our life so that we may find it again in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Easter Sunday – April 9, 2023

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/040923.cfm

Alleluia, the Lord is risen! Alleluia, indeed he is truly risen! The darkness and sadness of Good Friday gives way to the glory of Easter for our Lord Jesus Christ is truly victorious, he has conquered the power of death and open the gates of heaven for us. The liturgy helps us to raise our voices and cry out “Alleluia” after not singing it for forty days. This a time of rejoicing as our churches our decorated with Easter lilies and other beautiful flowers, a new Paschal candle is lit, like a pillar of fire to show us that our Lord is with us. Let us rejoice in the glory of Easter and cast behind us the darkness of the world.

Do you see the power of the resurrection in your life or the world? Can you think of an occurrence in the world that gives you a glimpse of the resurrection of Jesus? We can see the power of resurrection in the life and death of Father Aloysius Schwartz, who died thirty-one years ago last month. Father Al lived a life of imitation of Jesus by surrendering all for the glory of the Lord. His priestly ministry brought him to South Korea, the Philippines and, before his death, Mexico. He founded what is called Girlstown and Boystown villages where orphans, abandoned children and children from poor families can have a place to learn, grow in dignity, and learn a trade to live in the world. More than 170,000 children have graduated from these schools, who are gainfully employed or have established businesses themselves. The Sisters of Mary, a religious community founded by Father Al to serve the children, now numbers over 370 sisters.

Since Father Al’s death in 1992, new villages have opened in Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras, and now Tanzania. Father Al’s love for the poorest of the poor, for those forgotten or cast aside, continues beyond his death. Thousands of people continue to support the vision of Father Al by sponsoring the sisters of World Villages to allow them to serve the children in need. At the heart of each village is the chapel where the children come to know the Resurrected Christ who lives in each tabernacle. These children too experience resurrection in their lives, often coming from dark and traumatic places and experience the power of love and forgiveness at these villages. Father Al’s work did not die with his death; it continues to grow and flourish as a sign of the resurrection.

When Jesus died and rose, his work did not end. He commissioned the apostles to go forth and preach to all nations. When the apostles died, that work did not end either, it continued by those called by the apostles to continue the Gospel message. For two millennia, the Gospel continues to be proclaimed and lived, because Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead. Kings and rulers, dictators and tyrants have tried to stamp out the Gospel message and yet it is still proclaimed. The Church suffers in many parts of the world and the power of the resurrection continues.

We are called to be witnesses of the resurrection just as St. Mary Magdalene was on the original Easter Sunday. She rejoiced in the risen Lord and went to share the Good News. She was someone who also suffered in a dark and traumatic place but the Lord healed her and then the power of the resurrection transformed her. As we proclaim the risen Lord, let us allow the power of the resurrection to transform our lives as it did with Mary Magdalene and Father Al Schwartz. The Lord is risen; indeed, he is truly risen! Alleluia!

Divine Mercy Sunday – April 16, 2023

Readings: Acts 2:42–47Ps 118:2–4, 13–15, 22–241 Pt 1:3–9Jn 20:19–31    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041623.cfm

What would you say to your closest friends if they betrayed you? If you were having a very difficult time, a severe illness, lost your job, going through a breakup or another kind of traumatic experience and they were not present to you, what would you say after it was over? There are many responses: “Where were you? How could have abandoned me? I thought you loved me! You are dead to me! I will never forgive you!” For how many of us would the response have been “It is okay, I understand?”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to his apostles after the resurrection. He enters into the Upper Room where he washed their feet, celebrated the Passover with them and gave them the Eucharist. He enters the room even though the doors are locked and stands in their midst. You can imagine that the first reaction might be fear. Then the Lord speaks a word. He does not scream at them, asking, “Where were you when I needed you? Did you think I was kidding about the cross? You failed me and I am done with you!” He does not speak to Peter and say, “I was not kidding about denying me three times, was I Peter? Mr. ‘I’ll never deny you, Lord.’” The Lord does not call out in anger or vengeance, but the word he speaks is “Shalom,” “Peace be with you.” In that moment, the Lord tells them that they are forgiven, he does not hold anything against them. This gift of peace drives away fear from their hearts and prepares them to preach the message of forgiveness of sins.

The Lord speaks again, “Peace be with you,” and then breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit. At this moment, the Lord manifests himself as Divine Mercy and gives them the authority to forgive sins in his name. This gift resides in the Church today in the sacrament of confession, where the priest, acting in the person of Christ, forgives sins and sets us free. The bishops of the United States have recently approved a new translation for the prayer of absolution that the priest says. The changes are minor, only three words are different. Instead of saying “sent the Holy Spirit,” it now says “poured out the Holy Spirit.”

Why is this important? What is the difference? Besides being a more accurate translation of the Latin, do you hear the difference? “Sent” has one connotation but “poured out” gives the impression of something greater, that God holds nothing back and pours out the Holy Spirit on us, giving us a new anointing each time we confess our sins and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. God does not hold back from us but pours out the Holy Spirit that we can live in the freedom won for us on the cross.

The Divine Mercy image gives us an excellent example of that grace being poured out. We see the red and pale rays pouring out of the Sacred Heart of the Lord Jesus and they cover us in grace. The main reason that Jesus appeared to St. Faustina and revealed himself as Divine Mercy was so we would not be afraid, that we would trust in his love for us and allow ourselves to be bathed in that mercy.

St. Thomas was not present when Jesus first appeared and did not believe the apostles when they told him they had seen the Lord. How crazy is that, when ten others tell you that Mary Magdalene was right and you still refuse to believe? When the Lord appeared again the following week, he did not condemn Thomas but spoke “Shalom” to him and let his peace be upon Thomas. The Lord showed great mercy despite the unbelief of Thomas, and that Divine Mercy is also ours to receive, no matter what we have done, said, or not believed. The Lord wants to pour out the Holy Spirit upon us so that we may be restored and saved. Let us open our hearts to receive this great gift and hear the Lord say to us, “Peace be with you.”

Third Sunday of Easter – April 23, 2023

Readings: Acts 2:14, 22–33Ps 16:1–2, 5, 7–8, 9–10, 111 Pt 1:17–21Lk 24:13–35    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/042323.cfm

Why were the two disciples heading to Emmaus? They had heard that Jesus had resurrected and yet they made the seven-mile journey to Emmaus. They were downcast, sad, disappointed. They had believed that Jesus would be the Messiah but then Good Friday happened. In their minds, it was over. They had heard the good news of the Resurrection but in their grief, they did not believe it.

Jesus then chastises them for their lack of faith, but he does not give up on them. He breaks open the Word of God for them, starting with Moses and the prophets, to show them all of this had been foretold. He gives them the impression that he is going to keep walking, but they ask him to stay with them. It was like a test, to see if his words had any effect, and they did. They wanted more. Then he took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them. He gave them the Eucharist to fortify their faith. So full of joy, they then make the seven-mile journey back to Jerusalem, returning the same day, Easter Sunday. That is fourteen miles, maybe a journey of five hours total or more. They had experienced the risen Lord and could not wait to share it with the others. Their hearts were burning within them with the Word of God explained to them and then strengthened by the Holy Eucharist.

Do you sometimes come to Mass feeling sad, disappointed, downcast, or defeated? Do you sometimes question what is even the point of coming? Do you feel as though it is just something to do rather than an opportunity to be fed? The experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus evokes the image of the Mass. There were two major parts, the Word and the Eucharist, like we have at the Mass: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We do not come to Mass just to receive Holy Communion, but also to listen to the Word of God, to receive it in our hearts. When we hear God’s Word, our hearts should burn within us, setting us on fire to live the Gospel. We cannot listen to the Scriptures passively and only paying attention to make the response. The Word should come alive for us, be written in our hearts. When we hear the words proclaimed, we should ask the question: what is the Lord saying to me now?

After hearing the readings and the Psalm, we then listen to the Gospel. We stand for those words since they proclaim Jesus. Sometimes we have heard those words so often, we do not allow them to make an impact. Ask the Lord to make them new in your heart. You see this done in our first reading. Peter is preaching on Pentecost Sunday, quotes from King David from the Book of Psalms, and uses that quote to show the power of Christ and his Resurrection.

When we come to Mass, we are nourished by the Word of God and fortified by Holy Communion. We need to hear God’s Word and we need the Eucharist. We may come sad, disappointed, downcast, or defeated, but we should leave uplifted. It does not mean that our problems go away, but like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Lord does not give up on us; he stays with us, he strengthens us. Imagine if those disciples had not asked the Lord to stay with them. Maybe they would have pondered the words and eventually made their way back to Jerusalem and maybe the fire would have burned out in their hearts. By inviting the Lord to stay with them, they ensured that grace would continue to flow. We too need to invite the Lord to stay with us, and one way we do that is by truly listening to his Word and receiving his Body and Blood. If we allow our hearts to burn within us, and worthily receive Holy Communion, we too can go rejoicing and telling others how Jesus was made known to us in the breaking of the bread.

Fourth Sunday of Easter – April 30, 2023

Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36–41Ps 23: 1–3a, 3b4, 5, 61 Pt 2:20b–25Jn 10:1–10    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/043023.cfm

In August 1993, the Catholic youth of the United States and the world were given a gift. St. John Paul II came to Denver, Colorado for World Youth Day. During the week of celebrations, catechesis and liturgy, the media covered the event. Many of them had a recurring theme: the youth loved John Paul II but not the teachings of the Catholic Church. The media tried to get many of the youth to say that on television or for the newspapers, but they failed miserably. One young lady responded that they were there because they believed in what the Church taught. Many reporters were left scratching their heads. A hint into this rationale comes from today’s Gospel, which was the theme of the 1993 World Youth Day: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

It is the custom of the World Youth Day celebrations that there is an overnight celebration where the pilgrim youth sleep outdoors for the weekend. On the Saturday night vigil, St. John Paul II arrived via helicopter. As the helicopter descended in Cherry Creek State Park, a gust of turbulence pushed the helicopter up. The pilot told the Pope this was because of the cheering of the 500,000 youth who were present. When John Paul II came onto the platform, the crowd was cheering over and over again, “John Paul Two, we love you!” After several minutes of this chant, the Pope quieted the crowd down and he said “John Paul Two, he loves you!” The crowd went crazy with cheering.

Why mention this story today? Because we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus mentions that the sheep do not listen to the voice of strangers. The sheep know the voice of their shepherd and they follow his voice. The youth present at that World Youth Day knew the voice of their shepherd. They knew that he loved them, that he cared for them and he wanted what was best for them. St. John Paul never hesitated to speak the truth and young people respected that even if they sometimes struggled with it. They knew he spoke out of love, that he wanted to protect the sheep. In today’s first reading, St. Peter, the first Pope, speaks strong words that cut the hearts of many. He did not do that to hurt them, but to call them to repentance. Many of the 3000 baptized that day were probably many of the ones who called for the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter was showing them there was still hope for them and they could rejoice in the mercy and love of God.

After his homily on that Sunday of World Youth Day and the microphone was taken away from him, St. John Paul II asked for the microphone back. He said “Young people, I made a mistake, I said you should not be ashamed of the Gospel. I should not have said it that way. You should be proud of the Gospel, be proud!” The crowds started cheering because the good shepherd was reminding us not to make excuses for our faith but to live and proclaim it proudly. A good shepherd reminds the sheep of the beauty and the treasure of our Catholic faith. There are many strangers and wolves who want to destroy what is held dearly, but we do not listen to those voices. We listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, and the other good shepherds who serve the flock, who come so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. St. John Paul II, pray for us and for our shepherds.

Fr. Christopher O'Connor About Fr. Christopher O'Connor

Rev. Christopher M. O’Connor is a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. He was ordained on June 5, 1999 and is currently the pastor of Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians in Woodside, NY.


  1. Avatar Jay Maddock says:

    I used to be able to print the homilies. Now it doesn’t seem to work. Could you tell me what I need to do to print out the homilies

    • S. E. Greydanus S. E. Greydanus says:

      Dear Jay,

      Thank you for your attentive interest in HPR. I expect the answer to your question will vary based on the technology you use (your computer and printer). I would encourage you to consult with someone familiar with what you are using to print the homilies.

      If you have any further questions, please let me know at hpr@ignatius.com. A blessed Easter week to you!

      In our Risen Lord,
      S.E. Greydanus
      Managing Editor
      Homiletic & Pastoral Review

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