Friday, March 29, 2013

From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday - The Lord descends into hell

From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday
The Lord descends into hell
Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.
For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.


We adore you O Christ and praise you, 
for by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Jesus is the grain of wheat that falls to the earth, is broken open, and dies, and for this very reason is able to bear fruit. From the moment when Christ was raised upon the Cross, which seemed to be a sign of failure, it was the new beginning: for from the depths of his death is raised the promise of eternal life.

In Jesus’ scourging, the crowning of thorns, and the vicious crucifixion, He took all of our sorrows and griefs and sins and drenched them in his blood upon the cross.

       By Jesus’ suffering and death, he unites himself with every human person who has ever lived and suffered and died.

       Jesus is the compassion of God.  Jesús es la compasión de Dios.

       Jesús es misericordia.  Jesus is mercy.

       Jesus makes the tender mercy of God present in a world which knows violence, cruelty, oppression, and injustice – even forgiving those who killed him!

       “Jesus’ ministry to the outcast and sinners led to his arrest and crucifixion.

       “Jesus is on the side of the oppressed and calls oppressors to conversion.

Jesus came to bring life to others!

       Jesus freely gives his life on the Cross and he freely gives us life.      

We adore you O Christ and praise you, 
for by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

            His forgiving those who were nailing him to the cross shows that He was still choosing life and compassion even in the face of death and hatred.

       And as we set our hearts on Christ, we too will side with the oppressed, just as Jesus is on the side of the poor and voiceless.

       This is salvation at work in us!

       And in his death he frees them and restores their dignity as human persons.

      We as a church, as disciples of Jesus, are called to participate in overturning oppression and lifting up the poor and lowly, by being in solidarity with those who suffer. 
       Jesus freely gives us His life on the Cross and He gives us his loving  Mother, Maria, Mater Dei, Madre de Dios. 

Pope John Paul II wrote:

“Around the cross, cries of hatred, 
at the foot of the cross, the presence of love.
There she is, steadfast, the mother of Jesus.
With her, other women,
united in love around the dying man.

Beside them, the beloved disciple, no one else.

“Only love has been able to overcome all obstacles,
only love has persevered until the end,
only love generates love in others.

        “And there, at the foot of the cross, a new 
        community is born, there, in the place of death,
        emerges new life.

       "Mary receives the disciple as a son,

       'Woman, behold your child’

       and the beloved disciple receives Mary as a mother.

       ‘My child, behold your Mother.’

       And He took into his own home (Jn 19:27),

       A great treasure of which he has become the

         "For only love can guard love,
         and only love is stronger than death (Song 8:6)."  

Love is stronger than death.

(Together we protect one another –

And together, Mary will lead us to Jesus).

Together we are better.

We adore you O Christ and praise you, 
for by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

St.John Chrysostom reminds us: The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist….

From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism,the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit, and from the holy Eucharist. And since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was also from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam [according to the second story of creation in the book of Genesis].

Therefore, let us remain close to the poor and oppressed, so that we might know compassion and mercy as we help lift their burden and affirm their dignity as human persons.


Let us remain close to Mary, for she will always lead us to Her Beloved Son.

Let us remain close to the Church, for by doing so we remain close to the heart of Christ, from whom all blessings flow.

We adore you O Christ and praise you, 
for by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Woman Caught in the Very Act of Adultery brought to Jesus

Let us drop our throwing stones of judgment 
and help lift up our brothers and sisters.

In today’s gospel, who is really on trial? Is it the woman? Is it Jesus? Not really. It is the men who have brought the woman to him. They fear the message of Jesus that in order to be close to God we must love the loveless and the poor. These men feared change and Jesus’ call for justice for the oppressed.

These fearful men are ready to kill a fellow human being because they were threatened with Jesus’ authority – a humble invisible authority that served the least and vulnerable. The Scribes and Pharisees’ understanding of authority was one of dominating others by their use of power.

Any person, religious figure, or institution can easily get caught up in the love of law and power rather than the law of love and mercy.

Jesus had respect for the law, but greater yet was his love for sinful human beings. The mercy and compassion of God is greater than the limits of the law.

In order to love we must be willing to open our hands in service to our neighbor.

And this means we have to have our hands free, not clutching at stones.

So what stones of judgment do we carry around? What labels do we throw at others? 

[I brought out a basket of stones with labels on each one]
Gay, Geek, Black, Mexican, Spic, Beaner, illegal, welfare trash, Retard, Blonde, Pansy, Kentuckian, Waste of flesh,  lazy, loser, Trailer-trash, Red-neck, Snob, Kraut, Cracker, Worthless, ugly, Stupid, deaf, bad, Half-breed, Oreo, Fag, Jew, Dago, Towel head, wetback, Gringo, mental, cripple, short, bad parent, problem child, trouble maker, white trash, welfare mom, liberal, conservative, old timer, old fogie, or teenage hoodlum.

We’re really good at seeing other people’s sins or faults rather than our own, aren’t we?

But every word or label we hurl at another is just as deadly as an actual throwing stone.

We can either use our time and energy to throw stones at others we don’t like and those who are different than us, or we can use our time and energy to help them and those in need.

“Often when we judge others it is because we do NOT want to accept the truth of our own brokenness, our own woundedness, our own sinfulness? And in our inability to forgive ourselves, we clutch at our sins and in our anger or depression we want to throw stones at others.

But really we often project onto others what we refuse to see in ourselves, for we hate in others what we despise in ourselves.

Pope Francis reminds us that: "Only someone who has encountered [and experienced] the tenderness of mercy, is capable of showing mercy...

“He who encounters Jesus Christ feels the impulse to witness Him or to give witness of what he has encountered, and this is the Christian calling: to go and give witness.

“You can't convince anybody. There has to be an encounter with Christ. This is pure grace. Pure grace…grace always comes first, then comes all the rest.”

Until we are convinced that all our gifts of time, talent, and treasure are gifts from God, we will likely not be willing to share very much with others.

The mission of the Church is to go forth and lift up the poor, the stranger, those who feel as if they have reached the end of their strength, and have no purpose to live any longer, feeling friendless and all alone.

And do you know how the Lord often answers the prayers of the poor? Through the generosity of our outstretched hands!

But we can clutch at our stones or we can drop our stones and reach out. 

God will not be outdone in generosity. He who took five loaves and two fish and fed five thousand can take our humblest offering and multiply it beyond our dreams.

We are called to be ambassadors of Christ and that means you and I are called to go where Christ went and continues to go!

Some of us may not physically or emotionally be able to go where the neediest among us live, but we can make a difference. And together we are a better church.

As Pope Francis has said: "Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your lives.” If you follow Christ, you understand that you are to build up other people’s dignity.” Let us lift up others instead.

So rather than clenching our stones of judgment or hoarding our riches and wealth, we have the blessed opportunity to share in the divinity of Christ though our willingness to build up the kingdom of God in our midst!

The only time we should be looking down on someone is when we are helping them up.

So let us drop our throwing stones of judgment and help lift up our brothers and sisters.

(Examine the rock…looks as if he wants to throw it…raises it…look at the stone…slowly lowers his arm…looks at the stone and looks up at the crucifix then drops the rock and walks away).