Part 4 of the series, “Going in Faith: Our Mission from Christ.” Fellowship or community building is part of our parish's mission. People enjoy one another’s company. We express our care, concern, and compassion for one another. What is the context for these community building actions? The parish is primarily a sanctification center, not a social club. The Lord Jesus calls us to follow Him within the fellowship of His Church. The Church is the context in which we are formed to be Christ-like. Socializing can be a means for sanctification if Christ is at the center of it. In the Gospel reading, the Lord Jesus teaches, “‘As I have loved you, so you also should love one another’ (John 13:34).
Part 3 of the series, “Going in Faith: Our Mission from Christ.” After offering his traditional Mother’s Day greetings, Father Harris focused on the Gospel reading in which the Lord Jesus Christ teaches, “‘“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.’” (John 10:27). There are other times in the Gospels in which this is emphasized (e.g., The Transfiguration of the Lord in Luke 9:35). Hearing the voice of God does not have to be mysterious. Being familiar with reading the Gospels is a fundamental part of being a disciple of Christ in His Church. Therefore, our new Parish Pastoral Plan goals include strengthening the Sunday School of Religion and faith formation programing for all generations. The Word of God guides us on the journey of faith, leading us to enjoy a fruitful life that death cannot destroy. The Word of God guards us from dangers seen and unseen. [Note: Father Harris talks about the Baptism of the Lord as another time in which God says to lisen to Jesus. That is by implication.]
Part 2 of the series, “Going in Faith: Our Mission from Christ.” God's self-giving and sacrificial love for us saves and sanctifies us. Wholehearted love for God enables us to love ourselves and others appropriately. This is our motivation to fulfill our mission from Christ. Continuing to undergo personal conversion does not disqualify us from contributing to this mission. This is what we learn from the conversation between the Lord Jesus and Peter the Apostle.
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21). This is part 1 of the series, "Going in Faith: Our Mission from Christ." The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, came to share in our humanity with a divine mission to reconcile humanity with God. He empowers His Church to share in His mission. Jesus founded the Church to be a sanctification center, not a social club. The parish is a place in which those who are wounded by sin, division, and the disappointments of life can experience healing from the Risen Lord. The parish is the place for people to wrestle through their doubts, grow in their devotion to the Lord, and become bold in the practice of our faith. As we engage in our parish mission and embark on our Pastoral Plan, we must keep first things first.
The triumphant and festive celebration of this Easter Sunday of the Resurrection is not matched in the Gospel Reading (cf. Luke 24:1-12). We do not hear anything like the triumphant greeting, “Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!” Instead, the disciples were asking, “Christ is risen? Truly?” As demonstrated by the journey of the women to the tomb, many disciples thought that the Lord Jesus Christ was still dead. Initial reactions to the empty tomb and the angelic message were puzzlement, fear, disbelief, and amazement. As we read further in this chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke, they began to accept the truth when they met the Risen Lord. This led to a transformation in their lives as they identified with the Risen Lord through Holy Baptism. They were not afraid to testify about what they had seen and heard. We accept the truth about the resurrection of the Lord through His Church. This is also the context in which we experience transformation in Christ, dying to sin and glorifying God in our thoughts, words, and actions. As we renew our baptismal promises, we are encouraged to testify in our conversation and our conduct, “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!"
Part 4 of the series, “Growing in Faith: Our Identity in Christ.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is secure in His identity and steadfast in fulfilling His mission. His disciples must be secure in our identity in Christ so that we are steadfast in fulfilling our mission from Christ. What choices do we need to make as a result? This Sunday's focus is rejoicing in our inheritance from God. Saint Paul has described the Church as the “household of faith” (cf. Galatians 6:10c). In what is known as the ”Parable of the Prodigal Son,” Jesus describes two sons who became lost when they failed to understand the meaning of their relationship to their father as they engaged in the rituals and responsibilities in the household. Only one son came to realize it, reclaimed his identity, and rejoiced in his inheritance. But the father was still waiting for the other son to realize it. Deepening our understanding about what we believe and why we believe it will influence our behavior. It will lead us to remember our identity in God and to rejoice in our inheritance from God.
Part 2 of the series, “Growing in Faith: Our Identity in Christ.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is secure in His identity and steadfast in fulfilling His mission. His disciples must be secure in our identity in Christ so that we are steadfast in fulfilling our mission from Christ. What choices do we need to make that will influence the course of the life that our Lord wants us to undertake? This Sunday's focus is to be courageously committed to Christ. Practicing the virtue of fortitude is to be faithful to God amid difficulties and dangers for doing so. Several days before the Transfiguration of the Lord, Jesus taught that His mission as the Messiah of God would be fulfilled through His passion, death, and resurrection. Moreover, His disciples must take up their crosses in union with Him. During the Transfiguration, Peter the Apostle wanted to avoid the way of the cross. Peter needed to learn that we must strive to conform our lives to the teaching and example of Christ. Otherwise, our profession of faith is lip service. We carry the cross as we undergo conversion, deal with the circumstances of life, and live according to gospel principles that the world does not accept.
Part 1 of the series, “Growing in Faith: Our Identity in Christ.” As we emerge from his pandemic, we do not want our parish just to survive but to thrive. Remaining steadfast in fulfilling our mission from Christ is dependent upon remaining secure in our identity in Christ. This is done in cooperation with God, including the graces that we are receiving in the Sacrament of Baptism. We are preparing to renew our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. Growing as disciples of Christ within His Church is a lifelong process. It influences the choices that we make and the course in which our lives will take. Today, we learn anew that we can triumph over temptation. Jesus does not engage in a debate with the devil. Jesus does not give any consideration about accepting the invitation to sin. Jesus is secure in His identity. In response to the devil’s temptation, Jesus immediately states what is the truth. When we resist temptation, we remember that we are beloved children of God. We are refusing to be seduced by lies because we rejoice in living according to the truth that God has revealed.
"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father'" (cf. Matthew 6:1). It is important to understand our purpose for participating in the imposition of ashes on our foreheads. We want people to be drawn to God through us. On Ash Wednesday, we remember the commitment of God toward us as the ashes are imposed with the sign of the cross. In His love for us, God does not abandon us to sin and death. Receiving the ashes is a penitential action. We resolve to undergo conversion because we have not fully loved God and our neighbor. We renew our cooperation with God to follow though on our commitment. If we engage in this action without being conscious of its purpose, then we are just parading around with ashes on our foreheads.
Hearing the challenging teaching of the Lord may tempt some Christians to conclude that they do not have the capacity to live according to it. However, the Lord Jesus would never command us to do something and not enable us to do it. Jesus knows about the human condition. During his ministry on earth, he engaged in conflict with religious and secular leaders. People lied about what He said so they could bring up charges against Him. One Apostle betrayed Him. Other Apostles and disciples abandoned Him when He took up His cross. The Chief Apostle denied knowing Jesus at one point. As He was being crucified, Jesus asked the Father to forgive. As He suffered on the cross, He was ridiculed. The Lord Jesus bore the wounds of rejection but overcame them in His Resurrection. It is the Lord who enables us not to become prisoners of past and present hurts. As recipients of God’s kindness and mercy, we must reflect God’s kindness and mercy toward others. What are the practical ways of loving our enemies? Due to this sensitive subject, Father Harris repeat several points.