April 14 – Third Sunday of Easter

From our daily confessions, which are many, to our week long confessions during the 5th week of Lent, our long Holy week confession lines, and our Divine Mercy service confessions, you would think that as a priest I would say, “Ok, no more confessions please!” However, I know that I will always both promote, and seek out the beautiful Sacrament myself. This is not only because it has a tremendous impact on my life, or because I’ve been consecrated as a priest of Jesus Christ to offer the Sacrament and forgiveness of sins. At an
even more fundamental level, our Gospel today points out that repentance and forgiveness of sins is the foundation of our Church, and needs to be proclaimed to the whole world (cf. Luke 24:47).


In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter recounts our Lord’s Passion to the crowds gathering after he performed a healing in the temple. He recalls the Israelite people choosing Barabbas, a murderer, over Jesus. What was St. Peter doing? He was encouraging those listening to “repent so that there can be forgiveness of sins” (cf. Acts 3:19). Barabbas has an interesting meaning in Scripture. Bar means “son of” and Abba means “father.” Hence, Israelite people were making a choice: which son of the father they would follow. Will they follow Barabbas, who followed his selfish passions, or Jesus, who surrenders himself completely as a self-gift?


This same choice is offered to us every day. How many of us choose our own selfish desires over that of a sacrificial love like our Lord? And if we choose selfishness, what should our response be? Well, as the readings and Gospel point out, we need to repent (again) and receive the forgiveness of our sins (again)!


As we journey in our faith together, can I encourage you to see the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a gift that the Lord desires you to receive? It is not a punishment, but a reception of great joy and love. The Lord is patient with us and always merciful. He is moving us by His grace to grow ever closer to him in this Sacrament. In receiving his mercy and love, we are able to respond in
mercy and love to the world. Even with all our scheduled confessions times, as your pastor, I will always be open to finding more opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be celebrated and received.


Father Michael

April 7, 2024 – Divine Mercy

One of my first experiences as a seminarian was a retreat about healing, and I was pretty skeptical. They kept talking about how we had all these wounds that needed to be healed. And I didn’t doubt that I was a sinner, but I was skeptical that I had the kind of wounds they were talking about. I had a good childhood with maybe the usual bumps in the road of life, but nothing that I thought could qualify as a “wound.” As a result, by the end of the retreat, my heart had not been touched though my notebook was filled with some of the best doodles I had ever drawn.

In the Gospel, St. Thomas is absent when the Risen Jesus appears to the Apostles, and he gives the famous declaration that he will only believe if he touches the wounds of Christ. The problem with Thomas’s doubt is that he has the eyewitness testimony of his ten close friends to contend with. But I think we can all sympathize with Thomas to some extent. Speaking for myself, I had those who were in charge of my seminary training saying the healing retreat was a good idea, so if nothing else, I should have at least tried to be open to it.

In the following years, with the help of many spiritual guides in seminary, I made the discovery that I, like everyone else, have wounds! In fact, I became so aware of my wounds that I would joke, “I’m just a big, walking wound!” It was a joke, but I think it revealed where my heart was. Whereas before I was unaware of the wounds in my life, now I had gone to the opposite extreme of overemphasizing them. Nobody is simply their wounds. But how should we approach our woundedness?

Jesus Himself shows us when He shows us His wounds after His resurrection. Even though His wounds are used to identify Him, He is not saying that He is His wounds. Instead, He is saying that He is the One Who was wounded on the Cross, but is now victorious over sin and death. He is still wounded, but His wounds are now made glorious. His wounds have become a place of encounter.

This Sunday we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. Just as Jesus’ glorious wounds were a place of encounter for Thomas, so are our wounds a place of encounter with the mercy of Jesus. They are the place where He wants to encounter and heal us. And just like Himself, our wounds do not vanish, nor would we want them to. Instead, they remind us of the victory that He has won within us. As Pope St. John Paul II, the great Pope of Divine Mercy, says, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”

Father Frank

March 31 – Easter Sunday

If you go to the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, you will actually be visiting the second largest mosaic in the world; thousands of small pieces of glass depicting the life of Christ adorn the church. When you walk down the center aisle and look to your right, you will see the following passage on the wall: “Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain.”  When I first encountered it, I was confused as the statement was contrary to the faith.  Why was this in the Catholic Cathedral Basilica? It wasn’t until I moved closer toward that side of the church that a very important word was revealed, which had been previously blocked by my field of vision: “If”. This word completes St. Paul’s quote from his first letter to the Corinthians, If Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain.” 

Every time I walk into that Basilica, I have my own little April Fool’s day!  Christ is not risen – April fools, just kidding, He has risen!  However, what is St. Paul getting at with his rhetorical statement?  He is declaring a necessary need for action. Because Jesus rose from the dead it changes everything. Our faith was never meant to be something idle, or something stagnant. It was never meant to be something that we just acknowledge for one hour a week on Sunday, or even once a year!  It is meant to move our very being to its core!

When you encounter love, do you just sit there?  Or do you respond to it with your whole being?  When someone tells you that they love you, what happens if you say nothing? It becomes very awkward.  Why? … Because encountering truth and love requires a response! 

What do we celebrate this Easter? God’s unconditional love for us: that even in the midst of our sin and death, God conquers both for our sake!  The question is: are we going to sit idle while God professes His love for us, or are we going to respond with our very being, saying a great yes, a great AMEN?

Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

He has risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Father Michael

March 24 – Palm Sunday

Would you rather go for a Donkey or a Horse?

     On Palm Sunday, we begin our celebration of Holy Week, the final week in the life of our Lord.  Holy Week begins Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and culminates with his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. Holy Week is the most sacred time in the Christian Year as we are called to holiness, just as the name points out. It reminds us of Jesus’ call to perfection in Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. The call to holiness is a call to follow Jesus closely. This involves following his example of choosing a donkey instead of a horse.

    By entering Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus fulfils the Old Testament prophecies such as that from Zechariah 9:9, which speaks of the Messiah coming humbly on a donkey. Moreover, he makes a powerful but silent reply to the hopes of many people waving branches and welcoming him with royal acclamation. For parents, the favorite moment of the day typically is or was coming home from work and having your kids run to greet you. This is exactly how the people in Jerusalem greeted Jesus, and how we should greet him too. Just like the enthusiastic crowd, we should welcome Jesus in our hearts with shouts of praise and adoration. This is the contagious nature of genuine worship and the importance of celebrating Jesus as our King, even in uncertainty and challenges.

      Jesus rode on a donkey to underscore his humility, choosing a simple donkey rather than a majestic horse, which was customary for kings and conquerors. True greatness often comes from humility and service rather than power and prestige. Did Jesus deserve a horse? Yes, he did. But a servant chooses a donkey – the way of the cross – instead of the horse of a conqueror. The donkey – Jesus’s donkey, always offers our hearts the chance to say, “How can I choose love over pride? How can I use my gifts to serve others? How can I share my blessings with the world?”. The metaphor of the donkey answers the question, “who is this Jesus?” He is the one who dies so others can live. The horse – the King’s horse, always tempts our hearts to say, “I did better than the rest of my friends. I’m smarter, and I have more natural gifts, God favored me!” Humble yourself and go find a donkey!

Topher Otieno

Seminarian

March 17 – Fifth Sunday of Lent

Recently, my fellow priests and I were sharing our experiences of Ordination with some of the men preparing to be ordained deacons. For many of them, the experience of preparing for diaconate was more daunting than preparing for priesthood because this was the first time we made the promises of celibacy, obedience, and praying Liturgy of the Hours. I remembered being relatively calm as I prepared for the diaconate. But as I reflected more after the fact, I remembered that I hadn’t been calm in the months leading up to Ordination.

During my retreat in preparation for Ordination, all my apprehensions about the diaconate came to the surface. I knew my faults better than anyone. How could someone like me become a deacon? When I shared my doubts with the retreat director, he reminded me that there was Someone Who knew me better than I knew myself, and that He was the one calling me to priesthood. I only had myself, with all my sins and wounds, and so I offered that to Him for Ordination.

When we consider Jesus’ Passion, we probably remember His strength and serenity in the face of brutal torture. But in this weekend’s readings, we hear that as Jesus approached death, “he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears.” In the Gospel, Jesus even says, “I am troubled now.” Just as we will see later in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus experiences the human desire to avoid death. In spite of this, He still says yes to His Passion. How can we possibly imitate Him?

Jesus reminds us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” As we come face to face with our own individual crosses, we see our fears, our sins, and our weakness, and everything in us cries out to the Father to take it from us.

In this moment, we are faced with the choice to rely on self or to rely on God. When we give into the temptation to rely on self, we reject the Cross because we don’t think we can bear it. But Jesus teaches us to rely on God when He says, “Father, glorify your name.” He places all His trust in the Father’s plan, believing that the Cross is for the salvation of the world, and the Father will save Him from death.

As we confront the cross destined for each one of us, we confront our own inadequacy before it, but we also realize our need to rely on God, believing that it is through the Cross that we will bear fruit, through the Cross we will reach the Resurrection. I’m grateful that I experienced those moments of fear and doubt before my Ordination because they gave me the opportunity to see that it was God Who was calling me to priesthood and to rely on Him rather than myself to bear fruit.

Father Frank

March 10 – Fourth Sunday of Lent

You can find many statistics and studies pointing to the fact that faith in first world countries is in decline. The question “why is this happening?” can be asked. How could the cultures and countries that were instrumental in the spread of the Catholic faith now be lacking in faith? One thing I would propose is that we are going too fast. These countries and peoples, which include us, are not taking time to recollect, reflect, and pray.

Have you ever tried to recall an event that happened suddenly in your life, such as an accident?  Many times, we struggle to put all the details together. Or have you ever tried to capture information while traveling down a highway? If you aren’t giving your complete attention, you will miss all the details as you go by.

In our first reading, in the midst of the sorrow and sadness of being in exile, King Cyrus issues a decree allowing the Jewish people to return to their land and rebuild their temple. Here the Lord is acting through a world leader. As the Jewish people return to rebuild, they still mourn because the new temple would never measure up to the glory of Solomon’s original temple. The people were failing to see God’s hand in it, despite the fact that he had freed them from years of captivity and oppression.

In our second reading, St. Paul asks the people of Ephesus to recall God’s Mercy in Christ. In a way, they had forgotten about it, maybe due to the busyness of their lives. How many times have we been so caught up in our busyness that we fail to recall God’s Mercy in our lives? Do we fail to reflect on what Christ has done for you and me?

Finally, in our Gospel today Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, a sign that he was searching for the true Light of the World. It was also at a time when there was nobody else around. Nicodemus went to encounter Christ when the world was sleeping; he went to seek him in the silence.  This first encounter would lead to Nicodemus’s conversion, and eventually to his acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice, as he would help bury our Lord’s body after the Crucifixion. 

What can we do to grow in our faith, especially in the season of Lent?  May I encourage us to slow down, take time to recollect, and reflect on the way the Lord has worked, is working, and continues to work in our lives? May we never get too busy to miss the workings of the Lord and his presence in our lives, thanking him for all the good he has done for us.

Father Michael

March 3 – Third Sunday of Lent

When I was a little kid, I would watch a show called The Big Comfy Couch, in which most of the adventures took place on the eponymous sofa. One of my favorite segments of the show was the “Ten Second Tidy.” At the end of the show, the characters would clean up the mess they made in ten seconds by comically shoving everything into the couch cushions. Of course, this show influenced how I cleaned as a child.

One day, as we were leaving a friend’s house, my mom said I had to clean up my mess really quickly before we left. “Ten second tidy?” I said. She nodded, probably thinking I meant that I would clean really fast. When we got back home, my mom received a phone call from my friend’s mom. “We can’t find our remote control. Do you have any idea where it might be?” She looked at me for a second and replied, “Have you checked your couch cushions?”

Even now as an adult, I still do not enjoy cleaning, and much of my “tidying” probably still resembles shoving everything out of sight into the couch cushions. During this Lent, we are called to do a kind of “spring cleaning” of our souls. But left to ourselves, our cleaning might look more like a “ten second tidy,” shoving problems out of sight rather than truly removing them from our lives. So how can we truly clean our souls?

In the Gospel, where Jesus makes a whip and drives all the money changers out of the Temple. What does that have to do with us? John gives us a clue: “But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” Jesus refers to His body as a Temple, and because we are joined to His Body through Baptism, St. Paul can call our bodies Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).

We need to invite Jesus to cleanse the temples of our bodies and souls of any sin. We do this primarily through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but as we go to receive this sacrament during Lent, we should take Jesus as a model of the attitude we need to have toward sin. He doesn’t allow any of the money changers to remain in the Temple, but drives them completely out. In the same way, we cannot make any compromises with sin, but resolve to drive it completely out of our lives.

This driving out of the money changers isn’t without purpose. The Temple is a place of communion with God, and even more so the Temple of the Body of Christ. So we allow Jesus to cleanse the temples of our souls so that we can enter more deeply into communion with Him, especially through the Holy Eucharist. As we prepare for Easter, let’s remember that going to Confession shouldn’t be a “ten second tidy,” but a true cleansing of our sins so that Jesus can fill us with His Presence.

Father Frank

February 25 – Second Sunday of Lent

Well, we are in the season of Lent again!  And for some reason, every year the sacrifices seem to get harder, not easier. The thought might come across our minds: “do I have to sacrifice anything this year?”  It sometimes seems that we find ourselves going in circles. As we see in our yearly liturgical calendar, the weeks flow from Advent to Christmas into Ordinary Time, and from there they flow into Lent, Easter, and finally back to Ordinary Time again. We continue to see this cycle repeat each subsequent year.    

This repetitive pattern might look like we are going in circles, but what if there is something else going on. What if the Lord is using this pattern to help us enter more deeply into our relationship with Him?  One image that was given to me over 20 years ago has helped me tremendously in moving away from only going in circles. Instead, it helped me see the growth and depth that the repetition of the liturgical calendar has in our spiritual lives.  All you need to do is go to your nearby garage or wood shop; grab a wooden board, a screwdriver and screw.  When you start putting the screw into the board, it seems to simply go in circles if you looked at it solely from the top. You only need to look at it from the side to realize that the screw is not just stationary, but it is going deeper into the board!   

People may not like repetition, but it is in the repetition, the going in circles, that we can actually enter more deeply into the Paschal Mystery of God: his Passion, death, and Resurrection. It’s the constant sacrifices that allow us to enter into the greater joy of Christ’s Resurrection! So, if you are frustrated that it is the Lenten season again, I encourage you to look at the ways the Lord is trying to grow deeper in relationship with you. Then, I guarantee that the sacrifices won’t be so difficult!

“Brethren, Lent is already galloping past and the soul rejoices at the imminence of Easter, because by it, it finds rest and is relieved of many toils.”- St. Theodore the Studite  

Father Michael

February 18 – First Sunday of Lent

As a kid, I loved to watch the Tobey Maguire Spiderman with my dad and my brother. Because of this, I was dismayed when they decided to reboot the series with a new actor, Andrew Garfield, and I refused to watch it. After this, it was rebooted once again with another actor, Tom Holland. I thought, “If I didn’t watch the Andrew Garfield reboot, I’m definitely not going to watch this one.” But in the most recent Spiderman movie, No Way Home, something surprising happened. (This movie came out in 2021, so I don’t feel guilty about giving spoilers). The filmmakers decided to bring back the two other Spiderman actors, and make them part of the story, as Spidermen from different universes. As a result, their stories continued and were even able to find satisfying conclusions.

At first glance, it seems like God is trying to reboot humanity in the Great Flood, having Noah replacing Adam in the starring role of the father of humanity. And if this were the case, it would seem to be a mistake. Noah ultimately has his own fall like Adam, and evil still persists in the heart of man. But God is not really trying to reboot humanity. If anything, He is showing us that this is impossible. In the First Reading, God renews the covenant with creation that He had created with Adam and promises never to allow a Great Flood to destroy humanity in the future. He invites Noah to remember Adam, giving him an opportunity to return to Adam’s goodness while also having a chance to move beyond his mistakes.

Throughout salvation history, we see many more figures arise like Noah, receiving a chance to enter into relationship with God, but to greater or lesser degrees falling short. Finally, in the Gospel, we come to Jesus, and perhaps once again, it seems like a reboot. Like Adam, Jesus is tempted by Satan, and like Adam, Jesus lives in harmony with angels and wild beasts. But unlike Adam, Jesus conquers Satan, and as He does this, He is not trying to erase the memory of Adam. Instead, He is beginning a new chapter in the story, in fact the culmination of the story. Jesus takes up everything that has come before Him, but rather than erasing it or repeating it, He fulfills it.

As we begin Lent, it might seem like it’s time for a reboot, to give up what we’ve done in the past and start again. As tempting as it might be, we shouldn’t try to start with a blank slate. Instead, we should see it as a new chapter in our story, a chapter where we begin again, while also keeping in mind all that has gone before us to help us to avoid similar sins in the future. This Lent is the latest part of our story, and with God’s help, we don’t have to reboot it, but instead write the most interesting chapter so far.

Father Frank

February 11 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend, we continue reflecting on the Gospel according to Mark. We reflect upon Jesus miraculously healing a leper and then instructing him to tell only the priests. The leper, in turn, disobeys Jesus and publicizes his healing to the crowds.

The Church invites us to reflect on this Gospel passage in light of the first and second readings. The first reading gives us context for understanding leprosy. Isolating those with leprosy was good for the public health of the community, but in the time of Jesus being afflicted with leprosy was also a spiritual matter. If you were afflicted with leprosy, you could not go to worship. Thus, being afflicted with leprosy meant a disruption in your relationship with God. Leprosy then, is a powerful image of sin. It gradually takes hold of a person, and even those around them become affected after prolonged exposure.

The second reading continues with the idea that our actions have outward effects. It is important to not only consider the good our actions do for us, but also how they can impact others. Effectively, this means there are certain actions we should avoid doing, not because they are bad, but because they may be a source of scandal for others growing in their faith. For example, living a life of extreme luxury without any sense of simplicity or solidarity with the poor can lead to scandal. Others may have a misunderstanding of virtue or be confused on how to live as a Catholic.

It can become easy to feel distant from the sufferings of the poor. That distance can be so great that we fail to recognize that the poor can sometimes be us! The poor can have Christ in their hearts and authentically live from that place of deep freedom, while we can live in a disposition of scarcity despite being blessed abundantly by the Lord. Mother Teresa acknowledged this by saying “The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

This weekend is also significant because Bishop Hicks is coming to dedicate our new Adoration Chapel. My invitation is for us to recognize that perhaps we don’t have leprosy in the physical sense. However, in the spiritual sense, we need his healing touch. Christ in the Eucharist is going to be in our Adoration Chapel. If you desire him and go to pour out your heart, Christ can heal and change you- even in one weekend! Christ is willing to meet us in our poverty, and he has been waiting for us our entire lives. This applies to those who rarely frequent adoration, as well as those like myself who go every day. I will leave you to reflect on this theme in general: Have you have been living from a place of scarcity with the Lord? And if so, what is he inviting you to do about it?

Jonathan Hernandez

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