My dear friends in Christ,

Forever I will sing of the goodness of the Lord. Rightfully so, for you and I who are disciples and followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for we have much to sing about, much to be grateful for. The very blessings of our lives in faith, the community we form, the blessings that come in ordinary life, and in the most extraordinary ways, in faith. As we gather each day around the altar of our savior and enter into the mystery of His death and resurrection, and receive His body, blood, soul and divinity as the foretaste of everlasting life. We have much to sing about in thanksgiving to the Lord.

But it seems to me that today we have a singular blessing for which we will sing with all our hearts and minds. In this one historic moment in the life of our diocese, to have six of our brothers come forward freely, generously, to offer their lives to be configured to Christ the Priest, and to be a living sacrament of His merciful goodness and love. And to lay down their lives so that you and I might have greater life in Him. If that is not a blessing to sing about, I don’t know what is.

You, my dear brothers, to say that we and I are proud of you would be an understatement. When I look at you as I’ve come to know you all these years, so very different one from the other. The odyssey – if I may call it – of your life, for all its twists and turns, some of you traveling from foreign lands as young people or as young adults. Those who, in your studies and in your education, in the ups and downs, the successes and trials, the great moments of suffering and pain, the spirit had foreseen. And you by your generosity cooperated to allow this moment to occur.

And what I am most grateful to all of you is not simply your yes today, but how I have seen you grow into an unbreakable brotherhood amongst all of you. You are in many ways, my brothers, so aptly prepared for this moment. Because this moment is a moment of both challenge and great hope for the Church and for the world.

In your formation you know well what it is the Lord has asked of you. And yet I think it is good and just that we remember, all of us, in this sacred space. For these six, our brothers, were configured in baptism, adopted sonship into the mystical Body of Christ. And they’ve been called to a holiness of life.

And yet they have this other calling, that with by the imposition of my hands and the grace of the Holy Spirit, they will be configured to Christ the Priest. And to them will be given a three-fold function – the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ to exercise on behalf of us, His body.

Recall what the Lord is asking. For you are called to sanctify God’s people, to lead them in prayer. Most especially entering into the Great Mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with your unworthy hands, as our mind to allow simple bread and wine to become the antipasto of eternal life. I can’t help it, I’m Italian.

And yet, you will powerfully sanctify God’s people, to the extent that you seek radical personal Holiness yourself. For in the age in which we live, people may listen to what you say but they will look intently at how you live. And I have every confidence that you have walked that road and will continue to walk that road. That as a truly humbly, bold man of radical Holiness and leader of prayer, you will guide all of us to greater sanctity of life.

And then you are called to be prophets in our midst, which is to preach the Word of God. And as I’ve said to you many times, allow me on this sacred moment to remind you again; you are called to preach the gospel courageously, fearlessly and effectively. Be patient with God’s people at times when they cannot fully always appreciate what it is your heart aches to say. For you will find the words and gestures and actions and presence to convey the truth who is Jesus Christ.

And then, of course, as deacons you have already understood what the kingly office is, which is to serve, to give your life over as John the Baptist says, that they He may increase and I may decrease. And so as priests we lift up He to increase, which is His mystical body. And we, by decreasing, are giving over service which is the greatest of all authorities.

I know in my heart of hearts you are ready for this vocation. And that is why I am delighted to be here to be the humble channel of so great a Grace.

But allow me, for your sake, for my sake, and for the sake of all of us here today, my friends, in such great numbers. These are brothers are entering into the mystery of priesthood, joining their brothers, some of whom have served as priests for many years. And you and I navigate a world where it is filled with challenge to Christian Faith.

We heard from the first and second readings about how wolves will infiltrate, so that they might divide God’s people. We heard of how we need to stand firm against trickery and against truths that are not truths at all. You, my brothers, are entering into this mystery in a time which, for the eyes of those who do not believe, may be a time of perhaps wonderment and discouragement. But you go forth with hope and vigor and zeal.

Because, may I suggest, you follow the example of the man whom the church honors today – Saint Bernardine of Siena. Who in his own age, in the 14th century, found a world that had lost its path. And oftentimes a church that had become, lacks in its worship and in its witness.

And what did he turn to? The Holy Name of Jesus.

And that, my brothers, is what I’m going to ask you and me and us, in this church, to bring out into that world. For you are priests of the only One in
whom there is salvation for every person who has ever existed. For there is no salvation outside of the name of Jesus.

And if you wish to put the evil one at bay, if you wish to separate what is false from what is truth, bring forth the name, power and teaching of Jesus. If you wish to heal a broken world, if we wish to give hope to those who are lost, those who are searching, those who think there is no purpose and meaning to life, bring to them the name of Jesus and invite them and walk with them in the path before them.

There are many ways to live life, and you, my brothers, are entering into the great mystery of the priesthood, to show the world that there is only one true way to live life. There is only one way to have true hope. There is only in one name where every human heart. as broken as it can be. will find healing and strength. You, my brothers, will go forth carrying the name of Jesus. And you will help to bring His kingdom into this world in ways that you could not even begin to imagine.

So, my brothers, we are all praying for you. And I stand ready to help you in any way I can, to go forth from this church to be a happy, healthy, joyful and holy priest of Jesus Christ. Congratulations, my brothers, and may God bless you today and all the days of your life, through Christ our Lord, amen.

I have five brothers and sisters. And all six of us were born in about eight years, so we all follow each other from the biggest down to the smallest. But the smallest is actually the biggest.

And when I was growing up we were always the pride and joy of my mother and father. And I remember when, on Saturday morning, my father used to take us out to get a hamburger, or to the drugstore to get a milkshake, or just to go someplace around town, or to the park. Everyone would look at him and say “are they all yours?” and he would smile, and he would say “yes, these are my lovely children.”

But I always wasn’t pride and joy to my parents. Sometimes I brought them grief. Why? Because of disobedience. I wasn’t always a nice little boy who behaved. I can’t speak about my other brothers and sisters, they have their own conscience. But I know that I didn’t. And so I didn’t always bring pride and joy to my father and mother. Sometimes I did not follow their wishes and fell into disgrace, let’s say.

I actually remember one summer I was punished for the whole summer and I couldn’t leave my house. “You stay here all summer.” And I did. And it was a punishment. And it was a hard punishment. But I disobeyed, and I was rambunctious, and I was not nice to my neighbors on that occasion. And so I received my punishment, which I carried out.

We don’t always obey, unfortunately. And when we don’t obey, we are not necessarily the pride and joy of those who look after our own good.

I remember once in a seminary too, I didn’t obey my superior. I used to play in the band and we had band practice one afternoon. But I also used to work in the office and keep track of the accounting. And I was told to go to band practice. And I didn’t go because I didn’t want to, because I didn’t like the director. And so I went to work in the office. And the superior found out, of course, because they find out everything. They know everything. And I was punished also.

I remember that day I walked up and down with father and “why did you do this” and “you disobeyed” and “you didn’t do what you were supposed to do.” And I had to take it because I disobeyed, and I was punished. And we learned our lesson. So we’re not always pleasing necessarily to those whom we should obey.

And why do we disobey? The reason is very easy. We want to do our own thing. We don’t like what we have to do, and so we look for something else. We try to get out of it, and we invent our own way and our own things that are more important, that are better. And so we go off and do what we want. That’s what disobedience is – doing what I want, on my time, in my own way, with disregard for my duties and obligations and what I should do.

And things don’t always go so well. In fact, most of the time they don’t go well at all.

And disobedience proves one thing – it’s better to obey. Not only because of the outcome that you might see, but especially because of the outcome that you don’t see. In other words, when we disobey, we disrupt our peace and our joy. And really, what we disrupt is true friendship.

Because when God confides in us, when our parents confide in us, when others whom we serve confide in us, and we say “no” and we do our own thing, we displease them. And that’s the real damage. The damage is done to a friendship. God is our friend. Yes, He’s our Father. But He’s also our friend – our best friend.

Friendship is not to be belittled. Jesus himself tells His disciples, “I call you friends. No longer do I call you My servants . You are My friends because I have shared and I have given everything to you.” And that’s what a friend does.

And when I was growing up my father was my best friend. I could always go to my father any time, any moment, and tell him anything good, bad, ugly – anything. And he would listen. And he would give advice. And he would counsel me and love me. Even if I did something bad he would be there.

And that’s God for us too. And Jesus tells His disciples today, “whoever keeps My Commandments is the one who loves Me.” Because in the end that’s really what obedience is all about. It’s about love. Yes, we can obey so that we’re not punished. We don’t like punishment. We don’t like the negative consequences of our misbehavior. But even more important is when we betray that friendship out of lack of love. And so love is really the motivation to obey. “I respect you. I obey. I do as you wish because I know that you are looking after my good.”

I think my parents always wanted what was best for all of us children. I don’t think they did ever did anything that would harm us. Yes, some things were difficult to accept. Yes, sometimes it was hard to obey their orders. But in the end I knew they loved us, and they loved me. And they wanted what was best. And I wanted to love and please them. And that’s the motivation, really. Why we obey God and observe His Commandments, and listen to others, and heed them, and obey them; those who are over us, especially our parents. At work, those who have authority – legitimate authority – and exercise it in the name of the good of all. It’s not a question of going off and doing my own thing.

I remember one person in the Gospel who did that, the Prodigal Son. He went off to do his own thing, and it did not go well with him. But he did come back to his father. And his father showed the great love that he had for him, and was waiting at the door for him to come back. And so our Lord teaches us today that if we truly love and observe His Commandments, He will also love us even more than we know. And He says he will reveal himself to us. And that is really when we get to know God; when we follow His Will. And we do what He wants in our life.

“Well Father how, do I know what the Will of God is?” Well, we certainly know many things about the Will of God. He did give us Ten Commandments. So we know that’s His will. And Jesus also gave us the two great Commandments of Love, with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength; and love our neighbor also. And Jesus himself taught us the Supreme Love. “I give my life for you because I love you.” But more particular, how do we follow the way of God in our hearts? Well, we all have desires. We all have deep longings. We certainly know that if we go against the Commandments of God, we’re not doing His will.

But I have two choices. I have this road and that road I can go down. Well, if one of them is evil that’s obviously not God’s will. But if both are good, they’re legitimate options that we could take, how do we know which one God wants for us?

Well, God also works with us. He doesn’t work against us. And so we pray and we ask for discernment. And then we have to make a decision. And then we make a decision. Will not God bless us in our informed decision? Obviously, if we go through life just willy-nilly, choosing crazy things, the blessing of God may not be upon us. But when we try to discern, with the gifts and talents that He has given us, and ask the Holy Spirit’s presence – and that’s one thing also that God has promised us – the Holy Spirit. “I will ask the Father, He will give you another advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth.” This Spirit of Truth will be in us and remain in us, to help us, to lead us, and to guide us. And so when we look to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help us discern properly, in our own hearts and our own minds, the Will of God, how will the Holy Spirit fail us?

“Oh, maybe I should have made the other decision. Maybe I should have done that, maybe I should…” Well, that’s looking back to the past. It’s hard to change that. Can we make mistakes? Yes, we’re human, after all. But more important than making mistakes is learning from our mistakes, and using that to go forward. And asking the Holy Spirit, “can You continue to grant us light that we may discern the will of God in our own lives?” So we thank God for the gift of His Spirit. We ask him to help us, love and serve Him as we ought.

And today, we also celebrate our mothers. It’s not a religious holiday, I know. But it’s still a wonderful civic holiday. When we remember the love and the attention that they have all given us. And we ask God to look upon them and bless them because they are guides for us, they have done so much for us. In a great way I owe my priestly vocation to my mother, who sent me to religion classes when I didn’t want to go. She said, “I signed you up for religion classes.” I said, “I’m not going.” And she said, “yes you are.” And I said, “no I’m not.” And she said, “yes you are.” And I said, “no I am not.” And she said, “yes you are.”

And I went for 12 years, and here I am. Didn’t hurt me. And so she set me on a path to hear the Word of God and his call. And for that I am grateful. But for many many other things – see moms do many things that we don’t even see. Dad was loud. He spoke loud, He talked loud, he set down the law. Mom was quiet. She worked. She did things. She knew us, each one. She knew exactly what we needed when we need it. She had that heart of dedication, and giving and giving and giving. Before she passed, two years before she passed, I went home one day and I visited. And I said “mom, how can you be wearing those slippers? They’re full of holes. You can’t be using those.” And she said. “I liked them. They’re wonderful. They’re fine.” I said no and I bought her a brand new pair of sheepskin slippers. And I brought it to her for Christmas. And I forgot about it.

And then after she passed we were home and we were looking, rumbling through the closets. And I stumbled upon a box. And I opened a box. And I said, “there are the brand new slippers I bought my mother. She didn’t even use them.” I didn’t feel bad, and I know why she didn’t use them. Because she never thought of herself in the way of buying herself new things, getting this, getting that. She always looked after us first. She was always the last one to sit down at the table to feed us. She was always the last one to buy a nice blouse, or buy a nice dress for herself. She always made sure that we had everything.

I remember one day I came home from the Seminary, and she said “here’s a hundred dollars to buy yourself some socks.”

“Mom, a hundred dollars to buy socks? Socks don’t cost that much.”

“Well, you might need some in the future.”

And my dad looked over and he said, “can I have some sock money too?”

These are our moms. They look after us, they care for us, they love us greatly and dearly. And so we thank them for all the wonderful things they do for us and have done for us. And we ask God to bless them. And those who are looking on us from above, we ask for their presence and help still, as we live in this world. So at the end of Mass we’ll also have our blessing for our mothers’ pure present.

A couple weekends ago I attended the rededication of St. Francis Church in Weston. The ceremony of the dedication, or rededication, of the church is one of our best liturgies. It’s a very beautiful liturgy. And there’s a number of things that happen as part of it that are unique to that – they only do it then.

There is at one point, the altar is empty, and the bishop literally anoints the altar with Chrism. Chrism that was blessed right here on Holy Thursday by him, is poured on the altar and then rubbed into the altar. And then after that, the pastor of the church, usually – although the bishop can do it –anoints the church by going to the four corners of the church, and literally anoints the walls.

Another thing that’s done is the altar has incense on it, and is lit. The pastor then goes around the church incensing the whole building, and the people in it. The introduction to the rite of dedicating a church says “the incensing of the knave of the church indicates that the dedication makes it a house of prayer”. However, the people of God are incensed first. For it is the living temple in which each faithful member is a spiritual altar.

I mentioned this today because of the language that St. Peter uses in his letter is very similar language. He calls Christ a Living Stone and the people he is addressing– very possibly people had been recently baptized—are living stones built as an edifice of the spirit. The community of believers, then, is the temple, the place where God lives. The temple is not made by human hands or of carved stones, but of Living Stones; men and women—that’s you and me.

I remember a friend of mine being given a tour of a Protestant church. And he at one point said to the woman who was doing the tour, “this church is so beautiful”. And she said “oh sir, this is not the Church. This is where the Church meets.” And that is an important idea, because the word that we get Church from, “Ecclesia” in Greek, doesn’t have anything to do with a building. It literally means “the assembly”.

And so it’s a reminder that the building – of course – and of course we’re going to call it a church. I don’t think I’m going to stop that from happening. But the Church is the community ofb, and we are part of that. That we are the Church. The building in which we meet is important, and certainly we want it to look beautiful and to serve the needs of the community. But it is not as important as those of you that make it up. We, together with Jesus, have the potential for making something more beautiful than even the most beautiful building that we could possibly build. And that is a community bound together in faith, in Christ Jesus by love.

My dear friends,

As many of you know I have an older sister. And while my mother loved us both dearly, I have to confess my mother had a soft spot for me because I was the unmarried one. I was the priest and I was her only son.

And so in the last day of my mother’s life, as she was struggling to breathe from the lung cancer that eventually took her life, I knew. I knew that my mother was struggling in part because she was worried about who would take care of her son.

So after my family said all their goodbyes, my mother continued to struggle. And something inside of me said it’s time for you to just give your mother permission to go to the Lord. And so I leaned over and I put myself very close to her ear. And I whispered into her ear, I said “Mom”. I said “I will be okay. If Jesus is here, it’s time to go home. And I will not be far behind.” And she took two breaths and died.

The power of a voice.

You see my friends, today we gather on Good Shepherd Sunday because the Lord is reminding us that He is speaking to us. He is whispering to us. He is teaching us to recognize His voice in the cacophony and distraction and the noise of all the world around us. And you and I, as we spend our lives recognizing Him, then we are able to follow that voice.

It’s amazing to see that if you have sheep together from all different flocks. As soon as the shepherd whistles or speaks, his sheep find him. There’s no confusion. For the sheep recognize the one voice they can trust and the one voice they need to follow.

So today, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, we wish to follow the voice of Jesus, do we not? We wish to be faithful to Him. We wish to allow him to lead us to heaven. But before we can actually follow Him, there is another question we could ask and that is, where do we recognize His voice? Where do we actually hear his voice? Because if we don’t hear it, we can’t follow it.

And there are, my friends, many ways by which you and I can recognize and hear His voice. For example, when we pray, He is speaking to us if only we would be quiet and allow Him to speak first. When we sit before the scriptures, the Lord speaks to us in the beautiful stories and parables of His life. But we need to sit in silence. Once we have read it and allowed the Holy Spirit, through His inspirations and through the whispers in our hearts and minds, to help us to hear His voice and what He wants to tell us each time we read the scripture. For each time He may tell us something different.

In the sacraments the Lord is speaking to us. When we go to the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, the priest says “and I absolve you”. It’s not the priest, it’s Christ in the priest. And Christ is speaking to us. When here I will say “this is My body”, it’s not my body, it’s His. But He’s speaking to you and me.

He speaks in the people around us who love us. Husbands and wives, children and grandchildren, and dear good friends. He speaks to us. Speaks to us in creation, when we find the time to meditate and reflect on the beauty of the world around us. He is speaking to us. And He even speaks to us in the moments of our greatest suffering. When we are naturally forced to strip away everything else around us. He speaks to us in the silence, to assure us of our love for that which the world, even those who love us so much, that which (they not) they cannot give us, He can. Which is eternal life in Him.

We live in a world, my friends, of so many distractions. Many of us are far too busy. There are so many things around us. And in this new world that’s being born, in this digital, technological world, where there are millions of voices speaking to us all the time. We have to stop wasting time on the voices that do not matter. It’s Time to get rid of the noise so that we can, in all the ways I described, and so many more, learn to recognize the Lord’s voice. And when we do, to ask ourselves the question, are we willing to follow what He asks?

In the end, it’s interesting, my friends. Doctors tell us that of the five senses God gives us us, made in His image and likeness, the last one to end is our ability to hear. Perhaps God is teaching us that He gives us to the very end, the last opportunity to recognize His voice wherever it may come. And to follow Him home to everlasting life.

Sisters and brothers,

What difference does a name make? Perhaps in most circumstances of life, names could be incidental, accidental, or have personal significance. But what I’d like to suggest is today, the name – a single name – is the key to understanding the deeper meaning of what the Lord is trying to teach us in this extraordinary, perhaps most famous of all of His appearances after His resurrection. And quite frankly, my dear brothers, it gives a key to what you are preparing to do upon ordination, for the rest of your lives.

Allow me to explain. When I traveled to the holy land for the very first time, I made my bucket list of places I wanted to visit. And on that list was Emmaus, as we hear, precisely because of its significance. And I was shocked to learn that no one knows where Emmaus actually is. There is no consensus.

And into my struggle to to try to make sense of that, the guide, who was a Franciscan, pulled me aside and he said ‘Bishop, remember the word, the name Emmaus in one translation literally means nowhere.’

And that’s the key. For let us situate ourselves in the lives of these two disciples who are walking away from Jerusalem. You see my friends, they had an expectation of who God was and what he was supposed to do. And that expectation was totally dashed. They seek liberation in a way that God was not prepared to give.

And so when this Messiah ruler was crucified and their world collapsed, they were fearful, confused, anxious. They were fearful because they had associated themselves with a company that were now outlawed. And the community that they had formed so tight had scattered to the four winds.

And so we’re told in the Gospel, they’re walking away from all of that. They’re walking away from Jerusalem, where the ministry would continue. And so they were going literally to nowhere.

And Jesus appears and gives us the formula that every Christian needs to remember. To bring ourselves, and our neighbors, and our friends, and those whom we love and those whom we meet; bring them from nowhere to somewhere.

And what does He do? He first appears and makes His presence felt because, in a moment of great fear, and suffering, and isolation, and anxiety, and loneliness, presence is a great gift. It tells that someone cares, that someone is willing to walk with you without questions, without judgment, without agenda, simply because the person is worth it.

And as that journey continues, then I am sure the Lord was peppered with many questions. Questions that did not make sense to these two disciples. Questions that their hearts long to have an answer for, so that they could commit themselves to something. And patiently He answered those questions. And prepared their minds and hearts so that they could have an ever-deeper encounter with Him first in the Holy Dcriptures, in the great mysteries of salvation, and then ultimately in the breaking of the bread.

And what happened is that these people who are going to nowhere, dejected, fearful, isolated, alone, and anxious now suddenly the hearts were on fire. They began to burn. And in the breaking of the bread they found what they were looking for.

And what did they do? They turned around and now suddenly they were going somewhere. Back to Jerusalem, back to Mission, back to the scattered community to help bring them together. Back to the Lord that they thought had failed them. And despite whatever penalty was coming – and we do not know what happened to them, they may have in fact had their lives as the price for going somewhere – they turned and never looked back.

This story in sacred scripture is a profound one for you and me to reflect upon. Because my dear friends, there are many people in our own world who are going nowhere fast. Who are struggling with fears, loneliness, and anxiety. People whose expectations have been dashed. People who are looking for a God that does not fit their expectations, looking for a community that will care for them without judgment. A community that will answer their questions that they seek, so that they might commit themselves to something greater than themselves. Because every human heart wants to do that.

And so you see the methodology, the Lord is asking of Christians of every age and you and I in our own age, is to follow His example and to learn to walk and accompany those around us. To allow them the safe space to ask their questions and gently, mercifully, patiently allow them to encounter the Lord in word, prayer, friendship and Sacrament. Most especially here at the altar where they can one day receive His body, blood, soul and divinity so that they might choose to go somewhere which matters. Somewhere which lasts. Somewhere that has Eternal purpose. And that is walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

And you, my three brothers, you are now entering into candidacy which means you’re in formation to the act and it becomes ever more intense. So I admonish you, as I admonish those who are ready in sacred orders, those who are studying to be priests, and all of us my friends, in this age most especially, you need to lead us. To accompany those people whom society has decided are not worth the time or effort. To go into what I call the shadows and meet those individuals, and lead them from Emmaus to Jerusalem.

And I refer to those whom society does not consider to be worth much; the poor, the sick, the refugee,those who are struggling so personally and so deeply with mental illness, or just simply the anxieties of life. Those whom society does not consider to be in the upper echelons, or the movers or shakers, or the ones who are the influences of our modern world. You see they are God’s children too and they, many, are walking towards Emmaus. And we need to help them to find Jerusalem. Not because we are better. But because we are the servants of the Master who is the best of us all.

So my dear friends, as we reflect this coming week on this profound story, may I ask you: is there someone, one person that you know of, who you think may be walking towards Emmaus? Someone that you and I can purposefully and intentionally invite to walk somewhere else, and to simply be with them? Make presents with them? Establish perhaps a friendship with them? And in our patience and mercy, begin to travel with them in the wrong direction for a while, until with God’s grace they can see what we see. And begin to walk in the direction towards Christ. For there they will find their hope, their destiny, their happiness, their purpose, their joy.

Do what difference does a name make? A big difference. For my friends, we, our young people, our young adults, those whom society has forgotten, and all good people of will, we are all called to go from Emmaus to Jerusalem, and to Glory with our Risen Lord.

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Today, as we celebrate this eighth day, the Octave day of the Solemnity of Easter, as we do each year, we hear this very famous story of Saint Thomas, known as the ‘Doubting Thomas’.

In fact, in the tradition of the Church, he’s affectionately known as the Patron Saint of Skeptics. Bcause Thomas, as we heard, could not get beyond his human reasoning and his religious training, to conceive that this Master, whom he followed for three years, who was subject to crucifixion, could actually be alive again. He wanted to see it with his own eyes. How many times are you and I in that position as well?

And what happens? Jesus, in His great Mercy, appears and invites Thomas to do something absolutely extraordinary, literally to touch His resurrected body. To put his hands in the wounds that the Lord Jesus will have for all eternity, as a sign of His depth and breadth of the love He has for us and for the suffering He endured for you and me.

And to his credit, Thomas not only comes to Faith, but he is the first of the apostles to proclaim who Jesus truly is, “My Lord and my God”.

Thomas received the mercy of the Lord Jesus. Mercy, my friends, which is a love which meets us in our hour of need, whatever that need may be, but invites us to something more; that lifts us up, that’s an invitation and encouragement to a greater life. In Thomas’s case, to a life of true faith. A life that would make him a missionary to the Far East.

We should not be too hard on Saint Thomas. Because the apostles themselves needed Jesus’s Mercy. But don’t you think it’s interesting, that the first time the apostles met, the doors were locked and Jesus appeared and they rejoiced. And the second time He appeared, the doors were still locked. Because while they were struggling to believe, struggling to receive the gift of peace that Jesus wanted to give to them, it was not until Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came in His power, that they could receive it.

So Jesus in his Mercy appears to them again and again and again, paving the way for their great renewal. To rise to the greatness of holy apostles and fearless preachers.

There is not a person in this church who is not received the mercy of Jesus Christ.

Each one of us, as sinners, has received His Mercy, have we not? In the moment we went for the confession of our sins, kneeling in our own contrition, who came to us to lift us up in our hour of need, but not the Risen Lord? Who by His death and resurrection has forgiven every sin that seeks forgiveness. He met us at our need and lifted us up, and invited us to holiness of life. And every time we’ve fallen on our faces, He has done the same thing – lifted us up. Not to the same life, but to a greater life. And He does it not only in our sinfulness, but He does it in our time to suffering, loneliness, and pain and sorrow. The times when we attempted to despair or to give up, He comes to us in the Inspirations of the Holy Spirit by the charity and work of Christian men and women, and those of good will. And through the events of our lives, the Lord Jesus comes to us with His Mercy, to meet us in our need and to lift us up.

And we are grateful for receiving so great a gift.

And yet, my friends, there is a challenge. A profound challenge. Is that you and I who have received Mercy, is it not our task and mission to be the ambassadors of Mercy? That is, to be merciful to everyone we meet? For if the Lord has given it to us, who are we who bear His name, share in His death and resurrection, not to be equally merciful to those around us? And that, my friends, is at times very difficult to do, as you know.

Saint John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople who lived in the 4th century, preached a magnificent homily on this very Sunday, the Octave of Easter. And in the magnificence of the Basilica of Constantinople, he reminded his people that they spent so much time dressing the altar, dressing the cathedral, with fine linens and gold and flowers and all, that we could possibly imagine to give honor and worship to Christ, he reminded them that there is no point to dress the altar with silk when Christ stands on the doorstep of the Cathedral homeless and naked. He said God does not look for golden vases, God looks for golden hearts.

In that, my dear friends, is what you and I need to reflect on this week. How much are we committed to be merciful to those around us; who are in need, who are mired in their sins, who have deeply offended us, who are simply looking for hope? And are we willing, not simply to give charity, but to give and meet their need and lift them up so that they might find a path to a greater life? The peace that Jesus talks about in the Gospel, which can only be found by finding Him in seeking radical holiness.

Are we willing to walk with our neighbor in Mercy, so that he or she may find what we have found?

For my friends, Saint Thomas walked as far as India to be an ambassador of Mercy. The question you and I need to think about this week, is how far are you and I willing to walk for Him?

My friends,

Happy Easter to you all. This morning we join our voices with Christians throughout the world to proclaim that Christ is risen, that He is truly risen. For today we celebrate, we extol, we delight in the fact that in the early mornings of the first day of the week, the Lord broke the chains of sin and death forever.

Having gone into the Abode of the Dead to free them, those who lived before Him, He now comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit to give to us, through the gift of baptism, the same victory over sin and death. What He had by the very nature of being God, you and I are given to the great mystery of baptism.

And so my dear friends, I cannot imagine a more appropriate way to celebrate this day than to gather around Freya’s mom and dad, and her sister and brother, and her grandparents and her godparents, and invite this little girl into the very life of God.

Consider what will happen to her. In a few moments we will be at the font and I will pray the prayer of exorcism, and anointed with the oil of the Catechumens as a sign that she is free from original sin, and that the power of the evil one has no hold over her, or over you, or over me.

In using the waters that were blessed last night in the great Vigil of the Holy Night, she will enter in mystery in the Tomb of Jesus, into His death and rise to new life before our very eyes.

And she’ll be clothed, once again, in the white that her parents dressed her as a sign that she is a new creation in Jesus. And then she will be anointed with Chrism. You and I were anointed with Chrism, and in that moment, you and I became members of the mystical Body of Christ. And we are all priests, prophets, and kings in the Risen Lord, to be His messengers of salvation and hope.

And how godparents will receive the light from this one candle, because Freya will be enlightened by Christ and receive the gifts of faith, hope, and charity. What this little girl will receive, every single one of us already has.

And so I invite you this Easter morning, not simply to proclaim with our words that Jesus is risen, but may I suggest that we unlock the power of our own baptism, each of us, to allow the power of the Risen Lord to come through us to this broken, confused, complicated, and in many ways lost world. For His looking (world) looking for direction, the answer to the desires of so many people’s hearts, a world that’s seeking a path to hope and joy. And it only comes in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. And it is to us to not just speak it, but to live it, and proclaim it in my actions and yours.

And so my dear friends, I’m going to invite you to join with me, as we go to the font in the back of church and celebrate Freya’s new life in Jesus Christ. And in her life, let us renew our own lives in the crucified and Risen Lord.

So my dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Tonight we gather on this Vigil in the Holy Night to join our voices with those of our fellow believers throughout the world and throughout time, to proclaim to the world that Jesus is risen, that He has truly risen from the dead. And as we heard Deacon Jim sing so beautifully the ancient Hymn of this night – the Exalted – when we heard that this is the night we believe Christ not simply broke the back of death, but also forgave all sins of those who seek forgiveness in Him.

This is the night that the sin of Adam was reversed, the night when creation was recreated and where you and I, and all who believe in Christ, have the hope to share the glory that is His forever in heaven.

Tonight is the great victory, the eternal victory of love. And we are not ashamed or afraid to proclaim it to the world.

And yet, my dear friends, as we do so the world may ask us, ‘where is this Risen Lord that you believe in? Where are the signs of His power in Grace? For you say that He has conquered death and sin and suffering, and yet the world is still filled with it. In fact, with each passing year it seems that the world becomes ever more broken, ever more confused, where war continues to take its tolls on innocent people, perhaps in the millions; where there are more and more who are turning away from God, and more and more who are no longer dedicating their lives to a life of love, in kindness, and respect, and forgiveness.’ The world may tell us tonight, ‘you who believe, where is this Risen Lord?’

And on this Vigil night my friends, we have an answer to give; an answer we need to reflect on deeply. For we can see the presence of the Risen Lord all around us, every day, if only we dare to look. And to look with the eyes of Faith so that we might teach the world how to look and recognize Him.

Recall what happened this night, my friends. Jesus rose from the dead in the middle of the night, in the quiet hours of the night. And there was no one present when He rose. He rose in the middle of a cemetery, which is the last place you would find people walking at night. And He rose on the even passing of Sabbath, where no observant Jew would leave his home for fear of breaking the law. The great triumphant victory that Christ had over sin and death was not come with great trumpet blasts, but came in quiet. It came humbly. But when He came, it broke the very Gates of Hell.

And for those who can see and recognize Him, He continues to dwell in our midst. You may say, ‘Bishop, where?’ well, when our sisters and brothers come in a few moments to the font of life, when the sacred waters wash over your heads, you will die and rise with Christ this very night. And there, my friends, we will glimpse the risen Lord in His power, in grace.

For those of you to be confirmed, the Spirit will come upon you with power and fire and glory, and He will fill your mind and your hearts, in your hands and your feet, in your eyes, with the very grace of God. And there, my friends, when our sisters and brothers leave this church alive in His Spirit, we are glimpsing where the Risen Lord is. And we will come to this altar and under the form of bread and wine, that same Risen Lord will come to us – all of us – so that He might dwell in our hearts. And with our eyes of faith we can recognize the one who left the tomb this night. For He is leading us to heaven.

But there is more. My friends, when a person chooses life over death, you can glimpse the face of the Risen Lord. When you see someone choosing to care for those who are dying and to walk with them with dignity and compassion, you can see the presence of Jesus risen with your own eyes. When you look into the face of a newborn child, it is the face of the Risen Lord you are looking into. When you and I sit with our friends who are in distress or suffering or lonely, or anxious or despairing, there is the Risen Lord in His power coming to heal and set that person free. Every time we see faith, hope and love, but most of all love, we are looking at the presence of the Risen Lord in our midst.

And when you and I consider that, my friends, He is all around us. Every day, in the most ordinary ways, this Risen Lord walks with us, feeds us, consoles us, laughs with us, walks with us to Glory. And you and I, my friends, will leave this church renewed in our faith in this Risen Lord, to be His ambassadors in the world.

And I ask you, when you and I leave in the days and weeks ahead, especially, my friends, those of you to be baptized and those of you to be confirmed, and those who will receive the sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time – never be afraid to love. Never be afraid to have hope and proclaim to all you meet, the Lord who has claimed your heart. And by doing that you are making the presence of the Risen Lord as clear as the day to the world around you.

And if we persevere my friends, we will see the day when all wars will end, all suffering will be healed, and every tear will be wiped away. Because Christ’s victory is already in our midst. Christ’s victory is our victory. And it is for that reason we can raise our voices and proclaim to a world that is waiting to see His face, we can tell that world ‘Christ is Risen! Christ is truly Risen! And come with us so that we may show you His face.’

So my dear sisters and brothers,

As we can well imagine, the customs of hospitality are very different among the various cultures and nations of what we’ve called our family of humanity. And it certainly changed over history.

The one thing they have in common is that they wish to make whoever is our guest feel welcome and a part of our family.

And so what we gather here tonight to celebrate, the great sacrament of the Eucharist, we are given this extraordinary episode in the life of Jesus where the custom of the age, to make a person welcome, is done in the strangest of times by the most unlikely of persons. For you can well imagine that in a time and in a place mostly of desert that was hot, to make a guest welcome you would allow them, and ask them as they enter into a home, to have their feet washed, so that the dust of the road could be washed clean, and they can be cooled and refreshed literally from the bottom up.

Tonight we hear that beautiful gesture of welcome is done by not a slave, but the Master of the House, the Master of the Table, the Master of all Creation. For was the task of the slave, or the servant, to make the guest welcome.

Jesus takes that place of a slave. The night before his life was forfeited by thirty pieces of silver, the cost of the of the life of a single slave in the Roman Empire. And if that was not provocative enough, it’s timing was strange. Because we hear in the gospel that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples after the meal was finished, after they reclined that table. Not when they arrived. Because Jesus was trying to teach them a lesson; a lesson not about what He was doing, but what He had already done.

For recall what happens at the table of the Last Supper. Jesus takes the rituals of the Passover, the celebration of God’s chosen people set free from the slavery of Pharaoh, and brought into the liberation of the Promised Land. Jesus takes that ritual and gives it eternal meaning by taking simple bread and wine and, foreseeing His death the next day, makes it the sacrament of our liberation from sin and death. And makes it the sacrament by which we will eternally be with Him in His glory. He gives it to the apostles to strengthen them. Yes, to encourage them yes, but also to give them the grace so that they might do what? That they might also give their life over for love of their neighbor, as the Master would give His life for the whole world.

For you see my friends, on this altar where heaven and earth kiss, on this altar when we enter into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are seeing the greatest act of love creation will ever know, over and over again in the one singular, irrepeatable act of Jesus’s self-offering, freely given, so you and I may be set free from sin and death.

And in that remarkable self-empting, self-giving – in that remarkable act of love, Jesus waits until after he gives the sacrament to show them what it really means; with their own eyes, with their own feet, to teach them what it means to love, and to give, even if it requires to take the place of the servant or the slave. To be able to do what no one else would dare to do. To give and not count the cost. To make oneself available until perhaps there’s nothing else to give. Jesus is teaching them that whoever receives this must be ready to do this. And if we’re not ready to do this, to give, then we must examine ourselves deeply: of why it is we come here to receive the ultimate sacrament of
pure, divine love.

My friends, we gather here in quiet now. The bells are silent, the organ is silent. We have begun the great mystery of our salvation. We gather here as if we were in the upper room, huddled, waiting, watching. We gather around the table of the Lord. And in His priest you will hear once again the same words the apostles heard in that very first night we remember. And we will be able to do what they did; come forward to receive the bread broken and the cup shared so that the Life of Christ may dwell in our hearts, in our stomachs, in our spirit, in our mind, in all of who and what we are.

But let us consider, that as we adore the Lord in just a few minutes, let us consider how ready we are, how willing we are, how prepared we are, to truly follow in the footsteps of the Lord, being encouraged by his sacred body, blood, soul and divinity. And to love as he did with friend, spouse, child, nephew, neighbor, acquaintance, co-worker, and even enemy.

And if we are not ready to do that, let us sit before the Lord tomorrow on the Mount of Calvary when he shows us with our own eyes how much He loves us. And to pray that His Spirit may help us wherever we go, wherever we find ourselves. Even if it means taking the place of the servant and slave. Pray for the grace to love as He did.

My dear friends in Christ,

Each Holy Thursday morning, you and I gather here in the mother church of our diocese to ask our gracious and merciful Father, in union with His risen Son, to send the power of the Holy Spirit upon the oils which will become the vehicles of His healing and grace; oil that is the fruit of the olive. And yet it will become a powerful venue, avenue, channel of the very power and grace of God.

And so in a few moments I will have the privilege to bless the oil of the sick, which will bring consolation and peace. And perhaps healing in body and certainly in spirit to those who are suffering, those who are living unto the frailty of old age. We will ask the spirit to bless the oil of the Catechumens that will strengthen and encourage the minds and hearts and wills of those who are seeking full communion in the church, who have found the Lord in their hearts, who wish to become part of His mystical body.

Then of course I, with my brother priests, will invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Sacred Prism, which is the vehicle through which those who come forward are consecrated forever. All of us in this church, in the sacrament of baptism where you and I receive the gift of adopted sonship. We receive through adoption, what Christ has by nature in His death and resurrection. And we become forever sisters and brothers, united in a single mystical body who is Christ. And for many of us confirmed in that baptism with the Sevenfold Gifts of His holy spirit so we may rise to the challenges of our age.

And then to some of us here, you my brothers with me, unworthy as we all are, we have been chosen to enter into the great mystery of Holy Orders with our brother deacons, to be consecrated to ministerial service. And for those of us who are priests, to enter into the great mystery of becoming another Persona Christi and to become the instruments by which the power of the spirit can take the simple elements of bread and wine, and render them to be the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Risen Lord.

We all come here to be encouraged. We all come here to ask that Spirit to give us strength in these challenging times. And to those of us who are priests, to you my brothers, we come here to seek a great gift; that you and I may rise to the challenge of our times and to seek to live radical, fearless, courageous lives of holiness.

At the risk of striking a very somber note, and forgive me for raising this point, but for the last few months in my prayer and reflection I have given much thought. The Lord has led me to very interesting places in my prayer, reflecting on the very hours you and I are living on this Thursday we call Holy. For on the First Holy Thursday, I wondered to myself, what was in the mind and heart of the Apostles as they bustle to prepare, to sit and share the Passover meal with their master and rabbi.

To the great betrayer, these were the hours he made his definitive choice. I wonder what fears he had in his heart, what wounds that went unaddressed, what great disappointments that haunted him. The stubbornness, perhaps, of not getting what he thought he should deserve or what the people of God deserved or what they expected to get when the Savior finally came. I wonder what it was in his heart that created the sin that made him so blind and obstinate, that when he said ‘surely it is not I Lord’ and the Lord said ‘it is you who said it’. And (and) of course the apostles who remained by his side and the meal ran; in the garden when they began to glimpse what it was to walk in the footsteps of a Lord who exchanged His life for thirty pieces of silver, the cost of the life of a single slave in the Roman Empire. All good, faithful men who, to the path of their life, one in particular, veered to make grave decisions.

I raised that question, my dear brothers because the same father of evil that lurked in those hours remains in our midst, remains amidst all of us, at every turn in our lives. For he seeks to do whatever it takes to make sure that all of us, and especially you and I my brothers, not to seek that which is the requirement of our ministry, that we seek true fearlessness, courage, and the pursuit of a holiness that will require that we completely die to the Lord whom we love, and we all love in this church so deeply.

So I’m going to suggest for all of us who are here, but especially those of us who share the priesthood of Jesus Christ, that perhaps you and I can spend the balance of this day, the mystery of the Triduum, and the weeks and months ahead, to form a deep examination of life and conscience and to ask the Holy Spirit to help us to understand what it is in my life, and in yours, that does not allow us to seek that radical fearless holiness. To kick the father of evil out wherever he is lurking. So that with God’s grace, because it can only be with God’s grace, that we can rise to what the Lord is asking of us.

For this, my dear brothers, is whether we choose it or not, it is going to be the age of the Heroes of Faith. For the renewal of our Church will not come by program or initiative, it will not come by any glorious homily, it will come from the true witness of Holiness for all the baptized and for all who lead the Church. And I’m not ashamed to say I am convicted by my own words.

So what is it that you and I must root out in our lives? We begin with the wounds we carry. We all carry them. Wounds that will – sometimes we’re afraid to admit to – sometimes they are so deep, they’re painful even to admit they’re there. Wounds are nonetheless fester in my life, in your life, wounds that the father of evil can use against us to discourage us, to make us believe there is no hope for change, to make us think that our weaknesses will always be who we are meant to be. To lull uss into complacency and maybe perhaps worse, perhaps a lifestyle that seeks gratification or power or privilege or pleasure over an intimacy with the Lord. So perhaps we could ask for the grace of the Spirit for all of us. And for us, in leadership, to finally, if there are wounds in our lives, to ask the Lord for the gentle grace to see them and offer them to Him so His Holy Spirit can be balmed to heal them and to set us free.

And then it would seem to me, my dear brothers, that as good men, faithful men, as you all are, as I seek to be, sometimes we fall into the temptation to believe that our differences are a cause for division, when our differences should be a cause of celebration. That God has made us different so that we could be stronger together; that my gifts are not yours, your gifts are not mine, and together we are stronger when we share them.

We’re tempted to think at times that my way is the way, when it’s the Lord’s way that is the way. And so can we dare to work in the months ahead to grow into a true unity, a true brotherhood where we can speak honestly to each other, and that we can forgive each other. And that you can forgive me as I can forgive you. Because in the end, you have heard me say that we are embarking on an auditious, auditious experience together. Do you and I have been called in this moment in the life of the church to rebuild the culture of our Church so that it will permeate every aspect of our lives. I call it the one. Call it whatever you like. But to be able to build a world where all God’s children, in every aspect of their life, can recognize the presence and life of Christ. And to be able to be accompanied by sisters and brothers who love them, who know their name, and know their heart, and know their struggles, and will walk with them. I walking with you, you walking with me, we walking with one another.

And it seems to me for all of us in this church, on this eve of the great Triduum of our salvation, and especially you and I who shared this mystical precious, priceless gift of the ministerial priesthood. May we recognize that we cannot lead others unless we ourselves are being led. And you and I are being led by the Shepherd who calls us, caresses us, forgives us, empowers us, and leads us forward to lead God’s people in this time (time) of challenge, and in time that is pregnant with opportunity. For bursting new life for the church and to bring conversion to the whole world.

Let me just say this. I am deeply grateful to you, brothers, and to my brother deacons. But to you my brother priests, for all of your sacrifice, your generosity. Your hard work oftentimes goes unnoticed and unthanked. I am privileged to walk in your midst as your spiritual father and as your Bishop. For I know you now, after all these years, very intimately. And I’m proud of every single one of you.

But we have work to do to rebuild our Church. And we cannot do it without His grace. The Lord asked the original Apostles, ‘one of you will betray me’. We heard that yesterday at Mass. My prayer is for all of us in this holy church, especially for you my dear brothers, may it never be said of me, may it never be said of you, in answer to that question you have said so.

My dear friends,

When the Lord Jesus met his first disciples in the Gospel of John, he asked them the question, “what are you looking for?”, the question that everyone who has met the Lord must ask himself or herself. What is it that we are truly looking for in our lives?

Today, as we hear the passion read anew, we know the answer the crowd gave. They were looking for a king. And they got a king beyond their wildest imagination. For they were looking for a military king, a king who would dislodge the Roman Empire that held them in brutal subjugation. They were looking for one who would come with legions and might and armament and shield. That is why they gave Jesus the great privilege of being greeted with palms and cloaks strewn on the road. For that, my friends, was an honor given only to Caesar and his leggetts. For they were considered too important to have their feet touch the ground.

But the true King came for a different purpose; to enter into the city of David to show them, us, and all who would believe in Him, that He has come as the King of love. And the crowd went from adulation to crucify Him in five days.

The apostles remained with the Lord after He entered Jerusalem. But even they began to doubt. Because the Lord was willing to exchange His life for 30 pieces of silver. My friends, that was exactly what it cost to buy a single slave in the Roman Empire. But how could this King be a slave?

And so we hear that in the moment, when He was revealed in all His glory, the apostles ran and only a few women and the youngest of the Apostles remained. When the King was enthroned, not in gold, not in jewels, but His throne was made of wood, and His jewels were nails that held Him as He extended His arms upon all creation, and revealed what the love that only matters is free, self-sacrifice for the good of those around Him. In this case, for you and me. And when we come here to our blessed cathedral and we will uncover this image of the Lord crucified on the day we call good – for our sakes, not for His – we will look upon the King of all creation.

So allow me to ask us all, what are you looking for? What are you really looking for in your life? Where will you and I find the peace and the courage to face the sufferings that inevitably come for anyone who truly loves. How can you and I in the moments when we are before those for whom we can no longer help, before the mystery of suffering and pain, or when we look upon the challenges that surround us in this world, who is going to give us the hope and the peace and the joy that our hearts truly are looking for? There is no king, government, constitution, or society in this world that can give them. Only One. The One whom we welcome with the same palms in the city of our hearts.

So my dear friends, I ask you, this week, this week that is the holiest of them all, will you have the courage? Will I have the courage to walk with Jesus? To rediscover His kingship over your heart and mine? And will we rediscover the power He gives us in His resurrection so that we can love as He loved and to go forth into the world. And to love the sick and the afflicted, the immigrant and the poor, the recently incarcerated, the lonely, the anxious, the ones who are despairing. To love the ones that the world says are not worth our love. To love in a way that makes us weak and vulnerable. To love until it hurts and beyond. For if we do that, we will have a place in glory and we will have a throne made for us. And because our Lord died for us and rose for us, our thrones in the heaven to come will not be made of wood or nails, but it would be made of everlasting life.

So my friends, what are you really looking for? Let us follow the Lord. Let us go and see.

This week’s homily was given by Fr. Chris Ford, Director of Vocations.
Note: Apologies, the video accidentally ends a few seconds before the end of the homily.

One of my favorite moments, spiritually, at least in the entire year, might seem a little bit strange. But for me, it’s the morning of Holy Saturday; the morning between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Remember, in the Seminary, where I was one of the Masters of Ceremonies, we would be preparing kind of all day for our Easter Vigil that night. There would be rehearsals and practices. But in between I would take these moments of silence and quiet and just sit in the chapel, sit in my assigned seat, which was towards the front. And I would just sit there staring at the Tabernacle, the empty Tabernacle.

And it was this profound moment for me – this moment, perhaps, of the richest and deepest silence, that I have ever experienced. Something that continues in me to this day. This (this) desire to enter into that moment, that the Office of Readings for that day, calls a strange happening, a strange silence and stillness.

It’s the same reality, if you will, that is played out by the Devotion, that we pray most frequently during this holy season of Lent, the Stations of the Cross. There are many different versions of them but I prefer the versions that kind of stick to what we tend to have in our churches. The fourteen stations, not the ones that add the 15th, not the ones that add the Resurrection, but the ones that end at fourteen, at the laying of Jesus in the Tomb. The ones that end, if you will, in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of the story. This moment, if you will, of already – but not yet.

Because our temptation in life, our temptation is to constantly be seeking consolation, to constantly skip over these moments of silence, these moments of patience, this suffering of solitude, to reach the consolation that comes on Easter Sunday. But to do that means that we miss, in a profound way, all of the ways in all of the moments where God is present to us. All of the ways all of the moments where God is trying to love us. Jesus knows what He’s going to do. He says it outright. He tells the disciples Lazarus has fallen asleep, and I am going to wake him up. And yet he remains where He is for two days.

And in fact, Jesus goes even a step further. Because He doesn’t just say that He knows what He’s going to do, He actually goes so far as to say that there’s a part of Him that’s glad that Lazarus has died. This friend whom He loved so much. Because Lazarus’ death, He tells the disciples, He hopes will be a moment where they can encounter the glory and the power of God, that they might come to a deeper level of faith and hope and trust in Him.

And when Jesus arrives in Bethany, when he arrives to see Martha and Mary and all of the Jews who have come from Jerusalem to gather around them, they and the Apostles do come to see the glory and the power and the Majesty of God. This awesome moment, this impressive moment, this moment that reveals perhaps better than any other just who God is. This powerful, awe-inspiring moment that is recounted to us so simply and so beautifully. And Jesus wept.

This powerful, tangible fact of Jesus is entering into the reality of Lazarus’s death, entering into the suffering of Martha and Mary, entering into the suffering of His own human heart, united always to the merciful love of the Father.

And notice how the people respond to Jesus’s weeping, see how He loved him. It’s not the resurrection of Lazarus. It’s not the miracles. It’s not the extraordinary moments that reveal God’s love for us. It’s the simple. It’s the ordinary. It’s His presence to us, even in suffering, that reveals the depths of His love, the depths of His closeness to us. The fact that God, who has this power to create and sustain the universe, the fact that God, who has this power even to raise people from the dead, is so invested in humanity, that He weeps for us. That He doesn’t skip over our moments of suffering but enters into them with us.

And this is not just a gift for the people of Bethany that afternoon. This is a gift that continues for us even today, most powerfully through the Sacraments of His church, the Sacraments that continue to affect His presence among us, His closeness to us. Perhaps above all in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of His very presence, His continued dwelling among us, where we can go to Him, where we can bring Him our struggles, we can bring Him our trials and our sufferings. And in return we can receive Him, His closeness, His Mercy, His love.

And of course, it is expressed also in the gift of the priesthood. This is what I think it means when Saint John Vianney says that the priesthood is the love of the heart of Christ, that the priesthood is the continuing of Jesus’s presence among us, to be with us in all of our moments of Joy, all of our moments of suffering, and even in just the ordinary moments in-between.

This then becomes the source and the foundation of our hope; that I don’t have to rush to Easter Sunday. I can be right here. I can be wherever I am and know that God is loving me here, right now, in the realities of my life. Even, and perhaps especially, in the moments where I feel most unworthy of it, where I feel furthest from Him, where I feel like He has nothing to offer, He is there. Knowing that Jesus weeps, knowing that Jesus is this invested in us, allows us to embrace the poverty of the cross. The poverty of the cross that abandons all trust and all hope in the things of this world, but is completely open to what the Father is doing, is completely open to His care and His merciful presence for us.

This great gift that allows us, even in our darkest most trying moments, for our hearts to echo the words of Jesus. Father, I thank You for hearing me. I know that You always hear me.

Sisters and brothers in the Lord,

While I was growing up as a little boy, if I heard it once I heard it perhaps thousands of times from my mom, she would say to me ‘young man, open your eyes and watch where you are going’. Now of course when I was with my father and he wanted to express the same sentiments, the way he described it, I could not repeat in church. But the idea was the same.

Now of course I could see. But I was a daydreamer. I would oftentimes get lost in my own thoughts, in my own little world. So it was not uncommon I would walk into fire hydrants. And many a pair of pants had a hole in the knee because I tripped over things because I was – kind of – I had not yet learned to see what matters. That’s a lifetime project for all of us.

And it seems to me, for you and I today, it may help us to understand what it is that the Lord is asking of us in our own individual journeys of discipleship. Because today in that very beautiful story of the healing of the blind man, we have an extraordinary contrast. For on one hand, we have a man born blind that Jesus physically heals. And recall, my dear friends, the miracles of Jesus were signs of the inbreaking of the Kingdom. He was teaching His own, and those who followed after Him, what it is that the Kingdom of Heaven would be like when there would be no blindness. When we would live in perfect love and sight before Christ. We would be able to see the very face of God.

And as he healed this man who was ostensibly blind, this man could see what really matters. His heart longed to see the Messiah. It was ready to be able to recognize Him and embrace Him and that’s why the Lord said “(what are) what are you seeing?” And he said “I believe Lord”.

That’s in very stark contrast to the Pharisees who could see very well, and were as blind as bats, blind to the mercy of God that was allowing this man to see even on the Sabbath. Blind by their own self-righteousness that they were quick to accuse the man of sinfulness, when they refused to see their own sinfulness. Men who were educated and religiously observant and were blind to the needs of those around them.

Because they did not learn to see what really matters. Or perhaps a better way to describe that, my friends, is to see as God sees.

Today on this fourth Sunday of Lent we are called to meditate and reflect deeply and profoundly on the task of every disciple, to see as God sees. In the first reading we are reminded of appearances and superficiality. And the truth is we live in a world that is very much, very much enamored, committed to the appearances of life, to the superficiality of life. And unfortunately the relations between people are governed by that. You and I have been asked by the gift of the Holy Spirit to look deeper, to look into the heart, to see as God sees.

And my dear brother Knights and sister Columbiettes and your families, for that reason I am very grateful that you are here today. For it allows us, and me, to offer in perhaps a meager way a profound heartfelt word of thanks, for seeing as God sees. For the Knights of Columbus are known for many things. You and I know that. But central to much of who you are and what we do, is to enter into the world and see and act as God asks us to.

So consider all the work that you have devoted yourself to, to the work to allow the hungry to eat, and those without shelter to have a place of refuge, those who are poor to have a message of hope, those who are struggling in whatever way to be able to know they do not struggle alone. For you see those in need around you as God sees them, as sisters and brothers who have names and families, and who are to be loved as brothers and sisters.

Today in a very special way I am deeply grateful on behalf of all of the children in our Catholic schools. They are among God’s precious children. And in countless ways, too many for me to list now, you have been at their service, you have been at their support, and you have been role models for them for many, many years, by the labor of your hands, by the generosity of your spirit. And in many ways, by the example of your faith and charity, you are helping to mold our children who are entrusted to our care to be able, not to see as the world sees, not to see as the Pharisees saw, but to see as Christ sees: through you.

And I know your material generosity is deeply appreciated. But your spiritual generosity is appreciated more. For I cannot imagine how difficult it is for a young person to grow up in a world that is so blind, a world that is so committed to see in a way other than what God asks of us. And thank God, and I am grateful, that you are showing them a better way.

So my mother was wise in many ways, I must confess. And the older I become the more I realize it. So perhaps her words to me as a young boy are the words you and I can meditate on in this week as we continue this journey of Lent. Let us continue to pray, that you and I may keep our eyes opened. That is to continue to do as best we can in our private lives, in our lives as brother knights, in our discipleship of Jesus Christ, to see what really matters. To keep our eyes open to see as God sees. And to watch where we’re going. Because my friends, we are all going, please God, to eternal life.

My dear sisters and brother, I think it would be expected and quite natural that, for any of us in our own individual professions or trades, that we would take great pride in what we do. And we make it our business to do it well and to learn as best we can how to be successful. Whether it’s a lawyer, a doctor, a plumber, or a fisherman.

So with that as perhaps the backdrop today we hear an absolutely extraordinary story. For today we hear that a fisherman who came from a family perhaps of many generations, who fished as a profession, took the advice of a carpenter. Very strange.

And yet my friends, in its strangeness there is a great lesson. For Simon Peter intuited that this Jesus with whom he was walking, with whom he was becoming to know and loving, was someone he could trust. And that he did not have to stand on his own self-sufficiency, his own skills and talents, his own history, nut he could literally trust him to do something new. And he yielded great fruit.

I would like to suggest to you, my friends, as we celebrate the Feast of Saint Patrick, our Patron patron of Ireland and also in the cathedral Parish, our co-patron since the church of Saint Patrick is part of our larger Cathedral family, that Patrick himself wishes to teach us the same lesson. Because Patrick’s life yielded great fruit precisely because he trusted in the Lord. For you know his story well. Having been enslaved he trusted enough in the Lord to go back to the country in which he was enslaved so that he could bear the message of Christ.

When confronting evil in the form of the snakes that he encountered, he trusted not to run away but to confront them. And he bore great fruit precisely because he was able to expel them and to create a soil that was worthy and ready to receive the faith. And Ireland has stood for centuries as a bulwark and foundation of our faith in Europe and way beyond. Patrick understood that in the end, there’s a fundamental choice to make. Do we trust in ourselves, perhaps those around us, alone, or do we trust in God’s providence, mercy and love? Patrick chose wisely and bore great fruit.

So today we ask ourselves a question. I ask you, of myself, I ask it of you. In whom do you trust? For many times in our lives, even those of us who are trying to follow the Lord as best we can, we are tempted to forget that those who walk in His footsteps need to trust Him even when it’s difficult. Even when it hurts.

For example, when our prayers are not answered or our prayers get an answer of ‘no’, in those moments of great trial, do we trust that God’s providence and love can see what we cannot see? That God loves us despite the answer ‘no’. Or do we rebel because we trust in ourselves to know better than God does? Or in our times of prosperity and success are we tempted to think that we are the authors of it? Or do we forget that it was only because of God’s providence in the Lord’s love and mercy that we’re able to accomplish anything in our lives, and everything that has eternal value.

You see my friends we live in a world not much different from Patrick’s. In a world that aspired to basically be one of subjection and power over others, a world that thought they were in charge. And they had to learn to the example of Patrick that a fruitful life finds its anchor in Jesus. Not in me, not in you, and not in us.

So my dear friends, we have much to celebrate today. And I know you’re off to the parade and to festivities, and since there is the dispensation enjoy whatever you plan to eat today on St Patrick’s Day. But in all that joy, please take a moment to reflect on the great lesson Patrick teaches us, following in the footsteps of Simon Peter. Let us ask ourselves the question: are we willing to trust in God’s love in providence, and please God we may answer the same way Patrick did, by saying yes.

By guest celebrant Father Hoffmann:

We have now entered into the heart of Lent, the third fourth and fifth weeks, the very center of the season. And in the next (and today and the next) two Sundays we focus in on these longer gospels. (But we) And surprisingly they’re not from Matthew – we’re in the year of Matthew – but this time they’re all from John, and they tell stories about
different parts of life, in a sense. And they have different focuses (or foci) in the old days.

And today we hear the story of the Samaritan woman. And the focus is on water, that’s the image that’s used here that Jesus focuses in on. Next week we’ll hear the story of the man who was born blind, who was cured by Jesus, and the images are all about light and sight. And then the fifth Sunday, which will be the week before Palm Sunday, we’ll hear the story of the raising of Lazarus and the focus on life, and what it means.

But here we have this focus on water. And we all know how important water is, and we know that we probably all learned when we were like in grammar school, that if you pumped out all the water of any one of us, there’d be a little pile – this big – of almost nothing. We’re composed of water. It’s part of what makes us who we are and (it is something we) it has utility. We use it for things. We use it to wash ourselves, our clothes, our houses, our anything. We use it in cooking, we use it to drink, to help us to stay alive.

We like to look at it. (Let’s) You know, we all know that if you buy a house, that there’s a water view, it’s going to cost you more money because people like to look at the ocean or the river or the sea or the lake or whatever it might be. I was always intrigued when I was a kid and we’d take rides, whenever we’d pass a a little brook, that always caught my attention.

We use it for for entertainment, in a sense. We play in water. We swim in it. We go to water parks and enjoy it. So it’s very much part of who we are.

But here (here) in (in) the United States, we are very fortunate because a tank getting water is simple. We walk into a room and we turn a little (a little) faucet and in it comes. But for many people in many parts of the world, that’s not how it works. It’s still very much like the story that we hear of this woman in Samaria 2,000 years ago. People have to walk some distance with large containers. Now they’re not, you know, water jugs like in the old days. They’re great big plastic containers. And the job, which falls mostly to women, in those cultures every day, might have to walk a mile to get the water they need for the day.

But in this story we have this odd thing happening. (No) there’s no women drawing water. It’s just this woman. It’s the middle of the day. What’s up with that? Why?

Well, because most people would come when it was quiet and cool early in the morning. (In) in the Holy Land we all know it’s warm. And so at noon time would be the last time you’d want to go when it’s hot.

But it’s probably because this woman’s interesting status. Her five husbands, the husband that isn’t her husband, she’s someone on the edge. She’s someone that – she doesn’t want to get the dirty looks from other people.

So she comes in the middle day. And she has this surprise happen to her. Not only is Jesus there – there’s somebody sitting at the well – but amazingly He speaks to her. Now, we don’t think – what’s the big deal? Of course, Jesus would speak to her. But in the culture there are two things she had going against her. She was a Samaritan, and we all know that there was a certain animosity between Jews and Samaritans. But she’s also a woman. A man would not speak to a woman he didn’t know that way. It just wouldn’t happen in that culture.

But He does. He breaks through that kind of bond, those bonds of prejudice, and He begins to engage her because clearly He’s looking for something from her that’s not water. Just as He has food, He tells the apostles “I have food you do not know about”. (He) He’d be okay without her drawing him water, but He’s thirsting for something else. What is he really thirsting for? Her faith.

And so He speaks to her about the water that He has to give. And it’s different in some translations, that there’s two different words that are used, because in Greek it can mean ‘living’ or ‘flowing’. And she’s thinking of it, the water that’s at the bottom of the well. But He’s thinking about it as something different. He’s talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit. The life-giving water that He wants to give her, that will be within her. She thinks of it when He says that. She says, “oh give it to me so I won’t have to come here every day. It’s so hard. Now I won’t be thirsty, I’ll be all set.”

But he’s looking for in something interior, inside. He’s aware of, He’s making clear the limits of what’s material. It’s never going to be enough. It’s never going to satisfy. It’s never going to be lasting.

On the other hand there’s the eternal, the spiritual. The things of God which always satisfy and always last forever. He promises to give her this fountain leaping up to give her eternal life, which is His presence in her, in us, always.

During Lent we are trying to do our best to make ready the way for the Lord to give us His life in an even more and intense way, to push away those things that keep us from Him, that disconnect us from Him. And when we do that we look into our Spirits, our souls, we see some things that are good and some things that not not so good. And what we’re trying to do is to work on those things, is to grow the good things and pull out, or weed out, the bad.

So He promises us through His life to give us the Living Water that will enable us to do this. And (we) we’ve all been baptized. But we also have that opportunity to enhance our lives through the the giving of the sacrament of penance.

So it’s not just self-reprisal that does the trick. We have to go one (state) step further, and that’s faith. And what also?

Once we have that faith, the idea is that we have to share it. You notice she goes back into the town and she starts talking to people. If any of you watched, are watching The Chosen, there’s of this program that’s basically on an app, but sometimes it’s on other things too. But the story of those Samaritan woman (the woman literally), she goes back into town and it’s so, it’s really funny, like every person she walks up “He told me everything I did. He told me everything I did. Come here He told me everything I did.” She’s telling everyone.

And what happens? We have this whole route of people that come out to see Him. When he talks about “the Harvest is ripe”, He’s looking out at all these people that are coming – and not only just coming – but they invite Him to stay. He’s a Jew, they want him to stay and He does. And it changes their lives. He wants to share this life-giving water not just with them, but with all of us. (He this) he promises us that He will give it to us, and has given it to us. And the tree for us too, the next step like the woman, is that we must share it with those around us.