Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Church that Heals?

peter healing


Peter and the other disciples confidently walk among the needy, bringing them life and healing in the name of the Risen Jesus. “Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.” (Acts 5, 15) Healing is a sign of the resurrection.

Our readings from The Acts of the Apostles for the next few days are about the cure of a crippled man in the temple. (Acts 3, 1-4, 37)  Peter and John meet the man begging at the temple gate. “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, get up and walk,” Peter says, and the man got up and “went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.”

Jesus began his ministry in Galilee with dramatic healings like that. Peter’s mother in law was among the first he healed on the momentous day he came to Capernaum. (Mark 1, 29-32) Wonder and excitement quickly spread, people flocked to him, but soon opponents began to question and finally try to stop the Nazorean.

His followers continue his healing mission after his resurrection.  “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean” Peter and the rest move others to believe and join them by signs of healing; they also face the reaction Jesus faced when he healed. They face opposition.

An important witness of God’s presence in the early church, is healing still important in our age which trusts so much in modern medicine and the latest drugs and treatments?  Pope Francis recently called the church a “field hospital.”A reminder that the church must never abandon it’s mission to be a healing church, witnessing to the resurrection of  Jesus, praying for and caring for and sustaining those in need.

The Acts of the Apostles is a template for looking at our church today as well as the church of the past.


The Easter Season

The Easter season is a seven week period beginning with the Easter vigil and concluding on the feast of Pentecost. In most Catholic parishes, First Communion for Children is a major event, but the season has a larger purpose. All Christians are called to renew their faith in the Risen Christ.

“Blessed are they who have not seen, but believe,” Jesus says in John’s gospel to his Apostle Thomas,  on the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Doesn’t that mean there’s a blessing promised to us?  For the next seven weeks I’ll put up material for the Easter season on this blog.

We don’t see Jesus as his apostles and other eye-witnesses did, but we’re blessed with faith, a way of knowing him through sacraments and signs and, most importantly, through the love we have for one another.  We need to keep our eyes on the witness of his disciples in the scriptures and the prayers of the church. We need to meet the Risen Christ in his sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.

Our faith, like the disciple Thomas’ faith, needs strengthening, because the world we live in keeps questioning this way of knowing .  Like infants we’re learning about what we don’t yet know, and so many other things are on our mind. The Easter season offers grace to us.

A good way to  pray during the Easter season is to follow the readings each day for the Eucharist.  The Sunday readings for the season are the most important;  the weekday readings are closely related to them. You can find them online at the US Bishops’ site , which also provides the text of The New American Bible, as well as commentary and general background material on the bible. Here’s a list of this week’s readings for Mass for cycle C.

Weekday Readings: Octave of Easter

Monday: Acts 2:14,22-23; Matthew 28,8-15
Tuesday: Acts 2, 36-41; John 20,11-18
Wednesday: Acts 3,1-19; Luke 24, 13-35
Thursday: Acts 3,11-36 Luke 24, 35-48
Friday Acts 4,1-12 John 21,1-14
Saturday Acts 4, 13-21 Mark 16,9-15

The weekday readings at Mass for the next 7 weeks of the Easter season come mainly from the Acts of the Apostles and the gospel of John. You can read the introductions and commentaries to these books in the New American Bible, available  at the US Bishops’ site.

The Acts of the Apostles, the second part of St. Luke’s work, is important reading in the Easter season. It describes how God’s promise of salvation to Israel, accomplished in Jesus, was brought to the Gentile world under the guidance of the Holy Sprit.  Acts describes the beginnings of our church and, just as importantly,  offers insight into how our church develops today.

From its Jewish Christian origins in Jerusalem the church gradually incorporated the gentiles, non-Jews, and steadily spread throughout the Roman world, eventually reaching Rome itself, the capital of the civilized world. The church today is growing globally. Its early growth described in the Acts of the Apostles can help us understand how it will grow  in our time.

The gospel readings for this coming week from all four gospels describe the resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples. They express utter amazement at meeting Jesus risen from the dead. They can raise amazement in us as we read them this season.


Easter Sunday

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

Many followers of Jesus saw him risen after he came from the tomb, the New Testament writers say, but Mary Magdalene’s witness is especially significant. She was a key witness to his death as well as his resurrection. We remember her testimony on Easter Sunday.

First, she was a witness to the death of Jesus. She was among those who saw him die, the gospels say. She witnessed his last excruciating hours on the cross. She saw the soldier pierce his side with a lance. She was with Mary his mother, standing there looking on. She helped them in the grim ritual of taking his body down from the cross. She was one of the women who brought some ointments and  cloths for his burial. That was a woman’s role then, to bury the dead. She watched them lay him in a tomb, about a stone’s throw from where he was crucified. There would be no doubt in her mind that Jesus was dead.

She waited till the Jewish feast was over to come to the tomb. She came early in the morning, not hoping to see him alive, but just to complete his burial. What was done when he died was done hurriedly, the gospels tell us. Like Martha, the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene believed in the resurrection on the last day. It was important for her that the body of Jesus be properly anointed with perfumed oil, because he had been someone most pleasing to God. He would certainly be among those God would raise up on the Last Day.

Mary would not be at the tomb alone. Other women would be with her. The question they had coming to the tomb was: Can we get some help moving the stone away from the entrance to the tomb? It was large. Maybe the guards who were stationed there, maybe some workers, some people passing by. The tomb was not far from the road going into the city.

But Mary saw that the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty, the burial cloths were there, the cloth that covered his head, but his body was not there. (John 20,1-9) She ran to tell Peter, who came with John and found it as she had said.

In our first reading today we hear Peter’s description of what happened next. “This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10, 37)

John’s gospel goes on to tell Mary’s story of her meeting with Jesus in the garden where he was buried. She thought he was the gardener until she heard him speak her name, “Mary.” He was alive. He told her he was going to his Father and her Father, his God and her God. On that dark morning she came to finish burying him. Now he was alive, risen, and the world was changed.

“Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?” the church asks her in our liturgy today. “
’I saw the tomb of the now living Christ.
I saw the glory of Christ, now risen.
I saw angels who gave witness;
the cloths, too, which once covered head and limbs.
Christ my hope had indeed arisen.
He will go before his own into Galilee.'”

He is risen from the dead, the witnesses say. He died and he rose again. Believe in him, follow him, they tell us. He lives and promises life to those who follow him. He is God’s Son, believe in him.




Something Strange is Happening

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Friday Thoughts: A Day Among The Stones

christ on the cross murillo 1660-70

Murillo, “Christ on the Cross”, (1660-70) (detail)


some were stones

others rocks

the difference

i’m not quite sure

though both are heavy


so many distinctions

almost all

humanly made

yet not even

a single

grain of sand

is created by man


perhaps then

stones are former rocks

those chosen to enforce

worldly power

perhaps they’re earthly kingdoms

established by men

men possessing

such domain

perhaps they’re the ones

reigning down

upon those brought low

upon those dragged

outside the walls

hauled off to a yard

to be stoned


yet both

both stone, and rock

seem to get along

as long as they’re simply left alone

call to mind

that famous pile

that most famous pile of stone

the one upon which

we crucified our Rock


to some it’s golgotha

to others it’s calvary

to too many

it’s a giant farce

but oh those stones

oh they don’t lie

and all those rocks

they build up the church

o, those stones, o, those rocks

yes, both big and both small

they keep straight

the vertical beam

upon which is nailed

the weight of the cross


it’s You of course


who holds it all together

it’s You of course


who provides all the strength

who holds up Jesus

for the world to see

the entire world

as You hold

those wooden beams

that stretch

to the ends of the earth

much like You taught

good saint joseph

that just and upright man

to hold Your child Jesus


o good saint joseph

everyone’s patron saint

break your silence

tell us then

tell us of that day

the day your Jesus

was crucified

speak o strong man of stone

you who speak

thru so many silent statues

chiseled to show forth

the birth of our salvation


for you saint joseph

are not only

the foster father

but also a stand-in

for the cross

for you are still there

you are still there to be seen

yes, saint joseph

you are at the crucifixion

playing a role

yes, Father God has taken over

but you joseph

are certainly present

for the crucifixion

is still a portrait

of the Holy Family


dear joseph

you reside in the wood

the scent of which

fills Jesus’ earthly suffering

it’s the scent of the workshop

the scent that Jesus breathed

His entire youth

especially when asleep

against your heart

good saint joseph

a just man

just home from work

your clothing covered in dust

the dust from the saw

cutting thru raw wood

it’s in this sense

that you joseph are present

in the sights and sounds

of the first domestic church


the clanging of hammer against nail

driven thru His hands and feet

Jesus thinks of joseph

the joy of work well done

the importance of finishing well

while all the while

the hard unrelenting

stone below

kisses His mother’s knees

consoling Jesus

reminding Him

and all of us

of the stability

of a truly godly home…


What a day among the stones!



Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit…



—Howard Hain

Good Friday

Lent 1 Readings

We use the simplest signs on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter to  celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  On Holy Thursday Jesus knelt before his disciples and washed their feet–a sign he was a  servant, come to serve and not to be served. Then, he gave himself to them in bread and wine – signs of his love for us all.

On Good Friday we take another sign, the cross, a powerful sign of death, which Jesus carried to his crucifixion on Calvary. The cross struck fear into the hearts of Jesus’ disciples, but God turned it into a sign of life. After the Risen Jesus appeared to them, his disciples saw the cross in another way–as a sign of his victory over death.

Our liturgy today begins in silence, the only attitude to have before a mystery like this. “See my servant” God says through the Prophet Isaiah. “so marred was he in appearance…so shall he startle many nations and kings shall stand speechless before him…He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering accustomed to infirmity.” Yet he became our High Priest, the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us,  “able to sympathize with our weaknesses” and ” a source of salvation for all who obey him.”

The story of Jesus’ Passion from the the Gospel of John is read today. Like the other disciples, John followed Jesus from the Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem. There he stood on Calvary with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and watched him die. He recoiled before it then, but later after meeting the Lord risen from the dead, he saw signs of God’s power even in that grim story. His gospel carefully indicates the power of Jesus at work from his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, to his appearances before the Jewish leaders and Pontius Pilate, to his death on the cross. His power never fails, despite what it seems.   Jesus lays down his life on his own, no one takes it from him.

(See commentary on John’s Passion Narrative.)

Good Friday is a day of mercy, when graces flow from the wounds of Christ. We pray confidently this day when Christ became our High Priest  for the needs of our world and our own needs. We venerate the wood of the cross that bore his love to us. We take the signs of communion he gave us.

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

On this day we remember the Lord’s goodness and follow his steps. The Stations of the Cross are among the treasured devotions for this day.  Children can join  by  following the video  prepared from “Stations of the Cross for Children” by Lucille Perrotta Castro

Holy Thursday

Lent 1
“Love makes one little room an everywhere.” That’s what happened  when Jesus entered the supper room in Jerusalem the night before he died. A dark fate awaited him as powerful forces readied to take his life. His disciples, “his own who were in the world,” were arguing among themselves as they took their places at table. Jn 13,1-15

What would he do? Understandably, he might do nothing, disappointed  like the servant whom the prophet Isaiah described, “I toiled in vain; and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength…” (Is. 49).

Jesus, however, took bread and gave it to his disciples. “Take this,” he said, “this is my body.” He took the cup and gave it to them. “This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many.”

That night, without wariness or regret, he gave himself to his Father and to his disciples. As our Savior and Redeemer he gave himself unhesitatingly for the life of the world. In the supper room a love was tested and a love was displayed that reached everywhere.

Holy Thursday night. “Now is not the time to write, rather to weep. Jesus is dead to give us life. All creatures are mourning, the sun is darkened, the earth quakes, the rocks are rent, the veil of the temple is torn. Only my heart remains harder than flint. I will say no more. Join the poor mother of the dead Jesus as her companion. Ask the dear Magdalene and John where their hearts are. Let the sea of their pains flood within you. I end at the foot of the cross.” (St. Paul of the Cross,Letter 181)

How shall I make a return to the Lord
for the goodness he has shown to me.
The cup of salvation I will take up
and call on the name of the Lord. Ps 116

Wednesday of Holy Week

Lent 1

The gospels tell us little about the twelve disciples of Jesus. Peter is the best known;  Jesus gave him a special role and also lived in his house in Capernaum.

Then, there’s Judas. Matthew’s gospel has more information about him than any other New Testament source and so we read his gospel  on “Spy Wednesday,”  the day in Holy Week recalling  Judas’ offer  to hand Jesus over for thirty pieces of silver.(Matthew 26,14-25)

“Surely it is not I?” the disciples say one after the other when Jesus announces someone will betray him. And we say so too, as we watch Judas being pointed out. With Peter also we say we will not deny him. But the readings for these days caution us that there’s a communion of sinners as well as a communion of saints.

We are never far from the disciples who once sat at table with Jesus. We’re also sinful. We come as sinners to the Easter triduum, which begins Holy Thursday evening ends on Easter Sunday. We  hope for the mercy Jesus gave to those who left him the night before he died.

“We who wish to find the All, who is God, must cast ourselves into nothingness. God is “I AM; we are they who are not, for dig as deeply as we can, we will find nothing, nothing. And we who are sinners are worse than nothing.
“God, out of nothing created the visible and invisible world. The infinite Good, by drawing good from evil through justifying sinners, performs a greater work of omnipotence than if he were to create a thousand worlds more vast and beautiful than this one. For in justifying sinners, he draws them from sin, an abyss darker and deeper than nothingness itself.” (St. Paul of the Cross, Letter 248 )

O God, who willed your Son to submit for our sake

to the yoke of the Cross,

so that you might drive from us the power of the enemy,

grant us, your servants, to attain the grace of the resurrection.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

Tuesday of Holy Week

Lent 1
The gospels from Monday to Thursday in Holy Week take us away from the crowded temple area in Jerusalem where Jesus spoke before many of his avowed enemies. These days he eats at table with “his own.” In Bethany six days before Passover he eats with Martha , Mary and Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead. Mary anointed his feet with precious oil in a beautiful outpouring of her love.

The gospels for Tuesday and Wednesday bring us to the table in Jerusalem where he eats with the twelve who followed him. Love is poured out here too, but these gospels describe a love with great cost. “I tell you solemnly, one of you will betray me,” Jesus says to them. Friends that followed him abandon him. Judas dips his hand into the dish with him and then goes out into the night. Peter will deny him three times; the others flee. Jesus must face suffering and death alone.

Are we unlike them?

Does a troubled Jesus face us too, “his own,” to whom he gave new life in the waters of baptism and Bread at his table. Will we not betray or deny? Are we sure we will not go away? The gospels are not just about what’s past; they’re also about now.

We think the saints exaggerate when they call themselves great sinners, but they know the truth. That’s the way St. Paul of the Cross described himself in his account of his forty day retreat as a young man:

“I rejoiced that our great God should wish to use so great a sinner, and on the other hand, I knew not where to cast myself, knowing myself so wretched. Enough! I know I shall tell my beloved Jesus that all creatures shall sing of his mercies.” (Letter 2)

Almighty ever-living God,

grant us so to celebrate the mysteries of the Lord’s Passion

that we may merit to receive your pardon.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.


Thoughts Upon The Cross: The Joy of Holy Week

tintoretto_crucifixion-detail 1565

Tintoretto, “Crucifixion” (1565) (detail)



“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”—Luke 23:42



something strange happens each year

a few days before palm sunday

i’m in the garden

i drink the cup

i’m condemned to death

my clothes are stripped

pilate washes his hands


crowned with thorns


lifted high

hung to die




oh, what comes next!

the pierce

the pierce that releases

so much blood

blood stored up

since my heart was struck

a few days before


stabbed in the back

oh, what a strange next act!

taking down the body

oh, Lord, how is it done?

how do they remove those nails

so deeply driven

into wood



oh, what a mess the hands have become!

merely holes

then stretched by sinful weight

then, o Lord, ripped apart

ripped by the claw

of a carpenter’s hammer

but full of grace

she resides a few feet below

into Mary’s arms

bathed by tears

draped across her lap

oh, the joy of being cleansed

oh, the joy of being clothed in white

oh, the joy of entering the tomb

the inner room

the door closed tight

praying to the father

to Him in secret

He Who receives my spirit

Who rescues my soul

into Your hands

are placed shredded palms



oh, the joy that dear sunday

named after palm

that day my passion ends

that sunday I rise again

to become a child

one of many waving branches

“Hosanna in the highest!”

it is Yours, now, Lord Jesus

You take over from here

You invite Your disciples

Your children

Your little brothers

Your little sisters

to step aside

You ride into Jerusalem

upon an ass

You ride in

to show how it’s done

it’s Your Passion Jesus

oh, the joy that You are the Lord

that it is You, not me

the joy of Your pain

Your suffering

Your gift

oh, the joy Your Passion brings

to a wretch like me!


He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:43


—Howard Hain