Archive for April, 2011

Holy Week

Palm Sunday is our entrance into the holiest week of the year.  As a Church, we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with the multitudes of people going before Him and following after Him placing branches on the ground and shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.”

However, the Palm Sunday Triumph only led to His death on the cross on Good Friday.  But, we know that His death was not a failure, because it was through His passion and death that He conquered the world and entered into His Kingdom.

Sadly, Palm Sunday and Holy Week has become just another holiday week with a mostly secular attitude.  What used to be a week focusing on the suffering and death of Jesus to bring about the forgiveness of sins has largely become just another week of the year.  When we used to concentrate on the immense love of Christ by placing ourselves under extra penances and making sure our souls were right and filling the church on the high holy days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil; these have all but become something of a nostalgic memory.

We have gotten to the point where we say we believe in JC, acknowledge His love for us, and we say we love Him in return, but our outward display of these attitudes doesn’t reflect the same sentiments.  I’m sure many of you remember filling the church on Holy Thursday as we recalled the greatness of the gift of the Holy Eucharist as given to us by Jesus the night before He died at the Last Supper.  Then, on Good Friday, I bet there wasn’t a radio or TV heard in a Catholic household especially during the hours of 12-3 and people refrained from talking so as to think of the 3 hours of suffering as Jesus hung on the cross out of love for us.

I can remember people in the aisles of church on Good Friday in my own home parish and people would weep as the men of the parish carried the corpse of Christ on a bier around the church for veneration.  It’s time we return to these ideals as Catholics.  Place your palm branches some place where you can always see them, especially this week.

Let the palms remind you that Christ is the King of our families, that Christ is the King of our hearts, that Christ is the only true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in our lives.  And if we do proclaim Christ as our King, let us make time for Him in our daily lives, especially beginning this holiest of weeks.  Let this Holy Week be the reminder to us that He is the one with Whom we wish to spend eternity and let us show Him this by making Him the priority and primary concern of our lives.  This is the only way that we will ever find true peace and happiness in our confused and complex world.

** Due to time commitments, Father Grassi is unable to take blog comments at this time.  If anyone has a question of faith, please feel free to call Father Grassi at St. Thomas Catholic Church or speak to him after Mass.

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PASSION

If I were to ask you for your definition of passion, what would it be? An intense kiss, love, an extreme feeling for someone?

According to the Webster’s dictionary, Passion is defined as “1) orig., suffering or agony, as of a martyr. 2) the agony and sufferings of Jesus during the crucifixion or during the period following the Last Supper.”

It is an intense love, a love that Christ has for us.

Below is a video I found on youtube last year as I was preparing a message for Easter. It is called “Watch the Lamb.”

As you go through Good Friday, I hope you take time to stand in awe of the sacrifice that Christ made for us.

Now go to church on Easter Sunday, for it is a day of celebration. We have victory in Jesus, for He is not in the tomb, He is not dead, He is ALIVE!

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Now You Can Be Perfect

This is a short story written a young teen in my youth group, Taylor Ambrose. She wrote this for “Teen Talent”, a statewide talent competition for the Church of God. She won first place in the short story division.

Delicate, beautiful, simple, yet extraordinary, I am a rose. People admire my piercing red, but I still give a modulated feeling to those who will accept it. My petals are set up in a maze, weaving in and out o each other. Not very complex, but it does make you mesmerized by how something that came from the dirt could be so beautiful.

Beautiful, or so they think, because when you go down, down to my stem, you back away. Why will you back away? My stem is stout, sturdy, and strong. Through the wind, and the rain, it keeps me held up. They don’t think or see that. They see thorns. My thorns are sharp, despicable, grotesque things that hang on my stem no matter what.

A small girl and her mom approach me. “Mom, look how beautiful.” She bends down to pick me up. I feel disdainful because the little girl noticed me. But then her mother promptly snaps. “No, get away from there! Those contemptuous little thorns will hurt you!”

The mother grabbed the little girl’s wrist and made her leave, not leaving a sliver of time for objection. All alone in the grass I stand feeling melancholy. The crisp night comes then early morning rises. A small figure rises over the hillside. The closer it gets the more I recognize her. It’s the small girl from yesterday. I cannot understand why she would be here. Her hands come gently to my stem. She grabs a thorn, then she strips it from my stem. Blood trickles from her finger but she doesn’t hesitate to grab the next thorn. Thorns are leaving while more of her fingers are hurting. After the last thorn is gone she says quietly, “There now, you can be perfect.” Sensitive, exquisite, simple yet extraordinary, I am a human. My body works together in critical ways. My hands can make dumbfounding things. My feet can take me places. And my mouth can sing alluring notes. My complex mind is full of knowledge; it is astounding how much my mind can store. I am amazing.

Amazing, or so they think, because when you look deep, deep into my head you will see that I sinned, numerous times. Sometimes it feels like 1,000 pounds are weighing me down because of my sins.

I start to walk aimlessly around a room. I pick up a book that is on a stand. Small words, many pages, but I read a story. It tells about a man, he appeared to be just like you and I. But he could do amazing things. He gave people their sight back, legs back, and healing anyone that asked. One night, the man let guards take him away, beating him and torturing him. He was in pain, was dying, but he didn’t refuse anything being done to him. Carrying a cross up a steep hillside, crying out in agony, the man was barely holding on to life. Nails are driven through hands and feet to hang him on the cross. After being mocked, abused, and not repairable for humans, He prayed, then He died. They put Him in a tomb; people had lost all hope that they would see Him again. But after three days He arose from the tomb as good as new! Then He ascended into heaven and watches over us always. All of this was done for me so that my sins can go away. I am astonished to say anything, but I can hear Him saying to me now:

“There, now, you can be perfect!”

Taylor Ambrose is a 7th grade student at Tucker Valley.

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What are you on fire for?

On March 25th and 26th, we hosted Ignite. For those who don’t know what Ignite is, please go to my blog on Ignite.

It was a great weekend as teens from across the county came together. Above is a highlight video from the weekend. We stressed living our lives for Christ. We wanted create a desire for Jesus. It was a very emotional and fun weekend. We had speakers and a praise band. We played games like the Hillbilly Olympics and Minute to Win it. We had a LOT of great food to eat.

The services were very inspiring, challenging kids to examine their lives. It was amazing seeing their testimonies on facebook when I got home. Some of the kids were quoting song lyrics while others were saying it was life changing. The response was so overwhelming that we are talking about doing Ignite twice a year.

There are a lot of things in the world competing for our attention. The question is which one are we going to devote our lives to? What are we on fire for? Hopefully, we can point kids to the one that has a desire for them and in return create a desire for Him.

“As for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15b

For more pictures from Ignite, go to my facebook page or the ECHOS Youth Group facebook page.

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Who’s The Real Blind Man

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is known as “Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday,” which expresses the Church’s joy in anticipation of the Resurrection.  Today’s readings remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body and soul, and they instruct us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness.

Michael Yaconeli wrote a book entitled God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People. In the book he tells the story of a man recently converted to Jesus and how an unbelieving friend sought to “see” why he converted to Jesus:

“So you have been converted to Christ?”

“Yes.”

“Then you must know a great deal about Him.  Tell me, what country was He born in?”

“I don’t know.”

“What was His age when He died?”

“I don’t know.”

“How many sermons did He preach?”

“I don’t know.”

“You certainly know very little for a man who claims to be converted to Christ.”

“You are right.  I am ashamed at how little I know about Him.  But this much I know:  Three years ago I was a drunkard.  I was in debt.  My family was falling to pieces; they dreaded the sight of me.  But now I have given up drink.  We are out of debt.  Ours is a happy home.  My children eagerly await my return home each evening.  All this Christ has done for me.”

Does it not sound like the answers given by the blind man healed by Jesus? (Jn 9:1-41)  It’s like watching Law and Order except no one wants to see the facts of the case.

They question the blind man:  “How were your eyes opened?”

He says:  “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’  So I went there and washed and was able to see.”

Then they take the blind man to the Pharisees for questioning.  He tells the same story:  “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”

But because Jesus performed this cure on the Sabbath, the Pharisees don’t want to believe this “Jesus” is from God so they ask the man born blind:  “What do you have to say about Him?”

To which he responds:  “He is a prophet.”  So now the Jews don’t believe that the man was BORN blind so they call in his parents.  They say:  “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.  We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes.  Ask him, he is of age, he can speak for himself.”

Still not satisfied, they call the blind man in again.  Now he says in reference to Jesus:  “If He is a sinner, I do not know.  One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”  Then in utter frustration the man says:  “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where He is from, yet He opened my eyes.”

Today, I think he would say something like this:  “Come on guys, this is a no brainer!  I was blind from birth, this guy slaps some mud on my eyes and tells me wash it off in the pool of Siloam, and now I see.  Hello!!  Am I the only one who can see?”

To which I respond:  “YES!  You are the only one who can see!”

The Gospel is really very simple and clear.  Jesus is the light of the world.  He anointed the guy’s eyes; tells him to wash; the guy does it and sees and believes.  His story is really our story.  We may not know the answers, but this we do know.  We do see and we do believe in Jesus, the Light of the world.  And in our faith, we worship Him.  However, just because we believe in Jesus, we are not always free of blindness.  We have to struggle to see sometimes.

The real beauty of the man born blind is that the more they badgered him, the less he was blind.  We cannot be like the Pharisees and take up a refusal to see position.  Lent is such a wonderful time for us to recover from blindness.  We can easily lose our vision in our selfish choices or in our grudges, or in any number of other ways.  How about if we are always hanging around people that are cussing and telling dirty jokes?  All of a sudden we become blind to the sin and start doing it ourselves.

How about when we get so caught up in the TV or even a video game, that we are blind to the help that someone else in the room could use.  How about when we are constantly talking to someone who loves to talk about others and we become blind to this sin and start talking about others also.  The point is, the more we put ourselves in the occasion of sin, the more we become blind to the sin.  The more we dwell on anger and hatred, the more we are blind to forgiveness and love.  The real blind man is the one who can no longer see the truth and tries to justify himself and his lies.

On this Laetare Sunday, make the decision to be healed of your blindness by allowing Jesus to anoint your eyes with the grace of a good and thorough confession and then you can wash in the pool of truth and make the deliberate choice to avoid the occasions of sin that will lead you back into the blindness and darkness of being away from Christ.

** Due to time commitments, Father Grassi is unable to take blog comments at this time.  If anyone has a question of faith, please feel free to call Father Grassi at St. Thomas Catholic Church or speak to him after Mass.

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Taking Our Thoughts Captive

Christians are those who, in spite of denomination or church affiliation, have been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.  But this does not mean that the followers of Christ somehow become immune to the struggles and sorrows of this world.  We live in the same world as unbelievers; we still get sick; we still face temptations; we still sin; we still have fleshly desires; we still experience sadness; we still have days that are anything but joyful.  These things, and others like them, are common to all men and women.

Consider also issues such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, marriage, evolutionary theory, creation, raising children, heaven, hell and the list goes on.  I mention these items because our culture has many thoughts and theories concerning them. We, as Christians, are very much a part of the discussion on these things on the social level as well as the spiritual. Whether we realize it or not, our thoughts concerning these issues are affected by the world around us.  Whether it’s listening to the talk shows on TV or the radio, reading magazines, watching Sitcoms or movies, reading blogs, reading books, or reading what everyone is thinking and doing on Facebook; the result, potentially, is a slow compromise with the world.

I say “potentially” because if we are not evaluating everything through the lens of Scripture, then our thinking gets out of line.  We begin to see the world through the lens of the unregenerate.  If we are not allowing God to speak to us through His Word on a regular basis, then we will not be able to deal correctly with the trials, tribulations and issues of life. It is very possible that we will end up thinking, acting and reacting just like the world, instead of followers of Jesus Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 10, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are even to take our thoughts captive to obey Christ. In other words, we must even evaluate our own thoughts based on what God says because as sinners we can deceive ourselves into believing that we are thinking rightly, when just the opposite may be true.

God’s Word, the Bible, is the only thing in this world that does not change – everything else does, even our thoughts. So we must rely exclusively on God’s Word to lead us through this evil and dangerous world.

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