Posts Tagged Jesus

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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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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What if?

The great “what ifs”, there are so many of them. “What if” is used to inspire writers. “What if” is often used to get us to think. There are websites and blogs that are dedicated to just looking as the “what ifs” of the world. Some of them are very interesting.

What if money grew on trees? If that were true, there would be a lot of us climbing trees. And what would we tell our children when they come asking for money, since we couldn’t give them the old, “Do think money grows on trees?”

Another one I like a lot is, “What if the world was flat?” Well if that were true our friend Christopher Columbus in 1492, would have been looking for a reverse in that boat of his when he reached the edge.

And my favorite is what if we could change the world? (We’ll come back to this one later).

What if, can make us think, and despite what my wife may say, I do think, well at least sometimes I do.

Recently I was reading in the Book of John the 20th chapter…

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.

Did you notice that last sentence? “Then they went home.” What if they would have stayed at home? What if they had never told others about Jesus, his teachings, his sacrifice, his resurrection? If they had stayed home, we wouldn’t have the New Testament, because no one would have known about Jesus.

But they didn’t stay home, later in that same chapter we read that Mary told the other disciples. And then they told others. They told the world about Jesus and his teachings, they told the world that Jesus died on a cross for everyone, and that he arose and lives. Then it was written down for everyone in what we call the “Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Now the “what if” we need to think about is, what if we stay home and don’t tell anyone? Just like Mary, Peter, and John many of us know about Jesus, his teachings, the crucifixion, the resurrection. But are we taking what we know and staying at home?

There are a lot of hurting people in our world, there are a lot of people that need to know Jesus, and they need to know that he lives. What if we told them? What if we convinced them of the truth, that Jesus loves them and wants a relationship with them?

What if we did that? Remember that question that I said we would come back to, “What if we could change the world?”

If we would tell the world about Jesus, we wouldn’t have to ask the question, “what if we could change the world?”

We would change the world.

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Where is your hope

Hope can be defined as: to expect with confidence a feeling that what one desires will happen. The question today is what or whom do you place your hope or confidence in? Is it the stock market, job security, government or variety of others things that we think will save us or give us a sense of security. Everyday it seems we are inundated with news from around the world and in our own country of pending doom, chaos and unrest that could rock us to our core. Many are losing jobs and the cost of living is increasing at an alarming rate giving us a sense of hopelessness.

The Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; He never changes! He is a rock you can stand on, the one who can calm you in the storm, and can still your heart when fears, doubt, and uncertainty overwhelm you. What a comfort in these troublesome times! But I’m here to tell you, my friend, that there is no one else whom you can place your complete faith, hope and trust in.

Join me today in placing your faith in the One who can give you security and hope for the future. I placed my life my faith in Jesus many years ago and He has never failed me.

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No Such Thing as a Powdered Christian!

The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance.

Biologists call it metamorphosis to describe such changes as when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly; the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly.

Fr. Anthony DeMello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man.  “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change the world.’  As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to:  ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’  Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been.  My one prayer now is:  ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’  If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.”

Now, this is the kind of transformation or metamorphosis that we are invited to during Lent.  With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can transform our lives by renewing them during Lent, and to radiate the grace of the transfigured Lord around us by our Spirit-filled lives.  The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain reminds us that the way of the cross leads to resurrection and eternal life, and that the purpose of Lent is to help us to enter into those mysteries.

To have this reading of the transfiguration of Jesus on this second Sunday of Lent makes me think of the four last things:  Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgment. The transfiguration of Jesus is like the sneak preview that we get at the movies.  It’s the preview of what Heaven really will be like and we can tell from the response of the 3 apostles that it left them speechless.  Peter didn’t want to leave; he wanted to build three tents so that they could just stay there and remain in the moment with Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  But, they are quickly reminded that they must come down off the mountain and live life with all of its suffering and trials and temptations.  On this second Sunday of Lent, those 4 last things are a good reality check for us to climb the holy mountain of the Lord.  It’s like what the old man recognized at the twilight of his life when he realized that his days were numbered and found that his one prayer was:  “Lord, give me the grace to change myself,” so that he doesn’t waste the limited time that he has left.

The 4 last things and the transfiguration have a lot in common in this sense.  What is death?  The separation of the soul from the body.  Why does this matter?  Because of Jesus.  He is all that matters when we die.  While we are on earth, food and the opposite sex and bill collectors and the plumbing leak in the basement matter a lot.  When we die, there is only One Who matters:  JC our savior.

Did you die in sanctifying grace, (i.e. no mortal sins) obeying God’s commandments, and living in charity?  The point is that it’s not the case that we accept Christ once and then we are forever saved; once saved, always saved!  NO!  Our salvation is dependent upon our obedience to Jesus Christ.  We can easily fall out of grace – it only takes one mortal sin to do that!  Spending one’s life trying to have fun, seeking pleasure, and ignoring the commandments of God makes death a very unpleasant thought.  However, a devout Catholic living in the state of grace, without a habit of committing mortal sin, uses the thought of death and judgment to keep himself in check and to continue to transform his life for the better in preparation for Heaven and further distance himself from hell.

That’s what the transfiguration of Jesus is all about.  It is that glimpse of what we all want our eternity to be.  The problem is that we live in a society that wants instant satisfaction.  You may remember the comedian Yakov Smirnoff describing his arrival in the US from Russia and his lack of preparation for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores.  He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk; you just add water, and you get milk.  Then I saw powdered orange juice; you just add water, and you get orange juice.  And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to my self, ‘What a country!’”  Smirnoff was joking, but we make these assumptions about Christian transformation – that people change instantly at salvation.  But, we as Catholics call it transformation through repentance and renewal of life, deriving strength through the word of God and the sacraments.

We need to be thinking about the consequences of our actions in this life.  We need to recognize that we will be judged and there will be eternity in Heaven or in Hell depending on that judgment.  Thankfully, there is purgatory to clear out the things that slip between the cracks so that we can eventually get to Heaven.

What better time than Lent for us to really ponder these things so that we can seek the mercy of God, especially through confession to begin the transformation that we need to get us to Heaven.  There is no such thing as a Powdered Christian. A true disciple of Christ is not born by adding water to Christian powder.  There is no such powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born.  They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations.  So, on this second Sunday of Lent, start working on being a first rate version of yourself and pray the one prayer that mattered to the old man in the story:  “Lord, give me the grace to change myself.”

** 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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