Divine Mercy Sunday

Today the Church celebrates the second Sunday of Easter which, since 2000, is also Divine Mercy Sunday. The following are excerpts from the divinemercysunday.com which explain today’s feast. My door for Confession is open 24/7.

May you know the peace of the risen Christ,

Fr Greg

The Feast of Divine Mercy

“Despite evil’s attempts at discrediting Catholic Priests, many fallen-away Catholics will soon be returning to the practice of their faith. The reason: the Church’s new feast on the Sunday after Easter. What new feast you might say? It is the “Feast of Divine Mercy”. The Catholic Church has been celebrating this feast ever since the Vatican had made it official on April 30th in the Jubilee year 2000. Why would every Catholic want to come back, you might ask? It is the promise that Jesus Himself made for a complete forgiveness of sins and punishment on that day, even to the most terrible sinner imaginable. God in His great mercy is giving mankind a last chance for salvation.

When did Jesus make this promise and how does one get it? Jesus left all the details in a diary that He commanded Saint Faustina to write in the 1930’s. It was her job to record everything that He wanted mankind to know about His mercy before He returns to judge the world. To get this great promise one has to go to Confession and then receive Holy Communion on that Feast of Divine Mercy, which has now been called Divine Mercy Sunday throughout the whole Church. Jesus said, “Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Diary, 300) To receive Communion worthily one should be in the state of grace and without serious sin…

He meets us in the confessional

In Saint Faustina’s diary, she recorded that Jesus also indicated that He Himself is there in the confessional. He told her, “When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity.” (1602) Jesus knew that people would need to hear these words today, so He went on to say “Come with faith to the feet of My representative…and make your confession before Me. The person of the priest is, for Me, only a screen. Never analyze what sort of a priest that I am making use of; open your soul in confession as you would to Me, and I will fill it with My light.” (1725) “Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.” (1602)

Many feel that their sins are unforgivable but, Jesus said, “Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. In the Tribunal of Mercy (the sacrament of Confession) …the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated.” (1448) “Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.” (1602)

Every sin imaginable could be forgiven by Him!

On the evening of His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His Apostles and the first thing that He did was to give them the power to forgive sins (John 20:19-31). This is done through the power of the Holy Spirit. For sure it was not the Lord’s intention just for the Apostles to forgive sins but rather for that power to be passed down through the Holy Spirit to the priests of today. That is why Confession is so much of an uplifting experience; we are actually receiving heavenly graces and the forgiveness of sins from the Lord Himself!…

Remember these words of Jesus

I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all soul and especially poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (699) “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity…tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.” (965) Wake up people of the World, and repent of your sins, this just might be our last hope of salvation!”

Have mercy on us and on the whole world

Divine Mercy Sunday

Street Evangelization
Sola Scriptura?

Priesthood
Jn 20/20
JC’s ministry to each generation
Those who have seen + unseen

Mercy in modern world
Chaplet of divine mercy

The Resurrection of the Lord

On behalf of our entire staff at Assumption, I wish you and your family a blessed Easter! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Parish Launches Street Evangelization

Recently, we embarked on our maiden voyage into the waters of street evangelization. It was an exciting and fruitful two hours that we spent at Congress Heights metro station, talking with people about faith and distributing materials like rosaries and miraculous medals. We personally invited over fifty people to our church especially for Holy Week liturgies. It was all good!

Unbelievers

Well, maybe not all good. One man told me he was a Methodist, but didn’t celebrate Easter because he didn’t believe in the Resurrection. He stated that “thousands of people saw Jesus die but only three saw him rise. That should tell you something.” I tried to tell him that that number rose to 12 and then 500 as Scripture says. It has grown to millions and billions in the past two thousand years. He gave some other reasons why he doesn’t believe, but they were given in anger and profanity. It seemed that his problem was more personal than spiritual actually.

What would you say?

Nevertheless, if you were evangelizing (sharing the Good News) with someone on the street, how would you reply if they said they didn’t believe in the Resurrection? You can give the traditional points of evidence from Scripture – empty tomb, burial cloths and garments, belief and witness of the Apostles and disciples. I told the man that the witness of the Apostles is huge. All but one of the eleven gave their lives because they believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and died as martyrs for the faith.

Tell your story

But really, the best way to evangelize is through personal experience. If I had had more time with the man, I would have talked about knowing the risen Christ, and having a relationship with him today. If we speak again, I will tell him about all of the evidence at Assumption that Christ is risen.

First and foremost, it would be the joy of our parishioners. You all believe that Christ is risen, that life triumphs over death, that we all have the hope of eternal life, and you show it! Your joy would quickly melt away any sadness or anger of his or others.

It all starts at Mass

There are so many more ways that our parish shows its faith in the Resurrection. As with everything, this starts at Mass. We kneel before the risen Christ in the Eucharist and whisper the words of St Thomas, “my Lord and my God” (btw, Mass attendance is up). Think specifically about healing Masses, though. You come forward to receive blessings for healing with the faith that Christ will bring healing to your wounds, peace to your burdens, and joy to your sadness. It’s really the faith that Christ has power over all things; if he can overcome death, he can overcome anything in your life!

One visit to the Pope Francis Outreach Center reveals the faith in the risen Christ of this parish. You firmly believe that Christ lives in the poor (cf. Mt 25), and you feed him accordingly. This and so many other aspects of your witness to the Resurrection are greatly in sync with what Pope Francis has said:

“The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.”

May we experience the triumphs of our risen Lord and be a witness of them to others, and

May you know the peace of the risen Christ,

Fr Greg

Cry Out to God About Your Own Cross

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus is true God and true man. We believe in His divinity and see his humanity from the moment of his birth. But, the events of Holy Week show us that He is fully human. The two ―words‖ (phrases) above express this as much as anything.

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me”

Have you ever prayed, ‗God, I don‘t want to do this. This is too much for me‘? We all have prayed those or similar words to our Lord in relation to a situation that seemed to be too hard to bear. We might consider it crying: ―O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you‖ (Psalm 102). It‘s a very human act to ―cry‖ in the midst of unbearable suffering. Jesus unites with us in crying out to His Father in the midst of His agony in the garden. He also shows us it‘s okay to do this!

Recently, I was with couples who have struggled to conceive children. Infertility, miscarriages or troubled pregnancies are enormous cross for couples. While they went into marriage beautifully open to God‘s Will, they didn‘t want this. So, I pointed them to this word of the Lord in the garden. In his human nature, He is saying to the Father that He didn‘t want the cup of suffering that awaited him the next day. It was too much for Him. Three times He expressed His will. But, then three times, He said, ―not as I will, but as you will‖. The Lord goes to the depth of human

cries or complaints or commiserations in the midst of enormous suffering to unite with us, and to raise us up to accept it and do the Father‘s Will.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

How in the world does Jesus feel forsaken or abandoned by God? He is one with the Father from all eternity. We convey this every time we say “consubstantial with the Father‖ in the Creed. In his divine nature, then, it is not possible for Him to be separated from the Father. And, He says in John‘s Gospel, ―The Father has not left me alone. This speaks to His human nature because He is referring to His life on earth. So, we know in truth that Jesus is not forsaken or abandoned or left alone by God both in His human and divine natures.

Have you ever felt forsaken by God? We have all prayed this prayer of the Lord (and also Psalm 22). At different times in our lives, we might simply feel that God has forgotten about us. It’s like when children feel that their parents give more attention and love to their siblings. It might be an immature feeling, but it’s a real feeling nonetheless. Many people have the spiritually immature but real feeling that in some way God has forsaken them. It’s not true, but it feels true to them.

It was not true that God was forsaking Jesus. But, it was true that Jesus felt that way. The Father allowed Him to feel it in order to be fully human. Christ unites with everyone who has felt abandoned or lonely or rejected or despairing. St Teresa of Calcutta taught that these are the greatest human pains; Jesus experienced all of them.

Through these two words or cries of the Lord, Jesus unites fully with our nature and experience. And, He is saying that it’s OKAY to cry out to God about your cross or to ask where He is in the midst of it all.

May you know the peace of Christ this Holy Week,

Fr Greg

Why do Catholics do that? Part 2

Starting with last week‟s notes on Baptism, here is some more Q & A, this time on Confession. Let‟s call this series, “Why do Catholics do that?”. As we heard on Ash Wednesday, we should move away from sin during Lent. Every one of us should go to Confession during Lent to turn away from sin, receive God‟s mercy and grace, and experience true repentance. Be not afraid!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Is Confession only about sin? No, it’s primarily about God’s infinite mercy.

The woman caught in adultery: “has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go away, and from this moment sin no more” – Jn 8: 11

Parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15)

I thought only God forgives sins. How can the priest forgive sins?

Jesus has the power to forgive sins. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” – Mt 28:18

Jesus gives the power of forgiving sins to the Apostles (aka the first priests)

“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” – Jn 20:21-23

God reconciled us to himself through Christ and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 1 Cor 5: 18

Why do I need to confess my sins to a priest? Why can’t I just confess to God privately?

We can be forgiven of venial sins outside of Confession (the Penitential Rite at Mass, Eucharist, sincere Act of Contrition, e.g.). But, forgiveness of mortal sins is reserved for Confession. “There is sin that leads to death.” (1 Jn 5:16). Mortal sins kill our relationship with God and take us out of the state of His grace, which we need to be in order to get to Heaven.

If we are in a state of mortal sin at the hour of our death, we will go to Hell (Catechism of Catholic Church, # 1861). So, Confession restores us to a state of grace, and keeps us out of Hell.

Catholics see that they need a priest with other sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, etc.) and that we can‟t get Sanctifying Grace on our own. So….WHY ARE WE DIFFERENT WITH CONFESSION?

I’m afraid to go to Confession.

If you feel this way, then remember there is always a way.

“It’s been many years.”

  •      Welcome back!

“I forgot how to confess.”

  •      The priest will walk you through it.

“The priest will judge me.”

  •      He goes to Confession, too.

“The priest will tell others my sins.”

  •      He has the “Seal of Confession‟ and can tell no one anything.

“I will forget some sins.”

  •      You’re still forgiven for them.

“I wouldn’t know where to start with my sins.”

  •      Review the Ten Commandments and Seven Deadly Sins

Keep in mind:

  • It is Christ in the Confessional; in persona Christi —whoever hears you, hears me” (Lk 10:16)
  • We hear and know we are forgiven –“I absolve you in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit”
  • Christ’s grace in Confession heals us and gives us the strength to overcome future sins (St Teresa of Calcutta, St John Paul II)
  • The priest can give us advice on how to avoid the sins in the future
  • Confessing on the lips = shows true contrition –as when I sin against a friend; I need to go face to face to reconcile

How do I make a good Confession?

  1. Examination of conscience via Guide to Confession (located in church vestibule)
  2. Act of Contrition
  3. Confession
  4. Do your penance

How often should I go?

  • At least once a year (required)
  • Whenever in mortal sin or think you may be (before Holy Communion)
  • Once a month
    • Recommended by St Teresa of Calcutta and St John Paul II
    • will grow in grace and holiness
    • frequent Confession helps us to “forgive those who trespass against us‟ so that we will be forgiven
    • see our sins as they are (gossip, e.g.) and see ourselves as we are: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Do Not Tell the Vision

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, ‟Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17:9). Why does Jesus command them not to tell anyone about the incredible event they just witnessed in the Transfiguration until after the Resurrection? We hear this a few times in the Gospels, but usually it’s related to a healing or miracle. This one is different because he invokes the Resurrection. First, how hard must it have been for Peter, James, and John to keep the Transfiguration to themselves! Second, were they asking themselves, “what is he talking about being raised from the dead?‟

Setting Up Their Faith

The main reason that Jesus commands them to keep this glorious vision of the Transfiguration a secret until after the Resurrection was so that people would believe in Jesus for the long haul. If people believed in Jesus prior to His passion and death, then their faith might have been destroyed. In other words, they would have been so distraught with the Crucifixion that they would not have been around for the Resurrection. The Cross would have been too much for them to remain as a believer in the person of Jesus Christ. He would have appeared too weak to be the Son of God. The mockery from others as a follower of His would have been too overwhelming to endure. Just witnessing the brutality of His passion and death would have been a visual from which they couldn’t come back.

The Greatest Sign of His Divinity

This happened to the Apostles. They were there for the events that revealed his divinity – the Transfiguration, miracles, healings, exorcisms, etc. They spent three intimate years with Him, and believed firmly that He is the Son of God. And yet, where were they during His passion and death? All of them except for one (John) were gone. They couldn’t endure it. We see women at the foot of the Cross….where were all the men? Even Jesus’s closest followers were so blown away by His suffering that they left Him. Three days later when the greatest sign of His divinity occurs which is the Resurrection, again it’s the women who are there and the men are not (if that was a “day without women” we’d all be in real trouble!). The women even have to convince the Apostles that He is risen! So, the Lord knew that human nature being what it is, it was better to keep his divinity as much a secret as possible until it was fully revealed.

The reality of this “secret” still plays out today in at least two ways. First, people are still bothered by the Cross…overwhelmed by it, really. Some are bothered by the Cross of Christ to the point that they don’t believe. Many are so turned off by their own cross that they stop believing. How many people have we known that went through a tragic death or bitter divorce or abuse and stopped coming to Church? I think it’s because of events like these that people have insulated themselves from as much suffering as possible. People avoid the Cross at all costs.

Not Everyone is Ready to Hear

The second part of this “secret” is helpful today. Sometimes the virtue of prudence calls for silence or a secret, as it did at the Transfiguration. “Not everyone is ready to hear the truth all the time” was a line from one of my seminary professors. Parents use this technique with their little kids who are too young to hear certain things. I often advise parents of older kids (who are adults) who have stopped attending Mass to go silent about it for a while. If you have given them the teaching that they need to keep holy the Sabbath and receive the Eucharist at Mass, then they know where you stand. It might be better to stop harping on it. It might be more fruitful long-term in terms of their relationship with you and their faith. This takes us back to the reason that Jesus ordered the secret. God sees long-term with us, and calls us to have the same “spiritual maturity.”

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Seven Sins That Kill the Life of Sanctifying Grace

During one of our parish’s Bible studies last week, we discussed sin as one of the themes of today’s readings. Someone raised the question about how to examine your conscience in preparing for Confession. People suggested the Ten Commandments which is correct and used for most guides to Confession (like the one we have in the vestibule of the church). I offered the seven deadly sins as an additional way to examine your conscience – which we shouldn’t just do for Confession but every night as well.

So, as the Church begins the season of Lent in order to repent and move away from sin, here is a list and explanation of the seven deadly sins, as well as the corresponding virtue of each (dummies.com).

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

The Seven Deadly Sins

The Catholic Church maintains that seven vices in particular lead to breaking one or more of the Ten Commandments. These particular bad habits are called the seven deadly sins because, according to Catholicism, they’re mortal sins — sins that kill the life of sanctifying grace.

Pope Gregory the Great made up the list in the 6th century, and in the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer popularized them in his Canterbury Tales.

Pride

The inordinate love of self – a super-confidence and high esteem in your own abilities also known as vanity. Pride fools you into thinking that you’re the source of your own greatness.

Liking yourself isn’t sinful. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary, but when the self-perception no longer conforms to reality, and you begin to think that you’re more important than you actually are, the sin of pride is rearing its ugly head.

Humility is the best remedy for pride. Catholicism regards humility as recognizing that talent is really a gift from God.

Envy 

Resenting another person’s good fortune or joy. Catholicism distinguishes between two kinds of envy:

  • Material envy is when you resent others who have more money, talent, strength, beauty, friends, and so on, than you do.
  • Spiritual envy is resenting others who progress in holiness, preferring that they stay at or below your level instead of being joyful and happy that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Spiritual envy is far worse and more evil than material envy.

The Church maintains that meekness or kindness can counter envy.

Lust 

Looking at, imagining, and treating others as mere sex objects to serve your own physical pleasures, rather than as individuals made in the image and likeness of God.

Chastity, the virtue that moderates sexual desire, is the best remedy for lust. Chastity falls under temperance and can help to keep physical pleasure in moderation.

Anger 

The sudden outburst of emotion — namely hostility — and thoughts about the desire for revenge. You have no control over what angers you, but you do have control over what you do after you become angry…

Patience, the virtue that allows you to adapt and endure evil without harboring any destructive feelings, is the best countermeasure for anger.

Gluttony 

Choosing to over-consume food or alcohol. Enjoying a delightful dinner isn’t sinful, but intentionally overeating to the point where you literally get sick to your stomach is. So, too, having an alcoholic beverage now and then (provided that you don’t suffer from alcoholism) is not sinful in the eyes of the Church. But drinking to the point of drunkenness is.

Legitimate eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, aren’t gluttony. They’re medical conditions that require treatment and care. Gluttony is voluntary and merely requires self-control and moderation.

Periodic fasting, restricting the amount of food you eat, and abstinence, avoiding meat or some favorite food, are the best defenses against gluttony. (Temperance)

Greed

The inordinate love of and desire for earthly possessions. Amassing a fortune and trying to accumulate the most stuff is greed, sometimes called avarice. Next to anger, envy, and lust, more crimes have been committed due to greed than any other deadly sin.

Generosity is the best weapon against greed. Freely giving some of your possessions away, especially to those less fortunate, is considered the perfect antithesis to greed and avarice.

Sloth 

(sometimes called acedia) is laziness — particularly when it concerns prayer and spiritual life. Sloth is always wanting to rest and relax, with no desire or intention of making a sacrifice or doing something for others. It’s an aversion to work — physical, mental, and spiritual.

Spiritual laziness can only be overcome by practicing the virtue of diligence, which is the habit of keeping focused and paying attention to the work at hand — be it the work of employment or the work of God.

Enter the Lenten season with resolve

Lent is just about here! (Gulp). While we might dread the idea of penance or sacrifice, we know that it’s all about (or should be about) love. Love means sacrifice, and over the next forty days we try to unite in small ways to the loving sacrifice Jesus made for us. Here is a beautiful reflection on the season of Lent from Bishop Robert Barron (wordonfire.org) and points of focus for the first few days. May this season be one of holiness and love for you and your family.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

“As we begin this Lenten season tomorrow (Ash Wednesday), let’s enter the desert the way a marathoner enters into his training, or a professor into her research, or a businessperson into a challenging project: with a joyful and excited resolve. In the desert, we’ll meet a God who is love, through and through. Let us spend these holy days responding to the delights and demands of that love.

Day One

Over the next forty-seven days, resolve to perform a particular and sustained act of love.

Make several visits to your relative in the nursing home. Converse regularly with a lonely person on your block. Tutor and befriend a kid who might be in danger of losing his way. Repair a broken friendship. Bring together bickering factions at your place of work. Make a number of financial contributions to a worthy organization that needs help.

Numerous spiritual masters have witnessed to something odd: belief in God is confirmed and strengthened not so much from intellectual effort as from moral action.

The Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross said that in the evening of life we shall be judged according to our love. In Matthew 25, the nature of love is specified. It is not primarily a feeling, an attitude, or a conviction but rather a concrete act on behalf of those in need—the hungry, the homeless, the lonely, the imprisoned, the forgotten. It is the bearing of another’s burden.

When a man asked the English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins what he must do in order to believe, Hopkins replied, ―Give alms.

As you love through tangible acts, you will come to believe more deeply and to enter more fully into friendship with God.

Day Two

Something I have noticed over the years is that the holiest people in our tradition are those who are most aware of their sinfulness. Whether it is Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, or Mother Teresa, the saints are those who are convinced of their inadequacy.

When Isaiah encounters the Lord he says, ―I am a man of unclean lips!‖ When Peter is in the presence of the Messiah he says, ―Lord, leave me, for I am a sinful man.‖ G.K. Chesterton once said, ―A saint only means a man who really knows that he is a sinner.‖ …

At least part of being a saint is knowing you’re a sinner.

Day Three

There is a regrettable interpretation of the cross that has, unfortunately, infected the minds of many Christians. This is the view that the bloody sacrifice of the Son on the cross was ―satisfying‖ to the Father, and was given for the appeasement of a God infinitely angry at sinful humanity. In this reading, the crucified Jesus is like a child hurled into the fiery mouth of a pagan divinity in order to assuage its wrath.

But what ultimately refutes this twisted theology is the well-known passage from John’s Gospel: ―God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that all who believe in him might have eternal life.‖ John reveals that it is not out of anger or vengeance or in a desire for retribution that the Father sends the Son, but precisely out of love. God the Father is not some pathetic divinity whose bruised personal honor needs to be restored; rather God is a parent who burns with compassion for his children who have wandered into danger.

Does the Father hate sinners? No, but he hates sin. Does God harbor indignation at the unjust? No, but God despises injustice. Thus God sends his Son, not gleefully to see him suffer, but compassionately to set things right…

Jesus said that any disciple of his must be willing to take up his cross and follow the master. If God is self-forgetting love even to the point of death, then we must be such love. If God is willing to break open his own heart, then we must be willing to break open our hearts for others. The cross, in short, must become the very structure of the Christian life.

Why do Catholics do that?

Recently, I reviewed guidelines with some of our liturgical ministers (lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, and ushers) and instituted a few new ones. It’s good for all of us to be aware of what the liturgy is and why we do what we do during Holy Mass. Here are some of the basic aspects of our liturgy. We might call this the first installment of “Why do Catholics do that?”

Holy Water

Before entering the House of God, we dip our finger(s) into holy water and make the sign of the cross. We do this to be blessed and purified, remind ourselves of our Baptism, and make the sign of our salvation. Some people will do this with two fingers to represent the two natures of Christ (human and divine).

Penitential Rite

We begin Holy Mass with the Penitential Rite (“I confess”, “Lord have mercy”, etc.) to place ourselves in God’s presence and ask for His mercy. It is an immediate sign of humility at the throne of His Majesty: we are sinners in need of forgiveness. If it is filled with true repentance, this Rite brings forgiveness of venial sins. However, forgiveness of mortal sins is still reserved for the Sacrament of Penance (Confession).

Kneeling, sitting, standing

What’s with all of the different postures during Mass? Each has a particular significance and meaning. Kneeling is the most reverent posture and is done during the Eucharistic Prayer and Holy Communion. We are adoring the Lord and paying homage to the Real Presence! Standing is the second-most reverent position and is done during the prayers, Gospel, and Creed. We stand during the Gospel, for example, because we believe that Jesus is speaking directly to us (hence we say after the proclamation of the Gospel, “praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”). Sitting is the most relaxed posture and it signifies that we are receiving the Word of God during the readings and reflecting on it after.

Before the Gospel

We make the sign of the cross before the Gospel is proclaimed on our foreheads, lips, and hearts. We do this to signify the importance of having the Gospel on our minds and hearts and speaking it in our lives.

Arriving late?

Each congregant should be in place at least a few minutes before Mass to pray and prepare for Holy Mass. If you arrive during one of the readings, ushers will hold you in place until after the reading is proclaimed out of respect for the Word of God. If you arrive after the Gospel, then you need to find another Mass in order to fulfill the Sunday obligation. (We need to be present for both parts of the Mass: Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist).

Leaving early?

Please remember that Judas left the first Mass early.

Bathroom breaks?

When it comes to this, adults and children should prepare for Mass the same way they prepare for a long car ride: go to the bathroom before you leave home. We can all give God one straight hour! No one should leave their pew during the Eucharistic Prayer or Holy Communion especially.

Communion in the hand or on the tongue?

The Church says that either way of receiving the Lord in Holy Communion is acceptable. Receiving in the hand is the more ancient practice, but there is more of a chance of an abuse (e.g., someone pocketing the Eucharist…God help us) or accident with that. Receiving on the tongue helps to prevent abuses and accidental drops, and, in my opinion, shows greater reverence for the Eucharist.

Priest as leader

The celebrant is also known as the presider (“president” in ancient times). We follow the presider in prayers and gestures. This means that the congregation waits for the priest to begin common prayers when recited (“Holy, Holy, Holy”, e.g..) before joining in, and waits for him to process out of Mass before leaving. We follow him like we follow Christ (the priest acts in the person of Christ during Mass). Ideally, though, congregants should remain in the pew for a few moments and make a prayer of thanksgiving, grateful for the experience of Heaven on Earth that they just received in the Mass.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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Sacramental vs unlawful marriage and what the Church teaches

When our weekly Bible study reviewed today‘s readings, the first question was about the Gospel. Someone asked, “Jesus, says ‘unless the marriage is unlawful.’ What would be an example of an unlawful marriage?”

It was a great question, of course, and it was followed by many more questions from the group about marriage, divorce and annulments. In Mt 5: 31-32, Jesus is teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. This means that a marriage in Christ cannot be dissolved. A sacramental, consummated Christian marriage can only be dissolved by death (―until death does us part). No one (not even the Pope) or thing (like a state-issued divorce) can separate what God has joined together. Our Lord is saying this here, in Mk 10, and in Lk 16. And, it’s what the Church has reaffirmed, most recently with Pope John Paul II.

As you probably knew before the reading of this Gospel, the Lord does not recognize divorce. Therefore, the Church does not recognize divorce. This is why Jesus says, “When a man divorces his wife and marries another – unless the marriage is unlawful – he commits adultery.” In the Lord’s eyes, the man is still married to his first wife. We all know that any relationship (even one date!) by a married person with someone other than his or her spouse is adulterous.

So, as was asked, what are examples of “unlawful” marriages? The Church refers to unlawful marriages as ―invalid marriages because of the presence of impediments or obstacles. Examples would be:

  • too young
  • previously married
  • related (directly)
  • infidelity
  • abuse
  • lack of form (e.g., Catholics marrying outside of the Church without permission)

There are more examples, but these are some of the main ones that the Church looks at in determining whether a marriage is valid. If it is proven that an impediment is present, then the declaration of nullity (annulment) is given. This would be the Church stating the marriage was invalid, and the spouses are free to marry.

An annulment is not the Catholic form of divorce. It is the declaration by the Church – often confirming what a Catholic spouse knew for a while – that the marriage never truly took place. It doesn’t mean that the couple didn’t love each other. It means that they didn’t enter into a valid, marital bond. Basically, they weren‘t married in the first place.

While the annulment process can be very difficult and painful for those who apply, it can also bring healing and closure. To have the Lord state through the Church the truth about the relationship brings a strong sense of confirmation. And freedom, “The truth will set you free.”  An annulment is necessary for divorced Catholics who wish to date and marry again. It’s not necessary for them if they don’t want to be with someone new. But, for reasons of healing, closure, and freedom, it is recommended.

Closely related to all this, it‘s important to point out that divorced Catholics can receive the sacraments; it’s not a sin to be divorced. But, it is a sin to be divorced and in a relationship with another, as Jesus says in the Gospel. On this topic, there is much confusion these days in the Church, especially with regard to Pope Francis’s exhortation, ―Amoris Laetitia‖. He wrote that document in the spirit of reaching out to Catholics who are in irregular marital situations such as divorce. He didn’t change any doctrine on marriage; he can’t. The doctrine is as I have written here.

And, I wrote this in a spirit of clarity, and hope it has helped answer your questions. But, I certainly am open to meeting with anyone here (or people that you know) who are in a difficult situation regarding marriage, or if you have questions. I am here to help you navigate through it all with the love and healing mercy of God.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg