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Blog: Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph

August 23, 2019 - 10:43am
Megan Marley
The Good News:
God’s Word in Everyday Living
Marc Cardaronella

Suffering. Into every life a little must fall…even Christian lives. Some think that shouldn’t be the case. Have you heard of the “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel”? It’s the notion some Protestant preachers put forth that being a Christian makes you exempt from such things. God is the best Father and gives the best gifts. He wants to bless his children…and blessings don’t include suffering and trials. What kind of father would that be?

However, this week’s second reading, Hebrews 12:5–7, 11–13, offers a different perspective: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by Him. For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.”

Wait a minute. Disciplined? Punished? Chastised? Does that sound like a loving Father? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

The passage cited above is a quotation from Proverbs 3:11-12. Now, before you start talking about how the Old Testament God is different from the New Testament God, just stop. That’s not a thing. Besides, this is quoted and held up as explanation in the New Testament.

To understand this passage, we must do a little digging into ancient world culture. The Greek word translated as “discipline” in this passage is “paideia.” It refers to the educational system in ancient Greece and Rome…but it’s more than simply school as we know it. Paideia included the modern elements of the liberal arts (rhetoric, grammar, philosophy) but also sciences like arithmetic and medicine, as well as athletics and the arts. Paideia was only for the children of aristocrats. It was training for leaders, a vehicle for raising the perfect, well-rounded members of society. Paideia molded youth with a sense of excellence similar to the upbringing of medieval knights or English gentlemen.

Paideia wasn’t always sunshine and roses. St. Augustine, the bright son of a Roman nobleman, said he often didn’t study unless forced. A slave, his pedagogue, was assigned to make sure he did his lessons and sometimes that involved punishments. The ferula, or “master’s rod,” was the symbol of the pedagogue’s authority. He was present 24/7 to protect and care for his charge…and occasionally chastise when behavior called for it.

This “spare the rod, spoil the child” attitude isn’t vogue today. However, the point is still valid. The student in paideia was meant for excellence. Mediocrity wasn’t an option, and sometimes that required a firm nudging in the right direction or a correction in attitude. When we think of God in these terms, a different kind of father emerges. Not one willing to spoil us by indulging every whim, but one who sees our great potential and desires to bring it out. God’s discipline is not vengeful and pitiless, it’s paideia—education in excellence. God is an affectionate, yet firm, father who raises children to be the best they can be. This might involve divine teaching methods such as suffering and corrective chastisement that educate us and correct our paths.

I learned something about this when I joined the Navy. I went to Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS), a fourteen-week officer boot camp for Navy pilots. Each class had a Marine Corps drill instructor, and ours was Gunnery Sergeant Massey. He yelled more than he spoke and wove a tapestry of curse words that could almost be classified as art. During our first week, which was the hardest part of the whole program, a senior candidate about to graduate told us the drill instructors didn’t do things randomly. Everything had a reason. “Gunnery Sergeant Massey knows the program,” he said. That meant all the harsh words, ridiculous commands, and encouraging words were calculated for a certain effect. The fourteen weeks were planned out to make us the combat pilots we wanted and needed to be. “Gunny knows the program” became our mantra when things got hard and we were discouraged. Looking back, we could see that senior candidate was right. Massey had drilled things into us that seemed useless at the time, but later proved to be valuable skills.

Sometimes, when life is hard and I’m feeling discouraged, I think about my experience at AOCS. I realize that God is like a drill instructor—the perfect drill instructor. Everything he does is planned to make me the saint I want and need to be. My part is to trust completely that God “knows the program,” and whatever happens in my life is happening for that reason.

“God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7). Not just anyone went to paideia. The father in ancient Rome didn’t send a slave or an illegitimate child. He sent the son who bore his name. The special one. His chosen. “For the moment all discipline [paideia or education] seems painful rather than pleasant,” the author of Hebrews says, but later it gives way to “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). If you can think of the Christian life is a paideia, spiritual training, you’ll be a much happier Christian. God is not an overly indulgent father, but one who wants the best for his children. He wants them to grow to spiritual maturity and perfection in the likeness of the Son, Jesus. How can we expect not to suffer when Jesus himself did? So, take heart! Don’t be discouraged! You are not an illegitimate child the Father won’t bother to educate. He treats you as true sons and daughters in the Son by giving paideia, discipline, so you are worthy to bear his name.

Marc Cardaronella is Director of the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation.

Click here to view this Sunday’s readings on the USCCB website

The post Suffering as an Education in Christian Life appeared first on Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

August 8, 2019 - 1:32pm
Megan Marley
The Good News: God’s Word in Everyday Living
Marc Cardaronella

You’re a good Catholic, right? You’re living your faith. You go to Mass on Sundays, have a regular prayer life, and even attend a Bible study at the parish every year. You’re good to go. Except…there are those pesky Scripture readings that come up every once and a while. You know the ones about the consequences of not using your God-given abilities and gifts to further God’s kingdom? They admonish those who don’t engage in ministries and help people in physical or spiritual need. There’s the passage in Matthew’s gospel about the servant who’s punished for not investing his master’s talents to make more (Mt. 25:14-30). There’s also the one that says if you ignore your brothers and sisters in need, you ignore Jesus (Mt. 25: 31-46). Then, there’s today’s gospel, Luke 12:32-48. In this one, the steward who oversees the household while the master is away mistreats his fellow servants while getting drunk and feasting on the master’s food. Not only does he fail to fulfill his responsibilities to run the household and help his fellow servants, he’s a jerk and a thief. The spiritual meaning is we are all stewards of God’s gifts with the responsibility to help others. If we squander our gifts and mistreat those we’re called to serve, there will be consequences. On the other hand, being a faithful servant has blessings. So, why isn’t it enough to just take care of yourself? Why is it necessary for a faithful servant to help others?

Baptism and relationship with Christ bring changes. When the Holy Spirit is active in our lives, we think and behave different. It changes the way we act and the way we react. We think with the mind of God. Our likes and dislikes become more attuned to his. This isn’t just for our own benefit. Ultimately, God forms us for mission. We’re not meant to remain spiritual children. We’re meant to be spiritually mature adults who take responsibility for the upkeep and growth of God’s Kingdom. St. Paul teaches in Ephesians, we are given spiritual gifts to “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12-13). We’re meant for spiritually maturity…the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” That means we cooperate with him in mission. What did Christ come to do? Save souls. In 2 Corinthians St. Paul says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Cor 5:18-20). As St. Teresa of Avila said “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours…Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.” You are Christ’s ambassador. As a baptized Christian in relationship with Christ, his mission is your mission. This is our baptismal call, to take up Christ’s mission and be his hands and feet in the world.

I know, I know. You’re busy. It’s hard enough finding time to take care of your own spiritual life, now you need to volunteer for a ministry. However, the truth is ministry and service aren’t merely essential to your parish. The parish, and the Church, need your contribution, but it’s more than that. It’s essential for you. I believe it’s impossible to reach spiritual maturity without giving back in some way. Being active in ministry is the natural progression of the Christian life and without it, you will stop growing. I know this from the experience of others, but especially from my own personal experience. When I started working for the Church and regularly exercised my charisms of teaching and evangelizing, my spiritual growth skyrocketed. You see, God is always pouring out graces on us. Once we’re filled, we’re supposed to return God’s grace. How do we do that? By ministering others, handing on his message, and leading people into relationship with him. That’s how he designed the spiritual life. Remember Matthew 25? We serve Christ by serving others in their need, both the physical and the spiritual needs. These are the Works of Mercy.

I’m not saying you should do ministry because the Church needs it (although it does). I’m saying you must do ministry because YOU need it. Do you feel like you’re not getting anything from the Church anymore? Is your spiritual life feeling stale? Is your once strong faith failing? Perhaps you’re not doing enough for others. Perhaps you need to give of yourself in ministry. Once you reach a certain point in the spiritual life, the only way to renew your faith is to give it away. The reason is, if you’re filled up with God but don’t return it to him, your supply dries up. He won’t continue to pour into you if you’re not giving back. It’s a feedback loop. The more you give away, the more he resupplies. So, if you want your faith to be re-energized, share it! Don’t hoard it! God will never be outdone in giving.

Marc Cardaronella is Director of the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation.

Click here to view this Sunday’s readings on the USCCB’s website

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June 6, 2019 - 8:00am
Megan Marley

Picture: Pentecost – Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11.

Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. The reading from Acts begins, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled.” The first Christian Pentecost takes its name from the earlier Jewish celebration.

In Jewish custom, Pentecost was a one-day festival concluding the seven weeks following Passover (Tobit 2:1). It celebrated the harvest offering or first fruits (Exodus 23:16, Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:9; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23; James 1:18, Revelation 14:4).

At the time of Jesus, the meaning of Pentecost had been enriched by a new understanding commemorating the giving of the law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20).

Following a somewhat loose chronology of Exodus (19:1), some contemporary Jewish interpreters explained that the law of Moses was given on Mount Sinai fifty days after the Passover. This allowed them to see Pentecost as a time of covenant renewal recalling the events at Sinai.

Like the Exodus event, Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, was accompanied by wind and fire (Exodus 19:18-19; Acts 2:2-3; cf. Hebrews 12:19, 29) and could be seen as a parallel inauguration of a new covenant. St. Augustine points out this connection. Just as there were “50 days” from the Passover in Egypt until the Ten commandments are “written by the finger of God” (Exodus 20:1; 31:18), so now the Spirit comes at Pentecost to write a new law on our hearts (De Spir. litt. 16.28).

Echoing this teaching, Pope St. John Paul II notes, “The message is clear: Pentecost is the new Sinai; the Holy Spirit is the New Covenant; it is the gift of the new law.”  Many modern commentators see the Christian event of Pentecost as paralleling Exodus 19-20. A ‘New Law’ is inaugurated by the Holy Spirit through Jesus who is acting like a New Moses.

As promised already in the Old Testament, no longer will the law merely be written on tablets of stone, but, in a new covenant, it will instead be written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). No longer will we have a heart of stone but a heart of flesh. Ezekiel promises, “I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (Ezekiel 36:27).

In the book of Numbers, Moses expressed a desire that all of God’s people would one day be prophets (Numbers 11:29). This wish came to be treated as a prophecy of a future time when there would be a dramatic outpouring of the Spirit.

With the coming of the Messiah there was an expectation that the ‘Spirit of prophecy’ would be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28-32; Jeremiah 31:34; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29).  This lavish out pouring of the Spirit would be brought about through a new prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) or a Messiah King (Isaiah 11:1-9; 61).

A Pentecost, the Apostle Peter uses the promised outpouring of the Spirit in Joel 2:28-32 to interpret the events in Acts 2:16-21. Now that Jesus has suffered, died, been resurrected, and ascended into heaven, the promised Spirit will be poured out on “all flesh.” With keen insight, St. Thomas Aquinas says that the Holy Spirit himself is the New Covenant, producing supernatural love in us, and the fullness of the law (Comment. in 2 Cor. 3: 6).

As St. John says, “As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:27)

Jesus’ promise to his disciples at the Last Supper is now fulfilled: “The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). The promise of the Holy Spirit is about our own daily intimate union with God through the Spirit. It is also a specific and unique empowerment for mission in the world (Acts 1:8). This is Pentecost. This is the New Covenant.

Earlier in John’s Gospel Jesus promised, “in my Father’s house are many dwelling places” (John 14:2) using the same Greek word Jesus says, “we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).

In the Jewish world, the place where God dwelt among his people was in sanctuary or the holy of holies in the Temple. The Temple was God’s home. Earlier in John’s Gospel Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Jesus now equates the Temple and God’s home to his own body.

God desires to make his dwelling place in our hearts. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have communion with Christ’s own body. St Paul tells us that each one of us is now the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). He also reminds us, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Each and every one of us is wanted by God. He loves us first, just as we are. Yet there is something we need to do. We need to accept his forgiveness and to let our life be transformed by the Holy Spirit’s presence. Each one of us must receive ‘the spirit of sonship’ allowing the Spirit himself to bear witness with our spirit that ‘we are children of God’ (Romans 8:15-16).

The new law begins with interior conversion in our hearts. Lord come and make your home in my heart this day. Take away my fears and let me find your peace in my heart.

Deacon Scott McKellar is Pastoral Associate at St. Therese Parish, North.

The post The Day of Pentecost appeared first on Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

May 22, 2019 - 2:24pm
Megan Marley

What’s the most important thing in the Christian life? Until recently, I got this dead wrong. I thought being Christian meant doing things like attending Mass on Sunday, praying, following the moral teachings of the Church, practicing virtues like kindness and forgiveness, and trying not to sin…at least, trying not to sin too much. And, I thought doing more of those good things made me a better Christian.

But I found out I was missing the point…the most important point. The Christian life is not about doing a lot of things, even though they’re good things. It’s about doing one thing–opening myself to the work of the Holy Spirit in me. That’s the foundation and everything flows from there. It’s not that those things are bad. However, they are not the point. In what does the Christian life consist? Not in doing things, but letting things be done–letting God work in us and act through us.

That’s what Jesus is telling us in this week’s gospel, John 14:23-29. It takes place at the Last Supper. Jesus tells the apostles he must leave them. However, they won’t be abandoned. He will send the Counselor, the “Spirit of truth,” the Holy Spirit. The passage starts off with the key verse, “’If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). The Christian’s greatest asset is not external…it’s internal. It’s the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through Baptism. That’s what Jesus means in saying “make our home with him.”

Throughout the Old Testament, God promised to dwell among his people. This is foreshadowed in the Tabernacle, the mobile tent where Israel kept the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 29:45). God manifested his presence there in the glory cloud, the Shekinah. It was a huge pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. The Shekinah guided Israel through the wilderness to the Promised Land. God was also present in the Temple (Ezek 37:26-27). When Solomon finished building it and placed the Ark of the Covenant in the sanctuary, the glory cloud filled the Temple with God’s presence (1 Kings 8:10-13).

In the Old Testament, God was present but inaccessible. No one could enter the sanctuary except the High Priest and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. However, in the New Testament Jesus tells us God is within each of us. After Baptism, we are living tabernacles, so to speak. St. Paul says each baptized Christian is a Temple of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 6:16-17). He’s referring to the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Fr. Jacques Philippe says in Fire and Light: Learning to Receive the Gift of God, “The most fundamental question of Christian life is this: How should we receive the grace of the Holy Spirit? How can we keep ourselves ever open to his action?” St. Therese of Lisieux said, “The merit doesn’t consist in doing nor in giving a lot, but rather in receiving, in loving a lot.” You must learn to receive and be led by the Holy Spirit. This is the most essential thing for living the Christian life. It’s also the most difficult because it’s not intuitive.

It’s difficult because we fear not being in control. At the heart of it, we are prideful creatures totally dependent on our Creator’s mercy. Spiritually, we can’t save ourselves, but we don’t like to admit that. The truth is, most of us would be perfectly fine taking God’s place as the origin of who we are and what we achieve. That’s what we want, but what we need is exactly opposite—to embrace receptivity. Perhaps for some of us it should even be closer to passivity. You must receive everything, even your own self, from God. It’s only then that you can give others the best of what you have.

This seems like bad news, but truly it’s good. You don’t have to do this all on your own. You don’t have to be upstanding, moral, virtuous, and holy by your own strength, willpower, or ingenuity. In fact, you can’t! It’s humanly impossible. That’s why you need divine help to fully live the Christian life and receive all its benefits. You need the action of the Holy Spirit.

So how do you embrace receptivity? Despite what I said about passivity, there is something you need to do. Earlier, I slightly mislead you. Remember my list of good things? Even though those aren’t the point, there is one of them that leads you there—prayer. To be receptive to the Holy Spirit, you must pray. Prayer gets you in touch with where the Spirit is moving and opens you to moving along with him. God still desires to lead his people, just like he did with the Shekinah in the wilderness. When you can take your ego out of the equation and move where the Holy Spirit leads, you find the purpose God has for you…and there you find freedom and happiness.

That brings me to the benefits of receptivity. Jesus tells the apostles, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Peace is the fruit of receptivity. Not a worldly peace that depends on your material comfort or lack of conflict, but a supernatural peace that can thrive in the midst of conflict. This is a peace that isn’t taken away by external circumstances. You can live unafraid. Let the Spirit move, and He will bring peace.

Marc Cardaronella is Director of the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation.

Click here to view this Sunday’s Readings on the USCCB Website

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May 9, 2019 - 10:59am
Megan Marley

Many years ago, I rented a house on a rural property near to the city I worked in. It was the original farmhouse on the property, on which the owner of the farm had built a new modern house on the adjacent half acre of land.

It was a nice place but, every time I went outside, I would be greeted by the neighbor’s dog. This dog was named Spike, and he was a vicious guard dog whose sole purpose was to keep unwanted people off the property.

I need to make friends with this dog, so I developed a strategy to overcome this situation. I kept my jacket pockets stuffed with dog treats, and every time Spike visited, I threw him treat.

A few weeks later I was talking outside to my neighbor, and Spike trotted up us. Without hesitation, Spike promptly rolled on his back and presented me with his belly for a rub. My neighbor was astonished! “What have you done to my dog?” he asked. Spike continued to be extremely unfriendly to strangers, but I had become his friend.

In today’s Gospel Jesus uses another farm animal to make his point. Sheep also form a bond with their shepherds. They quickly become familiar with the sound of the shepherd’s voice. They will come when there are called, and they are even soothed by the reassuring voice of the shepherd.  If a new sheep is added to the fold, it is very anxious and distressed until it bonds to its new owner.

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). It is possible to ‘hear’ someone and then to ignore them, and to do nothing they ask. The word used for ‘hear,’ however, means not just to passively listen to but to ‘respond on the basis of having heard.’ Jesus’ sheep accept and heed what he says.

The sheep ‘know him’ and ‘follow’ him.  ‘Knowing him’ implies trust and relationship with Jesus. ‘Following’ can literally mean to follow behind someone, but it also has the figurative meaning of ‘being a disciple.’ As a disciple, ‘following’ can mean ‘living in obedience’ to the Master. The disciple hears the master’s voice and follows or imitates his life and teachings.

Jesus promises that those who follow him, will not merely gain rich pastures but ‘eternal life.’ The good shepherd will protect them so that they ‘shall never perish.’ Earlier in this passage Jesus promised to be the good shepherd (John 10:11) who protects the sheep from thieves and robbers and even from the ‘hireling’ who only cares about getting paid. The good shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep (3:16, 10:17). Jesus promises here, ‘no one shall snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:28).

Jesus gives a reason for this. He notes that, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Jesus shares in the ministry and prerogatives of his Father. So much so, that Jesus is able to say, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30).

What does Jesus mean by “I and the Father are one?” Firstly, in the original Greek, the word for ‘one’ is neuter and not masculine. Jesus is not saying that he and the Father are one and the same person.

Later speaking of his disciples, Jesus is willing to pray, “may [they] be one, as we are one” (John 17:22). The language of oneness is broad enough to include the disciples. Is Jesus then referring merely to his oneness of action and will with the Father, with no implication of his share in the Father’s divinity?

This would be very odd in a book in which Jesus divinity is openly declared by John (1:1, 18) and which concludes with the climatic confession by Thomas, “My Lord and my God” (20:28). While in the immediate context here, Jesus shares the Fathers will and task of preserving his sheep, we have already been previously been told in this Gospel that the Jews understood Jesus’ references to God as his Father as, “making himself equal to God” and they tried to kill him for blasphemy (John 5:18).

Jesus’ oneness of will and task with the Father must be understood as a divine will and divine task. The unity of the Father and Son is not the same as the unity of his disciples, but the divine reality against which true Christian unity is measured.

While we all share the capacity to be children of God, the Son of God is unique in his oneness with the Father. The Son is the revealer of the Father’s will, the one who has come down from heaven, the unique good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. Again, earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus will claim that, “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). Like the Father, Jesus’ voice has the power to raise the dead and to give life (John 5:21).

To become one with the Father and the Son we must be ‘born from above’ (John 3:3) or ‘born of water and spirit’ (3:5) we must ‘believe in the Son’ and so not perish but have eternal life (3:16, 10:28). Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Each one of us need to ask ourselves, “Do I know the voice of the shepherd?” Have I trusted him enough to say, “Yes, Lord” and to truly follow him with my whole heart? If we compared this commitment to our other human relationships, how serious is our commitment? Are we just casually dating, or are we ‘all in’ and fully committed to the relationship? Trust and see that the Lord is good.

Deacon Scott McKellar is Pastoral Associate at St. Therese Parish, North.

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April 25, 2019 - 8:30am
Megan Marley

Pic: The Return of the Prodigal Son – Pompeo Batoni, c. 1773.

The Good News:
God’s Word in Everyday Living
Marc Cardaronella

This weekend is Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast established by Pope St. John Paul II 2001. It’s associated with the apparitions of St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who lived and wrote in the 1930’s as Nazi Germany began its rise to power. Appearing to Faustina, Jesus requests a special feast be held on the Sunday after Easter, and there are great promises attached. Anyone who would go to sacramental confession and receive the Eucharist on that day would not only be free from sin but also punishment. In other words, if you died right after you’d go straight to heaven. The primary message of the Divine Mercy devotion–there’s an ocean of mercy waiting for you, go to confession and get it! That’s the way most of us experience God’s mercy…through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Gospel this week, John 20:19-31, ties into this theme. In fact, the Church sees in this event Jesus’ institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The thing that stands out for me in this Gospel is the wounds. Jesus appears to the apostles, wishes them peace, and then shows them the marks of the Crucifixion still visible on his body. Of course, that’s what proves it’s him, not an imposter or ghost. The text later says the apostles were glad when they saw (and felt) his wounds. It proved he was real. However, I think there’s a theological reason, as well. The peace, reconciliation, and the wounds go together.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Father pours out his heart for us. Think of that wonderful illustration of this sacrament portrayed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Did you know, “prodigal” means foolish and reckless? Think of everything the younger son puts his father through. He pretty much says he wishes his father was dead and then robs him as he’s walking out the door. That’s reckless…as he later finds out. But still the father waits for him to return so he can lavish gifts upon him. This is our story. Prodigal. Foolish and reckless. We continually spurn God the Father’s love and continually return to be received with open arms.

And, what’s his reward? What does the prodigal son get? A family–wealth, status, sonship, comfort…and peace. I always have a profound sense of peace after confession. Doesn’t it just feel good to go? Most people I talk to think so also. Even when I really dread going, and have to drag myself there, I always end up feeling glad I did…and at peace. It’s tangible.

The sacrifice of Cross is the power source for the sacraments. This is the atoning act that makes salvation work. From all eternity the Father had the plan of salvation in mind. However, the plan was made effective through the Son’s death on the Cross. Christ merited for us an inexhaustible treasury of mercy. It’s deeper, vaster than all the sins ever committed and that will ever be committed. We’ll never run out of it. How do we get it? Through the sacraments. The Mass and other sacramental celebrations, like Baptism, are the “distribution network” for grace. Through the sacramental liturgy, Christ gifts us with the grace of forgiveness and increases his life within us.

Peace, reconciliation, and the wounds to together. Have you ever really paid attention to the prayer of absolution? It’s beautiful…and instructive.

“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (emphasis added).

The priest, in his role as a sacramental minister of the Church, prays that you be forgiven your sins, pardoned, and that you are given peace. Notice, it’s “through the death and resurrection of his Son” that God “has reconciled the world to himself” for the forgiveness of sins. The Cross powers the reconciliation. The wounds, reconciliation, and peace go together.

Mercy is not justice. It’s not something owed. It’s gratuitous, a complete gift. God doesn’t have to extend his life to us. He doesn’t have to save us. We don’t deserve it. We all continually throw his gift of love back in his face. However, God in his love gives us what we don’t deserve. He forgives, shares his life, and makes it possible to live forever. He took on every aspect of human nature and endured the most horrible torture and death to reconcile us with God. Mercy and reconciliation are Christ’s whole mission. And, through the apostles this mission continues in the Church today. In this passage, Jesus gives the apostles his own power to forgive sins, a power passed down in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Peace, reconciliation, and the wounds go together.

This Divine Mercy Sunday, know that God desires to shower you with lavish gifts of mercy and forgiveness. So great is his love, he died so you could have it. Nothing should stop you from seeking it. No transgression is terrible enough to thwart his mercy. No shame, no guilt, no hesitation, no pride should keep you away. God lives to forgive you. Go.

Marc Cardaronella is Director of the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation.

The post Peace, Reconciliation, and the Wounds Go Together appeared first on Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

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Addressing Anarchy: Humanae Vitae at 50

By Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.
July 27, 2018

Fifty years ago, America experienced one of the most profoundly important years in its history, and it was a year filled with anarchy. The...Read more

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