Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Homily: Pleasure or Pain. Which do you choose first?

Mother Theresa carried one book with her at all times.  It was Fulton Sheen's the Life of Christ.  She read it constantly and encouraged all of her sisters to do so as well.  I highly encourage you to read it as well.

Fulton Sheen wonderfully describes Good Friday:

The world generally gives its best pleasures first; afterward come the dregs and the bitterness. But Christ reversed the order and gave us the feast after the fast, the Resurrection after the Crucifixion, the joy of Easter Sunday after the sorrow of Good Friday.

Isn't this so true?  Think about the pleasures the world offers and the "dregs and bitterness" that follow.  You drink to the point that you feel euphoric... you get a hangover.  You eat your favorite fast food, mmm... tastes great.... You get sick to your stomach and feel gross about yourself moments later.  You escape into Fantasy and self pleasure... instantly after the moment of satisfaction comes guilt and shame.  You feel the high that comes from a drug... your body becomes addicted and you need more or suffer withdrawal.  You engage in the pleasure of premarital sex, your relationship instantly becomes complicated and there's anxiety of pregnancy and sadness from giving  yourself away.

All of these at first intense pleasures so quickly followed by "dregs and bitterness."

"But Christ reversed the order and gave us the feast after the fast."

The idea is that if you fast first, if you wait until marriage, if you abstain from that which is not good for you, if you avoid the intoxication the world gives.  If you fast - you will experience the great feast.

What this means for us is that we can abstain from immediate pleasure (especially if it is sinful) knowing that a far greater pleasure will come, if not immediately after.  It means that any suffering that we encounter, if endured and not escaped, will be transformed into the Resurrection 

Jesus came to reverse the order.  If we suffer first we will experience pleasure and joy later.

This means that our suffering is not meaningless.  All of it can and will be transformed by God if we join ourselves to Christ.

Are you suffering in any way right now?  Have you had some tragedy in your past that caused you great suffering?  It is not without meaning and it is not without purpose.

Though we may not know or understand it now, God can and will work through it, not only for your redemption, but for the redemption of the World.

Your suffering is not in vein.

Christ reverses the order and gives us the Feast after the Fast.

These past 40 days of fasting during lent have hopefully helped free you to more thoroughly enjoy the pleasure of Easter and ultimately the unbelievable ecstasy that we will experience in the Resurrection 

Easter Sunday ALWAYS follows Good Friday.

Homily for Holy Thursday: Anima Christi

Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

The "Anima Christi" prayer was made popular by St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises. Over the years it has become personal piety and through the ages has been closely tied to the Eucharist as well as the Holy Thursday Celebration which celebrates the Commemoration of the Eucharist.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O Good Jesus, hear me. Within Thy wounds hide me. Suffer me not to be separated from Thee. From the malignant enemy defend me. In the hour of my death call me. And bid me come unto Thee, That with all Thy saints, I may praise Thee Forever and ever. Amen.

This prayer is very profound and makes for a good meditation on the Eucharist for Holy Thursday. The following will lead you through verse by verse, with references to the Readings for the Mass of the Lord's Supper and questions to reflect on. May Christ bid you to come closer through this reflection.

Soul of Christ sanctify me.

"So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” John 13

It is through following the model of Christ that we become Holy... most especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. How faithful have you been to celebrating the Eucharist? Are you living a life modeled after Christ?

Body of Christ save me.

"Every family shall procure for itself a lamb... and shall share in the lamb." "That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with..." Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

"The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 1 Cor 11

Only Christ can save us from our sins and it comes through the very eating of His Flesh.

What sins do you need saved from?

Blood of Christ inebriate me.

"For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD! But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you." Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

"This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution." Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

"Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ." 1 Cor 10:16

"The cup of salvation I will take up," Psalm 116

"In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes."

It is no accident that Jesus chose wine to become His blood... rather than a drunken inebriation we become inebriated by Christ when we Drink His Blood... There is a sense of joy, exhilaration, exuberance, and celebration. This Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and The Easter Vigil plunge us into the Paschal Mystery of Christ, we experience and enter into the sorrows of the passion and death as well as the joy of the Resurrection.

You may find your life dry, barren, even boring, until you discover the inebriation that comes with Drinking Christ's Blood. Wouldn't you like to let go of control and be inebriated by Christ?

Water from Christ’s side wash me.

"Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and dry them with the towel around His waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Master, are you going to wash my feet?' Jesus answered and said to him, 'What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.' Peter said to him, 'You will never wash my feet.' Jesus answered him, 'Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with Me.' Simon Peter said to Him, 'Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.' Jesus said to him, 'Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.' For He knew who would betray Him; for this reason, He said, 'Not all of you are clean.'" John 13

We all have our sins and are in need of cleansing. Every time we receive the Eucharist our sins are washed clean. Do you need cleansing?

Passion of Christ strengthen me.

"They shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight." Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

Life, suffering, work and toil can get us down... but when we unite it to the Cross, when we enter into Christ's passion we are strengthened. Are you in need of Strength?

O good Jesus hear me.

"To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, I will call upon the name of the Lord." Psalm 116

Right now in this moment as you prepare to receive the Body and Blood of Christ call upon the name of the Lord... say these words "O good Jesus hear me." What would you like to say to Him?

Within Thy wounds hide me.

It is the Passover of the Lord. For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt - I, the LORD! But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you." Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

"He rose from supper and took off His outer garments." John 13

We all have a desire to be protected, to be hidden in the Lord. He was wounded for our sake. Imagine yourself hiding in Christ's wounds... protected and sheltered by the King of Kings. What do you need refuge from? Let Him hide you.

Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.

"You have loosed my bonds." Psalm 116

"How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done to me?" Psalm 116

"He took a towel and tied it around his waist." John 13 

There is no greater suffering in this earth than to be separated from God... we have all probably experienced some sense of separation from God. Remember a time when you were separated from the Church... Ask him now to keep you united.

From the malicious enemy defend me.

"When I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you." Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

Do you have any enemies that you need defense from? He will defend you.

In the hour of my death call me,

"Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones." Psalm 116

"Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father." John 13

At some point we will all come to the point of our death. Would you know the voice of the Good Shepherd? Could you follow His voice through the darkness? Ask Jesus to call you that you may hear His voice.

And bid me come unto Thee

"This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution." Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

"I am your servant, the son of your handmaid" Psalm 116

"So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into His power and that He had come from God and was returning to God..." John 13

As Mary said "I am the handmaiden of the Lord, do with me what you will." Have you been running from God, avoiding intimacy with God? Ask Him to invite you deeper right now.

that I may praise Thee with Thy saints
and with Thy angels. 

"Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ." 1 Cor 10:16

"My vows to the LORD I will pay in the presence of His people." Psalm 116

Is there anyone in your life who has died? Someone that you miss terribly... realize that in this very Eucharist they are present... they are interceding with you and for you... Is there anyone that you would like to pray for now? Know that they are praising God with you along with all of the Saints and Angels.

Forever and ever,

"He loved His own in this world and He loved them to the end." John 13

This moment now is forever. When we celebrate the Eucharist we enter into Eternity where we will worship and praise God, adore and contemplate God in all of His Glory.

Do you want to be with God forever?

He will never abandon you, He will never fail you, He is with you through the good times and the bad... God is with you forever and ever.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We have a Pope!!!!

What an amazing experience this was to be in El Salvador to have a Hispanic Pope... we watched in great anticipation as we heard the news "Habemus Papam..."  a lot of firsts... the first Jesuit Pope, the first from South America - also making him the first non-European Pope - is a significant move for the Church, taking the Papacy to a continent in which 42 per cent of the world's Catholics live!  Also the first to choose the name "Francisco" So we have Francis the First.   Maybe the name signifies, like Saint Francis, he will have a great love and devotion to the poor.  
It was a true joy to be here in El Salvador especially with Sr. Rose!!!!! 
Prayer for our Holy Father Francis I

Fr. Michael J. Denk

St. Joseph Church
200 St. Joseph Drive,
Amherst, Ohio 44001
(440) 988-2848

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mission Trip El Salvador 2013

The team is all here and doing well...
here is a reflection:

St. Joseph Mission Trip to El Salvador 2013

11 March 2013
Our team of 19 arrived in El Salvador just before sunset on Sunday evening March 10, 2013. The group was very tired after a full day of travel, hauling luggage, and a two hour drive from San Salvador to the Juan Paulo Segundo (John Paul II) Retreat house in Teotepeque, La Libertad.
It was the first time the mission team has housed a group this big and it is the largest group I have taken so I assigned Jen Jackson to be the teacher and keep us all together. Turns out she's as good with adults as she is with the youth at St. Joseph.  Our team has bonded very well already after all of these months of meeting together and we are very much feeling the support of our parish who sent us off with a nice mass, blessing from Fr. Martello, and each day we open a new envelope with a letter and prayer from our prayer-partners in the fifth grade.  What an amazing parish St. Joseph is.   
It was great to see Fr. Johnny Ostrowski happy as always and Fr. Mike Stalla is also here working away. The team didn't get settled in until after midnight. They are staying at the Juan Paulo Segundo (John Paul II) retreat house which was built with support from the Diocese of Cleveland. It's a humble abode but right in town with a nice view out the back.
I'm typing this from the balcony on top of the Rectory in Teotepeque. The priests have made it into a really nice patio and the most breathtaking view of the valley, mountainside and Pacific Ocean. Across the valley you can see Chiltuipan where we will visit on Wednesday to see Sr. Rose.
As I mentioned the group was exhausted, and admittedly I was exhausted. I kept hinting at the group that they didn't have to get up that early if they didn't want to... I soooo wanted some sleep, but they are ambitious. We didn’t get to bed until way after midnight and morning was very early. My resolution as I went to bed was to bear the cross of tiredness the next day and not take it out on any of my unsuspecting missionary team members. It did feel good to be back here, driving up and down the dirt roads, smelling the country air and seeing some friendly faces like Dalia, Celio, Donlito, and again my brother priests.
We at breakfast on the patio of the retreat house, open air and a nice breeze. Dr. Ohliger wanted to volunteer at the clinic so he took three of our group with him, all nurses, one of whom his wife Wendy. They spent the day actually seeking patients, diagnosing them, and believe it or not they walked away from the clinic prescription in hand if need be... even better than our clinics! They were most touched by their translator Nelson who was so attentive and caring as he translated between the patients and our team. They described the look on Nelsons face when he would listen to what the people would relate and what Dr. Ohliger was trying to relate to them. He truly cared about the people, and though he was nervous because it was his first time doing this for a doctor and nurses he really helped our team care for and above all relate to the people. They treated some for ear infections, stomach pains, and high blood pressure to give you some examples. They were most moved actually when they left the clinic and noticed the kids walking home from school... many holding hands, smiling, there was a purity, love, genuineness, innocence and purity that just radiates from the children here.
The rest of us drove an hour or so standing in the back of a pickup truck to Mizata. It was a nice drive along the coast, through a couple of tunnels in the mountains, and lower in elevation. The name of the Church was "Virgin Mary of the Candles" (translated)… she is the patroness along with the Patron Saint Michael the Archangel. We spent the day repainting the Church which was a huge job, but as they say many hands... and there were 15 of us as well as a few Salvadorans that helped us tape, trim, brush and roll. I really didn't think we would get it all done in a day, but we did. The group worked hard, in a very hot church, but above all really got to know the people.
Fr. Johnny O encouraged us all to not focus so much on getting the job done, but to get to know the people... they are a relationship based culture. So he said if someone talks to you..."Put your paintbrush down and talk to them." I was glad to see the group did this, even better they invited the kids to paint with us and before you know it "whistle while you work" we had kids and paint all over. I put one of the boys on my shoulder to get the tops of the windows and the group is convinced I was just trying to get out of painting... hmmm.
We crossed a hanging bridge and had lunch by the river at the Youth Center which was built by St. Hilary in Fairlawn. And then finished up in the afternoon and drove an hour to have mass in Metayo at "San Antonia" church.
One of the most beautiful moments was when George who is a retired man in our group and as he said never fathered a child was handed a child before mass. There was a lady in the front pew holding an infant who couldn't have been two months old and just thought he would want to hold her baby so she turned around and placed the child in his arms. You could see the joy on his face... the funny thing is he said later he was missing the baptism of his grandnephew to be on this trip and here he is now holding this little baby in his lap. That's just something you don't see in the states, and only in a country where people are as warm and vulnerable as El Salvador.
The antiphon for morning prayer today was "You who stand in his sanctuary, praise the name of the Lord." We stood in his sanctuary all day cleaning, painting, working, and praying and I know that each one of us was praising God in our hearts. Today the Body of Christ was cared for, both in the clinic, as well as the Church building in Mizata. What a privilege it is to be so close to the Body of Christ, to encounter Him in the poor, to repaint His Dwelling place, and have been poured out for him in a long day of service.
Buones Noches - Padre Miguel
PS - the internet is pretty slow... so photos when I return...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My latest Project... App development...

This video gives an intro for what the App will do...

Special thanks to Tony Melendez for helping me with the video!