Fr. Bryan Howard
Divine Mercy Sunday - 28 April 2019
Three sacraments were instituted during Paschal Triduum, the ministerial priesthood, the Eucharist, and Confession. The Eucharist and ministerial priesthood were instituted at the Last Supper, when Jesus showed His disciples what to do and told them to "do this in memory of me." You cannot have one without the other. You need the ministerial priesthood because only a priest can offer the sacrifice of the Mass, which is Christ’s own sacrifice offered to God the Father anew, and you can't have a priesthood with the Mass, because a priest is, by definition, one who offers sacrifices to God on behalf of the people.
In the Eucharistic prayer, the celebrant prays, "Remember, Lord, your servants and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them." Everyone who is gathered at Mass offers a sacrifice to God, and so you are all also priests, through the grace of baptism; it's called the baptismal priesthood or the priesthood of all the faithful. What is the sacrifice that all Christians are called to offer? "The sacrifice of praise:" your joys and sorrows, your works of charity and faith, your prayers of thanks for the graces God has given you and of petition for what you need from God, and the ways in which you glorify God in your life. And what are you offering this sacrifice for? Listen to the rest of the prayer, "for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true."
Baptism is another sacrament that is linked to Easter, since we renew our baptismal promises every Easter, rejecting Satan and His works and empty promises and professing our faith in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why do we do that at Easter? Why not at Christmas or the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord? The word sacrament didn’t always refer to the seven sacraments; originally it referred to the oath that a Roman legionary took upon entering the legion and again, every year, on the anniversary of the ascension of the current emperor. Our emperor, the King of the universe, was raised up in glory on Easter Sunday, and so every Easter we renew our oath to Him, and ask for His help to fulfill it. The baptismal priesthood is found in any Christian who offers up their lives and their deaths for the glory of God and in union with the life and death of Jesus Christ. Are you living out your oath, our baptismal promises, as a soldier for Christ. Our weapons are not swords and spears, but the Word of God and prayer, and our armor is truth, righteousness, and faith. For as St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
In battle we may be wounded, and so that leads us to the final sacrament that was instituted during this time, for our heavenly physician has given us a remedy for sin and it’s power over us. “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” Jesus gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins, and they passed this authority down to their successors the bishops, down to today. Every Catholic bishop has apostolic succession, meaning that they can trace their ordination back to the apostles through the laying on of hands, as Archbishop Aymond was consecrated by Archbishop Schulte, who was consecrated by Cardinal Krol, and so on. The bishop then delegates his priests to assist him in this ministry. The power of Confession, as all the sacraments, comes from the Cross. On the Cross Jesus died to forgive our sins, and in the Confessional that forgiveness is made available to us. It doesn’t make sense to leave a wound open and untreated so it can get infected, which, untreated, will end up killing us. Mortal sins kill our relationship with God and wound our souls, and venial sins wound our relationship with God, but enough small wounds can kill just as surely as one grievous wound. In His mercy, God desires not only to forgive our sins but to help us to avoid them in the first place.
In baptism we are commissioned as soldiers for Christ and promise to serve Him faithfully, in the Eucharist we are strengthened for the spiritual combat, and in Confession our wounds are healed. So let us not surrender, but fight for Christ.
Fr. Bryan Howard
Easter Sunday – 20 April 2019
Throughout Holy Week we’ve considered who Jesus is. Jesus is God and man, Jesus is the one who comes among us to serve and to stand as a model for us. Jesus is our Savior. But the theme of this Mass, of the Easter Vigil, is, Lumen Christi, Christ our Light. On Friday after the Service of the Lord’s Passion, the Eucharist is removed from the Church, and tonight Christ re-enters His Church symbolically as the light of the Paschal Candle, and sacramentally in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In the Exsultet, we heard that “This is the night of which it is written: the night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.” Light not only allows us to see, it also gives life, and that is what Christ does for us, He helps us to see the world as it really is and gives us life.
You see, our sins affect us. They affect both the way we act and the way we think. Sin darkens our intellect and affects our ability to reason. We start to make excuses for ourselves and to find all the reasons why it’s really not that bad. Then we start to think that it’s really not bad at all. But to keep thinking that, we have to blind ourselves to the affects of our sin. The Nazi’s, for example, didn’t think that they were the bad guys. They convinced themselves that what they were doing was necessary for the defense of Germany, then they convinced themselves that their victims were lesser humans, and then that they weren’t really humans at all. They called them untermenschen, “under-men.” In smaller and bigger ways, we do this with our own sins. Living in the light of Christ helps us to see through those self-deceptions, and live in the truth.
As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For the wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our sins damage and kill our relationship with God, with the Church, with the people around us, our family and friends, and even with ourselves. You know this already. You’ve seen the results of your own sins, the damage they’ve caused. The grace of God restores us to life, just as Christ rose to new Life in the dawn of Easter Sunday, but it’s not a miracle pill. We have to actively live in the light of Christ. We have to actively accept the new life that He’s offering us. You can try to go your own way, but you may not realize your on the wrong path until it’s too late and you’re standing before the Just Judge, God our Father. As a priest I know likes to say, “Don’t be a test pilot.” We’ve been given a road map that we know works in the Gospels, in the Traditions of the Church, and in the lives of the saints.
People used to ask me all the time, “Why do you like going to Mass?” That was before I was a priest, now people just assume that I’m weird. But I would ask them if they realized what was happening on the altar. On that altar, the death and the Resurrection of Jesus are made present for us. All the grace of God is contained in the Eucharist. So, yes, we are required to go to Mass every Sunday and every Holy Day of obligation, but, really, we get to go to Mass. Maybe it’s boring to you, and maybe there are other things you’d rather be doing, sometimes I feel the same way, but we’re not controlled by our feelings, and we know that in the Mass we can experience God in a more powerful way than anywhere else. Be generous with God, because what He wants to give you is far more than He’s asking in return.
Fr. Bryan Howard
Good Friday Solemn Service of the Lord’s Passion – 19 April 2019
Who is Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ is our Savior. He came to save us from sin and death and He accomplished that salvation through His Cross. We just heard the account from the Gospel of John about how Jesus was arrested, condemned, and crucified. The innocent died for the sake of the guilty, and the just one for the unjust so that He might justify us.
The Letter to the Hebrews says, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Jesus Christ, even in His humanity, was obedient to the will of God and willingly took up the Cross. Some people try to explain the Cross by saying that Jesus when Jesus took our sins on Himself God poured out all of His wrath on Jesus instead of on us. No, that’s not it at all. It wasn’t Christ’s suffering that God desired, but His obedience in love. The Cross isn’t a sign of God’s wrath, but of His unimaginable love for us. The obedience of Christ undid the disobedience of Adam. Whereas Adam refused to stand between the serpent, Satan, and his bride, Eve, Jesus, through the Cross, does stand between Satan and His bride, the Church. “Greater love than this has no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.” At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, who stand in for us, “I no longer call you servants, but my friends.”
The Prophet Isaiah said, “Through His suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.” Jesus did much more than just take the punishment for our sins on Himself; through the Cross He wants to give us the ability to love as He loves, to follow His example and not Adam’s.
As Jesus Himself told His disciples, “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all to myself.” Jesus is our Savior by drawing us out of sin and into the love of God. So, take up your Cross, and follow after Him. The only way to grow in the love of God, to learn to love as He loves, is to do it. We have to push ourselves to love more and better. We have to be willing to go into uncomfortable circumstances to help someone, to make ourselves vulnerable for others, to show our love for those who are the most difficult to love. Jesus didn’t say that we have to like anyone, but He did say that we have to love everyone, and that is to be dedicated to doing good for others. St. Therese of Lisieux spoke often about her Little Way, which was to be willing to do little things for God in love, and she wasn’t all talk either. After she died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 her autobiography was published, The Story of a Soul. In it she talks about one of the other nuns who always got on her nerves. She just didn’t get along with her. So, she made this nun her best friend, spending a lot of time with her, talking to her, doing their work together, and other things like that. Apparently, when she read about that, this other nun wasn’t offended but was deeply touched.
St. Therese shows us that you don’t have to be rich or powerful or famous, or even a priest or nun, to make a difference in someone’s life and in the world, you just have to love like God loves.
Fr. Bryan Howard
Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper – 18 April 2019
On Palm Sunday we asked the question, “Who is Jesus of Nazareth?” Today, Jesus gives us one possible answer to that question, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Jesus has come among us as one who serves, to be a model for us, that we might do for one another what He did for us.
We say that Jesus condescended to come down to us. That word, condescension, is one that normally has a negative connotation. If I say that someone is acting condescendingly towards me it means that they’re insulting me by treating me as if I’m inferior to them, and I need their help to do something that they find easy. It’s particularly easy for priests to fall into this sort of behavior, because we spend so much of our time teaching and preaching; we might start to think that we have all the answers. We have to remind ourselves, first, that we are all equal before God and rely on Him for everything that we have, and, second, that we all have a calling from God and something vital to contribute to the Body of Christ, the Church.
Jesus condescends to us in a deferent way, in the way that a parent or teacher condescends. The young child truly does rely completely on its parents. When a parents teach their children to walk, for example, they must get down to the child’s level, or condescend, which literally means “to go down.” I’ve seen this type of behavior, this truly humble and loving condescension, with some people when they interact with very young children. My mom, for example, is great with children. She’s far more patient than I am, she can explain things in ways that they understand, as many times as necessary, and she’s always able to tell what that picture is supposed to be. That is how Jesus is with us. Jesus approaches us with humility and love in order to lift us up.
Jesus becomes a model for us, to teach us by example, and example is the best teacher. Today Jesus washes His disciples’ feet to put into action the lesson that He had been trying to teach them, “If you wish to be greatest, you must become the servant of all.” Of course, this example is pointing forward to another, more powerful example, the Cross, of which Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” St. Peter resists having His feet washed by Jesus, but he relents in the end when Jesus tells Him that he must be washed to have an inheritance with Jesus. He will resist again when he runs from the Cross. Christian tradition holds that St. Peter was in Rome, founding the Church there, when the persecutions broke out. They sought especially to arrest the leaders of the young Church, so the Christian community urged Peter to flee. On the road out of the city, St. Peter saw Jesus walking into the city, and said, “Domine, quo vadis?” Lord, where are you going. He replied, “To Rome, to be crucified again.” And Peter replied, “Then I shall go with you.” With that, Jesus ascended to heaven, and St. Peter understood that it was his own crucifixion that Jesus meant. Tradition also holds that St. Peter was crucified upside down, because he didn’t see Himself as worthy of being crucified in the same way as Jesus.
In the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.” We do this every time we celebrate the Mass and commemorate the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The Mass is the only thing about which Jesus told His disciples, “Do this in memory of me.” We also “do this in memory of me” by doing what He did, by serving one another in love, by taking up our Crosses and following after Him, and by sacrificing for the good of others. As we come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in this Mass, let’s ask the Lord to strengthen us to wash one another’s feet in love and to bear our own Crosses out of love for God.
Fr. Bryan Howard
Palm Sunday – 14 April 2019
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? Some people will tell you that Jesus of Nazareth is a character that the Church made up to give itself legitimacy, but if that’s true then how did the Church get started in the first place? All of the historical evidence we have agrees that Jesus of Nazareth really existed. So, other people will tell you either that He was a wise teacher or a revolutionary, or even that He was a prophet, a man sent by God with a special message for humanity. The Church takes a much more radical position. Jesus Christ is the God-man, at once true God and true man in the person of Jesus without compromising what it means to be God or what it means to be man. St. Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyon in the 2nd century, who was a student of St. Polycarp who was himself a student of St. John the Apostle, wrote in his work, Against Heresies, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.” Jesus, the author and Creator of mankind, reveals in Himself who man is, and by contemplating who Jesus is we can learn who God made us to be.
Jesus is the Son of God, co-equal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, all powerful, all knowing, having all majesty and glory, and yet He came among us as one who serves others. As St. Paul says, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave.” Jesus was also fully human, subject to temptation, having to study and learn things, sometimes full of emotion, as when He wept at the grave of Lazarus, His friend, even knowing that He was about to raise him from the dead, or when He was filled with righteous anger and drove the merchants and money changers out of the Temple.
I’ve told you before that the three keys to growth in holiness, to growing closer to God and being filled with the Spirit of God, are staying close to the Eucharist, meaning going to Mass and adoring Christ in the Eucharist, either reserved in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance, daily prayer, both talking to Jesus and, in silence, allowing Jesus time to talk to you, and regular and frequent Confession(the Church asks us to Confess our serious sins at least once a year, but you should try to go at least once a month, and many of the saints went to Confession once a week). Why those three things? When we stay close to the Eucharist we stay close to Jesus, we gaze upon Him, and we think about Him and about His life and His death and Resurrection. In prayer, we go deeper, we look at Jesus, and then we take a closer look at ourselves, and compare the two. In prayer we can ask ourselves, “How is God working in my life? How is God challenging me to change? In what ways do I fail to live up to the example that Jesus gave me?” Then, in Confession, we admit those failures to God, promise to do penance (that is, to try to make up for those sins), and make a commitment to do better next time, to use the grace of the Sacrament of Confession to grow in virtue and holiness. Don’t be discouraged if God keeps bringing the same things up over and over again. Just go into it with the right intention, to grow in the love of God and not to use the Confessional as an excuse to keep doing the same things, and let God slowly work on your soul and bring about a conversion of your way of life.
Spend this week in a sort of retreat, paying closer attention to how God is working in your life than normal. Come to as many of the special liturgies this week as you can. The liturgies of Holy Week are both beautiful and powerful, but we’ll only get out of them what we put into them. If “the glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God,” then ask God to help you to gaze on Jesus this week, not just with your eyes, but with your mind and with your soul, so that God can make you live to the full.
The Paschal Triduum refers to the most important celebration in the year for Christians, the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. The Paschal Triduum begins with the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and concludes on Easter Sunday. In American culture the most important day of the year is probably Christmas, or maybe the Super Bowl, but for Christians it’s even Christmas is only the second most important day, after the Paschal Triduum.
We consider the Paschal Triduum to be one, continuous celebration, even though it takes place over 3 days, because the three events have to be seen together to make sense. The Resurrection couldn’t happen without the Crucifixion, and the Crucifixion doesn’t make sense apart from the Last Supper. The Last Supper shows us that Jesus is laying down His own life, not being forced to do it, because in the Last Supper He’s already offered His Body and Blood. The Last Supper shows us that the Crucifixion isn’t merely a martyrdom and the execution of a good man but a sacrifice for the salvation of the world. In the Last Supper Jesus teaches us that we can enter into His Crucifixion through the Eucharist.
On Good Friday we pause and take the time to really reflect on the Cross and what it means for us. How often do we really take the time to think about what Jesus did for us, what we put Him through, and why He did it? Good Friday is a day to think about how awesome God’s love is and that we are called to rest in His love, and to return it with all of our minds, all of our souls, all of our hearts, and all of our strength.
On Holy Saturday we spend the day in the tomb with Jesus, or in the Upper Room with the disciples and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a day of quiet, of contemplation, and of sorrow. There’s not a lot going on on Holy Saturday, unlike Good Friday which has the Solemn Service, the Stations of the Cross, the 9 Churches Walk, and other traditions. Holy Saturday begins with Morning Prayer in the Church at 8:00 AM, I’ll be available for Confession from 3-4:00 PM, and then we’ll have the Easter Vigil at 8:00 PM.
Finally, after spending Thursday night with Jesus keeping watch during the agony in the Garden, and Friday night with Jesus in the tomb, on Saturday night/Sunday morning is the glory of the Resurrection, filled with awe, joy, and renewed faith.
When the statues are covered, you know you’re getting close to Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum of the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Thank you to Janet Nunez and Dcn. Craig Taffaro for getting them covered for us.
Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, and we hope to see everyone at Mass. Normal times: Saturday at 4 PM and Sunday at 9 and 11 AM. We’ll have the blessing of palm branches at all Masses.
If if you are any of your neighbors have palms, we could really use your help. All the palms we give out are donated by parishioners. You can leave them in front of the Parish Community Center any time this week. If possible, wash them first. Thanks in advance.
On this Sunday, the fifth Sunday of Lent, we veil the statues and images in the Church and either take down or veil the crucifixes. The crucifixes will be uncovered following the Solemn Service of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, and the rest of the statues will be uncovered before the Easter Vigil.
The tradition of veiling the statues during Lent is meant to be a visible symbol of the meaning of Lent. During Lent we are fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays, and doing various other penitential practices, like giving up sweets or soft drinks. In the same way, we also fast visually by covering the beautiful statues and images in Church. Our fasting is meant to increase our hunger for the Lord; every time you feel your hunger during a fast or have a craving for something you’ve given up you should remember that you’re fasting out of love for God so that your physical hunger can increase your longing for the Lord. When we see the statues veiled during Lent, it should remind us of how beautiful the Church will be on Easter Sunday when the statues are revealed, the Church is clothed in white and gold, and flowers are brought back into the Church. The glory of the church building on Easter Sunday is but a pale reflection of the glory of Jesus Christ risen from the dead.
We also veil the statues as a sign of our separation from God. During Lent we should reflect on our sins and how they’ve offended God, repent of them, and seek conversion to the Lord. We recognize that our sins separate us from God, and that we are reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The statues of saints in the Church represent the saints in heaven; so, when they are veiled it shows us that sin separates us from heaven. Then, when the statues are unveiled for the Easter Vigil we see that the gates of heaven are opened to us through the death and Resurrection of Jesus, who shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Whenever you come into Church and see the statues veiled, let that be a call to prayer, a call to repentance, and a call to hunger and thirst for the Lord.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.