From Competition to Cooperation

Homily, Holy Trinity A

The Catholic tradition is rich in having lots of prayers with set words that can be committed to memory or read from a prayer book or from the Psalms or other parts of Scripture, or those composed by many marvelous Saints in the Church’s history. Of course, we can also pray to God in our own words or even without words at times, but it’s often helpful for us to use the same prayers that have nourished the faith of countless Catholics throughout the centuries, especially the Rosary, while meditating on its mysteries.

Now of all the set prayers that we have in the Catholic tradition, there is one that tends to stand out among the rest. This one single prayer has probably been said more often than any other, in the history of the world. This prayer is so powerful, that it has been the occasion of countless healings of mind and body. It has the power to cast out demons and to overcome all the false power of Satan, in the Church’s exorcisms. In Baptism and in the Sacrament of Confession, this prayer transforms sinners destined for the everlasting flames of hell, into sons and daughters of God, to become joint heirs with Christ and the Saints in the kingdom that has no end. This prayer is also so simple, that it’s probably the very first prayer that we learn as Catholics.

“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” As I say the words of this prayer, your hand probably moves without thinking, because most often we pray this, as the Sign of the Cross. We might not even think of the Sign of the Cross as being a real prayer, because it’s just something we do before and after saying other prayers, or as we come into church, but the Sign of the Cross in the Name of the Most Holy Triune God is really one of the most powerful prayers that we ever say.

A good practice that some of us might have is to pray the Sign of the Cross before and after almost everything we do, when we wake up in the morning and before we go to sleep, as we begin driving in our cars and in thanksgiving for safe travels when we arrive at our destinations, when we begin our work or any particular task and once we bring it to completion. Have you ever considered how our lives might change if everything we did, and everything we thought or said would be done in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?

What does it mean to do something in the name of someone or something else? Even in popular culture, we use this phrase: To “stop/ in the name of love,” to experiment in the name of science, or to command in the name of the law. The phrase usually means to do something on someone else’s behalf or by their authority. Now it should seem incredible to us that we would be able to do anything on behalf of God or by His own authority. But this is the dignity that is given to us as His sons and daughters, to work more and more according to God’s will for our lives, to become His coworkers and cooperate with God in a real sense, as He works within us and around us, according to His power, wisdom, and love.

The theology of the Trinity can seem difficult to understand. We proclaim one God in three Persons. As a mystery, it always goes beyond what our minds can fully comprehend. But by revealing Himself to us as three Persons always in mutual relationship with one another—even from all eternity—by revealing Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God invites us to share in that relationship, in that love and fellowship, so that we all might be united in Him. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that genuine cooperation is possible. Distinct persons can work together as one, without rivalry and without ceasing to be who each one is, without the destruction of any one of them in favor of the others.

The unity that we see in God is the model for unity in all creation and especially within the Catholic Church and within the human family. No matter how different we are from one another—and some of us are really different—as a Christian able to act in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I am called to love my neighbor as myself, to love my neighbor as another self, to know that we’re all on the same team. That your good and health and happiness are bound up with my own. That we are ultimately not rivals or enemies, but we are in relationship with one another, whether we acknowledge it or not, and whether we like it or not.

When Jesus is asked in the Gospels to specify, “Who is my neighbor?” He replies with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Now at that time in history, for the Jews, the Samaritans were their sworn enemies, those who had interfered with their return from the Babylonian Exile and the rebuilding of the holy city Jerusalem and its temple. In the parable, Jesus holds up this Samaritan, this enemy of the Jews, as the example of what it means to be a loving neighbor, to help anyone in need. So no matter who it is or what group of people we just can’t stand, whoever we see as rivals or competitors, or inferiors or superiors, we are called to love them, to love them “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” because it is only by the power of God that we can overcome the divisions that exist within our Church and within our human family, the divisions that even now threaten to tear our country and its communities apart.

During this upcoming week, I encourage all of us to pray more often—and with greater attention—the Sign of the Cross, this most powerful prayer. When we are in the midst of temptation, it reminds us of God’s presence and the power that He gives us to overcome sin in our lives. When our mind is racing with anxiety or anger, the Sign of the Cross calms our thoughts and bring upon us the peace of God which surpasses understanding. When we become cynical and focused only on the negative aspects of life or the news, this prayer can lift our eyes to see the countless blessings around us, and the enduring faithfulness of God. At all times and in every place, may we strive with all the saints to think, say, and do everything “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

Travels and Corpus Christi

Bulletin Letter, Trinity Sunday A

Next weekend, my parents will celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary. We had planned a big gathering of the whole family, but that’s been postponed due to the pandemic. I’ll still be heading down to Elk Point this week to spend some time with them, though. I’m glad I’ll be back for the Feast of Corpus Christi and Eucharistic Processions.

It’s a great time to be begging our Blessed Savior for peace in the world, blessings upon our land and communities, and for intelligent reform wherever it is needed to law enforcement, the justice system, and the general dysfunction of our federal government and many major cities. I’ve always liked the Rabbi’s “blessing for the tsar” in Fiddler on the Roof. For us, the ‘tsar’ might represent any number of people in D.C. “May God bless and keep the tsar—far away from us!”

  1. If God was there forever, why did he stay in the dark for sooooo long?

God exists outside time because in Him “there is no variation or shadow of change” (James 1:17). In His divinity, God already was what He is and always will be. He is infinite Being and perfect Act. Before God created time, there was no time, so no succession of moments to make it seem like a long time. Even to speak of something being ‘before’ time existed is to try to use a temporal relation that ultimately doesn’t make much sense ‘before’ the existence of time.

In eternity, God was already doing what He continues to do and always will do, in the eternal relations between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: as God knows Himself perfectly, the Father gives all of His divinity to the Son, His eternal Word, and the Son receives all from the Father. And as God loves what He knows (Himself and all that He could create), the Holy Spirit proceeds in full divinity from the Father and the Son. But these “events,” too, are eternal, always occurring in God’s eternal “now” in a great dynamism, with no beginning and no end. A mystery that slips from our comprehension, as all that we have directly experienced is bound in time and space.

As for His being in the dark, just because material light did not exist yet, we do not normally understand God as existing in darkness. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). He is light because He sees and knows all, and in eternity, God sees and knows Himself perfectly with perfect clarity, perfect light. Again, the spiritual, intellectual light of the mind of God is different and far greater than the material light that we’re more familiar with, visible to our physical eyes.

Summer Ember Days

Bulletin Letter, Pentecost A

This Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday (June 3, 5, and 6) are the summer Ember Days, observed with fasting, abstinence from meat, and prayer for vocations and for the fields and herds. Ordinations were traditionally held on these days as well. During this past week, Bishop DeGrood ordained three men to the transitional diaconate: Jacob Doty, Jeffrey Schulte, and Scott Miller. Please pray that they serve well as deacons this summer and finish well their preparations for the priesthood during this next year. On Friday, two were ordained to the priesthood: Fr. Michael Kapperman and Fr. Tony Klein. Please join in observing Ember Days this week to pray for blessings upon our land and for the holiness of these new ministers of God’s love.

  1. Can God talk to you if you have a mortal sin on your soul?

Yes. We distinguish between sanctifying (habitual) grace and actual graces. Now the name ‘actual’ grace might make it sound like we’re implying other graces are not ‘real’ graces, but they are named ‘actual’ because they refer to particular and passing actions, whereas sanctifying grace refers to the state of being, the habit of holiness that persists after baptism as long as we do not sin mortally. It’s the difference between doing things, performing certain actions, and being human or, with sanctifying grace, being a child of God.

Mortal sin takes us out of the state of grace. We lose sanctifying grace and the theological virtue of divine charity, but God could still speak to us because those would be actual graces, passing actions that God can grant even to someone who is not in the state of grace. And He might grant them precisely to spur us to repentance, to Confession, and a return to sanctifying grace.

  1. Why does God know that bad things will happen and He doesn’t try to stop them?

God gives us free will and understanding into the natural processes of the world. Responsible action depends on both of these things. Imagine how difficult it would be to act responsibly if we really couldn’t depend on the consequences of the law of gravity, for example. Bad things happen due to gravity all the time. You can fall down, scrape your knees, or much worse. And if God were constantly intervening and suspending the laws of gravity just to make sure we’d never get hurt, we wouldn’t really be able to rely on the normal process of gravity and make adjustments to our own behavior as responsible and reasonable people. The same would hold true with diet, health, medicine, weather, etc. God directs the natural processes of the world according to patterns that can be relied upon so that we can respond accordingly and act responsibly.

 

Looking Forward to Heaven

Homily, Ascension A

If I were to ask you, When did Jesus save us? What was the precise moment when the work of redemption was accomplished? we might have various answers. Certainly the Incarnation, when the Son of God became man and took to Himself our human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that moment changed us and changed the world forever. Most would probably point to His suffering and death on the Cross, His perfect obedience even to the point of death making up for the disobedience and infidelity of our sins. We would also point, of course, to His Resurrection, rising from the grave never to die again. These events have consequences for all of us.

We could even point to His ordinary life, the many years that we don’t actually hear much about. Of course, His being born from a human Mother, His growth and development from infancy to adolescence to adulthood. The fact that God experienced all these things in the Person of Christ changes them for us, consecrates them, allows them to be holy events even in our own lives. To know that God worked and sweat as a carpenter changes work for us. That He ate and drank, that He wept at the death of His friend Lazarus, all that He did and suffered and accomplished was part of the work of salvation and consecrating our humanity to God.

One event that we might not often think about as being for our redemption is what we celebrate today, the Ascension, that our own human nature in Christ is now glorified at the right hand of God. That man has finally entered fully into heaven, body and soul, for the very first time. Jesus didn’t just die on the Cross and rise from the dead so that He could walk around on earth some more. He ascended into heaven to lead us there and to show us that we are meant for much more than anything this world has to offer us. Even if we could live forever, this world and the things of this world, even the relationships that we form in this world can never truly satisfy us. We were made for more. We are destined to see God face to face and to become like Him, to share in the communion of all the Saints, or to be eternally frustrated. The Ascension of Jesus saves us from the lie that we could ever be fully satisfied with anything less than God Himself. And in Christ, our human nature comes to its final rest and already enjoys the reward of its labors.

How often do we really think about heaven and what it will be like? To look upon and enter into union with the One who is more beautiful than anything we have ever experienced, more glorious and satisfying than anything we ever could experience in this life. Do we exercise our desire for heaven and allow it to be our strength as we endure the trials, frustrations, and restlessness of this life? If you’re anything like me, we don’t think about heaven nearly often enough. It’s always easier to plan a trip and to deal with obstacles we meet along the way when we have and keep a specific destination and goal in mind for ourselves.

There’s a verse in Sirach that says, “In all that you do, be mindful of the end of your life, and you will never sin” (7:36). We often think of the end of our life referring to our death and the judgment we will then render to God for what we have done or not done during life, but the end of our life can also refer to our goal, what we’re aiming for: heaven. In all that we do, if we are mindful not only of our death and judgment but also of the superabundant joys and everlasting satisfactions of heaven, the false pleasures of sin will lose their attraction for us, all the easy ways out and the overindulgence of the paltry pleasures of this passing world will seem to be “like so much garbage,” as St. Paul puts it, in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ and being found in Him.

All that Jesus accomplished, every part of our life on earth that He redeemed and consecrated, even His victory over sin and death was incomplete until He finally opened the gates of heaven and entered into the lasting rest and exceeding joy that He has promised to those who love Him. “In all that you do, be mindful of the end of your life,” be mindful of the joys of heaven, that you may have the strength to persevere through any temptation without sin, so that where Christ our Good Shepherd has gone before, we might follow and share in His unending glory.

Rogation Days and the Original Novena

Bulletin Letter, Easter Sunday 6A

If you missed the Major Rogation on April 25, you’ll have a few more chances this week on the Minor Rogation Days, which are observed on the three days before Ascension Thursday (which is transferred to the following Sunday in most places). Rogation Days are named for the Latin verb rogare, “to ask,” and are observed with solemn procession while singing the Litany of Saints, the Penitential Psalms, and several other prayers for God’s blessings and deliverance from evil. Fasting, abstaining from meat, and other forms of penance are also encouraged on these days.

The Major Rogation, on April 25 each year, is likely the earliest one observed, probably to counteract and replace the pagan Roman festival of Robigalia, held on the same date with public games and the sacrifice of a dog to the false god Robigus for the protection of grain fields from disease. Rogation Days retain this agricultural connection, and besides the Litany and procession, the blessing of fields and flocks became customary in many places on these days. The Minor Rogations (held on the three days leading up to Ascension Thursday) were introduced around the year 470 in France by St. Mamertus, bishop of Vienne, and observance spread out from there, eventually extending to the whole Church. Both the Major and Minor Rogations came to be observed in the same ways.

We’ll plan to have processions like we did on April 25, from the church to the cemetery and back. In Hoven on Monday and Tuesday (May 18 and 19), just after the Mass at 5:15 pm, the procession should start close to 5:50 pm. In Bowdle on Wednesday, May 20, we’ll start the procession at 7:00 pm. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate. Since May is the month of Mary, we’ll also be asking for her intercession in a special way.

This week also includes the start of the Original Novena. A novena is a prayer said on nine consecutive days, often concluding on the Vigil of a particular feast day. The Original Novena refers to the nine days between Ascension Thursday and the great Solemnity of Pentecost, during which the Apostles and disciples were gathered together in prayer with the Blessed Mother in the upper room, preparing and beseeching God for the great Gift of the Holy Spirit. Starting on Friday and concluding on the Saturday Vigil of Pentecost, a novena for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is fittingly prayed. Using a keyword search, it’s easy enough to find this novena online, including on the EWTN website. Come, Holy Spirit!

Time Switch

Bulletin Letter, Easter Sunday 4A

Even though it’s unclear when public Masses will be allowed to resume, this would normally be the weekend for the Sunday Mass times to switch between Hoven and Bowdle (every 4 months). Our Confession times will change this weekend to reflect what the Mass schedule will be when we resume, so I’ll be available for Confessions at 4:30 pm on Saturdays in Bowdle, from May through the end of August. In Hoven, I’ll be available from about 8:15 to 8:50 am on Sundays. Keep praying that God would guide our leaders with wisdom and with respect for the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, allowing discernment at more local levels whenever possible. 

  1. What is a vow?

A vow is a solemn promise made to God. Probably the most frequent vows made are those related to what are called the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Those who consecrate themselves to God or enter a religious order usually make vows concerning these three ways that reflect how Jesus Himself lived. Poverty (being poor) is often lived out by members of religious orders owning everything in common rather than having personal property. Chastity is lived in celibacy, committing to remain unmarried and striving for a deep intimacy with God. Obedience is vowed to God and superiors of the order, often coming into play when there is a question of where a member of the order should be serving and what his responsibilities involve (like when a priest is moved to a different parish and if he will serve as pastor or priest in residence or chaplain of a school or hospital). 

  1. What is servile work?

The term is usually brought up regarding the commandment to keep the Lord’s Day (Sunday) holy. Servile work refers to work that is unnecessary and burdensome, activity that prevents us from getting to Sunday Mass and experiencing the rest and renewal of body, mind, and spirit through prayer and contemplation of heavenly things. This commandment goes back all the way to when the Israelites were being freed from slavery in Egypt, freed especially to offer right worship to the true God. Jesus tells us not to work merely for earthly “food that passes away but for the food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). Certain types of work are obviously necessary even on Sundays. For example, medical personnel can’t just tell the sick and feeble to take care of themselves for the day. But when it comes to other activities, how much priority do we really give to the Holy Mass and time spent with God? 

New Eyes to See the Cross

Homily, Easter Sunday 3A

I’ve never been very good at picking out gifts for other people. Maybe it’s not always the case, but for me, I think it has a lot to do with my being the youngest in my family for so many. For a long time, I wasn’t really expected to give a lot of presents, and then when I did, it was almost always for people older than me. So by the time my nieces and nephews came around, I really didn’t have much experience. When I was still at Holy Spirit Parish, my niece in Sioux Falls was having a birthday party and I was sure what to bring. I had a little Christmas tree in my office and thought, “Maybe she can use it as a nightlight.” I found out later, though, that the lights had already stopped working. My other siblings are much better at giving presents. For the baptism of our nieces and nephews, one of my sisters often gives them a wall cross that looks like it’s made out of kids’ alphabet blocks—you may have seen one before—the blocks spell out “I ‘heart’ Jesus” and “Jesus hearts/loves me.”

A very nice gift to hang in a child’s nursery, but I often think of how far removed it looks from what the actual and original experience of the cross was for those in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus. Most of us grow up seeing crosses or crucifixes pretty much anywhere, in churches and in our homes, in cemeteries and in greeting cards. The cross has become a great sign and reminder of God’s love for us, but we can almost become desensitized to the fact that it is a depiction of torture and execution. To understand why the Apostles and disciples seemed to struggle so much in coming to terms with what happened to Jesus, it’s helpful for us to keep in mind the original meaning of the cross.

For those in the Roman Empire at the time of Christ, the cross was the most shameful form of public execution. To be hanged naked for hours, on a hill where everyone in the city and in the surrounding areas would be able to see. The more modern gallows or electric chair would be much more humane. And those who died upon a cross were always seen as cursed by God and by man. It was unthinkable that the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for and expecting all this time, the chosen and perfect One sent by God to redeem Israel, it was unthinkable that the Christ would die upon a cross. Even Muslims, who erroneously view Jesus as merely a good man and a Prophet of God, really can’t handle the fact that He died on the Cross. Such a thing would never happen to a Prophet of God. They usually say that someone else went in place of Jesus to die on the cross instead of Him. No one besides Jesus Himself was expecting such an end to His life or to the life of any Messiah or Holy One of God, so it’s not surprising that a few days later we have these two disciples on the road to Emmaus talking about the crucifixion and then saying, “But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel,” taking as fairly obvious that anyone who dies on a cross is thereby disqualified from being the Messiah and Redeemer. The reports that he had risen from the dead seem only to add to their confusion.

Now before we think that we would have caught on a lot sooner than these disciples, let’s think of all the times that we’ve experienced crosses in this life, illnesses, setbacks, tragedies, pandemics, corrupt systems that seem to be stacked against us, and how many times when we encounter these obstacles do we almost immediately start to question, “What have I done to deserve this? God must be punishing me for something. He must not love me like I thought He did. Why would God put someone He loves through all this?”

You see, most of us, like the disciples before us, just can’t wrap our minds around the mystery of suffering, how any good can come from it. Most of us believe, whether consciously or unconsciously, whether we admit it or not, in what is called the prosperity gospel or the theory of retribution, that those who do good and are faithful to God should enjoy God’s blessings and protection, even in this earthly life, and that if those blessings of health or wealth or prosperity are taken away, it’s because we’ve done something wrong, or God doesn’t love us like He used to. So for Jesus to die upon the cross seemed to be compelling evidence to His first disciples that He wasn’t actually as perfect or as innocent as everyone had thought.

So how do we have our eyes opened? How does the Cross of Christ change for us from being an undeniable curse into being the greatest of gifts entrusted to us by God? Only real faith and a radical shift in our perspective, surrendering to God’s will for our lives, can allow us to persevere in seeing God’s love amid the crosses of this life, to see God’s love for us expressed in a special way even through our sharing in the trials and sufferings of Christ, even as Jesus was the One to redeem Israel precisely through His death on the Cross and not in spite of it. For the first disciples, it took the power of the Holy Spirit to open their minds to the meaning of Sacred Scripture. It took the power of Christ’s Resurrection to lift them up from their fears. I know in my own life, at different times, I’ve often been afraid of becoming too holy, drawing too close to God, because I saw how much so many of the great Saints have suffered throughout history, but the love of God transforms our sufferings. So what’s still holding us back from giving ourselves entirely to Christ, surrendering ourselves completely into the Father’s hands even as Jesus did upon the Cross? What comfort or convenience do we still love more than we love God?

Permission to Grieve

Homily, Funeral of Travis, 39

First, on behalf of St. Anthony Parish, I want to extend to all the family and friends of Travis our heartfelt condolences and a promise to continue to pray for the repose of his soul and that those who mourn his loss would find consolation in God. Over this past week or since I received the news, I’ve been wondering what I should say, or trying to imagine what this must be like especially for N. (wife) and N. (son), what I would most be needing to hear. Of course I can’t imagine what this must be like for you, or for Travis’s sisters or parents, or even for his friends. Travis was one of a kind, and so the grief of losing him is particular to each one of you. But what I most want to convey to you this morning and what I think is most important for us to hear in the face of tragedy is that it’s okay to be sad. It’s normal. It’s okay to be angry. It’s normal in this situation. It’s not fair to have to bury a son, a brother, a husband, a dad, when he’s only 39 years old. It’s not fair. It’s okay to be negative about this.

I think too often we feel pressured to move too quickly to try and put a positive spin on everything. We almost don’t even give ourselves permission or time to really grieve. Certain cultures have more established customs at observing formal times of mourning. In the Bible, it’s usually around 30 days that they observe this time of grieving after experiencing a significant loss. Sometimes the whole nation would be in mourning, like after the death of Moses. They might wear black or dark colors, or wear their hair differently, even as visible signs to the people around them that they’ve lost someone very dear to them.

Even the Church has shied away from some of these customs more recently, and not always helpfully. Black vestments used to be standard at funerals, expressing solidarity with those who are still coming to grips with a significant loss and not just glossing over that reality. Now we often see white vestments at funerals, meant to point us to the Resurrection of Jesus, but we know the reality is, it might take more than three days, more than thirty days, to start to experience something of the Resurrection after such a loss. And that’s okay. Give yourself permission to really grieve.

And when we pray, give to God whatever is on your heart. God wants you. He doesn’t want what you think you’re supposed to be. He wants you. When you’re sad, He wants to hear about it. When you’re angry, express that to God. Too often when we go to pray, I think we have this feeling like we just have to be thankful and pretend that everything’s great when we talk to God, but that’s not actually what we find in the Bible. Job spends a lot of his time complaining to God and wrestling with why tragedies happen to those who don’t deserve it. Jeremiah and his Book of Lamentations are definitely not bubbling over with positivity. And of the 150 Psalms, the Prayerbook of the Bible, over 40 % of the Psalms could be characterized as Psalms of Complaint. I hope you feel comfortable complaining to God because He wants to hear from you even when that’s all that’s in our heart to give Him. Or if all that we can manage is to sit with God in silence.

The other issue I’d like to address is that an accident is just that: an accident. This wasn’t part of anybody’s plan. This wasn’t anybody’s fault. This wasn’t anything that God wanted to happen. It’s tragic. It doesn’t make sense. But God is with you through this. And He will give you what you need to carry on. I’ve always loved depictions of the Pieta. We have one right here on the left side of the church. Just to contemplate everything that was in the heart of Mary in those moments, to see her beloved Son and Lord cut down in the prime of His life. Please ask our Mother Mary to draw close to you during this time. Trust that she knows something of what you’re experiencing right now. And trust that God will give you the strength to bear it, even as He gave Mary every grace in suffering. And entrust Travis, your son, your brother, your husband, your dad, your friend, into her gentle arms.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Confirmations

Bulletin Letter, Easter Sunday 3A

One news item: Bishop DeGrood has delegated me as Pastor of these parishes to carry out the Confirmations since he will not be able to reschedule so many after the quarantine is lifted. We’ll likely still need to wait till public Masses are reinstated, but this also means that each parish will have its own Confirmation Mass. We were able to have First Communions in Hoven before the lockdown, but we will also be looking to reschedule those in Bowdle. Now more questions from our 5th and 6th graders.

  1. Will the world eventually end?

Yes and no. “The world in its present form is passing away,” (1 Cor. 7:31) and will come to an end after everyone is raised from the dead and Jesus pronounces the Final Judgment. But as was mentioned previously, “we await new heavens and a new earth” (2 Pt. 3:13), and we say in the Glory Be, “world without end.” After the Final Judgment, all human beings will be in either heaven or hell, so there won’t be any on the earth as we know it today after that. But we will have resurrected bodies, still related in some way to the material universe and capable of movement, etc.

Time is the measure of change, and since movement (change in posture or location) requires time, there will be something like time still in heaven. It’s a common misconception to think that the Saints have passed completely out of the realm of time, but God is the only One who is properly eternal (outside time) and changeless. So, the world as we know it today will come to an end, but certain elements of the present world (our bodies, something like time, and the angels and spiritual elements part of our world already, among other things) will continue after the end and for ever.

  1. Can your prayers be answered if you have mortal sin on your soul?

Yes. One of the most important times for us to pray is when we’ve fallen from grace that we may quickly return to it. Contrition and sorrow for sin are graces from God, along with the desire to be reconciled through sacramental Confession. These are all graces we can and should pray for, especially when we have sinned mortally. Certain things, like indulgences, can only be obtained while in the state of grace, but we should never stop praying, especially when we feel too unworthy to pray.

Hungering for the Flesh of God

Bulletin Letter, Easter Sunday A

I definitely didn’t plan on spending my first Easter as a pastor of parishes in a general quarantine with public Masses suspended, but then, Fr. Kopel probably never planned to spend his last before retirement this way either. In his 43 years of priesthood, he says he’s never experienced anything like this. And it’s most difficult for those in nursing homes or alone at home unable to have visitors, unable to receive sacramentally the greatest Visitor of all, Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist.

For all the graces that God is able to pour out through spiritual communions, through knowledge of His presence everywhere and more particularly through His sanctifying grace in our souls, through the words of Scripture and prayer, there’s no denying that being unable to receive Jesus in sacramental Communion is a heavy cross that you’ve been asked to continue to bear even into the Easter season. But God is faithful. Whatever He asks of you, He will also give you the grace to bear.

We don’t often consider that for huge portions of the Church’s history, frequent Communion was not all that common. To receive at only the highest feasts, just a few times throughout the year—always after making a good Confession—was the much more typical practice. Otherwise, Catholics would attend Mass every Sunday or more often, praying for a spiritual communion almost every time. And yet, God raised up countless Saints in His Church during those centuries. His grace was never lacking to those willing to cooperate with it. And I’m sure each time they did receive Holy Communion was almost as memorable as their First.

There is a danger in anything frequent becoming merely routine. Hopefully this unique time gives us a chance to better reflect on the matchless Gift of the Most Holy Eucharist and not take for granted or pass over with indifference the God who took on Flesh that He might feed us with His very Self. “And whoever feeds on Me will have life because of Me. And I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:57, 40).

Christ is risen! He is truly risen, never to die again. And He promises the same to all those who hope in His word, those who do not merely call Him “Lord, Lord,” but who put into practice what He commands (Cf. Lk 6:46; Mt 7:21). As difficult as it may be because of all that is happening, “do not be sad this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Happy Easter to you and yours!