Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Today’s readings

“Why do you seek the living one among the dead?”

That was the question the men in white garments asked the women in today’s Gospel reading.  This is an important question for all of us people of faith on this Easter day.  Because we often seek life among the dead.  Jesus came to change all of that.

To be honest, it wasn’t even a fair question to ask of those women of faith.  Oh, it’s easy for us to know that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb – we have a couple of thousands of years of Church teaching to lead us to the right conclusions.  But they, and the disciples, had not been given any road maps or instruction sheets.  They didn’t know what was going to happen and when, and they were puzzled.

All they knew is that Jesus, the one they had been devoted to, had been arrested, put through a farce of a trial, and had been killed in the most horrible, humiliating way possible, a death that was reserved for the most obdurate of criminals.  To say that they were saddened and disappointed and confused and frightened – well those emotions just slightly scratched the surface.  So they come to the tomb – the place where they had seen Jesus last – to prepare his body for burial.  The stone was rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, which was odd, because it had taken several men to seal it up, and when they went in to the tomb, Jesus’ body was not there.  They had to be thinking, “Now what?”

They then meet the two mysterious men who ask them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?”  Again, this is a startling question.  They didn’t think they were seeking a living one, did they?  No, they had just seen their friend crucified and placed in the tomb.  They carefully noted where he was buried, and now they had come to complete his burial.  They had abandoned hope, perhaps, that he was the living one.

But they are told to remember what Jesus had said to them.  And when they thought about it, things finally started to make some sense.  He had told them that he would have to suffer and die and rise again, and now they can see that that is what must have happened.  So they go to tell the Eleven apostles what they had seen.  But for them, the story seemed like nonsense and they didn’t believe.  Only Peter comes to believe, after he goes to see the empty tomb himself.

It’s time for them to stop looking for the living one among the dead.  They will come to see him risen and walking among them in the days to come.  And that will reinvigorate their faith and help them come to see – finally – what Jesus has been trying to tell them ever since they met him.  There is only one way to come to new life, only one way to rise up out of the grave, only one way to have sins forgiven, and that is through the mercy of our God in the person of Jesus Christ.  He became one of us, he died the death we deserved to pay the price for our sins, and he has risen from the dead in order that we may have eternal life, forever shattering the power sin and death have – or rather, had – over us.

So we need to stop looking for the living one among the dead too.  We’ll never find real life by burying ourselves in work or careers.  We’ll do nothing but damage our life if we seek to find it in substance abuse.  We’ll never find our life by clinging to past hurts and resentments.  We are only going to find life in one place, or more precisely in one person, namely, Jesus Christ.

Today, Jesus Christ broke the prison-bars of death, and rose triumphant from the underworld.  What good would life have been to us, if Christ had not come as our Redeemer?  Because of this saving event, we can be assured that our own graves will never be our final resting place, that pain and sorrow and death will be temporary, and that we who believe and follow our risen Lord have hope of life that lasts forever.  Just as Christ’s own time on the cross and in the grave was brief, so our own pain, death, and burial will be as nothing compared to the ages of new life we have yet to receive.  We have hope in these days because Christ who is our hope has overcome the obstacles to our living.  We no longer need to seek the living one among the dead.

The good news today is that we can find the living one today and every day of our lives, by coming to this sacred place. It is here that we hear the Word proclaimed, here that we partake of the very Body and Blood of our Lord. An occasional experience of this mystery simply will not do – we cannot just partake of it on Easter Sunday.  No; we must nurture our faith by encountering our Risen Lord every day, certainly every Sunday, of our lives, by hearing that Word, and receiving his Body and Blood.  Anything less than that is seeking the living one among the dead.

The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

Tonight’s readings

Dear Brothers and Sisters, how good it feels to say “Alleluia” tonight!  Ever since we put the acclamation of our Resurrection joy away some forty days ago, we have been yearning for the opportunity to celebrate, once again, the fullness of our salvation.  And this is the night!  This is the night when Jesus Christ breaks the prison-bars of death and rises triumphant over the grave!  We have kept vigil for the fullness of that promise to be revealed, and now, here we are!  How could we do anything less than shout “Alleluia” with all of our joy?!

Tonight, we have gathered in the oppressive darkness of the world around us.  The sadness of sin and death, culminating in the death of our Savior, seemed for a time to have triumphed.  We know, only too well, that it was our sins that brought Jesus to the Cross: it was indeed our infirmities that he bore, our brokenness on display for all the world to see.  So as we gathered in a dark Church or out on the dark piazza, we certainly must have felt that sadness in a special way.  But we know the whole story, don’t we?  And because we do know the whole story, even in our experience of sadness, there is that expectation, that part of us that knows that joy is on its way.

As we have gathered over the last three nights to let the story of our salvation unfold, we have had an ever-heightened sense of yearning for the story to come to its fruition.  And tonight, we are treated to an even greater dose of that.  Tonight, we have heard stories of God’s desire to bring us back to him.  We have seen that time and time again, God has broken through the history of our brokenness, has triumphed over the lure of sin, and has redirected his chosen ones to the path of life.  We have recalled that God created everything to reflect the resplendent goodness that is God; we have seen Abraham, on the cusp of inheriting the promise of eternity for all his descendants, called upon to sacrifice his only son to show his love, only to have it all turned on its head when God promises to provide the lamb for the sacrifice, that lamb that is the foreshadowing of a Savior; we have seen Moses lead the people out of the Egypt that has held them slaves to sin, through the desert of desolation and yearning for God, safely through the waters of the Red Sea which flowed back to wash all their sins away, that journey that is the prefiguring of the sacrament of Baptism; then the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel have called us to come to the water, to be nourished freely and cleansed of our impurities.

Tonight we have heard in reading after reading, that God will absolutely not ever abandon his loved and chosen ones to sin and death.  We have heard that God initiated the covenant and pursues it forever, never forcing us to accept his will, but willing that we should follow him and accept his mercy.  God has provided the lamb of salvation, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world.  God has gone to the cross and been in the tomb and descended to hell – there is nowhere that is beyond the reach of God’s mercy, there is no place, no depth to which God will not go to redeem his beloved creation.  God’s mercy endures forever!

God delights in the freedom of will that we possess as a natural part of who we are, because it gives us the opportunity to freely choose to love him, as he freely chooses to love us.  But he knows that same free will can and will also lead us astray, into sin, into evil.  The free choice to love God is a greater good than the absence of evil, so not imbuing us with free will was never an option.  Instead, evil and sin and our fallenness are redeemed on this most holy of all nights, this night which “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.”

And thus it is fitting that this night is the night when we focus on Baptism.  Everything is in place: the waters of the Red Sea are parted, the pillar of fire glows to the honor of God, we are led to grace and joined to God’s holy ones of every time and place, Christ emerges triumphant from the underworld and the sin of Adam is redeemed forever.  And so Korrin, our Elect, in a few moments will enter the waters of Baptism from the west: that place of the setting sun, renouncing the prince of darkness, professing faith in God, dying with Christ in the waters, emerging to new life, triumphant with Christ on the east, and encountering the bright morning star whose light blazes for all eternity.  We will hold our breath as the waters flow over her, and sing Alleluia when she is reborn, crying out the praise of God with all the joy the Church can muster!

Our joy will continue to overflow as she and Brian, our candidate for full Communion with the Church, are Confirmed in the Holy Spirit and fed for the very first time with the Eucharistic Bread of Life and Cup of Eternal Salvation.  God’s mercy has once again triumphed and brought two wonderful young people into the family of the Church and the community of our parish.  God’s goodness shows forth all its splendor in so many wonderful ways on this most holy of all nights!

This is the night that redeems all of our days and nights.  This is the night when sin and death are rendered impotent by the plunging of the Paschal candle, the Light of Christ, into the waters of Baptism.  On this night, everything is turned upside-down; sin and death no longer define who we are as human beings; the forces of evil search in vain for darkness in which to cower, because the bright morning star has washed the darkness away.  On this night, the waters of Baptism kill death, wash away faults and wickedness, give refreshment to those who are parched for holiness, and bring life to all who have withered in the desert of brokenness.

And so, may the flame of our joy, blazing against the darkness of the world’s night, be found still burning by the Morning Star:  the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ our Lord, God’s only Son, who coming back from even from the depths of death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever!  Amen!

Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord

Today’s readings

How quickly things have changed among Jesus’ followers.  His disciples – even the chosen Twelve – have pretty much deserted him.  They’ve either fled in fear, or else they have betrayed him, or denied that they knew him.  But some women who were among his devoted followers have braved the implications for them and have arrived with him at the foot of the cross.  The Beloved Disciple – probably John – has come too.  And, of course, his mother.

Think for a moment how much grief has to be in the heart of Mary.  Joseph seems to be out of the picture now; we assume he has died.  Jesus is all she has left in the world, her promised one.  She certainly knows that his hour is at hand, we know that she continues to trust in God, but the pain of these moments has to be almost too much to bear.  And so Jesus speaks to her from the cross: “Woman, behold your son.”  And to John, “Behold your mother.”  Jesus knows that for those who were closest to him in life, they will have need of support, of community, after his death.  Grief cannot be borne alone.  But not only that, community is essential to the continuation of Jesus’ mission.  So that relationship, forged at the foot of the cross, became the basis for discipleship for both Mary and John that would be instrumental in leading the fledgling Church into the ages ahead.

Still greater, though, is that we see in Mary an icon of the Church.  We grieve too, but we for our sins.  As we look up at the cross, we see – with horrifying clarity – the effect of our sins.  We know why Jesus had to come to this hour.  As Isaiah says, “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins.”  No one sentenced Jesus to die on that cross as much as we did, and do, in our daily sins of commission and omission, in our harsh words, in our unkind and impure thoughts, in our lack of loving and in the neglect of our mission.  And yet, as John clearly points out in his Gospel, he went to the cross willingly, taking all that brokenness with him.

Like Mary, we the Church wait at the foot of the cross, not abandoning our Jesus who did not abandon us to our sins.  We, like Mary, receive at the cross our relationships, purified for our salvation, strengthened for the mission: beholding our mothers and sons and daughters and fathers, because we never get to the resurrection alone.  We’re not supposed to go it alone in this life.  Even in his most painful and dying moments, our Jesus gives us gifts that help us to arrive at the fullness of salvation.

Monday of Holy Week

Today’s readings

There are two things going on in today’s Scripture readings.  First, we have the Jews, and now Judas among them, who are very jealous of Jesus and are seeking to arrest and kill him.  And not just him, but anyone who encourages people to believe in him, like Lazarus in today’s Gospel.  In these holy days, it’s not safe to be around Jesus.

Second, we have Mary, who pours out the most expensive thing she has for love of the Lord.  She gives no thought to the expense, to what seems like waste, but instead gives it all out of love for her Lord.

For Jesus’ enemies, it was all about them, and not at all about the God they supposedly believed in and served.  But for Mary, it’s about Jesus, and she understands in some way where this is all headed.

So we have the jealousy of the Jews and the cowardice of Judas against the love and generosity and even courage of Mary.  In these Holy days, we are called to be Mary, to courageously pour ourselves out in love and generosity, even when the jealousy of the world around us would try to make us feel like it’s best we didn’t make waves.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Today’s readings

I’ve always felt that the celebration of Palm Sunday was a little strange.  We start out on a seemingly triumphant note.  Jesus enters Jerusalem, the city of the center of the Jewish religion, the city he has been journeying toward throughout the gospel narrative, and he enters it to the adulation of throngs.  Cloaks are thrown down in the street, the people wave palms and chant “Hosanna.”  This is it, isn’t it?  It seems like Jesus’ message has finally been accepted, at least by the crowds who have long been yearning for a messiah to deliver them from foreign oppression.

Only that wasn’t the kind of salvation Jesus came to offer.  Instead, he preached forgiveness and healed people from the inside out.  He called people to repentance, to change their lives, to hear the gospel and to live it every day.  He denounced hypocrisy, and demanded that those who would call themselves religious reach out in love to the poor and those on the margins.  It wasn’t an easy message for them to hear, it wasn’t the message they thought the messiah would bring.

And that’s what brings us to the one hundred and eighty degree turn we experience in today’s second gospel reading.  Enough of this, they say, the religious leaders must be right: he must be a demon, or at least a troublemaker.  Better that we put up with the likes of Barabbas.  As for this one, well, crucify him.

Who are we going to blame for this?  Whose fault is it that they crucified my Lord?  Is it the Jews, as many centuries of anti-Semitism would assert?  Was it the Romans, those foreign occupiers who sought only the advancement of their empire?  Was it the fickle crowds, content enough to marvel at Jesus when he fed the thousands, but abandoning him once his message was made clear?  Was it Peter, who couldn’t even keep his promise of standing by his friend for a few hours?  Was it the rest of the apostles, who scattered lest they be tacked up on a cross next to Jesus?  Was it Judas, who gave in to despair thinking he had it all wrong?  Was it the cowardly Herod and Pilate who were both manipulating the event in order to maintain their pathetic fiefdoms?  Who was it who put Jesus on that cross?

And the answer, as we well know, is that it’s none of those.  Because it’s my sins that led Jesus to the Way of the Cross.  It’s my sins that betrayed him; it’s my sins that have kept me from friendship with God.  And so he willingly gave his life that I might have life.  And you.  He gave himself for us.

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s readings

Caiaphas had no idea how prophetic his words were.  Actually, as far as the intent of his words went, they were nothing but selfish.  The Jews didn’t want to lose their standing with the Romans.  As it was, they had an uneasy peace.  The Romans pretty much let them practice their religion as long as there wasn’t any trouble.  But they knew that if everyone started following Jesus, the Romans would give preference to the new way, in order to keep the peace.  The religious leaders couldn’t let that happen, so they began plotting in earnest to kill Jesus, planning to find him when he came to celebrate the upcoming feast day, which they were certain he would attend.

It’s a time of high intrigue, and for Jesus, his hour – the hour of his Passion – is fast approaching.  That’s so clear in the Gospel readings in these last days of Lent.  In just a few hours we will begin our celebration of Holy Week, waving palms to welcome our king, and praying through his passion and death.  It is an emotional time for us as we know our God has given his life for us, the most amazing gift we will ever get.  It is also a time of sadness because we know our sins have nailed him to the cross.  The sadness of our sinfulness comes to a peak this time of year.

But, this is where the significance of Caiaphas’s words brings us joy.  Yes, it is better for one person to die than the whole nation.  God knew that well when he sent his only Son to be our salvation.  He took our place, nailing our sins and brokenness to the cross, dying to pay the price those sins required, and rising to bring the salvation we could never attain on our own.  Caiaphas was right.  It was better for one person to die than for the whole nation to die.  Amazing as it seems, that was God’s plan all along.

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s readings

The story is quickly coming to its climax. Jesus’ claims of divinity are really starting to rile the Jews.  They have placed their hope in Abraham and the prophets – great men to be sure – but seem to have forgotten about the promise of a Messiah, and so they totally miss the Christ who is standing right in front of them.  It’s a sad situation, to be sure.  But it is also quickly becoming dangerous for Jesus.  These are the ones who will stir up the trouble at his trial and get them to release Barabbas, putting Jesus on the cross instead.

And I feel like it’s necessary to make a quick aside here.  We have heard and will hear many references to “the Jews” in John’s Gospel.  This wording was used for centuries to make legitimate anti-Semitic comments and policies, blaming them for killing the Lord.  But this is John’s Gospel, and Jesus is in full control.  He knows what is in their hearts.  The Jews may indeed want to take his life, but Jesus instead willingly lays it down.  Because that was his mission; that is his mission – to give himself completely for our salvation, and the salvation of the whole world.  And honestly, if we want to blame someone for sending Jesus to the cross, we know only too well that we don’t have to look any further than our own hearts.

What we see in today’s Liturgy of the Word, ultimately, is that God made a promise to Abraham, and, in the person of Jesus Christ, kept that promise.  Abraham was made a mighty nation, God’s promises have always been kept, and we have salvation in Christ.  That’s our Good News today, and every day really.  As we enter the somber days ahead, we have the joy of keeping the end of the story clearly in mind, that Resurrection that Abraham himself so longed to see.

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today’s readings

Susanna’s story is one of the most eloquent in the Old Testament Scriptures, in it we see the wisdom of the prophet Daniel, as well as the mercy and justice of God.  I think when we hear it, we can’t but help think of yesterday’s Gospel reading about the acquittal of the woman caught in adultery, although Susanna was actually innocent.  In that Gospel reading, we are treated to the wisdom of Jesus, brought about as it is with the mercy and justice of God.  But sadly, we see in both stories also the fickleness of the human heart and the evil and treachery that makes up some of our darker moments.

To those who seek to pervert justice and to collude with others against some other person, these readings expose those evil thoughts and flood the darkness with the piercing light of God’s justice.  No one has a right to judge others when their own intentions are not pure.  Only God can give real justice, just as only God brings ultimate mercy.

To those who are the victims of oppression, these readings give hope that God in his mercy will always hear the cry of the poor and give to the downtrodden the salvation which they seek.  God is ultimately very interested in the kind of justice that is characterized by right relationships with one another and with Him.  It is the desire of God’s heart that this kind of justice would be tempered with mercy and would go out and lighten all the dark places of the earth.

Today we are called upon to right wrongs, to be completely honest and forthright in our dealings with others, to seek to purify our hearts of any wicked intent, and most of all to seek to restore right relationships with any person who has something against us, or against whom we have something.  Our prayer this day is that God’s mercy and justice would reign, and that God’s kingdom would come about in all its fullness.

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today’s readings

Back in the sixth century before the birth of Christ, the Israelites were in a bad way.  They had been separated from their God by sin: against God’s commands, they had betrayed their covenant with the Lord and made foreign alliances, which he had forbidden them to do.  He forbade this because he knew that as they made these alliances, they would give in to the temptation to worship the so-called gods of the people they with whom they allied themselves.  As punishment, God separated them from their homeland: the cream of the crop of their society was taken into exile in Babylon, and those left behind had no one to lead them and protect them.  Because they moved away from God, God seemed to move away from them.  But he hadn’t: I think it was really they who had exiled themselves from God.  In today’s first reading, God shows them that he still loves them and cares for them, and promises to make them a new people . I love the line: “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?”  God would indeed bring them back and create their community anew.

The Israelites were in exile, but exile can take so many forms.  And Saint Paul had a good sense of that.  For him, the exile was anything that was not Christ; a sentiment we should embrace.  Saint Paul knows that he has not yet taken possession of the glory that is promised him by Christ, and so he wants to leave behind the exile of the world and strains forward to all that lies ahead, the goal and prize of God’s calling in Christ.

Which brings us back to the woman caught in adultery.  We certainly feel sorry for her, caught in the act, dragged in front of Jesus and publicly humiliated.  But the truth is, just like the Israelites in the sixth century before Christ, she had actually sinned.  And that sin threatened to put her into exile from the community; well, it even threatened her life.  The in-your-face reversal in the story, though, is that Jesus doesn’t consider her the only sinner – or even the greatest sinner – in the whole incident.  We should probably wonder about the man with whom she was committing adultery; that sin does, after all, take two.  And as serious a sin as adultery certainly is, Jesus makes it clear that there are plenty of serious sins out there, and they all exile us from God.  As he sits there, writing in the sand, they walk away one by one.  What was he writing?  Was it a kind of examination of conscience?  A kind of list of the sins of the Pharisees?  We don’t know.  But in Jesus’ words and actions, those Pharisees too were convicted of their sins, and went away – into exile – because of them.

Sin does that to us.  It makes exiles out of all of us.  The more we sin, the further away from God we become.  And it doesn’t have to be that way.

Jimmy and Suzy went to visit their grandparents for a week during the summer.  They had a great time, but one day Jimmy was bouncing a ball in the house, which he knew he shouldn’t be doing.  It didn’t take long for the ball to hit grandma’s favorite vase, knocking it off the table and breaking it.  He picked up the pieces and went out back and hid them in the woodshed.  Looking around, the only person who was around was his sister Suzy.  She didn’t say anything, but later that day, when grandma asked her to help with the dishes, Suzy said “I think Jimmy wanted to help you,” giving him a rather knowing look.  So he did.  The next day, grandpa asked Jimmy if he wanted to go out fishing.  Suzy jumped right in: “He’d like to, but he promised grandma he would weed the garden.”  So Jimmy weeded the garden.  As he was doing that, he felt pretty guilty and decided to confess the whole thing to grandma.  When he told her what had happened, grandma said, “I know.  I was looking out the back window when you were hiding the pieces in the woodshed.  I was wondering how long you were going to let Suzy make a slave of you.”

That’s how it is with sin: it makes a slave of us, and keeps us from doing what we really want to do.  It puts us deep in exile, just as surely as the ancient Israelites.  And it doesn’t have to be that way.  You see, it’s easier than we think to end up in exile.  All we have to do is a good examination of conscience and then think about the way those sins have affected us.  Have they made us feel distant from God, family and friends?  Have they caused us to drift in our life and not feel God’s presence in times of hardship?

Exile is heartbreaking.  And to the exile of sin, God has three things to say today:

First, “Go, and from now on, do not sin anymore.”  That sounds like something that’s easy to say but hard to do.  But the fact is, once we have accepted God’s grace and forgiveness, that grace will actually help us to be free from sin.  Of course, that’s impossible to do all on our own.  But God never commands us to do something that is impossible for us, or maybe better, he never commands us to do something that is impossible for him to do in us.  God’s grace is there if we but turn to him.

Second, God says: “Forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.”  Once sin is confessed and grace is accepted, the sin is forgotten.  God is not a resentful tyrant who keeps a list of our offenses and holds them against us forever.  If we confess our sins and accept the grace that is present through the saving sacrifice of Jesus, the sins are forgotten.  But it is up to us to accept that grace.  We truly have to confess so that we can forget what lies behind and be ready for the graces ahead.

Third, God says: “See, I am doing something new.  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”  We are the ones who get stuck in the past, always fearing to move forward because of past sins, hurts, and resentments.  We are called today to be open to the new thing God is doing in our lives.  The way to open up is to confess our sins and get rid of the past.

For a long time in my young life, I didn’t go to confession.  I didn’t think I needed to.  I grew up in that whole time of the church when it was all about how you felt about yourself.  Garbage.  I knew something was wrong when I was in my young adulthood and felt lost.  I took a chance and went to confession at a penance service, and the priest welcomed me back.  In that moment, I knew exactly the new thing God was doing in me, and it felt like a huge weight was lifted off of me.  In fact, I was released from the exile of all my past sins and hurts.

I never forgot that, and whenever anyone comes to me in confession and says it’s been a long time since they went, I am quick to welcome them back.  Because that’s what God wants, and it’s a great privilege for me to be part of that.  He wants to lift that weight off of you, to end your exile.  All it takes is for you to see that new thing he is doing in you, and to strain forward to what lies ahead.

So we have just a few times left to receive that grace before Holy Week and Easter.  On Monday evening at 6:30, we will hear confessions until all are heard.  Saturday, as usual, we will hear confessions from 4:00 to 4:45pm before Mass.  And next Sunday, Palm Sunday, we will hear confessions after the 7:30, 9:30 and 11:30 Masses until all are heard.  Would that we would all take this opportunity to forget what lies behind, and strain forward to what lies ahead.  God is doing a new thing in all of us these Lenten days.  Let us all be open to it.

The Word from Father Pat: Saint Patrick’s Day

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

Saint Patrick, The Lorica (Breastplate) Prayer

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I know it’s the Fifth Sunday of Lent, but I couldn’t resist a wee bit of celebration of the great and holy feast of Saint Patrick!  Certainly I revere Saint Patrick because he’s my patron, but also I revere him because of his steadfast witness to Christ.  Here was a man kidnapped from his native land and brought as a slave to Ireland.  He managed to escape and having done so, thought about nothing else but returning to the land.  He became a priest and returned to Ireland so that he could minister to the people and lead them to Christ.

The role of the saints is to do just that for us: to point the way to Christ.  And Saint Patrick does that well in his Breastplate (or Lorica) prayer, part of which I’ve quoted above.  Some question whether he wrote the prayer himself, but regardless, it was certainly the kind of thing he would write and say, based on his life and his teachings.  I love the recognition of Christ in each person and all around us.  What if we really stopped to think about that on a daily basis?  How would it change the way we speak and act toward our brothers and sisters?

The words of Saint Patrick’s prayer are the essential Lenten discipline.  God is God and we are not.  We need God in very real ways, not just when we are at the end of our ropes, but primarily in the every-dayness of our lives.  We need Christ because every day there is a battle for our souls, and we can’t save them of our own power.  And so Lent calls us to see Christ as Saint Patrick did: before and behind us; above and beneath us; on our right and on our left; in our resting as in our activity; in every person we encounter and most especially in the depths of our own hearts.  Christ is everywhere, filling our lives, beckoning us to repentance, urging us to follow him.

Saint Patrick imitated Christ by giving up the comfort of his life to do the work of Christ.  In doing that, he points the way to Christ for all of us.  We too are called on to give of ourselves, to give up our own needs and wants and desires, to become people who truly live the Gospel in the way we care for others.  We are called to see Christ in every moment and every place.

I celebrate Saint Patrick’s day maybe a little different than is stereotypical.  Yes, I like my corned beef and cabbage (and Grandma’s Irish Soda Bread), but I observe this day as a renewed call to holiness of life, a renewed call to give of myself more deeply in priestly ministry, a renewed call to repentance and dependence on Christ my Savior.  I pray that we might all find Christ in the celebration of this great and holy day!

Yours in Christ and His Blessed Mother, and the glory of Saint Patrick,
Father Pat Mulcahy, Pastor