On this 2nd Sunday of Easter we have much to celebrate and rejoice over. I will speak briefly on the Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday and the Beatification of the Blessed John Paul the Great. The Octave of Easter has been an eight day celebration of the single day of Easter. In the Gospel, when you hear that
HE SHOWED THEM HIS HANDS AND HIS SIDE you see and hear that Jesus mocked Death: It was He who descended to the abode of the dead and who tore down the gates of hell; it was He who bound the strong man and plundered his house; it was He who led a whole host in victory and who opened once again to humanity the Gates of Heaven! Death is fettered in chains, it is abolished, slain and destroyed. Oh risen Savior, dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life! Today, like then, when
HE CAME WHERE THE DISCIPLES WERE FOR FEAR . . . He comes to you in your place of fear: Are you afraid of suffering? Christ also suffered for you (1 Pt 2:21). Are you afraid of being rejected? He was despised and rejected by men (Is 53:3). Are you afraid of dying? He already has and We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him! (Rom 6:9) and so do not be afraid. On this Divine Mercy Sunday you see and hear that Jesus said
WHOSE SINS YOU FORGIVE ARE FORGIVEN THEM Jesus broke forever the stranglehold that sin had over the human race. Because of sin you were lost, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God (Eph 2:12). But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our sins brought us to life with Christ (Eph 2:4). Jesus said to St. Faustina, That day the very depths of my tender mercy is open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the font of mercy. The unfathomable wellspring of mercy and the fountainhead of God’s love is open to you today! On this day of the Beatification of the Blessed John Paul the Great how fitting these words from today’s Gospel:
THE DOORS WERE LOCKED . . . JESUS CAME AND STOOD IN THEIR MIDST
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There is no stone so heavy that can keep Him in the tomb. Do not for a moment think that when Christ rose from dead he had to lean against the stone and struggle to push it aside. NO! The angel moved it so the women and the disciples could look inside! His risen body passed through the tomb just as it passed through those closed doors. There is no door so locked
that can keep Him out. No door except one, the door to your heart. When he died, John Paul the Great had sat on Peter’s Chair for half my life. He is my hero! Beginning and throughout his pontificate he proclaimed these words: Open wide the doors for Christ! On this wonderful Octave of Easter, on this Mercy Sunday, on this beatification day of Blessed John Paul II, may every one of you

Open wide the doors for Christ!

After listening to the First Reading I’m thinking: Isn’t it good that God doesn’t judge like men do? Men judge by looking on the outside: who’s the tallest, strongest, smartest, sexiest, richest or the most influential. Thank God He judges by looking at what’s on the inside!
Out of all the cast of characters seen in the Gospel, parents, neighbors, members of the synagogue and also the Pharisees, Jesus chose the man born blind. Like the man in today’s Gospel you also are born blind from birth: Blind to the existence of the world where God reigns; where love prevails; where light, and goodness, and truth and beauty blaze like a million suns. The world where myriads of angels delight in doing God’s will; the world that knows no end; the world where there is no darkness, sadness, suffering and death. This is the world you were created for, the world for which your heart aches and your eyes long to see. This is the world you can’t see until you wash in the Pool of Siloam. Until you are united in baptism to the One who was sent from God. At Baptism your eyes were opened and you began the journey of growing in faith. Today’s Gospel shows you some of the steps on that journey: When questioned by his neighbors on how his eyes were opened the man born blind said,
THE MAN CALLED JESUS MADE CLAY AND ANOINTED MY EYES.
In the beginning, for the blind man, and maybe also for you Jesus is no more than a man. Maybe a good man, maybe even a great man, but just a man. After he began to see the Pharisees questioned him by asking,

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT HIM? He said, He is a prophet. He takes a step forward. He understands that Jesus is sent from God. But Muslims and people of other religions would agree that Jesus was a Prophet. After being thrown out of the synagogue,
JESUS FOUND HIM The man born blind was not looking for Jesus but Jesus was looking for him! In your journey of faith you might now not be looking for Jesus. But let me clue you in – Jesus is looking for you. Jesus asks him,
DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE SON OF MAN? He said, I do believe, Lord, and he worshiped him. The man formerly blind recognizes Him as his Lord and God and worships Him. To move along on this journey of faith you must know Jesus personally. In the words of Pope Benedict this is the journey of faith,

Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus
. . . may this happen to each one of us!
(October 21, 2009)

TODAY’S SCRIPTURES SPEAK ABOUT THE PROBLEM OF SIN
The Reading from Genesis portrays the pattern of the Original Sin.
Adam and Eve exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rm 1:25). God said,” You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad, for the moment you eat from it you’re surely doomed to die.” They believed the creature, the devil, whom they knew was not God, who said, You will not die your eyes will be opened and you’ll be like gods! All temptation begins with an empty promise and then proceeds through three modes of suggestion, delight, and finally, consent.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans describes the scope of the Original Sin: Sin is a dreadful power that has gripped all of humanity. After one sin there was judgment that brought condemnation and now, through one man’s sin Death now reigns over the entire human race. The devil, through fear of death, wields power: He holds the human race in captivity, so that all his subjects are slaves to sin for their entire lives. Adam and Eve’s Original Sin is passed down through the generations. All of their descendants are now in revolt against the Creator. They’re engaged in the exaltation of their own desires and interests. The culture of death wants to create its own reality apart from God. Everyone wants to decide right and what wrong for themselves.
In the Gospel the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert to be tempted.
The New Testament Greek to lead has the connotation of being set loose or launched . . . Jesus didn’t go into the desert – that enemy camp where demons dwell – to find Himself or to overcome His personal demons. Jesus went into the desert to do battle! Through fasting He regained what Adam, in the garden, lost through feasting. Through prayer He conquered the demons that enslave you; He gained the victory over your sins and failings; and overcame that which separates you from God and one another.  In the desert Jesus launched His triumphant march through enemy territory that will, on Good Friday, lead Him to the place of the final battle. Where, for your sake and friendship, He laid down His life in death . . .

In preparing for this homily I discovered that there are over 14,000 uses for salt in our lives. I thought I’d mention just the first thousand or so! Salt adds flavor. It’s the most widely used of all food preservatives. Salt softens water and is used to keep roads and sidewalks passable. It cleanses wounds and is used for intravenous saline solutions. It’s used in manufacturing, medicine and drilling. Your blood is almost one percent salt and maintains the electrolyte balance in your body. To put it simply: salt is essential for life! When Jesus says that
You are the salt of the earth He is saying that in this tasteless culture which is opposed to God and promotes death, the practice of your Catholic Faith is essential in adding flavor, preserving, purifying, and renewing this world and bringing salvation to men and women everywhere. But the Gospel also contains a warning:
If salt loses its taste it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out. How can you maintain that saltiness? In Baptism you were made to share in Christ’s life and ministry as priest, prophet, and king. As Priest, Christ offered Himself to the Father on the Cross. So you offer to the Father sacrifices of love that are required of you in marriage and family life, in living as a single, or widowed or divorced person. You offer the successes and failures at work. You offer the pains of rejection, broken relationships, and even your times of recreation. You offer your prayers and suffering to God, especially at Mass, when the Lord, through the priesthood of Fr. Bob, offers Himself to the Father. As Prophet, Christ proclaimed the Good News of salvation. Like St. Paul in weakness and fear and much trembling, with words and action you witness to the reason of your hope in Christ and the Gospel. Finally, as King, Christ exercised His reign over heaven and earth not by being served but by being a servant to all. So dear friends, you are called to serve: the poor, the rejected, the elderly, the sick, the broken, the hungry and the homeless. The salt you add to their lives is really love. God is loving them through you. That is why the LORD goes on to say that
You are the light of the world. The LORD wants your light to shine before others, WHY? So you can be noticed and receive the praise of others? No! So you can feel good about yourself? NO! The LORD wants your light to shine before others so that
They may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father By your good deeds, by your love, you bring glory to God and you work with the Him for the salvation of men and women everywhere.
You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world!

There are four words in today’s Gospel that I ask you to remember and they all correspond to Divine invitations: light, repent, called and fishers.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light . . .
In 1982, Lucia and I, with our then four children, moved from Connecticut to Michigan. Being young and maybe a little foolish, three or four times year we’d drive back east all night to visit family and friends. Somewhere around eastern Pennsylvania or the Delaware Water Gap, dawn would start spreading across the eastern sky. Now let me say that while I was sitting in darkness and driving, the windshield looked pretty clean. But when the light shone that same windshield was something to behold: dirt, bug juice, splat and bird doo. In an analogous way, when Jesus comes to town, the light and the glory of God makes visible what was previously hidden by darkness. His coming brings to light what overshadows every human life: death, anguish, despair, sickness, darkness, gloom, distress and every other oppressive reality. And so, the first invitation is for you to allow His great light to shine on you, and just maybe, bring to light those things in you that you would prefer not to have to look at. Back to the journey home . . . After looking at that windshield I’d exit the highway and would stop at the next gas station and clean the windshield. Similarly, Jesus speaks into that situation in your own life as well when He says:
Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!
Repentance is an invitation to turn around and to change the direction of your life: to think, to speak and to behave in new ways; towards God, towards others and towards yourself. When you accept Jesus’ invitation to repent, He washes and cleanses you – you can see clearly!
Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.
With these words the LORD addresses not only the Apostles. He gives you that same invitation: He says follow Me, be My disciple; live as I live and do as I do. Jesus Christ is the focal point of human history. He is the measure of what it means to be human. Every man and woman finds their dignity and purpose in Him. It takes God Himself to live a truly human life!
At once they left their nets, their boat and father. What a wonderful and, at the same time, frightening response. This invitation demands a response! In his homily at the begin of his papacy, John Paul the Great addressed this fear:

Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way?
If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him,
are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?
Are we not perhaps, afraid to give up something significant,
something unique, something that makes life so beautiful?
Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?
Do not be afraid of Christ!
He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything.
When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return!
Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ and you will find true life.

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. There are four infallible teachings declared about Mary:
First, that Mary was immaculately conceived. That is, she was conceived without original sin. On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception as part of the Deposit of Faith.
Second, the primary title of Mary is Mother of God. She is the Theotokos, or God Bearer. This was sanctioned in 431 A.D. at the Council of Ephesus. Because Jesus is God, whatever can be said about Jesus can be said about God. because Mary is the mother of Jesus she is also, therefore, the Mother of God.
Third, Mary is Ever Virgin. Mary remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin (St. Augustine, Sermon 186, 1: PL 38, 999).
Fourth and finally, on November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into heaven as part of the Deposit of Faith. Whether Mary died or not has not been established. Let us look at
today’s scriptures:
WHEN THE FULLNESS OF TIME HAD COME The Greek word for fullness is pleroma. Like a very pregnant woman Time itself is pregnant and ready to give birth. Something is about to be fulfilled. Time and history are not just the unfolding of random events. Rather, they have a direction and a purpose.
GOD SENT HIS SON God the Father (exapostello) sent out or sent forth His eternally begotten Son from Himself. What you profess in the Nicene Creed is that the One sent is God from God, Light from Light, and True God from True God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father. When God sent forth His Son, eternity entered time; heaven bent down and kissed the earth; the light of a radiant new dawn erupted into the world that had been darkened by hate and sin; and Love was born.
BORN OF A WOMAN: The in-conceivable takes place – the Virgin gives birth and becomes a Mother. in the words of Cardinal John Henry Newman, bestowed a created nature on Him who was her Creator. Born of a woman, He was the son of Mary, and she, the Mother of God. Mary’s Son is truly God and truly man. One of the Church fathers wrote that while remaining what He was, the Beloved Son of the Father assumed what He was not, and became a man. Why?
TO RANSOM THOSE UNDER THE LAW To ransom means to redeem, to buy back, and to free. Let’s continue by picking up this same theme in today’s Gospel: the shepherds heard . . .
FOR TODAY IN THE CITY OF DAVID Bethlehem is the City of David and the angelic message to the shepherds revealed the three titles of the Child born to them:
A SAVIOR HAS BEEN BORN FOR YOU
The very Name of Jesus means Yahweh saves or God saves! You have been saved not just from the impossible – to – keep Mosaic Law but from every law that has kept you under its power. Jesus saved you from the power of sin; He releases you from the devil’s dominion; and most of all he frees you from that eternal separation from God called death.
WHO IS MESSIAH This was the title given to kings and prophets. It was also the title of the One who would fulfill the promises made by God to his people. This new born child, who lies in a manger, has come to fulfill the hopes of all people. You are not the singular exception to that statement. Jesus Christ has come to fulfill your hopes also!
AND LORD In Greek it is kurios. Lord is the name given to God Himself. Jesus Christ is Lord and He reigns over all!
In the icon that you see before you, Mary is holding Jesus with her left arm and hand and pointing to Him with her right hand and arm. In proclaiming Mary as Theotokos, the Mother of God, the Church, like Mary, is pointing to Christ, the One who will fulfill your hopes and dreams. He is the One who will forgive your sins and free you from Satan’s power. He will deliver you out of death into the eternal embrace of the Father who loves you! Decide this New Year, with God’s help, to make room or to make more room for Jesus in that Inn which is your heart.

Today’s Gospel and this homily, is for anyone named Joseph. But it is also for anyone whose dreams have turned into nightmares; or whose hopes have been dashed; or whose life seems to have been pulled right out from underneath them.
MARY WAS BETROTHED TO JOSEPH The period of Betrothal, lasted for one year and was like marriage in every way except for marital relations. It was far more serious than the current practice of engagement. Betrothal was so binding, that it could be terminated only by death or divorce.
SHE WAS FOUND WITH CHILD THRU THE HOLY SPIRIT At this point all that Joseph knows is that his wife is pregnant and he was not the father . . . This short Gospel will give you some insight as to why Joseph is the Patron of the Universal Church. SINCE HE WAS A RIGHTEOUS (OR JUST) MAN Joseph was a good, faithful and obedient to God. Not out of fear or servitude but out of love.
Joseph was righteous but not self-righteous. For him, this situation was both embarrassing, but even more, it was humiliating. According to the Law of Moses (Dt 22:20-22), if Joseph denounced her, Mary’s condition could merit death, both for herself and the child she was carrying! But Joseph was
UNWILLING TO EXPOSE HER TO SHAME My friends in Hungary would say that Joseph was between the hammer and the head of the nail. He bore the shame, the embarrassment and the humiliation. Joseph is motivated by LOVE, so . . .
(HE) DECIDED TO DIVORCE HER QUIETLY. This decision saves the lives of Mary and her unborn child. Joseph’s hopes and dreams for marriage and fatherhood are shattered and his life is turned upside down. But it is when all seems lost that . . .
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD APPEARED IN A DREAM Amazingly, Joseph continues to dream, to trust and to hope! It is then that angel of the LORD gave to Joseph a greater dream, a dream that would impact the whole world. A dream that this child would save people from sin and restore to them the love God. By addressing Joseph as
SON OF DAVID the angel reminds Joseph of his royal identity. This morning you are reminded of your identity – You are a royal priesthood, you are a holy nation. In the 2nd Reading St. Paul also reminds you that you belong to Jesus Christ! And with Joseph you also are told . . .
DO NOT BE AFRAID You no longer have to fear sickness, or loneliness; you no longer have to fear the weight of your past sins or the uncertainty of the future; you no longer have to fear death. Why? Because the child carried by Mary is God with Us! Continuing you see that the LORD says to Joseph
TAKE MARY YOUR WIFE INTO YOUR HOME In obedience Joseph embraced God’s plan for his life. So you also, like Mary and like Joseph must say Yes to God! Embrace His plan for you and take it into your heart.
St. Joseph was a great man and a just man. He was father in every way, save biologically, to this unborn child. This is why he is Patron of the Universal Church:
It was not to His mother Mary but to Joseph that the LORD said
YOU ARE TO NAME HIM
It was Joseph who pronounced over his adopted Son the Name that is above all names; the Name before which every knee would bow; the Name that every tongue would confess. It was Joseph who named the child – Jesus. It was Joseph, the son of David, who gave to Jesus His royal ancestry. It was Joseph who provided food to the One who would multiply the loaves and fish. It was Joseph who provided shelter and security to the One who made a place for man to dwell; It was Joseph who taught the carpenter’s craft to the Architect who fashioned the heavens and the earth; and it was Joseph who recited the word of God to the One who is the Eternal Word made flesh. And finally, it was Joseph who took his Son to the Temple and to the synagogue where unknowingly, all were worshipping his adopted Son.
St. Joseph, your family still needs your love, support, protection and teaching.

Great patron of the Universal Church Pray for Us!