Peace and Forgiveness

Pentecost Sunday (June 4, 2017)

Acts 2:1-11

Psalm 104:1,24,29-30,31,34

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 20:19-23

 

The Understanding Widower

After a long shift at the fire department, Matt Swatzell fell asleep while driving and crashed into another vehicle, taking the life of pregnant mother June Fitzgerald and injuring her 19-month-old daughter. Fitzgerald’s husband, a full-time pastor, asked for the man’s diminished sentence—and began meeting with Swatzell for coffee and conversation. Many years later, the two men remain close. “You forgive as you’ve been forgiven,” Fitzgerald told Today.

Interesting….

 

The Unbelievable Friend

During a night swim with girlfriends, bride-to-be Rachelle Friedman was horsing around and got jokingly pushed into the shallow end of the pool, where her head hit the bottom. She cracked her neck and has not been able to feel anything below it since. Despite the life-changing injury, Friedman went on with her marriage and has said she never harbored resentment toward her friend about the freak accident. “There is no use in being down in the dumps and depressed. It’s not going to get you anywhere,” she told Today in an interview.

Very interesting…

 

The Unexpected Connection

Sandra Walker, a mother of two, lost her husband in a car accident that also caused her to have a life-changing brain injury. At the trial for the accident, in her court statement Walker said she sympathized with the woman who crashed into them—who herself lost a child in the accident—and gave her a hug. “I know she is going through as much pain as I am feeling. I wanted her to know that I forgive her for what she did,” Walker told WSB-TV.

Very, very interesting…

 

The Compassionate Officer

Steven McDonald was a young police officer in 1986 when he was shot by a teenager in New York’s Central Park, an incident that left him paralyzed. “I forgave [the shooter] because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart,” McDonald stated.

Very, very, very interesting…

 

These are four very powerful, real life stories of what can happen when forgiveness and peace are fully realized. And this, my friends, goes to the heart of what Jesus did for us in today’s Gospel from John.

The Risen Jesus offers us two gifts in today’s Gospel. Both of which have the potential to change our lives. Peace and forgiveness.

Jesus stands in the midst of the Apostles and says, “Peace be with you” as he shows them his hands and his side. It’s almost as if Jesus is reminding them that, in spite of the torture He suffered, He still offers peace, not vengeance. He says a second time, “Peace be with you.” The peace Jesus is offering us here is not just the absence of war, but of a complete calmness of mind and body. No more worry. No more stress.

In order to achieve this type of peace, we have to use the second gift Jesus offers us… forgiveness. In the four stories I shared with you, the people who were wronged had a choice. Harbor hate or offer forgiveness. Each one of them chose forgiveness. I couldn’t imagine how much their lives would have been altered if they chose hate and resentment. Those negative things tend to bleed over into other aspects of your life. Before you know it, you’re not only mad at the person who wronged you, but everyone else as well. It leads to unhappiness.

So I ask you… do you want to have peace in your life? Then you need to take a very close look at whom you need to forgive, or whom you possibly need to ask forgiveness from. And yes, as we’ve all heard it said before, forgiveness doesn’t always mean forgetting. If you forgive someone, but they are not healthy to be around, you should stay away from them. But true forgiveness means you are not allowing another person’s words or actions to control you or rule your mind. And that, my brothers and sisters, leads to peace.

Today, on Pentecost, Jesus offers us the gifts of peace and forgiveness before he ascends to heaven. And in His supreme wisdom, He also leaves us the Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen us on our journey so we are not alone!

So I ask you one more time… do you want to fully experience the peace of Jesus Christ??? Then open your heart, allow yourself to forgive and be forgiven. Find peace in our risen Lord. Find peace through the Holy Spirit. Allow your bodies to fully surrender over to God’s loving mercy and fear no more….

Peace be with you!

 

*The four stories above were found here:

http://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/extreme-forgiveness/

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 21, 2017)

Acts 8:5-8,14-17

Psalm 66:1-3,4-5,6-7,16,20

1 Peter 3:15-18

John 14:15-21

Actions speak louder than words. How many times have we heard this phrase before? It is an absolute truth in my opinion. If you say one thing, but your actions prove otherwise, you are living a lie. It’s that simple.

Another word that comes to mind is “integrity.” My definition of integrity is: doing the right thing, even when no body else is around to see it. For example, if you are at Walmart and see a man unknowingly drop his wallet in the parking lot… and you pick the wallet up but keep it for yourself because no one else saw it… you lack integrity.

This is one of the basic Christian teachings that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel from John. “Jesus said to his disciples: If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you say you are a Christian, you should do the things I tell you to do.” Actions speak louder than words.

Being a Christian can be a struggle… I get it. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. Some of the teachings from Jesus are… let’s just call them, “challenging.” Why? Because many of our Christian beliefs go against the grain of the world. But that doesn’t make them impossible to follow or at least try.

Jesus himself knew that we would struggle in this area after he ascended to Heaven. That is the very reason he promised to give us an Advocate to be with us always. This Advocate is the third person of the Trinity, better known as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is who guides us and strengthens us in our day-to-day lives. He’s the one who we should be relying on to help us when we have to choose between doing right or doing wrong in any given situation. And the more we choose to do right, the more He will strengthen us.

Just like an athlete training for the Olympics. If they train and eat right faithfully, they’ll perform at their best come game time. But if they cheat on their training regiment and on their diet over and over again, they will fail miserably when it really counts.

So too with us. If we consistently live out our faith in word and action, those ethical and moral challenges we will face later won’t see some overwhelming. But if we continue to choose poorly in little things, we’ll fail miserably when we are really challenged.

Hopefully I haven’t scared you by now. I’m sure there’s at least one person out there saying, “Yup, I fail daily with little things. My integrity stinks. I’m doomed.” Well chin up buttercup! Go to confession and get a fresh start. That’s the great thing about our faith. We serve a merciful God who LOVES giving us a fresh start because He is overflowing with his divine mercy. We just have to ask for forgiveness and try again. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

Love God. Learn your faith. Live out that faith. Ask the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance. It’s really that straightforward. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father.” So please, let us all show Jesus how much we love Him by learning and living out our faith more and more each day.

Recognize. Trust. Try.

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday – April 23, 2017)

Acts 2:42-47

Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

For Lent this year, I tried to do something a little different. A priest that I go to for spiritual direction challenged me to focus on 3 areas for Lent: Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.

Almsgiving – I decided to go through my very cluttered, very full bedroom closet and clean it out. Clothes that I haven’t worn in a long time were donated to Good Will. I managed to throw away three bags of junk and donate 2 large bags of clothes. This exercise made me realize that I have plenty of “stuff” and it’s good to help others. Plus, if you need help organizing your closet, see me after Mass for some suggestions because I am now an expert!

Fasting – It may sound odd, but I decided to fast from negative speech. I fully realize that this is something I should probably always do, but I must admit that I tend to be more negative than positive. So every time I said something negative, I would stop and prayer an Our Father in my head. That first week… was rough. Let’s just say that I probably said enough Our Father prayers for a lifetime. This exercise made me realize that I actually can change bad behaviors. Plus, I feel like I have become more of an encourager rather than a discourager. Who would you rather be around?

Prayer – For this, I decided to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for one week and then start on a book titled, “33 Days To Merciful Love – A Do It Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy” by Michael Gaitley. It speaks of God’s loving mercy as seen through the eyes of St. Therese of Lisieux. It’s a great book that takes 34 days to read. You simply read a short, daily reflection for 33 days and then consecrate your heart to God’s Divine Mercy and Love on day 34 by praying the prayer given in the book. I timed this so that my consecration day would be Sunday, April 23, which just so happens to be Divine Mercy Sunday (today). This exercise helped remind me that God’s loving mercy is really… really abundant and so very easy to receive. However, we tend to makes things more complicated.

So let’s go back to the beginning and try to figure out how to uncomplicate God’s Divine Mercy. Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden. Simply put, God said to Adam and Eve, “Here’s paradise. Make it your home. Do what you want. What is mine is yours. Just don’t eat from that one tree.” We know that God did this to protect Adam and Eve. But the sly serpent came along and told a well-crafted lie. And rather than trusting God, Adam and Eve trusted the serpent. This was the beginning of our trust issues with God.

This lack of trust can even be seen in today’s Gospel with the Disciple Thomas. Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands… I will not believe.” Jesus told them He was coming back. But Thomas didn’t trust since he didn’t see it for himself. So from to the Garden to the Upper Room to the here and now, we still have trust issues with God.

How then can we try to solve this trust issue with God? The first step is to recognize that there is a problem. Recognize that we aren’t perfect and we have a tendency towards sin. This is probably one of the hardest things to do because each sin, each wound in our soul is a reminder of the original sin, which was caused by not trusting God in the first place.

Once we can recognize we have a trust issue with God, the next step is to trust Him anyway! Trust Him that in spite of our shortcomings, He will still love us. Even when we can’t see Him standing in front of us, like Thomas in today’s Gospel, we have to trust that he’s still there with open arms. Furthermore, when we sin and seek His love and forgiveness in the confessional, even with that one sin that we seem to do over and over again, we still have to trust that His love and mercy is bigger than our fallen nature.

And finally, after recognizing our faults, after trusting that God is in control and has abundant mercy and love for each of us, there’s only one thing left to do… try. Keep trying to do better. Try to make this day better than yesterday.

There is a short paragraph in the book I read that sums this up perfectly. To keep trying “means we have to keep striving to grow in holiness. For instance, it means going to Mass and Confession regularly, taking time to pray, and doing the little things with great love. It means forgiving those who have hurt us. It means being sorry for our sins, making a firm resolution not to sin again, and never making a ‘truce’ with sin. It means not settling for complacency or mediocrity or the attitude that says, ‘Well, that’s just who I am.’ In other words, it means striving to be faithful to examining our consciences every day. Also, it means not giving in to discouragement or, God forbid, despair. It means that if we fall into discouragement or despair, we’ll make an effort to get right back up, right back to trusting in God’s mercy. It means trying to remember and keep before our eyes the infinite mercy of God who never tires of forgiving. It means striving to never tire of asking God for forgiveness.” (“33 Days to Merciful Love” by Michael Gaitley, page 119).

Recognize. Trust. Try. This is the formula that allowed St. Therese of Lisieux to grow in holiness. She realized that you don’t need to do great things to attain God’s great love. You simply need to do little things with great love.

So trust God.

Try to live out your faith and recognize that God’s love and mercy is abundant.

He is offering it to you freely.

You simply need to ask Him and He will fill your soul with His Divine Mercy!

I’m Thirsty

3rd Sunday of Lent (March 19, 2017)

Exodus 17:3-7

Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,8-9

Romans 5:1-2,5-8

John 4:5-42

Any guesses as to how long a human can live without water? Depending on the environment, 3 to 7 days. After that, you’ll die of dehydration.

Any guesses as to how long a human can live without food? Again, depending on the environment, roughly 3 weeks (but that’s assuming you are still hydrated).

So one could argue that drinking water is even more critical than eating food.

Why? Because 60% of the adult human body is water. Every living cell depends on it. Water lubricates our joints, it regulates body temperature through sweating and respiration and it helps to flush waste out of the body. Water is so important that if dehydration levels cause more then a loss of 10% of your body weight, it’s considered a medical emergency and can lead to death if not reversed.

Why do I bring this up on the 3rd Sunday of Lent? Well… on the 1st Sunday of Lent, we were lead out into the desert to be tempted. On the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we climbed a mountain to be changed, transfigured actually. And now, on the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Jesus is telling us that after all that hiking in the desert and mountain climbing, we’re thirsty and in need of a drink of water.

But not just any water mind you! You see… regular water will quench your thirst, but only temporarily. As I said just a moment ago, at the bear minimum, you need to drink water at least every 3 days. But I know if I don’t drink a glass of water every few hours, my throat becomes dry and I even start to feel tired. Therefore we are always looking… always searching for the next glass of water to drink.

Now thankfully, most of us are fortunate enough to live in an area where finding clean drinking water is not a problem. Not so for the Hebrews in the reading we hear today from Exodus. Moses is leading a very thirsty group of people out of Egypt. The Hebrews complained and complained about being thirsty, so much, that eventually God provided water through Moses. God quenched their thirst.

Water is also not so abundant in the town of Sychar in Samaria that we hear about in today’s Gospel from John. The people of this town all get their water from a common well. As you can imagine, one would probably have to go to the well several times each day. They can’t simply turn on a faucet in their kitchen. Therefore, this well is vital to the survival of the people in the town. If something were to happen to it, the people would have to move away or die of dehydration.

It is at this well in Sychar where Jesus and a Samaritan woman have a brief, but very theologically deep conversation. Jesus says to the woman, “Everyone who drinks from this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Here Jesus is acknowledging what we have already discussed… we get thirsty, we drink, our thirst is quenched for a time, repeat. But Jesus then makes the bold statement that there is a new, living water that will forever quench our thirst permanently. No more going back to the well. No more searching for our next drink.

On hearing this, the Samaritan woman replies, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” This is a fair and honest statement that I think most of us would ask if we were in her shoes at that moment. Who wouldn’t want to be fully satisfied? To not have to search anymore? Sounds like a good deal to me!

In Scripture, John 6 is often referred to as the “bread of life discourse.” So I guess John 4, today’s Gospel, can be referred to as the “water of life discourse.” Jesus is the living water that will quench all of our desires. We need to fully immerse ourselves in this water. If we fully and completely let Jesus Christ, the Living Water, into our lives, into every cell in our bodies, He’ll quench your thirst for all of eternity in Heaven.

And by the way, what’s the opposite of Heaven? Hell. Eternal fire. No water in sight. Eternal thirsting. NOT a pretty picture!

So you have a choice. You can drink from the Living Water and be satisfied… or risk eternal thirst by only drinking from “regular”, “worldly” water.

As we continue our journey through Lent, keep your eyes focused on Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can fully satisfy you. He is our Bread of Life, He is our Living Water, He is our eternal salvation.

So drink deeply from the Living Water and never thirst again!

The Holocaust and Forgiveness

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 19, 2017)

Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18

Psalm 103:1-2,3-4,8,10,12-13

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This could very well be one of the toughest actions Jesus teaches us to do.

About a month ago, I was able to see this teaching in real life in an extremely graphic way. Along with others from St. Andrew’s, I went on a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. as part of the March For Life trip this past January. During the pilgrimage, our group was able to tour the Holocaust Museum. It contained four floors of photos, images, videos and actual items that were used during the Holocaust. The museum tells the story beginning with the uprising of the Nazi Party and all of their propaganda, to the rounding up of the innocent victims, to the death camps, to the eventual liberation of the prisoners after the defeat of the Nazi’s. It paints a vivid picture of what hate and persecution looks like in real life.

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Before going to the Holocaust Museum, I previously read stories of people who had survived the concentration camps. I knew the history and how much evil went on there. I even remember hearing a survival story straight from the mouth of a Jewish survivor when I was in middle school. But standing in the midst of the Holocaust Museum, surrounded by all of the memorabilia, it just seemed… I don’t know…thick with heartbreak and unimaginable agony. Literally… hell on earth.

It especially took my breath away when I entered a room that contained hundreds of pairs of shoes piled up on either side of the room. You see, the Nazi’s didn’t like to waste material goods. So before they killed prisoners in the gas chambers, they would strip them naked and either sell their clothes for profit or reuse them. A quote on the wall of the shoe room reads, “We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses. We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers from Prague, Paris and Amsterdam. And because we are only made of fabric and leather and not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.”

As I stood in that room, I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world does one who lived through this nightmare firsthand ever get over it? Furthermore, how does one forgive anyone who willingly participated in these evil events?

I bring up the Holocaust as an extreme example of what hate and evil can turn into. Many of us, thankfully, won’t have to deal with persecution to that extreme. But if there’s even one story of healing or forgiveness that comes from this pit of Hell, then I believe it can help us put our own personal struggles into a better perspective and give us the courage to overcome them.

I came across such a story last week about a Hungarian Jewish woman who was a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Her name is Eva Kor. In April of 2015, Eva traveled to Germany to give evidence and testify against a former SS Sergeant named Oskar Groening. Oskar was accused and later found guilty of being complicit in the murder of 300,000 people at Auschwitz (including Eva’s father, mother and two older sisters). In the courtroom, Eva approached Oskar and publicly forgave him for the sins he committed against her family and then shocked everyone when she embraced him with a hug. When Eva was asked how she could have possibly forgiven such a man, she replied, “Why survive at all if all you want to be is sad, angry and hurting? That is so foreign to who I am. I don’t understand why the world is so much more willing to accept lashing out in anger rather than embracing friendship and humanity” (www.telegraph.co.uk, 20 Jan 2016, “Why I forgive the Nazis who murdered my family” by Joe Shute).

This strong woman, lived out what Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” By our human standards, Eva had every right to curse, spit on and assault that man. But she chose differently; she chose a better way. A way that lead to the healing of her own soul. This Jewish lady was living out a core Christian teaching that many of us Christians, all to often, chose to ignore.

I am 100%, fully aware with how hard it is to pray for people you don’t like. I am also 100%, fully aware of how hard it is to forgive people who have persecuted you or committed a hurtful act against you. But do you realize how much damage you will continue to cause in your own life, to your own soul, if you cling to the hate?? When you attach yourself to hate, it will eventually overflow into other areas of your life. That will eventually spill out on relationships that you thought were good. Before you know it, your stubbornness to forgive has lowered your quality of life and those around you as well. It quietly consumes your soul.

Remember, Jesus didn’t say, “Come and follow me for I will show you an easier way.” He did, however, offer to show us a “better” way. He wants you to be happy. He wants your soul to shine. Praying for those frustrating people in your life, forgiving those who have wronged you, not lashing out in anger… these are the things Jesus Christ asks us to do.

As I’ve said many, many times before… our time on this earth is temporary. So don’t be tempted to harbor anger and hate in your soul during your short, mortal life. Focus instead on the eternal love waiting for you in heaven.

Forgive often. Pray constantly. Love always.

Getting Out Of My Spiritual Funk

Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 18, 2016)

Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 24:1-6

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-24

Time seems to be flying by like a speeding train and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. What do I mean? Just like that… the 4th candle is lit on the Advent wreath representing the last week of Advent and Christmas in only one week away.

I have a confession though. Can you keep a secret? I’m not feeling it this year. I just can’t seem to get in the “holiday spirit” for the life of me. It’s been an exceptionally trying year and I’m just worn down a bit. Plus I think the commercial side of Christmas, for me, it also getting a bit old. I mean… it’s the same thing every year. We celebrate Halloween and then all of a sudden, when we should be getting ready for Thanksgiving, that man in a red suit with his reindeer shows up! As we sit down to over indulge in a Thanksgiving feast with family, we turn on the radio for some pleasant background music, and lo and behold “Jingle Bells” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is playing on just about every bloody station! Then it’s a 30 day mad dash starting with Black Friday shopping, putting up the Christmas decorations, making sure everyone on our list has a present, planning meals and family gatherings, finding time to wrap the presents and still have enough money left over to pay our monthly bills. It can be stressful and exhausting.

I’ve been actively trying to get out of my funk but nothing has helped until I read Matthew’s Gospel passage for this weekend. It brought to mind a conversation I had with a Baptist friend of mine a few years ago. We were talking about who knows what when, out of the blue, he looked at me and said, “You Catholics really like Mary don’t you?” A little shocked, I merely replied, “Yup, we think she’s pretty cool.” He then said, “Well I’m Baptist, so the only time we ever talk about her is at Christmas because she gave birth to Jesus. So what’s the deal with Mary and Catholics?” Trying to keep this as simple as possible and without wanting to get into a heated debate, I said something like, “Mary was the first person to say yes to Christ. God told her she was to conceive His Son who would save us. She didn’t fully understand this, but she trusted God and said yes. So I guess you could say that Mary was the first Christian. We honor her yes and try to follow her example by saying yes to God.” Silence filled the room. After a few moments he started nodding his head in agreement and said, “You know…. you’re right. I’ve never thought of Mary in that way.”

With that conversation in mind, let’s look at today’s Gospel from Matthew. Today we hear the annunciation story from the perspective of Joseph instead of Mary. Fun fact…. did you know that Joseph doesn’t speak a single word in the New Testament? He does, however, fall asleep twice. Both times, an angel appeared to him in a dream to give him an urgent message from God.

Today’s Gospel recounts the first of these two dreams. Joseph just found out that his bride-to-be was pregnant… with someone else’s baby. I would imagine this would be problematic to most men in his situation. Yes? It pretty much means that your future bride is already unfaithful and untrustworthy before you have even exchanged the marriage vows. But rather then dragging Mary’s name through the mud, he decided to break off the engagement quietly. And remember, in those days women caught in adultery were stoned. So Joseph, being an upstanding guy, actually saved Mary’s life by keeping everything quiet. He didn’t want revenge or to get back at Mary, he just wanted to let her live her life in peace without him.

Thinking that was the end of the story, Joseph went to bed… probably trying to forget the horrible, stressful day that he just had. It was then that an angel of God appeared and told him, “Joseph, you’re going to have to trust God on this one. Your human brain can’t fully understand it, but Mary didn’t cheat on you. She’s actually more faithful then you can possibly imagine. Mary is pregnant through the Holy Spirit and the child she is carrying is going to save people from their sins. This is God’s plan, not yours. But God still needs you to take care of Mary and His son. Trust Him and do not be afraid.”

Now I’ve had some pretty vivid dreams in my day. I’ve even had dreams that seemed so real, that when I woke up, I had to lie there for a while trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. But what does Joseph do when he awoke? He doesn’t hesitate at all. According to Matthew, “He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” Bottom line is that God asked Joseph to come out of his comfort zone and trust Him… and Joseph did just that.

So what am I now doing to get into the “Christmas spirit?” Instead of focusing on the worldly, modern view of Christmas, I’ve been focusing on trusting in God through the examples of Mary and Joseph. Neither of them understood fully what in the world God was doing with the birth of Jesus. All they understood was that God’s Son was coming to earth to save us from our sins. They were faithful enough to trust in God and allow Him to use their lives in that plan.

You and I are also part of God’s plan. I highly doubt though, that any of us can fully say with confidence that we know exactly what God has in store for us. That’s where faith comes in. No matter how messy your life may seem, no matter how much you don’t understand what is going on or why, no matter how much you may seem to be in spiritual “funk,” you still have to trust that God’s plan for you is better then anything you can do on your own.

That is what I challenge you to focus on this last week of advent as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Focus on saying, “yes” to God’s plan for your life.

Focus on trusting Him more and you less.

Look to Joseph and Mary as examples of what trusting in God is all about.

If you can do that, then you’ll realize that the best Christmas present is not bought in a store, but rather is found in a manger.

Don’t Be A Zombie

Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 13, 2016)

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Psalm 130:1-8

Romans 8:8-11

John 11:1-45

I’ve noticed a certain fascination that people have had over the past few years. It has developed a cult-like following and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. From “Night of the Living Dead” to “The Walking Dead,” from “Zombieland” to “World War Z,” our country has an infatuation with zombies. I’ve even seen sincere interviews with families regarding how they are getting ready for the eventual “zombie apocalypse.” In case you never heard of this phrase, the “zombie apocalypse” is when zombies are going to try to take over the world. And apparently if one bites you, you’ll turn into a zombie. So obviously you need to start stocking up on supplies now because one can only imagine the chaos that will result from such an event. Sadly, not a single presidential candidate has put forth a plan on how they are going to combat this impending doom!

Zombie-Apocalypse

I bring this up because people read the Scriptures through the lens of their own reality. And if your reality is “zombies,” I didn’t want you to get confused with today’s readings. The first reading from Ezekiel states, “Thus says the LORD God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” The Gospel of John recounts the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. So just to make this absolutely clear…we are NOT talking about zombies here!

I actually did some internet research on the ever so reliable Wikipedia to find a definition of zombie so we can distinguish them from what the Scriptures are describing. It turns out that, “zombie is a FICTIONAL undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse. The term comes from Haitian folklore, where a zombie is a dead body reanimated through various methods, most commonly magic. Modern depictions of zombies do not necessarily involve magic but often invoke science fictional methods such as radiation, mental diseases, viruses, scientific accidents, etc.” Thank you Wikipedia! Zombies are fictional, soul-less beings that used to be humans. And apparently, these humans-turned-zombies only have one purpose in their lives, only one basic urge to satisfy, to eat. To fulfill this hunger they eat any living flesh they can find. And if they can’t find any, they just keep wandering around aimlessly.

I’m sure this is all fascinating, but why is this Catholic Deacon going on and on about zombies? Because I’m here to warn you! Although I have said twice so far that zombies are FICTIONAL, I truly think the zombie apocalypse has already begun…but not in the way you may think! Think back 10-15 years ago. When people walked around, they made eye contact and said hello to people they passed on the street. Now, we have our heads buried in our smart phones and avoid eye contact. Instead of having an actual face-to-face conversation, we send a text. Instead of watching our kids play sports, we are updating our Facebook statuses on the sidelines. We don’t go outside, we go online. It seems the more we plug into technology, the more we unplug and disconnect from reality.

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Granted, technology can be a good thing, but I’m afraid it has turned us into mindless zombies, wondering around aimlessly through life. And if we keep feeding on what the world is offering, our hunger will never be satisfied and the “zombie apocalypse” will continue to get worse.

Now, I can’t leave you in a state of despair and without hope! I mean, I pretty much just labeled all of us zombies. However, you are in luck… I have found the antidote! It boils down to two words, a name really… Jesus Christ. From today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” This is also what the LORD God was speaking of in Ezekiel when He said, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” Our God was NOT talking about reanimating corpses but instilling LIFE into our lifeless bodies! It’s about dying to sin and our selfish ways and rising to a new life in Christ. Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus to be a zombie; He raised him from the dead to give him new life!

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And unlike zombies who feed on any flesh they can find, we Catholics need to feed our souls and sustain our lives by eating the flesh of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. He is the food that sustains us, which is why it is so very important to receive Him in the Eucharist frequently.

This time of year, the upcoming Easter season, gives us the best example of how Jesus can give new life by looking at the RCIA process. This Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the process where non-Catholics convert to or come into full communion with the Catholic Church. At St. Andrew’s we have 6 people who, at the Easter Vigil, will die to their old selves and be given new life through the waters of baptism. We also have 4 candidates who have already been baptized in other faith traditions. These 4 will renew their baptismal promises along with all of us. And then these 10 “new” Catholics will receive the Bread of Life for the first time, the Holy Eucharist, to feed that hunger that is deep inside all of them.

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So my question for you is this… do you want to continue down the path of the “zombie apocalypse” or do you want to have new life in Christ?

One pathway leads to death and wandering aimlessly. The other pathway gives you life and satisfies your hunger.

So if you’re tired of being a zombie and you want to have new life in Christ, I suggest you frequent this altar as often as possible and receive the only food, the only flesh, that satisfies.

Jesus gives us new life and then feeds us through His Body in the Eucharist. It’s that simple. Now it’s up to us to choose the right path and be faithful!