“To whom shall we go? Only you have the words of Eternal Life” (Jn 6:68)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We made it to another week!!! At the same time we are a week closer to the end of everything, it’s another week that God gave us to praise him! Therefore, let’s rejoice and be glad (Ps.118:24). It’s very important that we have our priorities straight in the midst of all that is happening. There is so much in the news that is contradictory, people saying the opposite all day, political views so polarized…as if somehow each person is thinking only about themselves. But that’s not the point! So, what shall we do? What are we suppose to look for during this time? Jesus would say, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and everything will be given to you.” Mt 6:33)
This weekend’s Gospel, we hear about the story of the “Disciples of Emmaus.” They are two disciples of Jesus who had a plan of what was going to happen. They did believe in Jesus, “a prophet of mighty deed and work”, and “were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.” But what happened to their faith, their beliefs, all that the teaching they heard from Jesus? Someone the tragic experience of the passion of Jesus, his Crucifixion and death, would dash their hope and their faith. Some verses prior, Luke relates how these disciples were sad, because they had lost everything. But did they? Or perhaps they thought they had lost everything?
It’s true that facing difficult moments, we can focus only on what is currently happening. We can easily fall into the trap of looking at the negative side of things. I remember once Cardinal Sean saying that our life is like navigating through the waves of the ocean. When everything is great, it seems like a large wave that we continue going up and at some point, we see what lies ahead of us, and everything is beautiful. However, when we go through challenging times, it seems that we are going down the wave forever. It seems that the ocean is bottomless. We forget that like all the other waves, there is a valley, in which we must first descend, but soon we will go up again. This is to say that the current (and future) difficulties that will come our way will pass one day. However, we must not forget what God has done in our lives. Indeed he has worked “mighty deed and work”. Indeed he came to “redeem Israel.” Maybe not in the way how the disciples expected. We can also be disappointed that God does not do things according to our plans. So what shall we do? Shall we choose a different path for our lives? Shall we also leave everything behind, like the disciples? This is a similar question that Jesus poses to the apostles, after “many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”(Jn 6:66) Jesus said, “Do you also want to leave? (v.67).
I hope we will all answer like Peter, “To whom shall we go? Only you have the words of Eternal Life” (Jn 6:68). No matter what lies ahead of us, Christ is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life. I conclude this letter with two great advices…not mine of course, but from Jesus. He invites us not to forget what he said, different from the Disciples of Emmaus. He tells us that we will face different hardships, but the one who is in Christ, will remain steadfast. And Finally, even though it will be difficult, fear not, He already won the battle!
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. (Mt 7:24-25).
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. (Jn 16:33)
GOD IS GOOD All the time, and all the time God is Good!!!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Faced with these difficult times, I would like to share with you a homily that I never forgot. Usually I seldom remember my homilies, but this one holds a special place. It was the homily for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 8 th 2018. At that mass, I had the baptism of 3 older children who were preparing themselves for first communion. It was also the first mass that I had to announce for the first time my change of assignment. After ordination, I was assigned to the parishes of St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas in Peabody. They were two medium size parishes with multiple ethnic ministries, with a large school and many challenges. In my four years there, the parishioners helped me to learn to be a brother, a priest, and a shepherd. Those were very good years in which I saw many miracles that God performed in the lives of people. I also was aware that one day God would send me elsewhere. Because of the missionary component of my formation, I’m always willing to go wherever God sends me whenever He thinks it’s best. When the Cardinal asked me to come to Marlboro, I was surprised, because I was not expecting to be made pastor so soon, but thrilled that God was giving me a new mission. As happy as I was, I knew that the people there would not be so thrilled. After a lot of prayer, but really, LOTS OF PRAYING, God inspired me with this homily. It had three parts, God is Good, Jesus I trust in You and to be sent in mission. In this challenging time that we are facing, and more difficult ones coming our way, I thought that it could help you as well. (PS. You have to picture me in those enthusiastic days)
The first point is that God is good…ALL THE TIME, and all the time, GOD IS GOOD! I played with them at first to make sure they were attentive to respond immediately. It turned out they went overboard. Every time they heard the word Good or God someone would shout “all the time.” I role played some scenarios, such as if a person dear to us dies, would it still be true that God is Good? They all shouted “all the time.” Then I asked if our parish would one day close and we had to move to a different parish, would God be Good? “All the time” they promptly replied. What if I was to be reassigned to a different parish? I asked. Same response was given. I asked it twice, because I knew what was coming at the end of mass, but they responded all the same. We arrived at the conclusion that no matter what happens, if we understand or comprehend what is happening in our lives, GOD IS GOOD, ALL THE TIME.
The second point was about trusting in Jesus, after all, it was Divine Mercy Sunday, and we had a large image of Jesus. Again, we went over exactly the same scenarios. As difficult as they may be, Jesus is inviting us to trust in him. He is the manifestation of the goodness of God. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) Again I asked them what would they say if some of those scenarios were to happen, and each time they promptly responded, “Jesus, I trust you.”
The last point was a reflection from the Gospel of the day in which Christ says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Jn 20:21). I went on to explain how, from Brazil, I ended up in Peabody, and how God calls each one of us to a mission. This mission can change at any moment, but when we know that God is good, all the time, and no matter what happens we trust in Jesus, then the words of St. Paul becomes a reality in us, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Phil 4:13).
This homily holds a special place in my heart, because this all is so true. In these times and at every difficult moment in life, we need to be reminded of the Eternal Goodness of God, even when our Church has a fire, when someone close to us gets sick. In front of every trial and tribulation, the best plan of action is to place our complete trust in Jesus, and to listen to him. He never abandons us, always there shouldering our crosses. And finally, everything that we live is always in light of a mission that God has for us. Be not afraid brothers and sisters, the other day I heard a bishop saying how out of this crisis, many vocations will flourish, and many saints will appear. To conclude, I urge you to heed the words of Jesus, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
We are praying for you and your loved ones every day. If there is something that we can do, please reach out to us, and we will do our very best to help.
Father Steven Clemence