Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Believe it or not, it’s already May!!! May is a month in which in the church we honor our Blessed Mother, in our families we honor our own mothers, and in our day to day lives we feel the warmth of life coming up (hopefully). In this month I would like to bring to your attention to issues that regard life, one about the beginning of life and the other about its end.
On Mother’s Day, we are always appreciative of our own mothers and we are grateful for everything that they have sacrificed and done for us. One aspect that often we don't consider is the choice of being a mother, that is, accepting the child sent by God. Surely on many occasions, the news of a new pregnancy comes with great joy. However, other times, when there are some hardships in the life of the couple that make such news quite frightening. It is not common that a person will deliberately kill their child in their womb. Rather, the thought process goes through a different route. Thoughts like, I can’t have a child now or I will not be able to raise this child properly can that lead someone to abort their babies. The pregnancy centers are here in order to help mothers to feel that they are not alone, and yes, they will be able to raise their children. It is not a matter of forcefully convincing someone to have their child, but accompanying them in a path that is full of uncertainty and fear. Our pregnancy centers here are doing a great job in providing many ways to assist mothers in their need. One way to help pregnant mothers who are deliberating whether or not to continue their pregnancy is to have an ultrasound test. Besides having medical insight, the ultrasound will help mothers to see their child and hear their heartbeat. The First Concern Pregnancy Center here in Marlboro is currently raising funds to purchase an ultrasound machine to assist not only troubled mothers, but anyone who needs help. Next week, on Mother’s Day, I would like to urge you to consider giving a special gift to mothers who are struggling with their decision of being mothers. The Knights of Columbus are helping in this project and they will be collecting donations next week after all the masses. Our fundraising goal is $14,000.00 which the Knights of Columbus will match for a total of $28,000.00 towards the purchase of the ultrasound machine. Checks can be made to Knights of Columbus and if you would like to donate online, please check the QR code on the next page.
Next, I would like to address an old issue that comes back every now and then, which is how to help those babies when they become elderly at the end of their life. Again, people can make ill decisions when frightened or greatly concerned with their future. Please read the message below from the Bishops of Massachusetts.
LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD NOW! Say NO to Physician Assisted Suicide in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts State Legislature is considering passing into law two deeply troubling bills this session which would legalize Physician Assisted Suicide. The bills, House 2381 and Senate 1384, are identical in text and titled “An Act relative to end of life options”. “The Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts stand united in our strong opposition to Physician Assisted Suicide. It is an affront to life and a dangerous precedent for determining end of life issues. Physicians are trained to care for the ill, not to hasten death.”. Here are some troubling facts to consider before you act:
1. The bills would allow a physician to provide a deadly drug mixture to an individual diagnosed with less than 6 months to live that, when consumed, would cause death.
NOTE- The diagnosis could be wrong. Countless individuals have outlived that 6-month diagnosis and enjoyed many more precious months and years with family and friends.
2. No Real Safeguards - A vulnerable individual who is physically disabled, depressed, or fears being a “burden” may be subject to undue influence by others to take the drug mixture, especially if there is a financial benefit as an incentive.
3. The primary focus of elected officials should be dedicated to legislation providing quality health care, mental health care and palliative care to the sick and dying – particularly in the underserved, poor and minority communities that suffer the most at the time of need.
How can your voice be heard?
Call or email Senator is James Eldridge—617-722-1120 and Representative is Danielle Gregoire—617-722-2140 let them know you are a Massachusetts voter, and say NO to Physician Assisted Suicide! Log on to www.macatholic.org and follow the links to find contact information for:
· Members of the legislative Joint Committee on Health Care Finance who will be considering these bills.
· Your individual State Senator and Representative via address and zip code link.
For individuals without internet access, please call the Massachusetts Catholic Conference at 617-746-5630 for legislative contact information.
Boston Pilot - Statement of the four Roman Catholic Bishops of Boston, Fall River, Springfield, and Worcester (December 8, 2017)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This weekend we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. Please join us at 3pm as we pray a chaplet of Divine Mercy. For those not familiar with Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted the second Sunday of Easter as a memorial of God’s immense desire to bestow his forgiveness on his people. Jesus himself appeared to St. Faustina Kowalska and ordered her to make known to the world his desire for mercy, as it also appears in the prophet Ezekiel, “I do not wish the sinner to die, but to turn back to me and live.” (Ezk 33:11)
Sometimes I have these memories from my childhood. I remember how all the kids from the neighborhood would come together to play different games. Then my school friends sometimes would gather around my house and we would play hide and seek around the blocks surrounding my house. Every now and then we would get a bit mischievous…nothing too bad, but enough to get myself in trouble. As all mothers understand, my mother had this sixth sense to know/find out about those moments. So whenever we would do something wrong, I would be afraid of coming back to the house, because I knew that she was waiting for me. Many of us also have that feeling regarding God. When we walk out of line, we don’t want to approach him, because we know we would/should get ourselves in trouble. I remember once how I was playing around a large metal box on the street near my parent’s friend’s house, which my mom had warned me to stay away from, when suddenly I tripped the safety bar and the lid closed on my finger. Knowing that I would get myself in trouble, I tried to endure the pain of a broken finger because I didn’t want to tell my parents. When getting out of my car and noticing my teary eye, my mom found out that I was in great pain. Instead of giving me a hard time, she was very concerned about me, and after a hug, she took me to the hospital. I share this story because we can have the same feeling approaching God. We at times carry burdens and endure suffering thinking that we can get in trouble if we confess them, or even worse, we think it’s ok, and it becomes part of life.
Reflecting on all the times that Jesus encounters those who are in trouble in the Gospel, he never gives those people a hard time. Not too long ago we heard the story of the woman caught in adultery. One of these upcoming Sundays we will hear the time in which Jesus speaks to Peter after having renounced him three times before the Passion. This Sunday we hear the encounter of Jesus and Thomas, who instead of pointing fingers, approaches him as a sign of mercy and asks to be touched.
Brothers and Sisters, God wants to be touched by all of us. Not by his wrath though, but rather by his mercy. There are many visionaries who have brought us the message that it pains Jesus, God the Father, the Blessed Mother, to us carrying our burdens, to be oppressed by sin, while there they are waiting to help us. “God has sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might have life through him.” (Jn 3:17). Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Therefore, I urge you all to approach the sacrament of reconciliation and to receive the mercy of God. He willed to give us his forgiveness through this sacrament, as we hear this week, Jesus telling the apostles, “Whose sins YOU FORGIVE, are forgiven.”
Lastly, many saints have said that going to confession is like going to the doctor. Not only because we may resist visiting both, but rather, it’s often the only way in which our body/soul may be healed. As we go to the doctor and we need to disclose what bothers us, and is causing pain in our bodies, we are also called to say what pains our souls. The priests in the moment of confession are not called to give us sermons and reproaches, but rather to provide a healing remedy to our souls. We often hear that people may feel embarrassed to confess with priests that they know because they are afraid to be recognized by what they have done. Going back to the story of my childhood, when my mom sees me nowadays, do you think that she is thinking of all the mischievousness that I have done in the past, or rather her beloved child? The same is God to us, and we priests as well. Believe it or not, God grants us “spiritual amnesia” not to remember anything that we hear in confession. Besides having a troubled memory as many of you know, after hearing confessions for hours, the only thing we think, is how Great is our God who forgives all of our sins! Let’s not carry undue burden, but let’s approach him, who is all “good and ready to forgive.” (Ps. 86:5)
Jesus, I trust in you, Jesus, I trust in you, Jesus, I trust in you,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
CHRIST IS RISEN, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA!!!!! HE IS TRULY RISEN, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA
This is an ancient greeting among Christians since the first centuries. It is the same greeting that the Angel greeted Mary Magdalene when she came to visit the tomb of Jesus. This greeting is the source and the object of our hope in life. This is what we celebrate on Easter.
Our Salvation, all of the sacraments are based on the resurrection of Christ. By his death, he canceled out our sins, the condemnation that was due to us was erased by the shedding of his blood. We hear in many passages from the New Testament, that though Christ was innocent, he took our place among the wicked, so as to free them from their wickedness. However, without his resurrection, then there is no eucharist, no baptism etc…no heaven. When he died for us, our guilt was forgiven, but we would still not go to heaven…we would not be called children of God if we don’t have divine nature in us given by baptism. Therefore the resurrection of Christ is central to our faith and our lives.
The icon on the cover of the bulletin is a Greek Icon of Christ that descends (Anastasis) to the place where Adam and Eve were waiting for their salvation after the fall. Besides being a beautiful picture, the icons are an exhortation in an image. Everything has a powerful image that relates back to our own lives. We see Christ who by his death descends to the place of the dead. Remember that death is the wage of sin according to St. Paul. By sinning we experience the death of our being. Therefore, Christ comes to where we stand today on our wickedness to grab/snatch from that place to bring to heaven. Easter (“Passover”) is the passage from death to life. Today Jesus (“God saves”) offers salvation for those who want. He kicks down that has kept us hostage to sin, whether selfishness, envy, gossip, pride, anger, etc…The chains that are on the bottom of the image represents that Christ breaks up everything that held us bondage by the devil and frees us to raise our hands in praise to God. He even defeats death by binding it (the person on the bottom) so that it will no longer have power over us. St. Paul exclaims this victory in his letter to the Corinthians, “Death is swallowed up in victory, Where, o Death, is your victory?” (15:55).
Therefore, Brothers and Sisters, we no longer have to live like everyone else, or as we have always done it. Today we are invited to be reminded of our baptism, in which we died to the world and rose to a new life with Christ. There is a possibility to live like Jesus, as God calls us to be holy as he is holy. We think it’s impossible to “not sin,” or even to be a saint. Certainly it is impossible on our own efforts. But for those who today experience the resurrection of Christ, we live a different life. The second reading exhorts us that “if you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.” Instead of being concerned with “petty things” or with what is finite, let’s look for what is really important and infinite. We are called to be made one with Christ, and back to St. Paul, “he who is in Christ is a new creation.” (2 Co 5:17) On the Easter Vigil we heard how God created man and woman in his image and likeness, but by their fall, sin has distorted our nature. So today we receive a new nature, from a new creation. Finally, all of this is only possible because CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS INDEED RISEN (THANKS BE TO GOD)!!!! We have already experienced this before, but sometimes we fall back into our old ways of life. Then today we rise with Christ, so that we can live with him forever.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Not too long ago we were singing “Oh, Come let us Adore him.” Indeed, we even sang it back in September while parading the streets of Marlboro. While the song is based on the response of the shepherds to the announcement of the birth of the Savior by the angel(s), this weekend of Palm Sunday we are also called to COME and ADORE HIM.
We know that the child that was born in Bethlehem had a mission, he came to give his life in order to save mankind from sin. Therefore, the Nativity story has many undertones that point straight to the Passion of Christ. If you were to see the Greek icon of the nativity, Christ is placed wrapped up in swaddling clothes, just like he will be wrapped before his burial. Also as he was born in a cave (the icon makes it look like a tomb), he will also be placed in another cave, his tomb. (At the time of Christ, the dead were not buried on the ground as today, but instead they were placed in a small “cave” where there was a bed. Once decomposed, then they would collect the bones and bury them. Note that Nicodemus tomb “had not yet been used.”) One particularity that is interesting is that when Herod was told that the new king was born, he was “greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”(Mt 2:3) When Christ enters in Jerusalem acclaimed as King (there are many indications that his actions recalled the entrance of the kings from the OT), the whole city was in “turmoil”/”shaken”.
We can see that everything was planned out by God to be fulfilled in its proper time and in God’s way. It would be interesting to ask around the parish what the image is that we have of Christ, or how do we consider him as king. Many of our projections is that Christ comes to take away our sufferings, or comes to solve our problems or the problems of the world. In a way he does, but not how we imagine/hope for. Christ, the Lamb of God, comes to the sins of the world. In this process, Jesus walks with us along our life in the midst of our problems to help us to trust 100% in God. He shows us that it is possible to go through the problems in life, but we need to understand that we are also part of a plan that God has designed to save us. Part of the plan is to go through our own passion (sufferings), death (when we feel “dead inside”), so that we can also experience the resurrection (a new life). Sin is what causes us to suffer.
To better understand the plan of revelation of God’s love to us, imagine the sacrifice of a parent that sits next to a sick child, or a spouse that accompanies their loved one through their illness, hospitalization, or their final moments in life. Their selfless actions are not a “sacrifice” per se, but, instead, is a sign of love. In moments in which they most need company, encouragement, to be cared and loved, there they are. Similar is what Christ does when he enters Jerusalem. He comes triumphant, not by the worldly standard, but he comes for a mission: to suffer with us! He does not abandon us in our difficulties in our sins. The word compassion comes from the Latin com+passion (to suffering + with). Christ does not come to remove the sufferings of our lives, but rather to suffer with us, as a sign of love. He is with us, Emmanuel, God is with us. We are not alone in our sufferings. We are called to live the sufferings with Christ and also accompany those suffering as well, whatever the suffering may be. Only love can overcome everything else.
The liturgy of Palm Sunday begins by the people that welcomes Christ the King entering Jerusalem and it continues through the reading of the Passion of Christ. Today is a day in which we are called to adore, to welcome this King who comes, but he comes to suffer with and for us. Not only that, but by doing so, he also takes our sins upon himself, freeing us from our perpetual condemnation. He is not the Messiah liberator that once the Jews expected to save them from the oppression of the Roman soldiers, but he comes to liberate us from our sins.
Finally, brothers and sisters, let us live this Holy Week with faith, love and hope. If we get distracted, we can easily go through the motions of these days. However, Christ wants to live this time with and in us. As St. Paul says, if we die with Christ, we shall live with Christ. (Rm 6:8). Therefore let’s die with him this week, so as to rise with him on Easter Sunday.
Father Steven Clemence