Dear Brother and Sisters,
This week we were all shocked with what happened in Uvalde, TX. It was not just another mass shooting, marking the 252nd time this year where a single outburst of violence led to four or more people getting shot. It’s not the fact that it was the 27th mass shooting that happened in a K-12 school. What really shocks us is how can a person do such an evil act? Every day something outrageous happens in our country. Enough to read MSN, FOX, USA TODAY, that you will find something. The answer is very “simple,” once we remove God from the picture nothing makes sense…and we need the Holy Spirit to remind us what Jesus told us (Jn 14:26).
There are two problems regarding our mentality nowadays. Either people don’t believe in God or something happens that makes them lose their faith in God. Nietszche reasons God’s nature in light of such events as either God does not exist to stop these evil actions, or if he exists and allows it, he is a monster, and not a loving God. It is very easy to fall into either category according to what the world tells us. The bottom line is that we don’t understand why there is suffering in our lives and therefore we can’t accept it. At best we can resign them and move on.
On these days preceding the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, we hear from the Gospel of John chapters 13-17. Jesus is at the last supper preparing his disciples for the events that are about to happen. He announces (again) the coming of his Passion, and also announces the coming of the Holy Spirit. This weekend’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about being with the Father and one with us. The unity with Christ in order to receive the Holy Spirit is essential for our lives. Not only to understand God’s plan in our lives, but also to give meaning to our sufferings. If we are called to be one with Christ, then He will allow us to experience a share in his passion. The sufferings of our lives is the participation of the sufferings of Christ. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, illnesses, tragic events, we are called to see them all through the light of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. I must say that as a child cannot understand trigonometry, at times we cannot fully understand the plans of God. Therefore, in every inch of our lives, we are called to see as part of the big picture, which is God’s plan of salvation. All sufferings in our lives draw us closer to Him. Whether we start praying for someone who is sick, or offer masses for our loved ones, He is always drawing us closer to Him, even in sad events.
However, to enter into God’s will, we need the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity was sent to strengthen us to say “yes” to God. Unfortunately, there are times in which we rebel like the people of Israel when they were in the desert. We, as they, get tired of the precariousness, and we make demands in order to continue this path. As much as we try to move forward, there is only so much we can take. Finally, we are tempted to give up, to throw everything out of the window. This is when we snap. We snap because we try to do everything on our own strength. Christ has promised us the Holy Spirit to help us in our path towards heaven. He will give us the gifts of WISDOM, UNDERSTANDING, COUNSEL, FORTITUDE, KNOWLEDGE, FEAR OF THE LORD, AND PIETY. Next week we will reflect on each of these gifts. These gifts are available for those who ask for them. This past Friday we started the novena of the Holy Spirit. I invite you to pray asking God to receive the Holy Spirit. He will “remind you of all that I told you.”(Jn 24:26) If our actions are not grounded in God as its origin and goal, then we get lost, like the world that does not know God. In the very first chapter in the Gospel of John, Christ already announces that the world has rejected God. In the third chapter, Jesus declares that “people preferred darkness to light.” Only by the Holy Spirit can we accept God. And only by the Holy Spirit we can say “yes” to his plan every day. Only by the Holy Spirit is that we can love one another as Christ has loved us. Without Him, we too can commit such heinous actions as we see more often. Therefore, let us all ask for the Holy Spirit, so that Christ may be present in our lives, and that we choose light over darkness. And don't be discouraged, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:5)
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”
Dear Brother and Sisters,
You may have heard me playing around that I’m old or ready to retire. I even joke saying about myself that they don’t make youth as they did in the past. This complaint is often heard speaking about the younger generations, whether they are in their 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s, or in their teens. We get lost in the middle of all the generations, X, Z, millennials, etc… but is it true that the youth is lost?
Last week, I was reflecting how recently there have been many “young” saints canonized in the church. Not that they were young of age like Carlo Acutis necessarily, but young in light of the 2000 years of the church. We have great saints like Francis and Anthony, who lived almost 800 years ago, or St Teresa of Avila 500 years ago, or even St Therese of Lisieux whose canonization happened 100 years ago. On this past Sunday Pope Francis Canonized St Charles de Foucauld, who although died over 100 years ago, was only beatified in 2005 by Pope Benedict. St Jose Maria Escriva, founder of the Opus Dei, passed away on 1971 and was declared a saint on 2002. Blessed Chiara Badano, member of the Folcolari Movement, was born on 1971, passed away 1990, shortly before turning 19, and was beatified on 2010. There are many more who are on the path to canonization whether we know them or not, like Bishop Fulton Sheen.
This thought process happened while watching a recently added movie to Formed.org (details on how to create an account on the next page) “Chiara Lubich, Love Conquers All”(2021). As it recounts the story of the founder of the Folcolari Movement, there was a scene when she was interrogated by a group of bishops and cardinals regarding her actions. Keep in mind that it was 1950, before The Second Vatican Council, where people didn’t have access to the Gospels, where only priests and nuns had roles of leadership in the church. There was this young woman, not a nun, nor married, who “dared” to read the word of God on her own and defied local customs and went out of her way to care for those less fortunate. There was the contrast, the young church in its full strength being judged for not being in the molds of the old church.
Recently, Fr. Kevin and I were reflecting about what God wants us to do here at IC. While there is much to be done, “where to start?” or “what to do?” were the main questions. This movie shed light on this questioning and it helped us to see our mission under a different light. While it’s true that World War II created a trauma in society everywhere, but it also gave the opportunity to God to create new ways in the church, with the rise of new ecclesial realities such as Opus Dei, Folcolari, Charismatic Renewal, Neocatechumenal Way among others. While looked upon with suspicion upon the Church for being such a new experiences, these new movements are generating the church and giving birth to new saints. Since Easter, we are hearing on the first reading events from the Acts of the Apostles. For those times, they did something unheard of, even forbidden, but led by the Holy Spirit, they opened new ways in the church.
All this is to say brothers and sisters, that the Holy Spirit is still very much alive in the Church and He moves wherever he wills. He continues to light people on fire and inspire things that could be seen as “unorthodox”. Look at Chiara, or even St Philip Neri (another great movie to be watched). As we approach Pentecost, the Lord invites us to be opened to the movements of the Spirit. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but to quote this Weekend’s Gospel, “yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.”
We need a church that attracts man and woman, old and young, from all the corners of the world, who are living in a Post-Modern world, still struggling with COVID, and all other things that are going on. So what shall we do? I’m still not sure what to do, but it seems quite clear that the Lord invites us to deeper waters. Something new, challenging, that will take us out of our comfort zone. Whether it is to attend adult catechesis, or take the youth whitewater rafting, the point is to follow Him, who is our Way, our Life, and the Truth.
Unless we are open to the inspirations of God and be willing to change certain aspects of our pastoral and personal lives, like Chiara, we run the risk to stop people from helping the Church to be renovated, like the bishops. Let us pray during this time before Pentecost asking the Holy Spirit to move our hearts to following wherever He wills.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we reflected on the gift of Motherhood last week, it makes us more appreciative of what our mothers did for us. The same can be said about the Eucharist. The more we meditate upon it, the more we realize what He did for us.
As I grow older and learn more about what mothers do for their children behind the scenes, the more I realize how much my own mother sacrificed herself to help me. Being a caregiver myself, I have noticed that at times we cannot afford to get sick, or be too tired to care for those who are entrusted to me. No matter how tired my mother was, there was she cooking, cleaning, and ironing our clothes. This self-giving attitude was not motivated by anything that I could give her in return, or there was no other interest behind her action other than LOVE.
This weekend, as we are celebrating our first communions (Spanish first communions will be next week), I stopped to reflect upon the Eucharist. As we sing the Lamb of God, the priest breaks the body of Christ (consecrated host) into three pieces. That’s a sign of the Body of Christ that was broken up for our sake. The precise words used during consecration is “this is my body which will be given up for you.” The Body of Christ, beaten, broken, flogged, and finally is crucified for our sake. Jesus does not go through his passion because he is a nice guy or because he had to as a duty, rather, he did it out of LOVE.
During the lockdown, many people suffered from not participating at mass and receiving communion. All of a sudden, we realized how much it meant to each of us. What maybe we had taken for granted, then we missed terribly. As we were following mass online and doing spiritual communion, it was not the same. The same can be said when we are in mortal sin and we don’t approach communion before going to confession. We see what God does for us out of love, but we don’t participate in that action of love. Imagine that for my Birthday my mother prepares a super breakfast in my house, but I can’t eat because I’m not there. I can make a video-call to her and see everything, but not being able to enter the feast is quite sad. There is nothing worse than not being able to join in a celebration of LOVE.
The Gospel this Sunday exhorts us to “love one another.” However, how are we supposed to love one another? “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU” answers Jesus. There is a need to deepen our understanding of how Christ has loved us. To understand the sacrament of the Eucharist, the greatest act of love and summit of the lives of every Christian is imperative to comprehend a little better how much He did for us. As we approach the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) on Sunday, June 19th, there are a few opportunities for us to better understand this mystery so close to us, yet so misunderstood and unknown. We are going to kick off the preparations by a THREE DAY TALK ON THE EUCHARIST on Thursdays 6-7pm June 2, 9, 16. In preparation for the last talk on June 16, the traditional day we celebrate Corpus Christi (nowadays we observe it on Sunday), we will have our 24 HOUR ADORATION from Wednesday June 15th at 6pm to Thursday June 16th at 6:00pm. Then on June 18th, the Archdiocese of Boston organized a EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS “JESUS IS HERE.” They will have special speakers, such as Bishop Robert Baron, Daniel Flores, Deacon Burke-Sivers and others, besides our Cardinal Sean O’Malley. It will take place at the Tsongas Center in Lowell from 8:30am-6pm. There are tickets online, and if someone needs scholarships, please contact us at the office. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, June 19th, the Feast Day of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we will have once again a EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION THROUGH THE STREETS OF MARLBORO. These will be great opportunities for us to reflect upon the Eucharist, and realize how much Jesus loves us in the Eucharist. Only by his love we LOVE others.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The other day I was watching a group discussion online in which the members were talking about the lack of a role model in today’s society. Whether superheroes, actresses, singers, in the past they were more relevant in a person’s growth than they are today. But is it true that today we don’t have role models? In a culture where TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social networks give one second of fame, there are many people that rise and disappear from the media in no time. Again, is there someone today that remains as a star for longer periods of time?
There are many unsung heroes in our culture that do not receive the credit they deserve. I’m not talking about the people that work essential jobs that were finally recognized during Covid. I’m referring to the ones that are always next to us, but never in the spotlight. Surely it may vary from family to family. For certain families it is the mother that runs around making sure that everyone gets their lunch, all the clothes are fresh and clean ready to be used, dinner is taken care of, Jimmy gets picked up from soccer and Annie gets a ride to her rehearsals. For other families there might be grandma that comes to the rescue. She becomes the default safety blanket when all the plans fail. Someone that we can always count on. What is interesting in both scenarios is that often we don’t ask how they are feeling or if they are ok doing what they are asked to do. Somehow things are thrown at them and they juggle with everything else they are already doing. Hence comes the saying that moms never get sick, because if they do, who will take care of the house? I remember when I was a child of a cartoon in which a father swaps tasks with the mother. While she goes out to work, he becomes responsible for the house. It took no time for disaster to take over the household. What the father was not able to do all day, it took no time for the mother to put everything in place. Therefore, we do have heroes in our midst, role models that are often forgotten or overseen.
With the latest turn and twists from Hollywood and Disney and all that, there has been a movement to ignore the current shows and look back into the old ones. In that movement, we should also look into other mothers in history to comprehend better their values. On a podcast I heard a while back, there was a senator from another country who renounced her career to take care of her children at home. There was a lot of criticism saying that being in politics, she would be able to change the life of people. Her response to that was that if we look back in history, all the greatest leaders and people who changed the world, they all had mothers who prepared well their foundations of morals and values. So her choice will still affect the lives of many people, by helping their children to be Christians, loving God and their neighbor. If we look in the scriptures, there we will find many cases of mothers who formed their children to be great followers of God. We begin with Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, and so on. In the Bible itself, there are great women who renounced their desires and aspirations, in order to serve others, whether children of their own or not, again, just look at the life of Jesus.
In our modern world, we can also find true role models, some are recognized by many, but others are not. Emilia Kaczorowska may not be a name you heard before, but what she did has affected us all tremendously. One of her greatest acts were to decide to have her third child, after refusing the doctor’s advice to have an abortion because of her frail health. By the courageous effort along with her husband Karol Wojtyła (Sr), their baby and our late pope Karol Wojtyła was born. The same could be said about women who never had children of their own, yet they are known by the title of Mother, such as Mother Cabrini or Mother Teresa of Calcutta. On this weekend, in which we honor our mothers, let’s pause and reflect on everything they have done for us. For those who have not had positive experiences, I’m quite sure that they did everything in their reach to help and protect us. Even those who were called by God shortly after when we were born, the mere fact that they opened themselves to receive life from God and went through the arduous process of giving birth, already make them our heroes. So, yes, we do have plenty of heroes and role models nowadays, we just need to look more carefully.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!
Father Steven Clemence