Father's Corner

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Vidi Dominum: I Have Seen the Lord

05-24-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Venit Maria Magdalena annuntians discipulis: Vidi Dominum! Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples: I have seen the Lord! (John 20:18).

Vidi Dominum! I have seen the Lord! These were the joyful words spoken by St. Mary Magdalene to the disciples, announcing to them the good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. What wonderful words from our patroness. What a powerful message.

There is nothing more joyful in the life of the Christian than an encounter with the Risen Lord. It is such a powerful experience that it must be shared. The Christian can't help but tell everyone the good news of this encounter. In his recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis remarked, "Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us." (1)

One of the great joys of being the pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Parish is that I am privileged with the gift of hearing the many stories of how Jesus Christ has changed the lives of the members of our community. Christ is very much alive and at work in our parish. The joy of these encounters with Jesus Christ are so powerful that I find myself sharing them as often as possible. The reaction that I receive from sharing these stories is that people love hearing them. Every community needs to know the fruit that is being born from the work of the Holy Spirit. Seeing the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a need for every Christian community. It is for this reason that we have chosen a new format for our bulletin, and have given the Latin translation of St. Mary Magdalene's testimony of her first encounter with the Risen Christ as its title: Vidi Dominum; I have seen the Lord!

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Jesus' Ascension: A Catch 22?

05-17-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For the longest time I could never understand why the solemnity of the Ascension was an important celebration. Why did Jesus have to ascend to Heaven? Why is this event so important for the Church? Why do the Gospel writers make such a big deal about it? And then one day in prayer, the answer finally dawned on me: the Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven is similar to the narrative predicament found in the Joseph Heller novel, Catch-22.

For those of you who have never read the novel Catch-22 before, let me give you a little background. In Catch-22, the main character, John Yossarian, a US Army Air Force combat pilot, wants to be grounded from combat flight duty. However, in order to be grounded, he must first be evaluated by the squadron's flight surgeon and then be found "unfit for flying." In order for someone to be found "unfit for flying," they would have to be considered insane. The problem is that to be declared "unfit for flying," the person would first have to submit a request for an evaluation. Such a request could only be submitted by a sane person and would be evidence enough to prove the sanity of the one requesting the evaluation. The message is that anyone who wants to get out of flying, isn't really crazy. Hence, pilots that submit requests for evaluations are sane and must fly in combat missions. At the same time, if a request is never submitted, the pilot will never receive one, will never be found insane, and must also fly in combat. Therefore, the Catch-22 is that no pilot can ever be grounded for being insane – even if he were.

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Joy of the Lord

05-10-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Cardinal Dolan, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, in his book, Called to Be Holy, tells a story of an experience he had with Cardinal Angelo Dell'Acqua during Mass at St. Peter's Basilica while he was a seminarian. At the end of Mass, the Cardinal looked at all of the American priests, sisters, and seminarians and said, "I have a favor to ask each of you. As you walk the streets of Rome, please smile."

There is nothing worse than a Catholic who has no joy. It's essentially an oxymoron. There is nothing that drives more people away from the Church than bitter Catholics. Jesus says in today's Gospel (John 15:9- 17), "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete." Jesus desires that we live a joyful life. He wants us to radiate the joy of the Gospel to all people.

Often, a lack of joy is a sign of a lack of trust in God. If I do not believe that Jesus Christ loves me, forgives me, and has the power to transform me, then my response to God is going to be "joyless." However, if I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, if I communicate with Him on a regular basis and offer myself up to Him as a gift (without holding a part of myself back from Him), then I know that He will be there to give me the light I need when I find myself in a dark place. In a relationship with Christ, I discover that He has overcome the world and that there is nothing in this world that we can encounter that He cannot transform by His great power and love. A lack of joy is usually a sign that we doubt God's power and love.

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The Result of Faith

05-03-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For the past two weeks we have been reflecting on the theological virtue of faith. In particular, we have examined how the object of faith is the Person of Jesus Christ and the context of faith is the Church. Today, we finish our reflection on faith with an examination of the result of faith. In other words, what does faith produce in the life of a believer?

There is a famous Augustinian expression that says, "Faith is letting oneself be grasped by the Truth." The more we are "grasped by the Truth," the more we become witnesses of the Truth. This is the result of faith: it produces a witness. The more the faith becomes an active part of our life, the more our entire life becomes a witness to Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to "witness to Jesus Christ?" Although there are many ways we offer a witness to Jesus Christ, there are two that I would like to reflect upon in this letter. First, we offer witness to Jesus Christ through suffering. The late Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, a Catholic priest who used to be a regular contributor to the New York Times, once wrote, "Suffering is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived." He who suffers well, offers a beautiful witness to Jesus Christ. How?

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The Context of Faith

04-26-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last week we pondered the object of faith and discovered that Jesus Christ was at the heart and center. We learned that Christianity is not so much a code of ethics or a collection of beliefs, but a trust fall of our entire lives into the arms of the Person of Jesus. This week, let us continue our reflection on faith and spend some time discerning the context of faith.

As we all know, faith is a profoundly personal reality. This is emphasized in the profession of faith made during the Easter season and at baptisms. As many of you have experienced, at special times and during special celebrations, the Church uses a profession of faith formula that involves three personal responses." It divides the creed into three parts and asks the people present to respond with "I do" to each of them.

The reason for this formula is to demonstrate concretely the personal nature of the faith commitment. The three-fold "I do" proclamation of the faith is an opportunity for me to state how faith in Jesus Christ has caused a personal conversion in my life and has reformed and redirected my entire person. It is a way of publically announcing that I am different because of my experience of Christ.

However, although faith is a personal commitment made by the individual believer, it is also a communal reality that cannot be separated from the entire body of believers: the Church. One of the beautiful truths of the Christian faith is that no one believes by oneself. Faith is a way of knowing through witness. We are able to follow Christ, only because someone has given us an opportunity to encounter Christ. Without this witness, there would be no faith. Pope Benedict XVI once said, "Our faith is truly personal only if it is also communal: it can be my faith only if it dwells in and moves with the 'we' of the Church, only if it is our faith, the common faith of the one Church."

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The Object of Faith

04-19-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last week I wrote and preached about the dynamic of faith and doubt and how this dynamic is a part of the inescapable dilemma of being human. Since "faith" is such a strong Easter theme, I would like to spend the next few weeks reflecting on this beautiful topic in order to help us unpack the beauty and mystery of the Christian faith. In particular, our reflection will explore three aspects: the object of faith, the context of faith, and the result of faith.

Have you ever been asked the question, "Why are you a Christian?" What would your answer be to this question? Many people respond with the answer, "In order to be a good person." Was this your answer? The great Christian author C.S. Lewis once argued that the only correct answer to this question is, "Because I believe it is true."

Man is a seeker of truth. To ignore the truth of something is to ignore an important aspect of our human nature. To reduce the Christian faith to the object of merely "doing good," would be to reduce our humanity to something lower than its true self. Christianity does not merely present a "way of life," but a series of "facts" about what the real universe is all about. In other words, the purpose of Christianity is more than simply, "being a good person." If Christianity isn't true, then no honest man should believe it, no matter how much benefit it might be to him.

In addition, the object of the Christian faith cannot be reduced to the sum of its teachings. The Christian faith is so much more than a mere collection of ideas or intellectual property. There is more to man than just his intellectual pursuits.

Rather, the object of the Christian faith is not a code of ethics or a collection of knowledge, but a person. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, "Faith is not a mere intellectual assent of the human person to specific truths about God; it is an act with which I entrust myself freely to a God who is Father and who loves me…Christianity, before being a moral good or an ethic, is the event of love, it is the acceptance of the Person of Jesus."

The primary reason why we should be Christians is so that we can have a relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the one who created the world, redeemed it and recreated it anew. In the Person of Jesus Christ we discover where we came from and why we were created. In Him we are given the grace needed to live the fullness of our human life so as to share in God's eternal divine life. The reason why we should believe the teachings of the Christian faith and live the moral code of Christian faith is because they come from the Person of Jesus Christ.

People follow persons, not ideas. People sacrifice their lives for their loved ones, not their favorite concepts. A soldier dies not for his country, but for the people he knows and loves who make up his country. The early martyrs of the faith did not die for a teaching or an ethical code, they died for Jesus Christ. They found Him to be the pearl of great price, the one worth living and dying for.

Brothers and sisters, we miss the point of the faith completely when we make it about something other than Jesus Christ. He should be the most important person in our lives. Without Him, we have nothing. He must be the object of our faith. Let us pray during this Easter season that all Catholics, including ourselves, develop a deeper love for Jesus so that we might be willing to risk our lives and place our bets on Him.

Peace in Christ, Fr. Will

Belief and Doubt: The Dilemma of Being Human

04-12-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The 20th century Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, once told a story about a rabbi and an atheist scholar who would argue regularly about the authenticity of the Torah. One day, the rabbi hit the atheist scholar with a statement that made him tremble. The rabbi in reference to the Torah said, "Perhaps it is true after all." This simple statement made the atheist scholar tremble because it caused him to reflect upon his own doubt in the belief that God does not exist. The atheist had to confront the possibility that he might be wrong and the rabbi might be right.

As a Catholic priest, I regularly receive emails and phone calls from Catholics who say something along the lines of, "Father, I am really having doubts about my Catholic faith. If God is really there, wouldn't he take my doubt away?" In our culture, doubt is automatically assumed to be something bad, unnecessary, hypocritical, and in need of immediate correction.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his book, Introduction to Christianity, reminds us that the dynamic between faith and doubt is a part of the dilemma of being a man. He states, "Just as the believer is choked by the salt water of doubt constantly washed into his mouth by the ocean of uncertainty, so the non-believer is troubled by doubts about his unbelief…Just as the believer knows himself to be constantly threatened by unbelief, which he must experience as a continual temptation, so for the unbeliever faith remains a temptation and a threat to his apparently permanently closed world…Anyone who makes up his mind to evade the uncertainty of belief will have to experience the uncertainty of unbelief."

The human person cannot evade the dilemma of belief and doubt. All persons have faith in something, and all struggle with doubt in the midst of their faith. J.R. Tolkien once wrote, "A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it."

Even St. Thomas the Apostle, one of Jesus' closest and strongest followers, struggled with doubt. Today's Gospel (John 20:19-31) is the passage from Scripture that resulted in his infamous nickname: "Doubting Thomas." It is unfortunate that he has been labeled as a doubter. St. Thomas the Apostle was a man of great faith. He was simply more public about his doubt than others. Notice that although he had doubt about the Resurrection of Christ, he was still gathered with the Apostles in prayer. This is a sign of faithfulness. He should be called, "Faithful Thomas," not "Doubting Thomas."

In today's culture, we are tempted to abandon our faith at the moment we are confronted with doubt. This is a mistake. Doubt is a part of the human experience and can be transformed by Christ into great faith. St. Thomas the Apostle is a perfect example of this. Too often we let doubt sink into our minds and hearts and refuse to do anything about it.

Do you have doubts about the Resurrection of Christ? Search for opportunities to have an encounter with Him. Do you struggle to believe that quiet time in front of the Blessed Sacrament will change your life? Sacrifice an hour each week for the next six months and see what happens. Do you struggle to believe the Church's teaching about a particular topic? Do some research and find out exactly why the Church teaches what she does, instead of letting someone outside the Church tell you what she teaches and why she teaches it. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, "There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church – which is, of course, quite a different thing."

Too often we allow ourselves to become lazy when it comes to our faith. We think that God is supposed to make it easy for us. The cost we pay for something is what gives something its value. If it cost us little to acquire, we usually treat it with little value and respect. If it cost us a lot to acquire, we usually treasure it as if it were priceless.

Maybe, just maybe, this is why doubt is a part of the dilemma of being human. As humans, we have the capacity for greatness, but only if we overcome obstacles. In the play Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare wrote, "Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." The man who overcomes doubt and is successful in belief is considered a hero. Maybe God wants more Catholic heroes. Maybe we should confront our doubt instead of hiding or running from it. Maybe our doubt is what will open us up to being better believers. Maybe instead of asking God to take our doubt away, we should ask God to give us the courage and tenacity to wrestle with it.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

The Resurrection

04-05-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Have you ever wondered why God asks us to rely upon the testimony of others for the Resurrection of Christ? If God really did rise from the dead, then why didn't he just tear open the sky and undeniably and unquestionably show Himself as the Lord of lords and King of kings? I believe there are three good answers to this question.

First, God desires our participation in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel message to the world. What would be the point of training someone to have the skills to perform a particular activity and then not have them perform that activity? We have a God who loves us so much that He wants us to be a part of His incredible mission. He doesn't want us sitting on the sidelines of the faith. He wants us in the game (so to speak). He wants us to be the messengers of the good news of His victory over death.

Second, God desires to teach us the importance of little things. We spend our lives focusing on the big stuff: the big paycheck, the big house, the big job, the big vacation, etc… Sometimes we focus so much on the big things, we miss the little things. Remember the parable of the mustard seed and how it grows into a very large tree. It is far more impressive for God to transform the world using the testimony of a handful of simple Jewish fishermen than through some gigantic overpowering cosmic demonstration. God doesn't need earthquakes, worldwide floods, and pillars of fire to get our attention anymore. All He needs is the openness of a humble heart.

Third, God wants to remind us that He is God and we are not. Faith is a free gift that we humbly receive. It is not a magic trick that we can control or manipulate. God is free to reveal Himself to us in the manner that He chooses. We are not in control of His revelation. We are merely receivers and stewards of it. We cannot demand to take possession of God's gift and do with it whatever we want. The insistence to take control of the way God chooses to reveal Himself to us is to reverse the proper relationship between God and man: to make ourselves God and to make God our servant.

What keeps you from seeing the Resurrected Christ in your life? If we really want the Resurrection to mean something in our lives, we have to learn to open our hearts to God and allow Him to work in us in the manner that he chooses, in his own unique and beautiful way. May we be open to the Resurrected Christ this Easter season so that we can come to experience the living God!

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Holy Week and the Passion of Christ

03-29-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The passion of Christ is an important celebration for us as Catholics. In particular, it does two things for us. First, it reminds us of how much Christ loves us. Every time we come into the Church and see the crucifix we are reminded of how far Christ will go to forgive our sins. Christ's favorite thing to do is forgive sins. We know this by the cross. The Cross stands as the sign of the incredible love that God has for humanity.

Second, the passion of Christ is important because it shows us the way that God wants us to love Him in return. God gave His life for us and He wants us to give our lives to Him in return. Christ held nothing back from us, yet we continue to hold things back from Him all the time. Discipleship with Christ is about giving ourselves completely to Christ as He has given himself completely to us.

Today, we begin Holy Week. Holy Week should be a time for us to focus on how Christ has been faithful to us, and how we have been unfaithful to him. It should be an opportunity for authentic conversion. It should be an opportunity for us to apologize to Christ in the Sacrament of Confession and ask for the strength to be better disciples. This week, we will be having confession Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings from 9:00 am until 12:00 pm. If you haven't had a chance to come to confession yet this Lent, I highly encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. Christ is waiting for you in this beautiful Sacrament of forgiveness.

Holy Week focuses on the intensity of God's love and offers us a chance to renew our faith in Christ and His Church. Let us pray together that this celebration of Passion Sunday will change our lives. Too often we take our faith for granted. For many of us, our Catholic faith is just another thing that we do. Yet, Christ's death on the cross is not just another thing. It is the greatest act of love that the world has ever seen. Christ died for your sins. How will you respond to this great love?

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Annunciation

03-22-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Wednesday, March 25th we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, remembering the great news that was delivered by the archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would bear a son who would become the Savior of the world. This is a great celebration for us during the Lenten season for two reasons.

First, Mary's reaction to St. Gabriel's message is a reminder to us of why we undergo penitential practices during the season of Lent. We embrace acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent so that we are prepared in both body and soul to respond to the Lord in the same manner as the Blessed Mother. Increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are tried and true ways of forming our bodies and souls to focus on transcendent realities. In other words, they help us see the invisible God at work in our lives and they help us to say "yes" to God's plan for our lives.

Second, the celebration of the Annunciation is held exactly nine months before the celebration of the birth of Christ to help articulate the biological fact that human life begins at conception. Jesus entered into the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary the moment she said "yes" to God's proposal. The "Incarnation" does not find its origin in the Nativity, but in the Annunciation. This is wh y every Lent we celebrate the "40 Days for Life" campaign. It is an opportunity for us to celebrate the gift of human life, which our Lord lived in its fullness, and to pray for an end to abortion. Lent is a celebration of life, in particular, the life of Christ. Lent is an excellent time to celebrate the gift of human life, which Christ reveals to us in its fullness.

This Friday, March 27th , I will be spending an hour with other St. Mary Magdalene parishioners in front of a local Planned Parenthood praying for a greater respect for the dignity of human life. In particular, we will be praying for the many pregnant mot hers who feel lost and broken and are afraid to support the life that dwells within them. My hope is that our prayerful witness to life will inspire these mothers to say "yes" to their babies as Mary said "yes" to her son. Please prayerfully consider joining us in thi s holy Lenten campaign.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

The Proper Worship of God

03-15-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's first reading (2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23), we hear how improper Temple worship, and Israel's act of ignoring the prophets who called for a return to proper Temple worship, were the spiritual causes of the Babylonian Exile. In other words, God allowed His people to be exiled because they refused to follow His commands, specifically the ones pertaining to worship.

The proper worship of God was at the very heart of the Jewish faith and continues to be at the very heart of

our Catholic faith. God has blessed us with so many incredible gifts. It is only right and just that we thank Him for these gifts. Our worship of Him is our way of thanking Him. However, since our ability to give God thanks is limited, God Himself has given us the Eucharist as a means to properly thank Him. Only God Himself can teach us how to give proper thanks to God. This is why the Mass must be celebrated with great respect and reverence.

Lent is a great time to renew our worship of God. It is a holy season for us to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Do I attend Mass every Sunday?
  • Do I prepare myself for Mass? How?
  • Do I give myself adequate time to prepare physically and spiritually for the Mass?
  • Do I make a conscious effort to avoid distractions while at Mass?
  • Do I turn off my cell phone or do I find excuses to look at my phone during Mass?
  • Do I pay attention to the readings at Mass or do I allow myself to daydream?
  • Do I listen to the priest's homily or do I make up an excuse to tune him out?
  • Do I give the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist proper reverence?
  • Do I attempt to stay focused during the Eucharistic prayer or do I constantly move around?
  • Do I allow my kids to get up and use the restroom or walk around during the holiest moment of the Mass?
  • Do I irreverently receive Holy Communion?
  • Do I go to confession regularly so as to receive communion in a state of grace?
  • Do I ignore the importance of the final blessing and leave Mass early?

1 and 2 Chronicles reminds us that properly worshipping God is important because our destiny as human beings is intimately linked to it. May this Lenten season be one where we more devoutly and reverently worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Zeal for the Lord

03-08-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As many of you already know, I enjoy movies. In particular, I am a fan of comic book superhero movies. I especially enjoy superhero movies that explain the origin of a superhero's story and how they learned to develop and control their super powers. I enjoy these types of movies because I think they provide a good image for us to better understand our own powers and passions.

Each human person has various passions. These passions are like super powers. We must learn to control them or they will end up controlling us. Zeal is one of these powers. Zeal is a passion that can lead a per- son into heroic action. However, unfocused and uncontrolled zeal can lead to disaster.

In today's Gospel (John 2:13-25), Jesus uses the passion of zeal to drive out the money changers from the temple. Jesus uses His zeal to enact proper justice. Jesus does not hate the money changers. He loves them. However, He is angry with them, He knows that they do not belong in the temple, and He uses His zeal to drive them out. They were making a mockery of God's house. This was a serious offense that deserved our Lord's aggressive response.

Just like a superhero, we have to learn to develop and control our passions. St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that anger is often the natural response to an injustice. Anger becomes sinful when it is improperly ordered. Right reason helps us properly order our anger so that it is always righteous and never sinful. Zeal helps us respond to an injustice with the appropriate amount of intensity, avoiding sinful anger.

Here are some good questions for us to ask in the face of anger and injustice:

  • What exactly am I angry about?
  • Am I angry because my pride has been wounded or because there is a legitimate injustice?
  • How serious is the injustice?
  • Does the seriousness of the injustice warrant a response?
  • Am I the proper person to respond or does the appropriate response belong to another?
  • Does the intensity of my anger match the seriousness of the injustice?
  • Is my proposed response ordered toward justice and reconciliation, or revenge?
  • How can I exercise this response with the appropriate amount of zeal?

May we learn from our Lord Jesus Christ to properly order and control our passions so that we can always respond with justice and be "superheroes" for the Gospel.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

The Transfiguration and Lent

03-01-2015Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

At first it seems a bit odd that the Church would give us today's Gospel (Mark 9:2-10) in Lent. After all, the Transfiguration is a Gospel passage of glory and resurrection, not one of penance. However, contrary to our initial perception, the Transfiguration is a fantastic Lenten Gospel.

First, the Transfiguration reminds us of the reason behind our Lenten penances. We are entering into intense prayer, fasting, and almsgiving because we long for the glory of the Resurrection. We do not suffer the Cross for its own sake, but for the sake of what it leads to. Jesus gives Peter, James, and John a glimpse of the Resurrection as a sign of hope for their future suffering. With Christ, they will suffer greatly. The Transfiguration will be a point of reference for them in the midst of their sufferings, reminding them to have the hope of the Resurrection.

Second, in the Transfiguration, Peter makes a critical blunder that many of us also often make. After Peter sees Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah, Peter wants to build a dwelling place so as to remain in the present glory. Essentially, what Peter wants is eternal glory without suffering, without the Cross. Peter wants to make a transient moment his eternal home. How many times have we made the same mistake?

Lent is a season where we remind ourselves that we are a pilgrim people. This world is not our home. Our Lenten penances remind us of this truth. Today's Gospel tells that we cannot make this transient world our eternal home. Worldly glory is not enough for us. We cannot make it the end and purpose of our life. We must follow Jesus on the via dolorosa (the way of suffering). We must not make the same blunder as Peter.

May you continue to have courage during this holy season. If you have struggled with your penance, do not worry. Don't give up. Get right back to it.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will