From the Pastor’s Desk

Palm Sunday

My Dear Parishioners;
Ordinarily, this would be the celebration of Palm Sunday. Hopefully, our liturgy or those of other parishes will be seen by a significant number of our parishioners and friends. If you reached this site, you already know that our website is: www.mercyhills.org but do spread that information. A surprising number of parishioners had no idea that we had a website or that they could access it.

In ancient times, in the Near East palm branches were used in much the same way as we use confetti. It was a way of welcoming an important personage into a town or village. Word had spread about Jesus’ arrival in
Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish High Holy Days. Some had witnessed or heard about His miraculous cures,
particularly the raising of Lazarus (recounted in last Sunday’s Gospel citation) and His comforting though often challenging words. At least some of His disciples and others, possibly onlookers and passersby, welcomed Jesus into the Holy City with palms and by spreading their cloaks on the ground before Him. He is riding a donkey, which is reminiscent of a prophecy made centuries before.

Yet the Gospel for the Mass is the Passion narrative according to John the Evangelist. What a contrast! The joyous reception counterbalanced by the awful narration of the Passion and Death. The readings of the Mass have a resonance in the current situation of our country. This year the joy and good-feeling we usually experience with the return of warmer spring weather is muted because of the coronavirus epidemic that has gripped our country, our State and our City.

Palm Sunday presents us with that paradox. Good is often mingled with the bad. Jesus arrives in Jerusalem triumphantly; yet, before the week is out He will be betrayed by one of His own, misunderstood by the leaders of His own people, and feared by the Roman occupiers because, mistakenly, they view Him as a possible competitor to Caesar in Rome. He would face the agony of the scourging, the humiliating buffets and mockery of the Roman soldiers, the rejection of a mob of people in the governor’s courtyard, the condemnation by a callow Pilate, then the agonizing walk to Calvary culminating in the excruciating crucifixion. The latter fine-tuned by the Romans to squelch any opposition to their rule. Death was usually the combined result of asphyxiation and the loss of blood.

In Aramaic (the commonly spoken tongue – Hebrew by Our Lord’s time was reserved for worship) Jesus
voices: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which begins Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” The cry is one of agony but not despair. Jesus would have known the entirety of the Psalm which has a hopeful ending. The author of the Psalm recognizes that he is persecuted and though God apparently remains silent, the psalmist maintains his hope. The final verses of the psalm indicate that his hope is warranted: “(God) does not turn away from them (the poor) or ignore their suffering but answers, when they call for help…people not born yet, will be told: “The Lord saved His people.”

As we progress through Holy Week, even at a painful distance from one another, we walk with the Lord. We walk with Him through His passion. Because of the coronavirus19, we have entered our own Passion, yet as Psalm 22 foresaw and the Resurrection proclaims: the God of life wins! Jesus’ resurrection is a foretaste of own. Death is real and, in our present circumstances, it is fearful but it does not get the last word. It is not permanent. The God of life is forever and on Him, we set our sights in this time of trial.

In Christ,
Monsignor John McGuirl

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

In this depressing period of crisis in our national psyche today’s Gospel from St. John is a hopeful sign. Some of this Gospel citation is read frequently at funeral Masses. As we read it, it becomes increasingly obvious why.

Jesus has received word that His friend, Lazarus, has died. For one reason or another, He is delayed. The delay
permits Martha and Jesus to have a discussion which leads to a more profound understanding of death. But their conversation does not eliminate the normal human emotions in the face of the death of a loved one. Martha confronts Jesus with a
challenge. “If you had been here, my brother would never have died…” which is pretty blunt language to someone who has been on foot and traveled a distance to be with her and her sister, Mary, at shiva (the Jewish mourning period). She softens it just a little with “…but I know that God will give you whatever you ask of Him.” Hot and dusty, Jesus may not have been ready for a long discussion about the meaning and purpose of death, so He simply says “Your brother will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”. Martha answers that she already believes that, but her tone is such that she seems to be looking for more. The more is in Our Lord’s words: “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if he (she) dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha’s response is that of the Church: “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the One Who is coming into the world.”

Despite that conversation, when led to Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus weeps for him. He weeps in grief for the shock and disruption that attends death. He feels that lonesomeness, and distress all of us face in the death of a loved one. Yet Jesus orders the rock that blocked the tomb’s entrance removed. Martha objects: “Lord it has been four days since Lazarus’ death, there will be a stench”. The average person was not embalmed in that time. Burial in the Jewish community was (and still is) as close to death as possible. Martha is no fool. She knows what will be the condition of her brother’s corpse after four days in the tomb. Jesus cries out: “Lazarus, come out!” and Lazarus does.

Earlier in this Gospel, Jesus had declared that ” the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out.” (Jn 5:28-29) Lazarus is the first example of this promise’s fulfillment, which also foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus said to the onlookers: “Untie him (untie Lazarus from the enveloping shroud and burial bands) and let him go!”.

At this time of national fear and anxiety in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we too ask to be untied and released from our fear of death and that which might lead to it. Death is naturally accompanied by fear, anxiety, and tension but all of those things, real as they are, do not have the last word. The Lord of life does!

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The following information may be of great value to all of our parishioners and friends.
Daily and Sunday Masses can be accessed through our parishes’ website: www.mercyhills.org and our Facebook Page: facebook.com/OLMFHS.

Thanks to Mr. Kerry Bourgoine, you can also access us on YouTube at Our Lady of Mercy Church Forest Hills New York. We usually celebrate our Mass is at 10:00 A.M. but Deacon Dean will send out a notice on those sites if there is change. If you cannot assist at our parish Masses, the Diocesan Television Station, Net-TV offers Mass in various languages throughout the day. If your server is Spectrum, the channel is #97; if you service provider is Optimum, then the channel is #30 and if you server is Fios, the channel number is #48.
The Diocesan website also will give a listing of Mass times: http://dioceseofbrookyn.org/masses.

Remember your older, infirm or homebound neighbors and reach out to them in a gesture of Christian charity. Uniquely the folks on 69th Road in Forest Hills have entered an International Effort to honor those who are working to keep us safe, healthy, fed and informed. At 8:00 P.M. every evening they invite all the neighbors and the whole community to stand on the stoops of our homes and show support by ringing chimes, clapping hands or banging on pots. Join them!

Be safe!
In Christ,
Monsignor John McGuirl

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

As a society and as a Church we have entered what some are calling the “new normal”. Due to fears about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the possible detrimental effects on the vulnerable especially among older folks (which by age includes your writer), all public liturgical services of the Church are suspended “until further notice”. The exceptions are funerals and previously planned weddings if the numbers of attendees can be kept to a minimum. This seems rather draconian but as the centurion told Jesus, we are people subject to authority. It is the considered opinion of the Bishops in the tri-state area to suspend public worship. At the very least, such a policy may also prevent the spread of the ordinary flu and the common cold.

In my forty-eight years as a priest of the Brooklyn (Queens) Diocese, this is the first time that there is no public celebration of Holy Week and Easter! Yet what we celebrate at Easter is of the greatest importance! Before everything else, we believe that God is madly in love with the creature made in His image and likeness. That love was demonstrated in the Incarnation when the second Person of the Blessed Trinity took on a human nature. In His humanity, every public act and word of the Lord Jesus was geared to give life. While it is obviously true that not everyone in Judea, Samaria or Galilee were cured of their maladies during our Lord’s public ministry, each one who did experience a cure stood as a living symbol of what God intends for all of us. The Resurrection, which we normally celebrate on Easter Sunday, is the Great Affirmation that no matter how bleak the hour, the God of life ultimately prevails. When our Blessed Mother and a few of Our Lord’s closest companions stood under that cross on the first Good Friday, surely they wondered how and if God could work this out. Here was a good Man suffering the fate reserved by the Romans for the execution of rebels or common criminals. How could this happen? Yet you and I have an advantage on the folks on Calvary’s hill. We know about the Resurrection; they did not know about it until it happened.

Our nation and particularly our State and City are experiencing distress in the face of an invisible (to the
naked eye) foe, yet we must keep faith in the Lord of life. Our mandate to care for our neighbors and friends still exists. Instead of giving up something for Lent (after all the society has had to give up quite a bit in the face of this disease) now might be the time to contact an elderly neighbor, especially those who are homebound or ill. Do they need shopping? Do they need medicines? Do they simply need someone with whom they can talk? In meeting those needs we are extending God’s merciful hand to those who at this time require it the most.

This Sunday is Laetare Sunday. Its title is from the Latin word meaning to rejoice. Instead of the usual Lenten violet, the vestments for Mass are rose colored. In the midst of Lent, this Sunday urges us to focus on the joy that lies ahead. In today’s Gospel, typical of St. John, Jesus is again involved in a paradoxical conversation with His disciples. The disciples have equated the blindness of a man to his supposed sinfulness. This was a common notion at that time yet one which Jesus did not accept. He cured the man using a mixture of mud and spittle (which was thought to have curative effects). When the man washes the mud from his eyes he could see. Next comes a long discussion with some Pharisees. Jesus observes that the man’s blindness will be the occasion for the working of divine action. Again in a complete reversal of the usual, it is the Pharisees who are truly blind while the physically blind man sees! Toward the end of the Gospel, Jesus asks the formerly blind man: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man responds: “Who is he, sir that I may believe in him.” Jesus answers: “You have seen Him and the One speaking with you is He.” The words are reminiscent of last week’s Gospel also from St. John when Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well: “I am He (the Christ), the One speaking with you.”

We too have seen and Jesus speaks to us in the Scriptures to ensure us that: “Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for You are at my side with Your rod and Your staff that give me courage… and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come”.

Our parish is working with some knowledgeable people to devise a means by which we can have a weekly Mass available on Face book and You tube. We hope to be up and running sometime this week. Watch the Parish Facebook Page. Meanwhile Holy Mass is also scheduled as follows:
Saturdays at 6:00 P.M.- Vigil
Prerecorded from Immaculate Conception Parish in Jamaica (English language)
Sunday at 11:00 A.M. –
Live from St. James Cathedral in Downtown Brooklyn (English language)
Sunday at 1:30 P.M.
Pre-recorded from the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, (Spanish language)

We are a Sacramental people and these strictures are particularly painful though temporary; nonetheless, do not panic, but rather continue to find solace and support in your personal devotional life: be it the Rosary, Scripture reading, your daily morning and evening prayers, The Liturgy of the Hours (Breviary), grace before and after meals and so many other pious practices kept by our Catholic people.

Our parish Church will remain open every day from 8:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. so that you can drop by; pay a visit to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and pick-up any information in the vestibule of the Church.

Please know that Father Greg and I are celebrating two private Masses every day and the intentions pre-arranged by our parishioners are being satisfied at those Masses.
In Christ,
Monsignor McGuirl

Third Sunday of Lent

One of most popular literary devices utilized by St. John the Evangelist is paradoxical conversations. Jesus has a conversation with someone, then the individual often misunderstands what Jesus is saying or takes something meant to be a metaphor in the literal sense of the words. This gives Jesus the opportunity to rectify the misunderstanding and to bring the conversation to a deeper and more profound level. One of the reasons that Jesus is misunderstood is that His speech is often couched in words that have multiple meanings or rely on rich symbolism. His words and actions often breached the conventional social boundaries.

Today’s narration is very typical of St. John. The Evangelist begins by telling us that Jesus “had to pass through
Samaria” (in order to reach Jerusalem). Samaria lies along the quickest and most direct route from Galilee to Jerusalem; however, there is no absolute necessity of passing through Samaria since there are alternative routes. The Samaritans, though sharing much culture and religious beliefs with the Jews, for various historical reasons, were akin to estranged cousins.  Generally Jews avoided passing through Samaria and used the alternate routes. In this case, Jesus seems determined to take the Good News outside the conventional Jewish areas.

It is a bit difficult in our politically correct world for the modern reader to realize how radical this Gospel narration was. Jesus stops at a well and asks a woman who is drawing water to give Him a drink; however, it was against all common social conventions for an unaccompanied man to speak to an unaccompanied woman. On top of that, this woman is a Samaritan. By the social mores of that time, she had two strikes against her. She herself is amazed and says: “How can, you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”. Jesus in answering her question informs her that she should be asking Him for a drink of “living water”. The woman assumes that he is speaking about the water in the well; therefore, she notes that Jesus has no bucket and that the well is deep. This well is also distinguished by the fact that Jacob, the common ancestor of both Jews and Samaritans, had dug it and had used it many centuries before. Jesus continues talking about “water welling up to eternal life”. This piqued her interest and she requests “this water so that I may not be thirsty”. Of course, the water to which Jesus refers is with reference to a spiritual reality, the life of God which fulfills all human desires and thirsts.

Perhaps aware of the unconventional nature of their conversation, Jesus dismisses the woman but asks her to return with her husband. Jesus’ knowledge that she has had several husbands prompts the woman to return to her village and to announce to her townspeople that this man is a prophet and even possibly the Messiah. Before doing so, perhaps to redirect the conversation from her irregular marital life, the woman changes it to a discussion of the proper place of worship, either the temple in Jerusalem or Mount Gerizen (then and now the Samaritan holy place). Jesus is not concerned about the site but He is concerned people “will worship in Spirit and in truth”. The Samaritan woman reveals that she has hopes for a future Messiah, who will “tell us everything”. To which in one of the boldest affirmations of His messiahship, Jesus replies that: “I am He, who is speaking to you”.

The narration ends with the return of the disciples, who have gone to procure food, (Given the strained relationship between Samaritans and Jews, one does wonder where they purchased this food while in Samaritan territory. Jews and Samaritans did not drink or eat in each other’s company nor use the same utensils). In another twist, the woman returns to her village center and announces that she may have found the Christ, “who told me everything I have done.” On her testimony some villagers come to meet Jesus. Meanwhile the disciples offer Jesus ordinary food while He has offered the woman the drink of eternal life. He admonished the apostles that while they were “shopping”, He has been doing “the will of the One Who sent me and to finish His work…”. Jesus had reached out to the Samaritans and though the apostles had not done so, they will share in the harvest of people, who have responded to the Good News.

The narration ends bluntly. Many Samaritans begin to believe in Jesus now, not because of the testimony of the lady at the well, but rather because they have encountered Him and been influenced by His preaching. In another break with convention, they invite Him to stay with them and He does so for two days.

The final sentence presents the usual course of conversion. Usually someone leads a person to Christ by talking about Him as does the lady at the well. On her testimony her fellow townspeople seek our Jesus. When they encounter Him, they are convinced of His teaching and invite Him into their lives. The process has remained much the same.

In Christ,
Monsignor McGuirl

Second Sunday of Lent

On the eastern end of the Valley of Jezreel, eleven miles from the west bank of the Sea of Galilee stands one mountain alone. It is one thousand, eight hundred and eighty-six feet high. This is Mount Tabor located in one of the most fertile parts of modern Israel. The contemporary villages nearby are both Arab and Israeli.

This second Sunday of Lent brings us to Mount Tabor. St. Matthew’s Gospel merely says: “Jesus took Peter, James and John, his brother, and led them up unto high mountain by themselves”. Though Matthew in his Gospel does not identify the mountain, from the inception of Christianity it is thought to have been this place.

The apostles and Jesus are traveling toward His destiny in Jerusalem about sixty miles to the south but the apostles are beginning to have misgivings. Is Jesus the One? After all, most of them were expecting that Jesus would re-establish the ancient Kingdom of Israel, founded by His remote ancestor, David. Naturally in that
renewed kingdom, they hoped to hold positions of authority since they were Jesus’ closest companions. Yet now Jesus is talking about suffering and dying and then rising again, whatever that might mean. They are becoming confused and baffled.

The theophany (Greek for God’s manifestation) reveals Jesus’ hidden identity. Jesus Himself appears
majestically and gloriously: “…His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light”. Matthew is probably writing originally for a community of Jews who have accepted Jesus as the Messiah. He presents Jesus as the continuation of the traditions of Israel. So who appears with the glorified Jesus? Moses, the great Hebrew Lawgiver, and Elijah, the representative of the prophetic tradition. It was also believed that Elijah would d reappear when the Messiah came. Ever impulsive Peter blurts out that “…it is good that we are here.” He immediately desires to nail down the apparition by building three tent shrines, one for Jesus, one for Elijah and one for Moses. While Peter is going on about his plans, a bright cloud overshadows them. In ancient times, the cloud indicated the divine Presence and from this cloud the Father declares that Jesus “is my beloved, Son, with Whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.” Overwhelmed the three apostles prostrate themselves on the ground. At the end of the theophany, Jesus touches them in reassurance and bids them: “Rise and do not be afraid.” The journey continues to Jerusalem but no matter what lies ahead in the mystery of God’s plan, the apostles now know with Whom they are dealing!

Until the resurrection, this event will sustain and fortify them during the trials of the Passion and death of Jesus. Now they know that Jesus is the Father’s unique Son. To listen to Jesus is of paramount importance. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises that were glimpsed in the Law and the prophets.

“Rise, do not be afraid”. Jesus will conquer death but meanwhile, on the mountain the apostles have been assured by this apparition. “This is my Beloved Son…listen to Him!”
In Christ,

Monsignor McGuirl

 

First Sunday of Lent

Except for the 5:00 P.M. Sunday Mass last week, Father Christopher Bethage, the associate Vocation
Director of our Diocese, was the guest homilist. Father addressed the crucial need for an increase in religious and priestly vocations in our Diocese. The shortage of priestly vocations has led directly to the amalgamation or
suppression of parishes. In almost every parish the number of priests serving the people has been unavoidably but radically reduced. Well before our parish had a parochial school, there were always three priests assigned here. Now we have two and there is every good chance that, as time goes on, we could be reduced to one.

Father Chris’ homily was most timely and in it he mentioned that the Lord calls all of us to a vocation in life. In Jesus’ eyes we are all important for the building up of the Kingdom of God on earth. Each of our lives is beyond value. Since Jesus’ two fundamental Commandments are to love God and our neighbors as ourselves, He calls all of us to answer those Commands.

This weekend we begin the Annual Catholic Appeal. The purpose of the Annual Catholic Appeal is to assist us in fulfilling those two basic Commandments. The Appeal seeks to raise $8,000,000 to provide programs and ministries throughout the Diocese and also support local parishes like Our Lady of Mercy. The Diocese has set our goal again as $81,995. If we exceed the goal, we will directly receive back 100% of all funds raised above this figure.

The Annual Appeal helps us to answer the call of the Gospel to: feed the hungry, support youth ministry, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and the imprisoned, honor our elders, and educate our youth. The funds
collected cannot be used in the settlement of alleged abuse cases or for anything other than their intended purpose.

Among the beneficiaries are the Mugavero Residence, which houses many infirm and elderly priests – those who served us for most if their lives and now are in the final stage of that life; the Migration Office, which helps fulfill the mandate of welcoming the stranger; Catholic Charities for programs such as housing and long term assistance (food trucks etc…), which lie beyond the capacity of the individual parishes; the Catholic Youth
Initiative (which provides a youth minister shared between Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs and Our Lady of Mercy); The Office of Faith Formation: the Futures in Education Scholarship Program; Hospital, College and Prison Chaplains, the Vocation Office now managed by Father Sean Sukiel and Father Christopher Bethage (Father Sukiel is also the pastor of Holy Family Parish in Flushing – Father Bethage will assume the full direction of the office in the near future.) and scholarships for our college-age and post-college seminarians (the priests who will hopefully serve us in the future.). Please remember our parish is assisted directly because any amount over the stated goal is returned to Our Lady of Mercy

Many times during Lent we search for something to “give-up” but more important is something we
“can do”. Something we “can do” is to help the Annual Catholic Appeal, which in turn helps our parish. Some families in the Court of Honor have already been contacted but in the coming weeks, every family will be invited to participate in this Appeal and prayerfully consider a pledge.

Our regular parishioners know that I do not nag you about these Appeals but in return I hope that everyone will appreciate the needs of our Church, especially the need for increased numbers of worthy and devout vocations to the priesthood. If we recognize these needs, then the response must be your generosity – something we “can do” during Lent.

In the next few weeks, all of us will be hearing more about the Annual Appeal. Now let us pray for its
success since the health of our Diocese (and our parish) depends on the Annual Appeal.
Yours in Christ,
Monsignor John A. McGuirl

 

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

In St. Matthew’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount includes the well-known Beatitudes but it also has a large amount of additional material. In this additional material, we find Our Lord’s declaration that He has not come to abolish the Law but rather to bring it to completion. By Jesus’ era, the Law was con-siderably more than The Ten Commandments but all of it was rooted in those ten basic precepts. “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill”. This fulfillment involves going much deeper than the stated rule or commandment. Jesus seeks to remove the underlying motivations that might tempt us to break the Commandments. Last Sunday He illustrated this through an examination of the Commandments that prohibited killing and adultery and the rules concerning divorce and oath taking. 

In this Sunday’s citation, Our Lord interprets two widespread religious traditions. The first is well-known to us. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Originally this was thought to be an advance of the moral code. One had to retaliate only to the level that one had been offended. If someone knocks out your tooth, you can do the same, but nothing more. If someone gouges out your eye, you can retaliate in kind, but no further. In the Jewish community of Jesus’ time, there were many interpretations of this precept. Jesus now offers His own interpretation. Jesus’ teaching goes beyond “getting even”. He digs down deeper and demands that His disciples “walk the extra mile”. His disciples must go beyond what is demanded in the tradition.

The second tradition Our Lord examines is: “you have heard said: ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. In the Old Testament there is no specific Law that says this. Our first reading is from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus (one of the first five Books of the Bible – the Pentateuch or the To-rah.) Leviticus writes: “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart…take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” By Jesus’ time, this had been interpreted to mean that “love for neighbor” was only those of “our” group. Such a law united the Israelite community. But Jesus extends the notion by commanding it to God who acts on behalf of everyone. God’s sun shines on, and His rains water the good and the bad, the just and the unjust. Jesus’ disciples are bidden to act in a similar way. Jesus mentions that even the reviled tax collectors love those who love them. Even pagan (non-believers) greet those who greet them. There is nothing unusual about that. If we only love those who love us, there is no big deal about that. Everyone does it. The love that Jesus requires does not necessarily mean an emotional attachment, but rather it is the will to be of service to others if we are able to do so.

Jesus’ disciples are asked to do the unusual – to go further. In imitating God, they become more like Him. They are achieving completeness in Him because they are becoming perfect “as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

In Christ,
Monsignor John A. McGuirl

 

 

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

About a month ago in this bulletin, and then again more recently in the Mercy Mirror, I announced that after thirteen years I would be retiring from the pastorate of Our Lady of Mercy Parish on June 30th, 2020. This date is five months short of the mandatory retirement age of seventy-five.

The first opportunity to retire was reached at seventy-one years of age; however, at that time, I had notified Bishop DiMarzio that with his approval, I would continue at the helm. But the time has now come. In fact, there is no real retirement for a priest and as the Bishop pointed out in a recent letter to me, the ministry of our senior priests can still be very important. What retirement actually means is a release from financial, repairs, personnel and decision making aspects of parish life. It means also Sacramental ministry on a reduced schedule. During my first seven years as your pastor, the late Monsignor Langelier, my predecessor, after his retirement continued to serve us but on schedule more in accord with his own needs and preferences. To a more limited degree, despite poor health, the late Father John Cremins desired the do the same. I would hope to do much as they did until such time as the Lord calls me. To that end, I will remain in residence at Our Lady of Mercy Rectory.

Our new pastor will be Father Frank Schwarz. Father is sixty-one years of age. He was born on September 20th, 1958 of German parentage. Currently, he is completing a twelve-year term as the pastor of American Martyrs Church in Bayside. Father is a veteran of the US Army. Under the G.I. Bill, he went to St. John’s University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree. For a time he worked in the health care
industry before entering the post-collegiate theologate at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Lloyd Harbor (Huntington), New York. Father was ordained on June 2nd, 2001 and in the past had served at Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs Parish here in Forest hills so some of our neighbors may remember him.
Father will become the administrator of this parish on June 30th until his formal installation as pastor probably sometime in the fall. During this period of transition please keep me and our new pastor in your prayers.

Yours in Christ,
Monsignor John. McGuirl

 

 

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners;

The Scriptural lessons for the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time are decidedly shorter than usual but the editors of the Lectionary (the Book containing the lessons to be read throughout the year at Mass and other liturgical ceremonies) centered this week’s lessons on the same theme; the impact a true disciple of Christ has on the world.

To make His point, Jesus compares His disciples to the salt of the earth. Before the development of salt-substitutes, people on a salt-free diet often lamented the loss of flavor in their food. Salt provides a tangy flavor to food. In former times it was also used to preserve food. Without salt food could lose its taste and become spoiled. If salt loses its ability to flavor and preserve, it is good for nothing but to be thrown away. In ancient time-sharing salt was often a sign of friendship. Salt was so important that it was occasionally used as a form of currency. In fact, our English word “salary” derives from the Latin word, “sal” meaning “salt”. Roman soldiers were often paid in salt thus giving us the word “salary”.

Jesus uses another metaphor: His disciples are also the light of the world. That light cannot be
hidden any more than the bright lights of a large city can be hidden. Furthermore, people do not turn on the lights in order to hide something but rather so that they can see. Today’s Gospel is taken from the
Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes). Jesus seems to be adding two additional Beatitudes; blessed are you who are the salt of the earth; blessed are you who are the light of the world. We are blessed if we are the salt and the light but we bring those blessings to others. Wherever the disciples are, there also should be the flavorful goodness of the Gospel, a Gospel preserved and pure. “Just so, your light must shine
before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father”.

The first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah carries much the same message though it was written many centuries before the birth of Jesus. Isaiah writes that “your light shall break forth like the dawn” if we shelter the oppressed and the homeless, give food to the hungry and remove from our midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.

The second reading is taken from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Church he founded at the Greek
city-state of Corinth. In it Paul suggests that while he preached the Gospel with none of the rhetorical flourishes popular at the time, he came with the resolution “to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. While Paul professes His weakness, he admits that the Spirit used him to proclaim the Gospel and that through him the power of God reached his listeners. Thus it is true of all
disciples if they follow in the footsteps of the Master. The good works of Jesus’ disciples will be salt and light – through them others will be drawn by God’s light and their lives will be flavored much in the same way salt flavors and preserves food.

In Christ,
Monsignor McGuirl

 

The Presentation of the Lord

Dear Parishioners,

This Sunday the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem. The celebration has its roots in ancient history. People in the near east had been accustomed to offer their most
precious possession to the gods in order to procure the favor of the deities. In the early years of the Hebrew
settlement in Canaan, many of their neighbors actually sacrificed their children. Apparently some of the Hebrews may have adopted this custom since it was one of the faults that the prophets often condemned. In fact, Gehenna, which by Our Lord’s time was the communal garbage dump, outside the walls of Jerusalem, had once been the site of these notorious sacrifices. Because of its history and later usage, Gehenna became a symbol of hell.

Among the Hebrew people, substitute sacrifices were offered to God. The firstborn was taken to the
Jerusalem Temple and offered or consecrated to God and then symbolically “redeemed” by the actual offering of animal sacrifice. For wealthier families, the sacrifice might be a lamb or goat whereas poorer people offered turtle doves or young pigeons.

Mary and Joseph have made the sacrifice expected of the poor; however, the scene takes on a symbolical importance. Simeon, who had prayed to see the day of salvation of Israel, recognizes the universal significance of this newborn Child. In prayer he blesses God, for now, he has seen “a light of revelation for the Gentiles (non-Jews) and the glory of Your people Israel.” But Simeon also has a sense that this Child of promise will be opposed. He will be destined for “the rise and fall of many in Israel – a sign that will be contradicted”. Simeon indicates that Mary will experience sorrows similar to a sword piercing her heart. Such a prediction is not foreign to the ears of loving parents. The success or failure of a child is the cause of joy or sorrow for a parent. The destiny of loving parents is always linked to that of their children.

The somberness of that mood is lifted by Anna, an elderly lady, who spent much of her time in prayer in the temple courtyards. This too is not foreign to our experience. The elderly often have more time to spend in prayer. Anna speaks joyfully about this Child. After all these momentous proclamations, the Holy Family returns home, where Jesus grows in wisdom and strength under the guidance of His parents and God’s favor rests on Him.

In a few sentences St. Luke, who authored today’s Gospel, reveals once again several of his major concerns. He emphasizes Jesus’ outreach to the marginalized, the poor, sinners, and the downtrodden, which are represented by Mary and Joseph. Their sacrificial gift is the one offered by poor people. Luke spotlights the role of women. In His gospel, Mary, Elizabeth and now Anna, the elderly prophetess, have major roles. Prayer, conversation with God, was another Lucan concern. From the pages of His Gospel, we have the Magnificat (“My soul magnifies the Lord…”) on the lips of Mary; we have the Benedictus (“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel…”) on the lips of  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist; we have the words of the Hail Mary from the archangel Gabriel and now we have the Nunc Dimittis (“Now you may dismiss your servant, O Lord…”) from Simeon.

After Luke’s Infancy Account, the Presentation narrative forms a second preface or foreword of the entire Gospel. The one presented in the Temple is the One, who against most expectations, will come from humble
circumstances, and grow up among ordinary people. For Luke, the extraordinary takes root in the ordinary. The role of women and Luke’s concern with keeping open the window of conversation with God will also hold
prominent places throughout His Gospel. In Christ

Monsignor John A, McGuirl

 

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

We are now in ordinary time – ordinary only because there are no major feasts until Ash Wednesday, which will not come until February 26th. Yet during “ordinary time” is when we primarily live out our lives as Christian men and women.

In this Sunday’s Gospel citation, we discover that Jesus has withdrawn to Galilee and moved into the town of Capernaum. Capernaum is now in ruins but in Jesus’ time, it was a thriving town with an economy based on fishing in the Sea of Galilee. It is located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee in the ancient tribal lands of Zebulon and Naphtali. Because of various invasions over the centuries, it was a mixed area. The population was both Jewish and non-Jewish (Gentile). The quotation from the Old Testament calls the area “Galilee of the Gentiles”. In Jesus’ time, the area was under the rule of Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod The Great.

Next week, a number of our parishioners will accompany Father Greg on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and one of their stops will be at Capernaum. They will see two major ruins. One is the ancient synagogue. Directional signs conveniently inform the visitor that the upper ruins constructed of marble are built upon the ruins of an earlier synagogue which was constructed of basalt. Many of those foundation stones are visible and Jesus would have seen them!

The second noteworthy building is a large modern church which closely resembles a flying saucer. This church has a glass floor. For centuries tradition held that Peter’s house was on that site. Early Christians had naturally preserved a tradition indicating the location of the house of the “prince of the apostles” and eventually the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire built a small eight-sided chapel over the site. Octagonal chapels were often constructed over important sites. Over the centuries Capernaum was overrun several times by invading armies and the original church was destroyed.

During the last half-century an archeological dig was mounted by the Franciscan Friars, who have the “custody” of the Holy Land. The funds were provided by the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. The ruins of the original octagonal church were found and under it the ruins of a small house in which were found ancient fishhooks. As today’s Gospel tells us, Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen.

Galilean fishermen were often members of a co-op type organization and it is quite possible that Andrew, Peter, James and John and their father Zebedee were partners in a fishing co-op. It is possible also that their families lived close together. We know from the Gospels that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Was she cured in that very house under the Franciscan church? As today’s Gospel tells us, Jesus made Capernaum the “headquarters” for his preaching missions, so is it also possible that He occasionally lived in this same house? Though there is no way of telling for sure, but was this place made sacred by the footprints of Christ? Did He stand on the same shoreline and see very much the same scene as He gazed south over the waters of the Sea of Galilee?

The call to the Apostles seems very quick but there are indications in the Gospels that Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist and through him came to know Jesus. Andrew introduced his brother, Peter, to Jesus (John 35:40-43). It stands to reason that these toughened, hard-working, manual laborers would not abandon their old lives to follow an itinerant Rabbi unless they had experienced the power of His preaching and seen God’s healing power in Him. But follow Him they did. Despite some backsliding, after the Resurrection and Pentecost they began a process that changed the world. We too were led to Jesus and identified with Him in our Baptisms. With the strength of the Spirit, we too can continue the
transformation of the world.

Little did Isaiah know, when he voiced the words of our first reading many centuries before the birth of Jesus, that the “people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light, upon those who lived in a land of gloom, a light has shone.” That light was Jesus and His ministry would begin in the land of the ancient tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali, the land of Galilee of the Gentiles!
In Christ,
Monsignor John McGuirl

 

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,
In the priesthood there is no such thing as retirement; however, there does come a moment when a priest can step aside from administrative obligations. In our Diocese of Brooklyn/Queens, the first opportunity to request “retirement” comes at age 71 (seventy-one). At age 75, retirement from administrative responsibilities becomes mandatory. When seventy one arrived three and a half years ago, I had no intention of submitting my resignation to Bishop DiMarzio. Now I have passed my seventy-fourth birthday and have had the privilege of being your pastor for over thirteen years. Consequently last March I did write to the Bishop and request what is called “senior priest status” as of June 30th, 2020. In fact, that date will bring me within four and a half months of the mandatory retirement age of seventy-five. The Bishop has agreed and has given me permission to continue to reside at Our Lady of Mercy rectory and to give some assistance much in the same manner as the late Monsignor Gerald Langelier did for me before his untimely death six years ago. As the Bishop stated in his letter of permission:
Allow me to inform you that I am pleased to grant you permission
to formally enter the ranks of our “senior priests” and with the approval
of the newly appointed Pastor of the Parish, I also grant you continued
residence at the Parish of Our Lady of Mercy in Forest Hills. The new
assignment becomes effective June 30th, 2020…as you know, we
never “retire” from our God-given priestly vocation, and with the increasing need
we have for priests, our ‘senior priests’ can be of great assistance…”
That assistance I intend to give, for as long as God grants me relatively good mental and physical health. Frankly, at this point in life, relief from the financial and material care of the parish will be welcome. To be able to take life at an easier pace with a little more free time will also be welcome. Nonetheless, it will require me to change. For a very long time, I have held leadership positions in this Diocese, so the new status will require an
alteration in my attitude and expectations.

All the same, my roots were planted here. Baptism, First Communion, my First public Mass (12:15 P.M. – May 28th, 1972) as a new priest, were all celebrated at Our Lady of Mercy. So too were the funerals of my parents, paternal grandparents, and several aunts and uncles. This parish is home; though, when I left Manse Street in 1966 for the last two years of college and the subsequent four years of theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, I never dreamed that I would one day be assigned here. Now the home parish has become my longest assignment!

Our parish is home to many people. There is much to recommend it, not the least of which is, the generosity and kindness of our parishioners. They take second place to none. Visitors to our parish regularly comment on the familial friendliness they experience when they participate in the Sacraments here. I think they are correct. Our parish is a real family. Like all families, we have had our ups and downs, so if, in any way, whether deliberately or inadvertently, I have contributed to those “down” moments, I apologize to those whom I may have offended and do ask their forgiveness.

The identity of the new pastor is unknown and in fact, the Diocesan Clergy Personnel Board and the Bishop may have only just begun the process of selecting him. We are still five months from June but I wanted to advise you now of this prospective change of status because I do not want you to read of it first in the pages of our Diocesan Newspaper, The Tablet. The new status of “pastor emeritus and senior priest” can be likened to being the parish grandfather and when appropriate and requested, I intend to be of assistance to the new pastor. The late Monsignor Langelier will be my example in this matter, since he was discreetly helpful when I became pastor here in February 2007.

In five months we will enter another era in our parish’s ninety-year history. I ask for your continued prayers, advice and support. Please be assured of my prayers, especially at the Eucharist.
In Christ,

Monsignor John 1. McGuirl

Pastor

 

 

The Baptism of the Lord

 

The liturgical season of Christmas officially ends this weekend with the celebration of the baptism of the Lord as recorded by St. Matthew. As this Sunday’s Gospel citation informs us, Jesus was baptized by John (the Baptist or Baptized) in the River Jordan. All four of the Gospels narrate this event; and yet, it seems so odd. Does Jesus need baptism? Even John tries to dissuade Him. John thinks that Jesus should be baptizing him, not the other way around. Jesus is sinless and the baptism of John was specifically seen as a sign of the repentance of sin. As water washes dirt off the body, the repentant sinner “washes” away his/her sins.

In Chapter 3 of St. Matthew’s Gospel, the unspoken question is answered: Jesus undergoes this ritual bath in order to “fulfill all righteousness”. In other words, this Baptism was to reveal what our relationship with God was meant to be. While Jesus may not have needed to repent, we do! Jesus stands with sinful humanity. The Word became flesh and lived among us, but not simply among but as us. He experienced all that we experience, except sin, but even there He makes our plight His own.

The Baptism of John is not yet the sacrament which we undergo, but it heralds the arrival of the Messiah, who will establish the sacramental system. When John dunks Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan, it is reported that as Jesus came up out of the latter, the heavens were opened and a voice says: “This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” At the same moment, the Spirit of God hovers like a dove above Jesus. The Gospels seem to differ as to who heard these words and saw the manifestation of God. Was it John, or Jesus only, or the onlookers? But all the Gospel writers include this incident though they may differ in minor details. The four of them recognized this moment as the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, hence the beginning of the Messianic Age, which the prophets,
especially Isaiah had foretold.

In the beginning of creation, God’s Spirit hovers over the formless void, the darkness over the deep waters which symbolize unformed or uncreated emptiness. (In Hebrew: tohubohu = trackless waste and emptiness.) The Spirit brings forth creation like a dove hovering over the nest of its creation, its young fledglings. The dove hovering over Jesus has the same notion. Here now the new creation begins with the ministry of Jesus. The right relationship with God is as “Abba” (Dad) to his sons and daughters. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. That Son is united with us in our humanity so that we might be united with Him in His divinity. We are invited to be members of the circle of God’s very family. The true “righteousness” is a relationship of filial love between Abba and His children. To enter that relationship, that righteousness, one had to enter fellowship with the Son, Whose Baptism in the waters of the River Jordan we celebrate this day.
Over the last two weeks, we have celebrated the Birth of the Promised One, the Baby at Bethlehem, now we make ready to follow that Child as an Adult, Who is the “Righteous One”

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Over the last several weeks, we have read about a number of Anti-Semitic actions throughout the country but especially here in our own City. It is important to remember that our Blessed Lord, His Mother, Saint Joseph, the twelve Apostles, Saint Paul, and almost all the earliest followers of Jesus were drawn from the Jewish community. They were Jews living among Jews.

Jesus’ followers saw Him as the fulfillment of the ancient Hebrew prophets. To have a true appreciation of Christianity, it is necessary to have an understanding of the First (Old) Testament, especially the prophets and psalms. Jesus Himself was immersed in the Scriptures of the First Testament and He quotes from them regularly. He engaged in the synagogue worship in Nazareth and other towns. He was called “rabbi” (teacher) and He engaged other rabbis in a proper perception of the Law. He went up to the Temple in Jerusalem for the great feasts.

Even our liturgical forms owe a debt to Judaism. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass includes readings (on Sundays and major feasts one of these is always taken from the First Testament), psalms, a homily and then the sacrificial rite of the Eucharistic Prayer, which recalls that first Eucharist at a Passover-like meal. The first Eucharist was either a Passover meal or a meal based on it.

A Christian who exhibits anti-Jewish sentiments is renouncing his/her own heritage. Religiously the Jews are our older cousins. They are the senior members of a long-line which finds its origins in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (whose nickname was “Israel”). Even individual squabbles or disagreements between members of the Christian and Jewish communities are in no way a justification for the condemnation of a whole group. There is good and bad among all people and usually each of us a complex mixture of both. One of the major reasons for the Incarnation was to help us overcome our darker nature not to wallow in it.

Our Church has used the adjective “catholic” from the beginnings of Christianity. In Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word “catholic” means “universal” – the Church open to all people professing the same faith. At the very least, the use of that title obliges us to an openness to all people, not the least of whom are our older cousins in the procession that traces its origins to “Abraham, our father in faith”. (Roman Canon or Eucharistic Prayer #1.)

In Christ,
Monsignor McGuirl

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Dear Parishioners;
This Sunday is the last Sunday of Advent. Christmas is Wednesday, so this will be the last bulletin before the great feast. There is richness in the Christmas readings but it is impossible in this short space to review all of them. For example, the Gospel for the Christmas Vigil, which also conveniently contains part of the citation for the last Sunday of Advent, is the genealogy and birth account of Jesus in St. Matthew’s Gospel. The Gospel for the “Night Mass” of Christmas is from St. Luke and presents the familiar story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and its announcement to the Shepherds. The early Christmas Day Mass is part of the same Gospel from St. Luke. The Mass for Christmas Day features the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel, which introduces the mystery of Christ as the Word present with God in the beginning and identified with God.

With such a richness of readings, it behooves us to read them carefully in order to form a full picture of the great gift God has sent us – His very Self- Communication, His self-utterance, the Word of God made flesh in Jesus born at Bethlehem in Judea!

We miss the richness if we do not read all the Gospels for Christmas. For instance, in the genealogy with which St. Matthew begins His Gospel, there seems to be a tedious recital of names. But what a wealth of meaning is hidden there! Matthew is revealing fundamental truths about the Lord, Jesus. He was writing originally for a Jewish/Christian community. These Jewish men and women had accepted Jesus as the Messiah but they were concerned that He was the fulfillment of the prophecies of the First (Old) Testament or Covenant.

The genealogy was not to meant to transmit each and every generation; rather, the ancients used genealogies to establish relationships and continuity. With that in mind, Matthew begins with: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham”. From the start, Jesus is immersed in the Jewish tradition. He is a descendant of the patriarchs: Abraham and Abraham’s son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob (also known as Israel). Jacob fathered twelve sons, among whom was Judah. Jesus would be born of the tribe of Judah. Centuries after Judah, there would be King David, who also figured among Jesus’ remote ancestors. King Solomon, David’s son, also finds a place in the genealogy.

Jesus is placed solidly as a descendant of the Jewish Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is also a “son of David” as one of the king’s remote descendants. But Jesus is also related to all people, (the Gentiles). St. Luke’s genealogy illustrates that relationship by tracing Jesus’ ancestry right back to Adam. Matthew does the same by uniquely including five women in his genealogy. At that time, genealogies were traced through the male line. Significantly Matthew also situates these women in his genealogy. All the women, but the last, were non-Jews. Several had “interesting” backgrounds.

For instance, Rahab had been a prostitute at the time of the Israelite settlement of the promised land. She favored the new-comers and in a way was a traitor to her Canaanite people. Yet she is in Jesus’ background! Though not mentioned by name, the mother of Solomon and wife of King David, reached her exalted position by conniving with David in the death of her first husband, Uriah. Yet she too is in Jesus’ background! This indicates several points. Jesus had both the good and the bad in His heritage. He also had non-Israelites in His ancestral line. The last woman mentioned is Mary, “of her is born Jesus, Who is called the Christ”

Matthew divides his genealogy into three sections, each of fourteen generations. As a multiple of seven, which was a number symbolizing divine fulfillment, Matthew indicates that this birth is the perfect fulfillment of God’s long plan. It is the “perfect” time.

Finally Mathew narrates the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes of St. Joseph (Luke’s narration is more through the eyes of Mary) and he presents Joseph like his namesake, Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob. Through dreams, that earlier Joseph had discerned God’s will and was able to save his family in Egypt during a time of famine. Joseph, Mary’s husband, also receives God’s message in a dream and complies with it. The result will be the birth of the Savior, the Lord Jesus!

In a few verses, Matthew has prefaced his entire Gospel. Through His ancestry, Jesus is related to not only His own people but also to non-Israelites. In His family line are saints and sinners. He is born a subject to the Torah and fulfills the ancient prophecies. Yet, His birth is for all people! For this reason on Christmas, we can “forever sing the goodness of the Lord”. (Psalm 89)

On behalf of our entire Parish and Academy staffs, a blessed Christmas & a Happy New Year to all our parishioners and their visitors and friends!
In Christ, born in Bethlehem of Judea,

Monsignor John A. McGuirl

 

 

 

Second Sunday of Advent

 

Dear Parishioners,

The following is a reflection from a guest author.

ADVENT REFLECTION

A young girl hears the voice of an angel and trembles.
What can these words mean, “Hail, full of grace,”
Who can be graced before the mighty God?
Who can stand in purity and innocence?
What is this, how can that be
To mother the Living God:
Bear in her womb the Lord of all creation?
In silence the Word came down,
In silence the Word was made flesh,
In silence the Virgin received,
In silence heaven kissed the earth,
In silence the Presence grew
In silence the Word came forth.
The voice of God is heard over the ages,
Who will mother my Son,
Who will now bring Him forth?
From every land and nation they are invited,
“Be still and know that I am God.”
In silence the Word will come forth.
In silence He can be received,
In silence He will kiss the heart,
In silence His presence will grow,
In silence the Word will come forth upon the earth.
Who will be silent to receive Him?
Carol Powell

 

 

 

 

 

In Christ,
Monsignor McGuirl

 

Dear Parishioners,

Today is the feast of Jesus Christ , King of the Universe. It marks the end of the Church’s liturgical year of 2019 and it ushers in Advent, which not only begins the new liturgical year but also is the season of immediate preparation for Christmas.

It’s an odd holy day, isn’t it? We live in a nation that is rooted in a rebellion against a British government then headed by King George III, the great, great, great, great grandfather of the present Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II. Yet, many of us are still mesmerized by the activities, travails and adventures of George’s present day relatives. Prince Charles and Camilla, William and Kate Middleton, Harry and Meghan are names
familiar to everyone in the country.

So are we to view Jesus’ kingship in the way we view the British, or for that matter, the Spanish or Dutch or Danish or any of the modern royal families? Even when the feast day was inaugurated by Pius XI in 1925, many of the remaining royal families were losing their political power. So where do we go?
The readings give us a hint. The first is taken from the Old Testament Book of Samuel. After the death of the first king of Israel, Saul and his son, Jonathan, the Israelites declare David as their king because he is “their bone and flesh”. He is one with the people and he is anointed to shepherd them. The job of a shepherd is to lead his flock away from predators and into verdant fields replete with clean flowing streams. So in the dream of God, the ideal king is related to the people and acts as their shepherd.

Many centuries later, St. Paul writing to the Church he founded at Colossae, indicates that God’s Son, like a shepherd, will lead His people into “…the inheritance of the holy ones in the light”. (Colossians 1: 12-20 ). This Shepherd is the image of the invisible God, yet everything was created through Him and He is before all else. He is the head of the church, the gathering of His disciples; He restores life through His resurrection and establishes peace through the perfect sacrifice of Himself for our sake.

That sacrifice of self is the topic of the excerpt from the Gospel of St. Luke. Jesus’ enemies sneer at him while He endures the agony of the cross. Even one of the two men executed with him joins in the mockery. Yet the other condemned man intervenes. He acknowledges that Jesus is innocent and has been condemned unjustly. He utters the universal prayer: “Jesus, remember Me when You come into Kingdom.” (Luke 23:35-43). That man becomes the first “canonized” saint! His presence in heaven is assured when Jesus responds: “Amen I say to you, this day you will be with Me in paradise.”

So then Jesus is a king in very specific ways. He is the Good Shepherd, watching out for His sheep. He shares the nature of the flock. He shares their humanity. But while sharing their humanity, He is the image of the invisible God! Sharing our humanity He too dies, and dies in a particularly hideous way. Through the Resurrection that follows that death, Jesus invites us to share the very light of God and in doing so becomes head of a new people united in His cause. A people, who, like the thief on the cross, are also sinners, but who pray that He will remember us when He comes into His kingdom. We are the people who yearn to hear the words that the “good” thief heard: “Amen (Yes or so be it!) I say to you, this day you will be with Me in paradise”. Implicitly in his death throes, the good thief has acknowledged Jesus’ kingship. He voices our desire that we be counted among the citizens of that kingdom!

In Christ,
Monsignor McGuirl