April 2017

“Merciful, Like the Father”

Fr. Alex’s Corner, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23, 2017



Fr. Alex’s Corner, HAPPY EASTER, April 16, 2017

BEHOLD, YOUR KING (John 19:14)

Fr. Alex’s Corner, PALM SUNDAY, April 9, 2017



Fr. Alex’s Corner, April 2, 2017


Fr. Alex’s Corner, April 30, 2017

St. Augustine often said that “we are an Easter people, and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.”  Our firm belief in Jesus’ resurrection marks us within the Christian community.  “On the third day, He rose again,” we proclaim in our Creed.  Yet, in reading the gospels we are surprised how hard it was for the apostles and disciples to catch on to what was really happening on that Resurrection day.


The Gospel story read at Mass today (Luke 24: 13-35) is my favorite because I get it.  Two people (it could be you and me) were returning home to Emmaus on that Easter Sunday.  They were sad, confused, disheartened.  Their hopes and dreams had been shattered.  They were expecting a Messiah and they thought they found him.  They’d been observing Jesus of Nazareth, and “hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”  They welcomed him into the holy city with pomp and circumstance, waving palms and shouting their Hosannas.  They expected him “to make Israel great again.”  (Sound familiar?!?)


But on Friday everything crashed.  Their hero was crucified like a criminal.  Their hopes were dashed;  their dreams, a nightmare.  As they left Jerusalem that morning, there were rumors of an empty tomb; that Jesus was seen.  What a mess!


How many times have you felt that way?  You have great expectations, you have plans and dreams, you work hard to accomplish something, and then it just crumbles in your hands.  We’ve all been there.  Yes, there are times that make a grown person cry.  And sometimes we do.


It’s good to have someone to talk to.  Misery does love company.  That’s part of this story.  They were talking, trying to make some sense of their hurt.  In that sense, they were fortunate.  There is nothing worse than suffering alone.  Then, a stranger joins them and they tell him their story.

Then something BIG happens.  It takes time to perceive that the stranger is Jesus Himself, and, as only He can, He explains, consoles, heals, encourages, strengthens, and even feeds them in “the breaking of the bread.”


Jesus promised that “where two or three gather in my name, I am in their midst.”   These two were doing that, and, just like He promised, Jesus was there, with His wisdom, His way, His truth, and His life.  That was their resurrection story.  They rose up from discouragement and despair to a new understanding and new life.   They became an Easter people, ran back to Jerusalem to the gathered apostles, and sang their Alleluia song.


This story is one for us to recall in our own disappointments and times of fear and tension.  It is healthy to have a trusted friend with whom we can share our burdens.  But miracles do happen when we – together – approach the Lord for His help.  We have to invite Him to speak to us “on the way.”


Sometimes people tell me that they cannot pray because they are distracted.  When I ask about their distractions, they say it’s their problems.  Well, that is not distraction.  That is bringing your life into your conversation with the Lord, your prayers.  That’s supposed to happen.   Never fear telling Him your problems.  But for God’s sake and yours, give Him a chance to answer….


Today’s gospel story also shows that God has a plan.  It is not always our plan.  And even when two of us are talking it out, we may not understand it.  But if we allow the Lord to walk with us “on our way,” maybe we will get the message. 


These two disciples testified how “our hearts were burning within us while he spoke to us on the way,” and how “he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”


To me, this sounds like a good reason to

bring our problems to the Lord - in prayer.  Try it!  Alleluia!



Everybody felt it: a moment of eerie silence, a low rumble and then the ground began to shake.  Less than four minutes later, over thirty thousand were dead from a magnitude 8.2 earthquake that rocked and nearly flattened Armenia in 1989.

In the muddled chaos, a father bolted through the streets to the school where his son had gone earlier that morning.  The man thought about the promise he’d given his son so many times: “No matter what happens, Armand, I’ll always be there.”


He reached the site where the school had been, but saw only a pile of rubble.  He started to dig, pulling up bricks and wall-plaster, while others stood by watching in disbelief.  He heard a bystander growl, “Forget it, mister.  They’re all dead.”


“You can grumble, or you can help me lift these bricks.”  A few did, then gave up, but the man couldn’t stop thinking about his son.  (“No matter what happens, Armand, I’ll always be there.”)


He kept digging and digging.  Finally, into the thirty-eighth hour, he heard a muffled groan from under a piece of wallboard.  He seized the board, pulled it back, and cried, “ARMAND!”  From the darkness came a slight shaking voice, “Papa…!”


Other weak voices were heard as the young survivors stirred beneath the rubble.  Gasps of relief came from the few parents who remained.  Fourteen of thirty-three students were still alive.

When Armand finally emerged, he waited until all his surviving classmates were out.  Everybody there heard him as he turned to his friends and said, “See, I told you my Papa wouldn’t forget us.


(From Scott Hahn’s “A Father Who Keeps His Promises.”)


This Sunday is traditionally observed as Divine Mercy Sunday.  There is a hardly a Catholic church today which does not have the picture of Jesus, red and white light radiating from His heart, reflecting St. Faustina Kowalska’s apparitions  of the 1930’s.

Devotion to God’s mercy is not new in our Christian tradition.  But St. Faustina’s revelations have been highlighted by Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, the latter even proclaiming a Holy Year of Divine Mercy in 2016.  Every Catholic priest, myself included, can attest to the miracle of mercy in the number of people who returned to the Sacrament of Mercy - Confession, many after a lapse of many years.  It was phenomenal!


The message of Divine Mercy first and foremost proclaims the Mercy of God to each and every sinner.  No matter how grave our sins, how frequent our falls, God, our Father, “will always be there” for us.  That’s the purpose of the story. And just as God is merciful to us, we are called to be merciful to others.  Now that is a challenge!   In our political and violent climate today, MERCY, both Divine and human are absolutely needed.


When Jesus appeared to His Apostles on that First Easter Sunday, His first words were:  “Peace be with you.”  Now, the apostles weren’t fighting.  Nobody was shooting up the Upper Room.  But their grief, their guilt, their anger and sadness blinded them from even recognizing Jesus when they saw Him.  Grief, guilt, and anger can blind us.  So before anything GOOD could happen, there had to be MERCY and PEACE.  That’s why forgiveness is important in God’s eyes.  Important enough for Jesus to die on a Cross to show us mercy.     


In the Gospels of the Easter season we will hear Jesus underscore His command that we love one another as He loved us.   That’s not an invitation to LaLaLand.   It is a prescription (Rx) to what ails our world today.


The story above suggests that Our Papa Who is in Heaven, loves us, and will always be there for us.  His mercy is beyond belief.   So, in our own daily prayers, let us be consoled by Divine Mercy.  Then, we can embrace, and share, Jesus’ Easter gift of Peace.  Let us be MERCIFUL, LIKE THE FATHER.    


PEACE, by all means, PEACE!

were saying that Jesus had been seen.  Alive!  What does that mean?  Peter and that young disciple ran to the tomb, and saw exactly what Mary saw.  The Gospel (John 20:8) says that “he saw and believed.”  “Believed” what?  Most likely, that Jesus, as He promised, had “gone to the Father.”


Did anyone really expect Jesus to come and visit?  When He did, they were so stunned they didn’t know what to think.  Thomas, who wasn’t there, made it quite clear that talk of resurrection was nonsense.  “I’ll believe when I see – and touch!”


Then Jesus is standing there.  “Peace be with you,” He says, and repeats it.  His hair is combed; His clothes are clean; the instruments of torture are gone, but His wounds are clearly visible.  And they always will be, because now His wounds are part of Who and What He is and what He came to do.


His return did not mean “back to normal.”  He did not move back into his Mother’s house; and He didn’t get on the bus to continue his teaching-and-healing tour.  For forty days He was seen by some, not by all, but by those who needed to see Him.  It took forty days for Jesus to explain what His resurrection meant to them.  In the meantime, He just told them to be peaceful.  Be calm.  Chill.  And so they did.


In the Fifty Days of our Easter season, our Liturgy will share that message with us.  Jesus’ new life means “new life” for us, too.  In the meantime, by all means, be PEACE-full.  Be calm.  Chill.



That’s how our Grandparents greeted EVERYONE on Easter Sunday morning.  For them, this was BIG!  I hope it is for you, too.  I pray that your family Easter celebration is happy and Spirit-filled.  After all, rising from the dead is no mini-matter!


Today, we Faithful find no problem believing that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.  We have the testimony of the Apostles and those who were there.  But, for them, it wasn’t all so clear.


Let’s place ourselves in that “Upper Room” in the days after Jesus died.  All who were there were hiding because what happened to Jesus could happen to them.  It was a room heavy with grief, sorrow, fear, guilt and confusion.


You know the feeling.  Most of us have stood beside a casket holding someone we loved.  The body looks good now, but we remember more than a body.  We remember a person, living, moving, smiling, and maybe even suffering quite a bit.  Our grief is palpable.  Our mouth is dry, while our nose and eyes are wet.  Tears flow.  Our stomach weighs a ton; our legs are weak.  Yes, we know the feeling.


Well, my friends, that’s how the folks in that Upper Room felt that day.  The body of Jesus was not there; no caskets at that time.  After running from the scene of the crucifixion, they all went there.   Coming and going.  Caring for each other, and, to be sure, comforting Mary, Jesus’ Mom.  It was heavy!  Uncomfortable.  Their Jesus was gone!


Oh, yes, He predicted it, but no one really expected it to happen.  Certainly not in the horror of a crucifixion!  How could that have happened?


Now it’s Sunday and there is news:  some women were at the tomb and IT IS EMPTY.  What does that mean?  An empty tomb is just that: an empty tomb.  It proves nothing.  The Mary who went there wondered who took the body.  Where is it?   Some

This story is true.  I hesitate to relate a confession story, but as you will see, it’s not really about sin.  And “David” may be his name, maybe not…. 


The Franciscan Sisters invited us to hear confessions of their “Special Ed” students.  They instructed us that these children might not be guilty of sins, but they meant to teach them right from wrong and to take responsibility for their actions.  One Sister said not to spend too much time with the kids because they had to get them on the school bus.  That’s the background to the story.


So, I was seated in the sacristy and in comes little David.  The kids wore an I.D. tag so that we could call them by name.  David sat down, looked at me, checked out the room, and not a word.  So I asked:  “David, is there anything you want to tell God you are sorry for?”  He thought for a minute.  “I’m sorry for my Grandma.”  “Why are you sorry for your Grandma?”  “Because my Grandpa died and she is always sad and sometimes she cries.”  I suggested the next time he sees Grandma to give her a hug and tell her he’s sorry that Grandpa died, and that he loves her.   David smiled, said “OK,” and described just how he would do that.


“David, is there anything you want to tell God YOU are sorry for?” (I’m looking for sins.)  David thinks for a moment and says, “I’m sorry for the girl next door.”  “Why are you sorry for the girl next door?”  “Because she was hit by a car and she’s all wrapped in bandages and she sits on her porch and she can’t go to school.”  So, I suggested that when he goes home he should visit her, tell her he’s sorry that she got hurt and tell her what he learned in school today.  He smiled again and described just how he would do that as soon as he got home.


By now, I’m getting nervous, certain that Sister-Mary-Get-Them-On-The-Bus-On-Time is standing at the door waiting for David to exit.   But I took one

more chance.  “David, is there anything else you want to tell God you are sorry for?”  David took some time, looked around, and then looked me straight in the eye, and said, “I’m sorry for Jesus.”  “Why are sorry for Jesus?”   He pointed to the crucifix on the wall and said, “Because Jesus is hanging on that cross.  And that’s got to hurt.”


I looked at that boy, pure innocence, and I was lost for words.  This child certainly was “Special” in God’s eyes.  For a child, to have such sensitivity….  If Jesus was there, He would embrace this boy and say to me, “unless you become like this little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” 


I think that sometimes, with our preoccupation with sin, we overlook innocence.  I’m sure I blessed him, but as often as I’ve thought of David, I’m so sorry that I didn’t ask him to trace the cross over me.  His touch may have made me a better person.


This is Holy Week and we read, re-live, and reflect on Jesus suffering and crucified.  “Behold your King.” No nails could have kept Jesus on that Cross.  Only one thing could, and that is LOVE.  God’s love.


To David, Jesus’ hurt was just as real as Grandma’s and the neighbor-girl who was hit by a car.  Just as he wanted to help Grandma and that girl, he wanted to help Jesus.  He sensed that with his own acts of love he could help them heal.


What do YOU see when you look at Jesus on the Cross?  Take time to look at a Crucifix this week.  “Behold your King.”  Jesus is there because of you and me. Look at the crown of thorns, the nails, and His side.  David was right: it’s got to hurt.   The worst thing is to be indifferent.  Too many of us are indifferent to suffering in the world.  “And that’s got to hurt.”  What a lesson David teaches us.  Besides looking at Jesus on the Cross, look around you for someone who is hurting.  Do something to soothe that hurt.  And when you do, look at the Cross and whisper to Jesus: “THIS IS FOR YOU!”      



friend to meet.  Jesus always met people in their needs.  He will be there for us, tool


Let’s remember other Gospel stories that tell what happened when The Teacher is here…


…water becomes wine and the wedding celebration goes on (John 2).


…thousands are fed from five loaves and two fish, and there are leftovers  (John 6).


…and when He says to a dead girl, “Talitha koum,  little girl, get up,” she does  (Luke 8).


…a man born blind says “ now I can see” (John 9).


…he tells the paralyzed man to pick up his mat and go home, and the man does (Matt 9).


…and the adultress whom some want to kill gets the Teacher’s kind look and His forgiveness  (John 8).


…Peter says, “Lord if it is you, let me walk on the water.”  And he does, he does!  (Matt 14).


…all night long the disciples fished and caught nothing.  Jesus says “Try again,” and 153 large fish are in their nets  (John 21).


…a thief on the cross asks to enter the Teacher’s kingdom, and he is told “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  This thief stole heaven!  (Luke 23).


That’s what happens when “The Teacher is here.”  To be sure, He is “asking for YOU.”   In my own life, this quote has always been an invitation to spend time with Jesus in quiet prayer. The coming Holy Days are a time when Jesus is asking YOU and me to walk to Jerusalem with Him.  Holy Week is always Holy for Jesus.  But for you and me, it’s what we make it.  Check your parish Bulletins for the Holy Week schedule and BE THERE.  As for the kids, tell them what makes this week different from every other week of the year.  Of all the theology I’ve learned, my most vivid Holy Week memories are what my parents and grandparents taught me so many years ago.  I do know that when “The Teacher is here,” big things can happen.  Yes, they can…!




We are approaching  Holy Week and our Readings present important themes.  I love this story of Jesus coming to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead.  It’s all in the details.  This is a story I can relate to.  It could be my family (the Cymerman’s, my parish Family, my brother-Friars)!  We are part-saints and part-sinners, much like the Martha-Mary-Lazarus family.  We are busy with many things, but if Jesus and His friends were passing by, we’d give them bed and breakfast.  And if we needed something, we’d ask and expect Him to deliver.  That is so us!


That’s where this story begins (John 11:1-45).  If you didn’t hear it in church, read it now, carefully. 

Martha and Mary sent for Jesus when Lazarus was sick.  They needed a favor.  Everyone knew their Friend and frequent House Guest was a healer.  But by the time Jesus got to Bethany, Lazarus was dead – for FOUR days!


Martha goes to meet Jesus and gets a lesson on Eternal Life.  Mary stayed at home. Why?  Was she upset?  Probably.  But then Martha calls her:  “Mary, the Teacher is here and is asking for you.”   Now big things begin to happen.  Even Martha is squeamish (“Jesus, the SMELL!”)


There is no smell that Jesus can’t cure.  He calls, “LAZARUS, COME OUT OF THAT GRAVE.”  And here comes Lazarus!  Jesus shows one and all that He can create LIFE, restore LIFE, and guarantee ETERNAL LIFE.  It all happens when “the Teacher is here….”  Martha and Mary learned that; so did Lazarus; and so must you and I (my family, too)!   That’s why, no matter what our problems, smells, or ills, call the Teacher Jesus….  He comes to heal and to help!


Someone once said that most of us meet Jesus when we are at the end of our rope.   Well, when you are at the end of your rope, Jesus is a good

Running to the car with his Dad, little Cooper held a basket of colored Easter eggs which he found around the church on that beautiful Easter morning. He showed them to the pastor, who said: "Cooper, when I go to the store to buy eggs, they are all white, sometimes brown, but never colored like those are. How do you think that happened?" Cooper looked at the colored eggs, though for (only) a moment, and said: "That chikcen must have eaten a lot of M&M's." (And that, my friends, is a true Holyoke Story.)