Did you realize that last week, when you encountered a very difficult situation, that you were probably sent there by God? Is it possible that, last week, you were sent to a chaotic situation at work to bring Jesus’ peace? Or you were sent home where there was an argument between your parents so that you could pray for them? Or you were sent an impatient e-mail so you could ask the person what’s bothering them?
Last week, I was very hurt by something someone did, and I confronted him gently about it. However, I never considered that I was sent by Jesus to endure that painful situation so that I could bring Him into it.
Things make sense when we realize that we’re sent by Jesus. The phrase for today is: Apostles are alive! The word apostle means ‘sent.’ Jesus is sent, and so are we. And people who know they’re sent, are energetic, peaceful, and strong because they know their mission.
Jesus says today: “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:21-22). There are four points to make about this event:
1) When does Jesus say and do this? During the evening. As we said last week, darkness in St. John’s Gospel indicates the absence of Jesus, the light of the world. That’s quite often our situation in our hearts and minds.
2) Jesus gives His ‘peace,’ which overcomes fear. We may have fear that we can’t handle what’s coming this week, or won’t be able to help—not true. We may simply not want to face what’s coming, but Jesus says, ‘Peace, peace.’
3) When Jesus says, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you,’ this reminds us that we are to be to the world what Jesus was to the world (Cf. Jn 13:20). This truth is a game changer. When we go home and realize that, at that moment, we might be the only one who’s aligned with Jesus and we’re supposed to speak His truth and love into our families, then our whole disposition and attitude change. We become hyper aware of how other people are feeling and what we can do to love them. We’re no longer focused on ourselves but become extremely intentional and rational.
4) ‘He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”’ Breathing is a sign of giving life, just as, in the book of Genesis 2:7, it said that God breathed life into Adam. And receiving the Holy Spirit means we’re consecrated just as Jesus was consecrated (Cf. Jn 10:36). When did we receive the Holy Spirit? At Baptism and Confirmation. These two actions mean that Jesus is giving us His power and strength.
This is important, because we’re weak and may think, “Fr. Justin, I can’t take on another mission. I’m so tired and anxious already,” to which I’d reply, “You don’t need to take on another mission. If you’re loving Jesus by daily prayer and the people around you by doing what you’re called to do, you’re already doing His mission.” You just need to be aware that it is His mission, not yours, and that you can only accomplish it with His power, not yours.
Wounded healers fulfill their mission and give of themselves while they hurt. Sometimes God calls us to that kind of love. And we become more alive when we give, and all we have to give is Jesus, because there’s so little of us left.
Two action items:
1) Right now, in prayer, we need to ask, “Jesus, where are You sending me this week? Where are You needed the most?” Then get ready and ask Him to prepare you.
Last week, I was so encouraged to see so many share in the online chat what their Easter joy was! Today, I’m asking again: Would you be able to share where Jesus is sending you? If we write it down, it will be more concrete for us and will inspire others. I’m asking you to be bold again this week, and write down in one sentence: Jesus is sending me ______. E.g. God is sending me to help other people grow closer to Him through my social media accounts; He’s sending me to stand up for the weak, to listen to people’s pain, to call two friends this week. If you write your mission down, I’ll give my priestly blessing upon it!
2) I’d like to ask if you would start financially giving online to support the parish family’s mission. Our regular parish income before we moved online was $38K a month, but afterwards is now $6K. We still have a full staff, thank God, and we intend to keep on going! Many of you know how active we’ve been, running Alpha eight times with 436 guests, 28% of whom are non-practicing, fallen away Catholics or non-Christian, offering the largest Faith Studies program in the archdiocese, with 569 completing Discovery and 128 Commission, doing parish leadership summits, hosting ten seminarians for a week. We’re still working very hard to nourish you spiritually, with the care calls and with whoever needs care packages, so that we can bring Jesus to the world. And a parish on mission cannot be led by one priest and a secretary.
Many of you know the theological term we’ve been using for the past five years, which helped us double our parish collection in six years, and raise millions for the parish centre in two years. That term is ‘sacrificial giving,’ meaning that we give and feel the pain, which is a sign of our generosity. However, here’s a new aspect of sacrificial generosity that we haven’t directly covered, but which is appropriate in our current COVID-19 crisis: sacrificial giving depends on what we can sacrifice, so it can go up or down. We’ve made Care Calls to 407 homes in our parish so far (136 calls were not in service or went to voicemail), 13 people have lost their jobs, and two have had hours reduced, so it’s logical if their sacrificial giving is reduced. And some of us have been financially affected in our investments, while others among us are supporting family or friends who are financially affected.
We always give in freedom. The question is: What is sacrificial for us? Now’s the time to reassess what God wants us to give. Scott Hahn says, “We find ourselves… at prayer, at the altar. If we can look at our Eucharistic Lord—who gives Himself to us, holding nothing back—and honestly tell Him that we’re giving as much as we can, then we’re probably giving as much as we should” (Signs of Life, 217). There’s no pressure, but your financial support would give us stability. We’d be very grateful!
Does anyone remember our former seminarian Jerome Robles? Once Jerome was driving me to my mother’s home in Langley when I didn’t have my car, and asked about the sacristy renovation on which he chose to work: “So, Father, do you want the renovation to look nice or really nice?” I said, “Jerome, to whom are you talking here?”
I have big dreams for our parish family. This is a decisive moment in our parish’s history, to help people we’ve never been able to help: that our Masses nourish over 10,000 people around the world; we’re working on filming our “Testimonies” series so that you can share what God’s been doing in your life, and people can know where to find stories of faith and inspiration; we can start Faith Studies online and now’s the chance to invite you, your family, and friends to join us; start Alpha in June; connect with more people through videos and social media. I’ve asked Jesus that, if He wants to send 12 adults to be baptized this year, we’re ready to journey with them, which would be three times what we normally receive.
Three Sundays ago, I asked a lady how she was doing, and she wrote, “I just found out today that I got laid off my job so your homily yesterday was perfect timing. I’ll take some time to reflect and strengthen myself during this time.” Part of our mission is to help people make sense of the crisis.
I’d ask you to support our mission through regular weekly or monthly contributions online or by pre-authorized debits from your bank account. If your life has been blessed by our mission where you are, and would like to extend this blessing to others, please help us financially. Thank you so much!
We sometimes have no idea how fruitful our mission will be. When I got interviewed by the CBC last week, I wondered how they got my name. I was expecting them to say they loved my homilies, that just spoke so strongly of God’s love and purpose. They said, “We saw that video of you dancing to Footloose.” Oh. I’m kind of embarrassed by that video, but I let our Communications Team put it up because it would further Jesus’ mission of reaching people. And it did.
There’s a great video by Bishop Barron about Stephen Colbert. Colbert talks about the death of his father and two brothers when he was ten, and how he was never bitter about it, but remained grateful. How is that possible? Colbert quotes J.R.R. Tolkien, the writer of The Lord of the Rings, about seeing punishments or difficulties as gifts from God.
Then Bishop Barron asks from where Tolkien got this viewpoint, and it was from the priest, Fr. Morgan, who raised him after his mother died. And where did Fr. Morgan learn to persevere in spite of suffering? From St. John Henry Newman, who, when he became Catholic in 1845 in England, suffered so much because England was anti-Catholic.
Here’s the point: Newman was sent, and passed on Jesus’ truth and love to Fr. Morgan. Fr. Morgan was sent, and passed on faith and wisdom to Tolkien. And Tolkien, being deeply Catholic, knew he was sent by Jesus, and it was his writings that helped Colbert.
This week, we are all being sent by Jesus, probably to difficult situations, to bring Him to others. Apostles are alive!