Fr. Luke's Weekly Sermon

Fr. Luke's Sermon- April 14, 2024

“The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread…” Words from our Gospel this morning from the 24th chapter of Luke – Sister and Brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and joy. 

On the first Sunday in our Easter season, Easter Morning, we heard the story of an empty tomb.  If you want to go out and tell other people about Jesus’ resurrection, then this is probably not a particularly convincing story.  I suppose that any number of things could have happened to Jesus’ body and in fact this is what many of Jesus’ followers at first presumed.  Mary Magdalene came back to tell the disciples – they have taken him and we don’t know where they put him.  Peter and the beloved disciple looked into the tomb only to find his burial cloths there.  The angel said, you are looking for Jesus – he is not here. I suppose John’s empty tomb narrative gives us something to think about: No one has seen the event of the resurrection itself and so without any conclusive evidence we must make a rather fundamental choice: do we believe that he rose from the dead or not?  It certainly makes for an interesting case.

Much more convincing, I think, than an empty tomb is to have encountered Jesus himself, risen from the dead.  This brings us to today’s readings, where the disciples have come together to recall what had taken place to them along the way.  They shared their stories with each other – Mary Magdalene who thought that Jesus had been taken away by the Gardener, discovered that it was the risen Jesus himself who was tending to the Garden and taking care of his creation.  As Peter and his brothers resumed their livelihood as fishermen, Jesus appeared on the shore and helped them to catch 153 large fish, and then cooked breakfast in their midst.  When Thomas returned to the upper room, the rest of the disciples told him how Jesus had appeared in their midst, even though the doors were locked.  As two of the disciples left Jerusalem to return home, Jesus traveled with them along the road to Emmaus, spoke to them about the meaning of the Scriptures, and made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread.  And when everyone came together to share their stories of what had happened to them, and how they had encountered the Risen Lord, Jesus became present to them once again.  

What do you talk about when you normally get together with others: the weather? how work is going? the Bills’ offseason? the Sabres drought? what just happened at school? what happened to so-and-so in the family?  The upcoming election?  The wars in Ukraine and Israel?  What’s for dinner?  We talk about things that are happening around us, right?  So, tell others what has happened to you with regards also to your encounter with the Risen Christ.  I am certain that God’s grace has affected each and every one of us in some manner “along the way” of life’s journey, no matter how ordinary we think our story is…  Every time we recount what has happened to us, every time someone repents from evil and changes their lifestyle, every time we open up our minds and hearts to listen to God speak to us through the Scriptures and in prayer, every time we participate in the breaking of the bread around this altar table, whether it’s our first communion or our 500th communion, every time new life is born to us and we celebrate baptism, every time we reach out to the outcast of society, every time we find healing, every time we support our neighbors, every time we show forth our love to our family, every time we see goodness triumph or the power of grace at work in our lives - though they may be glimpses only - we truly see Christ’s resurrection.  We are convinced that He is alive, that God is at work in our lives blessing us and filling us with grace even today.  Like the two disciples who shared their story about encountering Christ on the road to Emmaus, we too have a story to tell.  It may seem to be an ordinary story, but there is extraordinary power in it, I promise you… if we share what we saw at Mass today, or what we heard in the homily, or what’s going on at St. Peter’s or any of those things we mentioned earlier or whatever it is… telling our story helps others to know of the resurrection of Christ and allows us all to share in that new life he has promised.  Tell people what is happening in your life also as it regards these aspects of our faith.

Let us return to the curious case of the empty tomb of Jerusalem 2000 years ago.  In a court of law, the testimony of a witness is presumed to be more reliable than circumstantial evidence.  Whereas the scene of the empty tomb provides only circumstantial evidence that Christ’s body is missing, an authentic witness testifies to the world and shows forth the perfection of love that God has brought about.  Our readings remind us that we are witnesses of these things.  Without a doubt, our testimony should solve the case of the empty tomb.  What does our testimony look like?  Our second reading reminds us to be true to God’s word, to follow God’s commandments, to be a people of love so that after cross-examination our witness might be found to be reliable, that people might see the risen Christ inside us.  St. John warns us that those who say, “I know Christ,” but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them.  Well, we are under oath, and the jury is out, and the court would like to know.  Have we shied away from telling our story and the truth of Jesus Christ and his Church?  Do we practice our faith in a way that shows the integrity of our witness? What will the verdict be?  

[[We have with us today a speaker from Catholic Charities who will tell our story here in Western New York, how our service of Catholic Charities is an authentic demonstration of the love of Christ, how others have come encounter Jesus through us, and thus come to know of the resurrection for themselves, receiving hope and new life when there was none.

Fr. Luke's Sermon- April 7, 2024

“With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.  Indeed, the community of believers was of one heart and mind.”  Words from our first reading today from the 4th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

Today’s Gospel features the infamous story of poor, Doubting Thomas.  As we know, Thomas wasn’t among the rest of the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them in the Upper Room that Easter Sunday.  The best guess I could come up with is that he was probably out doing some grocery shopping at all the outlet Malls here on Niagara Falls Blvd, since all the leftovers from the Last Supper were gone at this point.  And with eleven mouths to feed, the food disappears rather quickly, even more so during such stressful times.  So, when Thomas returned from shopping and the disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, Thomas was probably thinking to himself, “Why exactly am I staying with a bunch of crazy people who are seeing things?  We just saw Jesus murdered in plain daylight.  If he was indeed alive – which is hard enough to believe – how then did he physically get into the room to see you when all the doors were locked?  How do you know you weren’t imagining things or seeing a ghost?  Why didn’t you put your fingers into the wounds that you claim he showed you?  The trauma of it all is really getting to you.”  And so, the name has since stuck: he is forever been known as doubting Thomas. 

I want to point out that what is often overlooked in this story is the fact that Thomas remained with the group.  Let that sink in for a minute.  If he didn’t believe their story, he had no real reason to stick around.  The dream was dead.  Jesus was gone.  The disciples seem to be delusional.  And with everyone waiting to persecute Jesus’ followers next, this would be a good time to get out of Jerusalem and go home.  Yet, for some reason, Thomas was still with them at the end of the week.  There is something to be said, then, of the witness of the community of disciples that reached out to Thomas so that the next time Jesus appeared, Thomas was still found with them.  And really, it was only within the presence of the community, there in that upper room, that Thomas was able to encounter for himself the Risen Lord.  The reality is that we need each other.  The etymology of the word, ‘religion’ comes from the Latin ligare, meaning ‘to be connected’.  Thomas was struggling with the death of his friend, the fear of persecution, and personal doubts of faith.  Yet Thomas remained connected to the community of believers, and because he remained connected in spite of his misgivings, he was able to experience Jesus.  

Unfortunately, many people today will often say, “I’m spiritual but not religious”.  So, while most Americans do still believe in God or in some kind of higher power, the latest Gallup poll shows that more than half the country is no longer affiliated with a religious tradition.  Moreover, our culture, in a rail against institutions, is desperately trying to privatize the faith and categorize it as something individuals go off and do by themselves – just don’t bring it into public life.  Now, faith is indeed very personal, and we cannot overlook this, but in the end, any notion of an exclusive relationship between God and Me will leave us like the Thomas who doubted – ‘I haven’t experienced the Lord in that way, so it can’t be true.’  But the faith that has been handed on to us is not simply between God and Me, but between God and Us all: I will be your God and you will be my people, plural. It is this collective witness to the risen Christ that we need to make our own, experience for ourselves, and live out in the context of our lives.  The Acts of the Apostles reminds us that the disciples of the early Church were of one heart and mind.  All of us are connected to each other.  In this communion, we are connected to each other as a parish, as a family of parishes on the Lower Niagara River, as a Church of Buffalo, as the Roman Catholic Church in the world; we are also connected to our relatives and friends who have gone before us, and their relatives and friends who have gone before them all the way back to the Apostles themselves; and we are connected to all those who will come after us who will receive the faith in turn.  It is impossible to live out our faith alone.  We are a part of each other.  And with each other, we are together connected to Christ.  That is what we are celebrating here at this Eucharist, that we have communion with each other together in the Lord.  

When Thomas could accept that, when Thomas remained connected and lived in communion with others, it was then and only then that Thomas could encounter Jesus for himself.  And rather than doubting, he became the first disciple in turn to acclaim Jesus, not merely as the promised Messiah, but indeed as the one true Lord and God himself!  Indeed, the profession of faith that Thomas made in the Upper Room that day, is the greatest acclamation of Jesus’ divinity, even surpassing Peter’s, and those declarations of the other Apostles.  Such is the power of religion, of being connected, of living in communion...  We are spiritual and we are religious.  The lesson of today is that, if we want to encounter Jesus, then we need to be a part of this communion, like Thomas was.  We need to gather together with 2 or 3 others in his name, for then he comes into our midst.  This communal aspect of faith is something that we need to reclaim today.  Private Faith, Interior Morality, Virtual Engagement through the Computer, notions of ‘well, I’m a Good Person’ can only get us so far.  When people find themselves off on their own, they realize that something is missing, that none of these are good substitutes for being present to and connected with each other, and because of this individualism, that some part of their humanity is cheapened.  Seriously, what does a faith that is spiritual but not religious look like in practice?  Disconnected from the life-giving vine, it eventually dies out…  By ourselves, we will be stuck in our doubts, like Thomas.  But also like Thomas, with others, we can experience the Risen Christ.  Disciples stick together.  Are we together in mind and heart with the disciples?  Do we realize the great witness we exhibit when we come together as Church that others may come to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and God?  Let us not give up on communion, but live out the relationship between God and Us so that God’s favor might yet be accorded to all.

Fr. Luke's Sermon- March 31, 2024- Easter Morning

Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”  Words from our Gospel this morning from the Gospel according to St. John – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.


If we can have our kiddos come down for the homily today.  Come on up and sit around here.

Parties are fun occasions, right?  What are some things that we see at parties?  

  1. Having Friends and Family come together (a constant)
  2. Special Decorations (themes)
  3. Dress up a little bit (nice outfit, birthday hats)
  4. Give each other gifts and cards (eggs, presents)
  5. Singing (Christmas songs, Easter Songs, Happy Birthday)
  6. Food and Drink are shared (Easter Basket, birthday cake with candles)

When we come to Church, it’s like coming to a party

  1. We come with family and friends to celebrate how special Jesus is to us
  2. We have decorations, flowers, banners, 
  3. We have special dresses and outfits
  1. We hear passages from the Bible read to us, like God sending us a card
  2. We hear singing at the church
  3. We have food and drink, which might look like ordinary bread and wine, and we do have candles around it like a birthday cake, but it is even more special because it is God himself whom we receive in the Eucharist.  It’s the best gift there is because this way we’ll never be alone.

And can someone remind me, what are we celebrating at our party at Church this morning? 

  • That Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed! 

And why is this so special and important, because we know that God can love us through anything. Death can’t stop him. Sin can’t stop him. So when you feel lonely and discouraged and upset, know that God can help you through it, that he wants you to have life and have it to the full. And that’s worth celebrating. Thanks for helping me set the tone for my homily. Ok, I’m going to speak to everyone else now. You can go back to your seats


There is a Jewish saying as you gather with each other and raise your glasses for a toast, “La Heim,” to life, which you may have learned from the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof.  Today, we Christians gather in festivity to raise a glass with our own version of La Heim, to life, as we acclaim: “Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!” knowing that in his resurrection, God has opened up for us that path to life, that we may all have life and have to the full.  We have hope.  This is cause for rejoicing and gladness and for celebration.  Josef Pieper once remarked that the human capacity for festivity arises from the ability to affirm all creation as good – from the ability to embrace, in one resounding “yes” the length and breadth, the heights and depths of our experience in this world.  We can hear this yes in Mozart’s music.  We can hear it in the delighted squeals of a child as its face is licked by the moist tongue and hot breath of a new puppy.  We can even hear it in the contented, prayerful whispers of an elderly woman – full of love, grace, and year, as she prepares to meet death with quiet courage and dignity.  

Saying yes to all of life, letting it all in – that is festivity’s sustaining source.  But therein is also the rub.  We live in an intensely mobile culture of fast food, faster cars, disposable diapers, and planned obsolescence.  Few of us can say yes to anything for very long.  At parties, we do not carry on conversations; it is something more like posturing: repeating to one another snippets of dialogue from movies, beer commercials, sitcoms, social media posts or interviews with sports’ celebrities.  We are connected but not connecting, isolated and lonely, incapable of forming meaningful relationships that last.  Small wonder, too, that as a people we find ourselves increasingly bored, angry and tired – enraged and terrified by the awful emptiness that seems to stretch in every direction around us and pulls us into despair.  Given such cultural conditions, the Christian celebration of Easter for fifty days of celebration will strike many as crazy.  Fifty days of “dwelling in” the paschal mystery!  Fifty days of surrendering in joyful faith and love as the Spirit of God takes possession of our lives! Fifty days of mystagogy, of unpacking the baptismal mysteries of his death and resurrection.  What an order!

One reason why such a prolonged celebration strikes us as difficult is that we tend to link feasts and holidays with mindless hoopla.  “Party time,” for many, is an invitation to obliterate consciousness, to get wasted, to veg out, to forget.  But a season of festival is precisely the opposite.  It is a time of intentionality, intensified consciousness, finely tuned awareness, awakened memory.  All are welcome to join us here to find ways to sustain their hope throughout their whole lives.  The great fifty days until Pentecost are not an unwelcome, unrealistic, obligation to “party on,” even if we don’t feel like it, but an invitation to explore more deeply God’s presence and power in our lives and to appreciate more fully the gift of life itself as good and wholesome and full.  In short, Easter is a season for learning how to continuously say YES to life in a culture that wants to keep on saying no.  Why is that - because Christ is Risen; He is Risen Indeed!

“You know what has happened - we are witnesses - they put Jesus to death by hanging him on a tree and God raised him on the third day.”  Words from our first reading this morning from the 10th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace & his joy.

When my younger brother was born, he had a medical condition that forced him to be in the hospital for the first few years of his life.  To spend time with him, Mom and Dad alternated night and day shifts between their work and being at the hospital.  Myself, being only two years old at the time and in need of care, I came to live with my grandparents and my aunts and uncles, moving from household to household every few months until my schooling began.  Our family situation really could have been a traumatic experience for us, but my extended family responded heroically.  Though they couldn’t change the disease or make the pain go away, they yet “loved us through” that challenging time.  As I reflect upon these as well as some of the other toughest moments of my life, I have to admit that I prevailed only because I was “loved through” these great difficulties.  

I witnessed a beautiful, painful, and yet powerful thing this past Good Friday.  As I watched folks come forward to venerate the cross during the Good Friday liturgy, I was thinking about the different crosses they were carrying.  

As I’ve gotten to know my parish family here over the past year, I began praying for so-and-so who approached the cross, who was diagnosed with cancer.  I began praying for the person who was struggling with being judgmental.  I began praying for so-and-so’s hope that his son would make it to Eagle Scout.  I was praying for the mother who could no longer provide for her child.  I was praying for her child that she would have the patience and strength to now take care of her mother.   I was praying that so-and-so’s job situation would work out, and for the parents who are trying to save up enough money to get their kids through college.  I was praying that so-and-so who just lost her husband of 55 years.  I was praying for someone’s teeth, someone’s mental health, someone’s addiction, and someone’s difficult family situation…  

So many of God’s people came forward to unite their sufferings to Jesus’s suffering on the cross.

Certainly, all of us can relate to such moments.  Yet we made it through whatever trial we were facing because someone was there embracing us & walking with us through it all.  Dare I say, this is what God does for us – God loves us through.  God also understands what it’s like to have experienced painful circumstances and great loss.  On the day that Jesus was crucified, our Heavenly Father experienced the death of his only Son.  God didn’t take away the pain or stop the injustice.  God didn’t prevent his Son’s death.  God humbled himself so as to accompany us even in our powerlessness in the face of this overbearing and overwhelming world.  And yet, God never stopped loving his Son.  Indeed, God’s love for his Son is so powerful that it brought him through the experience of death to new life in the resurrection which we celebrate today.  I believe that’s exactly what God does for us, what love does for us - it carries us through.  

St. Peter affirms us today, saying in our first reading: you know the story.  You know what has happened all over Judea regarding Jesus of Nazareth, who went about doing good and who was healing people, and how he was crucified and how God loved him through it all raising him to new life.  But you also know how God has been at work in the world today, loving you through the various trials and tribulations of your lives bringing new life and salvation to you.  This Easter day, we use the term salvation and say that salvation has been won for us in the resurrection.  Those who have made it through their trials and difficulties know the real meaning of that word, salvation, and that is not just a word at all.  Only the survivors know the full terror of the passage, the arms that held them through it all, and the power of the obstacles that were overcome.  All they can do is thank God they made it through!  As I think about the context of my own life, and the lives of those around me, I can say that amidst the things that should and shouldn’t be, among all that is right and all that is wrong with the world, in the highs and lows, ups and downs, joys and sorrows of life… that we have been loved through it all.  And the resurrection shows us that nothing, not even human mortality or the evil of sin, can overcome God’s accompanying love for us.  Hope is restored.  New life is given.  We are witnesses to the joys of Easter because we ourselves have been loved through.  We’ve made it!  And so St. Peter instructs us to go forth and share the good news today, to share our Easter joy by loving others with the same accompanying love that has been shown to us.  From our parish family to yours, Happy Easter!

Fr. Luke's Sermon- March 30, 2024- Easter Vigil

This night of the Easter Vigil is the most solemn celebration of the Church in her liturgical year.  It is in the vigil of this night that we anticipate and celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from the dead.  It is a night of transformation: transformation of our world, of our life, of our destiny, of our relationships and of ourselves.  We celebrate this transformation in 4 liturgies that all come together in this vigil.

The first liturgy is a Liturgy of Light.  We began gathered around the fire outside.  As we look at the flames, we see that fire is chaotic, is dangerous, is out of control.  And yet, when channeled and harnessed correctly, how useful fire becomes in providing warmth, for cooking our food, for bringing people together, for our combustion engines, for giving us light.  The symbol of this transformation is found burning in the light of our Paschal Candle, commemorated by the Exultet we sang, that Jesus is the true light of the world, not chaotic or dangerous, but harnessed and given to us directly as a gift.  He is the true light which never sets, bringing light to transform our darkness.

The second liturgy is the liturgy of the Word.  In a special way this evening, we listened to many stories of our salvation history.  Some of the readings were more nostalgic of days gone by.  Some of them were filled with dreams of a future possibility amidst misery.  All of them were filled with a certain waiting for a certain reality to set in.  And indeed, tonight that reality is ushered in, is present among us; it moves beyond wishful thinking or a concept of the imagination, but we have it within our grasp: the fulfillment of deepest longings.  And as we look at our salvation history, we realize that God has been transforming us all along, beginning with the creation of the world as the universe was transformed according to God’s very goodness, made in his image and likeness.  And then we heard how God transformed the plight of the Israelites as they were freed from slavery and death in Egypt and then delivered dry-shod to the Promised Land with all the spoils of Egypt.  We heard how God transformed the nation of Israel from the misery of her disobedience and exile and through the prophets made her ready to embrace the covenant once more.  In the Gospel, this ultimate transformation is announced to us, that Jesus has fulfilled these promises, that he is alive and victorious over every power of evil.  St. Paul asks us therefore to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ.  Our readings celebrate this transformation.

Our next liturgy that we will soon partake in is the Baptismal Liturgy, where this year we welcome (3) candidates and catechumens into initiation with us in the Church together with our candidates and catechumens at St. Raphael, and where we ourselves renew our own baptismal vows.  In this liturgy, the primary metaphor we run with is of course water.  Water can be powerful, destructive, and has claimed many lives over the years.  And yet, nothing can live without water, such is its life-giving propensity.  In this liturgy, we celebrate our own transformation, in that through Baptism we share in Christ’s death, purging from ourselves our old lives to sin, so as to be transformed and receive the new life of Christ within us.  We are confirmed in this life, and we recommit ourselves to this life, asking for God to bless us more abundantly, to strengthen us, that we would have this life and have it to the full.  

And lastly, the transformation we celebrate this evening culminates in the liturgy of the Eucharist, where we bring forward bread and wine, ordinary food and drink, and they are transformed upon this altar into the very being of Jesus himself, his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  And what is so amazing is that, not only does the Holy Spirit come down and transform these gifts alone, but the Holy Spirit is called down upon all of us who are gathered here, that we would be transformed ourselves into the Body of Christ, and make our return to the Father together with Jesus, caught up in an eternal Communion together.  

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, our world is changed forever.  Because of the resurrection of Jesus, death has been transformed into life and even sin, and suffering, and the crosses we face have been robbed of their power.  Because of the resurrection of Jesus, a new destiny is opened up for us, with victory and rejoicing and happiness forever in heaven.  Because of the resurrection, our relationships are transformed to something meaningful, enduring.  Because of the resurrection we ourselves have hope.  Tonight is the night of transformation.  Stand and live in the new life that has been opened for you.  Amen.  Alleluia!

Fr. Luke's Sermon- March 28, 2024- Holy Thursday

“Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”  Words from our Gospel this evening from the 13th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

So Jesus was having dinner with his disciples and as they gathered reverentially about him, more or less in the attitudes since immortalized by Leonardo da Vinci, he looked about at them.  There on one side of the table, he saw Judas Iscariot who as he well knew would betray him.  On the other side was Peter, the prince of the disciples who as he well knew, would deny him.  And opposite him was Thomas who as he well knew would express doubts.  And over there were the sons of Thunder James and John who were arguing over who was the greatest but who as well knew would fall asleep on him with Peter in Gethsemane and flee with everybody else.  There seemed only one logical thing to do.  Jesus called over the head-waiter.  “Max,” he said, “Separate checks, please!”

We often romanticize the last supper, forgetting it was given among betrayal, arguments despair, drama.  In the midst of it all was God himself, desperately trying to give of himself, knowing that his time was coming to an end, knowing full well that he would not and could not be understood now, but that we would come to understand later.  And so, he gave us three gifts that need to be unpacked by faith.  

The 1st of course is the Eucharist… The complaint that was expressed to Jesus back then is the same that is expressed today: “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  Many Christians do not believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  Unfortunately, many Catholics misunderstand Jesus as well, and see this only as a symbol.  Jesus says, “My Body is true food and my blood is true drink.  Unless you eat and drink of me you will have no life in you.”  This is unequivocally Jesus himself, humbled, making himself available to us in the form of ordinary bread and wine that we may approach him, have communion with him.  Those who did not understand left him alone on that hill when he multiplied the loaves.  Despite their assurances, his disciples left him on Calvary’s hill after that first Eucharist.  What they did not understand then, they understood later as he became known to them on the road to Emmaus in the breaking of the bread.  This is our Passover in which God passes from death to life and brings us along with him.  “Do you also want to leave?” Jesus asks of us through the Scriptures regarding his presence in the Eucharist.  May we respond like Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

The 2nd gift of that evening was the gift of the Priesthood… During his last night on earth, Jesus commanded that they do this in memory of him and so left the future of his Church in the hands of broken and restless men, a scary prospect to be sure.  It is a sign of God’s grace that He doesn’t call the qualified, but that God qualifies those whom He calls.  For the disciples were not to win people to Christ by their eloquence, their learning, their power, their riches, or their influence.  Those are traits of the world.  The disciples didn’t understand this.  They came into Jerusalem with Jesus, expecting along with everyone else, that he was to assume kingship in an earthly sense, reestablishing the nation of Israel.  When this gloriously failed, the disciples retreated away and huddled behind locked doors.  Only later did they come to understand that all that was needed was their witness to what the Lord in his goodness has done for them, that they were to pass on what they themselves received from the Lord.  Earlier this week, together with my brother priests, I recommitted myself to this same endeavor, and I ask for your prayers to keep our collective witness to Jesus strong.  Jesus prayed at the Last Supper for Peter that though he would be sifted like wheat, his faith would not fail so that he would turn back and strengthen his brothers.  May we do the same.

And lastly, the 3rd gift of the Last Supper was the Washing of feet…  Jesus wants to take care of us, but so often we don’t let him.  With Peter, we say, “You will never wash my feet.”  Our feet are dirty, smelly, unhygienic.  We’d rather hide those undesirable parts of ourselves.  I was talking with someone during a retreat once, and we were saying it's sometimes easier to be Martha than to be Mary.  We'd rather be serving others than sitting at the feet of the master, letting ourselves be served.  Don't get me wrong, I think there is a part in all of us that likes to be served, but, like Peter, we want it only on our own terms, which ends up feeding into our pride, our self-worth, our expectations of propriety, and rubs up against our sense of control and who we trust with the deepest parts of ourselves.  There is something vulnerable and intimate in letting yourself be cared for.  Many of you know that I struggle with this.  Part of me is that I just don't want to be a burden on folks. Sometimes, there are things that I don’t trust others to do.  Often times, I simply don’t know what I need or what to ask for.  And so I want to say that I am sorry if I have put anyone off.  I do know that I am loved and cared for.  I know that you will continue to teach me how to let my feet be washed.  And I thank you for that.  Though the disciples didn’t initially understand how Jesus could wash their feet, they later learned that Jesus, who called them his friends, loved them, and would never leave them as he sent his Holy Spirit upon them: that was their inheritance with the Lord.  And that alone gave them the strength to follow his example, as only then could they lay down their lives in the loving service of others in turn.  Jesus wants to take care of us.  Will we let him wash our feet today?  

In the midst of all this was Peter, the patron of our parish.  Quick to be resigned: “where could we ever get enough wages or food to feed so many?”  Quick to deny Jesus: “I do not know the man.”  Quick to rebuke him: “you will never wash my feet.”  No, Peter did not at first understand the bounty of the Eucharist, the humble witness of the priesthood, the intimacy of God’s care for us, but he understood later, demonstrating for us through his own journey of faith, that Jesus’ words about the Eucharist truly contain eternal life, that it is by His grace that we are truly called and formed for ministry and witness, and that Jesus truly cares deeply about us not as master to servant, but as friends, and calls us to love in turn.   Like any good meal, I suppose, the Last Supper was indeed messy.  But when we sort through the mess, we realize what great gifts the Lord left us that are appreciated in faith.  Let us not take the Eucharist, the Priesthood, or God’s loving-care for us, for granted.

Foot Washing Instructions

In just a few moments, we’ll be celebrating our Christian work of service and charity as we commemorate the washing of feet.  Anyone and everyone is welcome to come forward to have his or her feet washed.  We’ll have stations in front of the altar manned by myself and Deacon Dave and the altar servers.  There are a couple of chairs in the sanctuary and some extras; you can form a line as we do for Holy Communion and when it is your turn, come forward, sit in an empty chair, remove the socks and shoes from one of your feet, and one of us will be along to serve you.  Whether you come up to have your feet washed or not, use this as a time to draw close to the Lord who has come to serve us, and use this also as a time of prayer, asking for the grace to help us serve one another in turn.  And so, I invite you to come forward at this time.  

Procession Instructions

Thank you for joining us this evening, as together we began our most solemn Triduum celebration with the Eucharist.  Our Triduum Celebration continues tomorrow at 3:00pm with our Good Friday Service here and then at 8:00pm on Holy Saturday for the Easter Vigil both of which are here at St. Peters.  You are also welcome to come to the Stations of the Cross tomorrow here at 12:00noon or at St. Bernards at 7:00pm or join us for the blessing of baskets on Holy Saturday.  Along also with Morning Prayer at St. Bernards the next 2 days.  I would like to thank our music ministry, the ministers and servers, our good deacon, and those who came forward to have their feet washed, and to everyone for making this a special celebration…  

After celebrating the Passover with his disciples, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  He invited his disciples to remain with him and to keep watch with him.  Indeed, we will now take this time to watch and pray with the Lord, and so I would invite you to please kneel.

Fr. Luke's Sermon- March 24, 2024- Palm Sunday

When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Words from our Gospel today from the 15th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark – sisters and brother, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

Something Buffalo is really good about is not simply making our events spectator sports.  We are not just bystanders observing what is happening, but we are participants in the affair.  Take the Buffalo Bills, for example.  With everybody cheering and horns going off, the stadium can get pretty loud, making it hard for the other teams to concentrate.  The energy of the fans in the stadium is often dubbed the 12th man, quite literally helping the Bills with a home field advantage.  Many of the people that go to the games participate in the ritual of tailgating beforehand.  For those of us that stay at home, we invite people over and live the experience together.  We pull out our paraphernalia: our jerseys, our Bills flags, the crazy souvenirs we’ve collected, and proudly display our team colors.  Many of us will throw the football around with our companions during the breaks and join in the game we ourselves love.  And all the while, we are tracking the team’s statistics and standings, and watching how our players are doing on our fantasy football teams.  We call into WGR550 throughout the year, even in the offseason, to applaud the team or to complain about them with emotional vigor.  It pervades our whole culture.  We live for this.  We’re not just bystanders, but in our own ways, we are participants in the whole affair of being together part of the Buffalo Bills team and family.   

In some respects, Holy Week likewise asks us to be more than bystanders; Holy Week invites us to be actual participants.  As we follow closely the events of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection over these next few days, we are called to go all in and to join in these sacred mysteries together with Christ.  On this day, Palm Sunday, this is highlighted in a very special and poignant way.  Indeed, today we held up our palm branches and hailed the coming of the Messiah.  And in the Gospel, we too had a role to play with our various parts and responses in the Gospel reading we proclaim together and so accompany Jesus on the road to Calvary.  And yet, we are drawn into these events of Palm Sunday at every celebration of the Eucharist.  Indeed, when Jesus holds up the bread and the chalice says do this in remembrance of me, he doesn’t simply mean for us to share our memories of something that happened a long time ago, but he means to come alive before us, that we too may participate in the Last Supper and have a direct sharing in his divine life.  Jesus comes to us as the divine messiah in the Eucharist and so we proclaim, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!” waving palm branches in our hearts.  And at every Mass Jesus again offers himself up upon the altar of sacrifice of Calvary for our salvation, and so we declare what has just happened before our eyes, “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again!”  Though everything that we do here recalls something that happened around the life of Jesus some 2000 years ago, it is our active participation in these things that brings us and joins us to that moment of time in our salvation history.  Every time we come to celebrate our liturgies throughout the year, we are not meant to be bystanders but participants, as we physically come together, as we sing and pray and say aloud the responses in during Mass, as we listen to God speak directly to us in the Scriptures and as we receive his very presence in the Eucharist.  As we ourselves follow along with and participate in these sacred mysteries, we have the opportunity to encounter Jesus here and now.  And moreover, our mutual participation at Church draws us into something greater than ourselves, as being together in these things in turn strengthens us as a community of disciples and gathers us together into the very Body of Christ ourselves.  

The question that is put before us today is, “Are we merely bystanders?”  It’s easy to follow along with the crowd.  There were many people in Jesus’ day who went through the motions.  Sure, they dutifully waved their palms and also shouted out with the mob to have Jesus lynched, but as spectators only, they never personally encountered who Jesus was for themselves.  On the other hand, we can be active participants in the sacred mysteries of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, like Veronica and the repentant thief and the centurion and Joseph of Arimathea and many other such figures who followed Jesus along the way all whom are represented in the Stations of the Cross.  Sometimes our participation is joyous for the blessings we’ve received, the promise of salvation that is at hand and sometimes our participation is filled with anguish over all the suffering we are made to endure in this world and the sins we inflict on each other.  Every aspect of life with all its ups and downs is captured in the liturgy.  Should we actively participate with our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and enter into this celebration with our whole being, then we will encounter God here before us, present in our midst.  The instruction to start Mass today was this: “Therefore with all faith and devotion, let us commemorate the Lord’s entry into the city for our salvation, following in his footsteps, so that, being made by his grace partakers of the Cross, we may have a share also in his Resurrection and in his life.”  As Bills Mafia pulls out all the stops to celebrate their fandom and partake in the affairs of their team and are so drawn into something greater than themselves, may we be even more so joined to Christ as active participants in these sacred mysteries.  These days of Holy Week, let us not us not follow the crowd but indeed follow Christ.  Let us partake in the affairs of Jesus as we carry our cross alongside him.  So that encountering Jesus for ourselves, we too might come to share in his resurrection and in his life.