The Paschal season of 50 days brings us the readings in the liturgy, both daily and weekly, that speak to us of the appearances of the Lord to the apostles and disciples. At the same time, the readings now begin to look forward to Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the Blessed Mother, gathered once again in the upper room. So, even as we celebrate the risen Lord in these days, our lives and hearts are now directed to the birth of the Church, where with the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to be the witnesses of the Lord to the whole world, and build up the Body of Christ with great fervor and joy.
These days of this season are filled with many family and faith activities, which are often intertwined. For example, in these days Bishop Brown, Bishop Dan Walsh, Bishop Dominic and I have been celebrating the sacrament of Confirmation for your young people. It is edifying to read their letters and commitment that they are making to their faith as they receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is our mission as well to reach out to these young people, and help them to feel welcome and fully a part of the family of God as they now are, and to invite them to be engaged in all of our parish and ministerial activities. Thanks to all of our parents, sponsors, youth ministers, directors of faith formation and our parish priests who work so diligently and with so much dedication for the preparation for this sacrament for our young people.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the Gospel is always that of Christ as the Good Shepherd. On this Sunday I thought of the many priests who showed that love and presence of Christ the Good Shepherd to me and my family over many years, especially in recent years during the last earthly days of my parents. If you have a moment, take some time and thank the priests of our diocese for the care and concern of Christ the Good Shepherd that they live daily.
A very major event that takes place in our diocese in these Easter days is what is called the “Grand Mission” of Easter. I have celebrated this event several times before, and this year I celebrated it at an overflowing Church of Saint Barbara in Santa Ana. This is a prayer service and “sending” of members of the Neocatechumenal Way who go forth to the sidewalks, shopping centers and all parts of our diocese to preach the Gospel and invite people to know the Lord and come back to his Church. These individuals go “door to door” as well. We are blessed to have many members of this “ecclesial movement” in our diocese who truly are missionaries within our own borders. They truly are able to reach people with the Gospel that others (myself included) cannot. This has been a part of ecclesial life for many years, and has been completely supported by the words of recent popes. In fact, when I was blessing and sending forth our own people to spread the Gospel, Pope Francis was doing it at the same time in Rome. Pope Francis said this past March that “On several occasions I have insisted on the need that the Church has to move from a pastoral ministry of mere conversation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry. For years now, the Way has been undertaking these mission ad gentes among non-Christians, for an implantation Ecclesiae, a new presence of the Church, where the Church does not exist or is no longer able to reach people.
“‘How much joy you give us with your presence and activity!’ said Blessed Pope Paul VI during the very first audience with you . I also make these words my own and encourage you to go forward, entrusting you to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who inspired the Neocatechumenal Way. She intercedes for you before her divine Son. My dearly beloved, may the Lord accompany you. Go forth, with my blessing!”
Finally, from April 28 until May 6, I will be in Lourdes with a group of Knights and Dames of Malta who assist those are infirm or ill and seeking the intercession of the Mother of God and the healing power of the Lord at the shrine. I have not been to Lourdes for many years, so I am truly looking forward to returning. Please pray for all of us, and I will remember you and your loved ones at the grotto, especially those who are sick and suffering.