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Homily for Palm Sunday

April 5, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Today, in a world changed by the coronavirus, Catholics stand on the porch of Holy Week and feel the pain of not being able to enter together into the House of God. Faithful lay Catholics who all their lives long have been nourished by the beautiful rituals of this week, are in pain. For the first time in their life, they cannot celebrate together these sacred, life-giving rituals.

They cannot join in a procession waving palms and singing “Hosanna,” nor stand side by side and listen with rapt attention to the Passion account from Matthew. They cannot celebrate the great gift of the Eucharist at the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday nor adore the cross of salvation on Good Friday. Faithful Catholics throughout America and the world will not enter into the mother of all vigils, the Great Easter Vigil, that dazzling night when the bright light of divine love scatters the darkness of death This Easter Vigil newborn Christians will not emerge from the womb of the baptismal font into a new life in the Risen Christ. Easter Sunday will be a time to celebrate the Resurrection, but many will still feel entombed by stay at home restrictions and the fear of being destroyed by an invisible foe.

This week is also a sacrificial one for priests and deacons, whose hearts are broken, because they cannot celebrate this Holiest Week of the year with their people. We – priests, deacons, lay people–won’t be together because we are willing to sacrifice what is most important to us so that others might live. Because we care about the common good, we give up what we find life and joy in. So that doctors and nurses and hospitals will not be overwhelmed, so that health care providers can be protected and saved and needless live not be lost– we are willing to sacrifice even what we most cherish—the great gift of the Eucharist.

Today, as we stand on the porch of Holy Week, we look back to Ash Wednesday at the end of February and the beginning of this long Lenten Season. In some ways, Ash Wednesday feels like it happened in another lifetime, a life before the coronavirus spread across our land like wildfire. But recall on Ash Wednesday how we began this Lenten Journey literally etching a very important truth into our bodies: that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. With death all around us today, we remember we are dust. We are ash. We are.

There was another formula used with the imposition of ashes on that Wednesday toward the end of February, a shining invitation which beams like a bright beacon into the darkness of these COVID-19 days. “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” In other words, turn around and give your heart to the Great Good news of God’s saving love in Christ. Change the way you think about life, about God, and receive the truth of God’s boundless love for you in His Son.

To believe in the Gospel, we need to remember the Good News proclaimed on Christmas Eve, from the same Gospel of Matthew as today’s Passion account, that the newborn Savior would be called “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us.” The Son of God is born for our salvation, is born to die for us and save us from the power of sin and the darkness of death. But the Son of God also empties himself of all claim to divine privilege in order to become one with us, Emmanuel, in order to suffer with us. We remember during this Holiest Week of the year how he becomes one with us in our suffering—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So that even when we feel most alone, when we feel abandoned by God, we know He indeed is with us, Emmanuel.

Jesus cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me.” Deeper than the physical pain of the nails and the struggle to breathe, stronger than the pain of being abandoned by those closest to him, is the pain piercing Jesus’ very spirit on the cross, as he feels abandoned by his Father.

So, Jesus knows our pain during this time of the coronavirus crisis, especially the pain of those dying alone from COVID-19 and their family members who are unable to be at their bedside. Jesus knows the pain of faithful Catholics who feel abandoned by God, who at the very time they need the Eucharist the most are not able to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord.

The Son of God knows the depth of our pain, has tasted the dregs of our feeling separated from God and all alone in the darkness. So that with Jesus we can cry out in pain from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” and know with him that the Father who has given us life, will save us and will bring us to new life.

Jesus’ cry from the cross is the first verse of Psalm 22, a psalm he knew by heart, a psalm which we sing on this Palm Sunday, because it is a prayer of great trust in God. The author of this psalm, like Jesus on the cross, feels forsaken by God, but he directs his anguish to God in prayer. Feeling abandoned by God, this faith-filled psalmist expresses solid trust that God is still taking care of him.

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Jesus trusts that while hanging from the cross he is still the beloved Son of His Father, who is with Jesus most powerfully when he feels the Father’s absence. Joined to Jesus, giving ourselves daily to him, uniting our sacrifices of love at this time to the sacrifice of love he made on the cross, we know in the depths of our being we are not alone.

Homily for 5th Sunday in Lent

March 29, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Massive change came to this country this month. For Catholics it came in a way never ever imagined—not being able to come together to celebrate the Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist.

Many feel like strangers living in a strange land, wondering when life will ever return to “normal” again. Many feel like they have been entombed in their own homes, and that the land they have lived in all their lives has changed into a place of exile.

To just such a people the Word of God comes through the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel: “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” (37:12) To a people living in exile in Babylon, unable to worship at their temple in Jerusalem, Ezekiel speaks, assuring them that what God promises he will do— he will restore their lives and their land and their temple. To a people living in America, sheltering in place for 2 weeks now, who feel like they’ve been enclosed in a tomb, God speaks: I will open your tombs and have you rise from them.

During this time of COVID-19, a time of paralyzing fear and overwhelming anxiety, the Lord God promises to remove the stones from the tombs we live in, calling us into the light of a new day, restoring us to our place of worship, and granting us new life.

With the man born blind last Sunday, we could only be healed by Jesus by admitting our blindness. The gift given to those who recognize their blindness is that Jesus, as the Light of the World, can then help them see. So this Sunday we can only receive this new life by recognizing we are not fully alive, by acknowledging we live in tombs, some of our own making.

As the One who is Resurrection and Life, Jesus keeps calling us to new life, to a more abundant life, to a life lived more fully in the radiance of His saving love. Many of us go through life thinking we are certainly alive, but this Gospel suggests there is more to life than simply making it from one birthday to the next. This Gospel helps us to recognize that we are dead people because of the deeds of our lives that are not signs of life.

These can be sinful attitudes which we are blind to that deaden our hearts and souls, so we cry out: “Lord, I am blind. Help me to see.” Or during this time when life has slowed down for so many of us, we can see more clearly how being so busy, running hither and thither from one thing to the next, is a way of being entombed. Why? Because we never take time to reflect upon what is essential and who is most important, and then act on those convictions.

So, we join Martha by professing our belief in Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life. Remember, “to believe” in John’s Gospel is not an intellectual act, but a movement of the heart outwards toward the other. The Greek word “pistouen” from which the English “to believe” comes from simply means “to give one’s heart to.” Martha and Mary and Lazarus, in their long-lasting friendship with Jesus, have given their heart to Jesus, and he to them, over and over and over again.

Today the Risen Jesus, the One who is Resurrection and Life, calls us with Lazarus to come out of the tombs we live. He brings life out of death, joy from the well of sorrow, and fills us with hope when uncertainty and fear cloud our vision.

As St. Paul reminds us, the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. By our baptism, the life-giving Holy Spirit dwells in us, each day empowering us to enter more fully into life with the Spirit-led One, Jesus the Christ.

This Spirit, which is stronger than death itself, also enlightens us to understand the deeper significance of the life we have been given in the Risen Christ. Lazarus was resuscitated—he would live a little longer, but then he would eventually die. Risen Life, the life we now share in with Christ by the power of His Spirit, enables us to “never die.” As we give our hearts and entire lives to Jesus, when we breathe our last breath on this earth, we pass over with Him who is Resurrection and Life to take our next breath of the fullness of life eternal.

The Spirit which transformed Jesus’ human body into a glorified body, a body in which he still lives and will live forever, is the same Spirit dwelling within us by baptism.

These bodies, these earthen vessels, carry about in them a treasure untold, the very life of God. We have not yet entered into the fullness of that life, but we are experiencing a taste of it now. So do not fear the death of these mortal bodies, for our hope rests in the Lord and our eternal home is with Him.

The Holy Spirit gifts us with fortitude to persevere in our trust in the Lord. The Spirit of the Living God grants us the courage to keep entrusting our lives and the lives of our loved ones into the hands of God.

We are invited to drink more deeply of this Living Water given us at baptism, to immerse ourselves more fully into this Water of Life, and to allow this River of Grace, who is the Spirit of life, to carry us forward into a future full of hope.

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“A Prayer Amid an Epidemic” by Kerry Weber

Updated Directives from Archbishop Coakley

Archbishop Coakley has released updated directives to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our Archdiocese. Effective immediately, all public masses and parish events will be cancelled until further notice.

Updated Directives from Archbishop Coakley

Effective immediately, all public masses and parish events will be cancelled until further notice.

Continue reading

Directivas de Arzobispo Coakley

El Arzobispo Coakley ha publicado directivas actualizadas para ayudar a prevenir la propagación de COVID-19 en nuestra Arquidiócesis. Con efecto inmediato, todas las misas públicas y eventos parroquiales serán cancelados hasta nuevo aviso.

Directivas de Arzobispo Coakley

Con efecto inmediato, todas las misas públicas y eventos parroquiales serán cancelados hasta nuevo aviso.

Continue reading

An Important Message from Archbishop Coakley

Archbishop Coakley implemented new precautions to protect against coronavirus, the flu and other illnesses. If you are ill, think you might be ill, are caring for someone who is ill or have been exposed to the coronavirus, PLEASE do not go to Mass.

An Update from Archbishop Coakley

Those who are ill … elderly … high risk, or are caring for someone who is ill need to stay home