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April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday (2020)

Deacon Rusty Baldwin's Homily

Theme:  “Who is this?”


Prior to the Gospel reading for today, Jesus had made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem while the people laid palms and their coats on the road before him.  He entered the city to shouts of, “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  The Gospel of Matthew tells us the whole city was shaken and everyone in the city asked, “Who is this?”, “Who is this?”  This is a question asked in every age and one that anyone who encounters Jesus must answer, for Our Lord’s very presence shakes us to our core just as it shook Jerusalem to its foundations.  His presence compels us to answer the question personally and definitively.  And in today’s readings, many propose an answer to this question.


The crowds of Jerusalem, for instance, proclaimed Jesus a prophet, but soon thereafter called for him to be crucified.  Judas wanted Our Lord to be a political revolutionary and betrayed Him when he could not convince him to be one.  The apostles abandoned him in fear when he refused to turn aside from His Passion; when he insisted on continuing down the road to Calvary.  The scribes, Pharisees, and Chief Priests saw him as a threat to their power and prestige and so they wanted to kill him.  Pilate and Herod, for their part, weren’t particularly interested in who Jesus was, they just wanted to prevent a riot.  And so, when Our Lord would not be who people wanted him to be; when the Messiah would not do what people wanted him to do; when Jesus would not conform to their notion of who he should be, they abandoned him, betrayed him, and finally killed him.


And if we are honest, at times we are tempted to try to make Our Lord into who we want Him to be too, aren’t we?  Isn’t that what we do every time we sin; every time we refuse to love?  Sometimes we want a Messiah who hasn’t called us to holiness, who hasn’t commanded us to love those who hate us, who hasn’t told us we must be prepared to suffer as he did.  We try to manipulate God, to get Him to think like we do, as it were.  C. S. Lewis, probably the most famous Christian author of the 20th century, described the kind of God many prefer. 


An ‘impersonal God’; well and good.  A subjective God of beauty, truth, and goodness that only exists inside our heads; better still.  A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap into; best of all.  But God himself, alive, …, perhaps approaching [us] at infinite speed, the hunter, King, husband?!?  We didn’t expect that!  That’s quite another matter.


Indeed it is!  For when we see God as He is, He will not be who we imagined Him to be.  And how could we expect that it to be otherwise, unless God is made in our image rather than we in His?  But God does not hide who He is.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were the one’s hiding from God, not the other way around.  And Our Lord’s Passion happened in the sight of all, but only certain souls recognized him for who he was.

While most saw Jesus as someone to manipulate, as someone to convince to do their bidding, these souls recognized Him.  Who were they?  Those the world held to be of no account; those willing to share in his suffering.  Those who loved him so much that they were willing to accompany Him on His way of the Cross.  The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Veronica, the women of Jerusalem, and St. John the Apostle.  Those who in their humility, did not give into the fear of the moment, but let their love overwhelm their fear.


In the present crisis we are all experiencing, in which so many are suffering, are sick, and are dying, we must accompany those in need as they carry their crosses, to ease their burden in any way we can, in any way God gives us the means to.  Don’t give into the fear of the moment, but let love overwhelm your fear.  For it is Christ himself we are helping, it is Jesus who we are comforting:  “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you did to me.”  In this way, we too, stand with those at the foot of the Cross and know, as they did, the answer to “Who is this?”


“Who is this?”  He is the One who not only walks with us in our suffering, but shares in our suffering.  He is the One who, though sinless, took our sins upon himself that we might live.  He is the One who’s deepest desire is that we love him and each other as he loves us.  He is Our Lord; Our Beloved.


“Who is this?”  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  The way to the Father.  He is the one who is with us in the dark valley; he is the one who is at our side, leading us out of our present darkness of sickness, anxiety, fear, and most importantly leading us from a life of sin, to a life of holiness and self-sacrifice.  He is the one who shows us the way to our heavenly home where we will consummate our eternal love affair with Him.


“Who is this?”  With the Roman Centurion and his men, the very men who crucified Our Lord, together we proclaim, This is the Son of God!

Daily Relection by Rita Zimmerman - 4/4/20

I'm finding it difficult to believe next week is Holy Week. Lent seems to have flown by this year. What a strange Holy Week it is going to be. I'm grateful we'll be able to attend services online but I just can't imagine Holy Week without services we can attend. No washing of the feet, no veneration of the cross, no lighting of the Easter fire at the entrance of church or procession into church in the dark. No joyous Alleluia, no ringing of the bells or blessing of the water. It certainly won't be what we're accustomed to but maybe we can make the sacred triduum a special and unique celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ this year.


How can we make Holy Week more real without actually being at live services? Maybe you and your family can think of some creative ways to add the items mentioned above into the services you will watch online. Wash each other’s feet and talk about why Jesus did this, discuss why we venerate the cross and have veneration in your home, make your own Easter fire and use a special candle to light candles for each person. Maybe you can invite grandparents or a neighbor to join you in your services by using Facetime or another online tool. Holy Week definitely won't be the same but maybe we can make it memorable in a positive way.

April 3rd Daily Reflection: Fifth Friday of Lent

Reflection by Shaughn Phillips

We have come to the end of the Lenten season. We find today’s gospel setting the stage for the climax of Our Story; Holy Week. Jesus tells us that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father,” which will lead us with our Lord a week from now to Calvary. Oh what irony of ironies! Our Lord will be crucified for claiming to be God! Even though the people have seen the works promised by the Prophets done by Jesus they still don’t believe. I find myself in this story more than I would like to admit having seen the works of Jesus yet still struggling to believe myself. Yet I need to recognize I am in this story because it is my own. 

I have an invitation. As we enter into Holy Week let’s enter into the drama of our story. Our Salvation. Let’s cheer and rejoice as we welcome the Lord into Jerusalem. Let’s share in the Apostle’s confusion and anxiety around the table with Jesus' ominous words on Holy Thursday. Let’s share in the anger of the crowds on the Via Dolorosa and in the pain and sorrow of Our Mother at the foot of the cross. Let our own tears around Covid-19 be united with Mary’s own as she held her Son taken down. But let us also celebrate the Easter that is already promised to us, even if we may not be able to fully celebrate it as we may hope for yet. 

I have found music and art in general allows me to permit myself to, “feel the feels.” Might I recommend this piece as we pray with Sunday’s gospel and enter into this holiest of weeks, which will culminate in our Salvation.


Daily Reflection from Brother Matt Schaefer - 4/2/20

Years ago when I was applying to enter formation with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, I had to take a series of psychological tests.  One of them was a kind of personality inventory with over 500 true-or-false statements.  There were a few questions that were worded something like “I sometimes hear the voice of God.”  I remember at the time thinking, “Of course I hear the voice of God—that’s what made me examine my life, what led me to choose the Missionaries, and what brought me to this place to take these strange tests.”  So, thinking that honesty was important, I answered “Yes” to these statements.  I knew that psychologists might see this as a red flag, but I figured that for purposes of entering religious life, it would be an acceptable admission.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes some bold statements to a skeptical and shocked audience.  He says, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.”  The response:  “Now we are sure that you are possessed.”  Later Jesus claims that Abraham was glad to see Jesus come and he states, “Amen, amen, I say to you before Abraham came to be, I AM.”  The response:  the crowd “picked up stones to throw at him.”  Some people who listened to Jesus, like the apostles, heard hope in his words.  Others who listened only saw a crazy, dangerous man.  The apostles chose to entrust their destinies to the Son of God and left everything to follow him.  Others let fear and mistrust consume them and chose to remain safe in their familiar lives.          

True belief requires boldness.  Not standing on the street corner and shouting scripture boldness, but the boldness to dedicate our lives to the ministry that Jesus entrusted to us.  The boldness to put all of our trust in God.  The boldness to suppress our fears, doubts, and weaknesses with the hopeful promises of an all-powerful and ever-faithful God.      


In this time of fear, confusion, and separation may we all draw closer to the core of our faith—our belief in the Blessed Trinity.  May the Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier protect, comfort, and guide us all! 

            Brother Matt Schaefer

Daily Reflection - Deacon Rusty Baldwin - 4/1/20

Learning to Pray

Deacon Rusty Baldwin


I don’t think it would be at all controversial to assert that, up until a few weeks ago anyway, we lived in a world with so much noise and activity, it was challenging to find either the time or a suitable place where we could spend some time with God.  Now that most of us have more time than we have ever had to do just that, we might be at a loss at how to start.


Well, everything I’ve read on prayer; all the articles and books as well as all the mp3’s and CD’s I’ve listened to have all suggested I do one simple thing.  Shut off the mp3’s and CDs, put down the books and just pray.  How?  By being silent before God.  By just placing yourself in His presence and be silent before Him.


But by and large we don’t know how to do that do we?  I know, maybe we could do a Google search on silence, maybe there’s a book to read that we haven’t read already, maybe there’s a talk we haven’t heard yet, or maybe, just maybe we could take G.K. Chesterton’s advice who said – if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.  By that he meant, sometimes we just need to start, however poorly we do in the beginning.


Once a group of nuns who wanted to learn to pray better wrote a letter to St. John of the Cross, a holy Carmelite mystic, and asked him for lessons on prayer, on tips for living a holy and Spirit-filled life.  Now, St. John had already spent considerable time with these nuns when he lived near their convent, and so he wrote back and said … No!  No more lessons, no more counsel – I have given you all you need.  It’s time to put what you have already learned into practice.


Sometimes we are so eager to know about prayer or about our faith or about whatever, we spend all our time learning ABOUT a thing and never get to the thing itself.


Well, that can be true about God too.  There comes a time when we need to stop trying to know all ABOUT Him and instead focus on KNOWING Him – on just being WITH Him.  We do that through prayer.  And we enter into prayer through silence.  That was the lesson the great prophet Elijah taught us on Mount Sinai; God was not in the storm, nor the earthquake, Elijah found God in the still small voice.  We enter into His presence through silence.  It is there we encounter God.


And so I think it is a very apt time, when our world has been turned upside down; that we realize that God is closest to us, that His Spirit moves in us and through us in ways we cannot fathom most especially when we come before him in docility, in silence, and in humility.  When we simply come before him, be still, and know that he is God.

Daily Reflection - Fr. Matt Keller - 3/31/20

In our scriptures today, the Israelites are being bit by saraph serpents and they are dying because they have been bitten.  In response God tells them to “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live”[1]  what is killing them, becomes a means of saving the lives of the Israelites.  Actually this image of saraph mounted on a pole is the symbol of the medical field.  What was a sign of death has become a sign of life.  This sign of death becoming a source of life, is what the cross was for the first Christians.  In the scriptures Paul says the message of the cross is foolishness.  How could this instrument of death be a symbol for life?  Yet in our faith we see the cross as a sign of life and love.

I am a Missionary of the Precious Blood and as a Missionary of the Precious Blood I am given privilege to wear “the mission crucifix and chain, which St. Gaspar gave his confreres as sign of the community”[2].  And I like to take advantage of this privilege, the most common time is on a Sunday you will see me in my cassock, cross, and chain.  Those that have seen me or another Missionary of the Precious Blood in this garb would notice how that our mission cross stands out.  This image of life and death a sign our God’s great love for us.  St. Gaspar would often invite his confreres to study the book of the crucifix.     

In my study of the book of the crucifix I encounter a Jesus wounded and broken.  At the same time I encounter the gift of our God’s love, mercy, and reconciliation.  So a time when I particularly like to wear my cassock, cross, and chain, is when I know that I will be hearing confessions face-to-face.  I wear the cassock, cross, chain, and the violet confession stole to me this is a sign of reconciliation and mercy, and a sinner comes bringing his or her brokenness.  It is here that sinner places his or her wounds in the wounds of Christ and experiences the healing power of our God.

As we journey through our day today let us draw near the cross with our own brokenness and experience the healing power of Christ in our lives.-Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S.

[1] Numbers 21:8

[2] Normative Texts of the Society of the Precious Blood Cincinnati Province, (January, 2002), S2

Daily Reflection from Fr. Matt Keller - 3/29/20

Lord if you would have been here my brother would not have died

  • Lord if you would have been here
    • These are Martha’s and Mary’s words of lament
      • Lord if you would have been here

But you know are not these also our words of lament as well

  • when we face times of tragedy and adversity
    • Lord if you would have been here
    • Lord if you would have been there my brother would not have not died
    • Lord if you would have been there the storm came it would have never caused damage and I would not have lost my home
    • Lord if you would have been the argument would not have gotten out of hand and my brother and I would still be on speaking terms
      • Lord if you would have been there 

Or when we are in the midst of adversity

  • Lord if you were here
    • You could calm the storm
    • Lord if you were  here you could heal all illness so that no one would die
      • I mean in the scriptures we hear that you healed those that were
        • Sick,
        • restored the sight to the blind,
        • open the ears of the deaf,
        • and even today we hear that you brought Lazarus back from the dead
          • Lord if you were here
          • Lord if you were here

You know when we are going through tough times of adversity it is so easy to feel as though the Lord has abandoned us.

  • For it is in our cries to the Lord for help at times like this it seems like the Lord is not hearing us
  • Or at least not answering in the way that we want or desire
  • Why?
    • To be honest I do not know
    • And to be honest I do not know if I want to know
    • I do not about but I think if did know I think it would even frustrate me more

 While God may not be stopping the storm, perhaps God is at work in the midst of the storm because sometimes it is from

  • the storm destruction that new life comes about
  • It from death that new life comes
    • For Martha and Mary this came from Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead

How is God at work in the midst of this storm of this COVID-19?

  • One way I see God at work in midst of this storm is that is has caused us to either slow down our lives or readjust our daily and weekly routines  
    • Prior to this storm many of live busy lives with
      • Work, school, sports, movies, social gatherings, etc.
  • We were so busy at times we did not have time for
    • For God and/or prayer
    • For family and those people most important to us
    • Or even have time for self-care
  • So much of what has kept us busy is no longer keeping us busy that we can make time for God and family
    • This virus I venture has gotten many of us to pray more
    • And how many families over the past two week, now have time to sit-down and share meals together
    • And now we given that time to take care of our personal needs
      • And this bringing about new life
      • Another way that I see God at work is in the way that people and companies are responding to needs, some manufactures have switched their line of production to help our current situation
        • breweries switching over to making hand sanitizer
        • and others switching to make face masks 

Many of us may not like the situation we are in now, myself included.

  • And you know it is so easy get so caught up on what has been taken away.
    • Sports, movies, social gatherings
    • Public celebration of the Mass
      • Fr. Angelo and I miss not having you here 
      • I mean let’s face it there are a lot of things that have either been postponed or canceled. 
        • And this feels like death.
          • We cannot wait to get back to the normal routine of life

But perhaps what we are also called to do during this time is try and positive being aware of the good that is happening in the midst of this storm

  • How new signs of life are coming up
  • Or better yet
    • how can I
    • how can you
      • be a sign of life to the people around you?

For it is our faith that we believe out of death that new life comes about.

From Rita Zimmerman - 3/27/20

Well the past several weeks have been challenging to say the least. Things were sailing along so smoothly, looking forward to Easter and spring, making plans for vacation and summer get gatherings, then the corona virus disrupts our entire world. I’ve been thinking about how I didn’t really appreciate going out to eat, or to a concert or getting together with family until I couldn’t do it anymore. How many things have I taken for granted for so long because they’ve just always been available to me. This has really come home to me with the bishops decision to cancel all liturgies for a few weeks. I enjoy attending daily Mass and find it is the perfect way to start my day, adding perspective to the ups and downs of everyday life. It helps me to remember that as a believer I know God is ultimately in control and will see me through whatever is going on. Now I can’t attend Mass. I’m grateful the church is open and I can spend some time in the presence of the Lord but I sure miss going to Mass. As this virus continues to disrupt life I hope I am mindful of all the blessings I have and take for granted. I want to put my faith into practice by remembering daily that God is in control and I need to do my part and know that he will do his.  -Rita Zimmerman

From Fr. Matt Keller - 3/26/20

The Day After the Annunciation 

Yesterday’s feast of the Annunciation is one of my favorites. With being home I had a little more time to celebrate the feast day with baking cinnamon rolls, having steak with my roommate for dinner and topping it off with a Trappist beer, which I only drink on solemnities! But today’s breakfast will return to a more simple bowl of granola and a piece of fruit. Leftovers are on the menu for dinner with no special ale in sight for awhile. The feasting will return to Lenten practices. I am back in the valley with no mountains to climb, which okay Shaughn, it’s Ohio. But you catch the biblical metaphor here right? 

It makes me wonder though how did Mary wake up the next day after she encountered Gabriel. Did it return back to a depressingly ordinary worried and frenzied life of tasks? Was it a gut check of realizing what she just said yes to? Or did she hear the birds singing before the sunrise differently? Were the stones she walked on in Nazareth different as she went to gather water for her family? Was she more pleasant with her neighbors? More loving? 

I love my recent discovery at St. Joseph that the stained glass windows of the Annunciation and the Resurrection are across from one another. At this point in Lent, especially this year, we may be tired and asking why we are still trying to follow Christ. Celebrating the Annunciation reminds us to repeat our own FIAT, our own yes, to this Lenten journey. Easter will be here soon! However the question is will we respond today to God’s invitation, back into the ordinariness of our lives, as Mary did? 

From Brother Matt Schaefer - 3/25/20

The Gift of Memories

            Since I’ve been at home so much the past week, I’ve been taking long walks every day.  I usually go across the street from where I live to the grounds behind Salem Heights, the motherhouse of the Precious Blood sisters.  Yesterday I noticed a long row of green plants about a foot high.  I recognize these from past years as the leaves of resurrection lilies.  Unlike other plants, these lilies do not produce flowers in the spring.  Instead, the leaves will die back in June and be mowed down with the grass.  But then in late July or August, stems will suddenly emerge from the ground, shoot up, and produce pale pink lilies.     

            Lent is always a season of anticipation.  It is a time to look inward, to strengthen our relationship with God, a time of deprivation.  We endure because we look forward to the joy of Easter.  We not only know it’s coming, we know the exact date.  This Lent has been very different for us because we’ve been unable to celebrate our faith in the same way we always have.  We miss our churches and worshipping with friends, and most of all we miss the Mass and the Eucharist.  Easter will come on April 12th, but it will still feel like a time of deprivation.  We’ll miss the full churches, the Alleluias returning like long-lost friends, and the communal sense of relief and joy that always permeates an Easter Mass. 

            I had a friend who went to college over a thousand miles from home.  His excitement quickly turned to homesickness which overwhelmed him for a time.  One of his professors told him that homesickness was a sign that he came from a loving family and a happy home.  This helped him gain some perspective and he realized how blessed he really was.  He could enjoy his new life at school, knowing that his real home would still be there when he returned. 

During this time of separation from our parishes take some time to reflect about what you are homesick for.  What do you miss?  The people, the music, the Blessed Sacrament?  We have three beautiful historic churches in our downtown area.  What is it about your church space that you like most?  The windows, a particular statue, the altar or sanctuary?  Whatever it is that you miss, take some time to thank God for the ways that these gifts have enriched your faith life.  The time will come when we can return to our parishes.  We don’t know the exact time, but it will appear, just like the resurrection lilies.  And while we wait, we can pray, trust in God, and anticipate the beauty to come.


Brother Matt

From Deacon Rusty Baldwin - 3/24/20

Good Deeds

I call the Gospel reading from Mass today (John 5:1-16) the “No good deed goes unpunished Gospel.”  Why?  Jesus cures a man sick for 38 years and after finding out who it was that cured him, the man goes to the religious authorities, walking on the very legs Jesus cured, and rats Jesus out to the authorities!  No good deed goes unpunished!

But that didn’t slow Our Lord down in the least.  He continued to cure the sick.  However they treated him afterward, Jesus never stopped pouring himself out for them.  But that’s the very thing he came to do; what he intended to do all along:  “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

And even after he had died, while still hanging on the cross, he continued to pour himself out for us sinners.  How?  Do you remember the soldier who pierced his side with a lance and blood and water flowed out?  Lifegiving blood and cleansing water flowed from the side of Our Lord.  And that’s the connection, the fulfillment of the vision Ezekiel saw in the 1st reading (Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12).

Ezekiel saw the temple of the Lord with water flowing from its side.  The water flowed from the east, the direction tradition tells us salvation comes from and the direction Our Lord will come from at the end of time!  The water started off as a trickle (Jesus pierced by a lance!) but soon became a river so deep it completed covered anyone who entered it.  The water purified everything it touched and brought forth much fruit!

The water, of course, is grace, the source of which is Our Lord’s body – the Temple of the Lord!  And where did the water of the temple flow?  Into the Araba, the desert, a place without water, that is, a place without grace.  And we haven’t even scratched the surface of the symbolism in this passage.

For instance, we are in the reading too!  We are the trees in the desert by the banks of the river, well-watered and bearing much fruit.  Providing shade for those being consumed by the heat of the desert of life as well as providing food for the hungry and medicine for the sick.

That is our calling, that is how we are to imitate Jesus who poured himself out for others.  Lent reminds us of this through the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and giving alms.  Lent reminds us that we who have been watered by the grace of baptism are to bear much fruit. 

So, how is it going?-Deacon Baldwin