Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Proclaiming the Crucified Christ as the Power and the Wisdom of God

In today's Gospel Acclamation "[w]e  proclaim Christ crucified; he is the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1 23a-24b).  In that power the apostles left the place from which Jesus ascended into heaven and went about the world preaching the good news of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, revealing the depth, the length, the width and breadth of God's love for us.  Prior to Jesus' resurrection, the apostles were men filled with fear. They fled for their lives and hid themselves behind locked doors, fearing that what happened to Jesus on the cross would be their fate as well.

Just as  God held nothing back to show us the way to salvation, justice, mercy and forgiveness, so, too, following Jesus' ascension into heaven and His sending the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, nothing held the apostles back from preaching the crucified Christ as "the power of God and the wisdom of God." The apostles and the disciples of Jesus were no longer afraid of those who could harm the body.  Their spirits were fortified by the Holy Spirit. Love for Christ cast out all fear.  Focused on the Lord and relying upon the Lord, they became fierce proclaimers,  if you will.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, Jesus was their God and their All!

You and I are also asked to go out to all the world the proclaim the Gospel of Christ by word and by action.  May we, with the author of today's responsorial psalm, promise that "[t]he favors of the Lord [we] will sing forever; through all generations [our mouths] shall proclaim [Jesus'] faithfulness" (Ps. 89).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Seeing the Grace of God at Work

In today's first reading, Acts 11: 19-26,  Barnabas was sent to Antioch.  "When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord  in firmness of heart, or he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith." Barnabas' faith was an active faith, not just a creed that he recited in formal prayer.  He "saw the grace of God" working among the disciples of Antioch!  Do I walk through my day as a person of faith? Do I see grace at work in my life, in the life of those with whom I minister, in my co-workers, in the circumstances of my day?

As I was in prayer this evening, I realized that I want my life to be free of ambiguities and of problems, obvious when I complain about this or that!  My grumbling about a problem is no different from the Israelites in the desert complaining about the manna that fell from heaven or the lack of water. When I am in a grumbling mood, where is my faith and trust in the Lord? And, moreover, if there are no problems in my life, no ambiguities, how do I, in the first place,  develop trust in the Lord?  

Lord, I pray for the grace to live from faith! I ask that my eyes be opened to "the grace of God" at work in those with whom I live and work and play!  I pray  to be "filled with the Holy Spirit and faith," as was Barnabas. And I ask to be forgiven for wanting no problems or ambiguities in my life.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Lord is my Shepherd

"I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me" (Jn 10:14).  Ever watch a child waiting for its parents to come through the doors of an airline.  Immediately, they know the person coming through that door is his/her parent. The child lights up, gets all excited and runs into the arms of its parents.  That is what God does waiting for us. "I know my sheep; and mine know me."  The Lord jumps with delight when we come to Him!  He always recognizes us!  Do we recognize the Lord?

In today's Gospel, John 10: 1-10, Jesus tells us that He is the gate for the sheep and that "the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice."  Recognizing the Lord's voice, following the Lord out to "pasture," we pray in psalm 23:  

....In green pastures he makes me lie down; 
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul. 
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff comfort me.
You set a table before me
in front of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; 
my cup overflows.
Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me
all the days of my life; 
I will dwell in the house of the Lord 
for endless days.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The New and Eternal Covenant Given by Jesus

In the last three Gospels of this week, John 6: 44-51, John 6: 52-59 and today's, John 6: 60-69,  Jesus tells the people that He is "the living bread that came down from heaven" (Jn 6: 57). Whoever "eats this bread," Jesus says, "will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world" (John 6: 51).  In John 6: 52-59, the Jews are quarreling and asking: "'How can this man give us His Flesh to eat?' Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the  Son of man and drink His Blood you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him'....These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum" (John6: 54-59).

In today's Gospel, John 6: 60-69, many of the disciples of stopped following Jesus, saying: "This saying is hard; who can accept it" (John 6:60)? Jesus knows what the people are quarreling about and says to them: "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before.  It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe" (John 6: 60-63).  To this very day many people walk away because they do  not believe the words of Jesus  concerning the Holy Eucharist celebrated by Catholics.

The Spirit that overshadowed Mary when the second person of the Blessed Trinity took on human nature is the same Spirit that overshadows the bread and wine at Mass when the priest utters the words of consecration: "This is my Body; this is my Blood". The ordinary bread and wine become the body and blood, the soul and divinity of Jesus.  Just as many of the disciples of Jesus stopped following Him when he said to them "unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink  his Blood, you do not have life within you" so, too, today do many people abandon their Catholic faith, saying: "I won't believe" or "I don't believe!"

May my faith, and yours, remain strong in Jesus' words, said by Jesus Himself in the person of the priest.  "Take  this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body given up for you....Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me" (Eucharistic Prayer II--The Word Among Us, May 2018, p. L15).

Friday, April 20, 2018

With Jesus, for Jesus, in Jesus, through Jesus

In today's first reading, Acts 9: 1-20, we are given the story of Saul's conversion as well as the conversion of Ananias.  Saul is on the way to Damascus and knocked down when "a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him and [he] heard a voice saying to him: 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'...'Who are you, Sir? ... '  ...'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.'"  A similar situation takes place in the city.  Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, is visited by the Lord, also.  Jesus says to him:  "'Ananias.' ....'Here I am, Lord.' ...'Get up and to the the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.'"    Ananias had to be floored. Saul is out to arrest disciples of Jesus!  So Ananias initially objects to what the Lord is asking of him. "But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name."  And Ananias goes to Straight Street!

The power of Jesus! Saul is set straight! He is converted from a persecutor of Jesus to a proclaimer of the Lord Jesus. Ananias is converted from fear and resistance of what is perceived as evil to one who is an instrument in converting a man who was a persecutor of the disciples of Jesus.

When God is with us who can be against us, we pray in one of the psalms!  Both Saul and Ananias become instruments in the hand of God to bring about a good willed by God!  You and I, too, can become those instruments when we let down our defenses or, better put, God puts down our defenses! God is always at work in the world doing for us what He did for Saul and Ananias! May our realization of God's presence grow and may our ability to hear the voice of Jesus grow, as well!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

God's Messengers

In today's first reading, Acts 8: 26-40, we are told the entire episode of an angel speaking to Philip and directing him to "[g]et up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route." On the way he sees a chariot ahead of him. And the angel says to him: "Go and join up with that chariot."   Philip does so. The person in the chariot, a eunuch,  is reading the book of Isaiah and has no idea what he is reading and asks Philip to explain the passage, which read "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth."   God uses Philip to explain this Scripture passage to him. Philip proclaims Jesus to the eunuch. As they come upon a body of water, the eunuch requests that the chariot be stopped so that he could be baptized!

God works in your life and mine in the same way.  Out of the blue, we are instructed to do this or that: "Stop and visit so-and-so." "Go see how so-and-so is!"  "Make that phone call to your mother/father, brother/sister, friend." "Ask forgiveness for what you just said!""Stay awhile with this person; the work on your desk can wait"  and so on!  God sends messengers all of the time. Am I listening?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Who Am I in today's Scripture Reading?

In today's first reading, Acts 8: 1b-8, while "[d]evout men buried Steven", Saul was going from door to door arresting men and women who believed in Jesus.  He handed followers of Jesus over to the authorities to be thrown into prison.  In spite of the danger of being arrested, "Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them." Demons were being cast out, the sick were being healed, paralyzed and crippled people were being cured of their disabilities.  "There was great joy in that city."

Who am I in this story?  One of the believers in Jesus willing to risk my reputation, yes, even my life, in proclaiming Christ and living a faith-filled life? Am I a "Saul" who persecutes those of a religion different from my own, those who disagree with my beliefs or of my way of thinking?  Am I one from whom "demons" are being cast out, my life being transformed in Jesus' name, my "paralysis" being healed, that is, I am being freed from that which paralyzes me from doing what is right and just, kind and loving?  Am I one who brings "great joy" to the world in which I live?  The choices are mine to make!