Monday, May 20, 2019

The Confidence of Paul and Barnabas

In today's first reading, Acts 14: 5-18, Paul and Barnabas encounter opposition to their proclamation of the Good News of Jesus' resurrection. The jealousy of the leaders of an empire and their leaders' fear of losing their power led to Jesus' arrest and condemnation to be crucified, a fate that happened to anyone who was a threat to those in power at that time. However, death would have no power over Jesus, the Son of God. Efforts to destroy Him, then and now, would be in vain. Hence the confidence of Paul and Barnabas. They simply moved to other towns open to the Good News.

Neither the early Christians nor us today are promised a life free of problems, even problems within the Church, within our own families or society as a whole. What we are promised is that God is with us to the very end of the world as we know it! Some people may oppose us as Christians, as practicing Catholics, especially as believers in the Eucharist--the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, our spiritual food, of which Jesus invites us to partake:  "Take and eat!  This is my body given up for you. Take and drink!  This is my blood poured out for you" (Compare Luke 22: 19-20; Matthew 26: 26-28; Mark 14: 22-24). Many people walked away from Jesus when He said this about His body and blood. They would have none of this teaching. Jesus asked the apostles if they, too, were going to leave and Peter responded: "To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of everlasting life."

We may, in some instances, also be mocked for believing that the Scriptures, the Word of God, "is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thought. No created thing can hide from [God]; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give an account of ourselves" (Hebrews 4: 12-3). Jesus' friend Mary gave priority to sitting at Jesus' feet, listening to His every word. We do that when we spend time reflecting upon the Scriptures or take time quietly pondering God's presence in nature, in the quiet of our rooms or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in a Catholic Church or a prayer space in any church!

Developing a personal relationship with Jesus, as Paul and Barnabas did, is important if we are going to weather the storms of this life!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Making All Things New

In today's second reading, Revelation 21: 1-51, John tells us that he sees "a new heaven and a new earth...I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as  a  bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God Himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed way.' The One who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'"

The veil was lifted from John's eyes. It is not lifted from ours.  We know  by faith what John saw in this vision.  The day will come when the veil will also be lifted from our eyes, but not now! You and I will eventually be privy to this "new heaven and new earth."  You and I also know in faith that God dwells here on earth, is always here, and dwells in your very being and in mine! God is my God and yours!  You and I belong to God, as did John!  You and I also know, in faith, that God is making "all things new," including you and me.

As we enjoy spring, we can, in fact, see God making all things new!  What a glorious God!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Who Am I to Question God's Ways

As with Peter in today's first reading, Acts 11: 1-18, God frequently challenges us to rethink issues, to move beyond boundaries to which we might be clinging that actually are not what God desires of us.  In Peter's case it was, for one,  refusing to eat certain meats that the law pronounced as clean. God said to Peter in prayer:  "What God has made clean, you are not to call profane."  Secondly, there was a law not to enter the house of the uncircumcised, which Peter had done when "three men appeared at the house where [he] was...The Spirit told [Peter] to accompany them without discriminating."  As Peter was speaking to these men, "the Holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning, and I remembered the word of the Lord,  how he had said, 'John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God [by refusing to go into their house because they were uncircumcised]?

We might ask ourselves two questions: 1) Are we clinging to laws that may actually be hindering us from doing what God desires of us and 2)  Do we avoid going into other peoples' houses or speaking to other people because they are different from us or have beliefs that differ from ours?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers

In today's first reading, Acts 13: 14, 43-52, Paul and Barnabas urge the converts to Judaism to "remain faithful to the grace of God."  Both Paul and Barnabas, in turn, are remaining faithful to God's call to them to bring the good news of Jesus to Gentiles. "The Lord has commanded us," Paul and Barnabas tells the Jews who are jealous of the crowds following them, "I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth."  Because of the spread of the Christian faith to all the ends of the earth through the power of the resurrection of Jesus,  you and I know Jesus Christ. In turn, we share the faith with our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews and so many others to whom God has "made [us] a light [unto]"!

Today is Mother's Day and it is through our mothers [and fathers] that the majority of us, if not all, have been given the faith!  The strength of our mothers is phenomenal and no wonder it is so because a mother's model is Mary, the Mother of Jesus!   At least, Mary was that model for my mother but I believe that any mother is strong because of Mary's example of motherhood!

Praise to all mothers and to Mary, Mother of God, whom Jesus gave to each of us from the cross when He said to Mary: Mother, behold your son.

Happy Mother's Day to my mother in heaven and to all mothers on earth. May God and Mary shower each of you with blessings beyond all measure.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Saul Awakened to the True Identity of Others

In today's first reading, Acts 9: 1-20, we again encounter Saul, a man bent on finding men and women who believe in Jesus, that is "who belonged to the Way."  Authorized by the high priests with letters to give to synagogue officials in  Damascus, Saul sets out for Damascus to find Christians, whom he would put in chains and bring back to the authorities to be put into prison!  

To say the least, the situation was anything but safe for those who were following Jesus' way. In many parts of the world today, people also find themselves in unsafe situations for variety of reasons: religion, race, foreigners, young women, children, runaways, wives, husbands and on and on.  In some parts of the world, including the U.S., people are being rounded up, locked in prisons, put in cages or detention centers without a hearing!

We are told in today's Scripture passage, that as Saul "was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' [Saul asked] 'Who are you, sir?' The reply came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.''

The same encounter with Jesus, I believe, happens with each one of us when we are hurting others, being mean to others, bullying others, deceiving others, or cheating others, in some way, of their basic human rights.  Though not as dramatic as with Saul, still we are challenged, ordered perhaps,  to "get up."  What we do to the least our brothers and sisters, the Scriptures tell us, we do unto Christ cf Mt. 25:40).  So Jesus asks us: "Why are you persecuting me [treating me badly, cheating me, bullying me, putting me down, being mean to me, depriving of my basic human rights]?"

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Attentive to the Spirit's Instructions

In today's first reading, Acts 8: 26-40, we meet Philip, a deacon who had been appointed to oversee the distribution of food to poor widows in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6: 1-7). He was a man familiar with the Scriptures and very open to the Spirit directing his daily life.  His spending time studying the Scriptures and becoming familiar with them led to his ability to discern the Spirit's presence in his life and what the spirit was asking of him.

This particular day, we are told, an "angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, 'Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.' So he got up and set out!"  Would you, would I, be that obedient?   Would you, would I, have immediately dropped everything and set out on a desert route, no less? To begin with, would we, in the midst of our busy day, even have heard the angel's whispering voice?

When Philip sees ahead of him a chariot in which an Ethiopian eunuch is reading aloud from the prophet Isaiah,  the Spirit said to Philip: "Go and join up with that chariot.' Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone instructs me?' So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him." The eunuch, then, asked Philip to explain the passage to him, a passage about Jesus being "led to slaughter like a sheep."   Following Philip's explanation and approaching water, the eunuch asked to be baptized!

Note, again, how the Spirit gives Philip clear instructions. "Go...join that chariot!" God is just as direct with  us. The Spirit's instructions in our lives may sound something like this:  "Put the paper down and play with your child." "Turn off the TV and help your son with homework!"  "Help your wife in preparing the evening meal." "Go to your daughter's/granddaughter's basketball game." "Go straight home." "Do your homework!" "Spend more time with your family/community persons/fellow priests." "Don't get involved with that person." "Don't go there!" "You are jeopardizing your marriage (or any commitment)." "You are not living up to your vows (in any vocation)."  And so on!

Am I, are you,  discerning good spirits from bad spirits? Am I, are you,  listening to the Spirit? Am I, are you, doing that which opens your heart to God's instructions: reading the Scriptures on a daily basis, taking time to be quiet and attentive to the Spirit's voice, looking over each day reflectively and prayerfully? Am I, are you, striving to do what is right and avoid that which you know for certain is not what God is asking of you?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Apostle's faith in Jesus

Today's Scripture readings, Acts 8: 1b-8 and John 6: 35-40, are awesome! In the first reading we are told that the early Christians are being persecuted and everyone is scattering "except the Apostles!"   The Apostles' faith in the resurrection holds them fast in the face of incredible odds. Nothing stops them from proclaiming Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. He is alive, not dead. Through the power of Jesus, as we hear in Acts 8: 1b-8, Philip goes to the city of Samaria proclaiming Christ, healing the sick, and casting out "unclean spirits."    Death and Satan had no power over Jesus, over the Apostles nor over us who hold fast to the faith and keep our eyes on Jesus, believing in Him, proclaiming Him, trusting Him and looking to the power of His resurrection at work in our lives!

In the second reading, the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that the will of His Father is "that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,....[and] that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day." The Apostles knew Jesus' promises, believed in them and in Jesus, the Son of God, the Incarnate Word of God flesh, who walked among them healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead to life, and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom among us.  During His last discourse with the Apostles, Jesus said to them: "I tell you solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to my Father. Whatever you ask for in my name, I will do...."
And for that reason, the Apostles do not flee when things get rough and dangerous! They go on, as Philip did,  doing what Jesus did, not fearing death but eagerly waiting for the day they, too, would be raised "on the last day.".

What is your belief? What is mine?