Monday, April 30, 2012

Abundance of life

“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly”  (John 10:10).  At the end of a day I may be spent, nothing left to give.  The next morning I wake up alert, renewed, with lots of energy for the day.  I have been given an abundance of life while I slept.  As I move through the day, my life receives even more of the abundance of life God has waiting for those who love Him, seek Him, and serve Him. I may wonder where I will get the insight I need for a certain project or the patience I need to deal with a trying situation or the strength to take on a difficult project. Yet, there is God waiting to meet my need, whatever it might be.   “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
So what happens when I experience a meager supply? It certainly is not that God is not prepared to give me the abundance He wants to give me. So the problem may be that I am not seeking what I need or do not acknowledge my deficit or weakness or inadequacy.  I do know that Jesus, who showed us who His Father is, always responded to the needy, at one time feeding 5000+ people with two loaves and seven fishes. At other times He restored the dead child/youth to a grieving parent and, at still other times, cast out demons, healed the sick and blind and deaf.  He does so today because He has come so that we “might have life and have it more abundantly.”  Most times, my experience is that God is super generous, a superior giver, a profoundly compassionate God, ready at all times. What about you?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Challenged to leave our comfort zones

In today’s first reading, Acts 9: 31-34, Peter invites Aeneas, a  paralytic for eight years, to get up and make his bed!  He immediately is healed by Peter’s faith  in the Risen Lord.  People hear that Peter is not that far away from Joppa, where Tabitha, a highly respected woman, has died. Peter  goes to Joppa and finds people wailing, deeply saddened by the loss of Tabitha, a person who reached out to the poor in the area. Her generosity, her love, her commitment to be of service in whatever way possible was well  known.  Peter goes up to the room where the dead body is laid out, asks everyone to leave the room, kneels down in prayer, and then, believing in the power of the Risen Lord to do the impossible, humanly speaking,  turns to the body and says to Tabitha: Rise, get up. He then presents her alive to those who were grieving her loss.

Many times you and I are like the two people in today’s first reading. Parts of us may be  impaired, lying dormant “in bed,” where we feel safe, comfortable, and unchallenged. Other parts of us may be “dead” and need to be raised to new life.  Nothing is impossible to God, as Peter’s faith in the Risen Lord reveals. 

Right now,  it is springtime. All of nature is coming alive, leaving its dormant state, rising from what looks like death to the naked eye.  We see the power of the Lord’s  resurrection in the tiny seeds that bear flowers, brilliant pink and white blossoms. We see God’s  creativity also in the night sky when billions of stars appear.

The transformation of Aeneas, of Tabitha, of nature are testimony of our Creator’s ability to transform our lives as well. Whether any one of us is in the springtime, the summertime, the fall time, the wintertime of our lives, God has the power to bring forth new life, to do what needs to be done at any moment to bring life out of death, mobility out of immobility, to get the “Aeneas” part of ourselves “out of bed” and the “Tabitha” part of ourselves to a resurrected state in which the good we are meant to do continues to be realized by our renewed efforts.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Saul's Conversion: Will it be ours?

Today’s first reading, Acts 9: 1-20, recalls the conversion of St. Paul.  He is on a journey to arrest as many Christians as possible. Suddenly he is knocked down and hears a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  “Who are you, Sir?” Saul replies. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up (emphasis mine) and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

Wow! Holy smokes! Imagine being Saul. He believes, up until that moment, that what he is doing is right and just.  Saul himself is a rabbi educated by Gamaliel, one of the best Jewish Rabbi’s of his day.  These so-called Christians, Saul believes, until this moment, are serious betrayers of the Jewish faith, an heretical sect,  and dangerous persons as far as faithful Jews are concerned.  They must be stopped, so Saul, no doubt, thinks and will resort even to murder if necessary to stop them.  Besides, Saul has probably argued a million times that the leading men of Israel have sworn that the resurrection of Jesus is a hoax (See Mt 28: 11-15).

And, out of the blue, as Saul is religiously about the work of stopping these men from doing what he believes is damaging his nation, a voice says: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”

Like Saul, people can easily be going along their merry ways, totally convinced that what they  are doing or saying is just.  It certainly seems true of perpetrators of injustices the world over, of whites against blacks, of whites against Native Americans, of the rich against the poor, of one culture or nation against another, of anyone spewing ethnic slurs towards people different from themselves, of the strong against the weak, and so on.  We seem to have sunk to a new low, I believe, as some people are convinced that incest is friendly sex, that prostitution is morally right, that being unfaithful to our marriage partner is perfectly fine, that having sex outside of a marriage commitment is the smart thing to do; that keeping God out of our sights, our minds, our classrooms, our families, our nation is paramount to separation of religion and state, and on and on and on. Is the day approaching when , out of the blue, a voice will suddenly ring out: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting?”

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heeding the Spirit's suggestions

The first reading of today’s liturgy open with “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route” (Acts 8: 26).  Philip obeys and encounters a man who is reading the book of Isaiah.  Simply, Philip asks: Do you understand what you are reading?  The man says “How can I, unless someone instructs me.”  We are any one  or all of those characters on any given day.  The Spirit of God nudges us to go speak to, listen to, be with a certain person.  And we respond generously, sometimes fearfully, at other times with joy.  Our faith and our trust in God may be challenged.  At other times we are the one in need of being instructed and God sends another person to us.

Every day we are being drawn by God closer and closer to Jesus Christ, as was the eunuch in today’s first reading. In today’s Gospel, John 6: 44-51, Jesus tells us that no one comes to Him unless the Father draw him/her.  That being drawn is continual throughout our life times.  Without realizing it, we are being drawn into the death of our Lord Jesus Christ and into His resurrection into eternal glory, as yesterday’s Scriptures pointed out:  “The God of all grace…[calls] you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus… (1 Peter 5: 5b-14).  That journey takes us into the suffering that purifies us, into situations that transform our thinking into the thinking of Christ, into relationships that teach us to love as Jesus loved and to build the Kingdom as Jesus did, being servants of one another.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Called to eternal glory

In today’s first reading, 1 Peter 5: 5b-14, we read:  “The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen , and establish you after you have suffered a little.”  Wow! Just think of that promise!  First of all, it is made by “the God of all grace.”  How do we finite beings comprehend “all grace, ” infinite kindness, endless mercy , a God of incomprehensible blessing!    His clemency is awesome!  Secondly, this God has called you and me to eternal glory.  Wow!  We have been chosen to be on the team that will be admitted into a glorious kingdom with God in heaven forever and we did not even need to come out on top of the competition to win that gift. It is freely given by a loving God! “You did not choose me; I chose you,” we are told in John  15:16. Who would not want to be chosen to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  There cannot be anything equal to that kind of dwelling!  For that to happen for us, God Himself,  not anyone else, will restore us to the state we enjoyed in His mind before His creation of us. He will confirm us as His own, as heirs of the Kingdom, adopted as God’s children by the blood of the Lamb. And finally, He will strengthen us who have been weakened by sinful inclinations and our struggles with Satan here on this earth. Yes, He will establish us in His Kingdom forever!  That is the gift of redemption! To God be all praise and glory and thanksgiving!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Being "bread for the world"

“…the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world,” we are told in today’s Gospel, Jn 6: 30-35.  To paraphrase Jesus’ words to his challengers: “The bread your ancestors ate did not come from Moses, as you believe, but from my Father.  It was not bread intended to last, however.   I am the bread of heaven sent by my Father to bring life to the world. Every human being, so to speak, in relationship to Me is like the moon in relationship to the sun. Without the sun it does not give light to the night sky. Without Me no human being is able to give life to the world. Come to Me and I will refresh you, replenish your energy, sustain your strength, uplift your drooping spirits, fill your empty “jugs” with choice “wine.”  Come to Me and I will raise you to new life every day. Come to me and I will remove that which causes you blindness and deafness of spirit. Come to Me and you will be the Stevens (see the first reading of today’s liturgy), the apostles, the Mary Magdalas, the Veronicas of this world.  Come to Me and you shall never hunger or thirst again.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Choosing the way of truth

In today’s first reading, Acts 6: 8-15, Stephen is   “accosted…, seized…, and brought before the Sanhedrin.”  He is falsely accused, as was Jesus. How often this scenario is repeated in today’s world: in our boardrooms, our courtrooms, our workplaces, our schools, our homes; through the social media, by our politicians, our governments, and trusted leaders throughout the world and in all segments of our society.  We do it personally, as well, when we bring accusations against another that we are unable to substantiate, avoiding direct communication with that person. We also do it when we repeat information about another which we are not sure is true.

The psalm of today’s liturgy challenges us to another way of living our faith: 

                Though princes meet and talk against me [or against another],

                Your servant meditates on your statues.

                Yes, your decrees are my delight;

                They are my counselors….

                Remove from me the way of falsehood,

                And favor me with your law.

The way of truth I have chosen;

I have set your ordinances before me. (Ps 119)

How different it is for me when I choose to “remove falsehood” from my way of thinking about and/or relating to people and instead  “favor” the truth and/or refrain from joining the “Synagogue of Freedman” who orchestrate false evidence against the “Stevens” or “Sally’s” in my life or even against myself.  I might ask myself: am I Steven, proclaiming the good news and believing in Jesus or am I Steven’s detractors, busy about things that  do not improve life.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Be not afraid; it is I"

In today’s Gospel, John 6:  16-22, we read about the apostles having gone down to the sea and embarked on the journey to Capernaum.  It was already growing dark when they started this journey. These are experienced seas’ men , so they know how to navigate through turbulent waters and how to get through storms.  Notice that they are alone without Jesus, however. When we embark on tasks, take on projects, get involved in relationships without the Lord, it is highly probable that we will run into trouble. Notice that as soon as Jesus approaches the apostles—and He does so without their invitation—the apostles make it to their destination.

The same is true for you and me. When we go it alone—without the Lord, without the Church community, without family and friends—we are likely to embark on storms that could be too much to handle by ourselves. Jesus is aware!  Suddenly, there is a turn of events for the better. No accident, mind you.  Jesus is always near!  His sudden appearance could be frightening.  We may want nothing to do with Him, with religion, with the Church, with others buzzing into our business.  Yet it happens and miracles occur. A bad situation turns into something beneficial.  We are blessed in ways of which we never dreamt possible—that is my experience.  What about yours?  How has Jesus entered your life in unexpected ways, in unexpected places, through unexpected people?  Walking, no less, into the turbulent waters of your life! Surprise! The Risen Jesus can appear anywhere, anytime, anyplace, anytime through any person or event of your life! Nothing deters the Lord when you and I are on a bumpy road or in unsafe territory.

This reminds me of a teenager who went to a tavern one night to join her high school friends and as she turns off the car she hears loudly and clearly: “Sally (not her real name), you are not supposed to be here.”  She returns home to her mother and says: “Mom, I know God speaks to adults but I didn’t know He speaks to teenagers, too.”

Friday, April 20, 2012

God Prevails!

In today’s first reading, Acts 5: 34-42, Gamaliel, a leading Rabbi at the time of Jesus’ resurrection, confronts the Sanhedrin, of which he is a respected member. The Sanhedrin has arrested Peter and John.  Gamaliel warns them to be careful of what they intend to do to these men, saying:  “…if this endeavor or this activity…comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

Ever find that you throw yourself head over heels into something and it does not last or it leads to complete disaster?  Is it possible that the idea came, not from God, but from the false self, the ego self?  Perhaps the ego was seeking accolades or resolved to show up someone or determined to seek revenge.  At other times, have you ever said to yourself: “I can’t believe that I stuck to it; nothing could have deterred me”?  Is it possible that it was God calling you to that engagement, that activity.  And then, again, are there not times when the Spirit is calling you to do something and you forever resist, ending up fighting God. In other words, what you are resisting is God’s will, as Jonah did. Guess who wins!

Another scenario that brings home this Scripture reading is when a parent becomes unglued when a teenager begins dating and the parent is determined to put an end to the relationship at any cost.  Could this Scripture passage give some insights:  “…if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

Are you engaged in something that is not of God? Or are you fighting  or resisting something that is of God ?  Guess who wins luckily!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Standing up for what we believe

In today’s first reading, Acts 5: 27-33, Peter and John, when commanded by the high priest to stop teaching about Jesus, responded: Absolutely not!  “We must obey God rather than [human beings].”

How do we know that we are obeying God?  How did Peter and John know? How did Mary, Jesus’ mother, know? How did Mary of Magdala know? The first answer is that  the Risen Lord revealed Himself personally to each of them and they also knew Him before His resurrection.  Each received the gift of recognizing God’s way of making Himself known, whether prior to or following the Resurrection.  The person knows “it is the Lord” (Jn 21:7) and thus is open to following His will—words may not be able to explain that kind of knowing.  Secondly, the individual has developed a deeply personal relationship with God, as with a best friend. That means spending time with God, conversing with God in prayer, contemplating  the Scriptures, and sharing the intimacy of our lives with God on a regular basis. What do I mean? Letting God know what I am thinking and feeling, what excites,bothers or hurts me; what I am desiring, what challenges me, what I am afraid of, etc. It also means asking God for advice, for His counsel and requesting the Spirit to send the gifts of the Spirit.  Thirdly,  one needs to seek knowledge from above and sit at the Fountain of Living Water, drinking of that “water” that quenches the spirit. That is done through such activities as holy or spiritual reading, study of our faith and thus arriving at a deeper and deeper understanding of the faith (such as studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the encyclicals of the Popes, the social teachings of the Church, etc.); in short, seeking knowledge that nurtures the spiritual life and one’s faith life. Fourthly, we need to be growing in love of self and others, reaching out to the poor and marginalized, giving of our time, talent and energy to make the world, and ourselves (personal conversion, forgiveness and repentence) a better place that puts God first. If we do these things, our openness to and knowing God’s will becomes well tuned as, for instance, in the case, of St. Francis of Assisi, Ven. Mother Frances Streitel (the Foundress of my religious community),  Mother Teresa of Calcutta,  Martin Luther King, St. Kateri Tekawitha, Mother Seton,  and so many others.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

God so loved the world that He sent us His only begotten Son

Today’s Gospel, John 3: 16-21,  opens with the statement: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son...”

My response: “Lord, you so loved the world that You sent Your only begotten Son to take on human nature, to become one with us in our humanity, that is, to experience what this world without grace  is like:  a world where jealousies, intense hatreds and prejudice  lead to death.  Your Son experienced the darkness of evil that, without grace,  leads to violence and condemnation unto death.  Your Son experienced clashes between good and evil  with evil seeming to have the upper hand.  Your Son, the Light of the world, entered this world’s darkness to dispel it,  this world’s jealousies to dissipate them, hatred to transform it and sin to redeem us from its snares, pitfalls and tombs.  And you send us, each day, into the world where we live to do what You did: show the Light in whatever darkness we meet today  and to  be a transforming presence in that which otherwise could lead to death, decay and lifeless tombs.”

May each of you reading this know the power of the Resurrected Christ operative in your lives through your faith, hope and love in whatever you do or say today, in whatever tasks you take on and in whatever ways you make a difference as a believer in Christ Jesus!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"You must be born from above"

April 17, 2012:   As I reflect upon today’s Scripture readings, Acts 4: 32-37 and John 3: 7b-15, I am somewhat bewildered.  Luke in Acts speaks of believers being of “one heart and mind,” no one claiming any possessions as one’s own. Yet we live in a world where there’s anything but people living in harmony.  St. Luke claims that “there was no needy person among them.”  We  live in a world of abundant need. Victims of economic downturn, of high gas prices, of home foreclosures, of unjust wages and unfair taxes; victims of discrimination because of gender, age, race, religion, ethnic backgrounds, and economic status, to name a few of our problems, abound the world over. St.Luke lauds Joseph, also known as the Apostle Barnabas, for selling a piece of, not all, his property and giving the money to the Apostles to be distributed to those in need. We live in a world where the rich rise up in protest because they might have to pay as much taxes as poorer folk around them and where some believe a raise in the minimum wage will cause a recession. 

                No wonder Jesus says to Nicodemus: “You must be born from above.” Unless we are “born from above” we will not see as God sees or act  as  God acts, that is, we will never  understand the example Jesus modeled for us in how to “act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). With the power of the Holy Spirit blowing in our faces (“…the wind blows where it wills,” St. John tells us in today’s Gospel), we will make a difference in someone’s life today: a needy person will be less needy and both a poor person  and a destitute person will  rise out of “the tombs” of their lives because of our generous giving of time, talent or possessions.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"The wind blows where it wills"

Today’s readings speak of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles and the importance of being born again from above. We look at the apostles and disciples prior to the resurrection and they are men and women filled with fear, hiding being locked doors, fleeing from a situation that is threatening to them and, as was Nicodemus,  visiting Jesus at night.  Both the disciples and the apostles were transformed into men and women of tremendous courage and enabled to do what needs to be done following Jesus’ death.  All of us have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As devastating as “storms” in our lives might be, we find a way to pick up the pieces, so to speak, and move on.  Following natural disasters, whole neighborhoods, an entire nation, rises up to help people put their lives back together.  “The wind blows where it wills,” the Gospel of today tells us.  May the eyes, ears, and hearts of each of us see, hear, and be recipients of this Spirit blowing in our lives when and how God pleases to bless us with His presence—a daily occurrence. Am I aware? 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Who made your breakfast this morning?

Notice today’s Gospel Reading, Jn 21: 1-14. Peter, John and other disciples have been out fishing all night on the Sea of Tiberias. They have caught nothing. Jesus, out of nowhere, appears on the shore and asked them: “Have you caught anything to eat,” as if He didn’t know.  When they respond “No, nothing”—such respect on the part of Jesus—He suggests that they cast their nets on the other side of the boat! As they do that, He begins preparing breakfast for them.  What an act of generosity and earthiness: Jesus, the Son of God, the Risen Christ, making breakfast for His friends and serving them as He did at the Last Supper!

My response: “Lord, that is you in each of our lives, in my life.  You appear out of nowhere. Sometimes I recognize you. At other times, I do not!  Sometimes, I am John pointing You out to others. Sometimes I am the one who learns of Your presence through another. At times, like Peter, I race toward You, even after having denied you and/or pretended that I did not know you, that is, I did not want to be associated with certain kinds of people, places, or things. At times  I have avoided those who might challenge me, the one’s you put in my life for my conversion, for my sanity, for my well-being. You take no notice, but eagerly serve me “breakfast,” and then intimately converse with me afterwards, asking me if I love you! Your love for me, of course, has never waned. You are madly in love with me, with all of us,  all of the time, seeking ways to appear out of nowhere to serve our needs , draw us closer to You, and give us directions as well as an example of  serving others and building up the Kingdom of God on this earth!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wholeness/healing in the Risen Christ

In today’s first Scripture reading,  Acts of the Apostles 3: 11-26,  Peter is upset that people seem to think that the crippled man was made whole by Peter and John’s efforts, not recognizing that God alone heals people and transforms their lives.  We are no more than an instrument in God’s hands, as is the pipe through which water flows into our homes.  It is so easy to take ownership of things of which we are not the authors.  Our ego wants that kind of recognition, power and control. Yet we know that God is the One doing the good we accomplish in our work, our relationships, our family and community lives and our personal lives as well. St. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 2: 10 when he says: “We are…created in Christ Jesus for good work, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”  What is crucial is our cooperation with God to bring to fruition “the good work which God prepared beforehand.”    We can thwart or block the good work we are meant to do . How? Low self-esteem, negative beliefs, being stuck in past angers and hurts, shame, fear, blaming others for our lethargy, our lack of motivation or whatever is the impediment.   We may be excusing ourselves by saying things like:  “It’s too hard.” “It’s not my  fault.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I’m too young, too old, too sick, unworthy, too busy, don’t have time.” “My boss won’t let me or doesn’t like me or won’t like it.”  “Others don’t believe in me” (really means that I don’t believe in myself). “People will criticize me.” “I don’t want to upset anyone.” “Nobody will care anyway.” “I don’t want to make waves,” etc. etc. etc.!  What excuses to you think people use? Which do you use?

Somehow each of us needs to let go of excuses and believe in the power of the Risen Christ within us! In God’s mind, that which cripples our creativity, our initiative, our taking responsibility for our lives, the quality and productivity in our work lives, the tenor of our  family/community lives, our spiritual and psychological growth, our ongoing conversion is already healed. Is it healed in our mines?  “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door” to a better life will be opened to you, Jesus tells us in Mt 7:7. Do I believe that?  Today, in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter says to me and to you: “Get up and walk!”  Do something that brings the needed change in your life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Imagine That!

The Entrance Antiphon for today's liturgy reads: "Come, you blessed of my Father; receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, alleluia." Imagine the Lord saying to you:

"Come,______(insert your name) , blessed one,

receive the Kingdom prepared for you

from the beginning of Creation.

You see, My Father's plan of salvation is eternal.

God is unchangeable; His love is everlasting.

From the beginning, He knew humankind would resist any authority.

Obedience would be met by human opposition and rebellion.

God would not be daunted.

He would carry out His plan to redeem you

from the ego's disobedience and strategizing to be in charge.

He'd reopen heaven by His Son's and His Son's mother's obedience;

a new Adam and a new Eve would not be disobedient.

You are graced by Jesus and Mary's submission to My will.

By their sufferings you are made whole.

By their obedience you are reconciled to Me, to your Father.

And that reconcilation is from the foundation of the world.

I, your God, made it so! That is my love for you personally

and for all humankind!

The Emmaus Story

Today’s Gospel is the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus (Lk 24: 13-35).  The Emmaus story is everyone’s  story. Something happens in our lives.  Shaken by it, we get together with family or friends, fellow religious, sometimes even with strangers or with a counselor, a spiritual director  or the pastor of our parish to share our pain, our disillusionment, our anger and/or sadness. As with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, our eyes frequently remain shut. We do not recognize the Lord walking with us, as the Scriptures of our lives are both unfolding or being explained to us in our storytelling. As Jesus said to the two disciples, He says to us: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” We, too,  might ask ourselves:  “Did none of us realize that we had to undergo this troubling, incomprehensible, painful experience so as to enter our glory--the glory of being redeemed, the glory of being made strong in our weaknesses, the glory of faith and hope being strengthened in Christ Jesus, the glory of being broken and made whole by Divine Grace as we share in the sufferings of Christ?”  As St. Paul states in 2 Cor. 4:  8-12: “We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body.  Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh. In us, then, death is at work; in you life.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mary Magdalene's Transformation to New Life

“Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping” (Jn 20: 11).  Are we, too, standing outside “the tomb” of our lives, weeping?  Perhaps we are.  How often have each of us been invited to take an action, make a decision, do something creative and/or different, change our pace and we continue peering into our emptiness or continue complaining about boredom or that nothing is interesting around “here”.  Is it possible that we stand on the outside of life peering in at others doing the work, getting involved, having fun, making a difference while we continue vegetating, growing “potatoes” on our couches or staying stuck in an addictive pattern of behavior?  The risen Christ appears in the person and/or the disguise of a family member, a friend, a co-worker, a fellow parishioners or even a stranger and asks “Why are you weeping?” “Why are you looking for life in places that drain your energy, depletes your happiness, dulls your senses?”  “Why are you hanging on to past deadening behaviors; stop complaining and ‘get a life’?”  When Jesus confronts Mary, gently calling her name, Mary stops her weeping and follows Jesus’ request to get involved in the resurrection  story, in new hope and in a new life!  What about you and me?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Jesus is risen! Alleluia!

Today’s Gospel recounts the story of the women going to the tomb early in the morning, the first day of the week.  As they approach, they are startled by an earthquake that removes the stone blocking entrance into the tomb.  But even more surprising, an angel of the Lord is perched atop the stone and gives them the message that Jesus, as He foretold, is risen.  As they return to their dwelling, Jesus meets them on the way. 

You and I will meet Jesus many times on our journey as well.  The women did. We are told in another gospel message that Mary thought Jesus was the gardener until He called her by name. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. The apostles fishing off the shore recognized Him as He was preparing breakfast for them.  Will we recognize Him in the disguise of a family member, a fellow religious, a co-worker, an event of our day?  He will be hidden in everyone we meet, in every event in which we participate, in the depths of our own being, in our sorrows and joys, in the light and in the darkness of our day. Will be recognize Him in whatever disguise He comes to us?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

What a glorious day!  Imagine the women rushing to the tomb early this morning. It is still dark. They are distraught over Jesus' death and wondering who will roll back the stone for them, as they went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark 16: 1-3).  Matthew tells us that "all of a sudden there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightening, his robe white as snow" (Mt. 28: 1-4).

The women expected to anoint a dead body, say their goodbyes once again, and leave the tomb as hopeless and downtrodden as they had come.  Is that not what often happens in our lives?  We face the same distressing, hopeless situation deprived of life, depleted of joy, nothing new!  We may have been hoping for some kind of miracle and none came; nothing happens.  Then "all of a sudden" something "rolled away the depression, changed the hardened heart of a loved one or our own; a tragic accident averted, transformed paralytic limbs restored to movement, or a phone call comes for the needed transplant and life is changed forever.Out of nowhere, so it seems "...the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it"!

At last night glorious celebration of Jesus' resurrection,  I wondered where my Easter joy was. I seemed so blah, not the usual exuberance about Easter. Did I lose my faith? It was alive on Good Friday. What happened?   I shared my concerns with the Lord.  He seemed awfully quiet.  This morning, I went to Easter Sunday liturgy and felt somewhat renewed but not to the extent that I usually experience Easter.

Then it happened as I was going out for an afternoon stroll. I met someone with whom I have been at odds for about six months. I knew she was angry with me. She would not make eye contact with me, would say things within my hearing range that were hurtful and stopped dropping in for quick visits.  Today, Easter Sunday, we met as I left the building for my daily walk. We talked out our differences, as she, too, felt my anger--yes, I was angry with her also for several reasons. We shared the reasons for our anger.  The "stone" had been rolled back; the anger dissolved with forgiveness and reconciliation.  I had met Jesus! Truly He had risen from the dead debris of my life.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

"Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men [and women] to myself" (Jn 12: 31-31).

As I reflect upon the Passion and Death of Jesus in each of the Gospels, I realized as I meditated on the passage above, that standing before Pilate and Herod today is the world itself, condemned for its blasphemy of pretending that what it offers is all that the world needs. Blasphemy at its height!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

The Sixth Sorrow of Mary: Mary receives the dead body of her son--We live in a world filled with pain, inundated with suffering.  Mary holding the crucified body of her son on her lap is all of us holding within our hearts the tragedies of life, the pain of loved ones and of all our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.  The Pieta portrays the strength of those who embrace suffering, those who open "their laps" to those abandoned or tossed aside by prejudices and indifferences, left to die alone or to live in situations polluted by the poison of hate.  "The son whom Mary holds is a symbol of the suffering people in [our lives] who need someone to be with them when they are vulnerable, sorely troubled, and overwhelmed with the intensity of life's painful unfolding" (Joyce Rupp, My Sorrow Is Your Sorrow,  The Crossroad Publishing Company, NY, p. 138). Who, today, might need me to be there to hold them in their pain? What suffering might I encounter today that needs "a lap" to lie on for comfort?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows:  The Sixth Sorrow—Mary receives the dead body of her Son—Mary gazes upon the dead body of her Son and  grieves a loss beyond words. She embraces this incredible loss.

Grieving is a form of healing. It purifies the soul of bitterness and anger and transforms our pain into compassionate affection and understanding of others in their suffering.  During a sabbatical that I was privileged to take following my ministry as provincial, I was meeting with a psychologist to deal with losses in my life. I was relating a very painful period in my life when, at age 17, I lost my mother to cancer. A few months prior to that, my superiors made an exception to the rule and would have allowed me to attend my older sister’s wedding, which was advanced so that my mother would be present (her death was imminent). I played the role of the perfect postulant and declined the offer—a decision I regretted. For a time, I blamed my superiors for giving me that choice.  I reasoned that they were the adults, not me and were responsible for my decision. They were not.  In my attempts to relinquish my responsibility, I denied myself the freedom to grow in  truth. The psychologist asked me to identify all the losses connected with that decision. The pain was intense. I had not realized that I was holding on to that grief, thus decreasing my ability to empathize with others. To the point that I rigidly controlled my pain  and blamed others would be the degree to which I was inauthentic, thus deepening the tendency to function from a heart of stone, not a heart of flesh, from a position of untruth and a lack of freedom.

With Mary, may we learn to grieve our losses and be true to the reality of our lives, without blaming others, as Mary did not do. Dealing with that darkness and embracing our truth enables the light to glow more brightly, the heart to beat more tenderly, and the wounds to heal more graciously.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

The Sixth Sorrow—Mary receives the dead body of Jesus. “Joseph of  Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission so he came and removed his body” (Jn 19:38).

Imagine Mary watching Joseph reverently remove the nails from Jesus’ hands and feet and carefully lowering the dead body of Jesus to the ground. Legend has it that Mary asks to hold her Son’s body one last time before its burial.  She peers into the wounds, removes the crown of thorns, caresses his bloody hair, gently touches his swollen face and eyes, kisses his wounded body. The love of her entire being and the love of her Son meld into one huge shivering embrace.  She gazes silently upon the body that was crucified by sin and through which sin was deprived of its power to put believers to death—a miracle Mary witnessed in Dismis’ promise to be with Jesus that day in Paradise. 

How hard it was to let go of this dead body and allow Joseph and other men assigned to the task of burial to take Him from her and lay Him in the awaiting tomb. 

All of us know the horrible pain of watching a loved one’s coffin being lowered into a grave.  There is no sorrow as great as that kind of pain, unless it is watching a loved one die a miserable death. Mary was not exempted from this human experience of burying her Son. Yes, she buried Joseph and that was a painful loss, but no way as painful as burying her child, I don’t believe.

Mary weeps with all men and women or child who buries a loved one, no matter what the circumstances of death may be. With whom am I weeping? And who wept with me in similar circumstances? May we let Mary console us in our anguish!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Mary, Mother of Sorrows: Mary is standing beneath the cross and hears Jesus say: “It is consummated.”  Jesus proclaims the completion of His mission.  He has redeemed humankind, reopened the gates of heaven for all of creation. Sin has been destroyed. Our sins nailed to the cross. Death has no more power over us.  What a relief this must have been for Mary.  It is the relief every person experiences who says about a loved one who has just left this world: He/she is now in a better place.  As the mother of Trayvon Martin recently proclaimed: “Trayvon is now wearing his hoodie in heaven”.

As Jesus dies there is a terrible earthquake. The earth is wrapped in darkness. Mary hears someone say: “Truly this was the Son of God,” a truth Mary and John, standing beside her, already knew. What about you and I? What might I have been thinking if I had witnessed Jesus’ death and heard these last words: “It is consummated,” and “Into your hands I commend my spirit”?