Monday, April 30, 2018

To God's Name Give the Glory

In today's first reading, Acts 14: 5-18, the people of Lystra were so awed when a crippled man was healed by Jesus through Paul and Barnabas that they attempted to worship them, believing that "the gods have come down to us in human form." Paul and Barnabas were appalled and were able to stop them, saying to them "[w]e proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols  [Zeus and Hermes] to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them." 

It is easy to forget that whatever good we do is done by the Lord using us as His instruments. It is not us doing the good or the healing or the whatever. God works through those who believe.  We pray in today's responsorial psalm "Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory," but how often are we not seeking the glory that belongs to God and making idols out of ourselves!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

"Shake the Dust from Your Feet"

In today's first reading, Acts 13: 44-52, prominent women and leading men stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas "and expelled them from their territory." This past week a Catholic priest was fired by Speaker of the House, as his message of passing legislature that benefits the rich and poor alike was labelled "too political." Whatever the reason for the expulsions, Paul and Barnabas "shook the dust from their feet in protest" against their persecutors and moved on.

All of us, from time to time, will encounter those who oppose the good we want to promote, will   reject our stand for justice, and, in fact, will persecute us for our commitment to the Gospel. There will be times when, in spite of having put forth our best, we will need to shake "the dust" from our feet, forgive those who oppose our actions, let go and let God, and move on.  Given the obstacles placed in our way and a clear messages of being  unwelcome and in fact "expelled from [the] territory," we need to open ourselves to God's invitation to move on to other  "territories." This may mean moving on to a different ministry/job, letting go of a certain relationship and/or, in short, changing our determination to get what we want from "soil" that is unproductive, knowing that God has a future full of hope planned for us (See Jer 29:11)! But without letting go of and surrendering the past to God we will not know that future!

Friday, April 27, 2018

"Let Not Your Hearts be Troubled"

In today's Gospel, John 14: 1-6, Jesus says to His disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith in me."  Jesus says this when He is gathered with His disciples at the Last Supper. He knows that Judas will betray him that very night. He knows that He will be arrested and condemned to death and crucified like an hardened criminal because  jealousy will have consumed the leaders of Jerusalem with the disastrous result of murdering the One of whom they are jealous."Do not let your hearts be troubled."

Think of a time when  your worst nightmare is about to occur and Jesus says to you: "Do not let your hearts be troubled."  First of all,  Jesus knows about which he is talking. He has been there, that is, at the threshold of his worst nightmare.  Second of all, Jesus is God and will walk through that nightmare with you, just as the Father and the Spirit were with Him that night and the next horrible days and raising Him to new life in the resurrection on Easter morn.  Jesus, the Son of God with the Father and the Holy Spirit--the three are one--will take you by the hand, hold you in their arms, comfort you, strengthen you and awaken a courage within you that you never knew you had. You will come through the ordeal and be risen to new life in a way you could never imagine, as you trust in the Lord.  Have you ever said of yourself: "I don't know where I got the strength"? Or, "I have no idea how I ever did that?" An Invisible God was with you, guiding you, upholding you, enlightening you, strengthening you, and loving you!

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!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jesus, the Bread of our Lives

In today's Gospel, John 6: 30-35, the crowd asks Jesus for a sign that will help them to believe in Him, as they believed in Moses. Moses, they tell Jesus,  "gave them bread from heaven to eat."  Jesus sets them straight, saying:  "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."  Obviously, he is talking about Himself. "Sir, give us this bread always."  Jesus then reminds them that He is the "bread of life; whoever comes to me," Jesus says, "will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."  How true!

May you and I always go to Jesus in all of our needs, in all of the circumstances of our lives. It is with Jesus and through Jesus that our lives take on the characteristics of our Lord and we, too, give "life to the world" around us!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Why Am I Looking for Jesus

In today's Gospel, John 6: 22-29, the 5000+ people who had been fed by Jesus go looking for him.  His disciples had left to go across the sea to Capernaum but Jesus had not gone with them.  When these people find Jesus, He reads their hearts, knowing that they simply  want more to eat. "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not look for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him, the Father, God, has set his seal."  The people then inquire of him what they can do "accomplish the work of God".  Jesus replies: "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."

I suggest that we ask ourselves the question: For whom/what am I looking? Am I truly looking for the things of heaven, for the strength I need to be God's co-worker here on earth in building a Kingdom of love, mercy and peace?  Am I looking for the wisdom to make a difference in the world and to bring forth new life out of that which depletes life, out of the stirred-up chaos, the "muddy messiness" of our lives so that new life emerges?  Or do I go running to Jesus simply to relieve my physical hunger  and not to be empowered as co-creator,  as peacemaker, as one who makes the new happen and who turns weapons "into plowshares"(cf Joel 3:10).

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Jesus, "the expiation for our sins"

We continue to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, who, in the words of the second reading, 1 John 2:1-5a, "is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world."  In the first reading, Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19, Peter gives witness to the people that God "has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead, of this we are witnesses."

Jesus, the Risen One, sits at the right hand of His Father, and ours, in heaven, making intercession for us.  He is the one about whom Peter reminds us "is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world." Jesus became sin itself upon the cross for us! In the shedding of His blood, Jesus destroyed sin and death for all. In every Eucharist, we drink the blood of Jesus and eat of His Body, as the bread and wine are transformed into Jesus through the words of consecration by the priest. In coming to us as food and drink, Jesus destroys sin and death in us as well!

Oh, the greatness of our God.  Jesus, the Son of God, held nothing back in reconciling us to the Father and showing us how much God loves each one of us: unto death!  And just as Peter said to the crowd to whom He was giving witness,  I know you acted out ignorance, just as your leaders did"  in killing Jesus on the cross, so, too, Jesus says to us in our sinfulness that we act out of ignorance. If we truly knew what we were doing, for instance, when we act violently toward one another,  in to the point of using weapons of mass destruction, we truly would have a change of heart, as did Paul on the road to Damascus when Jesus asked him: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

Oh, the goodness and the greatness of God's love for us!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Nearness of our God

In today's Gospel, John 6: 16-21, the disciples of Jesus decide to  get in a boat and row across the lake to Capernaum.  They go without Jesus. It is a dark stormy evening and the waters are turbulent. When get 3-4 miles out, they see Jesus walking on the water toward them.  Immediately He says to them: "It is I. Do not be afraid."

It is not unusual for the "waters" of our lives to become turbulent for many reasons: a sick child, a threatening illness in ourselves or any family members, economic problems, job-related issues, the trauma being played out in our politics and so on.  Everything, so it seems, looks "dark" for us. Hear Jesus say to you through a loved one, a concerned relative, a parish priest or the minister of the church you attend: "Do not be afraid".  Jesus is always present no matter what might be frightening us.  He takes us by the hand and will walk with us through the turbulence, calming our fears and assuring us that He will not abandon us, no matter what. Darkness is not dark to the Lord. He will, therefore, show us the way and guide us through the turmoil in a way that strengthens our faith and our hope and draws us closer together to our loved ones. When God seems far away, He is especially close to us, even if our eyes and ears remain closed.

These are my beliefs. What are yours?

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Lord as Our Refuge

In today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 27, we pray:  The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life's refuge; of whom should I be afraid?"

Yet we know that there is much to be feared for some in the world of today.  Many people are fleeing persecution--religious and other forms of persecution, beginning with children being bullied in school and on social media. People in many parts of the world are running for their lives from terrorist regimes, cruel actions on the part of their government officials. There are also those fleeing from domestic and street violence.  Some people plan escape possibilities from pimps and human traffickers while others try to stay safe from sexual assaults in the work place.  A person's refuge may be their car, a fast food restaurant, a homeless shelter, a church, a trusted neighbor's house or that of a relative, and, in some cases another country.

In the midst of these and other situations, we encounter men and women, young adults and children of incredible faith. I remember a little girl, about 9 years of age,  having fled from Isis and living in a refugee camp in the Middle East.  She was grateful and spoke of God's help shown her in camp-- a story on the news this past year.

From where does such strength come? From being taught to take refuge in the Lord. The darkness in this little girl's life was not dark to the Lord.  Nor so in our lives.  May all of us seek the Lord above all in whatever situation we find ourselves and teach our children to do the same.  May we live from the belief that we "shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living." May we "wait for the Lord with courage [and] be stouthearted and wait for the Lord," as  we also pray in Psalm 27.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Holy Spirit is Not Rationed

In today's Gospel, John 3: 31-36, we are reminded that God "does not ration the Holy Spirit." God is a giving God.  In his showing us God's love, Jesus held nothing back. He gave everything He had, His very life. God continues to hold nothing back from any one of us. The question is: Are we open to the Lord's generosity? Do we trust the Lord?  For concrete example of being open to receiving all that God wants to offer us in terms of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of at the Holy Spirit, all we need to do is look at the Apostles. Before Pentecost, they were frightened individuals who, except for John, hid from the Jews when Jesus was being crucified. Peter, the "rock" upon which Jesus built the Church,  went so far as to deny that he even knew the Lord.  After Pentecost, Peter boldly proclaimed Jesus' death and resurrection and continued doing so even after several arrests. Nothing held Peter back, as God "does not ration the Holy Spirit."  He gave his all as Jesus did!

What about you and I?  Do we give our all, knowing that God meets us on our way and even goes ahead of us preparing the way for us to gather an abundant harvest of the "seeds" of love that we sow along the way of life? As we journey through a day, do we expect God to be generous or do we perceive God as being stingy, one who withholds His gifts and thus we sow sparingly?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

From Whence Does Our Work Originate

In today's first reading, Acts 5: 17-26,  the Sadducees threw the Apostles into prison out of jealousy.  They were furious that the Apostles' popularity was spreading and that they were having success in witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus and the spreading of the faith!  No way were they going to allow this to happen, if possible. They did not realize that the origin of the work of the Apostles was of God, not of human orig

From whence does my work and yours originate?  Is it of God or am I/are you functioning merely from a human perspective?  If of God, the results will prove its origin. When I am functioning merely from a human perspective, it is easy to become jealous of another or to react angrily when the results of my work are not what I expected or wanted. However, if I am allowing the Spirit to lead me and I am doing that which the Lord is asking of me, I will experience what the Apostles experienced: "prison" doors become unlocked! Those unlocked "doors" may be the doors of my heart or of the hearts of others!

Let us remember, as we pray in today's responsorial psalm: "The angel of the Lord encamps around those  who fear [reverence] him, and delivers them. Taste and see how good the Lord is; blessed the [one] who takes refuge in the Lord," as did the Apostles.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Living for Others

In Acts 4: 32-37, we are told how the first believers were "of one heart and mind."  That is the goal of persons who take their marriage vows and/or religious vows seriously. Like the first believers,  many married men and women "claim" nothing as their own, "but....[hold]  everything in common...."   to be used to support one's family: clothe them, feed them, educate them. The same is true of members of religious communities. We vowed to live poorly. Whatever we use belongs to the religious community and is not personal property.   Our salaries are pooled together for the sake of serving others in ministry and used also to support our sick and infirm members--for many religious communities in this 21st century the number of sick and infirm members outnumber those in active ministries bringing in a salary.

Many of us use our small monthly stipend in ways that also benefit the poor in some way, giving monies to our missions where desperate families are served. Some of us also contribute to local food shelters, homeless shelters, and/or parish programs that provide faith formation to our young people.

As Christians, we are called to be aware of and help the needy in whatever ways we can! Jesus set His earthly ministry doing just that: reaching out to those in need of assistance! Jesus continues doing so to this very day and calls us to live the Gospel-way of life as well! As St. Francis says to his followers,  "Preach the Gospel and use words only if necessary."

 At the end of every day, each of us needs to ask the questions:  How did I preach the Gospel today? In what ways did I reach out to those in need--those  with whom I live--members of my immediate family/religious community--those whom I serve in my ministry/place of employment as well as those beyond my family/religious community?

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Feast of the Annunciation: Mary's "Yes"

In today's responsorial psalm we pray: "Here I  am, Lord, I come to do your will.  Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me.   Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not; then said I, 'Behold I come'."

Both Mary and Jesus model this kind of obedience.  Mary, an engaged teenager, and her fiancĂ© Joseph are preparing for marriage when the angel Gabriel visits Mary. "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you" is how the angel greets her.  He then says to her, when it is obvious that she is shaken: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and  you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end."  Mary could have said: "Oh, no thank you. Joseph and I have plans! Besides, I do not know man." But, no! She asks how this is to come about.  The angel says to her: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." And, again, Mary could have responded:said: "Become pregnant through the Holy Spirit? You got to be kidding! Find someone else, Gabriel. Not me!"  The angel then tells her that her elderly cousin, way beyond childbearing years, has conceived a child and is in her sixth month, "for nothing is impossible  for God." Mary's response: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to  your word." And the angel left her.

Oh, my God. What now? Mary is pregnant out of wedlock and risks being stoned to death!  Solid in her faith, however, Mary says "yes" to letting God control her life. Will you and I let God do with us what He wills or are you and I taking things into your own hands, as did Adam and Eve?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

My Lord and my God!

In today's Gospel, John 20:19-31,  the apostles have locked themselves in a building, fearful of the Jews finding them, imprisoning them and putting them to death as they did Jesus. "...Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'"  Recall the times Jesus said to them: Fear not those who can physically harm the body. Fear those who can harm you spiritually.   In a sense Jesus is reminding them of that fact. "Be at peace! The Jews cannot harm you. Look at me. I am risen from the dead.  The Jews could not harm me and they will harm you neither. Fear not physical death. Follow me! Proclaim my resurrection. You, too, will one day be raised with me." And later when Jesus is about to ascend to His Father and theirs, He tells them that they cannot follow Him at that moment. It's like He said to them: "You cannot come with me now, but you will join Me later. Where I am, you will also be," referring to His eternal Kingdom.

At this meeting, Jesus commissioned them:  "'As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed over them, and said to them 'Receive the Holy Spirit...'"  In the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we, too, received the Holy Spirit.  Though we do to see Jesus with our naked eyes but with eyes of faith, we believe. In today's Gospel, Thomas was not with the apostles when Jesus appeared.  When the apostles told them that they had seen the Lord, Thomas said: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hand and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." A week later, Jesus appears to the apostles again. This time Thomas is with them and Jesus says to him:   "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."  Thomas responds: "My Lord and my God."

Notice that Jesus does not condemn Thomas but is very gentle and affirming. He meets Thomas where he is at! He does the same for us!  If we are at a point of disbelief or unbelief and proclaim: "I will not believe unless.......(fill in the blank)," Jesus will invite us at the right moment to a position where, like Thomas, we say: "My Lord and my God."  Jesus is willing to wait as long as it takes for us to open our hearts to His Love.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Faithfulness, Gratitude, Determination

In today's Gospel, Mark 16:9-15, we learn that the first person to whom Jesus appeared after He rose from the dead was "Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons".  Given the fact that she had "seven demons" cast out of her, we may perceive her as someone to "discard," someone with whom to have nothing to do and certainly not one to a believe that she had seen the risen Christ.  That may have been why the apostles did not believe her but it was also true, at the time of Jesus, that women had no legal backing to be witnesses to anything. In fact in many of the Gospel events/stories, women are never counted.  In our own day, women, also, tend to be dismissed, especially by men in "positions". Look at attitudes toward women being elected to the presidency here in the U.S. or women being ordained priests in the Catholic Church, though Jesus included women in His ministry; in fact, as the first to proclaim the resurrection.

Cultural and ecclesial positions cemented in minds for centuries do not, however, dismiss the fact that all persons--men and women, young and old, gay and straight, children and adults, persons of all races--are called, by their baptism, to proclaim Christ, to stand up for their faith just as all the women did in Jesus' time and as did Peter and John and all the apostles.  The culture in which Mary Magdalene lived did not stop her from seeking Jesus in life and in death. The violence she could have faced did not deter her from being close by when Jesus was condemned to death. She followed Him up the hill to Calvary, stood by the cross with Mary, Jesus' mother, and was the first at the tomb Easter morn, unafraid of the guards or anyone else. Fear did not stop her. She became her best self in spite of her culture and its stance toward women.

What about you and I? How strong is our faith? How strong is our desire to draw close to Jesus and be of service to Him?  What gets in our way of becoming our true selves?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Closeness of Jesus

Today's Gospel, Luke 24: 13-35, presents the story of two disciples leaving Jerusalem following Jesus' crucifixion and going to Emmaus. They are getting away from where so much pain descended upon them in the cruel death of the one they were hoping would "redeem Israel".  Weighed down with sorrow, they are discussing all that happened. "And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him."  "What are you discussing," he asks them.  Startled at the question, one of the disciples asks him: "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?" Jesus remains incognito: "What sort of things," He asks. Jesus  listens to them tell the whole story--the crucifixion,  the finding of the tomb empty, the vision of the angels and the reports of the resurrection.  When they conclude their view of what happened and how upset they are, Jesus says: "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke."  Jesus then opens the Scriptures to them, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets,...[interpreting] to them what referred to him..."  Jesus shares a meal with them in Emmaus. When be "took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them,...their eyes were opened and they recognized him , our he vanished from their sight."  The two disciples immediately return to Jerusalem and report that "the Lord has truly been raised" from the dead!

At the Mass, that is at every Eucharistic celebration, Jesus takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to us in Holy Communion!  Are our eyes and hearts opened?

And do we realize that, just as with the two disciples trying to figure out what happened  in Jerusalem, Jesus walks by our side, listens to our debates and our pain and is able to open our eyes to the Scriptures that reveal the spiritual realities that are taking place in the "Jerusalems" of our lives, as well?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Called to be Proclaimers of the Faith

 In today's Gospel, John 20, 11-18, Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb and "saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been."  They ask her: "'Woman, why are you weeping?...'They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him.'"  She turns around and sees Jesus but does not recognize Him. He also asks her why she is weeping and for whom is she looking. Thinking Jesus is the gardener, she says to Him: "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him." Jesus calls her by name: "Mary!" Mary then recognizes Him as her Teacher.  "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"  Mary obeys Jesus and goes off to let the apostles know that Jesus is risen! 

Mary, at the moment, is made an Apostle to the Apostles!  She is the first to proclaim the resurrection the Lord!

I suggest that we ask ourselves several questions:  1) For whom do I weep? Is it that I cannot find Jesus? Or am I weeping for other things that are God-substitutes? 2) For whom am I looking? Am I looking for Jesus? Do I take the time each day to look for Him or am I too busy, too preoccupied with other things that attract my attention more than the Lord? 3) Do I hear Jesus when He calls my name?4) Do I realize that the person I am looking at is actually Jesus disguised in the "gardeners" whom I encounter each day? 5) When I do encounter Jesus, do I share that with others, or do I bury my faith--the "coin", the "talent"-- until my Master returns for me? 6) Do I include women as proclaimers of the faith, as Jesus did, or do I shut women out of such a mission?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Alleluia! The Lord Has Risen from the Dead

In today's Gospel, Matthew 28: 8-15, we are told that "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful but overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to the disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them. 'Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me'".

As you and I leave the "tombs" of our lives, overjoyed at being set free, so to speak, coming out of a dark period of our lives, surviving an encounter with death, perhaps, being healed of a threatening illness, mental or physical,  and a bit scared of what lies ahead for us,  Jesus meets on on the way to share the good news of being restored to life!  He greets us lovingly, kindly and sensitively. He acknowledges the trauma we have just survived and is aware of our feelings. Compassionately and lovingly, He addresses our emotional state, asking us to "not be afraid," as He is with us, takes us by the right hand and goes with us into our future.  He also encourages us to share our good news with others. God's work in our life is not something to keep secret but to be proclaimed to those we trust.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Alleluia! the Lord is Risen!

Alleluia!  Jesus has risen just as He said He would!

Let's reflect upon that first Easter morn. On Friday, the women watched the Son of God, Jesus, their Master, die a torturous death on the cross. They were probably present in the crowd when Pilate had Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns; when Pilate asked the crowd whom he should release to them: Barabbas, a hardened criminal, or  an innocent man Jesus, King of Jews? The crowd shouted: "Barabbas!" "Crucify Jesus".  These same women probably met Jesus on the way to Calvary and stood beneath or near the cross with Mary, Jesus' mother.

It is now Sunday morning, the third day after Jesus' crucifixion  The women rush to the tomb to anoint Jesus body. On the way, they wonder who will roll back the huge stone in front of the grave.  To their amazement, they find the stone rolled back, the tomb empty, and the clothes in which Jesus' body was wrapped in burial neatly folded. Their fear: someone stole the body! Suddenly an angel appears and says to them:"Why are you looking for Jesus here? He told you that, on the third day, he would rise again. Go tell Peter that Jesus is risen and will meet him and the other apostles in Galilee!"

Peter tells us in today's first reading, Acts 10: 34a, 37-43, "We are witnesses of all that he[Jesus] did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man (Jesus) God raised on the third day and granted that he be us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead."

Imagine losing someone you love--a beloved spouse, a dear parent, a cherished sibling, an incredible son, a darling daughter--in a horrible crime, a crime you witnessed. And imagine three days later that someone who witnessed the death with you, comes to you and says: Your parent or sibling or your son or your daughter, or your spouse is alive and will meet you at such and such an address!  How would you feel? And how fast would you run to the designated place!

In the case of Easter morning, it is the Incarnate Son of God, God made man, Jesus crucified cruelly on the cross on Friday who rose from the dead and is alive on Sunday. "Go meet Him in Galilee,  the angel says, "just where He said He would meet you!" Crushing sorrow immediately changed into ecstatic joy!

Our Lord and God, Jesus, our Savior, is alive and dwells among us! The night before Jesus went to his death, Jesus left us the Eucharist, saying to those at the Last Supper and to us: "Take and eat! This is my body given up for you." "Take and drink! This is my blood poured out for you!" At every Catholic Mass, we have the privilege of receiving the body and the blood of Jesus, our sins washed clean by Jesus' blood and our spirits strengthen and nourished by His body!