Friday, April 30, 2010

In the readings for today's liturgy notice the contrast between the two main figures.  In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see the sure conviction and commitment of a firebrand in Paul .  The words of St. John depict the slow and deliberate mind of Thomas.  Both men, as we know, were dedicated apostles.  These two readings clearly portray personalities that followed Jesus' mission.

Thomas was a part of the Twelve who had followed the preacher-teacher Jesus in the days of his public ministry.  He had the personal contact with Jesus which Paul did not have until the risen Jesus appear to him on the Damascus Road.  We should notice the fierce commitment of the convert as we listen to Paul preaching the error of the Jewish people.  Paul was a man who wasted no time in acting upon his conversion.  Thomas was clearly no Paul.  He had the mind and heart of a philosopher.  He weighed everything put before him.  He needed the  proof of a good syllogism.  Everything had to be in order for him to make the leap of faith.

Hopefully, as you read the words above, you began to think about yourself.  "Am I a Paul or a Thomas?"  Actually most find that we have in us a little of Paul and a little of Thomas unless we are very much like either one of this apostles.

Our culture and our societal ways today require us to have a goodly sum of each of these apostles as we strive to make our leap of faith every day of our lives.  The many challenges that pop up before us each day demand genuine faith in Jesus Christ.  What we need as our arsenal of replies to the demands are found in the words of Jesus Thomas heard, the same words of Jesus that were passed on to Paul.

 “I am the way and the truth and the life. 
No one comes to the Father except through me.

Again, as throughout the Easter season, we hear the words of the Risen Christ used to assure his followers through the ages that he is the one who can bring us to the God who created us.  He is the redeemer who promises us that he will support us in the challenges to our faith.  He gives encouragement to the Paul within our hearts as well as assurance to the Thomas in our souls.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our Heritage: King David

Let’s turn to what may be an exciting part of the Acts of the Apostles, composed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit by St. Luke.  Surely the most well-known convert in the Catholic Church, St. Paul, has a few words that might help us strengthen our understanding of our early history.  What is interesting is how Luke remembers Paul’s speaking in a temple about the history of Jesus Christ, his pedigree, we might say.

Recall how we Americans have a penchant for knowing what people formed the minds and hearts of prominent people.  Our presidential campaigns often take up some time understanding which historical figures played a part in the reading history of a candidate.  Recently there was much focus on Abraham Lincoln as a figure that impacted the thinking and sentiments of the current POTUS (President of the United States.)  In the Church, many times historians carefully examine Papal encyclicals to learn which other Popes, saints, philosophers and theologians are cited or quoted within the document.

Daily we focus a short time on a psalm that serves as a response to the first reading of the liturgy.  As we know, King David is responsible for that book of the Old Testament.  So, Paul’s words about David are important in understanding Paul’s thinking and ultimately his conversion.  The following words from Paul’s temple reflection speak of God’s testimony about David.
"I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;

he will carry out my every wish."
From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise,

has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.

While this posting is more historical, its purpose is for you, the reader, to go to Google or other histories to learn more about King David.  As Americans, we learn much about Honest Abe as well as George Washington and other prominent figures in American History.  As Catholics, as Christians, we should know much more about the prominent figures in our religious history.  So, if you have a few minutes, let your reflection today lead you to a read about King David.

Photo:  Ian Britton, FreeFoto. com

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Caught in Darkness

Jesus performed a number of miracles as signs for the people to believe in him and the Father because they came to believe, to see, to understand what was hidden from them.  The miracles have been called the luminous signs -- you might say they are expressions of the song of a few years back -- "You Light Up My Life."  Indeed, miracles, curing, raising the dead and other instances are for each of us moments when can bring ourselves into moments of serious discernment about ourselves and where we are on the journey of faith.

These miracles help us discern when our lives are caught in darkness.  Caught in darkness?  It happens  in almost everyone's life that our emotions set traps for us.  It is not terribly difficult for attachments to things and, especially, people attachments become like the heavy weight around the neck that brings us to our knees.  Even when we suspect that changes have to be made in our lives, there is so often the temptation to wear blinders, to have a ready excuse for whatever the attachment might be:  the latest computer gadget, the latest and best sneakers, and even, sadly, the attachment to another person -- all unhealthy attachments that are not recognized because of blindness.  One of the great failures of individuals is to be blind to the emotions to have, to possess, to manipulate because the items or people are perceived as mine.
All of us need to pray for the light that Jesus brought into the world, into our lives.  We have to examine our consciences to make sure we have not blinded our eyes from the light he shines on our weakening attachments.  We have to take the time on occasion to examine our consciences to make sure we have not put on the blinders to our weaknesses -- and almost all of us have them.  Jesus is the light that can lead us through the path of darkness and disappointment into his shine light.

By opening our hearts in quiet prayer with the Lord allows Jesus the Light to shine his brightness for us to see our weaknesses.

The Comforting Hand of Belief

Again St. John touches upon human weakness and the challenge of faith.  Even the works, the miracles, the teachings, the care shown by Jesus in his public life do not turn hearts to him and his Father.  Again, in John's account of Jesus' activities, we hear him say that those who follow him and believe are true "hearers of the Word."  They are his flock and the Father's flock.

What a powerful sentence in today's gospel reading:  "No one can take them out of my hand....  and no one can take them out of my Father's hand."  Belief in him has the reward of always being protected within his hand.

Imagine yourself holding a small bird, a baby squirrel or another animal that is frightened.  You teach the animal to trust you be ever so gently stroking the animal.  You probably utter a few comforting words.  You will know the moment when the animal crosses that line from fear and unknowing into the world of trust and care.  How do you feel at that time?  Perhaps you might think:  "By what I have done, I have forged a new bond of unity with the animal."  For me, when I accomplished this transformation with a canary I treasured, there was a genuine sense of satisfaction.  I tried to imagine how that bird's emotions must have taken over and allowed him to believe trust and believe I would not hurt him.
Are we not invited to a similar journey from disbelief to genuine belief that Jesus is God and what he teaches is gentle stoking to assure me that if I trust, if I believe, he will always be there for me.  He and his Father will always hold me in the protection of their hands.  What a promise!

And, if I do believe, how does my accepting and living with the sometimes mysterious words and actions of Jesus impact my daily life?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Jesus Gate For Monday 4 26 10

 Photo:  Ian Britton,

In Sunday's gospel there was a hint about what Jesus would teach to clarify some of the challenges odf his earlier teachings, especially the complexity of the Eucharist.

In the figure of speech used by Jesus in today's gospel to describe the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep, the disciples "did not realize what he was trying to tell them."  He tries even a second time with "I am the gate for the sheep."  

We, too, may miss the point because we may not have  exprienced the work of a shepherd who takes his charges out of an enclosure, a sheep pen, to a grazing site.  Imagine a gate:  it keep within but when opened it affords the opportunity to graze in a pasture.

 Photo:  Ian Britton

So with Jesus expressing himself as "I am the gate ..." he opens up a different world, a different experience.  He words can be understood toady as "I am hope for you."  "I am the experience that will lead you to true freedom."  Through the teaching of Jesus we  can come in and out of our encounter with God each day as well as with our neighbors.  Even in difficult circumstances, if we have truly come to know Jesus, if we have nurtured a personal relationship with him, we will hear his voice.  Even in frustration and loss, we will recognize him seeking to lead us.  Jesus came to us once as a man at a specific time in world history.  But that same gate is there for us almost two centuries later.

We might ask ourselves "Do I recognize his voice in others or in other events?"  If I do not, the next question to be faced and answered is "Why not?"

Fourth Sunday: Leadership of the Good Shepherd

The readings offered for our prayer today are about leadership.  Throughout the texts we derive two underlying  questions:  “Who is the leader I need to follow?” and, secondly, “What is the content of his voice as he speaks?”

For anyone seeking to follow any leader there are two processes that are required:  listening and consequent action.

Now everyone living in any city of the USA knows, or at least should know, that we are a listening nation.  Imagine the increase in the sales of earphones in the last twenty-five years.  Imagine the numbers of TV sets and radios that have become a “requirement” in every home or apartment.  Because of “the message” we feel we have to have a TV screen in every room and often times a bedside radio?  Imagine those number just in Washington, DC alone.  Why?  Well, we “know” we need them as well as the many “second” home or apartment.  We know we needed a “get-away” place.

So, you might ask, “What was “the message” that conquered most of the world and carried so many individuals and families into genuine poverty?”  It was and always will be this:  greed is good for all of us. 

Today we hear the voices that warn us that socialism is just around the corner.  We are given the warning that it will bring about terrible consequences for all of us.  Let me make this suggestion:  the socialism threat from so many voices that we either seek to hear or are forced to hear is nothing else but the voice of another “message” -- the gasping breaths of competitive capitalism.

We have, hopefully, come to see greed as the cause of the lack of trust in “Wall Street” as well as in “Capitol Hill.”  The nature of competitive capitalism is greed, is a dog-eat-dog, is always concern for myself.  The possibility for a collaborative capitalism that can result in taking care of ourselves, our neighbors and our world is pushed under, is ignored and is rejected by the intensity of a society that is wound so tightly by greed, the need to have more, the need to be in a better position that the next person. 

But there is another voice --- one that does not go away; one that is always patiently trying to get within our hearts and minds.  Many have tried to suppress this voice primarily through the presentation of greed under many different but glamorous guises.

And what or who is that voice?  It is the voice of one man.  It is the heart of one man who cares for every human being because his Father charged him with the task not to lose anyone he had created.  Yes, it is Jesus Christ, truly the Good Shepherd, truly our Lord and Savior.

The amplitude of those other voices we hear throughout the course of the day make it difficult for contemporary men, women and even young people to hear the voice of this leader.

How many in the United States alone have attempted to hear what the message of the Good Shepherd is?

What the message we should hear during the Easter season is this:  Follow me.  Give my leadership a try.  Open your heart and soul to the message I have brought to you.  I know it will work.  I know you will be happier than you have ever been before.  But you have to ask for it.  You have to make every effort to remove greed from your life.

And how do you make that effort happen?  Our leader has the answer:  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have life to the fullest.”  Think also about this:  Since the year 33 AD Christianity has resulted in countless followers who have and who continue to give Jesus Christ and his message a chance.  Will you?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Conclusion of St. John's 6th Chapter for Saturday

The reading today, the ending of St. John's 6th chapter, easily follows Friday's posting.  The disciples, like the Jewish people who quarreled over Jesus' words "When you eat my Flesh and drink my Blood", said to Jesus "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"  And Jesus replied, "Does this shock you?"

This dialog and  the remainder of the verses make it clear that to say "I believe" is not an easy reality.  It is difficult to believe because we are dealing with mystery.  If we could clearly understand an unknown reality that is truly a mystery, it would no longer be that once we could understand it!

Do you think you might have a hard time with these words of Jesus -- in the Eucharist you eat the Body and drink the Blood of Jesus?  Listen to what St. John also wrote:  "As a result of this (his talk on the Eucharist) many of his disciples packed up their belongings and went back to "their former way of life and no longer walked with him."

So it is not an easy profession, this profession of faith that we repeat each time we say the Creed.  It is a struggle for so many even today ... and perhaps even more so today because we have so many technological ways of living in the world that make mysteries no longer mysteries!

Like Peter who told Jesus that if they did not have him, to whom were they to go.  Furthermore, he said to Jesus, "We have come to believe."  It is a process.  It is your journey of faith.

Easter Candle at St. Jane de Chantal Parish, Bethesda, MD

MANY thanks!

Finally after many hours of trying to resolve the issues that have plagued my faithful computer for the last three weeks, a genuine "expert" spent almost two hours with his fingers dancing on the keyboard until he resolved the issues.  Just join me in offering a prayer of thanksgiving for Michael.  What a wonderful and dedicated friend.  Now there is no excuse for not getting  postings to you to assist you and your time with the Lord.

A Test of My Faith

In today's gospel, we are privy to a scene that is so historic yet so contemporary.  Imagine a group of Roman Catholics gathered together, not discussing the current difficulties weighing upon all of us but intent on discussing the major message of St. John's gospel  that we have been confronting in the post-Easter readings.

These are several questions that might spark serious discussion and perhaps "quarreling" similar to the experience of the Jewish people related by St. John.  Jesus said "For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink." A few words later he also said, "... so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me."  A few words beyond these he said "... whoever eats this bread will live forever."

As a Roman Catholic, do I take the time to consider the impact of this mystery upon my life of faith?  Or, perhaps, do I say to myself "this is mystery, why think about it?  I cannot solve it."

What does this statement mean to me?  "If I truly believed that the consecrated bread and wine are the flesh and blood of Jesus and that through this mystery of his divine presence through this medium of food, would I not try as often as possible to receive this Holy Communion?"

Is the Eucharistic liturgy not a test for contemporary Catholics of their faith?  Is the receiving of Holy Communion hindered because of some sin in one's life and the personal knowledge that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is needed before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ?

So, the topic for my prayer today is simple:  what do Jesus' words above mean to me?  Do I truly believe what Jesus has given to his followers, this bread the will give life forever?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Strong Is My Faith?

A question came to mind after reading today's gospel: how does Jesus impact the world through what I do because I have received Holy Communion? Call to mind our sisters and brothers we call "born again Christians" or the Fundamentalist Christian communities for a moment. Many in these groups are seriously committed to evangelization, to knowing their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Now call to mind our own Catholic communities: do we spend more time pushing the monetary basket than preaching about Jesus Christ and the saving redemption his brought to each of us through his suffering and death? If we are honest, don't we sense that the groups mentioned above speak more openly about their faith in Jesus Christ?

Another question: Is the current moral challenge to the Church not an avenue to help the Church through concerns for the victims of abuse -- any victim or any kind of abuse -- that will be the window (like the famous "window letting in fresh air" of the Second Vatican Council) that has been opened to bring in a newer, fresher air for the Church? The suffering anyone endures is a part of the process of healing, of reforming the soul.

Vatican II? May we see it now as a time of preparation to lead us through a reforming our Church where there is a genuine need? Are we not seeing a structure which may have afforded sin a hiding place behind secrecy that prevented openness?

So, when I receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, do I sense any difference in my life? A calling to be different? Or, do I take the Eucharist for granted, just part of the Mass routine?

Today there are some Catholics who speak disparagingly about the "styles" of other religious professions. Is there jealousy that urges such words or is the seed of hatred still in the soul?

And Jesus said over and again, "Whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Am the Bread of Life

In today's gospel, verse 36, we are challenged by the words of Jesus: "... although you have seen me, you do not believe." So, what significance is there for me when we also read "I am the bread of life"?

Throughout our lives that are personal crosses that we are carrying. Then, it seems, we have the time to turn to Jesus as the nourishment that we need to overcome these problems.

But on the day to day basis, when I fail to turn to him, am I not making it more difficult for him to do the will of the Father, "not to lose anything of what he gave me"?

If this is true, do we not need more personal prayer with Jesus to strengthen the relationship with him? Are there not the times when we feel like that relationship is so empty,so distant, so meaningful?

At times like these the voice of the Holy Spirit may be trying to break through a hardness of heart: "you are just going through the motions; you are not opening your heart because you do not spend time in prayer, your own personal prayer, your conversation with Jesus, your brother.

Throughout our lives so many of us work ungodly hours in building our success as an individual, a parent, an employee, an employer. In all those years, how much time was there for developing a personal relationship with God?

Take a look backwards, over the many opportunities God has presented to you to move forward. Perhaps this question might apply: "If I had given one fourth the time to building my relationship with Jesus, those empty moments, those lonely hours, those frustrations might never have become so strong." Just maybe and if!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Am The Bread of Life: Tuesday, April 20

Today's scripture for the Eucharistic Liturgy is another gospel that deals with the understanding about Jesus' feeding the crowds.  Of course there are those who question Jesusu' pre-eminent position.  Some in the crowd remind Jesus that Moses was the cause of food during their famine days in the desert.  In a quick reply, Jesus admonishes them:  it was not Moses who produced the desert manna:  the Father did that for them.  Furthermore his bread was not a simple recipe for bread.  The bread from the Father was food from heaven.  Not only that but God's bread was not just nourishment for serveral hours.  His bread give life to the world.

Reflecting their concern for themselves, the crowd immediately want some of this brread for themselves!  Might we think about this concern for themselves ... somewhat in excess???  Then Jesus gives them the short clause that proclaims that he, Jesus, is the source of all nourishing life for them and for us.  He is the bread of life.

What a challenge to the Jewish followers in the crowd!  For those who are hungry, those who need genuine nourishment, nourishment would come to them as the Son of God!

And you?  Where are you in this scenario?  When we need nourishment, esepcially spiritual support, do we go to the bowl of chocolate coated vanilla ice cream or to the nearest mall or do we go the Eucharist where the menu is very simple:  Jesus Christ is the true source of nourishment for us in any need.

What is it that we truly want from God?

If you read all of the events and attitudes that surround the various moments in Jesus' life and teaching, it seems that he fully recognizes that some of those following him simply want to have more.  And, truth be told, isn't this want religion is to many people today?  Isn't that was is said when an individual protests remaining "in the faith" because "God never answers my prayers"?  Surely the spiritual wisdom of many decades encourages each of us to see beyond a "quid pro quo" understanding of what faith is, of what religion is supposed to do for us.

"Quid pro quo" - something for something - in the religious context means that I "believe" so that or only because I can get something back from God.  Perhaps we might liken it to the young adult who is not happy with a parent unless he or she continues to pour out goods that the young adult wants in life.

Jesus, throughout his public ministry fed many people in different way.  Yes, at times he did give fish and bread to nourish a starving body.  At the end of his ministry he gave the apostles (and all of us) his own body and blood to nourish us spiritually.

"To nourish us spiritually":  what does this mean to you?  Do you understand this gift of Jesus as more than "quid pro quo"?  Jesus was well aware that life for the apostles and the lives of all his followers would need strengthening as times and practices changed.  He knew, of course, what life would be like for you and me in the 21st century.  

The various "feeding" moments in Jesus' life are reminders to each of us that Jesus knows our faith will be tested, that our trust in him and the Father who sent him to teach us about what the Father wants from those he has created, would need superhuman strength.

Each time you receive the Eucharist, that Holy Communion, that being one in a sacred union with God, you are being given the power to know God, the Creator, and his plan for you, his intention for bringing you into his world.

And the final questions are so very simple: "Do you really believe this?"  Do you have the strength to see your faith as more than "quid pro quo"?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

3rd Sunday of Easter: 2010: Demands of Trust

We know that there was an unusual relationship between Jesus and Peter.  We know that there were times when Peter seemed to be unable to maintain the various expectations that Jesus had built up for Peter and the other disciples.  Because of circumstances and personal weaknesses, Peter, at times, seemed to falter in his fidelity to Jesus.  Yet, as we learn from the pen of St. John, especially in the gospel reading of this 3rd Sunday of Easter, Jesus was understanding.  He was forgiving.

Listening to a radio interview Saturday evening as I drove to my “temporary” residence, I listened to a very clear presentation of the consequences of the current financial circumstances in family life.  I think the theme of the conversation is worthy of some reflection by all of us.

Last Sunday I spoke of the consequences in saying “I believe.”  Today I would like to reflect upon the consequences of circumstances in an individual’s life that impact the life of his or her family.  Perhaps that are not too many who have taken the time to see beyond or beneath the personal, psychological damage that has been, is and will be impacting the structure of the family.  Across this land of our’s, millions are the families where the loss of a job or dramatic personal financial savings have great damaged the relationships within a family.  While adults may fully understand there was no intent in by either or both spouses losing their jobs, younger members of the family may well be undergoing a process where the integrity of either or both parents is undermined.  Where very large houses with the latest in all the electronics that seem to make up the 21st century have been lost.  Changes in educational venues have become necessary because both parents and many academic institutions have seem savings and investments melt in the heat of the financial crisis.

Well do I remember my father’s mistrust of the American banking system because he had to endure along with his sibling sister and 18 cousins almost dire poverty during and after the Great American Depression.    Likewise in recent months I have heard the stories of so many wonderful parents who have lost everything.  All that their children had learned about the great American dream whether the children had named their experience that or, perhaps more simply, just living the good life, today their is disbelief with Dad or Mom say “No.  We cannot afford that  now.” Or something like this:  “No, we cannot go to the ocean for two weeks this year because Daddy’s business closed down and he only has a job three days a week.”

Mom and Dad can easily say to one another or to their children, “Oh, I am so sorry we cannot give you what your are asking for.”  Yet, how many will truly understand all that the parent is saying? 

Today parents and young people have to work together to strengthen the parent or parents who have lost job or who have seen their savings and investment accounts dwindle to nothing but debt are now faced with a serious psychological and spiritual problem.  It is the American way when something is taken away from an individual to find a scapegoat to carry the blame for the seeming failure.

The gospel points to several of Peter’s foibles that could have cost him the trust and support of Jesus.  In our world the expressions of sorry, each asking for some degree of forgiveness, do not always succeed.  Peter went fishing because he was finding it difficult to live with himself, because of his failures.  Nevertheless, throughout his apostolic life, Peter was brought face-to-face with the need to seek with great hope the forgiving love of Jesus.

For us today, when we stop and consider how deeply the changes that came about so rapidly in our country and the way so many lived their lives, we might recall this part of John’s gospel.  Our current dilemma that has hurt so many families can be a time when we, like Jesus, do all that we can to express support and trust where  all that was no longer exists.  Jesus provides us with a suggested way of living that is quite appropriate for our society today.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How Much Do You Need from God?

Today's gospel is truly one of the significant accounts of an event in Jesus' life.  All four of the gospel writers have included this event in their story about Jesus.  The story is about the multiplicaion of the loaves and fish.  If you have a "Throckmorton," you can easily look at te four gospel writers and each one's rendition of this event in the life of the Son of God.

What is important is that in this story of John's, Jesus is always in charge.  He is clear that he wanted them and us to know that he will always offer us the bread and wine consecrated in the Eucharist.  And what is important for us to remember is that he will give us "as much as we should want.'  And why?  Is it not because he wants us to be as strong as we possible can?

So, still learning from the Son of God that he will always be with us, we have to realize how strongly he wants us to share with him the life of those who have died and followed him.  He wants to give you whatever you need to make his plan a reality.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blooming Genius or Blooming Idiot!!!!!

In today's gospel St John reminds us that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to each person created by God.  Sometimes we might think that some of us are more gifted than others because he or she scored higher on a national test or ranked higher in a graduation class or landed a job with a higher salary, etc. etc..  It is very easy to look around a select a way of seeing "unfair" distribution Holy Spirit wealth.  Just think:  how many times have you felt someone was better off that you are?  It is hard to believe that there is anyone who never had such thoughts.

The reality behind the differences, it seems, might well be that those who seem to be "better off" are nothing more than people who have come to understand what talents were available to them as they grew.  Some may indeed have had a better skill in under standing the structure of H2O and other chemicals.  Did you ever fully grasp the formulation for determining the speed with which a bullet, fired straight out from a gun you might be holding, would go before it landed on the ground?  Yes, there are some who can do this.  But then, you know they had their moments with difficulties.  Someone once said to me "It must be great to have so many talents and skills."  Well, he walked away confused when I replied, "Yes, it sure is.  But, but you have not asked my how "great it is" handling the other things in my life that are not such successes!

Like the flowers above, we are all  of us given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Some of us can burst open and be a shining star for just a short time.  Others might bloom for a longer time.  Others, seemingly, might not bloom at all -- but what beautiful house plants they might be!

It is "so" important, not just important that each of us come to know what it is that God expects of us so that we can plug into the talents, the powers, the wonders of our own personal creation.  Know who you are.  Know what you are missioned to accomplish.  Do that and you will realize how wonderful God is and that he loves you more than you can imagine.

There was inconsistency during the last few days of postings.  Why?  Because I was a house plant not a bloom flower when it comes to discovering computer difficulties.  The person, Fred, who helped me by taking over my computer on line today, told me "Did you ever think that you had 383 infections on you hard drive?"  The reply:  "Of course not but that is why I finally took the humble pill and turned to someone who is so much better at fixing computers than someone who helps fix other kinds of difficulties!  

Does this  resonate with you and your life?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Returning with "Boldness"

In the first reading from today's liturgy, Acts of the Apostles 4:23-31 St Luke speaks about what can be on of the consequences of our saying "I believe."  In yesterday's reflection the readings brought us to the reality of belief and the challenge to belief.  Thomas, the doubting apostle, was and continues to be the example for us of someone who finds believing difficult unless there is a very identifiable proof.

The reflection brought forward the reality of consequences to saying "I believe."  Each of us in many instances each day live in a world of challenge to believing.  We do believe that the sun will rise in the east each morning.  A spouse believes in the goodness and fidelity of his or her spouse.  A child believes that Mom and Dad will be providing food, clothing and other instances of care during the day.  We are called to believe that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to gain for us pardon for our sins.  All of these examples of our believing bring with them consequences ... actions that we are required to follow for that belief to be real.  As I say the words of consecration during the Mass, I believe that through the power and gift of my ordination as a priest, I make possible to presence of Jesus Christ in the bread and wine brought to the altar.  I believe that the bread that I lift up for the people is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  Do I "know" that?  Hardly.  I believe it.  If I could explain it, I would not be in the experience of believing.

In the first reading Luke we read the petition of Peter and John:  " ... enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness."  Then, after being "filled with the Holy Spirit," these apostles continued "to speak the word of God with boldness."

Many Catholics seem to step back from this consequence of saying "I believe."  Consider the "hot buttons" that impact the lives of believers today:  for example, abortion, birth control, same sex marriage, euthanasia ... all moral issues that impact our daily lives.  Because I commit myself to a profession of belief, the Commandments and the laws of the Church become a consequence of my belief.

St Luke records the apostles awareness of the consequences of their belief expressed in their petition for boldness.  Speaking strongly about what we believe requires boldness.  Lukewarm responses just don't cut the cake.  This first reading and the petition for the grace to speak out what we believe when needed is a reminder today to each of us that we are called to be strong disciples of Jesus Christ.  Where?  When?  In our families, in our  places of work, in our communities we need to be defenders of what we believe especially when what we believe is challenged.  Yes, being a faithful follower of Jesus does have its consequences which truly challenge us in our society today.  We, like Peter and John do need the grace to be bold when necessary.

Photo: by Ian Britton

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Second Sunday of Easter: Divine Mercy Sunday

Computer service due to be checked and, hopefully, restored tomorrow afternoon.  Again, using my sister's computer service at her home.

One week ago today, Saturday, during the vigil services, many men and women formally became members of the Roman Catholic Church.  For most of these noble souls, one of the key aspects of the formation program is "belief."  The decision to become a Roman Catholic required, I am sure, much consideration about personal commitment to a new belief system.

Today's gospel focuses on the issue of belief:  (1) the reaction of the apostles in an upper room on the evening of Resurrection Day and (2) the disbelief of the apostle Thomas who was not with the apostles when Jesus first appeared to them.

To say "I believe" in the Resurrection, as a new Catholic or one who has been a Catholic for many years, brings with it serious consequences.  For each of us to recite in the Creed "I believe in the Resurrection" also has consequences.  Anytime that anyone of us "buys into something or someone" there are consequences.  Perhaps you can liken it to hiring someone to serve you as an accountant or lawyer.  You put genuine faith in that person to care for you business properly.  You know that you will be asked to follow certain practices etc..  The same applies to our saying "I believe in Jesus Christ and his Resurrection." 

What is it to "believe in someone" without adhering to that person's expectations?  So, for us Catholics what are the consequences?  Well, first of all it means living the Commandments and the laws of the Church.  It means that we address our "illnesses," our sins.  It means the we seek to eradicate their presence in our lives.  That is one of the consequences of our creed.  There are many others.

On Divine Mercy Sunday we confront one of those consequences.  We believe that Jesus Christ suffered and died for my sins ... what each of us should say with genuine conviction.

Let this day be a time when we look seriously at the reality of our personal convictions!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter Wednesday: Late Entry

Sorry to be late.  The computer cables were damaged yesterday and are not repaired yet.  This comes from a borrowed computer.In today's gospel reading we encounter a story told and heard many times.  We all know the road to Emmaus event we find in the gospel according to St. Luke.  In the second sentence of this story, there is a phrase that has always raised a question in my mind.

"but but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him."

The question comes to mind:  why did Jesus appear before Mary Magelene and then the two disciples, not men of the group of Apostles?  The Emmaus story is an enfleshment of the discernment process.  Imagine how different the story would have been had Jesus told them had he told them who he as soon as he came to them.   Imagine the biblical studies material they would never have learned from "the master."  It was the slowed down, gradual teaching process that made the final revelation at the Inn of Emmaus dinner table so spectacular for the two disciples.

Many time we are confronted by realities in our lives that are painful, frustrating or disappointing.  In those moments don't we ask "Jesus, what is going on here?  Why aren't my prayers being answered as I expect them to be answered?"  As you read those two questions, don't they seem a little silly?

We don't always receive an immediate response to our prayer requests.  And, don't you think it might be for our own good?  Do you believe that God takes care you and that he knows when it is best to be immediately present to you his answer to your request.

It is a good to ask yourself what this scripture story means for you.

Tomorrow's reflection will be a little late as well ... until I find myself  "live wire."

Monday, April 5, 2010

The New LA Coadjutor To Be Announced Tuesday Morning.

Introducing the soon to be announced Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles.   Archbishop Jose Gomez currently Archbishop of San Antonio is a 58 year old priest.  Tomorrow morning, Cardinal Mahoney will introduce his new very special assistant and successor.

And Jesus' Thoughts About Women?

And what did Jesus think about women?  And what was he determined to teach the people of his time and the centuries that followed?  Women in Jesus' life were not treated with the same debasing attitudes that prevailed in the community.  They played major roles in Jesus ' life and afterward.  "But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

Clearly the Risen Christ was not opting to have Peter or any of the Twelve serve as the proclaimer of the good news.  He chose Mary Magdalene!  For Jesus his faithful women friends were not overlooked or looked down upon.  Jesus guarantees women a place of honor by asking Mary to inform the others.

How are women treated today?  How do we demonstrate a Christ-like admiration for the qualities women add to our lives?  Think of this:  To whom do angels announce the birth of Jesus?  The shepherds.  And who announces the resurrection?  Two women.  What was the plan of God in having shepherds and women announce such powerful moments?


Easter Monday: The Proof is in the Acts

Just one day after Easter Sunday and both Christians and Lent seem to be far out on the western horizon waiting for another sunset.  Today scripture readings for the Eucharistic Liturgy evoked this thought:  "Transparency" is the power word for every situation -- not only our national government but our own Church government are challenged by the people for a need to know.  We all want proof for everything that has or will happen.  Surely it is a good thing so long as the demand for transparency does not overlook those who have been harmed.

Are not the words from the Acts of the Apostles and the gospels "proof" that Jesus did die for us but that he also rose from among the dead.  Let the ACTS be a "book" your read in the next week.  See the history of the Church after Jesus was crucified and appeared to his friends after his resurrection.

You can have the experience of meeting the risen Christ in those very accounts of the Bible.  Challenge hyourself to set 15 minutes each tay to red the second composition by the evangelist, St. Luke.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's A New Dawn, A New Day: Easter Sunday

Already the sun is rising.  Here in the DC area the air is fresh.  Cherry blossom abound through the city.  The downtown area is in traffic gridlock.  The train cars on the city's Metro system are jammed.  All signs of a new Spring and the beauty of God's nature after a very long, long winter that brought bitter cold and snow, and snow, and snow.  Today, Easter Sunday, we are not just reminded of a new Spring.  The sound of of birds proclaiming a new day and a bright sunshine speak of a new life.

If you recall the gospel reading used in the Palm Sunday blessing of the palms, St. Luke recalls Jesus sending two disciples to get a new, never sat upon colt for his arrival into Jerusalem.  Jesus told the disciples, tell the owner that Jesus has need of the animal.  During the season of Lent we have just concluded, we learned that very same request of ourselves.  Jesus has need of us.  Jesus wants us to share fully the gift of his ministry.  Obviously God does not need anything.  But, hopefully, during the hours of prayer, sacrifice and fasting, we may have come to hear Jesus speaking to us.  "I need you.  I want you to have the gift of redemption."

So, with a sense of genuine joy, celebrate this Easter Sunday with an awareness that we are the objects of God's love.  All that we recalled during Holy Week should have captured our hearts once again with a proof of Jesus love for us.
Today we begin, again, a reading of the Acts of the Apostles.  If you can, read this work of St. Luke's mind and heart.  Let it be for you a reminder of what is written in the second reading for today's liturgy:
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.

This is the joy we proclaim today.  We are like young chicks pecking our way out of a shell.  We are breaking out of the past into a new world, a new experience.  God the Father gives you the graces that are nothing less than pure love.  Rejoice!  Yes, rejoice.  Live in the mindset that God needs you!  He has given you new life.

And words from a man who is carrying Christ's cross in his life and the life of our Church today, Pope Benedict XVI.  From his address as Bishop of Rome to the "world and city (of Rome):
Dear brothers and sisters, Easter does not work magic. Just as the Israelites found the desert awaiting them on the far side of the Red Sea, so the Church, after the resurrection, always finds history filled with joy and hope, grief and anguish. And yet, this history is changed, it is marked by a new and eternal covenant, it is truly open to the future. For this reason, saved by hope, let us continue our pilgrimage, bearing in our hearts the song that is ancient and yet ever new: "Let us sing to the Lord: glorious his triumph!" (Courtesy of Whispers In The Loggia)

Photo:  Ian Britton,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday Calm: Father, Into Your Hands

Today is a time for what the Italians call "reposo."  It is time to sit quietly (usually resulting in a short nap).  Let's skip the second part for now!  Let us recall two sentences from the victim hanging from the Good Friday cross.  Just quietly allow his words entrance to your heart -- with calm, with peace and with a latent and joyous, a quiet realization of the gift of redemption tha we recalled yesterday.

Nearing the final breaths of his human life, Mary's boy-child grown man must have struggled to say "It is finished."  Do not hear these words as from a loser, a victim.  From the babe of Bethlehem you are hearing the words of victory: mission accomplished!  I have fulfilled my Father's will.  This victor, although physically shattered, utters words that shatter sin, death and Satan himself.  Can you sense the joy that must have ended so much waiting in the hearts of those who had died before this redeeming death?
As in every life there is a final sentence, a final affirmation to one's life and mission, a word to survivors.  "Father," Jesus probably whispered -- a loud voice or shout would probably have been physically impossible.  "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."  Luke would not record these eternal words to be those of anger, frustration or pain.  These are the words every Jewish child would learn from a faithful parent to be the final words from one's lips before falling asleep each evening.  What a way to close out a day:  "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."  Using Jesus' native language that he learned as a child, Luke completes the Jesus life on earth, his moment of dying, like the child that was falling into sleep in his mother's or father's arms.  No bitter end, simply the acknowledgment that the Father's wish was completed in a loving, filial giving of himself to death and the completion of his mission.

Let these thoughts, heard yesterday in a Good Friday presentation of the Seven Last Words by Father Robert Rocusek, the Chaplain at Gonzaga College High School, Washington, DC at St. Ann Parish, offer you a peaceful time of reflection and prayer as we await the final sign of our redemption made real for us in the Resurrection of Jesus from his tomb.  The picture above is the entrance to the tomb created in the Franciscan Monastery, Washington, DC.

In your prayerful reposo take the time to thank God for all of the graces you have received during the Lenten journey.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Good Friday: All About Me

 Good Friday, the day of ultimate sacrifice, divine giving to humankind.  How often do you hear or say the phrase, the Paschal Mystery?  Well, today you are living through two major parts of the mystery -- the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.  This is the two-fold divine gift to each and everyone of us.  It is the Father's gift of his Son who accepted crucifixion as a means to bring redemption.  It is the Son's gift of offering his suffering and death to fulfill the Father's will for him.

It is for these reasons that we call this particular Friday "Good" and this week "Holy."  And yet, when you stop to consider all that took place during this week and on this day of that week, these words seem to be so minimal. 
As mentioned in an earlier posting, the Isaiah reading that we have duirng this week focus on the suffering Jesus.  He is portrayed as the Suffering Servant.  Why?  Because what he endured during this week and on this Good Friday was accepted to respond to the Father's will and to bring justice to all of God's people.  What we recall about this day is great sacrifice and death for each one of us.  It is truly all about each one of us today.  This might be something like a mantra we should keep in our minds today:   it was all about me!  It was all about me!  Each nail, driven into his body:  it was all about me.
As a thorny crown was forced into his head:  it was all about me.  Each inch of torn skin on his back:  it was all about me.  A lance was thrust into his side:  it was all about me.  Perhaps you might read the following words from Isaiah.  Here is the summation of the gift you were given today.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.  Even as many were amazed at him, so marred was his look beyond human semblance and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless; for those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Who would believe what we have heard?  To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.  He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.  We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth;  like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.  Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny?  When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.  But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.
If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.  Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.  Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.   

Can you read these words and not be moved?  Can you ponder these painful descriptions and not ask yourself, "Why did he do this for me?"  Can you answer yourself, "Because it was all about me!

Holy Thursday: Gift of the Eucharist

Today we commemorate the "birth" of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders.  It is a day of thanksgiving.  At the Last Supper, mindful of the needs we, the people of God would have throughout our history, Jesus gives to us the perfect gift of remembrance as well as a gift that assures us of all that he had taught during his public ministry.  It would also be a testimony to the sacrifice that he would give the world in his suffering and death.

Each day on altars throughout the world, this same Jesus is present for all of us.  He is there to remind us that we are a redeemed people.  Each time a priest raises the consecrated host before those attending the liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest is presenting to us our Lord and Savior.  What a blessing this is for us.  And what a source of strength for us:  I am with you always!  Present to us, reserved for us in the tabernacles of our churches and chapels, Jesus Christ is present to remind us not only of the suffering and death he endured for each of us but of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the bread of heaven, the bread of life.

Let us take the time on this holy day to give thanks to God the Father for the gift of his Son; to give thanks to Jesus Christ, Son of God, for giving each of us himself in a unique manner, the Eucharist.
Recall how many times you have gone into a Catholic church or chapel with this one thought:  I can find in this edifice the very real presence of the Son of God.  He is there for me.

And today we commemorate the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  We give thanks to God for those who have given their lives to the priesthood and the permanent deaconate.  We pray for all our priests and deacons who bring to us the Lord Jesus.  Likewise, let us not forget the many men and women who serve in our parishes as Eucharistic Ministers, those who assist our priests in bringing the Eucharist to the sick and home bound as well as to us in our daily and Sunday liturgies, assisting the priests.

On this day Jesus became the Father's outreach to everyone who partakes of the Eucharistic meal or the Eucharistic presence.  Deo gratias!  Thanks be to God.

Reading a reflection this morning by Jay Cormier, this day is also a reminder of the gift of giving oneself to others.  This occurs during the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  The liturgical action of washing the feet should remind us of what we can do to serve others in need, especially the sick and the homeless and the poor.  Perhaps in our times this liturgical action may remind us to lay down our selfishness, our pride and the fear so many have in helping those we do not know or who have diseases block our love for others.