Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fourth Sunday in the Easter Season - 2012

On this fourth Sunday during the joyous days of the Easter Season, of the Resurrection celebration of our salvation, we are invited to let our minds, hearts and souls share in a reality so great that we cannot afford to miss it, to let it go by.  What is it?  Well, St. Luke seems to have understood it.  This is what he is sharing with us in the Acts of the Apostles reading, the first part of today's Liturgy of the Word.  It may well be what many of us fail to understand in its fullness.  Luke attempts to teach us what this "it" is by recounting a challenging moment in the lives of two of the Apostles.

First recall an earlier scene in the lives of Peter and John, a event that brought them to jail.  Today's part of the Acts of the Apostles recounts how Peter and John responded to the charges brought against him in the "Supreme Court," the Sanhedrin.  Because a crippled man, a beggar, asked for help in the form of coinage at the gate to the Temple area, the gate called Beautiful.  What a contrast:  ornate decorations on the gate and suffering in the life of a human being.

When the two Apostles were entering the gate for noontime prayer one day, the crippled man saw them and asked for a handout, a few coins.  Notice what happened.  First, the Apostles did not look down on the poor fellow and say "Scram.  This is a place of worship.  Get on your way."  Rather, mindful of how their own lives had changed and what they had learned and believed, they responded in similar words to these.  "Money we don't have, friend.  But let us offer you something far better.  In the name of Jesus Christ, get up and walk."  What would happen in our society should you give that answer to someone begging from you today?

In the courtroom the Apostle known for putting his foot in his mouth, speaks from a new heart, a new conviction, from a genuine metanoia.  "Get up and walk, man. Through the power of Jesus Christ, I tell you that you are healed.  Get up!"  He did.  So excited was he that he jumped up and started to dance.  So, they tell the judges that it was not themselves who had enabled the man to get up and walk.  No, their healing come through them to the man from Jesus Christ.  "You remember him.  The one from Nazareth.  The one you condemned to death on the cross.  Through Jesus' power we raised the man up.  It was not us.  It was God's power through Jesus Christ that saved the man."  While speaking to the judges, Peter was speaking to all humanity:  "In Jesus Christ, all people can be raised up from whatever it is that impedes reconciliation with God and neighbor.  Yes, in Jesus everyone is given the opportunity for salvation.  It is there for the asking!"

In our computer drive world that is moulding so much of our lives, we must realize that salvation is not a one time event in our lives.  It is more than pushing one key and they on our way.  Salvation is more than taking just a moment for a quick prayer.  Salvation is truly an experience moment in the process of conversion that will impact "the rest of the story" that is your life.    It has to touch every moment, every day of your life.  Salvation is an ongoing awareness of the place of God in one's life.  God is "the priority."  Why?  Because the gift of salvation from our God is much like that father's embrace when his errant son returns.  The loving father wraps his arms around all the disappointments and failures in the son's life as well as all the potential the son now has the opportunity to become.  So, too, for us:  God, our Father, will embrace our minds, hearts, souls, affection, priorities, challenges, disappointments, hopes, loves and even our fickle attitudes.  Salvation is realize our need for rebirth and accepting God's gift and making that gift real in every moment of our lives.

This is the message that Peter is giving the judges in the Sanhedrin:  Jesus, the Christ, is God's gift of salvation to the entire world!  God's salvation brought a crippled man to his feet.  His salvation brought the man to dance!  Imagine now, asking for a few coins that would mean a day's survival had become an ask for what became a most unusual salvation.  

This gift is yours ... if you are willing to accept it.  Are you strong enough to be reborn ... reborn not just once but every day of your life?  We cannot afford to let life pass us by!  Don't ask for what easily ends or is quickly spent.  Ask to be touched by the Holy Spirit, to be healed.  Why not?  Why not today?  Kick up YOUR heels!  Make a true Leap of Faith!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday in the Third Week of Easter - 2012

Several years ago a young grammar school student about ready to graduate asked this question during a school Mass homily:  "Father, I really don't understand this whole thing about us eating Jesus' body and drinking his blood.  Is this a vampire thing?"  I was stunned at first by the "vampire thing."  However, after a moment or two of silence, I thought to myself:  what we are teaching in the Eucharist would naturally be a point of confusion to an 8th grade mind.  Imagine what a 4th or 5th grade would think about this Eucharist business.

Adults approach this knowing of Jesus in a different way:  "I'd like to see Jesus standing before us each Sunday at Mass.  I want to know what he really looks like:  how tall is he?, how slim is he?, is he good looking? and so on.  We receive him in communion, we say.  As St. John Chrysostom wrote:  "... you do see him, you touch him, you eat him!"

We know we are not incorporating the "vampire thing" into our religion with this experience of communion.  Remember what Jesus said:  "Take this and eat of it.  This is my body."  Surely a piece of bread and a cup of wine do not look like the body and blood of a person, they do not look like a person.  Yet, Jesus calls us to believe that in the Eucharist we are fed not by ordinary food such as bread and wine.  We are fed by his body and blood.  We are nourished by the power of his very being when we receive him in the Eucharist.

The question that we might ask ourselves today is this: "Do I realize that Jesus is truly present, body and blood, in me when I have received the Eucharist?"  This we are called to believe.  This unique gift is to a a sharing in the divine mystery that is Jesus' gift to us and the Father's gift to us through his Son.  Sometimes, as a priest, I, too, have to make myself stop and consider what this mystery gift is to me each time that I am touching the consecrated host and handling a chalice contains the consecrated wine.  The Church as always encouraged us to be silent in our hearts not just during the return time to the pew in the church or chapel.  Because we are dealing with mystery, we need to give time to speaking with the Lord Jesus after receiving the Eucharist.  If for no other reason, we should pray to better understand that we have been given the bread and wine of life!  We are at that moment in a unique relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wednesday in the Third Week of Easter - 2

(No Photo)

Today we commemorate a writer of the life of Christ as personally experienced by one of the four evangelist, St. Mark.  Mark composed the briefest of the accounts of Jesus' life.  Surely his writings about Jesus draw our attention to what events touched this man's life.

In short, this evangelist succinctly highlights events or moments that have particular meaning.  Remember Mark, referred to at times as John Mark, recounts Jesus' message about the kingdom of God that had never been so clearly presented.  Mark wants his readers and hearers to recognize that Jesus himself is the gospel of the Lord.

While the evangelists wrote after Jesus' death and resurrection, their point of view, their experiences are somewhat different -- the reason that there are additions or non-inclusions in each of the four versions of their life of Christ.

So, a question:  were you invited by Pope Benedict or a local Bishop or had a Holy Spirit-driven moment, consider how you would compose the life of Christ?  Yes, you!!!  Each of the Evangelists may not have been present for all of the recorded Jesus events.  But hearing and learning and the Holy Spirit brought them to their writings.  What would you do?  There have been many of those moments in your life that would definitely help you write a modern life of Christ.

Tuesday in the Third Week of Easter -2012
There are moments, no doubt, when anyone of us stops to questions how our faith is feeding us.  Perhaps we might not consider faith as a cereal, a salad, a soup or a steak meant to nourish us in our daily encounters with life.  Yet, as John, in today's gospel, writes there is a significant difference between "Moses Manna" fed to the Jewish people in the desert and Jesus, "the bread of life."

John's words about Jesus the food given to people of the New Testament times until this very day and forever afterwards as nourishment for body and soul.  As St. Augustine in one of his letters noted the excellence difference between the bread of angels (desert manna) and the Body and Blood of Christ.

We might consider this:  as each day fades into night and then into the morning light do I look back at the lost 24 hours to find the moments when Jesus did indeed provide my body and soul with spiritual food?  What were those moments?  Can you remember?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Third Sunday of Easter Time - 2012
April 22, 2012

On our Easter journey to Pentecost Sunday we encounter another of those truly special moments the disciples were privileged to experience in the post-Resurrection days.  Jesus comes to them at the seaside. He is tells them who he is.  He asks for something to eat.  Then he opened up the more of the meanings in Sacred Scripture.  What is the principle attitude here is summed up in four words, a phrase the disciples have known since Holy Thursday evening:  Peace be with you!

Yesterday's reflection was about how best to handle those days of life's storms that come upon us.  Today we the gospel reading offers the opportunity once again to strengthen the trust we have in Jesus Christ ... just as it was strengthened in the apostles' hearts alone the waterside.

One of the true challenges that we face that tampers with our inner peace is the ability to live in the present moment.  Yes, the present moment!  Just think how many times we let distractions take over our hearts and souls because the present moment is clouded or confused by the events that seem to fill it all too often with some discomfort.  None of us seeks human suffering, painful moments that eradicate the joy that God wants us to have in the present moment.

Did you ever stop to think that one of the principle reasons that God instilled in each of us the presence of the Holy Spirit was to strengthen our relationship to Jesus Christ.  How often yesterday, for example did you thank Jesus Christ for his prayers that he offered to the Father in each of us?  We must not forget it is the sacrifice of Calvary that brought about so much of the forgiving gift Jesus gives us.  In a quiet time, when there is genuine stillness, listen and feel for the gentle breeze that is ours because of the gift of the same Holy Spirit.

Often we are encouraged to open our hearts and minds to someone else who might be seeking to help us. How often do you petition Jesus for the graces to open yourself to the peace that Jesus brings to those who seek to live in his love and care.

As you celebrate another Sunday in Easter time, take a moment for this question:  Is there something in particular in my life calling out for the peace of Jesus Christ?  Can I recognize that call for what it is?

I need your assistance.  Several people have come to me in the last 72 hours with terrible problems.  Please pray with me for them that they might be more open to the Holy Spirit in their lives to assist them muddle their way through the very difficult problems they are facing at the present time.  Thank you ever so much.  Truly, I do believe, your prayers will greatly assist them.  Two young people have to make a very serious and difficult decision at this time in their lives.  It will not be easy.  Painful it will be.
(Saturday's reflection is below.)
Saturday in the Second Week of Easter - 2012

Today we find ourselves in the disciples' boat on rough waters.  No doubt we have had similar moments in spiritual journeys.  What do we do?  St Francis de Sales offers a suggestion.  The country folk in his home region had this practice.  When pulling up a bucket of water from a well, the practice was to place a piece of wood into the bucket that would float.  That piece of wood kept the water from spilling out or sloshing.  The saint used it as an example of what we can do in our storms of life.  He said the wood represents the cross of Christ.  He taught that in roguh times we need to be sure to have time with Jesus on  his cross.  The crucified Christ is a source of calming and serenity.

A question: when you have "those turbulent moments" do you turn to the Christ on his cross?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday in the Second Week of Easter - 2012


During this Easter Season our journey can be likened, at times, to some of the moments experienced by Jesus' disciples: Specifically in the breaking of bread.

Today is Friday, another week closer to Pentecost.  In the parish where I live by nine o'clock this morning there will be a line at the rectory door, reminiscent of a sculptor's Great Depression line at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC.  The rectory line will be the needy who come to ask for a grocery bag of food stuffs to help them through another week of their neediness.

(mej photo)

Like the scene in today's gospel, at our front door every Friday there is the multiplication  of a can of veggies, a box of cereal, a container of grape jelly, a box of pancake mix and so forth.  This is how the generous people of our parish and our Ladies of Charity group (LOC) multiply what is needed to help those seeking to means to feed themselves and their families.  Surely the food donors and the LOC volunteers have the experience of know this same risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread with others whether it is in a can or a box or a plastic bag.  These generous givers of food know they are like Jesus, providing food for others -- most of whom they know only by the name of "the needy in our parish."

For the LOC  who greet and hand the bags of food stuffs, they personally know that they are serving as "other Christs."  For them it is a moment when they know they are standing with Jesus who fed the hungry.  Surely for them it is the privilege of knowing Jesus more intimately in the "breaking of the bread."  

Perhaps you might ask yourself what it might be that you an do TODAY for those who are hungry, for those who may be homeless, for those who are abandoned.  Jesus didn't hesitate to help those in need.  Our LOC ladies help as well as they can (as long as there is food in "The Pantry").

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday in the Second Week of Easter - 2012

Pentecost Sunday
(Georgetown University)

How real is God's love for me?  At times the events or problems in one's life might lead to misunderstanding how strongly God loves you and me.  Those circumstances that seem to place God afar from one's daily experiences and needs are there for a reason.  Perhaps when we begin to consider these distractions or painful moments and fail to understand their purpose, we might begin to develop a clearer and deeper understanding of God's love for ourselves.  We might begin to see in these dark moments, these times when there seems to be no light from the love of God, that if nothing else God will give us the grace to endure.  In the endurance there will come the insight, the "great awakening" that through and in God's love an answer to the difficulties becomes evident.  "Why didn't I see that before?" might become the new question replacing the old one, "Where is God's love for me?"  Perhaps we will also come to understand that God is always present for me and you.  It is our own inability to perceive what it is that God is asking of us in those difficulties.

Whatever the problem, God will always be a loving Father regardless of our sins or failures.  So often we cannot at the moment fathom what and how God is trying to teach us.  We must always remember the simple affirmation:  "For God nothing is impossible."  We might add "unless we block it."

As saints and spiritual writers have advised us, if we trust in God's love all the impossibilities will melt away like a winter snow and reveal the freshness of a new spring.  Then we will find our journey to Pentecost so much more meaningful and abundant.

What challenges would I ask God to remove from my life today?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter - 2012


Jesus, a la St John, brings us into a personal theological reflection while still in his "seminar" with Nicodemus.  A slow and repeated reading of John' s verses might open up the heart to a better understanding of Jesus' reflection on the relationship of God with the world.
The message is clear:  God so loved them world that He gave the world His Son, Jesus, to provide redemption for humanity.  The gift of salvation has been offered to every human creation of God. However, not every human being seems to have succeeded in achieving the salvation made ready for everyone.
This loss did not come about because God had or has had preferences. Rather the building up of two groups of people, the saved and those not redeemed comes about by choice.  Each of us has the opportunity to maintain a relationship with God.  Unfortunately the use of choice enters history.  Each of us is free to love God and to follow His will as taught by Jesus Christ.  Likewise each of us is free to turn from God ... usually because something attracts our attention and fidelity. 
Even though the "retreat sense"of Lent is finished for another year, we need, at times to examine the choices we that are guiding our lives.  As we strive to know more of the Risen Jesus on our journey to Pentecost, we must always be aware of how easily "demons" can capture our hearts!  How much greaert would be the welcome for the Holy Spirit be on Pentecost if we could celebrate that feast day having discovered any reasons that might be separating us from God as well as the desire to remove them from our lives.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday in the Second Week of the Easter Season

(Art Work

We continue reflecting on the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus.  In the part of the Gospel we read today, it seems Nicodemus accepts Jesus' rebirth proposition.  However, the Pharisee wants to know how this happens.

Jesus speaks of his own relationship with the Father.  What he preaches and teaches is not just his own words. What he says comes from the Father.  To understand these words we must have faith in the Father's Son.  We must see Jesus as the living Word of God.  To do this we must live lives of love for God and one another.

As mentioned yesterday, what Nicodemus seeks and what we desire on our spiritual journey toward Pentecost is openess to what Jesus teaches.  We have to take the time to listen to what Jesus says and to listen to the movements of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  One commentator on John's gospel has noted that openess is accepted and believed fully by some.   Others, however, find disappointment or disagreement with what Jesus speaks and walk away from him.  The same commentator suggests considering the parable of the sower and asks "To which group do I belong?"

We have to remember that Jesus came to us from his place with the Father.  He has been with the Father in heaven.  What he speaks is more than just an idea that comes to his mind.  He is truly a model of sharing:  he shares with us the message of the Father.

So, we must truly place our focus on Jesus not just in crisis moments but, in all honesty, all that we do each day of our lives should spring from the way that we look upon Jesus and what he teaches.  He has come to this earth to be the source of life to those followers who are willing to commit themselves totally to him.

We might ask ourselves a simple question in our reflection as we journey:  How is it that we look at Jesus?  Is it just a passing glance when his name is mentioned or appears on a printed page?  Is it only when there are certain moments in our lives such as Christmas morning, Good Friday, Easter Sunday or regular Sunday Masses?

Should we not have a short prayer we keep in mind that we can recall when a space opens in our thinking or our working where we can redirect our thoughts and our petitions to be directed to how we can turn our actions and thoughts into goodness by letting them arise from the thoughts of Him?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday in the Second Week of Easter

The Photographic Theme 
Now we are on a personal spiritual journey to Pentecost Sunday.
The image above was designed at Georgetown University, Washington, DC.
Artist unknown.

Once again we encounter Nicodemus and his private meeting with Jesus.  Remember this man was a Pharisee.  His meeting with Jesus privately took place at night more likely than not at night because he may not have wished his talk with this young preacher be known.  Perhaps he came to Jesus at night because the Holy Spirit awakened his heart after darkness.
Clearly Nicodemus was an older man.  When he asked Jesus how he could improve his life, he was surprised that Jesus spoke to him about being reborn again.  How could an older person do such a thing?  We know what Jesus taught him.  To be given a new birth, in a spiritual sense, is to achieve a new life in God's kingdom.
What Jesus taught Nicodemus is also a message for us today regardless of our age.  If you are lie me, perhaps you will recognize that the Holy Spirit has or has tried to bring you to yet another rebirth, another awakening to God's will for you at a particular time in your life.  Some might question this: how do I know these moments?
The Nicodemus story may well have occurred at night ... in darkness because his soul was seemingly in darkness and he was seeking the light.  When anyone finds a particular time of "darkness" in life, usually it happens because the soul has come into a moment of separation from the mission that God wants in that person's life.

During the days of our spiritual journey in the Easter Season, let at least one goal be a daily effort to allow ourselves to be "reborn" through the Holy Spirit to the mission that God has entrusted to each of us at this time in life.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Second Sunday of Easter - 2012

t seems different:  Easter Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday.  Different from the Christmas Season and the day after and the day after; indeed the entire week after Easter Sunday is so different than Christmas week, isn’t it?  What about Easter itself.  What happens?  Already the chocolates and other sweetened candies have been retired from front and center places in stores to out of the way reduced sales price areas.  The commercial world cannot allow the Easter season to endure for one week.  Already Mother’s Day is the agenda in card and gift shops.
So what is going on?  Well, it is this:  indeed Easter is different from Christmas and other holidays because after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ Easter shaped and transformed our Church and all of Christianity..  Easter in its own way puts a unique stamp upon our Church, a stamp that will not be changed.  It is a stamp of permanency and awareness of what it means to be an Easter people, what it means to be part of the Church of Jesus Christ. Whether it is in the first century or our 21st century what becomes clear in the readings proposed for our prayer from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday is that our Church was, in its early days, counter cultural.  Even today in many ways our church is counter cultural.  What stands forth with prominence in the readings is the sense of community that is so strongly stressed in what St. Luke wrote.    Concern for community and common good was very strong in that first century.  Personal possessions and personal ranking in the community were not seen as the more important realities of life as did the sense of community and common good.  And in these there is an an underlying power, the power of love for one another.
St. Luke’s mentioning these words that they had all things in common is clearly a good presentation of what life was like in the early Church in Jerusalem.  Indeed it was a radical view of how members of the Church there lived out their faith.  In fact this view was so well accepted by the community there that poverty and hunger did not exist in the community.  Followers of Jesus’ mission and the teachings of the apostles in this early Church would freely give of their finances and there material goods to help others where there was need.  For example a little later in the accounts of the early Church there is the story of Tabitha.  She would take extra cloth that she had to make clothes for those who lacked clothing.  Even Barnabas sold some of his property and belonging to be able to help those in need.  The very fact that the members of this new Church would not put a tight grasp on their holdings was a sign to the world that the followers of Jesus were different.  They marched. Indeed they marched to a different drum than the rest of the world. For the early Christians giving was something they held a very dear and important.  Community was something that was genuine and real ... perhaps more so than today.
Of course the rest of the world took note of these strange birds, the Christians, and their community, concept their community drive, their willingness to share whatever they had, their radical attention to common good.  All over the world people were trying to understand what made these Christians tick the way they did.  Of course those examining this style of life were wondering if it was nothing more than an a Shangra La, a idealize form of Christian life at best.  There are many religious communities built upon this style.  As well there are some lay communities with this operative principal.   
Others wonder if it is a sustainable way of living, wondering if it is possible in this world of ours today.  This common style stands in contrast to the experience we have with western Capitalism.  It may be for some just another form of “Occupy Wall Street.”  To others it may sound like socialism or communism.  Some see it a just something that will not work.  However, we must remember that Scripture writers were not offering economic theory for the world.  Neither is it a mandate for new ways of Church finances.
Paul asked his hearers to provide funds for the Church in Jerusalem ... suggests that the common life style there was not working at one particular time.
Point of the story is not about Econ 101.  St. Luke, the doctor that he was, seemed to be trying to teach that the radical care for one another was something that would occur for a church when it based its way of life upon the teachings of Jesus Christ, especially through his death and resurrection.
What Luke is teaching is that whether someone has abundance, all of us have to realize that what is ours is first and foremost a possession of God that he share with us.
We might think today:  our society does not have high regards for the concepts associated with the word “common.”  If you ever listen to  Garrison Kieler’s story about a hometown called Lake Woebegone, you hear that every one in that town wants to be above average.  Commonality is not some to be achieved.  In schools don’t we do the same?  Success is rated by how far above the standard or common line a student scores.
Our Church is teaching in the elevation of the common good to its its highest good is that no one is above another person.  No one more important than another despite accumulated possessions nor wealth.  In our society, there is a line drawn that divides many of us from a few ... the 99% and the 1%.  So what the Church is teaching continues to be a radical concept.  We notice today that things are different when a group of people take the time to help others in terrible circumstance.  Take the Hurricane Katrina and the impact, the destruction is levied against the city of New Orleans.  Live and property were destroyed.  Money and presence were the gifts of so many Americans.  To the world we were a model of so many people coming to assist, to work for the common good because what happened in New Orleans damaged so many who actually did not live along the Gulf coast line.  Relatives, friends from all parts of the USA were damaged by the deaths and destruction when levies could no longer fulfill their purpose.  Flood waters powerfully overwhelmed a city but a nation overwhelmingly stunned the world with the response to assist those whose homes, whose lives were washed away.
Hopefully we see that the answer to those who are stunned by such common good thinking and acting and question what drives individuals to so turn their lives around to help other will see in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ the answer the power to overcome what seems at first glance beyond saving.  The Resurrection teaches us that for the “common good” Jesus died not so that some might be offered salvation but that all will be invited to partake of his gift of redemption.

So, once again, we see what it means for us to walk with Jesus ... even after his death and Resurrection!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday in Easter Week - 2012

May your day, today, be filled with God's graces and abundance!

In the Acts of the Apostles first reading in today's liturgy, St. Luke brings his readers and hearers to that moment in time when he shares the experiences that some of the apostles encountered because they were followers and preachers of the Good News.  Here we learn that the price for adhering to faith in Jesus Christ can be costly.

Jesus had told his followers that the pathway to the Father would not always be easy.  His followers, like himself, should expect persecution from those who would not accept the teachings of Jesus.  For some the  reality of the Resurrection was beyond their comprehension or willingness to accept because of political consequences.

The question for us today is simple:  should we expect anything different?  The apostles were challenged by the leaders of the Jewish people and some other factions within the communities.  Clearly there was a an emotional distance between the followers of Jesus and the government authorities.  Today, I believe, it is more difficult for us to be followers of Jesus.  Why?  Because communications and relationships are much different.

For example:  the current hot button issues around "same-sex marriages" or the matter of "forced birth control" make for some Catholics and other Christians fidelity to the teachings of Jesus and his Church a real challenge.  Indeed these issues divide and do so painfully.  In the Washington, DC area issue of homosexuality and the reception of Holy Communion by a gay person erupted in a local parish when the priest celebrant refused communion, rather publicly, at the person's mother's funeral without ever having spoken to the person.  It was an unfortunate situation that earned national news.

So often in this blog over the years, "being a Catholic is not an easy choice within our contemporary society" has been stated more than a few times.  The "hot button" issues divide and create serious hurt in many cases.  These moments force some believers to live lives that are on the surface contrary to their faith.  For priests and Eucharistic Ministers, for example, are faced with difficult moments when someone they "suspect" or "surmise" approaches them in a communion line.  For divorced and remarried outside the Church Catholics who continue to attend Mass because an annulment was refused to a destructive marriage are hurt because they are told they are not welcomed at the communion table of unity.  There are other examples that could be listed.  Again, simply stated, "being a Roman Catholic is not easy in the contemporary world."  The walk with Jesus Christ on one's spiritual journey can be more than a walk on sand.  For many it is a walk on stones.  So, we pray.  We pray as Jesus taught us.  He promised graces when confronted with hostility and/or persecution.  Each of us has to walk the spiritual journey that God puts before us or on a journey that a person feels in conscience is the route that God has given.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday in Easter Week - 2012

Peter and John are still will the cured, once crippled, man.  They use the miraculous moment to instruct the Jewish people who continued to struggle with the reality of the Resurrection and the power Jesus had handed on to the apostles.  They wanted to assure the Jewish people present for the event that is was in Jesus' name that the beggar man had received new health.

They also wanted the Jewish people to realize that God, Yahweh, was 'glorified' through the actions of Jesus in his Resurrection and Ascension.  In their teaching the apostles brought to the Jews a notion that was difficult to accept.  These Old Testament people were expecting a Messiah King, not someone who would be described as a 'servant.'  Peter told the crowd that it was through the faith of the crippled man that his health had been restored.

Peter, in his way, chides the Jews for failing to recognize the teachings of so many of the prophets who foretold what kind of person this Messiah would be.  Presented with a "suffering servant," the Jews were confused.  This was not what they expected or wanted.  They were given a gift in the words of all the prophets but it was a word they could not understand or would not see as what they expected.  Peter and John were bringing to the Jews the true message of God's covenant promise to them.  And they wondered just how they could do this; how they could accept this covenant promise from God.

In the message from Peter and John there is the call for them to recognize the covenant through the life and death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  He is the savior who has called them to "metanoia," a genuine, heart-felt conversion from their previous ways of living.  Peter and John were truly the beginning of the evangelizing that would permeate the teachings in the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the centuries.

We are called to realize that this same message is what is given to us today.  In addition to the Old Testament prophets, we might ask ourselves a simple question:  "What is the message of evangelization being given to us in this 21st century?"  Furthermore, who are the messengers calling us to walk the walk with Jesus Christ? 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday of Easter Week - 2012

The two readings may seem at first to be unrelated.  Yet, in them there is a message for me that I wish to share with you this morning.  Again, for me, it is a part of the following in the footsteps of Jesus.  Like Peter and John and like the two distraught disciples of Jesus, these men are similar to the day-to-day life that I live and most likely like most of you who read these words live.

How many times have I allowed my mind and heart to be taken by a search of temporal goods?  Peter and John are a reminder that the Word of God is so much more rewarding.

How many times have I allowed my mind and heart to be taken by doing things?  The two distraught disciples walking away from Jerusalem are a reminder that there are times when doing has to be put aside and I need to listen to what is in Sacred Scripture.

Where are the words of today's readings and Jesus' teachings leading me today?  Do I truly want to be healed of distractions that lead me away from Jesus Christ?  I am willing to make changes in my life that are spoken to me by the Word in Sacred Scripture?  Do I take the time to assure myself that what happened to the crippled man and the frightened disciples can happen in my life?  Look at the picture for a few moments with these questions in mind.  You may find yourself walking beside those same foot prints ,,, knowing that you are walking with the Great Healer, the Word Himself.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday of Easter Week - 2012

After reading the words of St. Luke in the first reading of today's liturgy, one might think the exhortation of St. Peter to his hearers that they seek repentance is a reading that should have been presented during the days of Lent.

As St. Luke recalls in the selected part of Acts, St. Peter's enthusiasm, so often exhibited in his interactions with Jesus during his ministry, "cut to the heart" those who heard him as he set about preaching about the recent death of Jesus.  He reiterates what John the Baptist and Jesus himself had taught during their times of instruction.  However, "repentance," as called for by these three is far beyond sadness for one's sins in the past.

There is a part of repentance that is a genuine leaning forward into the future.  Peter proclaims the need for conversion.  This concept point to how one should live once there is the admission of sin.  The Greek word, "metanoia," is the apostle's intention in his preaching.  It means much more than sorrow for past actions.  Metanoia is the call to make a radical change in one's life where sin has played more than just a passing moment.  Metanoia calls for a look at life in a new, grace-filled, way.

Now that we have completed the exercises of the Lenten season, it is time  to assert firmly our intention to live the life that we know God is calling us to follow.  Perhaps, during the sacrifices and prayers of Lent,  there has been a recognition of a sinful habit or practice that has been holding us back from a genuine personal relationship with Jesus.  Now is the time to make more than anything like a New Year's resolution.  Now is the time for serious dialog with Jesus about the future. "This is what I know that I have to do for me to make possible a relationship that will strengthen one's abilities on the spiritual journey put before us by the Holy Spirit.  If there is need for such leaning forward, imagine, just imagine how peace and happiness will come into one's heart and life.

In the days after the Resurrection, we are called to walk the walk that Jesus and his apostles have taught us.  He is walking ahead of us each day.  Will you create the second set of footprints in the picture above?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday and Monday - 2012

(from Empty Tomb Ministry - Canada)

Now that the suffering and death of Jesus dissolve into the glory of His Resurrection, the disciples then and today begin a "now you see me - now you see me differently" experience of the Risen Lord.  Still in a world of shock, no doubt, Mary Magdalene goes to the place where Jesus was buried.  Like anyone who love for a loved one has been so damaged by a difficult death, this Mary could not stay away from the burial site.  What she finds when she arrives there is emptiness.  Someone had rolled back the stone and Jesus' body is not within.  A new shock pains Mary's heart.  She cannot stay there alone.  She runs back to get Peter and John with the news.  The first person to announce the Resurrection is a woman!  Together they hastily go to the burial site.  She was correct:  he is no longer where he had been buried.

So the disciples begin seeking and Jesus leads then to a deeper faith.  It was not sufficient for them to endure the pain of Thursday and Friday and Saturday reflecting on His terrible death and the emptiness that captured their hearts.  

Of course we look back to this first day and the disciples quandary.  Wasn't it difficult enough to endure Jesus' "seeming failure" in his mission to which they had given so much of themselves?    Must they seek Him again in some unknown way?  Yes!  This seeking is the very central core of our Christian faith:  we seek the Lord Jesus, the Risen Lord Jesus every day of our lives.  Yet, the true seeker in the history of our faith is Jesus Christ himself.  He then and now seeks all of us.  During the days before the Ascension, Jesus would appear here and there, actually surprising his closest friends.

However, we do indeed have to be seekers today.  It is not sufficient for us to believe that we have found him once and the searching is over.  Even after believing we have found Him, there will be the moments, the days when our hearts, our emotions, bring us back to emptiness of our lives.  What Jesus is teaching during these next forty days is that his real presence will be found in different realities like our own emptiness, in our relationships with others and in the ecclesial communities we join in our Church, the Church he founded for us.  Like the apostles, most of us try to convince ourselves that it would be so much easier, this faith of ours, if Jesus would just continue his appearances to us, if he would just sit down with us for a cup of coffee.

On a radio presentation last night, the host was interviewing a philosopher.  The host related the guests fondness for hiking.  Surprisingly, the guest pointed out that he did much hiking but that the joy in the ventures were not is reaching the goal of each journey through woods or up mountains was not arriving at the goal.  Rather it was in all of the experiences that were had in coming to the goal.  This was where the true joy of the ventures occurred.  For sure the true joy happened to be in the seeking more so than in the finding.  Isn't Christmas morning much like that:  the excitement in finding what is in the beautifully wrapped gifts left for us -- whether we are youngsters or adults?  And guest on the radio show pointed out that each little discovery along the route to the goal is but the invitation to keep seeking until the goal is reached.  Just when a unique scene is come upon, we know that it is not enough.  We are invited to continue.  Our finding becomes another invitation to continue seeking.

So it is with Jesus.  He is for us the Divine Guide ... always instilling in us the desire for more, for deeper and closer relationships with him.  We can ask ourselves now:  Who am I as a believer?  I am a believer because I really do not know the answer to the fullest.  When a young man comes upon a young lady and the fires of love are ignited in his and her hearts, they seek to find out so much more about each other.  They want to have more of the love that has been enkindled in their hearts.  What the young lovers may or may not realize is that it is a part of the way God made us to want to know more and more.  We continue to hunger for the love of Jesus Christ.  This is indeed the divine game Jesus plays with us to draw us ever closer to Himself and his Father.

Just remember this:  we are believers because we do not know.  Furthermore we grow as genuine human beings, as the God-created reality we are because we continually maintain the pathway through our every day lives.  We know we have not reached the goal yet.  The joy of this journey is in all the little lessons, all the little events where we encounter beauty: of persons and created things in this world we live in.  Happy Easter, dear readers.  You see now, I hope, that there is much significance for us in what we might think is simply a child's game:  the Easter Egg Hunt!!!

There is, I believe, enough here to provide you and me with prayer material for at least two day!!! I will be travelling today to be with my brother.  We will share our Easter day together.  As I now prepare to celebrate the morning Mass at St. Matthias Parish, know that you, my readers, are in my intentions as celebrate the Eucharist.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sacred Triduum - Good Friday - 2012

Batoni - Crucifixion - 1762

Jesus Christ Emptied Himself

In his letter to the Philippians, St Paul wrote these words"

" ... though he was in the form of God, 
[Jesus] did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
 becoming obedient to death,
 even death on a cross.
(Phil 2: 6-8)

Here we are dealing with mystery.  It is the mystery of Jesus' kenosis. It is a Greek word that speak of Jesus, as Son of God, pouring out, giving up, surrendering both many of the powers he held as Son of God, especially in the Incarnation and then as Son of Man, when he surrendered even some of rights of being a human being.  However, as Pope John Paul II said in a General Audience (2/17/88):  this insight of St. Paul, "He emptied himself"must not be understood apart from his role as God.  This "does not in any way mean the he ceased to be God.  What Jesus did was simply this:  " the true Son of God, he assumed a human nature deprived of glory, subject to suffering and death, in which he could live in obedience to the Father, even to the ultimate sacrifice."

Besides the extraordinary sacrifice of becoming a human being, he also surrender some of "the privileges he could have enjoyed as a man.  He assumed "the form of a slave."  Being a king or potentate was not his choosing.  Rather, for us, he chose to be one who would serve.  His entire life was marked by poverty from the birth is the spartan emptiness of an animal's stall to the kind of death he endured.  As you look at the Batoni painting, considering how he was brought to this point in his earthly life, we must not overlook that Jesus emptied himself of any of the challenges of the human ego.  He did not demonstrate any anger. His depicted minimal clothing, contrary to the accounts that he was hanged naked on the cross in front of a crowd of men and women, all human dignity being lost.  He emptied himself of everything.  Why?

It is easy to answer, "For us."  However, on this anniversary of his death, to partake of the extraordinary graces that pour out to us from his bed of death we must try our best to imagine how great was his love "for us."  Isn't it our own problems, our own desires, our own sins that make it so difficult for us to truly understand the depth of his generosity.  We have to be honest with ourselves:  it is not easy for us to remove the walls that hinder our fullest understanding of his sacrifice "for us."

Let this "Good Friday" be the occasion when we make the effort to overcome those attitudes, those assumptions that block our total union with the God-man.  Today we are given once again the opportunity to attain the new life that Jesus promised us at the Last Supper and made real in the Resurrection.  This is the genuine gift behind the pain-filled journey from the Agony in the Garden to the supreme sacrifice on Mount Calvary.  

With Saint Paul, as we look upon the crucified Jesus, we might say to our selves, "I live, no not I, but Christ lives in me... the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me." (Gal 2:20)  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sacred Triduum - Holy Thursday - 2012

Let us now turn our focus from the days of Lent to the immediate hours before the grand feast of our salvation, the Resurrection, the fulfillment of the Paschal Mystery.  Jesus sent out the request for the disciples to find a particular room where he could gather for a Paschal Dinner with those men who had been so close to him during the three years of his ministry.

Jesus had more than Good Friday events in his heart and mind in gathering the men of "The Way" with him for a final meal.  In doing this, Jesus is incorporating the ancient Jewish commemoration of the covenant between the Jewish people and Yahweh.  It was his promise to them that they were to be His "chosen" people.  But this was only a part of "covenant" business with the disciples.  Jesus wished to lay out a new covenant for them and for all who would come after them.  During the meal Jesus said words that would forever change the full understanding of "covenant."  Holding a cup, we call it a chalice, Jesus said to them, "This is the new covenant in my blood."  The practice of the paschal meal was forever to be different:  no longer a simple meal of historic recollections, Jesus gives this paschal meal a new life, his own life, in a way that will be forever a mystery to his followers but a mystery of unbounded graces.  From the meal and forever no longer would there be the blood of a sacrificial animal to commemorate the status of "chosen" ones.  Henceforth there would be a New Covenant given to them and us by Jesus' own sacrificial death, his pouring out his blood from his sufferings and death on the cross.  This new blood replaces the blood of goats and calves.  This is new life, new choseness for his followers.  This is a reminder of his gift of new life to all sinners, his pledge of covenant with us.

Perhaps the power of this moment is somewhat minimized in our hearts because we recreated this event every time we gather in the presence of the celebration of the Eucharist.  At the altars in churches around the world every day we witness the offering of his blood, his love poured out for us again.

On this Holy Thursday and at the Masses we attend, our hearts should never forget what is happening especially during the moments when a priest says the words of consecration:  "This is my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant."  What we witness at each Mass is that His death, His pouring out his blood and giving up His body are the end to whatever it might be that separates me and you from Jesus Christ.  The Holy Thursday liturgy is intended to remind us of His invitation to us to make his sacrifice not simply an historical moment but that His gift to us is ever present.  We renew that sacrifice each time we do gather together in a community celebrating the Eucharist.  When we receive consecrated bread and wine, we receive so much more: the new life of the new covenant.  You and I, we are once again partaking in the gift of His life, His body and blood.  Redemption is ours!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday in Holy Week - 2012

The Return of the Prodigal Son
Batoni (1773)

This first reading is the Second of the Four Suffering Servant Songs from the Book of Isaiah.  As in each of the "songs" Isaiah presents the mission of Israel which easily represents Jesus and the final days of his life on this earth of ours.

We know that whole story.  And Isaiah's words and frustration and feeling that all that has been done is for naught.  Imagine what must have gone through the mind of Jesus as he looked out from his "throne" on the cross.  Did he ever feel as though his mission was a failure?  Surely, as a man, he must have thought that enemies had prevailed.  How did he feel for his closest associates, the faithful apostles, and especially his mother?  What pains must have seared her heart.  Is is at all surprising that from the cross come the words "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me."

Jesus, sent by the Father to be his emissary, his servant, looks out on the subjects he was sent to bring home to his Father.  In just a few hours an entire life is drained on a cross.  Humanly speaking, drained of all potential success, Jesus was about to become the shining light of the "Servant Song" not just for Israel but for all the lands and nations.  For just a moment put yourself in the sandals of anyone of the onlookers atop Mount Calvary on that Friday afternoon.  Could you believe at that moment in time that very soon what you see as failure will be the most remarkable change?  Would you have thought of resurrection and redemption?

In his mind Jesus knew that he was in the final moment of his mission, his fulfilling of the Father's will.  Surely this should be the thought that captures most of our thinking during these final days of Lent:  Jesus is bringing to our realization the tremendous love of God the Father not only for himself but for each of us.  Jesus is the salt of the earth for the Father.  He is the light for the entire world.  Because I know that I was forever in the mind of God, I know, too, that I am called as a child of God, as brother of Jesus, to be salt and light to my time in history.  Don't think of Jesus just hanging there on that cross.  Recall that he is speaking out to you and me words not only of forgiveness but words of mission, words of responsibility.  You, that is you and I, we are called to be salt and light to our families, our communities ... indeed, to our world.  Do you think this is exaggeration?  Wasn't there a Mother Theresa?  Wasn't there a Pope John XXIII?  Wasn't there a Maximilian Kolbe?  Yes, God chooses ordinary people like you and me to be what he was to people.  We are called to continue his mission is suffering and in service to others.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday of Holy Week - 2012

The Return of the Prodigal Son
Batoni (1773)

With the beginning of Holy Week our Church puts before us words that focus attention on the "Suffering Servant."  While intended to be a presentation of the roles of Israel's good leaders and Israel as well, these words speak so much to us about Jesus.  He is the model of the Suffering Servant in so many ways.  Today and during the next several days we will have the opportunity to read more about the Suffering Servant theme as it occurred in the life of Jesus.  It is taken from the Book of Consolation as the second part of the Book of Isaiah is titled.

What we might reflect on today and throughout Holy Week is that as followers of Jesus Christ, as Temples of the Holy Spirit, each of us is called by our Baptism and our Confirmation to be more than onlookers.  We are called to consider how we fulfill Jesus' mission in and through our lives today.  Let this Holy Week be for us more than a reminder of our challenge to be leaders in our communities, modelling ourselves on Jesus, even when this means difficult commitment, standing tall against those who would ridicule believers or our Church, speaking out for the unborn, protecting the marginalized in our society, and never failing to show and share the same compassion that marked the life of Jesus.

This is particularly challenging to Catholics today as our Church leaders speak out against our state and federal government and legislative activities being mandated and in some cases put before the people for votes.  Wherever a Catholic stands on these issues, life as a Catholic in this 21st century is a challenge that makes undecided positions --"I'm not sure." or "I don't know where I stand."-- just impossible.   It is a time in our history when the Suffering Servant theme takes on particular significance and genuine difficulty for all Catholics regardless of one's stance on the hot button issues in our society today.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday - 2012

The Return of the Prodigal Son
Pompeo Batoni (1773)

Today, perhaps surprising to some, we walk into Holy Week.  Already Easter is almost upon us.  It is not a time to weigh how successful our Lenten practices have been.  Rather, it is a time to let the heart, mind and soul be in special conversation with Jesus.

Imagine what thoughts and feelings must have been flowing in the mind and heart of Mary's Son as he rode a notoriously stupid animal in a parade or procession into Jerusalem.  Hosannas! could be heard with every step the animal took during this procession which was destined ultimately to the chants of "Crucify him!  Crucify him!"

Try to imagine what you might have felt like if you were in Jesus' place and you knew what was ahead for you.  Could you have endured just this first act of the tragedy--redemption reality?  This was not play, no enactment of earlier predictions from both the Old Testament and Jesus' teachings.  Everything this week is divinely designed "For You."  Think for a moment of the Stations of the Cross you might see today in your parish church or at some other time this week.  You Pastor could suspend a sign beneath each of these painful stops that would read "For Me."  Yes, everything that Jesus endured during the week that is so sacred and solemn "For Me."

The Batoni painting continues above because it is a reminder to each of us of the richness of the gift that is God's love for us and the sinless man's suffering for our sins.  Imagine what the son was trying to say to his father through the sobs that must have been so painful to the father almost as painful as the errors, the sinfulness, the stupidity of his errant son.  Yet it was the tragedy of the son's previous life that caused the father to love his son with such intensity.  You and I, we are no different.  God's love for us is so intense because of our sins.  Again recall these words:  it is the sinner that God loves, it is not the sin.

Throughout these days of this Holy Week I exhort you to join me is taking time each day to enter that conversation our souls seek so often:  those special moments when you and I are sharing our hearts emotions with the God who loved each of us so much.

For your love of me, Lord Jesus, I am so grateful.  For my sins, Father, I kneel before you with the words "Forgive me."