Tuesday, May 03, 2016

One Born Abnormally

Duccio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Melanie Rigney

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that, he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Their message goes out through all the earth. (Psalm 19:5)

Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:8-10)

Lord, I ask for the humility and faith of St. Paul, who called himself “the least of the apostles.”

No one’s faith journey is the same. I’ve known people who were raised in the Christian faith of their parents, who found comfort and joy and succor in it, who never really questioned the concept of church, capital or lower case c, for whom obedience and submission come naturally. Their stories are a beautiful witness to the faith. They appear the same on the surface, but talk a bit and you’ll find that beneath the surface are unique struggles and challenges they truly don’t regard as such; the impact of what others regard as tragedies don’t penetrate the souls of these folks because their spiritual armor is so strong.

Then there are the rest of us. Our journeys all are different as well. They include doubts and fears that rocked us to the core. Sometimes, the rocking and reeling were enough to drive us from the Lord for a time. Sometimes, we didn’t have much of a faith life as children, and when struggle reared its head, we had no God to turn to… only a dim understanding that we needed something that we didn’t have, that treasured family members and friends and work and prestige and money couldn’t buy or offer.

Today we celebrate the feast of two apostles whose stories we know little about. This James, we believe may have been the apostle James, son of Alphaeus; he is not to be confused with James the son of Zebedee and brother of John. Similarly, little is known about Philip, beyond that like Andrew and Peter, he came from Bethsaida and was present at the miracle of the loaves and fishes and the Last Supper. We see him there in today’s Gospel reading; we hear the frustration in Jesus’s explanation of his relationship to the Father. We know that like Paul, both suffered martyrs’ death.

Perhaps that’s the lesson to be learned from Paul’s discourse in 1 Corinthians 15. We come to the Lord in different ways, “born abnormally” as Paul was, or longtime faithful servants of the Father. How or when we get there isn’t as important as that once we arrive, we are steadfast in our service and belief.

Where are you comparing your journey to the Lord with that of others and feeling either inferior or superior? Pray for the humility to offer thanks for your unique path.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Stay at My Home

One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.  Acts 16:14-15

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. John 15:26-27

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Since the Resurrection, Jesus has stayed with his friends.  Now, he is preparing them for another parting.  Jesus knows they want him to stay – like the men on the road to Emmaus.  Knowing Jesus cannot stay, he promises the next best option.  He promises that the Spirit will be with them always.

Baptism and Confirmation are one-time offerings of love poured out in the symbolic water and oil for our initiation.  However, we can relive our initiation through the perpetual invitation to share in Eucharist and Reconciliation – these sacraments offered as ways to strengthen the bond between Jesus and us.  On a daily basis, we are welcomed to sit at a dinner served in his honor. When we eat there, he stays with us and we stay with Jesus.  The food served in our “group reunion” with Jesus in spirit strengthens us for the journey ahead.

Jesus offers many ways to stay with us in Spirit.  However, the world offers many ways to keep us apart or to tear us away from the relationship.  There are obstacles at every corner that put up roadblocks to the invitation of friendship and grace. 

What is your biggest obstacle today?  Pride?  Envy?  Anger?  Indulgence?  Greed?  Misplaced Love?  Weakness in mind or body?    If you consider yourself a believer, ask for the fortitude to overcome your obstacles so that the Lord will stay at your home. 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Keep My Word

Originally Published on May 5, 2013, and May 9, 2010

Sixth Sunday of Easter C

By the Late Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

“So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.    If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right.   Farewell.’”  Acts 15:27-29

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.    Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.”  John 14:23-24

The Last Supper of Christ captures the essence of the message of Christ. The word that rings down through the ages and is echoed in every Eucharist is “Love.” Christ captures our hearts by giving us his Body and his Blood. Christ gives us the perfect example of what love is all about by not holding back. He gives all of the self. The totality of self-giving is modeled in Eucharist. The Commandments are “the what” of Love. God makes us free. We love God when we freely return all of ourselves to God. Commandments spell out the how to do it. The question is validly put. “How can you love the God you do not see if you do not love the neighbor you do see?” Love is measured out in how we love our neighbor as our self. Christ says it neatly. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. The Spirit teaches us how to love and makes our love possible with the 7 gifts; wisdom, knowledge, counsel, understanding, (which are the gifts of the mind) and piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord (which are the gifts of the heart). The interplay of the gifts of the Spirit gives us the fruits of the Spirit which are the makeup of our love for one another.

Jesus does not return in the Resurrection with the same old body that he had from Mary.   He returns with the resurrected body.   His humanity has been touched by the divinity and the fullness of his humanity has form.   He arrives with all the wonderful things he has done in his life focused on the good news that his life was worth living.  And he has the truth of all that he ever said in the simplicity of the peace he gave his Apostles in the fullness of the forgiveness that made them know they were forgiven for having betrayed him.   The wounds of his passion are now glorious in his resurrection.  Thomas can put his finger on the nail wounds that are part of this resurrected body and he can put his hand into his side.   He can believe.   It is really Christ who eats a meal with them so that food was appreciated without the terrible hunger that can drive one to eat beyond what they need.   Piety has a real meaning in the resurrected Christ who is the best of all of us even as he is the best of himself.   

We study the Resurrection of Christ because life has its meaning in Christ.   He reveals to us our destinies.   We have the power to forgive sins because Christ offers us his life even as he augments our gifts with the meanings of life he gives us.   The Father wants us to make Christ real in our lives.   The best part of us is already in heaven in Christ.   We are the continuation of his life on earth in all the good things that we do with our lives.  Wherever we go, we bring Christ.   He lives on in us even as we live in him.   We know him in the breaking of the bread because real love involves sharing his meal with him as he in the very same act shares his life with us.   We are the Mystical Body of Christ.   He has no feet but ours.   He has no hands but ours. 

How we live out our Christianity is taught by the Church. Teachings that do not make sense need to be questioned against the light of the Spirit which is reflected through consulting the Church. It is Christ that we are following. When someone comes along with a teaching that does not fit what we have been taught we need to consult with the apostles and the elders of the church about such questions that trouble our spirit. When the teachings of the Church become too complicated it is important to consult with those who are the teachers recognized by the church by their wisdom and the richness of their experience. The Universal Church is an expression of the many cultures of our world and how the teachings of Christ are best expressed by local cultures. There is simplicity in the teachings of love that asks us to love the people that are and the church has learned from its mistakes and its saints how to express the richness of Christ in the local culture. The inculturation of the Church in local cultures gives expression to the differences in people. How we love one another grows as the relationship to Christ becomes the model of human love turned into God love. The Father and Christ come to us with the Spirit to give us our God life on the local scene.

The challenge of the Resurrection is to live our lives as if we were not meant for our world.   Even as we live the touch of the divine in our lives by God being part of our love whenever we love, he gives us our lives.   How we love is the masterpiece of our lives.  How we use the gifts of our lives is how we make real the Christ of our hearts.   Love is what makes our world go round.   Our efforts to make our world a little neater become his efforts when we do what we do in his name.   Our vocations in life are to be contemplatives in Action.   That means that we work in such a way that Christ is a hundred percent of all that we do.   Our Gospel says that what was written is so that we can believe.   Christ did so much more than what is written that his disciples were not able to share with us.   He likewise does so much more in our lives that we are unaware of that if we were to give credit to the wonders of creation around us we would not have time to go on living.   Eternity is the missing part of all that we do. 

The sign of the action of the Spirit in our lives is the peace that comes with closeness to Christ. Those that are sent in the name of Christ bring peace by their coming. When authority is misused it destroys the love people are meant to have for one another. How Christ operates in our lives is seen by the growth in the fruits of the Spirit in each of us. How we build up the local Church is seen in how well we work with one another to bring out the best of all of us. Hopefully, we have all learned by the mistakes of the past how to honor the good that is done and how to approve of the differences that bring greater freedom and local involvement of people in the Church. Protecting the garments of a frigid climate without an appreciation of the local conditions of a hot climate brought death to Trappists who first came to this country from Europe in their mistaken zeal to hold onto garments of a cold climate without making the adaptations that made living possible. There will always be unacceptable forms of the Chinese Rite controversy that ended a birthing Church by making a mockery of what Christ’s love is all about. Forgiveness and love have to kiss if we are to avoid zero tolerance and a terrible injustice done to Christ’s love and forgiveness of the Women taken in adultery. Zero tolerance is a terrible put down on Christ love for people that are trying to change and to grow in love for one another. See how they love one another needs to be a reality of the Church once again. It is love that makes change possible.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Proclaim the Good News

During the night, Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we sought passage to Macedonia at once, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the Good News to them.  Acts 16:9-10

“Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name because they do not know the one who sent me.”  John 15:20-21

Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This, then, is the good zeal which members must foster with fervent love: "They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10)." supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No monastics are to pursue what they judge better for themselves, but instead, what they judge better for someone else. Among themselves they show the pure love of sisters and brothers; to God, reverent love; to their prioress or abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all together to everlasting life. (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 72, The Good Zeal of Monastics)

Slavery.  Persecution.  Jesus liked to use analogies that were understood by his followers.  They were used to being treated like slaves to the belligerent Roman army and would understand the place of the slave in the context of today’s Good News.  This new way of life was not a walk in the park.  Jesus never promised us a rose garden. However, vision or not, all were called to proclaim the Good News as “apostolos” (Greek for messenger). 

Rejection of the messenger by the world is the central tenet Jesus lays out.  As much as he preaches love and healing, this is not recruiting campaign in a capitalist tradition.  There is no nice salary or perks.  There are no fringe benefits unless you consider nails and crucifixion such. The message is love but the response is rejection.  

How will we ever embrace the good zeal of the monastics in a pool of rejection?

People are so used to what makes them comfortable in life that it is hard to get them to come off their lily pad and into the rough waters of the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Virginia when faced with the promise of persecution and slavery.  Is it any wonder that surveys reveal the rapidly increasing percentage of Americans who say they don’t identify with any religion whatsoever?  How did they ever get to be called the “Nones,” a homonym not to be confused with our loveable Nuns?  Maybe the Nones see the hypocrisy.  Maybe they see the scandal.  Maybe they reject sacrifice.  Whatever the reason, it is getting easier to find a seat in the pews.

It was not like this 15 years ago.  When the planes started dropping out of the sky on September 11, 2001, people flocked to the comfort of the sanctuary.  We know that our God loves us like the Good Shepherd.  However, we seem to take that love for granted in a way that today is no different than it was 2,016 years ago as the church tried to break through the dry, cracked ground of the desert.    

The Church also has been here before.  The desert monastics rejected life in the cities in order to move to a place where they could live an authentic Christian life.  As radio host Krista Tippet explains, maybe the likes of St. Benedict were the Nones of their generation.[i] 

Another way to look at the trend today is through the lens provided by Sister Joan Chittister, OSB.  She writes that “[T]he spirituality which emerged is about caring for the people you live with and loving the people you don't and loving God more than yourself. Benedictine spirituality depends on listening for the voice of God everywhere in life, especially in one another and here.”

Today is the last day of the cycle when Benedictine brothers and sisters read the Rule passage by passage, from start to finish.  We always begin again at the prologue on January 1, May 1 and September 1.  Perhaps it is fitting that the Rule reminds us what we must do to proclaim the Good News like the first apostles.  Like the first word of the prologue, St. Benedict leaves us with the reminder:  We must learn to listen, listen.  Love, love. As Sr. Joan puts it in her book The Rule of St. Benedict:

We must learn to listen to what God is saying in our simple, sometimes insane and always uncertain daily lives. Bitter zeal is that kind of religious fanaticism that makes a god out of religious devotion itself. Bitter zeal walks over the poor on the way to the altar. Bitter zeal renders the useless invisible and makes devotion more sacred than community. Bitter zeal wraps us up in ourselves and makes us feel holy about it. Bitter zeal renders us blind to others, deaf to those around us, struck dumb in the face of the demands of “dailiness.” Good zeal, monastic zeal, commits us to the happiness of human community and immerses us in Christ and surrenders us to God, minute by minute, person by person, day after day after day. Good zeal provides the foundation for the spirituality of the long haul. It keeps us going when days are dull and holiness seems to be the stuff of more glamorous lives, of martyrdom and dramatic differences. But it is then, just then, when Benedict of Nursia reminds us from the dark of the sixth century that sanctity is the stuff of community in Christ and that any other zeal, no matter how dazzling it looks, is false. Completely false.

Listen, listen. Love, love.  Person-by-person. Day-by-day.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Love One Another

By Colleen O’Sullivan

“It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.  If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.”  (Acts 15:28-29)

Jesus said to his disciples:  “This is my commandment:  love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  (John 15:12-14)

Lord, as I call to mind your great love for me, may I be filled with gratitude and the desire to share your love with others.

In the Book of Acts, we read how the fledgling church struggled to put together a blended family.  Some of the early Christians were Jewish and some were Gentiles.  One of the greatest points of contention was circumcision.  Many who were Jewish believed that Gentile men needed to be circumcised before they could be considered followers of Christ.  There was so much confusion that the Apostles and presbyters, along with the whole Church, decided to write a letter and have it hand delivered to the churches made up primarily of Gentiles.  The final decision was that circumcision was not required and it would be enough if followers of the Way observed certain dietary laws and refrained from unlawful marriages.  Today, even the dietary laws have long gone by the wayside.

What hasn’t changed, though, is what Jesus told his closest friends as they were gathered around the table after the Last Supper.  To be one of Jesus’ friends, we need to love each other as Jesus loves us.  (Following dietary laws might be much easier.)

Most of us would be quick to say we know Jesus loves us.  But, when pressed to articulate exactly how Jesus shows us his love, we may not have so ready an answer. Many of us don’t spend much time reflecting on our lives and where in our lives we have seen and felt Jesus’ presence.  It’s a whole lot easier to be a person for others and to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters if our own hearts are bursting with gratitude for all that Jesus has done for us than it is to try and summon up the energy from within without that awareness of being blessed.

Spend some time today looking back over your life and identifying times when you have experienced Jesus’ unbounded love for you.  Remember it’s not necessarily only the good times that count. Even hurts you’ve suffered, sins you’ve committed, or disappointments you’ve felt may have been the opportunities Jesus has used to show you how much he loves you. 

Praying each day with gratitude for one blessing you have experienced in the past 24 hours, and doing so day after day, is another way to become more mindful of Jesus’ infinite love for us.

A grateful heart disposes us to more readily love one another. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

God Chose You

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
By Beth DeCristofaro
Peter got up and said to the Apostles and the presbyters, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. (Acts 15:7-9)
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  (John 15:9)
God of all Creation, thank you for life.  Help me to cherish and nurture the divine spark of your nature deep within myself and all your children.  
This chapter of Acts shows us discussions from the very early Council of Jerusalem.  The passionately debated question was whether Gentile believers needed to become Jews before baptized as Christians.  Even then, the need to identify the worthy, the real believers, the chosen, raged.  And so it does today.  Later in this chapter, the notes to the USCCB readings explain:  “In support of Paul, Peter formulates the fundamental meaning of the gospel: that all are invited to be saved through faith in the power of Christ.”[i]
Today, couched in political terms, the worth of refugees, disabled, homeless, impoverished, imprisoned peoples and more are debated.  Their worth as children of God becomes hidden beneath speeches of economics, security, nationalism.  Mother Theresa of Calcutta humbly and humanely pointed out: “This is where we are most unjust to our poor – we don’t know them.  We don’t know how great they are, how lovable, how hungry for that understanding love.  Today God loves the world through you and through me.  Are we that love and compassion?  God proves that Christ loves us- that he has come to be his Father’s compassion.  Today God is loving the world through you and through me and through all those who are his love and compassion in the world.”[ii]  Substitute for “poor” the word “radical” or “drug addict” or “single mother on welfare” “LGBT” or any number of other identifiers of people who are deemed to be frightening or leeching off society and the Word remains the same.  The Word is love.
Was it not humbling and amazing to meet the other people at your Cursillo table, or perhaps Team members with whom you served?  The stories of struggle, perseverance, tragedy and rebirth allow you to know each other in astoundingly deep ways.  Introduce yourself to someone new – the homeless man who lives near the parkway exit, the janitor in your workplace.  Tell them something of yourself then ask about her/him.  Have you ever met someone who does this?  She/he is a delight to be around.  Love spills from her/him.

[ii] “Total Surrender” quoted in “Give us this Day:  Daily Prayers for Today’s Catholic”, Liturgical Press, April 2016, pp. 254-255.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What God Had Done With Them

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

By Melanie Rigney

In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won over the crowds. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and entered the city. On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.  After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the Church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Then they spent no little time with the disciples. (Acts 14:19-28)

Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom. (Psalm 145:12)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

Lord, thank You for the gentle reminders of who is truly in charge.


Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
They are heady stories, the stuff of action movies and thrillers, the Acts of the Apostles. They are the tales of people in prison and people persecuted, of people fearlessly sharing the Good News and making converts among Jews and Gentiles wherever they go as they travel and travel and travel.

How did they do it? How did they establish a Church that has withstood nearly relentless persecution, internal scandal, and more than the occasional bout of apathy among the faithful? We find the answer in a short passage from Acts 14, after Paul and Barnabas arrived in Antioch: “They called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (emphasis added).

You see, Paul and Barnabas knew it wasn’t them. It was the Lord. They were privileged and humbled to be His vessels. And after their time with the disciples and at the Council of Jerusalem, they and others were back at it again, telling the world about Christ.
Spend “no little time” today with someone with whom you are privileged to share a belief in the Lord. Consider what God has done with each of you… and how you will open yourselves up further to His work.

Go Into the World

Feast of Saint Mark, Evangelist

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  Mark 16:15-18

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.  The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.  We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. 

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

This is what we are about.  We plant the seeds that one day will grow.  We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

(Selections from “Prayer in Memory of Archbishop Romero: A Step along the Way” by the late Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw)

How did the Holy See and the Magisterium know what readings to select for today?  For this day is the first sunrise of the Fourth Day for the men who began to experience their Cursillo (coor-see-yo) at Missionhurst over the past weekend?  How did they know fifty years ago to send them out to proclaim the Good News on the Feast of St. Mark with their piety (those who believe), study (proclaim the Gospel), and actions (baptizing, driving out demons, healing the sick)? 

You could sense this mission building by the work of the hands that made this weekend possible.  This small Christian community of 21 men – supported by apostles far and wide doing prayer, sacrifice, service, cooking and more to meet their needs – celebrated Mass four times.  At each Mass, we had the work of our hands symbolized by the unleavened bread baked by Joe one of our team members.  The work of our hands was the whole weekend but it came to its height when Fr. Paul lifted up the unleavened bread to consecrate it into the Body of Christ.

You could also see this mission building by the work of our hands that allowed the team of friends to bind themselves together with the candidates whom we met on Thursday night.  After a second full day of laboring in the fields of the Lord, right before bed, a surprise party is celebrated for the candidates.  While in deep prayer over a soliloquy on John at Patmos, the community room was transformed into a celebration of the love of the Lord.  On the table along with other donated food and beverages, also was the work of another Joseph.  A winemaker, this candidate brought and shared his own personal “vintage” with all on Saturday night.

The transformation happened again as we raised a toast to friendship.  The community consecrated the agape of sharing. As the sign in the Missionhurst chapel proclaims, “We came as strangers.  We leave as family.”

The person of Jesus came alive in so many ways over the weekend.  At its height, the symbolism and actuality of the sharing of bread and wine by these two “Josephs” and all others came to fruition at our Masses and our closing ceremony with the community which could only be celebrated where else but at St. Joseph’s Church in Alexandria, VA. 

The start of a Fourth Day is a great time to reflect on the eternal question posed to us by the late Cursillo Spiritual Director Fr. Joe McCloskey, SJ.  Fr. Joe may be on the cloud of witnesses now, but his piety, study, and action resonate with us so many ways but this question is at the heart of his Ignatian-Cursillo-Benedictine-Augustinian-Thomastic-Franciscan-Dominican spirituality:  Am I really willing to be who Christ would have been if he had been lucky enough to be me?  They’ll know we are Christians by the love we share when we say “Yes.  Yes.  Yes. Yes. YES!” to this question.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Allowing Mercy to Blossom

By Lisa Helene Bacalski

“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22b

I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God. Psalm 145:1

The One who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Revelations 21:5A

‘I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ John 13:33-34

Let this classic song be your prayer:

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
And together we'll spread the news that God is in our land
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love.

When we listen to today’s reading from Acts, it can be easy to take for granted the hard work Paul and Barnabus undertook to proclaim and live Jesus Christ, crucified, died, buried and, most importantly, resurrected. “With prayer and fasting,” yes, along with hours of walking or riding long roads, then hours of conversation and preaching, and then often an almost inevitable conflict with the powers that be in any given city.

In our own time, much energy and conversation within the church revolves around making disciples and re-converting those who have fallen away through the new evangelization. But our understanding of the phrase “to make” is often limited to the intellectual because so few of us are involved in manual labor or in making anything more complicated than a meal. When our King and our God says, “Behold, I make all things new,” do we really understand the immensity of that merciful undertaking? Do dare to imitate it?

Jesus shows us exactly how to do that when he says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” And how does he love us so radically? By being present with us, fully present, for our good, not His. When he called his disciples and began teaching them, it wasn’t merely with words but also friendship. They knew and trusted him, and thus believed in him.

Today we know and love Jesus through others sharing our journey. This is what makes a Cursillo weekend so powerful; loving one another as we have been loved. This Love is what makes the church triumphant and eternal. This Love is what makes disciples. There is no recipe or instruction manual, just that powerful verb that dares us to always choose another’s good over our own, to offer ourselves as sacrifice, to walk the narrow road together.

Spend time with someone you love, and listen to them with the heart of Jesus. 


Doing His Works

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

“For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.’” The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. Acts 13:47-49

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:10-13

Take from me, Father, all that keeps me from you.
Give to me, Jesus, all that leads me to you.
Set me free, Holy Spirit, that I might live my life for you.

Seeing is believing.

The reputation of “doubting” Thomas has endured a pretty harsh PR ding throughout history because he was not in the Upper Room when Jesus appeared after the Resurrection. Why was Philip not branded with the same moniker?

Philip’s lack of faith prompts Jesus present us with another wrinkle in the timeless debate over faith and work. Jesus challenges Philip and us to believe (have faith) because he has told them that the Father and he are one. However, he goes on to challenge them that if such faith is not enough, he wants them to believe because of the good works he (Jesus) has been doing on his Father’s behalf.

The debate is not over faith against works. Jesus frames the debate as one in which faith precedes good works.  Good works follows from faith is a requirement. If you have faith, then imitate Christ and do the works that he does.

Major Catholic religious traditions (like the Benedictines) were founded centuries ago and based on prayer and work. Our Cursillo tripod may have been borne out of John 14 where faith and action are merged. However, being Catholic Christians is not just about praying and studying our religious traditions.

Being a Catholic Christian also means putting into practice the works of Jesus by imitating the life of Christ. Just consider one of the prayers we say at the end of the Rosary: “Let us pray. O GOD, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant that by meditating upon the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

We prayer that we might imitate what it contains. Each mystery of the Rosary contains an active story about the life of Jesus.  
How can your life imitate Jesus through sharing in his pain, through doing good works, and through making life easier for others?

Please offer a Rosary or pray the Angelus this weekend for the candidate on the Men’s 132nd Cursillo. 

A Forever Home

By Colleen O’Sullivan

We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our fathers he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.  (Acts 13:32-33a)

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  (John 14:1-3)

Lord, I pray that you will always be the way I choose to go, the truth which illumines every nook and cranny of my being, and the life I seek to share.

Last Friday, almost four months to the day since my father’s death, my sister and I met at our family home of 59 years for the last time.  She had worked tirelessly all last summer and fall to empty the house.  Over the winter, repairs and renovations had been made.   The house had been on the market for just one day when there were two offers, one of which we accepted.  We were making this stop on the way to the settlement.

My sister wanted to walk through the rooms one more time and she insisted that I accompany her.  I wasn’t sure I really wanted to go in, but it was the last chance to do so before the new owner took possession.  It didn’t feel one bit like the home I grew up in.  Wallpaper had been removed and the odor of new paint permeated every room.  The colors were changed.  New hardwood floors.  New light fixtures.  It all looked very nice, but it didn’t feel like home.

“House” and “home” are not interchangeable words.  A foundation, four walls, and a roof do not add up to a home.  A home is more about the people who live in the house and their relationships with one another than the structure in which they reside.  My parents’ house did not feel like home last Friday.  It was empty.  Truth be told, it had never felt quite like home once my mother died 4½ years ago.

I pondered this as I read today’s Gospel, part of Jesus’ farewell discourse after the Last Supper.  I think we have a difficult time coming up with the precise word(s) to translate/describe what Jesus is promising.  (Once, in a hotel in Switzerland, my sister and I were looking for something to do while her small children slept.  We picked up the Bible, which was in German, and happened to read the very passage we’re looking at today.  The word used to describe the place Jesus is preparing for us was the exact same word used in everyday vernacular for an apartment.  We laughed at the mental image of high rises in heaven.  Yet that is so not what I think this passage is about.)  Jesus is offering us much more than merely a new address on the other side of death.  Jesus is inviting us to share God’s home, made a home by the love God has for us and the love we share with God and all God’s children.  Jesus is inviting us to be his forever family.  St. Augustine, in his Confessions, says our hearts are restless until they find rest in God, and Jesus is offering us eternal peace and rest with him and the other persons of the Trinity.

Jesus is extending an offer and an invitation, not anything that will ever be forced on us.  As Jesus explains to Thomas, who protests that no one knows the way to get wherever the Lord is going, he himself is the way to this life.   So, how wrapped up is your life in Jesus’ way?  How is your prayer life?   What are you doing on earth to extend God’s love to others, especially the poor and the poor in spirit?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Washed in God’s Blessings

By Beth DeCristofaro

John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’” (Acts 13:24-25)

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.  (John 13:16-17)

Dear Lord, soak me in your holiness.  Rinse out the eyes of my heart to see and
Jesus Washing the Disciple’s Feet
rejoice in the holiness of others.  Deluge me with resolution to stand up for holiness against sinfulness in this world you have graciously created.  In kneeling to wash the feet of others may I find myself kneeling at your feet, my Jesus.

My teacher, Sr. Lucy, was one of the first holy people I met.  Of course at the time I just thought of her as kind, gentle and pretty.  Repeatedly in my life holy people have brought me many blessings.  A thoughtful woman gave food and companionship to me, a lonely stranger.  A social worker remained focused on the needs of very desperate people she served despite personal adversity. A peace activist lives in poverty to serve homeless and teach about non-violence.  An 80+ year old Buddhist nun from Hiroshima, Japan, walked across the US to physically be in solidarity with the victims of 9-11. They all practiced humility, were openly focused on the greater good and saw the presence of God within life.  And in their presence I felt an inner peace.

Not that all holy ones are serene, tender and quiet!  My great-uncle, a Benedictine monk, dispensed raucous jokes and bad puns.  Kathy, Catholic Worker friend, is a devout but strident, in-your-face anti-war resister.  A gadfly parishioner directs a parish fundraiser and it is largely due to her doggedness that donations pour in.  John the Baptist was characterized as charismatic and forceful but he knows his place as Messenger not Messiah.  And even the Messiah, even the Son of God, Son of Man, knelt and humbly washed feet, including the feet of his betrayer.

In prayer, raise up in your mind before God someone who just drives you nuts!  Someone who is so far from holy!  Spend some quiet time with God, bringing that person in front of your heart’s eye.  Consider what it is that is so annoying, pray for a softening of her/his heart before God.  Look also deeply within yourself and be open to recognizing what within you might mirror the same unenviable quality you find in her/him.  Pray for yourself for forgiveness and softening of your own heart.  Then look again at the irritating person.  In prayer image, wash her/his feet.  Find within her/him a trait of goodness, holiness or at least marginally positive.  Give thanks to God for that person.  Find within yourself a holy place which you have not yet recognized or have neglected.  Thank God!  Thank God that Holiness will not be overtaken by evil.

Sent Them Off

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.
  Acts 13:2-3

I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.  John 12:46-47

"Whenever we do something together, something good, something beautiful, everyone changes. All of us change in some way and this does us good." — Pope Francis

John helps to underline the mission of Jesus by connecting what is said in this chapter with references to other readings in his own book.  While in many cases, the Gospel writers reference the well-known words and works of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, John, through repetition, reminds us of common themes in his own book.  Overcoming darkness with light.  Connecting the relationship of the divine mission of the Son to the Father. 

All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:3-5

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (3:17)

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”  (13:20)

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. (14:1)

But this is not poetry alone.  Unless these words are put to the test of faith and lived as the Good News, it is just a book.  Thus the Acts of the Apostles follows to remind us that these words must be lived to reach new people whether in Jerusalem, Turkey, or elsewhere.  “The word of God continued to spread and grow.” 

The impulse for the first missionary effort in Asia Minor is ascribed to the prophets of the community in Antioch, under the inspiration of the holy Spirit. Just as the Jerusalem community had earlier been the center of missionary activity, so too Antioch becomes the center from which the missionaries Barnabas and Saul are sent out. 

Where are you being sent off?

Missionary work continues to define the Church.  Medical missions.  Relief missions.  Teaching missions.  Development missions.  Our modern missionaries – through the work of Catholic Relief Services (www.crs.org) help spread the love of the Gospel where it is needed most.

On April 16, 2016, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador, killing at least 350 people, a number that is expected to rise as first responders reach the affected area. This is the strongest earthquake Ecuador has experienced since 1979.

Hundreds more have been injured, and there are reports of widespread damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure. Communications are down or intermittent, further complicating damage assessment and need.

Given the widespread impact, Catholic Relief Services is coordinating with other humanitarian organizations and our partners to determine priorities.

Water, food and emergency shelter will be the biggest needs in the coming days. The people of Ecuador urgently need your help. Your donation will help CRS respond immediately. Please donate by filling out the form below. Visit the web page and give what you can.