Monday, April 30, 2007

The hand of the Lord was with them May 1

The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19

The works I do in my Father's name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. John 10:25-28


Let us pray: Lord Jesus, only you can help us to hear your voice and understand your message. Make sure your words penetrate our consciousness so that we will recognize your calling and follow you. Amen.


Today’s Gospel takes place during the Feast of Dedication. We know this holiday more popularly as Hanukkah (or Chanukah). The Feast is an eight-day festival of lights to celebrate the ancient victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians. The Feast of Dedication is popularly known as the “Festival of Lights.” This festival is associated with the miracle in which the lamps stayed lit for “eight” days while the Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated, although there was only enough oil to fuel the Temple's lamps for only “one” day.

During the Festival of Lights, the Menorah is lit by a servant candle. Although the “Shamash” is located above the other candles, it must bow low to light them. Jesus humbled himself, took on the form of a servant, and shared his glorious light with us.[1]

This story from the Hebrew Bible is connected with today’s Gospel by the Jewish people calling for the Lord to accomplish another miracle or sign in order for them to believe.

The hand of the Lord was with the Jews during the Feast of the Dedication (or renewing) by making the supply of oil last eight times longer than it should have. Now, they want Jesus to perform another sign, as if he were a magician. However, Jesus refuses their taunt. He had already shown the people enough miracles and signs elsewhere in John’s Gospel but the people did not believe these signs. Because of their disbelief, Jesus refused the taunt to “perform” again for the sake of this crown of unbelievers.

Instead, Jesus reminds them of His connection with the Father. “The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.”

The reactions to these signs continue to separate those who were believers in Jesus from the rest of the Jews although it was not until much later in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians” according to St. Luke’s account in Acts.


What are your hands busy doing these days? The Lord has His hands full and could use a little help. Maybe yours can write to someone who needs a friend.

Check out this program: Rose Berger recommended this program in her latest installment on the God’s Politics blog.

The Manhattanville College “My Soldier” is a program that puts politics aside while letting U.S. troops know that people back home care. It was co-founded by Sgt. Juan Salas, a 23-year-old Manhattanville student who served 14 months in Iraq and is now back on campus. The letters Juan received meant so much to him that he wanted to generate thousands more for troops who are still deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. For more information, you can read here:

Rose also pointed out that there are starting to find web sides that foster connection with the Iraqi people. “Additionally, though it’s difficult to write to Iraqis, there are a couple of blogs that can foster connection. Check out Raed in the Middle and Baghdad Burning. Let us know of other people-to-people connections with Iraqis,” she writes.

By the way, Manhattanville urges people to wear red on Friday to remember a soldier. Mark that in your Outlook calendar for a Thursday night reminder when picking out clothes to wear on Friday.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Athirst is my soul for God April 30

As the hind longs for the running waters, so my soul longs for you, O God. Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. (Psalm 42:2-3)

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10)

By Beth De Cristofaro


Gentle Lord Jesus, Protector Jesus, Lifegiver Jesus, my soul thirsts for you. Yet, faithful Shepherd, there are days when I long for things other than you and I lose my way. Retrieve and guide my soul. Remind me that the living water comes from you alone. Refresh and cleanse me. Thank you for your protection and guidance in my comings and goings.


It’s hard to be a sheep. Acting sheeplike is deemed stupid, vapid and aimless. But in Jesus’ world, sheep, the source of life for so many, are precious. And, like sheep, humans need context and guidance for their lives so we build our own sheep pens. Mosaic law defined boundaries and protected identities within the divine covenant between God and the Chosen People. Jesus opened up the law so that all people would be invited in. Peter’s vision told him: But a second time a voice from heaven answered, ‘What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.’ (Acts 11:9)

Jesus taught, in a familiar and beautiful image: I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. (Jn 10:9) Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, will be published by Doubleday next month. John Allen, NCR Senior Correspondent from Rome, read and commented on the book recently. The following are excerpts from his column:

“Put in a nutshell, Benedict's thesis in Jesus of Nazareth is that there can be no humane social order or true moral progress apart from a right relationship with God; try as it might, a world organized etsi Deus non daretur, ‘as if God does not exist,’ will be dysfunctional and ultimately inhumane. Jesus Christ, Benedict insists, is ‘the sign of God for human beings’."

(Pope Benedict writes): "Whenever God is considered a secondary concern, which can temporarily or stably be set aside in the name of more important things, then it is precisely those things presumed to be more important which fail….History cannot be governed with merely material structures, prescinding from God. If the heart of the human person isn't good, then nothing else can be good. And goodness of heart can come only from He who is Himself goodness, who is the Good."

Jesus knew sheep. They wander. They get lost. They slide under fences in search of more tasty weeds or a more attractive stream. Does your soul thirst for the living God? Or does it stray, looking for juicy weeds and more promising roads? Where do you look for life?


Check out John Allen’s Column, All Things Catholic in National Catholic Reporter online for a look at Pope Benedict’s book. An excerpt from Jesus of Nazareth will be printed in Newsweek magazine May 11.

Have you visited your Ideals lately? The women of the 124th Cursillo have just done so. Pray for them!

Do your actions at work – whether the product you produce or to the people you manage - come from the good in your soul fed by the living Good?

As you listen to the candidates for president, do you listen with your soul fed by the living Good rather than for the one or two hot buttons that are “more important”?

In your daily dealings with your family, do you proceed from and share with them the living Good which waters your soul and heart?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Lamb is the Shepherd April 29

Fourth Sunday of Easter

For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. John 10:27-28


LAMB OF GOD, you are my shepherd. Despite my human needs and desires – desires that you shared – there is nothing essential that I lack. You provide work for my hands, words for my mind, companionship for my life, and love for my heart. You satisfy all the basic needs of my family and provide a peaceful neighborhood where we live, safely, without fear, while suicide bombers and cars explode in the neighborhoods where you walked. Your body and blood restore me. Your words give me strength and your example guides my daily actions. Like the woman at the well, you provide life-giving water.

Yet, I stray from the right path despite this abundance. Even when I wander off physically, mentally and spiritually, you never stop walking with me. You send the Spirit to guide me and give me courage in the darkest days. Your rod and staff will fend off all threats so I will not have to resort to violence against my sisters and brothers.

Thanks to you, my life overflows with your friendship. With your protection, only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of this life until I will dwell in Your holy house for eternity. (Psalm 23)


Who do we find on the throne of the king?

Is it a lion, the “king of beasts?

Is it a powerful and swift horse?

Is it the majestic eagle flying with power over all?

Is it the rooster, king of the barnyard?

No. None of these. We find the Lamb on the throne. We find that the Lamb is now the Shepherd.

We are the flock, following him, hearing his voice. We rely upon him for our very existence in this inverted world.

We can no longer see the actual signs of his work. We can not put our fingers in his wounds like Thomas. We can not visit Lazarus who was raised from the dead. We can not taste the wine of Cana. We can not watch him walk on the rough water of Galilee.

Jesus of Nazareth, this God-man, both son of Mary and Son of God, promises that we will never perish if we follow him. Yet, every day that goes by, the obituaries of the newspapers are filled with the names of people who believed and have died. How can that be if he promises that we will never perish?

Move to the meta-physical to understand the happiness-promise from Jesus of Eternity.


As we continue with this Easter season, reflect on the meaning of the season in your life using the words of Reinhold Niebuhr.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

What hardships do you need to accept?

What complaints do you have about this world?

What needs must you surrender to God’s will?

Friday, April 27, 2007

“Master, to whom shall we go?” April 28

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

“Please come to us without delay.” Acts 9:38

You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:69


Let us pray: Jesus, in our hours of doubt, when we are challenged by your teachings and tempted to walk away, send your messenger to come to us without delay. Guide us back to the right path, to your path, so we may follow you always, putting our beliefs into action, because you have the words of everlasting life. Amen.


Jesus never stops challenging us. Some of His teachings are difficult to understand. Maybe some of these have “turned people off.” Do you know someone who has stopped attending Church? Maybe they stopped walking with Jesus because it was hard to hear, too hard to believe, or too hard to live out His commands with loving actions.

It is not always someone else who walks away. Sometimes it is us. What are some of the hard teachings for you? For me, living like Christ non-violently is one of the hard teachings. In our world, we want to defend ourselves from attacks. Our society sees the sacrifice of men and women in service to the country as noble. When faced with these situations, we conveniently forget WWJD and instead do as we would like.

But Jesus was the Suffering Servant. He died “loving his enemies.” As Bishop Thomas Gumbelton wrote in the National Catholic Reporter, “[Jesus] was harshly treated, but unresisting and silent. He humbly submitted like a lamb lead to the slaughter or sheep before the shearer. He did not open his mouth.

“He did not, in other words, respond with hatred or vengeance. He did not want violence to be done to those who were even executing him. Instead he loved them. This is a tremendous example of how Jesus expects us to live. That model of Jesus as the one who not only said to love your enemies but actually did it,” continued Bishop Gumbelton.

Jesus recognized that today’s Gospel reading was challenging and hard to accept. “Does it shock you?” Maybe we need to be shocked by teachings we don’t understand and find hard in order to wake up from our too-comfortable lives and confront the challenge that Jesus presents to us in his life, his teaching and his mission for us.

Over the Easter season, we renewed our Baptismal promises in the Vigil Mass as new Catholics were initiated. In today’s readings, Peter renews his promises to the Lord. The faith that we proclaimed must be put into action. Jesus suffered for us, sheep who had wandered away in our own directions. Now it is our turn to be challenged and to bring people in touch with God. There may be a time or a teaching where we will have to set aside our personal views and be lead by others. There may be a time when, like Peter, we will go where we do not want to go.

But Jesus said “Follow me.” Not our way, but his way. When we are truly one with his lessons, we will react like Peter to the challenge. “Where else would we go?” This is our faith and we profess it in Christ our Lord who has the words of everlasting life. Now we must put those beliefs and values into action.


What is the anniversary of your baptism?* Look it up and celebrate it each year like you would celebrate your birthday.

How do you best celebrate your baptism? Maybe by making a truly sacrificial gift of your time, talents or treasure to those people most in need of your assistance.

*Answer for me: March 9, 1958, Our Lady of Pity Church, Staten Island, NY. And there is at least one person other than me reading this who was there that day.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Get Up and Go April 27

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:5-6

Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. John 6:57


Jesus, help us to hear your call and respond in the affirmative like Mary, Jesus and Peter responded to your wonderful message. Amen.


Jesus asks us to do what he did. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Jesus accepted his mission from the Father. He asks us to accept our mission with the readiness of Ananias and Saul. Ananias responded to the Lord’s request with a straightforward, “Here I am, Lord.” Saul, knocked down from his horse and blinded for three days, also responded to the Lord’s call. Are you ready to respond before you learn

Just as Jesus taught in the Synagogue, so too did Paul teach after his conversion and baptism. Jesus asks us, also, to be teachers of the world.


This summer, watch for your parish’s recruitment drive to sign up new teachers for religious education. Pick a grade where you are comfortable with the children and volunteer to teach.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Am the Bread of Life April 26

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

“Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” Acts 8:30-31

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.” John 6:50-51


Gather us into your arms, Lord, so we will always know that you keep us close.

Gather us into your mind, Lord, so we will always know you understand us and instruct us with Your holy words.

Gather us into your heart, Lord, so we will always know that you love us. Amen.


Old teachings from the Hebrew Bible are relearned and renewed as the Church takes root in the first century. After the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the disciples continue teaching in Jesus’ name even though they were cautioned not to. Today’s reading relates the interaction between Philip and the Ethiopian who was joining into this new sect – still not called Christianity (In fact the word “Christianity” is never used in the Gospels).

Philip’s teaching can be compared and contrasted with the teaching of Jesus in today’s Good News reading from John’s Gospel. Both passages teach/interpret stories originally related in the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Isaiah.

Philip helps the Ethiopian to understand the story of the suffering servant (Is 53:10-12)

In turn, Jesus expounds on the fact that we will learn from God who draws us close to Him. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:44) This builds on the promise in Isaiah 54:13: All your sons shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

The Ethiopian is drawn by the Lord into an encounter Philip. In response, Philip is sent by the angel of the Lord to teach the Ethiopian. With the teaching and belief established, God leads the student and teacher to living water (baptism). Thanks to the student’s turning toward God, Philip provides him with baptism that fulfills both the promise of the Hebrew Bible and the teaching of Jesus.


The life of the world is not in great shape these days. We too must relearn and renew the teachings of the Hebrew Bible as reshaped in the New Testament and in the modern era. Just as Philip picked up on the responsibility to instruct those drawn to God, we, too, have a duty as Christians to work to assure the life of the world.

A World Bank report this month pointed out that global aid to poor countries fell last year despite pledges to the contrary made by the world’s richest nations. The Washington Post noted that this decline jeopardizes the goal of doubling aid to Africa as well as meeting the United Nation's “Millennium Development Goals,” which include reducing global poverty by increasing aid to Africa. The story pointed out that “U.S. aid was down 20 percent from 2005.”

Contact your elected officials and ask them to assure the life of the world by meeting goals for US aid to the poorest people and countries on earth. Also, make a charitable gift to Catholic Relief Services ( or another organization working to assure help to people in need.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature April 25

Your Daily Tripod for Wednesday, April 25

By Melanie Rigney

Feast of St. 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)

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)


Lord, instill in me the confidence and faith to share Your good news at all times, to go forth as the Eleven did and preach everywhere to those in spiritual suffering.


I reviewed today’s readings a week and a half early, hoping to whip together something snappy and easy. Then I looked around on the Internet for an authoritative article to reference here and was amazed at the heated debate, learned and not so learned, sparked by Mark 16:15-20. A footnote to the reading itself said, “Early citations of it by the Fathers indicate that it was composed by the second century, although vocabulary and style indicate that it was written by someone other than Mark. It is a general resume of the material concerning the appearances of the risen Jesus…”

I found much debate on how literally Christians are to take the five signs in these verses: What is a serpent? What is a demon? What is a deadly draught? Beyond that, I found myself asking whether I as a Catholic truly had to “proclaim the Gospel to every creature” in “the whole world.” Since returning to the Church after a thirty-five year absence, I’ve often turned to St. Francis of Assisi’s words: “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words.” I like the idea of doing my best to live a Catholic, God-filled life and inspire others by the example of Him working through me rather than by preaching.

So, what to write for the Tripod? I sent an e-mail to my Cursillo sponsor, who I consider both a friend and role model, about some other business and said something to the effect of “I’m not sure what my take on Catholic evangelism is going to be in this Tripod. I’ll see where my research leads me.”

I had my answer within forty-eight hours, and it didn’t come from the Internet.

First, a young friend who has returned to the Church recently made a comment that resonated with me. She talked of a relationship taking a different turn when a man said things couldn’t progress romantically because she is Catholic. “Before, I might have said, ‘Well, I don’t know if I’m exactly Catholic,’” she said. “Now, I just said, ‘Yes, I’m Catholic.’”

Then I had a chance encounter with my insurance agent. He said I looked preoccupied; I told him I had just seen sample covers for my book that is coming out in October and was still thinking about my comments to the publisher. He asked what the book was about, and I said my return to Catholicism. For five solid minutes, I listened without saying a word as he talked about his and his wife’s hunger to find a parish that would feed to their hearts and souls.

Later, I thanked God for the answer. I will continue to strive to live a faith-filled life that may inspire by example, but I will no longer carefully weigh the appropriateness of using the words God, Jesus, and Catholic outside of church settings. I will evangelize both ways. I will be a proud Catholic.


Take a chance today. Tell someone outside your circle of family, friends, and church that you are a Catholic and why.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Never Thirst April 24

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” John 6:35


Jesus, we thirst for your goodness. We thirst for your righteousness. We thirst for your satisfaction. Help us to respond to the mission of Matthew 25 and quench your thirst as we satisfy those around us in need. Help us to be among your followers who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Satisfy us, Lord, with everything that is good. Amen.


Today, Jesus is again preaching beside the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s largest fresh water lake. The Sea of Galilee is central to our Gospel story and His-story. This is where Jesus recruited Peter the fisherman and the other disciples. Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount on a hillside overlooking this lake. This is the sea he walked on. This is the same seashore where he fed the 5,000 with two loaves and a few fishes. This is the same sea where the disciples encountered Jesus after the Resurrection when they were unsuccessfully fishing early one morning. This is the sea Jesus crossed often in ministering to both the Jews on one side and the Gentiles on the other shore.

Water was an important – if not the central – commodity and concern in Ancient Palestine. Not that it is not important in modern times, but we have it so easy. Imagine living in the desert with primitive means for irrigation, plumbing, sanitation and drinking. Such times meant that life revolved around the quest for water every day.

Today we take for granted water fountains, bottled water, tap water, ice cubes dispensed from the front of our refrigerator and more. If you ask someone who has traveled to any part of the undeveloped world about the care taken to make sure they avoid ingesting contaminated water, then you will understand that this ancient water ritual remains important so many cultures today.

Consider the role of water in your life and how that would change in ancient times. Imagine you did not have a sink with running water. You would have to collect, purify and store your water supply every day from nearby wells, rivers, and lakes. Collecting it would mean going to the source and then hauling it back to wherever you needed to cook, eat, clean, or drink. Purifying means boiling the water to eliminate disease causing germs.

Is it any wonder that “thirst” then was one of the only complaints Jesus uttered from the cross. “I thirst.” (John 19:28) The Gospels don’t tell us that he complained about the pain of the nails, or the crown of thorns or the whipping administered by the Romans. He fell under the weight of the cross but got to his feet and moved forward. Yet, on the cross, among his final words are, “I’m thirsty.” Hanging in the hot afternoon desert sun, sapped his weakening human body of the water that was essential for survival.

Yet, Jesus, a man, the priest-prophet-king from Nazareth, promises that you will never thirst! How bold! Can it actually be true?

Not only that, he promises you food so you will never hunger. No need for farming. No need for hunting. No need for fishing. No need for gathering berries and figs and fruits and vegetables from gardens and forests.

We are now his arms and legs. We are commissioned in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry and quench the thirst of those in need. If we take that mission seriously, then anyone who turns Jesus turns to the Church and will not thirst.


The fight for water continues in modern day Israel and the West Bank. The daily quest for clean water continues for many people in Asia, Africa and South America.

Try this experiment. Collect all the water you need for an entire day – bathing, washing, drinking, cooking, and all other activities. Try to live for the entire day without the benefit of using a tap with hot and/or cold running water. Heat up water when you need it. Figure out a way to cool the water when you need a drink.

Once you do this, meditate on the word of Jesus, “Never thirst.”

Consider the physical implications on the cross.

Consider Matthew 25 and the requirements to actively love those in need around us. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' (Matthew 25:34-37)

Finally, consider the spiritual implications of the Beatitudes on those who demand justice and those who work to achieve social justice. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

Believe in the Lord. Never thirst.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Work for Food for Eternal Life

by Beth De Cristofaro

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal…This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent
(Luke 6: 27-29)


My God who gives life, sanctifies life and sustains life in all its brilliance surrounding and enriching me, may I reflect back your love of life. May I reflect your love by my life’s action toward my neighbors – whether I know them or not – whether, by my standards, they are worthy or not. Thank you for the power of your Word in my life. Amen


These readings show the fundamental power of God’s Word. Stephen, as Peter and John have done in recent readings, lays his trust in the truth and supremacy of Jesus’ message over and above threats from earthly authority. Stephen was chosen by the 12 and he preaches with conviction. “…In his account of Stephen's execution (Acts 7:54-60), Luke parallels the martyr-dom of Stephen with the death of Jesus.” False witnesses spoke against Stephen – but their claims are true. For we have heard him claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” (Acts 6: 13-14) Jesus’ message puts into perspective that laws, food, human stuff of all kind perish. Eternal truth is from God.

Jesus’ beautiful words in the Gospel go to the heart of the reality that the people at the sea of Tiberias, Stephen and the apostles, and ultimately we are called to more: Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life. “This is the work of God that you believe in the one he sent.” (Luke 6:27-29) This comes from the teacher who fed the hungry, who guided his friends to better fishing waters, who healed physical hurts. Jesus understood human hunger and want.

In the Old Testament, the psalmist not only accepts the power of God’s word but finds comfort and protection in it your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors. (Ps 119:24) Jesus fulfills that ancient yearning.


Yesterday we saw Peter jump out of the boat when he realized that Jesus stood on the beach waiting for him. Today we see Stephen facing down temporal authorities at risk of his life. What makes us jump out of the boat? Stand up and proclaim? Does anything?

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter. “In the poignant encounter between friends whose relationship has been strained, (from Sunday’s Gospel) Jesus does not scold, rebuke, or chastise Peter; he does not demand an apology or an explanation. Rather, he offers an opportunity for Peter himself to undo his denial and to affirm his love.” (Creighton University)

Last week the Supreme Court upheld the ban on partial birth abortion, recognizing that laws can be passed on moral grounds. This is an answer to many, many prayers. Now what are we doing to uphold the moral obligation to support, not chastise, women who choose life and attempt to raise a child? What is our responsibility as Catholic Christians? If our moral grounds includes protection for fetal life, what about children’s lives and safety? Our country is derelict in this responsibility.

What do we do as Catholics for the single parent struggling to hold down a job and raise children when (again!) that 8 year old is sick and work is missed? What can we offer to the single parent whose teen is acting out and rebelling rather than letting law enforcement take care of the problem? What can we do when a child of a single parent reaches college age but there is no savings left over from a parent’s minimum wage job to help with continued education and/or living?

Health insurance…food…affordable housing…decent pay for decent work…affordable day care...real financial, not theoretical, child support…

Can Catholic Christians influence our culture so that single parents, who choose life, are celebrated and supported?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

You Will Find Something

by Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They answered him, "No." So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. John 21:5-6

Three challenges face us in our Gospel of today; the challenge of community; the challenge of following instructions; the challenge of recognizing Christ. Each of these challenges is aggravated by our need to do things our way.

When Christ first appeared to the disciples in the upper room, Thomas was not there. He would not believe the apostles because he wanted or needed to be able to see Christ for himself. He was there the next time and heard Christ speak his conditions for believing. Christ showed him the wounds that made it obvious who he was. Thomas in our Gospel of today was not going to miss out in a community action. When Peter said he was going fishing, Thomas who perhaps had never gone fishing was there at the head of the list of those who went. Christ belongs to the Community and comes to the two or more that gather in his name.

My work takes me to many different communities. Many communities have their unique way of doing things. It is hard to fit into a community that you are not a regular part of. What it means to belong to a community is a comfort level that arises from the frequency of participation. Over the years I have watched communities change their way of doing things. Some changes deal with the essential of what makes a community Catholic. There are certain basic dimensions of liturgy that are what is called “sine qua non” (without which it is not what it is supposed to be.” There are other instructions for liturgy that are optional. Many different cannons are approved and valid and it is at the discretion of the priest following certain norms to make his choices. The optional is a choice developed over the years that keeps us faithful to our traditions.

The choices others make for us is where difficulty arises. Fads come and go. I like going down to greet the community and I have been doing it for many years. The instruction not to leave the altar because you are giving your back to God seems incongruous when you are greeting the Christ of each other. I can not tell you how many times I witness conversations that belong to before or after Mass distracting from the liturgy. The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. In my old age I find that rituals make it easier to pray the Mass. Changes challenge us to look more closely at why we do something. When Christ tells the fishermen to put the net on the other side of the boat, I imagine he saw a school of fishes they did not see. The catch of fish from following instructions made the change worthwhile. Always having been uncomfortable with communion distributors going last to communion, I was glad to hear the instruction asking those communities that had changed to return to the old tradition. Receiving Christ makes sinners worthy to share Christ. Communities that share a common ritual make it possible to feel at home in other communities. It is hard to belong when you feel uncomfortable.

The Christ of the Resurrection is the stranger who comes into our communities. How we make each other welcome and what makes us welcome is the wonder of Liturgy and each other. We are called to welcome the stranger as we would welcome Christ. Our effort to make the strangers comfortable by welcoming the Christ in each of them is what brings growth to a community. What we do together is what gives life to the Community and allows stranger to find a home with us because they are no longer strangers in Christ.

Feed My Sheep April 22

3rd Sunday of Easter

By Deacon Gene Betit

Our Lady Queen of Peace

“We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name? Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men." Acts 5:28-29

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 21:18-19


Like the disciples, we often want to stay within our comfort zone, Lord, and just spend the day fishing or engaged in our hobbies. Help us to take on the high risks that you ask of us – to take up our cross and follow you. Give us the fortitude of Peter to jump in with all our hearts, with all our minds and with all our bodies and help you to tend to your sheep. All of us are called to ministry like Peter. Though, of course, there are many options, indifference is not among them. Prepare us to overcome our indifference and inertia and jump into the sea to follow you. Amen.


Today’s first reading describes the Apostles’ second appearance before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious and secular tribunal that condemned Jesus. The high priest rebukes them for having disregarded a previous injunction to refrain from preaching in the name of Jesus, alarmed because they have been successfully spreading the Good News in Jerusalem. Peter and the other Apostles reply courageously that they are bound to obey God, not men, delivering a brief sermon to the authorities, and actually rejoice at their brush with danger in Jesus’ name. They are learning to grow into their role as witnesses. The Greek word martyr actually means witness, but in the early Church and in many places throughout history being a faithful witness led to almost certain death. When Fr. Rocco addressed participants of the Peace Mass and March as martyrs for the faith on January 27th I was surprised, but by the time that day of beautiful sunlight and warmth on the Mall was over, I think all of us felt somewhat like what the Apostles probably felt after their brush with the Sanhedrin. We had spent the day as witnesses for peace and it felt good!

Today’s Gospel reading is about growth, authority and accountability, describing Jesus’ third appearance after his death. Jesus tells the seven Apostles on Lake Tiberius to set out and lower their nets again after their unsuccessful night time fishing expedition. The Apostles filled their nets to bursting when they followed Jesus’ instructions. At daybreak, Jesus prepared breakfast, asking Peter if he really loved him—three times, as many times as Peter had denied him earlier in the week. Upon declaring his love, Peter is commissioned to assume the role of shepherd in Jesus’ place, but he has become a chastened shepherd able to show compassion to those who fail. Whereas previously he brashly trusted in his own powers, he is growing to rely more on the Lord as the source of his spiritual strength.

Today’s readings collectively point to the tremendous potential and high cost of a life lived faithfully in Christ—what Dietrich Bonnhoffer described in detail in his The Cost of Discipleship. Every baptized Christian has a role to play in feeding and tending the flock, and the Church is rightly judged by the extent to which it cares for the most vulnerable among us. Today’s Gospel passage establishes the critical connection between Eucharist and the presence of the risen Lord in the community.

Like Peter, we too are often not ready to respond with a clear “YES!” to Jesus’ invitation to follow him. We lead busy and complex lives, and we generally prefer to consider Easter as a great triumph involving only Jesus. But there is no doubt that Easter is Mission Sunday, a clarion call for each of us to pick up our own designated crosses and follow our Savior. Easter is our catalyst for ministry, our personal invitation to follow Jesus, to experience his presence anew so that it overflows into every minute of our waking lives.


Our country’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to rage. The genocide in Darfur and the conflicts in eastern Africa and elsewhere continue to kill thousands and displace many more. Immigrants in this country continue to struggle to maintain their dignity. The rich are getting richer, and the poor continue to fall further behind. Global warming continues to affect the Earth's climate with increasing transparency while those in power remain in denial.

In the midst of all this chaos, what can any one of us really do? We can do what we have been called to do as Catholics, as followers of Christ: work to bring forth Jesus' message of hope and renewal to everyone we meet. We can work first on transforming ourselves so that we become courageous agents working for social justice and the common good, living the Gospel message each day, and sharing the hope and joy we feel in this alleluia season with our families, friends, business associates, and the many communities in which we live and move so that our joy ultimately permeates the wider world.

If this seems like a pipe dream, let’s remember that the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and East Europe in1991, followed by demise of Apartheid in South Africa started with a movement called Solidarity in Catholic Poland. Then there are two more lesser-known examples: the "People Power" movement in the Philippines and the peaceful removal of an eccentric strongman in Malawi.

Let’s not even compare the consequences of being a courageous witness to our faith in the Soviet Union or South Africa with standing up for justice and democracy here in America!! We can certainly do this with God’s help, becoming even more of a loving Christian community in action, and joining with other like-minded, Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant brethren in taking concrete action to change the way the game is played—in other words, restoring democracy.

We are being called to participate with the Industrial Areas Foundation in a Northern Virginia movement that will include a wide range of faith traditions and unions, an organization that will restore democracy -- provided we have faith in the process of participatory democracy as well as in ourselves. This might involve 3-5 meetings a year, which of course, one would attend only if one’s schedule permits. The 40 + congregations making up the Northern Virginia component of the Industrial Areas Foundation are having a Convocation THIS Sunday afternoon, April 22, from 3 to 5 PM at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Woodbridge. Can you jump in and attend to represent your parish?

Last week was Generosity Sunday – three great spiritual leaders, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Sr. Joan Chichester, and Cornell West, have joined to issue a proposal for a new basis for US foreign diplomacy. Their ‘Global Marshall Plan’ urges that the U.S. to change its fundamental orientation away from the notion that homeland security is achieved through domination of other countries, peoples and cultures to a spirit of generosity and caring for the well-being of others, spending 1-5% of our Gross Domestic Product each year for the next twenty years to eliminate global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, inadequate health care, and repairing the global environment.

Let us join in responding to such calls—and begin as we must, with ourselves, as we work for worldwide transformation, building up of the Kingdom of God.

In this Easter season, let us all vow to become agents of rebirth, reflecting on what we can do to make Easter’s spirit of renewal a reality that all humankind enjoys in our lifetime by embracing the myriad opportunities around us. And, when the road becomes tough, as we know it will, let’s remember that the Eucharist, that unique gift given to us by Jesus at such great personal cost, stands always ready as our sustaining source of spiritual life. How blessed are we who share the life of Christ…now, it’s our turn to be a blessing to the world!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Jesus Coming Near

April 21, 2007

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter

May your kindness, LORD, be upon us; we have put our hope in you. Psalm 33:22

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” John 6:19-20


Jesus, too often we put our hope and protection in someone else’s hands rather than yours. Help us to make room in our heart and our lives for you. No matter where we are, you will then have a chance to reach us and draw near, overcoming our fears and kindling our hopes. Amen.


What does it say? To really get a sense of what’s happening here, let’s get our bearings, something that the disciples seem to have lost this night…

Above is a map[1] of the Sea of Galilee so that you can get a sense of space and direction. Another view is seen on the map here. [2]

The disciples were rowing a boat in a sea with heavy winds and waves. The distance from Tiberias (where Jesus fed the 5,000 with two barley loaves and five fishes) to Capernaum was about 6 miles across the water – maybe 8 at the maximum if they were hugging the shore in the bad weather as safe sailors might.

When they had gone about halfway to their destination (Capernaum), they saw Jesus appear walking on the water and coming toward them. They were in the middle of the lake and saw their friend approaching on foot on the crest of the sea. It would be like setting out from lower Georgetown in a row boat bound for Mount Vernon on the Potomac River. By the time your boat gets to Alexandria, you and the crew encounter a vision in the night.

What does it mean? If you were rowing that night, how might you react?

Fear for the safety of your friend who is out on the rough seas. Fear wondering how and why he walked to your boat rather than just joining you when you set out from Tiberias. Fear wondering if something had happened to him and you were seeing a ghost.

Jesus has no limitations on time, space and distance like the rest of us. He wants to come close to you if you will only let Him. There are no physical barriers that Jesus cannot overcome. Time. Space. Distance. Night. Day. Water. Mountains. Roads.

What does it matter?

If your heart is open and you believe, Jesus will make a place to reside and abide in you despite the obstacles. He will reach you no matter where you are if you but put your hope, not your fears, in Him.


After a week like this, Jesus may seem particularly far from our world.

Every day, more than 80 Americans die from gun violence. (Coalition to Stop Gun Violence) As shocking as that seems, in comparison to Baghdad, we have it easy. But every life is precious no matter where you live. But this week has been particularly gruesome with the killings from Blacksburg and elsewhere.

There are people trying to help. Do you know about PAX and the campaign to end gun violence? They have launched a toll-free number (1-866-SPEAK-UP) where a student can anonymously report the presence of a threatening gun.

PAX's SPEAK UP Campaign has proven that school shootings can be prevented. According to government studies, in 81% of school shootings the attackers tell other students about their plans beforehand. Based on this fact, PAX created the national 1-866-SPEAK-UP program, featuring the first and only national hotline for students to report weapon-related threats (1-866-SPEAK-UP). The hotline has received more than 20,000 calls in only five years. Countless tragedies may have been prevented as a result.

It's still too soon to say with certainty whether 1-866-SPEAK-UP could have prevented the tragedy at Virginia Tech. But what is certain is that it has already prevented countless others like it. That is why it is vitally important, as our nation turns its fleeting attention to the issue of school shootings once again, and the risk of copycat tragedies runs extremely high, that we include prevention as part of that dialogue. Make sure you tell any youth you know about this special toll-free number (as well as 911) where they can call in the event of an emergency.

The People Saw the Sign He Had Done April 20

So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5:38-39

So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” John 6:13-14


Jesus, just as you long to dwell within us, we long to dwell in your house forever. Help us to be focused on the activities which you want us to see, to believe, and to understand. When we focus on these signs that you perform, then we will recognize you as the Prophet who has come into the world to save us. Amen.


How can the Sanhedrin possibly not have known about the miracles performed by Jesus? After all that Jesus did and all the signs he performed, what possible purpose was served when all the people forgot what they had seen? What possible purpose could these miracles serve if those who saw and believed did not come to Jesus side when he was in need and was being accused by the officials of the church and state.

Just consider how many people witnessed the miracle recounted today. There were 5,000 or more people who personally witnessed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. They were not alone. Sometimes, entire villages and other times, small crowds witnessed the other signs Jesus performed.

Many Jews had to witness Jesus curing the man who had been ill for 38 years. After being cured, the man told the Jews about Jesus and his cure. There was a “crowd” there filled with more witnesses of Jesus signs. (John 5)

Curing the ill son of the Roman official in Capernaum also was a sign revealed to the friends and family of the official and to the Jews who heard Christ address the man when he turned to Jesus. Again, this sign was not a secret. More witnesses. Did they forget or just not stand up for what they had seen?

In Cana in Galilee, Jesus performed his first miracle turning water into wine. In those days, such a wedding feast was probably witnessed by the whole village. All of these people would have been talking about the miracle performed there when the wine steward spoke of what happened as they ran out of the wine to serve guests.

There were neighbors and more witnesses after the beggar who was blind from birth were cured by Jesus. Yet, despite the facts before them, the Pharisees could only focus on the fact that once again, Jesus performed a sign on the Sabbath.

Finally, Jesus had more witnesses to his miracles when he raised Lazarus from the dead. There was a “crowd” with Mary and Martha as they were mourning the passing of their brother. Jesus proclaimed in front of the crowd, (John 11:41-42 ): “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Although he had performed so many signs in their presence they did not believe in him, in order that the word which Isaiah the prophet spoke might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed our preaching, to whom has the might of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said: “He blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not see with their eyes and understand with their heart and be converted, and I would heal them.” (John 12:37-40)

If these activities had been of human origin, they would have faded from memory. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” But the signs were from God. Records of these miracles have been preserved and passed on. The stories did not die out but were carried forth, preserved and multiplied in the ministry of the apostles who were sent forth to carry on the work.


What signs has the Lord performed to get your attention? How have you reacted?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Give Everything Over to Him April 19

We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29

The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Psalm 34:2

For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him. John 3:34-36


Jesus, you tell us that the powerful grow poor and hungry, but those who seek you lack nothing that is good. Deliver us from our logic. Deliver us from our earthy “wisdom.” These tell us that life is finite, ending, not eternal or unending. All you say comes from heaven but all we know comes from earth. Help us to let go of the wisdom of this world so that we may understand and believe in you to achieve eternal life. Amen.


In today’s first reading, when the apostles are faced with the choice preach or die, they elect to preach. Fortunately, the authorities back off the death threat and only flog them.

The apostles have learned that there is no half way or part way with Jesus. He does not “ration his gift of the Spirit.” Jesus learned this lesson from his own father who turned his son over to humanity completely. After Jesus gave His life for us completely, Jesus turns the Holy Spirit over to us completely. In turn, he expects us to turn over everything to him completely.

We have a choice. God or the world. This is either/or. You can not serve both masters. It’s like going into the voting booth. You have to make a choice. Candidate A vs. Candidate B. You can not have both as leaders. Think of it another way: There are many television shows broadcasting Poker games. When one player has a really good hand, they sometimes will bet all their chips against the other players – “All in.” Are you ready to go all in for Jesus?

“The love of God is the hatred of the world and the love of the world is the hatred of God,” wrote Soren Kierkegaard.

What does God demand if nothing less than total obedience? The choice is left to us.


Jesus gives people a choice. From the woman at the well to the women at the foot of the cross, Jesus asks for followers. Jesus offers us that same choice. We can say, “Yes” or “No.”

In the wake of our sorrow over the deaths of 33 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech, today comes the news that 131 people were killed and 164 people were injured as four car bombs exploded in Bagdad. Like the students and teachers in Blacksburg, these people were just going about their daily lives. Although they are not our neighbors and parishioners like the Virginia Tech victims, they are victims nonetheless. One car bomb exploded in a marketplace where people were buying food for dinner. Another bomb was detonated at a police checkpoint. There tragedy is ours, too, just like the tragedy in Blacksburg is one we share.

Are we getting too numb to the culture of violence that surrounds us and forgetting the central message that Jesus left us with? Peace be with you, he said at the Last Supper and when he appeared in the Upper Room.

Today, when I bring up the topic of gun control, my companions reject it. Instead, we retreat into our dens and curl up in front of movies like “Brute Force,” “The Killers,” “Dead Calm,” “The Punisher” and more. That’s just what’s on regular cable, not the other violence delivered up by HBO, Showtime, Cinemax or Direct TV.

We may not be able to go cold turkey on cultural violence. However, why not vow to attend Mass this week in honor of the dead in Blacksburg and Bagdad and turn off all violence on television for a week? Replace it with life affirming choices – good books, good music and good discussions with your family.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

God So Loves

But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said, “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.” Acts 5:19-20

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. John 3:16


Lord Jesus, in this day of darkness when death shadows our community, our state, our nation and our world, let us remember Your sacrifice to save us.

God so loved Austin Cloyd, Champagne, Il., International Studies and French

Go so loved Brian Bluhm, Cedar Rapids, IA, Graduate Student, Civil Engineering

God so loved Caitlin Hammaren, Sophomore, International Studies and French

God so loved Cho Seung-Hui, Centreville, VA, English

God so loved Dan O'Neil, Lafeyette, Rhode Island, Graduate Student, Civil Engineering

God so loved Daniel Perez Cueva

God so loved Emily Hilscher, Woodville, Va., Equine Science

God so loved Erin Peterson

God so loved G.V. Loganathan, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

God so loved Henry Lee, Roanoke, Va., Computer Engineering

God so loved Jamie Bishop, Instructor, Foreign Languages and Literatures (German)

God so loved Jarrett Lane, Narrows, Va., Civil Engineering

God so loved Jeremy Herbstritt

God so loved Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, French professor

God so loved Juan Ortiz, Graduate Student, Civil Engineering

God so loved Julia Pryde

God so loved Kevin Granata, Professor, Engineering Science & Mechanics

God so loved Lauren McCain, Hampton, Va., International Studies

God so loved Leslie Sherman, History and International Studies

God so loved Liviu Librescu, Professor, Engineering Science & Mechanics

God so loved Mary Karen Read

God so loved Matt La Porte, Dumont, New Jersey, University Studies

God so loved Matthew Gwaltny, Chester, Va., Environmental Engineering

God so loved Maxine Turner, Vienna, Va., Chemical Engineering

God so loved Michael Steven Pohle, Jr.

God so loved Nicole White, Carrollton, Va., International Studies and German

God so loved Rachael Hill

God so loved Reema Samaha, Centreville, Va.,

God so loved Ross Abdallah Alameddine

God so loved Ryan Clark, Columbia County, Ga., Biology, English, Psychology

God so loved Waleed Shaalan

God so loved you and all these people and the whole world that he gave up his only begotten son to human life through the incarnation and to execution on the cross so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. Amen.


Are you willing to risk being jailed for your faith?

In today’s first reading from Acts 5, we witness the jealousy of the religious authorities over the popularity of the apostles. As a result, the apostles are jailed and refuse to stop preaching. “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). Fortunately, they miraculously escape with the aid of the angel of the Lord and resume preaching. Rather than go back into hiding, they are now confident and bold enough not to cower away from their duties to “tell the people everything about this life.”

The dichotomy between God’s love and the sins of the world comes in sharper focus in the famous passage from John 3:16. God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. Jesus, the light, came into the world, to save it, not to condemn it. However, people preferred darkness to light, and turned against him. The world continued to turn against his apostles who were “sent” to preach the Gospel to the world.

The conversation about the “light” occurs during the evening discussion with Nicodemus, who crept in to see Jesus when he would not be noticed by the other Pharisees. Nicodemus wants to believe but has a hard time accepting Jesus’ teaching when he first hears it.

But God does not condemn Nicodemus. God loved Nicodemus and God was not through with this man. Those lessons echoed in his head. As the plots against Jesus became more serious, Nicodemus tried to persuade his colleagues in the temple not to turn against Jesus. In the end, his defense was not enough to stop the Passion of the Lord.

However, Nicodemus fulfills the promise of John 3 and he comes to the light again. – “Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” Nicodemus comes to the foot of the cross in the light of Good Friday afternoon, to remove the body and give Jesus a proper Jewish burial with the help of Joseph of Aramithea.


Are you prepared to come to the light of Christ at all costs? Read Fr. John Dear, S.J. column in the National Catholic Reporter as he recounts the path of one of his Jesuit colleagues who has challenged civil authorities much like the apostles did, preaching about the limitations of life on earth.

Some of you may not support civil disobedience and actions like those of John Dear or Steve Kelly. However, today’s Gospel, this Easter season and the events of the battered world around us make us pause to think about what they are doing.

They are challenging the violent ways of our nation and offering as an antidote God’s ways of peace and love. As we wrestle with grief over what happened yesterday in Blacksburg, VA., maybe we should not dismiss John Dear, Steve Kelly and others who risk arrest and accept jail time while witnessing the Gospel.

Think about it…

Monday, April 16, 2007

No Needy Person April 17

There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Acts 4:34-35

The LORD is king, in splendor robed. Psalm 93:1

If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? John 3:12


Jesus, help us to recognize that you are King over all creation. We worship so many false gods. Cash. Beauty. Stock prices. The beautiful lawn and garden our neighbor cultivates. The cars parked in front of others’ homes. The diplomas earned by our co-workers. The salaries of CEOs. Help us to focus our piety, study and action where the early Church concentrated…on showing love for those who needed assistance. That way, we might be able to bring a little heaven back to earth. Amen.


It almost sounds like a dream. No needy person among them. How can that be?

This early Christian Church was rejected by society. They worshipped in hiding, even marking their graves with symbols that the Romans would not detect. Yet, there was no needy person among them…a miracle in itself – maybe more miraculous than feeding the 5,000 with a few barley loaves and some fish.

Our battered times would be lucky to have such a boast. We need grief counselors in Blacksburg. We need to send fire departments to the rescue in the flooded, frigid Northeast. We need food and medicine for poor areas of our community, our nation and our world. How can it be that there was no needy person among them?

People gave up everything. There was no private ownership. There was no Keysian economics. There was no Laffer Curve or supply-siders. If they owned a house, it was sold and the proceeds donated to the church so everyone got “according to need.” Fr. Barkett, when was the last time someone brought you the proceeds from their home sale?

There was no division between rich and poor. There was no division between nationalities, races, or religions. The new Church took seriously the Gospel that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.

Today, we wrestle with the cultural contradictions between capitalism and Christianity. The utopia described by St. Luke in Acts Chapter 5 may only exist in Catholic Worker Houses, the Bruderhof, and other small, some might say fanatic, Christian communities?

But who is the real fanatic? Those who hear the word of God and follow it or those of us who hear the word of God and try to “interpret” it in ways that allow us to pursue our comfortable suburban lifestyle?

Aren’t we, like Nicodemus, really attracted to the life Jesus promises? Maybe we will start sneaking away in the night to be with Jesus? Who knows where it might end? For Nicodemus, the journey ended at the foot of the cross, carrying the Savior’s body to the Tomb with Joseph. Maybe we will be lucky enough to get that close to Jesus someday.

Under the cover of darkness, Nicodemus learns that Jesus sets up the dichotomy between earthly views and eternal teachings. The challenge for Nicodemus and for us – to accept the testimony Jesus gives.


Turn the tables on the acquisitive society. Reject consumption. Throw out all catalog that you get for the next 90 days. Cancel your membership in e-Bay. Cut up all your credit cards except for one to use in emergencies. Then, see if you have more to give to the poor.

If St. Luke was on US Airways Flight 1647 yesterday, he might have fainted at the overdose of consumption displayed in the Sky Mall catalog (

The Triple Media Cabinet for only $370 holds 1173 CDs or 567 DVDs. The Kitty Washroom which will hide your litter box and scoop for $100. Then there is the hand-crafted Stained Glass Fireplace Screen, soldered with 541 pieces of art glass. Watch it glow if you part with $239.50.

From fingerprint locks to video monitoring, the acquisitive society spins out of control. The Primeo Touch Dual Espresso/Cappuccino Maker for ONLY $2,889.95. To store your 250-bottle wine collection, there is the temperature controlled closet for only $2,594.95. It’s cheaper to store your wine than to make your coffee.

While drinking your wine, be entertained from your Classic Jukebox, a steal at $2,599.95. But if others don’t want to listen to your favorite tunes, shut them out by plugging in your sound-isolating earphones for only $499.95.

Hanging over your Classic Jukebox is the 16 x 20 autographed picture of the band KISS. It’s only $799 but let’s face it, where else can you get a Gene Simmons signature? Hang it next to the $1,299 Mark McGuire baseball bat (steroids not included). When your friends come over to visit, entertain them on your full-sized arcade game, complete with 25” color monitor. One hundred classic games return to life in this full size upright console when you part with $3,695.95.

How can it be that the needy don’t have what they need when our society is worried about owning video games that cost nearly $4,000?