Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In Your Midst for May 31, 2007

In Your Midst for May 31, 2007

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.
Zephaniah 3:16-18a

With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation. Isaiah 12:3

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. Luke 1:46-49


Let us pray: Lord, what great things you have done for us…You saw to it that we were born in the wealthiest nation in history, which is being defended by volunteer soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Despite the cross that we are to bear, our spirits rejoice that Jesus is our Savior and that He freed us from sin and delivered us into everlasting salvation. Amen.


Each time we sing the Magnificat, we proclaim to each other what sort of God we believe in and especially how God deals with those of low and high degree. Luther says that we sing it for three reasons: (1) to strengthen our faith; (2) to comfort the lowly and (3) to terrify the mighty. (From Beyond Guilt: Christian Response to Suffering by George S. Johnson, p.37)

This Magnificat is the song of a lonely peasant girl who has found herself pregnant and unwed. She is not even sure that her betrothed will stand by her. She flees her home in search of the comfort of an older cousin who will give her support.

If anyone in history is the opposite of “mighty,” it is our Mary, full of grace and a growing baby in her stomach living in ancient Palestine.

We strengthen our faith as we proclaim the kind of God whom we worship – a God who respects the lowly, who keeps his promises, who grants mercy to those who love him, and who satisfies the hungry.

Despite her place in society and her social outlook, Mary remains filled with hope: “[God] has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”

As anyone who has completed the Just Faith experience will tell you, God reserves a special place in his heart for the “anawim,” the poor children, orphans and widows.” God has given, through Mary as well as throughout the Hebrew Bible and the Good News, a special instruction for the leaders and the community to care for them and keep them in a special place in our hearts.

Another one of the core principles of Catholic Social Teaching is solidarity with the poor. That doesn’t start and end with Mary alone. It extends to this very day in the person of the lonely pregnant teenagers from the South Bronx to Baghdad, from Fredericksburg to Fairfax.

The mightier that we are or seem to be, then the more we must fear when we sing the Magnificat. Mary sings to Elizabeth that God “has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones.” Maybe this is the fantastic ideal of a powerless young woman who expects to feel the pain and humiliation of society when they learn of her condition. But if God keeps his promises, then those of us who can be counted among the mighty and the rich and the privileged, should take stock for a day of reckoning and penance awaits.


How can you support the lowly? Lately there has been a rebirth of service in the Church, especially service to unwed mothers. No longer can leaders be content to stand around proclaiming that God has died for our sins. But during the recently completed Easter season and beyond, God has refreshed us beside the life-giving waters that flow from his Son into other groups we touch.

Today’s Gospel reading of visitation is a scene ripped from the Joyful Mysteries. We encounter two pregnant women having compassion for the condition of each other just as Mary and Elizabeth supported each other.

Here in our diocese, in Fredericksburg, a parish is starting the Paul Stephan Homes in honor of a quiet young man who was killed for no reason at all. Considering learning more about the Paul Stefan Home, by clicking on this link.

Further away, the Benedictine monks at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina have pledged to build on their land a home for unwed mothers in cooperation with other local charities like Room at the Inn.

Many other such services are starting to come into being. How can you help? How can you support the lowly and the lonely?

PS: Happy Lonely Bull!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Ransom of Many for Wednesday, May 30

Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

by Diane Bayne

“You know how among the Gentiles those who seem to exercise authority lord it over them; their great ones make their importance felt. It cannot be like that with you. Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest; whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all. The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve--to give his life in ransom for the many.” Mark 10:42-45


With these words of today's Gospel, Jesus describes the heart of humility--his humility--which we must share if we hope to be his followers. Decisively answering James' and John's request to sit, one at his right hand and the other at his left, Christ leaves no room for doubt about the spirit which is to animate the disciples. They are to follow his example by serving each other and, if need be, by laying down their very lives for each other.

In what areas of my life am I in a position to exercise authority over others? Would they describe my relationship with them as a Christ-like one?


The request of James and John in today's Gospel is a vivid example of our corrupt human nature – corrupt because, unless we are always on guard, instead of turning toward God we turn toward self. This innate self-focus demands that the rights and welfare of others always come after our own. Of this self-focus St. Francis deSales says, “It will die only a quarter of an hour after we do.”

Humility has been called the foundation of the spiritual life. The lives of the saints show us how they revered this virtue. As time allows this week, pick a saint and focus on the specific ways he/she developed this virtue. What practices of him/her can you adopt?


The example, par excellence, of humility was our own Blessed Mother. In the home at Nazareth she buried herself in a very ordinary life filled with household tasks far beyond any we know today. She had no washing machine, dishwasher, clothes dryer, refrigerator, indoor plumbing or running water. Daily she had to make the dough, knead it and bake it. Daily she had to fetch the daily water supply from the town well. To clothe her family she had to spin the thread and make the cloth from which she then made garments. She probably also tended a small garden. What must have been hardest of all, she had to live day by day with first-hand knowledge of who Jesus was, without being able to cry out to the world what she knew. She, who knew Christ better than any one ever could, kept silent. The Salesian Probation on Humility observes: “The treasures God gives and which people generally use for their own glory, she used only for His glory.”

In what area of your life do you find it hardest to live humbly? Ask Mary to teach you how to live it as she would.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Receive a Hundred Times More May 29

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means. For the Lord is one who always repays, and he will give back to you sevenfold.
(Sirach 35: 9-10)

Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. Mark 10:29-30


Let us pray: God, we recognize that your covenant with us is a two way street. For all that you provide, much is asked of us. Abraham set a high bar with his willingness to sacrifice his only son to the Lord. Help us to give back to you in alms and sacrifice while also supporting our sisters and brothers who are in most need. We ask this through our friend and brother Jesus Christ, who taught us that everything asked of the Father in His name is granted. Amen.


Someone once noted that the highest form of generosity is “kingly giving” where we share with others the very things that we use for ourselves. At this level, we give with spontaneity and ease. We take great delight in giving the best we have – those things we value most – and we are always looking for opportunities to give.

Today, the readings give us a prescription for kingly giving. With all that God provides to us, not only will we be repaid sevenfold, according to Sirach, but one hundred fold, according to Jesus.

This sounds great but very few people give up everything for the Gospel. Probably fewer still actually tithe. Fewer still even remember what gleaning is – leaving behind something for the poor to find.

We still want our warm bed, our comfortable home or apartment, abundant food and drink. We still seek and enjoy companionship. We often give out of our abundance, not out of sacrifice.

“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy is one of today’s best sellers. In it, two unnamed protagonists, a man and a boy, struggle to survive after an unexplained devastation has wiped out civilization as we know it. They walk from town to town in search of whatever meager food and water they can find. They try to stay warm, stay healthy and stay alive by telling the good guys apart from the bad guys.

Along “The Road,” they encounter people who would kill them or steal all their food and blankets. They have to defend their shopping cart filled with gleanings from the journey – rotten apples, seeds, water from cisterns, and canned foods – with the business end of a pistol in the struggle to tell the good guys form the bad guys.

In this environment, achieving anything close to kingly giving, or the standards set by Sirach or Christ may seem difficult. However, the man and the boy have pledged their very lives to each other with no abundance – just to watch out for each other on the journey.


Think about your charitable acts this month. Can you consider making a truly sacrificial gift out of your means, not your abundance? What would motivate you to give at this level?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Come, Follow Me

May 28, 2007
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth De Cristofaro

You who are alive and well shall praise and glorify God in his mercies. How great the mercy of the LORD, his forgiveness of those who return to him! (Sirach 17: 23-24)

“Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” (Mk 10:26-27)


God, you who are the source of all goodness and who alone can grant the gift of eternal life, give me the goodness, discernment and strength of will to give up my riches and follow you. Let me put nothing before you, Lord God. Let me put nothing before those in the world who have less. Let me help you disperse the riches of the Kingdom through me. I trust and hope in your mercy and love. Amen.


Last Monday, Paul spoke to the men in Ephesus and asked “by whom were you baptized?” (Acts 19:3) In offering to baptize them in the name of Jesus, he was offering them a chance to further and to deepen their journeys toward God. Today, Sirach and Jesus each outline a spirituality of repentance and obedience both of which are journeys toward God. But then Jesus offers more. Go beyond the basics.

Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. .. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:21, 25) “In the Old Testament wealth and material goods are considered a sign of God's favor. The words of Jesus provoke astonishment among the disciples because of their apparent contradiction of the Old Testament concept. Since wealth, power, and merit generate false security, Jesus rejects them utterly as a claim to enter the kingdom. Achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift.”

Henri Nouwen speaks of the “poverty of spirit” of Jesus (which) is much more than an economic or social poverty. Jesus is poor because he freely chose powerlessness over power, vulnerability over defensiveness, dependency over self-sufficiency. Poverty of spirit comes from a position of complete surrender to God just as Jesus taught us: “give us this day our daily bread.” Translated, this works out to a mentality of “abundance” rather than “scarcity” (again, Henri Nouwen). Giving of ourselves, giving of our possessions does not impoverish us. God will feed us. Giving feeds others and enriches us in the treasures of heaven.

Cursillo group reunion gives us the opportunity of exploring our riches and giving them up with loving encouragement from our spiritual friends. What holds us back from God? What are we doing in our lives to go beyond the expected, such as following the commandments, attending Mass on Sundays. What are we doing to deepen our dependence on Jesus rather than on other things – sometimes, even things that could be bad for us?? Do we use group reunion to best advantage?


Are we really a “pro life people?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful – awesome – a visible sign of the Kingdom if the United States would become a place where women do not have to choose abortions? Rather, women would choose to raise their children or offer them to loving adoptive homes because THEY HAD REAL OPTIONS. Picketing abortion clinics does not support mothers and fathers; homes for pregnant women only give a start. Our society is so unwelcoming and unsupportive of families. Healthcare for EVERY CHILD would give families options. Affordable housing and childcare would give families options. Livable wages would give families options. What can you do to “give up your riches” and follow Jesus, the brother of children, the ill, the poor? How can you advocate with our leaders for more effective private and institutional support of families? What in your local community supports families?


Beth DeCristofaro

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Make Our Dwelling with Him May 27

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:3-4

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

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. John 14:23


Let us pray: Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth. We are preparing a room for you in our house, Lord. This is the room where you will watch us as we keep your commandments. This is the room where you will watch us pick up our cross and carry it. This is the room where you will reconcile us to each other and to God and commission us to go out and preach to all mankind. Amen.


Where does Jesus stay? This itinerant preacher wandered through the desert, crossed the Sea of Galilee twice, preached to the crowds gathered on the side of the mountain, taught in the synagogues.

Where does Jesus stay? In the course of the historical life detailed in the Gospels, Jesus was always moving around. Sometimes, he was trying to avoid arrest and punishment, even death.

Where does Jesus stay? It was the very first question burning in the disciples’ hearts when they met Jesus. Staying implies permanence, settling down, hanging out together like friends. Jesus wants to stay with you – he wants to stop wandering and he wants you to stop wandering. He wants to settle down and hang out with you – you are his friend. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. John 15:15

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” John 1:35-39

At the outset of His public ministry, Jesus promised his disciples that they would learn where he was staying. He invited them to come and see. Today, that question is answered. Jesus spells out the answer quite plainly and repeats it several ways:

I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. John 14:20

Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him. John 14:21

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. John 14:23

If we keep his commandments, he will stay with us. If we don’t, he will walk away. Although he had performed so many signs in the presence of the Jews, they did not believe in him. That is why He sent the Holy Spirit to strengthen their commitment and ours to a life in ministry and mystery.


Is Jesus staying at your house this weekend? I hope so.

One additional place you will find Jesus is at the Dominican Retreat House in Mclean where people facing serious illness are on a retreat. Keep them in your prayers and support the weekend with palanca and food & water donations.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Without Hindrance He Proclaimed the Kingdom – May 26

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Mass in the Morning

This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you and to speak with you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains. Acts 28:20

The LORD is just and loves just deeds; the upright shall see his face. Psalm 11:7

What concern is it of yours? John 21:23


Lord, Lord – Please keep me focused on the tasks ahead you have assigned to me. Let me focus on your assigned tasks. Place my mind on my work. Place my hands on my work. Place my heart in my work so that it may be prayer-like in service to You. Amen.


Jealousy and envy have no place in the Christian mission. Each of us must work for our own salvation and redemption. No one else can confess our sins. No one else can reconcile us before God. No one else can choose to have faith and tend my sheep.

Peter is grilled and given a task. John, the disciple Jesus loved, has a different task. His brother Andrew, who introduced Peter to the Messiah, has a different task. These tasks and assignments for others are not of any concern for us. God has a special plan in place for each of us. We can not compare what happens to us with what happens to our neighbors.

In essence, you shall not covet thy neighbor’s mission, relationship, or moments closest to Christ. You will have your own if you seek them out.

But sometimes, external obstacles can and do try to get in our way. Maybe the obstacles are not like the prison cell and chains that confined St. Paul when he was in Rome – under house arrest – awaiting trial.


What are your obstacles? Think back to your weekend and the obstacles talk that was given. Today, we encounter St. Paul in chains in Rome. Yet the chains and house arrest did not deter him from proclaiming the Good News in Rome.

What are your obstacles to Christ’s friendship today? Illness? Materialism? Distractions? Perhaps some of your distractions are external – things of the world which get in the way of your spiritual life. Maybe some are also internal – the way your ego wants to pursue other goals that are not consistent with your mission.

How can you overcome these to freely follow Christ? Count your blessings because some people are not. Today, we can reflect on two other people who find themselves – like St. Paul -- in prison today. The first is 67-year-old Haleh Esfandiari. An article by her husband appeared in Friday’s LA Times. An employee of the Wilson Center, she is powerless to challenge the Iranian government which keeps her under arrest unlawfully for accusations that he completely denies. An innocent woman waits in jail an uncertain outcome. You can have your voice join thousands of other voices worldwide in calling for the Iranian government to release her.

The outcome for Christopher Scott Emment is much more certain. Since 1976, Virginia has used the death penalty more than any state except Texas. Nevertheless, on June 13 our Commonwealth faces the possibility of yet another execution. On that date, Christopher Scott Emmett is currently scheduled to die by lethal injection. It is critical for Governor Kaine to hear from Virginians expressing their opposition to the use of capital punishment when non-lethal measures to protect society, such as life imprisonment without parole, are available.

As the Virginia Catholic bishops recently noted in an Op-Ed column appearing in the April 29 edition of The Washington Post, “The death penalty must be viewed as a ‘last resort,’ to be used only when -- in the words of Pope John Paul II – ‘it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.’” Bishops DiLorenzo and Loverde also observed in their column that our neighboring states are moving away from the death penalty, while Virginia continues to use it at an alarming rate. Because Virginia has the option of sentencing dangerous offenders to life in prison without parole, the Virginia bishops “are convinced that -- in our time and place -- the death penalty is unnecessary and inappropriate, and that death sentences should no longer be imposed or carried out in Virginia.” (Id.)

In solidarity with the bishops’ appeal, please take action here to contact Governor Kaine and urge him to commute Mr. Emmett’s sentence to life in prison. If you prefer to contact the Governor’s office by telephone, please do so at (804) 786-2211.

The Three Commitments May 25

His accusers stood around him, but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive. Acts 25:18-19

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. John 21:18


Let us pray: Jesus, your story is so much more than a nice tale to read or tell to our children. Your story transcends literature by giving us the Way to live. Although the words you use sometimes make the path sound easy to walk, the implication of following you and taking up our cross is difficult. Give us the wisdom to know the implications of what lies ahead for us and give us the fortitude to face whatever trials and tribulations come our way. When you tell us to follow you, give us the prudence to say, “”Let’s go.” Amen.


With two days remaining until we close the Easter season, today’s Gospel relates Jesus’ last instruction to Peter and reminds us how things have changed since the Last Supper. Here after the “Last Breakfast,” Jesus revealed himself to the disciples after the crucifixion one final time.

After jumping off the boat and swimming to shore to see the Lord, Peter was distressed that Jesus sought from him three promises of love and devotion.

The exchange between Jesus and Peter has all of the appearances of a Reconciliation between friends. There is not a long list of “sins” related to Jesus by Peter. Although we can fill in the blank there: “Bless me Jesus, for I have sinned. This is my first confession. I did not believe that you could feed the 5,000 people with two loaves and five fish. I doubted you when you had me walk out of the boat toward you. I would not let you wash my feet. I cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave Malchus. I denied you three times after you were arrested. And for these and all my sins, I am truly sorry for having offended you.”

Jesus, instead, undertakes an examination of Peter’s conscience and commitment. To atone for the three denials, Peter confirms his commitment three times – distressed that Jesus cross-examined him three times with the same question. Jesus, though, had to be sure that this was the rock who would build the church.

Once Jesus has this commitment, he then delivers the final instruction, “Follow me.” This too stands in contrast to that scene on Passover between Jesus and Peter. After Judas departed, Jesus gave the disciples a new commandment: Love one another. Then, this exchange took place:

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered (him), “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.”

Peter said to him, “Master, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” John 13:36-38

At Passover, when Jesus departed, Peter could not follow. But Jesus said “You will follow later.” Now, Peter must follow. In fact, Jesus gives this instruction twice. When Peter attempts to get Jesus to tell him what is in store for John, Jesus doesn’t let Peter off the hook. Instead, he says, don’t concern yourself with the fate of another; your job is purely to follow me. “You follow me.”

Jesus gave the same instruction to Peter earlier. Simon Peter was not one of the first disciples called by Jesus. His brother Andrew was. After Andrew began following Jesus, he introduced his brother to the Lord. In Galilee, Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)

At the beginning, Peter did not know what he getting into. He was a fresh recruit. Now, Peter knows much more about the implications of following Jesus. He was there when Jesus warned them what it means in Mark 8:34-35: [Jesus] summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

Today, Peter knows it won’t be easy but he is fully informed and fully committed.


Have you encountered your cross yet? Perhaps your cross is dealing with an illness or medical condition. Perhaps it is a failed relationship that you are trying to repair. Perhaps it is a special challenge or project that your family, church or community are trying to get started. Take up your challenge knowing that Jesus will always be at our side.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Take Courage May 24

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.” Acts 23:11

For you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit. You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever. Psalm 16:10-11

I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them. John 17:26


Let us pray: Jesus, pray not only for those who believe in you today, but also for those who will believe in You tomorrow through the words and works you send us to accomplish. May all humanity be united one, as you are in the Father and the Father is in You. May you dwell in us and let your light shine forth to the world to believe that the Father sent you into the world and that He loves us as He loved you, his only Son. Brother and friend, help us to live up to the responsibility that comes from being your gift from the Father and be with us wherever you go. Amen.


Third Meditation

The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus/Prayer of the Hour of Jesus

Imagine walking in to tackle your toughest assignment. Maybe it is a big test. Maybe it is a big presentation. Maybe you have to write a big proposal. Maybe you have just met the students in the new class you are teaching this semester. Maybe you have to repair a house after a tree fell on it or a city after a hurricane flooded it.

And you hit the home run out of the park. You aced that test. You won the big contract. Maybe you just graduated from high school or college and its time to prepare for that new job or next step in your journey. You and the team go out for a drink…to have a party and celebrate with a dinner at your favorite restaurant. It’s easy to imagine that the success was all because of your own hard work.

Then, as the sun sets and you retire for the evening, the excitement of the day quiets down with the setting sun. You are finally alone in the dark as the last thoughts of the day leave your head.

That is when the Lord will come to you and give you an even bigger job to accomplish.

St. Paul may have thought that the troops sent by the commander rescued him. But it wasn’t that force. It was the power of the Lord. As the Psalm today reminds us, “The Lord will not abandon me.”

He will remain at your side – in unity forever. That is what he prays for and the Father always answers his prayer. Unity. Jesus and the Father are one. The Father is always in Jesus. Jesus and his followers are one. Jesus is always in us. “The love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”


Maybe it is time to volunteer for that bigger assignment knowing that the Lord is with you. Consider sending in your application to be on one of the next Cursillo teams. Maybe if you have been on team, you want to apply to be Angel or even Rectora/Rector for a future team.

There are many other ways to increase your volunteer efforts. Read through the Sunday bulletin at your parish. What tasks does the Church need to accomplish? Lectors? Singers/cantors? Eucharistic ministers? Visitors to the sick? Leades for Just Faith classes? Leaders for Landings? What talents can you offer back to the One who gave you these talents in the first place.

Just as Paul succeeded in Jerusalem then was sent to Rome, where are you being sent next by the Lord? Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to do it alone? Wherever it is, whatever it is, the Lord will remain at your side.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Consecrate Them in the Truth May 23

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

By Melanie Rigney

Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephseus: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock…So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears. And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.” (Acts 20:29, 31-32)

Jesus prayed: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one…They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” (John 20: 11, 16-17)


Lord, help me devote my every action today to your praise and worship. As I encounter the “savage wolves” and those who pervert your truth, show me the true path. Hold my hand and speak your word to me.


Consecrate. A word that lands on the ear so pleasantly, with those cee and ess sounds, and lands in the heart and soul with so many lovely meanings.

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged gives as the word’s final meaning the one that may be most familiar to us: “to perform consecration (as of the elements in the Eucharist).” But in today’s readings, the words of Jesus and Paul seem to refer to this definition: “to make or declare sacred or holy; effect of the consecration of: set apart, dedicate, devote to the service or worship of God.”

Neither Paul nor Jesus leaves any illusion that living a consecrated life will be easy. Indeed, Paul warns of “savage wolves” that “will not spare the flock” and of men from within the group who “will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them.” Jesus asks that the Father “keep them from the Evil One,” for “they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”

But that consecration in the truth, in the Father’s word, is the protection Jesus seeks for us. And, ultimately, it is all we need. If we are consecrated in the truth, we can go forward and help the weak and take comfort in Paul’s reminder that it was Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”


As Catholics, we are sometimes called upon to defend or explain our faith against “savage wolves,” those who seek to pervert us,” or those who simply are uninformed. But to defend it, we have to understand it ourselves. Have you moved beyond a fourth-grade understanding of Catholicism? Check out what’s billed as “The World’s Toughest Catholic Quiz.” Have a discussion with your prayer group about the answers you disagree with or don’t understand.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Hour Has Come May 22

May 22, 2007

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. John 17:9-10


Father, thank you for sending to us the gift of your Son, Jesus, who died a gruesome death to give you glory. Jesus, we praise you for never stop praying for us to attain unity with you and the Father. You know that we always need your support. Continue to send your holy breath to instill in us the strength and gifts of the Holy Spirit, our Special Advocate. Holy Spirit, stay with us and lift us up to the tasks to which we have been commissioned by Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.


Over the next four days, the daily Gospel reading will be from John Chapter 17, known as the Priestly Prayer of Jesus. This is the longest prayer transmitted to us by the Gospel and “embraces the whole economy of salvation, as well as death and Resurrection.”[1]

This “Prayer of the Hour of Jesus” was offered for us on Holy Thursday, the evening of His arrest, after the Last Supper in which He gave His holy body and blood to His disciples and after Judas had gone out into the night to betray Him.

Jesus always prays before decisive moments in his life and ministry. While many times Jesus goes off by himself, the Gospels contain two other explicit prayers offered by Christ during his public ministry. One is related in Matthew 11:25-27. The second prayer is the prayer before the raising of Lazarus (John 11:41-42). In these, we see how Jesus was constantly offering petitions to the Father and praying in thanksgiving.

Before the Prayer at the Hour of Jesus, Christ had just finished a long discourse to the disciples, in which He explained to them about the tribulations they would face, ending with: I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:23

The notes from the New American Bible (N.A.B.) teach us that Jesus offers this prayer to the Father “as intercessor, with words addressed directly to the Father and not to the disciples, who supposedly only overhear. Yet the prayer is one of petition, for immediate (John 17:6-19) and future (John 17:20-21) disciples.” The notes to the N.A.B. go on to note that “many phrases reminiscent of the Lord’s Prayer occur. Although still in the world (John 17:13), Jesus looks on his earthly ministry as a thing of the past (John 17:4, 12). Whereas Jesus has up to this time stated that the disciples could follow him (John 13:33, 36), now he wishes them to be with him in union with the Father (John 17:12-14).”

Just as this prayer unifies Jesus and the Father, it also is a prayer of hope for us to achieve eternal life. It goes so far as to define that eternal life as unity with God. “This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent.” (John 17:3)


Jesus wants us to know the Father that he loves so much. Jesus addresses God as “abba” or “daddy.” What are you doing in your life to get to know God as your father?

Do you turn to your “abba” when you are faced with difficult or even overwhelming circumstances?

Follow the example of our friend and savior Jesus Christ. Prayer with thanksgiving to God and offer petitions like he does for the entire flock.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Have Peace in Me

By Beth De Cristofaro

The father of orphans and the defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God gives a home to the forsaken; he leads forth prisoners to prosperity. (Ps 68:6-7)

When Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 19:6)

I have conquered the world (John 16:33)


Today I sing to you, O God. I sing my wonder. You defend those most in need of defense. I sing my hope. You give a home to one and all who have none. I sing thanks for your gift of peace. I sing your peace: may it settle in my heart. I sing your peace to the world. Amen


The truth is, we are often “alone”. Humanly speaking we can find ourselves geographically removed from friends. We might be emotionally isolated from our loved ones. We can find ourselves cut off from our society because we disagree with its policies and actions.

Jesus experienced this: Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. (John 16: 32) And earlier in this reading he warned that the apostles would also be “alone,” ostracized and in anguish.

But his answer, again, turns this inherent human condition on its head: But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. … I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. (John 16:32, 33)

Darfur, Iraq, Palestine and Israel, East Timur, South Bronx, Camden, Colombia, Petworth, Prince George’s County, Virginia Tech…violence against the innocent. Addictions, hypocrisy, greed, lust, fear, anger, disrespect…disrupt our families and disorder our choices and actions. How can Jesus have conquered the world? We might say we doubt or that we believe. But do we act as if we do? Do we act as if we believe and rely upon the promise given the apostles as Jesus ascended: Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day … And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; (John 24:46, 49)

Henri Nouwen wrote that the Church is the people of God. The Latin word for “church,” “ecclesia,” comes from the Greek “ek,” which means “out,” and “kaleo,” which means “to call.” The Church is the people of God called out of slavery to freedom, sin to salvation, despair to hope, darkness to light, an existence centered on death to an existence focused on life.

“When we think of Church we have to think of a body of people, traveling together. We have to envision women, men, and children of all ages, races, and societies supporting one another on their long and often tiresome journeys to their final home,” according to Nouwen. We each have our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world. We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust. Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time.”


What is your call? Who are you helping out of slavery? Are you advocating for someone’s freedom? Are you supporting someone’s spiritual journey? Are you comforting someone in despair? Are you bringing light into a dark, depressed or ailing life or living your life focused not on death and the transience of this world (howbeit a beautiful work of God) but on the small tasks of living life in God and helping to heal our times? Do you believe in and give the gift of Jesus’ peace?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ascension: The Final Good-bye (Conclusion)

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

“…You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Acts 1:8-11

Then he led them (out) as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God. Luke 24:50-53


O Lord, we cannot let you go. We need you to stay because without you, we are unable to face the problems of life. How can we do anything without you? We like to touch and feel. If you are gone it will not be the same. We need to know your closeness and be with you in the confidence we have when you are seer, and close enough to touch. Do not go Lord. Stay on because there is no one who can replace our need of having you close. How we want to see you, Lord. We cannot believe that you are lost in the clouds. Will you return? Can we not hold on to you? Do you have to go? Do you really want to stay as much as we want you to stay? Your ascension is our prayer of questions. Amen.


(See the opening part of Fr. Joe’s reflection on the Ascension of our Lord here.)

This “Omega” of our faith, the Ascension, is really the beginning of the marvelous journey into a self realization of a Mystery of God. The call to become Divine is, by virtue of our own rising to the new life, our being able to live in the presence of God in the now of our life. It carries with it the promise of the resurrection. The ascension allows us to see, but not clearly. Our own resurrection will allow us to see with the fullness of love. We will see and hear what cannot even be imagined now because it is so much more than what is suggested by the ascension. The realization that we are made for another world is part of the ascension grace. It is years of living in the presence of God, and the degree of awareness of that presence which claims our hearts bringing the anticipation of our own resurrection.

Our response to the ascension will be seen in the fullness of our living the mandate of the ascension. Christ passed on the job he had received from the Father. We have to continue his work where he left off if we are going to live up to our baptism. This is what subsidiarity is all about. The work of the Church will be finished when the entire world belongs to Christ. If we have not done all that we had hoped to do, it is still possible to pass on the responsibility of our charisms. It is here that the Mystery of ascension gives rise to the Church. The Angels query to the Apostles: “...Why stand you here idle?”(Acts 1:10) should have been followed by: “...Go forth and teach all nations...! (Matt 28:20) For so many years, spirituality was a turning in, without the going out. There was and is an acknowledgment of God and the Savior. Our lives were so private we did not really have to announce the good news of the Christ within us. This Christ life, which is the truth of who we are in this new life, gives rise to the responsibility of fulfilling the mandate to “Go forth!”

In Baptism, our initiation rite, the mandate to go forth is instilled in each of us. The literal meaning of baptism is discoverable in the branding of slaves by the Romans. Slaves were marked on their forehead with the sign of the Roman family to whom they belonged. We are branded with the cross of Christ in our baptism. We are claimed and owned by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity comes to make their home within us, and the Mystery of Indwelling takes place. We become Temples of the Holy Spirit. Letting Christ out to the world has its counterpoint in the Indwelling, which flows out of baptism. We are created in the image and likeness of God. Our Christ life from baptism is what we must let out of ourselves to counterbalance Christ's going from 'the world in the ascension. This is expressed by making Christ present in the world by our lives, and by claiming where we are for his dwelling.

Vatican II speaks of the Church as “The People of God.” In the Decree on the Laity, the laity is given the responsibility to baptize the world with the presence of Christ. They have to go where the Church has not yet been. The power to do this flows out of the presence of Christ in their lives, which comes with baptism. The vows of Religious have been spoken of as a second baptism. They are seen today as a public commitment to live out the fullness of the baptismal promises. Religious, in a sense, commit themselves to be professional holy people, attempting to make the world holy by the intensity of their Christ life. The external signs of this life are the poverty, chastity and obedience, which show a genuine desire to live the same life as Christ. The vows single people out, when they are perpetual, because fewer people in this world of ours are willing to make a permanent commitment. Love is forever, and the promise to stay with Christ and to go where he would go is more perfectly stated in the commitment to live his life. These signs give the world the right to count on Religious to witness to Christ in every environment both favorable and unfavorable. Christ has a claim on every dimension of the life of a religious, and the consecration, which used to be considered a separation from the world, puts on the Religious the tremendous responsibility of making the world holy by sharing the intensity of the Christ life.

The ascension of our Lord has long beer, looked upon as a statement that the final act is finished, the curtain has been drawn, it is over, the torch has been passed on. But the reality of the ascension, the statement that it is all right to begin again, says that Christ believes that we are now ready to be his presence in the world in which we live. It is our responsibility to re enter our world and claim it for Christ, and to share his love. We know that he came to claim us as brothers and sisters. The promise of Christ to stay, even as he goes, fills us with peace.

We stand on the hill of the ascension and see Christ whom we love going off without us. He wants to take us and we want to go. The ascension recalls the difficulty Christ had in leaving us behind and our desire to go with him. Christ had already said he must go but would send the Spirit. The Spirit of Truth would tell us all we need to know. Christ had said it all, but we did not understand. The Angel comes to ask why we are standing idle. How many times have we missed the point when we read that statement? We did not understand those men who locked themselves in the upper room for fear of the Jews. They loved Christ so much that without him they felt they had nothing to give, let alone, to live for. The Spirit would have to come before the Apostles would have the necessary courage to go out and share with the world the Good News of salvation. But at that moment they were just watching him go. For the rest of their lives the Apostles would feel the weight of sorrow that held them back as they reached out for him.

The ascension is a mystery that we relive again and again in the after prayer periods of our lives. We trace his presence on our souls by meditations. He traces his love in us in the moments of contemplation when he lifts us up into himself. We have the sense to cherish those moments of our soul’s contentment when he seems so close. But all too quickly the contemplative moment is gone. We find ourselves staring off into the distance at the ascension. Each moment of grace takes our hearts up into the heavens. Our prayer soars and the beauty of going off into prayer is the reminder that we are made for another world. As much as we want to go with him, and as hard as we try to hold onto his love, he goes off and leaves us with a task to be done for the sake of his love. The desire to hold on to prayer can be for us what the ascension was for the Apostles.

We want to go with him, but it is not up to us to pick the hour and the way. We expect him to come soon, so we go on with our work. We want to be ready when he comes again, so we look for, his presence in all that is happening around us. The reality of going with him is what the Church is all about. We go with him by living the reality of his presence in the Church. In the ascension, he leaves one place, so that he might be in every place. He promised his presence in us, and we honor it by making him present to others. He calls us to go into the whole world and claim the world as the possession of the Trinity. Christ wants to go with us. Baptism and his ascension make it possible.

The ascension may be like a curtain closing so that the stage may be set for the next act, and this act is ours. Where we step out in his name, we give him a foothold in our, world. Where he has stepped in the ascension gives us a foothold in heaven. Two steps, one in each direction, allow us to cross the Grand Canyon that separates time and eternity. Christ had to go so that he could humanly be in the many parts of the world where we would make him present through the sharing of baptism. Two worlds would be joined by a love not limited by the goodbye of the ascension.

Every Nativity, the Alpha of our Faith, has a date with the Ascension, the Omega of our Faith. Every going has the implications of staying. Ascension is not the last breath of Christ's Resurrection, but the first breath of our Resurrection as he sends the Spirit to make us his love to the World we claim for the Father.

We pray with the Apostles to the Lord of the Ascension: O Lord, we cannot let you go. We need you to stay because without you, we are unable to face the problems of life. How can we do anything without you? We like to touch and feel. If you are gone it will not be the same. We need to know your closeness and be with you in the confidence we have when you are seer, and close enough to touch. Do not go Lord. Stay on because there is no one who can replace our need of having you close. How we want to see you, Lord. We cannot believe that you are lost in the clouds. Will you return? Can we not hold on to you? Do you have to go? Do you really want to stay as much as we want you to stay? Your ascension is our prayer of questions.

You could only have gone, Lord, if you knew that you would live in the poverty and brokenness of the least ones who would come into our hearts. It is a powerful question you asked of Paul on the road to Damascus: “Why are you persecuting me?”(Acts 9:4) It is the question of every relationship of our lives. How can we love the God we do not see if we do not love the neighbor we do see? How true it is that in the ascension you have become the stranger of our lives.

You are gone and we can only find you now as those strangers. How can we reach out to one we do not know how to love? Lord, let us see you in everyone whom you love, because we know that you become one with the one you love. Your love does not know the limitation of distance. You are with us still in the love that will not let Us go it alone. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your, promise to remain with us.


We hear the question of the Angels: “Why do you stand here idle?” We do not yet understand fully. We need to know what it means to be about the mission we share from you of being about your Father's business. You are such a lover that you would be our love for each other. Help us, Lord, to bridge the gap that is the ascension, and be the power of the ascension in the lives of our brothers and sisters. Help us to do this by sharing the love you have left behind in our hearts; we can only keep you, Lord, by giving you away.

Lord, help us to be an uplifting experience for all of our brothers and sisters so that we may be drawn together in the wake of your going. Help us to find the way to the realization of the Resurrection in our own lives. Lord, strengthen our belief in the Resurrection. Help us accept your ascension as the beginning of our mission. Let us share the promises of your love to our world. Let your goodbye be our hello to the mission of sharing the love of your heart with our world. Let us be strengthened by the coming of the Spirit.

Ask and You Will Receive

May 19, 2007

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter

He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and, with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the Way (of God) more accurately. Acts 18:25-26

Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. John 16:23-24


Let us pray: God, author of all lessons, as we meet you in today scriptures and in the day ahead, help us to be faithful to your teaching. Open our eyes and hearts to guide our success in life. Open our mind to new teachings and lessons so we can seek you with a greater understanding. Open our hands to the work you have sent us to accomplish today and tomorrow and everyday. We ask you these things because your son, Jesus, encouraged us to. We pray that He will intercede with you on our behalf that you may grant these petitions in His glorious name. Amen.


As we move into the seventh and final week after Easter, today’s readings give us a chance to pause and reflect upon what has occurred liturgically over the last three months and how it has affected us, changed us and strengthened us for the challenges ahead.

First, there is piety. Jesus is here again as always, encouraging us to pray to the Father in his name. (Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened for you. Matthew 7:7-8) “In his farewell conversations Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray in his name, expecting their prayers to be answered. In a way this is much like the word about faith. Faith is a trusting relationship, and acting in the name of Jesus is acting for him, in his cause, and doing what he would do; it is to act in a relationship of discipleship, which is a relationship of trust and belief.”[1]

Second, there is study. In today’s reading from Acts, we encounter a confident Apollos, a key preacher and teacher in the early Church spreading the Good News. However, even the greatest preachers still have a lot to learn. Apollos is taken aside and given more instruction. With this, he becomes and even more effective preacher. We, too, must always be willing and open to new lessons. We must continue to learn more about our God, our Church and our faith.

Finally, we see in these two examples (Jesus and Apollos) men of action. They have acted on their mission and brought – through their thoughts, words and deeds – the Word of God and a new way of life to those they encountered.

If we are faithful to this path, then God will bless us with growth that will bring us closer.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7


Apollos had been instructed in his faith and then shared that with others. Like his example, we too can learn a lot by teaching.

All of our churches need religious educators for young children, youth, teens and adults. Consider volunteering to be a teacher in your parish religious education program. In such a role you will 1) learn new lessons about our faith; 2) spread the Good News to people who are seeking a greater depth in their faith and 3) inspire others to act.

As the current school year is ending, check with your parish Director of Religious Education to see what openings they have for volunteer teachers in upcoming programs.

Do Not Be Silent

Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. Acts 18:9

So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. John 16:22-23


Jesus, help guide me to “do something about it.” Wake me up from being a reader of the news and the Good News to being a reactor and catalyst. Help me mobilize my emotions into faith-based actions that start to build the Kingdom of God right here. Right now. Amen.


Taking on our responsibilities as followers of Jesus puts us into a movement toward happiness. Despite the current worldly anguish we face, as we move closer to God and God moves closer to us, we will experience a joy that no one can steal or spoil.

Jesus can sense our troubles. Yet, he doesn’t want us to succumb to those problems. He wants us to be encouraged by the ways He supports us. Jesus does “palanca” for us. He prays to support and lift us up. In fact, the disciples also did palanca for us. In fact the New Testament includes 22 palanca letters to us from the early Church.

This encouragement tells us that our worldly troubles are like clouds on the horizon. The storm will come, but it will pass by revealing the light of the heavens. Yet, we also can not shirk our responsibility to help ease the troubles of others as well.


Every day, I go to work in the District of Columbia. This trip affords me the chance to pass by the front of the Holocaust Museum and The White House. Recently, these two institutions joined forces to shine light on the genocide happening in the Darfur region in western Sudan.

On April 18, President Bush, in an address at the Museum, said that we have a moral obligation to stop the genocide in Darfur. He went on to say:

Inside this building are etched the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "You are my witness." As part of this witness, these walls show how one of the world's most advanced nations embraced a policy aimed at the annihilation of the Jewish people. These walls help restore the humanity of the millions who were loaded into trains and murdered by men who considered themselves cultured. And these walls remind us that the Holocaust was not inevitable -- it was allowed to gather strength and force only because of the world's weakness and appeasement in the face of evil.

Witnesses to that war in the Darfur region have seen that conflict claim a staggering human toll. More than 200,000 people have died from the conflict -- or from the malnutrition and disease that have spread in its wake. And more than 2 million people have been forced from their homes and villages into camps both inside and outside their country.

If you want to see what is happening in these burned out villages and refugee camps, Google Earth has an amazing portrayal of the Crisis in Darfur.

We can not be silent. We must act!

Another 30 days has elapsed since President Bush issued stern warnings to the Sudanese government to protect innocent lives. Yet they have failed to take such necessary and humanitarian actions. Therefore, the Save Darfur coalition is urging President Bush to put in place the plans announced on April 18.

The people of Darfur simply cannot afford any more "last chances" for the government sponsoring the violence against them. Plan B (which was originally supposed to launch in January) has been delayed long enough.

This month, the United States holds the presidency of the U.N. Security Council -- a perfect time to lead the world by introducing a tough resolution to make it clear that the world is united in opposition to the ethnic cleansing taking place in Darfur.

President Bush and world leaders must use all measures available to force Sudan to keep its commitments to the international community.

Ask the White House to stick to its deadline and finally implement - and enforce - tough U.S. sanctions against Sudan, and to introduce a tough Security Council resolution at the UN.

Click here to send a message to the White House that the people of Darfur need action immediately.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ascension: The Final Goodbye? Part One

May 17, 2007

The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

“…You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Acts 1:8-11

Then he led them (out) as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God. Luke 24:50-53

(Note: The Ascension of the Lord is a Holy Day of Obligation. We celebrate this time – forty days after Easter – when Jesus Christ comes to the end of His life on Earth and happily ascends into Heaven. This reflection on the Ascension by Fr. Joe will appear in two parts -- Part One today and part two on Sunday, May 20 when the Church also devotes the daily readings for Mass to this feast.)

Lord, help us to be an uplifting experience for all of our brothers and sisters so that we may be drawn together in the wake of your going. Help us to find the way to the realization of the Resurrection in our own lives. Lord, strengthen our belief in the Resurrection. Help us accept your ascension as the beginning of our mission. Let us share the promises of your love to our world. Let your goodbye be our hello to the mission of sharing the love of your heart with our world. Let us be strengthened by the coming of the Spirit. Amen


The Final Good-bye

Goodbye has many different meanings. The Ascension is a goodbye; it signifies Christ is going to the Father and no longer with us in his pre-resurrection, un-glorified body. The human Christ seems gone forever and the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, remains. The humanness of Christ continues among us in the Sacraments. He is in every Christian by their Baptism into his life. Christ is present in the person we love. He is hidden from us in the person we neglect. Christ abides in us through Baptism and the indwelling of the Trinity. Christ enlivens the moment of Eucharist. Christ is in the midst of the two or three who gather in his name. We neglect to see the Christ whom we persecute by blocking the good another is doing. Christ is alive in the good deeds one does. Christ comes as the guest we welcome in his name. Christ is embodied in the Vicar of Christ. Christ speaks in the different forms of authority in the Church. Christ presides when civil leaders rightfully claim our obedience. Christ who stays and the Christ who left is one and the same person. The paradox of his going and staying at the same time is the mystery of Ascension. The going of Christ is his staying in a more ample way. Christ keeps his promise to remain with us forever in the Sacramental life of the Church. His love is celebrated in Eucharist all over the world from the rising of the sun to its setting. All the ways Christ reaches us are expressions of his abiding love

Ascension is “goodbye.” The ascension as the goodbye of all time teaches us how to say goodbye in time. It is not a good goodbye if we do not want to see the one we are leaving ever again. That is more like getting rid of someone. Christ is still present to his Church. His type of goodbye implies a return sooner rather than later. The ascension is the best of goodbyes because Christ will always we present to those he leaves. The mystery of divine indwelling is the mystery of God with us, not gone. The love poured out on the cross is enough for the whole world. The victory already won belongs to the Christ of the Resurrection. The ascension is a going which implies the all given, or soon to be given, in Pentecost.

Pentecost would enable the Apostles to make use of the gifts they already possessed. The coming of the Spirit would pull together and make sense out of all the Apostles had learned from Christ. Christ chose to leave but the Spirit would be sent to continue to instruct and strengthen the Apostles as they went about their task of passing on what Christ had taught them. Subsidiarity, the passing on of responsibility to another, is the result of Pentecost. It is a process that began in the ascension. We would be remiss in our duties if we left before a job was finished or before it had enough momentum to be finished without our help. Subsidiarity is possible when all the responsibility that needs to be given has been given. The responsibility of claiming the world for the Father is the mission Christ had from the God. What is still left of the task is continued in the Church. Christ could go because his mission had been passed on. The disciples had accepted the challenge. Christ gave them all they needed to accomplish this work. At Pentecost the disciples would discover what the going of the Ascension meant.

The disciples did not want Christ to go. They were told there would be some special message. They gathered in Galilee because they were told to do so. They received their mandate from Christ. If we are good at the work we do, some will be reluctant to take our job while we are around. If we have to go and the job needs doing, someone will be found to continue where we left off. The Apostles had to be told by the angels to move on. Do we ever believe someone we love is gone? The hardest part of celibate living is the desire to hold on to those we love. People come and go in our lives and they take our hearts with them. We have chosen to be celibates out of love for Christ. The very love we have for Christ allows us to know the truth of our heart. Christ lets us love one another with his love. Wherever there is love, God is there. God is there when Christ's love flows from our heart. The celibate man or woman lives the ascension by allowing those who are loved to move on to where they are needed. Celibates discover in their lives how loved they are, and how greatly they need the love of their brothers and sisters. Love wants the beloved close and feels strongly the separation. The Apostles were shocked to find that Christ was going. How can anyone let Christ go? The Apostles were the first of the many who would have to let a beloved go. However, for John, the “Beloved Disciple,” there would be no final goodbye to Christ. Their ongoing love would keep them close to each other so that even in the going there would be a staying.

The people of Appalachia were the first ones I ever met who said goodbye by telling me to stay. I stood up to leave and they said, “Stay a while.” I thought something was left undone. So I sat down again. Soon I thought they were foolish in telling me to stay if they had nothing more they wanted from me. It became a comedy of errors on my part as up, down, up, down I went, until finally I realized what they meant. They wanted me to stay because they had enjoyed the visit. “Please come back soon” would have been easier to understand than the stay awhile that meant goodbye. Yet the “Do not go” is so much more expressive of the attitude of the Apostles saying goodbye to Christ. The ascension could be the Christian celebration of a saying goodbye.

I felt deeply the reluctant goodbye of the Mountain people when my mother, who was terribly sick and at the end of her life, asked me if it was okay to pray for a quick death. If I told my mother too easily that it was okay to go, she would feel that we did not want her around. I had heard mom as she told my sister that I did not want her to go. I knew then that it was time to give her permission to go, because now she knew that we wanted her around no matter what the cost was to us. Her pain of living had reached such an intensity that it would have been terribly selfish to have held onto her. Leave taking takes so many forms. The night before she died I told the Lord that if he did not take her, I would not speak to him for a month, I would be that angry. When I was told later that she had just stopped breathing, I could rejoice because my goodbye was no longer reluctant. I wanted what was best for her.

Christ's ascension is the statement that the best is not here. Even as we would look for, Christ, our search will lead us to the Resurrection. Christ had the right to go where his happiness is. A tearful goodbye expresses the need for the other to stay. 'The Ascension fulfills Christ's need to be with the Father. We can want one we love to stay or go with us. Christ would send the Spirit so we would understand how to be his love. We would need to share Christ with those we love before we would go to be with Christ. The need to go and the need to take others with us would always be the tensions of goodbye.

While visiting my spiritual director, who was in a coma, I expressed to others my desire to pray over him because I did not want to let him go. A week or so later when he was home from the hospital, he described what he had experienced. He told me it was like being down a huge tunnel and hearing a voice calling: “I need you. Come back.” My need for him was selfish and not as great as his need for heaven. The next time I would not ask him to come back. I had said my goodbyes.

The Apostles by the intensity of their gaze had asked Christ to stay with them. They would have held on to him physically. Christ was free to go because he could leave behind the gift of himself. Even as Christ gave the Apostles the command to go into the whole world and claim the world for him through Baptism, he gave the promise of being with them until the end of time. Are we really willing to claim the promise of the goodbye of Christ? What does it mean to claim that promise? The paradox of Christianity is that although dying implies going, the going in Christ implies the staying.

We all make attempts at developing a way of experiencing God's presence. As young Religious we were told to make acts of the Presence of God. They were just words we said in the beginning of our spiritual life. One- liners, calling out the name of Jesus, asking mercy, were more frequently acts of the mind than cries of the heart. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me'' supposed that Jesus could hear and was close. Today, hopefully, those Acts of the Presence of Christ express the reality of our hearts being present to this God of ours. Christ's presence should mean as much as the presence of the brothers and sisters whom we can touch. The years spent as religious speak a life dedicated to the presence of our Lord. Now we should be capable of recognizing his presence in each other and in our world.


There is no fundamental difference between the presence of the Lord in a newly baptized baby and any one of the mystics of the Church. The love of God reaches out to the good and the bad alike; reaches all of us equally. This is an important insight for our spiritual journey. The devil has the same presence of God's love in Christ as we do. We should all look for the humanness of Christ in each other. How can we love the God we do not see, if we do not love the neighbor we do see? At some point, the potential of the presence is the same for all of us. The difference lies in the degree of the heart's acknowledgment and response to the presence. How much love do we give? Does the presence stay in the head or does in reach our hearts? God's love makes the world go around. Our hearts can respond to God's love in any moment of our lives. Spirituality finds the presence of our Lord by seeing through the disguise of the stranger who comes into our lives. The doors of our hearts will be open and then the Christ of our hearts, the Lord of our hearts, will be free to come forth in all we say and do.