Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Am With You Always

He answered them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1: 7-8

Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28: 18-20


Dear God, every ending also is a new beginning. As we end this Easter season today with the Ascension of your Son, let us begin again to commit ourselves to you and your mission for us to share our love with you and with all those around us. Help us to continue to carry out that mission to bring glad tidings to the poor, not to the powerful and the celebrities. Help us proclaim freedom to those who are held captive by addictions and afflictions. Help us to make those blind to your love, see freshly again. Help us to live the life Jesus asked us to live and to share his love daily not just by hearing the words of the prophecy but by acting them out in our lives of piety, study and action. Amen.


Jesus spoke to his disciples (and ultimately to us) in a variety of ways – direct conversation, analogies, figures of speech. His message from the very outset was one that featured two prevailing themes – first that God loved us so much and wanted to be among us (His people, His children) so much that God sent his only son. It was only through our actions from Adam on through time, that we rejected the closeness to God. Secondly, to remain close to God, we had to distance ourselves from the prevailing views and attitudes of popular society and culture. He preached power to the powerless, hope to the hopeless, charity to those least likely to be helped by the kindness of strangers. Yet, he could only preach this if he lived that manifesto from Luke 4. After his temptation in the desert, Jesus returned to Galilee.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:16-21

As we mark Jesus' ultimate success, today is the final fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Jesus has now been set free and returns to his Father, to Our Father. We mark his daily presence among us as much by his departure as we do by his historical presence. Jesus leaves so that he can return. Jesus leaves so that he can remain with us. We have to let go of him, to share him back with the Father, in order to have him with us at all times. He has to leave us in order to be with us. We have to share him with others in order to allow him to dwell within us.

That may be hard for some people to understand. However, we don't have difficulty with that because we already have had to come to terms with the idea of dying in order to gain life, of suffering in order to be happy, of giving up all earthly power in order to accept the ultimate power and authority of heaven. The most powerful man who ever walked the earth came into the world like everyone else – a helpless babe in his mother's arms – and left the world the same way, a helpless man in his mother's arms.

We remember. We remember Jesus in the Nativity, a newborn baby full of life. Yet we had to let go of the baby so He could be about his father's work. We remember Jesus of the Passion and the Pieta, a lifeless body, abandoned by his friends, passing through his mother's arms one last time before the grave – seemingly defeated but not for long. A mere three days later, we also remember Jesus of the Resurrection triumphing over capital punishment at the hands of authorities. And finally, today, we remember Jesus of the Ascension…going away but leaving so much behind. We have his words passed on to us through Sacred Scripture. We have his physical presence passed on to us through the Eucharist. We have his grace bestowed upon us through the sacraments.


Pray the new Mysteries of the Rosary today…the Luminous Mysteries handed down to us by Pope John Paul II.

The Baptism of Jesus. Consider your baptism and the baptism of your children and others you know. Be thankful for the gift of faith.

The Wedding at Cana. Consider your parents wedding. Your wedding. Or your future wedding. Be thankful for the gift of fidelity.

The Proclamation of the Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. Consider the words of the sermons you have heard recently. Be thankful for your desire for piety.

The Transfiguration. Consider when you can gaze upon the face of the Lord…either in Adoration or in meeting your sisters and brothers in need. Whenever you do this for the least of those, you do it for Jesus. Be thankful for the gift of courage.

The Eucharist. Consider the last time you shared in the sacrament and the Mass. What did you bring to Mass as your sacrificial offering? What are you planning to bring the next time you go? Be thankful for God's presence among us.

Consider the extraordinary ordinary life of Jesus and how He walks with us still today. You are called to bring these Luminous Mysteries to others in your Fourth Day.

Pray for us, Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Be Saved

April 29, 2008

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church

Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved." Acts 16: 30-31

And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. John 16:8-11


The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8


"Have you been saved yet?" Paul and Silas were literally saved from the imprisonment and torture of the Romans. But this question has different connotations in John's Gospel. From the first chapter all the way through, John wants us to understand the difference between just being physically born into the world as opposed to being born in the eyes of God for a special role in the world. Jesus sets up the expectation of the Holy Spirit in chapters one through three of John's Gospel. Now, he expounds upon that promise.

Back in college, this question ("Have you been saved yet?") was one that Catholics in North Carolina (a heavily Protestant state) would face from "Born Again" Christians. They were looking to see if we had accepted Jesus as our savior. This always led me to the dilemma about faith and action. If all you need to be saved is faith, then would Jesus have started a Church which did not require us to help the poor and others? Why would he even need to refer to Isaiah and the Nazareth manifesto to bring peace to the troubled?

Before jumping ahead to that issue, let's first consider what Jesus is promising today. As the notes to the New American Bible explain, these verses describe the "forensic character of the Paraclete's role: in the forum of the disciples' conscience he prosecutes the world. He leads believers to see (a) that the basic sin was and is refusal to believe in Jesus; (b) that, although Jesus was found guilty and apparently died in disgrace, in reality righteousness has triumphed, for Jesus has returned to his Father; (c) finally, that it is the ruler of this world, Satan, who has been condemned through Jesus' death (John 12:32).

What this means for us is that the true followers of the Church are those who believe in Jesus Christ. But it doesn't end there. That is why Jesus promises us the Paraclete. Jesus reminds us as this chapter continues on, that the end result of such faith is love…the Father loves those who love his Son. Those who love the Son love the Father and they also love all others -- their sisters and brothers as well as strangers. The Holy Spirit is coming to strengthen our ability to love others.

What does it matter? To view the world through the eyes of the Church means that our vision of success will be turned upside-down. We will no longer strive only to be healthy, wealthy and wise. Instead, we also will strive to emulate the suffering servant and his mission to the outcasts. Faith is the first step for us just as it was for the prison guard watching over Paul and Silas. One he proclaimed his faith, he showered his love upon the disciples. For us too, this means that the next step is going out into the world and confronting it with the love of God even when you don't want to. For that, we need to be strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus leaves, he promises to send us exactly what we need to carry out this mission born of our faith and strengthened by the Spirit.


What is your next step? Last weekend, the latest Men's Cursillo saw 15 men embrace the friendship of Jesus Christ and they now step back to the world to live out their Fourth Day. How are you living your Fourth Day? What next step is the Church asking you to take? Where will the love of God take you?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

God, Open My Heart

April 28, 2008

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

By Beth DeCristofaro

…a woman named Lydia…a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. (Acts 10:14)

For the LORD loves his people, and he adorns the lowly with victory. The Lord takes delight in his people. (Psalm 149:4)

…the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. (John 16:2)


Welcome, God, open my heart so that I pay attention to your Word. Lord God, may I know your presence today in my everyday routine. Jesus, Lord and Brother, let me see you in those whom I meet today. Advocate, may your truth give me courage to acknowledge and speak the divine presence today with my actions and words. Amen.


Again and again, we are told in the Scriptures that God loves us and wants to be with us. In receiving, acknowledging and living God we must open to God's will over our own. That must, necessarily, change our perspective. Cultural norms, societal practices, personal intrigue and self-centeredness have no place in a heart open to God. Lydia, a rich woman, put her wealth and status at the service of God by supporting Paul and the community of Thyatira.

The Easter season readings have been full of the joy of God-made-man but also the uncertain and often frightening events which followed the disciples as they shared the Good News. Yet time and again, as stones are thrown or as idols are made in their image, we do not hear words of revenge or violence. Rather the early followers spoke of love, forgiveness and the desire of God to be with Creation. We, too, in "knowing the Lord" must be careful to not inflict injustice, violence, or revenge on someone else. In Jesus parables when he speaks about God's bounty, he speaks of flowing waters, forests of cedars, swooping and chattering birds. It is the bounty of energetic living, love of life, joy which God wants us to share with each other as He gave to the lilies of the fields. Are we able to act out of the fullness of God, the peace of God when we interact with others?

"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify. (John 16: 8) Our testimony is our words and deeds. Do they point to God or to the culture that has not met him and opened to him?


Where is the fullness of God when you think about or interact with that person who just rubs you the wrong way with their wrong decisions, hurtful comments, backbiting actions? Pray for God to fill you rather than being filled with resentment and spite. Pray for God to fill them as well.

Consider our words and deeds in light of welcoming out new babe chicks into the Cursillo community. Are our hearts open?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

You Will Realize

April 27, 2008

Sixth Sunday of Easter

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:17

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:16

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” John 14:19-21


Let us pray: Father, help us to understand the truth of Christianity – that it is better to suffer for good like your Son. Jesus, help us welcome you into our lives and share you with our community of believers and non-believers. Amen.


“What’s More Better” summarizes the readings of this Sunday.

Philip proclaimed Christ and the unclean spirits came out of possessed people. Paralyzed and crippled people were cured. The “What’s More Better” came after the people accepted the word of God. Peter and John prayed over them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. The “More” is felt in the joy of the heart crying out to God. It is the sharing about Christ that gives life to the community. The paradox of Christianity is found in the sharing of Christ. We can not hold unto Christ if we want to keep him. We have to give him away by our lives and our words if we want to hold unto him. That is the paradox of Christianity. The more we share Christ, the more we grow as his presence in our world.

We share Christ by living out in our lives his spirituality. Christ did not force himself on anyone. Peter in his letter urges us to share about Christ with gentleness and reverence. Christ is the “more” of our goodness. He is the reason for our hope in the resurrection. He teaches us that it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. Because Christ also suffered, our suffering for his sake makes us like him. Thus Christ leads us to God. The more of Christ’s dying in our life, the more Christ bring us to life in his Spirit.


Christ comes to us by the Spirit and just as Christ was in the Father, we are in Christ and he is in us. We know we are one with Christ by our love. Christ says the more to us with the simple statement of how we can know we love. The more of life for the true Christian is the keeping of Christ’s commandments. The promise of Christ is powerful. …whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him. Our goodness grows and becomes more in our closeness to Christ and to each other. The Mystical Body of Christ is the reality of Christ of each of us being shared in our celebration of Eucharist together. The church is the people of God. The togetherness of the people of God is the Mystical Body of Christ. The “What’s More Better” reveals itself in how Eucharist is Christ taking ourselves into his body. All the ways we show reverence to his presence on the altar are the “What’s More Better” of our love for Christ in each other.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Out of the World

April 26, 2008

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

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

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.” John 15:18-19


I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness. Mother Teresa


We are known by the company we keep. We advertise that to the world in many ways. The brands we buy, the clothes we wear, the stickers on our bumpers, the messages on our t-shirts, the clubs we join.

Through our lives, those affiliations change. Maybe in school we were on sports teams, scouting, in the band, in drama club, the newspaper or yearbook. By college, fraternities and sororities, campus ministry, and more vied for our attention and action.

As adults, there are PTO/PTA, volunteer fire and rescue squads, professional associations, the auto club, the AARP, American Express and more.

We join for what we get. Discount hotel rooms, travel benefits, access to entertainment. The details are right there in the membership brochures that fill our mailboxes daily.

But that’s not the way of the church. Our membership in the church does not change over time. As Marty Merlo wrote in a reflection on the Beatitudes that echoes today’s scripture:

We are called to be Catholic. To live our faith in Jesus Christ is a 24 hour a day, 365 days a year proposition. You do not take a vacation from being Catholic. You cannot take a vacation from being you. Anywhere you go, anytime that you are anywhere, you are still you, and you cannot ever get away from that. But you are a member of Jesus Christ. You are baptized into Jesus Christ and you are called to live the life of Jesus Christ, so no matter where you are and no matter what time it is you are a Catholic. It is not a one-hour a week thing. It is not even something that we can say, “Okay, I’ll have a little time for prayer everyday.” It is every minute of every hour of every day that we have to live this life.

Sometimes the Church calls on us to go places where we would rather not go, to do things we would rather not do. Paul wanted to head into Bithynia in today’s first reading but the Holy Spirit would not let him. The plan was to send him to Macedonia. So Paul was given a vision and then he followed that vision where the Church wanted him to go.

Jesus prepared us for this situation when he taught us to pray: “Our Father in heaven, holy be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will, not mine, be done.”

Jesus doesn’t say that the world might hate us or act this way. He tells us that it will act this way. He doesn’t say that it will be easy. He only promises that it will be worth it.

So, let’s get ready to rumble with the world for the Lord.


Where does the Church want you to go? What does the Church want you to do?

Jesus has warned us that the answers to those questions will not be popular. Indeed, we can expect to be hurt. Indeed we should expect to be hated and persecuted. That is certainly not like the marketing brochures we get from all the vacation properties, automobile dealers and others who try to separate us from our hard-earned dollars.

Think back to the ways you have been hurt by the way others lived, what they said, or what they did. Think forward to the ways that other people (even those who are far away) might be hurt by our gas-guzzling lifestyle, the gossipying things we say and the selfish actions we take. If we heed John 15:18-19, how might our words and deeds change?

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.” John 15:18-19

Humble Yourselves

April 25, 2008

Feast of Saint Mark, evangelist

So, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15


Lord, we know that you and the Father work through different men in different ways. There is a variety of gifts, but always the same God who achieves His purposes through them. Please work through the Holy Spirit and the team for the 116th Men’s Cursillo to reach the candidates with your message to be loved and to love. Send them forth from this weekend into the world to proclaim the Good News to all. Amen.


Sometimes, a story reaches me just in the right time to use it. Today, it was through an e-mail from my group member Marty Merlo. He passed on the following story which is appropriate in light of today’s readings. You may have read this in any number of places on the web (the exact attribution is hard to determine). In light of Peter’s call for us to be humble and to “cast our worries” upon the Lord, this story is very timely.

We All Need A Tree

I hired a plumber to help me restore an old farmhouse, and he had just finished a rough first day on the job: a flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric drill quit and his ancient one ton truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

When opening the door he underwent an amazing transformation. His face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss.

Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

'Oh, that's my trouble tree,' he replied 'I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing's for sure, those troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home and ask God to take care of them. Then in the morning I pick them up again. Funny thing is,' he smiled, 'when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there aren't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.'

God Bless,

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.

Our anonymous author’s plumber has obviously taken to heart the message Peter is sending to us today. “Resist (evil), steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ (Jesus) will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.” 1 Peter 5:9-10

Our task is not just an internal struggle. After we overcome those forces working upon our lives, then we must go out into the world as Peter did, as active witnesses to the Gospel of Love.


The Men’s 116th Cursillo for the Diocese of Arlington is taking place this weekend.

We greatly appreciate your Palanca, especially your assistance at cleanup after the Closing on Sunday and the Reception of the new Cursillistas back into the community. Your notes to the Cursillistas expressing your Palanca are also most welcome. Palanca may be carried to Josephite Pastoral Center where the weekend is taking place.

Mañanita will be at the Josephite Pastoral Center, Sunday, April 27, at 7:00 a.m., 1200 Varnum Street, NE, Washington, DC 20017, across the street from Providence Hospital. Gather at 6:45 a.m. near the bottom of the steps leading to the front entrance of the Josephite Center. Mike Goody will meet and escort us to the Mañanita area. We'll be on the St. Josephite grounds, we won't disturb neighbors, and it’s just a short walk to the Mañanita area.

Closing: There will be NO MASS at Closing. While the Closing itself will be in the Josephite Chapel, food for the Closing Reception should be brought to the Community Room on the Basement level. There will be signs directing you to the correct door so you will not need to climb the steps to the front door - just to go back downstairs once inside. Parking is available on the streets around the Josephite Center, as well as some spaces on the property in front and on the right side (13th Street side). Time is 3:00 p.m. Please be seated by 2:45 p.m. in the Chapel. Please bring heavy hors d'oeuvres and beverages to share. See you there!

Click here for directions and map to the Josephite Center across the street from Providence Hospital

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Remain in My Love

"Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they." Acts 15:10-11

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." John 15:10-11


Love first. First love. Jesus, help me be the first to love so that I might also learn how to willingly accept the love that others offer to me. Help me make my first reaction to others a reaction of love, not judgment. A word of kindness, not disappointment. A gesture of respect, not disapproval. Help me to give up any trappings of power and influence that I may have so that we are all treated equally in your eyes. Amen.


Throughout our lives, we seek approval. From our parents and siblings first. Then from our friends, teachers and principals. Then others who have authority over us. Maybe you have even reached a position in life where people might shower you with gifts and praise in hopes of winning a special contract from you.

Who has not considered that putting the bumper sticker on your car that says "I support the Police Benevolent Association" might not get some favors when pulled over for pushing the speed limit or rolling through that stop sign? Maybe you thought complimenting your principal on that horrid tie he was wearing will get you favorable treatment in case you are caught without a hall pass or violating the dress code? Or did you support your boss' favorite charity or political action committee in hopes that the next promotion might come your way a little sooner? We live in a culture where "one hand" washes the "other hand." If you scratch my back, I'll scratch your right back.

Jesus turns the table on the prevailing cultural norms from Palestine to Poughkeepsie. His formula is "I wash your feet and you let me wash your feet." The only reciprocity he seeks is the reciprocity of love. If you want to be happy, don't worry about the laws in Leviticus. Worry about the two laws of love. Love God. Love Neighbor.

It doesn't matter if someone is different from you. They could be from Mexico or Morocco. They could be a Democrat (gasp) or even a Republican(!). They might like the Second Vatican Council Reforms or might prefer the Mass in Latin. There are no conditions. We are asked to love unconditionally if we want to remain in God's good graces. Nothing more. Nothing less. How else will we ever become a community that is one, holy, catholic and apostolic?

There is one other big implication of those commandments. We have to be willing to accept love. Accept God's love as Abraham does on the path to slaughter his only son. Accept the love of our neighbors as Jesus does from Simon the Cyrene carrying his cross and Veronica wiping away the blood, sweat and tears in His eyes. It doesn't matter if you are getting gifts from smelly shepherds who have been out in the fields for weeks tending their flocks without showering or from kings who journeyed across the desert bearing expensive gifts. If God can accept love from everyone, we must as well. Everyone is invited to be saved by accepting the faith of Jesus Christ.

So, Peter, just sit down and take off your sandals. The water might be getting cold.



Please consider joining the voices of the faithful in a Catholic Campaign against global poverty?

Urge Representatives to Support HR 2634, the Jubilee Act, to Relieve the Debt of Poor Countries!

The House of Representatives is considering Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2007 (HR 2634) which represents an essential next step in alleviating the crushing burdens of debt that plague many developing countries. The timing is significant since the Holy See has been a strong supporter of debt relief.

TAKE ACTION NOW! Call your Representative today and urge support for the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2007 (HR 2634).

BACKGROUND: While major progress has been made in reducing poor country debt, a substantial number of the poorest countries continue to shoulder heavy debt burdens that draw precious government resources away from critical investments in health care, education, water and other sectors necessary to improve lives.

Many poor countries have seen their debts reduced through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative that was adopted in 1996 and expanded in 1999 in response to successful advocacy by the global Jubilee 2000 movement, in which the Catholic Church played a major role. In the succeeding years, it became apparent that further efforts were required, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has continued to make important contributions to the debt cancellation effort that offers new hope to some of the world's poorest and most forgotten people.

FINISHING THE JOB: The Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2007 (H.R. 2634) would extend debt cancellation to virtually all very poor countries that have, or develop, financial management systems to assure that debt relief savings are used to reduce poverty. On April 3, 2008, the House Financial Services Committee approved HR 2634. The next step is consideration by the full House of Representatives.


Encourage strong bipartisan support for passage of the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2007. Call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to speak with your local Representative. Tell her or him to support HR 2634 when it comes up for a vote.

Monday, April 21, 2008

He Will Guide You to All Truth

April 30, 2008

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

By Melanie Rigney

Paul told the Athenians that the Lord made the whole human race “so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:27-28)

Jesus said to the disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-14)

Holy Spirit, let me be open to your truth when you present it to me, without regard for the appearance of the vessel in which you send it.

Today's Readings
Sister Joan Chittister
About a year ago, my friend Paul gave me Sister Joan Chittister’s In Search of Belief. I looked at a back cover endorsement that said the book “spells out the meaning of the Apostles’ Creed.” I laughed. I knew what the Creed meant. Who didn’t? And so, I put away In Search of Belief.

Recently, I asked Paul to suggest a book to give people considering a return to our Church. I was surprised when he recommended In Search of Belief. Had he really thought a year earlier that my faith was so elemental I didn’t understand the Creed, the way I wasn’t sure these folks understood Catholicism? But I went ahead and ordered the copies. I also resolved to give the book a quick skim.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been slowly savoring each word for my Cursillo study. I can only read so much at a time, because I have to think about what Chittister says. I have no problem using male pronouns in reference to God. But I have new insight as to why some of my friends do. It doesn’t bother me that women can’t be ordained. But I better understand why some find this to be a limitation that runs counter to the veneration of Mary in our Church.

I’ve also found passages that I’ve dog-eared and meditated upon. Right now, I’m processing this: “Jesus’ death is not distinct from who he was, from what he was doing before the arrest, the mock trial, the rejection by the crowds. Jesus’ crucifixion is not other than the Nativity. Jesus suffered far greater pains than death long before death was kind enough to take him. … The truth of the passion rings across time for each of us. The goal we each seek is the cross we each choose. What we stood for in life determines the nature of our deaths (emphasis added).”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples, “When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me.” Whether you consider Joan Chittister a radical nun who should be excommunicated or a brave soul who should be our next pope, it is clear the Spirit is working through her when she writes: “Life is a becoming into the fullness of the self that knows no boundaries, grows in form, lives in the spirit of the Spirit, and has no end.”

Let us be open to the Spirit’s messengers and discerning what they deliver that will guide us on our journeys, even if that guidance is something as simple yet as profound as better understanding of those with whom we disagree about Church teachings. Let openness build a bridge to Christ.

Talk with someone who has a view different from yours about an issue of heated debate in our Church: divorce/annulment, capital punishment, abortion, ordination of women, to name a few. Rather than advancing your own opinion, listen to and consider your fellow traveler’s position. The goal is not to change your mind or your friend’s, but to better understand where the Spirit of truth resides. It may be in both of you.

Without Me You Can Do Nothing

April 23, 2008

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

By Melanie Rigney

“I rejoiced because they said to me, ‘We will go up to the house of the Lord.’” (Psalms 122:1)

Jesus said to the disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)

Prune me, Lord, of my non-fruit-bearing branches. Help me to flourish on your live-giving vine.

Today's Readings
In my thirties, I was quite the gardener. I began cautiously, for we’d never had a garden when I was a kid and I didn’t know a spade from a hoe. But my gentle, soft-spoken father-in-law found peace in his vegetable garden—peace from my complaint-filled mother-in-law, peace from his emphysema. So I went to him for advice on a beginner’s garden.

Elmer suggested I start with cucumbers and Celebrity (SELL-uh-brit-tee, as he pronounced it) tomatoes, because they’d be easy and I’d see immediate results. He was right, and after that, there was no stopping me. Within a couple years, I’d taken over close to two-thirds of the backyard with cucumbers, tomatoes (three kinds), strawberries, corn, peppers, eggplant, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes, brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuce, zucchini, and failed attempts at blueberries, rhubarb, and asparagus.

Whenever we’d visit my in-laws, Elmer and I would trade gardening successes and failures. He was always full of excellent advice: marigolds among the tomatoes, nasturtiums among the cucumbers, dried blood to keep the critters away. Somehow, sharing this passion with Elmer also made it easier to deal with my mother-in-law’s complaints about relatives who had done her wrong in her childhood and her inability over the course of thirty years to find appropriate new living room curtains.

Elmer was a patient man and a patient gardener. I don’t remember him ever saying a cross word to his wife, or giving up on a plant ravaged by rabbits or blown sideways in a windstorm. He’d just put up caging or brace the plant and do his best to nurse it back to health. Sometimes, he didn’t succeed, but usually, the plant would bounce back under his loving care.

My father-in-law died in the late 1990s, and I left his son four years ago. Last spring, I gardened for the first time in a decade, patio tomatoes and peppers. I often thought of Elmer and of Christ as I did battle (usually losing) to keep the pigeons away from my tomato blooms. The patience the Master Gardener has with us is immeasurable. Let us be open to His pruning of our non-fruit-bearing branches, and delight with Him in the ultimate harvest.


Which of your branches are in need of pruning? Greed? Pride? Insecurity? Determine three actions you can take this week with God’s help to begin cutting away that problem area.


April 22, 2008
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
John 14: 27

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.Where there is hatred, let me sow love;where there is injury, pardon;where there is doubt, faith;where there is despair, hope;where there is darkness, light;and where there is sadness, joy.O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seekto be consoled as to console;to be understood as to understand;to be loved as to love.For it is in giving that we receive;it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

“Peace.” It is among the last words that Jesus spoke to the disciples before his Passion. It also is the first word Jesus spoke after his Resurrection when he appeared in the Upper Room. As a greeting or salutation, “peace” has as many meanings in today’s world as it had in ancient Palestine.

Jesus was offering the disciples the greeting “Shalom.” “May you be well” or “May you be whole.”

Shalom is both a greeting of “hello” and a closing “good-bye.” In addition to wishes for the well-being of the person, Jesus is doing his best to prepare his closest friends for what is about to happen. Yet he knows that nothing that he says will make them understand until they have a chance to reflect back upon all that has occurred.

According to David Silver, the meaning of the Hebrew word SHALOM is understood around the world to mean peace. However, peace is only one small part of the meaning of the word SHALOM. In Israel, even though there does not seem to be much going on at times in the way of peace, people use the word SHALOM on a daily basis. They use it to greet people and to bid farewell to people. However, SHALOM means much more than peace, hello or goodbye.
The etymology dictionary tells us that it means completeness, soundness, welfare. It comes from stem of shalam “was intact, was complete, was in good health.” Taking that further, a word study in the New King James version for SHALOM says: completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfect-ness, fullness, rest, harmony, and absence of agitation or discord.

Sar SHALOM (Prince of Peace) is one of the descriptive names the Bible uses to indicate the ministry and personality of the Messiah as in Isaiah 9:6 which states, “The Son of God is completely perfect in all things.”

So when Jesus exhorts us to be perfect as the Father is perfect, the full meaning of peace and well-being (shalom) also is incorporated in the instruction. Something that is whole is not “incomplete” in mind, body or spirit. All of the parts are working together. Sometimes when we are healthy physically, we are bothered by something emotionally. Or sometimes when we are dry spiritually, we can still feel happy or healthy.

Jesus wishes his followers to have this sense of completeness, well-being and harmony. Even if he can not be with us, he wants us to be washed by the Holy Spirit to attain this state of tranquility.


The simple prayer of St. Francis of Assisi provides for us a mold in which to cast our own life's conduct and character. It provides a blueprint upon which to pattern our living and our thoughts, speech and actions within our day-to-day relationships with our sisters and brothers and with all life around us. Therefore, the prayer of St. Francis is a precious document for us, an indispensable, invaluable frame of reference by which to judge our own lives, and referring to which we can do the necessary to bring about the needed alterations and modifications for the “completeness” and well-being and purification of our own daily life.

All of us need a little more peace and wholeness in our lives. Make a point of wishing people “Peace” or “Shalom” today.

Pointers for Prayer: Sometimes Christians are called to turn the world upside down. To bring the exact opposite of what we find in our world. St. Francis’ prayer is a bold one, asking for strength to give of ourselves to meet the needs of others. He recognizes that it “is in giving that we receive”, that as we give of ourselves, we receive the peace and blessing of our risen Lord Jesus. We cannot earn eternal life, but that we are pardoned from the sins that block our claim on it.
Think about the situations that you are involved in that require peace, consolation, hope, light and joy. Then, if you're bold enough, pray the prayer! (From the Prayer Guide)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Father and Son will Dwell Within You

April 21, 2008

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

By Beth DeCristofaro

Men, why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways; yet, in bestowing his goodness (Acts 14: 15-17)

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


Lord Jesus, show me your way rather than my own way. Help me sweep my house so I am fit and ready for God to dwell within me. Open me to know and share the goodness of God. Amen.


Reading Acts these Easter weeks has been inspiring. Paul and Barnabas, Peter and Stephen continue to speak in spite of personal danger. The Good News so fills them that they must proclaim, must spill out that the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them. (Acts 14:15) loves humanity, has always loved humanity and desires to be with humanity.

Last week we heard Jesus tell his disciples “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” (John 6:29) This week, Jesus tells us what this means if we make the leap to believe. The awesome message is that “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) God desires to dwell within us.

It is good for me to host out of town guests because it throws me into a flurry of cleaning. My house is often cluttered, dusty and there are those mysterious sticky spots on the floor. In our churches we use gleaming candle sticks and spotless linen on the altar to show our respect for the place of God. How often, however, do I sweep out and mop up my own interior? Are there sticky spots of anger, self-righteousness, or clumps of jealousy, pride and greed in the corners of my soul? Does lack of forgiveness clog my heart? God doesn’t want us to be so zealous as to sanitize our humanity away. Paul tells the misguided crowds, “In past generations (God) allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways; yet, in bestowing his goodness, he did not leave himself without witness, for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.” (Acts 14: 16-17). God loves us as humans. But God asks that we listen to the Truth of the Word not the truths we think we know such as following false gods or hiding in the upper rooms of our own insecurities.


Reflect on the Word of today and let it seep into the corners of your being. Act according to the Word and you will grow closer to God as God fills those corners. Pope Benedict reached out to victims of sexual abuse and listened. Are there those who hurt – even if we feel we’ve listened to them long enough or feel they should “get over it”? To whom is the Word asking you to reach out? Do you need forgiveness?

Pope Benedict’s message to Americans has been laced with themes of human equality, justice, compassion and unity rooted in the Word. How can I act for justice today? How can I show compassion today? How can I work toward unity within my place or work, within my church?

Yesterday in Acts, the Hellenists were angered that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution of food. What can we do? “Bread for the World members are asking their members of Congress to urge House and Senate leadership and leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees to ensure that the final farm bill includes permanent funding for nutrition programs at levels no less than those passed by the House -- $11.5 billion over 10 years.” Tell your representatives to support this funding which will provide for the poorest in our American community. Learn about global hunger issues as well.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Greater Ones Than These

Fifth Sunday of Easter

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12


Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:4-5


Whom do you see when you look at me? What a question to ask when you have been around someone for a couple of years. Christ told Philip that when he saw him, he was seeing the Father. Does anyone see Christ when they see me? How much do I trust Christ? When he says “Amen, amen, I say to you,” I know he is saying something important. And when I read that in the Scriptures, I know that Christ’s actual words are coming.

These are direct quotes from the teaching of Christ. He is challenging us today to believe in him. If we do, he says “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” He is giving us permission to dream the impossible dreams. We do not have great enough expectations for the most part. Piety is the closeness to Christ we have. How much Christ do our friends see in us? Those greater than Christ works we do are sorely lacking in our world that has such incredible cruelty and lack of concern for brother and sister nations.

We need to take a good look at the world about us and begin to study where our contributions to a better world need to be made. Looking closely at Christ in our study challenges us to become what we see.


Christ is willing to be all of us. How much a Christ am I willing to become? Knowing what others are reading and being impacted on by from their reading, gives me a good reason to study the same things. We need to learn from each other.

Our actions fall short of what is the need of Christ in our lives by those around us. We are a “Chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own” and we need to live up to our destiny in Christ. He needs to be our “way, truth and life” and thus we will be able to come to the Father. Our Apostolic actions need to be Christ-centered. We can not do it all. Like the Apostles we need to pray over our friends and call them to share in the work we are doing to make Christ an important part of our world. Then the number of Cursillistas will increase greatly and our work will be made easier. There are spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ and we too can be cornerstones by the people we invite to share our work in Christ. There are many dwelling places in the kingdom of God and there is a place for all of our friends if we are to live our Cursillo to its utmost.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Do the Works That I Do

April 19, 2008

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

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

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:12-13


Jesus, help us to do whatever you tell us and be your instrument to bring salvation to the world. As Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet and moved on, help us not to wallow in rejection, but instead to look forward filled with hope and joy to the encounters that we will have with those who accept us. Amen.


No one has a monopoly on the Lord except those who have faith that grounds their life in the actions that Jesus calls for. “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.”

The first lesson in this tough love was learned by the Jews. When the Jewish community rejected the Good News, the disciples brought the message to the Gentiles. And just as Jesus commanded in the Gospel of Luke, when the disciples experienced rejection, they carried forth – onward (ultreya!) – and did not dwell on the past and the rejection. So today’s response in Acts, follows through on the instructions the disciples got from Jesus.

And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere. Luke 9:5-6

The notes to the N.A.B. tell us that this “gesture is to establish complete disassociation from unbelievers.”

By focusing on the job ahead, not the rejection behind, the disciples were able to remain “filled with joy and the holy Spirit” as they headed off to their next challenge and a new beginning.


We are a people who take rejection pretty hard. We hold grudges. We take it personally even if that is not a part of the act or the intention. We use old arguments to drive wedges between us and others. Then, we seek allies and try to draw them into our camp.

Yet the Gospel pulls no punches in telling us that we must reject rejection. We must get over it. Move on. We must become a forgiving people. The prodigal son. Seven times seventy. Leave your gifts and make peace with your brother. Despite the worst rejection possible, Jesus continued to pray for those who persecuted him right up until he died on the cross.

There is an end to the pain of rejection whether it comes from a failed job application or a failed relationship. Maybe the hardest step to take is to not assume that the rejection is aimed at you personally and to recognize just what you are experiencing so you can move on. Turning rejection on its head means that you will end up accepting who you are. In that fashion, you can be open to the acceptance that will also come to you from others.

What argument have you had that needs to be put in the last where it belongs? What dust do you have to shake off your feet? How can you turn rejection into acceptance? After all, Jesus turned crucifixion into Resurrection.

PS: Speaking of Ultreya, there is a parish Ultreya at St. Mary of Sorrows on Saturday night (tonight!). Come and bring a friend!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Where I Am You Also May Be

April 18, 2008

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are (now) his witnesses before the people. (Acts 13:30-31)

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where (I) am going you know the way." Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:3-4, 6)


We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now "groaning" in expectation of that true freedom which is God's gift to his children (Rom 8:21-22), a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to his will. Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations! Pope Benedict XVI, April 17, 2008


Last week, many of our readings were about the journey and the road that we travel. In those passages, we reflected upon how Jesus meets us along the way wherever we are heading or how we meet people to serve along our journey.

Today, another aspect of Jesus’ friendship is revealed. To me this aspect says…Slow down.

By the time you are reading this, your alarm has probably sounded…maybe it was set for 5 a.m. Jumping out of bed, you climbed into the shower, washed, brushed your teeth, and got dressed. Between making some morning coffee and breakfast, maybe you have stopped to read scripture a little now…or perhaps you will do that later. After you fight the morning traffic or crowded Metro, you have made it to work, school, church or some other appointment. Now you are checking your e-mail and reading this.

Slow down. Jesus has made a place for you. He will come back and get you. If you know Jesus, he knows you. So you don’t have to hurry off to Gaza, or Emmaus, or Damascus, or Ethiopia, or Arlington or Alexandria. Stay where you are.

Slow down. You don’t have to go anywhere because the way to God is through Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the object of our piety. He is the truth, the knowledge gained through study. He is the inspiration for a life filled with social action.

Slow down. Stop being such busy “Marthas” and start being contemplative “Marys.” Just as Jesus returned to his friend Lazarus, He will return to us. Just as He returned to the disciples in the upper room, He will return to us.

A witness is worthless if the witness remains silent. In court, that witness not only has to know the truth, the witness needs to come forth and tell the truth to others. So whether the call is for Paul to go to Antioch or for you to go to Mount Zion or Missionhurst, you must “witness” Christ in holiness, in words and in deeds.


Look around your immediate world. Who can you witness to? What do you need to do?

One of my favorite lines is from a sign that was hanging in the gathering space at St. Mary of Sorrows on the first weekend that we visited the new parish. The sign read, “Christianity is not a spectator sport.”

Yesterday, from my office window, I had a bird’s eye view of the Papal procession and Pope-mobile as it left the White House around noon. Throngs of people streamed down the street and waited for as long as four hours for a glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI. The crowd was also populated with countless uniformed and plainly clothed security guards and many critics of the church who carried signs and shouted into bull-horns to that effect.

The supporter and the fans climbed on shoulders of stronger friends, perched on top of fire hydrants, stood on park benches, and strained their necks from the ground to witness the first papal visit to Washington in 30 years. For their efforts and time, they were rewarded with a five or ten second glimpse of the Pope as he drove down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The crowds then took more than two hours to disburse, many grabbing lunch and singing on the sidewalks to mariachi bands or other accompaniment. Their joy was abundant and evident. And on the one hand, it was uplifting to witness the joy of those happy for their five second glimpse.

However, what would Jesus think of all the pomp and circumstance and the $3 million price tag associated with this visit let along the added expenses born by governments and the New York visit to come.

After all, when the crowd disbursed, there are still homeless people sleeping and living in Peace Park across from the White House.

There are still unemployed hungry and the working poor lining up at food vans disbursed by DC Central Kitchen, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, SOME and other programs that park along the Pennsylvania Avenue to pass out soup, sandwiches and drinks.

There is still a Supreme Court blocks away refusing to block the use of the death penalty and a Catholic governor in Virginia who upholds the law and refuses to act like his conscience and the principles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church asks of all of us.

As the Pope spoke out about the pain of immigration, deportations in our nation have doubled. The Washington Post tells us that “the record number of deportations across the United States last year, 282,000, was more than double the number from 2001.”

A few choice words and a short meeting with victims of about the sexual abuse crisis have grabbed all the media headlines. Yet the broader message remains to sink in…

In his homily, Pope Benedict spoke of the need for conversion and unceasing missionary outreach (action).

In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim "the great works of God" and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit.

As Pope Benedict XVI departs from our city this morning, let us take this opportunity to renew our commitment to “unceasing missionary outreach” that will, by our three essentials of piety study and action, invite all people to life.

Christianity is not a spectator sport. The parade is over. The work continues.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blessed Are You If You Do It

April 17, 2008

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

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

Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. John 13:16-17


Lord, help us to accept your invitation and welcome you into our lives. Give us the fortitude to obey your commandments so we can be led out of our dark, confused and troubled world by the Good Shepherd and rest beside still waters. Amen.

Prayer for Pope Benedict XVI
Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to your shepherd Benedict XVI a spirit of courage and
right judgment, a spirit of knowledge and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care, may he, as successor to the Apostle Peter and Vicar of Christ, build your Church into a sacrament of unity, love and peace for the entire world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


What will Pope Benedict say tomorrow? Media scribes have all been speculating for months about what will happen. They ask the papal nuncio. They ask reporters who cover the Vatican. They ask bishops and Catholic leaders. They even ask the average person on the streets.

As we contemplate the message from the Pope, let us – I hate to sound too simplistic – start out in the same place Pope Benedict will start…meditating on the scripture readings for Thursday as we always do. Leave the prognosticating to the prognosticators and let us remain root in faith and moving forward in the hope provided by these readings from Acts and John.

God leads us out of our problems. We do not have to remain troubled. You name it: sexual abuse. Priest shortage. Depression. Joblessness. Homelessness. Hunger (physical or spiritual). God alone will show the way to hope.

God. Not Madison Avenue.

God. Not Hollywood.

God. Not Wall Street.

God. Not even Washington, DC, can do that. Maybe they provide a temporary solution or tax rebate. But that will not last.

God. Not Viagra.

God. Not Coca-Cola or Pepsi.

God. Not Heineken, Jack Daniels, or Budweiser.

God. Not Microsoft, Yahoo! or Google.

Not Big Macs or chocolate chip cookies or lemon meringue pie will give us a rush that will last. Only Christ gives us the hope that he will lead us out of our troubles if we would only let go of all else that we cling to in this world. When we let go, we are unburdened and able to carry out God’s wishes, not culture’s empty promises.

Just like God takes away the burden of our troubles, he provides to us all that we ever possess. God gave us everything we have as our inheritance. So just because you might be richer, thinner, or smarter or stronger than the person next to you, your power or ability have nothing to do with the gifts you were provided or how these gifts multiply. However, you have everything to do with how you use those gifts for the good of humanity.

There are two words in today’s Gospel that we must understand. “Do it.” What does Jesus mean when he says this? “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” John 13:16-17

He makes these comments right after washing the feet of the disciples. Do it. Wash their feet. He has shown how to be a servant-leader so both the disciples then and all of us today have a role model to emulate. Do it. We must preach the Good News and perform good works. Do it. However, nothing that we do in obedience to God or in service to our sisters and brothers will make us worthy to tie His sandals. Do it.

If we can understand this humility, then we have taken the first step. We have put aside our agenda – war, the sexual abuse crisis, married clergy, traditional liturgical music, immigration, gay marriage, women’s ordination, global warming, etc. If those topics come up, they will come up in the context of the Good News. These are important issues but we can’t expect the Pope to address them all like he was delivering some kind of State of the Union message or campaign speech. He doesn’t have to appeal to any demographic or pander to any voters. He has already been elected.

The Church is never going to be about our agenda until we make the agenda provided by Christ our agenda – obedience and humility, believing and doing the Nazareth manifesto.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19

If the downtrodden, the oppressed and afflicted, the forgotten and the neglected can accept Jesus’ message, should we also be able to “do it?”

Christ got into so many confrontations with the Jewish authorities because he refused to address the popular concerns. He did not adopt or deliver the message that people said was popular or that the authorities wanted to hear. So instead, we should expect Benedict XVI to deliver the message that is “Pope-ular.”

The second step is to welcome and receive Jesus in our lives. Whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” The hope of Jesus should be our moral compass.

This week, in addition to recognizing Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we also learn that Jesus came into the world to shed light upon the darkness. Everyone is welcome to choose to accept the message that the Church preaches so they no longer remain in darkness.


Christ provides the example of not speaking on his own. Instead, he stayed true to the message that the Father provided to him.

Let us vow to stay true to the call of Christ who is counting on us. And let us continue to count on Christ as the source of our faith, hope and love; our piety, study and action.

Maybe we can not save all the world at once. However we can start with one small corner. For example April 22 is Earth Day and it's also the date of Just Neighbors’ next community clinic in Arlington. Parishioners from Our Lady Queen of Peace will be meeting with low-income immigrants from around the world who need help with their immigration legal issues. For this clinic we have a truly diverse group, with clients scheduled from Jordan, El Salvador, Pakistan, Congo, Mongolia, Guatemala, and elsewhere. Your help is needed to conduct the initial intake of these clients.

New volunteers need to arrive at 6 p.m. for an orientation. Those of you who have come before please be here no later than 6:30. The clinic should finish around 9pm. The site is in the basement of Arlington United Methodist Church at 716 South Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22204.

Please let Rob Rutland-Brown ( know by Thursday April 17th if you can attend, and specify whether you speak any foreign languages.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

May All the Peoples Praise You!

April 16, 2008

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

By Melanie Rigney

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (Acts 13:2)

“May the nations be glad and shout for joy … may the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you!” (Psalms 67:5,6)

“Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me…’” (John 12:44-45)


Lord, thank you for the gift of Your Son and of hope. Guide the Holy Father as he shares Your words of love and obedience on his apostolic journey in the United States.


Today's Readings

Benedict XVI’s Message

The pope is in our very midst today, paying a courtesy visit to President Bush this morning; meeting with U.S. cardinals, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and charitable organizations this afternoon; and celebrating vespers late in the afternoon at the National Shrine. Later on the trip, he will address the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

Benedict XVI chose “Christ our hope” as the theme for this apostolic journey. In his advance message, the pope noted, “…the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfillment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do.”

Indeed, hope has been a key theme for our pope. Last November, his second encyclical, “Saved By Hope,” focused on our understanding of Christian hope, the hope that allows us to face the present with confidence:

We need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of himself as the embodiment of this hope, a hope that is almost too good to believe without a human face: “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.” Today’s first reading, from Acts, shows how quickly the fire can spread when we hope. With hope and the help of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas begin the first Christian missionary effort in Asia Minor, a shining example of the psalmist’s call for “all the peoples” to praise God. For without God, there is no hope. Let us delight in spreading the news to others.


Where has hope taken you recently? Contemplate this as you attend Thursday’s papal Mass at Nationals Park or watch coverage of the journey on television. Or, talk with a non-Catholic friend, family member, or work colleague in a loving, respectful way about what the pope’s theme of “Christ our hope” means to you and your faith journey.

My Sheep Hear My Voice

April 15, 2008

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. Acts 11:20-21

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


Let us pray: Father, you pass on your shepherd’s staff to your son and handed over your flock to him. Help us to recognize his voice in our dark and confusing world and to follow him wherever he leads us…be that destination the still and peaceful waters of the Psalms or up on Calvary with a cross. Make our lives exhibit the qualities of obedience to you and service to your flock so that the Shepherd will know that we are his sheep. Amen.


Last week, we had intensive exposure to Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse. This week, the theme throughout shifted on Sunday to the theme of the Good Shepherd. Today’s reading expounds on a critical dimension portraying himself as the Good Shepherd – recognition.

Today, Jesus is confronted by the Jewish authorities during Hanukah (Feast of the Dedication). They want to know who He is. The notes to the NAB tell us that this is the climax of his encounters with the Jewish authorities. There has never yet been an open confession by Jesus before them. While they ask him to speak plainly, he again uses the metaphor of the Good Shepherd.

From the Hebrew Bible, the Jewish authorities would be well familiar with the many references to Yahweh as the Good Shepherd. Genesis, Psalm 23 and 80 and Micah are some of those references.

Jesus tells them that the sheep will know his voice. The sheep will recognize the Shepherd. They will not have to confront the Shepherd in order to know who he is. There will not be any confusion among them. After all the signs documented in John’s Gospel, Jesus is telling the Jewish authorities who he is. The confrontation will lead to the final plot upon his head.

Likewise, the Shepherd will know his sheep. Jesus already knows that these authorities will never recognize him. Maybe they feel threatened by him. Maybe they have not ventured out with Jesus and witnessed first hand what he has done. However, they have interviewed some of those – like the man born blind – who have been the beneficiary of the miracles. For whatever reason, their eyes and ears and minds and hearts are not open. Whatever the reason, they refuse to recognize what is before them.

It is interesting to note that Jesus chose the Feast of the Dedication for the timing of this encounter. Hanukah is the festival of lights where a small amount of oil helped light the candles in the temple for eight days.

Imagine going into a dark room. Someone enters. However, it is dark and you can not see who it is. It is like a shepherd at night sitting on a hillside. He may not know his sheep by sight but when he calls out they know his voice.

Now, imagine lighting eight candles in that dark room. Now, when someone enters, there is plenty of light for your eyes to see. Now you can recognize who has entered. Like those shepherds sitting on a hillside 33 years earlier who saw a light and followed it to Bethlehem. They recognized the Shepherd who was born in a manger among his sheep and his obedient servants Mary and Joseph.

The sheep will recognize the shepherd. The shepherd will recognize the sheep.


How will you recognize Jesus among us today? How will Jesus recognize you?

Every day we have the opportunity to receive Christ and to offer Christ to others. We can choose to open our eyes to the light and ears to the voice. Or we can be like the authorities, interrogating the Lord rather than getting about our work to be obedient to his commandments.