Friday, April 30, 2010
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter
“For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.’” The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. Acts 13:47-49
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:10-13
Father, give us the faith needed to believe in your Son. Jesus, show us the works in your life that we must imitate in our life. Holy Spirit, give us the audacity to always ask the Father in prayer so He may be glorified. Amen.
Seeing is believing.
The reputation of Thomas (Didymus) takes a pretty bad rap throughout history because he was not in the Upper Room when Jesus appeared after the Resurrection. Now he goes down as Doubting Thomas. But why was Philip not branded with the same moniker?
Philip’s lack of faith prompts Jesus present us with another wrinkle in the timeless debate over faith and work. Jesus challenges Philip and us to believe (have faith) because he has told them that the Father and he are one. However, he goes on to challenge them that if such faith is not enough, he wants them to believe because of the good works he (Jesus) has been doing on his Father’s behalf.
The debate is not over faith against works. Jesus frames the debate as one in which faith precedes good works. If you have faith, then imitate Christ and do the works that he does.
Major Catholic religious traditions (like the Benedictines) were founded centuries ago and based on prayer and work. Our Cursillo tripod may have been borne out of John 14 where faith and action are merged. However, being Catholic Christians is not just about praying and studying our religious traditions.
Being a Catholic Christian also means putting into practice the works of Jesus by imitating the life of Christ. Just consider one of the prayers we say at the end of the Rosary: Let us pray. O GOD, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant that by meditating upon the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
We prayer that we might imitate what it contains. Each mystery of the Rosary contains an active story about the life of Jesus. Just consider a few:
He is presented by his parents.
He instructs people in the temple.
He is baptized.
He turns water into wine at the Cana wedding.
He preaches the Sermon on the Mount.
He teaches us with the servant-leader model at the Last Supper.
He is rejected.
He is tortured.
He is burdened.
He is rejected.
He is killed.
He is raised from the dead.
How can your life imitate Jesus through sharing in his pain, through doing good works, and through making life easier for others? What one part of Jesus does your life imitate the most? How can we go about the Father’s work?
If we do not act, the Lord will turn to another in our place. Then we will know how it feels to be rejected.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
By Melanie Rigney
We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our fathers he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, You are my Son; this day I have begotten you. (Acts 13:32-33)
“Ask of me and I will give you the nations for an inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession.” (Psalms 2:8)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” (John 14:1)
Dear Lord, in the midst of my confusion and restlessness, there is this reassuring notion: maybe you are working in me in a way I do not yet know until my mind, my lips and my heart are able to remain centered in you. Even though it seems as if you have left me in those tough times, I keep reminding myself that you never leave us…only we leave you. Help me to let go of what distracts me from you. Keep me in the circle of your warm embrace even if I do not know you are there so that you will be done. Amen.
A good friend recently sent around a list of quips, the kind you frequently see on those billboards outside churches. A few made me laugh: “Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect, you couldn’t belong”; “Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers”; “Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in their pews.”
But the one that stuck with me was challenging: “Don’t put a question mark where God puts a period.”
For some of us, it’s not the tenets of Christianity or Catholicism that are so difficult. We believe the things in the Creed—that Jesus, God’s only begotten son, was born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit; that he was crucified, died, and was buried and rose again; and that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. God’s “periods” are easier to accept, or at least not question so much, when they don’t intersect with our daily lives.
It’s different when life throws us a curve and yet we are told not to let our hearts be troubled. When a close friend dies or a child gets arrested or we are faced with a serious illness, it’s pretty darn difficult not to let our hearts be troubled. It’s difficult not to put a question mark, let out a scream, or raise a skeptical eyebrow to the period God places at the end of “Thy will be done.” At those times, the Good News may not seem very good at all.
Faith is easy, perhaps even cheap when everything is going along swimmingly. It gains texture and resonance when from the depths of despair and anger, we find the courage to say “Thy will be done,” whether or not we are confident we will ever understand why exactly it was His will. It’s easier to find that courage and confidence that spawns true faith when we commune with others and listen to their journeys and feed on their wisdom. About that, there is no question.
Consider sharing some parts of your journey that started out with question marks and ended in peace with someone who is going through a similar situation and is asking “Why?”
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, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” John 13:20
God, grant me the humility of John the Baptist to receive whomever you send to me today. May I be open to that man, woman or child and use the gift of their self freely given to me as a means of spurring me on to action in your name. Amen.
Growing up, I always remember a specific question in connection to Mass: “Are you receiving?”
My parents would ask it to see who among my brother, sister and I would go for Communion. The ushers would ask it as they organized the congregation of more than 1,000 worshippers at St. Mary’s in New Monmouth, New Jersey, into the organized chaos known as the communion line. My cousins would ask when we had large family gatherings, especially around celebrating the sacramental passages of each other.
Usually, the question was connected with one or two core practices. First, you had to have been to “confession” recently. Second, you had to skip breakfast and still be fasting for at least one hour. (Unless we were at the Saturday evening Mass, then we had to wait dinner until we got home from church. Those were the days we got to Church early so Dad could get a parking space for a fast get-away. Although we would not leave until after the dismissal, Fr. Barkett.)
Sometimes the answer to the question, “Are you receiving?” was connected to another issue someone had in their life, with the church, or with a neighbor. If we were not receiving for reasons other than Penance or fasting, sometimes, long family discussions followed Mass about the reason, issue, or situation that was keeping someone from receiving Jesus.
Today, both readings remind us that the sacrament of Communion takes place inside the Church as well as inside our hearts. Even if you do not get to Mass today, who is being sent to you today? Who are you receiving this day or this week?
Perhaps it is just a family member you see every day but don’t get a chance to talk with in depth frequently enough.
Perhaps it is a long-time friend you have not see in years.
Perhaps it is a difficult co-worker, neighbor or other antagonist you are asked to receive with all humility of John the Baptist.
Perhaps it is the stranger/alien/immigrant among us – the person who might help clean our homes, cut our grass, or fix our car.
Perhaps it is the Church itself who continues to struggle with the history of abuse by some priests, what it failed to do then and what it must do now.
Let us go through today remember the words our Servant-Leader Jesus spoke after washing the feet of his disciples: “Whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
The word of God continued to spread and grow. Acts 12:24
I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. John 12:46-47
May God be gracious to us and bless us; may God's face shine upon us.
So shall your rule be known upon the earth, your saving power among all the nations.
May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you!
May the nations be glad and shout for joy; for you govern the peoples justly, you guide the nations upon the earth. Selah
May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you!
The earth has yielded its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still; that the ends of the earth may revere our God. Psalm 67:2-8
One of the beautiful aspects of the Gospel according to St. John is how central themes are established at the outset and reinforced through repetition throughout the book.
Jesus’ speech today to the disciples gathered at for the Passover Seder reinforces those central themes and puts the words into the mouth of God, not just the descriptions of the evangelist. Recall the opening words of chapter one:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5
Jesus is the light shining in the darkness for his friends as well as for us. He reminds us in today’s reading that he came into the world as the light for the human race. He wants everyone who believes to come out of the dark. Bad things happen throughout John’s Gospel at night and goodness comes with the rising of the morning sun. Nicodemus first turns to Jesus at night so he would not be seen. However, in the end, faith brings Nicodemus into the light to help bury the body after Jesus dies on the cross. When the disciples are crossing the Sea of Tiberius at night, a violent storm tosses them around and they fear death until Jesus comes to them across the water.
In addition, the reading today also reinforces the lessons Jesus taught to Nicodemus in that midnight session – lessons which have become the most quoted passage in the Bible:
“…and just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:14-18
Jesus is not here to condemn the world but to save it through his actions. Our belief, our faith makes possible the good works which must be performed to bring the Kingdom of God to fruition here on earth. “Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
Although it may become increasingly easy to recognize these lessons as they resonate from the Good News, putting them into action is difficult. Whether it is by trying to mend a disagreement among family members, witnessing to the Gospel in society on the tough issues of life (such as war, euthanasia, abortion and more), welcoming the stranger, loving our enemies, or consistently following all Catholic Social Teachings, Jesus did not promise anywhere that these tasks would be easy.
It is easy to be judgmental. We are presented with numerous opportunities to judge others and judge the world. However, we are asked to imitate Christ, who did not come to judge the world but to save it through his faith put into action. What Jesus-lessons are the hardest for you to put into action?
Monday, April 26, 2010
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
By Beth DeCristofaro
The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them (in Antioch) reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart… (Acts 11:21-23)
I tell of Egypt and Babylon among those who know the LORD; Of Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia: “This man was born there.” And of Zion they shall say: “One and all were born in her; And he who has established her is the Most High LORD.” (Psalm 87:4-5)
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)
May it please the supreme and divine Goodness
to give us all abundant grace
ever to know his most holy will
and perfectly to fulfill it.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola
No one can take them out of my hand, Jesus says, my sheep are MINE. The psalmist claims kinship with strangers because they know the LORD. And the “faithful” in Jerusalem begin to understand that the Lord speaks to “others” outside of the fold.
Goodness! God is both bold and broad in his definition of friends. God is so darn dedicated to those God loves and to those who love back … it is mind blowing. So mind blowing that Jesus appeared to his locked-up friends to bestow the Spirit of God upon them, opening hearts, minds, ears and lips to the movement of God in their lives. Cardinal Suenens in an interview said, “I do not pray for a Vatican III, I pray for a Pentecost II." A second Pentecost would sure help me as I attempt to discern God’s will, hoping God would just write it down on the notepad beside my bed for me. Being open to the Spirit allows to hear God and to find wisdom in our uncertainty as we truly look for meaning.
These readings remind me that God already includes me as loved family. I don’t have to be worried that I “know God’s will” in everything. Rather, by saying “yes” again and again to God, by spending time with God, I will be participating in God’s will most naturally. Being in God’s friendship is much more important than doing that one, right thing at each turn. Concentrating on being God’s friend, living in Jesus’ sheepfold helps me in those tough, confusing times when know where God is or what God wants for me becomes difficult. This divine Friend won’t let go my hand.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law this week requiring police who meet people during routine business to ask for proof of immigration status. This law makes it a criminal offense to be in Arizona illegally as opposed to federal law which counts illegal presence in the country as a civil offense, nor does federal law require proof of immigration status to be on one’s person. This bill was opposed by the state's three Catholic bishops and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who called the legislation "the country's most retrogressive, mean-spirited and useless anti-immigrant law," in his blog. (National Catholic Reporter)
I tell of Egypt and Babylon among those who know the LORD; Of Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia: “This man was born there.” (Psalm 87) Does our Christian-based country not want to extend Christian care to others anymore? There is a level of diatribe and hatred which is surprising on public airways and in political decision-making right now. Threatening and harassing people instead of working to fix ourselves and our flawed system is certainly not what Jesus would expect as he dined with tax collectors and sinners. Spend time with Jesus and listen. What is he saying about the least of his brothers?
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
As I began to speak, the holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning, and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, 'John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.' If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?" Acts 11:15-17
I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. John 10:9-10
He was a lot like you and me.
The government didn’t like him.
The church thought he was weird.
His friends were few.
What friends he had, denied him.
He was persecuted by hypocrites.
He hung around people like you and me, not the goody-two-shoes Pharisees.
Yes, if Jesus were on this earth in the flesh, he would be next to you on his Harley telling you he loved you…enough to die for you.
God, I know you are real.
Thank you for being in the wind with me even before I ask.
Thank you for your son, Jesus, who died for me.
Forgive me of my sins, for I truly repent and turn to you.
Jesus, I ask you now to come in my heart that we might ride together daily.
I dedicate myself and my scoot to serving you.
Thank you, Lord, for my salvation.
Thank you for I an now “in His wind.” Amen.
(From His Laboring Few: Biker Ministry of Jesus)
What exactly is this theology of abundance that Jesus promises?
Is it a promise of an abundant blessing of material goods, money and status? If we set out down this rabbit hole, we will end up in a restless/never-ending pursuit for power, status, security and affection.
Sitting on Ocean Isle Beach contemplating this Gospel as the wind picked up to 35 mph gusts and the high tide was flooding the beach, provided a near perfect metaphor for Jesus’ theology of abundance. The ocean waves came with regularity. Closer and closer the tide came to the beachcomber chairs. The westerly winds whipped up the sand.
God’s abundant love must be like those ocean waves. They come at us, relentlessly. If we don’t meet God where he is, God comes to us where we stubbornly sit until he engulfs our chairs. Our only choices are to accept the life-giving waters that surround us or move further away. Yet God keeps coming. Even when the tide of our life ebbs because of sickness, poverty, or some other “dis-ease,” those waves of love keep pounding the shore until we accept God’s freely given love.
We imitate this natural cycle in our daily, weekly, or yearly prayer life. Consider the Rosary. After each Hail Mary, another bead of God’s love presents itself to our fingers and mind to contemplate. When you complete one cycle of mysteries, another cycle is ready for your prayer.
Are you ready to open the gate and accept this abundant love and share it with others?
Jesus does not equivocate. He definitely states that his saving power is for all who follow Him. Not just the Jews. Not just the Catholics. Not just the Anglicans. Not just the Methodists. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
Who are our Gentiles? With whom do we refuse to talk?
Is it the person who looks like they are a foreigner? What if the Native Americans treated our ancestors that way? The Pilgrims had no papers.
Is it the person we think is a terrorist? However, is our faith not about respecting all life and seeking peace even among our enemies?
Just as the Jews were challenged to be more accepting of those who accepted God, we, too, are so challenged.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Fourth Sunday of Easter
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
“They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:16-17
My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand. John 10:27-29
“I heard the Lord call my name. Listen closely, you will hear the same.” The Lord says: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” I cannot hear those words without my heart coming on fire. The victory of Christ has been won. Every heart has been imprinted with the need to do good and avoid evil. Even if one has never heard of Christ, goodness is now an ongoing desire of everyone. Those who have recognized Christ as their shepherd are legion. Rules and regulations might seem to exclude some from the love of the Lord, but it is not so. The embrace of Christ from his cross can only be avoided for so long. God is love and wherever there is love, God is there. The very attraction Christ is to our lives has been put there by the Father. Following Christ brings us closer to his friends. The easier it is to say to another that the Christ of our heart recognizes the Christ of your heart, the closer we are coming to Christ. The human Christ is risen and because he is safely ensconced in heaven, he is able to give us his life and allow us to be his hands and feet as we reach out and try to help those who need us. Christ speaks to us out of his identity with the hungry, thirsty, sick, naked and incarcerated. Whatever we do for the least one, he takes as done for himself. The voice of Christ is calling out in all the poor and needy of our lives. We are responding to the voice of Christ every time we do something for the poor and the needy of our lives.
Discernment is how we study the voice of the Lord in our hearts. Discernment takes on a special form for those who listen to his voice regularly by the prayer and the study of their lives. Once we are past the beginner’s stage on the journey of holiness, we are no longer caught by the attraction of evil. We recognize evil for what it is. We now are now looking for what the Spiritual writers such as Ignatius call the “Magis.” The “Magis” is the greater good. The question of our hearts is: “How can I recognize what is better to do?” The simple rule of the greatest possible good, for the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time can make our souls laugh. We have to look beyond appearances. I can work with one person who can be a multiplier of what I try to do for many because this person works with more people than I do. How we identify the leaders and empower them to do the maximum they are capable of doing can make what we do a stronger voice of the Lord in us because it is heard by many others. By the fruits of our work we will know by our study of outcomes what we need to change. We are called to be the voice of Christ for each other. But we cannot give what we do not have. Our study and prayer over our actions make the grace of indifference possible. I am indifferent to what I am doing because I want to do what the Lord is asking of me. It is not a question that I am not doing good, but rather a question of what does the Lord want me to do better. Indifference is the commitment to do the best we can. It does not mean we do not care what we are doing. It means we want the Lord wants more than anything we like doing.
True obedience to authority is obedience to the voice of Christ that is in all lawful authority. How I love that voice is seen by the way I respond to it. The virtue of Obedience enables us to put the best possible interpretation on what I am told to do. The Christ we respond to in obedience is a beloved brother. The closeness to Christ in our lives sharpens the sound of his voice. The more we try to do for the sake of Christ, the louder his voice is heard in our hearts. Our actions in the name of Christ make us over more and more in Christ. Responding to his voice and the challenge of goodness in our hearts makes what we do into his work. We become his good shepherds each time we reach out to help another along the road of holiness. Our love is poured out into the ocean of God’s love for us and we become God’s love for each other in the good things we do in our lives. Selfishness gives way to selflessness. We no longer live, but Christ lives in us.
Saturday of the Third Week of Easter
Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, rise up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive. Acts 9:40-41
“It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” John 6:63-65
Father, help us to overcome the power and obstacles presented by our own desires and change our heart to follow you. Through the teaching of our brother Jesus, help us to hear and hold your word in our heart to strengthen our spirit for the work you have set aside for us to accomplish.
Sometimes, when we are depressed, in despair, or afflicted because our emotional programs for happiness are not proving their desired results, we rationalize this state by speculating that God has deserted us.
Jesus knows that God will never desert those who believe. Instead, it is we who desert God when we put the needs of our “flesh” over the work of the Spirit. Everything is possible when we turn over our will to God’s will.
There are only a few resurrection stories in the entire Bible. Today, our first reading reminds us that one of those miracles is made possible through the work of Peter. Yes, Peter has come to Jesus and is granted the power to work wonders by the Father. Even after denying Jesus three times, Peter realizes that he has no one and no where else to turn.
Peter’s prayers which help Tabitha join the small club of people who have risen from the dead are brought about by his incredible faith in Jesus.
What obstacle do you need to release so that you can share in this faith? Once we are untied from the anchors that weigh us down, our spirits will be better able to rise up to the challenge posed by God’s plan for us. Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.
Friday of the Third Week of Easter
By Melanie Rigney
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.” (Acts 9:10-12)
Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. (Mark 16:15)
“For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” (John 6:55-57)
O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive, into my mind that I may remember, and into my soul that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy. Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end. May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy. Amen. (St. Anthony of Padua)
Now there’s an easy topic for a laywoman to write about.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time the past few years ministering to inactive Catholics (after reactivating my own spiritual life) and talking to others whose gifts are in this type of evangelization. It’s a pretty universal that the thing people who are away miss the most, the thing that often draws them back, is the Sacrament of the Eucharist. And yet, many inactives are a bit surprised to learn or relearn that as Catholics, we believe Christ is truly present in the bread and the blood. Just as importantly, they sometimes don’t get that the sacrament doesn’t end when they return to their pews. Rather, they now are armed with the nourishment to go forth and, as the Catechism says, “fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.”
Fulfilling that will and using it to spread the Good News can be challenging. We’re called to use this great gift not just to share the News with our friends and family, but also with total strangers and, even more difficult, with people we do know and find particularly difficult to love. Consider the struggle Ananias has with the Lord in today’s first reading. Paul certainly wasn’t easy for Ananias to love; after all, he’d been persecuting Ananias’s friends. But ultimately, he obeys and goes to lay hands on Paul, and the rest is history. And yet, without Christ’s true presence, Ananias may have said no. And without Christ’s true presence following his conversion, Paul may not have been capable of an evangelization ministry that lives on more than 1,900 years after his death.
Transubstantiation. It’s an outward sign of grace that changes us internally and externally. It draws us closer to God… and feeds us as we seek to live lives that help others to know Him. Let it transform you.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a nifty quiz about the Eucharist at www.usccb.org/catechism/quizzes/eucharqz.shtml. Check it out (to see the answers, click on the hyperlink in each question).
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him. As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?” Acts 8:34-36
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. John 6:44-45
Father, teach us as Philip teaches the Ethiopian man. Jesus, come into our midst through the word and works of your modern day apostles, so that we might better listen to and understand what the Father instructs. Holy Spirit, guide us to put these lessons to use in the action of our lives which is directed to fulfilling the will of the Father. Amen.
Who was sent to bring the word of God to you?
Philip is sent by the Holy Spirit to the carriage carrying the Ethiopian at the very moment when the man is pondering the meaning of this passage in Isaiah:
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, A grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. Isaiah 53:7-9
According to the notes in the New American Bible, this is a passage which says that Christianity, from its earliest origins, has applied to Jesus. The New Testament reiterates the same theme in Acts 3:13: The God of Abraham, (the God) of Isaac, and (the God) of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence, when he had decided to release him.
How is it that Philip arrived just in the nick of time? Coincidence? Hardly. This encounter helps to illustrate the point that God is teaching all of us through teachers who He sends forth to do his work.
Once you learn your lessons, to whom are you sent forth to teach?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Thus Philip went down to (the) city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. Acts 8:4-6
And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it (on) the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day. John 6:39-40
Take one world:
A globeful of people, most of whom are victims;
A handful of people passionately committed to justice;
A God overseeing and supervising without usurping total control;
An exemplary human life, in which the globeful of people and the handful of people and the overseeing God are united,
so that the particular human life is uniquely transparent to the divine;
A healthy respect for the past and a healthy skepticism about institutions that have an unhealthy respect for the past;
Human hearts in which anger and love are two sides of the same coin;
A willingness to risk judgments that might be wrong;
And an ultimate optimism combined with a provisional pessimism.
Mix well, and see what happens!
[For the next six months, Reach and Teach will donate 100% of the purchase price -- $5.00 -- of a poster with this prayer to help the people of Haiti.]
There was great joy in that city. Acts 8:8
Something tells me it would be hard to convince the Jews living at that time of this "great joy." In the lives of the disciples after Jesus was crucified, life was not easy. Just consider what is described in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles about life in the years after their leader was crucified as if he was a common criminal:
1) “There broke out a severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem.”
2) “All were scattered throughout the countryside…except the apostles.”
3) “Devout men buried Stephen.”
4) They “made a loud lament over him”
5) “Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church.”
6) Saul was “entering house after house and dragging out men and women.”
7) He “handed them over for imprisonment.”
Do those sound like conditions for great joy?
Despite these conditions, the crowds listened to what the apostles were preaching and heeded the message.
After Jesus rebuked the church leaders for their spiritual blindness and deafness, the common women and men of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria had eyes to see and ears to hear. That is the condition for great joy because it lives out the prophecy of Jesus in today’s Good News. They did not see but act on their beliefs just as Jesus had foretold. Jesus is indeed the “all-you-can-eat” banquet for our spiritual life. That is the reason for the great joy.
(From the JustFaith Ministries newsletter):
Tomorrow, April 22, is the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day. More than one billion people around the world will observe Earth Day. It was on this day, one year ago, that 24 national Catholic organizations helped launch the Catholic Climate Covenant: The St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor. This initiative continues to gain momentum. Will you reach out to neighbors and friends and parishes and schools and ask them to join in taking the St. Francis Pledge-- AND to register their Pledges at the Catholic Coalition website: www.catholicclimatecovenant.org.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
By Beth DeCristofaro
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his execution. (Acts 7:59-60, 8:1a)
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. … “I am the bread of life…” (John 6:32, 35)
Lord, Jesus, help me know that in saying “yes” to you and seeking to walk in your footsteps, I open myself to accepting your great love of me and to serving all your children. Help me to realize that my actions, like those of Stephen and Paul, speak much louder than words. Guide my feet, my thoughts and my decisions so that I not be judgmental, narrow or blind in seeing you at work in the world and in those around me. Help me to celebrate each day that you are here before me, in me and through me. Amen
Paintings which depict the stoning of Stephen often illustrate Saul, dressed in the finery of his class and status, standing back and observing the violence of the mob. Stephen is usually shown eyes raised to the heavens and, reverberating with the words in Acts: his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15) Saul’s face, in contrast, is stern, unbending, chilling. I can’t help but recall Stephen’s prayer when I view such paintings: “receive my spirit” and “do not hold this sin against them, Lord.”
But that is not the end of the story. God has a much deeper message for us than the deep prophetic courage of his early followers. That they, infused with the Spirit, are ready to share the Word to their last breath. That the disciples are new people, born anew as Jesus had explained to Nicodemus. That this promise was already transforming the world by transforming and freeing lives. God had more in store.
And, of course, we know that story. We know how the fanatically zealous Saul goes on a murderous spree revealing and martyring followers of Jesus. Suddenly he is struck blind by the voice and presence of God who opens his eyes in order to show him the truth of the risen Christ. It took more than looking at Jesus’ wounds, like Thomas, to open Saul’s eyes and heart. But God was ready to help him see and Saul was born anew as Paul, defender of the faith and apostle to the Gentiles.
It’s an awe-inspiring and mind-blowing reality that God can and does work such wonders out of uninspiring and awful beginnings. Can we adhere to this promise in the face of our own shortcomings, the sins of people and the world? Can we find it in ourselves to look for the workings, the promises of God when all looks black and people seem to be irredeemable? Can we know, deeply within ourselves, that Jesus is our bread of life and the nourishment of Jesus surpasses all limitations, weakness and shortcomings that earthly live has to offer?
Check out the list of candidates from the Men’s weekend just finished. Is there a candidate from your parish? Introduce yourself to him. Is there someone who you have been meaning to talk to about Cursillo? Now is the time to prepare for the Fall weekends. The next school of leaders is at Nativity in Burke on May 8. Have you made plans to go? How are you bringing the Spirit to the world?
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Monday of the Third Week of Easter
They presented false witnesses who testified, “This man never stops saying things against (this) holy place and the law. For we have heard him claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel. Acts 6:13-15
“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” John 6:27-29
Gracious God, you have blessed me with many gifts and talents. Grant me the wisdom to know how best to use them for the glory of your name. Jesus calls, “Come follow me.” I want to follow him and be faithful to my call. Help me to see in myself what you see, and give me the courage to follow wherever you may lead. Amen.
(“Come! Follow Me” prayer from the National Coalition for Church Vocations)
These final words of Jesus to Peter from Sunday’s Gospel set forth the theme that the readings will explore all week. What does it take to “Follow?” What will be the outcome?
The answer to the first question is in our Gospel reading today. When the people ask Jesus how they can accomplish the will of god, he replies, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” All of us can engage in “good works” for many positive reasons. However, without faith, those good works are not grounded in the Good News and Catholic Social Teaching. Belief is what moves those good works out of man’s goals and objectives and into God’s mission and vision.
What does it take to “Follow?” Stephen learns that lesson. Despite having the "face of an angel,” Stephen suffers a fate similar to the death of Jesus. People in power will take extraordinary steps when they think (even without grounds) that their power is being threatened. Stephen’s preaching and actions – like those of Jesus – upset the delicate social, political and religious balance. So to restore balance, the people threatened lash out at Stephen.
Following Jesus means letting go of our own desires for power and control, affection and esteem, security and survival. Stephen is about to face the stones that the woman caught in adultery was able to avoid. Throughout the ordeal, he will not lose the face of an angel.
What are you planning to do on May 6? I hope you were not planning to participate in the National Day of Prayer because a judge from Wisconsin has rule the observance unconstitutional. Fortunately, U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb in Madison, Wis., postponed enforcement of the decision until all appeals are exhausted.
According to an article in National Catholic Reporter on the background for the observation:
The roots of the National Day of Prayer can be traced to 1952 when the Rev. Billy Graham led a rally in Washington during which he called for a special day to be set aside for Americans to pray and meditate so that the country would experience a "great spiritual awakening."
Legislation authorizing the day was introduced in the U.S. House the next day and later in the Senate and was quickly passed. President Harry Truman signed the first National Prayer Day proclamation in 1953. President Ronald Reagan made it a permanent event. In 1988, Congress enacted legislation requiring the president to issue an annual proclamation.
Starting in 2001, President George W. Bush annually hosted a high-profile event to mark the day in the East Room of the White House. It was attended by numerous religious and political figures.
In 2009, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation for the day, but did not host a prayer service at the White House.
The way I read the first amendment, the language imposed by our forefathers cuts both ways. Don’t take my word for it, read it yourself in the Bill of Rights. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
I take exception to Judge Crabb’s crabbiness because it seems she stopped short of reading the part that says there shall be no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion either.
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” For the next 16 days and beyond – including May 6 – let’s all pray for Judge Crabb and all our national, state and local leaders. Consider signing the petition to save the National Day of Prayer. You can find it on the website http://nationaldayofprayer.org/news/save-the-national-day-of-prayer/petition/.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Third Sunday of Easter
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
“We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (Jesus) said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 21:17-19
The triple denial of Peter is an eye opener. It makes us aware of our own weaknesses and dangers. The good I would do, I do not. The evil I would not, I do. How can I ever be confident that I will live up to my love of Christ? He says it neatly. If you love me, keep the commandments. There is no shortage of failures in this world of ours. How many times I have offended makes me wary of looking askance at Peter and his failures. I look at the dumb things that I have done in my life and question what I have learned from my mistakes. Theresa of Avila says it wonderfully. If you had my graces, you would do twice as much as I do for the Lord. If I had your graces, I would do half as much as you do. Who can know who the great Saints of life are when there is so much left undone that we see around us? How many people put up with difficulties that would floor me? What are the great difficulties of life that I have surmounted for the sake of Christ? Peter preaches Christ even after the Sanhedrin questions him and threatens him if he continues to go around preaching Christ. When have I ever stood up to Authority when they are trying to shut down something I believe important to keep open. Piety is seen in our willingness to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name of Christ. Peter and the others rejoice that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
We look carefully at our lives to see the ways we love Christ. Each opportunity taken to do something for Christ is how we answer the question of whether we love him. How do I stick to Community? Peter says he is going fishing and we see the non-fishermen apostles joining Peter to go fishing. Thomas who probably never had been a fisherman is not going to be found far from the Community. He is numbered among those who go fishing. The Christ of the Resurrection belongs to the Community and the majority of the appearances happen when the disciples are either looking for Christ or gathering to share Christ. The Christ of the Resurrection seems to be a stranger that is recognized in the breaking of the Bread. They catch nothing and hear the stranger on the shore telling them to throw the net over on the other side of the boat from where they were fishing. They fill the boat with a 153 big fish. The miracle was that the net did not break. John who was loved by Christ recognizes Christ. Peter rushes to Christ. He does not hang back. How slow we are to believe at times. How slow we are to turn to Christ! The disciples realize that it is the Lord because a breakfast is waiting for them. The Christ of the Resurrection serves them. They do not ask if it is really him. Christ gave them the bread and they believed. Christ did not rush away from them.
Christ walks with Peter and asks three times of peter if he loves him. Christ is forever asking the same of us. The first time Christ asks Peter if he loves him more than the others. That was because Peter had said that even if the others would deny Christ, he would never do so. Peter has to respond three times in the affirmative that he loves Christ. The third time Peter says what we know all too well. Christ knows everything about us. Peter knows how much he loves Christ. We have to tell Christ as many times as we can each day how much we love him. The command after the affirmation of love is to feed the flock of Christ. It is not something that we realize sufficiently. Our love is best seen in how we feed the flock of Christ. If I could not feed his flock, I could still love Christ. The action of doing for the needy is the best statement of love. See what I do for the flock of Christ and you will know how much he is loved by me. James fought with Paul over the need of deeds to show the truth of our faith in Christ. Christ reads our hearts and sees what we are trying to do for him. Love Christ and do what you can to feed his flock.
Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
[T]he Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." Acts 6:2-4
When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, "It is I. Do not be afraid." They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. John 6:19-21
Father, we pray that the calming presence of Jesus will be all of us and especially among the men participating in the 120th Cursillo this weekend. Bring them safely to the shore of the Closing and be at their side as they reenter the world on Monday and throughout their Fourth Day.
Even after witnessing the miracle of the multiplication of the five barley loaves and two fish to feed five thousand people, the disciples still did not fully understand the extent of Jesus’ love. Bad things continue to happen in the dark until Jesus enters and sheds light and love on the solution. The ride across the Sea of Tiberias on this particular night was dangerous. The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. (John 6:18)
Jesus reveals his presence and identity and the immediate problems are solved. Today, Jesus enters the scene and calms everyone and everything down. How many times has Jesus done something similar when he enters the picture? Locked in the Upper Room trembling about when the Romans were coming with a cross for each disciple, Jesus enters and spreads peace and the Holy Spirit. When someone was sick or dying, Jesus could enter the room and cure the person afflicted even to the extent he could raise Lazarus from the dead. Peter’s mother-in-law. The child of the Roman official. The leper. The person crippled at the portico. Even Nicodemus, the Pharisee is drawn in by Jesus who conquers his fear and brings his support of Jesus into the daylight.
Jesus is always in the picture. We have to pay attention to his presence and drop our preoccupation with some other trivial, worldly concerns. When did you not notice Jesus’ presence to help you with a problem? What opened your senses to feel the strength of his loving peace?
How often do we look for solutions at the shopping mall, inside the bottle of Jack Daniels, though binge eating of our favorite comfort food or some other source? Jesus, help us to look in the right place for you and not turn to some inadequate substitute.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Friday of the Second Week of Easter
By Melanie Rigney
So (the Apostles) left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus. (Acts 5:41-42)
Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD. (Psalms 27:14)
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” (John 6:5-9)
Thy will be done, Lord. I humbly ask for the patience to wait until You reveal it.
We all know how the story’s going to end. Jesus gives thanks, and those five barley loaves and two fish feed five thousand, with twelve wicker baskets left over. It’s easy for us to smile a little at the lack of faith Philip and Andrew exhibit.
But how often do we lack faith ourselves that Jesus has the situation under control? Which is harder:
Feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish… or mending a broken heart?
Feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish… or providing the balm needed to help us deal with a devastating death?
Feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish… or instilling the courage in us to confront Satan when he rears his head in our personal or professional lives?
Jesus always knows what he’s going to do. The challenge for us is in pushing our own protestations away… and letting him work.
Write down three things in your life or the lives of those on your prayer list that you think are impossibly broken. Pray to be open to resolution however Jesus chooses to provide it, and see where these situations are in one month.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. John 3:34-36
A New Society
To be radically right is to go to the roots by fostering a society based on creed, systematic unselfishness and gentle personalism.
To foster a society based on creed instead of greed, on systematic unselfishness instead of systematic selfishness, on gentle personalism instead of rugged individualism, is to create a new society within the shell of the old.
Peter Maurin, Easy Essays
How do you decide what to give as a gift? Do you assess what the intended recipient gave to you on your last birthday? Or what the person gave to your children?
How do you decide how much to give to a specific charity or cause? What is stopping you from adding another zero before that decimal point? If you have already determined that a charity is worthy of your support, would it not be even more grateful for $250 rather than just $25, or $500 rather than $50?
How do you behave in a group when something really, really good occurs? Like when the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl or when your child was born or when your first book is published or when you passed your comprehensive exams in college or graduate school. Do you want to run around and give everyone in the group a “high five?” Do you want to post a proud message on Facebook? Or do you hold back, not wanting to let everyone know how you might wear your emotions on your sleeve.
Today, John teaches us that the Lord holds nothing back. He puts everything out there for us until the last drops of blood and water drain from his side. He leaves everything on the cross and asks us to believe. “He does not ration his gifts.”
At our retreat last weekend, Fr. Bill Shaheen asked, “How do we begin to live the Incarnation?” Maybe it is consenting to not holding back. Adding that extra zero before you put the check in the mail. Giving a gift as if it is your last.
Jesus came to us and gave away being God to live fully human. If salvation history played out based upon the human side of Jesus, maybe things would have been different. In the Garden, the human Jesus prayed for the cup to pass him by. But He finally consented to give everything back to God. “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.”
This weekend, we have the opportunity to give everything back to God when we offer support to the men who are attending the 120th Men’s Cursillo in the Diocese of Arlington, VA at Missionhurst through Sunday afternoon.
From http://arlingtoncursillo.org/CursillosSubweb/m120/m120.aspx, you can link to the Palanca clock where there are still openings, find the list of candidates, the time of Mañanita, and information on closing Sunday afternoon at St. John the Beloved in McLean.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
April 14, 2010
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said, “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.” Acts 5:19-20
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17
Dear Lord, give me a growing desire to pray. It remains so hard for me to give my time generously to you. I am still greedy for time – time to be useful, effective, successful, time to perform, excel, produce. But you, O Lord, ask nothing else than my simple presence, my humble recognition of my nakedness, my defenseless confession of my sins, so that you can let the rays of your love enter my heart and give me the deep knowledge that I can love because you accepted me first, and that I can do good because you have shown me your goodness first.
What holds me back? What makes me so hesitant and stingy, so careful and calculating? Do I still doubt that I need nothing besides you? Do I still want to build up some kind of reserve in case you might not come through? Please, Lord, help me to give up these immature games, and let me love you freely, boldly, courageously, and generously. Amen.
(“Sunday, April 29,” by Henri J. M. Nouwen in A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, p.77.)
Having perhaps the most famous – or at least most advertised – Bible passage appear in the midst of the Easter season is not surprising. At every celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, at every sacrament, at every visit to the sick in a hospital, at every visit to the prisons, at every corporal work of mercy, we recall the kind of lover that our God is.
This commentary by
What kind of lover is our God? He gave his ONLY SON so that we would have everything in the eternal life that he offers to us.
What kind of a lover was Nicodemus? What kind of lover was John, who wrote down this story? Are we a lover like God? Are we a lover like Nicodemus? Are we a lover like
The longing is portrayed both in Nicodemus being drawn to learn more about Jesus as well as God longing to save his beloved children. How much of this longing do we embrace? If our longing is toward the Lord, then we can be saved through him. If our longing is for something or someone else, then we can be saved only through him, not some false idol or ideal that we embrace.
“There is in all of us, at the very center of our lives, a tension, an aching, a burning in the heart that is insatiable, non-quietable, and very deep…If you are alive, you are restless, full of spirit.”
Much of what we long for today, as Ronald Rolheiser points out in his book Spirituality for a Restless Culture, is about what we can obtain and possess. “Our aches and longings are seen as directed toward what we can attain, practically in the here and now: achievement, success, sex, limited love and enjoyment…If we define our deepest longings as directed toward them in themselves, we end up in despair.” Judas got his thirty pieces of silver and he found himself at the end of his rope. The “good thief” satisfied his longing for Christ by sharing the cross-experience. He ended up in paradise.
Rolheiser portrays this longing for God that we see in today’s Gospel as a “congential and holy restlessness put in us by God to push us toward the infinite.” If we put our longing toward things of this world, we end up restless “only in a tired way (which drains us of energy) and not in a divine way (which gives us energy).”
It strikes me how similar are the longing for prayer expressed by Henri Nouwen in 1979 and the comments about the restless and longing heart which were written by Rolheiser in 1991. These similarities point us toward some concept of universality on these themes.
How does this longing play out in your life? What kind of lover are we? How do we satisfy this longing of our restless heart?
Monday, April 12, 2010
Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter
By Beth DeCristofaro
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them. (Acts 4:32-34)
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above.’ … If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?" (John 3:7b, 12)
Teach us, dear Lord, to number our days
That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Oh, satisfy us early with Thy mercy
That we may rejoice and be glad all of our days.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
And establish Thou the work of our hands.
And let the Beauty of the Lord be upon us
And establish Thou the work of our hand, dear Lord.
(From Celtic Daily Prayer – A Northumbrian Office)
There was no needy person among them. The early Christians certainly had an expansive, wondrous commitment to their community. They were ready to put their lives and livelihoods on the line for their faith in things unseen – the promise of a crucified rabbi – moved by the great power (of) the Apostles (who) bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit, which came to the apostles as like a strong driving wind, and tongues as of fire (Acts 2:2,3) was now blowing like a typhoon wind through their hearts and lips. Even though Peter and John were threatened by the council of leaders, the Apostles were not silenced and the people flocked to the message they bore.
Jesus’ message to Nicodemus (“You must be born from above.”) is illustrated in the choice of Apostles and people who put their faith, their very lives in heavenly things. Trusting in earthly things had not brought them freedom. They are freed as they unfasten themselves from the things of the world – possessions, fear, oppression, and help each other to live with mutual love and sharing.
What are our earthly addictions which keep us from being born from above? In our Spring cleaning what can go: clothes, books? That extra car? Our fear of political opponents? Our resentments of old hurts? Our desire to rise to the top?
Do we burn to bear witness to the resurrection by the choices we make every day?
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Monday of the Second Week of Easter
“And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth (your) hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30
“What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 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 3:5-8
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre –
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame,
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire. (T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets)
Nicodemus responds to the call of his restless heart and comes under cover of darkness to begin to satisfy his desire to know Jesus better. However, at this point in his searching, he does not want his peers to see him with Jesus.
Despite his strong desire to get to know Jesus better, Nicodemus is not yet able to grasp the meaning of what Jesus is teaching him today. Are we? What does being born again or born from above mean in our lives? Jesus was trying to teach Nicodemus that we had to turn away from the everyday desires that we are born with and instead turn to the desires that come from the spirit, from above.
Nicodemus had to begin to let go of the trappings of power and control that he had in the temple. His journey did not end that night in Galilee. Throughout John’s Gospel, we repeatedly encounter Nicodemus growing closer and closer to the Lord and defending Jesus even in the light of day inside the temple. At the very end of Jesus’ mortal life, after the disciples have betrayed, denied and abandoned Jesus, we see Nicodemus at the foot of the cross carrying on the active love demanded by those who follow Jesus.
Last weekend, Mrs. Lighthouse Keeper and I participated in a Centering Prayer retreat at The Well in Smithfield, Virginia. The retreat was led by Fr. Bill Shaheen, OMI. Through sessions of prayer, quiet time and talks by Fr. Bill, the silent weekend was designed around the theme of “Letting Go.” The aim was to deepen our centering experience and focus on the consent to God’s invitation to love and be loved. Nicodemus was struggling to accept that invitation in today’s scripture. (In fact, we will be studying John 3 nearly all week in the Mass readings).
We are called to imitate the willingness that Nicodemus exhibited to begin to turn our life and our will toward our creator (who comes from above). This action will loosen the ties that bind us to the desires of modern life and culture.
“Letting Go” of our distractions, attachments and addictions help us to overcome the obstacles to God’s friendship and the sacredness of the present moment in our lives. Like Nicodemus stepped away from the busyness and pace of life as a Pharisee in order to spend a precious moment with Jesus, we also are called to be companions on the journey, with Jesus, with each other and with the Holy Spirit.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them. Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. Acts 5:14-15
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." John 20:26-29
Divine Mercy is the being soaked in the blood of Christ from the Cross. Divine Mercy covers us with the forgiveness of the heart of Christ pierced for our sake by the lance of the soldier. It is poured out in the water and the blood of the Sacramental Life of the Church. Mercy of the divine style knows no bounds. It is the gift of love that is always waiting for us if we are willing to accept it. Our freedom can block mercy. Our intellectualism can contort it by locking it up with reason. Divine Mercy is the gift that no one can force on another. It is the pure gift of love that does not need a reason to be offered because it is given out of love. It has no limits on it other than our need to deserve love. God is pure love. He offers all of himself at each moment. No one can deserve love because the heart has reasons the mind will never comprehend. The heartbeat is the symbol of divine love beating the tune of life. Our goodness is the music of divine life being accepted by being given away.
Love is forgiveness that does not have to be asked for. The spectre of the sins of the world echoes in all the ways we do not reach out with love to make our world a little better by our being there. We study the shuddering horror of the Lord on the cross that we might know the awfulness of our sinfulness in the wonderfulness of Divine Mercy. Discipleship flows out of our awareness of the bleedings that come before the resurrection. We study the signs and the wonders done at the hands of the apostles as they shared the fruits of the resurrection of Christ in the richness of t he fruits of their love for one another. The healing power of Christ flows through our love. The healing touches of love make our world resound with the joyful shouts of the victory of Christ over death and all the ravages of sicknesses. Once we were dead, but now we are alive with Christ’s forever and ever.
We touch the wounds of Christ in our prayer and feel the hidden power of his victory over death and sin. We approach the mystery of Christ the same yesterday, today and tomorrow in the love that is offered by working for a better world. We put our fingers in the wounds of those who are nailed to the crosses of injustice and see the victory of Christ in the way the wretched frames of beaten people reflect the glory of Christ in salvific suffering offered for the sake of a better world. The imprint of the vows on our lives whether marriage vows or religious vows fills up what is missing to the sufferings of Christ’s body, the Church. We believe in the Christ that is risen because of the Christ that lives in the good people of our lives. We do what we can to lighten the burdens of one another as Community is formed out of our common purpose to live the power of the resurrection in the wonder of dreams that become real in the Divine Mercy of the Community.
Saturday in the Octave of Easter
“Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19b-20a
(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:14-15
Give thanks to the LORD, who is good, whose love endures forever. The LORD, my strength and might, came to me as savior. The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the victors: "The LORD'S right hand strikes with power; the LORD'S right hand is raised; the LORD'S right hand strikes with power." I shall not die but live and declare the deeds of the LORD. The LORD chastised me harshly, but did not hand me over to death. Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the LORD. This is the LORD'S own gate, where the victors enter. I thank you for you answered me; you have been my savior. (Psalm 118:1, 14-21)
Today, the Sanhedrin feel bound and boxed in by conventional wisdom. Despite what they know empirically about the healing that has taken place – the man is standing there right in front of them – they are at a loss about how to silence Peter and John. So, the leaders order Peter and John not to speak of Jesus.
Jesus was never bound by conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom would have told Jesus not to raise Lazarus from the dead because there would be such a stench after the man was dead for four days. Conventional wisdom would have told him not to head into Jerusalem where people were plotting to kill him. Conventional wisdom would have told him to defend himself against the temptations in the desert and against the charges he faced in front of Herod and Pilate. Jesus was never bound by conventional wisdom. The Lord never lifted his right hand in violence.
The conventional wisdom is impossible to follow when you have received the gift of wisdom from the Holy Spirit and a commission directly from God to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
Peter the Denier stands there and defies the Sanhedrin. Conventional wisdom can not bind Peter the Denier any longer. Peter the Denier, who gave in to the pressure of the group the night Jesus was arrested, now has the will to resist. He does not buckle and he does not bend. Nothing can stop him from proclaiming the Good News and loving his enemies.
Conventional wisdom. How often are we bound by what the crowd is saying and doing?
How are you reacting to conventional wisdom about faith? Does peer pressure try to force you into certain positions? How do you react when you are put into a position to defend the faith and your relationship with Jesus?
April 9, 2010
Friday in the Octave of Easter
(When the leaders questioned Peter and John about their healing of a crippled man, Peter said,) “If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:9-10)
Lord, help me to push my pride and arrogance and fear and timidity and doubts aside. May I always remember in whose name I serve.
The transformation is stunning, downright miraculous.
In the days after the Resurrection, Peter is still trying to do it himself. He goes fishing, like in the old days, and six of the other apostles come along. They get nothing for their trouble. It takes Jesus’s presence to fill the net with fish.
But not long thereafter, in the Church’s early days, Peter isn’t shy about giving credit where it’s due, to Christ. “In his name this man stands before you healed,” he tells the elders and other leaders.
Amazing what the Holy Spirit can do if we let it, isn’t it?
It’s the same with us today. Sometimes, our well-intentioned (or not) desire to lead can get in the way. We tell our kids, our friends, or our co-workers we know what’s supposed to happen next, set ourselves up as the subject matter expert, and then wonder why things don’t turn out as they should have. And they never do, not in the long term, when we judge or condemn or preach or presume that we know everything there is to know about a situation or another person.
Because when we make it all about us, we forget that it’s all about serving Him and reflecting His love.
And when we do that, the transformation can be stunning, downright miraculous.
Challenge yourself. Whatever you’ve got going on today, pledge to do it all in the name of the Lord.
Thursday in the Octave of Easter
The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you. Acts 3:15-16
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Luke 24:36-38
Father, thank you for giving me senses that allow me to experience your power in the world. Help me to use what I learn for the good of those around me.
Look. Touch. Taste. Hear. Smell.
To know God, we have to use our whole body and all of our senses. To be truly a witness, the experience is about more than just what we see. We can not expect to know God by reading books alone or listening to even the grandest sermons. The incomplete experience will leave us troubled, with questions arising in our hearts.
The celebrations of the Triduum bring this sense-filled experience to bear. Incense fills our nostrils with the cloud that brings the Holy Spirit. The scriptures we hear and the preaching focuses on the most sacred parts of salvation history. Washing of the feet commemorate the role of servant leaders but also adds a special tender touch of warmth. Communion reenacts the tastes, flavor and experience of the Passover Seder. Veneration of the cross by touch and kiss bring us into another direct encounter with the Lord like the man cured at the portico. Today, the Risen Lord even asks his disciples to feed him fish. “Have you anything to eat?”
Once we become aware through all of our senses, of the will of God, we can then open our minds, our hearts and our souls to his commands.
Jesus opens the minds of his disciples even after living and preaching among them for three years. We listen once again to the cycle of scripture from this holy season so our ears may hear and our minds be opened.