Sunday, April 29, 2012

We Are God's Children Now

We Are God's Children Now

April 29, 2012
Fourth Sunday of Easter B
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
"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.  He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved."  Acts 4:10b-12
Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  1 John 3:2
I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.  This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.  John 10:14-18b


Our piety should be the story of the Good Shepherd.  Our willingness to give our lives for the sake of our people captures the essence of the story of Christ as the Good Shepherd.  He lived his life offering it for our sake.  His giving his life on the cross is the essence of the good news that Christ came to bring us from the Father.  God loved us so much he was willing to be one of us.  And he is so much more than one of us when he gives his life to make up for all the sinfulness of our lives.  Because Christ died for us, we ought to offer our lives to fill up what is wanting to his work by his dying for us.  We have the chance to make Christ real again by being his dying for the world we are living in.  Christ is the way, the truth and the life of our God relationship to our world when we love as he did by giving our lives for our friends.  Thus the goodness of our lives is Christ at work within us.  The ways we reach out in love to our world shares the good news of Christianity.  Offering our lives makes us good shepherds in the style of Christ.  There is no shortcut on reaching Christ that does not take us to the cross of Christ as the truth of where the ultimate statement of love is meant to be found. 


The healing of the cripple in the name of Christ teaches us how  to work and share Christianity in the name of Christ.  We are meant to give Christ to our world.  Christ was the stone rejected by his people.  He has become the cornerstone of the church.  We build our church around the teaching of Christ.  The mercy of God endures forever in our lives when we our willing to claim it in what we do out of love for the needy of our lives.  We are blessed in our work if we do it in the name of Christ.  Peter says it loud and clear.  “There is no other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” In being good sheep of Christ, we learn how to be good shepherds for the people who depend on us. 


Our work for Christ is its own reward.  We companion Christ and learn that what we suffer for his sake is a good reason to rejoice when we have been allowed to suffer for his name.  The great saints took it as a great honor when they had the chance to suffer for Christ.   God will love us because we lay down our lives in the name of Christ and take it up again in the ways we are good shepherds of the gift of God’s love given to us in the Christ-likeness of our brothers and sisters.  We are called to the destiny of being good shepherds in the name of Christ.  We need to say to one another; “The Christ of my heart recognizes the Christ of your heart.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Bread That Came Down From Heaven

 April 27, 2012
Friday of the Third Week of Easter
By Melanie Rigney

(Saul) fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4-6)
Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. (Mark 16:15)

“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. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:57-58)


Lord, I give unceasing thanks for the nourishment You provide.


Last Sunday morning, I was shopping at a local grocery store for two upcoming events—a Cursillo closing and a home Mass at my apartment. I’d gotten up early and hadn’t had breakfast, and those muffins looked sooo good. Never mind that at 400 calories, one muffin is close to the calorie count I have these days for an entire meal, and not nearly as nutritious. It’s probably also equivalent to about two-thirds of the time I spend on the elliptical machine during a typical workout. So I did the math, and passed the muffin display. It’s all about tradeoffs, and right now, I like shopping for clothes in the misses department instead of the women’s area.

It’s all about tradeoffs in our spiritual lives as well. We can listen to Jesus and have eternal life thanks to him. Or we can decide his way is too difficult, and isn’t worth the struggles and persecutions and sacrifices we’ll be called to endure.

There’s a difference with Jesus, though. We can put him off for a while and deny what he wants, in essence, opt for all the fat-laden muffins with which the world tempts us. But for many of us, there comes a time in our lives when Jesus makes a forceful attempt to get us back on the right path. And when that moment comes, the call is clear, very clear: listen to me. Do my work. Have life because of me. It’s a lot harder to resist than a Harris-Teeter muffin. Much better for you, too.


Go into “the city” today, the place where Jesus desires you to work. Listen, then act.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Taught by God

Taught By God

April 26, 2012
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.  The Spirit said to Philip, "Go and join up with that chariot."  Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"  He replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?"  Acts 8:28-31
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 6:45


Father, fill our minds with your lessons.  Jesus, touch our lips so we can share your Good News.  Holy Spirit, touch our hearts with your gifts so we can reach others with the lessons you have asked us to teach.  Amen.


On first reflection, today's readings seemed to be about teaching and learning.  But upon further reflection, obedience seems more the message.
If considered from the literal passage, the Gospel appears to be about being fed Spiritually by the bread of life that comes from heaven.  However, when we consider what these passages mean, a different context comes through.  Considering how the Good News is introduced, this lesson comes in the context of being taught by God and listening to the Word. 
What lesson matters most, though?  Perhaps we are being taught that the bottom line in all this study is to be obedient listeners to what we learn from the Lord. We can be lead to the Bread of Life but we must have faith (step one) and then we must eat it (step two).  From this foundation, we then must be obedient to what we are to do -- just as Philip listened to the angel and joined up with the chariot so he could share the Good News lessons with the eunuch.


We are all both students and teachers.  We all have to bolster our own study so that when the challenge of teaching falls upon our shoulders, then we can feel more prepared for the task we face.  Through our study, our minds, our lips and our hearts can be touched with the fire of God that we might well instruct those we meet along the road to Gaza or Georgetown or Germantown. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wise Words of Advice

Wise Words of Advice

April 25, 2012
Feast of Saint Mark, Evangelist

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Beloved:  Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.  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.  Be sober and vigilant.  Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters 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.  To him be dominion forever.  Amen. (I Peter 5:5b-11)

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:  “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature… (T)hey went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.  (Mark 16:15, 20)


The favors of the Lord I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
(Psalm 89:2)


When was the First Letter of Peter written and to whom was it addressed?  Persecution is mentioned more than once, but to which persecution is the writer referring?  Many questions were going through my mind as I looked at today’s first reading.  In the introductory notes to I Peter in the New American Bible, we are told that some scholars believe “the problem addressed would not be official persecution but the difficulty of living the Christian life in a hostile, secular environment that espoused different values and subjected the Christian minority to ridicule and oppression.”  I don’t feel particularly oppressed, but the rest of that sentence sounds very much like a description of Christian life in the Western world today!

So, what advice does the writer give us for living faithfully in the midst of a culture that espouses other values?  “Clothe yourselves with humility,“ we are told.  Not so easy to do when all around us others are judging us by what schools we went to, what degrees we earned, what job titles we have attained, how much money we make, how big our houses are, what kinds of cars we drive, etc.  But stop and think about it.  This life that we know on earth is only a temporary stop on the journey to eternal life.  When each of us meets God face to face, God won’t be impressed by any of those things.  In the overall scheme of things, the one thing that makes any of us special, and the only thing that counts, is that God created us, named us, calls us sons and daughters, and loves us with an everlasting love.  There’s nothing to be puffed up about, because God feels that way about each and every one of us on this planet.  All we can do in life is pray for God’s grace to live lives that reflect God’s overwhelming and gratuitous love for us.

We are also advised to cast all our worries upon God, because God cares for us.  Most people I know, including myself at times, live lives that are overflowing with stress.  Some of that is because we over-extend ourselves, but an equal part of it is that we try to be lords of our lives.  We rely on our own abilities more than we trust in God to take care of us.  God tells us in many ways in the Scriptures that we don’t have to carry our burdens alone.  God takes care of the flowers of the fields and the birds of the air; God will also take care of us.  If our load is too heavy, Jesus offers to yoke himself to us and help us carry it.

In the first reading, we are advised to be vigilant against evil.  People today often scoff at the idea of an evil spirit roaming the world, but, call it what you will, something is always trying to get between us and God.  The evil one is very clever and finds all manner of ways to lure us from our rootedness in Christ.  The writer urges us to be aware of that and to remain steadfast in our faith.


In the Gospel reading, we are told to go out and proclaim the Good News.  It seems to me that we will have greater credibility in doing that if we heed the advice in the First Letter of Peter – deal with others in humility, trust in God to care for you, be watchful lest the evil spirit derail your efforts, remain steadfast and rooted in your faith.  Does that ring true in your own efforts to spread the Word?  Is there something in that counsel that you need to pay more attention to?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Believe and Never Hunger

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
By Beth DeCristofaro

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:  "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. … You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it." (Acts 7:51, 53)

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." (John 6:35)


Dear God
You are all that Matters
Help us to be happy
Help us to be welcoming
We need each other.

(Prayer spoken by a woman with dementia, recorded in Spirituality and Personhood in Dementia, edt. Albert Jewell, Jessica Kingley Publishers, 2011, p. 157.)


A group of people helped out as the cook crew for the Men’s Cursillo Weekend.  It was not only fun (is palanca supposed to be fun?) but replenishing as we shared the tasks, talked about our own Cursillo experiences and enjoyed the gratitude and good appetite of team and candidates.  We were fed by the living Jesus in this joyful community.

Last weekend, Tony and I also visited Ruth, his mother, who lives on an Alzheimer's unit in an assisted living facility in New Jersey.  Although mostly non-verbal, when Tony prayed the rosary with her recently, she raptly attended and tried to tell the rosary beads through her inept fingers.  We were all immersed for those grace-filled moments in Jesus’ life-giving water.

We might be tired as we chopped, cleaned and swept.  We are alternately sad and frustrated that this vibrant woman is debilitated with a devastating disease.  We might work long hours and be surrounded by economic uncertainty, political maliciousness and too frequent violence.  I am certainly often stiff-necked especially concerning things I care most about.  Most importantly, we are filled with and buoyed up by the faith which Jesus graced us with as sisters and brothers in His resurrection.  And we have a faith community which also acknowledges and lives this as best and as joyfully as we can. 


What is it that keeps us from eating and drinking of the bread of life?  About what are you stiff-necked?  Pray on this and look at it from another viewpoint, a viewpoint of life and love not control, identity, ideology, trepidation or just plain human certainty.  We need each other.  We need Jesus our bread and our drink.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Accomplish the Works

Accomplish the Works

April 23, 2012

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people.  Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyreneans, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.  Acts 6:8-10

Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  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 6:26-29


The following prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests.  As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.”

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.



Stephen was working wonders.  Jesus had just fed thousands.  Yet when the disciples asked what they can do to accomplish the works of God, the answer probably surprised them.  Believe.  Have faith.  Do not work for food which perishes. 

Jesus did not tell them directly to wash the feet of those around them.  He did not tell them to forgive sins.  He did not tell them to preach.  He told them to Believe.  

The first step along our journey is faith.  However, faith is not the last step.  Faith leads us to a life also filled with piety.  Faith leads us to a life also filled with study.  Faith leads us to a life also filled with action.  But, without faith in the one God sent, then all we have is works.  Stephen's works would not have been bothersome to the church leaders had he not also talked about the changes (repentance) needed following the lessons of Jesus. 


"What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"  

Make sure your good works are built upon a foundation of faith.  You can feed people in a restaurant and they will go way satisfied.  However, those loaves and fishes will mean much more when you perform this action out of love of God and love of your neighbor or love of a stranger. 

This week, new "Cursillo-istas" have emerged from the Men's 124th weekend.  Welcome them into your parish community and invite them to share in group reunion.  Feed them and those around you with the food that endures.