Thursday, April 30, 2015

“I Am the Way…”

By Colleen O’Sullivan

“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…”  (Acts 13:32-33a)

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  Where I am going you know the way.”  Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6)

Lord, ever lead me in your way, I pray.

Here we are in the fourth week of the Easter season, but we find ourselves back around the table after the Last Supper.  Jesus has yet to suffer and die, but he is looking into the future, beyond his Crucifixion, beyond his Resurrection, even beyond his Ascension.  He knows his friends are disturbed at the thought of his leaving.  Had I been sitting there with them, I would have been troubled, too, because I don’t like change very much and I’m not fond of endings.  I would have been very sad at the thought that life together with Jesus as the disciples had known it was about to come to a halt.
Thomas speaks for all of them when he says they don’t know where Jesus is going.  Nor do they know the way to be with him again.   Their friend may say he’s going to prepare a dwelling place for them, but how will they get there?
Jesus’ answer is simple, “I am the way…”  He doesn’t say believe “a,” “b” or “c” or do “x,” “y” or “z.”  Just, “I am the way.”  It’s about relationship.  If you want to be with him today and forever, love him.  Be his friend.  Immerse your life in his.  Open your heart to his love.  Follow in his footsteps.  Carry your crosses.  Live your life the way Jesus lived and died – for others. 


When you have a few minutes today, reread the Gospel reading.  Imagine the scene.  What does the room look like?  What do you see expressed in the faces of the disciples?  Picture yourself sitting there, listening to Jesus speak after the meal.  How does it feel to be there?  Is Jesus’ promise of a place prepared for you comforting?  What do Jesus’ words, “I am the way,” mean to you?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blessed Are You If You Act On My Word

By Beth DeCristofaro

"From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.  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 13:23-25)

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it."  (John 13:16-17)

Risen Jesus,
My heart sings of your goodness and I am in awe
of how you have graced all of our lives
with greater dignity and the wonder of rebirth.
You have given me an example with your life
and mission me to receive those you place into my day
with dignity, service and love.
In my Easter joy, I find the courage to say Yes.
Help me to receive the ones you send to me
so that I might receive you.         

Several years ago, I made a Lenten “retreat” by walking around a beautiful, local lake with reflections and prayers that I said at intervals.  Walking meditation is one of my favorite ways to spend time with Jesus although, at the beach, I become easily distracted by the effortless glide of pelicans along the tips of the waves.  Then it becomes a moment of gratitude for God’s infinite and delightful gifts of nature. 

Pilgrimages exist in all major religions and, of course, we share sacred sites such as Jerusalem.  As Jesus washes the feet of the disciples he models servant leadership to them.  John the Baptist’s words, spoken by Peter echo Jesus’ frequent message that He is not greater than God but is sent by the Father and the Truth He speaks emanates also from the Father.  Jesus challenges his apostles to continue his journey of extend the Word to the ends of the earth.  Jesus’ actions challenge us to rethink our feet, our hands, our eyes.  As we were given life eternal through His resurrection and are washed to new life in Baptism we need to act upon the challenges and the promises Jesus entrusted to us.

In Nepal, survivors of the earthquake are walking to outlying, remote villages, making pilgrimages to bring help.  Last weekend people marched for marriage and today in many American cities they are peacefully walking in protest against racial injustice.  How might my feet carry me today to proclaim the Word?  

Set Apart

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.  Acts 13:2-3

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

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 1:3-5

The word of God continued to spread and grow. 

The word of God continued to spread and grow while Jesus walked.

The word of God continued to spread and grow while the disciples went out.

The theme of “light and darkness” established in John’s first chapter is expounded today.  Jesus says   that he is the light.  The light is not some elusive force – the light if flesh and blood man on earth.  He shares his perspective in order to bring people to the light.  However, he does not condemn those who do not respond.

This also echoes the famous passage (Chapter 3:16-17):
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.

The word of God continued to spread and grow while it is now entrusted into our hands. 

What inspires you to action today?  There is an image being passed around social media and e-mail with the following passage:

I want.  I want.  I want.
Every day you hear people saying what they want.  Well, this is what I want.
I want people who are sick to be healed.
I want children with no families to be adopted.
I want people to never have to worry about food and shelter and heat.
Most of all, I would like to see our people start to care for one another.

This is the true spirit of the early Christian community depicted in the Acts of the Apostles.  

Whether you are called to help out in Baltimore or Nepal, there is someone who needs you today. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

I Give Them Eternal Life

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

By Melanie Rigney

For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.  (Acts 11:26)

All you nations, praise the Lord. (Psalm 117:1a)

“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)

Lord, I ask for the humility and faith to follow where You lead.

“No one can take them out of my hand.”
Jesus makes it all sound so easy: he leads, we follow. He gives eternal life; we accept it.
Except, of course, that it’s not that easy.
He leads us to places we may not want to go, places of beauty and prestige and honor for which we feel woefully unqualified and inadequate. He leads us to other places we may not want to go as well, places of pain and misery and persecution that we believe we cannot bear.
And yet, as Christians, we know what we must do.
Follow wherever He leads, to the sweet places and the sour, to the joyful places and the sorrowful.
We like to talk about our faith journey, where we’ve been and where we are today. But where we’re going? No matter how much we think we control our destinies, we know in our souls that if we are true Christians, we control very little, other than conducting our lives in as Christlike a manner as we can… and turning away from the temptations that beckon us elsewhere.
He leads. We follow.
It’s as simple and as challenging as that.

Approach your day as an opportunity to play follow the leader with Jesus rather than forging out on your own. Tonight, reflect; where was your day easier for this mindset?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Recognize His Voice

“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 11:17

…He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  John 10:4

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it's music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

The early Christians were challenged in many ways.  Religious practices set the Jews apart from the Gentiles.  Jesus did not see the same separation.  Slowly, the same realization washed over the disciples as some of the old practices like circumcision were resolved.

Peter saw a vision that required him to preach to the Gentiles.  Once he recognized the voice of God the shepherd, he realized he could not hinder the vision of the kingdom and he followed what the Lord instructed.     

Saturday, at lunchtime local time, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal about 50 miles from the nation's capital and largest city, Kathmandu. The quake destroyed buildings and left at least 2,500 dead.

The heart wrenching images of the damage and the far-off cry of the victims   may inspire you to want to help.  Relief charities and governments are mounting a response to provide food, clothing, hygiene items, medicine and temporary housing to assist with the immediate after-effects of this disaster. 

Check out some of the highest rated organizations listed by Charity Navigator which are responding.  Consider channeling your charity through or others. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

One Flock, One Shepherd

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J. 
(Originally published May 3, 2009) 

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 Nazarean 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.” Acts 4:9-11

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. John 10:14-15

O heavenly Father, You are a shepherd to the people who hear Your voice and obey Your commands. We pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire the church to call to those who, like sheep, have gone astray. May we learn to hear Your voice and recognize it in the rush and busyness of everyday life. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. (Garnet Schenk)

We become what we see. Two spouses looking on each other over the years begin to look like each other. When we see Christ in heaven we will be united to him by more than word and deed. Our love for him on earth will make us like him in heaven. Our Gospel challenges us to look at Christ on the cross and thus to be saved. Seeing Christ dying for us on the cross illumines our minds and hearts with love for him. Our vision brings an obligation to finish his work. No greater love has anyone than to give one’s life for another. This is the love of Christ we are invited to imitate. Christ says; “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is how our God rich in mercy brings us to life with Christ. We hold up Christ for imitation by how we live our Lent in offering ourselves by our prayer, fasting and good works for the peace our world so desperately needs. Acting in truth we hold Christ up to the world to make clear our deeds are done in God. Thus, we are saved in the Christ we become by living his love for one another and holding Christ up to our world to be seen in whom we have become in him.

This is what the parable of the Good Shepherd is all about. Jesus sees himself as the good shepherd and offers his life to protect us from ourselves and from our enemies. He does not run away from what is wrong in our world. We are called the children of God because we know the Father in knowing Christ. Christ is our real life if we invite him to be who we are. He came to us in our baptism. He reignites our baptism in us each time we are present to a baptism. It reminds us that we are born again into the life of Christ. We realize that the water and the blood that run from the pierced heart of Christ on the cross is the source of the Sacrament life of the Church. We discover new energy in belonging to the fold of Christ. We have the where with all to invite others into the same fold by our willingness to be a friend and to lead the friend to Christ. A friend in Christ is a friend forever.

The miracles of our lives are done by Christ. Friendships in Christ are the passing on to another the miracle of the healing force of Christ in our lives. There is no salvation through anyone else. Christ is the name by which we are all saved. Our piety, study and action are all connected together in Christ He gives us the name by which we are saved. The more I know about Christ, the more I am drawn to him. By his death goodness is a part of every life. Even the person who does not know Christ by name lives the name of Christ on their heart by the goodness of their lives. All goodness has its deepest meaning in Christ. We are all attracted the Christ life in each other because wherever there is love God is there and Christ is the meaning before God of the good we do for each other.

In Due Time

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.  1 Peter 5:5B-7

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”  Mark 16:15

As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

When I worked at the local township library growing up, we would place a stamped card in the back of library books.  It was a reminder of by when the book must be returned.  Now, you electronically check out books on your iPad and after two weeks, the book goes away.  For the time being, the book is yours and then, the rightful owner takes it back to loan it to another patron. 

God allows us to check out a lot of our time to other diversions in life.  We can have bowling night, softball night, or Friday night football.  We can head down to the local bar or coffee house.  We can shop, work out, go to school, and more.  But, sooner or later, in due time, God wants us to know that His time is back.  He sends us out to spend some time doing his work.  It is time to put aside all our diversions and go into the world to proclaim the Gospel.

Is your time due?

For some people, their time for God is an hour on Sunday.  That is a start.  But the words at the end of Mass echo the words of today’s Good News. 

The Dismissal Rite might take many different forms. A blessing is called down upon us and we are told to “Go.” It may be “Go in the peace of Christ.”   Or it may be “The Mass is ended, go in peace.” Or it may be “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  Whichever wording is chosen, the emphasis throughout is on the word “Go.”

Do not stay here in the privacy of this room, this sanctuary, this church.  Take what you have received out into the streets and hearts of the world and share the love. We are not to stay in the Upper Room, huddled with the rest of the Church.  We are to go. Where are you going today?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It Takes a Community

By Colleen O’Sullivan 

On his journey, as (Saul) was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.  He 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.” 
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias.  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 praying…  So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.  He got up and was baptized.   (Acts 9:3-6, 10a, 11, 17-18)

Lord, we give you thanks for those who have helped to shape and guide us as we seek to follow your Way.
There’s a proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child.”  It’s equally true that it takes a community to form a Christian.  Conversion and transformation begin with God, but the process always continues through us, the church.
I don’t know anyone with quite as dramatic a conversion story as the apostle Paul’s.  On his way to Damascus, intent on persecuting followers of the Way in that city, Saul, as he was known at that time, is stopped dead in his tracks.  Bright light surrounds him.  He falls to the ground and hears a voice calling to him, which turns out to be the voice of Jesus.  The Lord identifies himself as the one whom Saul is persecuting.  Whenever evil is inflicted upon the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, Jesus suffers with them.  Jesus tells Saul, who has been blinded, to continue to Damascus, which he does with the help of the men traveling with him.
After three days, Jesus enlists the aid of the fledgling church in the city.  He appears to Ananias in a vision, telling him where to find Saul.  Very reluctantly, Ananias, as a representative of the Damascus Christian community, agrees to go to him and to pray over him for healing of his blindness.  Saul’s reputation has preceded him, and Ananias is afraid of this man who’s known for his rabid hatred and persecution of Christians.  Through the laying on of hands, the apostle is filled with the Holy Spirit.  He regains his sight.  He is washed clean in the waters of baptism.  The believers then offer him sustenance, because he has eaten nothing since keeling over on the road. 
In this story, I think we can see a paradigm for conversion and transformation.  Whether we’re talking about a major turn-around from unbelief to faith or one of the many “mini” conversions we may experience as we grow in understanding of what it means to follow the Way, it all begins with God.  It is God’s grace that opens our hearts to Jesus.  God’s grace may come in the form of tough love, as witnessed in today’s reading from the Book of Acts.  I can’t think of any other way God could have gotten the attention of that zealous persecutor of Christians than to literally knock him down and stop him dead in his violent tracks.  More often, though, God’s grace comes in gentler forms, creating desire for and openness to God in our hearts.
But that’s only the beginning.  Transformation is a process and we, the Church, the Body of Christ on earth, are asked to help one another as we seek to follow the Way.  Sometimes that means praying for others’ healing.  It means living lives that can serve as a conduit of the Holy Spirit to our brothers and sisters.  It means being willing to forgive as we are forgiven.  It means offering mercy and sustenance to the stranger, the hungry, the poor, the homeless, the imprisoned. 

As you’re praying today, recall and give thanks for all those who have helped or are helping you to be conformed to Christ and to follow his Way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Live Forever in Me

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
By Beth DeCristofaro
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?”  Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptized him.  (Acts 8:35-38)
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.   I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever… (John 6:47-51)
My Lord and my God, help me to realize that I, too, will face my days in a tomb but that you will never forsake me nor abandon me.  Guide me Lord to lovingly, courageously live life and die with my eyes fixed ever on You.  I seek, Lord Jesus, to live each day of my life loving God above all others and my neighbors as myself knowing with deep certainty that I will die and after my three days I will wake to eternal life in You. 
The readings of this Easter Season again and again remind us that we are an Easter people.  Life, not death, is victorious in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ friends met him many times in human form, eating and drinking with them.  He had assured them that they each had a place with Him in God’s house.  Peter and the Apostles spoke with boldness, witnessing even in the face of powerful opposition.  They proclaimed that they did the deeds of God rather than humans in their new lives as believers.   St. Paul insisted that what is Godly is life:  “When Christ your life appears then you too will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians, 3:4)  Even as he was martyred Steven remained confident that his death would bring him new life with his Christ.
But physical death remains troubling, an evil, perhaps to be feared. If possible we seek to avoid it all together.  This attitude is so unChrist-like! If our priority is, indeed, walking each day with the risen Christ then death, while sad, perhaps painful or at best inconvenient, should not be anxiety-producing. It has been said that birth is the leading cause of death. And birth can also be said to be the leading route to full life in Christ! Our deathbed will be a new birth and these exultant scripture readings can remind us that like Stephen and the other Apostles, living fully in the trust of Christ’s love and within His embrace is our path up until the moment of our physical end on earth. We do not seek death because we have been given precious life by God. On the other hand we must not avoid death at such cost that even more suffering occurs for ourselves and those around us. Live as if nothing can separate us from the love of God!
Have you designated a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney and/or filled out advanced directives that will instruct your doctors and your families in the event of a terminal illness or sudden accident? This can be a gift of love for those who care about you and who might be called upon to care for you. You can very clearly state your Christian beliefs, designating appropriate and ethical medical care as you approach end of life.
Read more at USCCB website: "Human life is good and to be protected. All medical decisions ought to reflect this core belief. Yet black-and-white answers to our questions about end-of-life issues are not always possible, and it can be very difficult to know how to make medical decisions…The safest option is to designate a health care agent who not only understands our Catholic values but also shares them and can apply them to current situations and respond to questions as they arise."
The Dioceses of Arlington and Richmond have developed an Advance Medical Directive booklet with a guide for Faith-filled moral and ethical decision making available at

With One Accord

With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city.  Acts 8:6-8

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

What was going through the minds of the 28 Ethiopian Christians as they walked along the beach last week before they died?  Now they will never hunger again.  Now they will never thirst.  May their last thoughts and prayers about the ones they love be lifted up to the highest.  Let our prayers be joined with theirs.   

Jesus was serious when he said to pick up your cross daily and follow me. 

The kinds of persecution and martyrdom that Stephen experienced in the early church continued as Saul emerges onto the scene.  Two thousand and fifteen years later, it has not disappeared. 

Maybe thee followers did not know what Jesus meant at the time.  Yet once they saw what happened to Jesus, their first reaction was to hide and go back to their old ways of life.  If that succeeded, then there would be no church, no Cursillo and no tripod.

Once they were strengthened with the food that sustains life, they took the “be-not-afraid” message to heart.  Eventually, they left the Upper Room and started healing the sick, freeing the possessed and preaching the Good News.  And there was “great joy.”  Until the persecution continued.

A recent story on the National Catholic Register web site reported the reaction of Pope Francis to the latest massacre of Christians:

Pope Francis this evening sent a message of solidarity to Patriarch Matthias of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church following the release of a video showing the killing of 28 Ethiopian Christians by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Libya. 

"With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya," the Pope wrote, adding that he was reaching out to Patriarch Matthias and his flock "in heartfelt spiritual solidarity to assure you of my closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia."

"It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant," the Pope went on. "Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands."

Pray that persecution of any person anywhere because of their faith ends.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Receive My Spirit

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

By Melanie Rigney

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)

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. (Psalm 31:6a)

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)

Lord, give me the faith to trust You in all things.

Recently, I spent time with someone I consider a special friend, though we don’t see each other as often as we’d like. I remarked that it had been almost ten years since we met; she was involved in ministry to those exploring a return to Catholicism, I was giving the faith of my childhood another chance since nothing in my life was working at the time.

My friend laughed. “And look at us now,” she said. “Who besides God would have thought we’d be here?” “Here” was the Bible study group at her parish, a group of people who helped pray her through her mother’s death, a successful fight with cancer, and her preparations to become a hospice chaplain. “Here” for me that day was speaking to the Bible study group about women saints, most of whom I’d never heard of when my friend and I met. It was the first day I said out loud that sharing these women’s stories and how they inform our faith journeys today I see not only as a privilege but also as a spiritual charism. Indeed, God has a sense of humor.

I thought of this exchange as I read today’s first reading from Acts. When their paths crossed, Stephen likely was familiar with persecution, but could not have known he would become the first Christian martyr. Saul, the persecutor of Christians, likely would have scoffed if you’d told him he would end up a martyr to the faith as well.

In small ways and big ways, we do ourselves a disservice when we try to imagine the path ahead. It might be better than we could ever hope for… or, it may hold challenges we are unequipped to handle today. Better, then, to let that sort of anxiety and fruitless worrying die… and to commend our spirits to the Lord.

Attempt to go the entire day without saying “I wish,” “I wonder,” “I worry,” or “I hope.” Commend the spirit.

The Food that Endures

“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.” John 6:28-29

Father, please answer me when I call.  When modern troubles hem me in, set me free from these pressures.  Take pity on me, with your everlasting mercy.  Hear my prayer.  Help us to understand that we do not live on bread alone but upon believing that the Bread of Life is every word that comes forth from your mouth.  (Based upon Psalm 4:2)

Eating seems to be pivotal to the theme of this week.  In the Sunday Gospel, when the disciples encountered Jesus, he asked them for something to eat.  Once that need was met, they were filled.  Then they had to be fulfilled.

Today, the Gospel scene follows the feeding of the five thousand.  Once the people were filled, then it was time for Jesus to remind them of the mission to be fulfilled.  Maybe that old saw about the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach is one which Jesus put to use. 

However, this raises a question for the disciples:  “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.”  When we believe, we repent.  When we believe, we are not afraid.  When we believe, we carry out works for the good of the community based upon our faith in Jesus.

“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”  

We can ask the same question that was posed two thousand years ago.  And it will not take long to look around our community for ways to build the kingdom of God.  Our neighborhoods, hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes are filled with people who need to see a friendly face.  Our streets are filled with the homeless, the unemployed and the hungry. Look around for how you can work.  It might be as closer than you think. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Touch Me and See

Originally Published on April 26, 2009

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.[i]

God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away. Acts 3:18-19

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:45-48

Jesus, help us to see you in everyone we encounter. Help us to see what scars others bear and give us the ability to heal their wounds. Open us to the healing that others offer to us. Help us to forgive those who hurt us. Open us to the free and unlimited love and forgiveness that you grant to all including us. Amen.

Sharing the moment close to Christ brings Christ back again. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were talking about Christ and Christ came to them. They recognized Christ in the breaking of the bread. When we share Christ with others, he comes back to us again. It is all too true that the only way to hold unto Christ is to give him away. He calls us into his life by the love we share with each other. And the greatest love we have to share is Christ himself. They recognized Christ in the breaking of the bread. We find Christ when we do things with each other. Walking with Christ on our journey of life comes to the point where Christ will go on unless we invite him to break bread with us. It is in the breaking of bread with each other that we recognize the Christ of the other’s heart. Sometimes I say it too easily that the Christ of my heart recognizes the Christ of your heart. We need more than a few moments to reach the rock bottom of Christ in our lives. He is there without forcing himself on us. We solidify his presence in the asking each other to stay.

Keeping the commandments is how to stay in each other’s life with Christ as the ultimate meaning of our love. The commandments are the ultimate statement of interpersonal relationships. Happiness is the living of our lives with the good of each other utmost in our minds and our hearts. Once the two disciples on the road to Emmaus realized they had been with Christ they returned to Jerusalem to be with the bigger community. We live the wonder of Christ with us when we are willing to go out of our way to share Christ with those with whom we have met Christ. It is in the further sharing of Christ that a deeper encounter with Christ takes place. Christ is the expiation for our sins and for those of the whole world. Thus, Christ is perfected in us. We need to experience the efforts that others put out. Thus, we find Christ in the time and the energy that others expend for the sharing of Christ. It is a wonderful journey when we are free to put out for each other. Christ fulfilled his destiny that he learned about in the writings of Moses and the prophets. We have to be witnesses of what Christ did in his life by living out in our lives what Christ would do if he were us. We allow him to live in us by the love we share with those who need us most. Family, friends and strangers become one in Christ by charity and love shared. The people of God who are the Church are also the mystical body of Christ. He gathers with us when we gather in his name. When two or three gather in his name, he promises us his companionship. We are called by Christ to be witnesses to his love.

So we pray to the Lord that his face not only shine on us, but that we may be his face to the world. It is Christ who brings gladness into our hearts by his countenance shining upon us. Christ is the gladness of our hearts and brings security into our dwelling places. In each other we touch and see the goodness of the Lord. Christ rises from the dead again in the goodness of each of us. Every encounter of our lives becomes an encounter with Christ in our efforts to bring Christ into each meeting with another. Our apostolic actions are the richness of our love shared. With our efforts to do something about the needs of our brothers and sisters, our love covers a multitude of sinfulness. In the love of Christ shared by our willingness to bring Christ into anything we do for another, we become the perfect witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. We make up for the failures of each other by our love shared. Forgiveness of sins is preached whither we go when we offer our lives for what is wrong with our world. Thus we are witnesses of the resurrection of Christ.

[i] This week, Fr. Joe moved to Manresa, the Jesuit long-term care facility in Pennsylvania where he is recuperating from a stroke.  You may send him Palanca at: Manresa Hall, 261 Clay Avenue, Merion Station, PA 19066.  Non-family visits are still not scheduled.    
Historically, Manresa is the capital of the Comarca of Bages, located in the geographic center of Catalonia, Spain.  The city is home to a cave in which St. Ignatius of Loyola is said to have meditated and prayed.    

Stirred Up

“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 6:2B-4

The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”  John 6:18-20

Father, let us not be afraid to change the direction in which we are looking for happiness.  Just as your Son comforted his friends, send for your Spirit to comfort us and to renew our commitment to the tasks you assign to us.  Amen.

The natural elements make frequent symbolic guest appearances in John’s Good News.  Wind.  Fire.  Water.  Earth.   The wind blows where ever it may.  Sometimes, the Holy Spirit descends from it like a dove.  Other times, the wind whips up a frenzy. 

Although Jesus does not fully address the character of the Holy Spirit until chapters 14-16 of John’s Gospel, the sprint makes its presence known and felt in many places.  One of the ways this occurs is by the symbolism of wind. 

Today, not only did the wind physically stir up the sea and toss around the boat carrying the disciples but it also stirred up the emotions of the disciples.  They were worried about their mortal lives.  Would they survive being out on the Sea of Galilee in this storm? 

As the companion to the Holy Spirit, John presents Jesus to the men in the boat as the calming, peaceful influence.  He not only calms the seas but he calms the emotions.  The spirit may stir you up, but the spirit stirs you up to do the work that Jesus asks.  Do not be afraid of what you are being led to do.  Jesus worked hand in hand with the Holy Spirit to enable believers to accomplish God-given tasks.

Jesus’ response to the situation is to comfort the men in the boat.  “Do not be afraid.”  This is a phrase that we encounter dozens of times throughout the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.  When Jesus no longer walks among the disciples, the Holy Spirit will take over the role of being the Great Comforter.

“Do not be afraid” becomes the pivotal first phrase that the women hear from Jesus when they meet him on the road to Galilee.  But it is not a new phrase.  It is a reinforcement of this theme that has been expressed over and over and over again and again in the Bible.  It works hand-in-hand with the first word of Jesus’ public ministry:  Repent. 

The spirit is stirring up the participants of the 130th Men’s Cursillo Weekend running through Friday.  Remember to pray and sacrifice for their comfort with your Palanca, by participating in Morning Prayer and the Closing. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

God Will Prevail

By Colleen O’Sullivan

A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time, and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel, be careful what you are about to do to these men…  I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.  For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself.  But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”  (Acts 5:34-35, 38-39a)

Many are the plans of the human heart, but it is the decision of the Lord that endures.  (Proverbs 19:21)

Gamaliel, the learned scholar and teacher of St. Paul, is a person I would like to have met.  Was he simply very wise when it came to the ways of human nature or was he beginning to suspect there might be some truth to all that Peter and the other apostles were proclaiming in the streets of Jerusalem?   In any case, he advised the other members of the Sanhedrin not to put the apostles to death.  Don’t create an uproar for nothing.  If there’s no truth to their preaching and you ignore them, they will soon fade away.  On the other hand, if what they say is from God, you will be battling the Lord himself.
I like the message implicit in Gamaliel’s words.  You can fight God, and throughout the ages there have been many people who’ve done just that, but God will always prevail.  God sent the Light into the world and the darkness that often surrounds us will never have the last word.  Sometimes, when I read or watch the news, I have to remind myself of that. 
Fifteen years ago, I had never heard of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS or al-Shabab.  Now, I am reminded as I am writing this that this is the first anniversary of the kidnapping of hundreds of teenage girls from their school in the primarily Christian village of Chibok in Nigeria.  The families of most of those girls have no idea where they are or if they’ll ever see their daughters again.  I cannot get out of my head the barbaric beheadings of Christians at the hands of ISIS.  While I was on a Triduum retreat, members of al-Shabab attacked students at a university in Kenya, reportedly targeting Christians.  That really felt like Good Friday news.
But we’re in the Easter season now.  Jesus is risen.  The Light continues to shine.  The news media may not always focus on that, but just look around and you will see and feel the presence of Christ.  The spring beauty of God’s creation surrounds us.  Their efforts often unheralded, Christians are still feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, visiting the elderly, showing mercy and compassion to the downtrodden.  Some are even still volunteering to go as humanitarian relief workers to dangerous, war-torn areas of the world 
Gamaliel was on the right track.  We human beings may sometimes attempt to snuff out the Light, but God will always prevail.  And that is the Easter message to which we respond, “Alleluia!”

Where do you see the Light shining in the darkness in your life?  Give thanks to the Risen Lord.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

He Does Not Ration His Gift Of The Spirit

April 16, 2015

By Beth DeCristofaro

Peter and the Apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men.  The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.  We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”  (Acts 5:29-32)

He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.  Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.  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.  (John 3:32-35)

O Heavenly Father, do not ration your gift of the Spirit within me.  May your graces enable me to testify to your presence in the world, to the gifts you have given in my life and to the total dependence that I have on you for my life, my soul, my all.  Grant me the courage of the Apostles and the steadfast acceptance of St Bernadette as I proclaim your praise with my words and deeds.

It is so fitting that today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles falls on the feast day of St. Bernadette Soubirous.  The Apostles, transformed in spirit through witnessing the miracle of the Resurrection no longer hide in locked rooms or in the hinterlands of Galilee.  Rather we see them here facing down the ire of the temple leaders heedless of their own safety. They are eloquent witnesses to the power of God and evangelizing to the divine Word, Jesus. 

Bernadette was a nobody from a poor family who was also chosen as a witness to the presence of God on earth through visions of the Immaculate Conception. At first she was not believed by the church and by her community. However, she, too, was unafraid and not dissuaded in her faith in the grace given to her by the Blessed Virgin, speaking up and passing on the word of life to others.

Sr. Michaud, OSB, writes “the call to proclaim the Gospel to every creature is meant for us as well as for Jesus’ first disciples.  Easter is truly joyful, but our joy must lead to action. … How we live our lives can be a powerful example of dedication to Christ.”[i]  I often identify with Bernadette.  Who am I that I might testify in the face of greater issues and people than I?  God chooses and fills those chosen with the Spirit.

The Men’s 130th Cursillo Weekend begins in Arlington this evening.  Keep them in prayer and hold them in your thoughts so that the Team bears witness and candidates’ heart open ever deeper to the joy of Christ within.

What are you doing with your fourth day that you might like to share with these new Cursillo brothers?

[i] “Give Us This Day”, April 2015, P. 187.