Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Light

By Colleen O’Sullivan

When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.”  So he said to them, Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”  So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.  So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter,” It is the Lord.”  (John 21:4-7a)

The Lord is God, and he has given us light.  (Psalm 118:27a)

It is night as the Gospel reading opens.  During the long, dark hours of night our uncertainties, doubts and fears often assail us.  The disciples are reeling from the events of recent days.  The teacher they have followed for several years really did leave them.  To be sure, he had said he needed to go and prepare a place for them, but no one knew what his words meant at the time.  He asked his friends to be with him in prayer the night he was seized, but in his hour of need, they all fell asleep.  Most of them abandoned Jesus once the soldiers took him into custody.  All this weighs heavily on Peter, who didn’t leave but is filled with shame at his own betrayal of the Lord.  How could he have denied knowing this man he dearly loved?  And should he be fortunate enough ever to meet Jesus face to face again, what can he say?  What words can he use to express the sorrow and regret he is carrying around?  What will Jesus say to him?  Overwhelmed by these thoughts, Peter seeks solace in the one thing he knows how to do - he goes fishing with several of the other disciples.  Even this is no comfort; they catch nothing.

But, as the skies begin to lighten toward dawn, a voice calls out from the shore, telling them to throw the net over the other side of the boat.  Instantly the net is full to overflowing.  The dark of night gives way to the glory of sunrise.  It is their Lord and friend Jesus!   He has a charcoal fire already going on the shore.  Together they grill some of the fish, and Jesus serves them bread and fish in a manner reminiscent of the feeding of the crowd earlier in John’s Gospel, a meal with the feel of Eucharist to it.  He gathers his friends and feeds them, not saying a word about who failed him or how.  There is nothing but love in his eyes.

The faint light from the charcoal fire and the early morning streaks of light in the sky are symbols of the glorious light of the Resurrection.  At the Easter Vigil, as the celebrant lights the paschal candle from the new fire, he prays: “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”  The Easter message is that the Light of the World has forever vanquished the power of darkness.  In a world where dark spots abound, this is Good News!

Sunrise in Burke, VA
By permission of Liane Whalen Chang
Imagine that you are gathered around the charcoal fire eating with Jesus and his friends as a new day dawns.  What do you think Jesus would say to you?  What would you like to say to him?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

You Are Witnesses

By Beth DeCristofaro

“Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also
St. John's Bible
announced these days. You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, in your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed. For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
(Acts 3:24-26)

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ 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)

Praise the LORD, all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
His mercy for us is strong;
the faithfulness of the LORD is forever.
        (Psalm 117)

Hallelujah!  The Easter Vigil, filled with Hallelujahs, readings that span our sacred history, the darkness blown away by lighting of candles.  Walking out of church amid all who have renewed our baptismal promises and seeing the transformed faces of the newly Baptized I get just a tiny sense of what the Apostles might have been feeling on the road to Emmaus and in the upper room when Jesus appeared.

This Easter weekend we enjoyed meals with friends from high school and grade school, catching up on our lives, sharing what is important to us now and what has been meaningful throughout the years.  Jesus’ friends mourned his leaving them.  We also miss those who have left our lives whether by distance, temperament or death.  But Jesus’ Resurrection tells us clearly that He does not need our sorrow He wants our consent to be with Him as He remains with us.  His Resurrection opened us to understanding and our consent points us to walk in His footsteps as witness and hallelujah people.

How do we preach in his name?  Jesus came in accordance to fulfill the Scriptures. 

The Scriptures tell us through the mouths of prophets, poets, believers, sinners, and the Son of God to follow:  “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”   (Interpretive translation of Talmudic texts, from Gratefulness, Word for the Day)[i]

Stay With Us

Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him. Acts 3:7-10

Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”  Luke 24:17-19A

Lord Jesus Christ,
Stay with us, too, we pray,
in every part of our journey,
no matter how full of doubt or fear we may be today.

Through your Holy Spirit,
we pray that you will open our eyes, too
Help us see you as our risen Lord
in all your beauty,
and in all your loving power.
—John Witvliet, from the close of a sermon on Luke 24. 

Usually, God is inviting or commissioning us to do something.  Today’s readings
Road to Emmaus, Janet Brooks Gerloff
have turned the table on both Peter and Jesus.

First, this time when the crowd recognizes Peter, he is not in denial any longer.  He does not run away to hide stays with the beggar.  Acting in the name of Jesus, he heals the crippled man much to the amazement and astonishment of the crowd. 

A 2005 Catholic Online article by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan keys in on the phrase “Stay with us.”

Three short words sum up the servants’ appeal to their master. ‘Stay with us’ gives God ‘permission’ to remain in our lives through the invisible but nevertheless real principle of grace.’ …When Christ vanished before the eyes of the two disciples after the breaking of the Bread, Cleophas and his unnamed companion could have melted into lethargy. Their Master had left; they were seemingly by themselves. But instead of becoming passive, they quickly journeyed to tell the Eleven what had transpired. Although Jesus had temporarily departed, his Presence remained.”

In this the Octave of Easter, open your eyes to a new experience that stretches you beyond your comfort zone. If you normally help at a food pantry, for example, assist a young person in crisis. If you typically counsel at a family crisis center, consider volunteering with a jail ministry. Trust Jesus to stay with you as you grow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


By Melanie Rigney

Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. (Psalm 33:5b)

(Mary Magdalene) turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. (John 20:15-16)

Rabbouni! Blessed be Your name, today and always.

It is one of the most soul-stirring moments in film, the point in 1962’s The Miracle Worker when the young Helen Keller, played by Patty Duke, blind and deaf since infancy, understands that the finger manipulations that have been pounded into her hand by Anne Sullivan, played by Anne Bancroft, have meaning and can release her from the prison that has been her life. We call it the “water” moment, but even more profound a couple minutes later is when Helen, having found the words that mean “pump,” “tree,” “ground,” “step,” “bell,” “mother,” and “papa,” turns back to Sullivan, questioning. “Teacher,” Sullivan spells and says.

Consider the case of Mary Magdalene. Her world has been lacking its light since Friday. It is Sunday morning. She, much like Helen Keller, cannot see or hear what is in front of her, the risen Jesus, believing him to be the gardener. It is when Jesus calls her not “woman,” but by her name, Mary, that she recognizes the greatest Teacher of them all.

Whether our vision and hearing are clouded by physical defects, fear, pride, or any other factors, may we open our hearts and souls to the Good News in all the ways in which It manifests Itself to us. Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Resolve to recognize the Teacher in your life today, from the moment your eyes open until they are ready to close tonight.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Jesus Met Them

And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”
  Matthew 28:9-10

I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. Psalm 16:8-11

When I worked in various libraries back in high school and college, I remember putting a particular book on the shelf which had a very odd title.  “If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!”

Psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp wrote this book in 1972.  Among other messages, it warned people who were going through periods of personal growth that the “guru” or expert of the day was not the Buddha. To a high school kid who understood little about Buddhism, it seemed counter-intuitive at best to want to kill the leader of your religion.  Had I taken a basic psychology class, I might have understood more about the themes in the book which deals with the essence of therapist-client relationships as a parallel journey of two human beings dependent upon the ability of each to care for the other. 

What would have happened if the wrong people met Jesus on the road that first Easter Sunday?  What if it was the soldiers who so easily gave in to the temptation of the bribe?  They might have done exactly that – killed him or at least tried to do so (again).  Jesus, however, carefully revealed his Risen nature only to true believers.  There was no doubt in the minds and hearts of the women who were leaving the empty tomb.  They immediately embraced his feet, feet that just days ago were anointed with expensive oils and perfumes.  Just as Jesus took on the role of servant and washed the feet of his disciples, these women embraced His holy feet again.   

Just like Jesus’ human life began with the announcement of an angel, his Risen life starts off the same way. 

Our 50-day Easter journey does not end with the pious act of kissing the feet of the Risen Lord.  We must still take up his mission.  Like the women of Jerusalem, we must cast aside our fears and go tell the story to others.  

Where will Jesus meet you today?  What is Jesus telling you to do?  To where is he sending you?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

See, Understand and Believe

The Resurrection of the Lord -- The Mass of Easter Day

By Beth DeCristofaro

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.  Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.  For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. (John 20:8-9)


This is my prayer—
That, though I may not see,
I be aware
Of the Silent God
Who stands by me.
That, though I may not feel,
I be aware
Of the Mighty Love
Which doggedly follows me.
That, though I may not respond,
I be aware
That God—my Silent, Mighty God,
Waits each day.
Quietly, hopefully, persistently.
Waits each day and through each night
For me.
For me—alone. [i]
        (Silent God, Edwina Gateley)

Always I want to rush to the Resurrection.  Lent has become a favorite season for me to slow down and reconnect spiritually, but in my heart of hearts I know that He is Risen…and it’s sometimes hard to wait.  So this beautiful Gospel passage is not my favorite.  I prefer the breathtaking stories of Mary and the women greeted by angels or even recognizing the Risen Lord.  Their sorrow is upended by their joy. 

However, John’s words speak to me of my reality which is that my understanding has been a slow journey much like the women and the disciples who followed Jesus.  I’ve had to be open in my walk, running at times, to recognize God’s presence in those around me.   I’ve needed to look and see for myself that Jesus’ love exists even if I don’t see “him”.  I’ve had to accept that sorrow and loss are a part of life but that wonder and hope exist in spite and sometimes within.  I’ve learned to accept that answers do not always exist for challenging questions.  I have begun to understand through the grace of faith and the faith of my fellow seekers who also run to the tomb.  I have come to appreciate that it is through His love, His life, death and resurrection that I exist.  And I have realized most importantly that because He wills it I am always in the Lord’s presence even when I feel that the tomb is empty.

Look for an opportunity, perhaps in a new situation which challenges you, to spread the Alleluia of this day to someone in need.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  Genesis 1:1-3

Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.  Luke 24:9-12

On this most sacred night, in which our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life, the Church calls upon her sons and daughters, scattered throughout the world, to come together to watch and pray. If we keep the memorial of the Lord's paschal solemnity in this way, listening to his word and celebrating his mysteries, then we shall have the sure hope of sharing his triumph over death and living with him in God.

Cursillo means “a short course” in Christianity which begins with the three-day weekend experience and continues throughout the Fourth Day of life.  If we get the short course over three days, what would it be called if we got the lessons of all salvation history in four hours?  Perhaps the piety, study and action of the Easter Vigil is a “crash course” in all salvation history from the dawn of creation through to this very day.  Put another way, this celebration is the “mother of all holy vigils,” according to St. Augustine. 

The word "Easter" comes from Old English, meaning simply the "East." The sun which rises in the East, bringing light, warmth and hope, is our symbol of the rising of the Son – Christ -- who is the true Light of the world.  Yet the Easter Vigil takes place entirely in darkness during the night…expressly not starting until 45 minutes after sunset even when it is daylight saving time and ending before the sun comes up. (Although we do turn the lights on FULL right before the Good News of Matthew is proclaimed.)  

The following is a “humble” attempt to provide the briefest possible overview how the weekend experience of Cursillo is a reflection of the high points of the Easter Vigil through parallels to the weekend meditations and talks.

Know Yourself:  The Church calls upon us all -- scattered throughout the world -- to come together to watch and pray.  We will listen to His word and celebrate His mysteries as we come to know ourselves just as we do in the opening “silent retreat” on Thursday night of the Cursillo weekend experience.

The Prodigal Son:  Sanctified by new fire after the Liturgy of the Light, we return to the Father and process into church for the paschal celebration inflamed with desire to be a part of the family of beloved sinners just as the Prodigal Son returns to the household of his birth.

Three Glances of Christ:  As the tapers light the sanctuary, the light of Christ dispels the darkness of our hearts and minds so that we can respond to the look of Christ’s love and His new light in our lives.

Ideal:  Is the Light of Christ your ideal?

God’s Friendship:  God loves us so much that God made us in his own image and likeness.  (Genesis 1)

Layperson in the Church:  Just as God put Abraham to the test, he calls us to leadership.  Can we also reply with the same words and spirit of Abraham and Isaiah, or Mary and Matthew?  “Here I am, Lord.  I come to do your will.” (Genesis 22)

Results of God’s Friendship:  God’s friendship will show me the path to life. (Psalm 65:8)

Piety:  “I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant.” Exodus 15:1B

The Person of Christ:  In Christ’s humanity, the One who has become your husband also is our Maker…with great tenderness the Lord will take us back. (Isaiah 54) 

Study: All who are thirsty for knowledge of the Lord should come to the water of His word!  (Isaiah 55)

Sacraments:  We experience Christ, THE Sacrament in many manifestations in tonight’s celebration.  We encounter him in the Church, the Sacrament of Christ; and in special ways in the Seven Sacraments of the Church, which can make us sacraments but especially in the Baptisms, Confirmations, and First Communions celebrated tonight. 

Action:  Walk by the light of Christ doing what pleases God (Baruch 3;4) 

Obstacles to a Life in God’s Friendship: God gives us a new heart and places a new spirit within us in order to overcome any obstacles that our desires place between us and God.  (Ezekiel 36)

Leaders:  If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that as leaders in the Church, we shall also live with him. (Romans 6)

Christ’s Message to the Cursillista:  As the lights bathe us in warmth, we see and are amazed just as Peter was amazed that what Christ said and did came to be through His love.  “But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened." (Luke 24)

Study and Evangelization of Environment:  We have been enlightened by Christ through our initiation. We are asked to walk in teh world always as children of Christ’s light and keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts so it can spread to the world. When the Lord comes, may we rise up like the Father and rush out to meet him while he is still a long way off but coming to be our friend.

Living in God’s Friendship:  The promised strength of the Holy Spirit, which we received in the sacrament of Confirmation, will make us more like Christ and help us to be witnesses to his suffering, death, and resurrection. It will strengthen us to be active members of the Church and to build up the Body of Christ in faith and love.

Christian Community (in Action):  We ask the Father to graciously accept our service and the service of our whole Church family.

Group Reunion & Ultreya:  We ask God to make those nourished by this paschal Sacrament one in mind and heart carrying out the work of God’s hands and refreshing our minds, hearts and spirits as well as helping us to do the same for each other.


Go in peace to love and serve the Lord as a rejuvenated parish family and world church despite the darkness around us.  Let us take the light of Easter beyond the doors of the tomb and the church just as the women of the community and the apostles did.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Greatest Love

By Colleen O'Sullivan

He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.  Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.   (Isaiah 53:3-4)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.  So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.  (Hebrews 4:15-16)

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.  (John 19:16b-18)

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
(What Wondrous Love Is This, author unknown, American Folk Hymn)

The Crucifixion – Carl Bloch from
Catholic Viral (Creative Commons license)
 For many it was probably just another day in Jerusalem, hot and dry.  It was a Friday.  There were a few crucifixions being carried out as always.  What else could you expect under Roman rule?  But, today Pilate had been importuned by the Jews to have the soldiers make haste at their deadly duty, because the Sabbath would begin at sundown. Again, what else was new?  People died while others went on living and laughing, soldiers casting lots to win an executed man’s few pieces of clothing.

On the other hand, for the family and friends of Jesus gathered at Golgotha, the day was the worst they had ever known.  Wanting to block out the horrible sights and sounds, they remained, nevertheless, out of love.  We contemplate the Crucifixion two millennia later out of that same love and desire to show compassion.

Good Friday isn’t so much about what the scribes and elders or the Romans did to Jesus as it is about what Jesus does for us.  Jesus becomes one of us in every way but sin.  He takes on the human suffering that is just part of life. 

If you were always the last kid in your class to be picked to be on a team in school, Jesus was there with you, sharing your feelings of rejection and dejection.  If your family and friends think you’re crazy for following in Jesus’ footsteps, Jesus has been there, too.  His relatives thought he had lost his mind when he preached.  They drove him away.  Jesus wouldn’t have been on the Cross if he hadn’t been spurned by far more people than just his family in Nazareth.

If you’ve ever been betrayed by your spouse or a close friend, though you may not have realized it at the time, Jesus walked beside you.  One of his inner circle of friends sold him out for a few pieces of silver.  To add insult to injury, Judas did it with a kiss.  Yes, Jesus knows all about the pain of betrayal. 
Jesus knows about the bodily suffering we often experience.  He feels it on the Cross.  He shows it by admitting he’s thirsty hanging there under that hot Jerusalem sky.   If we open the eyes of our hearts, we can picture him sitting by every sick bed in the land. 

Jesus knows about suffering in spirit as well.  He understands when we grieve.  He grieved over Jerusalem, even shed tears over the city.  He wept for his friend Lazarus.  There’s no need ever to grieve alone, because Jesus is always there ready to comfort you.  Jesus also knows what the spiritual desolation we sometimes experience is about.  Here he is doing his Father’s will in emptying himself out for us, and he can’t feel his Abba’s presence.  God is never apart from us, but once in a while, we are unable to feel the Lord beside us.  Jesus calls out to his Father in the words of the psalmist, “Why have you abandoned me?”

The Cross is all about Jesus’ love for us and his solidarity with us in our humanity.  That such a hideous tool of death becomes the ultimate symbol of love and that from such suffering comes the offer of redemption and new life are among the greatest paradoxes of our faith. 


Spend some time today contemplating Jesus on the Cross.  Open your hearts to receive the love offered and offer your own gift of love to Jesus in return.

Fully Aware

By Beth DeCristofaro

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. “This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. (Exodus 12:1-3, 11)

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. (John 13:1-5)

Where true charity is dwelling, God is present there.  (Antiphon from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper)

As our ancestors in faith, we are a Passover people.  We are given such amazing gifts by God: life, this beautiful world, the emotions and imagination to love, be amazed and to create.  But these are not the whole of the gift.  We are offered more – are we aware?

Sr. Ruth Burrows tells us that Jesus wants us “completely identified with Him in His perfect sacrifice”[i].  Our lives are a journey to Him and the building of the Kingdom begins within our hearts. Jesus was fully aware.  Jesus knew the horrors and humiliation of the sacrifice he is willing to make.  Jesus knew the wonder of life.  He knew the weaknesses of his disciples.  He knew the betrayal to come yet he modeled kindness, service, and humility including washing the feet of his betrayer.  The footnotes to the Gospel state that even the lowest of slaves did not wash others feet.  Yet the Son of God did, humbling himself and foreshadowing his dishonorable death on the Cross.  Are we aware?  And can we choose with awareness to follow His lead?

Sr. Ruth goes on to say:  When we open our hearts fully to Jesus’ redeeming love, “the very love of Jesus takes possession of our hearts and we too shall find ourselves concerned only with the work of God, devoid of self-interest.  ‘Come, Master, celebrate your Pasch in my house-I open its doors wide to you.’”  What self-interest bars the doors to our hearts?  Pray for the faith to open wide our doors.  Then pray for full awareness and open.

[i] “When Love Takes Possession”, Sr. Ruth Burrows, Give Us This Day:  Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic, March 2016, pp. 264-265.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Speak to the Weary

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
  Isaiah 50:4-5

“He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.  Matthew 26:18-19

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Tertullian
The Blood of the Revolutionary Martyrs Fertilizing the Earth by Diego Rivera
How would this story have ever been possible without the people who surrounded Jesus?  Some people are named.  Others are not. 

We shall never know who the host of this final Passover was. The Roman centurion is described by his role and his faith, not his name. Who were the bride and groom of Cana unknowingly offering Jesus their wedding reception as holy ground for the first miracle?  Or the historically anonymous Jews who had to be run out of the temple for money laundering?  Or the equally anonymous Samaritan woman at the well?   

Without Mary, there is no way for the Lord to be borne into the world.

Without Joseph, there is no way for the Lord to have a profession or a way of life until he begins his public ministry. If he were the Rabbi’s son, maybe he would not have been rejected outright from his first sermon.

Without Peter, how would the power of mission and redemption for the frail, earthy, humans be taught so colorfully? 

It was not just some Pharisee who came to Jesus in the middle of the night for a Sunday school lesson.  It was Nicodemus.

Without Mary and Martha, how would we come to know both the role of active hospitality and the role of active contemplation?  Without their brother Lazarus, the final plot against Christ would not be laid.    

Without Judas, without Judas, without Judas?  The shocking treason.  The buy-out.  The enormity of the deed.  “It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”  It would be better to never have even asked the question that will be answered in a few hours with the kiss of death.

Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”  Matthew 26:25

In the First Reading, Isaiah writes one of his beautiful series of poems about the Lord’s servant, who suffers innocently for justice. The Gospel writers recognized Jesus in those poems. Innocent suffering may repel us, but it also emboldens our hearts.

It has been famously said that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” This is a famous line that appears in the Apologeticus by Tertullian.  In this work Tertullian defends Christianity, demanding legal toleration and that Christians be treated as all other sects of the Roman Empire.

Martyrs may have been the backbone of the early church but martyrdom has not ceased to have an enduring presence in the world. 

This week, we heard the news that Pope Francis wants to visit El Salvador to
Blessed Oscar Romero
by Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS
beatify Blessed Oscar Romero, who was martyred on the altar for being a voice of the poor in the country’s civil war. 

Also, in September, Mother Theresa of Calcutta will also be formally elevated to sainthood.  She inspired people around the world to perform works of mercy and dedicate their lives to service.  Among those were four young Missionaries of Charity murdered March 4 in Yemen.  The four Missionaries of Charity and 12 other people were killed by uniformed gunmen, who entered the home the sisters operate for the elderly and disabled in Aden.

“They are the martyrs of today," Pope Francis said. "They gave their blood for the church."

Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil was the chaplain of the Sisters of Mother Teresa killed in Aden. He was kidnapped and is now assumed to be in Jihadi hands. So far, nothing is known about his fate. The Rector Major of his order addressed the Salesian Family asking for prayers for the victims of sectarian violence.

We continue to follow with pain and with great concern, what is happening to our brother Tom, a Salesian of Don Bosco, who disappeared and about whom we have no news.

I also wish to express our closeness and our solidarity to his family while we implore from the Lord a deep peace that he may endure this moment trusting in the Lord Jesus.

Therefore, I invite everyone to spend a very intense moment of prayer on the evening of Holy Thursday, when we join with Jesus in the pain and loneliness of Gethsemane.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Light to the Nations

By Melanie Rigney

It is too little, (God) says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)

In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me, and deliver me; incline your ear to me, and save me. (Psalm 71:1-2)

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (John 13:36-37)

Lord, show me how to lay down my life for You in little and big ways today.

A women’s retreat, in another state. During some down time, near the end of the weekend, several of us started talking about our government jobs and the difficulty we sometimes found in bringing Christ into the workplace beyond trying to serve as models in the way we conduct ourselves, in attempting to love our neighbors as ourselves.

One woman fished out of her purse a photo. It appeared to be a shrine of some sort… medallions, icons, rosaries, prayer cards, statuary, even candles. But the candles were unlit. It turned out she works for the federal government. It all started with a single image of Jesus, as I recall. People who came to her cube started asking her about why she had the picture. She told them she was Catholic. No one asked her to take it down. Slowly but surely, as her colleagues traveled, they brought back items for her cube. Sometimes, she thought they were meant as jokes, but none were offensive, so she thanked them and kept adding the items to her space. There’s been a conversion story or two over the years, she said, and people, believers in some form of God or not, often stop by and tell her their problems and ask for her prayers. She always listens and prayers. She considers it part of her job.

As for me, my home work space (pictured at right) is pretty Catholic, but at the day job? Not so much. Then recently, I was working on an oh-so-important project. An essential phone meeting was scheduled on my day off, at a time that was going to present a conflict. At first, I simply said that, that I had an appointment and so the call would need to end by a certain time. I was asked by several people if I couldn’t reschedule it. Then I thought of that woman and her workplace shrine. “I’m Catholic,” I said, “and I’m signed up for adoration for an hour. That means I get to go and sit with the Blessed Host, which we believe is Jesus, and when the Host is exposed, we don’t leave Jesus alone.” There was silence, then we moved on. But the next day, the call ended in time for me to get to the adoration chapel.

The next workday, a colleague came to my office. He shut the door, then proceeded to tell me about when he was young and would go to adoration. He also told me a bit about his current faith life with a nondenominational church. Then he opened the door and left.

It can be challenging to talk about and show our faith outside of our safe little church communities. But when we opt for the safe, quiet course, we forego opportunities to evangelize, to be a light to all nations. Take a chance. Let it shine.

Do or say something today at work, at school, at the grocery store or elsewhere that shows your faith to people outside your usual faith circle.