Sunday, May 21, 2017

Opened Heart

[A] woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, "If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home," and she prevailed on us. Acts 16:14-15

"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify because you have been with me from the beginning. John 15:26-27

O God, in the original Exodus, you led the children of Israel through the dry bed of the Red Sea; You led Joseph and Mary to a safe crib in Bethlehem and pointed out a star to the Magi that led them on the road to the Baby Jesu. Just as you led the Holy Family safely to Egypt, grant us a New Exodus journey with similar promise so that, under your guidance, we may safely reach that journey's end after fulfilling your will. Bless our journeys and journeyings with your ever-present Mercy and plentiful Good Samaritans along the way as insurance against all danger. Amen.

Travel narratives are the bedrock of literary development and the bane of students who must endure required classes in literature everywhere.

Without the Iliad and the Odyssey, we might not consider Greek literature. Without the Canterbury Tales, English literature would have gotten a different start. Without Herman Melville’s or Mark Twain’s travel narratives, American literature would not be the same – indeed, these works (and others too numerous to mention) helped to define the very thought of an American cultural experience like the others defined the development of Greek and English traditions.

Into this mix, we also can consider the works of Luke (Gospel and Acts), as works which define the emerging Christian Church as well as tell of the travels and travails of the disciples with Jesus and after Jesus. The journeys of Philip, Peter, and Paul form the framework of the book of Acts. In these travels and the works performed, we see the fulfillment of the Scriptural promises encountered in the writings of Luke and Mark, and to a lesser extent, Matthew and John. Successes of the early church cannot be isolated. Like the conversion of Lydia, these also can be attributed to the strength and other gifts brought down by the holy Spirit – sent from the Father at the request of the Son. In fact, without the Father and Son, the Spirit would not have context or being.

When Lydia “opened her heart,” she was doing it voluntarily of her free will. However, her will was not separated from the community of believers touched by the Apostles nor from the will of Jesus, the one who sent him or the one he sent.

The Spirit did not come upon the earth without proceeding from the Father and Son. If Exodus follows Genesis, then Acts of the Apostles is the New Exodus that follows from the Good News of the New Genesis in the gospels.

If the travel narrative helps to define the church as an institution, then what is the travel narrative of your faith story?

My Baptism took place at Our Lady of Pity Church on Staten Island, NY. My faith grew and was confirmed as a member of the community at St. Mary, Mother of God Church in New Monmouth, NJ; Belmont Abbey College, and St. Mary of Sorrows and the many communities of my adult years. That is why (IMHO) we make sure we put the travel narrative of our journey into context when we introduce ourselves at a Cursillo event with our name, our parish, and when our Cursillo experience began. 

The Spirit also has been with us from the beginning. Where are we headed next? 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

“Whoever Has My Commandments and Observes Them” by Melanie Rigney

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. (Acts 8:5-7)

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.  (Psalm 66:1)

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good if that be the will of God than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:15-17)

“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." (John 14:21)
Credit is Ferdinand Bol 
[Public domain], via 
Wikimedia Commons

Lord, slowly but surely, You reveal Yourself to me as my trust and faith increase. My gratitude is beyond words.

In the literal sense, we all “have” the Lord’s commandments. They’re easy to access—type “ten commandments” in your favorite search engine, and you get millions of results. Or go retro and turn your Bible to Exodus 20.

It’s the observing them that is much harder, of course. Few of us will worship a golden calf, but many of us nudge out of first place in our lives with family, friends, work, possessions, and the link. We work hard at not using the Lord’s name in profanity, but we can fall prey to swearing that we will do something or we didn’t do something, all the while knowing the truth is just the opposite. We go to Mass for the Sabbath and call it good, then go home and engage in activities that make it look like any other day. The list goes on and on.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us real love for Him involves more than lip service. It’s about living the commandments. Certainly, we’ll be persecuted for that, just as the second reading warns. But Peter goes on to remind us that if we are to suffer, let it be for doing good rather than for doing evil. For in bearing that persecution—physical, emotional, mental, or otherwise—we see more of the Lord… and help others to begin to see Him more clearly as well.


Live Sabbath today, even if the most you can manage is a couple hours of relaxation in ways pleasing to the Lord. This evening, think about the ways He used your peace after that time.

On Account of My Name

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

Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No slave is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name because they do not know the one who sent me."  John 15:20-21

“I beg your pardon I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine, there's gotta be a little rain sometime.”

Lyrics by Joe South, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Turn on the television, radio or open a publication and the ads will overflow. These ads try to sell you new electronic gear to make your life more fulfilled. Give you discounts so you will spend more money at a particular retailer. Pump up your ego so you will buy the finest champagne so you can “celebrate with the greatest.”  Rent this beach hour to escape “rush hour.”

Jesus never took Marketing 101. Here in the Last Supper Discourse, the promises he makes are not likely to win any Addy Awards for creativity. Maybe he is using reverse psychology?  Jesus is just being brutally honest about what people can expect. He is not promising a rose garden.

Reading Gospel passages like this always remind me of a prayer card that our Friend and Rector Frank Mcleskey quoted in a Cursillo talk: “He never promised it would be easy. He only promised that it would be worth it.”

Expanding on this concept, Christopher Hudson from writes: “God never promised life would be easy. But he did promise to discipline us, to refine us, to grow us in our faith. And while we don’t know what the end result looks like, we know God is ultimately good and has our best in mind. Do you want to know God’s will for your life? It's pretty simple. Jesus didn’t die to make you good, happy, or successful in this world. He died to make you more like him.”  [i]

We are people who like directions. We carry Google Maps on our smartphones and paper maps in our cars. We get directions with products we but even if we do not read them or follow them. We set out on our own and if things do not work out, we regroup and consult the directions or authorities.

Think about the directions Jesus gives today. He is offering up a map of the path right up Calvary behind him. Are you ready for the journey?  It promises to be a rough ride. But the view from the top, ah, the view from the top!

Friday, May 19, 2017

“Love One Another” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  (John 15:12-14)

With age-old love, I have loved you; so, I have kept my mercy toward you.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

Das Abendmahl, Mathilde Block, 1906, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
When we read Jesus’ words quickly, it sounds so easy.  “Love one another as I love you.”  We’re nice to other people, we think to ourselves, even as we’re hurriedly moving on to something else.  Stop.  Don’t leave.  Move your chair closer to the table.  Come back to Jesus’ command.  This was important to the Lord, so important that he made sure to include it in his final words to his friends, words of comfort, consolation, and hope.

Lean in closely to hear what Jesus is saying to us.  Allow his words to steep in our hearts.  Consider the love Jesus has for us.

Jesus had a part in our creation.  Jesus has been referred to as the “Author of Life.”  I wouldn’t be writing nor would you be reading this Tripod if Jesus hadn’t called us into being.  And he did it with love in his heart.  He rejoiced over our red, wrinkled appearance at birth and delighted in marking us as his own as the waters of baptism trickled over our heads.  Even before we were born, Jesus had a unique purpose in mind for each of us.

No matter what it is that Jesus has called us to, we have all fallen and sinned.  More than once.  If we’re honest, that would be many times.  Does the Lord walk away in disgust?  No.  He forgives us, lifts us up and sets us on our way again.  Then he completely forgets the sins he has just forgiven.  He really is the God of second chances.

Jesus has put some wonderful people in my life - fellow Cursillistas, friends, guides, and mentors - all of us traveling the Way together.  In this same farewell talk, Jesus says he’s going ahead of us, preparing a place for us so that we might be with him for all eternity.

When we look at the ways in which Jesus shows his love for us, we have to ask ourselves if we do the same toward others.  Are we a life-giving presence in others’ lives?  Do we bring cheer and comfort to the lonely, some of whom live in our condo buildings or on our blocks or sit alone at a table in the school cafeteria?   Do we share what we have with the homeless and the hungry?   We don’t have to go far to find someone who could use our help.  Do we create strong bonds of love in our families, or are we the ones creating discord?
Jesus delights in us, but do we delight in others?  Are we truly happy for others’ good fortune or are we envious and jealous?  Do we look for the good in other people, or are we always criticizing their faults?

Do we forgive others or do we harbor grudges?  Are we compassionate and merciful or do we live by “an eye for an eye?”

It sounds so easy – “love one another as I love you” – until we begin to parse the details in our own lives.  Spend some of your prayer time today reflecting on ways in which you’ve experienced Jesus’ love.  Then consider how well you’ve shown that same love to your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers.   Jesus literally laid down his life for us.  Do we live even little bits of our lives for others?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

“Complete Joy” By Beth DeCristofaro

(Peter said) through my mouth, the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. (Acts 15:7-9)

Jesus said to his disciples: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.  "I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete." (John 9:15-11)


A 91-year old woman who loved to converse even if forgetfulness led her to repeat herself and lose the right words once told me that she loved being Episcopalian because it was easy.  I almost laughed!  Easy!  Is any religion, easy?  “How do you mean it is easy?” I asked.  She smiled and said “you know” (as if I did, of course) “because of the people.  They are kind.  They are easy.  They are …” and here the words failed her.  But because she had already told me that she survived the awful deaths of her only son, her husband, and her two sisters because of caring and dear friends, I knew what she meant. 

“We get by with a little help from our friends.” When we make room in our lives for friends, when we make space and time for the friendship of Jesus, then joy infuses even the murkiest reality with hope.  Being human we often see as if in a mirror darkly.  This 91-yr old had a simple, practical attitude. “I’m old,” she said, so she made do with her crippled arthritic hands, inability to walk and being the last of her family to be alive.  But her sense of humor and the welcome in her eyes to me, to the aide who helped her, showed that within the failing body and loss-ridden history, there was joy and there was hope.

Henri Nouwen in “Bread for the Journey” said:  “True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler.  This is the joy of Jesus, who is Emmanuel: God-with-us.”

God is with us as a friend, he who walked with friends.  God is with us in love, he who loved so dearly as to give his life.  Where do you see joy today?  Where do you feel joy today?  In a dark moment, where is your friend Jesus?

Monday, May 15, 2017

"He Has No Power Over Me" By Melanie Rigney

(Paul and Barnabas) strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted the to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)

Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom. (Psalm 145:12)

(Jesus told the disciples:) “I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.” (John 14:30-31)

Lord, may I recognize the hardships of this earth as opportunities to praise Your name.

In The Wizard of Oz, Glinda the Good Witch brushes off a threat from the Wicked Witch of the West with a laugh and “Oh rubbish! You have no power here. Now be gone, before somebody drops a house on you too!”

In Doctor Zhivago, the chained anarchist headed for a “voluntary” labor camp sneers at his keeper and the others headed east in a crowded cattle car and declares: “I am the only free man on this train!”

And in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus’s reference at the Last Supper to the evil one is almost an aside—“He has no power over me”—before he focuses again on love and obedience to the Father.

It’s a laudable concept, this refusal to accept the authority that evil wants to have over us, to treat it as the distraction from God that it truly is, to persevere, as Paul and Barnabas urged the disciples to do. But, as with so many things in earthly life, it’s easier said than done. Evil likes that, of course. Evil likes emotions such as regret and disappointment and anger and sorrow. Evil likes it when we play those sad old tapes in our heads, over and over again, or use our time to worry about the future and what it may bring.

So what to do? As Christians, we live in the moment, in the world but not of it. We keep our eyes and our hearts and our souls focused on the ultimate freedom that is God.

In his challenging, beautiful book Interior Freedom, Father Jacques Philippe puts it this way:

That others are sinners cannot prevent us from becoming saints. Nobody really deprives us of anything. At the end of our lives, when we come face to face with God, it would be childish to blame others for our lack of spiritual progress.

May we use our time to prepare for that meeting rather than conjure up the excuses we will use when it comes.

Pray for the faith and strength not to rise to the evil one’s bait today, remembering that it is the Lord who has power over you.

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

May All Be One

The Apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, "Men, why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them. Acts 14:14-15

"Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." John 14:21

“I pray not only for them but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)

If the Gospel has seemed somewhat repetitious Friday, Saturday, Sunday, today (and tomorrow), maybe that is because it has been. We have been focused on John 14 – the beginning of the Last Supper (or Farewell) Discourse. Although we are in the Easter/Resurrection season, the First Glorious mystery helps us to understand what Jesus was talking about over bread and wine on the Passover feast.

In the commentary and prayers delivered to eleven of his disciples immediately after the conclusion of the Last Supper in Jerusalem (the night before his execution-crucifixion), Jesus wishes peace on the disciples even though he knows peace will be the last thing they will get. He also instructs them to love one another – not just the Jews but Gentiles and Greeks as well.  Jesus starts off trying to comfort them in advance of what is about to unfold: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1A). 
If one theme unifies all these chapters it is unity -- May All Be One. Jesus connects himself to the Father. Then, he connects himself to us like a vine and branches. Finally, he asks us to connect to each other through copying his example of putting sacrificial love into action.

Despite three chapters of comments, the disciples still run and hide back in the comfort zone of a fishing boat. People need convincing both before and after Easter. In Acts, Paul and Barnabas are working to convert the Gentiles when after a miraculous healing, the pair of disciples are mistaken for pagan gods. Again, understanding is in short supply. In real-time, people did not have commentary on CNN or NPR to help unpack what just happened.

In an effort to convince his hearers that the divine power works through his word, Paul cures a person who is crippled. However, the pagan tradition of the occasional appearance of gods among human beings leads the people astray in interpreting the miracle. The incident reveals the cultural difficulties with which the church had to cope. 

Maybe they had a problem taking direction from a guy in sandals who has been wandering around the desert for three years saying he knows the “Way.”

With the hindsight of history and two thousand years of theological commentary, we understand what Jesus was telling us better than those with whom he lived. However, understanding does not always make way to action. Maybe we don’t take direction from a guy in sandals who has been wandering around the desert for two thousand years any better. Maybe the cultural contradictions of Christianity are no less today.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Built into A Spiritual House

By Rev. Paul Berghout

“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 6:3-4

Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5

"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?  John 14:1-2

It’s Mother’s Day and Pope Francis wrote in his recent teaching document on marriage and family that “Mothers often communicate the deepest meaning of religious practice in the first prayers and acts of devotion that their children learn. Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth.” AL 174

Our own holiness is proportional to the degree that we make others more holy.

Here is an example of a wife and mother in a little story I was amused to read about the noted pastor and writer Dr. M.R. Dehaan once told on himself. He said that one morning he and his wife had a disagreement. The disagreement was so sharp that, as they ate breakfast, he didn’t say anything at all to her. In effect, he was giving her the silent treatment. Each morning they had the ritual of reading a devotional from the little magazine, “Our Daily Bread” of which Dehaan was the editor. His wife read the day’s devotion silently to herself for a moment, then taking it and shoving under Dehaan’s nose, she asked, “Are you the man who wrote this?”

Continuing with the theme that our own holiness is proportional to the degree that we make others more holy, Mothers often attempt to build consensus in family arguments because they are often the glue of the family.

In our First Reading, there was a complaint from Hellenists. They were Jewish converts to Christianity from the Jewish faith but they spoke Greek, not Hebrew and Aramaic like the other Jewish converts. We have evidence going back to the time of the Maccabees in 170 B.C. that there had long been tension between the Jews who had taken on the language of the Greek world and the more traditional Jews who preferred to speak Hebrew and Aramaic and avoid Hellenist or Greek ways. When the Hellenists complained that their widows were being neglected in the distribution of food it may have been partly a prejudice rather than a scarcity of resources or maybe the Twelve Apostles were just too busy to oversee the distribution of food.

Speaking of prejudices, one daughter said to her mother on Mother’s Day, “I love how we don't even need to say out loud that I'm your favorite child.”
The Twelve Apostles resolved the problem by creating a new office in the Church by ordaining deacons for the task of distributing food. They were ordained by the laying on of hands.

Lessons for us: There will be cultural diversity among those who follow Christ, consider the word “Catholic” means universal. The Twelve do not hesitate to restructure the early community to take care of the Hellenist widows by creating the diaconate. But, our First Reading says that it was a proposal to do so that the whole community agreed to. We're talking about administration guided by the Spirit consisting of a consensus. E.g. In his Rule for monks, St. Benedict advises the abbot to ask the whole community for counsel, including the youngest member as well as the guest.

Mother’s get holy because of their wanting the eternal salvation of their children. In our Gospel, Jesus says, “I go and prepare a place for you.” Jesus promises each of us that he will come back at the hour of our death and take us to be with him and the Father forever. Consequently, St. Paul writes in 1 Thess. 4:13, "Do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope," but rather "Have faith in God" and in what Jesus promises (John 14:1). The promises of the Lord are rock-solid because God is faithful: "I have spoken; I will do it" (Ezekiel. 37:14).

A wise priest once described it this way: In heaven, we are filled with the perfection of love as we were able to understand it and live it out on earth. Those with greater love on earth will have a greater capacity to be filled with love in heaven.

When one receives Christ, each soul acts as singly towards God as if there had not been another person in the world. This speaks of individual experience.

Whether we use the metaphor of a dwelling place, a site, a domain, or a realm, these are all architectural image for concretizing or structuring the psyche or soul. There is a specific quality of one's internal life, kind of a psychic or spiritual dwelling place unique to given individual. There is variability.

A man died and went to heaven. He was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter who led him down the golden streets. They passed mansion after beautiful mansion until they came to the end of the street where they stopped in front of a shack. The man asked St. Peter why he got a hut when there were so many mansions he could live in. St. Peter replied, “I did the best with the money you sent us.”

Our place in heaven is our level of awareness in which we gauge our relation to Divine Presence and of those in need of us.

Jesus says that He is the way, the truth, and the life. It's of major importance because if we don't go the right way, we won't end up in the right place. But, as emphasized in Pacem et Terris, "one must never confuse error and the person who errs." (158)

Mother's know that even when their child strays, their child is redeemable through Christ, and remains loved by the mother.

Jesus says in our Gospel today that who believes in Him will “Do greater works than I do.” Who’s to say that your prayer and sacrifice did not save a soul?

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Whoever Believes

All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory.   Acts 13:48B-51

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.  John 14:11-12

The unbelievers all need some reinforcement.  When they get it (like Thomas and Philip), they move over into the columns of believers.  However, when they do not, they continue to refuse to believe.  How long should we work on these unbelievers?

The notes in Acts remind us that “The refusal to believe frustrates God’s plan for his chosen people; however, no adverse judgment is made here concerning their ultimate destiny. Again, Luke, in the words of Paul, speaks of the priority of Israel in the plan for salvation (see Acts 10:36).”  When they turn their backs (and feet) on the unbelievers, this also reinforces the instructions from Jesus in Luke 9:5-6

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

However, Jesus is not so quick to make a complete disassociation from such unbelievers.  Even at the Last Supper discourse in today’s Good News, Philip says to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus could have been upset by this statement in this setting.  After all, Jesus knows that after three years with this bunch, they are about to abandon him.  Jesus could have said: “If you really took the time to know me after all these years of preaching and teaching, then you would have known my Father also.”  Yet, he refrains from responding in a harsh manner.  He does not condemn Philip or even Judas.

Thus, the line between disassociating oneself from the unbelievers and continue to work with them is hard to find in Jesus.  So, if we do the works that he does, we will keep working on the unbelievers.

How can you use Jesus-inspired love to bind together the believer and the unbeliever?

The separation of the believers and unbelievers (Jews and Gentiles) was addressed by the disciples working to build bridges and convert the Gentiles and other unbelievers.   This bridge-building is something that is continued to be needed today.  It reminds me of one of Dr. King’s famous (but less popularly known) speeches:  St. Paul’s Letter to American Christians.

Dr. King opens with these words: “It is miraculous, indeed, that the Apostle Paul should be writing a letter to you and to me nearly 1900 years after his last letter appeared in the New Testament. How this is possible is something of an enigma wrapped in mystery. The important thing, however, is that I can imagine the Apostle Paul writing a letter to American Christians in 1956 A.D. And here is the letter as it stands before me.”

Dr. King continues with these words about the Christian living in an unchristian world: “I am impelled to write you concerning the responsibilities laid upon you to live as Christians in the midst of an unChristian world. That is what I had to do. That is what every Christian has to do. But I understand that there are many Christians in America who give their ultimate allegiance to man-made systems and customs. They are afraid to be different. Their great concern is to be accepted socially. They live by some such principle as this: "everybody is doing it, so it must be alright." For so many of you, Morality is merely group consensus. In your modern sociological lingo, the mores are accepted as the right ways. You have unconsciously come to believe that right is discovered by taking a sort of Gallup poll of the majority opinion. How many are giving their ultimate allegiance to this way?

Finally, as he concludes, Dr. King reminds us that love binds together the believer and the unbeliever.  “So the greatest of all virtues is love. It is here that we find the true meaning of the Christian faith. This is at bottom the meaning of the cross. The great event on Calvary signifies more than a meaningless drama that took place on the stage of history. It is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power drunk generation that love is most durable power in the world, and that it is at bottom the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. Only through achieving this love can you expect to matriculate into the university of eternal life.”

How can you use Jesus-inspired love to bind together the believer and the unbeliever?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

How Can We Know 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, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.’”  (Acts 13:32-33)

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 14:5-6)

I go where God and glory shine,
To one eternal day
And this failing body I now resign,
For the Christ has made a way
For the Christ has made a way
(Absent from Flesh, The Mercy Seat EP, Music by Jamie Barnes of Sojourn, lyrics adapted from hymn written by Isaac Watts, 1734)

Stretched out on our bed in a hotel in Switzerland many years ago, my sister and I were bored. She lived in Geneva, and every visit from family or friends was an excuse to explore some other corner of this beautiful Alpine country. Her children, just 2 and 4, had already been put to bed. We picked up the hotel room Bible, which was in German, and were idly leafing through its pages. I came to today’s Gospel reading and read it to my sister. We both started laughing. When Jesus stated that there were many dwelling places in his Father’s house, the German translation used the word that is generally used to refer to apartments. With nothing better to do, we laughed ourselves silly at the mental image of high rises in heaven.

I don’t think Jesus was talking about apartments, condos, mansions or any other sort of physical dwelling place, but I imagine Thomas and the other disciples thought he was. Jesus said they couldn’t go with him right then but promised to come back at a later time for them. Thomas not only wanted to know where Jesus was going but also wanted directions on how to get there.

There aren’t any earthly maps or navigation systems that will lead us to the dwelling place Jesus describes. Jesus is leaving to be in the loving presence of his Father. Forever. And Jesus answers Thomas by saying, “I am the Way.”  Being Jesus’ friend and follower is to already be on the way to that same life with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Forever.
Many of us don’t like to think about dying. God is good to us in this life. We have many wonderful relationships with family and friends. There is much to enjoy in nature. God’s blessings abound when we stop to count them and the thought of leaving it all behind is sad.

But if Jesus is the One you trust, the cornerstone of your faith if you are truly rooted in the Lord, then having Jesus take us to the place where he was going will be the most wonderful thing imaginable. Joy untold!  Forever.

When I was growing up, someone gave me a placemat with my name on it. For years, that placemat showed up in front of me every time I sat down at the kitchen table. The day came when it was time to leave for college. I didn’t want to lose my “place,” so I got my mom to promise that no one else would take over my seat and that my placemat would still be there when I came home.

We all long for a place to be, a place to call home. And in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus promises all of us a forever home, a place in heaven, a special place in God’s loving heart. Jesus has already prepared the way.

No need to wait till we die to find our place. We can have a special place here and now by being friends with the Lord. And the only way I know to do that is to have a disciplined prayer life, to spend time talking and listening to God. When we do that, we discover how much we are loved. We can truly look forward to the day when the angels lead us to our forever home.

Receive Me, Live in Me

By Beth DeCristofaro

Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said, "Fellow children of Israel and you
St. John's Bible
others who are God-fearing, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors … and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.
From this man's descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
(Acts 13:16, 22-23)

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. … Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." (John 13:16-17, 20)

O God,  “What is present to me is what has a hold on my becoming.  I reflect on the Presence of God always there in love, amidst the many things that have a hold on me.  I pause and pray that I may let God affect my becoming in this precise moment.”[i]  

Recently stress at work, worries about family, disappointments in the country’s leadership, awful atrocities of war and the continued horror of gun violence has me down.  It is easy to get lost in the deluge of bad news.  For the ancestors of whom Paul spoke in the temple, it was also hard to stay focused on God which their history showed.  We have stories of exiles roaming a desert, refugees fighting to establish themselves in a new land, judges who tried to keep the people honest and kings who fought both greed and enemies.  Paul’s words, however, remind me that God’s plan was realized despite the failures of and - actually depending on - all those individuals and neighbors.  The direct action of God is present and visible in history even if, on an individual day when the water ran out in the desert or someone’s child died in an attack, God might have felt absent.

When I am so distracted with worry, fear, anger, etc., etc., I loosen my hold on God.  I find myself clinging to those things which do not help me in my daily life but which in the moment I think “I need” and “it feels good”.   Such things, if clung to greatly distract me from my relationship with God and with others God has put in my life.  Such things which have a hold on me distract from my own awareness that I have been gifted as God-bearer, messenger to life.

Pray the Examen.[ii]  What has a hold on you?  Is it God which is affecting your becoming?  Are you open to receiving and transmitting the one who sends you?

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Sent Forth

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. So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus.  Acts 13:2-4

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

with every breath a thanksgiving,
every thought wrapped in compassion,
every word filled with kindness,
and every deed a channel of Love.
Through your grace may our lives become a prayer. Amen.
– Linda Douty
Praying in the Messiness of Life

“It’s a puzzling thing.  The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I am looking for the truth.’ And so, it goes away. Puzzling.” (Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

For thousands of years, the Hebrews awaited a Savior to be sent from God via the Davidic lineage.  When the very Savior came into the world, they doubted him, ignored him and finally condemned him to a horrific death on the cross.   


Let's look at how the Gospel of John uses the word condemn:

John told us it was going to be like this. 
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

Jesus told Nicodemus it was going to be like this.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:17-18)

Nicodemus tried to stop it – the condemnation of the light-giving, truth-speaking Savior -- from happening. To no avail.
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” (John 7:50-52)

Despite what Jesus knew he would face, he refused to condemn others – thus living up to his promise not to condemn the world nor anyone on it – least of all the woman caught in adultery.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin anymore.”] (John 8:10-11)

Jesus does not condemn.  So, why do we?  Puzzling.

Jesus puts the responsibility squarely on our shoulders.  Our own words and deeds have the power to condemn us because Jesus will not do so.  His commandment is eternal life. We are sent forth to fulfill this commandment. 

This weekend, there will be tens of thousands of college graduates sent forth as they close out their college careers.  Many will come from private and state colleges but thousands will come from Catholic schools.  Notre Dame.  Georgetown.  St. John’s.  St. Bonaventure.  Marymount.  Sacred Heart.  Seton Hall.  Belmont Abbey. 

Their graduation is an accomplishment which sets them apart from others.  What message will fall on their ears?  Will they listen?  Will they go forth to save the world?

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.