Sunday, April 30, 2017

Believe in the One He Sent


They presented false witnesses who testified, "This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law. For we have heard him claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us." All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel. Acts 6:13-15

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." So, they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." John 6:27-29

Piety
From the Prologue:
Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to God from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for Jesus, the Christ. (The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages by Joan Chittister, OSB)

Study
To the age-old debate on Faith and Action, Jesus seems to settle the score once and for all time. When asked to explain what we can do to accomplish the works of God, Jesus sums it up in simple terms of faith: "This is the work of God: that you believe in the one he sent."

Settled? Maybe for some but not in my mind. Stephen was a believer. If faith alone was the requirement, how did Stephen get in trouble with the powers that be? IMHO, once Stephen became a believer, he could not remain quiet. His preaching is what landed him in the coveted space on trial before the Sanhedrin accused of overthrowing Mosaic law and the teachings of the prophets by elevating Jesus to a higher status. (In Stephen, we see the differences between Judaism and Christianity begin to appear but that is another reflection for another Tripod).

We see that Faith is the cornerstone. However, if we are to build the Kingdom, then that faith must lead to doing something. Maybe that is preaching. Teaching. Doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. But faith requires us to go beyond sitting in a pew fiddling with our rosary beads.

Action
To paraphrase the words of Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB: “Spirituality is not about religiosity. It is about caring for the people you live with and loving the people you don't and loving God more than yourself. Spirituality depends on listening for the voice of God everywhere in life, especially in one another and here.” 

Once we hear the voice of God, we have to carry out the tasks assigned to us with an open and caring heart.

Such a spirituality is aligned with the three legs of our Cursillo tripod. These legs commit us to the “happiness of human community and immerse us in Christ and surrender us to God, minute by minute, person by person, day after day after day.” What is your homework assigned by the Word of God today? 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Our Hearts Burning Within


Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death because it was impossible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22B-24

"Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!" Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread. Luke 24:32-35

Piety
Father, help us to taste and see the goodness of the Lord!

Study
The readings today continue the Easter season proclamation of the story of our faith. The first reading and the Gospel deliver the cliff notes summary of our faith story. We Christians have received the redemption prophesied by Isaiah. The notes in the NAB explain that this has come to us through the “blood (Jewish symbol of life) of the spotless lamb.”

“For thus says the LORD: For nothing, you were sold, without money you shall be redeemed.” (Isaiah 52:3)

However, until the love of the Resurrection event happens and spreads, salvation and redemption were just hoped for in the future. Now, we have the present moment of the Easter story. This ransom is so important that it cannot be contained in a single day like every other Holy Day celebrated by the Church. It cannot be contained in a single week but needs its own season – a season which is conveniently longer than Advent, Christmas or Lent.

The Good News story from Luke takes part on the actual Easter Sunday just a few hours after the women from the community along with Peter and John saw the empty tomb and realized the reality of the Resurrection. That very day, Jesus appeared to the unnamed travelers on the road to Emmaus. Like in most Resurrection stories, they, too, did not immediately recognize Jesus until they had an “Easter-epiphany” with the liturgical gesture of the breaking of the bread and the proclamation of the story.

Their hearts were burning so much that they ran the seven miles back to Jerusalem and continued proclaiming the Easter story to the other disciples who were also independently proclaiming the Easter story.

Action
Like the travelers going to and from Jerusalem, our whole body is involved in this story today.

Our ears hear the proclamation.
Our mouths give voice to the good news.
Our hands share in the breaking of the bread.
Our tongues taste the goodness of the Paschal Meal.
Our eyes open and recognize the Christ before us.
Our feet run to spread the good news.
Our hearts burn within as Jesus breaks open the Scriptures in his teaching.

How will you go tell it on the mountain today?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Devote Ourselves


So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." Acts 6:2-4

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, "It is I. Do not be afraid." They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. John 6:19-21

Piety
Father, help us to devote ourselves in service to our community.

Study
No matter how much we would like to rely upon Emersonian Self-Reliance, there comes a time (or often times) when everyone on of us needs help. The need for assistance – physical, emotional, or spiritual – unites all of us on this great green and white and blue marble. Had Emerson been around with the Acts of the Apostles, the Church may have started on very different footing than it did in actuality.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was the champion of individuality arguing that nothing has control over the self or the ego. However, in Christianity, the "self" has control over the self (free will) though we are encouraged to make decisions that are aligned more with service to others in the community rather than purely in our own self-interests. If the seven members of the community chose as the first deacons were not committed to Diakonia (service), then the Church would have been a very difference organization from the outset.

Emerson also stressed nonconformity. He wrote: "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." Emerson counsels his readers to do what they think is right no matter what others think. Jesus was the Original Nonconformist constantly getting in trouble with the “proverbial powers that be” (PPTB). However, he always urges us to conform to his Commandments, Scriptures, and service God and others in the broader community.

The community, according to Emerson, is a distraction to self-growth. He thought that friendly visits and family needs got in the way of his personal growth. He advocates more time being spent reflecting on one’s self. This can also happen in the community by a strong self-confidence. This would help the counseled to not sway from his beliefs in groups of people. However, in Cursillo, we see the community as a source of strength. While we need to recharge our spiritual batteries in silent, contemplative prayer, once that occurs, our best work is done in the community where two or more are gathered in His name.

Finally, Emerson argued that Truth is within one’s self. He suggests that reliance upon “institutionalized religion” hinders the ability to grow mentally as an individual. Truth, as we believe, is of God (“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.”) and we get to know God through prayer, and through service to others. Institutional religion provides a framework for community worship and service. As such, it is in a partnership with personal spirituality that brings us closer to the God-head of salvation and rebirth in the Spirit.

If the seven servants who were chosen were committed to some individual self-reliance, then the widows and orphans among the community would still not be served adequately.

Action
Paired closely with both the faith-filled celebrations of the birth (Christmas) and rebirth (Easter) of Jesus, is a reminder of the fact that our faith calls us to serve others. The very day after Christmas is the Feast of St. Stephen the Martyr. Now, within the second week of Easter, the first reading reminds us of the importance of service (love-in-action) for the community.

Service can take many forms. The “service at table” refers to assuring that all had a proper share of food and other community property. The same kind of reference to service is made about Peter’s mother-in-law after Jesus cures her. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. Mark 1:30-31

In addition to corporal works like that, there also are spiritual works which comfort those who are troubled like Jesus does to the disciples who are being tossed around on their boat.

Even though this scene from John’s Gospel comes long before Easter, another connection it has to the Easter stories is the fear that gripped the disciples. 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 6:19-20)

Who’s boat are you called to calm today? 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

With the Help of the Lord


By Colleen O’Sullivan

So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ. (Acts 5:41-42)

One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. (John 6:8-10a, 11-13)

Piety
One thing I ask of the Lord
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord
and contemplate his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

Study
I confess to giving myself breaks from the news every few days. The human misery and need that come into my bedroom or my family room become overwhelming at times. Lucky me, I get to turn it off and tune it out. But what about the people who lived in all the Syrian towns and villages reduced to rubble? What about all the refugees of war, seeking new homes somewhere, anywhere a door opens? When do they get a break? How awful it must feel to know that entire countries don’t want you, are hardened to your plight. What good will my contributions to relief organizations do? I can feed a few people but we’re talking in terms of more than 11 million people who’ve fled since 2011.

I know just how Philip and Andrew must have felt in the Gospel reading today. Five thousand people is a huge crowd to feed! Even in 2017, with fast food restaurants everywhere we turn, feeding a group that large would present quite a challenge. But Jesus doesn’t throw his hands up in despair. He asks the disciples to give him whatever they’ve got. In Jesus’ hands, it will be enough.

Maybe the clue here is “in Jesus’ hands.” Sometimes we have the best of intentions but try to go it all alone. We get frustrated at our inability to solve big problems or meet others’ needs by our own efforts. We forget to pray and ask for Jesus’ help. Try including the Lord. Give Jesus whatever we’ve got in the way of resources and ask him to multiply it. We’re in the Easter season. We’ve seen Jesus’ willingness to die out of love for us and God’s ability to bring life out of death. If that isn’t loving power, I don’t know what is. Why try to get through life on your own, when that Risen Lord will walk with you every step of the way if you invite him to?

Look at the first reading. Something has happened to Peter and the others. They aren’t the same people they were in the Gospels, afraid to admit they knew Jesus, misunderstanding everything Jesus taught them. They are walking in the power of Easter and Pentecost. They know the power of Jesus’ name and they are using it in their preaching and healing. The same men who couldn’t stand the thought of Jesus suffering are now rejoicing that they are suffering for Jesus’ name!

Action
When you are praying today, take a few minutes to reflect with Jesus on times in your life when you’ve tried to accomplish something without the Lord’s counsel and help. What was the result? Reflect on times when you’ve been able to do something you weren’t sure you could do because you relied on the help of the Risen Lord.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Spirit is Gift Unrestrained

Holy Spirit above baptismal font at    Beverly Minster, E. Riding,
Yorkshire Eng.
  Wikimedia.com 

By Beth DeCristofaro

But 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)

For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. (John3:34)

Piety
"Bless me, most loving Jesus, bless me and have mercy on me in the loving-kindness of your most gracious heart. Ah! That my soul may choose to know nothing apart from you and that, disciplined by your grace and instructed by the anointing, I may progress well, passionately, and powerfully in the school of your love." St Gertrude the Great

Study
Change!  Change is more constant than taxes in my life.  A recent corporate acquisition of my employer…please, just let me visit my hospice clients without learning another software charting program!  My mom who has become so hard of hearing that I can listen to her TV located in the living room while I’m working down in the basement.  The revised words of the Liturgy!  These same knees that walked in many Walkathons rasp while going downstairs.  Of course, many changes are delightful.  I just had a boy!  A son-in-law, I mean, joined our family.  My oldest daughter is a nurse and I call her now for consults.

In Acts, just a few verses beyond those quoted above, one of the temple leaders advises his fellows ‘So now 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.” They were persuaded by him’ (Acts 5:34-38)  It is awesome, fearful and a challenge to accept that the only real constant is God.  God’s love, mercy, grace, and presence are not only infinite and eternal but free.  God bestows lavishly.  If we accept at a deep level, the Spirit propels us to be solidly rooted in the eternal now rather than lethally rocked in the finitude of change. No matter what life heaves at us unexpectedly, what changes transform our landscape and our prospects, God’s life is fruitful, protective and will not leave us stranded. It is our choice to say “no.”

Action
The Apostles had NO choice but to witness publicly.  The Spirit’s extravagant presence is too much for one to remain alone, isolated and aloof.  The Spirit wants to burst out – how do I provide the vessel for Grace to enter the world?  I have so many, many opportunities.    


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Whoever Lives the Truth Comes to the Light

Sunrise, September 5, 2011, Myrtle Beach, SC

But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said, "Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life." When they heard this, they went to the temple early in the morning and taught.  Acts 5:19-21A

And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. John 3:19 -21

Piety

Why be afraid if I'm not alone
Though life is never easy the rest is unknown
Up to now for me, it's been hands against stone
Spent each and every moment
Searching for what to believe

Coming out of the dark, I finally see the light now
It's shining on me
Coming out of the dark I know the love that saved me
You're sharing with me

Writer/s: GLORIA M. ESTEFAN, EMILIO JR. ESTEFAN, JON SECADA
Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group, Foreign Imported Productions & Publishing

Study
Jesus performs many of his greatest signs in the light of day, yet some of his most important discourses take place at night. In the still of the night, Nicodemus comes to Jesus and listens and learns as the light of the Word comes into his life.  The Word (aka Jesus’ light) overcomes the darkness of the physical night as well as the spiritual darkness of the Sanhedrin which opposed Jesus and delivered the ultimate verdict to betray Jesus.

St. John delivers the alternative verdict right after he says that the Lord did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it. “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 1:3B-5)

This critical passage in the Gospel is paired with the night-time prison breakout of Peter and John.  Once out of prison, the Apostles did not hide in the Upper Room again but went straight to the temple area to continue teaching and converting people to the way of Jesus. Peter and John come out of prison stronger than when they were when they ran and hid after the arrest of Jesus. No longer would Peter deny Christ but he proclaims his faith through his words and deeds in the light where everyone can see him.  Despite the verdict for them to never preach about Jesus again, that is the first thing Peter and John do once out of prison. Even Nicodemus emerges from the darkness to overcome the fear that gripped him before being exposed to the light.  

“But whoever lives the truth comes to the light.” (John 3:21A)

Action
“Coming Out of the Dark” is considered by many to be Gloria Estefan's best song of all time – and her most symbolic. Her life was turned upside down because of the bus accident. She sings about that literal incident and her medical recovery.  However, she also realized the love that saved her.  What happened to her opened her eyes. She realized that God was her rock. He bore Her up. She saw the Light!

“Why be afraid if I'm not alone?”

What trials have you been through?  How has Jesus remained at your side throughout those trials so that you would emerge stronger?

Why be afraid if you are not alone?

While the Lord Worked with Them

Vittore Carpaccio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Melanie Rigney

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord. (Psalm 89:2)

Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16:19-20)

Piety
Lord, gird my loins. Hold my hand. Have my back. Help me to resist those who would thwart me as I share Your Good News.

Study
One of my favorite apocryphal stories is the one about the guy with two bags of groceries, trudging down the road. A man in a pickup takes pity on him, stops, and reaches across and opens the front door. “Get in,” he says. “Oh, no,” the guy with the bags says. “I’m fine.” The driver (or Driver, if you haven’t already figured this one out) asks if he’d at least ride in the cargo bed. The guy with the bags agrees, and the driver gets out, opens the tailgate, then gets back in the cab. After a few minutes, he checks the rearview mirror. The guy with the bags is standing up, swaying for dear life, holding on to the bags. The driver pulls over and gets out again. “You know you can sit down,” he says. ‘Oh no, I’m fine,” the guy says. The driver shakes his head and chuckles. “Please, at least put down the bags,” he says. “Oh no,” the guy says. “I’m fine.”

Like the guy with the bags, too often we try to take on the challenges of life alone. And when we do, we leave plenty of room for the evil one’s prowling. You’re not good enough, he tells us. This work is beneath you; you deserve better, he tells us. Why are you bothering? Nobody cares, he tells us.

But we are good enough. No work the Lord sends is beneath us. And if He cares, that’s all that matters. And as long as He is working with us, as He did with the Eleven, we cannot fail.

Action
Listen to God. Put down the bags. Breathe. Listen. Act.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Be Born from Above


As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31

Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:3-8

Piety
I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground, streams upon the dry land; I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring, my blessing upon your descendants. (I 44:3)

Study
On the Second Sunday of Easter, the Good News gave us the all-too-familiar story of Doubting Thomas. Today, paired up with Doubting Thomas is Doubting Nicodemus. Nicodemus was likely a member of the Sanhedrin. This supreme council was made up of seventy-one members of three groups – elders, chief priests, and scribes. It was presided over by the high priest and exercised authority over the Jews in religious matters.

I call Nicodemus “doubting” not because he doubted the news of the resurrection like Thomas – that was still an unfolding mystery. Rather, the power of Jesus’ teaching had Nicodemus doubting the authority which he wielded as a member of the Sanhedrin. Jesus came to Thomas to quell his doubts. Nicodemus came to Jesus to explore his doubts and Jesus rocked his world like the earthquake in Acts.

The earthquake is used as a sign of the divine presence in Exodus and Isaiah. However, in Acts 4, the shaking of the building symbolizes God’s favorable response to the prayer. Nicodemus was feeling more of an internal earthquake as the natural lessons he was charged with passing on to the Jewish faithful were called into question as the teaching of Jesus stirred in his mind and his heart.

As the dialogue gets underway, Nicodemus confuses the meaning of the Greek adverb anĊthen. It means both “from above” and “again.” Jesus means “from above” but Nicodemus misunderstands it as “born again.” This misunderstanding serves as a springboard for further instruction. Now the lesson becomes more of a discourse from Jesus, no longer a dialogue with Nicodemus.  Yet the Pharisee is still there listening with the ear of his heart.

The New Birth in the Spirit is foreshadowed in the great opening of John’s Gospel. Followers or believers were known because they “were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.” (John 1:13). However, this new birth is not a new concept. Nicodemus is able to put it into the context of the teachings of the earlier prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah.

I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them. Ezekiel 36:25-27

The notes in the New American Bible to this passage from the Hebrew Bible explain that God’s initiative to cleanse Israel is the first act in the creation of a new people who are no longer disposed to repeating their own wicked past. To make this restoration permanent, God gives them a new birth which replaces their rebellious and stubborn “heart of stone” with a new “heart of flesh” susceptible to and animated by God’s intentions – God’s “spirit.”

As an educated teacher, Nicodemus would have known this passage and perhaps hearing some of that reflected in Jesus’ words was compelling and called him to explore further. Nicodemus also was likely familiar with the theme of the “new birth in the spirit” rooted in Isaiah.

The castle will be forsaken,
the noisy city deserted;
Citadel and tower will become wasteland forever,
the joy of wild donkeys, the pasture of flocks;
Until the spirit from on high
is poured out on us.
And the wilderness becomes a garden land
and the garden land seems as common as forest.
Then judgment will dwell in the wilderness
and justice abide in the garden land. Isaiah 42:14-16

Extraordinary peace and justice will come to the people – and peace we come to know is the first gift of the Resurrection delivered by Jesus.

Recall the Sunday Gospel – the first gift Jesus bestowed when he passed through the locked doors when Thomas was not present. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." (John 20:19)

Like Thomas later in the narrative, Nicodemus was thirsty for the peace which is bestowed by knowledge of this new birth in the spirit. Jesus pours out his spirit onto and into the thirsty Nicodemus. We will see the reborn Nicodemus again defending Jesus in the temple and again at the foot of the cross when the other disciples have scattered.

Action
Yesterday, I was in a different church. It was not my first visit to this West Virginia parish and its new church designed to visually recall the architecture of classic high-ceilinged churches of the past with dark bricks and woodwork. Despite the joy of the season, I just could not get into the celebration. The sound system was off. The chords of the organ overpowered the voice of the cantor. The echoes of the walls made it hard to understand the meaning of the deacon preaching. Even as the deacons made their way among the faithful with holy water, they did not express the same joy you see on the faces of Fr. Greenhalgh or Fr. Wilson or Fr. Barkett or Fr. Stefan and they help us relive the joy of our Baptism.

Unlike Nicodemus, I gave up too soon yesterday. I did not try hard enough to understand what was happening. If Nicodemus ever became a patron saint, perhaps he would be the patron of patient listening or the curious mind. 

"St. Nicodemus," keep the ears of my heart open so my mind might be as curious as yours even when my basic beliefs are challenged or my expectations not met.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Living in Community with ALL Our Unique Brothers & Sisters

Second Sunday of Easter (or Divine Mercy Sunday)

Musings by Wayne Miller

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  Acts 2: 42-43

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" John 20: 26-28

Piety
A C T S (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication) - Lord, you are my Rock, my sure, calm voice in the midst of chaos, my only refuge in fear & stress & doubt.

And yet I so often wander off on my own in wonder & fascination, following the siren call of the next shiny experience.  I know that this gift of joy/excitement/pleasure-in-Your-Creation is also from You and an intrinsic element of the unique, precious son You created me to be.  But I so often surrender connection with You when I search for a relationship with the created instead of the Creator.

Thank You for Your everlasting forgiveness & acceptance & welcome in all my wanderings and all my homecomings.

Please help me to recognize when I am not on a path with or toward You, and to be teachable in every moment of this journey.  Please, give me Your Eyes & Ears & Heart & Gentle Tongue, and use me to express Your Love to Your children.  And please help me hear Your voice in all my brothers & sisters – especially when I don’t feel or understand it.

Study
A C T S (Adoration, Community, Theology, Service) – Being a part of a joyful, praising community is no less essential today than it was 2,000 years ago.  While personal conversation & reflection & listening with God are essential, far more epiphanies have come to me through the voices & lives of my brothers & sisters.

I am called to grow & learn about my relationship with the Lord because it is His Way & how He uses me to reach out in love to ALL His children.  When we share the fire & excitement & inspiration we have received from Him with our brothers and sisters, THAT is the Fire of the Holy Spirit, spreading as surely among us as it did on Pentecost in that Upper Room.

Today the Gospel tells of Jesus’ first appearance to His disciples and how poor old, stubborn Thomas missed the party.  When Jesus visited again to clarify Thomas’ vision, we can even feel the embarrassment at Jesus’ chastisement because Thomas had to touch to believe.  But I see a Brother-Lord-God who loves us so much and is so infinitely patient with us, that He will go to any lengths to establish a relationship with each of His precious, unique children.  And some of us are just wired such that we need to touch to believe.  And, yes, blessed are those who have not seen and do believe.  But I’m betting even those first touched Jesus through a parent, a friend, a pastor who had the courage to open their life & will so that Jesus could flow through their unique, personal gifts to LOVE His brothers & sisters.

Action
A C T S (Another Chance To Sing!) – Lord, just for today, help me to Love everyone I meet with Your Infinite Patience and Appreciation and Forgiveness and Acceptance.  May I celebrate every stranger, friend, associate, family member I meet in perfect peace & harmony with You.  May our piety, study, & action lead each of us to a deeper appreciation of You as we experience a deeper appreciation of our brothers and sisters.

De Colores!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Proclaim


Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus. Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them, they could say nothing in reply. So they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin, and conferred with one another, saying, "What are we to do with these men?  Acts 4:13-16A

But later, as the Eleven were at the table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature." Mark 16:14-15

Piety
Father, help us to obey you rather than our culture.  Make it impossible for us to not speak and act about what we have seen and heard.

Study
There are lots of commandments throughout the Bible.  There are the ten that Moses carved in stone and brought back down the mountain.  There are the two that Jesus spoke and etched into our hearts and minds. Remember that from Matthew 22:36-40?

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus does not say much that is directly quoted AFTER the Resurrection.  There is the encounter in the tomb with the young man in the white robe.  However, that figure is not revealed as Jesus.  While there is a reference to a few other encounters, today’s Gospel includes the beginning of the ONLY direct quote we have according to St. Mark. 

"Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."

What happens?  Do the disciples run and scatter again as they did on Good Friday?  Not hardly.  This time, they obey and act upon the Final Commissioning. “…[T]hey went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16:20). 

We see how some in the world react to this in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John did not get in trouble for what they said.  They got in trouble for what they did – their preaching was mixed up in their action – healing the man crippled from birth.

Action
What are these Cursillstas to do with the lessons they have learned?

Proclaim. Sound off. Spread it around. Get on a Soapbox.  Announce.  Blast.  Broadcast.  Demonstrate. 

Demonstrate.

Demonstrate.

It is not just about what we say.  It’s more about what we do.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Peter’s Transformation


By Colleen O’Sullivan

 “… all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name, this man stands before you healed.  He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  (Acts 4:10-11)

Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”  And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord.”  (John 21:12)

Piety
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.  (Psalm 118:22-23)

Study
Peter’s musing: 

Someone asked me the other day how I came to be where I am.  I fell to thinking about the journey I’ve been on these last few years.  It boggles even my mind to realize the distance I’ve come.  You see, I used to be content working with my father and brother fishing.  It’s what my father’s father did and his father before him.  I just followed in their footsteps.  I liked fishing, still do.  I loved my family, spending the day with them out on our boat.

Neither Andrew nor I were great scholars.  We knew the basics of the Scriptures, but our family had no money for education beyond the basics.  They needed us to help put food on the table.  There was never any discussion of us studying at the feet of any rabbi.  We simply took up fishing with our dad.  I found a beautiful woman and married her, and I needed the money to support her and the kids who came along.

Although we spent most of our time out on the water, casting our nets for fish, my brother and I found time to go out into the desert once in a while to hear that preacher everyone was talking about, John the Baptist.  He was always talking about someone greater than he who was coming into the world.

Sure enough, one day this fellow Jesus, whom John talked about at every turn, showed up as we were unloading our boat.  He stood there watching us for a while and then we began to talk. There was something about him that struck me.  Maybe it was his enthusiasm or his zest for life, but I liked him from the moment I met him.  When he invited us to follow him, promising to make us fishers of men, I was intrigued.   I think even my dad would like to have tagged along, but he said someone needed to keep up the fishing business, so he stayed back while my brother and I followed Jesus.

I’ve never done anything like that in my entire life, but there was something extraordinary about Jesus.  He looked so sure of himself and so full of life.  I wanted to know how he got that way.

Little did I know where the journey would lead.  At first, it was exciting.  Jesus had a healing touch.  He even healed my mother-in-law of a fever one night!  Everywhere we went (and more people began to journey with us as time went on) crowds began to gather.  I never knew there were so many sick and crippled people in the world.  Everyone wanted to be made whole.

After a while, though, I began to feel an undercurrent of danger.  Not everybody liked Jesus.  The scribes and the Pharisees particularly seemed to hate him.  Maybe they saw the crowds flocking to Jesus every place we went.  Maybe they realized that more people wanted to see and hear Jesus than wanted anything to do with them.  They began laying traps, trying to get Jesus to say something they could arrest him for, but he always had some comeback to which they had no answer.

About now, Jesus began to talk with us in a more serious manner.  He always wanted to know what people were saying about him, who they thought he was.  He was the most special person I’ve ever known.  I wondered if maybe, just maybe, he was the one we had been waiting for.  So, one day when he asked who we thought he was, I blurted out, “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  I had it right, but, boy, did I have it all wrong at the same time.

A suffering Messiah wasn’t anything I had ever envisioned.  I protested the notion that my friend Jesus should ever suffer, and Jesus yelled at me.  He called me Satan!  I was so upset and ashamed!  But there was a lot I didn’t understand.

Jesus had a final meal with the 12 of us.  Before we ate, he wanted to wash our feet.  My feet are the ugliest, dirtiest part of me and there was no way the man whom I worshiped was going to wash them, but again I completely misunderstood what Jesus was trying to do.  I made an utter fool of myself.

I wish I could say I was a faithful friend.  I wanted to be.  Jesus even predicted that I would betray him.  I had every intention of being the best friend in the world, but when the trouble really started, with Judas betraying our leader, I found myself shivering with fear.  They took him to the high priest’s courtyard, where the mood was deadly.  And, so, before I knew it, out of fear I had denied three times ever knowing my friend.  He looked over at me at one point with love and compassion, and that made me feel even worse.

I wanted to die when I realized what I had done.  I went home.  I despised myself, but I didn’t have the courage to go back.  He was crucified the next day.  I couldn’t watch.  I thought the world, my world, anyway, had come to an end. 

Even later, when some of the others said he had risen from the dead, I couldn’t lose that feeling of self-loathing and shame.  I desperately wanted to see him and, at the same time, I couldn’t imagine ever looking him in the eye again.

So it was with trepidation that I approached the shore that morning when we gave up on fishing and then saw the Lord himself making breakfast for us. But my utter failure as a friend never came up.  In fact, Jesus wanted to walk with me.  I realized that he knew how remorseful I was.  Even more, I saw that my denials of him hadn’t stopped him from loving me and forgiving me.

I am a transformed man.  I know I am a sinner, but I also know the power of God’s love poured out on me through the trust and friendship of his Son.  Where before I was timid and afraid, the Holy Spirit has strengthened me.

The powers that be can seize me or arrest me, but they will never shake the foundation of my faith, which is my friend and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Only death will ever silence me.  I want to heal and forgive in the name of Jesus!  I want to tell the whole universe about this Messiah who turned the world upside down!

My family can hardly believe the change.  I am aglow with my love for Jesus Christ, and I cannot contain that love.  I want to tell the story so that every person will see him the way I do.  Jesus, I love you, and I will proclaim you as the cornerstone of our faith as long as there is breath in my body.

Action
Spend some time today prayerfully reflecting on your own faith journey.   Are there any similarities to Peter’s journey?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Strong Faith in His Name


By Beth DeCristofaro

(Peter) addressed the people, "You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made (the crippled man) walk by our own power or piety? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence when he had decided to release him.  You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you. (Acts 3:12-16)

While they were still speaking about this, (Jesus) stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified … 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: 36-37, 45-48)

Piety
Jesus Passed Through Death,  Stephen B Whatley
Study
It’s disconcerting to have someone ask “How are you?” while they walk right past without pausing.  “Uhhhh, ok” you might have time to mumble.  “Have a nice day” is an afterthought spoken without minding to whom we speak while “take care” might be said with a real wish to wish it but is mouthed without attention.  Much of what we say to each other is said only to say something because we want to connect but don’t know how.

Jesus, however, doesn’t worry what others think nor does he fumble for words to fill the space. “Peace be to you,” Jesus says.  “Do not be afraid,” He comforts Mary at the tomb.  There is no need for an uproar or fear even living under Roman oppression, even traumatized by watching a beloved innocent be tortured to death.  No need for uproar or fear because The One who acted not on his own but on behalf of and to display God’s glory is with us.  No need for an uproar or fear because the greatest, the deepest reason to fear has been conquered.  Death is vanquished once and for all in His resurrection. No reason for an uproar or fear even in the suffering of the human condition.

During Lent, we practice self-denial not out of hatred for the world which, after all, is of God.  We practice self-denial to reveal the truth that we are too often governed by our own egos.  We are not aware of the presence of Jesus standing in our intimate midst saying to us “Peace” and “Do not fear.”  The joy of resurrection gifted by Jesus is obstructed.   Peter and John knew and proclaimed that power, their peace, their confidence was rooted and sprung from Jesus in their midst, not in personal limited human identity.  Once “startled and terrified”, men and women whose faith was strong in His name changed the world with their witness.

Action
“In his Regina Coeli address on Easter Monday, Pope Francis preached about how Christ’s resurrection brought hope and life into the world, and how we are called to live that out in how we act toward our brothers and sisters around the world.  ‘In the midst of events that afflict the world,’ he said April 17, ‘in the midst of worldliness that is distant from God,’ we are called to show solidarity, welcoming and peace to people. These are only human signs that we can give, he continued, but ‘inspired and sustained by faith in the Risen Lord,’ we can gain effectiveness ‘well beyond our capacity.’” [i]  

How do we display strong faith and radiate God’s Peace toward our brothers and sisters around the world?