Wednesday, May 31, 2017

“May We All Be One in God” by Beth DeCristofaro

Wishing to determine the truth about why Paul was being accused by the Jews, the commander freed him and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene. Then he brought Paul down and made him stand before them. … The following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome."  (Acts 22:30, 23:11)

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: "I pray not only for these, 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. (John 17:20-21)

Jesus help us walk our pilgrim way to heaven,
May St. Justin be our guide.
 Grant us his strength of faith and wisdom
So we may remain united as one family,
 growing in love.
St. Justin Pray for us.
        (adapted from

Anna who could no longer speak but whose eyelids blinked to communicate asked for old hymns she remembered from her childhood.  She also slowly blinked with a letterboard “drive carefully” as I left.  Delores read with me, again and again, Matthew’s account of Jesus’ agony in the garden as she painfully and suffocatingly struggled with terminal COPD.  She felt that she should stay awake and keep company with her Savior who accepted anguish on her behalf.  Jim wanted to see his brother although estranged for many years.  He made the difficult phone call to ask forgiveness.  His brother was present before and stayed with him at his death.  Erma hoped that her mother and father, dead for more than 70 years, would recognize her – now a 90-plus-year-old woman – when she arrived in heaven. (Names are fictional)

" that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you."  

So many people have led me, taught me, showed me, blessed me that our God desires us all to be one in God.  Justin Martyr, a layman from Samaria, was a brilliant philosopher and a seeker of truth.  It was taking the leap of faith which led him to become the teacher, the guide, the fearless apologist for Christ.  His perspective, using philosophy to illuminate the Gospel displays how God imbues unity even to extremely exclusive schools of thought. 

Witnesses to Paul’s appearance at court might have concluded that the entire event was a fiasco.  But God’s presence was powerful as Paul stood strong in Jesus as Jesus was in the Father.  Justin Martyr taught with commanding authority, his faith uniting him with Jesus and Father.  The suffering individuals were bound eternally to the Father and Son by faith, by human kindness, by hope deeply rooted in God’s loving presence on earth in Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection.   How will I bear witness today so that the world may see that I, we, you, are in Jesus as Jesus is in the Father? 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

…and Holy is His Name

The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals. Zephaniah 3:17-18a

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day, all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.” Luke 1:46-49

“We interrupt this broadcast…”

The sheer irony of the cyclical nature of the Church calendar amazes me.  Here we are, just days away from Pentecost – the bona fide birthday of the church – solidly ensconced in the seventh and final week of Easter.  Yet we interrupt this Resurrection story to bring you breaking news from before the Nativity. We keep vigil until the descent of the holy Spirit and the third glorious mystery of the Rosary in just four more days.

Just 36 hours after the resurrected presence of Jesus ascended from his earthly kingdom to his heavenly realm, we sing, “Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” Among us?  Still?  YES!  We have the reminder of his ever-present Eucharistic presence.  

Joy collides head on with…joy! Even the Responsorial Psalm takes a departure from the Psalms and sings out verses from the Prophet Isaiah. Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Fairfax!

Who will you welcome into your world today? 

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans reminds us to exercise the same kind of welcoming hospitality that Elizabeth (and back flipping John) showed toward her visiting cousin Mary and the baby in her womb. Entertaining angels, indeed!

Although I can honestly admit to never being pregnant, I can say I placed my hand on Beth’s stomach to feel the kicks of first Regina and then Sarah as they were getting ready to burst forth into the world.  The feast of the Visitation reminds us that the baby kicking interrupts Mary’s day, Elizabeth’s day, and now our day just like this feast interrupts the perfectly last week of Easter. 

In fact, today, in another sweet twist of the calendar (and the timely
intervention of modern medicine), a little baby is entering the world in New Hampshire adding to the extended DeCristofaro household. But, we are fully expecting the doctor there to proclaim in joy and grace, "It's a girl!" to Michael and Lauren DeCristofaro.

Last week, the Maryknoll Missioners (@MaryknollFrsBrs) posted a comment and photo to Twitter on the interregnum between Ascension and Pentecost. They wrote: 

“The time between Ascension and Pentecost is filled with emptiness."  

Today, though, we offer a profound, resounding, "No." The placement of the second joy-filled mystery of the Rosary challenges that statement.  You, too, can challenge the emptiness by practicing hospitality on your own.  Who will you welcome into your world today? 

Canticle of Mary Artwork by Jen Norton Credit:

Lauren DeCristofaro photo by @kellyandkristinaphotography

Monday, May 29, 2017

‘I Pray for Them” By Melanie Rigney

By Eugène Burnand (1850-1921) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

(Paul said to the Ephesus presbyters:) “But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know, except that in one city after another the Holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God's grace.” (Acts 20:22-24)

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth. (Psalm 68:33a)

(Jesus prayed to the Father:) “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them." (John 17:6-9)

Jesus, may my ears always hear and my soul always surrender to Your message of salvation.

If his followers hadn’t already figured out why it seemed Jesus parried and debated with the self-righteous, they got the answer when His hour had come. The riddles and parables were done. In today’s Gospel reading from John, Jesus in what’s known as the high priestly prayer says many things to the Father, including that those who belong to the Son have accepted God’s words.

And what of those among the Pharisees and Sadducees and elders and scribes and the crowds who didn’t or wouldn’t hear or believe what Jesus had to share? Were they not among those “whom you gave me out of the world”? Did they have the opportunity to hear, and chose not to? That’s for a more learned person than me to weigh in on. But you have to think the disciples eavesdropping on this conversation with the Father wondered as we do today: To whom do I really belong? Have I kept the Word? Do I truly believe it was God who sent Jesus, not just in a theoretical sense but in a practical way—do I believe it when I am tempted to take the easy way out of situations that could result in harm and ridicule and persecution against me? Because if I truly hear Him, how can I not obey, regardless of the earthly cost?

Jesus, keep praying for me.

Consider spending some time today with the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s commentary on the Prayer of the Hour of Jesus (2746-2751).

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Do You Believe Now?

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Paul then said, "John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus." When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Acts 19:4-6

Jesus answered them, "Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone because the Father is with me. John 16:31-32

Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. (“All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum)

We have some very sacramental readings today.  Maybe now is a good time to bring up that classic Catholic question: What is a Sacrament?

Do you know the Catholic version of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?”  I think it is the Baltimore Catechism. Volunteer teachers drummed these lessons into my second-grade brain on Saturday mornings in the classrooms around Mother Euphemia Nash Hall. Our CCD classes for public school students occupied the desks that were used by the Catholic elementary school students on weekdays.

Question 136 of the Baltimore Catechism (sources remind me that it is found in Lesson Eleventh of the First Communion Edition and Lesson Thirteenth of the Confirmation Edition), frames the question and answer this way:

Question: What is a Sacrament?
Answer: A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.

Outward sign. We homo cursillistas sapiens are beings of both body and soul. We rely on our senses (primarily) to understand the world. But how can we “sense” grace?”  Actual Grace is a spiritual gift rather than a physical one. We cannot see it, smell it, touch it, taste it, or hear it. How do we know it’s there?  That is where the "outward sign" of each sacrament comes in.

Water. Bread and wine. Oil. Fire-bearing candles. Rings.  

Instituted by Christ. God (in all three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit) was at work through Paul in our first reading.  We see it first in the distinction between baptism by John and baptism by Jesus. John knew there was a difference and so did the Gospel writers. John put it this way: “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Mark 3:11)

John lumps baptism and confirmation together.  Luke takes it a step further. He distinguishes two sacraments of initiation:  a) baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus and b) confirmation or the reception of the Spirit.

Throughout the book of Acts, the Spirit is conferred through members of the Twelve (Peter and John) or their representative (Paul). This may be Luke’s way to teach us about the role of the church in bestowing the Spirit. These days, the local bishop or his representative confers the Spirit. Sometimes, the Spirit just barges in whether there is a bishop around or not.

To give grace.  The sacraments are important right now because we are in a period that is particularly lonely…those days between the Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Spirit on Pentecost. The grace of those outward signs instituted by Christ will carry us through.

Be aware of the sacrament of the present moment this week. How will you see, smell, touch, taste, and hear it? Be aware of the wonders of your life. The Holy Spirit is not a one-time visitation the day when you were confirmed. The Spirit returns again and again. Sure, there is a first time like when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples when Paul touched them. The Spirit comes back. How will the Spirit touch you this week?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

“I Pray for Them” by Jim Bayne

(Note:  Although the Feast of the Ascension was actually on Thursday, the Church now celebrates this event on the following Sunday.  The readings for Ascension were covered in Thursday’s tripod.  Today, we pick up the story with the disciples returning to the upper room in Jerusalem right after Jesus ascended into heaven)

Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:13-14)

Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. (1 Peter 4:13)

"I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.  They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. (John 17:6-9)

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life's refuge; of whom should I be afraid?

One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek:
to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,

Imagine what it must have been like for the disciples. They have spent the 40 days since Jesus appeared to them on Easter Sunday afternoon waiting to see what comes next. Jesus appeared to them on a number of occasions, even sharing meals with them, but then told them to go back to Jerusalem and wait some more. 

Even though Jesus has risen from the dead and appeared to them numerous times, he is now gone. What now? Perhaps there is no greater fear than the fear of the unknown. They have not yet reached the point where they can “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ.” Right now they just fear they might suffer as Christ did.

How often in these current days do we live in fear of the unknown? What’s coming next? What will be the next great crisis in our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, in the world? We just experienced another horrible act of terrorism in England. Are we next?

Unlike those first disciples, we have two millennia of experience under our belts. We have seen God work wonders in our world time and time again. We can trust our God to continue to teach us, be with us, and turn even the worst of times into the best of times. Consider these words from Richard Rohr’s book, Everything Belongs: 
God is to be found in all things, even and most especially in the painful, tragic and sinful things, exactly where we do not want to look for God. The crucifixion of the God-Man is at the same moment the worst thing in human history and the best thing in human history.

As we await the Holy Spirit’s arrival on Pentecost, let us continue to pray and wait patiently. 

As we pray and wait, let us reach out to those who are living in fear and reassure them that in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.”  Remember the words of Jesus: I pray for them.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. (Proverbs 3:5) 

Come into the World

For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."  John 16:27-28

A Prayer for Camden
Almighty God, we praise you for all you have done.
Help us with all that you want us to do!
Come, Holy Creator, and rebuild the City of Camden
So that we do not labor in vain without you.
Come, Holy Savior, and heal all that is broken
In our lives and in our streets.
Come, Holy Spirit, and inspire us with energy and willingness
To rebuild Camden to your honor and glory. Amen.

The further out in time we go from the days when Christ walked the earth, the more life today is like the early church.  In the Acts of the Apostles,

Apollos was one of the principal preachers of The Way in along with Peter and Paul. As we contemplate the world without the physical presence of Christ, the Holy Spirit and other representatives will (eventually) be there.  Preachers like Apollos stepped in to teach. However, Apollos (like us) did not have first-hand knowledge of Jesus. That did not stop him. Two women in the community who had a broader knowledge of the life of Christ – the model for the way the early church was modeled – took him aside and filled in more of the story.

When Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos, I imagine that they gave him a short course in Christianity.  Christ came into the world because the Father loves us.  Jesus lived among us and taught us how to live and love.  Even though many loved him, the Romans and some of the Jews executed him on the cross.  After Christ died, he came back to life and instructed us further.  Christ then returned to the Father and sent an Advocate to live amongst us along with clergy, saints, and others to teach and support us along the way. Kind of like a Cursillo weekend when the team takes us aside from daily life at Missionhurst or San Damiano and through talks and prayer, teach us the Cursillo method (the Way).

Apollos went out into an unfriendly world to spread a message of love.  Fr. Michael Doyle and the teachers and parishioners of Sacred Heart School do the same in Camden, NJ.

Located in the neighborhood of Waterfront South, Sacred Heart School serves the K-8 children of Camden City. Sacred Heart is a safe environment within a challenged city that empowers students to develop respect and a sense of justice rooted in Gospel values. To call Camden a “challenged city” is an understatement. 

It is not easy to grow up in Camden, one of the poorest cities in our nation. Since the closing of the New York Shipyard in 1967 and the flight of thousands of city residents to the suburbs, Camden has been battered, abused and largely forgotten, even by its very close neighboring communities.

Yet, while thousands left, many stayed, determined to make their lives in this city that was their home and, in many cases, home to their parents and grandparents as well. But for many, it was terribly difficult. Businesses closed, jobs became scarce and families were fractured under the weight of the hardship. Parents struggled to provide for and protect their children.

The parents of Camden’s children have the same dreams as parents everywhere –that their children will be healthy, happy and safe; that they will have the opportunity to get an education in a nurturing environment, and that a bright future awaits them. And the children dream, too – of friends and fun, school, college, a career, a family. Just like children everywhere around the country. That is where Sacred Heart School comes in. 

The school day is focused on piety, study, and action throughout.  Part of the daily rhythm at Sacred Heart School is prayer.  The work there is an inspiration to me within the confines of a city torn by violence and gangs and drugs.  

Praying together as a school community is a very important part of the day at Sacred Heart School.  They begin the day by praying the Our Father (led by an eighth-grade student over the intercom).  All conversation and activity in the school stop as the students stand for Morning Prayer. A prayerful spirit does not end there.  It continues with grace before lunch.  It continues in their studies as teachers place the life of Jesus before the students throughout the day.  In action, the school expects the students to treat one another with peace-filled kindness and respect. Through all three legs of the Cursillo tripod, they hope to break the cycle of violence that grips this city.

Finally, they pray together again at the end of the school day. At the end of every school day, they pray The Prayer for Camden. This prayer was created and first prayed at Sacred Heart Church on April 5, 1997, when there were 1,000 days until the year 2000.  Sacred Heart Parish continues to pray these words of spirit and life every day for the re-birth of Camden.

You can take part in the re-birth of Camden by sponsoring a child to attend Catholic school at Sacred Heart.  Your sponsorship of a Sacred Heart student is the only way to keep the dream alive for the children of Camden. The Catholic school budget for the school year is more than $1.2 million dollars. With the help of Sponsors and Donors like us, Sacred Heart Parish can raise the funds needed beyond what families pay in tuition, to keep the vital school open.

Friday, May 26, 2017

“Dying and Rising with Him” by Colleen O’Sullivan

One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision, “Do not be afraid.  Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.  No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.”  He settled there for a year and a half and taught the word of God among them.  (Acts 18:9-11)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.  When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.  So you also are now in anguish.  But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.  (John 16:20-22)

Be not afraid,
I go before you always,
Come follow Me,
And I shall give you rest.
(Be Not Afraid, Bob Dufford, S.J., Saint Louis Jesuits, 1975)

Our Scripture readings today share a theme – To Paul:  Do not be afraid.  I am with you. To the disciples:  Your grief will become joy.  I am with you.

When you’re scared to death or your heart is breaking, it’s difficult to believe Jesus’ words.  If I was the parent of one of the young deceased concert goers in Manchester, England, I would feel like my world had been totally shattered.  I’m not sure I could be convinced right now that I would ever feel joy again.

Had I been with the disciples gathered around Jesus in the Upper Room that first Holy Thursday evening, all I would have heard was that Jesus was leaving.  What would become of us, our little group, without him?   How would life ever go on without him?  Would we even care if it went on without Jesus beside us?  I would have been filled with apprehension and sadness.

But not that many weeks ago, I was on retreat for the Triduum.  I saw for myself the truth in Jesus’ words.  On Holy Thursday, Jesus stunned the disciples by kneeling down and washing their filthy, cracked, tired feet.  The Master became the servant and then turned around and asked us to do as he had done, to serve one another.  The bread was broken and the cup was shared.  Jesus was about to leave the world, but he promised always to be there for us in the Eucharist.

On Good Friday, Jesus, beaten and bruised, was handed over to be crucified after the crowd refused to take pity on him, the innocent victim, and instead insisted on the freeing of Barabbas, a murderer.  Good Friday is a difficult day.  It isn’t easy to compassionately stand by while Jesus suffers and dies.  It is a day of anguish and sorrow, both because of Jesus’ suffering and death as well as the knowledge that it is our sins he has taken to the Cross. 

Saturday is full of emptiness and a profound sense of loss.  What does a person do with herself on such a day?  Had I been one of the first disciples, that day might have seen me wanting to throw in the towel and go back home to Emmaus or wherever home was. 

Then, we are summoned to the Easter Vigil Mass and suddenly Jesus’ words ring true.  We who have been grieving are filled with gladness.  Death does not have the last word!  Jesus is risen and our hearts are filled with joy!

Jesus says “you will weep and mourn… but your grief will become joy.”  This is the pattern of life.  Long before we come to the end of our time on earth, we will have experienced a myriad of lesser dyings and risings.  That’s Jesus’ story and it’s our story as well.  We never do this alone; Jesus is always present in our crucifixions and our risings.  If we’re open to Jesus’ compassionate love, the worst times in our lives can be transformed into the best.

Where have you seen this happen in your life?   

Thursday, May 25, 2017

“Go in the Spirit” by Beth DeCristofaro

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call … (Ephesians 1:17-18B)

When they saw (Jesus), they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:17-20)

Almighty ever-living God, who allow those on earth to celebrate divine mysteries, grant, we pray, that Christian hope may draw us onward to where our nature is united with you.  Through Christ our Lord.
(Prayer after Communion, Mass for the Day)

During the first chaotic, frightening weeks after the 9/11 attacks, a photo disseminated on the internet claimed to show a malevolent face formed in the black smoke pouring from one of the twin towers.  It jolted me when I first saw it but I immediately thought “No, this just can’t be real.”  Of course, it proved to be photoshopped although not before it was widely shared.

We doubt.  We need reasons that make sense.  It is almost comforting to have a full answer even if the answer is implausible. It is so hard to comprehend much less believe that people could themselves be the source of such evil, that people make choices, decisions and act so wickedly vile.

How the disciples must have struggled with doubt after journeying with Jesus so hopefully only to witness the malice that, apparently, ended him.  Today, just as in the first century, we have difficulty accepting subtleties.  We look for proof, for miracles, something to show us that goodness exists and that something better is acting in our lives.

Jesus’ answer is clear despite our doubts, misunderstandings, deviations:  I am with you always, until the end of the age.  The Holy Spirit graces us with the present, blowing, active presence of God.  Jesus asks us to continue journeying with Him unendingly – to our earthly ending. Loving God and loving our neighbor whether they be (the modern equivalent) of Roman soldiers, Samaritans, prodigals, Syrophoenicians, leaders, followers, doubters or loyal friends.  It is the Holy Spirit who helps us distinguish where Jesus is leading us and how to turn our back on and defeat ultimately fruitless evil in the world.

It is the power, might, and gift of the Holy Spirit which allows us to move beyond our own limited fears, self-focus, habits, biases to live in his love and love the Other. 

How will I allow the grace of the Holy Spirit to propel me closer to Jesus by lovingly acting toward another as He would do today?

Monday, May 22, 2017

“What Must I Do to Be Saved?” by Melanie Rigney

Rembrandt [Public domain], via 
Wikimedia Commons

About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted out in a loud voice, "Do no harm to yourself; we are all here." He asked for a light and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved." So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house. He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once. He brought them up into his house and provided a meal and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God. (Acts 16:25-34)

Your right hand saves me, O Lord. (Psalm 138:7c)

Jesus said to his disciples: "Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned." (John 16:5-11)

Build a cell inside your mind, from which you can never flee. — St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church

I’ve been in three noticeable earthquakes in my life. The first occurred on September 9, 1985, while I was on a Chicago el platform; the second, exactly 16 years later while I was in a Los Angeles hotel room (I figured it’d be the biggest memory of that business trip, but obviously, not); the third, in my day job office here in DC on August 23, 2011. I can testify that if you’re not familiar with what to do—stay inside and get under a desk or table—all you want to do is run. Run outside, run downstairs, run anywhere that seems more likely to provide stability. Escape from the shaking and the rolling. Stay putting seems counterintuitive.

What Paul and Silas did when the earthquake hit their jail seems counterintuitive too. Here was what seemed to be a huge God-given evangelization opportunity in escaping: “Look at what He did! He used an earthquake to set us free!”

But they stayed put long enough to take advantage of a smaller, more intimate opportunity: the conversion of the jailer. They talked him out of suicide. They bandaged his wounds. They went to his house… and baptized all the members of his family. The next day, both Paul and Silas were formally released.

Life as a Christian is much like going through a perpetual earthquake. Often, all we want to do is run—from those who persecute us, who ridicule us, who seek to destroy us. Staying put seems counterintuitive. But often, what we are called to do is remain where we are and heal and evangelize in our own families, neighborhoods, parishes, jobs, and other communities. Running is easy. Waiting long enough to discern the Lord’s desire is hard. Staying put may cost us our pride, our money, even our lives. But it is what we are called to do with faith, confident that He has power over all the shaking and rolling.

Identify a spot in your life from which you long to run away to what seems to be safety. Ask the Lord to make clear the way in which He desires you to do His work by staying put.

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!