Tuesday, April 13, 2021

“God’s Transforming Power” by Colleen O’Sullivan


“God’s Transforming Power” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter 

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.  With great power, the Apostles bore witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Acts 4:32-35)

 

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘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 3:7b-8) 

Piety

Lord, may our hearts be open to your transforming grace.

Study

I’ve always wished I could have met Nicodemus.  He felt drawn to Jesus.  In today’s Gospel, we see this Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin taking his life in his hands, slipping away under cover of darkness to talk to this preacher/teacher/healer so revered by some and equally hated by others.  In this same chapter, before the verses we read today, Nicodemus declares that God must have sent Jesus. There’s no other explanation for the things Jesus accomplished.   Jesus tells him that if Nicodemus wants to see the Kingdom of God, he needs to be born again.  On the surface, Jesus’ words don’t make much sense.  Nicodemus was born years ago.  He’s already here on earth.  It’s impossible to redo that.  But consider the process that takes place before birth:  A man and a woman come together, and an embryo begins to grow.  All sorts of growth and development take place over months.  The parents have to make preparations for the impending birth.  It’s only after all that that an infant comes into the world. 

Maybe Jesus is telling Nicodemus that a spiritual process has to occur for the sort of rebirth he has in mind.  Nicodemus’ heart opened his heart to allow Jesus to plant the seeds of the Spirit. The seeds germinated and grew in that fertile, loving heart. As Nicodemus remained open, the Spirit’s work transformed his heart, and Nicodemus became a new person.  He will be a child of God, and he will relate to other people differently.  Transformation comes as a gift from the Holy Spirit, a grace-filled gift.  We can’t change ourselves in this radical manner.  It’s God who works on our hearts and in our hearts.  Scriptures never tell us whether Nicodemus becomes a Christian, but some transformation certainly seems to occur.  He speaks openly for due process of law for Jesus before the Sanhedrin.  And after the Crucifixion, he receives Jesus’ body, provides the spices for preparation of the Lord’s body for burial, and helps Joseph of Arimathea ready Jesus’ body to be laid in the tomb.  All a far cry from someone who wanted to hide in the dark so others would not discover Nicodemus talking to Jesus.

In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we again see what God can bring about in people whose hearts are open.  Remember how terrified the Apostles were after the Crucifixion?  Some of Jesus’ followers gave up and started out for home.  Others of their group cowered behind locked doors.  Yet they were of one heart and mind in this reading.  That only came about through the grace and power of the Resurrection.  

Who knows how many believers lived like this and for how long, and just a couple of chapters later (Acts 5:3), we see two Christians who rebel against this, holding everything in common?  Just imagine, though, how wonderful it would be if everyone had everything they needed and no one lived in poverty!  The trouble is that in our consumer-oriented society, we no longer know the difference between what we need and what we want. 

Action

Take some time today to think back over your life to a time when you felt God’s transforming power at work in you.  Give thanks for whatever gift you received.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Heal my Doubt, Lord By Beth DeCristofaro

Heal my Doubt, Lord By Beth DeCristofaro

Second Sunday of Easter, Sunday of Divine Mercy

 

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. (Acts 4:32-33)

 

Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. (1 John 5:1-4)

 

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. … Jesus said to (Thomas), “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:21-22, 29)

 

 

Piety

I doubt, Lord.  Heal my doubt.  Propel me to be of one heart and mind with you.

 

Study

Doubt seems omnipresent in our culture.  Certainly, when I sit comfortably in my chair, reading or praying, I rarely am aware of doubt.  But let an unexpected heart palpitation or a disturbing newscast or divisive comments from family occur, doubt creeps in.  Doubt is like those tiny, quicksilver beads of mercury which, when you hold them in your hand (yes! we used to do that!), slide haphazardly to and fro without control. Doubt flashes, hard to ignore in our thoughts.

 

Jesus’ words to Thomas seem less critical of his doubt and more a rebuke for acting out of his doubt.  “I will not believe” unless I see for myself, Thomas declared. Jesus extends his mercy, quenching the doubt. Jesus blesses those who must act in faith without proof.  As followers of Jesus, we don’t always see with our physical eyes or hear with our bodies’ ears but see and hear with the grace of faith.  People who live with severe illness and disability or their caregivers live with a lot of doubt.  Will this treatment be effective?  Is the pain going to diminish? Will I see my children have children?  In my illness, there are many uncertainties, but I know in the depths of my being that I have been blessed with many graces. I have met caring people, found unexpected openings, and been accompanied by God’s healing in the darkest moments.  Like many people, I take each day at a time and move forward out of the locked room of doubt with Jesus at my side.

 

Doubt can paralyze, but it can also be an inner alert.  Where does this doubt originate?  Will I act from fear, disappointment, betrayal? John’s epistle tells us that God’s commandments are not burdensome.  Letting doubt shape what we do leads us to justify hurtful actions as we act on our own behalf, claiming it is motivated by God’s words. The passage in Acts characterizes the community as of one heart and mind.  What do I value? I can choose to be demanding and self-centered.  Sometimes this is confusing because legitimate self-care for myself or for our community is also valued!  But choosing to claim that actions are in God’s name, but are based in doubt sprung of fear or feeling disregarded, in reality, divide the community and are against God’s directives.  Do I choose to be of one heart and mind with the community of believers? It is in opening to the Holy Spirit that his disciples and I place trust in Jesus, walking forward despite doubt.

 

Action

The celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday is an opportunity to reflect on the theme of how God’s mercy can overcome sin and, as the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments states, “a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind [sic] will experience in the years to come.”
This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 5, page 46).[i]

Do doubts hold me back from flinging open the doors of my locked room and receiving the fire, the peace, the passionate desire to be one with Jesus and the community of believers?  Ask for the certainty of Thomas, Mary of Magdala and the Apostle John. Be grateful for that fire.

 

Illustration:  https://i0.wp.com/www.thegregorian.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/DivineMercy.jpg

 



[i] https://uscatholic.org/articles/201104/what-is-divine-mercy-sunday/

Saturday, April 10, 2021

“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature” By Melanie Rigney


 “Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature” By Melanie Rigney

Saturday in the Octave of Easter 

So (the Sanhedrin) called them back and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter and John, however, said to them in reply, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20)

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me. (Psalm 118:21a)

But later, as the Eleven were at 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

Jesus, strengthen my faith that I may fearlessly proclaim the Good News.

Study

They didn’t believe Jesus had risen when Mary Magdalene shared the news with them. 

They didn’t believe the two disciples who encountered the Lord on the road to Emmaus.

Finally, when they were at table, and they saw him with their own eyes, they believed. And after chastising them, Jesus charged them anew to go out into the world and share what had happened. 

Then, they were unstoppable. When the Sanhedrin told Peter and John to stop teaching in Jesus’s name, the men said that would be impossible. Nearly all the apostles and many of the other early followers died martyrs’ death rather than be quiet.

Proclaiming the Gospel is simple within the relative comfort of a faith community. It becomes more challenging when we’re among people—relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers—who aren’t sure Jesus ever existed.  They see His words as nice ideas and good concepts but don’t understand or have rejected the hope His death and resurrection offer. And yet, those are the very people who need the message proclaimed to them through our words and actions. 

Think about it: What would Peter and John say today’s Sanhedrin? What would Jesus say to today’s doubters? Somehow, I doubt any of them would choose to keep quiet to preserve peace. That sort of peace isn’t peace at all. It’s spiritual cowardice.

Action

Pray for the words to preach the Gospel today to someone who doesn’t want to hear it.

Image credit: Schaferle via Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/christ-statue-flash-impact-figure-2625729/

 

Friday, April 09, 2021

Today is a Day made by the Lord By Beth DeCristofaro

 Today is a Day made by the Lord By Beth DeCristofaro

 

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them, “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the 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 4:6-11)

 

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. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the 

dead.  (John 21:12-14)

 


Piety

This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it. (Psalm 118:24)

 

Study

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.”  This was a day in which the disciples are weighed down with grief. This was a day in which a return to fishing, a consistent schedule that they knew well, was an escape from misery. It was an unfulfilling day as they caught no fish.  And yet it was a day the Lord made much like the days in which we struggle with life difficulties.  Later in this day, the Lord made Jesus “rehabilitates”[i] Peter by asking him to recommit his love for Jesus three times, offsetting his three denials of Jesus on the day of Crucifixion. (verses 15-23) And on this day the Lord made, Jesus sat and served his friends a breakfast cooked on a homey fire.  This was an ordinary day made by the Lord, who is present on all days.

 

In the passages from Acts, on another day the Lord made, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and answered the leaders’ accusations with deep, resonant faith.  Rather than “what a difference a day makes,” it is what a difference a Resurrection makes! God’s creative nourishing cannot be thwarted by death.  Jesus’ willingness to extend mercy and love into death and beyond makes each day a day to experience it and live it.

 

Action

So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. (John 21:7)

 

In this joyful Octave of Easter, in what way am I experiencing Jesus’ presence anew?  I can give thanks and jump out of my boat to spend more time in his with him in the everyday moments the Lord has made.  What prevents me from “seeing” the Lord on the beach of my life?  In my prayer, I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me and open my eyes and ears. I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me so I can share Jesus’ hospitality with those who need it most. 

 

 


 


[i] “This section (of John’s Gospel) constitutes Peter’s rehabilitation and emphasizes his role in the church.”   https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/21?23=#51021023

Monday, April 05, 2021

“Share the Good News” by Colleen O’Sullivan

 “Share the Good News” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people, “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)

 

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he had told her. (John 20:16-18)

Piety

All you need to remember
is how it sounded
when you stood
in the place of death
and heard the living
Call your name.

 

from The Magdalene’s Blessing for Easter Day, Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons by Jan Richardson (© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com)

Study

James Tissot, Mary Magdalene Questions the Angels in the Tomb, c. 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

As I was pondering today’s Scripture readings, Go, Tell It on the Mountain, kept playing over and over in my head - “Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, Go tell it on the mountain…”  The Resurrection is such good news. We can’t keep it to ourselves!  In the Gospel, Mary Magdalene hurries to the tomb early on that first Easter morning, only to discover that Jesus isn’t there.  Except for a pair of angels, the tomb is empty.  Fresh sorrow fills her heart at the thought that someone has taken her friend’s body.  No sooner does she turn away from the angels than she sees a figure she thinks must be the gardener.  She begs him to tell her where Jesus’ body is resting if he knows.  At that moment, the “gardener” speaks her name, and she recognizes Jesus’ voice!  She reaches out for him, and Jesus asks her not to do that but instead to go and tell the others what she has seen.  Barely able to contain her joy, she runs to tell the disciples the good news.

Our first reading today describes events on the day of Pentecost.  Remember the disciples just weeks before – never fully understanding anything of Jesus’ mission, denying ever knowing him, huddling in a locked room in fear.  Here they are seen transformed by the gift of the Holy Spirit!  Peter, like Mary Magdalene, feels compelled to share what has happened.  He tells the Jews that their crucifying Jesus has been for nothing.  Through the Resurrection, God has declared that Jesus is Lord of all and that Jesus is indeed the Christ, God’s anointed one. 

Peter invites the crowd to repent and believe, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The conviction with which he speaks results in the Baptism of 3,000 or so new believers.

Both readings today are about people bursting with joy over the Lord’s Resurrection and then turning around and promptly sharing the Good News with friends and strangers alike.  They can’t keep it to themselves!

Action

When was the last time you shared the joy of the Resurrection with someone else?  Find one person you can sit down with and do that.  Tell him or her what Easter means to you.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

“The Day the Lord Has Made” by Rev. Paul Berghout


“The Day the Lord Has Made” by Rev. Paul Berghout

Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord

The Mass of Easter Day 

Piety

“This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:40-43

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” Psalm 118:24 

Seek what is above. Think of what is above.  Colossians 3:1B,2A

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So, she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”  John 20:1-2

Study

Some Christian educational toys for Ages 4-9 like Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand; Daniel and the Lion’s Den; Jesus Walks on Water; Moses and the Ten Plagues. Each Play-set features full-color, child-safe action figures paired with its own book, which neatly explains each Bible story.

The Easter Story, Calvary Hill, has a plastic stone that really rolls away in a slot and three removable crosses. However, with this Play-set, there is no available storybook, and the set comes with no action figures, but one is encouraged to “Collect them All.” 

First, you need to insert the big cross on Calvary Hill.

The Easter story begins with a man hanging on a cross dead who they lay in a freshly hewn grave with a 5,000-pound stone sealing the entrance.

St. Paul knows how scandalous his preaching is about a crucified Messiah. He calls it a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. Still, he refuses to present it more acceptably because one must embrace the cross’s scandal to experience God’s saving righteousness. 

Paul says, ‘I die daily’ in 1 Corinthians 15:31. He is defending the historical, physical Resurrection of Jesus in this chapter, saying in verse 14, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

The Easter story continues by going to the tomb. 

The Desert Fathers spoke of the First Resurrection in this life of the soul that happens when we have overcome the passions and aligned our will to love God above all things.

The more we die in our hearts to sinful desires and embrace where Jesus leads us, the more we will experience the power of the Resurrection in our interior life and our reception of the Eucharist because our feeling of hope increases. 

In the Easter play-set, after you buy the Jesus Son of God action figure, Mary Magdalen is the second most important one. 

Then you can reenact the most extraordinary recognition scene in the history of the world: “Mary! Rabbouni!”

It wasn’t until Jesus called her name did she recognize him, and that is what broke through her grief, panic, and misunderstanding. 

The breakthrough will happen. Don’t give up 10 minutes before the miracle. Easter is about eternal life made possible by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that brings hope.

A poet wrote that “hope springs eternal.”  Hope is another way in which God whispers your name. 

Three other women also came to the tomb that first Easter morning: Mary, the mother of James, Joanna, and Salome. But, in Luke 24:11, when they told the disciples that Jesus was alive because they had seen him, Luke writes, “their story seemed like nonsense.”

Nevertheless, as the Catechism in # 641 says, “Jesus himself upbraided [the disciples] for their unbelief and lack of faith for not believing the witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus. 

Action

The women at the tomb did not think they were in charge of Easter. But they were. Like Mary Magdalen in John 20:18, they all could say, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me” in a see-tell messaging which is how testimony works, and to which Jesus assures: “That’ll preach!”

Like Keith’s testimony, he quietly resigned himself to a life of addiction and felt sorry for himself. He had been going fruitlessly to 12 step meetings. Demoralized, he would think to himself, “And now look where I have ended up, with you all.” He would not shake hands with anybody at meetings, and he let the members know that, too. He said that maybe he thought he would catch something from them.   

Then, God gave him the grace of a new life.

He was able to say, “I did catch something from them: Recovery. Thank God. I got sober.” He says, “Today I get access to this flowing power of recovery by working on myself, the Steps, and reaching out to help others. I discovered that healing is like a lake that needs an inflow and an outflow. The inflow is attending meetings, phone calls, literature, and working the Steps. The outflow is trying to help, reaching out to others, and service in the fellowship. Too much outflow, the lake runs dry, too little, and the lake goes stagnant, shallow, and lifeless. 

I mentioned that there was not an accompanying storybook to the Easter Playset.  Maybe it does not come with a book because the very language of Easter—Pascal-- tells us we have to experience it -- personally. Pasch means “Passing through.”  Exodus Chapter 12 refers to the Israelites’ passing through the Red Sea (which we share sacramentally in baptism).  Baptism of water is the beginning of our passing from death to new life. The Eucharist (received with the proper dispositions) gives the promise of being resurrected to eternal life.

Educational toys engage one’s senses, spark one’s imaginations, and encourage one to interact with others to share what we learned and did. 

It’s the same with Easter. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” We know that this day is not just twenty-four hours. The day the Lord has made is a way of looking at my life, mission, and family, of hearing and speaking to them. 

“This is the day the LORD has made.” 

“This is what the Lord did for me and to me.”   

That is more than just a rhetorical strategy.  It is a way of living and witness aimed at bearing to audiences of all times and places the saving power of Jesus so that others will know for themselves the hopeful way of living risen life.

Amen.