Pentecost Sunday ~ 5 June 2022 ~ Bible readings for Mass of the Day: I: Acts 2:1-11; Responsorial: Psalm 104; II: I Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Romans 8: 8-17; Gospel: John 14: 15-16, 23b-26. or John 20:19-23
Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus is a feast of the great promises and power of God indwelling the faithful. The word soon to be used by the Church is “baptized”, or immersed in to promises and power, the Presence of God.
It is a Catholic tradition to focus on images of Pentecost wherein Mary, the mother of our Lord, with the Apostles are the recipients of the outpouring of God that first Pentecost. It comes from the Book of Acts that shares: “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” [Acts 1: 14] This last direct New Testament reference to Mary is a beautiful image of she who brings the Gospel story, filled with the Holy Spirit. And who now brings the story of the birth of her Son’s Church… seeking the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of Mary in the actual account of the day of Pentecost. It is presumed she was present, with the other women as the Apostles and the other disciples waited for God’s promise. The Apostles and Mary were undoubtedly seekers of and special recipients of the immersion in the Spirit of God that holy day. But it is also very evident that the promise and power of Pentecost was and is fully intended by God to immerse all the faithful in the work and holy love of the Kingdom of Christ.
The symbolic images of fire and wind on that first Pentecost would remind us of the passion and force of Christ in His redemptive mercy and passion, death and conquest of sin, death, and evil. This liberating Truth is our own immersion personally but also to be shared in and through our lives. It is no coincidence that the other major image of the power and Presence of the Spirit of God is the gift of tongues. While that phrase can both bless or intimidate hearers it is a message of the necessity of the Paraclete to immerse our message and words in the holy healing grace of God.
Our world, the people of God (the Church) are in urgent of a fresh outpouring and immersion into the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Great is the need for the faithful to focus in our call to seek and glorify God and not the distracting tangents of this world. Great is the longing of Jesus for us all to know the consecrating fire of His holy love in, and through our lives.
The Feast of Pentecost has a gem within the liturgy that may, or may not be shared during Mass, (it comes just prior to the Gospel). Known as The Sequence, Veni Sancte Spriitus, Come O Holy Spirit has been a part of the Church for centuries. It is a prayer for our hearts, our families and for God’s Church. Let us all carefully listen, reflect and prayer: “Veni Sancte Spiritus, Come, O Holy Spirit, Come!”
Solemnity of the Ascension ~ Sunday 29 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 7: 55-60; Responsorial: Psalm 97; II: Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17, 20; Gospel: John 17: 20-26
Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Celebrated forty days after Easter it culminates the Easter season and anticipates the Feast of Pentecost. It may seem like a bridge of sorts between these two other great springtime events of our Christian faith. But it is so much more.
The Ascension is the earthly conclusion of the incarnational Presence and ministry of Jesus, Son of God, and Son of Man.It thus gives us a profound lesson and illustration of surmounting the often harsh realities of this world and our heavenly hope and home.
That we live in a world wounded and scarred by the realities of sin and evil we need no reminder. Our faith and families daily face challenges of health, economic distress, and news of violence and wars. We cannot afford to be so delusional as to pretend these realities do not exist. We humbly need to confront them and see these struggles with the faith, courage and hope deeply rooted in God and His mercy and forgiveness. It is precisely for this witness of our Christian hope and the redemptive love of God that the Holy Spirit has placed us in our days to live and proclaim.
It was on the day Jesus ascended that the struggling, fearful disciples were gathered by Christ. He reminded them that they (and us), were to be His witnesses throughout this troubled world. They did not realize or understand, as they watched in awe as He rose into the clouds returning to His heavenly home. They knew, intimately the sorrows and wounds of the world. The promise, power, and purpose of His ascension were just starting to be revealed. For them and for us. But the angels reminded the disciples that while they looked heavenward they were called to follow and serve God on their earthly journey.
Ascension Promise: With the physical ascension of the resurrected Jesus the promises of eternal mercy and our heavenly destination were affirmed. From and through the harsh storms of this world God promises to bring home all who will trust and seek to follow Jesus, crucified, risen, and ascended. The reading from the Book of Acts illustrates this point with poignant clarity. As Stephen is facing martyrdom for his faithful courage in sharing Christ his pained eyes were opened to see the reality beyond his being stoned. He saw the heavens opened and his Lord waiting for him. In that eternal truth, Stephen was able to see God’s promise and seek that those who were killing him would be forgiven. The Ascension experience of the promises and mercies of God was instrumental in the conversion of Stephen’s persecutor, Saul, and his subsequently becoming the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Ascension Power: The account of the martyrdom of Stephen illustrated the profound transformation of the disciples from a fearful band of confused souls trying so hard to figure out the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It was the homecoming of Jesus into the full reunion and fullness of the Holy Trinity that enables the faithful followers of Christ to receive the promised Presence and gift of the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit in whom we are given the transubstantiation power of simple bread and wine into the real Body and Blood of Jesus in our liturgy is the Holy Spirit that will empower each disciple in their walk with God to our eternal home. Our witness, our mission may not be as dramatic or world-changing as some but in the designs of God, it is as vital and precious. Yet it is vital to remember that this promised power is not for our own egos, understandings, or designs. The Ascended Lord empowers us to glorify His Father as he did. The promise and power of God for our good and the work and glory of God’s Kingdom. The power of the Paraclete is for the purposes of God.
Ascension Purposes: It is especially in our Gospel reading from the seventeenth chapter of John that this intent of our Lord is made so clear. Jesus prays “…that they may be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us, THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU SENT ME.” Jesus prayed these words shortly before His betrayal and passion were to begin. Knowing fully in His heart what was going to be happening Christ was still resolute in trusting that His followers would … still follow Him. He knew full well their struggles and those of His Church since. But Jesus still prayed and trusts that we can be one and show the world His love and power.
As we conclude this Easter season, as we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, and prepare for Pentecost we need to let God’s Word and Spirit show us the deep wounds in the Body of Christ. Wounds that are showing the world not God and the redemptive mercy that is offered but instead egos, agendas, politics, and obsessions with religious displays instead of Christ Lord of our lives. Much lament and soul-wringing are being shared about the sin and unbelief of so many. We wonder and cry “why won’t believe trust and follow Christ?” This question must recognize the battle for the human soul between God and the powers of darkness. But we also must recognize that we, as Christians are created and redeemed by God to proclaim that eternal love and mercy are found in Christ. We are called to proclaim in our words and our actions the Promises, Purposes, and Power provided by God. Christ is risen! Alleluia! Christ is ascended! Alleluia! Let us live simply and faithfully in God’s truth as we grow beyond the limited realities of this world.
6th Sunday of Easter ~ 22 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 15: 1-2, 22 -29. Responsorial: Psalm 67. II: Revelation 21: 10 -14, 22-23. Gospel: John 14: 23-29
Gravity is a force of nature that will not be ignored. Water flows… downhill. Trees fall … down. We fall … down. Gravity is a reality and force of this world that we all deal with every day. And the older one gets the more the force of gravity would appear to prevail. We are so caught up in this natural force that we can be unaware of another dimension of gravity. The gravity of soul and spirit is a worldly force that continually battles against who we are called to be. This force was evidently unleashed with the first fall of humanity into sin. Since then the struggle to realize and be the people God created and redeemed us to be has challenged us. This struggle, however severe does not in any way lessen or deny the eternal Truth. We are called by Him who conquered sin, death… our fallen state to rise.
The spiritual forces of gravity continually seek to press and oppress us away from God and heavenly truths. These dark forces would seek to bring our spiritual seeing to focus on the conflicts, fears, and turmoil of this world. If we seek to focus on God and the Kingdom of Heaven we are often distracted by others who focus upon the sins and failings they judge in others. Or we seek to build our faith and vision of God in frameworks of political causes, no matter that they may well clash, and conflict with others in the Body of Christ. Or we may dwell upon very real and painful illnesses or needs that would seek to cloud our ability to see the Truth of God. And these very real forces cannot be ignored. The path of life is fraught with many dangers. To travel naively along thinking nothing can hurt me is foolishness with profound risk. I am reminded of hiking the trails here in California. The views can be beautiful. But to ignore the hazards can be very painful, or worse. We must pay attention to what is in our path!
But, in spite of very real hazards, we cannot forget that we are called to rise. The light from Scripture for this 6th Sunday of Easter shows us how God empowers us to do just that.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles shares how the church was struggling. The Gentile believers were being burdened by those who sought to impose many complex requirements from the Mosaic Law. In our present time liturgical excesses and strife, scrupulosity of worship, or focus on complex issues can weigh the soul and bring peril to our walk with God. The needs and issues in our world and church are very real and legitimate. But we need to learn from the early church and seek the Holy Spirit to form our decisions in the simplicity of the Gospel and not the complexities of our understandings.
We also are encouraged from our second reading in the Book of Revelation. “The angel took me in the spirit…” so we read of the Apostle John’s celestial experiences. Now clearly we are not in the same place as John. But in much humbler but just as blessed ways God’s angels will lead us to those high mountains to which God would call us to climb, again, in the power of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus in our Gospel.
It is especially in the Gospel that we see Jesus. As He speaks to His disciples in that Upper Room He would speak to us, today. As the disciples lived in a world of powerful intense spiritual oppression and gravity so do we. Sins of greed, political deceptions and agendas, violence, prejudice, sexual promiscuity, abortion, and much more pressed upon the souls of the faithful then. And as they do now. Great were the forces that sought to turn the eyes of the faithful away from Christ and from the simplicity of His command. The call to rise above the morass and muck of the world and to love one another was how God countered the lies of the spiritual gravity that sought to work like spiritual quicksand.Jesus called His followers to not burden each other with the mire of this world but to walk with and support each other in this journey of faith. It is in the Presence of the Holy Spirit, it is in the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist we grow out of our failings into His fullness. As we contemplate those who gathered with Christ at the first Eucharist we see a group of disciples oppressed with fear, burdened with ignorance of His Truth. Yet…Jesus washed their feet, gave them His Body and Blood, as unworthy as they might be. He still called them to rise.
5th Sunday of Easter ~ 15 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 14:21-27; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: Revelation: 21: 1-5a; Gospel: John 13: 31-35
Within these fifty holy, joyful, and glorious days of Easter we come to this Lord’s Day where our Gospel shares the words Jesus, spoke very shortly before His passion. In the Upper Room where He has shared the Passover transformed into the Eucharistic Feast, He also proclaims His final message just before leaving for the Garden of Gethsemane. It is around this altar where the faithful have gathered ever since Jesus distills the call, the command of the Gospel into eight words: “LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.”
God, who is infinite, eternal, omniscient, and omnipresent has inspired millions upon millions of words and endless discussion and debate. Humanity has diligently sought to understand and explain God and the commands and practices of worship worthy of the All-Holy One. This quest has often, and very tragically resulted in great divisions and strife. Judgment and hatred have prevailed in hearts where God’s peace, love, and holy beauty are designed to dwell. This darkness and oppression of life and holiness are especially evident in our own day. Wars, destruction of our shared home in greed, and bondage of lust and selfishness seem ever triumphant. But now as on God’s holy cross, the holy conquest of sin and darkness will occur. Many are the bitter sermons of hate and fear gushing forth from the false gospels of greed, self, choice, or sensual pleasures. The stormy tides of pride and fear that pushed Jesus to Calvery intimidate many even today. It is easy to see Christians developing a bunker mentality where fear of the perceived enemy brings some to preach judgment and a running deep into trenches of safe and ancient practices and words.
But …Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you”! Well yes, Jesus did say that and it means that in His love we must condemn all that is contrary to His will. We must “hate the sin but love the sinner!” And those words were spoken only to His disciples… Jesus surely did not mean …everyone !?!? Did He?
If we take the words of Christ faithfully and seriously we need to take them in the context they are shared. Jesus spoke of this new command in many ways, places, and examples. Specifically, in the context of John’s Gospel, it is spoken moments before Christ goes to the Garden of Gethsemane. There He will be betrayed by Judas Iscariot whose feet he washed and with whom His Eucharist was shared. Love one another as I have loved you. In a matter of hours, He will stand beaten before Pilate, He will carry His cross, and on the cross, before He dies He will pray: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” “Love one another as I have loved you!“
If we are serious about being Christians, being an Easter people, we must learn we are not about a single cause or a political or social label. We are not about our own perceptions of God, the commandments. We humbly are thankful for the grace of Truth and Tradition the Holy Spirit has shared in God’s Church. But we also humbly realize we do not own or control the Truth who is Jesus Christ. Instead, we learn we are on a resurrection journey to grow in the fullness of God, who is Truth.
A profound example of this journey, this voyage into the promises and fullness of God is the Irish St. Brendan whose Feast Day is 16 May.
Brendan is one of perhaps the three best-known of the Irish saints, St. Patrick and St. Brigid being the other two. His life, buried in antiquity and shrouded in myth and legend nonetheless shares powerful lessons and hope for anyone seeking to know and follow Christ. Brendon was a cleric who is best known for his seven-year voyage in search of the Land of Promise. As is often the case in the study of the saints much of their story is shared in the stories and legends that cloak them. Yet regardless of whether one looks to factual, mythical, or deeper spiritual truth the life of St. Brendan is a witness for God of loving and seeking God. Brendan teaches us how those eight words of Jesus will launch us on voyages of faith, courage and …love.
We may not voyage as St. Brendan did. Our paths in this life are probably much less dramatic. Yet as it was for the early disciples, as it was for St. Brendan, so it is for us today. Jesus commands us to love as He loves us. He also says this will be the witness that we are true disciples of Our Lord and God, by the love we have for each other.
St. Brendan lived this command faithfully and with a passion that carried him immense distances for God. This early Celtic saint lived the faith and values of his church and his relationship with God in practical and deeply spiritual love. This holy love lived the ancient Celtic faith of the worth and dignity of all. Brendan, before his journeys would seek the wisdom and counsel of other believers, women and men, bishops, priests and lay. His faith in God embraced and infused the relationships he had with others so that he trusted and held in deep respect their perceptions and wisdom. It was not expected to always agree but always to Listen and Learn. The conversion of Ireland, Scotland, and England were unique in that although the lands were deeply pagan the path of witness and conversion was shared with respect of the other soul and their beliefs. This resulted in conversions most often peaceful. Evil was recognized for what it was. But there was an ability to love another however much they may differ or disagree. (With the current intense rancor about abortion it may be well to learn from the example of the early Celtic Christians that the practices and popular beliefs of others do not diminish their worth or our call… to love as Jesus did).
The love St. Brendan had for others was rooted in an even deeper love for God. It was his quest to see, to follow where God would lead with those who would, in holy love desire to share that journey. Brendan had a deep conviction that God would lead him to that holy island, The Land of Promise. The literal fulfillment or meaning of this journey is known only To God, Brendan, and those with whom he sailed. Just as our travels for God are known best by God. But that these quests were fueled by Brendan’s love for God and his fellow seekers cannot be denied. This bark of love is what carried them through seas of calm and chaotic storms. They like us sail into a future shrouded in the uncertainty of what and where life will lead. But they sailed together in acts of deep and resilient courage. We too are called to journey in obedience to those eight words, in Biblical power and promise, that will conquer our fears as we launch forth in the Holy Spirit, in the power of His love. This holy season of Easter let us each, let us together seek to press on in courageous obedience to those eight words Jesus shared: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
4th Sunday of Easter ~ 8 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 13:14, 43-52; Responsorial: Psalm 100; II: Revelation7:9, 14b-17; Gospel: John 10: 27-30
Alleluia Christ the Good Shepherd is Risen! The eternal joy of Easter continues to be proclaimed in the Church as we begin this 4t week of Easter. The Word of God shares the message of Christ, conquerer of sin and death as our Good Shepherd. Many are the titles and revelations of God throughout Scripture and time. But the lesson of our Lord God as the Good Shepherd is both ancient and more needed and relevant than ever.
All our readings share either the direct message of Jesus our Shepherd or clear examples of God’s grace calling and leading the faithful in the ways of God, or, as the Collect for Mass prays: “…God, lead us to share in the joys of heaven, so that the humble flock may reach where the brave shepherd has gone before.” The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how the early church delighted and glorified the Word of God and how the Word of God spread through the whole region.
As the Psalm shares “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”. As His sheep we see that we are “a great multitude…from every nation, race, people and tongue.”, (emphasis mine). This exquisite holy diversity is proclaimed without compromise in our second reading from the Book of Revelation. The apocalyptic reading we share concludes with the message “…the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.”
It is in the Gospel for this Lord’s Day we are reminded by Jesus that: ” My sheep hear my voice: I know them and they follow me.” This holy Easter we may well relate to the early disciples as they struggled to realize what they could not understand. Jesus is Risen! Especially in a world of conflict and deep turmoil affecting so many we may have difficulty in seeing the reality of Christ risen. We may also struggle with doubts, fears that would lock us away as the apostles prayed. But we, also like the early faithful are called to be listening to Jesus our Shepherd as He calls and leads us. But this leads us to wonder, if we are to know the Shepherd’s voice what is the language of God?
Years ago, while living in Seattle, in the Scandinavian district of Ballard I sometimes encountered fervent discussions among the Christians as to what language God spoke. The Danes said Danish, the Swedish were adamant it was Swedish, the people of Norway of course knew it was Norwegian, and the Finns were cold certain it would be Finnish. While all this was in jest…usually, it reflected a common reality of our appreciation of the Language of God. We think, want, expect God to speak..as we do or as we would prefer.
This are very much more heated arguments today about the language of God in our liturgy and worship. Latin is the official language of the Roman Catholic Church. And there are those who fervently believe our liturgies should be in this beautiful, holy and traditional language, even as the church has restored the even more ancient tradition of worship in the vernacular of the people.
This focus on language is a challenge for other Christians as well. I have known many deeply faithful Protestants who intensely believe their preferred version of the Bible is God’s choice. For centuries the beautiful English of the King James version of Scripture was THE only standard to be accepted. But as always how we speak evolves and the “Thees & Thous” of ancient English are not well received by some in this post-modern world. And there are many more examples of how we sheep from many flocks struggle with how we think God’s language should be.
It is perhaps why, the Shepherd of our souls brought this Sunday for His people. God has no problem with this great multitude of many tongues. As we draw closer to the exciting joy of Pentecost we are reminded that God’s Holy Spirit was manifested in several ways, including the disciples speaking in diverse tongues! But we still wonder…What is God’s language? How do we recognize the voice of our Shepherd?
As we follow Christ we learn He ever seeks to lead us beyond ourselves. He calls us, finds us, saves us, where ver we come from and are in our journey of life. This process of conversion can begin with being baptized as an infant. Or it may be when one learns of and seeks Christ as a teenager or adult. But God’s voices is calling us, by name, to follow and grow in God’s Kingdom, not ours. So we must remember that while God hears and perfectly understands us whether we seek Him in Spanish, English, Latin or in the language of any land God’s language, to us, will share some universal expressions.
God Speaks Peace. It is important to realize all through His earthly ministry Jesus sought to bring the Peace of His Kingdom to the souls he was with. The disciples, the woman at the well, the Jewish leader whose child was dying, the Gentiles..Jesus sought to cut through their conflicted lives and souls with His peace. This was even more evident after His resurrection. Every encounter, even when they could not see past their disbelief Jesus spoke to His followers in…Peace.
God Speaks Mercy. Consistent and often loud is the language of guilt and condemnation our sin and Satan can bring. Anger and unforgiveness is also one of the most popular dialects in this world. But God would speak mercy, and forgiveness to all who will listen. Jesus knew, fully the sins of the world and of each of us when He came as our Savior. But He still calls us each by name that we may know and proclaim: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
God Speaks Hope. One of the most common struggles in life today is depression and and anxiety. In recent years the most common medications prescribed were not for cancer, diabetes or heart disease. The most common medications were anti-depressives and anti-anxiety drugs. This, of course does not include the massive quantities of socially and self-prescribed doses of alcohol, cannabis or other drugs. We would do well, especially as a genuine Easter People, to quell the voices of the world and listen to God who would speak Hope not founded in futile or temporal relief but in His Living Word, His promises that cannot fail.
God Speaks Love. We prayerfully hope that the worst of the Covid pandemic has passed. But there is a pandemic of even greater peril and destruction. It is the pandemic of hate. In Europe we witness a brutal war instigated by a man’s hatred for his neighbors and the sacredness of their land and lives. With the changes that (prayerfully) look to come about for abortion law in our country we are seeing storms of anger and hatred between people on this heart breaking issue. This is also seen in the civil life of our time were the false gospel of choice and politics with God has resulted in idols of hate and anger to breed deep strife and rancor. But! Jesus calls us each by name to follow Him out of the morass and deadly fields of this world into His peace, hope, mercy fused together in His love that conquered all that is deadly in this life. Christ calls us, as His Easter sheep to..Love, as He loves us.Together let us Listen for God, His Peace, Hope, Mercy and Love and then let us be His voice of Peace, Hope, Mercy and Love.
3rd Sunday of Easter ~ 1 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 5:27-32; Responsorial: Psalm 30; II: Revelation 5: 11-14; Gospel: John 21: 1-19
Christ is Risen! The Gospel accounts of the risen Lord Jesus continue as He appears to the Apostles. In retrospect, we usually focus on the actual events of the risen Jesus being seen by His disciples. And these manifestations of Christ are truly the heart and power of these accounts. But there is another aspect that is important. The disciples were being called, in spite of their uncertainties, fears, their struggling humanity to witness the risen Christ.
This very basic dimension of their knowing Christ would soon be affirmed by Jesus when He would proclaim:” You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). This holy privilege and joy would grow to become the hallmark of the early church. The Greek word used in the New Testament frames this powerful verb. “Martureo’ “, to witness would soon be centered upon the witness of the holy martyrs from which that word is derived. But it would also grow to recognize all dimensions of the witness the disciples are called to share of Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. We too must realize we ARE witnesses. Of whom, of what the focus of our witness is a matter of honest reflection and renewal, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The issue of the witness for Christ is especially meaningful in our Gospel account for this Lord’s Day. It is the poignant story of Jesus appearing to His apostles at the Sea of Galilee. In their uncertainties and turmoil, they have returned to the security of what was familiar to them, fishing. They have spent the night on the Sea of Galilee but with no success. But Jesus awaits them on the shore and He has cooked breakfast for them. As they draw closer Jesus asks how the catch went, fully knowing their futile efforts. As they respond in their discouragement He instructs them to cast the net out over the side once more. The draft of fish is immense! And John, the Beloved recognizes that it is Jesus who beckons them. He tells Peter who in the love of a seemingly failed and wounded follower jumps into the water in his longing for Christ. They all come to shore. They are fed and an extraordinary dialogue occurs. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. He doesn’t ask if Peter knows what he did wrong. He doesn’t ask if Peter knows the commandments. He doesn’t ask if Peter is going to go to synagogue. He asks, simply, “Do you love me?” Peter, is very likely brought back to his threefold denial of his Lord by this threefold press of questions affirms to Jesus and is told by Christ to feed, and tend His sheep, His lambs.
The three other Gospels do not share this encounter. It is only in the Gospel, the WITNESS of John. This apostle was very likely very close to Jesus, who he loved on the beach that morning. And his love for, and respect for Peter must have moved John profoundly. The last of the Gospels to be written many years after the first three is a powerful affirmation of the relationship between Jesus and Peter. But it is also a clear lesson of the resurrection love of Christ for each of us.
The Galilee encounter of Jesus, with Peter, John, and the others can bring us to realize the vital graces God will bring as we experience the Fish, the Forgiveness, and the call to Follow as Peter and the others did.
The Risen Christ knew well the struggling human condition of His disciples. He knows our fatigues, our discouragements, and uncertainties. And He seeks us to bring us to rest and eat, to be nurtured in body, soul, and spirit. This is a clear illustration of the Eucharistic meal and the holy sustenance it brings. But it is also an important message that in the struggle it is essential to eat and to eat as healthy as possible. The sound nourishment of these temples of the Holy Spirit is often the most neglected aspect of care when a soul is mourning, struggling, or simply over-worked. Jesus knew His friends were weary and discouraged. So He fed them. A very simple prayer reflection is to picture Jesus with you as you prepare a meal or eat the nourishment He brings from the land. Jesus knows our hunger and He will fill us with His peace, love, and hope!
Christ on the shore of Galilee knew the need for His disciples to eat. But He also knew well they carried heavy burdens, especially Peter. The guilt and remorse Peter had in his life were clouding his ability to clearly see the joy of the Risen Christ. So Jesus responded in love and mercy. With Peter fed and warmed by the fire He drew Peter closer and asked him for the first time… “Do you love me? God in His holy mercy and love knows when we are infected with the wounds and effects of sin and this world. And in that same mercy and love, He will call us on it, just as He confronted Peter. The dialogue witnessed by John had an eternal focus. Forgiveness. Peter had undoubtedly known hours of remorse and sorrow for his failure of the Christ. And God had heard the cries of his wounded heart. Christ went to Galilee. He fixed that simple holy breakfast to bring to Peter (and the others) the assurance of forgiveness. The seeds of peace and hope the Words of Jesus planted in the heart of the apostles that morning would grow. It would bring them, in holy, if uncertain hope, to Jerusalem where the promise and power of the Holy Spirit would drench them. They were being Fed and Forgiven that they could Follow the risen Christ.
It was no doubt a poignant and powerful moment as Jesus concluded His conversation with Peter. The nourishment of the loving meal and the catharsis of forgiveness would be concluded with two words. But it would be the same two words that Jesus spoke when their walk with Jesus had begun. It was at the seashore of Galilee that Christ had called them away from their nets and said…Follow Me! Peter, John, and the others must have flashed back overall they had witnessed. They must have realized Jesus wasn’t done with them. He still loved them He still wanted them to Follow. They were realizing with resurrection hope and joy, Jesus loved them more than they had ever realized!
2nd Sunday of Easter ~ 24 April 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I. Acts 5: 12-16; Responsorial: Psalm 118; II: Revelation: 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; Gospel: John 20: 19-31
It is the Second Sunday of Easter, also Divine Mercy Sunday. For many, the miraculous image of the Merciful Jesus has been a source of hope, grace, and mercy as the infinitely grace-filled words are prayed: “Jesus I trust in you.” The image of the Chapel of Divine Mercy beautifully expresses the majesty and holy awe we discover in the mercy of God. Yet it can also portray something else.
The devotions of Divine Mercy may be true means of seeking and growing closer to Jesus and His mercy. But sometimes we can find ourselves struggling with the immensity and complexity of these beautiful devotions. This same challenge can apply as we celebrate this Second Sunday of Easter. Starting with Easter Sunday let’s be honest, the truth and power of our Risen Christ can be obscured amidst the candy, eggs, and sometimes even our devotions. As we look to the Divine Mercy of our Risen Lord and Savior it is imperative we remember it is about knowing God and God’s mercy!
As we heed the messages of mercy St. Faustine shared, as we listen carefully to the Scriptures for this holy day we can hear Jesus longing for each of us, for all of us, to know and live His mercy.
It is sometimes easier to obscure the mercy of God in our complexity of devotions or our concerns and debates as to with whom or how God’s mercy may be shared. Our human nature loves to organize and quantity life in many dimensions but, sadly even with God and the mercy that would flow from His Sacred Heart. These manipulations are often applied to others in vague theological wanderings. But they are also applied, often, to ourselves. We have great difficulty in simply allowing God to show, and give us His mercy. We generate complex excuses and penitential labyrinths in which we feel our hearts must wander IF the mercy of Jesus is to be known. The journeys of conversion and penance are very real and needed in our journey for God. But they must be led by God. Not by our ignorance, fears, or doubts. In our Gospel, we read the familiar story of doubting Thomas. He was stuck in doubt and ignorance. But Jesus who knew Thomas’s heart (and ours) brought Thomes to the time and place of mercy. Jesus brought Thomas to His wounds and his heart was healed by God’s mercy.
To know God, and the Divine Mercy we celebrate and proclaim as Christians is about following the example of Thomas and all the saints. We are called to grow in knowing Jesus in a genuine, dynamic, loving relationship. This mercy-immersed relationship is not near as complex as we would make it.
Christ calls us to RECEIVE Him and His mercy. Created in the image of God we are created in love. This brings us the freedom and responsibility to choose. Will we abide in sin and guilt? Will we follow the ways of sin and evil or the ways of God? Will we follow Christ? It is as we come to Christ who was crucified and is risen we live out our choices. Is my faith in God’s mercy or my guilt? Is my sin, or are the sins of anyone greater than God? As we choose God we are liberated to receive the mercy God won for us on Calvary and in the tomb.
But this mercy we receive from our Savior is not meant to be hidden and kept for ourselves alone. God’s mercy must needs be SHARED. Mercy is a living, holy grace from the pierced heart of Jesus. It is infinite and eternal in the qualities and graces of Heaven. But it can be quenched and oppressed by the same free will we needed when we chose Christ. Sadly in our world and in the Body of Christ, His Church, the mercy of God is being suppressed by those who would judge and pretend they can decide how, when to whom God’s mercy may flow. Satan, the great thief would seek to rob the mercy of God from any soul. We must realize, often daily, that the Divine Mercy of Jesus is called for in and through our lives and towards those God brings into our lives.
And as we receive and share the Savior’s holy mercy we grow in knowing it needs to be Nurtured and Exercised among us. And in the beautiful prayers and devotions, we find the Holy Spirit will nurture His mercy in us. In the Bread of Angels, Christ’s sacred Body and Blood the greatest nurture of mercy is received. It is a reality of life in this difficult world that we will encounter times, places, and people where it is impossible to share the mercy of Jesus that is so needed. It is in those very real challenges that the nurture of God will help us to know the Holy Spirit’s Presence to empower us to be people of God’s mercy. It is in those Ways of the Cross we exercise that mercy of Christ to grow ever stronger with and in Him.
To know the mercy of God is to realize and learn that God and His mercy is beyond any ability we have to understand, organize or quantify the Presence and Power of the mercy of Jesus. But it is also to grow in the realization that we are each called, together to be a people of God’s mercy. We are called to know, deeply the mercy of Jesus in our hearts. And we are called to faithfully live and share His mercy with others.
Perhaps when we are tempted to worry or think our sins or the sins of another are too immense for God’s mercy that His mercy is like the lilies shown below. God’s mercy is beyond counting. It goes far beyond what we see. God’s mercy, His love is eternal and infinite. It is then we freely can pray: Jesus I trust in you!.”
Easter Vigil is a vital time to pause, wait, and anticipate the Risen Christ. It is also a time to contemplate the events that occurred out of sight of Jerusalem, the disciples, and the Roman world.
The second reading from the Office of Readings for this very holy day is one of my very favorites. It is from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:
“The Lord’s descent into the underworld Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden. See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree. I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you. Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”
Palm Passion Sunday ~ 10 April 2022 ~ Bible readings for Mass: Gospel: Luke 19: 28-40; I: Isaiah 50:4-7: Responsorial: Psalm 22: II: Philippians 2:6-11; Gospel: Luke 22: 14 – 23:56
Lent is drawing to a close. Perhaps it has been a season of great blessing and grace for us. Perhaps our intentions and hopes for a special time of growing closer to our Savior have been not all we hoped for. Regardless we must remember that as much as we seek God in our lives God seeks us even more. But we may wonder if God is seeking us why is growing closer to our Lord so challenging? The answers are diverse but many answers to that question are found in Holy Week. It is easy, it is a blessing to join in the joyful welcome and praise of Christ as he comes into Jerusalem. But the subsequent harsh realities of the Holy Passion of Jesus embraced and expressed as Jesus takes His cross is far less inviting. But the invitation, the promise of God stands true. If we are to know Jesus, to follow Him, we too must take up that cross and follow in His holy steps.
To follow and draw closer to our God we must first learn to Listen for God, daily, and in each moment of our lives. Even if we think “we have heard this before”, even and especially then we need to carefully Listen. This Sunday, Palm Passion Sunday gives us a powerful opportunity to do that. The Bible readings are long. There are two readings from the Gospel and the second Gospel covers the entire Passion of our Lord. Please take the time to prayerfully read and listen to all the readings from the Liturgy of the Word.Read, Listen seeking, and expecting the whisper of the Holt Spirit to reach your heart.
It is as we walk with Jesus during these very holy days. The forces at work, the struggles of the disciples, and the response of Jesus, day by day and then moment by moment can bring us into a deeper relationship with our Lord. In all this, we would do well to ask, What is going on within the heart of Jesus? To grow in this realization let us look to the Gospel of John.
John’s Gospel shares these insights in chapters 13 through 17. It covers the loving holy instructions, commands, and prayers of Jesus just prior to going to the Garden of Gethsemane. This dialogue is shared in the great liturgical event that would provide the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist, for the Church until He returns. But it is not a liturgical lecture on rubrics and practices. It is a message of eternal, infinite power and simplicity.
Yet with all that was happening to Jesus, and with His followers, with the battles of fear, doubt, and uncertainty they faced, Jesus would provide the essential oil of the Holy Spirit to empower them to… LISTEN and follow Him in God’s new command. This command would become the marching orders for His Church. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another,” (John 13:34-35) Then, after warning them of their own failings God reassures the: “Let not your hearts be troubles; believe in God, believe also in me…” (John 14:1). He then calls upon them to grow on in His Truth (John 14:6; 16-12-14). This all will be done as they abide in His Presence, His Word, His Love, (John 15: 4-12).
To Love, Trust, and Grow in the Truth that is Christ, to abide in Him, this is the essence of what Jesus shares from His heart in those holy moments before He goes to the Garden and prays to His Father.