May 14, 2017 – Fifth Sunday of Easter

Saint for the day: Matthias (Dates unknown)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 6:1-7    –    Psalm 33    –    1 Peter 2:4-9    –    John 14:1 – 12

“Philip said to Jesus, ‘Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.’” (John 14:9)

 Today we are hearing almost the same Gospel that was read yesterday so it must be important for us to really get it. Perhaps the Church is thinking that not everybody attends daily Mass and it’s important for the whole Church to hear this central message: “Do not let your hearts be troubled …I go to prepare a place for you … there are many dwelling places in my Father’s house … I AM the way … I AM in the Father and the Father is in me.”

 It’s almost if Jesus is trying to tell His disciples, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” Our physical senses cannot comprehend the reality of the presence of God in our world. Even Moses had to come to grips with the notion that we must walk by faith. The disciples say to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus responds to them by telling them, “You have to begin by washing feet!” And, of course, they will be just like us and say, “OK! We got that part. But we want to do the really big stuff!” Jesus’ response to this request is to tell them, “Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.” (Luke 9:3) Since there is no mention of sandals it might be implied that they might have to wash some feet along the way which should remind them to “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

The trouble, though, is that most of us want to go directly from the Cross to the Resurrection without spending those days in the dark of the tomb. Even when Jesus takes the disciples up the mountain and shows them just a hint of His Glory they can’t take it in. Look at any artists’ rendition of the Transfiguration and you’ll see the disciples knocked over by the wonder of Jesus’ Glory. So, in the meantime we walk by faith. There’s an old ‘Gospel Song,’ “From glory to glory He’s changing me from earthly things to the Heavenly.” We simple have to take the time to grow into the reality that we are on our way to the Kingdom. We’re not there yet and we’re still on our way. Even the two disciples who experienced the Resurrected Jesus at Emmaus only gradually – on their way back to Jerusalem – can say, “Were not our hearts burning within as He spoke to us?” (Luke 24:32) There are about 15 references in the Bible to “Hardened Hearts” so that must tell us that we should seek to have “hearts burning within us” so that we are fired up to get back on the road to begin making that journey to the Kingdom.   And just in case you might have forgotten: that journey will take you via the Hill of Calvary with a brief stop-off in the darkness of some sort of tomb before you get to the Heavenly Gates. Amen!

May 13, 2017 – Saturday in the 4th Week of Easter

Today’s Feast: Our Lady of Fatima apparitions between May 13 and October 13, 1917

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 13:44-52    –    Psalm 98    –    John 14:7-14

“All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.”(Psalm 98)

 I guess we all have a secret desire to be like the saints and actually see the face of Jesus. Maybe the steps to that gift might be found in today’s “feast” of our Lady of Fatima especially as we try to see Jesus through the eyes of the three Fatima children. The one part of this miraculous event that caught my attention was the fact that these three youth were not seeking to be part of a miracle but were simply young, unsophisticated children. They received from the Blessed Mary the task of convincing the leadership of the Catholic Church was in need of a great conversion which gained its authenticity through the “miracle of the sun” that more than 70,000 people were able to see. The one thing that the BVM asked for was a kind of conversion and a return to prayer. This seems to be a common request that can be seen in the lives of many visionaries and “would-be-saints” and it part of our “Easter Duty” to allow the Risen Jesus to make a home in our hearts that we might be witness to His resurrection. We can’t follow Jesus if we don’t open ourselves to the reality that He still wants to draw us into the fullness of His Risen Life. The first way we can do this is found in these Easter Days of Celebration. We are given 50 days of Easter which is 10 more days than we had for lent. We need to remember that 10 is a number of completion when used in liturgical terms. So, we need to allow the intentions we made during Lent lead us to something greater than what we gave up.  That’s why we need to listen closely to our scriptures during our journey towards Pentecost. If we can’t see Jesus in the people who walk alongside of us we will never see Jesus in Glory. Amen

May 12, 2017 – Friday in the 4th Week of Easter

Saints for the day: Nereus & Achilleus (dates unknown)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 13:26 – 33    –    Psalm 2    –    John 14:1-6

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Have faith in me!”

 Today’s Gospel is one of my favorites and is the one that I choose and used at the funerals of both my father and my mother. Especially the phrase, “in my father’s house there are many mansions.”

Jesus tells his disciples “I go to prepare a place for you” and we might immediately think of Jesus as the way and heaven as a place,

The saying, “familiarity breeds contempt” could apply to many of the scripture readings that we hear in this Eastertide. We have to be careful not to let these words fly over our heads with a “ho, hum, I’ve heard that before,” attitude.

The way is not a road but a person and the place is not a location but a relationship. Jesus the person draws us into a relationship that “where I am there you, also, may be.” So, too, when Jesus says, “I am also the truth” we can put our trust that what He has said He will bring to be.

There is so much that we simply do not know and we all have the tendency to hold on to and lock down our own weak concepts so let us today let these familiar words take on the fullest meaning possible and trust that God will ultimately bring us into the reality of what these words mean. Of course, by the time we can say, “Oh! Now I see!” we will be way beyond that kind of assurance and at a place that is within the being of God. Amen!

May 11, 2017 – Thursday in the 4th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Ignatius of Laconi (December 17, 1701 – May 11, 1781)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 13:13 – 25    –    Psalms 89    –    John 13: 16 – 20

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:20)

 With these above words from the end of today’s Holy Gospel – along with the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles – we might title today’s Liturgy, “Connecting in and sending on!”

 It was always important for the early Church to see that what they were preaching was not just some new, “our of the clouds theory” but one that was deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition and history. That’s why they stayed connected to the synagogues whenever they went out preaching. They even brought up the shortcomings of the “chosen people of God” and reminded them “with uplifted arm he led them out, and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert.” (Acts 13:17)

I love that image: “He put up with them in the desert!” We all know the story because it plays out in our own lives as we try to make our way through the “deserts” of our own making.

Then, today’s Holy Gospel puts it back in focus by starting out with the line, “When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet…” This is where Jesus surprises the disciples by telling them that they have to begin their ministry in service to one another. They might have expected Him to give there a short course in “scriptural exhortation” and instead He tells them they have to wash feet!

I couldn’t help but think back to the time my dad, who was getting more and more crippled up with arthritis, asked me if I would clip his fingernails. He didn’t have enough dexterity in his hands to do even that simple act. I was happy to help him with this and even suggested that I clip his toenails while I was at it. He protested that he wouldn’t ask anyone to have to deal with his dirty, crippled up feet but I persisted and did it because I thought this is what God asks all of us to do: be in service and help to one another. As I was doing this I just imagined what Jesus’ feet might have looked like after he had made his tortuous journey to Calvary. All of us would like to be remembered for the great and glorious things we said or did in our lives. Yet, in the end God is going to ask us, “when I was – here fill in the blanks – you did (or didn’t) take care of me!” And we’ll ask, “When did we see you … and help you?” Or turn away from you?” (see Matthew 25:35ff)  

 If we really want to connect in with Jesus and be faithful followers today’s Holy Gospel tells us where to begin: in helping those who have no one else to help them. We’ve just recently been hearing about the “Good Shepherd” and how His sheep know him and hear his voice and they follow him. I think it behooves us to hear, again, what it means to be in close fellowship with Jesus: Three little words: hear his voice; known to Him; willing to follow. That’s all it takes: listening to the voice of God; being in close relationship through prayer and sacraments; and willing to follow Him wherever He leads. And along the way we might have to wash some dirty feet!  Amen!

 

May 10, 2017 – Wednesday in the 4th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Damien de Veuster of Moloka’i (January 3, 1840 – April 15, 1889

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 12:24 – 13:5a    –    Psalm 67    –    John 12:44-50

Short – but sweet – I’ve given this scratchpad reflection a second run. It first ran in May, 2009. I hope it still has some ability to give you something worthwhile to chew on. Bro. D

 “In the beginning all was darkness & a formless void.” Even when the Spirit of God “hovered” over the waters and light appeared there was still darkness. Dry land, animals, plants & people appeared but darkness prevailed. Jesus – the “Light in the darkness” – is born on a winter’s night.

So, when Jesus speaks of being “the Light of the world” there is presumption that what we take as “Light” isn’t the light that He is speaking about. Jesus accuses the S & P’s of “claiming to be in the light but really in darkness. Therefore we must strive to be in the true light of Christ.

Even as I sit here in the darkness of this chapel with just the light of one, small candle I can – at on and the same time either be in the light of XT or the darkness of Satan. That means that the light of XT is a metaphor and, just as day breaks over the horizon for me darkness is falling on the other side of the world. That means that we must first admit that we are made up of both light and dark and must strive to admit that God can be light for us in darkness – the dark side of our lives and it is precisely in that kind of honesty that we have the possibility of being saved – of coming into the Light of XT. All of us have fallen short of the Glory of God and must cry out to God, “Yes, Lord, I have sinned and will probably sin again tomorrow but I still want to be in your light of love that cuts through the darkness of my life. Amen!

May 9, 2017 – Tuesday in the 4th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: John of Avila (c. 1500 – 1569)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 11:19-26    –    Psalm 87    –    John 10:22-30

“The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter.”

 These words that we hear at the opening of today’s Holy Gospel are like the words of a playwright:   deep and filled with an element of suspense: “… and it was winter!”

 Most of us have an understanding of winter. It’s a cold, dark time when there isn’t much growth in the natural world around us. In many places where snow is part of the winter scene it is also a time of quiet beauty. The dirt and grim of our regular world gets coated in a white blanket like a costume that hides the imperfections and irregular characteristics of our lives. Winter: a chance for the world to rest and re-group.

But it was also the Feast of the Dedication: the “Festival of Lights” and the people want to know, “… are you going to keep us in suspense? ‘Tell us plainly: are you the Christ?”

 In St. John’s typical fashion” the Gospel writer is giving us a whole string of opposites: winter when there is little growth against the phenomenal growth of the early Church; the ‘Festival of Lights’ up against Jesus, “the light of the world.”

“How long are you going to keep us in suspense” up against: “I told you and you do not believe!”

The beauty of the Holy Scriptures – both Old and New Testaments – is that they are ever present. Even when they are telling us of events of the past they are also bringing it home and into the reality of our day in and day out lives. We can steal the words from Ecclesiastes: “There is a season for everything under the earth: a time for birth; and a time for death …”  And, just like the early Christian community who had to come to grips with their past, familiar cycle of things, we, too, must allow the cycle of birth and death; light and darkness; certainty and doubt to come out from under their cover of darkness to follow Jesus, the Light of the World.

Jesus didn’t just wave His hand over the troubles of the world of His time but showed them how He would always be with them – even in the midst of their doubts. We’re still in the Easter Season and the “Feast of Pentecost” is still down the road. But it will come! Then, filled with the Holy Spirit we’ll have some thirty, plus weeks of growth and nurturing taking us full circle and … back, again to the First Sunday of Advent.

May 8, 2017 – Monday in the 4th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Peter of Tarentaise (1102 – 1175)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 11:1-18    –    Psalm 42    –    John 10:11-18

“Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep … I know mine and mine know me.’” (John 10:11, 13)

 Of all the “I Ams” in John’s Holy Gospel, this “Good Shepherd” title – along with “The Bread of Life” – are probably the most well-known since they tell us of the protection and sustenance that God provides for His own. Along with these two titles comes the charge to go out from our comfort zones to seek out the lost and forsaken so that there will be one flock and one shepherd. In today’s first Holy Scripture from the Acts of the Apostles we are invited to be in St. Peter’s shoes as he learns that the joy he has received must be shared with – God forbid! – Gentiles! He has a vision of a huge sheet coming down from heaven and carried by angels. On the sheet are four-legged animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the sky. When Peter is invited to eat he refuses on the grounds that some of the things are profane or unclean. Remember: the apostles and early disciples still followed the strict, Jewish laws regarding food and it took three times for the voice from God to try convincing Peter to eat. I can’t imagine that Peter didn’t catch the connection between this and his three-time denial of Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. There is also the three-time question of the Resurrected Jesus: “Peter, do you love me?”

 Bottom line: Peter finally gets the picture and agrees to accompany these men without discriminating. To his surprise, when he began speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon them … just as it had fallen upon the disciples in the locked, upper room! Imagine his surprise that “God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.” This is such an important concept – not only for the early Church – but also for all of us: “God’s gift of salvation is for everyone!” This is a perfect tie-in to today’s Holy Gospel of the God Shepherd: “That there be one flock and one Shepherd.”

I think I’ve told you the story of St. Peter greeting newcomers into heaven. As he walks down the streets of Gold he proudly proclaims: “This is the street where all the Baptist’s live. Here’s the street of the Anglicans; and over there is where the Lutherans live.” Then, he lowers his voice to a whisper and says, “This is where all the Catholic’s live.” And, of course, the newcomers ask him why he had to lower his voice at the Catholic street to which he replies, “Because they think they’re the only ones here!”

May 7, 2017 – 4th Sunday of Easter

Also called “Good Shepherd Sunday”

Saint for the day: Rose Venerini (February 9, 1656 – May 7, 1728)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 2:14, 36-41    –    Psalm 23    –    1 Peter 2:20b – 25   –    John 10:1-10

“So, Jesus said again, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate.’” (John 10:7)

 We might be able to call today, “Recruitment Sunday” or “Good Shepherd Sunday” since we can see that the Church is fast on its way to growing and becoming strong. It’s also important for us to see that Peter is the one who stands up in the midst of the Eleven to proclaim, “…that God made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” This is the same Peter who said, “Lord, I will never deny you” and then, almost in the same breath, “I don’t know who you’re talking about!” Yet, he is the “rock” upon which Christ builds His Church and his solid faith allows him to proclaim Jesus as Lord. The reading from Acts goes on to say, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart and asked to be baptized.” This phrase harkens back to all the references about “hardness of heart” and the fact that the word of God can soften even the hardest of hearts. The two disciples in the Emmaus encounter say to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within as He spoke to us and opened the Scriptures to our understanding?” (Luke 24:32ff)

 Can you see how the Church is bombarding us with overlapping scriptures that come at us from all sides in order to help us see the fullness of what it means to follow the Resurrected Jesus? And, if that’s not enough, I’ll add in a few comments about the Good Shepherd and the Sheep gate.

 It was while I was in Africa that I came to a deeper understanding of the “Sheep gate” theme. When it became evening, Shepherds would gather tumbleweed-like brambles and form a kind of corral for their sheep. They left just one opening that was just wide enough for the sheep to pass through and not wider than the shepherd’s own body. Then, the shepherd himself sat in the opening thus becoming “the sheep gate!” Several shepherds could all use the same “sheepfold” since the sheep knew their own shepherd’s voice and would only follow the right one. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know this. I, myself, didn’t really grasp it until recently.

Now, with all this in mind: go back and read the 2nd Scripture from 1st Peter again. The opening phrase is key: “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is grace before God. For to this you have been called…(1st Peter 2:20) then, this 2nd Scripture ends with the line, “For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. Amen!

May 6, 2017 – Saturday in the 3rd week of Easter

Saints for the day: Marian & James (died May 6, 259)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 9:31 – 42    –    Psalm 116    –    John 6:60-69

“How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?” (Psalm 116)

Here I am in the first part of the 21st Century reading about the Post Resurrection Church of 2000+ years ago! Yet, somehow, something of the faith of that early Church has been able to continue right up to this “now moment of salvation” for me sitting in the dark, quiet chapel in the early hours of the morning. I deliberately use the term, “now moment of salvation” because for God it is all the present and He would have sent his Only Begotten Son into the world If I was the only person that needed to be saved. The “how” and “why” God would have done that is not as important as the fact that He would!

I often like to think that rather than having been born into a nice, white, Catholic family in the US, I could have been born a poor, black child into a primitive tribe in the deepest, dark recesses of Africa and spent my life running around naked (wouldn’t that have been grand?) and worshiping some kind of “monkey god.” Why did God have me born the way He did? And what about those tribal people who have a hard time accepting a “white Jesus?”

I remember how amazed I was when I visited the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. There, in that beautiful, modern Basilica Mary is portrayed in the 15 porticos around that church in all the different styles of clothing and ethnic appearance. It was startling for me to look at Mary dressed as a Japanese women clothed in a Kimono with her hair all done up with flowery sticks. Yet this reminded me of the mystery of how God broke into our world to be the savior of all people. Not just my kind. But all people for all time.

Don’t ask me why or how God did (or does) this ‘cause I don’t know. So I fall back on the quote from Hebrews 11:1 “Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.”

And don’t ask me why I took this direction today. I just hope that it gives some better understanding of our faith to someone. “… to whom else can we go?”

May 5, 2017 – Friday in the 3rd Week of Easter

 

Saint for the day: Hilary of Arles (c. 401 – May 5, 449)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

Acts 9:1-20    –        Psalm 117    –    John 6:52-59

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and divinity, and wisdom and strength and honor, alleluia.” (Today’s Entrance Antiphon.)

In today’s liturgy we begin with the account of Saul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus up against the continuation of the “Bread of Life” discourse from John’s Gospel.

The reading from Acts is loaded with imagery and there is more than enough to keep us amazed. We can start with the image of “LIGHT” This is the image of “light” from Genesis: “In the beginning … God said, ‘Let there be LIGHT’ and so it was and God said, ‘it is good!” We even have well known idioms in English for “light” referring to our ability to understand: “I finally ‘saw the light.” Even in cartoons a light bulb is often drawn over the head of someone to indicate that they now understand. We need light in order to see.

When Saul is knocked to the ground by a blinding light and asks, “Who are you?” he is told, “I am Jesus (the light of the world) whom you are persecuting. Saul then experiences a kind of death – mirroring the death of Jesus – and is blinded for three days. Like the three days Jesus was locked in the dark of the tomb. Remember, too, that the women who came to the tomb of Jesus were confronted by a “blinding light” and a vision of angels.

What is not said in this narrative – and is so important for us in our journey – is the reminder that Satan, who’s other name is Lucifer – or bearer of light – tries to seduce us with his false light. The glamour of sin is always disguised as something good. That’s why Jesus commands us to “walk in the Light” as we struggle on our journey to the Kingdom.

If we put all of this up against the continuation of the “Bread of Life” narrative we can see that we are called to something beyond just our intellectual understanding. We are called to take the next step and go beyond just being able to say, “I see!” and to move into the “I AM” place where we can honestly say, “It is now no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me.” Jesus, as the Bread of Life is broken and shared with us who are fragmented, broken people we, then, are made one in Him. That’s why Eucharist is celebrated with the broken, fragmented people of God that we may be one. I hope the light bulb just went on in your head! Amen!