June 2, 2017 – Friday in the 7th Week of Easter. Also First Friday

Saints for the day: Marcellinus & Peter (d. 304)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy: 7th Week of Easter

Acts 25:13b-21    –    Psalm 103    –    John 21:15-18

“Simon Peter, do you love me? … feed my lambs;” Then again, “Simon, (or you can put your own name here) do you love me? … tend my sheep;” Then, as if we were deaf Jesus asks a third time, “Simon Peter do you love me? feed my sheep” (John 21:15ff)

 We heard this Gospel on the 3rd Sunday of Easter and – just in case it didn’t stick with us – we get another chance to hear it again just as we get ready to celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost.

After Peter responds with his triple “Yes” – which many say was to give him the chance to re-commit after his triple denial in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house – Jesus says, “Follow me!”

These words are also spoken to each one of us and warn us that we just follow Jesus in order to “hedge our bets” against damnation or taking the “prosperity gospel theme” of getting the hundred-fold return. Our response: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you – 3X” gets a triple condition: feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep.

 One way to interpret what we are to do might be: take care of the vulnerable, innocent ones; tend to all of God’s people; feed and nourish all people who struggle to hear the word of God.

Take a moment to let those words sink in: who are the “lambs” that you encounter in whatever area of the world where you live? How do you take care of all of God’s people? Do you feed them with the word of God, as it is real in your own life?

If this sounds like too big a challenge the Holy Spirit is just around the corner to re-create our zeal and re-new our hearts with the fire of his love. God always gives us second – and even third – chances to get back in His grace.

“Come Holy Spirit come!” Amen!

June 1, 2017 – Thursday in the 7th Week of Easter

Saint for the day:  Justin Martyr (c, 100 – 165)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 22:30, 23:6-11   –   Psalm 16   –   John 17:20-26

“I bless the Lord who counsels me; even in the night my heart exhorts me. I set the Lord ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. (Psalm 16:5)

In today’s Holy Gospel Jesus is still praying, “that they may be one, Father, as you and I.” These are words from John’s Gospel called the “Last Discourse” in the part that’s called the “Priestly Prayer of Jesus.”

Even though Jesus prayed this prayer he was still struggling with His own understanding of how that “oneness” would come about. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prays, “Father, if possible, take this cup of suffering from me … but thy will be done.”

 The Apostles and followers of Jesus could very easily have seen all of this and come to the conclusion, “It’s not working! Let’s go back to fishing!” Which, of course, is what they actually did until … Enter the Holy Spirit: the comforter; the re-creator; the fire of love. And those fearful and confused men were re-created anew.

All of us have to remember that we don’t just read and re-read these Holy Scriptures season after season and year after year – as a kind of memorial but more as an outline of how we are to be open to the possibility of being turned in to disciples.

At the beginning of today’s reflection I highlighted one part of today’s responsorial psalm: “… I set the Lord ever before me;” But it would be good for you to go back and re-read the entire psalm as it is given to us today. Personalize it in any way you can: “Lord, keep Daniel in your refuge; Daniel says you are my Lord; it is you who hold fast Daniel’s lot.”

If we don’t do this with all of the Holy Scriptures that we hear … they are just going in one ear and out the other!

“Keep Daniel safe, O God; you are Daniel’s hope.” Amen!

May 31, 2017 – Wednesday in the 7th Week of Easter

Today’s celebration: The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Zephaniah 3:14 – 18a – Isaiah 12:2-3, 4:bcd, 5-6 – Luke 1:39-56

“Like Mary, our call is to bear the ‘Arc of the Covenant’ – the Word made flesh – into the world.” (my own quote)

Today’s Feast of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth, Is filled with all kinds of wonder if we but take the time to look. In the first place we never use the word, “visitation” in our every-day language: “I think I’ll visitate my friend…” It is clearly a word that packs with it some other, exceptional meaning. We are invited to see Mary as the “Arc of the Covenant” making the journey to visit her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, who is about to give birth to John the Baptist. Joy comes to Mary as she reaches out to help her cousin and that joy is even experienced by the babes in their wombs: they leapt for joy!

We are told that at our own baptism and confirmation we become “temples of the Holy Spirit.” We, too, carry the “Word of God” out into the world. How often do we think of ourselves in this way? Probably not often enough! When God breaths into us His life we are a new creation and given the task to carry His word out into the ends of the earth. Try to think of any times when you sensed that you were in the presence of someone holy. That holiness was not something that you could hold on to – as if you could grasp the wind – but it was there. This is what this feast is all about: recognizing the presence of the Spirit of God.

In the Old Testament when the ‘Arc of the Covenant’ was brought into the presence of the people they “danced for joy” and, along with David their king, they were not embarrassed to show their deepest feelings of joy.

This Feast of Mary trys to show all of us that even in the simplest of ways we need to let the presence of God shine though our entire being. And, just like Mary, we have to realize that there will be times when some kind of “sword” will pierce our hearts. But remember what God spoke to Paul: “My grace is sufficient…” Amen!

May 30, 2017 – Tuesday in the 7th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Joan of Arc (? January 6, 1412 – May 30, 1431)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 20:17-27   –   Psalm 68   –   John 17:1 -11

“I have told you all this that your joy may be in me and your joy may be complete!”

 This section of John’s Gospel still has us at the Last Supper. We’re in what’s called, “The Last Discourse” with the “The Priestly Prayer of Jesus.”

What we have to remember while reading this section is that it was all written down almost a century after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It would be much like you putting together a story about your grandparents. You’d want to put things in some certain order so that the readers would come to know who they were and what they were all about. You’d be very careful to present your grandparents in a good light and highlight certain events and sayings that you thought important.

This is what the early Christian community did with the story of Jesus. Remember. Nobody was there with a tape recorder or cell phone camera recording these events. And the church was more interested in presenting a theological view of Jesus and His relationship with His Father than a day-by-day account of His activities. This is why you often find discrepancies in the Gospels around the actual events, sayings and miracles. That’s why John’s Gospel is more interested in getting across the “Trinitarian” relationship between Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

This is why we hear Jesus pounding away at the fact that He desires that we be one as He and the Father are one. It isn’t any secret that most of us are “fragmented” with our lives running is so many directions. We all need the grace to bring our lives into focus and see what is really important!

Years ago, in the late 60’s I volunteered at a “store-front rescue mission” in San Francisco’s Skid Row. Two dynamic, black Baptist ladies who taught me a lot about real faith and trust in God ran it. One of the other ladies, ‘sister’ Bernice Cunningham had a deep, but simple faith. One time, while I was serving up the hearty stew to about 80 or 90 “guests” some of the first who had gotten their meal were already coming back with their empty trays. One man had not finished his stew and, in flash movement, sister Cunningham grabbed the bowl, dumped it back into the serving pot with a quick, “Fifty years from now ain’t nobody gonna know the difference!”

That experience taught me an important lesson: we are so often worried about what will come about … somewhere down the road … when what we have to be focused on is this moment right now. How are we letting this “Priestly Prayer of Jesus” come into and touch our lives? Ty to focus on this “now moment of salvation” Fifty years from now ain’t nobody gonna know the difference!”

May 29, 2017 –Monday in the 7th Week of Easter – and also Memorial Day

Saint for the day: Madeleine Sophie Barat (12/12, 1779 – 5/25/1865)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 19:1-8    –    Psalm 68    –    John 16:29-33

“The Holy Spirit is the creative power of God’s love.”

With the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord we come to a significant crossroads in our Easter Celebrations. The joy that we’ve been experiencing in these past six weeks all of a sudden leaves us standing on the hill looking up into the sky … and hearing the admonition, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here gazing up into the sky?” And here we thought that Jesus’ triumph over death and the tomb would be our ticket to a life of bliss. Have we forgotten that Jesus said, “Unless I return to the Father the Holy Spirit – the intercessor, the comforter, the creative power of God’s love – will not come to you.” But we miss it sometimes because we’re still standing there looking up into the empty sky.

I’ve often sung in choirs here and there and I’ve sung Mendelssohn’s ELIJAH before. One of the sections tells of Elijah’s search for God in the cave at Mt. Horeb. There was a tempest, an earthquake and a fire. But God was not in these cosmic events. Finally there came a small, still breeze and Elijah stood there as God made himself present.

This kind of “presence” is what enables us to go on. It’s not always drums and fanfare. This “breath of the spirit” – just like the wind – cannot always be seen and we have to be still to sense it. But it’s this gentle spirit that gives us the energy that we need to go out – out of our fears and doubts and become new creatures reborn in the Spirit.

But, just like we hear in today’s scriptures, we are still able to fall short of God’s expectations for us. We’re all like Peter: “Lord! I’ll never leave you!” and we know what happened in the Garden. In a few days we’ll hear of Jesus’ appearance at the lake: “Peter. Do you love me? 3 times!

If we remember anything from the scriptures we should remember this: that all of us will fail and fall short of God’s expectations. Yet he always meets us with His arms outstretched welcoming us back into his love, mercy and forgiveness. Like a still, soft breeze He wipes clean our transgressions and fills us with His grace to keep going. “He is Righteous and Compassionate. Merciful and full of Love! (another of the songs from Mendelssohn’s ELIJAH.)

May 28, 2017 – Sunday in the 7th Week of Easter -The Ascension of the Lord

 Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 1:1-11    –    Psalm 47    –    Ephesians 1:17 – 23    –    Matthew 28:16-20

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matted 28:18)

 Did you think it odd that today’s Holy Gospel doesn’t actually come right out and say, “He Ascended into Heaven?” Rather, as I have often said, the verse quoted above is what our Christian Journey is all about: “GOING OUT!” from our locked and safe upper rooms. It’s almost as if Jesus is telling his disciples “I didn’t do all of this for you to just sit around thinking how lucky you were to be in my close, inner circle of friends. Mary, the mother of Jesus is our example of how we need to “Go Out.”  After her encounter with the power of God at her announciation she “… went in haste into the hill country…” The Holy Mother of God didn’t just sit around in her “prayer closet” thinking “aren’t I so lucky to be chosen to be the mother of God?”   Remember the Emmaus Disciples encounter with the Risen Lord who revealed himself to them in the “breaking of the bread?” But it wasn’t until they went out from there that they realized what it was all about: “Were not our hearts burning within as He explained things to us?” (Luke 24:32)

 So, today’s celebration is like a graduation ceremony rather than a reunion. We’re not sitting around remembering what it was like following Jesus but, rather, “Going OUT making disciples of all nations…”  Notice, too, that we’re not given even a hint of the Ascension in the Gospel. That was related in the Holy Scripture from Acts. The Gospel puts it in the context of evangelization: “Go! Baptize! Teach! And ends with the promise, “…behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” The key to this commissioning is found in the Scripture reading from Ephesians where almost every other line is like an outline of how we will be supported in this endeavor: “May God give you a spirit of wisdom…to bring you to full knowledge of Him. May he enlighten the eyes of your minds … so you can see the hope that is promised and what rich glory He gives.” You really need to go back and read this entire section – verses 17 to 23 and even circle it in your bible so that you can access it anytime you begin to doubt that you have been “commissioned” and “sent” and given all the grace that you need to draw people who might have lost hope and think that they’ve done everything they need to in order to be considered disciples. Sure, the sacramental nature of this commissioning is reserved to those who have been ordained but that doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook when it comes to drawing people into the light of God’s goodness. Every one of us by virtue of our baptism is commissioned to draw people into the light of Christ by our faithful following of Jesus, the Light of the World. Go ahead and hum a few bars of the familiar song, “This little light of mine: I’m gonna let it shine …” 3X “let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

So, go back and read this Ephesians scripture slowly so that each verse gives you the encouragement needed, especially the verse, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…” I don’t know how it could be said any clearer to us regarding what it means to follow Jesus. Amen!

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matted 28:18)

 Did you think it odd that today’s Holy Gospel doesn’t actually come right out and say, “He Ascended into Heaven?” Rather, as I have often said, the verse quoted above is what our Christian Journey is all about: “GOING OUT!” from our locked and safe upper rooms. It’s almost as if Jesus is telling his disciples “I didn’t do all of this for you to just sit around thinking how lucky you were to be in my close, inner circle of friends. Yesterday’s feast of the Visitation of Mary was a serendipitous connection to today’s celebration in that Mary “… went in haste into the hill country…” The Holy Mother of God didn’t just sit around in her “prayer closet” thinking “aren’t I so lucky to be chosen to be the mother of God?”   Remember the Emmaus Disciples encounter with the Risen Lord who revealed himself to them in the “breaking of the bread?” But it wasn’t until they went out from there that they realized what it was all about: “Were not our hearts burning within as He explained things to us?” (Luke 24:32)

 So, today’s celebration is like a graduation ceremony rather than a reunion. We’re not sitting around remembering what it was like following Jesus but, rather, “Going OUT making disciples of all nations…”  Notice, too, that we’re not given even a hint of the Ascension in the Gospel. That was related in the Holy Scripture from Acts. The Gospel puts it in the context of evangelization: “Go! Baptize! Teach! And ends with the promise, “…behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” The key to this commissioning is found in the Scripture reading from Ephesians where almost every other line is like an outline of how we will be supported in this endeavor: “May God give you a spirit of wisdom…to bring you to full knowledge of Him. May he enlighten the eyes of your minds … so you can see the hope that is promised and what rich glory He gives.” You really need to go back and read this entire section – verses 17 to 23 and even circle it in your bible so that you can access it anytime you begin to doubt that you have been “commissioned” and “sent” and given all the grace that you need to draw people who might have lost hope and think that they’ve done everything they need to in order to be considered disciples. Sure, the sacramental nature of this commissioning is reserved to those who have been ordained but that doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook when it comes to drawing people into the light of God’s goodness. Every one of us by virtue of our baptism is commissioned to draw people into the light of Christ by our faithful following of Jesus, the Light of the World. Go ahead and hum a few bars of the familiar song, “This little light of mine: I’m gonna let it shine …” 3X “let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

So, go back and read this Ephesians scripture slowly so that each verse gives you the encouragement needed, especially the verse, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…” I don’t know how it could be said any clearer to us regarding what it means to follow Jesus. Amen!

 

May 27, 2017 – Saturday in the 6th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Augustine of Canterbury (? – May 26, 605)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 18:23-28    –    Psalm 47    –    John 16:23b – 28

“Whatever you ask the Father in my name He will give you.”

This quote from the opening words of today’s Gospel has probably been the most miss-used and misunderstood words of all the things Jesus said. The proponents of the ‘prosperity gospel’ build there congregations on the thought that Jesus desires that you will live on “easy street,” drive a nice car and have no worries in this world.

When Jesus tells his disciples to ask the Father in my name He is saying this in the light of the quote “…this is the sacrifice that I desire: that you untie the yoke that burdens the poor. That you free captives and give sight to the blind.” The words of Jesus in the Agony in the Garden – “not my will but thine” pull us back to the beginning of our salvation history where we hear the words of Mary, “be it done unto me according to your word.” And that word“that your joy may be complete.”

Yesterday’s Gospel gave us the image of a mother giving birth which includes some obvious pain but also joy that a child has come into the world. How is it that so many give up on God because they didn’t get what they wanted? When we ask “in Jesus name” we have to understand that we will only get what we want when we pick up our cross and follow Him! Mary said, “yes” and a sword pierced her heart. She was humble and the Lord exulted her. We remember her words at the Cana wedding, “do whatever He tells you” and the abundance was given – mostly because they didn’t ask for themselves but that the wedding couple would not be ashamed.

We should take this example to heart. When we think of the needs of others and ask God to do some miracle for them we often find a blessing in our own life in ways that we didn’t at first realize. When we have concern for the other and lift the burden from their shoulders our joy will be complete.” Amen!

May 26, 2017 – Friday in the 6th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Philip Neri (July 21, 1515 – May 26, 1595)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy: Acts 18:9-18   –   Psalm 47   –   John 16:20-23

“Were not our hearts burning within us as He explained the Scriptures to us?”

These words of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus sum up all that we’ve been hearing in these six weeks of Eastertide. Yet the Gospels don’t bother to recount what the disciples learned in this encounter. Rather, they take us back to the Gospel of John and all the words Jesus spoke about relating to His impending death, resurrection, ascension and glory in Heaven.

From there ‘The Church’ has added symbolism to help us understand better what the life of Jesus is all about.

There are some scripture scholars who believe that the resurrection, ascension and decent of the Holy Spirit all occurred as one event: one, two, three done! ‘The Church’ has added in the “time frame” in order to help us grasp events that are totally outside of our natural understanding.

Today’s Gospel uses the analogy of a women giving birth to show that all the suffering that we might go through in this life will be turned to joy when we can see the reality of Heaven. That’s an image that women can easily identify with but one that leaves the rest of us on the “male side” at a loss for a clear appreciation of the “joy of birth into a new world.

Comedian, Bill Cosby – talking on the subject of “birth” and our male inability to fully grasp the image – told men to grab on to their upper lip and stitch it up and over the top of their heads in order to experience the real pain of childbirth!

All of the scriptures – from Genesis to Revelation – are about “birth into something new, different and totally beyond our natural understanding and comprehension.

At the risk of being boring and repetitive let me give you my own analogy about the “after life.” Developing life in the womb is to life in the world as life in the world is to life in Heaven.

If it were possible to go into the womb and tell a developing baby: “wait till you get out of here! You’ll be free of this ‘tomb-like existence’ and able to go and do whatever you want!” That little baby would respond: “Why should I leave here? I’ve got everything I need. I’m fed; watered and kept clean; taken everywhere I need to go; don’t have to do anything; life here is bliss!” That’s how different life will be when we break through this world’s limited existence into the Joy of Heaven. Amen!

May 25, 2017 – Thursday in the 6th Week of Easter

May 25, 2017 – In some places today’s Liturgy will be ASCENSION THURSDAY. In other locations the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord will be transferred to Sunday, May 28th. The scripture readings are different for the two liturgies and are the following

The Scripture readings for the Mass of Thursday in the 6th Week of Easter are:are as follows: Acts of the Apostles 18:1-8 – Psalm 98 – John16-16-20

The Scripture readings for the Mass of Ascension Thursday are:Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11 – PS 47 – Ephesians 1 17-23 – Matthew 28:16-20

“Father I pray that they may be one as you and I are one.”

 This saying of Jesus is one that we have heard many times in our Easter time Journey. But today there is some division. There are places where the more ancient calendar is used which celebrates this “40th day after the Resurrection as Ascension Thursday – a Holy Day of Obligation. For those of us growing up in those days – and who attended Catholic schools – it was also one more holiday that the public schools didn’t get! Still, living in a secular society, it was obvious that for many people who still had to work it was not a “Christian Holiday” but a day of additional burden.

That was the reasoning behind moving this Feast to a Sunday when more people could celebrate this important Feast. What does it all mean? It should point out to us that much of the symbolism, which is, attached to various feasts and celebrations are moves made by the Church to help us in our Christian Journey. By tying the 40 days of Lent to these 40 days of Easter we might see the connection of that use of “40” – whether it is days (as in the Flood) or years (as in the wandering in the desert – and Jesus’ own temptation) or the more common understanding of the length of ones’ life.

When this day is celebrated as “Ascension Thursday” you only have to add ten more days to get to “Pentecost Sunday” – a word that has its roots in the Greek word for “50” – which in itself was a significant celebration of the Old Testament Community. Amen!

May 25, 2017 – Ascension Thursday or Thursday 6thWeek

May 25, 2017 – In some places today’s Liturgy will be ASCENSION THURSDAY. In other locations the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord will be transferred to Sunday, May 28th. The scripture readings are different for the two liturgies and are the following

The Scripture readings for the Mass of Thursday in the 6th Week of Easter are:

are as follows: Acts of the Apostles 18:1-8 – Psalm 98 – John16-16-20

The Scripture readings for the Mass of Ascension Thursday are:

Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11 – PS 47 – Ephesians 1 17-23 – Matthew 28:16-20

“Father I pray that they may be one as you and I are one.”

 This saying of Jesus is one that we have heard many times in our Easter time Journey. But today there is some division. There are places where the more ancient calendar is used which celebrates this “40th day after the Resurrection as Ascension Thursday – a Holy Day of Obligation. For those of us growing up in those days – and who attended Catholic schools – it was also one more holiday that the public schools didn’t get! Still, living in a secular society, it was obvious that for many people who still had to work it was not a “Christian Holiday” but a day of additional burden.

That was the reasoning behind moving this Feast to a Sunday when more people could celebrate this important Feast. What does it all mean? It should point out to us that much of the symbolism, which is, attached to various feasts and celebrations are moves made by the Church to help us in our Christian Journey. By tying the 40 days of Lent to these 40 days of Easter we might see the connection of that use of “40” – whether it is days (as in the Flood) or years (as in the wandering in the desert – and Jesus’ own temptation) or the more common understanding of the length of ones’ life.

When this day is celebrated as “Ascension Thursday” you only have to add ten more days to get to “Pentecost Sunday” – a word that has its roots in the Greek word for “50” – which in itself was a significant celebration of the Old Testament Community. Amen!