May 4, 2017 – Thursday in the 3rd Week of Easter

 

Saint for the day: Blessed Michael Giedroyc (c. 1425 – May 4, 1485)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 8:26-40    –    Psalm 66    –    John 6:44-51

“I am the resurrection and the life. All who believe in me will never die.”

 We hear these or similar words over and over in this Easter Time and yet we experience the deaths of loved ones who tried to live a life of following Jesus. And so, we have to ask ourselves, “what does this scripture verse really mean?”

As I approach my 76th birthday I am more and more aware of people around me – contemporaries – who have died. Even though I am aware of the words of the Psalmist, “…what is the length of our days? Seventy years. Or eighty for those who are strong.”(Psalm 90) Ye God’s! Am I already living on borrowed time?

And the answer is probably, “Yes!”

In one sense, we are all “living on borrowed time” as we journey through life – on the way – to the Kingdom. None of us has any say as to when we are born And none of us has much say about when we die. But what we do have is an ability to struggle to meet Jesus who draws us to Himself. Those familiar words, “Come to me all you who are burdened and find life difficult…” St. Paul says, “it is when I am weak that I realize how strong I am. God isn’t standing at the gates of Heaven waiting for “the winners” but for those who struggled to believe that God loves them in a special and unique way. Remember the words of Bl. Mother Theresa, “God doesn’t call us to be successful but to be faithful.”

I just heard of the death of a young man that I knew who struggled in life as an alcoholic and probably struggled with his own faith. Yet he still believed that Jesus died – not for the righteous, only, but for those who needed Him the most. If we can’t believe that Jesus came to call sinners – knowing what we know about ourselves – then there’s no hope for any of us.

As we continue our journey through this Easter Time let us not forget that Jesus draws us to Himself in order to forgive us and bring us into the Kingdom. Amen!

 

May 3, 2017 – Wednesday in the 3rd Week of Easter

Saints for the day: Philip and James (? – ?)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Corinthians 15:1-8    –    Psalm 19    –    John 14:6-14

“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (today’s Gospel)

The response that Jesus gives is one that we’ve been hearing many times in these weeks after Easter: “If you’ve seen me you have seen the Father. The Father and I are one.”

My first response to this would be to ask the question: “What would be enough for me?!

The Apostles – the inner core of Jesus’ foundation of the new Church and those who walked with Him during those three years of His public ministry still wanted more. Even though they had seen him perform many miracles they seemed to be wise enough to know that just looking at Jesus as a miracle worker wasn’t all there was to being a follower and disciple of Jesus.

This response of Jesus, “If you’ve seen me..” seems to be key to our present-day following of Jesus. This is perhaps why the Church was cautious when the Charismatic movement first got started back in the late 60’s. There’s always the tendency to go for the spectacular and become a “miracle follower” rather than a “follower of Jesus.”

We see this same thing happening when news of some “miracle” – the face of Jesus appearing on a tortilla or a host or statue that appears to bleed. That’s when Jesus’ words, “If you have seen me…” are so important to us. That’s why we have to ask ourselves, “How have I seen Jesus?” And what am I looking for when I come before Him?

When Jesus appeared to various followers after His resurrection He repeatedly told them, “Don’t cling to me … but go out and proclaim…”

So, once again, we are reminded to be “apostles” – one’s who are sent and – like the apostles on the road to Emmaus – we will see Him in the breaking of the bread (our daily litugies) and it’s in this context that He opens our minds to grasp that “He and the Father are one.” No spectacular fire works. Just the simple reality of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. “Just say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

That’s enough for me! Amen!

May 2, 2017 – Tuesday in the 3rd Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Athanasius (c. 296 – May 2, 373)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 7:51 – 8:1    –    Psalm 31        –     John 6:30-35

“Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit” and “Only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

All of us living in this era of the 21st century are not much different from the people living after the resurrection – or from the people of the Exodus. We want to be sure that we are “getting what we paid for.” We want to know that we are on the right path & we want our leader to “prove” His worth. Even as a little kid I remember asking, “How do we know that the Catholic faith is the “right” one?” And even way back then I wouldn’t just accept the answer, “because the church says so!” It’s like the church saying, “Everything that we need to know about God and his ways has already been revealed. How preposterous to say that God can’t reveal something new or something that we can now see with the eyes of faith. All creation is in the process of moving towards Heaven and we have to be careful that we don’t tie God’s hands behind His back. God writes straight with crooked lines.” The church condemned Galileo for thinking differently about the universe. But we now know that he was right! How many other “absolutes” might we still have to reconsider? We used to say, “outside the Church there is no salvation” but we have since given that statement a new understanding. I believe in Jesus Christ – crucified, died, buried and resurrected. But I would never try to lock God into my very limited concepts which might block me from some future experience of a God who is – and always has been – present to His people on an ongoing journey into the Kingdom. Our own St. Catherine of Siena: is well known by her statement, “It’s Heaven all the way to Heaven.” We just need to adjust our way of thinking about God and allow Him to reveal His presence to us in a way that keeps us on the “road to paradise.” Amen!

May 1, 2017 – Monday in the 3rd Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Joseph the Worker

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 6:8-15    –    Psalm 119    –    John 6:22-29

“Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

 In these coming days we will continue to hear from the Gospel of John this section called “Bread of Life discourse.” And we will be reminded – as the hymn says, “Look beyond the bread you eat. See your savior and your God.”

Jesus is trying to get his followers to seek more than just a bread that feeds for today but does nothing for tomorrow. If we always come to Jesus looking for our needs to be met we are calling ourselves his beggars not his brothers and sisters – God’s beggars not God’s children. We’ll say more about this later.

Today and tomorrow our readings from the Acts of the Apostles gives us the account of the martyrdom of Stephen and we’d have to be blind not to see how this event connects up with what the disciples experienced when they were brought before the Sanhedrin, and how both events mirror the interrogation of Jesus on the same issues. Jesus is condemned to death; the disciples are flogged and sent away with a warning not to preach about Jesus; Stephen – looking up to heaven appears to have the face of an angel – is stoned to death and echoes Jesus words on the Cross: “into your hands, Oh Lord, I commend my spirit.” And the ultimate plea: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

I have to admit that I’m not sure how I would respond if “pushed to the wall” and challenged to attest my faith in Jesus and I have to ask myself, “what does it take to be a saint. If people looked intently at me, would they see my face as that of an angel? Or, as G.K. Chesterton says, “If you were arrested today for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Jesus gives us his Bread of Life and our participation in Eucharistic Celebrations should be having some life changing effects in our lives. “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Amen!

April 30, 2017 – Third Sunday of Easter

Saint for the day: Pius V (January 17, 1504 – May 1, 1572)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 2:14, 22-33   –   Psalm 16   –   1 Peter 1:17-21   –   Luke 24:13-35

“Then they said to one another, ‘Where not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:33) 

We get a second shot at this Gospel which tells us that it is important for us to know the various ways in which Jesus made Himself visible to His disciples after the Resurrection. We heard it first on Easter Wednesday and it is being repeated on this 3rd Sunday of Easter so we better take note. The first thing that we might do is ask ourselves: why has the Church repeated this Holy Gospel so soon? What is important for us to note about this event?

In the first place we should be able to see that Jesus wasn’t into “shock tactics” when it came to revealing His Resurrected person to His disciples and followers. Mary Magdalene didn’t recognize him – she thought he was the gardener – until He called her by name. Thomas was more of a “hands-on-man” and wouldn’t believe until he put his finger and hands into the wounds of Jesus. Then, in this passage from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus remains hidden and even gives the disciples the idea that He is leaving them and going on. This is yet another indication that Jesus is not forcing Himself on them but wants them to reach out to Him which they do, “Stay with us … for the day is spent…” (Luke 24:29) Then, as they sat at table, they come to realize who He is by the simple gesture of “breaking bread” and the breaking open of the Holy Scriptures as they relate to His life, death and resurrection. With that “there eyes were opened and they said to one another, ‘Where not our hearts burning within us as he spoke to us on the way?”

That phrase about burning hearts is very important for us to understand. A “burning heart” is a heart that is alive and ready for the race. A “burning heart” is not the time for quiet meditation. Not that quiet meditation isn’t necessary in our spiritual life. But any encounter with the person of Jesus – if it’s authentic – will energize us with a heart that is ready for action. Remember my telling you about that priest who ended the Mass with a variation of the regular phrase and said, “May the Peace of Christ profoundly disturb you!” Not in a negative way, but, rather, in a way that takes you out of your regular “hoe-hum” routines and sets you on fire for the Lord.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm keeps this theme alive: “even in the night my heart exhorts me … therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence.” (Psalm 16:7-9)

 Whenever we encounter the Lord in a real way something in our lives has to change and the ”Lord will show us the path of life” (Psalm 16:11) As we make our way to the Celebration of Pentecost it might be good for us to begin saying that traditional prayer to the Holy Spirit: “Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts if the faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love… and we shall renew the face of the earth! ” This is what Easter is all about: hearts fired with love and the renewal power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

April 29, 2017 – Saturday in the 2nd Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380)

Scripture Readings for today’s Feast

Acts 6:1-7    –    Psalm 33    –    John 6:16-21

On the feast of St. Catherine of Siena – one of our “Dominican Greats” – be sure to “click” on the “Saint for the day” above to read the brief story of this “Doctor of the Church” and incredibly wise women who was such a great person of her time. Most Dominican locations will celebrate with special scriptures since she was such a powerhouse for the Church of her time. Here’s what I’ve written about her life in previous Scratchpad Reflections. This one – on her feastday – from 2009.

Quote: “If you are what you are meant to be you will set the world on fire!”

The variation to this quote above is my oft stated quote from Ram Das, “Be Here Now!” Our journey to Heaven (“It’s Heaven all the way to Heaven.”) is a process of integration. Bringing our human and natural ‘selves’ into balance with our true spiritual side. Baring all the outlandish stories that build up around the saints, we should look at what is at the core: the saints somehow manage to bridge the gap between this world & the world to come by integrating and focusing on Heaven. That’s why they can do miracles and be in two places at the same time and why their bodies are often found incorrupt. St. Catherine of Siena – with scant formal education – was able to influence political & Church leaders in grave matters. Her wisdom could only have come from God. What’s the difference, between any of us and saints like her? It begins with her being where she’s supposed to be. She knew who she was. She didn’t try to be anything else and consequently was able to be everything. Bottom line: “Love God … (be here now) and do what you will.” Amen!

April 29, 2017 – Saturday in the 2nd Week of Easter

April 29, 2017 – Saturday in the 2nd Week of Easter

A “special message to all my faithful readers to Scratchpad Reflections!”

The Dominican Community of St. Dominic’s Priory have been on their annual Easter Break all this past week at a retreat near the Russian River. In the excitement of getting away I inadvertently left my computer at home and I was unable to post my reflections for all this past week. Since I don’t have all the needed “pass words” and “log-in procedures” memorized I was unable to even borrow a computer from one of the other friars. Sorry about that and I’ll pick up with the reflection for tomorrow, the “Third Sunday of Easter. Thanks for being patient with my forgetfulness.   Brother Daniel Thomas, O.P.

April 24, 2017 – Monday in the Second Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577 – April 24, 1622)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 4”23-31    –    Psalm 2    –    John 3:1-8

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (today’s “Alleluia Verse before the Gospel.”)

In the Easter Season we are reminded that it is necessary to be “reborn” and born of water and the spirit. When the disciples prayed in the upper room the whole building shook as the spirit came upon them.   There are two images – water & wind – both powerful elements with a wide range of results. Water – refreshes, cleans & sustains all life. But it also floods, drowns and destroys. The wind of the Spirit can gently move pollen and seeds to fertile ground where life is continued. But wind unchecked can blow down entire houses and leave nothing in it’s path. All things in moderation should be our goal. Washed clean but not drowned. Moved gently forward but not blown off. We’ve been having early spring rains these days which means I don’t get out for early morning walks as I often try to do. I’ll probably not get a bike ride today, but that can wait till another day.

So, I’ll stay here and begin again. That’s what Easter gives us: a chance to begin again. We go through Lent & Easter over and over, year after year with the same themes. Does anything change in our lives? Or is it the “same old same old?”

We need to ask the question, “What difference has Easter 2017 brought about in my life? How has this Easter affected my ministry here at St. Dominic’s. Sometimes I get discouraged and wonder if I’m doing anything positive. Today’s “Saint” Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a Franciscan who found a way to more perfectly follow Jesus. It brought me back to my own first beginnings when I was often “Porter” e.g. door keeper, at our House of Studies & was able to greet each visitor as if it were Jesus. Even though we had an electric button that would open the door, I always felt that whoever was coming to the priory wasn’t coming to be greeted by a loud buzzer, so I would get up and go and open the door. As I walked the few steps to the door I would actually try to visualize that it might be Jesus, or somebody making their last attempt to get their life in order and I couldn’t take the chance to give them one more example of a church-person who was rude or angry. I always thought that I needed to make my presence alone be a ministry of worth just to let people see me comfortable in the presence of God within. Even in spite of my personal short-comings, I can still affect some good. I might not have all the necessary degrees that others have but I still can look for the Christ in each person I meet. Well… these are my scattered thought on a cold and windy day in the 2nd week of Easter. God Bless whoever reads this! Amen!

April 23, 2017 – Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday

April 23, 2017 – Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 2:42-47    –    Psalm 118    –    1 Peter 1:3-9    –    John 20:19-31

“Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.”

 As a young altar boy I can remember the Triditine Mass which began with a “Confiteor” and then went immediately to the “Kyrie.” Three Kyrie’s; three Christe’s; three Kyrie’s said alternately between the priest and the server. You had to be very careful not get confused with the number of “Kyrie’s” and “Christe’s.”

That’s how the Mass always began. Asking for the mercy of  God and Christ.

When the late Pope John Paul II instituted this feast of “Divine Mercy” I must admit that I was a little chagrinned that my favorite “Doubting Thomas Gospel” might be supplanted by the piety of this Polish Nun. Now, however, I can see how the Resurrection of Jesus and God’s infinite divine mercy are connected so powerfully on this Second Sunday of Easter.

When I was gowning up I must say that I thought of God’s mercy as a “breast-beating” – “woe-is-me” kind of way to begin the Mass. It was as if God took pleasure in seeing me writhe in self-pity. But now I can see God’s Mercy in a totally different frame: God has mercy on us even if we don’t ask for it and it parallels our praying of the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Or, “give us mercy as we show mercy to others.” We often forget that and fall back into gloating over the fact that God has shown us His Diving Mercy in order that we will be able to show mercy to those around us.

So, on this Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday – we can still hear the Gospel of Jesus appearance and Thomas’ famous saying, “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.” Or, “Lord you have shown me your mercy. Help me to be merciful to those around me.” Amen!

April 22, 2017 – Saturday in the Octave of Easter

Saint for the day: Adalbert of Prague (956 – Aprl 23, 997)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 4:13-21    –    Psalm 118    –    Mark 16:9-15

“Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature”(Mark 16:15)

These words at the end of today’s Gospel are the “marching orders” for the early church and are based on the conviction of those who have encountered the Risen Lord. “What we have witnessed and seen with our own eyes we now proclaim to you.”

With those words firmly rooted in their lives they “go out” to all the world and proclaim “Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.” They didn’t spend years in seminary study and were simple people who were uneducated and probably couldn’t even read or write. But they had faith! This kind of faith takes us beyond all our ready-at-hand categories and we often speak of it as something that we “have.” We would be better to speak of it as something that we “do” or something that we “are” by God’s gift. Be that as it may. It was enough to get the early Church going.

I am reminded of the saying, “If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Again, it’s not that Christianity has been tried and failed. It’s more likely that it hasn’t been tried with conviction. The early followers of Jesus were convinced of His resurrection so much so that they told the powers that be, “how can you tell us not to speak of these wonders that we have seen with our own eyes?”

We have 2,000 years of tradition behind our belief and yet some of us have still not translated that into a living faith. I don’t have all the answers to many questions but I still believe that God raised Jesus from the dead that – way, this far down the road of history – I, Brother Daniel Thomas, a Dominican Brother in the 21st century can encounter this Risen Lord even if I have to say, with my name-sake, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!” It doesn’t take much of a spark of faith to cause a great fire to get going in our lives. But we have to accept it not just once. But every day of our lives.

That’s why we go through this “Easter thing” for seventy days! Amen!