May 23, 2017 – Tuesday in the 6th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Gregory VII (c. 1025 – May 25, 1085)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 16:22-34   –   Psalm 138   –   John 16:5-11

“Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of you faithful and re-create in them the Fire of our Love.”

In these waning days of Eastertide the Gospels that we are hearing are preparing the early Church to be open to the Spirit of God. The Comforter. The Consoler. The Creator and Re-creator of all that is. All the joys that the disciples and followers of Jesus experienced in being with the Risen Christ are coming to a turning point. “I am going to the Father that the Holy Spirit might come to you and inflame your hearts with the fire of God’s Love.”

In the early days of those who experienced the Risen Jesus He admonished them, “Do not cling to me!” He said this, not to be ‘stand-offish’ but to prepare them for His departure and the coming of the Holy Spirit who will re-create their lives and empower them to continue spreading the faith to the ends of the world.

When the Angel came to Mary and told her that she was to become the Mother of God she said, “How can this happen to me …” and the Angel said, “The Power of the Most High will overshadow you and bring about a new creation that you never thought possible.

I’ve often said that God is smarter than you and me and He certainly could have made it that the Glorified Jesus would remain forever in our presence. But then, that would have been like an over-burdening teacher or parent – always standing behind us prodding us along. We would never be able to be open to the re-creative power of the Holy Spirit. God didn’t create us to be robots but to be his disciples who go out spreading His Love to all we meet. Remember, “It is I who loved you first” – You did not choose me. I chose you to go OUT and bear fruit. Fruit that will last.” Amen!

May 22, 2017 – Monday in the 6th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-rita-of-cascia/

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 16:11-15   –   Psalm 149   –   John 15:26 – 16.4

“Christ, having risen from the dead, dies now no more; death will no longer have dominion over him, Alleluia.” (today’s Entrance Antiphon. Romans 6:9)

John’s Gospel delights in the themes of light vs. darkness; Spirit filled vs. aimless rambling; Heavenly vs. Worldly. Yet I venture to say that our lives are never totally one or the other but various combinations of a little of this and a little of that – at least in this time of our journey to the Kingdom. “What we are to become has not yet been revealed …” So we end up yearning for the Lord while at the same time sunk in the depths of worldly matters. After all, if everybody just went out to the desert cliff to sit and wait for the Second Coming who would provide for them? So, how do we seek the Spirit while at the same time remaining practical?   In my life as a Dominican Friar I have traveled to various parts of our world which also included my 8 years in Africa! None of that came about while I just sat around praying! I had to take care of the practical side of all kinds travel needs. This is what I call practical spirituality which is a combination a good sense about worldly matters while still keeping the channels to God alive and vibrant through daily prayer and contemplation.

Therefore, in some sense we can’t just take John’s admonition as either or but as both and. Even as we pray, “My soul is longing for you, Oh, Lord. When will you come and meet me face to face?” God’s response will most likely be like what we’ve been hearing in all these days of Easter. Where and when did the disciples meet the resurrected Lord? The answer – often found in John’s Gospel: out on the road, especially when they were doing something to help someone else who was in some kind of need. And the only way we’ll have the gumption to do that is when it comes our of our personal pray life which keeps us in touch with the God we love and serve. Amen

May 21, 2017 – 6th Sunday of Easter

Saint for the day:Cristobal Magallanes & Companions (died between 1915 – 1937)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17   –   Psalm 66   –   1 Peter 3:15-18 – John 14:15-21

“Beloved: always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1st Peter 3:16)

 The quote above, from the second scripture for today’s liturgy, seems to be the reason that the disciples’ preaching was successful. It resonates a common saying, “You can draw more flies with honey rather than vinegar!” It would be much better if people were drawn to us because we looked peaceful and happy rather than to bombard them with dogma and doctrine right off the bat. I have often had the experience of casually talking with someone when I’ve been out and about where the conversation eventually turns to him or her asking me what I do. When I tell the I’m a Catholic Brother a few have then said, “Gosh! If I had met someone like year back when I was in college I’d probably still be a Catholic! Of course I then flash back with, “You’ve just met one! Now what are you gonna do?!” I’m not going to say that the person had a dramatic conversion right on the spot but it was an opening for further discussion that might not have happened if I was preaching while standing on a soapbox.

Go back and read today’s 2nd Scripture from 1st Peter again, which begins with the verse, Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. Then it goes on to say, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.” (1st Peter 3:16)  There was a quote from St. Augustine that we heard in our morning prayer some time back that seems to fit with today liturgy. It read, “God wants to fill us with pure, sweet honey but if we are filled with sour wine, where can the sweet honey go? This is what Paul means when he says, “Now it is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me. St. Thomas Aquinas says, “You can not give what you don’t have” which fits in so nicely with the way today’s Holy Gospel ends: “… whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

 God is a gentle spirit and not self-imposing. He doesn’t always knock us to the ground with a blinding light so it’s up to us to seek out and find His presence. That is most always accomplished by a life that has some kind of ongoing prayer or conversation with God and that is fortified by frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist. The Church will soon celebrate the great feast of Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit. Let all of us begin right now praying for that Holy Spirit to renew and with the fire of His lov e. Forever and ever. Amen!

May 20, 2017 – Saturday in the 5th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Bernardine of Siena (September 8, 1380 -May 20,1444)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:   Acts 16:1-10 – Psalm 100 – John 15:18-21

“And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.” The ending words of today’s Holy Gospel according to St. John.

Our Scripture readings in these days after Easter continue to present the story of the growth of the early Church as related in the Book of Acts while, at the same time, taking us back to the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Holy Gospel according to St. John. It’s a kind of parallel trip that presents us with a picture of the already wide spread evangelization that was taking the disciples far from Jerusalem into gentile territory. Then, in order to keep it all balanced our Gospels keep going back to the words and teachings of Jesus who commanded them to go out into all the world. These words of Jesus in today’s Holy Gospel are not quite a “pep talk” as He tells them, “Remember the word I spoke to you … if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20) Not the kind of encouragement that we’d like to hear.

So what was it that gave the disciples the ability to go forward into unknown territory with such enthusiasm? It had to begin with their deep trust in knowing who Jesus was. Somewhere along the way they were able to hear and understand that Jesus and the Father were one part of the grandeur of God and that the Holy Spirit was the creative power that gave them the strength and ability to be a part of the re-creation of the World. If they didn’t have a solid understanding of this unity of God they would certainly not have been able to go out with such boldness. Jesus makes it very clear to the disciples that it’s not just Jesus out there on His but that He is intimately one with the Father with the Holy Spirit as the driving force that makes it all work. Jesus on His own is a nice guy and there were many with that name. What was different about Him is that He knew who he was; where He came from; and where He was going. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sent by the Father to be the redeemer and powered by the Holy Spirit. That’s why we remind ourselves of this every time we make the sign of the Cross: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  This is our “pledge of allegiance” – a kind of mini-creed – to keep us focused on God the Father who loved our world so much that he sent his only begotten son to bring us back to the wonder of his love. The Son – like us in all things but sin – who gave us just one task: “Love one another as I have loved you. And the Holy Spirit – the creative force of God – that powers all we can do as we make our way into the Kingdom.

A lot for us to ponder and an invitation to spend some time thinking about how we relate to and understand the mystery of God. This is what the disciples were able to grasp and what gave them the ability to go out and proclaim the truth to the ends of the earth. It’s key and we all have to struggle to get to that kind of understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Amen!

May 19, 2017 – Friday, in the 5th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Theophilus of Corte (October 30, 1676 – June 17, 1740)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 15:22-31    –    Psalm 57    –    John 15:12-17

“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…”

 The above quote from today’s Gospel reminds us that we are not on this “journey of faith” on our own. We have been “chosen” and given a new perspective of “what it’s all about.” Jesus knew the human nature of his disciples and the tendency that all of us have to forget where we have come from. Once we see ourselves as being in the ‘inner circle’ we often slip back into a “Pharisee-like” stance: “I’m IN! You’re OUT!” and we become the judges separating rather than uniting.

One of the commentaries that I look at each day began with an interesting story that I will pass on to you:  A wicked man, about to die, meets an angel at the gates to hell.  The angel says to him: “It is enough for you to have done one good thing in your life, and that will help you.  Think hard.” The man remembers that one time, as he was walking through a forest, he saw a spider in his path and detoured so as not to step on it.     The angel smiles and a spider web comes down from the sky, allowing the man to ascend to Paradise.  Others among the condemned take advantage of the web, and begin to make the climb.  But the man turns on them and begins to push them off.  At that moment, the web breaks, and the man is once again returned to hell.      “What a pity,” he hears the angel say.  “Your concern with yourself turned the only good thing you ever did into evil.” Think about that!

May 18, 2017 – Thursday in the 5th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: John 1 (c. 470 – May 18, 526)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 15:7-21    –    Psalm 96    –    John 15:9-11

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”

This quote of Jesus from today’s very brief Gospel follows the theme that we’ve been hearing in the last several days. It’s important that we “remain in His love” for that is how we gradually become one with Him as “He is one with the Father.”

We can only become “one” with someone or something when we do that with love. This is not difficult. Just take a moment to think of a time or situation where you felt that true love was present: it usually takes you into another dimension where time flies. My friend, Fr. Richard Rohr, says, “Where your thoughts go in your idle moments – there is your treasure!” Scary, isn’t it?

But if we begin to strive towards that “oneness” that we hear Jesus speaking about we can begin to sense that joy and seek to have it more completely.

The sad side of this, though, is the fact that we spend more time dividing and separating – like the Pharisees in the Gospels or the disciples in today’s reading from Acts. We do this because we are more comfortable putting things that don’t fit into our concepts of God or Religion into little boxes which separate, rather than join. This action thwarts that statement of Jesus, “that they might be one…” We should know that it takes more energy to hate rather than love. All of us need to move away from that “Pharisee-like” attitude and realize: if God can love me with all my faults and imperfections … might He also love …here I leave you to fill in the blanks. Amen!

May 17, 2017 – Wednesday in the 5th Week of Easter

 

Saint for the day:Paschal Baylon (May 24, 1540 – May 15, 1502)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

Acts 15:1-6    –    Psalm 122    –    John 15:1-8

“I Am the vine, you are the branches remain in me and be fruitful” Part II

The Church, in her wisdom, gives us a reprise of the Gospel that we just heard on last Sunday. That must mean that it’s an important Gospel that we must need to take seriously. Still, I’m not sure that many of us have first-hand awareness of grape vines any more that we have of sheep and shepherds! So we need to look a little more closely to get the full meaning of what Jesus is trying to tell us.

In the first place it’s hard to tell where the vine and the branches are different. It seems like it’s all branches and all vine. Maybe that’s where we need to see the first lesson of the Gospel story: just as Jesus says, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father. The Father and I are ONE!” All of us need to strive to get that oneness that can only be found in Jesus. In our fast-paced world we are pulled in many directions and even use the term, “I’m so strung out!” Yet, even as the vine continues growing it lives and is fruitful as long as it stays connected to the branch – or the branch to the vine. If you look closely at a grape vine it is hard to see where there is any discernable difference between the vine and the branches. That’s what our Christian life is supposed to be: so connected to Jesus and God that, with St. Paul, we can say, “It is no longer I that lives but Christ in me.”

We all need to be reminded of this call: to live in Christ. My favorite Psalm – 27 (which I used on my Vow card in 1961 – “One thing I ask of the Lord, and this I seek, to live in the House of the Lord all the days of my life.”

To be connected to God – not just when we’re in church or just when we pray – but all the days of my life. That’s how we can be fruitful

I have a vine on my second floor balcony outside my room that is rooted in a pot way downstairs and is just as green and healthy all the way up to the very last leaf because it stays rooted in its source.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us a second chance to sink in to our rootedness in You! Amen!

May 16, 2017 – Tuesday in the 5th Week of Easter

 

Saint for the day:Margaret of Cortona (1247 – February 22, 1297

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 14:19-28    –   Psalm 145    –    John 14:27:31

“Peace I give to you. My peace I leave with you…”

These words of Jesus at the beginning of today’s Gospel continue, “… not as the world gives peace … let not your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

These are comforting words but we can’t forget the first reading for today’s liturgy where we hear of the struggles the early church had in spreading this “gospel of peace.” Paul gets stoned and left for dead. Where’s that “peace” that Jesus is talking about? I think the answer might be in the second part of that quote above: “not as the world gives…”

We don’t have to look very far in any direction of our world today to see that “what the world needs now is real, God-centered PEACE!” And I think it has to be a peace that comes from within and not a peace that is imposed from outside of us.

Whatever Paul and the other disciples had that gave them courage to preach in spite of persecution didn’t come from anything that they mustered on their own. It had to come from God as a result of their focus on the Resurrected Jesus.

How many of us would be able to hold on to that saying of Jesus, “Let not your hearts be troubled…” if we were stoned and shipwrecked like Paul and left for dead? Most likely we’d be like that great, English Dominican, Father, Vincent McNabb who, when asked what he would do if faced with persecution said, “I’d probably deny the faith immediately!” Most of us do not look for situations in our lives that give us pain and struggle. Today’s “saint,” Margaret of Cortona had an interesting life so be sure to click on the above “link” to read how dealt with things like these scriptures. We have to remember that God doesn’t try to find ways to “test” us but we all have struggles with what “the world” dishes out. And the only way to find that “peace that the world cannot give” is to focus on the “Prince of Peace, Jesus.” It’s Paul’s awareness of who Jesus is that gives him the strength to endure suffering and persecution. So, in the end, our prayer must be the “Jesus Prayer,” “Jesus, Lord, Jesus: Savior of the world. Save me!” Amen!

May 15, 2017 – Monday in the 5th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Isidore the Farmer (1070 – May 15, 1130)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 14:5-18    –    Psalm 115    –    John 14:21-26

Jesus says, “The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have told you”

 The Holy Spirit is the creative presence of God in the entire universe. It brought order out of chaos and “renews the face of the earth.” In the Old Testament God’s presence was observed in “theophany” – the thunder and lightening and quaking of the earth. Yet, as Elijah found out: God was not in all these phenomena but, rather in the still, quite breeze.”

I’ve already said that God is clever and could reveal Himself in any way He wanted. In the same way, Jesus could have shown Himself in some spectacular ways – floating above us in a fiery cloud. But He didn’t want us to come to Him only because of the “spectacular” but to come to Him because He loved us.

Paul and Barnabas have to run away from the crowd that wanted to treat them as God’s. In today’s Gospel Jesus puts everything on “love:” We follow Jesus because He first loved us. Not because of anything else. When we are led by the Spirit – that gift of God’s love – the broken parts of our lives are gradually brought together and we continue our journey to the Kingdom almost unaware that it is God’s love in us that brings about healings and renewal to those around us. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God – and His righteousness – and all these things will be added unto you.”

If we start out looking for the spectacular we will most assuredly – like Lucifer – fall in our own pride.

In the Gospel account of the miraculous feeding of the multitude it was Jesus’ love and concern for the people that brought about a miracle – not any kind of ‘razzle-dazzle.’ Who was it who said, “Love God … and do what you want?” Love seems to be the key to all of our efforts to know Jesus and to follow Him as here and now disciples. Jesus kind of paraphrases the words of the Lord’s Prayer when he says, “Whoever loves Me will keep my word and my Father will love him…” It’s this love, present in us, that heals and restores all that it touches. “love!” so simple that we often overlook it. Amen!

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!