May 2, 2016 – Monday in the 5th Week of Easter

“Scratchpad Reflections” are daily meditations on the scripture readings for the date noted and are written by Dominican Brother Daniel Thomas to help readers gain a deeper understanding of the daily liturgies and Masses of celebration. Here is the reflection for:  May 2, 2016 – Monday in the 6th Week of Easter.

Saint for the day: Athanasius (295? – 373)

disciples on the way

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 16:11-15     –     Psalm 149     –     John 15:26-16:4

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 journey. “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?   I’m going on a trip to Spain this spring on a pilgrimage being called, “In the footsteps of St. Dominic.” It’s still a month away but I’m already worried about a lot of the details – the least of which deals with the various financial matters. Meanwhile, a significant part of my prayers deals with this and, so, I prayed, “Lord, let me win the lottery!” To which God replied, “Daniel, meet me halfway, buy a lottery ticket!” Therefore, in some sense, we can’t just take John’s admonition as either or but both and. So, I prayed, “My soul is longing for you, Oh, Lord. When will you come and meet me face to face?” To which God replied: “Daniel! Meet me halfway. Get out on the road!” Bottom line: the Church didn’t grow by leaps and bounds while the disciples sat in the upper room praying. They had to get “out there” in order to meet the Lord like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. “Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke to us?” In some way or other we have to be out there … on the way to … (here you can fill in any words you think important in your life at this time.) Then, see how the Lord answers your prayers! Amen!

May 1, 2016 – 6th Sunday of Easter

“Scratchpad Reflections” are daily meditations on the scripture readings for the date noted and are written by Dominican Brother Daniel Thomas to help readers gain a deeper understanding of the daily liturgies and Masses of celebration. Here is the reflection for:

May 1, 2016 – 6th Sunday of Easter

Saint for the day: Joseph the worker

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29    –    Psalm 67    –    Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23

John 14:23-29

Jesus sends us

“Jesus said, ‘I command you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another. (John 15:16-17) 

A note for “what it’s worth:”

I might begin today’s reflection with the popular phrase, “Win some; loose some” as it applies to the way our liturgical cycles are set up. Given the reality that nobody knew the exact dates for the resurrection, ascension of the Lord or the coming of the Holy Spirit the Church settled on an easy way to fit this in. Therefore, we had 40 days of Lent: remembering both the 40 years that the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness and the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert. Watch out if you start counting because it may or may not include the three days after Ash Wednesday or the Sundays or the Paschal Triduum. But there are 40 days somewhere in there. Then we are given another 40 days of Easter which would land us on what used to be called, “Ascension Thursday.” Then, in a sense of rounding it off, the Church added another 10 days to get us to Pentecost – the word actually means 50 – a perfect number in Biblical terms.

Then the Church realized that many people missed the celebration of “Ascension” because it wasn’t a pubic holiday so they moved it to a Sunday and in doing so, lost the numerical connection of the rhythm of counted days which was so important to the ancients who didn’t have connection to the internet or written down calendars! Maybe all the above might just be more useless facts but I thought it might help you understand how the Church celebrates some of our major feasts.

I’m reminded of a story told in Chaim Potok’s book, “The Chosen” where the Orthodox Rabbi plays a little game with his son and the boy’s friend. He would give them a mathematical problem to solve which would get them to set of numerical numbers that could then be lined up with the Hebrew alphabet to give a “proverb.”

When the friend caught the Rabbi cheating with his numbering, the Rabbi simply said, “I had to cheat or the numbers wouldn’t have work out exactly! The Church has done something like that in our celebrations in order to make it possible for the most people to celebrate important Feasts and Seasons. Don’t get me started on the Christmas Cycle and the 12 Days of Christmas, but the same sort of thing happened with the time between Christmas and Epiphany. But that another story.

April 30, 2016 – Saturday in the 5th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Pius V (1504-1572)

Scripture readings for today’s liturgy:

    Acts 16:1-10     –     Psalm 100     –     John 15:18-21

Note: Dominican Parishes are able to use the scriptures for St. Pius V feast day (one of our Dominicans who made a great name for himself) but I’ll use the above scriptures of the day and see of I can tie it in to his life.

 “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If the world hates you realize that it hated me first.’” (the opening of today’s Holy Gospel according to St. John)

 The quote above doesn’t sound like a very good “incentive slogan” for the early Church and we might be prone to say, “you better get yourself a new public relations person if you want to be successful.” That’s the way the world thinks. But Jesus has already said that He has His origins in another world – the world that was/is created by this God who was willing to send His only Son to save it form being overcome by darkness. Jesus calls us out of the darkness of this world and into His wonderful light and then turns around and warns us that we will suffer – just as He did – in our quest to keep that light burning brightly.

If these words from today’s Holy Scriptures aren’t enough to catch our attention just look at the lives of any of the great “saints” to see that they got their “halo” by following Jesus. And this “following” needs to be turned around some so that we can understand that it begins at the foot of the cross where we encounter the real Jesus. Most of us get this equation backwards and think that we need to start doing the works of Jesus – feeding, saving, healing – in order to become like Him.

If we read the Holy Scripture correctly we can see that the Church didn’t begin to grow until after the crucifixion, death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

This is not the way “Madison Avenue” would start a successful business adventure. And that’s just the point! If we try to approach Jesus and follow Him by this world’s standards we will never find the true Light and only struggle in darkness. Start at Calvary at the foot of the Cross; pass through the ultimate darkness of a tomb and into the real Light of Christ. It’s only then that you will begin to notice that people around you are fed, saved and healed.

However, the early Church had some ways to go in its efforts to be faithful to the lead of Jesus Christ. Along the way various factions took sway and there was serious concerns that things needed to be straightened out. Pius V, who was pope in the mid 1500’s, was, in many ways, very much like our current Pope Francis and was instrumental in getting things sorted out and giving us a renewed church in his own time. It should be obvious to most of us, that, left to our own, we tend to drift away from the core of Jesus’ message and need, always, to be drawn back to the center. Even in my own time we needed a Second Vatican Council to pull us back to living the essence of what it means to follow Jesus. And now, our beloved Pope Francis, is still calling us to take seriously the admonitions of the early church which still need to be followed. And you can bet that he will be hated by some for trying to keep our Church honest and true to Jesus’ commands. In many ways we have to hear Jesus speaking to us in this day and age the words of today’s Communion Antiphon: “Father, I pray for them, that they may be one in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me, says the Lord, Alleluia.” (John 17:20-21)  Saint Pius V pray for us. Amen!

April 25, 2016 – Monday in the 5th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Mark, Evangelist (1st century)

God's Rainbow

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Peter 5:5-14    –    Psalm 89    –    -Mark 16:15-20

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

These words, the opening of today’s Gospel, are very much a part of our Easter celebrations. In fact, if I have done my research properly, the feast of St. Mark always falls within the Easter time of celebration. So, he is an important symbol for us to carry out this same task, especially since he was not one of the Apostles and experienced some difficulties with St. Paul somewhere along the way. So, these are two reasons for me to have some hope for myself since I, too, fit those two characteristics. Just because we say “yes to Jesus” doesn’t necessarily mean that we will have it “all together” or not have to suffer some setbacks while we’re on our journey to the Kingdom.

There was a time, earlier in my religious life, that I had a “run in” with my superior over an impending assignment and I was actually given an ultimatum: “either go there and exercise some kind of ministry … or else… The “or else” was to painful for me to repeat here in this reflection and wouldn’t serve any purpose for this reflection today.

In the end, I went to that new assignment which turned out to be the wonderful beginning of a totally new phase of my religious life and I was able to do new ministries that I never dreamed possible. As I look back – even though I’m not sure that I would credit my superior with bringing that about – I can see that God can still write straight with crooked lines.

Even though St. Mark had his “run in” with Paul, God was still able to bring about the spread of the Gospel through him and we are richer for his gift of preaching and proclaiming the Resurrected Lord. The “bottom line” that I would suggest with this example is to have some level of trust that the Holy Spirit can work wonders in our lives if we are able to trust that God will never give us more than we can handle. Sometimes we just have to re-adjust our sights in order to see beyond the “clouds of doom” where the rainbow of God’s promise begins to appear. What is it that they say? “When all you seem to be given is lemons don’t cry about it. Make lemonade! Amen!

April 24, 2016 – 5th Sunday of Easter

Saint for the day:Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622)

foot washing

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 14:21-27     –     Psalm 145    –     John 13:31 – 35

There’s a common saying in English: “One picture is worth a thousand words” and that might be another way of quoting Jesus’ words from today’s Holy Gospel: “Love one another as I have loved you.” The early Church had many faith-filled and dynamic preachers but the words alone weren’t all there was to their presentations. They also “put their money where their mouth was” and lived the life and walked the walk so much so that people could see that what they were preaching about they also lived.

The starting point of their success as preachers seems to be based on words from St. Thomas Aquinas, “You can’t give what you do not have!” The early apostles and disciples had encountered the real Jesus as they watched Him and often saw the miracles of healing and feeding the crowds that followed him. But it’s most important for us to understand that of all the things they saw him do and accomplish, none were as important as what they saw him do at the Last Supper when He got down on his knees and washed their feet – giving them a new commandment: “to love each other as I have loved you.” This seems to be our “bottom line” where we are shown what it means to be a true follower of Jesus: one who seeks to serve rather than be served. And this is His “new commandment: to love each other as I have loved you!”  But we need to translate that statement and put it in language that we can better understand. That’s why I put this “new commandment” in language that He really meant: “… wash each other’s feet as I have washed yours.”   So, there you have it: more than enough in today’s Liturgy for us to chew on. But be sure to swallow or it won’t do you any good!   Amen!

 

April 23, 2016 – Saturday in the 4th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: George (died c. 303)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

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

Come Holy Spirit

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”

All of the Holy Scripture readings that we are hearing in these “Easter Days” straddle the post resurrection growth of the early Christian Community and the “Last Discourse” of Jesus at the Last Supper. So, we’re hearing about the disciples going out to proclaim Jesus as Savior of the World up against Gospels that point out that they didn’t quite grasp what He was telling them. We are given these Holy Scripture readings because we are so like those early followers of Jesus: kind of aware what He is trying to tell us but still confused about how to go about our missionary challenge.

That’s where the “Holy Spirit Prayer” that I quoted at the beginning of today’s reflection comes in. It’s the Holy Spirit that’s like petrol that fuels our ability to go out and proclaim that Jesus is Lord. This promise of the Holy Spirit takes us all the way back to the very beginning of the Bible when we read in Genesis, that the Holy Spirit was the force that brought order out of the chaos and also blew the breath of life into the first human beings. Now, millions of years after that creation scene we are still in need of the Holy Spirit’s Power to re-create us and burn within us the fire of God’s love. It’s no accident that the image of the Holy Spirit is given to us as breath which we cannot see but are still very much aware of. It reminds me of the story of Elijah at Mt. Horeb (1st Kings 19:8ff) where he is looking for the presence of God who promises to pass by. He hears and feels the great wind, but God was not in the storm. Then the earth quakes: but God is not in the earthquake And He wasn’t in the fire either. It’s when Elijah steps out and senses the still, gentle breeze that he recognizes God’s presence.

That should tell us something about encountering God’s presence in our lives. It’s not always in the spectacular signs but in that still, gentle breath of God’s Spirit that we, too, are recreated. Now, go back and reverently pray that Holy Spirit Prayer and allow it to gently breath its re-creating life in you. Amen!

April 22, 2016 – Friday in the 4th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Abdiesus (died: 342)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

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

on the road

“Thomas said to Jesus, ‘Master, we do not know where you are going: how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’” (the ending of today’s Holy Gospel)

 Today, we get another chance to use the “bookend theme” with the quote above and the beginning of today’s Holy Gospel: “Let not your hearts be troubled…” The bonus is that you can put these two quotes at either end and you will still have some profound meaning. My friend, Fr. Richard Rohr says that the term “fear not” (or some variation of it) appears 366 times in the Bible. That one for each day of the year including Leap Year! That fact in itself should give all of us encouragement.

Jesus knew that the “journey theme” – a mainstay of the Gospelswould be a hard one for many of us. Just think for a moment about your own travels and how anxious you can get as you plan to step out of your comfort zone to begin a journey. Then let these two phrases give you confidence: “Don’t be afraid! I am the way, the truth and the life!”  In a very practical way, I have this “journey theme” on my mind since I will be celebrating a pilgrimage to Spain, France and Italy this summer. This trip is part of our celebrations honoring the 800th Anniversary of the foundation of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). We will follow in the footsteps of St. Dominic from his birth place to many of the early foundations of communities friars and also of nuns. 

Today’s Gospel also tells us that “there are many dwelling places in my Father’s House” implying that even if we start to get anxious there’s a place for us to stay and rest for awhile – just like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It was in that setting that the disciples where then able to say, “Were not our hearts burning within as He spoke to us?” And, lest we forget: this all happened in the context of the Eucharist – our Bread of Life! The Eucharist – the very presence of God to us – gives us food and courage to continue our journey. Amen!

April 21, 2016 – Thursday in the 4th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Anselm (1033-1109)

foot washing

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 13:13-25    –    Psalm 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, fandangle 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 them 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!

April 20, 2016 – Wednesday in the 4th Week of Easter

Saint for the day: Conrad of Parzham (1818-1894)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

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

clouds

“Jesus says, ‘I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.’” (from today’s Holy Gospel according to St. John.)

I have to chuckle when I read the above words as I sit in the dark of our little house chapel early in the morning before the sun has even thought about shinning. But it’s amazing how quickly my eyes adjust to this darkness and in no time I’m able to see even in the apparent darkness.

I have the light that shines out from our tabernacle that really is enough to see everything in the room. Two candles on the altar; a votive light at the statue of Mary; and the light from my computer screen

From all of this, I have to come to the conclusion that believing in Jesus as the light of the world can be a reality if I only come up to Him – even from behind – and “touch the hem of his brilliance!”

It’s then, in the spark of that light that I am able to begin to see what the Lord calls me to. In these Easter Days when we’re reading about the rapid growth of the early Church we don’t just read it as a history project but, rather, as a model of what each one of us is called to do: “Go out into all the world and proclaim this ‘Good News’ that Jesus has brought light into a world that only knew darkness.”

At our baptisms each one of us was given a candle. A tiny sign of our commissioning to spread that “Light of Christ.” Isn’t there an old song that went, “… if everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world it would be?” Then, just to keep us honest, we’re reminded, “blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make our candle any brighter!”

I can’t help but be reminded of semester that I spent in Israel back in 1983. There were so many adventures that we were able to experience that it’s hard for me to sort through and isolate the most important. However, one of the more spectacular events was our climb up Mt. Sinai which began at 3:30 in the morning! We were told to not depend on our flashlights, but to let our eyes adjust to the ambient light. I was very surprised at how quickly I was able to adjust to walking in only like light of half a moon! What was most incredible was our making it to the top where we were actually able to look down on the clouds! We were high enough that we could understand how the ancients really did believe that they were at the gate of Heaven.

 In the end, we all had to admit that darkness can be a means to a good end if we seek to fine-tune our vision so that we are able to see where and how the Lord is leading us. And that brings us right back to square one where we, like the early believers, are sent outon the way to bring light into a darkened world. Amen!