April 3, 2016 – 2nd Sunday of Easter

April 3, 2016 – Second Sunday of Easter. Click here to read about Divine Mercy Sunday

Saint for the day: Richard of Wyche (1197-1253)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 5:12-16

Psalm 118

Revelation 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19

John 20:19-31 

“Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen me, but still believe.’” (John 20:29)

 Since my surname is “Thomas,” I have always considered this 2nd Sunday of Easter to be my family’s Feast Day. Not so much that we are doubters. But, rather, since we, like everyone, are symbolically being drawn into Jesus’ love in a very special way. Even so, we all have doubts about God on various levels and have to come to grips with that being a part of our finite being. It’s alright for me to ask, “Why didn’t God make me just a little bit taller and not so “stocky?” A little bit more hair on the top of my head would have been nice, too! But that’s not the point! We have to believe that each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God and somehow come to grips with what that actually means. Given that most of us won’t have the kind of “first-hand awareness” that the apostles and disciples had we need to be able to say, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief.” This is especially true when we are confronted with some kind of hardship or tragedy in our lives. I’m sure that we’ve all questioned God about why bad things happen to good people.

Whenever I’m confronted with questions about why God allowed this or that to happen to people who are trying to be good Christians, I always ask them to think what kind of

know what a disastrous world it would be if God were interjecting his finger into every potential disaster. It’s important for us to remember that God didn’t create Adam and Eve as some kind of robots living in a never troubled world. He placed them in a beautiful garden where everything they needed was provided for them. But … in order for that to be a real world, evil in some form was nearby slithering down from the ‘tree of life” with a false promise of a better way. Then ending of today’s Holy Gospel makes the promise, “Many more signs were given by Jesus … so that we might come to believe in Jesus … and through this belief we might have life in his name.” Amen! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

April 1, 2016 – First Friday in the Octave of Easter

April 1, 2016 – Friday in the Octave of Easter

Click here to read about First Friday devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 4:1-12

Psalm 118

John 21:1-14

“The sign on the shop door read: Gone Fishing!”

 This somewhat familiar saying packed with it a sense of, “I’ve had it! I need to get out of the ‘rut.’ I’m going fishing!”

The disciples are still in a quandary about what’s happened. They have a myriad of stories about the risen Lord but they are confused: “we thought He was to be the one who would free us from the tyranny of living under an oppressive government” and here they are: not any different from before.

We have to remember that the Gospels are the written record of the preaching of the early Church and are intended to give us ample examples of what it means to follow Christ. Contrary to some of the popular “prosperity gospel preaching,” the early followers of Jesus felt abandoned and alone so they did what many of us would do: they went fishing!

That is, they went back to their old ways forgetting all the blessings they had experienced in the short time of walking with Jesus. Even when they experience a miraculous catch of fish they forget that Jesus told them, “from now on you will catch people not fish.”

This section of the Gospel of John is thought by many scripture scholars to be an appendage that was added on later to further remind us of all that Jesus promised. So we are given some more examples of how it all fits together. The images are all there if we have eyes to see: the whole sense of the failure of a night’s fishing (like being tossed on a stormy sea); Peter’s jumping out of the boat (but not sinking this time); Jesus fixing breakfast of bread and fish (the multiplication of the loaves story.) It all goes back to the simple fact that we can never find full happiness going back to the way we were but always have to be in this now moment of salvation and ready to get on the way … whatever that might mean for each of us. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for his mercy endures forever.” Psalm 118 – Amen. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

March 31, 2016 – Thursday in the Octave of Easter

March 31, 2016 – Thursday in the Octave of Easter

Saint for the day: Stephen Mar Saba (died: 794)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 3:11-26

Psalm 8

Luke 24:35-48

The readings that we’re hearing in these days after Easter should give us encouragement since even those who walked and lived with Jesus had fears and questions concerning what it was all about. I didn’t count how many times Jesus said, “Have no fear. It is I” to those who were encountering Him after His resurrection. He also told them to “look at me and see that I am not a ghost.” All of us have fears of various kinds and we know that it’s fear of the unknown that prevents us from moving ahead. If out of fear we lock ourselves in our own personal ‘upper rooms’ we will never be able to meet the resurrected Jesus on the way! And even though Jesus miraculously comes to us he still says, “Do not cling to me.” Scripture tell us, “Fear of the Lord in the beginning of wisdom,”  We have to think of that in terms of “awe” rather then common “fear.” And when Jesus tells us not to cling to Him He is reminding us that we can not just hold on to Him as some kind of “security blanket” but must be willing to go out and proclaim by the words and actions of our lives that Jesus is risen and goes before us to show the way.

Some of the “evangelicals” speak of accepting Jesus as our “personal savior” and this can promotes a false sense of what Jesus is all about. Accepting Jesus into our lives is meant to be the force that puts us back on the road and out there to live fully the life that has been given to us. But we are not alone since we are also given the gift of the Holy Spirit – the creative force – that empowers us to be all that we are meant to be. And we have to remember that the Hoy Spirit Is given to us in order to build up the “body of the Church” and not for our own aggrandizement. It’s never just me and Jesus but always me as part of something much larger than and grander than anything I could do by myself. We are the Church and that Church will only be a good as all the individuals put together. Amen!

March 30, 2016 – Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

March 30, 2016 – Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

Saint for the day: Peter Regalado (1390-1456)

Acts 3:1-10

Psalm 105

Luke 24:13-35

“If you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, Alleluia. (Today’s Communion Antiphon.)

Any time you get the feeling that we’re living in the “last days” and everything is going to hell in a hand basket, click on the link to today’s saint, Peter Regalado, highlighted above. He lived in a time when there was turmoil on almost every side of the world he lived in. He must have had some of the same insights that our own, Pope Francis so often speaks of regarding our own Gospel Call. Reading the brief account of Peter Regalado’s life might give you added incentive to do everything in your power to take the words of the gospels as a real part of your life.

The other phrase that keeps popping up is the ”on the way” during this octave week of Easter: Peter and John on the way to the three o’clock hour of prayer; the two disciples on the way to Emmaus; Mary Magdalen on the way to tell the disciples that she has seen the resurrected Jesus. And, again, our own St. Catherine of Siena, “it’s Heaven all the way to Heaven!

What this does for us, as we struggle to meet Jesus, is it takes us out of our locked upper rooms where we try to escape the pain of the outer world and puts us out on the road. On the way. We have to be careful not to become like the S & Ps who lock out everything that tends to move toward God in order to cling to the past. Jesus tells his disciples, “I go before you to prepare a place for you so that we can be together in my father’s house.” In all of this I hope that we can see that it’s in the journeying – the moving out – that we are fortified by the Holy Spirit and meet the Risen Christ.

Here on this third day after Easter we are reminded once again that we need to raise our eyes – from any sense of discouragement – and look into the face of the Risen Lord just like Peter and John say to the paralytic at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, “Look at us!” It’s almost as if they were saying, “We’ve seen the Risen Christ and He has become a part of us that we now share with you.” And the first miracle of the infant church happens. These Gospel Words are the same thing that our Pope Francis keeps reminding us is our call in following Jesus. Once we believe this we have something to share with others which, most likely, will happen as we are on the way! Amen!

March 29, 2016 – Tuesday within the Octave of Easter

March 29, 2016 – Tuesday within the Octave of Easter

Saint for the day: Berthold died 1195

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 2:14, 22-33

Psalm 33

John 20:11-18

“I heard the Lord call my name. Listen close and you’ll hear the same.”

One of the most rewarding times of my life was the semester I spent in Israel in late 1983. The program was offered by Catholic Theological Union (Chicago) and we were housed in a former Franciscan seminary in Ein Karem, a short distance from Jerusalem. On occasion I would stay overnight in the Old City and I usually “book ended” this time by visiting the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchral in the late afternoon (when most of the tourist crowds weren’t around) and early in the morning for the 4:30 Mass in the Tomb. There is something spectacular about being at the Tomb of Jesus for Mass. Especially in the dark and quiet of the early morning. I also remember sitting quietly in the little space at the entrance to the Tomb – called the “Angel Room” – usually all by myself – and, in the late afternoon. The familiar Gospel song “I heard the Lord call my name. Listen close and hear the same” would float through my mind. I would sometimes expect to open my eyes and see an angel standing there and asking me, “What are you doing? He is not here. He’s been raised!”

It was always a reminder to me that we so often are more comfortable sitting quietly somewhere expecting that the Lord will visit us, forgetting the second part of that greeting, “Go out from here and get on the Way that’s where you’ll meet the Risen Lord.”

Then there’s the other aspect of our encounter with the Risen Lord that, like Mary Magdalene, we want to hold Him close to us. But, again, He tells us “Don’t cling to me. I [am not finished with what my resurrection is all about] and have not yet ascended to my father and your father.”

So, we come to our “bottom line” for today: a reminder that the Lord’s resurrection and ascension is a cycle that must be completed in order for the Holy Spirit – the creative power of God – to be active in our lives. As much as I wanted to remain in the quiet of that little room adjacent to the Tomb – where I wasn’t bothered by any cares of the world – I knew that I must be “out and about” to meet the Lord “on the Way.” Interestingly, it’s our own St. Catherine of Siena who reminds us, “It’s Heaven all the way to Heaven!”

March 28, 2016 – Monday within the Octave of Easter

March 28, 2016 – Monday within the Octave of Easter

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Acts 2:14, 22-33

Psalm 16

Matthew 28:8-15

Be sure to “click” on the “link” about the Easter Octave at the top of today’s reflection.

“You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand for ever.”(Psalm 16)

The familiar saying, “…you can’t see the trees for the forest” might easily fit to these days of the Resurrection since we will hear over and over again Gospel accounts of those who were closest to Jesus during his lifetime – not being able to recognize him when they encounter him in various situations after the resurrection. A helpful note for us might be the reoccurring fact that most of His appearances happened when they were on the way. Mary Magdalen – on the way to tell the disciples that the tomb is empty, presumes that someone has taken the body of Jesus. She encounters Him on the way. And even when she sees Him she doesn’t recognize Him and thinks He is the gardener. The two disciples –on the way to Emmaus don’t recognize  Him until He breaks bread and explains the scriptures that apply to Himself. “I am… the truth(explaining the Scared Scriptures) and the Life. – the Bread of Life, the Eucharist.

Peter and John come to believe just by seeing the burial cloths folded up nicely in the place where they had laid the dead body of Jesus. This should have been a clear indication to them that Jesus was not going to be recognized using their memory of what He looked like in life. If we apply all these interesting connections to our own lives we might more easily compare ourselves to Thomas who is most familiar to us as the doubting Thomas: “unless I see with my own eyes and hands…”

So, it should be obvious that any encounter with the Resurrected Jesus is going to require our ability to “see” with the eyes of faith. And still, like Thomas, we will probably have to say, “Lord, I believe … help my unbelief!”

 

March 27, 2016 – Easter Sunday of the Lord’s resurrection

March 27, 2016 – Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord Click on the previous “link” to get some interesting facts about today’s celebration along with some suggestions to make this special “octave” have more meaning for you and your family.

Scripture Readings for the Easter Sunday Liturgy:

Acts 10:34a 37-43

Psalm 118

Colossians 3:1-4

John 20:1-9

“I have risen, and I am with you still, alleluia. You have laid your hand upon me, alleluia. Too wonderful for me, this knowledge, alleluia, alleluia!” (Today’s Entrance Antiphon based on Psalm 139)

Here at St. Dominic’s in San Francisco are schedule was a little different from what I am used to in other places. We celebrated the Holy Week “Morning Prayer” – called Tenebrae – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday and I was surprised at the numbers of lay people who took part in this very beautiful reflection of our call to faith. The priests in our community were available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation after the Good Friday Liturgy. It was the first time I’d seen all 7 confessionals used for more than three hours non-stop! It just goes to show that when you make the sacraments and liturgies available the people will come!

Our Easter Vigil will began on Holy Saturday at 8 o’clock when we welcomed more than 40 people into full communion with the Catholic Church. Some have never been baptized and others will make a Profession of Faith since they were validly baptized before.

It’s been a busy week and I’m still going at full speed and need to step back to assimilate all that has happened in these last three holy days of the Paschal Triduum. It’s hard to be totally spiritual when you are responsible for so much of the mechanics of the celebrations. Yet there is always need for someone to set things up. Even the apostles, needed to do some physical work to prepare the “the Lord’s Passover” celebration. Things like this don’t just drop out of the sky “ready made!” And still, we are called to “look beyond the bread you eat…” and seek ways to recognize The Resurrected Lord when we encounter Him along the Way.

I know that I must constantly catch myself when I’m like Martha and “busy about many things.” I need to hear Jesus say, “only one thing is necessary and [you] need to sit at the feet of Jesus and …listen to Him.” If we’re not listening to the Lord then there’s no point to our going to all the trouble putting together these special liturgies. We need to meet the resurrected Jesus – most often not in a way that we are familiar with: Mary Magdalen didn’t recognize Him in the garden; the disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize him until He broke the bread in their presence. So, we need to “seek the Lord while He may be found” and He’s most often very close but our eyes are clouded and He most often doesn’t fit our image of what the Risen Lord Jesus should look like. Sit back. Take time to be with the Lord and don’t be surprised when He calls out your name from right behind you. Happy Easter! Enjoy it as fully as you can for these next seven weeks! Amen!

March 26, 2016 – Holy Saturday / Easter Vigil

March 26, 2016 – Holy Saturday

“Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, all time belongs to him and all the ages.” (Saturday, Evening prayer Antiphon)

click on this “link” to get to all nine scriptures for this Vigil Liturgy. 

There are only two days in the year when Mass is not celebrated – per-say: Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The Mass on Holy Saturday is actually the vigil Mass of Easter. In my growing up years, before any of the changes in liturgy came about, I can remember the Liturgy of Holy Thursday when the focus was clearly on the gift of the Eucharist complete with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to a special altar decorated to be the “Altar of Repose” The Celebrant carried just one large-size, consecrated host which was held on the paten and covered with a square white cloth which was tied around the stem of a chalice. There’s an interesting Jewish connection here that I only realized after attending a Jewish “Seder” while in the Holy Land. During the Seder, the leader takes one “matzo” from those presented and wraps it in a napkin and ties it with a cord and then hides it away – especially from the children present. The one who finds the hidden matzo receives some special recognition and is considered privileged in the coming year. I’m claiming that this was the intent of the one consecrated host which also was also tied with a napkin like cloth and hidden in the Altar of Repose. We have to remember that in those days, it was only the one priest who led the Good Friday liturgy who received Holy Communion on Good Friday. There are many more interesting connections in our Liturgies of Holy Week that have gotten lost after several modifications. All that being said, we need to see this day as a day of solemn waiting in the expectation of the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil which starts out as a kind of “not quite there, yet liturgy” that focuses on the people who are being welcomed into the full participation with the Church. It’s just one more opportunity for all of us to re-think our own commitment to follow the Risen Christ. The Scripture readings for this Liturgy are one last attempt to spell out the entire history of salvation through Jesus Christ.

To help all of us get that point, the Liturgy should begin in darkness; and gradually come into full light when all of the candles that the congregation is carrying are lit from the one “Light of Christ” – the paschal candle which will be kept burning all throughout the Easter Season. Sometimes we Catholics get ridiculed by others for our rituals, but we really do have the edge on some groups who have stripped away almost all the signs that we are given to help us make that “leap of faith” in order to be able to say with exuberance, “Christ is Risen! Indeed, He has risen!” May you go from this Vigil Liturgy with a deeper awareness of the power and necessity of renewed conversion that the Risen Christ gives to us. Amen! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

March 25, 2016 – Good Friday

March 25,2016 – Good Friday Click on this blue link to read more about today’s Liturgy.

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Psalm 31

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Passion of John 18:1-19:42

“Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name .” (Philippians 2:8 FF)

Today is very different since this is the only day throughout the entire Church year where “Mass” is not celebrated! In the ‘old days’ they called it the “Mass of the Pre-sanctified” and it was done with everything except the words of consecration. Only one consecrated host was saved from the Holy Thursday Mass and it was only the one priest who received Holy Communion. Now a days, it’s the one time when everyone – Popes, cardinals down to the person in the pew – receive Holy Communion from bread consecrated at the Mass of Holy Thursday.

Yet still, the main focus of the liturgy for Good Friday is on the cross with that familiar response, “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the savior of the world. Come let us worship!” This part of the Liturgy is sandwiched between a solemn proclamation of the Passion from John’s Gospel and the reception of Holy Communion. It’s one of only two times – the other is Ash Wednesday – when everybody in the congregation can come forward to the altar regardless of their particular status vies-a-vie the Church. That, in itself, is an interesting commentary of what the Church is all about.

When I was in Kenya our congregation is small enough that everybody could come forward to reverence the one cross, which was formally presented. Another sign of the oneness that God desires for His Church. Here at St. Dominic’s in San Francisco I’m sure that we will have a “standing room only” congregation for this celebration. Another sign of the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ!

I hope you can read this reflection before you go to your own church for the liturgy so that you might have some new insights into the very unique form that our Good Friday Liturgy offers us. I hope, that as you listen to the dramatic reading of the Passion, you can close your eyes and envision what is happening. (As an aside: that’s why I’m not in favor of having the congregating try to take the parts of the crowd where their main focus becomes worrying about not missing their cue rather than listening to this very central story of our faith.) Remember the words that were spoken from Heaven at the Baptism of Jesus, “This is my beloved son, listen to him!”

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is in control: “he knew everything that was going to happen to him”  When He asks the soldiers who they are looking for His response is the simple, “I AM” – the name of God that Moses was given on the mountain. And even as He is about to be arrested, that simple name is enough that the soldiers turned away and fell to the ground.

There is so much more in this Gospel but I’ll have to leave that for you to discover. Again, closing your eyes can be a great advantage to entering into the fullness of this liturgy of Good Friday. Amen!

March 24, 2016 – Holy Thursday

March 24, 2016 – Holy Thursday – Click here to read about today’s liturgy.

Scripture Readings for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14

Psalm 116

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-15

“Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ” (1 Cor 10:16)

It is interesting to note that our Holy Week Liturgies are some of the most ancient rites to have handed down through the ages and are collectively called, “The Holy Triduum” (Three Holy Days) – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. It’s also important for us to understand that each of these liturgies has something important to share with us. For example: we have always looked upon the liturgy of Holy Thursday as being a commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist. However, don’t be surprised when you hear the Holy Gospel which tells of the “mandatum”the new commandment – and proclaims to us the Gospel of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and, most importantly, Jesus admonition to his disciples and to all of us, “you see what I have done for you … if I, therefore, have washed your feet you aught to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

No mention in this Gospel of Jesus giving His disciples power over demons or the ability to multiply bread or do other such miracles. Just a very simple commandment to take care of each other even to the washing each other’s feet. Just think what our poor, broken, war-torn world would be like if more of us took this Gospel seriously? But, wait, before you run out with your bucket and towel on some kind of “gospel mission.” Take a moment to think of what this “commandment” means and where it should begin: maybe it means you should start at being just a tad kinder with that person who just drives you up a wall. I’m not talking about setting up programs that require funding and teams of people. I’m just suggesting that you start being nicer to those people who just rub you the wrong way. And remember these words of Jesus, “when you did it for one of these least of my people you did it for me.” And where do we get the ability to do this? From Jesus’ gift of Himself in the Eucharist. Amen, Jesus!