Friday, April 29, 2016
+ The daughter of a humble tradesman, his 23rd child, Catherine of Siena helped to guide the Church during one its darkest periods: the fourteenth century. As a child, prayer was her delight. She would say the “Hail Mary” on each step as she mounted the stairs, and was granted in reward a vision of Christ in glory. At the age of seven she made a vow of virginity, and later endured harsh persecution for refusing to marry. Jesus gave her His Heart in exchange for her own, communicated with her with His own hands, and stamped on her body the print of His wounds.
At the age of 13 she entered the Third Order of St. Dominic, but continued to reside in her father’s shop, where she united a life of active charity with the prayer of a contemplative saint. From this obscure home the seraphic virgin was summoned to defend the Church’s cause. Armed with Papal authority, and accompanied by three confessors, she travelled through Italy, reducing rebellious cities to the obedience of the Holy See, and winning hardened souls to God.
In the face of whole world, she sought out Pope Gregory XI at Avignon, brought him back to Rome and by her letters to the kings and queens of Europe made good the Papal cause. She was the counselor of Pope Urban VI, and sternly rebuked the disloyal cardinals who had part in electing an antipope. Catherine long foretold the terrible schism which began before she died. Day and night she wept and prayed for unity and peace. But the devil excited the Roman people against the Pope, even to the point of wanting to kill him. Their rage was subdued by Catherine’s prayers; but the devils vented their evil by scourging the Saint herself, who gladly endured all for God and His Church. She died at Rome, in 1380, at the age of thirty-three.
St. Catherine of Siena understood clearly both the yoke of Christ, of the gospel passage today, but also its ease fashioned by the grace of Christ Himself. Once hearts unite, once the peace of Christ pervades a relationship then no matter what the assignment is, strength will be provided, and the Father’s Will will be accomplished!
We thank the daughter of Siena today for her heroic acts of defending the Church, and the legacy of her autobiography called The Dialogue, four hundred letters, and a series of prayers – all of which contributed to her being named a Doctor of the Church in 1970 – and also named Patron of Italy along with St. Francis of Assisi.
Today let us defend the faith, spread it, and be very proud to be a member of the True Body of Christ – for which an enormous number of men, women and children have lived and died for God’s glory and the building of his kingdom.
O bless the Lord, my soul.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
+ It is the human way to proceed slowly and cautiously before any big changes take place! This was also true of the “human element” of the newly inaugurated Divine Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. Though infused with the Holy Spirit, the still weakened and somewhat darkened intellectual part of the minds of many of the early Christians, even Apostles and presbyters (priests) were a bit slow in “piecing it all together” – especially as regards the transition from the Old Testament to the New. The question in point today is the total acceptance of Gentiles as true and genuine coheirs with the Jews to the merits of Jesus’ death and resurrection! So many in the early months and years were less than enthusiastic about simply letting the Gentiles in “scott-free”!
It is Peter today who speaks to the gathering of Church members and he tells them that quite obviously the same Holy Spirit that rushed upon them at Pentecost, has also fell upon these Gentiles in their midst: it is because of the visible fruits thereof that came the proof: they proclaimed Jesus as Lord, called on God as their Father – and yearned to be part of the table fellowship with the rest of the Christian community. An additional question was whether or not they had to be converted first to Judaism, before being converted again to Christianity. Peter, James and many others of the Apostles agreed that this was not necessary: what was necessary was that they “turned to” “converted” to the Lord ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME!
The gospel passage tells us that all who belong to the one Christian community – whether coming in from Judaism, Gentilism or straight away from the world: have one thing in common: they have a strong, deep and overriding desire to “keep the commandments of Jesus, which are all about LOVE” – and Jesus and his Father will both come and reside and remain in such persons – being the source of great joy both now and forever! Amen!
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
+ Our readings today are about unity and community. Jesus makes it very clear that a disciple of his must remain entirely and wholly attached to him like a branch on a vine. A branch cannot live apart from the vine; and even if it could, its fruit would be of a strange variety – being dissociated from the species of which it is meant to be a part. And so, we must remain in Christ so that our fruit is godly fruit, our works are meritorious for our salvation, and our loving is pure and self-sacrificial. There are many in this day and age who are semi-rooted to the vine, or so they think; but the truth is either you are or you aren’t connected to it: either you have the Christ-life flowing through your spiritual veins or the world’s: and if it is the worlds’ then it can never be entirely true, beautiful or just!
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas in order to stay rooted on the vine – which is the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, as it was just beginning to take form in the world – decide to go to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles and presbyters there about the matter of circumcision of Gentile converts. They did not simply act on their own, but wanted to find out – by the working of the Holy Spirit – in consultation with the others who received the same Spirit at their ordinations – what is to be held or not held in this particular case in the day to day operations of the Church. This is how the Church was set up on Pentecost – it would be guided and informed by the Spirit – and this is how it still operates today. The community is protected, the gathering of personally united persons is guaranteed freedom from error, when acting collegially, and together with the Successor of Peter as their head.
And so today, we thank God for joining us to him, for remaining with us and for joining us to one another in a communion of holiness, fraternity and peace. For, we may always now together go to the house of the Lord, and give him thanks and praise! Amen! Alleluia!
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
+ In the gospel passage today, after announcing his gift of peace to the disciples Jesus reminds them that the peace he offers is not like that of the world; for worldly peace comes and goes, being rooted as it is in the fickle ruminations of the hearts of men. But the peace Jesus gives is rooted in God, who is eternal, who is all powerful, and who can consistently keep his promises. And the amazing promise that Jesus makes here on the Father’s behalf, is that not only would there be a deep abiding peace for those who commit themselves to him fully, but there would also be a place of peace in the kingdom to which Jesus would escort each and every person he intended to be there. After making this promise [this is taking place just before the agony in the garden] Jesus says that the price to pay for all this is now fast approaching: it will appear that the ruler of this world [i.e. the devil] will have his way, but this never even was a possibility, although certain things have now to be played out – things commanded by the Father; and Jesus says that he will lovingly and freely do them, because he loves both the Father, and us for whom he is doing these things.
St. Paul tells all disciples everywhere and at every time – in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles – that preaching the gospel and proclaiming the kingdom in the world is a risky and dangerous business [as he knew from first-hand experience] – but that it has to be done so that those who are meant to hear the “good news” of Death and Resurrection of the Son of God – may hear it, come to believe and indeed become part of the kingdom through baptism. Paul established so many communities of believers in all of this, and the same faith has persisted and has come down through the ages to us! And now our mouths speak the praises of the Lord and our flesh blesses his holy name! Amen! Alleluia!
Monday, April 25, 2016
+ St. Mark was converted to the faith by St. Peter, Mark being one of his disciples who afterwards accompanied him to Rome, acting there as his secretary and interpreter. When St. Peter was writing his first epistle to the churches of Asia, he affectionately joins with his own salutation that of his faithful companion, whom he calls “my son Mark.”
The Roman people asked St. Mark to put in writing for them the substance of St. Peter’s frequent discourses on Our Lord’s life. This the Evangelist did under the eye and with the express sanction of St. Peter, and every page of his brief but graphic gospel so bore the markings of St. Peter’s character, that the Fathers used to name it “Peter’s Gospel.”
St. Mark was then sent to Egypt to found the Church of Alexandria. Here his disciples became the wonder of the world for their piety and asceticism, so that St. Jerome speaks of St. Mark as the father of the anchorites, who at a later time thronged the Egyptian deserts. Here too, he set up the first Christian school, the fruitful mother of many illustrious doctors and bishops.
After many years of governing his see, St. Mark was one day seized by heathens, dragged by rope over stones, and thrown into prison. This was repeated the next day, but at that point Mark was consoled by a vision of angels and with the voice of Jesus accompanying him, he went to his reward.
It was from the sketch of St. Mark’s Gospel that the other 3 gospel writers took their cue, and in time a rounded, balanced and canonically accepted picture of Jesus, Son of God come to earth, emerged. And it was his message that was proclaimed to all the world, at his command, when he ascended into heaven to return again one day to judge men and women on their deeds of charity.
We thank God for the seed of the gospel that he related through St Mark, may we likewise in this spring time of the year, plant similar seeds of faith in the hearts and minds of all we meet this day!
We proclaim Christ crucified; he is the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Friday, April 22, 2016
+ Our first reading today speaks of the fulfillment of the great promise, the promise of a certain and sure salvation that was made to Abraham and his descendants. And so when Paul comes to Antioch he addresses descendants of Abraham, and others and tells them that without a doubt that the Jesus who was put to death, when Pilate washed his hands of him, and who rose from the dead three days later was indeed the one foretold, and prophesied about; the redeemer and savior of the world.
Great rejoicing occurred among those people when they heard this message; great rejoicing should occur among us today as we hear of the dynamic of “God always fulfills his promises”!
And so we had and still have Jesus in our world as redeemer, but also the way, the truth and the life: for the promise had to do with forgiveness of sin, the imparting of sure and certain truth, and the path which leads to eternal blessedness in a kingdom that is fulfilled beyond, but which exists already in seed form here and now, in this time, in this place – where there is joy!
In the gospel passage then Jesus tells us to calm ourselves and our hearts, because faith is the key, faith we have in the God-of-Promises, which includes himself, as the Son of that God! May we like Thomas let our questions regarding all of this be answered in a supernatural kind of way: the only way for them to make sense: let our faith tells us, all is so, and all is well!
And the Lord said to me: You are my Son, this day I have begotten you: alleluia!
Thursday, April 21, 2016
+ Jesus continues today his emphasis on his unity with the Father. He is the exact representation of the Father; and he wants to get the message across that when anyone looks at Him, they see the Father! - because everything is all about the Father, and his glory!
And, this is how close to humanity God the Father wants to be! He is saying look at my Son and see me! Hear my Son and hear me! Love and respect my Son, and love and respect me! And when you see him acting as your servant and brother – washing your feet, and being willing to give his all for you, it is me and my desire to serve you that you see! I who am Lord God Almighty – making myself like one of you, for your own good and for your salvation!
In the first reading today we have Paul preaching to his fellow children of Israel of the validity and credibility of the descendancy and life of Jesus – Son of David – who was to be the one true King of Israel forever – the one true Servant King – the one true Loving King! And he is not only their King forever, but ours as well. We belong to a royal family – and that is something to celebrate!
We now sing of the goodness of the Lord – who is faithful to his promises and who establishes his kindness and mercy forever!
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
+ Today our gospel passage reminds us that everything about the plan and execution of the fact of the redemption of the children of Adam was God the Father’s. It is a Father’s heart that was broken when his children sinned; it continues to be the Father’s heart that is broken when his children, centuries later, still sin, still turn away from him and prefer their own power and their own glory and a self-made kingdom of sand! It was a Father’s heart that devised a plan to save what was lost!
Jesus came – who is one with the Father – to tell us in our own human terminology and words – all about that Father’s love; and how it included not just redeemed and transformed life here on this earth, but the possibility now of transformed life forever in a kingdom beyond, and a place prepared, of which we cannot even begin to imagine the beauty of!
The first reading shows how, when Jesus had ascended into heaven, and the Church was born on Pentecost with the coming of the Spirit – that Spirit directly guided the actions of the early communities as it was their mission and goal to proclaim Christ Crucified and Risen, and Mankind Redeemed and Transformed by Grace!
Our Christian communities in this day, our day, are called upon and empowered by the same Spirit to do the same thing: tell all the nations that everything is different now, and to believe it, which will be credited to them as justification and life – eternal life with God in heaven.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
+ Our first reading today shows the beginning of the spread of the Christian community emanating from the launching of the great persecutions of those believing and preaching the “new way of Christ!” Gamaliel was right about one thing: if this organization was man-made, then now would be the time for it to disband; but, the persecutions only made it stronger and now more far reaching. The message of salvation was first brought to the Jews in surrounding areas, but then the Greeks, the Gentiles, began to become interested to the point of wanting to be converted. Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to investigate what the Holy Spirit was doing among these non-Jews – and it seemed that the grace of God, the grace of belief was being poured out upon them! Barnabas met with Saul (Paul) in Antioch and with the new community of believers there who were the first to bear the name “Christians!”
This is Good Shepherd week! The true sheep of the one flock of Christ hear his voice no matter who they are or where they may be located at the time – and then they follow Jesus to entry into his Mystical Body the Church – with the inheritance of eternal life that comes with it! The gospel passage reminds us that belief is a gift from God – and the one of the first signs of authentic belief is to believe that Jesus and his Father are one: they are one God, with one mind, heart and mission: to save bodies and souls for everlasting life!
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me! Alleluia!
Monday, April 18, 2016
+ Our gospel passage today makes reference to yesterday’s passage in which Jesus talks about shepherds and sheep! Today he tells us that the authentic and genuine shepherds of the sheep enter through the gate and do not climb in to where the sheep are by illegitimate and unauthorized channels. The way to be connected with the people of God, in order words, is through Jesus, who is the gate of the sheep – and all shepherds like him will enter and minister to the flock only by adhering closely to him, his teachings, his Church and indeed intimate friendship with him.
And so, it is easy to distinguish the good from the bad shepherds; the bad ones are “in it for themselves and their own glory” – rather than for the life of the sheep and God’s glory! These others are “thieves and marauders” – they come only to siphon off the spirit and life of God’s family members for their own power and glory! But they will not prevail! In the end God will have his way with these cheaters and hypocrites.
The true and authentic shepherd – after the Lord’s own heart – is the one who freely distributes the life of God among all of the needy ones – especially the poor and the lost – so that in Jesus’ own words “they may have life, and have it in abundance!”
May we not follow bad shepherds today, may we follow the good ones – and may we ourselves be a good shepherd to whomever God places in our path to shepherd – after his own heart!
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep and mine know me.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
+ Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. It is traditionally this fourth Sunday of Easter that we reflect upon the pastoral nature of Christ’s mission and mandate. Jesus came into the world to change everything, to clarify everything, to transform everything into all that it could not be otherwise without him – due to the extremely debilitating and life draining Fall of our first parents: the damage done by them was catastrophic and irreparable by any other of their race – except one who was also God at the same time: and that is Jesus Christ the Nazarene – who finally came – but who was killed by his own people – because they rejected him like a decrepit stone; but actually he was the cornerstone who was placed in his rightful position by his Father in the glorious act of raising him from the dead to a newness of life.
This is the good news that must be proclaimed to the whole world: to everyone, everywhere: there is no salvation through anyone else – this is what our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us today – Jesus is the only one who can do it for us!
And how this plays out is marvelous: we have the opportunity to participate in our own salvation now, because he has already completed his end of the deal – and so we can now cooperate with grace and be born a second time by baptism to “higher things”, and then we must further cooperate in our own salvation by nourishing our spiritual lives by the daily program of spiritual life that the Church lays out for us, in prayer, in the sacraments – most especially the Eucharist: the Mass and in loving service to our brothers and sisters.
Jesus the shepherd can only shepherd us if we literally stay close to him, are in his pasture and follow his lead. To mix the metaphor we are his sheep but we are also sheep-as-children-of-God – adopted, but truly his family – brothers and sisters of Jesus – and one another. We must therefore treat one another like we are members of this very special family.
Yes, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Excellent Shepherd, the Loving Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. And he is so because he has suffered so terribly much. A shepherd who has not suffered is no shepherd at all; a shepherd who has not suffered has no idea what his sheep are really going through; a shepherd who has not died many deaths, has not experienced the reality of God the Father helping him and raising him to new life over and over again in his own life, and therefore has nothing to give anyone else.
And so, today we pray for all the shepherds that Christ himself appointed and sent to proclaim the good news and make his presence a reality on the face of the earth til the end of time – we pray that they accept the death and rising dynamic that must be a part of their lives, so they can help the sheep, the sheep children of God, his own true spiritual brothers and sisters do the same.
We also pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life – God is still calling - may men and women be generous in responding and giving the loving Shepherd their hands, hearts and feet to help him love his sheep-children until the end of time.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.
Friday, April 15, 2016
+ We have two powerful readings today: the first about the conversion of St. Paul, and the second about Jesus’ great ultimatum regarding true “communion” with him.
In the Acts of the Apostles we see what happens when God has his way with a young energetic persecutor of the brand new Church of his Son that was just getting on its feet: God saw into the entire personality and soul of Saul of Tarsus and simply liked what he saw and he chose him, of all people, to be the great Apostle to the Gentiles – indeed to all people to the ends of the earth! Sometimes God changes our plans for us no matter how we think we are on a correct and true track: in the end, his track is always surer and better: because he alone knows how all the colors of the entire tapestry fit together to make a magnificent work of art!
In the gospel passage Jesus, on purpose, makes an extremely demanding statement: you must eat my flesh and drink my blood in order to achieve the salvation that you so desperately long for: there is no way around it (you must be that united with one another so you can share the merits of my life)! And many leave him at this point for this was madness in their estimation! Well, maybe yes in their estimation, but not in God’s. For those who stayed and believed and were willing, Jesus later would show how this eating and drinking would not be under unpleasant circumstances: since he had all power in heaven and earth, he simply took fruits of the earth (bread and wine) and by speaking words made them really and truly his body and blood (soul and divinity) so that we, the members of his Body the Church, for all generations, would be able to eat and drink for our own salvation and spiritual nourishment and fortification – when the priest speaks the same words over bread and wine!
We thank God then today for providing for the transmission of the Word of God, by an eager young upstart named now Paul of Tarsus; and for the means to fulfill the command that Jesus gave to eat his flesh and drink his blood in a very real but palatable sort of way!
Yes, the Bread of Angels tastes sweet to the palate of men; it is their joy and their hope of future glory!
Thursday, April 14, 2016
+ The first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles gives us an indication on how the Holy Spirit worked directly and powerfully with the Apostles in the very first days after Pentecost and the founding of the Church. The court official of Queen Candice of Ethiopia was already interested in what was “blowing in the wind” – the rumors of “prophecies fulfilled” – but he was confused and could reach no persuasive or valid conclusions because he did not have anyone with authority to explain to him what it was that he was reading.
And so the Holy Spirit moved Phillip to have a spontaneous meeting with the young Ethiopian on the road. And when Phillip explained that the prophecy of Isaiah had to do with the Jesus who had just been killed and then raised from the dead – he wanted to express his belief in this Jesus by “joining up” with him in the most intimate way that he could – by being baptized into his Body, his Church. This was done by Phillip, and the life of the court official was changed forever; and who knows how many lives he touched, bringing them also the message and means of salvation!
The gospel passage continues the “bread of life” discourse: the bread of life that is accessed in a number of ways: by eating transubstantiated bread, but also by listening and responding to stories about Jesus. Both give life, both sustain faith, both bring light to the darkness of the world.
With the young man from Ethiopia let us feast on the Word of Life, the Bread of Life: Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary: and let us bring him to as many as we can today to show our gratitude for belonging to such an intimate and amazing community of believers!
Sunday, April 10, 2016
+ Today is the third Sunday bearing the name of Easter! We continue to bask in the glory of the risen Lord! In the gospel passage today Jesus, with the new powers of his risen body, just appears in the midst of some of his disciples, and he says to them: Peace be with you! They are a bit startled and think they are seeing a ghost: but he says to them: why are you troubled, why do you have such questions in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, it’s me – touch me and see, a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.
They are now incredulous for sheer joy – not knowing what to do next: and so Jesus playfully says to them: hey, you got anything to eat? They say: Fish! And they all sat down to a nice fish breakfast – no doubt the disciples eyeing Jesus very incredulously and admiringly at every bite!
While they were eating, Jesus took the opportunity to relate to them everything in the scriptures: the Law of Moses and the writings of the Prophets that referred to himself. And then he opened their mind to the understanding of the scriptures: and they understood that he, Jesus – the long awaited Messiah - would indeed suffer, and that he would rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name, to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem! And their hearts were burning within them: for two reasons: they knew he was telling them the truth; and they knew that they just could not wait to go out and tell as many people as they could about him!
This indeed is the gospel proclamation that we read in the Acts of the Apostles of the first reading today: where Peter: who knew this truth about Jesus, stands up and proclaims very boldly to his own Jewish brothers and sisters: that: “He is the One” Jesus is the one they have been waiting for all these centuries – and when he finally comes: what do we do? we kill him? but his Father raises him up and now he is alive and he is in us, by the coming of the Spirit - and he can be in you too – to make all the difference in your lives! REPENT AND BELIEVE and BE BAPTIZED EVERY ONE OF YOU! And three thousand were baptized that very day!
We, who share in the exact same baptism, ought to be able to listen to all these words from the readings and homily and shout out – if we have been given the gift of understanding the scriptures – YES, THIS IS THE TRUTH! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is King! Jesus is Savior of the world! and not only that but he is MY Lord, and MY King and Savior of ME!; and then, we ought to feel compelled to go forth from this and every Mass and profess what we have celebrated, by living a true and authentic Christian life; and by telling the Jesus-story anew each and every day to all we meet!
If, however, there are some who cannot make this bold affirmation because God has not yet graced them with deep understanding of the Scriptures: we can pray that he does, and not blame or argue with them because he hasn’t done it yet! We can simply be patient and pray for God to turn the light on for them!
Lord Jesus, never stop opening the Scriptures to your people and making our hearts burn while you speak to us – all of us!
Friday, April 8, 2016
+ Our gospel passage today reminds us that it is among the primary missions of Jesus not only to save the world and then leave it to fend for itself; no, he also is very much interested in remaining with everyone redeemed (and also the potentially redeemed), and to offer as much assistance, spiritual nourishment and encouragement as he possibly can so that they stay the course which can now – thanks to his resurrection – lead to eternal life in a Kingdom prepared for them! The quintessential spiritual aids are the sacraments: and the queen among them is the Eucharist: the Mass we share right now.
In the first reading, the impetus behind the proclamation of this truth is seen in the unrestrainable reality of the gospel: there is no containing or impeding its spread: for the command to take it to the ends of the earth came from Jesus: and thus must indeed be carried out: God’s word will not return to him empty and void, but shall do what he sent it to do!
May we, today, live, both on the bread of this Eucharistic Sacrifice, and also the good works of gospel spreading that we are compelled to do after we have shared in it: no, man does not live just on bread, but also works of charity and love whose mandate comes from the mouth of God!
Thursday, April 7, 2016
+ Our Easter Season theme of “belief” continues today! Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, and the wrath of God remains upon him.
We have an insight into St. John’s theology in this one sentence. “Belief” is an “act of obedience” to God – who alone enables anyone to believe at all. Belief that Jesus is the Divine Son of God cannot originate in us, it must originate in God, be revealed to us by him, and then made an object of our acknowledgment of it and acceptance of it: this is true “belief” – and this is what the “obedience” to “God revealing” is all about!
And so, St. John tells us, those who disobey the Son, disobey all of his revelations and inspirations which come by way of the Holy Spirit – will not see promised eternal life and the wrath of God – the wrath that came to Adam and his descendants – remains upon him.
May we today – during this highly graced Easter Season – make frequent acts of “obedience of belief” in Jesus as Son of God – and we will be rewarded with much consolation in our daily lives, and we will be storing credit for when it will be needed at the end of our lives when God will look into our hearts to see if “any are wise, if any seek Him, if any have true, simple and loving belief in His Son” which has moved them to selfless acts of self-sacrifice for the good of others!
You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me, says the Lord; blessed are those who have not seen, but still believe!
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
+ We have wonderful readings on this weekday in the Easter Season. In the first, we see the overarching power of the “word of God” – which is of course, the Word of God: JESUS – who cannot be thwarted nor manipulated, silenced nor eradicated.
The supposed guardians of the Jewish religion can see that they are going to have a difficult time dealing with this “new Way,” by these “radical people,” and they begin calculating how they can stamp out the revolution before it firmly takes hold.
But there is no imprisoning the word of the Lord!
God’s word and message is so plain and simple and beautiful: In the gospel passage we have the consoling and energizing words: God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. What could be so threatening about that? What could be more life-giving and encouraging than that?
May we today live the “new Way” as fully as when we first were introduced to it on the day of our baptisms; and may we bring the “life-giving words” of the Jesus-story to all we meet, in one way or another today. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate catechesis, just side-comments on the love of God and his fatherly care are enough!
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
+ Our first reading today gives us the beautiful phrase: the community of believers was of one heart and mind! This unity is the very real manifestation of Jesus’ wish at the Last Supper. In his High Priestly Prayer prayed shortly after giving them Eucharist for the first time, Jesus says: Father, make them (the Apostles) and all who would come to believe in me because of them, one: make them one as we are one, Father. And this is no ordinary unity: this is a dynamic unity producing love, producing works of love, producing works of self-sacrificial service!
It is therefore wonderful to read in the Acts of the Apostles that the early community was indeed influenced very strongly by the Eucharistic Meal that they shared, by the works of charity that they performed: as is witnessed in the fact that no one in the community went without, and in fact there began a common pool of resources so that no one would be without. Would that today’s parishes would set aside a certain amount of resources both financial and personnel-wise to regularly help those in their midst who are one in heart and mind with them, and who go without because of economic shortfalls.
In the gospel passage, Jesus continues his conversation with Nicodemus about being baptized and “born into” the supernatural life of the spirit. He tells him that he of all people should be able to understand what he is saying because he is a teacher of natural and spiritual things and ought to be able to make a leap of faith to understand the teaching of supernatural things. Then Jesus briefly refreshes a lesson for Nicodemus that, being a good Jew familiar with Scripture already knows, “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life!” This was meant to be a kind of switch or signal for Nicodemus to see things from the heavenly perspective of the Cross of Christ: which makes everything different! May we have this vision, may we have this perspective today!
Being “born again” is then not such an impossible leap after all as seen from the height and depth and width of Christ’s love for us as demonstrated on the upraised Cross of Calvary!
The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty
and his disciples are of one heart and mind!
Monday, April 4, 2016
+ We celebrate today, the very first day after the Easter Octave, a feast that was postponed because it fell [March 25], as it sometimes does, during the Lenten Season: the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. On this day we recall the event of the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to a humble maiden of Nazareth named Mary. God has prepared a worthy, and sinless dwelling place to first receive his Word-made-flesh: the womb of this humble virgin. But the freedom of the virgin was to be preserved, and so the dialogue between the Archangel Gabriel and Mary causes the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit to come upon Mary, who freely declares herself a humble handmaid of the Lord, ready to do his bidding according to his plan and design.
And so Jesus began to exist in her womb: the very God of gods was now living in a loving, protective and nurturing environment: and she would love, protect and nurture him his whole life long – until it ended, as it was foretold, in a tragic death on a hill outside Jerusalem. But again it would include a resurrected presence of Jesus later on, in which she always hoped and prayed for. This whole process was done for love, for love of us, all humans who ever lived: to save us from our sins, to restore our broken friendship with God, and be the source of our eternal life in heaven.
When we appreciate the humility and cooperation of the Virgin, when we understand the amazing love of the Savior, we are moved to live out in our own lives our baptismal call to be holy and sinless and happy and helpful people – for these are all possible now, thanks to the simple: “Fiat” “Yes,” “let it be done to me according to your word,” of the Blessed Mother of God!
Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
+ Today the Church continues rejoicing in the celebration of Easter Day! We have reached the Octave (Eighth) Day and the Solemn Celebration is now complete! But, could we really stop celebrating Easter? for seven weeks more we will celebrate the season of Easter, and then of course, we know that every Day of the Sun for the remainder of the Church calendar year is a continuation of the celebration of this one Easter Day!
On this octave day then, we still bask in the radiance of Jesus come back to life – but this time to a newness of life, a fullness, a richness that we are all invited to share in and participate in. Jesus demonstrated it again in the gospel passage today: “on the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus (just suddenly appeared) and stood in their midst!” We too – will be able to use preternatural gifts of appearing suddenly here and there, in heaven.
Then Jesus said to them: Peace be with you! and then he showed them his hands and his sides! Why would he do that? Why did Jesus choose to keep his scars and wounds visible? it is because they were his trophies! they were his proof positive that he loves each and every one of us that much – to be able to suffer the horrible death of crucifixion for us – so that our sins could be forgiven, and that we would live forever after what is now just a mere formality of physical death!
Then to inaugurate the concrete and very real sacramental distribution of his forgiveness, Jesus breathes on the Eleven and says: receive the Holy Spirit – whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. He did three things at this point: he sent the Holy Spirit into their beings in an unprecedented sort of way: he empowered them to forgive sins in his name and person, and he made them true and authentic judges of each situation: only those who show contrition and sorrow for true sin and have a purpose of amendment will be forgiven: and he gives these, his first priests, the faculties to make the call!
The Divine Mercy of God is now available to be poured out on mankind in a most powerful way, like the blood and water that poured forth from his pierced heart! This is the mercy that forgave Adam and Eve, it is the mercy that reestablished friendship between God and mankind, this is the mercy that even the most hardened sinner can rely on and call upon – and this day’s secondary title: Divine Mercy Sunday – ties it all together!
It only makes sense that the mirror image, end celebration of the Easter Octave be spelled out as a Mercy Sunday, just as Easter Sunday spells out irrevocably that everything now is completely different than it was before the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth! Now, it is Jesus who is undisputed Lord, King and Savior of the world; and sooner or later everyone will come to understand that and have the opportunity to believe it and thus access all the benefits of it – and its chief benefit is MERCY!
Thomas, however, needed proof that it was really Jesus who was alive; and he got his proof a week after Easter as we read in the gospel passage: and what he ought to be more remembered for than his doubt, is the magnificent act of faith that he made in all of its stark simplicity: and then Thomas answered: My Lord and my God! Jesus then said: Thomas there will be some who believe because I will reveal myself to them in special ways, but the greater majority will not really see me, but they will believe in me, and your words just spoken here, will help them! Once they believe that I am their Lord, and I am their God! I am their Savior, then their lives will never be the same! Thank you Thomas for being the first of a long line of people who will love me enough to adore me and serve me with all their hearts!
Yes, the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes!
Alleluia! Amen! Alleluia!
Friday, April 1, 2016
+ In the gospel passage we see the third appearance of Jesus to his disciples after being raised from the dead. It is a very visual story of Jesus standing on the shore of the lake, where Peter, James and John and some others had been fishing all night – catching nothing. But at this “stranger’s” advice they cast their net over the right side of the boat and caught a huge load of fish – they could hardly get it into the boat. Then John shouted “It’s the Lord!” Who else could have caused such a wonderful thing to happen? When they got to the shore they counted the fish: 153 – a very large amount – and then because they were still in a bit of a shock, Jesus said to them, come have a fish breakfast with me! And He fed them – again – with bread, and fish! It is one of Jesus’ great joys to feed his disciples – then and now – with what they need physically and spiritually!
In the first reading – we see Peter again – not too far in time after the fish breakfast – addressing the high priests in Jerusalem and telling them that the one they had been instrumental in crucifying, Jesus, is the one who has been raised from the dead – he is the Christ - and he has been seen by many! He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone! Peter tells them there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved. This was true on that day in Jerusalem, it is true now, and it will be true until the last person born on earth hears it!
Great things happen when associating with this risen Lord of glory – a great catch of fish of all kinds and varieties is possible – and the ability of enduring in life whatever is irksome, challenging and sorrowful is raised to a very high level! In Jesus is all our hope, our joy and our peace!
The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes!
+ St John Chrysostom was born in 347 in Antioch, Asia Minor. His father died when he was young and he was raised by a very pious mother. ...
+ St. Clare of Assisi became a friend of St. Francis of the same town after hearing him preach. Her father was a count and her mother a coun...
+ We celebrate the Feast today of the Cure of Ars. John Mary Vianney was born to a farm family in Lyons, France in 1786. In his youth he tau...