Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Follow Him on the Way


By Beth DeCristofaro

At God’s word were his works brought into being; they do his will as he has ordained for them. As the rising sun is clear to all, so the glory of the LORD fills all his works; Yet even God’s holy ones must fail in recounting the wonders of the LORD … yet none of them has he made in vain, For each in turn, as it comes, is good; can one ever see enough of their splendor?  (Sirach 42:15-17, 24-25)

Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” … Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately (Bartimaeus) received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10: 46-47, 52)

Piety
O perfect Word!
O Verbum bonum!
Whose Name is: “Savior,”
Whom we desire to hold;
Burn in our hearts, burn in our living marrow, own our being,
Hide us and heal us in the hug of Thy delight,
Whose admirable might
Sings in the furnace of the Triple Glory!
(“Word-A Responsory”, Thomas Merton, Collected Poems, 1977, p. 111)

Study
Joy, wonder, appreciation just spark through these readings.  Bartimaeus “sprang up” when he went to Jesus.  God who is from all eternity one and the same blessed and graced us with his presence as a man.  For the multitudes of us who did not meet Jesus on the roadside near Jericho we must see by becoming aware of him here and now.

We see God in the miracle of a person who survives tragic loss.  God envelops those who struggle with incarceration or the prison of addiction.  God attends those with infirmity or socio-economic bonds.  God guides refugees and people caught in conflicts.  At the same time God’s delight shines in the daily efforts of all workers.  God joins with families who hang tough through thick and thin.  God dances in the cloudscapes of the sky and cascading waterways.  We are invited to call out:  “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me” and follow Him.

Action
How do we show gratitude for seeing and hearing God within and without who strengthens our faith?  Bartimaeus followed Jesus.  Cursillo weekends are an opportunity to follow by being on team or by sponsoring a candidate.  In prayer and gratitude discern your involvement in Fall weekends at San Damiano.  Women’s Weekends will be September 17-20, and November 19-22, 2015.  The Men will meet Oct 15-18, 2015.

Lead Us in the Way of Justice


Reward those who have hoped in you, and let your prophets be proved true. Hear the prayer of your servants, for you are ever gracious to your people; and lead us in the way of justice.  Thus it will be known to the very ends of the earth that you are the eternal God.  Sirach 36:21-22

”But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:43-45

Piety
The first degree of humility, then, is that a person keep the fear of God before his eyes and beware of ever forgetting it.  (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7: On Humility)

Study
Jesus turns the tables on end…again.  The world does not know what to make of this prophet-savior-king and neither do his closest followers.  Jesus does indeed “give new signs and work new wonders” in ways that differ from the current leaders of the world – in his time and ours.   

Today’s Gospel has two distinct sections.  First, Jesus gives a preview of the Passion (ransom) that will take place in Jerusalem.  However, despite the serious tone of this cautionary tale, James and John proceed to ask for honored places in heaven violating all the tenets of humility that have marked their friendship with Jesus. 

In reaction, Jesus shows remarkable restraint.  After two cycles about teaching to serve the least, we can palpably feel Jesus’s exasperation.  The request of James and John for the top two Cabinet posts (and for a share in the glory) must of necessity involve a share in Jesus’ sufferings, the endurance of tribulation and suffering for the gospel.[1]  However, they do not seem to grasp that fact any more than Peter does when he is in peak denial mode. 

Jesus does not admonish them sternly but explains that those honored seats are not his to give.  Jesus moves to a conclusion that fits right in with a soft rebuke of James and John.  Jesus granted the disciples wide ranging authority to heal and forgive sin.  However, any such authority must be exercised in the humble spirit of Jesus, not the spirit of the Gentiles.  Rather than holding leadership above the people, the disciples’ leadership must, like that of Jesus, be rendered as service to others rather than for personal aggrandizement.  “The service of Jesus is his passion and death for the sins of the human race.”  It is almost as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t be like them.  Be like me.”

The next scene in the Gospel according to St. Mark is when Jesus heals the blind Bartimaeus.  James and John are figuratively blind.  We can only hope Jesus was as successful in healing their blindness as he was at healing blind Bartimaeus. 

Action
Jesus, make us see your service as the model for our own leadership in our families, schools, workplaces and activities.  Leadership and service-in-humility are two sides of the same coin.  In the Kingdom, we cannot spend one without spending the other. 

Today – like any day – the media screams of the need for justice and servant leadership.  Cleveland police. Immigration reform.  Child abuse.  Murder.  It is up to us to speak out for the voiceless and to overcome our own blind-nesses.  It is up to Jesus to lead us in the way of justice in order to overcome our blind-ness. It is up to us to accept the invitation.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

In a Spirit of Joy


By Melanie Rigney

In a generous spirit pay homage to the Lord, be not sparing of freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. (Sirach 35:10-11)

“Gather my faithful ones before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his justice; for God himself is the judge. (Psalm 50:5-6)

Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mark: 10:28-30)

Piety
Joyful, joyful we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, op’ning to the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away; giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day! (“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” lyrics by Henry J. van Dyke)

Study
For a long time, I was in an online writing group. We each had a nickname, and the one they selected for me was Joy. In fact, Melanie Joy is the pen name for the main character in a novel one of my friends is working on now. Pretty cool.

That said, joy can get pretty difficult for me and I suspect many of you as we all go about bringing souls to the kingdom. For me, it’s often not the big stuff; somehow, the enormity of the loss or pending loss of a loved one by death or illness or separation can be so incomprehensible that there is no alternative other than to turn it over to the Lord. No, for me anyway, it’s the small stuff that makes me whine and complain: The first reader who just kept going and deprived me of the gift of proclaiming the second reading. People who do the best they can, but simply aren’t able to carry a full workload, meaning more for me to do. The friend who’s going through some bad stuff and asks for a reasonable amount of my time, but it’s more than I want to give. Whine, whine, whine. Complain, complain, complain. The joy of service evaporates in the reality of the minutiae. Maybe the devil really is in the detail.

Or maybe the answer is in Jesus’s response to Peter in today’s Gospel reading. Like Peter, we may feel we’ve given up as much as we can—our time, our pride, our ego, our fears, all our little conceits. But perhaps true joy comes when we learn to stop thinking about what we do as sacrifice and begin to truly see and feel it as privilege. When we stop complaining—or, for that matter, looking for the noble intent behind someone else’s actions—and simply accept that persecutions accompany our earthly lives and focus instead on those instances when we are surrounded by love and peace here, we get a tiny glimpse of what eternal life may bring. Acceptance, faith, and love allow us to pay our tithes in a spirit of joy.

Action
Don’t complain today, out loud or mentally, about anything. When you are tempted to do so, say a prayer instead.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Come, Follow Me


To the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope and has chosen for them the lot of truth. Return to him and give up sin, pray to the LORD and make your offenses few.  Sirach 17:24-25

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

Piety
Prayer on the Theme of Calling
We have heard your glorious whisper
Almost silent, yet insistent
Breaking through the chatter
Of many voices
The clatter
Of background noises
The wind
The rain
Storm and hurricane
Through all of this
Your voice remains
Unchangeable
Cuts through to heart
And soul
Unmissable
'Come follow me
Pick up the Cross…
My burden is no burden at all
It is simply love
Poured out for you
And through you
Sustaining
Empowering …
Come follow me'

© John Birch

Study
Our glorious fifty-day journey through the Easter season now gives us back to Ordinary Time.  When last we left ordinary time for Lent and Easter, Jesus was asking his disciples to remember back to the miracle of feeding the five thousand.  They, of course, had forgotten the broader meaning of the day.  “Are your hearts hardened?”  Jesus reminds them that He performed signs in order to change their hearts.  From the very outset, Jesus wanted them (and us) to change the direction in which they were looking for happiness.  Jesus wanted them (and us) to look for happiness in him.

Remember the miracle of the loaves and the fishes?  Jesus wants the disciples to remember he did not perform the sign just to feed them.  The nutrition was a welcome by-product so people did not go home at night hungry.  However, the real reason Jesus performed the sign was to CHANGE them.

Today, as we begin again our journey into Ordinary Time, we are reminded by Sirach and St. Mark that we do not do embark on this journey just to get from point A to point B.  We embark on this journey to change.  To turn away from sin.  To pray.  To make our offenses few.  To gain what we are lacking.  To lose what we have gained.


We interrupt this Tripod for a little liturgical calendar lesson learned along the way.  

If you look at the Liturgical Calendar for 2015, you will see that the week BEFORE Lent was the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time and the week after Pentecost is the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time.  From Ash Wednesday through Pentecost, all the time is allotted for in seasonal purple and red and white.  So, where did the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time 2015 go? 

The actual number of complete or partial weeks of Ordinary Time in any given year can total 33 or 34. In most years, Ordinary Time comprises only 33 weeks, so the Church omits one week that otherwise would precede the resumption of Ordinary Time following Pentecost Sunday. For example, in 2015, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday was the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, but the day after Pentecost Sunday is Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time.  To make the calendar fit, the Church skipped the seventh week this year.  However, in 2017 and 2018, there will not be a “skipped” week.


Action
Jesus offers The Invitation again today and always:  “Come, follow me.” 

What are you lacking in order to be ready to accept the invitation?  Accepting the invitation means that we must turn away from some other pursuit in order to follow the path that Jesus offers. 

We focus our fasting, prayer and almsgiving in Lent and to some extent Advent.  However, Ordinary Time remains ripe for the same sacrificial change that we seek in preparing for Christmas and Easter.  Ordinary Time is just a different path to the Joyful Mystery of the birth and the Glorious Mystery of the Resurrection. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Receive


By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Originally Published May 30, 2009

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:1-4

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.  1 Corinthians 12:12-13

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:20B-22

Temples Of The SpiritLove announces the presence of the Spirit in our hearts. Our recognition of the presence of God in our lives is the work of the Spirit. The day we begin praying to the Spirit for the grace to be willing to be who Christ would have been if he were lucky enough to be one of us marks the beginning of a deeper love relationship with the Lord. From that moment on, the Spirit of the Father's love for the Son and the Son's love for the Father is ours. Caught in the deepest of all meanings of love, the still point of being in love, the lived experience of prayer brings to life the Spirit at work in our hearts. The Spirit speaks for us in the cry of "Abba.” to the Father. The Third Person of the Trinity voices our needs from our hearts in the intense emptiness of a dark night. Our prayer cries out for belonging to God. In the lived moment of the wordlessness of our hearts we encounter the Spirit pleading for us to the Creator. Our souls have become Temples of the Spirit.

Dawning Of Love
Love in our Spiritual lives gives us a growing vision of God. Our personal Pentecost is the dawning of love in our hearts. Christ indicated the importance of Pentecost at the Last Supper when he said, "...the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything..."(Jn. 14:26). The apostles, even though they had known Christ personally, did not recognize him immediately in his post-Resurrection appearances. The Christ of the resurrection was a stranger to the two disciples traveling to Emmaus until they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. Although the Apostles recognized Christ a number of times after he rose from the dead, the coming of the Spirit would sharpen their awareness of Christ's presence through the gifts of the Spirit. The "everything" the Spirit would teach would include wisdom, knowledge, counsel, and understanding of Christ in his humanity. The putting on the mind of Christ would complete the Apostles’ training. Molded by piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord, the disciples would have hearts alive to Christ who would claim their hearts. These same gifts of the Spirit resurface our hearts as the Christ hearts of today. Thus, we proclaim the Sacred Heart even as we enshrine it in our heart.

Love For Others
Seven gifts - Wisdom, Knowledge, Counsel, Understanding, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord - in which we are always growing, are ours by virtue of our membership in the family of God. The presence of the Spirit in our lives is most pronounced in the love we have for others. Christ made it clear at the Last Supper just how far reaching our love ought to be: "...no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend"(John 15:13). "What I command you is to love one another"(John 15:17). "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Love of God and love of our neighbor are Christ’s commandments to us. The Spirit surrounds our love and is our love for one another.

Put On Christ
The gifts of the Holy Spirit make it possible to put on the mind and the heart of Christ. The way Christ does things can be learned by our prayer and the example of good people. If our own adherence to Christ is to make any sense at all, we have to put on the mind and the heart of Christ. Prayer makes the mind and heart of Christ a living memory in us.

We come to know Christ through the Scriptures. Listening to our hearts brings us closer to the Christ who touched our hearts in baptism. Christ reaches out to our world by using our gifts for spreading his kingdom. If we are going to own the mind and the heart of Christ, our gifts have to fuse with our energies of life as we reach out to the needs of our world.

Becoming Complete
The gifts of the mind are complemented by the gifts that touch the heart. Wisdom, knowledge, understanding and counsel are the mind gifts that need the heart-felt gifts of piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord. Together they are the quality of a Christ life. Piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord are other gifts of the Spirit which come together to stretch our hearts. Both sets of gifts are the Spirit at work to help us put on the mind and the heart of Christ. The Spirit works to capture all of our being for Christ. The distinction of the intellect and the will often de-personalizes these gifts so that we lose touch with the Holy Spirit. We become a complete person in Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit in us.

No Greater Love
Love is the beginning of wisdom. We cannot love others if we do not love ourselves. But we can only love ourselves if we have been loved. Human love begins with a parent's love. A mother's love is incomprehensible, yet it teaches us, at an early age, the meaning of love. Divine love is best understood in God's love for us as expressed in the humanness of Christ who died on the cross for us. Wisdom is found in Christ's "no greater love." Wisdom is the Word made flesh and the fleshed out forgiveness of the cross.

Born In Our Time
Knowledge of Christ is all the information we possess of the events in the life of Christ. The knowledge produces meaning in us as we grow in our journey of faith to become another Christ. We read the Scriptures and come to an awareness of who this man Christ is. He lives with the Church as his Mystical Body. In what we know about the Church we come to recognize Christ in all he does in the lives of our brothers and our sisters. Reading the lives of great saints helps increase our knowledge of Christ. We imagine what Christ would have been like had he been born in their age and time. The 'saints' of our own families and friends help us to understand the Christ of the Scriptures by the way they have incorporated Christ into their own lives. The gift of knowledge dawning in our minds brings the light of Christ. Light is shed on who we can be in Christ.

Our Destiny
The Apostles who accompanied Christ during his Public Life, and the understanding the Spirit gave them, sustained the early Church. Our understanding of friends and ourselves will continue through life until the day we see Christ face to face. Then eye will see and ear will hear what has not yet been seen or said in the history of the world. At last we will understand, in the fullness of the Christ of Heaven, what life in the Spirit invites us to have as our destiny.

Test Of Authority
The translation of Christ into our 20th century is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our belonging to the Church is the movement of the Holy Spirit in us. Paul could have heard of Christ many times in his life and never understood what Christ was about. As he subjected his understanding of Christ to the Spirit, through the Apostles he came to know in a deeper way what he understood in his prayer and the time spent in darkness. Understanding puts the process of learning to the test of authority. It allows us to realize the truth of our thoughts.

Hard Love
Wisdom, knowledge and understanding are the natural outcrop of the Spirit's grace within us. The divine indwelling reaches a tangible expression in the beauty of our love reaching out to another's need. Rid of selfishness our hearts have a greater capacity for loving. Our world does not understand hard love measured by Christ's giving from the cross. Hard love is measured by how we give rather than receive. Our wisdom, knowledge and understanding are tempered by our love of the cross of Christ. "The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them (Jn. 15:13).

Counsel
Counsel is the coming together of wisdom, knowledge and understanding in the practical advice given or received. Counsel points out what is missing in our Christ relationship. We have counsel for others in our understanding of what is missing in their Christ relationship. We need spiritual direction and discernment on the spiritual journey. Counsel must be prudent so that advice not take us beyond our strength for living a good life.

Often enough, in our lives, there is a note of scorn in our voices when we call someone pious. Yet piety is the strength of personal love for Christ. We are called to lose ourselves in Christ so we can say with Paul: "...I live now not with my own life, but with the life of Christ, who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20). The Spirit strengthens our love of God in Christ. Christ's love touches the foundation of our being, giving us his relationship to the Father.

Fortitude
Fortitude is a sorely needed gift of the Spirit in our world and in our Church. It makes perseverance and sticking to a difficult task possible. Fortitude energizes us to live up to what we believe. Fortitude is essential to religious life. The intensity of a life following Christ all the way to the Cross relies on fortitude. Marriages can flounder in its absence. Every form of community will fall by the wayside without it. The intensity of our love is a measure of fortitude. By fortitude we can offer a love as intense as Christ's love. Such a love endures in season and out of season, when it is acceptable and even when it is not acceptable. Fortitude strengthens us in the way we share our love. The sinner who keeps on trying against all obstacles, and one day reaches the pinnacle of holiness, gets there by fortitude. The attraction of a pleasure locking us into selfishness is counterbalanced by the call of grace, which gradually allows us to build up the habit of saying "yes" to our Lord. Fortitude is the love of a heart capable of outlasting temptation. Fortitude forges a will of iron, which enables us to do what the Lord is asking.

Fear Of The Lord
Our journey of love calls us to choose our beloved over everyone and everything else in life. Each time we fail we have a new movement of the Spirit flowing from a fear of the Lord. There are times when we do not want to live with our Lord, but we need him, whether we know it or not. Every time we pick something other than our Master, and make it, even for a moment, the meaning of life, we feel the grumbling of our hearts, calling, calling, calling us back to this God, whose absence we fear. Just like the awesome experience of his love living within us, fear of losing the Lord can be one of the freeing experiences of life. We will do the impossible to keep him.

Another Christ
We dare to be another Christ. Fear, which keeps us from doing something, is not the same as fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is different than fear of being punished. Our hearts quake before the awesomeness of God's presence in Jesus Christ. We have the gift of the fear of the Lord when we look deep within. In the Mystery of Indwelling we realize in whose presence we are. This fear does not bring paralysis; rather it brings a moment of adoration in the unveiling of God's majesty in us.

God’s Way
The Spirit is sent to empower us on our own missions in life. We have to surrender our way of doing things in favor of God's way. We have to realize that God is in our lives. There are no accidents in the plan of God. He has chosen us. He has chosen to be in our lives. The coming of the Spirit deepens the surrender of our lives to God's action in us. The surrender to this call allows God to work through us, because grace builds on nature. This enables us to see how much more can be done than we could ever have dreamt of doing alone.

Contemplatives In Action
We have to make the transition from simply being preserved in life to being active participants with the Lord working through us. The ideal is to let the Lord work one hundred percent while we do nothing. All blocks to the-Lord-taking-care-of-everything need to be removed with today's Pentecost.

The Work Of The Spirit
Each of the Gifts of the Spirit makes it possible for us to be present to the needs of another. The gifts show themselves through the fruits of the Spirit. These fruits distinguish our relationship to Christ. When grace builds on nature, the fruit of the Spirit focuses nature by shining forth with gracefulness, and exposing the uniqueness of each of us.

The Spirit Of The Lord Is Upon Us
A genuine Christian by being true to oneself offers the fruits of the Spirit. The life of the Spirit in anyone reveals itself by the way one’s gifts nourish another. The fruits of the Spirit are much more obvious in others than in oneself. Love is the working of the spirit attracting our hearts by the gift of another. Love is anything done for another and a deed of love finds expression as a fruit of the spirit. Each act of love plants in our hearts a fruit of the Spirit. In the Gospel of Luke we encounter Christ reading from the prophet Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor..."(Luke 4:18). His comment on the scripture was; "This passage of Scripture has come true today as you heard it being read."(Luke 4:21) The presence of the Spirit within us has an outgoing manifestation discoverable in the fruit of the spirit. The force of the spirit within flows to the exterior of our lives, and his fruit show his presence within.

Fruits Of The Spirit
The genuine living of our Christ-life should have many outward signs. A list could include more than the charity, peace, joy, patience, benignity, chastity, continence, longsuffering, goodness, mildness, faith and modesty that make up the traditional listing of the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit reveal our Christianity. We shall know they are Christians by their love. Our love for one another needs the uniqueness that flows out of the mixture of the gifts of the Spirit. The recognition of the uniqueness of a friend elaborates the meaning of a fruit of the Spirit. Love for another flows from the appreciation of the uniqueness of one or more of the fruits of the Spirit in another.

Love
A great heart is recognized by its generosity, in its giving of self in love. The only thing we can change in a relationship is the amount of love we give, and the way we give it to one another. At the other extreme from generosity is selfishness, which manipulates the gift of another for personal gain. Love attempts to give the better gift, recognizable as the fruit of charity.

Joy
Joy flows from a genuine heart. Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God in any life. Joy goes deeper than a silly smile. The happiness of being a child of God is part of joy. The closeness of belonging is part of joy. The living of our truth brings joy. Desire to be true to our word is written on our heart and is the source of joy. The sad-faced Christian contradicts the Good News of the gospel. We like ourselves when we are living up to the dictates of our hearts. Holiness brings sane living, and the wholeness of sanctity brings a joy strong enough to survive even the trials of Job. Joy is one of the best signs of the closeness of God to us. The divine indwelling surfaces joy again and again, showing the truth of our heart’s closeness to God. It is the gift belonging to the Resurrection.

Peace
Peace is the sign of a soul that has it all together. It is tranquility of a heart secure in its relationship to the Father. Love calls us to togetherness with the beloved. Poverty, short life and dishonor that mark the life of Christ are difficult to want until love for Christ and the Father strengthens us. Once our peace is strongly established in our relationship to Christ, our unruffled spirits flow from our freedom to give of ourselves rather than our concern with what we are receiving. Christ chose poverty, and his spirit within us chooses his poverty. The disgrace of the cross bringing the glory of Christ makes possible the great peace accompanying Christ's cross in the saints. It allows us to know in the midst of our crosses that we are close to Christ. The human Christ who lived two thousand years ago is out of our reach, but his choices of life are possible to us. Christ can be touched and held in no better way, with the exception of Eucharist, than by the way we live out his choices of life. Our awareness of trying to choose as Christ chose brings peace.

Peace is possible amid fears. The Apostles of the upper room were filled with fear when Christ brought them his peace. Once we make the choices of Christ our own, nothing can separate us from the peace Christ brings. The world no longer can force us away from Christ because honor and power lose their attraction; they are not his choices. He chose poverty, short life and the dishonor of the cross.

Only the choice of something other than Christ endangers peace. Sin is the distance that exists between who I am and who I should be in following Christ. Sin is rarely a “we,” it is always an “I.” Our peace is in what we do for Christ as the other. Our peace is in our being with Christ by our togetherness with others. Peace births the leaders our world needs.

Patience
Patience is seen in the acceptance of our own and others' growth. It is easier to see growth in others than in self. Growth requires pruning to remove the dead wood. Such pruning is the work of the Father. It makes room for the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

The pruning away of faults opens us to growth. Pruning and growth are not always easy. They often occur in periods of great stress, where we are not aware of what is happening. The piercing of the heart of Jesus on the cross ranks as one of the sharpest cuts of all time. Our own cuts do not always draw the best from us. Wanting to be close to Christ can calm the troubled waters of our lives. Closeness to Christ allows the fruits of the Spirit to flow out of our hearts in the patience we have with each other. We walk on water with the touch of Christ on our hearts.

Kindness
Christ becomes part of the excitement of our life in the experience of the coming forth of the Spirit in our salvation history story. When the Spirit comes to us, we are enabled to live up to Christ in us. Our Christ gifts are always renewed for what is needed as our hearts are claimed to meet the challenge of what is to be done in our world today. A gentle heart is one that belongs to Christ. Violence is foreign to a soul caught up in the wonder of Christ having died for us. The willingness to be a non-violent person flows out of the oneness one has with the Christ of the Cross.

Gentleness
We joyfully recognize the presence of the Spirit as the bursting-out expression of the pleasure of giving. Not only does God love a cheerful giver. We all do, even loving ourselves when we give cheerfully. The fun of giving opens the eyes of our soul in an ever-widening circle of love until one day we can be more concerned about the world in which we live than about ourselves. Gentleness comes from respect for life and all life stands for. The life of Christ, knowable from the scriptures, becomes real to us in the way Christ dealt with the woman taken in adultery. Gentleness is how the good Shepherd comes alive in our dealings with one another. A placid spirit and a kind heart find expression in gentleness of spirit.

Goodness
Each of the fruits of the Spirit is a living out of a gift of the Spirit in a practical way, thus making it a pleasure to be with another. The fruits of the spirit make us loveable. Once we are willing to say that we need another, we know, in the recognition of the gift they possess, the working of the Spirit in our relationship. It goes both ways. Others can discover in us what we discover in them. A living people-list of the twelve fruits is its own reward. Much more rewarding is the discovery of what attracts our hearts to holy people. Goodness is a label we put on holiness.

Christ’s Holiness
All of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit have to do with love. Perfect love generates new love. The fruits of the Spirit are found in Christ and the imitation of Christ produces fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit reveal the uniqueness of Christ's holiness in each of us. We are called by the gentleness of Christ. He does not call us by force. The "come follow me" touches our hearts as an invitation. The desire to follow is born of the truth of the attraction of holiness. Christ calls us to find ourselves in him.

The beauty of Christ's love is that it has anticipated us. Before we have been born, Christ has loved us and we are called to find in him the deepest meaning of our creation. All the other religions are touched by the Spirit of God, and in the very touch tell us something about holiness. Christianity not only tells us something about holiness, but also in telling us about Christ gives us the example of the perfect holiness of life. Christ tells us something about what it means to be ourselves and the richness of the Spirit in each of us is founded on the relationship to Christ's gifts of the Spirit.

The Birth Of The Church
As the blood and water issued forth from the pierced heart of Christ, the Church was conceived. Pentecost marks the birth of the Church and claims Christ's spirit as its ongoing life that will be fulfilled in the final resurrection. Love carries us toward fusion with the beloved. The tension of love is found in the need of independence and autonomy. Growing up in this love carries us into the Mystical Body of Christ in the interdependence of our lives together where our gifts are needed and expressed as the life of the Church. The source of this love is the Holy Spirit. The locus of this love is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And the possibility of this love is the exchange of hearts with Christ.

Personal Pentecost
We live in an age of the Spirit. But we often pay only lip service to the Holy Spirit in the Gloria, the Creed and the sign of the Cross. How often do we adore the Holy Spirit in the depths of our hearts? Our missing challenge to holiness could be the ignorance of the coming of the Spirit in our own lives. The gifts of the Spirit can make us aware of the coming of the Spirit to us. We have all heard of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. Yet our unawareness of his coming to us from without makes us incomplete in our own relationship to the Spirit. Most of us claim the Spirit at Baptism, but need encouragement to frequently tap the Spirit. Few realize that for every new need of the community, there is the possibility of a new coming. Christians will never get beyond the need of new comings because the problems of the growing pains will be with us until the end.

A New Coming
We think of someone missing when we hear of the Holy Spirit, and yet the Spirit moves us when we adore the Lord our God. People whom we respect as spiritual are filled with the Spirit. Yet many of them do not realize that for every need of the people of God, there is the possibility of a new coming just for the asking. The very need of the people of God brought the new coming we call the second Vatican Council. What the Church can do as the macrocosm of the people of God, we can do in community as a microcosm of the people of God. Each new need of the people of God can invite us to go beyond the way we see ourselves. Our need is the basis for a new coming if we will but call out from the depths of our being with the cry that the Spirit makes possible. We need the combination of wisdom, knowledge, counsel and understanding that brings the integration of the mind of Christ into our way of thinking, and the piety, fortitude, and the fear of the Lord that claims for our living the very heart of Christ as our own. The mind and the heart of Christ give rise to all the fruits of the Spirit.

Love To Be Shared
We are looking for the Spirit of the Father. Looking at Christ discovers the Father. Christ was such a good teacher of the Father that he could claim at the Last Supper that all the Father had given him he had passed on to his disciples. He told his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, I have loved you." And he wanted his disciples to live on in that love. The disciples could well have come to the upper room of Pentecost out of fear and out of the memory of what they had shared in Christ. The promise of Christ to send the Spirit and not the qualifications of the Apostles made Pentecost possible. Peter, forgiven by Christ for having denied him, would be the spokesperson of Pentecost. Peter had a need of sharing this Christ who had died for him. What happened in that upper room was not just the rush of the fire of divine love that reached their hearts, but the need of that love to be shared.

Excitement Of Love
The Pentecost experience is filled with an energy that cannot be restrained. The Spirit of the living God within us breaks free in the sharing of our love. At Pentecost, the Resurrection becomes the dawning awareness of Christ bigger than hearts and the encounter with Christ needs to be shouted out to our world with all the excitement of love. We capture in Christ's humanness all the mercy and love of God. Pentecost makes it possible for a dearly departed friend to live on in our lives in the love of our hearts reminding us of our friend.

Wings To Words
At Pentecost all the memories of Jesus came together with such a rush, it was like a loud wind gathering in one place. The Apostles could not be quiet. The urgency of their hearts to speak of their Christ gave wings to words that reached the hearts of the many listeners of that day. The tongues of fire set them free. The gathering of the day and the memories shared caught up and freed their spirits to proclaim to any and all the good news of Christ's Resurrection. The Apostles needed Pentecost to become free. What we would say because of our new Pentecost speaks the louder to hearts seeking to be free. The truth reaching the heart reflects the working of the Spirit. Each of the gifts we possess, given for the needs of the world, relates whom we are to the world groaning to know the salvation of Jesus Christ. Christ is revealed in us even as we reach out to the needs of the world under the inspiration of the Spirit. The victory of Christ lives in each of us through our goodness. Christ had to go. As long as he was on the scene, the apostles would always want to be around Christ and would be following his lead. They were not about to initiate anything that would risk their lives or spread the news that God was in the land. They needed something that would galvanize them into action after Christ had left them in the Ascension; they had to be taken from being bystanders and watchers to heartfelt livers of the Kingdom of God. Christ told the Apostles that he had to go in order that the Spirit might come. He was telling them that there was something missing between what he stood for and their living the fullness of whom he, Christ, was. When someone finally leaves us, all we shared becomes a living memory in us. We know the need of honoring the memory with action.

The Awakening
Pentecost brings the awakening of all the Apostles in the excitement of the day we read about in the second chapter of the Acts. Their membership in the human race showed through their fear. We can imagine the doors locked. They could not bring themselves to leave. Confusion reigned. Would Jesus come soon? How will we recognize him this time? What could be done in the meanwhile? Were they all talking at once? Was it Mary who first understood? Did she wait for the others to understand? So many questions then and today capture our hearts before we are ready for the work of Jesus. The Apostles were beset with confusion and doubt. They were held together by expectation and love of Jesus. The "Come, Lord Jesus" prayer of the early community was perhaps first uttered from the hearts of these men at this time.

Tongues Of Fire
When the Apostles were together, they possessed the presence of Christ missed so desperately when they were alone. This group of ordinary people would be made extraordinary by tongues of fire. The ground swell of fear is swallowed by a heaven swell of love. The doors of their hearts are swung open and the doors of the room hold them no longer. They burst forth from the room charged by the movement of the spirit, charged with spreading the good news. His excitement in sending the Spirit has to be measured by our joys in sharing the good news. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same spirit. What the apostles received, we receive. New times and new needs call forth the gifts that are so different, but the same in the Spirit, the giver of the Gifts.

New Coming
Chapter four of Acts tells us about Peter and John praying: "[T]o speak. Your, message with all boldness... grant that wonders and miracles may be performed..." (Acts 4:29-30) The building shook and the sound of the rushing winds made them aware of a new coming of the Spirit. The Pentecost we celebrate as the beginning of the Church was the first of many great needs that would be met by sending the Spirit.

Ongoing Life
The Holy Spirit comes to the great needs of the Church, inspiring men and women of every age to use their gifts for the Church. The great civilizations which have come and gone so quickly in the history of the world suggests something special keeps the Church going amidst all the weaknesses and sinfulness of its members. The presence of the Spirit in the Church, constantly renewing us, explains the ongoing life of the Church. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit brings the truth the Church shares with its people. The father of lies will not prevail over the Church. The Spirit’s presence nourishes and insures the growth of the Church. The Spirit is the love present in the Church in its relationship to the Father and the Son. Limiting the operations of the Spirit to the day of Pentecost would make the Spirit an isolated part of Church history. In truth, the Spirit is the life-giver of every day. The Spirit is in the ''now-ness'' of the mystery of love as the breath and life of the Church.

I Am
If we could hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us we might hear. “I am the love of the Father, and the Son for each other. I would be your love of God even as I am God's love for you. I am the meeting of love and the reaching beyond the boundaries of life to the meeting of the divine and the human. I am the moment of time that is eternal because it only takes a moment to love forever. I am your deepest wish and the wellspring of all knowledge. I am the truth of who you are, and of whom you will become in the fullness of all love that Christ makes yours in my coming. Forget yourself and all the desires you have of this world and allow me to do the talking for you. Open your heart to the sound of my voice and I will speak for you to the world crying out for the human to make sense. I am the moment before common sense, even as I am the divine logic of all love. Open yourself to hear the truth of the heart you can be in God's love as you accept the truth of yourself.”

Let Us Pray
We claim you, Spirit, as the truth of our hearts. Come, fill our hearts and make us faithful. Your gifts are the heartbeats of Eternal Life in us. Give us open hearts to love even as Christ did. Move us and mold us as lovers of life and all that is holy. Make us noble in the way we reach out to the hurting and the little ones of life.

Teach us what we need to know that we might always possess the truth of Christ in who we are. Let us be totally receiving and totally giving so the life of the Trinity might have a counterpart in us in the Mystery of Indwelling. Make us a giving people so poverty might be driven away forever. Deafen us with the cry of "Abba" from our hearts so we may only hear the word of our hearts calling to our Father in heaven. Speak for us so we might be heard by the Father in the truth of our Christ life within. May each of your gifts be strong in us and may the fruits of your life within us be seen by all. Enkindle in us the fire of divine love and never let it go out. Recreate us anew in Love. Let the Sacred Heart be our heart. Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2015

You Follow Me


After trying my case the Romans wanted to release me, because they found nothing against me deserving the death penalty. But when the Jews objected, I was obliged to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no accusation to make against my own nation. This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you and to speak with you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains.” Acts 28:18-20

Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.”  John 20:22

Piety
“Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains only a grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit ” (John 12:23-26).

Study
"You follow me."  Perhaps the simplest commandment. 

"You follow me." Jesus was addressing Peter and countering Peter’s status check – comparing himself to John.  Jesus stopped him in mid-thought and brushed off Peter’s questions.

"You follow me."  What concern is it of ours no matter what happens to someone else?  Our only concern is to follow Jesus.  No matter what the consequences.  No matter what the price.

Peter showed us that he had to set his ego aside in order to let Christ rise up in him.

Action
Archbishop Oscar Romero, the great peacemaker was shot and killed while saying Mass and preaching for peace on March 24, 1980.  Today, Pope Francis is beatifying Archbishop Oscar Romero—naming him a “blessed,” the stage just before he is officially canonized as a “saint of God.” But for the people of El Salvador and much of the world, Romero has always been a saint.

Romero is the latest in the line of Peter who will formally get this honor by the church.  In reality, people like Blessed Oscar Romero are considered saintly by the people long before they are bestowed any formal honor by Mother Church.

According to Rev. John Dear, S.J. writing in www.commondreams.org: “For me, though, Archbishop Oscar Romero is not just the greatest bishop in Christian history, he is one of the greatest human beings in history—right up there with the likes of Jeremiah and Isaiah, Francis and Clare, Mahatma Gandhi and Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, Thich Nhat Hanh and Archbishop Tutu. Oscar Romero is the epitome of what it means to be a Christian—a prophet of peace, justice and nonviolence.”

Blessed Oscar was not concerned with what the government would say about him.  Blessed Oscar was not concerned with what the military would do to him.  Blessed Oscar was only concerned with following Jesus.

Fr. John Dear reminds us that “Romero’s prophetic example challenges us to speak out as never before.” We must die so Jesus can live through us. Fr. John implores us:

This weekend, we can all join with the people of El Salvador to celebrate the resurrection of Oscar Romero, and commit ourselves to carry on the struggle, as fiercely as he did, for the abolition of war, poverty, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction, for the coming for a new world of peace and nonviolence. As we do, Romero will rise in us too, and we might all begin to experience new breakthroughs of peace. 

Feed My Sheep

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
By Colleen O’Sullivan
After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”  (John 21:15-17).

Piety
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)

Study
Peter has to be dealing with all sorts of emotions.  In the verses before today’s reading, Jesus, he and some of the other disciples have shared a meal cooked over a charcoal fire.  The last time we read about Peter and Jesus in connection with a charcoal fire, they were in the high priest’s courtyard, Jesus about to be questioned and Peter denying any acquaintance with his friend.  (Jn 18:18)  Now Peter, full of shame and remorse, doesn’t say anything.  It’s Jesus who initiates the conversation.  In English, lose some of the nuances of the conversation.  The first two times Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him, he uses the word agape, the type of love which is pure and selfless and seeks the well-being of the other.  Peter answers him using the word phileo, which is the type of affection we might have for a close friend.  Uppermost in Peter’s mind must be his betrayal of his friend, and there’s no way he can say he loves Jesus selflessly.  The third time Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, he, too, uses the term for brotherly love, phileo.  Three denials counterbalanced by three affirmations of love.

We’ve all been in Peter’s shoes at one time or another, hurting and betraying a close friend or loved one.  We know we need to say we’re sorry and to ask for forgiveness, but sometimes the shame and guilt hold us back.  We can’t even bring ourselves to look the other in the eye.  The beautiful thing about this passage is that Jesus doesn’t wait for Peter to say a thing.  The Risen Christ reaches out and raises his friend from the death of sin and despair.  He then goes beyond forgiveness and turns over the care and feeding of his flock to Peter.  If you truly love me, follow in my footsteps.  Look after all those whom I love.  I entrust them to you.

Action
Our God is a compassionate, forgiving God who sent his Son into the world to heal sinners.  When you are praying today, open your heart to Jesus.  Share with him what needs forgiving in your life. Let him lift from you the burden of sin as he did Peter.  Listen as he asks you, too, to continue his work in the world.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Witness

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
By Beth DeCristofaro
Paul … called out before the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the group became divided….  The following night the Lord stood by (Paul) and said, “Take courage.  For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.” (Acts 23:6-7, 11)
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:  “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. (John 17:20-21)
Piety
Fill me with the awe of your presence in all my interactions with fellow humans, Jesus, because of your love and the love of our Father for me and for all people.  Dissolve my prejudices, fears, paucities.  May the Spirit propel me to humility, witness and wholeness in You. 
Study
And Jesus says to us, each day, each hour:  “Take courage and witness to Me.”  Today is the final day of a Symposium at Catholic University on Nostra Aetate (“Declaration On The Relation Of The Church To Non-Christian Religions”, Vatican II).  The document recognizes that there is truth and holiness and witness to God’s presence in the world in non-Christian religions while affirming the unique and incarnate mystery of the Word that was and is Jesus Christ.   The document declares in part that humans have in common “One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth. One also is their final goal, God. His providence, His manifestations of goodness, His saving design extend to all men”[i]
Our witness must include looking for God in the hearts of others rather than imposing ourselves upon them.  The recent ugly debacle in Texas where participants mocked in cartoons and violence the prophet Mohammed, the Christian militias who make war in Africa, Christian vandals defacing mosques and synagogues, Christian politicians who claim that other governmental leaders who have differing views are not Christian, Catholics asserting that only this prayer or that set of rituals is the only and right way to worship and experience Christ, all these throw Jesus’ words back in His face.
Action
Unity begins with me.  I can look for the face of Jesus in each human face rather than judge her/his right to be respected and cherished.  I can pray for the well-being and spiritual expanding of other peoples.  I can give and serve rather than hold onto or receive.  I can profoundly live with humility, gratitude and generosity the furthers words of Jesus:  And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me (John 17:22)

Consecrate Them in the Truth

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. Acts 20:29-30
”Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”  John 17:17-10
Piety
The young girl dancing to the latest beat
Has found new ways to move her feet
The young man speaking in the city square
Is trying to tell somebody that he cares
Yeah, the ones that you're calling wild
Are going to be the leaders in a little while
This old world's wakin' to a new born day
And I solemnly swear that it'll be their way
You better help the voice of youth find
"What is truth?”
Study
Paul must realize how odd his words sound.  He readily admits that for three years, he was the one blazing a trail of tears.  Now, Paul/Saul is the one warning about the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the false prophet who will come to divide the community and tempt the followers off the path of truth.
Jesus must realize how final his words sound.  For three years, he has been there leading his followers to the way of truth.  Soon, he will depart and they will be on their own.  Jesus also knows that the way of the world will come to divide and destroy the community.
Men and women will come forward from Madison Avenue, from Wall Street, from Hollywood, from K Street, from even Main Street who will show a different way.  An easy way.  A wealthy way.  A tempting way. 
The temptation will not always come in the form of violence.  The temptation will disguise the truth.  The temptation will look easy.  But Jesus and Paul and the prophets never promised easy.  They only promised life.  Nothing important in life is easy.
Action
This week, there is a story in the news about four cancer charities which bilked donors out of an alleged $187 million. 
Before you give to any charity, do your research.  Watchdog groups like CharityWatch, Charity Navigator and GuideStar can be sources to help you make sure your money goes to legitimate organizations and not just to “false prophets.” 
Do the research.  Be prudent.  Make good choices.  However, do not let these wolves (aka crooks) discourage you from giving to legitimate charities that do good work.See More