Thursday, April 24, 2014

In Their Midst

Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.  Acts 3:19-21

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Luke 24:36-37

Father, help us to see Jesus in our midst.  May the warmth of that encounter with the Lord change us from following our path to walking with Jesus.  Holy Spirit, guide us no matter how startled and terrified we are of the journey.    

What is the meaning of the Easter story?  Just this:  Jesus is not out there.  He is not some “ghost.”  He spirit is alive and in our midst bringing us Peace even when we are startled and terrified.   The story Luke recounts is not some figurative allegory.  Jesus came back to stand, sit, eat, talk, touch, and be touched by the disciples. 

Again, that same word appears today that marked the preaching of John the Baptist in the desert and the public ministry of Jesus.  Repent.  Change.  We did not act on his words alone.  So, to further help us to change, “God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”  (Acts 3:26)

Easter is aligned with spring and all the signs of new life after the winter of the Polar Vortex.  Flowers, grass, trees are showing their spring colors in the light and warmth of the season.  These signs of life are now in our midst after the death and darkness and cold of winter. Literal change is all around us.  Easter means change also has to be within us.

How is the meaning of the Easter story changing you?  As Pope Francis said in a recent homily, “Jesus isn't 'up there,' faraway, pope says. He's here by our side. Don't be afraid to reach out to him.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We Have Seen the Risen Lord

By Colleen O’Sullivan
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.  He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”  They stopped, looking downcast.  One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”  And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”  (They reported on the events of the preceding week.)  And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures… (Jesus stopped to eat the evening meal with them.)  And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.  Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”  (Luke 24:15-17, 25-27, 30-32)

 Christ is risen.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.

It’s Sunday, but it may as well still be Friday for Cleopas and his fellow disciple.  Shattered and despairing, they are leaving Jerusalem behind, all their hopes nailed to a cross and then hastily buried in a borrowed tomb.  Grieving, with no idea what they are going to do, and maybe not even caring, they steadily put one foot in front of the other.

We’ve all trekked through that valley of the shadow of death – wondering what we will do now that we’ve buried a beloved family member or friend, lost a job, been diagnosed with a serious illness, or found ourselves alone in an empty house, our marriage over.  We know all too well the journey of fear and uncertainty that Luke describes in today’s Gospel reading.

But then the Risen Lord appears!  It is Easter.  It turns out that death is not the end.  Everything is transformed.  After despair there is hope.  After sadness there is the promise of joy.  There is new life after each of the dyings we experience.  And we realize there is no path we take in this life so obscure or hidden that Jesus cannot find it.  He comes to us wherever we are and walks beside us, revealing himself and his inimitable love for us. 

Once Cleopas and his friend recognize their travel companion, they reverse direction and hurry back to Jerusalem.  They are bursting to share the good news with the other disciples.  Our Lord lives!  We have seen him!

Wherever you go this week, joyfully ring out the Easter alleluias for all to hear.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Both Lord and Christ

By Beth DeCristofaro

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people, “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)

… they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” … Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.  (John 20:13, 16)

Ever-renewing and energizing Creator,
Come, stir in my dormant spiritual limbs.
Wake up my tired prayer.
Revive my weary efforts of care.
Sing hope into my discouragement.
Wash my dusty, drab attitude
with the cleansing rains of your vision.
Go deep to my roots and penetrate my faith
with the vibrancy of your grace.
Shake loose the old leftover oak leaves
of my tenacious ego-centeredness.
Coax joy to sprout from my difficulties.
Warm the buds of my relationships
so they bloom with healthy love.
Clear out my wintered debris
with the wild breeze of your liberating presence.
Nudge me, woo me, entice me, draw me to you.
I give you my trust and my gratitude
as you grace my slowly thawing spirit.
Light-filed Being, my Joy and my Hope,
let the greening in me begin!

(Taken from Out of the Ordinary 2000 by Joyce Rupp.
Used by permission of Ave Maria Press.  All rights reserved.)

Holy Week was on one hand more ordinary than an ordinary week for me as my work schedule kept me from as much “holy” activity as I would have wished.  Instead I walked the way of the cross with grieving families, intensely aware that the Lord hurt with them as they tried to keep their feet on the ground and their faith before them just as he did on the walk to Golgotha so many years ago.  I found myself praying as I went last week, often.

At the same time I was humbly aware that the Western Christian Holy Week, Orthodox Church and Jewish Passover all were co-existing on the calendar together along with Hindu and Jain holy festivals.  This might be a coincidence of chronological record-keeping but I always find it inspirational to find synchronous moments in time and space that remind me of how many and how often humans seek the divine. 

Peter might be astounded to know that today the whole world knows of Jesus the Christ.  He certainly would know intimately how it felt to lose Jesus within himself having denied him three times.  That is a wretched knowledge that I have as well, having “misplaced” Jesus too many times to count by focusing and acting in sin, distractions, falsehoods, sanctimoniousness, pejorative thinking or talking.  Jesus called her by name and brought Mary’s attention back to him.  Jesus will do the same for me again and again. 

Despite the heartbreak of denial, the fear of loss, and the catastrophe of execution, Jesus pointed his followers toward the joy of His presence as Christ with them, with us.  How can I manifest this joy despite struggles and defeat?   What must I lose in order to not misplace Him?  In order to find Him within?  Am I open to seeing Him in others?

Sunday, April 20, 2014


God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.  Exalted at the right hand of God, he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear.”  Acts 2:32-33

And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.  They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.  Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”  Matthew 28:9-10

Let us celebrate Easter with all our senses:  hearing the message that He is risen, seeing His works carried out, embracing those who need embracing, tasting the goodness of the Lord, and smelling the aroma of life around us. As we come to know the hope that is the Easter story, let us proclaim that to our sisters in brothers in the Galilee of our life. Amen.

Is now the time to let go of Lent?  Or is now the time to make our Lenten offerings part of our everyday living?

Whether or not we let go of Lent or maintain an attitude of giving, the lesson that Easter brings to that disposition is that Jesus will meet us along the way we are going. During Lent, our fasting, almsgiving and sacrifice were intended to bring us closer to Christ and the mission He has for us.  Now that we are into the Easter season, we will reflect on that mission through the Acts of the Apostles – stories filled with acts of fasting, almsgiving and sacrifice, stories filled with acts that we are to continue to emulate.

The notes to the readings today point out that in both John and Matthew’s accounts of the Easter encounter, there is a physical touch between the women and Jesus.  In Matthew, they embraced his feet and did him homage, an act that helps us to recall the anointing of his feet by Mary the week before the Passion and contrasts with the nails that pierced his feet on Good Friday.  

Rather than letting go, perhaps now is the time to embrace those acts even more.

Easter is the time for us to come out of our shell and follow the Risen Christ.  Has your shell been cracked and peeled away so that there are no obstacles as you approach Jesus today?  Where will He meet you today?  Will you recognize Him?  Will you embrace Him and what He asks of you?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

He Saw and Believed

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.  Acts 10:40-42

Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  1 Corinthians 5:8

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.  Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.  John 20:6-8

Jesus is truly risen.  He lives in the joy of our companions on a blossoming, spring day.  He lives in the song of the colorful birds of our life.  He is the richness of a helping hand.  He is the wonder of the newborn babe.  He is the fulfillment of everything that is wonderful about life.  He has given us the fullness of his cross as the most magnificent expression of the mercy and the love of God.  Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow is everything beautiful about being alive.  Jesus is the aliveness of ever now that touches the eternal newness of God.  Christ in his resurrection sits at the right hand of God and he is the best part of ourselves already in heaven in his love for us that draws us ever to our destiny in God through him.  Jesus gives us the best of ourselves in his resurrection that makes our love his when we love one another.  When we have lost something and found it again.  Jesus is the forever being found of the God of our hearts.  There is no tomorrow in the forever of the Jesus of the Resurrection.  His love is forever a part of us in the completing of all the "incompletes" of our lives.

Our study is the looking beyond of the created moments of our lives to see what is pointed at in the fullness of God’s love for us in each moment.  Our study rushes us to the empty tomb of his burial to find the risen Lord waiting for us in each new moment of our lives.  We climb the cross of Christ to see our world through the eyes of his Resurrection.  There is no moment now that does not hold the fulfillment of every desire.  We neatly unwrap the folds of what we have buried in the hopes of the resurrection.  Our study gives us what the Apostles were witnessing to in their accounts of the risen Christ.  We believe because they have given us the vision of what we are waiting for in our hopes of our own resurrections.  We study each encounter of Christ to get beyond the disguise of his being in each other in the goodness our study reveals.

We must live the resurrection.  Our lives must reveal the fullness of our hopes in Christ.  He will not berate us for our faults.  We must do the same for each other.  He will comfort us by his presence in our lives.  We must be beacons of hope for each other by our comfortableness with each other.  All the joy of the resurrection we must share that our world might know in the love we have for one another the source of our happiness in Christ.  He died not knowing what we now know in his coming back to us in his happiness that our lives have a forever meaning in his resurrection.  Christ has risen.  We will rise that his joy in his resurrection might be ours.

You Will See Him

Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid!  I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.  He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’  Behold, I have told you.”  Matthew 28:5-7

Father, roll away the stone that blocks us from being active participants in your story. Brother Jesus, appear to us in all Your radiance so that our eyes might be opened and lead to our hearts being opened. Send your Spirit to speak to us in the present moment of our lives so that we might know the mission You have for us and our hands fulfill your promise.    

The nine readings for the Holy Saturday night vigil mass present to us the arc of salvation history.  From the mystery of creation to the mystery of the Resurrection, the Scriptures present all the highlights.  What makes these episodes and the overall history all the more significant and remarkable to me is that we (all of humanity) are a part of them.  All of them. 
In each story, we have been gifted with all that we need from water and food to everlasting water and everlasting food. In each and every reading, the one common word is “you.” 
“You” represents the dialogue and exchange between the Lord and ourselves. Despite our selves, God still chooses to keep us as a part in the Greatest Story Ever Lived.  God addresses us as a member of the family.  We address the Lord as a member of the family.  It is at once the Lord’s story and our story.  It would never happen without Him.  Yet also, it would never happen without you – whether you want to be a part of it or not.

At the vigil tonight or on Easter Sunday morning, you continue to be a part of this story when you attend, hold a candle, sing, sit, stand, kneel, listen and ultimately, when you go in peace to love and serve the Lord and all humanity. 
You take part when you welcome people to your home in hospitality, when you help a stranger, when you help a member of your family.  You take part when you pray in private and when you pray in community.  You take part even when you refuse to take part.  That’s just the way the story goes.  
Put yourself into the Easter mystery every day.

Friday, April 18, 2014

“It Is Finished”

By Melanie Rigney

If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him. (Isaiah 53:10)

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. (John 19:30)

Jesus, help me to say, “It is finished” to the parts of my life that displease you.

And so he died, for the most part abandoned by his friends and the adoring throngs who had accompanied him much of the past three years. That’s what happens when you challenge earthly authorities, it seems. That’s what happens when you stand up for God and those two greatest commandments.

And if we truly desire to grow ever closer to the Father, it’s what happens to us as well. It happens not only when we breathe our last, but when we put aside a displeasing behavior… and lose our companions in addiction or chicanery. It happens when we shut down a gossipy conversation… and anger a friend, no matter how diplomatic we are about it. It happens when we stand up for religious freedom, to the astonishment of those who assume that because we look like them and dress like them, we always think like them.

Death. If we listen to the Lord, it comes to us every day. And leaves us stronger and more faithful in its wake.

What about your life needs to be put aside today so that you may serve the Lord with all your heart, soul and being?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Do This

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.  Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.  He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Luke 4:18-21

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; To place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.  (Isaiah 61:1-3A)

The spirit of the Lord is upon me. The promise of the covenant is fulfilled this day just as it was on the first day of Jesus’ public ministry as he read from the scrolls.
Our waiting is over.  Our savior was born.  Emmanuel is with us.  Our Lenten season of fasting, almsgiving and prayer is at an end. 
Now begins the end of the beginning of the end.  Until Friday, when we will hear those words that mark the end of the beginning when the spirit of the Lord is no longer upon Him.  When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.”  And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.  (John 19:30)
Holy Thursday is a day marked with two distinct celebrations.  During the day, we celebrate the presence of the Lord and the blessing that the priests represent as they continue the presence to this day.  By evening, we are celebrating the Last Supper before Jesus departs. 

The body, once alive, will soon be a soul-less shell, a barren cadaver to be anointed with the oils that were so controversial in Monday’s Gospel.  For three days, we will live in darkness.  However, for now, we celebrate the presence of Jesus with us, all that has been and will be possible thanks to the ransom that will be paid. 
Glad tidings.
Today is a day of paying attention and listening carefully to what Jesus does and says so we can be prepared to put His plan for us into action.  
Who serves as priest, prophet and king in your life?  Thank them for their presence.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


By Colleen O’Sullivan
The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.  Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; And I have not rebelled, have not turned back.  I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting… See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?  (Isaiah 50:4-6, 9a)
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”  They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.  (Matthew 26:14-16)
Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me.  (Psalm 51:4-5)
Betrayal.  We all know how it feels.  That first, horrified gasp of realization.  The hurt that gradually seeps into every nook and cranny of our being.  The humiliation.
Jesus endures so many betrayals.  Judas sells him out for 30 pieces of silver.  The sleeping disciples turn their backs on his anguish in the garden at Gethsemane.  Peter denies ever knowing him.  Once the Lord is in custody, his friends all flee.  You and I who gather at his table every week betray him time and again – whether out of fear, greed, anger, desire for power or any of a host of other motivations.
Yet Jesus never stops loving us.  He carries on, gently washing the feet of his disciples, including those of his betrayer Judas.  He shares an intimate last meal with his friends, knowing they will all fall away.  In his final moments on the Cross, he prays for forgiveness for us, saying we don’t know what we are doing.  He dies for us, offering us redemption and the promise of eternal life.
Consider the differences between Judas’ and Peter’s reactions when each one realizes the import of what they have done.  Judas throws in the towel and quits.  Peter weeps bitter tears of sorrow and repentance.  Jesus forgives Peter and even goes on to entrust his flock to Peter’s care. 

Jesus’ arms are always wide open, ready to embrace and forgive us when we are sincerely regretful and remorseful for our sins.  Try to spend some quiet time today reflecting on the moments when you have betrayed our Savior, and pray for forgiveness.  

God's Arrows

By Beth DeCristofaro

The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.  He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.  He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. (Isaiah 49: 1-2)

Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. … “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” (John 13: 31-32, 36)

You are my hope, Lord; my trust, GOD, from my youth.
On you I have depended since birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength; my hope in you never wavers.
I have become a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge!
My mouth shall be filled with your praise, shall sing your glory every day.
        (Psalm 71:5-8)

In this chapter from John, Jesus also tells his disciples I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another (John 13:34).  In the recent stories about people who risked their lives in Rwanda to save their neighbors during the genocide, love looks like Isaiah’s polished arrow.  People acted decisively with a fierce love that saved many.  We know that the disciples became as sharp-edged swords of love and truth that changed not only their spiritual landscape but the political landscape of the world as they carried forward Jesus’ Word. 

God’s majesty can come through tragedy.  Daughters gather around their dead mother, tenderly preparing her for the funeral home while telling stories in laughter and tears about how she raised them.  A man forgives the murderer of his brother in a courtroom.  This Holy Week, when halleluiahs are followed by betrayal and shouts of disdain, we can deliberately join the Passion of Jesus, accepting His overwhelming act of love for us individually and humanity as a whole with a humility which allows God’s glory to shine.   

We are not all called to acts of such extreme courage.  But where He is we can follow.  In what ways have I been a polished arrow, a sharp-edged sword or a quiet in-the-wings follower of Jesus?  Look for ways this Holy Week to do so again.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spreads out the earth with its crops, Who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it: I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.  Isaiah 42:5-7

So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.  Let her keep this for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”  John 12:7-8

Christ has no body now but yours
no hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
with compassion on this world
yours are the feet with which He walks to do good
Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world

Yours are the hands,
yours are the feet
yours are the eyes
You are His body

Christ has no body now but yours
no hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
with compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours


“Many of the Jews were turning away…”

Just as we get a sign of the success of Jesus’s ministry, the bottom begins to fall out.  From the outset of John’s Good News, the message of the day has always been “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  Turn away from your past.  Now, after all the signs – culminating in bringing Lazarus back from the dead – the turning away from the old ways and turning toward the new message Jesus preached has really picked up momentum.  This was the momentum Jesus tried to avoid when asking people to tell no one of his signs.   

Yet some remain hard-hearted.  Judas would deny Jesus the anointing today and any success in the future.  The Pharisees would deny Jesus any congregational following that comes at their expense. 

If the turning has begun, to what are we/they turning toward?  For that answer, we need look no further than the first reading from the Hebrew Bible.  Isaiah tells us that we have been formed like Jesus to “To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”  Our mission mirrors that of the Nazareth manifesto Jesus announced at the outset of his public ministry.  As his time with humanity draws to a close, it is our time to pick up that mission as our own.


Holy Week is when the mission and manifesto of Jesus becomes ours to own and to carry out. He has held it tight but now passes it to us.

Has this Lenten season opened your eyes to what you have not seen before?  Has this Lenten season helped you learn by what you are imprisoned?  Has this Lenten season provided the light to get you out of darkness?

Although we have to prepare for the day when we do not have Jesus with us, we always have our own lives to change and each other as the aim of our apostolic action.  What are we going to do?  Sit on the sidelines with the crowd and Judas and the Pharisees?  Or dive right into this work that is thrust into our hands like the Cyrenian?  Grasp onto it. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

He Emptied Himself

By Fr. Joe McCloskey, SJ

“This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”  Matthew 21:11

Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.  I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.  Isaiah 50:4c-6

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Philippians 2:6-1

After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there.  And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.  Matthew 27:35-37

A deep-seated piety of love of the Lord is what life is about.  It is the goal of our journey to realize the perfect imaging forth in our life of what our creation in the image and likeness of Christ is.  When we finally discover who we are meant to be in the service of the Lord, we will have realized the plan of God in our person-hood.  The real self is who we are in Christ.  Our uniqueness as a person will be how we image the Christ who does not create clones, but rather is the uniqueness of who we are meant to be.  We wave the prayers and the good actions of our lives as the welcome we offer to Christ, our truth, our way and our life.

When we study Christ, we are studying who we are meant to be in our day and age.  Christ has come so that we might have the life of the Father in who we are.  Christ died for our sinfulness so that we might have his life as the meaning of who we are.  There is no bypass of his cross.  We are all called to go up to Jerusalem with him.  We are all given the opportunity to die with him.  We have eternal life in us as we are raised up to his love forever.  We have Christ as our destiny for all the good thing we have done in our lives.  Palm Sunday with its Passion narrative gives us the connection between our happiness to receive Christ in our lives and all the difficulties of following him closely to his death on the cross.

We welcome Christ to his destiny in living to bring us salvation by entering into the Passion of Christ with all our heart and soul.  Once a year, we are given the chance to relive with Christ the glorious meaning of God’s love for us.  God loved us so much that he wanted to be one of us.  We have the chance to love God back in the ways we live out the crosses in our lives in the name of Christ.  Even as we rejoice to offer up the crosses of our lives in his name, we fill up what is wanting to the suffering of Christ’s body, the Church.  We can rejoice in our sufferings in the name of Christ in the realization that our crosses of life, carried in the name of Christ, will be our claim to fame in heaven.  Palm Sunday gives us the chance to glory in our suffering in his name.

What Are We Going To Do?

Thus says the Lord GOD: I will take the children of Israel from among the nations to which they have come, and gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land.  I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one prince for them all.  Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.  Ezekiel 37:21-22

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.  So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do?”  John 11:45-47a

Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer: A Step Along The Way
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

(*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.)

The last day of the last week of Lent.  Holy Week commences tomorrow with Palm/Passion Sunday.  And the question hangs in the balance for us:  What are we going to do? No more can we look back to see how we did with our prayer, fasting and almsgiving over Lent.  Now is the time for action.  “Do or do not. There is no try.”
We have not just the five weeks of Lent.  Many of us have 25 or 55 or 75-plus years of five weeks of Lent.  But the question remains.  What are we going to do?
We, like the Pharisees have heard the Word.  We see the sunrise.  We see the miracle of birth.  We see people with illnesses cured.  Yet, despite all this, Jesus is about to be executed – a victim of the cruelest form of capital punishment: crucifixion.  Why?  If his message was about love, what got people so riled up against him?  Maybe his core message was not just a happy-slappy, hippy-dippy lovefest.  Think back to the very roots of his opening message:  “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:  “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
What are we going to do?

Last night, at the Franciscan Mission Service annual benefit and celebration, award honoree Jack Jezreel of JustFaith Ministries, in accepting the Anselm Moon award, noted that this idea of the kingdom of God or reign of God is mentioned by Jesus dozens of times in the New Testament. 
What is this Kingdom of God?  As we bridge from Lent to Holy Week, we will have the chance to spiritually experience this and answer that core question.  What is this Kingdom of God and What are we going to do to bring about its reign?
During Holy Week, we will go to church.  For some of us, we will go many times more than any other week in the year.  As the message sinks in, we also will leave church.  How will we make the great commissioning at the end of every Mass resonate in how we live out that Good News with love in action for our neighbors, strangers and enemies that build the kingdom brick by holy brick?

“It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Like a Mighty Champion

By Melanie Rigney

I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him!” All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. “Perhaps he can be tricked; then we will prevail, and take our revenge on him.” But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not prevail. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. (Jeremiah 20:10-11)

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice. (Psalm 18:7)
“If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)

Lord, You matter above all else. Help me to remember that, and to be indifferent to the opinions of those here on earth as long as I am doing Your will.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis announced the canonization of three new saints, including Marie of the Incarnation, born Marie Guyart on October 28, 1599, in France. She died on April 30, 1672, in Canada.

Marie’s story is a difficult one to understand. A relatively wealthy widow with a son, she chose to become an Ursuline nun when she was thirty. She left her son, who was about ten, in the care of her sister and brother-in-law. Ten years later, she felt called to serve in Canada, then known as New France. She was the first woman religious to come to the region.

Marie’s decisions caused some hard feelings within her family, including a story her son and some classmates attempted to gain entrance to her monastery in France. The son, Claude, later became a priest and while the two carried on an active correspondence, but it does not appear they ever saw each other again after she left France.

It’s hard to imagine the Lord calling a mother away from a young child, isn’t it? Fortunately, He doesn’t ask many of us for that sort of sacrifice. But Marie faced the challenge with courage. Among the remarks for which she is remembered is this one: “O my great God, you can do all things and I can do nothing! If you wish to help me, I am ready. I promise to obey you!”

As we head into the holiest time of the year, give some thought to what God is asking of you… and how you can answer the call, as difficult as it seems.