Wednesday, May 19, 2021

 Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 20:28-38; John 17:11b-19)

Every day the news reports hatred, violence, and misery.  Covid rages in India.  Palestinians are revolting in Israel.  It has been reported that child abuse increased over the last year because children were not attending school where its effects could be detected.  All these events counter indicate “the truth” of which Jesus speaks in today’s gospel.

“God so loved the world…” relates the truth that Jesus not only proclaimed but embodied.  Ready to return to his Father, Jesus prays that his disciples likewise live and proclaim it. They will be challenged.  Jesus will undergo cruel punishment and will be apparently defeated.  Peter for a while will even succumb to the lie that Jesus does not matter.  As they have had Jesus in their midst, the disciples now need his Holy Spirit.  The Spirit will consecrate them in the service of the Father’s love.

Perhaps we need the Spirit even more so today.  It is evident that the world still abounds in greed, pride, and lust.  Despite this need, people seem to care less about God than about lottery numbers.  Nevertheless, we can count on Jesus praying for us because we too have discipled with him.  His prayers will allow us to heed, practice, and proclaim his Father’s love.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

 Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 20:17-27; John 17:1-11a)

Both today’s first reading and gospel involve farewell discourses.  However, they have very different tones. In the reading from Acts Paul tells the presbyters from Ephesus that he is compelled by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem.  There he expects imprisonment and hardships.  Paul seems to intimate that, like Jesus, he is being called to suffer for the good of his people, the Jews.  Perhaps he feels called to make of himself a sacrifice so that the Jews, who refused to convert in masse with Jesus’ crucifixion, may finally do so with his offering.

Jesus’ prayer closes his final discourse to his disciples.  He knows the hour of his paschal transition has come and prays that its purpose be fulfilled.  In John’s gospel Jesus does not express foreboding about his death because he foresees the ordeal ending in glory.

The Spirit has given both Paul and Jesus its gift of courage to do the will of the Father.  Paul should not be faulted if he feels anxious.  Jesus should not be considered brazen for having complete confidence.  Both are following the Spirit’s lead.  At times we will be like Paul in anticipating landmines in the road ahead.  Hopefully, experience will teach us to trust as Jesus does in his prayer to his Father.  But let us always accept the courage that the Spirit offers to do the Father’s will.

Monday, May 17, 2021

 Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 19:1-8; John 16:29-33)

Unlike the disciples in Ephesus we have all heard of the Holy Spirit.  But few of us may be aware of the Vigil of Pentecost when the Church prays fervently for the coming of the Spirit.  Vigils themselves puzzle many.  Technically they are not just the evening before a Sunday or a solemnity.  Vigils have a unique set of readings and presume that participants will return the next day for the celebration of the feast.  All of us know of the Easter Vigil and, perhaps, the Vigil of Christmas.  The Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist also has a proper vigil as does the Ascension, St. Peter and St. Paul, and the Assumption.

When the disciples in Ephesus receive the Holy Spirit, they begin to speak in strange ways and also give testimony to the Lord.  We should hope for no less after preparing to receive the Spirit on the Vigil of Pentecost.  We may not speak “in tongues,” but we should boldly attest to the Lord’s love for us and for everyone. 

How might we provide such testimony?  A preacher once told of the love in his family while he was growing up.  He said that there was such harmony in his home that when his father returned home from work, he would dance with his mother in their living room.  The two, father and mother, in turn showered love on their three children.  The preacher began to cry.  We could add that the love shared by this preacher’s family is but a shadow of God’s love for us.

 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

 THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD

(Acts 1: 1-11; Ephesians 4: 1-13; Mark 16: 15-20)

A year ago there were many demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd. In the midst of the uproar, the police chief of a southern city challenged the public. He asked: when will they show concern about the homicides that occur in their own neighborhoods? The chief, an African American, had in mind the hundreds of families in the city that each year lose a member to violence. Unfortunately, we often get excited about political issues such as demonstrations while ignoring the everyday ones. The disciples of Jesus make this kind of mistake in the first reading.

Jesus is leaving his disciples to join God, his Father. From heaven he will send the Holy Spirit to enable them to relate his message to the world. However, instead of focusing on this challenging task, the disciples ask about politics. They say, "Lord, are you now going to reestablish the sovereignty of Israel?" They have in mind the kingdom of David which included the land of Israel and the surrounding territories. Their concern pales, at least in the long run, in comparison to what Jesus proposes to them.

Jesus has sown the seeds of a project that will cover the entire world. He preached the Kingdom of God by announcing God’s love and forgiveness. Then he irrigated the project with his blood so that it would take root in his disciples. Now after his resurrection he sends his disciples to spread the message to the corners of the earth. They are to proclaim Jesus himself, the incarnate mercy of God, whose death made up for everyone's sins.

Now Jesus ascends to heaven. He leaves the missionaries with eyes fixed on the clouds. They may be wondering: how are we going to accomplish the mission without the teacher's guidance? But it was precisely to help them with the mission that Jesus ascended. The ascension of Jesus serves three purposes. First, it places him on the right hand of God the Father where he has the power to accomplish wonders. The gospel tells of these when it says that his apostles will speak new tongues, hold snakes in their hands, drink poisons, and heal the sick. Second, from his position on high he will send the Holy Spirit. The apostles will be ignited to preach the gospel in season and out of season. Without the Spirit, their evangelization will not last as long.  It will be like dancing without music. Third, Jesus is going to open a space for the human body where there were only spiritual whiffs. With this physical space as their destination in death, the missionaries will be motivated to carry out their task.

The second reading shows Paul preaching Christ from prison. Because he cannot be seen in public, he delivers the message of salvation by letter. Paul gives us an example of what we have to do. It is necessary to evangelize, but not all will preach from the pulpit. Some, even the majority, preach by their acts of charity. One person makes sandwiches to take to the homeless. Another prays the rosary in front of the abortion clinic. Another places flowers in church to create a peaceful retreat for missionaries. Another shows affection for a problem child. Everyone has a role in the project, each according to his or her ability.

Some still ask: Why don't we celebrate the Ascension on the fortieth day after the resurrection as the first reading indicates? But exactly what does the first reading say: that Jesus ascended on the fortieth day or that he was among his disciples for about forty days? The forty days are just a way for the author of the Acts of the Apostles to indicate that the disciples had a fair amount of time to know the risen Lord. Anyway, it is not worth worrying about. We want to focus on the mission that Jesus left to us as well as to the rest of his followers. We are to announce his love and forgiveness from our neighborhoods to the corners of the world. We are to announce his love and forgiveness.

Friday, May 14, 2021

 Feast of St. Matthias, apostle

(Acts 1:15-17.20-26; John 15:9-17)

To hear evolutionists talk about development, one will conclude that everything happens by chance.  Yes, they admit some natural laws that matters must follow.  Still given all the possibilities, they assert that the end product (however so much there is an end), is determined by chance.  With this conclusion they are refuted by Scripture.

In today’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples that they have not chosen him.  Rather, he has chosen them.  The gospel narratives relate as much.  There is the “call of Matthew” and the “call of Peter and Andrew,” etc.  Today’s reading from Acts shows how Matthias was called to replace Judas, the traitor.  The people select two worthy men and pray for the Lord’s guidance.   Then they cast lots.  Is this not chance? we might ask.  Evidently the disciples did not think so or they would not have prayed.

We too have been chosen.  Although it may seem that we are Catholic Christians by chance, God has always wanted us to be so.  Then it is not by chance that we were baptized into a Catholic family or that we met someone who convinced us of the rightness of Catholicism.  Christ has chosen us to follow him – to love as he loved and to have eternal life.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

 Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 18:1-8; John 16:16-20)

Many people today would join the Catholic Church if it weren’t for a living parent.  They do not want to disappoint the mother or father who devoutly worships in another church.  They themselves, raised in the other church, know that its value includes harboring virtuous members.  Today’s first reading tells of St. Paul effort to convert such people reluctant to cause hurt in the family.

Of course, the reading does not give the reason that Jews in Corinth do not accept Paul’s teaching about Jesus.  Some of them might be scandalized by Jesus being executed for a capital crime.  Still, it is likely that many do not want to break with the tradition of their ancestors who waited for a military Messiah.  Paul sounds much too brusque when he condemns their obtuseness, “’Your blood be on your heads!’”

The clarity with which we see Jesus properly worshipped in the Catholic tradition is not obvious to everyone.  We should be very slow to condemn others for not joining the Church.  But we should not surrender hope that they may convert.  By our testifying to the Church’s authenticity with righteous lives, we may be surprised to see how others respond.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 17:15.22-18:1; John 16:12-15)

In his First Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul writes of how from the beginning he intended to preach Christ crucified in Corinth.  He says that he never employed worldly wisdom in his preaching.  Rather he was determined to tell them of God’s love in sending His Son to die so that they might have eternal life.  This tact was instigated by Paul’s bitter experience related in today’s reading from Acts.

In the passage Paul tries to engage the Athenians in rational discourse.  He begins by noting the place in the Greek pantheon of “an Unknown God.”  He proceeds to claim that this God is the uncreated Creator of all things whom Israel worships.  He concludes by mentioning God chose Jesus as His judge of the world by raising him from the dead.  His listeners, however, brush him off with what amounts to saying that his ideas are “interesting.”  Paul has had enough with logic.  From Athens he will proceed to Corinth where he will use a completely different approach in preaching Christ.

We will find ourselves at times in a situation similar to Paul’s in Athens.  We may be tempted to convince others of the logic of our Catholic faith.  If so, we probably will find them resisting our efforts.  We will be wiser to state our fundamental convictions and show their validity by our virtue and joy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 16:11-15; John 16:5-11)

Today’s first reading may provide a model for understanding its notoriously difficult gospel.  St. Paul and Silas are released from their chains by an unexplained earthquake.  Since the Holy Spirit is the prime mover throughout Acts, we should consider Him the real shaker of the earth.  This event will lead to the vindication of the Christian preachers and the condemnation of their persecutors.

The Holy Spirit Advocate acts like a wise master who will convince his students that the world is wrong.  Because the world was wrong in abusing and imprisoning Paul and Silas, the Spirit has set them free.  Because it was wrong about Jesus’ righteousness, the jailkeeper now wants to follow him.  Finally, because the world was wrong in condemning Jesus, the Holy Spirit is converting the whole world from Satan’s darkness.

Satan, the “prince of the world,” tries to win us to his side.  He will tempt us to doubt the validity of such fundamentals as the Son’s incarnation and his resurrection from the dead.  Likewise, he wants us to believe that the sexual mores of the Church need an overhaul.  We must resist these allurements by keeping faith in the Church’s teachings. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

 Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 16:11-15; John 15:26-16:4a)

Today’s first reading relates a milestone event in Christianity.  The gospel arrives in Europe, at least in the purview of the New Testament.  Paul and companions have crossed the Hellespont from what is now Turkey to Greece.  But before Paul directs his mission primarily to pagans, he looks for Jews who might be interested in hearing his message.

It does not take long to find them.  A group of women who are Jews or Jewish aspirants gather by the river where they can practice purification rituals.  They readily accept Paul’s teaching and are baptized in the same purifying water.  One woman, Lydia, stands out among the rest.  She is evidently a successful businesswoman and not shy to converse with the learned evangelist.  Perhaps to ascertain more about Jesus and the Christian community, Lydia insists that Paul and company stay at her house.

We are told today that our culture has to be re-evangelized.  Just because people have been baptized (and sometimes even go to church) does not mean that they live the faith.  We should not hesitate to tell others of how our faith in Jesus has affected our lives.  Nor should we leave out how the sacraments have given us a sense of his spiritual presence.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

 SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

(Acts 10:25-26.34-35.44-48; I John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17)

These days not only young men say to their girlfriends, "I love you." Mothers say it to their children and spouses to each other.  Even friends and family frequently repeat it to each other. The words bring a sense of peace and well-being. Yes, the phrase can be overused so that it becomes trivialized. Even still it provides a mode of satisfaction.

Certainly the love between a couple married for twenty years or the love of parents for their children differs from profane love. Profane love is associated with greed. The person who loves profanely has his own good in mind, not that of the beloved. This is certainly the case when the person says, "I love chocolate" or, "I love New York." Greedy love is also indicated when speaking of "making love." What matters to the person who "makes love" is the pleasure that he receives. He ignores the fact that the act is vicious and may ruin at least the soul of the other.

In the second reading, the presbyter John makes the intriguing comment that "God is love." He means that because God created the universe to share the good of his being, true love is the willingness to give oneself for the good of the other. When Jesus commands in the gospel today that we love one another, he has this kind of love in mind. You see this love in adults taking care of their parents. During lockdown we heard many stories of people taking care of all the tasks of their elderly parents so that they would not be exposed to the virus.

What prevents this love of Christ is the self. We worry that if we engage in service for the other, we will lose something precious to us. The loss could be outings for recreation, the comfort of having one’s time off work for oneself, or the peace of mind when we get involved in other people's problems. But there is something else at stake here. The self always wants more. The inner desire for attention and admiration is never satisfied. Instead of trying to satisfy this voracious appetite, we should be mindful of the duty of Christians according to Pope Saint John Paul II.  He said that first we must accept the love of God for us as individual persons. Convinced of His love, we will do everything necessary to unite ourselves with Him. As Jesus never tires of telling us in this Gospel of John, we have to love one another to have eternal life.

Father Henri Nouwen was perhaps the most renowned writer on Christian spirituality of the second half of the last century. He wrote many books on how to get closer to God. His last writings focused on the community of disabled person in which he lived. He said that the disabled person that he helped every day taught him an essential truth about life.  That truth is that one’s mind does not make the person an image of God, but it is the heart that leaves concern with self behind to give oneself to the other in love. Then we can say that if we are going to live according to the nobility of our being, we have to love like Christ.

Today is Mother's Day. We toast our mothers first for giving us birth. In this age of abortion, carrying a baby to term can represent a great sacrifice. But even more we celebrate our mothers today for giving themselves to us in love for all of our lives. This is the kind of love that Jesus wants us to give to one another. We are not going to do it with the same dedication and intensity that we have for our mothers. Nevertheless, we are going to show the willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others. It is what Jesus did for us and what he asks us to do for others.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:22-31; John 15:12-17)

In one of Shakespeare’s greatest speeches King Henry V rallies the English army against the numerous French.  The king calls his men “brothers” so that they will stand with him in the fight.  After they win the battle, however, Henry retreats from the metaphor.  The soldiers are no longer “brothers.”  In today’s gospel Jesus calls his disciples not “brothers” but “friends.”  Unlike Henry, he will not take back that relationship.

The word “friends” may make some people think that the relationship between Jesus and his disciples is shallow.  After all, some people have thousands of “friends” on Facebook.  But assuredly that is not Jesus’ intention here. St. Thomas Aquinas sees “friends” as “other selves” as Aristotle defines the term.  Jesus’ friends not only know all about him but also are enriched by his insights into and affection for them.

We too share Jesus’ friendship if we obey his commandments.  As he says many times, his commandments boil down to a sincere love for one another.  Our friendship with Jesus results also in our sharing his destiny.  We become heirs of his eternal life.


Thursday, May 6, 2021

 Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:7-21; John 15:9-11)

In today’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples to keep his commandments.  In this way, he says, his joy will be in them.  The joy that he is referring to is the exultation of completing his mission and experiencing the resurrection.  To appreciate the wonder of this joy, it is helpful to compare it with pleasure, its counterfeit.

Many seek pleasure and count it as happiness.  But joy is a much better approximation of the happiness people desire deep within.  Pleasure is superficial.  It is a phenomenon of the sensual faculties that lasts a moment and then clamors for more sensation.  Joy, on the other hand, is spiritual satisfaction that pervades one’s being. Gained only with effort, it lasts a long time and gives continual consolation.

Jesus’ promise to share with us his joy implies that we follow him.  In all likelihood, our discipleship will not cost us our lives.  But it will entail our sacrifice of self in love.  This is a meager cost for the exultation that his joy brings.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:1-6; John 15:1-8)

A second-century layman named Marcion taught that Christians did not need the Old Testament.  For him the God of the Old Testament was fierce and distinct from the loving Father of Jesus Christ.  If Marcion had been in charge when Paul was converting gentiles, Paul might not have needed to go to Jerusalem in today’s first reading.

But Paul would certainly have rejected Marcion’s theology.  He would have acknowledged the continuity between the Old Testament and the New.  He certainly saw Christ as the fulfillment of the promise God made to the Jews since Abraham.  This truth, however, did not resolve the most pressing issue in the first century Church: did a male Gentile have to be circumcised before he could be incorporated into Christ.  If he had to be circumcised, the thrust of preaching Christ to the Gentiles, would have been almost surely thwarted.  But Paul was not looking for an easy way to convert Gentiles.  He always insisted on practicing “the truth of the gospel.”

The text says that the apostles and “the presbyters of the Jerusalem community met together” to resolve the matter.  It could not be decided by the fiat of one person but necessitated the injunction of the Holy Spirit.  Knotty issues of our time need the same kind of deliberation and prayer.  Should the Church deny Holy Communion to politicians who defy its explicit teaching on abortion?  Should the Church accept married men for ordination to the priesthood where there is an acute shortage of priests?  How might the Church allow women into positions of governance?  These are the kind of concerns that requires intensive solicitation of the Holy Spirit. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

 Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

 (Acts 14:19-28; John 14:27-31a)

 Abraham Lincoln steered the United States through its most perilous moment.  He is often considered strong as a bull and clear-sighted as an eagle.  In truth he suffered from severe depression that made him consider suicide.  But he refused to allow himself that way out.  He rebounded from his melancholy to think himself through personal difficulties and to give due attention to the great challenge of his time.  In the first reading today we see Paul responding to a crisis with similar resiliency.

 Paul deeply wants his fellow Jews to believe in Jesus.  He knows that they will find salvation only through him.  He preaches Jesus’ lordship in the synagogues of Asia Minor, but the assemblies continually reject his message.  In today’s reading from Acts he is beaten and left for dead by the Jews in the town of Lystra.  But Paul rises from the setback to redirect his message.  If he cannot convince the Jews of Jesus, he surmises that the pagans may heed him.  Then, he will reason later, the Jews might convert from a sense of missing out on something glorious.

 We too may feel defeated at times.  Perhaps our friends don’t believe in Jesus or are at best lukewarm about their faith.  Still to us Jesus not only is our destiny but our joy in attaining it.  We must not lose heart.  Rather we can find in Jesus the wisdom and strength to overcome the indifference of friends.  Also, we will meet others with similar experiences and convictions as ours to support us along the way.

Monday, May 3, 2021

 

Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, apostles

(I Corinthians 15:1-8; John 14:6-14)

 In today’s gospel Philip asks Jesus to show him and the other apostles “the Father.”  He does not understand that Jesus has done this since the moment they met.  His mistake is mirrored in all the confusion about the two apostles we celebrate today.

At times Philip has been misidentified with the Philip of the primitive Christian community who was appointed to take care of the Greek-speaking widows.  Philip, the apostle, was a Hebrew from Bethsaida who is mentioned a number of times in the Gospel of John.  James, sometimes called “the Less,” is distinguished from James “the Greater,” the fiery son of Zebedee.  This distinction, however, is not the one that causes difficulty.  James “the Less” is also the son of Alpheus of whom almost nothing is said in the New Testament.  He is confused with James, “the brother of the Lord.”  This James, who may be a half-brother or a cousin of Jesus, plays a prominent part in the Jerusalem community.  It is probably this latter James to whom Paul is referring in today’s first reading.

Not much is known about Philip, James, or – for that matter – any of the apostles besides Peter.  But this does not mean they were not important.  Tradition indicates that all the apostles died as martyrs.  (The Beloved Disciple, whom John’s Gospel indicates will not be martyred, was probably not one of the twelve apostles.)  They also formed the group that Jesus chose as the foundation of his Church.  They had the solemn duty to testify to him in an often hostile world.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

 FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

(Acts 9:26-31, I John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8)

Often a poor person calls the parish for help. She is not infrequently a mother with two or three children. She says that she is in a hotel in another part of town. She needs meals, tissues, and, most of all, money to pay rent. The priest wants to help her, but he can't give her everything she needs. He asks her to come to the parish food pantry for groceries and refers her to the agencies best able to help her. The pastor thinks: "If only she were connected with the parish, there would be more options to help her."

This unconnected woman reminds us of the words of Jesus in the gospel today, "'If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be granted to you.'” Those who have a relationship with Jesus through the Church, which is his body, have resources in abundance. In contrast, those who forget Jesus often lack the basics. We are not talking here only about material things for survival. What we say is more applicable to spiritual needs that are even more essential. These include precepts to restrain unbridled passions and role models who show us how to live righteously. Above all, the Church has the presence of Christ that serves as a ballast preventing our ship from sinking.

In the first reading we see how the Christian community helps Paul. Recently converted to the Lord, Paul never tires of proclaiming it to everyone. When his zeal offends Jews, members of the community intervene. They arrange his transfer to another city to save his life.

We achieve connection with Jesus Christ in two ways. First, the reading of the gospel brings us his very words. These words impart his counsel, his comfort, and his commandments. They make a firm foundation on which we can build our lives. Second, in the Church we have the sacraments. Particularly in Baptism and the Eucharist, Christ accompanies us. Baptism unites us with him in his death and resurrection. Its waters then transmit to us the new life of children of God destined for eternal happiness. The Eucharist keeps us connected to Christ with increasing sensibility and security.

In the Gospel today Jesus emphasizes his presence through the sacraments. He says that he is like the vine allowing us not only life as his branches but also increasing effectiveness. Jesus makes it possible for us to love in truth, as the presbyter John recommends in the second reading, and not out of lust. Since Jesus gave his life for our sake, we can make sacrifices for others.

An example of this sacrifice is the story of the FOCUS missionaries. They are recent college graduates serving at least one year on college campuses. They evangelize, that is, they tell young people about God's love. Rooted in faith, FOCUS missionaries can connect students to Christ. A FOCUS missionary says: “… one day at Mass I was struck by the fact that very few young people were with me. My heart cried out for them, and I realized that God wanted me to lead as many as possible to faith. "

In today's world there are so many ways to connect with others that it makes us dizzy. Letters, emails, texts, telephone, Facebook -- it seems that the list does not end. The ways to connect with the Lord are less numerous, but more effective. We can read his word, receive the sacraments, and pray to him. It is convenient for us to take advantage of all three so that we do not lose contact. Reading the word, receiving the sacraments, and praying keep us connected.

Saturdaym May 1, 2021

 Memorial of Saint Joseph, the Worker

(Genesis 1:26b-2:3; Matthew 13:54-58)

Most Catholics know that the Church has singled out two days to honor St. Joseph.  The first, March 19, highlights Joseph as husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As a child, I looked forward to this day because the pastor of our parish, whose name was Joseph, always declared it a school holiday.  Now as an adult, I anticipate the day because as a solemnity, it calls for suspension of Lenten penance.  This may sound laxist, but I think it shows how joyful God wants us to be.

The second annual “remember St. Joseph” day is, of course, today, May 1.  It emphasizes St. Joseph as a worker.  Unlike March 19, which has roots in the Middle Ages, this feast was added to the liturgical calendar only in 1955.  It has been seen as a way to support the dignity of labor while checking the influence of atheistic communism.  This year Pope Francis has exalted both feasts as well as December 18 when the gospel reading treats of the angel’s “annunciation” to Joseph and the Feast of the Holy Family.  Early last December he designated this “the Jubilee Year of St. Joseph” because 2020 marked the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of St. Joseph being declared “Patron of the Universal Church.”

Today’s gospel states that Jesus was Joseph’s son and that he was a carpenter.  Joseph did not father Jesus physically but morally.  As Mary’s husband, he took responsibility for Jesus’ upbringing as a faithful Jew.  Himself being called “a righteous man” at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, Joseph likely brought Jesus to the synagogue to head the word of God.  Even more significantly, Joseph probably impressed on his son the virtues of fairness and respect for all people, Jews and non-Jews.  Above all, he would have exemplified to Jesus gratitude to God for all his family achieved.

In Mark’s gospel Jesus is said to be a carpenter.  Very likely then, Jesus did his apprenticeship with his foster-father.  Instruction no doubt went beyond how to ply saw and hammer.  In all probability Joseph taught Jesus mindfulness in preparing the job at hand, diligence in pursuing its excellence, and patience in finishing a product.  Jesus, it can be said, was a more capable preacher and leader because of Joseph’s tutelage.

These lessons apply to our lives as Dominicans.  We too must attend to the word of God, especially as it is presented in our liturgies.  We too must prepare our proclamation of the word, who is Jesus himself, with contemplation, study, and attention to the dynamics of speaking.  Not for nothing did God choose Joseph as the preliminary formator of His Son.  And not for nothing does Joseph make a fitting model for our work as preachers.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 13:26-33; John 14:1-6)

Christians have been buried with their corpses facing East for centuries.  Two reasons recommend this arrangement.  First, as today’s gospel says, Jesus has promised to return and bring them to the house of his Father.  Second, associated with the rising sun, he is thought to be coming from that direction.  Although the Church does not require burial with head directed eastward, the posture expresses faith in Jesus’ words.

In today’s gospel, Jesus also tells his disciples not to be afraid.  He is especially concerned that they do not fear death.  Even though death halts worldly existence, Jesus indicates that it is not the absolute end.  Rather he assures them that the Father has prepared a new life for them in his celestial home.  They have only to continue practicing what he has taught.

We know that following Jesus’ directives sometimes results in difficulties.  Telling the truth may mean jeopardizing our material welfare.  Turning the other cheek may mean our total loss of face in the community.  Nevertheless, we follow Jesus not only because of the eternal destiny that he promises.  We do so as well because of the more immediate benefits he provides.  He uplifts our spirits through the gospel.  And he supports us morally with his presence in the Church. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

 Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin

(Acts 13:13-25; John 13:16-20)

The first part of the movie The Sound of Music takes place in a convent.  An aspirant named Maria seems devout but acts in unconventional ways.  Some of the nuns criticize her for singing all the time and coming late for activities (except meals). Although she hardly ate too much, today’s patron, St. Catherine of Siena, provoked the same type of criticism.

From childhood Catherine wanted to dedicate her life to God.  Her parents thought she should marry and have a family.  But she saw herself wedded to Jesus.  Living during the Avignon papacy and the Great Western Schism, Catherine campaigned for a Church united to the Bishop of Rome.  She shunned conventual life to live as an ascetic peripatetic.  For a woman who belatedly learned to read and write, she had an outsized influence on Church and political affairs in Italy. 

Catherine’s legacy inspires people of different ways of life.  She instructed kings and popes when most women stayed home with their families.  She carried on a healthy dialogue with the Lord through prayer and meditation.  She donated what she had to the poor and visited prisons.  She wrote and dictated works that still engage thinkers today.  All of us can find something to emulate in the life of this great saint.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

 

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 12:24-13:5a; John 12:44-50)

Pope Francis once told a group of priests that they should never send anyone away from Confession.  He said that even if one’s situation prohibited the priest from giving absolution, he could at least bless the person.  The pope also said that priests should such a person back, again and again, for additional blessings.  He is only reflecting what Jesus says in today’s gospel and at other points in John.

According to the fourth gospel, Jesus has not come to condemn the world but to save it.  He sees the world is engulfed in deceit and treachery.  People, he finds, often care little, if at all, about one another.  He says that they live in darkness.  But he has brought light to this darkness with his love and truth.  These virtues will save the world from folly.  Propelled by the grace of his death and resurrection, their practitioners will have eternal life.

Many of us too often see the world in black and white.  That is, we want a strict determination between good and bad.  We are unable to work with people so that their charcoal-hued lives might brighten through exposure to Jesus. This negative posture will likely drift us in the direction of evil.  We too should open ourselves to salvation by heeding Jesus’ teaching today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

 Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 11:19-26; John 10:22-30)

Today’s gospel reading mentions the Feast of Dedication (actually it was a rededication) of the Temple.  It is known today as Hanukkah.  The feast celebrates the victory of the Jews over their foreign occupiers in the second century before Christ.  In that struggle many faithful Jews endured persecution and martyrdom rather than succumb to heathen ways.  Now Jesus is saying that his sheep will show the same tenacity in clinging to belief in him.

John’s gospel, like the others, reverts events that took place at the time of its composition into the life of Jesus.  In late first century Christians were being persecuted for not accepting Roman hedonism or taking cover in Judaism.  Many died as martyrs.  But that was a grace since martyrdom assured entrance into eternal life.  In the passage Jesus tells the Jews obliquely that he is the Messiah because he -- like David, the primordial Messiah or “anointed” -- is a Good Shepherd.  He feeds his sheep in the evergreen pastures of eternal life.

Jesus tells the Jews that no one can take his sheep from him.  Nevertheless we, who are also his sheep, can walk away from him.  This departure will not happen if we have true faith in the Eucharistic food he provides.  It is not bread and wine acting as symbols for Jesus himself.  Rather it is really he who comes into us.  He becomes like a man entering a supersonic jet that will soar to the heavens.

Monday, April 26, 2021

 Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

 (Acts 11:1-18; John 10:1-10)

 "Growing pains” occasionally affect children in their sleep.  They cause some to wake up in the night with discomfort in their legs.  Since researchers have not found an underlying cause for these pains, they are named for growth, a phenomenon associated with children.  In the first reading we find the early Church afflicted with its “growing pains.”

One of the great issues for the Church in its first decades is whether to accept non-Jews into its fold.  Non-Jews are not gentiles who become Jews through circumcision and eating kosher but gentiles who refuse to accept Jewish customs.  Since Jesus was a Jew, could gentiles follow him without living as he did?  This is the critical question.  In the reading from Acts today Peter defers to none other than the Holy Spirit for an answer.  He explains to the Jerusalem inquisition that he baptized Cornelius’ household upon seeing that they manifested the gifts of the Spirit.

Today the Church has other issues to deal with.  We can easily name a few – homosexual couples, the care of the sick in “permanent vegetative states,” the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate, etc.  Too often differences on these questions create fragmentation and suspicion.  Like Peter we should turn to the Holy Spirit for guidance.  That is, we should recognize that what is most authentically Christian is the primacy of charity.  On some issues change may be impossible for reason of consistency with tradition and coherency with established teaching.  Even here, however, there is an imperative to treat the people who are passionately involved with respect and tenderness.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

 THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

(Acts 4: 8-12; I John 3: 1-2; John 10: 11-18)

I don't know if you have heard of a "suicide mission". It is a task that is so dangerous that the people involved do not expect to survive it. A patrol charged with penetrating deep into enemy territory to blow up an ammunition depot could be a "suicide mission."  We can also think of Jesus' mission in the world as a "suicide mission."

But first we have to clarify one thing. A "suicide mission" is not suicide because those involved have no intention of taking their own lives. If it results in the death of those involved, it was not their intention to die. Rather, death would be an evil that they could not avoid in pursuit of an important good. The evangelist John portrays Jesus as a volunteer going on a "suicide mission." In the passage today Jesus declares his mission: he is the “’good shepherd (who) lays down his life for his sheep.’"

Jesus can be seen carrying out his "suicide mission" during the passion. When Judas and the soldiers arrive in the garden, Jesus does not hide. Rather, he welcomes his captors as a host goes out to meet his guests. The Gospel says: "Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them ..." Because the hour of his supreme sacrifice has come, he does not try to avoid it. He said at dinner with his disciples: "Yet what am I to say:' Father, deliver me from this hour?" But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.'” To emphasize how Jesus sacrifices himself for the good of all, John portrays Jesus carrying his own cross. In the Gospel according to John there is no mention of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus.

As brothers and sisters of Jesus, we have to undertake our own "suicide mission." This is not to say a task that we are to pursue a task that will cost our lives. It will only involve our service. We have to dispose our talents for the good of the Kingdom of God. Some are needed for altar ministries. Interestingly, there are sometimes few in attendance at Mass willing to read the Word of God or to act as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. There are even fewer volunteers to bring the Eucharist to the elderly in nursing homes or to visit prisoners in jail. Why? Because people consider those services as not necessary to please God. But the second reading responds to this type of thinking. It says: "If the world does not recognize us, it is because it has not recognized him (Jesus) either."  Just as Jesus’ self-sacrifice pleased God the Father, so will our service.   

As said of the lame man in the first reading, it is also true of us. We are healed in the name of Jesus. If we feed the hungry and instruct the indoctrinated as Jesus has taught, we will have full life in his name. We can count on this even more than a full meal in our mother's kitchen.

In one diocese the bishop organized a fund to support nine Catholic schools in the poorest parts of the city. Some criticized the bishop. They asked him: "Why do we want to educate non-Catholics?" The bishop responded, "We educate them not because they are Catholic but because we are Catholic." Yes, being a Catholic means serving others. You cannot be a good Catholic if you don't want to serve.


Friday, April 23, 2021

 Friday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 9:1-20; John 6:52-59)

Bishops are worried today because most American Catholics do not believe that Christ is really present in Holy Communion.  According to professional polls, most Catholics think that the bread and wine are only symbols for Christ.  In today’s gospel Jesus refutes this mistaken idea.

The Jews in the gospel question the doctrine of the Church.  They say, “’How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?’”  They probably would have less trouble in thinking of the bread and wine as symbols representing a spiritual communion with Christ.  This is what Calvinist Protestants have believed since the sixteenth century.  But the gospel is imminently clear.  It cites Jesus saying that to have his life, one must eat his flesh and drink his blood.

Of course, accepting that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ defies the senses.  The bread and wine still look like bread and wine after the consecration at mass.  The Church offers the doctrine of transubstantiation to explain how the change takes place.  Fine, we accept that.  But we also something else.  The Old Testament tells us that God’s ways are not our ways.  What God has revealed is greater than our imaginations can conceive.  Saying that bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ goes hand-in-hand with the other great truths of faith.  That we take sustenance from his very body is as consoling as God becoming human to accompany us on the sojourn of life.  That we imbibe his very blood is as hopeful as knowing that we are Jesus’ brothers and sisters destined like him to rise from the dead.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

 Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

 (Acts 8:26-40; John 6:44-51)

 The two readings today fit together like a hand in a glove.  In the first Philip is sent by God to meet the Ethiopian eunuch on the road.  He reaches his assigned traveler just as the man is reading one of the Servant Songs of Isaiah.  When the man suggests that he needs Philip’s help to interpret the passage, Philip gladly complies.  He tells the eunuch that the passage refers to Jesus and wastes no time in baptizing him.

 It is not just chance that brings the two men together.  Since Philip is sent by God’s angel, God is the instigator of the encounter.  In the gospel Jesus tells the crowds in Capernaum, “’No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him…’”  The Ethiopian eunuch is but one example of God’s grace drawing people to His Son.

 God has called each of us as well to Jesus.  We may not feel especially graced because we are overly influenced by worldly values.  No matter, we are truly blessed.  We belong to a Church with many gracious people.  We have eternal life as our destiny. Most of all, Jesus has become our friend.  We can rely on him to meet our needs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

 Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:1b-8; John 6:35-40)

We speak of “food for thought” and refer to different types of alcohol as “spirits.”  We should hear this kind of metaphorical expression in Jesus’ discourse to the crowds today.

Jesus says that he is “the bread of life” that satisfies the people’s hunger forever.  In this case he is not referring, directly at least, to the Eucharistic bread but to his teaching.  That teaching paves a road of love that leads to eternal joy. Likewise, if people heed his words on the necessity of unity and peace rather than of self-promotion and rivalry, they will imbibe the spirit that heals the soul.  They will not be frustrated by the unquenchable thirst for transcendence through pleasure or power.  Rather they will experience the tranquility that brings one eternal bliss.

Jesus’ ways differ from those of the world.  The world exhorts us to experience as much pleasure and power as possible since that is the most it finds in life.  On the other hand, Jesus gives us hope for something infinitely better in eternal life.  His words are worth continuous discernment.  In youth they move us to help our neighbors.  In old age they counsel reconciliation with others before we meet the Lord in judgment.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

 Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 7:51-8:1a; John 6:30-35)

Stephen hardly seems “filled with the Holy Spirit” as he castigates the Jews in today’s first reading. However, it should be remembered that the altercation has grown bitter.  A previous passage reads that Stephen’s adversaries paid people to testify against him with insidious lies.  St. Luke, the author of Acts, wants to show how Stephen imitates Jesus when the latter uttered similar disparagements against the Pharisees.

Stephen also imitates Jesus as he is being stoned to death.  Like Jesus, he asks the Lord Jesus to pardon his executioners and entrusts his spirit to the same Lord.  Something even more significant is in Luke’s mind here.  The evangelist has written that Jesus’ death eventually brought the Holy Spirit upon his disciples to complete his mission in the world.  With Stephen’s execution, Luke presents Saul (i.e., Paul of Tarsus).  This Pharisee will become the principal instrument of Jesus’ message to the non-Jewish world.

Luke shows his readers (that is, us) that the mission is inexorable.  Whether we join it or not, it will go on because it is propelled by the Holy Spirit.  Nevertheless, it behooves us to join because with it we begin our course to eternal life.

Monday, April 19, 2021


Monday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 6:8-15; John 6:22-29)

Every Monday morning a group of homeless congregate for prayer, coffee, and a breakfast sandwich.  They sit in a circle while the convener reads the Sunday gospel and comments upon it.  Few seem to pay much attention or participate in the intercessory prayer.  They seem like the people looking for Jesus in today’s gospel.

Jesus challenges the group.  He tells them that do not seek him for the eternal life he promises but for the food he provides.  Remarkably, he does not reject them but engages them in dialogue.  They ask him how they are to behave, and he responds.  They must believe in him.  That is, they are to accept his teaching as coming from God.  It is a tall order, but some of them will fill it.

We may not be looking for a handout from the Church.  But we still are challenged to believe.  It becomes hard when we are called to make sacrifices which belief entails.  Some may have to take care of a parent who is losing her faculties or to accept his own homosexuality without sexual gratification.  All of us should support, at least in prayer, those making such sacrifices for Christ.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

 Third Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2021

(Acts 3.13-15.17-19; I John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48)

Former alcoholics are said to make the most ardent advocates of sobriety. Their motive is simple. They have caused so much trouble for their loved ones that they want to make up for their sins. It is the same with some women who have had abortions. They feel so contrite that they protest with the most fervor in front of the abortion clinics. Therefore, we should not be surprised to see how Peter acts in the first reading. He who denied Jesus makes no apology when he accuses the Jews of Jesus' death and demands repentance from them.

Although he is direct and strong in his accusation, Peter provides an excuse for the actions of the Jews. He says they acted out of ignorance. According to Peter, if the Jews knew who Jesus was, they would never have insisted that he be crucified. It is almost always the same with our sins. Although we should know better, we do not choose evil because it is evil but under the aspect of good. We don't drink too much because we want to get drunk. Rather, we drink a lot because we want to relax after having worked hard. We do not defame the other to destroy his reputation. Rather, we criticize him to justify our perspective on life.

Our sins almost always have the same root. We want to put our will, our way of seeing reality, before God's will. In other words, our will becomes more important to us than the commandments of God. In the second reading, the presbyter John tells us that we know God inasmuch as we fulfill His commandments. If we know Him as His sons and daughters, we would always put His will before everything else. Instead of looking for other people's faults, we would pray for them. Instead of searching the internet for sexual stimultion, we would thank God for the benefits we have.

Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins. It was such a perfect human sacrifice that it made up for the sins of all men and women. Furthermore, his submission to the will of his Father gave us an effective model of putting God first in life. It is a model because it teaches us how to give ourselves in love for the other. It is effective because his death has mastered evil for all who believe in him. It's like the discovery of the Covid vaccine has freed all of humanity from the threat of the virus.

In the gospel Jesus declares that the message of forgiveness will be preached to the world. Once they receive the Holy Spirit, the apostles will begin this mission. We, its benefactors, have mastered our own will at least for a while. However, the tendency to sin clings to us like leeches. Why is the will to have our own way so enduring? Because we fear that we will lose something valuable if we submit our will to God's. In the gospel the disciples do not believe in the resurrection before they eat with the risen Lord. May we overcome the fear of doing God's will by means of the Eucharist! By listening to his word and eating his flesh with the proper intention, he will strengthen our faith. Then, we will realize that we do not lose anything significant by submitting our will to his. Rather, we receive the inheritance of sons and daughters of God -- eternal life.

Remember Frank Sinatra singing "My Way"? The lyrics speak of a person who boasts that he always has done things as he wanted. Obviously, the person believes a lot in himself. It is not necessarily wrong to do things our own way, nor is it wrong to believe in ourselves. However, our ways and belief in ourselves have to submit to the ways of and belief in God. Only then do we dominate sin. Only then do we gain eternal life.


Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday of the Second Week of Easter 

(Acts 5:34-42; 6:1-15)

The Czech priest Jan Hus led a reform movement of the Church in Bohemia during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century.  He seemed to have opposed the doctrine of transubstantiation although it is said that his teachings were not heretical.  In any case, with a guarantee of safety by the Holy Roman Emperor he went to the Council of Constance in 1415 for questioning.  There he was tried and summarily executed!  The Church should have heeded the advice of Gamaliel in today’s first reading.

The wise Pharisee counsels the Sanhedrin that religious movements are better left alone. If they are of human contrivance, as most are, they will play themselves out.  But if they are divinely authorized, persecuting them cannot succeed and will incur God’s indictment. Christianity is the best example.  The Jewish leaders did not suppress the Church at the time.  Instead, they allowed it to become God’s major instrument in the world.

Czechs resented the treatment of Jan Hus across the centuries.  They resisted returning whole-heartedly to the Church in the fifteenth century. Later many Czechs embraced Protestantism.  At the new millennium Pope St. John Paul II publicly asked forgiveness for the Church’s mistreatment of Jan Hus.  His testimony as well as Gamaliel’s recommends to all of us the need for religious tolerance.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

 

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 5:27-33; John 3:31-36)

Who is speaking in the today’s gospel?  The context indicates John the Baptist who is quoted in the previous passage.  But the words themselves sound like Jesus’ speaking of himself in the third person in his dialogue with Nicodemus.  Actually, the testimony is most like the apostles’ preaching about Jesus. The first reading citing Peter, provides a similar testimony.

The reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, testifies to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Given to the apostles, the Spirit strengthens their preaching.  It inspires them to enkindle the faith of many people. In the gospel the Spirit likewise enables the speaker to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus.  Those who accept the message receive the Spirit’s reward of eternal life.

The Holy Spirit moves the action along in the Acts of the Apostles.  Jesus testifies to its role of consoling and strengthening the apostles in the Gospel of John.  It comes with its manifold gifts to us as well.  We should ask the Father to send us a double portion so that we might meet the challenges we face.

Wedensday, April 14, 2021

 Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 5:17-26; John 3:16-21)

In today’s first reading the triumph of the apostles seems spurious.  The story of their release from jail appears to be, at least, exaggerated.  Yet its truth lies in the fact that the Christian community often prospers when it is persecuted.  Despite constant threats and setbacks, God has protected it and fostered its growth through the centuries.

In some parts of the world today the Church is under duress.  Europe and the United States have experienced alarming reductions in vocations and church attendance.  The Church in China, North Korea, and some Muslim countries is openly persecuted.  Yet it grows in Africa and parts of Asia.  There should be no worry of its demise.  Even in the U.S., many young families dedicate themselves to the Lord in ways greater than fifty years ago.

We should pray that the Spirit continues to guide the Church.  Following its lead, the Church will not only prosper but also will give the world hope for renewal.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

 Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

 (Acts 4:32-37; John 3:7b-15)

Everyone who knows the four gospels recognizes that John’s is different from Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s.  One significant difference is that in John’s gospel, Jesus does not teach with parables.  There are no long pedagogical stories in John’s like the “Good Samaritan” in Luke’s or the “Vineyard Owner” in Mark’s.  Rather the evangelist John is the master of another teaching technique not commonly found in the others.  In John’s gospel Jesus teaches by means of extended dialogues with different characters such as Nicodemus in today’s passage.

 Nicodemus has come to Jesus “at night,” which symbolizes being unenlightened.  Perhaps he is impressed with Jesus like Jerusalemites of the first century must have been with the Christian community holding everything in common.  In any case, Jesus tells Nicodemus about the power behind such generous sharing.  It is this way “with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  When Nicodemus asks about the source of the Spirit, Jesus replies a bit cryptically but nevertheless understandably to the Christian readers of the gospel.  He says that the source of the Spirit is himself, “the Son of Man,” being “lifted up” on the cross.

The same generosity of Christians through the ages has drawn many people closer to Christ.  We should not hesitate to add to this effort.  This does not mean that we make public displays of our giving.  Rather, it means to treat all people better than indifferently and showing particular care for the poor.

Monday, April 12, 2021

 Monday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 4:23-31; John 3:1-8)

In a movie, an old gang of friends have entered adulthood.  One of them has already married, and another is about to.  However, they are still drawn to the caprices of adolescent years.  The drama reaches a climax when one of the gang plans to seduce his friend’s wife.  Fortunately, the young man’s conscience wins out.  The movie demonstrates how the imprudent impulses of youth can tempt people into adulthood and beyond.  In doing so, it illustrates what Jesus teaches Nicodemus in today’s gospel.

Nicodemos is perplexed when Jesus says that one must be born again to see the Kingdom of God.  Jesus means that a person needs the Holy Spirit if she or he is to love others as he loves.  Without the Holy Spirit people are likely to see others as adolescents often do.  At best, they will treat others as competitors to be rivaled.  At worst, they will exploit them as prey to their selfish desires.  The Spirit enables the person to see others as brothers and sisters with God as Father.

We might think that with years the imprudent impulses of teens disappear.  They hopefully lessen, but they do not fade completely.  We must continually petition the Father to send His Spirit upon us if we are to love as Jesus loved.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

 Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11, 2021

(Acts 4: 32-35; I John 5: 1-6; John 20, 19-31)

Thirteen years ago Pope Benedict baptized a Muslim on the Easter vigil. The convert, a native of Egypt, was a well-known journalist in Italy. He said at the time that he was putting his life in danger by becoming a Catholic. Despite his demonstration of faith and courage, a few years later the convert left the Church. We are reminded of his story when we read today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

The reading describes the life of the early Church in Jerusalem. It says that in the beginning all members of the community were of the same heart and mind. They shared all their resources so that no one would go in need. However, in the sequel of the story a fraud appears among the members. A couple pretends to give all the money received from the sale of their house to the community. However, they have kept a part of it for themselves. It seems more pride than greed that motivates the couple. They want to be known as generous. In sum, despite the recent renewal with the Holy Spirit, sin is lurking to entangle Christians in intrigues.

Now we too have to fight the temptation to sin. Many times it is hurt pride that moves us to offend God. Parents often have this experience. They want to be the best possible guardians possible for their children. They promise themselves to show understanding and wisdom when their children have problems. But when they get the report that their son was disrupting class for the fifth time this year, they lose their patience. They don't want their child to be the class clown. They yell at him and threaten exaggerated punishment. What should they do to resolve the situation?  Yes, they have to talk with their child, but they must also seek inner healing.

According to the gospel today, there is no better remedy than to submit to the mercy of Jesus. The gospel shows an apostle making a pathetic mistake. On the day of the resurrection the disciples heard from Mary Magdalene that Jesus lives. When they went to the tomb, they did not find his body. That night Jesus appeared to them, but Thomas was not with them. When they tell Thomas that they saw the Lord, he rejects their testimony. With great fanfare he says that if he does not stick his finger in his wounds, he will not believe. It is a lack of faith on the part of no less than a companion of Jesus. But Jesus, always great in mercy, does not let Thomas languish in unbelief. He comes to offer him his wounds in a gesture of supreme generosity.

He offers us also a second or third or seventieth opportunity to reconcile when we fail him. He is there in the confessional waiting for us with tears. One of the wisest saints said, "By not confessing, Lord, I would only hide You from me, not me from You." We should take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. It not only takes away sin but also gives us greater reason not to sin.

Since the time of Pope St. John Paul II, this Sunday has been called "Divine Mercy Sunday." The feast highlights the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a great fruit of the Resurrection of Jesus. Sometimes it seems that the timing of this party is misplaced. Priests are tired of hearing confessions after Lent. People want to relax too. We should not fret about this. There is always reason to celebrate God's mercy in the sacrament. It lifts us from our mistakes. It moves us on the path to eternal life. There is always reason to celebrate God's mercy.

Friday, April 9, 2021

 Friday within the Octave of Easter

 (Acts 4:1-12; John 21:1-14)

 In every regular mass this week – actually from Sunday to Sunday – the gospel provides an account of an appearance of the risen Jesus.  Although these accounts bear some marks of editorial expansion, they assure readers of the resurrection as a fact of history.  The nature of the resurrection is actually trans-historical which means that it has never been duplicated in history.  But reliable witnesses testify that Jesus appeared to them in the flesh.  Their stories, especially when considered in total, provide an explanation of the empty tomb, the circumstantial evidence for the resurrection.

 Today’s gospel appearance takes place on the Sea of Tiberias.  It seems strange that Jesus’ disciples would return to their former occupations after being commissioned to go forth with the Holy Spirit and forgive sins.  Yet many people who have profound religious experiences begin to question their beliefs and may become almost indifferent to what happened to them.  Jesus, true to his promise, does not abandon his disciples but appears to them again to reissue the mandate to go forth and preach forgiveness.  This is expressed symbolically as he says, “’Cast your net over the right side…’”

 Many people dismiss the gospel accounts of the resurrection appearances as exaggerated dramatizations of psychological experiences, literally fish stories.  Skeptics challenge us believers to explain the possibility of the stories’ ever taking place.  We should respond to the challenge in at least two ways.  First, we need to study the gospel accounts with the help of faithful commentators so that we may provide some explanation of their reasonableness.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, we want to testify to their veracity by living holy lives.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Thursday of the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:11-26; Luke 24:35-48)

A young doctor testifies that she is a fervent Catholic because she has seen miracles.  Given her profession, she means that she has seen sick people healed through prayer.  Peter makes a similar claim in today’s first reading.

Peter has just been the agent of the enabling of a crippled beggar to walk.  Peter does not take credit for the healing rather he says that the name of Jesus strengthened him.  A demonstration of Jesus’ resurrection is the continued healings in his name. 

So why do we not see people healed today when we pray in Jesus’ name?  But sometimes we do hear of inexplicable healings after prayer.  What is more, Jesus’ name has moved millions of people to works of selfless charity.  Who can deny, for example, the widespread care given by Catholic Charities?  Hopefully, we too respond to the proclamation of the resurrection with sacrificial actions for the needy. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Wednesday of the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:1-10; Luke 24:13-35)

There is a legend about St. Thomas Aquinas which may help us understand this resurrection appearance.  Toward the end of his life when writing about the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, Thomas was praying before a crucifix.  Suddenly a voice came from the image, “Thomas,” it said, having written most of his famous Summa, Thomas was praying before a crucifix.  He heard a voice from the crucifix say, “You have spoken well of me, Thomas, what shall be your reward?” Thomas replied, “Nothing other than thee, Lord.”  Serious biographers of Thomas doubt the story’s veracity.  Nevertheless, it does relate Thomas’ devotion to prayer before the crucifix and his insights into the Paschal mystery.  It can be said that there is much truth in this legend.

Today’s gospel in many respects is a reflection on the Eucharist.  The two disciples, of whom nothing is known except one was called Cleopas, may be Christians of any era.  Their walk to Emmaus may be a way of saying how they enmeshed themselves fully in life.  Then Jesus accompanies them as he meets his followers at mass.  He interprets the Scriptures for them by showing how “the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”  The disciples discover that it is Jesus when he breaks bread with them.  Thus, the story likely refers to Christians having Jesus’ spiritual accompaniment through the ups and downs of life.  They further meet him physically in the Eucharist.

If this is a legendary story, some will want to ask if Jesus really rose from the dead.  Or is the resurrection supposed to mean only an uplifting of hearts when Christians celebrate the Eucharist?  This same gospel gives a positive answer, “Yes, Jesus rose.”  When the disciples in the story return to Jerusalem, they are told, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon.”  The apostle Paul notes this appearance to Simon Peter and a few others as well.  The story assures us that we may have an experience of the risen Christ by giving faithful attention to the Eucharist. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

 Tuesday of the Octave of Easter

(Acts 2:36-41; John 20:11-18)

In yesterday’s first reading, Peter proclaimed the startling news of the resurrection.  In today’s he provides its meaning for his listeners.  First, Jesus’ resurrection means that he is the Lord, God’s anointed one who accepted death to save them from their sins.  Second, in response, the people must repent, that is, change their way of thinking.  Rather than look for money or pleasure as life’s goal, they are to seek eternal life by giving of themselves in loving service.  They will find example and support of how this endeavor in the Church, which they join by being baptized.  Finally, they are to accept the Holy Spirit which makes all of them equal children of God.

This process of becoming children of God is reflected in today’s gospel passage.  Jesus’ appearance to Mary proclaims his resurrection.  She must change her mind about him.  He is no longer the dead teacher, but the risen Lord.  She must no longer cling to him but proclaim him to others.  Charged with the Holy Spirit, she becomes a child of God as Jesus indicates when he says, “’I am going to my Father and your Father.’”

Today in the United States many people consider religion as only a cultural label.  They see it as no more importance than being of Irish or Italian descendance.  For them religion provides fewer advantages than being an American citizen.  Professing Easter faith turns this estimation around.  First and foremost, we are children of God and heirs to eternal life.  This classification allows us to view citizenship more highly, not less.  As God’s family, we are to cooperate with civil government which God has established to order the goods of the world. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

 Monday of the Octave of Easter

(Acts 2:14.22-33; Matthew28:8-15)

Abraham Lincoln proposed a new vision for a reunited America in his Second Inaugural Address.  Charity toward all would replace the malice to sworn enemies.  Slavery would end, but both sides would have paid a terrible price.  Lincoln used the Bible -- both the Old and New Testaments – to impress on his readers his new vision.  Known by almost everyone, Scripture provided common ground to rebuild America.  In today’s reading from Acts, Peter similarly finds in Scripture the basis of understanding Jesus’ resurrection.

Peter’s sermon directly follows the Holy Spirit’s descent on the apostles.  They prayerfully awaited its coming and now almost explode with enthusiasm to tell others about Jesus.  Since Christ’s appearances to the apostles were unique events, Peter uses the Scriptures to interpret them for his audience.  He references the psalm which says that the Lord’s anointed would not know corruption in death.  The body which would not corrupt in the tomb could not be David’s because David’s tomb was marked.  Peter says that the glorified body was that of Jesus, David’s lineal heir.

Many in the contemporary world become uncomfortable with the thought of the resurrection – both Christ’s and his followers’.  They would rather have life end at death for all so that people can pursue whatever gives them pleasure.  But such a wish clashes with the experience of the apostles’ and our own spiritual intuitions.  We believe that the Jesus is truly risen because like Lincoln we possess the living hope that charity will prevail and malice will end.