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For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060516.cfm
In our Gospel this Sunday, Jesus encounters a widow who’s only son had died. We are told that “As he drew near to the gate of the city, (Nain) a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” Certainly the loss of a child is a tragedy, but in this case the tragedy was compounded by the fact that the woman was a widow and it was her only son who had died. He was probably her sole source of financial support. We are told that Jesus was moved with pity for the widow so he “stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said ‘Young man, I tell you arise.’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” In response the people were seized with fear “and they glorified God, exclaiming, ‘A great prophet has arisen in our midst,’ and ‘God has visited his people.’”
This story is a wonderful illustration of Jesus’ compassion. A couple things should be noted, though. First, notice that no one asked Jesus to raise the dean man to life. Jesus assessed the situation and took the initiative to respond to the woman’s great need. Second, this story is about resuscitation, not a resurrection. There is a difference. The young man was restored to this life. He was not given eternal life.
The first reading this Sunday is taken from the first Book of Kings. It is the story of Elijah restoring to life the son of the widow of Zarephath. While it bears similarities to the Gospel, an important difference is that Elijah did not restore the child to life; rather he prayed to God to restore the child to life. And God did. “O Lord, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child. The Lord heard the prayer of Elijah; the life breath returned to the child’s body and he revived.”
The second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians. In the section we read this Sunday Paul explains the source of his call. “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Jesus’ recognized and responded to the need of the widow of Nain without her ever having to say word. Has God ever responded to a need you had before you prayed about it?
- The people in today’s Gospel responded to the raising of the widow’s son with fear and praise. How do you think you would have responded?
- Have you ever felt called by God to do something?
A few weeks ago, while I was on my way to visit someone in the hospital, a car pulled in front of me that had a bumper sticker that read: “Got Jesus.” My immediate reaction was a strong sense of discomfort. Not being particularly pleased with that reaction, I decided the bumper sticker merited a little prayer and reflection on my part.
After spending some time reflecting on the bumper sticker, it dawned on me that the source of my discomfort was the fact that from my perspective it was asking the question the wrong way. The question should not be whether we have “got Jesus,” but rather has Jesus got us. From my perspective this is an important distinction.
Implied in the question of whether we have “got Jesus” is the idea that somehow Jesus is our personal possession. This in turn can lead us to make Jesus into what we want Jesus to be rather than allowing ourselves to be formed into what Jesus would have us be. In my own life, I have discovered time and again how easy it is for me to confuse God’s will for me with my will. If I let myself believe that I had “got Jesus,” I worry that my will and God’s will for me would be nearly indistinguishable. I suspect this is true for all of us.
On the other hand, when Jesus has “got” us, this causes us to see things from a different perspective, to acquire a new way of thinking. I believe this was what St. Paul was getting at when he wrote his letter to the Ephesians. In that letter, Paul was urging the new Christians at Ephesus to live no longer as the pagans did. “That is not how you learned Christ! I am supposing, of course, that he has been preached and taught to you in accord with the truth that is in Jesus; namely that you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new person created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth” (Ephesians 4: 20-24).
We don’t “get Jesus.” Rather our challenge is to allow Jesus to “get” us. We will know this has happened when we find ourselves acquiring the fresh spiritual way of thinking that St. Paul wrote about.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052916.cfm
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This feast celebrates our belief that in the Eucharist we celebrate and share in Jesus’ name and memory, Jesus Christ is really and truly present. We offer no proof for this belief. This is no logical or rational way to provide evidence for this belief. For us, as Catholics, the Eucharist is a matter of faith. And as we read in the beginning of chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.”
Our Gospel this weekend is from the Gospel of Luke. It is Luke’s version of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Because of the abundance of nourishment provided for the hungry and expectant crowd, this miracle is seen by some as a prefiguring of the Eucharist. While there is much to comment on in this Gospel, two points in particular stand out. First, notice that Jesus started with what the disciples had --- “five loaves and two fish.” Second, notice that he took the loaves and fishes, “said the blessing over them, broke them and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” I have a friend who likes to say: “See what happens when you pray before you eat.” But I think a more important lesson is the way Jesus handled what could have been a difficult situation. He started with what the disciples had, blessed it, but then gave it back to them to distribute. I think this is a wonderful illustration of the way God works in our lives. Often in our prayer we want God to do things for us. However, in our prayer if we can offer to God what we have (minimal though it may seem), allow God to bless it, God will give it back to us ---------- and marvelous things can happen as a result.
Our first reading this weekend from the Book of Genesis tells the story of Melchizedek, the king of Salem. He shared bread and wine with Abram (later Abraham) and together they gave thanks to God. As with the loaves and fishes, we would see this as a prefiguring of the Eucharist.
Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. It is Paul’s account of the institution of the Eucharist. It ends with the words: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- It is our belief that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist ----- not present merely symbolically, or spiritually, or in our memory ----- but really and truly present. How would you explain this belief to someone?
- Do you pray that God will do things for you, or do you pray that God will give you the grace, courage, insight, and strength to do things?
- What is your favorite memory in regard to the Eucharist?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052216.cfm
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. This Feast celebrates our belief that God has revealed God’s Self as loving Father, redeeming Son and sanctifying Spirit. In the preface for this Feast we read: “For what you have revealed to us of your glory we believe equally of your Son and of the Holy Spirit.” How this can be we do not know. That it can be we do believe.
While our belief in a Triune God has been at the core of our faith since the beginnings of our Church, the dogmatic statements that articulate this belief are the result of later generations of believers.
Our Gospel reading for this weekend is from the Gospel of John. In it Jesus promised to send the Spirit to his disciples. In making this promise, Jesus is clear that even though he will no longer physically be with them, the Spirit will empower and guide them. “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”
Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Proverbs. We don’t read from this book very often. At least part of the reason for this is that it is poetic literature, and thus not always easily accessible. In today’s reading “Wisdom” is personified as being with God from the very beginning. As Christians, we would see “Wisdom” as a prefiguring of both Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Our second reading for this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. While it was probably chosen because it speaks of each member of the Trinity, I found the last few lines to be most poetic and compelling: “………but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- We believe in one God, who has revealed God’s self as Father, Son and Spirit. What explanation of the Trinity has been most helpful to you in understanding this belief?
- How have you experienced the presence and/or action of the Father, Son and Spirit in your life?
- What gives you hope in your life?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051516.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. This Feast celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Along with Christmas and Easter this is the third great Feast of our Church year. Unfortunately, coming at the beginning of summer, Pentecost doesn’t get nearly as much attention as Christmas and Easter.
The readings for Mass on the Saturday evening Vigil of Pentecost are different from the Readings for Mass on Pentecost Sunday. The link above is to the readings of the day, not the readings for the Vigil. Our Gospel reading tells us that “On the evening of that first day of the week ……….Jesus cam and stood in their midst.” After twice telling them: “Peace be with you.” Jesus then “breathed on them” and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The above scene from the Gospel stands in contrast to our First Reading this Sunday from the Acts of the Apostles. In that reading we are told that “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues…….”
Taken together these readings remind us that sometimes the Holy Spirit comes in subtle and quiet ways. At other times, though, the Spirit comes in a dramatic and intense manner. It is the same Spirit, though, that is given to all of us and that continues to guide our Church.
Our second reading this Sunday is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. In it we are reminded that: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit ………… To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When and/or how have you felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life?
- What gift(s) of the Holy Spirit have you been given?
- In what ways have you seen the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifested in the lives of others?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050816-ascension.cfm
Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. This Feast used to be celebrated on the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Several years ago, though, the Bishops of the United States moved the celebration of the Ascension to what had been the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
Our Gospel this Sunday is the last few verses of the Gospel of Luke. In it we are told that Jesus led his disciples as far as Bethany and then told them he was “sending the promise of my Father upon you” Then,…………he raised his hands and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.”
The above scene is also recorded in our first reading this Sunday from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. In this account Jesus promised his disciples “………. you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you………… When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”
As I reflected on these readings, I remembered a wonderful homily preached by another priest at his mother’s funeral. In his homily he noted that while his mother had died, she would continue to live on. He then went on to name various people and situations where his mother’s presence would be known and felt. His message was clear, while physically gone, his mother’s presence would continue to be experienced. This is the same message of our Gospel and first reading. While Jesus would no longer be with his disciples physically, he would continue to be with them. We experience this abiding presence of Christ in many ways, but most evidently in the Eucharist, in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the grace of God that is continually being offered to us.
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians. In it Paul prays that the “eyes of your hearts be enlightened and that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call ………………..and what is the surpassing greatness of his power.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When have you felt someone’s presence even though they were not physically with you?
- When have you felt God’s presence in your life?
- I loved Paul’s use of the phrase “eyes of your heart.” When have you seen some one/thing through the eyes of the heart?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050116.cfm
Today we celebrate the 6th Sunday of Easter. Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension and then we close the Easter season with the celebration of Pentecost. In our Gospel today we read from what is referred to as Jesus’ farewell discourse. In movies the farewell scene is often the time when the hero or heroine says something especially important and moving. I suspect they got this idea from Jesus’ farewell discourse.
In this Gospel Jesus reminds us of four important things. 1. “Whoever loves me will keep my word.” 2. He will send “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit” to “teach you everything and to remind you of all that I told you.” 3. Peace is Jesus’ farewell gift to his disciples “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world give do I give it to you.” 4. He has told us this “before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.” These words are important and they remind us that even though Jesus is not physically present with us, he is still with us nonetheless. And because of the gift of the Holy Spirit we are enabled and empowered to live as his disciples.
Once again this Sunday our first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. It reminds us that differences and disagreements within our Church are not something new. It tells of a division within the early Christian community as to whether new Christians had to be “circumcised according to the Mosaic practice.” The matter was resolved when the apostles and elders sent Judas and Silas to tell the people: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place any burden beyond these necessities, namely to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these you will be doing what is right.”
Our second reading this Sunday is from the Book of Revelation. It is a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, except there was no temple: “for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What would be important for you to tell people in your farewell discourse?
- What is unique about the peace Jesus offers us?
- Why do you think some people have difficulty accepting differences and disagreements in our Church?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. https://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042416.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the fifth Sunday of Easter. At this point in the Easter season, we have read almost all of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and his appearances to his disciples. So this Sunday we return to the setting of the Last Supper. Jesus has just told his disciples that he would only be with them a little while longer. Then he said: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus’ “new” commandment reminds us that not only is love to be the defining characteristic of his disciples, but also their love is to modeled after his love for them. If and when we exhibit this kind of love, then all will know that we are his disciples.
Our first reading this Sunday is once again taken from the Acts of the Apostles. We continue to read of the missionary activity of Paul and Barnabas. One of their messages, while difficult to hear, is very important. Specifically they told the new Christians that “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” These words remind us that being a disciple of Jesus may not always be easy, but it is in following Christ --- regardless of the cost --- that will lead to our entry into the kingdom of God.
For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the Book of Revelation. Once again the author of this Book offers a vision of hope and ultimate victory for those who are experiencing hardship and adversity. “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away'.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- In college one of my floor mates had a poster on his door that read: “If they were putting Christians on trial would there be enough evidence to convict you?” While perhaps a bit over the top, it did raise a good question for all of us: if they were putting Christians on trial would there be enough evidence to convict you?
- Why is it so difficult for us to love one another as Christ has loved us?
- Have you ever had to undergo a hardship for the Kingdom of God?
In the years since I have been ordained I’ve always made it a practice wherever I’ve lived to designate a special area for prayer. Usually this area is in a corner of my bedroom. I have my “prayer chair” there as well as a small table on which I keep my Breviary, various scripture commentaries, a candle, and sundry other items. One of the items that I added about ten years ago was a small digital clock someone had given me. I use this clock when I’m at prayer—especially in the morning—to make sure I don’t lose track of time. A few weeks ago I noticed that the display on the clock was getting dimmer and dimmer, so I knew it was time to replace the batteries.
Now resetting this clock has become increasingly problematic the past few years. When I first got it, I was able to reset the time by pressing my finger on the display. Unfortunately over the years, the screen has become less and less responsive to my touch. And after replacing the batteries, I couldn’t reset the time no matter how many times I touched, pressed, pushed, or manipulated my finger on the screen. It occurred to me that it might be time to replace the clock, but since it had served me well for ten years, I just let it sit for a few days to see if it would eventually respond to my touch.
Now I have to say that while initially it wasn’t a problem that I couldn’t reset the clock, after a few days it did begin to bother me. I liked being able to glance up when I was reflecting on the scriptures and know how long I had been at it. I took a certain pride in the fact that at times I thought I had been praying for 15 minutes only to glance at the clock and realize it had actually been 25 minutes. At other times, of course, I would glance at the clock only to realize that what I thought had been 15 minutes was only 5 minutes.
After about a week of praying without knowing the “right” time, I had a sudden insight that perhaps I had turned what was initially a convenience, into a “measure.” Further, it occurred to me that God might be trying to tell me that the time I gave to God in prayer shouldn’t be measured or timed. It should be God’s time. And it should take as long as it takes. Timing my prayer not only wasn’t being very respectful of God, but more importantly it was turning what should have been a relationship into a duty.
A few days after the above revelation, I was telling another priest about it. He suggested that perhaps I needed to re-think how I approached my prayer time. Then in passing he said: “And you know you might want to try using a stylus to reset your clock.” He then gave me an extra stylus that he had. And when I got home, voilà—problem solved. I was able to reset the clock. The other problem remained, though, of checking the time during my prayer. I ultimately decided that the clock could stay, but that I would only check it once during my prayer time. So far this seems to be working, and it has made me more conscious of the fact that prayer is time with God, and that since God is more concerned that I pray, than with how much time I spend in prayer, perhaps this should be my goal too.