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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Divine Mercy Sunday

"Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.'” Jn 20: 27-29

We wonder about Thomas. Is he "all of us," full of doubts that inhibit our relationship with God and most of the people in our lives? Is he our stubborn younger brother or sister who was spoiled as a baby and still resists change not to his or her liking? Was Jesus annoyed with Thomas for not listening to the other disciples who assured him the Lord had risen?

None of these questions is answered definitively in today's Gospel. What we can be sure of is that Jesus addresses Thomas' doubts and reminds him that others, who will not have the joy of seeing Jesus in the flesh, but who believe anyway, are blessed. That's us, at least most of the time. Born into faith filled families, most of us treasure the gift of faith, practice it and accept both its limitations and its delights. We know that faith is not intended to free us from every trial, hurt and confusion, but we also believe that faith will sustain us even at those times when life makes no sense, or we must endure suffering and loss.

The mercy of God, we learn, is always available to us no matter how often we take faith for granted or turn away from its teachings. With Thomas, we open our eyes to the work of the Lord all around us and realize how blind we have been. Even as we look, God's mercy is at work.

Today, offer mercy like God, freely and without exception.

How have you experienced God's mercy when you were struggling?



Friday, April 1, 2016

Easter Saturday

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19

When "ordinary" (Act 4:13) people begin to act in ways we don't expect, we look for easy explanations. Perhaps they have been prompted to speak by others, or maybe they have had an experience that will sustain them for a while, but will soon dissipate. That they may have been strengthened by the Holy Spirit is often the last possibility we consider. When we do this we risk ignoring God's work in those from whom we expect nothing, and that is exactly what happened to the Jewish leaders in the Acts of the Apostles.

Full of the Holy Spirit, the disciples of Jesus, despite being warned by the Sanhedrin not to speak about Jesus or claim to speak in his name, cannot be quiet, and because of this expose themselves to danger. In every way the disciples' actions are remarkable. Filled with fear just a few days before the death of Jesus, they are now able to speak and act in ways that demand attention. The Jewish leaders are alarmed and try to silence them, but nothing works.

Easter's promises often do this to us. Convinced finally that God will always be with us, our fear subsides and we find the courage to speak clearly about what God has done in us despite the consequences. The early martyrs, including all the apostles, Thomas Becket, Oscar Romero, Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, Jean Donovan, Maura Clarke and thousands of others bear witness to this reality. When the good news of God's justice and freedom is threatened, especially for "ordinary" people and the poor, we must speak out and accept the consequences.

Today, ask God to free you from the fear that inhibits your ability to speak Good News.

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19

When "ordinary" (Act 4:13) people begin to act in ways we don't expect, we look for easy explanations. Perhaps they have been prompted to speak by others, or maybe they have had an experience that will sustain them for a while, but will soon dissipate. That they may have been strengthened by the Holy Spirit is often the last possibility we consider. When we do this we risk ignoring God's work in those from whom we expect nothing, and that is exactly what happened to the Jewish leaders in the Acts of the Apostles.

Full of the Holy Spirit, the disciples of Jesus, despite being warned by the Sanhedrin not to speak about Jesus or claim to speak in his name, cannot be quiet, and because of this expose themselves to danger. In every way the disciples' actions are remarkable. Filled with fear just a few days before the death of Jesus, they are now able to speak and act in ways that demand attention. The Jewish leaders are alarmed and try to silence them, but nothing works.

Easter's promises often do this to us. Convinced finally that God will always be with us, our fear subsides and we find the courage to speak clearly about what God has done in us despite the consequences. The early martyrs, including all the apostles, Thomas Becket, Oscar Romero, Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, Jean Donovan, Maura Clarke and thousands of others bear witness to this reality. When the good news of God's justice and freedom is threatened, especially for "ordinary" people and the poor, we must speak out and accept the consequences.

Today, ask God to free you from the fear that inhibits your ability to speak Good News.

Have you known someone who risked everything to live the gospel?


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Friday

Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also will come with you." Jn 21:3

All the disciples, it seems, tried to return to what they knew after the death of Jesus. Whether they were discouraged, confused or upset is not clear. Today's gospel tells the story of Peter and his friends "going fishing." Though fishing for sport and relaxation were not really options in the ancient world, Peter's words remind me of times I've gone fishing to clear my mind, relax my spirit and day dream. I often tell people that I go fishing, not catching, not because I never catch a fish, but because sitting quietly on the at the edge of a stream or lake is one of the most relaxing things I can do. There is no evidence that Peter is doing this, but many people return to what they know soon after a difficult or dark time in their lives. We do anything to make life seem normal again, to let go of confusion and ground ourselves.

Whatever the case for Peter and his friends, when Jesus appears to them after they had spent the night catching nothing, he enters their lives again in the most ordinary of ways. He has a charcoal fire going on the shore and asks them to bring some of the fish to him so he can prepare breakfast. Then he gives them bread and fish and they cannot help but recognize him as the same Lord who took a few fish and loaves of bread and fed everyone who was hungry. Even though he has been raised up, he reminds his disciples that his mission is the same and so is theirs. They are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the imprisoned, but now they will be full of a new power, the realization that he has broken the bonds of death. They need not fear or be confused. Though their ordinary lives will be difficult, they will endure because he is with them. Is it any different for us?

Today, do the ordinary tasks of your life with purpose and hope.

When have you experienced God's presence in the everyday events of your life?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Thursday

"In the same instant you died and were born again; the saving water was both your tomb and your mother." The Jerusalem Catecheses

At the beginning of the 4th century, the church was faced with a huge catechetical task. The Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and thousands of Romans wanted to be baptized. Whether their motives were pure is beside the point. The church had to catechize adults in large numbers for the first time.

The sermons and instructions of St. Cyril of Jerusalem are a marvelous tool in this regard. Written for adults as a way to help them understand and enter the mystery of faith, they are full of evocative images and metaphors. Today, in the office of readings, Cyril reminds his students not to think of the death to which Baptism calls us as a tomb, but as a womb in which we are being readied for new life in Christ. By dying to that which keeps us from God and God's love by plunging into the waters of baptism, we break through the waters of death into new life in Christ.

As the church evolves in the 21st century, we have a similar task. Helping Christians make sense of the virtual world of the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and so much more, is the work of contemporary catechesis. While we know that the church espouses enduring values, unless they are articulated in a way that makes sense to the people of this generation, we will lose them to the glitter of the world.

Today, ask yourself what you are doing to understand your faith more deeply.

Who was your best catechist?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Wednesday

"I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you." Acts 3:6

Easter is not just about receiving with joy the promise of eternal life. It is about giving it away. Peter's response to the man crippled from birth is a perfect example of this. Not worried about what he doesn't have, Peter gives what he does have, and this ought to be the model for every believer. Some have the financial ability to help others. Some have time to give. Others can pray, but all of us have to give something.

Last year the General Minister of the Capuchins, Mauro Johri, challenged the friars to be concrete in their response to refugees and migrants, especially in Europe where so many refugees seek a safe haven. Br Johri wrote: "If we have structures at our disposal that are unused and in good condition, let us not fear to offer them to the competent authorities for a service of welcome. Why not welcome individual persons or families into unused friaries?"  Giving of our substance, Johri reminded us, is a Gospel demand.

We need to become Easter for others., to focus, like Peter, on what we do have, and give it away. Kindness costs nothing but means everything. Listening takes time, but lasts a lifetime. Compassion towards those who seem ungrateful is difficult, but is demanded by the gospel.

Today, think of your gifts and share them.

Has anyone ever stunned you with their kindness when you expected nothing?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Tuesday

"Woman, why are you weeping?" Jn 20:13

Encountering Mary Magdalene weeping outside of Jesus' tomb does not surprise us. Grieving is a natural and necessary part of every life, especially as we grow older. As family members and friends die, we feel the deep loss of not having the people upon whom we relied and with whom we journeyed by our side, and Mary Magdalene is no exception.

Twice Mary is asked why she is weeping, and we wonder if she is annoyed or surprised by the question. Doesn't everyone know that her Lord has died?  She answers the angels politely enough by telling them that someone has taken Jesus' body, but only when Jesus calls her by name does Mary lift her head in recognition. Hearing the voice of the one who had turned her life around and taught her the Good News is enough to break through her grief and fill her with hope

Easter is God's promise that the death we fear and wrestle with is not the end. Our life will go on in a form we know not, but which faith assures us will be full of joy and delight. Sensing  God's presence in the midst of our grieving or remembering the faces and lives of those who have gone before us is God's way of reminding us that we will never be alone and that someday we will know this promise in its fullness.

Today, weep for a loss but listen for God's love in the midst of your grief.

How do you imagine heaven?



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Monday

“You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’" Mt 28:13

Stubbornness hardly seems like a virtue, yet the Chief Priests, still trying to deny the experience of everyday people, do everything they can to undermine the power and influence of Jesus. Resistant to anyone who speaks powerfully about the Torah, and afraid of losing their stranglehold over the peasants following Jesus, they pay the Roman soldiers "a large sum of money," to lie about Jesus'reported resurrection. No surprise that the bible calls money the root of all evil. (1 Tim 6:10)

The lessons of the scripture are difficult to learn, however. Too many people in our society, simply because they are wealthy, seek to exert their influence over others, not for the common good, but to protect their own fragile power. At the same time, because we recognize the same yearning for security and power in our own shallow dreams, we can learn from the Chief Priests and all who cling to the empty promises of wealth and power over others.

Easter's primary message is basic and pure. We have been saved. We have nothing to fear. We have only to give ourselves over to the mysteries of faith without limitation to experience the fullness of God's love, but because this a very uncomfortable promise, Easter lasts fifty days, giving us the opportunity to learn its lessons a day at a time.

Today, let yourself have an Easter dream, one that frees you to live as God would have you live.

What does being free from fear mean to you?