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Saturday, April 18, 2020

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 17, 2020

Free of Fear

"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, April 16, 2020

I'm going Fishing

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, try to return to what they know 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 asks them to bring some of the fish to him so he can prepare breakfast. 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, April 15, 2020

The Resurrection of our Bodies

"Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Lk 24:38

It is easy to take our bodies for granted. Young people are especially vulnerable to this fault, and sometimes even take risks that are foolish and dangerous. Who doesn't remember climbing in a car and driving too fast just for the fun of it, never thinking about our own safety or the threat to others.

Jesus focuses on our senses to help us realize what great gifts our bodies and our faith are. Our eyes for instance, when used properly, allow us to see and appreciate the glory of God in so many ways. 
All our senses can help us grow in faith. When we offer or receive a simple touch of affirmation, we experience the goodness of God in the other and know that people are basically good. How we will see and touch others after death is not clear, but that we will be raised body and soul is.

Today, take a moment to breathe deeply and thank God for the gift of your body and the promise of bodily resurrection.

When have been most grateful for the gift of sight?


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Share Your Gifts

"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.

Several years before my mother died she wanted to talk about her living situation. It was a time similar to today. Many people has lost their jobs and homes and she was living in a home with two extra small bedrooms. Guilty about having so much while others were suffering, she wanted to know whether I thought she should offer the extra bedrooms to some homeless people. Stunned by her generosity, I also reacted strongly against the proposal. A woman of 85 living alone should not open her home to strangers, but what should she do? More important, what should we do, not just with our surplus, but with our substance.

Become Easter for others. Focus, like Peter, on what you 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, April 13, 2020

Easter Tuesday

Jesus said to Mary, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." Jn 20:17

It is natural for us to cling to what we know, especially when we are comfortable and secure. Parents know this in a particular way when they send a child to school for the first time. Not only is it difficult for them to let go, often their children also struggle to learn how to care for themselves in a new environment. Change, though necessary, involves risk, and without change, we will not meet new people or engage new situations.

Our bodies teach us this in dramatic ways. The cells lining our intestine replace themselves once a week, and even the long lasting cells of our pancreas replace themselves every year. If these cells do not replace themselves properly and adequately, we get sick. The same is true for our spirits.

Mary Magdalene was grieving, crying outside the tomb of Jesus. When the man she thought was a gardener called her by name, she knew it was the Lord, and naturally believed that everything would soon return to normal. Jesus was alive and with them and would continue to instruct them about God's love and their responsibilities, especially to the poor. But Jesus is clear with Mary, and with us. Don't cling to me. Don't cling to what you know well just because you are comfortable. Trust me and even more powerful things will be done in you and among us.

This is another of Easter's challenges. The more we understand how God wants to work in us, the more we will be anxious to follow him and change. Will Rogers said it succinctly, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

Today, ask for the strength to let go of anything to which you are clinging unhealthily.



What helps you trust that there is still much growing in faith in front of you?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Monday

"Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?...Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I Cor  5: 6b,8

The primary symbols of Easter, the Christ candle and the new waters that remind us our baptism, remain the focus on our paschal celebrations, as they should. But yeast, which is an irritant, also plays a prominent role, and not just because when activated in flour is makes bread rise, but because it reminds us that a fully engaged Gospel life makes a difference in society. Believers, like yeast, are not simply passive receivers of Good News, but doers of the word whose gratitude expresses itself in works of justice and charity.

Active Christians are like yeast. Their good works can motivate, and at times agitate others. While this might be uncomfortable for some, the hard sayings of Jesus, like loving our enemies, are an integral part of the Gospel. In the long run, a soft Christianity does no one much good. Easter is a time to rejoice and recommit ourselves to a full Gospel life.

Today, take time to rejoice for the gift of faith.

Who has been yeast in your life?