Saturday, April 30, 2022

Third Sunday of Easter

 "Let the mountains skip with gladness, and the joyful valleys ring...Christ...has lifted up the portals of our home beyond the stars." Let the Holy Anthem Rise (Hymn)

Sometimes it is a hymn that moves our spirits, and surely the Easter hymn, Alleluia, Alleluia, Let the Holy Anthems Rise, can lift our hearts in praise. A poem, this song is filled with images that help us recognize how impossible it is to adequately acknowledge the transforming power of Easter. That the mountains skip, and the valleys ring out with song, remind us that all creation has been changed by the God who can't wait to welcome us to our eternal home.

At times, the language of poetry and hymns reminds us of what some unfairly label "new age" spirituality, but how else can we speak of Easter without setting our imaginations free? Skipping mountains may not appeal to everyone, but it is a wonderful way of helping us picture God's love for us. That creation itself rises up with joy because of God's gracious forgiving love helps us step beyond the rational language of ordinary discourse in order to celebrate how much God loves us and wants us with him forever.

Today, breathe in the breath of God and let it free you to dream.

Do you have a favorite Easter hymn? What about the hymn moves you?

Have you known someone who helped unlock your imagination so that your faith might grow?

Friday, April 29, 2022

Care of Widows and Orphans

 "Their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution." Acts 6:2

Early on, as the nascent church began to grow, it became apparent that unless widows and orphans were treated justly and with compassion, the preaching of the apostles and disciples would lose its power to change those who heard it. No word, no matter how divine, can move people's hearts if it does challenge people to care more deeply for one another and especially the vulnerable young and elderly.

In recent years, it has become common to hear people say someone either does or doesn't "get it," and we ought to be grateful that the early church "got it." As soon as it was reported that some widows were being ignored or not properly cared for, the apostles directed the community to select seven men whose primary responsibility would be caring for widows and orphans. The church understood that the message of Jesus was built on a commitment to the poor and voiceless.

Pope Francis reinforced this teaching not simply by going to a youth prison to celebrate Holy Thursday, he will soon a visit a center for undocumented refugees in Rome. Clear about his concern for the poor by his choice of the name Francis, after St Francis of Assisi, the Poverello or little poor one, Pope Francis is intent on challenging us regularly to live the Gospel, not just preach it.

Today, reexamine your attitudes towards refugees and undocumented people in our country.

What role do you think the church should have in social justice?

Thursday, April 28, 2022

St Catherine of Siena

 "You are my friends if you do what I command you." Jn 15:14

Catherine of Sienna, unlikely doctor of the church, is one of those saints who challenges all our unexamined assumptions about wisdom, education and sanctity. The 25th child of parents who lost most of their children to early death, Catherine, though uneducated, became one of the most important writers of the 14th century. Her letters and mystical writings remind us to keep Christ close despite the cost.

In a letter to her spiritual spiritual director she writes: "You should not wish to turn your head because of the thorns of so many persecutions, for he is indeed mad who would abandon the rose for fear of its thorns." (Letters) Though unsaid here, it is clear that Catherine was able to ignore those who persecuted her because she knew that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, was her guide and protector and having the rose was more important than the thorns that tore at her life.

The Easter scriptures are forever reminding us that the Gospel, though liberating and empowering, is too difficult to live without the strength of an Advocate, someone who stands behind us, encourages us and assures us that God is with us no matter how heavy the burdens we might have to carry.

Today, be an advocate for someone who seems lost.

Have you ever experienced the strength and support of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Obey God

 "We must obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29

All of us have experienced times and people about whom we feel compelled to speak. When Moses saw a burning bush, approached it and learned that God wanted to speak to him, he had to tell other about his experience. Elijah hears God, not in a strong wind or an earthquake, but in a tiny whisper, and realizes in the middle of his fear, that God is calling him. He cannot resist. Again, when Isaiah, hearing God wonder who to send, responds: Here I am, send me!

The great figures of the Hebrew bible announce God's presence and love whenever they encounter it, and so does Jesus. Not only does the Lord speak of God, he is God's Word enfleshed, the one about whom we cannot be silent, and this is the essence of the 5th chapter of Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John become models for all the apostles and disciples. No longer does it matter that they abandoned Jesus in his greatest need. Forgiven and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they become, despite great personal danger, proclaimers of the Word.

The Easter season must animate us in the same way. Acknowledging and celebrating God's glory within, around and among us, we announce God's love to whomever will listen. Ignoring those who resist, we go everywhere in His name proclaiming the Good News of our salvation.

Today, let your joy speak to others of God's presence within you and among us.

What experiences of God have you had about which you cannot be silent?

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Locked Doors


"During the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, and led them out." Acts 5:19

Doors are very important symbols in the New Testament, especially locked doors. Jesus appears to his apostles after his resurrection even though they are hiding "behind closed doors," and the apostles are freed by an angel after they had been put in jail by the high priest. Clearly, locked doors mean nothing to the risen Lord, and they ought to remind us that nothing can keep God away from us for long.

All of us have areas of our inner life that we ignore, deny or hide, but none of these strategies help us know and serve God more deeply. Unless we learn to open our hearts to God and for some at least, to seek spiritual direction, we will find ourselves lost more often than not. Trying to keep God at a distance might work for a while, but a spiritual director can help us recognize and attend to those areas of our life that embarrass or shame us, and even more important, a good spiritual director can help us take the risk to enter more deeply into the mystery of God's presence within and among us.

Today, let God do what God wants to do with your life.

What doors are you most likely to close to God and others?

Monday, April 25, 2022

One Heart and One Mind

 "The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common." Acts 4:32

The ideal suggested in today's reading from Acts stretches our imagination. To be of one heart and one mind is almost impossible for most of us, even in small matters. That the early Christian community was expecting Jesus to return to take them to the place he had prepared for them was surely an incentive to live simply and to work for unity in their mission, but the passage still challenges us.

In many ways, being of one mind is not even a Christian value. Because the Catholic church so values culture and cultural difference, we expect and celebrate the way people from around the world express and articulate our faith. This is not to say that we differ substantially about our most basic values, but cultures that are communal will naturally emphasize family and community more easily and deeply than cultures like the United States that so values individuality.

Being of one heart, however, is something we must strive for every day, especially across cultures. To be one in heart means we recognize that the love of God unites us in Jesus and calls us to listen together to the voice of the Holy Spirit in order to proclaim God's undivided love for all people.

Today, ask God to free you from any unhealed disunity in your family or parish.

What helps you to be one in heart with other believers?

Sunday, April 24, 2022

St Mark, Evangelist

 "Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another." 1 Peter 5:5

Commentaries on the scriptures are full of midrash, a homiletic method of biblical explanation that fills in the gaps that the text does not reveal directly. There are midrashim about Mary, for instance, at Cana which suggest what she was thinking when she told Jesus, "They have no wine."

Another Midrash about the miracle at Cana concerns Mark, whose feast we celebrate today. Legend has it that he was one of the servants who filled the six stone water jars with water. When Jesus changed the water to wine, Mark was especially moved by Jesus' power and compassion, and it was at Cana that he decided to follow Jesus as a disciple.

Though we cannot "prove" any of these stories through the lens of history as we record it today, we can be sure that something stirred the hearts of those who encountered Jesus to follow him and risk their lives to proclaim the good news he was preaching.  The same is true for us. Very few conversions that last are built on intellect alone. Only when our hearts are moved does the truth of the Gospel change us forever.

Today, think about the experiences of faith you have had and be grateful?

What stories of conversion most impacted your faith life?