Thursday, May 31, 2007

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Information about the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary[1]

Readings for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Zep 3:14-18a

This reading from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah is part of a hymn of joy sung by the remnant restored to Zion. It comes at the end of the oracle as the faithful worship God their savior.

Rom 12:9-16

St. Paul gives a litany of instructions to those who wish to remain faithful to Christ’s teachings. Placed on the Feast of the Visitation we see the attributes St. Paul calls for manifested in purest form in the Mary, the Mother of God.

Responsorial Psalm Isaiah 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

This canticle from the Prophet Isaiah emphasizes the peace and confidence of his servant in the salvation of God.

Gospel Lk 1:39-56

The Gospel selection from St. Luke gives us the story of Mary’s journey from Nazareth, over the mountains to Hebron, south of Jerusalem, to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child. Elizabeth’s greeting gives us substance for the “Hail Mary” and Mary’s response is the great Canticle of Mary which exemplifies her faith and faithfulness, appropriate for the Mother of Jesus who is the Christ.


Every evening those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours join millions around the world in remembering the words of Mary, the mother of Jesus and the example of faith to which the whole Church aspires. When we pray the Canticle of Mary each evening prayer the first words, as we make the sign of the cross, seem to fill us up; "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord."

We can feel her emotion as we say; "My spirit rejoices in God my savior." And feel the truth of: "He has looked with favor on his lowly servant." Perhaps because I have memorized it or perhaps because I recite it each day, it has become one of my favorite pieces of Holy Scripture.

And on this day when we celebrate the first meeting of Jesus and John the Baptist (that is the baby in Elizabeth’s womb) we see already in Mary her perfect obedience to Gods will. Notice the purity of it. It is not subjugation; she maintains her individual humanity in all its sweetness. But it is the selflessness that allows her to give genuine thanks and praise to her almighty Father; "He has shown the strength of his arm..." and it does not sound like pious prattle as we hear from some (sometimes it feels like those words are too big) but sincere gratitude and praise.

If we could echo the faith of Mary our Mother, we would find that in-dwelling peace Jesus came to give us.. And we would find that glorious serenity that places all of the cares and sorrows of our world in the hands of God and lets our spirits soar.

Ah, but that is hard. Mary graced with a character so pure of sin that even original sin never spoiled that exemplar of Gods love and fidelity, was given a special place and grace that her cousin Elizabeth cried out; "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

What can we do? All that we have found that gets us close is that marvelous Canticle. We look forward to it each day and find ourselves praying the first few lines during the day when we feel the work we have accomplished is indeed to the greater glory of God. And there is a reason Elizabeth’s words begin the most common prayer of our faith; "Hail Mary, full of grace.." The words bring us comfort and remind us of the beauty of obedience and sincere worship.

Today we celebrate the gift God gave us in the example of Mary, Theotokos, the Mother of God whose perfect act of love and obedience gave us our Savior.


[1] The image used today is “The Visitation” artist and date UNKNOWN
[2] After Links Expire

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Sir 36:1, 4-5a, 10-17

Today’s selection is a prayer by the author praising God as the supreme ruler of the universe. He invokes His divine intervention to unify the faithful and demonstrate His omnimpotence.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 79:8, 9, 11 and 13
R. Show us, O Lord, the light of your kindness.

Using a refrain from the Sirach reading, this part of Psalm 79 asks God for forgiveness of past offenses and compassion in their need. This sin has, to the audience, resulted in their imprisonment.

Gospel Mk 10:32-45

In this passage from Mark we are given the Lord’s third prediction of what will come about once they reach Jerusalem. In this reading, James and John seek places of honor when the Lord attains his Kingdom. It is clear to the Lord they do not know what they are asking for.

Jesus asks them if they can accept the destiny to which he is called( Can you drink the cup or be baptized with the same baptism?). When they answer, yes, he predicts that they will indeed have the same fate (in their case martyrdom) as the Lord. But, he cannot assign the paces of honor, that is for the Father who sent him.

In the final part of the Gospel, Jesus describes the model of servant leadership. He tells the disciples they were not to lead as the civil authorities did but to lead as the Lord had done, by serving those entrusted to their care.


I am reminded of a time shortly after I had taken up my profession as an Industrial Recruiter and before I heard the call to the diaconate when my wife and I had a young Associate Pastor, Father Ed, come over to the house for dinner.

One of the elements of my secular job was to find out the career aspirations of the talent I had surfaced so I decided, during the course of my conversation with Fr. Ed, to ask the question of him. I think my words were something like “What are your career plans?” As I recall he looked at me like I had swallowed a frog.

Thinking I had been misunderstood I started him off saying “I expect that in your next step you will be Pastor of a Parish. How long will you do that before you go for Bishop?” Although I can’t remember his exact reaction, I think he may have almost choked on the wine he was drinking. It was then that I received my first homily (although I did not think of it as such at the time) about the Gospel passage we heard today.

Fr. Ed explained to me that when he was called to the Priesthood (he committed to High School Seminary when he was 13 or 14) it was for a life of service. He never had a greater ambition than to be a Parish Priest and that if he did anything else with his life he would need to answer that call as he had discerned his call to the priesthood. He must ask, in prayer, “Lord, what is it you want of me? How can I serve you and my brothers and sisters you have also called to yourself?” These were not his exact words, but close, and I recall that I pressed him about how he could become a Bishop which I am sure was amusing to him.

The point the Lord made in the Gospel is that to lead others in the service of the Lord we must be as humble as the Lord is humble. We must lead through example, and never expect that place of honor. The price tag might be higher than we thought possible.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The image used today is “Dead Christ Supported by Angels (Pietà)” by Giovanni Bellini, 1474

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Sir 35:1-12

This reading from Sirach deals with the explicit rules surrounding Jewish Sacrifice rituals and the importance of having the right mind-set when presenting gifts to God. The passage concludes by reminding the faithful that God repays sevenfold (we note here the reference to seven which in Hebrew numerology symbolizes completeness or the perfect number) that which is given by the “cheerful giver”.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 50:5-6, 7-8, 14 and 23
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

The psalm today supports the idea of ritual sacrifice to God. The psalmist refers to the practice as supporting the covenant we have made with God. From our place in the history of faith, Christ was the one sacrifice that ended the need for all sacrificial offerings.

Gospel Mk 10:28-31

Jesus continues his discourse from yesterday. After seeing the rich young man leave because he could not part with his possessions, Peter chimes in, reminding Jesus that they (the disciples) had given up everything to follow him. The Lord replies that those who have sacrificed to follow him will receive not just the sevenfold repayment promised by Sirach, but a hundred times more of what they have given up.

This reference is likely to the growth of Church under their evangelization and the communal sense of the Church in its early years. The same reference is true of his final statement where we hear “But many that are first will be last, and (the) last will be first." Here he is probably referring to the martyrdom many will find before joining him in his heavenly kingdom.


Since today the Gospel continues yesterday’s reading from the Gospel from St. Mark and is supported again by a reading from the Book of Sirach, we should extrapolate the point of our earlier reflection. Yesterday we saw the importance of placing God before the material wealth in our lives. It is easy to say that God is more important to us than material things. It is another matter to demonstrate that by giving away or donating a significant part of that wealth (which is later translated into “things”).

This is the point scripture is making today. It is not good enough to just say we love God more than wealth. We must demonstrate that love by sharing what we have with those less fortunate. The disciples did that to the extreme by walking away from their livelihoods. They gave up every material thing to follow Jesus. Peter feels he must remind the Lord of that fact today. And the Lord tells Peter (and the rest of the disciples, we assume Peter was speaking for all of them) that for what they have sacrificed, they will be rewarded.

The lesson today is that charity is something that must be an integral part of our practice of the faith. Ours must not be a faith of words but of actions and our actions must demonstrate the love of Christ. Today we pray that God will give us strength to give to others, at least in part, what he has given to us.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The image presented today is “The Madonna of Charity” by El Greco, 1603-05

Monday, May 28, 2007

Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings for Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Sir 17:20-24

The first part of this moral teaching from Sirach (in antiquity called “Wisdom of the Son of Sirach and in the Middle Ages Ecclesiastes or Ecclesiasticus) first deals with penitence. God always invites us back. All that is necessary is to love what God loves.

The second section asks for conversion or a return to God. Here the author says the dead cannot intercede for those who do not turn away from sin. We also hear how God’s mercy flows to those who do return from a sinful past.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.

Psalm 32 is an individual hymn of thanksgiving. In this selection we hear support of the reconciliation encouraged in Sirach.

Gospel Mk 10:17-27

The Gospel story from Mark is that of the rich young man who wishes to find eternal life. Clearly the young man depicted is of Pharisaic persuasion since he believes in concept of eternal life (Sadducees would not). The Lord asks the young man (symbolically, using the part of the Decalogue) if he has followed the Law of Moses. Following his affirmative response the Lord offers him the answer to his question.

The Lord then turns to his disciples and explains why the young man was unsuccessful and his answer is two fold – first the person’s wealth demanded allegiance before the Lord and second, God must provide the path.


As we begin our celebration of Ordinary Time (the term used is the Church term not as in common usage) we are offered a way home if we have fallen or have moved away from the Lord. There is a God billboard in our region of the country that says; “If you fell God is far away, who moved?” It fits today’s scripture.

In Sirach we are told that the path to God is open for those who have fallen into sin or have denied the Lord. The opening line is an invitation (that sounds like it came out of an Indiana Jones movie) “To the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope and has chosen for them the lot of truth.” From the oldest times God has provided a way to return if we fail.

We are told that to return we must first want to return. Actually, if we think about it, that is the major hurdle we must cross. If we want something, say a new car or a pair of shoes, our behavior supports that desire. We save money for the car, we look into offerings by various dealers or stores. We do our homework so that we achieve what we want. The larger the item or the goal the longer it takes to achieve it and the more discipline in our behavior. We see how goals can come into conflict in the Gospel story. The rich young man wants exactly what we do and finds the barrier in himself. The Lord tells him to remove the things in his life more important to him than God, his material possessions, and he (the young man) cannot do it.

When Jesus turns to his disciples after the young man leaves, he explains that, to those who place their wealth first in their lives, the Kingdom of God is not attainable. Even if we find a way to achieve that perfect state of mind (it is very difficult) it is only through God’s mercy that we will achieve that heavenly place – thank God his mercy is endless.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The image presented today is “And he was sad at that saying” by Henry Le Jeune, 1860s

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost Sunday

Readings for Pentecost Sunday[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible


Reading 1 Acts 2:1-11

“When the Time for Pentecost was fulfilled” – the word in its Greek form means “fifty” so we understand this phrase to mean – fifty days after Christ’s resurrection (Easter). An interesting coincidence is the Jewish Festival of Weeks (Harvest Festival “Shavuoth”) was also called Pentecost. Whether it was taken first by the Christians and later adopted by the Hellenistic Jews we do not know.

Those present (not just the disciples) heard a loud noise like the rushing of the wind. This signified a new action by God. Indeed we see the symbol of the Holy Spirit, a flame, descend upon the Apostles launching them into prayers of ecstasy that were heard by all present in their own language. This event can be interpreted as a representation of the universal mission of the Church to all peoples of all nations.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

In Psalm 104 we find a refrain that is the most popular hymn sung a Pentecost. The final strophe recognizes the third person of God and asks for its blessing.

Reading II 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13

In this letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul acknowledges the role of the Holy Spirit and the different gifts supplied to the members of the Body of Christ. At the same time he also proclaims the oneness of the triune God. The unity theme is carried finally to the people of God who are one in the spirit and therefore one with God.

Rom 8:8-17

St. Paul focuses on the Holy Spirit indwelling as a consequence of Baptism. The spirit once received over-rules the flesh and the faithful become one in Christ. Christians, by reason of the Spirit's presence within them, enjoy not only new life but also a new relationship to God, that of adopted children and heirs through Christ, whose sufferings and glory they share.

Gospel Jn 20:19-23

Since we reflected upon this reading on the 2nd Sunday of Easter we repost this part of our commentary from that day: "St. John gives us the picture of the disciples (now Apostles) in hiding immediately following the Lord’s crucifixion. Twice Jesus comes to them once with Thomas absent and then again when he is present.

There are a number of very important elements of this version of the story. First, the Lord’s greeting, “Peace be with you.” While this may have been a simple Shalom, it is more likely intended to emphasize the rejoicing sense of the meeting. Immediately the Lord sends them on their mission, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you." As part of this action we are told the Lord gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and gives them authority to act in his name.”

Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26

This Gospel was also reflected upon on the Sixth Sunday of Easter and we repost our commentary from that post: “The farewell speech of the Lord continues with the promise of the Holy Spirit – the Paraclete. This promise is made because the disciples are becoming worried and are afraid of being left without Jesus’ guidance. In addition to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he leaves his peace, not just the greeting “Shalom” but an inner peace that conquers fear.”


The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the Divine Advocate is celebrated today. How great is our God that, not only did he send his only begotten Son to reveal his great love for us, he sends us His guiding Spirit to be our strength and compass.

It is the Holy Spirit that we look to for the daily miracles in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit that was given to us at our Baptism, that gives is the ability to understand what God wants for us and from us. It is the Holy Spirit that is the glue of the great covenant sealed with the blood of Christ.

Today we, as Church, complete our Easter Celebration with this great feast that reminds us in Johns Gospel how the Lord himself sent the Divine Advocate to his body, the Church so that all we hold as bound on earth shall also be held bound in heaven. He gave his Holy Spirit first to the Disciples that infusion of grace that allowed them to convey the message of love and life through our Heavenly Father to all peoples of all nations. Through that Holy Spirit he gives us a glimpse of Divine Wisdom that directs us.

Today we, as individuals, thank God for his gifts of love an mercy, communicated to us directly from the Heavenly Throne by the Holy Spirit. We recognize these gifts as we reflect on the bounty God has given us in our lives. Gifts that start with the life we dedicate to His service and all of the things we have been given since.

Today, the whole world holds its breath in wonder as the Church proclaims once more that the gift, guide and Advocate left to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is alive and well and living as the visible Body of the Risen Christ the Church. Praise be to the Triune God and all His marvelous deeds.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The image used today is “The Holy Spirit” by Corrado Giaquinto, 1750s

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter

And Saint Philip Neri, priest

Biographical Information about St. Philip Neri[1]

Readings for Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 28:16-20, 30-31

In this selection from Acts we hear of St. Paul’s imprisonment in Rome and how he used his affiliation and knowledge of Jewish Law and customs to reach out to the Jewish community in Rome with an eye to conversion.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 11:4, 5 and 7
R. The just will gaze on your face, O Lord.

The psalmist sings of his trust in God’s protection and laments those who trade in violence. The song continues with praise for the one who is steadfast in God’s law.

Gospel Jn 21:20-25

Here we see the very end of the Gospel of St. John. In it we pick up the dialog between Jesus and Peter. Jesus has just told Peter he will be lead where he does not wish to go indicating that he (Peter) will suffer martyrdom. Peter sees St. John following and asks about his fate, to which the Lord replies “What if I want him to remain until I come?” Peter interprets this as an affirmative statement and tells the others.

This part of the selection caused problems among the early Church when St. John did die before the Lord came again. The Church lost some credibility and followers as a consequence.


If there was ever a wonder about why St. Paul was adopted as the thirteenth Apostle, today’s account of his activities in Rome give adequate rationale. Recall that after his missionary work among the Gentiles he was called back to Jerusalem. He went saying farewell to the various communities of believers he had founded and left them in the care of individuals he had trained.

When he got to Jerusalem, the Jewish leadership, for whom he had worked and been a part of, found out he was back. No doubt word had reached them about his treasonous conversion and subsequent evangelization among not only the gentiles throughout the region but also the Jewish populations. They had heard how many had taken up this new “Way” and how Paul had deified Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had forced to be crucified for blaspheming that he was the Messiah. Now he came back to Jerusalem with this blasphemous claim and they wanted him dead with his Savior.

But the Lord was not done with St. Paul. To his rescue came and unlikely supporter, the civil Roman government. They ended up rescuing St. Paul from vicious physical attacks and put him into protective custody. It was there that Jesus came to him a second time. St. Paul, who must have at that point been tired (we know he was sore after the beatings he had take). Yet the Lord told him to take the Word to Rome, the belly of the beast.

In response to this call, St. Paul used his Roman Citizenship to appeal the charges brought against him by the Sanhedrin to the Proconsul (even though the Proconsul dismissed them as being an internal “religious disagreement” rather than a legal issue)

So, today’s reading puts him in Rome where the Lord sent him. He immediately begins spreading the “Word” as the Lord wished and he did it first with the Jewish leadership, diffusing their potential animosity by explaining how he was an innocent victim of misunderstanding by the Jews in Jerusalem. He took out the very people who would prosecute him in front of the Romans with this stroke.

The lesson he gives us is that, even though the message of the Lord is not one many will like to hear, it is one that can be brought to bear on situations by using the structures and faith that already exist. St. Paul used his knowledge of the Jewish faith to bring the Lord to them, he used his Roman citizenship to bring Christ to the center of the modern world. We should take a page from his book.


[1] The picture used today is “St. Philip Neri”, date and artist not cited
[2] After Links Expire

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter

And Saint Bede the Venerable, priest, doctor
And Saint Gregory VII, pope
And Saint Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, Virgin

Biographical Information about St. Bede the Venerable[1]
Biographical Information about St. Gregory VII[2]
Biographical Information about St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi[3]

Readings for Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter[4]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universais


Reading 1 Acts 25:13b-21

Here we see the interesting secular response to the “Christian Controversy” from the perspective of St. Luke’s portrayal of the dialog between King Agrippa and Festus. St. Paul’s protective custody is about to be moved to Rome as the Lord, in our reading yesterday, intended.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20ab
R. The Lord has established his throne in heaven.

Psalm 103 is an individual hymn of praise. In this passage, the song acknowledges the blessings the Lord has given to those who believe in him and then proclaims the universality of his reign.

Gospel Jn 21:15-19

We skip ahead now to events following the passion and resurrection. Jesus has already revealed himself to the disciples in the “locked room”. He now addresses himself to St. Peter. Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times during the night of the Lord’s arrest. He now recants that betrayal with a three fold response to Jesus questions.

The First Vatican Council cited these verses in defining that Jesus, after his resurrection gave, Peter the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over the whole flock. It is interesting to note that this section of St. John’s Gospel is referred to by scripture scholars as “Peter’s rehabilitation”.


We are constantly amazed at the depth of thought and prayer that must have gone into the formulation of the Roman Missal from which the readings for each day are taken. Today we see St. Paul fulfilling the Lord’s will as he is prepared, through secular machinations, to go to Rome. On this same day we hear St. Peter “rehabilitated” and given a renewed commission to establish the Church with himself as the “First Shepherd”.

All the symbols today revolve around the centrality of the Vatican as the See of the universal Church. Perhaps one might think “Well, so the composers of the Missal selected readings that would highlight our common allegiance today.” Then we turn our attention to the calendar and look at the Saints we memorialize today. We notice a striking fact about each of their lives. They are each recognized, not just for being models of piety (which they are), not just for being great examples of how to live the faith as our Lord insists (which they are), but each contributed to building up the Church in a special way.

St. Bede, known as the “Father of English History” captured the ecclesial history of the English Church. Without his writings much of what we know and many of the contributions of our predecessors in the faith would have been lost.

St. Gregory IV, a Pontiff following in the succession of St. Peter the first of his line, reformed the Church, making sure that secular influences would not distract her from the great mission the Lord had given her.

Finally, St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, a simple Carmelite sister, yet her quit faith and constant prayer caused her entire order to be reformed and revitalized. Each of these Saints whom we remember in a special way today made contributions that blessed the Church, built upon the rock that was St. Peter and continues to do the work of Christ today.

Today, we thank the Lord, who, in his wisdom. established the Church. He made St. Peter the first shepherd of that Church and provided holy men and women along the way to keep it faithful to the mission the Lord gave her “Feed my Sheep”.


[1] The first image is 'The Venerable Bede translates John' J. D. Penrose (ca. 1902)
[2] The second image is “St. Gregory VII” by an UNKNOWN artist
[3] The third image is “St. Mary Magdalen of Pizza” from a holy card, artist UNKNOWN
[4] After Links Expire

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Readings for Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 22:30; 23:6-11

We jump ahead in the story of Paul’s return to Jerusalem. In this passage, Paul has been recognized as the one who is converting many outside Jerusalem to the “Way” and the Jews are furious. A riot has broken out in the Temple precincts (Paul takes a beating) and he is taken into custody by the Romans (probably saving his life).

The Centurion, learning that Paul is a citizen of Rome, allows him to speak to the Sanhedrin which is what we hear today. He has just recounted his conversion story to them and fueled an argument between the Sadducees and Pharisees over the concept to the resurrection which the Pharisees believe in and the Sadducees deny. A second time Paul is rescued from Jewish violence by the Romans and then hears from Jesus that he will be sent to Rome to bear witness there.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.

Psalm 16 is an individual hymn of praise. This selection seems to resonate with the emotions St. Paul must feel as he undergoes physical and mental abuse in the story above. He remains faithful in the face of persecution and accepting as he is sent on yet another journey.

Gospel Jn 17:20-26

Here is the final part of the “High Priestly Prayer” from the Lord’s final discourse. In this selection we are linked with the disciples as Jesus says; “…but also for those who will believe in me through their word”. Again the theme of unity between the Father, and the Son, and his followers is emphasized and brought to a conclusion with “…that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”


The scripture message is making a very pointed statement as we near the great celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Pentecost. In the first reading from Acts we hear how Paul, having returned to Jerusalem after his missionary work among the gentiles, is being attached by the Jews of the Sanhedrin (the same body that had Christ crucified and the same body he was serving when he encountered the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus).

We are told, after he is rescued (for a second time) by the Romans from violence at the hands of the Jews, the Lord once more speaks to him and tells him he must now take the Word into the center of the political world of the time – to Rome itself.

We couple this sending with the conclusion of the “High Priestly Prayer” in which the Lord links us to the disciples who themselves are about to take what the Lord is giving them and go into the world proclaiming the good news.

The message is consistent. We are not given some secret to be kept silently in our hearts. We are given the joyous news of salvation that we are to spread to every possible ear that can hear it. We know also that, while our news if joyous and for everyone, not everyone will be open to hearing it. St. Paul was certainly not given a warm reception (or perhaps I should say cordial – his reception by the Jews was, in the vernacular, quite warm). Today we are asked to envision ourselves sitting with St. Paul and hearing his instructions from the Risen Lord – go out and take my message to the world. By our words and actions, He calls us to do that today.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The picture used today is “St. Paul” by Domenico Beccafumi, 1515

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Readings from Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 20:28-38

The discourse St. Paul began yesterday is concluded today. He is speaking to the presbyters that have been appointed over the various communities around Ephesus (a very large city at the time). He has already explained that he is returning to Jerusalem and does not believe he will see them again. Now he tells them to be on guard against false prophets and teachers and against members of their own communities who will spread dissension. He reminds them, finally, to keep focused on the Lord’s commands and to remain charitable.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 68:29-30, 33-35a, 35bc-36ab
R. Sing to God, O Kingdoms of the earth.

We continue in Psalm 68 for a third day. Our hymn of thanksgiving sings of the great favor the Lord has show to his chosen people. It rejoices in God’s salvation.

Gospel Jn 17:11b-19

We continue the “High Priestly Prayer” started in St. John’s Gospel yesterday. This part of the prayer begins with a plea for unity between the Father and disciples (note the reference here to Judas Iscariot as the “son of destruction). Still speaking directly to God, Jesus again says he is going to the Father and that the disciples should share his joy at prospect. He then asks the father to keep them safe from the poison of sin (similar here to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer) and to consecrate them in truth (defining truth as the Word).


The Gospel of John is very heady stuff when it comes to grist for spiritual reflection. The scripture is so dense we could pull it apart almost verse by verse (and many have done so). Today we hear the second of three segments of the “High Priestly Prayer”. It will be concluded in the Gospel passage we will hear tomorrow.

Today the prayer has three elements. First, Jesus prays for the disciples (and us) that we might be united with each other and with the Father. It is important to the Lord that we have this link to the Father through him. It is our life line. Next the Lord once more, though speaking to the Father, reminds us that the world hated Jesus for what he was. He goes on to say that because he has taken his disciple out of the world, the world will also hate them (it is the Great Paradox we spoke of yesterday).

In the final segment he prays “Consecrate them in the truth.” It is this that we need to understand today. According to the dictionary the most used definition of the term “consecrate” is “to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity:” It can also mean “to admit or ordain to a sacred office” In this short petition, the Lord asks that we be set aside in the sacred truth of his Father’s gift. We are to be the holy portion infused with the truth which the Lord says is the Word or Logos. In other words we are in him and he in us, made sacred by his call.

How do we live up to what we are called to be? The prayer the Lord makes in today’s Gospel gives us renewed determination to work toward becoming that sacred portion set aside for God. It is a life’s work and today is as good as any to start afresh.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The illustration is found in "Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Four" by Lillie A. Faris, published by The Standard Publishing Company, 1927, and illustrated by O. A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland. It is felt that we should not ignore these contributions from our Protestant brethren the early 20th century.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

And Saint Rita of Cascia

Biographical Information about St. Rita of Cascia[1]

Readings for Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 20:17-27

The steady and lively growth of Christianity has started to spark significant resistance from multiple sources. Paul now feels compelled to return to Jerusalem but wants to make sure he has left a final message with the leaders in the region of Ephesus. Here he begins his discourse reminding them of his fidelity to the message he received from Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 68:10-11, 20-21
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.

We use Psalm 68 for a second day in a row. The hymn of thanksgiving praises God for salvation even in the facie of death.

Gospel Jn 17:1-11a

We begin the part of Jesus final dialog called the “High Priestly Prayer.” In this first section, the Lord begins a petition for the disciples (those he has now and those to come) speaking directly to the Father (not to the disciples, they are just overhearing this prayer). The emphasis is clearly that the disciples have become what the Lord wanted, faithful believers, and he asks the Father to support them.


The Gospel story today reminds us of the great paradox of our faith. We are called to belong to Jesus. He has claimed us as his own in Baptism. (Recall the very first part of the Rite of Baptism for Children. Right after the celebrant asks the parents to name the child and then he says, “What do you ask of God’s Church for your Child?” and the parents respond “Baptism.” He says “I claim you for Christ our savior by the sign of His Cross. I now trace that cross on your forehead and invite your parents and godparents to do the same.”)

We are also called “out of the world” by that same Lord. We are creatures of God and are called to keep our thoughts firmly focused on the things of God, through His Son. What are those “things of God”? They are what Jesus commanded us. We are to be a people whose ambitions are for the peace of Christ not worldly success. We pray that the love of Christ will pour from us as a wellspring for others.

We are given today a wonderful example of this paradox lived in fullness. The saint we memorialize, Rita of Cascia, today struggled with it her whole life. She was called to God but forced by events to live a very difficult secular life. She became a peacemaker in a strife torn region and then turned he piety to service in cloistered convent. Blessed, some might say, with the bleeding stigmata of the Crown of Thorns, she became and example of faith for others, suffering without complaint for the faith. God rewarded her with an impossible rose and she now enjoys the company of the heavenly kingdom.

Today, we look at St. Rita, patron of impossible causes, and ask for her intersession.

Dear Rita, model Wife and Widow, you yourself suffered in a long illness showing patience out of love for God. Teach us to pray as you did. Many invoke you for help, full of confidence in your intercession. Deign to come now to our aid for the relief and cure of all who suffer or are in pain. To God, all things are possible; may this healing give glory to the Lord. Amen

[1] The picture used today is “Saint Rita” from the Villanova University web site, artist not credited
[2] After Links Expire

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

And Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions, Martyrs[1]

Biographical Information about St. Christobal Magallanes

Readings for Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 19:1-8

While Apollos stays in Corinth strengthening the Church there, Paul goes down to Ephesus. In this passage he describes the difference between the Baptism of John which was for repentance and the baptism of Jesus (for forgiveness). It is important to note that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given in the sacrament of Baptism demonstrated here.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 68:2-3ab, 4-5acd, 6-7ab
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.

Psalm 68 continues the Easter praise and thanksgiving for God’s salvation. In the second strophe we relate back to the believers baptized by St. Paul in Ephesus.

Gospel Jn 16:29-33

Here, in St. John’s Gospel, we see the great solace of the disciples as Jesus essentially forgives them in advance for deserting him when he is confronted in the garden. Even as they confess that they believe in Him, Jesus knows they will flee when he is taken prisoner.


We see in Jesus' emotions as they are painted by St. John, a sense of sadness. He is sad because his closest friends, the disciples, have finally come to understand that he is the Messiah and that faith is about to be found wanting as it is tested in Gethsemane.

The Lord's feeling would be like a parent who hears his child boldly state that they will do well on a spelling test at school, but knows they have not studied enough and will be crushed when they fail. That parent would not tell the child, “You are going to fail.” They would know that their lack of confidence in the child would only make things worse. Rather they would say,”Do your best and I will be proud of you.”

Jesus tells the disciples they will be scattered (they are adults after all). Instead of telling them to do their best, he gives them a bigger gift. He tells them; “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.” He essentially stays he will not hold their fear against them.

We wonder today if the Lord had silently prayed to the Father, “Father, can’t you send the Holy Spirit just a little earlier so they won’t desert me in the garden? It would be a comfort not to be alone when I face my biggest test.” No, we suppose he did not even think that prayer (as we would have). Instead his concern, like a parent’s, was that the disciples not be crushed when they saw that they had run out on the Savior of the World. In this prediction Jesus said it was not just an acceptable reaction, but that it was a fate accompli, it was inevitable.

The gift of the Holy Spirit makes a huge difference. it did for the believers that St. Paul found in Ephesus. When he baptized them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, they came alive in the faith. It is witnessed in St. Christobal and his friends who were executed in Mexico for their unflagging faith.

Today let us follow their example. Let us reach out and grasp the indwelling Spirit and take it out for a spin, boldly proclaiming by our words and actions that we belong to one who sacrificed all he had so that we might live in Him.


[1] The photograph of St. Christobal used today is by an UNKNOWN artist
[2] After Links Expire

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Ascension of the Lord

Readings for The Ascension of the Lord[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 1:1-11

We have today the introductory comments of St. Luke as he begins the Acts of the Apostles. Like any well written story, he connects the events that have just taken place in his first volume- The Gospel of Luke, with what will follow. He uses the number forty, which has religious significance, to describe the period between the resurrection and the Ascension (even though in his Gospel, this took place on Easter Sunday-see below).

Using the interval of days, Luke links the resurrection, Christ’s glorification, and his ascension with the appearance of the Holy Spirit – the Pascal Mystery. Christ’s departure marks the end of his direct involvement with the Apostles, except for his appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus. The passage concludes with a unique description of the actual event or Jesus being taken into heaven.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

We hear once more the praise of the 47th Psalm (the same verses used at Mass yesterday – Saturday of the sixth week of Easter) but with a different Antiphon. Since we celebrate Christ’s Ascension, the refrain uses the sixth verse to announce His entry to heaven.

Reading II Eph 1:17-23

The selection provided is part of St. Paul’s introductory comments to the Ephesians. His focus in this passage underlines the enlightenment flowing from the Holy Spirit. The final sentences provides an understanding of the power assumed by the Lord as he ascends to the Father.

Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23

Supporting the Solemnity of the Ascension, this passage from Hebrews contrasts the earthly temple to the heavenly throne mounted by the Lord. We also see the contrast between the traditions of the Hebrew Priests, constantly offering sacrifices of atonement, and the sacrifice of Christ, offered once and for all so that sins might be forgiven.

In the final paragraph taken from the next chapter, we are shown the practical consequences of Christ’s ascension to the Father and the role of Eternal High Priest he assumes.

Gospel Lk 24:46-53

Luke’s Gospel provides us with a shortened version of the Ascension story. The emphasis in our Gospel is that what was promised has been fulfilled and now the next stage in God’s revelation is to begin.


According to St. Luke’s comments in the introduction to the Acts of the Apostles, we have now celebrated the first forty days of the Easter season in which the Lord made appearances to the Disciples. He reassured them and brought them to final understanding of the events that had transpired and the role they were to play going forward.

With this event, the Lord takes his leave of them, not to be seen again in the flesh and only by St. Paul explicitly. From this point forward the Apostles (we call them that from this time forward because the have moved from the role of pupil to that of teacher) are tasked with taking the Word and the Way to the people of the world without Jesus presence. Well, that’s not exactly true, is it? They are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the third of the Three Persons in One God to guide and sustain them. But that is next week’s story.

For us the Feast of the Ascension has an important inference, a lesson, if you will, about our own call and role. Since we constantly look for signs that the Lord has called us to do something definite or that he has some plan for us, this event helps us understand where we are to seek that guidance.

We know that the Lord has taken his leave of this earth until he comes again. We see that, with his closest friends, he has told them that they are to take the Word and the Way to the whole world. They must have been daunted by that enormous task, but they accepted what he asked of them. With incredibly little support and not inconsiderable resistance they started doing what he asked them. They literally took it one step at a time. What the Lord’s Ascension said to them was the baton had been passed. The Lord had ended one chapter in the salvation of the world and started another. The new model is the one were we ask for guidance and the Holy Spirit delivers it. It is, in effect, our right of passage. From today we stand on our own. It is a proud day for the Lord.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The image today is “The Ascension of Christ” by Garofalo (Benvenuto Tisi), 1510-20

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Readings for Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 18:23-28

The story in Acts introduces Apollos. He is clearly an educated Jewish convert (to the “Way”) from Alexandria. Hearing the story unfold, we learn much about him. Note he only had the “baptism of John (the Baptist)”. This means that he must have been in Galilee earlier.

We know that Apollos later becomes a revered leader in the Christian Community. We hear St. Paul speak of him in his First Letter to the Corinthians (
1 Cor 1:12; 3:5-6, 22.)

Responsorial Psalm Ps 47:2-3, 8-9, 10
R. God is king of all the earth.

Psalm 47 is a hymn of praise. It calls all nations to acknowledge the Kingship of God. The call to conversion reminds us of what is happening in the readings from Acts.

Gospel Jn 16:23b-28

Again we continue to hear from Jesus’ farewell speech. In this passage Jesus makes a strong connection between his own identity and the Father’s (“…whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you”).

This section of St. John’s Gospel sets the precedent as to how we are instructed to pray (e.g. to God through the Son, Jesus). He makes it clear that they are to use his name in prayer to the Father and assures them that what they ask for in his name will be given.


Because of the importance of the Gospel message today, we reflect upon why it is important to be a people of prayer. Jesus tells his disciples that “Until now you have not asked anything in my name”. That would seem to indicate that up to that point, like Jesus himself, they had been praying to God without the understanding that the Son and the Father are one and “no one comes to the Father” except through the Son.

Today he establishes the flow of prayer from us to God through Christ. That concept has been faithfully passed down to us through the successors of St. Peter from the earliest times of the Church. It is clouded only slightly by our equally rich understanding of the Trinity – three persons, one God. In formula, however, we conclude our prayer with – “…through Christ our Lord.” Or “We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.”

We take great pains to contrast the persons to whom our prayer is directed because, with our enormous faith tradition, we have so many intercessors. Chief among those we turn to is Mary the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven to whom we turn, asking her to intercede for us with her Son. Likewise, with the whole Communion of Saints at our disposal, we ask frequently for intercession from these Holy Men and Women whom we believe reside in the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly Kingdom, with the angels and surrounding the Throne of the Lamb.

We ask the Father for so much, don’t we? We always seek his support and guidance, his gifts of grace and salvation. We were taught to be a people if prayer, and we must come to understand what that means if we are to follow Christ more closely. Our most common failing in prayer is forgetting to listen. We talk to God, we plead with God, and we beseech his Son to come to our aid. We ask for His intervention in events and, in our darkest despair, we ask him to undo what has been done. When do we listen? As a people who ask for God’s help through His Son. We do not listen; do not look for his answers.

Today, as we reflect upon God’s great gift of His only Son and how gracious He was in his promise that what we prayed for in His Name would be done for us by His Father, let us spend more time watching for the fulfillment of those prayers and listening for the answers to our questions. And when they come, let us give thanks and praise to Him, something else our prayer frequently fails to do.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The picture used today is “The Adoration of the Name of Jesus” by El Greco, 1578-79

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter

And Saint John I, Pope, Martyr

Biographical Information about Saint John I, Pope, Martyr[1]

Readings for Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 18:9-18

We see in this story from St. Paul’s stay in Corinth the strong link that existed between the Jewish faith and Christianity in this early period of the development of the Church. The proconsul, Gallio, rejected the charges of the Jewish leadership against Paul saying that it was an internal affair of the Jewish religion. Christianity continues to flourish in spite of resistance, receiving help in this instance from Rome herself.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 47:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
R. God is king of all the earth.

Psalm 47 is a prayer of thanksgiving and praise. This selection focuses on the omnipotence of God over all the earth.

Gospel Jn 16:20-23

Starting with the last verse from yesterday’s Gospel selection, in this passage we see the analogy used by Jesus comparing his death and resurrection to the initiation of new life through the human birth process. He uses this comparison to contrast the pain of child birth with the anguish of grief the disciples will suffer when he leaves them to return to the Father. He concludes by comforting them saying “whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”


In today’s Gospel we once again continue Jesus’ farewell address. The Lord is responding still to the disciples question about how long he will be away from them. Basically they are still frightened to a point were they are about to take flight and Jesus intensifies his assurance by describing what is about to happen as pain that will result in a rebirth, the covenant is about to be made new and like all change, it will be painful.

We can see this analogy as fitting into our own conversion experience. We develop norms of behavior in dealing with the world around us. As we grow in faith and understanding, we recognize that some of these behaviors are not appropriate and we know we should change what we do. The act of changing is difficult. It is so easy to allow the evil one to invite us to behave as the world behaves, not as our Savior has asked.

Examples of this kind of change at a pragmatic level might be quitting smoking or starting an exercise regimen. The first few days are the most difficult physically and psychologically. Our conversion experience is much the same, old ways die hard, old habits are hard to break. The Lord sees clearly what that his death is necessary and his resurrection will cause great pain as brother argues with brother and the faith of many is challenged.

The question we ask ourselves today is what are we willing to change, no matter how painful, that will allow us to follow the Lord more faithfully? What do we need to do to accomplish what he asks of us?


[1] The image used today is “St. John I, Pope” Artist and date UNKNOWN
[2] After Links Expire

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(In most Dioceses in the US, the Solemnity of The Ascension of the Lord will be celebrated on the 7th Sunday of Easter. The post for the Ascension will be made on that day.)

Readings for Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 18:1-8

This passage contains the threads from several different stories converging in Corinth. First, Aquila and Priscilla were probably already Christians since their home, according to
1 Cor 16:19 became a meeting place for the local community. They were probably expelled from Rome because of in-fighting among the Jews about the identity of the Messiah.

It is clear from this account that the Church in Corinth was not established without significant resistance from the local Jewish community. Paul clearly went after that group, and was successful, to form his nucleus of membership among the Corinthians.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

We use Psalm 98 once more. As we said about this selection on Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter: “Psalm 98 (much like Ps. 96) is a song of thanksgiving for God’s salvation. Once again, as the Hebrews saw this as salvation for the people of Israel from its enemies, we see the deeper expression of God’s love as he sent his Son for salvation and justice for the whole world.”

Gospel Jn 16:16-20

In spite of Jesus’ repeated attempts, the disciples are still uncertain about his departure and how long he will be gone. Since they have already heard what the prophets had predicted about the length of time he would be in the tomb and had heard the Lord himself give the number of three days, they are concerned here about when he will return to them after the resurrection. The Lord, in characteristic form does not give them a specific time frame but instead paints a picture of the events surrounding his return.


We reflected yesterday about the difficulty we have in announcing the truth to an unbelieving and resistant world. Today we are given further proof that, from the very earliest of times, understanding how the Son of God should die (be allowed to die!) causes problems in understanding.

After telling the disciples that he will be leaving and coming back they are confused (in St. John’s Gospel no less, where the disciples are generally depicted as quick to understand and much more devout than in the other Gospels). Like little children whose parents are going away, they ask “but how long will you be gone?”

While the disciples had Jesus with them, they were fine. When he told them he was going away they became fearful, afraid of their own loss. We, who have not had the “Man” Jesus walk among us but believe he has returned and will come again do not feel the physical loss the way the disciples did. We have a great advantage. It’s sort of like direct deposit or an automatic payroll withdrawal. Since we did not see his physical presence in the first place we do not really miss it. We know we can always reach out and touch him, in the Eucharist we are given his body and blood and in the other sacraments we receive his grace. What a great reassurance that is for us, to be able to tap into that source of life whenever we want to!

The Church in some parts of the world celebrates the Solemnity of the Ascension today. The day the Lord returned to the Father to take his place at his right hand. We know that he did not leave us alone we know that he left his spirit here with us to guide us and to bring us his peace. Today we take a large breath and sigh in relief, the Lord did not leave us alone and we will see him again, on the last day.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The image presented today is “Resurrection of Christ” by Giovanni Bellini, 1475-79

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Readings for Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 17:15, 22—18:1

We find St. Paul in Athens speaking to the pagans in one of their principle venues. His rhetoric uses their own beliefs to bring them to an understanding of first God the Father using their “Unknown God” as a jumping off point, telling them that God is not bound in gold, silver or stone but existing all around them, creator of all that is and will be.

When he gets to a point were he begins talking about Jesus and the Lord’s resurrection he looses most of them but some remain and the beginning of Christianity in that city has begun. From Athens they move to Corinth.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14
R. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Psalm 148 is a hymn of praise. In this selection we find it supporting the omnipotence of God proclaimed by St. Paul to the Athenians.

Gospel Jn 16:12-15

Jesus’ farewell speech continues. His reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit is explained further and the unity of the trinity comes into focus as the Lord tells his friends that this Advocate will give them what is also his (the Lord’s).


As important as Jesus’ farewell speech is, we need to look at what Paul is doing on his missionary trip in Acts today. What we see is St. Paul, a well educated and zealous evangelist, delivering an apology or defense of Christianity to people who were not Jewish and were, in fact, unacquainted with the concept of a non-corporeal God.

He took them where they were, that is, he took the faith they had in their idols and attempted to move them past it. It was clear from his discourse that he had success. He was able to focus them on the fact that there was one God, unknown to them that was above all others. This was a pretty important step given the ingrained belief in the Greek’s mythology he was facing.

Where he ran into trouble was when he tried to get into the Jesus story. They could accept that there was a God they could not see, that was the creator of all that was. What they could not accept was that such a God could send his own son as a “man” into the world to die and rise from the dead. Even assuming, as we must, that this discourse was a summary of talks St. Paul gave over a period of months, this moved most of the people he was speaking with past were they were willing to go.

This whole tableau is important for us because we see in this story a problem we all face. We have come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit give us our life and our being. For others who have not been exposed to this understanding since their earliest years, this sounds so far fetched that they too scoff at the idea. We cannot forget how difficult it is to wrap one’s mind around our Triune God, first to just understand it and then to come to faith in Him. So often we assume that what has taken us a lifetime to understand should be instantly clear to others and become frustrated at their apparent lack of understanding.

When dealing with the world outside of the faith community we must, on and individual basis, use St. Paul’s model. We must take people were they are and help them to the next steps. I hate to quote popular media, but to borrow a phrase from the movie “What About Bob”, we must use “baby steps”.


[1] After Links Expire
[2] The image used today is “The Holy Family with God the Father and the Holy Spirit”, by Carlo Dolci, 1630