Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

& Saint Pius V, Pope

Biographical Information about St. Pius V[1]

Readings for Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Univesalis


Reading 1 Acts 11:1-18

The footnote from the NAB on this passage does a good job –“ The Jewish Christians of Jerusalem were scandalized to learn of Peter's sojourn in the house of the Gentile Cornelius. Nonetheless, they had to accept the divine directions given to both Peter and Cornelius. They concluded that the setting aside of the legal barriers between Jew and Gentile was an exceptional ordinance of God to indicate that the apostolic kerygma was also to be directed to the Gentiles.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 42:2-3; 43:3, 4
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.

Psalm 42 is an individual lament for a return to Jerusalem where God may be encountered in the temple. For us this longing is for the Lord and the reference to running water links us to the baptism described in Acts.

Gospel Jn 10:1-10

The “Good Shepherd” discourse is continued from Sunday’s Gospel. St. John records Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees. They, of course, do not believe he is the Messiah and therefore do not follow him and think they will enter the kingdom of heaven another way (climb over the fence).

Jesus uses this metaphor in support of his earlier statement “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him” (John 6; 44). Jesus is the gate and gatekeeper and comes for the salvation of the sheep.


It is appropriate that today we remember Pope Pius V who started his life as a shepherd and later, as Bishop and then Pope took up the crook that was then a crosier. It reminds us that today we should all pray for our Pope and Bishops who have the tremendous job of guiding the Church and who are custodians of its teaching magesterium.

Our special prayer goes today to Bishop Carl F. Mengling, Bishop of Lansing who is recovering from surgery and whose condition is far from certain. While we are in a mood to pray for people, today I would also like prayers for Alisha Hankins who was taken ill over the weekend and Michael who a year ago was rescued from death the miracle of life through a liver transplant and today must mourn two of his three sons 15 and 12, taken from him in a automobile accident. May the God of mercy and healing send the Holy Spirit to all who are in pain and need of healing.

We don’t usually use this space for prayers for specific individuals, but today as we celebrate once more him who came as our shepherd, it is appropriate that we remember what a shepherd does for his flock. He not only leads them to green pastures and flowing streams but he watches over them, protecting them from harm. While in the case of those for whom we pray today, physical harm is always waiting for all of us; our shepherd sends his strength to heal from within. We are given through the Holy Spirit, that sense of peace that comes from complete faith in the Good Shepherd who will keep us safe in his loving arms.


[1] The image today is “Pius V” by El Greco, 1600-1610
[2] After Links Expire

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Readings for Fourth Sunday of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 13:14, 43-52

This excerpt is part of Paul’s first missionary trip. His encounter with the Jewish Community in Antioch begins with his exhortation about Jesus the Messiah to the members of that community. Much of what is said in the verses missing from this reading relate to how the Lord came in fulfillment of the scriptures.

We pick up in the second part of the reading were the Jews refuse Paul’s logical apology. He then turns to the Gentiles of the region who embrace the faith with great fervor, upsetting the Pharisaic community which then forces Paul to leave.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5
R. We are his people, the sheep of his flock.

Psalm 100 is a hymn of thanksgiving, possibly a gathering refrain. Emphasis here is on the Lord’s chosen people, the same people who rejected His Son in Acts, above.

Reading II Rev 7:9, 14b-17

The strong link here is between the vision of St. John of those who have suffered persecution (“…survived the time of great distress”) as it relates to St. Paul’s persecution in Antioch. The reading also links to our Gospel as St. John makes reference to the “Good Shepherd”.

Gospel Jn 10:27-30

The “Good Shepherd” takes the sheep, his flock, as his own possession represented by the faithful. As this passage concludes we hear conclusively that the Lord is one with the Father, truly God as well as true man.


The one who loves us is, at the same time, the Lamb of God who for our sake sacrificed himself that we might live, and the Good Shepherd who leads us to eternal life. As shepherd he leads us through the gates of heaven, gates opened to us by the Blood of the Lamb.

The symbolism wraps around itself in an almost loving embrace. We ask, how can we be worthy of so great a love and how can we follow such a difficult path? Ultimately we need to look at what is being said to us as Jesus the shepherd tells answers the question posed to him by the Jews; “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” He tells us, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” If we are his, what does he say to us and how do we respond?

All of the professions of faith, all of the prayers, all of the words mean nothing if not backed up with a life lived in the footsteps of the Lord. Anyone can say, “I am the Lord’s” or “Jesus is my Savior” but if they turn from those words and fail to follow his great command to us, the words are empty.
When the Lord says “…they follow me”, he is letting us know that he will recognize us by the path we follow, not by the words we say. Following the Lord is a physical act it is not just faith that justifies us in Christ. Our words must echo our lived faith.

Today as we recall the Lamb of God who is sacrifice and shepherd who leads us let us vow to follow that difficult path of love He set us upon by his own example. Let us listen for his voice in our daily lives and respond so he will see that we know him and his will for us.


[1] After Link Expiration
[2] The image today is “Adoration of the Lamb” by Hubert van Eyck, 1432

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

& Saint Peter Chanel, Priest, Martyr
Or Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest

Biographical information about St. Peter Chanel
Biographical Information about St. Louis [1]

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


Reading 1Acts 9:31-42

The Church is at peace following Paul’s conversion and the cessation of persecution by the Sanhedrin’s main enforcer. Peter now demonstrates through miraculous healings that the authority of Christ over illness and death has been passed on to the Apostles.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
R. How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?

Psalm 116 is a song of thanksgiving. This selection is an individual prayer and promise to God. The singer understands that the Lord is his salvation. A little confusing is -“Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”- The meaning is that the death of God's faithful is grievous to God, not that God is pleased with the death.

Gospel Jn 6:60-69

Today we come to the ebb and flow of the Lord’s followers. He is concluding his discourse on the bread of life and has just told the disciples once more: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” This was cannibalism, they did not get it and they did not like what they did get, so many who had seen him perform the sign of the Multiplication of the Loaves and followed him now were turned off and went home.

The twelve stayed with him and in response to Jesus question; “Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered; “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."


The Church was at peace and Peter is moving from community to community strengthening the faith of these new believers with miraculous signs. Like a flash back running through his head, the end of the “Bread of Life” discourse at Capernaum must be flowing through his mind. In our minds eye we can see him, a little tired, but buoyed up by the recent conversion of Paul and the great threat that had lifted.

As he walks, leaving Lydda, where he had just cured the paralyzed Aeneas, headed for Sharon, he hears the Lord’s voice; “Do you also want to leave?” He probably also remembers the denials, three times he said he did not even know Jesus because he was afraid. Under what were undoubtedly tan cheeks, redness creeps up as he remembers his humiliation? He also remembers his own thoughts as over and over the Lord had shown him that he was the Son of God. Then that final encounter – three times the Lord asked him. “Simon son of Jude, do you love me?” Three times to make up for his denials that night. Three times he had answered, “Lord you know I love you.” And what did the Lord tell him? “Feed my Sheep.”

Well, Peter must have thought as he turned now to the disciple who laid dead in Joppa, it’s time to feed the sheep.

If we ever doubt that God can give us all we need to accomplish what he calls us to, all we need to do is look at Peter. The First Shepherd, the rock upon which Jesus founded his Church, Peter was just an ordinary person who responded to God in an extraordinary way. With Saints Louis Marie and St. Peter Chanel we are given examples of what we can accomplish if we accept that call. So the Lord asks us today. “Do you also want to leave?”

[1] The image today is a portrait of St. Louis Marie painted shortly after his death, preserved at Saint Laurent-sur-Sèvre
[2] After Links Expire

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

Readings for Friday of the Third Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 9:1-20

Today St. Luke gives us the first of three accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. According to these accounts, Saul, the enforcer of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, was an involuntary convert, a person of zeal and energy that the Lord turned, as scripture says, into God’s instrument.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 117:1bc, 2
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

This, “shortest” of all the Psalms, is a hymn of praise sung by the community to the Lord who is faithful to his people.

Gospel Jn 6:52-59

The “Bread of Life” discourse continues and the Lord escalates his language. The people who had come to him because they had been fed with the five barley loaves just cannot make the leap from bread made from wheat or barley to the Bread of Life offered as true food and drink for the spirit. Even when he uses Manna as an example of real food they still do not see that the Son of God offers them his resurrected body as their meal and they are repulsed – especially because of the language (Jesus uses the word gnaw not just eat in the original texts) he uses.


The question that springs to mind as we think about today’s scripture is “Why do we follow Christ?” The people he is addressing with his Bread of Life discourse are the same people who followed him out into the country around Capernaum to hear him teach, the same people who were fed with the five barley loaves and two fishes. They now come to him in the synagogues. Why are they drawn – most of them may have had good intentions at the start but suddenly they saw a miracle and now they have forgotten his words. So the Lord takes their greed and holds it up.

Jesus tells them they must eat his physical body, clearly knowing the revulsion it would cause with them if they did not follow his earlier logic. If they were just after free food, image how they would feel when he told them, the true nature of the Eucharist. We can almost see there faces can’t we. He tells them; “For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him.” If it was their bellies they were thinking about, what he proposed was the violation of a taboo so basic that it was not even mentioned in polite company.

We understand that those whose faith was purely superficial would fall away at this point, but what about us? What are we looking for from Jesus? Are we superficial, can we drink daily from the cup he offers? Do we offer him the praise he deserves or are we only asking for what he can give us? Do we give him thanks when, with his help, we accomplish great things or do we feel the pride in success that ignores the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Great questions to ponder today as we are offered the Bread of Life.

[1] After Link Expiration
[2] The image today “You are looking for me ... because you ate the loaves and had your fill” by James Tissot, 1886-96

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

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


Reading 1 Acts 8:26-40

In this story of Philip’s conversion of the eunuch we are given a strong mystical nudge. First when Philip is instructed by an angle to leave on the trip and again with is disappearance after the baptism of the eunuch.

If we read this passage in context with verse numbers we find verse 37 is not present in either the NAB or the Jerusalem Bibles. That is because in the oldest and best manuscripts it was not present. But, for our benefit verse 37 said responding to the eunuch’s request for baptism; "And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he said in reply, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' "In modern texts it is omitted as probably a latter addition by some early Christian redactor.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 66:8-9, 16-17, 20
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Psalm 66 is a song of thanksgiving. In the selection we are given we start with part of the community blessing of the Lord and follow with the second and third strophes being individual response to the communal prayer.

Gospel Jn 6:44-51

St. John’s “Bread of Life” discourse continues in response to the protest of the crowd. In the first part of the passage we hear Jesus telling the crowd that no one comes to God unless it is willed by the Father (who sent me). Then Jesus says the remarkable; “…and I will raise him on the last day.” This is a clear statement that the Lord has been given the authority to judge the living and the dead in the eschaton (the last day).

The Lord quotes Isaiah 54:13, interpreting that passage as it relates to him as the “teacher” sent by God. He now launches into the answer to the earlier question “Where can we get this bread?” saying “I am the bread of life” and going further tells the crowd that they must eat (John uses the graphic word gnaw) the bread of life to have eternal life and that the bread he gives them is his life for the salvation of all mankind.


Whenever I read this section of St. John’s Gospel I am always struck with a modern day paradox. There are significant groups of Christians in what is called the "Bible Belt" of the U.S. that are very anti-Catholic. They believe that we have missed the importance of having Christ as “our personal Savior”. They also believe that we do not believe in the Bible because, unlike many of the Baptist, Pentecostal, and Evangelical sects, we believe that Holy Scripture is inspired by God but not every word should be interpreted literally.

This is so ironic because in the case of our Gospel today, we believe, quite literally, that Jesus gave us His Body as the Bread of Life. We hear the unequivocal words “I am the Bread of Life” and later “who ever eats this bread will live forever”. Can it be any clearer?

We also believe that when we eat this bread in the most Holy Sacrament of the Alter the Lord, truly present in His Eucharistic Sacrifice, is joined with our own body and we with his. Talk about a personal relationship!!!

They do have one thing right though, and they should be very glad about it. We do not believe Jesus is our “Personal” savior. Rather we believe he came so, as scripture today tells us, “...whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." He came for them too.

[1] After Link Expiration
[2] The image today is “The Institution of the Eucharist” by Nicolas Poussin, 1640

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Feast of Saint Mark, Evangelist

Biographical Information about St. Mark[1]

Readings for the Feast of St. Mark[2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 1 Pt 5:5b-14

St. Peter, according to most scholars, probably wrote this letter just before his death in Rome (code named Babylon in our text today) between 65 and 67. This part of his letter encourages fidelity to the Lord in the face of persecution which comes from the devil. The mention of Mark at the end of this selection is probably referring to the Evangelist whose feast we celebrate today.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Psalm 89 is a song of thanksgiving. The selection we have today links nicely back to the faithfulness so passionately encouraged by St. Peter above.

Gospel Mk 16:15-20

The verse just prior to this passage, which is the ending of St. Mark’s Gospel, indicates that the disciples are still not sure what has happened (typical of the image we have of the disciples in St. Mark's Gospel) and Jesus comes to them at table, rebuking them for their unbelief. That sets the stage for this commissioning address by the Lord. Once again the Disciples now Apostles are sent into the world with God’s blessing.


Today we have a little break in our on-going stories from the Acts of the Apostles as we celebrate the Feast of St. Mark. As a tribute to him we hear the very end of this shortest of the canonical Gospels. As you will see, if you follow the link to the biographical information (above), Mark was thought to be the Mark mentioned in the reading from 1st Peter we also hear today. He was also thought to be the young man who ran away when Jesus was arrested. As such he was very familiar with the Jesus story.

Although he was not as eloquent as Matthew or Luke nor as theologically well grounded as John, his gospel gives us view of the disciples that seems unvarnished and lets us identify with a group of followers who were not perfect and did not understand. His portrait is very believable and balances well against Johns Gospel in which Jesus himself (in the eyes of the author) has much more foreknowledge than he does according to St. Mark. Mark uniquely shows us Jesus Christ True God and True Man most clearly. Today we see Jesus' farewell to the Apostles as he ascends to the Father.

While we are not given the formula of; Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. as we are in Matthew, we can still see the importance placed on that conversion and the indelible change it manifests in each of us.

The reading from St. Peter gives us another glimpse into the life of the early Christian community and reminds us that, as a people who share a common faith and purpose, we are to accept that mantle with humility. It is a lesson we as a community learned again four decades ago when, with the advent of the Vatican II changes, we dropped the "Triumphant Church" attitude of;" If you're not Catholic you're going to hell." It is a corporate learning experience many of our protestant brethren are still struggling to learn.

We are asked to be open, inviting and inclusive. This supports the great paradox of Christ's teaching that we must be part of the world (in order to affect change) but be separate from it to insure we retain the ideals that define us as Christian. Today I go out into the world once more and pray that my Christian identity is obvious to all I meet.


[1] The image today is “St. Mark Enthroned with Saints” by Vecellio Tiziano, 1510
[2] After Link Expiration

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

& Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, priest, Martyr

Biographical Information about St. Fidelis[1]

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


Reading 1 Acts 7:51—8:1a

St. Stephen is martyred for proclaiming Jesus Christ risen. He is the first Christian martyr stoned outside of Jerusalem with the consent of one of the representatives of the Sanhedrin (“The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.”) who we know later became St. Paul.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 31:3cd-4, 6 and 7b and 8a, 17 and 21ab
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

This is an individual lament. The section links nicely to the death of St. Stephen with “Into your hands I commend my spirit” and “You hide them in the shelter of your presence from the plottings of men.”

Gospel Jn 6:30-35

Jesus continues the “Bread of Life” discourse. In today’s selection we are given that most solemn of statements by Jesus which is an unambiguous statement about the real presence in the Eucharist: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”


Within all of the Christian denominations there is no more unifying and divisive doctrine of faith than that of the “real presence in the Eucharist”. Yes, there are, in addition to the Eastern Rite Churches, two other denominations who believe in the real presence, some of the Lutheran Synods and the “High” Episcopalians or Anglicans. Yet even in some of these, their understanding is different than that of the Roman Catholic Church. Now something even more disturbing, many professed Roman Catholics do not believe in the real presence.

That belief is one of the Precepts of the Church. That means that in order to be in communion with the Church, one must believe that; at the rite of consecration within the Liturgy of the Eucharist, first bread and then wine are transubstantiated (changed in substance) into the Body of Christ (the Bread of Life) and the Blood of Christ.

This event, repeated around the world each day (accept Good Friday) is not a simple memorial and is not a remembrance as it is understood in a majority of the protestant denominations. It represents for us, as the Divine Mercy Chaplet says; “The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity” of our Lord Jesus Christ whose sacrifice on the cross redeemed us by becoming the “Sin Offering” for all of humanity.

Today, St. John gives us those amazing words, uttered by the Lord all those years ago in response to people looking for life through a physical meal (remember, this is the crowd that Jesus fed with the five barley loaves) and the Lord here offers them the spiritual food that will lead them to eternal life. Let us pray today that all Christians everywhere will come to understand the great gift the Lord left us in the Eucharist and the Holy Presence He maintains in it.

[1] The Image of St. Fidalis presented today is again from an antique Holy Card, Artist UNKNOWN
[2] After Link Expiration

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

& Saint George, Martyr
& Saint Adalbert of Prague, Martyr

Biographical Information about St. George[1]
Biographical Information about St. Adalbert[2]

Readings for Monday of the Third Week of Easter[3]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 6:8-15

The first deacon, St. Stephen, through his zeal has angered the Jewish community in Jerusalem (as if the Apostles were not enough) by placing Jesus above Moses in his teaching. The St. Luke draws a parallel in this section with the fate of Jesus in the hands of the Sanhedrin.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Continuing the theme of being opposed for the sake of God, our psalm response praises those who are steadfast in the face of such opposition. Psalm 119 is an individual lament asking for God’s support in times of difficulty.

Gospel Jn 6:22-29

This dialogue with the people begins St. John’s great discourse on the bread of life. In this selection Jesus begins by telling the crowd, who had just been witness to the feeding of the multitude with the barley loaves, that they should focus on spiritual food rather than filling their stomachs. His reference here is that through their belief in him as the Son of God, they are doing God’s will.


There is a theme today, proposed by the Church, that leads us to respond to Jesus by faithfulness in the face of opposition. In addition to the scripture from Acts where St. Luke describes St. Stephen being seized and condemned by the Sanhedrin we are given the lives of two martyred Saints of the Church to reflect upon.

First we have St. George who according to ancient tradition was a proponent of chivalry and courage as an outward sign of his faith in Christ. We are told that for his efforts and fidelity, he was tortured and beheaded. Next we are given St. Adelbert; Apostle of Bohemia, who worked determinedly to bring the faith to then pagan Prussia. For his troubles he was, again according to tradition, pierced by three lances and then beheaded.

The message to us is clear. The Lord, through St. John’s Gospel, asks us to seek the spiritual food that will lead us to His table in heaven. He tells us that the beginning of this journey is belief in the one who was sent by God (Himself). If we profess this faith, it will be quite apparent to all we meet. We will be different. We will not take part in ridiculing others, we will not hold up as virtuous those actions that demean others, we will not, in short, be popular. The Saints remind us that the depth to which that “unpopularity” can run may cost us our lives. Before we get worried about that, however, let’s just try to be faithful in our prayers, our words and our actions.


[1] The first image is “St. George Victorious over the Dragon” by Mattia Preti, 1678
[2] The second image is of St. Adalbert from an antique Holy Card, Artist UNKNOWN.
[3] After Link Expiration

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Third Sunday of Easter

Readings for Third Sunday of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41

Since we have heard the sections of this reading on two different days this past week (on Thursday we heard Acts 5: 27-33 and on Friday Acts 5:34-42) I will repeat part of the commentary from each of these days:

From the commentary on the first part of the readings:

“As in the previous case when they had cured the lame beggar, the Apostles (this time all of them, not just Peter and John) are brought before the Sanhedrin. It is interesting to see that the elders and scribes fear to speak the name of Jesus in these proceedings (“…stop teaching in that name”).

Peter now assumes his role as leader of the Apostles and again boldly professes his faith that Jesus, in whose name they speak and whose name the Sanhedrin fear to speak, is the Son of God (“We must obey God rather than man.”).”

While we do not hear the rational from Gamaliel (Paul’s mentor) that killing the Apostles would not serve a useful purpose and we do not hear that they are scourged, we pick up the tale of the Apostles after they were beaten. From the end of the commentary on Acts 5: 34-42 –

“Gamaliel was indeed wise, recognizing that, even before it formally existed, the blood of martyrs is seed for new members of the Church. Indeed, even persecution has a positive effect on the faith and fervor of the Apostles (“So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”)”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

This song of thanksgiving highlights the theme started above that God intervenes for his faithful. While the psalm remembers the Diaspora and Israel’s deliverance, we see it also refers to Christ’s saving mission.

Reading II Rev 5:11-14

The profuse adoration and praise for the Lamb is referring to an earlier question. The Chapter begins with "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" (Referring to God’s scroll fixed with seven seals). The scroll in this case represents God’s plan for salvation. So the response we hear in our scripture today answers that question; “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing."

Gospel Jn 21:1-19 Or 21:1-14

Again we have used this passage (at least the shorter form Jn 21:1-14 on Friday in the Octave of Easter so we will use that section again:

The Gospel from St. John gives us the Lord’s third appearance to the disciples. Again he his not at first recognized. In typical Johannine fashion, the first to recognize the Lord was the disciple whom Jesus loved, presumed to be St. John himself.

Jesus tells them were to cast the net and, indeed, they net a great number of fish (153 probably symbolic of universal mission of the Church - the total species of fish known at the time or the sum of numbers from 1-17). Peter is so excited he jumps in and swims to shore, discovering Jesus with a fish already cooking and bread, a Eucharistic reference.

When they are joined by the other disciples they were so overawed that they could not even speak. Then the Lord broke the bread.

Following the revelation story above, Jesus now focuses on Peter, making sure he understands his role in the foundation of the Church. The triple confession of Peter reverses his earlier denial of the Lord the night of the Passion. This is also a key passage, identified by the Church as Christ’s post-resurrection assignment of Peter to be the shepherd of the Church – essentially establishing the beginning of Apostolic Succession.


Since commentary the Sunday has been extensive, the reflection will be brief. As we begin our third week of Easter, we are reminded just how far we have come. In the Gospel we find Peter, who had just flung himself into the water to get to Jesus quickly confronted by the Lord - "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

What must Peter have thought? Scripture gives us a clue. We recall that the night Jesus was betrayed, Peter was asked three times if he was one of the Lord’s followers. Three times Peter denied he even know Jesus. Now, probably filled with guilt, the Lord asks him three times if Peter loves him.

Then comes the mission, the mission that Jesus had for Peter almost from the beginning: "Tend my sheep." Peter, a fisherman, was to become a shepherd. And we understand instantly who the sheep are within this metaphor, it is the flock of the Christian faithful, the Church.

And what would we say and hear from Jesus under the same circumstances? We who by our words and actions have denied the Lord many times, what would we say if Jesus asked; “Do you love me?” We would say, “Yes Lord, I love you.” And what would he ask of us?

That is not a question we will answer here. That is the question we ponder. What does the Lord want from us? To St. Peter he heaped on a huge burden – shepherd the Church through its infant years, years when first the Sanhedrin and then the Romans would try to destroy it. But what does the Lord want from us?


[1] After Link Expiration
[2] The image today is “St Peter in Penitence” by El Greco, 1580s

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter

And Saint Anselm of Canterbury, Bishop, Doctor

Biographical Information about St. Anselm

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


Reading 1 Acts 6:1-7

This account from Acts is considered to be the institution of the diaconate or the Order of Deacons. There is a clear delineation of roles. The Apostles retain their pastoral role as shepherds of the faith (through “prayer and ministry of the word.”) while assigning the service role (distribution of food and material to the needy) to Stephen and his six brother deacons. It is noteworthy to observe that Stephen and Philip especially began their own service of the word as well.

The imposition of hands is key to understanding the role to be an ordained function. While this was a Hebrew tradition for designating a person for a task, it was later adopted by the Church as a mark of ordination and sacramental selection by God (see also the sacrament of Confirmation).

Responsorial Psalm Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

This song of thanksgiving links nicely to the virtue of the seven deacons above (Upright is the word of the Lord, and all his works are trustworthy”)

Gospel Jn 6:16-21

This is the fifth sign of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God from John’s Gospel. We see Jesus sharing God’s power (see also
Job 9:8). The disciples are in a boat at night and the sea is up (“The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing”) They were clearly frightened by their situation when the Lord appeared and said “It is I, Do not be afraid.” Immediately they were relieved and wanted to take him aboard but before they could do so they arrived at their destination.


We have choices again today as to which part of scripture we reflect upon. While the story from the Gospel is compelling because of all the neat metaphors built into the story (The disciples fear and how the Lord’s presence calmed them; their need to bring him into the boat; the Lord’s identity revealed as he assumed power reserved to the Father) the Deacon must address the reading from Acts.

There has been a good deal of talk lately about roles within the Church. A number of articles have recently been published about the ordination of women by the Catholic Church and arguments pro and con have been flourishing. Today an important event is defined in scripture. Most biblical and Church scholars agree that the appointment of the seven Hellenists represents the establishment of the diaconate in the Christian community.

St. Timothy later fleshes out the selection criteria for deacons, but here the Apostles select these men to provide service to the community. They pray over them and impose hands upon them, calling them pointedly to service.

In today’s Church there is more ritual associated with such events. The Church has taken this act and made it a great celebration (I believe rightly). But the essence of what took place with the Apostles is still the focus. So why is there so much envy? What is it about giving up time most members of our society treasure as leisure time to work, usually thanklessly, for the poor that stirs up envy? What is there about doing dishes in the bowels of the parish after every one has gone home that is glamorous? This is the work of the deacon in the Church today. Perhaps there are some who understand this, but they must be very wise.

St. Paul says it best in his First Letter to the Corinthians; “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.” Perhaps what we need to remember most is that Christ came to serve all mankind and that service was not intended to generate honor for those of service but for the God in whose name that service was done. If we can keep that squarely in focus we will be with him who died as his final service to us.


[1] After Link Expiratoin
[2] The Image today is “St. Anselm with Pope Urban II” UNKNOWN Artist.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday of the Second Week of Easter

Readings for Friday of the Second Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 5:34-42

Today we conclude the Apostles’ second confrontation of the Sanhedrin. Gamaliel (probably St. Paul’s mentor
Acts 22:3), dissuades them from killing the Apostles to let them off with scourging (probably also at the hands of the same men who scourged the Lord).

Gamaliel was indeed wise, recognizing that, even before it formally existed, the blood of martyrs is seed for new members of the Church. Indeed, even persecution has a positive effect on the faith and fervor of the Apostles (“So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”)

Responsorial Psalm Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14
R. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.

The selection from Psalm 27 presents as an individual lament. David here longs for the Lord’s protection and the gift of life which flows from his salvation.

Gospel Jn 6:1-15

The Gospel from St. John today is the fourth sign from his Gospel, the multiplication of the loaves. It is the only miracle story carried in all four Gospels and closely follows the synoptics in most details.

Placed in Eastertide the Eucharistic symbolism is most striking. More subtle is the reference to feeding the poor. Barley loaves were traditionally the fare of the poor. It is also interesting to note that in the Jerusalem translation the Lord “escaped” into the hills at the end of the story, implying the people were immediately aware of the great sign he had facilitated.


As we have heard of the exploits of the Apostles in this second week of Easter, we have been given flashes of the Lord’s ministry from John’s Gospel, almost like flashbacks in the great sagas. From Monday through Thursday we were reminded of Jesus great discourse with Nicodemus. The Lord told him that only through spiritual rebirth in Baptism could one hope to achieve eternal life and it was only through Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, that this could occur. Those words unfolded as the Apostles battled with the same Sanhedrin that would, later in his ministry, put the Lord to death.

Today, as if to punctuate the saving works Jesus did in his time as true man, just as the disciples are freed to pursue their great mission of spreading the Good News, John paints for us the fourth great sign as Jesus feeds the multitude. The duel symbolism of these two events is not lost on us. The mission, our mission has been raised up along with Jesus.

The Apostles have only one ingredient left to be added so while we wait for Pentecost we are told it’s time to start stretching our wings a little. Let’s, together, figure out something we can do in the time between now and Pentecost that will satisfy our call to bring others to the bread of life.
We can start by figuring out, in the light of our own call, what opportunities there are for us. If we are new to the faith, how about a pledge to find a way to participate more actively in the life of our faith community, perhaps by volunteering as part of one of the outreach ministries or even as a lector or extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. (Oh, and even if we are not a neophyte, these same activities are options.)

If we have a charism that allows us to evangelize, pick a target and see if by Pentecost progress can be made. Perhaps it is a group at work (if there is no group, make one) or and individual who has fallen away. The Lord has gone through death to life for our sake, what can we do to follow his example?


[1] After Link Expiration
[2] The Image today is “The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes” by Lambert Lombard, 1566

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

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


Reading 1 Acts 5:27-33

As in the previous case when they had cured the lame beggar, the Apostles (this time all of them, not just Peter and John) are brought before the Sanhedrin. It is interesting to see that the elders and scribes fear to speak the name of Jesus in these proceedings (“…stop teaching in that name”).

Peter now assumes his role as leader of the Apostles and again boldly professes his faith that Jesus, in whose name they speak and whose name the Sanhedrin fear to speak, is the Son of God (“We must obey God rather than man.”).

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2 and 9, 17-18, 19-20
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

The Psalm and response continue from yesterday with praise and thanksgiving for God’s saving works and his special care for the poor. The Old Testament God of Justice is very visible in this selection.

Gospel Jn 3:31-36

In today’s selection as we hear the conclusion of Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus. This passage is almost a reflection by the Gospel writer on the proceeding dialogue and monologue. Here we find the Lord, in no uncertain terms, telling Nicodemus that the Messiah, who comes from above is of God and with God in his kingship over all creation. He goes on to explain that all he has said and taught, since it proceeds from that authority given by the father, is true and all who believe in this truth shall receive eternal life. The passage concludes with a formula similar to the “blessings and curses” statements made in God’s covenants with Abraham and Moses.


If the story in Acts were a play or story unfolding, the Gospel today could be that narrated voice running through the mind of Peter as he and the rest of the Apostles stand before the Sanhedrin. Peter must see the fear and anger in the faces of those men. They had gone to great lengths to have the Author of Life put to death – humiliated – completely discredited yet now they are faced with an even bigger problem.

How do they kill one who has already conquered death? They had already locked up Peter and John after they pulled that stunt with the lame beggar at the “Beautiful Gate” and now they are not only back but everyone in Jerusalem has heard about it. In spite of their best efforts, the will of God will not be denied.

And here Peter stands, with his brothers, facing the fear and rage men who killed the Lord. And through his head run the words; “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life”. Emboldened by this memory, he hurls the Risen Lord into their faces “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree”

Their fear grows and our faith burns within us. Our Easter celebration was just a week and half ago and we are called once more to go into the world and proclaim the good news to all we meet. Through our words and actions, we are to let every one we meet know that we too believe in the Lord who for our salvation endured pain and death, defeating both that we might have life.


[1] After Link Expiration
[2] The Image presented today is “Apostles before Sanhedrin” by Johann Christoph Weigel, 1695

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

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


Reading 1 Acts 5:17-26

This is the second time the Apostles are attached by the Sanhedrin. They have already been told by the Jewish leadership to stop teaching and have been condemned as false prophets so there is no need for a second trial – they are jailed.

Jailing Apostles in Acts don’t seem to work very well (see also
Acts 12:6-11; 16:25-29.) They fearlessly return to the Temple area and resume their mission to proclaim Christ Crucified and Risen, forcing the Sanhedrin to take action.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

This song of thanksgiving places emphasis on God’s mercy and compassion. The Lord in his faithful love always hears those who call to him for help and salvation.

Gospel Jn 3:16-21

The dialogue Jesus was having with Nicodemus has now turned into a famous monologue in this passage from the Gospel of St. John. Here Jesus is clear about his own identity as God’s “only-begotten Son” and his mission “…that the world might be saved through him.”

The Lord continues by explaining that the salvific event is dependent upon faith and acceptance by those to be saved (“…whoever believes in him will not be condemned”) and those who reject this belief are already condemned. The passage is concluded with the analogy or light and darkness where the Lord who is light comes to save the people but will be rejected by many (“…but people preferred darkness to light”). Those who believe in the Lord will be identified by their good works and the glory that those works bring to God the Father.


The word “Darkness” has at minimum about six different definitions. In addition to two of them that relate to either the “quality of being dark”, which I don’t really understand, and the lack of light, the remaining definitions are very subjective;

-Wickedness or evil: Satan, the prince of darkness.
-Obscurity; concealment: The darkness of the metaphor destroyed its effectiveness.
-Lack of knowledge or enlightenment: heathen darkness.
-Lack of sight; blindness.

Since modern English was not even a language at the time of Christ, I am not sure if the four metaphors or the symbolic significance of darkness was, in part, created by the Lord’s use of this analogy or if it existed since the beginning of time – the human being is not, after all, nocturnal.

It is clear that the Lord of Light changed the world and brought a new light to it when he came into it. That light we have newly created in the Easter Candle, the new fire, representing this very passage. Just as, during the Easter Vigil, as the Easter Candle was brought into the Church and those present lit their candles from that new fire filling the place with light, so are we called by this scripture to be light for a world that prefers darkness.

The Lord uses the metaphor to illustrate the great love God has for us. In the same breath he calls us to be children of the light. As such we will be identified by the light we bring to others. Light that, as our definitions imply and as the Exultet intoned – “...dispels all evil, washes sin away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy. It casts our hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride.” We are called to become that “pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God”.


[1] After Expiration
[2] The image today is “The Lightning” by Alexandre Ahtigna, 1848

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

Readings for Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 4:32-37

This selection from Acts is the second summary describing the community of faith at Jerusalem. The description is of a community completely unified in the faith of the risen Lord living, in accordance with the practices followed by the disciples when they were with Jesus, sharing all material possessions. The Barnabas mentioned in this selection is the presumed to be the same person who later joins Paul in his missionary quests.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 93:1ab, 1cd-2, 5
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.

This important psalm is well described by the following statement from the notes: “The Lord is king: literally, "the Lord reigns." This psalm, and Psalms 47; 96-99, are sometimes called enthronement psalms. They may have been used in a special liturgy during which God's ascent to the throne was ritually reenacted. They have also been interpreted eschatologically, pointing to the coming of God as king at the end-time.”

Gospel Jn 3:7b-15

Jesus continues the discourse with Nicodemus started yesterday. When Nicodemus still does not understand the resurrection to which Jesus points saying “You must be born from above”, the
Lord becomes more explicit, using the remedy of the saraph serpents employed by Moses (
Numbers 21:9) as an analog to his own Crucifixion, the salvation of all who are poisoned by sin.


As the we see the Christian community continues to develop into the communal model of Jesus and his disciples in the selection from Acts, Jesus continues his dialogue with Nicodemus. We have two choices of lessons we can take from scripture today.

In Acts we see the unity developing that is the mark of the Lord’s Great Commandment to “love one another” being applied. Since earliest times, Christians have, in various places, used this same model to a greater or lesser extent to follow Jesus teachings. Those who have more give to those who have less and even those who have least give to those who have none. It is part of our Easter heritage, to love and care for one another.

In the Gospel, Jesus is still trying to help Nicodemus understand the resurrection that follows the spiritual rebirth taking place in Baptism. This part of the dialogue (soon to become a monologue) is important to our understanding of the path we follow.

At the very end of the long form of “Blessing of the Water” used in Baptism is the phrase: “May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also with him to newness of life.” At the risk of using the cliché from the “Lion King” we are part of a circle of life. We are born and adopted by Christ in Baptism and follow him through life on this earth. We pick up and carry the cross we must bear and in the end, when we are called home by the Father rise with Jesus to new life. It is the death of baptism, the Easter promise made and fulfilled.


[1] After 05/07
[2] The image of Jesus and Nicodemus used today is from an UNKNOWN Artist used to illustrate a children’s bible.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday of the Second Week of Easter

Readings for Monday of the Second Week of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 4:23-31

Our story from Acts picks up after Peter and John return from being threatened by the Sanhedrin for proclaiming Jesus and performing signs in His name. They are reminded of the second Psalm we have quoted today as our responsorial psalm. The selection concludes with their prayer for strength in continuing their work and the presence of an earth tremor taken to symbolize God’s presence and affirmative response.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 2:1-3, 4-7a, 7b-9
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.

This is one of the “Royal Psalms”. While the Davidic peoples understood it as stating the King of Israel was preeminent among earthly rulers, we see the messianic meaning as it refers to Christ.

Gospel Jn 3:1-8

The scripture shifts us now, away from the post-resurrection events to the teachings of Jesus from the Gospel of St. John. During the Passover Feast Jesus instructs Nicodemus on the need to turn away from the world of the flesh and focus instead on life in the Spirit of God.

This passage is filled with the images of our baptismal calling “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” Placed in the Easter season we also see this reference as the Lord’s own resurrection in the spirit.


Our great week-long Solemnity of Easter has concluded and we continue to be infused with the afterglow of our joy. As we begin our second week of Easter we find a Gospel passage that brings us back to a much earlier time in Jesus’ ministry.

Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night (already the Lord has a reputation that a member of the Sanhedrin must not be tainted by). Our Evangelical brothers and sisters see this passage as central to their understanding of conversion. While Nicodemus struggles with the idea of rebirth in the Spirit, the “Born Again” Christians have based much of their Christology on the idea of rebirth in the way the Lord indicated.

From the perspective of the Catholic Church, Jesus reference to being born again in “water and spirit” is part of our understanding of God’s sacramental gift, given in Baptism. While “Born Again” brethren believe that only an adult (defined as a person 12 or over) may make this decision, we believe that parents, standing as proxy for their child can and should make this decision. It is a fundamental difference in understanding of the gifts given and the sacredness of the relationship established by the efficacious act of adoption that occurs.

We believe that, in Baptism, there is an indelible change that takes place. The natural heart Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about is replaced by a heart filled with the Holy Spirit. We become a new creation clothed in Christ. Like all of the Sacraments, in Baptism God, through his only Son causes something unknowably good to take place. Just as when he caused the bread and wine that become our Eucharist to be transubstantiated, a marvelous transformation occurs within the newly baptized.

Our Easter Joy is infused today with a shot of practical remembrance. We are His children, reborn in the risen Christ in Baptism. May our joy be strengthened by this familial bond.


[1] After 05/07
[2] The image today is “Jesus and Nicodemus” UNKNOWN Artist.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Second Sunday of Easter

Divine Mercy Sunday

Information on the Divine Mercy Chaplet

Readings for the Second Sunday of Easter[1][2]
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible at Universalis


Reading 1 Acts 5:12-16

The disciples continue to evangelize the people of Jerusalem in this, the third of St. Luke’s descriptive summaries. We see a continuation of the healing power of their ministry in the name of Jesus and feel belief in the risen Lord grow.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
R. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.

For the third day in a row the litany of thanksgiving in Psalm 118 is used. On Divine Mercy Sunday we begin the selection appropriately with “His mercy endures forevery.”

Reading II Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19

We are given St. John’s first vision from his revelations as he is instructed to write down all he sees for the seven (Lamp Stands) Churches of his time (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea). (We also note that the vision of the Son of Man bares a striking resemblance to St. Faustina’s vision of the risen Lord)

St. John is reassured that the Risen Lord has indeed conquered death and now lives forever at the right hand of the Father. (“Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld”)

Gospel Jn 20:19-31

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.

The significance of Thomas’ absence is used as an evangelizing moment. Doubting Thomas is confronted in the second visit by the risen Christ and almost in recompense for his role as disbeliever; he provides the title with which Jesus is understood now as True God as well as True Man – “My Lord and my God.”

The Lord then delivers a beatitude for future generations of Christians; “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."


We celebrated Christ Risen a week ago. Having been given the faith by those who went before us, we knew what came next and rejoiced. Even while we did that, the disciples were trying to sort out what parts of the amazing things Jesus told them were parables and allegory and what parts were literally true (no one had written this story for them to see the bold headings "Parable of the Talents" or some other teaching lesson) and what they should expect. I can imagine John saying; "Holy cow, (it probably translated differently in Aramaic) what if when the Lord talked about wheat falling to the ground and dying, that meant us too?" Or Peter saying; "What did he mean, I am a rock and upon this rock I will build my Church?"

As usual, the women were that bravest. They were the ones who went to the Tomb so that all that should be done for the dead was done. The other disciples were probably asking them not to risk it. To them belongs the first honor of seeing the empty tomb and understanding. They were the ones to hear first the news that was sung by all the choirs of heaven, the same choirs that announced his birth, that "He is risen! He is no longer here. See where they laid him."

And now Jesus comes to his closest friends, still hiding in fear, and says to them; "Peace be with you." At the time Jesus first appeared to the disciples and gave them those words of peace- it must have been necessary to keep them from fleeing the room. He gave them that first gift of peace, the one they most needed. The blocks fell into place as they saw his form - the same as always, yet different. The expressions they had last seen during the pain and sorrow of his horrific passion and death were replaced by a wise and somehow sad countenance they had seen for three years.

He breathed on them and they were at peace. He spoke to them and their fear melted away like wax to be replaced by joy. He was with them again and they were whole.

But we were not there to see the Risen Lord stand and walk and breath. Thomas was us, was he not? He could not believe what his friends told him when he returned. He was probably thinking ("What if they are hysterical?"). After all, they must have been jumping around like wild men, shouting with glee - he is risen, we have seen him, praise God, he is returned to us. If we walked into a room where we had left our closest friends a short time earlier, cowering in fear, and found them jumping around like that what would we have felt?

So he took the wind right out of their sails by saying what was on his mind. "I do not believe you."

That must have been like a bucket of cold water thrown on these rejoicing figures. They probably stopped mid-prance and started trying to get him to understand. "Thomas, he was here. He came to us even though the doors were locked and he stood right here with us. You have to believe."

Again Thomas sobers them with; "I will not believe it until I put my fingers into the nail prints in his hands and my hand into the wound in his side." If they had been my friends in the same situation, they would have just shrugged and gone off to celebrate more among themselves.
For our sake, however, St. Thomas, Doubting Thomas, redeemed himself in spades when the Lord returned and he was there. He was the first to take the leap from; "Jesus our teacher and friend has returned to us as he said." To; "Jesus truly is the Christ, the Son of God." It was Thomas, not Peter and not John, who said to Jesus; "My Lord and my God." It was the doubter who understood for us the true nature of the man who is God and labeled him so for the first time and the rest of time.

It is Thomas we need to be like as we struggle with our faith without seeing. It is Thomas we must emulate in our own on going conversation. It is from our hearts we must respond to him; "My Lord and my God!"


[1] After 05/07
[2] Two images are presented today. The first, by an unknown artist, is the vision of Christ seen by St. Faustina Kowalska. The second had to be “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1602-03