Water and Bread

Greetings on this the Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 8:26-40; PS 66:8-9, 16-17, 20; Jn 6:44-51

In the first reading of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch it is a very heartwarming story. Philip now, in imitation of Jesus, opened the scriptures for the Ethiopian starting with the passage he was reading to proclaim the way of salvation. The outcome was his baptism.

You rarely see such enthusiasm for baptism these days. The shift in emphasis to other theological virtues and focuses has not been a positive development for the most critical of the Sacraments.

We are all a bit lax in asserting the primary importance of baptism.

Being in relationship with Jesus in the normative form begins with Baptism and is sustained in the Eucharist.

This means, setting aside extreme circumstances, a person who professes Jesus needs the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. Water and Bread.

The water baptism revealing a mysterious change of body and spirit into the body of Christ and the forgiveness of sin. The transubstantiation revealing a mysterious change of the basic elements into the very presence of the Christ to be taken within us.

Water and Bread. Physicality is not lost in favor of an abstracted spirituality. Rather, the redemption of the physical elements is a part of the salvific plan for us.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Gospel
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world.”

Don’t deny yourself the intimacy that comes by way of and in the Sacraments.

Water and Bread.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Trying to destroy the Church

Service Reveals the Heart

Greetings on this the Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 8:1b-8; PS 66:1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a; Jn 6:35-40

Note: Current event, Derek Chauvin is convicted in the death of George Floyd.

The current events can never be ignored when encountering sacred Scripture. In fact, sacred scripture records many such institutionally violent events. We resist violence with the Good News.

Destroying
Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.
Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church;
entering house after house and dragging out men and women,
he handed them over for imprisonment.

Thriving
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city.

Enduring
Jesus said to the crowds,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

Praise
Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Verdict
Should we praise the verdict of guilty?
Perhaps, yes, but reservedly.

It is a tragedy, a loss of life, George Floyd, and a destroyed life, Officer Chauvin.

Should we lament the need for a verdict?
Most certainly. This event came about by a demonstrable lack of humanity by all officers involved.

Social Justice
The Church picks the majority of its social justice energy and emphasis on “Pelvis Issues“. It seems to preoccupy the leadership not by virtue but by obsession.

But minorities in the USA can relate quite completely with the early believers where the government institutions are entering house after house and dragging out men and women, handing them over for imprisonment.

Come Back
We need to come back to this:
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city.

So we can offer this:
Jesus said to the crowds,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Repetition

Greetings on this the Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 7:51—8:1a; PS 31:3cd-4, 6 and 7b and 8a, 17 and 21ab; Jn 6:30-35

Note: Easter season uses continuous reading of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Really helpful to read daily so I recommend it. You can get the daily readings here: bible.usccb.org

The first reading portion from the Acts of the Apostles brings about the general and specific accusation of humanity against God.

The gospel reading portion from the gospel according to John brings about the general and specific accusation of humanity against God.

Kind of a trend.

First Reading

  1. We refuse to believe we are in the habit of not believing God or, if you prefer, we believe but reject what he has to say (two sides of the same coin).

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?

And again…

  1. We refuse to integrate what we receive from God.

They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it.”

And again…

  1. We repeat the past.

But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.

Responsorial Psalm

The psalmist brings us a new perspective.

  • For my guidance – Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
  • For my redemption – Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
  • For my safety – Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

We accept what the Lord says, the truth and sometimes painful truth, by complete surrender.

Gospel

  1. We refuse to believe – What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
  2. We provide for ourselves – He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Yet, ”Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven.
  3. We repeat the past. So they said to Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus uses this as an opportunity to correct and invite.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

The psalmist got it right. Lord Jesus, for our guidance, redemption and safety:

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Pease be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Trust Issues


Greetings on this the Monday of the Third Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 6:8-15; PS 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30; Jn 6:22-29

Note: Personal Reflection.

I think it is important to remember that the early Jewish sect was generally accepted if not completely. It is the contest between the powerful in every faction that caused the greatest harm. Long lasting harm that exists to this day.

This could have gone much better.

First Reading

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles portion today is a fulcrum.

Stephen, the deacon, filled with grace and power, was strong in his reasoning.

I don’t mean to be snarky but the people who came forward to debate him were not the center of the faith tradition. The Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyreneans, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia could be considered brothers in faith but distant in some ways.

The accusations are half true. Yes, Jesus is presented as superior to Moses and, no, Jesus did not come to destroy the temple or the people and certainly not to destroy the faith.

Although Stephen was like the face of an angel, they could not bring themselves to trust his witness.

  • On the one side we have what we know.
  • On the other side what is new.
  • In the middle a person and a question.
  • We can eliminate the questions by rejecting the premise to pre-fit our understanding.
  • We can neutralize the person by denying his character and his intentions.

In doing so we become blind to truth.

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Even today we still struggle with understanding how to obey the Law. For some the Law is the hammer to crush anyone with sin.

I sometimes wonder if they ever actually understood St Paul’s writing on law and freedom.

Gospel Portion

Jesus asks us to consider this question, “Why do you follow me?”

Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me
not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

My Answer

I want to go to heaven. Whatever good or bad occurs in this life, I want the restfulness of being in the presence of God. I ask God to remember the good I have done and forget the bad.

I want my family to go to heaven. Some family we are biological with and some family we are chosen by and in both cases I want them in heaven too when their time comes.

I want to help my human family. Time and again presenting Jesus as friend and helper is a most fulfilling way of life for me. Seeing someone rediscover their innocence is amazing. Seeing someone know, often for the first time, their dignity of person is humbling.

In sacramental confession I talk to him as my Savior.

In Eucharistic Adoration I talk with him in appreciation and I hand him all the troubles given to me as gift from others. These are some of the most sacred moments in my life.

In Holy Communion I am thankful he counts me worthy to receive him. I eagerly want to know the intimacy that is the second person of God. I love the intimacy of the Holy Spirit who talks with me as worthy to live the needs of myself and others.

In sacred Scripture, the love journal, is like a family story with moments of personally relatable stories and insights to another’s story (yesterday, today, in the future). I love too the love letter of scripture that brings insight into the inner personhood of God.

In ministerial role, the complexity of real love. The Church is its people. Ministers are people tasked and gifted with specialized skills/tools to help the body of Christ. Ministerial ordination is at one time both joyful and painful. Paul describes it well as being poured out like a libation.

In my trust issues (yes, we all have them) I am impatient with the Lord. I trust him but super annoyed he is so slow to act. Yes, I know the scripture that says otherwise but this is about my trust issues and the truth of it. My biggest weakness is to ‘take matters into my own hands’.

My career(s). Looking back it is far clearer to me how the Lord guided me and protected me. Without a doubt. In the moment, not so much. My career began with IBM mainframes and Univac systems. Then to Wang VS, to personal computers, to networks and then to bulletin boards to the Internet.

Every step of the way I whined that Lord was taking away what I knew for the unknown. The unknown was better.

Never Alone. I am never alone. I love being loved like that.

Your turn

Why do you follow him?

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Flesh and Bones

Greetings on this the Third Sunday of Easter
Readings: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; PS 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9; 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48

Note: I will be preaching the 4:00 PM today and the 11:00 AM tomorrow. So you are getting one of two homilies. The poor priest. Listening twice in one weekend must be painful! I usually can do a passable job once and rarely do a good job twice. I just don’t have the guns.

Confession Repentance

In the first reading Peter is being kind with his audience.

He describes the problem succinctly.

You (we) conspired to put to death the Holy and Righteous One. Yet, God knowing our hearts, planned for the restoration of humanity by the act of self-giving Son by way of the very depravity of our human instincts.

Nevertheless, Peter urges them (us) Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.

God’s folly is greater than our craftiness.

Second Reading

OK, stop kidding yourself. We sin. That is, we set upon an inferior path often.

We are to strive to keep his commandments. This way of perfection is our best path.

Gospel

How deep is the restoration?

To the very beginning.

Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.

From Genesis:

The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be a helper suited to the man. So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man the man said:

This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.

Jesus restored us to the very core of our being. Body, soul, flesh and bone.

Jesus restored our relational capacity.

Touch me, flesh and bone, with your flesh and bone.

Be ashamed no longer.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Job Description

A Favorite Bishop and Spice

Greetings on this the Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 6:1-7; PS 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19; Jn 6:16-21

Note: This reading today has a personal connection to me.

Job title: Reverend Deacon.

Needed: Reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom.

Further qualifications in the letter to Timothy include: must be dignified, not deceitful, not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain, holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. Moreover, they should be tested first; then, if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

Tasks: These men, whom we shall appoint, are to perform the task of bringing peace within the various factions of the Church. Special attention to be made for widows, orphans and all women who were maltreated by men and neglected by the community.

Success Criteria: The Apostles (Bishops) will be more free to devote themselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.

Search Committee: the whole community.

Candidate List: They discerned and then presented these 7 reputable men to the Apostles.

The Seven: Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

The Twelve: Accepted the choice of the people and they prayed and laid hands on them.

Divine Effect: The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

It really is a lovely story and full of promise. One can argue the merits of its continued success and effects. We’ve got 2 thousand years of examples both good and bad.

It is held up as an example of several things:

  1. The people of God have the wisdom of the spirit to discern.
  2. The people shall have a hand in deciding who leads them.
  3. The deacons are specifically to help the Bishops and their priests in their mission.
  4. Evaluation: Did the deacon help the Bishops in their life of prayer and Word?
  5. Evaluation: Did the Bishop use wisely the deacon so as to spread the word and grow the Church in faith?

Gospel Reassurance
One can panic about now. It would be a natural response to the reflection above.

However, this is a part of the divine plan. The people and her ministers working together to bring about the Kingdom of God.

We are in a boat in tumultuous seas. I cannot imagine a noisier world than today. People are begging for peace and designing any number of ways to get even just a bit of natural peace and tranquility.

Even still people seem to be afraid of God. He acts and does things different than what we expect of him. People are disappointed in their Bishops, priests and deacons. Well, yes, that makes sense depending on where you live and what you experienced.

Thankfully, much more positive effects are reported again and again.

Jesus says, It is I. Do not be afraid.

They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore
to which they were heading.

Jesus is the calm of our Seas. Jesus keeps us safe in the Ark of the Church.

Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe. Jesus is in control.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Found Worthy

Greetings on this the Friday of the Second Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 5:34-42; PS 27:1, 4, 13-14; Jn 6:1-15

The first reading deals with the continued preaching the good news by the Apostles in the temple area and the healing charism the Apostles were given. This caused no small problem for the leadership.

A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, offered a new approach. We cannot know his intentionality or if the advice was actually of divine origin.

So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

They were persuaded by him. After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.

One can surmise that it was a tactical decision by those gathered, not made in the spirit of truth. After all, if it possibly comes from God they nevertheless went about flogging the Prophet-Apostles anyway!

Paul, of Tarsus, a student of Gamaliel, soon enough, will exaggerate the violence upon the believers of Jesus.

So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

Found worthy to participate in the suffering of Christ for the salvation of people.

Found Worthy

We are also found worthy by Jesus to participate in the divine banquet.

The feeding of the 5,000 was in close proximity in time to the Passover.

Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do.

Jesus, a teacher of the law of love, respected by all the people, offered a new approach.

Taking the five barley loaves (bread of the poor) and two fish, Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

Jesus the Eucharist (which means Thanksgiving) gave thanks.
The people ate all they wanted, were satisfied, and twelve wicker baskets were left over.

The people saw the sign he had done and wanted to make him king.

The critical component stressed today is this: you have been found worthy not by merit but by Grace to be worthy to receive the Eucharist.

  • There is no tactical advantage.
  • There is no waiting to see if this is of man or God.
  • There is no proclaiming king in the way of power.

It is to be simply in his presence and letting him be the Thanksgiving he came to be.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Wrath of God

A wrath-like kind of photo

Greetings on this the Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 5:27-33; PS 34:2 and 9, 17-18, 19-20; Jn 3:31-36

Note: A light reflection today.

My sister repeated this saying many times when we were growing up:

What Peter says about Paul,
says more about Peter than about Paul.

Smart girl.

The Sanhedrin were a very upset group.
From their perspective the Apostles do several things.

  1. Disobedient to the leadership.
  2. Bringing the blood guilt upon the leadership for Jesus’ death.

We have read other accusations over the past few days but this is sufficient for the point.

From the Apostles perspective.

  1. Obedient to God.
  2. Not blood guilt, freedom in the blood of the Savior.
  3. Call out the leadership’s responsibility for the death of Jesus.
  4. Jesus is the true leader.

What a mess.

The responsorial psalm calls us to return to the basics.

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

  • The Lord is good and we should take refuge in him.
  • The Lord confronts evildoers.
  • The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

One should take care to note this. Evildoers can also be brokenhearted.
In fact they often are and their actions and words reflect the pain.

Gospel

God does not ration his gift of the Spirit!
God is trustworthy.

Whether you are a transmitter of evil or a victim of evil and/or most likely both, God is trustworthy and seeks your wellbeing.

The wrath of God is the activity of God to help a person to get right and to be pure.

Castigare in the Latin.

Here is the thought for today.

  • What I do is my responsibility.
  • What I think is my own creation.

God stands in the breach to reconcile to himself and to one another.

The Sanhedrin are too worried about the Apostles rather they should worry about God’s castigare.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Some People Prefer Darkness

Apostles Prison Gate illustration borrowed from Catholic Courier

Greetings on this the Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

Reflection title is Some People Prefer Darkness
Writing style for podcast use.

Readings are from the book Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John.

Acts of the Apostles

In today’s first reading the Apostles are taken to prison. Their preaching in the temple area has become too difficult to bear for the leadership. The people actually liked what the Apostles had to say. However, some people prefer darkness.

During the night an Angel of the Lord opened the prison gate for them and instructed them.

Go and take your place in the temple area,
and tell the people everything about this life.

It was necessary for the powerful to recapture them without force.

The guards brought them back to trial.

Nobody dared ask them how they escaped.

Truth can be suppressed for a time but truth always comes out.

For the faithful this is obvious.

For the nonbeliever it is but another manifestation of false prophecy.

Psalm Portion

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

The powerless (no army, no soldiers, no police, no guards) are very vulnerable.

While factually powerless, the faithful trust in the Lord to make them powerful in truth and receive the divine protection.

By Friday, the Acts of the Apostle story will progress to Gamaliel proposing to release them to their fate whether it be for God, from God or against God.

Gospel

Gospel truth is straight.

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.

People preferred darkness to light.

It is a sad reality that people want to hide truth.

It is our common disease.

This is applied to the current situation of our life.

Historical facts can be bad enough. Historical facts are the matter of Confession. This alone can drive a person away or toward truth. But the solution is the mercy of God.

Current truth (what we are doing) can be the most imprisoning. The gospel portion today is referring to those who persist in evil and are planning evil that very day. Notice the word tense (Were evil, Does evil).

because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.

Hope In Truth

Ironically, whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

This is our common hope.

Whatever the past, it is the current time that matters most.

What do we plan to do today?

If we seek truth, what we do will become a part of the divine action.

The one power we do have, to hide, the Lord asks us to not use.

No more hiding. No more needing to hide.

Seek truth and let your life be a part of the salvation story.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry