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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The people of God have the wisdom of the spirit to discern.
The people shall have a hand in deciding who leads them.
The deacons are specifically to help the Bishops and their priests in their mission.
Evaluation: Did the deacon help the Bishops in their life of prayer and Word?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Greetings on this the Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter Readings: Acts 4:32-37; PS 93:1ab, 1cd-2, 5; Jn 3:7b-15
Note: Current events are sometimes a central concern and the gospel message is brought to bear to the situation. The police altercation with Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, in the the town of Windsor, VA is one such situation.
First Reading Members Comply
In today’s first reading Joseph, also known as Barnabas, sells a piece of property and gives it to the disciples for use by the Church to help the people.
Just like the other day scripture asked you to consider the stories of Simon the Magician in comparison to Philip and the Ethiopian and their readiness for Baptism.
Today scripture asks you to compare Barnabas and his gift with the ‘gifts’ of Ananias and Sapphira and their commitment to the faith (the very next story).
One can imagine some basic questions for the member.
What am I doing?
Why am I doing it?
What are my motives?
Should I comply?
Discernment is a critical component to justice as every situation is unique. Also, every attempt at justice is identical as it is intended to bring about a lasting effect.
As you might imagine there are many components to justice. We cannot cover all of them here. But there is a call to action to know justice beyond sentimentality.
Gospel Reading Leadership to Comply
The seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) apply to this event.
Every institution is measured by whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
One can imagine some basic questions for the leadership.
What are we doing?
Why are we doing it?
What are our motives?
Should we conform compliance to CST?
In today’s gospel portion, Nicodemus is called to task for not understanding the deeper meanings of religion and faith. Being lifted up and being born again are intimately connected by Jesus so Nicodemus can understand the connection and live the connection.
Leadership requires sacrifice by the leader not the member, first and foremost. Then you are truly free to ask something more of others.
Sign of the Times
It should be clear by the civil unrest resulting from this encounter and others like it that the people are rejecting the idea that police have near unlimited right to subordinate and subject citizens to whatever compliance satisfies them in the moment.
The age of instant and immediate compliance to police orders in every and any instance is over. The people have spoken. Policing has become domination and subjugation. It must reverse course before we lose all respect for the institution.
At the same time leadership is considering allowing citizens the right to hidden carry of firearms. We have a regulatory monster that is in contradiction to itself.
The people understand CST better than the leadership.
You, the leadership, have lost your mind and you follow the poor example.
The terrorist, Saul of Tarsus, went about arresting and torturing anyone and everyone who did not comply to his ‘lawful orders’. Yet the people knew better and went with the name and the path.