Thursday, April 30, 2015

Reflection: John 13:16-20

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter – John 13:16-20

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of yesterday’s Gospel. Jesus realizes that his time on this earth is very limited. He needs to prepare the disciples for his departure. Jesus wants his disciples to continue his ministry. He desires that they serve one another, even if it means washing each other’s dirty, dusty feet. They are to do what Jesus has done. Jesus taught them, served them and loved them deeply! Now the disciples are to love, serve, teach and wash the other’s feet! Their call is to continue Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus clearly emphasizes the importance of serving others. He tells them: “Whoever receives the one I send receives me and they also receive the One who sent me!” Yes, Jesus wants his disciples to love God and one another. However, they also are to love each person they meet, even if they do not particularly like that individual. They are to love and serve everyone, just as Jesus did. No one is to be excluded from their service and their love.

What a challenge this is for us. It can be very tempting to pick and choose the people I want to help or serve. The reality is we naturally feel more comfortable with our friends and people we like. However, if we truly desire to follow Jesus, we also need to reach out to every individual who needs care, attention, patience and support. When we care for others, in a sense we may be “washing their feet.” Jesus does not want us to exclude anyone. What a challenge that can be!

Today, I invite you to reach out to someone you normally do not interact with. It simply may be stopping and having a brief conversation with this individual. Or you might send someone a greeting card or let them know you are thinking of them and also praying for them! There are many ways to “wash another’s feet.” How will we do that today?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Reflection: John 12:44-50

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter – John 12:44-50

The words in today’s Gospel are from the section of John’s Gospel that describes Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. He had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. In the preceding verses, Jesus was preparing his disciples for what would happen to him in the next few days. He tells them that whoever believes in him, also must believe in the One who sent him. Then Jesus says that his purpose for coming into this world was to be “light.” And anyone who believed in Him would no longer be in darkness. Jesus reassures his disciples that he has come not to condemn the world but rather to save the world!

Jesus also warns his disciples. He says that anyone who rejects him or does not believe his words will be judged by the word Jesus spoke. Jesus was very serious about this matter. He added that if a person rejects Him or does not accept His words, this individual will be condemned on the last day! These are extremely harsh words. And most likely, these are words we prefer not to listen to. Yet, Jesus also is warning us what the price will be if we don’t accept and believe Jesus’ words.

Perhaps the question is: how seriously do we take Jesus’ words? Do I truly believe what Jesus is saying? Do His words make a difference in my life? Do I act on His words in my daily life? Or do I simply say: “I believe,” but there is no evidence of my “belief” in my daily life?

If we truly accept and believe what Jesus teaches, there should be some evidence in our lives of that belief. It might be seen in our actions or in how we treat people. Are we loving and inclusive? Or are we harsh and judgmental? Are we loving and accepting of others, even when we may not agree with their beliefs or actions? Do we live out what Jesus teaches us by forgiving a person who has hurt us deeply? Do we reach out to people who are lonely or isolated?

We are not Jesus! Yet we do have the power to share Jesus’ love, forgiveness, care and acceptance with the people in our lives! How will we do that today?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reflection: John 10:22-30

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter – John 10:22-30

The setting for today’s Gospel is the Temple. Jesus is in the Portico of Solomon and several Jews gathered around him and asked: “How long will you keep us in suspense? Tell us who you are! Are you the Christ?” They desperately wanted to hear Jesus to say to them: “Yes, I am the Christ.”

However, Jesus did not do as they asked. Rather he said to them (perhaps in an exasperating way): “I have already told you who I am! And you refuse to believe me.” Jesus then tells these difficult Jews that his “sheep” not only hear his voice, they also listen intently to his voice. His sheep trust him and they follow him. Jesus will give up his life to protect His sheep from harm. Jesus then says that he will give them eternal life!

Then Jesus begins to speak of his Father. He says that his Father is greater than anyone. And no one has the ability to take his sheep out of the Father’s hand. Jesus ends with the simple yet powerful statement: “the Father and I are one.” How did the Jews react to Jesus’ words? Not very well I suspect!

Did the Jews want to understand who Jesus was? Or were they simply harassing him? I suspect they wanted Jesus to give them an answer that they could use against him in the future. It is clear that these Jews were not open to Jesus’ message. They simply were trying to manipulate him!

Jesus refused to play their game. I assume that his refusal to answer their questions simply fueled the Jews’ anger. Did his response intensify the Jews’ desire to rid themselves of Jesus? Yet Jesus stayed true to who he was. What a model Jesus is for us!

Do we speak out about what we believe, even when the people who are listening may not want to hear what we have to say? Do we have the courage of Jesus to stand up and speak of our beliefs and values, in the face of criticism or anger? Being a follower of Jesus is not easy! We also are called to voice our truth. At times, we do this with our words. In other situations, our actions or attitude may speak for us. We may not need words! Jesus will give us the courage and grace when we are in need! Do we trust Him to do so? Will we be a true follower of Jesus?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Reflection: John 10:1-10

Monday of the 4th Week of Easter – John 10:1-10

Today Jesus again identifies himself as a shepherd. The shepherd is the individual who spent most of his life with his sheep. It was his responsibility to protect the sheep. He also led them. The shepherd made sure the sheep had sufficient water to drink and grass to eat. He also protected the sheep from wolves and other predators.

The shepherd’s life was one of constant movement. After the sheep ate all the grass in one pasture, the shepherd moved them to another green pasture. The shepherd’s life also was a lonely life. For weeks, the shepherd’s only companions were his sheep. Since his sheep were his closest companions and friends, most likely the shepherd came to know his sheep well. He knew which sheep were docile and he also recognized the unruly and stubborn sheep. Yet, the shepherd was committed to caring for each of the sheep, even the aggravating ones.

Usually the shepherd had a very strong bond with his sheep. He not only was responsible for them, he truly cared about his sheep (and perhaps even came to “love” them)! In some ways, the sheep became the shepherd’s family. They were his constant companions. The sheep only would follow the voice of their shepherd. They would not follow another person. The bond between the shepherd and the sheep was very strong and real.

Jesus is our shepherd! Jesus sticks with us no matter what. He is committed to caring for us and leading us. Jesus comes and finds us when we are lost and afraid. Jesus will keep looking for us until he finds us. However, do we have the same strong bond with Jesus as the sheep have with their shepherd? Do we recognize Jesus’ voice when he calls us? Do we listen for his voice? Do we trust that Jesus will protect us at all costs?

Today may we take time to thank Jesus for loving us so deeply. May we also thank Jesus for his tender care and protection. Jesus is our shepherd! We can depend on him always!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Reflection: John 10:11-18

Sunday of the 4th Week of Easter – John 10:11-18

On this 4th Sunday of Easter, we hear the “Good Shepherd” Gospel. As we know, any good shepherd is serious about the responsibility of caring for the flock of sheep. Sheep don’t have much sense or caution. Perhaps they simply are too trusting. Sheep also have a tendency to wander off from the flock!

Today Jesus identifies himself as the “good shepherd.” The good shepherd does everything within his power to protect his sheep. If needed, the good shepherd will even lay down his life for his sheep. The shepherd who is a hired hand may run away when there is any danger to the sheep. He simply is working for his salary and if a predator approaches, he likely will protect himself and leave the sheep on their own. The hired hand often values his own life more than the sheep he is responsible for, even though he committed himself to protecting the sheep.

This is not true of Jesus! Jesus, as we well know, loved us so intensely that he was willing to give up his life for us, his sheep! Jesus died so that we might live! Truly, there is no greater love!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Reflection: Mark 16:15-20

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Easter – Mark 16:15-20

Today Jesus appears to His disciples. His message today is to empower them to go forth into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel. Jesus tells them that if a person believes, that one will be saved. If someone chooses not to believe, they will be condemned. How harsh this sounds!

Jesus then tells them that if a person believes, they will have the ability to speak new languages and drive out demonic spirits. They also will have the ability to be able to pick up serpents without harm. Jesus promises that anyone who believes in Him will be able to heal the sick and do other wondrous acts. Jesus also will keep His disciples safe from harm. Then Jesus was taken up into heaven and Mark writes that He was seated at the right hand of God!

Jesus’ disciples did as He asked. They went forth to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus. And they also performed many wondrous miracles. Did His disciples sense that Jesus was with them as they went about among the people teaching, preaching and healing? Did they sense Jesus guiding them at times or perhaps giving them the words to say?

Jesus also calls us to go forth and preach the Gospel. He calls us to be teachers and healers. We may not be able to work a miracle, however, we are capable of consoling the sorrowful, healing another with our love, care and concern, and perhaps even bringing someone “back to life” with our love and our healing presence! Jesus does work in and through us!

Jesus continues to walk among us and speak to us. However, will our minds and hearts be open and alert to seeing Jesus in the people we encounter today? Be alert! Jesus is coming!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Reflection: John 6:52-59

Friday of the 3rd Week of Easter – John 6:52-59

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of yesterday’s Gospel. After listening to Jesus preach to the people, the Jews began to argue among themselves. How could Jesus possibly give them his flesh to eat? This was not only was ridiculous, it was not at all appealing. Who would even think of eating human flesh?

Jesus then tells the people that they will not have life within if they do not eat his flesh and also drink his blood! However, if they choose to eat Jesus’ flesh and blood, they will have eternal life and they also will be raised up on the last day. Jesus then tells them that they also will have eternal life. He adds that anyone who eats his flesh and drinks his blood will be with Jesus in eternity. They will live forever!

In this reading, the words “flesh and blood” are a Hebrew idiom referring to the whole person. When Jesus speaks of His “flesh and blood,” He is not speaking literally. Rather, He is speaking metaphorically. Jesus wants us to understand and believe that when we receive the body and blood of Christ, we truly encounter Jesus in a deeply personal way. When we receive the body and blood of Christ, we truly are in communion with Jesus!

Do we believe and trust that when we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, do we understand and believe that in that moment, we truly are receiving Jesus? Or do we simply eat the bread and drink the wine but we do not choose to encounter Jesus our Lord? Receiving the body and blood of Christ is not a “magical” action! Every time we received the body and blood of Christ, Jesus is there! However, we need to be awake and aware of whom we are receiving. If we are on “automatic pilot” when we receive the body and blood of Christ, if we are not awake and alert, we will miss being in full communion with Jesus. What loss that is for us!

Today and every day, may we be alert and awake to the many ways that Jesus comes to us! He is with us every moment!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reflection: John 6:44-51

Thursday of the 3rd Week of Easter – John 6:44-51

Today, we are reminded that it is not we who find Jesus. John writes: God, the Father, will draw us to God’s Self! God always comes to us first, long before we even think of coming to God. God has been with us always, perhaps even before we were in the womb. And, it is God who continually searches for us and finds us when we have wandered off.

De you remember a time in your life when you truly experienced being found by God, or by Jesus? What was happening in your life at this time? What was this experience like? Was it peaceful, joyful or unsettling? Or did you experience a variety of emotions and thoughts?

Jesus tells us that He alone is the bread of life. Yes, we can eat manna or bread. However, before long, once again we are hungry. “Earthly” food does not truly satisfy our hunger. Take a moment and ask yourself: what is your experience when you receive the bread of life? Do you simply consume it without thought or prayer? Or do you understand and believe that in that very moment, we truly are receiving Jesus, our Lord and God? Do you experience that moment as holy and sacred? Or is it something you mindlessly do?

Jesus came to earth for us! And Jesus died for us, for you and for me, that we truly might live! Jesus gave us the sacrament of his body and blood to sustain and grace us. Today, may we take a few moments and sit with the gift that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist. When we receive the bread and the wine, we are receiving Jesus! Do we experience Jesus’ presence within us at that moment? I pray we do!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reflection: John 6:35-40

Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Easter – John 6:35-40

Today Jesus tells the crowds: “I am the bread of life.” Jesus also says that anyone who comes to Him will never hunger, nor thirst. Did the crowds truly understand what Jesus was saying? Did they realize that Jesus was not speaking literally? Jesus was not talking about food and drink that we consume. Rather, Jesus was speaking of our “spiritual” hunger and thirst.

Ask yourself: What is it you hunger for? Is it love, friendship, financial stability, a healthy and happy family? We human beings have many hungers. However, we often try to satisfy our deepest hungers with money, material things, people, or even food or drink. Yes, these things do satisfy us to some extent. However, our deepest hunger is for God! We can have all the money in the world or a multitude of friends but if God, Jesus or the Spirit is not part of our lives, nothing else will ever satisfy!

Today, ask yourself: What do I truly thirst for? What do I long for? Most likely, we long and hope for many good things. Do I long for God? How do I experience that longing? The reality is: no matter how much we have or how many people we love, truly only God alone will satisfy our hunger and our longing! Today, will I choose to spend time with God?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reflection: John 6:30-35

Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Easter – John 6:30-35

Today, the crowd is asking Jesus for a sign. They think they need to see Jesus work wonders, then they will believe in him! Their ancestors received the wondrous gift of manna when they were in the desert. They quoted the Scripture verse: “God gave them bread from heaven.” They hoped that Jesus would perform a similar miracle.

Jesus then tells them that it was not Moses who worked the bread miracle, it was God, Jesus’ Father, that did so. Jesus then goes on to say that the “bread of life” also comes down from heaven. It is this “bread of life” that gives life to the world. Did the people understand what Jesus was saying? They asked Jesus to give them some of the bread he spoke about. Did they realize that Jesus was not literally talking about bread that is baked in an oven? Rather, did they comprehend that Jesus was telling them that He, Jesus, was the bread of life? Jesus told them that anyone who truly believed in Him would never again hunger nor thirst.

Take moment and ask yourself: what do you hunger and thirst for at this time in your life? I assume you long for something! Typically, we human beings want more; we seldom are satisfied with what we have. There is always something on the horizon that we desire. It may be a promotion or a raise. It might be peace and happiness in your family. Or you may long for peace for our world. Today I invite to become aware of your longings. What do you truly long for?

Promotions, good pay, a nice house and good health are all great gifts. However, do they truly satisfy us? Yes, these are important, but do they bring us peace and true happiness? Jesus gives us the “bread of life.” This wondrous gift will bring us peace and happiness! Do we feed on the “bread of life?”

Do we appreciate this wondrous gift? Or do I simply receive it and consume it without much thought or awareness of what I have received? We can consume the bread of life or we can be fed by the bread of life. It is our choice!

It may be that if we consciously feed on the bread of life that we receive, we may find a great gift: Our Lord Jesus Christ! We also may experience contentment and peace! It is our choice: will we consciously choose to feed on our Lord Jesus Christ? I hope so!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Reflection: John 6:22-29

Monday of the 3rd Week of Easter – John 6:22-29

Shortly after the feeding of the 5,000 people, his disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea. The next day, the crowd of people that were gathered, realized that Jesus had not gotten into the boat with his disciples. Where had Jesus gone to? They were anxious to find Jesus and to hear him teach. Did they also hope that Jesus might perform another miracle and once again feed them?

When the people realized that Jesus was no longer in the area, they got into boats and crossed over to Capernaum. They hoped to find Jesus there. And Jesus was there! The people asked Jesus: “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus did not answer their question. Rather, Jesus challenged the people. He said to them: “You are looking for me not because of the signs and wonders I have done. No, you have come to me because you ate until you were satisfied.” Jesus then tells them: “Do not work for food that will spoil. Work for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you!” The people then asked Jesus what they could do to accomplish the works of God? Jesus replied simply and succinctly: “This is the work of God: believe in the One God sent!”

Do we truly believe in Jesus, the “the One God sent” to us? Do we believe with our whole hearts and our whole beings? Or do we simply believe with our minds? Our minds have the ability to accumulate a great amount of information and understand it. However, belief comes from the heart! The heart may believe a truth that the mind simply cannot comprehend.

The challenge and gift is: belief is not logical. Belief cannot be proven. Belief requires us to trust what our hearts know and understand. Belief and faith are the greatest gifts we ever will receive! Do we appreciate those gifts?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Reflection: Luke 24:35-48

Sunday of the 3rd Week of Easter – Luke 24:35-48

At some point in our lives (figuratively speaking), all of us have been in a small boat on a large body of water. We may have been so severely tossed about by events in our lives that perhaps we did not believe that our boat would make it safely to the other shore. Take a moment and remember one of those times. During this stressful time, did Jesus “appear” to you? He may not have been walking on the water. He suddenly may have just appeared in your “boat.” Or perhaps you “heard” his quiet voice. Or Jesus may come through a good friend who happened to stop to visit with you.

When life is tumultuous, painful and stressful, we yearn to hear Jesus say to us: “Do not be afraid.” These are the times when we need Jesus the most. However, it is rare for us to literally “hear” Jesus say those words to us. Jesus will come to us and he will speak to us. However, we need to be attentive and alert. Most likely Jesus will come at a time and in a way we do not expect. If we are not alert, attentive and expecting Jesus, we may not notice when he comes to us. What a horrible loss this would be!

Today, be alert! Most likely, Jesus will come to you when you least expect him. (Jesus does like to surprise us!) Be attentive throughout the day! Jesus is “walking on the water” of your life. The question is: will you notice Jesus? And will you invite Jesus into the “boat” of your life?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Reflection: John 6:16-21

Saturday of the 2nd Week of Easter – John 6:16-21

Today’s Gospel is a very familiar one: “the storm at sea.” As evening drew near, Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore, and got in their boat to cross over to Capernaum. It was dusk and before long, it would be dark. The disciples were anxious to get to Capernaum. As they began rowing, the skies grew increasingly cloudy and threatening. And the wind kept getting stronger.

After they had rowed several miles, they saw a figure approaching them. How could this be? And what they saw, the disciples could not believe. The figure was walking on the water! Was this real or were they hallucinating? No one can walk on water. That is impossible! Who could it be? And they were very afraid!

As Jesus approached the boat, he simply said to them: “Do not be afraid.” Clearly, Jesus’ words did not dispel the disciples’ fears. Did the disciples think they were hallucinating? Yet, this figure looked like Jesus and his voice sounded like Jesus’ voice. Then Jesus said to them: “It is I. There is no need to fear.”

The disciples were torn and still afraid. They were uncertain about what to do. Yet, if it truly was Jesus, they definitely wanted Him to come into their boat. However, they then arrived at the shore. Jesus immediately reassured them it truly was Jesus, their Lord and Teacher, who stood before them. He said to them: “Do not be afraid.”

Today, do you wish that you also would hear Jesus say to you: “Do not be afraid.” What are you worried and concerned about in your life? What are you afraid of? Life often presents us with a great variety of situations and circumstances that cause us to be afraid. It might be an illness. Or it could be a significant relationship that is painful, conflicted or abusive. It may be that we are chronic worriers and this causes great anxiety in our lives. It might be a fragile financial situation.

Today, Jesus is saying to each of us: “Do not be afraid! Let me come into your “boat” and I will calm the waters of your mind and heart! Trust me! You are not alone! You are never alone! I am always with you!” Will we invite Jesus into the “boat” of our lives? It is our choice!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Reflection: John 6:1-15

Friday of the 2nd Week of Easter – John 6:1-15

Today we hear the familiar Gospel of the multiplications of the loaves and the fishes. When Jesus decided to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, many people followed him. They had seen the signs that Jesus had performed and they were awestruck and intrigued. They desired to know more about Jesus.

When Jesus arrived at the shore, he went up on a mountain and sat down with his disciples. Jesus simply may have desired some time with his friends. However, Jesus looked up and he saw a large crowd of people coming toward him. Jesus asked Philip: “Where can we buy enough food for this many people?” Philip told Jesus that 200 days worth of wages would not buy enough food to feed this large crowd of people!

Then Andrew told Jesus that one boy had five loaves of barley bread and two fish. This young boy was willing to share his food! Five loaves of bread and fish might feed 2 or 3 people! However, what were they to do about feeding the rest of the crowd? The situation was impossible!

Jesus tells the disciples to have the people sit down. John writes that there were 5000 men. And they also needed food for the women and children. This was a huge crowd to feed. Eventually the disciples had everyone seated. At that point, Jesus took the five loaves of bread, gave thanks and blessed them. He once again gave thanks and blessed the fish. Then the disciples distributed the fish and bread. Surprisingly they had more than enough food! When everyone had eaten, they filled 12 baskets with the leftovers. Talk about a miracle! How did that happen? When the people saw the miracle that Jesus had done, the people believed! They said: “This truly is the Prophet, the One we have been waiting and longing for.”

What is your need? What are you hungry for? What is your lack? Do you truly believe that Jesus will provide you with what you need? Do you trust that Jesus will satisfy your hunger, your longing? When we are in great need, it is difficult to trust that our needs will be met. However, Jesus will not fail us! Will we trust Jesus to satisfy our hungers?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Reflection: John 3:31-36

Thursday of the 2nd Week of Easter – John 3:31-36

Today John weaves together a variety of images of earth and heaven. John talks about the person who is “earthly” and who speaks of “earthly things.” Then John writes that the One who comes from heaven reigns above all. Of course, John is writing about Jesus.

John then reiterates that Jesus is “the One above all.” Jesus testifies to the truth. However, John also writes that no one accepts Jesus’ testimony! However, if we do believe in Jesus and accept His testimony, we certify that God is trustworthy.

Our belief in Jesus also comes with a responsibility. We are called to proclaim the Gospel by our words and more importantly, by our deeds. We have to live our faith, not simply profess our faith in Jesus. Just as Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go forth and preach the Gospel,” Jesus also sends us forth to live the Gospel and to preach the Gospel in word and deed. This is our call, our challenge and our gift! How will we respond? Will we go forth and spread the Gospel by word and example? Jesus is depending on us!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Reflection: John 3:16-21

Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Easter – John 3:16-21

This Gospel passage is a very familiar one. It begins with the words: “God so loved the world that God sent the only begotten Son.” I wonder how many times throughout the years we have heard these simple yet powerful words? True, we know that Jesus came to earth for us. And we know that Jesus died for us! Yet, do we truly grasp and comprehend the depth of God’s love for us and Jesus’ love for us?

During difficult or painful times, it often is more difficult to trust God. At these times, God may appear to be absent or indifferent. Yet God is at our side, walking with us, gracing and loving us every step of our way! At other times, we may believe that we are unworthy of God’s love. This belief may be knowing we have done something we know was sinful or hurtful of another. Or this belief may stem from our belief that we are not loveable!

God’s love is very different from human love. God’s love truly never fails nor falters! John Barclay wrote: “the mainspring of God’s being is love.” Many of us have heard the words: “God is love” from a very young age. Yet at times we struggle to believe and trust that reality!

Today may we open our hearts to God’s love! Take time to “bask” in God’s love! God is waiting for us! Will we come?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Reflection: John 3:7b-15

Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Easter – John 3:7b-15

The interaction between Nicodemus and Jesus continues in today’s reading. Jesus tells Nicodemus that there is no logical explanation for “being born from above.” We may sense it but it is not within our control. We cannot make it happen. Nor do we know when it will come nor can we control where it will go. This is God’s to do! This birth is born from above. It is from God! However, we are able to pray and ask to “be born from above.” Naturally this does not mean that we literally will be born again. Rather, it is that we will be born anew. The new life that we will receive will be a spiritual gift!

What is the spiritual gift you desire in this Easter season? What is the new life that you desire? The Easter season is a time of miracles and new life. We can literally see this as we watch the trees and plants around us. They all are coming to life, blossoming and sharing their beauty with us. Today, trust that God will gift you with “new” life! We may know exactly what we desire. However, God may choose to give us an unexpected gift that will bless us abundantly! Today keep your mind, eyes and heart open! Beauty and grace will come to us!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Reflection: John 3:1-8

Monday of the 2nd Week of Easter – John 3:1-8

Today Nicodemus approaches Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and also a ruler of the Jews. He did not want the Jews to know that he wanted to talk with Jesus. Thus, Nicodemus decided he would approach Jesus at night. Hopefully, the darkness would help him be anonymous!

Nicodemus said to Jesus that he did understand that Jesus was a teacher who had come from God. The wonders and signs that Jesus had done had convinced Nicodemus to believe in Jesus as one who was sent from God. There was no other explanation for Jesus’ power and ability to heal the sick and raise the dead!

Jesus then tells Nicodemus that anyone who desired to enter the Kingdom of God would have to be born of water and the Spirit. Nicodemus asked Jesus how anyone could be born again? This was impossible! Jesus, however, was speaking of being born of the spirit! There are two different births: one of the flesh and one of the spirit.

Have you been “born” of the Spirit? Can you remember a time in your life when you experienced new life and grace and you sensed you had been “born again?” It may have been during a retreat, Cursillo, the birth of a child, or finding a job after many months of searching. Or it may have been as simple as experiencing the new life of spring. Wondrous gifts may be amazing or they may be simple gifts.

Do you long to be reborn at this time in your life? If so, ask Jesus to “create new life” in you. If we do, perhaps Jesus will gift us with what we desire. However, we need to keep our minds and hearts open! Jesus most often works in subtle ways, not fireworks! And the gifts we receive may not be the gifts we had hoped for. We actually may receive gifts that are much greater than we ever would have asked for!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Reflection: John 20:19-31

Second Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31

On this 2nd Sunday of Easter, Jesus’ disciples were gathered. Despite the fact that the disciples knew that Jesus had risen, John writes that they had locked the door of the room, for fear of the Jews. They were fearful of Jews! Why were the disciples afraid? Jesus had died on the cross and none of them had been harassed or accosted since Jesus’ death. Yet they continued to be fearful, not joyful!

Suddenly, Jesus appears in their midst. Did Jesus’ appearance bring peace and joy to their hearts? Or were they confused, frightened and yet also joyful? Jesus addresses the disciples with the simple words: “Peace be with you!” When the disciples heard Jesus’ greeting, did peace begin to fill their hearts? As they began to grasp the reality that Jesus was with them once again, were they filled with joy and wonder? Jesus truly was present in their midst. What a wondrous gift!

Remember a time in your life when were fearful, sad and perhaps lost. It may have been there was a significant loss or change in your life. Or perhaps you were struggling with a painful situation. At these times, it would be a great gift if Jesus suddenly appeared before us and said: “Peace be with you.” Most likely, Jesus did not appear before you! However, was there any sense of Jesus’ presence with you? Did you experience grace of strength from your faith in Jesus? Perhaps your belief simply enabled you to keep on going. Jesus is always with us, gifting us and gracing us! However, we may not tangibly experience Jesus with us. Most likely, he will not appear before us. Jesus walks with us daily! Do we believe and trust that reality?

However, we also have a “Thomas, the doubter” within us. Even if we have a sense of Jesus’ presence, we definitively may desire that this truly is Jesus. We want proof, just as Thomas did. Today if we sense Jesus is near us or with us, may we trust and believe that Jesus also has appeared to us! May we have open minds and open hearts! Jesus will come!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Reflection: Mark 16:9-15

Saturday within the Octave of Easter – Mark 16:9-15

In this Gospel Jesus appears not once but three times. First, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, the woman, out of whom he had driven out seven demons. Mark doesn’t tell us what happened in the encounter. However, Mary Magdalene immediately goes to find Jesus’ companions. They had gathered together to mourn and to find solace with one another.

When Mary told them that Jesus had appeared to her, they did not believe her. Were they thinking: why would Jesus appear to a woman? Surely, he first would appear to his closest companions! Mark simply says: “They did not believe.”

Later that day, Jesus once again appeared. This time Jesus appeared in another form. He showed himself to two disciples who were walking on the road. When the disciples realized it was Jesus, they hurried to tell the others. However, when these two disciples return to tell the other disciples of their encounter with Jesus, Mark says: they “did not believe.” Were they jealous that Jesus had not appeared to them? In order to believe that Jesus was alive, did they need to see Jesus for themselves?

Then Jesus appeared once again! This time it was to the “Eleven” who were gathered at table. Jesus rebuked them for their lack of belief and their hardness of hearts. Despite their lack of belief, Jesus commissioned the Eleven to “Go forth into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature!”

Today Jesus commissions us to “Go forth into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Does this mean we have to leave our homes, our families, our jobs? Will we be called to stand on a street corner and preach the Gospel to strangers? Perhaps Jesus’ call is for us to preach the Gospel by our lives, by the way we love and forgive one another, by our care for the stranger, the poor and the lost. Or is Jesus calling us to live the Gospel by forgiving the individuals who have hurt us? The question for us is: we will respond to His call?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Reflection: John 21:1-14

Friday within the Octave of Easter — John 21:1-14

The opening scene of this Gospel takes place at the Sea of Tiberias. Simon Peter and several other disciples are walking along the shore of the sea. After a while, Simon decides to go fishing. He was tired of doing nothing. Was he also hoping that Jesus would appear once again and he was tired of waiting? Perhaps the fishing would distract him. It would be better than simply waiting.
Peter tells the other disciples what he has decided and several of them choose to accompany him. They went out in the boat and fished for several hours but they caught absolutely nothing. How frustrating! I wonder what the disciples talked about while they were together in the boat. Did they talk about Jesus? Did they keep silent? Were they feeling lost and alone? Were they angry at the events that had transpired? These events not only cost Jesus his life, but their own lives also were devastated! They had “given their all” to Jesus. And now he was gone! Now what should they do?

Then at dawn Jesus appears to them. He was standing on the shore, not far from where the disciples were in the boat. The disciples did not recognize Jesus. They noticed a man standing on the shore. This stranger called out and asked the disciples if they had caught any fish. They replied that they had not. This man then told them to cast the net out on the other side of the boat. Did the disciples actually believe that would make a difference? After all, their boat was not huge. It was highly unlikely that a school of fish would be only on one side of the boat. However, they did as the man said!

Naturally, they were astounded when within a few minutes their nets were brimming over with fish! There were so many fish in the nets that they were worried that the nets would break. They also didn’t know how they would get all these fish to shore.

At that point, John recognized Jesus and he told Peter: “It is the Lord!” Impetuously, Peter jumped into the sea! The rest of the disciples made it to shore as quickly as they could. Imagine how impatient they must have been to get to the shore and also how excited they were to see Jesus. Once again they would be with their friend, teacher and Lord!

When they reached the shore, Jesus had a fire going. Take a moment and imagine what it would be like to sit around a campfire or a kitchen table with Jesus. What would you talk with Jesus about? Is there something you would like to ask him? Or would you simply rejoice at being in his presence?

At times, Jesus appears to us in differing guises. It is not always clear that it is Jesus who is with us. Yet, we may have a sense that this person was sent to us for a purpose, even though we may not know what that purpose is. Jesus comes to us every day! Most often though he does not cook us lunch. However, he will talk with us and nourish us with his word and his body, in the Eucharist and through one another! Today may our minds, hearts and senses be awake and alert to his coming!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Reflection: Luke 24:35-48

Thursday within the Octave of Easter, April 9th – Luke 24:35-48

Today Jesus once again appears to the disciples. The Gospel begins with the disciples talking with each other about Jesus appearing to them and breaking bread with them. What a marvelous gift that time together had been. His disciples continued to be astounded, amazed and grateful. However, they were just beginning to truly comprehend that they had not lost their teacher, friend and mentor, Jesus.

While they were talking about this Jesus once again appeared to them! In an instant, Jesus was in their midst. Jesus then greeted them with the simple words: “Peace be with you!” However, instead of being peaceful, the disciples were terrified. They believed they were seeing a ghost. Again, his disciples did not recognize Jesus! Since Jesus had appeared to them not long ago, it seems that they would have realized that the figure that stood before them was Jesus. However, they did not! Did Jesus not look the same as he did when he appeared to them the first time?

Jesus then asks them: “Why are you troubled and afraid? Why do you question?” Jesus invites them to look at his hands and his feet and see for themselves that he truly is Jesus, their teacher, friend and Lord. Jesus asks them to come and touch him and experience for themselves that he is real! He is not a ghost. He is flesh and bone. Jesus then showed them the wounds in his hands, feet and side to strengthen their belief that this vision before them was Jesus, their Lord and their friend. Slowly the disciples began to absorb the reality that Jesus, their friend and teacher, truly was in their midst. He was alive! How could this be? What wondrous news! What joy must have filled their hearts. They thought they had lost Jesus forever!

Jesus then opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He told them that it was written that the Christ would suffer, and rise from the dead on the third day! Then repentance and forgiveness of sin would be preached in Jesus’ name to all nations!

How did the disciples react to Jesus’ words? Did Jesus’ words “set them on fire?” Were they ready to go out and begin preaching and teaching his message? Or were they hesitant and afraid? Were some of them asking themselves: could I really do that? Jesus was the one who was teacher and preacher. What might the cost of this mission be? Jesus had been arrested, flogged and crucified! Did they ask themselves: “am I truly willing to ‘give my all’ for Jesus?”

Today Jesus is calling us to preach and teach the “good news.” It may be with words but also by our example! Will we answer Jesus’ call? Will we follow in his footsteps and share his message and his love? Will we?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Reflection: Luke 24:13-35

Wednesday within the Octave of Easter – Luke 24:13-35

Today we hear Luke’s version of the story of the walk to Emmaus. We know this story well. Most likely, if someone asked us, we easily could tell them the story. Familiarity can be good but at times, but it also can be a hindrance. Today I invite you to read this Gospel passage again. Read it slowly and attentively. Be open to the message that Jesus has for you today. After reading the passage, take a few minutes and quietly listen for Jesus’ message.

At times in our lives, we have been “the disciples on the road to Emmaus”: feeling lost, alone, sad, confused and perhaps angered by our personal Calvary experience. True, it was not literally our crucifixion and death. Yet, most likely it was a time of great pain, confusion, anger, sadness or loss. Or it might have been a time when a significant person or part of your life died to you. Take a moment and remember one of your Calvary experiences. And like the disciples who never thought they would lose Jesus, you also were lost, sad, confused, depressed and perhaps angry.

What was that time in life like for you? How long did it take you to begin to recover and begin to come back to life? Did your faith sustain you during this time? Or did Jesus/God feel light years away from you? Was there any sense (small though it may have been) that God, Jesus or the Spirit was with you, sustaining you, strengthening you? These times are extremely difficult and they may threaten our trust and faith in God. We all know that bad things happen to good people! However, when they happen to us, our natural reaction is to question: “Why me? Why did God let this happen?”

Yet, if we hold onto our faith in God, Jesus eventually will appear to us again, most likely in unexpected ways, places or people. The question is: will our mind and hearts be open? Or will they be closed by anger, fear and loss? Today may we pray for the grace to trust that Jesus will come to us! May we trust and believe (to the best of our ability) that Jesus IS with us always!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Reflection: John 20:11-18

Tuesday within the Octave of Easter – John 20:11-18

Today Mary is outside of Jesus’ tomb weeping. However, this section of the Gospel is only a segment of the full story. While it was still dark, Mary had come to Jesus’ tomb. When Mary arrived at the tomb, the stone had been rolled away. How had this happened? Mary bent over and looked into the tomb. To her great surprise, there were two angels in the tomb! The angels were sitting at the head and the feet of where Jesus’ body had been.

The angels asked Mary why she was weeping. She told them that someone had taken Jesus’ body away and she did not know where they had taken it. As she turned around to leave the tomb, Jesus stood before her! However, she did not recognize him! Jesus then asks Mary: “Why are you weeping?” Mary assumed this man was the gardener. He surely would know where Jesus’ body had been taken. Mary begs him to tell her where Jesus was laid. At that moment, Jesus simply and lovingly speaks her name. He utters only one word: “Mary.” Instantly Mary’s eyes and heart were opened! She realized that Jesus was standing before her!

How often have we gone looking for Jesus? At times, we also have been desperate to find Jesus and experience his presence and care. At times, life often is more than we can handle on our own. Yes, we can and should depend on the people who care about us. However, we also need to experience the peace and reassurance of Jesus and his love and care.

Today Jesus will call us by name. Then Jesus will wait for us to reply. Will our minds and hearts be open and listening deeply enough to hear Jesus’ call? Or will we be too busy to hear his call? What a horrible loss that would be! Today may we strive to keep our hearts alert and attentive and our ears open! Today, Jesus also will call us by name!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 28:8-15

Monday within the Octave of Easter – Matthew 28:8-15

Praise God! Today we have alleluias, flowers, joyful music and a festive celebration as we continue the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Each day this week, we hear differing accounts of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples.

Today’s Gospel begins in the middle of the story, verses 8-15. In the first seven verses, Matthew tells us that Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary had left at daybreak to go to Jesus’ tomb. When they arrived at the tomb, an angel appeared before them. The angel then rolled back the stone from the tomb and sat upon it. The angel then told the women that Jesus was not in the tomb. The angel then instructed them to go and tell Jesus’ disciples that He has risen from the dead. The disciples were to go to Galilee. They would find Jesus there! Did these two women wonder if they were having hallucinations? Yet, each of them had seen and heard the same thing. If Jesus truly was alive, they would ask for nothing more!

As the women were going to find the disciples, Jesus appeared before them! He lovingly greeted them. Did they think they were having another hallucination? Yet, in their hearts, they realized that Jesus was standing before them. They knelt before Jesus, embraced his feet and praised God that Jesus had returned to them. Jesus then told them to go and tell the disciples to go to Galilee. Jesus would be there!

Somehow, the guards heard this fantastic tale. Immediately, they went to the chief priests and told them this story. The chief priests were extremely concerned. If this rumor spread, they would have havoc. Thus, the chief priests decided to bribe the soldiers. They gave them a large amount of money to keep silent. They also told them if someone asked what had happened to Jesus’ body, they were to say that they had fallen asleep while they were on duty. And while they were sleeping, someone had come and stolen the body of Jesus! The soldiers eagerly complied with their plan. In return, the soldiers were paid off! Yet, word of Jesus’ resurrection and the women’s account of their encounter with Jesus rapidly spread throughout Jerusalem. And the world was drastically changed!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we would personally encounter Jesus during this Eastertide? What a wondrous gift that would be! Who knows? If we have open eyes, minds and hearts today, we also may encounter Jesus! May it be so!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Reflection: Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday – John 20:1-9 – Mass during the Day

Today we celebrate Easter Sunday, the day on which our Lord and God, Jesus, rose from the dead! The question is: do we truly believe and remember the love that Jesus poured out for us so? Or do we focus on the Easter baskets, the candy, preparing the meal, enjoying the springtime weather? Is Easter simply another holiday, a day for family and perhaps for going to church?

I invite you to ask yourself on this Easter day: what am I celebrating? Am I celebrating having a day off and a great meal to eat? Am I simply enjoying being with my family and friends? However, will I take 5-10 minutes and spend some time with the best friend I have: Jesus, the man who gave his life for me! Jesus died and rose for us so that we can live with him, not only now, but forever! Today will we walk with him? Will we talk with Him? He is waiting for us! What will we choose?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Reflection: Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Eucharist is not celebrated on Holy Saturday morning although some churches may have a Morning Prayer service. Liturgically speaking, Holy Saturday officially ends at dusk. After dusk, the Easter Vigil is celebrated. The Easter Vigil is a lengthy but an extremely rich celebration. It is one of the most solemn celebrations of the liturgical year. In the past 40 days, we have journeyed through Lent. On this Holy Saturday evening, our Lenten journey culminates with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ! The Easter Vigil has 3 integral parts: 1. the blessing of the fire and the preparation and lighting of the Easter candle; 2. The Liturgy of the Word; and 3. The Baptismal Liturgy.

The Holy Saturday service is solemn and lengthy. However, it is rich with word, action, hope and new life. This service begins with the ritual of blessing of the “new fire” and the preparation and lighting of the Easter candle. After the Easter candle has been lit, it is lifted high and is carried into the Church. The community gathers around the baptismal font and the Exultet is sung (the ancient hymn that praises our God who led the Israelites out of Egypt and into freedom). On this holy night, we re-tell the stories of our salvation.

Holy Saturday does not simply commemorate what God has done in days gone by. Holy Saturday also celebrates what God is doing today. It is true that Jesus saved us by dying on the cross over 2,000 years ago. However, God is at work in our lives today! Salvation still is in process!

Perhaps today we could ask ourselves: Will I simply go to church? Or will I enter deeply into this Easter mystery and miracle? Yes, Jesus did die for us and He rose for us! The question for us may be: am I willing to wholeheartedly enter into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? What will we decide?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Reflection: Good Friday

Good Friday – The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ - John: 18:1 -19:42

Today is one of the holiest of days in our Christian tradition. On this Good Friday we hear John’s account of Jesus’ Passion. The Passions narratives are never easy to listen to. They are the story of betrayal, fearful disciples who deserted Jesus, arrest, questioning and flogging by Pilate and the death penalty!

Yet, Jesus freely and willingly chose to go up to Jerusalem, knowing that he likely would die in the days ahead. Yet, Jesus was willing to do this for you and for me! In the course of his passion, Jesus was rejected by his own people! Jesus was at the mercy of Pilate and the Roman soldiers. The crowds derided him, spit on him, mocked him and scorned him! Imagine what a nightmare this must have been for Jesus!

Yet, Jesus freely and lovingly came to earth and gave his life for you and for me! Do we truly think of it in that light? Or is this story so familiar that it has lost any power to touch us? Does Jesus’ passion and death truly touch the depths of our minds and our hearts? What are the emotions we experience when we hear the Passion read this week (and we will hear it twice, first on Palm Sunday and then on Good Friday). Do we experience any emotions? Or do we just “listen” to the Passion narrative?

On this Good Friday may we consciously decide to “enter into” Jesus’ passion. May we open our hearts and walk with Jesus as he carries the cross to Calvary! It is the very least we can do. Jesus literally gave “his all” for us! Jesus freely chose to die for us: for you and for me! True, we know this. However, do we truly comprehend the depths of what Jesus did for you and for me?

Today may we ponder the height, the depth and the width of Jesus’ love for us: for you and for me! Truly, there is no greater love!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reflection: Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday – John: 13:1-15

On this Holy Thursday we hear John’s account of the washing of the feet. John’s Gospel begins on a somber note. John states that Jesus knew that “his hour had come.” Jesus sensed that in the next few days, his life would be filled with betrayal, turmoil, pain and death. Yet, John writes that Jesus loved “his own” and he would love them until the very end.

Then Jesus does something unexpected. At the end of the Seder meal, Jesus gets up from the table and takes off his outer robe and pours water into a basin. Then Jesus kneels down and one by one, he washes the dirty and dusty feet of his disciples. When Jesus comes to Peter, Peter protests. He asks Jesus: “Do you truly intend to wash my feet?” Jesus’ response must have confused Peter. Jesus tells him that if he does not wash his feet, Peter will never have an inheritance with him. What a shock this must have been to Peter! Did Peter wonder what having his feet washed had to do with his inheritance?

In the past few years, we have experienced this reality happening today. Pope Francis strives to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. In the past 2 years, Pope Francis has broken the long-standing tradition of previous Popes who only had men participate in the foot washing on Holy Thursday. In 2013, Pope Francis traveled to a juvenile detention center to wash the feet of 12 young people. He shocked many more people by including two women and two Muslims in this ritual. In 2014, Pope Francis traveled to a care center for the elderly and disabled. He presided over their Holy Thursday service and he washed the feet of 12 participants.

What a sacred example of how we also have the opportunity to share Jesus’ love, concern and care for each and every person. Most likely, we will not wash someone’s feet today. However, on this Holy Thursday, how will you and I manifest Jesus’ love, concern and care for each person we meet today? Most likely, we will not literally wash someone’s feet. However, we can take the time to talk with someone who is lonely, help a neighbor, spend time at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, or call a friend or relative who might need some cheering up.

The themes of Holy Thursday are love and service. Jesus was the true embodiment of both love and service. Today may we be mindful of sharing one small act of love as we celebrate the great gift of love that Jesus was and is!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 26:14-25

Wednesday of Holy Week – Matthew 26:14-25

Today we experience Judas Iscariot negotiating with the chief priests. Judas doesn’t pretend to be anyone other than a traitor. He goes to the chief priests to make a deal with them. Judas bluntly tells them that he will hand Jesus over to them. However, he will do this only if they agree to pay him very well for betraying his teacher and his friend. The chief priests are delighted. After all, 30 pieces of silver is a small price to pay for having this man Jesus given to them. Jesus had been a thorn in the side of the Pharisees for a long time. Judas then began to look for the opportunity to hand Jesus over to them.

Matthew then abruptly shifts to a very different scene. As we know, it was Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus’ disciples come and ask him where he wishes to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus instructs them to go into Jerusalem and find an appropriate place where they could celebrate this sacred meal. Passover is the feast that celebrates Israel’s delivery from bondage in Egypt. His disciples did as Jesus asked.

That evening in Jerusalem, Jesus and his apostles gathered around the table. While they were enjoying their meal, Jesus astounds them when he bluntly tells them: “One of you will betray me.” Imagine the horror and shock the apostles must have experienced. When Jesus uttered these words, the apostles must have been astounded. Did they look at one another in shock? Jesus was their friend and spiritual mentor. They loved Jesus. They had left their families and jobs to follow him. Why would they betray him?

Jesus then tells them that his betrayer is one who had dipped his hand into the dish with Jesus. Each one of them had eaten from the dish. They must have looked at one another, wondering who the betrayer was. Then each of his disciples asked Jesus: am I the one? Did they also look at each other and wonder who among them would be the one to betray Jesus? Finally, Judas asks: “Is it I, Lord?” Jesus simply responds: “You have said so.”

Have you ever been betrayed by a family member or a friend? All of us have experienced betrayal at various times in our lives and in differing degrees. Some betrayals are small and thus, they may be a bit easier to forgive. Other betrayals are life-changing. It may be that our lives take a completely different path after the betrayal. It also is likely that this experience may make it very difficult for us to trust any other person with our personal lives.

Jesus understands betrayal. He was handed over by one of his closest friends and followers. Yes, Jesus is God. However, Jesus also was human. He experienced the breadth of emotions you and I experience. Thus, Judas’ betrayal must have hurt him deeply. Judas was a man he had chosen, a man he had trusted. Judas was a man who betrayed him!

Have there been times in our lives when we also have betrayed Jesus? I assume so. Jesus will forgive us! Perhaps the more important question is: can we forgive ourselves? Jesus never stops loving us, no matter what we do! Jesus continues to invite us to come to him! Today will we accept his invitation?