Sunday, May 31, 2015
Matthew 28:16-20 – Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
The opening scene of today’s Gospel is on a mountain in Galilee. Jesus had instructed his disciples to travel to this mountain. When the disciples arrived Jesus appeared to them. When they realized that it was Jesus who was in their midst, they were excited and overjoyed! And they worshiped Him!
However, within minutes, their faith and joy began to dissipate. Matthew writes: “They began to doubt.” What was it that caused Jesus’ disciples to move from great joy and excitement to doubt within a few seconds? Did they wonder if Jesus was simply an illusion? Did they not believe that this apparition truly was Jesus? How sad it must have been for Jesus when he realized that his disciples did not trust that he truly was with them once again!
Jesus approached them and spoke to them. He said, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He then sends these faithful followers of his to “go forth and preach.” He commissions his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations.” They were to baptize and teach. Their mission was to share with peoples of all nations what Jesus had taught them.
I wonder how the disciples reacted to Jesus’ instruction? Were they excited about this possibility? Or were they apprehensive about this mission? Were they concerned about leaving their families? Or were they elated and filled with joy to have Jesus in their midst once again? Were their hearts overflowing with love for Jesus? Just imagine this wondrous scene!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jesus appeared to us? Ask yourself: how do you think you would respond if Jesus appeared to you and then instructed you to “Go forth and teach all nations?” Seriously, ask yourself that question and take a few moments to notice your inner reaction.
Would you be thrilled that Jesus had chosen and entrusted you with his mission of “teaching all nations?” Or did you find yourself coming up with a variety of reasons and excuses why you are unable to “go and teach all nations?” It is easy to come up with a wide variety of excuses about why we cannot “go forth and teach all nations.” We may say: “I have commitments, I am needed at home, I have a job and my family needs the salary. I can’t just take off to go and “teach all nations.”
And for most of us that is true. We do have responsibilities to our families and our community. However, for most of us our call is to preach the Gospel every day, right where we are. We can preach the Gospel every day: by what we say, how we say it, what we do and how we do it! The familiar adage: “Actions speak louder than words” is very true! Every day we have the ability to “preach the Gospel” without saying a word. We can “preach the Gospel” simply by who we are, what we do and how we do it!
Words are simple and sometimes distracting. To preach how we live is a full time commitment. The gift is: if we choose to preach the Gospel, we simply need to live our lives in a loving and generous way. However, we have to make this choice! No one else can do it for us. So: what will we choose?
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Mark 11:27-33 - Saturday of the 8th Week in Ordinary time
Today Jesus and his disciples return to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they immediately went up to the temple. As they entered the temple, the chief priests, scribes and elders approached Jesus. Immediately they asked Jesus: “By whose authority are you doing these things?” (healing, teaching and preaching) Jesus does not react. Rather he stays calm and then “turns the tables” on them. He tells them that he will ask them one simple question. If they answer him honestly, Jesus promises to tell them on whose authority and power he acts.
Jesus then asks them: “Was John’s baptism of human origin or heavenly origin?” The chief priests and scribes huddle together to decide how to respond. However, there simply was not a good answer. They realized that if they said that Jesus’ actions were of heavenly origin, this would strengthen the people’s belief in Jesus. However, if they said that his actions were only human, they were concerned how the crowd might react to this statement. Many in the crowd clearly believed in Jesus.
Truly the chief priests and scribes did not know what to say. Jesus had boxed them in and they could find no way out. Finally, they simply give a noncommittal answer: “We do not know.” Jesus quietly and simply replies: “Neither will I tell you on whose authority I act.” Jesus stood his ground and faced them down. He stood in his truth. And one by one, the chief priests quietly slipped away.
Are we able to follow in Jesus’ footsteps? Do we talk about what we believe about Jesus and God? Are we willing to be vulnerable and profess what we believe? This is not easy to do. However, Jesus gave his life for us! Are we willing to profess our belief and trust in him? Sit with the question for a few moments. What is your answer?
Friday, May 29, 2015
Today Jesus goes to the temple in Jerusalem. Then he and the disciples continue on to Bethany. As they left Bethany the next day, Jesus realized he was hungry. He saw a fig tree and he went over to see if there were any ripe figs on the tree. If they were edible, they would satisfy his hunger for a period of time.
However, when Jesus came to the tree, there were no figs, only leaves. It actually was the season for figs to grow. Jesus then did something very unusual. When he realized that the tree had no figs, he said: “No one will ever again eat your fruit!” (I wonder if Jesus was in a bad mood?) Then Jesus and his disciples traveled on to Jerusalem.
When they arrived in Jerusalem, they immediately went to the temple. When they entered the temple area, Jesus was stunned and outraged. In this holy temple, there were money changers plying their trade. Others were selling doves for sacrifice! The temple no longer was a temple. It had become a market place! In a loud and strident voice, Jesus said to his disciples: “My house is to be called a house of prayer!”
Take a moment and reflect: is your church a holy and sacred place to you? Or is it simply a building where you go to church? When you enter the church, do you sense the Divine Presence? The next time you go to church, I invite you to notice what you experience as you enter this sacred space. If we are present, awake and open, we surely will encounter the Divine there! However, only we can choose to be fully present and open!
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Mark 10:46-52 - Thursday of the 8th Week in Ordinary time
The central character in today’s Gospel is Bartimaeus, a blind man. As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, they passed the blind beggar, Bartimaeus. Every day Bartimaeus came and sat on the roadside and begged. Bartimaeus had heard some of the passers-by talking about Jesus. These people spoke of Jesus’ preaching and teaching. They also talked about his deep compassion as well as the miracles that Jesus had worked.
When Jesus was passing by, Bartimaeus cried out to Him. He shouted: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people around him scolded him and told him to be quiet. However, Bartimaeus once again called out in an even louder voice: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Again the bystanders ordered him to be silent. However, Bartimaeus was determined. And again, he cried out: “Son of David, have pity on me!”
Jesus heard Bartimaeus’ plea and he stopped and said: “Call him.” So the disciples went to Bartimaeus and said: “Come, Jesus is calling you.” Bartimaeus immediately got up and went to Jesus. Jesus asked him: “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus simply replied: “I want to see!”
Jesus did not do anything extraordinary. He simply instructed Bartimaeus to go on his way. Jesus quietly told him that his faith had saved him. Immediately Bartimaeus received his sight! Imagine how astounded and amazed he must have been! Did he fall at Jesus feet? Or was he so overwhelmed that he didn’t know what to do?
Then Jesus quietly told Bartimaeus to go on his way. However, Bartimaeus did not obey. Rather, he knew that he had to follow Jesus, this man, who healed him and who freed him. What a wondrous gift!
What is the healing we desire? Today, may we ask Bartimaeus to take us to Jesus and to intercede for us that we also may be healed. Will we trust Jesus as Bartimaeus did? May it “be so!”
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Mark 10:32-45 - Wednesday of the 8th Week in Ordinary time
Today the disciples are on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus was walking ahead of them. Mark writes: “The disciples were amazed yet others were afraid.” They still were trying to absorb what Jesus had said to the young man in yesterday’s Gospel.
Jesus takes his 12 disciples aside and begins to prepare them for what would happen in Jerusalem. He tells them that when they get to Jerusalem “the Son of Man” will be handed over to the chief priests and Scribes. He goes on to say that he will be mocked, spit on and condemned to death. However, after three days, He will rise again!
Imagine the disciples’ reaction to these statements. They clearly knew that Jesus was a controversial person. But they were stunned at the possibility of arrest, condemnation and death. This simply was beyond their comprehension. And though they knew that Jesus was in danger, they did not want to listen to what he was saying.
In the middle of this dialogue James and John come to Jesus and say: “Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask.” Here are two of his disciples literally ordering Jesus around! Talk about brazen! James and John were not concerned about what Jesus was saying. They said nothing to him about the prediction of his death. They simply wanted to ensure that they would have a place at Jesus’ right and left hand when finally he is in his glory. Talk about self-centered! Were James and John not concerned about the danger to Jesus? Did they not care that He no longer would be with them? Apparently not! Their focus was solely on their own future!
Understandably, the other disciples were extremely upset with James and John. Who did they think they were? Did they truly believe they were better than the other disciples? They all had been faithful followers of Jesus. Why did they think they were special? Jesus then tells James and John that they clearly do not understand what they are asking. He bluntly asks them: “Are you truly willing to drink from the chalice that I will have to drink from?”
How very human the disciples were! Most often they thought only of themselves. Apparently they did not have a clue of the path that Jesus would have to walk. Yet they knew there were plots against him. Still, their self-centeredness prevailed. They were only concerned about their future.
When we pray or talk with Jesus, are we only concerned with ourselves? Do we do all the talking? Or do we quiet down, open our hearts and listen to Jesus? Jesus has much that he wants to say to us. Or perhaps he simply desires to be in our presence and have our full attention. Today will we do all the talking? Or will we stop and listen for a while?
Jesus also desires that we be servants to one another. Are we willing to serve others as Jesus served them? If we do, most likely we may receive more than we give. Jesus clearly wants his disciples primarily to be concerned about the “People of God,” not only concerned with themselves. He wants them to follow in his footsteps and to love as deeply as he loved.
What will we choose to do today? Will we serve the people we encounter today? Or will we simply go on our merry way? What a loss that would be! Who knows, if we are attentive and alert, we most likely will meet Jesus several times as we go about our day! Be awake! Jesus is coming!
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Mark 10:28-31 – Tuesday of the 8th Week in Ordinary time
Today Peter responds to Jesus’ statement to the young man in yesterday’s Gospel. Peter reminds Jesus: “We have given up everything to follow you.” Jesus tells Peter that anyone who gives up family, home, job or land for his sake will receive a reward, a reward so great that this individual will receive a hundred times more than s/he gave up! Now that could be quite a reward depending on what you have given up!
Again Jesus is reminding his disciples that he desires “their all.” He doesn’t want lukewarm or casual disciples. Rather Jesus longs for wholehearted love and deep commitment from his followers. If we are deeply committed to Jesus and truly “give our all,” we will receive a hundred times more than we have given. What a promise!
However, it is not always easy to “give our all” to Jesus. There are so many distractions as well as so many other attractions in today’s world. We can easily wander off from Jesus. And yet, we also long to belong wholeheartedly to Jesus. What will we choose? No one else can choose for us. Only we can make this decision. And it is a decision that we need to make each and every day. Today what will I decide? What will you decide? Will we follow Jesus today, even if the cost seems too great? I pray we will!
Monday, May 25, 2015
Mark 10:17-27 – Monday of the 8th Week in Ordinary time
Now that we have celebrated the feast of Pentecost, we return to “Ordinary Time.” The Gospel that begins Ordinary time for us is the story of the man who comes to Jesus and asks him: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Rather than answering the man’s question, Jesus asks the man a question. Jesus asks him: “Why do you call me good? Only God alone is good!” Jesus is a bit abrupt with the man. He then tells him: “You know the commandments! Do what the commandments tell you.”
However, the young man is not satisfied. He tells Jesus that he has followed the commandments since he was a young child. The young man longs to do more than to simply follow the commandments. He yearns for something deeper. Mark writes: “Jesus looked at the man and loved him!” What a powerful and yet tender statement! Clearly, this young man wished to give his “all” to God and to wholeheartedly live out the commandments of God.
Jesus is surprised by this young man’s deep and sincere desire. Jesus’ heart was instantly filled with love for this young man who hungered so deeply for God. Jesus had not experienced this depth of desire with many people.
In response to the young man’s question, Jesus tells him that he is lacking in one thing. He tells him to sell all his belongings, give the money to the poor and then come and follow him. This was not the response that the young man was hoping for. When he begins to comprehend what Jesus is saying, the man is stupefied. Yes, he wants to follow Jesus. However, to give away all his belongings, to leave his family and his friends and become an itinerant follower of Jesus? The “price” of following Jesus is far too steep! And eventually the young man walked away from Jesus sad and dismayed.
What about us? Are we willing to give up everything we have to follow Jesus? At times, the “cost” of following Jesus simply is too high. We would have to leave behind what we have struggled to build and secure. Are we open to letting it go and trusting that Jesus will provide for us?
It can be easy to say we will follow Jesus when the path is straight and smooth. However, if the path is rugged and challenging or if we have to divest ourselves of what is important or valuable to us, we may not be as willing to say yes to Jesus’ invitation. Yes, following Jesus is our desire. However, how great is our desire? Are we willing to “give our all” to Jesus? I pray we are!
Sunday, May 24, 2015
John 20:19-23 – Pentecost Sunday
This Gospel begins by describing how Jesus’ disciples had locked themselves in a room. They were afraid of the Jews. Imagine this scene! Here are eleven grown men locked in a fairly small room, fearful of what might happen to them. So much for Jesus’ “brave disciples.”
Then Jesus quietly appears in their midst. Did they rub their eyes wondering if something was wrong with their eyesight? Did they think they were going crazy when they saw Jesus? Did they immediately recognize that this apparition was Jesus, their beloved friend and teacher?
Jesus quietly and simply said to his beloved friends and disciples: “Peace be with you.” I suspect that the primary emotion the disciples experienced when they saw this apparition was not “peace.” Rather, I assume that they felt shock, fear, disbelief, astonishment and perhaps hope. Did they ask themselves: How could this be? Is this real? Is Jesus truly here with us?
Then Jesus showed his beloved friends his hands and his side. Did Jesus do this so they would know and believe that Jesus truly was in their midst? I suspect that the disciples needed some proof that this apparition truly was Jesus, their teacher and friend. Yet as they began to absorb the fact that Jesus truly was with them once again, they rejoiced. They were awed and amazed!
Jesus once again said to his disciples: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Did the disciples experience peace envelop them when Jesus spoke these simple yet powerful words? Jesus then breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit! Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained!”
Take a moment and hear Jesus say to you: “Peace be with you (your name)! Then quietly breathe in Jesus’ gift of peace for 3-4 minutes! Allow Jesus’ peace to envelop you, to fill you! (Do it, don’t just read the sentence and move on!)
What was your experience? Do you feel Jesus’ peace within you? Do you feel less stressed or worried? Jesus gives us the gift of peace every day! However, we have to consciously accept and absorb His peace! If we do this every day, we may find that we are more peaceful, relaxed and joyful!
Saturday, May 23, 2015
John 21:20-25 – 7th Week of Easter
In today’s Gospel Peter turns and sees the disciple whom Jesus loved. I wonder what went on in Peter’s heart? Was he jealous of John’s close friendship with Jesus? At times, did Peter strive to be as contemplative as John was? Or was Peter truly secure in his relationship with Jesus? Did Peter understand that he also had gifts and qualities to share with Jesus?
Human beings have many qualities in common. However, our need and desire to be loved is paramount. Without love, we are bereft and lost. We often see this in children whose parents are abusive or neglectful. Without love and care we truly are alone and often frightened.
Our humanity is a great gift, yet at times it also is a challenge. Our need to be special and to be loved is at the core of who we are as human beings. All of us need to know and believe that we are loved and lovable. Human love is essential for all human beings. However, we also need to know and believe that we are the beloved of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit!
However, at times in our lives, we all have the experience of Peter. Ask yourself: were you ever jealous of someone who seemed to be loved and accepted by everyone? Have you ever desired to have the gifts and talents of one of your siblings or a friend? I assume so! These feelings are natural and normal. However, we need to learn how to manage these emotions or else they will begin to manage us.
Jesus understood Peter’s need. However, Jesus challenges Peter when he asks Jesus a question about John. Jesus quietly yet firmly responds to Peter and says: “What business is this of yours?” This sounds harsh. However, I assume that the tone of Jesus’ voice was kind and yet firm when he spoke these words to Peter. However, I wonder if Peter was able to hear the love and concern in Jesus’ voice or did he only hear the reprimand?
This is the last interaction Jesus has with his disciples in John’s Gospel. John simply concludes his Gospel by saying that he is “the disciple who testifies to these events and has written them.” John also testifies that his testimony is true. There was much more that John could have said, but he ends his gospel by saying: “I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.”
Jesus walked this earth that we also walk on. Jesus is our Lord and our God. And our story, the story of humanity, continues. And Jesus walks with each of us every day and every moment! Perhaps the question for us is: will we choose to walk with Jesus every day?
Friday, May 22, 2015
John 21:15-19 – 7th Week of Easter
Today Jesus asks Peter a difficult question. He asks Simon Peter if he loves Jesus more than “these.” I wonder how Peter reacted to this question? Was he upset that Jesus asked this question? Did Peter wonder what Jesus was getting at? Was he concerned that Jesus did not trust that Peter loved him?
Regardless of his thoughts or questions, Peter simply answered: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!” Jesus then tells Peter: “Feed my lambs.” Then a moment later, Jesus again asks Peter the same question and Peter once again told Jesus that he loved him. Jesus then says to Peter: “Tend my sheep.”
However, then Jesus asked Peter the third time: “Do you love me?” Clearly Peter was deeply disturbed that Jesus once again asked him this question. By asking this question three times, he must have some doubts about Peter’s loyalty to him. Peter’s frustration, pain and dismay had to be clearly evident to Jesus. Finally with great frustration in his voice, Peter says: “Lord, you know all things! Clearly you know that I love you!”
Jesus does not respond directly to Peter’s statement. Rather, He quietly, simply tells Peter: “Feed my sheep.” Jesus also tells Peter that he will be led in a new path, one that is unfamiliar to him. In the future, Peter will not be leading, rather, he will be led. And he will be led to a place where he will not want to go. Peter did not know what to make of Jesus’ statements.
At times we also may not understand what Jesus is saying to us. However, no matter who we are or what positions we hold, we still are not in charge of our life. Nor can we control what our future will be. However, there is one area of control: we can make the decision to walk with Jesus daily and to trust Him with all our hearts.
Jesus loves us and is with us every second of the day. Are we willing to give up our illusion of control and place our hand in Jesus’ hand? Jesus loves us and will walk with us every step of the way. Jesus will guide us and strengthen us when we need help to deal with life.
Jesus’ final statement to Peter was: “Follow me.” Today Jesus speaks those same two words to us! Will we follow him? Jesus longs to walk with us each day! The question is: will we walk with him?
Thursday, May 21, 2015
John 17:11b-19 – 7th Week of Easter
Jesus continues his prayer for his disciples. Clearly he is concerned about them and their welfare. Jesus had experienced some of the tension and conflict among his disciples. He knew that the path ahead of them would be painful and difficult. If they were divided or “at odds” they would not be able to carry out Jesus’ mission.
Jesus prays not only for his disciples but he also prays for all who will believe in him, no matter what century or nation we live in. Jesus longs for you and I to be “one” with him and with God, just as he longed for his disciples to experience this loving unity. Can you remember a time in your life when you had a deep and loving sense of Jesus being present with you? Take a moment and remember that time. What emotions did you experience: awe, joy, confusion, or perhaps elation?
These moments of intimacy with Jesus are “gift and grace.” We cannot manufacture these experiences. However, we can open ourselves to them and we can ask to be “graced” with such love and peace. Today may we be open and attentive to the ways Jesus may come to us. Keep your mind, eyes and heart open! At times Jesus comes in the most unexpected people or small happenings. Stay alert and watchful!
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
John 17:11b-19 – 7th Week of Easter
Today’s Gospel is a loving and tender passage. Jesus is praying for all the people (including us) whom God has entrusted to his care. Jesus realizes that his time on earth is short. He is concerned about the people whom he soon will be leaving. Jesus prays and asks his Father to keep them “in his name.” Jesus longs for his “flock” to be protected and safe when he is no longer with them. What a caring and loving shepherd we have!
Clearly Jesus dearly loved his disciples. He longed for them to share his joy fully and completely. Jesus knew that he would be leaving them and he longed for them to be safe and secure in God’s love and care for them. Jesus also longed for his disciples to share the depth of joy He experienced in being one with God.
Take a moment and remember a time when you experienced a sense of closeness or oneness with God or Jesus. Do you remember the time or place? What were the emotions you experienced? Joy? Peace? Love? Awe?
Jesus longs to share his peace, his joy and his truth with us today. Are we open to receiving these gifts? If so, I invite you to sit quietly in Jesus’ presence with an open mind, heart and hands. . . .and wait! Jesus will come and gift you! Be patient!
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
John 17:1-11a – 7th Week of Easter
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me!” Wow! What powerful words and what a wondrous gift Jesus gave to his disciples! Take a moment and think back to your childhood. Who was it that introduced you to God and to Jesus? Was it your parents or through the kindness and generosity of a neighbor or friend? Or was it the priests and sisters at your parish or school? Or was God manifested to you through the beauty of nature? Or perhaps it was “all of the above!”
The question for us may be: how are we making Jesus’ name known to the people in our lives? Think about that for a moment. How do you strive to share Jesus’ love, compassion and generosity to the people in your life? It may be through the simple and repetitive acts of the “daily.” Or it might be through reaching out to someone who is struggling. When we strive to share Jesus’ love and care with others, we are making Jesus known to them through our actions and our concern.
Now ask yourself: who makes Jesus known to you? Today I invite you to be mindful of the small yet wondrous gifts of care and love that the people in your life share with you. Give thanks for the goodness and love. Give thanks for the goodness and love of Jesus!
Monday, May 18, 2015
Mark 16:29-33 – 7th Week of Easter
In the Gospel reading for today Jesus continues his preparation of the disciples for His departure from them and from this world. The disciples believe that they completely understand what Jesus is talking about. However, Jesus says to them: “Do you truly believe?”
Jesus then predicts that the time will come when they will be so afraid that they will scatter and desert him. And despite their protestations, Jesus realizes that ultimately he will end up alone. His disciples do not have a clue about what will happen. They truly believe that they would never desert Jesus. Yet, when the time came and the threat was dire, most all of them scattered!
Jesus knows his disciples well. He does know and believe that they truly do love him. He has no doubt about that. However, he also understands that they are human. And when the threat is serious and possibly lethal, they will be terrified and will flee. The gift is that despite the reality that most of his disciples will leave him, Jesus is at peace. Jesus has “the Father” and Jesus deeply trusts and knows that His Father will never leave him!
Do we believe that God our Father/Mother will never leave us? In the midst of turmoil, do we have some peace and assurance that we will come through this situation, believing as we do that God/Jesus or the Spirit is with us? If we are able to trust this, our belief will strengthen us and thus enable us to truly know and understand that we are never, ever alone!
Jesus wants us to have peace. Peace is a small, six-letter word. Yet the gift of peace is indescribable and invaluable. If we truly desire peace, Jesus will gift us with this special grace! The question is: will we ask for this gift?
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Mark 17:11b-19 – 7th Sunday of Easter
In today’s Gospel Jesus is concerned about his apostles. Jesus realizes that soon He will be leaving them. He loves his disciples deeply and He wants to do all He can to ensure their safety and protection. Thus Jesus prays to His Father and asks God to keep His loved ones “in your name.” Jesus hopes and prays that the disciples and God “will be one, just as He and God are one.” Jesus also prays for their protection and He asks that they may share His joy.
Jesus asks God to protect the disciples as He protected them. Jesus did not want any of his disciples to be lost. Jesus had been with these men for three years. They had lived closely together, argued with each other, laughed and enjoyed one another and had come to love one another. The disciples truly had become a family and Jesus wanted to be sure that his family would be protected from any harm and from “being lost to the evil one.”
Think about your family for a moment. If you were seriously ill and knew you soon would be leaving them, what would be your hopes and wishes for them? I am sure you would do all you could to protect and prepare them as best you could. What would you say to your loved ones? What are the values and truths that you hope will be your greatest legacy to your family and loved ones? Do you know what the three most important values are for you? Hopefully faith and trust in God is one of those values you hope to pass on to all those you love. We share our most important values every single day. We live them out each and every day in our actions, choices and behaviors. And if we truly live our values, our loved ones and friends already know what is most important to us.
Today may be a good day to ask ourselves: what are the values I strive to live out every day of my life? Take some time today and reflect on this question. And be open to your inner response. You may be surprised by what you find out about yourself!
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Mark 16:23b-28 – Saturday of the 6th Week of Easter
Today Jesus tells his disciples: “Whatever you ask the Father for in my name, God will give to you.” Now: think back. How many times have you asked God for a grace, a sign or a sense of Jesus’ presence with you? How many times did you receive a clear sense of God’s presence, grace, or the gift you asked for? Yet, today Jesus clearly says: “Whatever you ask God for, if you ask in the name of Jesus, God will give to you.”
The core and power of Jesus’ instruction seems to be that we need to ask in Jesus’ name and not just say: “Hey God! Could you help me out?” Jesus tells us that if we speak God’s name reverently and call upon God from the depths of our hearts, we will receive what we truly need. (However, it may not be what we had hoped for.)
Most of the time I think I know what I “need.” Or perhaps more accurately, I know what I “want.” However, what I may want or desire may not be the most beneficial gift for me. There have been many times when I asked God for a specific gift or grace but I didn’t receive it (at least as I had hoped to experience it).
What does it mean then to “ask in Jesus’ name?” Does it mean simply “dropping Jesus’ name” as you talk with God? Or does “asking in Jesus’ name” imply a depth of intimacy and trust that develops over time in a serious, loving, trusting, and committed relationship?
Jesus knows us intimately. And Jesus desires that we come to know Him intimately also. Today and every day Jesus invites us into an intimate and loving friendship. Jesus doesn’t want us to come to Him only when we “need” something from Him. Rather, Jesus wants us to come to Him because we love Him and we desire to be with Him. This truly is what love and friendship is about!
So: do we want a “vending machine God” that automatically dispenses what we desire when we “push a button?” Or do we desire an intimate friend who loves us unconditionally and wholeheartedly, a friend who will stay with us no matter how many times we disappoint Him? As always, it is our choice! What do we truly desire? Whom do we desire? Only you can answer that question!
Friday, May 15, 2015
Mark 16:20-23 – Friday of the 6th Week of Easter
Take a moment and remember a difficult time in your life. This may have been a time when you experienced an illness, difficult challenges in a relationship or a loss of some sort, be that a loss of a job, a friend or a death of a loved one. What were the emotions you experienced during this time: anger, fear, sadness, grief or loss? Did you have a sense of the presence of God, Jesus or the Spirit with you at this time? Or did you simply feel lost, alone, afraid, or empty?
In today’s reading, Jesus warns his disciples that difficult days will come for them. There will be times when they will weep, mourn and grieve. Yet, there also will be times when their grief will be transformed into joy. To help his disciples understand, Jesus uses the image of a woman who is in labor with her child. Yes, the labor is difficult and the pain excruciating! However, when her child comes forth from the womb, there is no greater joy! A new life has come into the world! A tremendous gift was born from all that pain!
Jesus wants his disciples to know and believe that after their difficult days of his crucifixion and death, new life will come forth for them! Jesus also wants us to know and believe that after our “difficult days,” we also will experience “new life.” We once again will “see him” and experience his presence with us. And we will be able to rejoice when Jesus comes gifting us with new life and hope!
Our part is to trust and be watchful and alert to his coming. However, this often is easier said than done. We may “know” Jesus will come again. However, when life is difficult and painful, we may not have the ability to trust that new life and hope will ever return to us. Often the journey to new life is long, barren and arduous. However, if we truly trust Jesus, we will stay on the journey with him despite the difficulty and the pain!
How great is our trust in Jesus, especially when we don’t “see” Him or experience His presence? Yet, the reality is: Jesus is always with us! And today Jesus is certain to come to us! Will our minds, eyes and hearts be open to his coming? He will come! However, we have to be awake and alert! Will we choose to “stay awake” until He comes?
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Mark 16:15-20 - Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
This reading from the Gospel of Mark begins with Jesus sending his disciples forth. Jesus is “missioning” his disciples to go out into the “whole” world and proclaim the Gospel to all creatures, not just human creatures. He also tells them that they not only will preach and teach, there also will be “signs.” The disciples will have the ability to drive out demons and speak many languages! They also will be able to heal the people who are ill!
Suddenly Jesus was taken from their sight into heaven. Mark writes that Jesus “took his seat” at the right hand of God. What a loss for the disciples! Yet they had been given a great call and gift! They were to continue Jesus’ ministry. They were to preach and teach in his name!
Jesus also has called us to continue his mission and ministry. We are to teach! We are to preach! And most importantly, we are to live as Jesus lived! We are to love as deeply as Jesus loved! And we are to share the wealth of our gifts, talents and abundance as Jesus did. Today may we be mindful that we are walking in Jesus’ footsteps. May we pray that we will be a worthy follower of Jesus!
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
John 16:12-15 – Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
This Gospel begins with Jesus telling his disciples that there is much more for him to tell them. However, Jesus realizes that they are striving to absorb and understand what he had been saying. He understood that at this point, they did not have the capacity to absorb anything more.
However, Jesus reminds them that when the Spirit comes, the Spirit will guide them to all the truth. He tells them that the Spirit will speak to them about the things that will come in the future. Then Jesus not only foretells his departure, he says that in the future he will return but in a new and different way!
Just as Jesus reassured his disciples, Jesus also reassures us. Today he also is telling us, that he not only will come to us but he already is among us! Jesus comes to us in the breaking of the bread! And when we, his followers, are gathered together, Jesus is with us and among us!
Do we recognize Jesus with us? Do we experience his presence, his love, his grace? Today may our minds and hearts be awake and alert to his coming! We don’t want to miss him! What a loss that would be!
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
John 16:5-11 – Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Today Jesus is preparing his disciples for his “leave-taking.” As the time for Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit draws near, Jesus begins to prepare his disciples for his leave-taking. Today’s Gospel begins in the middle of the conversation that Jesus was having with his disciples. He tells his followers that he is going to the “One who sent Him.”
Jesus knew that his disciples were struggling with the reality of having to let him go. They had been with him for a long time and they depended on him. What would they do without Jesus? They had left their homes and families to follow Him! The thought of Jesus no longer being with them was more than they could grasp or imagine. Jesus quickly reassures them. True, he will no longer be with them, however, he promises never to leave them alone. He tells them that he will send the Advocate to them. Jesus tells them that it will be better for them if he does leave them. If he stays with them, the Spirit will not come to them.
Imagine what the disciples were thinking and feeling as Jesus talked about leaving them. They had been with him for three years. They had left their families and homes to follow Him. He was their leader and their teacher. The disciples simply could not imagine their lives without Jesus. If He was no longer with them, what would they do?
Ask yourself: what would you do if Jesus was not in your life? Would you miss Him? Or would you even notice his absence? What would you lose if Jesus was not present to you? Seriously, how would his absence affect you? It can become easy to take Jesus’ presence to us for granted. Ask yourself: how would your life and my life be different if Jesus was not present with us? Would we even notice his absence? Yet he promises to always be with us!
Today may we thank Jesus for his faithful love and presence in our lives! It is so easy to take this great gift for granted. May we have open eyes and hearts for the coming of Jesus into our lives today. Be awake and alert! He will come! More accurately: he is already with us!
Monday, May 11, 2015
John 15:26-16:4a – Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
This Gospel begins with Jesus continuing his conversation with his disciples. He tells them that he will send an “Advocate” to them from his Father. This Advocate will be the Spirit of Truth. Jesus also tells his disciples that the “Advocate” will testify to Jesus. And in turn, the disciples will go forth and testify to others and to the world.
I wonder what the disciples thought when Jesus told them that they would be changing the world by their testimony? Did they think this would be grand and glorious? Did they wonder if they would become famous? However, Jesus quickly dispels any illusions of greatness or glory. Jesus warns them that they will be persecuted for their testimony. They also will be expelled from the synagogues and even might be put to death! Can you imagine how the disciples reacted to Jesus’ words? Were they frightened? Or did they feel empowered? Was their commitment and love for Jesus so deep and strong that they were determined to follow him even if they might be persecuted or possibly be put to death?
How committed are we to Jesus? Most likely we will not be hung on a wooden cross! However, if we choose to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, we also may have to deal with criticism, judgment or perhaps even persecution of one sort or another. Sad to say, our world today is not much different from the world Jesus lived in. Just listen to the morning or evening news. In many cities, typically there are reports of crimes, shootings, etc. Rarely is there “good news” on the morning or evening news.
If we want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, today may we strive to be attentive to the “good news” in our lives and in our world. Perhaps we can create some “good news” by brightening someone’s day. Who knows? If we strive to bring “good news” to our home, town, world, perhaps this practice will “go viral” and become contagious!
Jesus brought “good news” to his world and his message is preached daily, hundreds of years after his death! We also may have an impact as we share “the good news.” After all, we have nothing to lose by trying!
Sunday, May 10, 2015
John 15:9-17 – Sunday of the Sixth Week of Easter
The Scripture scholars who put together the cycle of readings for the daily readings must have thought we need to hear this passage from John once again. We heard this portion of this passage from John this past Thursday and Friday. However, it may be important that we listen and reflect on these words once again. Do you remember what your thoughts were on this passage a few days ago?
Today I invite you to slowly reread this passage and then choose one word or phrase that speaks to you or draws your attention. Then take some time to quietly sit with those words for a few moments. In the quiet, have an open mind and heart and wait patiently. Let your word or phrase speak to you. Try not to “think” too much. Rather, listen with your heart!
After a time, ask yourself: what is this word or phrase saying to me? Jesus is speaking to you in these few short words. What do you hear him saying to you? Listen with an open mind and heart for 5-10 minutes. Jesus will speak but it may not be in words! Simply listen! Be patient!
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter — John 15:18-21
This Gospel’s opening words are a bit startling. Jesus once again is talking with his disciples about the world. He tells them: “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first.” In this passage, Jesus is using the word “world” to describe the people who reject Him and who will persecute Jesus and his followers.
Jesus also tells the disciples that they do not belong to the “world.” And most likely, the “world” will hate them because they do not belong to the world of the Pharisees. Rather, Jesus has chosen them out of the world to follow him and his example. The path of following Jesus is a difficult one. Are we truly ready to truly follow him? This is more than simply giving “lip service” to his teachings. If we consciously choose to follow Jesus, we may have to make difficult choices and in that process, we may alienate some of the people in our lives.
“Following Jesus” sounds very romantic and holy. However, following Jesus may be a difficult journey at times. If we choose to wholeheartedly follow Jesus, most likely we also will experience rejection or perhaps even hate. Jesus clearly was countercultural in his society. Are we willing to follow Jesus rather than the “crowd?” Are we prepared to truly be countercultural in our beliefs and choices? Are we willing to deal with anger, rejection or alienation if we make choices to do what is truly loving and kind? Do we trust Jesus to walk with us, strengthen and grace us?
The “world” is not an easy place to live. Each day we have the opportunity to make a variety of choices. Today will we choose to follow the crowd and simply do what is expected of us? Or will we choose to follow Jesus and act as Jesus would act? Only we can choose. What will we do?
Friday, May 8, 2015
Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter — John 15:12-17
Today Jesus tells us to love one another as He loved us. Wow! That is quite a mandate! Is Jesus telling us to “give our all” as He did? Jesus loved us so deeply that He was willing to die for us! What a tremendous gift He gave us. The question for us is: are we willing to “die” for one another?
Jesus asks us to “die” for one another. Jesus does not literally mean we are to “die.” Yet, when we give fully and freely of ourselves to the people in our lives, in a sense, we are dying to ourselves. We are putting others first, rather than ourselves. We freely give of our time, attention, care and love. Is there a better gift we can give to the people we love and cherish? What better gift can we give to our world?
Take a moment and ask yourself: who are the people who “die” for you? What are the gifts you receive from them: love, attention, care, a phone call, interest or help when you need it? Could there be any better gifts to receive? Yet, we often take these seemingly “small” gifts for granted. I invite you to take a few moments this evening and consciously remember the “gifts” you received today. Then remember the people who gifted you! Give thanks to God (and perhaps to them) for their presence in your life!
Jesus also has appointed each of us to “go and bear fruit.” Today and every day, may we follow in Jesus’ footsteps!
Thursday, May 7, 2015
John 15:9-11 – Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
This Gospel is very brief: only 3 verses. Yet it is a powerful and loving reading. Jesus tells us that He loves us as deeply as His Father loves Him. Think about that for moment. Who are the people you love most deeply: your spouse, your children, your parents or a very good friend?
Now choose one person you care deeply about and ask yourself: What does that person mean to me? What are the gifts s/he shares with me? Truly, love is the greatest gift on the face of this earth! If we are not loved or if we believe that we are not loved, we truly are lost and alone. How horrific that must be!
Yet love is something that we often take for granted. And how sad that is. Jesus said: “The greatest gifts are Faith, Hope and Love.” If we do not have these gifts in our lives to some degree, we truly are lost and alone. Can you imagine your life without love? What a horrendous life that would be, having no one in your life who loves you and cares about you!
We human beings were created with a great capacity to love and a need to be loved. The gift is that there are many kinds of love: love of a husband and wife for each other, love of parents for their children, love for our parents, siblings, family members, and neighbors, and friendship and spiritual friendship.
Jesus not only loves us with all his heart, He desires that we also love others deeply. We were created for love and love sustains us. Today I invite you to sit down and think about the people you love (and who hopefully love you). What are the gifts they give you? What is the joy they bring into your life? Do they know how much you love and appreciate them and their presence in your life? Today may be a good time to let them know how much they mean to you. They are a gift! And you are blessed!
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
John 15:9-11 – Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Today we hear the familiar passage of the “vine and the branches.” Jesus tells us that He is the true vine and God, His Father, is the vine grower. Jesus says that God cuts off every branch that does not bear fruit. As for the branches that are bearing fruit, God prunes them so they will produce even more fruit.
Being pruned is not a comfortable process for human beings. Yet, we all have been pruned at times in our lives. It may have been a difficult time in your family, a serious illness or the loss of a job, financial problems or the loss of status. Pruning in and of itself is painful and difficult. In the process of being pruned, we may lose parts of ourselves that we don’t want to let go of. Yet the purpose of pruning is to enable new life to grow. We all know this is true. However, we most often do not like the pain or loss that is an intrinsic part of the process of being pruned.
Take a moment and remember a time in your life when you experienced being pruned. It may have been the loss of a job, an illness in your family, the loss of someone you loved, either to death or divorce or separation, or the loss of esteem. How have you been pruned? Take a moment and remember that time.
How did this experience of being pruned affect you? Did it make you examine your life, your faith, your trust in others or perhaps even your trust in God? How did you react to the pruning: with trust, anger, disillusionment or hope? Did you remain close to God during this time? Or did you distance yourself from God? Did you blame God for allowing this to happen to you?
Pruning can be extremely painful. However, do we trust that new life and growth will emerge with time? God does not deliberately prune us. Life prunes us. We have a choice: we can blame God and distance ourselves from God. Or we can strive to trust that God is with us. However, this is not easy when life is “hell.” However, if we do not stay connected to God or Jesus, we truly will be lost!
As always, we have a choice: to trust that God/Jesus is with us and believe that in time, there will be “good” that will emerge from this pruning. Are we willing to trust God? Today may we pray for one another to trust and believe that God is at work in us, even if we don’t feel it or see any fruits. Wondrous gifts can come from the most horrible times in our lives, if we are open to receiving them!
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
John 14:27-31a – Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Today we hear eleven short words from Jesus. Yet in those few words, we receive a powerful message and a loving gift from Jesus. Peace is a short and simple word. Yet the gift of peace is a great treasure.
Take a moment and remember one of the most peaceful times in your life. It may have been after your wedding or the birth of a baby. Or perhaps it simply was a time in your life when all was well. Even when life is difficult, we still are able to experience moments of peace. It may be sitting quietly. Or perhaps when you are playing with your children or grandchildren. It might be moments in nature when you are surrounded by the beauty and emerging life of spring.
Peace is not something we can manufacture for ourselves. However, we can make choices that help bring us peace. It may be the practice of prayer or talking with a spouse, friend or a counselor. Or it simply may be enjoying nature, being with your family, listening to music or simply rocking in a rocking chair or perhaps when you are quiet and praying.
Peace is a gift from Jesus. And as with any gift, we can choose to accept the gift, neglect the gift or refuse the gift. Jesus longs to gift us with peace! Today will we accept His gift? Will we open our minds and our hearts to this great gift? Jesus is waiting for us!
Monday, May 4, 2015
Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter — John 14:21-26
Jesus tells us that whoever observes His commandments is the one who loves Him. And all who love Jesus will be loved by Him and His Father. What more could we ask for? Love is the greatest gift on the face of this earth. We may have money, influence, good health and many other good things. However, if we are not loved, truly we are among the poorest on this earth.
For human beings, unconditional love is the greatest gift to give and to receive. The wonderful thing is that we human beings do love unconditionally. Think of a parent’s love for their child. Even through struggles and difficulties, parents continue to love their children and want only the best for them. However, sad to say, there also may be times in our lives when there may be conditions on the gift of our love. The wondrous thing is: with God, Jesus and the Spirit, there is only pure and unconditional love. No matter what we do or how we act, their love for us never diminishes. Their love for us flows unceasingly.
We human beings have more difficulty with unconditional love. Yet, in moments of grace, we also are able to love another unconditionally. What a great gift to give and to receive. Truly, there is no greater love!
Today may we strive to imitate the free and unconditional love of God, Jesus and the Spirit. What a wondrous gift to share! Also be thankful when you receive this wonderful gift. Don’t forget to thank them! Then may we go forth and share our unconditional love with our family, friends and even strangers!
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Fifth Sunday of Easter Sunday – John 15:1-8
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the image of the vine and the branches. This is a familiar parable to us. Jesus tells his disciples that he, Jesus, is the “true” vine and his Father is the vine grower. And if his Father is the vine grower, He is responsible for growing good grapes that will make good quality wine. Jesus also says that the vine grower will prune us. Painful as this seems, this pruning will enable us to bear more fruit.
However, who wants to be pruned? Do you? For myself, I don’t like it when I am being pruned! Typically, pruning entails loss and pain. Personally, I prefer to be left alone. However, if I am not pruned, the consequence is that I will not bear good fruit.
Life prunes us all the time. And most often, we do not like the pruning. Being pruned is typically painful and difficult. Yet, after a period of time, we may come to realize that this pruning has enabled us to bear fruit in new and different ways. We also may begin to experience the new life that has come from our pruning. We may have grown and changed for the better!
The vine grower recognizes when the vines need to be pruned. And the vine grower also realizes that better fruit will grow because the vine has been pruned. Do we trust our “vine grower?” Do we trust that God only desires goodness, happiness and abundant fruit for us? Hopefully our answer is yes! True, it does not take away the pain of being pruned. Most often “being pruned” is difficult. However, if we trust our vine grower and believe that growth and plenty will come from the pruning, we will bear abundant fruit in our lives.
Today and always may we trust our Vine grower. He only desires what is best for us. And He will prune us in a gentle and loving way!
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter – John 14:7-14
This week we have continuous readings from the Gospel of John. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling his disciples that if they know him, they also know his Father. Jesus then tells them that when they see Him, they also see his Father!
Philip then speaks up and asks Jesus to “show” them his Father. Then they will believe in what Jesus is saying! Jesus is deeply disappointed that Philip cannot or will not trust his word. Philip wanted proof. He needed to “see” the Father himself. Then and only then would he believe! Jesus sharply reprimands Philip. He says to Philip: “you have been with me for a very long time, yet you do not believe what I say?”
Jesus must have been deeply disappointed in Philip and his need for proof. Philip had been with him for a long time but clearly he still did not completely believe or trust Jesus. He wanted to see the proof for himself. What a disappointment this must have been for Jesus. After all their time together, did Philip and the other disciples still not understand who he was? What would it take to for them to believe and understand?
How often do we ask Jesus for proof? At times, we also want Jesus to send us a sign that clearly he is with us! Then we will “know.” Faith and trust are difficult in our human relationships and perhaps even more so in our relationship with God! At least, with human beings we can see, hear and talk with them. We see their facial expressions and their body language. These alone communicate volumes of information to us.
However, we can neither see Jesus, God nor the Holy Spirit. To “believe” without proof is difficult for most human beings. We have the old saying: “the proof is in the pudding.” I assume that most of us like to see and taste our “pudding.” Then we will believe! However, Jesus desires that we believe and trust without “seeing” Him. We can choose to believe in Jesus and trust in his love and care for us. Or we can wander through life without an anchor, without anyone greater than ourselves to believe in.
Belief and trust in Jesus is challenging, especially during difficult and trying times. At these times, I want and need to have a tangible sense that Jesus is with me. And every once in awhile, I am given a sign of some sort! However, most times I simply have to trust that Jesus is with me. This is not easy. However, when I am able to trust that Jesus is present with me, then I do have more strength and hope. These gifts of trust, hope and strength enable me to open my mind and heart to “seeing” Jesus!
Today may we ask Jesus to grace us with these gifts. Most of all, may we trust Jesus to gift us with all we need. Jesus is present with us every moment of every day, always strengthening and gracing us! However, we need to be awake and alert to His presence! Otherwise, we will miss Him!
Friday, May 1, 2015
Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter – John 14:1-6
Today Jesus tells his disciples (and all of us): “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Take a moment and check the condition of your heart. Is your heart troubled in any way? If so, what are you concerned or worried about? Have you taken your concern to Jesus? What are you holding in your mind and heart?
Jesus tells us to have faith in God and also to have faith in Him. Do we truly have faith in God, Jesus and the Spirit? If so, how deep and real is our faith? Do we truly believe that Jesus is with us every moment of our day? Is our faith a “daily” faith? Or do we have a “Sunday” faith? Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? Or do we turn to Jesus only when we are struggling and have a need?
Jesus longs for us to come to Him, to turn to Him. He longs to have a deeply personal relationship with us. Jesus loves us and desires to be in communion with us. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: how great is my desire to be in communion with Jesus? Jesus longs to strengthen us and grace us but we have to have open minds and receptive hearts to Him and His presence.
Today may we take any troubles, concerns or fears that we have to Jesus. Jesus will walk with us, strengthen us, heal us and gladden our hearts. Jesus truly is our “Way, Truth and Life.” The question for us is: will we choose to walk daily with Him? He is waiting for us! Will we choose to walk daily to Him?