Fourth Sunday of Easter 2022

May 8, 2022

invite

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our three readings make one thing very clear – we are ALL invited to membership in the Body of Christ. We are ALL welcome in the Beloved Community.

In our first reading,  Paul and Barnabas preach to Jews, converts to Judaism and to Gentiles – to the effect that:

All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.

Acts 13:48

In our second reading:

John, had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb.

Revelation 2:9

And in our Gospel, Jesus says:

My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

John 10:27


These readings describe the family of God to which every human being has been given entrance through the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Think about that: 

  • when you look into people’s eyes today
  • when you see their stories on the news
  • when you people-watch at the airport or the mall
  • when you drive by a cemetery where lives are remembered in stone 
  • when you look at your children, your friends, your foes
  • when you take that last look in the mirror tonight before you fall asleep

This person has been invited, with me, to the family of God. How might that thought influence my choices and actions each day?

All of us – ALL OF US- are welcome; all of us, equally loved.


Poetry: O Shepherd of Souls – Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)

O Shepherd of souls
and o first voice
through whom all creation was summoned,
now to you,
to you may it give pleasure and dignity
to liberate us
from our miseries and languishing.

Music: Come Worship the Lord – John Michael Talbot

Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia
Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia

And come, let us sing to the Lord
And shout with joy to the rock who saves us
Let us come with thanksgiving 
And sing joyful songs to the Lord

Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia
Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia

The Lord is God, the mighty God
The great King o’er all other gods
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
And the highest mountains as well
He made the sea, it belongs to him
The dry land too, was formed by his hand

Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia
Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia

Come, let us bow down and worship
Bending the knee for the Lord our maker
For we are his people
We are the flock that he shepherds

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

May 7, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Peter is a headliner in both our readings.

Peter

I really love Peter. Can’t we relate to him on so many levels as he stumbles and shines through his growing relationship with Jesus? 

Some of my best prayers with Peter have been:

  • when he tries to walk on water to meet Jesus in the sea

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Mk.14:28


  • when he gets slammed for trying to stop Jesus from talking about his death

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Far be it from You, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to You!” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me!” Mt. 13:41


  • when his name is changed to Rock and he’s foretold his future

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Mt. 16:18


  • when he cowers in denial outside Jesus’s trial

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mk. 14:72


  • when he recognizes the Resurrected Jesus on the shore and swims to him

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. Jn.21:7


In today’s first reading, we see Peter in his full authority as the Vicar of Christ.

Jn6_68 shall we go

In our Gospel, we see Peter’s unequivocal confession of faith, voiced for the Church, voiced for all of us:

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”


Let’s take whatever piece of Peter is in us today
and lay it at the feet of Jesus
in our own confession of faith and hope.

Poetry: Simon Peter – John Poch


There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Yes, four which I do not understand.
The way of an eagle in the air,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the heart of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid

–Prov. 30:18, 19

                              I
Contagious as a yawn, denial poured
over me like a soft fall fog, a girl
on a carnation strewn parade float, waving
at everyone and no one, boring and bored
There actually was a robed commotion parading.
I turned and turned away and turned. A swirl

of wind pulled back my hood, a fire of coal
brightened my face, and those around me whispered:
You’re one of them, aren’t you? You smell like fish.
And wine, someone else joked. That’s brutal. That’s cold,
I said, and then they knew me by my speech.
They let me stay and we told jokes like fisher-
men and houseboys. We gossiped till the cock crowed,
his head a small volcano raised to mock stone.

                              II
Who could believe a woman’s word, perfumed
in death? I did. I ran and was outrun
before I reached the empty tomb. I stepped
inside an empty shining shell of a room,
sans pearl. I walked back home alone and wept
again. At dinner. His face shone like the sun.

I went out into the night. I was a sailor
and my father’s nets were calling. It was high tide,
I brought the others. Nothing, the emptiness
of business, the hypnotic waves of failure.
But a voice from shore, a familiar fire, and the nets
were full. I wouldn’t be outswum, denied
this time. The coal-fire before me, the netted fish
behind. I’m carried where I will not wish.


Music:  Lord, to Whom Shall We Go? – Carolyn Arends

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

May 6, 2022

Dali
Institution of the Eucharist: Salvador Dali

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel is serious business. In it, Jesus reveals the lynchpin of our sacramental faith.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.

John 6: 53-54

It is a stark and shocking statement. The listening Jews “quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?’.”

Down through the ages, struggling believers have grappled with the same question. Or, perhaps less preferable, complacent believers have never even considered it.

I think Jesus wanted us to consider it, absorb it, be changed by it, live within it, because “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.”


As Catholics, we believe that Christ is truly and fully present in Eucharist and that, by Communion, becomes fully present in us, the Church.

When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”. This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. This is the faith from which generations of Christians down the ages have lived.
(ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, Encyclical of John Paul II)


For me, it is a truth only appreciated when approached with more than the mind. It must be apprehended with the heart and soul. God so loves us in the person of Jesus Christ that God chooses to be eternally present with us, and in us, through the gift of Eucharist.

Praying with this truth over the years has led me to read authors like Edward Schillebeeckx (Christ the sacrament of the Encounter with God), Diarmuid O’Murchu (Quantum Theology), and Pierre Teilhard De Chardin (Hymn of the Universe).

deChardin

Me in my First Communion Dress
– and my handsome little brother

Still, despite all the Eucharistic theology, every time I receive the Eucharist, I let this simple hymn play in my heart – one I learned for my First Holy Communion. It still unites my heart to my desired faith which is, at once, both cosmic and intimate.


Poetry: “On the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar” by St Robert Southwell

Saint Robert Southwell (1561 – 1595) was an English Roman Catholic priest of the Jesuit Order. He was also a poet, hymnodist, and clandestine missionary in Elizabethan England. After being arrested and imprisoned in 1592, and intermittently tortured and questioned by Richard Topcliffe, Southwell was eventually tried and convicted of high treason for his links to the Holy See. On 21 February 1595, Father Southwell was hanged at Tyburn. In 1970, he was canonized by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. (Wikipedia)

His poetry, written in Early Modern English, demonstrates deep devotion to the Eucharist. Although most of us can interpret the English of the 16th century, the translation below is modernized for convenience. It’s a long poem, but it is well worth your time.


“On the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar” by St. Robert Southwell
From The Poems of Robert Southwell, S.J. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967),
edited by Fr James H. McDonald and Nancy Pollard Brown

In paschal feast the end of ancient rite
An entrance was to never ending grace,
Tips to the truth, dim glasses to the light,
Performing deed presaging signs did chase,
Christ's final meal was fountain of our good:
For mortal meat he gave immortal food.
That which he gave he was, O peerless gift,
Both God and man he was, and both he gave,
He in his hands himself did truly live:
Far off they see whom in themselves they have.
Twelve did he feed, twelve did their feeder eat,
He made, he dressed, he gave, he was their meat.
They saw, they heard, they felt him sitting near,
Unseen, unfelt, unheard, they him receiv'd,
No diverse thing though diverse it appear,
Though senses fail, yet faith is not deceiv'd.
And if the wonder of the work be new,
Believe the work because his word is true.
Here truth belief, belief inviteth love,
So sweet a truth love never yet enjoy'd,
What thought can think, what will doth best approve
Is here obtain'd where no desire is void.
The grace, the joy, the treasure here is such
No wit can with nor will embrace so much.
Self-love here cannot crave more than it finds,
Ambition to no higher worth aspire,
The eagerest famine of most hungry minds
May fill, yea far exceed their own desire:
In sum here is all in a sum express'd,
Of much the most, of every good the best.
To ravish eyes here heavenly beauties are,
To win the ear sweet music's sweetest sound,
To lure the taste the angels' heavenly fare,
To soothe the scent divine perfumes abound,
To please the touch he in our hearts doth bed,
Whose touch doth cure the deaf, the dumb, the dead.
Here to delight the wit true wisdom is,
To woo the will of every good the choice,
For memory a mirror shewing bliss,
Here all that can both sense and soul rejoice:
And if to all all this it do not bring,
The fault is in the men, not in the thing.
Though blind men see no light, the Sun doth shine,
Sweet cates are sweet, though fevered tastes deny it,
Pearls precious are, though trodden on by swine,
Each truth is true, though all men do not try it:
The best still to the bad doth work the worst,
Things bred to bliss do make them more accurst.
The angels' eyes whom veils cannot deceive
Might best disclose that best they do discern,
Men must with sound and silent faith receive
More than they can by sense or reason learn:
God's power our proofs, his works our wit exceed,
The doer's might is reason of His deed.
A body is endow'd with ghostly rights,
A nature's work from nature's law is free,
In heavenly Sun lie hidden eternal lights,
Lights clear and near yet them no eye can see,
Dead forms a never-dying life do shroud,
A boundless sea lies in a little cloud.

The God of Hosts in slender host doth dwell,
Yea God and man, with all to either due:
That God that rules the heavens and rifled hell,
That man whose death did us to life renew,
That God and man that is the angels’ bliss,
In form of bread and wine our nurture is.

Whole may his body be in smallest bread,
Whole in the whole, yea whole in every crumb,
With which be one or ten thousand fed
All to each one, to all but one doth come,
And though each one as much as all receive,
Not one too much, nor all too little have.
One soul in man is all in every part,
One face at once in many mirrors shines,
One fearful noise doth make a thousand start,
One eye at once of countless things defines:
If proofs of one in many nature frame,
God may in stranger sort perform the same.
God present is at once in every place,
Yet God in every place is ever one,
So may there be by gifts of ghostly grace
One man in many rooms yet filling none.
Sith angels may effects of bodies shew,
God angels' gifts on bodies may bestow.
What God as auctor made he alter may,
No change so hard as making all of nought:
If Adam framed was of slimy clay,
Bread may to Christ's most sacred flesh be wrought.
He may do this that made with mighty hand
Of water wine, a snake of Moses' wand.

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

May 5, 2022

philip
unless

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, in our reading from Acts, we meet the Ethiopian eunuch who served the country’s Queen. The man was sitting in a chariot reading the prophet Isaiah. Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” Philip’s instruction results in this faith-filled man’s Baptism.

It’s a bible story I’ve loved since I was a novice and read the excellent book by Alexander Jones, “Unless Some Man Show Me”.  That long-ago era in my life was a time when Vatican II opened up to the faithful the power and beauty of scriptural study and prayer.

The 1960s were a wonderful time to be committing myself to a life-long spiritual journey. Over the next few years, I devoured the published documents of Vatican II which included the one on sacred scripture, the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (“Dei Verbum”).

Here’s a great description of the document.



Before Vatican II, like many Catholics, I had had limited experience with scripture. Mainly, we had it read to us at Mass. We had a Bible in my childhood home, but we used it mainly to record familial births and deaths inside the front cover.

Part of the reason for this scriptural vacuum was the long-held belief that most Christians were not theologically astute enough to interpret scripture on their own. Vatican II initiated a blessed change in that perception.


JB

In 1966, the same Alexander Jones, in the company of 27 colleagues, edited the magnificent Jerusalem Bible. My parents gave me this revered book as a gift for my Religious Profession and it has accompanied my prayer for more than a half-century. 

Reading the phrase in Acts today, “unless someone show me”, brought the whole sacred journey back to me. 

I offer this brief reminiscence to confirm how precious and important it is to build our prayer life on scripture. It is also important to educate ourselves continually by reading good commentary and spirituality. Such thinkers are like Philip in today’s passage. They are the ones who will “show” us, opening to us new understandings for our prayer.


  1. Walter Brueggemann 
  2. Elizabeth Johnson
  3. Thelma Hall
  4. Macrina Wiederkehr 
  5. Raymond Brown
  6. Brother David Steindl-Rast 
  7. Sandra Schneiders
  8. Margaret Farley
  9. Matthew Fox
  10. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I would love for some of you
(even though you are a shy audience)  
to list some of your biblical and spiritual guides
in the comment section, if you feel so inclined.



Poetry: Give Me a Name – Emily Ruth Hazel, a New York City-based poet and writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Magnolia: A Journal of Women’s Socially Engaged Literature, Kinfolks: A Journal of Black Expression, and Ruminate Magazine. In 2014, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship to develop a full-length poetry book manuscript during a residency at The Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences.


The way home is a desolate road
through the desert. Only my driver and I
roll through the noonday heat. Ahead of us,
the air shimmers. Then out of a cloud
of dust, a man runs up behind us.
He calls out, Who are you reading?
A poet’s vision unfurls in my lap.
I’m thirsty for company, someone to walk
between these lines with me,
clear a path through my own wilderness.
The stranger says he’s well acquainted
with this writer. If he knows who I am,
he doesn’t let on. He climbs in
and we plunge beneath the words.
Whose story is this, anyway?
The one who takes a vow of silence,
an outcast whose most loyal friend is
heartache—is this a portrait of the poet
or of another? I hold the words like water
in my palms, my face reflected in them.
Back in Jerusalem, I was an unexpected guest
in God’s house. There I was dark enough
that I’d never pass as a native.
In a land of divided rooms,
neither side claims me.
Smooth chinned, voice unchanged,
even among my own, I am always other.
My educated tongue surprises.
I read the way my people envy
and despise me in the same blink.
The jewel of Ethiopia, our warrior queen,
trusts me with the nation’s treasure.
But power of the purse came with a price.
Still a boy when I was taught my body
could not be trusted, I was like a lamb
that hears the metal scraping
hot against the stone. When they came for me,
my gut churned. A boulder sealed
my throat. Only mangled moans escaped.
They carved me into a loyal servant
ashamed of my own voice.
Deep in my chest liquid rage
threatened to erupt. I tried to swallow
the unspeakable. Learned to amputate
everything I felt. Any part of me that trembled
was a danger best denied.
All the boys I knew marched into manhood
believing courage hung between their legs.
But I’m my mother’s child.
Long after the men who tore me from my home
washed my blood off their blade,
I remembered my mother
had shown me how to be brave.
Wherever I go, I’m described by my difference,
defined by what I cannot do or be, haunted by
echoes of violence known but unnamed.
Never to look into a young face and recognize
my likeness, I’m tired of being seen
as an absence, a shadow that merely calls
attention to what is touched by light.
Here in this barren place, riding with
a stranger, I feel like I belong.
The wheels of my world slow to a stop.
I step out of the story I’ve been told
must be mine. The man I’ve just met
stands beside me as we wade into a river.
He holds my shoulders. Dips me
into the muddy water. Not as I was held down
years ago. This time, I’ve chosen
to be held. I feel the muscles in my back
relax against his arm. Memory stirs,
half-awake: my mother’s gentle hands
bathe me as a baby.
Raised up again, my body breaks
the surface. Bright sky overwhelms.
Boulder rolled away, my tongue
unguarded now. Laughing and coughing,
mouth full of water and silt and suddenly a song
in a language I’ve never heard.
God of the unsung, God of the present
and the missing, God who translates
phantom pain, who holds the map of all
my scars, may this body be your temple.
Some say my branches died before they bloomed,
water too precious to be wasted on me.
Don’t let me wither under the blistering sun,
cursed for bearing no fruit.
If I can offer shelter to someone called
to walk a lonely road, maybe that’s enough.
God of the forgotten, God of the never begotten,
will my story, at least, outlive me?
Give me a name worth remembering,
a name that will never be cut off.

Music:  Thy Word – Amy Grant

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

May 4, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel gives us the sense of Jesus claiming his inheritance from the Father.

He makes it clear that the Father’s Will is the Redemption of all Creation. This is the divine charge given to Jesus. This is his mission.

Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.

John 6:37-38
Jn6_37

Jesus continues to use the symbol of bread to teach the forming community. 

Bread sustains life.
God’s Word is eternal life.


Sharing bread is an act of community.
In the Body of Christ, we are made One with God
and with one another.


Bread can stale and disintegrate.
Within the Body of Christ, we become eternal 
and will be raised up unto the Last Day.


These are such BIG thoughts, amazing teachings! I always wonder how simple shepherds, milk maidens, fishermen and housekeepers were supposed to understand! I wonder how we, in our human limitations, could begin to comprehend the infinitely loving design of God revealed in Jesus Christ!

And I think that’s just the thing — we will never comprehend the Mystery of Jesus’s Presence with us. And we don’t have to!

We will never comprehend a lot of things: love, suffering, time, death, kindness, beauty. Yet we live within and savor these mysteries when we open our hearts in vulnerability to them. They are the dynamisms that can sanctify us!


So it is with the mysteries of our faith. While we can use our minds to explore them, our minds will never comprehend them. Only our hearts and souls can fully receive these mysteries in trust and faith.

For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.

John 6:40

Prose: The Legend of St. Augustine – from augnet.org

The scene is the seashore, where there is a small pool, a little boy with a seashell, and a sandy beach on which St. Augustine, clad in his religious robes, is walking, pondering with difficulty the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. “Father, Son, Holy Spirit; three in one!” he muttered, shaking his head.

As he approached the little boy who was running back and forth between the sea and the pool with a seashell of water, Augustine craned his neck and asked him: “Son, what are you doing?” “Can’t you see?” said the boy. “I’m emptying the sea into this pool!” “Son, you can’t do that!” Augustine countered.

“I will sooner empty the sea into this pool than you will manage to get the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity into your head!” Upon saying that, the boy, who was an angel according to legend, quickly disappeared, leaving Augustine alone with the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.


Music: Tim Janis

Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles

May 3, 2022


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, I am offering a slightly edited edition of last year’s reflection for the Feast. Re-reading it, I thought it had some points worth repeating.

We pray today with Psalm 19 in which the psalmist draws on nature’s beauty to praise God.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day;
    and night to night imparts knowledge.

Psalm 19: 2-3

Psalm 19 is used today to highlight the apostolic work of Philip and James who chose to declare the Gospel by their lives.

We note that these men are no longer called simply “disciples” or learners of the Word. They are now “apostles”, charged with spreading the Word for the benefit of all.

In our Christian vocations, we each are called to live both these aspects of our call. We are continual learners of the faith through our prayer, reading, and listening.  At the same time, we have an apostolic charge to spread the Gospel by the way we live.


This double call was clearly proclaimed through Vatican II in the magnificent document Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.

I remember with great joy how this document, with its companions, released a surge of enthusiastic faith in the People of God when published in the 1960s. Many of us read and re-read our paperback copies of the Documents until they have long since fallen apart.

There is a Kindle edition available, but now when I want to be refreshed by their power, I access them for free on my iPad at the Vatican site:

https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/index.htm


Here is a favorite passage I used today to inform my prayer on this feast of two apostles

Lumen Gentium 
(The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church)
promulgated by Pope Paul VI

The laity are gathered together in the People of God and make up the Body of Christ under one head. Whoever they are they are called upon, as living members, to expend all their energy for the growth of the Church and its continuous sanctification, since this very energy is a gift of the Creator and a blessing of the Redeemer.

The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord. Moreover, by the sacraments, especially Holy Eucharist, that charity toward God and our brothers and sisters which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished. Now the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth. Thus every lay person, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon them, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself “according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal”.

Besides this apostolate which certainly pertains to all Christians, the laity can also be called in various ways to a more direct form of cooperation in the apostolate of the Hierarchy. This was the way certain men and women assisted Paul the Apostle in the Gospel, laboring much in the Lord. Further, they have the capacity to assume from the Hierarchy certain ecclesiastical functions, which are to be performed for a spiritual purpose.

Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all persons of each epoch and in every land. Consequently, may every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church.


This morning’s question: 
how am I hearing 
and responding 
to my apostolic call?

Poetry: An Apostle’s Prayer – Edward Henry Bickersteth, Bishop of Exeter (1825-1906)

My God, my Father, let me rest
In the calm sun-glow of Thy face,
Until Thy love in me express’d
Draws others to Thy throne of grace.

O Jesu, Master, let me hold
Such secret fellowship with Thee,
That others, careless once and cold,
Won to my Lord and theirs may be.

Eternal Spirit, heavenly Dove,
The light of life to me impart,
Till fire descending from above
Burns on and on from heart to heart.

O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Still, still may love to love respond;
And teach me, when I love Thee most,
Depths all unfathom’d lie beyond.

Music: The Call – from Five Mystical Songs – Vaughan Williams

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath;
such a truth as ends all strife;
such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast;
such a feast as mends in length;
such a strength as makes a guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move:
such a love as none can part;
such a heart as joys in love.

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

May 2, 2022

For some info on Athanasius,
click the button below.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Acts introduces us to Stephen, so filled with the Holy Spirit that “his face was like the face of an angel”.

Acts6_8 Stephen

Stephen is among the first group of Christians designated as deacons “to serve at table” – in other words, to do the administrative tasks that kept the community whole.

However, Stephen’s gifts went well beyond these services. Acts describes him like this:

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.


For today’s reflection, though, our focus will be John 6 which is the beginning of a week-long journey into the discourse on the Bread of Life (Jn 6:22-71). These passages, going from today until Friday, are like a “faith boot camp” for Jesus’s followers. They contain the core message of who Jesus is and how we are brought into communion with him.


John’s Gospel does not include an account of the Last Supper and institution of the Eucharist. The Bread of Life Discourse is where Jesus proclaims those teachings in John. It is a more detailed instruction and, as we pray with it over the course of the week, we may trace our own past and current awakening in faith.

painting
Limbourg Brothers, Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Jesus Feeding the 5,000 Source Wikimedia Commons

Today’s verses offer very basic training. Jesus has just fed 5000 people in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The crowds, not having a global view of the miracle like we do, are confused. They know they got plenty to eat, but did everybody? They heard many people ate, but they saw only their nearby neighbors. What really happened out on the green field?

Finding Jesus the next day, they are ready for another meal. They’re more interested in matzoh than miracles. Their basic hunger for physical sustenance consumes them. Jesus begins the task of opening their hearts to their deeper hungers and his desire to meet them:

Jesus said,
“You are looking for me
not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

John 6: 26-27
Jn6_27 food

Praying with today’s Gospel, we might ask ourselves some basic questions about our own faith.

  • When we go looking for God, as these hungry people did, what is it that we are looking for?
  • Do we talk to God only when we need something the way these folks needed another loaf or fish?
  • Jesus is inviting us to Eucharist, to Communion with him. To what degree have we opened our hearts to that invitation by our reflective prayer and acts of mercy?

Jesus’s basic message to his flock today is this:

Don’t be satisfied by a tasty roll, a fat fish,
(or a fancy car, a good job, a comfortable life.)
God made you for much more than these things.
Come to Me and feed your deepest hunger.

Maybe, as we pray, we can ask the question posed at end of today’s Gospel and listen intently to Jesus’s answer:

So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”


Poetry: Bread of Life by Malcolm Guite

6: 35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. 
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, 
and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Where to get bread? An ever-pressing question
That trembles on the lips of anxious mothers,
Bread for their families, bread for all these others;
A whole world on the margin of exhaustion.
And where that hunger has been satisfied
Where to get bread? The question still returns
In our abundance something starves and yearns
We crave fulfillment, crave and are denied.
And then comes One who speaks into our needs
Who opens out the secret hopes we cherish
Whose presence calls our hidden hearts to flourish
Whose words unfold in us like living seeds
Come to me, broken, hungry, incomplete,
I Am the Bread of Life, break Me and eat.

Music: Hungry – Kathryn Scott

Third Sunday of Easter

May 1, 2022

Today, in God’s Mercy, Jesus asks Peter an open-ended question, the kind that leaves both parties very vulnerable to the answer:

Do you love me?

Jn21_17

Wow! What if Peter says “No”, or “Sort of” or worse yet, just stares off into the distance in silence? Would that break Jesus’ heart?!

And the question is kind of scary for Peter too. Maybe he’s thinking, “OK, this is it. Jesus wants me to lay it all on the line. Am I ready?” — because, as Jesus says so clearly, the measure of true love is service and sacrifice:

Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”

John 21: 17-19

The Gospel poses questions to each of us today as well:

  • Who and what do I really love?
  • How does my primary love drive my life choices?
  • Are there places in my life that lack love – places where prejudice, blindness, selfishness or hate have filled in the emptiness?
  • How inclusive is my love? How redemptive? How merciful? How Christlike?
  • Where is God in my loves?


Prose: St. John of the Cross wrote this:

At the end of our lives we will be judged on love.
Learn therefore to love God as God wishes to be loved.


Music: Where Charity and Love Prevail – a lovely English translation of Ubi Caritas, written in Gregorian chant.

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter: God’s Breath and Heartbeat

April 30, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings invite us to consider our capacity to trust. Who, what, why and when do we feel that we can trust?


In Acts, we see a beautiful example of the community trusting itself – presenting a concern, having it heard, and coming to a mutual resolution.

As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,

Acts 6: 1-5

What a blessing such a process would be in any community from family, to work, social, and global communities!

But it’s not easy to come by that kind of trust, is it? It has to be proven – accumulated over small and consistent affirmations that such trust is safely given to the other, whoever that might be.


In our Gospel, the disciples’ ability to trust is tested.

When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea,
embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum.
It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.

John 6: 16-17

Jesus walks across the stormy water to meet his frightened disciples. They are afraid of the wind, the night and the wonder of Jesus.


One of my favorite quotes comes from the spiritually gifted Paula D’Arcy:

“Who would I be,
and what power would be expressed in my life,
if I were not dominated by fear.”

If you’re like me, your first inclination is to think, ” Well, I’m not dominated by fear!”

Just wait a minute. I encourage you to think about it. How has, or does, fear hold you back in your life?

As human beings, we harbor many fears even if we pretend to be very brave. We may be afraid of failure, loneliness, responsibility, insignificance, aging, dying or a thousand other things. Essentially, what we most fear is that we might be unloved or unlovable.


Just as he came to the disciples, Jesus comes to us through the night of any fear to prove that we are irrevocably safe in God’s Love. Even in darkness, we are the precious breath and heartbeat of God and cannot be extinguished by our fears.

IMG_5060

Poetry: Trust by Lizette Woodworth Reese, (1856-1935), an American poet and teacher. Born in Maryland, she taught English for almost five decades in the schools of Baltimore. Though Reese was successful in prose as well as in poetry, the latter was her forté. She was named Poet Laureate of Maryland in 1931.


I am thy grass, O Lord!
I grow up sweet and tall
But for a day; beneath Thy sword
To lie at evenfall.

Yet have I not enough
In that brief day of mine?
The wind, the bees, the wholesome stuff
The sun pours out like wine.

Behold, this is my crown;
Love will not let me be;
Love holds me here; Love cuts me down;
And it is well with me.

Lord, Love, keep it but so;
Thy purpose is full plain;
I die that after I may grow
As tall, as sweet again.


Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena

April 29, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we meet Gamaliel, the revered rabbinical teacher and early mentor of St. Paul.

Rembrandt_-_Old_Rabbi_-_WGA19186
The Old Rabbi by Rembrandt

With his patient wisdom, Gamaliel famously intervened  to save Peter and John from the Sanhedrin’s wrath.

“Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men….
…I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

Acts 5: 35-38

Biblical scholars have interpreted Gamaliel’s intervention in various and even contradictory ways. Some see in him a hesitancy which will believe only that which is proven and successful. Others suggest that Gamaliel was already a believer who maintained his Sanhedrin position in order to assist the early Christians. In the Catholic canon, Gamaliel is venerated as a saint whose feastday is August 30.


Thinking about Gamaliel may lead us to the question, “What do I need in order to believe?” 

  • Do I, like the Sanhedrin, need to see proven success?
  • Do I, like some of the crowd fed in today’s Gospel, need miracles?
  • Do I, like the rich young man, need answers to all of my questions?
  • Do I, like Thomas, need to see and touch the Resurrected Christ?

In other words, am I looking for a faith that is a fail-proof blueprint, or is my faith a living journey with Christ, as was Peter’s and John’s?

John4_4 bread word

The Apostles’ faith and trust were so complete that they saw even persecution as evidence of God’s plan and power:

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

Acts 5: 41-42

When we are completely given to God in faith, all our life experiences bring us closer to God. All circumstances reveal God to the deeply believing heart.

May we grow every day in that kind of faith.


Today, as we celebrate the feast of the great Saint Catherine of Siena, a reflection in place of our usual poetry.

We can learn Catherine’s spiritual wisdom. Without formal education, she grew by grace into a Doctor of the Church.

Siena

She was born Catherine Benincasa on March 25, 1347, in Siena, Italy, and was a twin, the 24th child of 25. She only lived to the age of 33, dying of a stroke in Rome in 1380. Catherine of Siena, often referred to as “great Kate,” is well known for her expressive life of prayer shared in three major sources of writings: over 400 letters, 26 prayers, and The Dialogue of Divine Providence, which she referred to as “the book,” written in the format of a conversation between herself and God. She was noted for her style of learning, not acquired from formal education and degrees, but gained from an interior wisdom that came from lived experiences and a mystical life of prayer. ( https://www.hprweb.com/2020/02/the-trinitarian-theology-of-the-eucharist-according-to-st-catherine-of-siena/)


Here are two selections from Catherine’s extensive writings which reveal her ever-deepening relationship with God through the gift of the Bread of Life.


Eternal God, Eternal Trinity, You have made the Blood of Christ so precious through His sharing in your Divine Nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for You. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When You fill my soul I have an ever-greater hunger, and I grow more famished for Your Light. I desire above all to see You, the true Light, as you really are.


St. Catherine of Siena, Prayer 12, V 124–157

And by the light of most holy faith
I shall contemplate myself in you.
And I shall clothe myself in your eternal will,
And by this light I shall come to know
That you, eternal Trinity,
Are table
And food
And waiter for us.

You, eternal Father,
Are the table
That offers us as food
The Lamb, your only-begotten Son.

He is the most exquisite of foods for us,
Both in his teaching,
Which nourishes us in your will,
And in the sacrament
That we receive in Holy Communion,
Which feeds and strengthens us
While we are pilgrim travelers in this life.

And the Holy Spirit
Is indeed a waiter for us,
For he serves us this teaching
By enlightening our mind’s eye with it
And inspiring us to follow it.
And he serves us charity for our neighbors
And hunger to have as food
Souls
And the salvation of the whole world
For the Father’s honor

So we see that souls enlightened in you,
True light,
Never let a moment pass
Without eating this exquisite food
For your honor.


Music:  Ave Verum Corpus – words attributed to 14th century Pope Innocent VI, melody to Mozart