The Noble Shepherd

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
May 1, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel invites us, once again, to pray in the company of the Good Shepherd. (The Greek phrase could better be translated as “The Noble Shepherd“)

Just a bit earlier in his sermon, Jesus delivered this blockbuster to the gathered crowd:

I came so that you might have life
and have it more abundantly.

John 10:10

I don’t know how those on the ancient hillside received this stunning announcement, but I know that I have heard and read it a thousand times with a dull and stupid heart.

We let ourselves get used to the scriptures. We hear the priest humdrumming the words while we entertain a tumble of distractions in our foggy heads. We pray the words in our quiet rooms while sleep nibbles away at their astounding meaning.

But here’s what our Gospel shouts to us this morning:

I am here to give you abundant life!
For heaven’s sake, let your heart and soul stand up,
open your arms, and embrace the gift I offer you.

Several deep lessons reside within today’s reading, but we might choose to focus on this:

I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.

John 10: 11-12

Jesus is telling us
that he is our “good shepherd” for this reason:
because he knows and loves us with the same intensity
that he and the Father know and love each other.

In other words, Jesus loves us with a love that absorbs us into the heart of God. There, we are fed with that love and given an infinitely abundant life – a life that demands to be given and shared.

Jesus tells us that he will lay down his life for his sheep, because this is the nature of Divine Love — it is fully self-giving. The Creator gave everything for us in the gift of Jesus. Jesus gave everything for us in the Paschal Gift. We, recipients of these infinite gifts, are called to give everything for the sake of God’s love in the world.

Does this mean we all have to run out and try to be martyrs? Certainly not. It might be even harder to respond to this call with consistent dailyness than it would be to do so with martyrish abandon.

Our reading from Acts helps us understand what this divine love looks like in an ordinary life. It looks like openness to the Holy Spirit, willingness to change for the sake of others’ good, inclusion of all people in the loving community, actions that build unity and reverence for one another.

The Good Shepherd is a Giving Shepherd who teaches us that we have such an abundance of life in him that we are safe giving our small portion of life for others. We do not need to bury, fortify, protect, and squirrel away our life like misers and hoarders – because, in God, all that we give is continually replaced with even greater plentitude.

We do not have to be first, smartest, prettiest, richest, most powerful, always right or all the other perfectionisms we sometimes are deluded by.

What we have to be is kind, merciful, open, forgiving, honest, generous and humble. These are the true currencies of abundant life in Christ. With the amazing gift we have been given, we are called to allow God to “shepherd” through us in our own particular “sheepfold”.

In his transcendent love, Jesus laid his life down willingly for our sake, and that utter willingness allowed him to take it up again in glory. We might be invited to do a little “life-laying down” ourselves today. Can we find Christ’s invitation, promise, and power within that ordinariness?

The Good Shepherd by James Tissot

Poetry: On Generosity – Walter Brueggemann

On our own, we conclude:
there is not enough to go around
we are going to run short
of money
of love
of grades
of publications
of sex
of beer
of members
of years
of life
we should seize the day
seize our goods
seize our neighbours goods
because there is not enough to go around
and in the midst of our perceived deficit
you come
you come giving bread in the wilderness
you come giving children at the 11th hour
you come giving homes to exiles
you come giving futures to the shut down
you come giving easter joy to the dead
you come – fleshed in Jesus.
and we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing
we watch
and we take food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbours who sustain us
when we did not deserve it.
It dawns on us – late rather than soon-
that you “give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
By your giving, break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance………mercy upon mercy
blessing upon blessing.
Sink your generosity deep into our lives
that your muchness may expose our false lack
that endlessly receiving we may endlessly give
so that the world may be made Easter new,
without greedy lack, but only wonder,
without coercive need but only love,
without destructive greed but only praise
without aggression and invasiveness….
all things Easter new…..
all around us, toward us and
by us
all things Easter new.
Finish your creation, in wonder, love and praise. Amen.

Music: The Lonely Shepherd – written by James Last and played here by Louis Grosari

The Narrow Gate

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus tells us the he is “the gate”. If he were here, preaching to us in person today, the symbol wouldn’t work as well as it did in his own time. In the countryside of the Gospels, there were gates all over the place protecting flocks from the multiple threats around them.

But my guess is that you haven’t seen one of these things recently or likely EVER.

So what have we seen that might bring home the essence of the Gospel to us? I’ll tell you what came to my mind.

On occasion, we buy bulk candy for our Sisters at our nursing facility. The candy factory has been around for decades and, as in some neighborhoods of the old city, the area surrounding it has become a residential and commercial desert. With that isolation, the property has become unsafe, an unfortunate target for thieves and vandals.

And so the site has been fortified – metal shields, wired windows, old sealed doors. Just try to get inside without the right directions, information, invitation or credentials! See that little red door about the middle of the photo? It doesn’t open for everyone! You have to know the way to get to the sweets inside!

Jesus is telling us that the same thing is true for those seeking salvation. There is only one way, and it is through Jesus – the Gate.

Jesus refers to this symbol frequently so he must be pretty serious about it!

Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate
and broad is the road that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road
that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

Strive to enter through the narrow door.
For many, I tell you, will seek to enter
and will not be able.

Luke 13:24

Today’s readings remind us about just how serious Jesus is. The folks in Jerusalem, hearing Peter and scared for their complicity in the Crucifixion, want to get directions for passage through the Gate. Peter tells them:

Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

In his letter today, Peter tells us that repentance translates to imitation of Christ in our lives

If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,
this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

1 Peter 2:20-22

In our Gospel, Jesus says that the Gate is available to everyone, but only through him:

I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.

John 19:7-8

Bottom line? How do I pass through the Gate to the richness inside?

  • Believe
  • Repent – Turn from anything that blocks me from living the Gospel
  • Imitate Christ in my own life

Poetry: A Gate – Donna Mancini – the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant. She is a professor of English at Hunter College. The poem portrays the poet ,at a spiritually vulnerable time in her life, seeking the Gate to peace.

I have oared and grieved,
grieved and oared,
treading a religion
of fear. A frayed nerve.
A train wreck tied to the train
of an old idea.
Now, Lord, reeling in violent
times, I drag these tidal
griefs to this gate.
I am tired. Deliver
me, whatever you are.
Help me, you who are never
near, hold what I love
and grieve, reveal this green
evening, myself, rain,
drone, evil, greed,
as temporary. Granted
then gone. Let me rail,
revolt, edge out, glove
to the grate. I am done
waiting like some invalid
begging in the nave.
Help me divine
myself, beside me no Virgil
urging me to shift gear,
change lane, sing my dirge
for the rent, torn world, and love
your silence without veering
into rage.

Music: Shepherd Me – Ann Sweeten

Completely occupied with good deeds …

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
April 29, 2023

Today’s Readings

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we prayerfully remember one of the great women of the Church, Catherine of Siena.

Catherine of Siena, TOSD (1347 – 1380) was a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic. She was a mystic, activist, and author who had a great influence on Italian literature and on the Catholic Church. Canonized in 1461, she is also a Doctor of the Church.

Three genres of work by Catherine survive:
– Her major treatise is The Dialogue of Divine Providence. It is a dialogue between God and a soul who “rises up” to God.
– Catherine’s letters are considered one of the great works of early Tuscan literature.
– Twenty-six prayers of Catherine of Siena also survive, mostly composed in the last eighteen months of her life.


The beauty of Catherine’s life and spirituality has blessed the world for nearly seven centuries. Still, it has never grown old because it was fully rooted in an eternal God.

Catherine’s sanctity was born of:
transcendent FAITH,
uncompromising TRUTH,
and overarching LOVE
for God
and God’s Creation.

Our first reading today introduces another, much earlier, woman pillar of the Church – Tabitha, sometimes called Dorcas. She was so important to the Christian community in Joppa that they sent for Peter upon her death. They needed his intervention in order to hold the community together in the face of this profound loss.

Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha
(which translated is Dorcas). 
She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving. 
Now during those days she fell sick and died,
so after washing her, they laid her out in a room upstairs. 

Acts 9: 36-38

St. Cyprian, writing in the 3rd century, implies that Dorcas merited Peter’s miraculous intervention because of her Christian generosity, her being “completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving“.

Dorcas, Raised from the Dead by Peter – Jacob Jordaens (c. 1655)

Though little is given to describe Tabitha’s position in the community, one might imagine that she was a woman of some means. Many widows achieved a certain status living on the accumulated wealth of their deceased husbands and the dividends of their recovered dowries. This generous women seems to have gathered around her a community of less fortunate neighbors who came to depend on her for their livelihood.

In Tabitha/Dorcas, we find a model of women’s discipleship repeated through the centuries and into our own times.

  • She is aware of the needs around her and of her own capacity to meet those needs.
  • Inspired by the Gospel, she builds a community to embrace both the needs and the strengths she recognizes.
  • She acts FOR others, especially those who are in need, in imitation of Christ.

In the 14th century, Catherine of Siena manifested a similar pattern of discipleship.

Catherine of Siena – from Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale’s
Golden Book of Famous Women (1919)

Catherine saw the whole Church as her community and recognized its need for reconciliation and unity. She confronted fracturing political allegiances and destructive ecclesiastical egos to advocate for the Roman Pope’s sovereignty over the global Church, thus influencing the entire flow of European history.

My sweet Lord, look with mercy upon your people
and especially upon the mystical body of your Church.
Greater glory is given to your name for pardoning a multitude of your creatures
than if I alone were pardoned for my great sins against your majesty.
It would be no consolation for me to enjoy your life
if your holy people stood in death.
For I see that sin darkens the life of your bride the Church
– my sin and the sins of others.

from A Dialogue on Divine Providence

Catherine, whose profound spirituality was laced with miracles and mysticism, nevertheless taught an attainable spiritual discipline in her writings – a practical spirituality demonstrated, as was Tabitha’s, in generous acts of love:

The love which the soul sees that God has for her,
she, in turn, extends to all other creatures. . .
she immediately feels compelled to love her neighbor as herself,
for she sees how supremely she herself is loved by God,
beholding herself in the wellspring of the sea of the Divine Essence.

Letter to Raymond of Capua, dated February 17, 1376

In our Gospel, Jesus has just finished telling the people:

“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.”

They respond to this “hard saying” with hesitancy and “shock”. Jesus tells them that he knows that this level of faith is impossible to reach on one’s own and so…

“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

John 6: 64-65

Tabitha and Catherine of Siena, by the power of the Holy Spirit granted through our Creator, attained a beautiful faith expressed in generous works for their communities. As we pray with them today, let us ask God for the grace of such faith for ourselves and for our whole Church.

Poetry: Consumed in Grace (Catherine of Siena) – from Daniel Ladinsky’s “Love Poems from God”

I first saw God when I was a child, six years of age.
The cheeks of the sun were pale before Him,
and the earth acted as a shy
girl, like me.

Divine light entered my heart from His love
that did never fully wane,

though indeed, dear, I can understand
how a person’s faith
can at times flicker,

for what is the mind to do
with something that becomes the mind’s ruin:
a God that consumes us
in His grace.

I have seen what you want;
it is there, a Beloved of infinite

Music: The Mystical Ecstasy of Catherine of Siena – from the opera Santa Caterina da Siena by Marco Enrico Bossi

Believe and Abide in Me

Friday of the Third Week of Easter
April 28, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have two powerful and life-changing readings.

The Conversion of St. Paul – Nicolas Bernard Lepicie

Paul’s conversion is high drama. And Jesus’ invitation to “consume” him is both pivotal and a bit confounding. Both accounts make clear that living our faith is not a walk in the park. It is a wholehearted, dynamic commitment to render the vital presence of Jesus in our lives.

We can probably find ourselves rather easily in Paul’s story, so let’s take on Jesus’ more complex challenge in our prayer today.

The setting is after the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The crowd presses Jesus for another miracle. They like miracles and they like to eat. Hey, I understand!

But Jesus realizes that they’re missing the point. The tsunami of bread and fish was just a sign not the essence of Jesus’ message. His message was, “Now you must BELIEVE!”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“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.

John 6:52-53

So Jesus tells them that it was not enough to eat the miracle bread. He says that now they must consume him, make him their source of sustenance, live in such a way that they cannot live without him

Just as food feeds our emptiness and becomes one with us, so Jesus nourishes our spirit and unites with us. And this happens, not by physical consumption, but by our deep and transcendent believing in Jesus.

Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise them on the last day.
For my Flesh is true food,
and my Blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
remains in me and I in them.

John 6:53-54

Jesus’ words threw a powerful challenge to the hungry crowd as they do to us. We can’t just make ourselves believe. Faith is a gift, and sometimes the channels that allow it to pour into our hearts get a little clogged with worldly junk. How can we open those channels up a bit to release the power of faith in our lives?

Perhaps a prayer like this might help:

I exist because of You and within You.
I have nothing and am nothing without You.
You breathe Your life into every moment of my own.
May I see You, trust You, hear Your loving hints to me.
May I make room for You in my heart 
by my choices, prayer, and generosity.
May I abide in You as You so completely abide in me.

Poetry: If Only – Rainer Maria Rilke

If only there were stillness, full, complete.
If all the random and approximate
were muted, with neighbors’ laughter, for your sake,
and if the clamor that my senses make
did not confound the vigil I would keep —
Then in a thousandfold thought I could think
you out, even to your utmost brink,
and (while a smile endures) possess you, giving
you away, as though I were but giving thanks,
to all the living.

Music: Abide – Aaron Williams

Who? Me?

Third Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings invite us to consider any unrecognized blindness in our lives.

In the passage from Acts, Peter confronts the Israelites with an appalling truth to which they had been blind:

Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.

Acts 2:22-23

Peter Preaching in Jerusalem – Charles Poërson -c. 1642

Peter left his audience no outs, no excuses. He put the harsh fact before them and asked them to acknowledge it so that they might move forward in faith.

In our second reading, Peter counsels the early converts to recognize that they were rescued from a spiritually fatal blindness:

… conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning,
realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct ..

1 Peter 1:17-18

Pilgrims on the Road to Emmaus – James Tissot

Luke’s Gospel gives us the warmly accessible Emmaus story. We have walked beside these beloved, crest-fallen disciples for years, haven’t we? But each year might reveal something different and deeper about the “blindness” that prevented them from recognizing Jesus who walked right beside them.

These progressive revelations can challenge us about how readily we recognize God’s Presence in our lives.

  • Were these otherwise faithful disciples just disappointed that their faith had not been rewarded with the results they expected?
  • Were they angry that they had wasted time trusting an apparent “failure”?
  • Were they only shallow believers anyway who had not really invested in Jesus?
  • Were they riddled with false expectations about the Messiah?
  • Were they so confined by old religious habits that they just couldn’t imagine an “Easter Jesus”?
  • Or were they just tired, hungry and caught on a dark road, thinking they could find an answer all by themselves?

Maybe we’ve been in a spot like theirs sometime in our lives. 

Dinner at Emmaus – Caravaggio

Let’s be with those disciples today and find ourselves in their story. Let’s attend to the “bread” of our dailyness as Jesus breaks it, and let our eyes be opened:

… while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…

Luke 24:30-31

Poetry: Witness – Denise Levertov

Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
to reconfirm
that witnessing presence.

Music: Open My Eyes, Lord – Jesse Manibussan

God of Abundance

Friday of the Second Week of Easter
April 21, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings offer us two very human, accessible stories.

The first, from Acts, is about the Pharisee named Gamaliel. Gamaliel was a big deal. An esteemed authority in the powerful Sanhedrin, he was the son and grandson of highly respected Jewish teachers. He was wise, prudent, honest and practical. Gamaliel was the “real deal” himself, and he recognized it in others.

Gamaliel and Nicodemus Mourn the Death of Stephen – Carlo Saracini -1615 AD

In today’s reading, Gamaliel intervenes in the Sanhedrin’s relentless pursuit of the early disciples. He basically tells his colleagues, “Hey, wait a minute. If these guys are “the real deal”, there is nothing we can do to undermine them. If they are not, they will undermine themselves. So just cool it for a while.”

While there is scant verifiable evidence to the fact, tradition holds that Gamaliel converted to Christianity. He is venerated as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox traditions.

Our Gospel tells us the familiar yet still amazing account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

It’s a wonderful story. I mean just put yourself in this noisy, curious, hungry crowd of 5000 people! Picture Jesus going up the mountainside so they could – maybe – hear what he might say.

Imagine that you’re Philip when Jesus turns to him and asks,
“Where will we get enough food for this crowd?”

Do you see the unspoken answers written all over Philip’s face,
“How should I know? Why are you asking ME!!!!”

The passage says that Jesus was testing Philip, but it was more like a tease when I picture it. Can’t you see the mischievous little smile on Jesus’s face? Jesus knew what he was going to do about the crowd’s hunger. He wanted to be sure his disciples paid strict attention to what was about to happen. So he got them involved with his testing questions.

God wants us to pay attention, too, to what happens when we bring our hungers before God’s merciful goodness. Like the few fish and loaves, God takes the smallest parts of us and builds them up with the gift of grace. God finds the willing fragments of faith, hope and love in us and multiplies them with God’s own power.

With this miracle, Jesus shows his followers and all of us, that there is a sacred reality and Truth beyond the thin scarcities we at first perceive. Deep faith allows us to plumb that reality and to live in its expansive promise. Walter Brueggemann puts it this way:

The feeding of the multitudes … is an example of the new world coming into being through God. When the disciples, charged with feeding the hungry crowd, found a child with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus took, blessed ,broke and gave the bread. These are the four decisive verbs of our sacramental existence. Jesus conducted a Eucharist, a gratitude. He demonstrated that the world is filled with abundance and freighted with generosity. If bread is broken and shared, there is enough for all. Jesus is engaged in the sacramental, subversive reordering of public reality.

Walter Brueggemann, The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity

Gamaliel opened his heart to this Truth,
as did the first disciples.
It’s our turn now.

(Insert your name), where will we get the food
to feed these hungers in our world?

Poetry: Miracles – Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Music: God of Abundance – Kat Mills

Born Again

Monday of the Second Week of Easter
April 17, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings open with the disciples praying for courage in the midst of surrounding threats – and the Holy Spirit hears them!

Peter and John had been imprisoned by the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees. And the memory of Jesus horrendous trials is still fresh in the community’s mind. Fear nips at their spirits and so they prayed.

After their release Peter and John went back to their own people
and reported what the chief priests and elders had told them.
And when they heard it,
they raised their voices to God with one accord …
And now, Lord, take note of their threats,
and enable your servants to speak your word
with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal,
and signs and wonders are done
through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

Acts 4:23-23;29-30

The disciples were asking people to change. And many people don’t like change, especially change that asks them to shake off old, comfortable ways. Even life-giving change is often rejected for the sake of unexamined custom and unwarranted fear.

Just look at Nicodemus in our Gospel. Here is a good man whose heart aches to open to Jesus’s call. But he just can’t imagine himself beyond the old definitions he has allowed to define him for decades.

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,
for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” 
Nicodemus said to him,
“How can a man once grown old be born again?’

John 3:2-4

Our Easter-life in Christ calls us to be reborn too. It calls us to be our best selves in light of the Gospel. Often this means breaking through a worldly interpretation of love, justice or wealth to witness the Gospel definition of these things our lives:

Jesus answered,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
‘You must be born from above.’

John 3: -7

What Jesus says to Nicodemus may be hard for us to understand too, but Christ made it very clear and simple in the Sermon on the Mount. Maybe Nicodemus had been there on that earlier day, beginning to wonder about this amazing man. Maybe he will remember and find the courage to respond now that he has actually sought Jesus out for advice.

We will let those crystal clear Beatitudes be our poetry for today, maybe inspiring us to have a Nicodemus style sit-down with Jesus ourselves.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:1-12

Music: Born of God – Steven Kapp Perry

Impossible Not to Speak the Name

Saturday in the Octave of Easter
April 15, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the reasonable Sanhedrin try to deal with Peter and John’s “bold” testimony for Christ.

Observing the boldness of Peter and John
and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men,
the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them,
they could say nothing in reply.

Acts 4: 13-14

The Sanhedrin was an assembly of elders or rabbis appointed to sit as a tribunal in every city in the ancient Israel. As a body, they claimed powers that lesser Jewish courts did not have. As such, they were the only ones who could try the king, extend the boundaries of the Temple and Jerusalem, and were the ones to whom all questions of law were finally put.

from Wikipedia

Peter Before the Sanhedrin by Nikolai Ge (1892)

These men existed on the ultimate power they had over the people. It was the source of their influence, wealth and independence. Now this Jesus and his bold buddies come along trying to upset the apple cart. The old familiar, comfortable world is threatened and they don’t like it.

Their solution is overly simplistic. They tell Peter and John to just shut up:

The Sanhedrin conferred with one another, saying,
“What are we to do with these men?
Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign
was done through them, and we cannot deny it.
But so that it may not be spread any further among the people,
let us give them a stern warning
never again to speak to anyone in this name.”
So they called them back
and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

Acts 4: 15-17

Peter and John say “sorry guys”! Easter-inspired faith doesn’t work that way:

Peter and John, however, said to them in reply,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.

Acts 4:18

Peter and John make it sound simple too, don’t they. They tell us that it is impossible not to live our witness to the Gospel.

But I think we all know that it’s not that simple. Witnessing our faith in a morally complex world takes courage, insight, humility and wisdom. 

We are not passive participants in the often crippled world around us. Like Peter and John, we are called to pay attention to suffering, and to be healers. We are called to be witnesses to the Resurrection by the faithful generosity of our lives.

Prose: Marianne Williamson – from A Return to Love

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 
It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. 
We ask ourselves 'who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?'
Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. 
You’re playing small doesn't serve the world. 
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking 
so that other people won't feel insecure around you. 
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; its in everyone. 
And as we let our own light shine, 
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others

Music: Speak the Name – Koryn Hawthorne 

Extra Song: I can’t help thinking of — Perry Como singing “Impossible”. Of course, this is a romantic song, but the same principles hold in our devotion to God, and God’s to us. Think about it 🙂

Breakfast with Jesus

Friday in the Octave of Easter
April 14, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we once again have readings sprinkled with the names of ancient people who lived in the immediate Resurrection light.

In our first reading from Acts:

After the crippled man had been cured,
while Peter and John were still speaking to the people,
the priests, the captain of the temple guard,
and the Sadducees confronted them,
disturbed that they were teaching the people
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

Acts 4:1-2
  • Peter and John, courageously, exuberantly sharing the Word
  • Annas, the retired but still influential high priest to whom Jesus was first brought when arrested
  • Caiaphas, the reigning high priest, who plotted to kill Jesus, condemned him for blasphemy, and sent him for judgment to Pilate
  • John and Alexander, less known priestly trainees, but known well enough to have their names recorded

Christ Before Caiaphas- Matthias Stom

In our Gospel, John names some of the group lolling along the beach one day. It’s interesting how he remembers and identifies them as he tells the story many years later:

  • Simon Peter – remembered with both his original and later Christ-given name
  • Thomas called Didymus – a name meaning “twin”, who was his twin and why is he never mentioned as a disciple?
  • Nathanael from Cana in Galilee – identified here by his home town of Cana. Had it been at his home, perhaps his wedding, that Christ’s first miracle occurred?
  • Zebedee’s sons – John, writer of the Gospel identifies himself and his brother (James) only by their relationship to their very influential father
  • two others of his disciples – what about these two? Why has John, who was there, conveniently forgotten their names? Were they women, whom custom often left unnamed and perhaps overlooked?

Breakfast with Jesus – C.Michael Dudash

These readings offer us rich opportunities to chose one of these people and sit with them as they condition their hearts to the overwhelming truth of the Resurrection.

How does each one respond to their redeemed reality? We have the same choice these ancient persons had. Do we:

  • live and preach the Good News by our choices, as Peter and John did?
  • resist its call to us like the high priests?
  • dive whole-heartedly toward Jesus like half-clad Peter?
  • surrender our doubts and finally believe like Thomas?
  • invite Jesus into our life, home and celebrations like Nathaniel may have?
  • realize how our elders have gifted us with faith and honor them as Zebedee’s sons did?

And what about the “two others of his disciples” left in the unnamed shadows of history? Perhaps we are more like them – quietly doing, praying, loving, hoping to respond with humble hearts to the Easter gift we have been given.

This morning, let’s sit beside Jesus and his barbecued fish to talk about it. Let’s listen to what he hopes for and loves in us.

Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

John 21:12-14

Poetry:  Jesus Makes Breakfast: A Poem about John 21:1-14 
– by Carol Penner, Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario.

I could smell that charcoal fire a long way off
while we were still rowing far from shore.
As we got closer I could smell the fish cooking,
I imagined I could hear it sizzling.
When you’re hungry, your mind works that way.

When the man by the fire called out asking us about our catch,
we held up the empty nets.
And his advice to throw the nets in once more
is something we might have ignored,
except for the smell of cooking fish…
this guy must know something  about catching fish!

The catch took our breath away;
never in my life have we pulled so many in one heave.
I was concentrating on the catch,
but John wasn’t even paying attention,
he was staring at the shore
as if his life depended on it.
Then he clutched my shoulder, crying,
“It is the Lord!”

Suddenly, everything came into focus,
the man, the catch, the voice,
and nothing could stop me,
I had to be with the Master.

There were no words at breakfast,
beyond, “Pass the fish,”
or “I’ll have a bit more bread.”
We sat there, eating our fill,
basking in the sunrise.
We didn’t have to say anything.
Jesus just smiled and served.

Music: Spend some time on that morning beach with Jesus:

Turn toward Light!

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
April 11, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we share the heartfelt experience of the early disciples captured in a few poignant comments.

Sometimes words are so full of meaning that they burst in your heart when you read them — when you hear them

Two such phrases rise up from our readings today: 

Cut to the heart

In our first reading, the Easter-liberated Apostles preach the Gospel with gusto! They tell it – exactly like it is- to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem:

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Acts 2:36

….” this Jesus whom you crucified..”

For those in that crowd, these were shattering words to hear! The feeling is like when you drop a precious vase and it crumbles at your feet! What do you do now? It is too late to redeem the brokenness! They were “cut to the heart” by the realization.

But that is the wonder of the Resurrection. It is never too late! Our life in God is never irrevocably broken!

Peter, motivated by Jesus’ own act of forgiveness from the cross, said to them,

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”

Acts 2:38-39


Our Gospel extends this theme of restoration and hope. As we pray with its grace-filled drama, we thank John for being the only Evangelist to record this poignant moment between Jesus and Mary.

After Mary had discovered the empty tomb, and summoned the other disciples to see it, she lingers there once they have returned the city. 

She doesn’t know what to do! Feel her confusion, her distress. Easter faith has not yet dawned in her. She thinks the precious body of Jesus has been stolen, perhaps desecrated – again, like a beautiful vessel splintered and lost forever.

Then she turns toward the Light – as we all must do when we are overshadowed in doubt.

She said to the angels, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there…

John 20:14

Still, she doesn’t fully recognize him until he lovingly speaks her name. Then she in turn utters the word so full of devotion and love: Rabbouni 

Noli Me Tangere – Antonio Corregio

Think about it! You can imagine how she felt when she said it – just like you would feel if you thought you had lost a Beloved but they returned to you alive and transformed!

Let’s be with Jesus and Mary in this sacred moment, hearing our own name spoken by our Beloved, responding in amazed tenderness from the depths of our heart.

Poetry: Rabboni! by John Banister Tabb (1845 – 1909) an American poet, Roman Catholic priest, and professor of English.

"I bring thee balm, and, lo, Thou art not here!
Twice have I poured mine ointment on Thy brow,
And washed Thy feet with tears. Disdain'st Thou now
The spikenard and the myrrh?"
“Has Death, alas, betrayed Thee with a kiss
That seals Thee from the memory of mine?”
“Mary!” It is the self-same Voice Divine.
"Rabboni!" -- only this.

Music: Rabboni – Ken Young

You were there when the world had turned against me.
When the darkness had possessed my soul,
Your tender mercy made me whole.
When I followed You, my life was filled with meaning
From the morning to the evening.
I’ve seen the face of God.

Rabboni! My Teacher and my God!
You’re alive and my burdens melt away.
Rabboni! Sweet Son of God Most High!
I know death has lost its power
And Your glory’s here to stay. (repeat).

When I close my eyes
I can hear Your voice so clearly saying,
“Father, please forgive them,
For they know not what they do.”
What good reason did they have to do
The things they did to You?

So I come once again bringing all I have to offer,
Just to find a dark and empty tomb,
Your holy frame somehow exhumed.
Then I hear someone say,
“Why are tears so freely falling?
Can’t You hear the voice that’s calling?
A voice that knows Your name.”