Everything!

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 11, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, Acts recounts some of the challenges Paul and Barnabas met as they continued spreading the Gospel. With such a reading, we see the beginnings of theological arguments in the unfolding teaching of the Church.

One might wonder what turned yesterday’s Jewish and Gentile listeners into a stone-throwing mob. One wonders it today regarding some of the acrimonious factions within the Church.

It is one thing to receive the Gospel with one’s heart and spirit. It is another thing to receive it with one’s mind. As human beings, we resist mystery; we long for logic. We are more comfortable with a problem we can solve than with a Truth beyond our comprehension. Rather than Infinite Surprise, I think most of us prefer predictability and control.


 

Jn14_26 Everything

The Gospel can be fearsome. It asks that we let go of our limited human “geometry”; that we entrust everything to the Inclusive Love who is Jesus Christ. It asks us to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit who, ultimately, will “teach us EVERYTHING”.


question

In our recent readings, we’ve seen Thomas, Philip, and today, Jude trying to reach this level of spiritual trust. It’s hard because such trust is more than human. It is a trust bred of the Holy Spirit within us. It is a trust born of living fully in Peace with that Presence.

 


It is a trust described like this in tomorrow’s Gospel reading:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

Let us pray for trust and peace in ourselves, our Church, and world.


Music:  Wonderful Peace – an old Gospel song by Warren Cornell and William Cooper (1899), sung here by Don Moen 

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

Ah, soul! are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your Friend ere the shadows grow dark;
O accept of this peace so sublime!

What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll!

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul!

And I think when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Anchor of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

The Power of the Name

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 9, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, Paul and Barnabas make a final grand effort to speak to the hearts of the Jews in Antioch. The outcome is both bad news and good news.

The Jewish community resists the Word. But the Gentiles receive it with an open heart and the Gospel ignites “through the whole region”. The catechesis was so successful that resisters mounted the persecution and expulsion of the disciples from the neighborhood.

Then reminiscent of Jesus’s advice in Matthew 10:14:

dust

So they shook the dust from their feet
in protest against them
and went to Iconium.
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.


acts3_6 Name_Original

In our Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples that He and the Father are one:

“If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”


Philip
Philip, like Thomas in yesterday’s Gospel, says he needs a little more to go on than that simple statement:

“Master, show us the Father,
and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus once again patiently reminds Philip and the others that all that they have experienced in Him is a revelation of the Father. He further tells them that they themselves are to be that ongoing revelation for the world:

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”


As Christians, we believe that we too are commissioned in the Name of Christ to be his Presence in the world. Jesus tells us that whatever we ask in his Name will be accomplished.

That doesn’t mean that the name of Jesus is a magic formula to get what we want.

Instead, within the Holy Name, we come to trust the mercy, love, and abiding accompaniment of God. Such trust allows us to see the slow working of God’s loving Will in all things – just as Jesus did through his faithful life, heartbreaking death, and ultimately triumphant Resurrection.

Let us gently repeat that beloved Name in our prayer, asking that its sweet grace enlighten and transform us.

Music: In the Name of the Lord – Gloria Gaithersburg, Phil McHugh, and Sandi Patti

The Seesaw of Faith

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

April 21, 2020

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Nicodemus

Today, in Mercy, we meet two towering figures of the early Christian story, Barnabas and Nicodemus.

In our first reading, Barnabas is cited as a devout member of the community of believers which …

… was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.


Our Gospel brings us Nicodemus who “came to Jesus under cover of the night”.  Nicodemus, obviously Ph.D. material, has a long exchange with Jesus in the attempt to come to intellectual comfort with Jesus’s message.

Nicodemus wants his faith to make logical sense before committing to it,  to the point that Jesus sounds a little astounded at the effort:

You are the teacher of Israel
and you do not understand
what I am saying to you?


I think a little bit of both Barnabas and Nicodemus lives within each of us.

barnabas seesaw

Like Nicodemus, we do believe, but we would like to understand more. We grapple with concepts of “God’s plan”, with the problem of evil, with what seems the random mercilessness of nature, and myriad other inexplicable realities.

Still, like Barnabas, we trust and are willing to lay our lives at the feet of Christ to be his agents in the world.

That balancing of trust with anxiety is the story of faith for most of us. And it’s OK.  Both Nickie and Barnie turned out to be giants for Christ.  And so will we with God’s help.

Music: Ye Must Be Born Again – sung by The Sensational Nightingales, a beloved Black Gospel Quartet that, with several membership changes, has been popular for over seven decades.  (Lyrics below)

Ye Must Be Born Again
written by William T. Sleeper in 1877

A ruler once came to Jesus by night,
To ask Him the way of salvation and light;
The Master made answer in words true and plain,
“Ye must be born again!”
“Ye must be born again!”
“Ye must be born again!”
“I verily, verily say unto thee,
Ye must be born again!”

Ye children of men, attend to the word
So solemnly uttered by Jesus, the Lord,
And let not this message to you be in vain,
“Ye must be born again.”

Oh, ye who would enter that glorious rest,
And sing with the ransomed the song of the blest;
The life everlasting if ye would obtain,
“Ye must be born again.”

A St. Barnabas Music Fest

Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle

June 11, 2019

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Mk9_49_ salt

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Barnabas, “a good man”. Reading about his call in Acts, that phrase struck me.

“Barnabas … was a good man,
filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.”

Some of you classic jazz/blues fans may remember an old classic by Bessie Smith, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”

That’s a pretty sad song, but apparently it does not reflect the experience of the early disciples. They found several good men in Acts 11:

Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger,
Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

What makes someone a “good man (or woman)? I can remember my Dad, a good man himself, using that phrase on occasion about someone he knew. It was a rare benediction – only someone of exceptional character earned it from my Dad.

All of Dad’s designees had these things in common: humble, hard-working, honest, generous, simple and respectful people. They had shown up for life, with a loyalty to those around them. They were God-loving, salt-of-the-earth fellas who would be shocked to think they were special. Barnabas was such a guy.

Jesus loved this kind of soul too. In our Gospel he says

“You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world…
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”

…or, in Godspell terms:

As we pray these Scripture passages today, let us be inspired by Barnabas to hear Jesus speaking these words to us – because we are good men and good women.

Music: People Let Your Light Shine – Jesse Colin Young