A Map?

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 8, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, Paul nearly completes his sermon in Pisidian Antioch.  In this section, he is very clear about the failure of “those in Jerusalem” to recognize the Messiah when He finally came.

280px-V&A_-_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)
Paul Preaches by Raphael

Paul points out, however, that this very failure was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

…by condemning him
they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets

that are read sabbath after sabbath.

These resistant religious leaders had spent their entire lives sifting through the Law and the Prophets looking for their savior. But when he finally stood in their midst, they were blind to him. Where had they gone wrong?


Thomas
Thomas has his doubts answered (16th C. icon)

In our Gospel, we have Thomas who is a little blinded himself. We know from other passages that Thomas is someone who likes to see for himself. Faith comes a bit hard for him. In today’s Gospel, Thomas tells Jesus he needs a map in order to follow him.

Can’t you just see Jesus looking at him, a little dumbfounded. Thomas has been with Jesus through it all – the sermons, the loaves and fishes, the walking on water, the raising of Lazarus. But he still doesn’t see with that comfortable trust which frees the heart to give itself completely to God.

Hey, I get it, don’t you! Jesus is prepping his disciples for the coming days of his Passion and Death. This is going to be the hardest time of all their lives. Fear, uncertainty, and impending danger hang in the air like a steel fog. Thomas is scared and confused.

We’ve all been there. Maybe we’re there right now.

John14_6 Way

Jesus is saying the same thing to us as he said to Thomas:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the Way. Let us find him in our daily prayer, scripture reading, and acts of mercy. Let us give him any fear, confusion or doubt blocking us from moving forward in faith.

Music: Jesus Is the Way – written by Walter Hawkins, sung here by the Morgan State Choir (lyrics below). 

(The Morgan State University Choir is one of the nation’s most prestigious university choral ensembles and was led for more than three decades by the late Dr. Nathan Carter, celebrated conductor, composer, and arranger. While classical, gospel, and contemporary popular music comprise the majority of the choir’s repertoire, the choir is noted for its emphasis on preserving the heritage of the spiritual, especially in the historic practices of performance.)

Jesus Christ Is The Way

When I think about the hour
Then I know what I must do
When I think about, what God, has done for me
Then I will open up my heart
To everyone I see, and say
Jesus Christ is the way!

No one knows the day nor the hour
Maybe morn, night or noon
But just rest assured
Time will be no more
He is coming (I know he’s coming) soon
Coming soon

And I will open up my heart
To everyone I see
And say
Jesus Christ is the way
Then I will open up my heart
To everyone I see
And say
Jesus Christ is the way
And say
Jesus Christ is the way

Reborn in God

Second Sunday of Easter

April 19,2020

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Today, in Mercy, our readings offer us a snapshot of the infant Church – a joyful, loving, generous community confidently sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Eucharist

Our Responsorial Psalm, written centuries before their time, prophetically captures their grateful Resurrection prayer:

R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.


Our second reading from Peter voices the community’s amazed gratitude:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,


Friends, how we need that living hope today, in these times that test our souls!

It is true that everyday of our lives we are reborn in God.  New grace, new challenge, new blessing comes to us daily. But the need for that newness has seldom felt so momentous as it does in these pandemic times.

We are challenged:

  • to find God in clouded realty
  • to be a channel of God’s love even in suffering
  • to build the generous community despite isolation
  • to be the touch of Mercy in a touchless world

We may feel a little like Thomas as we pray with these challenges. It must have been so hard for him to touch the wounds of Jesus! And it must have been shocking for him to feel them — these apparent talismans of suffering –  now charged with an infinite transformative power!

My Lord

What changed for Thomas to make him a devout believer? Not his circumstances. Not the reality around him.  Not the challenges before him.

The change came within him because he believed. By looking through suffering to glory, Thomas believed.

May we have that kind of faith in these times that so hunger for it! That kind of faith allows us to be reborn!

(Speaking of being reborn, I am sending a short second reflection today. Today is my 75th birthday and the Psalm is my way of celebrating with all of you.)

Music: Thomas Song – Halleal (Lyrics below)

Thomas’ Song – Hallal

Jesus you were all to me,
Why did you die on Calvary?
O Lamb of God, I fail to see
How this could be part of the plan.

They say that you’re alive again
But I saw death and every sin
Reach out to claim their darkest whim
How could this part if the plan?

If I could only
Hold your hand
And touch the scars
Where nail were driven,
I would need
To feel your side
Where holy flesh
A spear was riven,
Then I’d believe,
Only then I’d believe
Your cruel death
Was part of a heavenly plan.

Holy presence, holy face
A vision filling time and space
Your newness makes my spirit race
Could this be part of the plan?
I see the wounds that caused the cry
From heaven, ocean, earth, and sky
When people watched their savior die
Could this be part of the plan?

Reaching out
To hold your hand
And touch the scars
Where nails were driven
Coming near
I feel your side
Where holy flesh
A spear was riven
Now I believe
Jesus now I believe
Your cruel death
Was part of a heavenly plan
I proudly say
With blazen cry
You are my Lord and my God!

 

Believe

Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings lead us to pray for faith.

John20_27 Thomas

Faith is not a commodity or an achievement.
Faith is a relationship and a journey.

It is a gift and an exercise of grace.
Never stretched, it withers like an broken ligament.

It ebbs and tides with our personal and communal dramas.
It deepens with prayer, silent reaching, and a listening obedience to our lives.
It shallows with our demands, like Thomas, only to see and to touch.

It is fed by the Lavish Mercy of God Who never cuts its flow to our souls
if we but take down the seawall around our heart.

On this day when we celebrate the power of tested and proven faith,
may we bring our needs into the circle gathered in that Upper Room.

Standing beside Thomas today in our prayer,
may we place our trust in the glorified wounds of Christ.

A video today for your prayer: Blessed Are They That Have Not Seen

Cast a Merciful Shadow

Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings continue to show us the rising power of Christ after the Resurrection.

Acts5_15 shadow

Acts demonstrates how powerfully He lives in his disciples, and in the faith of the emerging Church.

… the people esteemed them.
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord,
great numbers of men and women, were added to them.
Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets
and laid them on cots and mats
so that when Peter came by,
at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.

Our Gospel recounts two Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus where He bolsters that faith for these still fledgling followers. They were gathered in the Upper Room, doors locked and fearful. When Jesus appears, the first thing he says is, “Peace”, because that is what his little flock most needs.

In the course of the reading, we discover Thomas’s adamant doubt unless he can see and touch evidence of the Christ he once knew in the flesh. His doubt is so strong that his faith, when it comes, overwhelms him.

My Lord, and my God!

In these first sainted founders of the faith, we can find a mirror image of our own call to witness Christ. We are delegated to be his presence in the world, to cast a shadow that bears his blessing in the midst of suffering and confusion.

But in the locked room of our hearts, we may still be afraid. We may feel, like Thomas, that we were absent when the affirmation and courage were distributed!

Knowing our own weaknesses – and captured in the maze of their little dramas – we may be skeptical that Christ desires to rise in us, to preach by our lives.

What Jesus said to these very fragile witnesses, he says to us

Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
so I send you.

Let us look around today in awareness of those who fall in the shadow of our faith: our children and families, our religious communities, our elders, our neighbors, our friends and co-workers. As we pass through life together, does our presence bless them with a trace of God?

As we pray today, let us place our doubts, fears, weaknesses and self-concerns into Christ’s sacred wounds. Let us leave them there in confidence as we humbly choose to be his Presence and Mercy for others by the simple, selfless choices of our lives.

Music: My Lord, My God  – Vineyard Music

Heads or Tails?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070318.cfm

Jn20_27doubt

Has doubt ever dogged you, or at least nipped at the edges of your soul?  All kinds of doubt, I’m talking about! Doubt yourself. Doubt your loved ones. Doubt the Church, the government, the media. You get the idea.

Some doubt is good. It’s more like “discernment”, and it saves us from misplaced trust. A skill that’s honed through a lifetime, it can eventually be exercised prudentially, without skepticism or aloofness.

But another type of doubt can be crippling. Call it the “not enough” type: I am not good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, experienced enough, – so on and on – to take on a challenge or make a contribution. Ever felt that kind of doubt?

There is third type of doubt which I call “the flip side of faith”. It’s that fine line where we balance between wanting to believe and wanting to know. This type of doubt whispers things like this in our minds: “You don’t really know if there is a God, so how can you believe?” But isn’t that the whole point of faith? If we really knew, for certain, of God’s existence, we wouldn’t have to believe!

What’s the difference between these flip sides of the coin? 

With faith, we give our love and service unreservedly, even though we have not seen. With doubt, we skimp or reserve these until given proof.

So today, we meet “doubting Thomas”. He needed the touch of nail marks and lance wounds before he could believe. And it’s not hard to understand why.

The Resurrection of Jesus was mind-blowing. It changed history for all time to come. It conquered the one unconquerable – DEATH itself. Thomas had not yet seen proof of the Resurrection. The other disciples had. No wonder his coin was spinning between heads and tails!

What about us? Have we seen the Easter Power in our lives? Have we let God win the toss up between our faith and doubt? Today, on this feast of St. Thomas, we might ask his help to let us learn from the wounds of Christ exactly how that Power can assure us.

Music: Blessed Assurance ~ a well-known Christian hymn. The lyrics were written in 1873 by blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby to the music written in 1873 by Phoebe Knapp.

Faithful Thomas

Second Sunday of Easter, April 8, 2018: Today, in Mercy, we read the story of Thomas who, despite a brilliant missionary life for Jesus, never shakes the sobriquet, “Doubting”. Are we all like Thomas, at least sometimes? Don’t we all really wonder sometimes if Jesus, if God, is for real? Doubt is simply the flip side of faith. Like faith, it is a place where we do not know for sure. But faith is that choice to believe in, and act from, Christ’s promise of that surety. May we, like Thomas, reclaim the fullness of our faith by the heart-felt prayer, “My Lord and my God!”

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