Fifth Sunday of Easter [C] - May 2

The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 14:21-27  —  Rev 21:1-5  —  John 13:31-35
May 2, 2010

1.  Link to the Scriptures from Holy Mass
for the Fifth Sunday of Easter:

2.  The Office of Readings:
From a sermon by
Saint Maximus of Turin, bishop

Christ is the day

Christ is risen! He has burst open the gates of hell and let the dead go free; he has renewed the earth through the members of his Church now born again in baptism, and has made it blossom afresh with men brought back to life. His Holy Spirit has unlocked the doors of heaven, which stand wide open to receive those who rise up from the earth. Because of Christ’s resurrection the thief ascends to paradise, the bodies of the blessed enter the holy city, and the dead are restored to the company of the living. There is an upward movement in the whole of creation, each element raising itself to something higher. We see hell restoring its victims to the upper regions, earth sending its buried dead to heaven, and heaven presenting the new arrivals to the Lord. In one and the same movement, our Savior’s passion raises men from the depths, lifts them up from the earth, and sets them in the heights.

Christ is risen. His rising brings life to the dead, forgiveness to sinners, and glory to the saints. And so David the prophet summons all creation to join in celebrating the Easter festival: Rejoice and be glad, he cries, on this day which the Lord has made.

The light of Christ is an endless day that knows no night. Christ is this day, says the Apostle; such is the meaning of his words: Night is almost over; day is at hand. He tells us that night is almost over, not that it is about to fall. By this we are meant to understand that the coming of Christ’s light puts Satan’s darkness to flight, leaving no place for any shadow of sin. His everlasting radiance dispels the dark clouds of the past and checks the hidden growth of vice. The Son is that day to whom the day, which is the Father, communicates the mystery of his divinity. He is the day who says through the mouth of Solomon: I have caused an unfailing light to rise in heaven. And as in heaven no night can follow day, so no sin can overshadow the justice of Christ. The celestial day is perpetually bright and shining with brilliant light; clouds can never darken its skies. In the same way, the light of Christ is eternally glowing with luminous radiance and can never be extinguished by the darkness of sin. This is why John the evangelist says: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never been able to overpower it.

And so, my brothers, each of us ought surely to rejoice on this holy day. Let no one, conscious of his sinfulness, withdraw from our common celebration, nor let anyone be kept away from our public prayer by the burden of his guilt. Sinner he may indeed be, but he must not despair of pardon on this day which is so highly privileged; for if a thief could receive the grace of paradise, how could a Christian be refused forgiveness?

3.  Reflections from Father Robert Barron
and Dr. Scott Hahn

To hear his audio reflection,
click below on the photo of
Father Barron:

To hear or read his reflection,
click below on the photo of
Dr. Scott Hahn:

4.  Father Hoisington’s Reflection

When we celebrate Pentecost in three weeks, we will do more than simply celebrate an anniversary of that first Pentecost 2000 years ago.  Sometimes Pentecost is celebrated as the “birthday of the Church”, but at the same time, every birthday celebration is also a forward-looking event.  Celebrating a birthday should be about asking where this gift of life is going to take one in the days that lie ahead.

This is true for the Church, also, because the Church is still growing.  The Church at the beginning of the 21st century is still growing throughout the world and throughout our neighborhoods.  It is our responsibility as members of Christ’s Body to foster that growth.  The Church is re-born each year at Pentecost, and so is each of us who is a member of the Body of Christ.

The readings of today’s Mass proclaim the dedication we need to do this work.  In our First Reading we hear about the missionary efforts of Saint Paul.  His intense work can seem daunting to us, but at their heart is a simple conviction:  that it is God who is at work in the midst of our efforts; that it is God who opens doors of faith for others.  We simply invite people to step through those doors, both by our word and our example.

Our dedication to God and others is based upon our love for them.  We know that if others are suffering or searching for meaning in their lives, they can come to understand that God can raise a person from the depths of any death.  It was God the Father whose love raised the Son from the dead, and it will be each of us who can raise others from death, if only we love them as God has loved us, and if they accept that love.  We cannot, of course, force people to accept God’s love, but on the other hand, they cannot accept what is not offered.

St. Joseph the Worker - May 1

Saint Joseph the Worker
(Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter)
Acts 13:44-52    John 14:7-14
May 1, 2010

Verse for Reflection:
“The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.”
[John 14:10]

Reflection Question:
Am I aware that my daily work is rooted in the Work of God the Father?

for today’s Scripture passages from Holy Mass

The Church celebrates two feasts during the year in honor of Saint Joseph.  The more important and solemn is on March 19th, honoring him as the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The lesser feast is celebrated today, May 1st, in honor of Saint Joseph as a worker.  Yet, both of these feasts honor what for Saint Joseph was the same truth:  God calling him to share in His Work through Joseph’s vocation as spouse and foster-father.

Today our readings from Scripture help us reflect on the promise—the covenant—between the Lord and His People, and how Saint Joseph shared in the covenant.

On a day-to-day basis, most of us have difficulty even remembering even the small things that we promise to do for others.  Of course, there are much bigger promises in our lives.  This is what a vocation is:  not only a calling, but also a promise.  God doesn’t just say to you, “Come, follow me as a disciple.”  As part of that calling, God also says, “I promise, if you follow me, if you seek after me, I will always guide you on that path.  I will always be there to lead.”  So a vocation is not only a calling from God, but also a promise from Him.

But the promise is two-fold.  Within a vocation, there is not only the promise made by God.  There is also the promise made by the disciple.  A promise made by a disciple is in some settings called a vow.

From his place in heaven, St. Joseph is the patron saint of the universal Church.  It is to the Church that God gives the promise that He will strengthen us in all our responsibilities, in the promises that we make, in our vocation as a disciple of Jesus.  We trust that Joseph continues to pray for the Church universal, and for each of us as members of that Church, in our work for the Kingdom.

Fri. Easter Week IV - Apr. 30

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 13:26-33    John 14:1-6
April 30, 2010

Verse for Reflection:
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
[John 14:5]

Reflection Question:
How do you keep your focus on the Way?

for today’s Scripture passages from Holy Mass

In the weekday Scriptures of the fourth week of Easter, God the Father comes to the fore.  Today, the setting is another exchange between the Lord Jesus and the apostle Thomas.  There are two significant exchanges in the Gospel between Jesus and Thomas.  We hear the more famous exchange on the Second Sunday of Easter.  But today, on a weekday during the middle of Easter, we hear another form of doubt from Thomas…

Thomas expresses doubt in two ways.  First, he expresses doubt about Jesus as a leader.  A good leader makes sure that his followers know their goal.  So when Thomas claims that “we” do not know where Jesus is going, he’s expressing doubt about the goal of Jesus.  Do you ever share this doubt, or lose sight of the goal that Jesus is leading you towards through your vocation?

The second expression of doubt concerns the way to the goal.  Thomas’ words seem to hold some sort of logic:  if he does not know the goal, how can he know the way?  Only a fool sets out on a journey without knowing the goal.  If he doesn’t know the goal, then each and every step is as likely to take him farther away from his goal than it is to take him closer toward the goal.

However, this second expression of doubt is also a doubt about Jesus as a leader.  If Jesus is a good leader, which of course He is, then why do we have to know the goal?  The leader is the way to stay on track:  staying close to Him ensures progress towards the goal.

Thurs. Easter Week IV - April 29

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 13:13-25    John 13:16-20
April 29, 2010
Verse for Reflection:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master….”
[John 13:16]

Reflection Question:
Am I willing to serve as a slave?

for today’s Scripture passages from Holy Mass

Today’s Gospel passage takes us back to the evening of the Lord’s Supper.  But isn’t that a Lenten setting?  Why does the Church set this passage before us again in the middle of the Easter Season?

In the weekday Scriptures of the fourth week of Easter, God the Father comes to the fore.  Today’s Gospel passage relates four “individuals”:  (1) God the Father; (2) God the Son; (3) the disciple of Jesus; and (4) the one sent by the Son.

The identity of the first three is pretty clear.  But who exactly is (4), described by Jesus as “the one I send”?  Is Jesus referring to God the Holy Spirit, whose sending at Pentecost we await?  Or is Jesus referring to other human persons, whom Jesus sends to us to serve? 

In either case, we have to recognize Jesus as our Master, and ourselves as his servants.  Our Master wants to lead us to His Father.  He leads us (a) through the Power of the Holy Spirit, who enables us for (b) our duties as His servants.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you abandon yourself to the will of your Master.

Wed. Easter Week IV - April 28

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 12:24—13:5  ―  John 12:44-50
April 28, 2010

Verse for Reflection:
“I came into the world as light….”
[John 12:46]

Reflection Question:
What kind of light does Jesus shed on the troubles and doubts of my daily life?

for today’s Scripture passages from Holy Mass

Theological Reflection:
When we recite the Creed on Sundays and solemnities, in its second part (the part in which we profess our faith in the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity) we profess that God the Son is “eternally begotten of the Father.”  This statement is a profession in the divinity of Jesus Christ, a statement made against the heresy of the Egyptian priest Arius, who taught that “there was a time when the Son was not.”

The Creed drives home this profession in the Son’s divinity by its next three phrases:  “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.”  Two of the truths that these phrases teach are:  (1) the unity of the Father and the Son; (2) that the Son is from the Father, in a manner it describes by the verb “begotten”.

For today’s reflection, let’s focus on the first of these truths, that the Father and the Son are one.  Consider this truth in the light of the second phrase here:  that the Son is “Light from Light” .  What are we to make of this phrase?  How is God light?  This is a metaphor, of course, but a very pregnant one.  Jesus proclaims in today’s Gospel passage, “I came into the world as light….”  He is not talking, of course, about being a beam of physical light, but rather that His mission in this world has the same effect as light. 

Jesus’ earthly mission is continued through time by His Mystical Body, the Church.  Your vocation within the Church bears—in some way—a share in the meaning of this metaphor:  “that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.”  How in your vocation are you meant to bear for others the same light that Christ sheds on the meaning of your life?

Tues. Easter Week IV - April 27

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 11:19-26  ―  John 10:22-30
April 27, 2010

Verse for Reflection:
“The Father and I are one.”
[John 10:30]

Reflection Question:
What sort of unity does the Father want me to share with Him?

for today’s Scripture passages from Holy Mass

Today’s Gospel passage—a longer version of the passage heard this past Sunday—ends in an intriguing manner.  At its end, the passage seems to take an odd turn “off course”.

The passage seems to be about Jesus dispelling the Jews’ “suspense” by identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd.  He then describes His relationship with His sheep, and the fact that by following His voice, His sheep have eternal life.

So far, so good.  The metaphors that Jesus uses echo imagery from the Old Testament.  We seem to be on familiar, comfortable ground.  But then…

Jesus speaks about the relationships between Himself, His Father, and His sheep.  Re-read the last two sentences of today’s Gospel passage, and ask yourself what Jesus is trying to tell us.  You may wish to study the commentary of Saint Thomas Aquinas on this passage:  to do so, CLICK HERE.

From speaking about Himself and His Sheep, Jesus moves to speak about Himself and His Father.  “The Father and I are one.”  This is not bad pedagogy on Jesus’ part. 

What is He up to? 

How is unity one of the most important themes of the Easter Season, when we reflect on the Risen Lord, His Church, and our own participation in the Mystical Body of Christ?  

As we draw closer to the Solemnity of Pentecost, make unity one of the gifts that you ask the Holy Spirit to bring more deeply into your life…

Good Shepherd Sunday - homily

The Fourth Sunday of Easter [C]
Acts 13:14,43-52  —  Rev 7:9,14-17  —  John 10:27-30
April 25, 2010

This homily is posted at the request of parishioners...

On Wednesday I got a haircut.  My barber, who cuts hair over at Maple and Tyler, is a good Catholic man.  I noticed a poster in his barber shop advertising EWTN with a large picture of Our Lord Jesus.  This is one of the advantages of running your own business:  you don’t have to worry about having an employer tell you not to share your faith in the workplace.

I got to know this man while I served at Wichita State’s Newman Center.  He is a parishioner there, and serves Sunday Mass.  While I had often visited with him during my time at Wichita State, I never talked to him about how he came to be a parishioner there.  But this week while he cut my hair, he told me the story.  He explained that he lives almost right in the middle of about four different parishes.  When he moved there, he went to each of these parishes, but he chose the Newman Center because it was so small.  That was the quality that that impressed him the most:  that it was a small community, where people knew each other.

This is very understandable.  None of us likes feeling like just a face in the crowd, and if you’re someone who has a difficult time reaching out, or getting to know people, then it makes sense that a smaller parish is going to feel less overwhelming.

Our Church—the Catholic Church—can feel overwhelming at times.  We can view this either as a strength or a weakness.  In some circumstances, it does present challenges, and in other circumstances, it bears strengths.  But there’s no doubt that the size of our Church as a whole can seem overwhelming.  This struck me in a powerful way when I travelled to Rome for the first time, and entered Saint Peter’s Basilica.  There is no way in words to describe the immensity of this church.  As beautiful as its architecture is; as extensive as its collection of art is; as brilliant as its colors are… what struck me upon entering Saint Peter’s Basilica was none of those things, but rather… the sheer empty space of the basilica.  The size of Saint Peter’s certainly adds to its beauty, but on the other hand, you cannot help but feel dwarfed once you enter in.

Perhaps this is part of the genius of the place.  Perhaps this is part of what the architects intended, to make the pilgrim who enters to feel like a child, entering into the bosom of Holy Mother Church.  Certainly the vast spaces, both vertically and horizontally, produce a spiritual sense of transcendence, and we need to be aware of the power of that transcendence.  This sense of transcendence challenges us at times, and we need to be challenged.  We need to be challenged by the Church in all her height, width, depth and breadth.

X   X   X

During the Easter Season, we reflect on the nature and the mission of the Church.  There are four words that the Church uses to describe herself:  “one”, “holy”, “catholic” and “apostolic”.  On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we reflect on what it means for the Church to be “catholic”.

Sometimes, we think of the word “catholic” as describing a denomination, as if the Catholic Church is just another alternative to the Southern Baptist Church, or the Methodist Church, or the Orthodox Church, or the Assembly of God.  But that’s not what the Church herself means by calling herself “catholic”.  She is not a denomination.

The word “catholic” literally means “universal”.  This word—“universal”—certainly calls to mind a sense of grandness, of immensity and scope.  But we shortchange what the Church is all about if we think primarily of the Church’s grandness and scope in terms of physical size or even history.  We shortchange the Church if we think that her primary mission is to reach all the nations of the world, to have her Sacred Liturgy and Scripture proclaimed in all the languages of the world.  The Church is called to be “catholic” in those ways, only as a means to a greater end.

It’s not the grandness of 2000 years of history, or the grandness of basilicas and cathedrals throughout the world that demonstrates the depth and breadth that Jesus wanted His Church to have above all.  Those other types of grandness do illustrate her great grandness, but above all, the Church is universal in… her… love.

This is what our readings from Holy Scripture today illustrate.  Last Sunday we heard Jesus entrust this universal mission to Saint Peter.  Today, we hear Our Savior reflect on Himself as the source of this love.  We hear Him reflect on Himself as the Good Shepherd, whose love for mankind is universal.

The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a picture, of course:  a metaphor.  Jesus does not literally want to lead us towards green pastures and running streams.  Where does Jesus want to lead us?  He wants to lead us… into His Father.  And what does the Good Shepherd use as His shepherd’s staff?  His Cross.

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The Church’s mission is to draw all of mankind into the love of God the Father:  into the life of the Blessed Trinity.  That mission sounds immense.  It sounds too large for any one of us to wrap our minds around, let alone accomplish.  That’s why it’s so important for each of us—each member of the Body of Christ—to accept this mission for our own individual life.  The Church as a whole cannot fulfill her mission to love all mankind, unless each member of the Church loves every person who comes into our thoughts, our memories, our affections and feelings and memories.

Your love for others—if you are a member of the Catholic Church—must itself be catholic.  You cannot choose to love some persons, but not others.  We can choose how we love a person:  we are—after all—finite human creatures, so we have to order our loves.  But if you point to someone and say, “I refuse to love that person,” your life will not reflect the life of Jesus, who through the Cross gave His divine life for every human person.

Here is a challenge to you.  During the remainder of this Easter Season, spiritually adopt one person whom you do not love, or find it difficult to love.  This person may be someone you’ve never met, perhaps from a foreign country, like Osama bin Laden.  Or, perhaps it would be a politician whom you would never vote for.  God does not ask you to vote for every politician.  But God does ask you to love every politician.  Who knows?  Maybe your love and prayers for a politician whom you do not care for… will make him or her a better politician!

Maybe the person whom you should spiritually adopt is someone in your own family:  a parent, child, sibling, or even your spouse.  Perhaps you would want to spiritually adopt the person in your neighborhood whom you go out of your way to avoid.  God does not ask you to invite every one of your neighbors to your house to entertain them.  But God does ask you to love your neighbor… as yourself.

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What does loving another person consist of?  Loving another person means… wanting that person to draw closer to God.  Or to put it another way:  loving another person means never standing between that person and God.  Loving another person means wanting that person to go to Heaven when he or she dies, and doing something to help make that happen.  After all, if God wants a person to be with Him in Heaven, why should we want otherwise?  If God gave His only-begotten Son so that every person could be with Him in Heaven, why should we want to do something to impede God’s Will from coming to be? 

In this, is the nature and mission of the Church:  to draw all mankind into the love who is God.  This is the “universal” love that God wants us to share in, and to draw others into.

The parish I serve

<b>The parish I serve</b>
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Colwich, Kansas (Diocese of Wichita)