Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s video: Third Sunday of Easter B & St. Gianna Beretta Molla, April 19,2015

Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s video: Third Sunday of Easter B & St. Gianna Beretta Molla, April 19,2015

In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus the meaning and purpose of his resurrection for our salvation through the Paschal Mystery of his death and resurrection. But our salvation will be completed when we rise with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit to everlasting glory in the home of our heavenly Father. In our journey home to the Father, the Lord gives us the mission, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24:46-48). St. Peter obeyed the Lord and preached, “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.… Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3: 15-19). St. John Climacus (605 AD) clarified this challenge of repentance as “reconciliation with the Lord by the performance of good deeds, which are the opposite of sin. It is the purification of conscience and the voluntary endurance of affliction.”

With the witness of St. Peter and the two disciples about the presence of the Lord in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:35), we always gather for the breaking of the bread every Sunday in remembrance of His words, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:54). St. Francis of Assisi (1226 AD) explained this truth and wrote: “Let the whole mankind tremble, the whole world shake and the heavens exult… That the Lord of universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation He hides himself under the little form of bread!” and Pope Benedict XVI said, “In the same Eucharist, Christ gives us his Body and makes us his Body” (Nov 22, 2006). “The more we allow ourselves, through the liturgy, to be transformed in Christ, the more we will be capable of transforming the world, radiating Christ’s goodness, his mercy and his love for others” (Sept 13, 2006). What will I do to radiate Christ’s goodness, mercy and love for others?

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

“Lord Jesus, open our minds to understand the scriptures that we may fully comprehend the truth of your word.  Anoint us with power and boldness to be your witnesses to all the nations. Through the gift of your Holy Spirit, you fill us with an indomitable spirit of praise and joy which no earthly trial can subdue. Fill us with your resurrection joy and help us to live a life of praise and thanksgiving for your glory. May we witness to those around us the joy of the gospel and the reality of your resurrection.” In your Name, we pray. Amen.

Reading 1
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 – The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead.

Peter said to the people:
“The God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus,
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
Now I know, brothers,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9

R. (7a) Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
have pity on me, and hear my prayer!
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one;
the LORD will hear me when I call upon him.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!
You put gladness into my heart.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep,
for you alone, O LORD,
bring security to my dwelling.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading II
1 Jn 2:1-5a – Jesus Christ is expiation not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.

My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep
his commandments.
Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments
are liars, and the truth is not in them.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.

The word of the Lord.

Gospel
Lk 24:35-48 – Thus it was written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – Understanding the Scriptures

Dr. Scott Hahn’s Reflection click below: 

Listen Here!

Jesus in today’s Gospel, teaches His apostles how to interpret the Scriptures.

He tells them that all the Scriptures of what we now call the Old Testament refer to Him. He says that all the promises found in the Old Testament have been fulfilled in His passion, death, and resurrection. And He tells them that these Scriptures foretell the mission of the Church – to preach forgiveness of sins to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

In today’s First Reading and Epistle, we see the beginnings of that mission. And we see the apostles interpreting the Scriptures as Jesus taught them to.

God has brought to fulfillment what He announced beforehand in all the prophets, Peter preaches. His sermon is shot through with Old Testament images. He evokes Moses and the exodus, in which God revealed himself as the ancestral God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Exodus 3:6,15). He identifies Jesus as Isaiah’s suffering servant who has been glorified (see Isaiah 52:13).

John, too describes Jesus in Old Testament terms. Alluding to how Israel’s priests offered blood sacrifices to atone for the people’s sins (see Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9-10), he says that Jesus intercedes for us before God (see Romans 8:34), and that His blood is a sacrificial expiation for the sins of the world (see 1 John 1:7).

Notice that in all three readings, the Scriptures are interpreted to serve and advance the Church’s mission – to reveal the truth about Jesus, to bring people to repentance, the wiping away of sins, and the perfection of their love for God.

This is how we, too, should hear the Scriptures. Not to know more “about” Jesus, but to truly know Him personally, and to know His plan for our lives.

In the Scriptures, the light of His face shines upon us, as we sing in today’s Psalm. We know the wonders He has done throughout history. And we have the confidence to call to Him, and to know that He hears and answers.

Reflection 2 – Jesus opens the understanding of his disciples

“Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”

Obedience and love are the marks of a man who knows God and has Him in his heart. Knowing God means keeping His commandments and having a deep desire to do what one knows will please Him. Knowing God is to live as Jesus lived.

A man who knows God follows His will not for fear of punishment but out of His love for Him. Knowing God is not cerebral but personal and experiential. To know God is not simply to trust Him but to live in daily fellowship with Him. It is obedience founded on love. That is why, one who claims to know God yet chooses the precepts to obey within His church is a liar and does not really know Him.

One who is hostile to his fellow Christians most especially to those who have authority over Him despite efforts to reconcile and guide one in his work and ministry for the Lord, does not really know God. One may have a thorough knowledge of God’s Laws and the Holy Scripture and may even claim to be a competent teacher of God’s ways but if he has no obedience in his heart, then his knowledge of God is something that is purely academic, intellectual and legalistic not far from the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

Let us look deep into our hearts and ask ourselves how well we know our God.

Has God’s love for us been perfected? Has it accomplished its very purpose and has it reached its end in producing obedience to Him?

Direction

In times of conflict or differences on how God’s work should be pursued, after deep prayer and meditation, we need to be obedient to what has been agreed upon. We obey not for fear of punishment and reprimand but out of love and deep desire to follow Jesus. If Jesus died for the expiation of our sins, we too should be able to die to ourselves and be obedient to what is right in God’s eyes which most often is expressed in prayerful discernment.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, it is my heart’s desire to know You more. Let your countenance shine upon me! In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love and the future to God’s providence. – St. Augustine of Hippo

Reflection 3 – Touch Me!

One night, Steven Spielberg was seen drinking in a bar with a Chinese guy. After some time and several bottles of beer, Spielberg suddenly punched the Chinese guy in the face. The guy was surprised, and asked, “What’s that for?” Spielberg said, “That’s for bombing Pearl Harbor.” The man protested: “You idiot! Those were the Japanese. I am Chinese!” But Spielberg replied, “Whatever! Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese. They are all the same!” After a while the Chinese guy kicked Spielberg. “Why?” he asked. The guy replied, “That’s for sinking the Titanic!” “What? It was an iceberg!” protested Spielberg. The guy replied, “Whatever. Iceberg, Carlsberg, Lindbergh, Spielberg. They are all the same!”

No two people are the same, not even identical twins. Every human being is unique. But the recent advancements in the medical sciences are trying to undermine this truth. The advocates of the science of cloning are telling us that it is very possible to duplicate human beings. The human tissues and organs can be duplicated. The DNA can be duplicated. They can produce an exactly the same human person. However, they are gravely mistaken. Though it might be possible to duplicate the body and all its organs and tissues, it is not possible to duplicate a human being. Nobody can duplicate the principle of life and individuality of man, which is the soul. It is impossible to clone the soul.

And a human person is composed of both body and soul. If it is only body, it is just a corpse – ready to be buried. If it is only soul, then it must be a ghost. A human being is both body and soul. We should, therefore, avoid dichotomizing man. We cannot talk of a human person without taking both body and soul together.

Jesus Christ is true God. And he is also true man. He is both divine and human. As man, he has both body and soul. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples many times. In the Gospel account this Sunday, he made sure that they understand this. “Why are you troubled? It is I myself. Touch me.” Then, as further proof, he even asked for food: “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of fish, and he ate it in front of them. He clearly made sure to them that he is not a disembodied spirit or a ghost.

Today’s Gospel rejects that spirit-body dualism. After his resurrection Jesus demonstrates he is not a “ghost” or a spirit without body. There is a tendency today to dichotomize Jesus: to separate the divine Jesus from the human Jesus, the bodily Jesus from the spiritual Jesus. The people of today prefer a “spiritual Jesus” to the flesh and blood Jesus.

Of course to “spiritualize” Jesus can be attractive to a lot of people. A spiritual Jesus is confined in the realm of the spirit. It keeps him at a safe distance from us, so he does not interfere in our plans and in our life; but he is always there when we need him. Many would prefer a “Jesus-on-call” (“Don’t-call-me-I’ll-call- you” arrangement.)

But an over-spiritualized approach to Jesus misses the truth: He desires that we touch him; that we contemplate his five wounds; and that we eat his body and drink his blood. That is, after all the reason for the Incarnation.

We may find it rather strange that Jesus, in his appearances after his resurrection, insisted on his physicality, the reality of his body: “Touch me!” Well, the reason is that he does not want us to put him aside to some distant spiritual realm. He desires not just a spiritual relationship with us, but also a physical one: physical and spiritual union – a “spousal union.” He wants to espouse us. He is the Bridegroom, and we, the Church, are his Bride. As St. Peter tells us, he is the “author of life” (Acts 3:17), and he invites us to share that life: “I came that you may have life and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10). And this is precisely why Jesus gave us the sacraments: that we might connect and relate with him on the material and physical as well as on the spiritual level.

This tendency to dichotomize Jesus reveals also a clear tendency among us to dichotomize man. Many people want to separate their spiritual life from their daily life, their religious life from their life in this world. They are the so-called “split-level Christians”, the dual-life Christians. They want to brush aside the commandments with a simple rule of thumb: As long as my spirit is right (that is, I feel good about myself) it does not matter what I do with my body. As the words of a famous song says: “It can’t be wrong if it feels so right. ‘Cause you, you light up my life.” I can do anything I like as long as it feels good inside.

This Sunday, Jesus calls us to be authentic in our life and in our relationship with Him and with one another. Let the words we speak reveal the truthfulness of our hearts and minds. Let our actions express the purity of our intentions. Let the beauty of our bodies be the reflection of the inner beauty and splendor of our souls.

And let this also be the way we look at others. We cannot continue looking at people and judging them by their external appearances alone. A human person is more than the physical body we see. He is both corporeal and spiritual. Lest we forget, Jesus identified himself with the poor, the neglected and the rejects of society: “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.”

St. Irenaeus said: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” God is glorified when we live our lives to the full. Let us live as true human beings, created in the image and likeness of God. We have bodies, but with souls. So we are not corpses. We have souls, but with bodies. So we are not ghosts. We are human beings, men and women created by God and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, destined to share in the eternal life and glory in our God’s heavenly kingdom (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Sta. Lucia Church, JP Rizal Street, Bgy. Sta. Lucia, Novaliches, Quezon City 1117).

Reflection 4 – Witness of Peace

“In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy, and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is God plan for mankind. Man is made for peace which is God’s gift…..

“ Jesus, the revelation of the Father’s love, does not hesitate to offer himself in self-sacrifice. Once we accept Jesus Christ, God and man, we have the joyful experience of an immense gift: the sharing of God’s own life, the life of grace, the pledge of a fully blessed existence. Jesus Christ, in particular, grants us true peace, which is born of the trusting encounter of man with God….

“In effect, peace presupposes a humanism open to transcendence. It is the fruit of the reciprocal gift, of a mutual enrichment, thanks to the gift which has its source in God and enables us to live with others and for others. The ethics of peace is an ethics of fellowship and sharing….

“The precondition for peace is the dismantling of the dictatorship of relativism and of the supposition of a completely autonomous morality which precludes acknowledgment of the ineluctable natural moral law inscribed by God upon the conscience of every man and woman. Peace is the building up of coexistence in rational and moral terms, based on a foundation whose measure is not created by man, but rather by God (Source: Pope Benedict XVI, Magnificat, Vol. 17, No. 2, April 2015, pp. 71-72).

Reflection 5 – The presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in his people

The two disciples in the Gospel story recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. The breaking of the bread reaches so deep into who we are as Catholics, as Christians, that the teaching of the Catholic Church places before us as a precept, as a command, that we are to gather for the breaking of the bread each week. Millions of Catholics around the world gather daily in their local parishes, in monasteries and convents, in hospitals and on the road for breaking of the bread.

In some way beyond our human perception, the breaking of the bread is both a sign that Jesus is already with us – in the Christian people who gather in his name, in you and me, and under the form of bread and wine, which become his Body and Blood. St. Francis of Assisi wrote: “Let the whole mankind tremble, the whole world shake and the heavens exult… That the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation He hides himself under the little form of bread!” When we speak of the real presence of Christ, generally we refer to that presence under the form of bread and wine, of the Eucharist. But the real presence of Christ is not only there, but in us and in Christ’s people, too.

We hear of the real presence of Jesus today in the gospel twice. First, we heard of it in the description of what had happened to those disciples who had walked with Jesus to Emmaus, that they knew him in the breaking of the bread. Second, Jesus joined those disciples and those to whom they spoke. The risen Jesus was really there with them. He was not a ghost. Though now in glory Jesus in some miraculous way remains flesh and blood. The risen Christ is as real as those sitting next to you now, or when you watch a movie, or eat a meal. He was really there with the disciples – not a ghost. By eating fish, Jesus showed the disciples that he was flesh and blood. Jesus remains as real in this world as wives and husbands, parents and children. Jesus is as real in this world as the strangers on our streets, at our borders, or in scenes of devastation. Jesus is a real in our world as any human being, who, like us, longs for food for the day and shelter for the night.

Jesus asked the disciples to look at his hands and feet, to touch him, to see his flesh and feel his bones. Jesus reminds us that every time we touch each other, we are touching him. We are not simply touching Jesus; we are touching his wounds. For in each other, we touch Jesus’ broken body. We know how much it hurts when we cut our finger with a piece of paper. The wounds of Jesus reflect the wounds which he bore for all of us and those wounds go as deep as nail marks, rather than being as shallow as paper cuts. So we are called to be loving and gentle with one another. Jesus challenges us to touch others with the same kind of love with which he reached out to us. Jesus’ love was not always about warm, sweet cuddly things. Sometimes that love challenged the perceptions and prejudices of those around him. Sometimes that love was an invitation to sacrifice. Always, that love called for putting God first and loving my neighbors as myself.

Jesus is as truly present here as he was with the disciples, in the breaking of the bread and in our broken lives. We heard in the first reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19) how Jesus was put to death, and we know that we can help others, or we can hurt them. We heard in the second reading (1 Jn 2:1-5) that Jesus intercedes for us, and we know that we are to pray, we are to do, we are to be: for each other.

Aware that Christ is truly present in us, we gather to have that real presence affirmed and strengthened by seeking the nourishment of his Body and Blood. By paying attention to the reality of Christ present in the breaking of the bread, we are called as well to recognize the real presence of Christ in ourselves, in the community of faith and in the needs of those around us.(Source: Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, Fr. Hilarion Kistner, OFM, editor. Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, April 26, 2009).

Reflection 6 – The word of God

It seems that wherever we go we see people talking on mobile phones – on the street, in the supermarket, driving. People use mobile phones because they love to talk, to communicate. Sometimes, rarely, it is a matter of life or death. If communication is important to people, why should God be unable to communicate with creatures he made to his image? He has, and he has done it well through prophets and perfectly through his son made man, Jesus Christ. Much of his vital message has been committed to writing and so we have the Bible, the Word of God. Because we heard in the gospel that Jesus opened the apostles’ minds “to understand the Scriptures” we pray that he will do the same for us. Today we shall consider why the Bible is the Word of God and specifically why it is inspired and inspiring.

We show great reverence for the Bible. The lectionary is often carried aloft as the celebrant processes to the altar. The priest carries the Book of Gospels to the pulpit as the Alleluia is sung. It is incensed before the reading of the gospel and the book is kissed at the conclusion. Pause a moment! What are we doing? Years ago Catholics were accused of being “idol worshipers” because they reverenced the statures of saints. Are we now “book worshipers?” Of course not! We reverenced statues because they helped us recall the lives of saints. We reverence the liturgical books because of the Word of God written in them. Concentrate on the Word of God, not the kisses and censer!

The Bible is the all time best-seller in the world. More effort and research, time and study have been dedicated to preserving, copying, translating and printing it than to all the classics combined – Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe, to mention a few. Millions of copies have been distributed throughout the world and countless sermons have been preached urging people to read it. Fervent souls have testified to its power to comfort, enlighten and strengthen and yet… so many Christians keep the Bible for recording family dates, for taking an oath of office, for show and little more. Why? People do not understand what inspiration means. They think it is like a poet being inspired by a great tree or old urn.

Biblical inspiration consists in this. The Holy Spirit so moved human authors by supernatural power to write the Bible and so guided them in writing it “that the things that he ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth” (Providentissimus Deus). We believe that God is the author of sacred Scripture and yet that human writers were not robots but free agents of the Holy Spirit. They used their talents and abilities while remaining creatures of their age and culture. As instruments of the Holy Spirit they communicated God’s Word to mankind and were truly prophets, speakers for God.

Once we understand what biblical inspiration is, we can no longer dismiss it lightly or ignore it. Nevertheless the Bible cannot by itself prove that it is truthful, much less inspired. St. Paul assures us, “All Scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching – for reproof, correction and training in holiness” (2 Tim 3:16), but one can ask, was he quoted correctly? Was his letter to Timothy genuine? The fact is that there is only one credible guarantor of biblical genuineness, veracity and inspiration, and it is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ, the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church is this credible guarantor because of her past history and continuing vitality, her uninterrupted presence in the world from apostolic times, her widespread acceptance among nations, her success in promoting heroic virtue, her unshaken authority, unchanging doctrine and admirable unity resting on the Rock that is Peter – all this despite attacks from outside and betrayals from within!

History shows that without a living authority the Bible is soon subjected to personal contrivance and interpretation. A retired auto-worker, Randall Peterson, has proposed that there be a new kind of Bible. He sarcastically says that a publisher ought to create an electronic Bible that would allow for editing from people in the pew. That way everyone could make the Bible say what they want it to say. It could even be sold to any church regardless of what it believes. The Roman Catholic Church knows what it believes and interprets Scriptures in accord with the deposit of faith committed to her by Christ.

Another factor to consider is that while the Bible is inspired it does not contain the entire deposit of faith. The Bible itself makes this clear. Jesus never commanded the apostles to write, only to teach all that he commanded them. Indeed not all of the apostles became inspired authors of Scripture. We also know that the spoken Word of God, the oral tradition of the Church, took place long before the writing of the New Testament and complements it. The Holy Spirit not only guided the writers of Scripture but also guides the Church.

Inspiration finally does not extend to copies or translations of the Bible. Before the invention of printing, the texts of Scriptures were copied by hand, usually by monks. It was tedious work and at times errors were made, which now have been corrected. Today we have many translations of Scripture. Not all are equally elegant, accurate or faithful. To choose a version solely on the basis of linguistic style may not always be wise.

Since Scripture is inspired, it is also inspiring, but just as the Holy Spirit’s guidance was necessary to the authors of the Word of God, so it is to us if we are to grasp God’s message. We must however, be properly disposed and the first requirement is humility. God “teaches the humble his way” (Ps 25:9). Thomas a Kemphis offers this advice: “All holy Scripture should be read in the spirit in which it was written. We should seek profit in the Scriptures rather than subtlety of speech… If thou wilt derive profit, read with humility, with simplicity, and with faith.” (Source: Rev. George M. Franko, “Homilies on the Liturgies of Sundays and Feasts,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Vol. CIX, No. 6. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, March 2009, pp. 42-44; Suggested reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 105-108, 111-114, 129, 137).

Reflection 7 – Christ is there to accompany us

Purpose: At every Eucharist, as at Emmaus, Christ is there to accompany us on our journey home.

Readings: Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19; Ps. 4: 2, 4, 7-8, 9; I John 2: 1-5a; Luke 24: 35-48
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/041915.cfm

The Emmaus event gives us great insight into the faith of the early Christian community regarding the resurrection of Christ Jesus. No one was physically present to witness the very moment of the resurrection. But, this event is not questioned by the early Christians. The early Christians had a solid faith in the resurrection of Jesus, not only because of the Apostles telling their experience of the empty tomb, or the many apparitions that followed, but because of the power of signs, most especially the sacramental sign of the Eucharist, to communicate the reality of the resurrection.

It is at Emmaus that we see the Eucharist—the “breaking of the bread” as it was called in the early Church—become the sign, par excellence, to communicate the resurrection of Jesus. For, even though Jesus walked the long road to Emmaus with the disciples, and even though their hearts burned within them as Jesus preached and taught them about the recent events that occurred in Jerusalem, it was only at the “breaking of the bread” (in the celebrating of the Eucharist) that their eyes were opened to faith, and they recognized Jesus’ presence.

As it was for these early disciples in the Christian community, it is for us today. The celebration of the Mass gives us the opportunity to walk alongside Jesus, and have him instruct us, that our hearts may burn within us, during the proclamation and preaching of the Word of God. Yet, it is not until we experience the Eucharist, and allowing it to affect what it signifies—the real and true crucified and resurrected presence of Jesus—that we are capable of seeing Jesus and, thus, understanding all that he instructs us during the Liturgy of the Word.

The Eucharist is the sign of God’s actual presence with us. It is a mystery. It is the sign that conveys the mysteries of our salvation, and God’s love for us. It is also the sign that mysteriously works within us, the faith that affects our senses, so that we see in the Eucharist a meaning and reality that goes beyond our prima facie perception. Therefore, we are elevated to the realm of the beautiful and transcendent glory of the Resurrected One. This encounter changes our lives and strengthens our resolve by giving the faith we heard proclaimed and preached—which burned in our hearts—credibility. Now we follow Christ with conviction because the Eucharist shows us his presence alongside us for the journey.

Reflection 8 – St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962)

In less than 40 years, Gianna Beretta Molla became a pediatric physician, a wife, a mother and a saint!

She was born in Magenta (near Milano) as the 10th of Alberto and Maria’s 13 children. An active member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Gianna earned degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia and opened a clinic in Mesero. Gianna also enjoyed skiing and mountain climbing.

Shortly before her 1955 marriage to Pietro Molla, Gianna wrote to him: “Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.” She and Peter had three children, Pierlluigi, Maria Zita and Laura.

Early in the pregnancy for her fourth child, doctors discovered that Gianna had both a child and a tumor in her uterus. She allowed the surgeons to remove the tumor but not to perform the complete hysterectomy that they recommended, which would have killed the child. Seven months later, Gianna Emanuela was born, The following week Gianna Beretta Molla died in Monza of complications from childbirth. She is buried in Mesero.

Gianna Emanuela went on to become a physician herself. Gianna Beretta Molla was beatified in 1994 and canonized 10 years later.

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1987

Comment:

With great faith and courage, Gianna made the choice that enabled her daughter to be born. We can often wish that we were in different circumstances, but holiness frequently comes from making difficult choices in bad situations.

Quote:

In his homily at the canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II said: “Gianna Beretta Molla was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love…Following the example of Christ, who ‘having loved his own…loved them to the end’ [John 13:1], this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfill themselves.”

Pope Francis describes the massacre of Armenians as genocide. Turkey recalls its ambassador

Pope Francis describes the massacre of Armenians as genocide. Turkey recalls its ambassador

Published on Apr 13, 2015

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It was a Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica, but it made international news.

Walking side by side with the superior of the Armenian Church and with the Patriarch, the Pope described the massacre of more than one million Armenians as a genocide.
POPE FRANCIS
 “It is widely considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th century.’ It struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation.”
Whether or not the Pope would actually use the word ‘genocide’ had triggered wide spread speculation.
From 1915 to 1923 about 1.5 million Armenians were killed under the Ottoman empire in what is now present day Turkey.
Armenians applauded the Pope’s remarks. Turkey which has long denied the genocide, arguing they were casualties of war- disapproved.  The Pope said, acceptance is part of the healing process.
POPE FRANCIS
“Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”
The Pope also linked the Armenian genocide to the current persecution of Christians.
POPE FRANCIS
“On account of their faith in Christ or their ethnic origin they are publicly and ruthlessly put to death, decapitated, crucified, burned alive or forced to leave their homeland.”
Armenia’s president attended the Mass, along with other high ranking civil and religious authorities. Shortly after the Mass, Turkey summoned the Vatican’s Ambassador and his counterpart in Rome to show their disapproval.
During the two hour Mass which followed the Armenian rite, the Pope also declared St. Gregory of Narek as a Doctor of the Church.
Turkey Recalls Ambassador to the Holy See Following Pope’s Remarks on Armenian Genocide
Foreign Ministry Says Recognition of 1915 Events ‘Contradict Historical and Legal Facts’

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, April 13, 2015 (Zenit.org) – The Turkish government expressed its dismay at Pope Francis’ words regarding the killing of Armenians in 1915 as the “the first genocide of the twentieth century.”

The Holy Father made these remarks during a Mass with members of the Armenian Rite on Sunday.

“It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honour their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!” he said.

Reaction by Turkish officials was swift, with Turkey summoning the Vatican’s ambassador in Ankara and recalling it’s ambassador to the Holy See for consultation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also released a statement, saying that the Pope’s remarks “contradict historical and legal facts.”

“Pope Francis has made today a discrimination between the sufferings by solely emphasizing the sufferings of the Christians and foremost the Armenians,” the statement read. “With a selective point of view, he ignored the tragedies that befell on the Turkish and Muslim people who had lost their lives in World War I.”

The Turkish government, while recognizing that Armenians were killed, argue that the number of casualities is greatly exaggerated. However, countless scholars and 22 countries have formally recognized the murder of 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide.

“Given his statements of today, we understand that Pope Francis is under the influence of the Armenian narrative which persists to derive enmity from history instead of leaving a legacy of friendship and peace to the future generations. We reject this approach,” the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also responded to Pope Francis’ remarks, calling them “inappropriate” and “one-sided.” During an event in Istanbul on Sunday,Davutoğl said that “only highlighting one side’s suffering during war time and discriminating the others’ pain is not appropriate for the pope and the authority that he holds.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister also took to Twitter to denounce the Holy Father’s statements. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted: “Religious offices are not places through which hatred and animosity are fueled by unfounded allegations.”

The Holy See has yet to comment on the Turkish goverment’s response to Pope Francis’ words.

Read it online

Pope’s Morning Homily: Courage to Speak the Truth Is a Grace of the Holy Spirit
During Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Reflects on Announcing the Gospel Without Fear

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, April 13, 2015 (Zenit.org) – In preaching, the Church’s message must always be spoken with frankness and courage, without fear of announcing the truth.

These were the words of Pope Francis in his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father reflected on today’s first reading in which Peter and John who continued to preach despite being jailed and threatened by the High Priests.

“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,” the disciples prayed in the reading. That same courage, the Holy Father noted, is what the Church needs to announce the Good News.

“And today too, the Church’s message is the message of the path of openness, the path of Christian courage,” he said.

“These two simple [men]- as the Bible says – with no education, had courage. A word that can be translated as ‘courage,’ ‘straightforwardness,’ ‘freedom to speak,’ ‘not being afraid to say things’ … It’s a word that has many meanings, in its original form. Parrésia, that frankness … and their fear gave way to ‘openness,’ to saying things with freedom.”

The Holy Father’s words on speaking out with openness and without fear come on the heels of criticism by the government of Turkey following the Pope’s recognition of the events of 1915 as a genocide during his remarks to the Armenian faithful yesterday in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Courage is a Grace

The Pope also reflected on today’s Gospel, which recounted the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, in which Christ speaks of one being “born again.”

“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,” Jesus says. The Holy Father said that even in this story, the courage to proclaim the truth comes from the Holy Spirit.

“And this courage of proclamation is what distinguishes us from simple proselytism. We do not advertise Jesus Christ, to have more ‘members’ in our ‘spiritual society’, no? This is not necessary. There’s no need; it’s not Christian. What the Christian does is to announce with courage, and the proclamation of Jesus Christ causes, through the Holy Spirit, that astonishment that keeps us going.”

Jesus’ words on being “born again”, he continued, means that it is only through the Holy Spirit that one can truly change.

“The path of Christian courage is a grace given by the Holy Spirit. There are so many paths that we can take that also give us a certain amount of courage. ‘But look at that brave decision he has taken! And look at this one: look how he laid out this plan well, organized things, [bravo]!’ This helps, but it is an instrument of something bigger: the Spirit. If there is no Spirit, we can do many things, much work, but it is not of any use.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to prepare to receive the Holy Spirit during the Easter time leading to Pentecost. He also prayed that they may “ask for the grace to receive the Spirit to give us the true courage to announce Jesus Christ.”

The Vortex: It’s Raining Gays, Alleluia!

The Vortex: It’s Raining Gays, Alleluia!

Published on Apr 13, 2015

Gays are everywhere in the Church, but they didn’t JUST appear.

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Real Encounter: 13 Reasons Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Hallucinate

Real Encounter: 13 Reasons Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Hallucinate

Cleopas

by  

NOTE: Christians around the world celebrated Good Friday and Easter last week, which commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus we began a six-part series on these events by Dr. Peter Kreeft in which he examines each of the plausible theories attempting to explain what happened to Jesus at the end of his life, particularly whether he rose from the dead.

Part 1 – 5 Possible Theories that Explain the Resurrection of Jesus
Part 2 – Rejecting the Swoon Theory: 9 Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Faint on the Cross
Part 3 – Debunking the Conspiracy Theory: 7 Arguments Why Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Lie
Part 4 – Refuting the Myth Theory: 6 Reasons Why the Resurrection Accounts are True
Part 5 – Real Visions: 13 Reasons the Disciples Did Not Hallucinate
Part 6 – (Coming soon!)

If you thought you saw a dead man walking and talking, wouldn’t you think it more likely that you were hallucinating than that you were seeing correctly? Why then not think the same thing about Christ’s resurrection? Here are thirteen reasons the disciples who encountered the resurrected Jesus were not hallucinating:

(1) There were too many witnesses. Hallucinations are private, individual, and subjective. Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples minus Thomas, to the disciples including Thomas, to the two disciples at Emmaus, to the fisherman on the shore, to James (his “brother” or cousin), and even to five hundred people at once (1 Cor 15:3-8). Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry; over five hundred is about as public as you can wish. And Paul says in this passage (v. 6) that most of the five hundred are still alive, inviting any reader to check the truth of the story by questioning the eyewitnesses—he could never have done this and gotten away with it, given the power, resources, and numbers of his enemies, if it were not true.

(2) The witnesses were qualified. They were simple, honest, moral people who had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

(3) The five hundred saw Christ together, at the same time and place. This is even more remarkable than five hundred private “hallucinations” at different times and places of the same Jesus. Five hundred separate Elvis sightings may be dismissed, but if five hundred simple fishermen in Maine saw, touched, and talked with him at once, in the same town, that would be a different matter. (The only other dead person we know of who is reported to have appeared to hundreds of qualified and skeptical eyewitnesses at once is Mary the mother of Jesus [at Fatima, to 70,000]. And that was not a claim of physical resurrection but of a vision.)

(4) Hallucinations usually last a few seconds or minutes; rarely hours. This one hung around for forty days (Acts 1:3).

(5) Hallucinations usually happen only once, except to the insane. This one returned many times, to ordinary people (Jn 20:19-21:14; Acts 1:3).

(6) Hallucinations come from within, from what we already know, at least unconsciously. This one said and did surprising and unexpected things (Acts 1:4,9)—like a real person and unlike a dream.

(7) Not only did the disciples not expect this, they didn’t even believe it at first. Neither Peter, nor the women, nor Thomas, nor the eleven believed. They thought he was a ghost; he had to eat something to prove he was not (Lk 24:36-43).

(8) Hallucinations do not eat. Yet the resurrected Christ did, on at least two occasions (Lk 24:42-43; Jn 21:1-14).

(9) The disciples touched him (Mt 28:9; Lk 24:39; Jn 20:27).

(10) They also spoke with him, and he spoke back. Figments of your imagination do not hold profound, extended conversations with you, unless you have the kind of mental disorder that isolates you. But this “hallucination” conversed with at least eleven people at once, for forty days (Acts 1:3).

(11) The apostles could not have believed in the “hallucination” if Jesus’ corpse had still been in the tomb. This is a very simple and telling point; for if it was a hallucination, where was the corpse? They would have checked for it; if it was there, they could not have believed.

(12) If the apostles had hallucinated and then spread their hallucinogenic story, the Jews would have stopped it by producing the body. Unless, that is, the disciples had stolen it, in which case we are back with the conspiracy theory and all its difficulties.

(13) A hallucination would explain only the post-resurrection appearances. It would not explain the empty tomb, the rolled-away stone, or the inability to produce the corpse. No theory can explain all these data except a real resurrection. C.S. Lewis says,

“Any theory of hallucination breaks down on the fact (and if it is invention [rather than fact], it is the oddest invention that ever entered the mind of man) that on three separate occasions this hallucination was not immediately recognized as Jesus (Lk 24:13-31; Jn 20:15; 21:4). Even granting that God sent a holy hallucination to teach truths already widely believed without it, and far more easily taught by other methods, and certain to be completely obscured by this, might we not at least hope that he would get the face of the hallucination right? Is he who made all faces such a bungler that he cannot even work up a recognizable likeness of the Man who was himself?” (Miracles, chapter 16)

Some of these “hallucination” arguments are as old as the Church Fathers. Most go back to the eighteenth century, especially William Paley. How do unbelievers try to answer them? Today, few even try to meet these arguments, although occasionally someone tries to refurbish one of the three theories of swoon, conspiracy, or hallucination (e.g. Schonfield’s conspiratorial The Passover Plot). But the counter-attack today most often takes one of the two following forms.

  1. Some dismiss the resurrection simply because it is miraculous, thus throwing the whole issue back to whether miracles are possible. They argue, as Hume did, that any other explanation is always more probable than a miracle. Yet this is simply unjustified bias against miracles.
  2. The other form of counter-attack, by far the most popular, is to try to escape the traditional dilemma of “deceivers” (conspirators) or “deceived” (hallucinators) by interpreting the Gospels as myth—neither literally true nor literally false, but spiritually or symbolically true. This is the standard line of many theology departments in colleges, universities, and seminaries throughout the Western world today. But we’ve already seen why that doesn’t work.

On Wednesday, we’ll wrap up this series by answering five more common objections to the resurrection.

Excerpted from “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics”, copyright 1994, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, published 2009 Ignatius Press, used with permission of the publisher. Text reproduced from PeterKreeft.com.

(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Read the source: http://www.strangenotions.com/real-encounter-13-reasons-jesus-disciples-did-not-hallucinate/

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Brandon Vogt

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Brandon Vogt is an award-winning writer, blogger, speaker, and the founder of StrangeNotions.com. He’s been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. Brandon converted to Catholicism in 2008, and in 2011 and since released several books, includingThe Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011) andSaints and Social Justice (Our Sunday Visitor, 2014). He works as the Content Director for Fr. Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Brandon lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their four children in Central Florida. Follow his blog atBrandonVogt.com or connect through Twitter at@BrandonVogt

7 things to remember when your heart is broken

7 things to remember when your heart is broken

Unknown

April 8, 2015 by  

Last week, I did one of the most difficult things of my life.

A friend of mine from church who has suffered with chronic pain made the desperate decision to end his own life. I got the call from his heartbroken sister. I learned that my friend’s mother didn’t yet know the tragic news. I felt that I needed to be part of walking with this family through their darkest hour, so I volunteered to go with with the siblings and tell my friend’s Mom that her son had died.

It was a surreal experience. There’s nothing natural about a parent having to bury a child (at any age). It creates the kind of wound in a parent’s heart that never fully heals on this side of heaven. I held his heartbroken mom as she wailed over the loss of her son. I prayed with her and her family, and despite the raw emotion and broken hearts, God penetrated the darkness with an unexplainable peace.

As a pastor, I’ve celebrated with people during the most joyful moments of life (births of babies, weddings) and I’ve grieved with others in their moments of unspeakable tragedy. In those moments of despair, I’ve learned some lessons that have given me peace and perspective in those moments when all hope seems lost.

If you’re facing heartbreak, depression or difficulty in any area of life, I pray these words bring you hope and comfort as well.

7 things to remember when your heart is broken:

1. God has a plan.

On this side of heaven, we probably won’t see how all the broken pieces of our lives are being put together to create something beautiful, but faith gives us the strength to believe in God’s promises even when life doesn’t seem to make sense. For more on this, read my most popular post on 4 things God wants you to remember when life is hard.

Dave Willis quote God is in control

2. Take time to grieve (but not too much).

Sometimes we think crying is a sign of weakness, but I see tears as a gift God gives us to help us process pain in a unique way. It’s okay to cry and grieve, but don’t say in the grieving process too long, because grief is like a sauna…staying in it for short periods can be healthy, but staying in it too long can be dangerous.

3. All pain is temporary.

This tough season you’re in is a temporary season. It may feel like it will last forever, but it will pass. Don’t lose hope.

Dave Willis quote quotes God's timing

4. God is not distant from our pain.

For me, one of the most comforting verses in the Bible is the shortest verse of all. It simply says, “Jesus wept.” Those two words give me hope, because I’m reminded that we have a Savior who isn’t distant from our pain.

5. You may not get “over” this, but you WILL get through this.

Some tragedies leave wounds that never fully heal on this side of heaven, but even though you may always carry a scar from this, God will carry you through this and bring healing and hope. Give God the broken pieces of your heart, and He will create something beautiful with them in time.

Dave Willis quote quotes God said everything would work out not make sense

6. You are growing stronger through this.

We feel weak in our pain, but we’re actually growing stronger as we endure it. One of the only things that we can experience in this life that we won’t be able to experience in heaven, is pain and the growth that always come through it.

Dave Willis quotes quote easy days hard gift from God

7. You are not alone.

Grief makes us feel isolated and alone, but those feelings are an illusion. You have many people who love you and you have a Savior who has promised to never leave you or forsake you. Don’t lose hope. God will carry you through this.

If this post encouraged you, please share it on social media using the links below so we can encourage others.

For daily encouragement, please like” my new Facebook page by clicking here.

Read the source:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davewillis/7-things-to-remember-when-your-heart-is-broken

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“God himself is the author of marriage” (GS 48:1). The vocation of marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures, and spiritual attitudes (CCC:1603)

Pope Francis delivers the official Bull of Indiction at the Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy

Pope Francis delivers the official Bull of Indiction at the Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy

Streamed live on Apr 11, 2015

Starts at 5:25 PM – Pope Francis presides at the celebration of the First Vespers of the Divine Mercy Sunday, with the publication of the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee of Mercy.

(-VIDEO ONLY-) Pope Francis delivers the official Bull of Indiction at the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which takes place from December 8 to November 20, 2016.
Extracts from the document will be read. Afterward, he will pray on the eve of the Feast of Divine Mercy, which is celebrated on Sunday.
Pope Officially Proclaims Jubilee Year, Presents Bull of Indiction
Francis Asks: ‘Many Question in Their Hearts: Why a Jubilee of Mercy Today?’

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

VATICAN CITY, April 12, 2015 (Zenit.org) – “Many question in their hearts: why a Jubilee of Mercy today?”

The Pontiff posed this question in his homily last night at St. Peter’s Basilica, responding: “Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness.”

The Pope’s remarks were intertwined with his having officially proclaimed a new Holy Year yesterday with the presentation of the official Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

In his homily, Francis stressed that the Church is called to offer “more evident signs” of God’s presence and closeness.

“This is not the time to be distracted,” he said. “On the contrary, we need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential.”

This is a time, Francis said, for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on Easter Day, namely, “to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy.”

This year we are to be transformed by His mercy, so that we too may become “witnesses to mercy,” the Pope said, noting, “Without the witness of pardon,” he lamented, “life would be unfruitful and sterile.”

The Holy Year’s motto is, “Be merciful like your Father” which the Pope said, involves opening our hearts and witnessing mercy everywhere, for, “Pardon is a force that can give rise to new life and infuse courage to look with hope to the future.”

Fr. Leonardo Sapienza, Regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, read the Bull in a ceremony by the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica.

With the Bull of Indiction–the formal document explaining why the Pope called the Jubilee, his hopes for it and giving an outline of what will happen during the Holy Year–Francis formally convoked the Jubilee. Afterward, the 78-year-old Pontiff moved into the basilica to preside over Vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday.

Entitled “Misericordiae Vultus” or “The Face of Mercy,” the Bull begins by saying how Jesus is ‘the face’ of His Father’s mercy. It also explains that the year’s opening date Dec. 8 is to commemorate both the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, and that the closing date Nov. 20, 2016, is to commemorate the Feast of Christ the King.

The Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica will be open on Dec. 8, and Holy Doors of the other papal basilicas will similarly be opened in the days which follow. The Holy Father has also requested that every diocese around the world open similar doors of mercy as a sign of communion with the Church and as a way for the Jubilee to be celebrated locally.

The Pope gave a copy of this Bull to the archpriests of the four major Roman basilicas, at each of which there will be a Holy Door through which pilgrims will pass. He also distributed copies to other Church representatives during the brief ceremony in front of the Holy Door in the atrium of St Peter’s Basilica. The ceremony was attended by cardinals, bishops, clergy and lay people.

***

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Pope’s Homily at Divine Mercy Vespers: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/text-of-pope-s-homily-for-divine-mercy-vespers

On the NET:

Vatican-provided English Text of Bull on Indiction of Jubilee of Mercy: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_bolla_20150411_misericordiae-vultus.html

Read it online

Text of the bull for the Jubilee of Mercy

Published on Apr 11, 2015

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Misericordiae Vultus
BULL OF INDICTION
OF THE EXTRAORDINARY
JUBILEE OF MERCY
FRANCIS, BISHOP OF ROME, SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD
TO ALL WHO READ THIS LETTER
GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE
1. Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. The Father, “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), after having revealed his name to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature. In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person[1] reveals the mercy of God.
2. We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.
3. At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church; a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.
The Holy Year will open on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This liturgical feast day recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive. I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope.
On the following Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Rome – that is, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran – will be opened. In the following weeks, the Holy Doors of the other Papal Basilicas will be opened. On the same Sunday, I will announce that in every local Church, at the cathedral – the mother church of the faithful in any particular area – or, alternatively, at the co-cathedral or another church of special significance, a Door of Mercy will be opened for the duration of the Holy Year. At the discretion of the local ordinary, a similar door may be opened at any Shrine frequented by large groups of pilgrims, since visits to these holy sites are so often grace-filled moments, as people discover a path to conversion. Every Particular Church, therefore, will be directly involved in living out this Holy Year as an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal. Thus the Jubilee will be celebrated both in Rome and in the Particular Churches as a visible sign of the Church’s universal communion.
4. I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.
We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity … The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.”[2] Blessed Paul VI spoke in a similar vein at the closing of the Council: “We prefer to point out how charity has been the principal religious feature of this Council … the old story of the Good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the Council … a wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity. Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honoured, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed … Another point we must stress is this: all this rich teaching is channeled in one direction, the service of mankind, of every condition, in every weakness and need.”[3]
With these sentiments of gratitude for everything the Church has received, and with a sense of responsibility for the task that lies ahead, we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Door fully confident that the strength of the Risen Lord, who constantly supports us on our pilgrim way, will sustain us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy.[4]
5. The Jubilee year will close with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King on 20 November 2016. On that day, as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all, with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace. We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future. How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!
6. “It is proper to God to exercise mercy, and he manifests his omnipotence particularly in this way.”[5] Saint Thomas Aquinas’ words show that God’s mercy, rather than a sign of weakness, is the mark of his omnipotence. For this reason the liturgy, in one of its most ancient collects, has us pray: “O God, who reveal your power above all in your mercy and forgiveness…”[6] Throughout the history of humanity, God will always be the One who is present, close, provident, holy, and merciful.
“Patient and merciful.” These words often go together in the Old Testament to describe God’s nature. His being merciful is concretely demonstrated in his many actions throughout the history of salvation where his goodness prevails over punishment and destruction. In a special way the Psalms bring to the fore the grandeur of his merciful action: “He forgives all your iniquity, he heals all your diseases, he redeems your life from the pit, he crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (Ps 103:3-4). Another psalm, in an even more explicit way, attests to the concrete signs of his mercy: “He secures justice for the oppressed; he gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Ps 146:7-9). Here are some other expressions of the Psalmist: “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds … The Lord lifts up the downtrodden, he casts the wicked to the ground” (Ps 147:3, 6). In short, the mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality through which he reveals his love as that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is a “visceral” love. It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy.
7. “For his mercy endures forever.” This is the refrain repeated after each verse in Psalm 136 as it narrates the history of God’s revelation. By virtue of mercy, all the events of the Old Testament are replete with profound salvific import. Mercy renders God’s history with Israel a history of salvation. To repeat continually “for his mercy endures forever,” as the psalm does, seems to break through the dimensions of space and time, inserting everything into the eternal mystery of love. It is as if to say that not only in history, but for all eternity man will always be under the merciful gaze of the Father. It is no accident that the people of Israel wanted to include this psalm – the “Great Hallel,” as it is called – in its most important liturgical feast days.
Before his Passion, Jesus prayed with this psalm of mercy. Matthew attests to this in his Gospel when he says that, “when they had sung a hymn” (26:30), Jesus and his disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. While he was instituting the Eucharist as an everlasting memorial of himself and his paschal sacrifice, he symbolically placed this supreme act of revelation in the light of his mercy. Within the very same context of mercy, Jesus entered upon his passion and death, conscious of the great mystery of love that he would consummate on the cross. Knowing that Jesus himself prayed this psalm makes it even more important for us as Christians, challenging us to take up the refrain in our daily lives by praying these words of praise: “for his mercy endures forever.”
8. With our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of divine love in its fullness. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16), John affirms for the first and only time in all of Holy Scripture. This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously. The relationships he forms with the people who approach him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs he works, especially in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.
Jesus, seeing the crowds of people who followed him, realized that they were tired and exhausted, lost and without a guide, and he felt deep compassion for them (cf. Mt 9:36). On the basis of this compassionate love he healed the sick who were presented to him (cf. Mt 14:14), and with just a few loaves of bread and fish he satisfied the enormous crowd (cf. Mt 15:37). What moved Jesus in all of these situations was nothing other than mercy, with which he read the hearts of those he encountered and responded to their deepest need. When he came upon the widow of Naim taking her son out for burial, he felt great compassion for the immense suffering of this grieving mother, and he gave back her son by raising him from the dead (cf. Lk 7:15). After freeing the demoniac in the country of the Gerasenes, Jesus entrusted him with this mission: “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mk 5:19). The calling of Matthew is also presented within the context of mercy. Passing by the tax collector’s booth, Jesus looked intently at Matthew. It was a look full of mercy that forgave the sins of that man, a sinner and a tax collector, whom Jesus chose – against the hesitation of the disciples – to become one of the Twelve. Saint Bede the Venerable, commenting on this Gospel passage, wrote that Jesus looked upon Matthew with merciful love and chose him: miserando atque eligendo.[7] This expression impressed me so much that I chose it for my episcopal motto.
9. In the parables devoted to mercy, Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy. We know these parables well, three in particular: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the father with two sons (cf. Lk 15:1-32). In these parables, God is always presented as full of joy, especially when he pardons. In them we find the core of the Gospel and of our faith, because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon.
From another parable, we cull an important teaching for our Christian lives. In reply to Peter’s question about how many times it is necessary to forgive, Jesus says: “I do not say seven times, but seventy times seventy times” (Mt 18:22). He then goes on to tell the parable of the “ruthless servant,” who, called by his master to return a huge amount, begs him on his knees for mercy. His master cancels his debt. But he then meets a fellow servant who owes him a few cents and who in turn begs on his knees for mercy, but the first servant refuses his request and throws him into jail. When the master hears of the matter, he becomes infuriated and, summoning the first servant back to him, says, “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Mt 18:33). Jesus concludes, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Mt 18:35).
This parable contains a profound teaching for all of us. Jesus affirms that mercy is not only an action of the Father, it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his true children are. In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Pardoning offences becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves. At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully. Let us therefore heed the Apostle’s exhortation: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26). Above all, let us listen to the words of Jesus who made mercy as an ideal of life and a criterion for the credibility of our faith: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7): the beatitude to which we should particularly aspire in this Holy Year.
As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviours that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible; that is, he desires our wellbeing and he wants to see us happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.
10. Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church “has an endless desire to show mercy.”[8] Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy. The temptation, on the one hand, to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step. But the Church needs to go beyond and strive for a higher and more important goal. On the other hand, sad to say, we must admit that the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture. It some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use. However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in a barren desert. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.
11. Let us not forget the great teaching offered by Saint John Paul II in his second Encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, which at the time came unexpectedly, its theme catching many by surprise. There are two passages in particular to which I would like to draw attention. First, Saint John Paul II highlighted the fact that we had forgotten the theme of mercy in today’s cultural milieu: “The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of ‘mercy’ seem to cause uneasiness in man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it (cf. Gen 1:28). This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one-sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy … And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God.”[9]
Furthermore, Saint John Paul II pushed for a more urgent proclamation and witness to mercy in the contemporary world: “It is dictated by love for man, for all that is human and which, according to the intuitions of many of our contemporaries, is threatened by an immense danger. The mystery of Christ … obliges me to proclaim mercy as God’s merciful love, revealed in that same mystery of Christ. It likewise obliges me to have recourse to that mercy and to beg for it at this difficult, critical phase of the history of the Church and of the world.”[10] This teaching is more pertinent than ever and deserves to be taken up once again in this Holy Year. Let us listen to his words once more: “The Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy – the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer – and when she brings people close to the sources of the Saviour’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser.”[11]
12. The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person. The Spouse of Christ must pattern her behaviour after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception. In the present day, as the Church is charged with the task of the new evangelization, the theme of mercy needs to be proposed again and again with new enthusiasm and renewed pastoral action. It is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy. Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father.
The Church’s first truth is the love of Christ. The Church makes herself a servant of this love and mediates it to all people: a love that forgives and expresses itself in the gift of one’s self. Consequently, wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.
13. We want to live this Jubilee Year in light of the Lord’s words: Merciful like the Father. The Evangelist reminds us of the teaching of Jesus who says, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). It is a programme of life as demanding as it is rich with joy and peace. Jesus’s command is directed to anyone willing to listen to his voice (cf. Lk 6:27). In order to be capable of mercy, therefore, we must first of all dispose ourselves to listen to the Word of God. This means rediscovering the value of silence in order to meditate on the Word that comes to us. In this way, it will be possible to contemplate God’s mercy and adopt it as our lifestyle.
14. The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.
The Lord Jesus shows us the steps of the pilgrimage to attain our goal: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:37-38). The Lord asks us above all not to judge and not to condemn. If anyone wishes to avoid God’s judgement, he should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister. Human beings, whenever they judge, look no farther than the surface, whereas the Father looks into the very depths of the soul. How much harm words do when they are motivated by feelings of jealousy and envy! To speak ill of others puts them in a bad light, undermines their reputation and leaves them prey to the whims of gossip. To refrain from judgement and condemnation means, in a positive sense, to know how to accept the good in every person and to spare him any suffering that might be caused by our partial judgment and our presumption to know everything about him. But this is still not sufficient to express mercy. Jesus asks us also to forgive and to give. To be instruments of mercy because it was we who first received mercy from God. To be generous with others, knowing that God showers his goodness upon us with immense generosity.
Merciful like the Father, therefore, is the “motto” of this Holy Year. In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return. He comes to our aid whenever we call upon him. What a beautiful thing that the Church begins her daily prayer with the words, “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me” (Ps 70:2)! The assistance we ask for is already the first step of God’s mercy toward us. He comes to assist us in our weakness. And his help consists in helping us accept his presence and closeness to us. Day after day, touched by his compassion, we also can become compassionate towards others.
15. In this Holy Year, we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich! During this Jubilee, the Church will be called even more to heal these wounds, to assuage them with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care. Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive cynicism! Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!
It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.
We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-45). Moreover, we will be asked if we have helped others to escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair and which is often a source of loneliness; if we have helped to overcome the ignorance in which millions of people live, especially children deprived of the necessary means to free them from the bonds of poverty; if we have been close to the lonely and afflicted; if we have forgiven those who have offended us and have rejected all forms of anger and hate that lead to violence; if we have had the kind of patience God shows, who is so patient with us; and if we have commended our brothers and sisters to the Lord in prayer. In each of these “little ones,” Christ himself is present. His flesh becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled … to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us. Let us not forget the words of Saint John of the Cross: “as we prepare to leave this life, we will be judged on the basis of love.”[12]
16. In the Gospel of Luke, we find another important element that will help us live the Jubilee with faith. Luke writes that Jesus, on the Sabbath, went back to Nazareth and, as was his custom, entered the synagogue. They called upon him to read the Scripture and to comment on it. The passage was from the Book of Isaiah where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to those in captivity; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Is 61:1-2). A “year of the Lord’s favour” or “mercy”: this is what the Lord proclaimed and this is what we wish to live now. This Holy Year will bring to the fore the richness of Jesus’ mission echoed in the words of the prophet: to bring a word and gesture of consolation to the poor, to proclaim liberty to those bound by new forms of slavery in modern society, to restore sight to those who can see no more because they are caught up in themselves, to restore dignity to all those from whom it has been robbed. The preaching of Jesus is made visible once more in the response of faith Christians are called to offer by their witness. May the words of the Apostle accompany us: He who does acts of mercy, let him do them with cheerfulness (cf. Rom 12:8).
17. The season of Lent during this Jubilee Year should also be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy. How many pages of Sacred Scripture are appropriate for meditation during the weeks of Lent to help us rediscover the merciful face of the Father! We can repeat the words of the prophet Micah and make them our own: You, O Lord, are a God who takes away iniquity and pardons sin, who does not hold your anger forever, but are pleased to show mercy. You, Lord, will return to us and have pity on your people. You will trample down our sins and toss them into the depths of the sea (cf. 7:18-19).
The pages of the prophet Isaiah can also be meditated upon concretely during this season of prayer, fasting, and works of charity: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, here I am. If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (58:6-11).
The initiative of “24 Hours for the Lord,” to be celebrated on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent, should be implemented in every diocese. So many people, including the youth, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives. Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.
I will never tire of insisting that confessors be authentic signs of the Father’s mercy. We do not become good confessors automatically. We become good confessors when, above all, we allow ourselves to be penitents in search of his mercy. Let us never forget that to be confessors means to participate in the very mission of Jesus to be a concrete sign of the constancy of divine love that pardons and saves. We priests have received the gift of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and we are responsible for this. None of us wields power over this Sacrament; rather, we are faithful servants of God’s mercy through it. Every confessor must accept the faithful as the father in the parable of the prodigal son: a father who runs out to meet his son despite the fact that he has squandered away his inheritance. Confessors are called to embrace the repentant son who comes back home and to express the joy of having him back again. Let us never tire of also going out to the other son who stands outside, incapable of rejoicing, in order to explain to him that his judgment is severe and unjust and meaningless in light of the father’s boundless mercy. May confessors not ask useless questions, but like the father in the parable, interrupt the speech prepared ahead of time by the prodigal son, so that confessors will learn to accept the plea for help and mercy gushing from the heart of every penitent. In short, confessors are called to be a sign of the primacy of mercy always, everywhere, and in every situation, no matter what.
18. During Lent of this Holy Year, I intend to send out Missionaries of Mercy. They will be a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon. They will be missionaries of mercy because they will be facilitators of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again. They will be led in their mission by the words of the Apostle: “For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all” (Rom 11:32). Everyone, in fact, without exception, is called to embrace the call to mercy. May these Missionaries live this call with the assurance that they can fix their eyes on Jesus, “the merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God” (Heb 2:17).
I ask my brother Bishops to invite and welcome these Missionaries so that they can be, above all, persuasive preachers of mercy. May individual dioceses organize “missions to the people” in such a way that these Missionaries may be heralds of joy and forgiveness. Bishops are asked to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with their people so that the time of grace offered by the Jubilee Year will make it possible for many of God’s sons and daughters to take up once again the journey to the Father’s house. May pastors, especially during the liturgical season of Lent, be diligent in calling back the faithful “to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace” (Heb 4:16).
19. May the message of mercy reach everyone, and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy. I direct this invitation to conversion even more fervently to those whose behaviour distances them from the grace of God. I particularly have in mind men and women belonging to criminal organizations of any kind. For their own good, I beg them to change their lives. I ask them this in the name of the Son of God who, though rejecting sin, never rejected the sinner. Do not fall into the terrible trap of thinking that life depends on money and that, in comparison with money, anything else is devoid of value or dignity. This is nothing but an illusion! We cannot take money with us into the life beyond. Money does not bring us happiness. Violence inflicted for the sake of amassing riches soaked in blood makes one neither powerful nor immortal. Everyone, sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape.
The same invitation is extended to those who either perpetrate or participate in corruption. This festering wound is a grave sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance, because it threatens the very foundations of personal and social life. Corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor. It is an evil that embeds itself into the actions of everyday life and spreads, causing great public scandal. Corruption is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is a form of power. It is a work of darkness, fed by suspicion and intrigue. Corruptio optimi pessima, Saint Gregory the Great said with good reason, affirming that no one can think himself immune from this temptation. If we want to drive it out from personal and social life, we need prudence, vigilance, loyalty, transparency, together with the courage to denounce any wrongdoing. If it is not combated openly, sooner or later everyone will become an accomplice to it, and it will end up destroying our very existence.
This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! When confronted with evil deeds, even in the face of serious crimes, it is the time to listen to the cry of innocent people who are deprived of their property, their dignity, their feelings, and even their very lives. To stick to the way of evil will only leave one deluded and sad. True life is something entirely different. God never tires of reaching out to us. He is always ready to listen, as I am too, along with my brother bishops and priests. All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church.
20. It would not be out of place at this point to recall the relationship between justice and mercy. These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love. Justice is a fundamental concept for civil society, which is meant to be governed by the rule of law. Justice is also understood as that which is rightly due to each individual. In the Bible, there are many references to divine justice and to God as “judge”. In these passages, justice is understood as the full observance of the Law and the behaviour of every good Israelite in conformity with God’s commandments. Such a vision, however, has not infrequently led to legalism by distorting the original meaning of justice and obscuring its profound value. To overcome this legalistic perspective, we need to recall that in Sacred Scripture, justice is conceived essentially as the faithful abandonment of oneself to God’s will.
For his part, Jesus speaks several times of the importance of faith over and above the observance of the law. It is in this sense that we must understand his words when, reclining at table with Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners, he says to the Pharisees raising objections to him, “Go and learn the meaning of ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’ I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mt 9:13). Faced with a vision of justice as the mere observance of the law that judges people simply by dividing them into two groups – the just and sinners – Jesus is bent on revealing the great gift of mercy that searches out sinners and offers them pardon and salvation. One can see why, on the basis of such a liberating vision of mercy as a source of new life, Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees and the other teachers of the law. In an attempt to remain faithful to the law, they merely placed burdens on the shoulders of others and undermined the Father’s mercy. The appeal to a faithful observance of the law must not prevent attention from being given to matters that touch upon the dignity of the person.
The appeal Jesus makes to the text from the book of the prophet Hosea – “I desire love and not sacrifice” (6:6) – is important in this regard. Jesus affirms that, from that time onward, the rule of life for his disciples must place mercy at the centre, as Jesus himself demonstrated by sharing meals with sinners. Mercy, once again, is revealed as a fundamental aspect of Jesus’ mission. This is truly challenging to his hearers, who would draw the line at a formal respect for the law. Jesus, on the other hand, goes beyond the law; the company he keeps with those the law considers sinners makes us realize the depth of his mercy.
The Apostle Paul makes a similar journey. Prior to meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, he dedicated his life to pursuing the justice of the law with zeal (cf. Phil 3:6). His conversion to Christ led him to turn that vision upside down, to the point that he would write to the Galatians: “We have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified” (2:16).
Paul’s understanding of justice changes radically. He now places faith first, not justice. Salvation comes not through the observance of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, who in his death and resurrection brings salvation together with a mercy that justifies. God’s justice now becomes the liberating force for those oppressed by slavery to sin and its consequences. God’s justice is his mercy (cf. Ps 51:11-16).
21. Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe. The experience of the prophet Hosea can help us see the way in which mercy surpasses justice. The era in which the prophet lived was one of the most dramatic in the history of the Jewish people. The kingdom was tottering on the edge of destruction; the people had not remained faithful to the covenant; they had wandered from God and lost the faith of their forefathers. According to human logic, it seems reasonable for God to think of rejecting an unfaithful people; they had not observed their pact with God and therefore deserved just punishment: in other words, exile. The prophet’s words attest to this: “They shall not return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me” (Hos 11:5). And yet, after this invocation of justice, the prophet radically changes his speech and reveals the true face of God: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! How can I make you like Admah! How can I treat you like Zeboiim! My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy” (11:8-9). Saint Augustine, almost as if he were commenting on these words of the prophet, says: “It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy.”[13] And so it is. God’s anger lasts but a moment, his mercy forever.
If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected. But mere justice is not enough. Experience shows that an appeal to justice alone will result in its destruction. This is why God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness. Yet this does not mean that justice should be devalued or rendered superfluous. On the contrary: anyone who makes a mistake must pay the price. However, this is just the beginning of conversion, not its end, because one begins to feel the tenderness and mercy of God. God does not deny justice. He rather envelopes it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice. We must pay close attention to what Saint Paul says if we want to avoid making the same mistake for which he reproaches the Jews of his time: For, “being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, that everyone who has faith may be justified” (Rom 10:3-4). God’s justice is his mercy given to everyone as a grace that flows from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus the Cross of Christ is God’s judgement on all of us and on the whole world, because through it he offers us the certitude of love and new life.
22. A Jubilee also entails the granting of indulgences. This practice will acquire an even more important meaning in the Holy Year of Mercy. God’s forgiveness knows no bounds. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all human sin. Reconciliation with God is made possible through the paschal mystery and the mediation of the Church. Thus God is always ready to forgive, and he never tires of forgiving in ways that are continually new and surprising. Nevertheless, all of us know well the experience of sin. We know that we are called to perfection (cf. Mt 5:48), yet we feel the heavy burden of sin. Though we feel the transforming power of grace, we also feel the effects of sin typical of our fallen state. Despite being forgiven, the conflicting consequences of our sins remain. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives our sins, which he truly blots out; and yet sin leaves a negative effect on the way we think and act. But the mercy of God is stronger than even this. It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather than to fall back into sin.
The Church lives within the communion of the saints. In the Eucharist, this communion, which is a gift from God, becomes a spiritual union binding us to the saints and blessed ones whose number is beyond counting (cf. Rev 7:4). Their holiness comes to the aid of our weakness in a way that enables the Church, with her maternal prayers and her way of life, to fortify the weakness of some with the strength of others. Hence, to live the indulgence of the Holy Year means to approach the Father’s mercy with the certainty that his forgiveness extends to the entire life of the believer. To gain an indulgence is to experience the holiness of the Church, who bestows upon all the fruits of Christ’s redemption, so that God’s love and forgiveness may extend everywhere. Let us live this Jubilee intensely, begging the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in His merciful “indulgence.”
23. There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes. Israel was the first to receive this revelation which continues in history as the source of an inexhaustible richness meant to be shared with all mankind. As we have seen, the pages of the Old Testament are steeped in mercy, because they narrate the works that the Lord performed in favour of his people at the most trying moments of their history. Among the privileged names that Islam attributes to the Creator are “Merciful and Kind.” This invocation is often on the lips of faithful Muslims who feel themselves accompanied and sustained by mercy in their daily weakness. They too believe that no one can place a limit on divine mercy because its doors are always open.
I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with these religions and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.
24. My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness. No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of his love.
Chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary, from the outset, was prepared by the love of God to be the Ark of the Covenant between God and man. She treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus. Her hymn of praise, sung at the threshold of the home of Elizabeth, was dedicated to the mercy of God which extends from “generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). We too were included in those prophetic words of the Virgin Mary. This will be a source of comfort and strength to us as we cross the threshold of the Holy Year to experience the fruits of divine mercy.
At the foot of the cross, Mary, together with John, the disciple of love, witnessed the words of forgiveness spoken by Jesus. This supreme expression of mercy towards those who crucified him show us the point to which the mercy of God can reach. Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception. Let us address her in the words of the Salve Regina, a prayer ever ancient and new, so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes towards us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son Jesus.
Our prayer also extends to the saints and blessed ones who made divine mercy their mission in life. I am especially thinking of the great apostle of mercy, Saint Faustina Kowalska. May she, who was called to enter the depths of divine mercy, intercede for us and obtain for us the grace of living and walking always according to the mercy of God and with an unwavering trust in his love.
25. I present, therefore, this Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of throwing open the doors of his heart and repeats that he loves us and wants to share his love with us. The Church feels the urgent need to proclaim God’s mercy. Her life is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy. She knows that her primary task, especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ. The Church is called above all to be a credible witness to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ. From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people approach it. Every time someone is in need, he or she can approach it, because the mercy of God never ends. The profundity of the mystery surrounding it is as inexhaustible as the richness which springs up from it.
In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old” (Ps 25:6).
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 11 April, the Vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter, or Sunday of Divine Mercy, in the year of our Lord 2015, the third of my Pontificate.
FRANCISCUS
[1] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 4.
[2] Opening Address of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 11 October 1962, 2-3.
[3] Speech at the Final Public Session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 7 December 1965.
[4] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 16: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 15.
[5] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 30, a. 4.
[6] XXVI Sunday in Ordinary Time. This Collect already appears in the eighth century among the euchological texts of the Gelasian Sacramentary (1198).
[7] Cf. Homily 22: CCL, 122, 149-151.

Readings & Reflections: Saturday of the Second Week of Easter & Blessed James Oldo, April 18,2015

Readings & Reflections: Saturday of the Second Week of Easter & Blessed James Oldo, April 18,2015

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Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, we understand that there is no room for discrimination, racial hostility and unfair decisions within your Church. Amidst any conflict within your Church and community, give your chosen leaders the grace to be open to complaints, to address them squarely with a clear conscience and an honest heart. Enable them to provide settlements that are done in prayer and based on trust. Make them compassionate and loving, never controlling and over powerful! In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.

Reading 1
Acts 6:1-7

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, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the Apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
or:
R. Alleluia.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel
Jn 6:16-21

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. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – Shared leadership

“In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the ones who spoke Greek complained that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food as compared with the widows of those who spoke Hebrew.”

Not one entity is exempt from disputes.  No church can be free from dissension.

In Acts 6, we all witness racial hostility within the church between the Jews and the Greeks. Mistrust and discrimination may have led the Greeks to feel that they are being set aside and treated as second class citizens within God’s very own body. They complained that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food and possibly of other benefits that are made available to the church community.

God revealed to all of us that disputes and dissensions will always be very much part of any body wherever there are close personal interactions to speak of. They are problems which need to be addressed and how we all deal with them is most important as this is where we can all measure our spirituality.

How well we know God and His ways and how well we have taken them as our very own will all be seen in the way we address disputes and dissensions similar to what we have in today’s first reading.

Noteworthy of mention is the way the twelve apostles addressed the problem at hand. Food and benefits were the point of issue and which we can surmise as monetary in nature.  We all know how money matters can put a lot of stress on people, on families and even on God’s Church.

The first division within the early church was largely founded on money… quite sensitive, and Christ’s first apostles could have been tempted in silencing the Greeks and may have even thought of threatening them with disciplinary action if they continue. Maybe they also thought of pretending that everything was okay and tried to hide the complaints of the Greeks.  Yet their approach was to bring out the issue and directly address it.

They proposed to choose 7 reputable men filled with the Spirit and wisdom to handle and manage the money matters of the church while they continued with their evangelical ministry of bringing God’s Word to the ends of the earth. They considered an approach and allowed the people to decide. They did not dictate what they wanted but only guided and directed the church affairs.  After the church agreed to pursue their proposal, they trusted the newly emerged leaders with their work as they proceeded with their own.  (Empowerment)

Although it appeared that those who were tasked to be in charge of the temporal needs of the community received their mandate and anointing from the twelve who have decided to keep their focus on prayer and to the ministry of the word, no one was considered  higher in  terms of hierarchy. They submitted to each other and considered each other as parts of the same body with specific gifts to contribute. With such unity, “the word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”

As I meditate on the action taken by the twelve Apostles, I realize that the approach to solve problems within any group, especially within God’s family, is to be open to complaints, address them squarely with a clear conscience and an honest heart. Never blame people for what others feel and see.  All settlements should be done in prayer and based on trust. The seven men, whom the apostles recommended for the task, all bore Greek names implying the apostles’ complete trust on their members who were Greeks.

Setting God’s church in proper order by recognizing the needs of the members and not allowing a chosen few to monopolize the work can only result in our mission and our work for the Lord to prosper and grow.

Disputes would never be settled if one’s approach is to control and overpower another. What the apostles did was let go and let others share in God’s work upon their realization that they failed in their tasks for the Lord. One has to learn to give others a chance to contribute their share within God’s family. To settle disputes, trust among all parties should be very well in place.

In short, instead of trying to undermine those who feel aggrieved and disempowered, instead of consolidating power and authority on people who are already quite busy with other tasks for the Lord, one should be willing to forego some responsibility and endorse them to co-workers.

Instead of TOTAL and absolute authority, our Lord has shown us the merits of SHARED LEADERSHIP in governing the affairs of His people, as a church and spiritual community.

TRUST, EMPOWERMENT AND SUBSIDIARITY are key in doing God’s work.

Direction

Do not be afraid to review the affairs of God’s community in order to resolve any differences or conflicts.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, bless us that we may all have the grace to see your Hand in each of us as we all endeavor to resolve issues that have divided your people. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Reflection 2 – Those who trust Jesus outgrow their fears

Worry is an unwelcome companion that distracts us by day and distresses us by night. Some people keep it at bay by having the good sense to laugh at themselves. They might recite Ralph Waldo Emerson’s humorous rhyme; “Some of your hurts you have cured. And the sharpest you still have survived. But what torments of grief you endured from the evil which never arrived.”

Worry is a form of fear. Some say it is the opposite of faith. When Jesus’ disciples set out before him to row across the sea to Capernaum, it was a dark and stormy night. They were already anxious before they saw him walking across the water toward their rocking boat. They were already suffering the “what ifs?” their imaginations concocted about his whereabouts and their fate. Jesus insistently reminds his followers, “Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.”

Knowing the trials they would have to face, Jesus encouraged them to grow beyond their small, fearful selves. They would learn from him what Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom would later learn from her experience of helping the Jews escape from Nazi Germany. She wrote in her journal, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

In a time of financial hardship and global uncertainty, we are tempted to let our worries be our guide. We may cut back on our service and charity to others, fearing that we will not have enough for ourselves. Or we may refrain from speaking out against injustice because of our anxiety about job security. Yet these are the very times when we need to pray more fervently for a deep-anchored faith in the Lord who walks toward us over the troubled waters of our lives, assuring us in voice we know well: “It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Source: Gloria Hutchinson. Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, April 17, 2010).

Reflection 3 – A bad dream

All of us have had bad dreams. Perhaps we were falling from a high building, fleeing from a hideous creature, or standing before an audience and forgetting our speech.

A woman had a nightmare and she dreamed that she was in a small room when tow men appeared out of the mist. Fear overwhelmed her, she said, “Let me tell you about Jesus.” Immediately she was awakened by the sound of her own voice. The name Jesus had freed her from fear.

We read in John 6 that Jesus’ disciples were afraid when in the dimness of nightfall they saw a strange figure walking on the stormy sea of Galilee. But the mysterious figure was not part of a bad dream – He was real. Matthew reports that they “cried out for fear” (Mt 14:26). Then the disciples heard a familiar voice: “It is I; do not be afraid” (Jn 6:20). It was Jesus. Their fears were calmed, as well as the sea.

The Savior speaks the same assurance to us today amid the many fears along our Christian journey. Solomon said, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov 18:10).

Fears will come, but we are assured that Jesus is always a light in the darkness.

How oft in the conflict, when pressed by the foe,

I have fled to my Refuge and breathed out my woe;

How often, when trials like sea-billows roll,

Have I hidden in Thee, O Thou Rock of my soul.

You need not fear the darkness if you are walking with the Light of the World (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 4 – Blessed James Oldo (1364-1404 A.D.)

You’ve heard rags-to-riches stories. Today, we celebrate the reverse.

James of Oldo was born into a well-to-do family near Milan in 1364. He married a woman who, like him, appreciated the comforts that came with wealth. But an outbreak of plague drove James, his wife and their three children out of their home and into the countryside. Despite those precautions, two of his daughters died from the plague, James determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth.

He and his wife became Secular Franciscans. James gave up his old lifestyle and did penance for his sins. He cared for a sick priest, who taught him Latin. Upon the death of his wife, James himself became a priest. His house was transformed into a chapel where small groups of people, many of them fellow Secular Franciscans, came for prayer and support. James focused on caring for the sick and for prisoners of war. He died in 1404 after contracting a disease from one of his patients.

James Oldo was beatified in 1933.

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1349

Comment:

The death of those we love brings a troubling awareness of our own mortality. James had that experience when he gazed into a friend’s grave, and it brought him to his senses. He determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth. Our time is limited, too. We can use it well or foolishly: The choice is ours.

Readings & Reflections: Friday of the Second Week of Easter & St. Benedict Joseph Labre, April 17,2015

Readings & Reflections: Friday of the Second Week of Easter & St. Benedict Joseph Labre, April 17,2015

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Opening Prayer

“Lord, you satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts and you feed us with the finest of wheat (Ps 81:16). Fill us with gratitude and give us a generous heart that we may freely share with others what you have given to us.” In Jesus’ Mighty Name, we pray. Amen.

Reading I
Acts 5:34-42

A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity 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.”
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they 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.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14

R (see 4abc) One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R Alleluia.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R Alleluia.
One thing I ask of the LORD
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R Alleluia.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R Alleluia.

Gospel
Jn 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – The saw the signs

If what one is doing is for God and His cause, then no one can stop him as everything works out for the good of those who love Him. As in today’s gospel, nothing could have stopped Jesus when He fed 5,000 men with five barley loaves and two fish, satisfied them and with more than enough fragments of left over. In our lives, I have only stood in awe of God’s power and authority over all the earth, having been witness to how God has worked on those who sought Him by using the most broken people.

“So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity 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.”

However as we meditate on the invincibility of God’s plan and of His will, what we should bear in our hearts is not how powerful and invincible we become as we allow God to use us in His mighty purpose but how pride, arrogance and complacency can cause us to lose our focus on Him and in time bring us to fail in our work for the Lord.

Even if one is acclaimed by God’s people as very much under the guidance of the Spirit and is considered God’s most anointed worker, one may lose God’s mighty anointing once focus is removed from God and placed on self and those within one’s inner circle. When this happens, what started off as a blessed undertaking for the Lord becomes one’s own personal struggle for power and control. Sad to say, one will find himself not doing God’s work but unknowingly fighting God Himself.

Today, as we endeavor to do God’s work, let us ask our hearts if we are truly working for God or for our own personal motivations and aspirations. Quite a number of churches established in the Name of Jesus have done great things for God and have geometrically grown in numbers, have ministered to great multitudes but as soon as their leaders start to see themselves and no longer our God, as soon as they failed to see Jesus in others, most of them failed in their work and are now gone in oblivion. Sad to say, some churches are suffering not because our Lord is not with His people, but because of they had to go through the effects of decisions forced upon them by a “leader” who thought he was serving God but was only truly serving himself.

Are we going to allow this to happen to our very own church? To do God’s work, we should be deeply rooted in Him as He is the very ground of our being. As long as our lives are founded on His works, we can, at every moment, draw from Him the life and sustenance, the strength and comfort we need to face and to triumph over whatever comes. With Jesus right on in our hearts, no one and nothing can stop us from doing our work for God and His people!

Direction 

God has already given us the gift of His Hand. We only have to take it and never let go.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, never depart from my life as I endeavor to do my work for You and your people. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Reflection 2 – The Gospel Reflects the Mass

By the time St. John wrote his Gospel some sixty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday had been firmly established as an expression of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. St. John constructed his sixth chapter in such a way that his readers would be drawn to see their Sunday observance reflected in his Gospel. Almost twenty centuries later we do well to see the reality.

The sixth chapter opens with the marvelous narrative of how Jesus fed 5,000 people with 5 barley loaves and a couple of fish. It was, in St. John’s words, a vast crowd. The Mass is not a private devotion or the privilege of a few. It is the celebration of the “vast crowd” throughout the world who are God’s people.

St. John remarks that the Jewish feast of Passover was near. That was not so much a designation of the time of the year as it was an indication of the meaning of the Eucharist. Eucharist is our Christian Passover, the celebration of the sacrifice which has given us the gift of freedom from sin and established us as God’s people. In the 4th Eucharistic acclamation we cry out: “Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free; you are the Savior of the world.”

St. John goes on to observe that when it was time to feed the people, a lad came forward with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish and gave them to Jesus. It seemed like almost nothing compared to the need of so many people. In the same way at Mass some of the people bring forward bread and wine to begin the preparation of the gifts. They are that lad of the Gospel and the gifts they present to the priest seem insignificant in comparison with what they will become.

In the story about the loaves Jesus performed Eucharistic actions. Jesus took the loaves of bread and gave thanks (the word “Eucharist” means to give thanks). At this point St. Matthew (14:13-21) in his narrative helps us with an important detail. He says that after Jesus had looked up to heaven and give thanks, he broke the bread and gave the loaves to his disciples who distributed the bread among the people. That looks exactly like what happens at Mass when the priest is assisted by the special ministers of the Eucharist.

What about the fish? They are not part of our Eucharistic meal but a fish is an ancient, and still current, Christian symbol. The initial letters in Greek for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior form an acronym which spells out the Greek word for fish: “ICHTHUS.” For people alert to the meaning of symbols, any mention of a fish makes them remember that God loved us so much that he sent his only Son who became our Savior through the sacrificial offering of himself on the cross. The Eucharist is the living memorial of that sacrifice. During the celebration we exclaim to Christ: “Dying you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life.”

For the next four Sundays we will be hearing parts of this sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, and with each Sunday we will see more deeply into the meaning of the Holy Eucharist. (Source: Charles E. Miller, CM. Sunday Preaching. New York: Alba House, 1996, pp. 226-227)

Reflection 3 – There’s always enough

In today’s gospel, Jesus multiplies five barley loves and two fish so that they feed a crowd of over 5,000 people to satisfaction. But John tells us, “When they had their fill, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” One imagines the disciples may have wondered why they needed to go to all that effort when they had just witnessed Jesus creating bread out of almost nothing.

We forget in the good times about the need to save, to conserve, to avoid waste. Those who lived through the Great Depression have spent a lifetime saving things that their children and grandchildren think of as disposable. Ironically, some of those same children and grandchildren are now doing the same thing in the interest of being “green” and saving the planet from a mountain trash.

In the Our Father, we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It reminds us that if we have faith in God, there will always be enough. This is not an easy lesson to learn. Fear, insecurity, greed, envy – these things all work against a simple trust in God’s providence. Even in the idealized world of the early church in the Acts of the Apostles, we find disputes arising about whether the Greek-speaking widows are getting as much food as the Hebrew-speaking widows.

As we gather each day for Eucharist, we pray that as our spirits are fed by the Bread of Life, so our bodies will be nourished and will in turn nourish others. Conserving our resources, sharing what we have with those in need, and making sure that we waste neither our material goods nor our spiritual energy will move us closer to that heavenly banquet in the kingdom of God. (Source: Diane M. Houdek, Weekdaay Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, April 24, 2009).

Reflection 4 – This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world

When the crowd realized what Jesus had done in multiplying the loves, they thought he might be the messiah. They were an occupied nation, suffering under the yoke of a foreign power, and they looked for a deliverer sent by God to free them from oppression by Rome. They wanted to make him the leader of a popular liberation movement.

Not much later, another crowd was after him. They said to the Roman governor, “Crucify him!”

Why did the crowd love him so much at first? He had healed them and fed them. He gave them what they wanted, so they wanted him to be their leader. They were waiting for a messiah who would be a king and conqueror. They saw what he could do, and they realized that he had power, marvelous power. They thought that if they could harness him and his power to their dream, things could begin to happen. If they had been honest, they would have had to admit that they wanted to use him. When they found out that he did not share their dream and would not let them use him, they turned on him.

We like to think that we’re better than that crowd. Let’s hope so. But there are some disturbing resemblances between them and us.

When some people want comfort in sorrow, or strength in difficulties, or help in hard times, they turn to Jesus and open their hearts to him. But when he asks them for sacrifice, or offers them a cross, or just doesn’t give them what they asked for, they want to have nothing to do with him. Are we like that? When we pray to Christ, is it for strength to carry out our own ideas and plans, or for strength to accept his plans and wishes?

When we look back on our lives, we can see times when we didn’t get what we asked for, but it turned out for the best. Sometimes we were disappointed by events, but in the larger scheme of things we were better off. At the time, God appeared to disappoint us, but later on we looked back and saw that he had been watching over us. The same thing goes on between parents and children. Wise parents may have to say no: the children resent them, and much later, they thank them.

God loves us and wants us to pray to him. Often our prayer is, “Lord, give me the strength to do what I want to do.” That’s okay. But a better prayer is, “Lord, give the strength to do what you want me to do.”

Recall: A time when you didn’t get what you wanted and it turned out to be for the best. (Source: Rev. James DiGiacomo, SJ. Sundays with Jesus. Reflections for the Year of Mark. New York: Paulist Press, 2008, pp. 73-74).

Reflection 5 – Broken Loaves Broken Lives

Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost. –John 6:12

While I was leading a seminar, I passed around a loaf of unsliced bread and asked each person to respond to it. One squeezed it and said, “It’s fresh.” Another commented, “It smells delicious.” Still another noted, “It looks nourishing.”

Finally someone said, “That’s true, but I’m hungry!” With that, she broke off a piece and ate it. Her response said it all: Unbroken bread is useless.

One day Jesus faced 5,000 hungry people. Only by breaking the five loaves and two fish into pieces could He miraculously feed the multitude (Jn. 6:11), and He refused to waste any leftover fragments (v.12).

Not only did this miracle foreshadow Christ’s brokenness on the cross–a breaking that would make the Bread of Life available to all–but it also speaks to me of the brokenness that believers must experience if they are to be used by God.

Do you fear a loss of usefulness due to broken health, broken hopes, broken promises? Fear not! Although some things lose their usefulness once they’re broken, there are two things that become more useful: broken loaves and broken lives.

If you’ll yield the fragments of your life to God, He’ll not waste a crumb of what you’re going through.  — Joanie Yoder

A broken heart can give to life
Great depth and beauty never known;
And when that heart yields all to Christ,
His love through it is clearly shown. –DJD

Broken things become useful in God’s hands (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 6 – St. Benedict Joseph Labre (d. 1783 A.D.)

Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God’s special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest. Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life. Then, at 16 years of age, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives.

He became a pilgrim, traveling from one great shrine to another, living off alms. He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor. Filled with the love of God and neighbor, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called “the poor man of the Forty Hours Devotion” and “the beggar of Rome.” The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did. His excuse to himself was that “our comfort is not in this world.”

On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house. Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint.

He was officially proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII at canonization ceremonies in 1881.

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1356

Comment:

In a modern inner city, one local character kneels for hours on the sidewalk and prays. Swathed in his entire wardrobe winter and summer, he greets passersby with a blessing. Where he sleeps no one knows, but he is surely a direct spiritual descendant of Benedict, the ragged man who slept in the ruins of Rome’s Colosseum. These days we ascribe such behavior to mental illness; Benedict’s contemporaries called him holy. Holiness is always a bit mad by earthly standards.

Readings & Reflections: Thursday of the Second Week of Easter & St. Bernadette Soubirous, April 16,2015

Readings & Reflections: Thursday of the Second Week of Easter & St. Bernadette Soubirous, April 16,2015

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

“Lord Jesus Christ, let your Holy Spirit fill me and transform my heart and mind that I may choose life — abundant life in you and with you. And give me the courage and strength to always discern good from evil and to reject everything that is false and contrary to your holy will.” Amen.

Reading 1
Acts 5:27-33

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the Apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

When they heard this, they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 34:2 and 9, 17-18, 19-20
R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Many are the troubles of the just man,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel
Jn 3:31-36

The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – He who believes in the Son has eternal life

“The one who comes from above is above all. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard but no one accepts his testimony.”

You spoke the truth and shared the truth because you believed you have the truth deep inside your heart. Somehow after speaking the truth, you found yourself in deep trouble. The truth that you had in your heart was not acceptable to those around you. Someone with great power and influence and who was more credible to a bigger number had another version of the “truth” and overturned your testimony. You found yourself put down as the vicious liar, with “friends” running away from you. You feel that whole world is collapsing in your midst. You are frustrated, in despair and with no one to cling to for support.  You ask yourself… what did I say wrong?

Our Heavenly Father speaks to us through John the Baptizer about Jesus Who came from above and from heaven and Who is above all, testifies to what He has seen and heard but no one accepts His testimony.

If Jesus was treated in this manner, persecuted and even crucified, we should feel consoled when we suffer because we speak the truth. God wants us to persevere in doing good and in sharing the untainted and unblemished truth. He wants us to speak the truth as Jesus would… speak it in love and not to wield it as a weapon.  God wants us to give the truth as a gift to everyone.

The advice Jesus gives us as bearers of truth is founded not only on His words but on His deeds, by the very shape of His life. At any moment up until His last hours, Jesus could have saved his life and secured a long, comfortable life just by ‘fudging’ the truth a little, going along to get along. He could have saved his life and gone home to His mother, found a wife and be a doting father. But He would have lost his soul. He knew that it sounded good, but it was not the best bargain.

Let us ask ourselves how we have handled truth especially when it is not welcome and not exactly pleasant? Do we flee the scene or “fudge” the truth? Do we use the truth as a weapon to feed our self-righteousness? Do we depend on the goodness and integrity that God built in us? When there’s no one out there cheering us on, do we continue to press forward because we know that we are set on the right course? Do we persevere with the truth in the face of ridicule or sneering silence?

Just as God sent Jesus to speak His words, He may decide to send you to His people to speak His words. This is the reason why we all have to lead a good and righteous life.  A good person’s life speaks for itself, no matter what other people may say. One thing God wants from us, leader or follower, is integrity… that we walk in the truth wherever it may lead us.

The quiet testimony of a good life always speaks the truth that is in every believer.  But if ever we will be rejected because of the truth we stand for, let us not fear and run for cover but seek Jesus and His strength and be consoled as “the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone of the structure!”

In recent events within God’s church or even within our very own families, how have we used the truth in resolving crucial issues? Have we perpetuated half- truths for fear of repercussions that can influence our very own roles and positions?

Let us all be guided that “the LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them.”  Those who speak the truth are set free!

Direction

Live and speak the Truth we have in Christ.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, bless me and make me a bearer of your truth no matter what the circumstances may be. In Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Reflection 2 – Choose eternal life

Jesus tells his disciples that they can believe the words he speaks because God the Father has poured his Spirit on him in full measure. The function of the Holy Spirit is to reveal God’s truth to us. When we receive the Holy Spirit he enables us to recognize and understand God’s truth. Jesus is the Word of God and he gives us his Holy Spirit so that we can recognize his truth and live according to it.

Here’s a story told by the bishop of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. One day the Parish Priest went outside to confront a young man who was shouting and call them fools. The priest told the young man, “Look, let’s get this over with once and for all. I’m going to dare you to do something and I bet you can’t do it.” And of course the young man answered, “I can do anything you propose.” “Fine” said the priest, “All I ask you to do is to come into the sanctuary with me. I want you to stare at the figure of Christ, and I want you to scream at the top of your voice, as loudly as you can, saying, “Christ died on the cross for me and I don’t care one bit.”

So the young man went into the sanctuary, and screamed as loud as he could, look at the figure, “Christ died on the cross for me and I don’t care one bit.” The priest said, “Very good. Now do it again.” And again the young man screamed, with a little more hesitancy, “Christ died on the cross for me and I don’t care one bit.” “You’re almost done now,” said the priest, “One more time.”

The young man raised his fist, keep looking at the statue, but the words wouldn’t come. He just could not look at the face of Christ and say that anymore. The real punch line came when, after he told the story, the bishop said, “I was that young man. That young man, that defiant young man was me. I thought I didn’t need God, but found out that I did.”

Many of us live out our faith as though Christ exists to follow us. We come to believe that Christ exists to satisfy our demands… This disguised form of self-serving religion sets Christ as just one more commodity in life that will enhance and empower our dreams. When Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him”(Jn 3:36). Jesus called his disciples to choose and follow Him. He meant that He would do the leading and directing of our lives(Lk 5:27). Like the disciples, we must give up our will, obey Him, and choose to “lose” our lives for Him (Lk 17:33).

Without so much thought, this might sound simple. But in reality, it is impossible to do on our own. Only by choosing each day to let go of our own plans and by trusting the Holy Spirit’s leading can we cooperate with His work in us. This is God’s way of teaching us to become His submissive followers instead of the leader – “Because Christ is the One who holds the key to all our needs, we can release what we hold dear to follow where He leads. To lead others to Jesus, we must learn to follow Him.”

“Lord Jesus Christ, let your Holy Spirit fill me and transform my heart and mind that I may choose life – abundant life in you and with you. And give me the courage and strength to always discern good from evil and to reject everything that is false and contrary to your holy will.”

Reflection 3 – God’s Spirit empowers us to follow Jesus to the cross

How do we follow Jesus to the cross like his disciples (Acts 5:27-33)?

Here’s a story of Clarence Jordan. He was a Southern Baptist preacher and a poet who founded an interracial Christian community in Georgia in the 1950s. When a lawsuit was brought against him, he asked his brother Robert, an attorney, to represent him. Robert refused, claiming that racist might make sure that he lost his job. Clarence asked his brother if he followed Jesus. “Yes, I follow him up to a point,” Robert said. “Would that point by any chance be the cross?” Clarence inquired. He then informed his brother that anyone who did not obey the teaching of Jesus was not his disciple. “I don’t believe you can call yourself a disciple,” he said. “You are an admirer.”

The key difference between the Jordan brothers was that Clarence understood the message of today’s gospel (Jn 3:31-36). Whoever accepts the testimony of Jesus “certifies that God is trustworthy.” Clarence trusted that if he obeyed God’s law of love by overcoming the bonds of racism, his community would help others to live together in peace. He understood that Jesus “does not ration his gift of the Spirit.” The Spirit is poured out like water on all who entrust themselves to God’s prodigal love.

When the first disciples refused to obey the high priest’s order to stop preaching the good news, Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” Unlike Robert Jordan, and many of us at times, Peter and his companions were now willing to follow Jesus all the way to the cross. They would accept prison, persecution and even death rather than turn away their total commitment to Christ.

The Scripture stories, together with the story of Clarence Jordan, are meant for mature Christians. We have to grow into mature Christians over our life span as we come to believe more deeply that God is trustworthy. We grow into them through prayerful remembrance that Jesus does not ration his empowering Spirit with measuring spoons. The Spirit is ours for the faith-filled asking.

What joy awaits those who shed the straitjacket of their fears to be free to obey God’s word, whatever the cost. They will know that they are far more than admirers. They are truly disciples. Are we? (Source: Gloria Hutchinson. Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, April 15, 2010).

Reflection 4 – St. Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879 A.D.)

Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11,1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age.

There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16. Although Bernadette’s initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of “the Lady” brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig.

According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was.

Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862.

During her life Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later she petitioned to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35.

She was canonized in 1933.

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1355

Comment:

Millions of people have come to the spring Bernadette uncovered for healing of body and spirit, but she found no relief from ill health there. Bernadette moved through life, guided only by blind faith in things she did not understand—as we all must do from time to time.