Jesus said to his disciples: “Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: We sin, but our belief in Jesus repairs the wounds; our righteousness relies not on what we do but on our relationship with the one who is righteous and connected to the Father; and our hope of avoiding condemnation lies in our rejection of the ruler of this world, who is already condemned. The world is a broken place with many stories which end tragically and with lives which became unraveled along the way. Life is messy, and it’s easy to get lost. At the end of the day, it’s Jesus whom we trust to clean up the broken things we leave in our wake. It is Jesus, his cross, his resurrection, and his Spirit which make the frayed world whole.
Saint of the day: Francis Paleari was born in Pogliano Milanese in the Archdiocese of Milan on October 22, 1863; he was brought up in a truly Christian family peaceful, joyful, and well-disposed in nature. On January 8, 1877, he entered the Seminary of the Little House of Divine Providence in Turin, founded by St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo. This seminary, placed under the protection of St. Thomas Aquinas – hence its name, “Family of Tommasini,” – welcomed aspirants to the priesthood without financial resources.
Having completed his theological studies with great results, Father Francis was ordained a priest on September 18, 1886. He served in the Little House of Divine Providence as a teacher, confessor, and spiritual director of young seminarians. He showed himself inspired in all things by the same spirit of charity that moved the Holy Founder who loved to help the poor, materially and spiritually, with boundless trust in Divine Providence.
He carried out important tasks for the Archdiocese of Turin as Pro-Vicar General, Vicar for the Nuns, and Promoter of Justice. He joined the Third Order Franciscan in the early years of his priesthood, renewing his membership to it in both 1920 and 1927. The last three years of his life were marked by illness, which did not prevent him, nonetheless, from exercising his mission as a confessor. He died on May 7, 1939, in the Little House of Providence in Turin. He was beatified in 2011.
Spiritual reading: Some without fulfilling the commandments think that they possess true faith. Others fulfil the commandments and then expect the Kingdom as a reward due to them. Both are mistaken. (Saint Mark the Ascetic)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
“I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: God continuously communicates with every human heart. There are inner promptings which are the words which God speaks to us. The enemy of human nature, however, also makes suggestions to us. For this reason, we as spiritual beings must be attentive to the voices in our hearts to discern which impulses are from God and which are not. It is for this reason as well that Christians do well to share their journeys with a wise and spiritually-grounded companion who can help us to hear the testimony of the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father and testifies to Jesus.
Saint of the day: Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin was the son of Prince Dimitri Alexeievich Gallitzin, a Russian diplomat. He was born at The Hague in the Netherlands on December 22, 1770 and baptized Greek Orthodox. Almost from his infancy the young prince was subjected to rigid discipline, and his intellectual faculties, trained by the best masters of the age, reached their fullest development. At the age of almost seventeen Demetrius became a sincere Catholic, and to please his mother, whose birth (1748), marriage (1768), and First Holy Communion (1786) occurred on 28 August, the feast of St. Augustine, assumed at confirmation that name, and thereafter wrote his name Demetrius Augustine.
Demetrius traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, leaving in August 1792 and arriving in October; he travelled under the name Augustine Smith. One of the first seminarians at Saint Mary’s in Baltimore, he was ordained in 1795; he was the first priest to receive all orders in the United States.
In 1799 Father Demetrius moved to McGuire’s Settlement in the Alleghenies, erecting a small log church where the town of Loretto, named by him, grew up and became the first English speaking Catholic settlement west of the Allegheny Front; he remained there 41 years. He received no salary, spending what he received of his inheritance to develop the colony spiritually and industrially. He was one of the first in the United States to defend the Church through his writings, and most are still available today. He served as Vicar-General of Western Pennsylvania in 1827 but refused to allow the proposal of his name for the sees of Bardstown, Cincinnati or Detroit. Gallitzin died at Loretto on May 6, 1840 and was buried near St. Michael’s church in Loretto. The Servant of God Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin had his cause for canonization introduced in 2005.
Spiritual reading: Above all, trust in the slow work of God. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)
“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.
“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus says something in today’s gospel which has become a central experience of the Church, that the Father would send a Helper, and this Helper would live in the community doing two things. The first of them was that the Holy Spirit would teach us new things, and the second of them was that the Holy Spirit would teach us these new things in the light of what Jesus had told us. And just so has it come to pass. The Holy Spirit abides now in the community of believers leading us to respond to Jesus’ message in ever new ways as we read the world and react as believers to the world. Let us be filled with confidence that though it seems to us sometimes that the Church is buffeted about on strange winds, the Creator, Redeemer, and Santifier of the world has not abandoned us but moves in the gentle breeze to continually renew and revive us.
Spiritual reading: We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are. (The Talmud)
Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C
The readings today are all very much about our awareness of the relationship between the Father and the Son. In the early church, as we have seen, the awareness of the concept of Jesus as God came gradually. The Apostles had some idea that Jesus was very close to God, at his right hand, and the early Gospels talk about Jesus as the Son of God. But this did not immediately mean that they saw Jesus as God. The concept of a son of God was very much a part of the Old Testament and many people in the Hebrew Testament were called sons of God. But, from the beginning, this seemed different. Jesus seemed more than a prophet, more than a ‘traditional’ son of God.
In the first reading we see the death of the very first Christian martyr, Stephen, and we are told that St. Paul was there – but at the time, he was a persecutor and his name was Saul. Stephen’s stoning was due to blasphemy. Jews believe in one God. That is the cornerstone of their faith and had always been. Anyone who called someone or something else a ‘god’ blasphemed in their eyes, and the penalty for this was stoning.
In the section of Acts of the Apostles that we read today, Stephen doesn’t say the words “Jesus is God” but in his vision of the Jesus as the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God, the Jewish high priest and council saw this as a scriptural reference to a Messiah and as a blasphemy in their eyes. They would not even listen to the “rantings” of Stephen as they would see it, and Stephen’s preaching was, in essence, keeping alive the memory of a man that they had crucified. Afraid of the notoriety of this, they saw his stoning as the only way to quiet him.
Stephen had learned his lessons well from Jesus, however, and his remarks at his stoning remind us very strongly of Jesus’ last words and wish to forgive the very people who were stoning him and putting him to death. The beautiful phrase “fell asleep in the Lord” contrasts strongly with the violent end of Stephen, but contains the idea of ‘peacefulness’ that we saw Jesus keep mentioning, and also the idea that in death, Stephen was able to join Jesus in his kingdom.
In the second reading from Revelation, we see the progression of the idea of Jesus being God. In his vision he hears Jesus say the words that only God could say: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” When this was being written, many more martyrs were dying and had died for their faith, and so we get the image of the martyrs, men and women who washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. We also have the identification with the Spirit as God in this passage, and we have the image of baptism which has from the beginning been the rite of initiation to Jesus’ kingdom. “And let everyone who is thirsty come.” The water is “life” and a “gift”.
At this point in our church history, people still believed that the second coming was going to be soon, as evidenced by John’s dream and revelation. “Surely I am coming soon.” We see how, with the passage of time, we have come to understand that “soon” may mean something very different to a God for whom there is no ‘time’ as we know it. We still pray for the second coming and the coming of the kingdom, but it is not as inevitable as it seemed to the early Christians.
The Gospel today is from John again, and it is thick with theology. The idea of Jesus as God, and the Spirit as God had become much stronger – though it would be centuries before it was actually defined as a statement of creed. The theme of this section of John is ‘oneness” or unity, and that this unity is achieved through love. As far as the progression of the identity of Jesus with God, we can’t get anything more concrete than the words John gives to Jesus: “As you Father, are in me and I am in you..” and that they may be one as we are one…” This is a beautiful section of John and bears reading and re-reading. But beside that, what can we take from it to help us through this week?
I want you to consider Jesus’ words that it is love that binds the Father and Son together – a love that existed before the creation of the world, and it it is that love which the Father and the Son have for us that is central to all of Christianity, and it is that love which allows us to make the kingdom on earth visible. How can we work together to show, as Jesus did, that love to the world. Obviously, none of us are being martyred for out faith, like Stephen, but what can we do in our daily living that brings that same type of love to the world? Can we do even one thing each day to be the bearer of Christ’s and the Father’s love to someone else. Can we make the world a better place one small act of love at a time. This, I think we can do! It is what we are called to do, and in its own small way, will make the kingdom more and more present in the world today – even if it is just ‘our world’.
And this is the challenge of God’s Word today!
Fr. Ron Stephens, St Andrew’s Church, Warrenton VA
Homily for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, Year C
Jesus was only on the earth for around 30 years. We believe in our Catholic faith that, as God, he existed before, and exists now, sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven. You realize, of course, that that is a metaphor, or specifically a personification, since God doesn’t really have a hand – but the point I am trying to make is that like Jesus’, our time on earth is also short. While Catholics do not believe that we existed before we were conceived, except perhaps as knowledge in the Mind of God, we do believe, with Jesus as our model, that we will live after our time on earth – and that is what Jesus described as the kingdom of heaven – another metaphor – that Jesus used constantly as the major teaching of his, and the subject of almost all the parables. “The kingdom of heaven is like……”
The feast of the Ascension that we celebrate today was actually last Thursday – 40 days after Easter. This belief in the after-life is what the beautiful reading from the Ephesians is about today: With the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance… and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power…” (Eph 1.18-19) What a beautiful prayer that is – and such strange imagery: “With the eyes of your heart enlightened.” How can our hearts have eyes, and how can our hearts see? The heart is the seat of love, and so, it isn’t our intellect which needs to see the light - the truth of the kingdom of heaven- but our enlightenment will come through our hearts in the way we love others and have been loved back. That is what heaven is – a state of love, because as we saw a few weeks ago, God is love.
The reading from Ephesians goes on to explain that Christ lives but that we have become his earthly body. Once he left the earth he has given us his Spirit so that we can carry on his work. As the Gospel of Luke says, he has sent us what God has promised, that we will be “clothed with power from on high”. In the first reading from the Acts, Luke also uses the idea of a promise, and he explains this power by saying that John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So that, even if Jesus was leaving the physical earth, he was not leaving his followers without help. We will be baptized and clothed with the Spirit.
The feast of the Ascension is a celebration of the day when Jesus stopped appearing to his disciples and was not with them any more in a physical sense. Now, we take on his body. Now, we need to become Christ for others. This feast of the Ascension, then, is a reminder for all of us, not just of what awaits us when we die, but what we need to do while still alive: how we can become the body of Christ, and how we can be helped, protected and loved by the Spirit – God’s gift to us. From this day of Ascension onward the physical presence of Christ becomes sacramental, so that Christ can always be with us in the signs which call sacrament – Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders and the Sacrament of the Sick. In these sacraments we are allowed to experience the presence of Christ while we are still on earth.
I read a story recently about a young man who had cancer and eventually died, leaving behind a new wife. Before he died, he left little gifts around in inconspicuous places, left letters to be mailed at intervals and made sure he had enough insurance and savings to take care of her. It reminded me of Jesus who did the same thing for us. He too, left us insurance and the means to get by by sending his Spirit. He, too, leaves little messages around for us to not forget him, and to give us strength when we might be feeling low. Each week we get little reminders in our readings and our homilies about how much he loves us. He did not just do his job and then leave us to fend for ourselves. And the greatest gift is the promise, the hope, that we will be with him in the his kingdom.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension today, let us not mourn the fact that Jesus left us on earth, but instead rejoice like the disciples. “They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy…” Because of the promise, the hope and the reminders he leaves us with, we have great reason for joy. Note that the Gospel ends with – “and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” The disciples were Jews – initially they didn’t change their religion or start a new one. What they saw, though, was that Jesus was a special gift from God, God’s own Son, who was equal to God because he was God in some unknown way, and that all praise is of God, who loves us and takes care of us.
And this is the Good News that you need to spread today!
Fr. Ron Stephens, St. Andrew’s Church, Warrenton VA
Jesus said to his disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Choosing the Lord means casting our lot with him: Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians called us to put on the mind of Christ. Choosing Jesus means seeing as Jesus sees, hearing as Jesus hears, feeling as Jesus feels, thinking as Jesus thinks, acting as Jesus acts. It is throwing our lot in with his lot. It is being authentic as he is authentic. It is being open to the good and bad as he was open to the good and bad. It is the recognition that if Jesus suffered, we too must be willing to suffer. It is the recognition that if Jesus loves, we too must be willing to love–despite every cost.
Saint of the day: Blessed Ceferino Gimenez Malla, known as “El Pele” was born a Gypsy in Fraga, Huesca, Spain, probably on August 26, 1861, and a Gypsy he remained. He chose Teresa Gimenez Castro a Gypsy from Lerida as his wife and settled with her in Barbastro. In 1912 he regularized this Gypsy-style union and became a model Christian. He had no children but adopted one of his wife’s nieces, whose descendants are still living. He was a flourishing horse dealer with a respectable position in society and ever ready to give generously to the poor. Unjustly accused of theft and imprisoned, he was finally declared innocent: the lawyer for his defense announced: “El Pele is not a thief, he is San Ceferino, patron of Gypsies.”
In his dealings, he never cheated anyone. Held in great esteem, El Pele was frequently sought by Gypsies to help them solve the conflicts which sometimes flared up between them. His reputation for charity and piety was widespread and although he was illiterate, educated people esteemed him for his honesty and his wisdom. He taught Christianity to both Romani and ethnic Spanish children. After his wife had died, Giménez Malla began a career as a catechist under the guidance of a priest-teacher, Don Nicholas Santos de Otto. Malla also resolved disputes between Romani and Spanish people. According to Romani tradition, he also used to feed poor children. In 1926, he became a member of the Franciscan Third order, and, five years later, he took part in “Night Adoration.”
At the start of the Spanish Civil war, at the end of July 1938, he was arrested for trying to defend a priest who was being dragged through the streets of Barbastro, and for keeping a rosary in his pocket. He was offered freedom if he would stop reciting the Rosary. He preferred to stay in prison and face martyrdom. He was shot at dawn on August 8, 1936, against the walls of Barbastro cemetery. He died clutching his Rosary and crying: “Long live Christ the King!” His body was never found. He was beatified on May 4, 1997, which is the day the church keeps his memorial.
Spiritual reading: God leaves us free to be whatever we like. We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real or to be unreal. We may be true or false. The choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and then another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face. But we cannot make these changes with impunity. Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them. If we have chosen the way of falsity, we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it! (Thomas Merton)
Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Love lifts us all up. When we accept with joy the presence of another, whether or not that other is a close member of our family or a nameless homeless person in the street, we have fulfilled Jesus’ commandment to love. Jesus tells us in this passage that the ability to look beyond appearances and value the worth and dignity of another person without reservation regardless of their circumstances is liberating. It is our ability to love with abandon that liberates us so that we no are longer slaves. We who love Jesus may believe we have made a choice to love him, but Jesus assures us in this passage that we were chosen by him to love. Martin Luther once famously enunciated the principle, sola scriptura to suggest that it is by scripture alone that we are drawn to salvation and holiness. I disagree: it is love that saves us and makes us holy.
Saint of the day: A contemporary of Therese of Lisieux and Charles de Foucauld, Pauline Elisabeth Arrighi was born in Paris on October 16, 1866 to a wealthy bourgeois French family of Corsican descent. She had had hepatitis as a child, and it recurred throughout her life with attacks of varying severity. She met Félix Leseur (1861–1950), also from an affluent, Catholic family in 1887. Shortly before they married on July 31, 1889, Elisabeth discovered that Félix, who was a physician, was no longer a practicing Catholic. Félix soon became well known as the editor of an anti-clerical, atheistic newspaper in Paris. Félix and Elisabeth Leseur’s marriage was a happy one. Well-to-do by birth and marriage, Elisabeth Leseur was a part of a social group that was cultured, educated, and generally anti-religious.
When Elisabeth was able, she worked on charitable projects for poor families and funded other charitable activities. She was concerned about the poor and the least, but her deteriorating health restricted her ability to respond to this concern after 1907. In 1907 her health deteriorated to the extent that she was forced to lead a primarily sedentary life, receiving visitors and directing her household from a chaise lounge. In 1911 she had surgery and radiation for a malignant tumor, recovered, and then was bedridden by July of 1913. She died from generalized cancer in May of 1914.
Elisabeth Leseur underwent a religious conversion when she was 32 and already married. From the beginning, she organized her spiritual life around a disciplined pattern of prayer, meditation, reading, sacramental practice, and writing. Charity was the organizing principle of her asceticism. In her approach to mortification, she followed Francis de Sales who recommended moderation and internal, hidden strategies instead of external practices. Understanding that faith was a gift that only God could give, she trusted in the power of prayer and had a profound sense of the communion of saints. Her correspondence with Soeur Marie Goby was a source of companionship and mutual spiritual support for both women. The letters were written between 1911 until shortly before Elizabeth’s death on May 3, 1914. Soeur Marie Goby was a nun of the Hospitaller Sisters who worked with the sick and injured.
Elisabeth Leseur’s husband, inconsolable in his grief, was converted by Elisabeth’s writings and an uncanny sense of her presence after her death. Félix subsequently published his wife’s journal, Journal et Pensees pour Chaque Jour; and due to its favorable reception, a year later in 1918, published his wife’s letters to Soeur Goby under the title of Lettres sur la Souffrance. In the fall of 1919, Félix became a Dominican novice. He was ordained in 1923 and spent much of his remaining 27 years publicly speaking about his wife’s spiritual writings. He was instrumental in opening the cause for Elisabeth’s beatification as a saint. In the year 1924, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, who would later become an archbishop and popular American television and radio figure, made a retreat under the direction of Fr. Leseur. During many hours of spiritual direction, Sheen learned of the life of Elisabeth and the conversion of Félix. Sheen subsequently repeated this conversion story in many of his presentations. The cause for the canonization of Elisabeth Leseur was started in 1934. She is currently called, Servant of God.
Spiritual reading: Providence has granted us . . . a sweet treat, and it is necessary to enjoy it immensely, to say than you, and to be transformed by the gift of self, devotion, generosity, and experienced joys. And it is also necessary when these joys are replaced by pain, to accept them with the same smile in one’s heart and be just as generous in serving another. (Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur)
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus gives a command and makes a promise in this gospel passage. He asks us here to remain in his love. If we love, take care of the less fortunate, live authentically, and seek the good for each other, Jesus promises us that a return of his love for us will accompany our commitment, just as a return of the Father’s love for Jesus has accompanied Jesus’ commitment to the Father’s commandment. The Kingdom is never just about me, but it always about me living authentically and generously in the company of others.
Saint of the day: José María Rubio y Peralta was born on July 22, 1864 in Dalías, Spain. His parents were farmers and he was one of 12 children, six of whom died at a young age. In 1875 he began his secondary schooling in Almeria. Feeling a call to the priesthood, he transferred to the diocesan minor seminary in 1876 to continue his studies. In 1878 he moved to the major seminary of Granada, where he completed studies in philosophy, theology and canon law. On September 24, 1887, he was ordained a priest.
At this time, he also felt called to join the Society of Jesus (commonly known as the Jesuits) but because he was taking care of an elderly priest who needed to be looked after, he was not able to fulfill his wish for 19 years.
In the years following his ordination, Jose Maria was busy as a curate in Chinchón and then as parish priest in Estremera. In 1890, the bishop called him to Madrid, where he was given the responsibility of synodal examiner. He also taught metaphysics, Latin, and pastoral theology at the seminary in Madrid and was chaplain to the Sisters of St Bernard.
In 1905, he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and, in the following year, entered the Jesuit novitiate in Granada. On October 12, 1908 he made his first vows as a Jesuit.
Jose Maria was an outstanding pastor and nurtured by a deep spiritual life. The Bishop of Madrid called him “The Apostle of Madrid.” He was the city’s favorite confessor, spending long hours each day giving direction. He was known for his incisive, simple preaching that moved many to conversion. He also had particular devotion to the poor, always providing them with the material and spiritual assistance they needed. Through his preaching and spiritual direction, Jose Maria was also able to attract and guide many lay people who wanted to live a more authentic Christian life and to help him in his mission of helping the poor. Under his guidance, they opened tuition-free schools which offered academic formation as well as instruction in various trades. They also assisted the sick and disabled and tried to find work for the unemployed.
Although Jose Maria was the inspiration for all these works, he remained in the background, preferring to let his helpers take center stage. He gave them the main responsibility and taught them to live and act like true apostles of the Lord. Jose Maria also organized popular missions and spiritual exercises in the poorest areas of the city. He believed that the poor should be helped in all their needs – both spiritual and material and that they were to be encouraged and loved in a way that fully respected their human dignity.
The most important aspect of the apostolate for Jose Maria was prayer. Adoration of the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was the center of his entire life. And it was the love of Christ that Jose Maria wanted to share with the poor. For him and his helpers, prayer came first, and it was through their prayer life that they received the strength to serve in the poorest and most abandoned areas of Madrid. Fr. José María Rubio died on 2 May 1929 in Aranjuez. He was canonized in 2003.
Spiritual reading: Love is the affinity which links and draws together the elements of the world… Love, in fact, is the agent of universal synthesis. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Gospel reading of the day: Baptism into Jesus is a luminous thing which connects every believer not only to Jesus but also to every other baptized person. Our baptisms connect us not just to every living person who is baptized but also to every person who has ever been baptized and every person who will ever be baptized. We as members of the church are members of the same body, whether we are Catholic, Orthodox, or members of one or other of the Protestant denominations. I once was sitting at a table with other priests from my church. We were enjoying a supper with each other, and a gentleman came up to our table and started to share with us his own faith, rooted in an evangelical tradition. He seemed to not like Catholics. At a certain point, I tried to disengage in a fraternal way by pointing out that he and we alike shared Jesus. I quoted to him Paul’s insight from Ephesians, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,” and extended my hand. He refused to shake it and walked away from us, apparently disgusted. It is true that the body of Christ now, as upon the cross, suffers from many wounds, but it is Christ who is at the core of all of it, so despite every apparent fissure, we are one body in one Lord.
Saint of the day: Jean-Louis Bonnard was the fifth of Gabriel Bonnard and Anne Bonnier’s six children. He was born on March 18, 1824. He was baptized that very day. Jean-Louis made his First Communion in 1836. After a collegiate course at Saint-Jodard, he entered the seminary of Lyon. He left at the age of 22, to complete his theological studies at the Seminary of the Foreign Missions in Paris. He became a priest of the Paris Society of Foreign Missions
From Nantes, where he was ordained in 1850, he sailed for the missions of Western Tongking (northern Vietnam) and reached there in May 1850. In 1851 he was put in charge of two parishes there. At the time, proselytisation was banned in Vietnam.
On March 1st, 1851, the emperor Tu Duc published an edict of persecution. While visiting the Christian community at Bôi-Xuyen in March 1852, Father Bonnard was arrested, having been denounced by a pagan mandarin, and was led to Nam-Dinh. The sentence of death was pronounced against him and was executed immediately upon receipt of its confirmation by Emperor Tự Đức on May 1, 1852. He was beheaded. His remains were thrown into the river, but recovered by Christians and sent by them to the Seminary of Foreign Missions. He was canonized as one of the martyrs of Vietnam in 1988.
Spiritual reading: Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We often given a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of “Christian” countries that tend to be as consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class conscious, and addictive as everybody else-and often more so, I’m afraid. (Richard Rohr)
What is interesting during this Easter time is that the first reading each week is from the Acts of the Apostles. What could be a little confusing about this is that the readings from Acts deal with a time in the early church when Christ had already ascended to his Father and had sent his Spirit to continue His church and invigorate His work.
With the Gospels, we have seen all the pronouncements of Christ’s love and peace and of course his new command to “Love one another as I have loved you”. Yet in today’s first reading, we see that Judean Jews and Antiochian Gentiles have their own ideas of what is required of to be Christians.. Dissension, debate, dispute arose in the community and only the Apostles could resolve it. So we see the appeal to Jerusalem. But in the end if we think about it, they have taken the simple and created the complex much as we do today as we seek to see everything spelled out.. Christ’s command and teachings were simple and clear really, but people of the world have their own ideas and interpretations of what is and what is said. Knowledge and science and just the natural evolving of the world has changed the whole outlook of what the world is. The role of men and women in the world is certainly different from it was in Christ’s time. It is certainly not for us to judge the goodness of the wrongness of how things have evolved but to adjust to how it has. Laws and dictates must naturally evolve and change to keep in the reality of what Christ has commanded. Loving one another as Christ loved hasn’t changed. Living in his spirit is possible when we are open to it and live by it not trying to limit the spirit or put it into some predefined box. Love and forgiveness have no limits. With these come Christ’s peace. Judgments are put aside and left for God. We can not forget that our understanding is so limited that we can really err in judging others.
Jesus says today, whoever loves me will keep my word, He promised to send His Spirit, his Advocate who teaches us what we need to know. That is why the elders, the Bishops of the Church, come together and in conjunction with the Spirit and the Church at large decide the course and action of the Church. This is the ultimate gift of peace and understanding given to us to remove the need for dissension and dispute. From this we will truly receive the peace of Christ bestow and given by the Father and Spirit. Through all this we can become one in Christ and with each other.