Carry the Gospel with You

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 15, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 15:12-17

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: Jesus, speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper, continues to talk about the centrality of love. He expresses it in a central commandment: perhaps surprisingly to some, this commandment is not to love God, or to love Jesus, but to love one another. God does not need to be mentioned because that love is only possible when God is acting in and through us. The touchstone of the genuineness of our love for God is our love of others.

Saint of the day: Isidore the farmer was born in about 1070 in Madrid. He was a pious farmer who was married to Saint Mary de la Cabeza. Their son died young; and they became convinced it was the will of God that they not have children; they lived together chastely the rest of their lives engaged in good works.

Accused by fellow workers of shirking his duties by attending Mass each day and taking time out for prayers, Isidore claimed he had no choice but to follow the highest Master. One tale says that when his master came in the morning to chastise him for skipping work for church, he found angels plowing the fields in place of Isidore. Miracles and cures reported at his grave, in which his body remains incorruptible. He died on May 15, 1130 of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: People who will not compromise with Christ’s values are uncomfortable neighbors for mediocrity; they are likely to be misunderstood; they are often hated. (Caryll Houselander)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on May 14, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 15:9-17

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. 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: Our gospel reading today assures us that love produces joy, the same joy that Jesus himself experiences. In fact, some psychological researchers have suggested that love represents an amalgam between joy in the presence of another along with acceptance of the other. Our gospel then might suggest that the normal situation of a Christian is joy and acceptance in the presence of the other. This is a tall order, but the gospel calls on us to take other people on their own terms and be filled with joy in the presence of even those among us whose presence in normal life may be hard to bear.

Saint of the day: Yesterday was the memorial of my beloved Juliana of Norwich. I have been busy with other duties, so I was unable to write my online installment of, “Carry the Gospel with You.” I love her so well that for the first time in this litany of the saints that we make from day-to-day, I am taking the liberty to commend her to you. Her works, Revelations of Divine Love and The Book of Showings, really are without par in the corpus of the mystical writing of the Church. Read her; you will be vastly richer for it.

She was born in England in about 1342. Almost nothing is known of her early life; we don’t even know if she was from Norwich or chose to move there. She was a recluse under the direction of Benedictine monks in Norwich, England. A mystic, visionary, and writer, she was illiterate and dictated to a scribe. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, which contains sixteen revelations she received while in an ecstatic trance, is still in print. Meditated on, spoke on, and wrote on the power of love of evil, Christ’s Passion, and the nature of the Trinity. In her early 60s she shut herself in complete seclusion at Conisford, Norwich, and never left again. She died in about 1423.

Spiritual reading: God, of your goodness give me yourself, for you are enough for me, and I can ask for nothing which is less which can pay you full worship. And if I ask anything which is less, always I am in want; but only in you do I have everything. (Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Juliana of Norwich)

What do you believe? Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by fatherjimb on May 11, 2009

Jesus the only begotten son of God

We say we believe in Jesus as God, the Son of God, eternally begotten, not made, one in being with the Father through whom all things were made but what does that mean? The apostles, the closest ones to Jesus, had a hard time getting their heads around that question so it is no surprise that we would have a similar challenge.

How could this Jesus who walked with them, talked with them, ate with them and who allowed himself to be crucified be the Son of God? The first accounts of what they believed comes to us from the Epistles, the “working” documents of this new faith community. In reading them we get an understanding of the slow realization of who this Jesus the Christ really was and what is demanded of believers.

Rather than being a simple answer the Epistles and later the Gospels describe individuals and groups who struggled to understand the meaning behind Jesus’ words. For the whole history of Christianity believers have struggled with understanding this “Jesus.”

Calling Jesus the “Son” of God is the closest approximation we can come to understanding in human terms the relationship of the “Father” to the “Son.” It connotes that the two share the same essence, a divine “gene pool” if you will. Unlike a human parent/child relationship the relationship of the Father and Son is completely different to anything we can conceive since there was never a point at which this relationship did not exist.

The term “begotten” while not in our common language refers to being created. In the creed we say eternally begotten, which essentially tells us that the “Son” wasn’t created some time in a past but is a continuous generation of the Father since with God there is no past, there is only an eternal now. He wasn’t made like any other creature but comes out of the Father as his very Word, a Word of life and creation in itself.

Iconographers trying to capture a sense of this fullness often pictured Mary holding Jesus not as a little baby but as a small human male, fully formed, radiating a specialness that is like yet different from any other of God’s creation. This Jesus is “God from God, Light from light, True God from True God… one in being with the Father through whom all things were made.”

(to be continued)

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 11, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 14:21-26

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “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 he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Pentecost this year falls on May 31, and we begin now our preparations for the coming of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father sends to us in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit still moves among us to reveal truths to us that we heretofore were not prepared to hear. In an age that has technology that looks into the inner workings of the human brain, in an age that has technology that peers out to the origins of the universe in deepest space, in an age that has uncovered and understood evidence about the migrations of early humans out of Africa into the rest of the world, are we prepared to understand what the Holy Spirit is teaching us about the mysteries of our humanity and God’s loving creative continuing presence?

Saint of the day: Francis Jerome was born in Italy in 1631. He studied humanities and philosophy at the Jesuit college of Taranto, Italy at age 16 and then went on to study theology and canon law at the college of Gesu Vecchio. He was ordained a parish priest at Naples, Italy on March 18, 1666. He subsequently became a Jesuit at age 28 on July 1, 1670 and served as a rural missionary in and around Naples for 40 years.

He was a successful and effective preacher who ministered in prisons, brothels, and galleys. He converted Moor and Turkish prisoners of war, rescued children from dangerous and degrading situations, opened a charitable pawn shop, and organized laymen into a group called Oratio della Missione to help fellow Jesuit missionaries. Numerous miraculous cures attributed to him in life and after death. His coffin was thronged by the people of Naples during his funeral procession. A few of his letters have survived, but none of his sermons. He died May 11, 1716 at Naples, Italy of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude.

While I am here on earth let me know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully. On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in the fulfillment of my hope. (Saint Anselm)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 10, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 15:1-8

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.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We live our lives in relationship. We are all related to someone. A parent to a child. A spouse to a spouse. A friend to a friend. A worker among workers. A believer in Christ in the body of other believers in Christ. These bonds are spiritual. They are like gravity. They pull on us. They are invisible, but they are real. We feel them. They have power over us. They shape how we see ourselves. Our relationships are made up of all kinds of human gravity: This gravity can be love, sympathy, compassion, hate, fear, the memory of the past, the experience of the present, the anticipation of the future.

Today’s Gospel is about relationship. Jesus describes a particular relationship, His relationship to us. He talks about the gravity that connects us to Him. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” What incredible intimacy. Think about it. Jesus might easily have said, “I am the sun, you are the dirt,” or more frightening still, He might have said, “I am the shoe, you are the bug.” After all, He is God and very, very big; we are human and very, very small.

Instead, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” But just what does that mean? If you think about it, isn’t Jesus, in fact, saying, “I am part of you. You are part of me. We are parts of one another. We are the same thing.” The story asks us to consider the gravity that makes Jesus and us one and the same thing. So what is this gravity? In today’s second reading, Saint John bids us to love in deed and in truth. Doesn’t it seem like this is the answer? Isn’t the gravity that binds Jesus and us love?

Okay. Jesus said it, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” so it must be true. But if Jesus and we are so connected to one another that He and we are one and the same thing, and it’s love that makes us one, how come we don’t feel it? After all, we all know what love feels like. Everyone of us has loved someone or something. A mother or father, a wife or husband, a partner, a brother or sister, a child, a friend, a co-worker, a car, a house, a toy. Whoever or whatever you have ever loved–think about that experience.

In love, our hearts move outward toward the loved object, encompass it, cling to it. For an instant, we forget ourselves. We lose ourselves in the other person or thing. For an instant, there is joy in this surrender of self to the other. In these moments, understanding the meaning of, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” is easy, easy, easy. But those moments are oh so very rare. Let’s face facts, we can use all kinds of beautiful language to talk about life, but life in many ways is hard. Our unending chores make us tired and sad; even what makes us happy grows stale. Our closest friends are still distant. The new grows old–the days pass by–life goes on–the Verizon bill comes every month–if we are young, there is always more homework–if we are older, our skins sags more and more–wealth evades us–friends die. And all that is just normal living. The really terrible personal experiences, like cancer, alcoholism, bankruptcy, the death of a parent or child, a loveless marriage, these are the pains that fill a person with tears. So much suffering make us cynical. It tempts us not to love God. It tempts us to believe that God does not love us.

And with other people, even when we don’t feel gooey feelings for the people in our lives, at least we can see them. God we can’t even see. The challenge we face is to look into all the dullness, the sameness, the constant grind and know that Jesus is the vine, we the branches, that is, we are in love with God and He with us. But St. John in today’s epistle says that we can know this. So just how do we know this extraordinary fact when life itself is so ordinary?

First of all, you and I feel the gravity of God. We crave something, and we are certain that what we crave is something the world cannot give. If someone asked us to name what we crave, surely we would think of God. In the dullness, the dryness, the ordinariness of life, we may not always feel the joy and surrender of love, but trust this fact: It is enough that you want to love God, whether or not you feel the joy and release of loving God. Anyone who wants to love God, already loves God. If you want to love God, the vine and the branches are surely a part of one another.

Spiritual reading: Give serious thought to your vocation so that you can give much thanks to God for so great a favor and ask Him for the special help needed to correspond to it with courage and diligence. (A letter to the Fathers and Brothers Studying at Coimbra by Ignatius of Loyola, 1547)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 8, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel reading, Jesus asks us not to let our hearts be troubled. This theme, that we not be afraid, arises over and over throughout the pages of scripture. It is an interesting theme given now what we know about the neurological origins of fear and their very useful functions in our lives. Fear serves a very useful function in our lives: it keeps us out of trouble by giving us a proper sense of caution in the face of things that can injure us. It sometimes, however, is inappropriate, since it can impede our full development as human beings. We are not willing to take risks when a given risk might allow us to grow and become better human beings. Moreover, as children of God, we may fail to trust that the Christ already has accomplished the total victory and that all the particularities we encounter are, in fact, simply how God is working out that victory in our lives. So let us not let our hearts be troubled, because all the adversities we face and all the adversities we fear really are not so bad in light of what Jesus already has done to assure the final place of our peace.

Saint of the day: The feast of the Apparition of Saint Michael the Archangel commemorates appearance of the archangel to a man named Gargan in 492 on Mount Gargano near Manfredonia in southern Italy. Gargan and others were pasturing cattle on the mountain; a bull wandered off and hid in a cave. An arrow was shot into the cave, but it

came flying back out and wounded the archer. The cowherds went to their bishop who ordered three days of fasting and prayer to seek an explanation for the mystery. At the end of the three days Michael appeared to the bishop and requested a church built in the honor of the Holy Angels in the cave. If you find medals or holy cards with ‘relics‘ of Michael, they are probably rock chips from the cave, or pieces of cloth that have touched it.

Spiritual reading: Every man and woman in this world has been assigned a mission by God. In fact, ever since God created the universe, he arranged the first causes in such a way that the unbroken chain of their effects should create the most favorable conditions and circumstances for each person to fulfill the mission that God had assigned

him. Therefore, every person is born with abilities that are proportionate to the mission he or she has been entrusted, and through each person’s whole life, the environment, circumstance and everything else will contribute to make it easy and possible for him or her to reach that purpose. (Maximilian Kolbe)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 7, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 13:16-20

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me. From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We now begin John’s account of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus explains at the Last Supper what is going to happen to him and sets it forth as an ultimate act of service to his brothers and sisters. It is the greatest love that can be shown. Jesus asks the apostles to look through his brokenness and shame on the cross to see Jesus’ complete identification with the Father. In this passage, Jesus invites the disciples to adopt his attitude of service, yes, even his willingness to sacrifice his life on the behalf of others.

Saint of the day: Agostino Roscelli was born on July 27, 1818 in Italy to a poor farming family. He spent his youth as a mountain shepherd, using his solitary time for prayer. During a parish mission in May 1835, he realized a call to the priesthood, a calling he attacked with prayer which led to financial aid that allowed him to study at Genoa. He was ordained in September 1846.

He served as a priest at Saint Martin d’Albaro in 1846, then the Church of Consolation in Genoa in 1854. He was a chaplain of the provincial orphanage in 1874, a post he held for 22 years. He served a prison chaplain, working especially with those condemned to death.

Agostino established a residential school to train young women who were in danger of starvation or falling into prostitution because they had no support. In October 1876, he founded the Institute of Sisters of the Immaculata to run this and other residential centers he established. He died in Genoa on May 7, 1902 at Genoa, Italy of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me true faith, certain

hope, and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command. Amen. (Francis of Assisi)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 6, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 12:44-50

Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage concludes John’s rehearsal of the seven signs that Jesus’ mission came from the Father. In the passage, Jesus tells us that his Father’s commands, which Jesus also carries out, lead to eternal life. All that Jesus did was to carry out what the Father told him to say. Jesus calls us to follow him on the the path he has laid out and assures us that the path that he set forth leads not to darkness but to light.

Saint of the day: Blessed Edward Jones and Anthony Middleton were martyrs. Edward Jones from Wales and Anthony Middleton from Yorkshire were both educated at the Douai College in Rheims. They became priests and were sent to the English mission in the time of Elizabeth II. Middleton was the first to arrive in England, in 1586, and pursued the ministry for some time without being discovered, helped considerably by his youthful appearance and slight stature. Jones followed in 1588, and quickly became known by the English Catholics as a devout and eloquent preacher. The two men of God were hunted down and captured with the aid of spies posing as Catholics, and they were hanged before the very doors of the houses in Fleet Street and Clerkenwell where they were arrested. Their trial is regarded as full of irregularities; the reason for the summary justice dispensed to them was spelled out in large letters: “For treason and foreign invasion.” After offering their death for the forgiveness of their sins, the spread of the true Faith, and the conversion of heretics, they died on May 6, 1590.

Spiritual reading of the day: Do you want Christ to appear to you in prayer as he would to his friend? Let love for him be within you without a moment’s break. (John the Elder)

The Good Shepherd

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by fatherron on May 5, 2009

There have been times in my life when I wondered if I should be insulted by being compared to a sheep. Sheep, in my limited experience, seem pretty dumb, can be coerced and tricked into just about anything, and seem to follow the leader blindly. On the other hand, they are useful, their shorn coats provide wool for clothing, they are easy to feed, and they make a good meal. Is any of this what Jesus was saying when he compared us to sheep and tells us he is the good shepherd?

Actually, Jesus doesn’t dwell on the image of us as sheep very much, but rather dwells on the image of the shepherd, the one who takes care of sheep. Later on in the reading, he even mixes his metaphors, it seems, when half way through his description of himself as a shepherd, he suddenly changes the metaphor and says, “I am the gate.” What’s that all about?

So here are a few thoughts on sheep and shepherds, and I may even throw in a little bit about gates as well.

My daughter Kelly and her husband Matt decided about eight years ago to buy an old farmhouse in Canada in the middle of nowhere – their nearest neighbors are miles away, and they are surrounded by fertile exceptionally flat fields – as anyone who has ever visited Essex County will immediately notice.

In the last year or so, besides some farming and raising chickens, they started to raise sheep – they started with two rams and two ewes, but almost immediately were told that both ewes were pregnant. So very quickly they had to learn about sheep.

The emails I got from her for the past year and her incredibly written blogs (she has a degree in philosophy of all things!) outline the transformation of my daughter into a real shepherd, and in fact, that is almost all she talks about in her letters now. The first thing she learned was that the sheep were annoyingly dumb, and because her yard was not fenced off, the sheep would wander out into the road in front of their house or into a corn field across the road, and she was constantly trying to round them up or protect them from being hit by a speeding car, even if was not a very trafficked road. So her first job as shepherd was to protect them by building a fenced area to contain them.

Secondly, because it was the end of summer, she had to constantly provide water to the sheep and shear the sheep who found the heat very oppressive. So she learned a couple of new skills – sheep shearing and taking the wool and spinning it into usable strands. She even started a co-op for wool. With the shearing she also learned why shepherds carry sticks with crooks at the top – the sheared sheep tend to lose their balance without their wool, fall over, and then can’t get up. The crook was used primarily to upright the sheep.

Then, with winter approaching, she had to look to their needs again, and they had to build some sort of closed protection for the animals for the winter months – a sort of small barn. Because she had pregnant sheep, and they couldn’t afford veterinarian’s fees, she read up on birthing procedures and saw both the sheep through the birth of 4 lambs, one of which was breach, and she had to go up and turn the lamb around. I didn’t want to know any more about that!

Her latest skill involved castrating one of the rams – and for sure I didn’t inquire any more about that technique.

All in all, Kelly has over the year become a shepherd to her small flock, and believe me, it has been a consuming interest – she has taken no vacation from them, even for a night – she has named each one individually and speaks of them almost as her children, knows each one by the personality they have, realizes that she is the caregiver, and that without her they could perish.

This, then, is the metaphor that Jesus is using when he calls himself the good shepherd. Rather than being insulted because Jesus has just called me a sheep, I see Jesus through this metaphor as someone who knows each of us by name, knows our personalities and eccentricities, and loves us even in despite of that, gives us food and water – you remember Psalm 23 (The Lord is My Shepherd) when it says “You have anointed me with oil, my cup overflows” – which refers to the shepherd rubbing oil into the sheared sheep to protect them from the hot sun, and giving them more than enough water to drink – and Jesus is the shepherd who helps and is with us through difficult times when we are lost, and happy times when we give birth, yes, and even when we have to be castrated – cut off from friends – yet he is there to heal us.

It is a beautiful, caring, wonderful image which should make us feel so individualized, so loved, so protected, given everything that we might possibly need to make us the best we can be.

Which brings me to the gate image which is used immediately after our reading today. When Jesus suddenly seems to shift gears and instead of being a shepherd, says he is the gate – what I want you to see is that he is really just enriching the shepherd image. Sheep folds or sheep pens have only one opening to get in and out. In Jesus’ time, the sheepfold would not have a gate, but the shepherd would lay down and spend the night in the opening, literally becoming the gate so that no evil thing – fox or wolf – could enter and no sheep could get out. If any marauders or predators are to get to the sheep they will do so over his dead body. Jesus wants to protect us from the evils of the world, while at the same time providing a place of rest for us, a home, to be comfortable and cared for. The continuation of the passage is important. “I am the good shepherd, the one that lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus is also saying that he will prevent our destruction by laying down his life. He has come that we may have life and have it more abundantly. It is for this reason, we are assured, that God’s love is so totally poured out into Christ—and so empowering that his life, even though laid down, is given back again.

Finally, a word about vocation. Kelly’s sheep know her voice, and when they hear her coming they run to her because they know some good thing will be coming, whether it is a rubdown, or food and water. Notice that in all the Resurrection stories we have been reading, Jesus is calling people by their names – Mary, Thomas, and so on. In return, we need to listen to Jesus’ voice and respond to it. Learning the voice of Jesus takes reflection, time, and confrontation with our egoistic voices. Basically, that is the definition of a vocation – it is responding to the call of God. We are all called – to different things, to different ways of life..we need to listen to the voice of our Shepherd and know that when we hear the voice, some good thing will be coming, even though it may not seem like it at first.

The Bishops and priests, who have been called by God, are also seen as shepherds. You may have noticed that often Bishop Tony or Bishop Ray carries a crozier – which is just a glorified shepherd’s staff. The church’s ministers are shepherds because it is through them that the risen Christ exercises his shepherding and overseeing. You should demand no less of us than to be good shepherds as well. It is through the gate of baptism that Jesus has called us into his kingdom, the shepherd calling us into the sheepfold. God grant that we learn to hear the voice of God calling us by name, and that God’s physical representatives on earth – his Bishops and priests and deacons – can strive to be the kind of shepherd that each of us needs.

Fr. Ron

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 5, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:22-30

The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In the gospel reading, Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.” The statement does not say without absolute clarity that Jesus claims divinity, because it is quite possible for all of us to say that we are one with another. A husband and a wife, two brothers, two sisters, or two friends, for instance, might say, “We are one person,” and we all understand that this is metaphor for how close the one is to the other. Even so, within the context of the gospel, especially given the shocked reactions of Jesus’ hearers to the Lord’s claim, we must interpret the text to point an elaboration of what the Prologue tells us, that the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Saint of the day: Hilary of Arles lived between 400 and 449. Born in France in the early fifth century, Hilary came from an aristocratic family. In the course of his education he encountered his relative, Honoratus, who encouraged the young man to join him in the monastic life. Hilary did so. He continued to follow in the footsteps of Honoratus as bishop. Hilary was only 29 when he was chosen bishop of Arles.

The new, youthful bishop undertook the role with confidence. He did manual labor to earn money for the poor. He sold sacred vessels to ransom captives. He became a magnificent orator. He traveled everywhere on foot, always wearing simple clothing.

That was the bright side. Hilary encountered difficulty in his relationships with other bishops over whom he had some jurisdiction. He unilaterally deposed one bishop. He selected another bishop to replace one who was very ill-but, to complicate matters, did not die! The bishop of Rome at the time, Leo the Great kept Hilary a bishop but stripped him of some of his powers. Hilary died at 49. He was a man of talent and piety who, in due time, had learned how to be a bishop. He showed a great enthusiasm for his office that sometimes caused trouble but no one every questioned the depth of his relationship with God.

Spiritual reading: Death by bread alone means being alone and then wanting to be left alone; being friendless, yet distrusting and despising others; forgetting others and then being forgotten; living only for ourselves and then feeling unneeded; being unconcerned about other and wanting no one to be concerned about us;

neither laughing nor being laughed at; neither crying for another nor being cried for by another. How horrible is this death by bread alone. (Death by Bread Alone by Dorothee Solle)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion by Mike on May 4, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:1-10

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus taught in metaphor and allegory. He used the images and experiences that were accessible to the people with whom he spoke to make points about God, about himself, and about the relationship of people to God and himself. There is much I could write about the points that Jesus makes in this passage about his connection to us, but I would like to make a slightly different point that is implicit in how Jesus taught. The evidence of God’s relationship to us is all around us. It is so woven into the fabric of all the aspects of our lives that all the common things that furnish the ordinariness of our existence tells us something about the deep down things that constitute the presence of God in our lives. We only have to stop, look, and think, and we shall find God there, telling us things that we perhaps take for granted but things which are attention-grabbing and awe-inspiring when we consider them in the brightest light of our consciousness.

Saint of the day: Born 1487 at Essex, England, John Houghton graduated from Cambridge with degrees in civil and canon law. Ordained in 1501 and served as a parish priest for four years. Carthusian monk, doing his novitiate in the London Charterhouse, and making his final vows in 1516. He was the Prior of the Beauvale Carthusian Charterhouse, Northampton and the Prior of the London Charterhouse.

In 1534, he was the first person to oppose King Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy. He was imprisoned with Blessed Humphrey Middlemore. When the oath was modified to include the phrase “in so far as the law of God permits,” John felt he could be loyal to Church and Crown; he and several of his monks signed the oath, though with misgivings. Father John was released, and a few days later, troops arrived at the Chapter house and forced the remaining monks to sign the modified oath.

On 1 February 1535, Parliment required that the original, unmodified oath be signed by all. Following three days of prayer, Father John, with Saint Robert Lawrence and Saint Augustine Webster, contacted Thomas Cromwell to seek an exemption for themselves and their monks. The group was immediately arrested and thrown in the Tower of London. True to his Carthusian vow of silence, he would not defend himself in court, but refused to cooperate or sign. The jury could find no malice to the king, but when threatened with prosecution themselves, they found John and his co-defendants guilty of treason. John Houghton was the first person martyred under the Tudor persecutions, dying with Blessed John Haile and three others. Hanged, drawn, and quartered on May 4,1535 at Tyburn, England, his body was chopped to pieces and put on display around London as an example to others.

Spiritual reading: And what wilt thou do with my heart, O Christ? (Saint John Houghton’s dying words as he was being disemboweled)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 3, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:11-18

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Each year on the fourth Sunday of Easter, the Church gives us a passage from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Parable of the Good Shepherd. For this reason, we call the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday. This year, the passage we read tells us about the relationship between the sheep and the good shepherd through contrast and comparison.

At the start of the passage, Jesus contrasts the good shepherd with hired men who work for pay and are not willing to lay their lives down for the sheep because the sheep do not belong to them. Jesus is no such shepherd: the sheep belong to him and for this reason, he is ready to lay down his life to protect them. Then Jesus compares his relationship to the Father with the good shepherd’s relationship to the sheep. Just as he knows the Father and trusts the Father because of this knowledge, the sheep know the good shepherd and trust the good shepherd because of this knowledge.

Finally, the passage speaks to the ultimate triumph of Jesus’ message. In the end, all will be one: there will be one flock led by the good shepherd. We are still in this period of middle passage, but we are assured through Jesus’ willingness to lay down his life on our behalf that the triumph already has occurred. We are in the, “Already, but Not Yet,” the time when God is working out in human history the tangled strands that ultimately will be the single web of the victory of God’s unity over our disparate impulses and interests.

Spiritual reading: Our great Father, almighty God, who is being, knows us and loved us before time began. Out of this knowledge, in his most wonderful deep love, by the prescient eternal counsel of all the blessed Trinity he wanted the second person to become our Mother, our brother and our savior. From this it follows as truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother.

Our Father wills, our Mother works, our good Lord the Holy Spirit confirms. And therefore it is our part to love our God in whom we have our being, reverently thanking and praising him for our creation, mightily praying to our Mother for mercy and pity, and to our Lord the Holy Spirit for help and grace. For in these three is all our life: nature, mercy and grace, of which we have mildness, patience and pity, and hatred of sin and wickedness; for the virtues must of themselves hate sin and wickedness. (Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Juliana of Norwich)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity by Mike on May 2, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:60-69

Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Peter asks the Lord, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It is this experience that we who are Christian know in the depths of our hearts, that Christ is our perfect model, and there is no other, none beside him. May the mystery of him always deepen our hearts as we probe the unbounded depths of him.

Saint of the day: Athanasius, the great champion of the Faith, was born of Christian parents at Alexandria in about the year 296. Educated under the eye of Alexander, later Bishop of his native city, he made great progress in learning and virtue. In 313, Alexander succeeded Achillas in the Patriarchal See, and two years later, Athanasius went to the desert to spend some time in retreat with St. Anthony.

In 319, he became a deacon, and even in this capacity he was called upon to take an active part against the rising heresy of Arius, an ambitious priest of the Alexandrian Church who denied the divinity of Christ. This was to be the life struggle of Athanasius.

In 325, he assisted his Bishop at the Council of Nicaea, where his influence began to be felt. Five months later, Alexander died. On his death bed, he recommended Athanasius as his successor. In consequence of this, Athanasius was unanimously elected Patriarch in 326.

His refusal to tolerate the Arian heresy was the cause of many trials and persecutions for Athanasius. He spent seventeen of the forty-six years of his episcopate in exile. After a life of virtue and suffering, this intrepid champion of the Catholic Faith, the greatest man of his time, died in peace on May 2, 373. Athanasius is a Doctor of the Church.

Spiritual reading: We pay more attention to dying than to death. We’re more concerned to get over the act of dying than to overcome death. Socrates mastered the art of dying; Christ overcame death as the last enemy. There is a real difference between the two things; the one is within the scope of human possibilities, the other means resurrection.

It’s not from ars moriendi, the art of dying, but from the resurrection of Christ, that a new and purifying wind can blow through our present world. Here is the answer to Archimedes’ challenge: ‘Give me somewhere to stand, and I will move the earth.’ If only a few people really believed that and acted on it in their daily lives, a great deal would be changed. To live in the light of resurrection – that is what Easter means.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)