Gospel reading of the day:
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: William Southerne was an English Roman Catholic priest. He is a martyr, beatified in 1987. An alumnus and priest of the English College at Douai, he worked on the English mission mainly at Baswich, near Stafford, which then belonged to a branch of the Fowler family. He was arrested while saying Mass, and committed by a neighboring justice to Stafford gaol.
He was immediately sentenced to death for being a Catholic priest and refusing to take the oath of allegiance. He remained in prison for six days after condemnation, while a hangman was found. He was executed at Newcastle-under-Lyme on April 30, 1618.
Spiritual reading: Be slow to speak. Be considerate and kind, especially when it comes to deciding on matters under discussion, or about to be discussed in the council. (Ignatius of Loyola)
Gospel reading of the day:
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: The 25th child of a wool dyer in northern Italy, Catherine of Siena started having mystical experiences when she was only 6, seeing guardian angels as clearly as the people they protected. She became a Dominican tertiary when she was 16, and continued to have visions of Christ, Mary, and the saints. St. Catherine was one of the most brilliant theological minds of her day, although she never had any formal education.
She persuaded the Pope to go back to Rome from Avignon, in 1377, and when she died she was endeavoring to heal the Great Western Schism. In 1375 Our Lord give her the Stigmata, which was visible only after her death. Her spiritual director was Blessed Raymond of Capua. Catherine’s letters, and a treatise called “a dialogue” are considered among the most brilliant writings in the history of the Catholic Church. She died when she was only 33, and her body was found incorrupt in 1430.
Spiritual reading: Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light, and causes me to know your truth. And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love. (On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena)
Gospel reading of the day:
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: Joseph Cottolengo was born near Turin, Italy. He was ordained and engaged in pastoral work. When a woman he attended died from lack of medical facilities for the poor in Turin, he opened a small home for the sick poor. When it began to expand, he organized the volunteers who had been manning it into the Brothers of St. Vincent and the Daughters of St. Vincent (Vincentian Sisters). When cholera broke out in 1831, the hospital was closed, but he moved it just outside the city at Valdocco and continued ministering to the stricken. The hospital grew and he expanded his activities to helping the aged, the deaf, blind, crippled, insane, and wayward girls until his Piccola Casa became a great medical institution. To minister to these unfortunates, he founded the Daughters of Compassion, the Daughters of the Good Shepherd, the Hermits of the Holy Rosary, and the Priests of the Holy Trinity. Weakened by typhoid he had contracted, he died at Chieri, Italy on April 30, 1842.
Spiritual reading: Labor with all your might to gain for yourselves the love of the people. You will be far better able to help them if they love you than if they fear you. (Letter to Jesuit Missionaries by Francis Xavier)
Gospel reading of the day:
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: Central America claimed its first saint with the canonization of Pedro de Betancur by John Paul II in Guatemala City. Known as the “St. Francis of the Americas,” Pedro de Betancur is the first saint to have worked and died in Guatemala.
Born in 1626, Pedro very much wanted to become a priest, but God had other plans for the young man born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Pedro was a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line which the Franciscans had established.
Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material; he withdrew from school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed. Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. Pedro died in 1667.
Other men came to share in Pedro’s work. Out of this group came the Bethlehemite Congregation, which won papal approval after Pedro’s death. A Bethlehemite sisters’ community, similarly founded after Pedro’s death, was inspired by his life of prayer and compassion.
He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve posadas procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night’s lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries.
Spiritual reading: We can do no great things, only small things with great love. (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)
Jesus said: “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: Today’s gospel passage uses the metaphor of sheep who hear, recognize, and follow the shepherd’s voice and by means of that voice, remain safe. Jesus, of course, is the shepherd, and as the shepherd, he is our way, truth, and life. The course he sets for us may not always be evident, but if we listen for his voice and follow it, we will be safe.
Spiritual reading: Everyone who wills can hear the inner voice. It is within everyone. (Mahatma Ghandi)
Gospel reading of the day:
Many of Jesus’ disciples 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 accompanied 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: We have taken a detour for the last several weeks from our trek through Mark’s gospel as we reflected on John’s account of the feeding of the multitudes and the discourse on the bread of life. Today’s gospel finishes this excursis: we take up next week with where we left off in Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry.
Throughout the last few weeks, Jesus has spoken about feeding on his body and drinking his blood. Through this uncompromising metaphor, he has called us to radically commit ourselves to his values, vision, and way of life. We who believe in the Eucharist cannot fail to see intimations of the Eucharist in this passage and how it summons us to recognize the Eucharist’s influences on our acceptance of Christ’s call. The Eucharist is at once the possibility of our commitment and its seal. But what I would like to address is the failure to commit, which is the theme of a part of today’s gospel passage.
All of us fail more or less frequently to live as Jesus has called us to live. As today’s gospel account suggests, some of us simply abandon our companionship with Jesus and go our own way no longer to walk with the Lord. Since this is possible for all of us, it is worth some thought about how this choice can occur.
We all know that human beings are capable of things that are so awful that these acts make a radical statement about who we are and how we are in relationship with God. I think such clear cut choices are relatively rare. But the Church long has defined another, less serious kind of sin as venial. The Church has suggested that such sins do not result in a complete separation from God. We all know that venial sin is very common: it’s the stuff of our day-to-day transactions with one another.
Let me make a case why we ought not to be cavalier about such little sins. Imagine, if you will, that two best friends live next door to each other. They love each others’ company and spend many happy hours with one another from day-to-day. They can’t imagine their lives without the other.
One of the friends receives a wonderful job offer in another city, and the friend moves away. For a while, the two friends are on the phone with each other every day. Nothing has changed except that they don’t live next door to one another. Then one day, one of the friends comes home, weary at the end of a day of work: there’s a meal to prepare, laundry to be done, kids to be put in bed. The friend thinks of calling, but says, “To heck with it: I am too tired tonight; I’ll call tomorrow.” There’s nothing fatal in the decision: it’s a small action with little consequence in the great scheme of things.
The relationship continues, but with time, the calls become less frequent. For a while, they are once a week. Then they are once a month. There’s no big decision: no fundamental choice. But the relationship is slowing down as the choices about what is immediate and important less and less include the relationship. Finally, the relationship slips to a Christmas card once a year in December. Then comes a time when the one friend is on a trip elsewhere and the flight lays over in the city of the other friend. The friend who is traveling thinks about making a call but then decides, “Who cares. It isn’t worth the trouble.” Their friendship has ebbed away from hundreds of small decisions. It’s death by a thousand cuts. Not a single one of the cuts of itself is fatal, but their cumulative effect is to destroy the relationship.
It’s important to think about how important things die. It usually happens little bit by little bit. When the disciples walked away from Jesus, as today’s gospel records, it seems unlikely to me that it was a sudden decision that came over them in a wave. It probably was the accumulation of numerous decisions made over a long period of time.
This is why we are called to make a radical commitment. It is why we should pray that we can persevere until the end. It is too easy to let a thousand things come up during the course of a day and ease us away from the kind of commitment that Jesus asks of us, the kind of commitment that will allow us to remain his till the end.
Saint of the day:Born in 1841, Benedetto Menni was the son of Luigi Menni and Luisa Figini, the fifth of fifteen children in the family. He was a brother in the Order of Saint John of God Hospitaler. Benedetto studied philosophy and theology at the Seminary of Lodi and then in the Gregorian Pontifical University of Rome. He was ordained in 1866. In 1867, he began the restoration of the Saint John of God Order in Spain and Portugal. He was the founder of the Congregation of Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in May 1881. A real Samaritan, he made the care of the elderly, abandoned children, polio victims, and the mentally ill the guide of his life. He died in 1914 at Dinan, France of natural causes.
Spiritual reading: You are afraid that your love for God is not true love, that you do not love God at all. Well, I urge you be quite at peace on this point . . . . . If the soul longs for nothing else than to love its God then don’t worry and be quite sure that this heart possesses everything, that it possesses God himself. (Letters by Padre [St.] Pio)
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Reflection on the gospel reading: The Eucharist is entry into the very life and being of Jesus. Just as Jesus humbled himself to enter into all the messiness of the human condition, he renews his commitment to be among us in a very tactile and sensate way every time we celebrate Eucharist. Here the Lord continues to join and renew his presence among Christians in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup. And it is in this that he extends us his commitment never to leave us orphans.
Saint of the day: If Mary Magdalene was the victim of misunderstanding, Saint George is the object of a vast amount of imagination. There is every reason to believe that he was a real martyr who suffered at Lydda in Palestine, probably before the time of Constantine. The Church adheres to his memory, but not to the legends surrounding his life.
That he was willing to pay the supreme price to follow Christ is what the Church believes. And it is enough.
The story of George’s slaying the dragon, rescuing the king’s daughter and converting Libya is a twelfth-century Italian fable. George was a favorite patron saint of crusaders, as well as of Eastern soldiers in earlier times. He is a patron saint of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa and Venice.
Spiritual reading: For no one can begin anything good unless he begins it from Christ. He is the foundation of all that is good. (Sermon by Aelred of Rievaulx)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The Eucharist stands at the center of our lives and our worship. It is the touch stone at each moment of our lives. It is a part of our entry into the life of the church; it is the means to the end that we seek; it is our entry into the life of the world; and it is our hope of eternal life. Those who eat ordinary bread live for a time that the bread can sustain their lives, but the bread of heaven is sustenance for the journey of endless horizons.
Saint of the day: Maria Gabriella was born in 1914 in Italy to a family of shepherds. As a child she was described as obstinate, critical, protesting, and rebellious – but loyal, and obedient; she would say no to a request – but act on it at once. At 18 she became gentler, her temper abated, she became involved in prayer and charity, and joined “Azione Cattolic,” a Catholic youth movement. At 21, she entered the Trappestine monastery of Grottaferrata. When she was accepted, her attitude finally became, “Now do what You will.” When the community’s leader explained a request for prayer and offering for the great cause of Christian Unity, Maria Gabriella felt compelled to offer her young life to the cause. Though she had never been sick before, she suddenly developed tuberculosis. In a mere 15 months spent in prayer for Unity, it took her to her death. She died April 23, 1939 during Vespers of tuberculosis. Her body was found incorrupt in 1957.
Spiritual reading: The Lord put me on this path, he will remember to sustain me in battle. To His mercy I entrust my frailty. (Maria Gabriella)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: When we love someone, we wrap our arms around that person. Jesus comes to gather all of us into his arms. He has received a mission from the Father to save us for the Father and himself. We can be confident that God, who can do all things, does not undertake lightly this mission and trust that God is working out our road to Godself. You see, God’s arms exist to wrap themselves around us.
Saint of the day: Anselm of Canterbury was born of Italian nobility in 1033 at Aosta, Piedmont, Italy. After a childhood devoted to piety and study, Anselm wanted to enter religious life, but his father prevented it, and Anselm became rather worldly for several years. Upon his mother’s death, Anselm argued with his father, fled to France, and became a Benedictine monk in Normandy. He studied under and succeeded Lanfranc as abbot. Anselm became the Archbishop of Canterbury. A theological writer and great scholar, he a counselor to William the Conqueror. He opposed slavery and obtained English legislation prohibiting the sale of men. He fought King William Rufus’s encroachment on ecclesiastical rights and the independence of the Church, and was exiled. He resolved theological doubts of the Italo-Greek bishops at Council of Bari in 1098. He strongly supported celibate clergy. King Henry I invited him to return to England, but they disputed over investitures, and Anselm was exiled again to return in 1106. He is one of the great philosophers and theologians of the middle ages and Catholic students of philosophy and theology continue to study his arguments to this day. He died April 21, 1109 at Canterbury, England; his body is believed to be in the cathedral church at Canterbury.
Spiritual reading: I have never seen you, my Lord God, or known your face. What shall I do, Highest Lord, what shall this exile do, banished far from you as he is? What should your servant do, desperate as he is for your love yet cast away from your face? He longs to see you, and yet your face is too far away from him. He wants to come to you, and yet your dwelling place is unreachable. He yearns to discover you, and he does not know where you are. He craves to seek you, and does not know how to recognize you. Lord, you are my Lord and my God, and I have never seen you. You have made me and nurtured me, given me every good thing I have ever received, and I still do not know you. I was created for the purpose of seeing you, and I still have not done the thing I was made to do. (Proslogion by Anselm)
The crowd said to Jesus: “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
So they said to Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus invites us to feed on him. We do this both figuratively and literally. We feed on him on our hearts for he provides our spirits sustenance to continue on our way. We also feed on him in the Eucharist, that bread which comes down to us and provides us Jesus’ offer of real presence in our lives.
Saint of the day: Born in 1818, Conrad of Parzham spent most of his life as porter in Altoetting, Bavaria, letting people into the friary and indirectly encouraging them to let God into their lives.
His parents, Bartholomew and Gertrude Birndorfer, lived near Parzham, Bavaria. In those days this region was recovering from the Napoleonic wars. A lover of solitary prayer and a peacemaker as a young man, Conrad joined the Capuchins as a brother. He made his profession in 1852 and was assigned to the friary in Altoetting. That city’s shrine to Mary was very popular; at the nearby Capuchin friary there was a lot of work for the porter, a job Conrad held for 41 years.
At first some of the other friars were jealous that such a young friar held this important job. Conrad’s patience and holy life overcame their doubts. As porter he dealt with many people, obtaining many of the friary supplies and generously providing for the poor who came to the door. He treated them all with the courtesy Francis expected of his followers.
Conrad’s helpfulness was sometimes unnerving. Once Father Vincent, seeking quiet to prepare a sermon, went up the bell tower of the church. Conrad tracked him down when someone wanting to go to confession specifically requested Father Vincent.
Conrad also developed a special rapport with the children of the area. He enthusiastically promoted the Seraphic Work of Charity, which aided neglected children.
Conrad spent hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He regularly asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for him and for the many people he included in his prayers. The ever-patient Conrad was canonized in 1934.
Love me as I love thee. O double sweet!
But if thou hate me who love thee, albeit
Even thus I have the better of thee:
Thou canst hate not so much as I do love thee.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)