Reflections

14th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME  REFLECTION

 Friday was the Feast of the Apostle Thomas, who everyone knows questioned Jesus’ appearance to the disciples following His resurrection. And when Thomas came face-to-face with the Risen Lord, the disciple was invited to put his hand into the side of Jesus. We always think of the doubting Thomas! Bad rap! Think of it — who among the disciples was invited to enter into the life of Jesus so deeply? 

 I often contemplate this same offering of Jesus in my own life. I’m always shown that all of us are invited to enter into the Risen Lord’s life. Most of the time we stand in awe and fear, however. You see, to enter into the life of our Lord is to be convicted of His presence and His call. It is to accept the unknown in many cases because we don’t know where it is going to lead us. It is for us to place our hand into His side and accept oneness in His mission, which is now the responsibility of believers.

 Every time I’ve been transferred it’s been a call to place my hand in the side of Jesus, to accept whatever comes, and to have the confidence that God’s Spirit will provide what is needed to do what He asks. That’s today’s Gospel (Mt 11:25-30). This is the only way in which we are going to come to know the Father and His will for us. This is not a hidden mystery when we open ourselves to a relationship with Him through Jesus. To place our hand into Jesus’ side is to take His yoke upon our shoulders and to learn; to be meek and humble of heart; to know the strength of the Spirit of God — the same Spirit who moved Thomas to India and Pakistan, and ultimately martyrdom.  If I had not placed my hand into His side with my current assignment, I would not have entered the unexpected beautiful work of spiritually caring for residents of nursing homes, or of touching lives of many in the hospital who suddenly find a need for God after years of separation — or to touch the lives of their children and families who may well be living in the world apart from God.

 This is what St. Paul is speaking about in his Letter to the Romans (8:9, 11-13) To live in the Spirit is to place our hand into the side of Jesus and accept a sharing of His life, revealing it to the world, always knowing that we are pointed to a greater oneness in the life to come. It is an awakening of our union with the fullness of God that is promised us — not in the flesh, but in Spirit (since God is Spirit). As Paul says, …If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit that dwells in you.” We also need to remember that we need to live in Christ, the source of all life (see John 15) and not just believe that the fullness of God is within us.

 When we look at those who live in the world, we can easily see that many want an easy yoke and a light burden — makes sense since life can be tough. Spiritually, however, these want the glory found in the resurrection without the offering up of self for the sake of God’s will being lived in their lives. Many of these people will remain in the world as they believe the Spirit can be lived in a minimal existence without entering into the work of the Spirit. They maintain a “me-and-God” relationship, failing to experience what occurs when believers place their hand in the side of Jesus. Instead, they seek God only for self. It’s a sad reality, but something that has been fostered for a long, long time. Us older folks can remember the saying concerning what it meant years ago to be a “good Catholic” — the three commandments of “pray, pay, and obey” which allowed us to forget about the two great commandments of loving God and loving neighbor.

 The Church has changed, and our understanding of faith being lived has drastically changed. Unfortunately, too many live a spiritual mentality that predates Vatican Council II and the call for the universal Church to place its hand in the side of Jesus, for every individual to step out of self and into the life we share in, with and through Jesus Christ. This requires an understanding of solid Church teaching and of a life in the Spirit, of living and giving as God has always given. *See the list of teachings below. This is why in Cursillo we have ongoing study/formation that lets us know God’s will and Spirit.

 Today, we can see that it is only through the Spirit of God that we can know that our faith is not a task; that living the life of our Lord and Savior is not a burden, but rather a joy offering hope and fulfillment, pointing to an eternity rather than a temporary satisfaction. It is not good enough to simply say “Lord, Lord,” ( Mt 7:21) and not act upon the faith that moves us to the Lord and the will of the Father. This is the very reason we have this Gospel today, Jesus has been in conflict with the Jewish leaders who did nothing to help the common folk. Jesus elevates the common folk — the disciples then and now — who listen and trust in His word. It is a message of loving as God loves rather than fulfilling a loveless law. What is amazing is that, while prayer is important to grow in our oneness with God, it really becomes known when we live it, becoming as it were the answer to the prayers of others looking for God.

 We have an invitation from our Lord to enter into His life, “…to complete His work on earth and bring it to the fullness of grace.” (Taken from Eucharistic Prayer IV.) When we are in oneness with our Lord, we can easily recognize those struggling in faith, often times trying to fulfill laws instead of coming to the love of God that transfigures all people. Our load can be easy as Christ, who was led by the Spirit of love, continues to bolster our efforts of proclaiming a kingdom of love and a life of hope and fulfillment. This is evangelization, which is, unfortunately, a word not accepted by many Catholics, and a way of life accepted by fewer. It is introducing others to the gentleness of Jesus and a God who is Spirit and love. It was the mission of Jesus while on earth and our mission today.

 We live in the flesh but are called to live in the Spirit, meaning while we exist at this time in an earthly body, our minds, hearts and souls are meant to be growing in the Spirit that is God. In this we are enabled to see and accept the gifts we are to use (the light burden) in bringing the world — society and every person — into the kingdom of God. Let us not fear but find courage, strength and Christ with us always. Put your hand into My side, says the Lord.

 Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom

*STRONGLY SUGGESTED READING

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), Pope Paul VI, December 7, 1965

Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes), Pope Paul VI, December 7, 1965

On Evangelization in the Modern World, (Enagelii Nuntiandi) Pope Paul VI, December 8, 1978

The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World (Dominum et Vivificabtem), Pope John Paul II, May 18, 1986

The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People (Christifideles Laici), Pope John Paul II, December 30, 1988

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME REFLECTION

 As we slowly open our church doors for people to attend Mass and celebrate the sacraments, I’m finding that what I feared has happened. Many people simply lived without God as an integral part of their lives during the past months when indeed, we were all called to meet the Lord in greater prayer lives and more intimate relationships with the Lord. And I say “the Lord” instead of “our Lord” because that reveals the relationship many have expressed concerning our Lord and God — almost from a distance. And the Corona Virus unfortunately has shown us what we suspected.

Many, many people are being found having relied on “coming to Mass and receiving the Eucharist” as the fullness of their spiritual life for the week. Period. Done! They admit that there is not a personal relationship with our Lord that is transfigurative in nature. Coming to Mass and receiving Communion is a ritual and not a life-changing event for too many. Communion with our Lord isn’t thought of during the week when we are engaging others, when we are called to be in communion with others through and with our Lord.

Now, if we are called disciples of our Lord, then, according to Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel (Mt 10:37-42) , it is ours to put ourselves out there — in the world — to change what is happening. Again, first and foremost, it calls for us to take what we have received from God and offer it to others, telling them of our own growing personal relationship with Christ where we grow in His life.

It is because of Jesus Christ that we, unlike the Jewish people of His time who had family first, are called to love God first and foremost. This is done, as Jesus points out, by being disciples who are ready to take on His very giving, His teaching, and making it their own. St. Paul affirms this in his Letter to the Romans (6:3-4, 8-11) who obviously are not remembering the fullness of their baptism which joins them in the very sharing of divine life. Our death in Christ must move us from our personal wants and preferences to the surety of what God the Father wishes to give us in return. If we’re content on worldly satisfaction, then discipleships is not for us. The story from the Second Book of Kings (4:8-11, 14-16a) gives witness to the blessings God has in store for us when we die to self and live for Him. The woman, because of her generosity, is blessed by God.

As more activities of life open to us, we will again move to be directed by penned-in activities on a refrigerator calendar. Let us not forget that everyone of these “activities” is a moment of evangelization, of telling our stories of personal relationship with our Lord, of God’s goodness to us, of His promise to increase His presence within us as we join more fully in the call of Jesus into discipleship. Perhaps we need to take those calendars, and using a red pen, write GOD in each daily block. It sure would remind us of our baptismal calling to share in the divine ministries of Jesus Christ — Priest (bring holiness alive by our words and actions), Prophet (announcing the Good News to others, and by giving proper understand of the Word of God), and King (sharing in the reign of Christ who brings all good things from the Father).

Folks, discipleship is evangelization — the announcement of God’s love for all people, and the invitation to be restored in that love. Have you noticed that, as good as it is, the “Black Lives Matter” cause has almost become a cause for anarchists who wish to break down the system instead of correcting it? It is evident that they do not know history or have failed to understand it properly. But its attacks haven’t been restricted to society. The Church has, and will even more so in the future, be attacked simply because it is an institution set on a moral code and teachings of a God rejected by so many.

Is Satan at work in the world? You better believe it. If we don’t see this, we’re blinded by the same smoke that is leading rebellious reactions that could well destroy the fiber of civilization. Think of one civilization that has not had one or many gods as its defining way of life. You won’t find one. Communism tried it and failed. Yet today our own societies are moving in that direction by those who have no use for God in their lives, who live only for this moment. I’m sorry to say it, but we have government leaders who profess atheism; who profess a faith but do not live it; and who profess a faith but also attempt to make it work for their own or their party’s agenda.

Discipleship points to an eternity even as it forms us now. We’re on the transformative journey and we know the journey’s end result. It is ours, disciples of Jesus Christ to evangelize, to tell others of God’s plan for us and get them out of their self-absorption of “be happy today” since there is no belief or idea of an afterlife, or accountability as that which comes from our baptism.

But let’s do one step at a time. Make a friend and bring that friend to Jesus Christ. Let’s walk with that person on the journey and not fear what may be met along the way. We have to affect our environments unlike ever before — as Bishop Waltersheid said during his Thursday meeting concerning evangelization, and as we say all the time in Cursillo. Jesus is saying the role of the disciple is to change mentalities of others by what we say and what we do. It is through these that others will see us blessed by the Father with joy and peace, with courage and fortitude, with goodness and gentleness — all rooted in “God with us.”

What promise we have from our good and gracious God if we only find our life in Christ.  Who are those people you know — practicing and not practicing their faith, who only know “the Lord?” Don’t you want them to know “our Lord?” I hope you’ll begin to do something about it so blessings can be lavishly poured out upon you and them. Pray to the Holy Spirit to move you to them.

Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom

 

TWELFTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME REFLECTION

The Priest, Deacon and Seminarian Retreat at Franciscan University in Steubenville was scheduled for this past week. It became a victim of Covid-19. But as the state became “green” (and not with envy), a group of the members of the Fraternity of Priests decided to have our own retreat at the Ark and the Dove where we meet every Wednesday for prayer and fellowship. Now we are not crazy enough to think that we can provide self-direction concerning spiritual development. Unfortunately, the key players we wanted for spiritual direction were already scheduled for other events. Nevertheless……we had Fr. Dave Pavonka, Fr. Tom Acklin, Dr. John Bergsma from FSU, Fr. Raniero Cantalamesa, Dr. Bob Schuchts, and Fr. Francis Martin. Only one was in person. The others were talks from previous retreats at FUS. Big names — and respected leaders in their fields — at no cost. The discussions afterwards were phenomenal. The prayer time was mind-blowing. The Holy Spirit was rushing upon us in the very place He brought the Charismatic Renewal to the Catholic Church.

Coordinating the week, I was apprehensive as to how it would work out, constantly examining the schedule and asking the Lord to guide what we did. The Lord said, “Shut up. All things are in my hands.” And they were!

Now what does this have to do with this Sunday’s readings? Not much really, unless you can see yourself as the prophet Jeremiah. He complained — as he is often seen doing — about things out of his control, of what people might say, or how they may come down upon him for what he said and did. In typical form Jeremiah complains and wants to see destruction come down on those who persecute him. And somewhere along the line his mind always turns to the power of God and the promise He has made. Jeremiah’s words then turn to assurance and ultimately to praising God. He rests his mind and allows his heart to become that of the Lord God. Often what we fail to remember to do.

Today’s Gospel is a repeat of what Jeremiah heard — don’t worry about those whose words and actions try to destroy (God doesn’t) and begin to recognize that only God has the power to destroy body and soul — which He does not intend to do. The virus stopped our usual means of retreat and renewal, but our trust in God providing for our retreat, didn’t waver. God knew that we needed a retreat, an opportunity for gathering together, gaining direction, and  finding ourselves resting with the Lord in the love He was sharing with all of us. And believe me, we were coming from many different perspectives — from fifty years ordained to one year ordained. God acted faithfully through His Holy Spirit, touching each of us. It all comes down to the reality that we all need His direction. It’s only applied in different ways.

In our world there is the pandemic and our moving into “normalcy,” recognizing as we go that there will never be such a thing again. At the same time, we live in a universal turmoil because people have not lived the call of our God and have not seen all people as brothers and sisters in Christ. As St. Paul reminded the Romans, we live from the sin of the past. Today we live with the sins of our society that remains in the sin of past generations. Adam’s sin of not living in the Lord and all of His grace, may be stronger in our society than ever. And the One who provides new life, healing, and oneness is not sought in the lives of most. These are the people Jeremiah complained about and which Jesus tells is “Fear no one.”  To do so, we must believe and accept the plan of God which calls us to love in new ways, to find Jesus and to share Jesus in new ways. We MUST become a bold Jeremiah again. Our culture is severely missing this.

The theme of our priest retreat was “Ministry in A Dispersed Church.” We had to think back through the Scriptures to recall how God came to the help of His chosen people, of their turning from the Lord, and of His mercy calling for a return and a new union between God and His people. The Church today is a “dispersed Church” due to the pandemic and societal conditions, but also because of Satan, who fought Jeremiah’s thoughts and who continues his efforts to pull people from reliance on and oneness with God. Yet we know as St. Paul reminds us, Jesus defeated Satan and we have that same gift to overcome him in our trust in and lives rooted in our Lord. We all face the Church as it is dispersed — busy about the world, thinking less about God, following government leaders who are out to remove God from the hearts and minds of people. And all these are happening in and around us — in the hearts and minds of more and more people — even Catholics who redefine their faith according to their own desires, making themselves gods — that is until they face something they have no control of as life is spiraling out of control.

We priests listened and shared what it means to “Fear no one,” as heard in the Gospel — and to encourage each other and all people as found in the Early Church. We again heard the encouragement needed to overcome all fear to submit to God’s will, to live as Christ in the world. So when Jesus says today, “Do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows,” each of us — you and me — need to hear these words so as to be strengthened in our encouragement of others; to face the obstacles they may present; the lies they may be living; to profess the truth of the Gospel; and to bring an end to their dispersion. “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

We know that in the future it is going to be always a one-on-one sharing of faith; that inviting people to “programs” is not going to be sufficient. The personal relationship we have in, with and through Christ is going to reveal us as different — and that is what others will see, and seek to understand. But we cannot be fearful of being different in the world. Every time we went into discussion during retreat, the Cursillo Movement was brought up — and not by me. The others on retreat knew that it wasn’t a program, but a way of living, moving us to a becoming — and to see how the Church — all its members — are called to live in the future.

So today we are encouraged look beyond what was; to avoid fear that freezes now; and to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit who will guide and lead us into the future as God desires it to be, not as we wish it to be. We are called to live our baptismal oneness and be prophet! That personal relationship with Jesus is key in our lives if it is to be key in the lives of others, who are living in an atheistic world with little attention to a union with God now, or to an eternal sharing in the afterlife.

FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST REFLECTION — JUNE 14, 2020

             “And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (Jn 1:14)

          Love came to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

          To dwell, meditate, contemplate these words, we would find in Scripture the fullness of God’s plan — to come to the Eucharist, His Love, and to be that Love in our words and lives. For we do not simply receive the Eucharist in its sacramental form, but we are to be transfigured by it. The sacramental Eucharist, the Word spoken and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, has one purpose — to join us in complete oneness with the fullness of God. To do that, upon exiting Mass, we must push open  the doors of the church building as committed members of the Body of Christ. To do less would be contrary to the purpose and life of Jesus Christ, the will of the Father, and the unitive bond flowing to and through us by the Holy Spirit.

We celebrate in sacrament the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Christ who freed us from sin and opened for us the way to share in God’s Love — Divine Sharing. In this we must become, anew, committed members of the Body, sharing His fullness in our lives, allowing for a transfiguration to occur within heart and mind. We become sacrament as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, according to the Scriptures, the Word of God spoken, Christ who calls us into His very oneness with us for the salvation of our souls.

Now that salvation of our souls only happens when we live Jesus Christ, when His giving is accepted into our very beings, in those times when we understand that it is meant for ourselves and others.  Personal want with no concern for the souls of others would be contrary to the will of the Father, and in turn, contrary to what is expressly taught by Jesus as we know from the Gospels. The message of Jesus carries with it an expectation, a needed “Yes” response— a “participation” — to the invitation of God to live in His life forever — beginning now. We recognize this in today’s reading of St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 10:16-17). There is to be a proclamation made through our lives and words. We must live the salvation won for us by our Lord. It is happening now! Living anything less is akin to placing flowers or lighting a candle before a statue and thinking that that act is sufficient, forgetting that a joining, a movement in prayer, of giving of self, an inner conversion is necessary.

We enter into the oneness that God has with us only through the Holy Spirit who exhibits only one thing — Divine Love, revealed through Jesus Christ, the Word that became flesh. Let it be a joyful celebration of the whole of life — spiritual, physical and emotional. As St. Augustine teaches us, we become what we receive and receive what we already are. Remembering the Church’s teaching concerning Baptism, we recall that it is at that very moment we become sharers as members of the Body of Christ, the Church created by the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We were unaware at that time (if baptized as an infant) of the fullness received and the fullness of life we were given to live. But our instruction, and our growing in understanding the fullness of Scripture, reveals this to us. It’s a simple thing of understanding that Scripture provides the teaching of how we are meant to live in unity with the fullness of the God of Love, and the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood provides the strength to live the Word, in the Word.  One without the other should leave us wanting caused by an emptiness. All the saints attest to this in their lives and in their teachings.

In our struggling with Covid-19, hopefully we have remained in communion, in oneness with our God, through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, remembering it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Word became flesh. It is the same today. Bread and wine become Eucharist, Christ’s Body and Blood, through the calling down of the Holy Spirit at Mass. Later in the Mass that same Holy Spirit is called upon to transfigure us so we may become the very Body that we receive — to become the revelation of Christ, of God’s love in the world. Hopefully we have not missed this experience, this beautiful opportunity over the past three months because we have felt sorry for ourselves or were too busy complaining about churches closed.

I hate to tell you — the Church didn’t close down. It took on a new form with God asking us to be as committed as Christ Himself going to the cross, of taking Eucharist to others in word and action. We only need to think of the reading today from Deuteronomy (8:2-3, 14b-16a). Moses reminds the people that it is not by bread alone do we live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. The wandering Israelites were called to a living of the Word, and in doing so, become the people God has called as His own. Jesus quotes this in Matthew 4:4 as He is tempted in the desert. His strength comes from the Word and the Spirit. The same is true of the Church today. Those who hear the Word and ask for guidance by the Holy Spirit, are moved to the will of the Father and will understand the fullness of Eucharist. It is action — giving, loving, joining without limitations — to God and to others.

So my sisters and brothers, we again have the opportunity to come to the sacrament of Love, the Eucharist, the sharing of Perfected Love. We believe what many other Christians have spurned since they have not heard the Word properly. For many of these, “knowledge of God” is sufficient for salvation and the idea of “participation” in the Eucharist — of living faith. That is a form of Gnosticism, a heresy that has reared its ugly head throughout the life of the Church — including today. The Eucharist stands before us as what we are to become and what we are to do in our lives. We celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ, the ongoing revelation of God with us through the Spirit of Love and Life. Do we celebrate this gift as a community? Do we take it into the community? Do we live as the Church found as in the Acts of the Apostles, building Eucharist through the Word and the Spirit?

Come to the Lord! Live the command Christ gave as recorded in John 15:17 in the Last Supper discourse: “This I command you: love one another.” Translate it — Be Eucharist! As I’ve encouraged before, read John’s Gospel, specifically 6:52-69; 14:25-26; and 15:1-6. Stand in awe of our Lord in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. Then look inside where He resides and stand again in awe that He has given you a share of the fullness of His divine life and a participation of it in the world today.

Those who have experienced the Three-Day Cursillo Weekend know that our “participation” is essential for our living in oneness with God. We are called constantly to be moved by our piety, study and action — holiness, formation and evangelization — to be Eucharist and to bring others to those who may “know about God” but have failed to “Know God” through their lives. Our want for others to live in the Eucharist and to live as Eucharist in the world cannot be qualified. The call God gifts us to move to others is not something to fear. It is something that should remind us of the unity we share because of the love of God and of our “participation” in God’s plan.. 

Love and prayers,

Fr.  Tom

 

TRINITY SUNDAY REFLECTION

             The word that the Lord put on the hearts of those involved with the Fraternity of Priests this past Wednesday  was “Surrender!” It didn’t point to one aspect of life or another but to complete surrender — a call to hold nothing back. When we receive these words, we sometimes ask if they are for personal use or for the whole group. So after the Words were shared we laughed about it since all of us saw it as being called on the carpet in one way or another. Each knew what it meant personally as well as for our ministry and for the Church. The Lord was hitting us upside the head so we’d remember and then do.

Basically, to surrender is to give over all thoughts, ideas, words and actions which are not from someone who is superior to ourselves.  It’s what Jesus did in His life and ministry. So, to surrender to God is to approach Him with an openness to His plan for each of us and all of us — with no “ands, ifs or buts” — with no qualifiers or attachments. Sounds tough, almost harsh! But this is what is required of us, as Jesus showed, for that oneness with the Father — and fulfillment of the Father’s will for us.

Today as we celebrate Trinity Sunday — the fullness of God — we are reminded of their unity, the oneness of Father, Son and Spirit — with no deviation of purpose or plan — one heart and mind. Their purpose for us is not servitude, but oneness, unity, us with each other and with the fullness of God.

We often speak of the Triune God as a “mystery.” Is it really? A God who is all powerful and all loving doesn’t desire to remain a mystery. That’s why He took the form of a man who died to self (surrendered) for the sake of our unity and oneness with God. This is now accomplished in and through the Spirit shared in oneness of Father and Son. The mystery is that we, lowly as we are because of our humanity, are called into this oneness, to share in Divine Life. That’s God’s will for us. St. Thomas Aquinas said this in that we struggle with so great a gift because we live first our humanness instead of first living our share of the spiritual, of the gift we have of God’s sharing His oneness with us.

We see it throughout the world. We see it in our country right now where the sins and mentality of the past form a blockade in bringing people to a unity and peace. We see it in our local Church where so much division is happening simply because people from one parish or ethnic background do not wish to associate with a neighboring parish of different origins, forgetting that their origin is in God. We see it as people grumble about names of parishes for new groupings, forgetting that our oneness is with the whole of the Body of Christ — including every person on the face of the earth and every saint in oneness with our Lord for all eternity!

So to speak of the Holy Trinity we can only do so by first living in the Spirit of God who reveals for us today, as Jesus did when on earth, God’s infinite love and call to love in the same way. Our surrender needs to come in examining how we understand love — according to human perspectives or divine initiatives. If the latter is rejected, then we have a long way to go. Secondly, to speak of the Holy Trinity, we must realize that when we pray to Jesus or pray to the Spirit, we are also praying to the fullness of God. There is no separation other than how God has and is revealing Himself to us. This is what happens when we allow ourselves to be drawn into contemplation. Our humanness is set aside in favor of a total divine awareness and sharing. God does this after we choose it.

Finally, to enter into oneness with the Holy Trinity it is through our sharing as members of the Body of Christ — the revelation of God in the world through us. It can only happen fully through surrender of self. When done, we find ourselves coming into oneness with Father, Son and Spirit. That said, it requires that we also become one with each other — all people — no exclusions, no preferences. What I want for me I must be willing to go to great extremes for the sake of another — anyone.

We border now on understanding the Mystical Body of Christ, which will be dealt with more fully next week. Suffice to say for now, that all believers — all the baptized, living and dead, including most importantly the saints — share in this Mystical Body of Christ, in this oneness of Father, Son and Spirit. The Church teaches this and adheres to this. We are called to live it as examples for others.

So I go back to the Word the Lord provided the priests this week (which we were instructed to share with the people) — surrender, and to the reminder from St. Thomas Aquinas — that we must work at abandoning our human way of living in favor of the spiritual living (oneness) we are called to glory in. In these, we find an understanding of the Holy Trinity and the mystery is understood because it is now seen in absolute love — what God did and does for mankind, and what we are to do to live in that same oneness.

If our selfishness is in the way, we must give it over. If our prejudicial thoughts and words are in the way, we must look to scripture for the examples and teachings of God’s love. If our greed, our seeking of position and power are stumbling blocks, bring in the crane — pray to the Spirit for the power of God to move them from life or provide us with the ability to climb over them. If we do anything with ourselves first in mind, we’ll never come to grasp the unity of God as we’ll never live that unity as He offers it to us.

The Triune God is always totally other in the Father, and will remain so. Yet He calls us to Himself through the Son — instructing us first in His Word and then enabling us as sharers of His very life, and now, today, through the power bestowed on us — His fullness — in the Holy Spirit, the Divine gift of love. It’s not rocket science but can only be proven by those who live a oneness with God. Our Lord’s promise remains today — “I am with you always until the end of time” — in Spirit, in Divine Love and in sacrament which we are to become for the world if we surrender ourselves for God’s will and plan for others as well as ourselves.

As we’ve been relegated to do if we desired union with God over the past few months, we need to study Scripture more and more. God is revealed in His Word, spoken and shown — His actions taking shape in the hearts of believers, those who trust in His love and life. God calls us to live as His revelation for the world. It’s all in Scripture. When we dare to do so, we surrender our mere human ways in favor of Divine living (and communion with out Lord), and we become new creations, realizing that the fullness of God is not a head thing but a heart thing — something lived where He is fully made known.

Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom

 

FEAST OF PENTECOST REFLECTION

          I love the line that is so often missed when reading the account of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples as in the Acts of the Apostles (2:1). It reads: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled…”  It harkens back to Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth in the infancy narrative: “While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.” (Lk 2:6-7). Both share one understanding — a period of waiting, or as it used to be written, a period of “confinement” and then that of new life. Luke does this on purpose. The time of confinement for the Jewish people was ending in Jesus’ birth, and a time to rejoice is beginning — as we understand from the angels, shepherds and Magi. The people also heard what was told. All who heard were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds (Lk 2:18) It was to be seen as God fulfilling all that was promised.

          My sisters and brothers, our time of “confinement” is coming to an end and isn’t it exciting that we will all share in the gift of New Life again in the Eucharist for the first time in a few months? I can only imagine. (Wasn’t that a song once upon a time?) I, and I know my brother priests, will be as excited as the members of the faith will be (albeit we’ll be concerned about health issues more so than others). But we’ll get to celebrate Eucharist in its fullness again.

          Yes, we priests have celebrated Mass during these past months. But doing so without a community present creates a void since there is no “communion” happening in the fullness of the Body of Christ. Yes, we’ve been in communion with Christ, and spiritually with the people. But it is much like you who “spiritually receive the Lord.” You and I know that to truly understand the depth of our Eucharistic sharing at Mass, means that we become one with each other as we are renewed and strengthened through the Eucharist — our sharing in, with and through the Body of Christ. Communion with the Lord is meant to provide an immediate communion with the Body of Christ — saints and sinners in oneness. Hard to do so when you’re talking to four walls! I hope everyone grasps this Eucharistic belief so they just don’t come back to Church for a ritual of individual desire. 

So Happy Pentecost!

          Our time of Lent has been lived — the Lord has given us extra time to get ourselves right. And Lent moved us into our waiting for Pentecost when New Life as was received by the Apostles and believers. It’s just that, for most, our Pentecost will be one week later than what is marked on the calendar. But what a celebration when, as a large community, we come together next Sunday when we turn “Green,” when we celebrate the Holy Trinity in the same oneness with brothers and sisters as in our understanding of the Triune God. It is this fullness we have hopefully come to realize has been ours to share over these days of our confinement.

          Absence makes the heart grow fonder the old saying goes. The Bridegroom now beckons us, His bride, the Church, to end the absence and to renew us as the Church. This can only happen through our awakening to the Holy Spirit — the very life of God that has been with us since Baptism. It is the same Spirit given to those in the Upper Room who went forth proclaiming the goodness of God, the freedom won for us through Jesus Christ, and now feeding us with the same gift and call of New Life.

 

          What a burst of energy that must have been!

          We’re told the people gathered outside because of the commotion — and then they could all understand the preaching of the Apostles even though they were from different countries. (So for those who get bent out of shape because I speak in tongues during Mass and other times — get over it. It’s from the Spirit and I have no control over the gifts of the Spirit except to accept or reject them — as we all do.) Imagine if the Apostles had rejected the Spirit. We’d not be a church and rather have a faith in some deity of obscurity.

          In the past months I have often thought of the pandemic being akin to the exiles of the Jewish people for not being present to God as they were to be, not living in a shared life experience, not living as God lives with concern and love for one another. God didn’t bring these on, but He allowed them for the sake of renewal in the minds and hearts of His people — now you and I. When they returned they lived differently, seeing their temple worship as a feeding place for the living of faith as God would desire — as He had taught throughout history, especially the prophets. There was a burst of new life.

          So today we are called — as a community, as the Body of Christ — to have an equal burst of New Life, to pray for a greater acceptance of and living of the Gifts of the Spirit in our lives and the life of the Church. If we’ve learned anything over these months, it needs to be an allowance of the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, to permeate our words and actions. If we’ve just rambled through these times waiting for an end of the pandemic, the spiritual end happened already. We’ve missed the bus; the train has pulled out of the station; the flight took off without us. If, however, we’ve opened ourselves to opportunities of greater awareness of “God with us” then  we should be more aware than ever that “Church” is not spelled with an “I” and that the only “I” is found in Christ. In other words, I pray that we’ve been renewed in a new way so that we, when we meet others of our parishes and elsewhere, can speak of the goodness of God — His love and mercy, His strength and presence. Then we’re celebrating Pentecost and we make Him — Father, Son and Spirit — alive for others.

          We need to be that burst of spiritual energy!

          It is ours to tell the world that God lives in, with and through each member of the Church who is truly guided by the Spirit of God.

Let’s be on fire again for the betterment of the whole Church, as well as those who are not connected as they should be with the Church (they may have missed the bus, train or plane). And let us be joyous — if not over-zealous — in our proclamation of God’s love to those who do not know Him for whatever reason. Our confinement has been lifted (to a certain degree). Let us live in the Holy Spirit and offer New Life, as we should everyday.

This is our opportunity to live as Christians, to allow others to see and hear of our relationship with Christ. If we have been truly joined with Christ, the Spirit will direct us in new ways. Let’s not fall back into what was. It wasn’t good enough before the pandemic! And it won’t be good enough in the future.

Fire can be destructive or it can be renewing. We have the choice to make — allowing our words and actions to be self-centered, or to be inspiring, cleansing and warming seeds of faith for ourselves and others.

          Pentecost calls us to get out of confinement and enter into New Life.

          Be safe. Wear your masks. Be patient as we go forward.

          We’ll encounter some who only want what they want and not see the Church as she is called to be, not ready to hear the call of the Bridegroom to the Bride, and will miss the full intimacy being offered. Don’t let them change you!

          A Blessed Pentecost and time of renewal!

Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom

SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER — May 24, 2020

 

“Come Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of your people and enkindle in us the fire of your love?”

 

We’re three days into THE novena of the Church — that of the Holy Spirit, reliving that which the Apostles experienced following the Ascension of our Lord. The big difference is that they didn’t know what to expect as they returned to the Upper Room and spent the days in prayer (Acts 1:12-14). During these days leading to Pentecost we, like the Apostles and others, should be entering into more intense prayer. Ours prayer should be similar to theirs, asking for the promises of the Lord to be fulfilled in our lives. For us, we need to ask for the Gifts of the Spirit to be poured anew upon us. We know what the Gifts of the Spirit are although in some cases an awakening to the gifts may be necessary. We pray that we recognize them for a renewal of the Church. It is somewhat ironic that we’ve been praying for the Church to be allowed to gather again, even as many have (for a long time) been praying for a renewal within the Church. This is a message of a New Pentecost that popes have spoken of for years upon years. Can this be the time?

 

One of the Words of Knowledge that came to the members of the Fraternity of Priests this past Wednesday was:

“Many have thought the virus and subsequent separation from the sacraments and Church was the test. No, the test is whether their faith will be lived in a new way from this moment on, after their “secular freedom” is restored.”

 

Hopefully, we’ve joined out sufferings with those of Christ during these past months, but also in our evangelization work in the past, our announcing the presence of Christ in our lives and in the lives of others. A renewal of that effort needs to be ours now — again, more than ever. Everyone is looking for life as it was. We, joined with Christ, need to give witness to what the world was meant to be. The only way that will occur is if we desire the gifts of the Spirit to move us in mind, body spirit and soul — that we are fully joined with Christ. He prayed for this for his Apostles as we hear in the Gospel today. What we don’t hear today is the next portion of chapter 17 when Christ prays for us — we who believe because of the word spoken by those in the Upper Room.

 

Think about it. He is now interceding to the Father for us at this very moment, that those who hear us will come to faith, will find their lives rooted in Christ. How awesome is that. But He is also interceding for the grace needed so we may become aware of the Gifts of the Spirit that will strengthen us and enliven us. He is with us as the light of renewal.

 

And wow, we need that intercession. As we speak of the goodness of God, many will ask where our God was during this pandemic we’ve experienced. Many will ask why the God we believe in didn’t protect us. Many will ask why our prayers were not answered. What’s the answer?

 

Well, we know that God was present to us through all of this. We know that it was His will for us to remain faithful to Him during this time and to learn that He makes His home within us. He was also present to Jesus while on the cross. During this time hopefully we have joined ourselves with Christ who went to the cross for us. If so  “…blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.” (see 1Pt 4:13-16)

 

So let us pray, “Come, Holy Spirit!” Strengthen us. Be the cause for our joy — not just because we can again celebrate our life in Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, but because we celebrate our joy of being one in and through Christ with every person in that building (wherever it is). And, so we may have renewed courage to be the life of Christ in the world.

 

“Come, Holy Spirit!” Give us the courage to evangelize, to speak Your goodness, to witness to Your love. Awaken within us a new Spirit that is not fearful or timid, but one that is as bold as it is humble, knowing that all gifts come through You.  Make us great lovers!

 

While reorganizing the parish library I came upon Monsignor Paul Lackner’s book, Memoirs of a Diocesan Priest. In it he spoke of how his search for a solid evangelization program that was completely connected to a necessary — and developing — necessary spirituality. He found it in the Cursillo Movement which has been lived by thousands in the Pittsburgh Diocese for 65 years, millions throughout the world. This sense of evangelization and spiritual growth needs to be lived by all believers. In this way people will see the life of the Spirit animating us as we go back into the world. “Come, Holy Spirit!”

 

In a week we will begin having Masses open to the laity — limited as it may be. Each parish will need to work out its own details as one model will not fit all parishes. Therefore, we need to also pray for the gift of patience and avoid comparisons between parishes. We’ll need to remember that it is not so much us getting our want, but learning what is best for every person. There is a difference.

 

But above all during this next week, pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten you, others, and those who will make critical decisions. Pray as well for those who may find God missing in their lives. You see the world isn’t going to offer the people anything other than what was had before the pandemic. And we know what that looked like. We are called to prepare to make a difference!

 

Through it all rejoice and be glad. Celebrate the new life some may have found, and be ready for those who suddenly may be seeking the love and life of God.

 

Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER REFLECTION

           Well, the wait is at least partially over. And we’re slowly moving to celebrating Mass and reception of the Eucharist —  which in and of itself may be a catastrophic event if people don’t remain loving and in the Lord. Why do I say this? Well I will bet a month’s pay that I can name the people who will line up to get into Church when weekday Mass is open to the first 24 people (the priest is the 25th). And they’d be first in line everyday if they could, irregardless of how many others may wish to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist. Priests will need to establish some sort of guidelines to maintain a sense of equality and opportunity among their people (in their parishes) so that justice can be lived as well as preached. It’s going to be worse when weekend Masses open to the faithful. I know I’m not going to be standing at the door telling people they can’t come in because we’ve “maxed out.”

But what does St. Peter say in his first Letter? “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” (1Pt 3:15) The whole reading is about building up the Church in our faith and in the way which we reflect Christ in our lives. We’ll have to watch! We sure don’t want to lose what we’ve been living for the past eight weeks. That’s what we’ve been doing — Sanctifying Christ as Lord in our hearts — realizing that He has called us to Himself in Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17). And the truth is that He lives within us.

We can tell that we are nearing the Church’s celebration and remembrance of the promised Spirit coming upon the people — Pentecost ,as the readings point to that experience. Christ prepared his disciples for this coming of new life before His death. Their excitement had to be great as they anticipated the unknown. They had no clue what would happen or how they would be changed. The same will be true for us as we find churches slowly open. Our minds must remain equally open to what Christ calls us to — live, display, announce the love of God coming to us anew. People will need to see that love happening in and through our words and actions.

In reality, we don’t have to wait. We know this as we believe that the gift of Baptism brought us the Holy Spirit Who we affirmed in our confirmation of faith. The fullness of God’s love and life — that which was lived by the early Church as we’ve been hearing all through the Easter Season — is ours. We have the Spirit — a Spirit that enlivens the lives of others as we stand in amazement of the works happening in and through us. So now is not the time for us to slide back into our former ways.

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me and I in you.” (Jn 14:20) This is not something that can happen like having light in a darkened room by flipping a switch. It’s something that hopefully we’ve become aware of during these week of pandemic chaos, this time of learning patience, but most of all as we have remembered Christ is always within us. Our Lord is not just walking with us. He is in us — as gift from He and the Father. Their wanting us to be one with Them is something we’ve hopefully learned.

We’re going to be talking with more people, meeting more people, as we find ourselves away from home more and more or as we are called back to do our work at the office (whatever that looks like) rather than from home. What will we speak of? How will we share our experiences of growing in the Lord and the strengthening of our faith? The first comment cannot be us finally getting into church and receive the Eucharist. That’s a complaint. It needs to be about how we’ve found the Lord — and how the Lord has revealed Himself to us throughout this time. Then we can share our joy of being able — in time — to again share at Mass and be nourished by the Eucharist until it can be repeated, all the while living what we’ve learned. Christ is in us!

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…” (1Pt 3:16) Be sure there will be people who will be complaining about the past weeks and will not understand your hope being fulfilled and the joy you live. Do so rejoicing for your faith — and true freedom rather than worldly freedom that will be lost when the world again becomes the focus of life.

My “study and prayer” led me to “action” — to rework the library in the Parish Center so people can find books that are going to be inspirational, educational, and motivating for their spiritual growth. We will be able to open it in time for people to browse and borrow books. It’s something else to move people in a new way when we are beyond the pandemic. Through a little work to keep me busy, others will hopefully come to know our Lord’s love coming to them in a new way.

I encourage you to think outside the box in your planning action for the tomorrows to come . Pray for direction as to how the Lord is calling you to love beyond your want or the want others may want you to enter into again..Then rejoice as you’re fulfilling today’s Gospel and readings.

 Love and Prayers,

Fr. Tom Galvin

 

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER REFLECTION

              So……………other than Beaver County, Covid-19 restrictions have been eased up slightly. It’s sort of like going through a construction zone where they’ve up the speed limit from 45 milers per hour to 55 mph We still have to obey the speed limit (or are asked to do so) but we’re given a little more freedom in pushing the limit. I should know! But even with lightening up on restrictions, each of us need to remain diligent as we know there will be those who are not, — same as each of us knowing those who don’t always pay attention to others on the road.

 

That’s what sort of struck me when reflecting on the second reading today — St. Peter’s Letter (1Pt 2:4-9). He’s using the Isaiah prophecy to describe Jesus Christ. In referring to “Zion,” Zion could mean Jerusalem, or it could mean its inhabitants as well. St. Peter uses this wisely as he’s saying “This is our anchor folks!” to believers and non-believers as well. For those who come to believe in Jesus Christ, raised from the dead and glorified by the Father, it means salvation. For those who choose otherwise, they will fall.

 

And yet, at the same time, we — fashioned into “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people as His own” — are called, because of being anchored onto Christ (into Christ through baptism) — as the Church, present in the world today, and as individual members of the Church — to “announce the praises of him who called  you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” This is so that those who stumble over the stone rejected by the builders may also have the cornerstone become the anchor for their lives.

 

So……………now that we’ve seen how Old Testament prophecy has been fulfilled, that is God’s plan happening in and through Jesus Christ, we have to consider how His plan is being fulfilled within our own — and how that might come about. A large portion of today’s Gospel (Jn 14:1-12) is about the unity of the Father and the Son. This will be discussed and given much more emphasis in a few weeks when the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday. For now, let us focus on first, “knowing Jesus in His fullness — one with the Father” and secondly what this means in our living.

 

Hopefully during these past eight weeks our prayer has changed, blossomed, expanded. Hopefully we’ve allowed more time than even for the Lord to speak to us rather than us rambling off words and throwing petitions at Him so we can return to what we have found we really don’t need — life jammed pack with activities we really don’t need. If we have, Jesus has been the rock of our faith and the movement of our lives. We’ve come to realize that what is told through scripture — that all truth comes from the fullness of God (read John’s gospel again). So when Jesus says “I am the way and the truth and the life,” He is speaking of His fullness in oneness with the Father and the Spirit. This should really help us in everyday living as He is calling us to that fullness. 

 

But this now also moves us to the end of this passage. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do and will do greater ones than these because I am going to the Father.”Now we live in the Spirit, and as we know, the Spirit is the action of the life of God (Who we know is Love) happening in, with and through us. It’s not idle just as Jesus was not idle. It’s no timid just as Jesus was not timid. It is persistent, just as Jesus was persistent. The Spirit removes fear of speaking of God’s love and presence, of inviting others, who may have stumbled on the stone the builders rejected, to get up and start anew.

 

In the Acts of the Apostles we hear this Sunday of the Church continuing to grow — so much so that deacons are ordained for the purpose of caring for the community so the apostles could focus on the Word being preached. The diaconate did not remove the obligation of the people! All were announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ, feeding off the word preached. “The word of God continues to spread, and the number of the disciples (believers) in Jerusalem increased greatly…”

 

There’s an old saying that says the Church grew during the time of persecution — that is until Constantine became a convert believer, and made Christianity the new religion of the Roman Empire. Then, with no one to fight against from the outside, they started fighting from within (referring to the many schisms which developed afterwards). The challenge of the Church today is no different than it was then. We are called to announce the message of Jesus Christ as if we are under persecution, which we are — whether it be the pandemic virus or materialism, or individualism, agnosticism, atheism, or any one of hundreds of ways of life that could separate us and others from doing the work of the Lord, of calling others into His way, His truth, His life.

 

My sisters and brothers, now is our opportunity to do great things in little ways. Reach out to others with the assurance of God’s goodness. We have all that is necessary.

  

              Cursillistas should be mindful that, depending on the movement of administrator/pastor of the parish where your Ultreya meets, you could be gathering together again after May 15. Please be mindful that all the requirements of face masks and distancing should be maintained. But also be mindful that some pastors/administrators may not welcome you back immediately since directives are clear that sanitizing everything afterwards will also be required. You may have to work with them on this since money is running short in parishes and some layoffs have taken place.

 

We will have our Secretariat Meeting at St. Patrick’s Parish Center on Wednesday, May 27. We’ll discuss Leader’s School this week.

 

Also, how parishes open again for Mass will be done according to guidelines. This is going to really cause a hassle — and a lot of patience will be needed since the limit of 25 persons gathered together is to be enforced.  Be patient! And if you are one of the 25 who survive the stampede to “get into Church to ‘Get Jesus'” also be mindful there may be restrictions of how Communion is to be distributed — meaning only in the hand for the safety of the priests. Use of Eucharistic Ministers may not immediately fall back into practice. We’ll receive more directives this coming week. But remember — you have Jesus and He has you!

Keep the faith! Remain strong in the Lord!

 

Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (Please feel free to share)

              In last Sunday’s gospel, the disciples said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

             So I ask you: “Are your hearts burning within you as you meditate and contemplate on the Word?”  I pray so as those who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11, 14) follow Him. They know His voice, and sheep knowing the shepherds voice, will follow no one else — the thieves and robbers.

   In this week’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the gate.” (Jn 10:9)  In the next verse of this chapter (Jn 10:11) Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.”  Jesus is the “all-in-all.” It is only through Him that we can attain the fullness of life desired for us from God. He invites us, leads us to pasture, to feed, on His goodness and His life — what He has won for us. And He is always watchful of us as only someone would do who has great love for another, although he never takes our freedom from us.

 [A side note: When you read the story of the lost sheep  (see Luke 15) you do not hear of the lost sheep following a strange voice, but straying because of attractions that are of the world, that is in the pasture where not everything is of God. Our own failing in remaining as close to the Lord as we should is more often this very issue — being attracted to worldly things rather than regularly not hearing His voice.]

Jesus is the I AM!

There are many ways to contemplate this Gospel. The first is of our own relationship to the Lord. He has brought us into His own through His death and resurrection. His Word should set us on fire for a love of hearing His voice, knowing in faith that only goodness and gladness come from the Lord —- in contrast to the people of the Old Testament times, fearful of hearing God speak to them. So we should cherish our communion with the Lord every time we choose/allow Him to speak to the heart and then our lives.

The second is our encouragement to others for allowing His Word to speak to them, direct them, feed them. Jesus speaks through us. The I AM is present to others through His sheep — us. It is ours to enable them to understand our gladness and joy.

As we see the state restrictions slowly lifted, many people are already wanting to get back to that which they were forced to let go of, albeit only for a short period of time. They will run to what they think will make them whole again, and be swayed by worldly influences and attractions. Will it be the Word of God, the hearing of His voice or the surety that only He can offer? That may be determined by what you and I have done during these last seven weeks — and what we may do — and say — in the weeks to come.

I have a fear that those who wish to rush back into the flood waters of everyday life are those who will forget their responsibility towards others in every conceivable way. In time, all will again be forced to repeat the past seven weeks all over again. I have this fear as the wants of many (I’m not speaking about the concerns of those laid off or who have lost their jobs) are for themselves.

So here’s where I’m putting my money. When getting together in small groups again, most will talk about the struggles they had in keeping their sanity, how they had to put up with working from home, survive the extra time spent with the one they vowed they would cherish for better and for worse, and/or the fight they had to get the kids to do their school work, which even the parent may not have understood. In contrast, few will readily speak of how they grew in their prayer life and relationship with the Lord — and, of how this occurred with their spouse or with their family. There won’t be the sharing of how they may have been led to care for a neighbor. Yet, what we speak about will tell others whether we’ve been listening to the Good Shepherd and of our plans to continue to pasture in His goodness.

We need to ask ourselves: Has the Word of God moved me in new ways, allowing me to establish new priorities, seeing life in a less complex form? Has my prayer developed over this time to see my relationship with the Lord as intimately as the relationship the sheep have with the shepherd, leading me in and out of life through His very Being? Have I accepted His care for me more than the cares I desire of the world?

              Over the past week The Lord has led me to be focused on self-control, not as in a worldly way, but as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, the result of living the Gifts of the Spirit. I was led to realize the perfect self-control the Father displays constantly. He, the One who is all-powerful and could easily wipe us out for our lack of paying attention to His Word, is restrained by the Spirit, the love He has for us. (1 Cor 2:10: For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God”) For us to realize our sharing of this fruit, we too need to have restrain of personal wants in preference to absolute love, asking the Spirit to scrutinize everything about us.

Self-control in a spiritual perspective is the result of having turned our desires to God’s will with the courage and fortitude necessary to make a difference in my personal life and in the lives of others. Our self-control keeps worldly influences in check in our lives while affirming the direction of heart and mind to love in oneness with our Lord, the Good Shepherd.. This is an essential part of life and faith if we are going to say (as we hear on a Cursillo weekend) “Jesus and I make an unconquerable team.”

 Our willingness to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and to follow Him can be a dynamic force, an unbelievable witness for others who may want to jump back into the whirlpool of life activities without the God  they cried out to in despair just recently. They need to be reminded that God is with us always and forever.

So, yes, we are going to be slowly moving into new opportunities for evangelization — the telling of the goodness of God in our lives, of God’s care for us, and of His assurance to be with us in the future. Lives and hearts will turn to Him, if they allow the Spirit to test them according to the standard of Divine Love. For us, we remember that we share in the I AM, and therefore share in the ability to open the gates to greener spiritual pastures to the many who are hesitant to live differently, who lack the self-discipline of being constant in their faith, or who may be wanting to rush back into the absence of God, again preferring the attractions of the world.

I remind Cursillistas of the message they received at the end of their weekend: “Christ is counting on you!” and of your response “And I am counting on Christ!” In this pandemic experience — totally new to any generation living today — these words carry greater meaning than ever before. Christ is counting on us to be His voice for others, to open the gates to greener inner pastures. Hopefully we allowed this to happen within ourselves over these past weeks — and will continue to do so each day. It’s a message all Catholics, all Christians, all people need to hear and come to live. It displays our coming to oneness with the self-control shown to us by the Father each day, and the joy found in acting a similar manner.

Today, rejoice! What we hear in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2:14a, 36-41) can happen through the gifts of courage and fortitude. We can speak boldly of a faith that lets people know what perfected love really is all about. We can, as St. Peter reminds us in today’s second reading (1Pt 2:20b-25), imitate Christ in our own struggles and the struggles we may encounter in speaking of God’s call to offer our lives, knowing that grace flows abundantly to us if only we heed His voice.

Love and Prayers,

Fr. Tom

 

THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

All week the Lord has laid on my heart the word “Encourage.” So Friday the Lord said this:

“I see a people hurting, longing for a return to the celebration of life. And as it should be, it is to be with Me in their lives at all times. They are learning this, but more time needs spent so the fruit of self-control becomes forever a movement to the everlasting union the Father and I have with them through oneness in, with and through the Holy Spirit.

“Take courage My sisters and brothers. Be resolute in coming to Me often each day so I may lift the burdens from you , and you may share in My joy and peace. The Spirit is sent — meant — to bring hope to you and then to let you see hope’s fulfillment each day in your heart and life.

“Invoke the Spirit with openness to the life to be shared. Do not fear this. It is for your benefit. Sit quietly and allow yourself to be loved in this time of anxiety, loneliness and concern. You are being loved.”

________________________

When I, with a group of 30 relatives, arrived in Israel many years ago, I remember thinking as we neared Jerusalem, “What am I doing here?” The trip was a gift but had never been on my radar. So I found myself thinking of what I could be doing back in the states.  I have the journal I used those ten days and I often pull it out, reminding myself of the change that took place those days. Our last day was visiting Emmaus. It was eventful to say the least. The bus broke down and we sat on the side of the road for over an hour. And then we were delayed even more when no one was around to open the monastery where Mass was to be celebrated. Another hour gone by. By then I had had plenty of time to answer the question “Why am I here?” I had moved from “one of the cousins” to truly being family. We had all grown from being tourists and sightseers to pilgrims on a journey.

I was the celebrant for that Mass. You know where I’m going, don’t you? Yes, the Lord made His presence known in the breaking of the bread — just as He had done every day previously — like on Mt. Tabor when He told me “This is your transfiguration” during the Mass. At Emmaus it really hit me. When we returned to Jerusalem three of us immediately went back to the tomb then said to each other, “Yes, He is alive.” (We then did some quick shopping where I was offered three camels for my cousin’s daughter. Needless to say that didn’t happen.)

As you and I continue to go through our days in a very uncomfortable, irregular situation, we can be asking “Why are we still in this situation? Why can’t we get back to normal?”  We’ll be looking for our desires. The two disciples had expressed to Jesus their desires being shattered. What they had wanted wasn’t going to happen — at least according to their plans. It was Jesus who opened their eyes and minds. After His appearance the two disciples walked (although I think they probably ran) the seven miles back to Jerusalem to announce what they experienced. Imagine their dismay when they had to wait until those in the Upper Room relayed their own resurrection story to them. But the joy didn’t leave them.

When this is all over, are we going to be changed? Are our families going to be changed? Are our hearts going to be bursting with the reality that God has visited us in a new way? Are our family members looking for this transformation  as well? Hopefully so! A lot will depend on how we’ve grown our personal relationship with our Lord.

Remember, before Jesus’ passion and death Peter and the other disciples didn’t want Jesus to leave them. After they had become “Resurrection People”, it was they who changed, became bold. (Read the first two chapters of ACTS) They had come to know Jesus in a new way. Their awareness of Jesus moved from a physical presence to a spiritual presence that they found constantly within themselves through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Well…….we have that same life within us. So let’s be allow the Spirit’s give of courage to become bolder in speaking of our faith and our oneness with the Lord. This is what the Lord encourages us to be about. The question of “Why are we here?” (in this situation) has yet to be fulfilled. Many remain looking at the world beyond the essential needs to personal preferences and desires which often do not include God.

EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED!

I’ve invited my brother priests to “explore the unexplored” concerning how they are now called — and will be called — to minister in the future — beyond hearing confessions in a parking lot. I haven’t heard from anyone yet. But that’s okay. I got them thinking so they’re not just sitting around waiting for “the normal” to return. I invite you to do the same. What is the Lord placing on your heart to do now and called to do once restrictions are lifted? Are they about personal desires or the are they desires that will affect others? After the encounters with the resurrected Lord, the lives of the disciples were changed. After our encounters with the Lord during this time our lives should also be changed. Don’t fear this. Please, do not fear this.

Brothers and sisters, with talk of restrictions being lifted, do not take your eyes off the Lord now with us. We’re far from returning to life in its fullness — including our fullness with the Lord. Remember that only one of the disciples is named in the Gospel, suggesting that only Cleopas remained faithful and active in the new Christian community, while the unnamed disciple either simply existed in the community, never becoming involved, or fell away. We need to be strong so that our proclamation of Jesus Christ remains worthy of being recorded by others. (Why else would Cleopas gain status equal to Nicodemus, Joseph of Aramathia, and Simon the Cyrenian — all who were touched by the Lord in various ways and responded appropriately, completely?)

So I encourage you:

First, with family, how are we sharing faith differently? How are we encouraging our children to know Jesus beyond going to church on Sunday or simply doing “spiritual things”?  As St. Peter says in his first letter we hear today, “conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning.” Our sojourning is to the inner self where Christ waits to make us new. It begins with a constant journey into the heart. Then we will see the new ways of living and ministering in relationship with the God, who has been showing Himself to us throughout these past days. In the Acts reading — at the very end, Peter gives the reminder that Jesus poured out the promise of the Holy Spirit on them and us. So we have what is needed to allow others to see and hear the Holy Spirit happening within us, coming forth from us.

Second, the word “encouragement” needs to be shared with coworkers and friends who are getting frustrated living a life they do not recognize — worldly and spiritually. GOD IS WITH US needs to be announced in our words and lives. It needs to be our mantra. GOD IS NOT GOING TO LEAVE US! And for some, they need to hear GOD IS ALIVE and not dead. He’s patiently enabling us to find Him more and more. Cleopas and the others mentioned above were examples for the early Christian community. We can be the same.

Third, find new ways to pray so your prayer does not become a routine. As the weather improves, walk and pray. See God in the beauty He created. Have communion with God in yet another way. Change your prayer times so prayer can remain fresh. If you haven’t been using a journal, shame on you! The Lord gives us the answer to “Why are we here?” at various times each day. These need recorded for future use. Quiet yourself and let God write on the heart. Then, just start writing and see what the Lord says to you. It’s amazing.

And fourth, continue to care for the needs of others in whatever way you can. Live the love you are receiving.

We’re a far way off from returning to Mass and receiving the Eucharist. The sojourn is a long one. Activities with large gatherings will be one of the last “normals of life” to take place. We’re already discussing how they will be changed, especially reception of the Eucharist. Now, you could get to Mass before everyone else if you ran around looking for funeral Masses where less than ten family members would be present. But that would be an inane exercise in futility. Or you could volunteer yourself to be a witness at a wedding where no family members are going to be present. Good Luck! You could also volunteer to be a sacristan/server for these events. The end of the line is around the corner and down the street. Wait your turn.

Or you can continue to be renewed with an awareness of God with us now. It is better to hear the Lord’s words in our hearts. Each of us is already being loved immensely at this very moment. You are loved. Share the love.

Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom

Second Sunday of Easter

Peace Be To All!

I figure by now that many or most of you have found a way to “attend Mass” via internet, YouTube, or the TV. Tom Brenckle told me I better pray for a quick end to this pandemic or the people will want the pews taken out of  the church and replaced with recliners — with the availability of a coffee bar at the entrance as well.

If you’re viewing one of the local broadcasts you’ll may see something new — the priest wearing a facemask during Mass. That’s the latest directive from Bishop Zubik in compliance with state mandates. No, I’m not doing it. This is not me just be obstinate. Down here in Washington County we celebrate the Mass by really social distancing. There are no other people in the church except the priest and the guys running the cameras, videos, etc. And they’re in the choir loft. The priest does the readings, prayers — everything.

Imagine it: Enter with mask on. Remove mask to reverence the altar. Put mask on. Pull mask down to speak clearly the introduction and opening prayer. Put mask on to walk ten feet to the ambo. Pull mask down for the readings, homily and prayers of the faithful. Pull mask up to go to the altar. Pull mask down for the prayers at the offertory through the consecration. Pull mask up and muffle through the remaining part of the Eucharistic Prayer all the way through the Lamb of God. Remove mask to receive the Body of Christ. Put mask up until the Eucharist is consumed. Pull mask down to receive the Precious Blood. Put mask up. Pull mask down for the final prayer and blessing. Put mask up. Pull mask down to reverence the altar. Put mask up to leave the sanctuary.

Now when St. Peter said (Sunday reading) that we are called to a “Living hope” he didn’t mean comfy chairs. And when he said we’d need to “suffer through various trials” he wasn’t talking about taking a mask on and off. No, he was providing encouragement to overcome doubt, as Thomas gives witness to in the Gospel. He was calling us to faith that moves us to rejoice — be joyful. He knew “social Distancing” does not include God in the picture. We should, rather, draw nearer to our Lord.

The Pandemic has stopped us from sharing a communal life — person-to-person, close contact. So while we cannot meet together in the temple area (reading from Acts) as did those first believers, we can do other things to strengthen and renew faith. When we are told that they shared in the “breaking bread in their homes…and…ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart” they did so as small faith communities. Well, our small faith communities are our immediate family members and then, especially those living alone, our spiritual family.

If with the immediate family, meals become more than an activity to fill in the time. They are opportunities to pray together, read and discern scripture, and to share close moments we’ve had with Christ. Questions we can ask ourselves include: Who did the Lord put on my heart today?  Was there a reason discerned for His bringing this person to mind? Did I reach out to this person? Encouragement and faith are needed in this time. So we need to take the time for these activities rather than to rush back to the TV, DVD movies, or our other activities that fill in the void.

Many people are looking to get back to life as it was. Sure, jobs and food are needed. This is a good time to evaluate what we do with our time and who we share the precious gift of our life with in a positive, re-enforcing way that again gives dignity to the person — our person and that of another.  You know as I do that many didn’t even “schedule God” into their routines of daily life, let alone take the time to build community that would have far greater meaning than a tailgate party, a big screen viewing of a Penguin game outside the arena, or a trip to Kennywood. Let’s find ways to build community.

When news headlines include people getting upset about not being able to buy liquor I worry greatly. Is this the elixir society has been using to dull the pain of life and we’ve just not taken note of it? Rejoicing in a liquor store reopening is not something of value the last time I looked at life. The word has to get out — there’s great joy in Jesus! At the same time I am gladdened by the outpouring given to feed the hungry, those who lost jobs, the homeless. I just pray that the system is not being used by those living in greed. But that’s on them.

We believe not because we’ve seen the physical Lord, but have felt Him in our hearts and have seen Him in the presence of joyful believers. My Lord and my God was a proclamation of wonder and awe that each of us has experienced in close moments of extreme surprise and unexpected happiness. They are monumental! They need to be shared so others may find something greater in their lives beyond getting through the day without being upset by someone who is near and dear to them.

So as we move along in this Easter Season, let’s look at what we’re doing and who we’re touching in a spiritual sense — offering a renewal of heart and mind. Many people need these gifts so when all is said and done, and life returns to “normal” we can bring them into the community where Jesus is made real, where love is shared, and where rejoicing occurs.

I rarely go, out being one of those high-risk senior citizens with asthma, COPD, allergies, sinus issues and regular bouts with bronchitis if I’m not careful. When I do, it will be difficult to see faces because of the masks we’re all to wear. So it won’t be easy to identify parishioners. It doesn’t matter. I am still responsible for bringing Christ to whoever is hiding behind the mask. And I, with you, are still responsible for preparing hearts for when the community gathers together again. May we find many new faces with us when that day occurs so fewer are found remaining comfortable in their recliners.

I know that when restrictions will be lifted, the last will be nursing homes. We usually get about half the Catholic residents at Mass each month. I want to change that, so I’m being proactive, sending them notes of encouragement during this time and promising that I will be with them as soon as possible. That’s why I have to remain healthy. If I can up the numbers to 75% at Mass I’ll consider it a victory in Christ. If I only get one additional person I’ll consider it a victory in Christ. We do whatever we can do.

Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom Galvin

 

EASTER, 2020

My Sisters and Brothers, these are the words the Lord gave to me in prayer.

My Son,

Tell My people of the great love I have for them.

Let them know the great joy I have in them because of their faithfulness to Me.

I want them to celebrate this joy always.

I have not, and will not remove Myself from the depths of their beings.

Instruct them to invite Our Spirit into their lives each day.

It is the Spirit through whom they recognize the promise, given by My Son, their Lord and Savior, of His presence and joy in their lives.

It is Our fullness present to them.

In many ways, they and you are like the disciples found following the Resurrection of My Son — behind locked doors.

Remove the doors! They are not to be self-created barriers to My life and love.

My children,

Remove any doubt of your ability to feel My life and presence in your heart and soul — your very being.

In this peaceful time is true joy realized.

You only need to remember when the Risen Lord went beyond locked doors to bring joy.

(Jn 20:20 — The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.)

That joy not only relaxed anxieties and fears, but it gave them hope and something to eagerly anticipate when the promised Spirit would come upon them.

Our Spirit is always with you, in you.

He will enlighten you to who you are to reach out to in faith, despite closed doors — physical and spiritual.

My children, ask the Spirit for direction to assist many of My children, your sisters and brothers, to open their hearts anew to the faith given them, the grace to enable them, and the constant love extended to them — so that they may not fall back to previous ways of life devoid of me.

This is the witness you are to give to My children, those living behind closed doors now, who will continue to do so once free to live the full activities of the world.

Trust me. All things are in My hands.

You are My possession.

I love you greatly.

Be at peace and filled with new joy each day as you remember these words.

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My brothers and sisters,

There are many people looking for someone who is living in peace despite our current world situations. These people are in need of someone offering them a view without locked doors. They want and need fresh air — that is, hope, peace, joy, and their hearts redirected beyond what the world is offering and will offer them in the future. They need to know that personal relationship with the Risen Lord that can be experienced in every moment of life.

This situation in which we live is to provide the opportunity for all who live resurrected life to offer something different. The people are coming to realize that they cannot simply trust what is of the world.

The resurrection scenes from the four gospels vary greatly. Read all of them all. Notice the commissioning of the Apostles and disciples happens in every Gospel except Luke’s, which is found in “Book 2” of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles.

In John (Chapters 20 & 21) When Jesus appears to the disciples they are locked away. They first are fearful but then rejoice. And then they immediately receive the Holy Spirit and instruction for the future. This same joy and rejoicing is found in all the Gospel accounts. I tend to favor John’s Gospel as his theology has everything compacted into one event — death, resurrection, ascension (not mentioned but realized in the glorified body of Christ), Pentecost and finally their commissioning. Matthew and Mark have no mention of Pentecost — just a commissioning prior to the Ascension. We have to go to “Book 2” of Luke — the Acts of the Apostles — to hear of Pentecost and the boldness of the disciples.

The message overall for all of us is to be courageous and that we are called out of our self-absorption, self-pity, self-concern, to announce that Jesus is alive in our midst. We can use all the technology we have available — even an old land phone — for a worthy purpose, changing dialogues from fear to words of offering hope; from despair to sharing; from individualism to community concerns, from moaning to times of prayer. All this can be done in a safe environment as we practice social distancing. To communicate with the elderly next door and with the young adult who’s life is drastically changed by lack of mobility is essential. We meet needs in various ways.

Pray for the guidance of the Spirit of God.

I encourage you to witness the truth — God is with us — in word and action. When we live “in the Lord” and seek the constant awareness of the Lord “in us” (Jn 15), we have all that is necessary for the proclamation of joy and hope to a world in disarray, to the many who find life collapsing around them because there is a new norm needed in life or because jobs have been lost. It is a proclamation that Jesus lives. God has not died. He is caring for us if only we free ourselves of our wants in order to know His plans. Each of us, and what we do, are part of His plan. We are experiencing Holy Week in a new way.

Many, like Thomas, want to see before believing. The showing of Christ to the world can only happen through you and me — one-on-one, as well as one-to-many. We cannot rely on programs. They die off like this pandemic will do. Let’s be that powerful force that will show others a new Spirit in faith, a way of life that will last into eternity.

For those in Cursillo, we’ve been provided the life-changing method that was lived in the Early Church well beyond the resurrection. Easter joy can only be maintained when we make a friend, be a friend and bring a friend to Christ — not just someone we’re already friends with — but to all those the Lord places in our lives in our neighborhoods, our work place, and elsewhere, even in those in our parishes we do not know. We remember that we are always Easter people celebrating new life. Easter is not an event. It is a new way of living — lives trusting in Christ as He trusts in us.

We carry with us power given following the Resurrection of Jesus — which should be for us a resurrection from within — a transformative power that moves us in our announcing the goodness and constant love of God, freedom from sin, and life that awaits us in the tomorrows to come and for eternity. Pray the Spirit moves you to meet the spiritual and temporal needs of the weakest among us. 

I pray that you’ve allowed the Spirit of God to move you to see and experience this past Holy Week with a greater depth than ever before. I know I’ve had to abandon so much in order to fulfill priestly ministry in a new way, taking a different view of what we remember as sacred, and then seeing that sacred being shared differently from the past. Many of the reminders of our priestly ministry were missing. They’ll return in a new way down the road — when Holy Week must be lived anew. I pray that I will remember these days when I am capable of living them again — with a greater understanding. I pray the same for you.

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Christ is Counting on You!