Reflections

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.

—————————————-

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.

I pray that each of you reflect on this past week and rejoice today, holding in your hearts a new fullness that will be needed down the road. No one, having experienced the Lord in heart and soul, leaves the locked room the same person. If they do, then they have not experienced the Lord of life.

But let’s not wait for the pandemic to end. We can now announce to all that the love and life of our God is present to them as He is to us. Help them desire and open the locked doors of their hearts to His resurrected presence. Breathe on them a new Spirit. And as the Easter proclamation begins: “Exult, exult…” (Rejoice, rejoice…)

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom

 

GOOD FRIDAY MEDITATION

Parents are amazing people. Do you know that? If it hasn’t fully hit you yet, I invite you to reflect on your years as a snobby little kid or a testy teen. How much did they struggle to get you to understand, to learn, to find yourself?

I know it was a struggle as our dad patiently taught myself and three brothers how to mix and pour concrete for a new walk or driveway; of roofing or siding Grandma’s house; of mortaring bricks to form walls for a new garage; of just being present to him, learning as we played the role of go-for when wires or piping were being installed.

I also know that when we started doing these things on our own, there was great joy in him. We had grown in a unique oneness with him. The same was true of Mom who patiently taught us to cook, bake, sew, iron clothes, clean the house which we thought was sometimes over the top — all needed later on when illnesses and surgeries stopped her normal flow of life. They saw us becoming what we didn’t see in ourselves, as part of our person. It took work and giving over things we thought more important for what would be better for everyone. And we came to share in their joy. Their own denial of things they desired proved worthwhile. And they were filled with joy.

What was the greatest joy expressed by our Lord?

Throughout the Gospels we can see that the greatest joy of our Lord was doing the will of the Father. It led to many struggles and ultimately death. But even as He prepared for His passion and death, He spoke of joy (see Jn 15, 17).

I often speak of how the Lord blesses me at the consecration by holding me to himself while on the cross, and Him showing me what He sees, and allowing me to feel what He feels — joys and hurts and disappointments and hopes.

We cannot deny the pain Jesus he endured in His passion and death. They are human, and as humans we can relate to the pain — physically, emotionally, mentally.

But I have come to learn that despite the pain, there was great joy in Jesus’ offering of life. I learned it in two ways. First, Jesus is fulfilling the will of the Father who is Jesus’ complete focus. The unity factor of Father, Son and Spirit allows for the overcoming of such pain. He is acting in the Father’s love; He is doing the will of the Father; He knows, as we came to know in learning trades and abilities, that it was going to benefit others — you and me.  Second, He knew that this giving would be a great benefit for all people to come to know the joy He shared with the Father.

When offering ourselves for the sake of others — as parents or friends or coworkers and as people of faith — pain and suffering will most often be experienced before joy is realized and shared. In these moments we can join ourselves to Christ on the cross. If done in faith, we can find ourselves fulfilling the will of the Father, becoming one with our Lord and Savior, and loving as only the Spirit can move us to do.

As I watch the news, the struggle of nurses and doctors — in their battle to assist patients with COVID-19 and with their own efforts to remain healthy — is juxtaposed with scenes of immense joy as one patient after another is removed from a respirator and released from the hospital. The joy comes following the struggle and all are affected.

Joy, in our spiritual reality, is one of the fruits of the Spirit, an inner result of entering into the will of  the Father, of offering ourselves for the sake of others, of lifting others from the chaos surrounding us and them. When this is realized, we want it more and more. For this to happen, it is ours to remain, as Jesus did, focused on the Father’s will, open ourselves to additional struggle, the giving over of self, and, in some cases, dying completely to our worldly desires. It is found in the recesses of the heart.

Jesus said to His disciples (and to us): I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.  (Jn 15:11) This chapter is all about unity with the Father and the Son. It is about our joining into the commandment of love as a way of life with no limitations. It ends with the telling of struggles, pain, disappointments, loneliness that will be experienced for the sake of bearing fruit, of bringing about spiritual joy for ourselves and others.

Jesus has a joy of knowing and doing the Father’s will. We’re called to a knowledge of that same joy and love of the Father. It is all about loving beyond measure, entering into the same love of the Father, revealed through His Son. As St. Paul says, “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we persevere, we shall also reign with him. (2 Tim  2:11-12; Rom 6:8) We have a promise. We need to live and share the promise in our lives.  When we live with this joy, no pain can overcome it.

I often meditate on the cross as the last opportunity for Satan to win against God’s plan, against Jesus, against love being offered. If it were left to overcoming human pain, Satan probably would have won. But Jesus acted in joy, knowing His oneness with the Father, and what it would mean for us. It was a spiritual battle that Satan could not win. Satan lost that battle big time because he could not overcome true, perfect joy found in the love of and for the Father. He battles us in the same way, offering opportunities for personal, temporary joy to stand against the joy of living in, with and through Christ.

Many are blaming this pandemic on Satan. Sorry. Satan cannot create anything, therefore he can only use that which is available to him. He will use it to create doubt, fear, anxiety, and even hostility toward God in the minds of people — believers and non-believers alike. He wants the joy removed from the heart. The joy of the cross, the opportunity to grow inwardly in oneness with Jesus Christ is under attack.

Our joy comes in the love we are called to live, with eyes fixed on its perfect state — oneness with the fullness of our God. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (Jn 15:13) Joyfully love!

Spend time today reflecting on the crucifix. Hold it in your hands. Now, as we do during the Good Friday service, focus on the wood of the cross — the instrument of dying to self and the cause of joy. Considering the crosses of our lives, can we see them as instruments of joy bringing love, hope and life to others? Can they move us into a deeper, growing personal relationship with our Lord and God? In every circumstance of life we are called to do just this with a joy that the world cannot know or offer.

Allow this Good Friday to be just that — Good!

For those who received this meditation through Mike Albanese, he added the prayer for spiritual communion. There is nothing wrong with this prayer, but I suggest that the prayer comes from your heart and not printed words. I often pray the Breastplate of St. Patrick Prayer (in my head) when reflecting on His presence, or I allow my heart to speak: Lord, I know the joy of you always with me. May I have the joy that of knowing that you are in me. And, finally Lord, having the joy of knowing you will satisfy my deepest longing as long as it is for you. Allow your heart to speak what is needed.

Love and prayers,

Fr. Tom

 

Christ is Counting on You!