TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — August 29, 2021
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
When I read today’s first line from the Letter of St. James, my mind immediately goes to the musical Godspell. “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” It is a strong reminder of what our Lord and God provides for us. It should cause all of us to reflect on two very important realities. The first is that we — made in the image and likeness of God — are brought to perfection in baptism. All Gift! God doing! — with us doing absolutely nothing. Every aspect of our beings is a perfect gift from God. Not one aspect of mind, body, spirit or soul is lacking perfection according to God’s giving. The second reality we need to be aware of is that we are called, as firstfruits of his creatures, to live as doers of the Word planted in us. For those having lived a Cursillo weekend, it’s the first two talks by a Spiritual Advisor — Habitual Grace and Actual Grace — God doing and God calling man into His doing!
Having received the perfection of God in baptism, we are made one in, with, and through Jesus Christ, the “Word of truth” planted in us. Accepting this can have life-saving effects, or it can lead us to self-destruction. You see, bloated egos can easily take us from what God has created as we attempt to build ourselves into the persons we choose to be., deluding ourselves with alterations and shadows caused by change. In this we move away from the Giver and the gift.
In looking at Moses addressing the Israelite community, he is reminding them of what they can be when living as God directs them — a great nation that is truly a wise and intelligent people. Such a nation will reveal a God who is intimate with them, unlike pagan gods. The directive is simple: live as God lives and all will be well. This is the underlying message of the commandments. The Letter of James is basically restating the words of Moses — “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above.” AND, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their afflictions and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” — Live the commandments as they should be lived — in love!
Remaining “unstained by the world” is difficult as we all know. And once we allow things of the world to enter into our lives, they can quickly consume us, change us, move us from the state of perfection God created in us. So we always have a choice. This is what Jesus is facing with the Pharisees and scribes who are moaning about Jesus’ disciples not fulfilling the ‘traditions” in various circumstances of life. They ultimately condemn themselves when they say, Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders…” The traditions of the elders were not commandments of God. And Jesus jumps on this shortly afterwards as we heard.
I’m not typing out the whole passage, but the message is very clear. Basically Jesus is saying, “If you’re going to cling to things from the past, go all the way back to the commandments and understand them in absolute love!” He nullifies the traditions that have been established by the Jewish leaders. And He affirms what we’ve considered in the first two readings — seeing ourselves as recipients of “all good giving and every perfect gift from above.” Let’s face it, we are going to be confronted by many things of the world that belong to those of the world. If we wisely choose what enters our lives — minds and hearts, what will come from us will only be good. Choose grace and grace will flow forth in our own lives.
If however, if we choose to use mind, body and soul for personal preferences, we choose to be defiled and open ourselves to the defilement of others through our actions and words — contrary to what Moses spoke of and contrary to what St. James preached — not worldly ritual, but care for orphans and widows in humble giving as God shares His life with us. We see a Church divided today because of ritual which is hardly as ancient as the Church and because the worldly rejection of caring for all people has filled the hearts of those who profess with words but not actions. All worldly. All concerned with self.
Who is free from all of the evils mentioned by Jesus? Evil thoughts, unchastity (which can come about from reading inappropriate novels), theft, murder (not just physical but also of spirit or reputation), adultery (including pornography and its inherent results), greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly may well be in our lives — along with prejudice, bigotry, self-gratification in many forms, unforgiveness, slanderous speech — many things that move us and others to live as did the Pharisees and scribes. These are real and can be transmitted to the most innocent of persons simply by our own espousing them in our lives.
What sins do we have in our lives that have been passed down from previous generations — language, mediocre prayer and worship, disregard for the orphaned or for those living with disabilities or personal preferences. A quick test: How would you react if told that an family from Afghanistan was being relocated in the house next to you? Your immediate thoughts and gut feelings? A family from Mexico? An African-American family? Or that the house next door was to become a community home for adults with emotional and psychological disabilities? How about an Irish family?
Brothers and sisters, in imitation of the perfect gift given us in Jesus Christ, and as recipients of all good things — from God and not the delusional goods of the world — we are called to be imitators of God, doing as He does so others in the world can come to know the God we did not create, but the God we worship with lives made holy by the One alone who is holy. As ones who believe in the real presence of Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist, we cannot be a hindrance which keeps the Eucharist from feeding others.
What we take in at the Mass must be that which comes forth from us in mind, body, spirit and soul as we are called to feed a longing people — as did Moses, Jesus and James, each in their own acceptance of God’s grace. All three of today’s readings direct our thoughts to how we live and share the love of God — for us not simply to receive the Eucharist, but as we pray at Mass, that we become Eucharist feeding with undefiled truth those needing to know and accept “all good things that come from above, coming down from the Father of lights,” beginning with His life through Jesus Christ. We remember that we do not call others into past traditions, but into the life of Jesus Christ. We cannot feed others with past traditions, but only with the life of Jesus Christ. May the words of Isaiah which Jesus quoted never be directed to us.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
NOTE: I will be having surgery this Friday and will remain in the hospital for a few days — away from the computer. So don’t be surprised if you do not receive a reflection next weekend.
TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69
The time is coming faster than some parents may want — college for their darlings, meaning once-little-tots will be leaving home on their own. With this comes, for the kids, freedom to make their own decisions, while for the parents, fears of those decisions. No matter how training was at home, freedom from that training means choices must be made. The teens are going into a new “territory” of life. New pressures and new adventures, new philosophies and new teachings will challenge any thought of control the parents may think they have. Let’s face it — the only control they have is with the purse strings.
This is sort of what Joshua posed to the Israelites. They had moved into the Promised Land and were living among the people who had been inhabiting the land for many years. These people had gods and customs different than the Israelites. Joshua presented a choice for them — live with the God who brought our people from slavery in Egypt, who showed power many times while in the desert, or live worshipping the unknown gods of these people. They unanimously said they would follow the God who had saved them and set them free. Wait. Give it time. They did, as we know, turned from the God of choice to the gods of public opinion, disregarded their religious customs and the commandments of God, and created gods that they hoped would satisfy their own needs.
The Jewish people had seen many signs of power come through Jesus, never known of before. Yet when the choice must be made to follow the Lord who brings Spirit and truth, they walked away. The choice was made. The people, many former followers of Jesus, went back to the slavery Jesus preached against that was levied by the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and teachers of the law. They were content on living with gods who were not the God who freed. We know that the disciples who remained faithful, who professed, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” lasted only a short time before doubt and individual attitudes crept into their ranks — and before they abandoned the Lord in fear when the cross appeared.
Every day each of us has to make the same choice that the Israelites and the Jewish people had to make — God, and the love He wished the people to come to know and live, or slavery to the past, sin, and selfish ways. Now we can consider the St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. He was reminding the people of what true love was to mean, and used the example of husband and wife in the bond of marriage, as it was to signify the bond between God and His Church. St. Paul called them to the absolute love of God, meaning love of the other before love of self.
That’s why when we dare to enter into God’s love, we move from self-absorption to self-humbling, imitating Jesus in our very way of living. As St. Paul says, “This is a great mystery.” It is a great mystery for non-believers. But for those who are truly open to God, it becomes known in the complete loving extended to all others. In absolute, divine love, we are drawn into the mystery so as to become the revelation, the way, to enter into the fullness of God. But we know that this is not lived as it is meant in our own time. When fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, it is a clear sign that the couple did not properly prepare to give completely to the other. Marriage has been seen as a social status and not as a union reflecting Christ and His Church. We know many — in every aspect of life — who say one thing, and then live something else, we see that truth was never intended when spoken.
Many may say they profess what the Church teaches; they believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet we know that many walk away when the Church — which we profess is led by the Spirit of God — does not meet their personal needs, acts the way they wish, or perform as they like. There are those who publicly profess a dislike, almost animosity, toward Pope Francis simply because they do not like (or understand) how he is moving the Church in the Spirit of Vatican Council II — you know, that Council that brought the Church to evaluate itself in accordance with the Gospel and not law.
The very choices of many who “walk away” when they don’t like what they see or hear, is not an avoidance so much as it is an unwillingness to work for correction. It doesn’t allow for the understanding of truth. Nor does it provide an opportunity to pronounce the truth. It is an individual action with a societal affect. It does nothing to build the Body of Christ, the Church. It is not set solidly on love of the other — just self. St. Paul’s letter is beautiful in describing the effects of Christ’s loving His Church, His Body — and all of its members. It is Christ who, despite our own failures, “nourishes and cherishes” the Church. In the lives of many today’s understanding of love doesn’t necessarily nourish and cherish.
Jesus said to the crowd, “It is the spirit that gives life…The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.” Notice the lower case ‘s’ in the first printed “spirit” and the upper case ‘S’ in the second part. Our spirit must become His Spirit. Our spirit gives life only when we conform to His Spirit, being open to God’s ways in all things, beginning in abandoning love — the freely giving of self for the sake of others and not for the obtaining our wants and wishes. Our spirit remains with the lower case ‘s’ when we fail to submit to the Spirit of God.
It is our choice. Knowing our choice will affect the choices of others, we need to really seek the Spirit so as to live the truth of Jesus Christ. Ours is the choice to live in or to reject the invitation to live in the great mystery of God’s love, His life.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
SOLEMNITY OF THE FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY
EVE: I Chronicles 15:3-4, 15-16, 16:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57; Luke 11:27-28
DAY: Revelations 11:19a; 12:1-6a; 10ab; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56
I’m glad that this Feast of Mary falls on a Sunday this year since so many Catholics are found everywhere except at Mass on this Holy Day when celebrated on a summer weekday. That’s not a slam on the people. It is a reality which we as the Church need to correct. A Sunday celebration allows for a homilist to preach the truth of a Catholic tradition begun in the Early Church and which became dogma, a definitive belief of the Church as declared by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950. The Feast of the Assumption, celebrated during a Sunday liturgy, reminds the whole Church that divine revelation is made known through Scripture, Creation and Sacred Tradition. And since this tradition is almost as old as the Church, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven fits the bill. Not found in scripture!
It is acknowledged that Mary died and was entombed. Her burial site is clearly defined at the foot of Mt. Zion, across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. The belief that decay did not touch the body of Mary remains true for all Catholics. The body must give up its life in order to attain the resurrection. Christ did the same in dying on the cross. We do not believe that Mary was taken to heaven alive as some may suggest.
All Catholics believe that the Assumption of Mary is the consumption and culmination of all the other great mysteries celebrated in the life of Mary. It is the crowning of all virtues attributed to Mary in her life. The fact that we believe that Mary was assumed into heaven — body and soul — free from the corruption of sin and death —testifies to God’s call to her as the perfect Mother of God, and Mary’s willing participation in God’s grace, just as the resurrection of our risen Lord calls us to live in all of eternity once we too are free from these frailties of our humanity.
St. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians reminds us that all who live the victory of Jesus Christ are conquerors with our Lord over death, meaning sin. Mary’s life is a reminder of the grace we receive in order to conquer sin and live in the life provided for our attaining the will of the Father — eternal unity and oneness. Mary, ever faithful to the giving of life, now does so for us. She was given as Mother of the Church at the cross. Following the resurrection she was God’s giver of grace that sustained the Apostles and followers of Jesus through the Day of Pentecost.
As from her acceptance of the Father’s call to be the Mother of our Lord, she now becomes the Mother of all believers, continuing her life of grace as our Mother. As Queen Mother of heaven and earth, unlike the stoic Queen Mother of England or any other sovereignty, Mary is up close and personal with us, aiding us in our human afflictions and constantly drawing us to the abandonment of self for the glory promised — resurrected life where our own bodies will be transfigured as was Christ’s, as was Mary’s, into glorified bodies free from sin and corruption.
We move toward this state even now while on earth as we carry with us the life of our Lord, living the will of the Father and proclaiming His goodness for all to see. Our words need to echo those of Scripture which Mary also echoed: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” All good things are of God, beginning with our own lives. All good things are to proclaim the greatness of God and rejoice always in our Lord’s sharing of life and calling to eternal life, when we too will be transfigured into His eternal likeness.
As Mary, full of grace from the very beginning, provided support to our Lord, to His disciples, to His Apostles and followers, so too does she do so for us — the greatest of all intercessors now privileged to be one with the Lord in bringing salvation to God’s people. For our part, we must hear the words of our Lord: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Lk 11:28) We too must live what Mary took from Psalm 119 and believe it in lives dedicated to oneness with our God in all things: “He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.” (Lk 1:54-55; also see Ps 119)
Mary, our Mother, has the gift of knowing the fullness of the Father’s will and acts in accordance of his will for our sake, leading us to the life that she carried within herself — to Jesus Christ who is our Lord and Savior. Mary’s life from beginning to end points us to Jesus.Perfect in all things, following death Mary was assumed into heaven. Perfect in all things by the grace of God, she continues to be perfect in sharing divine life with her children — you and me. In this, we are graced to move toward that same perfection which will change our mortal bodies into glorious bodies, joined forever in oneness with the fullness of God, Father, Son and Spirit, with Mary, and with all the Saints.
When the angel of the Lord greeted Mary at the Annunciation, it was “Hail, full of grace…” St. John’s Gospel reminds us of Jesus’ entry into the world as “”the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (1:14) The Feast of the Assumption is a reminder to us of grace being received, grace being lived, and grace moving us in the truth — always. Grace is always at our disposal if only we seek it, learn its truth, live it, and bring it, as did Mary, to the world hungry — to know the Divine Giver.
This oneness Mary shared in the life of our Savior is the same life we receive in the Eucharist. It is grace — the life given to Mary and the life given to us — so we may carry divine life and bring others to that life as Mary does today in all the glory given her.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
— August 8, 2021
1kINGS 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
This Gospel account from St. John is rarely — if ever — preached in many Christian churches. It demands a belief that the Eucharist is the real presence of our Lord and Savior; that His Body and Blood are to be taken into our lives as Eucharist; that which feeds and sustains far greater than the food which fed and sustained Elijah the prophet — more than bread and wine. Combine this Gospel with the Eucharistic accounts from the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and from St. Paul’s account in his First Letter to the Corinthians — “This is My Body…This is My Blood” — there is no doubt that what we believe as Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ. Jesus says: I AM THE LIVING BREAD COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world. What does this “Taking in — Eating” include, — bring about within us — for us?
During Eucharistic Adoration Friday afternoon the Lord reminded me of the many I AM statements attributed to Jesus in this gospel. Seventeen times Jesus identifies Himself with the phrase given to Moses by God as He freed His people from captivity. These attributed to Jesus include:
— I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6)
— I AM the Light of the World (9:5) that came into the world to shine in hearts seeking My oneness
— I AM the Sheep Gate……..I AM the Good Shepherd (10:1-18)
— I AM the True Vine (15:1-5)
— I AM the Son of God (10:36)
— I AM the Living Bread of life that came down from heaven (6:51)
They are all meant to bring each of us from the captivity of sin and to move society from its failure to see God present at all times. It is bewildering that “believers” will say they believe the “I AM” statements but not the last and most important: “I AM the Bread of Life…” A pick-and-choose gospel is not a life-giving word, but a profession of want.
The Lord continued to speak — which happened to be the Feast of the Transfiguration:
— I AM your transfiguration, moving you from your mere humanity to a Divine sharing.
— I AM the means of your salvation — not found in things of this world. Your salvation is only in Me.
— I AM the essence of your life— for without Me you can do nothing in this world that matters in eternity.
— I AM the source of perfected love.
— I AM the only joy that can allow you to stand against the wickedness of what is found in society.
— I AM the very cause of you being here — and the same cause that will strengthened you in announcing all that I AM
to a deprived society searching in all the wrong places in all the wrong ways.
And He added: You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. Do not forsake this life and action of Mine now in you.
St. Paul cautions us against the misuse of the life the Holy Spirit brings to us. It is the Spirit of God that enables us to see the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in our lives. When we enter into the fullness of God through Jesus Christ — the I AM — we are enabled to live in oneness with our Lord now and in eternity and we are enabled to become His true presence in the world. We must be open to how the Spirit enables to change our lives and offer change to the lives of others. Not accepting this enablement is rejecting the power of the Eucharist.
The Lord continued
Be imitators of Me and live in love — becoming sacrificial offerings which lead to your sharing in My glory. Live lives that are transfigured into the life I share with the Father. My transfiguration was — and is a call, as it was for Peter, James and John as well as all the Saints who have gone before you — to share in My glory in a oneness with the Father to be for all eternity gloriously triumphant. It all comes down to what we believe, and what and how we choose to live what we believe.
Many of you know Patty. When moving her from a fifth floor apartment to one on a lower level of the high rise, everything could go in the exact location as in her old apartment — that is until you looked at the limitations caused by a renovation that would impede Patty’s abilities. The same could not remain the same. Handicap accessibility was not in the thoughts of those who did the renovations. It would not work. Adjustments had to be made to assure that she could do for herself and was able to live in freedom. It meant changing the thoughts of some, including Patty. All is well following some changes and Patty is more free than ever. The same must be true of our faith, our believing the words of the Gospel, and our living what we believe. If we don’t open to other possibilities, the Eucharist and the Gospel can remain issues for head cases and not matters of the heart.
If we do not believe in in the I AM statements as the TRUTH being spoken we will definitely not KNOW THE WAY, and not come to THE LIFE, since we are not attached to the vine and not being fed by His life. We will become wanderers, straying from the Good Shepherd; we find ourselves living in the darkness of sin rather than the light that produces goodness.
So it comes down to this:
- Do we believe in the REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST?
- Do we believe that we are meant to be TRANSFIGURED INTO CHRIST — and give over ourselves and false expectations IN OUR SHARING OF THE EUCHARIST?
- Are we ready to ALLOW THE HOLY SPIRIT to change our lives and the lives of others?
- Are we ready to be imitators of God as beloved children and live in love?
These are what God wants for us always!
Fr. Tom Galvin
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
Reflection from Fr. Tom Galvin
18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
August 1, 2021
Daily Readings: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; John 6:24-35
What’s on your “To Do” list you have created for God to fulfill in the days to come? Stop and think about it before reading any further. What have you taken to the Lord in prayer that, just perhaps, you are to accept rather than have changed? What is on the list that you can change, or that you, or someone you are praying for, can live with despite having to live with a little hardship? Of these things, which are about earthly satisfaction and fulfillment and not directed toward eternal oneness with God? How many have been on your list for a very long time?
The Israelites had not learned to trust God enough to accept His call for them to be His chosen people — and to believe that He would not allow them to die of famine in the desert. So they complained and even considered going backwards to slavery under the Egyptians. They failed to recognize that they were creating a new slavery for themselves by not looking to something greater than the here and now. The same was true for the Jewish people who heard our Lord’s call to something greater, and all they wanted was sign after sign after sign. Jesus, in John’s Gospel had just fed the 5,000-plus (6:1-15, which we heard last Sunday). That wasn’t a big enough sign to show God’s care for them. They weren’t satisfied.
There is spiritual as well as physical feeding taking place in these accounts. However, the intentions of the people were only about themselves and their pre-conceived ideas of how God was to act. All this was totally known by our Lord. So when Jesus says “I AM the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst,” their minds, totally worldly, failed to remember how God had just fed the 5,000, nor remember how He fed their ancestors in the desert. St. Ignatius tells of his own conversion to the spiritual from the worldly. He looked for joy in the here-and-now. Slowly his heart and mind moved to the joy he found in reading of the life of Christ and of the saints, finally realizing that God was his joy and Jesus was the fullness of God sent from the Father.
Now, the people in both the Exodus account and the Gospel have hearts and minds closed to what God is offering them. The Israelites failed to see God doing, so Moses had to explain, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat” knowing that the Lord was to send down bread from heaven. The Jewish people confronting Jesus recall this only to have Jesus correct them by affirming it to be the giving of “my Father”. And now Jesus strikes them hard, using a phrase they knew well. He says, “I AM the bread of life…” It is God present, giving in His fullness. Yes, this shakes many of us even today as belief in the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is minimized or an unbelief. But as Jesus said, “…whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” It goes far beyond human satisfaction of the fulfillment of human expectations.
As a side note: This “I AM…” is one of 17 times in John’s Gospel when Jesus is directly saying that God is present to them. It is the I AM which Moses heard and used when identifying the God who was going to free them from slavery. They didn’t get it. When Jesus met Nicodemus in the middle of the night and said, “I AM the light of the world,” it caused this Jewish leader to seriously reflect on who Jesus was.
As all the Gospel accounts have pointed us to over the past few weeks, today’s also points us to the Eucharist. And we know that in the Eucharist, it is about a spiritual joining of self with God, as He does to us through the ongoing giving of Jesus. St. Paul gives us a directive of what must occur in our hearts and minds through his Letter to the Ephesians. “Put away the old self of your former way of life…and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” It is what St. Ignatius had learned to do and what we also must do — if for no other reason than to tear up the “To Do” list we expect God to handle.
I am often concerned about how people dress when coming to Mass these days. “Casual Friday” has infiltrated our lives in every aspect. And many often complain to priests about this. But really, what is it all about? May I say outward appearance? I will. Judgment is made in what is seen without the heart of the person ever being known. It is, in modern times, the very people mentioned above — making judgments by what they have seen or perceive which may be far from the truth. But it says to those, who make comparisons to ancient times (our youth), that they do not live in the Spirit of God who knows our inner thoughts and wishes to form the heart and mind to His — since they are more concerned with living what they expect — everything from what to wear, to how to pray, to the actions judged as irreverent.
In one particular nursing home, a man has been in bed — 24-7-365 — for four years. He can never get out, sit up, and is unable to walk, loaded with a slow but aggressive cancer. He has never shown anger at God but rejoices in the Eucharist, God feeding him, and in my short visits with him. There is no desert experience here. There is no demand for a sign. He believes the Eucharist carries him from month to month and his prayers carry him from day to day in the assurance of God’s love. He is one of many I make sure I am present to with each visit to the facilities.
Brothers and sisters, if we live in the Spirit of God, there is no reason to have a desert experience and no demand for a sign — which usually is part of our “To Do” list for God to fulfill. Rather, there is joy in our joining with our Lord in the Eucharist and in the same joining God is calling others to realize and celebrate in their lives, having turned from worldly expectations to new completeness in oneness with our God. We need to get over our “looking for joy in all the wrong places,” as the world is not going to fulfill us or our dreams. Only God, who is always giving of Himself, can fulfill our longings as He did St. Ignatius and any other saint whose life you choose to study.
God is giving — always has been and always will be. And God is patient in waiting for us to accept what He is giving us and of our joining with Him — in the Eucharist where he feeds the soul, heart and mind — and in the world where we become Eucharist, with one Spirit, for the lives of others.
Love and prayers,
A Personal Note: Thanks for your prayers. The PET scan did not show any growth, which is good. I see the surgeon this week to determine if we’ll do minimally-invasive surgery on the lung or just watch it for another three months. It’s in God’s hands.
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
Reflection from Fr. Tom Galvin
17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
July 25, 2021
Daily Readings: 2 KINGS 4:42-44; EPHESIANS 4:1-6; JOHN 6:1-15
We know of Moses imploring the Lord on behalf of the people in the desert and how God fed the multitudes with manna and quail. Keep that in the back of your head for a few moments. Today we hear from the Second Book of Kings of how God fed the one hundred people through the prophet Elisha. And in the Gospel we hear Jesus feeding the 5000 men with bread and fish (no one counted the women and children). In each situation there was an abundance left over after all had had their fill. Connect the dots!
God has cared for man — always present and active in their lives — even those who were found grumbling, as in the desert and even when sinful and rebellious. God gave. God gives. God will always give. That’s what God is! He is always giving of Himself for us to become one with Him, not simply for satisfying a human hunger. So it should not surprise us that the above mentioned “feedings of the people” direct us to the most perfect giving of Divine Life in Jesus Christ. It is Christ who now calls all people to share in the Divine Banquet established at the Last Supper and Calvary. The events of the Old Testament always point to Christ. I pray that we all are in agreement of this fact.
So why is this section of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians included in these readings? As I thought about this, I found other passages from St. Paul’s letters that speak of miraculous feedings that could be aligned with the story of Elisha and of Jesus. And I thought, why not one from the Acts of the Apostles when the early Christian community shared in a similar way as did the above-mentioned “feedings”? Well, if you look at this passage from St. Paul carefully you’ll see there is more than just feeding the physically hungry. We should realize those who feed on the Body and Blood of Christ can see that God’s giving continues to 2021. And, we are not simply to be fed, but are called to be Moses, Elisha, and most importantly the presence of Christ in the world today, feeding others with the gift of Christ’s life given to us in the Eucharist. Everything that St. Paul mentions in this passage is Eucharist. So it is appropriate to apply it to our lives.
St. Paul says: “I…urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received…” What we have received is the life of Jesus Christ. A worthy life is first seeing ourselves in Christ, and then allowing Christ to move through us to touch others. In other words, we, as St. Paul says, are to act in “humility, gentleness and patience” — all done in love of God and of others. It is a fallacy for us to expect God to act in our plans or in our thoughts. We are called to act in His. Only then do we live the Gospel we may think we are proclaiming. Elisha was always filled with the gift of discernment which allowed him to follow the directives of God. Moses had done the same in complete confidence and trust. In His own time Jesus did the same as we know He constantly went to the Father in prayer, even at His time of impending death. They worthily lived their calls and the gifts they received.
Remembering that since all words of Scripture retain their power and purpose, we can hear St. Paul calling us to continue in the sharing of the gifts we have received. To do so we must listen, listen and listen, so to discern how God is moving us to feed others, extend ourselves to others in faith, so we may discern God’s will and move our lives into His. This is important as we may try to discern God’s will, for us as individuals, and then try to impose our will on others, failing to recognize that the discernment of God’s will is meant for us to do as St. Paul says, …”striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace…” We must see ourselves as sharing the gifts of the Holy Spirit and not personal wants. Discernment means opening to the Holy Spirit.
This past Friday I had a PET Scan taken. I had never done this test before. After injecting dye into the body you are taken to a “relaxing room” to sit in a recliner for an hour — with no music, no TV, no books, no nothing except a clock to look at. The purpose for this hour is to make sure the dye goes through the entire system. The clock was only a source of agitation. I used this time as an opportunity for prayer, to lift up others for many reasons and not for myself while refusing to focus on the clock. The time went quickly, thankfully. Now if I had focused only on that darn clock, time would have dragged and I would have become frustrated. Instead, I used it for something better, and even gave over my dreams of getting out of Shadyside before the rush hour. I allowed the Holy Spirit to move me instead.
In the same way, if we are to be — as St. Paul says, “one Body and one Spirit…called to the one hope of your call: one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” we must forgo our wants in order to feed others, to become Eucharist for others, remembering our hope for ourselves and all people is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” It changes our attitudes concerning our prayer, as well as what we may think essential for the purpose we have established for ourselves. It changes our actions, providing the needed courage and conviction. We see the fullness of the Triune God in a different way. The message of all Scripture — Old and New Testaments — is Jesus Christ who is our way to the Father and the fullness of life. He is the means of our gaining salvation. And the Spirit, sent from the Father and the Son, is meant to enable us to move beyond ourselves as we feed others with the caring and love of God. It is not about us, or how we pray, or what we seek. It is about the One who cares for us, feeds us and enables us to act in oneness with Him in our sharing with others. It is us becoming Eucharist in, with and through Jesus Christ.
The feeding of the masses would not have happened in Elisha’s time, or multiple times during Jesus’ ministry, if they had not realized that what was received was then to be shared. The “manner worthy of the call you have received” is to transform hearts and minds of others — not just those we know, but all those we touch. It may mean understanding our call in a new light — as we say in Cursillo, those we live with, work with, recognize as leaders capable of having hearts and lives transformed, the wayward, the disillusioned, and on and on. No one should stand outside of the spectrum of persons we may be called to share Jesus Christ and the fullness of God. It is not by accident that Mark mentions that what Jesus did was near the Jewish feast of Passover — when God freed their ancestors from slavery. Jesus’ giving here, and forever, is to provide freedom to believers. Ours is to work in oneness with this freeing of the many caught in the slavery of sin and the sin of the world.
We do this in, with and through the love of God and the gifts we have received. Nothing else is needed except our openness to the Father’s will and us taking the time to discern the gifts we have received from the Spirit. This will require us to consider St. Paul’s other Letters, especially to the Romans (12:1ff) and 1Corinthians (12:1ff), even though there are many other gifts given. Consider taking the time to read these passages as a call to a “relaxing room” where His plan is discerned, devoid of what we may think important — and His Spirit moves us joyfully to the feeding of a world hungry for something greater than that which is seen.
Love and prayers.
View more reflections at pghcursillo.org/reflections
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
16th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — JULY 18, 2021
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34
Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is a message of comfort, hope and strength. It is also a call for Jew and Greek alike to see their oneness with and in Jesus Christ — on Body of believers. Jeremiah’s message is one of warning and then one of hope, comfort and strength, which the leaders of the time failed in doing, but what God will do out of concern for their salvation. The Gospel of Mark reveals the compassion of Jesus toward the people longing for the one who would take them to a caring God. And Psalm 23 is that great gift of comfort, hope and strength and the assurance of the Lord shepherding His people.
When I was 19 years old a close friend was found filled cancer. He died three weeks later. Needless to say, I was devastated. Psalm 23 became the gift of comfort from our Lord that I needed. It reminded me then, as it does now, that our God is not a God of the past but One of the present. I couldn’t change what had happened. And I didn’t really know how to be mad at God, despite my questioning and emptiness. His was, as we see in the Gospel today, being present to me whenever I needed. His was a way to see Him in the present, helping me through my human limitedness. It led me to grow in contemplative prayer, moving me to see the compassion of God with a much clearer understanding.
When we study these readings, we can see that this is what God is all about, never looking at the past and not dreaming in the future, but always in the present moment, calling us to see him and to live in Him in each moment. His only look to the future is in regards to our eternal salvation. But He also knows that if salvation is to be ours, He must be realized in the present —daily, in growing intimacy. But this calls for a conversion and turning of heart to conform to God in all that we do. While some will see this as a lessening of self, it is, in reality, a finding of self rooted in the grace of God. It provides a freedom to act in accord with Jesus Christ.
When hearing confessions I so often can take a multitude of sins and group them into one difficulty — a lack of intimacy with God. They may pray and fulfill the Sunday obligation, but they are words and actions outside of their everyday life experiences, and do nothing to bring about an intimacy. Living without this intimacy that God desires for us is synonymous to going to a doctor to eradicate a medical problem and then not taking the prescriptions or following the doctor’s orders to change our lifestyle. If we want intimacy with God we need to take the time to listen to the Lord’s call instead of setting up false expectations of how God should be seen, or determining how close we wish to fall into the security of His open arms.
Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the downfall of the leaders of Israel is epic. The leaders will be discarded forever. Zedekiah was the king, but appointed by Nebuchadnezzar, and not following the Davidic line, fulfilling the promise of God. Zedekiah feared man more than he feared God. He is very much like many people, even believers, in the world today — men and women in positions of distinction as well as men and women living in a twisted worldly society found in our communities. Jeremiah speaks to us; and his prophecy so often falls on deaf ears in our day.
In the Church today there are those who claim to know the truth. Some of these are ordained and some are members of the laity. They stand against the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church. This is not simply a disregard of Church teachings since Vatican Council II, but is historic within the Church from its beginning. God is always calling for a repentance and an awaking to His way, His sharing, His life. The obstinacy of man is magnified in our time through the relativism espoused by so many believers who bring societal expectations into faith.
Notice how St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians is calling for a unity among all believers. Believers are not about themselves but rather about Jesus Christ and His ministry for all people — to be found in oneness with Himself and each other. Relativism does not conform to the message of the Gospel. The Church and our faith are not to conform to the relativism of today’s society.
All the baptized are called forth to announce the message of Jesus Christ as they meet people looking for new hope, desiring an intimacy of Heart to heart — His Heart to our heart. We were anointed in the priesthood, prophetic ministry, and the kingship of Jesus Christ for this purpose. Even though He had taken the disciples away to rest after their sojourns through towns and villages, announcing a message of hope and giving witness to it through miraculous deeds, He responds to the people’s needs. He sees the longing of the people for a new message, a message of intimacy with God, not a god who keeps himself cloaked in an aura that causes a distance between man and God.
The same God is intimate with us, and today gives that gift of intimacy to reveal His love for us and others in the very present moment, being lived in the present time, not in the past and not dreaming of “what if’s?” If we profess this, then we must also profess that the Spirit of God is providing grace and direction for the life of the Church. We must also have faith that the Church is given the ability to make God’s intimacy — as preached by Jesus, the Twelve, St. Paul, and now us — known and relevant in today’s society without losing the effect of the Gospel, and without diminishing the holiness of God. It doesn’t come with hoops to jump through, but a living Heart to heart.
This is often the difficulty we face as we seek to evangelize our environments, to take the message of Jesus Christ to others. Making known the loving presence of God to the masses while recognizing that, being lifted up to a oneness with Him, we cannot change God, His will or His way. This means leaving behind ‘what was’ in our lives, minds and hearts to see ‘Who is’. To announce that God is present requires a faith that acknowledges the activity of the Holy Spirit — in us, and more so in the teachings and activities of the Church.
It is through the Holy Spirit as St. Paul wrote, that we have access to the Father. Our lives must be rooted in oneness with Jesus Christ for this to happen. We need to take on His heart to be effective. It is no longer our will, but that of the Father, Son and Spirit. This needs to be acknowledged in our prayer lives if it is to be lived in the world. Our focus must be on our intimacy with the Lord and less on our unworthiness. The intimacy sought will bring awareness of our spiritual needs and provide proper correction. That’s what God does through his comfort and concern for us.
Living in the moment is seeing the face of God in the mirror, in our actions and words, and in one another. As Jeremiah announced new hope to the Israelites, he announced that the promise of God for them to be His people had not dissipated. God will fulfill His promise. As we go about living an intimacy with God, the promise made through Jesus is being fulfilled. “I am with you always.” (Mt 28:20) And His teaching remains solid: “If you know me, then you also know the Father.” (Jn 14:7)
Ours is to grow in our knowledge of God as taught through Scripture, as fashioned in a prayer life desiring oneness, and lived as always in the intimate presence and care of our God.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
15th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — JULY 11, 2021
Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13
So there I was writing sports, planning my future, looking forward to having a wife and kids, not that my salary would have been sufficient for everything I dreamed of. I was the “good Catholic” going to Mass on Sunday and saying some prayers — fulfilling obligations. Then God called, and called, and called, and called, and called. Finally I said “Yes.” Need I say more? I will. Saying “Yes” to our Lord that first time was not going to be the final “Yes” I would have to give assent to. And As I learned, it was adequate for the time, but so insufficient. It would be the first of many steps opening me to the power of the Holy Spirit while moving me to a deepening union with our Lord. To the day I find myself being called to give yet another “Yes,” needing to open myself to the many requests coming from our Lord. Amos learned the same thing as did St. Paul, and as would “the Twelve.”
And folks, this is the life God wants all of us to live, filled with one “Yes” after another and another, never growing weary of how God is calling us. You see, every person we meet or think of is an invitation to say “Yes” again.
Interestingly enough, as we are brought to say “Yes” more and more, the less resistant we are to God’s want and ways. The concerns that Satan may plant in our lives, running contrary to God’s plan for us, become weaker and more feeble.
When we give over our concerns we are moved to hope and fulfillment — and fulfillment moves us to true joy that is not defined by worldly standards but rather by inner peace, contentment and a new understanding of fulfillment. We see ourselves moving in oneness with the Lord, through whom comes power and might as He, in concert with the Father, pours the Holy Spirit into our lives, enabling us to see beyond the immediate horizon of human limitations.
Look at the Twelve. Jesus had given them, unknown to them, a share in the Holy Spirit. It produced conversion of hearts, freedom from demons, and the curing of many — the very works they witnessed brought about in Christ’s ministry and life. And we know they came back from their mission filled with joy — exuberant at what had occurred. Now if that could happen to the Twelve who did not recognize or understand the presence of the Holy Spirit, how much more can gifts of the Spirit move us in our living of our baptismal life — we who have been sealed with the Holy Spirit?
Notice, in speaking of the work of the Church, the first believers, St. Paul sees those baptized as living in the Holy Spirit, “…the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession.” God is revealing His desire to own them — and us — completely. All is done to the praise and glory of God. Joy in our sharing in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, who takes us to a share in the Father’s love, causes praise and glory to be given and to be rejoiced in. It is the only response that makes sense as we recognize superhuman, spiritual powers at work in and through us. These gifts are not found in human mentalities nor in meeting societal norms. They are not found in a spirituality of religiosity where prayer is kept to a one-on-one relationship with God if these do not lead to a change in our minds, our hearts, and our actions in the world. This was my life before that first “Yes.”
So as we look at our own lives, we can examine as to whether they display a relationship leading to joy in our own lives as well as in the lives of others. Or do they remain on a superficial plain of mere human existence? Do we, in our thoughts, words and actions share in making known the Kingdom of God?
“In love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ in accord with the favor of his will for the praise and glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.” This letter to the Ephesians is a letter to the whole Church then and up to the baptized today. It is the Church being reminded to bless the Lord for all that He has done, and intends to do with the affirmation of our “Yes.” It is also a blessing for believers who daily enter into the mind and heart of our Lord; a strengthening for believers and the whole Church leading to a giving over as well as a renewal. Each of us is called, as was Amos, to leave behind what we think is life so we may find true life; to give over what was or is, for what can be.
It beins in our honesty concerning the sins we live in and the habits which control our lives — those we’ve fashioned in our own lives and those we carry from generational disfunctioning. And we do carry much religious dysfuctioning lived by parents and grandparent generations. It calls for a change and a willingness to see as God sees. As St. Paul says, “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplished all things according to the intentions of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory…” (1:11)
Now some will say that the more we say “Yes” to God’s call, the more we give over our freedom. That’s Satan talking. In reality, when we reject God’s invitation, we reject a freedom to share something greater than the world can provide.
Some will ask, “When do I begin to simply enjoy the fullness of God rather than having to forever praise and give glory to God?” These people fail to recognize that the more we enter into living the life of our Lord, the more joyful and content we become; the more fulfilled we find ourselves; the greater the freedom we live in from the false expectations of society. We become like Amos and the Twelve who saw that it was God who was doing the work. It is His power and might acting through us; it is He who is ready to free us from worldly entrapments to awaken in us His life and love.
So we learn, as did Amos, the Twelve, and the Early Christians, that our “Yes” is a moment-to-moment opening to the work of our Lord. It brings with it a peacefulness that allows us to see God working when we cannot; the ability to love when we would rather remain separated from; to bless instead of curse; to lift up rather than tear down individuals; to not allow Satan to stand in the way of our redemption and salvation. “In wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.”
The mystery of the Eucharist which we take into ourselves at Mass is so much more than what Jesus provided the Twelve when He sent them out. He didn’t send them out alone. He was with them in Spirit even though His promise to be with them always had yet to be given. We have that promise — and His life. We live in His promise and life. It is not stagnant simply because the Spirit cannot be understood as stagnent. It does not rest on the past. It comes alive in the present. It calls for a “Yes” that comes deep from within, an emptying of self for the sake of receiving an overflowing fullness for ourselves and others — all things in Christ as God desires.
Fr. Tom Galvin
Reflection from Fr. Tom Galvin
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
July 4, 2021
Daily Readings: Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2Corinthians 12:7-10;
As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day — a day when our forefathers made a stand against oppression and a stand for our freedom to celebrate our lives and our faith — we are called to remember that this and the other freedoms sought and fought for, need defended today, as they have needed defended and brought to our attention every day of our country’s existence. You see, our freedom has been challenged every day since the founding of our country and the writing of the constitution:
“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, and preserve domestic Tranquility…”.
It is challenged from outside our borders and from within. That’s simply because people see freedom the way they want it to be, and not for a common good and the lifting up of all lives.
This is also true when we look at our Catholic faith in this country. From the founding of our country Catholics have had to take a stand for their faith, very often being considered second class citizens because of their beliefs — despite the protection of the first amendment. Catholics, well into the 20th century, were bypassed for promotions and pay raises because of their faith. All was controlled by the Masons. Church burning, oppression, physical violence was happening into the early 20th century in Philadelphia. The Ku Klux Klan targeted Catholics in their scourges across the country and continues to do so in a subversive manner today. Through it all the Church survived, persevered and grew.
Yet in our country today we find that we again need Ezekiels, we need Pauls as prophets. Society wants to force the Church into living a secular way of life and away from the Gospel. In our pick-and-choose, relativistic and atheistic society freedom is misused. It is seen for personal benefit and does not always adhere to the thoughts of our country’s forefathers, let alone to God’s plan for our salvation. It is only about the here-and-now.
Many in society are, as we’re told in the Book of Ezekiel, “rebels who have rebelled against me…hard of face and obstinate of heart.” Ezekiel will face many trials because he freely accepted the call of God as prophet. But that is what a prophet does — stand against the grain in favor of the truth. What St. Paul speaks about as a “thorn in the flesh,” may well mean standing against the two-faced nature of the Corinthians who first gave him joy in their coming to faith, but became a source of great trial. “I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints for the sake of Christ.” In all of this, Paul the prophet remained strong, knowing that he was being led by the Spirit of God. “My grace is sufficient for you.” This alone gave great freedom to the believer then — and to today’s prophets who are called to speak the truth of the Gospel in the 21st century.
Jesus is no different. He freely made known that the kingdom of God was present to all people. Yet his own people rejected him to the point of His “not able to perform any mighty deeds there…amazed at their lack of faith.” Their freedom hindered their faith, and therefore, the ability to accept the power of God present to them — unlike many others who found healing, solace and forgiveness from our Lord.
What do these witnesses say to us today? Struggles cannot take away our freedom to listen, to choose to walk and live with God, to act in God’s grace, knowing grace means life within a person. When one chooses to enter into the complete living in God’s life, His will becoming that person’s, the battle is won, freedom cannot be removed or taken away because hearts are set on a greater reward than the present age. The choice of Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus to act in the power of the Holy Spirit allow strength to be prophets of their times, despite others plans in their societies.
Now, Religious freedom does not mean freedom to do as we please, but rather, as God means for us to speak and act. It does not fit into our “individualistic society.” It accepts that the prophet will face the repercussions of living that freedom and the freedom of choice despite what this life offers. We fail in this even as we profess our faith.
Yes, a group will stand against one evil in society or another, but fail in protecting and lifting up of all aspects of life needing a moral compass. If we are pro-life, we must equally be protectors of immigrants and the oppressed; if concerned with social justice, we must also stand against bigotry and prejudice in every and all cases; if we are concerned with the environment, we must also be concerned for the disabled and handicapped; if standing against the degenerative push from the LGBTQ community we must also lift up the dignity of these and all individuals; if we say we are “one nation under God,” we cannot be governed by racism or nationality rejection as confronted by members of Asian and Latino communities.
Jesus teaches us “Let your ‘Yes’ mean yes and your ‘No’ mean no.” It’s not a pick a choose Gospel we adhere to. We must stand to live the Gospel of justice, peace and truth. And Jesus is the truth — as seen in how He responded to all people. This is what we are to proclaim and lead others to believe and live.
I grew up, as many who will read this did, singing “God Bless America” along with Kate Smith. It crossed religious persuasion and political affiliations. I no longer sing this song. It actually makes me sick, as it would have Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus. When we look at all the blessings — spiritually and temporal — we have received from our God — and how we as a society have misused or ignored them, we need instead to be on our knees asking for forgiveness.
How can we stand in the presence of God, beat our breasts, ask for forgiveness and then go outside and treat others with disdain because our minds have not changed and our hearts remain cold? The solemnity of ritual must be seen lived out in the holiness of life. And life can become holy only when we freely choose to live in oneness with Jesus Christ.
The infamous Canonsburg 4th of July parade just ended. It is a mile-and-a-half long giant block party, the second largest 4th of July parade in the country. It lasted two hours and 40 minutes. Chairs lined the streets for three days, saving places for the young and old. Five minutes after the parade not a chair was found along Pike Street. The people dispersed and went back to living their lives as they did beforehand. Within an hour the street crews had everything back to normal spotless as if nothing had ever happened. The parade was a break from the daily grind, but a failure to remember why we celebrate the day.
Can the same be said about our attending Mass and our departure afterwards? Or have we been strengthened to be prophets for this society? And, if so, what must we do to make the truth of the Gospel known? Are we properly and completely using our freedom to celebrate God and announce God’s goodness in a sinful society that rejects the truth and is deaf to one another?
Brothers and sisters, because Ezekiel freely chose to become the mouthpiece of God to the wayward Israelites, the leaders would be out to silence him. The same is true of Paul by those who chose to fight the Christian faith. And we know the end result of Jesus’ life on earth. His three years of ministry constantly brought about rejection and ultimate death — all because he sought to make known the truth, which stood against the leaders. The early Church in the United States did the same — but its persecution only brought strength. Can we see the pattern that follows from Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus.
Freedom carries with it a responsibility. Accepting the grace to live the prophetic ministry given us at Baptism, carries with it a responsibility. Coming to the Eucharist carries with it a responsibility to live the grace, the truth we receive, to be that presence of Christ to a world in need of a proper understanding of freedom and truth. Freedom of religion allows us to give witness to the truth of the Gospel — not a gospel of “make-me-feel good,” but one of lifting up, renewal, and respect for every person God has created.
Prophets are those freely accepting God’s call to announce freedom to live our faith, freedom from sinful ways, and freedom to live lives which move us and others to the freedom won for us in Jesus Christ — a call to eternal oneness rather than a temporary worldly happiness. It comes at a cost that few are ready to freely choose. God has given us the freedom to choose. It’s up to us.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
Reflection from Fr. Tom Galvin
13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
June 27, 2021
Daily Readings: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 2Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 Mark 5:21-43
The Fraternity of Priests’ Mass and Prayers for discernment and healing, as always, was a work that only God could do. One could feel the power of the Holy Spirit moving in so many ways — expected and unexpected. I was really pleased to see so many young adults and teens in attendance. But the most surprising for me was the number of people — young and old — asking for prayers to break their struggles with anxiety that were being experienced. I figured some of this issue came with the age of the person; some came with life situations such as employment, etc.; and some is a from the Covid virus and the after affects of the pandemic. Of themselves, these issues can be overcome. Combined with a society that is constantly projecting false expectations and fulfillment goals on individuals — and has more and more moved from face-to-face social interaction to obscure social media isolation, these issues can be devastating.
Imagine the anxiety Jarius, the synagogue official, felt concerning his daughter, and of the woman struggling with a long-term illness which absolutely left her financially and mentally empty. Both found that the world was not going to remove their fears and anxieties let alone bring healing. The world did not give life to Jarius’ daughter, nor did it heal the woman who had spent every cent she had. Jesus became their last resort and faith was lived. Remember that word “lived.” The people who came to the Healing Mass, no matter what they were praying for, are the Jarius and woman of 2021. In many of these present situations Jesus was being recognized as their last resort. Nothing in the world had helped or led them to a peace within — nor a peace concerning their own identities as children living in the life of God.
I say it all the time, “Our goal as children of God is to understand and become the person God created. And since only God knows that person completely and perfectly, He is an absolute necessity if faith is to be “lived.” The world cannot offer this. The world offers lies, takes from the person (like the old woman), and diminishes the wholeness of every person, wanting them to become generic individuals. Faith “lived” is our turning to our Lord constantly in an admittance of our limitations and those of the world.
We look at the reading from the Book of Wisdom as it gives understanding to each of God’s creations, especially the human person fashioned in God’s own nature. There is a spiritual dimension of each person that society doesn’t want to acknowledge. If it did, society would have to change drastically. And we know that is not going to happen since there are individuals who want to have control over the masses. We can see this when dealing in how insurance companies control what the medical field can and cannot do. We see this as big businesses use any excuse available for reason to send costs of necessities skyrocketing — even when the problems are fabricated lies or cover ups for their own mistakes. These are just a couple examples of societal struggles.
St. Paul is speaking of our example — Jesus Christ — the one the synagogue official and woman came to for healing and renewal. They went against the cultural expectations of their day. Their coming to Jesus was faith “lived,” even if only minimally at the time. It would grow in the healings that would follow. Christ stands in sharp contrast with how society expects others to live. Faith was “lived” in their movements to the Lord as it is in our coming to our Lord to find awareness of the person created by God — the one we are coming to understand and accept as we continue to follow His example of living in the power of God.
When power left Jesus to heal the woman, he knew who, what, where, how and why. The disciples couldn’t understand this as the mob around them was like society pushing in on people today. After Pentecost the disciples would experienced the action of God’s power again and again. It happens today when we allow the Spirit to be the power in our lives and to take control of how we wish to live in God’s oneness with us. While many may be surprised by feeling God’s power coming to them during a Healing Mass, the priests anticipate and expect it. This is why the Fraternity tries to make the Church — all its members — aware of the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, enabling each member to move to a “lived” experience of God.
Anxiety is not going to be overcome in a person’s life without an awareness of the spiritual life God has created in them. Nothing in the world can stand in comparison. But this is true of every inner human condition where the mind can so easily be persuaded by the “envy of the devil.” Nor will these emotional difficulties be eradicated without the Church exhibiting a “lived” faith and is ready to offer others an invitation to meet Jesus in a new way! We are to be the invitation to the wholeness of life in and with Christ. But if the “culture of death,” as Pope Saint John Paul II called it, is permeating the members of the Church with a spirit of oppression and neglect; a spirit of abuse, ignorance and indifference; a spirit of selfishness and individual concern, then hope will not be experienced, seen, of felt. The same anxiety of emptiness will continue.
Those claiming Jesus Christ as their own must always examine themselves to see if they are moving to become the person created by God. This includes our willingness to do as St. Paul says — see others with the same dignity we seek for ourselves and, more so, the dignity God has given each person — beginning with ‘the other.’ We cannot be carrying a mentality synonymous with that of the people creating the din in Jarius’ house. Unlike in the world, we need to find the trust that motivated the suffering woman and the faith of the synagogue official — and then “live it.” I’m sorry to say it, but many people, believers, look for God in all the wrong ways, therefore keeping God at a distance, fearing Him, making Him what He is not, offering what He doesn’t want, and offering others these fallacies.
You see, God is love and wishes to have an intimate relationship with each of us. He wants the heart where an awareness of His image and likeness are found first and foremost. The sharing of His divine life through Jesus Christ should cause us to move in a “lived” experience of the divine. The woman said to herself, “if only I can touch his clothes I shall be cured.” What faith! There is no fear just as there was none in Jarius (who obviously became a believer in the early Church).
We’re told that the woman only became fearful when she had to go face-to-face with Jesus — and the whole mob present, and she would have to share her whole story with everyone hearing it. She overcame that fear and became, by her “lived” faith, an evangelist. Yesterday as I was present for the ordination of Fr. Joe Uzar, I was taken back 39 years ago when I was ordained. The Church was different then. I could only imagine what this newly ordained man was thinking of seeing the Church now and in the future. He was to be an evangelist in a whole new experience. I admire his conviction that God was calling him to this ministry and unique opportunity to be the light of Christ in a most demanding and rewarding way.
Brothers and sisters, the Church needs to stand as a beacon of hope for this purpose — to remove the created anxieties not meant to exist by our Lord or the emotional weaknesses that cause so much other damage in ourselves and others. We have to get the word out that God wants only good for us, if only we make our faith a “lived” reality for others to witness. Those in society need to know that the Church is a harbor of hope and fulfillment, and not a bastion of fear and anxiety, for each and every person — according to God’s wishes. Unlike in the Gospel, we are told to overcome our own fears and anxieties in order to make known God’s goodness — in all the ways it comes to us.
Love and prayers,
Fr. Tom Galvin
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — JUNE 20, 2021
Job 38:1, 8-11; 2Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41
Looking at today’s Gospel, we need to understand that the disciples (according to Mark’s Gospel) have witnessed the cure of a demoniac; the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law along with other healings in Capernaum; a cleansing of a leper; the healing of a paralytic; the exposure of the misinterpretation and understanding of the Pharisees; a cure of a withered hand; seen many more healed of all types of diseases; witness Jesus going toe-to-toe with Scribes; and heard many teachings. Jesus had done a lot in showing His divinity. No wonder He allowed the former fishermen to tend to the boat. His humanity was shown as He fell asleep in the back of the boat on a cushion. It’s surprising that the fishermen-turned-disciples hadn’t recognized the incoming storm. Maybe they were former meteorologists who failed the tests for local television prognosis.
Let’s cut to the chase. The storm — described as a violent squall, meaning high winds with rain, lightning and more — battered the boat with strong waves, high peaks capable of flooding the craft. And the disciples woke Jesus and said to Him (it should almost be read “cried out hysterically”) “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They are us when we are battered by life situations — personal and societal. That’s usually when we call out to the Lord. It’s most often in the worst storms of our lives — real storms — like the storm the disciples faced in the Gospel today — as well as the storms that may well disrupt the way we live, the way we expect things to be — concerning finances, health, family issues, the Church, etc.
The question confronting us is whether or not we choose to allow ourselves to hear God in the middle of the storm, or, are we so set on our own expectations of what God should be doing that we have shut down our hearts, thereby limiting our faith? Can we reflect on the many times Jesus has been present in our lives or are these times forgotten due to the immediate situation in which we may find ourselves? Have the turmoils of our personal lives caused us to wane in faith? Has what we perceived as the lack of immediate action from God caused us to question God, or even get mad at Him?
How many times have the struggles of life been like waves crashing against our boat and we didn’t call out in faith? The same is true concerning problems faced in society today.
When I think of 9/11, I remember the churches suddenly being filled, and almost as quickly finding them back to “normal” attendance. Reflecting on 15 months ago when all churches were suddenly shut down, was the Lord heard in the silence of hearts saying “I am here with you?” Many went running to “find Jesus” everywhere and anywhere, forgetting about the temple of their own person and the God who resides within. So in many lives the answer was a resounding “No.” The fullness of God’s presence was lost and faith resembled the faith of the disciples in the boat — fearful instead of secure. And many non-believers then asked “Where is your god?” as did the friends of Job.
Well my sisters and brothers, the Church has always been compared to a boat or ship. There’s no reason we shouldn’t see the boat as the Church in this story with the Church’s first-to-be-members having to weather the storm. Look at the Church today — a boat being tossed about by waves caused by a society growing further and further away from calling out to the Lord for help. We live in an ever-increasing, turbulent, anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, anti-God world. The waters are being stirred by more and more individuals or groups of individuals wanting to write their own rules of life — how they expect everyone to live and what to believe. Immoral choices concerning individual lifestyles that are completely contrary to the teaches and commandments of God; government breakdowns of religious freedom; and lack of protection of the constitution are daily challenges to life as it was created by God — and our living in the very life of God.
Society is quickly becoming a people that has no concept of sin, evidenced by its lack of belief or faith in God and/or of its modifying the proper understanding of God, describing Him as they wish to create Him, sometimes at best, to be a forgetful God or one who overlooks the evil man wishes to live in. There is no spiritual heart, mind or soul to be feared. Sodom and Gomorrah is today.
Brothers and sisters, faith moves us from fearing the world and all its ill-advised ways of living. Truth stops us from misinterpreting the value and purpose of life — seeing love spelled, as it were, with a capital ‘L’ rather than a lower case ‘l’. We remember that Love in its truest form comes from God who is Love. Faith helps us so that fear is found only in our being separated from God. At the same time faith lessens or removes our fear of man — our fear of being ignored, shunned, marginalized by others in society who demand their way above all else. It moves us to not hold to friends of the world, but to our truest friend, Jesus. And it moves us in proclamation of what we believe.
The Lord says to us, “I have conquered the one who causes the storms in life. Our Lord looks from His throne and invites those of us in the boat to have the conviction of faith that He will show His power, that He will share this power for us to speak, to proclaim, to live in truth. Think about it. Mary Magdalene was moved from being possessed to being the first disciple to announce the resurrection; within three days (in John’s Gospel) the disciples went from fear and doubt, being locked in a room, to unbridled proclamation; in a matter of minutes Thomas’ faith went from doubt to proclamation; in the moment of Pentecost Peter and the Apostles moved from lacking faith to proclamation.
These same disciples had cried out to Jesus out of fear. But there had to have been a hope also in their cries, having seen the power of Jesus prior to this event and the turbulent sea. And what is the goal of hope? It is already in the boat — the kingdom, the presence of God in Jesus Christ. In our own lives Jesus is in the boat as the waters pound against the Church. His kingdom continues today to stand against the sins of sexual abuse as well as sins against the dignity of the body. There are more than sufficient teachings found in Scripture concerning the immoral behavior of people. We have the truth! Yet in the Church, its members are part of the many who denounce Scripture as out of sync with the times. They want to devalue the message of hope and of life. His kingdom stands against the Pharisees and Scribes of today, as they did in the time of Christ, whose pietistic observances overshadowed the need to live in the Love that is God. His Kingdom stands against the very hypocrisy found in the Body — against fair weather believers when all is well.
Poor, faithful Job. Despite losing his family, home, livestock — everything, he remained faithful to God. But as he was badgered by three friends, Job did what a righteous Jewish person in a covenantal relationship with God would do since it was his right to do so. He defended his righteousness. Job does not accuse God of negligence, in a lack of ability, or of having a deaf ear. He asks for an understanding. Now notice the phrase from 38:1 — the first line — “out of the storm.” It shouldn’t surprise us that the Lord spoke to Job from out of a storm — a storm Job was experiencing at the time. God does this all the time to us, even though we are upset or even irate with God for acting on His timetable. Read the rest of the Book of Job. God quiets the heart of Job and rewards Him ten times over for his faithfulness.
Notice how the disciples in the boat became fearful when Jesus settled the storm. It is a reminder for us. Silence can bring fear of the unknown into our lives, hearts and minds — to the point that we may again desire the turmoil of the noisy storm. And faith can then be lost as we become comfortable where we are. Spiritual storms move us one way or another — to greater or lesser faith — to action or lethargic states — to hope or despair.
I was on the Priest, Deacon and Seminarian Retreat at Franciscan University (Steubenville) this past week. I knew the Lord wanted to talk to me there. He didn’t wait to smack me with His “Sacred Sledgehammer.” The Lord laid His plan out for me Monday night as the retreat began. “You must overcome some fear that you’re holding to. To give it over is essential for your participation in what happens this week — and beyond.” The gifts of prophecy and of knowing hearts is difficult to accept and live. My introvert side tends to limit what I say or should say to priests and laity alike, even when I know the Lord is hitting me upside the head. So, with the Holy Spirit directing everything, I allowed God to take me to whomever He wanted me to go and to say whatever His word was to one person after another. It happened all week. I’m not bragging. I was shocked as while praying over brother priests issues they were dealing with were addressed. God validated all of it. The storms were calmed.
God will validate our actions of moving hearts and minds to Jesus rather than our own expectations. He will bring comfort to us even as we face storms when our faith fully exposes us to His call to make known the kingdom of truth. Fear is not part of a Christian’s life.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — June 13, 2021
Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2Corinthians 5:6-10;
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God.”
Folks, it’s not about us but completely about God. So as that wise priest, who taught us about parables while in the seminary, said, “Always put yourself in the role of the lowest person.” Well, the lowest person in these parables is a simple, little seed. Of itself it can do absolutely nothing. Only when planted can something happen. Only when it accepts what is given it, can it become what it is meant to be. So immediately we need to remember that we cannot become something we are not meant to be and that we are completely reliant on God for our becoming who we were created to be.
That said, as shown in these parables, the seed is not about itself — ever. It doesn’t produce fruit for itself, the tree doesn’t grow to provide shade for itself. No, the fruit is meant for another of God’s creations as is the shade which the tree provides for other creations of God. It’s never about itself other than doing what it was created to do, which is how we will have to respond when we stand before the throne of Christ as St. Paul says. Ouch! That may well sting the ego.
Now, if you wish to see ourselves as the farmer, be prepared to work. The soil must be prepared in the fall and in the spring before planting ever takes place; weeds need kept down or eliminated as best as possible; water must get into the soil. And when all is said and done, it’s not the farmer who determines if a seed produces what is expected. I’ve learned this working with a family farmer for many years. There are points throughout this process when control must be totally given over to the seed accepting what is needed to produce the fruit or become the shade tree. The same can be said of people acting in the same way — accepting or rejecting grace needed for physical, social, emotional and spiritual growth.
Equating these parables to a spiritual understanding, the kingdom of God is based completely on the love of God. As individual units, we are planted in good soil, nurtured and feed, and allowed to grow in the love of God through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. It depends completely on what we come to take in or reject. Remaining in this love of God, we become like my farmer friend who must place his trust in the Lord. We know we are good seed since God makes nothing bad. So now we must choose — not just as to whether we will grow, but either to choose or not choose to bear the fruit we are to bring forth for the building of the kingdom of God — again, not for ourselves.
God planted the seed of His life in us through the gift of Baptism, reminding us of His giving of life through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. It is His life that feeds and nourishes. It is His life that strengthens through the grace sent through the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Why did we just celebrate Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ? These are meant to bring a greater awareness of our participation in the very life of God.
There were two readings from Mass this past week that everyone should read — and hear again and again. They come from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (3:4-11 and 3:15-4:1, 3-6). St. Paul, who studied the Torah and knew the Jewish laws well, is scrutinizing those who live by the law of Moses, thereby living in a veiled life that Satan would want them to do. Those who live in unveiled lives, says St. Paul, live in love and they come to see and share in the glory of God and in the fullness of His giving for others. Those with veiled faces do not see clearly the God of love and therefore act as Satan, their god, in a ministry of death, a veiled existence created by doubt, confusion and self — as Satan would want. St. Paul says that by living in and being guided by the Spirit, believers come to know the freedom of God, a freedom that only knows love and acts accordingly since ”God is love.” Please read them. They speak of the difference between the true believer and the Pharisee.
Now that farmer friend of mine produces enough to sustain his family, continue the business next year, and provide a large portion to the needy, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and many other non-profits. An abundance of profit this year is not going to change how he must repeat the same process next year and the year after. We are reminded that God’s love is constantly creating anew. The action of Him giving of Himself and His love never ends. Therefore, we can forget about changing God to who we want Him to be. So if we see ourselves as the farmer, be prepared to share love and an invitation to love again and again and again. The work of evangelization never ends. If your love is not God’s love, it will be rejected, and your feeding others through true evangelization will also be nullified. So don’t try creating something that is not of God — just share it.
In the same way, if you see yourself planted in the faith God has for you, don’t try changing God’s plan for you. Rejecting the grace to grow as He deigns doesn’t produce fruit. Fashioning your faith on a one-on-one relationship with God is critical. It should lead you to the full person God created. If it is for you alone, however, it may produce a plant without a purpose. As St. Paul says today, “We aspire to please him whether we are at home or away…” To please God is to become and do what we were created to do. Our worship of God must produce fruit so all people feed off of it. It cannot be selective nor attempt to direct the faith of others in one way or another. You may be stopping the revelation of the Holy Spirit and His fruits in the lives of others.. And there is no discrimination in the love of God. As we’re told by the Prophet Ezekiel, the majestic cedar, Jesus, was planted for all.
The ultimate fruits of the Holy Spirit will come alive in and through us as we allow no personal ambition to interfere, just a unity with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our sharing in the Body of Christ will enable us to recognize the needs of others. Love, peace, joy, hope, and faithfulness will be rooted in God and not of the world.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
SOLEMNTIY OF PENTECOST — MAY 23, 2021
Well, we know what happened at Pentecost. And we know what happened after that moment on the day of Pentecost. All we have to do is read the first few chapters of the Acts of the Apostles to know those who had received this powerful gift of a share in divine life immediately acted upon it; and then how the Early Church came to function and share this powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. So we’re not going to have a history lesson concerning the reception of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised.
We also know that the Holy Spirit was given to the Church for all believers, and that it came to them through the gift of the Sacrament of Baptism — you know — when the life of Christ lifted them up to possess His divine sharing as intended by the Father. And we’re all aware that the Spirit of God acted in all believers through the various gifts of the Holy Spirit for the building up of the Church. We know this from the Letters of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. James, and the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews. We don’t need a history lesson. We simply need to again read the Acts of the Apostles, particularly the first four or five chapters, as well as the New Testament Letters.
Now we need to stop and seriously reflect on the Church then and the Church now. There is a major difference. As I’ve said for a long time, I consider the Holy Spirit, which animated the Church in its early years, as the Missing Person of the Trinity in our time. He is treated as “something” which happened in history. I’m afraid this has come about for a number of reasons, the biggest reason being that we have ritualized the Holy Spirit and left it in the ritual of the Church. In the Early Church the action of the Holy Spirit was directly connected to the Baptism received. This is not done today as the new life we receive at Baptism has more of a focus on the removal of original sin. “Okay, the baby’s safe if something should happen to him or her.” The life given, of the fullness of God, is not given much thought — if any. So why should the Spirit be sought, despite the fact that He is the one who will animate the believer in the future?
We view the Sacrament of Confirmation as erroneously as Baptism — a ritual of a happening and not the empowering by the gifts that see me growing in my wisdom of God as He is; my knowledge of the person God made and calls into fullness with Himself; and the understanding of how I am now empowered to act in the fullness of the Father’s will as was Jesus. No. It’s an event not a revelation. It is a moment of taking control instead of giving the Spirit more control in a person’s life.
The Holy Spirit is MIA — missing in action in the Church, among the vast majority if not all of it’s members, and therefore in its ministry to make known the love and life of our God through Jesus Christ, who took us with Him to the Father at the Ascension. The Spirit’s absence is perpetuated from generation to generation as the Church has failed to go into the world as did those in the Upper Room following the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. Remember, we’re told that there were devote Jews outside who heard the noise of the Spirit’s arrival and then heard the disciples speaking — as if the Spirit thrust them from the self-imposed enclosure into the world. About 3,000 people were baptized in water and the Holy Spirit that day.
In contrast, admittedly, the Church today has been found leaving the Spirit in the enclosure, in the ritual. Seen readily is the lack of believers becoming Eucharist in the world in every aspect of life. The Spirit, who brings Christ’s life to the elements of bread and wine, is the same Spirit who brings life to us at Baptism and who strengthens it in our reception of the Body and Blood of Christ who said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you do not have life within you…Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood remain in me and I in him…”(Jn 6:53ff) The result of entering into a ritual is to be our taking on of the action of the One whose life becomes alive and present through the ritual — an inner action seen in an outward sign.
When we consider how the lives of the Apostles, disciples and early believers of the Church changed through the power and gifts given by the Spirit, we can see that fear was not a factor any longer. Yet so often we live in fear of rejection and in fear of how we may be changed when accepting the action of the Holy Spirit, the will of the Father, in our lives. It’s as if we lock ourselves in the Upper Room once again. Read the instructions given by a bishop, or in our current situation by the pastor, during the Rite of Confirmation.
In our day the coming of the Holy Spirit in confirmation is no longer marked by the gift of tongues, but we know his coming by faith. He fills our hearts with the love of God, brings us together in one faith but in different vocations, and works within us to make the Church one and holy.
The gift of the Holy Spirit which you are to receive will be a spiritual sign and seal to make you more like Christ and more perfect members of his Church. At his baptism by John, Christ himself was anointed by the Spirit and sent out on his public ministry to set the world on fire.
You have already been baptized into Christ and now you will receive the power of his Spirit and the sign of the cross on your forehead. You must be witnesses before all the world to his suffering, death, and resurrection; your way of life should at all times reflect the goodness of Christ. Christ gives varied gifts to his Church, and the Spirit distributes them among the members of Christ’s body to build up the holy people of God in unity and love. Be active members of the Church, alive in Jesus Christ. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit give your lives completely in the service of all, as did Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.
We know that the Early Church had but one sacrament (not called that at the time) — Baptism, with one ritual — the laying on of hands while calling down the Holy Spirit. They were one action. In our time, with infant baptism, we realize that as we mature we grow into the activity of the Spirit in our lives. The Church’s responsibility is to continue to make those to be confirmed aware of the activity, gifts and power of the Holy Spirit in their own lives; to encourage participation; to demonstrate our own courage in living in the Spirit rather than fearing the world or leaving faith in a ritual. It is also our responsibility to make known the very reality that it is God’s will that we enter into — His sharing, despite our weaknesses and failures. He makes us worthy by lifting us from our humanness to a share in divinity. This is affirmed when we consider the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) when human emotions and living are seen from a divine perspective and sought with a divine initiative.
Pentecost needs to be realized every day! It is, as it became for the Apostles and Early Church, a way of life. This is not in some abstract understanding but a realization of the Spirit of God breathing divine life within us at all times; of Baptismal waters washing over us, giving us newness of life in Christ again and again; of fire burning within that we need to joyfully make known and share so we are no longer smoldering logs on a fire but flames that give life and light to the world.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Acts 1:15-17,20a, 20c-26; 1John 4:11-16; John 17:11b-19
Did you give a friendly wave to the police officer or paramedic who drove by where you were standing? Or did you thank Father for just being present at Mass? Or, more difficult, did you give a friendly gesture to that person who held the stop sign in the road construction zone and held up your progress? Did you say a prayer for them? They need loved too. And these situations help us realize that we may be far from perfected love if we didn’t go out of our way in our expressions of loving one another as told in St. John’s letter, of honoring the whole person who comes in and out of our lives. So, these questions beg truthful answers: “Am I a loving person?,” and “Am I assuming God remains in me when love is not shown?”
In His final discourse (John’s Gospel) Jesus is praying for His disciples so they may go beyond worldly expectations and live in love — in all circumstances. He prayed in the same for us immediately afterwards. To share in the joy of Jesus is to share in His fulfillment of the Father’s will, which brings complete oneness with the Father who is totally “other.” It is not superficial. It is not a temporary feeling of euphoria. It is not warm fuzzies! It is rooted in the great awareness of acting in God — who is love — and loving with no inhibitions or restraints. It’s tough until it becomes our way of life second by second. You see, truly loving as we are loved requires an emptiness of self as God does for us, and has done in and through Jesus Christ. It means living in His Spirit today. It is cause for celebration and rejoicing — not in what we may accomplish, but in what God is giving us and enabling us to do — now!
As Jesus consecrated Himself in the truth — God is all truth, so too did He ask that we be consecrated — have our lives dedicated to living the truth. And the truth is the basic message of our faith — God is love. Those with lives dedicated to the truth in all aspects of our humanity are taken by Jesus to the Father and provided a Spirit of Divine sharing which remains with us even when we choose to not live in that Spirit, that action, that life, that loving of God.
In their choosing Matthias to replace Judas as one of the twelve, the Apostles prayed to be led by the Holy Spirit, abandoning their own preferences to the will of the Father. In baptism you and I were chosen (and consecrated) by God to be His children, to fulfill specific roles in the building up of the Kingdom, strengthening the Body of Christ and seeking unity with the fullness of God. This has always been our vocation, no matter what our avocation may be — priest, religious, married or single. Grace has flowed from the Spirit to enliven within us this role in this life. All with meaning, all with a purpose.
So why should we not seek absolute joy which comes from our heavenly Father as we live the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and then encounter the fruits produced? We have been chosen, called by name as it were, to bring life to a world longing for something greater than itself. It can only be found in those truly joyfully living in God.
This past week we received the joyful news that more Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted, meaning that we now have a greater chance to celebrate our faith as a community. Who will you speak with following Mass? Who will you greet? Who will you help feel at home again? Will it be friends and family? Will it be those parishioners we’ve spoken to in the past? Or, will it be the stranger, the one looking for another chance to find a community that shares the life of God? For many of us this will be a new experience as parishes have been dissolved and new parishes formed during the shutdowns, limited-access, and freedom of not being “required” to attend Mass. We need to treat all people we meet, and really all people, better than we do the guy with a little stop sign impeding the flow of traffic and the busyness of our schedules. That poor sign person gets no love.
This intimacy that we’re reminded of in John’s First Letter is freeing for us and others. There are no stipulations to be added. The freedom that God provides us has no restrictions. There are no man-made rules to follow. Love will show us what to offer and how to respond to others. It is simply that we remain in God, who directs the show, so that we and others find Him alive within us and themselves. This was the underlying truth as expressed in Vatican Council II. The Church had forgotten its role in taking the love of God into the world — to all people. The Council was led by the Spirit to bring the love of God back to the world, to open doors to the sharing of faith and spiritual growth in the many who knew that intimacy with God was needed. We continue to struggle with this today as so many remain locked in pre-Vatican mentality of “limited access” to the love of God. This has to change if all the members of the Church are to live in the Spirit, be guided by the Spirit, find freedom to love unconditionally through the Spirit, and be ready to consecrate themselves to the truth, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I presided at a wedding of a sweet, young couple Saturday. Usually I don’t do weddings, but they requested me because “we wanted a priest that lives in the Spirit.” I’m humbled but impressed with their faith — their first date was to a bible study for young adults when she was not Catholic. She grew up in an atheist family. Tell me the Spirit was not working! The Spirit moves us into joyfully living the love of God, God’s life. Yes, we should be humbled by this, but not to the extent that it inhibits the Divine life Jesus Christ has taken us to joyfully share. We’re not worthy when we do not love. That’s a given and forgiveness for these times is always needed. But Jesus has taken us to the Father with Himself for the sake of a Spirit of redemption and renewal; of joy and hope being fulfilled in us and through the changes of our own mentalities and behaviors. When we allow His Spirit to move in us we become like the newly weds, acting on God’s promptings to love as we are called to do so.
In our world today there is enormous upheaval simply because prejudices and bigotries abound in hearts and minds. There is hate and personal agendas. For many of us, we grew up having these as influences in life. They were, and are generational. The Spirit says stop! Love conquers these mindless attitudes and sees the value of every person as God does.
One week remains until we celebrate Pentecost, the great feast of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Church. It is ours to remember that Pentecost happens every day when our minds and hearts are open and receptive to the Holy Spirit moving us — so that we may never be restrictive in our living of love, or, restrict ourselves from knowing the perfect love of God that is offered them through Jesus Christ and an awakening to the Spirit of truth.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER — MAY 16, 2021
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17
In seminary I was assigned to a state hospital. Most residents were nor fully cognizant of what was going on around them. This varied according to time of day, medications, and their health issues. It was not out of the ordinary for one or another to blurt out whatever was on their mind at a any given time. It was good training for my role as a chaplain for skilled care nursing facilities now. Pre-pandemic I would take seminarians with me for Mass at these facilities. They experienced people speaking out whenever, and people falling asleep during Mass, which they’re allowed to do since they’re 90 and just finished lunch. And the seminarians would wonder if the people were aware that Mass was going on at that time. Well, they learned quickly. When it came time for communion they were all wide awake and focused — and the seminarians stood in disbelief.
These young men forgot about the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of God, which brought these people to Mass. They forgot about God’s wanting all people to know His love and presence. They learned that the Holy Spirit is far greater than what we can ever imagine.
As we hear in the Acts of the Apostles today the Holy Spirit acted even as Peter spoke, not afterwards and not once the people were baptized. The Spirit was leading them to baptism, to the love of God, to an awakening of His life within them, God’s desire. He moved through them as revealed through their “speaking in tongues and glorifying God.” Only afterwards were they baptized. That’s really what we experience as we watch adults come to faith when baptism had not previously been received. The Spirit fills the heart and mind with a desire that words cannot express, so the Spirit speaks on our behalf. Peter’s words inflamed the love of God in the people he spoke to in that instance.
Brothers and sisters, when we live in the Spirit and allow the Spirit of God to be made known through the words we speak and the love we show, the same results can happen. We become like Peter, a mouthpiece offering love that is not of our making but rooted in the source of all love. Those “far-away” persons that we hear spoken of in Cursillo — whether baptized or not who have left God out to dry — respond in a new way. The words of St. John’s First Letter come alive for us and through us as what we say and do happens through a simple love of another — with no stipulations and no expectations. Ours is to make known the love of God, plain and simple. Period! Done! If I ever judged the people attending Mass in those nursing homes by standards often imposed on people in church, by people who think they are the Church, they’d never receive the love of God.
Jesus’ words call us to examine our words, actions and expectations concerning our role in the movement and activity of the Spirit as it is to be found and awakened in the lives of others. We must remain in His love — and there are no qualifications, only our complete giving over for the sake of the persons God has placed in our lives. That “far-away” person may not be that far removed from knowing God and may have a desire to return to the Lord, feeling the Spirit’s stirrings coming from within the heart. If we place any qualifications or our own expectations on the love God wishes for us to reveal, we may create a barricade. So we must measure our words. We must let God control our actions. We’re not called to give someone something that God has not already given them. We’re called to awaken anew that which has been received through the life of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
It sounds simple, but it’s not. Our humanness creates a picture for ourselves and each person of how they should respond in contrast to how they are called to respond by the life of the Spirit. If Peter had denied the presence of the Holy Spirit coming upon the people who were listening to him, he would have become a stumbling block to them and the faith they were being called to live. If he had said that baptism was required before they could awaken to the Holy Spirit within, his efforts would have produced nothing. The Spirit is the manifestation in the world today of God’s love. It moves us in faith to change hearts and minds. It is freeing rather than restrictive. It is giving-over on our part for the sake of others, emulating the very giving of God the Father who gave over His Son, and who in turn has given us His love and life shared with the Father. It is the Person we call the Holy Spirit.
None of this makes any sense if we do not first accept the reality that God loves us. Any qualifier placed on this is a hindrance to love and our words will not produce the Holy Spirit for others to see. This past Friday we heard this as the Early Church struggled with ancient Jewish traditions and the opening of the Gospel to the Gentile communities. Was the act of circumcision necessary or not? Earlier in the week we heard how they had to question whether their dietary habits were valid in light of the Gospel or not. They realized that they had nothing to do whatsoever with the love of God and the Spirit happening within them. Their former actions were obstacles to grace being manifested.
Now, what of our own acceptance and openness to the Holy Spirit? How about the many gifts given by the Holy Spirit we have heard of — as examples, in St. Paul’s Letters (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesians 4)? Has proper discernment of the gifts of the Spirit been given so that they are properly lived? Or are they thought an impossibility and therefore ignored? They may cut against the grain of what a person believes he or she is capable of. But again, we are talking about what the love of God can do. If these are not recognized as given at particular times of our lives, we may miss bringing others to the true understanding and depth of the Fruits of the Spirit, as heard in Galatians 5.
So who did God put in your life yesterday that you did not love? I’m not talking about saying anything. Did you pray for them? Did you honor them as God does? Did you even silently ask for an awakening of the Holy Spirit in your life or that of the person standing in the checkout line or at the gas pump, or in the car next to you at the red light? Did you allow the Holy Spirit to open you to glorifying God at any of these moments? We need to see things differently if we are to change our mentality concerning oneness with Jesus Christ, and ultimately our heavenly Father.
And when was the last time you remembered that it was the Holy Spirit who moved you to God — and not your own efforts — always remembering that God loved us first, and then calls us to do the same for others.
Love and prayers,
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER REFLECTION
Acts 9:26-31; 1John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of your love.”
Why do we pray like this? Searching the Acts of the Apostles or any of the New Testament Letters, you will be hard pressed to find “believers” praying for the gift of the Holy Spirit to come upon them. A serious look will reveal that prayers for the coming of the Holy Spirit were directly connected to conversion and baptism of others. In light of this, we better stop now and spend some time examining our prayer. Are we praying for something we already possess?
The early believers didn’t ask for the Holy Spirit to come upon them as they believed they were living in and with the Holy Spirit. Look at the Scriptures. You will find that “believers” were acting in union with the Holy Spirit. They believed that the Spirit of God was already present with and in them, moving them in faith, enabling them to make active the ministry of Jesus Christ, putting on display perfect love. Yes, the Apostles and believers prayed for guidance from the Holy Spirit, but always with a belief that the Spirit was present to them. They prayed to be aware of the Spirit — God’s action and life — already in them so as to avoid the trap of seeking fulfillment of their personal wishes.
So as we hear in the Acts of the Apostles today, their consolation was in knowing that the Holy Spirit was with them, building the Church in peace with Jews and Gentiles alike. And when we hear in St. John’s First Letter, …and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us,” it is a proclamation of what they believed and lived — a oneness with the Lord, and therefore, a unity with the Father. How can we say this? Well, now we need to read today’s Gospel again. Stop and reflect. Read again. Stop and reflect.
The unity Jesus taught comes alive in faith and action of believers as it comes alive through Jesus in oneness with the Father. “Whoever remains in me and I in him…” Stop! Read it again. If we are not acting in and with Jesus Christ, we will do nothing that is holy and righteous. We will only reveal our irreverence to the life of God within. If we are acting without Christ in us, we are living our own spirit as were the Jewish leaders who opposed Christ and the Early Church, as did Satan. Brothers and sisters, we must remain in Christ to live in the Spirit and we must believe that the promise of Jesus — the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:13), the Advocate (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) — is present to us and wanting to act in us at all times.
So we need to take an honest evaluation of how our lives are rooted in faith in Jesus Christ, in the will of the Father. And we must ask ourselves, “Is there anything in my living the faith (I may believe I have), that is really a detriment to others?” “Am I promulgating anything that has absolutely nothing to do with living faith and fulfilling the commandments of love?”“Are my personal preferences and agendas stopping others from seeing the Holy Spirit acting in and through the Church?” “Are my words causing blood clots in the faith lives of others?” Each member of the Church must always examine self in light of these questions. Each must also lovingly challenge others, set in their ways, with these same questions as many cause a divide in the Body of Christ. We may find that the Spirit of truth and freedom, given us at baptism, by our own choosing, may not be free to move us, act in us, speak through us.
“Children, let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth,” says St. John. Deed and truth come only from the Holy Spirit, not from our wants and desires, as our deeds may well not display Jesus Christ’s life, words and giving. I am encountering so many people today with anger in their hearts because of things that are happening in the world and in the Church. There is no love being displayed! There is only personal want that gives no reverence to the Holy Spirit within. I can say this as I see hearts change when encouraging people to love, to open to the Holy Spirit’s movements — as seen from the Early Church to the present day. If there is no transformation of the heart there can be no reverence to the One God, Father, Son and Spirit no matter how we pray or how we live. Our sense of unity with God is distorted. It must come from the heart. If we look for reverence in anything other than our loving is it not really our wanting to be selective in what we take from God’s offerings? Reverence of God is displayed when we see Him in every person, love every person as God loves him or her.
In Mark’s Gospel, chapter 7, Jesus quotes Isaiah (29:13) for the leaders’ persistence in their false holiness while suppressing the peoples’ sharing in life, that is, living the Spirit they have received in word and deed. The leaders’ teaching of “performance according to the law,” which Jesus abhorred, became the replacement for love and the fulfillment of the commandments. I see this surfacing again in the Church — and not necessarily coming from the clergy. When the community gathers in worship, there are those who desire to impose their “holy” actions in the name of reverence on the Body of Christ. The lack of concern for each member of the Church in that worshipping community falters in these situations and becomes a wedge separating the members of the Church.
The prayer of the Church perhaps needs to become the last part of that prayer we learned to the Holy Spirit: “and you shall renew the face of the earth.” God is wanting to renew the Church in its ability to love as directed by the Holy Spirit, the full revelation of God being shown through the faith and lives of believers. The Early Church grew because its deeds reflected truth — the love of God. It didn’t have “imposed standards” to be met. It had love that was meant to be shared. It was afire through the Holy Spirit acting in and through each member. We cannot replace this with behaviors and attitudes that do nothing to build up the community or enliven the Church.
I am convinced that it is time that we pray for the sacred sledgehammer to smack us on the head so we will simply take the time to be present to the God — the God who calls us to self-abandonment for the sake of love. The Holy Spirit within each of the baptized is wanting out of a quarantine Church members may have imposed on Him. Today’s Gospel reminds us that we can do nothing without God in us. It’s easy to say we are connected to the Lord. But remember, dead branches can remain connected to a tree for a long time even as it is evident that there is no life in them.
Let us become aware that we live in the Holy Spirit and begin to act in His love, in word and deed.
Fr. Tom Galvin
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER — April 18, 2021
Acts 3:13-17, 17-19; 1John 2:1-51; Luke 24:35-48
Throughout the Gospel of John Jesus is countering the Jewish authorities who think they “know” God while Jesus is assuring them that they have no clue! This is reaffirmed in his first letter which we hear today. Simply put in this Reader’s Digest edition of the Gospel, Jesus is calling them out. The authorities, leaders, were not living the commandments, had twisted the purpose of these commandments from loving to law, and had led the people astray from God’s intent for them. So this letter was directed to the people — the early Christian community — not the leaders.
To “know” Jesus is to live in Him. To live in Him, love must be pure, lives must be changed, and desires of the heart need to be given over in favor of the Father’s perfect will — love at all cost. The Advocate is Jesus Christ who has and always will bring us freedom from our sins, our self gratifications, our ambitions. These were what the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time could not free themselves of. These leaders give us an understanding of how things should not be in our lives.
I say it often, and we hear it on Cursillo Weekends, that we are in constant need to move our understanding of God from the head to the heart. The heart must come to desire God above all else. The only way we come to “know” God is through the heart. We know about God through the head. The truth spoken about in St. John’s first letter, and taught by Jesus throughout the Gospels comes from the heart, not factual understanding. It can’t be proven except through love, the foundation of the two great commandments. This is where “the love of God is perfected in us.”
Today’s Gospel is St. Luke’s version of what we heard last Sunday as Jesus appears to those locked in the Upper Room, fearful of what might happen to them. This fear is projected onto Jesus when he appears to them. It’s a human response as is the need of proof that a physical reality is present to them. The spiritual awakening of Jesus’ resurrection is brought about as He shares a meal with them again and then opens the Scriptures to them. “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” This is what Peter is doing in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles. He is opening the Scriptures to them while saying, “Get out of your preconceived expectations and let your heart be transformed. That’s what God wants!”
“You are witnesses of these things.” What is said is that those in the Upper Room have been brought, drawn into the mystery of Jesus Christ. Their preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins was to continue in oneness with what Jesus the Messiah did. The mantle has been passed on to His disciples. You have seen in the heart and in the mind. The love of God is present. Now move without fear in the Gospel proclamation.
For us, it is no different. The mantle of truth has been passed on to us. So often we lock ourselves away with visions of how we are to pray, what words we are to say, how we are to appear. These are externals. Jesus wants the heart. In the silence of the heart is where peace is found, learned, and comes to be shared. Jesus came as one like ourselves, in all things save sin. He took on our humanness. He constantly went to the Father with a blank canvas so the peace of the Father could remain above the worldly entrapments He encountered, the personal wants and the misconceptions that we so often develop and foster in the name of “faith.”
The Holy Spirit is the key element of faith we often forget about. We must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit who works from within the heart to know God. He, the Holy Spirit, through whom all creation came into being, is more than capable of creating anew hearts and minds of individuals if they so choose to allow it to happen. The Holy Spirit even gives us the grace necessary for this allowance. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can even consider following Jesus with abandoning love, and then to seek the truth which flows from the heart fashioned on God’s love.
Only the Holy Spirit can remove fear from our living and sharing of the truth of our faith — the proclamation of the love of God. This is going to be done as a mystery for the hearer, spoken as a known truth by the person of faith. This person “knows” from the heart, has experienced the power of the Risen Lord and the gift of the Holy Spirit now flowing as grace through him or her. So we don’t get hung up on ritual and outward signs (which is what the Jewish authorities were all about). No, we fearlessly speak of the truth of God’s love moving us to the reality, deeper than of any ritual can express or be experienced with the senses, but known in the presence of God with us. “We will come and make our dwelling within you,” said Jesus in John’s Gospel. This is done where we are at 24/7. This needs to be done where we are at 24/7.
As we move closer to our celebration of Pentecost, we must realize that it is a remembrance that is to be made known every minute of the day. This happens when we willfully turn to the Holy Spirit, already present to us, and allow Him to direct all that we do in love and in truth.
Fr. Tom Galvin
View more reflections at PghCursillo.org/reflections
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
Second Sunday of Easter — April 11, 2021
Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31
The First Letter of St. John is a Reader’s Digest version of the Fourth Gospel attributed to St. John. And what he does in this part of his letter is create a puzzle for the believer to finish. You have five pieces to fix in place to see the whole picture. —The first is belief in Jesus Christ — “The Begotten”;
— the second is love;
— the third is keeping the commandments which are not burdensome;
— the fourth is seeing ourselves also a “begotten”;
— and the final piece is in the Holy Spirit.
All of these are themes running through John’s Gospel.
Now this may seem strange, but some people try to believe in God and yet question the authenticity of Jesus Christ. There are some who quantify love according to worldly understanding. There are those who find commandments as “suggestions” rather than what is needed to enter absolute love. Failing to accept that we are called “begotten” simply means many have limited God’s love to affect them as it is meant to do, seeing the “self” as “unworthy.” And the final pitfall for many is not seeking an understanding of the Holy Spirit—God’s presence — active in their lives.
I run into all of these people when I make my rounds at the hospital . It’s a sad situation as some have given up on God, some feel unworthy, some limit the grace and life of God being extended to them. For some a conversion of heart and mind can take place in a few minutes. For others, such a change will never take place. I have my best chance with those who are in rehabilitation and will be stuck seeing me for a few weeks until insurance runs out.
Now, we’re given a glimpse of what happens when these “pieces” are fit into the lives of true believers. We’re told that the Early Church “Was of one heart and mind…and great favor was accorded them all.” These were believers in Jesus Christ, believers in a victory over the world — something quite different than what they found in their day-to-day lives. They are believers in the Holy Spirit received when baptized and when they heard the words Jesus’ followers heard in that Upper Room — “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
So when we look at that Gospel account we hear Jesus repeat words that He had spoken in that Upper Room — in what we call The Last Supper Discourse beginning in Chapter 14 when Jesus prays for peace in their hearts and minds. But now these words — Peace be with you — are filled with a commission, a new way of life. Peace be with you is meant for the gifts of courage and fortitude to be in them, knowing peace of heart and mind was necessary to fulfill the commandments and live in His love as begotten sons and daughters. They allowed the fullness of Jesus’ teachings to move them with confidence, needed to preach what others had not experienced. This confidence is found in removing their own thoughts from consideration and their allowing of the Holy Spirit to direct all that is said and done. What a gift they find as the commandments to love become joy and not a burden, a source of hope and fulfillment rather than emptiness.
As our world opens up more and more and people begin to get back to normal, if we think they will refocus on the God who is loving them, we better think again. These folks are the ones we need to confront in the love of God, in oneness with our Lord and Savior. We will need to carry with us the truth from the Holy Spirit — received at baptism, strengthened in our confirmation of faith — that we, and all the baptized are “begotten” sons and daughters in and through Jesus Christ, given the gifts to use in ministry which Jesus used in His own. Only when we do this will they will recognize Christ in us as they see His marks as our own as we take on the misdirection they may be living in the world.
As we pray for a greater awareness of the Holy Spirit within us, let us do so with the openness of the early community heard of in the Acts of the Apostles — being ready to share our lives in Jesus Christ as sons and daughters of the Father — begotten in His faithful love. All of this — the truth of Jesus’ presence alive — love — commandments that are not burdensome — our being begotten — and the Holy Spirit — come to us in our sharing of life in the Eucharist. Eucharist happens when we allow for a transformation in ourselves, and live its commissioning in proclaiming endlessly the victory of Jesus Christ as “begotten.”
Fr. Tom Galvin
View more reflections at PghCursillo.org/reflections
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
Reflection from Fr. Tom Galvin
April 4, 2021
A year ago minus one week — 51 weeks ago — we were all in lockdown. We were bemoaning not being able to celebrate Easter Mass and receive the Eucharist. We lived with this for a long period of time. We continue to live with certain restrictions. That’s okay as some more vulnerable individuals remain concerned and fearful in a society that sees infections numbers swing back and forth and pray for that very society for which they have no control over.
Here we are 359 days from an “Isolated Easter.” Some people have yet to celebrate Mass in church; some are coming for the first time on Easter; some will not come as churches have opened to 75% capacity. And some have become comfortable “watching Mass” on television when indeed they could share at church.
What the Church will look like in the future is questionable. The fear of the older population — our most faithful demographic — will lessen in time as the infection rate continues to drop. But what about the many who have come to feel comfortable in the “upper room” they have created — willfully choosing to believe faith and its many expressions are dead, or can remain shelved as they currently are? These people need a resurrection experience. But who will provide it? Who will tell the story of new life?
As I reflected on the readings on Good Friday, I was shown that our relationship with and in Jesus Christ allows us to bear the infirmities of others so that we are moved to the perfection in Christ and glorified by the Father — called to become, through Christ, the source of eternal salvation for all who will listen. In our lives as resurrected believers we are going to find people who act like the Jewish guards, who feared and hid their faces when Jesus said “I AM.” We are going to confront the Peters who stay in comfortable situations even in their denials. We are going to face Pilate, who recognized divine life in Jesus, in those who are silenced by the truth.
You realize that it is not so important that we have people return to “church”, but that they return to a Church that has changed, grown in a new way — to an Easter people celebrating resurrected life. But this can only happen if we have allowed ourselves a greater understanding of our Lord giving on the cross — each of us moving to be washed anew in water and blood — the giving of human and divine life. We must be new, seek newness in and through Christ, and proclaim this to others. If we haven’t been doing this during the past year, we likely will not do it now unless we have a drastic change of heart as did Peter. If we’re going to cower in a room and think we’re safe, Christ is going to appear when we are least expecting.
The past year has been a full year of Lent for many people. I wish I could show you the faces of the many in care facilities who have had lived a much greater Lent than we. But I also wish I could show you the faces of the many when I was able to be with them to provide ashes they sought on Ash Wednesday and was able to celebrate Mass with them a few weeks later. I celebrated Easter early with them. There was great joy. They shared with me and I with them. It didn’t matter when Mass began or when it ended (except perhaps to a few Activities Directors looking at the time). The sharing was so important to them. It stopped only so they could celebrate the Anointing of the Sick. And then their sharing resumed. The only sadness in their voices came as they expressed concerned for a society that hadn’t changed.
This sharing needs to be our Easter for every brother and sister who hasn’t been around; who wonders if he/she will return; or who may have given up on such thoughts, relying on their own sense of relationship with God and not concerned with a sacramental sharing of the Eucharist in the church and as the Church. And it needs to be every day. Imagine the result if everyone who read these words brought one person into a deeper relationship with the Lord and His Church.
What the Lord said most clearly while alone in our Adoration Chapel while reflecting on those readings is that our stories have to tell of where we were as well as where we are. Anything less is bragging about our success when the success is the Lord’s. Jesus’ death on the cross is the ushering in of the Kingdom of God “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of Heaven.” At his death, victory happens. Heaven is opened. The Father and Son are one. Now through His resurrection, we too are taken to the Father. Our story is how these wonders have made us new (through Baptism), enabled us to sing a new song, to proclaim love happening, and to speak of acceptance and joy in Jesus’ giving. Our stories will speak of Jesus’ giving in and through us, motivating us to herald a joyful proclamation.
We are called to be the Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus of today. Both gave over prestige, power and position at the cross. They gave over themselves completely. We too must do the same if we are going to invite people to the Church — not a Church that was, but a Church that is alive, vibrant and ready to share resurrected life in a joyful celebration of faith — experienced in the “Church”, the people of God, in joyful liturgy and active participation of building a people of God anew. It is taking Jesus into the streets without fear or trepidation; to lovingly offer another avenue for the restoration of God’s Kingdom in their own hearts.
All of this is because we share the very Eucharist that is Jesus, become that Eucharist, and offer that Eucharist to others. So we cannot remain bystanders to the Kingdom. We are participants. We must realize that, of ourselves we possess no power to do so. But through His victory we are made new and can sing an “Alleluia!” in and through our lives. We can speak of God’s faithfulness and love no matter where we are across this country.
No, we are not in an “Isolated Easter” as we were 359 days ago. We are not tombed up or locked away in an upper room. Really, we never have been through the past 51 weeks. We just often acted as if we were. No more!
Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!!
A Blessed Easter and Easter Season, and a year filled with joyful proclamation of God’s love for every person we meet.
Fr. Tom Galvin
View more reflections at PghCursillo.org/reflections
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement, All rights reserved.
Reflection from Fr. Tom Galvin
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
March 28, 2021
Daily Readings: Mark 11:1-10; Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47
Now you are going to start (or have started) the Palm Sunday liturgy singing “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” It’s the same as what we sing during every Mass. We’re not going to do anything with this at this moment. But keep it in the back of your head.
The prophecy from Isaiah is the third of four such “Servant Prophecies” found in this book. The true servant recognizes that God has acted on behalf of the servant, and provides strength for what lies ahead. Confidence in this is a necessity if a servant is to fulfill the will of God. The servant has faith that God will be faithful in providing something greater. Now in Isaiah, Jesus is at the center of this prophecy as He is of all Old Testament prophecies.
St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians reminds Jews and Greeks alike of the humanness of Jesus. It was Jesus who “emptied himself” as would be expected of any servant. It wasn’t enough that He took on human form and weakness, but He did so to the point of death. [Reminder: It was not for himself.] He did this to serve the Father, and us. Humility is shown as an essential element of servitude.
The account of the Passion and death of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark is concise and to the point. The servant has come to the final act of life. Yes, it is giving over a desire for this life for the fulfillment of all that has been promised by our faithful God. Does it bring support from others? Well, when we look at Mark’s Gospel the only ones who remained faithful servants were a handful of women. Betrayal is found in Judas, Peter, the crowds and all the apostles. They were there when all sang “Hosanna,” and then they acted in their humanness.
Brothers and sisters, the “Hosanna” has to be sung in our lives — in what we say, and in what we do day-in and day-out. As we enter into Holy Week, we must examine our faith as it is placed on the line. We’ve all sung “Hosanna to the king!” Now we must choose to either follow and act as a faithful servant, or side-step our call to be servant in announcing the goodness of God’s gifts and His presence. Does the fulfillment of the prophet come alive in our lives or does it reveal the human frailty in which we exist? Far too often we are among the “betrayers” of Jesus, as we have the ability to act in the gifts from the Holy Spirit, but opt to do otherwise. Even our silence, when we are presented opportunities to speak of God’s life being shared with us, is a betrayal of the promise “not to be put to shame.” Joseph of Arimethea is an example of this silence in his life as was Nicodemus who we hear of in the Good Friday Gospel from St. John.
So, when we sing “Hosanna” will we be grouped among those who find human frailty a reason to back away when confronted by others? Are we ready to take any charges made against us from others for anything we say or do to fulfill God’s plans as a faithful servant and come to all that is promised?
Through baptism into Christ Jesus — His life, His passion and death, and His resurrection — the servant of today is called to become humble, taking on the weaknesses of faith that others may be living so to lift them to a new awakening of the love God has for us and them. There needs to be a giving over for something greater. When we live this life given through the “Suffering Servant” we live lives worthy of others singing “Hosanna” in reference to our acting in God as Jesus did.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” can refer to you and me. Those who live in Christ can never be counted among the betrayers, the ones who go back to living life as if nothing has happened — or is happening in our lives. Faithful followers will go to the cross if need be. Faithful servants will go to the cross if need be — again and again!
In every Mass we are called to offer ourselves with the gifts of bread and wine so that our lives may be transfigured into new life being shared, so we may become Eucharist in the world — not simply for our sake, but for the many others God places in our lives. Servitude is always for the “other.”
“Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!” That kingdom was a dream of a human kingdom. The kingdom Jesus was revealing, and has called us to reveal as well, is the eternal kingdom of God. That’s why we have been gifted to endure beyond the human struggles that bog so many down in the world. Faithful servants will reveal that a divine sharing is being offered to all people who dare to humble themselves to live in the divine life Jesus as brought to us. Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus changed their lives, gave over their positions and humbly lived in the Early Church, ready for whatever may be thrown at them. Peter and the Apostles found humility their strength as the power of God worked in and through them. The same can be true for us.
As the Suffering Servant gave of Himself for our sake — and does so today at the altar, so too are we — who come to the cross at the altar — called to offer ourselves, taking from the cross, the altar, the life to be humbly shared as promised by the One who calls us into Himself.
Have a blessed Holy Week!
Fr. Tom Galvin
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
March 21, 2021
In the stage production and movie “A Chorus Line” there is that one song, “What I did for Love”, that gives definition to the award-winning show. It speaks of the trials and tribulations experienced by those struggling to make it in the business — the sweetness and the sorrows found in what had to be done and what had to be given over to have a chance to secure a role, to become one of the cast.
As I studied today’s readings I came to realize that this song is what God is saying to us. What God has done for us is far beyond anything that we can imagine. We hear this in the reading from the Book of Deuteronomy as God retires one covenant for a new one given in and through Jesus Christ. We hear it in the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews where we are told that Jesus (as a man) is made perfect through the love offered as He gave completely of Himself. In the Gospel from John, the love for God and for us, with the promise of impending glory shared with the Father, Jesus demonstrates what it really means to do something for love.
I often think about this as I contemplate on the image of Jesus suffering on the cross, I then wonder if love really overcame the pain that had to be present in the physical reality of our Lord. Inevitably, it begs the question: “Can our love overcome the pain we may experience in our human life when rejection, indignation, ridicule and abandonment of friendship occur, most importantly when professing and living our faith?”
I know there have been times when I looked at aspects of my ministry and wondered if the pain and struggle was worth it. Love said yes it is worth it, and Love was found to overtake the pain and struggle. In the end great joy was experienced. When we offer our sufferings and pains with those of Christ, we are becoming vessels of hope for ourselves and others, we are becoming vessels of divine life for others. What I Did for Love must be for “the other,” not for self, which changes the meaning of the song. What I Did for Love needs to be seen as God’s writing His new covenant on our hearts as He is calling us in a new way.
We hear in the Gospel that Jesus is troubled as He faces his impending death on the cross. But there is that assurance of the Father that He would be glorified; that love would conquer sin and death; that His glory would become glory given to all believers. God’s love is an unconquerable force. It will, as we are told in Jeremiah, be the love that is written on the hearts of the people, no longer called to live commandments but to live by the very law of love that is now inscribed in our lives through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
If God’s law of love is written on our hearts, no pain will overcome the love we live in and share. God’s faithfulness of being our God, of being with us always, is the assurance we can carry with us in every circumstance of life, even the greatest of our struggles in faith. God is intent on moving us into eternal happiness — a share in His glory.
The Letter to the Hebrews says that when Jesus became perfect — meaning when He became the unblemished lamb that was sacrificed — he became the judge and not the defendant as we would think of in the gospel. The judgment comes through Christ’s death on the cross., the hour that Jesus was accepted in perfect love. It is the love at the cross which will judge every person as it will reveal what the faithful did for love of God and others. Yes, What I Did for Love must have God and others as its focus.
The glory of Jesus is ours when we overlook the pain of living in Jesus Christ while accepting the struggles faith brings with it as we move to evangelize, speak the truth of the Gospel, and call others to living in the grace and life of our Lord and God. Everyday this call to love beyond the pain and ridicule which we may face stands before us. But God has given us the ability to love by placing His life in our hearts. This is assuring as we don’t have to conjure up things to say. The Spirit does that for us. The love of God is allowed to work through us. Doing as God does, speaking as God speaks all begins in the heart and reaches to the heart of the “other.”
What God has done in Love has been to be eternally faithful to us, for us. We have this faithfulness in the fullness of Jesus Christ we share in the Eucharist and then live in our lives — in love.
View more reflections at PghCursillo.org/reflections
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement
FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT — March 14, 2021
1 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21
We often forget that God is not a thing, an object. God is action. We’re told in Scripture that God is love and where there is love there is God. We fail to realize that God would stop being God if He stopped acting, stopped loving.
So for us to live in God, our action must be God’s action that we are fulfilling, not our own!
Getting back into the nursing homes has been great. Now many residents wished to “go to confession.” That was an impossible task. And the more important gift God wanted to give them was Himself, the presence of Christ renewing them and forgiving them through the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick. So I had to explain to them that general absolution would free them from all their sins and that this gift from God would be re-enforced through the reception of the Sacraments. I also knew that there would be two sins each would want to confess. One, missing Sunday Mass, was not a sin. The second was their getting upset with those in the world and how they were acting, which caused problems for those in the care facilities who were kept from seeing family members and friends.
But they were most thankful for me being present to celebrate the life of Christ with them. They were being restored. Their prayers were answered. They had been in exile not for anything they did, unlike the people of Israel who were in exile for the choices they made in life, rejecting God’s actions brought alive in the many covenants shared with them. They were, in a sense, exiled because of the lack of love lived out by others who were caught up with themselves and lacked the responsibility for others that love requires. The faithfulness of God was seen in my being with them to share sacramental life. For those exiled from Israel, theirs came when they were allowed to return to Jerusalem after their hearts and minds again reflected God’s (as we hear in 2 Chronicles).
St. Paul is speaking about the need of believers to allow God to do — with no interference, with complete acceptance, which the people of Israel did not do over and over again. He is saying that unless we move our hearts and minds, our desires, thinking and acting, into that of our Lord’s, we are not living in the Lord and in His gift of life and light. We are reminded that we are “Created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” This is a big difference from our good works appeasing God and our works leading us to the light of Christ. Good works start with God whose love is ever happening — always active! St. Paul is saying that through Christ’s giving of self through His passion, death and resurrection we are already one with the Lord. It’s up to us to become aware of this oneness and then live it in love.
In John’s Gospel, “believers” are not simply those who profess in their words. No, “believers” are those who enter into the very action of God. That’s what His covenants with His chosen people were always meant to do — reveal God working through the actions of believers. The people of Israel professed through words and rituals, but failed in living the action of God. Jesus is reminding Nicodemus that He is the light of the world, and the light is to change our behaviors, move us so that our actions correspond to our words: “But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
Our works are to be seen in God’s — not God in our works.There’s a difference. Our works often just lead us to showing people how holy we think we are, when, indeed, we were made holy. Absolute love being lived is far different than the love we may have fashioned in our lives. It is inclusive of every person as is God’s. Anything else is limiting in nature. It is fateful rather than faithful.
As the Church continues to move into living as the light — as being the light of Christ in the world, many changes are seen happening. Yet many people are putting the brakes on its living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They want the Church as it was when they grew up. They allow ritual to replace living faith. They fail to see that the offering of ourselves in these changes is to be joined to the offering of Christ on the cross. Jesus preached a change of heart and mind, to get away from what had been lived from the time the chosen people of Israel were exiled.
Those who formed the Early Church in Ephesus and other cities preached to by Paul and the Apostles were reminded that they were to reveal God’s actions in the world — His call to His heart. Remember, Nicodemus learned this and finally came to be with Joseph of Arimathea, taking Jesus from the cross. Nicodemus came to give over his old ways as he realized what God’s action, loving, was calling him to. Joseph of Arimathea, a secret believer, also came to live in the light at this time.
Those people in the Nursing Homes were exuberant that they could celebrate the sacraments again. They were also exuberant to be with one another again, renewing relationships, loving and caring for one another. None of them wanted to leave the room when all was done. And they didn’t want me to leave, but were extremely happy that I was going around to share the sacraments with those who could not be with us in that room. They were celebrating God’s acting on their behalf, and were ready to act in like manner.
Through these readings were are reminded of the faithfulness of God. His acting is done in love for us. His action is forever. His desire for us to realize that we already live in His fullness. Until we come to that fact, we continue to have a need to seek the light of Christ. You see, God’s desire for us is as eternal as He is! Perhaps we need to contemplate on our oneness with God because of God’s oneness already with us.
We are called to become His action calling others to a new way of life, caring for all people without exception or preference. It means seeing our faith as a living of God’s love and faithfulness.
Fr. Tom Galvin
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT REFLECTION — MARCH 7, 2021
Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25
I’ll upset some people with this, but it is okay to receive the Johnson & Johnson Coronavirus vaccination if this is the only vaccine being offered. Basically the Bishops of the United States, and Pope Francis, while recognizing that this vaccine is derived from a line begun using tissue harvested from aborted tissue, J&J has publically stated that this line is not coming from current abortions. This said, as Pope Francis emphasized months ago, it is important for Catholics to take equal responsibility for the protection of people. So while we as Catholics stand against abortion, we are also responsible for the health protection of each other. One responsibility does not negate the other responsibility. While making every effort to avoid supporting the J&J vaccine, we must take responsibility for the health of others, including the most vulnerable. Therefore, the J&J vaccine can be taken when other vaccines are not provided.
Why do I bring this up? Well, when we look at the reading from the Book of Exodus today, the Ten Commandments were given so the people could live as a “Family”, properly caring for one another. Notice, seven of the ten commandments are focused on how individuals are to be concerned for the welfare of others. They called the people then, as they do us today, to be responsible for one another in a proper way. Responsibility is not, by and large, a human trait. It is not animal instinct living survival of the fittest. Responsibility carries with it a moral obligation similar to the obligation of a covenant made with the Divine. There is, as it were, a faithfulness needed.
Now, if you pay attention to the activities of our state and national legislators, you’ll see that the sense of moral responsibility is lacking in what is done and in much that is being planned. This is accomplished by attaching agendas together so that minority groups making noise about their personal wants, can obtain their desires. And what they want is basically to have the opportunity to write their own moral code devoid of the Divine. So you will see attacks on the Church’s teachings and the truth of the Gospel being bound to immoral actions akin to those found in Sodom and Gomorrah. The “Family” is being destroyed while the commandments of God and teachings of Jesus Christ are ignored. These, if allowed, become restrictive in regard to our living of faith. “The Family” is not considered in its wholeness.
Jesus’ outburst in the temple area, a place where people came for prayer, had been turned into a market that was meant to fulfill man-made laws. Jesus’ action was a wakeup call for the people, especially the leadership. Almost pagan customs and practices were being forced on the people in the living of their faith. Jesus is calling the people into true worship and faith — to take them back to fulfilling those first three commandments as support for living as a “Family” that God had created. That was His mission then — and is His mission today. Our moral responsibility is to speak up against unjust proposals that could become binding laws fragmenting “The Family.”
Jesus and His teachings are “stumbling blocks” for the people as St. Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians. They go beyond mere human precepts. Divine wisdom is being shared with us in these moments. Those who accept fully the teaching of Jesus Christ recognize and accept the power to overcome human thoughts, the traps of humanity. Jesus says that He knows human reality. He was present when it was — and is — created. He knows our frailties. He took them on Himself to show us how to overcome them by changing our human thought to divine sharing. When we live the commandments this is what we are doing. When we take responsibility for right actions that lift and protect life, we are moving into divine sharing. Human thought finds itself at odds with divine wisdom and sharing. There are always those who distort the truth while trying to limit our call to oneness with each other and with our God — who so often plays second fiddle to human wants.
Through all of this God remains faithful. He remains faithful even when we establish our own regulations that move us from caring for others and taking responsibility for “The Family” — the whole “Family”. And, at the same time, He gives us power to stand against those who would want us silenced. He is faithful in providing us the gift of Wisdom allowing us to act as He acts, to move as He would move, to confront as Jesus did to make known the truth and reason for the temple — God. (This does not call for physical action as we’ve noticed from many who think violence is the answer for a human want.)
Many people will be like the Jewish leaders who sought to complicate the relationship of “The Family” with God while reaping unjust benefits for themselves. These people will always be with us, which is why we must always rely on our faithful God to provide what we need, beginning with His mind and heart. The temple of the body is sacred. The temple of “The Family”, the Body of Christ is sacred. Our faith says that even when we are not faithful to “The Family” God will not allow it to be destroyed. In this is our hope even as it calls us to be the sign of faithfulness to the truth of the Gospel, the truth of God’s way. It may cost us a little. Compared to eternity, does it matter?
Fr. Tom Galvin
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement
SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT REFLECTION — 2-28-2021
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13 15-18; Romans 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10
So often the question is raised: “What will heaven be like?” Well, don’t look any further than the Eucharist. When received with complete focus on God speaking to us, in and through Christ in the Eucharist, we are being shown the glory of God as was seen on Mt. Tabor by Peter, James and John. They received a foretaste of heavenly glory that was to come. It’s all about our being transfigured, which is something that the Apostles would not have understood when standing in awe of what was happening around them. Our dilemma is in accepting the fact that God, in His faithfulness, finds us worthy of His glory now as well as in the future. It’s what He wants for us for eternity. So even when we pray “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” God is telling us that He is making us worthy now. His glory is being shared with us now. We are called to live in infinite oneness with Him now. If we do not accept this, as did Peter, James and John following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension — and fulfilled in the sending forth of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost — we reject God’s faithfulness and gift of life. We will be, as the Apostles were, terrified at what they experienced on Mt Tabor and at Jesus’ appearance in the Upper Room instead of standing in awe of our God with us. We need to stand in awe of the transfiguring power God is giving us.
“He was transfigured before them…” takes us back to the times following Moses’ encounters with the Lord as the chosen people wandered through the desert following their exodus from Egypt. After Moses encounters the Lord in the tent holding the Ark of the Covenant his face was so radiant that the people, out of fear, asked him to cover it (see Exodus 34:27-34). But should not our faces radiate with our encounter with God, when we experience Him through the sharing of our Lord’s Body and Blood? Should this radiance not continue well afterwards? Of course it should. People should be able to see this radiance. They need to see it. We do not need to wait for Christ’s saving events to happen. We celebrate them. We live them. We share in them. We are to see ourselves as participants in them. We should become as radiant as were all the Apostles and disciples when they were sent out to teach of God’s covenant and to baptize others into the glory of God. We must be trusting in His faithfulness and desire for us and all people to live in the glory promised through our oneness with and in Jesus Christ.
To do so, we also need to spend some time reflecting on what our faithfulness must look like today. Let’s begin, however, with a few moments reflecting on Abraham’s faithfulness to his promise to God made in past covenantal relationships. His whole life was a testing of faith. The final test was being asked to sacrifice his only son. Again this part of Abraham’s life ends in an everlasting covenant between God, Abraham and God’s people. One act brought about an eternal promise that continues to be fulfilled by God to this day for you and me. It begs us to examine our willingness to sacrifice in order to know the faithfulness of God. Take note that the other key figure in this story is Isaac who is a willing participant in the sacrifice. He carries the wood for the sacrifice. He doesn’t question his father when Abraham says, “God will provide the sacrifice.” [this part is heard at the Easter Vigil]. He was an adult who could have easily overpowered his father. He didn’t. This action of Isaac prefigured what our Lord Jesus did when he carried the wood of the cross to Golgotha. The only difference is that Abraham is kept from offering his only son while God revealed His faithfulness in bringing the sacrifice to completion through the Crucifixion of Jesus, His only Son.
So God provides for our transfiguration through the sacrifice of His Son, and through our willingness to accept the sacrifices we may be asked to make in everyday life for the faith of others. It begins when we enter into Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist. Years ago when on Mt. Tabor I looked for some sort of transfiguration to happen to me. Nothing happened until it came to share the Eucharist during Mass. As I held the Eucharist in my hand the Lord spoke clearly: “This is your transfiguration.” My brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is our transfiguration! It comes, however, in accepting the sacrifice of Christ as our own and in accepting the various sacrifices we are to make in the world. With pure hearts when coming to receive the Eucharist, we are being transfigured into Christ. We carry His life. We cannot doubt this. To do so is to doubt God’s Word and faithfulness.
This provides us the strength to live what St. Paul so confidently spoke to the Roman Christians. “If God is for us, who can be against us…how will he not also give us everything else along with himself?” — We have all that we need to be as faithful as Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus Himself. — We have all that we need to be as faithful as Peter, James, John and all the other Apostles and disciples when sent out into the world and were seen joyfully proclaiming a new life in Jesus Christ. — We have all that we need to be as radiant as Moses after going face-to-face with God. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have all that is needed to be as confident as St. Paul when he instructed the Roman community of faith, as heteaches us today.
So it is not so much about what we so often think as important — the building in which we worship, the pietistic attitudes we carry, the traditions we seek to maintain, or the multiplication of words spoken. It is about the joyful giving of ourselves to be transfigured for our own salvation and the redemption of so many more. It is about hearts that desire to love others unabashedly and continuously that they too may come to the Lord. It is getting out of ourselves for the sake of being as faithful as God is to us — fulfilling our baptismal lives fueled by our promises made at Confirmation when God’s faithfulness was shown through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We need to change our childhood mentalities to mature adult actions with one consequence — transfiguring the world through the transfiguring of our minds and hearts. It all happens when we listen to the Father’s words heard by Peter, James and John: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” In a world which wants to write its own gospel and not listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are called to sacrifice. We are called to stand alone if necessary. We are called to transfigure minds and hearts.
The radiance of our sharing in the life of our Lord, in the sacrifice of self for a oneness others may need with God, will cause those “others” to take note. We’re called to reveal the glory of God through lives that are actively in oneness with God in all things. We’re called to share God in every aspect of life knowing the faithfulness of our God towards us. So many people “jump through the hoops,” thought needed for salvation. Yet they readily admit that they do not feel an intimacy with God and that their lives have not been transfigured. They stand in fear of God rather than in awe. There has to be someone who will take them to the transfiguration we celebrate in the sacrifice we become part of through the Eucharist.
Let us realize that the Eucharist and the transfiguration of our hearts, minds and lives are not events but rather are life-long experiences to be shared.
Fr. Tom Galvin
Copyright © 2021 Pittsburgh Cursillo Movement
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection
These readings, at first glance, do not seem to fit together in any way. Only through an Openness to the Holy Spirit can we come to realize their connectedness for our time, and cause us to reflect on the power of God wanting to act in our own lives.
Cyrus was a pagan ruler of the kingdom of Persia (580BC), but soon to become an instrument of the Lord as He freed the Jewish people from captivity imposed by the Babylonians. His work was extended through Darius who was to rule over the Persian empire in years to come.
Catholics in 2020AD are baptized persons living in a dysfunctional world yet called to announce the kingdom of God through their living in faith, hope and love as St. Paul tells us in his first Letter to the Thessalonians (1:1-5b).
Cyrus was given, as are baptized persons in 2020 given, extra-ordinary power through the Holy Spirit:
— Cyrus was unaware of it’s fullness,
— while baptized persons in 2020 should be fully aware of it through their affirming
the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Remember — the Holy Spirit is the very word and action and presence of God.
Unlike with Cyrus, for the baptized of 2020, the Holy Spirit dwells within them.
Cyrus is moved to free the Jewish people from their captivity and allow them to return to Israel and Jerusalem — to rebuild their temple and worship their God.
The baptized of 2020 are led to free themselves — and others — from the bondage of slavery to sin and a perverse society and assist them in worshipping the God who has called them by name. The baptized of 2020 are empowered to establish an eternal kingdom through their proclamation of God’s faithfulness, love and hope to and for us — inviting us to act in like manner — to do what Jesus did — to fulfill His mission.
God was acting through Cyrus. He is present and acting in the world of 2020 baptized Catholics.
Cyrus fulfilled the mission he was empowered to accomplish even as he did not understand this unknown alien God.
The verdict remains out concerning the baptized Christian of 2020 concerning a God who should not be alien — but is — and is so often unknown.
I realize this readily when visiting patients in the hospital. When registering they indicate they are Catholic. In reality, they are no more Catholic than the walls of this building. God is alien to them — unknown and not sought. The same reality is being lived among some of our family members, friends and coworkers, neighbors and acquaintances. Their baptismal life is not seen, it usually is not believed or lived.
Just as God made Himself known to the pagan king Cyrus and called him by name, so too does He make Himself known to us, more readily and fully through Jesus and calls us by name for the purpose of fulfilling His will in the world today — of making known the freedom from slavery that the world has brought upon itself — the destruction of the dignity of the human person — spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. This is Satan at work quietly steering people to enter into what St. Pope John Paul II would call the Culture of Death.
Cyrus, as we know, comes to understand sufficiently enough the power of the God of all gods and acts accordingly.
The whereabouts of the hearts and minds of believers in 2020 is so often far from the Lord — caught up in political agendas set on establishing worldly powers — on individualism and materialism — greed, envy, lust, laziness, gluttony — subtlety brought about through Satan directing those of big business and the media — of self-preservation brought about by prejudice, bigotry and hatred — of living in a kingdom foreign to God.
St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians is the oldest writing of the New Testament. Even in this earliest of recorded understanding concerning the Early Church, it is recognized that the power of the Holy Spirit has come upon the believers who have sought understanding of the word and of God’s plan for them. This is what they shared as the Church grew substantially in faith, hope, love — and numbers. Theirs was not a world set on an earthly kingdom, but of an eternal kingdom,
Jesus came — the Early Church understood this — to make known the eternal kingdom they were to seek. The Early Church grasped this as their own, their desire. They moved into a conversion of heart and mind to a God — not alien as were the pagan gods of the time — but to a God who made Himself known again and again.
That’s why when Jesus says “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Mt 22:21) He doesn’t fall into the trap set by the Pharisees and Herodians. He is clearly aware that all belongs to God.
So, if this tug-of-war, between God’s power and the workings of the Holy Spirit and that of man, were a game, the score would be God 4, mankind 0. Yes, the final score will be God 5, mankind 0 no matter what we do. It’s the way we should want it. But in the meantime, mankind keeps struggling against the workings of God. God moved Cyrus, the exiled Jewish people, Jesus, and the Early Church to respond to life through the power of the Holy Spirit in works of faith — to labor in love — and to endure in hope. He’ll do the same now whether it is in and through us, or others.
So let’s listen to St. Paul.
What is the work of faith? — Evangelization — the making known of God’s presence and His goodness for all people — of getting out of ourselves and reaching out to others — of extending a hand, a kind word to another before thinking of self — of believing God is with us at every moment and turn.
What is the labor of love? — a want for others to live — and grow — in the awareness of God with us — of respecting life in all situations and at all times — of removing those thoughts not of God from our lives and also speaking up against them when they come forth from others — of removing selfishness, greed, and personal goals from our way of life. This too is a form of evangelization — of making God known in the worlds of others.
What is the endurance in hopes in Jesus Christ? — Keeping our eyes and minds and hearts on a desire for the fullness of all that is promised through Christ — of shutting down of personal ambitions — of speaking the truth and not wavering from it so we can be comfortably aligned with others with whom we are talking — of building the kingdom even now so we — and others — may see the ultimate goal always before us — and lives can be changed. This is just another form of evangelization.
In these ways we give to God all that belongs to God while giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar — that which is expected of us living in this world, even as we seek to change our society and the world. It always begins with a change of heart and mind — a conversion — a coming to personally know God as He knows us — of not acting as God is alien to us throughout the week’s activities.
With these gifts and empowerments we will truly give to God all that belongs to Him — perhaps even a world whose heart and mind has had a conversion to the truth — as provided through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — REFLECTION
.Just a few notes on each reading:
This prophesy announces what the Lord has planned for the faithful of Israel. It is that which the King has prepared in the Gospel. It is His feast as He has planned it for the faithful. In this final time, “on this mountain…” death will be swallowed up and the faithful will party like never before. This is what the Lord has planned for those who remain faith. In the Gospel, Jesus points what will come of those who do not remain faithful.
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
This can be read in two ways — concerning human situations and concerning spiritual situations.
When we read it from a human, worldly perspective, the message from St. Paul can be speaking about food, clothing, financial security, power and position, and more. It almost reads as if a politician running for office wrote it as he thanked the Church in Philippi for contributing to his cause. In reality, he is thanking the Philippians for the sharing which supported his physical needs and those of others.
St. Paul persecuted the early Christian Church. He was well-off and went about with the support of the Jewish leaders of the time. He was on a high, we would say. Spiritually, he thought he was protecting God’s people, the house of Israel, and the faith they had as God’s chosen people. He had an obligation to do this.
But then there was a bolt of lightning — a flash of light that blinded him — which threw him for a loop, turning his life upside down. Jesus does this. That flash of light did more than blind him. It awakened him to the fullness of everything he knew from his people’s history. He thought he was well educated, but in reality he forgot to connect all the dots pointing to Jesus as the Messiah and the fulfillment narratives of the prophets from years ago.
Suddenly he was in need of assistance, humbled and poor, needing the support of others — beginning with Ananias who brought healing and then restored sight — physically and spiritually. Yes, he knew what it was like to live with abundance and to live in humble circumstances. During all of this, his wealth of the traditions of the Jewish faith was rich indeed. Yet it left him hungry once he met the Lord.
We have to examine our lives — humanly and spiritually. And we need to examine our attitudes concerning the needs of others. The Church in Philippi responded to Paul’s needs without being asked. Paul, in turn, rejoiced that his physical needs would be met, but also rejoiced because what he taught was being lived by the Philippians. The Gospel was heard.
The banquet will be shared by those who shared, not necessarily those living in abundance in the world, but for sure with those who recognized the true need and responded.
We’ve all been invited to the banquet. We’re invited everyday to the table of grace. Our response to the Lord will be like those who responded to the invitation, those who ignored the invitation, those who persecuted those who served the King, those who knew and adhered to the banquet expectations, and those who thought they could slide in without proper preparation.
Those who refused to come can be seen as those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and King.
Those who tortured and killed can be seen as those who, tired of fulfilling God’s way, chose to eliminate His will from their lives. This is done by “believers” who want the Gospel written to fit their needs, who think they are exempt from what is required to live in the kingdom, making up their own rules for this life.
Those who came to the banquet had to rejoice, knowing that even though they were not perfect, they found what was necessary to be decked out in a wedding garment — except one.
This one man is like so many who say they are believers but ignore God and think they can write their own rules, wanting the banquet but not ready to conform to what is expected — not wanting to wear the wedding banquet where the groom (Christ) becomes one with the bride (the Church).. We know these people. They say one thing and then do something else. They want to live in an abundance in all aspects of life — as they deem life should be lived for their purposes..
The banquet is the eternal banquet shared even now. Without judging, we can readily see many who are not properly prepared to share the meal. They are outside the church and inside the church. They’ve ignored God’s call and invitation and remained outside, and they have thought themselves above the Lord’s expectations — and grace given at Baptism — and self-deemed themselves worthy.
But happy are those who, despite their failings, have been washed clean, robed in glory and ready to share in the great feast.
There’s an awful lot here to consider and reflect upon.
27th Sunday Reflection
No one will escape the chastisement, the purging; not priests nor lay men or women, religious or vowed.
Remember these words.
Today we have yet another “Vineyard Parable”. Jesus used the image of a vineyard often since it was what the people could relate to. They knew what it took — the amount of work and effort needed — to produce a rich harvest. Matthew’s design of the Gospel is done deliberately as the “Vineyard Parables” (Mt 20:1-16; 21:28-33; 21:33-43) are placed toward the end of the Gospel as Jesus is preparing His disciples for their taking greater responsibility of the Kingdom of God, knowing His own departure from the world was nearing. This is a responsibility that has been past on from the Apostles and disciples to us today.
The vineyard is God’s. Now we, having been made one in the Lord through His own giving over of life — His suffering and death, have become coheirs with Him to all that is the Father’s — the fullness not to be attained in this life but in the life to come. That’s great. We all love to be remembered in an inheritance. It says that we are in some way special or that we did something of value in another’s person’s life. So our baptism, freely given by our Lord, makes us coheirs of the Kingdom, not because we have done something deserving of it, but our of pure love.
In our human situation we all know that with an inheritance, there also comes a tax from the government, that nothing is totally free. In our spiritual life, the inheritance received comes freely, but with an addendum — it can also be lost, as if we forgot to do our part to cash in on it. Inheritance from our Lord brings a share in His life and in the kingdom — something we are to live, not squirrel away. It is also our entering into the very life of our God, ergo, the giving, the humbling of self for the sake of an eternal sharing in the kingdom and the making known of that kingdom now in our lives and in the lives of others. We have a responsibility to work the vineyard — to till the soil, to produce a rich harvest worthy of God’s love — as Jesus did.
When growing up we had a small grape arbor, big enough to provide grapes for the making of jelly that would feed seven of us and Grandma until the following year (although Grandma had her own cannery, making plum, elderberry, peach and a variety of other jams or jellies). We were neophytes, knowing little of what was needed to produce a bountiful supply. We did enough to get us through the year to come. We would have failed if we were in the wine-making business. If someone else had owned the vineyard he/she would not have received much in return. It probably would have been taken from us.
If we jump for just a minute to the Gospel of John, chapter 15, We recall that Jesus said He was the vine and we are the branches. The branches — you and I — are called to remain in the Lord and allow the Lord to remain in us. That means us taking in all that is of Jesus Christ — the producing of the fruit of faith that will nourish others. It is not good enough to be “attached to the Lord”. Producing big shiny leaves without fruit means nothing. You can’t sustain life on grape leaves! Fruit is what it is all about. Forget the glam! If we are using the grace which comes from the vine to make ourselves look good and not to feed others with the life of Christ, we are nothing and our actions are useless.
The same is true of the one — you and I — given a portion of the vineyard to make known to others the kingdom of God. If it is majestically seen from the outside, but rotten and empty on the inside, centered only on self — glam without substance, then we will find ourselves standing on the outside with our inheritance being given to others. And we’ll have no one to blame except ourselves as we have made the choice. Inheritance comes with responsibility. The fruit we will produce will be that which is going to spiritually feed others with the life of Christ. It is our choice — get down and get dirty and build the kingdom, or remain above the sweat and struggle and produce an empty, hollow vineyard, wild, untamed and unproductive.
The workers in the vineyard, the kingdom, work with gladness beyond measure, knowing they are fulfilling the mission and purpose of Christ coming as man — who got down and dirty! This is done knowing well that the truth of the Gospel will bring with it hardship and rejection. We can also remember the words of Jesus — “Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.” (see Mt 5:10-13) This should be our attitude even when chastised by others. Better this than the chastisement that can cause separation from the love of God due to our separation from the humbling life of our Lord and God.
My sisters and brothers, too many have walked away from the living of faith and a relationship with our Lord for lack of understanding of the purpose of our call as disciples, and of the Church in 2020. Too many have not learned forgiveness that comes to us free of charge through Christ, and thereby have not learned how to forgive in a very human Church. Too many simply want the glam and all that is associated with it, and miss the essence of their worthiness founded in their own working in the vineyard, of using their baptismal graces in a worthy way of life leading to an eternal inheritance.
The priest or deacon who fails to call people to their responsibility in building the kingdom, in producing a rich harvest, fails in his own responsibility of living the grace received at his ordination. The lay man or woman fails in living his or her baptismal grace in the call to be priest, prophet and king in oneness with Jesus Christ — an everlasting inheritance whether accepted or rejected. Each will be held accountable according to their work in the vineyard, in nurturing an abundant harvest of believers. We remember Jesus claiming for Himself, “I am the salt of the world…I am the light of the world” — and then later saying “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” We sometimes forget that He has given us His life to live and to awaken others in faith. He displayed what it would take as He reached out to the prostitute and the tax collector, the Pharisee and the leper, the Jew and Gentile. No one can be a foreigner to us.
Restricting our ministry to those we know doesn’t cut it. The vineyard is bigger than that. Our ministry must be to all in the vineyard so that the fruit of true faith may also be lived by them. It must speak the truth of the Gospel — of love of God, who got down and dirty for us in Jesus Christ, the giving of Himself for our sake. Nothing less can be expected of the one who also wants a share in the inheritance won for us through Christ. We better begin to see ourselves more than just human beings. Only then will we see others with a greater dignity no matter the status of their lives. We will want to evangelize others with the truth of the Gospel, not our preferences.
The sacredness of our lives is in the offering of our lives in oneness with Christ’s offering of His life — of becoming Eucharist to the world, feeding others with the very life of our Lord. It means accepting what God has done and does for us. Choosing not to call others to God’s love, of being satisfied in not being sources of hope for others, or relying on our past religious experiences can only lead to a lack of the fullness of the inheritance planned for us by God. God is not being harsh here. He is inviting us into a fuller life with Himself. He is also allowing our free will to dictate our future. If we only want the glam, if we are satisfied with living our faith in our own little world, if we’re not ready to be salt and light for the world, we’ll never experience the fullness of the Gospel of truth and the love of God, nor find the fullness of the person we are to be.
Love and prayers,
26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME REFLECTION
Many a time growing up my brothers and I would be told to go out and work with dad in the yard (which happened to be three acres). Many a time we’d drag our feet until we heard a more stern voice when patience had run short. Dad was more like God the Father who just went about doing what he had planned to do. Mom was more like Jesus who sometimes had to be more forceful when instructing His disciples. We learned through the years that our actions had consequences, as “special treats” weren’t received when work wasn’t reflective of what was expected. By our teen years we knew what to do, and in some cases looked forward to it. We were being taught as we joined in the work, had learned so much, and had become proud of what we could do without being told and without dad needing to be around (although it made mom nervous as we’d go about climbing a ladder two stories up to install a new roof while dad was at work).
How much have we, individually, lived the reading from the prophet Ezekiel (18:25-28) and the Gospel from Matthew (21:28-32)? In one or more ways we’ve each lived as one who needed a change of heart and of living. Once my brothers and I realized how much we’d been taught and had grown in our abilities, we saw the light — not just “doing” as expected in obedience, not doing for a reward, but taking on the heart of our parents, growing as a family. Yes parents, if you work it right good things can happen. Our parents were always just in their decisions but held us responsible for the decisions we made.
As a hospital chaplain, I meet many people who state they are “Catholic” but haven’t lived their faith in a very long time. The sad reality is that they are quite comfortable with their situation. Their reasons are many, although as you and I know, invalid. As believers we profess to be members of “the family,” the Body of Christ. Are we much different at times than those I meet when they are flat on their back in a hospital bed and at the mercy of medical teams? They do expect God to make them well and can be upset with God for “allowing them” to get sick. The passages from Ezekiel or Matthew provide the reader with a clear examination of our relationship with the Father as they display what an egotistical behavior and attitude can create.
We often expect things from God but don’t necessarily want to do anything for what we want — and in some cases are not aware of what we really need. We may even think He is being unfair to us when we offer feeble efforts and not enter into the living of our faith with a heart as open as is His (living in the vineyard). The two sons were both in need of a lesson in “oneness” with their father. Both displayed concern for themselves. The heart wasn’t there in either one. Did the second son who did go to the vineyard do so out of love, or guilt, or a sense of pleasing the father? If the latter two were reasons, there wasn’t much more learned than what the first son learned — nothing.
And what the sons really missed was that the vineyard was going to be theirs once they took on the father’s life and shared in a loving relationship. When we realize that we have been called into the vineyard, how do we enter it, remembering that the vineyard is wherever we are, in every moment? What is our response to what the Lord asks of us? Do we consider it a just expectation, go about it grudgingly, or ignore it, hoping it will just go away.
I’ve learned not to ask some people if they could help in doing one thing or another. The standard answer from these people is “I need to check my calendar.” When I hear that anymore, I know what the answer will be — if I even get an answer. And later on they’ll act as if the conversation never happened. Fulfillment in the vineyard for these people is seen in what they want to do or if they are going to come out of it with some bonus points — how’s it going to enhance their life.
Faith and life has to be as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians (2:1-11): Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus…” It’s difficult as Jesus’ attitude was fulfilling the will of the Father — in love — not in simple obedience, or doing so grudgingly, or living with an expectation. “He emptied himself…humbled himself…” These are the key elements for obedience becoming a relationship with the Father, which is what Jesus was all about. A priest acts in obedience to the bishop in accepting an assignment, even an unwanted one. It can be done as an act of love for the people or done grudgingly. If the latter, it will be seen by the people; his ministry will be as cold as his heart; and he will never come to the ability to proclaim the Gospel properly to those in need. People in ministry in the Church can act the same way, very often wanting it on their terms, failing to see how the need extends beyond themselves. They forget that the vineyard has no boundaries!
Jesus addresses two classes of people — those who profess faith but fail to live it (chief priests and elders in this parable), and those who profess having nothing to do with God and the Church, but live it (the sinners and tax collectors here). Both fail in one way or another. We all know those who do pietistic actions as did the Jewish leaders, but fail in extending themselves when asked to live the second of the two great commandments, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We all know those who have rejected God, His grace, and the Church with all its human frailties, those failing to live and understand the first of the great commandments, “Love your God with all your heart, soul and mind,” but live in a way the second great commandment. I say they lived it “in a way” as it is usually done with a human perspective, a sense of “joining the group” when it could have been a bonding with our Lord in a unique way. Jesus is saying that neither son lived in love. Both faltered in their oneness with the Father; failed in complete love as words and actions created voids.
During this pandemic words and actions have faltered and failed. Relationships with God, for far too many, shut down with the restaurants and bars. Prayer stopped when churches were no longer opened. (Blessed are those who regularly found Mass via live-streaming or Google or some other way.) This shut down revealed where many hearts and lives were at — so many relating to God only as a requirement and other pietistic rituals which fell out of practice. The others who went about doing good because society was being kind and generous did so from a human perspective rather than a divine loving as the Church has lived for centuries, springing from the root of all good — the love of God. It continues today. People freely speak of going to the store, going out to eat, going on vacation, hitting the liquor store so the pain can be eased, wanting to attend sporting events with mass crowds and yet failing to tend to that which is most important — a relationship with God, at Mass, in prayer, and with a change of attitude, heart and mind. These attitudes are ours to change, for ourselves and for others.
As I said above, obedience can be an expected response or can be an act of love, fueled by humility and the humbling of self. As St. Vincent de Paul said, “Charity (love) is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity.” Let us love — in all things — so as not to be trapped in a false fulfillment of our thinking of what should be and what should take place. Rather, let us love because it fulfills all else, all life, and binds us with the Father, the source of all love, our ultimate goal. In love, we will call others to conversion of heart and mind — not living an expectation but acting out of love — and, with enough witness, will encourage others to seek a greater relationship with our Lord — reaping a great harvest in the vineyard.
Love and prayers,
Fr. Tom Galvin
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time — Reflection
“Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ,” (Phil 1:27a) says St. Paul.
Paul may as well have repeated the words we hear through the Prophet Isaiah: Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near” (Is 55:6), since our conduct — in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ — is to seek our Lord each day, forgetting about our own desires, plans and dreams — other than desiring an eternal oneness with the Lord. Now this, as we know, does not call us to forget about our daily needs. It’s just a reminder of our need to trust in the Lord’s providential care and to examine what our daily needs really are.
One of the hardest parts of this current assignment is that of being scheduled for 7:00AM Mass. I am not a morning person to begin with. What is worse, approximately 20 people attend this Mass and choose to scatter themselves throughout the church, with very few positioned in front of the altar. They social distanced before COVID (as happened/happens in many parishes at weekday Masses) and do so even more now. There’s little connection with the majority of the people. So I sometimes have to check my attitude to avoid thinking I am an actor on a stage rather than part of a faith community engaging and supporting. These are times when I really need to seek our Lord for sustenance since their responses, quiet before COVID, are even more muffled now with masks — except at the end of Mass when they pray the prayer to St. Michael, said louder than any “Amen.” As it is with St. Paul, in this circumstance, I’d choose death if I had the option. But I submit to the will of the Father, praying that it is fruitful labor in some way.
It would be easy if I simply said “I’m the Chaplain and my job description doesn’t include weekday Masses,” which I righty could do. But what would that prove? Would it benefit the other priests of the parish? Better yet, what would it be as a benefit for me spiritually since my job description as priest supersedes my pastoral assignment? I have to ask if I’m seeking the Lord or an easier out from having to put in longer days than I may want. The same is true of each of us since living our faith should be far more than a concern for the self, and instead lived more for Christ — the living of our personhood in Christ supersedes our worldly wants as St. Paul would say. In the vineyard we carry with us a mentality that it is not about us, but all about our Lord and our oneness with Him.
What are those times in life when we need to seek the Lord above all else? Are they when we need to shut up, that is, grin-and- bear-it when actions or words of others leave emptiness within ourselves? Or are they times when we need to open our mouths and speak of the goodness of God to those far from His presence? In every moment we need to seek the Lord! But that’s not always easy simply because we are human and our humanness often causes us to look for immediate gratification. In the situations above, with no one else in the sacristy after Mass, I can thank our Lord for His presence and Spirit that kept me focused and that joined me with His giving. And then I can go for that needed second cup of coffee.
Reality Check: Working in the vineyard is full-time! If we accept God’s invitation into His vineyard, a full day’s work is expected. For those we bring to the vineyard, they also need to recognize that it is a life-long experience of seeking our Lord, growing and living in and for the Lord — 24/7/365. I can imagine the disgruntled workers in the Gospel planning their future — to do part-time employment expecting full benefits, choosing to make themselves available for our Lord’s work “later in the day” rather than early on. Grace doesn’t flow with that mentality! Grace flows greater, with more abundance in inconvenience, when we have to make a choice of being disgruntled or in turning to our Lord for sustaining grace and a greater awareness of our lives rooted in the kingdom of God, joined to the work and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Our God knows — and provides ahead of time — all that we need to be aware of His presence and to seek Him more fully in what is done, in all that comes to us each day — even at 7:00AM. That’s why all the workers in the Gospel were all paid the same — the fullness of our Lord. There’s no more to give. We just need to see how God’s grace is meant for us individually as we go minute-by-minute through the day. Our human tendency will have us upset when we don’t get from God what we expect as we ask in prayer or from our thinking we are faithful members of the Body of Christ. You see, this too requires a giving over of the false self, ambitions and expectations placed on self by ourselves and others. Are our thoughts moving us into living the life God wants for us or are we content in thinking we’ve done enough and God will be pleased?
Our Lord says through Isaiah, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” (55:8) With openness of mind and heart, our living in grace changes as our thoughts and actions respond to life situations with the greater awareness of God’s compassion, kindness, forgiveness and empathy. We become joyful as were those who only worked one hour and received a full day’s wage. How happy and grateful they had to be. Our God is gracing, gifting us not just for what we’ve done — but for who we are. And there is no amount of giving that we can do to repay His generosity — except by taking the true value of self that He gives and using it to lift up others — living the thoughts of our Lord as if they were our own. We should gladly get out of our old ways, our former thinking, and relish a call to enter more deeply into His sharing of life.
The mindset which St. Paul wishes to get across to the believer is that of seeing our call to ministry, beginning with minds and hearts open to the invitation to work in the vineyard. That work requires prayer, a study of our environments and the gaining of understanding of our world and those in our lives, and then moving us to provide an invitation to others to enter into a deeper relationship with God, understanding His compassion, mercy and love always being offered. Those in Cursillo have been taught this. It is ours to have in thought and mind that Christ is counting on you!
Knowing the thoughts of or Lord will require that our lives are strengthened in prayer — prayer that opens our words and actions to those of our Lord for the sake of others. It will also require a stepping out of self, of telling our own story, of witnessing of how we have experienced the generosity of God that has come to us — just as those workers who received a full day’s wage for an hour of work. It does not mean that we can back off from what we are called to be about as members of the Body of Christ. Isaiah warns of this as people of his time were lackadaisical concerning the living of their faith — a faith based on the love God has for each person.
No, we are called to enter each day with gratitude that we have an opportunity to conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ — offering and calling others to His life full of compassion and concern. So if we’ve been lax in our spending time with our Lord during these days of pandemic; if we’ve found ourselves allowing the influences of the world to weigh us down; if we’ve minimized faith as a fulfillment of laws and not of their fulfillment in love, we can give over our thoughts and know that the Lord’s call into His vineyard still remains for us. Out Lord’s words ring clear for us: “the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few.” (Mt 9:37) There is a rich harvest we are called to participate in, each according to the abilities He has given us as we open ourselves to His grace — even at 7:00AM in the morning.
Love and prayers,
24th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME REFLECTION
So you’ve heard this Gospel (Mt 18:21-35) many times and understand it? You could write this reflection? We all think this way at times. But we need to dig deeper, looking also at the reading from Sirach (27:30-28:7) and that from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (14:7-9).
From the Gospel we receive the teaching that we must forgive as God forgives if we too are to be forgiven of our sins. It is a similar message found in the Book of Sirach. But St. Paul takes our forgiveness to another level simply because he calls us to find in our personhood a greater awareness of “self”. “For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s”. He has claimed us and taken us into Himself! In Cursillo, we speak of having human “ideals” and then move to understand how our lives are to live in the divine “ideal” in our oneness with the fullness of God, Father, Son and Spirit. Grace moves us into “not acting as Jesus” but “acting in Christ.”
To see ourselves as the Lord’s, we need to see ourselves in a way greater than as merely human beings (human ideal). We first need to think of Jesus as divine and not merely a as human speaking. He did not speak from a merely human perspective. As long as we remain thinking from a human perspective we will never be able to become one with our Lord as He so desires; we’ll continue to speak and act as those who do not know the Lord, living in ways espoused by society so often. These readings call us to not only act as God acts, but to have the mind and heart of God. That’s divine sharing as God so wills.
Let’s begin reflecting on when we need to forgive. So often we take another person’s words or actions as an affront to who we are, what we’re about, how we view issues, and the many disagreements which may come as a result of “differences.” So as someone speaks or acts against us, when someone will not budge from their way of thinking or acting, what are we to do? Is defense part of the human response we display? If so, then is it really grounded in the divine life shared with us? Does their actions have a negative effect or create pressure in a negative way? If so, then is it grounded in the divine life God shares with us and calls us to live?
You see, to forgive in the truest sense, we must live the mind and heart of God. On His part, God feels the pain from our sinfulness, but He does not change His loving approach to us, He does not ever stop loving. He always extends Himself to us, whether we are living His life or rejecting His love. He only loves even in our failures.
That said, to live these readings we must do what God does — love without restitution being sought from the offender, without forgiveness being asked for, without amendment and contrition being expected. We can only do as God does — be present for the other in love. That is difficult as it means rejecting all that may be considered “normal” in a human society. But that’s what our Lord did on the cross and does for us each and every day. Our “human ideal” is moved aside in favor of the “divine ideal” we’re called to be in the world — a revelation of God in the here-and-now.
My Spiritual Director in the seminary said to me, “Tom when you’re sitting in the confessional, on the other side of the screen, you are Christ and your thinking must become His. You’ll learn quickly that what you say will come from our Lord. You must live with His heart.” Each of us in everyday life must act in the exact same way — a manner which is counter-cultural to society’s thinking today where few people are wanting the spiritual ideal as their way of life. We must live a divine sharing that only comes about when we see our union with Father and Son happening through the gifting, living of their Holy Spirit.
“If we live, we live for the Lord…” is not an invitation. It is an expectation. Yes, we’re going to get upset, mad, angry over the words, actions, and beliefs of many people. But we can’t live their lives. Nor can we allow their lives to affect our living the Gospel of love or hinder our union with God. In these moments we are offered the opportunity to “…die for the Lord.” When we die to self, we die for the Lord and we are renewed in Christ, fulfilling our true call as members of the Body of Christ — not symbolically, but in all divine reality.
As Sirach reminds us today, anger, wrath, and vengeance are going to enter our lives, the effects of being human — even from a personal perspective. But we’re also told “…remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.” This is God’s way of dealing with us — overlooking the times our “ideal” is a human display of frailty instead of divine gifting. It is the desire of God to move us into divine gifting meant to lift humanity to a higher plain, a greater sharing, and a true oneness not just with, but in our Lord.
Love and prayers,
23RD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME REFLECTION
St. Augustine said, “Truth is like a lion. It does not need protected. Let it loose!”
I thought of these words as I read the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (33:7-9) The Truth is the Word of God. It doesn’t need defended or protected. It only needs spoken. Now take notice, unlike other prophetic passages, this passage doesn’t say, “Thus says to the Lord to me…” It says “You, son of man…” Few scholars speak of this title when studied in Old Testament terminology other than it was pointing to the coming of the Messiah, thereby giving witness to the Messiah’s fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation for all people. Ezekiel was in oneness with the Lord, of his own choice, pointing to the Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s plan for His people. Ezekiel also knew that it would cost him.
Ezekiel was a prophet during the time of Babylonian exile and the destruction of Jerusalem, hardly accepted among his own people until his prophecies came to fruition. Salvation was to come to the Israelites according to God’s way, not those of humans who had failed to learn the mind and the heart of God, failed to learn the fulfillment of the great commandments (see Lev. 19:18). In his living of these prophecies Ezekiel became one with the Lord, ergo “son of man.”
In New Testament understanding, Jesus is the “Son of man,” the one who was to bring about salvation for all people, not in a way expected by the people, but in a dramatic giving of life which would lead to resurrected life and eternal sharing of life for believers. This dramatic giving of life continues today in and through believers connected completely to Jesus Christ, who live in unison with the will of the Father, the work of our Savior, and in the grace given by the Holy Spirit. Since you and I have been baptized into the very life of Christ and allow ourselves to be animated by the life of the Holy Spirit (hopefully), it is ours, as it was Ezekiel’s, to announce God’s plan of salvation for all people.
Oh, how difficult this is! Where the prophet was told “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman…” it should read for us “You, son of man, I have anointed watchman…” Now the watchman has a responsibility. We, baptized into the prophetic ministry of Jesus, have a greater responsibility than Ezekiel since we have been given a share of Christ’s life to make known to the world. Oh, how so very difficult this is since the world does not wish to know Truth as it is meant to be. As we well know, truth in the eyes of many in the world is solely based on an individual’s wants with little regard for others.
I think of the many issues we’re being bombarded with — and will be for the next two months — issues which stand against the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ pronounced by the Church: 1—abortion; 2—disrespect for any human life; 3—the efforts to destroy marriage as a Sacrament as well as the dissolving of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman;
4— ignorance concerning the refugee seeking asylum from a slavery state or being killed because of the faith professed; 5—the protection of the environment and 6—the protection for proper employment for all (an issue in our own area); 7—the inequalities of racism, bigotry and prejudice; 8—the anarchy calling for the removal of proper civil authority; 9—the continued division between the poor and the excessively rich. Need I continue?
A lack of Truth fuels these. Remember, Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” (Jn 14:6) The truth in the world is that dignity of life in all its forms is being ignored in favor of individual mentalities and lifestyles, or by the propaganda of a group of people leading the way for others, and being accepted by political leaders for the sake of a vote. These are destructive mentalities pervading the minds of those seeking Truth in every society AND in the Church. Conformity to the Truth, which is given for the lifting up of all, has given way to the abandonment of laws meant for justice and the living of Truth as announced in the Gospel through Jesus Christ, the concern each person must have for another. I find this lacking in many leaders who fail to allow for the spiritual welfare of our senior citizens.
St. Paul calls the believer — you and me — to act in accordance with the law — the commandments as given in the Mosaic Law (see Ex 20:13-17; Lv 19:18; Dt 5:17-21), and their fulfillment through Jesus Christ’s own ministry and teaching (see Mt 5:43-44; 19:18-19, 22, 39; Mk 12:31; Lk 10:27; Gal 5:14; and Jas 2:8). “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Society is flunking this test! We may well be failing as well. Why? I have come to believe that most people do not know how to properly love themselves, thereby being incapable of loving others appropriately. They fail to accept the basic Truth of God as given by Jesus Christ — “God loves you” — meaning unconditionally. This said, those things outside the person are sought if favored, and ignored if it does not bring personal satisfaction.
“Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” We don’t need laws except for two — unconditional and unqualified love of God and love of neighbor. If we truly lived these we’d cause our world to be different as we would be different in heart, mind, word and action; we’d find ourselves in a new society based on justice and equality. Society would not be on the self-destructive path which currently exists. We are called — anointed — to change the mentality of society rather than to join it. We are anointed to affect a change in heart and mind.
When we look at the people in the world we’re going to experience most people living with resentment, anger, frustration, hurt, low-esteem and the like, simply because they do not know how to properly love themselves, and therefore incapable of loving others completely and freely. For a person to be happy and own a sense of fulfillment, he/she needs to look inside of self rather than becoming slaves to society’s expectations. A woman once confided in me that she couldn’t live her faith as freely as she desired because she would become an outcast of the group she was friends with. I asked her which was more important. She didn’t give over her “friends” and continued to live others’ expectations for her.
The first part of today’s Gospel (Mt 18:15-20) is all about providing dignity to an individual even in correction. When two or more are called, they are not called as judge and jury, but as witnesses to the truth. If this testimony does not change the heart of the one who has committed a wrong, that person then should be avoided, cast out of the community — almost as a cancer needs to be removed — try everything before cutting away. But truth is at the core of this teaching. If not accepted, then rejection will follow by their own choice.
The same is true concerning prayer. Yes, many people turn to God in prayer and have others pray for their cause as well. Do they first pray “Your will be done?” Probably not as it may lead to continued suffering and pain. But that’s what Jesus did. Our alignment of our sufferings for the sake of Truth with those sufferings of Christ are redemptive if properly offered. And God is continuing His plan for our salvation.
Brothers and sisters, Satan is at work, and it is very evident in our society today. There are those who rightly call the Church to task, but do not stop at that. Theirs is to destroy the Church and the teachings of Jesus Christ, creating truth as they wish, ignoring God’s truth completely. There are those who create God as they wish God to be allowing for any and every disrespect of life. Satan is causing a division among believers — the surest way to break the Church apart, as well as societies in the secular world. In our worldly situation, the foundation of our society is being undermined by the failure to properly love, to know and pronounce the Truth, to correct and admonish, and to have a spiritual cornerstone to support it. The truth of Jesus Christ is ignored as seen in so many families, the building blocks of any society, as well as a pick-and-choose attitude concerning the essence of our faith — the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I said to Fr. Carmen, “These readings are not easy to preach,” knowing well that we were to be Ezekiel, ready to preach them at all costs — for our own salvation and hopefully the salvation of many who will heed the message they invoke. He agreed. Sisters and brothers, you, like he and I, must get out of ourselves, stand against Satan, and let the lion loose. We were baptized for this — given a share in Christ’s mission and life. The Truth of the Gospel, lived and spoken, will either correct or destroy according to the choice of each person. What I have spoken about above concerning society can also be found in the Body of Christ, members who live their own lives while claiming membership to the Head, when in reality it’s all about themselves.
There is hope. If we live in the promise of Jesus Christ and live His Truth, there is a fulfillment that awaits us. God will restore His Church as He did the Israelites following the exile as He promised through Ezekiel. Those who remained faithful may have been few in number, but they were faithful. Let us be faithful. Let the lion loose in our living of faith!
Love and prayers,
22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The reading from the Prophet Jeremiah (20:7-8) simply reveals the “tug-of-war” that has existed, exists today, and will exist as long as the earth remains as we know it. It’s one between a person and God. We have our ways, our dreams. And God has His way and dream. Crazy as it is, God allows us to stack the deck in our favor, gathering as many as we want to support our cause, some in prayer and some reaffirming our humanity. Ours usually is a want to make things easy. better for us here on earth, and put all things in proper order as we see it with our human mentality. God, while He does take into consideration our needs in this life, has a much loftier goal for us to seek and to live. His way and dream for each of us, even in our human fraility, often times causes concern in heart and mind as it may also cause pain for us — that is until we allow ourselves to experience the depth of His way and desire.
We are very much like Jeremiah. We’ll say “Yes, Lord” before we fully recognize the commitment that the “Yes” requires. We’ll say “Yes, Lord” and then realize that it is going to cause a change in us. We’ll say “Yes, Lord” and then come to realize that some people are going to turn against us and some are going to brush us off. You see, our “Yes” is meant for our benefit as well as the benefit of others. Yup! Our “Yes” is not a solitary action. This is what Jeremiah found out and what anyone who opens completely to the Lord finds out — including all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.
You see, we can’t go into life thinking we’re following the Lord but holding Jeremiah’s words in our own thoughts — “You duped me, O Lord, and I allowed myself to be duped.” (Jer 20:7) Others may dupe us in everyday life when we allow ourselves to be used for their plans and benefit. God doesn’t act this way. God calls us into the acceptance of His love and life so we can share it as He does with us. No duping! No conniving! No threats! It is lived without expectation and without concern for self. That’s tough, I know. But that’s God’s way. That’s why the tugging at the heart is always real for us.
Peter didn’t want our Lord to go through His passion and death. It was his plan for greatness to happen in a far different way. Okay Lord, can’t you just zap them like you did with the loaves and fishes, or as you did with the little girl who had died, or the young son who was tormented by a demon, or the ten lepers, or even my mother-in-law? Peter is us — going to the Lord with the solution formed in our weak humanity. (Mt 16:21-27) Peter is tugging for what he wants. Too often we’re the same way.
At times I get into some lively discussions with the faithful who say they believe, but can’t see God wanting to live in them and work through them, as He desired to do with the Prophet Jeremiah ( 20:7-9) Abstinence from God and from what the Lord asks of believers is their defense mechanism. If God is to prevail, the mind and heart must be opened to God’s plan for us and others — never us alone. Jeremiah knew this. He also knew the fate of a prophet. The power of God’s call and presence won out. God’s tug opened vistas that were not seen by Jeremiah.
When St. Paul speaks about being transformed by “the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2) he is calling for an openness to the will of God, which comes first in the conversion of the heart, which in turn, brings conformity of mind as God desires. Only in this way can a person know what is good and pleasing and perfect — attributes of God — shared even in our humanness when we choose to live the words of our Lord and deny ourselves. (Mt 16:25)
Jeremiah found the word of God that he was to speak as a “burning in the heart”, causing a weariness which he could not endure. Many people have this same experience as they feel the burning to grow in relationship with God, finding that their own ways and desires as insufficient for fulfillment, as they fight from answering the call of ministry in their vocation as Christian. I’ve lived through this time and again, from the very tug-of-war I had with God concerning my call to the priesthood, through every call during my priesthood to open, give over, and accept what was being offered. Each time I found that God had more to offer than what I thought. I also learned what I was to do with the grace and life He gave me.
Jeremiah went on to become a great prophet and the influence of his teachings are heard in Ezekiel’s prophecies, in the psalms and the second part of Isaiah, well after his death. Paul was to become the Apostle to the Gentiles.
So what are we to do, my brothers and sisters, in 2020? Can we become living sacrifices of praise as St. Paul calls for? Yes, but it will require us to change our mentalities of how we see God working in our lives and calling us to work in the lives of others. The removal of fear, and the acceptance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are needed, first and foremost. Jesus, Jeremiah and St. Paul all resigned themselves to the call of our God and were led by the Spirit in a new way of life. Ours is not to look at the end result, but each moment lived in the grace and life of God. Without this we remain lost in ourselves.
The Church today may well be like Jerusalem of Jeremiah’s time — dispersed, scattered, overcome by outside influences. The remnant of believers may be small. There are many looking for the day of the Church to be made new. There are many wishing the Church to be what it was — not just prior to COVID, but prior to Vatican II when thinking and conversion were words not mentioned in Catholic conversations. We do not live in a “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it Church or society.” People want to make their own choices, have their own ways with the ability to act as they choose. Well, individualism has never been part of the teachings of Christ and, hence, of the Church. Therefore, the tug-of-war continues in life. Some will hold onto the rope and struggle with God and His wants for them. Others will let go and forget about God. Others, because of our their (our own) conversion of heart displayed for all to see, will be active members of the team God has formed, knowing that the inevitable is going to happen — God always wins.
God is not going to dupe us, that is trick us into faith. It’s clear that His way and His desire are all about us, meant for our good and the good of others– for eternity. When Jeremiah and St. Paul recognized this, their lives changed and they were free to live their ministries, taking new-found joy, freedom and fulfillment to others. The conversion of their own hearts was to be preached for the conversion of the hearts of others. The same is true for us — to those who are in a tug-of-war with God, and to those who have given up the search for God in their lives. With our own conversion, we are to encourage a conversion which reveals a joyful oneness with our Lord and God. We call it witnessing God’s love for all people and the reason we are ready to do whatever is necessary, like Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus, to make His love known.
Love and prayers,
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection
The question before us: “Who do you say that I am?” Anyone with any amount of religious instruction can answer that question — even confirmation students who remain silent when asked who Jesus is by a bishop. (They were saved that this year as pastors didn’t ask questions.)
However, the real question for us in 2020, is “How did you come to know Jesus?” And please don’t become like those confirmation students (those who do answer the bishop) by saying “In CCD.” Do that and you fail the course! Even when we say “By walking with Jesus,” we fall short as it may indicate that we are content to let Jesus do His thing and not become participants in His work now given us.
Jesus provided the disciples and us the answer: We learn who Jesus is through the power of the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth of the Father to the heart and mind. “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” (Mt. 16:17) In this, we learn that to know the fullness of God — Father, Son and Spirit, we must live in the Spirit. The disciples had the privilege of experiencing the Spirit emanating through and from our Lord, God-made-man, living in the Divine Spirit in the flesh. It is ours today to discern the Spirit active in our lives in a variety of ways to go beyond the limitations of the flesh. To do this, we must see the Spirit of God as the will, the love, the activity of God in our lives.
The first way is obviously through Scripture. But we cannot interpret the Word of God with a fundamentalist perspective. It must be done when all of Scripture is considered, following the Golden Thread of God’s love for His people which is the Spirit who runs through the whole of Scripture. The Incarnation is a prime example in the New Testament. No Spirit, no ‘yes’ from Mary, no Incarnation of our Savior. The Father’s will is being revealed through it all, most understandably through Jesus our Savior. As man, Jesus is the revelation of the activity of the Holy Spirit calling us into a participation of His life, in every aspect of life and not relegated to sacramental reception since sacraments are not meant to be defined by time and place, but carry with them prolonged effects..
The second way is that of clearing our minds from thinking “knowing about” God is equivalent to “knowing” God. Abandoning our own limited thoughts helps us to remain open to God revealing Himself to us in His fullness. You know as I do that so often people, ourselves included, make God as we think He is or should be (as can be seen in our prayers) and fail to allow Him to reveal Himself to us in His fullness. This is what St. Paul is writing to the Romans about (11:33-36). The Spirit helps to change this mentality, as it is the Spirit that fills our minds with the various gifts we have at our disposal to experience the fullness of Father and Son. In other words, as we open ourselves to the grace of the Holy Spirit, we begin to act in unison with God rather than expecting our Lord to act in unison with us. And, we begin to experience love for God rather than fear of a God.
This brings us to “knowing Jesus” as the fulfillment of the Father’s will. And if we are to be aligned in oneness with Jesus, then we need to accept the will of the Father. How great is the hesitancy in us when we reach this level! Failing to trust in the providence, the grace, offered us with the call of the Father, we become like Sheba (Is 22:19) who is removed from his position as leader for his very failure to trust and properly lead. When we were baptized we were given a share of the life of Christ as priest, prophet and king — in short, to make known God’s love and life for others as Jesus did. We are to change and affect the environments in which we live — to bring holiness alive in the hearts and minds of others. Doing this, our we grow even more in our understanding of who Jesus is. And we see Him as life rather than a history lesson.
Jesus is the One who fulfilled completely the will of the Father, acknowledging that His life is one in Spirit with the Father. He is one in life and love with the Father, and with the Father has sent that same Spirit for us to live. This is how we come to “Know God” as we live in Jesus, sharing in His ministry, sharing the love He has from the Father. He has taken us to the Father so that we may do as He did, and He continues to do so for our sake and the souls of others through the Spirit’s many gifts.
Today, in 2020, we live in the year of the pandemic, the closing of church buildings, the removal of the commandment to attend Mass on Sunday, and the turning in on ourselves like never before. I make this last statement simply because of the misuse of social media, the promulgation of false teachings, erroneous statements, lies, and the evident effort to please self by so many who admit having fallen away from prayer and the living of faith. We live in a world that does not know the Spirit of God. How then can God, Jesus be known? At the same time, our prayer must become more and more us listening in the heart to the Spirit rather than the pronouncement of rote words while the heart is dormant.
Ours is to build the Church anew, as it is intended to be, as Jesus Christ created it — alive and on fire in the Spirit, sharing the grace — the life and love of God — which opens hearts and minds to a new proclamation of Jesus in the lives of all. We must trust that the will of the Father is what is best for us and others. It may not always be easy. It may create scorn from family members, friends and coworkers. Ours is not to judge by the acceptance or rejection of others. It didn’t stop our Lord. We simply can’t allow the thoughts or opinions of others to affect us and our ministry. They probably want to make God in their own image. Many “faithful” do so unknowingly. In turn, if shared in life, they lead others from knowing and pronouncing Jesus as Lord, failing in intimacy as called by the Spirit.
Ours is to ask for a portion of the depths and riches, the wisdom and knowledge of God. Old Testament writings reveal Wisdom as the fullness of God. As we grow in Wisdom, we see God as He is. As we move in knowledge, we begin to see ourselves as God sees us so that our understanding is that which joins us in the work of the Spirit for others in the world. And we know well that the world needs heralds unafraid, different, to speak the truth and to invite all people to His love as He intends — our oneness with Him through our Savior Jesus Christ.
The Spirit, who has moved us to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior in the heart and in life, one with the Father in all things, has provided the church with the truth to be proclaimed. Let the Spirit of God be found filling every once of our being, infusing us in Divine proclamation and Divine sharing. In it we find our answer for we have grown into living the answer.
Love and prayers,
20th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — REFLECTION
This past week when in prayer, immediately the Lord showed me a bright light as if a golden sunrise filling the whole of the horizon. These words came to me also. “I am going to light the way to a new beginning.” “I am here to warm hearts that are distant from me.” “I am sending My Spirit to provide insight for many.” The light moved over me and then behind me. It came from the east and moved to the west until all was again dark. It never remained stagnant. “This message is meant for all people, from east to west, from every background and every history.”
We’re told in John’s Gospel. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12) While this was said in another time far removed from today, the message given then remains applicable for the world today. Society really hasn’t changed. The busyness of everyday life, the misdirection by some of authorities, the weaknesses of faith found in so many are all present to us today for numerous reasons.
Yes, we have the coronavirus, a disease unlike anything experienced in a hundred years. But we also have a fragile world with social distancing for health reasons, but which is also found in a terribly opposite manner in the social distancing found between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the disparity of class in every culture, in our country and every nation throughout the world. We have racial injustice that darkens the landscape of society, and at the same time we share life with many found in the darkness of self-gratification, rejecting any concern for others or the full dignity of self.
The word of the Lord given to Isaiah, “Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.” (56:1), should be carefully heeded in our own hearing because, as we later hear in this passage, “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord (v. 6)…them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer…” (v. 7). It is a reminder to us that some who think they are among the chosen may not be, and some we may think are not chosen may well be. So how do we address this issue?
We need to move as Jesus does in the Gospel (Mt 15:21-28), and as St. Paul does once he accepted his call — both met the faith of Gentiles and moved them to the goodness, the salvation being offered by God without distinction while recognizing the polarized faith of “the chosen ones”. In our time many are lax concerning the living of their faith; many are being called away by the untruths professed by an atheistic culture. The Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus in faith, and the many Gentiles Paul has encountered in Rome and elsewhere, have come to belief in Jesus Christ, have accepted the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and have opened their lives to the grace of God. They have come to know that the life of God is meant for all people. That God is a God of love. The exclusivity thought as a safety net by the “chosen ones” no longer carried any merit. The safety net is Jesus Christ alone — as He was, is and will be, rather than experienced by an individual’s creating and fulfilling expectations, rules, and/or regulations.
This is not a modern issue. Cardinal Archbishop Montini, later to become Pope Paul VI, said in 1962, “Our society is becoming irreligious and atheistic.” We know that our society has become irreligious and atheistic. I see it on a regular basis when visiting “Catholics” in the hospital — name only but away from living true faith and connected to the Church. So the movement for all of us now is to accept the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ and make it known for others — Jesus’ purpose as well as Paul’s. Neither forgot “their people,” but they have brought an openness to sharing faith and divine life to others; they fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah.
“The light came into the world for all mankind” (Jn 1:4). That’s a message we need to carry with us along with the compassion of God that we hear of in the Gospel and in Paul’s Letter to the Romans (11:13-15, 29-32). People today, as did the people of Tyre and Sidon and Rome years ago, need to hear and experience the compassion and love of God rather than find fear in it. For us, we can no longer live as the “Frozen Chosen,” baptized and raised Catholic, confirmed, and who believe they’re saved because of these events. These same people can be massed with the disciples who wanted to reject the “outsider,” and the Jews of Paul’s time who rejected the Gentiles. Perhaps the future Paul VI spoke properly to his fellow bishops during the Vatican Council.
“How empty the House of the Lord often is! If it were possible to shout loudly enough to reach you, sons who love us no longer, I would first ask your forgiveness. Yes, we ought to ask you to forgive us before you ask God to forgive you. For what has our brother separated himself from us? Because he was not loved enough. Because we have not watched over him enough, have not instructed him enough, have not initiated him into the joys of faith. Because he has judged faith on the basis of what we are, we who preach and represent it; because through our fault he is driven to boredom where it is a question of religion, to mistrust it, to hate it, because he has heard more reproaches than warnings and appeals. Since it is so, we ask you, our estranged brethren, to forgive us. If we have not understood you, if we have too easily rejected you, if we have been too little close to you, if we have not been adequate spiritual teachers, adequate doctors of souls, if we have been incapable of speaking to you of God as we should have done, if we have treated you with irony, with sarcasm, if we have indulged in polemics, today we implore your pardon. But at least hear us…” The then Cardinal Montini was speaking to his peers. Yet the words need to be addressed to all of us since we share, in one or more ways, the ministries of witnessing, teaching and living the faith before worrying about strictness of rituals and laws. Faith is founded on love. Laws are founded only on obedience and rarely touch the heart.
Our willingness to live faith in a new light is necessary. We are not the light but are called to be the light of Christ in the world for others. We can only do this through an openness to the workings of the Spirit who joins us to Our Lord for the salvation of all people. We need to see as our Lord sees, without restrictions formed by human thinking or the enculturation of fallacies passed from generation to generation. We must act with the loving heart of our God.
What the Lord said to me the other day — and says to each of us today — is that all things are in His control. We need to be open to see how the Lord is loving all people again, calling each and all of us to a newness — a oneness of heart that desires life in our Lord. Our Lord spoke these words to me 20-plus years ago: “Trust me. Allow me. Stay with me.” Back then I watched God work in ways I never thought possible. Hearts focused on our Lord’s plan will see the same results from trusting, allowing, and remaining in oneness happen in their lives and those of others.
His light is shining on all people — those he wants to call to Himself and those who are called to make His goodness known. We need to remember that “my house” which we hear in Isaiah’s prophecy is the Body of Christ — “a house of prayer for all peoples” — a house — you and me — of many in oneness according to His plans since He is the cornerstone (and the cap) of the house. Jesus invites us today, as he did St. Paul, to reach out to those needing loved; to embrace the loneliness they may feel due to lack of relationship with the Lord; to lift up by offering forgiveness for the faults of others; to offer them a new sense of dignity and value; to imitate Jesus as light shining in the darkness.
Love and prayers,
NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME — REFLECTION
Two ways of finding God in our lives — in the tiny whispering sound as with Elijah, and in the raging storm and sea as with Peter. These are interesting readings when we dare to get beyond the obvious, especially when we read all of 1 Kings and Elijah’s struggles and Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 14) and what Peter witnessed prior to being called out of the boat. So where is God found by man, us? For the prophet Elijah it was after all the clamor and noise had settled down. For Peter it was in his suddenly sinking in the turmoil. However, the underlying concern we need to address is the fear exhibited by each man of God.
Let’s address Elijah. He was where he was, in a cave, out of fear. He had slain a dozen false prophets of Baal and now Jezebel was out for his head. He had gone into hiding on Mt. Carmel. What is shown is, first he acted on the Lord’s word and observed the natural disasters of earthquake, fire and storm as if they are daily occurrences. But fear seized him in a tiny whispering sound. The Lord is shown as coming in the quiet which touches the heart. And this is a good reminder for each of us. Despite the upheaval we find in our lives, the disappointments we may feel, or how we interpret what others may be saying, we are always invited by the Lord to “Come to the quiet” and meet Him where others may not dare to tread — in the heart.
Peter lived in a culture that feared the sea, as it was untamable. So when a storm came, most would not be on the water. Having been a fisherman, Peter had experienced this in the past, so his fear was probably tempered by experience. It shouldn’t surprise us that the ‘Macho-Man’ would so boldly hop out of the boat at the Lord’s words. That strength he thought he had didn’t last long. Jesus stretched out His hand, pulled him up and got him back into the boat. How true this is for us as well. We think we’re strong in faith. And we may rightly, with all humility, think that. But what has and does happen to us when the storms of our lives batter our faith, cause us to question what we’ve done, become fearful of the future? We get caught up in the world and how others may respond to events. We usually will sink into the very quagmire that faith is meant to lift us from. But that’s also where God is found.
Both encounters speak to us of faith, and of doubt, lack of faith in uncertain times, despite our knowing that the power and strength of God can do so much more than we can imagine. Our times are not that much different than those of Elijah. Other gods have crept into the life of the people. Can we begin to name those gods in life today? Sure we can. During the past five months there has not been a connectedness with one another as in the past. This is true in the Church which has found itself, for various reasons, limited in communicating the truth. We, like the Israelites, are not getting the full picture and making decisions about the Church and about parishes on what is transmitted by others who may not provide the whole truth, or who cannot accept the limitations of our situation. So we need to remember that God changes those situations as He did Elijah following the experience at Mt. Carmel. Trust in God working is essential.
I think of Elijah’s predicament. He was the last remaining of the true prophets. His life was being sought. He had to have a sense of depression. His listening to the Lord doesn’t seem to have brought anything but strife. All this despite the many signs and miracles God had worked through him. He was tired. He is us. But yet (read further 1 Kings 19) he was fed and directed to further work, further speaking God’s plan, including the preparation of his successor, Elisha. I think of Peter and the other Apostles. They had just witnessed 10,000 or so people being fed with a few loaves of bread and some fish. Maybe that strengthened Peter enough for him to climb out of the boat. It didn’t last long. Experiencing the power and strength of the Lord in a personal way ultimately helped the unbelief of the 12 who came to see God present among them despite the upheaval of life.
So maybe we need to ask ourselves a few questions concerning our own fears and personal doubts of God with us —- and of how we need to see the power and strength of God in our lives so we are responding to Him rather than to others and what they may say or do.
· List, name those things in your life that are causing turmoil, fear — the things that distract you from God and from knowing His will, of how He wishes you to act in our chaotic world — government leaders, protests and the lack of respect for all human life, the person who refuses to wear a mask.
· List, name, those who, according to your own plan, display or have been blamed for moving you from the Lord, causing fire, storms, as it were, in the heart and mind. Why was this allowed? Why did trust in God disappear? We know many are acting due to the word of false prophets.
· List, name, the times when listening to others have caused reactions different from what God intends for all concerned, and from you knowing the full truth. Was understanding sought?
Often the Church has been referred to as a ship. This is also often reflected in the architecture of church buildings. Such is the case of Risen Lord Church (nee St. Francis Xavier Church), now the location of the Latin Community. In 1927 the ceiling was designed to represent the hull of a ship, inverted to rest on the walls. It was symbolic of the Church and of the work of St. Francis who spent much time travelling from island to island in the Far East. To minister. It does not represent the Church, the People of God, however.
The building is a reminder that, like Francis Xavier (whose name was taken by our pope), we find our security among the People of God. That is why in Cursillo we have the support systems — the Ultreya and Group Reunions, the School for learning, so vital to maintaining a strong personal relationship with the Lord and His mission. You see, Jesus says to each of us “Get out of the boat,” meaning the mission of the Church and its many members is not locked in a building or simply among the faithful. The faithful gather together to gain strength to speak the truth and announce it to those struggling with a screwed up society, a fragile world, the many storms in life. The Church, and its support systems are to speak the truth to us so we find ourselves properly moving in the mission of Christ as we expand beyond the confines of a place.
So we go back to Elijah and Peter and ask ourselves, where is our faith and trust in God’s providential care? Are we facing the struggles of life, the decisions of others, with confidence that our Lord is stretching out His hand to us, especially in our weakness? Can we go beyond the false securities we live with which include our thinking we have faith because we’re Catholic, we read the Bible, we say a lot of words we deem as prayer. The Lord is asking us today, “Do you really trust me?” That’s a question that challenges us because it calls for honest humility and examination of purpose.
The Church is to be the action and ministry of Jesus Christ. Its purpose is to bring every person into the person of Jesus Christ. It is fueled by the Spirit of God that is “Being” as well as “Action.” Now is the time for each of us to get out ourselves and invite others to go beyond the struggles and storms to the security of Christ in all situations. But we need to do this first with ourselves. Our Lord has called us in love to love one another. To do this, we need to trust and to “Get out of the boat” we may have created and into His loving embrace
Love and prayers,
18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Reflection
I visited a homebound 91-year-old to provide the Sacraments of Anointing of the Sick and Eucharist to he and his wife. He took the Eucharist in his hands, consumed it, and then began a five minute prayer of praising and thanking God. It was as if he was paraphrasing Psalms 111, 118, 139, 145, 148 and 150. It was beautiful. He didn’t care who was in the room or who was waiting for him to finish. He was living in the freedom given each of us by God.
So as I began to reflect on the readings for this Sunday (Is 55:1-3; Rom 8:35, 37-39; Mt 14:13-21), the passage from the Prophet Isaiah spoke of the beauty of this man. He was free enough not to be concerned with anything other than a communion with our Lord, allowing our Lord to draw him into Himself — a sort of beatific vision, gazing on the loveliness of God. The word God speaks to us through Isaiah is just that — “I will renew with you the everlasting covenant (55:3), and affirmed through the words of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, not powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39) The passage is a call for us to share in the beatific vision now, enabling us the grace to seek its fullness, the presence of God, in the eternal life to come.
When our hearts are truly set on God, there is nothing on the face of the earth strong enough to keep us from growing in this communion of heart and mind. We are invited to see that what is being spoken here is a physical (human) and spiritual fulfillment — physical in our coming to see the sacredness of our entire being made in the image of God as we are also made in the spiritual oneness, a divine sharing. God is happening, as it were, in and through all that we are — mind, body, spirit and soul.
As St. Pope John Paul II wrote in the Theology of the Body, we were created to freely come into communion with God and with one another — as it were, naked or without human sinfulness, made in His image. We are created to love, as God does, in the purest giving of self, honoring the whole person God created while also honoring each person in the same way. We can only do this when we take it upon ourselves to be free from the false expectations of today’s society, rejecting the limitations society may create which inhibit our spiritual oneness. This doesn’t just happen in society. It is also happening among some in the Church who reject the sacredness of the body, even when receiving the Eucharist. It is for us to see that we are beautifully, wonderfully made — in mind, body, spirit and soul.
This is good for us as too many view the body, or parts of the body as bad, sometimes even evil, when in fact God made the whole body good, just as He did the mind, spirit and soul — the whole person. Therein lies the issue of self-condemnation — the rejection of what God made in His own image and likeness. The God who is good created good, as we’re told in the creation accounts. (See Gn 2:27-31) This “goodness” allows us to see the treasure we are, in love for God, self and others — the manifestation of God’s promise through Jesus Christ. Our humanity is to be elevated by our call to divine sharing. It is to be seen as a gift to be given in and through the giving of our Lord.
When we look at the Gospel, (Mt 14:13-21) John the Baptist had been martyred. Jesus, in His humanness, moved away to a deserted place so he could be affirmed in his personhood — in the joining of his humanity and his divine sharing — in the affirmation of His purpose. He did not hide out of fear. If he had, the remainder of the Gospel, as we’re told, would not have happened. Rather, having been affirmed in the wholeness of His person and mission, he saw a vast crowd, hungry and hurting. He gave of Himself in curing the sick. And when the disciples wanted to send them away without being fed, He became gift again — an action that would be repeated two more times in Matthew’s Gospel, the final being at the Last Supper. He taught His disciples the sacredness of each person. The same happens for us at every Mass.
It is not bread alone with which Jesus fed them. It is the example of what God wished for them, us, in divine sharing, in growing in God’s faithful promise to always be with us, in His wanting to lift us up to see more than a physical being, and at the same time, to give credence to the goodness of each person. So He fed them, in their fullness— physically and spiritually. They took it, shared it, fed themselves with the life-sustaining action of Jesus —- His love. They took it in their hands and consumed it — just as did the shut-in I visited, mimicking the words of Psalm 139, “…I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made…” (v. 14). The whole person was being honored, and in turn, honoring others trough their sharing and concern. God had touched the entirety of their beings.
By God’s will, the wholeness of the person is made good. Spiritual and physical sharing had occurred. Later, the early Church would recognize how this action, followed by the Last Supper experience, was to move them into a sanctity of life that was attainable. But it all began with believers accepting that the wholeness of the person — physical reality and divine reality — was being called into a oneness. “Heed me, and you shall eat well.” (Is 55:3)
When we come to the Eucharist, God honors the entirety of the person, seeing goodness and beauty in every aspect of the creature He has made in His image and likeness. Many do not see this and have been led astray in erroneous beliefs, similar to what St. Paul addresses in his Letter to the Colossians (2:20-23). No, we are not worthy of any gift from God because of our sinfulness, not even to come before Him in prayer. It is only by His grace that we can even think to do such a thing. But to say the body, or one part of the body is less worthy than another, is to reject the good that God created , thereby rejecting the Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, understanding and knowledge needed to live as God has made known in and through Jesus Christ.
Our sin, therefore, is our inability to see and desire the good that God created and subsequently to reject His call in our fullness in holiness of mind, body, spirit and soul. It all starts in the mind and heart. St. Paul, again, addresses this in numerous letters when he speaks of our attaining wisdom, knowledge and understanding. These are gifts we need to open to the Lord’s goodness since they control how we see the goodness that we are and live it. The mind and heart too often listen, respond, and accept those things that St. Paul would say separate us from the love of God. “I urge you, therefore brothers [and sisters]…be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Rom 12:2) As grandma, in her 80’s, used to say, “I sin more with my mouth than with my hands or any other part of my body,” as she held the precious Body of Christ for the first time more than 40 years ago. She knew all sin begins in the mind and the heart.
Isaiah calls us to return — to change mind and heart — to see this goodness and how God wishes to honor and care for the entirety of His creatures. St. Paul reminds us of the power we have — through Jesus Christ who fed body and soul — to overcome the sins of mind and heart that have led us away from seeing the dignity given us, others, by God. Jesus demonstrates how our oneness in the Lord is to lead us to serving the whole person, caring for the goodness of body, mind, spirit and soul — our own and the many others we may affect. We can only imitate Christ when we choose to enter into His relationship with the Father and see the good that He created.
These times of the pandemic are times when love needs to direct our personal wishes from self to the well-being of every person, including the minister, when we choose to be present at Mass and receive the Eucharist. Some choose only in preference to themselves concerning the wearing of masks and the reception of the Eucharist. If we are receiving love, we must be ready to love in the exact same concern for others that Jesus has for us, removing our preferences to take on the mind and heart of our Lord who feeds us spiritually and physically.
“Do you know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Co 6:19)
Love and prayers,
17TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME REFLECTION
The Buried Treasure, the Pearl of Great Value, and the Good and the Bad
Before you get caught up in the treasure or pearl, think BIG!
The “treasure” and “the pearl of great value” are the reward of a person remaining diligent while going about everyday life. Sometimes that which is sought comes to a person easily, and sometimes only after much searching, with vigilance in the pursuit of something more than just good. Sometimes a person can stumble upon a treasure, and sometimes hard work is required. Jesus didn’t show these persons who found the treasure or the pearl of great value not doing their normal work, whatever that may have been. They are found in where we are as that is where we need to find God’s presence.
In our experience of faith, we all know that we live in the kingdom of God. We also know that we have yet to come to the fullness of the treasure we seek, the pearl of great value. The hidden treasure remains hidden until we choose to search, to grow in faith, for what God is offering us. It may be as simple as turning over a stone, or as difficult as digging deep. If we are content with our faith as it is, however, we will never find the treasure, no matter how much grace comes to us through the Holy Spirit. Our choice is ours to live.
The same is true of that pearl of great value. In Jesus’ time pearls were desired commodities, if for no other reason than to gaze upon their extreme beauty. A great pearl would have a person held in high esteem. Again, remember Jesus teaching, “Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before swine…” Mt. 7:6) To forever gaze upon the loveliness of God is the ultimate goal of our faith, don’t diminish it by a devalued life. “The twelve gates [of the new Jerusalem] were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, transparent as glass.”(Rev. 21:21) The pearl of great value should beckon us as it reaches out to us and invites us to enter into the kingdom — just as God beckons the soul.
The eternal kingdom of God is the buried treasure or pearl that we can only find through our piety, our study and our action. To know about God should never satisfy us. To know God requires our seeking Him in our own lives as He directs us to uncover His life by the grace provided through the Holy Spirit. Only then are we provided, by grace, the opportunity to truly study the value of this life, and to live it. Finally, we move in the power of God and commit ourselves to possess His life completely while making it known to others. St. Paul writes, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ. But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” (2Cor 4:6-7) We will not possess the gift unless we acknowledge the gift and the Giver.
The place where this treasure is found, where the pearl of great value is located, is within ourselves. We don’t have to search anywhere other than within self, in the mind and the heart. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Mt 6:21) If the treasure or great pearl is the kingdom of God which Jesus leads us to, then we’re moving in the right direction. It means we consider all else that the world offers as rubbish, garbage.
The third parable may challenge our thinking and our religious practices as Jesus did the people of His time. If our hearts are not growing in a oneness, in an understanding of the heart of Jesus, we’re plugging a quarter into the jukebox to play an old favorite song and dreaming of the past. We’re stagnant and not growing. There’s no treasure or pearl of great value at the end of the day, just immature faith. Hearts not moved to action, not bringing life to others, should be thrown away. There is no love in these. Remember, a small pearl has little value in comparison to one of great value. A god in this world has no comparison to the God who calls us to Himself in His fullness.
The reality is before us. God loves us and wants us to find the kingdom!
Like Solomon, we must know what to ask for and then ask for it without reservation and without fear. Then the same wisdom and understanding as that given Solomon is given to us. We come to know God as God desires to be known. Solomon asked nothing for himself but only for the will of God. It is up to us to uncover the gift of uncluttered faith and to nurture it in the heart, to allow the love of God to be experienced in our lives, to dig deep if necessary to remove the dirt that covers the heart and soul. It calls for a conversion to a new way of thinking, a greater diligence in seeking that treasure of oneness for all eternity. We’re told in St. Pau’s Letter to the Romans (8:28-30) that we are called according to His purpose. This was from the beginning of time, and is now God’s plan so that He may justify and glorify us in Him — not us justify and glorify by our own plans. These fail.
So where are we left? Read St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy 6:17-19
“Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.” In other words, let others gaze on your happiness in the Lord and invite them to know the true riches God wishes to bestow on us and them — the only thing that matters — eternal love.
Love and prayers,
SIXTEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME REFLECTION
Let’s think back a number of years. Producers of movies have had the world being overrun by ravens, zombies, apes, and more recently, transformers, creations of man gone wrong. All of them were meant to create fear and panic in those who chose to allow someone else (the producers) to affect their minds, and perhaps their lives.
So when we think of ourselves as “children of the kingdom” (Mt 13:37), we also need to examine our lives and what has and what is affecting us today. Of course, we’re all going to say that we’ve been sown as “children of the kingdom.” Face it, we’ve been baptized. We celebrate the Sacraments — at least the Eucharist. We believe we have a personal relationship with our Lord. We believe He is always with us. So we’re good. Right? Well, the grace was given by God. Our baptism was because of what our Lord Jesus did. The Eucharist is again a gift freely given. So what have we really done to live as “children of the kingdom?” Are we living according to our parameters of what is “good”, remembering that Jesus taught that only God is good? (Mk. 10:17-19; Lk 18:18-19)
We’re invited to look at the other side of this parable. First, the weed referred to in the parable grows similar to wheat in every way but its color, which could not be fully determined until mature. It was toxic, a killer of anyone who ate it. In looking at the weeds in our lives, those things sown by the evil one, those things that are choking off the grace given by our God — what are they that limit or minimize us living in and as Eucharist, allowing the fullness of the life of Christ to sanctify us and move within us — and also affect in the world? Are they controlling a personal relationship with our Lord? Have the weeds of the world killed my relationship, and therefore my ability to produce a rich harvest in the lives of others? Sorry, these weeds may be our reliance on mere words daily repeated with no conversion of heart. Satan can move us into a complacency by making routine a false accepted norm.
We need to be reminded that perhaps the greatest “weed” in our lives is something within — the same fear that those movie producers tried to create within us. Except these weeds, the “children of the evil one,” affect us, and in some cases, change and limit our living as “children of the kingdom” especially when we fail to see the kingdom of God in our midst every minute of every day. How often are “believers” seen backing off when confronted by one living as a “child of the evil one?” Also, there are other weeds we’ve allowed to control us, or that we’ve seen controlling loved ones or coworkers. List them: pornography, drugs, alcohol, prejudice, bigotry, gluttony, complacency, laziness; political agendas, lack of compassion, insensitivity toward the lowly, movies, television and social media to name a few more. And then, there’s always the biggest — us believing that we can dictate and create God as we wish God to be — as we see those living as weeds of the world desiring to do. When we allow the weeds around us to overcome us or affect us in some way, our 100, 60 or 30-fold harvest is drastically reduced.
And that second parable? How do we see ourselves growing into that person God intended for the caring of the Kingdom, especially those in need of knowing the love of God? Growing in the grace and life of God, as God intends, we become the very source of blessing for others. The smallest seed of faith at baptism becomes the tree extending its branches to those who seek refuge from the world.
In the same way, our “leaven” is God acting — powerfully acting. Three measures of wheat is a lot of wheat. A small portion of yeast can transform it all and give it purpose. It is not us doing anything aside from allowing the grace of God to move in and through us. It is our “yes” to bring others into the leavened word of hope and fulfillment as God deigns. Remember, yeast reproduces itself. A life directed by the grace of God continues to grow, by the very grace of God, even as a portion of it is given away for the sake of others. So we never have to fear losing our oneness with the Lord in sharing it with others. It carries with it great power! A little time away from what we want, a little courage to speak justice and truth, a moment to awaken the love and life of God, as it should be known, are prime opportunities for our fulfillment of the parables.
There’s that catch phrase in Cursillo, “Bloom where you’re planted.” We’re planted in the grace of God, and therefore, should bloom wherever we are, benefitting whomever God desires to touch. These parables are critical for our sake and for those we are called to evangelize. Our evangelization efforts can never remain isolated from all of life. The mustard seed grown into a tree does not pick and choose the creatures resting in it. It produces food for the birds of the air to feast upon. Our faith and oneness in Christ is to do the same.
Also, the yeast is not selective in the wheat it is to leaven. We know that as Jesus was to be leaven for the world, many chose to remain unleavened as it called for a drastic change within themselves. The same happens in our lives today. Face it, our faith is transfigurative. It stands against the world and its varied views. It is anti-cultural, but only because the world has developed a deadly culture through the seeds of the evil one.
Our work is before us. We have an uphill battle. We can see it in the small number of “Catholics” who seek a growing oneness with our Lord in the Eucharist at Sunday Mass. There is no obligation, therefore there is no growing desire to allow the Lord to transform lives. The “want” to be one in the Lord has been missing. It is being magnified now in this time of pandemic. If the law remained, more would be present out of guilt. Hard truth to swallow. Ours is to bring life in and with our God to these people, lost children of the kingdom, before they truly become children of the evil one and sow their seeds among their families, friends and environments.
St. Paul tells us, “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness…and the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” (Rom 8:26-27) We possess the power of the Spirit of God who was given for our oneness with the Father and for us to continue the work of our Lord. In our evangelizing efforts, we are to remind others that the all-powerful God is also a God of great leniency and compassion (Wis 12:16-19) Kindness and mercy are ours to make known.
My brothers and sisters, our environments are small, only a couple square meters — wherever we are. God has planted us in our location for an express purpose. Let us be mindful of the grace, the power and strength we daily receive to make known the message that God loves us — always. In this is forgiveness, kindness and hope.
And to rid our lives of the weeds society has sown and will sow, let us always be thinking: “God First!”
Love and prayers,
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time — Reflection
“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.” (Romans (8:22)
Oh, how we groan to have life back to normal, to socialize without fear of contracting disease, of being able to have physical contact minus any anxiety, of not worrying about who a person may have been in contact with prior to meeting them. Oh, how we groan for the day that the virus is not the major headline of the news, that restrictions are permanently removed from life. We’ll be able to go back to living as we were accustomed without repercussions. We dream! And do we really wish to do that again?
There will always be groaning. Get used to it. There will always be those who disregard the welfare of others. Get used to it! There will always be restrictions in our lives. If you haven’t realized this you’ve been living in a cave and out of contact with life. The harsh reality is that people have become so accustomed to having it their way that any inconvenience from the routine can become a cause for groaning. I drive I-79 an awful lot. I should own a part of it and assess a toll. I’d be rich. There’s major construction happening between Bridgeville and Canonsburg. “Slow down” are the words flashed on the signs. I don’t want to. Get used to it. It will be around probably until I retire. Thanks!
All of the above is superficial. It has absolutely nothing to do with who I am and what I’m about when I really consider it. It’s this world and it is always going to exist. So groan if you wish, but it’s human life.
I read through the entirety of Matthew’s Gospel with the thought of St. Paul’s “groaning” in mind. I dare you to do the same. I was awakened to the reality that everything that is written is meant to show how Jesus “groaned” for what was important: the awakening of minds and hearts to the will of God; for all people to groan with “eager expectations” for a oneness for all eternity with the Father; for the “glory to be revealed” now and in the life to come — the redemption of life. His anguish (groaning) for his disciples, for the people, even for those who opposed Him, reveals His desire for the Word to be fulfilled, for His life to bring about His purpose in becoming man.
Now don’t get thinking too far about eternity as Matthew’s Gospel is meant to reveal the Kingdom of God “already and not yet.” In other words, we need to be able to apply what Jesus shows and teaches into our own lives for our good and the good of every person we meet. We already live in the Kingdom; we just don’t realize its fullness yet. Read the whole Gospel with that in mind. And do so as you “groan” as He did for faith to be accepted and lived in the lives of others as well.
It all depends on how we, the seeds, position ourselves in the world to most fully receive “The Word” — far different than the words signs flashing along I-79 or the groaning we find so often in our lives. You see, if our groaning is about our current life situation, then we’re not “sown in rich soil.” hearing and understanding “The Word.” Nor will we be disciples capable of helping those who have planted themselves on the path or on rocky soil or among the thorns. All these will probably be found living without an awareness of the fullness of God’s power to do and His love meant for each of us.
If we are to groan it should be done joyfully, first in making “The Word” as our own, and then in our call to fulfill “The Word”, the mission of Jesus Christ, in bringing all people to salvation. But we won’t have cause for joyful groaning until we place ourselves on the front line, announcing God’s love and jeopardizing friendships due to the risk of ridicule or rejection, and us growing in unity with Father, Son and Spirit. It will give witness through the calmness of heart and mind and in our own desire to grasp and grow that personal relationship with Jesus Christ, “the Word made flesh.”
However, if we groan in anguish and disappointment, let it not be for our lack of trying to move others to Jesus, to plant them in rich soil, but for their lack of seeing how they have planted themselves in lives that will always be a struggle. We must admit that every person needs to change his/her life, choose those they share life with, and be willing to see the freedom our Lord really offers.
True discipleship causes this. It also causes rejection or avoidance by and from others. That’s okay. Many recognize good which they are not ready to have as their own. They are content living among the weeds or struggling in the rocky soil, of living in this world with a focus not on their life in and with our Lord now and in the life to come. They well may be the ones who think they can control God and God’s decisions when the end time comes. There are no honest “eager expectations.”
Many of the emergency calls I receive from the hospital are calls from individuals or family members who decide that now is the time to get straight with the Lord, to get their ignorance of God through many years wiped from their souls so they are ready to “get into heaven.” This is the religious culture we live in. It is not a spiritual culture that moves us from mere existence and sustainability in this life to happily becoming one with our Lord for all eternity. God remains on the periphery until there is nothing else to grasp as they suddenly find they have little control of their life situation. Their reasons of separation from God and the Church are many and varied. The one constant is a lack of understanding that all people need God all the time, that we need unconditional love always.
That so many Catholics fear the term “evangelization” is not surprising since most do not understand the simple message we are to relay to others — that God loves them. Nor is “The Word” something many have made their own, failing to live in the sufficient grace God provides through the Holy Spirit in order to continue the mission of Jesus Christ in whom we have oneness.
Brothers and sisters, when we “Make a friend, be a friend, and bring a friend to Christ” as we learn in Cursillo, we are living in joyful groaning, longing for our own growth in Christ while longing for others to have the same. So if we are in oneness with our Lord, living the gifts of the Spirit, we are called to lives that dispense the grace of God so others find themselves living in “rich soil.” Our joyful groaning does require action. It requires that we assimilate our lives into “The Word” revealed in the fullness of His ministry — the fullness shown in Matthew’s Gospel.
Love and prayers,
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,
*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,