The Holy Land is often called the “Fifth Gospel.” To walk in the land and culture today is truly an experience of walking in the footsteps of Jesus who is our Lord and our God. This pilgrimage reminded me of our Church’s annual pilgrimage through Lent to the wonderful celebration of Easter. During these final days of Lent we will continue to attempt to follow our Savior as he leads us through the purification of Lent to the renewal of our Baptismal life of the Easter Season.
One of my favorite sites in the Holy Land is in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. Located among the many shrines and churches, there is a traditional site of the upper room where many believe that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. In our tradition this is where Christ instituted the Eucharist – giving us his body and blood. (more…)
Today we celebrate the greatest feast of the liturgical year – the greatest event in all of history – Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
He became the paschal victim. He who was sinless took upon Himself our sins, and He suffered the punishment for them – dying on the cross. By rising from the dead, He has broken the chains of death. He has opened the gates to eternal life.
“Oh death, where is thy sting. Oh death, where is thy victory?” (! Cor. 15:55) Christ has won the victory. He has taken the sting out of death. And so we rejoice, and we proclaim the good news to all the world!
In today’s gospel, John not only tells us of Christ’s rising from the dead, but he also illustrates for us how those who first discovered that Christ had risen reacted.
Most notably it seems is the “beloved disciple.” the disciple who is not named, in part because he represents all of us. Upon hearing of Jesus’ rising, he runs to the tomb. He is so full of love and anticipation to witness the empty tomb that he runs. Then, upon entering, after waiting for Peter, who represents authority, the beloved disciple sees and believes. He is the only one that this scripture passage identifies as believing immediately. His heart is so full of love for the Savior that it leads him to faith in the resurrection. (more…)
Today we celebrate the greatest event in all of history – Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It is the greatest mystery of all time and, therefore, today is the highest celebration of the liturgical year.
As Christian disciples, we not only rejoice in the reality of the resurrection, but, as St. Peter tells us in his speech in the first reading today, we are commissioned to proclaim the good news. We proclaim Christ to the world by the way we live our lives. Filled with sheer gratitude and joy for what Christ has done, we put Him first in our lives, committing to love and serve Him before all else. We recognize our time, talents, and treasure as gifts from Him, and we use them to give Him glory.
Then, those who bear witness to our lives see the beauty of Christ in us, and we invite them to live to love and serve Him as well.
This is what it means to be a disciple. We rejoice in the good news, and we proclaim it to all the world!
How’s that for a riddle? The best answer, if you haven’t already guessed it, is love. But the beauty of this paradox is that there can be a number of different answers. Another one might be artistic talent. Ask any artist, and they’ll tell you that their skill for drawing or painting decreases after a few weeks or months of inactivity. But the more they paint, the more their talent grows.
If you hoard it, you’ll lose it; if you share it, it stays healthy. We even see this concept illustrated in nature. For example, the Sea of Galilee teems with fish and other wildlife. However, all the water in this beautiful reservoir is constantly being drained through the Jordan River, which stretches about 60 miles, providing the only fresh water for all of Israel. It finally drains into the Dead Sea – which, unlike Galilee, has no outlet. Consequently, it is stagnant and totally lifeless, continually evaporating into thin air.
The point, in a nutshell, is that the good steward takes care of his or her gifts by giving them away. By doing so, you don’t have less left over; rather, you have more! (more…)
The readings today focus our attention on that life-giving redemptive sacrifice.
In the first reading, we hear what happens to the servant who proclaims the message. The people reject his message, and he is, in turn, humbled and humiliated. Yet, he is not deterred. He continues to proclaim God’s Word, because he has been appointed to do so. In fact, not only does he set out proclaiming the message God has given him to preach, he gives of himself in the midst of it.
“I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard, my face I did not shield from the buffets and spitting. The Lord God is my help. … I will not be put to shame.” (more…)
In today’s Gospel, we hear the Passion of Jesus Christ proclaimed. He suffered and died a cruel death for the sake of sinners – for the sake of all of us. And St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading that Jesus Christ “humbled Himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” St. Paul tells the Philippians in today’s second reading. “Because of this … at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
So, by sacrificing Himself the way He did (for the sake of others), Jesus gave glory to the Father. What does that mean for us today?
As His disciples, we follow in Jesus’ footsteps. We follow His example. This does not mean that we are all called to die a cruel torturous death. But we are all called to live lives of sacrifice – offering ourselves – our time, our talents, and our treasure – to love and serve the Lord by loving and serving others. What’s more, we do not do so in such a way that we give of our excess. Quite the opposite, in fact. Jesus’ Passion and Death shows us that this gift of self ought to be sacrificial. It ought to come from the first fruits of ourselves. In fact, we ought to give our whole lives – everything we say and do should be done for the glory of God and the service of others.
It is not an easy calling, but it is a noble one. The goal of it all, to give glory to the Lord our God.
But anyone with a beautiful garden will attest to the fact that the flowers do not magically appear as if the change in season itself miraculously makes the flowers bloom. Beautiful flowers and lush gardens are the result of hard work by the gardener.
Imagine a man is given some flower seeds. The man then buries the seeds in the ground and leaves them on their own. As the months pass and rain falls, some seeds may receive enough nourishment to bloom. But simply burying seeds in the ground will hardly make for a gorgeous garden. Rather, if the man truly wants to enjoy many beautiful flowers, there is much care and work ahead. Recognizing the hidden beauty within these simple seeds, he must cultivate the ground, plant the seeds in a solid foundation and water and fertilize them throughout the year. Only then will he see the proper fruit these seeds were made to bear. (more…)
Today’s gospel reading begins with some people looking for Jesus. And when Andrew and Phillip inform Jesus that there are more people who want to encounter Him, Jesus explains that it is time for Him to be glorified, for all men to know Him and for Him to “draw all men to Himself.”
But it is interesting to note that, as He talks of His impending glorification, we do not hear of pomp and circumstance like one would expect to glorify the King of Kings. Jesus speaks instead of suffering and death – “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
Through His death, He will be glorified. Through His death, He will bear great fruit (taking upon Himself the punishment for the sins of the world and offering us eternal life). And, Jesus tells us, it is through His death on the cross that He will draw all men to Himself. (more…)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus hones in on the sacrificial element of Christian living. He explains that a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die in order to bear great fruit – to become the wheat it was meant to be. Then, Christ makes some startling remarks. He says, “whoever loves His life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
That is not to say that we are to hate life here and now and solely focus on the afterlife. After all, god has placed us here, so He clearly sees fit for us to live an earthly life. He has clearly not called us to heaven quite yet. But what Christ’s words communicate to us is a sobering reality still. We are not to be living for ourselves and the things of this world. Rather, we were created to know, love and serve the Lord. We were created to go beyond ourselves and selflessly give in love and service to others. When we do so, we, like the wheat that gives of itself in “death” will bear great fruit.
God has given us innumerable gifts with which we can do so. It is our job to reflect on those many gifts and determine how He is calling each one of us to use them for His greater glory.
Fifteen years ago, a doctor encouraged me to explore my genealogy for genetic reasons. Despite thinking this could be risky and a lot of work, I began to do the research and embarked on a historical journey that, to this day, I greatly treasure. While some discoveries thought to be forgotten and buried, the genealogical search gave me the story of a people that intersected at some point in time, became my family, my story, and my history. I have never regretted the work, to find the facts, the names, and the circumstances that now defines us as family.
Several years ago, I began to think in the same terms about our parish family here at my parish, St. John the Apostle Church in Minot, N.D.. I wondered about the “charter members” of this parish that generously offered time, talent and treasure to establish our parish family, develop it, sustain it, and to this very moment in our history, continue its growth and continue the stewardship way of life that launched us and continues to help us thrive. Just as in every family, seasons come and go, celebrations occur, gatherings happen, the care and repair any household requires has taken place throughout our history, we look to the future of our parish family with hope and enthusiasm. It didn’t take long for me to realize our “birth” as a stewardship parish occurred at the moment people became interested in establishing the parish. We owe a great deal to those “charter members.” They are a significant part of our history just as any genealogical story identifies the names of those who “intersected” with others for form any family. (more…)
Today we hear a passage of scripture that is very familiar to many of us: “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” It is a passage of the gospels that is often learned and even memorized by little ones, and righty so because, beyond just being a catchy phrase, John 3:16 speaks of a very profound truth. The Father sent the Son into the world out of pure love for us. Jesus became man in order to suffer and die and rise from the dead, because He wanted to save us, to bring us into full communion with Him.
What a gift. Indeed, God’s love and generosity knows no bounds.
In our quest to live as Christian stewards, to live as disciples of Christ, we speak a lot about the many gifts God has given us – our time, our talents, and our treasure. Because of God’s generosity, every one of us could list a number of the incredible gifts we have – some are talented musicians, others have the gift of public speaking, still others are great cooks, and some have the gift of working with the youth. The list goes on and on, and we know, as Christian disciples, it is our duty to recognize those gifts, receive them gratefully, and return them with increase in gratitude to the Lord. We are called to recognize the gifts God has given and show Him our gratitude for them by using them in loving service. (more…)
“For God so loved that world that He sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This familiar verse which is a portion of today’s gospel reading speaks of a profound reality, a central truth of our Faith in which we wholeheartedly rejoice.
God the Father sent Christ into the world as a selfless, loving, life-giving gift to us and Christ, meanwhile, came willingly in order to give of Himself for our salvation.
How do we respond to such a gift?
We follow suit. We give of ourselves in utter gratitude to God. We recognize that He has given us gifts beyond measure, and we give Him our hearts and our whole lives. We live our lives in such a way that glorifies Him – lovingly serving one another. In so doing, we say “Thank you.”
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to India with Fr. Antony Thekkekara, Fr. Mathew Thekkekara and Fr. Joe Hannapple. Both Fr. Antony and Fr. Mathew have spent time here at my parish, St. Patrick’s in North Platte, Neb., as associate pastors. We had a very aggressive itinerary as we went to eight cities in 10 days. We saw some wonderful sites like the Taj Mahal, the tomb of Mahatma Ghandi, the church built over the mortal remains of the Apostle Thomas, and some Hindu and Baha’i temples. We were able to ride elephants up a mountain to the Amber Fort in Jaipur. Fr. Mathew was not very fond of the elephant!
I’ve determined that India is mystical, magical and just plum crazy (at least the drivers on the streets are crazy). One of the mystical places that I experienced is the south-western state of Kerala. Kerala is tropical paradise. It is also home to many of the Catholics in India and is the home state of Fr. Antony and Fr. Mathew. Kerala was distinctive for its exceptional friendliness and courtesy of the people.
Here in Nebraska, we call our state “the Good Life.” Kerala has a wonderful self-understanding as they refer to their state as, “God’s Own Country.” I mentioned that the drivers are crazy as the roads are congested. As we passed throughout Kerala, I kept seeing vans and buses with signs located above the windshield which read, “God’s gift.” What a great way to appreciate your land and your possessions! (more…)