DAILY SCRIPTURE REFLECTION (weekdays only)
Pondering the word with Our Lady
May 6th 2021
(For the May 5 reflection, please scroll down the page)
For today's Scripture readings, go here (If you happen to be in a different time zone than us, just choose the correct readings by going forward a day, or back).
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Gospel is so short today that we can reproduce it in its entirety:
‘As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.'
In these days we have been reading about the extents to which Jesus went in order to "make his home with us". He took on our nature, entered completely into our condition, became the vine that nourishes us with his very life blood. Yes, there is no doubt that Christ has loved us. So what should we do? Just sit still and lap up this love? Whilst it is true that we must contemplate his love in stillness and silence, we are also asked to do something more. We are asked to keep the commandments, to be obedient to God's will, to conform ourselves, mind and body, to Jesus.
Jesus is the beloved Son of the Father. But he doesn't remain the beloved Son by doing what he likes. He "remains" in the Father's love by conforming himself absolutely to the Father's will. We must do likewise. Our love cannot be just words and sentiments. It must involve conformity of our lives and actions to the beautiful, life-giving, joy-creating, works of God.
May 5th 2021
Today we read a passage that is amazingly effective for eucharistic adoration, lectio divina, or contemplative prayer of any sort. Jesus is the vine, his Father is the vine-grower, and we are the branches. If we wish to have life, and if we want our lives to be fruitful, then we must "remain in him". Jesus says, "make your home in me, as I make mine in you".
Let us first contemplate how Jesus has made his home in us. Though he was in the form of God, he emptied himself and entered into our condition. The eternal Word became our lowly flesh. He has come deeply into our story, into our very nature, so that he can unite himself to us, can speak to our hearts, can strengthen us with his strength. He has even united himself to us in suffering and death, and given himself to us in a sacrificial meal so that we can be nurtured by his very body and blood. Yes, when Jesus says "I make my home in you", he is not kidding! He has done so in the most radical and dramatic of ways.
But now consider the other half of that saying, "make your home in me, as I make mine in you". How do we make our home in Christ? By offering him our mind, our imagination, our thoughts, our actions, our prayers, our work, our sacrifices. If I spend my day fantasising about my own success, my own glory, my own achievements, then I am not making my home in Christ, but rather making my home in a world of my own fabrication, a world that is designed to gratify and glorify myself. If my thoughts involve sentiments of anger, hate or revenge towards people around me, as I react against their perceived injustices towards me, then I am not making my home in Christ but in a miserable parody of the kingdom of justice that Jesus seeks to found in my life.
"Make your home in me". It is not that difficult. Let us take it one half hour at a time. For the next half hour, may my thoughts, my imagination, my prayers, my works be centred on this Jesus who has emptied himself for me. If I do that, then the promises that Christ makes are quite spectacular. As long as I remain attached to the vie, enormous fruits will be produced by Christ, through me, for the glory of the Father.
May 4th 2021
As is often the case, there is a striking contrast in today's Gospel. On the one hand, Jesus is telling us to be at peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." On the other hand, Jesus tells us that the prince of this world is on his way. The Lord is just about to be arrested, tortured and crucified, yet he tells us to have peace!
This is actually a feature of all of our lives. We are oppressed by fears, anxieties, financial worries, relationship problems, family tensions, work challenges. In all of these things, the prince of this world is "on his way". Yet, we can have peace in our hearts because Christ won the victory for us in these very circumstances. When he was taken into the power of evil, he continued to trust in his Father, love his Father, abandon himself to his Father. Thus he defeated evil because evil has no power over the Father, and, ultimately, no power over us if we entrust ourselves like Jesus to the Father.
Jesus bequeaths peace to us. It is a stunning gift. However, the gift does not appear automatically in our lives. Ironically, it is a gift that is best welcomed and received when things are going badly, when the prince of this world has arrived in our circumstances. That is what Jesus did at his passion, and that is what we are called to do, to be at peace, to trust in God, to be immersed in him, faithful to his word and his commandments.
May 3rd 2021
A couple of things about today's Gospel are striking. First, Jesus tells us that he is the way, the truth and the life. Our culture would like to reduce Jesus to a cuddly moral preacher who says "respect everyone, tolerate everything, love whoever you want so long as you love". But Jesus is speaking in the context of the Last Supper in which he lays himself down for his disciples and invites them (and us) to follow him in his way of self-sacrificial love. For our culture, truth is not transcendent. Everyone's "truth" is just as valid as anyone else's. But Jesus shows us a truth that utterly transcends the shallow "truths" of our culture. God is love. If we wish to be in communion with him, then we need to submit to his truth, forget our projects and our prejudices, and follow him in the way of self-forgetting love.
Secondly, Jesus says something that might be a little strange to our modern "rational" ears. He encourages us to believe in him on the basis of the evidence of the miracles that he has performed. Sometimes, we get a bit snobby about miracles and assert that we have faith even without consideration of supernatural occurrences. We would like to think we are blessed even if we have not seen. That is all very fine, but the Lord helps our wavering faith with these signs. Not only that, the signs themselves are often a revelation of the nature of God, his power, his providential care. The signs did not just occur in biblical times. The Catholic Church has compiled the largest, most comprehensive and most scientifically-attested catalogue of miracles in the world. Many of these are happening in our own times. The catalogue is that contained it the archive of the Congregation for Saints in the Vatican, the body that examines the causes for candidates for sainthood. To find out about these miracles, and the scientific rigour with which they have been evaluated, just go to any search engine and look for the miracles used for the canonisations of John Paul II, Padre Pio, Sister Faustina, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Paul Vi, or countless others.
April 30 2021
Jesus tells us today not to be troubled at heart for he is going ahead of us to prepare a place for us in the many-roomed house of the Father. Once he has prepared a place for us then he will come and lead us home. What does Jesus mean when he says that he is going to prepare a place for us? Is he heading up to heaven to make some accommodation arrangements, move a few angels to alternative quarters, get the heavenly choirs tuned up for our arrival? This discourse happens on Holy Thursday night at the Last Supper. What Jesus means is that he is going to offer himself completely for us, suffer and die on the cross, restore our relationship with the Father, then rise again, drawing all of us with him into the life of the Trinity.
When Jesus says, "do not let your hearts be troubled", he really means it! He is going to repair and resolve the deepest source of all our troubles - the breach in our relationship with God caused by sin and disobedience. His radical obedience onto death is going to compensate for humanity's disobedience and offer all of us the way to the Father. However, it is not automatic. Jesus' sacrificial death doesn't save us unless we receive this salvation in faith and obedience. This is made clear by Thomas' very natural question. Thomas wants to have the security, joy and peace of living in the Father's house, but he admits frankly that he doesn't know how to get to there. Jesus tells him that it is not a roadmap, or a geographical route that we need. Jesus himself is our way to the Father. He wins salvation and, by adhering to him, we gain admittance to the heavenly dwellings.
He is the way and his way is that of sacrificial self-offering. We are called to do likewise. He is the truth and all human truths fade in comparison to him who is the creator and redeemer of all things. And he is life for union with him introduces us into the wonderful, selfless, joyful life of the Trinity.
April 29 2021- St Catherine of Siena
The readings for the feast of St Catherine include the Gospel line: "Come to me all who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest. Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart".
For today's reflection we can do no better than reproduce the excellent sentiments of Fr Martin Hogan (Reflections on the Weekday Readings 2020-2021: You have the Words of Eternal life, published by Messenger Publications c/f .
Catherine was one of the great mystics of the church. She was born in 1347, the daughter of a prosperous wool dyer, and died in 1380, at the age of thirty three. At a young age, she decided to give herself to the Lord, and she resisted the attempts of her family to find her a good husband. She insisted that she was betrothed to Christ. Eventually, her father relented. Rather than joining a religious order, she became a Dominican tertiary. For a three year period she devoted herself to prayer and seclusion. Early on in this period, she was tormented by doubt, but this gave way to mystical encounters with Christ. After three years, she began the second great phase of her career. She set about serving her neighbours, distributing alms to the poor, ministering to the sick and to prisoners. She began gathering a group of followers about herself, men and women, priests and religious. After a profoundly mystical experience she had a sense of Christ calling her to take a further step, to serve the wider world and universal church. She commenced her role as a public figure, dictating hundreds of letters to popes, monarchs and other leaders of note. She also wrote her great work, the Dialogues, describing the contents of her mystical conversations with Christ. Theses writings were dictated by her as she only learnt to write towards the very end of her life. It is evident that Catherine’s mysticism did not withdraw her from the world. She was deeply involved in what was happening in Europe and in the church in her time. Because of the chaos and dangers of Rome, the Popes had left Rome for Avignon. She worked to persuade Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome from Avignon. She insisted that the Pope’s place was beside the bones of the martyrs. Her mission in person to the Pope was a surprising success. Shortly after his return, Pope Gregory died. He was succeeded by Pope Urban VI who turned out to be a disastrous Pope. The cardinals regretted their decision and elected a second Pope but could not persuade Pope Urban to retire. The church now had two rival Popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon, a situation that was to last for several decades. Catherine remained faithful to Pope Urban, in spite of his faults, because he had been duly elected. She was convinced that the wound in the body of Christ could only be healed by great sacrifice. She prayed that she might atone for the sins of the church, and shortly afterwards collapsed and died. Catherine stood out as a beacon of light in a dark time in Europe and in the church. She was such a light because of her deeply personal and mystical relationship with Jesus. The Lord’s invitation, ‘Come to me, all who labour and are overburdened’, was one she responded to every day of her life. Her life shows us very clearly that the life of faith has both an inward and outward dimension. The Lord calls out to all of us to come to him, to know and love him as he knows and loves us. In calling us to himself he also sends us into the world afire with the flame of his love. Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church in 1970. In doing so he was stating that her life and writings have something important to say to the church of every generation.
April 28 2021
Jesus has both comforting words and challenging words for us in today's Gospel. On the one hand, he tells us that he didn't come into the world to condemn us but to save us. On the other hand, he tells us forthrightly that we will be condemned if we reject his word. What does he mean? He explains it clearly, actually. The word that Christ speaks is a word that comes from the Father. It is a word that gives eternal life to us. If we reject that word, then we reject eternal life, and thus we are "condemned".
Being saved is not just about acknowledging Christ at the last minute and scraping over the line into heaven. Being saved is a way of life. To live this life, we must be open to the saving word that God is speaking into our hearts in every minute of every day. This word comes from the Father and comes to us through the Son who he has sent into the world to draw us back into relationship with him, a relationship that we have broken through sin.
In addition, Jesus tells us today that if we listen to his voice, then we will no longer live in darkness but live in the light. His word illuminates our lives and gives them meaning! He is light and when we are attentive to him, abandoning ourselves to him, then his light shines in the dark places of our lives, making sense of suffering, bringing healing, forgiveness and peace.
April 27 2021
Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd who gives eternal life to his sheep, a life that he has through his inseparable union with his Father. He also tells us, however, that we cannot take it for granted that this life will be ours. If we want to share in this incredible gift of life, then we need to listen to Jesus' voice and believe in the works he has done.
Do we do these two things? Do we prayerfully and consistently listen to Christ's voice? To hear his voice, we need to allow time each day for personal prayer, Scripture reading, spiritual books, recitation of the rosary, and weekly participation in the sacraments. If we do not bother to do any of these things, how can we expect to have the life that he is offering us?
The second thing we need to do is believe in Christ's works. Belief is not just a matter of weighing up evidence and assenting in an intellectual way. To believe in Christ means to trust in him, to lean on him, to contemplate his truth and beauty. Above all, it means to look at what the Lord has been doing in your own life. Yes, in YOUR life! God has been calling you, reaching out to you, inviting you to follow him. And if you respond generously, opening your ear to his word, bending your will to his command, then he will lead you to glorious life and true freedom.
April 27 2021
In this continuation of the discourse on the Good Shepherd, we might be wondering just what or who Jesus is talking about.
‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way, is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice."
Elsewhere in the discourse, Jesus gives the key to distinguishing the true shepherd from the "thiefs and brigands". The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, whereas the false shepherds are only thinking of their own profit or gain.
But where are these false shepherds, you might ask? Are they the selfish and worldly priests and bishops that plague certain areas of the Church? You know, the bad shepherds are everywhere, not just in the Church. The world proposes to us a continuous series of false shepherds. These are the objects, pleasures, schemes, situations that promise to give us comfort, security, and meaning, but they are just empty and shallow vanities. These false shepherds promise us everything but in reality they suck the life out of us. Only Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gives us true life, and he does so by sacrificing himself in love for us.
It is love that distinguishes the Good Shepherd from the false imitations. Only Christ loves us to the end. All the other false shepherds in life that try to fool us into following them do not know the meaning of sacrificial love.
April 23 2021
It is often pointed out that today's passage from John's Gospel leaves us in no doubt as to the physical reality of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Jews become agitated and ask how Jesus can give them his flesh to eat. This is a golden opportunity for Jesus to resolve all disputes for centuries to come by saying: "Are you crazy? I'm just speaking symbolically! The bread is not really my flesh!"
Instead, Jesus does the very opposite. He says, REPEATEDLY, that his flesh is our food and that we must eat this flesh if we are to have life.
This is one of the hardest of all Christ's teachings. Indeed it is the ONLY place in scripture where we are told that many of his disciples left him on account of a teaching that they could not accept. What are we to make of such a strange teaching? The key to understanding comes at the centre of today's passage: "Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me". Jesus is the Son of God and shares in this intimate life of the Father. He wishes to draw us into this life, not just in an airy-fairy moral or spiritual sense. God wants us to be filled with the divine life, to have the Holy Spirit coursing through our veins, to mix metaphors. God wants this utter union with us, and in fact became incarnate so that we would become divine. In the Eucharist, we unite ourselves to Christ physically and spiritually, body and soul. The union is real because his presence is real.
April 22 2021
Protestants (for the most part) and Catholics take radically different interpretations of this passage. In reality, there are two aspects to the Bread of Life discourse. The Protestants are very good at emphasizing one of these aspects, and we would do well to learn from them. However, only a balanced Catholic approach takes into account both aspects in their fullness.
The two aspects are, firstly, what God does and, secondly, what we are invited to do. God gives himself to us in the most radical sense, dying for us on the cross and then making this sacrifice really and physically available for us in a ritual meal called the Eucharist. This is what God has done. What are we invited to do? To come to the Lord and believe in him, to receive him in faith. The Protestant traditions have emphasized the need for us to approach the Lord in faith, but they have lost sight of the fact that the Lord is physically present in these Eucharistic elements.
Jesus makes these two aspects very clear in today's reading. Firstly he tells us that if we believe in him, we will have eternal life. Then he tells us that if we eat his body, we will have eternal life. Two aspects: what we do, and what God does. A Catholic must approach the Eucharist with faith, with attachment to God, with abandonment of self into the hands of the Lord. The Lord is really present and is offering himself for us in this communion, so we can be sure that it is life-giving.
April 21 2021
Continuing the Bread of Life discourse in Chapter 6 of John's Gospel, Jesus really emphasizes that everything depends on his relationship with the Father! It is the Father who sends him to the world as bread from heaven. It is the Father's will that everyone one of us, you and me included, should have eternal life. Jesus wants us to know that we have a loving Father in heaven who is doing everything possible (without forcing us) to nourish us and draw us into his life.
You know, if you think about it, what happened in the Garden of Eden was that humanity rejected the fatherhood of God. We believed the serpent who told us to be disobedient to the Lord so that we would become "like gods". What a lie this was! Our society continues to delude itself in thinking that we are gods, we can decide what is right and wrong, we can decide our gender, we can decide if an unborn child lives or dies, we can decide our future and what is meaningful.
The truth is that we are creatures. There is a right and wrong that transcends us and that we must seek to respect and follow. The good news, though, is that we are creatures of a loving Creator who wishes to nourish us to eternal life. So much so that he sent his only Son to be our food.
April 20 2021
There are two broad ways of understanding the Eucharistic discourse of Jesus in today's Gospel. Most protestants believe that Christ does not really nourish us physically with his body and blood. Rather, the whole discourse is spiritual in meaning. We are to receive Jesus by approaching him and accepting him in faith. Of course, today's passage does seem to support such a spiritual interpretation, but only if we ignore the other sayings of Jesus in the same discourse. In today's text, Jesus says, "He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst". The Catholic view, however, is more comprehensive. It is true to the ancient belief in the real presence that is attested by the earliest Christian writers such as Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr and others. The Catholic view is also more faithful to the entirety of the text in Chapter 6 of John's Gospel. On repeated occasions during this discourse, Jesus speaks graphically of the need to "chew" on his body. Jesus uses this explicit language for one reason only: to make it clear that he nourishes us REALLY with his body and blood; it is not just a spiritual communion with him, but a union in body and spirit.
This is not the place to engage in a diatribe with our protestant brethren. What is important, though, is not to further offend Christ with our indifference to the gift of the Eucharist in which he descends from Heaven, forgives our unworthiness, cleanses us, lifts us up and unites himself with us, body and soul. Recent surveys indicate that a majority of Catholics in Western society do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Lord gives us one of his greatest gifts and we ignore and denigrate it - what a scandal! If we are unable to receive Christ in these times because of the pandemic, then let us still adore him in the tabernacle, glorify him for his self-giving nourishment of our souls, and begin already to prepare ourselves for our next reception of him.
April 19 2021
Sometimes, Jesus tells us plainly what we need to hear. In the Gospel, the people are in hot pursuit of Jesus for one reason only - they enjoyed the free food he had provided and they want more! Jesus knows what we are like. Because of original sin, we crave for comfort, the satisfaction of our appetites, ease, entertainment - in short, we are turned inwardly towards ourselves and our actions are directed towards satisfying ourselves. Jesus tells us plainly:
‘I tell you most solemnly, you are not looking for me
because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’
Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’
Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’
The solution to this endless striving to satisfy our appetites is to make Christ our centre, to believe in him, to trust in him, to be open to his life-giving word. The food that we receive from Jesus is food that nourishes the life of the Spirit within us. This is the only food that leads to eternal life. Let us begin today by spending some time reflecting on the word of God in Chapter 6 of John's Gospel. God the Father has set his seal on Christ. If we make the words of Christ our home today, then God the Father sets his seal on us too, and that is the guarantee of life without end.
April 16 2021 - St Bernadette
We read today John's account of one of the miraculous multiplications of food by Christ. Since the 1950s, as Pope Benedict XVI (94th birthday today!) pointed out in his Jesus of Nazareth series, there has been a growing tendency even in Catholic circles to read the Gospels using a "positivistic hermeneutic". This means to root out of the narrative anything that speaks of the supernatural, since such elements may only have been added later as "embellishments" to help foster faith in Jesus as Son of God. Thus, the multiplication of loaves was not really a miracle but actually occurred when the people, inspired by Jesus, overcame their natural meanness, took their sandwiches out of their pockets, and shared them with those who had none.
Pope Benedict called for balance in our interpretation of Scripture. For him, that Christ is the Son of God was not an embellishment added by the Evangelists to mundane events after they happened. Rather, we must read these accounts with the "hermeneutic of faith" and accept that his divine power was already manifest in the events themselves.
Lord, you nourish us with your word and your body. It is true that the miraculous multiplication of loaves pointed to this deeper spiritual reality, but this does not mean that you did not carry out the physical miracle! Today, let us read the psalm with faith in your divinity and with recourse to your saving help.
1. The Lord is my light and my help;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
before whom shall I shrink?
2. There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long,
to live in the house of the Lord,
all the days of my life,
to savour the sweetness of the Lord,
to behold his temple.
3. I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord!
April 15 2021
In these sublime passages from John's Gospel, we are challenged to reflect on the holiness of Christ and on the fact that his entire identity is grounded in his relationship with a Father who loves him. If we desire to have the life of God in us, then we too must centre our lives completely on heavenly things, on our relationship with the Father.
The Acts of the Apostles these days is recounting to us the deeds of the apostles. They have been filled with the Spirit and are putting into word and deed the utter dedication to heavenly things that is extolled in John's Gospel!
If you want to prayerfully contemplate these readings, have a look at the beautiful psalm for today:
I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
He is happy who seeks refuge in him.
2. The Lord turns his eyes to the just
and his ears to their appeal.
They call and the Lord hears
and rescues them in all their distress.
3. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted;
those whose spirit is crushed he will save.
Many are the trials of the just man
but from them all the Lord will rescue him.
All of us are crushed and broken-hearted in various ways. How do we respond? By trusting in the Lord, seeking our refuge in him, calling to the Lord in our distress. And one more thing is needed, this psalm tells us. The Lord listen to the just. We too must live lives that are just, obedient to the Lord, open to his word, free from sin. Once we live this kind of pure lifer centred on him, focussed on heavenly things, then we can be confident that the Lord will be with us and rescue us.
April 14 2021
According to today’s first reading, Peter and the message he preaches cannot be confined behind bars, in spite of the best efforts of those who want to silence that message. The Easter proclamation cannot be imprisoned, just as the guards at the tomb of Easter could not prevent Jesus bursting forth into new life. The light which shone from the risen Lord and from the preaching of the Easter gospel could not be extinguished by the powers of darkness. The gospel reading acknowledges that even though the light has come into the world, some have shown that they prefer darkness to the light. They hate and avoid the light because they feel threatened by it, as if it will expose what is wrong in them. Yet, the light of Easter is not like the light of the interrogation room. It is not a light to be feared. It is the light of God who so loved the world that he gave his only Son, in the language of the gospel reading. It is not a condemnatory light; God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but so that, through him, the world may have life and have it to the full. This is a light to be warmly welcomed, not to be extinguished or imprisoned. God has embraced the world through the death and resurrection of his Son. It falls to us now to embrace God’s Son, the light of the world, who declared that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.
This Gospel reflection came from the highly recommended Reflections on the Weekday Readings 2020-2021:You have the Words of Eternal life: by Martin Hogan and published by Messenger Publications c/f www.messenger.ie/bookshop/
April 13 2021
We continue reading the dialogue with Nicodemus. Jesus is speaking sublime truths that baffle the Pharisee standing in front of him:
"If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe,
how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."
We are saved because the one who sacrifices himself for us is the one who has come down from heaven, the spotless lamb who takes on his shoulders the sins of all of us.
But how can looking at a bronze serpent be a sign of the salvation to come? God sent the serpents to bite the Israelites because of their disobedience. By looking at the serpent, the Israelites were acknowledging their sin and their need for mercy. When we look at Christ on the cross, we too are acknowledging our sin and our need of mercy because it is our sins that crucify Jesus. Looking at the cross is both an acknowledgement of our need for mercy and a contemplation of the one who bestows mercy. The blood and water which flowed from Jesus on the cross is the sign and promise of the washing away of our sins and our being filled with the abundance of his grace.
April 12 2021
In this famous dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus asserts that we must be born from above if we are to see the Kingdom of God. He also states that "unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit". Because of original sin, we all have the tendency to become attached to material things, to possessions, to earthly power, to the passing pleasures of this world. Jesus is calling us to the life of the Spirit, the life of self-effacing love, the live we were created for in the first place when we were made in the image and likeness of the all-perfect and all-loving God.
The things of this world have a hold on us because of original sin and because of our own egoistic tendencies. Jesus has won the victory over sin and cancelled out our guilt with his heroic sacrifice. However, the consequences of sin - both original and personal - are still with us. In this dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus is encouraging us to renounce the things of the flesh and open ourselves to the activity of the Spirit within us. The Spirit comes to us through the sacraments - the water and the blood - but he also blows where he wills and is whispering to us in our consciences, through the spiritual reading that we engage in, in our relationships with those around us. Come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts and enkindle in us the fire of your love!
April 9 2021
Throughout the history of the Church, there have been those who have tried to spiritualize the resurrection of Christ, including theologians who claim that there is no true resurrection of the body. Rather, they say, the resurrection is a spiritual reality that refers simply to a new life of the spirit without sin. Gospel passages like the one we read today stand as a bulwark against these errant understandings. Christ eats bread and fish with the disciples. He has no need of sustenance of this sort because his body has been transformed and glorified in the resurrection, but he nevertheless eats with them to show that he is no ghost or mere illusion.
How do passages like this speak to our daily lives? Christ has entered fully into our human condition. He has taken on our flesh and blood and joined himself to us bodily so that he can speak directly to us, heart to heart. He wishes to transform us entirely, body and soul. By his sacrifice and his obedience in the flesh, he purifies and exalts our humanity. He makes our lives incredibly fruitful, as the miraculous catch of fish in today's narrative shows. We just need to be open to his presence among us and cast our nets at his word.
April 8 2021
Gospel passage continues the narrative of the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. He has just appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and now he appears among them again in Jerusalem. What is striking about this passage is the fact that Christ asks for something to eat. We might think that a person who has risen from the dead and passed over to eternal life has no need of food, so why does Christ eat with them? First of all, it is correct to say that he no longer needs food to survive. He eats with them to show that he is not a ghost. In fact, this passage is one of the clearest testimonies in all of scripture to the resurrection of the body and it refutes those who try to spiritualize the meaning of the resurrection. Secondly, Christ's eating with his disciples is also a deep event of fellowship. Christ offered his body and blood for us on Calvary, and in the Last Supper he mysteriously bound this sacrifice to the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine transformed into his body and blood. Now in today's passage, Christ eats a piece of fish with the disciples, so it is not a Eucharistic meal like the Last Supper. Nevertheless, Christ's desire to share food with his disciples always points to the meaning of the Eucharist.
In these days, as we read the beautiful accounts of the resurrection appearances, we are invited to allow the risen Christ to enter into our lives, through the closed doors of our fears and phobias, to come into true fellowhip with us, to transform our lives and cause us to rejoice. The risen Christ does not make our crosses disappear, but he can transform them into instruments of transformation and growth.
April 7 2021
Today we read the story of the disciples who encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus. As has often been noted, this passage is incredibly rich. It gives us deep insights on prayer, on discipleship, as well as the nature of the Eucharist. The disciples recount to the stranger that they have met all that has happened in recent days. Their account is exactly the same as the one we read elsewhere in Scripture: the advent of Jesus, his mighty deeds and words, his passion and death, and then the empty tomb. They actually know everything that we know, but they lack faith in the resurrection. Jesus then walks them through Scripture and shows them how this apparently disastrous situation is all part of God's providential plan to redeem us.
In a beautiful statement, the disciples later recount how "their hearts burned within them" as the stranger spoke to them on the road. Of course, we are not surprised to learn this, since we expect that any conversation with the Son of God will illuminate our minds and lift our spirits. Surely, this is our great goal everytime we read the scriptures or spend time in prayer, to be touched by Christ, to be enlightened by his words, to burn with desire for his presence so that we want him to stay longer "for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over".
In a striking allusion to the Eucharist, the passage ends with the assertion that they recognizedf him only in the breaking of the bread. The same Evangelist, Luke, when he goes on to write the Acts of the Apostles, continually refers to the Eucharistic gatherings of the early Church as "the breaking of bread".
April 6 2021
The beautiful Gospel reading gives us some insight into the distinction between the resurrection of Christ and his ascension:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.
In the resurrection, Jesus' dead body is restored to new life by the Holy Spirit, but the ascension to the Father is another step that is not undertaken right away. Our Lord tells Mary not to cling onto him. She must learn that the life that he is now living is different to the life that he lived while he was still among them. He asks her not to cling to this attachment to things as they were before. Sooner or later, we must all become detached from the familiar things of this life that give us comfort. Our ultimate destination is union with God.
Giving up the things of this world might seem difficult, but detachment becomes easier when we focus on where we are heading. Our final goal is not union with a cold and heartless God, but to a tender and loving Father: "I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God". This is the same Father who sent his only Son so that we might not perish but have eternal life. The life-giving fatherhood of God is a beautiful thing. It is our ultimate goal. When Jesus rose and defeated sin and death, it might have seemed that he done all that anyone could be expected to have done. But the last and glorious part of the journey was still awaiting him: ascension to intimate union with his beloved Father. Let us all keep our eyes on the same ultimate goal of all our existence. May it permeate everything we do and transform all of our actions.