Wednesday, April 22 – Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter We often talk about the “will of God.” Throughout the ages there have been a variety of interpretations about what that will is, and how it is understood and manifested. Sometimes we think about the will of God in this way: There is a book in heaven that has everything written down that God expects, his will. Our task on earth is to try to figure out what is written in that book and then do it. I am not so sure that is quite right. If it is, then discernment becomes something of a spiritual shell game. We have to guess under which shell lies the path to our contentment. I would contend that there are many paths we might follow in life. If the path we choose allows us to use our gifts and talents for the common good, if it promotes my dignity and worth as a child of God, and if secures the dignity and worth of all of God’s children, then that is the will of God for me. I tend to think that we have more of a say than we realize. But it all begins with an acceptance of the basic fundamental truth expressed in the opening words of our Gospel passage today: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (3:16) That fundament truth is expressed in another way in the chapter ten. Jesus came that you “may have life, and have it more abundantly.” (10:10) It is that abundance of life we celebrate with rejoicing during these Easter days.
Thursday, April 23 – Thursday of the Second Week of Easter The Jesus that is presented to us these days in the Gospel of John reflects what theologians call a “high Christology,” that is, Jesus is presented to us throughout his earthly life and ministry as the Jesus through whom all things were made. John makes that very clear in the “Prologue” of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (1:1,14) Think of that today when you hear Jesus say: “The one who comes from above is above all…” (3:31) That is important, because reading the “high Christology” of John can be challenging. Reading about Jesus in the other three Gospels is something of a linear exercise. It is easy to follow the path of Jesus in his earthly ministry as he moves from one thing to the next, from one place to the next, from one person he encounters along the way to the next. John, on the other hand, sometimes has Jesus speaks in a “spiral” fashion that can be challenging for us to follow. Jesus begins with a basic idea, and then walks around that idea making observations from different angles, and then returns to the original idea having provided important insights into the basic truth he is teaching. When that happens, when you enter into that “spiral,” it can make your head spin! When we read or hear John’s Gospel, we have to be attentive, to allow ourselves to drawn into the spiral of the truth of Jesus that he is presenting. Allow yourself to be distracted, even for a moment, and you will find yourself scratching your head saying: “What is this all about?” It is true of all of the Gospels, but especially true of John. If we want the Gospel to have meaning, we cannot stand by as a spectator. We have to be drawn into the wisdom and mystery that is the Jesus story. Revised Friday, April 24 – Friday of the Second Week of Easter Today’s Gospel presents us with the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in the sixth chapter of John, a story that we treasure. In that account, there is a question Jesus asks that has meaning for me personally: “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” They are the words that are inscribed on the paten presented to me by my parents on my ordination day. It is a question I come back to often in my own personal spiritual journey, and in my ministry as a priest of Jesus Christ. When days are long and nights even longer, when I am “weary and find life burdensome,” I ask: “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” When I am at a loss for words when someone presents me with a challenging question for which no answer will satisfy, I ask: “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” When no earthly wisdom is able to satisfy my search for a deeper meaning and purpose I ask: “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” When the body grows old, when senses are not as sharp as they once were, when memory is not as acute as it once was, I ask: “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” When I see the heartache of families divided; when I learn of the pain of one who has had a friendship betrayed; when the scourge of addiction traumatizes yet another individual and family; when the story of abuse is told too many times over, I ask: “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” Jesus’ question to Philip gives voice to the questions we ask many times over in this vale of tears. It is a question that Jesus will answer with words most assuring, words we need to remember often: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (6:35) “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
Saturday, April 25 – Saturday of the Second Week of Easter Today is the feast of the evangelist Mark. His is the second Gospel in the New Testament. Most scripture scholars believe that his was the first of the Gospels to be written. His was the Gospel that provided something of a pattern for Matthew and Luke to follow. There is much debate about the identity of Mark. Who was he? Many say he is the “John Mark” described in Acts 12:12. We are told that Peter “Went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer.” Some claim that it was at the house of Mary that Jesus celebrated his Last Supper. The Syriac-Orthodox Monastery of Saint Mark in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem is venerated as the site of the house of Mary and her son John Mark. Writing in 135 A.D., the historian and Greek Apostolic Father Papias, identifies John Mark as a disciple of Peter. As much as we would like to know more about Mark’s identity, we can never know for certain who he was. But in the end, what is important is that he is the authority behind the Gospel. Something that Mother Theresa says holds true. When questioned by reporters about the details of her life, she said that for the Christian there is no autobiography, there is only the biography of Jesus. The Opening Prayer (Collect) of today’s Mass reflects the spirit of Mother Theresa’s words: “God, who raised up Saint Mark, your Evangelist, and endowed him with the grace to preach the Gospel, grant, we pray, that we may so profit from his teaching as to follow in the footsteps of Christ, Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Sunday, April 26 - The Third Sunday of Easter The refrain of our Responsorial Psalm today (16:11) is a most appropriate preparation for our reading of the Gospel Story of the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. “Lord, you will show us the path of life.” For the two disciples, Jesus’ explanation of the scriptures and his breaking bread with them when they arrived at their destination, showed them the path to life, a life secured by Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. We often talk about the journey of the disciples to Emmaus. But we would do well to remember their journey back to Jerusalem as well. That return was a “path of life” as they were joined with those who were gathered in the Upper Room and shared with them “All that had taken place on the way, and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (24:35) We are graced not only in receiving, but in sharing what we have received as well. In verse nine we pray: “My heart is glad and my soul rejoices.” The original Hebrew is more specific: “My pulse beats with joy.” The joy and hope of the Resurrection is most fully realized when the entirety of our being beats in tune with life-giving gift that the resurrection of Jesus is to us.
Monday, April 27 – Monday of the Third Week of Easter Today we read the account of the martyrdom of Saint Stephen. Martyrs have always had a pride of place in our Catholic spirituality. They exemplify Jesus words: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The martyr’s laid down their lives for their friends, their fellow believers, as a witness to the salvation that is ours by Jesus shedding his blood. In a treatise on the Gospel of John, Saint Augustine offers these word for our reflection. “Even if brothers die for brothers, yet no martyr by shedding his blood brings forgiveness for the sins of his brothers as Christ brought forgiveness for us. In this he gave us, not an example to imitate but a reason for rejoicing. Inasmuch, then, as they shed their blood for their brothers, the martyrs provided ‘the same kind of meal’ as they had received at the Lord’s table. Let us then love one another as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us.”
Tuesday, April 28 – Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter At his stoning, we are told that Stephen, “Filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intensely to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and Stephen said: ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” His words call to mind words from the Book of Revelation: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (21:1-2) The passage ends with the somewhat ominous phrase: “Now Saul was consenting to his execution.” (8:1a) It is Saul’s story that will dominate our readings from the Acts of the Apostles for the remainder of the Easter season.
Wednesday, April 29 – Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter Saint Catherine of Siena. Dominican. Mystic, Reformer, Scholar, Doctor of the Church. Co-patroness of Rome. Spiritual Counselor. In these days, it is significant to note that she was born in Siena on March 25th, 1347, the time of the “Black Death” when the city lost nearly 50 percent of its population. At a time when women in the Church generally did not stand in the spotlight, her wisdom, perseverance and grace guided the Church through trouble times. At the heart of her spirituality was a devotion to the Passion of Christ. A spiritual symmetry is to be found in her dying at the age of 33, the traditional age we attribute to Jesus at the time of his death. She united herself with the Passion of Christ and counseled: “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” In one of her letters, she directs us to be bathed “in the blood of Christ crucified.” She also taught that “the tears of the saints are mingled with the blood of Christ… Make your aim the Crucified Christ, hide in the wounds of the Crucified Christ and drown in the blood of the Crucified Christ.”
Thursday, April 30 – Thursday of the Third Week of Easter Jesus’ words in the Gospel today present us with a central truth of our faith: Jesus is for us, the Bread of Life. Our acceptance of his teaching and our sharing in the Eucharist assures us not only of help for faithful living on earth. It is also a pledge that one day we will share in Jesus’ resurrection as we partake of the heavenly banquet that is the feast of heaven. In our sharing in the Eucharist, Saint Irenaeus assures us: “Our bodies, which have been nourished by the eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay, but they will rise again at the appointed time, for the Word of God will raise them up to the glory of God the Father. Then the Father will cloth our mortal nature in immortality, and freely endow our corruptible nature in incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown in human weakness.” (Irenaeus, Treatise Against Heresies.) That is why, in the First Preface for the Dead, we are able to pray: “Indeed, for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.”
Friday, May 1 – Friday of the Third Week of Easter Today’s Memorial of Joseph the Worker was added to our liturgical calendar in 1955. This date was selected, in large measure, as a counter to the Communist observance of “May Day.” Joseph the carpenter models for us the dignity of human work, wherein we share with the work of God the Father, Creator of the world. In his encyclical on Human Work (“Laborem exercens”) Pope John Paul II tells us that labor is participation in the work of the Creator and Redeemer. Jesus looks upon work with love because he himself was a laborer. This is a doctrine, and at the same time a program, that is rooted in the Gospel of Work proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth. Our task is to promote and safeguard the rights and dignity of all workers. The Collect for today’s Mass echoes that teaching: “O God, fount of all mercy, look upon our offerings, which we bring before your majesty in commemoration of Saint Joseph, and mercifully grant that the gifts we offer may become the means of protection for those who call upon you.”
Saturday, May 2 – Saturday of the Third Week of Easter The Entrance Antiphon on this Memorial of Saint Athanasius, proclaims: “In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth, and the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and clothed him in glory.” (Sirach 15:5) Athanasius was instrumental in helping the church in the fourth century to develop a theology and a language that defended the divinity of Christ. Pope Benedict summarizes the core of Athanasius’ teaching: “The fundamental idea of Athanasius’ entire theological battle was precisely that God is accessible. He is not a secondary God; he is the true God, and it is through our communion with Christ that we can truly be united to God. He has really become ‘God with us’” (Holiness is Always in Season. P. 91) Our Prayer after Communion reflects Pope Benedict’s assertion: “Grant us, we pray, almighty God, that the true divinity of your Only Begotten Son, which we firmly profess with Saint Athanasius, may, through this Sacrament, ever give us life and protection. Through Christ our Lord.”