Another great story from Acts 3 for our first reading today. We’ll talk about that in a moment. The Gospel reading from Luke 24 is one of the most interesting stories in the New Testament. It is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. After spending time with Jesus and not recognizing him for quite some time, Jesus makes himself known to them in the breaking of the bread. A wonderful example of our Eucharistic Lord.
Peter and John meet up with a crippled beggar in the temple area. The lame beggar thinks that they are going to give him some money. But Peter says to him, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” And the guy starts jumping around praising God. Sound like a familiar pattern? Peter is doing just wha Christ did. Not so much in the fact that he healed the lame beggar, but that he gave him something unexpected and much more valuable than what he thought he needed.
I don’t know about you, but I often wish I had a lot more money. I see so many needs that I would love to help with. But you can’t give what you ain’t got. Peter makes this clear. Sometimes all we can do is offer up our prayers. When we can’t meet someone’s physical needs, this often seems like a lame alternative. But it is truly the greater gift. It’s clear that we must offer physical assistance when we can. But when we can’t, don’t sweat it. Just give what you have.
Father, you know that we often don’t have all that we would like to give. But our prayers can be infinite, and infinitely powerful. Help us to give generously of our spiritual gifts. Amen.
Back we go to the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 today. When the people heard about salvation through Christ Jesus, they asked Peter and the other Apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” More on that in a moment. In the Gospel reading today, we’re in John 20, reading about St. John’s post-resurrection encounter between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. At first, she doesn’t recognize him, thinking that he is the gardener. But when Jesus called her by name, she recognized him. When Jesus calls you by name, do you recognize him?
In today’s reading from Acts, Peter speaks of the necessity of baptism. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The Scripture goes on to tell us that Peter exhorted them further, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Interesting choice of words, isn’t it? After all, no one can save themselves, right? It is Jesus who does the saving. But this tells us very clearly that salvation is not a passive act in which we have no say.
In Catholic thinking, salvation is a process that begins at baptism. Look again at Peter’s description of the sacrament. Our sins are forgiven and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. But it doesn’t end there. Peter’s plea to “save yourselves” speaks of a decision. And as Catholics, we believe it is not just a one-time decision, but decisions each and every day to follow Christ Jesus; to allow Him to save us. I believe that we, too, are living in a corrupt generation. Have you made the decision to “save yourself” from it today?
Father, we thank you for the gift of our baptism. Help us today to make good decisions; to decide to do your will and follow Christ in all that we do and say. Amen.
Happy Easter Monday! Liturgically, the Easter season will be around for quite some time. How appropriate! We have forty days of Lent, but fifty days of Easter. So up until Pentecost, we will be taking a trip through the Acts of the Apostles in our first readings. Acts is like a real-life adventure story, so let’s enjoy! In our first reading today from Acts 2, Peter talks about King David, and how his tomb “is in our midst to this day.” In the Gospel from Matthew 28, Jesus greets the two Marys as they run from his empty tomb.
I heard a sermon many years ago from a Protestant minister that has stuck with me ever since. He was comparing the founders of the great religions of the earth, and how Christianity differed from them all. How did Jesus differ from all of these others who founded religions? Take a look at their tombs. Mohammed’s tomb? Occupied. Buddha’s tomb? Occupied. Confucious’ tomb? Occupied. Look all around. Some body resides in all those tombs.
Jesus’ tomb? EMPTY!!! He is not there! Why? Because He is risen from the dead. As we see in today’s first reading…”God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.” This isn’t some half-baked conspiracy. Thousands of eyewitnesses testify to it, as we will read in the coming days. So, if anyone ever questions you as to why Christianity is so special, just give them the Tomb Test!
Father, we thank you for raising Jesus from the dead, just as you will do for all who believe in Him. May we shout from the rooftops our belief in the empty tomb. Amen.
Well, we made it! All the way through Lent, through the cross and now onto the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord. Praise God!
Every year on Easter one of my most fervent prayers is for the people who only go to church once or twice a year. As I have said before, I am not condemning, because for years I did that. In fact, there were probably many years when I didn’t even bother to go on Christmas and Easter. So I pray from experience. My prayer is that this Easter, something inside of them will stir. That that longing that we all have to seek God will be unleashed within them. And that, if it be within God’s good will that you or I could somehow play a part in that.
So if your church is extra crowded today and someone is sitting in your regualr seat, extend a hand and a radiant smile and welcome them. Maybe that will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. And when we finally get a chance to meet up in heaven, they will let you know that you played a part in their journey there. What could be better?
Father, we thank for raising Jesus from the dead, that we might have life and experience resurrection ourselves. Bless all those who enter churches today, that we may all draw ever closer to you. Amen.
Another long Lenten journey has come to a close. Tonight we celebrate the great Easter Vigil. Over 100,000 people will be welcomed into the Catholic Church around America. Wow! What an exciting moment. I know it is one that will never be forgotten for the many catechumens and candidates who will be welcomed into full communion this night.
This always makes me recount my own faith journey. Though I was not born into the Catholic Church, we joined when I was too young to remember otherwise. I vaguely recall going to a couple of other churches when I was very young, but I still consider myself a cradle Catholic. That being said, I think that far too many cradle Catholics take their faith for granted. For many, it is much more of a cultural thing. After a while if they go to church at all, it may be just at Christmas and Easter. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not throwing rocks. I used to be one myself!
That is why I love to talk with these converts. They have made a conscious decision to come into the Church. They desire to learn about what Holy Mother Church really teaches and believes. And they must agree with those teachings and beliefs. Otherwise, why join? I think the same should be true for us cradle Catholics. If we don’t believe what the Church teaches and believes, then why be Catholic? Let us pray not that the Church will finally come into line with our way of thinking, but that we will accept and embrace the truth as taught by the Church. A lot of folks tonight will do just that.
Father, we pray for all those “newly minted” Catholics. May they flourish in your Church, and help the Church to flourish in the world. Amen.
Today is the one day of the year when there is no Mass celebrated. The commemoration of Good Friday is the most solemn day of the year. The readings for the Good Friday liturgy are so moving. In the first reading from Isaiah 52, we see prophesied that which Jesus would endure on this day. “But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” How can you read this reading and not tear up?
Also at the Good Friday liturgy, we read the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John. And we remember. We remember how He was mocked, beaten, spat upon and lifted high on a cross. For us. It is easy for us some 2000 years later to kind of sanitize what happened that day. But we mustn’t. This is one reason why my family watches The Passion of the Christ each year on Good Friday. It gives us a graphic reminder of what Jesus really endured for us. For me. For you.
Whatever you do today, take some time to remember. Chances are that if you go to liturgy today, you’ll sing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” It may seem like a silly question 2000 years later. But the answer to the question is yes. You were there. I was there. We all were there. Because as Jesus hung on that cross, breathing His last, you were on his mind.
Father, help us to always remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Let it always remind us that our sacrifices are nothing compared to His. Amen.
Lent is over today. We begin tonight the Sacred Triduum. It is one long liturgical celebration that encompasses Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. I hope you will make it to church for all of the services. Tonight’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper is one of the most moving liturgies of the Church year. Tonight parishes all over the world will reenact the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus.
Feet can be nasty. Today we generally wear socks and shoes and keep our feet relatively clean. But back in Jesus’ day…not so much. Their feet were constantly dust-caked and probably not very pretty. Washing them was the job of the lowliest servant. And this is the job that Jesus took on at the Last Supper. Jesus said again and again that the greatest in the Kingdom would be the least of all and the servant of all. For Jesus, this wasn’t just idle talk, not just a fancy teaching. He lived it. And not just in the upper room, but always. He healed, taught, prayed and gave his entire life in the service of others.
On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the institution of the priesthood. When Jesus said to the disciples, “Do this..”, he gave them the power and the authority to turn the bread and wine into his Body and Blood. Our priests live out that example of service that Jesus taught. They offer up their entire lives in the service of God’s people. When you go to Mass tonight, please be sure to thank your priest(s) for “washing the feet” of his parishioners.
Father, your Son taught us to serve. Help us to imitate Him and live out that example of service each and every day of our lives. Amen.
When we think of the brutality that Jesus suffered for us, we can see that this was all foretold in today’s first reading from Isaiah 50. “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” He did that for you and me!
On Wednesday of Holy Week, we think about Judas. Judas is a very enigmatic character in the Gospel story. Was he chosen from all time to be the betrayer of the Messiah? That doesn’t seem quite fair, does it? Or did Judas have a free will? Could he, at any point, have changed course and not given Jesus up? And at what point did he realize that things had spun wildly out of control? Did he ever regret his eternity-altering decision?
You and I probably have a lot more in common with Judas than we may like to acknowledge. We must always remember that he was one of the Twelve. Chosen and sent. And yet he turned on Jesus. Thinking of Judas and my propensity to imitate him always reminds me of an old saying. It has been attributed to St. Alphonse or St. Philip Neri. I modify it for myself. “Be mindful of Gus today, Lord. He could turn on you at any time.”
Father, forgive us for those times when we turn on you. Help us to recognize our betrayals more quickly, and free us from all selfishness, the cause of our betrayal. Amen.
Our first reading today is from Isaiah 49, more from the prophesies of the Servant of the Lord. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Our Gospel reading is from John 13. Here we see Peter at his finest, just moments before we would see him at his weakest.
Jesus knew that He was on His way to the cross. He says to Peter, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter answers, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus tells him that “the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”
The beautiful thing about Peter is that he really believed that he could stand up to any test. You’ve got to admire his sincerity. Unfortunately, when the time came to deliver, he simply couldn’t. Sound familiar? Sure does to me. In this moment of Peter’s life, he and I have a lot in common. I often have the best of intentions. “I will lay down my life for you, Lord!” Oh, really? Then why, at the first little temptation or trial, do I fold up like a cheap card table? Luckily, Peter got another shot. And he made the most of it. When we fold, Jesus is willing to give us another shot, too. Will we make the most of it?
Father, forgive us for our hubris, for our inflated egos. Keep us strong during moments of great trial. Amen.
Monday of Holy Week. For the next few days, our first readings will be from Isaiah, the prophesies of the Servant of the Lord. We’ll talk about today’s reading in a moment. The Gospel reading today is from John 12. Jesus goes to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary anoints his feet with costly perfumed oil. Judas objects, saying “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” Jesus rebukes Judas. “Leave her alone…You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Today’s prophesy from Isaiah 42 speaks of the mission of Christ. “I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
There are prisons and dungeons all around us – of a spiritual nature. We are imprisoned by our own sin; we confine ourselves to the dungeons of resentment and anger and jealousy and envy. So often our sentences are self-imposed. There is a way out. His name is Jesus. He came to release us from these places of torment. But we must first give Him permission. Let Jesus release you today.
Father, we want to be set free from our dungeons, from our prisons. We ask your Son, Jesus, to open the doors and unbind us today. Amen.