Sunday, May 29, 2011

I will send an Advocate

Remember the Star Wars sage? Young Luke Skywalker is suddenly thrust into the position of saving the coalition which is threatened by the evil empire. In addition to this rag-tag group he discovers that he is in possession of this "power," for lack of better term, called the 'force.' Luke's mentor and guide is Obi Won, who keeps Luke centered and tries to keep him from impulsiveness. This same force can be used for evil and selfish gain, and Luke is encouraged to use his special gifts for the good and safety of others.

As the apostles are about to set out on ministry, Jesus discloses to them that he will always be present to them, and to the Church through the Advocate, in the person of the Holy Spirit. This ongoing relationship is a sign and symbol that the Father loves us. The Paschal Mystery has made us one with God, now this same relationship will be our source of strength and courage through the Holy Spirit. In the Acts of the Apostles we can see how this relationship enables conversion, and brings healing and peace into the lives of men and women.

The mission and the ministry of the Church today center on continuing to proclaim the Good News. To be sure there are many situations where the 'evil empire' seems to pervade in the culture of death. We respond through the power of the Holy Spirit in a culture of life. As St. Peter will tell us we are should teat each other with reverence and gentleness. Such behaviour stands out and becomes a witness for the Paschal Mystery.

May the force of God be with us.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wait'in for the Holy Spirit

This weekend is the sixth Sunday of Easter. In our church most of the Lilies are gone, and we are slowly replacing the flora with green plants. The Baptismal font water is looking old, and it is harder to get out that Alleluia at the end of Mass. Some of the really neat feasts, like the Body and Blood of Christ and Trinity Sunday, are much later as Easter was later. So keeping up the enthusiasm is really a lot of work.

But this difficulty to retain the spirit of celebration and Easter joy is good to feel and even better to reflect on. So much of what we do as Church certainly seems passe or nonsensical to those who are not firmly established in a life of Faith, and of the Church. There are times at funerals, when I am talking about the Paschal Mystery or the salvation and peace we have through Jesus Christ, I realize that I am using words and terms that are foreign at the very least. The temptation is to follow the words of many today who would suggest we change what we are doing so as to be relevant.

In his farewell discourse Jesus speaks a lot of the Holy Spirit and refers to that same Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. As our Easter decorations quite literally wither away, it is good to go back and once again reflect on what we are doing and why. If our Church experience is that like cattle who come in and out, lining up along the trough, then we have missed something very important. This is the reason that I get really nervous when we take out the same tired old binders for our parish programs and liturgical celebrations.

When stuff becomes tedious then its time to ask for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not this one time celebration or the gifts at Confirmation, but an ongoing source of renewal and strength in the way we do Church. To be sure the Spirit cannot be reserved for liturgical celebrations but is part of inspiring every aspect of our life. Watch little kids sometimes. They excitedly enter into every situation with joy and wonder. Imagine coming home from work with great glee and excitement.

The power of the Holy Spirit brings us back to the joy of our youth. Through the Spirit we are encouraged to grow deeper into that relationship with God and our brothers and sisters. May the good works that God has begun in us be brought to completion.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Live on in my Love

When we were little the ability to believe was so much easier. There was so much around us that God remained the only explanation. As a child, even if the teasing did not cease, we knew and held firm to the understanding that God was always part of our lives. As we grew older we came to understand that those nice priests and sisters had various difficulties, and the gentle older woman from the Altar and Rosary were not always so loving and kindly. That is part of growing up. We would come to recognize how much we as a people, and the Church as well, relied on grace and God's blessings.

After four years of seminary, which included four years of Church history, I had come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit was in charge. Saints Bernard of Clairvaux and Catherine of Siena are two of my all time favorite saints. When the Church was going the wrong way and seem to be unravelling at the seams, they boldly and faithfully stood up and proclaimed what was true and good. Throughout the Church we recognize these moments when the Church could have gone another way. John Paul II exemplifies a charisma which embraced the world, and guided the Church in the post Vatican II era.

The John Jay study was released this past week which examined the reasons behind clergy sexual abuse. There has been a fanfare of Internet fury. While the study did not specify one cause or another, the basic reason seems simply to be evil. Not a red demon with long horns and a tail mind you, but the presence of evil in the Church, and within the hearts of men and women.

In these last few weeks of Easter the Gospels relate Jesus' prayer for the apostles, the Church, and the world. It is a prayer for unity and oneness between men and women, and within the Church as well. In the Eucharistic prayer we pray for the Pope, our Bishop, clergy, and all men and women. It is an important prayer. Nine days before the feast of Pentecost it is traditional to pray a novena to the Holy Spirit. Not a bad idea. Continuing the mission of Jesus is important to be sure. But so is praying for the Church, especially that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide and direct it.

That all be made one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith

There was a reflection by Abbot Jerome Kodell, O.S.B., of of New Subiaco Abbey, I had read several weeks ago. The thought that Abbot Jerome walks us through is our ongoing journey through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He begins with a story of his own experience, as a young monk, meeting a participant of a peace group back in the 1960s. The man spoke of the violence he had endured. The individual shared how he used to fight back when he was attacked, which only seemed to make the violence worse. But when he remained passive, allowing the anger to be absorbed by his body, the violence lessened.

That is sort of the key of the idea of non-violent protest but also the scriptural challenge to turn the other cheek. Anger and violence only leads to more anger and violence. When we can approach a situation in peace, we can and do defuse potentially hostile and aggressive situations. Scripture again reminds us of the prophetic words, "Like a lamb he was led to the slaughter."

St. Paul helps us understand that through Baptism and Confirmation, we are initiated into the Passion, Dying, and Rising of Jesus Christ. Even Paul understands though that such participation takes a while to realize and actualize. Like the man in Kodell's experience, even someone who is doing good, can come to realize a new depth of their spiritual life when the PDR (passion, death, and resurrection) of Jesus becomes very real. Moving from a theory to a lived response, is the beginning of a conversion process here.

I will often reflect that the reasons I am a priest today are not the reasons I became a priest many years ago. I talk to engaged couples about this necessity of accepting the cross into their lives so as to experience the resurrection. I do not know how many really listen. When I play checkers on the Internet, sometimes when an opponent is losing, suddenly they leave the game. This is sort of telltale of our society today. Losing, hurting, suffering, distress, and anguish, are seen as such abysmal experiences, that we refuse to encounter them.

Not going to the cross does not allow us to grow into the mystery of Jesus. Jesus remains that pretty picture on the wall or the carved statue at the front of the Church. But it never touches my life or challenges me to be different.

Some of the priests I know talk about how they sometimes cringe when there is that phone call late in the evening, or after a Sunday morning of masses one person hangs back to talk. But the pause is brief. The gift of being able to minister, console, offer the sacraments, is more powerful than fatigue or hunger. Dads and Moms share in that gift when they are present to one another, and their children, after a day at work or the hectic schedules of the moment. Dying to our self allows us to embrace the body of Christ more closely.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Teaching and Churching

I was reading a letter by Cardinal Wuerl in which he describes the role of the Bishops as the teachers of the Church. This is not a disputable fact though one which causes all sort of consternation. I like his example of tennis players during a tennis match. The line judge, not the players make the calls as to what constitutes a fair ball, or a point. In a similar way the Bishop's authority is one of teaching and guiding.

In an age where we want a majority rule or not to distress an others feelings, the idea of a Bishop's teaching authority might seem antiquated. Yet in the Acts of the Apostles when the choice has to be made as to what traditions to maintain, and not to maintain, the role of Deacons, and who to send on various missions, the apostles gathered together, prayed, and implored the power of the Holy Spirit. Their decisions were not always popular but they spoke form the authority given them by Jesus Christ.

We might want to think that Jesus never would have done this. Yet, we do read in sacred scripture whereas Jesus defined the laws and regulations as going beyond the basic concepts of the covenant. Jesus expands the ideas of murder, adultery, and chastity and charity. When people wandered away from Jesus he did not change his concepts so as to meet with every one's approval. We like to maintain the smilely Jesus of our childhood.

Our worship together is to be done in spirit and in truth. That is the crux of our life as a Church. With this foundation our Church leadership shares the Good News through faithful witness, preaching, and teaching the precepts of the Gospel and a moral life. It is a lot of work which is hopefully always reliant on the Holy Spirit.

I is very important to keep our Bishops in our prayers. They take over the struggles of the Church life and Shepherd in the image of Jesus the Christ.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The way, truth, and life

Today's Gospel from John comes prior to his suffering and death. Jesus is preparing his disciples for the experience of the Pascal Mystery. There is a 'right' orientation to approach this mystery of of faith. Jesus is trying to remove them from the Sin and confusion which comes of of anxiety or fear. Such a reaction, rather than that of faith, overlooks the presence of God. Jesus even reflects that if we have experienced him, Jesus the Christ, then we have experienced God the Father.

The letter from St. Peter is most powerful. Through baptism and confirmation we become one holy people. More so we are living stones being built into the household of God. The reaction of God's people to the anxieties of life needs to be as people of hope and peace. Faithful people move about in the darkness of life with the light of Christ, responding with courage to the demands of this life. St. John Paul II reminded us so often not to be afraid, and to open wide the doors to Christ.

To be sure faithful people do not respond to the pains and frustrations of the world with bright eyed smiley faces, but realistically engage the world through understanding and compassion. Some of these same faithful people we have known through the formal 'St' before their names, but more often than not we know them as family and friends who are not deterred from doing what is right in the middle of a culture of death.

Jesus presents himself as the way in all of our responses in life. I always get nervous when people present Jesus in a shallow or convoluted way. Jesus places the Holy Spirit within us, but it also includes the cross. Its time for us to become super-heroes in the name of Christ.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Presbyteral Order

Today the Rockford Diocese ordained seven men to the Priesthood. It is a wonderful day for the Church, and especially for our Diocese. As priest, it is great to have new brothers joining us as minister of the Word and the Altar. The rite itself is a powerful ritual which conveys the understanding that these men are called from the people of God to serve as followers of Christ.

For myself the most powerful part of the Ordination is receiving the paten of bead and chalice with wine. "Receive from the people ... imitate the mystery you celebrate. For myself that says it all in regards to what priesthood stands for in the Church. To preach, teach and sanctify. The Acts of the apostles in this Sunday's first reading tells the story of the first deacons. Men from the community are called to serve, so that the proclamation of the Word might not be compromised. The order of the Priesthood has a very special role in the celebration and the integrity of the sacraments. In so many ways the priest is invited to walk on sacred ground in the lives of men and women.

In recent years the priesthood has seen some dark moments. Sin and confusion are part of the human fabric, which is why we rely on the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. We have also scene in the last several years an increase in seminary enrollment as well as religious life. The Holy Spirit cannot be thwarted or discouraged. If God is for us who can be against.

These men will begin to serve almost immediately. There will be the multiplicity of firsts in their lives. There will be awesome moments, as well as times of discouragement. We will continue to pray for them, and for the Church, that the mission and ministry of Jesus continue to be unfolded.

Friday, May 20, 2011

They prayed and broke bread

This past week the committee responsible for investigating clergy sexual abuse released their final report. It was mostly what was expected with some complete surprises. If there was a positive outcome to all of this, I think that it made clear the respect of boundaries, and the understanding that everything we do must be done as if it were always public.

In other lesser noticed news, Pope Benedict XVI appointed several women to top Vatican positions. These are mostly diplomatic roles which have oversight of the relations between the Vatican and other world nations. But it is an important movement. And our Holy Father continues to reach out to the leaders of other religions. In very small ways, prayer together, agreeing to work together to address issues of poverty, Benedict is breaking down walls.

In the Acts of the Apostles we are reading about the dynamic mission activity of that early Church. Inspired by the Holy Spirit this faith-filled community continues to proclaim Good News to the ends of the Earth. IN the midst of this we also read about their struggles, misunderstandings, and occasional divisions. Even more so in the letters of St. Paul we hear about the difficulties that arise in the very early Church.

That the Church has continued to remain strong over 2,000 years is a real testimony to the Holy Spirit and the power of the Paschal Mystery. Anytime we forget what we are about then we begin to struggle. Forgetting the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ will always cause us to fall in on ourselves. I like using the image of staring at our navels to such an extent that we begin to weave prayer rugs out of navel lint. Gross yes, but when we become so introspective then we begin to shut out the meaning and purpose of who we are as Church.

It is really important to rely on the sacraments and the scripture to remain centered in the mission of Christ. The Word is not proclaimed by what we wear or the title of a new program. Vatican II spoke about the Church being given the tools of the Holy Spirit to build the Church. By the Spirits guidance and direction we launch forth to proclaim Good News.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Experiencing Baptism

As we end youth retreats, or any retreats for that matter, we often caution folks that the same exuberance and feelings of exaltation experienced during the retreat, are not going to be around for long, nor will they be affirmed out there. That last part is always the scariest. We have to leave now. But it is the world around us, the place where we live and work, that we are made for, or better, what we are baptized for. We have been entrusted with a mission. "What do I do after I say I believe?"

Once upon a time Catholics were told to pay, pray, and obey. Or at least that seemed like the lifestyle of the Catholic. Father and Sister did everything else. By baptism and confirmation we are gifted by the Holy Spirit and challenged to be active in our faith response. As a baptized community, and men and women therein, we give thanks and praise to the Father in heaven. We are full of care for others and the world around us. We are called to be generous with our gifts and our very selves. We are accountable for our faith and our faith community.

I remember a young lady in my freshman class who was convinced that there should not be rules, guidance, or direction. If everyone would be allowed to do what pleased them everything would be okay. I had asked if it was okay to hit her on the head with a stick, since that is what I wanted to do. Slowly she came to understand that there are some general "dos" and don ts." Relativism pervades much of our culture today. When we accept the gift of salvation we also accept the certainty of a moral code and a conscience.

The Church is itself the recipient of God's gifts in faith, tradition, and scripture. We do not live our faith in a vacuum, but within the community of the Body of Christ. You might notice how as Easter moves along the daily readings become more and more challenging. Like going home after retreat the early Christians realized that it was a lot of work to maintain that Easter joy. We too need to gather together to reflect carefully at the gifts of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, and how they work into our lives.

We come out of the baptism experience together and share in the signs of God's reign. Hopefulness and joy certainly ought to be part of our Church experience. "The main thing to know ... What the main thing is."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Enter Jesus, stage right

I was reading another blog in which the author entitled his entry something like ten ways we know our world is going to Hell. One of the examples he gives is a car commercial in which a child is ashamed of his parents choice of vehicles. They are redeemed, in his eyes, when they see the light and but the right car. Now he no longer has to hide himself from his peers. I had seen a commercial the other night in which a young girl has to force herself to eat her mother's cooking. If she only knew about some other sort of food product.

How sad that we are offering a message to the adult world that we do not simply provide for our children, but we have to provide the correct brand, type, or even color. Otherwise the child suffers and we are a bunch of numb-skulls. One of the Sisters from my grade school told us a story of when she worked in Peru, a child in her class had received new shoes. In actuality these were new used shoes. The boy would carry the shoes to school every day and set them next to his desk. When Sister asked why he wasn't wearing them, he replied he did not want them to get dirty.

Our culture dictates to us our needs and concerns. So we twist ourselves around, launch into debt, so that we can have the right things. It is not just a matter of materialism. I had an Aunt who was very wealthy, but kind, selfless, and totally detached from stuff. As Christians we really are called to be counter-cultural. Ours is about human dignity, justice and peace. Ii is not by accident that the gospel writers placed the story of the foot washing prior to the story of the Eucharist. Table fellowship and service go hand in hand.

St. John Paul the Great wrote about the priority of Christ in his Redemptor Hominis. Jesus Christ is the revelation of the Father's plan of salvation. But it requires that we seek out that which is true and good. Our concern of matters of justice and peace are not about being nice to people. There is a God-given sanctity that exists and must be upheld. We are in the image of the Father in heaven, through the Paschal Mystery of the Son.

Saint Paul will remind us to live a life worthy of our call. To be sure that call exists beyond our vehicle our the side dish we eat. Jesus is inviting us to be about something more.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Task of Shepherding part 2

Last night I received one of those calls from the hospital which defined the difference between the ability to, and the desire to. The nursing supervisor stated there had been a death of a sixteen year from natural causes, and the family was at the E.R. Can you come? Yes I have the ability.

There are few scenarios more tragic for parents, situations which suck every ounce of human strength from one, than losing a child. Last night the mom and dad, as well as the siblings, were beyond consolation. So you sit with them, hold them, and simply be present as they caress the body of their child. Sometimes folks will ask, 'what words do I say to help them.' It is at these moments when you admit that this is so terrible that there are not words.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" These words flow off of our tongues with relative ease when we say them on Palm Sunday, and on Good Friday. They come from the place of the dark valley when we realize that all we have left in our lives is ourselves. More so we understand how delicate and fragile life really is. The Psalms which explode with angry at the manner in which our lives can be claimed by sickness, disease, violence, and indignity, become very real here.

Lately at moments like this I consider the sacramental aspect of our lives. In a very large way aren't we also an outward sign, given by Christ, that we might be an experience of grace. For this mom and dad, in this very short time, this son of theirs had been a joy, delightful to be with, a source of amazement as they watched him grow and development into this wonderful young man.

As they were stroking his hands I was thinking that they had done this so many times before when he was an infant, holding his hand to cross a street, and showing him how to hold a baseball properly. It is perhaps the power of those moments that enables us to grow in our own lives and develop an even greater love for the god who made us. It was so very evident last night that this was a group of people who lived in love with and for each other. Whenever we open ourselves to the power of love we open ourselves to vulnerability that comes with it.

In very familiar ways I talked with the family about giftedness and finding solace in each others presence. I had used Saint Paul's analogy of the body, reflecting that this young man will always have an affect on their family and everything they ever do. As a pastor, a shepherd, just to walk the family through the cross not by cliches but by their experience. After about an hour we prayed and I tried to summarize all that was said, and not said for that matter.

I always pray that the spirit work through me in these moments and that I stay out of the way. And I always wonder if I could have done more. My prayers this week will be with this family and that for the weeks ahead they will find healing and eventually some peace.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shepherding God's People

Today we hear one of the most familiar titles of Jesus, that of the Good Shepherd. Jesus describes himself as the sheep-gate by which His sheep gladly enter the verdant pasture. He comments here that he is the true shepherd, as opposed to those who purport themselves to be shepherds. Their objective is to rob and destroy the sheep. Jesus by his shepherding skills will lead his sheep along the right way.

We want to be sure to understand that while we hear this gospel after Easter, Jesus is speaking these words towards the religious authorities prior to his suffering and death. While these religious leaders are basically good people they have become misguided, and are in effect misguiding those around them. The laws and the precepts of the covenant are no longer being used to direct people to a relationship with God, but rather have become an end in and of themselves.

Remember the Models of the Church, by Avery Dulles. One of the dangers of the Social Justice model was that it could become centered on itself so that doing justice had little to do with God or the Kingdom of God. Karl Rahner will muse about the workings of the Spirit in the Church so that we do not become sidetracked or misguided. More so in the Church today there are many charismatic leaders that preach the Word of God, but the structure of the ministry is centered on themselves.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Jesus will remind His hearers again and again that he does what the Father in heaven tells him. In a word, Jesus is the revelation of the Father. As the Good Shepherd Jesus shows us that the Father desires mercy and a contrite heart. Following the lead of the Good Shepherd we know that we are loved by the Father, but must live a counter-cultural lifestyle in our selflessness and ability to forgive one another. Even in the most precarious of times we recognize that Jesus' grace and strength give us the courage to live as we ought to.

So we place ourselves in the care of the Good Shepherd. We listen closely for His voice and respond faithfully to his guidance and direction. The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Christe, coeli et terra laetentur

Back in the 1970s there was a science fiction movie entitled, THX 1138, directed by George Lucas. It portrays a future world where humanity lives in a subterranean environment which is controlled by mind altering drugs and androids. Human emotions are stifled for the sake of productivity. An interesting feature of the movie is that religion is based in a god which exudes the best of all religions. Elements of being at peace and living in happiness are communicated as the central theme of this religion. The "ministers" of this religion wore monastic-like habits. It suggested a spirituality which would be attractive to all peoples.

As someone who lived in the sixties and seventies I recall the burlap banners and the soft guitar music. There were some good ideas but it only provided for an experience without offering meaning and purpose. Matthew chapter ten suggests the difficulty and challenge of the Gospel. This is something we wold like to gloss over.

In Benedict XVI Easter message, the Holy Father refers to a world which knows hardship and violence first hand. Benedict makes it clear that today the Good News of the Paschal Mystery is necessary to be preached and lived throughout the world. It is interesting how often Christianity is portrayed as being antiquated and out of touch, yet it is the Gospel message is of peace and justice, dignity and respect of life, and freedom, that many in power and authority seem to despise. Saint John Paul the Great said it so well and so often that ours is a culture of death.

We who live with the mystery of the passion, death, and resurrection, are called to be both and tenacious in our proclamation of the Gospel message. After being with my seventh graders this morning, I so much want them to be able to make good, faithful, and live giving decisions all of their days. Sometimes their questions look at religious practice as a compartment of their lives, rather than all that we do must be informed by holiness and truth.

While we might see things like capital sins as being sort of quaint, the reality is that stuff like greed, pride, and lust, have caused great destruction within the human family. The mystery of the resurrection pushes the stone of the tomb away, so that w can see and recognize clearly the life the God offers us.

In high school one of my teachers would ask inactive students, "Are you posing for a holy card." Church life is not all rainbows and burlap banners. Life with Christ has something to do with a journey, cross, bread and wine. In Benedict's words, " with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him in this wounded world singing alleluia."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cup of Salvation

Browsing one of the e-newsletters I receive, I came across a site,, that looks fairly interesting. This seems like the the missionary arm of the Jesuits. The stories from this particular newsletter, and those related to the website, are powerful in their proclamation and declaring Good News. Today in Africa for instance I wonder if there is a nation that is not undergoing civil war and or internal strife. One commentator once offered that these are simply growing pains for this massive continent. But the lack of peace and the continued human suffering is very disturbing. And throughout the world there are places of ongoing violence and human poverty.

But we still need to proclaim Good News. While the Gospel today offers a peaceful sense of mission and ministry, we can all relate to the chaos that is found in the early community of Acts today. The Gospel will do that. If we take the words of scripture seriously they can challenge us, and cause all sorts of division and discord. But that same Gospel offers us peace and healing when we allow its challenge to take over our lives so as to live as people of reconciliation and peace. Jesus knew this, as did the holy men and women who followed in his path.

The Gospel is proclaimed in the best and worst of times and places. The place where everyone is delighted by the scripture message, holds hands, and sings joyful songs together does not exist. For a long while men and women have gone into foreign lands, that could be very poor and or hostile, and proclaimed the message of Jesus. Sometimes for us those foreign lands can be in our family or neighborhood.

So confident and unafraid we wander through life guided by the Word of God proclaiming and healing just as Jesus taught us to do. Sometimes folks will chase us around with pointy sticks and the like, but we have to speak the truth. There are lots of people who live in poverty and hostility that depend on our faithfulness.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bread of Life

Today during our staff meeting is was announced that the AC on the first level was down, and would require some major repairs. We on the second level could not understand the concern. Just open some windows and turn on the fans. In a few months it will be cool again. For the life of us we couldn't understand why this would be a problem.

In the Acts of the Apostles this week, we have been reading about St. Stephen the Martyr. Stephen is an outstanding man with an intense compassion and zeal for the Gospel. His care of the of the widows and of the poor is most noted. In the earlier chapters of the Acts of the Apostles it was mentioned that the community came together to share in the Eucharistic meal, and the house where they worship shook with the spirit. Pretty powerful stuff.

Stephen experienced this moment as a springboard to love and serve the Lord. He did this through his service of the poor and anawin, and of his proclamation of the Gospel. Disciples of Jesus are able to resonate with the suffering and desperation of the poor and broken. To have the compassion of Jesus is really a gift. I remember watching a man walk over a cane of an old woman who had just dropped it. Sometimes it is easy to forget the basic tenets of love and mercy. I think it was on T.V. where one of the characters commented that charity is the work of priests and nuns.

The Eucharist certainly keeps us focused on the center of our faith. The mystery we celebrate on the altars of our Church are repeated whenever we do Christ things in our life. Do this in memory of me. There are so many opportunities to share Good News and to make present the Paschal Mystery. It is not all theology and book stuff. It really is the basic care and concern for each other.

St Stephen died proclaiming the Gospel and making sure that folks knew that God loved them. He would not back down from his faith or commitment to the Gospel. Hopefully the bread we break never becomes stale or ordinary. May our faith life cause us to jump up and down with joy when we eat the bread of life and stoop down to wash each others feet. (and we should probably fix the AC for the lower level too)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Journey to Emmaus

Yesterday we had First Communion. Forty-three children all coming to the 'big peoples' table for the very first time. The music was great, the children read the readings and the petitions, and everyone had a good liturgy experience. Sadly for some of the children the next time they receive the Eucharist will be at Christmas or even next Easter. There were those awkward moments of when to sit and stand. And these were the catholics. But the exciting fact that cannot be lost is that these children are starting a new chapter in their faith journey with Jesus.

This weekend's reading are excellent for Eucharist and the sojourn of faith - the Emmaus story. The two disciples are preoccupied in their grief and sense of hopelessness. Even as Jesus walks with them they fail to recognize Jesus. The great moment of revelation comes in the breaking of the bread. In this very Eucharist centered encounter, the fears, doubts, and anxieties of the disciples are removed, and they are left with faith.

In the late 1970s Pope Paul VI wrote a pastoral letter concerning Evangelization. In it he expressed the fact that evangelization comes out of conversion. That individual cannot simply have an intellectual knowledge of Jesus but must become transformed by the person of Jesus Christ. More so the Church itself needs to own its role in evangelization. As a Body of Christ we proclaim the Good News to all people in every place.

As I reflect back on these children it is really our responsibility to share the good news with them and their families. Sometimes I think we have bought into the mindset that the Church provides for Kodak moments. But really we want to be there with each other on the journey of faith so as to reveal the presence of Jesus Christ. There is a danger when we think that our catholic school, R.E., or our youth program, are simply places to get kids ready for sacraments and spew out catholics with an eighth grade catholic education. Where is the conversion and discipleship here.

In our broken community and in our breaking open the Bread and the Word, the risen Jesus stands in our midst. I do think that the Church is more like taking a hike together. On our way to the new Jerusalem we are encouraged to support and challenge each other. Evangelization is sort of the answer to the question, "What do I do after I say Amen."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

We are Witnesses of these Words

Jesus tells his hearers today that he testifies to all that he has seen and heard, and thus testifies to the truth. This witness bears the fact that God is trustworthy and true. Like the apostles the ones who share in this testimony are so moved by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our High School youth, when they give their talks for the Kairos retreat, sometimes make profound and revelatory statements. Considering the context these boys and girls are inspired by the Holy Spirit. And sometimes in the sacrament of reconciliation I say something or make a comment which I have not a clue as to its origins. It is that moment of being inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles stand firm in their proclamation of the Paschal Mystery. All that they have seen and heard is now shared publicly and powerfully through the Holy Spirit. This strength and courage comes from the fact that they have had this intimate relationship with Jesus and can speak out of this knowledge of his words and deeds.

One of my St. Meinrad Classmates was recently named a Bishop. Now he was not the most scholarly in our class, and never strove for power or authority. But he had a great sense of hospitality and charity. What was most evident was his prayerfulness. Not kneeling in the middle of the chapel for six hours a day, but evident that he prayed and knew scripture. Watching the video of him accepting his assignment he even used the phrase, 'sharing the Good News.'

To be living witnesses really requires a faithfulness to prayer and a relationship with Jesus. That makes some catholics uncomfortable - talk like this. But the reality is we have to know Jesus and really strive to be his disciple. Our Christ-like lifestyle might make others uneasy or even blush a bit. But that is okay. As His instruments we need to invite the Holy Spirit to become part of us and to use us as needed. Living witnesses of all that we have seen and heard.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ss. Philip and James

From what little we know of either Philip or James, we know that Philip was from Bethsaida, and was called by Jesus separately. James is the son of Alphaeus, and is referred to as Jams the less. It is Philip brings Nathaniel to Jesus, and James who will be the Bishop of Jerusalem. The letter of James gives us some insight of the early Church, and guidance in our Church today. While we do not have a great deal of biographical or theological background on either Philip or James, it is important to recognize that these are the Apostles, the first followers of Jesus.

The Second Vatican Council's decree on the missionary activity of the Church, ponders for us that the apostles were the "Seeds of the new Israel," called to be with Jesus as his disciples, and preachers of the word. The apostles were the foundation of the Church as the sacrament of salvation. In 1987 Pope John Paul called to mind that the task of proclaiming the Gospel belongs to all of us. He stated, "The Gospel, and together with it the salvific power of Christ's redemption, is addressed to every person in every nation ... To be Christian means to proclaim this message untiringly in every generation."

Philip and James begin the legacy of proclaiming and witnessing the Good News. They share with their hearers all that they 'have seen and heard.' Baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist makes us one in this task. Last week I spent a few days away. We drove up to Sinsinawa where some Dominican Sisters have a mother-house. These are the same Sisters I had in grade school. It always strikes me how few of the Sisters are "known" outside of this community. There are no great theologians or mystics here. But what an impact each of these woman had on a multitude of children.

We are not striving to have our pictures on holy cards but to live faithful lives. We never really know who we are going to influence, or even how. We rely on the Spirit to teach us and to guide us. We are simply clay pots in which the Father plants something beautiful.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Believing is Seeing

Of the many traits that I admire about the monastics, one of the more outstanding is the pace and rhythm of their days, and for that matter their entire lives. The waking, praying, work, and study, gives a sense of structure and order to what can be a challenging life. And even when prayer is not easy, or "holy" is not a feeling, they continue to celebrate the Eucharist, pray, and work. Father Henri Nouwen wrote a reflection many years ago about his experience with the Trappist monks in New England. They became frustrated, distracted, angry, and even doubtful in matters of faith. But the routine was important for them in all of this.

While Thomas' inquiry is important, it also recalls that faith is a leap into the unknown. Men and women who come for marriage, people who profess religious vows, and young men at the time of their ordination, say 'Yes' in a marvelous way to a lifestyle of the unknown. They trust in God, and in the love God has reveled to them. It is in engaging in life that they come to discover the reality of God and the faithfulness of God. What response do we make to the Lord for all that the Lord has done for us.

That has to be our faith response. We follow the way of Jesus Christ in the midst of pain, frustration, and even in the middle of 'un-holy' moments. The theologian Karl Rahner stated that we are people of the Spirit, who are walking in a land that is not of the Spirit. So not only do we feel awkward at times, we cannot readily perceive God in the way we would like to. So we remain focused on the Gospel truth and the power of the resurrection.

Saint Paul will remind us that we "Walk by faith, not by sight" in our relationship with God and with the world. That prayer, work, and study routine keeps us orientated to what really matters and is of value in our lives. St. John Paul II reminded his hearers of the words of our Lord, "Do not be afraid." This is something we can take home with us.