Reaching into my soul

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Acts 13:13-25

John 13:16-20 

When life happens, we want to know God is there. When we seek answers to life’s question, we need to look to Christ in our life. However, this is not enough, we then need to act like Christ. Our reading challenge us to look to God, to discover God, and to act more like God. 

In our first reading, Paul is invited to speak in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Paul gives testimony to all of the things that have happened to the Israelites who prepared the way for Jesus Christ to come. He begins with their flight from Egypt and ending with John the Baptist. Paul is trying to look back on the lives of the Jewish people and to connect all the dots that show the hand of God leading to Jesus Christ. 

In our gospel, Jesus has just washed the feet of his disciples. He is saying, “I am right here in front of you, but this is not enough; you need to act like me.” After washing their feet he says, “No disciple is greater than his master; he should be glad to become like his master.” He continues by saying, “If you understand this, blessed are you if you do this. 

When life happens, and I need to navigate through it. I try to find Christ in the situation. I then try to be quiet and listen to my soul as it cries out to me of what I should do. I then try to be more Christ like in my life. 

This Eucharist is given to us today to help us discover Christ in our life and to be more like him in all we do.

 

Listening to the call from God

Fourth Week of Easter Weekday Wednesday

St. Catherine of Siena

Acts12:24–13:5

John 12:44-50

This priest who is visiting today, is Fr. Marty Barnum, from Mundelein Seminary. He is on the Formation Staff, and he is the head of the Seminarian Internship Program at Mundelein. He is here today to speak to Stephen and myself and to see how his internship is going. You all can tell him after mass how well it is going, but I will leave this up to you. What makes this visit from Fr. Marty special for me is that when I was in seminary, he was at the seminary that I attended, and he was part of the formation program then. I looked to him for direction and help, and he taught one of my favorite classes that I ever took in seminary. He taught a class, on the Spirituality of Priesthood, and I wrote a reflection paper for him on my reflection of why I wanted to be a priest. I read over last, and I found what I wrote very interesting!  

Fr. Marty, is here as our guest, but he is also here to help Stephen hear the word of God spoken in his heart, and to help Stephen make all the connections he can to God’s calling him to priesthood in his life. I again welcome you Fr. Marty! Our readings are doing the very same thing, making sure the words of God are being spoken and heard. 

In our Gospel, Jesus says that when we hear his voice, we hear the voice of God. If we reject the words of Jesus Christ we reject the words of God. 

In our first reading, we get a sense of how far the Word of God has spread as now it has reached Antioch. While the church in Antioch is at prayer five men are brought forward as prophets and teachers. Two of them are chosen by the gift of the Holy Spirit be something more. 

Catherine of Sienna did all she could to hear the word of God in her life as. She dedicated her life to Christ at the young age of 16. She withdrew from her family and led a life of intense prayer. Her writings and her prayer life would bring others to her to help them follow Christ. 

How will God speak to us today? Do we have the real desire to hear his voice? May the Eucharist we share give us the strength and courage to be something more in Christ.  

 

To be a Good Shepherd

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 4: 8-12

I John 3:1-2

John 10: 11-18

 I know what some of you do for work but not all of you. Is there anyone who is a shepherd? We do not have shepherds in our area, but in Israel they do. It is the Fourth Sunday of the Easter season, but it is also Good Shepherd Sunday. 

In our gospel, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.”  We are reminded what he does as the Good Shepherd, as he says five times, “I lay down my life for my sheep.”  We are to know that God is our Good Shepherd and there is nothing we shall want because God has already given us what we need. 

I am called to be a shepherd to all of you. I hope you know how much I love you and care for you? I hope you rejoice in the things that I do well? I hope you are patient with me in the things that challenge me? And I hope that you can forgive me for the things that I cannot do?

On my desk, is a statue of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It is the earliest depiction of Jesus Christ, and he is standing with a sheep on his shoulders. I am reminded, that I must lay my life down for you as I look at that statue. 

Pope Francis, in his Holy Thursday Chrism Mass said, “As priests, we are to know the smell of our sheep. We are to wear the smell of our sheep.” Which means to me to rejoice when you rejoice and to be sad when you are sad. This means being there through all the things of your life. It means being there, even when the diaper needs to be changed! Now that can be some nasty smell! But it is about getting my hands dirty to be with you. 

I hear these readings, and I am challenged to be a better priest and pastor, but all of us are challenged today to be good shepherds! We are all shepherds, because someone has been given to us to be in our care? How do we care for the ones who have been given to us to care for as a good shepherd? I want to begin with all married persons. How is your love for each other this day? Some days it is more than love, it is sustainability! When was the last time you went on a date with each other? Who is willing to be brave and strong and break the bond of negativity that can plague a marriage? Who is the one that is willing to reach across and take hold of the hand of the other and be one? Your kids, your grandchildren are the ones who look to you to figure out what it means to be in love and to be good shepherds.

You who are siblings, and I am not talking just too young kids. I am reaching out to anyone who has a sibling. How have you been a good shepherd to your siblings? Is there one of them that needs you today? Is there one we do not get along with today? Sometimes as siblings, the best thing to know is that they always will be standing next to us! Lastly, to all the single people and again, we can be of any age. In some ways we have it a bit easier. We do not have all those immediate responsibilities. To be a good shepherd is to not be self-centered. It is to be a good friend to those whom God has given to us for our care! 

My friends in Christ to be a good shepherd takes courage. Let us always hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, leading us to holiness and faithfulness! May we also be good shepherds to those God has entrusted to us!   

 

Third Week Easter Weekday Friday

Acts 9: 1-20

John 6: 52-59

Who is making their First Communion this weekend? How very exciting! Fifty years ago this week I celebrated my first Communion and never could I have guessed the transforming power it would have on me. All of you are now going to know the transforming power of the Eucharist in your lives!  

The Lord tells Ananias to go to Straight Street, and there he will find a man in prayer named Saul. Really! Straight Street!  Not Blueberry Lane, not Deer Droppings Drive, but Straight Street. That is our first clue of something. Ananias replies, “Lord, I do not want to go, I have heard of the very evil things that this man has done.”  The Lord says, “Go, for a great transformation is taking place in this man.” But there is also a great transformation happening in Ananias as when he arrives he calls Saul, (soon to be Paul) his brother! 

What needs to be transformed in our lives and be led straight to the Eucharist? How about seeing others as our brothers and sisters and not calling them names because of the color of their skin or the clothes they wear? How about not wanting to do harm to another? How about keeping our thoughts and our eyes pure and innocent by what we look at? We are a family here, and we need to work hard at keeping it a family. If it does not work for us, who will it? 

We gather today looking straight at the Eucharist.  May we know the transforming power of the Eucharist, and may we always run straight to the Eucharist in our time of need.

 

Listen to these promptings

Third Week of Easter Thursday

Acts 8: 26-40

John 6: 44-51

 Congratulations! I really do mean congratulations! Why do I say this? Because you decided at some point to listen to that little voice in your heart and or head, and come to mass this morning. I believe listening to this voice and acting on it can be life changing. Now can we do that again during our day, knowing that God is speaking to us? 

In our first reading, Philip hears a voice from God say, “Get up and run down the road, and you will encounter a man there.” Philip goes, and he catches up with a chariot with a court official from Ethiopia. He is reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replies, “How can I understand, unless someone instructs me?” Philip begins to help him understand what he is reading, and the man is so taken by what he learns he asks Philip to baptize him. 

In our Gospel today Jesus, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” 

It is all about listening to that little voice guiding us along. It may be just a feeling, or something in our gut, but it is about listening to what I believe most of the time is from God. This was the case when Cheryl, Stephen and I got called to the hospital yesterday to see someone. On the way, I remembered someone from the last week that I thought maybe we should check on them first, and we did. As we entered the room one of the daughters said, “I just do not know what she is waiting for to die? I do not know if she wants to die alone or with us here?” We all prayed over this woman, and we left to continue our visits. A half-hour later, I received a call saying that the woman died just after we left. It is about listening to the little nudges of God. 

The Bread of Life is given to us to listen to these prompting.

 

What are we willing to live for and what are we willing to die for?

Third Week of Easter Tuesday

Acts 8:1-8

John 6: 35-40

Here in U.S. have our “freedom of religion” and are able to express our Christian faith without being threatened. So, I have no idea what it feels like or looks like to be threatened or verbally abused for my beliefs. The closest I come to this is when I am wearing my clerics in a public place, and some people smile and some people don’t. Yet, I read recently that Christians are being persecuted and killed at an alarming rate, perhaps more than any time in history. I wonder today what are we willing to live for and what are we willing to die for? 

In our first reading, we hear of the death of Stephen. We are told that severe persecution broke out, and many Christians scattered. However, the apostles were not deterred, and they kept preaching. Philip goes to Samaria, which was so hostile to Jesus and the others that he forbade his missionaries from going there. Philip goes and many unclean spirits are sent away, and crippled people were healed and the people are filled with joy. Philip knew what he was willing to live for and what he was willing to die for. What are we willing to live for and what are we willing to die for? 

Our Gospel begins by repeating the last line from yesterday’s gospel. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Someone is trying to send us a message so that we will come to believe. But there is another line that also repeated and it stands out to me and that is, “And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me.”  I can only guess, the Church in her great wisdom gives us this reading, so we will know what we are willing to live for and what are we willing to die for?  

We may not be threatened or verbally abused because of our faith, but we will be challenged to live our faith, just as the apostles did. What are we willing to live for and what are we willing to die for today? 

May the Eucharist we share sustain us!

Here is your sign

Tuesday Third Weekday Easter

Acts 7:51-8:1

John 6: 30-35

 We have many signs in our lives that give us information and tell us what to do. Are we seeing the sign that is right in front of us today? 

In the Books of Acts, Luke the writer wants us to know the sign that Stephen is a prophet from God, filled with the Holy Spirit. Stephen’s death in put in contrast to the passion and death of Jesus. Stephen’s life is filled with power and grace as he worked wonders by the name of Christ. He is arrested, brought to trial, falsely accused, and he is taken outside the city to be killed. Stephen asks that his spirit be accepted, and he asks for forgiveness of his accusers. The major contrast is Stephen is not silent before his accusers. We are not to miss all these signs of the prophetic power of Stephen. 

In our Gospel, Jesus is still talking to the crowd of 5000 that he feed with five loaves and two fish until they were full. They ask for a sign so that they will believe in him. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; and whoever believes in me will never thirst or will never be hungry.” He is saying wake up to the great sign that is right in front of you. 

We at times are not much better, in our doubt and fear. Yesterday I was filled with peace, wisdom and courage for most of the day, until something happened last evening, and instantly I was filled with anxiety, nothing to say and fear. I spent a restless night worry about it all. We continue to ask for a sign from God all the time that he is still with us. What are the signs that are right in front of us, where God is leading us? May we always know the sign of Jesus Christ present to us in this Eucharist.