What have you accomplished?

Seventh Week of Easter Thursday

Acts 22: 30; 23 6-11

John 17: 20- 26

Congratulations! Well done! You have done well! These are all words that we love to hear, but what happens next? Our readings challenge our spiritual lives to say, “What do we do after we have accomplished something and told that we had done a great job?” 

In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul is not being congratulated by what he has accomplished, he is being brought to trial before the whole Sanhedrin to discuss accusations against him. Paul creates a huge discussion about the resurrection which almost gets him killed, but Roman guards are sent in order to rescue him. 

However, in a vision Paul is told that you have been doing a great job. He has been doing so well that now he is to go to the center of the known world, the city of Rome, and there he is to give witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Up to this point in the gospel of John, the writer has Jesus praying only for his disciples. A major change happens in our reading today as Jesus’s prayer goes way beyond his disciples, but to all future believers in him because they are a gift. Jesus is saying all those who will come after you, will be a gift, because they too will do a great job because my love will also be in them. 

When we think we have done all that we can do, God says, “I want you to do more, and I will empower you to do more.” The Eucharist is given to us to accomplish so much more this day!  

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We are consecrated to God

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Acts 20:28- 38

John 17: 11-19

It is graduation season when speeches are being made with great hopefulness and encouragement as young people say good-bye to one stage of their lives and hello to another stage of their lives. Today in our readings, Paul and Jesus are making speeches of hopefulness and encouragement as they say good-bye. They have much to say about us and about our faith.

 St. Paul is in Ephesus, and he is speaking to the leaders of the church as he says, “I commend you over to God that his word will build you up, and that you will go and speak these words to those who are already consecrated to God. After a very much tearful good-bye, he is escorted to at ship headed for Jerusalem. 

In the gospel, we hear the words of prayer that Jesus said to his heavenly Father when he says, “When I was with them, I protected them, and I guarded them, and none were lost. As I leave, I give them over to you to Father; watch over them because I have consecrated them to you.” 

Both Paul and Jesus tell us that we are “consecrated to God.” Do we believe that today? That might be the first hurdle! If we believe that, then we can say without pride, “Look to me and to what I do to see Chris!” That is not prideful, just faithful. Jesus did not come preaching a new philosophy, but a new way of life. Not an intellectual assent, but a heart ascent. Leadership would be easy if we said, “It does not matter what I do or say or think in between the time that I go to mass.” 

May we know that this Eucharist gives us the strength to do our best to pattern our lives in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, so to be good and faithful examples to the people we meet today.

 

Good Bless Ye

Ascension

Acts 1:1-11

Ephesians 1:17-23

Matthew 28:16-20

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus Christ when Jesus simple says “good-bye” to his loved ones. The origin of the word “good-bye” comes from the 16th century when Christians would bid farewell to each other with the words, “God bless ye!” However, with many Christians being persecuted at that time, they shifted “God” to “Good” and “bless ye” to “Bye.” I think this is important for us to remember because the words good-bye roll off our tongues all the time without this meaningful origin. What we are saying is, “I hope God bless you and keep you, until we can meet again. And when we meet again, I want to hear all that God has done in your life.” Ascension is a good reminder that we live in that gap, doing the will of God until he comes and takes us home. 

I and 43 others have just returned from a pilgrimage to Rome, and we had a wonderful time, although the beginning was filled with what we called speed bumps, but they were speed bumps that would tear your tires off. I have decided to call them “good-byes” because God blessed us and was with us all along the way. We had our flights canceled, there were those who missed the flight, there was lost luggage, but the biggest good-bye was arriving in Amsterdam and being told there was a fire in the Rome International Airport, and our flight would be delayed. After working with an agent for over two hours and being told that we could not get our group out until the evening of the next day, I had a moment. I sat down on a bench and thought, “Maybe running away, and spending the rest of my days here in the Netherlands sound pretty good?”  In the readings from the book of Acts is written by the gospel writer Luke. He is the one at the resurrection has two angels at the tomb telling Jesus’s followers he is not here he goes ahead of you.” Luke once again has two angels saying to the apostles after Jesus had ascended, “Why are you just standing around? Get up and get busy.” I know those words, as I got up and delivered the news to the group that we were staying a night in Amsterdam. God was with us as we got to see the city of Amsterdam a bit, and it solidified the group tightly together. 

The Ascension is not the departure of Jesus Christ from the world until he returns at the end of time. It is not whether he is present here, but how he is present. His presence is through all of us, his body, and his church! In our Gospel, we were told that after he ascended they went forth and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed many signs.”

Our pilgrimage to Rome was wonderful. We did see many wonderful and magnificent things and seeing the Pope and being very close to him as he passes by in the Pope mobile was awesome. However, the most powerful thing we did each day was to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. It is in the Holy Eucharist that the gap we live in closes, and we experience God in a most magnificent way. May each time we say “good-bye” to someone be a reminder that we live in this gap, where God is blessing us. May we return next week rejoicing in all that God has done for us.

The Peace of Christ

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Acts 14: 19-28

John 14: 27-31

Tomorrow morning there are 44 of us who will be going on a pilgrimage to Rome and other places in Italy. The highlight of the trip for me will be next Wednesday, when Pope Francis has his general audience. Pope Francis with all the weight of the Church on his shoulders makes being Pope look pretty easy as he smiles and laughs a lot. He knows something of the “peace of Christ.” 

In our first reading, Paul is preaching in Antioch and Iconium, and he has upset some Jews, so they stone him and leave him for dead. The disciples pick him up, and they proclaim, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Paul is not discouraged and when he is feeling better, he takes Barnabas his friend, and they go right back to Antioch and Iconium and begin preaching again. Paul knows the peace of Christ. 

In our Gospel, Jesus is at the Last Supper; he knows what is about to happen, and he has every reason to be concerned, and yet he says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give it to you.” Notice it is not someone else’s peace, but his peace. I will be saying these very same words. How awesome! 

The peace Jesus is giving is not just a place absent of conflict and stress. The peace he is offering is for everyone, it is a situation where everyone has what is necessary for a full life. It is not enough that I need peace, but that you are also at peace. This peace does not allow me to sit back in my rocking chair and enjoy the peace and the quiet. This peace demands a vibrant and loving care for every living person. 

God has promised us his peace, may we in this Eucharist be strengthened in that promise. May you know the peace of Christ and know his peace in this community.

 

What needs to be cut off or what needs to be pruned?

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 9: 26-31

I John 3:18-24

John 15: 1-8

I love to do my running over in Townsend Park. Many of you know where about the park, but if you are unfamiliar, it has a lovely asphalted path that winds through the park that is four miles long. It is mostly all through the woods, and it has a boardwalk that crosses over Sunfish Lake. It is absolutely beautiful, and I love running there. The other evening I was running there, and it seemed the whole woods was alive, with the buds from the trees beginning to bear the leaves that lie beneath them and there was this certain glow through-out the woods. I was having a run of a lifetime, praying and enjoying all of God’s creation when suddenly a six-foot limb came crashing down missing me by just a few feet. The first thing I did was jump, then I screamed, (I was practicing my scream for when I have to go up in the helicopter at the festival.) I then looked around to see if someone could have thrown the limb at me, and then I continue.  Our gospel gives us an image that we all know so easily here is this area that of if you want a plant to grow more some things need to be cut off, and some branches need to be pruned. We are also challenged to jump, scream out, and look around and to move forward. 

In our Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” Jesus loves this term, “I am.” He says, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the light of the world, I am the door, I am the bread of life and today I am the vine. These are all very simple images, and when we see these things they are to remind us of him and grow in a deeper understanding of who he is in our lives. I am the vine is to remind us that there may be other vines in our life but only the vine of Jesus Christ is the true vine that gives us life. 

Jesus continues with, “He (God) takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit.” Notice, the vine does not bear the fruit, the branches do, and we are the branches that bears the fruit. The branches are only able to bear fruit because of the life they receive from the vine. God as the owner of the garden cuts off, what does not produce fruit on the vine. What in our life, is dead and needs to be cut off? Ex. Poor use of computer, excessive drinking, gambling? 

Jesus continues with, “But even every branch that bears fruit he prunes so it will bear more fruit.”  Jesus is letting us know that even in the things we do well, we will experience a bit of pruning so as to bear more fruit. It is all about a great abundance! What needs to be pruned in our lives? To make better our prayer lives, so we do not know as much doubt and fear!  

Like me in the beginning of my story, do we need to jump up and take notice of the things that need to be cut off or pruned to bear more fruit? Will we scream out in pain or in joy? Where do we need to look around and survey what just happened and know that we are ok? Where do we need to continue again knowing that we are attached to the vine and are now made stronger in Christ? 

If we want to know life in abundance Jesus says, “We can do nothing apart from him.” The Eucharist is our sign of being connected to the vine, may we produce much fruit this week.

Do not be troubled

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Acts 13:26-33

John 14:1-6

 After the reading of the Gospel, Stephen (acolyte) begins moving nervously about the sanctuary.

Fr. Mark, “Stephen what is going on?”

Stephen, “I just cannot sit still. I am nervous. I am worried, and I had too much coffee!”

Fr. Mark, “Stephen it is all going to be ok. Be still and know that Jesus is with you!” 

By a show of hands, “Who gets nervous from time to time?” Yes, we all do, and we all re-act to nervousness differently. However, Jesus says some wonderful words for us to help us calm down a bit. 

In our Gospel, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me.” Jesus shares these words with his disciples, at the Last Supper just before his death. 

These words are given to us to help us when we are nervous or worried. We will never eliminate worry or nervousness from our lives, but we can come to know that God’s grace is enough for us.

Our feelings are given to us to motivate us to an action. When we worry or are nervous, we need to draw closer to the Lord, and know that he is with us and that his grace is enough for us. 

We gather here now because we face challenges in our health, relationships, our school work and in our lives. Jesus says he will be back for us, but we can experience him right now in this Eucharist. Be at peace, and know that God is so close to us!