Fr Patrick’s Reflections of the daily readings
Reflection for Thursday 7th week of Easter
His body had lost its strength. The cancer made him so weak that he could hardly sit up in the chair. But my friend priest and mentor gave me the privilege of one final visit. He was tired, but with his soft voice, he said, “Priesthood is such a wonderful life – and I’ve had such a wonderful priesthood.” He said to me, “Pray for me, and I will pray for you.” And the last word he spoke to me was simple. One word. He said, “Peace.”
I cling to that last word – “peace” – on days when priesthood is busy, crazy, or confusing. That last word: “peace.” We treasure the last words that our loved ones speak to us. Those last words can summarise a whole relationship of that person, our experience of that person, a life lifetime of caring. Last words can even be humorous. Last words, from people we love. Do you have a memory of a last word spoken to you by someone whose love changed your life?
We see an example of this in Acts of the Apostles, the leaders of early Christian community at Ephesus had gathered together to hear the last words of someone who had changed their lives (Acts 20:28-38). Remember; it was St. Paul who had laboured several years in Ephesus to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and establish the community of believers. Then, Paul had moved on, proclaiming the Gospel wherever the Holy Spirit led him next. Now, as we listen to today’s First Reading, Paul is making a journey on his way to Jerusalem. There, he will be arrested, and from there he will go to Rome, where he will die a martyr’s death.
It is clear to all of the Ephesians that this will be the last time they get to see Paul, or hear Paul’s words directly from his own lips. The emotion of this moment is overwhelming. They weep. They kneel to the ground. This is ‘farewell.’ And what are the last words of Paul to these people he loved so much? Paul reminds these leaders of the Ephesians’ church, to stay faithful to their ministry. He reminds them that the church belongs to Christ – He saved every person in the church by his blood on the cross. He reminds them to stay faithful to the truth that he taught them. He encourages them to stay rooted in the word, and to be generous in caring for others. ‘It is better to give than to receive.’
Paul’s last words? Be generous. Stay faithful to the Word, and remember that in the end, we all belong to Jesus, who died for us. Wouldn’t Christians of every age be better disciples, if we focused on these last words of Paul, and lived them?
In today’s Gospel reading, we are also listening to some of the last words of Jesus. We are in John Chapter 17. Jesus is sitting at the table during the Last Supper. He will soon be arrested. This is the last time he will be able to speak with his disciples as a group. They are hearing his last words. And what does he say? Well, actually, at one point he interrupts his conversation with his disciples, and Jesus just starts to pray out loud. They are hearing the dialog between the Son who is about to die, and the Father to whom he is returning. Jesus prays that the Father will protect the disciples, shielding them by the power of his name. He prays that the Father will give us the gift of unity, just as the Father and Son are united in the Spirit. He prays that we will always be rooted in the truth, and experience the joy that comes from Christ.
The last words of Jesus in today’s Gospel? Protection. Unity. Truth. Joy. Wouldn’t Christians of every age be better disciples, if we focused on these last words of Jesus, and lived them?
Several years ago, I attended a meeting at a church where I was serving. The pastor and I were meeting with a group of people who had been sending angry and horrible letters to the parish priest. In my mind, these were the kind of people who know just enough religion to make them mean! I was surprised by their behaviour. But throughout this very difficult meeting, I was amazed at the way that the parish priest spoke with this group of people. They shouted with anger – he responded with gentleness. They spoke with arrogance – he spoke with humility. They kept talking about the priest – he kept talking about Jesus.
After the meeting, I asked the parish priest how he had been so kind, and patient and loving toward this group of mean minded Catholics. He said, “Well, this is how I prepared for this meeting. I imagined that tonight’s conversation would be the last conversation I ever had with these people. I imagined that, after this meeting, I would get into my car, but be killed on the way home in an accident or be transferred from the parish, and I kept asking myself, ‘If these were the last words that these people ever heard from me, what I would want those last words to be?’ Would I want my last words to them to be words of anger, or defensiveness, or judgement? Or would I want my last words to them to be words of Patience? Compassion? Forgiveness? Understanding? Love? Finally, he said, “If these were the last words they ever heard from me, I would want them to walk away having heard me speak like Jesus, and speak about Jesus.”
I was amazed. I wish I could tell you that I have always followed his advice perfectly. But I don’t! I’m human. But what a great goal to have each day!
“Lord, let me speak with every person as if this is the last time I will say any words to them, and let my last words be words that are like you, and about you.” Amen
No Reflection for Wednesday
Reflection for Tuesday 7th Week of Easter
As human beings, it is so easy to forget. With the passing of time, we begin to forget the sacrifices that others have made for us, the sufferings they endured for us, the important lessons they passed on to us.
The Gospels call us to a similar, sacred remembering. Because, when it comes to Jesus and his sacrifice; when it comes to Jesus and his Gospels…. the passing of time makes it easy for us to forget. As we encounter the disciples in the Gospels, Jesus has already made his ultimate sacrifice. He already died on the cross, and was raised from the dead. Jesus uses this last earthly conversation with his disciples to do two things: He asks them to remember the most important thing, and he sends them out to share that most important thing with others. This is the last time he will speak to them here on earth. So he uses this brief conversation to remind them of the most important part of his message. And what is the most important thing Jesus says? “Behold, I am with you always…”
Behold, I am with you always.
That is the most important thing we need to remember. The risen Lord is with us, always. We are never alone. We are never abandoned. We never face this world, with its craziness and it confusion alone. We never face this world, with its fanatics and violence alone…. We never face this world, with its viruses, disappointments and challenges … alone. We never face anything alone. Remember. “Behold, I am with you always. No matter what is happening to you, I am with you always. Remember, no matter what is happening in your family, your country, your world… Remember, I am with you always. Remember”. And if you remember, you will find strength, and courage, and wisdom, and meaning and peace.
But that gift is not given just for you to enjoy it. Jesus, before his departure, also says to the disciples, “Go, and proclaim my message. Invite others to become my disciples. Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!” Make disciples of them. Invite others to experience the gift, the grace, and the strength which comes from the most important thing…. Jesus is with us. Experience the joy. Share the joy with others. Don’t forget. But I do forget some days. With the passing of time, with the busyness of the day, with the stresses and strains, I can forget, and I become oblivious to the fact that the ground I am walking on each day is holy ground. Holy because Jesus is walking the journey with me – Always.
We have a solemn duty, a sacramental duty, to help all children remember the most important thing that Jesus taught us. He is with us, always. He gives us every gift, so that we can share it. We are alive, so that we can invite others to experience the joys of knowing and trusting the Lord.
Jesus is with you – wherever you walk. Jesus is with you – wherever you live. Jesus is with you – wherever you work.
Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Reflection for Monday 7th Week of Easter
They looked confused.
It happened about some years ago. I was standing at the altar of the church on a Thursday, and I noticed a husband and wife who had joined us for Mass. As the readings for the Mass began, I could see them flipping through their prayer books, trying to find the right page. As I preached, it was clear from the look on their faces that I was not saying what they expected me to say. All through mass, something seemed wrong to them. After Mass, they walked up to me and asked, “Isn’t today Ascension Thursday?” I explained that, with Vatican approval, the feast of the Ascension is transferred to Sunday here in Salford Diocese as in many parts of the world.
I could tell that the lady had never heard of this fact. So she said, “but in my place, where I live, today is Ascension Thursday. How can it not be Ascension Thursday here?”. I tried to explain it again, but she wasn’t buying it. Finally she said, “That’s the problem with you young priests. You’re always changing everything. Why can’t you just leave the faith the way it used to be?”.
I was not surprised by her request: “why can’t you just leave the faith the way it used to be?”. She was probably speaking for many people, who would feel far more comfortable if the church, if faith, could be ‘just the way it used to be’. Faith seemed more secure ‘back then’, faith seemed more certain ‘the way it used to be’.
In fact, she may have been speaking for most of us, who feel uncomfortable when change happens. Most of us don’t like change. Or, at least, we like to have some things we can hold on to, some things we’re certain of. If they change, then I have to change. Maybe the lady was speaking for the disciples of Jesus after the Lord’s Ascension. Remember – these disciples had put their faith in Jesus. They followed him. They were there with him at the last supper. They wept when he was buried. They lost him. But …three days later… they got him back! After losing him, they got him back. And he ate with them, talked with them, and taught them – just like he used to! But then, on that Ascension Day… they lost him again. Jesus is taken from their sight. They stand there, gazing into the air, with this message ringing in their ears: ‘stop star gazing – you won’t see him that way anymore.’
I suspect that the Apostles wanted to hold onto Jesus as they had known him. They wanted the source of their faith to stay where he was, as he was. They wanted the flesh and blood of Jesus to remain with them, always. But Jesus had to leave them – or, better still, he had to leave them as they had known him, so that he could be with them again in a way that they could not yet imagine. They did not know that his departure on Ascension Day, would result in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day . All they knew, in that moment, was that he was gone, again. They had lost the One they were surest of.
There are at least two lessons in this vivid scene. The first is this: faith is an always changing and an evolving reality. No matter how much we fight against it, Jesus calls us to an ever-deepening experience of the mystery of God. If we are going to become adult believers, our faith cannot be founded solely on the certainties of childhood. Our prayer life cannot be frozen into one form that ‘worked for us’ three decades ago. We must accept that our experience of Christ will expand and change, and with each change we will learn something new, something deeper about the God who loves us.
As the Second Vatican Council taught us, the church is semper reformanda – always in need of reform. Which means that no single era, no single place, pastor, or pope can be pointed to as THE TOTAL AND ONLY authentic expression of our Catholic faith tradition. The first point is, that first disciples had to let go of what was familiar, in order to embrace the deeper gift that was to come – so must we. And the second point? When the Ascension changed their experience of Jesus, the first disciples realised that their self-understanding must change too. Up to this moment, Jesus was the one who did the teaching; he did the healing, the feeding, and the loving. But, when he ascended from the earth in that familiar, physical form – everything changed for the disciples. From that moment on, they realised that Jesus’ work was now their work. Jesus’ mission was now their mission. Jesus gives a powerful mission statement to the first disciples as he leaves their sight – ‘go, make disciples of all nations, baptise them, and teach them.’ It sounds so magnificent and clear, but if you read the rest of the New Testament you realise that this change in the lives of the disciples did not come easily. While the mission may have been clear, it required much change on the part of every disciple – and the New Testament tells us that this did not come easily. Change is never easy. How often in the past few weeks of quarantine have we found ourselves lamenting:
+ my work schedule is not the same as it used to be
+ my family routine in not the same as it used to be
+ the economy is not the same as it was in January
+ my experience of faith is not the same as it used to be
+ my confidence in the future is not the same as it used to be
+ my waistline is not the same as it used to be
+my view about life is not the same as it used to be
+ my priorities in life and what I put premium now, is not the same any more
+ my relationship to Jesus, isn’t the way it used to be.’
You’re right. Change happens. And even the first disciples had to let go of Jesus as they used to know him, as he used to be with them; and embrace the new mission he gave them. That mission is still ringing down the centuries from the lips of Jesus to your ears. Hey you, yes you! – “go and make disciples” of the people you meet. Invite others into the community of believers. Carry on Christ’s work! So, if you were blessed with a specific skill, you may have to change your focus, and ask how your skills can be used for the Lord. For those of you in positions of power – you may have to change your agenda from self-promotion to the promotion of justice. If you were blessed with material possessions, you may have to open your hands in a new way to share with the hungry and the poor. To those who want the world to be changed for the better, we must grapple with the truth – the world will only be changed for the better if I first allow God to do the important work of changing me for the better.
Saint John Henry Newman once said: ‘to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.’
Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Reflection for 7th Sunday of Easter.
Acts 1:12-14 John 17:1-11
“I don’t like your cross!”
That’s what he said, the first time a friend came to visit the parish where I served as assistant. He walked around the church, looked at everything, and then he said to me, “I don’t like your cross.”
It is a beautiful church. I happen to love the large cross which is a focal point in our space. It’s actually a crucifix. It hangs over the altar, suspended by wires from the ceiling. The cross itself is made of wood and brass. The image of Christ’s body is fashioned out of bronze. As you enter our church, it looks like the body of Jesus is attached to the cross. But if you look at it from the side, you realise that there is much space between the cross and the bronze sculpture of Jesus’ body. My friend said he didn’t like it. So I asked him: “What don’t you like it?” He said, “Well, just look at it! From one angle, it looks like Jesus is dying. It’s a good depiction of Jesus dying on the cross. But,” he continued, “If you look at it from a different angle, you can see there is space between him and the cross. Is he going on to the cross, or is he coming off?” He threw up his hands and said, “So tell me – is Jesus dying or rising on that cross?” I said to him: “Maybe it’s both. It all depends on how you look at it.”
In our passage from John’s Gospel today, Jesus is speaking to his disciples on the night before he died. Within 18 hours or so, he will be hanging on the cross. As we read of the crucifixion in John’s Gospel, we could ask this question: What is happening to Jesus as he hangs on the cross? Is he dying, or rising? Quite frankly, the answer according to John’s Gospel is: both. According John’s Gospel, the crucifixion is the most tragic death in history, AND it is the moment when the glory of God, revealed in Christ, shines forth for all to see.
It all depends on how you look at it. On one hand, what happens to Jesus from Holy Thursday night to Good Friday afternoon is the worst possible thing. Jesus had shown us so much love – and humanity responded with so much hate. He used his hands to heal – we nailed his hands to a tree. He revealed the heart of God to all humanity – we thrust a spear into his heart. Jesus said that he had received glory from the Father, and had shown that glory to us. On the cross, he dies an inglorious death, a convicted criminal dying between other criminals.
Jesus had proclaimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life!” All this talk about life… then on that Friday, there was nothing but the stench of death. Jesus’ birth was accompanied by an angelic song – Glory to God in the highest! Now this Jesus dies on a cross. Dying for our sins. There he was – dying, because death had to be conquered. What was he doing up there? He was dying. And… he was rising.
In John’s Gospel, the passion of Jesus – the whole story of his arrest, trial and crucifixion – is portrayed in such a way, that you come away understanding that this was also Jesus’ finest hour! Jesus’ finest hour – were you listening to the language in today’s Gospel passage? Sitting there at the Last Supper, Judas has already run out into the night to betray him. Jesus has washed the dirty feet of his friends and shared the meal of bread and wine he asks US to share in memory of him. Then, with betrayal and death hanging over the scene, Jesus speaks of… glory! “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son, so that the Son may glorify you.”
Wait. What? The brutal crucifixion will take place in a few hours. How is this the hour of glory? Jesus says his Father, “I did the work you sent me to do. I had glory in your presence before the world began. I’ve made your name known. Everything I’ve given to people, I received from you. And now I am glorified in them.” Death is on the horizon. Yet all this talk of glory? Yes, in John’s Gospel, THIS is the hour, this is Jesus’ finest hour, and this is the hour when God’s glory is revealed in the Son. As John tells the story of Jesus’ passion, he portrays a Jesus who is dignified, directing the action, making sure that everything goes as it should.
In John’s Gospel,
+ when they come to arrest Jesus, he calmly directs every moment of the interaction
+ when falsely accused, Jesus does not argue: he stands in truthful silence
+ in John’s Gospel, Jesus carries the cross by himself – he needs no assistance
+ from the cross, Jesus entrusts his mother to the care of a disciple. Even in his hour of greatest suffering, he is caring for his loved ones
+ and when all is properly concluded, he does not scream out with fear or pain. Rather he calmly announces, “It is finished”, and he hands his spirit over to his Father.
This is not a depiction of a frightened victim being hunted down by death. This is a depiction of the Son of God, who knows that this suffering is not as strong as God’s love for him. He knows that the glory of God’s love is revealed when we see that God is willing to suffer with us and for us. Jesus knows that death will not get the last word in the story of his life. Jesus faces a death that is real, but he does so with courage, because he knows that eternal life is even more real…..
On the cross, in John’s Gospel, he is dying AND rising. It all depends on how you look at it! And this is crucial for our life, and the life of the world. Why? Because, right now, the cross is still happening to people. The crucifixion is still happening:
+ It is still happening, in hospital rooms, where someone struggles to breathe
+ it is still happening in places around the world, where quarantines force us to experience isolation
+ it is still happening, wherever uncertainty leads to fear, wherever economic hardships lead to anxiety, wherever loneliness leads to suffering
+ the crucifixion still happens, where poverty saps the spirit, where racism breeds hate, where immorality gets rewarded.
In so many situations we are dying. Death is real. Suffering is staggering. When people are on these crosses, they are experiencing dying. But, if we approach these crosses from a slightly different angle – the angle revealed in the Gospel of John – we may begin to realise that, even in our moments of greatest loss, the rising of God is at work, the glory of God is present, and can be seen.
The glorious rising of God can be seen:
+ when frightening circumstances lead people to a greater commitment to love
+ when lonely moments lead us to reach out to others who may be in need.
+ when an atmosphere of despair leads you to create a reason for others to hope
+ when an unprecedented health crisis leads so many of us to re-examine our priorities, our relationships; to strengthen our commitment to the living God. And when you and I are the ones who feel like we are experiencing the cross, the Risen Jesus enables us to choose – to choose be people who rise even as we feel, that part of us is dying.
In this Easter Season of the year 2020, we must look at everything through the lens of the cross, and unite everything that is happening to us to what happened to Jesus. He will teach us how to look at our life. He will teach us, seriously, to be “cross-eyed.” Cross-eyed people. People who view every moment through the prism of the cross. Cross-eyed people, who see that even our darkest night might be our most glorious hour. So, people of God… are you dying, or are you rising? I think it’s both. It all depends on how you look at it.
Before leaving his apostles, Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. So they gathered with Mary the mother of Jesus and other disciples at the upper room and waited for the promised Spirit. The upper room became a waiting room. All of us are familiar with waiting rooms of one kind or another. We have waited for people. We have waited for planes, trains, buses. We have been in the waiting rooms of doctors and hospitals. No two waiting rooms are the same. In some you feel close to heaven; in others you feel close to hell. There is no comparison between waiting in a comfortable airport lounge for a plane to take you on an exciting trip, and waiting in a hospital room for news of a loved one who is clinging to life. We are familiar with the peculiar atmosphere that prevails in waiting rooms. An air of uncertainty prevails which makes us feel nervous and apprehensive. What makes the experience so difficult, is precisely the waiting. Waiting is not easy. The hardest thing of all about waiting, is the sense of powerlessness that usually accompanies it. Things are of our control. Our destiny is in the hands of someone else. There is nothing we can do but wait. But waiting, though painful, can be a graced thing. Waiting brings home to us how independent we are. We need others. Besides, waiting is part of life. The earth has to wait for the rain. The farmer has to wait for the spring. Waiting is necessary for change, growth, and healing to happen.
What was it like for the apostles as they were waiting in the upper room for the Holy Spirit? I am quite sure that they would have experienced most of our emotions as they waited in that room. They put their trust in the word of Jesus. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t apprehensive about the future. And as they waited, they became aware of their own powerlessness. But that only served to dispose them to receive the gift of the Spirit. As they waited they prepared themselves for the coming of the spirit by prayer. In that way they supported each other. We must try to make these days, days of prayer.
Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Novena to the Holy Spirit : Day II – Saturday, May 23rd
Where the Spirit is, there is creation and new life. Where the Spirit is, there is the living Christ. The Spirit is the breath of God’s creative love, so that whoever lives in the Spirit
lives in the ever newness of God.
“Take courage for I am with you, says the Lord…, my Spirit abides among you, do not fear.”
The Bible isn’t so much a book as a small library, written and compiled over centuries by people who simply wanted to pass on their experience of faith. It is helpful to remember this when considering the Spirit in the Scriptures, because in the different books, written at different times and in different styles, the authors were not all simply repeating the same thing about God or the Spirit. Sometimes, they spoke to God (as in the Psalms), but often they were sharing with each other a word of hope or encouragement (as in the prophets). In this quotation above from the Prophet Haggai, writing around the year 520 BC, a despondent people who have been through the ravages of war and exile, are being encouraged not to be afraid to start over, to make a new beginning and to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. In their history as the people of God, they found different ways to acknowledge that the God of Hosts, the Creator of all – Yahweh their Lord, was with them. A primary focus was the Temple, but he was also with them through their anointed king and bound to them through covenant. Now, on their return from exile, there is no Temple, they have no king and they fear the covenant is in tatters. Yet among them is a prophet who feels compelled to remind them of the core of their identity: Trust in the faithfulness of God. His presence is not limited to places or institutions, however holy. It is the breath or Spirit of God that gives them life – this is their reason for being, this is their hope for the future, so there is no need for fear
Can this prophetic word speak to us in 2020, and to a world on its knees because of an epidemic that has brought death, fear and uncertainty? Yes, we believe that the breath of God is the reason why something, rather than nothing, exists. God is the source of all, and abides in creation through his Spirit. This is the same Spirit that compelled Jesus to proclaim God’s reign, and who raised him from death to new life in the resurrection. This is the Spirit we invoke this Pentecost, a Spirit to heal us and raise us up.
Our hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
(Pause for reflection)
God of Presence, with us here and now, through your abiding Spirit, open our minds and hearts to learn from the times we are living through. May the hard lessons of these days teach us how to prepare for a better tomorrow in which the peoples of the earth share their gifts for the well-being of all. Take away our fear of the future, and give us courage to rebuild our world as the temple of your Presence.
Reflection for Friday 6th Week of Easter
After Christ ascended to his Father, and was taken from their sight… He was gone. They would never again encounter Jesus in such a tangible way. True, his Spirit would be with us always – true, the Eucharist makes his presence accessible to us – but his physical body was taken from our sight. He was gone.
At that moment, the disciples had a decision to make. They could fall into despair, or they could grow angry at God for taking Jesus away. But they didn’t Instead, they came to understand that it was time for them to get to work.” Now that Jesus was gone from them in his bodily form, they decided that it was time for them to get to work doing what Jesus had done. While he was alive, it was appropriate for JESUS to do the teaching, for Jesus to do the healing, for Jesus to do the feeding. But now that he has ascended to the Father, it is time for his disciples to get to work to do what Jesus did. Which brings us back to the truth of the scriptures. In the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus tells his disciples, you are my witnesses. And that word, “witness,” does not simply mean that they were supposed to go and talk about Jesus. They are supposed to bear witness to Jesus by doing everything he did! He has ascended to heaven. So we cannot stand there, looking up, waiting for him to do something. Now it’s time for us to get to work.
You know, we Catholics have always been taught that prayer is important. We’ve been taught that we should pray about everything, that without God we can do nothing. And all of that is true. We MUST be people who raise our hearts and minds to heaven in prayer. But there is a danger: we can use prayer as an excuse to DO NOTHING. We can spend large chunks of our lives looking up to heaven, saying to God, “YOU should do something about this!” We convince ourselves that, if we have prayed about something, we have fulfilled our responsibility as Christians. But the angels appear to the disciples and say, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” In other words, once you’ve finished praying, then it’s time for you to get to work.
SO, PERHAPS YOU SHOULD NOT PRAY ABOUT SOMETHING UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO DO SOMETHING. DO NOT ASK GOD TO CHANGE SOMETHING UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO WORK FOR THE CHANGE. DO NOT ASK GOD TO FIX SOMETHING UNLESS YOU ARE READY TO ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES AND HELP WITH THE FIXING. GOD WILL GIVE US THE GRACE TO GET TO WORK, BUT ARE WE REALLY WILLING TO GET TO WORK?
There are so many days when I say, “Someone should do something about this.” Maybe that someone is me. There are days when I say”, the people in charge should change that.” Maybe I am the one who has to start the change. There are times when I look to heaven and say, “Lord, help that person.” But the angels come back and say, “Stop looking up, and YOU do the helping!”
While he was on earth, Jesus was a healer. But he’s ascended. You are his witnesses. It’s time for us to become the healers.
While he was on earth, Jesus fed the hungry. But he’s ascended, so don’t look to the sky for someone to feed the hungry. YOU ARE HIS WITNESSES. You can help to feed the hungry!
While he walked the earth, Jesus was a peacemaker. So if you’re concerned about violence, don’t just stand there looking up, YOU do something about peace, or violence, or terror. God will give you the grace.
While he walked the earth, Jesus preached Good News. He taught the young, he spent time with the old. We are his witnesses. It’s our turn.
During this time of quarantine, we need to pray, and we need to pay attention to the needs of the people around us. Yes, we should pray for someone if they are hungry, or struggling to pay the rent, or reaching out for someone to talk to. But don’t be surprised if God says, “I will answer your prayers, and part of the way, I’ll do that is to send you to help that person you’re praying for!”
St. Augustine once said, “Pray as if everything depends on God. Work as if everything depends on you.”
While Jesus was on earth, Jesus ate, and laughed, and loved, and forgave. He wept, he worked, he prayed, he rested.
You are his witnesses.
Go and do the same, in Jesus name!
REFECTION FOR SOLEMNITY OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD
Acts 1:1-11 Matt 28:16-20
The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ is a day of triumph and joyful fulfilment. The Risen Jesus promises that his friends will receive the gift of his life and spirit. They are now empowered to do his work. In word and deed, they will proclaim his Gospel to the ends of the earth. They watch, as Jesus ascends into glory. For early Christians, this Ascension imagery is a promise that Jesus is now sharing the glory of heaven. A human being, real to the core, is now enfolded into the joy of eternity. And here is the best part – Jesus promises to return to bring all of us, all of creation, home. It is the fulfilment of his mission, the beginning of our mission. That’s worth celebrating!
But, think of how hard this day might have been for the followers of Jesus. They had fallen in love with him as he led them through Galilee. They were thrilled by his message. He taught them a new way to think and love and dream. Then, they lost him. They put him in the tomb. No matter how much faith you have – death hurts. Then, on Easter, they find him again. An empty tomb. An angelic messenger. “He is not here. He is risen!”
Later, they saw him. He spoke of forgiveness and peace. He ate with them. They had lost him. Then they had him back, but now, on Ascension Day… they lose him again. They have to let him go, again. He is taken from them, again. Perhaps Ascension Day was a confusing day of both joy and loss. Happy for him. Heartbroken as they let him go, again. Yet, even if those disciples were confused, they were filled with conviction. We discover that the disciples of Jesus were certain of one thing after the Ascension. They were certain that it was their turn to get to work; doing what Jesus did, as he did it, – following his lead. In Acts, Jesus says to his disciples, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.”
In the Gospels, we are told that the disciples went forth, teaching everywhere. And the Lord confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” Don’t miss that part. Whenever Jesus preached, he put his words into action. He proclaimed the love of God, and then he demonstrated the love of God through his actions. He spoke, then he fed the hungry, healed the sick, washed their feet, dried their tears, embraced the children. He spoke about faith… he put his faith in action. Jesus spoke the word, and “confirmed it in signs.”
For many of our brothers and sisters, every day is a confusing challenge. To them, the good news must be carried in word and deed by us as Christians. Jesus is saying to us, at one point, I was the one who took care of you. I healed the sick, I fed the hungry, I preached the truth, I cast out evil, I challenged the hypocrites, I demanded justice, I called people to live Godly lives, I forgave sinners, I reached out to everyone, I embraced the outcast, and I loved unconditionally.
Now Jesus is saying to us. It is our turn, it is our vocation to be his witnesses.
It is our vocation to forgive each other as Jesus forgave. It is our vocation to feed each other as Jesus fed. It is our vocation to speak the truth as Jesus spoke. It is our vocation to work for justice as Jesus did. It is our vocation to heal the sick as Jesus healed. It is our vocation to challenge the hypocrites as Jesus challenged. It is our vocation to defend life and stand against the culture of death as Jesus did. It is our vocation to live with integrity as Jesus did. It is our vocation to embrace the stranger, seek out the lost, and love your enemy.
We all know how betrayed we feel when someone says to us, “I love you,” but then their actions don’t match their words. Hearts break that way. One of the greatest challenges to faith in our modern world, comes from the fact that so many Christians are good at speaking words of faith, but our actions don’t match our words. Many Catholics know all the right words to say. We’re very good at telling other people how to live their lives.
The world has heard that “God is love” … but that word must be “confirmed by signs” … by our actions which put flesh on the life-changing Gospel of Jesus here and now.
As Pope Paul VI said, “what the world needs most these days is NOT more teachers or lecturers… what the world needs today is witnesses.” People who will say what’s true, and then live the truth in our daily actions.
Reflection for Wednesday 6th Week of Easter.
One of the things I said in my homily at the early stage of the quarantine was this. I said that we should not just look at the struggles and the troubles we would all face in the weeks ahead. But I also encouraged us to try to focus on this question: What should Christians look like as we allow Christ to lead us through these troubling times?
In other words, I asked us to pay attention to this questions: What do Christians look like at a time of pandemic? What do Christians do during a time of difficulty?
Well today I would like to share with you just part of the answer to that question. What do Christians do during a time of difficulty? Specifically, what have you Parishioners of the Good Shepherd done? What have you done in the past two months? I can say the following, without equivocation, you have done amazing things during this quarantine. Now in saying that, I just want to be crystal clear. I do not have webcam hidden in every one of your houses. I do not know the details of what you have done each and every day of this quarantine. But from my conversations with many of you through phone calls, emails, my personal Whatsapp and parish Whatsapp group over the past months, I know that you have been doing amazing things at home and at work during this quarantine.
You have been revealing Jesus, the love of Jesus in so many ways. From what l have heard you have taken care of your lovely neighbours. You have prayed more than ever before for the sick and the healing of our world. You have helped home schooling your children and grandchildren every day. You have created a loving environment in which children feel safe, loved and protected. You have helped people bearing the challenge of illness in their body.
Some of you have gone to work or you have figured out creatively how to work from home. Some of you have served as medical professional right there on the frontlines of this pandemic risking your life to save others. Some of you cooked food every week and brings it to we priests. You have been shopping for others who could not get the store. You have been feeding the hungry and supporting those who have lost their job. You have been calling up people you know who are lonely. You have made face-masks for others to use as protection. You have volunteer to offer help others. You have been generous with you time and skills to help in so many ways. You have stayed home to protect those who are vulnerable, even though you may want to get out of the house and get back to normal.
You have supported soup kitchens and food banks. You have donated some of the most precious materials in England during the panic buying – you donated toilet paper to the priests and others in case we can’t get to the store. Even in this time of uncertainty, many of you have shown extraordinary generosity by continually supporting the parish financially.
You have helped to run our parish effectively in different ways. You have helped to make it possible for us to stream live our Masses. You have done countless acts of kindness for others. You have done amazing things during this quarantine.
Through the generosity of your prayers, time, skills, money, food, service, caring – many people have received assistance, food, money, care, hope, inspiration, love, encouragement and blessing.
Thank you, you are doing amazing things and may God bless you always.