Being a disciple means we are willing to serve others.

Today’s Gospel from John begins as Jesus had just finished washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus then said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him” (Jn 13:16). Jesus not only taught the truth that God the Father sent his Son to serve and not be served, he modeled this practice consistently.
From his conception, gestation, and birth, the Son of God developed as a human being in the very simplest of conditions and endured the hardships of those on the margins. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were political refugees very soon after his birth. The young family was forced to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt. When Herod the Great died they returned to Nazareth, and other than the incident in the Temple, we hear nothing about the life of Jesus until he begins his public ministry. The most likely reason for this was that there was nothing to tell. Jesus most likely apprenticed with Joseph, in the trade of a simple tektōn, a woodworker, which was pretty low on the rung of the social ladder.
Through the short time of his ministry, Jesus modeled for his disciples what a follower of his entailed and what it meant to be one of his successors. To follow in his footsteps they would need to participate in servant leadership. He not only taught them but lived and modeled that there is no task too menial that we can’t roll up our sleeves and dive in to help. There is no person too other that we can’t assist when they are in a need.
A good prayer and meditation for us today is to ask Jesus to reveal for us how we have resisted his urgings in the past regarding serving others as well as when we have refused to interact or treat someone with anything less than the basic human dignity which they deserved. Have we ever thought that what he was asking of us was beneath us? Have there been people we have kept at arm’s length or refused to reach out to? For those ways in which we have withdrawn within ourselves and refused to be of help may we ask for his forgiveness.
Being willing to allow Jesus to shed some light on our lack of embracing opportunities to serve is a good place to begin. Then renewed with his forgiveness and healing touch, may we be more willing to be bearers of the understanding, grace and mercy which we have received. May we be more open to each of the people and/or tasks that God will place before us, the discernment to know his will, and the clarity and courage to act as his servant with humility and without hesitation.
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Photo: Our first Cross Catholic Outreach Hunger Challenge at St. Peter.
Link for the Mass reading for Thursday, May 12, 2022

Let us receive and share the light of Jesus with others.

“I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness” (Jn 12:46).
What might be the darkness that Jesus refers to? It could be anything that turns us within ourselves, away from that which is True, Good, and Beautiful. This can be prejudice, ignorance, cynicism, sin, violence, hatred, racism, war, division, dehumanization, and the list goes on.
A major root that keeps us in this darkness is fear. Jesus offers us the light of his Father. He encourages us to leave our self-imposed imprisonment by loving us as we are, more than we can imagine, and more than we can ever mess up. Christianity is not just a set of moral principles, a set of doctrines, a philosophy, or a theology. Christianity is about an encounter with a person, the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
The light of Jesus leads and invites us to experience that which we have been created and are restless for – an intimate relationship with God the Father and each other. Through the light of his love, Jesus reveals to us those apparent goods, false substitutes, and idols that distract us and keep us separated from deepening our relationship with God. We come to know God when we are willing to receive the love of the Holy Spirit, to be ourselves by letting go of our masks, and are moved to share that love with each other.
Jesus, please help us to resist any selfish impulse or reaction based on any fears or past hurts and guide us instead to love as you have loved us. Help us to be led by you to participate in simple acts such as a smile, an offer assistance, to reach out, to be present, and willing to listen, and/or to choose to be more understanding, supportive, and encouraging. In these small ways, please shine in and through us, then out toward others. Help us to trust that the darkness will not overcome the radiance of your light!

Photo: Sacred Heart of Jesus statue on the grounds of St Peter Catholic Church, Jupiter FL
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Trust the Good Shepherd.

Jesus continues to present the imagery of the shepherd in today’s Gospel reading from John. He offers the assurance of security and protection that is to be found for those that are in his fold when he says, “No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:28-30). How does one enter the fold of the Good Shepherd? All who hear his voice and follow him will be known by him and so be a part of his flock.
Yet, there are those who hear his voice and do not recognize the Shepherd. They do not follow him and so are not known by him, although he seeks them out. They may know about the Shepherd, have heard of him, but do not know him. Their hearts and minds are closed. They do not believe in his miracles, his exorcisms, his teachings, and the question of those opposing him in today’s reading is, “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (Jn 10:24). Jesus did just that by saying that he and the Father are one. The response to the forthright comment of Jesus is that those who are closed to his answer pick up rocks to throw at him (see Jn 10:31).
Jesus offers the gift of relationship with him and his Father, to experience the love shared between them, the Holy Spirit. This offer is without condition. Jesus is open about who he is, who we are, and who we can become in participation with him. Those who say no to his invitation do so for their own reasons; a demand for proof, a listing of the terms and conditions that need to be met first, assurances sought for, and/or excuses offered, diversions, distractions, temptations, and many unique to each person. Just as Jesus invites us to freely come to him, he will only come so far as we are willing to receive him. He does not conform to us or to our will.  Jesus does not need us, yet he loves us by willing our ultimate good.
Even we who have said yes, only go so far. We hedge our bets, dip our toes into the water, and maybe go in ankle-deep, but not too many of us are willing to relinquish control, let go, and surrender fully all at once. Jesus offers, eternal life, true, but also a life of meaning and fulfillment now. A perfect life? No, there will continue to be challenges, conflicts, mistakes, and mis-steps as well as Jesus’ voice continuing to call us to follow him to go into the deeper waters, to seek freedom from our anxieties, fears, and weaknesses. He urges us to face conflicts, to be disciplined in resisting temptations of apparent goods, and to risk and trust him as he has his Father.
Through all our experiences, the ups and downs, the only assurance is that we are not alone. No matter what we may face today or tomorrow, we can be assured that Jesus will never let us go and no one can take us out of his hand. Each step of the journey we take, we can be confident that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, will be there to guide and protect us.
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Photo: Accessed online
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Life is to be enjoyed, but to experience authentic joy we need to discern well.

“…the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice” (Jn 10:4). This verse is one of the keys to growing in the spiritual life and becoming a disciple of Jesus. Amidst all the voices, distractions, diversions, and temptations clamoring for our attention, we want to develop an ear to hear and a mind to discern his voice. There are so many directions we can take and opportunities we can be enticed by, many that are detrimental, but more challenging those that are good in and of themselves.
Jesus came to us so that we “might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). To live life to the fullest, to actualize our potential, we need to be able to discern the distinction between apparent goods and the true Good. An apparent good is appealing, attractive, and desirable, though once experienced, we conclude that it was indeed not good for us after all. We can see this in the promotion of processed foods, with additives and an excess incentive of enticing the taste buds with salts and sugars. The experience of eating many of these products is that they taste good going down, especially if eaten quickly and not savored, such that we often eat them to excess. They not only have little, if any nutritional value, more importantly, if this is the main source of our nutrition, over time, we will feel the ill affects of eating in this way.
When I sit down to eat pizza, there are two clear voices. One voice encourages an eating of the whole pie in one sitting, while another urges a balanced two-slice approach. I will let you decide which is my voice and which is the voice of the Shepherd 😉 The same is true regarding how we spend our time and treasure. We all have the same amount of time in the day. In what ways do we use our time, who is it that we are listening to regarding how we use the time we have been given? What are we investing our treasure in? Do we listen to the Father of Lies or the Good Shepherd?
A good practice for developing an ear to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd is to resist making decisions impulsively, no matter how small. When a decision comes to mind let us make time to pray with Jesus and seek his guidance, and resist making an impulsive decision, regarding food, purchases, jobs, and relationships. In all areas of our lives, let us pray before we do anything! We can ask ourselves each time, is what I am about to decide hindering or helping me to become a better disciple, to be true to myself and who God is calling me to be?
Over time and through various experiences we will come to better discern the voice of Jesus. It is also a good practice to have a core group of people we can talk over decisions with to get their perspective, to help keep us accountable, and to help us to stay on the path. In this way, we can also learn to hear the words of Jesus through others.
May we have ears to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice today, and each day going forward as well as the courage and humility in each instance to follow his will!

Photo: Enjoying a great burrito with Mia, Mission District, San Francisco a few years ago!
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, May 8, 2022

May we hear and respond to the invitation of the Good Shepherd.

I am not sure how many people reading this reflection are shepherds, live on a farm, or raise sheep. Many of us are most likely far removed from the daily life and commitment of a shepherd. With such ignorance as our starting point, we can fall prey to a false romanticism of the life of a shepherd as a reaction to the fast pace and hustle and bustle of modern urban and suburban life.
The commitment and demands of shepherds during Jesus’ time were all consuming, with little acknowledgment or recognition. In fact, many shepherds were looked down upon, considered the lowest of the low, at the bottom of the society of ancient Palestine. Yet Jesus compared himself to being a shepherd.
Just scratching the surface of the social context of shepherds could help to shed light on John’s Gospel today where Jesus paints an image of himself as the Good Shepherd as he says. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27).
A good shepherd lived among his sheep, watched over them, cared for them, helped to birth and raise them. He would smell like his sheep. The lamb would hear the voice of the shepherd in the womb, in the first days after its birth, and on through its life. A good shepherd protected his flock with his life from predators and thieves. If there was danger, he would call the sheep to himself. Though we may not be fond of being compared to sheep, Jesus does the same for us. He watches and cares for us, protects, nourishes us with his own Body and Blood, and has given his life for us. Jesus guides us, if we are willing to hear his voice in the silence of our hearts.
We get into trouble when we stray from his protective care and wander away. Yet, Jesus will come when we are in need, baying for help. Each one of us are precious and important to him. He will find us if we are willing to be found, if we just call out to him, for he knows our voice too. He will come to us and will carry us back home on his shoulders.
With the humility and simplicity of a lamb, allow yourself to be still today, rest your head on the lap of the Good Shepherd, surrender to him all your cares, doubts, anxieties and fears. Allow yourself to be healed by confessing any sins that are weighing you down, let him impart some healing balm on past hurts left unforgiven, and let him bind up any recent wounds. At some point in your contemplation, also let soak in the ultimate gift, the gift Jesus has given us: his very life, that we might have life in him. A life not merely to exist or survive, but a life of joy and fulfillment in which we will thrive.
Listen for the voice of Jesus calling us to himself today, to receive, rest in, and renew in his care and love. This is the Lord’s Day, the day he rose again, conquering death for ever and always for himself and for us, the sheep of his flock. This is also Good Shepherd Sunday. May we remember and pray for our priests, bishops, and Pope Francis who have heard the call of the Shepherd and followed him to serve as our shepherds.
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Photo: Remembering and praying for our pastor, Fr. Don today. He led me and JoAnn back to the Church, to the diaconate, and now in a few weeks back into the seminary to study for the priesthood.
Link for the Mass readings for the fourth Sunday of Easter, May 8, 2022

The Body of Christ, the Holy One of God.

Even though Jesus had fed the five thousand and they were satisfied and there was plenty more where this gift of grace came from, even though they traveled by boat and followed him to Capernaum seeking a sign, the discourse regarding eating his Flesh and drinking his Blood was just too far of a stretch for most of the disciples to take. In fact: Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it” (Jn 6:60)?
Many of his disciples walked away from Jesus at that point and returned to their former ways of life. They could not believe because they did not fully appreciate who Jesus was, the One from above, who was sent by the Father. They had not developed a deep enough relationship with him such that they could trust him and what he said was true, they could not believe in the One whom God had sent.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:67-69). Peter’s response is one of belief and trust. I am sure he and the apostles reacted in the same way as the other disciples gathered there, but they trusted Jesus enough that even though this teaching was hard, even inconceivable, he would make sense of it for them, just as he had done so many times before.
This is to be our response as well. When we find some of Jesus’ teachings are hard to digest, we need to resist the temptation to walk away. Instead, may we follow Mary’s model of pondering, as she did when Gabriel shared she would bear the Savior of the world. She did not fully comprehend what the message meant, but she trusted God and said yes. May we follow Peter, who may have also been dealing with mixed emotions and doubts, remained firm in his belief in Jesus because he trusted that Jesus was the “Holy One of God”. Peter had experienced that Jesus had known what he was saying and doing before, he would continue to trust him this time as well.
Jesus is a model to follow, yes, but he is so much more! Jesus does not give us more burdens to bear, but graces that build on our nature that we are invited to receive. He did not want to die, but he was willing to say yes, to submit his human will to his Father because he trusted him and knew he would bring about a greater good. Jesus gave his life and in so doing he conquered death, transcending the time and space of our present dimension so as to be present to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist at each and every Mass.
Jesus lives! He is the firstborn of the new creation, and he wants to not only lead us to eternal life, but impart his life in us, in such an intimate way that we may consume him in the gift of the Eucharist, that we may be one with him in this life and for all eternity! May we with Peter come to believe and be convinced, that Jesus is the Holy One of God!
Amen. Amen.
I’m alive, I’m alive,
Because he lives.
Amen. Amen.
Let my song join the One that never ends.
Because he lives.
The verse from Matt Maher’s song, “Because He Lives (Amen)”.
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Photo: Sharing Jesus at my first Mass as a deacon!
Link for video: Because He Lives (Amen), Matt Maher, from cd: Saints and Sinners, 2015
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Eucharist: Jesus becomes one with us so we can become one with him!

All that Jesus has been building up to is now coming to a climax. Any silent shock of disbelief or quiet murmuring has now escalated. The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat” (Jn 6:52)? Jesus hears the growing concern and disbelief. If he was speaking in a figurative or symbolic way, this would be the moment to clarify his point.
Jesus does speak, but he does not walk back or qualify his comments. Jesus doubles down: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you” (Jn 6:53). Jesus does not only repeat that his disciples are to eat his Flesh but he also insists that they are to drink his Blood. Drinking or even eating meat with the blood of an animal was inconceivable for devout Jews. Also, the Greek used here in John’s Gospel for eat is trogein, which is used to describe how an animal eats, by gnawing and tearing at the flesh. The imagery that Jesus is using here is more graphic than the customary use of phagein, which would be used for chewing, as a human would chew their food.
Jesus continues to make his point that whoever does eat his Flesh and drink his Blood, will not only remain in him, but also Jesus will remain in them, and they will have eternal life. A wonderful end goal, but would any be able to make the leap of faith to get there? In tomorrow’s Gospel reading we will be able to see the response to Jesus’ claims.
Almost two thousand years later, we continue to have the opportunity to celebrate daily the person of Jesus in our midst. This happens through participating in the source and summit of our faith, the Mass. Our hearts have the opportunity to be set on fire as we hear the word proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word, and then Jesus is made known to us in the breaking of the bread in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We are invited to experience an intimate encounter with the Son of God, as we consume him, Body, Soul, and Divinity.
That we are to eat the Flesh and Blood of Jesus may sound just as bizarre as it did to Jesus’ followers. The term we have for this miraculous transformation of bread and wine is transubstantiation. What happens at the calling down of the Holy Spirit and the words of institution which are invoked by the priest is that the substance, the reality, of the bread and wine is transfigured into the Body and Blood of Jesus, while the accidental form or appearance remains the same. So we consume Jesus’ unbloody, acceptable sacrifice.
Jesus is giving all of who he is corporally, fully, holding nothing back of himself so we can receive all of him. In consuming Jesus, we become divine as he permeates our whole being. We are then dismissed at the end of the Mass to go, like Mary, to bear Jesus Christ, to love others as Jesus loved us. By giving ourselves to others, we will also experience Jesus in each other. For what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him (cf. Mt 25:40).
Jesus is risen, he has risen indeed, and he has not left us orphans but remains with us now and for all ages! We are alive, because the Bread of Life lives within and among us! Amen. Alleluia!
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Photo: Our tabernacle in the chapel at Cardinal Newman High School. Spending some quiet time with Jesus before heading home for the evening.
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, May 6, 2022

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”

Those in the crowd to whom Jesus is speaking with are those who experienced his multiplication of the loaves and fish. Step by systematic and deliberate step, Jesus is setting the stage for today’s insertion into his presentation.
Jesus begins slowly, but with each successive step, he is not willing to be tamed. He, as the One from above, the One who has seen and has been sent by the Father, who is fully divine, as well as fully human is speaking among those who have come to him. He has responded to the people’s request regarding how they were to “accomplish the works of God” by saying that they are to believe in him, he who had been sent by God. They were to “work for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give”. Jesus with the multiplication of the loaves and fish provided for those who were hungry in the moment. He is now describing how he will provide food that will endure for eternal life. Jesus shared that he is this food, the bread from heaven, that will give life to the world.
What Jesus has shared thus far and what he shares in today’s Gospel message has been given to him to say from his Father and is for everyone who is willing to accept his invitation: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.” We have an advantage, that those listening to Jesus, did not have. We just experienced Lent and we can certainly draw a line to how Jesus certainly does give his very life, his Flesh, that is sacrificed and hung on the cross. We believe too that Jesus died and experienced utter God forsakenness by giving his very life for the life the world.
But for those in the crowd who only the day before sought to unanimously make him their Messiah by popular acclamation are growing a bit uncomfortable. This discourse is now starting to move away from a more figurative discussion to a more dramatic and concrete presentation with what appears to be horrific implications. After an initial gasp or two, some murmuring would have begun, centering around such questions as:
“Did Jesus really just say he would give his flesh?”
“Jesus is equating himself with the bread from heaven, and the bread he is offering is his flesh?”
“Is Jesus saying what I think he is saying?”
Yes! The Son is saying just that because the Father has given all that he is, holding nothing back, emptying himself into the Son. The Son has received all that the Father is and returns himself, giving all that he is, holding nothing back, to the Father. This eternal giving and receiving, this eternal communion of Love shared between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. Jesus is offering participation in this perichoresis, this divine dance of infinite communion, as he offers all that he is to his listeners then and to us, this day, to be consumed. He is holding nothing back in his offer. We are invited not only to receive all that Jesus is, we are also invited to give ourselves away in return. More to come tomorrow…
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Photo: Closeup of the artistic rendition of the face of Jesus based on the Shroud of Turin.
Link for the Mass readings for Thursday, May 5, 2022

Jesus is there for us when we fall, are we there for each other?

“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (Jn 6:37-38). Jesus does not reject us, he accepts us as we are, first and foremost. Jesus has come to do his Father’s will which is to lead us all to salvation, to be redeemed and restored to the proper order of freedom from our enslavement to sin. This is why Jesus met Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus. They were walking the wrong way! Jesus did not tell them that, he just opened up the Scriptures to them, so they could see that he was who he claimed to be and then revealed himself to them in the breaking of the bread. Once they had a deeper encounter with him, they determined on their own to turn back, and even though evening approached they went back to tell the Apostles the Good News of their experience.
It was through sharing a meal with them that they recognized him. How many meals had they shared together before his death? A close reading of Sacred Scripture shows how important table fellowship is for Jesus and his followers before his death and after his Resurrection. True, Jesus eating with his disciples after his Resurrection shows that he is no ghost, he is human, but also he is reestablishing the cornerstone of his ministry, table fellowship.
Here the basic needs of sustenance are met, for the body, and in also in sharing his time and conversation with anyone willing to eat with him, no matter their level of ritual purity, he touches the deepest hunger within each of us, which is to belong, to be accepted as we are, for who we are. The majority of the crowd that Jesus is speaking to has continued to come to him because he fed them with only a few loaves and some fish. In the miraculous multiplication, Jesus is providing for their bodily nourishment, but also preparing them for the deeper spiritual nourishment of the body and soul to come in the next verses as he goes deeper into his Bread of Life discourse.
Jesus loves us, he wills the best for us. Many resist this claim for different reasons. It could be the callouses, scars, and growing cynicism as a result of wounds inflicted by others, those who did not fulfill expectations, betrayal within and without of the Church. Each of us could have also been let down by those we have looked up to and trusted. If we are involved in a relationship long enough, we will experience disappointment or worse. This is because sooner or later, the masks will come down and who we truly are, the fullness of our wounds and our gifts will come to the fore. Conflicts will arise because we are finite beings. We are still a work in progress.
None of us are perfect. We are all on a journey. On our own, we will consistently fall short of our goal. That is why we need a savior. We need someone we can trust that will be there for us when we are let down and when we fall down face-first into the mud. Someone who, when that happens, will lay down in the mud with us, look us in the eye, and smile.
Even if we are not able to look past the predicament, or smile in return, we might just be able to catch his eyes looking at us and then we will see him offer us his hand. We can then rise together, and stand again. That is how Jesus shows his mercy and love for us. He enters into our chaos and meets us in the midst of the muck and grime of our mistakes, brokenness, and sin. He loves us there, and when we are ready to accept his offer of love, he invites us to get up, and begin to walk again.
As our relationship grows and deepens and as our trust strengthens, we begin to believe that we belong. We begin to heal and realize that we are a part of something greater than ourselves and we can then with wobbly steps, begin to offer attempts of the same mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love with others. This is the path of discipleship. This is the road we are on, together. This is not a hundred-yard dash but a long and winding road. Let us be willing to persist, to be led, to love, to be there for, and accompany one another each step of the way. And especially may we have the willingness to help each other when we fall.
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Photo: Me, as Jesus in the Living Stations, falling the third time, Good Friday around 1991 in the streets of the Bronx
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Dialogue can happen when we respect, share with, and listen to each other.

In our growing global and increasingly interacting world, a sense of pluralism, the recognition and affirmation of diversity and peaceful coexistence has become more and more of an ideal. In and of itself, the embracing of diversity is good. Especially when we have and continue to experience and see such atrocities committed in the name of “tribalism”. What can be a dark side of pluralism though, is that for the sake of getting along we are not true to who we are and we limit our public discourse so as not to offend. Not that to offend is the goal.
Identity is also not to be held up as the sole model either. Because identity has a dark side as well in that we can easily slip into a defensive posture when we feel our identity is threatened. This is why we are told that if you want to have a conflict free conversation you may want to avoid speaking about politics, religion, and I forget the third. The reason is that in these areas we identify ourselves with our personal beliefs and if someone critiques or criticizes our beliefs we feel personally threatened, and more often than not, we slip into a defensive posture and the dialogue devolves into talking at and over each other or withdrawing altogether.
These thoughts lead me to the opening verses in today’s Gospel from John: Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (Jn 14:6-7). This may not appear to be a pluralistically sensitive comment if wanting to keep calm at the dinner table. Though it is a statement of truth.
The statement that could raise the hackles of those who are not Christian is “No one comes to the Father except through me.” This may appear at face value to be a very arrogant statement. Unless, Jesus is who he says he is, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. If Jesus is God, then of course to get to God you will be going through Jesus. Jesus does not say that you have to be a Christian to get to God. Jesus himself was not a Christian.
Regarding interfaith dialogue the Catholic Church has come far regarding some dehumanizing stances from the past to embrace a truer interpretation of Jesus’ statement. In the Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate, meaning In Our Time, the first lines of the document, states that the Catholic Church “rejects nothing of what is true and holy… She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all…”
We do not enter dialogue with the intent to avoid sharing about the truth of our beliefs, but to be able to reclaim the ability to share clearly what we believe and be willing to allow someone else to do the same. We have lost the ability to have a good argument or debate that is founded in the respect and dignity of the person first, an openness and understanding for different and diverse opinions and beliefs second, and third, grounded in the ultimate goal of learning and growing from one another.
We can reclaim the gift of dialogue if we are willing to let go of the need to talk at others, to be right, and entrench ourselves in our positions, and instead seek to be more grounded in integrity instead of identity. To grow as a person of integrity means developing the ability to think critically and with a more nuanced outlook, resisting absolutes and black and white thinking. Another line from Nostra Aetate states: “Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.”
Being a person of integrity means standing up for the dignity of another person no matter who they are because they are a human being, created in the image and likeness of God. This is what the parable of the Good Samaritan was all about. Being a person of integrity means martialing the courage to hold someone accountable respectfully and refuse to look the other way just because they are of the same gender, political party, religion, or tribe. Being a person of integrity means saying what we believe and allowing another to do the same, respecting our differences, agreeing to disagree, and finding common ground where we can. In this way we are more open to growing and broadening our understanding of the people and wonder of the world around us.
Being a person of integrity is not easy. To follow Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, demands courage to speak truth to our peers, to power, to speak truth in and out of season, in the midst of our fear of conflict, of offending, of being wrong. We are also to have the humility to recognize when we have not respected others and are willing to be held accountable ourselves. Though to strive for it is worth the effort, otherwise we succumb to a slow death of cowardice that eats away at our soul. When we are true to who we are and who God calls us to be, we can experience the soaring heights of the freedom and joy we were created for! If you are not sure how to begin, listen first and ask questions before sharing your own ideas or point of view.
Jesus, help us today in our discernment to be true to who your Father calls us to be and help us to be more willing to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with his courage, joy, and love so as to strive to be people who are willing to be aware, to care, to enter into dialogue, to serve, and to be people of integrity.
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Photo: Good dialogue can also strengthen relationships!
Nostra Aetate, Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions, October 28, 1965. Tr. in Vatican Council II: Vol. I: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Costello Publishing, 2004.
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, May 3, 2022