Being people of wonder, meditation and prayer will lead us to a deeper walk with the Holy Spirit.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Hopefully, we are less foolish and moving more along to path of gaining wisdom. Jesus continues his best efforts in today’s Gospel to offer guidance and assurance to his disciples that the Holy Spirit will continue to be their guide. “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:12-13a).
Surely, Jesus could see the dimming lamps in the eyes of his disciples. As discussed yesterday, comprehending the death of the Messiah, his Resurrection, and return to the Father was a bit much to digest. Jesus, though, still needed to share what his Father gave him to share, and the disciples were to take in what they could. Jesus’ death and Ascension were not to put an end to their learning, deepening of their understanding, or further developing their relationship with Jesus and his Father. The Holy Spirit would continue what Jesus started, to lead them to all truth, the fullness of the foundational relationship that is the source of all, the Holy Trinity.
Anyone involved in teaching anyone anything or learning something for one self will know, that just telling someone something does not mean that learning has happened. There is a process of introduction, integration, practice, review, mistakes, corrections, and adjustments until some proficiency is achieved. With the disciples, this is the same. Jesus did not just present things once and move on to the next order of business. That is why John declared at the end of his Gospel that: “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).
I am sure a part of what John was talking about here were the lessons, corrections, and guidance Jesus offered. Just as Joseph modeled for and guided Jesus in his trade in carpentry, so Jesus learned from him through observation, practice, mistakes, adjustments, and corrections. Jesus guided his disciples in the same way, as a mentor with his apprentices. He was now assuring them that even though he would be leaving them, the guidance and leading would continue with the support of the Holy Spirit.
The lessons about the immanence of God, God within himself as a Trinitarian communion, that Jesus taught were not as concrete as sawing, hammering, and planing wooden beams though. God is not a being, not even a supreme being, meaning that he transcends our ability to comprehend the fullness of his reality. We will never fully comprehend God or exhaust the richness and the depth of our relationship with God.
On the human level, we are guilty of malpractice in our relationships when we assume that we know everything there is to know about someone else. The gift of the person, the human being, is that we are ever-developing and growing in the mystery and wonder of who we are and who we are called to be. We can always surprise each other. If this is true for us in our relationships with each other, it is much more so in our relationship with God. Once we get to one level of understanding, we plateau for a time, but that is not the end of the journey, that is only a time to savor, to ponder, and contemplate until we are ready to go ever deeper into the truth that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us.
Our tradition teaches us that the fullness of God has been revealed in Jesus Christ, which is true, yet to comprehend that revelation will take a lifetime and continue on into eternity just to scratch the surface. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Dominican Friar, who is considered the Angelic Doctor of the Church, was one of the top theological influences during the Scholastic Period, yet close to the end of his life he had a mystical encounter with God in which he came to realize that all of his intellectual achievement, all that he had written, mattered no more than a pile of straw compared to that which God had revealed to him.
Arguably one of the wisest persons of his time, and some would say one of the most brilliant minds ever, was also one who was steeped in daily prayer and continued to be open to the majestic wonder of the glory of God. May we too continue to embrace the gift of wonder, the gift of learning, and never settle, rest and savor yes, but continue to learn and grow, to seek and hunger for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, to continually have our hearts and minds open to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us “to all truth”!

Photo by Ray Bilcliff from Pexels
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, May 19, 2022

The comfort of God can lift us up out of our despair.

At some point in our lives, we experience the death of someone we love. If we live a long enough life, we will experience even more of the pain of losing those close to us. I remember my maternal grandfather sharing with me when he was around ninety that he had outlived most of his siblings and friends. Unfortunately, for many, death is a daily event through violence in all its forms. Grief during time of loss is a natural human response. It is certainly not an emotion to be suppressed.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus shared: “But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts” (Jn 16:6). Jesus was preparing his disciples for his suffering and death, but also letting them know that they would not be left alone. He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them. The Apostles were not able to understand what Jesus was talking about. Who can blame them? They had no point of reference for someone dying and rising again, let alone that he would ascend to the right hand of the Father and send the Third Person of the Trinity to be with them.
The Apostles would not only feel the grief of the loss of Jesus they would also experience the fear of the same persecution that took him as well as experience the fear of anticipating their own deaths. They betrayed Jesus, abandoned him, yet, except for Judas, because he had taken his own life, Jesus came to them again after his Resurrection and forgave them. Jesus would in a short time ascend, and the disciples, with Mary, would experience the love and grace of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they faced what was before them head-on, even to experience their own violent deaths, except for John. The fear of death had no more power over them, their grief and their fear were turned into joy from their encounter with the Risen Jesus and the Love of the Holy Spirit they experienced first hand.
For us, as with the Apostles, grief is real, because death is a loss, it is a change in our present reality. Yet, we celebrate this Easter Season for fifty days for a reason. Death has lost its sting because Jesus has died, entered into the fullness of everything that death threw at him, and he conquered it. Jesus died for each one of us so that we can also rise with him, and be with him and our loved ones again for all eternity.
We can believe in our minds that death does not have the final answer, yet we will still feel the grief, the pain of loss. We need to be honest with our emotions, and not stifle them, thinking by showing grief that we are in some way less faithful. In allowing ourselves to enter into our pain, we will experience the Risen Christ who is waiting to embrace us. I still experience the pain of JoAnn’s death, while at the same time, I have also felt God’s comfort.
To experience our grief and allow it to rise up when it comes is healthy and necessary but we do need to be careful that it does not define and overwhelm us. I had a two day period when I first returned home from California where the weight of my grief was crushing, and I was beginning to sink into a dark place. Fortunately, I received a phone call from Terry, who was still our vice principal at the time. She invited me to a diocesan event. I didn’t want to go but fortunately said yes. Terry was a messenger of the Holy Spirit. She invited me to leave the despair and come up for some air. I still have moments of sadness since then but also times of laughter again.
The time of grief is different for each person. “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Jesus has welcomed JoAnn and our loved ones home. Our time will come too. This is not morbid. Pondering our own death helps us to live the time we have better. In doing so, we can appreciate those still with us more and experience the tender care of the Holy Spirit. When our hearts and minds are open, there will be snippets in which there is a glimmer, a feeling of peace and joy from our encounter with God the Father’s comfort, where even for a brief moment we know that death really does not have the final answer. The loving embrace of Jesus does.

Photo credit: Flo Maderebner from Pexels
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Jesus has not left us orphans.

What is common to all of us is that we experience some expression of loneliness to varying degrees consciously or often unconsciously. We are social beings, we want to belong, to be part of, and this is why we are communal. We may do, say, or turn a blind eye to behaviors that go against our conscience just to be accepted, acknowledged, or noticed. This behavior further feeds our loneliness, because though we may be accepted for a time, we become more alienated from our true self.
At the core of our being, what we all seek is to be loved, and to love. We strive from the moment of our conception not only to exist but to actualize the fullness of our potential. Through our time of gestation, we are not potential human beings, we are human beings actualizing our potential. A difference between me who is typing this now and when I was in my mother’s womb is that before and after my birth, I was smaller and more vulnerable.
We as human beings are a living, craving hunger and desire to be in communion with God and one another from the moment of our conception and during each stage of our development until our natural death and continuing on into eternity. This is true to the believer and the atheist alike. Until we embrace this deepest of needs and desires, we will be restless, anxious, and unfulfilled. We can feel isolated and alone, even in the midst of a hundred people or daily likes on social media.
God has made us for himself and constantly invites us to be in relationship with him and with each other because he is the foundation and source of our being. Sin is the turning away from that invitation, a curving, or caving in upon oneself away from God and others. It is also the unwillingness to bother or care, to reach out toward another in need. For what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to God. We are not just to be pro-birth, we are to be pro-life, and we are invited to promote a consistent ethic of life.
Jesus became human through his Incarnation to show the importance of the dignity of the person and that it is grounded in our relationship with God our Father, meaning we are all brothers and sisters. Jesus was not plan B, but he has always been the primary plan. In the fullness of time, when God so willed, he sent his Son to become one with us so that we can become one with him. Jesus is the face, hands, and body of God. He came that we might see and experience God. Jesus experienced all we experience except for sin because he never in any act rejected or said no to his Father. His whole life was a yes to the will of God. Jesus is the bridge, coming close to love us so that we can love, God and each other authentically.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues his farewell discourse. He prepares his disciples for the reality that he will be returning to the Father, and yet at the same time, letting them know that he will not leave them or us alone. He will be with us for all ages. This is so because as the Son of God made man, in his Ascension, returned to the Father not just in his divinity but also in his humanity. God created all of humanity and his creation in such a way that we are all interconnected, and because of that, we all experience this transcendent act of the Ascension of Jesus.
Jesus shared with his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (Jn 15:26-27). Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the infinite Love experienced and shared between the Father and the Son. We become sharers in this divine love and communion of the Holy Trinity through our participation in the life of Jesus.
As we experience and enter into the love of God and develop a relationship with him, we begin to heal and to experience what it means to be alive. This is because we have experienced the love we have been made for. We have experienced being loved for who we are and as we are. We no longer have to say, do, or accept those actions that we don’t agree with that go against our conscience to belong. St. John Henry Cardinal Newman has stated that our conscience is the “Aboriginal Vicar of Christ”. Jesus dwells within us, to guide and lead us. He encourages us to say yes to his Father as he has and continues to.
This Trinitarian love that we share because of our participation in the life of Jesus, this great gift, will continue to grow as we testify to this love and share it with others by giving it away. The more we give, the more we will receive. We share the love of God by accompanying one another. That does not mean fixing others or their problems. We are called to be present, to accompany, and journey with others, meeting them as Jesus does, as they are. We are to laugh, cry along, encourage, empower, and support, but above all to be present, to allow God to happen through us.
Jesus has not left us as orphans. His return to the Father through his Ascension that we are getting ready to celebrate has given us a greater and more intimate access to the Holy Spirit, the love shared between the Father and the Son. By saying yes and trusting in his love, we free ourselves from the tendrils of fear and anxiety. As we do so, we continue to actualize the fullness of our potential, we become who we were created to be, and we become truer to ourselves. We experience that peace that surpasses all understanding and develop relationships with others based on authenticity and integrity, regardless of external pressures and experiences. We are not alone because we are loved and we love in return, which is what we all seek, which is who we are called to be.
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Photo credit: luizclas from Pexels
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, May 23, 2022

Despite the external circumstances, Jesus offers us his peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you” (Jn 14:27). The peace that Jesus is talking about, the peace that he gives us is a peace the surpasses all understanding, because it does not come from this world but from the overflowing and eternal love of the Trinity.
God is an infinite communion of Love. There are three Persons, yet one God, because of their infinite nature. There is a complete, perfect and infinite giving and receiving between the Father and the Son and the Love that is shared between them, the Holy Spirit. We experience this peace because of Jesus, because in his becoming one with us in our humanity, we become one with him in his divinity. This reality grants us access to the Love of the Holy Spirit. This peace is not just an absence of stress, anxiety, violence, and war, but a resting, abiding, and sharing in his trinitarian communion.
We abide in God as we continually develop our relationship with his Son and each other, so as to experience the Love he shares with the Father. Jesus does not promise with his bestowal of his peace that we will now have an easy time of it. We still live in a wounded, dark, and fallen world and there will be trials, tribulations, and tragedy, yet through all matter of what we are dealing with, we can tap into the infinite well spring of the love of God. He is present and accompanies us in the midst of any and every situation we invite him into, such that there may be chaos all around, but as we turn to Jesus and trust in him, we will experience his peace.
When we were given the news of JoAnn’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer on the Wednesday of Holy Week in 2019, our lives entered  a whirlwind and flurry of activity. Since our adult children lived in California, JoAnn wanted to be closer to them and access the treatment plan offered at USC. Physically, we were both straight out getting everything in order, yet all the pieces fell into their proper places for the move and our stay in California.
Even during JoAnn’s steady decline, making preparations for, transportation back to Florida for JoAnn’s funeral as well as the weeks, months, and two and a half years of grief to follow, each step of the way, we and I felt Jesus directly, as well as through the tremendous outpouring of love, support, and prayer from so many.
Jesus knocks on each of our doors, seeking to come into our lives and develop a relationship with us. This is why we are an alleluia people. We are called to live our life to the full and with joy no matter the circumstances. Even the midst of our pain. When we bring it to Jesus, he is present even if we don’t feel him. Jesus knocks at the door. I encourage you to let him in so you may experience his peace, that peace that surpasses all understanding.

Photo: Two bright lights shining in the darkness! JoAnn with Christy on her arrival to California. JoAnn stayed with Christy until our apartment opened up.
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, May 22, 2022

Jesus can help us to react less and love more!

When Jesus said to his disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first”, Jesus was not proposing an-us-verses them mentality. It can be easily taken that way and certainly has been lived out in many ways in our society and world. Yet, an-us-verses them mentality is usually a defensive posture assumed by those who feel or are actuality being persecuted. It is an understandable posture. It is just not the stance that Jesus proposes us to take. We are to love our enemies, we are to love those who hate us. Impossible? Only on our own will power alone, for apart from Jesus we can do nothing, but with him all things are possible.
Jesus is making it plain to his disciples that they need to be prepared, that what is coming is the same that has been happening to him. They will be persecuted, mocked, imprisoned, and give their lives just as Jesus did. The gospel message is a challenge. We are challenged to have a change of mind and heart, to be conformed to the love of Jesus the Christ. This means that our focus must shift from that of self first and foremost to God who is to have the primary sense of place in our lives.
We know we are putting God first instead of our fallen nature when we react less and love more. Reactions are based on an-us-verses them mentality. They are responsible for the state I am in, they are taking my jobs, they are not allowing me to worship or speak in the way I want to, it is all their fault, they made me do it. These are all reactive thoughts that lead to uglier statements and actions. Jesus invites us to assume the disposition of mindful action not reaction.
The way we can be less reactive is to be people of prayer, meditation, and contemplation. Much of our reaction comes from our harried pace, keeping us from being in touch with our deep-seated fears and prejudices. We run from the mirror Jesus holds up to us. Instead is will be more helpful for us to stop and pray regularly.
When we do so, the light of Jesus reveals the sin in our hearts so we can admit it, let it go, and go to Jesus for healing and confession. A way to begin to turn away is by taking some deep breaths, asking Jesus to be present in our lives, asking him to show us what we have hidden, so we can bring that which needs to be healed to the surface, so we can be forgiven and set free.
We can then be in a better place to ask for the healing to continue, for Jesus to help us to be more patient, understanding, truer to who he calls us to be, which is people of love, willing the other’s good, accepting and encountering each other as fellow brothers and sisters on our journey together, recognizing that the common denominator for each of us is that we are all imperfect, we make mistakes, experience loneliness, and just want to belong.
The ongoing effects of Covid-19, have helped us to see that: “The pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected we all are. If we do not take care of each other, starting with the least — those who are most affected, including creation — we cannot heal the world” (Pope Francis, August 202).
In following Pope Francis, let us act more consciously and pray with people of all faith traditions and people of good-will, to renew and continue to conform our lives to the One who gave his life that we might be free from the grip of our own sins, prejudices, and darkness. May we allow the love of the Holy Spirit to guide and flow through us, so as to dissolve walls of hate and division, and instead build bridges of dialogue and healing. Instead of a tit for tat approach to contempt, hate, and dehumanization, we can choose instead to pause, breath, and turn again and again to Jesus for the strength to resist the easy and impulsive reaction so as to not act in kind but instead respond with acts of understanding, empowerment, and love.
I will leave you today with two quotes from those who lived this truth not only between individuals but spurred on social movements that still inspire us today. Please take good care of yourselves and each other.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The nectar of Love alone can destroy the poison of hate.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi
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Newman grads willing to put God first!

Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, May 21, 2022: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/052122.cfm

We are capable of loving each other because Jesus loved us first.

Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (Jn 15:12). This verse is foundational to our faith as we seek to live as disciples of Jesus. Love is what Jesus lived, modeled, taught, and commanded, but even more so, Love is who, as the second person of the Trinity, Jesus embodies because he is Love. By becoming human as one of us, embracing the Paschal Mystery: his suffering, crucifixion, death, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, the Son of God opened up the reality that we can participate in the very same love he shares with his Father.
We are capable of loving others because Jesus has loved us first. How did he love us? We are blessed in that Jesus gave his life for you and me, each and every person, for those who believe in him and those who do not. He gave his life for the good and the bad alike, the sinner and the saint. Jesus was willing to suffer the scourging, agony of his procession and crucifixion, and death. He was not just going through the motions, his divine Person was not somehow hovering over his body. Jesus felt the rejection, the betrayal, the physical torment of the nails, because, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).
Some of us may have heard this verse so many times that we do not fully embrace the impact of it. The gift of the liturgical seasons is that the readings of Scripture are offered again and again so we can experience the telling again and again. May we sit with and breath in the reality of this passage, so that it becomes the living Word of God, not just a dead letter. May we resist taking our life for granted, the life we have been given at such great cost. In coming to realize the gift that Jesus gave for us, and meditating on that reality, hopefully we can see others in our life who we may have taken for granted. Those who have loved us, have been there for us, have been there maybe when no one else has been.
What is our response to the love of Jesus that we have been blessed with? Jesus answers: “This I command you: love one another” (Jn 15:17). Jesus ends today’s Gospel reading as recorded by John where he began at the beginning: he invites us to love. Jesus loves us more than our worst mistakes or our most grievous of sins, he loves us more than we can ever hope or imagine, and we are to love others as well in the same fashion. May we spend some time in prayer today opening our hearts and minds, meditating on the gift we have been given, the highest love imaginable, the life of Jesus, given for us. Let us savor and appreciate the fullness of this act that calls us to relationship with God and one another.
With open hearts and minds, we can be moved by Jesus, appreciate and be grateful for his sacrificial love. By embracing his invitation of friendship and with our hearts more full of gratitude, maybe just maybe, we can love others a little more today than we did yesterday, and a little more tomorrow than today. Love is not a willingness to love each other only when everything is going well. Love is a willingness to love one another one conflict at a time, one interruption at a time, one inconvenience at a time, one heartbreak and even one betrayal at a time. We are able to truly love, when we are willing to see each other as Jesus sees us, as friends: to see the person before us, the human being endowed with dignity. When we are willing to do so, we are ready to love, to will the good of the other, one moment, one person at a time.

Photo: Willing each other’s good through two intense years!
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, May 20, 2022: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/052022.cfm

As the Father loves Jesus, so he loves us, and we are to love one another.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you” (Jn 15:9).
God created us to be loved, and to love. The love that Jesus is talking about is unconditional and not just relegated to those closest to us, although, hopefully, in our families and friendships is where we first experienced being loved and learned to love in return.
The love that Jesus commands that we are to participate in as his followers, is a going out from, a giving of ourselves to one another. We are not to seek in return, but are to empty and give ourselves away. The return we get is from experiencing the infinite wellspring and source of the Holy Spirit the rises up within us. The more we hold back, the less we receive, the more we give, the more we experience. We are to resist withdrawing our love and assuming a selfish posture that leads to us becoming more like a stagnant pool. Instead, we are to remain open so as to allow the living stream of God’s infinite love to flow through us.
The love Jesus commands cannot be done on the fly. Love is accepting the interruption and choosing to be present. Love means stopping, setting aside our agendas, and accompanying another. Love is also not coercion and manipulation, it is accepting another as they are and where they are. Love is sharing the journey of life together. St Thomas Aquinas has written it well: Love is to will the good of the other as other. This is more than mere emotion, feeling, or sentiment but actually wanting the best for someone else and to rejoice in their becoming fully alive. We are also not a doormat. We hold people accountable – for to love is also to be clear about respecting our’s and another’s dignity and boundaries.
This practice of love is also not exclusive but universal. Yes, we are to love those in our family, community, place of worship, tribe, political party, and nation, while at the same time we must be willing to go out from our comfort zones and protected bubbles to risk opening ourselves up to those who we feel are different, those who do not see the world as we see it, and even those we consider our enemies. This does not mean we have to agree or even like someone else, but we are commanded to love, to respect the dignity of the person as our starting point.
A dialogue grounded in love means that we are to state clearly our beliefs, our thoughts, and dreams, but also allow others to do the same. In this way, though we may differ in our points of view, we can see how we are much more alike than we are different. When we talk at and over one another, demean, belittle, or are condescending to one another, we dehumanize. In an open dialogue, we begin to encounter the person and the prejudicial caricature we carry begins to dissolve. Instead of keeping each other at arm’s length, we can then learn to embrace and grow from one another. From a place of mutual, loving dialogue, we can recognize and remember again who we are, friends, brothers and sisters on this journey we call life.
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Photo: Wolf Den Pow Wow, with my hunka father, Fire Hawk, in late 80’s. He lived and loved life to the full.

Link for Mass readings for May 19, 2022: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/051922.cfm

Connected to the vine, we mature and bear fruit.

In today’s Gospel reading, we experience the imagery of the vine and the branches. As the branch of the vine matures, it begins to look more like the vine itself. As it remains connected, is sustained by the nourishment provided, and protected by the vine grower, the branches become more and more conformed to the vine. This is also true in the event that a branch not originally attached to the vine is grafted to it. Over time, the branches are almost indistinguishable from the vine itself.
Our hope, as disciples of Jesus, no matter what our background, culture, gender, ethnicity, or race will be the same. We are to be one as the Son and the Father are one. As St Paul has written to the Churches in Galatia and Collosse: In Christ there is neither Jew or Greek, circumcision or uncircumcision, male or female, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free because we are all one in Christ (cf. Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).
We are not to be automatons, cyborg, ants, all following mindlessly. Being a Christian means the opposite, the more we are conformed to Jesus, the more we come to know him and also to really come to know the uniqueness of ourselves. When we let go of the pressures to conform to that which stunts our growth, we can then begin to embrace who we are in the truth of our reality and dignity. That sense of being fully who we are that sometimes just wants to burst out is allowed to be free when we die to our false selves and live in Christ.
We are constantly tempted with turning in upon ourselves and when we do so, we disconnect ourselves from the vine, from the very source of our life. Just as the body will suffer without water regularly, so our soul will suffer if we are separated from the living spring of our sustenance. Remaining attached to Jesus, the vine, means that we will mature and live our life to the full, with joy that reaches out beyond ourselves to serving the needs of others, thus bearing fruit to share.
We can bear fruit that will last today and all days by putting the words of St Paul into action: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15).
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Photo by Luiz M. Santos: https://www.pexels.com/photo/purple-grapes-760280/
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Is peace possible?

Have you ever wondered why there is so much violence? How many countries, including our own, were founded on taking of lands by force and oppression of aboriginal peoples? Another war has arisen with the violent incursion of Russia into Ukraine. Has there ever been a time without war? How many of our youth and citizens die from gun violence and mass murders; another one most recently in Buffalo with the death of ten people? So many examples of road rage, domestic abuse, human trafficking, terrorism – foreign and domestic, and the myriad of random acts of violence that are occurring daily?
We often hear goodwill speeches, petitions, and intercessions ringing from our pulpits and prayer groups, participate and see people march, and vote for change. There are those working in the trenches, putting their own lives at risk, matching their words and their deeds, yet do any of these efforts make a difference? And we have been overshadowed by the pandemic for the past two plus years.
Amidst our own experiences, directly and indirectly, and with the constant temptation of cynicism and despair biting at our heels, the words of Jesus are proclaimed in today’s Gospel from John: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27).
The peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that is not of this world, has been and continues to be offered to us as a gift. Many have indeed said, “If there is a God, well then, why doesn’t he do anything?” He has. The reality is, the peace that God shares through his Son, is one person at a time. This is why when he resurrected he only appeared to those he chose and not the whole world. Even if he had, these experiences, in time, would have been attributed to mere myth and legend. Jesus must be encountered and his relationship is built with each person in each generation. What we pass on as disciples are our experiences of our relationship with him. Our accounts and presence provides for others the opportunity to open their hearts and minds to receive and enter into their own relationship with Jesus, to accept the gift of his grace that he offers.
This peace that Jesus offers is not some abstract formula and his command to love is not some pie in the sky universal love for all. The acts of peace and love Jesus shares throughout the Gospel are very concrete, individual, and personal. Jesus interacts with people as people, not as numbers. He interacts and directs us to do the same, by encountering, accompanying, and loving a person. The real question is not why isn’t God doing anything? The real question is why have we left the gift of his peace that he has given us unwrapped?
If we want peace, our heart and mind must be open to receive it, to embrace it, and to live it in the most minute of details. We also need to have the room to receive it so we must be willing to let go of our own weapons of hate, prejudice, cynicism, racism, paternalism, and the like. God created us as beings who are interconnected, which means that what one does affects all, for the sun rises and sets on the good and the bad alike.
If we want peace, we need to be more aware and mindful of our thoughts, words, actions, and even the expressions on our faces. The thoughts that we feed are the ones that bear fruit in our words and deeds. Figuratively and literally, we need to be willing to “beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks” (cf. Isaiah 2:4).
This verse becomes real in our lives when we disagree with someone and resist being disagreeable and instead respect the person. When we make a mistake, we resist beating ourselves up over the process and instead look to learn from our misstep, and begin again. We also need to be willing to offer the same understanding and patience to someone who speaks or acts in a way that gets under our skin.
Can we really bring about world peace? In some abstract form, for all people, for all time, no. What we can do, is choose to respect the dignity of each person we encounter. We can offer a smile, a random act of kindness, an encouraging ear or word, we can be patient and understanding, even with someone who we have kept at a distance. We can work in our communities to assess their unique needs and provide a voice and access where missing. What we need to decide today, is if we really want to receive the peace that Jesus gives and put it into practice, person to person as he did.
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Photo: Praying for those ten recently killed and their families in their time of mourning (photo accessed from Today show).
Link for the Mass reading for Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Our best relationships are grounded in discipline, accountability, and love.

Two points jump out of the Gospel of John today: commandments and love. How is each one of these related to living life as a disciple of Jesus? Often, many who hear the word commandments, often react and are immediately put off. “There goes the Church again telling me what I can and cannot do.” Yet what Jesus is doing is connecting the following of his commandments to being a true expression of loving him.
Love is another word that evokes reactions. One reason is that, even though the English language has a plethora of words to utilize and choose from, there is only one word for love and it is interpreted in many ways. In Ancient Greek, there are four words that are used to connote love. There is eros, which has to do with attraction. It is the beginning stage of love because we are drawn out of ourselves as we are attracted to another. The next word for love is philios, which has to do with friendship. This is the love between friends. If our love matures it moves from attraction or infatuation to friendship. The third word is storge or the deeper love shared with family members. The fourth word is agape, which is unconditional love.
When Jesus shares that we are to follow the commandments, he is not demanding that we do so as a tyrant would. He is providing the boundaries and parameters for us to grow and mature as people who love, who, in the words of St Thomas Aquinas, will the good of the other as other. As humans, we are social beings. We want to belong, to be accepted, and to be a part of. We seek meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in our lives. This is best done through cooperation and collaboration with God and with one another, striving to love unconditionally, agape.
If we operate from a self-centered posture in which we are only turned in upon our self, and we only seek to manipulate and get from others, instead of working for consensus and sharing a common vision with others, we will ultimately be empty with the exchange on any level, because we will be left wanting more. This is true because once the immediacy of the stimulation, whether material or sensual, ends, so does the experience of the feeling. Some happiness may linger from the effect, but we will never be filled or satisfied with finite things. We will continue to seek more and more until the pursuit of instant and constant gratification ensnares us and we are entangled in a web of addiction.
The commandments, grounded in love, are meant to provide boundaries for us, training wheels, and to keep us free from enslavement to sin, while at the same time help us to be persons who move away from being self-centered to maturing as other-centered instead. Discipline in this way is meant to be a means of freedom for excellence such that we can become who God calls us to be and who we truly desire to be. God is not in competition with us. He is our biggest fan. As St Irenaeus wrote, the glory of God is the human being fully alive!
Commandments and morality imposed without reason or an end goal is a bludgeon. Love and mercy without accountability and justice can be enabling. Jesus provides the blueprint for a balanced both/and approach. May we seek opportunities to be loving guides, to align ourselves with the Holy Spirit, who is the Love expressed and shared between the Father and the Son. May we seek where we can improve our lives so we can be more mindful and whole, to be more honest with our weaknesses, and to seek God when we are tempted to choose him instead of sin, and seek his forgiveness when we have fallen.
As we journey in this life, we do not do so alone. As we seek to follow Jesus’ lead, as we grow and mature, we do so while in the midst of encountering and forming relationships with others. Conformed by following the commandments, we are to reach out in love to each other as Jesus has done with us. As we form and deepen our relationships, new and old, may we encourage, support, and love one another while at the same time, challenge and hold each other accountable as we strive to be who Jesus invites us to be.
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Photo: Building friendships!
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, May 16, 2022