Sunday, May 24, 2015

Go and Renew the Face of the Earth

May 24, 2015
PENTECOST SUNDAY

Go and Renew the Face of the Earth
Inventory (Pentecost Sunday, Year A-B-C)
How have you experienced the Holy Spirit acting in your life? Did you ever believe it was the Holy Spirit who was inspiring you? Enlightening you? Comforting you? Strengthening you?
The Entrance Antiphon proclaims: “The Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world… holds all things together and knows every word in human speech.” This is a global perspective, seeing the Spirit as the source of unity and eventual peace throughout the world.
The Holy Spirit is also a personal mentor, tutor or coach as contrasted with a teacher who addresses a whole group. The Spirit works with you as an individual to help you remember, understand, and act on what Jesus taught. The Spirit helps you use your particular, individual gifts for others. The Spirit maintains unity while promoting and enhancing diversity.

The Gift of Tongues
In Acts 2: 1-11 people are gathered in Jerusalem from “every nation under heaven.” But when the believers are “filled with the Holy Spirit” and begin to proclaim the good news about Jesus, each nationality hears the Christians speaking in its own native tongue. We refer to this as “the miracle of tongues.” It is still happening today.
The real “miracle of tongues” that is happening all around us is not a miracle of people understanding foreign languages, but of people being able to speak about Jesus in ways that makes others say, “Now you are speaking my language!”
To translate something into a particular language is only the first step in communication. Even more important is to be able to talk about the Gospel in ways the people you are addressing can relate to; to use the particular words that really “speak to them”; to make what Jesus said and did relevant to their own life, especially to their daily lives. This is the gift of the prophets.
Jesus made no laws, laid down no rules. Go through the Gospels and see. You won’t find any. What he gave us were general principles, like “Love one another as I have loved you,” and “Love your enemies.” These are not rules, because they do not tell us explicitly what to do. We have to think about how to apply them in every particular case.
Or Jesus taught by giving particular examples of what we should do, leaving it to us to figure out what principles they were examples of. These examples are usually such that no one would dream of understanding them as rules for the Church; for example, “Sell your possessions, and give alms” (Luke 12:33); or the three examples in Matthew 5: 39-41: “Turn the other cheek, give your cloak too, go the extra mile.” These lead us to general principles (e.g. “Nothing should be so important to you that it would destroy your relationship with your neighbor: not your possessions, not your time, not your fear of rejection”). The prophets are those who have the insight to apply Christ’s general principles to the concrete circumstances of their time and place. This is to translate the words of Jesus into the language of relevance. It is the best gift of tongues!
“One body, one spirit in Christ”:
1Corinthians 12: 3-13 calls us to believe that the gift of leadership in the Church is given to each and every one of us: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
This means that the Spirit works with, within and through every Christian to make the life of Christ in that person evident in words and actions that are manifestly the fruit of grace. The unique personality, talents, experiences and circumstances of each person enable each of us to see things from a unique angle, or to appreciate something in a special way. This is natural, and it is the reason why every single one of us has the gift of leadership and is called to use it when we happen to be the one who sees what needs to be done. (Don’t confuse this with authority. We follow authorities out of commitment but leaders voluntarily. Authorities keep us united; leaders move us forward. These are two distinct functions and both are necessary).
The Spirit works through what we have by nature and raises it to a higher, a divine, level by enlightening and empowering us to see and do what is according to Christ’s teachings and the Father’s direction for the establishment of his reign — both in our hearts and in the world. In addition to (and usually working through) our natural gifts and talents, we all have “gifts of the Spirit” which we need to recognize, acknowledge and use. There are “varieties of gifts… of services… of activities.” Each of us is unique, and our gifts are multiple and diverse.
But because it is “the same Spirit… the same Lord… the same God who activates all of them in everyone,” and the Spirit is a spirit of unity, we continue “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…. until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 2-3, 13).
“Pardon and peace…”
The essential work of sin is division: separation from God and from other people. The essential work of the Spirit is unity: union with God and with other people. And so in John 20: 19-23, when Jesus gives the call-sign greeting of his resurrection appearances, “Peace be with you,” he continues: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them….”
This explains why the Church puts into the words of sacramental absolution during the rite of Reconciliation, “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus “took away the sins of the world” by dying on the cross and incorporating us into his body to die and rise in him. Through him as “Lamb of God” the Father has “reconciled the world to himself.” And now he has “entrusted to us” — to the Church, his body on earth — this ministry of reconciliation (2Corinthi-ans 5: 18-19). The Holy Spirit is present and active in the Church, extending the forgiveness of sins in a physical, visible way to all who ask for it.
But the “ministry of reconciliation” is not limited to sacramental absolution of sins. It is above all the “message of reconciliation” that God has entrusted to the Church and to every member in it. Paul was sent to announce the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile, to proclaim that through Christ “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20). The “ministry of reconciliation” is the work of bringing the whole world together in the “peace and unity of the kingdom” Christ came to establish. The message and ministry of reconciliation is the message and ministry of love: God’s love extended to all, God’s love in us extended and reaching out to every member of the human race.
In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 104) we repeat a prayer that is also a proclamation of faith and hope: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” We ask for this because we believe it is possible. We believe it is God’s will. We believe he is doing it and wants to do it through us. Pentecost invites us to embody this belief in action.
We live in glorious times. As Christopher Fry wrote in The Sleep of Prisoners:
Thank God our time is now, when wrongs rise up to meet us everywhere; never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul man ever took.

This is a time when Jesus is calling to us: “Look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.” People are defecting from the Church in droves. Vocations to the ordained priesthood and to religious orders are dramatically down. Scandals have rocked the Church. Serious defects in the selection and formation of priests and bishops are glaringly evident. Religion seems to be sinking under the surface in a secularized world. It stands to reason God is ready to counter-attack.
Everything indicates that the renewal of the Church will take place through the awakened leadership of a renewed laity. Every Christian is called to be an evangelizer, a disciple, a witness, a prophet, priest and steward of the kingship of Christ. This is the time to act with confidence in what we pray: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Insight
What do I see that needs to be done in the Church? Can I acknowledge this as a gift of the Spirit? Will I have the consistent faith to act on it, doing what I can to bring it about? What is the Spirit empowering me to do?

Initiative: Be a prophet. Renew the face of the earth.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

“The just will gaze on your face, O Lord”

May 23, 2015
SATURDAY, Easter week seven

The just will gaze on your face, O Lord
The Responsorial Psalm tells us: “The just will gaze on your face, O Lord” (Psalm 11). And this is true of the face of the incarnate Jesus. Even after his ascension into heaven, we still see his face in the members of his risen body on earth, those living by his divine life, in whom Jesus himself continues to live and act.
Acts 28: 16-31 is another confirmation of the fact that God achieves his ends even through the efforts people make to block them. Paul is sent as a prisoner to Rome, but there he is allowed to live in “rented lodgings, welcoming all who came to him. With full assurance, and without any hindrance whatever, he preached the reign of God and taught about the Lord Jesus.”
God was enabling him to do exactly what Jesus had commanded before his ascension into heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….” Paul spent two full years in Rome, the hub of Western civilization at the time, evangelizing “without any hindrance whatever.” The Psalm says, “The just will gaze on your face, O Lord,” and Paul certainly saw, if not his face, the hand of the Lord at work in his life. He saw Jesus’ promise fulfilled: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 19-20).
John 21: 20-25 ends his Gospel with the words, “There are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
We allow for literary exaggeration: even if everything Jesus did during his lifetime were recorded, it would not take a very large library room to contain the books. But if we understand “Jesus” to include, not only the historical Jesus who lived for some 30 years, but also Jesus risen, the Jesus who, in spite of his ascension into heaven, remains present and active on earth, multiplied in all the members of his body on earth, then John’s statement approaches literal truth. One Scripture scholar explained that when the New Testament writers say, “Jesus said…” it often means “The risen Jesus, speaking in the Church, said….” All the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels were not spoken by him literally while he was on earth in the body he received from Mary. But they were spoken by him, and on earth, in the body he received from people who, like ourselves, “offered their bodies as a living sacrifice to God” in Baptism to be his body  (Romans 12:1). We say, “The just will gaze on your face, O Lord,” and we do. We see his face in one another and hear his voice in the prophets.

Initiative: Be a prophet. Let Christ speak and act in you. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

“The Lord has set his throne in heaven”

May 22, 2015
FRIDAY, Easter week seven

The Lord has set his throne in heaven” 
The Responsorial Psalm invites us to confidence: “The Lord has set his throne in heaven” (Psalm 103).
Acts 25: 13-21 show how God works through events to fulfill his own plan. King Agrippa said that Paul “could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.” But God’s plan was for Paul to go to Rome and bear witness there. Why?
It may have been so that Peter and Paul would both die there. Peter and Paul could have divided the early Church. Peter had the “primacy” of juridical authority in the Church, the “keys of the kingdom.” He was the protos, the “first” among the his­torical group Jesus had gathered during his earthly ministry. But Paul had the authority of his direct call and commission from the risen Jesus to evangelize the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-18). He was raised up
by the Spirit of the risen Lord to bear witness above all to the primacy of an inward communion of faith and love, the perpetually new work of the Spirit…. There we have what we might call ‘the primacy of Paul.’ It was charismatic rather than institutional. Paul bore witness to the absolute, radical authority of the Word over everything and every­one…. [His] unique calling shows how God’s grace transcends every institution.
Here were two courses set for collision. But Peter and Paul remained united and died in communion with each other in the same city:
The two ‘primacies’ met at Rome, intermingling in the blood of martyrdom. There the ‘glorious witnesses’ welded into one communion the leadership of the protos [Peter] and the authority of the prophet [Paul]. Hence the privilege of this local church, and… her special calling: the communion of the witness of Peter and that of Paul which had been entrusted to her — engraved in her, so that she became the ‘living memory’ among all the churches. Her bishop would have the responsibility of becoming guardian of and spokesman for all that is implied by such a privilege and calling. 1
That is why the bishop of the church in Rome inherits Peter’s function of keeping the whole Church united, faithful to the unity to which their death bore witness. The pope must listen to the voice of the Spirit in the prophets, and the prophets must listen to the voice of his authority.
In John 21: 15-19 Jesus gives to Peter, and thus to every bishop and member of the Church, the Great Commandment of pastoral ministry: “Feed my sheep.” The goal that guides the interpretation and application of every rule and policy in the Church must be to nourish and nurture the flock, to lead them to the life-giving pastures of Christ’s words and sacraments. Above all, pastors should fear the sin of denying the Eucharist to anyone unnecessarily. The words of Jesus are clear: “If you love me, feed my sheep.”
1Tillard, O.P., The Bishop of Rome, Glazier, Inc., 1986, pages 74-117.

Initiative: Be a prophet like Paul: preserve unity with the Church and bishops.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

“Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope”

May 21, 2015
THURSDAY, Easter week seven

Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope” 
The Responsorial Psalm focuses hope where it should be: “Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope” (Psalm 16).
Acts 22:30 to 23:11 are a fulfillment of what Jesus predicted: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two.…” (Luke 12: 51-53). Paul divided the council that was judging him, just as Jesus had divided the crowds who listened to him (see John 7: 40-46). And prophets will cause division (Matthew 10: 16-36). In the early Church Paul was the focal point of bitter division between the Pharisee party who insisted on the law, and those open to the Spirit who rejoiced in the fruits of the missionaries’ preaching to the Gentiles (see Acts 11: 1-3; 15: 1-5).
What this reading brings out, though, is that the prophet is very often unacceptable to any faction in the Church, because the prophet doesn’t speak as a member of any party, but in loyalty to God alone and to the Church as a whole. Prophets are not committed to taking a “liberal” stance or a “conservative” stance. And they do not write others off by labeling them as “conservatives,” “liberals,” or anything else. The prophet is committed to affirming truth in and from all who speak it, without asking what “side” they are on. But this is rare among people. So when Paul mentioned the resurrection, the Pharisees supported him, not because they were for him, but because they were against the Sadducees. But their support did not last, and the true prophet does not rely on the support of any faction in the Church, but only on God: “Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
In John 17: 20-26 Jesus prays for unity in the Church. He prays for it because he knows that as long as people in the Church are responsive to the Spirit there will be others who oppose them. There is no problem keeping a dead Church united: civil war never breaks out in a graveyard. But in a live Church there is constant change, and change inevitably brings about division. So Jesus does not pray for the unity of the inert, but for a unity of live people responding to the Spirit: “that they may be one, as we are one — I living in them, you living in me — that their unity may be complete”— that is, a unity, not of conformity, but of mind and will and heart sustained by prayer, dialogue and response to the Holy Spirit.
1 This is from the 1970 New American Bible, which, though not as literal as the 1986 revision, is immensely superior for clarity, impact and style as a version to be read in church.
Initiative: Be a prophet. Avoid all factionalism. Seek the truth of God and of the whole Church with her 2000 year-old tradition. Use peace of heart to discern.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Be a Prophet

May 20, 2015
WEDNESDAY, Easter week seven

The readings express the concern Jesus and Paul have for the protection of the flock after they are gone. In response, the Responsorial Psalm cites the last verses of yesterday’s Psalm, emphasizing God’s power, and inviting us again: “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth” (Psalm 68).
In Acts 20: 28-38 Paul warns the elders of the Church in Ephesus that “Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth.” To help them unmask these “savage wolves,” he reminds them that his own teaching was made credible by his lifestyle: “I coveted no one's silver or gold or clothing” and “worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions.” Paul showed them by example “that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Authentic Christian witness is built on the example of Christ’s words lived out in action. And this is what sustains the faith of the community. Pope Paul VI was emphatic: “The first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life,” life lived in union with others, in “a communion that nothing should destroy.” We have to resist the divisive influence of those who close in on themselves and separate from the Church as if they were the only true believers. Authentic Christians value union with the Church — hierarchical, clerical and lay — over all particular issues, no matter how emotional Their life is communal but not clannish: “at the same time it is a life given to one’s neighbor with limitless zeal.”
Paul was prophetic when he wrote, “People today listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” It is the teaching of Pope Paul that “the Church will evangelize the world by… the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity” (Evangelization in the Modern World, #41).
In John 17: 11-19 Jesus takes for granted that his disciples will be at odds with their culture: “The world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” We cannot be prophets and conformists at the same time. Witnesses, Paul VI says, radiate “faith in values that go beyond current values, and hope in something not seen, that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness they stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live” Ibid. #21). This is to be a prophet.

Initiative: Be a prophet. Structure your life in a way that does not make sense to people of our culture; in a way that can only be explained through the Gospel.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

“Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth”

May 19, 2015
TUESDAY, Easter week seven



Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth
The Responsorial Psalm continues yesterday’s Psalm, emphasizing that God saves and provides for us. The response is the same: “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth” (Psalm 68).
In Acts 18: 20: 17-27 Paul gives an account of his ministry, knowing that he is on the road to death. He recalls: “I lived among you… serving the Lord with all humility… enduring the trials that came to me…” and “did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message… to both Jews and Greeks.” When he concludes, “I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord,” he gives the key to all Christian life: we live to let Christ live in us. We live only to continue his mission through all that we do. That is all we live for. We have “died” to everything else in order to live only as the risen body of Jesus: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:19-20; Romans 12:2, 14:7-8; 1Corinthians 7:29-31; 2Cor. 5:14-21; Colossians 3:1-5 Philippians 1:20-24).
This sounds and is very radical, but it is all in the First Commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). The Commandment, however, was based on the Covenant, while our commitment follows from our identification with Christ through Baptism. The authentically Christian life is to live for absolutely nothing in this world except to be Christ and continue Christ’s mission. Insofar as our personal gratification is concerned, we relate to everything we own and to everyone we know as if we were already dead (Matthew 19:21; 10: 37-39; 13: 44-46; Luke 14:26). We live to let Christ live in us; that is all. And in us Christ lives only to serve and to save. That was Paul’s life. It is ours. It is glorious. “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
John 17: 1-11 is Jesus giving to the Father before he dies what Paul gave to the Ephesians: an account of his ministry. “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do…. I have made your name known to those whom you gave me… and they have kept your word.” Now he asks the Father: “Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” Jesus is “glorified” — the truth and value of his life, and the victory of his defeat in death are revealed — through the evident presence and power of his life in his disciples: “I have been glorified in them.” We glorify Jesus by letting him live and work in us without restrictions or reserve. That is what it means to be a prophet: to visibly embody Christ, be a credible witness to the risen Jesus, give flesh to his words in action.


Initiative: Be a prophet. Live only to let Christ live in you.

Monday, May 18, 2015

“Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth”

May 18, 2015
MONDAY, Easter week seven

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth” 
The Responsorial Psalm celebrates Christ’s victory over sin and death (and all the consequences of sin, the chief of which is death): “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth” (Psalm 68).
Acts 19: 1-8 makes clear the difference between the human gesture of repentance that John’s baptism was and the divine act of regeneration that sacramental Baptism is. The key to the difference is mystery.
Both baptisms are human gestures, human expressions of “repentance,” of a “change of mind.” Both are human acts of commitment. And God inspires and blesses any human expression of response to him.
But sacramental Baptism is a mystery of transformation — not just on the level of human choice and direction in life, but on the level of life itself, a transformation of our being. By sacramental Baptism we are incorporated into Jesus Christ. We become members of the body of God the Son. As St. Augustine expressed it, we “become Christ.” This makes us what he is: children of God the Father, filii in Filio, “sons and daughters in the Son.” And the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is poured out into our hearts to “be with us forever” (John 14:16). Sacramental Baptism — Baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) is a mystery of God acting with divine power to give us a share in his own divine, eternal life. That is what “grace” is: the “favor” of participating in the divine life of God. By grace we become not just human but divine.
This is a “mystery,” a truth our human minds can never grasp completely, but which we keep growing into: a truth that “invites endless exploration.” The Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of Truth,” is given to lead us into greater and greater understanding. Jesus promised, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (see John 14:16, 26; 15:26). This is the fruit of Christ’s victory on the cross: “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
John 16: 29-33 calls us to believe in that victory even in our darkest hours. Jesus had to do this when his disciples all “scattered,” leaving him alone. What sustained him was his conviction, “Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.” And Jesus is with us, even when we feel abandoned and alone. This is our lifeline in every doubt and difficulty: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth,” Christ has conquered!


Initiative: Be a prophet. Consciously live and act as Christ’s risen body.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Mission Continues

May 17, 2015 (bis)
THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, Year B
(When not the Feast of the Ascension)


The Mission Continues

Inventory (Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B)
What gives me hope as I look at the Church right now? What is a sign to me that God is “ordering all things with [his] mighty arm”? In the Entrance Antiphon we declare: “My heart has prompted me to seek your face.” Where do I seek the face of Christ on earth? How can I recognize it in others?

The (alternative) Opening Prayer quoted above identifies the sign that God is “ordering all things.” His control is revealed in forward motion and development. We ask that his “presence among us” will lead the Church and the human race “to the vision of unlimited truth and unfold the beauty of [his] love.” The readings tell us the sign of God’s presence and action in the Church — the “face” that reveals him — is the unfolding reality of truth and love.
Reigning From Heaven
In Acts 1: 15-26 we see evidence that Jesus is still acting on earth, even after his ascension into heaven. Peter assumes the role Jesus had given him (Matthew 16: 17-19; John 21: 15-17) and takes responsibility for doing what has to be done. He tells the community they must elect a replacement for Judas. The Responsorial Psalm celebrates this as a sign that Jesus is alive and well and still ruling his Church from heaven: “The Lord has set his throne in heaven — his royal power rules over all” (Psalm 103). Christ’s mission continues in his Church.
Luke (the author of Acts) has Peter quoting Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 in support of replacing Judas. But there was more to it. The number of Apostles had to be brought back to twelve as a sign that, in the Church, Israel (expanded) continues as the Chosen People forever. As Nathan promised, the “Son of David” rules and will rule over God’s people until the end of time: “his throne shall be established forever” (1Chronicles 17: 11-14).
The “fullness” of the Chosen People was found in its twelve tribes, and “the Church in the New Testament is conceived as the fullness of Israel” (McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, under “Number”). In Matthew 19:28 Jesus promises his Apostles they will “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” And Revelation 21:14 describes the “New Jerusalem” as having “twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” So there had to be twelve.
United in Growth
In John 17: 11-19 Jesus asks the Father to protect his people and hold them together in unity: “protect them in your name… so that they may be one, as we are one.”
The sign that the Father is doing this and “ordering all things with [his] mighty arm” is the preservation of truth in the Church. “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.”
This is no easy task, and by doing it Jesus shows that indeed “the Lord has set his throne in heaven — his royal power rules over all.” We cannot preserve truth by freezing it in the lifeless literalism of the Biblical fundamentalists. Nor can we preserve it by restricting all inquiry to the reductionist formulae of the Catholic “magisterial” fundamentalists. Truth, like life and like love, must keep moving to survive. To stagnate is to spoil. Divine revelation is complete and incomplete; determined yet developing. It is “the unfolding of truth that already is, the unveiling of beauty that is yet to be.” We pray that God’s presence among us will lead us ‘to the vision of unlimited truth,” truth that invites “endless exploration.” We ask God to keep unfolding that “beauty ever ancient, ever new” (St. Augustine) that is the beauty of unlimited love.”
We preserve the unity of the Church, not through enforced conformity or intellectual inertia, but by growing together into the fullness of truth and love under the authority of the “Twelve,” who continue to keep the Church “one” through the guidance and government of their vicars, the bishops.
Truth becomes credible when it is lived with love. Our role as prophets is to keep discovering how the timeless truths of Christianity can and ought to “take flesh” in our time. In this way the “vision of truth” and the “beauty of love” grow together, each supporting the other. For this we must be committed to keep making changes in our life guided by the goal of making everything we say, do, have, use, buy or decide bear witness to the truth and values preached by Jesus.
The Face of God:
1John 4: 11-16 notes that “No one has ever seen God.” Nevertheless, in the Entrance Antiphon we affirmed: “My heart has prompted me to seek your face.” Where can we see the face of the invisible God?
John gives the answer: “If we love one another, God dwells in us.” Then, not only is “his love brought to perfection in us,” but so is his image. As love grows to perfection, Christ’s visible presence in the Church will “lead” all who recognize him in his body on earth to “the vision of unlimited truth and unfold the beauty of [his] love” to them.
This is the meaning and purpose of time. We said in the Opening Prayer that for God, “time is the unfolding of truth that already is, the unveiling of beauty that is yet to be.” This is what time must be for us: the span of our lives that we dedicate wholly to letting truth and love grow in us and expand throughout the world.

Insight
When do I feel most united to other believers: when we are reaffirming what we all understand and believe? Or when we are getting new insights together and being called to new ways of loving God and other people?

Initiative:

With confidence in Christ’s guidance, try to “bring out of your treasure what is new and what is old" (Mt. 13:52). Integrate lasting truth with new thinking.

“Up and Out”

May 17, 2015
THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION
(Thursday after Sixth Sunday — or it replaces Seventh Sunday)
“Up and Out”


Inventory (Feast of the Ascension, Year B)
Am I on fire to “proclaim the Good News to all creation”? What effect has the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus into heaven had on me?
Input
The angel of the Entrance Antiphon asks those who saw and heard and dealt with Jesus why they were standing around “looking up at the skies.” Didn’t they understand that their crucial place in history  (“men of Galilee”) gave them work to do? The Jesus who ascended is going to return. The interim period is working time. Didn’t they remember the job Jesus gave them: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!”
What about our crucial place in history” Men and women of the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Pacific islands. Men and women of the Third Millennium. Do we have a job to do? Is it just as important in our time and place as it was then? Are we doing it? Or are we just “standing around” — looking at what?
In the (alternative) Opening Prayer we say to the Father, “Our minds were prepared for the coming of your kingdom when you took Jesus beyond our sight.” How did Christ’s ascension prepare us for the coming of his kingdom?
The answer is that it focused us on the glory into which Jesus entered “so that we might seek him in his glory” — that is, “follow where he has led,” keep in view his victory, foresee his kingdom established throughout the world, and “find our hope in his glory.” In other words, work for it.
The Ascension moves us to get moving!

The Responsorial Psalm calls us to celebrate: “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy; a blare of trumpets for the Lord” (Psalm 47).
Acts 1: 1-11 tells us what we are celebrating: a victory that will be our accomplishment as well as Christ’s. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” he told them not to focus on “times or dates” but on their own role in bringing it about: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth!”
The Psalm continues, “God is king of all the earth… God is king over the nations.” Until the reign of his peace, his love, is established over every area and activity of human life on earth, our work is not done. We cannot fulfill our task without “power from on high,” but that power is the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the members of Christ’s body on earth. There is no point in “looking up to heaven” unless we intend to take what is given to us from heaven and put it to work

All under his feet
We are acutely conscious that to be effective witnesses to the mystery of Jesus Christ we need a “spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed,” so that we can come to “full knowledge of him.” Ephesians 1: 17-23 tells us that to make known how good the Good News is we need to “see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised,” and on the practical level “how infinitely great is the power he has exercised for us believers.”
We are only too aware of the prevalence of sin, the power of entrenched attitudes, values and priorities in every human society. But by raising Jesus from the dead to “make him sit at his right hand in heaven” the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,” has made clear “the strength of his power at work in Christ.” Jesus is “far above” every power and authority on earth. God has “put all things under his feet.” Paul specifies that Jesus rules, not just from the distance of heaven, but as “head of the Church, which is his body” on earth. The power that is his at the “right hand of God” is at hand for us, working in and through the Spirit active within us. We need to “own” this and act in the power poured out on us, present in our hearts.
“Go… proclaim”
Mark 16: 15-20 is a starting gun. Its message is “Go, go, go! Proclaim the Good News to all creation!” God will work with you. You will walk unharmed through all the striking snakes of a society dominated by the power and riches of this world. You will be offered immunity to the “deadly poison” of a culture immersed in deception, seductive allurements and  “spin.” Move out! You have the power to heal anything you lay your hands on. Go! Believe in the promise the Church taught you to pray for since you were a child: “Send forth your Spirit and our hearts will be regenerated — and you shall renew the face of the earth!” Go! Proclaim the Good News to all creation! How? By taking action where you live and work and recreate: in your home, your social life, business and politics; action based on faith and hope in the power of Jesus seated at the right hand of God.

Insight
Does the Ascension of Jesus inspire you to be his presence on earth?

Initiative:

Keep asking Jesus, “Act with me, act in me, act through me” in everything you do. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

“The Lord takes delight in his people”

May 11, 2015
MONDAY, Easter week six

The Lord takes delight in his people” 
The Responsorial Psalm tells us how God feels about us: “The Lord takes delight in his people” (Psalm 149). We need to accept and rejoice in this.
In Acts 16: 11-15 a woman whom the missionaries had just met, Lydia, invites them to stay at her home: “If you are convinced that I believe in the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And the apostles did.
This reminds us of Jesus’ promise: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).
This is a pretty clear affirmation of the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord takes delight in his people.” But can you believe the Lord takes delight in you personally? That it fills him with joy to “make his home” in your heart? Or do you believe he is just there because he “has to” be, out of duty to us as God and Savior, the way some people go to Mass just because they “have to”?
Actually, those who come to church out of a sense of obligation are more likely to think God dwells in their hearts for the same reason. If we don’t take delight in him, we will find it hard to believe that he really takes delight in us. Then something important is lacking in our relationship. There is no joy.
John 15:26 to 16:4 does not say God only takes delight in us if we are working for him by bearing witness. But if we do take delight in him, it is a sure thing that we will bear witness. Jesus said “the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father… will bear witness on my behalf.” Why? Because the Spirit has been with Jesus, God the Son, from the beginning. He knows Jesus, loves him, appreciates so much what he is that he cannot help witnessing to him. And Jesus says the same of his apostles: “You must bear witness as well, for you have been with me from the beginning.” They cannot help proclaiming the Good News, the gift that Jesus is, and the gift that the Spirit is — because they have experienced their goodness. They are overwhelmed by it. The same should be true of us.
What if we don’t feel overwhelmed with the joy of the Good News, the joy of knowing Jesus and knowing his love? What if we have not experienced the Spirit as Gift? Could it be because we are not loving God consciously? Because the Good News has become for us just a “religion” in the sense of a system of obligations? If so, we need to consciously take delight in God — Father, Son and Spirit — and in his indwelling presence in our heart. We need to remember, to sing and celebrate. As we bear witness to others, the Spirit will bear witness to us.
Initiative: Be a prophet. Where you don’t find joy, put joy, and you will find it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

“Heaven and earth are filled with your glory”

May 13, 2015
WEDNESDAY, Easter week six

Heaven and earth are filled with your glory” 
The Responsorial Psalm declares we should praise God both for what we experience by grace and see around us in the world: “Heaven and earth are filled with your glory” (Psalm 148).
In Acts 17:15 to 18:l Paul begins in Athens by arguing that “The God who made the world and everything in it… does not live in shrines made by human hands.” He argues that if we are his “offspring,” as Aratus, a poet from Cilicia (part of modern-day Turkey, where Tarsus, Paul’s birthplace was) wrote, then “we ought not to think of divinity as something like a statue of gold, or silver, or stone, a product of human genius and art.” Then he spoke of God calling all people to “reform their lives.” As long as he was on this human plane, the Athenians listened. But when he said God had “endorsed Jesus by raising him from the dead,” that was too much for them. “Some sneered, while others said, ‘We must hear you on this topic some other time,’” at which point Paul got the message and left. “A few did join him, however, and became believers.” These were the ones who were able to go beyond rational speculation on the human level and commit to God in faith. Faith is a free human choice, but it is a divinely-powered choice to go beyond the human and accept the divine gift of sharing in God’s act of knowing. Not everyone is willing to make this choice.
In John 16: 12-15 Jesus recognizes that even those who do accept to know truth by faith cannot accept immediately all that God wants to reveal to them. He said to his disciples, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, however, he will guide you to all truth.”
Our cultural conditioning and the limitations of our human intellects make some things so hard for us to grasp that we cry out like the man in the Gospel, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Peter himself, initially, could not believe it was God’s will to let Jesus be crucified (Matthew 16: 21-23), and this was after Jesus had praised him for his faith and decided to make him pope! We have to be willing to grow.
Jesus says that what the Spirit will announce is truth “he will have received from me.” And Jesus receives it from the Father, because “all that the Father has belongs to me.” This simply means it is truth that belongs inseparably to God: Father, Son and Spirit, and anyone who receives it from the Church receives it from the Three Persons of God. In other words, it is divine, it is mystery, it comes as a gift from above: “Heaven and earth are filled with your glory.

Initiative: Be a prophet. Don’t expect people of weak faith to accept what you say or do. Be willing yourself to grow into what you do not understand..

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

“Your right hand has saved me, O Lord”

May 12, 2015
TUESDAY, Easter week six

Your right hand has saved me, O Lord” 
From a basis of experience the Responsorial Psalm declares a basis for hope: “Your right hand has saved me, O Lord” (Psalm 138).
The earthquake in Acts 16: 22-34 that opened the prison doors was a minor revelation of God’s power. The conversion of the jailer was a major revelation. God reveals his power when he uses it to accomplish his own purpose, which is the conversion of the human race.
In every age, people’s failure to believe in Christ or to continue as active members of the Church tempts us to discouragement and doubt. Sometimes the statistics make Christ appear to be a loser. That is when we have to look at a broader picture.
In any particular time or place the faith can flourish or decline, influenced by many factors. Human circumstances — wars, disasters, poverty, or sickness — can make some people more receptive to the Good News of salvation. And the same circumstances can incline others to ignore the Good News or reject God. Human circumstances do play a part, but in the whole picture of things they play a minor part.
People might go the church or “profess the faith” because it is something their culture, family or friends take for granted; or because they are scared or unhappy and seek comfort from God. And they might stop going to church for the same reasons: because their friends don’t go, or they don’t find the comfort or help they were looking for. Either way, it is relatively unimportant, because anything they do for human reasons is outside of their relationship with Jesus Christ. If they go to church for human reasons this is not a sign of graced interaction with him. And if they stop going, this could mean they had faith and gave it up, but more probably it simply says they never did have a faith that was personal, conscious and real. God has neither won nor lost; the game just wasn’t being played on his field. His is the field where grace is at play.
In John 16: 5-11 Jesus tells us it is the manifestation of the Spirit, not judgment passed on human evidence, that shows whether God has won or lost. Humans judged Jesus guilty of sin and condemned him. By human standards his execution made God appear to fail in bringing about justice. But when the Spirit brought the Church to life and empowered her witness, we saw Christ’s condemnation reversed by a higher court, and justice being done on the only level that ultimately counts: God’s level. Action that is inexplicable without grace bears witness to the Spirit and only this lets us say unambiguously, “Your right hand has saved me, O Lord.” This is what we rejoice in.


Initiative: Be a prophet. Live unambiguously by Christian faith, hope and love.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Experiencing the Spirit of Christ

May 10, 2015
THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Experiencing the Spirit of Christ

Inventory (Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B)
What gives me the greatest joy in life right now? Does it ever cause me to say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!”?

Input
Everything in the liturgy is speaking to us of joy. The Entrance Antiphon begins: “Speak out with a voice of joy….” This is a joy that is spread by love: “Let it be heard to the ends of the earth!” And why do we rejoice? It is because God is giving new life to us and extending this life to the whole world: “The Lord has set his people free!”
The Opening Prayer begins, “Ever-living God, help us to celebrate our joy… and to express in our lives the joy we celebrate.” Love can’t keep joy to itself. The alternative Opening Prayer looks to the day when joy will be complete throughout the whole redeemed and risen human race: “May our mortal lives be crowned with the ultimate joy of rising with him.”
The Responsorial Psalm celebrates the inclusion of the whole human race in this joy: “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power” (Psalm 97). The Church rejoices because the power of the risen Jesus is shown in the extension of his saving love to every person on earth.

From Law to Spirit
In Acts 10: 25-48 God taught Peter a lesson that altered his whole understanding of the Church’s ministry. Peter had been praying on the flat roof of his house when he saw in vision a net filled with creatures Jews were forbidden to eat. A  voice from heaven said, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter, who never hesitated to contradict God (see Matthew 16:22) answered as a law-abiding Jew, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean” — to which the voice responded, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane!”
This happened three times, and Peter was still “greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen.” He was not a fast learner.
Then some men came to invite him to the house of a Roman centurion, Cornelius, who with his non-Jewish friends wanted to hear about Jesus. Peter went, although he said to them, "You know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” Peter was catching on.
Then an extraordinary thing happened. While Peter was telling them about Jesus, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word,” and the Jewish Christians who had come with Peter “were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.”
This converted Peter from a legalist to an apostle! He said, “Can anyone withhold the water of baptism from these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized.
This decision, with Paul’s extended ministry to the Gentiles, surfaced the division within the Church between the “Pharisee party” whose loyalty was to the rules and customs they grew up with, and those who responded to the Holy Spirit. That division still splits the Church today and will do so until Christ comes in glory. Phariseeism was, is and always will be the most destructive virus in Christianity.
The Law of Love:
1John 4: 7-10 gives us the only real answer to this. It is love. John, by the end of his life, had made it his theme song: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God… Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Jesus taught Peter this three times (John 21: 15-17 ). He kept asking Peter, “Do you love me?” And each time Peter said he did, Jesus answered, “Feed my sheep.”
If we know Jesus, know his mind and heart, and not just his laws, we will try above all things to heal and nurture and encourage one another  — especially those who “have most need of mercy”: the sinful and straying and confused, those who feel excluded and rejected by the Church. We will interpret laws by love. Then we will have the “mind of Christ” and the true mind of the Church (see 1Corinthians 2:12 to 3:15).
The “Jesus Command”
In John 15: 9-17 Jesus tells us that to “remain in his love” we must keep his commandments. Then he summarizes all of his commandments in one: “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” To do this we have to understand his love and know his heart, just as Jesus understood the Father’s love and knew his heart. We have to grow into intimate friendship with Jesus Christ.
This is what he offers us: “I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learned from my Father.” The key to ministry, to prophetic witness, to the transformation of the world as faithful stewards of Christ’s kingship, is simply this: intimate knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. He is the vine, we the branches. We bear fruit by letting his love give life through us.
It is through love, the love that moved Jesus to “lay down his life for his friends,” that “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
And continues to reveal it.

Insight
When do I feel most united to Christ: when I am condemning others for their faults or nurturing them with love? When I am “standing up for the law” or adapting the law with love?

Initiative:
Use “ the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22)— love, joy and peace —as a “rule of thumb” to discern whether you are thinking with the “mind of Christ.”.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

“Let all the earth cry out to God with joy”

May 9, 2015
SATURDAY, Easter week five


Let all the earth cry out to God with joy
Though both readings speak of opposition to the Gospel and persecution, the Responsorial verse tells us: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy” (Psalm 100). The truth is that people’s rejection of the Church can be a sign that we are truly united with Jesus, the “stone that the builders rejected,” who “has become the cornerstone” (1Peter 2:7). Anything that indicates we have “died with Christ” to the attitudes and values of this world is an assurance that we have also “risen to new life in him” (Entrance Antiphon). This is a cause to rejoice.
In Acts 16: 1-10 we see Paul subjecting Timothy to the unnecessary pain of circumcision in order to make his ministry acceptable to Jews who were still locked into the law. We know that the apostles were ready to endure persecution for preaching the Gospel (see Acts 4; 18-33; 14: 8, 19-21), but still the “Holy Spirit prevented them” from preaching in some places — presumably because God knew they would not be accepted there. Christians neither seek persecution nor let it deter them; they simply follow the Holy Spirit without regard for consequences. This is the guiding principle behind prophetic witness. Whether we are accepted or rejected, praised or persecuted, “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy” (cf. Philippians 1: 12-22; 2Timothy 4: 1-9).
In John 15: 18-21 Jesus tells us that being rejected by people can be a sign we are united to Christ: “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world--therefore the world hates you.”
There could be other reasons for rejection, of course. Christians — and more commonly clerics, because of their public status and high visibility — might be hated because of their arrogance, injustice or hypocrisy. Peter warns the early Christians: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name” (1Peter 4:14-16). As prophets, we are not trying to draw attention to ourselves by getting ourselves stoned (civil disobedience is a separate issue); we are just trying to live out the message of Jesus authentically. And no matter how people respond to it, we will persevere in peacefulness and in love. As long as we are united to Christ, whether in his suffering or in his glory, “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.


Initiative: Be a prophet. Bear witness to the Resurrection by living the Gospel fearlessly, regardless of consequences.

Friday, May 8, 2015

“I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord ”

May 8, 2015
FRIDAY, Easter week five

I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord 
The Responsorial Psalm is the exclamation of one who rejoices in God’s saving love for all people: “I will give you thanks among the peoples, O Lord ” (Psalm 57).
In Acts 15: 22-31 we see this saving love embodied in the Church’s response to the Gentile converts. The community disclaims those who “without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind.” The Apostles and presbyters confidently affirm, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities….”
The spirit of the Church guided by the Spirit is the exact opposite of what Jesus condemned in the Pharisees and “scribes,” or specialists in the application of the law: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:2-4; Luke 11:46). The spirit that should always prevail in the Church is the spirit Jesus expressed when he said, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
This is the spirit of the prophets, who look, not to the letter of the law, but to the goal of the law, conscious that the intention that governs and determines the goal of every law or regulation in the Church is Jesus’ commission to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” In fulfilling this command we know that we truly love him and those to whom he has sent us (see John 21: 15-17).
The freedom of spirit with which prophets approach laws is rooted in Jesus’ words at the Last Supper (John 15: 12-17): “I no longer call you servants, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” Prophets try to judge out of intimate knowledge of God’s mind and heart. Because of this the prophets are constantly ministering to others as priests (by Baptism). This is to live Christ’s love. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” To minister, serving the needs of others, is literally to “give one’s life” for others, because every minute we give to another in service is a minute of our life. On this earth life and time are synonymous; for any one of us they begin and end together.
Jesus who gave us the commandment, “love one another as I love you” told us later, “I chose you to go and bear fruit.” We show our love for God and others by constantly giving expression to the life of God in us in order to communicate it to others.

Initiative: Be a prophet. Listen, learn and live by the heart (love) of Christ.