Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18 or Romans 12:9-16
Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-3, 4-6
Gospel: Luke 1:39-56
Today is Memorial Day in the US. For some this is the day that their local pool opens. For others it is a day of family, friends and grilling out. Still for some, it is simply another day off of work and an extension of the weekend. Memorial Day originally was called decoration day, and was a holiday to remember those who had fallen during the Civil War. Many years later it was expanded as a National Holiday in remembrance of the brave soldiers who had given their life during every war and during their military service. Today, let us remember to honor and pray for all those men and women who fought for our freedom, and for those who continue to fight for our freedom. Let us also pray for Mary's intercession, for their is no one who knows more about sacrifice than our Blessed Mother. Let us ask for Mary's prayers that we may be a country under her loving care and that she may lead us closer to her son; so that we may truly be a nation under God.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinner now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, to the Son, to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Peter 4:7-13
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 96
Gospel: Mark 11:11-26
Beloved: The end of all things is at hand. Therefore be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 4:7-11)
Imagine that you gave me a brand new car as a gift. Then a few months later you stop by to how me and the car are doing, when to your surprise the brand new car is not looking so good. It's got dents, dings, and scratches all around it from my reckless driving. It looks as it has been driven for a little while, as one of the wheels is missing and the car is propped up on a cinder block. The inside is full of trash and has gotten quite filthy. There are parking and speeding tickets inside the glove box. Now at this point, you are pretty ticked off, wondering what kind of ungrateful person does such a thing as take a perfectly good gift and waste it and not take care of it. In this situation it is a very fair question. I think that there are times in our life that God could ask the same question of our lives.
Like the car, we don't always use the gifts that are given to us by God. God gives each of us different gifts and abilities, and sometimes we use them for our own gain and glory. Other times we don't use them at all. Sometimes we are too afraid to use our natural talents and abilities, other times we are just too lazy. Whatever the case, the fact is that God has given each of us a beautiful life to live, a life that we are to be good stewards of. A life that is supposed to be spent loving God and others. A life where we use our talents and treasures to glorify God and to show His goodness to the whole world. As it says in the first reading today: As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace. (1 Pet 4:10)
Jesus shows us today, that the choice to not produce fruit is not the right one. It is only by being good stewards of our gifts and producing good fruit that we can live the lives that we were meant to.
May God bless each of us in our journey, and may we each be the good stewards that we are called to be!
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and for all that you give. Help us to use the gifts that you have given us to glorify you and to spread your love to all those we come in contact with. Lord, we praise you for your great love and mercy, help us to never stray from your arms. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Peter 1:18-25
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 147
Gospel: Mark 10:32-45
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:35-45)
In today's gospel, we see the bold and ambitious question that James and John ask; "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." Can we really blame them for wanting to be closer to Jesus, to wanting to have a bigger part in His kingdom? I think that only difference between James and John and the other is disciples, is that James and John weren't afraid to ask. I think that they asked what each of the other disciples was thinking.
It is perfectly natural as people to want places of honor and certain titles and responsibilities; but the biggest factor in wanting these things is our motive. What is the reason that we are asking for these things. We are not told why James and John asked for what they did, who knows maybe they didn't fully understand it themselves, it could have been that they were just trying to call "dibs" on those places of honor. Whatever the reason, I do not think that it was for right reasons, I do think that they were asking for their own gain, even if the place of honor was a good thing, that does not make it right. Jesus then used this as a good "teachable moment" for His disciples. He used this as an opportunity to teach them that they should not be seeking things out for themselves, but rather for the glory of God.
Today, let us reflect on these words from 1 Peter: "Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a pure heart." (1 Pet 1:22)
May the peace of the Lord be with each of you today, and may the Lord grant each of us a pure heart that allows us to love as we are meant to, instead of a selfish heart.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and for all that you give. Lord, we thank you so much for your great, abundance love and mercy, which we are not deserving of, but you still choose to freely pour out to us. Help us to live this life as we are meant to, loving each other with a pure heart. We pray for all those you do not know you and that are in need of conversion. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Peter 1:10-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98
Gospel: Mark 10:28-31
Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, Be holy because I am holy. (1 Pet 1:13-16)
How many times have we all been in the situation where someone has told an offensive, inappropriate joke that had everyone laughing, except you. Instead of saying something, we kind of just fake a smile and chuckle a little, so that we can go along with the group. How many times have we been walking or driving along and seen a homeless person on the street, and instead of stopping to help, we pass by just like everyone else. How many of us have been in the situation at work or school where people are gossiping about someone else, and instead of standing up for that person, we just go along nodding our head with the group. The truth is that in life, it is simply easier to go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing. Nobody really likes to be an outcast, and it is hard to be put in an uncomfortable place against everyone else.
As we see in the readings today, we are not called to be like everyone else, we are meant for more. We are called to be Holy. Our main purpose in life should not be to be like everyone else, our main purpose should be to be Holy and get to heaven. And while right now in life, it may be easier to go with the flow, it is not what will pay out at the end. Going with the flow and being like everyone else in the world only leads to an eternal life of suffering. Being Holy and following Christ leads to an eternal life in paradise with our Creator.
Not only does striving for Holiness reap eternal rewards, but it also has some immediate benefits as well. In fact living out God's plan for our lives and striving to do His will and what is right is what leads to peace and happiness. The reason we have peace and happiness from doing the Lord's will is because we are living out our life as it was meant to be lived. We were not created to serve ourselves, we were created to love God and others, and to be loved by God. If our main goal is to only be comfortable and look out for ourselves, as most people do; then we will not find the peace and happiness that we all seek. And this is not the type of lifestyle that leads us to heaven.
We each have a choice in this life: we can strive to follow the world, or we can strive to be Holy. They each lead to very different places ... which will you choose?
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we praise you for all that you have blessed us with in this life. Lord, thank you for your great love and mercy, for without it we are lost. Lord, help us to follow you in this life and to never stray away from where you lead us to. Lord, you are so good and merciful to us, help us to show this same love and mercy to others. Lord, we pray for all of our priests and religious, that they may be strengthened in their ministries and in their vows. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 111
Gospel: Mark 10:17-27
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Mk 10:17-22)
Remember when you were younger and the time finally came for you to take the training wheels off of your bike? I remember it being a pretty scary moment, after all those things had kept me from falling over. But my parents saw the the time was right, I had already learned the basics of riding the bike, and it was time to go deeper and truly experience the bike as it was meant to be.
In today's gospel, we read about the rich man who approached Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments; when the man said that he had done these things, Jesus then tells him that he has the basics down, but he must go deeper by selling what he has and giving to the poor. This made the man sad, because he had a lot of things that he just was not ready to part with. I also think that this made the man sad because he probably thought that there is no way that he could get by without all of his stuff. He had probably spent his life defining himself by the things that he had, but when Jesus tells him that is not the way to be, his whole world came crashing down.
Most of us have the basics of our faith down, we need to follow the commandments and live a good life. But, that is not enough. God wants us to experience this life as it we were meant to, with freedom from worldly things and complete trust and reliance on Him. Just like we could not truly experience the bike without the training wheels, we cannot experience this life if we are clinging to worldly things. It is certainly not easy to let go of the world and follow Christ, but the eternal reward that we can gain is worth anything that we must go through. As we read in 1 Peter today; "In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials."
Although no one really likes the time for the training wheels to come off, it is a necessary step. It takes a lot of courage and trust, but it is always worth. May each of us be granted the strength and courage to go deeper into our faith and to trust in God alone.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and for all that you give. We are your humble servants, may we never veer from your path and may we always stand strong against opposition in this life. Lord, guide us and strengthen us in this world, may we be your lights to all those we come in contact with. We pray for all of those in need of conversion and those who do not know your love. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 25:13-21
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103
Gospel: John 21:15-19
After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” (Jn 21:15-19)
What if Jesus asked you three times in a row whether you loved Him or not? Most likely you would react like Peter did, getting frustrated at the repeated question. But regardless of how comfortable we are with the question, it is still a good one for us to ask ourselves. Do we love Him more than anything else? Do we love Him so much that we would be willing to sacrifice for Him? Do we love Him so much that we are willing to obey Him and follow His agenda rather than our own? Do we love Him enough to endure pain and hardship in this life? Do we recognize how great His love for us is, and are we willing to love Him back?
The exchange that we see take place between Peter and Jesus is one that not only gives Peter authority as the leader of the Church ("feed my lambs ... tend my sheep ... feed my sheep"), but it is also help Peter realize that loving the Lord means following Him where ever He leads. The truth is that you cannot truly follow someone unless you have love for them. It takes a certain type of love, a love of a person that makes us loyal and trusting, that allows us to follow someone. Like Peter, we cannot follow God unless we realize how much we love Him and how much we are loved.
God is calling out to each of us; "do you love me?" Once we say "yes Lord, I love you", then we are ready to follow Him.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord thank you for our lives, help us to glorify you through all that we do. Lord, you are our God, and you know what is best for us, help us to never veer from the path of which you have laid down for us. Lord, we belong to you, we do not belong to this world; help us only to live in it and not of it. We pray for all of our priests and religious. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 22:30, 23:6-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 16
Gospel: John 17:20-26
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” (Jn 17:20-26)
Growing up, my dad used to collect different antique items. Usually they were things like old tools, appliances, etc. I was always intrigued by these items, because it was just amazing to see a drill with no power source other than two hands, a laundry washboard, or old toys that in no way today would pass safety requirements. It was always amazing to me to see how much things have changed and how much the things that we use every day have changed so much.
While the things in our lives are constantly changing, especially in technology, there is one antique that has never changed ... God's love. In today's gospel reading, Jesus tells us how God's love for the Son was there even before the foundation of the world. It has always been there, and it always will be. Jesus came to help us see how much the Father loves Him and how much He wants to love us. This same love, which has always been around, is the same love that can be in us; but only if we are willing to open ourselves up to it. We can only have the love of God in us if we are willing to believe in Christ and to follow Him where ever He leads us. We cannot be people of this world, we must be people of God if we want to have the love of the Father in us.
We are all called to communion, called to be one. If we all choose to follow Christ, then we can enter into this unity with the Father and the Son, and therefore can enter into this unity together as a people. There is no better place for us to be than in the Father's love, may we all come to share in that love together.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for your great love, we are not deserving of it, but you offer it to us freely. Lord, we praise you and thank you for our lives, help us to live them for you and to always give you all the glory. We pray for all those who do not know your love, may they have their eyes and hearts opened and come into your loving, gently arms. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 20:28-38
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 68
Gospel: John 17:11-19
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” (Jn 17:11-19)
We belong to God, not to this world. In life it is so important to see the big picture of things, especially when it is so easy to caught up in the daily little things of life. It is this perspective of who we belong to, that we must always keep in mind. Today, re-read the Gospel reading today and just reflect on this question: "Am I living a life that says that I belong to God or to the world?"
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, consecrate us in your truth, keep us close to you at all times. Protect us from the evil one, help us never to stray from your loving arms. Lord, you alone know what is best for us, help us to live our lives according to your will. Lord, we pray for all of our priests and religious, may they be strengthened in their vows and in their ministries. We also pray for all those who are living of the world, may they come to know your truth and love. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 20:17-27
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 68
Gospel: John 17:1-11
I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me because of the plots of the Jews, and I did not at all shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. I earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus. But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know, except that in one city after another the Holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:19-24)
In the first reading from Acts today, we see Paul saying farewell to the disciples at Miletus. In a very bold and heartfelt speech, Paul discusses the example of his own life. He addresses the trials and challenges that he faced. He talked about his bold witness to both the Jews and the Greeks, and how he brought many people to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. And now, he is off to Jerusalem, completely unaware of what will happen there, only knowing that it will be very hard and difficult. Then Paul says a line of which we should all take to heart and remember: "Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God's grace." In this line, Paul is telling of how his life is not the most important thing, but rather finishing the mission to which the Lord called him to is the most important thing.
Last year I learned an important lesson in the importance of finishing what you started. It was just over a year ago when I competed in a marathon. For those not familiar, a marathon is a 26.2 mile race. It was a beautiful course and there were so many people around cheering us on, it really was a remarkable experience. But no matter how many people cheered or how great the scenery was, there was one thing that was always present ... this race was hard! Running that amount was difficult, and was certainly no easy task. I can remember there came a point where the most important thing for me was just simply to finish. That was all that was on my mind, was just persevering and finishing no matter how much I was hurting. By taking on this attitude (and with a whole lot of help from God) I was able to complete the marathon. The feeling of crossing that finish line was one of the most amazing experiences! That marathon taught me many important lessons, of which one of them is that running the race is hard, but finishing is so worth it!
Each of us should have the goal of finishing. Saint Paul gave us a great example with his earthly life. He showed us and taught us that life is hard, that we are going to experience trials and hardships; but that is okay we are not trying to be happy on earth we are trying to finish the course that God has set before each of us so that we can finish and receive the reward of eternal peace and happiness. The race is not easy, but finishing will be so worth it.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with. Thank you for all that you give and for all that you do. Help us to persevere in this life until the very end, and all for your glory. Lord, give us the courage and the strength to live in this world and not of it. Help us to fight the battles that you call us to and to be a witness to all those you put in our lives. We pray for all of our priests, that they may be strengthened in their ministries and in their vows. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 19:1-8
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 68
Gospel: John 16:29-33
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and down to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered him, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” He said, “How were you baptized?” They replied, “With the baptism of John.” Paul then said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Altogether there were about twelve men. (Acts 19:1-7)
In today's first reading, we read about Paul's travel to Ephesus and the believers that he came across. The disciples that he came across were off to a good start, but there still was more to be done. They had been baptized by John, but his was a baptism of repentance, and they still had farther to go with Christ. Paul came in and instructed them, teaching them about the Baptism in Christ and about the Holy Spirit. Paul came to these men to put the finishing touches of their faith.
If you have ever made anything, you know the importance of the final step in decorating that item. Whether it be putting the icing on the cake, the stain on the wood, the glaze on the ceramic pot, or the paint on the wall. The final touches are the smaller, but very important steps to have a complete item. These final touches are necessary before an item can be used. Before a cake is to be sold or given to someone, it is to be decorated with icing. Before a chair or table to be put on display, it must be either painted or treated with stain. A pot is just hardened clay until a glaze is put on it and gives it a brilliant look. A wall is just a border of drywall until it has been primed and painted to make it someones room. While the finishing touches are not the base, they are still very important steps. The disciples that we read about had already take the first step which is to believe in Jesus Christ, after that they just need the finishing touches of Baptism and Confirmation.
By being Baptized and Confirmed, we have a stronger connection with the Holy Spirit within us. By following God, seeking His will and saying 'yes' to Him each moment; we can begin to let the Holy Spirit work in us. God wants us to be happy and whole in Him; and He wants to give each of us gifts that can bring this about. God doesn't want to hide His plan from us, He wants each of us to be active in it and to be seeking His will. He sends each of the faithful His Spirit to help us align our lives with His divine, perfect plan. The Holy Spirit works in the hearts of the faithful giving us grace filled gifts. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Experiencing these gifts are meant to lead us closer to the Lord and further down the path of which God has set before us.
Let us each pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that each of us may follow God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and make the fire of your love burn within them. Send forth your spirit and there shall be another creation. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, you have instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit. Grant that through the same Holy Spirit we may always be truly wise and rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle
First Reading: Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 113
Gospel: John 15:9-17
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” (Jn 15:9-17)
Simplicity, this is a word that has seemed to escaped our culture. Simplicity means "freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts." It also means "absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc." Everyone has so many things and is so connected, that it is completely against the grain not to be. It is not enough to have a big house, you have to have the nice car that goes in the driveway, and of course you are going to have to decorate the house nicely inside and outside. Then of course because you are in competition with your neighbors you are going to have to have the best lawn, flowers and garden. It is not enough to simply have a computer at home, but we also have to have the laptop so we can travel and be connected, we need the new blackberry or iPhone so that we can text, send pics, check our email, and check out the latest news all from our phone ... oh yeah, and we might even use that phone once in a while to call people. Yes, it seems as though simplicity has escaped us; the question is is this a product of our society or of human nature? It is my opinion that it is a product of human nature. Very rarely are we good at making things simple. It seems to be in our fallen nature to complicate things and to move away from simplicity.
Our tendency towards the complex is the reason why we must be active in our faith and why we should be seeking God's will in our lives. When the world says make things complex and add more stuff and issues to your life, the Lord says keep it simple. The Lord isn't asking you to have the latest things or to be the most connected person in the world, no He is only asking one simple thing ... love one another. That is it! It is as simple as that. That is why we are here, to love and be loved. God does not make things complex, we do; and all that He asks us to do in this life is to love one another as He loves us. This is His greatest commandment, one which we should be striving to follow every moment of every day.
We must remember that like Saint Matthias, it was not we who chose God, but rather God who chose us for a specific purpose in this life. May the Lord grant us all the strength and courage to love one another as we are meant to.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we thank you and praise you for all that you have blessed us with in this life. Lord, you are our good and merciful God who always wants what is best for us. Help us to love as you call us to and to never stop. Lord, we pray for all those who do not know you and are in need of love and conversion in their life, may they find their peace and home in you. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Ascension of the Lord
First Reading: Acts 1:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 47
Second Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28, 10:19-23
Gospel: Luke 24:46-53
When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. (Acts 1:6-11)
Today we remember and celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. This is the day that Christ was lifted up into Heaven and took His place at the right hand of the Father. This was the completion of the first part of God's plan. He came, suffered, died, all for our sins. He was raised from the dead in victory over sin and death, and now sits at the right hand of the Father waiting for the time where He will come back to judge the world. So the question which has been with Christ's followers since the beginning is; "What do we do until then?"
The disciples had the right idea, they listened to Jesus' instructions. They waited for the Holy Spirit to show them the way. While waiting, they spent time in the temple praising God and they spent time reflecting on the scriptures. They trusted in the Lord with their entire lives, and spent the rest of their earthly life proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of "Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." This was the mission, the purpose to which God created them. After they saw Jesus lifted up into the cloud, they spent the rest of their lives looking towards Heaven, and never looking back to what used to be.
We too must spend our time looking towards heaven, because that should be the main goal of each of us. Heaven is what we should each be striving for, and everything that we do here on earth, whether is is school, work, family, friends, volunteering, etc; should all be things that lead us closer to the Lord and one step closer to heaven. As I said before, the Apostles spent the rest of their lives looking toward heaven and following Christ. That is the example of which we should follow. We also need to spend time praising Him, as well as spending time with Him in prayer and scripture reading. It is our responsibility to not just keep this great secret of salvation to ourselves, we should also be working towards spreading the good news of Jesus with everyone we come in contact with and "to the ends of the earth." For that is one of our purposes in this life as well.
May we all stay close to Jesus in this life, so that one day we too might be lifted into heaven to take our place with our Father who loves us.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for sacrificing your self, dying for our sins and for giving us a chance at a full life. Lord, help us cling to you rather than this world, for it is only by living a life for and with you that we can find happiness and eternal life. We pray for all those in need of conversion, that they may find peace and joy in your love. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 16:22-34
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 138
Gospel: John 16:5-11
About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted out in a loud voice, “Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.” He asked for a light and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.” So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house. He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once. He brought them up into his house and provided a meal and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God. (Acts 16:25-34)
Whenever I read a story about someone who has committed suicide, I always find it so tragic that that person felt that there was no other option in their life. It seems to me that in these situations, the people who do these acts seemed to have either lost hope completely or they had never found hope in their lives. In the first reading today, we see after the earthquake, the jailer thought that his life was doomed and that there was no other option than for him to take his own life. However, by God's grace, Paul stepped in to give the jailer the hope that he so desperately needed. By giving him the hope that is found in Christ the jailer had an immediate conversion and him and his whole household that night came to believe and be baptized. What a glorious site this must have been and all because Paul and Silas chose to share the hope that is found in Christ with the jailer. I guess that you could say that Paul and Silas were kind of like "Ambassadors of Hope" in this instance.
I think that this is what we are called to be, Ambassadors of Hope. We are all called to first live out our faith in Christ in all that we do in our life. Paul and Silas had no trouble doing this; they were eager to share and display their joy at all times ... even in prison! When they were first thrown in prison, they did not sulk or whine, but rather they chose to use that as an opportunity to praise God, sing hymns, and share the hope found in Christ with the other prisoners. When they had the chance to share the hope of Christ with the jailer, they didn't hold a grudge against the person who was holding them captive, they wanted everyone to believe in the name of Jesus. We too should want to share who Jesus is, what He means to us and the great hope that is found only in Him. Most of us have heaven as our goal, but how cool would it be to share that same goal with everyone around us? Paul and Silas were not afraid to share this goal with anyone, even some of the most hostile people towards them. We too should try and cast away our fears and share our faith in God with all those that we have the opportunity.
We are each called by God to be Ambassadors of Hope, and this starts by how we live our life and our example to others. May the Lord bless each of us with the courage and strength to go out and spread the good news!
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, we praise you and thank you for all that you have blessed us with and all that you do. Lord, you are our good God who loves us so much. Thank you for all that you have blessed us with in our life, thank you for all that you do. We are not worthy of all that you give to us, but you choose to freely bless us each and every day. Help us to never stray from your ways and to always be faithful servants to you. We pray for all of our youth, that they can come to know their own dignity and the gift of their lives. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 16:11-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 149
Gospel: John 15:26-16:4
Jesus said to 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. “I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.” (Jn 15:26-16:4)
In today's gospel, Jesus is encouraging His disciples by telling them that He is going to send to them the Holy Spirit who will guide them. He is warning them of the trials that they will face so that they will be prepared and so that they will not fall away. Now logic would tell us that when you start talking about all the negative aspects, that the disciples and anyone else would be less likely to follow and more likely to run away. How many of us in a job interview listening to the interviewer tell us about the job, saying things like "yeah you are going to be judged a lot" and "you are definitely going to be hurt, and most likely killed." I don't think that anybody would be like, "Sounds good, where do I sign up!" No, most of us would be running for the door.
So why did Jesus talk about some of the hardship that the disciples would face and the great sacrifice that would be required of them? It really was simply to prepare them. Logic would have us think that they would run away, but the reality is that when you tell a group of dedicated followers about the challenges that they will face, it doesn't make them run it makes them fight. I can still remember during my days of playing football, whenever we were about to come up against a really good team or a team that had a star athletes on there, the coaches would prepare us to face that team. They would tell us all the things that they did well, why other teams lost to them, and how we couldn't hold anything back. It didn't make us scared, it made us fight that much harder during the game. It is truly amazing the resiliency that can come about when you have a group of dedicated followers who are fighting for a common cause.
So the words that Jesus gave to the disciples are the same words for us. He is telling each of us that our life is not going to be all puppies and rainbows. We are going to go through some hard times, we are going to fell abandoned, scared, persecuted, pain and suffering. It is not easy, it will be difficult ... but we do not have to go through it alone. We have an advocate. The Lord sends us the Holy Spirit so that we may fight with the strength of the Lord, so that we can go through anything that this world may throw at us. We are given the Spirit of the Lord so that He can lead us to heaven. The Spirit is here to show us that we are never alone, that God is truly always with us.
This world is constantly attacking, may God give each of us the strength and courage to fight the battles He calls us to. Be prepared.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for this day. Lord, you have blessed your children so much, thank you for your great love and mercy. We praise you for all that you do and all that you are. Help us to never stray from your loving care. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 15:22-31
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 57
Gospel: John 15:12-17
This is the letter delivered by them: “The Apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teaching and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’“ And so they were sent on their journey. Upon their arrival in Antioch they called the assembly together and delivered the letter. When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation. (Acts 15:23-31)
Imagine that you are walking along and you come upon a beautiful brook. You are sitting there admiring it, you see the shiny rocks at the bottom, some little fish swimming around, and there is also the green plants swaying from the current. As you are admiring this brook and all that is in it, some kids come running through the brook and completely disturbing the peace. Now as you are sitting there looking at the brook you cannot see anything because the kids have muddied the waters. Now where you used to see all the things in the brook, all you see now is a brownish colored water. Now you are starting to question whether or not there were shiny rocks on the bottom, perhaps those weren't fish in there but rather the sun playing tricks on you, and you are also thinking that those plants looked to pretty to be in a brook like this, must have been an illusion. Yes, because of the muddy waters, doubt has now entered your mind.
In today's first reading from Acts, we see the early Church had issues with other people muddying the waters as well. People, not just Gentiles or Jews, but even fellow Christians who would come in an make things unclear for the disciples. But thankfully, as Peter and the other Apostles cleared things up for all the Christians. The Catholic Church still benefits from this same blessing today, as we have a Pope that sits on the Chair of Peter, who (along with the Magisterium) helps to clear up any false teaching or doubts from those who only seek to muddy the water.
In the scenario of our muddy water incident at the brook, the Church would come along and tell us that there is not reason to doubt. Just because we cannot see the things in the brook, that does not mean that they are not there. The Church would remind us of the shiny rocks, the fish and the plants. The Church helps make clear the things that we are in doubt of or the things which are not clear to us.
No matter how muddy the waters get, the Church will always be "the pillar of our faith" (1 Tim 3:15). Praise God that He has blessed us with His Bride to be a light and a guide to us in this world!
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with and all that you have given to us. Lord, we are not worthy of your love or attention, but you choose to freely pour it out to us at all times. Help us always to remain in your love and to never leave your faithful hands. Lord, we ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 15:7-21
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 96
Gospel: John 15:9-11
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” (Jn 15:9-11)
Imagine that it is a Saturday morning, you are sleeping soundly in your bed. You are comfortably snuggled up in your blanket, you are in a dream like state, you feel so secure and rested. Then your alarm goes off, and while you do not have any where specific to be that morning, it is clear that you have a choice to make. You know that if you get up there are things to do and people to see, or you can stay right where you are and just give in to the peace and comfort that you are currently enjoying. Even though the outside world is calling, in your mind you know that there is no other place that you would rather be than where you are now.
Each of us has experienced this feeling of wanting to remain in bed where we feel great peace and comfort. We feel this way because as people, we know a good thing when it comes around. While we do not always have the luxury of staying in bed and sleeping in every morning, there is a good place that we can remain in every moment of every day; and that place is in God's love. Every day, we have the opportunity to surrender to God and say 'yes' to Him, and by doing so we can remain in the love of our Father. While we can all agree that sleeping in is a pretty nice thing once in a while, it is nothing compared to being in the love of our Creator. There is nothing that we can take more peace and comfort in than knowing that we have a God that loves us so much and only wants us to have the best. He is love Himself, the source of all love; and there is nothing greater in this world than loving and being loved. We have a chance to remain in the source of love, but we must choose to live by His rules, not our own. If we are obedient servants and choose to live by His commandments, then we can live in His love. If we choose to go it our own way, then we cut ourselves off from this life giving love that He offers us.
By remaining in Him and in His love, we experience a life like we have never known. This is because by remaining in His love, His "joy is in [us] and [our] joy may be complete." May the peace and joy of the Lord be with us all!
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with. Thank you for this life and for our families. Lord, help us to never stray and to always remain in your loving care. Lord, we are not deserving of you, but you choose to pour out your love and mercy on us no matter what, help us never to forget this. We pray for all of our priests and religious. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 15:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 122
Gospel: John 15:1-8
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (Jn 15:1-8)
When my wife and I first started dating, she introduced me to the world of apple picking. Now growing up in a larger city, I had never experienced apple picking (beside the crab apple trees in my neighborhood, and you would always leave those alone after your first bite). I have to admit, ever since that first time I was hooked. It was quite an experience being able to go to the orchard and just simply be able to pick the fruit off of the tree. I know that each time we go, we only go to the trees that have the best apples, the trees with the best fruit.
In today's gospel, Jesus relates himself to that of a vine, and the Father as the vine grower. He makes it clear that the branches are useless and unable to produce good fruit unless they are on the vine. Those who choose to remain in Him will bear good fruit, while those who do not will be thrown out. I imagine that at the orchards that we go to, if a tree is not producing good fruit that it is thrown out as well. And so it seems as though each of us has a choice: remain in Christ and bear good fruit, or try and go it alone and be "thrown out" in the end. Seems like a no brainer to me, but sadly many people choose the later.
For those who choose to remain in Christ, there is something that we should keep in mind. Jesus said, "He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit." I would imagine that if a tree or vine could feel pain, that the pruning process would be awfully painful, but it is a necessary step for the plant. So too it is necessary for us when we go through challenges and difficulties, even though they may be hard and not feel good, it is necessary so that we too can bear more fruit.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord, thank you for all that you have blessed us with. Help us to make this life fruitful, help us to say yes to you every moment of our day, and that we do not seek out will, but yours. Lord, thank you for your great love and mercy, help us to let your light shine through us in this world. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 14:19-28
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 145
Gospel: John 14:27-31
In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won over the crowds. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and entered the city. On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the Church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Then they spent no little time with the disciples. (Acts 14:19-28)
In today's first reading, we see that Paul and Barnabas have not exactly had the easiest journey. Paul has been stoned and left for dead, they have covered a vast area (probably mostly on foot). They are facing much opposition from the Jews, most likely under slept and underfed, add to all of that they are also working tirelessly to build up the Church. But Paul and Barnabas have something important going for them, they understand how things work. In today's first reading from Acts, we share in both the hardship and in the joy that comes to Paul and Barnabas. One moment fighting for their lives, the next they are rejoicing with the other disciples about the success that the Lord has brought to them. They tell the people that the visit something very important, that we should all take notice of: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Paul and Barnabas understand that as disciples of Christ that it will be necessary for us to go through hard times, but it is all necessary if we want to make it to heaven. This is why Paul and Barnabas went around telling the other Christians to persevere in their faith. I can just imagine their words, "Look guys, I know that it's hard, but trust us it will be worth it in the end."
How has your life been? Has it been easy? Has it been very difficult? The one thing for certain is that everyone has been through hard times, the question is how to we respond to those trials? How do we bounce back from those hardships? Who is it we rely on in our time of need? It is necessary for each of us to go undergo many hardships in this life, but it will be worth it all just to be able to live the rest of our life in heaven.
Father above, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Lord thank you for all that you have blessed us with, and for all that you give to us. Thank you for our lives, and help us not to waste one moment of our day. Lord, we know that we will go through difficult times, help us to rely on you and to see them as necessary, all for your glory. Lord, we pray for all of our youth, that they can come to grow in love of you and to know their dignity. We ask this all through Christ our Lord. Amen.