Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 29, 2011 - Sixth Sunday of Easter A

R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
“Blessing Christ”
by Raffaello Sanzio, 1506

Reading 1 Commentary: Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8, 14-17
The first reading opens with Philip’s going away from Jerusalem with many others who were fleeing the persecution. Unfortunately we do not hear today the verses of this chapter about a man named Simon the Magician, who has been working the crowds of Samaria before Philip arrives. Philip preaches the Good News and performs the healing miracles.

The crowds forsake their following of the magician and seek baptism in the name of Jesus.
Philip’s proclamation of the Messiah manifested such power that the whole town of Samaria felt a joy described as at “fever pitch.”

Many in Samaria also are to be confirmed by the Church so Peter and John come to lay hands on those who have heard the Good News and desire to live as “good words” themselves. The Holy Spirit urges incarnation, that is, that those who believe in their hearts might be freed to give flesh to God’s goodness within them. The early Church grew through the work of the Spirit and the works of those who lived what they believed.
More Commentary on Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
St. Philip begins his missionary activities immediately following the death of St. Stephen.  We hear many of the Hellenists were scattered following the deacon’s witness against the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.  St. Philip goes with them into Samaria and proclaims the arrival of the Messiah in Christ.  The Word is spreading through the persecution of Saul.

We note the omission of verses 9-13.  From a historical perspective this passage speaks of the conversion of Simion the magician, important for the community in that it differentiated the signs being done by the Apostles and those believed to be sorcerers by the local inhabitants of the region This important distinction is qualified in Acts 8; 6-7; “With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.”

R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Psalm 66 is a song of thanksgiving. As it continues today the selection starts with part of the community blessing of the Lord and follows with the second and third strophes being individual response to the communal prayer. In the final strophe, v.20, we see the usual action of the person who has been rescued coming forward to teach the community what God has done.

Speaking again to the persecuted Christian community, St. Peter tells them to always be ready to bear witness to their faith but to do so without condescension, with love.  Witnessing in this way with “gentleness and reverence” and not being defensive or vehement, their attackers will look cause the Christians to look the victims giving no one a reason to punish them. In this way they were to follow the example of Christ who “suffered” (many sources read “died”) for all mankind, the righteous and the unrighteous.

The farewell speech of the Lord continues with the promise of the Holy Spirit – the Paraclete. We note he says “another advocate”; Jesus himself is the first advocate (in St. John’s Gospel the term used synonymously with spokesman, mediator, intercessor, comforter, and consoler).  
Jesus says this gift is “The Spirit of truth” (from the Quamram or Dead Sea Scrolls- a moral force put into a person by God.). This promise is made because the disciples are becoming worried and are afraid of being left without Jesus’ guidance. In addition to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he leaves his peace, not just the greeting “Shalom” but an inner peace that conquers fear.

As always on the Day of the Lord, we are asked to be imitators of Christ.  Taken as a statement like; “All you need to do to earn a place in heaven is imitate Jesus of Nazareth and do what he asked people to do.”  It sounds so easy, just this one thing.  Yet, even with the practical advice given in Holy Scripture, we find living the commandments of Christ to be the hardest thing we have ever attempted.

We are constantly faced with opportunities to fall from grace.  It is like walking a tight-rope, one moment of inattention, one false step and we loose our balance and fall.  With deeper understanding of the message of Jesus we see how hard it is and may think, “Why try? There is no way I can be like that.”

Into our questioning and doubt comes the Lord with help for us.  Through St. John he tells us (as he told his disciples) that even though he is going home – the join his Father in heaven, he is not making us orphans.  He is leaving us with a “New Advocate”.  He, who is both man and God, leaves us God, indwelling as a guide and counselor.  We feel it as that inner voice guiding us, that warning voice telling us where not to go, that consoling voice that gives us hope.

Strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, we should be convinced that what is asked of us by God’s perfect expression of love is possible, a reasonable expectation by the one who created us and should know.  Even though we still doubt (who, after all, has seen the Holy Spirit? (AKA “Holy Ghost”)), we are called onward by the voice of Jesus “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” 

Ironically, it gets easier with that statement.  If we love the Lord and know what pleases him, it becomes a matter of keeping our love for him in the back of our minds constantly.  Like one we are desperately in love with is always on our mind; not to the point of distraction (that is obsession) but always near by.

Still, it is not easy what the Lord asks, commands!  But he did not leave us without resources so we only need to reach for that strength and it will be there.  We pray today for the strength to call on that font of hope and wisdom left to us by the Prince of Peace.

[2] The picture used today is “Blessing Christ” by Raffaello Sanzio, 1506
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - The Fifth Week of Easter

R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
R.  Alleluia.
1 Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-12

Collect: God our Father, look upon us with love. You redeem us and make us your children in Christ. Give us true freedom and bring us to the inheritance you promised. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(John 14:1-3) Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too."

Sunday Readings:

The first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7 and continues the description of the missionary preaching and missionary activity of Paul and Barnabas. For those who follow the reign of God as inaugurated in Christ, these apostles can promise nothing for sure but trials and hardships. And yet, the paradox of suffering and yet being joyful in the Holy Spirit is here expressed as it was in the ending of the readings from Acts last week.
A Celebrants Guide to the New Sacramentary - A Cycle by Kevin W. Irwin

The second reading is from the first Letter of St. Peter 2:4-9 in which he reminds the new converts to Christianity, that they must be holy, for they are the living stones out of which the new spiritual temple of God is formed. The cornerstone*, the base and binding force of this temple, is the risen Christ.  Because of Him, and through Him, they are able to offer sacrifices which are acceptable to God.
(*cornerstone: see also, Ephesians 2:20)

The Gospel is from St. John 14:1-12. We may well wonder at the slowness of the Apostles in seeing in Christ nothing more than a man—a great man, a man with power from God, yes, but still a mere man. That He was the Messiah, they were convinced, but their idea of the Messiah was wrong. They thought He would free Israel from foreign domination (Lk. 24: 21), and set up a new kingdom of God—a prosperous, earthly kingdom with God guaranteeing peace and plenty for all. If, therefore, He allowed His enemies to put Him to death, all their hopes would be dashed to the ground. Hence, the mention of His impending death at the Last Supper filled them with dismay and despair.

But we must not judge them too harshly. Christ had indeed often claimed to be God, but His words fell on deaf ears. It was only after His resurrection that they began to understand that He had spoken literally—it was only then they believed He was indeed the Son of God, in human nature.

For us today, the Incarnation is still a mystery, but it is not the "how" that should trouble us, we know that with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

It is rather the "why" that should cause us amazement. Why should God go to that length for our sake-mere creatures, and sinful, ungrateful creatures at that? The infinite goodness and the infinite love of God are the answer, but still an answer which is mysterious to us. For we, with our limited capacity for love, can form no idea of infinite love.

God created us "in His own image and likeness" (a very limited likeness, granted) and intended, because of the spiritual faculties He gave us, which enable us to see and enjoy truth and beauty, to give us a share in His eternal life and glory. To do this, the Incarnation of the second Person of the Holy Trinity was God's plan. There must have been other ways of doing this, but God, we can be sure, chose the best way. Even with our limited intelligence, we ourselves can see what a perfect way this was for proving to us the infinite love, goodness and compassion of our Creator.

Sin entered the world of man, as God had foreseen, but notwithstanding this ingratitude on our part, God's Son came in our lowly, human nature and suffered, even though sinless, all the effects of men's sins. He suffered in our name, and because He was God, His sufferings in His human nature made infinite atonement for the sins of all mankind.

His Incarnation had made us His brothers and' co-heirs to heaven. His death on the cross wiped out, and gave us the means of wiping out, our sins, so that we would be capable of possessing our inheritance.
Knowing the story of the Incarnation therefore, we know of the love and kindness of God toward us. We need not ask, with Philip, "show us the Father," we have seen Him in His riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! "How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable are His ways!" (Rom. 11 :33).

"What return can I make to the Lord?" All the mortifications and good works of all the holy men and women that ever lived, or will live, would not be adequate a return to God for the miracle of love He has shown toward us. But He accepts the widow's mite, the little acts of love, the little proofs of gratitude, the willing acceptance of the crosses He sends us, to purify us. In one word, all He asks in return is that we try to live our Christian life day after day, ever thanking Him for the gift of Christ and the Christian faith.
Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.

During the Fifth Week of Easter, the Church celebrates the feasts of: 
St. Bede the Venerable (May 25), Pope St. Gregory VII (May 25), St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi (May 25), St. Philip Neri (May 26), and St. Augustine of Canterbury (May 27)

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for May
General:  That those who work in the media may always respect truth, solidarity and the dignity of each person.
Missionary:  That the Lord may grant the Church in China the capacity to persevere in fidelity to the Gospel and to grow in unity.
Pro-Life Prayer Intention for May
That graduates may use their academic and technical skills to advance the pro-life cause.

Catholic Culture:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15th, 2011 - 4th Sunday of Easter


Acts 2:14, 36-41
Psalm 23:1-6
1 Peter 2:20-25
John 10:1-10

What Are We to Do?

Easter’s empty tomb is a call to conversion.
By this tomb, we should know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, as Peter preaches in today’s First Reading.

He is the “Lord,” the divine Son that David foresaw at God’s right hand (see Psalms 110:1,3; 132:10-11; Acts 2:34). And He is the Messiah that God had promised to shepherd the scattered flock of the house of Israel (see Ezekiel 34:11-14, 23; 37:24).

As we hear in today’s Gospel, Jesus is that Good Shepherd, sent to a people who were like sheep without a shepherd (see Mark 6:34; Numbers 27:16-17). He calls not only to the children of Israel, but to all those far off from Him - to whomever the Lord wishes to hear His voice.

The call of the Good Shepherd leads to the restful waters of Baptism, to the anointing oil of Confirmation, and to the table and overflowing cup of the Eucharist, as we sing in today’s Psalm.
Again on this Sunday in Easter, we hear His voice calling us His own. He should awaken in us the response of those who heard Peter’s preaching. “What are we to do?” they cried.

We have been baptized. But each of us goes astray like sheep, as we hear in today’s Epistle. We still need daily to repent, to seek forgiveness of our sins, to separate ourselves further from this corrupt generation.

We are called to follow in the footsteps of the Shepherd of our souls. By His suffering He bore our sins in His body to free us from sin. But His suffering is also an example for us. From Him we should learn patience in our afflictions, to hand ourselves over to the will of God.

Jesus has gone ahead, driven us through the dark valley of evil and death. His Cross has become the narrow gate through which we must pass to reach His empty tomb - the verdant pastures of life abundant.

Listen Here!

Yours in Christ,

Scott Hahn, Ph.D.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Third Sunday of Easter - May 8, 2011

“Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio, 1601

Readings and Commentary:[3]

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.
You who are Israelites, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:

I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

“My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father
and poured him forth, as you see and hear.”
Commentary on Acts 2:14, 22-33

This event is set immediately following the Pentecost event and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter now responds to those who did not understand Christ’s gift in the first of six “Missionary Discourses” dealing with the resurrection of Jesus and the importance of that event. “Modern scholars term these discourses in Acts the "kerygma," the Greek word for proclamation (cf 1 Corinthians 15:11).”[4] St. Peter uses the King David, from whose line the messiah was to come according to the Hebrew Scriptures, to establish the identity of Christ and provide and understanding for his ultimate resurrection.


R. (11a) Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the Lord, “My Lord are you.”
O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

I bless the Lord who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the Lord ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

Psalm 16 is a song of thanksgiving that has become prophetic; it speaks clearly of the resurrection accomplished now in Christ. It is one of trust in God. Each strophe ends with an affirmation of faithfulness. Key in the context of the Easter season is the idea of trust in God who has conquered death and offers the same gift ("Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption".).


If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially
according to each one’s works,
conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning,
realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct,
handed on by your ancestors,
not with perishable things like silver or gold
but with the precious blood of Christ
as of a spotless unblemished lamb.

He was known before the foundation of the world
but revealed in the final time for you,
who through him believe in God
who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
so that your faith and hope are in God.

Commentary on 1 Pt 1:17-21

This selection is concerned primarily with the call of God's people to holiness and to mutual love. St. Peter encourages them to act in accord with their call and through those actions accept their redemption through the blood of Christ.

At the beginning of the passage, St. Peter cautions the faithful. “If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially […] conduct yourselves with reverence” “Refers to addressing God as ‘Abba’ or ‘Father’ in prayer (Matthew 6:9; Romans 8:15; CCC 2780-82).” – “impartially: i.e. with absolute fairness.  Because God exercises perfect justice, he cannot be bribed to show favoritism toward some and not others (Deuteronomy 10:17) according to his deeds.”[5]

The “unblemished lamb” is a clear reference to the Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) whose blood caused death to pass by (Exodus 12:1-14) allowing for God’s salvation.


That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
Commentary on Lk 24:13-35

This story of the disciples of the road to Emmaus is only found in Luke’s Gospel (and is used as an alternate for Mass on the evening of Easter Sunday).  There is a mention in Mark 16;12 that is vague but probably refers to this event. The actual location of Emmaus is not known but it is estimated that it was between 7 and 18 miles from Jerusalem.  The focus of the story is the unrecognized Jesus (recall that in John 20:11-18, Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener).  The unrecognized traveler interprets scripture and then is revealed in the breaking of the bread (the Eucharistic reference) as the Risen Lord.


It is now two weeks to the day since the joyful news of our salvation was once again proclaimed to the world. Could there be anyone who had not heard the news? For the second time this year we are given the story from St. Luke’s Gospel about the two disciples of Jesus (although not members of the 12) walking the seven miles to Emmaus.

When we think of them, we wonder why they were going away from Jerusalem; why they were leaving, especially after they had heard the story from the two Marys? Were they afraid? Jesus, their teacher had just been put to death. The other disciples we are told were hiding behind
locked doors for fear of the Jews. They probably were afraid. But why did they leave? Could it have been that they just did not want to stay there when things were getting bad. Were they reacting the way a child might at the scary or embarrassing part of a movie they hide their face in their hands or leave the room so they don’t have to see what comes next?

It is this emotion we think about today. It goes without saying that we know that as the faithful followers of Christ in the modern world, we know we are called to be courageous for Christ. But we also live in a society when wearing your faith on the “outside” is not considered to be politically correct. If we work for a government, or civil employer such as the public schools, any public reference to our specific spiritual beliefs is even forbidden (except ironically as profanity) . Those who spend a majority of their time in this kind of a situation are understandably less outspoken orally. But as St. Frances of Assisi said “Preach the Gospel always and use words when you have to.”

Many of us work or spend our days in environments where referring to the Lord can mean we risk scorn, ridicule, or marginalization. If we are outspoken for our faith we can count on rough waters.  It is usually human nature to avoid confrontation and in many cases we run in the wrong direction - like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It is at these times when we must also understand that we encounter Jesus in that space as well. We look to him and he turns us around and we run all the way back - but where we see him best is in the breaking of the bread. It is there we look for him today and there we pledge to once more bring his peace and love to the world.


[2] The picture is “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio, 1601
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[4] See NAB Footnote on Acts 2:14-36
[5] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. pp.452