Tuesday, April 25, 2017

“The problem with the prosperity gospel is that it makes prosperity the Gospel. God's word is flawless, however if your interpretation of the word is wrong, your application will be wrong also.”

“A man who first tried to guess 'what the public wants,' and then preached that as Christianity because the public wants it, would be a pretty mixture of fool and knave” ― C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Gospel Text: (MK 16:15-20)
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
"Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus missions his friends: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” And they did that. They went to lands far and near and shared the Good News with people rich and poor, thin and fat, fair and dark skinned. For over two millennia, good people — in the kitchen, at home, in the fields, at the office, in schools, in factories, or in other workplaces — have spread Jesus’ message and not always used words. They have “clothed themselves with humility” as the first reading from Mass recommends. Their actions and attitudes have shown that they love because they have experienced great love in their personal lives.

Monday, April 24, 2017

No one can begin a new life, unless he repent of the old.

Just as a man cannot live in the flesh unless he is born in the flesh, even so a man cannot have the spiritual life of grace unless he is born again spiritually. This regeneration is effected by Baptism: "Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Jn 3:5)  - St. Thomas Aquinas: (1225 – 1274: was an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church)

Gospel Text: (JN 3:1-8)
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him,
"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,
for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him."
Jesus answered and said to him,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
Nicodemus said to him,
"How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?"
Jesus answered,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
'You must be born from above.'
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

The first sacrament in the Church is baptism, the sacrament of initiation. In baptism we are freed from the sin of Adam, receive God's gift of grace and become members of his Church; we receive the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life. Without baptism we cannot receive the other sacraments.

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells Nicodemus that "no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." Baptism is a re-birth into God's grace and life, through its cleansing waters. Baptism is also seen as dying to sin and death and rising to new life with and in Christ.

Let us thank God for his sharing of his divine life with us when we were baptized: "Given a new birth [in baptism] by water and the Holy Spirit, may we live always as members of his body, sharing everlasting life."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

“There is no joy in this world like union with Christ. The more we can feel it, the happier we are.”….. "With your witness, with your smile, you need to let others know that the same Father loves them, too.”

If you happen to be with an atheist who tells you that he does not believe in God, you can read him the whole library, where it says that God exists, and where it is proven that God exists, and he will not believe. [However] if in the presence of this same atheist you witness to a consistent, Christian life, something will begin to work in his heart…. It will be your witness that brings him the restlessness on which the Holy Spirit works.—Pope Francis Homily, Domus Sanctae Marthae, February 27, 2014

Scripture Text: (ACTS 4:13-21)
Observing the boldness of Peter and John
and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men,
the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them,
they could say nothing in reply.
So they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin,
and conferred with one another, saying,
"What are we to do with these men?
Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign
was done through them, and we cannot deny it.
But so that it may not be spread any further among the people,
let us give them a stern warning
never again to speak to anyone in this name."

So they called them back
and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Peter and John, however, said to them in reply,
"Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard."
After threatening them further,
they released them,
finding no way to punish them,
on account of the people who were all praising God
for what had happened.

Christ is at work in my life. This I know.  Lent and Easter have given me the opportunity again this year to reflect on the promise of life everlasting, and how that promise has been made to me through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. How can I deny it and how can I not willingly, gratefully share it? In Star Wars, Yoda admonished “There is NO 'try' – there is only 'do'”. I need to exercise in this apostolic effort the same discipline necessary for any other healthy behavior like eating well or moving my body every day. Perhaps this is true for you, also?

Friday, April 21, 2017

“Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.”

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”--Mother Teresa of Calcutta: (1910 – 1997: Founded the Missionaries of Charity)

Gospel Text: (JN 21:1-14)
Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee's sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing."
They said to him, "We also will come with you."
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?"
They answered him, "No."
So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something."
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you just caught."
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, "Come, have breakfast."
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?"
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

Some people don’t catch fish because they refuse to go into deep water.  Jesus told Simon, “Let’s leave the shallows and go to the deep.”

Everybody knows the schools of big fish are in the deeper water.  And the first rule of fishing is you’ve got to go where the fish are.  But we shouldn’t limit this to fish only.  Jesus was teaching a spiritual principal.

We could substitute fish for abundance or wisdom or love, healing or peace.  All those things we want in abundance.  Some people don’t catch these things because they simply refuse to go deep.

Deep water is where the increase is.  Deep water takes faith.  Deep water is a risk.  Focus of mind and heart are needed.

The visibility in deep black water is next to nothing.  You’ve got to trust the words and directions of others who have passed through deep water to make it there. Jesus is always inviting people to the deeper end of things. But shallow water is pleasant.  It tickles our ankles when we walk in it.  The minnows and the half-grown fish gather there.  You can see all the way to the bottom in shallow water.

Staying in shallow water is such a temptation.  Shallow water doesn’t cost much; it doesn’t take a whole lot of courage.  But Simon knew the minnows couldn’t feed him.  They couldn’t fill him.  The minnows weren’t the desire of his heart.  The deep water of faith is where those things we say we want are swimming around.  The shallow is where we begin the adventure, not where we finish.

Deep water is where we have to go to get what God has for us.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Faith is not the power of positive thinking; it is believing in God and trusting that His will is always best even when you cannot understand why

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” ― C.S. Lewis: (1898 – 1963: was a British novelist, poet, & academic)

Gospel Text: (LK 24:35-48)
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you."
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things."

In the Gospel we hear of his very own disciples being overwhelmed by His appearance, even though they were just talking to each other about recognizing him in the breaking of the Bread.  Jesus seems to be trying to convince them that he is real and that all that he has told them would happen has happened.  But nonetheless, they are incredulous and he still needs to open their minds to understand the scriptures.  It is not through their own intellect or logic that they understand but only when Jesus opens their minds.  In fact, even though Jesus’ walks and talks, even eats with the Apostles after his Resurrection, their faith will remain weak until Pentecost when the Holy Spirit will fill them with the gifts they need to fully live their faith.

But how strong is our Faith?  Do we live as though we really believe in all that happened this last week?  How would our lives be different if our Faith were stronger?