Tuesday, April 30, 2013
"Opting for peace does not mean a passive acquiescence to evil or compromise of principle. It demands an active struggle against hatred, oppression and disunity, but not by using methods of violence. Building peace requires creative and courageous action."--Pope John Paul II
(Gospel Text: Jn 14:27-31a)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’
If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.
I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming.
He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”
The word Gospel means "Good News." What exactly is this Good News promised by the Gospel?
Many today would say "material prosperity." How often we hear preachers proclaiming that following the Gospel guarantees material benefits, such as, good health, long life, success in projects, wealth.
But did the original disciples of Jesus actually preach this Gospel of Prosperity?
Listen to what the first disciples actually preached: "It is necessary for us to undergo hardship to enter the Kingdom of God." Poor Paul is today's example at Mass: "They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city supposing he was dead" (Acts 14:19-28). We recall sadly that Paul, along with rest of the apostles, eventually would die a martyr's death for their faith in Jesus.
So what really is the Good News of the Gospel? What does Jesus actually promise to his disciples?
Listen to Jesus' words in his final discourse to his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you." And almost every time he appears to his disciples after the resurrection he greets them with the words, "Peace be to you." Jesus keeps his promise.
As Catholics, we celebrate the fulfillment of Jesus' promise. We celebrate the gift believers actually receive from the Resurrected Jesus — not material prosperity -- but his precious presence accompanied by the peace which the world can never give!
Posted by Joe Reciniello at 4:32 PM
Monday, April 29, 2013
“What we love we shall grow to resemble.” ~ St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Gospel Text: (Jn 14:21-26)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him,
“Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us
and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.
“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit
whom the Father will send in my name–
he will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.”
Love is not something that can be done passively. Whether it’s love of a family member, a friend, or your spouse, love is expressed best not through words, but through our thoughts and actions. If we do not live as though we love, then the difference between loving your spouse and, say, peanut butter is slight.
Why, then, do we so often think of our love of God in different terms?
The true irony comes when you sit to pray and wonder why you feel disconnected, distracted, or lost. Our relationship with God, like any relationship, requires more than just acknowledging it exists. It takes action. It takes diligence. It takes living your day-to-day life with the knowledge that God’s work is present in all that you do.
This is no small task. And, as is often the case in our pursuit of a relationship, living our daily lives with God in mind is much easier said than done. But even acknowledging this difficulty and still working to overcome it is an active affirmation of one’s love for God.
And so I implore each of us to do as Jesus asked – let us not treat our relationship with God as any less than any other, but as what it is: the most fundamental and critical relationship we could ever have, from which all others stem. If we do that, then we can trust God will reciprocate and show himself to us.
Posted by Joe Reciniello at 5:26 PM
Friday, April 26, 2013
It is not the actual physical exertion that counts towards one's progress, nor the nature of the task, but by the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken.--Saint Francis Xavier
(Gospel Text: John 14:1-6)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Every morning when I read the news, I hear a litany of human misery – of ordinary people caught in civil wars in places like Syria, fleeing to refugee camps to escape shelling or rocket attacks, of women suffering from barbaric treatment etc. Then I look at my comfortable life, thank God for it and ask why me? How did I end up so blessed?
Today’s reading from John supplies no answers but reminds us that much of life will remain a mystery until we get to those dwelling places that Jesus promises he is preparing for us. There’s no way to reason out why one person is born with the proverbial silver spoon and another lacks life’s necessities but faith can help us take a longer view of our fate in life.
No one escapes life without facing some major challenges or even some catastrophes. When life is falling apart, it’s hard not to ask God “why me?” even though we know there are no answers. We can’t even rig the game by praying more, or doing more volunteer work etc. One of the most devout people I have ever known is in a wheel chair. Happily we no longer believe that physical difficulties are God’s punishment for sin.
We somehow have to learn to trust Jesus’ promise that eventually all of life’s mysteries will be resolved when we reach those heavenly dwelling places.
My wish for all of us today is that whether we are in a wonderful place in life or suffering through an awful episode or illness, that we will have the faith to let go and to let God. It’s hard to surrender control but, as today’s Gospel tells us, the only way to live is by faith.
Posted by Joe Reciniello at 7:22 PM
Thursday, April 25, 2013
It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching. – St Francis of Assisi
(Scripture text: 1 Pt 5:5b-14)
Beloved: Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one
another, for: God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the
humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may
exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares
for you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the Devil is prowling
around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him,
steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout
the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called
you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore,
confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a
little. To him be dominion forever. Amen. I write you this briefly
through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, exhorting you and
testifying that this is the true grace of God. Remain firm in it. The
chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son. Greet
one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
Today is the Feast of Mark the Evangelist. Sometimes we forget that the
Saints whom we celebrate were men and women just like you and me. They
had their strengths - as well as their weaknesses. They were very human.
What made them become holy - able to be held up for us as examples to
imitate, and relied upon as intercessors - was their humanity
transformed by God's grace. They responded to God's invitations with
their human freedom, living faith, heroic virtue and courageous
perseverance in the face of great opposition and persecution. They now
call us to do the same.
We are living in a trying time for the Church in the known world of our
day. Sadly I feel it will become even more difficult in the days ahead.
No matter how rocky the soil of the American culture is becoming, we do
not have the option of pulling out of our obligation to participate.
We cannot withdraw from this world; we cannot also let the darkness
overcome it. This world which God created is to be re-created in and
through Jesus Christ, the first born of a new creation (Colossians
1:15), and that will not come about without struggle, suffering and
It is amazing how little “leaven” it takes to raise a loaf of bread.
That is because within those little particles of yeast is found the
power to ferment, to change the lump of wet dough into a loaf of
aromatic, tasty, nourishing bread. However, the power contained within
that yeast is not activated unless it is mixed and kneaded into the
dough. Once you work the leaven in, it is still hidden to the eye but
my, how it transforms that loaf!
In the words of St. Jose Maria Escriva, "May Our Lord be able to use us
so that, placed as we are at all the cross-roads of the world - and at
the same time placed in God - we become salt, leaven and light. Yes,
you are to be in God, to enlighten, to give flavor, to produce growth
and new life. But don't forget that we are not the source of this
light: we only reflect it. (St. Jose Maria Escriva, Friends of God, #
We have to get in “the loaf”. We must be in the world - where Jesus is
- in order to be used to accomplish His ongoing work of redemption.
This missionary mindset has inspired great missionary ages in the past
and brought extraordinary changes to entire cultures. It can once again
in this hour, if we respond to the call.
Posted by Joe Reciniello at 4:43 PM
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
“How beautiful Heaven must be! Take heart!" – St John Bosco
(Gospel Text: Jn 12:44-50)
Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”
Jesus "did not come to condemn the world but to save the world." Faith is a decision. It is a moral decision. If you choose to reject what you know is right, you sin.
The Second Vatican Council teaches this in the beautiful document on conscience, Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Freedom.
"All men are bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth." (Dignitatis Humanae 2)
Let me repeat, Vatican II says that it is a sin to not believe in Christ if he reveals himself to you. It does not say, you can believe whatever you “damn” well please. Here I would like to point out that the word "damn" is a descriptive adjective, for by believing something to be false that you know very well to be true you commit a sin and therefore incur damnation if that sin is mortal in nature and you persist in it until death without going to confession.
(For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” 1857 -1869 Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Jesus came to save us, but if we reject him we reject the salvation he offers.
It’s simply our choice.
Posted by Joe Reciniello at 5:00 PM
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be you, my God, for having created me.- Saint Clare of Assisi
(Gospel Text: Jn 10:22-30)
The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
When do you feel vulnerable?
Maybe flying in an airplane, or being in a boat surrounded by large waves. Whatever triggers it for you; everyone has times of wondering if catastrophe is just around the corner.
Here’s another question: do you ever feel vulnerable in your relationship with God?
It’s easy to worry that if we do or say the wrong thing, we may get ourselves into too much trouble. Perhaps you feel you have already alienated God so much that he has given up on you, and you wonder if you will ever make it to heaven.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus confronts these fears head-on. Speaking about those who believe, he says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand” (John 10:28). What comforting words that remind us of God’s love for us! It is very easy to think that we are the primary actors in our spiritual lives. But here Jesus is reminding us that he is the one pursuing us, and he will not allow anyone or anything to snatch us out of his hand. He even goes so far as to say, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all” (10:29).
God doesn’t want you to live in fear of rejection from him. He wants you to be more sure of his love for you than you are of anything else in life. That’s because his love is the most sure thing in all the world! You can live in joy and security, safe in the knowledge that God is on your side, and that nothing can separate you from him.
Today, try taking a look at some of your fears. What makes you feel most deeply vulnerable? Give these areas over to God, and ask him to replace them with the joy and freedom that he has won for you. Let his greatness and his mercy put all your fears into perspective so that you can live as the son or daughter you are, perfectly safe in your Father’s hand!
Posted by Joe Reciniello at 4:49 PM